Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / Reviewer's Bookwatch

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 7, Number 10 October 2007 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Christina's Bookshelf
Christy's Bookshelf Clay's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Geoffrey's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf
Judine's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf Lockstein's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Mark's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf
Molly's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Sharame's Bookshelf
Sullivan's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf Victoria's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

Sleep Before Evening
Magdalena Ball
BeWrite Books
32 Bryn Road South, Wigan, Lancashire, WNA 8QR
9781905202974 $17.99

Aaron Paul Lazar

Life isn't perfect, but seventeen-year-old Marianne Cotton is blessed with a loving and devoted grandfather who carefully schools her in piano, the arts, and literature. An "A" student, Marianne basks in his attention while eclipsing memories of her deadbeat dad. Lily Cotton, Marianne's self-involved, bipolar mother, loves her daughter within her own limitations. The needy artist frequently requires tending when moods swing, forcing Marianne to table her own needs and emotions to care for her. A series of men has invaded their lives, providing a less than perfect environment for Marianne.

The brilliant young woman manages to survive until her senior year in high school, when just before finals, Eric Cotton collapses into a vegetative state. Although Marianne is convinced her grandfather is still alive inside, the decision to pull the plug is made by Lily and her current husband, Russell. Marianne interprets this act as a deep betrayal, and reels in shock when she's notified that her grandfather has been removed from life support.

Faced with spiritual solitude, Marianne starts to unravel. She falls for a handsome and charismatic street musician named Miles, who lures her into a world of sex, drugs, and smoky club blues. Marianne's pain is diminished with each fix she accepts from her new group of exotic and seemingly attractive friends. Armed with a fake ID, school recedes and her pending NYU scholarship seems unimportant. Marianne lands a job at a sleazy bar, serving drinks to overweight groping men and pushing through the motions with more mental lethargy as her craving for absolution and oblivion careens forward, driving her to a nearly lethal intravenous heroin addiction.

Magdalena Ball's writing, insightful and deep, engages the reader from page one. Her characters linger long after the story resolves to its perfect conclusion. Highly recommended for a glimpse into the motivations behind heroin abuse, as well as thoroughly alluring family drama, Sleep Before Evening is powerfully addictive in its own right.

Thames: Sacred River
Peter Ackroyd
Random House
9780701172848 $59.95 AU 490 pages

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Peter Ackroyd's Thames: Sacred River runs from source to sea, like the river itself. Like the river, too, it sometimes flows swiftly through landscapes of great interest and beauty, and at other times it meanders, becomes turgid, or has stony passages where the going gets harder. The journey, however, is well worth taking and, as a companion book to Ackroyd's London: The Biography, it must rank as one of the most detailed, informative and enjoyable surveys of London and its river since 1598, when John Stow wrote A Survey of London, a book to which Ackroyd often refers.

Thames is a book for dipping into rather than for prolonged immersion. There are fascinating and curious facts and anecdotes, history, geography, geology, myth, legend, art. There are chapters on the working river, trade, river boats, river law, the river as "a stream of pleasure"; and on the association of the Thames with healing, life and death.

There are curiosities, such as 'dene-holes' (interconnected subterranean tunnels along the river banks) and 'swallow-holes' (where the river vanishes and rises again). There are pre-historic visions of crocodiles and jungles. There are pageants, kings and queens, diarists, historians, saints and sinners, watermen, dapper Chelsea 'kiddies', day-tripping cockney 'Arries and 'Arriettes, artists, poets and musicians. And there are barges and punts, log-boats and coracles, 'cogs', 'trows', 'wowsers', hoys and onchers, and other strange and more familiar vessels which use the river's waters. Alongside the river are the towns and villages, the great houses and palaces, the churches, the ruins, the docks and the City of London itself. Ackroyd can fairly be said to have covered almost every aspect of the river, and to have done it with admirable skill, scholarship, humour and delight.

But why is his Thames a "sacred river"? Rivers all over the world have, since pre-historic time, been regarded as healing, life-giving places, and the Thames is no exception. Based on objects and clusters of objects found in the river over the years, Ackroyd argues (as do many archaeologists) that votive offerings have been made, and still are made, to Thames river gods. And although the association of the Thames with the Egyptian goddess, Isis, dates (says Ackroyd) only from the 1500s, the use of the Thames for baptism, healing and purification is ancient and, in some cases, still exists. Old Father Thames is a common name for the River around London, and the number of religious establishments which have lined its banks (temples, monasteries and churches, for example), suggests its long and close association with religious practices.

The role which Ackroyd attributes to the Thames in inspiring religious awe and fervour in poets and painters, however, is less certain. There is no doubt that Turner, for example, was inspired by the Thames and that Thames light, colour and changeability pervade many of his paintings, but whether he regarded the river as sacred is questionable. Similarly, Ackroyd waxes lyrical about the mystical colours and light of the Thames but the poets and painters he gathers to his 'sacred' theme often seem unlikely recruits.

Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and Kenneth Graham were, perhaps, more interested in story-telling than in the Thames itself, although it is delightful to hear of Dodgson inventing 'The Adventures of Alice Underground' as he rowed Alice Liddell and her sisters up the river from Oxford to Godstow. And it is fun to learn the whereabouts of the Wild Wood of Graham's Wind in the Willows, and of the likely model for Toad Hall and for the dungeon in which Mr Toad was incarcerated after his arrest.

On the whole, the book works best when Ackroyd sticks to fact, rather than speculation, but, that said, there are times when facts become just lists and when his speculations are much more entertaining and thought-provoking.

Ackroyd is a congenial companion with whom to take a Thames journey, but for those who want to explore and experience the Thames on their own he has included 'An Alternative Topography, from source to sea' at the end of the book, complete with maps, and with a condensed guide to the towns and villages along the way. I particularly enjoyed his brief asides in this section. The note to the Isle of Sheppey in the Thames estuary, for example, is just seven lines long and ends with the comment that "in 832 it was overrun 'by the heathen men'. It has not been the same since". It makes me want to go and find out what he means by that.

Thames is well written, well illustrated, full of joys and horrors, facts and fiction. It is an excellent guide to a great river and to the city which grew up on its banks. And it is written with style and humour. In addition, the hard-cover copy comes with a handsomely illustrated jacket and with endpapers reproducing Joseph Mallard William Turner's watercolour painting, 'River Scene with Trees'. It's a fine cover for a fine book.

Sleep Before Evening
Magdalena Ball
BeWrite Books
32 Bryn Road South, Wigan, Lancashire, WN4 8QR, United Kingdom
9781904492962 $17.99

Bob Williams

This is a first novel by Magdalena Ball, author of The Art of Assessment and a collection of poetry, Quark Soup. She is also creator and editor of the Web's premier literary site, The Compulsive Reader.

Mari and her mother Lily form the nucleus of the novel. Mari is a brilliant, but limited, high school student. She has a scholarship to NYU and is an accomplished pianist. Her father faded away from his family early in her life and she has found a substitute in her grandfather, Eric.

Her mother, Lily, has remarried. She is an artist, subject to mood swings that are exhausting to Russ, her husband, and to Mari. Lily in fact drives Russ away by the jealousy that torments her.

Eric has a stroke that is severe enough to leave him unconscious and without brain activity. His doctor recommends the removal of life support. Mari is opposed to this and insists at least that she be made part of the decision respecting her grandfather. Lily and Russ agree to this, but decide without her and Eric is gone before Mari knows what has happened.

In an already difficult home Mari now experiences the extremes of alienation from her mother. Accustomed to visit the city at her pleasure, Mari begins to visit it more frequently. She meets Miles, a young street musician and, cast off and vulnerable, begins a relationship with him. A large part of the book becomes concerned with sex and drugs and - well, not rock and roll exactly - blues.

Ball is very good at showing the shabby musicians that alternate between hopes and disappointments. Miles, the harmonica player, and Cath, the singer, and the other band members lead lives of noisy desperation with a heavy dependence on drugs. In this environment Mari becomes addicted. The needs of her addiction take her from one life-blighting experience to another and she deliberately overdoses as she sits in the rain, abandoned by everyone, under some bushes in a park.

She is found. Doctors save her life and she enters a rehab unit. Reunited with her mother, who draws upon an unsuspected source of maturity, Mari lives through the rigors of rehab. Home once more, she finds that there are still many unresolved problems between her and Lily.

This is a remarkable novel, not one detail of which rings false. The setting is New York City and one of its suburbs and the time is the Reagan years. Ball has achieved the remarkable in recovering this particular time past and the drive of the narrative makes this a compelling and an exciting book.

First Instinct
JLee Meyer
Bold Strokes Books, Inc
430 Herrington Rd., Johnsonville, NY 12094
1933110597 $15.95

Cheri Rosenberg

When Dr. Conn Stryker, PhD and CEO of a forensic software firm with governmental ties meets Leigh Groove, a possible informant in her latest sting, she does everything she can to avoid getting close. Even though their first encounter ends up with Leigh in Conn's arms, Conn is a self-imposed loner who steers clear of relationships, especially when it involves her work.

What happens when Leigh, presumably straight, meets the person of her dreams, and that person happens to be a woman? Conn is a tall striking redhead with a brilliant mind, who sweeps her off her feet. Conn is mysterious, reserved, and a tough woman to figure out but the outgoing and persistent Leigh is up for the challenge.

Leigh is a cover model, a Harvard sorority girl and debutante, and has a Wharton MBA. She's particularly endearing when she uses humor in the face of danger to get out of deadly situations. Readers won't be able to turn the pages quick enough to find out if Conn lets Leigh into her heart even if it means risking Leigh's life?

First Instinct by JLee Meyer is a romance, but before long Meyer proves that she has something special to offer in her action-packed intriguing love story. Meyer's heroines are quirky, funny, and so very good together that you can't visualize them apart. Between the multi-dimensional characters with their genuine virtues and flaws, a plot you won't have figured out from the beginning, and a most satisfying conclusion, First Instinct leaves readers sated but anxious for more. Luckily, Rising Storm picks up where First Instinct leaves off.

From the absurdly funny to the romantic moments, First Instinct, a 2007 Golden Crown Literary Award winner, is a satisfying journey you won't want to miss.

The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War
Leonard L.Richards
Alfred A. Knopf /Division of Random House Inc
9780307265203 $25.00 www.random 800-638-460

Daniel Allen

I have a strong interest in Civil War history, and I selected this book, because I feel that not much has been written about the western connections to the war. The book is written with a nice chronological orderly flow. I wanted to share this author's expertise in history. I felt all of the readers who wants to know about the history of the Civil War including more than a passing interest in its' politics. This helped create the volatile fuel that moved the United States closer to succession and to war possible. Both Union and Confederate had their political interest in the state, and wanted to influence its' position in their own personal agendas. Leonard L. Richards, a professor of history at the University of Massachusetts tells the story of the gold rush and political acts of patronage, greed, ambition, slavery, and expansionism. The professor examines the influences of political individuals, including many of the power struggles working to get California to their side. Any person who likes to learn about antebellum history, which leaves the reader to draw many of his own conclusions and meanings from the many different assertions. These include the Slave Power Conspiracy, Stephen Douglas' quest for a railroad, James Buchanan's activist paralysis, and John Fremont's reputation and what he actually accomplished. Leonard L. Richards was a finalist for the Pulitzer prize in 1987 for The Life and Times of Congressman John Quincy Adams and The Slave Power: The Free North and Southern Domination 1780-1860 took the second-place 2001 Lincoln Prize.

The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War left room for more to be written about the subject, and perhaps Leonard L. Richards or someone else can add more chapters to an interesting period of American History.

R. M. Hamilton
Aventine Press
1023 4th Ave #204, San Diego, CA 92101
1593304013 $15.50

D. M. Papuga

Following the brutal overthrow of King Jonathan, the Land of Eir is thrust under the thumb of Marauder and the army of the Eternal Flame. Unscarred really begins when Kyle is forced by Marauder to accomplish a task that only he can undertake. Throughout the journey, young Kyle learns far more than he bargained for and is forced into manhood through torture, conflict, revelations of his heritage, his desire to become whole again, and his growing need to rescue his homeland from the megalomaniacal Marauder. R. M. Hamilton gives readers a coming of age story of magic, conflict, and triumph.

This first novel is a valiant effort to pull together all of the tropes of the fantasy genre, but falls short in a number of areas. The narrative is told in the offsetting and untraditional first person present tense a distraction that often makes the story itself inaccessible. While the core of the plot is unquestionably Hamilton's, the ancillary characters, plotlines, and set ups are instantly recognizable for any seasoned fantasy reader as archetypal and predictable.

Navigating the world of self publishing can be difficult and fraught with issues that traditional brick and mortar publishing corrects, particularly when dealing with fantasy. Unscarred would have benefited from a good editor and copyeditor. In the more engaging portions of the story, typos and grammatical issues pull readers out of the story and onto the physical page to figure out corrections. In places the dialogue is frustratingly modern and conflicts with the setting and genre, while other places take the dialogue too far into the melodramatic excess that fantasy can easily become. In the end, Unscarred reads like a tabletop game transcribed an excellent concept that requires more fine tuning.

Unscarred does, however, illustrate the imagination, dedication and understanding of the genre that R. M. Hamilton possesses. Based on the tone of Unscarred, I would be surprised if Hamilton doesn't eventually find a successful following in the Young Adult section with his future works. With his first novel completed, I look forward to seeing where his writing turns from here.

The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman
Louis De Bernieres
William Morrow and Co., Inc.
New York
0375700153 $14.00

Desiree Parker

"History is more or less entirely a catalog of the actions of lunatics," comments a character from Louis De Bernieres' book, The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman. This could well be the theme of the book, written over ten years ago but startlingly applicable today where just this sort of lunatic history is yet again being made.

The third book in a trilogy, The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman can stand alone, its plot self-contained and easy enough to follow without having to read the first two books. The story follows the people of Cochadebajo, a utopian Andean village comprised of bizarrely loveable citizens looking for sanctuary from unhappiness and persecution. They come from every background and bring with them what would seem to be incompatible beliefs, yet they live together harmoniously (and comically) in their village full of domesticated jaguars and cobbled-together machinery, happy whores and a levitating catholic priest who preaches the virtues of sex and love.

De Bernieres challenges Christianity and, in particular, the Catholic Church and its traditional aspirations to convert the masses to one belief; Cochadebajo becomes the Rome of a new faith, replete with its own prophets, apostles, miracles, stories of exodus and sainthood, and its own dogma. In the novel the Catholic Church, beset with its usual plague of greedy, hypocritical clergy, decides to launch a crusade of conversion which is led by a lunatic priest and his brutal, villainous band of vigilantes that rape and pillage their way across the South American countryside and wind up in an epic battle against the indignant people of Cochadebajo.

De Bernieres writes: "A man who does evil in God's name and purportedly by His command becomes instantly justified, and the greater the evil her perpetrates, the more holy does he seem to himself no proverb is more depressingly true than the one that states that evil always pays good the compliment of masquerading as it."

The novel is more than just a finger-wag at the Church; it is a social commentary that is applicable to current affairs with an almost eerie foresight. De Bernieres takes a stand against intolerance and hypocrisy and, with an observation that is still accurate in today's political climate, writes: "The nation possessed the kind of mentality that would see no contradiction in invading another country in order to impose pacifism upon it."

Without humor the novel might have gotten bogged-down, but the sardonic, ironic tone makes the story a fun read, and there are plenty of quirks to keep any reader amused and delighted.

De Bernieres brings the tragic, the comic, and the surreal together in this book that people should rediscover, even before they pick up his other, better-known novel, Corelli's Mandolin.

The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World
Kati Marton
Simon & Schuster
New York, NY
9780743261159 $27.00

Dr. Fred Reiss

Jews first arrived in Buda, Pest, and Obuda during the thirteenth century, and their lives were never easy. Over the following centuries they were isolated into a ghetto, first expelled because of the Black Plague and then because of anti-Semitism. When the Church finally permitted them to return, in the fourteenth century, it was with restrictions. During the first quarter of the sixteenth century, Turkey captured this area and expelled nearly all the Jews to the Ottoman Empire. The Museum of the Jewish People recounts that

In 1686 the Jews of Buda suffered badly during the siege by the Austrians and their allies before the town was captured from the Turks. The Jews sided with the Turks and nearly half of them perished. The Jewish quarter was sacked and the Torah scrolls were set on fire. Half of the remaining Jews, about 250, were taken prisoners and banished. The Austrian administration put limitations upon the Jews, at the demand of the Christians. The Jews of Buda were exiled in 1746 by Empress Maria Theresa, and were permitted to return in 1783 when Emperor Josef II allowed Jewish settlement in Hungarian towns.

In the mid-nineteenth century the three sister cities were combined into Budapest, which subsequently became the co-capitol of the newly formed Austro-Hungarian Empire. Emperor Franz Joseph abolished restrictions against the Jews, and they obtained equal status with their non-Jewish neighbors. The Jews gladly entered the middle class.

In The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World, author Kati Marton provides mini-biographies that contain the motivations, exploits, and contributions of nine men who were born and raised in Budapest during its Golden Age, the time from the late 1880s until World War I. For this work, Marton selected three physicists, Edward Teller, Leo Szilard, and Eugene Wigner; the mathematician turned computer scientist, John von Neumann; two movie directors/producers, Michael Curtiz and Alexander Korda; two photographers, Robert Capa and Andre Kertesz; and writer Arthur Koestler, as people who both fled the Nazi war machine and changed the world.

Marton, a well-known journalist and awarding-winning author has personal reasons for telling this story. Her family, too, lived in Budapest during its golden years. Marton's great-great-grandfather was a chief rabbi in Bohemia, and her family changed its name from Mandl to the more Hungarian-sounding Marton about the turn of the twentieth century. Her grandfather was a decorated World War I veteran, but as Marton wryly points out, "Less than thirty years later, his grandsons would not be allowed to wear their country's uniform nor bear arms, but instead were sent off to forced labor on the Russian front." Unlike the nine heroes of this book, Marton's family chose to stay through the Nazi terror. Her grandparents died at the hands of Adolf Eichmann, and she and her parents were eventually hidden by Christian friends.

Whether some or all of these nine men changed the world, as the author suggests, is open to question. Nonetheless, they were certainly outstanding in their fields. Szilard wrote the famous letter, which Einstein signed, alerting President Franklin Roosevelt of the Nazis' formidable efforts to build an atomic bomb. Later, he worked closely with Wigner, Teller, and Von Neumann on the Manhattan Project, America's secret venture to build its own nuclear device. Wigner went on to do research in nuclear physics, and received the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physics for the results of that work. Teller became an advocate for a strong nuclear America and led the research that culminated in our successful detonation of the hydrogen bomb. John von Neumann reinvented himself and became the father of the modern digital computer. Szilard continued his physics research, but became and remained a pacifist the rest of his life. Koestler is best known for his anti-Communist book, Darkness at Noon. Late in life he turned to writing about religion, resulting in a book about the Jewish converts from Khazaria, entitled, The Thirteenth Tribe, and science, including a book on evolution, The Strange Case of the Midwife Toad. Robert Capa set the standard for war-photographic journalism. He covered the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II, the Israeli War for Independence, and the First Indo-Chinese War, called the Viet Nam War after the American army replaced the French. Kertesz became a Conte Nast photographer, but later in life after the rediscovery his personal photographic work by the public, he enjoyed the status of elder statesman of photography. Curtiz directed more than 150 films in both Europe and America. He is best known for the movies Casablanca, White Christmas, and The Adventures of Robin Hood. Better known in England than America, Sir Alexander Korda produced and directed more than 100 films both here and in England. In fact, the British film industry presents an annual "Outstanding British Film of the Year" award in his memory.

While extended biographies exist for each of these persons, the biographies stand alone. This is where Marton's book is of importance. She brings the nine together under the umbrella of their Judaism, Hungarian background, and collective love for Budapest. She provides succinct yet rich biographies in four parts. The first begins at the turn of the twentieth century and their formative years. She progresses in parts two and three to their exploits and contributions, and when appropriate, their interactions with each other. In the last part, she describes the circumstances of their deaths beginning in 1954, when Capa became the first American reporter killed in Viet Nam and continuing to 2003, the year in which Teller died, just six week after receiving the Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.

Marton concludes with an epilogue in which she gives brief biographical information about other persons born and raised in Budapest since the end of World War I; showing that it continues to produce world-changing personas. These including: Imre Kertesz (no relation to Andre Kertesz), who survived Auchwitz as a teenager, and went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2002; Andy Grove the co-founder of Intel, who was born in Budapest in 1936; and financial legend George Soros, who survived World War II by hiding behind the false identity as a Christian.

Marton's biographies are not detailed and her assertion that the heroes changed the world is open to debate, but The Great Escape is a book that should be read if only to understand how the great city of Budapest wove its magic on its Jewish residents in general and these nine protagonists in particular.

When Christ and His Saints Slept
Sharon Kay Penman
Henry Holt and Company
115 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
0805010157 $16.95 646-307-5095

Judy Jacobs

When King Henry I died in 1135 leaving as his heir a woman, it was more than the people of the time were ready for. Maude, Henry's daughter, might have made an exceptional queen. She certainly was not one to shirk at the opportunity to try her hand. She never got the chance. Before Maude could become crowned, her cousin Stephen, with the help from powerful political allies, claimed the throne and was crowned three weeks after Henry I's death. Not one to accept defeat easily, Maude contested his kingship and so began almost twenty years of civil war a time when people said truly that Christ and his Saints slept.

In this lengthy novel (738 pages) the author details those 20 years. We the readers are provided a fantastic foray into the Middle Ages. We get both the historical facts and a first person point of view account of the activities behind the battle fields.

Twenty years is a long time for people to support a civil war. We are made to understand that it might not have gone as long as it did if anyone else but Stephen and Maude had been in command. Stephen had several admirable qualities. He was courageous, generous, and good natured. He was an exceptionally good battle commander, but unfortunately for England he was inept at statecraft. He was never ruthless and hard hearted enough when he needed to be and, time and time again, he would not push his advantage at crucial moments.

Maude had the right to the crown and several loyal supporters. She also never quit trying to claim what was rightfully hers. Even though Stephen was a weak king, wide spread public support was withheld from Maude. "No woman could rule as a man must," was the thinking of the day. As the years passed by, people began to look at who would succeed Stephen. His son Eustace was a man no one liked, so Maude continued to hold onto her supporters until someone acceptable became eligible for the throne. Maude's son Henry was that person. Thus passed twenty years.

Sharon Penman writes with such clarity that the events of that long ago era seem as fresh and compelling as if they were occurring today. She captured all the drama, the joy and the bitterness of those days, and reminded us once again that times change, human characteristics do not. This was a riveting trip into history.

Historical Dictionary of Hong Kong Cinema
Lisa Odham Stokes
Scarecrow Press
The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9780810855205 $99.00

Leslie Halpern

Filmmakers and film fans interested in more than a century of Hong Kong cinema can find what they're looking for in this new reference book. Stokes, a humanities and film professor who also wrote City on Fire: Hong Kong Cinema, includes enough background information to educate newcomers, while also adding plenty of scholarly insight to enlighten devoted film buffs, industry professionals, and even Hong Kong filmmakers.

This extensive reference begins with a chronology that traces the area's history back to its 1841 occupation by the British to the 2005 Hong Kong Entertainment Expo, which brought together eight creative events including the Hong Kong International Film Festival and the Hong Kong Film Awards. A fascinating introduction follows the chronology, in which the movers and shakers in Hong Kong cinema are highlighted, in addition to economic, social, and political factors that influenced filmmaking there over the years.

The bulk of the book, of course, is the dictionary itself, which describes as well as defines the directors, actors, writers, films, production companies, genres, and other significant people, places, and things that surround Hong Kong Cinema. For example, let's say a reader wants to learn more about filmmaker and actor Stephen Chiau, whose recent film Kung Fu Hustle broke box-office records in Hong Kong and enjoyed critical and economic success in the United States. Besides brief mentions in the front matter, his listing under "Chiau" provides his name in various languages, birth date, personal and professional background, a listing of his awards, partial listing of numerous television and film credits, descriptions of his acting/directing style, and insider information about his two big international hits Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle. Readers also learn that he is called "The Chinese Jim Carrey" because of his slapstick and pratfalls. Boldfaced items listed under each dictionary entry (in the case of Stephen Chiau: Tony Leung-wai, Danny Lee, television, Golden Horse Awards, Michael Hui, Ng Man-tat, kung fu, martial arts, and Hong Kong Film Awards) represent cross-references with their own listings.

In the center of the book, a brief section is included with photographs of films and filmmakers cited in the text. Historical Dictionary of Hong Kong Cinema concludes with a bibliography that lists online, magazine, journal, and book sources used in compiling the text.

Stokes writes in the preface that her goal is to provide "a comprehensive and detailed overview of the immense contribution of Hong Kong to film culture." She surely succeeds in this endeavor, as the book will serve fans, filmmakers, and scholars ready to delve into the intricacies and peculiarities of Hong Kong cinema.

My Big Feet
Joan L. Kelly
Bezalel Books
P.O. Box 300427, Waterford, MI 48330
9780979497636 $6.99 248-917-3865

Lisa M. Hendey

My ranking: 5 stars (of 5)

Adolescence can be a tumultuous time in life bodies are changing, minds are developing, and self-consciousness is at an all time high. Kids between the ages of nine and twelve have a tendency to balance precariously on the tightrope between childlike and adult behaviors. Society's role models offer mixed messages for what is truly valuable in this life. That's why, as a parent of a twelve year old son, I am thrilled when a book such as My Big Feet by Joan L. Kelly comes along.

My Big Feet shares the story of Rob Sanderson and his group of friends, a quirky bunch who march to the beat of their own drummer. Rob, a normal kid in every aspect of life except for his monstrously big feet, is the natural leader of the group. His friends are the brilliant one, the horse-obsessed one, the new kid, and others who have been marginalized by the popular kids at school.

"These five eighth graders got along quite well because they did not make demands of each other, and they accepted each other for who they were."

From an early age, with the support and encouragement of his "Grams", Rob learns to accept and embrace his differences. He grows up to become someone who embraces and accepts diversity, with strong self-esteem and a true compassion for others.

My Big Feet is not just a story of acceptance, but also a fun adventure tale. When the new girl Isabel moves into town, Rob and his buddies have the opportunity to become true heroes. Rob's kid sister Bridget, a master of disguises, even gets in on the act. Spies take hostage Isabel and her parents on the eve of Isabel's birthday dance, to which the whole eighth grade class has been invited. Rob and his gang must figure out a way to pool their unique, God-given talents to save the day.

My Big Feet ends with a wonderful twist, which underscores the book's message of embracing each person as a unique individual and following God's calling in each of our lives. First time author and educator Joan L. Kelly shows a true affinity for both storytelling and the ability to slyly deliver a moral. To support the books' mission, Kelly has prepared a comprehensive study guide for teachers wishing to use this book in their classrooms. This guide includes comprehension questions for each chapter, vocabulary words, games, puzzles and more.

I would recommend My Big Feet for readers ages eight through eleven who are interested in a fun adventure tale. Parents and teachers will want to take the opportunity to share discussions with their children and students on the topics of diversity, acceptance of others and facing life's obstacles with courage. I sincerely hope that Joan L. Kelly will share her voice and gifts with young readers again in the future. These are the types of stories we all need to be sharing.

Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop
Vintage Books (A division of Random House)
9781400096978 $13.95

Margaret Andrews

It's not often that a story told from a man's point of view is written by a woman, but Fireworks by Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop never trips up enough in the voice of its main character to make the reader question that fact.

Hollis Clayton is a writer living in the New England town of Baybury, and he's had better summers. With his wife leaving town to "think about things," the recent loss of their young son and his own mother leaving him at an early age, Hollis has justifiable abandonment issues. He is irritably needy. Some readers might feel sorry for him in spite of his extramarital affair and poor professional behavior.

Hollis is lonely, his spirit virtually dead. He has an intimate relationship with Jack Daniel's ("Jack" is mentioned more often than any other character). Perhaps he doesn't bother to contemplate suicide because he doesn't have the time, what with all his obsessions to keep him busy. He is frequently distracted from his own pity party with such activities as binoculared spying on neighbors, fretting over a missing-person billboard, going through attic boxes, and clipping the hedges every day within an inch of their lives.

The story is told in a way that asks us to be interested in the outcome of his marriage but may not be told in a way for us to care. Hollis' wife, Claire, is the least-described character in the book, and we never meet her formally. She will appear in flashbacks, but not enough to fully develop her character. The relationship between Hollis and Claire is not described to evoke the feeling that these two were blissfully happy once and absolutely belong together.

Through first-person narration, we get inside Hollis' head, and get to know him very well. Hollis is very self-disclosing, telling the reader what his quirks are and demonstrating his many compulsions. It is the thoughts that traverse Hollis' brain that give us a rich detail into his personality as well as his overactive imagination.

While most of us may not obsess to the same degree, the details of his thoughts feel unique and original, yet familiar and universal. They are thoughts we've all had but never put them into words ourselves. If you don't empathize with him at first, he may grow on you.

Hollis' life seems hopeless at times, and his behavior often does not help the situations he's in. One of the underlying questions throughout the story is: Who is going to save this poor clod from himself and help him experience something other than loneliness and grief?

We get a much better feel for the other characters in the story than we do his wife. The most engaging moments are the different turning points he experiences with these other characters, including a stray dog. One theme I walk away with is that redemption and the source of the realization that life is worth living and living well can come from unexpected places.

The Lay of the Land
Richard Ford
Vintage Books
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780679776673 $14.95

Michael Frechette

Perhaps it is too late to be reviewing a book that was published almost a year ago; however, when the book seems destined to be in print for many years to come, even after the author has died, such tardiness will be negligible in retrospect. The book at issue here is Richard Ford's most recent publication, The Lay of the Land, the third installment in the series concerning his most celebrated character, Frank Bascombe. Readers were first introduced to this character in The Sportswriter, where Bascombe works surprise, surprise as a sportswriter whose first marriage ended shortly after the death of his nine-year old son. His life during this phase is marked by what he terms "dreaminess" and an insistence that the past is insignificant. The second novel in the trilogy, Independence Day, deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize that year. Here the reader discovers that Bascombe has left sportswriting to pursue a career in real estate. The dreamy period now over, Bascombe has entered the "Existence Period," a time of constant becoming "when we go along more or less self-directed and happy" (94). The novel pointedly satirizes America's paradoxical celebration of independence when so many of its citizens narrator included experience their own daily imprisonments, whether they be economic or emotional.

The Lay of the Land, like its predecessors, centers around a classic American holiday Thanksgiving in the year 2000. The nearly 500 pages encompass only the two days leading up to the holiday and then a portion of the day itself. From the outset, the reader learns that Bascombe is now living through the "Permanent Period," "when you're as nose-down and invisible to yourself as an actualized unchangeable non-becomer" (76). At 55, Bascombe wants to believe that his self-evolution is over and that he can rest easy, knowing that who he is now is how he will be remembered permanently. However, if Bascombe's self truly were unchangeable now and he were invisible to himself, then there would not be a 500-page, first-person narrative of his Thanksgiving holiday.

