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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 5, Number 10 October 2005 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Alyice's Bookshelf Arlene's Bookshelf
Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Christina's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf
Dian's Bookshelf Fortenberry's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Glavas' Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Gypsi's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf Hunter's Bookshelf
Jeremy's Bookshelf Liana's Bookshelf Linda's Bookshelf
Lori's Bookshelf Lowe's Bookshelf Lynne's Bookshelf
Magdalena's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf Robyn's Bookshelf
Roger's Bookshelf Sharon's Bookshelf Sonali's Bookshelf
Sullivan's Bookshelf Tami's Bookshelf Taylor's Bookshelf
Vogel's Bookshelf Volk's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Picasso and Minou
P. I. Maltbie
Pau Estrada, illustrator
85 Main Street, Watertown, MA 02472 (617) 926-0329
ISBN: 1570916209, $15.95 32 pages

Angelique Tarbox, Reviewer

The first thing that grabbed my attention when I looked at PICASSO AND MINOU was the art. Illustrator Pau Estrada did a delightful job of duplicating Picasso's art, and illustrating the story, with just a dash of caricature, using pencil and watercolors. The author, P. I. Maltbie, has written a wonderful story that goes beyond art and the artist. This is her first children's book and it is well done. The story has a message about loving what you do and sticking with it, even when your paintings don't at first sell, as was the case of Picasso's early works as an artist. When Pablo Picasso was painting what is now called his "blue period" he painted these kind of pictures because he thought the world was a miserable place. "See what a hard, cruel world it is, Minou?" he said. "Is it any wonder I paint sad, blue pictures?" Picasso's paintings in the beginning were not selling, he was poor and a good friend of his had died. Minou was Pablo's cat and the story has Picasso often talking to him, telling him his feelings. This story is a great read aloud because adults will enjoy the story as much as the younger chidren and an older child reading it will like the pictures and learn a few interesting things about a very famous artist.

Telling Tales: a Collection of Short Stories Edited
Nadine Gordimer
Bloomsbury, Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 0747574308, A$22.95 303 pages

Ann Skea, Reviewer

There are short stories and there are tall stories and, as Alan Bennet once pointed out, there are also tall writers who stand head-and-shoulders above the others. All of the writers in Telling Tales are tall writers; and seldom does a collection of short stories include as many well-known names as are gathered here. Some tell tall stories, too; but all tell their tales briefly, enjoyably and with admirable skill.

Jose Saramago tells a tall tale in his myth of 'The Centaur', and it is so simply and beautifully told that the emotion I felt at its ending took me completely by surprise. Arthur Miller tells a realistic doggy tale in 'Bulldog', which is tale-telling of quite a different kind . And Salman Rushdie, in 'The Firebird's Nest', offers a beguiling blend of myth and reality, ancient and modern, a clash of American and Indian values, beliefs and expectations, and has an unexpected twist at the end of the tale.

Novelist Peter De Vries once said that a novel should have "a beginning, a muddle and an end". But short stories writers can be much more daring than that and may, as this collection shows, get away with anything but the "muddle". Paul Theroux and Michel Tournier both offer beginnings of a sort. Theroux's expectant couple inhabit a near-future world but seem destined for a strange and gruesome end. Tournier's two narrators, however, are ever present. They are unexpected chroniclers at a time when a most famous beginning is taking place; and, as he puts it, "the ass is a poet, a literary sort, a chatterbox. The ox, for his part, says nothing. He is meditative, taciturn, a ruminant. He says nothing but he thinks plenty".

There are all kinds of ends in Telling Tales, too. Coffins with strange and unpredictable cargoes in Es'kia Mphahlele's 'Down the Quiet Street'. The unfolding of a young man's steps towards his single, deadly, moment of glory in Amos Oz's tale. A Japanese funeral ceremony in Knzaburo Oe's curious story. And John Updike's realistic account of a man's unanticipated, intermittent involvement in the final months of a dying woman's life. Others, too, deal with life and death but are all middle (and definitely not muddle), in that they are told by individual, unique voices expressing immediate and personal responses to the world in which they find themselves.

In all the many voices in these stories, authors and their characters expresses thoughts, ideas, disparate ways of looking at life and death, and different ways of dealing with living and dying. Christa Wolfe's 'voice' meditates extensively on the colour blue; Claudio Magris's speaker argues plausibly for the pleasures and satisfactions which accompany "the modesty, the lightness of 'having been'", as opposed to "the presumption, the weight, the squalor, the dismay of being!". For this speaker "Every epilogue is happy, because it is an epilogue". It is an interesting point of view but not one shared, for instance, by Njabulo Ndebele's grieving mother who, having finally negotiated the personal and political minefields of getting her dead child's body returned to her after a shooting accident, ends with the thought that "all the trying events had prepared for us new beginnings. Shall we not prevail?".

Short stories, according to the prevailing view of publishers, are not popular. Why ever not? There is something uniquely satisfying about a well-written well constructed, short story. And Telling Tales is full of such satisfactions. Perhaps some authors, like Margaret Attwood and Nadine Gordimer, are regarded by their publishers as exceptions to the rule. Their short-story writing skills are well-know and the tales they tell here are, as usual, gripping and thought provoking. But there are many other familiar names, too, and many not-so-familiar names, each demonstrating their special ability to hold entertain and stir their readers. Together they offer glimpses of other worlds, other cultures, other ways of living, surviving, viewing the world: a taste of what we ourselves might have experienced had we been born at a different time, or in a different place.

Kofi Annan proposed and launched this book at the United Nations. All of the profits from the publication and sales of Telling Tales around the world will be donated to Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)," a non-profit organization whose funds are used for the treatment and support of people suffering from HIV and AIDS, and for the prevention of the disease, in the world's most afflicted region, South Africa". Further information about TAC can be found at

Laura Joh Rowland
Harper Torch
ISBN: 0061009504, $6.99 437 pages

Cassandra Langer

Laura Joh Rowland is the daughter of Chinese and Korean immigrants. She lived in New Orleans with her husband and three cats. So you might expect her to be writing about the Big Easy. You would be dead wrong. Shinju as you can tell from the title is an exotic and fast paced story set in the heart of seventeenth century Japan. The novel opens in Tokyo, January 1689. A full moon illunimates a hooded horseman whose horse carries a mysterious bundle slung across her back. He dismounts, takes a boat south towards the city of Edo, stops at the end of a pier and dumps two bodies, joined in death by ropes and watches them sink into the water.

A sumurai (an elite body of highly trained and brave warriors whose dedication to justice and honor is sometimes problematic) named Sano Ichiro, who is Edo's newest senior police commander enters the city. Rowland's description of the city seen on sunny, clear winter morning, throngs of people streamed around him: porters carrying baskets of vegtables to and from market; water vendors with buckets suspended from their shoulders; shoppers and tradesmen bent low under the packages on their backs. The planks thundered with the steps of wood-soled feet; the air was bright with shouts, laughter, and chatter. Even the hallmarks of Sano's samurai status couldn't speed his passage (9), gives the reader the sights, sounds, and pace of seventeen century Edo. Rowland's point of view seems lifted right out of a Japanese print captures the claustrophobic culture of the Tokugawa period with a feeling of immediacy that puts us in the picture.

Her writing is cinematic in scope and has the sweeping range of an Akira Kurosawa samurai film. One thinks immediately of Seven Samurai, and Throne of Blood, as well as Rashomon with their complexity, display of pageantry and emphasis on spectacular processions. In the character of Sano, Rowland has created an exciting and fascinating detective who will doggedly pursue truth against all odd. /when he is fired from his job because he is snooping into matters that his superiors believe would be better left alone, he responds by saying, What have my shortcomings got to do with anything? I was dismissed not because I performed badly, but because I performed too well. I uncovered a murder that Magistrate Ogyu wanted to keep hidden. How can you expect me to give my loyalty to a man so corrupt that he would sentence an innocent man to death in order to perpetuate this cover-up(267)?

Sano is constantly transgressing accepted traditions and breaking laws in order to discover what really happened to the two murder victims. In this tightly drawn plot Rowland conveys the seemingly insurmountable hurdles that Sano has to jump in order to discover the horrifying truth behind the murders and in the process a plot that will shake the very roots of Japanese society and culture. The action is shot through with social themes and Rowland's hero has an integrity and thirst for justice and truth that we could use today.

I won't ruin the ending for you. Only to say that it is all the more tragic because of the way Rowland delivers this suspenseful thriller and reveals information on political interactions and personal choices that drive the fast-paced plot during this rich and exciting period in Japanese history.

Safe Harbor, second edition
Bold Stroke Books, Inc.
314 Conestoga Road, Wayne, PA 19087
ISBN: 1933110139, $14.95 232 pages

Cheri Rosenberg

Award-winning writer Radclyffe lists among her bestselling novels Safe Harbor, in which Reese Conlon leaves a military career to become Provincetown's new Deputy Sheriff. Once there, she finds herself fighting homophobia, which is directed at P-Town's local youth. While upholding the law, Reese also discovers truths about herself when she meets and falls in love with Dr. Victoria (Tory) King.

Safe Harbor has a character driven plot and presents a diverse well-defined supporting cast with each having an integral contribution to the story. As the main character, Reese Conlon is easy to fall in love with.

An extremely private person, Reese has everyone curious to know more about their new deputy. "She's handsome, strong, sensitive, tender, and deeply passionate. And devoted - can't beat that," according to her creator Radclyffe; she turns more than a few heads. Comparable to a knight in shining armor, Reese is hard-working, decent, and honest. She upholds the law and takes her oath 'to serve and protect' very seriously. Her boss, Sheriff Nelson Parker, and other locals are in awe of this admirable woman.

Sheriff Parker has a lot more than crime to deal with when he learns his daughter Brianna is gay. Radclyffe does a commendable job of describing the anguish he feels as he works his way, hopefully, toward acceptance.

While out on patrol to check on a break in at the East End Health Clinic, Reese meets Dr. King. Tory has an "unanticipated visceral reaction" (p. 21) to the precise, professional, and truly stunning sheriff. Having endured a bad breakup and an accident that dashed her Olympic hopes to bits, Tory is leery of a gorgeous, self-assured woman, and she's unnerved that she's so taken with Reese. Trying not to fall for Reese's charm is a daunting task - especially when Reese says things like, "I saw you this morning - kayaking out on the bay. You were so much a part of the sea that you didn't even disturb the rhythm of the waves" (p. 31). Tory endears the reader with her professional manner while adeptly healing the sick in her care. Dr. King is a respected physician who puts other's needs before her own. In hopes of avoiding further heartache, she adamantly tries to deny love. Can she learn to trust Reese and more importantly, can she trust her own feelings?

Brianna (Bri) Parker, the sheriff's gay daughter, is a tough, troubled, and frightened youth who becomes the target of gay bashing. Although strong, Bri is no match for her attacker. Reese helps Brianna overcome obstacles that she and other gay teens face. Surprisingly, even the "gay Mecca" of P-town has its share of hatred. Reese helps not only Bri, but all the other gay kids in her jurisdiction to fight against homophobia.

Tory's sister, Cath, acts as Tory's conscience, playing devil's advocate as she wrestles with her heart and mind. When Tory thinks, "[Reese] has no idea what she's doing - she hasn't a clue to the effect she has on any lesbian with a heartbeat" (p. 111), in fact, Reese has no idea what she does to straight women and men either. Cath may be a straight, married, mother of two, but she empathizes with her sister and can fully appreciate how Tory feels about Reese.

Safe Harbor is a love story, a coming out story, and crime drama all rolled into one. When Reese was young, her mother left home, to be with her lover, Jean. She reconnects with her long lost mother Kate, not knowing what to expect. Reese also explores her sexuality for the first time when she falls in love with Tory. Now she has to deal with her father's reaction to the news that she's gay.

Caring deeply about an author's characters, yearning to find out what happens next, feeling like you're a part of the action, and hating for it to end, is what great novels are all about. Safe Harbor by Radclyffe is such a novel. From the beginning, Radclyffe uses mystery and foreshadowing to keep the reader interested, and there is never a dull moment. The fabulous setting is the perfect backdrop and makes the reader long for a trip to Provincetown, with its "Mardi Gras energy" (p. 90).

A great story, memorable characters, fresh dialogue, important issues, scenic descriptions, an engaging plot and meticulous editing makes Safe Harbor a five star novel that can be enjoyed by both a gay and straight audience. I highly recommend Safe Harbor and anything penned by award winning novelist Radclyffe, whose recent accolades include two 2005 Golden Crown Literary Awards for Fated Love and Justice in the Shadows.

When the Mississippi Ran Backwards
Empire, Intrigue, Murder and the New Madrid Earthquakes
Jay Feldman, Simon and Schuster, Inc
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020
ISBN: 0743242785, $27.00, 241 p.

Coletta Ollerer

A fascinating history of events surrounding the New Madrid earthquakes which took place during a period of nearly four months beginning in December 1811. "The New Madrid quakes . . . . were felt as far away as Mexico, Canada, Boston, New Orleans, and the Rocky Mountains" (p15) from the epicenter in present day southern Missouri.

We meet the movers and shakers of the time: Tecumseh, the Shawnee leader. William Henry Harrison, governor of the Indiana Territory and later president. James Wilkinson, one of the boldest scoundrels in early U. S History. George Morgan, founder of New Madrid. Nicholas and Lydia Roosevelt and their steamboat, New Orleans and the Lewis brothers from Virginia.

Tecumseh, strong man and leader of the Shawnees was traveling the area looking for disciples for his "pan-tribal confederation" against the white encroachment. Tecumseh is credited with knowledge of the impending quake when in a confrontation with Big Warrior, the Creek chief, who is not enthusiastic about the confederation, Tecumseh said, "You do not believe the Great Spirit has sent me. You shall know. I leave Tuckabatchee directly and shall go straight to Detroit. When I arrive there, I will stamp my foot on the ground and shake down every house in Tuckabatchee." (p9)

William Henry Harrison as governor of Indiana Territory was charged with dealing with Tecumseh and Indian unrest in general. The former was a hardnose unbending type determined to acquire as much Indian land as he could for Americans. He had no empathy for the Indians

James Wilkinson, a bold and unprincipled double-dealer who was described by one who knew him as "the only man he `ever saw who was from the bark to the very core a villain'" (p41) His scruples firmly set in the negative column, he did all he could to discredit Colonel Morgan with the Spanish authorities so that he might control river traffic to New Orleans rather than Morgan, all without success. Unfettered with regrets about his failures he went on to devise more schemes.

Colonel George Morgan of New Jersey, with the approval of the Spanish ambassador Don Diego de Gardoqui, led an expedition down the Mississippi to find a suitable site for a town in Spanish Louisiana (present day Missouri) on the west bank of the Mississippi. He laid out the town, called for settlers and had high expectations of wealth for himself and his sons as a consequence. "Morgan was ... endowed with tremendous physical energy and endurance . . . . .he had been a merchant, an Indian agent, and a scientific farmer." (p26)

Two important rivers to western expansion were the Ohio and the Mississippi. Downstream going was easy for the many types of vessels which transversed these rivers but the upriver trip took a great deal of time and effort. Enter the steamboat. The New Orleans, with a vertical wheel on either side of the body, was the invention of Nicholas Roosevelt. His wife, Lydia, was his staunch supporter.

The Lewis family was prominent in Virginia with connections to Meriwether Lewis and Thomas Jefferson. The mismanagement of their Virginia estates prompted Lilburne and Isham Lewis to try their luck in Kentucky. Their brutish ways were revealed dramatically when the earthquake hit.

These individual stories and others intertwine to make for history with the readability of a novel. We enter the lives of these early 19th century notables and non-notables during and after a dramatic and totally unexpected upheaval of their turf. An unforgetable read.

The King's Lizard
Pamela Christie
368 pages
Lone Butte Press
1114 Hickox Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501
ISBN: 0966686047, $13.95

Connie Gotsch

Usually when history's a mystery, it's because someone didn't read the assigned book. But in the case of Pamela Christie's THE KING'S LIZARD, history 's a mystery because she has designed a clever story. The history-loving author has mixed thorough research with a great sense of whodunit it, to create a murder mystery in 18th Century Santa Fe that will have even the most seasoned mystery reader on the edge of his or her seat, guessing who bad hombre is.

It's the 1770s in Santa Fe, the frontier outpost capitol of New Spain. Someone wants to undercut the governor's attempt to stop the endless warfare between Navajos, Hispanics, and Apaches. But who? The governor calls on THE KING'S LIZARD'S main character, Nando, to find out. "Be like a lizard on an adobe wall for me," the governor instructs. "Watch, but don't be noticed. Find the people you need to find."

Nando is perfectly suited for this task. Half Spanish and half Apache, and the son of a respected Spanish don, Nando slips easily between different segments of Santa Fe society. He understands how a Spanish gentleman dresses, and behaves in polite company. He knows how to live off the land, and slip silently through the woods. He can remember all he hears and sees. He can engage people in seemingly innocent conversation that reveals much about how they feel about the governor.

And what feelings abound in the city! The Franciscan priest who seems to despise Nando because he's half Indian, might hate the governor for his tolerance of other races. The son of one of the frontier's highest officials. might dislike the governor's war policies. That's because this young man is involved in the illegal trade of selling captured Indian children to Spanish Haciendas as slaves. He's making a lot of Spanish people, and tribal elders furious. That's not the way to end warfare.

Then again, the good Father and the cocky rich kid might be entirely innocent of any wrong doing, and hold no animosity toward the governor. The evidence against them is somewhat circumstantial.

Could Nando's own cousin have a hand in undercutting the peace process ? He's always out after a chunk of change. He'll align himself with anyone who will give him some, with no thought of the consequences to others. And what about the strange object Nando finds on the road? He has no idea what it is. But could it be the clue that leads him to the culprit(s), after he shows it to the governor?

Pamela Christie has the knack of letting the reader pose these questions and many more, as he or she goes through THE KING'S LIZARD. She also makes people think they know the answers--right up to the book's surprising, but utterly sensible ending, which is probably very different from what the reader thinks it will be.

Even more fun, Pamela Christie has thoroughly researched the appearance and layout of historic Santa Fe. Anyone familiar with the city will recognize downtown, San Francisco Street, the central plaza, and that wonderful 400-year-old building, The Palace of the Governors, which has been standing in use since the city's 1610 inception.

Best of all, Pamela Christie points out that the Spanish and Mexican people who settled New Mexico were as much pioneers as the people who made the trek west over the Oregon Trail. Spanish people fought for their survival as hard as anyone else in the new land. As a result, the descendants of men like Nando have lived in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and dozens of other New Mexico towns for 20 generations. That's a take on American history a lot of people back east don't get.

Pamela Christie presents her history lesson in a lucid style that's easy to follow. The reader can understand all the political maneuverings between all the factions Nando encounters in his search for the trouble maker. Pamela Christie fits THE KING'S LIZARD'S main and subplots together in a logical, but never predictable fashion. And yes-- there's even a touch of romance. Handsome Nando has a girl friend, who has a thing or two to add to his knowledge of what is going on.

THE KING'S LIZARD'S a good book to enjoy and to learn from. If there's somebody out there who's not quite turned on to reading that history assignment now that school's started again, THE KING'S LIZARD is a good way to hit his or her switch, and get that history book open, not just for this term, but for many to come.

The Lake, the River & the Other Lake: A Novel
Steve Amick
ISBN: 0375423508, $25.00 384 pages

J. Conrad Guest

Treading Water

The copyright page of Steve Amick's first novel The Lake, the River and the Other Lake identifies it as identity (psychology), while Publishers Weekly portrays the contents as a sort of Northern Exposure (the popular TV series of the mid-80s) with quirky characters living a soap opera in Weneshkeen, the fictional name given a small town on Lake Michigan's Gold Coast to perhaps protect the inhabitants from the outside world. As a fan of character-driven fiction I had high hopes for this novel; unfortunately I found Amick's novel failed on a number of levels.

I found all of the characters fell short of reality, shown as two-dimensional, caricatures that never really evolved. All of the male characters fare poorly, overshadowed by their female counterparts. Courtney, the teen who is obviously the victim of child abuse, in turn inflicts her own special brand of abuse, mercilessly manipulating and humiliating her young suitor, Mark, who seems powerless against his own sexual obsession of the object of his lust. Yet young Mark is a victim for whom little sympathy can be given in the face of his willingness to allow himself to be treated so poorly - in the end it is Courtney who fingers authority and not Mark himself who gives the finger to Courtney, losing her (not that she is a prize worthy of loss) only through circumstances, not by his own strength of character.

Brenda Vonbushberger is the voice of reason to her bigoted husband who goes through a Scrooge-like transformation mid-book with little character introspection as to his thought process. The reader is left to accept the catalyst for this change as reason enough, and so much of the drama is missing.

Roger Drinkwater, the Ojibwa/Polish local and Viet Nam vet who wages war against the seasonal jet skiers who inhabit the lake on which he lives vandalizes, in increasingly spectacular fashion, the property of others while Janey, his romantic interest and the local law enforcement officer, turns her head even as she fights her own battle against outsider Sheriff Hatchert who, as another male character, is depicted as a "jackass."

Kimmy, the young sixteen-year-old who tutors Gene, a recently widowed and retired reverend of the local church, on use of the Internet, is naive yet shows more wisdom than her father who, in his fight against his neighbor's lawsuit against him for cutting down a row of trees on his property line to improve his sightline of the lake, suddenly gives up his battle in the face of his own guilt for causing his neighbor's wife's allergic reaction to sausages he placed in her shopping cart at the local grocery. While Gene, the reverend, shows man at his worst. Initially depicted as a man of God who had a happy if somewhat mundane marriage, Gene too quickly becomes addicted to Internet teen porn and, as a result, becomes obsessed with his young tutor, Kimmy, who seems all too eager (or naive) to forgive his transgressions when she discovers that he has become a full-fledged pedophile. I shudder, perhaps in my own naivety, to think that her character is an accurate depiction of our youth today.

In short order The Lake touches upon vandalism, bigotry, teen sex and pedophilia. While I understand that, no, life's circumstances don't always end happily ever after, overall, The Lake fails to culminate in any real satisfactory conclusion. Indeed, the epilogue, which seems a half-hearted attempt, perhaps at the publisher's urging, to leave the reader on an upbeat note, only manages to belittle the tragic endings of several characters.

That's not to say that Amick is without skill as a writer; the book has its moments, but far too few, and I was left wondering of Amick's intent for writing such a book. A literary Northern Exposure? Hardly, as I found few of the characters likeable or sympathetic. An exploration of the human psyche? Again, no, for he failed to explore deep enough, in the manner of a Philip Roth, the angst behind these character's dark sides, nor show the light. An editorial of our society's decline? If so, where is the message, the warning? If one exists it is far too subtle to be noticed. Simple fiction, mere escapism, a fun summer read? No, for the subject matter is far too deep, far too disturbing, to be treated so lightly.

He's Just Not That Into You: The No-excuses Truth to Understanding Guys
Greg Behrendt & Liz Tuccillo
Simon Spotlight Entertainment
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 068987474X, $21.95 165 p.

Janet Krenn

When a guy doesn't call if he says he's going to, when he take you out to dinner but doesn't let you talk about yourself, when he's taking it slow or not all over you like white on rice, don't spend your time going through long excuses. It's not that he's busy. It's not that he's nervous. He's not sensitive or shy or hurt from a previous relationship. According to self-proclaimed relationship and guy-speak experts, the guy is just not that into you.

Sex in the City gurus Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo co-authored the aptly named He's just not that into you: The no-excuses truth to understanding guys . The book, which was modeled after a popular episode of the long-running series, is a quick and entertaining read, even if it doesn't bother to diverge much from its HBO predecessor.

The book is structured like a Q and A or compilation of Dear Abby columns. Every chapter is based around several letters-to-the-editor, written by presumably women, on topics such as: If he has to be drunk every time you're with him, he's just not that into you. Then the authors criticize the women who, despite all logic and common sense, try to stand up for a guy that is giving them all of the signs of just not being interested.

Behrendt, who takes on the majority of the critiquing, comes off as witty and sarcastic?. In short, he holds the tone of a pompous jerk, who we can forgive because not only has he written these hilarious letters to the editor, but he also wrote them in anticipation of just how to take down the 'writer.' Like an army drill sergeant, he spends the entire 165 pages of this book breaking down the emotions of seemingly ridiculous women and then building them up again as intelligent, beautiful and important.

I laughed at the idea that some women might not realize that: If he's sleeping with someone else, he's just not that into you. Or: If he doesn't find you attractive, he's just not that into you. But all in all, there must be some reason why this book, modeled after a popular television show, was destined to become a New York Times Best Seller. While real women might not defend their men to the extremes that the women in this book do, there is some truth in the idea that women are willing to forgive a guy, so long as she is interested in him or excited about being in a relationship.

If you're looking for a quick and fun read, without much else, He's just not that into you: The no-excuses truth to understanding guys is a good choice. Just be prepared to hear the same exact reply to every letter. Don't expect a plot, any sort of development, or realism. Pick it up looking for a superficial laugh, and you won't be disappointed.

It Just Gets Better With Time
Tongue Untied Publishing
P.O. Box 822, Jackson, GA 30233
ISBN: 0974578304, $12.95 311 pages

Kathleen Jackson

It Just Gets Better With Time is very realistic, and it makes you take a look at your own life. There is page after page of drama; divorce, drugs, prostitution and crime, to name a few. For me, this was a couldn't put down book! In my review, I'm not gonna go through everything that happens because I don't want to give everything away. Once you start It Just Gets Better With Time, I guarantee that you won't be able to put it down.

It Just Gets Better With Time is about two sisters, Caroline and Dorothy, and the trials and tribulations in each of their families. Caroline and her husband, Thomas, live comfortably in the suburbs raising their two daughters, Andrea and Taylor. Dorothy, whose husband, Devlin is in jail, has to struggle in public housing with her four children, Monet, Keisha, Tonya and Dwayne.

Caroline thinks she has the perfect fairy tale life and marriage; the devoted husband and the perfect children. But that illusion comes crashing down on her when she mistakenly thinks Thomas is having an affair with one of his co-workers and throws him out of their home without letting him explain. He goes to a bar to give each of them time to cool off, but there he quickly gets drunk and ends up sleeping with a woman he meets in the bar named Sheila. He awakens the next morning thinking he's in bed with Caroline, but when he discovers that it's Sheila, he becomes consumed with guilt.

After two days of Caroline and Thomas being apart, they reconcile as if nothing ever happened. But two months later, Thomas still can't get over the guilt he feels for being unfaithful to his wife, especially after Sheila tells him that she's having his baby. He finally breaks down and tells Caroline about his one night stand with Sheila and the upcoming baby. Caroline stays with Thomas, but realizes that her fairy tale marriage is over. Thomas suggests they see a marriage counselor to help with their marriage. While dealing with the problems in their marriage, they fail to see that their oldest daughter, Andrea, is changing and not for the better. Once she gets her first boyfriend, she begins skipping school and sneaking out late at night. She ends up at juvenile hall for shoplifting, which is a total embarrassment for Caroline.

Author, Maseyree takes you through Andrea's downfall, which starts with her shoplifting and ends with her being strung out on crack cocaine. No matter how many times her parents brought her home, she always leaves to be with Tim, her boyfriend. Once he gets locked up, Andrea suddenly has nowhere to turn. Maseyree shows you the real truth of what happens to a teenager when she's out on the streets alone and addicted to crack cocaine. She shows you the lengths someone will go through just to get a hit.

Andrea's world comes to a grinding halt when, after being taken to the hospital by friends because she's having constant pain in her stomach, she finds out that she's in premature labor. She gives birth to a crack addicted baby and ends up being arrested and charged with child cruelty and abuse along with a the felony probation violation. Do you think Andrea giving birth to a premature crack addicted baby and her arrest and sentence turned her life around?

Dorothy works hard every day on her job at Kentucky Fried Chicken as a manager to raise her four children by herself. She's been married to Devlin for fourteen years, but for eight of those years he's been locked up. Their oldest daughter, Monet, gets involved with a thug named Derrick, whom Dorothy can't stand. She forbids Monet from seeing Derrick, but she doesn't listen. When Dorothy moves her family from their old apartment to the other side of town, she hopes that Monet will forget about Derrick, which she doesn't. Eventually Monet finds herself pregnant by Derrick.

Meanwhile, Devlin finds out that he's getting an early release from prison, and when he tells Dorothy, she's overjoyed. She can't wait to hold her husband in her arms again. He promises Dorothy that he's a new man and that he's not longer messing with drugs, the thing that had gotten him locked up in the first place. She believes Devlin because outside of his drug use, before he got locked up he was a good husband. Upon his release from prison, Devlin goes to live with his sister. He gets a job and is doing right by Dorothy and their children. But all of that changes when, one night, he goes out with his friends and starts snorting cocaine again. After a while, Dorothy starts to suspect that Devlin is fooling with drugs again, and this time she refuses to accept it. She eventually files for a divorce.

Maseyree takes you through the ups and downs of Dorothy's life; her divorce from the man that she once loved and stood by while he was in jail, to her daughter's pregnancy. Maseyree shows you how Dorothy is determined to see that Monet doesn't give up her dreams because she's having a baby at sixteen. She stands by Money's side while she obtains her high school diploma and attends college.

Maseyree takes you on a roller coaster ride in It Just Gets Better With Time. She writes about every day family situations. She lets you know that even during your darkest times there is always hope.

If this is any example of her writing style, I can't wait to read her second novel.

How to Stop Backing Down & Start Talking Back
Lisa Frankfort, Ph.D., LMFT & Patrick Fanning
New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
5674 Shattuck Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609
ISBN: 1572244178, $13.95 115 p.

Martha Robach

Being rather compliant by nature, I don't usually speak up when insulted or zapped with a stinging rebuke. But I grumble about it for days afterwards. So I wondered where I would stand in the authors' spectrum in their book How to Stop Backing Down & Start Talking Back. Am I an incurable wimp?

I was pleased to learn that being assertive, according to the authors, is not being a loudmouthed bully but a firm, rational, sensitive person who establishes eye contact with others, stands up straight and not too far away and listens in a sincere attempt to resolve any dispute that may arise.

Some techniques mentioned are the use of the word "I." Instead of saying, "You hurt my feelings," say "I felt insulted when you said I was unreliable." That way, you take responsibility for your own opinions instead of laying the blame on others. When asked to do something you don't want to do, "Never admit you have free time." This gives you the opportunity to give an appropriate response, which may be a gentle "Not Now, Not Next" but "Not Never." Also, listen to others attentively to grasp their real meaning and prevent misunderstandings. The three components of good, assertive communication are your thoughts, feelings and wants expressed in a reasonable, non-combative way.

How to take criticism? Here are some suggestions that will diffuse the situation and avoid conflict: Take the "Yeah. So?"approach, downplaying the importance of the criticism. You can agree in part, but only hypothetically; "Well, you may be right in certain instances." Other ways of deflecting criticism are to ask for more information or merely change the subject. Even though you agree in part with the criticism, end it decisively by having the last word. "Well, that's an interesting slant on things, but we'll have to wait to see what happens."

You say there are certain people, either family, friends or coworkers, who are hard to get along with? Because changing another person is next to impossible, pick your battles. Some techniques you can use are repeating your assertive request, while remaining clear and calm. "You can still be aggressive with a smile." Pause before responding, if you need time to collect your thoughts, and try to compromise. Sometimes not saying anything at all is the best tactic to take with a thorny individual. And, if all else fails, make a timely exit.

I found How to Stop Backing Down & Start Talking Back to be a realistic, workable approach to enhancing human communication. Using these principles could have far-reaching effects, even prevent a war! I can't think of a person who wouldn't be helped by reading this book. So don't back down and grumble, but talk back in a way that promotes friendship and understanding!

Pablo Neruda: A Passion for Life
Adam Feinstein
Bloomsbury USA
ISBN: 1582345945, $18.95 497 pages

Mary Sarko

Pablo Neruda died on September 23, 1973, twelve days after the brutal, CIA-sponsored coup that overthrew the government of Salvador Allende. Although the military had ransacked his home in Santiago, his widow, Matilde Urrutia, insisted that his body be brought there the next day so that dignitaries who came to pay their respects would see what the military had done. As the cortege carrying his body tried to enter his demolished home, a group of youths put their fists in the air and shouted: "Comrade Pablo Neruda! Present! Now and Forever." The next day, as his body was carried from his home to the Santiago cemetery, a member of the procession shouted, "Comrade Pablo Neruda!" and the rest of the throng, which grew to thousands, responded: "Present!" With the military surrounding them, the crowd began to sing "The Internationale, " and then at the cemetery, someone recited lines from "Spain in the Heart" and short eulogies were given by some who knew Neruda well and by others who had never met him.

At the moment of his death, Neruda's disembodied voice empowered the Chilean people to take their first stand against the junta, and as a result, his identity as the archetypal poet of the people was firmly established.

For the biographer though, writing about an icon like Neruda can be a formidable task. Not only does his legend invoke strong emotions but also his life includes more than 3,000 pages of poetry, a Nobel Prize, and careers as a diplomat, a senator, and a presidential candidate. He also married three times, traveled throughout the world, and was friends with many of the notable intellectuals and artists of the twentieth century.

Adam Feinstein, a British journalist and translator, has taken on the task of writing the first English language biography of Neruda. In his introduction, Feinstein acknowledges that Neruda's poetry has "enriched the lives of millions throughout the world. " He also contrasts Neruda's "joy" with Sartre's "nausea," and he emphasizes Neruda's courage and commitment to social justice. But Feinstein also makes it clear that he is not afraid to think critically about Neruda. According to Feinstein, the only other biography of Neruda, written in 1984 by Neruda's close friend Volodia Teitelboim, "glosses over the less attractive aspects of Neruda's character and political affiliations. " Feinstein does not gloss over what he conceives to be weaknesses, but for the most part his biography so objective that it succeeds best at demystifying the legend and giving an encyclopedic overview of the basic details of Neruda's life and works.

Pablo Neruda began his life as Ricardo Eliecer NeftalÃ? Reyes Basoalto. He was born in central in Parral, Chile on July 12, 1904. His mother died two months after he was born, and his father, a railroad worker, soon remarried. Neruda grew up mostly in Temuco, a frontier town marked by rain, forests, and the presence of the Mapuche Indians. Already in his childhood he was interested in poetry, but his father was opposed to his literary career, which led him to adopt the pen name Pablo Neruda in 1920.

After he moved to Santiago to attend college, he lived the life of the bohemian poet and produced two early books of poetryâ ""Book of Twilights" in 1923 and the well-known "Twenty Love Songs and a Song of Despair" in 1924, which is still the most widely reprinted book of Spanish poetry. "Twenty Love Songs" is of course best known for its frank eroticism, but in this book, sex is a source not only of pleasure and identity but also of moments of anguish and foreboding.

In 1927 Neruda began his career as a diplomat, and his first postings were in Rangoon and Ceylon. Lonely and isolated he wrote the first two volumes of the more tortured and chaotic, three-volume collection, "Residence on Earth" (1933, 1935, 1947). However, Neruda was posted in Madrid when the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, and the brutality of the war and the assassination of his close friend Federico Garcia Lorca led him to write his first book of political poetry, "Spain in the Heart," which was published in 1937 and included in the third volume of "Residence." In the poem "Let Me Explain a Few Things, " Neruda describes his transformation to a committed poet:

You will ask why his poetry
does not speak of dreams and leaves,
and of the great volcanoes of his birthplace?

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
in the streets!

Neruda was dismissed from his diplomatic post in Madrid because of his outspoken support of the Loyalists, but after Franco's 1939 victory Neruda took charge and ensured that the ship the Winnipeg was able to carry 2,000 Spanish refugees to Chile. In his memoirs, Neruda said the Winnipeg was "the most important mission of my life."
After the war in Spain, Neruda continued his double life as poet and diplomat. His most significant book of post-war poetry is the 1950 epic "Canto General, " which includes a sweeping history of the Americas and also a rendition of Neruda's personal history. In 1954, Neruda published his "Elemental Odes," which according to Feinstein, show Neruda's "willingness to change and experiment, to enrich his poetry." However, the style of this poetry also reflects Neruda's desire to break with elitist styles of poetry and write for the people.

In 1945, Neruda was elected to the Chilean Senate, and he also joined the Communist Party. When the Communist Party was outlawed in Chile in 1948, an arrest warrant was issued for Neruda, and he eventually escaped the country by horseback through the Andes.

In 1969, Neruda campaigned for the presidency of Chile, but resigned to support Salvador Allende. After Allende's 1970 victory, he appointed Neruda to be the Chilean Ambassador to France, the position Neruda was holding when he won the Nobel Prize in 1971. In 1972, he returned to Chile suffering from cancer, but produced "Incitement to Nixoncide and Praise of the Chilean Revolution," as his contribution to the March 1973 parliamentary elections. He also had seven books of poetry completed that were to be published on his seventieth birthday in 1974, and he dictated the final words of his memoirs as he was dying in a Santiago hospital.

As Feinstein ably weaves together the massive details of Neruda's life, he offers one major criticism: Neruda's unwillingness to speak up against Soviet oppression. Unfortunately, at times Feinstein presents the issue as a red herring, and he continues to discuss it long after he has reported Neruda's admission that he was wrong in not believing the stories and not speaking out. Feinstein largely attributes Neruda's silence to party loyalty and admiration of the Soviet's battle against Fascism, but he does not fully analyze Neruda's ideological positions or his extreme animosity toward the forces that eventually helped ravage his country.

Feinstein does in fact mute much of Neruda's political passion, and he also fails to address some of the other criticisms leveled at Neruda. Gordon Brotherston, for example, has criticized "Canto General" for romanticizing the Indians of Latin America, and for also stating that the Conquest was necessary to bring the ideals of the Enlightenment to Latin America.

Feinstein has written a conventional biography that is critical only in the narrowest sense of the word. It is unfortunate that he chose to diminish Neruda's legendary status rather than interrogate it. The question of why Neruda could become a voice of political resistance in post-coup Chile is worth considering.

Feinstein's biography was written to coincide with the centennial of Neruda's birth, and such commemorations are of course full of symbolism. Javier Egana, who was in charge of Chile's official centennial celebrations, said that "Chile is recognizing a poetic hero, a hero of letters, a hero of humanity." But Egana, who also presided over an official reburial of Allende, also stated that the commemorations would be "an act of reparation."

In the afterward to his play "Death and the Maiden," Ariel Dorfman asks many questions about how to respond to the brutalities of dictatorship. He asks, "How does memory beguile and save us and guide us? How do we keep our innocence after we have tasted evil?" These questions could also be asked about Neruda: How does his memory both beguile and guide? How did he confront the evil forces that devastated so much of the world in his lifetime? And finally, it should be asked if Neruda can rest in peace at this moment in history.

A Heart for Any Fate, A Western Story
Suzanne Lyon
Five Star, an imprint of Gale
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, Maine 04901,
ISBN: 1594143293, $25.95 295 p.

Cynthia Leal Massey, Reviewer

If fictionalizing the life stories of real people who lived in the past and making them come alive is an art, then Suzanne Lyon is an artist extraordinaire. In two previous novels, she depicted the life of Butch Cassidy (Bandit Invincible and El Desconocido), and with Lady Buckaroo, she recreated the world of rodeo riders, based on real-life female rodeo stars. In her new novel, A Heart for Any Fate (Five Star Westerns), she has done it again, creating a gripping tale based on the life of her great-great-great-great grandmother, Hannah Allison Cole, a Missouri pioneer, who was recently honored with a life-size statue "Breaking New Ground" in the center of Boonville, Missouri.

As the back cover of the book states: A Heart for Any Fate vividly recreates the life of Hannah Allison Cole from her wedding day [in 1790] in Southwest Virginia to her burial in Western Missouri [in 1843]. Lyon's uncle, William H. Lyon, who along with Eleanor Leiter Vallieres, did a lion's (no pun intended) share of research on the Cole, Allison and McClure families for the article "Boone's Lick Heritage" that appeared in the Boonslick Historical Society quarterly, encouraged his niece to take his research and write a novel about their ancestor. She did, and the result is a fascinating read, one of those books that is hard to put down. (All of Lyon's books are that way, incidentally). Using the device of a journal written by Hannah, the author inserts entries throughout the novel, which gives readers an illuminating look into Hannah's personal feelings. The journal is addressed to Dolley Madison (who became the wife of President James Madison), and who by several accounts was a cousin of Hannah's husband Temple. This provides an important look, not only into Hannah's mind, but also into what is going on in the fledgling United States.

