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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 9, Number 11 November 2009 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Amy's Bookshelf Annie's Bookshelf
Bethany's Bookshelf Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Bursey's Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf
Debra's Bookshelf Dravis' Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Georganna's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Hassler's Bookshelf Hollyday's Bookshelf
Janie's Bookshelf Jessica's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf
Kaye's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Paul's Bookshelf Peggy's Bookshelf Raja's Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf
Victoria's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace
Ali A. Allawi
Yale University Press
P.O. Box 209040, New Haven, CT 06520-9040
9780300110159 $20.00

G. Richard Bozarth

The Occupation Of Iraq is an excellent addition to the growing bookshelf of books about the Iraq War even though Allawi has a major misconception that he put in the subtitle. The war has not been won. The successful regime change did not end the war on 9 April 2003 (the day Saddam Hussein's statue in Firdous Square in Baghdad was toppled and the U.S. occupation began), bitterly disappointing W. Bush, his gang, the U.S. military, and hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. and around the world who had hoped that was V-I Day. The illusion of victory did not last long before the insurgency proved the regime change was just a phase in the Iraq War, which explains why the war was still raging when Occupation was published four years after the invasion of Iraq began. A better subtitle would be: Governing A Nation While Losing A War. Despite the misconception, Allawi has made an important contribution to understanding the Iraq War.

Allawi's title is also misleading, but in a good way. The U.S. occupation is not the main subject of his book. Occupation is really about Iraq's governments after the regime change. What the Bush 2 Gang was doing in Washington DC and what the U.S.-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority, later the US Embassy, and Coalition military force were doing in Iraq are analyzed by how they affected Iraq's first two post-Saddam governments. This is what makes the book so valuable. Most of the books about the Iraq War I have read have been about the U.S., and what the Iraqi governments were doing has been discussed almost as if they were pests the U.S. had to tolerate. The change in perspective is most refreshing. A better title would be: Coping With The Occupation Of Iraq.

Allawi proves his powers as a historian, but he is also an inside eyewitness of what Iraq's two temporary governments did. He served in the Iraq Governing Council as the minister of trade and then of defense. When the Transitional National Government replaced the IGC, he became its minister of finance. He was one of the exiles who returned to Iraq after the regime change, but Occupation does not try to make the reader believe all the neocon artists' fantasies would have come true if B2G had promptly put the Iraqi exiles in power and departed. He informs the reader that the exiles created problems for the U.S. before the invasion and after the regime change. "The exile groups, each with their different agendas, could not and did not provide the USA with a clear and reasonable assessment of the circumstances in Iraq. They were either too parochial in their concerns or simply too eager to assume power after America had removed Saddam. Such groups had no interest in shaking America's resolve by highlighting problems and pitfalls." When many of them did get into Iraq's ministries, they contributed to the catastrophic corruption that has done so much to defeat the mission B2G wanted to accomplish in Iraq. Corruption was caused by "the appalling ethical standards of those who were catapulted to positions of power and authority……Most of these came from exile, most had western training, and most held advanced degrees of one form or another. The naive belief that an advanced education or exposure to western societies would somehow improve ethical standards in government was hopelessly misplaced."

Occupation provides outstanding history that enables the reader to understand why Iraq in March 2003 was nothing like the Iraq that existed in the neocon artists' fantasies. Any reader who loves reading history will love this book. The struggles and flaws of Iraq's two temporary governments are the main subject (the book ends with the beginning of Iraq's first post-Saddam permanent government, which was created by the elections in December 2005). The effectiveness of both governments was blunted by B2G as it tried to ensure Iraq would have the kind of government that would make it an ideal ally of the U.S. The IGC was particularly crippled because the Coalition Provisional Authority had all the real governing power in Iraq, but the TNG did not do much better because it was totally dependent on the U.S., which at that time was not in a hurry to get out of the quagmire it was in. Allawi makes it clear that both governments would not have been successful if they had been more independent. Their flaws were too numerous. The IGC was scorned as a CPA puppet, which is what the CPA had intended it to be, and the TNG was terribly weak simply by being transitional.

Interestingly, Ayad Allawi (no relation to the author), the IGC's prime minister, tried to retain power by presenting the U.S. with a "reform" plan for Iraq in late 2004. He tried to seduce B2G into accepting and supporting him as the new Saddam Hussein, promising he would be pro-U.S., pro-Capitalism (in a corrupt, totalitarian way), and not as brutal as Saddam. He also promised his Iraq would be secular and his dictatorship would suppress the Islamic theofascists of both sects. There were members of B2G who liked the idea, but the moment had passed when the U.S. could create a new dictator by fiat. The U.S. was irrevocably committed to the elections, thus Allawi had to win the election to get a chance to make his totalitarian dream come true. He didn't.

Occupation has a lot to offer the reader to enable her or him to understand why the Iraq War turned into a disaster for the U.S. and all of W. Bush's grandiose plans for Iraq have shriveled until there is left only the pathetic hope that what Iraq becomes after the U.S. military is withdrawn will resemble something U.S. jingoists can call victory. Several of the chapters are extremely excellent. For example, chapter 11 effectively refutes B2G's pre-invasion assessment that Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani was a Quietist devotee. His true position was between the apolitical, purely spiritual Quietist doctrine and the kind of theofascism Grand Ayatollah Kohmeini advocated and then established in Iran. That mid-point had the Marji'iyya (the institution of Shi'a religious authorities known as Marji', with those who are ayatollahs being the senior members) out of government, but controlling it indirectly through the politicians they permit to hold office. Al-Sistani believed direct control would corrupt Iraq's Marji'iyya like it has Iran's. That means al-Sistani, the most respected Shi'a religious authority in Iraq, was an active opponent of the secular democracy W. Bush and his gang hoped to create in Iraq.

Chapter 14 is about how the reconstruction effort in Iraq collapsed and failed to accomplish any of the projects so desperately needed by Iraqis and by the U.S. in its efforts to win Iraqi hearts and minds. The reconstruction effort was reduced to a ruin by the forces of corruption and incompetence. The CPA team sent by the Bush 2 Gang provided the incompetence. Iraqis and all too often U.S. corporations who benefited from corruption found the CPA's team easy to "work" with to ensure the corruption did not end. The ugly truth is this: the CPA ruled Iraq for a little over a year and, when it was dissolved, conditions in Iraq were worse than they had been right after the end of the regime-change phase of the war. The reconstruction effort failed because the CPA suffered from the cancers of ideological arrogance, parochial ignorance, and mindboggling incompetence.

There is content on the insurgency throughout Occupation, but chapter 13 is particularly outstanding. It explains why the insurgency inevitably expanded into a sectarian civil war. The insurgency was started by Ba'athists who had lost their government and military jobs when the regime change was accomplished. Soon it was taken over by Salafi and Wahhabi Sunnis because the jihad passion against the occupation and the Shi'a was greatest in them. The religious influence of the Salafis (ultra orthodox Sunnis who especially hate the Shi'a) and Wahhabis (ultra orthodox Sunnis who especially love theofascism) was liberated in Iraq during Saddam's Faith Campaign in the 1990s (he thought Iraq needed to be more Islamic for the security of his regime after the humiliating defeat in the Gulf War). The occupation of Iraq by nations perceived by Muslims to be Christian and pro-Israel inflamed Sunni fanatics at the same time it made other Sunnis, particularly the young ones, more receptive to ultra orthodox Sunni theology. Iraq's Sunni ulema (the community of all religious leaders) became radicalized for the same reasons, with moderates driven closer to the fanatics by the dread of Iraq being a Shi'a-dominated nation.

Occupation deals with corruption in Iraq in most of the chapters because the nation swiftly became more corrupt after the regime change. The most detailed analysis of the cancerous corruption is in chapter 20, which uses the oil bureaucracy and Ministry of Defense as the primary examples. The crooks were big and small, with some of them in other countries, but most of them in Iraq's government and businesses. Corruption was a cultural IED constructed by Saddam's government and, after the devastation of the Gulf War and the subsequent sanctions, by Iraqi citizens, who often had to become corrupt merely to survive. The CPA, wanting to get Iraq's ministries running again ASAP, essentially triggered the corruption IED when cunning Iraqis realized the CPA was too ignorant and too incompetent to prevent the resurrection of the Saddam-era corruption networks. After the resurrection, the networks were vigorous and operated with wily expertise. During the time the CPA governed Iraq the nation swiftly became one of the most corrupt countries on Earth. When the CPA and U.S. military finally figured it out, instead of doing something about it, they repeated the terrible mistake that was one of the reasons why the U.S. failed in Vietnam: they publicly pretended the pervasive corruption was not a serious problem at the same time they endeavored to accomplish their missions by attempting to work around it. Iraq is still a contender for most corrupt nation on Earth as the end of 2009 approaches and that is a major reason why the U.S. failed in Iraq (however, if U.S. citizens pretend 2009's puny goals were the real goals in Iraq from the beginning, it will make pretending the U.S. won easier).

The Occupation Of Iraq is now the best book about the war I have read and has become the book I recommend to be read first by any person who is motivated to study the Iraq War.

Like Blood in Water
Yuriy Tarnawsky
109 Fairchild Hall, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790
9781573661355 $19.95

Connor Stratman

Yuriy Tarnawsky's writing is difficult. That's probably the first reaction one would have when reading one of his novels. Three Blondes and Death, his most important novel, substituted the conventional structure of a novel with a complicated mathematical equation, which he explained to me but I didn't understand.

But Tarnawsky has an unusual skill for creating unforgettable characters. He wrote to me in an e-mail: "[When writing] look for the most painful spot in yourself." His anti-heroes are obsessive, strange, and equally pathetic and detestable. The reader teeters between sympathy and disgust for them.

However, Tarnawsky's new book, Like Blood in Water, manages to be yet another innovative literary work. The book is composed of five "mininovels," which contain the scope of a novel within the length of a short story. He distinguishes novels from stories by saying that a short story "deals with events" and a novel "with characters." Thus, all of the stories in the book are character studies; the events are generated by the character and the reader can "predict the character's behavior in new situations."

Yet, Tarnawsky throws the reader for another loop. By using a technique - or rather, anti-technique - he calls negative text, he intentionally leaves important information out of the text. The reader, he says, "is bound to supply and interpret it." So the book is, for all intensive purposes, an active experience. We become active participants in a story that we didn't write. For instance, in the first mininovel, titled "Screaming," the main character, Rilke Roark, meets a woman named Alba in a church converted into a gym where people come together to scream recreationally. They marry, and the story ends with Rilke standing next to a river, where blocks of ice carry people and objects away.

Though I'm generalizing in the extreme, that's the gist of the information Tarnawsky gives. You have to assign your own meaning to what is happening. Not enough is there for an adequate interpretation of the text itself. He is inviting us to be exegetes of ourselves through his characters.

It seems counterintuitive to leave your characters incomplete, but this approach is extremely effective. However, you have to come to this book willing to be active. You won't read it and understand it if you read it like you would any other novel. It's a confusing and disorienting experience, but for those willing to put in the effort, the rewards are many.

Susannah, A Lawyer: From Tragedy to Triumph
Ruth Rymer
Langdon Street Press
212 3rd Avenue North, Suite 290, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781934938416 $14.95

Dawn Papuga, Reviewer

Rape. Sexual Harassment. Deeply ingrained, gender-based social mores. Victim blaming. The Denial of a woman's identity. Trafficking in women (daughters) for social and economic advancement. Any one of these topics could be the subject of a lengthy body of work, but Ruth Rymer manages to draw all of the most common challenges facing women in the 19th century into Susannah's journey from the halls of Mount Holyoke to the defendant's chair, to a seat in one of the top firms in Chicago to read law before taking the bar exam. In Susannah, A Lawyer, Ruth Rymer manages to bring to life the complex world of intelligent women in a time where attending college was for meeting husbands, not for building careers.

One challenge of writing historical fiction is establishing the time and social climate in a period that is not in an unimaginable past in a relatable, clear manner. Conveying the differences between current social perspectives and perspectives from the past is a challenge for any historical fiction author. Add to that the need to unveil similarities between past and present social issues (sexual harassment, for example) that may seem simplified and "solved," and you have a task that few authors are capable of negotiating effectively. At first glance, the layer upon layer of circumstantial bad luck that Susannah encounters from the first chapter to the last seems to be an almost over-saturation of political and social points. But when taken in conjunction with the period in which Susannah, A Lawyer is set, and the impact that historical fact plays on the pursuit of a law degree by a woman, her obstacles, and the strategies she employs in overcoming those obstacles, the laundry list of assaults by friends, family, and society all become representative of the struggles women of the 19th century faced collectively. In this respect, Rymer's juggling of controversial issues (both in the 19th century and now) with historical accuracy and engaging dialogue makes the comparison between Susannah and the reader inevitable.

Don't mistake Rymer's accessible writing for lack of sophistication. Susannah is full of well researched detail of language, social mores, apparel, and customs of diverse groups of people. Rymer's experience in law is immediately evident but not intimidating, and through the voice of Susannah, readers are able to encounter reading law with the same confidence she does. Rymer creates a cast of memorable and three dimensional characters that are fallible and real. Few are absolutely despicable. Few are completely lovable. Because of the range of experiences and actions of her characters, Susannah becomes more realistic, and the end of this novel leaves the reader expecting to hear the next installment over tea in the salon tomorrow rather than waiting for a sequel. Susannah becomes a character readers grow frustrated with because of her naivete in social situations that modern readers are all too familiar with, but at the same time the audience can't help but root for her to stand up for herself, to challenge barriers and to be the path blazing woman the title promises.

Jeffrey Koterba
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Boston, New York
9780151014927 $25.00

Donald Schneider, Reviewer

Inklings is a memoir by a professional cartoonist, and it reads as such. The book traces the rise of Jeffrey Koterba, critically acclaimed editorial cartoonist, from a somewhat chaotic childhood in South Omaha to his present position with the Omaha World-Herald. Within Part One of the book, its most lengthy segment, Mr. Koterba recounts his early school years as a series of incidents that saliently traces his formative years and presents the ambience of his family life in the mid- to late sixties. The incidents resemble verbal photographs or, more appropriately, cartoon panels that at times border on caricature.

Inklings is most reminiscent of Betty Smith's thinly-veiled autobiographical novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, with Smith's metaphorical tree having been transplanted from early Twentieth Century New York to the Omaha of Mr. Koterba's narrative, albeit fertilized within a most decidedly less schmaltzy soil. Much like the father of Smith's tale, Arthur (Art) Koterba is a hard-drinking dreamer with a musical bent. He had been a big band era drummer who once backed the young Johnny Carson in clubs during the future talk show mogul's salad days as an itinerant magician. Art has been a devoted Carson fan ever since.

Art Koterba is a man with a mercurial temper, though not prone to violence. His occasional halfhearted attempts to discipline Jeffrey, his eldest child, with a belt strap never come to fruition. Art's not infrequent arguments with his wife are short-lived, though they sufficiently unsettle the six-year-old Jeffrey that he takes refuge in clutching and gazing through a prism he has discovered within his disorganized and cluttered house or by dreaming that he is floating upon the cloud of his father's bedtime story far away and above the domestic maelstrom he fears will engulf him. When he's somewhat older, he tries to defuse the domestic quarrels by preaching from the family's Catholic Bible.

When the memoir begins, the Koterba household consists of Jeffrey's parents and his brother Artie, four years Jeffrey's junior. Although Art Koterba has a decent white collar job with the Union Pacific Railroad, the family seems to be constantly bereft of money. In addition to accepting occasional music gigs, Art's main source of extra income is buying broken televisions at garage sales and refurbishing them. As a result, the Koterba residence is constantly cluttered with wall-to-wall televisions that Jeffrey and his mother derisively refer to as "junk," much to the chagrin of Art. "My junk paid for Christmas," he indignantly retorts.

As the boys age, it becomes apparent that they are disparate in nature. Despite Jeffrey being far closer to his father in temperament, like a Biblical account of a patriarch favoring his second son over his firstborn, it becomes apparent that Art increasingly draws closer to Artie, the more dutiful and devoted son, and becomes more distant to Jeffrey, the like-minded dreamer who has inherited his father's "nervous habits," physical and verbal tics. Artie grows to worship his father and becomes an omnipresent source of succor and solace for Art, while Jeffrey exhibits little interest in his father's used television sets sideline and clings to his mother who seems resigned to her husband's foibles and idiosyncratic ways.

While the more physically vigorous Artie excels at sports, Jeffrey continues to dream and draw, an avocation he has been enamored with since his first having been able to read the Sunday comics featured in the World-Herald. Whereas his incipient childhood efforts with drawing cartoons meet with sympathetic praise from his mother, his father's reaction is dismissive and derisive, causing the hurt youngster to further withdraw into his escapist fantasies.

Interwoven within the narrative recounted in the present tense are digressions into the family's past. Hovering above Jeffrey's father's family, bred by Czechoslovakian immigrants, is the seeming ghost of Ed Koterba, Art's late brother. Ed had been the towering hope of the otherwise humble clan. He had become a journalist who had graduated from writing for the World-Herald to having become a syndicated columnist for Scripps Howard. In that capacity, he had been the friend of such an illustrious figure as Jacqueline Bouvier, then an unmarried photographer. Later, he had been present at the first televised presidential press conference, held by President Kennedy. When Ed was later killed in a plane crash, the president publicly noted his sorrow at a subsequent conference.

Art Koterba, conspiracy theorist and weather prognosticator extraordinaire, is convinced that the plane crash had been engineered by the Soviet Union which had been the subject of an investigation by Ed Koterba at the time of his death. Later, Jeffrey, attracted to journalism, fantasizes that he might be the reincarnation of his illustrious uncle, apparently discounting the fact that they had briefly lived contemporaneously. Ed's legacy includes his son, several years older than Jeffrey. Despite the fact that the boy had been too young to have had a say in the matter, Art never "forgives" him for having been adopted by his stepfather after his mother remarried, thus seemingly rejecting the family name. Jeffrey, however, is deferential towards his cousin as the living embodiment of his august father.

Interspersed within the plot are mentions of macroscopic sixties events, such as the moon landing and Woodstock, which nicely flavor the largely domestic syntax of the text.

The tempo of the book noticeably accelerates with Part Two (of three) with Jeffrey now having reached adolescence and with the addition of two siblings and a third on the way. Although the teenage Jeffrey survives a literal lightning strike, his often metaphorically tempestuous relations with his father become increasingly strained. Art lambastes his firstborn with his perception that Jeffrey has been contaminated by the societal decadence that the father perceives all around him, while extolling Artie as the model son. The situation culminates with a terrible argument and Jeffrey's eventual escape from his father's reach after starting college as an art major; in retrospect, a seemingly necessary step for the son to have later fulfilled his dreams and destiny.

As a personal memoir, Inklings is honest in the extreme as the author recounts personal incidents of an embarrassing nature: a childhood with too few friends and too many bullies engendered by what he would later come to realize was a then undiagnosed case of Tourette's Syndrome, an affliction shared with his father who could never bring himself to accept such a definitive diagnosis. From his heartfelt recounting of his reaction when he learns the truth concerning the circumstances of his birth, to the revelation that his problems with school bullies had only been eliminated by the physical intervention of his kid brother, the author spares himself little. In tandem with Mr. Koterba's well-chiseled wit, an aura of understated poignancy pervades the author's writing as he comes to terms with his past.

If Inklings were a novel, I would commend the author on his exquisitely drawn characterizations. Being nonfiction, however, one can only admire Mr. Koterba's ability and willingness to translate to others the warmth and vibrant feeling of flesh and blood via the coldness of the statical medium that is print. He manages to do so with a vitality that leaves the reader with a sense that he or she is almost as much a member of the Koterba family as is the author.

The book includes illustrations drawn, of course, by the author, which nicely embellish the text and remind the reader as to why Mr. Koterba has reached the professional status that he has within the world of journalism. Nothing, however, actually inside the narrative so succinctly summarizes the raison d'etre of this expositional memoir as does the book's dedication: "For my father."

Newt's World: Internal Byte
Susan L. Womble
CyPress Publications
P.O. Box 2636, Tallahassee, FL 32316-2636
9781935083092 $13.95

Donna Meredith

From the moment handcuffs click onto the hero's wrists in the opening paragraph, readers know they are in for an action-packed adventure in the latest installment of the "Newt's World" books for middle-grade children.

"Newt's World: Internal Byte," by Tallahassee author Susan Womble, is the second in the series. A National Board Certified teacher at Godby High School in Tallahassee, Florida, Womble teaches reading, writing, language arts, and learning strategies.

Newt is a twelve-year-old boy who finds himself in a wheelchair after an accident. The first book in the series, "Newt's World: Beginnings," won the gold medal in the children's division of the Florida Book Awards last year.

Newt's fans won't be disappointed by the second book in the series. Newt and his sidekicks, Caleb and Marcus, are back together even though the charter school they all attended burned down in the last book. Newt's father converts an empty house into a school for the kids, but big change arrives at the Willis Charter School in the form of girls. The girls bring different interests and ideas that provide an education all by themselves for our trio of best buddies.

Womble's trademark is short chapters ending in cliffhangers that keep readers turning the pages. She illustrated the cover herself and her father, Tommy Larned, drew the clever illustrations by chapter headings.

Newt's World has some similarities to the real world: girls tend to like the most athletic boy and a bully makes life scary for the good kids. But there are differences in this world, too. Newt is a computer genius, his father is rich enough to buy him almost anything, and the charter school requires gun-packing body guards and a security detail.

When the class bully, Mike, taunts Newt by calling him a gimp, a new girl confronts him. She tells her friends, "Hey, you gotta stand up to those boys, or they'll bully you all of your life." Eventually Mike's classmates prod him into reforming.

The boys collaborate to invent a new holographic video game called "Newt's World Ultimate Game." It is a further refinement of software belonging to Willis Communications, the company owned by Newt's father. On the spooky side, the game is getting smarter and doing things on its own. Since the boys suspect an unknown person is accessing the game, they install security codes to protect it.

When all goes wrong - and it does in a big way - the members of Newt's class unite to save Willis Communications and thwart a kidnapping. By combining the unique skills and talents of every child, the resulting team conquers the evil always lurking one byte away in Newt's World.

Young readers will probably decide this book is, as Marcus would say, "fantabulous." Teachers will appreciate the accompanying workbook and Womble's web sites and, which offer additional activities and insight into Newt's World.

Womble hopes to see the third and final book in the series, "Newt's World: Ultimate Game," released at the end of 2010.

The Bugs Are Burning: The Role of Eastern Europeans in the Exploitation, Subjugation and Murder of Their Jewish Neighbors During the Holocaust
Dr. Sheldon Hersh and Dr. Robert Wolf
Devora Publishing
9781934440391 $21.95

Fern Sidman, Reviewer

In this meticulously documented treatise of centuries old European anti-Semitism, authors Hersh and Wolf graphically depict the hellacious barbarism and heinous atrocities committed against the Jewish people before, during and after the Holocaust by those they believed to be their close neighbors and friends throughout the length and breadth of Eastern Europe.

The authors painstakingly take us through a nightmarish odyssey of the toxic manifestations of deeply entrenched anti-Semitism in such countries as Lithuania, Latvia, the Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Croatia and Poland in the decades preceding the Holocaust. Quoting from a litany of respected books on the history of pre-Holocaust Jew hatred, they impart unique perspective on the nihilistic philosophies that proliferated throughout Europe in the early 20th century as well as offering a salient exploration of the genesis of bellicosity towards Jews and the ramifications thereof. Lusting for Jewish blood, the indigenous gentile population of Eastern Europe, the authors inform us, rapidly morphed into unabashed miscreants. Gladly becoming more than "willing participants" in the wholesale slaughter of the Jews, when their respective countries were occupied by Nazi forces, these Eastern Europeans possessed no compunction about liquidating Jewish assets and property, or for that matter, engaging in the most horrific forms of sadistic mass murder of their Jewish neighbors.

Clearly, rabid Jew hatred was endemic to Eastern Europe since the influx of Jewish immigrants centuries before. Aided and abetted by the insidious dogma of the church and the hateful rhetoric against Jews in the media and the government; European resentments of the Jews grew exponentially as the entire continent stood poised to explode like a powder keg. One need only read of the wanton murder of Jews prior to the advent of Nazism throughout Europe to gain a cogent understanding of why Hitler's manifesto held sway in these countries; soaked with Jewish blood and tears.

In June of 1941, when German forces occupied a town called Jedwabne, the Polish residents held a town meeting in which they decided that the Jewish residents must be annihilated. One can only recoil in horror as they authors tell us, "Hooks and wooden clubs were the murders' instruments of choice. Jews were set upon; their heads severed from their bodies and kicked about like soccer balls. To escape the killers, women fled to a nearby pond and drowned themselves along with their babies. Those who survived were brought to the town square, where they were beaten with clubs and stones, and herded into a barn that was set ablaze by their Polish neighbors. As for the younger children, they were roped together by their legs, carried on the executioners' backs to be impaled on pitchforks, and thrown onto the smoldering coals of the burning barn".

Other such depraved stories of mass murder of Jews in countries as Romania, Hungary, the Ukraine, Slovakia, Lithuania and Croatia are also told here in chilling detail. The authors give us pause and something to reflect upon as it pertains to the scourge of modern day anti-Semitism when they quote Deborah Lipstadt in her book, "Witnesses to the Holocaust". She writes, "The Holocaust was not committed by a cadre of sadistic beasts. Before the war these people were doctors, lawyers, architects, teachers, clerks, farmers and students...It means that it takes relatively little to turn 'normal' humans into creatures capable of the most sadistic acts."

Eastern European collaborators murdered well over a million Jews sans the assistance of the Nazi death machine while the world stood in abject silence. Rife with vociferous hatred towards Jews, these Eastern European residents interpreted the world's reluctance to voice objections to such acts as a tacit imprimatur to continue their diabolical rampages. This book is replete with a plethora of profound lessons on the vituperative and lethal nature of unchecked anti-Semitism, but its most paramount insights relate to the existential perils that the Jews of today's world confront. Jew hatred has become a fashionable and "politically correct" phenomenon in the spheres of the Western academy, but this time around it is couched in semantics. While classical Jew hatred is dismissed by intellectuals as blatantly racist and thoroughly hackneyed; the very same menacing sentiments have been summarily replaced by the en vogue terminology, better known as "anti-Zionism". Much more than a cut and dry history book, "The Bugs Are Burning" teaches us that the brand of Jew hatred that we are now witnessing in this new millennium must be accorded intellectual and emotional gravitas and addressed in the strongest of terms. Now, before it is too late.

Nonno's Monkey
Isabel Berman Bucher
Cantare Press
Cantare Press
4900 Calle Del Cielo Ne, Albuquerque, NM 87111
9780615204390 $22.50 (505) 292-8303

Connie Gotsch, Reviewer

The trick of writing a good memoir lies in the author's ability to find the universal emotions and truths in the events he or she recounts. That done, the writer must next place his or her recollections into the contest of the larger world. A memoir meeting these requirements explodes into a dynamite read. Without them, it fizzles like a Fourth of July rocket dud.

Get ready for a big bang when you open "NONNO'S MONKEY AN ITALIAN AMERICAN MEMOIR" by Isabel Bearman Bucher. With a novelist's sense of drama and story, she presents the lives of her mother's family from 1800 in Northern Italy to the 1940s when she arrives on the scene in Connecticut.

NONNO'S MONKEY will literally set you roaring one minute and sobbing the next as you meet Angela, Isabel's artistic and intellectual grandmother (NONNA), Isabel's winemaking flower-tending grandfather (NONNO), Aunt Mimi, Uncle De, Mamma, Papa, brother David, Prozia and Prozio (Great Aunt and Uncle), and Isabel herself. All have quirks, strengths and weaknesses that get them into --and keep them out of -- trouble on Indian Neck Avenue, Branford, Connecticut.

If Mamma doesn't keep things stirred up trying to teach Mimi to drive; if Mimi isn't trying to dye her hair, if Uncle De isn't rescuing David and Isabel from some mischief. or pinching Mimi's bottom, if Nonna isn't cooking Sunday dinner, an ark full of animals keep the day interesting. Yakie, the overweight daschund gets stuck under a barn, Rusty, Aunt Mimi's Irish Setter romps with the kids on the lawn, and the Hell Cat, Billy, spits at everyone but Nonna. Hens cluck and the rooster struts through the garden.

Chico, an ornery little monkey brought home by Nonno from the State Fair, flings china, steals ladies unmentionables off the backyard clothes line, ruins Nonna's tea party by poking his head through a hole in the floor just as the ladies sit down, and swipes eggs out from under Nonna's best laying hens.

Around such boisterous and bawdy, tearful and tender tales, Isabel Bearman Bucher weaves the emotions of a big close family working, fighting, and playing together, just as all families do. Whether Mama licks her handkerchief and cleans Isabel's face, (to Isabel's disgust) or Isabel struggles to gag down anchovies during Sunday dinner, you'll find yourself saying, "Oh my gosh, I remember how miserable my first day of school was," or "Chico stealing the wine reminds me of the time our parakeet, Charlie, fell into Uncle Emil's beer."

Pictures of Isabel's relatives going about daily tasks, recipes, quotes from Walter Winchall, and mention of popular songs place Isabel and her family into the milieu of America during World War II.

NONNO'S MONKEY is definitely a book to curl up with on a cool fall evening. By the time you finish the first chapter, you'll be nice and warm, wrapped in memories of your own family,

Jasmine Dogs
J.J. Winslow
Fresh Art
PO Box 2864, Carmel, CA 93921
9780578015361 $19.95

Jean Stallings

Big Sur, the Monterey Peninsula and Esalen provide beautiful settings for this romantic mystery. Detailed descriptions of scenery, characters, and sexual activities make the plots come alive in this fast-paced novel about life on the Central Coast, with frequent side trips to Hollywood and Los Angeles. I recommend it for all.

Journey of Faith
Katie McCurdy
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd., Suite 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432726010 $12.95

Joe L. Blevins

Faith Martin lives close to her faith.

Katie McCurdy is a fine author with her book: Journey of Faith.

Faith Martin is very anxious as her family moves from the only home she knows for the wilds of Wyoming. She is a true pioneer girl who is sure and strong in what she knows and believes. Her family is her focus and she is strong in the times of trials and tribulations that she experiences. You will get a "slice of life" on every page.

As I get to know the characters I feel like they were people that I know. They are strong in their faith and determination. (Their very names also reflect those values.) When times grew tough, Faith rose to the occasion. She is a great role model for our age. Many books are so wrapped in the occult and have the most-odd notions for a premise these days. This book is more traditional with a few twists that make it most interesting. There is still a market for traditional stories. People are tired of vampires and wizards that live in some strange world. Our great historic past still offers many great adventures and characters that are viable for today's audience. I found myself going along with the characters as they traveled to their new home on the frontier. My own family share similar stories and situations that I used as a premise in my own books. So as someone who has written five books I found that this young author has done her homework. Her research on frontier life was done to make her stories complete and most interesting.

About the Author:

There must be a great deal of Katie in the "Faith" character! She has a big future ahead of her and she is quite insightful in writing her book. You feel like that you are actually the in the time and place that you are visiting. Our future is great as we have people like her to become our future leaders, and members of our society. Read her book and you will be looking forward to her next works. She portrays proper family values, and by living in harmony by living close to the Lord. People in the nineteenth century had little but their faith and their drive to survive the tough times they lived in. Many people living today would not last a week if they lived back then. You see their joy for life and their enjoyment of the basic and simple things that we have long forgotten. Many good lessons are shown here for people to remember well: mainly that that "self" is not as important as family and your relationship to God.

This book is good for all ages. It is suitable for libraries, public and home schools. I look forward to reading this book to my grand daughters, Hailey and Zoe when they come to visit soon. Your children and you yourself, as an adult will enjoy this interesting story. The story builds and reaches its goal to inform and entertain.

I spend some time each week with reading programs in my area. There is always a need for books that have a strong youth interest. I often find it difficult to find books that are suitable for a young student, or for finding a new young adult adventure series. Katie has more books in the works and each promise to build and continue with a strong use of characters and interesting plots.

Dirty Little Angels
Chris Tusa
Livingston Press
9781604890303 $15.95

Joel Hacker

Sometimes the experience of reading a book is greatly enhanced by our state of mind at the time we read it, the events in our life around that time, or a panoply of other factors. In this instance, by complete happenstance, the random selections from my play-list while reading "Dirty Little Angels" seemed a strangely appropriate mix of dark, politicized hip-hop and rap with a little bit of Henry Rollin's ranting thrown in. I felt my level of the engagement with the subject matter was definitely increased by these factors.

This story centers around the lives of a family of four in post-Katrina New Orleans. Struggling with money, dealing with the issues involved in a miscarriage, marital infidelity and 16-19 year old children involved in drugs, violent crime and associating with less than savory individuals. We follow these various events over a relatively short span of time through the eyes of the daughter, sixteen year old Hailey.

Many times, I find stories like this to be deceptively simple. They are so stark, blunt and realistic that one simply flies through them, carried along by rapid gunfire of events from a beating-turned-homicide by Hailey, her brother Cyrus and their drug dealing ex-con acquaintance Moses to Hailey's attempted suicide. We see the consequences for these, and other actions, in such an everyday light it is easy to not look too deeply at what is going on. However, I feel that is the very point of stories such as this, to remind us that for many people such events are everyday life. It is easy to forget, in front of our computer screens, in our offices and on our campuses, within the various facades we hang on our ivory towers, that for many people reality is a much darker place. Work like this lets us safely peek through a keyhole into the struggles of that other world, which is not so brightly lit.

The story ends with a corruption and violence not unexpected, but leaves us with many unanswered questions as to the eventual fate of the various characters. Perhaps, as is said in the book, '...those who suffer first shall then be saved...' and these all too human characters will find their lives eventually transformed into something else through the alchemy of tragedy. Or, perhaps, as is all too often the case with the downtrodden, they will find that their misery and actions will simply perpetuate more misery.

A Broad Abroad in Thailand, An Expat's Misadventure in the Land of Smiles.
Dodie Cross
CrossRoads-Four Ways West Publications
14618 Valley View Ave, La Mirada, CA, 90638-4351
9781885614756 $19.95

Kristin Pace

"Living abroad in Thailand is not always all it is said to be as author Dodie Cross quickly realized. The result of her near year-long adventure? A "laugh out loud must-read memoir" called A Broad Aboard in Thailand An Expat's Misadventures in the Land of Smiles.

When newly widowed Dodie first met and became involved with Dick, she had no idea what lay in store for her. When Dick is offered an incredible job opportunity in Thailand, there is no question that Dodie wanted to go along. Pushed into a quick marriage, the two soon set off for lands unknown.

Their first experiences in Thailand were luxurious. If only the same could be said for the rest of her stay. Dick and Dodie are soon moved into a new company-owned home and begin to realize very quickly that this wonderful opportunity came with some serious strings attached.

Dodie is fortunate to find many allies and friends. Faithful Pon, Dodie's live-in housekeeper and friend very quickly earned a place in Dodie's heart, as did the "beautiful orphans" Dodie considered herself fortunate to work with at the Pattaya Orphanage. The ladies from the Pattaya International Ladies' Club (PILC) also played a large part in comforting Dodie and helping her to keep her sanity but at the same time were part of an on-going problem Dodie had with the boss' wife, Mrs. Anorexia or Mrs. A for short (named changed to protect the guilty).

While the area and the friends Dodie made would endear Thailand to her forever, problems followed her almost from the beginning of this fateful journey. The primary problem Dodie faced was Dick. Dick suffered from an addiction and had, at times some extreme issues. This would be a large part of their undoing. Competing with Dick for "problem of the trip" was the insufferable control freak Mrs. A. While not an employee of The Company, Mrs. A issued many rules regarding nearly every aspect of the lives - both public and private - of the employees and their wives. To cross Mrs. A or to break one of her and her husband's rules was to earn an instant trip back to the States. Unfortunately for Dodie, she and Mrs. A were at cross purposes almost constantly. Medical problems, a near fatal accident and probably countless blunders in dealing with the Thai people all plague Dodie as well.

This memoir, though thick, is very difficult to put down. Dodie Cross has achieved a great accomplishment: her readers will feel an almost immediate connection to her. They will feel her anxiety, her stresses, her amusement and most certainly with groan along with her at the mere thought of Mrs. A. Mrs. Cross is to be applauded for this outstanding book."

The Gift of Murder: An Anthology of Holiday Crime Stories to Benefit Toys for Tots
Edited by John M. Floyd
Wolfmont Press
9781603640107 $15.00

Marlene Pyle

For the fourth year, Wolfmont Press has published this holiday crime anthology to benefit Toys for Tots. That makes it a good deed as well as an excellent read.

Nineteen authors have contributed their work to this book, each with his or her own unique style. The crime story lover on your gift list won't be disappointed.

One of my favorites is "T'was the Night" by Anita Page. In this story, the main character loses his job just before Christmas. Reeling from that ordeal, he goes home early to find his wife in their bed - and she's not alone. Our hero's not having a good day. He throws a few things into a bag, and heads for his cabin to spend the winter and lick his wounds, but what he finds there may be worse than what he's left behind.