In the way the second novel pokes holes in the American illusion of independence, The Lay of the Land calls into question the meaning of permanence. Bascombe's business partner, a Tibetan, Buddhist immigrant who has conveniently changed his name to Mike Mahoney, believes that the death of Bascombe's son signifies the impermanence of an ever-changing universe. However, Bascombe himself comes to understand during the novel that what is needed in his life is acceptance, a permanent acceptance of his son's death that will conclude a grieving process that has lasted for twenty years. These competing visions of permanence that the novel sets forth make it difficult for Bascombe to continue holding onto the ideology of the Permanent Period. He realizes that by dividing his life into periods, he has led "a series of lives" and that these "sly ruses and slick tricks played against permanence, not to it" (357). Towards the end of the book, we see a protagonist who wants to accept life in its totality and who will hopefully, if there is a fourth installment, learn to live without the convenience of period labels.

For those readers familiar with the first two Bascombe novels, this third one is even more of a treat since Ford seamlessly reintroduces old familiar faces, places, and plot lines. No longer simply a real estate agent, Frank now owns his own successful business in a small beach community named Sea-Clift at the Jersey shore. That's right Frank Bascombe left Haddam when his conscience could no longer allow him to sell homes whose prices had soared astronomically throughout the nineties. The last ten years of his life have actually been relatively happy, married to Sally Caldwell from Independence Day. However, the reader encounters Bascombe in this new novel at a point when this happiness has been stunted: he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, Sally left him for an ex-husband who was thought to be dead for the last twenty or so years, and his first wife, Ann Dykstra, suddenly wants to reunite. The botched 2000 presidential election is also disheartening for Bascombe, a fierce Democrat. His children now grown have evolved in their own unique directions. Clarissa is a Harvard graduate who has recently given up a life of lesbianism to experiment with heterosexuality. And Paul is as strange as ever, undoubtedly due in part to his broken childhood home and his rocky relationship with his father. As a 27-year old adult, Paul now lives in Kansas City and writes greeting cards for Hallmark, which seems normal enough on the surface. Yet he is socially inept and disturbingly bizarre, a perception only exacerbated when he brings his oddly-dressed, one-handed girlfriend to Thanksgiving dinner.

If there is anything to be lightly criticized, it is that the book can feel long-winded at times. Because there is no escape from Bascombe's first-person point of view, we are forced to ingest everything he sees and thinks, including New Jersey road signs, strip malls, and just the state's general malaise. For readers who are not locals, these sections of the narrative are a bit dull. Yet even they can be partially forgiven since long-windedness is part of Frank Bascombe's loveable character. Furthermore, these drier sections are more than compensated for by Bascombe's lyrically philosophical inner monologue and the novel's heightened points of action. Throughout this two-day period, Bascombe witnesses a demolition with his old friend Wade Arcenault, stumbles upon the scene of a hospital bombing, gets into a fight at a local pub, and holds a meaningful conversation at a raucous lesbian bar. The book is long, but Ford has created a character so compelling and a plotline so spontaneous that one cannot help but continue turning the page.

At this point, Bascombe enthusiasts can only hope that Ford is planning to stretch out the series into a tetralogy in the fashion of Updike's famous Rabbit books. It will be curious to see how Bascombe reacts to a world that has been punctuated by grandiose terrorist attacks (my guess is not much differently). While reading The Lay of the Land, it is difficult not to question why Ford chose to set the book in the midst of the 2000 presidential election, especially when he was most certainly writing the book well after September 11th. The novel even contains an episode of Islamic terror, almost as a foreshadowing to a post 9/11 Bascombe novel. And during one of his sales, a client poses this question to Frank: "Do you imagine, Frank, that anything could happen in this country to make normal just not be possible?" (282). In these instances, it feels like Ford is itching to address what people now call a post-9/11 world through the eyes of his low-intensity, Republican-hating protagonist Frank Bascombe. If so, then a fourth book is potentially on the horizon. An end of life narrative centered around New Year's Day would be a clever, ironic conclusion to a series that has thus far been terrific reading.

Visiting Hours
Christopher WunderLee
Picaro Editions
860 Aviation Parkway, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780615157436 $8.95

Miyo Baird

Comical and deeply ironic, raucously inventive, provocatively wicked, this collection of short stories, structurally broad, is intentionally confined to an asylum of sorts. The eight stories each represent access during "Visiting Hours" to what can easily be described as the tales of those whom belong there and no where else.

Asylum is both a place of refuge, and the location of confinement for those we have deemed unfit for society. Both are secretive, inaccessible and conjure forth visions of dark, cloistered places where death hides in corner shadows. Quasimodo receiving sanctuary within the Gothic cathedral Notre Dame and straightjacketed nutsos screaming about voices only they can hear.

From the perspective of literature, this dichotomy is fostered in the details. Just as penitentiary comes from penance (to atone), asylum has been subverted to mean something starkly different from its original connotation. However, there remains even in the subversion, I kernel of the original meaning. An insane asylum is a refuge for the mentally ill.

This theme of reversal, of ideas becoming their opposite (or near opposite) is central to Wunderlee's collection. "Killer Martin" features a main character who reverses the purpose of an activist from a do-gooder trying to save the world to an activist attempting to promote and propagate its demise, any way he can. Martin dents cans to cause botulism, keeps guns in the most likely places for children to find them, hands out faulty condoms to prostitutes, among other things, all because he believes "they were committing deliberate suicide and it was beautiful" and "Martin wanted to contribute". Of course, the character finally commits to the ultimate of sins against society, becoming a celebrity stalker. But, even there, what should happen is tossed on its head.

Similarly, in "The Pancake of Bryant Park", it's not the Virgin Mary or Jesus who appears to a young couple as some wonder, but the image of the devil in the unlikely place of a pancake, and the temptation to make a quick buck off the miracle reveals a conflict of interest that is deeply comical and correspondingly profound. In "The Creature the World Loved", the story begins that "Pretty much everything made sense once Nessie was captured"; however, the discovery and capture of the Loch Ness Monster turns out to have nothing but a negative effect and rather, promotes division amongst special interest groups who, rather than work to aid the mythical creature, do more to promote their own agendas. A satire that would have made the late Kurt Vonnegut grin, the tale is laugh out loud funny and so littered with references to current events, you can't escape its message something absurd (like a Modest Proposal) often reveals the truth better than anything else.

At the same time, Visiting Hours does provide access to sanctuaries. Where else could one meet and read an interview with the 'voice' of Howl as if he is a real, living entity in semi-retirement, feeling guilty about his relationship with Ginsberg towards the end of the poet's life? Here there is stark honesty, where artificial memoirists ("The Cock and The Bull") can confess their artificial lives openly and fully, and phantom editors will correct these claims with subtle footnotes that pretty much indicate the story is complete fiction. No one has responded to the recent wave of fraudulent memoirs like this.

The collection is like a visitation, where every room's story becomes successfully stranger. There are those formal narratives, Hemingwayish, but with an underlying drollness. "The Liberation of Walter Pyne", about a successful artist who becomes more successful the less he actually produces artwork himself (he invents a machine to paint for him), is linear; however, ironic passages presage another aspect to the tale, sharing that the narrator has more in store for the main character than what first appears. Meanwhile, in "Mike Goes Door-to-Door", the protagonist mysteriously knocks on random doors for some unexplained purpose and his absurd misadventures foreshadow an ominous conclusion so creepy, the sudden meaning is Hitchcockian.

But even with the linear plots, there are Wunderlee's signature lines, loaded sentences, unexpected adjectives, surprising descriptions and careful metaphors. Like The Loony before it, Visiting Hours has more than a few moments of wonder. Here we have, "muted eyes on the busy screen pleading for acceptance, for comfort, for love, for a response, for something, as she crossed on hardwood caught within his hushed gaze," and "There she was, all in ivory and gawkingly sublime, strutting down the aisle towards him with a bouquet and no father, the perfect fixture for his elbow".

I'm sure others will provide lists of perfect names to compare him to. There will be those that say, this story is his Delillo, or his Pynchon, or his Hawkes. This one is reminiscent of O. Henry or this one echoes Nabakov. Some will say, here is more hysterical realism from another hysterical author seeking prestige and awards. But none will be able to say, this is who he is, who he should be compared to, which is the objective of any collection of fiction, to show-off an author's range. Wunderlee remains Wunderlee in Visiting Hours throughout, while at the same time, sharing an array of voices, offering something unique to the details of literature. As the very last line of the collection says, "He wants to contribute, to do his part".

Redeeming the Time
Russell Kirk & Jeffrey O. Nelson
ISI Books
PO Box 4431, Wilmington, DE 19807-0431
9781882926213 $24.95 1-800-526-7022

Dr. Pedro Blas Gonzalez

Russell Kirk (1918-1994) is the consummate man of letters. While this description may be out of favor today, the timeless truths that he reminds us of remain universal in depth and scope. A truly gifted thinker, essayist, and novelist, his work possesses a degree of insight that is only afforded to the best thinkers. Russell Kirk's social-political thought serves as a measured model of moderation and intellectual discretion in a time of rational, cultural, and moral dissolution.

Redeeming the Time is a collection of essays, lively lectures that he delivered between 1980 and 1994. As such, the topics that he addresses are timely and pressing concerns for us in the first decade of the twenty first century. Yet what is immediately striking about Kirk's writing is the freshness and integrity that informs it. In his essays the reader does not encounter the staple, fashionable social-political cliches, and the seemingly necessary reductionism so prevalent today of narrowing all aspects of human existence to a political greatest common denominator.

Not being a philosophical materialist or a secular "progressive," Kirk's thought is instead free to explore the metaphysical and existential categories, and essences that undeniably inform human life. These, he tells us, are the forces that run the human world.

Redeeming the Time tries to safeguard the best aspects of liberty and democracy, high culture and the freedom that comes with genuine thinking, while signaling out the tragic pitfalls that await a world that has done away with the aforementioned. The twenty two essays that comprise this work of humanism are rooted in the very best tradition that the Greco-Christian west has to offer. This allows for a formidable uniformity and clarity of thought.

The essays in this collection engage the reader in topics that range from "Civilization without Religion," "The Perversity in Recent Fiction," and "Humane Learning in the Age of the Computer" to "The Degradation of Democratic Dogma." In "America's Augustan Age?" Kirk tackles the devastation that has taken place in American education since the 1960's. He writes: "For thirty years I wrote in magazines and newspapers about American education at various levels; at the end of that time, I diminished my task in disgust, being convinced that I had accomplished next to nothing: schooling of every sort had grown steadily worse, as the decades passed." In that essay Kirk goes on to cite some of the reasons for this cultural debacle, not least which, he argues, is the politicization of education.

His concluding remarks in a chapter entitled, "The Wise Men Know What Wicked Things Are Written on the Sky" alerts us to the reality that culture and civilization are a struggle to create and a hazard to maintain vital and healthy. Making use of noble ideas like virtue and wisdom, he plots the course of a viable future by offering a primer on the noble ideas that are responsible for the historical sustainability of western civilization. His closing remarks seem appropriate for all time: "If we stifle the sense of wonder, no wonders will occur amongst us The computerized intellect of the Knowledge Class would deny us wonder; it would deny us fruitful speculation."

Survival Op: The Fear in the Wilderness
Scott Allen
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, Nebraska 68512
9780595420629 $12.95

Peggy Tibbetts

Survivor meets Fear Factor in this edge-of-your seat thriller. But this is not a reality TV show or videogame. It's a hair-raising adventure teens will devour.

Thirteen-year old Marcus1125 and Lynn312 have been dropped off on a wilderness island in the Bermuda Triangle. They know they are part of a secret government experiment known as SURVIVAL OP. They have been abducted and implanted with microchips to monitor how their bodies react to the survival experience so that military researchers can better prepare soldiers.

Filled with fear and dread at their harsh environment, they must seek food, shelter, and weapons or die trying. In their struggle to survive they form a bond of mutual respect and friendship. The odds of their survival appear slim at best. Yet they gradually emerge from their protective shells and egg each other on as they realize their troubled backgrounds have provided them with the skills they need to survive. Together they must overcome their fear of snakes to clear out a cave they aptly name Snakefire. They quickly graduate from a diet of Bursting Berries to fish, then a boar, thanks to Lynn's keen hunting ability.

As the cruel wilderness becomes their home, a steady stream of government agents intrudes upon them, leading them to the conclusion that they will be eliminated once they have served their purpose. Their daily struggle for food turns into battle to kill their pursuers or be killed. To complicate matters further they discover they are being watched by a monstrous creature known only as Target Astray.

After a tragic turn of events, Marcus's rage transforms him from a skilled survivalist into a killing machine. Author Scott Allen creates an interesting juxtaposition between the deep dependence and human kindness the teens show toward one another and the escalating violence toward their enemies.

A troublesome POV switch in Chapter 14 and stilted dialogue detracts from an otherwise compelling tale of revenge and self-discovery.

This first book in the Survival Op series will definitely leave readers begging for more.

The Secret Book of God
Richard Lance Williams
Dalton Publishing
P.O. Box 242, Austin TX 78767
9780974070346 $14.95

Robert Stikmanz

A common practice among poets assembling collections is to gather individual poems that are "ready," then jigsaw them together to make a book. It is even likely that every collection involves this method to a greater or lesser extent. Not every collection, however, reads like it. Richard Lance Williams' the secret book of god is among these latter, an album or folio with the coherence of a single, integrated work. The vision throughout is fluid yet consistent, carried by language both evocative and exploratory:

"your eyes sadder than the painted box shaped like a bird of paradise
filled with your bobby pins & the feathers you brought me"
[from "the reincarnation of moments"]

In fact, vision is the matrix that unifies this work. Poems unfold one after another without overt thematic arrangements. Line lengths vary from short to long and back, and move around the page with just sufficient artifice to show the visual effect is intentional. Shifting person from "I" to "you" to "he" to "she" to "we," the result is, as one might expect, a medley of encounters. The effect, though, is not one of fragmentation, but of sixty simultaneous perspectives that, taken together, compile depth and breadth from the poet's world:

"(how memory breathes beside you like an endless wall every life
a life in parallel: your ghosts throbbing like a nerve code)"
[from "the horizon beside you"]

Ultimately, the secret book of god is, as the title suggests, testamentary. The poet witnesses Truth in a hand cupping a breast, touching a corpse, pointing out wonders to a child or playing with knives. It is a posture Williams affirms throughout, even in his closing words:

"I'll be right here
a hand falling
gently away


[from "having been seen"]

Gullah, The Nawleans Cat Meets Katrina
Author, Nancy H. Murray
Illustrator, Sandy L. Ford
Hart Street Publications
9780979363702 $12.95

Robyn Gioia

Gullah the cat had no idea what kind of havoc a hurricane could bring. In fact, he didn't even listen when his mother warned him the family was leaving and the cats would be left behind in the house. And mother specifically said don't go out that night. But go out he did, straight to Pirate's Alley.

"The little cat hadn't gone very far before he sensed something was not quite right. No Music. There was no music in New Orleans. No jazz, nobody singin' the blues. Now, that was strange. There was always music in New Orleans and Gullah loved to sing along."

That was when things started happening. The rain came down in sheets, the wind roared in anger, and things started flying up off the ground. Katrina in her full force was upon them. From there, Gullah experiences the hopelessness of a devastating storm and the ray of light that comes with hope. The story telling is expressive and engaging and will easily interest young children. Full page, full color, eye-catching, kid-friendly paintings add to Gullah's heart warming journey. The artist, having experienced Katrina first hand, drew all sixteen illustrations from inside a FEMA travel trailer. Author, Nancy Murray is to be commended for taking such a tragic episode in American history and presenting it in a gentle but meaningful way for young readers. Paperback picturebook, intended for ages 3-8.

The Culture Wars of the Late Renaissance: Skeptics, Libertines, and Opera
Edward Muir
Harvard University Press
79 Garden St., Cambridge, MA 02138
9780674024816 $24.95 800-405-1619

Rose Rankin

The culture wars currently seething in America expose the struggle between different reactions to modern advancements and predicaments. The bitter partisanship that divides people over social issues reflects divergent approaches to dealing with the impact of new discoveries and ideas upon society. But the current culture wars aren't a phenomenon unique to the late-twentieth or early-twenty-first centuries. Edward Muir's book, The Culture Wars of the Late Renaissance, shows that our society is not the first to battle within itself over questions about philosophy, traditions, and social roles.

This book is essentially three long essays, each examining a particular aspect of the culture wars of late-Renaissance Venice. "The Skeptics," the first essay, describes the philosophical differences between the Jesuits and the scholars of the University of Padua, which was in Venetian territory and answered to the city's government. Although Galileo was conducting controversial experiments at the university in the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries, Muir focuses on his colleague, Cesare Cremonini, who was loathed by the Inquisition as much as the famous astronomer.

Cremonini, a professor of Aristotelian philosophy, raised the hackles of the religious establishment because he seemed to deny the immortality of the soul. This belief had been officially confirmed as a tenet of Church doctrine in 1513. Such a difference of philosophical interpretation, which may seem insignificant to modern people, in fact opened a veritable Pandora's box of philosophical skepticism and relativism that the Jesuits not only rejected but reviled.

The Jesuits responded by opening their own school in Venetian territory, but clashes, both physical and philosophical, helped pave the way for the Jesuits' expulsion from Venetian territory in 1606. Muir acknowledges how political tensions between Rome and Venice also influenced this, and the schools became almost proxies in a war of wills between the Venetian state and its university and the pope and his Society of Jesus.

In the end, a culture war developed over philosophy. The Jesuits advocated the existence of fundamental truth and the value of traditionally ethical behavior, and the university scholars supported skepticism, multiple modes of inquiry, and personal fulfillment. Muir connects this to current times with the following summary: "Then as now, the bastion of the first approach was the Church, and the bastion of the second the university; and the objective of both was to conquer the minds of youth."

The second essay, "The Libertines," focuses on members of the Accademia degli Incogniti (Academy of the Unknowns), who debated and published works about heterodox and often scandalous topics. Muir discusses particularly influential intellectuals and writings, such as Ferrante Pallavicino and his book, The Rhetoric of Whores, and Arcangela Tarabotti and her vitriolic manuscript, Convent Life as Hell. The former savagely satirized Jesuit education (which still thrived outside of Venetian territory) while the latter decried the practice of forcing noble daughters into convents against their will. Muir uses these and other examples to show how the Incogniti pushed the boundaries of social critique and continued the legacy of Cremonini's skepticism essentially waging a culture war in writing about differing worldviews and social conventions.

But he presents this group's fundamental flaw as well by stating, "For all their free-spirited ideas, the Incogniti were hardly revolutionaries. No matter how much they rebelled against the dogmas of the Church, they failed to imagine an alternative society or to embrace an ideology of progress, as would the Enlightenment thinkers ." This analysis both skillful and honest; it shows his thorough understanding of the historical location this important yet fleeting group and suggests why it didn't have a broader impact.

"The Librettists" continues the themes already developed by describing the ways in which opera critiqued society. Muir shows how opera libretti written by members of the Incogniti, such as L'Incoronazione di Poppea in 1642, challenged social conventions including the increasingly rigid marriage market that forced women like Tarabotti into convents. These performances, and the bawdy behavior that took place in the opera boxes, allowed a release from the highly structured society of late-Renaissance Venice, especially since opera season took place during Carnival.

Muir also points out the differences between Jesuit and secular opera, namely the former's use of religious themes and banning of women on and offstage. But the return of the Jesuits to Venetian territory in 1657 ended the creative freedom of secular opera, as the Jesuits won this culture war. "The consequences for the operatic stage were soon felt, as a more conservative cultural atmosphere made impresarios cautious," Muir explains. But the libertines triumphed after all; their style spread across Europe and still lasts today.

While this book presents a fascinating look at Venetian society in the late Renaissance, and it will certainly educate and enlighten casual readers, it is definitely suited to historical specialists both in its content and organization. For example, Muir assumes readers' knowledge of specialized terms like "Guelf" and "Ghibelline" (medieval Italian socio-political factions). The long essays that comprise the chapters are continuous text, which is common practice in academic historical writing, but the lack of headings and signposts in the text could make it challenging for unaccustomed readers to follow shifts in focus.

Renaissance scholars will therefore find that this book not only explores intriguing aspects of late-Renaissance society, but it skillfully presents the nuances of these culture wars. Muir doesn't distinguish between "good" and "bad" or present each side in black and white. "It would be a mistake to see one side as more "modern," more forward-looking than the other," he cautions. His adept analyses and prodigious use primary and secondary sources make this book a valuable addition to the body of Renaissance scholarship. It might be highly specialized, but this book's demonstration of the existence of past culture wars over ideas and issues very similar to those of our own times is an important lesson.

Drama Club: The Big Production
Peter Lerangis
Penguin Group
345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780142408872 $7.99

Terrilyn Fleming

The Big Production, by Peter Lerangis, is the second book in the Drama Club series. Washington D. C.'s Ridgeport High School is an ordinary public school with an extraordinary history of theatrical productions. As the students prepare to perform Grease, their spring musical, junior Brianna goes from motivated good girl to an overachiever relying on uppers and downers to get her through her jam-packed days.

There is the usual cast of drama students within the main plot: the diva, the tech geek, the reluctant performer, the jock who can act, the homosexual, and the student director. The multi-narrators' points of view stay very true to teen language including instant messaging between various characters. The drug use subplot has very little explicit use most shows the effects of the drugs on Brianna (short temper, shaking hands, confusion and delirium). Another main character, nice boy Harrison, deals with his racist, homophobic, Greek father providing a father-son strained relationship as another sub-plot.

Unlike similar novels (such as the Drama! series by Paul Ruditis), the theatrical aspect of the book isn't too technical, and in fact provides much of the drama and hilarity. Case in point is stage manager Charles' reaction to opening night:

"By opening curtain, Charles wanted to kill Gabe for adding a motor to the car, which went off all by itself as the cast were taking their places.

By the first musical number, he wanted to kill the cast.

By the start of the second act, he wanted to kill himself.

These were excellent signs.

The wish for mass murder, he had come to realize, was healthy in the theater, as long as one refrained from the accomplishment thereof" (214).

The Big Production would be enjoyed by many students grades 7 and up, not just those interested in drama.

The Beautiful Miscellaneous
Dominic Smith
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas , New York, NY 10020
9780743271233 $24.00

Zinta Aistars

I've had my eye on the rising literary star of Dominic Smith since he debuted with "The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre" in 2006, and when his new novel appeared on the bookshelf, I didn't walk to the bookstore... I ran. The star shines still.

"The Beautiful Miscellaneous" is the story of a boy whose father is a physicist, a genius of science, forever frustrated with his sharp but not quite genius son. Can a car accident and a coma make a father happy? Well, in this case, it gives him hope of having that prodigy child he's wanted all along. When young Nathan comes out of his coma, he finds his brain injury has actually caused a condition called synesthesia, the ability to perceive words with several senses at once, not only hearing them, but also tasting and seeing them in varied colors. Alongside this interesting linguistic ability, Nathan has also developed a prodigious memory. Newly hopeful, his father sends him to the Brook-Mills Institute for Talent Development, where he meets a collection of off-the-wall young characters, each with their own area of talent or skill.

A sense of tension weaves throughout the story, as Nathan is caught between his desire to be accepted as he is, a mostly average kid, and wanting to please his father, surely the smartest man he's ever known. Yet technical intelligence is one thing, and an emotional and social intelligence quite another. A scene of father taking his son for a "special treat" on his birthday, ending in a trip to an accelerator, perhaps heaven for a physicist, but a sore disappointment for a kid who can't help daydreaming about the normalcy of an amusement park is almost unbearable in its disconnect between these two. Such are father-son relationships, too often, a balance between expectations and acceptance, the wish to impress, the falling short, and the final moment of truth, when one learns to love another human being in all their varied quirks and skill sets and idiosyncrasies, a blend of light and shadow, strengths and weaknesses.

An example of Smith's rich writing and storytelling appears in the developing not-quite relationship between Nathan and Teresa, another resident of the school for the oddly talented. Not quite a love story, it is more the hormonal rush of two adolescents who perhaps find a wary, somewhat bored acceptance in each other they cannot find in the world of the "normals" outside. Neither is mature enough for love, but their hormones drive them to explore the cautious boundaries of first lust, careful to never show each other the vulnerability that leads to a more mature intimacy until much later in the book, when Teresa asks older Nathan, "Do you ever still think about kissing me?"

Writes Smith: "I sat close to her on the floor, our knees touching. She took my hand and placed it on the top of her stomach; my wrist brushed her bra support, a plastic rib that later I would tell Toby was the 'the edge of the known world.' For a moment I was lost, dislocated. Oddly I thought about my father and Whit, about men. Why had no one mentioned this? Surely they had experienced this one moment of confined bliss, been forced into a submissive silence--sinners now in church. Whit spinning in space, my father peering into an electron microscope the way an astronomer stares at distant planets and hydrous stars, men continuing their lives but surely living for this unbridled moment... a genius or prodigy in love or lust laid himself bare, like a castle in ruins."

From such ruins rise new and wonderful connections, the intimacy of two persons baring skin and souls as much of a miracle, or more, than a physicist exploding electrons. The mind stretches often in the most daily human activities. When the ruins are the walls that keep two apart, their dust is the nutrient on which new relationships are built. Smith's mastery in capturing such miracles is what gives his writing, too, color, taste, and a scent for more such great stories to come.

Bethany's Bookshelf

Journey From Frog Creek
Valerie Guimaraes
Booksurge LLC
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419647215, $14.99

The debut novel of registered nurse Valerie Guimaraes, Journey From Frog Creek is the story of a young bride, only seventeen years old who runs away from her violent husband along with her three-year-old son. Haunted by nightmares and memories of her abusive childhood, she finds temporary solace in the home of a Sula, a motherly figure in a neighboring town, but her plans are dashed when her husband's dead body is discovered by a creek. The police have only her as a suspect. A heartbreaking yet ultimately profound story about the power of spiritual beliefs to lend hope in the darkest of times, that parallels a young woman's life journey with the deliverance of the children of Israel.

Cooking Your Way To Romance
Carl R. Wendtland
Cats Curious Press
5312 Dillon Circle, Fort Worth, TX 76137
9780979088919, $17.99

Illustrations by Lanny Liu nicely enhance the commentary and recipes of Carl R. Wendtland in "Cooking Your Way To Romance", a thoroughly 'user friendly' collection of easy, delicious, elegant dishes suitable for any romantically inclined dining occasion from a first date to a 50th anniversary celebration. The twist is that these are recipe instructions designed to be carried out for men! Of special note are the 'Wine Selection' section about the basics of choosing and serving an appropriate beverage, and the 'Glossary of Terms' for guys unfamiliar with kitchen jargon. "Cooking Your Way To Romance" takes even the most novice aspiring chef through each recipe step-by-step in a readily accessible manner which insures success for ever dish, ever time. "Cooking Your Way To Romance" is the perfect do-it-yourself cookbook for guys wanting to impress the gals in their life!

Restless Spirit
K. Decker
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781424159383, $19.95

Restless Spirit is the story of a widow grief-stricken by the all-too-early death of her young husband. At first she agrees to move in with her mother, but as her depression deepens, she feels the uncomfortably close eyes of her family watching her, even as she struggles against despair. Then, a real estate ad in the morning paper catches her attention: she discovers an old farm hidden in a rural river valley area, over sixty miles away from her family. It is here in the valley's quiet peace that she must confront the pain of her own loss head-on - and unexpectedly discovers a connection with the warmth and love she thought were lost to her forever. A heart-touching and gentle novel.

Your Heart Needs the Mediterranean Diet
Emilia Klapp, R.D., B.S.
Preventive Nutrition Press
PO Box 1227, So. Pasadena, CA 91031
9780979126031, $18.95

Registered dietician Emilia Klapp presents Your Heart Needs the Mediterranean Diet: Learn How Mediterraneans Have Kept a Healthy Heart for Centuries, a guide to healthy and mirthful culinary lifestyle of southern Europe and how the reader can adapt it to better improve his or her cardiac health. Written in an easy-to-follow dialogue format between a fictional heart-risk patient and a registered dietician, Your Heart Needs the Mediterranean Diet covers the benefits of physical activity, the sinister connection between high blood pressure and processed foods, why fruits and vegetables are the heart's best friends, the value of tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic, and much more. Sample recipes dot this invaluable, reader-friendly guide to improving one's culinary habits, health, and overall quality of life.

Storytime Stretchers
Naomi Baltuck
August House Inc.
3500 Piedmont Road NE, Suite 310, Atlanta, GA 30305
9780874838046, $24.95 1-800-284-8784

Storytime Stretchers: Tongue Twisters, Choruses, Games, and Charades is a resource packed cover to cover with "two-minute miracles" ideal for working with children from preschool to high school age. Collected from author Naomi Baltuck's own childhood, as well as from other storytellers, and children themselves, these delightful rhymes, tunes, call-and-response chants, and simple games are highly recommended for use anywhere children gather, from family occasions to Scout meetings to keeping young minds awake and alert at school. "Tree Toad Trials": A tree toad loved a she-toad / that lived up in a tree. / She was a three-toed tree toad, / but a two-toed toad was he. / The two-toed toad tried to win / the she-toad's friendly nod, / for the two-toed toad loved the ground / on which the three-toed toad trod. / But no matter how the two-toed toad tried, / he could not please her whim. / In her tree-toad bower, / with her three-toed power, / the she-toad vetoed him.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

In Pursuit of Business
Peter Wallin
Word Association Publishers
205 Fifth Avenue, Tarentum, PE 15084
9781595711793, $19.95

Experienced sales and management professional Peter Wallin presents In Pursuit of Business: Sell More, Grow More, Earn More... Live More is a guide to the fine arts of relationship-building and networking in pursuit of a healthier bottom line in business. Written in plain terms, chapters teach the reader how to create relationships that generate referrals, apply the seven habits of successful marketers, improve leadership and management skills, and much more. "A good working board should have at least five members, perhaps more if you feel the need. Be sure to create an annual calendar of meeting dates and try to meet at least four times per year. Always have a written agenda, send meeting notices as well as minutes of previous meetings. This keeps your system organized and professional - and helps you make the most of your board." Highly recommended as a supplementary guide for business owners and anyone pursuing a business career, especially in networking-dependent fields.