The bulk of the novel is told in the third-person, with Hannah as the central viewpoint character. This is a pioneer story from a woman's point of view, and Lyon pulls no punches. Slavery was part of our national landscape and the Cole family owned slaves. Hannah's reflections about her slave, Lucy, will no doubt cause some consternation among "revisionists," as will Hannah's comments about "savage Indians," but they are authentic to the time period, and it is the duty of the historical novelist to depict reality - not what they wished was so, but what was so. And Lyon does this with aplomb. A sub-plot undergirding the main plotline of Hannah's travels with her husband and growing family to the West is a romantic attraction to her brother-in-law. I confess, I found this plotline fascinating, and one reason I kept turning the pages was to find out what was going to happen between them. But this is not a "romance" in the traditional sense of the word. It is a real-life depiction of the sometimes "messy" world we live in. Personal relationships are not tidy and do not always fit nicely into the scheme of things.

Hannah Cole was a pioneer, extraordinary in that she was one of the first women to travel West during a tumultuous time in our country's history. Lyon, her descendant, is also a pioneer of sorts. She has dedicated herself to unearthing the stories of those who lived long ago, of those whose stories are begging to be told. We can only hope she continues in her endeavors.

Primo Levi
Ian Thomson
Random House UK Limited
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA
ISBN: 0099515210, 8.99 Brit. pounds 626 p.

Phil Brown

I stumbled across the name 'Primo Levi' completely unintentionally by perusing the history section in my local 'Waterstones' bookshop. I picked up a book entitled 'The Drowned and the Saved', and reading its reviews on the back I thought it would be an interesting read. Isn't it strange how you can see your naivete in retrospect but never at the time? I purchased the book for a little weekend reading; little did I know it would change my life from that point on.

Though this review is not of Primo Levi's work but that of one of his biographer's, it is important to say this: whenever Levi's name is mentioned or his work is referred to, those with an interest in humanity and its deeper meaning should heed the words. It is as such I searched the Amazon web site for 'Primo Levi' and came across his biography by Ian Thomson.

This book taught me many things, not least the futility of 'labels'. Levi can be named as an 'Auschwitz survivor', an 'Italian', or 'a Jew'; but none of these convenient labels comes close to encompassing the totality of what he was. All I can say of him was he was a man, and though in my heart I urge to tell you of all the wonders of humanity I believe he encompassed, this is a personal journey, and it's your decision to take it.

As for the biographer, Thomson's research was irreplaceable and having interviewed Levi personally before his death, I felt he radiated and effectively communicated the essence of what he was. Thomson describes 19th century Italy before Levi's birth and has an ongoing commentary through to the year of his death in 1987. All throughout he gives his relations to all the friends and family that would accompany him on his life's journey, not only giving opinions but reinforcing them with the written or spoken word from Levi himself, which is always a reassuring factor in any biography.

As with Levi's work; this biography, I will also say is 'essential' reading. It is not only for the history specialist, but its audience is found in anyone with an interest in human nature. I recommend reading some of Levi's own work before this biography as there are many references that may not be fully understood otherwise. This is not for the light-hearted, casual reader. This is for those who will look into the darkest recesses of mankind and not flinch when the truth is revealed.

Molly Lake
Samuel Endicott
ISBN: 0741424207, $21.95 511 p.

Shirley Roe, Reviewer

1759 in North America, battles rage between the English and the French. Molly and her father Peter return to their cabin in upstate New York to find a dead child and Molly's mother, Marie missing. They bury the child and set out in search of Marie, however the countryside is crawling with savages, both Indian and French. Peter is nervous of taking Molly with him into the unknown.

Joining General Wolfe's navy seems the quickest way to reach Quebec where they are sure Marie has been taken. A naval ship hardly seems the best place for a young girl but Molly is courageous, stubborn and very determined to help her father find her mother. She blends in well being a hard worker, yet adds a sympathetic touch to an otherwise rugged and hard life. The seamen soon take her under their wing and she is the pet of the fleet. Ship life offers up many trials and tribulations, which Molly meets with great courage and stamina.

In New France she meets a handsome Frenchman and must put her priorities in order- romance or dedication to the cause? General Wolfe is about to confront General Montcalm, in a military event that could change the history of North America.

The in-depth historical research for this novel brings the time to life. Readers experience the brutality and harshness of life on board, the terror of being attacked by savages and the family closeness of the crew. Life in New France was both difficult for the poor and filled with opulence for the rich. The author does an excellent job of giving both points of view, taking sides with neither the English nor the French. I feel that this is important to readers of historical fiction- an unbiased view of historical events.

Samuel Endicott is an author whose colorful characters become familiar friends who stay with you long after the final page is read. Filled with action, human interaction and history, this book is highly recommended by Allbooks Reviews.

The Lake, the River & the Other Lake: A Novel
Steve Amick
ISBN: 0375423508, $25.00 384 pages

Zinta Aistars

One of the ways many readers judge a good book is by the degree of reluctance we feel in leaving it once the last page has been turned. I felt no reluctance at turning the last page of Amick's first novel, The Lake, The River & The Other Lake. Indeed, I couldn't wait to leave this fictional little Michigan town and all its inhabitants far behind.

I recently came across a quote by author Alice Walker: "If art doesn't make us better, then what on earth is it for." I do believe art, in any medium, is to bring to our greater awareness and understanding both the light and the shadow side of human nature. Indeed, anything less, anything focusing too heavily on either the light or the dark side, and a story sinks to something maudlin, loses touch with reality, and does little to enlighten us. Balance is key.

Amick's novel opens with skillful writing, soon capturing my interest with one, then another promisingly quirky character. I turned the first pages with enthusiasm and a sense of discovery. It didn't take too many pages, however, before my expectations were disappointed. As the long line of characters came on stage, each one seemed darker (if not more depraved) than his predecessor. Light playing with the shadows of the human psyche seemed to fast become increasingly shadows only, with now and then only a wan, stray beam of light, barely enough to keep me reading. Had I not received an invitation to attend an upcoming author's reading for this book, I am quite sure I would have given up without finishing it. How depressing to read about characters who seem to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever, not even enough to give them a believable struggle with their dark side. That Amick's skill as a writer was evident only increased my frustration at potential so unfulfilled.

The cast of characters includes: an Ojibwa man, Roger Drinkwater, who blows up jet skis and freaks out their noisy and inconsiderate owners (okay, on occasion, I actually liked this guy) by popping up out of the waves with war paint on his face; a 16-year-old boy, Mark, who, although he is otherwise presented as an appealingly sensitive and thoughtful young man, seems to have nothing but nothing on his mind other than having sex with 17-year-old Courtney and will put up with the most outrageous abuse from the girl; Courtney, who seems to have nothing but nothing on her mind but humiliating and debasing her young suitor in any manner possible, to ever increasing excess, just because she can; an Archie Bunker type bigot without Archie's charm who resents the marital choices of his children from other ethnic backgrounds but makes an unconvincing turnabout later; a 69-year-old minister, newly widowed from a marriage he cherished, suddenly lost in lust for a 16-year-old girl and in the throes of that lust, becoming addicted to Internet porn that focuses on teenage girls and within a two month span becoming a pedophile; a female cop who never quite develops much of a personality other than wanting to write comedy for David Letterman and developing a crush on Roger Drinkwater, and who looks the other way when his destruction of jet skis turns ever more explosive; and too many others. It was difficult at times to keep track of who is who, as the chapters often have little or no connection.

In general, the cast of characters all remained two-dimensional to me. They failed to involve me in their lives, failed to win my compassion, failed to make me believe they could be real. They remained caricatures rather than characters with counterparts in reality. Amick invites us to look through a peephole, offering a peephole-size insight into the scene before us, hints at what may or may not lie underneath, and moves on again to another character. The result is shock value with graphic descriptions and perverse scenarios with no real purpose other than, well, shock value. The author struck me as a wannabe Philip Roth (certainly not a Garrison Keillor, whose small town stories have often amused me with their well targeted mirroring of our society), offering explicit scenes of human depravity without yet the artistry to make us care what happens to these poor twits. He skims across surfaces, something of a jet ski that makes noise, rattling what lies beneath, but never submerging to find the treasure buried below.

My greatest value in reading this first novel was in the discussion it brought about with various writer friends about what it is that we seek in our fictional characters to infuse them with life and what it is that makes a book memorable. This first novel falls into the examples of writing that achieves neither. A chance to address and explore important themes with meaning was lost in these pages, remaining only at the level of sensationalism.

Alyice's Bookshelf

Marty The Martian Learns ABC
Valerie Laud
Illustrated By Dimitry Chaley
Ekadoo Publishing Group
Andrea Blain (publicity)
PO Box 2286, N. Redondo Beach, California 90278
ISBN: 0974738719, $16.99 24 pp.

Marty The Martian Learns ABC is filled with short sentences and vibrant, active illustrations, which makes this the perfect book for children under the age of 6. In Marty The Martian Learns ABC, Marty ventures to earth, learns the alphabet, and meets many interesting creatures along the way.

Each sentence uses words that begin with a specific letter of the alphabet. For instance, when it comes to the letter M, the page begins with an oversized letter M, followed by short sentences using the following words Mister, Marty, Martian, mushroom and mug. All M words are all bolded, which makes this is a great visual benefit as it allows parents to ask beginning readers to point out all the words that begin with the letter M.

Hidden Treasures Friends
Liz Ball
Illustrated By Liz Ball
Hidden Picture Publishing
P.O. Box 63, Tipp City, OH 45371
ISBN: 0967815959, $5.99

Never before has a children's coloring book been so much fun! Ball has outdone herself with the detailed illustrations full of adventure and whimsical fun! The characters shine and evoke happiness with their facial expressions, and children are entertained for hours.

Parents can use the coloring book to entertain their children in various ways, such as:

Locating 1,300 hidden objects,
Learning to read by reading the names of each object that must be found,
Learning to color within the lines,
Imagining storylines to go along with each coloring page,
Framing final pieces of work with construction paper, to be hung in a relative's home, and
Gluing colored pages to construction paper and making large greeting cards.

If you've been looking for a way to successfully entertain your children while you cook dinner, talk on the phone, or balance your checkbook, you'll want to get a copy today.

Topsy Turvy Land
Donna Shepherd
Illustrated by Kevin Scott Collier
Hidden Picture Publishing
P.O. Box 63, Tipp City, OH 45371
ISBN: 0967815967, $6.99

In a world filled with chaos and confusion, our children sometimes dream about a different world - one where the chaos and confusion makes sense and they're more in control. Our children pretend, and in pretending grow their imaginations and coping abilities.

Shepherd uses that innocence and playful nature in Topsy Turvy Land, but goes a step further by reminding our children, without preaching, that the world is a wonderful place, created by God, and nothing can compare to it.

Topsy Turvy Land is a pure delight! The short rhyming sentences hold the attention of both young and old. The illustrations are vibrant and make the story come to life. And it's entertaining as children are encouraged to locate the hidden heart on every page.

Family Time With Santa
Skyro Productions LC
4286 Adonis Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84124
$21.95, 801-638-1295

Have you ever wondered how Santa Claus spends his time? Ever wonder what Santa Claus values most in life? Ever wonder what Santa Claus finds interesting? In Family Time With Santa you'll not only learn the answers to these questions, but start a new family tradition with your children.

Family Time With Santa is a slow-paced video designed to help children wind-down from the excitement of the holidays while providing entertaining ways to instill important family values. Values such as, what love really looks like, why it's okay to "not" be perfect, how persistence and hard work makes dreams come true, and why volunteering changes lives.

In the video, children visit a toy and taffy factory, watch a young boy jump over five adults and then break a piece of board with his bare foot, listen to and watch still shots of story books, and learn about the importance of fire safety during the Christmas holidays.

This is the perfect holiday video for toddlers and their parents, too!

The Baby Society, LLC
58 Stanton Lane, Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan 48236 877-886-4900

ISBN: 09492250577, $19.99

When my children were young, I'd often put them in their swings and turn on a Disney music video to stimulate their brains while I cooked dinner, folded laundry, or did some other menial cleaning task. The songs were catchy and kept my children entertained while they learned to sing along to the songs; thus helping them with their speech.

Today, parents are fortunate to receive an educational way to stimulate their children's brains, thanks to The Baby Society. Not only does this video stimulate speech and language skills, but it helps children recognize various, everyday objects. The music is soothing and relaxing as well as entertaining.

This is a must-have video for any parent looking for a fun way to entertain little ones who can't yet entertain themselves, while they perform menial cleaning duties.

Brainy Baby
Jingle Bells: Celebrating The Magic of Christmas
The Brainy Baby, LLC
1200 Alpha Drive, Suite B, Alpharetta, GA 30004 678-762-1100
ISBN: 193195948X, $16.95

Toddlers will love watching the brightly-colored images (ornaments, train cars, trees, etc.) and cheery children dance and play to the upbeat Christmas music. It's the perfect video to play while parents decorate the Christmas tree, make gingerbread houses, or bake cookies. Since the video only lasts thirty minutes, it's also the perfect video to put in right before nap-time, thus helping small children get out that last burst of energy.

Parents can turn Brainy Baby (R) Jingle Bells into an educational tool by asking their children to count or point to the different objects on the screen, thus reinforcing object recognition, or by pausing different segments and asking their children to repeat the name of each object, thus reinforcing language skills.

No More Diapers
Based on book by Bonnie Faber Wind
Consumer Vision, Inc.
66 Newtown Lane, East Hampton, NY 11937
ISBN: 73034672309, $12.95

Potty training is never an easy task, but thanks to No More Diapers it just got a whole lot easier! No More Diapers is a cute story about a little bear, named Glenn T. Bear, who decides he's ready to wear big boy underpants. The video explores Glenn T. Bear's process of going from diapers to using the toilet.

The video reinforces important key facts about potty training, such as the importance of being mentally ready, receiving proper help from parents, how to use both underpants and the toilet, and knowing when you have to go potty.

The story moves along at a nice pace and the songs encourage and reinforce the excitement children feel about accomplishing such a "big person" task. Each video comes with potty reward stickers and a downloadable training chart (via the website).

Time For Manners (tm) Volume 2 Table Time
Holly Beth Moncher
P.O. Box 2213, Birmingham, MI 48012 248-470-8109

Tara and Tyler are twins who want to use good table manners, but don't know what good manners are. So with the help of their mom and Merlin Manners (tm) they're given short tips towards achieving their goal. But it's not all about dos and don'ts; the twins playfully discuss each tip and reinforce those tips with fun, short, upbeat songs.

In, Table Time, children learn to how to be polite by saying things like, "please" and "thank you." They also learn how to set a proper table, how to use silverware, why chewing with their mouths open is wrong, how to socialize during mealtime, and more!

Everything about this video is fun and entertaining. But what I am pleased most with is how the children discuss why table manners are important, instead of just giving children a list of rules to follow. Because the reality is, when children understand why something isn't acceptable they're more inclined to follow the rules.

Meet The Letters
Preschool Prep Co.
P.O.Box 1159, Danville, CA 94526 866-451-5600
ISBN: 0976700840, $14.99

Ages: 9 months to 5 years

Meet The Letters is a lively educational video designed to teach toddlers how to recognize and pronounce each letter of the alphabet, while they learn to speak.

The first part of the video breaks each letter of the alphabet up into short segments geared towards building visual recognition as well as language skills. For instance, the lower case letter "d" is shown using repetitive action as it moves across the screen while the narrator constantly repeats the name of the letter. In a few seconds, the letter becomes a fun character with a very short skit, and then the letter becomes an upper case "D."

The second part of the video allows parents to choose to continuously play the alphabet song or interact with them using the video flashcards.

Meet The Letters is sure to entertain your child for hours. In fact, he will have so much fun watching the video he won't even know he's learning something new! This is a definite must for every parent of a newborn.

Nursery Tap, Hip to Toe
Nursery Tap, LLC
4622 Holly Lane NW, Gig Harbor, WA 98335 888-855-0545
ISBN: 82534665429, $19.95

Nursery Tap, Hip to Toe is a delightful video designed to engage both the young and the young-at-heart. In Nursery Tap, Hip to Toe, children listen to thirty classic, Mother Goose, nursery rhymes while watching two dancers perform in bright costumes, and in front of colorful scenery, while they dance (tap, ballet, and hip hop) into the hearts of viewers everywhere.

But wait! There's a catch. While the theatrical-style performances are top-notch, viewers only see the performers from the waist down! This innovative style of filming allows children to concentrate on the footwork of the performers, as well as the rhymes. This is a great way to help children practice their language skills and work on their fine motor skills (movement), and it's also a fantastic way to introduce little ones to the performing arts.

Alyice Edrich, Reviewer

Arlene's Bookshelf

The Iron Girl
Ellen Hart
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010-7848
ISBN: 0312317492; $24.95; 352 Pages

The Iron Girl is Ellen Hart's thirteenth novel in her Jane Lawless mystery series. In this latest entry, Jane is finally ready to move forward with her life after years spent mourning the loss of her lover, real estate agent Christine Kane. As she scrutinizes Christine's belongings for the last time, Jane discovers in a briefcase a loaded derringer pistol with a carved ivory grip. Initially, she is shocked to find a weapon among Christine's business effects. However, as Jane reflects upon those final weeks just prior to Christine's death, she remembers that Christine's client at the time was the Simoneau family, and more importantly, Jane vividly recalls the infamous murder case which involved this rich and powerful Minnesota family. Could Christine have been connected in some way to this gruesome event?

Despite Jane's desire to expand her restaurant business by investing in a new venture, the Xanadu Club, and to pursue a new long-distance relationship with college professor Kenzie Mullroy, Jane "…knew in her gut that this was exactly the wrong direction to take, the wrong time to get sucked back into her dead partner's past, and yet she knew the gun represented a larger mystery she would feel compelled to unravel, wherever it might lead" (p.17-18).

Add to the mix the bizarre appearance of the mysterious Greta Hoffman who bears an uncanny and eerie resemblance to Christine, and the always amusing shenanigans of Jane's best friend Cordelia Thorn, and the reader is led into a fictional yet credible world of fidelity, betrayal, devotion, duplicity, and suspense - all of which make for an enthralling and intriguing mystery reading experience.

A common literary element often misused by too many authors is the flashback. There is a fine line between the hokey contrived insertion of past events and the clever craftily-written extension and expansion of the plotline. Hart achieves the latter with distinction. The way Hart's narrative seamlessly flows from past to present over the course of the novel serves the reader well. Hart presents two storylines that, at first glance, seem independent of one another, yet end up neatly tied together through the adroit and imaginative writing of mood, tone, and the precise incorporation of sensory words. The author's word choice is fluent, exact, and rhythmic. "As the room lost its solidity, Christine continued to stare into Jane's eyes. The deeper she looked, the clearer it became that they contained worlds within worlds, all connected" (p. 333).

The reader comprehends the complexities and convolutions of the plot and the nuances of the characters by Hart's synergy of tightly composed sentences, vivid imagery, multi-layered meaning, and wry humor. The sardonic humor of best friend Cordelia is also showcased with crisply ironic dialogue. At one point Cordelia and Jane drive to a section of Minneapolis to meet with a former employee of the Simoneau family. Cordelia explains, "Ah. The burbs, where the air is fresher, the grass is greener, the minds narrower" (p. 185).

In Hart's previous award-winning novel, An Intimate Ghost, Jane Lawless had begun to make specific life changes: letting go of the past, connecting with new people, and trying to experience her life with a new-found understanding and appreciation. The Iron Girl continues this development of attempting to come full circle by recognizing both the personal strengths and weaknesses, and at times, the foibles, of those one has loved and sadly lost. Throughout Jane's investigation, Hart manages to capture that discernment and perceptivity that only the inevitable passage of time can afford. Jane must delve into a component of Christine's life that, for better or worse, Christine chose to keep shrouded during their time together. The reader is subtly and skillfully asked that enigmatic question. How well do we really know the people we love?

The incisive characterization of Christine Kane and the development of the emotional backstory are hallmarks of this novel. The reader sees Christine from her own anguished perspective. The motivations for her actions are clearly delineated, and while one may question some of her decisions, Hart capably explains the rationale for Christine's behavior. At one point she succinctly explains it to Jane. "It was selfishness, Jane. Pure and simple. I admit it" (p. 275). The reader is given a more profound understanding of the dynamics of their relationship and the catalysts for its ostensible deterioration.

The Iron Girl is an exemplary model for the skillfully written mystery genre novel. Hart manages to create suspense without relying upon heavy-handed or gratuitously violent scenes. In much the same way as Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayres before her, Hart presents the subtlety of human malevolence and the banality of the deceitful. The Iron Girl is an absorbing and captivating reading experience. Hart's dual storyline, adroit narrative technique, clever pacing, and entertaining characters all contribute to a superlative novel that the reader will treasure.

Ginger's Fire
Maureen Brady
Alice Street Editions/Haworth Press Inc.
10 Alice St., Binghamton, NY 13904
ISBN: 156023444X; $14.95; 174 Pages

Maureen Brady's novel, Ginger's Fire, focuses upon the trials and tribulations of relationships and the arduous journey toward self-understanding and acceptance. Ginger and her partner of eight years, Nellie, have worked long and hard to restore an old farmhouse in upstate New York. Ironically, while they build their dream house, their relationship begins to crumble. Unfortunately, a devastating fire destroys countless hours of hard work and each must re-assess their lives and goals. This leads Ginger to strike off on her own and attempt to find again the inner spark of who she once was.

Ginger's journey of self-discovery is guided by a sympathetic therapist, Esther, and it is this woman's patient counseling which enables Ginger to explore her past and cope with the baggage that has fueled Ginger's alcoholism and dependency. Along the way she unlocks the secrets of her childhood, deals with issues of trust and infidelity, and begins to understand the meaning of Socrates' statement, "The unexamined life is not worth living for man."

Brady's characterization is quite delineated; the reader has a genuine understanding of Ginger's desire to comprehend the changes in her life and her attitudes. The secondary characters, Esther the therapist, Roxy the sexy gardener, and Nellie the equivocator, are developed and intrinsic to Ginger's discovery of self. At times one wants to shake a few of these characters for occasional lapses into complacency and self-pity. However, overall, the author has captured the dichotomous natures of these women.

The point of view of any novel is critical to both the storytelling and the comprehension of that story. Although some readers may find the use of the third person present to be more in the moment, this reader found it to be less desirable, and at times, off-putting. Brady has created an overall poignant tone and consistent mood. However, both appeared to lose their intensity somewhat when one was so aware of the present tense exposition.

Ginger's Fire is a novel whose title clearly presents the thematic content. Brady has managed to capture with clarity and honesty those most vulnerable of moments in a person's life, the crossroads of being held captive by the past and of being shown the way to personal redemption. As the protagonist so finitely displays, self-actualization can be so painfully uplifting. Although this novel is relatively short, one hundred and seventy-four pages, it succeeds in creating within the reader an empathy for Ginger and others who have reached this pivotal point in both their emotional as well as intellectual growth. Brady is also the author of Give Me Your Good Ear (1994) which this reviewer also highly recommends reading.

Murky Waters
Robin Alexander
Intaglio Publications
P O Box 357474, Gainesville, FL 32635-7474
ISBN: 1933113332; $17.95; 203 Pages

Claire Murray, her life fraught with uncertainty and trepidation, has relocated from Houston to Baton Rouge and begun her new job as the travel manager for the Valor Marine Corporation. She realizes that she has left behind some unresolved problems but, nonetheless, she is hoping to make a fresh start. Tristan Delacroix is the head of the Valor Marine personnel department, and although Claire and she do not hit it off well when first they meet, Claire is intrigued by the mysterious woman. Each has secrets and each has no desire to share them any time soon. Complicating the situation even more is the fact that Claire has unfortunately not escaped her most serious problem--a stalker has followed her to Louisiana.

Murky Waters is Robin Alexander's second published novel, the first being Gloria's Inn. The latter was a somewhat short yet irreverently humorous novel which was an entertaining light read. Murky Waters is a slightly longer novel but one with a distinct difference. The author has ventured into the darker realm of human behavior and interaction. There is a maturity to her writing, a more stylistically developed piece of fiction.

The characterization of both Claire and Tristan is a gradually evolved set of circumstances. The speech and actions appear to be more precisely drawn, and the thoughts and feelings of these women are more finitely developed. Both these women have unsettling baggage, and Alexander takes her time sharing this with the reader. The dialogue flows freely and rings true as spoken by these young women. With the abysmal prejudice of Mallory, Tristan's exasperating mother, to the cavalier comments of Ellen, Claire's friend, the reader becomes a part of the scene, and this ability to empathize with all the characters is a result of carefully crafted writing. It is apparent to this reader that greater care was taken with the editing of this novel, and the reader benefits from this.

Overall, Murky Waters is an engrossing reading experience. The plotting and characters keep the reader thoroughly involved and pleasantly entertained. There are themes here which will invariably lead to some lively discussions among those who have read this novel. The conclusion is certainly different and may even cause some to question its validity, but that doubt in itself is something the author has successfully achieved.

It is always encouraging to see an author apparently learn from previous work and improve in such a way as to enable her genuine talent to come forth. Despite being a relatively new author, Robin Alexander's latest release shows an inordinate amount of growth and promise. This reader enthusiastically awaits her next book.

Relationships Can Be Murder
Jane DiLucchio
New Victoria
PO Box 27, Norwich, VT 05055
ISBN: 1892281252; $12.95; 191 Pages

Dee DelValle once had a brief yet passionate fling with Los Angeles' top television newscaster, Sheila Shelbourne. All things considered, it now has become Dee's most monumental mistake. The dalliance broke up Dee's longtime relationship with her partner Evie, confounded her closest friends, and now has placed Dee on an administrative leave from her teaching position because she is the LAPD's prime suspect in Shelbourne's murder. With the police department's lead investigators, Gina Quinn and Alex Pierce, convinced of her guilt, Dee decides to enlist the aid of her three best friends, Tully, Felicia, and Jenny. Together they set about trying to clear Dee and find the real killer. Along the way, these women learn that some secrets cannot be kept buried, that friendships will be tested, and that the old cliche is true. Some things just are not what they seem, and this applies to people as well.

DiLucchio has created an intriguing and witty character in Dee DelValle, schoolteacher cum sleuth. The author has surrounded Dee with very likable and winning secondary characters as well. Tully, the extrovert of the group, approaches life with a no holds barred, in your face attitude which serves her well, except in matters of the heart. Felicia is an interesting character in that she connects the various suspects through her job at the television studio. Finally, there is Jenny, herself not above suspicion in the investigation. Jenny too has secrets known only to a few, but damning nonetheless. It is this coterie of friends which enables Dee to pursue every avenue in her attempt at clearing her name and getting her life back on track. Each character highlights disparate facets of Dee's personality, and DiLucchio writes humorously, and at times, poignantly to portray this aspect of her characterization.

Plotting and logical progression of events are key elements of any good novel, but they are especially important in the construction of a mystery genre work. DiLucchio has mastered both here. The suspension of disbelief is present and never falters; its reading flows in a most realistic manner. There are the various red herrings and expected twists and turns. However, DiLucchio's style of writing has such an ease and naturalness, and this definitely keeps the reader challenged, entertained, and completely engaged. The Prelude of the book is definitely an attention-grabber; yet it manages to convey through adept irony the overall tone one can expect to encounter in this novel. "The disarray would normally have perturbed the woman greatly. In fact, she would have been extremely uncomfortable to have anyone see the condo, or herself, in this condition. However, a deep concave dent on the back of her head had ended all her mundane concerns of embarrassment" (page 5).

Relationships Can Be Murder is an exemplary and captivating debut novel. It is written with such care for detail of character and plausibility of situation that one can both identify and empathize fully with its protagonist. DiLucchio successfully manages to avoid the pitfalls of so many formulaic mysteries which seem to flood the bookshelves these days. Forthright and endearing main characters, the allusion to violence, which often times is substantially more chilling, and the witty and wry dialogues all contribute to a genuinely rewarding reading experience. This reviewer eagerly awaits Jane DiLuccio's next novel. Whether it is a sequel or something entirely different, DiLucchio's dynamic and ebullient style is well worth the wait.

Erotic Interludes 2: Stolen Moments
Edited by Stacia Seaman and Radclyffe
Bold Strokes Books
1020 Livezey Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19119
ISBN: 1933110163; $15.95; 288 Pages

Erotic Interludes 2: Stolen Moments is an anthology of over thirty stories written by a vastly diverse group of women ranging from the novice writer to the established author. These stories revolve around a central theme, seizing that erotic stolen moment between women. As Radclyffe states in her Introduction, "Merely attempting to define the term 'erotic' usually leads to considerable debate. What may be erotic to one person may not be to another" (p.1). As this reviewer is in complete agreement with the latter statement, I will limit my literary critique to three stories which, for me, clearly stand apart from the rest and which demonstrate the adroitly proficient skills of artful composition.

"Ride" by J.C. Chen is barely four pages in length, but Chen has captured the very essence of the stolen moment. Her stylistically compressed writing relies upon and owes its success to two key elements - setting and imagery. The evocative description of a New Jersey bar's patrons is an example of superior writing. "It's predominantly a bridge-and-tunnel clientele, but the kind of B&T that can't quite get their acts together to actually make it over the bridges or through the tunnels to Manhattan, where the real action lies" (p.129). The reader recognizes this mundane microcosm of lack of fulfillment. The blaring repetition of a Springsteen song and the shabby felt on the lone pool table contribute to this sensory banality of most bars as the hours wear on. Chen has selected the exact word, composed the specific phrase, and created those memorable sentences with a virtually minimalist technique which crystallizes that fusion of connecting and scoring, of consensual longing and gratification. What distinguishes "Ride" from so many other attempts at erotic storytelling is the subtlety of the literary expression of the experience. Give special attention to Chen's last sentence for it is especially memorable in its ironic and wry finality. This story is an absolute gem!

"Sales Call" by Georgia Beers is an outstanding example of how a particularly consistent point of view is so intrinsically related to a reader's enjoyment of a story. This reviewer's immediate identification with Jamie vividly sets the scene for the inevitable sexual encounter. However, Beers has gone to great lengths to tease, torment, and titillate Jamie. Most readers will empathize with Jamie, her reactions, and her confusion. Beers has created a mood of haven't we all been there at one time? When it comes to instant attraction yet delayed consummation, the author has provided just enough back story to establish Jamie's as yet unrequited desire. The fact that Michelle, the client, assumes the dominant role contributes to the vulnerability and passion experienced by Jamie and the reader. "Sales Call" is an artfully well-developed and credible vignette. So often there is a fantasy aspect to erotica, but this reviewer prefers a kind of reality wherein the story could happen to anyone in similar circumstances. Beers delivers that expectation in a delightfully satisfying manner.

Radclyffe's "Standing Room Only" is an adept example of how an author is able to take command of the page by carefully developing a sequential storyline and driving it to a plausibly gratifying crescendo. The fluid ease of expression is a Radclyffe trademark, as is crisply nuanced dialogue which rings true with each telling. "If you can find something to smile about today," a molasses-thick voice drawled, "you simply must share" (p. 195). That is a definite come-on, but what a lovely way to say it. With "Standing Room Only" Radclyffe manages to create a snapshot of an experience; the reader is instantly engaged and the suspension of disbelief is immediately established. Her style of erotic composition appeals to this reader because this author does not settle for the nuts and bolts depiction of sexual activity, never utilizes the repetitive and unimaginative cataloguing of sexual words, and eschews the amateurish construction of sexy prose. For this reviewer, "Standing Room Only" is both a stimulating and arousing read; it is also a perfect example of intelligent and sensual erotica.

Erotic Interludes 2: Stolen Moments is well worth the time to read, enjoy, and savor. There is enough variety here to satisfy most readers' expectations. Also worthy of mention are Sylvie Avante's "Tour Guide," KI Thompson's "The Blue Line, and Ronica Black's "Ache." The scope and breadth of this erotica collection will afford the reader many avenues to explore until she finds her own personal gem.

Arlene Germain

Bethany's Bookshelf

If You Give A Girl A Bible
Andy Holmes
Kregel Publications
PO Box 2607, Grand Rapids, MI 49501
0825455189 $10.99 1-800-733-2607

Simply written and very nicely illustrated by Andy Holmes, If You Give A Girl A Bible is an entertaining picturebook that is as inspired as it is inspiring. When a young girl is given a Bible, she learns that it is a great source of ideas about helping others -- including pets as well as people! If You Give A Girl A Bible showcases great good humor with an enduring message for young readers ages 4 to 6 that God is watching over us when one else is there. But parents be forewarned -- reading this book may result in children asking for a Bible of their own!!

The Great Elephant
Nik Ranieri
Winepress Publishing
PO Box 428, Enumclaw, WA 98022
157921780X $19.95 1-800-326-4674

Quinn is a mouse who faces danger and deception in the jungle. Quinn's adventures nicely serve as an brief and entertaining story teaching children to question ideas outside the truth of The bible and trust Jesus for help as they live through the days of their lives. Brilliantly written and superbly illustrated by Walt Disney animator Nik Ranieri, "The Great Elephant" is an attractive and engaging picturebook allegory that will help young readers prepare for living in a world that constantly teaches ideas that may go against their family's faith and beliefs.

Chocolate Cakes
Tom Phillips
New Holland Publishers (UK)
c/o Sterling Publishing Company
387 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016-8810
1843309785 $19.95 1-800-805-5489

The chocolate cake is an desert and celebratory icon. Chocolate Cakes: 20 Fabulously Indulgent Cakes by British confectionary expert Tom Philips showcases twenty superb chocolate cakes, each of which would make any special occasion truly memorable. After providing basic introduction information on chocolate, techniques of cake baking, cakes and sponges, fillings, coverings, and equipment, the fully illustrated, "kitchen cook friendly" recipes follow. The selected cakes comprising this outstanding and highly recommended compendium of specialized recipes includes: Praline Chequerboard Torte; Hedgehog; Chocolate Flower; Choc Cherry Fondant; Square Box of Chocolates; Ultimate Chocolate Truffle Cake; Chocolate Panel Cake; Bitter Fruity Ganache Cake; Round Chocolate Box; Valentine's Love Heart; Vertical Layer Torte; Yle Log; Christmas Tree; Floral Trail; White Wedding Dream; Fairy Cake Tower; Chocolate Croquembouche; Forever Frills; Easter Basket; and Tower of Flowers. Enhanced with templates, a list of suppliers, and an index, Chocolate Cakes is an elegant, mouth-watering, palate pleasing collection of truly tempting confections.

Slow Cooker Favorites Made Healthy
Better Homes and Gardens
Meredith Books
1716 Locust Street, Des Moines, IA 50336-0001
0696226839 $14.95 1-800-678-8091

The slow cooker or crockpot is a busy time-stressed homemaker's best friend in the kitchen. Get up in the morning, put in the ingredients, turn on the heat, the walk away for the rest of the day until dinner time. Now even the most health conscious kitchen cook can take full advantage of the crockpot with the more than two hundred slow-cooker recipes comprising the new Better Homes and Gardens' Slow Cooker Favorites Made Healthy. From Five-Spice Chicken Wings; Slow-Cooked Beef Fajitas; Dijon Pork Chops; and Ginger-Tomato Chicken; to Pasta with Eggplant Sauce; Asian Turkey and Rice Soup; Mushroom Steak Diane Stew; and Savory Bread Pudding, the recipes are clearly laid out with ingredient lists, prep and cooking time estimates, number of servings, cooking directions, and even Slow Cooker Size. A very highly recommended addition to family kitchen cookbook collections, Slow Cooker Favorites Made Healthy comes with an exceptionally useful bonus chapter of outstanding recipes for small families using a one and one-half quart sized slow cooker.

Love Made Visible
Paul Brenner & Susan Wingate
Council Oak Books Ltd.
2105 East 15th Street, Suite B, Tulsa, OK 74104
1571781838 $19.95 1-800-247-8850

Obstetrician and psychotherapist Paul Brenner provides captions for Susan Wingate remarkable black-and-white photography to create an intimate, visual portrait of the spiritual process by which love between a man and a woman brings new life into the world through the procreative process. Comprised of fifty photographs (along with Dr. Brenner's eloquent narrative) readers are treated to a revelation of the emotional experiences and bonding of expectant families as reflected in the faces of fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters to the new baby that will become a part of their lives when born. Love Made Visible is especially recommended for anyone considering having a child and would make an especially elegant addition to community library photography and "Family Life" collections.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

Deadly Dozen
Robert K. DeArment
University of Oklahoma Press
4100 28th Avenue, NW, Norman, OK 73069
080613559X $29.95 1-800-627-7377

Because of the movies and television shows, when it comes to gunslingers on either side of the law, we all know of the "headline stars" of the American frontier such as Wyatt Earp, Bill the Kid, and Doc Holliday. What western history expert Robert K. DeArment has done in Deadly Dozen: Twelve Forgotten Gunfighters Of The Old West is to present the lives and deeds of twelve gunman who were important in their day, but never had the enduring notoriety of their more famous colleagues, competitors, and contemporaries. Here are the stories of John Bull, Pat Desmond, Mart Duggan, Milt Yarberry, Dan Tucker, George Goodell, Bill Standifer, Charley Perry, Barney Riggs, Dan Bogan, Dave Kemp, and Jeff Kidder. DeArment's informed and informative text is enhanced with illustrations, and an "Afterword", along with notes, a bibliography, and an index. Deadly Dozen is a real treat for American frontier history buffs and a very highly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library American Western History reference collections.

Positive Options For Colorectal Cancer
Carol Ann Larson
Hunter House Publishers
PO Box 2914, Alameda, CA 94501-2914
0897934466 $12.95 1-800-266-5592

Endorsed by Advocates for Colorectal Education, Positive Options For Colorectal Cancer: Self-Help And Treatment is a straightforward repository of information about colorectal cancer - its symptoms, tests that can detect it, basic information for making decisions about treatment, including chemotherapy, surgery, and alternative treatments, possible complications, lessons learned by cancer survivors and more. An absolute "must-read" for patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer and family members who need to know more about what is going on, and a welcome supplement to help the reader understand one's doctor better.

Darwinism & Philosophy
Vittorio Hosle & Christian Illies, editors
University of Notre Dame Press
310 Flanner Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556
0268030731 $35.00 1-800-621-2736

Collaboratively edited by Vittorio Hosle (Paul G. Kimball Chair of Arts and Letters, Department of German Languages and Literatures, University of Notre Dame) and Christian Illies (Lecturer, Technical University of Eindhoven, Netherlands), Darwinism & Philosophy offers an inherently fascinating series of essays by knowledgeable scholars on the significant and continuing philosophical potential of Charles Darwin's principles of evolutionary biology. Included are "Materialism, Actualism, and Science: What's Modern about Modern Science?" by Peter McLauglin (University of Heidelberg, Germany); "Evolution, Paleontology, and Metaphysics" by David Oldroyd (University of New South Wales, Australia); "Darwinism's Multiple Ontologies" by David Depew (University of Iowa, USA); "Darwinism: Neither Biologistic nor Metaphysical" by Bernd Graefrath (University of Essen, German), and thirteen other contributors organized into four general sections: "What Kind of Science is Darwinian Biology, and What Are Its Ontological Presuppositions"; "Is a Non-Naturalist Interpretation of Darwinism Possible?"; "What is the Epistemological Relevance of Darwinism?"; and "Darwinism and the Place of the Human". Also available in a hardcover edition (0268030723, $70.00), Darwinism & Philosophy is a seminal body of work that is an essential contribution to the fields of Evolutionary Studies and Philosophy.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Surfing USA!
Ben Marcus
Voyageur Press
123 North Second Street, Stillwater MN 55082-0338
0896586901 $35.00 1-800-888-9653

Surfing USA!: An Illustrated History Of The Coolest Sport Of All Time is the definitive history of surfing in America by Ben Marcus (past editor of publication "Surfer" for ten years and author of articles on surfing in 130 issues of that magazine). Having grown up adjacent to the surfing beaches of southern California in the 1970s, Marcus was present through all the big developments in the sport of surfing. His comprehensive and beautifully illustrated history shows how the sport developed, the science of "big waves", surfer personalities, the evolution of surf boards, and the creation of a surf culture from movies to rock 'n' roll to hot rodding. Of special note are the impressive photographs of surfing memorabilia, movie posters, album covers, and pop art thematically showcasing the sport of surfing. Surfing USA! is a strongly recommended contribution to school and community library American Popular History reference collections -- and a "must" for all surfing enthusiasts!