In Steve Shrott's "One Good Turn" a would-be shoplifter gets a whole lot more than he bargained for. Gail Farrelly's "The Kindle Did It" calls to mind the early stories of Stephen King, where inanimate objects take on evil traits, causing mayhem and sometimes murder.

That's just a sample of what's in store in this collection. These tales will leave the mystery reader hungry for more. Like leaving out cookies and milk for Santa, this is a holiday ritual to look forward to. Let's hope Wolfmont Press continues the tradition.

Get Off Your "But"
Sean Stephenson
9780470399934 $19.95

Mary Crocco

Rating: Must read

If you want to be inspired to 'get off your but' and make positive changes to your life, then reading, Get Off Your "But", by Sean Stephenson is a must read. Suffering from birth with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a brittle bones disorder, Sean Stephenson shares with us his thirty year journey of his life. He has us realize our full potential in spite of any adversities we endure. Sean makes us realize there are no excuses to why we sit on our 'buts'.

Sean shares his daily endurance to his physical disabilities to teach his readers we can overcome our fears and insecurities and learn more about ourselves. He gives us practical skills to help us to get off out 'buts' and live our life to the fullest. Sean lives his life in a wheelchair with his disease with 'pain' as his middle name. When asked if he gets used to the pain Sean replies, "No, at best I understand how to control it." This is Sean's message to his readers in his realistic guidebook, Get Off Your "But". He shows us how we control our own life. We can feel sorry for ourselves, or we can Get off our 'buts' to make positive changes in our lives. Today Sean is a psychotherapist and a world renowned professional speaker.

What makes Sean so special? He learned how to displace his daily pain through self-discovery, "Pain was my teacher and I became its good little student." Sean eliminated all his 'buts' and he encourages his readers to eliminate our 'buts'. For example: Sure, I'd like to change, BUT….. I'm too old/too young. I'm too short/too tall. I'm too fat/too skinny. I'm not pretty /handsome enough. I'm not smart enough. I have a learning disability. Sound familiar? It sure did to me.

I had an unexpected life change at age 55 due to a chronic illness and have been sitting on my 'but' for nine months, 'but' I am disabled'. After reading Sean's six lessons in his book, I am now off my 'but'! Never before has a book gone beyond words on a page to real life behavior changes like Sean Stephenson's book. Sean's encouragements in his words and lifelong lessons have his readers participate in activities such as writing responses in a journal. This activity gives us true insights and helps us to get off our 'but.' Sean makes us realize we all have challenges and opportunities, and we can choose to sit on our 'buts' and make excuses or Get off our 'buts' and be successful in life. I chose to get off my 'but' after reading Sean Stephenson's book, Get off Your "But" and I am looking forward to a sequel to keep me inspired to stay off my 'but'.

Mainlines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader
Lester Bangs
Edited by John Morthland
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019 USA
9780375713675 $15.00

Nick Zielinski

Music Critic Lester Bangs, who died of a Darvon overdose in 1982 had (and continues to have) a reputation for being obnoxious, outrageous, raunchy, acerbic and hilarious. This book does nothing to dispel that notion. In fact, it goes a long way toward proving it. Much of his writing takes on a visceral quality that too often gets dismissed as the inevitable result of combining excessive amounts of cough syrup and methamphetamine (or whatever cheeky-sounding, rock-star drug combo you can tranquilizers and vicodin, peyote and diesel fumes, etc.). It is, actually, much more than that. Bangs has the uncanny ability to transmit through his words an urgency and excitement that, in many cases, is more interesting than the subject matter on which he writes. If he is reviewing an album, good or bad, that album must be heard... and soon! If he expresses outrage at the Rolling Stones or joy at the Shaggs, the reader cannot help but feel those emotions right along side him.

However, as one soon discovers, while Bangs lives up to his reputation (and then some), he is no one-trick pony. This collection unearths a point of view that is more complex than the mythic archetype of the uncompromising journalist-gadfly, defiantly blowing the whistle on the vapid, bloated aristocracy of the pop-culture elite. Bangs demonstrates the unique ability to advocate a staunchly idealistic perspective with a voice that, at its best, can be described as sardonic, and at its worst, is downright caustic and confrontational. His writing style can run the gamut from Hunter S. Thompson-inspired prose to lucid New York Times editorial to George Carlin-like observational comedy to seventh-grade diary all in the span of 500 words. This neurotic style also pertains to the vehemence and facility with which he argues his pop-culture hypotheses. At times he argues with the rigor and tenacity of Matlock and Perry Mason combined, while other times he meanders around his suppositions as if trying to prove to himself that he believes what he is writing. Nowhere in this book is the latter more apparent than in the sequence of four reviews (originally published in Creem Magazine and The Village Voice) on the mid-'70s activities of the Rolling Stones.

The sequence starts with a piece originally published in the January issue of Creem, 1973. Early on, Bangs sets the tone by declaring his love for the Rolling Stones. He says:

[the Rolling Stones are] The greatest rock and roll band in the world... and my heros since I got my first look at Mick's leer way back in '64: the decadent badass princes we'll never put down or lose.

It doesn't take long, however, for the tone of this glowing appraisal to drift into less affectionate territory. He confides in the reader that once, before a concert in 1965, he had to be dragged kicking and screaming by his girlfriend out of a Coney Island hotdog joint because he was so distraught at what he perceived as the Stones' abandonment of the "true faith" of pure R&B for the "crass commercialism of rock." He was, in fact, so overwrought that he was crying. As Lester put it (as only Lester could), he was "dropping tears as big as cantaloupes." The negative tide quickly reverses itself, though, when after being physically forced into the auditorium the Stones played what he described (in a much more colorful manor) as a tour de force. The article continues on to ping-pong between youthful hero-worship of the Rolling Stones and the cold realization that they are no longer able to move him in the way they once did. It doesn't quite serve as an obituary for his starry-eyed affinity for the band, however. He is unable, by the conclusion, to convince himself that he has totally given up hope. It reads more like a diagnosis of a patient, and the prognosis is negative.

As this sequence continues to unravel, the reader looks on as Bangs negotiates his way through a mine-field of emotional states. From anger and disappointment caused by the band's role in the infamous Altamont concert (in which he likens Mick Jagger's attempts to defuse the situation to "Betty Boop trying to quell a race riot"), to acceptance of his final conclusion that the Stones are in bondage to "some stupid idea of themselves" and are therefore irrelevant. His cold cynicism patiently dissects and suppresses every desperate attempt by his fandom to avoid his inevitable conclusion. In the end he is left with what he tries to pass off as a kind of zen-like serenity. As he puts it:

...the heat's off... which is certainly lucky for both them and us: I mean, it was a heavy weight to carry for all concerned. This is the first meaningless Stones album, [referring to Black and Blue] and thank god. No rationalizations - they can now go out there and compete with Aerosmith, or more precisely... the "adult pop" market. Barry Manilow even.

In stark contrast to his agonizing ruminations on the Rolling Stones is Dandelions in Still Air: The Withering Away of the Beatles. Published in The Real Paper on April 23, 1975, the article opens with a challenge to the reader:

Name me one Sixties superstar who hasn't become a zombie. Dylan doesn't count, because he's been revivified, at least in terms of being a hot contender, by Blood on the Tracks. And Lou Reed is a professional zombie who can cackle in the grooves instead of up his sleeve. But Mick Jagger, Joe Cocker, Steve Stills... they're all washed up, moribund, self-pitying, self-parodying has-beens. And the more I thought about it, the more it seems the four splintered Beatles may well have weathered the pall and decay of the Seventies the worst.

After this opening salvo, Bangs masterfully skewers the post-breakup activities of the Beatles. He lampoons each member one at a time, as he puts it "in order of descending credibility." He starts with Paul, in reference to Band on the Run:

In its vapid way it was a masterful album. Muzak's finest hour. Of course, he is about as committed to the notion of subject matter as Hanna-Barbera, and his cuteness can be incredibly annoying at times.

then John:

He'll do anything, reach for any cheap trick, jump on any bandwagon, to make himself look like a significant artist.

then George:

Harrison belongs in a daycare center for counterculture casualties... His position seems to be I'm pathetic, but I believe in Krishna, which apparently absolves him from any position of leadership while enabling him to assume a totally preachy arrogance toward his audience...

and last (but also least) is Ringo:

[Starr] is beneath contempt. He used to be lovable because he was inept and knew it and turned the whole thing into a good natured game. Now he is marketing that lameness in a slick Richard Perry-produced package.

Believe it or not the point of this article is not to destroy the ex-Beatles' self esteem (I don't think Lester has any delusions of grandeur in that regard). Bangs' hypothesis here is concerned with a bigger picture. He asserts that the Beatles filled the void left by the assassination of John F. Kennedy because they "were the perfect medicine... to obliterate the grief with a tidal wave of fun for its own sake." He also posits that the leadership void left by JFK's death forced Americans (youths especially) to re-contemplate their concept of leadership. The Beatles were also appealing in that regard since they were a real rock group with no clear cut leader. They were a democratic entity making decisions with the good of the group as their primary concern. He goes on to state that:

...they were never John, Paul, George and Ringo half as much as they were the Beatles. And that stood for something that they could never achieve apart or even separately within the band.

This piece represents the best of Bangs' writing. It tells the truth (at least as he sees it), it's hilarious, and it is able to effectively uncover the good, by pointing out (oh so skillfully) the bad. Through seemingly endless castigation and merciless criticism (much of which intentionally borders on blasphemy) of his subjects and their short-comings, a new optimism is achieved. This isn't your mom and dad's optimism either. It's an optimism that grows from knowledge that you can wade, chest-deep through the post-apocalyptic radioactive swamp of rock and pop music and still (if you keep your wits about you) find diamonds and pearls.

Beyond the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, this collection includes articles on a wide-ranging variety of topics. For instance, the raw, awesome sexual power of Anne Murray (an article in which he refers to Kenny Loggins as a "hippie panda" and attributes the difference between Murray's voice and Barbara Streisand's to "schnozzonasality"). Or, a group of girls called the Shaggs who's first album, Philosophy of the World, is hailed by Bangs (with utmost sincerity I assure you) as a landmark of rock 'n roll history. An "anti-power trio" of pre-teen sisters that taught themselves to play. He describes the drums as, "sounding like a peg-leg stumbling through a field of bald Uniroyals." And the guitar work is, "like 14 pocket combs being run through a moose's dorsal, but very gently. Yes it rocks. Does it ever... God bless the Shaggs." Other subjects include a short interview with Captain Beefheart where Bangs poses frank questions about creativity and artistry, and six theories about Lou Reed's album Metal Machine Music (#4 posits simply, "This is what it sounds like in Lou's circulatory system). These are just a few examples of the prolific writing contained within this book.

This collection of Lester Bangs' writing affords the reader an honest and (at times) up close and personal look at Bangs' strengths and weakness as a writer and as a human being. What is most striking is his ability to make the reader feel what he feels through his words. He is able to invoke chuckles of agreement, guffaws of disagreement, and laugh-out-loud moments of sublime comedy while uncovering new perspectives from which to hear your favorite music.

The Shack
William P. Young
Windblown Media
4680 Calle Norte, Newbury Park, CA 91320
9780964729230 $8.99

Sandra Heptinstall

I loved this book for what it attempts to do, which I feel is to bring people closer to God. To teach us how to handle certain things that may be wrong in our lives, or things that have been bad in our past.

What people fail to realize is that this is a work of fiction. It is not factual in comparison to the Bible. The Bible teaches us that we are to go to church and worship together to help each other. That no man will see the face of God. Man is made in God's image and not that God is made in man's image. You will find these things are changed in this book.

The book teaches us about forgiveness; but the Bible does not say we have to forgive in order that God can reach out and save people who have done terrible things to others. The author tells us that we must forgive those who have kidnapped, raped and killed an innocent child, like the one that is mentioned in this book. That by forgiving that person for what he has have done is the only way that God can enter his life and they can be saved. We are to love the sinner but hate the sin.

This book is accurate in that we have no idea of the pain God feels when we turn from Him; when we fail to accept Him, into our lives. The Shack, does not explain a lot of what is in the Bible. Instead the books reads like we are free spirits to do as we see fit.

I loved this book because it is a start for people who are just beginning to be curious about God. It is also a book to help other Christians who have found their spiritual life not what it used to be.
I loved this book because of the love in it. The way it has made me feel. My eyes have been opened on some issues that I had never thought of before. You must be wondering how I can love something and find fault at the same time? All that I can say is, God loves me and I am full of faults. It is not my intent to hurt anyone or take away the joy they may find in this book. I have felt the joy but also know the truths that are left out.

The Art of Buddhism - An Introduction to its History and Meaning
Denise Patry Leidy
Shambhala Publications, Inc.
Horticultural Hall
100 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
9781590305942 $45.00

Susan M. Andrus

Getting two books for the price of one is quite a value these days, especially when the quality makes them each worth many times the price. Denise Patry Leidy tells the history of Buddhism beginning with Siddhartha Gautama's birth somewhere between 485 and 450 B.C.E. to his quest to understand the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death. After achieving enlightenment and teaching for several decades, he died due to food poisoning, was cremated and his remains were divided among the rulers of ten kingdoms where stupas were constructed to hold them. Thus began Buddhism's journey over hundreds of years, through many kingdoms, influencing the thesis for this book.

Leidy follows the path of Buddhism's tenets, the Buddhist order that divided and influenced the art that emerged and spread along the Silk Road and throughout China, southeast Asia, Korea and Japan. Each country added its own traditions and art to Buddhist thought as it passed through its region. Leidy relates this story with fascinating anecdotes, making the people come alive as they sponsor artists, make art, and display it along the way.

The second book within this historical account contains the gorgeous pictures of pillars, statues, stupas, cave complexes, and paintings. Here Leidy describes the art and helps the reader identify the styles that make it peculiar to a particular region or culture. Whoever reads this book will be better able to understand the symbolism and subjects of the art thanks to Leidy's descriptions and explanations.

Denise Patry Leidy, Ph.D., is a curator in the Department of Asian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. She is author or coauthor of several books, including Buddha of the Future: An Early Thai Sculpture of Maitreya and Mandala: The Architecture of Enlightenment.

Amy's Bookshelf

A Celtic Lover's Magic
Lisa Alexander Griffin
Freya's Bower
FBE0000151 $1.99 ebook

Liam Macauley had no indication of his family's heritage, until Brennan Finney, a lawyer, contacted him with news of an inheritance, left to him by an unknown Uncle. As the last living descendant of the Macaula line, Liam is now the sole owner of a thousand acres and a mansion in Ireland. Expecting a modern day mansion. Liam was shocked when he gazed upon a massive, old stone keep, known as the Macaula Mansion; it even had its own moat and drawbridge. Wondering what he had gotten himself into, Liam set forth to inspect his ancestral home. Within moments of entering through the gothic doors, he had an overwhelming sense of familiarity, but it wasn't until a beautiful woman, who flickered into view at twilight, that made him question his sanity.

Ireland is known for many age-old secrets, hidden within its history of folklore, that are unfathomable to the minds of mortals. For centuries, the sidhe have existed, being able to flicker between worlds at twilight. Unbeknownst to Liam, Caileaan has watched and waited for his return in order to fulfill the prophecy of the Tuatha De Danann and pledge anew, to protect the sidhe and their secrets from the evil Famhoire, who wish to destroy the fragile bond between mortals and sidhe. Will Liam be able to accept his destiny and become the great warrior he is meant to be, before the evil spirits destroy his true love and all things existing in the world as he knows it?

A Celtic Lover's Magic is a fantastic, heartrending and beautiful short story of how destiny leads two souls, which have been chosen from birth, to reunite and conquer the evil that threatens them. Lisa Alexander Griffin has devised a well written tale, with strong, emotional characterization and a stimulating plot; wonderful for such a short tale. I will positively recommend this story to any reader who has a desire for a quick sensuous romance, in the genres of Paranormal, Supernatural, Fantasy, Erotica and Romance. I will be adding Lisa Alexander Griffin to my TBR pile for future reads.

Stefanie Worth
9780843963199 $6.99

Brenna Campbell is discovering how hard it is to complete her Life's To Do List. The only item remaining now is finding the man of her dreams; a soul mate, lover, and possible husband, by the end of the year. Out of desperation, she decided to sign up as a member of HeavenSent.Com, an online dating site, in hopes of gaining a few nods from potential suitors and maybe, even run across her prince charming. As time goes by, Brenna gets discouraged by her failing attempts of attracting the attention of any eligible men who populate the site, but her time is running out, for both her resolution and her free membership.

Evan Shephard has grown bored with his bachelor lifestyle and favors a change towards a much desired, serious relationship and possibly, marriage in the future, if he's able to come across the right woman. After several unsuccessful dates, Evan decided to try his luck with online dating, so when caught his eye, he was instantly fascinated by it, but he wanted to consult with a good friend and co-worker, Brenna Campbell, before making a hasty decision.

While Brenna and Evan are engrossed with their individual searches for the perfect companion of their dreams, they have no inkling as to what their guardian angels, Kay and Jay, are in the midst of. Kay has recently died and has been reunited with her deceased fiance, Jay, but Kay has some unresolved issues she needs to overcome in order to gain her wings. First, they have to guide Brenna and Evan together and help them realize they are destined to be each others soul mates; unfortunately, it's not going to be an easy task to accomplish.

HeavenSent.Com is a sensuous and compelling read. Stefanie Worth has conveyed a splendid, romantic and angelic story with a happy ever after ending. She has a unique gift for portraying lifelike characterizations which radiate true emotions and designing a plot that is as charming as the story itself. I am sure any reader will find this a delightful and inspiring short story.

Hex in High Heels
Linda Wisdom
Sourcebooks Casablanca
9781402218194 $6.99

Blair and Staci are members in a covenant, consisting of 13 witches, who were the graduating class at the Witches Academy in the year 1313. When one, unknown witch, cast a curse on a nobleman's son, the Headmistress banished the group to the mortal world for 700 years. Over the centuries, the witches have adapted and grown accustomed to their new realm, coexisting amongst the humans and other supernatural creatures that inhabit it. During their travels, Blair and Staci sensed a mystical power exuding from a lake, resembling the color of a moonstone gem. Feeling its magical pull, they knew this would be there home for many years to come and vowed to protect the lake, along with its surrounding area, from further development or destruction. This is how the Town of Moonstone Lake came to be.

In the present day, Blair and Staci are local shop owners and known around town for their witch abilities. Blair specializes in revenge spells, but only justifiable ones, and enjoys selling vintage items in her shop, "Blast from the Past". Staci specializes in romance spells and is fond of matching lingerie with the perfect romance books in her shop "Isn't It Romantic". Due to last Samhain's recent events between rogue fairies, determined to create total chaos and a jealous Cupid, seeking to even the score with Staci for intruding on his romantic turf, things had gotten extremely out of control. At least the floating hearts, hovering above Staci's and Trev's heads, have gone away. Blair found out that her gorgeous, hunk of a handyman, Jake Harrison, is a were border-collie. She can accept that, if only Jake would recognize her desire to be more than just friends.

Jake Harrison is contempt living as a recluse in the Town of Moonstone Lake, working as the town's handyman and roaming the woodland in his were form, but no one suspected the deep, dark secrets he suppressed within. Ever since he laid eyes on Blair, Jake was attracted to her witchy ways, luscious body and a strong sense she's his soul mate. Sadly, he is torn between not succumbing to the one woman who makes his beast go wild and risking her life by bringing her into his beastly family affairs. When Jack receives news that his devious and scheming mother is in town and his arrogant brother, is now the new owner of the Snow Farms Resort, he knew they were up to no good, but will Jake be prepared for treachery that awaits him?

Hex In High Heels is a remarkably thrilling and scrumptious read! Linda Wisdom possesses an extremely elaborate imagination to have devised such an exciting and surreal tale. Her characters have continued to flourish throughout the Hex series, which connects perfectly with a rapidly moving and enthralling plot, leaving the reader yearning for more. If you love a little witty humor, yearn for unbridled desire and fascinated with supernatural beings, then the Hex series is a must read.

Amy J. Ramsey, Reviewer

Annie's Bookshelf

The Widow of the South
Robert Hicks
Grand Central Publishing Mass Market
9780446558884 $7.00

Originally published in hardcover in August 2005, THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH by Robert Hicks was released as a paperback in September 2006. Now available to the mass market, this work will endure through many printings.

The story is set on one of the bloodiest battlefields of the Civil War - The Battle of Franklin where 9,200 casualties were reported. One of the most famous figures of that war was a woman called Carrie McGavock whose home was used as a hospital during this battle. She and her faithful companion and former slave, Mariah, nursed and comforted the many wounded men brought to her home.

Based on history as it could be resurrected, Hicks notes he used the many facts he found about this battle and took literary license with the rest. However, Carrie McGavock is real in her dedication to the men who shared her home while in her care.

Carrie is a woman who finds life when death surrounds her and finds a love she is unsure she will ever call her own. She finds herself in a struggle to save the gravesite of the more than 1,500 men who died and were buried in a field near her home. A land owner who owns the property where the men were buried wants it replanted in cotton to build his wealth. Carrie's pleads with him to let her remove the men from the original site and move them to land owned by her. The man refuses and readers will find themselves fascinated by the turn of events that brings Carrie's fight to an end.

If you have an interest in the historic significance of the Civil War and also enjoy a good story well told, this book is a must have.

The Palace of Strange Girls
Sallie Day
Grand Central Publishing
9780446545860 $13.99

THE PALACE OF STRANGE GIRLS is Sallie Day's debut novel. Set in post WWII the late fifties establishes the background of this story of British families, the division of their station in life and how each reacts to the secrets they hold.

The Singleton family consists of father, Jack, his wife, Ruth and their two daughters, Helen and Beth, sixteen and seven respectively. On a holiday at the shore, the Singletons find themselves faced with truths that will eventually define their future.

An interesting class study unfolds within this story and brings with it few surprises. What class distinction meant in the fifties is still alive and well in today's society. How the Singletons deal with this class distinction is what makes this story a good one.

Jack yearns for more than his marriage offers him while Ruth only wants to rise above her classification. Helen, a typical sixteen year old girl, wants to be considered desirable by the young men around her. Beth on the other hand, wants only to complete the requirements of the I-Spy Club.

There are stories interwoven within this one that lead a reader to the satisfaction that their time reading this work was well spent. While the story's premise isn't a new one, it is well written and certainly worth the read.

Tell Me Something True
Leila Cobo
Grand Central Publishing
9780446519366 $13.99

This is my first read by Leila Cobo. Her latest work, TELL ME SOMETHING TRUE shares an intimate story of a young American-Columbian woman who has lost her mother early in life. Living with her father in Los Angeles she keeps the memory of her mother alive through her pictures and the few memories she has of her mother.

During a visit with her grandmother in Cali, she discovers a diary of her mothers she learns the truth about her mother and the double life she lead. Her mother had fallen for another man during her marriage and refused to give him up even though she remained in marriage to Gabriella's father. Gabriella is shocked, dismayed but mostly curious about her mother's behavior.

Gabriella's chance meeting with Angel, the son of Cali's drug cartel head, tosses her into the world of danger and excitement. She falls in love with Angel, Coming from a family who feels Angel is unsuitable as a companion for Gabriella; she hides her relationship from her family. Eventually, she throws caution to the wind and introduces him to her matriarch grandmother. Although the grandmother disapproves of her relationship with Angel, she keeps her opinion to herself as not to lose Gabriella to the family as he had lost Gabriella's mother.

This is a well told story. The characters are alive and maintain a reader's interest until the last word. If you have not read words by Leila Cobo, a well known journalist and former concert pianist, this would be a great starting place.

The Gate House
Nelson DeMille
Grand Central Publishing
Hachette Book Group
9780446564236 $14.99

Now in paperback, Nelson DeMille has written fifteen works of fiction and The Gate House, his latest work could prove to be one of his best. DeMille knows how to weave a tight story of intrigue, humor and characterizations that are so believable they seem familiar to its readers.

John Sutter, the main character of The Gate House lives the life of the Gold Coast crowd while married to his aristocratic wife, Susan Stanhope. When Susan kills Frank Bellarosa, their neighbor and Susan's lover, the marriage ends. John divorces Susan and takes a three-year sojourn on his sailboat before moving to London.

He returns to New York when a Stanhope family servant, Ethel Allard, is placed under hospice care. As Allard's attorney, Sutter must put Allard's affairs in order and support her daughter, Elizabeth, as they await Ethel's pending death.

Staying at the former gatehouse of the Stanhope mansion, Sutter finds himself only yards from his former wife. Ultimately, they meet again and this is the point where the story really takes off.

Anthony Bellarosa, son of the deceased, Frank Bellarosa, has a vendetta he must enact and attempts to solicit Sutter in his plans. The relationship that develops between Sutter and the younger Bellarosa takes on a new dimension when Sutter refuses to go along with Bellarosa's plans and a reader is taken on a roller coaster ride of suspense.

When this work arrived at my door, its size seemed somewhat intimidating. However, let me assure readers, you will savor each page and want more when you finish the last page. DeMille gives his readers true value for their money. If you liked The Gold Coast, you'll love The Gate House.

Nelson DeMille attended Hofstra University, served in the Army. He earned the Air Medal, Bronze Star and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He has authored #1 New York Times bestsellers Night Fall and Plum Island and New York Times bestsellers Wild Fire, The Lion's Game, The Gold Coast and The General's Daughter.

Annie Slessman

Bethany's Bookshelf

The Bare Melcessities
Melanie Lutz
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road, Parker, CO 80134
9781432724238, $15.95,

Living under the cover of one's own insecurities is no way to live. "The Bare Melcessities: A Self-Portrait" is an inspirational memoir where author Melanie Lutz encourages readers to find themselves and bring out their truth to the forefront, and bare it all to the world for a lighter burden. "The Bare Melcessities" is a fascinating and motivational read that should not be overlooked.

The College Survival Guide
Karven, Mobeir & Howe
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road, Parker, CO 80134
9781432742836, $16.95,

College is a time of survival, just not from one traditionally needs to survive. "The College Survival Guide: Beer Games, Hangover Remedies, and Much More!" is a guide for the future alcoholics of America just getting their start in College and the joys of drinking. Filled with fun ideas for activities involving America's favorite beverage, "The College Survival Guide" is a read that any college drinker should consider.

Common Ground
Bradley Panvino
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741454297, $12.95,

There's more things shared between cultures than different. "Common Ground: The Living Principles" is the thoughts of Bradley Panvino on greater reach for peace in today's world which has pushed the cultural divide further and further. Outlining the similarities between culture in hopes to push people to find It and start a plan for peace, "Common Ground" is a read that offers much food for thought.

The Curable Romantic
Katharine Miller
KLM Design
9780557065356, $17.50,

How to meet, greet, and get along with members of the opposite sex is an eternal conundrum for so many otherwise well-meaning and intelligent people who seem to have no clue as to how to behave and what to talk about on a first date; dealing with the pitfalls of 'love triangle' relationships; ending a relationship with grace, style and dignity; and all the other elements that can sabotage a romance in this day and age. That's why Katherine Miller's "The Curable Romantic: Advice For The Romance-Impaired", an impressive, practical, and 'user friendly' compilation of informed and informative essays on love and relationships is such a welcome instructional for anyone seeking help in figuring out who they should date, how they should conduct a proper (and effective) courtship, and everything else from the use of pet names to dealing with keepsakes after a breakup. Thoughtful, thought-provoking, and written with a distinctly humorous flair, "The Curable Romantic" is very highly recommended reading for the 'romance challenged'.

Curse Of The Tahiera
Wendy Gillissen, Inc.
PO Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402-2399
9781601458391, $19.95,

Magic, ancient curses, star-crossed love, heroism against great odds and an unknown evil from the distant past, these are just a few of the elements that master storyteller Wendy Gillissen draws upon to deftly craft an engaging, 444-page fantasy that truly grips the readers fascinated attention from first page to last in "Curse Of The Tahiera". A half-blood Tzanatzi outcast, Rom is persuaded by an Einache shaman that it's up to him to prevent the re-emergence of an ancient war through his ability to 'dreamwalk'. All this is further complicated when Rom finds himself falling in love with the shaman's daughter Maetis, a spirited young girl with a mind of her own! Imaginative, complex, detailed, laced with cliff-hanger complications, "Curse Of The Tahiera" is a superbly written and highly recommended novel for the dedicated fantasy fan.

Susan Bethany

Bob's Bookshelf

Angel's Tip
Alafair Burke
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022-5299
9780061561245 $7.99

A beautiful college student's memorable evening in a Manhattan club was not only the most exhilarating and glamorous night of her life, it was also her last.

Now it is up to NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher to not only find the co-ed's killer but to make sure she does so before others die. Unfortunately, the unthinkable happens and more young women are murdered.

With time running out and the body count mounting, Ellie does the only thing she can think of to stop the carnage - she places herself in jeopardy hoping the psychopath will target her next.

It's a foolhardy plan and may well be the last one she ever concocts, but this case has become personal and Ellie Hatcher is determined she'll do whatever it takes to see justice done.

Secret of the Seventh Son
Glenn Cooper
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York, 10022-5299
9780061721793 $7.99

Nine people have been murdered in New York City. The only shred of evidence the cases have in common is that each of the victims received a postcard sent from Las Vegas, announcing the day on which they would die.

FBI agent Will Piper is assigned to the high profile case and obviously the Nevada gambling mecca figures prominently in his investigation. Or rather it does, until after finding his first credible lead, Piper is inexplicably removed from the case.

Determined to discover exactly what is going on here, Piper continues on his own. He's soon up against a team of covert operatives from Area 51 who are charged with protecting a government secret at any cost. Toss in a brilliant computer scientist leading a double life, a medieval monastery harboring some frightening secrets and a cutting-edge government laboratory and you have a thriller that spans centuries and continents.

Putting to good use his background in archaeology, medicine and infectious diseases research, Glenn Cooper's debut heralds the arrival of a new writer who could well eventually challenge some of the biggest names in the field.

Andrea Kane
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022-5299
9780061236792 $7.99

After a life-threatening injury, FBI agent Sloane Burbank has become an independent contractor. When one of her close, girlhood friends mysteriously disappears, Sloane elects to lend a helping hand in the search.

That offer becomes a little more "ticklish" when she realizes that her ex-lover, Derek Parker, is the FBI agent charge of the investigation. Parker's not too excited about the case and he never expected to see Sloane again, so his feeling is, at best, ambivalent to say the least.

As more women disappear, the two have to but their personal baggage aside and focus on a rather dangerous and clever psychopath who eventually will target Sloane as a victim.

Author Andrea Kane writes that she did more research for this thriller than for her previous novels. Had she not done so she says, "I could never have infused Twisted with the level of depth and realism I did, nor could I have bought my characters and their stories so vividly to life."

Was all that time spent with various FBI staff members worth it? I think it did make the story a little more credible, but, overall, each reader will have to decide for himself if the extra time was well spent.

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

Small Business Rules
Mathew Dickerson
Booksurge LLC
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418,
9781419689437, $34.95,

With all due respect to members of the Fortune 500, it is the small business that is the backbone, heart and core of the American economy. But successfully operating a small business in today's economic climate is having to deal with a seemingly endless series of problems and pitfalls. That's why Mathew Dickerson's "Small Business Rules: The 52 Essential Rules To Be Successful In Small Business", a compendium of practical advice nicely illustrated with humorous but germane cartoons, is such a highly recommended read for anyone charged with the responsibility of making a small business enterprise commercially viable with effective standards and practices when dealing with employees, vendors, customers, and the workplace. Of special note is the insightful and experienced commentary on turning mistakes into advantages, and distinguishing ego from opportunity. "Small Business Rules" is enthusiastically recommended for small business operators and an especially appropriate addition to academic and community library Business Management reference collections.

Waking Up At Rembrandt's
Thomas Lloyd Qualls
Privately Published
Ocean Communications (publicity)
1285 Silver Crest Circle, Reno, NV 89523
9780578006321, $17.95,

"Waking Up At Rembrandt's" is an impressive debut novel showcasing an undeniably talented and imaginative author. The setting is the cafe Rembrandt and involves a roster of memorable characters that includes Maggie (a world-weary lawyer), Dillon (an over-educated slacker); and Phillip (an struggling writer aspiring to literary greatness). Their individual stories are related through the perspective of the bartender Jillian who is also something of a spiritual guru who helps her charges to evolve and transform into an awareness of themselves and their possibilities. The text is lyrical and engaging from beginning to end as author Thomas Lloyd Qualls demonstrates an ability to paint with words the way Rembrandt was noted to paint with pigments. "Waking Up At Rembrandt's" is highly recommended reading and will leave the readers looking eagerly towards the author's next literary project.

State Sonnets
B. J. Best
PO Box 911, Buffalo, NY 14207
9781934513200, $13.00,

Although the title of B. J. Best's little volume of poetry is "State Sonnets", the verses that comprise it not only derive from a diversity of states, they also include some cities, a couple of Canadian provinces, Puerto Rico, and the Niagra Falls. Throughout them all is the call of the road, romances of the heart, and a poet's very special perspective. A master word-smith, Best's rhytmic expressions are engaging, occasionally insightful, and always thoughtful and thought-provoking, making "State Sonnets" highly recommended reading for those who appreciate succinctly crafted and imaginative verse. 'Mead Lake, Wisconsin': the difference between prayer and wishing/is thin as fishes./so you wish for more nights/like this one: jazz CD; meteors' blue light,/a vodka tonic/that spins, cyclonic/when twirled with a straw/you know there's a think fleck of time when all/the ripples turn tiger, orange and black/as a moonrise, dappled as an old deck/of cards. the trees/extinguish themselves into sleeves/of a nightgown. so you'd like to pray./for the water. for the waves.

What I Learned About Life
Red & Black sisters
Red & Black Books
PO Box 19669, Sugar Land, TX 77496
9780984096701, $25.00

A great many people woke up one recent morning to discover that their comfortable living in a comfortable home had been abruptly downsized (along with their job, their finances, and their self-esteem), victims of a collapsing American economy, the evaporation of their savings programs, the rapid decline their stock portfolios, diminished credit ratings, and loss of home equities. That very scenario happened to one of the authors of "What I Learned About Life" when her husband got fired and she was compelled by sheer necessity to reconsider her life style and institute new priorities for how her family would have to live. This 345-page compendium of solid, practical, 'user friendly', based-upon-personal-experience commentary, and advice is replete with useful and usable information on money management (including credit cards and insurance), specifically designed for the non-specialist reader who must learn to cope with their own economic crises. Of special note is the chapter 'I Have Three Children if you Count My Husband', especially with an emphasis on how a small family team can deal successfully with even the most dire of emergent financial circumstances. Superbly organized and deftly written, "What I Learned About Life: When My Husband Got Fired!" is very strongly recommended reading for anyone having been downsized and placed in financial hardship.

Men Of Gain
Hunter McClelland
Strategic Book Publishing
c/o The Barret Company
12021 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 600, Los Angeles, CA 90025
9781608600687, $12.95,

Wall Street and America's major financial companies have been the subject of newspaper headlines and government crisis management for more than a year now. It was inevitable that it would also become the subject of riveting fiction as in the case of Hunter McClelland's superbly written novel, "Men Of Gain". It's the story of Evan Tipton II, a Boston-based Wall Street hedge fund manager who finds himself caught up in a securities scandal uncovered and exacerbated by the largest financial crisis in American history since Black Friday of 1929. His professional and personal life is coming apart along with the nation's economy. Was it unethical practices or a blind-spot naivete that embroils him? And how will he manage to deal with the radically changing world of high finance and big business? A portrait of our times and the Wall Street crisis emerges for the non-specialist general reader in a way that only a deftly written novel can provide, making "Men Of Gain" a highly recommended addition to community library collections and personal reading lists.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

State Sonnets
B.J. Best
PO Box 911, Buffalo, NY 14207
9781934513200 $13.00

State Sonnets is a compact book of brief poems crafted around the vessel of a road trip - from highway romance to lost regrets to carnal desire and surprising sights. The poems are composed as if written on fourteen-line postcards, each correlating to pushpins on a travel map. A blend of love and sightseeing across state lines, State Sonnets is an pleasure to read and reread. "Mead Lake, Wisconsin": the difference between prayer and wishing / is thin as fishes. / so you wish for more nights / like this one: jazz CD, meteors' blue light, / a vodka tonic / that spins, cyclonic, / when twirled with a straw. / you know there's a thin fleck of time when all / the ripples turn tiger, orange and black / as a moonrise, dappled as an old deck / of cards. the trees / extinguish themselves into sleeves / of a nightgown. so you'd like to pray. / for the water. for the waves.

City Chicks
Patricia Foreman
Good Earth Publications, Inc.
20 Green Way Place, Buena Vista, VA 24416
9780962464850 $22.50

City Chicks: Keeping Micro-flocks of Laying Hens as Garden Helpers, Compost Makers, Bio-Recyclers and Local Food Suppliers is an easy-to-follow resource for anyone interested in raising hens, no matter how small the scale. Urban and suburban dwellers can benefit from raising "micro-flocks" of just a few chickens. Hens recycle organic materials from leftover food to grass clippings by eating it; they produce nutritious eggs; they are extraordinarily helpful gardeners that help to naturally control pest infestations (by eating those pesky bugs) and provide compost. They can make great centerpieces of conversation and even pets! City Chicks offers step by step instructions for raising and properly caring for hens, with notable warnings against common mistakes that new chicken keepers make. (It should be noted that roosters are often if not always illegal to own within city limits, and should not be kept since they have more aggressive tendencies than hens and their ceaseless crowing will disturb the peace). Written in plain, no-nonsense language, City Chicks is a "must-have" for any urban or suburban dweller interested in caring for a small-scale or micro-flock. Highly recommended.