Say It Better in English
Marianna Pascal
Language Success Press
2232 S. Main Street, #345, Ann Arbor, MI 48103
9780972530088, $24.95

ESL teacher Marianna Pascal presents Say It Better in English: Useful Phrases for Work & Everyday Life, a supplementary self-study guide for anyone learning English as a second language. Say It Better in English offers more than 300 American English phrases commonly used at work, on the phone, at the store, or with friends and co-workers. Each phrase has a straightforward definition, has two different sentences using the phrase in context, and an illuminating black-and-white cartoon showing the phrase in action. For example, the phrase "in a row" has the definition "one thing directly after another thing" and a cartoon of a man saying "You were late 3 days last week, and 3 days in a row this week," while pointing to a calendar with three consecutive days marked. Simple crossword puzzles to help the reader practice their new vocabulary round out this invaluable guide to adopting and understanding fluent American English speech patterns.

Don Seiden
Fisheye Graphic Services, Inc.
5443 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640
9781424306244, $15.00

Artists, art educator, and art therapy trailblazer Don Seiden presents his own biography in a most unusual format in Artobiography. Artobiography is neither a typical written book nor a typical graphic novel; each page is divided into three or four sections, and each section features a black-and-white sketch of a scene from Seiden's life, with a brief yet appropriate caption written in cursive longhand. "Rush Hospital had a reputation as an elitist institution surrounded by a poor black community. The Department of Psychiatry asked me to design an art program for disadvantaged children using our facilities. I worked with 'Hats' Adams, a gang worker and we opened an exciting new program called 'Mile Square' art experience." An extraordinary life story, highly recommended.

Brotherhood of the Fin
Gerald R. Hoover
610 East Delano Street, Suite 104, Tucson, AZ 85705
9781587367441, $15.95

Former Coast Guard rescue swimmer Gerald R. Hoover presents his own biography in Brotherhood of the Fin: A Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer's Story. Harrowing life-and-death decisions and endurance-testing rescue missions formed a part of his life and his dedication to saving those in desperate need. In his long career, he racked up more deployments than any other rescue swimmer in the history of the program; his final mission was to serve as part of the search and rescue mission to aid those victimized by the national disaster that was Hurricane Katrina. An absorbing, straight-talk tale of real life adventure and heroically selfless dedication.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

My Job Sucks and I Can't Take it Anymore! Help!
John L. White
Everlove and Bohannon Publishing
PO Box 7411, Wesley Chapel, FL
9780974068794, $18.95

My Job Sucks and I Can't Take it Anymore! Help!: The Real-Life Job Survival Guide is a no-nonsense resource for anyone and everyone who hates their corporate job. Chapters discuss how to cope with globalization, how to rise above corporate B.S., survive a layoff, work a reasonable schedule instead of 12+ hours a day, and much more. "Even thought companies may publicly state things like 'work-life balance', many of them secretly want employees who will put the company's interests before their own. By the same token, do what you need to do for yourself or your family, but don't broadcast it. Your motivations and desires are no one's business but your own." Highly recommended, especially in today's modern workforce when corporations can no longer be expected to "take care of" anything other than their own profits, let alone their workers.

Phillip W. Stewart
PMS Press
PO Box 1496, Crestview, FL 32536
9780979324321, $24.95

Knowledgeably compiled and deftly edited by Phillip W. Stewart (a retired U.S. Air force Lt. Colonel who for more than thirty years has been a film consultant, video producer, television director, multi-media manager, and published author), "Battlefilm: U.S. Army Signal Corps Motion Pictures Of The Great War" details 467 film titles covering America's involvement in World War I. A seminal work of exhaustive research characterized by a logical layout and an extensive index, "Battlefilm" is a superbly designed catalog of the WWI era documentary films in Record Group 111 stored at the US National Archives and specifically designed to help researchers, authors, and documentary film makers to find films and scenes they need. In addition to academic library Military History and Film Studies reference collections, "Battlefilm" is confidently recommended as an indispensable reference work for historians, media researchers, documentary produces, film students, and authors working on fiction as well as non-fiction works about American involvement in World War I.

Hitler's Judas
Tom Lewis
VP Publishing, LLC
PO Box 4623, rocky Mount, NC 27803
MM Book Publicity (publicity)
2817 West End Avenue, Suite 126-274, Nashville, TN 37203
9780970579362, $14.95

It's when Adolph Hitler decided to invade the behemoth that was the Soviet Union that his trusted subordinated, Martin Bormann, knew that the Nazi's vaunted Third Reich was doomed to failure and defeat. That's when Bormann carefully laid his own plans to escape the looming disaster -- and taken an enormous amount of wealth with him to finance an opulent live style for the rest of his life. When the time came, Bormann smuggled both himself and 50 million in gold -- looted by the Nazi's from across the map of Europe. But instead of fleeing to sanctuary in Argentina as so many of his far-sighted colleagues did, Bormann wound up on Pea Island, an isolated strip of sand north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. In "Hitler's Judas", novelist Tom Lewis has written a plausible novel of suspense, lacing it with historical detail and an inherently fascinating cast of memorable characters and capping it off with a compelling ending. An appropriate acquisition selection for community library fiction collections, "Hitler's Judas" is deftly written, consistently satisfying and highly recommended reading.

Saber: Mad Society
Roger Gastman, editor
Gingko Press
5768 Paradise Drive, Suite J, Corte Madera, CA 94925
9781584232810, $29.95

With an informative text co-authored by Caleb Neelon and 'Zio', "Saber: Mad Society" is a collection showcasing graffiti wall-art as compiled and edited by Roger Gastman. Examples are taken from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and elsewhere to exemplify the style, placement and proliferation of this unique and often transitory artwork which ranges from the simple to the complex, and from the amateur to the professional. The patterns, colors, images depicted in these examples are truly impressive. The commentary provided is truly informative. Combined, they make "Saber: Mad Society" a seminal contribution to American Art History and inclusion into academic library and university art department reference collections.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Portable And Prefabricated Houses Of The Thirties
Paul H. Tedesco & James B. Tedesco
JBT Publishing
1485 Christina Lane, Lake Forest, IL 60045
9780979205910, $19.95

In the latter half of the 19th century and their first half of the 20th century the prefabricated house was created, perfected, and increasingly popular for both its ease and rapidity of construction, uniformity of quality and predictability, as well as its relative inexpensiveness when compared with traditional home construction. The E. F. Hodgson Company of Dover, Massachusetts was one of a number of companies specializing in mail-order catalogs to advertise and sell sectional and ready-cut houses throughout the United States. "Portable And Prefabricated Houses Of The Thirties" is a photomechanically reproduction of the E. F. Hodgson prefabricated housing catalogs for 1935 and 1939. A superbly reproduced and unabridged reprint, this catalog showcases the floor plans and blueprints, as well as providing black-and-white photographs of the completed structures. A seminal contribution to the history of American architecture, "Portable And Prefabricated Houses Of The Thirties" is an essential and very strongly recommended addition to professional and academic library Architectural Studies reference collections.

The Landscape Diaries
Gayatri Carole Rocherolle
Ruder Finn Press
3047 High Ridge Road, Stamford, CT 06903
9781932646382, $24.95

Beautifully illustrated throughout with 115 pages of truly impressive color photography, "The Landscape Diaries: Garden Of Obsession" by Gayatri Carole Rocherolle combines 18 pages of preliminary material with 172 pages of engaging and informative text showcasing a personal memoir of a woman and her husband's twenty-year focus on the development of the Steinhardt Gardens in Bedford, New York --private garden comprising 54-acres of land that includes ponds, bridges, 400 cultivars of lovely Japanese Maples, exotic animals, and more. Through a series of wonderfully written vignettes, "The Landscape Diaries" reveals what it was like for Carole to runaway to Europe at the age of twenty to marry the man who would become her husband, meeting her French relatives for the first time, selling plants from a deli parking lot, starting a business, developing a fascination with bonsai, going through an unintentional quarantined plant scare. "The Landscape Diaries" is a personal autobiography that is especially recommended to the attention of gardeners, landscapers, and anyone who has aspired to create a horticultural wonderland of their own.

The Life-Transforming Diet
David J. Zulberg
Feldheim Publishers
208 Airport Executive Park, Nanuet, NY 10954
Stuart Schnee PR (publicity)
10 Haportzim Street, Jerusalem, Israel,
9781583309414, $24.99

Based on health and psychological principles of the Medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides and other classical sources, "The Life-Transforming Diet by David J. Zulberg also incorporates contemporary health and nutritional principles from modern medicine. Zulberg presents a gradual, step-by-step implementation of dieting that does not require the trauma of 'going cold turkey' in terms of altering food consumption. Providing practical and applicable insights into how bad habits are formed, and presenting 'user friendly' tips for replacing them with good eating and health inducing habits, "The Life-Transforming Diet" includes a well-rounded exercise program that is economical, simple, quick and easy. Of special note is a 'Do-It-Yourself' support system that can be conveniently accomplished every day in only minutes. "The Life-Transforming Diet" also addresses the need for a realistic maintenance program so that the health and excess weight goals once achieved, do not regress. Especially appropriate and strongly recommended for those seeking to remain kosher while addressing their dietary needs, "The Life-Transforming Diet" has been approved by rabbis, doctors nutritionists.

Team Chihuly
Dale Chihuly
Portland Press
PO Box 70856, Seattle, WA 98127
9781576841631, $50.00

"Team Chihuly" is a photographic presentation of the renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly and his relationship to his team of glassblowers from the present day and going back to the 1960s. enhanced with contributions from more than fifty artists, "Team Chihuly" photographically documents in full color the relationship and development between master glassblower Dale Chihuly and such other respected artists as Dante Marioni, Benjamin More, William Morris, and Richard Royal, as well as the Italian master glass artists Pino Signoretto and Lino Tagliapietra. For more than 40 years now, Dale Chihuly has made significant contributions to the evolution of studio glass making from that of a solitary artist to the development of collaborative teams and a division of labor within the creative process. His work has been exhibited in museums, and site-specific public sculptures are to be found in major cities around the world ranging from the Royal Botanic Gardens in London to the New York Botanical Garden. "Team Chihuly" provides a wealth of insight into his work and his contributions to the glass art making community worldwide. Also very highly recommended for personal, professional, and academic library Art History collections is an early work from Portland Press, "Fire: Dale Chihuly".

Michael J. Carson

Christina's Bookshelf

Whale Song
Cheryl Kaye Tardif
Kunati Inc.
6901 Bryan Dairy Rd., Suite 150, Largo, FL 33777
1601640072 $12.95

We try to make sense of our world. A logical explanation often provides some comfort, however, this is not always the case. Our brain may not find needed answers, but the heart may. Sometimes it is the illogical, the unexplained that guides us through. This is how it is with eleven-year-old Sarah.

Sarah tried to adapt to her parent's decision to move from Wyoming to Vancouver Island, Canada, and did. Her father had been offered a position to study killer whales and to record their vocalization instead of being a marine biology professor at the university. At first Sarah wasn't so sure she liked the idea. For one thing, she had to leave behind her best friend and familiarity, but her new home did have perks. For one thing her bedroom was bigger and from her window, she could see the ocean. Secondly, it wasn't long before she had a new best friend, whom Sarah adored, and she came to learn more about orca whales than she ever imagined. Not-so-good things also occurred too, and Sarah wasn't sure of how she would deal with these. Prejudices, Indian legends, and later a blow that devastates her once safe world. She knew her move would change her life but she never imagined how much. She'd never listen to a whale's song the same again.

A powerful coming of age tale with heroism and courage. The level of perception and sensitivity is not only convincing but haunting. Tardif again leaves a lasting mark on her readers. Her story promises to follow long after ending. This is the second book I've read by Tardif and each one grabbed me and wouldn't let go even after I'd completed the last page. It's one of those books which stops time and leaves you hungry for more. Moving and irresistible.

Sasha and Mishoo Little Yoga Warriors
Jeffrey Mix
Katherine Homes, Illustrator
Monroe Litho Printers
39 Lelevan St., Rochester, NY 14605
9780615148649 $18.95

More than ever today we're concerned with our children's health and about what is to become of the world they live in. One way to aid our children's well-being is by making physical activity fun. This is what children want naturally. And, one way to help the world they live in nature is to respect it. Children are drawn to and flourish in nature but without respect for the environment, the world will not be a nice place for them. Jeffrey Mix, the author and Katherine Homes, the illustrator, have created a book that addresses perfectly children's need for health and for their wants and needs. This they've done by example, through an interactive tale.

The story is about a boy, Mishoo and a girl, Sasha, who loose their kitten. They decide to set off on a journey hoping to find him. They think he may have followed a traveling Yogi Master. Their journey takes them through the countryside, which is at times treacherous. Along the way they find the use of various yoga positions helpful. Most of the time these poses save them from difficult and/or dangerous situations. Each time Sasha and Mishoo use a yoga position, the book asks readers to go into the same position imagining they are escaping the same problem Sasha and Mishoo are. The book's message is that, like Sasha and Mishoo, who become yoga warriors, so will young readers who perform the yoga poses.

The main purpose of this book is to help. The numerous ways are impressive. First, it helps children by providing an interactive story displaying all seven of the yoga positions mentioned (at a glance with labels), insight as to how each pose strengthens specific body parts, and then numbered steps on how to get into the poses. Secondly, the book aids the environment by using recycled PC fiber instead of virgin fiber. A list at the front of the book explains how to use this book and how it helps the environment. Not only is this interesting but educational. Thirdly, this book performs yet another service by giving a percentage of the book's profit to The Tibetan Village Project. This is a non-profit, non-political organization dedicated to promoting sustainable development while preserving the rich cultural heritage of Tibet. Little Yoga Warriors further works with the Choudon orphanage located in Lhasa, Tibet.

Vivid and innovative. A perfect book for children who want to explore a different path to healthiness, and who want to help the environment and other people. Also for children who want to be involved immediately. Children will find this book fun and adults will find it interesting.

Christina Francine Whitcher

Christy's Bookshelf

Double Dead
Terry Hoover
Five Star/Thomson Gale
9781594145872 $25.95

It's the '60s and tension is high between John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Fidel Castro, the cold war is raging, and you can buy a bomb shelter in a kit. But in the small town of Charlotte, North Carolina, life is slow and easy until John Lattimore, one of the town's most esteemed members, is arrested for murdering his girlfriend, Delores Green. Lattimore claims he found Delores's dead body at his cabin and simply brought her home, but he made one grave mistake. He bullied Delores's son, Greg, into helping him create the impression she died of natural causes. But 200+ bruises over Delores's body prove otherwise.

Former newspaper reporter Steve Harlan has set up office as a private investigator and is barely making ends meet. When Lattimore's defense attorney asks Steve to investigate Delores's death, this offer seems like a godsend. Steve learns Delores was an alcoholic and took prescription medicine, and this becomes Lattimore's defense. Although Steve does not believe Lattimore is innocent, his investigation leads him to a gas station robbery in a nearby town and back to Lattimore's cabin, where danger awaits.

Hoover's Southern ambiance and dialect read true to the time and place. Harlan is a likeable character, a man of principle whose first priority is his family. This debut in the Steve Harlan mystery series is a fast-paced whodunit with plenty of red herrings and suspense.

Innocent in Death
J.D. Robb
9780425217542 $7.99

Lt. Eve Dallas and her partner Detective Delia Peabody are called on-scene to investigate the death of a teacher at one of NYC's top private schools. Craig Foster was a popular history teacher who died from drinking poisoned cocoa. Since Foster brought the cocoa from home, Dallas and Peabody initially suspect his wife or a family member. But there are no red flags there, so they move on to the parents of Foster's students or one of his colleagues. They hone in on another teacher, one known for his sexual promiscuousness and who Foster had had words with over his harassment of a school employee. Before they can investigate this man further, his body is discovered in the school's pool. Dallas and Peabody are baffled but convinced more than ever that someone connected with the school is behind the murders.

For the first time, Eve is having a hard time concentrating on an investigation. A woman from Roarke's past has entered the picture, and it isn't long before there's tension between Eve and Roarke and harsh words spoken. Stoic Eve is startled to find herself so emotionally overwrought by this woman and her efforts to create conflict between Eve and Roarke. But she forces her mind on the investigation and what she discovers shocks even the jaded Lt. Dallas.

Robb's popular series remains a constant bestseller and it isn't hard to figure out why, with likeable characters and suspenseful plots. The relationship between Dallas and Roarke is a bonus and is explored in-depth in this book. Robb displays talent for drawing the reader into her characters' angst and despair at the disruption in their marriage. Eve's and Roarke's mutual fright over babies is humorous and adds a light note to an otherwise dark mystery.

Christy Tillery French

Clay's Bookshelf

Auralia's Colors: The Red Strand in the Auralia's Thread
Jeffery Overstreet
WaterBrook Press
12265 Oracle Blvd Suite 200 Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781400072521 $13.99

In the heart of the woods two Gatherers Krawg and Warney hunt for berries for the House of Abascar. The sound of crows catches Krawg's attention. Krawg decides to investigate and he finds a small baby by the river's edge placed gently so no harm may come to her, in a giant footprint of a creature they do not recognize. They sneak her back to the other Gatherers careful not to attract the attention of duty officers and beastmen. And there she becomes the 'River Girl' and is raised until she becomes old enough to let them know that her name is "Auralia".

Something about Auralia is different magical even and all who know her love her and are enchanted by her. She seems not afraid of man nor beast but no one knows where she comes from. Some think she is a Northchild but others claim that can not be as there is no such thing. She weaves magical colors from things she finds in the woods and presents the Gatherers with gifts of her many colors and a cloak that she wears that just seems to come alive with color.

But the colors are illegal banned by the Queen who has gathered everyone's treasures and stored them in caves under the castle but strange the Queen herself has disappeared, leaving the prince Cal-raven to be raised by the king Cal-marcus. But the beauty and enchantment of Auralia seems to have split the king and his son. The King feels she's dangerous rebellious even but the Prince feels she may have come from the "Keeper" which is also forbidden to speak of. But the King feels the Prince's enchantment may also interfere with his plans for the Prince to marry Stricia, Ark-robin's daughter. But what role is the mystery of Auralia to play in the Expanse and what is the Expanse? Enter in and meet ale boy and the part he must play, Ark-robin whose duty it is to protect the king and the prince, Scharr ben Fray the tales and magic he teaches Cal-raven and who has been banned by the king from Abascar and the Queen and find out why she has banned colors.

So if you're a fan of fantasy such as Lord of the Rings or J.R.R. Tolkien than you'll love Auralia's Colors an awesome tale for young and old alike. Enter into the fantasy world of fangbears, river wyrms, bamble pigs and ride upon varns. As the dream world unfolds you too will be swept up and enchanted by the marvelous imagery of "Auralia's Colors". The author Jeffery Overstreet takes you into an awesome dream in this his first fantasy novel that is not only colorful but flows so smoothly you will not want to awaken.

One Little Secret
Allison Bottke
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue S Bloomington, MN 55438
9780764200588 $12.99

Talk about dreams coming true! In "One Little Secret" Ursula Rhoades a suburban housewife and mom has the chance of a lifetime to sing with the great Nik Prevel an awesome rock singer in his own right son of the great Cristoff Prevelakis who is known as the love ballad king. There's only one small problem Ursula can't seem to tell her husband who is in New York for the summer working on the biggest case of his lawyer career the case that could lead to a senior partnership in his law firm. A dream that Ursula and her husband Don have worked towards all their married life. Yes Ursula had dreams of her own just as we all do. She dreamed of winning a Grammy. But she gave it all up for her husband and children, Victor and Valerie that is till now.

Who would have thought just one innocent night of standing in for the singer in her son's band would lead to a chance of a lifetime invitation by Nik Prevel who wants to record a CD of love ballads with or without his father's blessing. Ursula agrees after much persuasion to do the project but no one is to know except Nik and his manager Arnie. So she becomes Alexandra Arcano or Alex the mystery woman. Ursula tries all summer to tell her husband but he's so busy they hardly have time for phone conversations. Ursula begins to wonder if God really wants her to tell her husband as something happens every time she tries. Ursula knows she's lying to her family something she has never done. Deeply religious, all this is tearing Ursula apart.

Wow! the author Allison Bottke does an amazing job on this her second novel the first being "A Stitch in Time" where we first meet Ursula. God is all over this novel! An awesome read for teen girls and adult women alike call it fiction, contemporary fiction or chick-lit this reviewer calls it God's light as this novel has more reference to God than most Christian fiction books I've read in along time and that is so awesome. So find a comfortable chair, maybe some popcorn and sit back and enjoy "One Little Secret" as you won't want to put it down and I promise you'll come away never looking at your own life the same again!

Love Me If You Must: Patricia Amble Mystery #1
Nicole Young
Revell Books
PO Box 6287 Grand Rapids MI 49516-6287
9780800731571 $13.99

Patricia Amble or Trish for short likes to renovate old houses and has just moved into an old Victorian in Rawlings. But she also has a past that she wants no one to know about. So renovating old houses makes it possible to keep running. Two doors down is David Ramsey the commuter geek with the British accent and good looks that makes Trish's heart swoon. Next door is police officer Brad Walters who is masculine and good looking too but being a police officer is the last person Trish wants around because Brad can find out her past with just the click of a mouse. Both David and Brad are vying for Trish's attention but she's afraid to get close to anyone and doesn't plan to stay in Rawlings once the house is completed and sold.

But Rawlings is a strange little town with lots of secrets of its own. David's wife has left town. Trish resembles Martin Dietz's missing ex-fiancee Sandra Jones. Martin Dietz a man with an ax to grind against his ex-fiancee is the one man standing between her and the demolition of a cistern in her basement. The neighborhood watch of Dorothy Fitch across the street, the death of a teenager from arsenic poisoning. And the ghosts that never seem to stop haunting her. She's been told her house is haunted and believes there is a body buried in the basement but it seems Brad the police officer doesn't believe her.

Than Martin Dietz is found dead in her basement and she is arrested for murder. She wasn't home at the time since she was out with David but Dorothy's word is believed over her own as she says she saw her go into the house with Dietz. And there's Dorothy's son Jack just how much does he really know?

So it seems everyone is out to get her but why? Who really murdered Martin Dietz and who is buried in her basement? Is it Jan the wife of the former owner of the house or the missing Rebecca, David's wife or someone else? Trish is regretting more and more buying the old Victorian and moving to Rawlings especially with all that is going on the house will be hard to sell and with Dietz's body found in her basement how will she stay out of prison?

What a totally awesome book!!!!! Author Nicole Young has definitely found her calling as her debut novel is exceptional. With all the twists and turns this page turner will have you spell bound from the first page till the end. The romance and suspense will have you on the edge of your seat! Don't pass this one by as this is definitely a must read with a wow factor of five out of five and to think this is only the beginning of the Patricia Amble Mystery series!!!!

Cheri Clay

Debra's Bookshelf

Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself
Alan Alda
Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781400066179 $24.95 1-800-726-0600

Nearly dying from an intestinal blockage in 2003 had a profound effect on Alan Alda. It brought him a second life and, with it, a first book, his bestselling memoir Never Have Your Dog Stuffed (see my review), published in 2005. Happily, Alda's appetite for introspection, intensified by his near-death experience, was not satisfied by the one foray into autobiography. He was moved to write Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself as a means of answering a question that had begun pricking at him. After leaving death behind in a Chilean hospital, along with three feet of intestine, Alda began to wonder whether he had lived a meaningful life and to ask himself, more generally, what constitutes a meaningful life.

The title of Alda's book alludes to the approach he adopted in trying to come up with an answer to that question. Alda dug up speeches he had delivered on various occasions over the years, talks which he'd attempted to infuse with some wisdom pertinent to the occasion. Many of these speeches were delivered at commencement ceremonies, but Alda also talked to historians at Monticello and to psychiatrists at Cornell. He spoke at a ceremony honoring Simon Wiesenthal. He delivered eulogies for Ozzie Davis and Peter Jennings and Anne Bancroft. He spoke over the grave of his grandchildren's dead rabbit.

Alda structures the book around excerpted passages from these speeches, but Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself is by no means wholly or even primarily a collection of excerpts. Rather, Alda uses the excerpts as writing prompts, wrapping stories from his life around them. In one chapter, for example, Alda excerpts passages from a talk he delivered at Emerson College in 1977 on the subject of living up to one's values. He seamlessly weaves a handful of stories around the quotes--the author being slapped as a four-year-old for off-color humor and upstaged by a quarterback a decade later; picket lines and cigarette ads and Bert Convy's heroics. As we saw in his first book, Alda has a smooth storytelling style that transports the reader. Once he begins on a reminiscence--traveling on the Orient Express, meeting his agent, biting his mother's watch--the pages turn themselves.

Insofar as they interrupt the flow of the narrative, Alda's excerpted speeches--if arguably the raison d'ątre of the book--are actually its weakest part. One feels less of a connection with the author when reading them, perhaps because we are not in fact their intended audience: he didn't write the speeches for us, after all, but for a specific audience on a specific occasion.

What, then, makes for a meaningful life? Alda has found his answer, and it's unlikely to surprise readers unless they're living the life of Lindsay Lohan. But arriving at the answer will surely not be the point for most of us. As in life, so with a good book: it's the going, not the getting there that's good.*

*Phrase borrowed from Harry Chapin's Greyhound.

Thick as Thieves
Steve Geng
Henry Holt & Company
175 - 5th Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
0805080562 $24.00 1-888-330-8477

Steve Geng's wasted future may have been written in his DNA. Geng grew up in Philadelphia in the 1940's and early 50's. Before he was ten he was stealing and smoking and quaffing beers on the sly and setting things on fire. He spent his adolescence whoring and sliming around jazz clubs in Paris. (Geng's father, a colonel in the Quartermaster Corps, was stationed in Europe for six years beginning in the mid-50's.) With adulthood came addictions to heroin and alcohol, numerous arrests for shoplifting and stints in prison, estrangement from his family, an AIDS diagnosis, and relationships that ended with him being attacked with a claw hammer and set on fire.

There were a couple bright spots in Geng's life: a period in the 80's during which he was drug-free and enjoyed some success as an actor; a relationship with a woman who might have saved him from himself if his health hadn't got in the way. But throughout his life, Geng nearly always made the wrong choices, opting for the easy fix, easy women, and easy money. What's incredible about his story is that he lived long enough to tell it. Clean now since the late 90's and living in New York, Geng has discovered a purpose in helping other addicts in recovery.

Geng isn't the only author in his family. His older sister was Veronica Geng, a longtime writer and editor for the New Yorker, who died of a brain tumor in 1997. Geng's book is in part a love letter to Veronica, whom he'd put on a pedestal since they were children. In following the trajectory of his own life, he always brings the story around to her--what she was doing at the time, how he craved her approval--though very often, given the long periods they spent apart, he is unable to tell us much. Geng watched his sister's success in life from the outside, wondering always how she could excel in normal society while he couldn't get through the day without a fix.

Geng's idolization of his sister at times borders on the incestuous. Veronica "looked angelic in her Sunday dress," he tells us, when they went to church together as children. She was attractive in college as well: "I'd always been fond of her delicate features. Now there was a sharper arch to her eyebrows and a wry downward tug at the corners of her mouth, a new haughtiness that pushed out at the space around her and made for a protective cocoon." Elsewhere he describes a "longing" he feels for her, or perhaps for the sort of life she represents, from which he is excluded:

"A hundred things flashed through my head that I wanted to say to her, but the sudden intimacy had made us both very uncomfortable. I sat there stupidly rereading the damned story, hoping she wouldn't see in me the terrible mixture of pride and longing I felt for her as I read it again and compared her life with mine."

Geng writes well. He is good at evoking the feel and look of a place, though he is sometimes overly descriptive. The story is slowed by passages detailing musical performances, for example, or describing characters in the background of events he's narrating:

"All the way in the back of the dining area, four somber Africans sat silently at one of the tables. They were all dressed alike--black suits of some shiny fabric like sharkskin, with high, white celluloid collars and black knit ties. They had all their forearms braced on the table showing several inches of snow white cuff, and their eyes gleamed white out of round, ebony faces. They sat so still I first thought it was a painting or some sort of freestanding sculpture. Spooky."

Though over-heavy in detail, Geng's account is worth the read. Finishing it one feels some of the weight of his existence. And if it is difficult to like the author because of his lifetime of selfish hedonism, our antipathy is in fact a tribute to the honesty of his account. In the end, one can't help but respect him for that, and for finally managing to beat back his demons. Hopefully for good.

A Simple Plan
Scott Smith
Vintage Books
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307279958 $13.95 1-800-726-0600

It's a simple premise. What would happen if three men--two brothers and a friend--should stumble on a bag full of money in the woods? Stolen money, you'd have to assume, millions of dollars in non-sequential, hundred-dollar bills--enough that somebody, somewhere, has to be looking for it. Should they keep the cash? Use it to escape from their one-traffic-light town? Call the police? Scott Smith immerses his characters in this moral dilemma of a situation and lets us watch as the ostensibly reasonable plan they agree on leads inevitably, inexorably, to a string of tragic consequences.

Smith makes it look easy. In this book as well as in his second novel, The Ruins, he puts people in a trying situation and records what happens to their characters as they respond to events. The plot of the novel arises naturally from their actions, which follow naturally from the initial set-up. Writing such a book oneself almost seems possible, but of course the simplicity of the story is only apparent.

A Simple Plan is a perfect suspense novel. Smith's protagonist, Hank Mitchell--from whose perspective the story is told--is forever in danger of being found out. The bag of stolen money, stashed precariously under his bed, nearly throbs in the story, Tell-Tale-Heart-like, constantly in our minds as a source of potential trouble for him. Incredibly, Hank remains entirely sympathetic throughout the story. He may do some bad things, but he's still a normal guy caught up in extraordinary circumstances. His responses, if regrettable, make perfect sense given man's natural urge for self-preservation. Readers may insist that they would act otherwise, but Smith makes a good case for the argument that Hank really never has much of a choice.

There is only the one choice: should they keep the money, or call the police?

Do yourself a favor and read this book.

Jane May
Kensington Fiction.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780758213624 $14.00 1-800-345-2665

Jane May's frothy novel Hooked is an adaptation and modernization of "The Fisherman and his Wife." In the fairy tale, a poor fisherman spares the life of an enchanted prince turned fish who has the power to grant wishes. Though the fisherman is content with his lot, his grasping wife induces him to make increasingly extravagant requests of the fish until, in an ironic turn, a wish lands the couple back at square one. May's book tells more or less the same story, with a few twists. The fisherman of her tale is nice guy "Woody" Woods, a 28- year-old assistant dock master at a Miami yacht club. Woody falls head-over-heels for Madalina, a Romanian gold-digger, shortly before going fishing with a client. What he reels in isn't an enchanted prince, but a foul-mouthed former car salesman--now a skipjack tuna-- by the name of Raymond Prince, whose philandering landed him quite literally in deep water and who is of course endowed with the power to make things happen.

May has done a decent job of transferring the story to modern-day Miami, though she seems to have forgotten about the wonders of the internet:

"A perfect night for chilling out, only Woody could not relax until he had the answer to a very BIG question: was this Raymond Prince the real deal or a figment of his very active imagination?

"The only way to find out, of course, was to engage in behavior which might, to an innocent observer, appear psychotic [i.e., summoning the fish]"

Surely a modern-day twenty-something would think to Google "Raymond Prince car sales" to see if his fish's story held up?