The Early Middle Ages
Philip Daileader
The Teaching Company
4151 Lafayette Center Drive, Suite 100, Chantilly, VA 20151-1232
1565859154 $254.95

A four-time winner of the "Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teacher", Philip Daileader is an Associate Professor of History at The College of William and Mary. His 24-part lecture series, "The Early Middle Ages" is a superb, graduate level course of 30-minute lectures splendidly recorded on four DVD discs allowing the viewer to proceed at whatever pace of instruction suits them best. The DVDs are packaged two to a pair of sturdily packaged cases and are accompanied by two print volumes of the lecture's text. After an informed and orienting introduction ("Long Shadows and the Dark Ages"), Professor Daileader goest on to survey "Diocletian and the Crises of the Third Century"; "Constantine the Great--Christian Emperor"; "Pagans and Christians in the Fourth Century"; "Athletes of God"; a two-part lecture on Augustine; then "Barbarians at the Gate"; "Franks and Goths"; "Arthur's England"; "Justinian and the Byzantine Empire"; "The House of Islam"; followed by four lectures on the Carolingians (including Charlemagne); "Fury of the Northmen"; "Collapse of the Carolingian Empire"; "The Birth of France and Germany"; England in the Age of Alfred"; "Al-Andalus--Islamic Spain"; "Carolingian Europe--Gateway to the Middle Ages"; "Family Life--How Then Became Now"; and the concluding summary lecture, "Long Shadows and the Dark Ages Revisited". Professor Daileader is articulate, knowledgeable, and his presentations are provided with a flair for public speaking equal to his enthusiasm for his subject. "The Early Middle Ages" would make a superb addition to any History Department or academic library collection, as well as a popular addition to highschool honors curriculums in European History. This outstanding DVD/Textbook combination would also be quite appropriate for community library collections for their interested non-specialist general patrons with an interest in Medieval History.

Darwinism & Philosophy
Vittorio Hosle & Christian Illies, editors
University of Notre Dame Press
310 Flanner Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556
0268030731 $35.00 1-800-621-2736

Collaboratively edited by Vittorio Hosle (Paul G. Kimball Chair of Arts and Letters, Department of German Languages and Literatures, University of Notre Dame) and Christian Illies (Lecturer, Technical University of Eindhoven, Netherlands), Darwinism & Philosophy offers an inherently fascinating series of essays by knowledgeable scholars on the significant and continuing philosophical potential of Charles Darwin's principles of evolutionary biology. Included are "Materialism, Actualism, and Science: What's Modern about Modern Science?" by Peter McLauglin (University of Heidelberg, Germany); "Evolution, Paleontology, and Metaphysics" by David Oldroyd (University of New South Wales, Australia); "Darwinism's Multiple Ontologies" by David Depew (University of Iowa, USA); "Darwinism: Neither Biologistic nor Metaphysical" by Bernd Graefrath (University of Essen, German), and thirteen other contributors organized into four general sections: "What Kind of Science is Darwinian Biology, and What Are Its Ontological Presuppositions"; "Is a Non-Naturalist Interpretation of Darwinism Possible?"; "What is the Epistemological Relevance of Darwinism?"; and "Darwinism and the Place of the Human". Also available in a hardcover edition (0268030723, $70.00), Darwinism & Philosophy is a seminal body of work that is an essential contribution to the fields of Evolutionary Studies and Philosophy.

John Burroughs

Christina's Bookshelf

My Book of Life, a Companion Piece: Letter to Maya Angelou (Pictures & Words)
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, Indiana 47403 (888)-728-8467
ISBN: 1420820486, $35.00 100 Pages

Looking for something different? Like words, quips, and thoughts to live by? This book is more than another for your collection. It's a state of mind. If you also like pictures of nature, you'll find those in this book breathtaking.

Oluwadahunsi composed eighty-eight sets of meditations that he hopes readers find challenging and edifying. He gave each a title and a special photograph, courtesy of 'The Fish and Wildlife Service.' Together they become reverent and poignant. Each message seems to suggest a way to view life and/or life's ironies.

Excerpt Preview:

A warm temperature is a freezing room
The chambers of the heart were not made
For ice
Even the heavy won't feel heavy
If you touch them
The corners of the earth don't bend
They round everyone
A healthy start doesn't begin until all are

Oluwadahunsi published a poem at the age of thirteen. In time he became a produced playwright, poet and author. He has three law degrees, including one from Harvard Law School. He attended Yale School of Drama, and has a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting from the American Film Institute. He has taught and practiced law in both the private and public sectors.

This arrangement is more than words and pretty pictures. It's a reminder about the bigger picture, something many of us forget when caught up in the rat-race. Readers will find its mood thoughtful, encouraging, and enlightening.

Recommended for those seeking advice from a fascinating friend. Makes a nice gift for a friend, family member, or oneself. It's not for the simple-minded though. This book's messages go deep, not always poetically, but it still beats, after all, it's something different.

Stay Out of Court! The Small Business Guide to Preventing Disputes and Avoiding Lawsuit Hell
Andrew A. Caffey
Entrepreneur Press
2445 McCabe Way, Suite 400, Irvine, CA. 92614 1-800-864-6864
ISBN: 1932531262, $17.95 187 pages

Let's face it, everybody seems sue happy these days. Notice the cost of insurance? Listen to how people with great ideas to providing a wonderful service or product, change their mind because they fear lawsuits. "Obviously something needs to be done because this fear is changing the way services are provided," says Caffey. He believes that until then, businesses need to take steps to protect themselves. His book compiles steps, tips, and solutions.

Practicing attorney, Andrew A Caffey, has written a brilliant tool for small business owners. He's represented some of the largest, best known companies in the world, as well as many small businesses across the United States and Canada.

The Book's Content Headings:

Part I. Welcome to Lawsuit Hell (Chapters 1-5)
Part II. Conflict Resolution Skills: Laying the Groundwork to Avoid Costly Disputes (Chapters 6-8)
Part III. The Court Avoidance Tools at Your Command (Chapters 9-12)
Part IV. Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) Tools (Chapters 13-16)
Part V. The Mindset Key: Establishing an Ethic of accountability (Chapters 17-19)
Part VI. Making the Lawsuit Go Away (Chapters 20-25)

The book also contains:
Conclusion: The Perfect Storm
About the Author

An Excerpt from the book: Taken from Part V.

"So far, we have discussed two important legs of the stay out of court's stool: conflict management skills (such as negotiation) and tools (such as contract provisions and notices). The third leg of the stool, building an ethic of accountability, is an attitude, a state of mind, a corporate culture. It is at once the most important of the three and the hardest to master and to put into effect. The first step in building an ethic of accountability is to banish the victim's mindset from your organization."

My favorite chapter is 12, 'Controlling the Escalating Dispute'. First, Caffey gives an anatomy of a conflict, he then goes onto 6 stages that conflicts normally go through. Next, he goes on about how to handle the conflict before it escalates, how to intervene, and also provides sample letters to threatened litigation, and then how to deal with a meeting with the threatening person who may also have his attorney with him. He encourages the reader to strive toward a resolution out of court. Finally, Caffey ends the chapter by saying that sometimes there isn't much to be done except to fight the bully.

"Stay Out of Court!" The Small Business Guide to Preventing Disputes and Avoiding Lawsuit Hell" is an easy-to-read practical overview for small businesses on how to prevent disputes and avoid lawsuits. At a time when many businesses worry about being sued, and rightly so, Caffey offers a way to deal with this until something is done. The system needs revamping, that is for sure. I recommend this book for anyone with a small business or for someone who is starting one. It's instructive, helpful, and a "Must-Have" for the small business entrepreneur. It's like having a business advisor. A terrifically smart and savvy buy!

Christina Francine Whitcher, Reviewer

Christy's Bookshelf

Metro Girl
Janet Evanovich
Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
ISBN: 0060584009, $26.95 296 pages

Alex Barnaby - Barney to family and friends - heads to Miami after receiving a frightening phone call from her little brother, Bill. When she arrives at Bill's apartment, it's been trashed and a man with a fake eye tries to kidnap her. If that isn't bad enough, it seems Bill has disappeared with NASCAR driver Sam Hooker's boat. And Hooker's not a happy camper. Hooker trails Alex as she tries to find out the whereabouts of her brother, intrigued by her rebuffs to his advances. Things turn serious when two men threaten to kill them if they don't stop. Which only encourages the dynamic duo to search far and wide for Wild Bill. Their adventure takes them into international waters, where they find a cache of gold bars and a mysterious container that creepy men from America and Cuba are anxious to get their hands on.

This is a wonderful read. Evanovich's witty sense of humor shines through to perfection. The characters are fun, the plot entertaining, and the dialogue/ situations zany. Highly recommended.

Dating Dead Men
Harley Jane Kozak
ISBN: 0385510187, $22.95 326 pages

Wollie Shelley has to date 40 men in 60 days as part of a research project for radio talk-show host and author Dr. Cookie, while desperately trying to pass inspection for an upgrade to her card shop from Wollie's Welcome! To Wollie's Wilkommen!

On her way to a state-run mental hospital to visit her brother, Wollie discovers a dead man in the roadway, is taken hostage by a man posing as a doctor, and ends up taking care of a ferret while dodging the mob and two Swedish men intent on killing her.

Wollie is a fun character - hope to see more with her - and the read one I thoroughly enjoyed. With plenty of offbeat characters, a good plot, and twisting mystery, you won't be disappointed.

Deadly Illusions: a Greg Mckenzie Mystery
Chester D. Campbell
Durban House Publishing Company, Inc.
7502 Greenville Avenue, Suite 500, Dallas, TX 75231
ISBN: 1930754655, $12.95 261 pages

Chester Campbell has created a unique blend of sleuthing with the Greg McKenzie series. In this installment, McKenzie, retired from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and former investigator for the Nashville DA's office, has opened an investigative firm with his wife Jill. While investigating the disappearance of funds from a popular restaurant chain, they agree to take on a case for Molly Saint, who asks for a background check on her husband Damon. When Molly mysteriously disappears, Greg and Jill try to track her whereabouts, which leads to entanglement with a secret government agency and contract killers, all tied to the murder of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

The McKenzie duo is a fresh addition to the mystery genre. An older couple, Greg and Jill complement each other personally and professionally and make for good reading. Campbell writes in an engaging style, delivering a mystery that twists and turns throughout the book. A compelling read.

Trailer Trash from Tennessee
David Hunter
Tellico Books
Oak Ridge, TN
ISBN: 0916078760, $16.00 199 pages

David Hunter pens a wistful memoir of his childhood in the hills of East Tennessee (with a short stint in South Carolina). As a child, Hunter was precocious and imaginative - a boy who could make arrows out of reeds and bottle tops, turn an adding machine into the control board of a space ship, and transform any number of common household items into innovative toys. Always tagging along was his little brother, Larry, reminding this reviewer of a 20th century Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The stories told are delivered with humor and wit, in an engaging style. Hidden within the text of each chapter is a subtle moral learned by the delightfully adroit David. Hunter has grown from an imaginative boy into an imaginative man, whose creativity as a writer brings pleasure to his host of fans, of which I am one. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and recommend it highly.

Garfield's Train
Feather Schwartz Foster
ISBN: 1413769152, $19.95 226 pages

In 1947, at the age of 23, Kate accompanies her grandmother, Louise Dunbar Stanfield, on a train trip across the country to visit her dying friend, Mollie Brown. As the train travels over the landscape, Louise tells Kate of her life as a child on the Jersey Shore, in a city called Long Branch. It was here the wealthiest families built elaborate homes and whiled away the days and evenings at casinos and racetracks. As her grandmother's story continues, Kate learns that Mollie Brown is actually the daughter of President James Garfield, who served in office only three months before being shot and subsequently dying three months later. During his last days, Garfield was brought back to Long Branch, where it was hoped he would recuperate.

This is a lovely story about a continuing friendship between two young girls and the events that transpired during an important time in our nation's history. GARFIELD'S TRAIN is a compelling read, blooming with historical facts evolving around history makers of the late nineteenth century. Of interest is the political wrangling that went on before and after Garfield's nomination and subsequent election, and the country's reaction to his failing health after he was shot. An absolute must-read for history and political science lovers as well as anyone who enjoys spending time with a fascinating book. Highly recommended.

Christy Tillery French

Debra's Bookshelf

Edges: O Israel, O Palestine
Leora Skolkin-Smith
Glad Day Books
PO Box 699, Enfield, NH 03748
ISBN: 1930180144, $15.00 176 pages

Leora Skolkin-Smith's brief novel follows fourteen-year-old Liana Bialik on a trip to Israel with her mother and sister in 1963. The three women have left their Westchester home to attend the reburial of Leona's maternal uncle, whose grave is to be moved to the Israeli side of the country's border with Jordan. At the same time an extended visit with her birth family is intended as a comfort to Liana's mother after the recent death--by apparent suicide--of her husband. The tragic stories behind the deaths of these two men, Liana's father and uncle, though only hinted at in the book, form the backdrop to Liana's coming-of-age story.

Set amidst the barbed-wire borders of pre-1967 Jerusalem, Edges is more concerned with the figurative boundaries between Liana and her mother, whom Liana simultaneously loves and is repelled by. Certainly there is much in her mother, as Skolkin-Smith describes her, to send one screaming: "Her body was usually without undergarments which gave the sheets a hot, wettish odor. Her hair and face creams gave off a strong, fruity smell and tempered the raw coarse aromas that got loose from her flesh." In this and other passages the author paints Liana's mother as aesthetically odious--just the sort of way a girl of fourteen might view her mother. But reeking of sweat and other bodily fluids as she is, Liana's mother is not the only thing that smells in this book. Skolkin-Smith's Jerusalem is filled with the unappealing odors of food and people as well as of cocktail napkins, orgasms, and mirrors (which smell respectively like walnuts, curdled milk, and "sweat and old yarn").

We can view with sympathy Liana's desire to free herself from her mother's stifling, sweaty, noisome affection, if not the dramatic means by which she eventually makes good her escape. Her story becomes entwined with that of an American boy who's recently gone missing and whose disappearance has caused a national stir. Apparently the boy doesn't want to be found, but why this should be is never made clear.

Skolkin-Smith's Edges is a quiet novel filled with small moments. Much of the story is told in dialogue, the stilted English of Israelis conversing in an unfamiliar tongue. They pepper their speech with untranslated Hebrew, which may be off-putting to readers unfamiliar with that language. More problematic for my own appreciation of the novel is that the various characters often have fractured encounters with one another that don't quite make sense:

"Two small nuns in black bowed in front of some ruins, and a priest with a scarlet-red Russian turban was smoking a cigarette beside a church door. He saw us and crossed the vestibule.

'I am American. Christian. Does it matter?' my mother began, and he waved us along, away from him."

Skolkin-Smith's characters rarely express themselves fully, much falling between their words. (Liana, for example, runs off with the American boy without the two ever having a conversation to that effect beforehand.) This imperfect communication probably reflects real-life dialogue well, but it is difficult to follow on the page.

Readers who like their prose on the poetic side--and anyone interested in a story that evokes the sights and sentiments and indeed the smells of 1960's Jerusalem--should give Skolkin-Smith's novel a look.

Decorated to Death
Dean James
Kensington Books
ISBN: 0758204868, $5.99 255 pages

Simon Kirby-Jones, like any other amateur detective worth his or her salt, has the fortunate habit of being in the right place at the wrong time. In the few months since he's moved from Texas to the quaint English village of Snupperton-Mumsley, Simon has stumbled over at least as many corpses as Murder She Wrote's Jessica Fletcher encounters on an average book tour. And like that grand dame of polite cozies, Simon too is a prolific writer, the author of well-respected historical biographies as well as two series of books, romances and mysteries, which he publishes pseudonymously. Enticing as his secret life of letters is, Simon's forays into lower-brow literature are not his only secret: he also happens to be a vampire, a gay vampire, in a world in which, however, medical advances have taken away much of the unpleasantness associated with that condition. Simon does try to limit his exposure to sunlight, and garlic remains a no-no, but he neither requires nor desires the blood-quaffing that has given generations of vampires a bad reputation. Or, at least, Simon never used to have such cravings....

In this third installment* in Dean James' amusing series of vampire cozies, our gentlemanly undead protagonist finds himself in the uncomfortable position of gazing upon his acquaintances' pulsing neck veins with something approaching lust: the pills he takes thrice daily to ward off his vampiric impulses seem to be failing--a delicious development. There is also, of course, a murder: Zeke Harwood, the flamboyant host of the popular decorating show Tres Zeke, is bludgeoned to death while redoing the drawing room of nearby Blitherington Hall.

Decorated to Death offers readers another good mystery. For those coming to the series for the first time, the author does a good job for the most part of weaving the necessary background information into his narrative, though further explanation of the woman Simon refers to as his Nemesis would have served even repeat readers well. Fans of the series will find the book most interesting for Simon's unwilling flirtation with traditional vampirism, and for his more welcome flirtation with his personal assistant, young aristocrat Giles Blitherington.

The Practice of Deceit
Elizabeth Benedict
Houghton Mifflin
ISBN: 0618563717, $23.95 288 pages

We know almost from the outset of his story that Eric Lavender's marriage is in trouble. He is, after all, telling that story from a holding cell in the Scarsdale Police Department, and it's a complaint from Eric's wife that's landed him there. But only a few weeks earlier Eric had been obliviously happy in his three-and-a-half-year marriage to Colleen, a divorce attorney known to her colleagues--if not her husband--as a barracuda when it comes to extracting blood from her clients' exes. Colleen's opening shot in a battle Eric had only dimly been aware was brewing is the police report she's filed alleging that Eric sexually molested his stepdaughter, Colleen's four-year-old from a previous relationship. Sitting on the hard bench in his cell with time on his hands, Eric begins to explain how things fell apart for him, a tale whose roots go back to the day he met Colleen. Four years earlier, still recovering from the emotional trauma of being abandoned by her husband while she was pregnant, Colleen boldly took the lead in wooing and winning Eric. In less than a year he'd left behind his apartment and his psychotherapy practice in New York and moved into her Scarsdale home, where he set about talking the community's pampered scions through their relatively uninteresting problems.

The trouble in their marriage starts when the wife of one of Eric's patients hires Colleen as a divorce lawyer. Colleen's hostile behavior when confronted with the problem of this conflict of interest--she and Eric are now ranged on either side of a domestic dispute--prompts Eric to take a closer look at the enigmatic woman he's married to. He gradually uncovers evidence that suggests she has been less than truthful to him about her background. The story of Eric's relationship with Colleen becomes mesmerizing as he slowly peels back the layers of his wife's perfidy, discovering as he does that he hardly knows her, that he cannot trust the woman who, chillingly, is now, as he's telling the story, acting as sole parent to their daughters.

Elizabeth Benedict's The Practice of Deceit is one of those rare
books one is loath to see the end of. Smoothly written and well
plotted, the book manages to be both quiet and suspenseful. I would
have preferred that the final chapter of the book not be epistolary
in form, and there is one action taken by the protagonist that
continues to confuse me (his call to a client while in prison), but
these are minor quibbles about a very good book.

The Tulip and the Pope
Deborah Larsen
Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 037541360X, $24.00 265 pages

Anyone who ever attended Catholic school will understand why Deborah Larsen was so curious in her youth about convent life. Surely we girls all wondered, at least--we shapeless lumps in knee-highs and pleated skirts--what the nuns who taught us did behind closed doors, how their communal life was organized. That same curiosity is what will draw readers to Ms. Larsen's memoir, The Tulip and the Pope, an account of the nearly five years the author spent as a nun some forty years ago among the BVMs, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

To most of us the lifestyle Larsen and her fellow postulants to the order adopted upon "entering religion" would be anything but appealing: not only was complete obedience to one's superiors in the order required, but postulants had also in effect to renounce their individuality. One could not own anything: even the habit a nun donned with such attention, pinning and snapping it into position with the greatest care, was considered communal property. All mail, incoming and outgoing, was screened and might or might not be delivered at the discretion of one's superiors. Nuns were forbidden to establish "particular friendships" with one another lest anyone among them be left out. Postulants could not bring their own books into the convent and could thus read only the religious publications provided there for them. Nuns were to practice "custody of the eyes," not making eye contact with one another, not looking about willy-nilly at the world around them.

The convent as Larsen describes it is a stark, black-and-white place, a sensory-deprived world in which a young woman might understandably look forward, as Larsen did, to the task of cleaning out the convent's walk-in freezer: a perk of this job was that the person performing it had to wear a particular sweater, one that happened to be green rather than white or black and thus set its wearer apart from her Sisters. Almost as if she were an individual. In this world the responsibility for decision-making was taken from the individual, who lived content in the knowledge that in doing anything by order of her superiors she was doing God's will: "...the day-to-day living of Holy Obedience was pretty simple. Simple in the extreme as a matter of fact: your Sister superior's will for you is expressive of the Will of God. If the superior has you on the duty list for scrubbing toilets, that is God's Will for you. How positively joyful that you are certain that when you are cleaning the toilets, that is God's Will." One could see the appeal of this trouble-free existence, it being a kind of extended childhood, if the price of not having to balance a checkbook and make mortgage payments and pick out one's own clothes were not deemed exorbitant.

What is remarkable about Larsen's thoughtful book is that she does manage to convey to readers what the appeal of the convent was for her. One understands her decision to commit herself to that ascetic lifestyle at nineteen, and one understands equally well her decision some five years later to walk out the convent's front door onto the snowy streets of Dubuque, Iowa, no longer wearing her habit. But while she is implicitly critical of the religious life when explaining the intellectual process by which she came to reject the convent, Larsen is by no means disdainful of it.

Although the outcome of Larsen's memoir is foreordained--the author's bio, after all, makes it clear that she did not remain in the convent--the book offers readers a sort of suspense. We know that the heroine will emerge safe, if you will, at the book's end, but fear nonetheless in the reading that she won't make it, that she'll surrender herself to the Church and live with her eyes perpetually downcast. Fortunately Ms. Larsen did not choose that for herself forty years ago, and she has, among many other things no doubt, a highly readable memoir to show for it.

Never Have Your Dog Stuffed
Alan Alda
Random House
ISBN: 1400064090, $24.95 224 pages

There's simply nothing wrong with this book. In prose that flows so smoothly you'll want to down the whole of it in one sitting Alan Alda, whose TV personae most of us will have admired for years, shows himself to be in real life an affable, intelligent, intellectually curious, normal, nice guy. Who can write well. He begins with one of the best first lines of a book I've ever read: "My mother didn't try to stab my father until I was six, but she must have shown signs of oddness before that." And he goes on to tell the story of his life in roughly chronological order: from a dysfunctional childhood spent in the wings of the burlesque theaters in which his father worked, to his own years--many of them--as a struggling actor, to the more lucrative period of his career.

Never Have Your Dog Stuffed is not what one might expect of a celebrity memoir, not only because it is so very good but also because there is, you come to realize, so very little celebrity in it. Alda notices this himself about two-thirds of the way into the book in a prelude to his discussion of the amusing and unpleasant side effects of fame. ("This is what getting famous does to you, I thought. You wind up sending suicidal people form letters.") Alda does not here recite his stepping stones to greatness. He rather gives an honest account of his growth as an actor and a person over the years--how his intellect was challenged and changed, how he struggled to act rather than just perform. Nor does he shy away from self-criticism. There are no great faux pas to which Alda must confess, no substance abuse or extra-marital dalliances, but he does something arguably more difficult. He writes about the ambivalence he felt for his parents--his father Robert, with whom he often felt himself in competition, and his mentally ill mother. And he shows himself to have behaved badly toward his father, in particular, in small moments that apparently seared his conscience. Alda's discussions of his parents' deaths are the most poignant of the book.

Unsurprisingly, Alda is also sometimes funny in the book ("Apparently, you can offer to disembowel me, but I'll still see if I can make you laugh.") But he is nothing at all like the smooth-talking, gregarious, Groucho-esque character he played in M*A*S*H. That Alda does not share Hawkeye's personality did not surprise me. Why should he? But I was surprised that in reading Alda's memoir I almost forgot about M*A*S*H and Hawkeye Pierce completely.

Obviously this book comes very highly recommended. Buy it and enjoy it. Like me you may find yourself reading the last page very slowly in a vain attempt to keep it from ending.

Deja Vu
Ian Hocking
UKA Press
ISBN: 1904781152, $15.99 295 pages

It is inevitable that David Proctor and Saskia Brandt, the two protagonists of Ian Hocking's futuristic novel Deja Vu, will meet. Proctor is suspected of multiple murders, most recently that of his former colleague Bruce Shimoda, with whom he had once worked on the creation of a top-secret virtual world. He is also suspected of bombing the lab that he and Shimoda shared some twenty years earlier, back in 2002, an explosion which happened to kill his own wife. Saskia Brandt, in contrast, doesn't know her own back-story, but she does know that she works for the FIB, Europe's Federal Investigation Bureau, and that she's been ordered to capture Proctor. Saskia also knows that she is super-human insofar as manifold bits of information have been implanted in her brain. She quite literally knows things she doesn't know she knows: should she find herself in the cockpit of an airplane, for example, she may or may not discover that she is an expert pilot. Using investigative skills she'd been unaware she possessed, Saskia follows Proctor across continents, a high-tech chase scene that will leave readers, if not breathless, certainly interested.

Deja Vu is a smart read filled with clever, fresh dialogue:

"Saskia stared, unfocused, at the wall. 'If I fail, what will happen to me?'

'For murder?' The death penalty. Although after the Richter ruling, you might be lucky and just have your brain wiped. Street-cleaning isn't so bad. They wear epaulettes.'"

The book offers readers an intriguing mystery right from the get-go: Saskia, who is being framed herself for murder at the book's opening, must solve the crime before a refrigerator repairman arrives in her office the next day. (Really. It is the scene early on in which Saskia discovers the corpse she's allegedly responsible for that hooked me on the book.) The plot of Deja Vu is intricate enough to leave readers pondering its twists long after they've finished it. It may indeed be a bit too complicated, or may at least occasionally leave too much unexplained: I, at least, was left with a few questions that might require a second reading to clear up. In particular, the almost dreamlike segments in the book in which the characters are acting in the virtual environment Proctor helped create can be confusing and are less satisfying than the rest of the story. That said, I very much enjoyed the world Hocking has created and the characters with which he's populated it.

While the virtual world Hocking's scientists created left me cold, I was otherwise smitten with the author's view of the future, in particular with its cool gadgetry. In the 2020's, computers are everywhere. Driverless taxis tool around providing easy transport. Refrigerators self-diagnose and summon repairmen when appropriate. Best of all is the computer prototype that David Proctor makes so much use of: Ego is a close to omniscient, credit-card-sized personal computer that is forever increasing its own store of knowledge and performing helpful tricks. Ego constantly scans innumerable sources--the internet, police communications, spy novels--for information relevant to its master's situation, and upon command it is ready to act as an interpreter or magnetic card key, a voice-activated recorder or explosive device, a lie detector or, well, an iPod. In short, I want one. I just hope Steve Jobs is paying attention.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Dian's Bookshelf

Terminal 9 -- The McCallister Files Book Three
Patricia H. Rushford and Harrison James
Integrity Publishers
5250 Virginia Way Suite 110, Brentwood TN 37027
ISBN: 1591452120, $13.99

Antonio "Mac" McCallister and new partner, Dana Bennett, are trying to ignore their attraction to each other while solving the murder of Clay Mullins, an 89-year old, retired, wheelchair-bound railroad worker who owned prime riverside property adjacent to the railroad. The victim was killed by being struck by the very trains he loved.

Considered a nuisance by some at the railroad, the retiree was a regular fixture at the railroad yards during the common workday. One of the railroad workers, in particular, is filled with animosity toward Mullins. Joining the suspect list are Mullins' heirs, a successful daughter and a deadbeat son, until shortly into the investigation the victim's house burns, and the son is found dead in the rubble.

McCallister is challenged in this book to go forward without his partner who is recovering from cancer treatment. He misses his partner and the subtle reminders that came from him that God is in control of all things, even Mac's love life. As Mac fights his attraction to Bennett, she proves to be a brilliant young detective, and her abilities deliver a blow to Mac's ego, causing him to struggle on another level. When she fixes him up with the dynamic medical examiner, Mac struggles more and is fun to watch as he works himself through these situations.

Terminal is a good read for those who like police procedurals and carries the tone of one experienced in police work - for good reason. Co-author Harrison James is a supervisor of a major metropolitan Police Department and whose background includes working as an undercover narcotics agent, homicide and sexual/physical abuse detective, and he has also unforced big-game poaching laws in back-country investigations. He's also made appearances in several of today's police/crime reality shows.

Patricia Rushford has written four serial mysteries. She is an award-winning author, speaker, teacher, registered nurse and holds a Masters in counseling. On rush for web site at

Terminal delivers with tension, conflict, a good mystery and subtle character growth. It is the third in the McCallister series, following Secrets, Lies and Alibis and Deadfall.

The Adventures of Riley: Mission to Madagascar
Amanda Lumry and Laura Hurwitz
illustrated by Sarah McIntyre
Eaglemont Press
15600 North East 8th B-1, Bellevue, WA 98009 1-877-590-9744
ISBN: 0974841129, $15.95 36 pages

Get out your passports, located at the back of The Adventures of Reilly: Mission to Madagascar and join Riley and Uncle Max as they search for the endangered Aye-Aye Lemur. Supporting characters, Aunt Martha and a star struck cousin Alice, join forces with a husband and wife film crew to document the Aye Aye Lemur who is dangerously close to becoming extinct.After a couple days of no sightings, Riley is surprised at the sight of two lights outside his window -- the eyes of the Aye-Aye.

Fifth in The Adventures of Reilly series, Mission to Madagascar continues to entertain and educate young children about the ecosystem and the animals that live in it. Illustrated with actual photos of the animals, 8 out of 10 of which are found only on the small island of Madagascar, Mission is able to educate with pictures as well as words. Readers will get the scoop on Hissing Cockroaches, Parsons Chameleons, Painted Mantella Frog and a Fossa, among others.

I took this book on a flight to Philadelphia, and by coincidence, sat next to a father with his young son, age 7. I offered the pair the book to pass time and was delighted to watch the boy's reaction. A quick flip through of the pictures, and he immediately saw the included passport and stickers -- devices scattered throughout the book to give the young reader an activity to prove their progress through the book. He and his father spent several minutes examining the pictures and the facts about the animals.

Author and photographer Lumry, and series co-creator Wenger, travel the world taking photos and speaking to children about the importance of protecting our environment and conserving wildlife.

Mission includes a glossary and sidebars of facts from the noted scientists

Suitable for home or classroom and ideal for home-schooling and afterschool activities, Mission is a enchanting journey into other worlds and a doorway into exotic lands with introductions to unusual animals.

Women in Shadow and Light
Jan Goff-LaFontaine
Creative Minds Press 775-827-8626
3040 June Meadows Road, Reno, NV 89509
ISBN: 0974961051, $35.00

A Celebration of Victory

The body of a woman is beautiful, perhaps more so as she lives life and overcomes the many obstacles waiting to trip her up or tear her down. But what about the body of an abused woman? Is she still beautiful? Can her body be beautiful? Photographer and author Jan Goff-LaFontaine met with forty women, aged 19 to 95, all survivors of abuse. She photographed them in the nude to celebrate their ownership of their bodies after experiencing the victory of surviving abuse.

Women in Shadow and Light is not a book for voyeurs or those seeking a thrill. Instead, it is a deeply moving tribute to womanhood, in particular, to women who have survived abuse. Each woman allowed the part of her body she most associated with her personal experience of abuse to be photographed - only now that body part is seen victoriously.

Completely shot in black and white, the images in this book are not just works of art - they are works of love, celebration, hope, triumph, and acceptance. Their beauty is enhanced as the meaning of the portrait becomes clearer, using a narrative in the subject's own words as well as notes by the author. Some portraits include a post-interview letter from the women speaking about the experience of the photo shoot.

In Jan's own words, "I wanted to make the book a celebration of the strength and beauty of women; a reclaiming of their own joy and a gift of hope to others."

Why choose nude portraiture to offer hope? Jan says, "The question haunting me was: how can we change our perception - and even influence society's concept - of what it means to be a beautiful woman? My vision was to allow each of the women to help create her own portrait in order to see her body in a new way; to see it as beautiful and precious. To see it as a work of art."

I recommend Women in Shadow and Light for all women who are recovering from abuse; for counselors and pastors to share with those seeking affirmation. It is an inspiring tribute to the power of a woman and the beauty that arises out of the ashes of a fire that once threatened to suffocate the essence of God's most stunning creation: woman.

Two quotes from participants in Women in Shadow and Light:

"It's truly a gift to be part of this, and to be able to speak up, knowing that my story of courage can inspire others. Instead of feeling small and damaged, I am brave, I have healed, and I am an example of how others can heal, too." - Cheryl

"I'd like to hold out hope to other women…to let them know they aren't alone; they aren't the only ones these things happened to, and they can survive." - Ellie

Jan Goff-LaFontaine is a photographer and writer who is dedicated to bringing awareness and healing through art. She uses a 35 mm and medium format cameras to focus attention on people, sometimes spending hours to capture a moment. Each sensitive portrait is handcrafted by Jan to offer viewers a glimpse into the essence of her subjects.

P. M. Terrell
Palari Publishing
PO Box 9288 Richmond, VA 23227-0288
ISBN: 18749260417, $14.95 866-570-6724

Debut suspense novel pulls out all the stops.

Sheila Carpenter is a computer whiz kid. In a hurry to take advantage of her accomplishments, her employer Douglas Murray and Associates signs Sheila to work as a programmer for a trucking company. By page 20, our heroine learns that she has been hired to hide a kickback scheme. And shortly after, her associates start turning up dead.

Where does a young woman, eager to please, but not eager to break the law, turn for help? She befriends a young lawyer, Matt, from the law firm that she has also been contracted to help setting up a computer system. And she contacts the FBI.

Soon, Sheila doesn't know whether to trust Matt or not. And the FBI doesn't seem like they are eager to help, either. Her aunt is kidnapped, and Sheila's mentor is killed by a trucker in front of her eyes. Desperate to do what is right, stay alive, and save her aunt, Sheila devises a plan to blow the lid off the kickback scheme, using her computer skills.

This inside look at how kickback schemes can work, the realistic character of Sheila, the FBI, the setting, and computereze, educates as well as entertains. This debut suspense thriller hits all the right spots and doesn't disappoint. Instead, it leaves a yearning for more that the author has recognized and will fill with the soon-to-be released sequel-Ricochet: The Adventure Continues.

Terrell is also the author of the China Conspiracy, her second suspenseful thriller, which also features a gutsy heroine familiar with the workings of a computer.

Kickback has it all, including action, great dialogue, characters to root for, and bad guys to hate. Seasoned with an insider's look at the trucking industry, the computer industry, and the FBI, Kickback pulls no punches.

Author Patricia McClelland Terrell (p.m. terrell) is a computer industry professional and has been since 1976. She's also the daughter of a former FBI Special Agent and a longtime resident of the Washington, D.C. area. Her considerable experience and family background adds credibility and depth to this story. Fast-paced, filled with suspense, Kickback starts with a bang and doesn't let up until the very last page.

Welcome to the world of suspense writers, Ms. Terrell. You've earned it.

The China Conspiracy
P. M. Terrell
Palari Publishing
PO Box 9288 Richmond, VA 23227-0288 866-570-6724
ISBN: 0972818634, $14.95

Terrell's second suspense novel turns up the heat.

Kit Olson is a top-notch computer programmer. She's so good, her employer, the CIA, pulls her into a top-secret project. Her task? To interpret a computer program written in Chinese and find its purpose. She soon discovers that the code is simple, designed to count. But if it's that simple, why are the people who worked on it before her dead?

The stakes rise immediately as Kit's son is kidnapped, and she is coerced into providing information on the program. Discredited by certain government officials and implicated in the murders of former coworkers, Kit seemingly has nowhere to take the evidence she discovers of what the computer program really does: inaccurately count votes, which results in the election to office of certain people who have the best interests of China in mind.

In a wild race to expose the program before the winner of one of its vote tallies is sworn into office, Kit finds herself making desperate moves and trusting the wrong people. A superb twist brings together all of the plot elements at the end.

China Conspiracy can be best described as taking a heart-pounding ride on the hair-raising turns of a roller coaster.

Author Patricia Terrell, or p.m. terrell, heats up the suspense and increases the temperature degree by excruciating degree. An expert in the computer field herself, Terrell brings authenticity and an insider look at the way things work behind the scenes in the government. Her clients have included the US Secret Service, CIA and the Department of Defense, as well as various local law enforcement agencies.

China Conspiracy is the second in a series of suspense/thriller books with strong female heroines well-versed in the various positions in the technology world.

Terrell wastes no words as she brings to life the peril and suspense her characters face. Strong dialogue and vivid characters, coupled with detailed setting, work seamlessly to fill the pages of China Conspiracy. The author has effortlessly set herself at the top of the ranks of suspense writers.

Author of Kickback and the China Conspiracy

MWBR: In Kickback, your main character, Sheila Carpenter, is hired to write a program to cover up the trucking company's real income and activities. Where did this idea come from?

Terrell: I own a computer-related business and a few years ago, I was approached by a trucking company who asked me to write a program to hide their kickbacks. Turned out, their current accounting program had an audit trail and they wanted me to hide the under-the-table kickbacks they were paying for contract awards. Of all the programmers they could have asked, I was probably the worst: my father is a retired FBI agent. I followed Dad's advice (as all good girls do) and handed over information to the local FBI office, met with the FBI's programmers, and showed them the audit trail. Then I had to extricate myself from any relationship with this trucking company… Years later, I wondered what would have happened if the FBI hadn't believed my story, if I hadn't been able to get my hands on the evidence, and if the bad guys came after me when I tried to leave. In Kickback, Sheila is much younger than I, she's on her first job assignment, her parents are deceased, and she has no one to turn to for help.

MWBR: On your website,, you are pictured with two bodyguards, "The Twins." Is this why you need bodyguards?

Terrell: Yes, initially I was concerned about people in the trucking company seeking revenge. Later, I also had a stalker, so having bodyguards has been a double blessing.

MWBR: As a result of your experience with the trucking company that inspired this story, have you seen changes made in the trucking industry?

Terrell: I wish I could say that I have, but I have not. As my book was being released, though, I did a Google search and found that the FBI was prosecuting trucking companies up and down the east coast for exactly the same scenario I describe in my book.

MWBR: How much of Kickback is a mirror to your own life, and how much is pure imagination?

Terrell: The actual crime is exactly as it was described to me (of hiding the audit trail and hiding the illegal kickbacks). I moved the scene of the crime to the Washington, DC area, which I know from having lived most of my life there, so the streets, businesses, etc. are mostly real. I did use some fictitious businesses and streets, when a crime was being committed there, though! But Sheila is everything that I am not - athletic, young, gutsy, and just full of spunk.

MWBR: Your background includes years of technical writing and teaching, including installation of computer systems. Your writing style is perfect for suspense, but I wonder how did you make the transition from writing technical books to writing suspense/thrillers?

Terrell: Actually, writing suspense/thrillers is my first love. I wrote my first full-length book when I was a teenager (though it wasn't worth publishing). I always wanted to be a published author of mystery and suspense/thrillers. I fell into computers just as the Apple computer was invented (I know - that dates me!) and I was fortunate enough to have enjoyed a long and profitable career in the computer software field. But it's actually more difficult for me to write the technical manuals (and the four computer how-to books that were published) than it is for me to write fiction. Let's face it, the fiction is far more interesting!

MWBR: In your second book, The China Conspiracy, you introduce Kit Olson, another bright young computer genius who is drawn into a deadly puzzle. Where did this story premise come from?

Terrell: I was having lunch with two of my computer clients, and we were watching the 2000 presidential election fiasco, where the officials were scrutinizing every chad to see if it was dimpled, pregnant, hanging, etc. And I made the comment that we had to automate the election process; the whole concept of chads was so archaic. But as I sat there pondering this, I realized that my clients had no idea what programming code I entered in my programs; they only knew whether it appeared to work. And I realized how easy it would be for me to rig an election program. Ironically, when The China Conspiracy was released, Johns Hopkins University led a research team into exploring the security level used with the new touch-screen technology, and they came to the conclusion that it was "so security flawed, even a foreign government could easily infiltrate our elections software and rig an election"!

MWBR: How do you work out the plot elements so they will all end up colliding at the end of a book such as Conspiracy? Do you sometimes have to go back and reroute a certain plot?

Terrell: With The China Conspiracy, I kept a list of the plot and sub-plot elements and checked them off as they came together in the end. I also added an additional sub-plot (the disappearance of the computer programmer) to help tie things together. In the book I'm writing now (the sequel to Kickback), the plot is more complicated, so I will also go through the entire book and "weave a thread" through it so I pick up all the sub-plots and tidy them up at the end.

MWBR: I've read that you are a staunch supporter of Crime Stoppers, Crime Solvers, and Crime Lines, which offer rewards anonymity to individuals reporting information on criminal activity, resulting in arrests, recovery of stolen property, and seizure of illegal drugs. How did you become involved with these organizations?