Ayn Rand for Beginners
Andrew Bernstein, author
Owen Brozman, illustrator
For Beginners
62 East Starrs Plain Road, Danbury, CT 06810
9781934389379 $14.99

Andrew Bernstein, Ph.D lends blends his expertise in philosophy and teaching in Ayn Rand for Beginners, a straightforward introduction to Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism and her extraordinarily popular novels "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged". One of the most highly praised (and simultaneously, thoroughly reviled) authors in the world, Ayn Rand is especially notable to this day for her lifelong efforts to provide a moral defense of laissez-faire capitalism. Capitalism had previously been defended on economic grounds (it provided more overall prosperity than communism or many other economic systems), but not on ethical and moral grounds. Having grown up in bitter poverty cast by the savage shadow of Communism in her native Russia, Ayn Rand set out to illustrate the positive values of "selfishness" (and the harmful consequences of self-sacrifice) through vivid, memorable storytelling. She succeeded brilliantly. Ayn Rand for Beginners presents the basic plots of her great novels, as well as a step-by-step walkthrough of her philosophy of Objectivism (essentially, the concept that truth and morality are determined through objective facts rather than subjective societal or religious beliefs). Simple black-and-white illustrations throughout enhance and drive home key points. A great primer for anyone curious about Ayn Rand and her life's work, especially recommended to college students who have little familiarity with Rand but have just been assigned to study one of her books!

Unintended Consequences
Bill Shaner
Pantha Publishing
728 Carica Road, Naples, FL 34108
9780615227665, $13.99,

The laws of the universe are not easily understood, but doing so gives one a better grasp of life. "Unintended Consequences: Lessons from A Life Almost Lost" is a spiritual memoir from Bill Shaner as he reflects on his near-death experience and how his long journey back to life taught himself much about how the universe works. Imparting his wisdom, his advice is sound, making "Unintended Consequences" a unique and thought provoking read.

Torbjorn's Gold
John Eric Nystul
Singing River Publications
PO Box 72, 3365 Wolf Lake Road, Ely, MN 55731
9780978987008, $16.95,

Money isn't everything, but the pursuit of fortune can be the pursuit of wisdom as well. "Torbjorn's Gold" is the story of a man who embarks on a treasure hunt, and along the way learns much about what he's been searching for, a purpose for his continued being. Blending many elements, John Eric Nystul gives readers quite the story and makes "Torbjorn's Gold" an intriguing and very much recommended read.

John Burroughs

Bursey's Bookshelf

Then We Came to the End
Joshua Ferris
Back Bay Books
237 Park Avenue/ New York NY 10017
9780316016391 $13.99

There are a few classic novels set in the world of business, among them W.D. Howells' The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885), The Financier (1912) and other business novels by Theodore Dreiser, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955) by Sloan Wilson, and J R (1975) by William Gaddis. Lesser known, filled with pie charts and graphs but weakened by an uninspired ending, is Stanley Bing's Lloyd: What Happened (1998). Joshua Ferris has provided an update on this mini-genre that captures the mores of those who would prefer to be slackers, and who regret having to work to maintain their lifestyle. There's little examination of whether that lifestyle is worth maintaining, which is part of the abundant humour.

The setting is a Chicago marketing firm suffering repercussions from the dotcom slump. The time span-jumbled as the narrative moves forward and back-covers several months in early 20001, apart from the ending that brings the work nearly into the present. The novel's narrative voice and mood are established in the first lines:

We were fractious and overpaid. Our mornings lacked promise. At least those of us who smoked had something to look forward to at ten-fifteen. Most of us liked most everyone, a few of us hated specific individuals, one or two people loved everyone and everything. Those who loved everyone were unanimously reviled. We loved free bagels in the morning. They happened all too infrequently. Our benefits were astonishing in comprehensiveness and quality of care. Sometimes we questioned whether they were worth it. We thought moving to India might be better, or going back to nursing school. Doing something with the handicapped or working with our hands. No one ever acted on these impulses, despite their daily, sometimes hourly contractions.

Compare that to these opening paragraphs from another business novel published a little over three decades ago:

I get the willies when I see closed doors. Even at work, where I am doing so well now, the sight of a closed door is sometimes enough to make me dread that something horrible is happening behind it, something that is going to affect me adversely; if I am tired and dejected from a night of lies or booze or sex or just plain nerves and insomnia, I can almost smell the disaster mounting invisibly and flooding out toward me through the frosted glass panes. My hands may perspire, and my voice may come out strange. I wonder why.

Something must have happened to me sometime.

Apart from the different uses of the first person, both passages speak of anxiety and dissatisfaction, the unease and the sense of another life that is either to be lived, or has occurred without the narrator able to grasp it. Bagels bring momentary relief; shut doors cause a low-grade panic.

The second quotation is from Joseph Heller's Something Happened (1974), whose narrator, Bob Slocum, keeps looking behind him even as his life proceeds toward a startling domestic incident. Ferris's narrator, in contrast, foreshadows from fairly early on that the events of September 2001 will make what is related seem harmless, summed up in the line, "We expected so little from security in those days." Those who chat in offices, meet in lunchrooms and out of the way nooks, are consumed with talk about layoffs, deaths, failing marriages, unwanted pregnancies, and the motivation for owning a totem pole. The downturn in the fortunes of the company means that characters are laid off in the first few chapters, but the nested Russian doll structure of the book ensures that they reappear in recapitulations of earlier events.

There are two main engines that push the plot forward: rumours about the health of someone in management, and the actions of Tom Mota, freshly fired, and almost as freshly abandoned by his wife. Reading Emerson doesn't help him keep his life together. Mota sends out aggressive e-mails, insults his co-workers, and on his last day cuts up his clothes, grabs a mug, and begs for money outside the building's elevators. He's the kind of worker some characters believe would return with a gun.

These two motors operate smoothly, and for the most part plausibly. Ferris never lets out more than is necessary, and since his narrator is ambivalent and shifty, we can't rely on him to prognosticate what will happen. We get spin, not facts. Does the senior company manager have an illness or not? As for Mota, being thrown out after years of service to the company, and being discarded by his wife, could conceivably cause him to go on a killing rampage.

Then We Came to the End features many men and women who only occasionally do or say something that shows they're not heartless. When a colleague's daughter disappears, their initial impulse to come up with posters deteriorates into an unseemly campaign.

We made layouts in QuarkXPress; all our image manipulation we did in Photoshop. Genevieve dropped the image of the girl into Photoshop and started playing up the girl's hair and freckles. We took a look and everyone agreed she was still getting washed out.

We all wanted to help. Genevieve worked on it another hour, tweaking this and that, until someone recommended that she fix the little girl's smile to be less crooked. Jessica would look prettier that way.

"All right," she concluded, "we're officially through here."

The girl on the poster is not a true likeness of Jessica. It won't help in the search for her, but that matters little next to the goal of turning out a handsome product:

Our desks were waiting, we had work to do. And work was everything. We liked to think it was family, it was God, it was following football on Sundays, it was shopping with the girls or a strong drink on Saturday night, that it was love, that it was sex, that it was keeping our eye on retirement. But at two in the afternoon with bills to pay and layoffs hovering over us, it was all about the work.

For the narrator-that "we" is more the collective voice of the corporation than we may realize at first-the bang comes from creating Cold Sore Guy or a particular image that becomes consequential in the consumer world. An ad takes precedence over real life. The novel is filled with assertions (we won't make jokes), followed by corrections (though some of us did), followed by actions that are more unpalatable or by half-hearted contrition. Emotions, when experienced, are quickly suppressed.

What isn't ignored is personal or professional failure. If ideas don't materialize, or aren't accepted, insecurity sets in immediately and devastatingly. "One unfinished ad could throw us into these paroxysms of self-doubt and intimations of averageness." There's an obvious echo of Wordsworth's "mortality"; successful ad campaigns raise the status of those involved above that of their coworkers, and make life worthwhile. Looking out the office windows, the staff is "buoyed" by the sight of clouds and other buildings. "It made us `happy.'" Those ironic quotes indicate that company employees aren't certain they know what happiness is. They are merely assuming that this is what they're feeling.

Then We Came to the End conveys uneasiness and life's fragility throughout, and balances humour and domestic misery nicely. Ferris explores the once-powerful USA Inc. by revisiting the corporate office situation in a period of economic downturn, which is followed by the more sweeping consequences of 9/11 and the hugely draining war on terrorism. "We had the great good fortune and shortcomings of character that marked every generation that had never seen war," the narrator tells us, which is quite different from the desperation felt by Heller's post-Vietnam Bob Slocum, a desperation that stems from what he remembers, or suspects, about his past. Slocum could be the father of most of the people Ferris has created, and he has passed on many of his traits, which tells us something about how the business environment, and the US, have fared over a generation.

Riding Toward Everywhere
William T. Vollmann
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York NY 10022
9780061256752 $26.95

There used to be a time when a good few people - primarily men - thought that travelling in a boxcar was romantic, expedient, and freeing. William Vollmann's latest non-fiction work is based on his own adventures on the tracks. His journey is as much about finding a spiritual place inside oneself, that has a physical counterpart (if one is very lucky) situated somewhere in the land, as it is about escaping the constricting embrace of "safety nazis" (which he termed the too cautious and the security-minded in a Bookforum interview from the winter of 2007) who, among other things, increasingly control railroads, airport terminals, and lobbies. A libertarian and contrarian, he's nostalgic--within limits-- about an era, and lifestyle, that largely "are gone, and a Union Pacific spokesman readily allowed: Most of the folks who hop the trains are not out to get anybody. --He also said: We have maybe one fatality per year on the road, one guy falling short in an effort to hop off or that kind of thing."

Travelling inside a boxcar may be exhilarating, or numbing, and it can be dangerous for several reasons: if there's freight in what's called a "lumber gondola" it can move unexpectedly, crushing people; authorities are on the look-out for unwanted passengers, though sometimes the engineers turn a blind eye to their presence; tunnels also pose risks.

An old man once told me about riding a freight in some nebulous northern realm where a tunnel was so long that the hobo on top of the gondola fell off dead... Was that a tall tale? I don't know. But I can assure you that the tunnel-darkness beyond the window of a subway car or passenger car, however eerie it might be, is quite innocuus [sic] compared to the real blackness that wrenches breath away.

Menace is provided by the railway authorities, and by shadowy groups with names like FTRA (Freight Train Riders of America), the Wrecking Crew, the Goon Squad, and Pachacos, who may or may not match precisely the various descriptions provided to Vollmann. He hears stories about them, comes across their traces, but not meeting them deprives his tale of a certain kind of tension. But there is tension of another sort when he uses a bucket with a rope attached to board the trains, which is no small feat for a man with a cracked pelvis and unsure balance due to "a series of small strokes."

Set alongside these perils are the times Vollmann, sometimes accompanied by a friend named Steve, experiences a spiritual reawakening:

In winter, my freight-dreams are very different than in summer. The act of trainhopping in and of itself stimulates the same feelings in me that a schoolboy has in spring when he contemplates summer: an infinite, wild green freedom will soon be within reach! But it is only in summer that that freedom actually grows infinite and green. It is then that I dream myself into the past or even into other universes. In winter, my freedom remains wild, to be sure, but the cold darkness constricts me; I am just as alive as in summer, and thankful to be so, but my body reminds me of its vulnerability.

His vantage point on a train can take in "dolphins leaping beneath the moon," followed by a "single white diagonal of wave-crest... motionless across the ocean. Then the air brightened, and all the other waves burst into view with their related motions."

The "anywhere" of the title is one universe Vollmann imagines, and for him it can also be Everywhere. Geographically, it can exist in golden farmland; temporally, it can be in the future or the past; and Vollmann tracks its textual locations in the writings of hobos (published and unpublished), Thoreau, Twain, Jack London, Hemingway, Kerouac, and the Japanese poet Cold Mountain, "named after the wild place he inhabited." Cold Mountain's song 16, as translated by
Vollmann, reads:

People ask the way to Cold Mountain.
Roads fall short of Cold Mountain.
Ice stays all summer;
fog dims the dawn sun.
How did someone like me get here?
Our minds are different.
Otherwise you could get here, too.

Cold Mountain performs multiple functions: it's an existential problem, a romantic quest, a mythical place lying just over the next hill, and a narrative hook. We can all recognize what Vollmann means--what the poet Cold Mountain means--and what he's looking for.

By hopping trains--'catching out'--to escape the present world and its confines, Vollmann looks for Everywhere with an open and poetic spirit. At times this contrasts with the pragmatic nature of his main companion. Admiring the shadow of the train on gravel coloured "like kernels of Indian corn," Vollmann wonders "whether this might be the place where Fate meant me to disembark and commence my more perfect life; meanwhile, Steve worried because the righthand wall of the boxcar was warm, implying that we must be going north instead of west--and he was right; we'd arrived in Idaho!"

Along the way, the majority of people Vollmann meets warm up to him, even if he is, in their terms, a "citizen." Life on the road has left them suspicious--though some must have started out that way--but by now they're bored, lonely, crazed, tired, or content within limits, and he is an audience.

Real life stories can live alongside the lushness of the land and the feelings it causes to arise, but romance is not encouraged. "How many places are there where one human being pushed another human being out of a boxcar, where half a dozen men raped a woman, where a drunk froze to death or a daredevil jumped off incorrectly?" This ugly side of illegal train travel appears regularly. "Do I truly consider [Emmanuel] my brother? Would I leave my backpack with him? Would I trust him to sleep beside me in a boxcar and not go for my throat with his new sharp knife?"

The freedom of not living by the law is brought into sharp relief whenever Vollmann contemplates how civil liberties in the US have been whittled away under George W. Bush, "the torturer President". He leaves an airport "sick and angry" after the security officer has fiercely controlled his father's goodbye wave. "Year by year, those good Germans march deeper into my life," states Vollmann a few pages in. Riding the rails symbolizes, along with everything else, the right--a right under peril, in his eyes--to move without constraint, in an environment that has guidelines and rules but no laws, that involves risk, that has minimal social contact and is almost totally unconnected to systems (save for train schedules) but connected, if one is fortunate and if one perseveres, to a path that will lead to Cold Mountain.

"The longer I live, the closer I get" to Everywhere, Vollmann says near the close of the text (Riding Toward Everywhere ends with evocative black-and-white photographs), and the ambiguity of that remark allows for interpretations that Everywhere might be a mystical state, or a euphemism for the grave. "Things come to an end when there is no longer any hope or faith, when the life force surrenders to the death instinct," Henry Miller wrote in the 1940 edition of The World of Sex. Overcoming health concerns, and despite "safety nazis," Vollmann continues his sojourns outward as well as inward, and this dual journey may be what reinvigorates his life instinct.

Neither the ecstatic openness of Kerouac's road voyagers, nor the dogged cat-and mouse triumphs of London's freight-jumpers, and certainly not the canny navigations of Twain's riverboat youth define me. I go my own bumbling way, alone or in company, beset by lapses in my bravery, energy and charity, knowing not precisely where to go until I am there.

Though our "minds are different," we can travel with him part of the way, at least.

Jeff Bursey

Carson's Bookshelf

My Father's Gloves
David Spiering
Sol Books
PO Box 24568, Minneapolis, MN 55424
9780979308161, $9.95,

A son looks up to his father as a mentor, a provider, and shoes to fill. "My Father's Gloves" is a collection of poetry from David Spiering reflecting on the unique relationship of father and son. Sure to make both parties look at their relationships and consider them, "My Father's Gloves" is a unique read that should not be passed up. "That's Hard to Say": A ringing phone/drops on a table/like an ashtray - I think/how I drove something new/happy as a poem arrowed/into my father's last chance -/I carry bronze/to dinner with me beneath/my blue coat - a greedy fool/thought it was gold and tried/to tell me it was worthless/as lead; I said I have/the girl I want when she crossed her heart/you were nowhere to be seen.

A Report From Winter
Wayne Courtois
Lethe Press
118 Heritage Ave., Maple Shade, NJ 08052
1590212355, $18.00,

The best people come from the strangest of origins. "A Report from Winter" is story of Ralph and Wayne, a gay couple. Ralph is introduced to Wayne's family, and Wayne writes about this strange experience of a gay couple encountering an unusual family and the strange relationships that emerge. A unique memoir of a situation that many gay people unfortunately face, "A Report from Winter" is quite the read and is highly recommended for personal memoir collections, especially with those with a slant towards gay studies.

After the Ball
Barb Greenberg
Rose Path Press
16526 W. 78th Street, Suite 321, Eden Prairie, MN 55346-4302
9780982358801, $16.95,

When the honey moon is over, it doesn't mean your happiness is too. "After the Ball: A Woman's Tale of Reclaiming Happily Ever After" is an inspirational guide to self-crowned princesses who want to reclaim that happiness they had when their relationships first begun. With much affirmation and advice, Barb Greenberg provides for a highly enlightening read. "After the Ball" is a strong choice for any who want to overcome the sour mundanity that occasionally comes with marriage.

Tales of Wordishure
Mick McArt
Mick Art Productions
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road, Parker, CO 80134
9781432744243, $10.95,

A good bedtime story is invaluable and can impart values. "Tales of Wordishure" is a collection of stories aimed to be read to young children at bedtime to better impart Christian wisdom and values to them. With much to stimulate the imagination, these tales make "Tales of Wordishure" very much worth picking up for parents who want to mix in faith at bedtime.

52 Ways to Create an AIDS-Free World
Donald E. Messer
Fresh Air Books
1908 Grand Avenue, Nashville, TN 37212
9781935205043, $9.95,

AIDS is a virus that can spread far and wide, but it is defeatable. "52 Ways to Create an AIDS-Free World" is a read that tackles HIV and AIDS and what the people and the world can do to fight back against the virus and stop its spread across the world. With many wise ideas for readers to embrace and use, "52 Ways to Create an AIDS-Free World" is a top pick for any who are concerned about AIDS.

Michael J. Carson

Christy's Bookshelf

Back Again to Me
Gretchen Hirsch
9781439238011 $15.99

Corrin McRae has a temper, is fast to voice her opinions, and tends to be a bit of a manipulator and controller. She married the love of her life, only to lose him a few weeks before her daughter Shelly was born. Corrin worked hard as a single mother and did her best to raise Shelly, now 16 years of age with aspirations of being a doctor. Having achieved the title of PR director with the goal of owning her own agency, Corrin is stunned when her daughter tells her she is pregnant and wants to keep the baby. Even more unsettling to Corrin is the fact that her daughter told two of her close friends before confiding in her because she was afraid of her reaction. Although Corrin initially wants Shelly to give the baby up for adoption, she soon discovers she agrees with Shelly's decision. As Shelly goes through her pregnancy, Corrin discovers things about herself through shared insights of family and friends and begins to realize that her perceptions of her own life and family may not have been as true as she thought them to be.

Back Again to Me offers fascinating character studies of Corrin, her daughter Shelly and the friends and family that surround them. Family dynamics, interactions of characters, and conflicts between mother and daughter over life decisions are intriguing and well-delivered. The book moves at a fast pace, leading the reader through a young girl's journey through pregnancy and the difficult choices she must make, along with her mother's peripheral journey back to her past.

Death Will Help You Leave Him
Elizabeth Zelvin
Minotaur Books
St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312582661 $25.99

Recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohler is taking things one day at a time with the help of his friends Jimmy and Barbara, while trying to place limits with his ex-wife who has bouts of depression and sporadically threatens suicide. Barbara, an addictions counselor, talks Bruce and Jimmy into doing some independent sleuthing when Luz Colon, her Al-Anon sponsee, is suspected of murdering her abusive boyfriend, Frankie Iacone. Frankie, a former drug dealer married to someone else, had just gotten out of rehab hours before being found dead in Luz's apartment. Barbara hopes Bruce and Jimmy may be able to learn more about Frankie and the people he knew through their AA connections. Along with Luz, the three team up and separate and team up again as they try to unearth the murderer. Eventually they step on the wrong toes, which places Bruce's and Luz's lives in danger.

This, the second in the mystery series featuring recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohler, is an intriguing whodunit set against the gritty backdrop of New York City and its diverse cultures. As with the first, much emphasis is placed on the recovery process and Zelvin relays Kohler's, as well as others', constant battle with addiction in a realistic, empathetic manner. The plot moves at a quick pace with enough suspects to keep the reader guessing.

Dog on it
Spencer Quinn
Atria Books/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416585831 $25.00

Chet, the canine narrator of Dog On It, may have flunked out of K-9 school but he's found his niche as partner to Bernie Little, owner of Little Detective Agency. Bernie is divorced and lonely and misses his son Charlie. Chet doesn't understand the concept of money but takes his cues from Bernie and knows Bernie is worried about their finances. Bernie is hired by a divorced mom to find her missing daughter, Madison, who turns up unharmed with a story that's obviously made up. A few days later, Madison is missing once more and this time Bernie suspects it's the real thing. With Chet leading the way, they follow Madison's trail, which takes them to a group of nefarious Russians determined to stop them from finding Madison.

Told from a dog's point of view, Dog On It offers a refreshing addition to the mystery genre. Chet perceives most things through body language, odors, and tone of voice. His perceptions are adept and it is amusing how food and other things distract him. Chet's thinking processes seem much like what this reviewer would attribute to a dog's thoughts. The voice of Chet is amusing and a bit noir-ish, which suits the book. Fun read.

First Degree
David Rosenfelt
Warner Books
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780446555111 $4.99

Attorney Andy Carpenter has been basking in the notoriety he gained by proving a client on death row innocent while living off the millions he inherited from his father. Andy has been more occupied lately with hanging out with Tara, the "best dog in the universe", and trying to find a worthy charity to share his money with, and isn't in too big of a hurry to get back in the courtroom. But when his investigator/lover Laurie Collins is arrested for the brutal death of a policeman she filed an ethics charge against, Andy's on the case and ready to defend Laurie against a frame-up. But the evidence against Laurie keeps stacking up and Andy is faced with a formidable challenge: how to convince the jury of Laurie's innocence.

This witty courtroom drama bypasses many of the same genre simply because it's so much fun to read. Characters are well-developed and especially appealing is Tara, a dog Andy rescues from doggy death row at the animal shelter and to whom Andy is totally committed. There are plenty of legal maneuverings wrapped around a mystery that at times seems unsolvable. Rosenfelt's first-tense presentation is filled with witty cynicisms amid an intriguing, fast-paced plot.

Life Sentences
Laura Lippman
Harper Collins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061128899 $24.99

Author Cassandra Fallows, with two successful memoirs behind her, tries her hand at fiction, which falls flat. When Cassandra reads about a former school friend jailed for contempt for not revealing the whereabouts of her baby's body, Cassandra gets the idea to write about her childhood and her friends, and the events that lead them to their present-day lives. She returns to Baltimore to interview her family and friends, only to be met with resistance. Calliope Jenkins, the woman accused of murdering her baby and hiding his body, has disappeared and no one wants to talk about where she is or what happened. As Cassandra digs deeper into the past, painful truths about her own life and those of her friends are revealed which could impact their lives in a negative way if disclosed.

Laura Lippman, known for the Tess Monaghan series, is adroit at character development, slowly peeling away layers of persona as the book progresses. Life Sentences is a compelling read, exploring the dynamics of childhood friendships and family relationships.

Plum Spooky
Janet Evanovich
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
9780312383329 $27.95

Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum's latest bond jumper is Munch, a quantum physics genius who looks like a kid. Munch has been seen hanging out with a tall man who strongly resembles a vampire and disappears in a cloud of smoke. Mysterious super-bounty hunter Diesel shows up at Stephanie's apartment, telling her he's tracking his cousin Wulf Grimoire, the very man who has befriended Munch. Wulf doesn't mind twisting people's necks and leaving his hand print branded on their skin, and his pairing with Munch cannot be good. Both are unstable and Diesel suspects Wulf has found the perfect person to help him gain power to control the world. Stephanie and Diesel team up to capture the two miscreants, who have taken up residence in the Pine Barrens, home to the Jersey Devil and all sorts of weird persons and creatures.

Stepping outside the Plum numerical series, Janet Evanovich offers her readers a fun romp with Stephanie and Diesel as they pursue Munch and Wulf. Add to this mix a monkey Stephanie is babysitting who seems more human than monkey and plays an integral part in the investigation. This is the perfect book to be read at Halloween, with some very strange goings on in the Pine Barrens, along with Diesel and Wulf, whose powers are a bit out of this world.

The Scarecrow
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company/Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316166300 $27.99

Jack McEvoy became a national bestselling author when he wrote a book about his experience with a serial killer named the Poet, and since then, he's worked as a crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times. The Times, facing financial woes, decides to lay off 100 employees and Jack's number 99. Jack decides to make a grand exit by writing a book about a 16-year-old drug dealer who claims he did not confess to strangling a young woman and stuffing her in the trunk of her car, although the police investigators state otherwise. Jack's research connects this murder to one of a similar nature in Las Vegas, at which time, he notifies FBI agent Rachel Walling, whose arrival saves Jack's life from a serial murderer enraged that Jack has "outed" him and means to stop Jack from further investigating.

Fans of The Poet will enjoy Jack McEvoy's reappearance in this book. Connelly takes his reader into the world of print newspapers, emphasizing their continuing decline due to the internet and cable news programs. McEvoy is a character with flaws, which makes him all the more interesting. He teams up with Rachel Walling, who played a part in The Poet, and the two are a strong team as they track the killer, a computer whiz who has stayed below the radar for years while killing and isn't too happy someone is trying to stop him.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

The Crossing of Sixto Jaramillo
Betty Green
Vantage Press
New York
9780533160650 $13.95

The story is about a female U.S. border patrol agent named Miranda Littlefield whose heritage is a mixture of Anglo, Mexican and Quechan Indian.

While the title signifies a plot that is dominated by a pursuit of a character named Sixto Jaramillo, the real story is about a journey into the agent's own personal ancestral contradictions; the cultural domination of her Mexican heritage accentuated by Mexican grandparents that raised her when her mother abandoned her; the Anglo great, great grandmother's bloodline, hidden in the days of such prejudice, whose escapades led her into a sordid affair with a Quechan Indian who was Miranda's great-great grandfather, name unknown. And finally, it is through this great-great grandfather and her grandfather as well, that the ancestry of the Quechan mystical heritage was handed down to her revealed only through her intense pursuit of the Jaramillo case.

"It wasn't true that Miranda had no inkling of the violence that was about to be done to the routine of her life; for the night before she had a dream of such color and clarity that she left her house that Wednesday morning beset by an uncharacteristic anxiety that distracted her from her usual pleasure in the quiet streets and cool desert air."

Because of these contradictions in Miranda's persona, she is not even aware of why she is so intrigued with the Sixto character, though she confesses partly it is because of family interests. But the reality of her American culture as an agent embroiled in a cartel heap of deadly consequences, of which the young man, Sixto Jaramillo, was only a touch upon such criminal activity across borders, has caused her Quechan culture to intensify through these dreams and drives her to discover frightening truths within such activities, particularly with some of her own agent friends.

Author Betty Green is masterful at narrative description. The entire book reads like a historical novel, as the author details carefully geographical, as well as the historical knowledge of Yuma and the Spaniard invasion of tribes in the region. She also has accomplished extensive research on Quechan folklore, traditions, and physical artifacts.

This book is not only a fictional narrative, but a timely journey into historical traditions and cultural folklore embedded in the people and the customs of the border towns surrounding the U.S. & Mexico, reminding us of the conflicting political unrest that has been a debate to which the author returns us.

But the ending has such a twist that we are brought back to the reality that it is a fictional narrative with lots of exciting twists and turns and revelations, that one can only feel it is a great way to spend reading time.

Vegas Die
Stephen Grogan
Addison Highsmith
9780980116403 $16.95

"Vegas Die" virtually explodes in the first three pages. A gangland heist 22 years earlier takes 7 million dollars in diamonds and jewels and a private jet airplane explodes in mid-air.

This is a story of suspense, murder, and old-time gangsters in Las Vegas making it exciting as told by a masterful weaver of tales, Stephen Grogan, author exceptionale. Combining old Las Vegas landmarks with newly-minted legends, Grogan is able to introduce a changing facade which he has personally experienced through his years of living in Las Vegas.

Written in a flamboyant style, it fits the glitz and glamour of sin city embroiling the reader to the inside workings of a casino and how it becomes an integral part in the lives of those who construct them. Casinos may have cropped up in major cities across the country, but they do not have the passion and mystique which are the epitome of Las Vegas.

Main character, Owen McCombs, is immediately thrust into the spotlight as he reports for duty on his first day at the fictional Magnum Casino Hotel construction site. He would be on the executive management staff, but his duties were not explicitly detailed when accepting transfer from the Magnum's Biloxi casino.

Owen meets up with the mayor of Las Vegas, affectionately known as Mayor Goodfella, at a tour of the construction site. McCombs displays his abilities beyond that of a casino executive by managing a tricky situation. A large replica of the Magnum Casino is given to the mayor and Owen carries it to his car. When opening the trunk, a man's dead body is discovered. A bond of trust is established between the mayor and McCombs which becomes central to the novel as Owen takes steps to protect the mayor from implication.

A bloody dagger has been used throughout the story as being a part of current murders. More interesting are the many Las Vegas stomping grounds which are depicted in fine detail as McCombs does his detective work. Author Grogan has a devious plan in mind for the reader! When the book is completed, there is an added bonus. $25,000 has been posted by the author as a reward for discovering the location of a replica of this hidden dagger in Las Vegas. Clues have been scattered throughout the book and also a website has been established where additional clues are posted. This is a kitschy finale, but then again, what has been buried in Vegas does not always have to stay in Vegas.

As a sidelight, busloads of people have been gathering in Las Vegas in search of the hidden dagger. Stimulus of the reward has generated far more interest than anticipated by the publisher and author. This book is in its 9th printing, far exceeding publication estimates.

I highly recommend this book for enjoyment, even if you do not find the dagger. As of this date, it is still out there!

Prodigal Sons
Sheldon Greene
BookSurge Publishing
9781439226278 $15.99

Sheldon Greene's previous books, "Lost and Found" and "Burnt Umber" have been recognized as well done in the literary community. He has written a total of 8 novels. Greene is a good story teller and "Prodigal Sons" continues to display his talent.

This story of a young man starts with a tale of retribution against Nazis who have slipped under the radar of the criminal justice system. Horst Vogel a/k/a Jan Goldberg dispatches a former Nazi with cool efficiency by garroting him with a wire around his neck. Thus begins an absorbing post-war story of 1950 in Munich, West Germany. Based upon fact, this historical novel recreates a scenario which could have taken place in Poland, Israel, and Germany. His research depicts real events which he has fictionalized.

Entanglements and suspense are woven into an exciting page-turner. Saddened with the loss of his family, Jan Goldberg embarks upon a mission which leads him into becoming a resistance fighter in his native Poland during World War II. He becomes part of the underground, living in a cavern dug out in the forest near Lodz, Poland; he carries out his mission of saving Jews and killing Germans with zeal.

When the war ends, his home life no longer exists in Poland. His mother, father and sister have been killed by the Nazis. Jan is easily recruited by Hagganah agents to live on a Kibbutz in Israel. He is trained to be an assassin and is sent to Germany using the fake identity of Horst Vogel, a former soldier in the German Army.

Jan/Horst falls in love with Greta, a Christian German citizen, and a virtuoso pianist. Their love leads to more involvement in the Munich community than Horst could have imagined. His work as a curator in a museum enables him to accomplish his primary mission of assassinating former Nazis. Jan's relationship with Greta provides an added bonus as he discovers a cache of Nazi gold hidden in a sports club. The theft of the gold by the Hagganah and love of Greta make this story more intriguing.

When the book ends, we are left wanting more and author Greene could easily write another book using the same cast of characters to complete this saga. "Prodigal Sons" is highly recommended and will whet your appetite for more.

The Knight
Steven James
a Division of Baker Publishing Group
9780800718985 $19.99

Steven James' newest novel, "The Knight" is a riveting tale of suspense about a serial killer and FBI Agent, Patrick Bowers. This third book in the series follows the well-received "The Pawn" and "The Rook" by the Christian Community and the public.

Main character, Agent Bowers, specializes in investigating violent criminal offenses across the country. He is called into Colorado to lead the investigation of a serial killer.

Woven throughout the novel are accounts of his complex personal life. Patrick is raising Tessa, step-child of his deceased wife. They grieved together and grew to love each other in a way that made Bowers feel like her real father. She is a free-spirited seventeen year-old with an intellectual mind.

A large mysterious pot of flowers is delivered to a woman reporter at the Denver News Building accompanied by a note signed by "John". Her husband, Reggie, a law enforcement officer, recognizes the handwriting matching a note found at a previous murder scene. Agent Bowers is called and arrives with Tessa in tow. Tessa observes the pot of flowers and recalls a painting by John White Alexander based upon a poem by John Keats. She plays an important role connecting these clues.

Upon further investigation, Bowers uncovers a head buried in the pot leading him to an internet search on medieval poems. Bowers concludes the serial killer was following an ancient manuscript of poems chronologically, predicting how the next crime would be executed.

The serial killer is depicted as extremely intelligent and well-educated, with no moral compass and void of empathy. His first murder was his kindly grandmother when he was twelve years old. Later, in college, he fixated on medieval poems about torture and death. These became the catalyst for his killings and bizarre posing of victims. Cleverly, he manipulates law enforcement by misdirecting them in order to carry out his scheme. In an abandoned gold mine in Denver, a body is found holding a decomposed heart. Again, demonstrating his cunningness, he slips undiscovered in an out of the city morgue, gathering body parts to complete his mission.

Steven James has written a suspenseful and gruesome-at-times thriller. His main character uses his wits like playing a chess match and his nemeses matches him move-for-move, sometimes dominating, but was checkmated by Bowers in the end game.

There are some loose ends which will lead to another chess match, and thus, another book in the series to be published in the summer of 2010 titled "The Bishop".

Page-after-page, the suspense never ends. This book is highly recommended.

Gumbo Justice
Holli Castillo
Oak Tree Press
9781892343512 $14.95

This fast-paced serial murder mystery debut by Holli Castillo, entitled "Gumbo Justice", takes place in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina.

Ryan Murphy is a prosecutor seeking promotion to an elite squad of attorneys which she believes will make her career stand out. Her illustrious family includes a captain on the New Orleans Police Department who overshadows her own accomplishments.

During her tenure with law enforcement as a prosecutor, her superior attorneys required Ryan to become directly involved at the scenes of heinous crimes as they felt she would better prosecute the perpetrators. She sees first-hand the bodies of victims and the handiwork of the killer. Each of the deaths is orchestrated by the killer to achieve a special pattern that is linked to Ryan. The question of whether she is a target is raised early in the book and lingers on. Her safety becomes a primary concern of her father and he assigns a couple of his detectives to keep an eye out for her protection.

She is a single lady who loves to escape by having late evening rendezvous at a local bistro with a bottle. She drinks Tequila at home regularly and often falls asleep in a stupor. Hung-over at times, she still performs her lawyerly duties flawlessly and gets convictions of high profile crimes. There are times when her behavior gets a bit rowdy, but it is all in keeping with the storyline.

A short-coming in this novel is the lack of description of many unique and memorable places found in the City of New Orleans. Too much emphasis is given to a lot of street names. A stranger will find this somewhat distracting, but after a time it all blends when the tale is more developed. This is a well-constructed glimpse at the legal justice system as it could be in New Orleans, but brevity should not have hindered Holli Castillo from giving the reader full measure. Hopefully, book two in this mystery series, will satisfy those who want to read more about New Orleans and the exploits of Ryan Murphy.

Holli is a good writer and she realistically portrays her characters so they come alive. Your senses will become enmeshed with her passages because she is a good story teller who captures you with her vivid style. There is a surprise ending! This book is recommended as an adult book with a dash of New Orleans' seamy side.

Clark Isaacs

Daniel's Bookshelf

Night of Thunder
Stephen Hunter
Pocket Star Books
A Division of Simon and Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenues of Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416565147 $9.99 1-866-506-1949

I selected this novel because of my long time reading of this author, and it all started with his thriller The Day Before Midnight. I also enjoyed reading his next novel with Bob Lee Swagger as the main character in Point of Impact, and all the family history of being police officers. This book continues the saga of the previous novels, and adds more of the backdrop of the family interwoven in this story. The author does a fine job of storytelling, and uses it by writing confident cinematic prose. This helps moves the action and engages the reader. I thoroughly enjoyed reading another segment of the Bob Lee Swagger novels, no matter which portion of the family history was told in the story.