Unfortunately, May's characters are poorly developed and for the most part boorish. Woody's blind attraction to Madalina, however large her breasts, strains credibility. And the book's dialogue is also frequently unbelievable. Two women in their sixties, for example, are not likely to have a chat like this:

"'You cheap old coot! I told you that you should have sprung for new

"'Go suck an egg. It's not about the money.'

"'Sooner or later, honey, it's always about the money.'"

Madalina's dialogue, meanwhile, is heavily accented and salty:

"'I do not mean to make dis on you, Voody. Was shit thing to do. Shame for me. My mana, she always say to me, Madalina, you speak like water run from pipe is broken.'

"In a contrite gesture, Madalina tenderly touched Woody's arm. Heat waves shot down to his toes and back up to his crotch singeing the pubes on his testicles."

I've nothing against swearing or sex per se, but the effect of their introduction into the narrative should not be cringe-inducing, as in the above example. Presumably the author is going for light-hearted romp rather than yuck, get a room. And maybe another reader will think the book great fun. But I found myself grimacing more often than I would have liked.

The idea behind Hooked is a clever one: I like the idea of translating fairy tales to a modern stage. Readers less stodgy than I might want to give this quick read a spin.

A Deadly Game of Magic
Joan Lowery Nixon
Harcourt Books
15 East 26th Street, 15th floor, New York, NY 10010
9780152050306 $5.95 1-800-543-1918

This is one scary book. Four teenagers driving home from a speech and drama tournament in a blinding rain storm are stranded by car trouble north of Dallas. They're let into a home to call for help, but the man and woman they meet there almost immediately leave for a party. Left on their own to wait for a mechanic, the kids begin to think that the couple who let them in may not in fact be the owners of the house. And they begin to suspect as well that there's someone else in the house with them. When the storm knocks the power out, plunging the foursome into darkness...well, like I said, this is one scary book.

Joan Lowery Nixon's YA novel, originally published in 1983, isn't entirely successful. The occasional conclusion is jumped to without sufficient evidence, and the dialogue can be clunky. Also, Nixon's protagonists tend to say things and otherwise behave in ways that aren't credible given the context. For example, when it's pitch dark in a strange house that you think may be haunted and/or inhabited by a killer, and when there's a room down the hall in which you suspect there just might be a dead body, you don't react to finding an old scrapbook with a cheery cry of, "This is terrific! Look! Photographs!"

What's particularly impressive about A Deadly Game of Magic is how Nixon manages to instill the story with dread. We aren't told specifically what's wrong with the behavior of the couple whom the teenagers first meet in the house, for example. But there's something off about it. We sense it just as well as the teenagers do, and we want them to get out of there as soon as possible. But of course they don't, and things just get worse from there.

While facing their fears in the house Nixon's protagonists reveal their back stories. They are all bowed down, in various ways, by their parents' expectations for them. Battling evil in the house, we are to understand, will also give them the courage to choose their own paths in life. This is the uninteresting part of the book, the part that's meant to make the story relevant to its underage readers. Maybe they'll like the character development and maybe not; for sure they'll like the main story line.

Highly recommended to its intended audience and as a quick read for adults. But don't read this one right before bed.

Debra Hamel

Gary's Bookshelf

Shoot Him If He Runs
Stuart Woods
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399154447 $25.95

Stuart Woods is back with a new Stone Barrington that once again combines his several series. This time out Stone is recruited to find a master spy who was presumed dead. President Will Lee summons Stone to the White House to tell him to work with Holly Barker to find the operative. Woods fills the novel with interesting characters and fast paced suspense.

Now & Then
Robert B. Parker
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399154416 $25.95

Spenser, Hawk, and Susan are back in another great mystery from Parker. I like the banter between Hawk and Spenser, and Spenser and Susan. The writing is quick because as always Parker is the master of dialogue. The relationship of Susan and Spenser is much deeper in this novel as well. Spenser fans will not be disappointed with this new addition to the series. I'm amazed how the quality of the Parker novels has stayed so well with the author turning out three or four them a year.

The Quotable Jewish Woman
Elaine T. Partnow
Jewish Lights Publishing A Division of Long Hill Partners Inc
Sunset Farm Offices Route 4 P. O. Box 237, Woodstock VT 05091
1580231934 $29.99

Partnow locks in on Jewish women and their thoughts on everything from religion, sex, anatomy, shopping, and death. The statements are from Jewish women from all walks of life and are funny, revealing, and fascinating reading. Men should read this book to have a better understanding of the Jewish woman.

Storm World Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle over Global Warming
Chris Mooney
Harcourt Trade Publishers
9780151012879 $26.00

The author delves into the subject of our current weather patterns. One side says there is no change it is Mother Nature going into its normal cycle. The other side says because of what we are doing to the planet, we are offsetting the normal structure of the planet by our fossil fuels, our elimination of wetlands, our building with no concern for the environment. These things, they say, are causing the planet to warm much faster than it should causing more massive storms, droughts, and melting of the ice caps are just some of the results. I came to the conclusion that there is no right answer, even though both sides make their arguments very clear.

Presidential Diversions
Paul F. Boller. Jr
Harcourt Trade Publishers
9780151096120 $25.00

The author takes the reader into the world of president's personal lives. The expose is fun, revealing a different side of the men who have held the most powerful office in the world. He talks about the one who made his own breakfast, the one who loved to golf, the one who made a certain type of thriller novel popular, the one who liked westerns, the two who liked to use nicknames for people they knew. This is a very educational book.

The Game Within the Game
Walt Frazier with Dan Markowitz
Hyperion Books
77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023
9781401309091 $14.95

Frazier who is a commentator for the New York Nicks compares the NBA today to when he played over 30 years ago. What he shows is what fans have said for years. The player's today play for themselves instead of for the team, they have very little discipline, players are too quick to fight officials and other players, they can get rid of a coach very easily by complaining to management. In his day a coach yelled at his player and the player worked to play better, players were very focused, they were more controlled in their responses to rulings and other players, and there was team loyalty. These are some of the differences. Frazier has a lot to say and any fan of the game should read his analysis.

When Day Breaks
Mary Jane Clark
William Morrow
9780061286070 $24.95

Clark's books have always been very good behind the scenes novels of the world of a TV news network, but this one is her best. With the move to William Morrow from St Martins Press I see a big difference in her writing style. Her chapters are much shorter and the pacing is much faster. This one reads like a James Patterson because of the way it's written. It shows what a difference an editor makes in an authors work.

The Forever Summer
Suzanne Macpherson
Avon Romance
9780061161261 $5.99

I loved this novel from the first page when Lila Abbot dropped her aluminum demo tray in the supermarket because a woman took a sample of Cheese Wiz on a cracker and fell to the ground and died. This is a demo person's worst fear. The author moved her story along with laugh out loud situations and fun characters, with enough twists and turns that make this a delightful tale.

Forecast of Evil
Laura Bradford
World Wide Mystery
225 Duncan Mill Road , Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
97880373266043 $5.99

Elise Jenkins and her boyfriend Mitch Burns go on vacation to a remote island in Michigan. She is a reporter and he is a detective with a New Jersey police department. But their rest is cut short as they are called into action to solve a series of murders that started the day they arrived. Bradford tells a great mystery with memorable characters. This is the second of a series of novels about Elise and Mitch.

Gary Roen

Geoffrey's Bookshelf

The Confessions of Felix Krull Confidence Man
Thomas Mann
A division of Random House, Inc.
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
0679739041, $16.95

"A Cautionary Tale For The Pseudo-Intellectual"

THE CONFESSIONS OF FELIX KRULL CONFIDENCE MAN is Tomas Mann's last work, and reportedly the first part of a longer, fictitious autobiography that Mann was never to finish.

Felix Krull, the narrator, begins his story by recalling his upper middle class childhood, and recounting the loss of his family's fortune, which leads to a series of memorable adventures in Europe.

The book breezily entertains episode after episode until one long dreary stretch of drudgery near the end when Krull details a trip through a science museum in Lisbon. However, his tedious lapse into pedantry has a purpose. It finally separates Krull from any scintilla of Judeo/Christian moral constraint, allowing him, without conscience, to pursue his predatory ways.

Interesting how when I first read this book at age 20, I identified with Krull, cheering his every conquest and deception; but now, a generation later, I regret that Mann never finished the second part of this book in which the amoral Krull gets his comeuppance. Krull tantalizingly refers to his arrest, but alas, we never learn the details. We can only hope that Mann was going to put Krull away for a long, long time.

Krull's is a cautionary tale for today's arrogant, self-absorbed amoral pseudo-intellectual. He keeps telling us how smart he is, and how much above the common crowd he lives. Then he shows us how easily he can deceive others -- his mother, his uncle, his boss, and strangers who put their faith in him. He deceives without conscience, whether he steals jewelry or a young woman's virginity.

The particularly striking thing Krull reveals about his con man methods is his confession that he has the ability to learn just enough of any subject to deceive a person into thinking he is an expert. Krull is so taken with this ability, he even cons himself into believing he is an intellectual when he is, in fact, finally, a tedious pseudo-intellectual bore.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
J.K. Rowling
Scholastic Paperbacks
557 Broadway, New York, New York 10012
0439785960 $9.99

"Harry The Passive Protagonist"

In HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, Harry continues as the passive protagonist.

Everything happens TO Harry Potter; he never initiates anything. For example, Harry excels in potions class because a special book has fallen into his hands, but not through any effort of his own.

Harry ably assists Dumbledore in getting the horcrux, but only because he does exactly what Dumbledore has told him to do. It was nothing Harry thought of, nothing Harry initiated.

Harry's made Quidditch team captain but why? He doesn't or can't manage them, and doesn't select the star player. He's not even present for the team's triumphant win.

Harry likes Ginny but never takes an action to get her. He gets Ginny, but not through his effort.

Dumbledore paralyzes Harry during the climax so that all he can do is watch, which is basically what Harry's been doing for the last six books.

Harry IS, however, capable of occasional bursts of anger. And with the great popularity and readability of these books I fear Rowling could turn Britain and America into nations abundant with passive aggressive boys.

And what about the girls? Almost every female (Hermione, Mrs. Weasley, Ginny, Professor McGonagall, Fleur) nags, whether at Harry or Ron or Mr. Weasley. Is that why Rowling has named him Harry? And will Britain and America (and every other English-speaking nation) become nations of harridans, or are they already?

Geoffrey Smagacz

Gloria's Bookshelf

Dead Ex
Harley Jane Kozak
145 Broadway, NY, NY 10019, 212-782-9000/800-726-0600
9780385518024 $21.95

It is late December in Los Angeles, and Mary Wollstonecraft ("Wollie") Shelley's ex-lover, a big-time Hollywood TV producer, is found dead in what may have been a suicide he was terminally ill with cancer. Wollie's best friend, "Joey" Rafferty, also a former lover of the dead man, is a prime suspect when it appears that it was not suicide, but murder. Or assisted suicide. Joey is a well-known actress and, despite the fact that she was fired from her long-running daytime soap opera by the dead man, for the last month of his life she had been within him virtually 24/7, taking care of all his personal and business needs, and had, in fact, been with him until, she says, shortly before he was killed. Proving Joey innocent, especially when another murder occurs for which she may have had a motive, is no easy task.

Wollie is a delightful protagonist, returning in this, her third mystery. When she is interviewed by the cop assigned to the case, she describes herself as follows: "I have four thousand dollars in the bank that's gotta go to first and last month's rent on a new apartment, which I have to find soon. I drive a car that's had six previous owners, one of whom smoked cigars in it. I have a couple jobs at the moment, but they won't last. My greeting card income is both erratic and small. I have no real debt, but I have a brother who's on medication and can't hold down a job and is my responsibility. I don't gamble or smoke or shoot heroin, and I'm a cheap date. I have no outstanding parking tickets." Oh, and she's six feet tall, and has a boyfriend who's a hunk as well as an FBI agent.

This is a light-hearted mystery by an author whose writing is both funny and clever, and gives the reader more than he or she ever wanted to know about what really goes on behind the scenes of a daytime soap, with a backdrop of the Iliad interspersed throughout. Very enjoyable read.

The Shotgun Rule
Charlie Huston
Ballantine Books
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019, 212-782-9000/800-726-0600
9780345481351 $21.95

The Shotgun Rule deals with four teenage boys in 1983 Northern California. There is Andy, super-bright, who frequently imagines murderous scenarios involving friends, enemies and strangers alike; his 2-years-older brother, George, protective yet sometimes resentful of Andy; Paul, always the first to start a fight; and Hector, who keeps an 18" length of bike chain in his pocket at all times. The boys have been spending their summer break time getting into the kinds of trouble not uncommon to working class teens in the suburbs. Their not-so-innocent activities involve robbing neighbors' houses of jewelry, cash, pills whatever else they find that's small enough to be carried out in their pockets, but their efforts unleash a whole lot of trouble and bring long-buried past events in the town boiling back to the surface. The boys' family backgrounds are revealed in rather depressing fashion, and the author weaves these tidbits alternately with humor, grimness and short bursts of violence into a story that is at once jarring and fascinating, and then it's not funny at all but like passing the scene of an accident--you can't tear your eyes away.

A theme running through the book is the chaos theory "whether there is a difference between what is random and what is chaotic." Andy, discussing the Shotgun Rule of the title: "The only rule standing between us and the savages. It keeps the forces of chaos at bay. Scorn not the rule." But they do break the rule, and do indeed dare chaos.

The writing is at times non-linear, causing momentary confusion for this reader. Overall this author has his own unique style, and this compelling novel is hard to put down and difficult to forget. Recommended.

Acts of Nature
Jonathon King
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525950080 $24.95 800-847-5515,

Max Freeman is an ex-Philly cop now working as a P.I. in South Florida, living in a river cabin in the Everglades dating back to the late 1800's. He and his lady love, Sherry Richards, a detective with the Broward County Sheriff's Office, have decided to take several days off to escape to a 'week in the wild,' after a few days going even deeper into the Glades to stay at a friend's cabin, unaware that a hurricane of monstrous proportions is about to descend on Florida.

Edward Harmon is a Vietnam vet now working for a mysterious corporation as a "security executive," working primarily in foreign lands [Venezuela in the early portions of the book] doing whatever is asked of him, asking no questions, and getting paid quite handsomely to do so.

Wayne and Marcus are young boys learning bad things thievery, among other things - at the feet of Buck Morris, a twice-convicted ex-con whose father and grandfather before him were Glades men, apparently a very special class of people.

Although it is difficult for the reader to fathom how he will accomplish this, the reader knows that these disparate characters will be brought together before the book reaches its suspense-filled conclusion, and he certainly brings off that feat, in riveting fashion.

The overriding feeling the reader comes away with from this, Jonathan King's sixth novel in the Max Freeman series, is the nearly tangible presence of the Florida Everglades and the hurricanes to which the State is often subjected, as well as the inescapable forces of nature, whether animal, human or meteorological. As the author says, "nature trampled anything in its path without choice or conscience, not like men." The writing is lyrical, e.g., "If you took a deep breath down here, the must of growing grass and decaying humus was sweet and ancient. If you stood, just the altitude of a few feet changed the aroma like a lingering perfume that only interests you when the woman wearing it passes by but intrigues you as it drifts away."

Parenthetically, it was nice to see a fictional tip of the hat to another excellent local Florida author, Jim Born, as well as an acknowledgment to Joanne Sinchuk, Miami bookseller extraordinaire.

Black Knife
Karl Vincent
Citation Press
P.O.B. 818, Bromley, G. London, BR1 9AG, UK
9780955123818 $14.68 Canada

This book is currently only available from the UK or Canada

Black Knife is the code name of a young man born and orphaned in West Africa, dubbed "Sam" as a boy, but metamorphosed into Herman Namlos [meaning "nameless"] after he arrives in Germany, where "he had earned a reputation for employing a long, black blade to dispatch his assigned marks with ease and efficiency and it had become his trademark," working for the Russian Mafia out of Hamburg, and dreams of being a "warrior hero," and have people "write poems and sings about him." He is a Socialist, and hates all capitalist states, especially America, rejoicing when seeing the photos of NY on 9/11, and wishing "he had been the one to mastermind such a heroic achievement." He is also a misogynist, even, somewhat humorously, naming his GSP system The Bitch: "What else, he had reasoned, could you call something which was black, had a female voice, and gave you orders all day?" Altogether a thoroughly despicable figure. Perhaps inevitably, Herman becomes involved with an Al Qaeda-associated group in a terrorist plot, which may finally fulfill the heroic destiny he sees for himself.

Apollonia ("Polly") Johnson is a CIA liaison officer on a US base in Germany who has been dating Herman for several weeks, and who is engaged as part of her duties in investigating the possibility of the same terrorist threat in which Herman is involved, unwittingly herself becoming a core component of the plot.

I must admit I was so thoroughly turned off by the character of Black Knife and the gratuitous violence presented in the opening scenes that I considered not finishing the book, but in the end was glad I did: As I reluctantly continued reading, I found the pages turning quickly and the plot less overtly violent, the suspense building as well, as the author attempts to paint a picture of the complex realities of some Muslim thought and actions in today's world, never an easy task. On balance, I was glad I'd read the book, and will probably read the author's next book, Granite Ridge Initiative, due out in paperback in February 2008.

Hard Row
Margaret Maron
Warner Books [now Grand Central Publishing]
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780446582438 $24.99 800-759-0190

Hard Row marks the welcome return of Judge Deborah Knott. Now in her late 30's and newly married to Major Dwight Bryant, Chief Deputy of the Colleton County, North Carolina Sheriff's Dept, Deborah is adjusting to life with a newly acquired husband, his eight-year-old son, as well as their terrier, Bandit. Dwight is called out one night to a scene where a man's severed leg has been found lying in a ditch, and additional severed body parts are discovered not long thereafter, apparently from more than one victim. The ensuing investigation unearths not-so-well-hidden racial prejudices and resentment over the local immigrant population, both legal and undocumented, who are the cleaning women, waitresses, busboys and, of course, migrant field workers on whom our society so greatly depends. [Of course, there are parts of the country where the feelings are on the other side of the equation, but that is a discussion for another time and another place.] Another theme raised in the book is the challenges faced by young and not-so-young married couples raising stepchildren under sometimes difficult circumstances, something Deborah is handling with as much aplomb as she can muster.

As always, this author has peopled her novel with her usual endearing cast of characters, both family and friends who have known each other forever, and it is a pleasure to once again enjoy their company. The author has kindly provided a family tree outlining her eleven brothers and half-brothers and their various mates and offspring, always a helpful thing. Parenthetically, the title of the book refers to the 'hard row to hoe,' which is the plight of many, if not most, farmers in today's society, and each chapter of the book is prefaced by quotations from "Profitable Farming in the Southern States, 1890," in interesting fashion. The book proceeds at an unhurried pace, which is just fine. Recommended.

Some Like It Hot-Buttered
Jeffrey Cohen
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425217993 $6.99 800-487-5515

The opening lines of Jeffrey Cohen's new novel are: "The guy in row S, seat 18 was dead, all right. There was no mistaking it. For one thing, he hadn't laughed once during the Blind Man scene in Young Frankenstein, which was indication enough that all brain function had ceased. For another, there was the whole staring-straight-ahead-and-not-breathing scenario, and the lack of a pulse, which was good enough to convince me." [If that doesn't put at least a smile on your face, your humor gene needs a tune-up.] Right away you know you're in for a treat, that is, if you like a good mystery written with great humor as well as warmth and wit. This book is the first in a promised new series by Mr. Cohen, previously the author of, among other things, the Aaron Tucker mystery novels.

The above-quoted lines are spoken by Elliot Freed, who has recently bought an ancient, long-abandoned and rapidly deteriorating New Jersey movie theatre which shows only comedy films, both old [read "classic"] and new, and the dead man was found sitting in the audience after the film had ended. It is later found that the man's popcorn had been poisoned. Elliot is a man receiving alimony from his ex-wife [a doctor now remarried to another doctor], with whom he maintains a very amicable friendship. He takes personally the fact that a murderer apparently chose his theatre in which to commit the murder, and feels it incumbent in him to get involved, especially when the investigation leads to uncovering a scheme involving pirated DVDs. Elliot doesn't want to believe one of his two teenage employees could be connected to either event, but suspicions certainly do point in that direction. Then, when the father of one of the youngsters, who is under increasing suspicion, begs him for help, he feels he has no choice. His growing attraction to the beautiful detective working the case only complicates things. But solving the mystery and finding those responsible for the crimes is only part of the fun in this wonderfully entertaining book Mr. Cohen's writing and wry sense of humor is a delight. [How could you not love a writer who quotes Mark Van Doren and Woody Allen on the same page, as well as providing an interesting if heretofore unsuspected use for Milk Duds?] Welcome, Elliot Freed I can't wait to read the next one!

Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA
Ellen Meister
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780060824815 $13.95 800-242-7737

Through a quirky series of circumstances, Applewood, Long Island, appears to be in contention as the site of an upcoming movie currently in the planning stages, to star George Clooney, the secret [or not-so-secret] fantasy of many a female PTA member. Most of the action centers around three good friends, Maddie Shein, Ruth Moss, and Lisa Slotnick, who, along with another woman who joins the buddy circle, Beryl Berman, find themselves plotting against the head of the PTA, a bitchy type who wants to achieve her own coup by taking credit for getting the event for their town. [As an added bonus, doing the film at the local high school would also bring a much-needed stadium to the school grounds.] Each woman has her back story, of course, and the reader is given the details on each one.

I had frankly expected this book to be a bubble-headed exercise, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the women [and the men in their lives] were quite recognizable, and the story engrossing. The milieu in which they live their lives were very realistically portrayed, given that this is fiction after all and one doesn't really expect George Clooney to appear in a real-life finale [no spoiler here, the tantalizing and broad hint is given in a brief prologue -- although it's not technically designated as such]. I found the novel thoroughly enjoyable.

Chelsea Cain
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010,
9780312368463 $23.95 646-307-5151

I knew before I picked up this book that it was about a serial killer [certainly true], and that there was graphic violence [not, in my opinion, gratuitous]. What I didn't know was that it was going to be so good, not because of but despite those things.

At the outset, the reader is immediately plunged into harrowing scenes between Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell, cop and torturer, respectively. Detective Archie Sheridan was the head of what was called the Beauty Killer Task Force in Portland, Oregon, searching for a serial killer who had, to that point, killed 23 people in three states, over ten years, that they knew of. At which point Gretchen Lowell, who is later portrayed, among things, as "one of our great psychopaths Great, as in scary, brutal, and cunning, not super-duper," kidnapped Archie. As described by a reporter: "Gretchen Lowell is a psychopath. She's not like us. She doesn't do things for reasons. She liked killing people. She's said as much in prison. She kidnapped Archie Sheridan, drugged him, tortured him for ten days, and would have murdered him if he hadn't talked her out of it She was the one who called nine one one. If she hadn't had medical training, he'd be dead. One of the EMTs told me that she'd kept him alive for almost thirty minutes, doing CPR, before they got there." After being imprisoned, she pled guilty to five murders in Oregon and six in Washington and Idaho, and kidnapping and attempted murder, and told the police where to find twenty more bodies. Archie, obsessively, visits Gretchen in prison weekly where she bit by bit gives details of additional victims, and ultimately it appears that there were over 200 victims, and has to this point identified over 40 of them. When the present-day story opens, two years later, Archie is lured back to the job by agreeing to head up a new task force formed to find a serial killer who has just kidnapped his fourth victim, all 15-year-old girls. Archie's first move is to have Susan Ward, a reporter from a local newspaper, assigned to do a profile of him, permitting her to "shadow" him and cover the investigation for her paper, despite the fact that to this point he has never allowed any interviews regarding his ordeal, his present motives initially being unclear. Archie has, understandably, become addicted to p ain pills [among other things] as a result of the torture inflicted upon him. In fact, the book is all about addictions e.g., an FBI profiler's to Diet Coke, Archie's to his pills, not to mention to Gretchen herself.

Archie, Gretchen and Susan and the relationships among them are fascinating and very original. Portland itself, and its weather, typical of the American Northwest, becomes a tangible thing as described by the author: "It was still raining. The sky was entirely white and the foothills that surrounded the city looked like jagged, milky shadows. As they made their way over the bridge, Susan placed her hand flat on the passenger side window, watching the rivulets of water carve their jagged paths down the glass. So many people moved to Portland for the quality of life and the progressive politics. They bought bicycles and big old wooden houses and espresso makers, and then, after the first dreary winter, they moved back to LA. But Susan liked the slick of rain, the way that it distorted the view out of every windshield, every window. The way light blurred around brake lights and glowed on the pavement."

Every review I've read of this book has invariably made the inescapable comparison to Hannibal Lecter, and one character even facetiously calls Archie "Clarice" at one point. But this book is quite something in its own right. As another girl goes missing and the search for the killer goes on, the action takes a turn that literally took my breath away, after which point I could not put the book down. HeartSick is so much more than a thriller dealing with a serial killer and containing graphic violence: It is one terrific read.

Murder by the Slice
Livia J. Washburn
Obsidian Mystery
c/o Penguin Group USA Inc., 375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451222503 $6.99 800-487-5515,

Phyllis Newsom, widowed and retired former schoolteacher, has been involved as an amateur sleuth before, and in this new entry in the Fresh Baked Mystery series she again becomes embroiled in a murder mystery when Shannon Dunston, the twice-divorced head of the Parent-Teacher Organization is found dead in the midst of a fund-raising carnival at the local high school. Phyllis had agreed to assist in the event, as had the boarders who share her house with her, retired schoolteachers all: Carolyn Wilbarger [who Phyllis managed to exonerate as a suspect in the earlier murder by solving that crime], Eve Turner, divorced and ever-flirting--especially with the last and newest resident of the house, Sam Fletcher. Helping or complicating matters is the fact that Phyllis' s on, Mike, as a Sheriff's deputy in the small Texas town where they live.

Although the dead woman was heartily disliked for her high-handed ways, Phyllis finds herself thinking " the idea that Shannon would never even have the opportunity for things to get better angered Phyllis. It wasn't right. No one deserved to have their future ripped away like that. Maybe she could help the sheriff's department find out who had killed Shannon. Maybe it was her duty as a human being," and "If that made her a meddling old woman, then so be it." She enlists Sam's help, and wonders "if he believed she got mixed up in murder investigations for the thrill of it. In truth, she had pondered that same question herself. She told herself that wasn't the way it was, but at times, doubt nibbled at her mind. Maybe she liked playing detective a little too much." Of course, her efforts succeed, and justice is done. Along the way, there are intimations of budding romantic interest between Phyllis and Sam, and much talk of recipes [there is a baking contest and a contest for the best low-cal, low-fat recipes at the carnival], and in fact several recipes are included in the back of the book. There is some clunky writing [e.g., Phyllis' son, Mike, thinking "a lawman couldn't afford to lose his temper"], but in all this is an interesting tale, and [if you don't count the murder] a light-hearted and fun read.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Karin Slaughter
Bantam Dell
c/o Random House, Inc.
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0440242916 $7.99

Slaughter writes raw stories about a boyfriend/girlfriend investigation team. They are divorced. Sara is a pediatrician/coroner and Jeffrey is the sheriff. Slaughter has lost her way bringing her character's motivations to the reader but in this story she has gotten closer to the character development she used in Blindsighted.

Sara and Jeffrey literally stumble over a dead girl who was buried alive. They dig up her body and find more than just one dead girl. The girl belongs to a religious family with ties to Sara's past and a farm run as a cult. Sara and Jeffrey struggle with their tumultuous relationship while murder and torture are happening next door.

Faithless is a continuation of the storyline introduce with Blindsighted. It is not a smooth elegant story that some mystery writers produce but a visceral fast moving action whodunit. It is a good story that does reference the previous books in the series to the extent a reader starting with Faithless will miss details justifying the actions of the characters. The story is strong enough to be read by itself. Faithless is a book that a mystery reader looking for a harsher storyline will enjoy.

White Hot
Sandra Brown
Pocket Star Books
c/o Simon & Schuster Inc.
Rockefeller Center, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780743466769 $9.95

White Hot is a soap opera action/mystery. Everyone has a hidden agenda and everyone is having sex. The story delves deeply into the characters with snippets of the past history of the characters used to move the storyline.

When Sayre Lynch's younger brother, Danny, dies in an apparent suicide, Sayre goes back to the Louisiana hometown she left a decade ago. She walks into the manipulative handling by the tyrannical father she had run away from and the amoral actions of her older brother. Into this family mix comes Beck Merchant, the right-hand man for the family and their dynastic iron foundry. She is soon pulled into the volatile family politics and finds out her brother might have been murdered. The longer she stays in Destiny, Louisiana the more she is pulled into a web of intimidation and violence. With each day, her attraction to Beck increases and the more she finds out about her hated family.

White Hot is a literary vice. The story is fast paced and filled with sex and action. You just feel a little guilty liking it.

S.A. Gorden

Harwood's Bookshelf

Follies of the Wise
Frederick Crews
Shoemaker and Hoard
1400 65th Street, Suite 150, Emeryville CA 94608
9781593761015 $26.00

Right from the beginning of Follies of the Wise, Frederick Crews reveals that he has no reluctance to barbecue sacred cows. His Introduction demolishes the idiocy, the pathetic, one might even say criminal, doublethink that such events as the 2004 Asian tsunami and the 2001 World Trade Center atrocity can be harmonized with the existence of an omnipotent, benevolent Master of the Universe whose first priority is the protection of the human species. Crews compares public reaction to theological explanations of those events in the 21st century with explanations offered for the Lisbon earthquake and tsunami of 1755.

In 1755 a Jesuit preached that the reason his deity had perpetrated such an atrocity was, "your abominable sins" (p. 3). Clerics of the time either agreed with him or were unwilling to go on record as holding dissenting opinions. But when Israel's Sephardic chief rabbi said of the 2004 tsunami, "this is an expression of God's great ire with the world," his words were denounced as, "a justification of the murder of children" (p. 4), and that opinion was almost universally endorsed. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury, in a low-key defense of the god hypothesis in the light of such falsifying evidence, leaned over backward to avoid appearing dogmatic. Crews's take on the archbishop's apologia is, "That is the kind of soothing potion that people quaff when they either haven't learned how to check the evidential merits of propositions or would rather not risk the loss of treasured beliefs" (p. 6).

But despite its front and center appearance in the Introduction, Santa Claus's more popular rival for the title of World's Favorite Imaginary Playmate is not Crews's primary target. His review essay, "The Unknown Freud," first published in The New York Review of Books, fills a 28-page chapter, but is epitomized by a single sentence (p. 16), "Freud's theories of personality and neurosis amount to castles in the air." The hostile reaction to that finding exceeded anything NYRB has experienced before or since. Freud addicts showed themselves to be as impervious to falsifying evidence as the god addicts who wrote such books (probably in crayon, since Nurse Ratched would not allow Cuckoo's Nest inmates access to anything sharp), as The Dawkins Delusion, Defending the Science of Intelligent Design, and The Truth of God Incarnate. Newsflash: Psychoanalysis DOES NOT WORK. And that is only the beginning of the evidence that Emperor Sigmund the Fraud has no clothes and will go down in history on the same page as Immanuel Velikovsky and John Mack.