Terrell: When I first moved to Chesterfield, Virginia, the local Crime Solvers was conducting a slogan contest. I won with the phrase "Take the Time to Solve the Crime". I attended their annual dinner and was presented with an award, got to know the people on their board and what Crime Solvers is all about, and I was totally sold on the whole concept. Several years later, I became the first female President of the Chesterfield County/ Colonial Heights Crime Solvers, and served two terms. I also joined the state association - Virginia Crime Stoppers Association - and served as their Treasurer.

MWBR: How do you decide on the locations where your scenes will take place?

I enjoy using real places and I tend to use locations that are close by, so I can hop in the car and check out the details whenever I need to. When I'm traveling, I also take back roads whenever possible so I can see the surrounding countryside. Sometimes an old house or a dilapidated barn or a winding road will inspire a scene.

MWBR: When you begin writing, do you already know the ending? Or does it present itself through the process of writing?

Terrell: The first thing I do is plot the entire crime. So I know why the character is committing the crime and how they're planning to pull it off. Then I determine the end, the middle, and the beginning, in that order. The reason for the odd order is: the end might have to take place on a particular date, such as the inauguration in The China Conspiracy; I plan a scene in the middle of the book that has as much tension as a book's climax, to propel the reader through the story, much like a roller coaster ride; and the beginning has to lay the foundation for the middle and the ending to work.

MWBR: Why the odd spelling of your name?

Terrell: When Chicago Spectrum Press published Kickback, they suggested that I use my initials and print my whole name in lower case. The theory was they could get my name in larger letters if there were fewer letters to print! When the book was released, I fell in love with the spelling, while the editor who suggested it, hated it!

MWBR: What is the next book about?

Terrell: I am actually writing two books at once: The sequel to Kickback finds Sheila attending the FBI Academy, where she discovers that her parents may not have died accidental deaths (as alluded to in the first book), but they might have been murdered. She sets out to discover what really happened to them, which has her colliding with a terrorist network. (To be released in 2006 by Drake Valley Press; the title is Ricochet.)

Then my second book is a non-fiction book entitled, Taking the Mystery out of Book Signings. It's a step-by-step process designed for both newly published authors and seasoned professionals that shows them how to get the most publicity, greatest exposure, and lots of sales from every book signing they do. This will be released in 2006 by Palari Publishing.

MWBR: Thank you for the outstanding books and interview. Good luck on the next in the series and your non-fiction book.

Slouching Toward Zion and More Lies
Robert Flynn
University of North Texas Press
P.O. Box 311336, Denton, TX 76203-1336 800-826-8911
ISBN: 1574411837, $24.95

Twenty-three short stories round out the contents of Slouching Toward Zion, all with a singular goal of making anyone involved in Christianity to take a step back and look at some of the ridiculous things we have succumbed to in our actions, traditions, and beliefs. Funny and outrageous, Flynn pulls no punches as he pokes fun at religion in general and Baptists in particular. A Baptist himself, Flynn has intimate knowledge of himself in that role and uses that knowledge to call himself to order.

"Do Have a Rapture Lawyer?", "Questions Mormons Never Ask," and "Mission to Mexico" are guaranteed to have you rolling and coming away with a new outlook.

Other chapters explore such mysteries as to what happened after the stories told in the Bible. In a Paul Harvey kind of way, Flynn tells the rest of the story. We all remember the story of Jesus spitting on the ground and making mud to apply to the blind man's eyes. Flynn points out the ungratefulness of the human race in some of their worst moments, by depicting the healed blind man as having this conversation the following day with Jesus:

"You have ruined my life. I can't read or write. I don't recognize numbers. I have no skills. And now my neighbors know I'm not blind. How can I beg? Are you going to let me starve?" And Jesus spat on the ground again. (see page 111)

All in good fun, Flynn seeks to bring us to the forefront of awareness of our personal misdeeds, aggravating habits, and quickness to judge so we might use these stories to better ourselves and think more kindly of our neighbors. Flynn recognizes how easily we hide behind religion as an excuse to hate.

Slouching Toward Zion would make a good gift book for those that like humor and can laugh at their selves as they open their minds and hearts to the possibility of forgiveness and letting go of those things that hinder their spiritual growth. It could also be used to liven up some study groups.

Flynn is the native of Chillicothe, Texas, and the author of eight other novels.

Author of Slouching Toward Zion and More Lies

MWBR: From several sources available, online and in your permission of material, I find it you are a man of many aspects, including a Baptist, a former Marine reporter, a world traveler, an idealist, and a student of humanity. How would you describe yourself?

Flynn: Bon vivant. Boulevardier. I was a Marine during the Korean War. I was a civilian reporter in Vietnam. The combination allowed me to be an associate member of the Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association. I am a Christian who considers himself a writer.

MWBR: In Slouching Toward Zion, you have used humor and satire to point out the ridiculousness of many of the traditions and some of the concepts that religious people hold. I'm interested in what kind of feedback you have been getting from this bold book.

Flynn: Most of it has been positive. At one reading of the title story, one man demanded to know if I were a Baptist. I said yes; I chose to be a Baptist. And that allowed me to point out exaggerations and pretensions in our posture before doing the same of another faith group. At another reading of the title story, some people smiled when I compared Baptists to Jews but when I compared Baptists to Muslims, many of them walked out. When I read the story at a Presbyterian Church a woman asked, "Are you sure you're a Baptist?'' She was pastor of the church.

MWBR: you stated that you poke fun at Baptists because you are know the denomination from the inside out and are a Baptist yourself. If you could redesign the Baptist traditions, or dictate what they believe, what are some of the first ones you would make over?

Flynn: I'm sure any redesign by me would be worse than what we presently are. I think Baptists have an earned reputation as mean-spirited, exclusive and lacking in loving forgiveness. I would like to change that. Baptists are passionate people and too often, that displays itself as anger, self-righteousness and disapproval rather than love. Like most Christians, we put country before God. We are captive to our culture, unable to see beyond our personal and national self-interest. I

believed enlisting in the Marines was as much a religious duty as a patriotic one. I am unable to be a pacifist, but I think Christians too often return evil for evil. We don't believe vengeance is God's; we demand it for ourselves. That may be idolatry and blasphemy.

MWBR: The world has made it a practice as choosing up sides and disguising it as religion. What are your thoughts on this common practice and what words of advice would you give to someone who is ready to choose or change their "religion."

Flynn: We tend to adopt culture and traditions to identify with our family or our region or rebel against them to separate ourselves from our families and our region. That may be our belief but it is not faith. Faith is a relationship with God, not doctrine or tradition. Seek the church where your faith takes you, not your belief. And, perhaps this is a Protestant idea, where you can help those both inside and outside the church. A church has to be bigger than its own membership.

MWBR: During your many world travels, have you found any nationality to be more accepting of diversity than any other?

Flynn: As a visitor to foreign countries, I can only draw generalizations, but the Scandinavian countries and Iceland seemed open to diversity in visitors, but citizens are basically of one ethnic group and one religion, and they aren't eager to change that. That's also largely true of Southeast Asia. India is a complex country with many ethnic groups and religions, and for some time there has been conflict between Muslims and Hindus. France, the Czech Republic, and Austria seemed open to religious diversity, but that may be because they have little interest in religion other than cultural interest. France and England have ethnic groups from former colonies, but they don't seem well assimilated. Canada has always seemed accepting of diversity and, despite our history of slavery, Americans are open to diversity unless we are frightened by war, crime or loss of jobs. That's true of the West.

MWBR: what is your ultimate wish at how Slouching Toward Zion will be received?

Flynn: I hope that a reader will begin with a laugh and end with many questions. We'll never know all the answers in this life, but people who have all the answers they want frighten me.

MWBR: The basic desire lives in most of us to improve the world in which we live to leave a legacy behind; what legacy would you like to leave?

Flynn: I have a daughter and a grandson. That's a legacy. Words. If any of the words please God, they will be a legacy.

MWBR: I'm curious if any of the chapters in Slouching Toward Zion have insulted a reader enough that they have contacted you, and if so, how did you deal with the situation?

Flynn: A few. I try to understand their complaint, and it's usually a misunderstanding. If they disagree with the point I tried to make, then we have to disagree in an agreeable way. In "The Rest of the Story," I tried to put a human touch to some New Testament stories. After the feast, the Prodigal Son thinks, well, he got away with that so he'll get some more money and do it again. Jesus heals a man who has been blind since birth and the man complains that he can't beg any more, he has no trade, what is he going to do? And of course, the disciples bicker. I spoke to a class at a Baptist College that had read "The Rest of the Story" as an assignment and they were offended. After we discussed what the point of the Bible story was and what the point of my story was, they were no longer offended. I'm not sure any of them thought it was funny.

MWBR: Thank you for writing a book that at once entertains, informs, challenges and educates the reader.

Levi's Will
W. Dale Cramer
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Ave S., Bloomington, MN 55438 1-800-877-2665
ISBN: 0764281003, $13.99

Forgiveness is the most necessary action in every human being's life - giving it and receiving it. Without practicing forgiveness, our world is left in a state of bitterness rebellion hate and loneliness.

In Levi's Will, Author W. Dale Cramer tells the story of an Amish son and father who take decades to reconcile after the sun leaves the Amish community to escape a life changing command.

With emotionally packed prose, this fictional account of part of Cramer's father's life, opens the door to the exploration of the damage forgiveness leaves in its wake and the beauty of healing since forgiveness "is the proof of love."

Cramer introduces readers to Will Mullet, son of Levi, a strict Amish father who demands his son's obedience in marrying the young Amish girl who became pregnant after she and Will got carried away during "bundling." Will rebels at the unfairness of the punishment; after all, what did his father expect when two raging-hormone teens are given privacy to get to know one another?

This story is ripe with characters who will live on in memory for decades. Kramer has managed to master the ability to bring characters to life, complete with abilities and disabilities, who remain unforgettable.

Beautifully flee and sensitively written, without glossing ever the tragedies human stubbornness and pride brain, Levi's Will is a book for both genders and one to read again and again to experience the cleansing of one's own heart.

Cramer has been received well, and it's difficult to find a bad review. Sutter's Cross and Bad Ground were chosen in 2004 as two of the Top 50 books by Publishers Weekly. He has also been awarded a 2005 Christy Award for excellence in Christian Fiction. Cramer won in the general category for his acclaimed Bad Ground.

For more information on Cramer, visit his web site,

Author of Levi's Will

MWBR: I've learned that Levi's Will is a fictionalized story of your father's life. The details in this book speak of an insider's knowledge of the Amish way of life, but it also speaks to an insider's knowledge of the battle for reconciliation with our earthly fathers as well as our Heavenly Father. How much of the story is factual, acted out by fictional people, and how did you decide where to draw the line between truth and fiction?

Cramer: That's actually a pretty good way to put it - "factual, acted out by fictional people." I have long believed that my father's story, if handled correctly, could paint a wonderfully clear picture of a great truth. But what's timeless and profound from a writer's viewpoint is the story, not the individuals behind it. I thought it was better to create my own characters than to invade people's lives. When people ask, we always tell them the story is about half true, and then we refuse to tell them which half.

MWBR: At times, while reading Levi's Will, which I did in one afternoon, I was overcome with emotion at the truth in so many of the scenes. How hard was it for you to write such an emotionally charged book, and which scenes were the most difficult?

Cramer: The whole thing was hard. It was by far the hardest thing I've ever done, for a number of reasons. First, I always had to consider the people who are reflected in some way in the book and what might be revealed to their friends and family. Second, I set such a high standard for this one because it was important on a personal level. I was never sure whether other people would feel that way, but I knew it was important to me and my family, so I wanted it to be the most beautiful thing I've ever done. Third, the story spans more than forty turbulent years. You wouldn't believe how much research it takes just to make all those times and settings authentic. The easiest parts were the present tense scenes because I used a real setting and described much of it from memory.

MWBR: Sometimes, a book will linger in the reader's mind as more than just a story, but rather it becomes a living thing that challenges our minds, our beliefs and causes us to pause for a moment in wonder and reflection. This book has joined the ranks of a select few in my library that will be read over and over because its words challenged me on many levels. What was your ultimate goal in writing Levi's Will, other than writing a book that people will read?

Cramer: You know, while I was working on Levi's Will I never really thought it would be a book people would read. I know that sounds oddly pessimistic, but it's not that at all. It's just that I knew I was writing a very personal story and I didn't believe other people would connect with it. What I'm discovering now is something I've been told over and over as a writer - that the personal is the universal. We all share basically the same stories. My only goal was to take the truest thing I know and frame it with the best story I could write.

MWBR: Did you always know that your father came from an Amish background, or like Will's children, did you not find out until a later age? Please explain how this unique family history first impacted you and how it transfers to your life today.

Cramer: I knew about the Amish from childhood, but there were parts of the story I didn't know until after I was grown. At first the knowledge didn't impact me much at all, but over time I began to put pieces together that explained, pretty much as the book does, how I came to be the way I am. If a man can ever learn to see his father objectively, to understand who he is and what shaped him, he can begin to understand himself.

MWBR: How did you decide which parts of your father's story to fictionalize and how did you go about making fiction from fact?

Cramer: Most of the decisions were common sense. I made some of them out of kindness, some out of expediency, and some to strengthen the story. I should point out that I really didn't know most of the Amish characters very well. It was easier, and more respectful in many ways, to create my own characters, even though they filled the roles left by real people. I also rearranged events chronologically to make the story stronger, and fictionalized whole segments of my father's life wherever I was more comfortable with fiction than reality. For instance, my father never worked on a bridge crew, but I did, which made it possible for me to write Will's background with authority. The character Jubal Barefoot is modeled after an old friend, but he's a friend of mine, not my father's. It really is a complicated mixture of fact and fiction. The questions are naturally going to come, but it's really so much easier to just read it as fiction.

MWBR: What was your father's reaction to Levi's Will? And that of the rest of your family, both Amish and "English."

Cramer: Oh, he loves it. He understood immediately that what I had done was take his story and elevate it to myth, which brought out the truth in ways that surprised him. My mother was a bit more reluctant until she read it, and then she was fine. I went up to Holmes County, Ohio, to sign books right after it was released, and the family got together at my cousin's house while I was there. Must have been sixty Amish relatives lined up to buy books. They were incredibly gracious and supportive. I would even say proud, but they were Amish, after all.

MWBR: The dialogue in this book flows so naturally, and the characters themselves seem to step off the page. The sensation is truly that of becoming lost in a book. What methods do you use to develop each character's individuality and immerse them into the book's world?

Cramer: I really can't answer this. The characters seem to introduce themselves. I guess it's a gift. I honestly wouldn't know a method if it was curled up asleep in my lap. I'll say this: most of the time I can see my characters, and I can hear them talk. Maybe I'm delusional. I do have a theory about it, though. All my life I have walked around replaying conversations in my head - you know, going back over it thinking, "Boy, I wish I'd said this." I honestly suspect that the best dialog writers are people who have always walked around talking to themselves. We're not nuts, we're practicing.

MWBR: The Amish lifestyle, though one of simple tradition and hard work, can oftentimes be envied for those qualities. Knowing that you have Amish roots, have you ever wanted to go back to those roots and live that lifestyle?

Cramer: No, I like my truck and my computer, but I do believe they're onto something. Ask yourself, would our lives be better or worse if we all had the courage to throw away our televisions? There's a sense of connection, a pervasive sense of partnership with the earth. Watch an eight-year-old girl walk a team of giant Belgians around the barn, hook them to a rope and hoist a wagonload of hay into the mow - you'll see what I mean.

MWBR: This is your third book. How was the process different this time as compared to your first?

Cramer: My first book was a five year experiment in answer to the question, "I wonder if I can write a book?" This one was much harder, partly because I had a one-year deadline and partly because there was so much research involved. Levi's Will spanned forty years. All the times and settings had to be authentic, and the characters had to age realistically. My first novel was a hobby. This one was a job.

MWBR: How did you come to be a writer?

Cramer: I'd call it a series of ten thousand accidents. I'd always wanted to write but not until several years ago, when I quit my job to stay home with our two small boys, did I stumble across the tools I needed. First, I accidentally published an article in an international business magazine. Then, because of the article, I got involved with a writers group on CompuServe. They got me into short stories, then showed me how to get them published, and eventually I decided to write a book. All along the way, I always ran into exactly the right people, got exactly the right advice, and found exactly the right door open at exactly the right time. For a long time I thought I was just lucky, but you can only have so many coincidences before you start to see design. You start to see a hand behind it.

MWBR: Forgiveness is probably the hardest thing we humans face; it certainly tears families, friendships, communities and nations apart. What advice would you give to those who would listen as to how both to forgive and be forgiven?

Cramer: Understand, first, that there has only ever been one man who had the right to throw the first rock, and he chose instead to stand in the path of the rock. What right do we have to do otherwise? And understand, second, that forgiveness heals the one who gives it. To forgive is to release a weight, always.

The Mystery of David's Bridge
Pamela June Kimmel
Hilliard and Harris
P.O. Box 3358, Frederick, Maryland 21705-3358 301-432-7080
ISBN: 1591330610, $28.95 (hc) 1591330629, $16.95 (pb)

First in a new mystery series starring private investigator Bailey Ferrol, the Mystery of David's Bridge is a charming read, well suited to an afternoon curled on a porch swing accompanied by a tall glass of cool, southern sweet tea. And cake. Readers will delight in the hometown feel of the book's pacing and long for the simple life, with a few mysteries thrown in, such as that in the much-loved Mayberry RFD scenarios. Only instead of the Carolina's, David's Bridge is a small town in Virginia; and as in all small towns, its residents, their individual habits, hobbies and quirks define the character of the place. David's Bridge is no exception.

Bailey has inherited her father's investigating business, as well as the law enforcement relationships he built. As her father's daughter, Bailey not only continues to fill her father's shoes, but adds a feminine flair as well. Single, smart and savvy, this heroine is ripe for romance and intrigue - but she also enjoys hot cocoa and spending time with her cat, Eddy, when he's not destroying her favorite bunny slippers.

The "mystery" of David's Bridge is multi-layered, beginning with a simple set of background checks on candidates for Jaqueline Ranier's personal assistant. Ranier, along with her husband, owns Triple Oaks, a wealthy horse farm.

A bigger mystery is uncovered, though, after torrential rainfalls reveal the bones of a long-missing womanizer whose favorite prey were the women of the area estates. How do background checks on prospective employees tie in with an unsolved murder? This question keeps the pages turning in David's Bridge.

The candidates seem simple, at first. Grace, an 18-year-old local airhead with no experience, except in the field of man shopping; Tammy, a shy but talented seamstress and typist, and a horse lover to boot; and Valerie, presently employed as a personal secretary at another large horse farm near Charlottesville.

As Bailey begins her investigation, unusual facts about each candidate become known and pique her interest to go a step further and find out the underlying motivation of each of the applicants. Bailey becomes curious, careful…, and conniving when a series of hang-up calls, a misspelled warning note and a threatening photo of Eddie the Cat follow one another early in the investigations.

Pros: Interesting mysteries and a well-thought out twist tying them together. Characters are believable and interesting.

Cons: Dialogue is a bit overdone (common in first novels) and unnecessary information slows the pace of the story. The back cover blurb should have guided the book's plotline - the touted mystery is not introduced until two-thirds of the way through. A flip-flop of the plot line could easily solve this problem.

Recommendation: If you like quaint, hometown intrigue, this is the book for you, and more will follow. If you like fast-paced, sophisticated intrigue along the lines of Grisham and Sanford, this is not your cup of tea - but give it a try anyway, for a change of pace.

Bottom line: This is an author to watch as she works out the kinks in plot development and writing style. With a few minor touch-ups, such as switching around the plot line and tightening the dialogue and narrative, The Mystery of David's Bridge is a more than a worthwhile read. It is a jewel to treasure and take out to rediscover time and again. I predict the next book in the series will be faster moving as the author has introduced the backstory in this first of the series. I will be reading the next book to follow Bailey Ferrol's escapades.

Author of The Mystery of David's Bridge

MWBR: Why did you choose a private investigator in as your main character, and why did you choose a female to play the role?

Kimmell: Honestly, I think it's because I've always thought that would be an exceedingly exciting career. I chose a female as my main character because in all honesty - it's ME living through Bailey! I wanted to bring the womanly point of view and way of looking at life into the way Bailey handles her business and the people she meets. Working so closely with people in crisis, as a private investigator is bound to do, has to be handled carefully. While I wanted to create a character who could do that, I still wanted her to be tough when the circumstances dictated. I guess it's just how I feel I myself would be if I were in Bailey's shoes (or high heels as the case may be).

MWBR: How did you come up with the names of your characters in the town?

Kimmell: Many of the characters are named after family and was fun to work them into my story, and they were all thrilled to be part of the book in that way. In fact, my husband's name is David, so I named the entire town after him!

MWBR: Tell us about the moment when Bailey became real to you?

Kimmell: I have to be totally honest here...Bailey was real to me the moment I began writing the book. I could almost feel her alive inside my head as I wrote. I saw through her eyes, felt with her heart and soul, and pursued answers along with her with my own natural curiosity and tenacity. The book really just flowed so well as I wrote it because I WAS Bailey for the moments in time that I was creating her world.

MWBR: What is the latest news on David's bridge? The book is selling fairly well and seems to be appealing to a broad audience, which is exactly what I had hoped. Older teens through retirees have communicated with me about the book. I get many comments about the book reminding people of the old Nancy Drew books, which makes me feel great since I, too, was a HUGE fan of that series. I'm told that with series, sometimes the big sales of the first book don't come until the second or even third book is out - so I'm hoping that happens with "Bridge."

MWBR: How did you come up with the mystery?

Kimmell: I'll readily admit that I am a "seat of my pants" writer - in other words, I have no plan when I sit down to write...I just let it happen. I truly had no idea what mystery Bailey would become involved in when I started the book. It just unfolded naturally. The only danger in writing that way, versus working with an outline, of course, is that the story can become disjointed and have a flavor of "haphazard" about it. I've had people write to me and ask me how I set up my outline to make all the details come together, so I guess I managed to avoid that particular pitfall.

MWBR: Did you do any investigating of your own in order to realize what the life of a private investigator might be like?

Kimmell: That's a great question! I spent 15 years working in Hospital Administration where I did a LOT of investigating from patient and family complaints and problems, to finding lost contracts and correspondence. I also supervised the Medical Staff Office where physician backgrounds were investigated before they were allowed to practice at our hospital. I've also been an avid reader all my life and mysteries are my favorite. Having read so many different mystery writers' ways of attacking the solving of a mystery certainly contributed a lot to Bailey's way of approaching her job.

MWBR: What type of sources did you consult to make your private investigator real to life?

Kimmell: I just called on my own experience and surroundings to "paint" Bailey's world. The town of David's Bridge is patterned after the small Virginia "horse country" town in which I live. I know my town very well, and it was easy to pull those details into Bailey's story and make them come to life.

MWBR: How did you decide from what point of view you would tell the story. Many private investigator stories are written in first person, and David's Bridge is not.

Kimmell: I really didn't think about POV when I began writing. It might be my love of telling a story - over the shoulder of the characters - that caused me to write it the way I did. I enjoy reading first person mysteries, but it was just more comfortable to write my story this way.

MWBR: What do you have planned as Bailey's the next mystery and when should we see that book in print?

Kimmell: The next book, titled The Mystery of the Duplicate Key, involves another murder that actually happens at the very start of the book. I've also "featured" some of the original characters from the first book in the second one, because so many people wrote to tell me they had "favorite" characters and asked me to make sure and include them in the next book. I'm pulling a number of them into subplots and weaving them into the fabric of the murder that has occurred. I'm hoping to have the writing finished, get the editing done, and have the book in my publisher's hands in the next couple of months. If all goes well, the book just might be in the Spring 2006 line-up of Hilliard & Harris!

MWBR: Please share with us some of your experiences, both good and bad, in promoting the sale of your book.

Kimmell: Another great question. I'm finding that promoting my own book is 100 times tougher than writing it. I have two strikes against me in getting store placement, because my book is from a small press publisher and it's POD. What I have been able to do, though, is get local interest and find some independent bookstores - particularly those that feature mysteries - to buy small lots of my book to sell. Online sales just don't appeal to everyone. I know I personally prefer to touch, smell, feel, and explore a book before I buy it. Another good way to get the word out is free press releases, writers newsletters/ezines, networking with other writers and exchanging web links, getting book club interest, and leaving piles of bookmarks and business cards everywhere I go. I'm hoping that as Bailey Ferrol's adventures expand with subsequent books, I can gain more attention for my work.

MWBR: Thank you, Pamela, for a delightful interview.

Deception's Fury
Jacqueline Randolph
Fultus Corporation
P.O. Box 50095, Palo Alto, CA 94303 (650) 269-4803
ISBN: 1596820462, $17.99

Is it possible to write a novel in just two months? For author Jacqueline Randolph, it is. Is that novel any good? A resounding "yes" is the answer.

Deception's Fury is the sequel to Randolph's Deception's Guard, featuring Rhys and Skye Wielde, two dynamic personalities determined to keep their marriage intact against all odds. However, what's the husband to do when his wife disappears, tries to kill him, and refuses to reveal her secrets? And even worse, leaves her children behind.

Filled with emotion, action, patriotism, passion, suspense, vivid description, and many plot twists and turns, Deception's Fury is a one-sitting read. Make sure you have refreshments on hand, the house is clean and the kids are in bed, because you won't want to put the book down to tend to anything else. Be prepared to be frustrated as the story ends and you long for it to continue - right now!

Skye has no choice but to keep secrets from her husband as she struggles to save his life and the life of horror children as she enters into a high-level security operation for the DEA in order to finally bring an end to a deadly cartel. In the process she is badly beaten, tortured, and held captive in sewage conditions as a prisoner and as an undercover prostitute.

As promised, when Skye does not return within a week, Rhys goes after her, undercover as a retired old doctor, only to find a wife he does not recognize. Covered in seeping sores, lice, and rambling like a lunatic, Skye would look better dead.

As she recovers and is determined to continue her mission, Rhys follows along and soon allows himself to fall into the deception that his wife loves her job more than she does her family.

These characters step off the page and take up residence in the imagination as this gifted author weaves a tale of intrigue, betrayal, and the power of love. And she does it without resorting to profanity or gratuitous violence and sex. Instead, the power of a godly marriage is depicted with passion that inspires one to seek a relationship just like the one between Rhys and Skye.

Author bio: Randolph is a US Air Force officer, pilot, author, business owner, and veteran of community theater, community service (group homes, hospice, domestic violence), and has taken missionary trips to Africa, Alaska, and Mexico.

She has traveled throughout the world as a C-130 aircrew member performing military special operations (famed 101st and 82nd Airborne), NASA shuttle-support missions, and delivered United Nations aid to countries ravaged by war and natural disasters.

She has served as a college professor in the Mississippi Delta and commanded the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite constellation and ballistic missiles.

She is an adventurer who enjoys ballroom dancing, rafting, skiing, trips to the Arctic/Antarctic circles, and skydiving/ballooning/ gliders. An inductee in Marquis' 2003-2005 Who's Who in America, she aspires to be an Alaskan bush pilot, Peace Corp volunteer, and a third-world missionary pilot.

More about Randolph is available online at and a sneak peak at Deception's Fury is at

Author of Deception's Fury

MWBR: Tell us about your procedure of writing a book in so little time.

Randolph: My first novel, Deception's Guard, was written in four days. I literally woke up one morning with a pounding heading and images and words in my head that would only go away as I dumped it out on paper. There was no writer's block, plot outlining, or research. The entire story flowed out. The editors only added dialogue for the characters as I had written the story as if relating a movie I'd seen. I'd hoped God would do the same for the sequel--but He didn't.

The sequel was beginning to give me that pounding headache, coupled with my grief over so many of my friends divorcing/separating. As soon as I put pen to paper Deception's Fury was just there; but I was allowed only chapters at a time. I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW HOW IT WOULD END. I cried at the conclusion because of the overwhelming emotions of Skye and Rhys. For so long I was afraid they would divorce or something would happen in the story line where they could not reconcile stronger than before.

The conclusion/reconciliation was wrenching. So, it took two months for the story to unfold as each day I wrote a bit. As soon as I completed it--the story line for the third book in the series, Deception's Legacy, was already forming in my head. I'm hoping to wait until 2006 to pen it--I don't know if I'll be able to hold out (smile)

MWBR: How were the characters of Rhys and Skye born.

Randolph: Skye is semi-biographical. I am a pilot, community theater thespian, military trained, Spain-born, business property owner with homes in Mississippi and Colorado, former college professor in the impoverished Mississippi Delta. I'm also strong-willed, independent, and a bit cynical about men. My fantasies are her strong marriage and career as a DEA agent. Rhys was born from my speculation of what kind of man could successfully partner with a "psychotic" woman like Skye? How strong, confident, adventuresome, fearless, successful, and Godly must he be to balance being a humanitarian CEO, husband to a DEA agent, father to biracial children in the deep south, and Christian in a DEA operative where biblical principals are definitely not used as guidelines.

MWBR: The details of covert ops, a pilot's skills, and description of place are all vivid. Tell us how you are able to bring to life all these fascinating details.

Randolph: I've lived them. I've never had to do extensive research for my books, as I know the environment first hand from war zones in the Balkans and Middle East to Special Operations and NASA shuttle missions to Antarctic conditions in the Northwest Territories and the passion and culture of Latin American countries. I've ferried civil air patrol planes and did some aerobatic work as well as copiloted flights during mission trips in Johannesburg and Mozambique in Africa. My striving goal is always to make the reader see, feel, touch, and smell every scene as if they are living it. I want to share my life and experiences in an extreme way!

MWBR: The love story between Rhys and Skye is gripping and passionate. Where do you decide to draw the line when writing a love scene?

Randolph: I absolutely hate the explicit vulgar pornographic scenes of non-Christian romance novels. EVERYONE has their own imagination--allow people to use it. OF COURSE the characters had to be married before sharing any intimacies. In the lovemaking scenes I strive to accentuate the spiritual/emotional connection between them, more so than the physical. I think that is the most sensual and gripping and desirable part of intimacy between "two who become one" in marriage.

Randolph: Premarital/casual sex is empty and useless shell of mere motion. Some people never attain the ultimate prize of sex, which I know God intended! The first novel, Deception's Guard, described how both characters came to the decision separately as singles--years before they even met--to give up premarital sex/casual dating. In so doing, they were better able to recognize the special chemistry/need that they fulfilled in one another.

MWBR: You are a Christian, and so are Rhys and Skye. You've done remarkably well at not being preachy, allowing Deception's Fury to appeal to a secular audience, as well. How do you keep a balance between going over the edge with violence, sex and other moral issues and your calling as a Christian to shine a light of example?

Randolph: I made a definite decision that I did not want to sign on with a Christian publisher--in so doing isolating my work from secular readers. Many Christian romance/suspense/adventure books I've read are so sugary sweet that they don't sound realistic. Christians do feel lust, anger, violence, as we ALL DO but how do Christians deal with it? This is what I want to convey to non-Christians--in the realities of life, where does God fit in?

There are drug, alcohol, child molestations, homosexuality, rapes in our world - where does God fit in? There are murders, assassins, miscommunications, secrets, divorce - where does God fit in?

My pastor read Deception's Fury, and he commented that I went just to the edge of what he couldn't swallow, (such as Perez pretending to be Skye's lover and the death of Red) and I never crossed the line into unrealism or justifying adultery. He complimented me on taking it to the edge and remaining in bounds. He also commented that they [Rhys & Skye] have a pretty healthy passion for one another; but he would expect that from married people.

Tale of the Poisonous Yuck Bugs
Aaron Reynolds
illustrated by Pete Whitehead
5300 Patterson Ave. Southeast Grand Rapids, MI 49530 616-698-6900
ISBN: 0310709555, $12.99

Based on Proverbs 12:18, The Tale of the Poisonous Yuck Bugs, teaches kids the penalty of unkind words.

Fun, tongue-twisting words and ridiculous creatures are put together with rhyme, and this charming story with its colorful illustrations brings to life the damage that insults and name-calling can bring. Two ugly bugs live their life making all of the other creatures on the island of Gak sick with the poisonous words they speak. Soon, no other creatures will come around them, and they are left only with each other's company.

Left to their own devices, the two bugs quickly turn on each other, calling each other names such as twerpulous twerp, and unwittingly break the unspoken rule that yuck bugs never say bad things to those of their own kind. Quickly, a shouting match ensues and the two yuck bugs begin to die from the sickness they bring on themselves with their horrible words.

Just as all seems lost, a beautiful watch-what-you-utterfly happens on the scene and begins to compliment the bugs, something they've never heard. She shows by example, kind words can heal, and the two yuck bugs are soon back on their feet.

Fascinated by the effects of using nice words, the two yuck bugs begin to compete, trying to outdo the other with giving compliments.

Kids of all ages will enjoy the outrageous illustrations and the word combinations provided by the author and illustrator of a entertaining book, which teaches a good lesson without letting on that its being taught.

"Thoughtless words cut like us toward. But the tongue of wise people brings healing." Proverbs 12:18

Author of the Tale of the Poisonous Yuck Bugs

MWBR: I'm tickled by your imagination and must ask, where did the idea come from to have poisonous yuck bugs in a story spewing unkind remarks?

Reynolds: Hard to say where these ideas come from. I was originally working on a lesson about Proverbs 12:18 (I wrote all three books originally as drama scripts as part of Promiseland's Metamorphosis curriculum), and I remember getting ready to sit down and write the story and I still had no clear ideas about it. And, in a flash, the idea of taking the concept words cut like a sword and tongue of wise people brings healing to a literal place, just came to me. It wasn't until I physically sat down at the computer to write that the specific ideas of Yuck-bugs and the watch-what-you-utterfly came spilling out. That's often how it works with me. I get lots of ideas all the time, but the writing itself is so much of the creative process, and so many different things come just while I'm sitting there writing that were never part of the original idea itself.

MWBR: How did the story come together with the illustrations - did the illustrations inspire the story or vice versa?

Reynolds: People often think that I must work together with the illustrator, but truth is...I've never even met the guy in person. I wrote the story, and once it was shaped and revised a bit and Zonderkidz was excited about publishing, they found an illustrator. Typically, an author will have little input into who is selected...the book really becomes a team effort at that point between the author, publisher, and illustrator. In the case of the Yuck Bugs (and the other two in the series), Zonderkidz asked me if I had any ideas for illustrators. That doesn't always happen. I was familiar with Pete Whitehead's work and just loved his quirky funky style. I had also seen him do bugs before, and I knew he would do a great job with these stories. The Zonderkidz folks went with my idea to bring Pete in, and about 18 months later, we had a complete book with story and wonderful illustrations!

MWBR: What other books have you written, and do you have a website?

Reynolds: I do have a website -

I have another book coming out this October called Chicks and Salsa,, published by Bloomsbury Children's Books.

I also have several other books that are currently scheduled for future release:

-I'm currently working with Bloomsbury on a second book called Down the Drain.

-Stone Arch Books, a fabulous publisher out of Minneapolis (they do a lot of very boy-friendly books, including graphic novels) is publishing a new graphic novel series of mine called Tiger Moth: Insect Ninja. The first two books in the series are due out next fall. I don't know what it is about me and bugs!

-Charlesbridge Publishing is currently working with me on a book called Metal Man about a boy and his relationship with a metal sculptor. It's has a really gritty, urban flavor.

-And Zonderkidz and I are talking about releasing some more of the Proverbs bug books in this series.

MWBR: Please share the experience of deciding on a scripture that you would illustrate with a story for youngsters.

Reynolds: I knew I wanted to focus on Proverbs. They are so rich with basic, bite-sized nuggets of truth that are just great for kids. But a lot of them are worded in kind of complex ways, hard for kids to make sense of. I started by searching for Proverbs that spoke the plainest, in language that kids would really grab onto, that expressed truths that really are a part of a kid's everyday life. That lead me to a short list of 10 great Proverbs that I thought could be ideal. And then I started writing.

MWBR: What are you working on now?

Reynolds: I'm always writing. I just finished an early draft of a new story called Kitty Glitter that is in very rough stages...far from done. I've got several ideas I'm stewing for some longer chapter books. I've always got about 6 stories at any one time that I'm fiddling with. That's the key, I think, to writing...just write a lot. The ideas are all around you. But it's the act of sitting down and hammering them out. That's where the work is, but it's also where the inspiration really comes.

MWBR: How are you using Poisonous Yuck Bugs now that it's written and published (speaking engagements, etc.)?

Reynolds: Through the web site, I'm scheduling visits with schools to work with kids and talk about the stories and the writing process. I also work a lot with Children's Ministries in churches around the country, and it's always fun to work with kids and get their reactions to the books.

MWBR: Thank you for taking the time to share more about your writing process and what's coming up.

Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story
Lynn C. Tolson
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403 1-888-519-5121
ISBN: 1410724174, $17.50

During my research on domestic violence to feature in Sisters in the Lord Magazine for October, which happens to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I ran across Lynn Tolson's, Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story.

By the second paragraph of Beyond the Tears, I was transported into the mind of a young woman bent on suicide and traveled with her through her suicide attempt, discovery, revival in a cold hospital room and transfer to a psyche ward. This was just in the first chapter.

The remainder of my night was shot as I stayed awake, reading each page as quickly as possible so that I might know this woman was okay. That she recovered. That she escaped her abuser and survived.

Intense doesn't begin to describe Beyond the Tears. This writer's true story reads like a best-selling thriller - but it's not fiction. It's Tolson's nightmare that begins the story and her victorious survival that ends it.

Peopled with characters we all know in our own lives, Tolson brings her own cast alive with crisp dialogue and action - oftentimes breathtaking with brutal honesty. Tolson's abuse cycle started as a child and continued through her marriage. The pages turn on their own as this compelling true story shows the cycle of abuse, the mindset of the victim, the actions of the abuser, the betrayal of relatives and friends and finally, the first steps toward healing.

As I suspected when reading Tolson's story, her true calling was to be a writer, which she revealed in a subsequent interview. She is now working on her second survival story - this time she has survived breast cancer.

Beyond the Tears is critical reading for victims of abuse. Through Tolson's story, many will recognize themselves, their families, their spouses, their friends, and from there, recognize that they, too, can heal - even when death seems like the best solution.

Tolson says it best in this quote from her website, "In the meantime, know that my purpose as Lynn C. Tolson is in my initials: LCT, Learning, Creating, Teaching, to provide empowerment of our minds, bodies, and spirits. May this generation break the silence that surrounds sexual assault and incest so that future generations may live in peace."

Author of Beyond the Tears: a True Survivor's Story

MWBR: When you took the first step toward recovery, can you recall your feelings that day?

Tolson: I took my first step toward recovery when I asked for help. In my book, Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story, I write about driving about aimlessly after a suicide attempt. I was overwhelmed with pain. It was not the physical pain of a fractured limb, but the psychic pain of a shattered soul. As I had done before, I prayed aloud: "God, tell me what to do and show me where to go. God, show me a sign!" I can describe what happened next as divine intervention. I saw a sign at a house converted to an office: "Family Counseling Center." Even as I cried, I knocked at the door and was greeted by woman named Karen. She was a counselor there, and my therapeutic relationship with her began on that day. After our first session, I moved from feeling despair to a sense of hope.

MWBR: What one piece of advice would you like to give to women who are being abused?

Tolson: The advice I give is: make a safety plan. A woman being abused needs to stash cash and clothes in case she needs to flee suddenly. Also, she needs to know where she can run to safety. There are many shelters for women and children. A woman who is being abused should know where these shelters are before a crisis.

MWBR: Many women feel hopeless, that there is no way out, no money, no resources, no support system. What is your advice to them?

Tolson: I understand the feelings of hopelessness. Most women have no resources or support systems because the abusers are adept at isolating their victims. There is always a way out via the use of community services. Many victim advocates are available to assist every step of the way. It sounds obvious, but my advice is to peruse the community pages of the phone book to determine how a victim can be helped. There were a number of times when I looked at the yellow pages under "counseling" or "psychologists" only to then tell myself, "It's not so bad. I don't need to call." That is denial! It took an act of divine guidance to get me to face the need for help. Also, a victim can search the internet for services in her area, but she should clear the browser so an abuser does not track that she has been looking for help. Abusers are also skilled at sabotage. Even with help, it took me two years to gather my emotional and financial resources to leave the man who was abusing me. But that was in the 1970s, when there were few, if any, victim services. In 2005, almost every community has resources, and many take clients for no fee or on a sliding scale basis.

MWBR: Tell us a bit about your life since writing your book. What are you doing now? How are you continuing to heal? Have you had any contact with your abuser?

Tolson: My life became a book, and my book became my life. My passion is writing, and my mission is to confront violence against women. I do this via my Project for TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide. Women who have been abused are 13 times more likely to attempt suicide. I am on a crusade to speak out to break the silence, change societal attitudes, and comfort survivors.