Bob Lee Swagger's daughter Nikki, who is a reporter is searching for a methamphetamine lab, that fuels the economy in a quiet Tennessee town named Bristol. In the backdrop of her investigation, the county sheriff's department is soon to face other heavy traffic due to a upcoming busy NASCAR week. Nikki stumbles upon the meth compound run and a member of a ruthless family. He is Richard Grumley known as 'sinner man' who runs her off the road and into a comma. The gangsters of the compound protect their business despite the outcome of their actions. Bob Lee Swagger is set to investigate what happened, and begins to pry into the Southern conspiracy. It is festered with anger, resentment, and seemingly dysfunctional, that traces directly to the Grumley family. Nikki's life is hanging in the balance. and Swagger resorts to peel back all resistance on his quest to what happened to Nikki. Swagger realizes that racing isn't the only way a person can die. He also learns that this bloodthirsty opponent is part of the family element, that are deranged evangelicals that run straight through the sheriff's office. They will eventually turn the final confrontation to an all out battle.

Stephen Hunter novels have appeared on the New York bestsellers lists and his Point of Impact novel has been made into a movie entitled Shooter with Mark Wahlberg as Bob Lee Swagger. I started it with The Day Before Midnight, I then went back to the beginning of his writings with The Master Sniper. Stephen Hunter is recently retired chief film critic from the Washington Post, where he won the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism. Hunter has also written two collections of film criticism and a nonfiction work, American Gunfight. Stephen Hunter's new Swagger novel will be released in late December I, Sniper. I eagerly anticipate this novel will be connecting more of the Swagger family dots in this interesting chronicle of law officers and Bob Lee Swagger, a military soldier, hence "Bob the Nailer" Swagger. He had record kills in Vietnam. I find the marksman portion fascinating, which enables the action to fall into thriller class with great language, and action-packed suspense. I believe that Stephen Hunter is one of the best storytellers in his generation, and he works hard not to disappoint.

Killer View
Ridley Pearson
The Berkley Publishing Group
Published By the Penquin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780515146493 $9.99 800-847-5515

Ridley Pearson gave me many hours of pleasure engaged in his fine mystery detective thrillers along with his other thrillers in everyday settings. His Lou Boldt character who seemed so gruff and demanding to the not so innocent, he earned his respect of being relentless to solve the case. This new series where Killer View is the second novel, that gives this repeat of a great scenic setting. Ridley writes a tight thriller with a fluid action and a page turning pace. It is no surprise that his books give some good escape reading time in a genre, which always offers surprises or plot twists to keep the reader interested.

A skier becomes missing on a Sun Valley mountain top, and Sherriff Walt Fleming with his formed search rescue team including friend Mark Aker, his brother Randy, and deputy Tommy Brandon. Walt received the information from a 911 call to go out there and find him. While searching through a blinding snow storm Randy is found shot dead. The next day Mark Aker goes missing too. Walt Fleming with personal problems of a recent divorce becomes torn between his loyalty to friends. A bridesmaid then get assaulted, taken to a local hospital with no memory of her attacker. Also an anarchist and his group become wanted by the FBI. In the area sheep are strangely falling down. He discovers a possible link to all the missing people, and the occurrences of the strange events. Walt begins to understand that power and wealth are trying to keep him at bay in this situation. The tension escalates furiously as the sheriff makes his designs on winning this battle, while the reader follows his work to the end.

Ridley Pearson along with John Sandford received the ultimate compliment by Lee Child as being the most consistent authors in their genre of mystery detective fiction. Ridley is an award -winning author of several New York Times bestsellers, including Killer Weekend, the Lou Boldt crime novel series and books for young readers. He and Dave Barry coauthored the hugely popular Peter and Starcatchers series which is currently in development by Disney as a Broadway play. His latest offering is Killer Summer and a long short story In Thrillers 2 entitled Boldt's Broken Angel. His next novel he is working on for next year. I await all of his books which I have read from his earlier novels starting with Undercurrents. He has written 24 adult novels not including to-date 13 children books of different series along with the book with Dave Barry. He is beyond a doubt one busy author, and this review is my tribute to his fine work.

Daniel Allen

Debra's Bookshelf

Predictably Irrational
Dan Ariely
Harper Collins
9780061353239 $25.95

In Predictably Irrational Dan Ariely, a professor of Behavioral Economics at MIT, explains that--contrary to the assumption that underlies standard economics--people routinely act irrationally. Our decisions are based on factors that we're very often not even aware of. Our purchasing decisions, for example, may be influenced by an item's price (more expensive must be better) or its popularity or by the context in which we see it (surrounded by high-end condiments and displayed on fine china, for example, versus slapped in a styrofoam container). Our behavior toward others may be altered more than we would anticipate by sexual arousal. The likelihood that we'll steal depends on whether the item in question is cold hard cash or just something that could be turned into cash. (One is more likely to steal a Coke from a communal refrigerator than its equivalent in change.)

Ariely explores a host of interesting questions related to decision-making. In each case Ariely describes, in very accessible prose, the experiments he and his colleagues conducted while researching the question. (In many cases the experiments involved students at MIT or Harvard, who were asked to answer questionnaires or look at pornographic images or buy beer or eat chocolate.) The purport of the book is that, while people do behave irrationally, they do so (as the book's title indicates) in predictable ways, because of the way our brains our wired. And if we understand more accurately how people behave in fact, rather than in theory, we can force ourselves to think differently or we can put tools in place that will result in more positive outcomes. (For example, studies show that students who take an honor pledge prior to taking a test are less likely to cheat, so requiring an honor code may be a cheap and easy way for a school to decrease cheating. Or, if you're ordering food at a restaurant without knowing what the people you're with are ordering, you're more likely to order something you really want and are thus more likely to enjoy the meal. Restaurants could improve their patrons' dining experience by introducing "blind," private ordering.) It's an interesting and well-written book that should appeal to readers who've enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell's titles, for example, or Chris Anderson's recent Free (which rehashes much of what Ariely writes in his third chapter).

Mr. Monk in Outer Space
Lee Goldberg
9780451224354 $6.99

Mr. Monk in Outer Space is the fifth installment in Lee Goldberg's series of TV tie-ins featuring Adrian Monk, the obsessive compulsive detective. In this outing Monk is called in by Captain Stottlemeyer of the San Francisco Police Department to help solve a series of murders. The most sensational of these is the murder of Conrad Stipe, the creator of a three-decade-old Star Trek-like cult favorite. He's shot dead upon arrival at a Beyond Earth convention, apparently by an obsessive fan, an "Earther," who's upset about a proposed remake of the show that isn't expected to stay true to the character of the original series. But of course the murder isn't as clear-cut as that, and its solution depends on Monk's preternatural attentiveness to detail. In fact, this time around there are two Monks on the case: Adrian's agoraphobic brother Ambrose literally wrote the book on Dratch--the made-up language (think Klingon) spoken by some characters in Beyond Earth. His command of the language and familiarity with the show proves invaluable to the investigation. The case provides the brothers with an opportunity to connect with one another. The development of their relationship is one of the sweeter parts of this story.

Like the rest of the books in Goldberg's series and the show itself, Mr. Monk in Outer Space is studded with amusing dialogue related to Monk's nearly paralyzing obsessive compulsive disorder. The book is also cleverly plotted, the various murders connected to one another in unexpected ways. Add to that Monk's subtle growth as a human being and the tender scene between Monk and his assistant, Natalie Teeger, at the book's close, and this installment in the series is a particularly enjoyable one.

Beginner's Greek
James Collins
Little, Brown
9780316021555 $23.99

The movie would star John Cusack, of course, or a John Cusack type, somebody who could play the decent guy romantic lead, who's not usually assertive but is given to delivering monologues that reveal the intellect beneath his self-effacement. We want him to get the girl--and this being a romantic comedy he probably will, but not without a lot of trouble along the way. The female lead, meanwhile, is some perfect vessel of femininity, shimmering in the simplicity of a cardigan and blue jeans, a latter-day Grace Kelly. She sits down next to him on a plane. They approach one another shyly. And before ten minutes have passed they're both desperately in love, though they can't admit to that yet. The universe has aligned just so across millennia so that these two people, so clearly perfect for one another, should meet, and arrange to meet again. She gives him her number on a piece of paper torn from her novel. but it's a fragile piece of documentation, as it turns out, easily lost....

Thus the back story of Peter and Holly, the winning leads of James Collins' debut novel Beginner's Greek. The rest of the novel relates the various obstacles that fate has coughed up to interfere with the couple's ultimate happiness. It's a quick read, though it bogs down a bit in parts when the author provides too much background information about a handful of minor characters. In the end, everything ties up neatly, which is to say that all the subplots are all resolved, and no loose ends are left. It's a sweet story, sweetly told.

The Counterfeit Guest
Rose Melikan
9781416560876 $15.00

Mary Finch, orphaned teacher at a girls' school turned wealthy heiress, was introduced in Rose Melikan's 2008 novel The Blackstone Key. In that outing, Mary found out about her late uncle's surprising bequest, fell in with smugglers, and met the dashing artillery expert Captain Robert Holland. The Blackstone Key was delightful, a slow but still compelling pseudo-Victorian novel. Having finished it, I was eager to read the second installment in Melikan's proposed three-book series.

In The Counterfeit Guest, Mary is again required to act in a manner ill-befitting a proper 18th-century lady of means. After her father's death, Mary's friend Susannah Armitage--a cousin, as it happens, of Captain Holland--marries an older man, Colonel Crosby-Nash. When suspicions arise that Crosby-Nash is in league with the French, Mary stays with her friend and acts as a mole in the Crosby-Nash household, a dangerous business if in fact he is a traitor. Meanwhile, against a backdrop of general unrest in the military, Captain Holland is required to deal with mutinous gunners at his own base.

Unfortunately, though The Counterfeit Guest offers much the same elements as Melikan's first Mary Finch novel, the book doesn't quite work. The story plods along as slowly as an evening spent in the tedious company of Susannah and Colonel Crosby-Nash. The writing itself is good, taken sentence by sentence, but the book is too long and the plot mostly uninteresting. There is too little development in the relationship between Mary and Holland, who don't share the same stage, as it were, as often as one would like.

If I had not so enjoyed The Blackstone Key, I'm afraid I would never have stuck with this one to the end. As it was, I was just curious enough about the development of the book's romance to see it through. The third book in the series is due out in 2010. Here's hoping Melikan will be able to recapture the magic of the first novel.

The Witch Doctor's Wife
Tamar Myers
9780061727832 $13.99

Tamar Myers' The Witch Doctor's Wife is set in the Belgian Congo in 1958. There are increasing demands at this time for Congolese independence from Belgian rule. But before they are compelled to cede power to the natives, the Belgians mean to extract as much profit as possible from the country's diamond mines. The town of Belle Vue, situated near a waterfall in the Kasai River, is largely under the authority of the mining consortium that owns the mineral rights to much of the surrounding area. The social divide between the white colonialists and the black natives is enormous, almost unbridgeable, and most of the Belgians in the country are racist and dictatorial in their relationships with the natives.

Against this backdrop Myers introduces a handful of characters: a witch doctor/post office groundskeeper and his two wives, the witch doctor's Belgian boss, a young American missionary, a Portuguese store owner. There is also a mysterious Nigerian who flies into the country with the missionary and then makes himself scarce for reasons that are not at once divulged. Myers explores what happens to this cast when one of them discovers an impossibly large gem, a diamond larger than anything that's ever been found in the area. It's worth a fortune, but profiting from it, given the iron grip of the Consortium on the country's resources, may not be possible.

The Witch Doctor's Wife is an unusual and unusually interesting read. It offers fascinating information about the culture of the Belgian Congo--the author was born and raised there--both within the story proper and in the explanatory paragraphs with which each chapter opens. The book defies the reader's expectations, in part because some of the story's threads end quite abruptly. One could argue that this is bad storytelling: to an extent it feels like the author is cheating, cutting out complications with, say, a death that comes out of nowhere. But I didn't feel cheated myself, just intrigued by the author's strange decisions. The one thing I did have trouble with is a decision made by one of the characters, a brave bit of selflessness that motivates much of what happens at the end of the book. But the decision that character made was an irrational one, I think, the sacrifice offered unnecessary under the circumstances (as far as I can see), so that to my mind much of the book's plot rests on an unacceptable premise. (This complaint is very vague I understand, but I don't want to give anything away.)
Despite this one difficulty, I enjoyed this book very much, and I
highly recommend it.

The Mephisto Club
Tess Gerritsen
978-0345477002 $7.99

The first murder scene is a grisly one. A woman has been butchered, her body dismembered, the scene arranged by the killer into a sickening tableau, complete with indications that the murder was part of a satanic ritual. Detective Jane Rizzoli and Boston medical examiner Maura Isles are called in to work the case on Christmas Eve. It's not the last murder they'll try to deconstruct before the book is through. The investigation eventually brings the women into contact with the organization of the book's title. The members of the Mephisto Club are convinced that demons walk the earth in the guise of humans, hunting at will: evil has a face, that is, and it looks like us. Gerritsen's account of the police investigation is punctuated by chapters telling the story of a 15-year-old boy staying with his relatives--the Sauls--after his father's death. The boy is particularly interested in his 16-year-old cousin Lily, whom he watches and takes notes on. Twelve years later, Lily is on the run in Italy, never staying too long in the same place, never telling anyone the truth about her background. Eventually the various strands of Gerritsen's story unite, and we find out the reason for Lily's flight--not quite what readers will be expecting.

The Mephisto Club is the 6th installment in Gerritsen's Jane Rizzoli series. Having read it, I'm wondering why I ever skipped books one through four. It's hard to review a book about which one has nothing negative to say. One is reduced to superlatives and bromides: It's a page-turner. I couldn't put it down. The writing is crisp. Gerritsen doesn't make a false step. I wouldn't change a word.... But in this case, all of that is true.

Tree Huggers
Judy Nichols
Zumaya Enigma
9781934135235 $15.99

After her divorce, Kate Dennison puts her old journalism degree to use on her new job as a reporter on Wilmington's Winslow Beach Beacon. She expects to cover the usual fodder for this kind of local publication (a "rinky-dink newspaper in some Southern backwater"), school pageants and science fairs and town council meetings. But on her first day at the office there's a big news story: a McMansion on the coast burns to the ground with two people trapped inside. The arson cum murder is thought to be the work of an extremist environmental group whose modus operandi is to discourage building in environmentally fragile areas by destroying property. Kate's coverage of the case lands her in trouble with some of the paper's readers, some of whom aren't above violent demonstrations of their displeasure. And Kate's problems at work bleed into her home life as well, ultimately threatening her relationship with her seven-year-old daughter Molly.

The ending of Tree Huggers doesn't pack a very big surprise. We're not shocked by the identity or tactics of the bad guy when he's finally revealed. But the book is by no means lacking in tension: Nichols does a great job of making us worry about the welfare of Kate's daughter. Her depiction of the relationship between mother and daughter struck me as very true-to-life. Tree Huggers is a good light read that introduces a likable protagonist and a strong cast of supporting characters--Kate's ex-husband and daughter and her colleagues at the paper, an old flame turned new love interest. I don't know if the author has plans for a sequel, but I hope she does: I'd be more than happy to revisit Kate and the goings-on at the Winslow Beach Beacon in subsequent installments.

The Counterfeit Guest
Rose Melikan
9781416560876 $15.00

Mary Finch, orphaned teacher at a girls' school turned wealthy heiress, was introduced in Rose Melikan's 2008 novel The Blackstone Key. In that outing, Mary found out about her late uncle's surprising bequest, fell in with smugglers, and met the dashing artillery expert Captain Robert Holland. The Blackstone Key was delightful, a slow but still compelling pseudo-Victorian novel. Having finished it, I was eager to read the second installment in Melikan's proposed three-book series.

In The Counterfeit Guest, Mary is again required to act in a manner ill-befitting a proper 18th-century lady of means. After her father's death, Mary's friend Susannah Armitage--a cousin, as it happens, of Captain Holland--marries an older man, Colonel Crosby-Nash. When suspicions arise that Crosby-Nash is in league with the French, Mary stays with her friend and acts as a mole in the Crosby-Nash household, a dangerous business if in fact he is a traitor. Meanwhile, against a backdrop of general unrest in the military, Captain Holland is required to deal with mutinous gunners at his own base.

Unfortunately, though The Counterfeit Guest offers much the same elements as Melikan's first Mary Finch novel, the book doesn't quite work. The story plods along as slowly as an evening spent in the tedious company of Susannah and Colonel Crosby-Nash. The writing itself is good, taken sentence by sentence, but the book is too long and the plot mostly uninteresting. There is too little development in the relationship between Mary and Holland, who don't share the same stage, as it were, as often as one would like.

If I had not so enjoyed The Blackstone Key, I'm afraid I would never have stuck with this one to the end. As it was, I was just curious enough about the development of the book's romance to see it through. The third book in the series is due out in 2010. Here's hoping Melikan will be able to recapture the magic of the first novel.

The Hero
W. Somerset Maugham
Norilana Books
978-1607620051 $9.95

In The Hero, which was originally published in 1901, Somerset Maugham tells the story of Captain James Parsons, who comes home to Little Primpton a wounded hero. He's been away for five years, first at Sandhurst and then in India and South Africa. During that time he has not seen his parents--his "people," as Maugham consistently refers to them--nor his fiance, Mary Clibborn, to whom he was engaged shortly before he left home. Upon his return he finds, unhappily, that everything has changed. Or rather, he has: his experiences have broadened his mind, and he now finds the dogmatism and puritanical attitudes of his parents and their circle unbearably oppressive. His parents adore him and yet their love is conditional upon his adherence to the rigid code by which their lives are circumscribed. Mary is no better. Ostensibly an angel of mercy, whose good deeds toward the ill of Little Primpton are outdone only by the kindnesses she heaps on James and his parents, she is in fact an odious creature, small-minded and convinced of her own rightness and out to change James into the sort of husband she should like. It doesn't help that during his time away James experienced real passion, falling helplessly in love with the wife of a friend, a woman who made a habit of collecting and toying with admirers. His burning infatuation for this woman made James realize that his relationship with Mary, which he'd taken as love, had never been anything more than a comfortable friendship.

Maugham fashions of this private drama a surprisingly suspenseful story: will James free himself before it's too late from the obligations of an oppressive marriage, or will his conscience not allow him to disappoint Mary and his parents? One doesn't know until the last sentence of the book proper (there is a brief epilogue as well) how things will end.

Maugham allows himself a purple passage or two, but apart from those occasional bits the book reads very quickly. His characterizations are superb: one can imagine very well the vile people with whom James is forced to consort. (In fact I'm sure I recognize a relative or two in these pages.) At over a century old, the book does offer the occasional head-scratcher, dialogue-wise: "'How d'you feel?' I asked. 'Bit dicky; but comfortable. I didn't funk it, did I?' 'No, of course not, you juggins!' I said."

But there's in fact very little of that sort of thing. The Kindle's built-in dictionary did prove very helpful on this one, though ("glebe," anyone?).

Readily available for free or cheap in electronic form, Maugham's Hero is worth the download.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Dravis' Bookshelf

The Bodyguard and the Snitch
Christy Tillery French
L&L Dreamspell
P.O. Box 1984, Friendswood, TX
9781603181280 $15.95

Natasha's Death-Defying Leap of Faith!

After waiting months to read more about Christy Tillery French's irresistible protagonist, the feisty, courageous, sexy and lovely Bodyguard, Natasha Chamberlain, I couldn't wait to read the latest in the series...

French has a winner on her hands with this series, not only because the main characters are so exciting and unforgettable, but also because Natasha guards such an offbeat variety of characters. And that doesn't account for her secondary characters; through her unpredictable mother and liberated author grandmother, readers can see where Natasha gets her quirky nature.

Her poor, dedraggled fiance Jonce Striker - - himself the chief bodyguard of all bodyguards and drop-dead gorgeous, to boot - - doesn't have a chance with such self-destructive genes running in Natasha's family…or does he?

"The Bodyguard and he Snitch" opens with its usual humor when Natasha meets her cocky client Tommy James, a pugnacious little attorney who is a Danny DeVito look-alike. When she learns why he needs protection, she take his case, agreeing to guard him 24/7 with the help of her bodyguard cohorts Pit and Bigun.

She threatens to quit the case when she learns the sleazeball has lied to her about who is after him, making the case more life-threatening than any she's handled before. Striker knows the identity of her latest client's adversary, so they have the most serious clash ever in their ongoing battle over her choice of profession. Even though Striker is top dog in the profession, he has never approved of "Nattie" doing it for a living. He has the utmost faith in her abilities, but since she's reckless at times and puts herself in the line of danger over and over again, he just can't bend and accept. He fears for her life. As usual, he pushes her to marry him and quit her job, but Natasha loves what she does and won't cave to what Striker wants most.

Throughout this series, this has been the only problem in their relationship, but this time it threatens to break them up. These two love each other so much that it's heart-breaking when they can't resolve their dilemma. They are hot lovers and Christy Tillery French knows just how to write it into her plots with class and elegance. Her fans root for Natasha and Striker to make it because, except for this one difference, they are ideally suited.

But with the sleazy attorney lying to Natasha and Striker knowing this could be her most dangerous case, he feels justified in insisting...

And just why does the attorney need protection? Even Natasha is flummoxed when she learns who is out to get him. Fearful of the man who is "after" her client, Natasha tries to quit but he threatens to tie her up in court, so she stays on...but insists on a more lucrative deal. Tommy's enemy has killed before, but Natasha thinks she can handle him. What happens when she sets out, unarmed, to prove it?

Natasha can get herself into the most astonishing, unbelievable predicaments ...and Striker knows her knack for doing so. But she has ways of getting in and OUT that are wondrous, humorous and exciting...and she knows it!

As if excitement, hot romance and mystery aren't enough for one book, this author adds the further allure of humor and manages it all brilliantly. Wait till you read about the capers of the kooky, outrageous clients that run in and out of Tommy's law office; each story a little vignette of slapdash comedy in its own right. You'll laugh yourself silly at their unorthodox behavior.

FYI, I also admire an author whose characters grow (or change) in a book, as real-life people tend to do. I did not like the attorney at the outset of this book, but through Natasha's influence, he changed and became quite likable by book's end. A pleasant surprise...

I, personally, hoped that Natasha and Striker would get married in this book, even if it means the end of the series. I feel so strongly about them, I would even sacrifice reading another fast-paced, exciting mystery to achieve that happy-ever-after ending.

But did that happen in this book? Or will I have another book to read until the matter is settled one way or the other? You'll have to read for yourself to find out. I'm not a snitch!

My funny-bone is still twitching and my sense of adventure sated as I recommend this book without reservation.

Downtown Owl; audio CD
Chuck Klosterman
Simon and Schuster
New York, NY
9780743573726 $39.95

Owl, North Dakota. Population 850 (4 stars)

Is there anything original to say about small-town life in the 1980's? Author Chuck Klosterman thinks so, and in his first novel he says it through the stories of three residents of this undistinguished farming town.

High school senior Mitch Hrlika (who earned the nickname "Vanna White" when he said his name needs more vowels) plays football, though not as well as his twelve-year old sister, and hates rock music. He spends his time cruising up and down the six blocks of Owl with his friends and wondering why he feels so alienated. New teacher Julia Rabia spends her nights in bars and learns that a new single woman in a small town has lots of friends and never has to buy her own drinks. The elderly widower Horace Jones meets his friends in a coffee shop six afternoons a week and wonders if his life would have been different--better--if he'd been the right age to go to war, any war.

DOWNTOWN OWL starts with a news story about a deadly winter wind storm in February 1984, and then steps back to August 1983. The short chapters cycle through these three Owlites' POV, with the occasional section focusing on a minor character. Nothing much happens--all the high school students are reading Orwell's 1984 and trying to understand "dystopia," Julia falls for a buffalo farmer who is the only man in town not trying to date her, Horace squirms at the memory of his deepest, darkest secret. We wonder how these three will fare when the storm strikes; Mr. Klosterman doesn't disappoint us when he finishes the book with the huge, unprecedented storm.

I listened to the audio book of DOWNTOWN OWL and it was a good choice. The three characters' sections were each read by a different performer; even though the writing was not in the first person, I was amazed at how well the narrators were able to convey the sense of the characters, making me feel as if I "knew" them. The book is full of references to 1980's music, movies and sports (not surprising since Chuck Klosterman is well-known as a cultural essayist in those fields). Halfway through the first CD, I was hooked…even though I don't expect to trade ANY of my treasured paper-and-ink books for audio.

Mr. Klosterman has a great ear for dialogue and his characters are brilliant. He captures the fishbowl nature of small-town life perfectly with what might be called a series of sketches. As much as I enjoyed these aspects of the book, I did note the lack of a plot in the usual sense. I'm taking off one star for this since I like a novel to have a well-laid-out plot, but happily giving four stars for the great writing and humor. I may even try a few more audio books someday after this enjoyable "listen."

Going to See the Elephant
Rodes Fishburne
Dell Publishing
New York
9780385342391 $22.00

Wide-eyed innocence in the City by the Bay! Grand debut!

I have lived within fifty miles of San Francisco for half my life and it has always been one of my favorite cities--picturesque, glamorous and exciting--so when this author introduces me to Slater Brown who is in love with San Francisco and life, in general, he eases me into this story with natural grace.

And then to find that Slater is a well-read young man nurturing the dream of being the best writer in the world, well that did it! I was captive to his adventure from the minute the bicycle-taxi driver deposits him and his "250-pound trunk" in front of a bar in the Mission District.

From this humble introduction to TK's Bar and Simmer, which happened to host a bevy of misfits only interested in baseball and beer, Slater starts his journal. Ignoring those around him, unwilling to share his dream for fear they'll think he's a "fruitcake," he wanders all over San Francisco.always seeking the elusive story that will make his words "live on forever."

As his funds dwindle, so do Slater's spirits, forcing him to make a sensible decision, to forget his "words living forever," and write something commercial.

When he eventually lands a job at the lowliest paper in the city, he's thrown in with some of the most colorful characters in modern literature. Told to "go out and get a story," Slater is back to wandering The City.

His first article gets him fired, but he persists with his dream. That's when this story takes a bizarre supernatural twist that leads him to so many blockbuster stories that he's soon the talk of the town.the darling of the press.a powerhouse who lets success go to his head.

Slater's meeting with the "Answer Man" in a Mexican taqueria on an out-of-the-way street starts the process rolling. Just what did the mysterious man give him that led to finding these headliner stories? How does the Mayor figure into the plot? And Milo Magnet, a successful, eccentric inventor?

Who is Callio and will she help him find his way back to his true self?

This is where Rodes Fishburne gets off-track in his astonishing debut novel, IMO. A convoluted plot gets even more convoluted when Callio enters the picture. This is where he lost me and I lost some interest in the story. It was an unsatisfactory ending for me.

Due to Fishburne's masterful use of prose, realistic dialogue and clever supernatural ploy--I easily suspended my disbelief because I wanted to believe--this story should have been a five-star. But since he seemed unable to sustain everything for a realistic, satisfying ending, I chopped off one point.

I look forward to more from this author; he does, indeed, have a rare talent.

ENDNOTE: Be sure to read the author's note on the title before reading the book. I failed to do that, so kept waiting for the tie-in to elephant, thinking the San Francisco Zoo would figure into the story at some point. For those of you who may not read the book: Since the elephant symbolizes luck, "Going to see the elephant" is an old expression used in some regions when someone went off to seek their fame and fortune.

Dreams in Blue: the Real Police
Richard Neal Huffman
Publish America
9781413790733 $24.95

Fascinating peek inside the mind of a smalltown policeman!

I first heard of this book in 2006 and have always wanted to read it, but never got around to it until now. The wait was well worth it!

Dreams in Blue: "The Real Police" is an entertaining, educational read that takes the reader inside the police departments of Smalltown America of yesteryear. Author Richard Neal Huffman takes us with him as he patrols the streets in and around Bangor, Michigan.

I was fascinated by Huffman's accounting of how and why he chose police work as his career after serving in Vietnam, and was touched by his motivation and honest way of handling each individual situation. This story serves up the bitter with the sweet as he records not only the crimes he handled but the liberties he took in applying his honest brand of justice. Some of his ways were humorous as he had much more freedom to do things "his way" in those days. In today's stricter environment, he would be called "on the carpet" for not following "proper police procedure." Those were the days where cops could be "real men" and stand up for their principles.

This is an easy, relaxing read because Huffman writes in a chronological, orderly manner as he details the crimes that he handled and weaves his personal family history into the story. By the time I finished the book I felt like I knew him and his family.

He relates story after story of crimes committed--both misdemeanors and felonies--with some of them being very similar in nature. Most were average, everyday crimes in today's world: burglary, drunk-in-public, assault, car theft, rape and spousal abuse. Some were deadly serious, while others, such as a man being nude in public, were humorous.

Since Huffman worked for small-town forces, he knew many of the criminals for years and was surprised that certain ones turned to crime, but actually expected it of others. As I stated above, some of the stories were similar, which made them seem repetitious and dry at times...identical situations only with different names of the perps.

This is not an exciting, page-turner book; the pace is not "spot on" or geared for that--as it would be if this were fiction--but it's an entertaining, fun read that I enjoyed immensely.

I deducted one star because the story lacks momentum in some places and there are grammatical errors. Since the author admits he wrote the book so that his "children and their children might know something about their dad and grandpa," I think it serves its purpose admirably. Truthfully, IMO, it goes much further than that: it depicts the life of a cop in realistic detail that helps the reader understand and appreciate good cops like Huffman...and disrespect the bad ones he writes about.

Huffman went on to serve on the city council and when he was elected mayor, he got a dose of "dirty politics" in the most unexpected way. To learn more about that, I recommend you read the book.

I admire Huffman and am pleased to have "met" a good, honest, dedicated cop like him!

I highly recommend this book. A fine reading adventure! I also read his exciting novel Rubal about a Civil War soldier who has a strange battlefield experience that changes his life forever. I hope he continues writing as I would enjoy reading more of his works.

Five stars all the way!

Betty Dravis

Gary's Bookshelf

Out There
Diane Fanning
St. Martins Paperbacks
175 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10010
9780312949303 $6.99

This is the book on the case that shocked the nation when a well-respected female astronaut of NASA went berserk, stalked another woman in the Orlando International Airport and pepper sprayed her victim in the parking lot. The country was stunned to learn segments of the story that the press first began reporting. Now, true crime writer Diane Fanning delves between the layers of this bizarre case of a love triangle that gave another black eye to the struggling space agency. Lisa Nowak from an early age wanted to be an astronaut. Her mother thought it was just a passing fancy. But Nowak was driven to be one of the few women to fly on space missions. She studied all of the right courses, went into the military, then trained with NASA and was determined to fly on a Space Shuttle mission, which she did. Fanning also shows that Nowak got married, had children, and had the perfect life. But something was just not enough. She had an affair with William Oefelein who was also married. Both Nowak's and Oefelein's marriages ended in divorce. Oefelein also did not let Nowak know that he was dating Colleen Shipman, an Air Force Captain. Nowak learned of the relationship and became obsessed with harming Shipman. Reports of the press said that Nowak drove straight through from Houston Texas to Orlando International Airport. Fanning shows that that is not quite true. She did drive from Houston but made an overnight stop in the panhandle Florida. I like how Fanning begins the book with the crime, then takes the reader through the childhood of Nowak, moves through her career in the military and NASA and later shows the beginning of her downfall and soon after her many appearances in federal court in Orlando.

OUT THERE is a top-notch piece of reporting that reveals so much the public never knew about this disturbing case.

And Then it Was Tea Time
Compiled by Laurie Nienhaus
Gilded Lady Publishing
PO Box 2576, Fort Myers Beach Florida
9780979238901 $9.95

I did not know what to expect when I came across this book. I thought maybe this is a little trade paperback about the history of the drink so many of us love to indulge in. But when I began to read through it I found that is not what it is at all. The author has compiled statements through the years about the beverage. She uses passages of novels, movies, and real life to show how people feel about tea. I was a bit surprised but the book is a lot of fun and, is a perfect gift for any occasion. I was recently informed that January is National Tea Month.

I Am Legend
Richard Matheson
175 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10010
9780765357151 $7.99

I love this novel of a man who is the last real human. He, for some reason, has not been mutated like the men, women, and children around him. He is in a fight for his life against the altered people who are very much like vampires. Matheson is a great writer of horror science fiction and this is one of his best. It was originally made into the "Omega Man" and is now in the remake that is the original title. Included in this volume are some of his finest short stories. "The Near Departed" is a story of a man who contacts a funeral home to make arrangements for his wife. In typical Matheson fashion there is a wonderful twist of an ending. Or "Buried Talents" something strange happens at a carnival. In total there are 11 stories here that show why Matheson is one of the best writers in the field. I am sad to say the author has stated that he will not write any more short stories because he says he has gone as far as he can but will still produce novels. Readers can enjoy these and others over again or for the first time. His pieces are timeless and all of these are prime examples.

Dillo a Baby Armadillo's Adventure on Sanibel Island
Kyle L. Miller
Illustrated by Randon T. Eddy
Jungle House Publications
736 Cardlum St., Sanibel Island, Fl 33957
9780976933205 $16.95 239-472-0599

Marmma Armadillo delivers four babies. Their names are Lillo, Pillo, Jillo, and Dillo. Normally I have a problem keeping each character straight when the names are so similar but this time that difficulty does not exist. As the children grow Dillo's three sisters are consumed with jealousy. They feel their mother loves Dillo more than them. They hatch a plot to get rid of her. They take Dillo out into the wilderness and leave her to fend for herself. She also has a little problem. For some reason since she was born she always smiles no matter what is happening around her. She is scared but finds encounters with other animals of the area are not as bad as she has been led to believe. They quickly become her friends. When she needs them, they are there to help without being asked.

Kyle L. Miller has created animal characters that are well defined, interesting, and fun. But I have to add that the backdrop of Sanibel Island is also part of the mix of this delightful tale.

I loved this book that is geared to children but is just as appropriate for adults with its many messages. Some of them are what happens when envy is obsessive, negatives can be turned into positives, the power of friendship, and turning the other cheek and moving forward in life. Also there is a lot of symbolism that readers will be able to pick up for

themselves. The artwork by Randon T. Eddy adds another dimension to the work that helps move the story along.

Schools should use the book to apply lessons to children on how to get along with each other. Another use could be for divorce court judges to require plaintives to read it who get too petty. I think this would be a great resource to use to show the adults how childish they are being.

This is a wonderful story that should find many different audiences. I look forward to seeing what this creative team comes up with next

No One Heard Her Scream
Jordan Dane
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
9780061543449 $6.99

Jordan Dane is a new voice in the realm of romantic suspense and it's easy to see why from the first page where Danielle Montgomery, a high school student, is abducted. Her sister Detective Rebecca Montgomery has been barred from investigating Danielle's disappearance. Instead Rebecca is handed a case that begins as a fire in a theatre but turns out to be a murder when the arson investigator finds among the ruins a female body stuffed in one of the walls. Rebecca starts to track a killer. She pieces together that the woman disappeared seven years earlier and the circumstances are very similar to those of her sister's. Then with no explanation, her chief tells her she is off the case. However she continues on her own and begins to close in on the killer, when she herself is taken hostage, and her department for some reason sits idly by.

Dane's characters are believable with the cat and mouse pursuit of the detective after the killer. While Rebecca's mother and others believe that Danielle is dead, she holds on to the idea that Danielle is still alive. It is the underlying hope that she will see her sister again that keeps her going and helps keep her focused.

The last hundred pages read like an out-of-control freight train with enough twists and turns to please any suspense novel fan. This is the first of three books by this writer in the next few months. I hope the other two are as fast paced as this one.

Great Kisses and Famous Lines Right out of the Movies
Timothy Knight
Harper Entertainment
10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
9780061438899 $14.95

For those of us who love movies this is a great little book that has a lot of surprises. The author has combed many of our favorites and shows the most romantic moments ever produced on film. He includes lines spoken just before the big kiss. Many are expected like "Ghost," "Gone With the Wind," "From Here to Eternity," and "Casablanca." Two that were surprising were "Rocky" and "Goldfinger." I liked that the author listed each film by the year it was released. The fun of this book is seeing if readers agree with the author's choices. This is a perfect gift for any fan of movies

Battlestar Galactica Somewhere Beyond the Heavens
David Criswell & Richie F. Levine
Bear Manor Media
P.O. Box 71426, Albany, Georgia 31708
1591099935 $32.95

I, like many, am a big fan of the original series. The authors have written a very detailed study of the initial program that lasted only one season and the reborn show currently on the Sci-Fi network. They tell how the show began, the problems it had getting on the air, episode guides with notes and commentaries, a possible second season, the law suits with George Lucas, and studies of the first two seasons of the Sci-Fi mega hit. I was disappointed because they did not tell about the changes that had to be done because of the lawsuit. One was that the intro monologue had to be reworked. Those of us who have the DVD theatrical version are fortunate because it has not been changed. They also like fans shun away from the series that followed "Galactica 1980." They talk about one episode only because the character of "Starbuck" is in the episode. Even with its faults it is one of the best resources on the show and no fan should miss it.