Crews devotes several chapters to the self-styled therapists who, long after the fraudulence of their scam has been exposed, manipulate patients into fantasizing that they were sexually abused as children and believing that the fantasies so created are recovered memories of events that really happened. And even though juries have awarded millions of dollars against the instigators of false memories for their role in causing their patients to make malicious accusations against innocent caregivers, such pushers of this criminal hoax as the authors of The Courage to Heal still push the Big Lie that "recovered memories" are more real than alien abductions. Crews describes the various methods used to encourage confabulations, but limits his rebuttal to such bland observations as, "The considerable body of technical literature showing that none of these methods reliably leads to uncontaminated memories is simply ignored" (p. 116). He does not suggest that, since false accusations of sexual abuse based on pretended recovered memories have driven more than one innocent accused to suicide, all perpetrators of the recovered memory hoax should be behind bars for crimes ranging from practising medicine without a functioning human brain to depraved-indifference murder.

Instead he contents himself with pointing out that the reliance of therapeutic quacks on what might be termed gut feelings the conceit that whatever they want to be true is true amounts to, "exactly the home-team approach to validation that produces abundant support for 'facilitated communication,' Satanic mind control, UFO abductions, previous incarnations, and telepathy this last a favorite of Freud's." He concludes, "This essay relegates both psychoanalysis and recovered memory therapy to history's ashcan" (p. 132).

Crews asks, "Why do a minority of practitioners unearth almost all the cases of past-life regression, forgotten-then-remembered incest, and multiple personality disorder? If suggestion weren't being exercised, wouldn't those cases be more evenly distributed?" He finds that psychotherapy, "for all its good intentions produces the very same results as outright fraud would do" (p. 140-141).

Since Thomas Szasz has been telling the world for fifty years that psychiatry is by definition pseudomedical humbuggery, one can only marvel that Crews even needs to reiterate Szasz's conclusions. Whether theologians or psychotherapists, "There are none so blind as those who will not see."

The chapter on Rorschach inkblots prompts the question: Why are glorified tealeaf readers still deluding themselves that using such a device to promote fantasizing is a form of medicine? Specifically Crews asks, "Was [Rorschach] capriciously assigning the equivalent of fortune cookies to his unsuspecting volunteers?" He recognizes that, "There is much in Rorschach's only book, Psychodiagnostics, that might encourage us to regard him as a crank" (p. 189).

In his chapter on UFO abductions, Crews reports that, "According to a Time/CNN poll, 64 percent of Americans now believe that creatures from elsewhere in the universe have recently been in touch with human beings" (p. 200). The chapter leaves little doubt that the masses are strongly influenced by nonsense peddlers in positions of influence, such as science and social science professors, who can only be described as not sparking on all neurons.

I find myself wondering why Crews included two chapters on Theosophy. Can there be more than a handful of hardcore fruitcakes who continue to take Helena Blavatsky's masturbation fantasies seriously? Taking 35 pages to rebut such unmitigated drivel is like using a sledgehammer to swat a fly.

Crews similarly devotes much space to rebutting the new creationism. For all but specialists, the following quotations say it all: "Working evolutionists, who note that Behe's and Dembski's 'findings' haven't been underwritten by a single peer-reviewed paper, are disinclined to waste their time refuting them" (p. 262. "Behe's analogical rhetoric is gravely misleading" (p. 262). "As for Dembski, his explanatory filter assumes what it is supposed to prove, that natural causes can't have brought about the 'complex information characteristics of life-forms'" (p. 263).

I am not about to give a "thumbs down" to a book that gets everything right, and whose only weakness is that essays originally written for academic and intellectual publications are likely to be barely comprehensible to John Q. Public. But I must speculate that a virtually identical book, in terms of content, by Martin Gardner would have been more readable by several orders of magnitude. Follies of the Wise is a valuable addition to literature debunking pseudoscience, pseudomedicine, and pseudo-knowledge, but it is by no means light reading.

The Worst Person in the World And 202 Strong Contenders
Keith Olbermann
John Wiley & Sons
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030
9780470044957 $22.95

Keith Olbermann's list of the 203 worst people in the world differs little from the list I would have compiled. The main difference is that, since Olbermann is writing for an American audience, he does not include the Ayatollahs of the Canadian Taliban who are pulling Prime Minister Quisling's puppet strings in the expectation that he can win sufficient Parliamentary support to restore heretic burning.

There is no index of the names on Olbermann's "worst person" list. The entries are in chronological order, starting with the July 1, 2005, winner, Tom Cruise, followed by July 5, 6, 8, and 18. Does that mean there are days when no award is made? Never having watched his show I am not into talking-heads programs I don't know. Perhaps he only printed the 203 most worthy?

I found many "worst person" nominees that I have never heard of. For most of them, I could see no reason to suspect that Olbermann singled out one aberrant act or utterance from an otherwise admirable person. But his inclusion of a 24-year-old woman who gave a 14-year-old boy the thrill of his life, joining with him in a consensual act of recreation that is illegal only because it violates the taboos of the godphuqt majority (p. 15), raises the suspicion that Olberman himself is a theocrat to whom the question, "Does it hurt somebody?" should not be the determining factor in whether "not believing in the gods the polis believes in" should be a criminal offense.

I similarly object to his denunciation (p. 131) of a Walmart that called the police to remove a group of religion pushers who insisted on singing carols that the one-third of Americans, and one-third of Walmart customers, who do not have an imaginary playmate in the sky, consider an insult to their intelligence. Would he castigate a department store that expelled proselytizing Scientologists? There is no difference, and anyone who thinks that non-addicts should tolerate having his religion (and no other) shoved down their throats is a bigot.

On the other hand, I unequivocally endorse his denunciation of another person I have never heard of, one John Gibson (p. 5), a braindead theofascist (there's another kind?) who declared that people outside of his sect are going to "have to answer for following the wrong religion . We know who they're going to have to answer to." Didn't Osama bin Laden say something like that? As Olbermann summarizes, "I'd tell you which religion John thinks is the only one that's right, but what's the difference? It's not the faith that's the issue. It's the intolerance."

So adherents of religion A have the right not to be labeled Hell fodder by adherents of religion B; but the sane, intelligent and educated do not have the right to go shopping without being assailed by the fairy tales of the ignoranti. Do I detect an inconsistency here?

As for Gibson's colleague at the Republicanazi Propaganda Ministry, Bill O'Reilly, "He has solidified his status as this generation's Joe McCarthy" (p. 115). In my view even listening to Fox News (except to verify that it is indeed aimed at the sub-sentient) should be grounds for commitment to an asylum for the criminally insane. I was surprised to learn that O'Reilly believes in brownies and elves (p. 243). But for someone who denies that Fox News is a "right-wing enterprise," belief in the Great Pumpkin and the Flying Spaghetti Monster is no big step.

And I wholeheartedly applaud Olbermann's listing of "the folks who dreamt up intelligent design" (p. 11), whom he equates with, "the same people who brought you 'The world is flat' and 'The earth is at the center of the universe' and 'Let's burn those scientists at the stake.'" I have long wondered how people as sub-sentient as I.D. apologists are able to remember to disrobe in the bathroom. Similarly, "doubters about global warming" (p. 202) raise the question, "What color is the sky in your world?"

Tom Cruise has a legitimate excuse for being a shill for a science fiction scam posing as a religion that targets brain amputees: He is an idiot. As a member of a profession that imposes no minimum standard of education, intelligence or rationality, it should surprise no one that he believes in aliens by which he means lifeforms that resemble humans in Star Trek makeup even though they evolved elsewhere in the universe and have no DNA in common with any lifeforms on this planet. But a superstitious ignoramus asking an educated person, "Are you really so arrogant as to believe we are alone in this universe?" is like a flat-earther asking an astronaut, "Are you really so blind that you cannot see that the earth is flat?" (p. 11) Newsflash: There may be intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. But anyone who imagines that they could even remotely resemble any form of terrestrial life should have his kindergarten graduation revoked. (see Isaac Asimov's Life and Time, p. 15.)

On page 38 Olbermann identifies a woman I've never heard of as the "former mistress" of a man I've never heard of. While "mistress" falls far short of being the equal of "nigger" or "fag," it does carry nineteenth-century connotations that are inappropriate in a less intolerant age. It is high time the word disappeared altogether. The non-pejorative equivalent is "girlfriend."

As for the listings of Ann Coulter, the particular atrocity for which Olbermann first cites her was one of her less-evil manifestations (p. 41). But her calling the Iraq war a "magnificent success," and boasting that, "I'm not a big fan of the First Amendment" (p. 83) destroy any pretence that she should be permitted to interbreed with human beings. While I do not attach any credulity to allegations that she had a brain exchange with a cabbage and the cabbage rejected her, or that her intimate anatomy smells like the emanations of a gorilla on a diet of baked beans, it is hard to dispute that she is the worst person, not only in the world, but in this galaxy. If anybody can be identified as the epitome of absolute evil, it is Ann Coulter. And when she accused all Democrats of longing "to see U.S. troops shot" (p. 112), Olbermann concludes, "So if you had November 25 as your pick in the pool for the exact day Ann Coulter could no longer be successfully defended at a sanity hearing, you're a winner."

Describing George W. Bush as the worst person in the world for his failure to respond to Hurricane Katrina, and for his raising alert levels to distract attention from his latest blunders, is too flattering (p. 47). He should top the list of worst disasters in history, alongside AIDS, Krakatoa, the Inquisition, the extinction of the dinosaurs, and the transformation of the Party of Abraham Lincoln into the Republicanazi Taliban that makes Torquemada look like a moderate.

Any list of nominees for Worst Person in the World that did not include Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, Pat Robertson, the Uberreichsfuhrers of Homeland Security (America's Gestapo), and the Right-To-Kill demagogues of the Neanderthal Rednecks Association, as well as the aforesaid Bush, Coulter, O'Reilly, Cruise, and the entire Fox News coven, could not have been taken seriously. I am pleased to report that they are all in there, although describing them as "persons," meaning Homo sapiens, may be crediting them with 30,000 years of evolution that they actually lack.

While there is no shortage of hints throughout the book, not until the last page do we learn that the book's title character, The Worst Person in the World, is in fact Bill O'Reilly. And while O'Reilly is certainly subhuman stupid, he does not have George W. Bush's legal defense of "diminished responsibility." Olbermann warns O'Reilly on more than one page that there is no air conditioning where he is going to spend eternity. If I believed in religion's Cloud Cuckoo Land and its underworld Auschwitz, I would agree. Free speech is fine. Even Fred Phelps has the legal right to show the world how insane he is. But the organizations that employ such hatemongering mad dogs as Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter should be convicted of crimes against humanity.

No one needs me to tell him whether to buy this book. The title says it all. Homo sapiens will find it delightful, entertaining reading (even if occasionally disagreeing). Homo neanderthalensis republicanazi will not.

The Koran
Penguin Classics
375 Hudson St, New York NY 10014
9780140449205 $12.00

Since I am not an Arabic scholar, the information in this review, other than quotations from the Penguin Koran, is taken from the books of Ibn Warraq1 and Ram Swarup. Several of the scholars whose articles Warraq has brought together support the theory that Muhammad was a founder, not of Islam, a theology that evolved long after his death, but of Hagarism, an attempt to establish a new Judaism centered in Jerusalem and based on the folklore that Arabs are the descendants of Abraham, his Egyptian wife Hagar, and their son Ishmael. If that theory is accurate, it logically follows that Muhammad saw himself as the new Moses, a military leader with authority from a deity. The Koranic passage in which Muhammad tells his uncle, Abu Talib, that he is following "the religion of Abraham"3 supports the scholars' interpretation.

As one wrote,4 "In short. the Koran as we have it is not the work of Muhammad but a precipitate of the social and cultural pressure of the first two Islamic centuries." The reality seems to be that Muhammad flourished in Northern Arabia, much closer to Jerusalem than present-day Mecca, and when it became necessary to establish a sanctuary to fit the Muhammad myth, Mecca was chosen because it was the site of the Kaaba, a vulva-shaped meteorite worshipped as a manifestation of the sex goddess to whom it was previously dedicated. Mecca and Medina were added to the Koran as Muhammad's retroactive stamping grounds.

Another wrote,5 "The uncertainty of the Muslim historians about Muhammad's dates is just one indication that it was some time before Muslims were much interested in him at all. It is likely that Muhammad, in so far as he was remembered at all, was remembered chiefly as a political and military leader who brought the Arab tribes together and urged them to conquer in the name of their ancestral deity."

That Muhammad was essentially a terrorist and serial killer is revealed by his own words, quoted by Swarup,6 "I have been helped by terror." Specifically, "the beheading of eight hundred members of the tribe of Quraiza in cold blood in the market of Medina must have sent a chill of terror down the spine of everyone, foe or friend." The Quraiza's crime? They failed to join Muhammad's jihad to enslave Mecca.

Like Jesus, Mohammed influenced his hearers in either of two ways. Some believed him and accepted him at his own evaluation, while others regarded him as a self-deluded madman. That the latter attitude was sufficiently widespread to suggest that it may have had a actual basis can be inferred from the number of times he deemed it necessary to issue a denial in the Koran:7 You are not mad (68:2). Why was this Koran not revealed to some mighty man from the two towns? (43.31) Give no heed to this Koran. Interrupt its reading with booing and laughter (41:26). Are we to renounce the gods for the sake of a mad poet? (37:36) Has he invented a lie about Allah, or is he mad? (34:8) Surely you are bewitched (26:153). The man you follow is surely bewitched (25:8; 17:47). When you do my recite to them a revelation, they say, 'Have have you not invented one?' (7:203) He is but a cunning enchanter (38:4). Their compatriot is no madman (7:184).

Mohammed's preaching, besides being internally inconsistent, contradicting itself on the question of whether Allah's goddess-daughters were real, was also externally inconsistent. Like any man who lived in a prescientific age, Mohammed expressed beliefs now known to be incompatible with the discoveries of geography and astrophysics. He also expressed belief in many of the myths of the Judeo-Christian bible: He created man from potter's day and the jinn from smokeless fire (55:14-15). He created seven heavens one above the other, placing in them the moon for a light and the sun for a lantern (71:15-16). I seek refuge from the mischief of conjuring witches (113:1, 4). Let them reflect on the heaven, how it was raised on high, the mountains, how they were set down, the earth, how it was leveled flat (88:l7-20). All this is written in earlier scriptures, the scriptures of Abraham and Moses (87:18-19). He [the Immerser] shall be called John, a name no man has borne before him (19:7). 'How shall I bear a child,' (Mary) answered, 'when I am a virgin, untouched by man'.... 'That is no difficult thing for Him' (19:20-21). We carried in the ark with Noah (19:58). We will call them to account in company with all the devils and set them on their knees around the fire of Hell (19:68). His master's wife sought to seduce (Joseph) (12:23). He raised it (the sky) high and fashioned it, giving darkness to its night and brightness to its day (79:27-29). Do not act like him who was swallowed by the whale (68:48). Allah in six days created the heavens and the earth (10:3). We built the heaven with Our might, giving it a vast expanse, and stretched the earth beneath it (51:47-48). We spread out the earth and set upon it immovable mountains (50:1). Jesus worked his miracles (43:63). Noah dwelled amongst them for nine hundred and fifty years (29:14). (Adam and Eve} both ate of its fruit, so that they beheld their nakedness and began to cover themselves with leaves (20:121). Remember the words of Lot, who said to his people, 'Will you persist in these indecent acts which no other nation has committed before you? You lust after men instead of women. Truly, you are a degenerate people' (7:80-81). He set firm mountains upon the earth lest it should move away with you (16:15). You have heard of those of you that broke the Sabbath. We said to them, 'You shall be changed into detested apes' (2:65). Whosoever is the enemy of Gabriel or Michael, shall make Allah Himself his enemy (2:98). Allah has appointed Saul to be your king. But he is not rich at all (2:247). David, to whom We gave the Psalms (4:163). It is Allah who has created seven heavens [meaning skies], and earths [meaning lands] as many (65:12). Jesus healed the blind man and the leper, and by My leave restored the dead to life (5:110). He holds the sky from falling down (22:65).

As the foregoing passages reveal Mohammed (and by implication, the god who inspired him) believed that the earth is flat, immobile, held in place by mountains, and covered by seven solid domes called skies or heavens to which the sun and the self-illuminating moon are attached. He also believed that the Barbary apes were descended from human ancestors.

Mohammed was a sexist to whom women were an inferior species: Men have a status above women (2:228). Call in two witnesses from among you, but if two men cannot be found, then one man and two women (2:282). Men have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the other . Good women are obedient . As for those from whom you fear disobedience beat them (4:34). Has your Lord blessed you with sons and Himself adopted daughters from among the angels? A monstrous blasphemy is that which you utter (17:40). That passage repudiated Mohammed's earlier declaration that the Arab goddesses, al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat, were Allah's daughters. Once he had acquired sufficient political power that he did not need to compromise with goddess worshippers, he identified his earlier teaching as satanic verses that Satan had seduced him into proclaiming.8 Not only did Mohammed's male chauvinist god deem men superior to women; he declared it a blasphemy to suggest otherwise.

Mohammed preached predestination: Allah misleads whom He will and guides whom He pleases (74:31). Who can guide those whom Allah has led astray? There shall be none to help them (30:29). We have predestined for Hell many jinn and many men (7:179). None can guide the people whom Allah leads astray (7:186). But he whom Allah guides none can lead astray (39:37). Allah misleads many and enlightens many (2:26). Would you guide those whom Allah has caused to err? He whom Allah has led astray cannot be guided (4:88). Allah misleads whom He will, and guides to the right path whom He pleases (6:39).

He endorsed slavery: Who restrain their carnal desires (save with their wives and slavegirls, for these are lawful to them) shall be laden with honours (70:29-35). Do your slaves share with you on equal terms the riches which We have given you? (30:28) You shall not force your slavegirls into prostitution in order that you may make money, if they wish to preserve their chastity (24:33). You are also forbidden to take in marriage married women, except captives whom you own as slaves (4:24). A believing slave is better than an idolater, although she may please you.... A believing slave is better than an idolater, although he may please you (2:221).

Like the Deuteronomist, Mohammed banned murder. And also like the Deuteronomist, he limited the concept to the capricious killing of a fellow believer: Do not kill except for a just cause (25:68). He that kills a believer by design shall burn in Hell for ever (4:93). The killing of non-Muslims was specifically authorized:9 Slay the pagans wherever you find them. Make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. When you encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads.

Like the Torah (Deut. 20:16) and the gospels (John 3:18), Mohammed's Koran made clear that belonging to the wrong superstition was a capital offense: For the unbelievers We have prepared fetters and chains, and a blazing Fire (76:4). The unbelievers among the People of the Book and the pagans shall burn for ever in the fire of Hell (98:6). They (the Jews) are the heirs of Hell (58:17). Allah has laid His curse upon the unbelievers and prepared for them a blazing Fire (33:64). Those that deny Our revelations We will burn in Hell-fire (4:56). He that chooses a religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him, and in the world to come he will be one of the lost (3:85).

The foregoing citation of Mohammed's contrary-to-fact beliefs and unevolved concept of justice may be insufficient to satisfy a convinced Muslim that his mythology is no more valid than Judaism or Christianity, but it is surely sufficient to prevent a chronic god addict, deprived of his former mind-crippling superstition and suffering withdrawal symptoms, from substituting one opiate for another. Anyone so tempted, in the belief that any god is better than no god, should keep in mind the observation of science fiction author Philip K Dick:

"I hope for His sake that God does not exist because if He does He has an awful lot to answer for."

1 Ibn Warraq, The Quest for the Historical Muhammad.

2 Ram Swarup, Understanding the Hadith: The Sacred Traditions of Islam.

3 Warraq, p. 143.

4 Warraq, p. 111.

5 Warraq, p. 103.

6 Swarup, p. 39.

7 All quotations are from the Penguin Classic, The Koran, fourth revised edition, 1974.

8 The satanic verses were omitted from the Penguin Koran, for reasons best explained by novelist Salman Rushdie (Satanic Verses): "He returns to expunge the foul verses so that they will survive in just one or two old traditions and orthodox interpreters will try to unwrite their story" (p. 123).

9 The three following Koranic quotes are taken from Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World's Fastest Growing Faith, by Robert Spencer, pp. 1, 18 and 29.

Judging God
John A. Henderson, MD, and Craig Gurgew,
Parkway Publishers
P O Box 3678, Boone, NC 28607
9781933251424 $19.95

"As we began this book, we set out to disclose the harm caused by the world's religions" (p. 1). "The authors are convinced that a world without false hope and without fear of god would be a great improvement over the delusional belief that there is a good guy in the sky looking after man's welfare" (p. 192). "If narrow-minded bigots are offended by this book, so be it!" (p. 6)

Anyone who, after reading this book, denies that, not only John Henderson and Craig Gurgew, but also Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Victor Stenger, and Christopher Hitchins, are humanitarians trying to cure the human race of a malignant, contagious mind-cancer, belongs in an asylum for the dangerously insane.

"Just as the thug with a loaded gun at your head can get you to dance, get on your knees and pray, or get your money from you 'voluntarily,' so too can the preacher threatening you with an angry god. You will do anything the clergy tells you to do to keep from being zapped into hell for eternity. The only necessity is to make you believe that there is such a god and that the priest is relaying the god's direct orders to you" (p. 122). Can any reasonable person dispute that Judging God's comparison of a thug holding a gun with a preacher threatening hellfire is a valid analogy?
"When children are repeatedly told by their parents and other adults that they can only be saved from hell by accepting Jesus as their savior, it is no wonder that they remain scarred for life. Those teachings should be classified as child abuse" (p. 90).

Anyone who, after reading this book, denies that indoctrinating children in religion is child abuse, belongs in an asylum for the dangerously insane.

"Studies have shown that 96 % of true scientists do not believe in a god like the JCM [Jewish/Christian/Muslim] god with a devil, heaven, hell, and eternal life" (p. 35).

Anyone who, after reading this book, denies that religion is most appealing to the least educated, least intelligent, and least rational dregs of humanity, belongs in an asylum for the dangerously insane.

Henderson and Gurgew include a list of 29 of the most prominent intellectuals of modern history who, according to the "we alone are saved" hatemongers, are currently residing in hell. In contrast, they point out that, "God's spokesmen now seem to be Pat Robertson and George W. Bush, neither a candidate for the intellect of the year award" (p. 208). "Pat Robertson could ace the admissions test to any state mental institution" (p. 169). "A president who even hints that he or she has had a conversation with god [at some future time] will likely be removed from office. Today people who have conversations with god are certifiably insane" (p. 264).

Anyone who, after reading this book, is unable to ask himself why persons of the intelligence and rationality of Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking rejected the god hypothesis, while persons of the intelligence and rationality of Ronald Reagan, Danforth Quayle, Bush Senior and Junior, Pat Robertson, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill O'Reilly lap it up like maggots eating excrement, should give serious consideration to a brain transplant.

"The god of the Old Testament puts modern day monsters such as Hitler and Stalin to shame. A cruel god who repeatedly engages in genocide should not be worshiped. If such acts of cruelty were carried out by modern governments, there would be a clamor to bring those governments to justice" (p. 124). "All a grand juror would have to do to indict god is to read the Bible" (p. 276).

Anyone who, after reading this book, denies that "God" is the most sadistic, evil, mass-murdering psychopath in all fiction, belongs in an asylum for the dangerously insane.

"The bibles of religions are filled with intolerance, prejudice, killing, rape, and immoral behavior" (p. 196). "At the onset, the Bible divided humans into two categories, us and them, good and evil . Using the Bible as a reference, evil has manifested itself into many different forms . Witches, sorcerers, and fortunetellers became a part of the evildoers, even though they never existed. Entire countries and civilizations were evil because they worshiped a different god" (p. 131).

"One must hunt and pick only certain statements in the scriptures to find a loving and caring JCM god . The Old Testament god threatened people with death at the end of life . The New Testament god not only threatens people with death, but also threatens them with an eternity of pain and suffering after death . Only an evil creature would do something that monstrous" (p. 177).

The Bible's god is an "all-powerful, all-knowing, supernatural being," that nonetheless, "takes no blame or responsibility for disease or illness, but it does not mind getting credit for the cure. If god is the creator of everything, then it must be responsible for the smallpox virus, AIDS, and bubonic plague" (p. 46). Various religions "brainwash their believers into foregoing transfusions, transplants, and other treatment in order to reserve a divine seat in the hereafter . One can only guess how many people have needlessly suffered their entire lives because of their religion, only to die and never learn that the pie in the sky does not exist as they are totally, irreversibly, permanently dead" (pp. 45-46). Those sado-masochistic practices are firmly based on what the fringe religions see in their bibles, or what they choose to see in them. And let us not forget Osama bin Laden who, far from being a violator of Koranic teaching as religious apologists pretend, is actually a strict enforcer.

Anyone who, after reading this book, denies that the Tanakh, Bible and Koran are the most obscene paeans to evil ever written, with Mein Kampf a far distant fourth, belongs in an asylum for the dangerously insane.

"To suppress heresy, the Church established the Inquisition in the 13th century. Nonbelievers and skeptics were imprisoned, tortured, and executed It was the most cruel and inhumane episode of religious intolerance ever known until the present day" (p. 17). "Hitler was never excommunicated and the Vatican aided hundreds of Nazis to escape after the war. Nazi Germany was a fine Christian nation in the eyes of the Vatican. Christians can look forward to meeting Adolf in heaven" (p. 85).

Anyone who, after reading this book, denies that religion is an organized crime syndicate comparable with the Mafia, Scientology, and Bush Junior's White House Gestapo, belongs in an asylum for the dangerously insane.

"Most religious followers never stop to contemplate the ridiculousness of what they believe . They believe in a talking snake and a talking donkey. Perfectly normal happens all the time, doesn't it? For those who do not believe these unbelievable myths, an eternity of suffering and misery in hell awaits. All religions have used this kind of arrogant conviction to brainwash folks who would otherwise have the intelligence not to believe such foolishness" (p. 62).

"People were taught and believed that the earth was flat and the center of the universe" (p.15). Religion taught a flat earth and a geocentric universe because that is the cosmography the Tanakh, Bible and Koran unambiguously endorse. Giordano Bruno "boldly proclaimed that the earth rotated on its axis and orbited the sun. This was a no-no for the Church and Bruno was burned alive at the stake" (p. 16).

Anyone who, after reading this book, denies that religion is a collection of fairy tales comparable with Mother Goose and Santa Claus, belongs in an asylum for the dangerously insane.

"Amazingly, a devoutly religious person, after praying to god for a cure and getting no response, will zealously seek a doctor for healing. Then, after the doctor heals this devoutly religious person, he will return to church on Sunday and thank god for the miracle. God is once again number one, and the doctor is forgotten" (p. 37). "The believers thank god for looking after their well-being, even though a daughter or son might have been killed in an accident a week earlier" (p. 75). "Physicians capitalize on the failures of the intelligent designer. They realize that if there were an intelligent designer, they would be out of work" (p. 70).

Anyone who, after reading this book, denies that religion is a form of insanity (and I have never encountered anyone who has had the disease and recovered who does not know that), belongs in an asylum for the dangerously insane.

"The fear of death is present in most people. The possibility that a person simply ceases to exist after death is incomprehensible to many. However, the fear of death makes no sense and has no purpose other than to place you under the control of the clergy. Religious leaders have used the fear of death to advance their agendas" (p. 172).

Anyone who, after reading this book, denies that immortality is a Big Lie invented by priests for the purpose of enslaving the masses, is a moral coward who needs an afterlife belief to overcome his terror of death and get him through the day without being institutionalized and diapered.

"The concept that god wants nothing to interfere when a one cell live sperm unites with a one cell live ovum is as silly and illogical as the premise that god created smallpox and does not want man fooling with it" (p. 50).

Anyone who, after reading this book, denies that persons who equate pre-human tadpoles that have zero brainwave activity indicative of human thought with self-aware sentient beings, and would grant them equal rights, are as intellectually evolved as the average Canada goose, belongs in an asylum for the dangerously insane.

"Religion will continue to interfere with the advancements of medicine under the guise of preventing man from taking over god's responsibility, but in the meantime physicians must continue to 'play god' until god decides to 'play doctor'" (p. 52). "Science has proven that the causes come from within the body, not from an external demon, god, or devil" (p. 175).

Anyone who, after reading this book, denies that religion is the antithesis of knowledge (scientia) belongs in an asylum for the dangerously insane.

"The concept of a person needing a higher authority to determine right from wrong in human relationships is contradictory to basic human intelligence . If we humans need a supernatural being to tell us that blowing our neighbor away with a sawed-off shotgun is wrong, we indeed are in a bad way" (pp. 60-61). Since only nontheists have the rationality to recognize that, "sin means hurting someone unnecessarily," it follows that nontheists are more moral, ethical, tolerant, compassionate, and functionally sane than anyone who believes that right and wrong are whatever an imaginary god's dead speechwriter said they are.

"Sixteen percent of Americans have the confidence and intestinal fortitude to admit to pollsters that they are nontheists. But given the social and economic consequences of such an admission, the true figure is more likely twice that" (p. 221). "But only two percent of the prison population. Why? Because atheists recognize that they cannot annul all offenses by promising god that they will not do it again. Al Capone's weekly reassurance from his priest that last week's murders had been forgiven and would not keep him out of heaven was the strongest possible incentive for repeat atrocities" (pp. 188-189). "The time is rapidly approaching for atheists to come out of the closet" (p. 220). Their failure to do say may be the primary factor that is keeping the theofascist tyranny of the Republicanazi Taliban alive.

Any politician who arrogantly boasts that his Republicanazi god is the source of all law, and if elected President he will impose its antihuman taboos on all Americans in treasonous violation of the First Amendment, belongs on a gurney with a needle in his arm.

Will this book wipe out religion, as Dawkins, Harris, Stenger and Hitchins have so far failed to do? Unfortunately, no. All of those authors made the point that religion is the root of all evil, as do Henderson and Gurgew. But the number of nontheists created by their books has not increased, for the logical reason that persons capable of modifying their beliefs in the light of additional information were already nontheists. All that Dawkins et alia hoped to achieve was to encourage the half or more of nontheists who are afraid of the social and economic consequences of acknowledging their true status to come out of the closet and reveal to the world that nontheists constitute one-third of all human beings on earth, including one-third of all Americans, more than Catholics (25 percent) or Baptists (22 percent). Henderson and Gurgew provide further encouragement to nontheists to stand up and be counted, by emphasizing the antihuman consequences of religion's continued existence. But they are not so unrealistic as to expect to resurrect the braindead. As long as the 75 percent of believers who are intrinsically curable allow their puppet strings to be pulled by the 25 percent who are certifiably incurable, religion will be around for a while.