The divorce from the man who was an abuser occurred in 1979, when I was twenty-five. I married a kind and compassionate man in 1988. We have been through my recovery together. We even faced the challenge of my breast cancer in the last couple of years. I went back to college in my forties to get a degree in social work. I balance the ugliness of my past with the beauty of watercolors; art is part of my ongoing healing. I also use journal writing as a powerful tool in the recovery process.

I do not have any contact with the man I was married to in the 1970s. He was eighteen years older than me, so I assume that at age 70 he is retired somewhere out there. I can only hope that he did not go on to make other women his victims.

MWBR: If you could go back to the time when you first realized you were being abused, knowing what you know today as a survivor - what would you say to your younger self?

Tolson: I grew up in an abusive family. My father and my brother both molested me and my mother was emotionally absent. My family was in a constant state of chaos. So I unwittingly repeated those patterns by marrying an abusive man. I would tell my younger self that I do not need my family to be the blueprint for my life. I can do better and I deserve better. I would tell my younger self that I have every right to protect and empower myself. I would also tell my younger self to be proud of being a survivor of such a dysfunctional family.

MWBR: Please feel free to speak about anything you would like readers to know.

Tolson: By bringing my dark secrets to light, it is my hope that others who have had similar events will know that they are not alone. Readers may explore their own emotions to open lines of communication, eliminate shame, and experience healing. I also hope that my book promotes understanding of the issues that cause individual suffering and plague our society. I'd like survivors and non-survivors to realize that recovery from abuse is not a destination; recovery is a journey that requires insight and support. There is hope!

I also work as an advocate for victims/survivors through my Project for TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide. The purpose is to:
Comfort victims by sharing
Confront violence by breaking the silence
Change society via information & action
so that no tear is wasted.

If/when an agency asks me to speak, most of them cannot afford to pay me. So, I speak for the opportunity to sell books. For a fundraiser (to at least pay for my gas) I sell a teardrop-shaped leaded crystal that is about 1-inch long and reflects a rainbow of colors. The crystal is connected to a gold tone prong and hangs on a black textured cotton cord.

I am my own publicity and promoting department. My goal is to become part of a speaker's bureau so my message can be more readily shared.

MWBR: Thank you, Lynn, for sharing more about yourself and for writing such a powerful book. Your journey will start another on her own path to healing.

Betrayal of Sacred Trust
Barbara Y. Stuart, Ph. D.
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512 402-323-7800
ISBN: 0595343503, $19.95

Dr. Barbara Y. Stuart She is a Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor, Conflict Management Consultant, and a Minister of the Gospel. She lives in Georgia with her son. Betrayal of Sacred Trust was inspired after Stuart engaged in a doctoral study on women living with their unfaithful husbands. She states, "This is a contribution to the participants, whose voices need to be heard."

Counselors, pastors, friends, families, husbands and wives - anyone who comes into contact with marital infidelity issues will find answers and insights inside the pages of Betrayal. Without dramatization, but instead a studied approach to understanding the why's and how's behind adultery, Dr. Stuart explores this subject in depth.

Divided into four sections, "The Structure of Marriage," "Marital Unfaithfulness," "Consequences of Infidelity" and "Interpersonal Conflict," the author delves into the issues surrounding a couple faced with betrayal. Through interviews with women who have chosen to remain with a husband who was the adulterer in these cases, Stuart answers questions such as:

What is Jesus' view of infidelity?
What are the reasons for infidelity?
Why do men cheat?
Why do women stay?
Can infidelity also be a form of domestic violence?
What are the consequences of infidelity, including spiritual, psychological, and emotional.
If divorce is the result, what happens next?

With easy to understand prose and well-organized text that flows logically and naturally, Stuart provides the modern world with a tool that can change lives. Based in God's Word, the principles and problem-solving scenarios she suggests are doable and healing. Perhaps by understanding infidelity on a deeper level, we can then choose to defeat its infiltration into today's society of married couples.

Stuart has given us a manual into treating those who suffer from the sin of adultery and is clear that not all cases result in forgiveness and healing. Realistic in her conclusion, she recognizes that healing begins with the victim who must take the first step.

Both secular and Christian readers can benefit from reading Betrayal. If you are a victim of adultery, are an adulterer, know someone affected by adultery, or are in a position to counsel a person involved with adulterer, read this book. When you are finished, pass it on. Our world needs the kind of medicine Dr. Stuart dispenses through her dispenser filled with healing words of truth.

Author of Betrayal of Sacred Trust

Dian: What was the impetus that birthed Betrayal of Sacred Trust?

Dr. Stuart:

a. I always prefer to work will real people rather than abstract. For this reason, after hearing the stories, I decided that it was an issue to be brought to the attention of the churches and the world at large.

b. I was encouraged to write the book by a friend.

c. I met many women outside of the research, and during the exercise, who have experienced unfaithfulness in their marriage.

d. The willingness of the women further strengthened my desire to write the book because many of them had not spoken about their situation to anyone before. The world needed to become aware of these women.

Dian: In your opinion, do you think that Christian marriages stand a better chance for healing than non-Christian?

Dr. Stuart: I cannot agree to this because it takes two to make a marriage. Furthermore, there are Christian women who are not willing to have their marriages healed when the husband has been unfaithful. For some, just living in the home and going on with a boring life or being a thorn in the man's side are enough reasons for not seeking help.

Healing will only take place when the injured person seeks for it. This means he or she has sought both spiritual and emotional healing, with a desire to forgive the adulterer.

However, forgiveness in this situation may be a long process; but once the person has begun, there is hope for healing of the marriage.

Additionally, forgiveness serves a dual purpose. It means that the offended is releasing internal toxins, which cause invisible wounds; and simultaneously releasing the offender of the wrong done.

Dian: Do you see a gap in services provided to women who have experienced life with an unfaithful husband - both in secular and Christian counseling services? If so, how can that gap be addressed?

Dr. Stuart: I believe secular and Christian counseling can come to some agreement in counseling these persons.

There is certainly a gap in this area of services. Still, who is to be blamed? If the injured does not seek help, she will remain with her pain.

One way in which the gap can be closed is for churches to make women feel free to discuss their marital problems with the assurance that there will be sincere support. This help must be confidential, and with individuals who possess attitudes which are spiritual, caring, and empathetic towards those who are hurting.

Women [members] have been turned away from church leaders who were harsh and unsympathetic. Others were in no position to help because they, too, were caught in adultery.

From the secular perspective, while some counselors are equipped with psychological expertise, they lack the Christian aspect of counseling. Consequently, counselees have been advised on occasion to find another partner, rather than seeing adultery as sinful. The gap can be addressed. Following are only a few ways in which the gap can be closed:

if the women seek help;
if the churches have a support system to help the women;
if churches teach couples about marital relationship;
if couples obtain pre-marital counseling and continue after the marriage.

Dian: How has your research helped you in your ministry?

Dr. Stuart: The research has helped me in a way I did not expect. I am more empathetic towards hurting women who suffer the sin of adultery. It has given me compassion and a desire to do my utmost to help when they come to me for counseling. I am also able to guide them in dating, pre-marital counseling, and after marriage.

Dian: You have stated that you belief infidelity is an act of domestic abuse. Please elaborate.

Dr. Stuart: When we consider domestic violence (DV), it is a situation which affects the individual emotionally and physically. I believe that adultery is a form of DV because it affects the woman in the same areas. She suffers mental, emotional, psychological, and in some cases, physical abuse if she dares to confront the perpetrator. Domestic violence causes feelings of fear and low self-esteem, among others; so does adultery.

Dian: For a woman (in this instance, we are focusing on women) who is dealing with an unfaithful husband whose actions are abusive, what is your advice to them as a first step towards healing?

Dr. Stuart:

a. It would serve her well to seek outside help at once by reporting the abuse. If she delays, it might prove critical either physically or emotionally. Since both DV and adultery cause suffering, she should first make a decision whether she wants to remain in the situation, even after seeking help. They may need a cooling off period.

b. The woman should seek help immediate help, especially when children are in the marriage. She must not hesitate to protect both her and the children.

c. If the woman cannot obtain further help from her church, or there is no one to guide her, then she must find out what resources are available in her community.

d. Having obtained help, the next decision must be whether it would be wise to remain with her husband. Maybe a period of separation might help, if he decides to get counseling.

Dian: Many people do not understand, in today's permissive society, why a woman would even choose to stay with a husband who has been unfaithful. What are some of the benefits of staying, and what situations are most conducive to a successful healing?

Dr. Stuart: These are some of the observations I have made, both during the research and from talking with women.

The decision to leave is sometimes very hard to make when there are young children.

Some are middle aged and grandmothers, and they believe that finding a new partner would be difficult for them.

The benefits for staying depends on the needs of the woman and the willingness of the man and woman to enter counseling.

a. Some women are middle aged, or they are approaching retirement. They know the benefits of staying together and receiving the husband's pension if he dies.

b. Others think of the prestige, e.g., if the husband holds a high position at work or church.

c. Some women prefer to know a man is in the house so they have protection, rather than living alone.

d. In many cases, a man will not reduce his financial obligations in the home. If the woman leaves, she might have to seek another job to complement what she receives from a divorce.

Dian: Could you clarify a bit on the benefits and/or pitfalls of staying with an unfaithful husband: What about the emotional benefits in the event a marriage is able to be healed?

Dr. Stuart: Although some women are healed emotionally, referring to those I have observed, this healing seems to be with reservation. That reservation is mixed with fear that the behavior may happen again. There are very few women who have trusted their husbands after an affair. That trust usually takes almost a lifetime.

The emotional benefits are to some degree based on trust and new commitments. At the back of that woman's mind she is saying that he will do it again. If he return's home late, or his actions seem suspicious there is fear. Therefore, I would say that the emotional benefits hang on a slender thread.

Beneath Wings of an Angel: Healing the Child Within. A Spiritual Healing Journey to Recovery from Domestic Violence
Janice Romney Farnsworth
Synergy Books
2525 W Anderson Lane, Suite 540, Austin, TX 78757 512-407-8876
ISBN: 0974764477, $21.95

Monsters are real. Janice Romney Farnsworth lived with one for fifteen years and bore six children for him. A devout Mormon, Farnsworth believed in the sanctity of marriage, of being a submissive wife and honoring her husband. But what she didn't understand was why her husband repeatedly beat her, demeaned her, turned her children against her, convinced others she was mentally ill and a danger to her children, and raped her.

Faced with this ongoing horror, Farnsworth turned to her Church for help. She was advised to go back and be a better wife, while her batterer enjoyed the full benefits of church membership.

Poignant and eye opening, Beneath Wings of an Angel, is a fascinating look inside the mind of a woman who became a victim of domestic violence. Her nightmare, told in her own voice, complete with her own thoughts of no self-worth so she must deserve it, and the downward spiral of her life, physically and mentally is torment to watch. But it also inspires understanding and a longing to reach out.

Farnsworth has brought forth a look inside the terror of prolonged domestic violence that helps the outside world understand why a woman would stay and submit to the lies and blows of an abuser. She also tells, without excuse, the damage an abusive home heaps upon the children of that home.

Anger, disbelief, understanding, empathy, and rejoicing - all are emotions Farnsworth's story brings about in the reader as the reader experiences the writer's life.

Farnsworth found her path to healing, but only after experiencing the worst that can be dealt.

"During those awful days, I felt like yesterday's trash, and for the most part, really didn't care. I don't know how others coped, but I faced each day with a tear-stained face too tired to take care of myself, emotionally drained and obsessed with revenge."

When Farnsworth was finally able to escape her abusive husband, she then faced trouble with the courts and the danger of having her children taken from her. Her children suffered dreadfully at the hands of their father - not only physically, but emotionally. Today, Farnsworth is still praying for her children's healing.

Beneath Wings of an Angel is unique in several ways - it gives a glimpse inside the Mormon religion and tradition; it chronicles fifteen years of abuse, and more importantly, why she stayed; it also offers hope as Farnsworth details her therapy, a new love that is not abusive, a deeper spiritual awakening and her acknowledgment of the necessity of the continuance of the journey.

Abuse knows no class, race or religion - this book is a stepping stone to freedom from abuse, for counselors and pastors to understand the dynamics of abuse and the need for the Church to be proactive and provide safety for women under attack.

Author of Beneath Wings of an Angel

Dian: When you took the first step toward recovery, can you recall your feelings that day?

Farnsworth: Anger! I was so angry that I couldn't stop shaking. I felt like I was going to explode any minute, so I was desperately just trying to make it through each day, one step at a time, because I actually felt angry enough to plunge forward. This was incredibly frightening. For years I had threatened to leave, and tried to leave, just to go back, so I felt scared half to death, and completely unsure of myself. But it didn't matter. I was finally doing something about all the anger that was swelling inside me. Whatever I did at that point was better than not doing anything but taking it.

Dian: What one piece of advice would you like to give to women who are being abused?

Farnsworth: The abuser isn't going to stop abusing you. I don't care how often he says he will change with repeated promises and bouquets of flowers, a flood of tears or heart-rendering apologies, the abuse WILL happen again and again. You can count on it, but you don't deserve it! It isn't your fault. You don't cause it anymore than you can prevent it, but you can get help.

Dian: Many women feel hopeless, that there is no way out, no money, no resources, no support system. What is your advice to them?

Farnsworth: How you feel isn't reality, and regardless of how real your fear is to you right now, your situation isn't hopeless, and you aren't trapped.

There are caring, professional, and supportive people who are waiting to

help you. They know so much more than you do, and they can help you untangle the web of deceit around you. There is a way out and all it takes is action on your part.

Just think about how wonderful it will feel to have caring hearts and supporting arms to tell you how much your pain matters.

Perhaps you don't have money, many victims don't, but crisis centers can provide shelter and other resources to help you rebuild your life. Shelters aren't these bad places to go! I've toured many of them across the country, and they are warm and family friendly. And, there is a community of support in place for victims of abuse. You are not alone, but no one can help you if you aren't willing to help yourself. It's a difficult and painful step, but it will be the most empowering step you will ever take.

You are a wonderful, loving, caring, and beautiful person who is subjugating herself to the most insidious and destructive relationship that exists, and you don't deserve it and you don't have to take it.

Dian: Tell us a bit about your life since writing your book - what are you doing now, how are you continuing to heal…

Farnsworth: I wish I could say that we've all recovered and the past is completely behind all of us. But it isn't. Writing my book was difficult, but it was healing for me, and a starting point for my children.

Arriving at publication, and promoting my book caused me to face every aspect of myself that I didn't like, especially the fear of failure. But for the first time in my life (and I'm going on 52 years of age) I feel in control, and that's important to those in recovery - they've never been in control. I started living the kind of life I wanted to live the moment I left my ex-husband and it continuously got better. Now it is filled with love, passion and excitement, finally I am accomplishing something worthwhile. But it is a struggle to find balance.

As a mother, my heart is entwined with my children and some have had more difficulties than others. So, in reality, healing is a long process especially when you're a mother with kids that still live in a crisis mode. You have to love them enough to let them go and learn their life-lessons, and that can be sad, and difficult, but a must.

My life today is very rewarding, and I'm happy with myself. I've learned to face situations in a different manner that actually help rather than hinder and I continue to grow through different phases. I'm currently living in old Mexico (again) and this requires more travel for me, but my daughter is a senior in high school and she wanted to finish her last year here. I'm also busy writing my second book, giving workshops, completing an on-line course for certification in Life Coaching, and networking with other groups working to fight against violence.

Dian: If you could go back to the time when you first realized you were

Being abused, knowing what you know today as a survivor - what would you say to your younger self?

Farnsworth: I would seriously grab hold of myself and scream, "Care enough about yourself to get out!" And, if that didn't work, I'd want to grab hold of my hand and drag myself into a shelter ,waving a white flag, yelling at the first person to put me in leg shackles and handcuffs until my mind cleared enough to see reality. Abuse is deadly; it isn't about love, and staying because fear is too great or denying the abuse is much easier.

I was my worst enemy. Putting blinders on didn't stop the evolving and destructive affects of abuse. As I look back, I can still feel the humiliation, and the pain I felt after a beating, or just from being put down and then blamed for it. This went on, day after day for 15 years. It's difficult to understand how I did it, but I did. There isn't anything else to say to someone in that situation, other than to say, for heavens sake, just care enough to stop being abused. Get real! Get a life! Save yourself and your children - you're going to die spiritually if not physically. Leave, and then let your life fall into place, as it will piece by piece, rather than let it go to waste day by day.

Dian: Please feel free to speak about anything you would like readers to know.

Farnsworth: As a mother, and I say this often, because it can't be said enough, but the heartache I've experienced because of my children pales in comparison to my own. There are still days I mourn my first marriage because of what it did to my family, and I can't change that. I see how they struggle with self-esteem issues, and others with addictions, and how it has affected each of us individually and as a whole. I see other families and how they interact and face normal problems that seem so minor in comparison, and this saddens me a great deal.

My life would have been smooth sailing once I left, because my desire was so great to find healing. I realized how sick I was, and it didn't matter why my ex did what he did. It mattered only that I allowed it.

I wanted to get well, and I never wanted to experience abuse of any kind ever again - especially self-betrayal. But as a mother, my progress has been deeply affected by my teenagers, as I tried to rescue, fix, manipulate and scare them enough into changing. All of a sudden, I saw the worst in me again. I was repeating the same co-dependent behavior that I did with my ex. But this time, the pain went even deeper, because I truly felt I was to blame, and even if I wasn't, it didn't matter.

How do you divorce your children and cut them completely out of your life? You don't - anymore than you can erase them from your heart. I spent nearly nine years after my divorce rebuilding my life. I can't count how many times I regretted the choices I made, not for myself, but because of my children.

My health was nearly destroyed, between physical illnesses and severe depression, time was robbed from me, as well as my youth. Chronic stress ages a person quickly. You're not supposed to age until at least 50, right? Actually, it wasn't until I reached that age I saw the aging process reversing, but this is another story. . . .

Collectively, we're undergoing many life-changes, and there are many more coming. We've got to move forward and allow the life-stream of energy to flow through us. Our way of life, our perceptions, and how we live is badly in need of spiritual renovation, if we are to survive.

Those who live in denial of emotional pain live in closed minds, and this brings about suffering. It isn't our situations that frighten me, but how we react or fail to respond. Some of us don't know how, because we are so caught up in our emotions. The ones that survive are going to be those who are willing to make individual changes now.

Each of us, as little pieces to a greater picture, make a difference affecting the whole when we return the heart to love. As I heal, my children follow (even if it's in small steps, they are still moving forward). This is how we break the chain and take out the weak links of abusive behaviors. What we're really in need of is Love, and it begins with each of us.

Whatever action is taken is better than no action. While victims of abuse might feel embarrassed or too humiliated to cry out for help, isn't a cry for help really a sign of strength? I believe it is, and nothing is as important as caring enough for one's self to end the abuse!

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak out, and in quoting the theme from "It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." Light your own candle and see remarkable results.

Dian: Thank you for sharing your heart and your story. Someone will begin to take the steps she needs to take for her well-being because of you.

Fires of Darkness
Tom Buford
Tate Publishing
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064 (405) 376-4900
ISBN: 1933148144, $17.95

Author Tom Buford explores the interesting concept of how the battle between good and evil takes place by alternating between the spirit realm and the earthly realm, much like Frank Perretti. He realistically addresses the subject of pornography, homosexuality, addiction, and drug use, without resorting to condemnation. Buford offers hope through these fictional characters, as evidenced by the many real-life testimonies found in today's world dealing with the same subject matter.

Cory, Nebraska is the town that everyone wants to live in. It is quiet, friendly, and neighborly without the big-city vices - until a demonic army lays claim, focusing its battle on Douglas and Amy Canton, a young married couple expecting their first child.

Douglas thinks he is happily married. At least he thought so, until a glimpse of two males in a pornographic magazine ignites conflicting emotions, and he finds himself attracted to Carson, a high-school acquaintance.

The supporting characters in the book represent people in modern society who are easy to identify with:

Carson is a young man, a schoolmate of Douglas, convinced from boyhood he is not right sexually and succumbs to the lure of homosexuality.

Grandy is a lovable older man who faithfully attends church and keeps himself away from temptation. But it is soon revealed that he collects pornography and feels helpless to overcome the addiction. He thought he had it conquered, until the demonic army set into play a series of events that triggered his craving.

Pastor Dewey is a recovering addict and able to share his own struggle and offer forgiveness and unconditional love, as well as a way out.

Mrs. Osborne is also important, as she takes Amy under her wing and teaches her to be a prayer warrior and how to offer unconditional love to her husband, Douglas, as he fights his way to victory through the dark forces determined to ruin him.

An important book for both believers and nonbelievers, it challenges readers to explore the "what if?" scenario of different types of sexual addiction, the power of prayer, and the spiritual battle that takes place daily.

Fires of Darkness is a page-turner, able to keep itself from becoming trite. Fans of suspense will see shades of Stephen King, Frank Perretti and a dash of Ted Dekker in Buford's writing style.

Pros: Interesting characters, especially the demons and angels and Grandy. Also, it illustrates the power of prayer. For those interested in the spiritual realm, Fires of Darkness is an excellent jumping-off point, providing an entertaining story with characters to care about who struggle with today's permissive lifestyle.

Cons: Dialog is weak in some areas and some of the main characters lack depth and motive. Unnecessary banter sometimes slows the forward progression of the story.

Bottom Line: An important book that delivers a deeper understanding of sexual addiction - and a way out.

Buford is the founder and president of Man on the Road, a non-profit organization that reaches out to people who are struggling with addictions to pornography. Man on the Road is directed primarily toward people who earn their livings traveling on the road, and especially truck drivers. Fires of Darkness has a more general focus and reaches out to anyone who struggles with porn addictions and the damage they can cause.

Author of Fires of Darkness

MWBR: Fires of Darkness at times resembles the writings of Frank Perretti. Has he been an influence on your writing?

Buford: Yes, he was. His was the first Christian fiction I ever read. It was several years after I read This Present Darkness that I wrote Fires of Darkness. I intentionally did not open any of his books during the two years or so that I worked on the book because I did not want to copy his style.

MWBR: You have explored sexual addictions in Darkness. Why did you choose this topic?

Buford: Actually, I didn't really "choose" the topic of sexual addictions. In other words, I had no preconceived ideas of including that topic in the book. It just worked itself into the story as it unfolded. I'm almost certain that events of my own past somehow came to the surface as I wrote. People who know me and the details of my life, will see quite a bit of me woven into the story.

MWBR: Many modern churches do not explore the significance of the battle that wages in the spiritual realm in relation to our human life's journey. Why do you think this is so, and how can this important part of our spirituality be brought forth into the modern world?

Buford: I think a lot of people just give no thought as to what goes on behind the scenes in our lives. I also believe that some people have seen exorcisms, etc. in the movies and thought that such things were only created by Hollywood. They were taken lightly as entertainment only. I place little or no validity in the versions of spiritual warfare that Hollywood conjures up, and I disagree with the notion that there is demon "hiding behind every bush," but there really is a spiritual battle going on for us. Satan's goal is to steal, kill, and destroy. He will do whatever he can to fulfill his mission. Our job is to understand who he is, what he is after, and how to take authority over him.

MWBR: What is your greatest hope that Darkness will accomplish in the lives of its readers?

Buford: My greatest hope is that lives will be changed. I want people to know that there is hope, that we are not in this battle alone.

MWBR: You also sponsor a ministry online for those who find themselves in bondage to sexual addiction. Please tell us more about those.

Buford: We have two ministry websites. One is Our tag line is "Reaching out to pornography addicts and the people who love them." That is our goal and purpose - to bring hope and encouragement to porn addicts and the loved ones who have been affected by those addictions. The second site is a newer one, That site is dedicated to helping who travel for a living - truck drivers, bus drivers, salesmen, and people who travel with entertainers. Our goal is to teach people to live lives of honor, integrity, and purity on the road.

MWBR: What was the most difficult scene for you to write in Darkness and why?

Buford: I can't say that it was a particularly difficult scene to write, but the one that probably hit closest to home, was the one where Ms. Miles is in jail and gets rejected by her family because of the sin in her life. It was a very real scene for me - one that turned out to be prophetic in a way .

MWBR: What was the easiest scene to write, and why?

Buford: The scene that I most vividly remember writing was the one during the final battle where the demon is pierced by the sword and the stream (movie) of evil events comes flowing from inside him. It demonstrates where some of those things in life come from. It came so easily because of my own past, I believe.

MWBR: What is your background in writing; who are your influences; and what situations or events inspire a story?

Buford: Fires of Darkness is my first novel. I wrote the original manuscript about eight or nine years ago. In spite of the comparison to Peretti, it would be hard for me to pinpoint my current influences. I have read novels by a number of authors. The one I most enjoy is John Grisham, but I can't say that his style shows up in any of my writing. The things that inspire me now are situations where the downtrodden come out as victors - stories in which the hopeless become hopeful.

MWBR: Are you working on another novel, and if so, can you tell us a bit about it?

Buford: I am working on a new one. I can tell you that it fits into the description I gave in my previous answer. Two young people who were misunderstood and disowned by segments of society finally get the respect they deserved - years after their deaths.

MWBR: Please feel free to add anything you wish readers to know.

Buford: I want my readers to know that no situation is truly hopeless. God knows where they are and what they are going through. We may not see what is going on, but behind the scenes, He is working on our behalf.

MWBR: Thank you.

Because I Remember Terror Father, I Remember You
Sue William Silverman
University of Georgia Press
330 Research Drive, Athens GA 30602-4901 1-800-266-5842
ISBN: 0820321753, $19.95

Appearance: Public Reading at State University of New York, Oswego. Monday, Oct. 10, 2005, 3:30 p.m. Sue will read from both of her memoirs at this free event, open to the public. It is being held in room 105, Lanigan Hall, on the university campus. A question-and-answer period and book signing will follow.

Sue William Silverman was sexually abused by her father from age four to eighteen while her mother denied and allowed the abuse. When Sue's therapist suggested she write down her experience, Sue expected only a paragraph to emerge. Instead, Because I Remember Terror emerged from an almost unstoppable flow of words. Today, Silverman is an award-winning writer, speaker and teacher.

When I read the first chapter of Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, I knew I held in my hands an important book - a book that could change lives. I immediately wished for a box of these books to take around and hand out to people: mothers in denial; young women being molested; grown women who had been abused; men who were abusers; counselors and pastors; anyone who would read the book and "get it!"

Silverman "got it" and does so with a powerful, lyrical voice that is haunting, full of truth and cuts to the truth. What Silverman went through as a child, no child should have to go through. Sadly, many children suffer from sexual abuse. It is unreported, not talked about, ignored, denied - name it - if it can be covered up, it will be. But Silverman's experience, and her outstanding courage to reveal it to the world brings an understanding quite unlike other books about child sexual abuse. It's personal. It's written by a master writer. It's honest - painfully so. It shines a powerful beacon onto the darkest secret the world doesn't want to see. It is triumphant.

Understanding the dynamics of a sexually abused child, the abuser, the household in which the abuse takes place, is paramount to stopping the abuse. Silverman gives readers an unprecedented look into the mind of the abused, the tactics of the abuser, the activities of an enabler, and the damage that is done to a child who should be celebrating their innocence.

Get it. Read it. Pass it on.

Author of Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You

MWBR: When you took the first step toward recovery, can you recall your feelings that day?

Actually, it wasn't really one day. For me, it wasn't that clearly defined. Over about a fifteen-year period, I sought help from something like 11 therapists. I will say, though, that I had a turning point one particular summer when I hit bottom because of my sexual addiction. All that summer I barely ate, and felt as if I were dying. In fact, because of the sexual addiction, I was already emotionally and spiritually dead. But then, in those very dark moments, I finally came to understand that I had a choice: I could either live or die. But it was quite subtle, more a glimmer of a realization than a clear thought. Nevertheless, that summer is when I finally found a therapist who could really help me.

MWBR: What one piece of advice would you like to give to women who are being abused?

Know, in the most profound way, that there is help and hope out there. It only takes one tiny step to begin the journey. Just say the word "help" to one safe person. You are worth it. You, too, can choose life over death. You, too, can learn to see a world full of color and light.

MWBR: Many women feel hopeless, that there is no way out, no money, no resources, no support system. What is your advice to them?

It only seems as if there is no way out. Yes, I know how hard it is, how much courage one must have to take that first step out, away from the past. But there are women's shelters who will help. There are safe people who will listen to you, hear your story. Just say the word "help" to one safe person. That person will help you. Why ask for help? Because when you're in that scary place, it's very difficult to see clearly. So just find one person who can show you the way, hold your hand on the first steps of your journey, until your feet are strong enough, your path clear enough, for you to find your own way.

Too, see if you can find a group of other women, just like you. There are many of us! And there is power in the group. When women seek help and find each other, come together, we both overcome much of the shame associated with abuse as well as discover a real sense of power. Then, we will be able to raise up our voices to our perpetrators and say "stop!"

MWBR: Tell us a bit about your life since writing your book - what are you doing now, how are you continuing to heal, have you had any contact with your abuser?

After writing Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, I almost immediately began writing my second memoir, Love Sick: One Woman's Journey Through Sexual Addiction. Why? Because of the most amazing response I received from so many women around the country. After the first book was published, I began to travel around, speaking at colleges and universities, conferences and conventions. And every place I went, after my talk, women came up to me and whispered: "Thank you. You've told my story, too."

After one such talk, in Athens, Georgia, I noticed a young woman clutching a copy of my book, obviously waiting to speak to me…but waiting for everyone else in the auditorium to leave first. Finally, when we were alone, she approached me and began to sob. She told me that I was the first, the only person she'd ever told that her father had sexually molested her. She said she was even too scared to tell a therapist, worried that the therapist might tell her father that she'd revealed the family secret. But she trusted me - because the same thing had happened to me.

So, in many ways, this is how I continue to heal…by hearing the voices of so many other women, by allowing their voices to join mine. There is power in the group…for all of us. So, I continue to travel. I also continue to write. Now, I have a poetry collection that will be published this January. Writing - whatever the subject matter - certainly helps me heal. I also teach writing in an MFA program at Vermont College - helping others find their voices.

My perpetrator has been dead for years - so no, no contact.

MWBR: If you could go back to the time when you first realized you were being abused, knowing what you know today as a survivor - what would you say to your younger self?

Here is what I would say to Little Sue: "You are a beautiful child of the universe. Know it!"

Whose Face is in the Mirror
Dianne Schwartz
Hay House
P.O. Box 5100, Carlsbad, California 92018-5100 (800) 654-5126
ISBN: 1561706388, $11.16

All profits from this book will be donated to charity.

She had it all. Good looks. Her own business. Even a Mrs. Arizona title. But Dianne Schwartz hid a gruesome secret. She was a victim of continued physical abuse by her first husband. How does a seemingly successful, beautiful woman fall into the snare of an abuser? Schwartz tells us, beginning with childhood issues that evolved into setting her up as a victim for domestic violence.

In the preface to Whose Face is in the Mirror, the author introduces us to an essential part of healing from abuse - ridding oneself of shame. Through her story, Schwartz seeks to share her abuse, insight into how and why she came to be abused, her steps to recovery and her ongoing journey and encouragement to other survivors of abuse.

Painful at times, this true story rings more than true - it resonates within the soul. We all have known a woman just like Dianne Schwartz - a woman who we shake our heads at and wonder, "Is she nuts? Why does she listen to that loser? Why does she go back? How can she trust him again?" No, Dianne isn't nuts, and neither is any other woman caught in the deadly game of domestic abuse. For the abuser, it's just that: a game of control. For the victim, however, it's a test of survival.

Whose Face is one short portrait into the lives of the abused and the abuser. It shows the damage done to children. It brings out childhood issues that might contribute to one's being abused. It provides answers and courage to take the steps to safety, to life.

Schwartz's no-nonsense approach is a wakeup call to women who are being abused. She challenges the many abuse victims in today's world to look in the mirror and recognize the part they play in being abused. For without a victim, the abuser cannot abuse. She exposes the lies that litter an abusive relationship, such as:

He will change.
We cause him to be angry and abusive.
We want people to like our spouse (so we cover for him).
I'm nothing without him.
I can't make it on my own.
I deserve to be beaten. I'm useless.
All men are terrible.
No other man will be attracted to me.
I stay because I love him.
My children need their father.

Schwartz doesn't stop there. For every lie, she exposes the truth and gives real-world answers to getting out and staying safe.

In Part Three of Whose Face, Schwartz details the healing process, including recognizing the signs of an abuser. More importantly, she educates women, through her own process of healing, of how to recognize if they are attracted to an abuser. Some of the personality traits an abuser attracter might have are:

The need to rescue.
Accepting abuse during the dating stage.
A dysfunctional family history of verbal or physical abuse.

Schwartz goes several steps further and looks into the effects our abuse may be having on our children. Are we setting our children up to be either abused or to be an abuser?

Healing from abuse is not something to be done alone. Schwartz's life example illustrates the importance of therapy and recognizing a Higher Power - in Schwartz's case, that power is God. Through therapy and God, she discovered her passion in life and finally recognized whose face was in the mirror. After 42 years of living with self-hatred, this woman chose to heal, and to share her journey to self-love.

Today, Schwartz is the founder and president of Educating Against Domestic Violence, a nonprofit organization providing assistance to battered persons. She is happily and healthily married and continues to heal, as are her children.

Author of Whose Face is in the Mirror

MWBR: When you took the first step toward recovery, can you recall your feelings that day?

Schwartz: I was embarrassed and terrified. I finally made an appointment with a therapist and sat through the first session talking about nothing. It wasn't until he asked me if I wanted to set up another time to see him, that I finally said very matter of fact, "My husband is beating me." It was so difficult to say those words but I knew voicing what was going on was the first step to getting out of the relationship and out of old patterns. It was a step-by-step process, but each time I left his office my mind was filled with wonder and "light bulb moments" that slowly changed my life.

MWBR: What one piece of advice would you like to give to women who are being abused?

Schwartz: Most women who are being abused aren't even aware that it is domestic violence they're experiencing. The feel they are just women who can't get it right and can't please their partner. However, the inner voice won't deny it and will reach out to them in dreams or thoughts that tell them something isn't the way it's supposed to be. I always tell them to listen to the soul and spirit because it will never lead them down the wrong path and when they finally listen, it's time to seek help. Regardless of what the abuser says, it is not their fault. Domestic violence is a choice and a learned behavior.

MWBR: Many women feel hopeless, that there is no way out, no money, no resources, and no support system. What is your advice to them?

Schwartz: When we're involved in an abusive situation, it's nearly impossible to think clearly, and we believe there is no help. Instead, we put our energy into something that doesn't work and never will…a relationship that will destroy us. There are many resources for battered women and if they will pick up the phone and call 1-800-799- SAFE they will discover how much is actually there to offer assistance and encouragement.

MWBR: Tell us a bit about your life since writing your book - what are you doing now, how are you continuing to heal, have you had any contact with your abuser, etc.

Schwartz: I continue to heal by helping other women. My website: keeps me busy and has become my second home. Using our lessons in life to guide others makes what we experienced more meaningful. I decided that abuse is something I went through but will never be what determines what I should be in the future. I'm currently working on a screenplay about three women who become close friends because of one bad man who tormented all of them. It's partly true.

I've had no contact with my abuser and truthfully, I don't know if he's dead or alive. He's so unimportant to me.

MWBR: If you could go back to the time when you first realized you were being abused, knowing what you know today as a survivor - what would you say to your younger self?

Schwartz: I would tell my younger self this: You know you don't really love this man but are simply tired of being alone and scared of growing old without someone in your life; but what is true loneliness? Crying in the bathroom behind a closed door so he can't hear you; or sitting across the table from someone who could explode at any minute and throw a plate of food at you; or being afraid to voice your opinion because he might go off on you for doing so? What is lonelier than that? Regardless of what your role models have told you, it isn't true. You do deserve better than this.

MWBR: Please feel free to speak about anything you would like readers to know.

Schwartz: One very important lesson I've learned is, until you find out what runs your own clock, you will never know what makes another person tick. Unless you can honestly see what you're doing, and why, you will fall prey to those who have ulterior motives. You will begin to recognize traits and know what is happening inwardly in others. This will stop you from becoming involved with another abuser. It really is all about us! We are in charge of our destiny.

Dian Moore, Reviewer

Fortenberry's Bookshelf

Hotel Rwanda: Bringing the True Story of an African Hero to Film
edited by Terry George
Newmarket Press
New York
ISBN: 1557046700, $19.95; 256 pp.

Sometimes it is hard to remember in this time of crimes and crises just how wonderful it is to be human. Compassion is the rarest of commodities, so from time to time we need reminders. When great tragedies occur it is often only the small moments of human dignity and salvation that make the entire magnitude of devastation bearable. We might see a Schindler saving Jews during the Holocaust, a John Rabe saving Chinese during the Rape of Nanking, or, case in point for this book, we find a Paul Rusesabagina saving Tutsis from a genocide waged by Hutus. War, destruction, and genocide seem to be sadly recurring themes in human history, yet it is the other aspect of our humanity that makes this story a riveting, heroic tale of success and dignity. Paul Rusesabagina, holed up in a hotel fortress against an insane tidal wave engulfing his nation, exemplifies all that is good and decent in humanity. While more than one million Tutsis were massacred, Mr. Rusesabagina stood his ground and saved one thousand people by himself.

"Not one person was taken out, not one was beaten, not one was killed," he says. More amazing still is the fact that Rusesabagina is a Hutu himself. It shows the power one person might have to change the course of history. If you have trouble imagining this, just remember the news footage of the lone Chinese student who stopped the entire column of tanks deployed to massacre the protesters in Tianamen Square.

One person against incalculable odds refusing to back down. This is the heart of Hotel Rwanda. Or as a Milan Kundera puts it, quoted in this book, "The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." We must remember the heroes in our world.

Hotel Rwanda is the official companion book to the award-winning film, edited by the film's director Terry George. It is a copy of the complete screenplay accompanied by essays on the history of the events, a chronology, photographs, and interviews or statements with participants. While the non-screenplay portion of the book takes up only 114 pages, it is a gut-wrenching, dynamic, unforgettable record of the events. This should be required reading. Though it is not a proper, detailed historical study, it is a fantastic source of firsthand knowledge from the participant himself and those who are recording his story.

I am so proud this movie was made. I am so proud of John Rusesabagina. I am proud to be a human if he is a human. I am so proud that finally, because of Mr. Rusesabingina's heroism, the story of Rwanda has been related to the public in a dramatic, engaging way. Maybe people will learn. Maybe things like this will not happen again. Maybe goodness will always triumph. I doubt it, but I am a dreamer. But all it takes is one person to change the world. One final statement, from Mr. Rusesabagina himself. When he is called a "hero" and a "shining example of humanity" in the book, he insists, "What I did was normal. When did the day arrive when not to kill is considered heroic? All I did was carry out my duties and responsibilities." What more could we add to that, except to pray for a world full of such "normal" people?

The Golden Age of DC Comics: 365 Days
Les Daniels, Chip Kidd, and Geoff Spear.
Harry N. Abrams
New York
ISBN: 0810949695, $29.95; 640 pp.

The Golden Age of Comics: 365 Days is an eccentric coffee table book perfectly suited for the avid comic book collector. For fans this hardback, slick-paged collection is like bound leaves of gold, with the feeling that each page may be viewed like the glass front of a jeweler's case, allowing glimpses of a priceless, untouchable world. For common readers, it is a strange, oblong, fat book of wild action and weirdly cropped scenes featuring an odd assortment of heroes from the Golden Age of DC Comics. But the compilers know this and state it flatly in their introductions, calling the book, "extremely eccentric." Chip Kidd continues: "We know it is weird, we know the images are severely cropped for dramatic effect, we know we occasionally reveal the volumes' spiral bindings and flaked pages of vintage newsprint like the Dead Sea Scrolls. We also know that as a preservation of the birth of the comic book (and for that matter Pop Art) it's like nothing you've ever seen...."

That is the key to this strange volume. It is like finding the Dead Sea Scrolls. I was doing research on the Pulp Era of literature and stumbled over this heavy tome of early DC comics. It was a revelation, because though they do have plenty of the old standards everyone knows (Superman, Wonder Woman, Green lantern, Flash, etc.), they also packed in tons of forgotten, unknown, outlandish, silly, serious, romantic, horrifying, and magical characters from the Golden Age. It truly is a treasure trove and there is plenty that has never been seen since the original publications.