The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps
Otto Penzler
9780307280480 $25.00

"Like Jazz, the hard-boiled private detective is entirely an American invention and it was given life in the pages of pulp magazines. Pulp now is a nearly generic term, frequently misused to indicate hack work of inferior literary achievement. While that often may be accurate, pulp was not intended to describe literary excellence or lack thereof, but was derived from the word pulpwood, which is the very cheap paper that was used to produce popular magazines. These, in turn, were the offspring of "dime novels" mainly magazine-sized mystery, Western, and adventure novels produced for young or unsophisticated readers." From the Foreword by Otto Penzler The pulps were magazines that reached their peak in the 1920's and the 1930's. They sold for a dime or fifteen cents. Readers were treated to stories in several genres: westerns, detective tales and crime fighters who were masked and had all kinds of gadgets to help them stop criminals. Some of the most well known were The Shadow, and The Spider.. Like comic books, there was a lot of flack to them because the perception was that they were very harmful to children. For writers it was a great way to get published. Some of the most famous names are Cornell Woolrich, Erle Stanely Gardner, Raymond Chandler, Zane Grey, James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, and Leslie Charteris. From these writers came the characters of The Saint, Perry Mason, Sam Spade, and Philip Marlowe. This book is broken into three parts. "The Crimefighters, with an introduction by Harlan Coben, The Villains introduction by Harlan Ellison and Laura Lippman introduces the last section The Dames." This collection brings together many of the best stories and should appeal to a whole new generation of readers.

Daymare And Other Tales From The Pulps
Fredric Brown
Wildside Pulp Classics
1434494454 $14.95

Finally, after so many years of being out of print these stories are back to reach whole new audiences. Brown is one of the lesser known writers of the 1940's 1950's and 1960's who was a master of the twist of an ending tale. Many readers know Ray Bradbury or Stephen King .and that's about it. Brown's most famous short story is "Arena" that was the basis for the Star Trek episode. "Daymare." It is a bizarre blend of mystery and science fiction. The four other stories here are gems as well. I hope to see other books re-issued by this company

Scott Heydt
Helm Publishing
3923 Seward Avenue, Rockford, IL 61108
9780982060506 $10.00 815 398 4660

The author tackles a number of social issues and does it very well. I was amazed how insightful the writer, a male, was to tell the story of a female ninth grader dealing with all of the things she has going on. His characters are believable while the situations are real ones kids face every day. The story moves along at a fast pace that will have readers turning pages. I look forward to seeing other things from this author in the future.

Nemesis Returns
Glenda C. Finkelstein
Aisling Press, Tampa, Florida 33543
97801934677452 $15.99

I've read and reviewed just about everything this author has produced so far and I have to say this is the best thing I have had the opportunity to critique. The characters are very well defined, while the writing is much faster paced. This sequel to "Nemesis Rising" begins 10 years after the disaster on Neptune Station and deals with many of the same issues. At conventions of science fiction two of the popular topics are can you mix genres, and does religion have a place in science fiction? I think the key to the two questions is. Is it done well? I am happy to say Glenda Finkelstein mixes elements of religion, horror, SF, and mystery in generous doses that move the story along to the surprising ending and she does it so well. The cover with the character with the green eyes first drew my attention to want to re-enter the "Nemesis" universe and then I was rewarded with a story that is just a remarkable science fiction novel.

How To Talk to Girls
Alec Greven
Harper Collins Children's Books
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061718236 $6.99

I have to say I had a difficult time believing this book because the author is only nine years old. The things he says are for an older audience and I just found it hard to grasp that this kid is talking to children his age. I know that when I was his age being with a girl was the last thing a boy wanted to do. I have also watched the press fall all over itself to interview and talk about this author and his book. I felt like this is Charlie Brown talking to kids about how to find a valentine sweetheart. The book is cute but I just don't buy into the concept.

From the Heart Eight Rules to Live By
Robin Roberts
77 West 66th Street, New York, New York 10023-6298
9781401309589 $14.95

Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts for the first time reveals her amazing life story. She takes readers on a journey as a college basketball star, ESPN host and how she landed her current job. The book is much more than just a woman making it big in the journalism world. She talks about her siblings and how they compare to her. She talks about goals you make for yourself, having faith in God, and a strong family unit. Her parents were there for her and they taught her several things that she tells readers. Do not use excuses like race or gender when you do not get what you want. When she tried to use race as the reason she did not get a job they were tough on her and said maybe she was not good enough yet. She shows that you have to be honest with yourself and work harder for what you want. She tells all about her life before breast cancer and after, and why she decided to reveal she had the disease. The book is an inspirational journey through life.

Superheroes Capes and Crusaders in Comics and Films
Roz Kaveney
I.B Tauris
9781845115692 $18.95

The author delves into the world of the super hero on screen and in the comic books with an interesting perception. The NBC mega hit "Heroes," "The X Men," and "Batman" are a few of the characters she discusses. She also tells how comic books were attacked by groups who thought they were bad for kids to read and wanted them banned because they were perceived to be so harmful to children. "Superheroes" is an interesting study of superheroes. There have been other studies like this that were too boring because they had such off the wall perceptions of how children are affected by this make believe world. This book is easy to read and has a lot of information on the world of super here characters. Fans of this type of entertainment should not miss this one

Close-ups Conversations with Our Tv Favorites
Eddie Lucas
Bear Manor Media
P.O. Box 71426, Albany, Georgia 31708
1593931204 $22.99

I love books like this because they bring us up to date on what stars of classic TV shows are doing presently. The author interviewed Tony Dow, Barbara Billingsley from "Leave it to Beaver;" Dwayne Hickman, "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis;" Stanley Livingston, "My Three Sons;" Jon Provost, "Lassie;" Ernest Thomas, and Heywood Nelson, "What's Happening;" There are many little tidbits for any fan and trivia buffs. For instance, June Lockhart did not come on the show until Provost's second season. Tony Dow talks about how the actors have never been paid for the boxed sets of DVDs, Stanley Livingston shows the differences in the industry from when he was doing the show and now. I think this would make a great series of books.

How Underdog Was Born
Buck Biggers & Chet Stover
Bear Manor Media
P.O. Box 71426, Albany, Georgia 31708
1593930259 $19.95

The creators of the beloved cartoon "Underdog" for the first time tell all about the show. They reveal the way a show got on the air back in the 1960's, the power advertisers had deciding what got on, the competition they had with Jay Ward, and Hanna Barbara, the influence of an " I Love Lucy" episode are just a few of the things they reveal. There are two things I had a problem with. The book is a bit confusing to follow and I would have liked to have the authors tell their thoughts.

Hey Mon Caribbean Cooking Magic
Errol Bishop

For a touch of the Caribbean this is the perfect recipe booklet. There are many spicy wonderful dishes that are easy to prepare. This is a great little cookbook that is a perfect gift for any occasion.

Gary Roen

Georganna's Bookshelf

Jack Rabbit Moon: A Garner Park Story
Dorraine Darden
Cold Tree Press, Nashville, TN
9781583851395 $14.95

Like any other little girl, Marnie Evans just wants her family to love her. Unfortunately her family includes a drunken slut, the slut's sinister abusive boyfriend, a misguided jailbird dad, and assorted religious fanatics. Can you spell "dysfunctional"?

Set in the west Texas landscape along the Frio River, much of the action takes place in the real Garner State Park. There Marnie finds solace with the Carpenters, a wild couple of uber-environmentalists. Ranger Rick, as Marnie calls him, is a singing cowboy park ranger. His big-hearted and sensitive wife, Claire, aches for a child to cherish.

Darden's novel defies pigeon-holing. She considers it a "coming of age" story, but there is no sex involving the main character. An abundance of dread overhangs the plot, a little violence takes place and death definitely plays a part. Let's just call it "mainstream fiction." featuring luscious depictions of the settings in which everyone learns a new definition of "family."

Fitzgerald & Hemingway: Works and Days
Scott Donaldson
Columbia University Press, New York
9780231148160 $32.50

From a master biographer of both F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, great American authors, comes a compendium of 24 of his best essays. He meticulously traces connections between both men's lives and incidents in their writings. This is a scholarly book summing up perhaps the best of the author's career. It belongs in any comprehensive library's collection and in that of aficionados of Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

Girl Mary
Petru Popescu
Simon & Schuster Paperback
New York NY 10020
9781416532637 $15.00

No one really knows what happened to Mary, Mother of Christ, in the time her child was conceived. Creating a story of her tribe's tribulations and Mary's encounter with God is fertile ground for the novelist. He brings the major players to life for the reader and proposes an entanglement with Pontius Pilate that most of us would not have imagined.

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession
Allison Hoover Bartlett
Riverhead Books (Penguin)
New York, NY 10014
9781594488917 $24.95

In this nonfiction book, antiquarian Ken Sanders is a "bibliodick" on the trail of rare book thief John Gilkey. The author does not just tell the story, however, she enters into it, interviewing Gilkey during and after and again about his crime spree. When asked if this was the only time she had lost objectivity, Bartlett responded:

"To be objective, you must be an unbiased observer. But once book thief John Gilkey started confessing crimes to me and discussing thefts he'd like to carry out in the future, I went from being an observer to a participant in the story - so it was impossible to be purely objective. My responses, for better or for worse, could affect the outcome. It was a thorny position to be in."

And if you don't think stealing books should be a punishable crime, you have not priced rare ones lately. Collecting at these levels is a rich man or woman's folly.

The story is enthralling, tracking the thief through book stores and book fairs, from one end of the country to the other. You might even forget this is a story of true crime and think you are reading a novel. It is encouraging to find a veteran journalist who can switch to a long form and create such a lyrical as well as erudite narration. That the story is about books is a bonus for those of us who love books, slightly obsessed bibliophiles.

Despite Bartlett's extensive background as a journalist, she had not interviewed a subject in a prison setting until succumbing to "research rapture" with this project. Her description of visiting Gilkey in the Duel Vocational Institution in Tracy, California, is hilarious. Apparently no one had prepped her on prison protocol. Before entering the inner sanctum, she had to rush back to her car to remove a forbidden underwire bra. By the time she was face-to-face (albeit through Plexiglas) with the inmate, she only wanted the experience to be over. Still, she noticed Gilkey resembled Mr. Rogers of TV children's show fame. How jarring that must have been for a mother!

It is that ability to notice details and changes that contribute to a good journalist's writing. Bartlett's acute attention quickly found incongruities in her subject's revelations over the months she met with him. She even accompanied him to a rare book store he'd stolen from, strolling around under the knowing eye of the owner who recognized Gilkey. The tension and discomfort were practically palpable in the narration.

By the end, the author discovered a single trait shared by the thief, those he stole from and book collectors who would never dream of stealing them: obsession. The bibliodick is both a book dealer and a collector who can't stop buying; and Gilkey can't stop stealing them. By participating in the story, did Bartlett become equally obsessed?

Georganna Hancock

Gloria's Bookshelf

Shadow of Betrayal
Brett Battles
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385341585 $25.00 800-726-0600

I loved the character Jonathan Quinn, the eponymous "Cleaner" given wonderful life by Brett Battles in his first book. Now making his third appearance, that response was only reinforced. He is a freelancer whose job is to discreetly clean up crime scenes and the occasional body after the always possible bloodshed. Part of the job description was "always being ready for any contingency, but not always having to activate your plans." Working with Quinn again is his apprentice, Nate, as well his lover, Orlando, the beautiful Asian woman also introduced to readers in the earlier book. This book, as the others, is international in scope, with settings as varied as Cork, Ireland; Africa; and Washington, D.C.

There are two plotlines going on here, and the implicit belief that they may intersect before the conclusion of the book. At the outset, a Downs syndrome child is entrusted to the care of Marion Dupuis, an aide worker employed by the UN in West Africa, when an attempted kidnapping of the five-year-old girl is thwarted. She soon goes on the run when the would-be kidnappers continue to hunt for the little girl. There is no information on what is behind the kidnapping attempt, only the hint that she was not the only target on the kidnappers' list.

Alternating with this is a plot with ominous implications being hatched in the US, where the organization simply known as The Office hires Quinn et al to try to find out exactly what it is that is being planned. They soon encounter assassins, both known and yet to be identified. It seems that there is a shadowy organization intent on destabilizing entire nations, their own among them. The author occasionally strays into territory requiring a suspension of disbelief. But then again, these days who knows what is or is not possible? But soon that no longer matters when the suspense mounts as the game is afoot, and Quinn, Nate and Orlando know only that they must stop the conspirators from achieving their aims. This is a real page-turner of a book, and it is recommended.

Karin Slaughter
Delacorte Press
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385341967 $25.00 800-726-0600

In Conyers, Georgia, thirty minutes outside of Atlanta, a woman stumbles into the path of an oncoming car. Only her injuries are found to be much more severe than those caused by the vehicle.

Karin Slaughter has brought her readers another rather grim novel dealing with subjects one tends to try to avoid, dealing with abuse and sadistic acts perpetrated by men upon the most vulnerable members of society. The writing is not without flaws, albeit minor ones, and is at times repetitious, but these instances are few and brief and one is soon again caught up in this strange tale of a sadistic serial killer [a redundancy perhaps?] who has been kidnapping young, successful woman and raping, torturing and bringing them nearly to the point of death. Two women - they are apparently kidnapped and held prisoner in twos - manage to escape, although only one survives. And soon two more have disappeared and are feared suffering the same fate.

The wonderfully real and human cops - or rather, inspectors working for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Will Trent and his partner, Faith Mitchell, are assigned to the investigation. It soon appears that along with every suspect they come across in this case, they themselves also have their secrets which they are reluctant to reveal even to those with whom they have to work most closely. And that includes Dr. Sara Linton, still recovering from the death of her cop husband over three years ago. They are very well-drawn and sympathetic characters. Whereas the others, the victims and the suspects with secrets of their own which they are loathe to reveal, not nearly so much.

Even small and not so small roles are drawn with sufficient detail as to make them flesh and blood. And by the way, there is plenty of that in evidence as well - the book is not for the squeamish, although there is not too much of it graphically displayed, but the reader is always aware of it. The author has created here a novel of intense suspense and gripping reading, but beyond that, I felt that Ms. Slaughter has managed a very difficult feat, not often accomplished by authors of popular fiction, i.e., to capture some very personal emotions, such as grief after having lost a beloved spouse, with perfect accuracy, sufficient to bring tears to the eyes of the reader who may recognize them as his or her own. As well, I found the author's observation that "you didn't realize what was passing you by until you slowed down a little bit to get a better look," although admittedly only a variation of "stop and smell the roses," to be nonetheless particularly pithy. The investigation takes place over a four-day period, the electrifying scenes mount in pace and suspense to the dramatic ending, and the pages didn't turn fast enough for this reader. Highly recommended.

Panic Attack
Jason Starr
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312387068 $24.95 646-307-5560

"Panic Attack" - the phrase alone is enough, after reading this newest psychological suspense novel by Jason Starr, to trigger just such a reaction.

Psychologist Dr. Adam Bloom and his wife, Dana, are awakened by their twenty-two-year-old daughter Marissa in the middle of the night when she hears sounds indicating someone is in their home in Forest Hills Gardens, in Queens, New York. The ensuing scene is like the nightmare he had been in the midst of, except that this one is real: After retrieving the gun he had safely secured in his closet, never having used it before except at the pistol range where he occasionally went to practice, he steps out into the hallway and sees a man climbing the stairs towards him. Before the man can get any further, Adam shoots him several times, killing him, and warns a second man on the floor below to get out of his house before he kills him as well.

The fallout from this horrendous incident doesn't play out quite the way Adam had imagined it would. The following day "he didn't think about the shooting at all until he went downstairs, passing the spot on the staircase where the body had fallen . . . It was almost like it hadn't even happened . . . " Not even close.

Reactions were not as Adam would have expected them to be. He is portrayed as some kind of trigger-happy vigilante. He is resentful of the way people, including his patients, are responding to him, and perplexed, thinking: "If he'd killed someone for no reason, murdered someone, or even if he'd killed someone accidentally, by a mistake he'd made, he'd have something to feel guilty about. For example, if he'd killed someone in a traffic accident, he would've had to accept responsibility. But this situation had been completely different. This hadn't been an accident: this had been self-defense." And that's before he even factors in the potential thinking on the part of the second man who was in his house that night, who'd been brought on board for the burglary by the dead man.

The Blooms are more or less your average upper-middle class family, with the same frailties as most of us, no more or less, and all the more sympathetic for it. After the incident, things don't go back to what used to pass for normal. In fact, they escalate into nightmarish proportions, and the anxiety level of the reader right along with them. The author uses the device of describing a scene from the p.o.v. of one character, followed by that same time frame depicted from the p.o.v. of another character, which is interesting and very effective, although it was at first unsettling and took a brief bit of getting used to. As well, the author manages to inject just the right amount of irony into this dark tale, which is recommended.

The Siege
Stephen White
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525951223 $25.95 800-847-5515

When one opens a new book, there is always, for this reader, a bit of tension. What world will this open? What adventure awaits? How good will the writing be? After the first two pages of "The Siege," I exhaled and relaxed, thinking that this is, after all, a Stephen White novel, and I was in excellent hands.

That is not to say that the book opens in a placid landscape. To the contrary. The opening scene takes place on the campus of Yale University, where the police are camped out at a building in front of which is a young man, a Yale student, to whose body has been strapped a bomb. He tells the police that the bomb will go off in precisely five minutes. Terrifyingly, he is only one of a number [exact figure unknown] of students who are missing and presumably all being held hostage by person or persons unknown, for reasons unknown, inside that same building, a fortress-like structure unnervingly referred to as a tomb.

There are several protagonists in the book, and the reader is soon introduced to the first of these: Sam Purdy, a Boulder, Colorado police detective currently on suspension, who is prevailed upon by the mother of one of the hostages to go to New Haven to be "her eyes and ears" and to try to save her daughter's life. Once in Connecticut, Sam becomes involved with FBI agent Christopher Poe and CIA analyst Deirdre ("Dee") Drake when they realize they have a common mission: To end the situation with as little loss of life as possible.

There are differing p.o.v.'s, the only first person sections narrated by Sam, which might not seem workable but is eminently so. The characters are deftly drawn and intriguing, including the local hostage negotiator who is the one constant at the scene. The scenario played out is one that is terrifyingly possible in today's world, and the tension is present from first page to last. This is one book you won't be able to put down. Recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Bulfinch's Mythology
Thomas Bulfinch
Barnes & Noble Classics
c/o Barnes & Noble Books
122 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011
9781593082734 $12.95

There are a number of books on mythology. Thomas Bulfinch has taken a unique approach to the topic. He wrote a summary with two goals. The first is to give the basic storylines and the second is to show how these myths have worked their way into every day literature and communication. In many ways, this later approach would benefit by an update. You will find interesting links between the latest SF and graphic novel movies and details that explain concepts in the Harry Potter books residing in these old stories. It is amazing how deeply imbedded mythology is in modern writing and how strong the need is to keep these links intact.

Bulfinch wrote his book in the middle 19th century. He had to keep within the public morals of his time. This gives a surprising innocence and a quaint and familiar feel to the stories. His narration lets the reader feel that they are learning important facts while being entertained. The book is divided into sections -- The Age of Fable, The Age of Chivalry and The Age of Charlemagne. The strongest narration is The Age of Fable. But The Age of Charlemagne might be a more important section for the contemporary reader because these groups of stories are less known. One interesting point about the Charlemagne stories that Bulfinch notes is that the real Charlemagne was more impressive than the fictional one. If myths are based in reality, this makes for great speculation about the original characters and events that they were built from.

Bulfinch's Mythology is an important text for anyone serious in studying literature or culture. Other texts have more accurate stories, wider variety and easier formatting for study but Bulfinch had the knack of bringing the ancient tales into a direct cultural focus. Bulfinch is a classic because it is an easy to understand link between the past and today. It is a massive book but each story in it is short. It is a perfect fill-in for the times between other books or when you are just waiting for something. Bulfinch's Mythology is a must for the serious reader.

Nothing to Lose
Lee Child
Bantam Dell
A division of Random House, Inc.
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440243670 $9.99

Nothing to Lose is a Jack Reacher novel. Jack Reacher is Child's take on the Dirty Harry/Rambo character. Reacher is a quirky drifter who seems to have an unnatural attraction to villainous situations and people, which he leaves much worse for the wear by the time he drifts on to a new town and problem. Two things make Lee Child's series of stories different from the others. The first is a strong smooth writing style of an author at the top of his game and the second is a Dirty Harry character who is a political liberal as much as a violent action hero.

Reacher is drifting across the country when he walks between two adjacent Colorado towns, Hope and Despair. The names of the towns sum up the real life settings--hope to despair. Despair, the people and buildings, is owned by a psychotic rich man. Jack is jailed for vagrancy as soon as he enters the town. He is driven to the boundary between the two towns and ordered to leave but Jack Reacher doesn't take orders. He is met at the divide between the towns by a friendly female city of Hope cop. They both don't understand what is happening in Despair and form a temporary alliance to find out the answers.

Reacher doesn't like to be forced out of anywhere so he goes back to Despair and finds a dead body and much more. When he brings Vaughan, the Hope cop, back to where he left the body, it is has disappeared. With the help of Vaughan, Reacher finds out that there is much more going on in Despair and Despair finds out what can happen when you push around the wrong man.

Nothing to Lose is your typical action/escapist weekend novel. What makes it worth picking up is the quality of the storytelling. You will not regret getting lost in the butt-kicking wise guy action.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

But Is It Science? The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy
edited by Robert T. Pennock and Michael Ruse
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2119
9781591025825 $21.98

Part One of But Is It Science?, 180 pages, consists of arguments written within a century of the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, either supporting or disputing the theory of evolution by natural selection. The most notable feature of the anti-Darwin advocates is that, while it would be naive to think that they were not motivated by religion, they treated Darwin's thesis as a scientific proposition and tried to refute it without resorting to pseudoscience or outright lies. Even "Soapy Sam" Wilberforce, who believed to his dying day that he had "won" his debate with Thomas Huxley, wrote a review (not excerpted in this book) of Origin of Species that adhered to scientific principles. Compare that to the tactics of present-day humbugs such as William Dembski and Michael Behe, who utilize blatant pseudoscientific doubletalk that they cannot possibly believe themselves in order to pass off religion as science.

Part Two's opening article, "The Creationists," shows that, between the Scopes trial of 1925 and McLean versus Arkansas Board of Education in 1982, there was no shortage of writers who openly acknowledged that their opposition to the theory of evolution stemmed from its incompatibility with their personal religious dogmas. The only anti-evolution article in this section, by Duane T. Gish, does not conceal the author's bias, but rather argues that the Genesis account of Creation is no less plausible than Darwin's alternative. That is followed by editor Ruse's testimony in the McLean case, and Judge Overton's ruling.

There are then two chapters by Larry Laudan. According to the editors (pp. 190-191), Laudan's position is that, "Rather than try to dismiss creationism as nonscience, one should dismiss it as bad science." I am glad that point was clarified. My reading of Laudan's philosophical doubletalk is that it is incomprehensible gibberish. Mark Twain's definition of a philosopher as a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that is not there is certainly an accurate description of Laudan. Laudan states (p. 331) that Judge Overton's ruling "rests on a host of misrepresentations of what science is and how it works." This from a man who thinks that philosophy is a science! Was Ruse obliged to take him seriously because Ruse is himself a Professor of Philosophy? Or has he brainwashed himself that philosophers really do perform a useful function? At least Ruse concedes in the following chapter (p. 337) that, "Laudan is hopelessly wide of the mark." Perhaps it was a doctrine of fairness that caused Ruse to include Laudan's rebuttal of his rebuttal. Bad decision.

Part Two's final essay, by Barry Gross, responds to Laudan's "I'm right and Ruse is wrong" drivel that should not have been included in the first place. Perhaps Laudan's definition of what constitutes science is valid on whatever planet he comes from. On planet earth only an inmate of the Faculty of Philosophy would deem it worthy of a response.

Part Three covers the period from the annihilation of creationism in McLean v. Arkansas until its revival under the new name of Intelligent Design in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. As the Introduction explains, evidence presented in Kitzmiller established that creationism was renamed ID for the purpose of circumventing the First Amendment, by using a pseudoscientific euphemism for "God." The authors of the book, Of Pandas and People, that creationist school board members wanted taught as science, categorically denied that ID was creationism, and insisted that the book was written from a purely scientific perspective that had no connection with religion. When the judge ordered that earlier drafts be surrendered to the court, it was found that the difference between the first drafts of Pandas and the published version was that, where the earliest versions used the term, "creationism," the published book had been amended to say "Intelligent Design."

That revelation (along with the rest of the evidence, including the judge's ruling) so discredited "expert" witness Michael Behe, and the defence's other proposed expert, William Dembski, who in the end did not testify, that one is obliged to ask the institutions that continue to employ them how they can justify allowing students to be exposed to such lying, unprincipled, propagandists for the god delusion, in blatant violation of the First Amendment. And lest any reader think that the judge's denunciation of the board members and the liars who aided and abetted them was unduly harsh, the editors include twenty pages of Behe's testimony that proves out of his own mouth that, if he knows anything about science, then the American Association for the Advancement of Science does not.

Judge John E. Jones ruled (p. 533) that, "The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the board who voted for the ID Policy…. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources." Editor Pennock's summary (p. 479) that, "ID's claims that it isn't religious are not credible," says it all.

Pennock's concluding chapter, on the difference between science and religion, takes 35 pages to say so, but can be summarized (p. 569), "Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous, those in philosophy only ridiculous" (quoting David Hume), and, "Unfortunately, in giving succor, inadvertently or not, to creation science and now to ID, such philosophers compound the error, making the ridiculous dangerous."

Anyone who does not already know that religion is both ridiculous and dangerous is unlikely to read this book, and that is unfortunate. Surely not all believers in creationism are as incurable as Behe and Dembski?

Defining Darwin: Essays on the History and Philosophy of Evolutionary Biology
Michael Ruse
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive
Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781591027256 $26.98

The back-cover blurb by Edward O. Wilson, that Michael Ruse's collection of essays "will take its place high on the centennial works about Charles Darwin," was an early warning that this was not a book of which I should have high expectations, since Wilson is the neo-Lamarckian hybrid of the Brothers Grimm and L. Ron Hubbard in whose undisciplined imagination the imbecilic pseudoscience of sociobiology first materialized. The subtitle was another warning, since "philosophy of evolutionary biology" is as oxymoron as "the Tao of Pooh."

As an education student, I was forced to take sufficient psychology courses to recognize that, if psychology is a science, then so is tealeaf reading, and if psychiatrists are medical practitioners, then so are bartenders. I was not forced to take any philosophy courses, and for that I am eternally grateful, since everything I have since learned about the subject convinces me that Mark Twain was too charitable when he described a philosopher as a blind man in a dark room searching for a black cat that is not there. (H. L. Mencken used the same words to define a theologian, but added, "and finding it.")

Theologians and philosophers need a specific skill if they are to avoid wearing a paper hat and asking, "Do you want fries with that?" They need to learn how to spout contentless doubletalk for students who are either too intimidated or too dumb to recognize that they are not being taught anything. And despite Ruse's ability to write comprehensible history, he is also adequately skilled in dispensing paragraphs, pages and chapters that use a lot of words without actually saying anything.

In between rambling that raises the possibility that he is being paid by the word, Ruse devotes space to spelling out the differences between one philosopher's doublethink and that of an opponent. No doubt Julian Huxley's disagreement with George Gaylord Simpson on the subject of metaethics (whatever that means) is of interest to somebody. Off-hand, I have difficulty imagining whom.

In the chapter, "Darwinism Explains Religion (?)," Ruse notes (pp. 200-201) that, "Religion is a major factor in human behavior and culture and naturally it has attracted considerable Darwinian attention. The big problem, therefore, is whether or not it is adaptive and if so, in what way, and if not, then why does it exist…. Darwin said little about religion and its relationship to natural selection. Here there is a major break from Darwin's parallel discussion of morality, which did get firmly linked to selection…. he did not think that religion could be directly promoted by selection." In other words, while Darwin saw morality as a survival factor, with tribes that had not learned cultural altruism exterminating themselves, the only positive effect of religion was that, "the conviction of the existence of an all-seeing Deity has had a potent influence on the advance of morality." The inference seems to be that, since humankind had already evolved a concept of morality that had become a survival factor, religion constituted a carrot-and-stick rationalization for a mindset that preceded it.

Unfortunately, Ruse proceeds from that useful observation to arguments derived from sociobiology, and (p. 202) describes its concocter, E. O. Wilson, as "the grand old man of Darwinian social studies, sociobiology." I would like to remind Ruse, and anyone else who takes Wilson's masturbation fantasy seriously, that sociobiology claims that, because giraffe food grows on tall trees, the giraffe was able to recognize the need for a long neck and evolve one. And when face-to-face mating moved women's aesthetically pleasing buttocks out of view, they were able to evolve breasts as a substitute stimulus. Describing such imbecility as Lamarckian is probably an insult to Lamarck.

As for Ruse's archaism of capitalizing pronouns and possessive adjectives referring to a "God" that he is aware does not exist, a practice even liberal theologians have abandoned, perhaps he is simply unaware of recent developments in Correct English. And when he writes (p. 216) that, "If the constitutional separation of Church and State keeps out Christianity then I suspect that it keeps out Darwinian theory also," I can only suggest that, if he believes that, there is a bed waiting for him at Bellevue. Despite agreeing with Ruse on most issues, I can see why Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett regard him as (p. 215), if not quite an idiot, at least as gullible as Neville Chamberlain and Brer Fox. He certainly raises the question, "With friends like Ruse, who needs enemies?"

I am not prepared to state that Defining Darwin is useless trivia that has no place in an undergraduate classroom, even though it adds nothing to the evidence that Darwin was right about nearly everything. I am on slightly stronger ground when I contend that it says nothing that will be of the slightest interest to persons who look to Prometheus as a source of facts and arguments that can be used against the ignoranti.

Since Ruse clearly wants to make a difference, I suggest that he divorce himself from the glossalalia of philosophy and the pseudoscience of sociobiology, and concentrate on becoming a legitimate historian.

Eric Brown
c/o BL Publishing Games Workshop Ltd
Willow Road, Nottingham NG7 2WS, England
9781844164721 $7.99

Picture planet earth at the height of the Inquisition, when Giordano Bruno was being barbecued and Galileo Galilei threatened with the same fate, for asserting that the earth is not the center of the universe, as the Book of Books says it is. Now imagine a starship landing in Torquemada's backyard, peopled by funny-looking aliens claiming that they come in peace from another world that the Book of Books insists cannot exist. How would Inquisitors who consider it their god-given duty as the Good Guys to protect the masses from the "other worlds" heresy of the invading demons react?

Now picture the setting as a planet called Agstarn, the local inhabitants as having the physical appearance of a hybrid of terrestrial rats, weasels and lemurs, and the visiting space aliens as funny-looking bipeds from a planet called earth. Then ask the same question.

Eric Brown's answer is a highly readable delineation of a culture that, while alien, is nonetheless afflicted with some of humankind's most unattractive thought patterns. For example (p. 383): "The Church fears losing its power…. They wish to eradicate all evidence that alien races exist. Their holy book claims that their kind are the only ones, God's chosen people." "Where've I heard that before?" As for the story's most advanced species, the builders of the helix on which several planets containing dissimilar sentient species are located, the human protagonist expresses the view (p. 399) that, "a race advanced enough scientifically would be pretty morally and ethically advanced too." I have never encountered anyone other than evolutionary throwbacks who would disagree with that.

Even though Helix's lemuroid alien theocrats are a mirror image of their terrestrial Catholic counterparts, the Vatican hierarchs have refrained from screaming foul. No doubt they saw, "That was then and this is now," as a better strategy than their usual practice of rewriting history. (How many non-historians are aware that the concepts of a "catholic" church and a "one true pope" did not exist any earlier than 384 CE?) That is unfortunate, since Brown would no doubt have welcomed the kind of free publicity given another Brown's The Da Vinci Code, which pretended to be fact-based, and Angels and Demons, which did not.

Consider the thought processes of the Lemuroid inquisitor (p. 488): "He read, in chapter seventy-three of the Book of Books … that the anti-god was a master of deception and that what seemed to be real might often turn out to be no more than a trap to snare the unwary believer…. They were travelling through an illusion, a vast construct of evil made to entrap the believer." I doubt if anyone could accurately reconstruct the thinking that caused Galileo's inquisitors to be so terrified of seeing something that could only be an illusion generated by the Christian anti-god, that they refused to look through his telescope and see for themselves that Jupiter really had moons and was therefore the same kind of world as Earth. But Brown's plausibly insightful postulation makes a lot of sense.

The concept of science fiction does not include fantasy. Magic spells and sorcerers do not qualify. But impossibilities such as time travel, faster-than-light, and teleportation are acceptable if the story could not be told without them, provided they are given a scientific-sounding explanation even if it is known that they cannot really exist (warp drive, subspace, hyperspace, wormholes). Brown does not utilize FTL. Instead he makes use of the time dilation generated by near-light speed, with his trekkers aging ten years while the universe outside of their starship ages five hundred years.

Brown is also one of the few SF writers to acknowledge that humans digesting alien food containing no proteins in common with anything terrestrial might be impossible, and construct a plausible set of circumstances that could eliminate such a situation. The problem of human-alien communication is likewise solved by one of the humans having a cyborg implant analogous to Star Trek's universal translator. These are minor points, but they illustrate Brown's thoroughness in explaining away impossibilities rather than ignoring them.

Unlike Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert, whose millions of populated worlds contain no sentient beings other than humans whose ancestors evolved on earth, Brown's intelligent aliens have no humanoid physiology other than bipedal stance and elevated heads containing the major sense organs, attributes he could reasonably assume to be survival factors in any non-oceanic environment. Nonetheless, like Ferengi and Klingons, his aliens could be played by humans in special-effects makeup. Did Brown have that in mind when he imposed only limitations that would not make a live-action movie impossible? If so, such a consideration did not lesson the artistry of his story. While I would not compare him to the Big Three, Brown is certainly the equal of any science fiction writer currently alive. Helix is proof that science fiction is as alive and well in England as it is in North America - the invention of a bastard imitation called "sci-fi" notwithstanding.

The Rejection of Pascal's Wager: A Skeptic's Guide to the Bible and the Historical Jesus
Paul Tobin
Octavia & Co Press
B100-1107 17 Avenue SW, Calgary AB, Canada
9780755204618 $45.00

The Canadian edition of this book, which I borrowed from the National Library, is bound incorrectly, with page 1 at the back. I hypothesized at first that Tobin was emulating books in Hebrew, which likewise have to be opened from the back. But I found no evidence for such an explanation and can only conclude that Octavia Press screwed up. Possibly the UK edition listed by Amazon is not similarly flawed.

Gerd Ludemann in his Foreword describes Paul Tobin as, "a non-scholar who … proves himself amply informed on current critical scholarship." In support of that observation is the fact that Tobin's bibliography lists books by John Dominic Crossan, Bart Ehrman, Finkelstein & Silberman, Freke & Gandy, Richard Friedman, William Harwood, Randel Helms, Joseph Hoffman, Gerd Ludemann, Dennis McKinsey, Robert Price, Geza Vermes, and G.A. Wells, as well as Frank Yerby's novel, Judas, My Brother, which first caused me to consider the possibility that, as Yerby postulated, Nathanael really was Jesus' "Beloved Disciple." However, Ludemann's claim that Tobin is unique in that, "he has ventured to write a single volume dealing with the historical validity of the entire Bible," can only stem from his unawareness that my God, Jesus and the Bible, and its 1992 predecessor under the title listed in Tobin's bibliography, do exactly that.

Tobin gets off to a really bad start when he blindly parrots the religious propaganda that there are 2.1 billion Christians, including 1 billion Catholics, in the world. Clearly he is not familiar with Living Without God, by Ronald Aronson, who shows that, when competently analyzed, polls reveal the number of nontheists, in America and indeed the whole world, to constitute 36 percent of the population. Worldwide there are 1.1 billion Christians, half of them Catholic, and 1 billion Muslims, compared to 2.2 billion nontheists, more than Christians, Jews and Muslims combined. So his use of sources leaves something to be desired.

Few books make it into print completely free of spelling errors and other typos. But in an age of computers with spell-checks, the number of such errors has significantly diminished. The errors in Tobin's book are so excessive as to suggest that he neither utilized a spell-check (Issac, p. 3) nor even bothered proofreading. Describing Ruth as "the descendant" (p. 4) rather than the ancestor of David was really clumsy. The end result of such inattention to detail is extremely grating.

Tobin begins his refutation of Pascal's wager by arguing that Pascal's either/or premise is irrelevant in a society that has outgrown it. To Pascal, the only alternative to no god was the Catholic god. Now that there are several thousand versions of the Christian religion, each with a paramount god created in its own image, it is obvious that for any one of those gods to be real, all others must be false. While it is true that the Catholic god is more plausible than Osama bin Laden's god (could a higher lifeform be so morally retarded as to approve of the mass murder of randomly chosen victims who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?), by the same logic the Catholic god is less plausible than the Unitarian god, and the Unitarian god us less plausible than the god of deism. An analogy Tobin might have used, but did not, is the lottery. One cannot win without buying a ticket. But there is only one combination of winning numbers, and several million alternative combinations that will produce the same result as buying no ticket at all. So having established in his Prologue that wagering on the wrong one of humankind's 2,500 known gods differs little from wagering on none of them, he then proceed to show that the evidence for "no god" far outweighs the evidence for any alternative.