So why bother writing at all? The answer is that, for religion to continue perpetrating its evil, all that is necessary is for the morally evolved to do nothing. Dawkins and the other cited truth-tellers are not willing to do nothing while religion cripples and ultimately exterminates the human race. I, the reviewer, am not willing to do nothing. (Look up my book titles on Amazon.) And John Henderson and Craig Gurgew are not willing to stand by and do nothing. Curing humankind of the most insane, mind-crippling, antihuman perversion that has ever existed on earth is a thankless job. But if humankind is to continue to exist beyond 2300 CE, someone has to do it.

Judging God is not devoid of errors, particularly in its authors' interpretations of biblical passages that do not mean what H & G think they mean. And the chapter, "Theism Nontheism Realism," goes beyond mere hairsplitting. It is unmitigated nonsense. The authors' imagined difference between nontheism and realism is analogous to writing three pages on the difference between six and half-a-dozen. Nor do H & G add any factual information to the books of Dawkins, Harris, et cetera. But their book is written at a comprehension level that makes it particularly suitable as a junior high school text. If it were added to the curriculum of all schools, and students were required to compare and contrast its conclusions with those of religion's apologists, the god delusion could be wiped out in a single generation.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Limoges Price Guide
Debby DuBay
Krause Publications/F+W Publications
Iola, WI
9780896894525 $24.99 888-457-2873;

Two hundred and forty pages of color photographs illustrate why the Limoges porcelain has been a favorite of collectors for more than two centuries. The many kinds of Limoges pieces are grouped in their own chapters--brooches, charges, cider pitchers, fish sets inkwells, punch bowls, and others; for thirty chapters in all. Many readers will be surprised at the great variety of Limoges pieces. There is wide decorative variety within each type too. Although each piece is distinguished by detail and rich coloration. Captions for each piece include identification, a note on the coloration (mostly underglaze or overglaze), factory marking, and in most cases a current value. The 26-page appendix Limoges Factory Markings or Backstamps groups hundreds by periods of years with pictures of each one. The author Debby Dubay is a widely recognized expert on Limoges porcelain who has written previous studies and price guides.

Action Speaks Louder - Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie, Revised and Expanded Edition
Eric Lichtenfeld
Globe Pequot Press
Middletown, CT
081956801 $24.95

Lichtenfeld has worked both in making films and as a film critic and commentator, including doing extra features for DVDs of several action films. He sees this popular film genre as "derived from the Western, film noir, and the police procedural (with special guest appearances made by the disaster film and others [with an evolution] quite analogous to the horror film." Though many films depict violence and mayhem, the action film is distinguished in that it ushered in a "new violence [which] would be deployed more to pleasure audiences than to jar them." This "new violence" came about from a shift in standards marking a "New Hollywood" and related changes in structures and pacing of films and cinematographic techniques such as lingering on the violence by slow-motion and close-ups. It is these and other elements, not merely the violence and plotting, which account for the new genre of the action film. The cluster of elements reflected changes in the culture's psychic relationship with violence and what it looked for in entertainment. Bonnie and Clyde is pointed to as a seminal action film, with the films Billy Jack, Shaft, and The French Connection closely related to it in paving the way for the action film by demonstrating its popularity and giving guidance for filmmakers. Advertising, publicity, and marketing of action films has as much a part in the author's multifaceted study of this major contemporary film genre as film history, film editing, and cinematography. References to numerous action films over the past couple of decades make for enjoyable as well as engaging and stimulating reading.

A New Light on Tiffany - Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls
Martin Eidelberg, Nina Gray, and Margaret K. Hofer
New York Historical Society
New York/D. Giles Ltd., London
9781904832355 $49.95

Looking into how the highly-valued Tiffany lamps and other fine objects came to be, the three authors disclose the critical, unique part Clara Driscoll had in this. Driscoll served as a major creative force for many Tiffany lamps by her own artistic sense and as director of a staff of other talented women. Recently found correspondence of Driscoll's--an Ohio native who lived from 1861 to 1944--verifies that she was mostly responsible for the classic Tiffany designs of the Wisteria, Dragonfly, and Peony.

The authors do not aim to devalue Louis Comfort Tiffany's (1848-1933) role and reputation in giving Driscoll her due. They seek mainly to lay out a broader, more informed understanding of the creation of the timeless Tiffany works. Parts of the book go beyond Driscoll's place in the company to see her as representative of sprightly, adventuresome, and bright young American woman coming into the American workforce and into large cities in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Besides Driscoll, there were a number of other similarly-talented and -natured women who contributed to the inimitable design and outstanding status of the Tiffany lamps and other objects. Collectively known as the "Tiffany Girls," many are pictured in available period photographs; and all known are given biographical notes.

Henry Berry

Judine's Bookshelf

Nathan McCall
Atria Books
A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
1416549153, $25.00, 352 pages

People moving in. People moving out. Why? You know it's because of Them. Who's Them? Who's Them? It just depends on which side of the fence you stand. Liberals vs. Conservatives -- Male vs. Female -- and of course the long standing White vs. Black. These are just a few of the things Americans chose as dividing lines amongst ourselves.

Nathan McCall's novel titled "Them" explores these issues from both sides of the fence, and delves into how society feeds upon the separation. The story begins with Barlowe Reed. He's an African American, blue collar worker, who lives in a small suburb in Atlanta, Georgia. When Sean and Sandy Gilmore, the first Caucasian family in the neighborhood, move next door to Barlowe, McCall explores Them from both perspectives. Barlowe's version of Them is WASPs (White Anglo Saxon Protestants), women and the government (Caesar is the term he uses). Sean's version of Them is winos and at times Sandy, with her liberal outlook on inclusion. Tensions spark with a mailbox fire, which flames resemble a burning cross.

Anyone who has lived near a major city, over a twenty or thirty year period, can relate to the circular change of hues in "Them." Nathan McCall held my emotional heartstrings as the characters try to circumvent the stereotypical reactions, and make a difference in the changing neighborhood. His previous successful nonfiction writing experience gives support for this excellent fiction novel. "Them" is for you no matter which side of the fence you stand.

That Mean Old Yesterday
Stacey Patton
Atria Books
A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
074329310X, $24.00, 320 pages

Life if not what it seems. I was a "kept" woman, but I had to leave. He paid the bills, took the family on vacations, and even gave me a monthly stipend, but I had to get away from my husband. He told me I would never leave, because I wouldn't find anyone who would take as good care of me and our three children. I had to make the choice between freedom or hell.

In "That Meal Old Yesterday," Stacey Patton carefully explains her world while she was growing up in Tenton, New Jersey. She didn't ask her biological family to put her up for adoption as an infant. She didn't ask for her foster parents to take her in and provide for her. But after 8 abusive years with her adoptive parents, at the age of thirteen she asked to be returned as a ward of the State; she asked to be put back into the system. Her first family, foster parents, appeared on the outside to be dysfunctional; they could not provide all of her material needs, the mother sometimes got drunk, however they treated her decently. Comparatively her wealthy adoptive parents, G and Myrtle, bought her good clothes, paid for a Catholic school education, took her to church EVERY Sunday morning, while beating and abusing Stacey almost every night. Stacey had to make a choice between freedom or hell.

Using her love for history, Stacey Patton shows how her life was not so different in 1990, than African-Americans who lived in slavery. In "That Mean Old Yesterday," she consistently compares metaphoric windows in her memoir to see "outside" of her situation, just as the slaves had to see a better life ahead, even though the present seemed bleak. This was her saving grace. I would like to see her next novel be about "Nana," her maternal grandmother, and how slavery affects the way African American families treat each other because of our different skins tones.

Judine Slaughter

Kaye's Bookshelf

Fields of Poppies as far as the Eye Can See
Etienne Oggeri
Trafford Publishing
2333 Government Street, Suite 6E, Victoria, BC, Canada, V8T 4P4
1425101372 $25.00 1-888-232-4444

This tale is about a man, Karl Haze, and the wealth he acquired from the fields of poppies the opium trade. Sergeant Karl Haze of the French Foreign Legion fought in Morocco, the mountains of Tonkin and against the Montagnard Djarais and Rhades rebel tribes. It begins with his capture and torture by a Djarai tribe and its impotent king. King Y'Siap forced Karl to impregnate three of his wives and eventually the half-blinded Karl killed the demonic king, became the new king of exceptional wealth, and established a benevolent society.

There are no chapters in this tale, just part one and part two. Part one is about Karl and his life and part two is about one of his sons, Carlos, and his life.

Etienne Oggeri is a good writer and the story is very interesting, as there are not too many novels written about the area around Vietnam. Oggeri states on the back cover that this is a true story told to him by the Montagnards, his hunting companions, and then confirmed by Diep, a former drug dealer; however, I feel that it reads like a fairytale with exceptionally beautiful women and handsome men.

Towards the end of Karl's life, he wanted to tell the truth about himself to his wife, Yolande, and his son, Carlos. Quoting from page 205:

"Karl laughed, 'Killing, I have done that, but I was also a drug dealer. I became rich by selling opium.'

'Karl, you sold people what they wanted to buy. You did not force them to buy anything,' Yolande said with relief.

'I think like Yolande, papa. But tell us how you did that. Your life is like a fascinating novel.'"

And so it is. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Loyalty's Web: An Historical Novel
Joyce DiPastena
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE
9780595432264 $18.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"In twelfth century France, King Henry II of England has just finished quashing a rebellion by his power-hungry sons and now seeks to tame the lawless barons who supported them in this corner of his 'Angevin empire.' To this end, the king has sent the Earl of Gunthar as his royal representative to ensure that Prince Richard and his former cohorts faithfully adhere to the terms of the peace treaty."

Joyce DiPastena is an exceptional writer truly a professional, and her knowledge of medieval history is revealed throughout this tale. She excels at descriptive writing, character development and intricate plots. Loyalty's Web is an historical tale of intrigue with multiple twists and turns, arranged marriages and true romance. It is a fast-paced, well-written, well-edited, fascinating read.

If you enjoy historical novels, particularly of the medieval period, I'm certain you will enjoy Loyalty's Web.

Solemnly Swear
Joe Porrazzo
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE
9780595442157 $16.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"After a career of excitement and danger, former U.S. Air Force special agent Alex Porter retires and looks forward to leading a simple, civilian life. He celebrates the successes of his daughter, a college honor student and pilot candidate in the ROTC program, and is just starting to dip his toe into the dating pool again. But when he comes upon an accident-turned-crime scene involving New England Mafia don Vince Vionelli, Porter lands in serious hot water."

What can I say good about this novel? . . . one, it's well-written and well-edited; two, it has a solid hooker for an opener. . ."The mysterious voice, clearly disguised in a deep monotone pitch, continued: 'I suggest you listen very closely. Do not get up because you are sitting on a bomb.' The sound of the word "bomb," so dramatically emphasized, had me frozen except for the pit of my stomach, which suddenly wanted to expel something."; and 3) it has an unusual ending.

However, to me, much of the story reads like a personal memoir reflections with considerable detail, and there are aspects I felt unbelievable, such as 1) the key witness to a crime committed by a Mafia boss going about his daily business with no protection, 2) Alex's responses to events more typical of an average guy than a U.S. Air Force colonel/special agent, and 3) Alex loves his only daughter, Kate, yet is totally unaware of the reality of their relationship. Is Alex a space cadet, or what? Once a writer loses his credibility, he has lost his reader.

Trilogy - The Love Generations
Neferti-ti Pranya Hamza
Llumina Press
PO Box 772246, Coral Springs, FL
9781595266217 $9.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"The name Trilogy celebrates three generations of love: grandmother, mother, and daughter.

"Poetry gives us the freedom we need when our voices are not enough. With the support of family and friends, the author embarks on a journey of self discovery, and Trilogy speaks of the experiences she has along the way. This is Neferti-ti's second book and one she hopes will make her grandmother proud."

The truth shared in this collection of poems and verses clarify for women of contemporary cultures that we are indeed sisters and have much in common to share our romances, marriages, divorces, families and friends. Neferti-ti's writing style is understandable and yet, poetically unique. Allow me to share one of her poems with you, from page 3, titled Aches and Pains:

"When the ache in my feet

had me tired and beat

I tried to walk away,

but you begged me to stay.

When the pain in my knees

had me filled with unease,

you smiled and just said,

Baby, let's go to bed.

When the ache in my chest

just would not let me rest,

you promised you'd change

anything to avoid being estranged.

When the throbbing in my head

filled in what was unsaid,

I knew what I had to do.

Get rid of my!"

Now, isn't that so true?...the progression of a declining relationship. Why do they think taking you to bed is the answer?, and what is it that we want them to change?...which they never do.

Yes, Trilogy, is a book for women, about women, and one which women of all cultures can understand and appreciate. I don't think most men would be interested as they don't really want to know or change. So, it's either accept them as they are, if you want one, or nurture your friendships and do without. Of course, we all have hopes and dreams, and don't give up yours. Miracles do happen!

Game's End
Vic Sandel
Llumina Press
PO Box 772246, Coral Springs, FL
9781595268105, $14.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"After their daring rescue of a young girl, while helping to destroy a terrorist plot to take over military and government computers, Greg Norman and Morgan Hilliard settle in for a well-needed rest. A time to resume their lives and define their budding relationship.

Then a surprise gift of basketball tickets puts them at the arena when a tiny explosive device behind the backboard injures the sport's best player. It is the first of several attacks on athletes in several sports over the next days and weeks."

Can you imagine and who do you think might profit from such attacks? But, the attacks on star athletes is just one facet in this multifaceted tale of intrigue and romance. Who is Ahmed Maluf and why is planning to kill Greg Norman..."Revenge might or might not be sweet. In this case, it was absolutely necessary."

Vic Sandel has written a good, fast-paced, catchy mystery, dealing with contemporary issues and problems. He's a good writer, can hold your attention, and his style has a special spark. The book's well written and well edited. If you're a mystery buff, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Ribbon of Darkness
Lucas Aragon
Authors OnLine Ltd
19 The Cinques, Bedfordshire GS19 3NU, England
9780755210671 $16.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"As dusk falls it becomes chilly in the wooded foothills of the Andes, and it seems even chillier when a man knows he is digging his own grave...Tyranny reigns.

Opponents of the military dictatorship go missing. Only corpses re-appear, and it is clear the victim have been horribly tortured and executed.

Can the son of a defence attorney escape the nightmare or will he be the secret police's next victim?

Soaring passions, and human frailty and strength, combine in this powerful and graphic story of courage against all odds."

This a fictional story about Francisco Miguel Vasconcelos (Pancho), his family and Mary Elizabeth Sinclair. A pregnant nurse Mary comes to Don Antonio's law office for help in finding her missing boyfriend/father-of-her-child and meets Pancho, Don Antonio's son, who is married to pregnant Rosa, a woman he does not love. Mary's boyfriend turns up dead and Mary loses her premature baby.

Pancho kills a conscript in self-defense when he is discovered out past curfew; CINA agents terrorize and brutalize him in his home, and Mary saves his life. Pancho's father is missing and his mother is abducted. Eventually Pancho is taken to be tortured until he confesses and then spends four years in prison, enjoying all the unique aspects of prison life. He marries Mary while in prison after he understands why she had sex with another man for him, of course. Finally Pancho is released and with his true love, Mary, and her illegitimate son, Luis, from the other man, they arrive in Manchester where they work (he in the kitchen of a Mexican restaurant) and raise their two sons.

Throughout this convoluted tale, Pancho has a variety of sexual encounters: first he has sex with a friend's wife a very willing, old girlfriend while he's on the run from the CINA after killing the conscript; second, he forcibly seduces his wife, Rosa (who hates sex because she was molested as a child), after she loses her baby...with threats that he will put her out; third, , he tries to seduce Mary but she panics at the last moment; fourth, Mary changes her mind; fifth, Pancho goes to prison and is gang raped; sixth, he has one cell mate with whom he becomes intimate; and lastly, Pancho returns to a normal sex life with Mary.

Sometimes you like Pancho and other times he's just a male jerk. It was a little hard for me to believe that Mary could love Pancho so devotedly and so soon after the death of her missing boyfriend and lost of her baby. Possibly this love blossomed from her first impression of Pancho standing naked while drying his hair. "For between glistening thighs, dangling out from a nest of black public hair, dense and tightly curled, two testicles bulged in their scrotum. Up front, proudly arced, drooped his penis, thick and long. Uncut. It swung to and fro like some lurid pendulum as, barefoot, he padded towards her. An involuntary display. Uncensored. She had never witnessed anything like it."

This novel describes in detail many terrible ways man has created to torture and humiliate other men. It also provides a realistic account of prison life and living under a dictatorship. Lucas Aragon was an active member of Amnesty International when they campaigned against human rights abuses in Chile. Ribbon of Darkness, his first novel, is the result of his experiences and research over a ten year period. It is certainly a most provocative, unusual novel.

Belt Buckles & Pajamas
Michele LeBlanc
Kanapolis Fog Publishing Emporium
713 Rustic Rd, Anderson, Indiana
9780615147147 $11.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"Daphne is a young woman with a troubled past. With her in the Kanapolis Sanitarium are a strange collection of people who both hinder and help her as she tries to heal from an abusive childhood.

"Glen, the protector. Theodore, the wise. Stuart, the paranoid. Violet, the nymphomaniac. Pet Shop, the zookeeper. Shy Boy, the drooler. And Andie, the therapist who finally reaches through to Daphne.

"A story with sadness, horror, comedy, hate love and redemption."

First off, this story reminded me somewhat of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but at a teenage level and more complex in a unique way. The cover says that Daphne is a young woman, but for some reason, I felt the characters to be in their teens. Belt Buckles & Pajamas delves into the complexities of the psychological affects resultant when a young girl, Daphne, is sexually molested by her father, not protected by her mother, and deceived my her imaginary friend Melissa. Dr. MacPherson, Andie, is the key to Daphne's wholeness.

Michele LeBlanc is an exceptional writer and does an excellent job of bringing to life these colorful, strange characters. In a way, one might consider this tale to be a mystery of sorts, as the ending is quite surprising, and I wouldn't want to spoil that element for you. It is certainly worth reading a second time, just to see how LeBlanc worked her magic. The story is well written and well edited. Allow me to share a small portion of LeBanc's writing with you, from page 66:

"'No, no cutting or bleeding. Not on the outside.' She (Andie) looks straight at me. 'But inside, I have my demons and fears and nights when I wake up screaming.'

"'You do?' I wonder at the possibility, that he could ever penetrate her dreams. That she was ever forced to... to be me. 'You have nightmares, like I do?'

"She takes my hands, looks me in the eyes. I cannot see any demons in her irises. I am certain I am unable to hide the ones swimming in my own. 'Daphne, I know you have very frightening dreams. I know what has happened in the past haunts you. I won't pretend that my own nightmares are anything like yours, but I do have them. There are... incidents in my past that visit me when I sleep, that leave me trembling and sweating and crying. But they do not own me. They do not keep me from living in the present. That is what I am offering to you. I cannot make them go away, only you can do that. I cannot make the past any brighter, and better, any safer than it really was. What I can do, what we can do together, is learn how to accept what happened, and how to keep it in the past where it belongs. It doesn't have to be our master; it doesn't have to keep us from enjoying today.'

"Her impassioned plea, her vulnerability, her empathy wash over me, overwhelm me, drown me. I know she is telling me the truth, about wanting to help, about her own nightmares but especially about how she doesn't know just how bad mine are. It is obvious that he isn't a part of her nights; that she had been able to sleep through until morning and he never woke her and she never heard the belt buckle hit the floor or wet her pants because she smelled his cigar in the hallway.

"'Tell me about the dreams, Daphane,' she pleads and I don't want to because either she won't understand or worse she will and then he would have tainted her too and she wouldn't be pure and she would have part of him in her and I could never love her without loving him too and he would win.

"She purses her lips. God! How does someone do that? A simple tightening of a couple facial muscles and I am pulled to her, she is opening me and I am fighting it trying not to contaminate her, trying to keep her safe so there is still Base so I can still call Base and not be tagged."

As the author says, "Belt Buckles & Pajamas is intended for mature audiences, as it deals with a young woman's recovery from childhood abuse, and some of the situations are not suitable for younger readers. The novel contains some humorous moments to lighten the story; however, in the end, it is a story about the redemptive power of love and the strength of the human spirit."

One of the best books I've read in quite awhile. You won't be disappointed!

Of Ghosts and Magic
Alfred M. Albers
1094 New DeHaven Street, West Conshohocken, PA
0741441217 $15.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"In 1973, Alex Holloman got a job as a courier and met a wonderful lady. Suddenly, his world fell apart; his parents were killed and then he inexplicably disappeared. When America's Foremost Magician, John Michaels, agreed to perform for his high school's 30th Anniversary Reunion in June 2000, he didn't know it would also involve searching for his friend, Alex Holloman. Unlike creating a magic illusion, which is based on principles of mathematics and science, attempting to find a missing person would challenge John Michaels' expertise to 'create a miracle' in less than three weeks."

This fictional mystery has several positive attributes: 1) detailed information about New York City and Virginia Beach, 2) how one might go about locating a missing person, and 3) entertaining descriptions of professional magic acts. The story is basically that John Michaels, a professional magician, is asked to perform at his 30th high school reunion. He learns that his best friend in high school, Alex, is missing. So, he sets himself the challenge of putting together his show and locating Alex, and through these efforts he also renews his acquaintance with Stella.

There were several things, to my taste, I did not care for: 1) The amount of 'fluff and fill' polite dialogue in this case somewhat cliched to read through to find the story, and 2) the extensive detailing of every action, as though this novel were a screenplay.

It is stated on the back cover that Al Albers is a Technical Writer for a major defense contractor. Possibly that would explain the author's attention to action details. Other than that, I found this well-written, well-edited novel to be an enjoyable, light read. And, if you're interest in magic and love details, this may be just the book for you.

The Challenge of Being a Woman - Why I'm Bold, Brash and Brazen
Pat Estelle
9781430326816 $12.96

Quoting from the back cover:

"The Challenge of Being a Woman was written, in part, because of the author's intense dislike of the offensive designation of whore or 'ho. She believes that the inimical appellation has practically become a synonym for woman, used frequently and indiscriminately by men who reason for using it seems to be nothing more than their disdain for women. The book is her brief account of the long and arduous struggle of women in what she perceives to be a man's world. It examines some serious issues, but frequently with subtle humor."

This small, easily-readable book is divided into 20 chapters: Telling It Like It is!; Opinionated Whore or Man-hater?; I am Woman-Hear me Roar; Memorable Women; Amazon Women-Myth or Fact?; Is the Devil a Woman?; Platonic Relationships; To Marry or Not-That is the Question; How do I Look?; Games Women Play; Thinking about Sex; Prostitution; Pornography; Polygamy, Harems, Concubines and Geisha; Sex Crimes; Sex Scandals; Domestic Abuse; Dead-beat Dads; He says-She says; Conclusion.

Pat Estelle has certainly tried to cover it all, and what I heard as I read was a woman roaring . . . possibly out of frustration over the general status of women in today's society (though she states on page 16: "... I love men, am not angry or bitter, and do not wish to be spiteful or vindictive...."). In this book Estelle has taken the time and made the effort to organize her thoughts and beliefs concerning women's problems. However, she does not address how we got here, how we have contributed to the problems, nor what we should be doing about them. She does state in the Conclusion chapter: "In spite of evidence to the contrary, I believe there is hope for humankind. I am optimistic that during future evolvement, men and women might undergo real significant changes, become less fragile, more desirable and incorruptible creatures, ones that can't be damaged or broken so easily, and are without so many defects and flaws."

My personal commentary in response to Pat Estelle's book is: 1) it's always easier to find fault than solutions; 2) who or what told us that life is fair; and 3) aren't we responsible in someway for these problems? A simple solution which would bring about a major change in male attitudes would be for women to organize and agree to close their legs . . . in other words, . . . to say no. As this has not happened, it is my take that the majority of young women have voluntarily (porn being an excellent example) agreed to participate in their degradation which we view daily via TV and other media, as women strive to stimulate, excite, and sate the male's sexual appetite. And in the end, what IS IT ALL really about?... being desired?, being wanted?, being loved?, competing for males?, or is it economics? I am sure the answer is not a simple one, but we, as women, do need to look within ourselves for the answers as to how and why we have arrived at this place.

Peacemaker of the Pecos
C. E. Edmonson
Aventine Press
1023 4th Ave, San Diego, CA
1593304927 $12.50

Quoting from the cover:

"William Hart is a family man with a hidden past. When a greedy and ruthless land baron hires gunmen to murder the town sheriff and take over the county, Will embarks on a mission for justice a mission that could cost him more than his life.

From the West Texas frontier in the 1870s, this is a story of courage, friendship and family love."

Peacemaker of the Pecos is a classic western, and C.E. Edmonson has done an excellent job in telling this tale. The story is well written and well edited. Allow me to share a small portion with you, from page 58:

"Gently, Will removed the sheriff's silver badge, wiped it against his shirt, and put it in his pocket. He tore the note off the body, crumpled it up and threw it into the street, where a gust of west wind took it. Then he took away the shotgun shells, tossed them on the ground, and gently closed Noble's mouth. He lifted the shot gun, snapped it closed and stood it up against the window. He placed the Stetson, which he turned frontward, over his friend's face, as if to shield him from the bright light of the lanterns.

"Then Will bowed his head, and wiped his blurred eyes. He placed a hand on his dead friend's shoulder, and whispered, "I'm so sorry, Colonel." He stood there silently for a moment more, until a slight tremble shook all his muscles at once. He knew what he had to do. It wouldn't bring Noble back. But it might help him rest easier.

"Will drew the pearl-handled Colt .45 Peacemaker from the holster. He cracked the cylinder and saw that the revolver was still fully loaded. He slipped the pistol back inside the leather and slid it in and out, making sure it was loose and did not stick. Then he removed the shoulder harness from the body and strapped the rig across his own chest. He turned to the crowd and asked, "Anyone seen Granger and Marlowe?""

If you enjoy true-to-life westerns, you will enjoy this novel.

Lifeline Online - A memoir
Rm Lamatt
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd., 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432705893 $13.95 1-888-672-6657

Quoting from the back cover:

"RoseMarie felt dead, without feelings for anything or anyone, and only the beat of her heart kept her alive. Why did she feel this way? What was so bad that a fairly healthy woman would even consider suicide? In desperation, RoseMarie reached out in 1995 to connect with someone-anyone-and found a dear friend in an unlikely place-on the Internet. Thus began one of the deepest friendships she had ever known and created a virtual lifeline for the both of them. For the next nine years they lived their lives in daily contact, laughing, crying, supporting each other in a relationship unlike any either could have imagined."

I love honest writers, even when the truth may not be particularly attractive. Such is the case in this memoir, Lifeline Online. It's a story about average women living life as it comes, trying to do the best they can, and finding some happiness along the way. Ms. Lamatt's first sentence on the back cover ..."RoseMarie felt dead, without feelings for anything or anyone, and only the beat of her heart kept her alive."... is quite an opening hooker. I believe there are many women who can identify with this thought at some point in their lives. And so, therein lies the appeal of this memoir . . . how did RoseMarie get past this point?, how did she find something of value?

Rm Lamatt's writing style is diarylike in a sense . . . rich in details; and yet, she keeps you interested and turning pages to the end. Her story is well written and well edited. As to its market appeal, I think middle-aged and older women might find it inspiring, particularly if they, too, have a desire to write.

Rm Lamatt is also the author of Fears Flutterby to which I gave a favorable review in February 2006. In Lifeline Online she continues to hone her writing skills.

Kaye Trout

Lockstein's Bookshelf

The Choice
Nicholas Sparks
Grand Central Publishing
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
0446579920 $24.99

The Choice by Nicholas Sparks is the story of Travis and Gabby and their history of their love. The book begins as Travis brings flowers to the hospital where Gabby works. They've been apart for months, and it's tearing him apart. Exhausted by the ordeal about to come, he reflects on how they met and fell in love. The story moves along quickly as they move from antagonistic neighbors to the first kiss and making a life together. All too soon, Travis is shaken from his reverie and brings the flowers to his comatose wife and faces a decision about a promise Gabby made him make her years ago. This was a sweet romance camouflaging a deeper story about faith, promises, and death. Sparks brings up excellent points that force the reader to consider what they would do in a similar circumstance. The decision Travis has to make nearly tears him apart, and the power of this book lies in him and his faith. This was a great romantic read, guaranteed to bring a few tears.

Cinderella Meets the Caveman
Dr. David E. Clarke
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR 97402
0736919112 $12.99

Cinderella Meets the Caveman by Dr. David E. Clarke is a scary Christian marriage guide. Scary because I swear the Clarke had video cameras in my house, and I really wish he hadn't shared my personal information with the world! :) The good doctor nails the communication problems in marriage square on the head. Most women fall into the Cinderella trap: we want our husbands to instinctively understand what we want and need without telling them. And men (at least mine) are Cavemen: as long as they have clothing, food, and sex they are happy. It seems simplistic, but it really is just that easy. I loved reading this book. I found myself laughing out loud so hard at some parts that Jesse insisted that I read them to him as well. We took turns blushing as Clarke nailed us to the wall with our flaws. The tone is humorous and he definitely gives it to each mate about how they fail at communicating with the other. I had never thought of communication as a problem in my marriage until I read this book. Once I started spotting mistakes I was making (that ended up escalating), I was able to use Clarke's suggestions to let Jesse know how I was feeling or what I needed. It was amazing to see the results work so quickly and so well. Jesse's currently reading the book now, and I'm passing it on to my newlywed best friend next. It's the rare Christian self-help book that gives such sound advice with so many belly laughs.

The Betrayed
Lisa Bergren
The Berkley Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0425217086 $23.95

The Betrayed by Lisa Bergren is a thrill-ride in the vein of The DaVinci Code and The Rule of Four, but with better writing and a believable plot. The sequel to The Begotten, the book picks up with Daria, Father Piero, Gianni and the rest of the Gifted in Venice trying to figure out where God wants them to go next. A little background plot: It's 14th century Italy, and a fragment of a lost letter to the Corinthians by Paul prophesies of a group of people called The Gifted who will join together under the symbol of the peacock to battle the Sorcerer and his dark forces. Daria heals, Father Piero has the gift of wisdom, Gianni has faith, Hasani sees visions, Tessa discerns good from evil, Zola who betrayed the group in The Begotten has the gift of tongues. Daria and the gang fled Siena after pursuit by Abramo Amidei, the Sorcerer who wishes to enslave the Gifted's powers for evil. A cardinal from the Vatican is also pursuing the Gifted in hopes of using them to advance his own position in the church to Pope. Each group holds a piece of the lost Letter. The Gifted discover pieces of a map have been hidden throughout the churches of Venice and begin the hunt trailed by Amidei and the cardinal. Politics twine throughout the tale making friends and enemies difficult to distinguish. An enemy now may be an ally later and vice versa. A new member of the Gifted makes himself known in a spectacular way. I love Bergren's attention to detail throughout this series. She made Siena and Venice come alive with rich descriptions. The characters are well-rounded with the Gifted slipping in their faith occasionally, and Amidei's allies questioning his actions as well. Bergren's attention to small detail is amazing: Abramo Amidei's name is itself an attack on God. Translated the name means: Abraham God's friend, nice touch! Trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together for the Gifted is just as exciting for the reader. After reading The Begotten, I had to force myself to hold onto The Betrayed for a couple of weeks before reading it. It was so compelling, I can't wait for the next book in the series to come out, and while it looks as though the series is intended to end with the next, I sincerely hope not. This is one of those series that I would love to just go on and on. Adventure, swashbuckling, romance, faith, mystery, this book has it all.