The Golden Age of comics is roughly defined as the period between 1938 and 1955 when the comic book market first boomed and many of the great characters were born, the great stories told, and the formats and styles of the entire genre established. DC Comics was founded in 1935 and still publishes today; this book is devoted solely to DC comics. What this book is not is a history of the Golden Age, nor is it a history of DC comics. It is an oddball collection formed roughly around a calendar, so that each page is a specific date with an associated image and explanatory text,while holidays and special dates are honored in correct comic fashion. In between these set dates are flights of fancy and pure fun.

There are some interesting things to be found in 365 Days. Like the fact that Superman was originally not so mild mannered. He was wild, more prone to violence against crooks (even fatal at times), and in one episode his solution to saving impoverished slum kids from destitute lives of crime was to destroy the entire slum in order to force the government to rebuilt it -- "...but this young firebrand with his scorched earth policy was the one who enthralled the Depression audience...." So there you have it. We see Superman has matured over the years. Another thing was the early fad for goofy or kid sidekicks -- every hero had to have one, which helps explain Batman & Robin. Other items benefit from our future perspective hindsight, such as now that we know Wonder Woman's origin through a bondage fetishist psychologist, we see her early appearances in a wholly different light. Talk about your chained amazons! There is simply a lot to take in as this book covers every style and subgenre produced over decades of time. Also, the asides about the connections of comics to the culture at large, movies, radio, wars, etc., are fascinating.

But mainly, over the course of reading this book we also learn the back history of the comics industry, little odds and ends, who the creators were and how they worked, why things were done the way they were, and that many heroes were derivatives or amalgams of others -- such as Superman and Batman from Doc Savage, or Spider-Man's inspiration in the pages of DC -- as the writers hopped from company to company and carried or copied characters hither and yon. It was an exciting time in a new, growing industry.

This book captures a lot of that excitement by its altered perspective. It is shaped like a panel out of a comic, not a comic book itself, so this allows it to have single frames or close-ups of scenes that capture the moment, harness the explosive energy, and force us to see these works in a whole new way, as true works of art. 365 Days has a lot to offer, but it is not a burden nor a bore. It is an entertaining, easy read as the blurbs are minimal and too the point and the focus remains on the pictures. It is, after all, an overgrown, informative, hefty art calendar. But as Professor Archimedes Bram, evil genius antagonist of Captain Marvel, says, "EUREKA!! SUCCESS! MY IMAGINO-REPRODUCER WORKS!!" So does this book.

Thomas Fortenberry

Gary's Bookshelf

Code Name Kill Zone
William W. Johnstone
Kensington Publishing Corp
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022
ISBN: 0786016892, $5.99

This is a series of novels about covert operatives who are not affiliated with any government agency. Normally, series like this have characters who seem invincible and the only conflict is between the good guys and the bad ones. This book is very different. The first thing I noticed is that one of the members of the team is killed in the line of duty, while a high profile senator from Washington D.C. is out to get the team anyway he can. I'm amazed that this writer who has authored over 130 novels in many genres has written so many books without losing quality.

Blood of Angels
Robert J Randisi
Dorchester Publishing Co. Inc
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
ISBN: 0843954760, $6.99

Boys in Chicago are being kidnapped and murdered, while in S. Louis someone is taking girls and killing them. Detective Joe Keough whose beat is normally St Louis has been reassigned to a serial killer task force based in Washington D. C. He and his partner Harriet Conners feel there is a connection between the Chicago and St. Louis cases. Randisi again has written a fast paced thriller that is an addition to the series of novels about Joe Keough.

Predators & Prayers
Philip Carlo
Dorchester Publishing Co. Inc
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
ISBN: 0843955767, $6.99

Several priests are murdered. It is later learned that for a long time they had molested children. The police on the case follow the killer all the way to Rome where he intends to kill the Pope because he feels the church has not done everything it can to stop the rash of pedophile pastors around the United States. I had conflicting emotions for the man about killing church members in this very well written thriller. I like how the author has interwoven his story with real events of how the church is covering up by sending the offenders to other locations in the country, instead of working with law enforcement agencies to put an end to this kind of activity.

Persuasive Evidence
R. Barri Flowers
Dorchester Publishing Co. Inc
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
ISBN: 0843954698, $6.99

Assistant District Attorney Jordan La Fontaine has worked very hard to get the position of Chief of the Homicide Division. For Jordan everything is perfect until her son is charged and tried for murder. She knows he's innocent so she decides to investigate on her own to find the real killer. This is a great legal novel by a new voice in the field.

Justice Served
R. Barri Flowers
Dorchester Publishing Co. Inc
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
ISBN: 0843955627, $6.99

There is a murderer loose on the streets of Portland. Each case is different, but there is one common factor; each was on trial for domestic abuse but was released for whatever reason. The police track down every lead and find one suspect in particular is Criminal Court Judge Carole Cranston. This novel has lots of twists and turns and is a very fast read with believable characters and a very tense setting.

Live at 10:00 Dead at 10:15
Elsa Klensch
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010
ISBN: 076534680X, $6.99

I really like this novel that delves into the world of the fashion industry and goes behind the scene of the media and how it covers a story. Klensch's characters are very well defined and she moves her mystery along at a brisk pace. I enjoyed how she showed that many people were possible suspects of her victim, who just about everyone hated, and had some kind of motive. My only complaint is that I don't think we ever know the network her main character Sonya Iverson works for. Hopefully in other books Klensch will let us know which network it is.

Hi Fly Guy
Tedd Arnold
Cartwheel Books
Scholastic Inc
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012 212-343-6100
ISBN: 0439639034, $5.99

This is a wonderful kid's book that says a lot about friendship between two unlikely characters. Not only kids can read and enjoy this work, but also adults can add symbolism that can make it more enjoyable.

Green Weenies and Due Diligence
Ron Sturgeon
Mike French Publishing
1619 Front St., Lynden WA 98264
ISBN: 0971703116, $14.95

I learned a lot about business from this book that explains new terms that have come about in the last few years. The artwork of Ghan Wilson adds so much, collectors of Wilson's work will want to add this book to their compilation

Behind the Grand Drape 25 Years of Celebrity Backstage Adventures
Floyd Paulsen
Roadman Tech Services
PO Box 451, Frankton IN 46044
ISBN: 0976017504, $14.99

Someone on the back of the book said,. "stagehands always have great stories." I have to ask, Where are they? The author talks about driving a bus for a major rock star and how he cleaned it. On this expose he says he saved the best for last. If that's the best, then I have to say this book is full of it and just doesn't deliver what he implies. He has been around many famous people but rarely talks about them. And what he chooses to deal with are boring tales of his tasks that have little or nothing to do with the celebrities he lists in his contents.

The Devil You Know
Poppy Z. Brite
Gauntlet Press
5307 Arroyo St., Colorado Springs CO 80922
ISBN: 1887368779, $14.95

I've never read this author, but many people at conventions have raved highly about her writing. With this collection I see why she is held in such high esteem. She talks about each story, how long she's lived in New Orleans, the city itself, and other writers from there in her introduction. Brite has collected for the first time many stories with one central theme, highlighting the best elements of the city of New Orleans. The Coroner of New Orleans is a recurring character in many of her pieces. In one there is a spell to bring back to life a chef to keep the flavor of the city alive. In another there is a childs death that is strange. Brite has a way of locking on the reader and keeping the interest unlike many writers of modern horror. What also emerges with this collection is things are different in the Crescent City. Because Hurricane Katrina wiped out so much of this wonderful city, I highly recommend this collection to anyone who thinks that we should not rebuild this municipality. Brite clearly shows why it should rise again.

The Boss of the Swamp
Steven John Albin
1663 Liberty Dr., Bloomington In 47404-5161 800-839-8640
ISBN: 1420824279, $14.95

I'm often asked, "What do you look for in a novel?" A story should have a beginning, middle, and an end. I also like to have characters I have a feeling for. I have to say this book doesn't do either one of those things. In fact, the narrator is boring and the story, if you could call it that, is non-existent. I read with interest this teen novel but found very little to like about it. I have no name for the person telling about the people in the book. I do not know if the person is male or female what their family name is, or a name for the brother. All that is ever stated is "my brother" or "my mother". I tried very hard to find a story here, but have to say I felt like this was a stream of consciousness that isn't going anywhere.

Gary Roen

Glavas' Bookshelf

Soul Signs
Rosemary Altea
Random House Australia (Pty) Ltd
20 Alfred Street, Milsons Point NSW 2061, Australia
ISBN: 1844135543, $A 29.95 304 pages

"Your soul sign relates to your true nature and your purpose. By discovering your soul sign, you will begin to make sense of what motivates you and why you behave the way you do. You may also gain deep insights into the characters of those around you and what drives them. And, with the help of this book, you will be able to recognize and understand your true soul mate."

Having never read a book by this author I wasn't sure what to expect. The title suggests that I would find a method of classifying personality and a way of understanding my own inner drives and those of others.

The author, Rosemary Altea, was born after the Second World War, in the city of Leicester, England. From the first time she can remember, Altea has "seen" faces and "heard" voices from those in the spirit world. As a child she presumed that everyone had this same insight. It was only after her marriage of fourteen years broke down and the author was on her own that the "faces" and "voices" of those people in the spirit world became stronger and more persistent.

While the basic ideas that Rosemary puts forward in "Soul Signs"are sound, the explanations are sometimes easily confused with astrological signs. On page 12 the author states:

'My mother is an Aquarius, a water sign as well, …'

Aquarius is an air sign. Although this error has nothing to do with Soul Signs, it doesn't help to clarify this system either… especially when you take into consideration the similarities that already become confusing with zodiac vs soul signs. Perhaps the editor should have picked this error up.

Rosemary Altea's Soul Signs are divided into Fire, Earth, Air, Water and Sulphur signs - making it clear how easily it is to get confused with the astrological elements of Fire, Earth, Air and Water. In 'Soul Signs' I feel that the Sulphur element was underdeveloped in comparison to the rest of the signs and could have been expanded on.

Even if this book only helps a handful of people to be more tolerant and accepting of themselves (and others) then I would consider this book to be a useful addition to the many good books available on gaining a better understanding and acceptance of the varieties of people around us.

This is a great book to help you understand not only yourself, but help you to gain a better appreciation of your loved ones.

Chinese Astrology
Derek Walters
Simon & Schuster Australia
Lower Ground Floor, 14-16 Suakin Street (PO Box 33), Pymble NSW 2073 Australia
ISBN: 1842930257, $A 24.95, 411 pp.

Chinese Astrology is obviously a highly specialized book that would suit readers that are looking to supplement an educational activity or course. In order to get an understanding of this oriental system of using astrology Walters goes into a comprehensive look at the history and evolutionary development of it. This is certainly not for the faint hearted but is essential for a good understanding of the underpinning of this system.

Derek Walters is Europe's foremost authority on Chinese astrology (even though he lives in Morecombe, Lancashire), respected not only for his thorough academic knowledge of the subject, but also as an actual practitioner of Chinese divination. His other popular books on oriental divination include The Chinese Astrology Workbook and the Feng Shui Handbook.

Through reading this title I found out about some of the interesting differences between Chinese and Western astrology. A couple of these differences include: Western astrology uses the movement of planetary bodies moving along the ecliptic; Chinese astrology the lunar zodiac is of prime importance. In the lunar zodiac system, the sky is divided into twenty-eight segments, each one representing a day of the moon's path through the sky. This topic is covered in detail in Chapter 4 and includes both a traditional and modern explanation/interpretation for each segment.

Another interesting piece of information I found while reading Chinese Astrology is that this system uses the whole sky… not just the area along the ecliptic, in reading signs and omens in the sky. This fact alone gives you a glimpse of the complexity of Chinese Astrology.

This book is a great addition to the astrology addict's personal library and covers more than just Chinese astrology. As can be seen from the chapter listing below the history and development of this system of divination is comprehensively covered, as well as Feng Shui.

The contents are dividing into the following chapters:

Introducing Chinese Astrology
The Chinese Calendar
The Twenty-Eight Lunar Mansions
Early Chinese Astronomical Tests
The Astrological Treatise of Sau Ma Chien
Divination Plates and Feng Shui
Chinese Horoscopes from the Eighth to the Twentieth Centuries

At the back of the book you will find appendices - tables, bibliography, bibliographical appendix and an index. This is helpful if you want to go to source material yourself or research a particular topic further. The Appendices are particularly bulky and include: The Hundred K'o; Date of the 24 Chi for the Years 1900-2000; The 24 Qi; Stem and Branch Combinations; Conversion Table - Western Zodiac to Equalatorial Hsiu; Table to Calculate the Mid-Heaven House; Conversion Table of Chinese Phonetics; plus many more.

In my opinion, this would make an excellent reference book for those with a strong interest in the historical development and use of Chinese astrology. Walter's knowledge and expertise certainly shine through when you read this book.

Rose Glavas, Reviewer

Gorden's Bookshelf

Karin Slaughter
William Morrow
Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
ISBN: 0060567104, $24.95 358 pages

Slaughter writes fast moving visceral action/mysteries built around medical examiner Sara Linton and police chief Jeffrey Tolliver. She has a fast and loose style, which does permit occasional problems to edge into the tale. Some of the flaws she builds into her characters can be a bit much but her characters are more complex than most.

Sara goes to the police station to talk to Jeffery. Two men enter the station and start shooting. Police are killed and visiting children are wounded. Sara's and Jeffery's past has come back to haunt them in the forms of two killers with an arsenal of weapons and a desire to use them. Sara tries to help the wounded Jeffery and watches the killers systematically terrorize the surviving hostages and prepare for a siege.

'Indelible' is the type of story you read on vacation. It blends a violent past event with a bloody hostage confrontation. The story continues with actions both inside and out of the barricaded police station. It is a story you read for fun and giving to friends but not one that you will keep on your shelf. If you like a raw and rough action story, you will like 'Indelible.'

The War of the Worlds
H. G. Wells
A Tor Book
Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
ISBN: 0812505158, $4.99 200 pages

'The War of the Worlds' has been remade so many times the original has been forgotten. Wells wrote his story before there was Science Fiction and called the style Science Romance. 'The War of the Worlds' is a science/military horror. Written over one hundred years ago the science holds up better than the typical SF novel of today. The tale is more believable because of its age. Modern science tells us that any space traveling race has to know and understand about germs. The modern re-writes of the story have to suffer from this basic problem. The story has all the best science of the age with sound military accent. It is a true horror tale that brings out the psychological terrors of humans under extreme stress. Unlike the modern copies, every part of the story holds up to scrutiny.

'The War of the Worlds' astounds with its accurate science and creepy horror. The original brings the reader into an understanding why the tale has stood the test of time and has generated so many copies of itself. 'The War of the Worlds' is worth reading as a great original and is more satisfying than its many copies. You can not claim to have experienced the story until you have read the original. It is recommended for everyone.

S.A. Gorden

Gypsi's Bookshelf

The Dogs of Babel
Carolyn Parkhurst
Back Bay Books/Little, Brown and Company
Time Warner Book Group
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 0316778508, $13.95 288 pages

When Paul Iverson's wife, Lexy, falls from an apple tree, her instantaneous death is ruled an accident, but Paul is not certain. Certain things done by Lexy that day lead him to think that it could have been intentional. The only witness to the fall was Lexy's dog, Lorelei, and Paul becomes obsessed with the desire to know what Lorelei knows. He leaves his job as a linguistics professor and tries to teach Lorelei to speak.

The story is told in both the present and the past, using effective flashbacks and memories, as Paul narrates the story of their relationship, what he knows of Lexy's past and his attempts with Lorelei. Some of their early relationship is quite beautiful, with Paul's offering of "square eggs" being quite original and sentimental and is my favorite scene from the book.

Paul is a generally likable character, his deep grief seeming natural and real and his dependence on Lorelei in the days after Lexy's death both sweet and sad. The object of his mourning, on the other hand, was not nearly so appealing.

We only see Lexy through Paul's besotted eyes, but her whimsical nature and fragile emotions did not inspire the same admiration in me. In particular, Lexy's emotional difficulties came across as teenage angst that had not yet matured into a woman's turmoil. As such, she elicited more annoyance than sympathy, which worked against the beauty of Paul's grief. As is the trend of late for current novels, The Dogs of Babel seems a bit pretentious with it's excess of darkness and seems to draw attention to its dark aspect with Lexy's outbursts. Instead of giving The Dogs of Babel a tense, emotional feel, this aspect gave it a forced feeling, as if Ms. Parkhurst were trying too hard.

Paul's attempts to teach Lorelei to speak lead to the most unappealing part of the book; he has some interaction with a group of weirdoes (no other word will do) who are attempting to give dogs speech by cruel surgical ways. At one point, I put the book down, determined to read no further until I knew for certain that Lorelei would not be hurt. The animal cruelty element seemed to be unnecessary as well as a turn off for
myself (and I'm sure many other readers).

Despite my dissatisfaction with some aspects, I found The Dogs of Babel to be an engrossing first novel. Ms. Parkhurst has an easy style, and is very adept at weaving the back story into the present action. Her short chapters speed the reader from one to the next, with a genuine build up of suspense evident. I cared about Paul and Lorelei and was anxious for the situation to resolve. Though the ending was much weaker than the rest of the book, overall it was a satisfying reading experience. I will be interested to read Ms. Parkhurst's future works, unless of course, she continues to use the theme of animal cruelty, and expect to continue to hear good things about her as a writer.

Sunset and Sawdust
Joe R. Landsdale
Alfred A. Knopf
a division of The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 0375414533, $22.00 336 pages

Sunset and Sawdust is a mystery that takes place in East Texas during the Depression. Sunset Jones kills her abusive husband and becomes constable of the logging camp in his stead. When a dead baby is discovered, she begins an investigation that uncovers greed and villainy in the political structure and put her, and all she cares about, in grave danger.

The book jacket calls it a "wildly energetic novel--galvanizing from first to last". What the publishers call "energetic", I call overly fast paced to the point motion sickness; furthermore, I was galvanized to nothing except annoyance. Landsdale's descriptive style is generally crass and rude. Why use just a word when a cuss word or vulgar word can be put in. For example, a dying man thinks, "Goddamn, taken from behind, that's not right, not me, I'm always ready, but goddamn, I feel it, a knife in my back, tight as a bull's dick in a chicken's ass". Such needless vulgarity cheapened the scene, which should have been moving, as well as making it unrealistic. The overusage of "pussy", "bitch" and "dick" and over-focus on sex and attractive women made this appear to the be the work of a hormonal teenager.

Also unrealistic were some of the personal interactions. They seem stilted and fake, and in the case of Sunset and Lee, simply wrong. I found it extremely difficulty to believe that she could accept and trust him that quickly. With other relationships, the dynamics (Two and McBride for instance, or Hillbilly's ability to snow everyone he met) did not have the ring of truth.

In addition, Landsdale's use of run-ons, lack of conjunctures and overall poor writing skills were simply tiresome. This is the writer that has won six Bram Stoker Awards as well as three other awards? Perhaps I've caught him on a bad day. All I can say is that his style is not to my taste and the only thing that kept me reading was curiosity about the murder. I shouldn't have wasted my time, as the outcome followed true to the rest of the book and was a great disappointment.

Gypsi Phillips Bates

Harwood's Bookshelf

The Mysterious Stranger
No. 44, Mark Twain Library
University of California Press
2120 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-1012
ISBN: 0520242608, $14.05 217 p.

As soon as Satan started denigrating humans for having a Moral Sense, and declared that their ability to tell right from wrong was what made them such contemptible lower lifeforms, far inferior to himself, it was clear that he was not what he seemed to be. But when he casually sent an earthquake to annihilate a habitation and kill hundreds of innocents who had not injured him in any way, simply because he felt like it, and compared his action to stamping on so many ants, totally insignificant to him because he could create plenty more where they came from, it became clear that he was really God.

Mark Twain was no admirer of the world's favorite imaginary playmate. Since he had actually read the Christian bible, how could he be? There is no shortage of believers who have read bibles; but unlike them, Twain read it with his brain in gear. While he did not in so many words describe God as the most sadistic, evil, mass-murdering psychopath in all fiction, he assuredly recognized him as exactly that. His writings on the subject of the Western World's god mythology leave no doubt that he did not share the cultural brainwashing of his compatriots that, "When God does it, it's not evil."

Twain's portrait of the cultural mind-set of Inquisitional Austria, as seen through the eyes of a 16th century Tom Sawyer equivalent, and the way an entire village accepted the legitimacy of the witch hunts, is so reminiscent of the witch hunts of McCarthyist America, that the reader is forced to remind himself that the prime architect of the American Republicanazi Party's descent into absolute evil was only two years old when Twain died. And he answers the question of why nobody spoke out, by showing that the masses were incapable of comprehending that what was going on was in any way aberrant or even questionable. Looking at McCarthyism in that light, one wonders whether, if McCarthy had not been personally discredited, McCarthyism would still be mainstream Americanism, as it is still mainstream theofascism. Consider the following sentences:

"I know your race. It is made up of sheep. It is governed by minorities, seldom or never by majorities…. Sometimes the noisy handful is right, sometimes wrong; but no matter, the crowd follows it…. I know that ninety-nine out of a hundred of your race were strongly against the killing if witches when that foolishness was first agitated by a handful of pious lunatics in the long ago…. Some day a handful will rise up on the other side and make the most noise - perhaps even a single daring man with a big voice and a determined front will do it - and in a week all the sheep will wheel and follow him, and witch-hunting will come to a sudden end" (pp. 117-118).

A reminder: writing before Joseph McCarthy's birth, Twain was not "prophesying" either McCarthy or Ed Murrow. He was extrapolating a predictable future from observable reality. McCarthy came and went, and now new witch hunters, politely called the Religious Right, have come and show no sign of disappearing permanently. Clearer proof that the masses have learned nothing from history, either from the Inquisition or from McCarthy or from Mark Twain (or for that matter Thomas Paine), would be hard to find.

The Mysterious Stranger may not be Twain's best satire. But it is his most underrated. All teachers of high school and junior college English should be required to teach it to their classes, and then ask the students to decide whether the mysterious stranger is in fact Satan, as he claims, or is really God. In reaching such a judgment, they should give particular consideration to the following passages:

"Not a sparrow falls to the ground without His seeing it."

"But it falls, just the same. What good is seeing it fall?" (p. 41)

"Men have nothing in common with me … and they have no sense. Only the Moral Sense. I will show you what I mean. Here is a red spider, not so big as a pin's head. Could you imagine an elephant being interested in him? ... These things can never be important to the elephant; they are nothing to him…. Man is to me as the red spider is to the elephant…. The elephant is indifferent; I am indifferent" (p. 79).

"I am but a dream - your dream, creature of your imagination. In a moment you will have realized this, then you will banish me from your visions and I shall dissolve into the nothingness out of which you made me…. Strange that you should not have suspected years ago - centuries, ages, eons ago…. Because they are frankly and hysterically insane - like all dreams: a God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones … who mouths justice and invented hell - mouths mercy and invented hell - mouths Golden Rules, and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all." The Tom Sawyer character concludes, "He vanished and left me appalled; for I knew, and realized, that all he has said was true" (pp. 138-140).

The very fact that opinions about the mysterious stranger's true identity will be divided should enlighten the students. For how could such a judgment not be unanimous, unless Satan and God really are mirror images? Mark Twain did not make his points by telling readers what to think. He gave them the only glimpse of reality many would ever experience, and hoped that at least a percentage would prove to be as enlightened as himself. Sadly, that percentage is probably even lower than he imagined.

Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression
Brooke Shields
77 West 66th Street, 11th Floor, NY 10023
ISBN: 1401301894, $23.95 226 p.

The dust jacket of Brooke Shields's latest book informs readers that she was cured of depression by "talk therapy." After an opening oxymoron like that, any expectation that she might have written something useful would have been unrealistic - and indeed she has not. Inside, she writes, "I believed my current state was my punishment for trying to play God" (p. 95). It's a dirty job, but there's no one else to do it. "I was being driven by my type A personality" (p. 96). Newsflash: There is no such thing as a type A personality. The expression is psychobabble for, "I am an incompetent psychoquack (tautology) who uses doubletalk to make people think I know what I'm talking about." "I … wondered about the difference between postpartum depression and the baby blues" (p. 138). More doubletalk. "I continued going to therapy" (p. 161). Translation: "I paid a professional listener to let me talk about myself." And he did not even have to serve her drinks, as a bartender filling the same function would have done.

Brooke Shields has never been the brightest spark on the candelabra. In her first book she did not merely confess that, at eighteen, she was a celibate pervert (tautology); she boasted about it. She showed some evidence of having grown a functioning human brain when she defected from the Jehovah's Witnesses cult. But her joining such an insane, antihuman perversion in the first place raises serious questions about her mental equilibrium. And her current endorsement of the pseudoscience of psychiatry makes one wonder if she is simply unteachable.

Shields's paean to psychiatry caused her to be denigrated by a prominent adherent of Scientology, perhaps the only pretend-religion so insane that it makes even Jehovah's Witnesses and Christian Scientists look rational by comparison. Scientology is a confidence swindle invented by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, based on Hubbard's Big Lie that the first humans evolved in a galaxy far, far away, and were brought to earth in the distant past by benevolent aliens from the planet Arslycus, a name that clearly revealed Hubbard's contempt for the marks who could take his passing off science fiction as religion seriously. If humans had not evolved on earth, they would have no common ancestors with any other terrestrial lifeforms, and therefore would have no DNA in common with any lifeforms that evolved on earth. Given the falsifying evidence available, anyone who could swallow such a scenario goes way beyond mere ignorance and well into the realm of mental dysfunction. Scientologists may be the only cultists even dumber than the Flat Earth Society. Shields's denunciation of the Scientologist who denigrated her was fully justified, but instead of defending psychoquackery, she should have attacked Cruise's own adherence to a moneymaking scam posing as a religion. Tom Cruise has been suckered by a science fiction cult, and Brooke Shields has been suckered by a pseudoscience cult.

But just because Shields made herself a target of rationally challenged Scientologists (another tautology), that does not mean that criticism of her own gullible belief in the useless and often dangerous medical quackery of psychiatry is not justified. Hubbard denounced psychiatry because the psychiatrists he encountered recognized him as a fruitcake, as did the FBI agent who wrote on one of his letters declaring that psychiatrists were targeting him, "sounds mental." Today's Scientologists denounce psychiatry simply because their Lawgiver said so. But just as a stopped clock is right twice a day, so Hubbard was right when he canonized his conclusion, that psychiatry is pseudoscience, as Scientologist dogma.

How many Americans are unaware that, every time a psychiatrist testifies in legal proceedings, the other side has no difficulty recruiting its own psychiatrists to contradict the first psychiatrists' allegedly expert testimony? Psychiatrists are no more qualified at making educated guesses than bartenders or taxi drivers, as the masses are reminded every time they see psychiatrists contradicting one another on television series such as Law and Order. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to recognize that, if psychiatrists are practitioners of science or medicine, then so are the bartenders, taxi drivers and hetaeras who similarly practice sympathetic listening and asking their customers, "And how did that make you feel?" But the real experts do not mistake their idle chatter for "talk therapy."

Autosuggestion can indeed help an individual to feel better. Some people talk to an imaginary playmate and call it prayer. Some talk to a mirror and call it hypnotism. And some talk to a professional listener and call it therapy. In each case, any positive result is a placebo effect. And when a placebo is combined with a pain pill or tranquilizer, it is as often as not the placebo that is given the credit, as it is by Shields.

That Brooke Shields fought back from being depressed is not in dispute. But depression is simply hyper-intense pessimism. It is not a medical condition; it is undisciplined thinking. A psychoquack's pep talk differs in tone from that of a football coach, but not in any other way. The diagnosing of depression as a physical rather than an emotional condition, and the accompanying pretence that a psychiatric pep talk is a form of medicine, were invented by the same pretentious ignoramuses who diagnosed compulsive playacting as multiple personality; false memories, usually implanted by the therapist, as recovered memories of events that never happened; motivated self-help as hypnotism; imaginative fantasizing as true accounts of alien abductions; and keyboard ventriloquism as facilitated communication.

Brooke Shields is a beautiful woman and a competent, perhaps even talented, comedic actress. And she is not dumb, just gullible, credulously accepting that motivational pep talks are something more than exactly that. Her book is as entertaining as a housepainter's plank-by-plank account of how he whitewashed a fence, and as informative as a treatise on correct English by the talking chimpanzee in the White House. The polite term for such inanity is unmitigated drivel.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Salt Water Amnesia
Jeffrey Skinner
Ausable Press
1026 Hurricane, Rd., Keene, NY 12942
ISBN: 1931337241, $24.00 82 pp.
ISBN: 193133725X, $14.00

In the same six-line stanza of "Widow's Walk," Skinner can write, "If the heart could think, it would stop...," and "Sleep, the book that reads us." You think you could write these lines, they are so simple and direct. Yet of course you can't. You're not a poet with Skinner's unique gift of plain language artfully used to articulate the common life. This is not revelation, but rather memory. Skinner continually brings to mind--brings back to mind--moments everyone has experienced physically or in thought, but has not had the time or made the effort to reflect much on. Thus, there is in these poems a sense of familiarity; which is one thing that leads one to wrongly believe one could write the same words Skinner does. Skinner leads one to familiarity with aspects of one's life, often aspects one has missed, sometimes neglected. Skinner is a seasoned, widely-published poet whose work has appeared in Poetry, Yale Review, Slate, Paris Review, and elsewhere.

Tennessee's Radical Army: The State Guard and Its Role in Reconstruction, 1867-1869
Ben H. Severance
U. of Tennessee Press
Knoxville, TN 37996-4108
ISBN: 1572333626, $35.00 327+xviii pp.

With 500 newly freed African Americans among its members, the 2,000-strong Tennessee State Guard played a crucial role in allowing for elections and keeping the elected Republican governor in office in Tennessee in the first years of Reconstruction after the Civil War. Severance (assistant professor, Auburn U.) refers to this state militia as "radical" because it was used by Brownlow and others who "styled themselves radical Republicans." These "radicals," however, were the duly elected, legitimate political leaders of Tennessee at the time. The determined resistance they met from many Tennesseans, however, including the Ku Klux Klan, made the Northern victory in the Civil War seem "the most gigantic falsehood of the age," as one Radical Republican put it. The State Guard's role has been controversial since Reconstruction. But Severance views it mostly favorably, while not leaving out the controversial aspects of its role. It filled a role between local authorities who were part of the resistance or helpless to curtail it and the Federal authorities and troops who regarded it as outside their jurisdiction. Without the State Guard, Tennessee would have been mostly lawless. Severence studies its necessary, irreplaceable role in laying the political and legal groundwork, however controversial and flawed this was, which the victorious Union side had fought for in the Civil War. This thankless task fell to the Guard, which met it effectively and respectably.

The Private Journals of Edvard Munch: We Are Flames Which Pour Out of the Earth
Edvard Munch
edited and translated by J. Gill Holland
U. of Terrace Books/Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe St. - Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
ISBN: 0299198146, $29.95 192+xiv pp.

As the subtitle which is lines from one of Munch's poems indicates, the Norwegian painter could write poetry that was as vividly intense as many of his paintings, notably his signature painting "The Scream." "The sky was like/blood--sliced with strips of fire..." are lines from another poem of his. The format of all of the sections from Munch's journals edited by the poet and literary critic Holland are broken into lines as if the content was entirely poems. But it is not. Munch's varied entries are perceptive on local events and persons of the day, his relationships with others, self-examination and self-discovery, and psychological insights. "The nervous talk a lot. Craziness often expresses itself in incessant talking. Talking has become...a sort of defense against other people...When I am talking I tax anyone I am with, as if I've taken him prisoner," he writes in the entry titled "On Talking." A friend of the famous writers Ibsen and Knut Hamsen, Munch appreciated the power of words and the skill of writers. He obviously took care to write as precisely and truly as he could, even for his "private journals"; here published more extensively than ever with a faithful, empathetic translation and concise introduction. With these journals, one sees behind the revolutionary paintings to the mind of the extraordinary painter who could make them.

Travelling Knowledges: Positioning the Im/Migrant Reader of the Aboriginal Literatures in Canada
Renate Eigenbrod
U. of Manitoba Press
Winnepeg, Manitoba, Canada
distributed in U.S. by Michigan State U. Press
East Lansing, MI 800-678-2120
ISBN: 0887556817, $24.95 280+xvi pp.

Eigenbrod explains the unusual term "Im/Migrant" of the subtitle: "I read Canadian Indigenous literatures from an immigrant perspective, but in a migrant fashion." This allows for a dualistic understanding "that can understand texts different from us and understand them to be different from us..."; a subtle distinction whose two elements allow for not only conceptual understanding, but also aesthetic and cultural appreciation of aboriginal literatures by recognition of the traditions and ways of life they are rooted in. Eigenbrod's work is not about ancient Native American folk tales, myths, etc., but about coming to proper--literarily, culturally, and ethically proper--understandings of modern and contemporary First Nations literature as much as this is possible by outsiders. A primary, though not dominating strand of the work of literary analysis and cultural understanding is the author's biographical story of how she came to the positioning (method or structure are too strong) she expounds as a German-Canadian. The proper understanding of Native American literature she develops and commends depends partly on comprehending one's own ethnicity, heritage, position in society, and personality. Eigenbrod is a teacher of Aboriginal Literature at the U. of Manitoba.

Nightingales and Pleasure Gardens: Turkish Love Poems
edited and translated by Talat S. Halman
Syracuse U. Press
Syracuse, NY
ISBN: 0815608357, $16.95 159+xv pp.

More than 100 love poems representing major Turkish poets and a few anonymous ones are divided into poems before the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923 and those after. The poems are enjoyable for their statements and imagery on all facets of love as they accomplish their purpose of introducing leading Turkish poets throughout the nation's history and surveying Turkish love poems. Halmat became Turkey's first Minister of Culture in 1971. With his knowledge of the Turkish culture and language, the poems retain their animating emotions and points of view while being translated into a clear, readily comprehensible modern style.

The Outer Islands: People Who Pulled Nantucket's Oars
Frances Ruley Karttunen
Spinner Publications
164 William St., New Bedford, MA 02740
ISBN: 0932027933, $30.00 303 pp.

This is one of those books which goes into a little-covered aspect of a subject--in this case, Nantucket and its legendary whaling business--and by so doing, opens up the subject in a whole new way. The "other islanders" are not just Nantucket residents such as Native Americans and African Americans who have been overlooked in all the attention paid to Nantucket's renowned names such as Starbuck and Coffin. Among these "other islanders" are also Europeans, Russians, Middle Easterners, and Asians. The title phrase also literally includes other islanders from the Hawaiian, South Seas, West Indies, and Azores Islands who worked in Nantucket's whaling industry and everyday town work such as the post office, fishing, or cooking or waiting in restaurants. Karttunen, descended from Finns who came to Nantucket twelve generations ago, goes into how the different ethnic groups originally came to Nantucket, their places and contributions to the local society and the whaling industry, and their presence on the Island today. With numerous period and latter-day photographs, this is an engaging work shedding new light on Nantucket's colorful 19th-century whaling business and also the Island's multicultural society from its origins down to contemporary times.

Jekyll's Island Early Years: From Prehistory Through Reconstruction
June Hall McCash
U. of Georgia Press
330 Research Dr., Athens, GA 30602-4901
ISBN: 0820324477, $39.95 280+xv pp.

Nine miles long and two miles wide, "Jekyll's island is the smallest of Georgia's Golden Isles." A teacher at Middle Tennessee State U., in this third book of her's on Georgia's Jekyll's Island, McCash gives a panoramic view of its history from its original Native American inhabitants through effects on the Island from events in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars up to when it was made into a club in 1886 for many of the wealthiest individuals in the country. This club was the prototype for later exclusive spots on other islands along the coast of Southeastern states for wealthy and well-known individuals from all walks of life. McCash follows the centuries-long history largely through the positions and activities of individuals of the different periods with respect to the Island. Among these are English colonists, settlers, soldiers, slaves and slave-owners, and men who sought to restore the Island from the neglect it had fallen into after the Civil War. McCash's work of regional history offers an extended background on the one small island in this area which has attracted national attention for its popularity with politicians, celebrities, and wealthy businesspersons.

Creating Historical Drama: A Guide for Communities, Theatre Groups, and Playwrights, Second Edition
Christian H. Moe, Scott J. Parker, and George McCalmon
Southern Illinois University Press
PO Box 3697, Carbondale, IL 62902-3697
ISBN: 0809326426, $50.00 319+xvi pp.

The authors with both academic and working experience in theater production relate general guidance and practical considerations for evaluating resources, organizing activities, and engaging in relevant, skilled, coordinated actions for a community theater group to stage a successful historical drama. The crucial challenge of finding and developing talented actors is not overlooked either. Success for such a community production is measured by standards of artistic performance, community service, and management responsibility. Historical dramas are particularly appealing to community theater groups because of the wide freedom they allow in dealing with different historical times, the range of important and often colorful characters, and recurring issues in human affairs. Historical plays can also have a high education value for a local population when local historical characters, scenes, and topics are portrayed. All dimensions of this type of drama particularly suited to community theaters are dealt with, from developing an idea and perspective, writing a script, staging, and engaging with the larger community. This second edition is an abridged revision of the first edition put out in 1965.

The Heritage of Traditional Malay Literature: a Historical Survey of Genres, Writings, and Literary Views
Vladmir Braginsky
KITLV Press, Netherlands
distributed in U.S. by U. of Washington Press
PO Box 50096, Seattle, WA 98145-5096
ISBN: 9067182141, $45.00 890+xiv pp.

A rich literature dating back to the seventh century which reflects Sanskrit and Islamic elements and forms, Persian and Sufi poetics, and philosophical concepts of Plato and Aristotle as these were filtered through various Middle Eastern and Asian lands, Malay literature is nonetheless ethnically and geographically confined so that it is possible to "embrace at a single glance...the relative completeness of its forms and themes." Braginsky, Professor of Southeast Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of London, does so; although for him to refer to his voluminous, impressively scholarly study ranging from generalizations to meticulous examination of lines of poetry as a "glance" is an understatement if ever there was one. Practically speaking, Malay literature as a distinct literary tradition is no more, having been effaced by the social and cultural forces of the modern world. Besides, the Malay culture of Southeast Asia never had the vast population and large geographical reach of the dominant regional powers of China and India. Yet Malay literature managed to exert an outsized, though limited, influence on the incomparably more widespread, lasting regional literatures for its richness from the way it "fused, adapted, transfigured, and indiginized" the varied influences it came into contact with as well as for the complex forms it worked over the course of its periods defined by Braginsky. One wishes for more samplings of Malay writings. But more would have made a large and dauntingly complete and learned book with an 80-page bibliography larger, though perhaps less daunting. No matter--ones solidly motivated to learn about Malay literature will gain from the work what they need to know for a full appreciation of its historical background, subjects, and forms, and for Western readers, its exoticism.

Quebec During the American Invasion, 1775-1776: The Journal of Francois Baby
Gabriel Taschereau, and Jenkin Williams
edited by Michael Gabriel
translated by S. Pascale Vergereau-Dewey
Michigan State U. Press
1405 S. Harrison Road, Manly Miles Building - Suite 25, East Lansing, MI 48823-5202
ISBN: 0870137409, $26.95 141+xlv pp.

The three writers of the journal were agents sent by the British governor of Quebec, Sir Guy Carleton, to travel among the surrounding parishes and missions to find out who had lent support to the American troops in their invasion of Canada during the Revolutionary War. The Americans knew that they had support among some of the French-Canadian "habitants" (i. e., peasants). Though this support turned out not to be widespread or effective enough to help the Americans to victory, Carleton wanted to weed the supporters out of the local militias. In their journal, Baby and the others reported parish by parish the actions they took against individuals posing a threat to British control of Canada and the reasons for this. Some militia men performed military duties such as standing guard for the invading rebel forces; others encouraged support for them; and others offered them food or transpiration. Carleton's punitive measures were mild, dismissal from the militia in most cases; but they were effective in virtually eliminating what support there was for the Americans among the French-Canadian peasants. The journal is an important historical document first published in the 1920s.

The Past Within Us: Media, Memory, History
Tessa Morris-Suzuki
180 Varick St. New York, NY 10014-4606
ISBN: 1859845134, $35.00 279+viii pp.

Morris-Suzuki's cultural study focusing on the concept and reality of history is especially timely considering the notions that society is in a "post-truth" era that have been floating around. Though advocating that there is such a matter as meaningful history, she understands that truth as embodied in history is not simple or static. The history she discusses is not academic or theoretical history, but rather history as encountered "through the filter of other people's interpretations and imaginations"; through diverse media sources including fiction, photographs, graphic novels, newsreels, films, and the Internet, among others. In such circumstances of contemporary, postmodern, life, the grasp of history required for sufficient understanding of circumstances and events as well as for understanding of other people and groups is more a matter of "attentiveness to diverse representations of the past" than devising a comprehensive theory or arguments over the definition and meaning of history. In a wide-ranging cultural analysis in support of the importance of a comprehensible, admittedly loosely-defined, concept of history, Morris-Suzuki not only gives positive substance to this, but also demonstrates how false, misleading history can be concocted by unscrupulously selective material and the fabrication of baseless controversies. This author is a professor of history and research at the Australian National University.