Tobin adopts the strategy of falsifying the Torah by accepting it at face value as a single continuous narrative. He does not explain how, when and why the component myths were composed. Thus he does not inform his readers that the aborted sacrifice of Isaac was composed in two stages. In the Elohist's original Torah, Isaac was actually sacrificed. When the J/E Redactor interwove the E Torah in which Isaac was sacrificed as a child and Abraham's heir was Jacob, with the J Torah in which an adult Isaac featured prominently and Jacob was Isaac's son, he harmonized the two by inserting a passage in which Yahweh intervened to prevent the sacrifice from being carried out. Since it is the finished bible that Tobin is rebutting, that is a reasonable approach.

John Loftus writes of Tobin's book (see Loftus's full review at, "It's all here for the most part in an encyclopedic fashion, covering the ancient myths, the errors, the lack of confirming archaeology, the failed prophecies, and the forged authorship." Unfortunately, while Tobin does a thorough job of spelling out the bible's anachronisms and self-contradictions that no one with a functioning human brain would even attempt to rationalize away, he does so in a really sloppy manner with grammatically unsound sentences, riddled with missing words and other annoyances, and a lack of disciplined writing. This could become as good a book as John Loftus and Gerd Ludemann declare it to be - after a complete line-proofing to correct its technical inadequacies. In its present form, despite my agreeing with all of Tobin's significant arguments, it is not a book I can recommend.

Since writing the foregoing I have learned that Mr Tobin is a resident of Singapore, raising the possibility that English is not his first language. While that does not negate his book's shortcomings, it may help explain them.

The Atheist's Introduction to the New Testament: How the Bible Undermines the Basic Teachings of Christianity
Mike Davis
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd-515, Denver CO 80134
9781432726911 $18.95

The back cover of The Atheist's Introduction to the New Testament describes the author as a practicing atheist. Since an atheist is a person who does not have any metaphysical beliefs, does that mean that Mike Davis practices not believing fairy tales? not talking to himself in the delusion that Mother Goose's male equivalent is listening? not aiming his rear end at the sky for an imaginary Master of the Universe to tup him up the anus? not wearing a turban, magic underwear, or an anti-vampire charm? not refusing to eat a ham-and-cheese sandwich or drink beer, coffee or tea? not engaging in sexual recreation without a permit from a designated authority figure? not refusing lifesaving medical treatment? and not accepting that right and wrong are whatever a book written millennia ago by unlearned xenophobes says they are? Whether "practicing atheist" is as oxymoronic as "fundamentalist atheist" may be debatable. But it is hard to see it as saying anything useful.

Mark Twain wrote, "It ain't those parts of the Bible I don't understand that bother me; it's the parts I do understand."

Isaac Asimov wrote, "Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived."

Clarence Darrow wrote, "I do not believe in God because I do not believe in Mother Goose."

Mike Davis's version is (pp. 2-3), "It turns out that the basic writings of the Christian religion are so full of absurdity, contradiction and discord that the only way to maintain the truth of Christian doctrine is to ignore the Bible itself. Fortunately for the Christian churches, this is not a problem, because most Christians do not read the Bible seriously, and are woefully unaware of its contents, except for what their preachers tell them on Sunday mornings."

Mike Davis is not a biblical historian. He has taught history at UC Irvine, despite failing to complete a Ph.D. in history at UCLA. He continues to be an adamant Marxist, apparently not recognizing the collapse of the Soviet Union as evidence that communism does not work. Presumably his M.A. required him to write a properly supervised thesis, but if so it must have been in an unrelated field, as he is totally lacking skills in documentary analysis. His analysis of the Bible is based on nothing more than his personal reading of English translations, and shows no awareness of any of the findings of experts in the field (although he does cite Bart Ehrman in connection with the varieties of Christianity that existed in the religion's first century). That would explain his ignorance of facts so well known as to be disputed only by theologians, as well as his parroting of the offensively Christian dating system, AD, that is an insult to the 5.5 billion persons who do not believe they are living in the Year of the Master, instead of the scientifically neutral CE (Common Era) that even liberal Christians are now using.

For example, he appears to be unaware that "Jesus of Nazareth" is a mistranslation of Iesous Nazoraios, a sectarian rather than geographic title correctly translated as "Jesus the Nazirite." He states that Jesus came from "the village of Nazareth in the region of Galilee" (p. 9), even though no village named Nazareth existed until long after Jesus' death. He knows that "son of man" meant nothing more than "human," but not that it is a mistranslation of Ben Adam, meaning "descendant of Adam." He does not know that Jesus was only retroactively credited with having twelve disciples, even though no "twelve" existed during Jesus' lifetime. He refers to "John the traditional author of several New Testament books" (p. 14), unaware that the four books called John had four different authors. He is aware of the doctrinal differences between Sadducees and Pharisees, but not that the Sadducees were upholders of pre-Captivity Judaism, whereas Pharisees adhered to the afterlife theology that Jews borrowed from their Babylonian conquerors some time after 586 BCE. And he dates the split between Catholic and Orthodox Christianity to the eleventh century, as if Orthodoxy, like Protestantism, splintered off from Catholicism, when in fact the bishop of Rome first declared himself "Pope" in the modern sense in 384 CE, and the pope of Constantinopolis neither then nor later ever accepted subordinate status.

Davis cites gospel passages (pp. 103-104) that give opposite answers to the question of whether Jesus was a god. But it apparently escaped his notice that only the fourth gospel portrayed Jesus as a god. No other NT author gave any indication that he had ever heard of such a theory. To the synoptic authors and the authors of the various letters, Jesus was the Jewish god's adopted, mortal King of the Jews - and nothing more.

Davis points out the invalidity of ad hominem arguments, the pretence that a message can be discredited by discrediting the messenger. As an example he quotes the common non-sequitur of religionists (p. 164), "Just look at Hitler and Stalin and you'll see what happens to a country run by atheists." Since he does not correct the allegation's false presuppositions, I can only assume that he is unaware that Hitler, far from being an atheist, was a lifelong Catholic who saw the extermination of an opposition religion as "doing the Lord's work."

Since Davis is criticizing only the Christian Testament, he is correct in saying that it unambiguously denounces homosexuality as a sin comparable with kidnapping and murder. But when (p. 176) he attributes that attitude to "The Bible," he is clearly unaware that the Jewish Testament does not take a consistent position on the issue. The Priestly author of Leviticus criminalized homosexuality in the hope of forcing gay men to start breeding tithe-paying believers. But since no pre-Leviticus author had any awareness of such a taboo, none saw any reason to conceal that prophets and kings had male lovers - although English translators concealed that Saul, David, Solomon, Samson, Jeremiah and others had gay lovers by changing "lovers" to "friends." Specifically, Deuteronomy 13:6 spoke favorably of "the male lover who means as much to you as your own breath" (The Fully Translated Bible), while 1 Samuel 20:41 recorded that David and Yahuwnathan "kissed each other and wept with each other until David ejaculated."

That is the down side of Davis's book. But while a biblical historian cannot read what is little more than an undergraduate essay without shuddering, it is solid evidence of the Bible's status as a collection of mutually incompatible fantasies that an amateur such as Davis can offer so much new and useful information that anyone who can read English can verify is correct.

Davis devotes whole sections to specific incompatibilities in the biblical myths, and rebuts the attempts of apologists to insist that contradictory accounts can be harmonized. He chooses what he considers the most undisputable inconsistencies, in recognition that some of the more than 150 most cited inconsistencies can indeed be rationalized away even by apologists who are not completely insane. His first target is the Luke versus Matthew accounts of the date and place of Jesus' birth. He shows beyond a doubt that, for either version to be factual, the other must be fiction - either Jesus was born before the death of Herod the Great, or he was born ten years after Herod's death. While both stories could be false, they could not both be true. The same applies to the conflicting accounts of Jesus' genealogy. But while Davis shows that, if Jesus was descended from David via Luke's genealogy, then Matthew's genealogy must have been a product of the gospel author's imagination, and vice versa, nowhere does he mention the passage in all gospels (Mark 12:35-37; Math. 22:42-45; Luke 20:41-44) in which Jesus acknowledged that he was not David's descendant and argued that Mashyah could not be David's descendant.

Inconsistencies in the stories of Jesus' birth are absolute, and cannot be explained away as fallible eye-of-the-beholder accounts of the same events. In contrast, inconsistencies in the crucifixion accounts, to which he devotes equal attention, could be attributed to the witnesses' fallible memories. This is a distinction that Davis, despite his recognition that some of the Bible's problems can be rationalized away and others cannot, does not appear to grasp. But while he makes many legitimate points, none are original, and he shows no awareness of the scholarship of the past several decades. Where he cites a source that agrees with him (self-evident logical reasoning does not need such a citation), it is invariably a website. He gives no indication that he has looked at the books of Michael Arnheim, John Dominic Crossan, Robert Eisler, Freke & Gandy, Maurice Goguel, William Harwood, Randell Helms, Hoffman & Larue, Martin Larson, Gerd Ludeman, A.J. Mattill, Robert Price, or G.A. Wells. It is no exaggeration to say that he does not make a single point that could not have been found in the 1992 version (under a different title) of God, Jesus and the Bible: The Origin and Evolution of Religion. And if he had consulted that book alone, he could have avoided the mistakes that, while not undermining his ability to recognize nonsense when he sees it, show him to be significantly unlearned in the area about which he has chosen to write.

Davis does get right (p. 101) that Christianity's most blatant doublethink is its pretence to be a form of monotheism, as if "one plus one plus one equals one" were not the ultimate absurdity. He recognizes that "the Christians have God the father, Jesus his son, the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary, plus an assortment of angels and saints, all of whom are immortal and possess various divine traits - not to mention Satan, the god of evil…. and no doubt this multiplicity of deities helped Christianity seem less foreign to the inhabitants of the Greco-Roman world in which the new religion developed." As I wrote in God, Jesus and the Bible, "No imperial decree could have ended polytheism, and no imperial decree did end it. Polytheism is as widespread today as it was five thousand years ago. Only the name has changed. Now it is called Christianity."

Davis's conclusion (p. 179) cannot be faulted: "What the apologists are telling us is that the Bible does not mean what it says. They are telling us instead that the Bible means what they think it means, filtered through their own theological bias…. If the Bible needs this much help from ordinary mortals in order to make sense, what is the likelihood that it is really the unerring inspired word of God?"

The Atheist's Introduction to the New Testament can be recommended for its accuracy on issues relevant to biblical inerrancy. But a student looking for a concise summation of the difference between the facts of history and the gospels' distortion of those facts should look elsewhere.

The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing
Richard Dawkins
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780199216802 $34.95

As recently as yesterday I would not have believed I would ever return a Richard Dawkins book to the library unread. And despite returning this book unread, I still do not believe I will ever do so. The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing is not by any acceptable definition a Richard Dawkins book, any more than a collection of excerpts from my favorite science fiction writers would be a William Harwood book. In all likelihood Dawkins was asked to choose the excerpts and edit the format because his name on the cover was calculated to increase sales one-hundredfold over an otherwise identical collection that lacked his marketable name as a selling point.

Dawkins has brought together excerpts from the writings of 79 authors who qualify for inclusion among the finest scientists, science writers, and science-writing scientists of the twentieth century. Not surprisingly the list includes Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould, 20 others whose names were familiar to me, and 55 who are probably widely known only among specialists in their own field.

Obviously a commentary about a book I have not read does not constitute a review. I can only assume that a collection of writings by notable scientists will be of interest to persons looking for exactly that. To persons looking for a Richard Dawkins book, this is not it.

William Harwood

Hassler's Bookshelf

I Double Dare You!
Dana Lehman, author
Judy Lehman, illustrator
Lehman Publishing
15997 Hough Road, Allenton, MI 48002
0979268656 $16.95

Explaining the importance of taking responsibility for your own actions is easily shared with youngsters in I Double Dare You! Author, Dana Lehman shares her vision, of how to stop violence in schools, in her series Adventures at Walnut Grove. Lehman weaves her kind-hearted lessons into child friendly stories that are sure to please young audiences.

The Walnut Grove Resort is a popular vacation spot for an adventurous group of squirrels, raccoons and beavers. As friends they gather at Walnut Grove and interact with each other, have fun playing games and learn many valuable social lessons along the way. Adults can count on kids picking up and learning about friends that dare each other and the consequences of participating in daring games of sport.

Illustrator, Judy Lehman, matches her daughter-in-law's story with soft colorful watercolors that are friendly and happy. Her illustrations enhance the depth of the story for readers offering young children the chance to learn the valuable lessons alongside the characters.

Author, Dana Lehman includes a helpful questionnaire at the end of the story to guide further understanding of how important it is to take responsibility for your own actions and not blame or follow others blindly. Words from the Author at the tail-end of this story include, a gentle explanation of how confusing interacting with other people can be, what to do, how to handle it and what to remember when faced with a daring situation. Adults can count on I Double Dare You! to teach a positive value based moral lesson that kids will be excited to read again and again.

Adventures with the Thrift Store Bears
Olive Evans, author
Patricia Woolley, illustrator
Jim Furmston, composer
Teddy Traveler Company
P.O. Box 3223, 15th Street, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
9780974895413 $18.95,

Thrift stores carry many treasures and Author, Olive Evans, shares her found charms she has purchased over the years in the storybook, Adventures with the Thrift Store Bears. As a teacher, writer, storyteller and director of story-time theater, Evans entertains teddy bear enthusiasts with stories about the teddy bears she has rescued from thrift stores. Each of her many bears show their bright personality in their season's adventures.

Illustrator, Patricia Woolley, is known to be a lover of painting teddy bears. Her vivid, enjoyable and lively illustrations will engage and amuse readers. Teddy bear lovers will bask in the glory of seeing little stuffed legs and arms romping around having fun. Woolley's detailed and expressive illustrations will make readers fall in love with each bear.

A compact disc is included with Adventures with the Thrift Store Bears that has music and narration for even more enjoyment. Jim Furmston, a performer and composer in classical and commercial music, pairs his talents with the narrative story that includes a fresh and lovely accompaniment mix of classical and jazz music. Furmston's movements are a wonderful match to each story and poem.

Happy teddy bear songs intermixed with charming poetic stories is what makes this picture book a fun read and will bring a smile to audiences of all ages. For any child, (including us already grown), who ever imagined their teddy bear was breathing and could secretly talk, Adventures with the Thrift Store Bears, will bring a delightful satisfaction that when we left the room, we missed a really fun time with our bears!

Good-bye Baby Max
Dianne Cantrell, author
Heather Castles, illustrator
Bridgeway Books
PO Box 80107, Austin Texas, 78758
9781933538952 $16.95

Licensed professional counselor, Diane Cantrell, authors a storybook that inspires discussion on loss and death in her picture book Good-bye Baby Max. Cantrell, formally a kindergarten and Pre-K teacher, devotes much of her professional life to counseling young children. Through her real-life experiences in dealing with youngsters, she has found one difficult common thread - loss.

Good-bye Baby Max is a tender and gentle story about a classroom filled with young excited children waiting for the hatching of three baby chicks. When the children in the class are told by their kind-hearted teacher that one of the chicks was not able to crack their shell open, the children are faced with feelings of loss and fear. With the guidance of their teacher, the students are encouraged to find ways to say good-bye to Baby Max through the use of common rituals that appropriately cope with death.

Author, Diane Cantrell, shares her desire to open discussions about loss in Good-bye Baby Max as she stands up to share this difficult and often uncomfortable topic. Illustrator, Heather Castles, makes Cantrell's story come to life with soft, beautiful and expressive artwork. Castles' characters come to life with their starry eyes and sensitive facial expressions. Lovely and well designed art compositions will make readers of all ages want reach out to help these students in their time of grief.

Good-bye Baby Max is a wonderful springboard that parents and educators can use as they approach the emotionally challenging issue of death, loss and fear. Adults can count on Good-bye Baby Max to offer; emotional support, helpful ideas on how to cope with loss, a good feeling of appreciating how to move forward, and the importance of maintaining the memory of a loved one. This is a thoughtful gift for the grieving, a valuable tool for teachers and a must-have on bookshelves everywhere.

Fill a Bucket, A Guide to Daily Happiness for Young Children
Carol McCloud and Katherine Martin, M.A., authors
David Messing, illustrator
Ferne Press
366 Welch Road, Northville, MI 48167
9781933916439 $9.95,

Has anyone ever asked you if you are you a Dipper or a Filler? If not your probably not alone… we do hope you're a filler and not a dipper though! Fill a Bucket, A Guide to Daily Happiness for Young Children, is a bright and engaging introduction to how to give love and spread happiness. An extraordinary re-make of Dr. Donald O. Clifton's, 1960's story the "Dipper and Bucket", Fill a Bucket frames it's storyline to connect young readers with it's uplifting message. An exciting and entertaining book, Fill a Bucket, A Guide to Daily Happiness for Young Children, is a wonderful and imaginative way for parents and educators to share the importance of daily acts of kindness and the impact that those actions have on others.

Authors, Carol McCloud and Katherine Martin, M.A., explain that Everyone is born with an invisible bucket, and that, Your bucket holds all the love and happiness that you receive each day. McCloud and Martin share the many ways that people help fill each other buckets through smiles, hugs, snuggles, and happy thoughts. Illustrator, David Messing, has drawn and colored absolutely joyful illustrations that will delight audiences of all ages. His charismatic characters are bright and colorful and help readers visualize what filling buckets looks like and feels like.

Sparkly stars and rainbow hearts leap from bucket to bucket in everyone's life who shares a little bit 'o luv with another! Fill a Bucket, A Guide to Daily Happiness for Young Children, is an imaginative way to introduce the concepts of kindness, good character, altruistic behavior and illustrates the joy felt inside yourself when you choose to center your thoughts around others. Fill a Bucket, A Guide to Daily Happiness for Young Children, makes a thoughtful gift, a wonderful classroom lesson plan and an indispensable book to have on-hand in libraries. We cheerfully give a bucket of sparkly stars to the team at! Don't forget to fill someone's bucket today

My Invisible World, Life With My Brother, His Disability & His Service Dog
Morasha R. Winokur, author
Better Endings New Beginnings
6289 Brunswick Avenue North, Brooklyn Park, MN 55429
9780984200702 $12.95,

Author, Morasha Winokur, gives readers a fresh and new perspective on what it's like to live with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) in her new book My Invisible World, Life With My Brother, His Disability and His Service Dog. Eleven year old Morasha shares her in-depth and personal life story of what it feels like to be the sister of a sibling that struggles with FASDs. Her openness, honest views and private thoughts lift audiences of all ages to a new place of understanding, compassion and awareness of what Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is.

My Invisible World is an incredible inside account of the daily issues that arise for a child that deals with an invisible brain injury. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome leaves life-long birth defects on individuals that include cognitive, physical, neurological and behavioral impairments. FASDs are also the most undiagnosed/misdiagnosed developmental disability of our time. Author, Morasha Winokur, describes her brother's disability in tween-humor and addresses her own struggles in knowing she is mentally and physically healthy while her brother has special needs beyond her ability to fix. Morasha and her brother Iyal are non-biological siblings who were adopted by a loving couple and traveled from Russia to their new family's home in Georgia. Young Morasha shows her commitment to her brother's disability by sharing her inner-most thoughts in an effort to raise awareness in her peers so they too can understand the importance of not drinking while pregnant.

My Invisible World dives in-depth into the important role service dogs play when her brother Iyal is given Chancer, a loving Golden Retriever. Chancer, trained by 4 Paws for Ability, is a kind companion for Iyal and specifically taught how to live with a child who has FASDs. Chancer offers emotional support with soothing and calming effects for Iyal and his family. Morasha explains that Chancer also gives her family a "second chance" at calming peace for her brother and her family that allows them to function together as a cohesive unit.

As readers learn about Morasha's life, her brother's special needs and her family, they can look forward to a better understanding of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and its effects on individuals and their families. Author, Morasha Winokur, includes a personal scrapbook with family photos that welcomes readers to her world. She includes a glossary of terms, a spot quiz and additional supportive websites for further learning about the effects and prevention of FASDs.

Author, Morasha Winokur, is a supportive sister and sensitive young adult who is an effective communicator on the importance of not drinking while pregnant and the hardship it causes. Powerful and enlightening, My Invisible World is highly recommended for adoptive families, social service workers, educators, healthcare personnel and pediatric health providers. This book makes a wonderful gift, classroom guide and an excellent library reference that will help others learn about FASDs and how to prevent this invisible disability.

Sara Hassler

Hollyday's Bookshelf

John Lescroart
Island Books
04402222818 $TBA

From the start you wonder about the main character Mark. He's too good and the way he is read by the audio artist, he comes off as a pretty nice guy. Short for suspect him. Then you immediately see him rigging the situation because of his love for a woman. Pretty contrived and I spent the rest of the book wondering how he would get caught. Of course Abe Glitsky is very interesting as a character who chases him as a cop. His story overwhelms that of the bad guy. The rest of the book seems very unlikely to have happened this way, too much that begs the question of how stupid are the onlookers.

Lescroart is better at legal stories, courtroom dramas with some meat. This one is too predictable for his talent.

My overall rating is 2 of 5 stars.

Void Moon
Michael Connelly
Hachette Audio
04402222818 38.99

Reviewed by Thomas Hollyday 10/23/09. (My ratings: 5 star-I'd buy it, 4 star - I'd borrow it, 3 star-liked it, 2 star-didn't like it, 1 star, didn't finish it)

The woman Cassie Black had one goal in prison. Now on parole she goes back to the scene of her former crime to set the record straight. Along the way she is sabotaged by those in whom she once had trust.

The first reason I really like this book-yes-enough to buy it- is that Connelly portrays here a woman's feelings and strengths so well. She might not be lovable but she's true. Sure, he follows all the genre rules, baiting us with questions about all the characters we meet, but it is his portrayal of Cassie that is so excellent.

Then, of course, I respect the research that was done. Many times a reader will want to learn from a book, not just about crime, but all about technology or, in this case, casino gambling. Connelly did his homework as can be seen from his acknowledgments.

As far as Ganser's narration, the artist has stated he enjoys reading tough female protagonists. He proves his mettle here. I give this novel 5 stars.

Thomas Hollyday

Janie's Bookshelf

Neil Diamond Is Forever: the Illustrated Story of the Man and His Music
Jon Bream
Voyageur Press
729 Prospect Ave, PO Box 1, Osceola, WI 54020
9780780336755 $25.00 800- 826-6600

Jon Bream, the author of Neil Diamond Is Forever: the Illustrated Story of the Man and His Music,

holds the honor of being the second-longest running pop-music critic for any daily newspaper in America. On staff of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Bream has had his work appear in many other publications including the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, and Rolling Stone. He has written two other music biographies: Prince: Inside the Purple Reign (Collier Books, 1984) and Whole Lotta Led Zeppelin: The Illustrated History of the Heaviest Band of All Time (Voyageur Press, 2008).

As in other illustrated music histories by Voyageur Press, there is a wealth of vintage photos, album covers, old 45 labels, posters, concert photos from the past and more recent ones, and lots of quotes from musicians across many genres. There is also a rare, photo contact sheet from an appearance in Los Angeles in 1976 with Neil Diamond and fans and his interactions with other guests on at the show, including Helen Reddy, Roger Miller, Henry Winkler, and Tom Bradley, then the mayor of LA.

Bream says in his introduction that Diamond has been one of the most neglected and derided performers among critics and even the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that hasn't even considered Diamond for induction, despite his discography, and his popularity with audiences, and his continuous touring schedule since the 60s. Bream paints a very complete picture of Diamond as a talented young Brooklyn student who absorbed the great stew pot of music all around him to the poised entertainer who packs venues wherever he goes. There are insights into his personal life, looks backstage, and lots of interviews. Bream even reveals the source of Diamond's stage presence. Diamond's background in fencing is responsible for how he stands on stage but also accounts for some of the most unique concert shots that almost look like dance moves.

Unlike the Zeppelin book or Jim DeRogatis' The Velvet Underground: An Illustrated History of a Walk on the Wild Side (Voyageur Press, 2009), Bream doesn't present any commentary about Neil Diamond's discography. That choice may be because of Diamond's huge catalog that would require a separate book just to deal with essays about each one. Bream does present the entire catalog, complete with album covers, track lists, labels, producers, and a noteworthy comment or two. Even this abbreviated version is nine pages long.

Neil Diamond Is Forever: the Illustrated Story of the Man and His Music is an intimate look at what Bream calls "the uncrowned king of pop." Splendid.

The Velvet Underground: An Illustrated History of a Walk on the Wild Side
Jim DeRogatis
Voyageur Press
729 Prospect Ave, PO Box 1, Osceola, WI 54020
9780760336724 $30.00 800- 826-6600

Though there are a number of books about the Velvet Underground, Jim DeRogatis was jazzed to do yet another one when Voyageur Press approached him. DeRogatis, a well-known Chicago Sun-Times music critic and reporter, had contributed an album essays for a book the publisher had done on Led Zeppelin so Voyageur knew his work there as well as in his seminal book on music journalist Lester Bangs (Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic, Broadway Books, 2000), who was an expert on the Velvet Underground. But what made DeRogatis so exited was Voyageur had access to a number of collectors who offered art that had rarely been seen before. DeRogatis was commissioned to write the 10,000 word historical overview essay and find writers who would be willing, as he had done for the Led Zeppelin book, to write about some of the band's albums.

The result is The Velvet Underground: An Illustrated History of a Walk on the Wild Side, a visually-rich album that traces the band from their earliest years to recent concerts by some of the members of the Velvet Underground. There are rare photographs, pictures of old 45 labels, album covers, posters, and even copies of handwritten lyrics. There is also a huge chunk of Andy Warhol photographs and selections of his work. This provides a context for readers to try to understand the Velvet Underground experience, which was really an art rock underground, of which Warhol was an intrinsic part, often appearing with them or doing artwork for their albums.

Adding more depth is DeRogatis' challenge to the other contributors to the book. He asked them to forget everything they had every read about the band that tended to make these musicians into Super Rockers, and just talk about what it was about a particular album that touched them. DeRogatis said in an interview about the book, "None of us were there....None of the contributors, except for Warhol, were there. We all discovered the band later on." It is this fresh perspective that has enlivened this book, making it not just another rockstar coffee table book, but a totally new look at a band that was on the edge, influencing many bands of that era, including the Doors and the Grateful Dead, and influencing many others that came after.

The Velvet Underground: An Illustrated History of a Walk on the Wild Side is a beautifully designed tribute to a remarkable band that helped shape rock music for the next fifty years and inspired many to become music journalists.

Green In Our Souls
John B. Rosenman
Damantion Books
P.O. Box 3931, Santa Rosa, CA 95402-9998
9781615720026 $2.50 Ebook

There is a new trend in ebook publishing, not only to make full-length novels available, but all manner of fiction in a variety of lengths. Damnation Books, one of the newest on the market, has debuted with longer fiction books as well as some tasty short stories and novelettes. This has been a boon for new writers who want to dip a toe in the publishing pool and who don't want to get lost amid the other offerings in an anthology. But printing short fiction is a plus for readers, too, who may wish to sample an author's style and ability to tell a story or his or her subject matter, without forking over the sum for a complete anthology. With the demise of a lot of genre-specific magazines, it gets to be harder and harder for readers to find new authors. Plus, quite frankly, writing a solidly constructed short story is no easy feat.

One of Damnation Books' latest ebooks is a story by John B. Rosenman called "Green In Our Souls." It is a strange tale of a successful lawyer Derrick Thomas who has suddenly developed the ability to share the mind of his beloved, but deceased, grandfather. Derrick finds that he has gained this ability because of a drug his mother took while she was pregnant with him. Soon Derrick discovers that he can do more than just think his grandfather's thoughts. He becomes his grandfather, fully experiencing the feelings and sensations his grandfather felt in a moment in time both Derrick and he shared long ago. Though these experiences are unsettling enough, Derrick's situation soon becomes worse when he's kidnapped by his own doctor and taken to a strange facility where Derrick's gift will be used for sinister purposes.

"Green In Our Souls" is an interesting tale about death and psychic ability, and John B. Rosenman offers a unique twist on those themes. The characters are as developed as Rosenman can make them in a few pages, with Derrick, obviously, being the most fleshed out. I really enjoyed this ebook and would gladly read more of Rosenman's work.

I think, also, that "Green In Our Souls" is a timely read, especially since there have been news programs about Long-Viewers, people recruited by the government to use their psychic abilities to see into enemy territory, looking at facilities or into minds. The film, Men Who Stare at Goats, being released in the fall of 2009 also deals with this subject. "Green In Our Souls," however, presents quite a different view of phenomenon like this. Well done.

On the Lake Where the Loons Cry
Edward McDermott
Damnation Books
P.O. Box 3931, Santa Rosa, CA 95402-9998
9781615720040 $2.50 Ebook

I can understand why Damnation Books decided to publish this little gem. "On the Lake Where the Loons Cry" is an exquisite story, laced with old ghosts and present terrors. Written by Canadian writer, Edward McDermott, the tale unfolds about Diana, a divorced pharmacist who has come home to a lake cottage in Ontario to heal, physically and spiritually. She runs into Bernie, an old high school friend, who has his own wounds, and together they try to just be normal. Unfortunately, a very real danger threatens Diana, forging an unspeakable bond between her and Bernie.

Damnation Books specializes in dark fiction. Though there is a very definite dark edge about "On the Lake Where the Loons Cry," I was so impressed with McDermott's writing style and his phrasing. Just simple phrases such as "kinder times" or the description of women in a cafe "as they destroyed the reputation of some enemy" or a simple statement as "Diana liked the sound of choice" were lovely writer's selections and evoked much more than pages of description. One of the most startling but evocative statements was when Bernie asked Diana about a scar on her face and wondered if it were from a car accident. Diana's response was shocking but telling: "No. Hammer." This is the kind of tasteful writing that marks the work of Gregg Hurwitz, one of my favorite thriller writers.

Because McDermott is Canadian, readers should be prepared for British spelling used throughout the work. There were also some acronyms that were unfamiliar to me. One was OCA, which is Ontario College of Art, which I suspected was an art school, and CIBC is a large banking establishment in Canada. Another was the LCBO, which are Liquor Control Board of Canada stores like off-sale stores in North Dakota and Minnesota or state stores in Ohio - in other words a liquor store. These are probably quite common acronyms in Canada and would add color and realism for a Canadian reader. However, as an American unfamiliar with them, they distracted me from the story. I also was a bit confused as to the location of the story in the beginning. References to the Rainy River could put the characters in Minnesota or Ontario. It was only when I researched all of this that I then reread the story to get its full effect.

I wonder if the publishers might consider placing a set of notes in the back of ebooks written by Canadian authors for American readers. Those acronyms could be starred or numbered and keyed to their explanations.

Mahu Vice: Book four in the Mahu mystery series
Neil Plakcy
Alyson Books
245 West 17th Street, 12th floor, New York, NY 10011
9781593501112 $14.95

Neil S. Plakcy is author of four mystery novels set in Hawaii that revolve around gay Honolulu police detective Kimo Kanapa'aka. Called the Mahu series, after the Hawaiian word for homosexual, the books delve into Kimo's struggles with being out as a man in the police force. Each book deals with some aspects of G/B/L/T activism in some way, but usually that is in the background as Kim plunges into a criminal investigation, often dealing with a murder. His third book, Mahu Fire, won the 2009 Hawaii Five-O Award for Best Police Procedural.

In the newest book, Mahu Vice, Kimo is reunited after a breakup with hunky fireman Mike Riccardi, whom readers met in Mahu Fire, as they investigate a suspicious fire that burned a shopping center once owned by Kimo's father. In the remains of the building is the charred body of a Chinese teen who spoke no English that Kimo had met only the day before the fire. This disturbing fact starts Kimo and his police partner, Ray, a broadminded married cop, chasing down leads about gay prostitution and blackmail. Some of those leads put Kimo, Ray, and Mike in harm's way - more than once.

What I have most enjoyed about the Mahu series has been Kimo's fiercely loyal family. Plakcy paints them in bold colors as they deal with one family crisis after another. In this book, they rally around Kimo at the beginning of the book when he's doing some pretty destructive behaviors in the wake of his breakup with Mike. Later, Kimo pulls in police help for one sibling who's brother-in-law has made a shambles of his business. And then there's colorful Aunt Mei-Mei who's always cooking for hundreds and brought in to translate specific Chinese dialects.

In addition, Mahu Vice, like the other books in the series, presents details of life in Hawaii. Plakcy also gives some spectacular insights into Hawaiian surfing.

Most of the books in the Mahu series deal with gay romance/sex explicitly. Because of the theme of gay prostitution, Mahu Vice, however, offers much more detail. For those who might be uncomfortable with gay sex, this probably isn't the book for you. However, the Mahu series presents a much needed G/B/L/T presence within mystery and romance genres. And, yes, the Mahu books are more graphic, making them gay mysteries or gay romances, rather than like the Dick Hardesty or Elliott Smith mysteries by Dorien Gray that are mysteries with gay characters who are in relationships. Still, Mahu Vice is a great read.

One Model Nation
C. Allbritton Taylor, Jim Rugg (illustrator) and Cary Porter (supplemental illustrations), Donovan Letich (historian)
Image Comics
2134 Allston Way, 2nd Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704
9781607061571 $17.99

One Model Nation is a bold, new concept by C. Allbritton Taylor and Donovan Leitch. Taking on life as a graphic novel, the idea was originally a screenplay that Taylor and Leitch wrote about a fictitious band caught up in the squeeze between Communism and terrorist youth in 1977 Germany.

Leitch, who is the lead singer with the band Camp Freddie (and the son of Scottish folksinger Donovan and sister of actress Ione Skye), heavily researched the era because he was a fan of the art rock and early electronica that was coming out of Germany in the 70s that influenced David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Leitch and Taylor told a story of a band who just wanted to make music and was caught up in the very real political/terrorist upheaval of the Red Army Faction known as the Baader-Meinof Gang that advocated urban guerrilla terrorism against the fascist state. Their activities, led in the fall of 1977, became a national crisis that was known as the German Autumn. Even though they advocated violence, they weren't as destructive as the Revolutionary Cells that were responsible for almost 300 bomb attacks in the 30 years they were in existence. Both movements were student led or backed.

As Leitch and Taylor shopped their screenplay around, it caught the eye of Image Comics that saw a way to visualize what the screenplay was intending. Image Comics brought in Afrodisiac and Street Angel illustrator Jim Rugg to do the drawings and inkwork and One Model Nation was born. The graphic novel begins and ends with an interview of two musicians, who are modeled after Taylor and Leitch. Through them, readers learn about One Model Nation, the band that became an underground sensation, but who disappeared mysteriously in 1977. Taylor and Leitch brought in historical characters such as Ulrike Meinhof, who was a television news journalist, Andreas Baader, and Horst Mahler - all early members of the Baader-Meinof Gang.

I really enjoyed reading and seeing illustrations about this era of music that I really didn't know that much about - and I certainly wasn't aware of what was happening in Germany during the 70s. Jim Rugg's illustrations are edgy, not at all like many of the Superman or Batman (or even Watchman or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) comics I've read. This is a sparser picture with less color, preferring black and white with lots of muddy reds. The dialogue is equally sparse, letting the mood of the illustrations carry the work. It is very effective.

Donovan Leitch announced recently that he is pulling together a band called One Model Nation to play at Comic-Con in California in July in 2010 to showcase the graphic novel. With the readership that this novel will surely generate, Leitch and Taylor may see their screenplay revisited by Hollywood, and in a more favorable light.

Janie Franz

Jessica's Bookshelf

Michael Robotham
c/o Little, Brown Book Group
100 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0DY United Kingdom
9780751537314 7.99 Brit. pounds

Shatter is not your standard run-of-the-mill novel, it oozes with sophistication and is beautifully written by international bestselling author Michael Robotham.

Michael's descriptions are effortless and the atmosphere he builds is realistic and gripping.

The story begins with the suicide of a woman who is naked except for red high heels. Psychologist Joseph O'Loughlin tries in vain to put all that he has learnt into action when he confronts her on top of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The woman doesn't listen and instead whispers "you don't understand" as she plunges to her death.

The incident leaves Joe puzzled and unable to understand what could have driven this individual to do such a thing. Then he starts to piece together clues and things become a whole lot clearer.

Joe explains his theory to others but the police are skeptical. In the end, seeing no other option, Joe calls in his old friend - Vincent Ruiz, a retired Chief Inspector.

Can Vincent help with this case and use his skills to find out the truth? Surely there is no better Inspector than Vincent?

Joe quickly learns however that time waits for no man as more deaths occur. What he doesn't understand is the closer he tries to uncover the mystery, the closer he becomes to the killer until ultimately someone must pay the price. Who will it be? Crisis and desperation are to follow.

Although this book is part of a series you do not need to read the others to understand . The villain of this story is someone who will make you shudder and fear for your life, if only because he has looked at you. He does not even need to get close to you to shatter your life and leave you for dead. But how? We learn physical damage is not nearly as dangerous as psychological.