Life, Libby, & the Pursuit of Happiness
Hope Lyda
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR 97402
0736917896 $12.99

Life Libby and the Pursuit of Happiness by Hope Lyda. Libby Hawthorne has been living her life for a long time waiting for that big promotion which will lead to her finding true love, dressing better, making more friends, becoming closer with God, understanding her family, and falling in love with the perfect man. Haven't we all been waiting for that promotion? Instead what Libby gets is a demotion, newly single, and questioning every decision she's made in the last five years. When her former boss Cecelia promises Libby that promotion if she just helps her with one last project, Libby takes the bait turning her whole world upside-down. Libby is one of the most delightful characters I've encountered in chick-lit! She's sarcastic and funny, and while she may get down on herself, it's mostly just because she's floundering through life trying to figure out what she really wants. The conversations between Libby and her friends ring so true; it's almost as if Lyda tape recorded coffee house conversations about people searching for the meaning of life. Libby wants what we all do: a fulfilling job, love, a good relationship with her family, and when God doesn't seem to put obvious choices in front of her for those things, she keeps slugging on hoping someday she's figure it all out. Libby speaks with the voice of Generation X, so when she starts listening to God and paying attention to the opportunities He puts in her path, it's heart-warming. Maybe the ending is a little too neat, but that's just because I fell so thoroughly in love with Libby and her friends, that it seems to soon to see them go. There were a couple of moments that seemed manufactured for plot purposes, but with snappy dialog, great characters, and a strong message of faith, this is a great read!

The Dead Whisper On
T.L. Hines
Bethany House
P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516
0764202057 $19.99

The Dead Whisper On by T.L. Hines is the story of Canada McHugh as she searches for who she really is and falls prey to dark forces. Canada, a garbage collector in Butte Montana, hears the voice of her late father in shadows. At first she thinks that she's losing her mind, but because she's lost everything of value to her, she starts listening. Her father encourages her to join a group of people fighting evil in the world. She jumps into a strange world of black vehicles and airplanes where she swoops in after accidents or disasters and provides information to the press to help inform the world of the dangers of meth labs and serial killers. But Canada is being stalked by an unstoppable being named Keros who hunts her as she flees across the country. Canada is that rare character who is fully developed with natural quirks and complicated history. Not only is she sympathetic, but she grows as a person throughout the story. She breaks out of the shell her father's death forced her into and finds abilities that she didn't know she had. Hines is a Christian writer without ever proselytizing or creating unbelievable coincidences. The twists and turns in the story make it impossible to turn down, and it has an excellent message that I can't share without giving it all away. Waking Lazarus, Hines' first novel, was terrific, and this is even better. This is a writer to watch!

Sushi for One
Camy Tang
5300 Patterson Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49530
0310273986 $12.99

Sushi for One by Camy Tang is the first book in the Sushi series. Lex Sakai, volleyball coach and player has just become OSFC (Oldest Single Female Cousin) in her clan due to cousin Mariko's upcoming wedding. Lex's grandmother insists that Lex find a boyfriend (the real deal, no fake) in time for the wedding or she's pulling funding for Lex's junior high girls volleyball team. Lex is desperate to get the funding, so she starts a manhunt with help from her cousins, but her list of qualifications in a man keeps growing longer and longer and no man seems to measure up. Tang manages with great ease to pull off the delicacy of writing hilarious pratfalls along with deep friendship and faith. Lex's clumsiness had me in tears laughing at the poor girl and then again in tears at her frustration at the failure of her body. Aidan doesn't stand a chance against Lex, and he knows it, but just can't seem to help himself. Tang makes Aidan and Lex's feelings for each grow naturally without force. Lex's cousins are fascinating in and of themselves, and I can't wait to read the next book in the series! I crown Camy Tang Queen of Asian Christian Chick-Lit!

Any Day With Hair is a Good Hair Day: Trust Me I've Been There
Michelle Rapkin
Center Street
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
1599957051 $14.99

Any Day With Hair is a Good Hair Day by Michelle Rapkin is a primer on what to do immediately after the diagnosis of cancer. Rapkin speaks conversationally and pulls no punches; from sex to runny noses and mastectomies, she offers information on everything. I don't have cancer, but I learned a great deal about how the illness affects people and what I can do to help. I also took some advice that I can use as a rheumatoid arthritis patient: if your doctor doesn't treat you like you think he would treat his spouse/child, he's not the right doctor for you. Much of Rapkin's advice is about small things that can make a big difference to someone with cancer. Bring tissues with you everywhere; as the hair leaves your head, it will also leave your nose, so your nose will run constantly. Rapkin is upbeat with a flair for compelling writing. She doesn't spend pages going over her own case history; she's far more interested in helping you make the best of yours. There are pages that can be photocopied for friends and family with suggestions on how best to help the patient, plus a crossword puzzle, online resources, and even prayers for all major religions specifically focusing on cancer. This is definitely a must read for those recently diagnosed and those who love them.

Christy Lockstein

Margaret's Bookshelf

Sleep Before Evening
Magdalena Ball
BeWrite Books
32 Bryn Road South, Wigan, Lancashire, WN4 8QR, UK
9781904492962, $17.99

Sleep Before Evening is the story of a brilliant young woman who, after experiencing a death in the family, abandons the promise of her academic career for a desperate search within herself. Her new life is immersed in the dark side of New York, in all its squalor, booze, drugs, sex, violence, poetry, and original music. Despite the dangers, she braves morass for its stimulating freedom, and the opportunity to burrow underneath the layers of her life and uncover the inner pain that hurts so badly. A haunting and absorbing narrative of trying self-discovery.

Victory Over ADHD
Deborah Merlin & Larry Cook
EcoVision Communications
10008 National Blvd., Ste. 439, Los Angeles, CA 90034
9780975536179, $16.95

Victory Over ADHD: How a Mother's Journey to Natural Medicine Reversed Her Children's Severe Emotional, Mental, and Behavioral Problems is the true story of one mother's struggle to help her children. The medical community continued to advance Ritalin as the only answer at every turn in response to her sons' behavioral and concentration problems; but ultimately, the cause of their hardship was diet-related - they (and she) were obtaining insufficient amino acids, and in need of supplements. Victory Over ADHD denounces Ritalin for treating the symptoms of ADHD, but not the underlying toxicity that can help create them - toxicity contributed to by too much junk food in the diet, harmful sodium fluoride in drinking water, lack of exercise, and in adults, neglecting to properly cleanse the colon. Though Victory Over ADHD does not unilaterally denounce vaccinations, it strongly warns against vaccinations for infants and young children with risk factors (such as low birthrate, or relatives who reacted badly to a vaccine) that predispose them to an adverse reaction. The overall message of Victory Over ADHD is that parents and individuals of today's society need to improve their immediate environment and overall health rather than rely on expensive drugs and antibiotics to fix all their problems, despite what corporate advertising would have us believe. A much-needed counterpoint to the endless drug marketing ads one sees and the drug-focused cultural indoctrination among modern medical professionals.

What Story Are You Living?
Carol S. Pearson, Ph.D. & Hugh K. Marr, Ph.D.
Center for Applications of Psychological Type, Inc.
2815 NW 13th St., Suite 401, Gainesville, FL 32609
9780935652789, $24.95

Professor of Leadership Studies Carol S. Pearson and psychologist and therapist Hugh K. Marr present What Story Are You Living?: A Self-Improvement Guide for Discovering and Directing the Unconscious Influences that Drive Your Life Story, a guide to applying the scientifically validated Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator (two self-scorable copies are included) to learn the archetypal patterns and themes that are unconsciously influencing one's life. With this knowledge comes the power to break out of unproductive ruts, improve one's personal and professional relationships, and discover new hidden strengths, motivational triggers, and career opportunities. An easy-to-use consumable self-help workbook, accessible to readers of all backgrounds and invaluable for furthering personal discovery.

Giving Thanks
M.J. Ryan
Conari Press
c/o Red Wheel/Weiser
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950-4600
9781573243179, $16.95 1-800-423-7087

The life coach columnist for "Health" magazine, M.J. Ryan is perhaps best known for her being one of the creators of the 'Random Acts of Kindness' series. In "Giving Thanks: The Gifts Of Gratitude", Ryan has composed a compendium of commentaries about the benefits of being grateful, of feeling and express appreciation, of living life happier, healthier, and more abundantly because of our awareness and willingness to acknowledge all the good things that we are proffered and experience. Enhanced throughout with occasional full color photograph, "Giving Thanks" is organized into three major sections; 'The Gifts of Gratitude', 'The Grace of Gratitude', and 'The Acts of Gratitude'. Inspired and inspiring, "Giving Thanks" is to be savored and appreciated.

The Perfect Gentleman
Kristin Kuhns Alexandre
Runnymede Press
PO Box 367, Far Hills, NJ 07931
9780977668700, $14.95

The Perfect Gentleman: The Secrets Rich Girls Use to Choose the Classiest Guys is a relationship self-help guide for women of all backgrounds. Despite its title, The Perfect Gentleman is emphatically not about marrying rich - it's about marrying a "classy" person, where class is defined as kindness, empathy, and the willingness to better oneself and work as a team partner alongside one's chosen lifemate - in other words, quality husband and/or father material. The Perfect Gentleman urges readers to be wary of first impressions, and form reasoned and sensible judgments as to which men to pursue and which to avoid. Recommended questions to ask a potential mate (and the warning that men who evade or dodge questions too much or have too many secrets are definitely not worth it) pack this guide along with many strategies and suggestions to finding a good man. "One way to judge a man's ambition is to measure his gusto for living. Does he set priorities? Does he follow his heart? Are you included in that picture? Are you going to be included in that picture?" Highly recommended.

Margaret Lane

Mark's Bookshelf

The First-Time Homeowner's Survival Guide: A Crash Course in Dealing with Repairs, Renovations, Property Tax Issues, and Other Potential Disasters
Sid Davis
AMACOM, American Management Association
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780814473726, $16.00, 225 pages

Sid Davis' third in his series of survival guides for home buyers, owners and sellers is aimed at first-time buyers to take the surprises out of many aspects of managing a home after purchase. However, it's an excellent tool for any home owner that needs to discover do-it-yourself or inexpensive recipes for fixing and maintaining a myriad of malfunctions in a home. In a comprehensive format that includes checklists, money-saving tips, ins-and-outs of hiring contractors, and lay-person explanations of construction jargon.

Chapter titles are: Your Home's Electrical System 101, Maintaining and Fixing Your Home's Plumbing System, How to Create Great-Looking Walls and Ceilings, Interior Improvements That Add Value, Exterior Maintenance and Improvements That Add Value, Your Home's Landscaping and Curb Appeal, Hiring and Working with Contractors, Tax Aspects of Owning a Home, Insurance Matters for Homeowners, and Avoiding the Ten Most Costly House Problems. Plus three excellent Appendix's: Dealing with Disaster, Average Life Expectancy of Your Home's Components and Energy Savings and a Greener Home. Additional features include a preface and index.

Chock-full of black and white illustrations and photographs, related shaded online resource boxes, quick-tips and relevant consumer information on many topics, it's a one-stop desk reference for homeowners. I especially enjoyed the chapter on property taxes, which many home owners pay, without fully understanding that you could be entitled to deductions based on qualifying exemptions, or that if you feel yours are higher than comparable homes in your neighborhood, that you can protest them formally through taxing authorities. A great house warming gift for any home buyer, an inside scoop for first-timers, or a fast-track cliff notes for existing home owners.

Estate Planning Made Easy
Doug T. Phillips & Bill S. Wolfkiel
Kaplan Publishing
30 South Wacker Drive, Suite 2500, Chicago,IL 60606
9781419595967, $21.95, 1-800-223-2336

Death and taxes are the only sure thing in life. However, David Phillips and Bill Wolfkiel's new book on estate planning if utilized to it's potential will surely save your estate ( but not spare the inevitable) from high taxes imposed from state and federal agencies. Americans don't like to talk about death, or how it's effects on loved ones, businesses, and real estate can be complex, financially draining, and a wake-up call to those left behind to pay the tax man. The third edition of Estate Planning Made Easy is updated with recent legislation which can impact your estate.

Chapter titles include: Estate Planning: It's Your Money and More, Objectives: What Do You Want?, The Ten Most Common Estate Planning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them, Assembling the Team: Finding a Quarterback, Ownership and Title: The Built-In Estate Plan, Passing Property: Are Wills Enough?, Passing Property Through Contracts, Trusts, and Operation of Law: The Beneficiary Designation, Probate: The Unnecessary Last Resort, Estate Taxation: The Last Big Surprise, States and Death Taxes: Getting Their Fare Share, Estate and Gift Taxation: The Impact of EGTRRA 2001: The Annual Gift Tax Exclusion, Transfers at Death: A Stepped-Up Basis, The IRS "Assault" on Your Grandchildren: Extra Tax on Transfers That Skip Generations, The Retirement Time Bombs: Losing Your Retirement Benefits Through Taxation and Poor Planning, Using Your Deductions: Use Them or Lose Them, The Magic of Revocable Trusts: A Shelter from the Storm, QTIP and Reverse QTIP Planning: Gaining Control, Irrevocable Trusts: The Keys to Disinheriting the IRS, The Family Dynasty Trust: Breaking the Tax Chain, The Credit Shelter Trust: Creating True Leverage, The Discounted Dollar Plan: Taking Revenge on the IRS, The Spousal Support Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust: A New Estate Planning Strategy with Exit Doors, Premium Finance: Where to Find the Premium, College 529 Savings Plans: Educate Your Posterity and Reduce Your Estate, Charitable Giving and the Wealth Replacement Trust: The Only Remaining Tax Shelters, Private Foundations: The Ultimate Zero Estate Tax Plan, The Charitable Gift Annuity: Now You Can Give and Receive, Qualified Personal Residence Trust: Keeping Your House in the Family, The Reverse Mortgage: Extract Your Home Equity and Reduce Your Estate While Never Leaving Home, Life Settlement: Selling Old Ineffective Life Policies for Cash, Protecting Your Assets: Watching Your Backside and Getting Started: Taking the Next Step-Our Invitation to You. Plus, a Dedication, Preface, Introduction, How to Use This Book, a Glossary, Index and The Next Step.

Estate planning is for those willing to educate themselves about how smart asset protection strategies can create more to leave to their family or business partners. Long considered by many, a sophisticated tool for the wealthy, Phillips and Wolfkiel streamline the jargon and present what you really need to know, to find and retain a professional estate planning team. I especially liked the chapter on Private Foundations. It really helped me understand how the benefits of setting one up can shift death taxes to favorite charities. And, we've all benefited from the so-and-so foundation on Public Television and in many other areas. An excellent primer for those looking to talk some of the talk before shopping for an estate planner or for couples to start that unspeakable conversation, what if you/I die?

Mark Nash

Mayra's Bookshelf

The Christmas Angel
Mary Jean Kelso
Illustrated by K.C. Snider
Guardian Angel Publishing
12430 Tesson Ferry Road #186, Saint Louis, Missouri 63128
1933090588 $9.96

The Christmas Angel is a sweet, heart-warming Christmas story about a little girl who ends up finding friendship in the most unexpected of circumstances. Set during the time of the pioneers, this is a tale that both teaches and entertains.

Eight-year old Melissa must leave her Philadelphia home to travel with her family to the West across the Oregon Trail, a daunting 2,170-mile long journey. Because they will travel by wagon, she is allowed to take with her only her most prized possession. For Melissa, this is an easy choice: the delicate porcelain Christmas angel her father once brought her from England. Carefully and lovingly, she wraps the angel and packs it in a box. Their trip is harsh, as they must walk many miles a day, mostly on foot, cross dangerous creeks, and camp overnight in wild, Indian territory. Melissa constantly worries that something will harm her precious angel. Then one day, her worst nightmare comes true her angel is lost. Luckily, the most unexpected person brings it back to her.

This is a lovely book about friendship between two very different people from opposite cultures. It is also a tale about hope and the magic of Christmas. Children will delight in the colorful illustrations as they learn about the Oregon Trail and the pioneers, their hardships and dreams of a better life. At the end of the book there's a section with activities and information about the pilgrims, as well as a game and a map.

The Christmas Angel will make a lovely Christmas gift to any child as well as an excellent tool for teachers to teach this era of American history.

Cynthia's Attic: The Magic Medallion, Book II
Mary Cunningham
Echelon Press
9735 Country Meadows Lane 1-D, Laurel, MD 20723
9781590804605 $9.99 410-878-7113

In this the second book in the Cynthia's Attic series, best friends Gus and Cynthia are once again swept back in time into a world of fantasy, mystery and adventure. These two young protagonists never give up or say no at the opportunity of a good thrill, and this book is even better than the first.

By way of the magic trunk in Cynthia's old and cobweb-filled attic, the girls are transported back to 1914, where they end up in a circus and at the hands of a sinister and mean hobo clown who tries to force them to work for him as clown performers. They also meet a beautiful and alluring fortune-teller gypsy who rescues them from the circus. However, she has a proposition for them that may be even more dangerous they must travel in time to find the lost magic medallion. And if Gus and Cynthia don't accept, they may not be able to get back to their present-day homes. As they go in search of the magic medallion, the girls meet a set of interesting characters and fall into a vortex of mystery and escapades.

The action is non-stop, the dialogue engaging, the secondary characters intriguing, and the protagonists nothing short of adorable smart, kind, and with an unbeatable sense of adventure. This is a middle-grade novel that will be devoured by girls ages 10-13. I eagerly look forward to the third book in the series.

My Biker Bodyguard
J.R. Turner
Echelon Press
9735 Country Meadows Lane 1-D, Laurel, MD 20723
9781590805602 $13.49 410-878-7113

Featuring a sympathetic heroine, a brave hero, and enough romance and suspense to keep you turning those pages, My Biker Bodyguard is a novel that will be thoroughly enjoyed by lovers of this genre.

Jess Owens leads a quiet, routine life helping her biker father at his tattoo shop. Having been abandoned by her mother at a young age, Jess is very close to her father, who is overly protective towards her. However, Jess' life is suddenly turned upside down after a mysterious and handsome man, Mitch, shows up at her doorstep. Even though he claims to be a bodyguard sent here to protect her, she tries her best to keep away from his seemingly dangerous and alluring charms. The truth about his presence here stuns her, even more so because her father knew the reason all along but never told her. As her life becomes increasingly in peril, she is put in a position where she must leave to California with Mitch and two FBI agents. Soon she finds herself in a totally foreign, alien world, for not only does she discovers that she's immensely rich, but also that her long-lost mother is there in a coma. Who wants Jess dead? Why? Can she possibly trust Mitch to protect her life?

The writing is engaging and Turner manages to maintain a good level of suspense throughout the story. The tension between the hero and heroine sparks from the beginning and achieves a spine-tingling climax, leading to a satisfying conclusion. I found the heroine original in the sense that she's been brought up in a world of leather-clad, long-haired, tattooed, dangerous-looking characters. Turner shows us a different, refreshing perspective from the world of bikers. The romance scenes are handled with tact and subtlety and are sweet and steamy at the same time. Fans of romantic suspense will find in My Biker Bodyguard a joyful and interesting ride.

Mayra Calvani

Molly's Bookshelf

Home Tested Slow Cooker Recipes
Louis Weber, editor
LW Press
7373 S Cicero Ave, Lincolnwood, IL 60712
9781412723121 $TBA

Tasty Read Recommended 4 stars

Recipes included in this little book include: BBQ beef sandwiches, and a Cheesy Chicken both of which I intend to try in the next few days. I know my resident taster will like the BBQ and feel confident that even though he is a non chicken eater he will try the cheesy chicken. Both recipes are easy to follow and use ingredients commonly found in most kitchen pantries.

Other recipes include Honey Ribs, Chinese Cashew Chicken, Stuffed Peppers and Chili with Beans and Corn. The Swiss Steak recipe is another I will be trying, it appears to be a meal in a pot needing only the addition of a salad and a nice crusty bread.

Italian Subs, Red Beans and Rice with Ham, Clam Chowder, Chicken and Stuffing all are presented in easily followed recipes and eye catching full page photos.

Rounding out the fourteen recipes gleaned from contributors across the US are Cantonese Pork, Beef Stroganoff and the old standby Pot Roast.

I like the size and format of the work. On the pages of Recipes are presented on the left leaf and a full color photo is found on the right. Recipes include ingredients, cooking times and number of servings. Each of the recipes appears to be well thought out, and I'm confident the ones I try will prove to be tasty.

Home Tested Slow Cooker Recipes appears to be one of a series; I received three Soups and Stews, Favorite Chili and Home Tested Slow Cooker Recipes . The small size of the books provide a good collection for new or beginning cooks as well as for the cook who has prepared meals for years. Newer cooks may be overwhelmed with a recipe book containing many pages and many dishes, an experienced cook may not need another cookbook filled with many recipes. I like the 14 recipes format presented in this Slow Cooker book.

I would like to know a little more about how the editor came by the recipes, per a note on the recipes; one is from Kentucky, another from Pennsylvania. Are these recipes the editor asked for, received from homemakers or home economists, or found in an old box? Knowing the history of the recipes is often as intriguing as the recipes themselves.

The back cover has a handy Metric Conversion Chart including dry and liquid measures, weights, dimensions, baking pan sizes and oven temps. This will prove informative for the 'old' cook who learned only the 'American' measures and will help new cooks 'get it together' as they prepare their first meals. Happy to recommend.

Hot Topics Great Inventions
Chris Oxlade
Alligator Books Limited
Guild House, Arcadia Avenue London N3 2JU
1842399373 $2.99

Instructive Read Recommended 5 stars

Content topics included in this HOT TOPICS Great Inventions volume include: What Makes Things Work, When Was the Wheel Invented, What Were the Earliest Boats Like, How Were Planes Invented, When Was The Microscope Invented, How is Cloth Made, When Was the Clock Invented, Who Invented Printing, How is Sound Recorded, When Was The Telephone Invented, How Was Television Invented, When Was the Computer Invented, How Have Inventions Changed Our Lives, Are All Inventions Successful, Index.

As with other Hot Topics books each topic is shown across a two page spread. Each topic is richly illustrated with colored drawings as well as small 'sound bite' facts scattered amidst the images.

Introduced first is a spread re what makes things work, it is the foundation for inventions to follow. Wind machines, water wheels, turbines, windmills, all guide young readers to a better understanding that before engines were invented nature was the only source of power available. Animal, wind and water were utilized by our ancestors; they continue to be used in many areas of the world today.

My resident critics 4th grade settled in for a 'listening for a purpose' session. The kids take their job as student critics very seriously. They listen intently, study illustrations, discuss the work's suitability for use in our classroom, or another and offer suggestions for improvement if needed. The kids agree The Hot Topics books are meant 'for us.' My first graders are now enjoying the book with as much enthusiasm as their older counterparts.

Child friendly illustrations, verbiage and subjects are received with enthusiasm. The kids were particularly taken with illustrations of early wheeled vehicles they saw on the pages of HOT TOPICS Great Inventions. The three wheel car that looks like a carriage, steam tractor built in 1769 and the first motorcycle that looks like a bicycle with an engine were particularly fascinating for the children. One of our class projects is construction of fur trade keel boats; the two page spread detailing early boats has been read and re read by 4th grade students.

I personally am fascinated with the pages featuring early clocks. In the early days people had little need for clocks, their day was regulated by sunlight. With the advent of clocks our activities and sense of time have become far different. Children who use cell phones with aplomb were fascinated with the pages detailing the invention of the telephone.

The children and I have studied the pages showing the inventions that have changed our lives; the microwave and modern automatic washing machine were easily recognized by 4th graders. The early vacuum cleaner was a monster, and the early Victorian flush toilet with the tank soaring above the ornate commode are eye catching for children and teacher alike.

The vivid colors of the highly embellished cover illustrating an early printing press, a modern computer, in addition to a depiction of the first light bulb held the children's interest instantly. We often research inventors and their inventions on the internet, the children were pleased that many of the items they have researched appear on the pages of

The class agrees HOT TOPICS Great Inventions is a grand addition to our class library shelf. The book is seldom found on the shelf; it is most often found in the hands of a child whenever the children have an inquiry concerning early inventions. I am always delighted to spy groups of children with the book talking to one another, asking questions and finding answers while chattering excitedly about the illustrations.

HOT TOPICS Great Inventions is a highly researched work filled with innumerable specifics and child pleasing illustrations. The kids again turned to the world map as they located London and China; the book is published by a British Publisher and is printed in China.

Excellent addition to our classroom library, highly recommended for the public and school library, the personal reading list and the classroom library.

E-Mails From Hell: The Wrath of William Wyndell
David Barthman
Synergy Books
2100 Kramer Lane STE 300 Austin TX 78758
1933538457 $10.36

Interesting read Recommended for those who enjoy the genre 3 stars

The writer states in his introduction that he created William Wyndell and the E-Mails from Hell for the sole purpose of making a book that would make people laugh. He says that the book is universally hilarious; everyone is a potential target.

The book is set up in chapters dedicated to everything from Death, Education, Marriage, and Employment to Roomates, Hobbies, Pets, Customer Service and Transportation. He closes with Conning the Con Man. Writer Barthman says the idea for his book came about when he 'began responding to online advertisements he began peppering various businesses and schools with outlandish requests and comments.'

The book opens with a series of letters to and from a local Funeral Service in which William Wyndell poses the question of having his father stuffed for mounting over the living room fireplace. Continuing in that vein Wyndell moves on to contact the local public school with queries about his child who has a bogus medical problem, a teacher who moonlights by teaching Portuguese. William branches out to queries about wedding rings and wedding dresses, employment with a variety of potential companies, and a variety of mail back and forth with several businesses or free lance contractors. Emails regarding potential roommates, drummer for a band, collection of memorabilia, and a chain saw move the book forward. Wyndell next targets folks with lizards, kittens, goats and other pets to sell or locate. The book closes with Conning the Con Man in which William gives as well as he receives from scammers wanting to share their money or other valuables with him.

I will have to be honest, I did not care much for this book. It is well written, is sure to appeal to many in the reading public and will no doubt be popular among the target group of readers. The notion that yet another bothersome spammer might decide to contact me because I have an email addy and for only he knows why, does not send pitty pats of joy through my being. Thank goodness for spam blockers.

As for Barthman/Wyndell conning the con man; THAT chapter was a delight. As with many in today's society; I too have been the recipient of many similar emails, and how refreshing it is to know that Writer Barthman as his alter ego Wyndell has done at least a little something to annoy those folks. I enjoyed reading that chapter very much.

Barthman stated 'I have spent the last few years e-mailing people under the fictitious name, William Wyndell. Why William Wyndell? It was the first name that popped into my head. Under this assumed identity, my time was spent answering online ads, inquiring businesses, and basically menacing anyone who had an e-mail address.

As my collection of rude and obnoxious e-mail conversations grew, my demand from friends to send them the latest story became greater. The dialogue I (William Wyndell) carried with these unsuspecting people has turned into a hilarious book, and the first of a series.'

As for Barthman and his simply becoming another spammer who bothers people; I didn't find the recounting enjoyable reading or particularly funny. Independent contractors, folks with items to sell or schools as targets of Barthman's foolishness are forced to waste time and maybe lose a real contract, sale or time. I have advertised a pet for sale only once, years ago and before internet, but I am a teacher and know how busy our secretaries are and our administration is. To realize that anyone would consider it hilarious to take their time for thoughtless silliness is hard to fathom.

We all seem to receive so much spam everyday, suggestion to writer Barthman; return the emails you receive from some of YOUR spam and make them the focus of your next book. Now, in my opinion, THAT would make for hilarious reading.

Passing Gas and Getting Paid for It: The Musings of a Comic Anesthesiologist
Bart J Borsky MD
Synergy Books
2100 Kramer Lane STE 300 Austin TX 78758
9781933538723 $13.95

Interesting read Recommended 5 stars

Dr. Borsky begins his book with an Introduction in which he implores the reader to please READ the introduction. I am glad that I did, it sets the tone for the rest of the work. He explains that both his wife and mother hate the title of the book, not just because they are classy women, but because they have no sense of humor. In chapter one the good doctor tells the reader that Anesthesia is like flying an airplane hours of boredom punctuated by sheer terror. He also tells us that he chose to be an anesthesiologist as a planned and deliberate decision. He chose to watch people sleep for hours and hours following his own surgery as a small child. He was fascinated that people could be put into a deep sleep that would allow a doctor to perform surgery and then could be awakened. I'm hoping he is not my anesthesiologist should I need one I'm a tad wary of Dr Borsky's statement that he remains amazed when the patients do wake up at the end of surgery.

Dr Borsky discusses his own premature birth in Holland in 1961, his dad's profession as an optometrist and the dedication the whole family possesses when it comes to achieving against all odds. Prior to moving to Oklahoma in 1992, Dr Borsky met his future wife, the floor nurse, in the course of a code blue during which an elderly patient was being resuscitated, finished his residency in anesthesia, was staff physician for a year at a VA Hospital and received excellent advice from an older doctor. 'Find out what people in my field didn't like to do, learn to love it, and make myself available.' This Borsky was told was a sure method for becoming successful.

From the first page right on to the last paragraph Dr Borsky addresses pregnancy, his wife's miserable one, tornadoes Oklahoma is in the heart of tornado alley, a fish named Goldie, problems encountered when called upon to remain awake all night, unsuspected uses for the laser, and firing a weapon in a delightfully irreverent manner.

I knew I was going to enjoy reading this book for review after many years in the classroom I have a pretty warped sense of humor and the title of the book offered the promise of many a giggle. I was not disappointed as I read the words Dr Borsky has written.

PASSING GAS and getting paid for it is a great, light hearted read for anyone who is hoping to brighten their day and bring a little levity to their situation. The book is presented in easily read chapters that are somewhat chronological to Dr Borsky's life, however, they can be read out of order should the reader decide to grab the book and read a few pages while waiting for the kids to climb out of the dentist's chair, the 100 car coal train to finally rumble past or the light to change at some of these Oklahoma intersections.