Henry Berry

Hunter's Bookshelf

Flashing Before My Eyes: 50 Years of Headlines, Deadlines, & Punchlines
Dick Schaap
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New Your, NY 10022
ISBN: 0380975122, $25.00, 320 pages

Dick Schaap, was one of the country's most prolific writers about sports and the people of sports. In this semi-autobiography published only a few years before his death, he put together a book about his meetings, conversations, and friendships with some of the most famous sports personalities of his time. His long career association with the sports world included writing a weekly sports column and extensive experience in television, radio and magazine journalism. In his time, he met almost all the big and little names in sports of all nature. His tendency as a name dropper was well known. The name dropping in this book is fascinating and inclusive, but done in the spirit of letting the reader in on inside information not usually shared about easily recognized sports personalities. Self-aggrandizement simply doesn't fit into the equation.

In between his obvious fascination with sports personalities, he weaves a condensed story of his own life. The narrative includes interesting tidbits about his rise from the streets of Brooklyn eventually to host ESPN's "Sports Reporters" television show and the radio program "The Sporting Life" for the same network. The autobiography unfolds seamlessly around the series of descriptions of his meetings, conversations, and friendships with the most famous names in sports.

The book is amusing and entertaining from first to last. Being a self confessed sports junkie, I related to and was fascinated with almost every page. If you like sports and have ever dreamed of meeting and mingling with your heroes, buying this book might just be the next best thing.

A Stitch In Time: A Baseball Chronology, 1845-2002
Gene Elston
Halcyon Press Ltd.
6065 Hillcroft Suite 528, Houston, Texas 77081
ISBN: 1931826030, $19.95, 344 pages

Gene Elston, long time media voice of the Houston Colt 45's and Houston Astros, has written a unique and highly informative baseball book that chronicles interesting baseball-centered events by date and year since baseball's beginning in 1845. Entries are not limited to the major leagues but include facts and data from every aspect of baseball including the minor leagues and the Mexican League, the various Negro leagues and the contributions of women. As Elston points out, events related to baseball occur twelve months a year, so his chronicle includes stories from the full twelve month calendar year.

Perhaps the best way to provide a sense of the feel of the book is to pick a calendar day or two at random and list the type of information presented there. With that in mind, I opened the book indiscriminately to pages 88 and 89. These pages describe events of April 14 and include entries for the years 1905, 1910, 1936, 1953, 1964, 1967, and 1969. Fascinating bits of information unearthed on these pages include a paragraph on the opening day game between the Boston Beaneaters and the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds in 1905; a story concerning President William Howard Taft establishing one of baseball's most familiar traditions by throwing out the first ball on opening day in 1910; the opening day of Milwaukee's County Stadium in 1953 as big league baseball returned to that city for the first time since 1901; Duke Snider's move to San Francisco from the New York Mets in 1964; and the 1969 game between the expansion franchise in Montreal and the St. Louis Cardinals which marked the beginning of major league baseball in Canada.

For hardcore baseball aficionados, this book is a must have. Elston's straightforward writing style also makes it an interesting choice for even the most casual baseball fan. Instead of reading the book as one does a novel, I imagine most readers will find it a great book to read a little at a time in order to savor the remarkable bits of information found on virtually every page.

Clint Hunter

Jeremy's Bookshelf

Lifting the Veil: Hidden Judaism Revealed
Steven Evans
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100
ISBN: 0741424673, $19.95 222 pgs.

As a Christian, I have been interested in the study of Judaism because it sheds light on the origins of my religion. Judaism is a fascinating religion, finding its basis in the Hebrew Bible, and in particular in the Five Books of Moses (the Torah), and any study of it will enlighten the one who sets out to study it honestly. Gone are the days when it was thought Judaism was a religion of law whose adherents blindly sought legalistic ways to follow God. Here are the days when an honest appraisal of Judaism can perhaps open the pathway for one to encounter the living God.

An excellent guidebook for such an adventure is Lifting the Veil: Hidden Judaism Revealed by Steven Evans. Evans has made a point of studying Judaism, Kabbalah (a mystic branch of Judaism), Torah, and the Talmud, and presents many of his findings in this book. While Evans acknowledges that his research causes him to understand, especially, many Torah episodes "in a different light, with a non-traditional perspective" this reviewer found his insights to be fresh and non-threatening, either from a Jewish or Christian perspective.

His book is divided into three sections: Essays on Torah, Essays on Jewish Practices, and Essays on Jewish Thought. Because this reviewer is a Bible student and a Christian, I will limit my observations to the first section, because of both space and knowledge limitations.

"Essays on Torah" contains eleven chapters that cover the gamut of Torah interpretation. Topics covered include: the death of the Egyptian first-born, why Abraham was not tested by God when he took Isaac to sacrifice him, why the common understanding about leprosy and uncleanness in Leviticus is wrong, and why Balak is a hero.

One of my favorite essays is the very first one, "Death of the Egyptian First-Born." In this essay, Evans describes the common understanding that the firstborn sons of the Egyptians were struck down. Then he describes his own position: It was not the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, for such an act would also include husbands, fathers, etc., in addition to children. Rather, it was a battle of God versus the false gods of Egypt. The death of the firstborn, being the last plague and the one that finally convinced Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt, was the actual destruction of the false gods of Egypt and the recognition of the oneness of God.

Evans' essays are well thought out and they are not presented as mere opinions: Evans appeals to the Torah many times to make his point. At times, I found myself objecting to certain points, only to be rebuffed by scripture(!) as Evans pulled out the appropriate text.

For an introduction to aspects of Judaism, and for a fresh approach to Torah, check out this book. You will find it fascinating and will have trouble putting it down.

The 10-Minute Marketer's Secret Formula: A Shortcut to Extradordinary Profits Using Neighborhood Marketing
Tom Feltenstein
Entrepreneur Press
2445 McCabe Way, Suite 400, Irvine, CA 9264-6244
ISBN: 1932531084, $19.95 269 pages

When such a marketing behemoth as McDonald's cuts their mass marketing budget by 1/3, then it is clear that mass marketing is one its way out. This example is one of many Feltenstein gives in his book to demonstrate that the age of mass marketing is over. What is in, is very targeted marketing to those nearest to your actual business - in short, your immediate neighborhood.

Feltenstein is a marketing consultant who has worked for many top companies, and he brings his extensive wisdom and teaching to this book. The book is very easy to read, and from page one delivers concise, usable information. No honest reader can read this book even for ten minutes and not come away with some useful tidbits to apply immediately.

There are twenty-five chapters and two appendices in this book. Each chapter is about some aspect of "neighborhood marketing," and the first appendix contains twenty-seven forms that correspond to the marketing lessons from the book. In this way, the book functions almost as a workbook, providing theory (albeit very practical theory) in the main section and praxis in the appendix.

The thrust of Feltenstein's message is that local businesses must think locally. This includes not just the immediate geographic "neighborhood," but also their database and their actual, physical store. More damage can be done, Feltenstein cautions, by dirty floors and uninspired workers than by the absence of a mass marketing message. Businesses should make a plan that includes in-store merchandising and personnel training, local promotion (direct response mailings and cross-promotions with other local establishments), and data management (crunching numbers to see what works and what doesn't).

I highly recommend this book for anyone in business, especially in small or home business. This book packs a punch on every page, and a marketer or business person could study this book for an entire year without exhausting its resources. My advice: Get a copy, read it once through, and then commit to reading a chapter each week. Take notes on your reading and convert those notes into goals and action steps. Follow through with your action steps, achieve your goals, and follow Feltenstein's wisdom all the way to a more successful business.

Jeremy Hoover

Liana's Bookshelf

Life's Spices from Seasoned Sistahs: a Collection of Life Stories from Mature Women of Color
Vicki Ward
Nubian Images Publishing
PO Box 1332, El Cerrito, Ca. 94530 510-236-2324
ISBN: 0975516205, US $14.95, CAN $22.53 275 pp.

Very Highly Recommended

Vicki Ward, the editor of this anthology of women of color, is also the publisher of this exciting book. Visit her site at to learn more about her company.

Life's Spices from Seasoned Sistahs is divided into eight themes each one comprising a number of stories all written by mature women of color. In the foreword of the book, Gail P. Mason tells the readers why this anthology is 'a wonderful step in the direction of sister bonding; an antidote for solitary thinking.'

The two first themes deal with Sistahs' Joys and life's Pain. Sandy Kay's story on Menopause is both interesting and hilarious, while Carole McDonnell's story on racism will give readers food for thought. Next, themes 3 and 4 deal with Love and other feelings. There, at the Rebirth of a Woman, one can not help feeling the poet's passion and despair, and ultimate liberation at the end of the poem. Self-esteem and Surviving are two more themes included that will attract the interest of the readers. 'Breaking the Silence' is a story about rape that will greatly appeal to the audience and encourage positive thinking.

This book is an exciting combination of prose and poetry that touches the readers' inner chords with the writers' life experiences. The authors share their emotional struggles with the readers via there heartfelt true stories. Most writings are hilarious, other are just overwhelming, but every single story is unique. This book is a real page turner! At the back of the book there are 3 Appendices displaying the Author bios, Resources for women and Online Resources for Writers.

Life's Spices from Seasoned Sistahs is a good read that is inspirational, enjoyable and touching. It caters to all women regardless of age or color and is an original piece of art that intends to unite women worldwide despite their cultural differences. You can get this book from

Lyrics of Life: in Four-part Harmony
Larry Pontius
Aventine Press
1023 4th Ave #204, San Diego CA, 92101
ISBN: 1593302975, $11.95 145 p.

Highly Recommended

Larry Pontius, the author of the award-winning speculative thriller, Waking Walt, is a former advertising agency creative director and Disney marketing executive who lives in Florida with his wife Harriet and his dog Samson.

Lyrics of Life in four-part harmony is a romantic group of poems that constitute an hymn to life, love and death. It is a touching work of art that will inspire and entertain readers from all walks of life.

The book is divided into four parts as the title suggests. Part one is devoted to Larry's first wife, part two was created for the 25th Anniversary of UNICEF and part three was written for his wife Harriet. Part four consists of poems and lyrics written over a long period of time, starting with his first published poem in 1957.

Larry writes in a simple clear way and transmits the reader his emotions and ideas about life's little things. He can get into the mind of a child like in the 'Two Happys' poem, and can get across the feelings of the child about Christmas in a very simple, yet drastic way. Some of his poems rhyme, while some other do not. He mostly uses free verse to get his messages to the audience, and his style is simple and every day, far from complex or sophisticated. However, his ideas hide complex meanings and evoke strong feelings.

Lyrics of Life is an enjoyable read for poem and lyrics readers. Easy to read, descriptive to detail at times, full of word images that stimulate imagination and incite emotions is the best choice for romantic readers.

Get the book from

Liana Metal, Reviewer

Linda's Bookshelf

The Acid-Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health
Christopher Vasey, ND
Inner Traditions (Healing Arts Press)
PO Box 388, Rochester, VT 05767-0388
ISBN: 0892810998, $12.95 192 pp.

The Acid-Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health: Restore Your Health by Creating Balance in Your Diet by Christopher Vasey, ND, which answers -- (1) how to know if you have an acid problem, (2) how to alter your diet to reduce acidity, and (3) how to neutralize and eliminate acids -- is the ideal companion to his book, L'equilibre acido-basique.

Instead of categorizing foods based on their chemical compositions, Vasey accounts for them according to their alkalizing or acidifying effect on the body. To make this point, he quotes from the renowned P.V. Marchesseau, also a French nutritionist and naturopath, who said, "Food has no intrinsic value. The only value it possesses comes from the digestive tract that receives it" (p. 50). He further clarifies this idea with the example that grass is useful for cows but not for humans.

Vasey defines three main ways that acidification stresses and damages the body -- (1) it disrupts enzymatic activity, (2) it causes inflammation and lesions and hardens tissues, and (3) it steals reserves of alkaline minerals from the body's tissues to neutralize acids. Among the many problems that acidification and its teammate, demineralization, set the stage for are dry skin and wrinkles, weak, dull, falling hair, brittle, splitting nails, bleeding gums and oversensitive teeth susceptible to dental caries, loss of flexibility of joints, osteoporosis, spontaneous fractures, rheumatism, and sciatica, in spite of good hygiene and the belief that one is eating nourishing foods. The person with an overacidification problem also loses drive and vigor, becomes exhausted easily, and does not bounce back from exertion readily. In addition, the person may be irritable, suffer from insomnia and too many worries, and even depression.

The author details how to determine your acid-alkaline state, describes measures to use to deacidify the body, categorizes foods as -- acidifying, alkalizing, and acid -- according to their "effects on the body rather than their intrinsic qualities" (p. 49). In addition, he sets forth eight rules for an acid-alkaline balanced diet -- four ways to choose foods to be sure of the proper quantities of acidifying, alkalizing, and acid foods -- and four more rules for people whose metabolism of acids is compromised for any reason.

(1) Always include some alkaline foods in your meals.
(2) At each meal, choose proportionately more alkaline foods than acidifying foods.
(3) Those who have heavily acidified internal environments should choose proportionately even more alkalizing foods.
(4) Limit the time of a diet consisting of only alkaline vegetables to one or two weeks, for it is too lacking in protein.
(5) Never eat a meal consisting only of "acid" foods.
Always include some alkaline foods.
(6) Acid and acidifying foods must match the person's abilities to metabolize them.
(7) Avoid consuming acid foods too quickly together at the same meal.
(8) Eat acid foods only "when the body is ready to receive them" (p. 68).

If you are plagued by any of the disorders or discomforts ranging from lack of energy to dry skin or from falling hair to arthritis, which Christopher Vasey, ND -- noteworthy naturopath and detoxification expert -- describes as having their origin in an acidified internal environment; and his list of food selection rules intrigues you, then you will want to dash to read The Acid-Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health at your first opportunity to learn all you can to improve your health.

The Mindful Hiker: On the Trail to Find the Path
Stephen Altschuler
DeVorss Publications
553 Constitution Avenue, Camarillo, CA 93012
ISBN: 0875167977, $16.95, 180 pp.

In The Mindful Hiker: On the Trail to Find the Path, Stephen Altschuler -- author, teacher, counselor, and Tai Chi instructor -- shares in the most beautiful prose the joy he has experienced freeing himself from stress and the chaotic demands of life by hiking the trails of Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California and finding his spiritual path. He confides that for 20 years Sky Trail has been his trusted companion and even "guru" and explains that whatever sad feelings or joyful ones he brought with him, this trail "did not absorb [his] sufferings but rather showed by example the possibilities in being total" (p. 9) and "how to lead with heart and see soul in every moment, in every activity, in every perception" (p. 10).

Like the Miwok people ten thousand years ago, Sir Francis Drake -- its first European explorer -- both Spanish and Mexican settlers, and later U.S. ranchers, Altschuler has embraced Sky Trail and held it sacred. To him, Sky Trail has been a treasure, a nonjudgmental place for self-exploration, and a place where he found grace. His intention is not to encourage you to come to Sky Trail as "an obvious spiritual landmark like Mecca or Lourdes or the Wailing Wall or the Potala Palace" (p.16). Instead, Altschuler invites you to search carefully to find your own sacred spot in nature, or wherever you can, and to develop a relationship with it.

When you find your place, you can let go of stress and worry and feelings of both success and failure and find your connectedness to the universe and be in the here and now at peace with yourself and the world. Between chapters, Altshculer suggests thought-provoking questions, asks you to keep a journal, and further encourages you to explore to find your path. You will be inspired by every beautiful word of The Mindful Hiker: On the Trail to Find the Path by Stephen Altschuler.

Linda Davis Kyle, Reviewer

Lori's Bookshelf

The Gay Detective Novel: Lesbian and Gay Main Characters and Themes in Mystery Fiction
Judith A. Markowitz
Box 611, Jefferson, NC 28640, 800-253-2187
ISBN: 0786419571, $35.00 312 pgs

Judith Markowitz's compendium of information about modern novels containing gay and lesbian characters and themes is one terrific book. Focusing on mystery fiction (not so much thrillers or other sorts of crime fiction), the bulk of the book contains five major sections: Police, PIs, Pro Sleuths, Amateur Sleuths, and Partners, all within the section entitled "The Authors & Their Characters." Markowitz quotes many authors (such as Katherine V. Forrest, RD Zimmerman, Joseph Hansen, Val McDermid, and many more), all of whom give unique insight into the creation of characters and the way that themes are illuminated.

The information about the authors and their intents and themes is fascinating. Markowitz has broken down all the books into various topics and listed out which novels talk about which themes. This results in an extensive, ably organized section detailing the themes across various series. I soon saw clearly that: 1) gay and lesbian mysteries contain a huge variety of themes and subplots rarely dealt with in mainstream novels; and 2) gay detective fiction is usually not just about detection but also about the nature of crimes - often against gay people - and the society in which such offenses are committed. The worlds in which these investigations take place are broad and varied, and it's not just coming out or homophobia or gay rights that authors deal with. Markowitz's list of themes includes everything from Adoption and Age to Hustling, Erotica, S/M, Bashing, Youth Issues, AIDS, Outing, and more. The intersection of a crime or injustice with the attempt by a sleuth to discover and right the wrong often makes for complex plots and subplots in gay and lesbian fiction.

The book includes notes, bibliography, an index, and a Foreword by Katherine V. Forrest. All in all, it's a good collection which covers many standalone mysteries and most of the gay and lesbian series books for the last 40-50 years. This is one resource book that any library, crime fiction writer, or mystery fan will want on their shelves!

Force of Nature
Kim Baldwin
Bold Strokes Books
ISBN: 1933110236, $15.95 235 pages

After wowing readers with last year's thriller, HUNTER'S PURSUIT, Kim Baldwin's follow-up is a romance. But it's a romance book-ended by scenes with thriller qualities, starting with a twister.

Forty-six year old Gable McCoy is employed at a pharmacy and works as a volunteer firefighter for Plainfield Township, Michigan. One evening, when her corner of the county is hit with bad weather culminating in tornados touching down, she sets out to help those in her assigned area. Little does she know that the storm will literally touch her life. "In a whirling hail of sticks and stones and leaves, she scrambled down the bank, her hands shielding her face. The wind tried to blow her off her feet, and the noise of the tornado was deafening, like a jet aircraft parked directly overhead. Squinting between her fingers, she saw the twister cut out of the woods and onto the highway a quarter of a mile away. It looked like a mammoth V-shaped plume of black smoke" (p. 15).

Though Gable's life is spared, the house of a nearby resident is destroyed. When Gable gets to the decimated ruins, she can't believe anyone could still be alive. But Erin Richards did survive and is trapped in the basement bathroom. Unfortunately, Gable can't get to her. But they can still talk through the wreckage, and that they do - most of the night. Sight unseen, the two women form quite an attachment, and their friendship begins from there.

Baldwin writes great action scenes throughout with just the right balance between plot tension and the character's internal thoughts. Her descriptions of the training, fire, and rescue efforts are terrific. The ups and downs of the two characters' relationship occur in a natural, yet not entirely predictable, progression. Just like a twister or a forest fire, you're never quite sure what direction Gable and Erin will go. Will they play it safe? Or give in to passion? Highly recommended to all who enjoy a good romance with rescue/action interspersed.

Distant Shores, Silent Thunder
Bold Strokes Books
ISBN: 1933110082, $15.95 300 pages

In this third book in the "Provincetown Series" (after SAFE HARBOR and BEYOND THE BREAKWATER), Reese Conlon and Tory King are back. Their romance, begun early in the series, has settled into a solid day-to-day life with their new baby. Tory, a doctor, is nearly ready to go back to work at the clinic, and Reese has continued to work in town in her capacity as deputy sheriff. But their lives are about to be upset by the return of Tory's ex, KT O'Bannon. Tory has effectively shut out memories of KT, but when her ex shows up, Reese and Tory's lives are shaken up in a big way.

But Reese and Tory are only a part of the novel. This multi-plot story connects and examines the lives of a delightful group of women living in Provincetown including Bri Parker, a rookie deputy and recurring character. Bri is lonely for her girlfriend, Carolyn, who is out of the country studying art for a year in Europe. Bri's continued learning process as well as the relationship she has with cute fellow officer Allie comes into play as the death of a young girl in the dunes is investigated. Also important is Pia Torres, a physical therapist. She's a woman not willing to trifle with others. She's looking for a "forever" soul-mate and would rather live her life without a partner than accept anyone who gives her less than one hundred percent.

At the heart of the story is the journey KT must take toward wholeness and a new way of living her life. Will she be able to make peace with Tory? Will she continue with her Casanova ways? Or does she want something more in her life? Unexpected attractions flare for KT, and she doesn't know how to handle them or the limitations with which she's faced. KT's plotline is compelling and angst-filled, and her emotional journey forms the heart of the book.

Simmering in the background is illegal activity and a drug distributor who may go to desperate lengths to protect himself, which could put both civilians and deputies in danger. All of this, against the backdrop of the beauty of the eastern coast, makes for a compelling and immensely satisfying novel, finely crafted and perfectly integrated. Storylines and questions hinted at in the previous two novels are all sewn up here. Radclyffe can close out the Provincetown series with this third and masterfully written novel - or she can easily go on with any number of sequels about the lives of these fascinating people who live, work, and love in Provincetown.

Inspiring Creativity:
Edited by Rick Benzel, M.A.
Creativity Coaching Assoc. Press
ISBN: 0976737108, $14.95 210 pgs

In the last five years, the field of coaching and mentoring creative artists has taken off as its own little cottage industry. Eric Maisel, more than any other writer/teacher/psychologist, seems to have had a major role in this genesis, so it's no surprise that this anthology is kicked off with a Foreword by Maisel. He says, "If you get it into your head that you must write novels, compose symphonies, prove or disprove string theory, or in some other way really manifest the potential of your heart, mind, and hands, you have set yourself on a journey that traditionally you have had to navigate alone. Now you need not feel completely alone: creativity coaches are available to help" ( p. xi).

The book is broken into six sections: Give Yourself Permission to Create, Choose a Muse for Inspiration, Create Big Ideas and Work Successfully, Live Your Creativity Every Day, Express and Honor Yourself, and Challenge Yourself to Higher Creativity. The sections form a natural progression, and each section contains three or four pieces. More than just tips and easy ideas, most of the articles advocate philosophies for approaching creativity that would be beneficial to all areas of art, writing, acting, or inventing. The only thing missing in this first edition is an index and a list of resources for further study and research. Perhaps as the field expands and later editions are created those items will be included.

The 22 professional coaches and experts who contributed to this volume are some of the best minds in the still nascent industry of creativity coaching. Four particularly good articles were: "Igniting a Creative Spark Within: How to Establish Creative Focus" by Suzanne R. Roy; "The Hero Within: Using the Mythic Journey to Discover Meaning in your Creative Work" by Michael Mahoney; "Of Flying Monkeys and Modern Day Muses: Who You Gonna Call?" by Jill Badonsky; and "Get BeMused: How to Find Yourself a Creative Muse in the Unlikeliest of Places" by Kaylen Bennett.

This is a fascinating collection, particularly for writers, but it would also serve as an excellent source for the college and online courses springing up to teach the art of creativity coaching.

Lori L. Lake

Lowe's Bookshelf

Call of the Dark: Erotic Lesbian Tales of the Supernatural
Therese Szymanski (Editor)
Bella Books
P.O. Box 10543, Tallahassee, FL 32302 1-800-729-4992
ISBN: 1594930406, $14.95 308 pages

Just in time for your spooky autumn reading, the latest Bella Books anthology, Call of the Dark, has arrived. The 23 stories represent the work of well-known authors as well as new writers. Selected and arranged by Therese Szymanski, this collection is thoughtful and entertaining, sometimes witty and touching, often creepy and always arousing. The focus of the collection is "erotic" and it is not surprising that most of the stories fall into two categories: possession by or seduction at the hands of a vampire or a spirit. Nevertheless the stories are neither repetitive nor entirely predictable.

The vampires range from the dashing, charismatic Daron in Szymanski's "Dream Lover" to the horrific entity in Patty G. Henderson's "In the Blood." Henderson's tale questions the price of life, the cost of loyalty and the pain of survival. Victoria A. Brownworth's "The Feast of St. Lucy" is an aching little tale of loneliness and survival filled with vivid images of the ancient and ageless New Orlean's French Quarter and the scent of bergamot. Perhaps one of the most interesting twists is Ariel Graham's "Games of Love" wherein she illustrates how a really long-term couple keeps the relationship … fresh, and answers that nagging question of what is the appropriate gift for your 500+ anniversary.

The spirits (formerly human, and now ghosts or demon) who haunt these pages are equally varied. An ultimate surrender overwhelms the lead in Radclyffe's "By the Light of the Moon." In Heather Osborne's "That which Alters," the succubus finds herself falling in love with her victim in a fascinating role reversal. "Specter of Sin" allows Kristina Wright to provide a new variation on a traditional kind of ghost story set in the lonely despair of the Texas desert. The switch in perspective is explored by several writers, as when Rachel Kramer Bussel (a contributing editor at Penthouse) opens the door to "The Haunted, Haunted House." There, a ghost provides a heated coming out for a lovely young visitor.

Without question, the most amusing entry of the collection is "Lilith" by Karin Kallmaker. In this wry tale of a queer succubus who outlives her creator and is left to drift through the dreams and fantasies of humans without intent to consume them, Kallmaker opens the anthology and a discussion of the nature of fantasy, focus, and consent.

Szymanski's skillful selection and arrangement of the stories provides valuable contrasts and flow for the reader. Thus, Julia Watt's charming "Visitation" is followed by Barbara Johnson's "Loving Ophelia." The former provides the reader with a satisfying "all is right" even in the "other world" with a psychic who helps a wronged spirit, and has several of her own questions answered in the process. In the latter, Johnson pens a creepy little story worthy of the Twilight Zone.

This placing and pacing of stories allows the reader to read several stories in a row, moving between the touching, humorous, and thoughtful, to the downright creepy, then back again. The lighter entries, like those sunny days or well-lit rooms in a horror movie, serve to lure the readers into letting down their guard for that unexpected twist or nerve-jolting revelation of the next story. And while readers might not find all the stories entirely to their taste, it is not from lack of imagination or skill of writing. None of the stories failed to elicit a response in this reader.

Kallmaker's Lilith laments at one point, "I gathered ever more fantasies and yet had no witch with whom to share them. Truly, to have tales and no one to tell -- is there anything sadder?" p7

Thankfully, Kallmaker and the other writers in this collection have lots of readers with whom to share their fantasies and we are all the richer for the experience. Pick up a copy of Call of the Dark, light a candle, pour yourself a glass of rich, red wine, and enjoy.

The Unknown Mile
Jamie Clevenger
Bella Books
P.O. Box 10543, Tallahassee, FL 32302 1-800-729-4992
ISBN: 1931513570, $12.95 253 pages

Life is in turmoil for Kelly Haldon, the protagonist of Jamie Clevenger's The Unknown Mile. A college student who plans to spend the summer earning her senior year tuition, she returns to her home town of Ashton, less than an hour from San Francisco, and experiences that odd "out of place" quality of a young adult in the midst of transitions. Traveling that "unknown mile" without a map, Kelly isn't sure what she wants to do after she graduates college. She can't decide on graduate schools or a profession. Compounding this confusion, within days of her arrival Kelly finds herself involved in love affairs with two women: Shannon has recently finished her Army enlistment and is in the Reserves, while Gina is an SFPD rookie officer. Neither woman has been able to let go of their last relationship and thus both are sending Kelly mixed messages.

Realizing that her job as an instructor at the local karate dojo will not provide enough money, Kelly begins looking for additional work. Very soon, however, the work comes to her. Rick, the enigmatic silent investor in the dojo, offers her to pay her to deliver mysterious packages late at night. Retired from the FBI, Rick runs his own investigative service and, strangely, he seems to be aware of Kelly's involvement with Shannon.

The coincidences compound when Kelly literally runs into a woman in the BART station who has a photo of Shannon's ex-girlfriend, apparently as part of a report of some kind. How can this woman be connected to Shannon? Before long Kelly's Don't Tell" policy for lesbians serving in the military comes to the forefront as it appears that Shannon and some of her friends are being investigated. Somehow Rick seems to be involved as well. Kelly finds herself trying to sort out everyone's secrets while she juggles a few of her own.

The Unknown Mile is Clevenger's first novel. She manages to capture the feel of that unsettled time of one's early 20s and her characters are intelligently drawn and interesting. This is particularly true of Kelly; even when (or perhaps because) she can be annoying in her indecision, she is also often quite endearing. There are insightful and touching little side stories with Kelly's students at the dojo, engaging sparring matches in Kelly's own study of the martial art, and some fast moving, suspenseful scenes in Kelly's "jobs" for Rick. Meanwhile, the sexual energy between Kelly and her girlfriends is electric.

In many ways, The Unknown Mile raises more questions than it answers. And indeed, the next book in what looks to be a promising new series has already been announced. However, the novel is not just a "series teaser" as Kelly does seem to have a little more direction for her drive through life and her growth is satisfying for readers. Like the sporty fun of a little ride in Kelly's Volkswagen Bug (chapter titles are actually the odometer readings from Kelly's car), The Unknown Mile is worth the purchase price of that tank of gasoline. This reviewer will be looking to catch Clevenger's next vehicle as well.

M. J. Lowe

Lynne's Bookshelf

Beyond Old MacDonald: Funny Poems from Down on the Farm
Charley Hoce
Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, Inc.
A Highlights Company
815 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431
ISBN: 1590783123, $16.95

"Old MacDonald had a farm, eee iii, eee, iii, oh! And on his farm he had MUCH FUN! E I E I O!" Happenings both fantastic and strange abound on this fabulous funny farm created by teacher/poet Charley Hoce. There's a dancing pig, a shaken cow, a singing swan and more silly creatures---all inspired by humorous animal puns.

A twenty-two year veteran of teaching school, Hoce offers powerful poems to be enjoyed over and over, as well as a helpful "Wordplay Guide" which outlines the skill prevalent in each poem. Hoce's strong working knowledge of language and humor, as well as what appeals to children, is apparent in his debut picture book. Eugenie Fernandes' illustrations frolick from page to page, providing additional laughs and extra enjoyment.

Children young and old, regardless of whether or not they believe they enjoy poetry, will love this outstanding collection of barnyard-related poems. So don't be 'sheepish' and 'quit horsing around.' You won't want to miss this 'pig tale,' so get this book for your home or library before 'the cows come home'!

Tap Dance Fever
Pat Brisson
Illustrated by Nancy Cote.
Boyds Mills Press, Inc.
A Highlights Company
815 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431
ISBN: 1590782909, $15.95

Annabelle Applegate can't stop dancing. Her constant tapping seems to be the cause of much trouble and upsets her mother, school bus drive, Mrs. Ethel Pontoon's hens, and the entire town of Fiddler's Creek. In an attempt to stop her tap-dancing, the townspeople put hazards in the way of dancing. But will these dangerous items throw Annabelle off course?

In the end, ingenious Annabelle remains true to herself and love for tap-dancing. She finds an acceptable way to solve her problem, as well as that of the townspeople, and make amends for trouble she caused, all at the same time.

Pat Brisson serves up a good-hearted story with a subtle moral and a satisfying, if not a bit predictable ending, as well as fun watercolor and gouache illustrations by Nancy Cote. Another wholesome, quality book from Boyds Mills Press!

Dr. Welch and the Great Grape Story
Mary Lou Carney
Illustrated by Sherry Meidell
Boyds Mills Press, Inc.
A Highlights Company
815 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431
ISBN: 1590780396, $16.95

Inspirational author Mary Lou Carney introduces the reader to the historic story of how a dentist from New Jersey created a beverage that later became Welch's Grape Juice.

At church one day, "closet" inventor Dr. Thomas Welch sees the need for a communion drink that's non-alcoholic so that alcoholics and children can participate in the Lord's Supper by taking communion. As a result of this necessity, he strives to find a version of unfermented grape juice. Looking to the work of Louis Pasteur, he creates "Dr. Welch's Unfermented Wine."

Intriguing historical fact, humor, a strong sense of family and inventive inspiration come together in this wonderful picture book story. This engaging account of the creation of grape juice, along with Sherry Meidell's outstanding (historic, yet humorous) watercolor illustrations provide a great medium for teaching about inventions, history, Dr. Welch, Louis Pasteur or for just plain good listening pleasure.

This book has added importance to those who have visited or are about to visit near Westfield in Western New York, where Welch's Grape Juice is now made. An excellent biography about a lesser know inventor/invention!

The Animals' Song
David L. Harrison
Illustrated by Chris L. Demarest.
Boyds Mills Press, Inc.
A Highlights Company
815 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431
ISBN: 1590780760, $8.95

What a delightful surprise to receive this treasure in a bag of assorted books received as a gift! I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am certain that it will entertain my 16-month old child for years to come, with it's sweet "tweet tweet tweetity tweet!" which combines fun and animals with the rhythm of a band! Great for learning animal identification and sounds, rhythm and musical instruments!

Colorful and humorous cartoon-like watercolor illustrations by Chris L. Demarest add to the superiority of this reading aloud experience. I can't imagine what child would not want to start her or his own pots and pan band to march along and join in the prancing parade. Another quality reprint from Boyds Mills Press!

Aaron and the Green Mountain Boys
Patricia Lee Gauch
Illustrated by Margot Tomes
Boyds Mills Press, Inc.
A Highlights Company
815 Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431
ISBN: 1590783352, $16.95

Award-winning author/editor Patricia Lee Gauch's timeless easy-reader of 1972 is back in Boyds Mills Press' quality reprint edition. Simple but vivid language portrays an exciting event in the life of young Aaron Robinson during the American Revolution.

When America goes to war against their British king, Aaron's father and the other Vermont men called the "Green Mountain Boys" band together to fight for their rights. One night in Summer, 1777 Aaron follows his father to his Grandpa's tavern. He overhears that the British Redcoats have captured Fort Ticonderoga and are headed for his town. The Green Mountain Boys are planning to rise against them. Aaron wants to help, but his is left behind to chop wood and help his grandfather deliver bread to General Washington and his army. This is not what Aaron had in mind.

Then, the Green Mountain Boys return to the tavern, hungry and exhausted. They were unable to make it through to General Washington. Because Aaron has just been to the camp, he's the perfect person to lead the way! Finally, Aaron gets a chance to play a part in an important event in American and Vermont history.

Based upon an actual event, "Aaron and the Green Mountain Boys" provides children with an interesting glimpse at the American Revolution through the eyes of a child.

Margot Tomes' signature style pen and ink illustrations perfectly compliment the text.

Easy-to-read and easy-to-understand, this book provides important exposure to a tough topic for early or reluctant readers.

Think Cool Thoughts
Elizabeth Perry
Illustrated by Linda Bronson.
Clarion Books
A Houghton Mifflin Company imprint
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
ISBN: 1618234934, $16.00

Little Angel is suffering through a city day that's so hot that chocolate bars melt before you can get them into your mouth and sneakers stick through the street. Upon her mother's advice, Angel tries to think cool thoughts, but nothing works. Then, her Aunt Lucy tells about the time that she and Angel's mother endured a day so hot that they dragged a mattress out to the roof to go to sleep in the cool breeze beneath the stars. Inspired by the tale, Angel finds away to have a fun evening with her family and cool off, too!

In so many ways, this book is wonderful! With its stylishly mod, but tender art; its problem which we can all identify with and its heart-warming/skin-cooling story, it's a great read to share with family members. I'm certain it will even inspire a family story or two. A great first book by Elizabeth Perry, and once again, outstanding illustrations by Linda Bronson ("Moe McTooth" and others).

Project Mulberry
Linda Sue Park
Project Mulberry
c/o Clarion Books
A Houghton Mifflin Company imprint
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
ISBN: 1618477861, $16.00

This delightful middle grade novel with well-drawn characters follows in the wake of Linda Sue Park's history of writing excellent literature and in 2002, receiving a Newberry award for "A Single Shard." I've loved each an every one of Ms. Park's novels ("See Saw Girl," "The Kite Fighters," and "When My Name Was Keoko," but what makes this one stand out is that it is in many ways, more accessible to more children than her others.

While set in America rather than in Korea as in the previous novels, this book gives introductory exposure to Korean culture which is, perhaps, easier to understand and follow for reluctant or younger readers. Through her main character Julia Song, Ms. Park deals with the universal problem of not feeling connected to one's culture.

When Julia and her family move to Plainfield, Illinois, she realizes that hers is the only Korean family in town. She wants to forget about being Korean, even though her new best friend, Patrick, doesn't seem to mind Korean things, like Kimchee (which Julia hates). When she and Patrick need an animal husbandry project for Wiggle Club exhibit at the State Fair, her mother suggests the Korean past-time of raising silkworms. Patrick loves the idea. Julia does not. But silkworms it is, and Julia secretly tries to sabotage the project until it she realizes that there's a lot she can learn from raising silkworms (including, in her case, the important of learning and keeping an open mind, racial tolerance, how to be a friend and more), after all.

As an aside, Ms. Park and Julia discuss plot and other ideas throughout the book. While this is certainly an interesting technique, I did find this distracting to a wonderful, inspiring story that doesn't need any gimmicks.

The Midwife's Apprentice
Karen Cushman
Clarion Books
A Houghton Mifflin Company imprint
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
ISBN: 0395681863, $12.00

After her outstanding debut with "Catherine Called Birdy," Karen Cushman provides yet another outstanding opportunity to experience the medieval period in England with "The Midwife's Apprentice." Originally published in 1995, Cushman's second book merited the coveted John Newberry medal for "the most distinguished contribution to American Literature for Children" in that year.

Now in its sixth printing and recently released by Clarion in a stunning pocketbook-sized hardcover, readers can visit or re-visit the fascinating world of "Beetle," a poor, but plucky orphan who has not a home or a real name to call her own. When discovered by a midwife while sleeping in a dung heap for warmth, "Beetle" as the midwife names her, takes on the job of apprentice. While Jane the midwife treats Beetle unkindly, she provides the food and shelter that Beetle lacks.

Teased and put down throughout the book by not only the coarse midwife, but villagers alike, Beetle struggles with issues of self-worth, all the while learning more and more about life and midwifery. In a period of complete self-doubt, Beetle, who now calls herself "Alyce," leaves the world of the midwife. She experiences life outside the village she left her mark on, just in time to realize the hope and possibility she left behind.

Cushman's passion for the medieval setting shines through in this captivating novel. Her brilliant portrayal of character, sharp wit and use of vivid language provides another delightful reading (or re-reading, in my case) experience that's short and sweet, but memorable just the same!

I Am the Wallpaper
Mark Peter Hughes
Random House Children's Books
Delacorte Press
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 0385732414, $15.95

Somehow, the teenage girl on the cover does not portray the correct target age or tone of this appealing middle-grade (age 9 - 12) novel, which chronicles a 'coming of age' summer in the life of 13-year old Floey Packer. However, once the proper tone and character is settled by the author, one can follow in the footsteps of the former Floey as she transforms from a quiet, invisible girl to one who studies zen, thinks profound thoughts and has exciting experiences.

The opportunity for Floey's personal growth begins when her perfect older sister marries and leaves home for one month. Without Lillian stealing her spotlight, Floey hopes to receive the attention she feels she deserves. Her plans fall apart when her bratty cousins Richard and Tish come to stay for the summer. Still, Floey gets the attention she craves, but more than she knows or would want. Richard has posted her private diary on the Internet. The cyber world and the reader (and anyone who surfs by) get to read Floey's most personal, unfiltered thoughts on her life, her family, her strained relationship with her best friend Azra, her crush on her guy-friend Wen, and her first experience with liquor, among other private issues!

I must say that I enjoyed this first novel from Mark Peter Hughes. Somewhat reminiscent of "Bridget Jones' Diary" (in a youthful way) and "Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging," "I am the Walllpaper" made for a fun and entertaining read!

Lynne Marie Pisano

Magdalena's Bookshelf

The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers
Delia Falconer
Picador Australia
ISBN: 0330421794, A$28.00 156 pages

"Tell the boy: who knows if we make history or are made, some impressionable pulp within us held for one brief lifetime by the small simplicities." (106) It is 20 years after the Battle of Little Bighorn, and captain Frederick Benteen is responding, mostly inside his head, to a letter he's received from an eighteen year old boy who wants to argue his case "against the malicious ghost of Custer and those who would claim him as a hero." (21) In Falconer's second novel, time and space has been condensed to a dense point. The present is a few hours one morning, and the setting is the home and small backyard of Benteen's house. The voice is all inside Benteen, as he moves through his morning, opening letters, composing his reply, walking around the kitchen garden and into the ice house. The landscape of the present tense is externally silent and without any forward motion. But from the myopic centre of Benteen's recollections, the novel expands outwards to the wide open "epic" plains of Montana where that famous battle took place, and further, to the notion of what it means to be alive, to have experienced friendship, love, death, and to be a part of a chequered history, to survive when other, more famous characters didn't.