You will long to find out the ending but at the same time read every word so you don't miss any clues. Possibly one of the best books Michael Robotham has written and it is sure to be a hit if you like your thrillers plus evil villains.

You are on a roller-coaster of a ride which has you clinging onto the handle bars unable to let go.

Tidings of Great Boys
Shelley Adina
Faith Words (Hachette Book Group)
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446179638 $9.99

Lady Lindsay MacPhail, who prefers to be called Mac, is studying hard at Spencer Academy and missing home. Finals week is approaching although the thought of spending the Christmas holidays cooped up with her dad inside his castle in Scotland isn't as appealing to Mac as it used to be.

So Mac hatches a plan and invites all her friends to join her in Scotland for the holiday.

However her friends, Carly, Lissa, Gillian and Shani, aren't too happy about the arrangements. After all who can afford the cost of a plane ticket?

Shani, disowned by her parents for refusing to follow through with an arranged marriage, has 2 million stashed away in a San Francisco branch but won't spend a penny of it.

Eventually however the girls make it and arrive in Scotland, excited about what may lie ahead. The castle is vast with fourteen bedrooms and is so big it is hard to keep heated. But surely this won't stop the friends having fun?

Bad news is on the horizon as Mac learns the castle is falling apart. Can she and her faithful friends save the castle and help Mac's parents get back together again?

Each friend has her own individual personality and we learn to love Mac and hope with her that all will be right.

Questions come up and you long for the answers which are revealed later on.

Can Mac really manage to achieve success and bring her mum and dad back together again at Christmas? Celebrations and the whole family around each other may mean Mac's wishes are about to come true.

I don't consider this book would be well suited for readers who like their novels deep and meaningful. However for fans of girly books which haven't much depth this one is perfect. You constantly wonder "what if" and in the end you'll know the answer.

Shelley's writing is crisp, to-the-point and fun all the way. This book is just one from the "all about us" series.

This is a light-hearted type of book which looks at friendship and the meaning of love. The story is kept pretty simple with just a few twists along the way and a good dose of all important humour. Read it for relaxing.

The Last Song
Nicholas Sparks
Grand Central Publishing
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446547567 $24.99

Ever since her parents split Veronica "Ronnie" Miller has remained angry and built up a particular hatred of her father, Steve. He now lives by the sea in North Carolina after his marriage to Ronnie's mother, Kim, ended in divorce.

Steve only gets to see his children every now and again and misses them dearly.

Jonah, Steve's son and Ronnie's ten-year-old brother, relishes any time he can spend with their dad and looks forward to just being with him.

Now the summer has come Ronnie and Jonah's mother sends them to spend the holidays with Steve. Even though Jonah is excited about the prospect Ronnie makes it clear she's not. How can she spend the summer with a man who she hates?

When they arrive Jonah is quick to settle in but Ronnie refuses and tells Steve she hates hearing him play on his treasured piano.

However arriving at the local fair, Ronnie is able to make friends with a girl who dresses like a goth and calls herself "Blaze."

Blaze has a boyfriend named Marcus who impresses Ronnie with his fireball skills. Will this friendship be for keeps?

Ronnie's actions seem mean and utterly selfish. The episode with her father was extremely saddening to read. You question how can Ronnie react so horribly to a man who has always tried to offer her unconditional love and support?

Each character we read about has their own version of events to tell and not everyone agrees with each other.

Will Ronnie act on things and allow a certain something to develop between her and the local boy?

We are to learn Marcus is a mean, twisted and selfish character compared to the meek and mild Steve who finds much solitude in playing the piano.

Is it possible time changes people? That is one question which you ask as you read on.

Ronnie may be about to discover her dad isn't so bad after all.

Will Ronnie have to face jail to prove her innocence? We learn who to trust in this tale of friendships, family and the meaning of love.

There are plenty of twists and turns to keep you hooked and towards the end of this book there is a final sting in the tale to keep you wanting more.

Just why is Steve so interested in his copy of the Bible? What does music really mean to him?

I was drawn into this novel and couldn't put it down until I'd reached the end and found out exactly why it is called "The Last Song."

A perfect novel to read which is deep, captivating and full of emotion.

Feelin' The Vibe
Candice Dow
Grand Central Publishing
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446179522 $13.99

Feelin' the Vibe is Candice Dow's sequel to her previous novels Caught in the Mix and Tappin' on Thirty.

Devin is Washinton's hottest new political figure and a man who is about to be married to Taylor. Even though the pair haven't been together long they think a wedding will be a great idea and decide to get hitched. After all it may help Devin with his application for the up-and-coming election.

Clark, Devin's ex wife, lost her best friend and her true love in the space of 24 hours. She later married her therapist, Kenneth, who inspired her to leave the corporate world and invest her time in helping foster kids.

Clark secretly longed for her own children, her own flesh and blood. However fate was around the corner and would deal Clark a fatal blow.

Mia, Kenneth's daughter, has gone off to college. Time is now of the essence. Can Clark conceive a child of her very own?

And what will happen when Devin realises who it is he truly loves? Is everything worth losing for the one he wants?

I read the next section and thought I would be physically sick if I had to read another paragraph containing the words "sweaty" "bed" and "reproductive" again.

I really began to struggle to read this book after this chapter and unfortunately for me it didn't get any better.

Most of the characters are superficial and love nothing better than to be escorted in stretch limousines and own million-dollar houses.

Devin has an air of arrogance about him and I'm afraid from the reader's point of view I feel absolutely no remorse for him when life throws problems in his way.

Is this a romance fiction book or seedy erotica? I'm afraid I saw nothing special about this book and will definitely not be investing any more time in reading another of Dow's pointless novels. Of course this is only a reviewer's point of view and some may well be intrigued enough to actually read this superficial gush and enjoy it.

Some may argue Dow's writing is sophisticated and edgy but in my opinion it isn't either. This novel lacks depth, intelligence and certainly didn't hold my attention. Will it yours?

The Unnamed
Joshua Ferris
Reagan Arthur
c/o Little Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316034012 $24.99

Why would anybody hail a cab open the door to get in and then promptly carry on walking? That was a question I even asked myself as I read the first section of this book.

Meet Tim Farnsworth, a high-powered lawyer with everything he could wish for including his beautiful wife Jane.

Twice he has battled a bizarre illness which features strange narcoleptic episodes and extreme behaviour. The dreaded illness has now made its return.

Tim's daughter, Becka, is used to his illness. After all she's seen it all a hundred times before when living through it as a young child and observing her father's odd activities, which could take place any time of day or night.

There is always the question: how far is too far? Can this family really pull together and live through it all again?

Reading such an atmospheric and well-written piece, I found this book grabs you at the first page and leaves you wanting to know if Tim will ever fully recover.

Becka is portrayed as a teenager with dreadlocks and a fiery personality. Although used to her father's illness she sometimes wonders if Tim isn't just putting it all on for effect or worse…what if he really is mental?

The story progresses and more and more strange things start to happen. Tim often finds himself in places he doesn't recognise. Jane is always there to track him down and help but you do question how much more she can take? An illness does not just affect one person we learn, but many.

The solution to Tim's problems are to come in the shape and form of a doctor who Tim has always resented. However Dr Bagdasarian holds the key in trying to understand Tim's illness and asks Tim if he would wear an ambulatory helmet which may produce the answers they need.

This is a story where hope always seems to be dashed and disappointment is always around the next corner. Can we as humans, when faced with the worst case scenario, come out of that dark tunnel at the other end?

You read and wonder how much disappointment can one man take before depression sets in for good?

The Unnamed illustrates a family's bond and how illness affects people. The ending is something you perhaps don't expect but it does grab your attention and you are left wondering "why?"

A novel of hope and despair, loss and gain from the author of the prize-winning New York Times bestseller, Then We Came to the End.

Searching for Tina Turner
Jacqueline E. Luckett
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446542968 $24.99/$29.99

In this novel we follow the story of married couple Lena and Randall whose life

life appeared idyllic but beneath it all something wasn't right. Lena felt that the more Randall become successful, the less attention he paid to her. Lena was becoming more and more unhappy. Could it be a mid-life crisis or the fear of not being a complete person in herself.? She couldn't make her mind up and became unable to think or even make plans for the future.

Their children Camille and Kendrick became difficult to cope with. Randall didn't approve of Lena following her own interest of photography. After twenty-five years of marriage and a life of luxury she felt controlled by her husband.

Before Randall left for a business trip which he hoped would lead to more promotion they went to see a marriage councilor. It was to remind her of their deep love when they first met.

Tina Turner was to play a big part in Lena's life. Her music, its words conveying to her just how she herself was feeling. After reading Tina's autobiography she discovered that her own life actually mirrored Tina's. She bought dozens of Tina Turner's CDs to play. In the meantime her son Kendrick turned to drugs and Lena and Randall's marriage really struggled. He became more and more cold and distant and was no longer the man she married. Lena also realizes her yearning to become a photographer will have to be put on hold until Randal achieves his own ambitions.

One song of Gloria Gaynor's sticks in her mind "I Will Survive." It is the turning point in her life. Lena leaves America to attend a Tina Turner concert in France, her friend Cheryl accompanying her. There Lena discovers herself and much, much more. Does she find Tina and what happens? Well you will have to read this inspiring story to find out.

This novel gets better and better after a slow start. The pace quickens until it becomes un-put-down-able. You want to know what happens to Lena. The characters are believable and well crafted and I really enjoyed the descriptive writing about France and its culture which was cleverly interwoven into the story. An impressive novel, I can't wait for Luckett's next.

Let It Bleed
Ethan A. Russell
Springboard Press
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9780446539043 $35.00

Mention the Rolling Stones and everyone knows instantly who you're talking about but how many people really know just what went on during their 1969 Let It Bleed tour? This book, which promises to take you where no other Rolling Stones book has gone before, is to open the lid on what really happened and reveal more about one of the most legendary bands of the century.

Ethan A. Russell has made his name by being the only photographer to have shot album covers for all three of what some consider the greatest groups in rock history: the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Who. He is also a multi-Grammy nominated photographer and director. A man deserving enough to be granted the privilege of writing such a brilliant book.

Let It Bleed gets off to a cracking start - Ethan provides the enthusiastic reader and Stones fan with his recollections from times past. He describes in detail the events which befell him one fateful night while the Rolling Stones could be heard playing in the background.

Ethan tells us the tale of how he became a rock photographer - something that was at that time very unusual.

During his years as an art student however Ethan was lucky enough to have met Brian Jones, the founder of the Stones. His story of that meeting was so interesting to read and will be of much importance to true Rolling Stones fans. The shots accompanying Ethan's piece show a relaxed Brian, playing with his dog and having fun. Ethan was able to note how Brian appeared with bags below his eyes. Could Brian's lifestyle already have begun to take effect on him? Ethan's words and descriptions of that meeting speak out to the reader in a frank and honest way. He does not glamorize what he witnessed and instead offers up the truth.

The next chapter of this book delves into drugs and how times had not been so good for the Rolling Stone members - 1967 was a particularly bad year for them as many will probably recall. Keith's home in Redlands was raided, Mick was busted at the airport and Brian busted in his flat. It seemed to many that the authorities were out to make an example of them.

Bill Whyman tells of two Brians "one that was introverted, shy, sensitive, deep-thinking…the other was a preening peacock, gregarious, artistic, desperately needing assurance from his peers."

Signalling the eventual passing of Brian Jones hundreds of white butterflies were released and Mick Jagger is seen in one photograph leaping forwards into them. This personally for me is a very memorable photograph with much meaning in it.

A casual photograph of Mick Taylor, Keith Richards and Sam Cutler enjoying breakfast together is included under a quote from Mick Taylor himself describing what the group was actually like way back in 1969.

There is much talk about what the Rolling Stones were like originally when they started out and Mick Taylor describes it, "in 1969 it was very small, and in a way, very intimate."

The photographs in black and white forever freeze those moments when band members Mick Taylor, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards enjoyed lounging about back stage at the Forum and other places.

Almost every page of this stunning Rolling Stones book is full of photographs of the band. There are tons of reflections from the members and quotes which will stay glued in your mind.

Part three, of four, details the infamous Altamont concert which saw a lot of spaced out hippies, homeless people and really unbalanced individuals. There were reports of many fights and the pictures in this amazing collection illustrate how packed together the audience was. Tensions were running high and violence was breaking out. Photographs included help to capture the feel of that concert.

Also inside are some of the most iconic photographs of the Let It Bleed tour, ones you'll remember and maybe even frame.

An overall stunning book for every Rolling Stones fan to have in his or her collection. It delivers everything you could expect and ticks all the right boxes. Are you ready to rock?

Jessica Roberts

Karyn's Bookshelf

Joahanna Spyri, author
Maja Dusikova
NorthSouth Books
350 7th Avenue, Room 1400, New York, NY 10001-5013

In picking an artist to finally bring Johanna Spyri's classic "Heidi" to younger children, nearly 130 years after its original German release, Zurich-based NordSud Books could not have done better than Maja Dusikova. The Czechoslovakia-born Dusikova has in the past 15 years cemented her legacy as one of the world's premiere children's illustrators. The "Heidi" picture book, which came out in Switzerland earlier this year and is now available in English translation through New York's NorthSouth Books, is a simply beautiful 32-page adaption of the more than 200-page novel about a 5-year-old orphan girl left with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps. She is just learning to love her new life when she's moved on again to the city but Ultimately returns to the goats and mountainside pastures and people she had learned to love. Neither Dusikova's illustrations nor the accompanying text reach too low, avoiding dumbing down for emerging readers and lap listeners the gentle story about friendship and renewing power of mountain air. The text is a crisp, well-flowing synopsis of the tale, hitting all the key plot points with the result a picture book that's a hair longer than what's typical in the genre. And the soft illustrations capture in an exquisitely lovely way everything from Heidi's straw bed to the goats on a high cliff to the Frankfurt skyline, in a manner that will be appreciated by elementary-aged readers who are not quite ready to tackle the novel. Also a great introduction to a beloved tale for older children with reading difficulties. As with Dusikova's other recent work, including 2007's "Silent Night, Holy Night," one of the page illustrations from "Heidi," of the heroine and her grandfather father tobogganing down the snowy mountainside, has been turned into an advent calendar that is sold separately. Great gift ideas just in time for the approaching winter holidays.

Snow White
The Brothers Grimm, authors
Quentin Greban, illustrator
NorthSouth Books
350 7th Avenue, Room 1400, New York, NY 10001-5013

Renowned Belgian illustrator Quentin Greban returns one of the Grimm brothers' most enduring tales to its dark roots. Forget Walt Disney's Americanized dwarfs and heroine with all of their Crayola-colored jolliness, where the worst thing that happens is Snow White biting into the poisoned apple. This version, originally released in Belgium, includes things Disney left out - two earlier visits during which the wicked stepmother first tries to strangle Snow White with a too-tight bodice and then tries to kill her with a poisoned hair comb. It also mentions how, for her evil deed, the stepmother was made to dance in red-hot iron shoes "until she fell down dead." The distinctly European-looking dwarves have pointed red hats, white beards and suits in muted, earthy colors. Snow White, interestingly, has a somewhat modern feel with free flowing hair and salmon-hued sweater that young female readers might covet, reminiscent of Helen Oxenbury's depiction of another beloved heroine in 1999's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." A beautiful rendition for children who can handle the full story as the Grimm brothers intended it.

Karyn Saemann

Kaye's Bookshelf

The 13th Juror - The Official Transcript of the Martin Luther King Assassination Conspiracy Trial
MLK the Truth, LLC
9781442112155, $29.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"For fourteen days in the winter of 1999, just blocks away from the site of Dr. King's assassination, one of the most infamous assassination mysteries was being solved in Memphis, Tennessee, before a circuit court judge and twelve impaneled jurors.

"While the national media turned a blind eye toward this trial, day by day the facts from the actual witnesses came forth to attempt to prove the truth behind what really happened on April 4th, 1968, to Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement.

"This book is the actual trial transcript, from beginning to end with no editing, no deletions, no opinions or commentary. Based upon the testimonies, you can become the 13th juror, and make up your own mind about what happened on that fateful day."

As you recall, Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. This civil wrongful death trial began on November 15, 1999. The 13th Juror is the actual transcript from this trial in which William Pepper, formerly James Earl Ray's attorney, represented Coretta Scott King and her children who were asking for monetary damages of $100. One purpose of this trial was to provide an official forum for facts and testimonies regarding Dr. King's assassination to be recorded for history. There is no author, style of writing or quality of editing to be considered.

If you like non-fiction books about historical events, you might consider The 13th Juror. It is uniquely informative and physically...quite heavy.

Screwing the Pooch
J.B. Bergstad
Woodside Publishing Group
9780615284064 $14.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"Milton's Pickle - A seven-year-old genius develops a unique method to deal with his bully problems.

"Bearclaw at The Coffeecaker - Two damaged people find common ground and unexpected love over coffee and pastry at The CoffeeCaker.

"The Puppy Murders - A sick and dying puppy teaches fourteen-year-old Jim the meaning of responsibility and the value of truth and humility.

"The Brass Rail - Ray Martelli has lost everything of value to an alcohol addiction. He's desperate to regain the love and respect of his wife and kids. Can he win?

"Rot Like Me - A teenage narcissistic rapist and murderer arrives with his family in Bells Grove, Fl. Enrolled in a new school, he scopes the chicks, but strange, malevolent supernatural forces have other ideas.

"Dear Daniel - In a letter to his surgeon son, a father admits to the brutal crime of murder.

"Hank Straker, SA - A retired sheriff contemplates suicide as the anniversary of his wife's death approaches. He's slapped awake by a late night intruder. 'Why ain't you at the senior's mixer,' he growls."

For those of us not familiar with the slang term and title of this book, Screwing the Pooch, here are a few definitions: 1) to do something the wrong way, 2) to make a catastrophic error, and 3) to goldbrick - all negative behaviors, and it is this negative or dark side of life that these short stories have in common. All but one are about murder or death.

J. B. Bergstad is a gifted storyteller with a unique talent for saying a lot in a little space. His character-driven stories come to life quickly, richly and tightly. He doesn't miss a beat and is an artist at his craft. If you enjoyed short stories by Stephen King or Ambrose Bierce, you will enjoy Screwing the Pooch.

Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever,
Judge Judy Sheindlin
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
New York, NY
006092991X $12.00

Quoting from the back cover:

"Judge Judy takes on stupidity. Offering advice to women seeking to build a strong foundation for their lives, Sheindlin combines her experiences as a Family Court judge, wife and grandmother. She clues women in on how to keep their individuality and nourish their strengths. - New York Daily News

"This book resonates with the voice of Judge Scheindlin....It is instructional, motivational and full of practical advice.... She empowers through her can-do energy. - New York Law Journal

"(Sheindlin is) part Harry Truman, part Rhea Perlman: funny, quick-tempered, bluntly honest. - People

"Sheindlin writes with the same theatrical no-nonsense directness that animates her on-air persona. Publishers Weekly"

I highly recommend this book to all females of any age for Sheindlin's insight and understanding of the problems we all face. Allow me to share with you the opening to Chapter 6 - You Can't Teach the Bull to Dance:

"Once you understand that you're the trunk of the tree, you also have to face a terrible truth: Trying to change a man - to make him more helpful, more responsive, more socially acceptable, more sensitive, more domesticated - is about as feasible as trying to teach a bull the two-step. The result is going to be a pile of broken china and a load of irritation for you. I was enlightened about this fact during a rocky point in my marriage. My husband, Jerry, and I had reached a marital impasse, and after much cajoling, my 'bull' reluctantly agreed to a session with a marriage counselor. We sat inches apart on a couch while I spewed out my complaints. Bottom line, he didn't understand me or my needs. Sound familiar? My handsome, adorable bull grunted often, was visibly uncomfortable, but was captive for a full fifty minutes. Jerry and I had been married for fifteen exciting, interesting years, but for all that time I indulged in the female struggle to make him think like a woman. The session was almost over when the therapist reached for a large bowl of grapes. He handed it to my mate and instructed him to slowly feed me one grape at a time, and I was to accept his offering without touching or helping him. The symbolic nature of this exercise did not escape me. He was giving, I was receiving. Not wanting to insult the affable therapist who looked as if he had just reinvented the wheel, we concluded the exercise, thanked him, plunked down one hundred bucks, and left. For the next week, every time I started to complain about his lack of understanding, empathy, caring, Jerry would whip out a small box of raisins (he had decided grapes were too messy) and demand that I sit down for a feeding. But the exercise didn't inspire the promised intimacy. It was just plain irritating. And then it hit me - this was the turning point. I was fifty years old. I finally concluded that the struggle was over. It struck me like a bolt of lightning. I'd spent most of my adult years trying to teach my chosen bull to dance. Whether owing to nature or nurture, I just couldn't get this bull to do the cha-cha. So if I wanted inner peace and happiness, it had to come from me. Why had I ever expected him to provide it for me? He was just the way he was, and no matter what I did, he wasn't going to change all that much. I thought about the thousands of troubled couples I had seen as a family court judge, and all my female friends whose basic complaint always boiled down to the same thing. You can't teach the bull to dance. We must raise our daughters to get on with their lives - and not be stalled by the same bevy of frustrations that have paralyzed women for generations. Women are still looking to men as the source of all meaningful approval, as the beacons of light in the deep, dark cold of outer space. It's just not so. Love has to emanate first from within yourself - we have to teach our young women to love themselves and respect themselves. Confirmation of your value as a human being doesn't depend on the approval of any man, be it your husband, brother, father, or boyfriend. Women are complete individuals without the need of men to establish their purpose and direction in our society. Times have changed. The relationships between men and women are changing as well. The old expectations, the old contracts, no long necessarily apply. Most of us want our mates to complement us, to make us feel as though our lives are balanced and complete. If you expect your man to understand your every subtle emotional turn, and always to treat you as a completely equal partner; if you expect him to empathize when you're having a particularly nasty bout of PMS, cramps, hot flashes, menopause, or the thousand other little hells only women are prone to, you will end up feeling frustrated, disappointed and unhappy.

"I deferred to men for years because it was expected, it was expedient, and it was necessary to keep the peace, and I resented it. It was expected of my generation. Feminism and women's liberation are only words out there in the real, everyday world. Ideals don't always play out as well as they sound. Inner peace truly comes when you recognize and accept the differences between men and women, and decide to enjoy the filet and discard the gristle.

"Here's some food for thought. It has been said that there are two kinds of men: those who don't get it, and those who do, but get it wrong."

Ladies, if you can relate to the above in any way, you will definitely want to buy this book. Other books by Family Court Judge Judy Sheindlin include Don't Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It's Raining and You're Smarter than You Look - also recommended for their truth, honesty and humor.

Kaye Trout

Logan's Bookshelf

Thriving During Challenging Times
Cam Mather
Aztext Press
PO Box 214, Tamworth, ON K0K 3G0
9780973323368, $19.95,

Even when the economy is down, you can still bring home the bacon. "Thriving During Challenging Times: The Energy, Food, and Financial Independence Handbook" is a guide to wise financial planning in even the worst of economic times. On the thought of things will get worse before they get better, Cam Mather gives much advice to help readers tighten their belts and be prepared for the worst, but expect the best. "Thriving During Challenging Times" is advice not to be ignored.

The Mystery of the Spaniel Family's Dog House
Sharon Ellsberry
1006 Dove Creek Drive, Athens, TX 75751
9780979077715, $7.00,

A dog's home is it's dog castle. "The Mystery of the Spaniel Family's Dog House" tells the story of the Spaniel family, a family of dogs who are curious about the events of their doghouse. With the help of their friends they investigate what hides deeper in this story of man's best friend, making "The Mystery of the Spaniel Family's Dog House" a collection any dog lover will relish.

Gallo Be Thy Name
Jerome Tuccille
Phoenix Books
9465 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 840, Beverly Hills, CA 90212
9781597775908, $22.95,

Some people will go through anything to succeed. "Gallo Be Thy Name: The Inside Story of How One Family Rose to Dominate the U.S. Wine Market" tells the story of the Gallo family, who over the past century have become one of the major forces in American wines through both honest and dishonest means. Spanning three generations, Tuccille tells a very unique and true sotry unlike any other. For wine lovers, for true crime lovers, and for those seeking truly American biographies, "Gallo Be Thy Name" is a pick that cannot be missed.

The Hole in the Sky
Barbara A. Mahler
Sea Turtle Publishing
2525 Arapahoe Ave., Suite E4, PMB #145, Boulder, CO 80302
PR by the Book (publicity)
PO Box 6226, Round Rock, TX 78683
0981676405, $20.95,

The legacy of one's mother is something that many daughters seek to understand. "The Hole in the Sky" is one Kaela Neuleaf grappling with what her own mother left behind. Finding herself in another world, she finds that her mother was far more than she let down and that she may have inherited a huge task. "The Hole in the Sky" is a fine read of fantasy that many younger readers will relish.

Steven M. Webb
Noble Woods Press
PO Box 7303, Aloha, OR 97007
9781583852712, $20.95,

People die, but the souls live on. "Siam" is the story of Leon Rose, an Oregon man in battle over a mayoral seat in a small Oregon town. But nabbing at him are these flashbacks of things he never experienced, and he soon finds that his opponent has something similar. An exploration of past lives and their effects on the present, "Siam" is a highly thought provoking read that is worth the consideration.

Feeding Strays
Stefanie Freele
Lost Horse Press
105 Lost Horse Lane, Sandpoint, ID 83864
9780980028959, $16.95,

So many people find themselves at some point in their lives broken. "Feeding Strays" is a collection of short stories Stefanie Freele focusing on humanity at its lowest points. The stories are honest and poignant and will offer much insight into the human psyche. "Feeding Strays" is a choice pick for any fan of literary short stories, highly recommended.

The Breakthrough
Ann Tufariello
Arctic Wolf
125 Foxfield Way, Suite 4, PO Box 340, Pooler, GA 31322
9780984123308, $12.95,

The best of intentions can go horribly wrong. "The Breakthrough" tells of Jack, a young man who ends up in another dimension. When he gets a healing crystal, he feels that he can save his brother back in his home dimension who is in a coma, but not before he ends up in the clutches of a tyrant who wants to exploit the crystal for his own nefarious means. "The Breakthrough" is a fun science fiction read for younger readers, highly recommended.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

Jaguar Moon/House of Doors
Linda L. Donahue & Julia S. Mandala
Double Dog
c/o Yard Dog Press
710 W. Redbud Lane, Alma, AR 72921-7247
9781893687981, $16.00

Why get two books when you can get one? "Jaguar Moon/House of Doors" is a combination mystery collection from Julia S. Mandala and Linda L. Donahue, offering two mystery novels under one cover. A whole lot of mystery for one's money, "Jaguar Moon/House of Doors" is a top pick for any mystery novel fan living on a budget.

The Angelic Way
Rami Shapiro
240 West 35th Street, Suite 500, New York, NY 10001
Meryl Zegarek Public Relations (publicity)
255 West 108 Street, Suite 9D1, New York, NY 10025
9781933346199, $15.95,

The angel has captured humanity's imagination for as long as it has existed. "The Angelic Way: Angels Through the Ages and Their Meaning For Us" is a discussion of the history of angels and what they mean to civilization throughout the centuries. The Abrahamic religions, Zoroastrian and a few other faiths follow them, and Rami Shapiro, a rabbi and well known writer, offers much of a faithful tour of their origins. "The Angelic Way" is a must for any who believe or simply have wonder in the ways of the angel.

Journey to the Ice
Jennifer Slattery
Myth Slayers Ministries
PO Box 901693, Kansas City, MO 64151
9780578004600, $8.95,

Absolute power absolutely corrupts. "Journey to the Ice" is a story of the Ice Age and how the world's first dictator attempts to rise to world domination. With a unique setting of the Ice Age and the Old Testament, "Journey to the Ice" is a fine short novel that'll entertain many a reader.

Through the River
Jon & Mindy Hirst
1820 Jet Stream Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
The B&B Media Group (publicity)
109 South Main Street, Corsicana, TX 75110
9781934068038, $14.99,

Truth is not an easy thing to find. "Through the River: Understanding Your Assumptions About Truth" discusses the ideas of truth in Christianity and how they blend into modern philosophy. Offering much food for thought, the couple writers Jon and Mindy Hurst give readers much sage advice and wisdom on finding their faith and purpose in life. "Through the River" is a top pick for any Christian who currently lives directionless.

Art Ayris & Ninie Hammon
Kingstone Media Group
4420 Bay Forest Lane, Fruitland Park, FL 34731
9780979903526, $14.99,

When your people is thought of nothing more than animals to be slaughtered, justice is a foreign concept. "Sudan" is an exploration of the terror that many Sudanese people face in their daily lives as a small farmer must face everything in his path in order to save his daughter when all the Government seeks to do is exterminate his people. "Sudan" is an intriguing read of a tragic reality, recommended.

Whose Place
Lydia Cortes
Straw Gate Books
387 Grand Street #503, New York, NY 10002
9780977378630, $14.00

Humanity is the king of excess in the animal kingdom. "Whose Place" is a collection of poetry discussing this topic from Lydia Cortes. Her verse is simple and sincere and seeks to ask many questions of her readers. With a sprinkling of memoir, "Whose Place" is a unique collection that many will enjoy. "Mi Adorado": The taste sweet/in my nose/the smell of his eyes/the sound green/the touch seen/plump my baby's feet plump/los labios de mi adorado/their suede persuasions/slide seep into the pores/of my caress/oranges and bacon frying.

Margaret Lane

Paul's Bookshelf

King by Right of Blood and Might
Anna L. Walls
1663 Liberty Drive, #200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434368669 $17.48

Most stories about knights and castles take place in the distant past. This one is set in the distant future.

Humanity is nearly wiped out by a large asteroid that strikes the moon, and breaks it into many pieces, sending the pieces toward Earth. If the initial earthquakes and tidal waves don't kill people by the millions, the later nuclear winter does.

Thousands of years later, eastern North America (where this is set) has reverted to a medieval level. Harris is the son of Aidyn, King of Pennland. Aidyn doesn't know (or seem to care) about conditions in his kingdom, and won't let Harris get on a horse to find out. Aidyn spends all day in his office, doing whatever monarchs do, and Lucida, his mother, rarely comes out of her rooms. Harris is very bored.

As a teenager, Harris is sent to the neighboring kingdom of Carolinas, to learn how to be a ruler. After several years of fighting battles, and recovering from a severe sword injury, Harris gathers an army and is determined to reclaim his kingdom.

Town by town, and district by district, Harris finds utter devastation. Most places are nearly deserted, because everyone has been enslaved, or killed, by a barbarian/rebel leader named Kain. Harris and the army spend time in each place, helping to rebuild. He shows the people that he is for real, instead of merely ordering them to obey them. Even then, some people are very reluctant to accept him as king. When he gets home, he finds more utter devastation. Aidyn is dead, poisoned by Lucida, who has descended into full-blown insanity. The castle itself is beyond filthy and disgusting. It is as if a combination of an invading barbarian horde, and the ultimate in wild and drunken parties, happened several months ago, and no one has bothered to clean up. Will Harris be able to remove Kain, the cause of all this, once and for all?

This one is really good. It's very easy to read, and the author does a good job with the story and characters. First in a series, this is worth checking out.

Ayn Rand for Beginners
Andrew Bernstein
For Beginners LLC
62 East Starrs Plain Road, Danbury, CT 06810
9781934389379 $14.99

Here is a simple introduction to the life and philosophy of Ayn Rand. Along with being the founder of Objectivism, she also wrote Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, two of the 20th Century's most famous novels.

The Fountainhead takes place in the 1920s and 1930s, and is about Howard Roark, a modernist architect in a society that prefers buildings that look like Gothic cathedrals or Greek temples. He is expelled from college, gets fired from one job and loses commissions because of his absolute refusal to compromise his principles. After, unwillingly, working in a quarry, because he was forced out of the architecture field, Roark designs a revolutionary apartment house in New York City. As part of a socialist plot to neutralize Roark, his revolutionary design for a religious temple is criticized as sacrilege, so Roark is branded an enemy of religion and a public enemy. Commissioned to design a government housing project, Roark's design is changed without his knowledge or consent. Does Roark let it go ahead, or not?

In Atlas Shrugged, America is being pushed toward socialism by politicians and intellectuals; also, America's greatest minds are literally disappearing. Where are they going?

In an isolated part of the Colorado Rockies, Dagny Taggart, railroad owner, finds America's missing smart people. They are on strike against a moral code which says that moral goodness is found in sacrificing one's self for others, not in finding personal happiness. Taggart also meets John Galt, inventor of an ultra-efficient motor, and leader of the strike. The state kidnaps Galt, and tortures him, in order to force him to become economic dictator of America, and to fix America's precarious economy. Does Galt give in, or stay true to his principles?

For anyone who has read either of Rand's books, and still don't understand them, this is the book. For anyone who wants to know more about Objectivism, this is the book. For anyone who simply wants to know more about a famous person of the 20th Century, this is the book. It is a gem.

Dr. Mary's Monkey
Edward T. Haslam
P.O. Box 577, Walterville, OR 97489)
9780977795306 $19.95

This book gives a very different view of recent American history.

In the 1950s, Jonas Salk developed a vaccine against polio, then ravaging America. It involved inoculating children with dead polio viruses, so their bodies would build up immunity. Just before the mass inoculation was to begin, a technician injected the vaccine into some monkeys. The supposedly dead viruses were not exactly dead, so thousands of children contracted polio. The safer Sabin vaccine was quickly developed, and rushed into production.

The bigger problem for the Salk vaccine was that it was impregnated with cancer-causing monkey viruses (imagine the panic if that became known). Consider today's epidemic of soft tissue cancers. A secret program was rushed into existence to look for some sort of vaccine. Such a program involved lots of mice (thousands), and someone to do the day-to-day observing of the mice, someone like David Ferrie (later to be well-known in JFK assassination circles). A defrocked priest and former airline pilot, he was a long-time CIA asset. Also needed in such a project was a cancer expert to do the actual mutating of the viruses.

Mary Sherman was a world-renowned cancer researcher with a list of qualifications as long as your arm. It is unknown why she would get involved with a right-wing fanatic like David Ferrie. In 1964, her burned and naked body was found in her apartment. The press tried very hard to make it look like a lesbian burglar sex killing, even though there was no sign of forced entry. The bizarre thing is that her entire right arm and the right-hand part of her torso were gone, like they had been disintegrated. The small fire that was set on her bed, to cover up the crime, was nowhere near hot enough to do it.

Mutating viruses required huge amounts of power, on the order of several million volts. A linear particle accelerator was powerful enough, but they require very heavy-duty wiring. The author found evidence of such wiring at the US Public Health Service Hospital in New Orleans. The author theorizes that, one day, Sherman touched the wrong button, or there was sabotage, causing all that energy to ravage her body. It was quickly decided to bring her back to her apartment, stab her in the exact right place in her heart (she may have still been alive at that moment), and cover up her death. This whole arrangement also required a courier to travel from Sherman to Ferrie and back again. His name was Lee Harvey Oswald. He was killed after the JFK death to silence him; having him on a witness stand would have publicized things that powerful people did not want publicized.

This is a wonderful piece of writing. It is a huge eye-opener, and will make the reader look at cancer in a whole new way. It is extremely highly recommended.

War of Necessity, War of Choice
Richard N. Haass
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416549024 $27.00

This book explores the planning for both Iraq wars, in 1991 and 2003, by one of the few people in a senior Washington position for both conflicts.

The 1991 Gulf War does a very good job of fitting the definition of a "just war" or a "necessary war." The cost of letting Saddam Hussein keep Kuwait, and its oil, and thereby strongly influence the entire Middle East oil supply, was too high. The objectives of the war, to get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, were focused and clear-cut. Colin Powell, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, believed in using overwhelming force. If you have to go to war, make absolutely sure you have enough troops to do the job; about 500,000 troops were assembled. The war had huge international support, even from several Arab countries. It was consistent with accepted international norms concerning self-defense. As a senior member of the National Security Council, the author saw it all, first-hand.

For the 2003 invasion, the author was a senior adviser to Secretary of State Powell. Haass felt that sanctions and inspections were not given enough of a chance to work; invasion was not a last resort. It had much less legal and international support than Gulf War I; this was basically a unilateral affair. There was only one Security Council resolution for support, after America concluded that it was not going to get support for a second. The first Gulf War used half a million troops in a country like Kuwait; how would a much larger place like Iraq need only a third as many troops? Because of financial contributions from other member countries, Gulf War I cost America almost nothing; the tab for Gulf War II has passed $1 trillion; with little chance of America getting financial support from anyone. No matter how good an idea it may have seemed, to its supporters, the execution has to be as good (which it wasn't), or maybe it was not such a good idea in
the beginning.

Here is a very interesting look at two important events in recent American history. Written by an insider, it does a fine job of showing two different answers to the question "How does America go to war?" It is very much worth reading.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

Just the Way I Am
Sean Covey, Illustrated by Stacy Curtis
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416994237 $7.99

Biff Beaver teases Pokey Porcupine about his quills, which makes him feel so ugly he doesn't want to go back to school. His friends convince him his quills are normal. Pokey begins to appreciate them and comes up with a great idea. At school the next day he shows off his special quills to all his friends, even Biff.

The first book in The 7 Habits of Happy Kids Series, "Just the Way I Am" shows kids how to handle teasing and bullying from other kids at school. Self esteem is an important part of feeling happy. The funny characters and cartoon-like illustrations will keep young children engaged in the story. This is a quick and easy read for older children who will probably recognize a familiar situation. The Parents' Corner and discussion questions provide guidelines for breaking the ice about the touchy subject of bad feelings. The Baby Steps section takes things a step further with suggestions for turning bad feelings into good feelings. This is a fun book about self esteem without being preachy.

The Monster Key
Jeff D. Robb
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781440476846 $9.99

Switch the bully picks on Lewis Grance so much that it gives him nightmares. One day when Lewis is fleeing from Switch he hides under a dusty old bed in an abandoned building. He finds a key and promptly falls through the floor. He lands in a dark room filled with bridges and doors. He uses the key to unlock one of the doors and surfaces under a park bench. Lewis shares his secret key with his friend Jamey and together they must unlock the mystery of the secret chamber. But can one small key help them defeat the bullies and monsters?

Robb tackles the fears of monsters and bullies in a way that is more entertaining than it is scary. "The Monster Key" is a fast-paced, easy-to-read adventure that middle school age readers will find irresistible.

Horse Crazy 1: The Silver Horse Switch
Alison Lester, Illustrated by Roland Harvey
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9780811865548 $4.99

Sam and Bon are two lucky little girls. They live in Currawong Creek, a town full of horses they can fuss over and ride any time they want. There's even a herd of wild horses, called brumbies living in the mountains nearby. What Sam really wants is a horse of her own. But when her dad's friend gives them a horse named Drover, Sam quickly learns she's not the horse for her. Then one morning they notice that Drover is not the anxious, unfriendly horse she used to be. What happened during the night that caused such a miraculous change in Drover?

This is the first book in the Horse Crazy series. Set in Australia, "The Silver Horse Switch" gives young readers a taste of rural life down under along with an engaging story about a spunky brumby with a mind of her own. Roland Harvey's watercolor illustrations are charming and the map at the beginning is a great way for newcomers to learn their way around town. Young readers will go crazy over this appealing new series.

Should, Could, and Would
Kel Thompson, Casey Thompson, Charlotte Thompson, Illustrated by Rebecca A Lowe
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781615663286 $8.99

"Should, Could, and Would" are three little gnomes who live in a house on a rock. But they aren't happy gnomes because they fight a lot. Together they set out on a hike to find the Knowing Gnome. Will he be able to help them find the happiness they seek?

"Should, Could, and Would" tackles the tough issue of how to get along well with others. This is a delightfully simple story that shows very young children how to change bad feelings into good feelings. The colorful, detailed illustrations contribute to pre-schoolers' understanding of the concept of a positive attitude.

As a special added bonus, in the back of the book there's a coupon code which can be redeemed at the publisher's website for a free download of the audio book.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Raja's Bookshelf

The Alchemist
Paulo Coehlo
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061122415 $14.99

Recently, a few people asked me what I think of the book Alchemist and if I would recommend it. At that instant I thought: what a book that was. My immediate answer was: Yes, I definitely recommend it. When I first became aware of this book, my first reaction was who is this author, Paulo Coehlo. At the time I did not recognize him. Well, after reading this book (especially this book) and some of his other books after that, it was a memorable reading experience.

The author conveys messages about life, through this simple allegorical story from the perspective of a young shepherd. While reading the story I found myself thinking about what the author was trying to say and thinking about life. I found myself thinking about what I would have done if I was in the shepherd's position at different instances in the story. It was kind of a suspense story, and I had to continue reading to find out more of his message. It presents philosophy in an easy to understand manner for those lay men like myself who enjoys a good philosophical question at times. Furthermore I found it inspirational, and for me it was also about the idea of pursuing dreams.

If you enjoy philosophy and are not a philosopher, then I would highly recommend this book. If you enjoyed reading books by Mitch Albom, then Alchemist is a must read. Besides being a casual philosopher if you like inspirational self help books, then I would suggest checking out Paulo Coehlo's Alchemist. I have read some of Paulo Coehlo's other books after reading this one.

Well, I would suggest reading this book, and let me know what you think of the Alchemist after you read it. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

Gandhi and Churchill, The Epic Rivalry That Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age
Arthur Herman
Bantam Books
New York, NY
9780553383768 $20.00

For those of you intimidated by reading History, I would encourage you to give it a chance. Yeah, history books are long, hundreds of pages; it at first appears that it can be dry. This is not the case when well written, and when reading History patience does have its rewards. Oh, now there might be a lot of names, places, dates and it might be tough to follow. Again if well written and presented, then it should be easy to follow, stay with it. From History you not only learn about the past, the past also teaches us about the present situation and what could potentially happen in the future. For me those little nuggets of historical trivia also excite me. Growing up I had learned a lot about India's fight for independence and Gandhi. When I read the cover of this book about Gandhi and Churchill, I was immediately drawn in, and I had to read the book.

This brings me to the topic of this review, Gandhi and Churchill, The Epic Rivalry That Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age, written by Arthur Herman, a Pulitzer Prize Finalist for 2008. Herman is a former professor of history from Georgetown University, Catholic University, George Mason University, and Smithsonian's Campus. His interest in Indian History spawned as a youth from his father, who himself has written about Hinduism, Buddhism, and Gandhi. As the author writes "I was in High School when I helped my father to correct proofs of his translation of the Bhagavad Gita".

Arthur Herman provides a revealing accounting of the politics of the British Empire in India. While as the title indicates the major players in this author's account of the colonial history are Gandhi and Churchill, the book also nicely pieces together the relationships between all the key political figures in India, England, and also world events like a puzzle. One of the most interesting parts of the book was the author's fascinating recounting of World War II and also specifically Japan's invasion of Asia and the impact of these events on the cause for India's Independence. The author's account of Japan's invasion of Asia during World War II reads like a fast pace action novel, while also providing interesting historical facts. The following is a sample of the action from the book:

"After a year's preparation, the Japanese attacked India. One thrust ran southward toward Imphal, less than fifty kilometers west of the Burmese border. The other stretched to Korma, as thousands of Japanese infantry poured through the thick jungle hoping to encircle the massive British base being built at Dimapur."

The author paints Gandhi and Churchill as complex characters. Both men were characterized by discipline, determination for a cause, and strong principles. One way these characteristics were highlighted was through the author's use of referencing primary sources of information throughout the book. The author described the seemingly parallel lives, yet integrally linked, of Churchill and Gandhi using fluid prose and nice transitions. It is fascinating how two great men, rivals, shaped the course of destiny for not only India, also the future of the World.

One feature of the book that I enjoyed was the footnotes that the author made along the way. The author at times would have relevant sidebar discussions on the footer, and I found that this provided a lot of interesting nuggets of historical facts. Overall the book provided a wealth of information on Indian History during the British Raj through Independence and also provided a view into the workings of the British Empire of the early 20th century.

I would highly recommend this book to all history aficionados. More specifically to those interested in India's rise to Independence or the workings of the British Empire in India. This writing presents an objective and balanced view of Churchill and Gandhi. Also, as I commented at the start, if you are not sure about reading History, give it a chance; it can be fun and informative.

Raja N. Krishnan

Richard's Bookshelf

God Still Speaks
John Eckhardt
Charisma House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746
97815997894754 $14.99

How to Experience the Role and Function of the Prophetic Revelation in Your Life

Recognized as a prophetic authority, Pastor John Eckhardt blends stories from the scriptures to establish a sound foundational teaching to describe the prophetic culture and how it can be understand and implemented in the local church to change individual lives. He explains the modern day role of the prophet in his book "God Still Speaks." He has seen the results of this teaching in the lives of thousands of people who have been blessed by implementing the practice of this message in their lives and ministries.

The book is written to help the reader to hear, recognize, and receive revelation from God. Eckhardt challenges Christians to seek the gift of prophecy and reveals how the gift can be properly used in their homes, churches, and communities. He maintains that although revelation and prophecy is one of the most misunderstood subjects in the Bible, it is more than a theory but can and should become a lifestyle.

Eckhardt integrates his own experiences with those of others from his ministry to demonstrate the role and function of prophets and prophetic practice. Eckhardt advocates that "basic prophetic word" adheres to the parameters of edification, exhortation, and comfort."

Eckhardt writes with authority. "God Still Speaks" is essential reading for Christians who want to move from seeking theory to moving into operating in the prophetic realm, to personally experiencing the practice and power of prophetic ministry in their lives.

A Tale of Two Sons
John MacArthur
Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Nashville, TN
9781400280060 $22.99

A New Interpretation and Application of the Parable of the Prodigal Son

"A Tale of Two Sons" captures the compelling drama and intense emotion experienced by the two sons introduced in the parable of the prodigal son as imparted by the Apostle Luke in his gospel. John MacArthur presents a whole new concept in this commentary on the passage as he explores the cultural setting and historical context of the passage.

John MacArthur maintains there is a deeper meaning and message within the parable. He begins with the premise that Jesus used the parable of the prodigal son to point out and expose the Pharisees' hypocrisy when he was confronted by the religious leaders of the day. He calls attention to the central characters, of the parable, the father, the prodigal, and the older brother throughout the narrative. He develops creatively how each of the sons may have viewed their actions and their mutual relationship as well as developing a look at each of them, individually, from the viewpoint of the Pharisees.

MacArthur champions the position that the parable is a wake up call to the self righteous of Jesus' day as well as the Christian in our society today. He calls for the Christian to do some self examination while reflecting on the attitudes of self-righteousness and judgment of others while pursuing truth.

There will be those readers who resist any interpretation that is not traditional, however, MacArthur's observations are worthy of consideration. MacArhur's writing is thought provoking, credible, clearly set forth, convincing, and relevant.

A Lake Surfer's Journey
Jack Nordgren
Create Space Publishers
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781438226439 $9.95

Entertaining, Inspirational, Life Changing

Jack Nordgren tells his story in "A Lake Surfer's Journey." The journey takes Jack from Chicago and the beaches of Southwest Michigan to an assignment with the U. S. Navy, the beaches of Connecticut, back to Chicago, and through a miraculous chain of events to Hawaii. 30 years later, full circle, Jack is back on the beaches of Southwest Michigan.

Jack's writing is forthright, open, and honest. I found myself totally absorbed in his spiritual journey. His writing is compelling. Jack draws the reader into his personal stories and those of the lives touched through his ministry. Jack understands surfing and surfers. He talks their talk. He understands the pull of the breakers and the fascination of the sport.

In a no hold barred narrative, Jack tells of how he became a teenage beach bum, a surf-a-holic, psychologically addicted to the sport of surfing. He reveals how during a two year tour of duty with the Navy, during the Viet Nam era, led to poor choices including drug and alcohol abuse resulting in a life of fast living and partying.

This downward spiral led Jack to a desperate search for meaning. He turned to the Bible and became captivated with the sinless life of Jesus. He personally claimed the promises of the gospel message of Jesus Christ, God's grace, salvation, and a new life. He committed himself to follow Jesus and gave His surfboard as a gift to Jesus.

…the "rest of the story" tells how Jesus gave back Jack's surfboard. Jack was then "called" to a life of service in an amazing ministry of evangelism, preaching, and Bible teaching to surfers on the beaches of Hawaii, and how today Jack is back in Southwest Michigan ministering to surfers at the South Shore Fellowship, a body of believers reaching out, with a message of the transforming power of Jesus Christ while building meaningful relationships with surfers and beach lovers, inviting them to discover personally the reality of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

"A Lake Surfer's Journey" is a powerful message of one man's journey, of how he listened to God speaking to his heart, followed Him in obedience, and is now inviting others to join him his journey. Dramatically told, powerfully lived.

On-Line Marketing for Authors - How to Increase Book Sales
Michael Volkin
Volkin Associates
531 Tocia Court, Fairfield, CA 94534

Michael Volkin unlocks a new concept of earning potential by promoting marketing and selling books by using the technical tools available on the internet and through social networking websites. As a successful author and marketing specialist, Volkin shares his own proven principles to help authors increase book sales in his book "Social Networking for Authors." Step by step he unfolds exactly how to use the technological tools available on the internet. He describes how to find social networking websites which help increase your customer base and help you market and sell more books.

The book is divided into two parts. Part 1 includes a number of tips on how to increase website traffic to boost sales. Mike introduces a variety of free resources available on the internet which enable authors to turn their book sales into an effective "programmed" money making machine.

Part II talks about how to sell books via social networking. Mike concentrates on the most popular social networking sites which have the capability of driving customers to your website and open the way to sell more of your books.

Mike writes is clear. He converts technical terms into language that the technically challenged can grasp. He offers suggestion for sources to get help to download programs for those less computer literate or for those with time constraints. The more technically advanced will be rewarded by being able to quickly download information enabling them to apply the principles and put them into practice more quickly.

"Social Networking for Authors" is a noteworthy book for anyone wanting to increase their online presence, generate added search engine traffic, and sell more books. Volkin's writing is fresh, informative, practical and a highly rewarding reading experience.

Richard R. Blake

Suzie's Bookshelf

The Subtle Body: An Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy
Cyndi Dale
Sounds True, Inc.
413 S. Arthur Avenue, Louisville, CO 80027
1591796717 $34.95 1-800-333-9185

The soul is the substance of energy that organizes conscience and body and makes of it all, a coherent being for reality. And the spirit is the superior dignity of life.

-Unknown Author

A fascinating journey of discovery awaits you in Cyndi Dale's The Subtle Body: An Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy. By far this is the most in-depth collection of energy healing this reviewer has ever discovered.

What makes this book so unique is that it covers all of the top forms of holistic healing. Which includes chakras, energy meridians, acupuncture, reflexology, international healing, Ayurveda, Shiatsu, distant and hands on healing, energy fields, sacred geometry, color and sound healing, and magnetism. It is broken down into six easy to understand parts that include:

Part I: Energy and Energy Healing

Part II: Human Anatomy

Part III: Energy Fields

Part IV: Channels of Energy: Channels of Light

Part V: Energy Bodies: Chakras and other "Light Switches"

Part VI: Energy Practices

From the very first page I found that I was so mesmerized at all the knowledge that I was absorbing. With my background in healing touch and reflexology, I was able to quickly put to use the high quality illustrations that showed all the pulse points of the body.

No health care professional should be without a copy of Cyndi Dale's The Subtle Body: An Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy. This book is such an asset to the health care world I believe it should be introduced into the college setting. If all health care providers were to be exposed to all the information that this one book offers, mankind's health benefits would be unlimited. Very highly recommended.

Air: Full Spectrum Sound Healing
Alex Theory
Sounds True, Inc.
413 S. Arthur Avenue, Louisville, CO 80027
600835-138727 $17.98 1-800-333-9185

Air is the purest form of life…

Air is the life force of all humans for it enables us to experience life each day. It silently surrounds us with each breath we take. In Alex Theory's hands air takes on a new shape and meaning. It is where a calm relaxing force can penetrate your body.

Ingeniously Alex Theory has taken the simplistic element of air and combined it with instruments tuned to frequencies based on the vibratory rate of the oxygen atom. The end result is a magnificent collection of eight tracks that sooth your soul.

There is a haunting undertone that allows you to become one with the music. With each track you feel your body becoming more relaxed. It is encouraged you slow your breathing pattern to match the soothing tones in order to gain the maximum results.

Air is a perfect example of the purest form of what nature has to offer. Through a brilliant composer such as Alex Theory inner peace can be achieved. Very highly recommended.

Dance of the Moon: Celebrating The Sacred Cycles of the Earth
Dan Furst
Llewellyn Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125
9780738715100 $17.98 1 800 843 6666

Study the past if you would define the future.


Take a journey back to the past where the earth stood still. There you will find the moon was your only guide that showed you the way. It served as the first calendar that was known to mankind.

Dan Furst's Dance of the Moon: Celebrating The Sacred Cycles of the Earth is an evaluation of how past practices have traveled with us to the present time. It allows us to see how events that occurred centuries ago have shaped the world in which we live in today.

Dance of the Moon: Celebrating The Sacred Cycles of the Earth educates the reader to learn what rituals and festival our ancestors celebrated. It reveals fascinating in-depth details like how the Mayan calendar can be used to predict facts relevant to the year 2012.

Dan Furst should be commended in writing such an informative book that unlocks secrets that can be used to predict what the future holds. Very highly recommended.

A Brush With Love
Jo Barrett
The Wild Rose Press
1601540027 $6.00 eBook

True love and true friendship knows no bounds of sacrifice, love, and giving.

~ Dr. Jack Hyles

Ruth Moore's life took a downward plunge the day she lost her job, on that ill fated day she also lost her ability to walk and shortly thereafter her boyfriend. The emotional trauma was too much to take on at one time. Her doctor's insist that her inability to walk is due to post trauma stress. Ruth is not convinced and sinks into a deep depression.

Ruth's friend Jennifer refuses to allow her friend to waste away. She breaks down the doors to her mother's house and rescues Ruth from herself. She informs her that she has found her a new job and that she is moving in with her to Emerald Valley. Ruth reluctantly agrees to go with Jennifer since she doesn't know what else to do with her life.

'Mick' Thomas was a successful architect until a tragedy brought him to Emerald Valley. The memories of the event refuse to leave his mind. Running away from his past, he spends his day working at a local general store. While working on a vehicle he notices that a beautiful woman is staring at him with intent. His curiosity gets the better of him and he walks over to discover she is sketching his likeness.

Mick is intrigued by Ruth his interest isn't swayed because she is in a wheelchair. Ruth wants to believe that a man like Mick could take a sincere interest in her. She holds back her feelings towards him in fear that she will suffer rejection. As the days pass, and the two become closer Mick brings back the sparkle to Ruth's life. When his past is revealed, will Ruth accept him for his true self?

A Brush with Life is a fine example of the truest form of romance. It reaches down deeply and touches you in ways that you soon want forget. Jo Barrett is an exceptional author who should be commended for writing such a beautiful example of literature. I highly recommend this book to every romance fan that is searching for that true heart touching book.

Suzie Housley

Theodore's Bookshelf

In the Dark
Mark Billingham
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061432767 $7.99 800-242-7737

While this standalone novel departs from the excellent Tom Thorne series written by Mark Billingham, apparently he couldn't resist including his favorite protagonist in a cameo role. In this story, however, we are introduced to a whole new set of characters including Helen, a very pregnant policewoman, days away from giving birth.

Helen's significant other also is on the job. He is killed while on an apparent drug gang initiation, during which a new member shoots at a car that has flashed its headlights at the one in which he is a passenger. As a result, the victim's auto swerves into a bus stop smashing into Helen's mate and killing him. Helen then begins to look into her partner's recent activities, and to wonder whether he was on the take. Despite her swollen belly, Helen undertakes an investigation of her own, leading to all kinds of ramifications.

The graphic descriptions of drug culture and the kids involved in the operations are matched only by the intricacy of the plotting. There is more than one twist when the story takes another turn. The novel is as well-written as anything the author has done, and is highly recommended.

Fire and Ice
J. A. Jance
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061239229 $25.99 800-242-7737,

In previous novels, J.A. Jance introduced separately two appealing protagonists, J.P. Beaumont and Joanna Brady. In "Fire and Ice," both play inter-related roles while pursuing apparently different cases, his in the Pacific Northwest, hers in Arizona. Who said the twain will never meet?

Discovery of a murder in Washington State leads Beaumont to investigate the grisly deaths of six young women, while in Bisby, AZ, Brady and her deputies are looking into the death of a caretaker in an ATV facility. Meanwhile, one of her detectives has a sister missing. Is one of the victims up north that sister? Are crimes in two different jurisdictions related?

Tightly plotted and full of suspense, Jance has written a powerful tale, gripping in detail. The insights into her characters are deep and psychologically intriguing, and the book is recommended.

Murder on a Midsummer Night
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590586327 $24.95 800-421-3976

In the previous 15 novels in this delightful series, the Hon. Phryne Fisher cavorted through a series of capers in the year 1928. Now in the 16th entry, we progress to the dire year 1929, and the 'thoroughly modern miss' is faced with two absorbing new adventures in her inimitable fashion.

First, she is asked by the mother of an antique dealer to find the real reason for his death, ruled a misadventure by drowning. It would appear that several dilettantes believed that he knew where Blackbeard's treasures are buried and, through seances, are still attempting to ascertain their location by making contact with him.

Then, Phryne is approached by an attorney to discover whether or not a deceased woman gave birth to an illegitimate baby, and whether the child is still alive, since the attorney cannot distribute the estate until all possible heirs are known. The investigation, of course, is not looked upon favorably by the known relatives.

Like previous Phryne Fisher novels, this one is charming, as is the protagonist, who goes her merry way. The writing is fluid and the characters the usual assortment of oddities. The author's approach may be whimsical, but there's a lot of meat in the tales, and the book is recommended.

The Lord of Death
Eliot Pattison
Soho Press
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569475799 $24.00 212-260-1900

The majesty and rigors of the Himalayas, as well as the massive oppression of its peoples by the Chinese, are constants in this series, in which Shan, a former Beijing detective, wanders undocumented. In this installment, we find him transporting a dead Sherpa down from the peaks back to his home village. He comes upon a bus of Buddhist monks being transported to prison which has become blocked by an avalanche, and Shan helps them escape. Then he discovers a car nearby in which two women have been shot dead.

Covered with blood, Shan is arrested for the murders. He talks his way out of his prison cell after several days of torture by convincing his interrogator of his innocence and suggesting that he will find the murderer in exchange for his release so that he can rescue his son from an experimental medical facility where he is being held. The quest provides the author with the setting for recounting the earlier days of the Red Guards' conquest and terror of Tibet.

In this, the sixth mystery in the series, we are again treated to an exciting tale, replete with descriptions of the harsh terrain and more on the people and religion of Tibet, and of the country under the thumb of the Chinese. A fascinating read, and recommended.

Uncage Me
Edited by Jen Jordan
Bleak House Books
923 Williamson St., Madison WI 53703
9781606480168 $14.95 800-258-5830,

There are 22 short stories in this book, with an introduction by John Connolly, in which he describes the contents in a paraphrase of a lyric in a Cole Porter song: "in olden days a glimpse of stocking might have been considered shocking, but now, quite frankly, almost anything goes." That pretty much describes the themes of these tales.

For those of us who remember Jimmy Breslin's Marvin the Torch, Victor Gischler creates a female counterpart who specializes in burning down structures while getting off on the arson. Steven Torres writes about a boy abandoned at birth who finally finds his addict mother 12 years later only to have her have him falsely arrested for theft of a narcotic she craves.

Then there is the baker who turns the tables on a mafia boss in Gregg Hurwitz' "Back and Forth." In "Players," J.D. Rhoades writes about an innocent dupe convicted of a murder he didn't commit. False love also plays a part in "Prisoner of Love" by Tim Maleeny.

All in all, the short stories vary from the macabre to other unusual forms. As Mr. Connolly writes in his introduction: "There may be stories in this collection that you find difficult to like, or of which you actively disapprove . . . Yet each of them touches upon the basic urge to transgress, and in this you will find a certain sense of commonality, however uncomfortable it may be." [It should perhaps be noted that the book was simultaneously released in a hardcover edition, ISBN #978-1-60648-015-1, $24.95]

Royal Flush
Rhys Bowen
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425227886 $24.95 800-847-5515

Georgiana ("Georgie") Rannoch is a distant relative of the British monarchy, a great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, but penniless and without any means of support. She lives in London, far away from the Scottish castle in which she grew up. Nevertheless, she is of royal blood and is invited to spend time with King George and the family at Castle Balmoral during the Scottish grouse-hunting season.

But before the scheduled time to visit, she's still in London, attempting to find a way to earn a living, and her solution proves to be an embarrassment. She is persuaded by Scotland Yard to travel to Scotland early and keep her eyes and ears open because there have been a few "accidents" concerning the royal family, especially the Prince of Wales, who is there involved with Mrs. Simpson, the future duchess. Further mishaps take place, including an accident in which Georgie is almost killed when a rope breaks while she is climbing a mountain. For whom was it intended? Prince George or Georgie?

The novel is kind of a mishmash, but full of light fun, especially concerning Georgie's love life, or lack thereof. The mystery of the "accidents" slowly evolves, but not as Georgie envisions. A lot of the historical background on the royal lineage and the gossip about the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Simpson is interesting and cute, and the story has merit. Well-written, the plot moves forward at a fast pace, and the book is recommended.

Dying for Mercy
Mary Jane Clark
10 E, 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061286117 $24.99 800-242-7737

A 20-year-old event in exclusive Tuxedo Park, NY, haunts the newest Eliza Blake mystery, as she and her co-workers, comprising the KEY News group (and the Sunrise Suspense Society), grapple with a series of clues left to unravel why Innis Wheelock committed suicide by stigmata. A scion of Tuxedo Park, well-liked and married to his childhood sweetheart (who became governor of New York and later ambassador to Italy), Innis returned home after their stint in Rome to rebuild and refurbish their home in Tuxedo Park, a fancy enclave 40 miles from New York City.

In working with his architect, Innis insisted on incorporating various features in the estate. When the work was finished, he hosted a party on the Feast of St. Francis, inviting hundreds of persons, during which event he told Eliza she could unravel the mystery. Subsequently, the architect, his secretary and others are murdered, and Eliza and her lover nearly so,

This well-drawn and -researched story progresses with a great deal of information about St. Francis and the stigmata (the five wounds sustained by Jesus upon his crucifixion) and other events surrounding his betrayal and death. This is the third novel in the KEY News series, and it is imaginative and moving. The plot, built around several hidden clues, is intriguing and the writing well-done. Recommended.

Last Known Address
Theresa Schwegel
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312364274 $24.99 212-674-5151/646-307-5560,

Sloane Pearson is one mixed-up person. She's new to the Sex Crimes Division after having been transferred out of another precinct's homicide squad. She catches what turns out to be a search for a serial rapist, and follows a number of leads despite being told by her superiors to lay off the case and her partner dragging his heels and not helping.

Her professional life is tough. But her personal life is just as complicated. Her father is ill and has to be taken to the hospital. Sloane doesn't like or get along with his girlfriend. Sloane is living with another cop and is unhappy with the relationship. What an unhappy life. Her co-workers continually razz her, making the workplace an unhealthy environment. In other words, like Rodney Dangerfield, she gets no respect.

A redeeming feature of the novel is that Sloane tries to work the case so that the plot seems to be a sort of police procedural. But all that confusion leaves the reader wondering what it's all about.

Even Money
Dick Francis and Felix Francis
9780399155919 $26.95

Dick Francis has written more than 40 novels, the last three co-written with his son Felix. In "Easy Money," the protagonist is not the typical jockey or trainer, but a bookmaker, giving the authors the opportunity to turn a fresh eye on the racing world which serves as the backdrop for their novels.

Ned Talbot has taken over the family business of taking bets at the English racetracks after his grandfather died. One day, at the Royal Ascot, a stranger approaches him at the betting stall, persisting in attempting to speak with Ned. Finally in the parking lot, after the races, the stranger tells Ned he is the father who was thought to have been killed in a car crash 36 years before. A few minutes later, the two are attacked, and Ned watches his newly-found father being stabbed twice, resulting in his death. Thus, the beginning of several mysteries. And we're off to the races.

Why was his father in England, after having lived in Australia, presumably also as a bookmaker? Who is the murderer, and what did he want from Ned's father? What is the purpose of a black TV-remote-like device in the father's luggage? And the cash hidden away in a carry-all? The Francises have once again written a fine tale. But that is to be expected according to past form. Highly recommended.

The Price of Butcher's Meat
Reginald Hill
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
978-0-06145-1942 $7.99 800-242-7737

Sometimes being too clever is good. Then, on the other hand, sometimes not. This recent Dalziel and Pascoe mystery [the newest, "Midnight Fugue," is due out this month in hardcover] provides an example of both. It is too clever by half. To begin with, the Fat Man, Andy Dalziel, is now awake from the coma he suffered from a bomb blast in the previous novel in the series, and, although weakened and thinner, is still, at least, awake and witty. His girlfriend talks him into going to a convalescent facility in an interesting seaside town and while recovering, he finds himself in the middle of several murders, but having to take a backseat to his protege, Peter Pascoe, because he is still on leave.

Lady Denham, who has outlived two husbands, taking over the wealth of the first and the title of the second, is found strangled and roasting on a barbeque. Between her rampant sex drive and penchant for subjugating potential heirs, there is no lack of suspects. Two additional deaths follow.

The problem with the novel is its construction. The first part is presented in the form of e-mails by a young psychology student. While observant and providing plenty of information, the pages tend to drone and drag on. These are complemented by Andy dictating his innermost thoughts and observations; also somewhat overdone. When the reader gets past these pages, one can hunker down to a traditional police procedural on a par with the best of the series.

As Yogi said, it ain't over 'til it's over. And the reader is never sure that the end is near, even at the final chapter, which is introduced again by a tape recording. The 500-plus pages are a lot to slog though. But reaching the conclusion is well worth the effort. And it is good to have the Fat Man amongst the living again. [In the prior entry, he dominated the book by sleeping completely through it.] Recommended.

Year of the Dog
Henry Chang
Soho Press
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569476048 $13.00 212-260-1900,

The New York City Chinatown that tourists never see, whether from a bus or in one of the myriad restaurants, is the real subject of this second novel in the Jack Wu series. In his debut, "Chinatown Beat," Wu was a police officer in the 05 precinct in Chinatown where he returned to tend to his dying father. In this follow-up, part of a trilogy, he is now a second-grade detective assigned to the 09 precinct, a little further north, after making a major contribution toward solving crime in Chinatown.

The novels are less of a police procedural or mystery, although crime, gangs and murder all play their part (after all this is New York City and Chinatown), than studies and vignettes of the people, culture and the neighborhood. And well-told and penetratingly they are depicted. Many of the tales are remembrances of similar instances in the author's early years of growing up in the area.

The noir stories are fascinating, and while there are examples of Wu plying his detective trade, insights into the gang mentality, brothels, gambling dens and secret societies predominate, as well as the interplay of the various waves of immigrants, from original Cantonese to more recent Fukienese, and their relationship with mainland China and Hong Kong tongs. Highly recommended.

Breathing Water
Timothy Hallinan
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061672231 $24.99 800-242-7737

Bangkok is the setting for Poke Rafferty's dangerous experiences, and this latest chapter in the series, perhaps the most thrilling, is no exception. Having already written a few books, and as part of his research into a new one, Rafferty induces his policemen friends, Arthit and Kosit, to set up a poker game with a known criminal serving a lengthy sentence to serve as a tutorial in cheating. (The tutor is promised six months off his sentence to cooperate.)

The poker game includes three rich businessmen, one of whom, a billionaire (in Bahts or dollars is not clear), is drunk and takes exception on seeing a secret signal and deducing that the game is fixed. He insists on an honest game with Poke, and in an effort to quiet the man's rage, Rafferty names the terms of the bet: an honest biography of the billionaire, Pan, a man of whom little is known, if he wins. The challenge is accepted and eventually Rafferty wins.

The problem arises when two opposing forces confront Rafferty: one that demands he write a negative book, the other that he not write one at all. The plot involves all sorts of shenanigans, some amusing, others exciting, but all of potential danger to Poke, his wife and daughter.

Another fun read in an excellent series, and recommended.

Losers Live Longer
Russell Atwood
Hard Case Crime
c/o Winterfall LLC
301 E. 62nd St., NY, NY 10065
Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
9780843961218 $6.99 800-481-9191

Payton Sherwood is a private eye with a shabby office in New York's East Village. He was fired five years ago for dereliction of duty by a large agency. So far this year, he has had four cases which barely covered the rent, and last week he borrowed $1,000 from his parents to cover recent expenses. When he is offered a gig for $100 by a retired legendary detective, he gushes.

The "client" asks him to go to a nearby restaurant and see if he can pick up the trail of a tail. The "client" is the victim of a hit-and-run "accident" a few minutes later. Payton feels obligated to follow up on the request, although he has no information about the tail or the target. What follows is a comedy of errors until the denouement.

The author's descriptions of lower Manhattan are poignant, and Payton's reminiscences about the 2nd Avenue Deli or Katz's Delicatessen, or the changing nature of the neighborhoods in lower Manhattan, are impressive. Payton is not a particularly appealing character, and the use of vulgar language, presumably to establish his hard-boiled character, is less than charming. But the plot moves forward in many unexpected ways, and it makes for interesting reading.

Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear
Gabriel Hunt
Leisure Books
c/o Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
9780843962581 $6.99 800-481-9191

Some years ago, Charles Ardai, founder of Hard Case Crime, conceived of an adventure series featuring (and ostensibly written by) Gabriel Hunt, a swashbuckling adventurer, but actually authored by others. There have apparently been five prior novels, and this one is written by Mr. Ardai himself.

The book reminds me of the serials that used to be shown on Saturdays, along with double features, in which a cliffhanger left us kids panting to find out what happen in the next [what we called] chapter. Or like the silent film called "The Perils of Pauline." Only in this novel, the cliffhangers don't come with every chapter, but they come with great frequency, beginning in Chapter One, as Gabriel rescues Sheba McCoy from the clutches of DeGroet, a rich Hungarian, who kidnapped her in an effort to get her to assist him in a quest for a secret treasure. The plot involves the chase for the treasure, with both Gabriel and Sheba being captured by DeGroet, and escaping several times until the end.

The volume has a bonus, a novelette written by Mr. Ardai on a similar search for an ancient idol (but in a different place and time). The stories are interesting and well-written, if perhaps not to everyone's taste. But, after all, they are only meant to entertain and provide enjoyment. And that they do quite well.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

A Land Beyond Ravens, Book 4 of the Macsen's Treasure Series
Kathleen Cunningham Guler
Bardsong Press
P.O. Box 775396, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477
9780966037166, $25.95, 384 pages

It's fifth century Britain and Uther Pendragon rules as high king. His son Arthur has vanished, taken into hiding the day of his birth by the druid, Myrddin Emrys, nephew to the king.

Marcus ap Iorwerth, master spy and loyal subject of the king and his clairvoyant wife Claerwen, have worked hard for many years to see that Myrddin's vision of Arthur as king comes to fruition. King Uther's declining health and ill temper become a problem when the king accuses Marcus of betraying him. Uther punishes Marcus by destroying his sword and sending him home.

The Christian church's continuing bid for power becomes a threat to Arthur's future reign and the peace of the kingdom. Marcus must now do what he can to prevent the church's plots from doing too much damage and it won't be an easy task. Claerwen has her own problems with strange dreams of a mysterious grail that's linked to Author's fate.

A Land Beyond Ravens entertains and gives the reader a haunting glimpse into a myth shrouded past filled with legends, magic and heroes. I found it a refreshing change from the usual Arthurian fare. It's well written and a great read for fans of Celtic history and fantasy buffs too.

More information on the book and the series may be found at, or

Mark Nykanen
Bell Bridge Books
P.O. Box 30921, Memphis, TN 38130
9780982175644, $16.95, 384 pages

Aging fashion model Sonya Adams flies to Bozeman, Montana for what she thinks is a photo shoot. Her strange limo driver and a man she recognizes from another shoot kidnap her and take her on a journey by dogsled deep into the wilderness. Sonya finds herself in Terra Firma, a commune of strange environmentalist extremists with an agenda to expose a government secret and save the world.

Sonya feels confused and angry and determines to escape. She's told escape is futile and dangerous with winter coming on. Hungry cougars are on the prowl and a threat to anyone outside the community's compound.

Back at home, Sonya's rebellious daughter, Darcy, sets out to find her mother. A rogue bounty hunter follows her and will do anything to get what he wants. Murder is nothing to him or the people in the government who back him. The odds of Sonya and her daughter surviving diminish as the hunt continues, and it's anybody's guess what will happen next.

The plot is scary with its many twists and turns, making the reader wonder who the real villains are. Primitive is an enjoyable and thought twisting read. For more information, go to these websites: or

The Gift of Murder
Edited by John M. Floyd
Wolfmont Press
238 Park Drive N.E., Ranger, GA 30734
9781603640107 $15.00

Once again Tony Burton of Wolfmont Press has put out another great collection of mystery stories just in time for the Holidays. There's an extra bonus for the reader-all the profits go to needy kids in the Toys for Tots Program.

Last year's edition was entertaining and this year's offering, written by so many talented authors doesn't disappoint either.

The Christmas Caper by Stephen D. Rogers gives us the story of an eight-year-old boy who sends a letter to Santa and changes his mind. Can he find a way to get the letter back? Jingle Bell, S.I. by Randy Rawls made me laugh over the antics of Santa's head investigating elf. Santa sends him out to check on a playground incident. Someone may need to move from the nice list to the naughty one. The Gift of the Margi by Peg Herring is a serious story about a family member who goes all out to protect those she loves. In An Unexpected Gift by Deborah Elliott-Upton, an escaped convict breaks into the home of an elderly woman and gets more than he expected. I could go on with my praise for all the great stories in The Gift of Murder. I can only give you a glimpse of the enjoyment waiting for you inside its pages. I commend the generosity of the book's talented authors in sharing their great stories. Buying and reading this book will put a smile on your face and that of needy children.

Victoria Kennedy

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

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