Like Leopold Bloom, Benteen is the perfect anti-hero. His memories aren't of chivalry, or great acts of heroism. He scarcely pauses on his own act of courage, or the "grand story" of his history. Instead he reflects on the beauty of his wife, on the lighthearted moments of humour in the quiet between the battle, on the epiphanies of his friends, his son's first words, the colour and texture of the landscape he visits in his mind:

In Montana they cut through the surface of the river to let the horses drink. Weird green clouds pressed down on the mountains; the pines a royal blue, like the ruched insides of glaciers, in the clearer air beneath. The only way to find the sullen ice-sreams sometimes was to sight the yellowed marsh grass at their edges.(55)

The characterisations are as compact and deft as Benteen's other thoughts. A few sentences of dialogue, or a light description of manner, a dream recalled, a minor tick or way of holding the mouth, are so neatly and powerfully conveyed, that they immediately reveal an intimacy which goes beyond heavy and detailed description. The shallow ambitions of Libby Custer for example, are conveyed in 2 sentences:

Walking through the camp, scissors in her hand to trim the General's hair, humming to herself, she watched to see if they were watching. He believed she had no private thoughts, only, like Custer, a kind of extra instinct for standing where the light would catch her best. (63)

Although the action is minimised, Falconer takes the reader in instantly, and allows the reader a ringside seat to Benteen's thoughts. There is no need for overt syntactical descriptions. The writing is as tight and rich as poetry, with every line pared to its most powerfully taut The fragments of Benteen's thoughts are clear enough as he wanders over the battlefield, moving quickly between the present--with his photographs, his vegetable garden, his poor eyesight, and the past--with its ribald humour in the toilets, the vanity and camaraderie in the mess tent, or the late night drinking sessions in between the fighting. The portraits build up slowly as the novel gathers pace, with each memory building on the previous ones so that the meaning of the novel becomes clear. Life is lived in those everyday moments which pass so quickly they are almost lost. Not in the grand history we read about, but instead: "the seams and spaces in between." (117) That's what The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers is all about. The seams and spaces.

This is a lovely, spare but beautifully written book full of contrast. It is a very feminine, reflective, and quiet book about a man whose life was masculine, noisy, and full of action. It takes a single point of history which is so well written about and so heavily acted out that it has become more folklore than story, and turned it into an inventive, original story of everyman--a parable for the modern soul. Reading The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers is relatively quick, but as it isn't a plot driven story, the meaning is derived from the delicate structure of the sentences rather than revelation. This is a book which will repay several readings, and which I expect will be much talked about.

River Cafe Two Easy
Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers
Random House
ISBN: 0091900328, A$65.00

There are lots of River Cafes around the world. There's a rather famous one run by "Buzzy" O'Keeffe in Brooklyn, as well as upscale restaurants in Canada and Mexico. The most famous River Cafe of all is the London one, opened in 1987 by Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray. The restaurant is famous for the classy simplicity of its traditional Italian menu, and has consistently attracted the rich and famous, as well as having trained its own celebrity chefs, including none other than Jamie Oliver. Rogers and Gray have become celebrated television celebrities in their own right, with their own television show, and four very well received cookbooks. Their fifth, River Cafe Two Easy, follows a similar format to earlier books, with a clean classy presentation, large sumptuous photography, and fairly simple recipes which focus on exceptional ingredients rather than fancy technique.

The book is set up in order of when you might serve the foods in a meal, beginning with salads (including a section of 12 salads solely devoted to mozzarella), salted, smoked and dried fish and meat--primarily starters--pastas, soups, fish, birds, roasted meats, grilled fish and meat, vegetables, baked fruit, puddings, chocolate and coffee. There is also a chapter devoted to providing instructions on cooking basic Italian provisions such as wet polenta, beans, porcini, making your own breadcrumbs, and organising an Italian store cupboard.

After a particularly bad food experience at a friend's party, my family can no longer eat pasta with shellfish, so for me, the section on fish pasta is the weakest in the book, with recipes that include ingredients my family won't touch such as sardines, squid, langoustine, clams, and anchovies. There is certainly no disputing the ease of these recipes though, and shellfish fans will enjoy them. The dessert recipes are heavenly though, and the sort of classy faire you can impress friends with at a moments notice (providing you have the ingredients to hand). Dishes like "Black fig, almond" (Rogers and Gray are as unpretentious with their names as they are with the cooking techniques) taste as magnificent as they look and are so easy to make you'll impress yourself. Other dishes like "Apple, orange, walnut," or "Rhubarb, orange," provide such a sensation of flavours that they belie the basic nature of the dishes. There are also a number of lemon puddings which are both traditional and classic and still new, and a selection of very decadent (because of the 70% chocolate primarily) chocolate desserts such as "Rum, coffee truffle cake," or "Coffee, walnut, hazelnut cake."

Most of the recipes have been specifically designed to be quick, with the aim of being used for midweek menus. I'm not sure I'd be making Hazelnut truffle cake, or flattened quail for my kids after a busy day at work, but if timing were an issue, it would be perfectly possible, since both of those dishes can be done in an hour or so. All of the recipes fit on a single page and some take up only half the page, leaving room for a sentence or two of history, background, or personal recollection. Personally, I love the background information and with the possible exception of Nigella Lawson--a true reader's cook--I never feel like there's enough. Rogers and Gray have stayed true to form, and kept their description as clean and uncluttered as their recipes. The key, with this book, as with all River Cafe cookbooks, is the ingredients you use, and there is really no room for anything less than the best. Try to use that inexpensive plastic tasting mozzarella that you find in supermarket cheese (rather than deli) sections, and your mozzarella salads will be a disaster. If you try and substitute frozen supermarket haddock for the "Finnan haddock from the east coast of Scotland" for your Smoked Haddock Carpaccio, and your family and guests will never forgive you. When recipes depend so heavily on the quality of one or two main ingredients, the ingredient must be perfect. Anything less than 70% chocolate (forget about compounds) will render your Chocolate vanilla truffles decidedly inedible, as will using lentils which aren't from Puy or Casteluccio. So this is a recipe book which will find its best audience in either large cities like London (for anyone in the UK, there is a very good list of suppliers at the back), New York, Sydney, or those who are lucky enough to have a wonderful regional food market nearby, particularly one which has a good selection of fresh shellfish. The rest of us poor sods who have to rely on fairly basic provisions will either need to find a good mail order supply, or be content with the low calorie pleasure of looking at the pictures. Most of them are good enough to eat.

Magdalena Ball, Reviewer

Mayra's Bookshelf

The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days
Fern Reiss
Peanut Butter and Jelly Press, LLC
P.O. Box 590239, Newton, Massachusetts 02459-0002 (617) 630-0945
ISBN: 1893290859, $19.95 252 pages

The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days is a must for aspiring self-publishers and for anybody who wants to understand how the publishing market works.

In her clear, step by step method, Fern Reiss explains everything an author needs to know to produce a book and establish his own publishing venture. What's really helpful about this book is it's structure; each day there's a specific set of goals to accomplish.

For example, in Week 1, you get to:

*Make sure you wanted to self publish
*Define your goals
*Zero-in on a hot subject
*Define your target audience
*Choose a title and subtitle for your book
*Write the cover copy
*Set the book's price
*Chose a publication date
*Create your financial plan
*Write your business plan

Subsequent topics discussed in Weeks 2, 3, and 4 include: Choosing your company name and financial software, getting ISNBs, Library of Congress CIPs, barcodes and copyrights, planning future titles, creating websites, finalizing cover copies, finding and dealing with wholesalers, distributors, and fulfillment houses, submitting galleys to review publications, laying out your book, finding the right printer, and much more. In short, everything you need to know to start your own small press. What's important about the book is that the goals are realistic, and that the author doesn't jump from one topic to the other, but sticks to a series of chronological steps. In addition, the book is filled with valuable resources (including website addresses and contact information). You'll find yourself highlighting and taking notes.

If your interest is in publishing children's picture books or other kinds of illustrated books, however, I recommend you buy the latest edition, as the author has added new sections to encompass these.

Reiss is a Harvard graduate and an award-winning author. This book is one of several in Reiss' The Publishing Game series. After reading this one, I can't wait to get my hands on her other titles.

If you've ever dreamed of becoming your own publisher, this is an essential book for your shelf. Not only does it get rid of the "myths," but makes the dream attainable. Highly recommended.

Beyond Writer's Block
Dana Reed
ISBN: 1411648501, $2.50 ebook $9.47 pb 122 pages

"Anyone can write!" Thus is Dana Reed's motto in this practical, no-nonsense book on how to "cure" writer's block and stay motivated and prolific.

Whether you're a professional or a beginner, whether you write novels, non-fiction, short stories, screenplays, or poetry, writer's block is a nightmare for any writer. In this book, Reed explores the roots and causes of this "disease" and offers sound advice on how to beat it. Writer's block might be the result of many things - from severe lack of self-confidence to overworking your brain. Most importantly, Reed suggests, the origin of writer's block can often be a problem in the work itself, something the author may not even be aware of.

An accomplished author of more than a dozen books, Reed should know what she's talking about. Divided into lessons targeting different aspects of writing, this is a book that both inspires, encourages and teaches the aspiring writer, and serves as reference for the already published author.

These are some of the topics the author explores in the book. Each one is illustrated with specific examples for clarity and easy understanding.

The Premise
Motivation/Character Development
Settings and Locations
Dialogue and Narrative
Colons, Ellipses, Double Hyphens, Italics
Suspense and Foreshadowing
Character Arcs
The Outline
High Concepts
Preparing Manuscripts for Submission
Copyrighting your Work

I highly recommend this book to those aspiring writers who are serious about doing their first piece of work, as well as to published authors who would like a little "refreshing" into the mechanics of writing.

Mayra Calvani

Robyn's Bookshelf

Windrusher and the Cave of Tho-hoth
Victor DiGenti
Ocean Publishing
(888) 690-2455
ISBN: 0971764174, $15.95

If you live in Northeast Florida you might possibly know the name Victor DiGenti. Victor is the author of the popular award-winning Windrusher series. He is also well known for his passion and dedication to feral cats. As a former executive director of an organization concerned with the welfare and protection of abandoned and feral cats, his knowledge and compassion for felines offers a superb background for the page-turning and often sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat adventures experienced through the eyes of a cat named Windrusher.

Unbeknownst to us long-legged Hyskos, every cat in the cat world has a given name other than the label passed down by their human companions. For Tony as he is known in the human world, it's Pferusha-ulis, Windrusher, Son of Nefer-iss-tu. It is by this name he is known in the cat realm. When Windrusher is dreaming, he enters a collective consciousness called the Akhen-et-u, a place where felines come together to communicate. It is through Akhen-et-u that Windrusher finds help and guidance by what were once small and weak voices now joined into one unbreakable entity. It is also in his dreams where he meets Tho-hoth, the feline god of wisdom.

One of the most intriguing levels of the Windrusher series is this underlying feline mythology. Through Windrusher we move back and forth between the world of the long-legged Hyskos and a cat dimension where parts of the story unfold.

When interviewed, Vic DiGenti explains Akhen-et-u in this way: "Windrusher dreams of Tho-hoth, the feline god of wisdom. In legend, it is said that after the cats were domesticated, their population exploded to a point where they began to fight amongst themselves for food and territory, threatening to undo the good that the goddess Irissa-u had done by leading them out of the jungles to the stone villages of the Hyskos (humans). Tho-hoth took it upon himself to meditate in a cave to search for a solution. When he emerged, he brought with him the Akhen-et-u or the Inner Ear which connects all cats when they sleep. With that as a background, Windrusher dreams that he is in the Cave of Tho-hoth, and the god of wisdom gives him a dire warning of terrible dangers in store . . ."

And indeed, the terrible dangers do emerge. As the second book in the series, Windrusher and the Cave of Tho-hoth finds Windrusher catnapped and transported to southern California. There he is joined by three other cats and held prisoner. Through Tho-hoth, Windrusher realizes he has to overcome his imprisonment or he and his companions will not survive. The reason is part of the underlying mystery and why Tho-hoth warns Windrusher of danger over the horizon. And it's through this mystery we meet two deliciously bad apples, McWaters, a cop gone bad, and a genius named Karl von Rothmann. Our introductory description of Karl von Rothmann's speaks volumes of the character to come. "His head was shaped like a large, squat pumpkin that had sat exposed to the elements for too long and was beginning to fall in on itself. His puffy, flushed face was a ruinous terrain of brown spots and lesions caused by a succession of carcinomas that left a cancerous trail along his arms and hands as well." From that point on, Tony's life hangs by a thread as his journey becomes a trial of survival.

As a writer myself, I enjoy the broader picture of behind the scenes events shaping a story. When asked about the characters and if they were based on anyone, Vic DiGenti replied, "The characters aren't based on anyone but are totally from my warped mind." I had to laugh at that reply and suspect Mr. DiGenti had tongue in check when actually saying it. His mind is anything but warped. Indeed it is almost the opposite. He is a masterful wordsmith and has written a tightly plotted storyline with believable characters and a cat both heroic and vulnerable. He weaves a captivating dreamworld in Akhen-et-u (the Inner Ear) leaving us to contemplate the intricacies and activities of such a place. One can only imagine the history and stories that could emerge.

From our chat, I learned both of Mr. DiGenti's sons live in southern California and that a visit took him on a hike through Torrey Pines, a rugged park on the coast in northern San Diego County. While hiking he states, "In my mind, I could see Windrusher lost on the trails, perhaps running for his life and tumbling down into the water." It was from there the story started to take shape. From there Windrusher and the Cave of Tho-hoth came to life.

Other experiences lending to the story has been his attendance at cat shows. He has been fascinated by the people who exhibit their cats. The love and care they give their pets and the ambiance present are highlighted in the prologue. In fact, it is at a cat show the story begins and we are introduced to the conditions of a pampered cat life. We later see the comparison of a pampered cat life to one of surviving outdoors. Hmm . . . could former director DiGenti be reminding us of the life of the domestic cat to those left behind and the hardship of the outdoors? Or perhaps it was to show us that having a life of luxury is not necessarily a right and doesn't last forever. Or maybe still, fate is perfectly comfortable in knocking down the elevated to experience the hard knocks of life.

Before beginning on your journey, take time to notice the wonderful book cover featuring Windrusher himself. The richly colored feline makes quite an impression. The reader will feel as if they've been introduced before reading the very first word. It is also worth mentioning that although Windrusher and the Cave of Tho-hoth is a sequel to Windrusher; it is also a stand alone novel. It won't ruin your enjoyment if you haven't read the first one, but be warned. It does make reference to previous events and those tidbits will make you want to read the first one next. And that dear reader is what every author strives for. Young Adult,

The Ghost of Lizard Light
Elvira Woodruff
Dell Yearling
ISBN: 0440416558, $4.99

When ten-year-old Jack and his pet lizard Ned begrudgingly relocate from Iowa to Minty, Maine, Jack becomes glum at having to leave his happy life and best friend Denton. To make matters worse, school principal dad expects academic perfection and assigns Jack math worksheets during the summer.

But life takes a turn when Jack discovers a lighthouse on the property inhabited by a boy ghost named Nathaniel Witherspoon. Nathaniel and his father had been the keepers of Lizard Light when an accident took Nathaniel's corporal body and is incorrectly recorded in history. The ghost wants Jack to set the record straight.

Despite Jack's reluctance to trust someone translucent, he and Nathaniel soon become good friends. This unlikely friendship helps Jack overcome his loneliness and awkwardness at sea. It's through this very friendship Jack develops the strength to confront a life threatening disaster that tests his family's existence.

The supernatural sea-faring adventure is both meaningful and amusing. Lively characters let the author's sense of humor shine through. Particularly fun is Jack's little sister Franny, a pretend vet who doctors and bandaids everything that doesn't get out of the way. Dressed as a lady bug and a costume designer by trade, Mom walks about the house in full regalia. And principal dad finds himself in an awkward situation when he unintentionally meets his boss for the first time in his underwear.

If there is any room for improvement it is in the resolution of Nathaniel's request. Bright children loving mystery will find the solution a bit weak. Everything else works like a well-oiled clock and gets full marks for a must read. Ages 8 to 12, Middle Grade.

Robyn Gioia, Reviewer

Roger's Bookshelf

Mommy Guilt
Julie Bort, Aviva Pflock, Devra Renner
ISBN: 0814408702, $15.00 255 pages

Crammed Full of Powerful Content

Very few of us have ever gone through parenthood without serious feelings of guilt, and those feelings definitely have their impact on us. In addition, many of us are "carriers," dumping that guilt on others so that everyone around us shares our psychological problems. The authors of this book think that's silly.

Mothers and fathers, usually with an emphasis on mothers (fathers have other problems) harbor deep-seated guilt that is really not necessary or appropriate. The authors explain this in page after fascinating page. In many cases, illustrating their points, they compare the non-guilt behavior with the guilt-laden response to situations. What a learning experience this book can be for all of us! I've already given it to my wife as a significant gift. I hope it will help!

After reading Mommy Guilt, I told my wife about the authors' Seven Principles of the Mommy Guilt-Free Philosophy: You must be willing to let some things go. Parenting is not a competitive sport. Look forward to the future and at the big picture. Don't become overly hung up on the here and now. Learn when and how to live in the moment. Get used to saying yet more often and being able to defend your no. Laugh a lot, especially with your children. Make sure you set aside specific time to have fun as a family. And, dear readers, that's only on page 17! Each of the principles is explained, with lots of examples that enable the pages to leap to life.

As you might expect with this kind of a book, there's a survey in the appendix so you can test your own guilt ratio. Lots of explanation to help you understand the meanings and cures for your problems. And, a helpful tool all by itself, there's an Emergency Guilt-Relief Guide in the back of the book, right before the index.

This one's a keeper! But…when you give it to someone as a gift - because you know they need it, do so with love instead of with "I told you so" as the underlying attitude. Guilt is tricky, and you'll learn a lot in these pages.

Secrets of Special Ops Leadership
William A. Cohen
ISBN: 0814408400, $24.00 248 pages

Great Read, but Not Complete

Cohen has done it again. He's a fine writer with great stories to tell. He's a consultant, professor, and retired major (US Air Force Reserve). With a background in commando warfare, he's ideally suited to write an outstanding book on Special Operations Leadership.

You'll read chapter after chapter of fascinating tales of commandos from history. Expect to be consumed with intrigue, daring, and incredible performance that were inspirational when the work was done and are still inspirational today. From Afghanistan to the American Civil War and many more venues, you'll read about men who operated in unique circumstances with high stakes.

Cohen presents 14 special operations practices: create the best, dare the impossible, throw the rule book away, be where the action is, commit and require total commitment, demand tough discipline, build a commando team, inspire others to follow your vision, accept full blame and give full credit; take charge, reward effectively, make the most of what you have, never give up, and fight to win.

All this sounds great, and the military commando examples bring the principles to life beautifully. Yes, military examples. Lots of them, all motivating. But, this book was published by the American Management Association. I expected more advice for corporate executives. Oh, there are some brief stories about Ray Kroc and Mary Kay Ash, but I was disappointed not to see more application to business.

The principles are there, but I kept looking for stronger direct advice. The summaries at the end of the chapters didn't quite do it for me. One more chapter would probably do the trick - a presentation of Cohen's 14 points linked to specific advice for executives. Note: you can read the lessons into the chapter presentations, but the clarity isn't as strong as it could be.

Indispensable: How to Become the Company that Your Customers Can't Live Without
Joe Calloway
ISBN: 0471703087, $24.95

Read This Book!

Meet Joe Calloway, a consultant on branding and competitive positioning. He's delightfully candid, direct, instructive, and stimulating. As you read this book, you will get to know Calloway as a human and consumer with feelings…that certainly come out in this text. I thoroughly enjoyed page after page of stories of how companies become indispensable…or not. The conversational tone is captivating and motivating.

You'll read about the Five Drivers: create and drive momentum, develop habitual dependability, continuous connection, big picture outcome, and engage, enchant, and enthrall. The chapters illuminate these drivers and deliver even more. I found myself looking at my business relationships much differently - both as a consumer and as a deliverer of goods and services. Between Calloway's lessons, countless examples, and case studies is an intricate fabric of a clear message. Be indispensable or lose to the competition. I won't tell you more details - there's too much to try to convey the depth of this book in a review. Read it.

Expect to be thoroughly engaged by this book, eager to return to it every time you put it down. And, expect to send it to someone who really needs it when you're finished!

Roger E. Herman, Reviewer

Sharon's Bookshelf

Portraits Of The Bison
Wes Olson
University of Alberta Press
Ring House 2, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2E1
0888644329 $39.95

Portraits Of The Bison: An Illustrated Guide To Bison Society by Wes Olson (Senior Warden, Elk Island National Park, Alberta, Canada) is an informed and informative introduction to the history, social structure, and life cycle of bison enhanced with anatomical illustrations as well as the color photography by Johane Janelle. Readers will learn how to identify bison by age and gender, and the differences between the wood bison and plains bison species. A truly remarkable work, Portraits Of The Bison is an ideal and enthusiastically recommended addition to both school and community library North American wildlife reference collections -- and especially commended to the non- specialist general reader wanting to know more about the social structures and relationships of a bison herd.

Victorian Gardens
Caroline Holmes
Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310
0764318896 $29.95

The British Victorians were masters of geometrically formal nineteenth century gardening characterized by bright, elegant, seasonal bedding to create lush, exuberant outdoor spaces where they met, played, and dined. These were verdant landscapes enhanced with carpet beds, topiary, statuary, sundials, marble and stone walkways, as well as classical architectural ruins, fountains, and pools. In "Victorian Gardens", garden historian and expert Caroline Holmes showcases many restorations and recreations of Victorian gardens ranging from the Osborne House on the Isle of Wight (Queen Victoria's country home), to Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire, and Down House in Kent (which was home to Charles Darwin). More than two hundred beautiful color photographs, in addition to illustrations, diagrams, and layouts of restorations, provide the reader with a visual and intellectual perspective on the Victorian approach to estate gardening, landscaping, and outdoor beautification. Informed and informative, a joy to simple browse through, "Victorian Gardens" is especially recommended for gardening and landscaping enthusiasts, and would be a popular addition to any community library's Gardening resource and reference collection.

Sharon Stuart

Sonali's Bookshelf

The Last Templar
Michael Jecks
Avon Books
10 E 53rd Street New York NY 10022 212-207-7495
ISBN 0060763442, $7.50, 374 pp.

The story title and book cover set the stage -- the Knights Templar, a medieval village, a fire and a murder -- for a fast-paced whodunit in the late Middle Ages. This is a story of two detectives pooling their resources together to catch the perpetrators of a crime. It is also the story of the friendship between the two men: Sir Baldwin Furnshill, former Knight Templar now lord of Furnshill Manor, and Simon Puttock, newly made bailiff of Lydford Castle and its environs.

The first death in the story is of Harold Brewer in a house fire. While Sir Baldwin is convinced by a single glance at the crime scene that this is a murder, Simon is more cautious, willing to sift through clues and interview the residents of Blackway Village before deciding between an accidental death or a murder.

The brutal killings of an abbot and then a group of travelers, however, convinces Simon that a vicious killer or a set of cruel outlaws are on the loose. Simon's compassionate nature is not prepared for the horrific assault on his senses from witnessing the aftermaths of the crimes. Despite it all, he provides the leadership required of his new post as bailiff with stoic calm and dedication. He organizes a posse of men under the leadership of John Black the tanner and Stephen Tanner the sheriff to search the forests and hamlets.

Simon is confounded by the similarities and differences between the three crimes: Are they related or not? As he delves deeper into the abbot's identity and past life, the mystery surrounding his death intensifies. Who is this man? Nothing is what it seems at first glance. Adding to the enigma is Sir Baldwin's disinterest in this group murder -- in complete contrast to his avid interest in the brewer's death.

By locating his story in Devon, Michael Jecks takes advantage of being able to frequently visit the different places in his book from his home in Dartmoor. Thus, he is able to portray an excellent sense of place, which he conveys convincingly to the reader. His meticulous research into the history of the place allows him to accurately fill in details of dress, manner, food, architecture and law. The use of the Knights Templar history spices up an already exciting tale. Jeck's characters are well-developed individuals with their own voices and personality quirks. He has expended considerable effort in creating three-dimensional characters even for the smallest parts in his tale.

The main distraction is his amateurish use of the year (spelled out to orient the reader) in a character's inner dialogue. "Last year, thirteen hundred and fifteen, had not been so bad..." No one thinks like that! His omniscient observer viewpoint also needs work, while clear demarcations are needed when points of view switch from one person to the other.

A Perfect Match
Jill McGown
1745 Broadway New York NY 10019 212-782-9000
ISBN 0449218201, $6.50 192 pp.

"The September dawn crept over the sky like water on blotting paper, spreading a fine, thin light to supplement the yellow glow of the street lighting." So begins Jill McGown's first literary whodunit, following in the fine tradition of British crime writers, such as Ngaio Marsh and P.D. James.

Julia Mitchell, a beautiful young widow, lies strangled by a boating lake. Her movements prior to her death are known, as well as all the people with whom she had any interactions. The evidence point to Chris Wade, the young man last seen with her, as corroborated by multiple witnesses. However, the deeper Inspector Lloyd and Sergeant Judy Hill dig into the mystery, the more clues pop up that tangle up an otherwise straightforward conviction.

The minute after I had my "aha" moments, McGown would throw in information that would murk up the picture. And thus, I followed along, page after page, to the story's startling conclusion.

McGown's characters are at the heart of her plot. The story flows naturally from them, and as the plot develops, so do the characters. They also reinforce the setting of a provincial little English town by mannerisms, speech and interactions with each other. For a debut novel, McGown writes sophisticated dialogue, which she uses to develop characters, uncover elements of the crime and to further the plot McGown's excellent eye for detail allows us to run the story in our heads like a movie as we read.

Her stylistic location of the last paragraphs of every chapter to anthropomorphic thoughts and movements of different animals in the forest just didn't work for me -- it brought the story to a crashing halt, and what should've been a cliffhanger for the chapters ended up deflating the built-up tension. However, this was a comparatively minor bump in an otherwise excellently written story. I look forward to seeing this writer grow into her talent.

Sonali T. Sikchi, Reviewer

Sullivan's Bookshelf

New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer
Bill Maher
ISBN: 1594862958, $24.95 230 pages

Called a book because its insides are enclosed in a hard cover, this means that a turtle could also be referred to as a book. Naturally, this isn't so. Basically, what's between this read's covers is not flowing narrative or stylish expository writing but numerous short comments, barbs actually, and many related photos plus a few page-long repartees on the current political, cultural, and societal scene in the good, old U.S. of A. and in some foreign lands.

Contents are organized in alphabetical order, with five or six bits in A, more or less in B, and one, two, or more in each of the other letters. Maher goes through the entire alphabet without missing a written beat. His remarks, of course, as readers know who have watched this author, so-called, on TV, are smart alecky, concise, humorus, and more often than not, dead on.

Maher calls himself a libertarian. And in some matters, he definitelly comes across as someone of that persuasion. For example, under the rubric "POTTY POOPER," he writes in the alphabet section under letter 'P,' "Get rid of the 'baby changing station' in the men's room. Let's stop pretending that it has been, or ever will be, used. You're only tempting a short homeless man to use it as Murphy bed."

On the other hand, he seems to be at heart a liberal, and a Democrat, too, with such comments as follow: "George Bush must stop saying he owes all his success to Laura. George Bush owes all his success to his daddy, his daddy's friends, trust funds, legacy admissions, the National Guard, the Supreme Court, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and AA."

One thing's for sure, Conservatives are not going to like this volume. The rest of the political spectrum, though, will. It's a quick, easy read. However, as with most such reads, it's best to limit perusal to three or four minute chunks. Therefore, this is the ideal bathroom book.

The author/TV humorist dwells in Los Angeles. Amazingly, this isn't Maher's first volume in print. His other books include True Story, When You Ride Alone You Ride with ben Laden, and Does Anybody Have a Problem with That?


Reading the Rocks: The Autobiography of the Earth
Marcia Bjornerud
Westview Press
ISBN: 081334249X, $26.00 237 pages/indexed

Rocks: Igneous ("formed from the incandescent state"), metamorphic ("modified in the solid state by heat, pressure, deformation, or some combination of these factors"), and sedimentary ("deposited at Earth's surface and derived--ground down or eroded--from preexisting rock") make up a large part of the Earth. And for the first time, this reviewer, thanks to this author, understands the basics of geology, which is the study of the origin, history, and structure of the Earth.

The author, a professor of geology at Lawrence University, is first and foremost a teacher. Using analogy after analogy to explain complicated terms like plate tectonics, uniformitarianism, catastrophism, she explains in easy to understand terms and comparisons how the Earth comes by its existence, chemistry, and physics.

The author shows how combinations of those factors are used to calculate their dates of birth and the ages of surrounding fossils, various minerals, and ores. She also elaborates on how this planet, contrary to the other terrestrial orbs, has maintained its various ecosystems to remain a hospitable place in which to live but that now has become imperiled.

Bjornerud writes, "Earth is a very pleasant planet and, according to her stone diaries, has been so for millions of millennia. It is easy to forget just how remarkable this condition is, in the same way that we tend to be unaware of good health until becomiing sick. For at least four billion years, through meteorite impacts, climate changes, and continental reorganizations, fliuid water has remained stable at Earth's surface, and life has thrived for nearly as long. Earth is a supersystem of countless smaller, interconnected systems involving rock, water, air, and life. These systems operate at spatial scales from microscopic to planetary, over time periods from seconds to millions of years. Anyone who has ever struggled with diabetes, depression, or debt knows how hard it is to achieve and sustain his or her own physiological, emotional, or financial equilibrium. The electrical blackout that hobbled the eastern United States and Canada in the summer of 2003 also illustrates how difficult it is to build stable systems of any complexity. How did a messy tangle of systems without a centralized control mechanism (e.g., a brain, a band director, or a board of trustees) maintain Earth's equipoise over time?

"The fact is, we don't entirely know. But if this equilibrium had not prevailed, we would never have emerged to wonder about such things. [....]"'

The author specializes in structural geology and has studied mountain formations in Norway and Canada as well as details of the Precambrian Shield region of North America (Northwest Territories, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and Minnesota's Boundary Waters region). Wiith her three children, she resides in Wisconsin.


Jim Sullivan

Tami's Bookshelf

Sacred Illusions: A Journey Into The Dreams You Live
R.D. Valenti
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
ISBN: 1413767389, $19.95, 198 pages

Sophie Freeman has been searching for something her whole life. She has read every self-help and spiritual book she can get her hands on in hopes of finding that lost piece that will complete the puzzle of her life. Instead of the missing link, however, Sophie just finds more questions, more frustration, and more unhappiness.

Then a strange event occurs. While on her way to the beach for her annual vacation, Sophie picks up a Native American man. Sophie feels a strange connection to this man who she calls Walking Man, almost as if she has seen him before and she was destined to meet and talk with the man. This mysterious shaman guides Sophie on the most amazing journey as she learns a new way to listen, a new way to question, and a new way to interpret the world around her.

Sacred Illusions: A Journey Into The Dreams You Live encourages the reader to look at his or her world in a new light. My favourite part of the book is a scene in which Walking man tells Sophie that she hasn't been seeking a missing piece of her life puzzle at all. Instead, her puzzle has extra pieces that mask the real picture. Therefore, her quest is to find these distorting pieces and dispel them.

Bitch Unleashed: The Harsh Realities of Goin' Country
Nola L. Kelsey
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
ISBN: 142087862X, $10.95, 200 pages

Like many urban dwellers, the author yearned for the simple life. She wanted to live in an environment where the air was clean, the days were slower, and everyone knew their neighbour. Upon moving to Bison Flats, however, the author received a startling education in rural life. Instead of friendliness she was greeted by distrust and male chauvinism. Instead of quiet relaxing days she found herself busy shooing cows from her front lawn.

Bitch Unleashed: The Harsh Realities of Goin' Country shares the author's humorous experiences while learning to live in Bison Flats. She also imparts her insightful and often sarcastic advice on how to survive rural life. Some of the most hilarious bits come from the authors lists including Signs of how screwed up you may be for those that need to move to the country, indicator that your are settling into the simple life, 10 things about lawn moving, and bat ejection techniques as well as rural definitions and translations to help city folk.

Tami Brady

Taylor's Bookshelf

Celebrating the Rest of Your Life
David Yount
Augsburg Publishers
100 Fifth Street, Suite 700, Minneapolis, MN 55402-1210
0806651717 $12.99 1-800-328-4648

Theologist and syndicated columnist David Yount presents Celebrating the Rest of Your Life: A Baby Boomer's Guide To Spirituality, a matter-of-fact guide to opening one's eyes to the future, considering both practical matters such as making financial safeguards, and matters of the soul, including the intimidating task of making peace with one's mortality and eventual death. Encouraging the reader to accept God's grace in order to more fully experience the richness of life, Celebrating the Rest of Your Life is a profound yet plain-spoken testimonial sure to resonate with readers regardless of individual faith. Highly recommended.

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (religion)
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth Street NE, Washington, DC 20017-1194
1574556924 $24.95, 1-800-235-8722

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church was published to serve as a tool to inspire and guide the Catholic community through the moral and pastoral challenges that confront the Church today. The informed and informative text is organized into specific sections dedicated to revealing God's plan of love for humanity; the family as the vital nucleus of society; the relationship between social doctrines and ecclesial actions; and the fundamentals required for developing and maintaining a "civilization of love". Enhanced with extensive "Index of References" and an "Analytical Index", Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church is an appropriate and strongly recommended addition to personal and clerical reference collections, seminary and academic library reference shelves, and supplemental reading for pastors and active laity within the Catholic communities throughout the country.

Sanctified Vision
John J. O'Keefe and R. R. Reno
The Johns Hopkins University Press
2715 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218-4363
0801880882 $16.95 1-800-537-5487

The collaborative work of John J. O'Keefe and R. R. Reno (both of whom are Associate Professors of Theology at Creighton University), Sanctified Vision: An Introduction To Early Christian Interpretation Of The Bible provides the reader with an informed explanation of the structure and logic of the early Christian interpretations of scripture in late antiquity. These interpretations are considered foundational to the development of Christianity as a religion, and offer insight into how these early leaders and theologians thought about doctrine and practice by analyzing selected portions of patristic exegesis to illustrate specific reading techniques used by them to expound the meaning they believed intrinsic to biblical texts. The approach utilized in Sanctified Vision is organized around three basis analytical strategies: literal, typological, and allegorical. Within this framework, Professors O'Keefe and Reno cogently argue for the importance of this analytic framework and structure in understanding the emergence of what was to become Christian theological orthodoxy. A work of impeccable scholarship and also available in a hardcover edition (0801880874, $45.00), Sanctified Vision will be of immense interest and value to students of Christian Theology, Christian History, and Biblical Studies.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
The Library of America
Goldberg McDuffie Communications (publicity)
14 East 60th Street, New York, NY 10022
1931082839 $40.00

Richard Henry Dana, Jr. was a 19th century author whose writings about his experiences as a common seaman on a merchant ship were immensely popular. Now The Library of America has compiled his writings into a single volume under the knowledgeable editorship of Thomas Philbrick (Professor Emeritus of English, University of Pittsburgh). The writings include "Two years Before the Mast & Other Voyages: A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea"; "To Cuba and Back: A Vacation Voyage"; and "Journal of a Voyage Round the World, 1859-1860". Enhanced with a Chronology, "Note on the Texts", and "Notes", Dana is printed on acid free paper and is a welcome and strongly recommended addition to both academic and community library collections.

Master Narratives And Their Discontents
James Elkins
270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0415972701 $17.95

The first volume of the new "Theories of Modernism and Postmodernism in the Visual Arts" series from Routledge, Master Narratives And Their Discontents by James Elkins (E.C. Chadbourne Chair, Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, School of the Art Institute of Chicago) offers a thoughtful and thought-provoking engagement with the many versions of art history competing in academia today. Professor Elkins argues that the story of modernism and postmodernism is typically told in one of four narratives with works of art being classified as modern or postmodern, and praised for their technical skills, or because of the politics those works appear to embody. Master Narratives And Their Discontents is a work of impeccable scholarship and especially recommended to the attention of students of Art History and inclusion into Art Department and academic library reference collections.

The Second Dalai Lama
Glenn H. Mullin
Snow Lion Publications
PO Box 6483, Ithaca, NY 14851

The Second Dalai Lama: His Life & Teachings by Buddhist meditation expert Glenn H. Mullin (who has authored more than fifteen books on Buddhist topics and led pilgrimages to Nepal and Tibet) provides American Buddhists with a comprehensive and enthusiastically recommended introduction to the life and times of the Second Dalai Lama's enlightened teachers. This translation and commentary will be of immense interest to students of Buddhism and includes an extensive glossary of terms. After an informed and informative introduction, readers are treated to a descriptive biography, which is followed by "Mystical Verses of the Second Dalai Lama", drawn from a selection of his most insightful and inspiring writings. The Second Dalai Lama is a core addition to personal and academic Buddhist Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

M. Steven Shackley
University of Arizona Press
355 South Euclid Avenue, Suite 103, Tucson, AZ 85719-6654
0816523967 $55.00 1-800-426-3797

Obsidian was a critically important material for paleolithic and neolithic peoples in the production of stone tools. Archaeologists rely on obsidian tools to map and date social and economic organization in the ancient Native American cultures in the Southwest. Obsidian: Geology And Archaeology In The North American Southwest by M. Steven Shackley (Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Berkeley Archaeological XRF Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley) is the summation of decades of investigation, integrating the body of obsidian research into a single reference work. Obsidian includes advances in analytical chemistry and field petrology, presenting the most recent data on (and interpretations of) archaeological obsidian sources in the Southwest, while also exploring the ethnohistorical and contemporary background for obsidian use in Native American indigenous societies. The reader is also presented with an erudite discussion of the diverse ways in which archaeologists should approach obsidian research and a thorough survey of archeological obsidian studies that has methodological and theoretical applications for any archaeological dig anywhere in the world. Enhanced with 14 halftone and 43 line illustrations, Obsidian is a core addition to professional and academic Archaeological Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Paul T. Vogel

Volk's Bookshelf

Tielman Susato And The Music Of His Time
Keith Polk, editor
Pendragon Press
PO Box 190, Hillsdale, NY 12529
1576471063 $48.00 1-518-325-6100

Tielman Susato was an ambitious, versatile, talented man who earned for himself a distinguished reputation and position within the cultural scene of Renaissance Europe. He began as a trombonist in the Antwerp civic band (one of the outstanding ensembles of the day), and then went on to expand his range of activity as a musical scribe, preparing manuscript collections for an avid market that developed in the rapidly growing Flemish urban cente4rs. He next established one of the foremost publishing houses in Europe, providing an impeccably selected musical repertory that is still appreciated by students of Renaissance music today. Additionally, Susato was a composer of exceptional accomplishment, supplying impressive pieces in all of the musical genres associated with the elite urban and courtly circles of his time. Compiled, organized and edited by Keith Polk, Tielman Susato And The Music Of His Time: Print Culture, Compositional Technique And Instrumental Music In The Renaissance is the fifth volume of the "Bucina: The Historical Brass Society Series" and combines biography with musicology to provide readers with a fully descriptive and informative history of the life and accomplishments of one of the most productive and influential men in Renaissance Europe. No academic library collection of Renaissance Studies or European Music History can be considered comprehensive or complete without the inclusion of Tielman Susato And The Music Of His Time.

Danger On Peaks
Gary Snyder
Shoemaker & Hoard Publishers
c/o Avalon Publishing Group
245 West 17th Street, 11th floor, New York, NY 10011-5300
1593760418 $14.00 1-800-788-3123

Danger On Peaks is Gary Synder's first collection of new poems in twenty years and begins with poems about his first ascent of Mt. St. Helens in 1945. Offering a body of verse in a diversity of styles, Synder's work was a 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and showcases a unique voice in contemporary American poetry. She Knew All About Art: She knew all about art -- she was fragrant, soft,/I rode to her fine stone apartment, hid the bike in the hedge./--We met at an opening, her lover was brilliant and rich,/first we would talk, then drift into long gentle love,/We always made love in the dark. Thirty years older than me.

Carol Volk

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

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