For review I received a trade paperback from publicist.

For those hoping to read a little gallows humor or believe that all hospitals resemble those on TV the book may prove a shocker, Dr Borsky reveals real life, not the Hollywood version of same.

Enjoyed the read, I don't keep all books I receive for review, this is one I will be keeping and sharing with family and friends. Happy to recommend.

Molly Martin

Richard's Bookshelf

He's Not Autistic, But
Tenna Merchent, M. H.
Joyous Messenger, Inc.
12160 E. 216th Street, Noblesville, IN 46062
9781933697000, $15.95

On the Precipice of Autism

Devastated by the statement of her consulting physician, "A child like Clay who is at risk for autism " Tenna shares the story of her rentlentless journey to pull her son from the precipice of autism. She tells of repeated visits to her pediatrician with Clay's symptoms, repeated illnesses, and signs of emotional distress.

Frustrated and concerned for Clay's health, Tenna begin to explore alternative care approaches. She consulted an osteopath, a homeopath, and a herbalist practitioner. Tenna goes on to tell how she began energy testing both muscle and pendulum. She explains the basics of releasing, imprinting, and release codes.

As the story develops Clay is rescued from the countless symptoms, sicknesses, and allergies. Tenna is an excellent communicator and keeps the reader engrossed throughout her dramatic story. Tenna bears witness to the power of prayer in the healing process and attributes much of her story to the miraculous.

"He's Not Autistic, But " offers understanding and compassion to anyone living with the nightmare of autism. It gives hope to those whose suffering has not been understood by the medical profession and direction for those exploring or ready to explore alternative medical approaches.

Songbirds are Free
P. M. Terrell
Drake Valley Press, P. O. Box 979, Clinton, MS 39060
9780972818650 $17.77

Historical History at Its Best

"Songbirds are Free" is the story of Mary Neely. Mary was abducted and taken into captivity by a group of Shawnee Indians. Suspense, Thriller author P. M. Terrell transported me to another time and place as she drew me into this story. I experienced, with Mary, the hardships of survival, of daily crisis. I was challenged to understand in a new light those confusing issues faced by the colonists, the Indians, and the British in the setting of the Revolutionary War era.

I received a whole new picture of the culture, traditions, and savagery of the Indian as they were forced to migrate in hopes of finding new placed to settle. The Indian battles depicted in the Saturday matinees of the Western movies of my childhood were replaced with a new reality. I became immersed in the insight regarding beliefs, customs, and survival techniques of the military, the settlers, and the Indians, as principles were replaced with bigotry, cruelty, abuse, and revenge.

Mary became accepted and her life was spared because of her songs. The Indians gave her the name "Songbird" because of her lilting voice and melodies. She sang hymns and composed poems as she planned her escape during a two year period of captivity. The story parallels Mary's movements and those of Lieutenant Jim Hawkins as they traveled the rivers and the frontiers of what we now know to be Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan to Canada, east to New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

This is a book for readers of historical fiction and those who enjoy suspense, action and romance. Terrell's writing is strong, her research impeccable. The dialog helps the reader get into the story. Selected pictures showing highlights of the locations from the book add a dimension of appreciation for the credibility of this heroic story of perseverance and hope in the face of adversity. Mary Neely was truly a remarkable woman.

Fragments of a Forgotten People
Henry Fast
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P.O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
978193174866 $15.95

A Remarkable Journey of a Refugee Exiled from Poland

The invasion of Poland marked the beginning of World War II in Europe as Poland and her western allies declared war on Germany in September 1939. Germany and the Soviet Union had completely overrun Poland by the first of October. The opening chapters of Henry Fast's "Fragments of a Forgotten People" describe the impact of the invasion in horrifying detail.

In his astonishing memoir Henry Fast tells the story of his quandary as he and his widowed mother are forced to flee from their home in Bochnia, Poland with hoards of other refugees.

Faced with hardships requiring endurance, physical, mental, and emotional, they are put on starvation rations, ridiculed, and the exposed to the freezing temperatures of winter in Siberia.

Arrested and deported on foot, railroad trains, and boats they are confronted with deplorable crowding, unsanitary camps, and abusive threats. Henry found escape through his imagination. He created a world of fantasy, recalling books he had read. Henry had an active and curious mind. Among the refugees, Henry was mentored by an engineer, a scientist, and a mathematician. Each helped in their way to help him in his quest for knowledge.

Fast is a talented story teller. His character descriptions are colorful and strong. His narrative is both enjoyable and informative. The uniqueness of Henry's writing comes across in the positive attitude reflected throughout the trials he faced.

"Fragments of a Forgotten People" is certain to become a classic in the historical journals of World War II.

100 Ways to Create Wealth
Steve Chandler and Sam Beckford
Robert D. Reed Publishers
1380 Face Rock Road, Bandon, OR 97411
9781931741781 $24.95

Informative, Entertaining, and Motivational

Steve Chandler and Sam Beckford collaborate again, to write this third and final book in Steve's "100 Ways Trilogy." Steve and Sam draw from their own careers as well as illustrations from their clients and from those who have coached them along their journey to success. These action steps to thinking like an entrepreneur, and investing your energy, provide transformative guidance, whether on your own way to your first million dollar success story, or well along that journey as a multimillionaire.

I personally took note of the seemingly small things like "say more Thank-Yous" and "finding out who you really are." They took on a new significance in light of the whole of Steve and Sam's powerful principles.

The format of the book lends itself to a reading as an overview, reading for specific applications, and keeping readily available as a stimulating resource. This is must reading for anyone desiring to produce and enjoy wealth. A very positive reading experience.

The Leaping Grasshopper
Jeanne Archambault Illustrated by Dwight Smith
Jitterbug Books
25 Whale Rock Road, Jamestown RI 02835
9780976303121 $15.95

A Lesson in Friendship

Jeanne Archambault tells the story of Leaping Grasshopper in easy to read rhyming sentences that capture the imagination of the young child. Toddlers, preschoolers, and beginning readers will all enjoy this captivating tale.

Jeanne's delightful narrative is accompanied by Dwight Smith's illustrations which depict the critters Grasshopper leaps over as he hurries through the his busy day. He doesn't stop to say "hello", to introduce himself, or to get their names.

After Grasshopper ignores, beaver, birdie, mole, bunny, ladybug, squirrel, butterfly, and piggy, he is suddenly faced with the presence of a big black cat. He becomes afraid. He calls for help. No one answers the call. Bravely, Grasshopper asks "How are you?" Soon the cat and Grasshopper are playfully enjoying each other. Grasshopper realizes he has often missed friendship by leaping over others. He determines to slow down and be a friend to everyone.
The flowing rhythm, the vibrant colors of the illustrations, and the lessons on overcoming shyness and taking time to make friends with others, make this an ideal book for the two through five year old.

"Leaping Grasshopper" encourages the development of a creative imagination through visualization. Even the youngest toddler will soon be looking at the pictures and verbalizing their own perceptions as they relate the story.

This is a beautiful book, perfect for gift giving, for the home nursery, and for preschool libraries.
Reviewed by: Richard R. Blake, Christian Education Consultant

Larry the Lawnmower
Jeanne Archambault, Illustrated by Victoria Corey
Jitterbug Books
25 Whale Rock Road, Jamestown, RI 02835
9780976303107 $15.95

The Need for Fulfilling Purpose

Jeanne Archambault's loves children. This comes through in her writing. "Larry the Lawnmower" reveals the author's insight into the mind and emotions of the child. Larry enjoys a sense of pride, a love for importance, and an appreciation for the beauty of nature. He enjoys sharing his own story. Threatened when a "rider mower" takes his place Larry becomes sad and dejected. He is left alone until the day a young boy buys him for his job mowing lawns. With new paint, some oil, and lots of attention, Larry again takes pride in fulfilling his purpose.

Victoria Corey beautifully illustrates the story in pastel watercolors with scenic backgrounds from the New England landscape. These pictures add to the charm of Jeanne's narrative. "Larry the Lawnmower" is an excellent idea for, for the preschool classroom, and for beginning readers. The book makes a perfect gift. The rhyming meter combined with the vivid pictures brings the story to life for the young child, the preschooler, and every young reader. An enchanting adventure.

Richard R. Blake

Sharame's Bookshelf

A Secret Rage
Charlaine Harris
The Berkley Publishing Group
division of Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425214534 $7.99

The story opens innocently enough with Nickie Callahan taking stock of her life as a soon to be washed up model. However things soon take a bizarre turn. Someone finds a body outside of her New York apartment building. Then, just when she has settled herself from that tragedy she gets a call from Mimi Houghton, an old and dear friend from Knolls, Tennessee. It seems Mimi has just come into her inheritance and wants to know if Nickie would like to become housemates. Nickie becomes very excited about this prospect and soon she has moved back to Knolls. When she gets to Knolls things become very weird once again. Mimi tells her that a student at the college was brutally attacked and raped. Nickie doesn't think anything of it at first. But soon more women get attacked. Then Nickie herself is attacked and she decides to do something about it. The story grips you and flings you around and up and down every hill and curve. You will find yourself cheering out loud. Also you will take this book with you everywhere you go until you have read every last moving word. I give it five stars. If I were independently wealthy I would give a copy of this book to everyone I know.

Pants on Fire
Meg Cabot
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
9780060880156 $16.99

Katie Ellison is the every-girl of the new millennium. Meg Cabot has created the "Are you there God? Its me Margaret" for a new generation. And her sense of humor is impeccable. Katie has some stinging lines. She really seems to be on the outside of Eastport, Connecticut looking in. In the early half of the book you think that she is an active participant. But as you progress you can see that she is really very detached from the society in her little town. She seems to be very fixated on Tommy Sullivan, who, strangely decides to return to his hometown the summer before everyone's senior year. I think that Cabot has really captured the experience of adolescent and teen girls with this book. I mean I may have never had the particular problem this character has, but some of the feelings and responses are the same. And the feelings about small towns that focus on sports are the same. I definitely recommend this to anyone who knows teenagers or has teenagers. Also have your teen read it, if they ask you for a good book.

Sharame Vodraska

Sullivan's Bookshelf

A Power Governments Cannot Suppress
Howard Zinn,
City Lights Books
1139780872864757 $16.95

This is a typical Zinn book of essays. All are told from the point of view of the bottom-up school of history. In other words, the stories are told from the people's point of view--not from that of the leaders or from the government's side, which is basically what every schoolchild has been taught. Consequently, many of the author's stories are jarring. They make the reader angry at the leaders and government, especially that of the U.S.

The narratives of the American dissidents put in prison during World War One, the dropping of the atomic bomb in World War Two, the Boston Massacre, the unions' bloody struggles, the horrors of 9/11, and on and on, show that when the people, average Joes in this country, have had enough with mistreatment or no treatment at all, the citizens will rise up, face the government, and demand that matters be made right.

All thirty-five essays in this paperback book will, or should, set your teeth on edge. That is, they will unless you're one of those who thinks his or her leaders and government, King and Queen, or President and Congress can do no wrong.

"America's future," writes the author, "is linked to how we understand our past. For this reason, writing about history, for me, is never a neutral act. By writing, I hope to awaken a great consciouness of racial injustice, sexual bias, class inequality, and national hubris. I also want to bring into the light the unreported resistance of people against the power of the Establishment: the refusal of the indigenous to simply disappear; the rebllion of black people in the antislavery movement and in the more recent movement against racial segregation; the strikes carried out by working people all through American history in attempts to improve their lives."

Howard Zinn is a retired professor at Boston University. He is also a historian, playwright, and World War Two combat veteran. He's written well over 20 books prior to the current on. His most well known tome is A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. Highly recommended!

The Dip A Little Book That Teaches You When To Quit (And When To Stick)
Seth Godin
9781591841661 $12.95

When a movie or rock star is seen or anyone is discovered successful in a particular field, rest assured it didn't happen overnight. There were 20 to 25 years of hard work that paved the way for that success. The author refers to that period of time as the 'dip.'

In short, which this volume is, the old adage is true: you have to pay the price for success, The period defined as the dip is when you put in your maximum effort to pull ahead of those others in that field who want success, too, but aren't willing to do what has to be done, i.e, getting more and/or higher education, working long hours, doing difficult jobs, networking, etc.

If you are willing to pay the price during the dip, you will succeed. And you should put in your best efforts during the dip.

But for those who are not willing to put it all into the dip, it's usually best if they quit that field and move on to one where they will be willing to pay the price for that work. And there should be no shame in quitting a particular field.

On the other hand, far too many people find the dip too hard, so they quit and begin seeking a career field that doesn't have a dip, or that has an easier one. Alas, there are none! So such people end up wasting their time and potential in one field by trying the others only to discover that they've been wasting time and the possibility of success. Sure, these people will get through a dip into a career somehow but at best they'll be mediocre. If they don't want to be the best, they can at least get into the field. But, they'll seldom move up. Moreover, they'll be the first to be laid off.

Godin writes, "This is a very short book about a very important topic: quitting. Believe it or not, quitting is often a great strategy, a smart way to manage your life and your career. Sometimes, though, quitting is exactly the wrong thing to do. It turns out that there's a pretty simple way to tell the difference."

The trick is to know if you should stick it out during the dip. If one asks him or herself the question, 'Am I willing to pay the maximum price to work through the dip at 110% of capacity,' the answer will tell you whether to quit or not. And remember, there's no shame in leaving one field for another!

Seth Godin has penned a number of successful books, all quite short: PERMISSION MARKETING, PURPLE COW, ALL MARKETERS ARE LIARS, and others. Recommended.

Jim Sullivan

Theodore's Bookshelf

Death of a Murderer
Rupert Thomson
Alfred A. Knopf
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307265845 $23.00 212-782-9000/800-726-0600

Billy Tyler is content to float through life as a bobby, patrolling the streets of a small English village. He was not disappointed to fail the sergeant's exam he really lacks ambition. He's committed some unsavory acts as boy and man, had two torrid love affairs, marrying his second lover, with whom he has had a daughter who suffers from Down's Syndrome.

One day he is assigned to guard a mortuary, in which the body of a reviled child molester-murderer [based on Myra Hindley, the real-life Moors Murderer] lies in a refrigerated slot. It's a long shift, 7 pm to 7 am. There's nothing to do but think, setting the stage for a series of flashbacks to events and acts of Billy's life to date: his marriage, which has lost the original glamour after many years, his "damaged" daughter, relationships with a couple of boyhood friends.

Some of the observations take the place of conversations with the dead woman, who seems to have penetrating insights into Billy. As a result, he gains introspection into his problems and anxieties, raising deep questions: whom do we love, and why; how do we protect our children; and what separates us from so-called monsters.

Tightly written, the novel reveals the depths of Billy's soul, giving rise to fundamental questions, and is well worth reading.

Buffalo Mountain
Frederick Ramsay
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590583692 $24.95 800-421-3976

What a difference six feet make. If a dead body was left only two yards further it would have been in a different jurisdiction. But it wasn't, and Sheriff Ike Schwartz recognizes the murder victim from his former CIA days, and the consequences flow forward.

In this installment in this enjoyable series, Ike has to show the wisdom of a Solomon, the patience of a Job in a variety of subplots which include moving forward his love life with Ruth Harris, the college president, and that of his deputy, Sam. Somehow, all the complications and investigations become entangled, and Ike has to unravel them.

The novel, once again, captures life in a small Virginia town, and the personalities and foibles of the backwoods. The story moves forward apace, with charm and a goodly degree of intrigue.

Stuart MacBride
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312339999 $24.95 646-307-5151

Stuart MacBride's protagonist, DS Logan MacRae, of Aberdeen, Scotland, is up there with the best those of Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly, et al. He is often on the carpet, facing suspension, or worse, but manages to come through solving the crimes to save his hide. He is put upon by his amusing superiors, DIs Steele and Insch, but manages to overcome their foibles and demands. And he has his problems, but loves his live-in girlfriend, WPC Jackie Wilson.

This novel starts with Jackie in disguise, the "victim" of an attempted rape. She manages to subdue her attacker, a star soccer star who escapes his arrest with the aid of an oily attorney. All told, nine rapes occur, with everyone on the force convinced, but unable to prove, that the footballer is the perpetrator.

Meanwhile, Logan witnesses an eight-year-old stab and murder an elderly man. The kid escapes Logan's clutches, eluding capture for several days. Only Logan questions why a normal boy would suddenly turn a vicious street thug and murderer, persisting until he discovers the truth. Then there is a John Doe who needs not only identification, but finding who murdered him. The going theory is he was an accidental victim of bondage sex, but Logan continues to look at alternatives. The novel is a great read and should not be missed.

The Day Will Come
Judy Clemens
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251, 800-421-3976
9781590582992 $24.95

It's a far cry from the customary dairy farm setting (although it's never far away) in this fourth chapter in Stella Crown's life. This time, a rock-and-roll milieu sets the stage for her to solve another mystery. A concert she attends in Philadelphia gives rise to a bomb threat, a death and intrigue within a famous band.

During the second half of the concert, the bomb threat empties the theater in a panic with no apparent casualties, until the female singer is later found dead backstage. Jordan Granger is the prime suspect, although Stella suspects he couldn't have done it because he was in love with the victim.

Meanwhile other aspects of the plot include farmhand Lucy's forthcoming marriage, at which the band was to play, and Stella's boyfriend, Nick, with whom she is in love, discovering he suffers from MS giving rise to another conflict of emotions. Will it affect their relationship and how?

All in all, this novel is probably the best in the series. The characters are well-drawn, and the plot moves forward toward an unanticipated conclusion. Fast reading, and well worthwhile. Recommended.

The Chicago Way
Michael Harvey
Alfred A. Knopf
1475 Broadway, NY, NY 10019, 800-726-0600,
9780307266866 $23.95

To paraphrase, "Chicago, Chicago, it's Michael Kelly's kind of town." The windy city is the setting for this hard-boiled PI's debut. Kelly was cashiered from the police force two years previous, and is approached by his ex-partner to help solve an eight-year-old rape and assault-and-battery case, one which his friend was ordered to "forget."

The next day, Kelly's friend is found dead of gunshot wounds on Navy Pier. Kelly's fingerprints are found on the casing, but no one takes it seriously, allowing him to pursue the case. He links his friend's murder to the original rape case, and goes about investigating.

Eventually, Kelly discovers various clues relating to a serial rapist and murderer on death row, a current rapist, and four other murders, all possibly relating to the original case. As the story progresses, the suspense mounts. Written with a fluid style, in the tradition of private eye novels, the book leads the reader on without a suspicion of how it is going to end. The novel works on several levels: the mystery itself, forensics (DNA testing), problems with rape cases in general and other aspects. The novel is a fast, enjoyable read and is highly recommended.

Spook Country
William Gibson
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014, 800-847-5515
9780399154309 $25.95

A somewhat confusing beginning sets the stage for the introduction of the characters in three seemingly unrelated subplots that converge to make sense at the end. Technology and science fiction play a large role in its development.

There is Tito, a young Cuban-Chinese, now living in New York, part of a family of illegal facilitators who were whisked out of Cuba by a CIA operative, now an retired old man who plays a significant role in bringing the story to a conclusion. Hollis Henry, a former singer with a rock band, is now a freelance writer for a supposed start-up magazine funded by a rich Belgian. Milgrim, an intellectual junkie forced to work as a translator for Brown, who may or not be a government agent. Artists in a new medium that can only be seen in virtual reality, made possible by Bobby Chombo. A techie who also tracks the movement of a cargo container linked to the CIA seeking weapons of mass destruction and to pirates operating in the South China Sea.

These characters are woven into an intricate plot involving monies stolen from Iraq and war profiteering and money laundering. Once the reader goes beyond the initial stages of the novel, it all begins to make sense, resulting in a highly moral and satisfying conclusion. The latter parts of the book are substantially easier to read than the beginning stages, making the whole worthwhile.

Waking with Enemies
Eric Jerome Dickey
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525950387 $24.95 800-847-5515

This novel picks up where its predecessor left off. While it can be read as a standalone, the author recommends reading Sleeping with Strangers first. That is if you can get by all the sex and violence. It takes about 100 pages of pure, unadulterated sex, if not downright pornography, before reaching the story, as such.

The plot involves Gideon, a contract killer, being stalked in London by another contract killer. The hit on Gideon follows his high profile murder of a famous rap star. Meanwhile, Gideon is holed up in his hotel room having non-stop sex with two beautiful women who sat next to him on the plane across the Atlantic.

Subplots involve the woman who brought Gideon up, a prostitute who turned him into a killer. His love-hate relationship leads him to want to destroy her. Also, there is Arizona, once love of his life, who wants Gideon to murder her sister in Amsterdam. And then there is the stalker, an interesting character who must be confronted.

Gideon has to take care of these loose ends and others as well. Once the story starts flowing, the novel is not a bad read. And, if you enjoy almost unlimited sex, it is probably is a good read. Each to his own.

The Intruders
Michael Marshall
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061235023 $24.95 800-242-7737

Eerie doesn't begin to describe this novel, which brings us an unearthly glimpse into a dark and evil supernatural occurrence. Jack Whalen, a former LAPD cop, now lives in a remote Oregon mountainside with his wife, Amy. He has published one book, and is attempting to write another. Amy is a high-powered, successful advertising executive.

Into this idyllic setting comes a boyhood friend asking for Jack's help to solve the murder of a woman and her son. The quest leads him into the unknown. Amy disappears, and the friend suggests he can provide information about her, leading Whalen deeper into a mysterious world. The more Jack investigates, the more unexplainable the situation becomes.

For fans of this type of story, it is a well-told thriller. In some parts it plods along drearily, and in others is exciting and thrilling. In any event, it does stretch the mind and has several unexpected curves along the way.

The Concrete Maze
Steven Torres
Leisure Books
c/o Dorchester Publishing, 200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
9780843959697 $7.99 800-481-9191

This noir tale takes place in three New York City boroughs, basically in the Bronx, with trips to Harlem and Greenwich Village in Manhattan as well as various areas of Brooklyn. ; It begins with the disappearance of a 13-year-old girl at a Bronx skating rink, and her Vietnam veteran Puerto Rican father trying to get her back home with the assistance of his nephew. When she turns up murdered and dismembered, the duo, led by Tio Luis, follow the trail in an attempt first to discover the identity of her abductor and murderer, and then to locate a second young girl who has disappeared the same way.

The uncle exhibits a great deal of ingenuity and resourcefulness, perhaps beyond what would be expected of an uneducated man who manages buildings as a superintendent. He also has financial resources one would think would be beyond his capabilities but he has thousands of dollars to throw around. The nephew tags along for the ride, but eventually faces up to his own dilemma after merely a moral decision. Until then he seems only to raise questions about his uncle's methods and actions, although not questioning his purpose in getting his daughter safely home and then learning the facts about her death.

The gist of the plot is centered on a ring of rich men who like young girls and pay handsomely for the privilege, and the various suppliers of the product and venue for rape and whatever. It is a brutal story, heart-wrenching in its way. The writing is fluid and fast-paced and makes you wonder how such a group of perverts could be allowed to exist.

Nothing to See Here
David L. Post
Beckham Publications Group
POB 4066, Silver Spring, MD 70914, 301-384-7995
9780931761294 $14.95

Based on an actual event which sparked the idea for this novel, which traces the deterioration of a respected Boston psychiatrist, it tracks his virtual loss of sanity driving him to commit a ghastly act. It begins with his wife of more than a decade leaving home, abandoning Dr. Alan Sarnower and their 10-year-old son. About two months later, he returns home to find her nude in bed with a hippie. The doctor throws the man's clothes out the window; the man then runs out into the yard nude and flees.

Shortly thereafter, the wife files for divorce, seeking custody of the boy, support, and possession of the home. Thus begins the debilitating course of events as the doctor tries to salvage his life and keep custody of the boy. Worn down by the court, his wife's demands, and the system, Sarnower slowly begins to lose it. He begins to neglect relationships, his practice and various other responsibilities.

The novel is taut, especially for a debut work. The author, a clinical psychologist, has command of the subject, and provides substantial insights into the doctor's mind (and reactions) A good read, and a gripping tale.

Last Breath
George D. Shuman
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020, 80-223-2336
9781416534907 $24.00

Making her second appearance, blind psychic Sherry Moore faces a double peril. To begin with, she still is suffering from pain and psychological trauma resulting from her previous episode. She's popping pills and abusing her body and nearly dies from an overdose.

But more important is the task at hand: Helping to find a serial killer who suffocates, strangles or hangs his victims. His murders stretch across the country, but the latest victims are found in western Pennsylvania. Sherry, of course, has the unique ability to hold the hand of a dead person and "see" the last 18 seconds of memory.

The novel blends two genres: police procedural and the supernatural. It is a well-written, exciting thriller. The concept certainly is original, the characters believable and paced to a rousing conclusion.

Sebastian Faulks
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385524056 $24.95 800-726-060

Strange that's the only description one can come up with to describe the character Michael Engleby. Growing up, he suffered abuse at the hands of his father, and then of school mates at a posh private academy at which he was a scholarship student. Then later on he switches roles to become the tormentor. He is a heavy user of pills, drugs and alcohol, which may or may not have contributed to memory loss and other mental problems.

He goes on to Cambridge, where he does fairly well. He becomes obsessed with a beautiful female student, Jennifer, attending her lectures, in addition to his own, as well as her extracurricular activities. He is a thief, cadging money from people's pockets, as well as a letter and diary from Jennifer. He also traffics in dope to support himself. In their last year at university, Jennifer disappears, and Michael becomes a chief suspect. He wonders if he is responsible. After graduation, he becomes a successful journalist in London, but continues to wonder about Jennifer.

Written in almost a stream-of-consciousness form of a journal, the novel probes the mind of a sick person. At times, the book is ponderous, as the various characters pontificate on all kinds of subjects. But, after all, that's what college students do. There are lighter moments, as well, and Engleby is both sad and funny. Recommended.

The Girl with Braided Hair
Margaret Coel
Berkeley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA,375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425217122 $23.95 800-487-5515,

The latest the 13th-- in the Wind River Series continues the unique line of stories and mysteries of the Arapaho attorney, Vicki Holden, and Father John O'Malley.. This time it is the unraveling of a murder that occurred 35 years previously when a skeleton is uncovered at the bottom of a ravine on the reservation.

Vicki is implored by several Arapaho women to make sure the police follow up seriously on the investigation. Of course, the police feel it is not only a cold case, but almost impossible to solve. Vicki is spurred on by an event that had just occurred to her when she was visiting her children in Denver, when she witnessed a woman being almost beaten to death in an alley, and her son prevented the perpetrator from completing the job. So she gets involved, along with Father John, in seeking clues to bring justice to the 35-year-old remains.

As is customary in the series, there is a wealth of background on native customs, past and present, and the descriptions are real and poignant. The past includes flashbacks to the American Indian Movement in 1973, and the violence, much less discrimination against native Americans at the time. Descriptions of the West and the Plains are vivid. The novel is a welcome addition to the series. Highly recommended.

On the Ropes
Tom Schreck
Midnight Ink, c/o Llewellyn Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury MN 55125,
9780738711140 $13.95 800-843-6666,

The combination of being a professional (albeit second-rate) boxer and social worker and Elvis aficionado makes Duffy Dombrowski a very unusual character. One thing, however: he takes his clients to heart, even while ignoring the bureaucratic necessities of the job. He hates [and ignores] the required paperwork, while counseling sex addicts and drug users.

One of his clients, Walanda, a schizophrenic, crack-addicted prostitute, is murdered in jail. Before incarceration, she had asked Duffy to care for her dog and find her missing stepdaughter. In attempting to honor her request, he becomes involved with a porn ring and a national security plot. Meanwhile he faces being fired for not doing the paperwork.

The author is a former director of an inner-city drug clinic and a professional boxing judge, and brings this background to lend a high degree of authenticity to his descriptions. The story flows with humor and pathos.

Face Down O'er the Border
Kathy Lynn Emerson
Perseverance Press,/John Daniel & Co.
A division of Daniel & Daniel Publishers Inc.
P.O.B. 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781880284919 $14.95

The continuing saga of these characters during the Elizabethan Age moves to Scotland in the year 1577, the year Mary, the Scottish abdicated Queen, is held prisoner in England. Her 11-year-old son James is heir to the throne and rule is in the hands of a series of regents who keep dying. Amid this political unrest, Catherine Glenelg is found unconscious down a flight of stairs and her mother-in-law dead on top of her, presumably murdered.

Catherine has no memory of the event and is accused of the murder. She disappears with the help of her friend, the mysterious Annabel. Her friend Susanna Appleton travels from Kent to try to rescue her and learn who the real murderer is. Even if Catherine is found, she won't cross the border without her daughter and son, who is assigned to wait on the boy-king in Sterling Castle.

Thus the stage is set for the unraveling of the mystery of the mother-in-law's death and the rescue of Catherine's eight-year-old son from the castle. Portrayals of the period are undoubtedly genuine, and the language real for the time and place. Descriptions of the political conspiracies are intriguing, as is information on the vagaries of Scottish law (for instance, charges against a murderer could be either criminal or civil, and if compensation is paid to the survivor there are no criminal charges brought). Recommended.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

Pet Food Nation
Joan Weiskopf
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061455001, $15.95, 176 pages

I bought this book seeking to find a more healthy way to feed my dogs. After the scare earlier this year with the tainted pet food I have been uneasy about relying on commercial pet foods alone to keep my "kids" in good health. Figuring out the most nutritious ways to feed your animals can be a difficult and confusing job, but Pet Food Nation helps take some of the mystery out of it.

Joan tells us about the pet food industry. Then she goes into the history and nature of cats and dogs and what their nutritional needs are. Joan believes that dogs and cats need more than most pet foods have to offer. If that's still the route you choose to go, she gives the information you need to keep your pets healthy and well-fed.

The book is informative and practical with recipes for both cats and dogs included. If you're worried about what to feed your cat or dog, I recommend reading Pet Food Nation.

Crystal Rain
Tobias S. Buckell
Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765312273, $24.95

Long years have passed since humans and aliens arrived in Nanagada through a wormhole. Ruins and memories are mostly what's left now of that advanced civilization. There's a crisis brewing as the deadly; and bloodthirsty Azteca and their alien rulers have found a way into Nanagada. The alien and hideous creatures known as the Teotl want to take over the whole planet and destroy their old enemy the Loa.

The few vestiges of technology left to the Nanagadans are not enough to stop the ferocious Azteca and their owners, but there's a man named John de Brun living among them. John holds a secret inside himself, one that he doesn't remember, but it has to do with something the ancients left behind. To stop the Azteca and save his people, John must travel to the cold inhospitable north in his search to find the device. Then he must remember how to use it. If he fails nothing can save his people from enslavement and human sacrifice.

The characters are colorful and interesting, but a man called Pepper is my favorite. I found Crystal Rain to be a fast moving and thoroughly enjoyable tale that kept me reading almost nonstop. Tobias S. Buckell is also the author of Ragamuffin.

Tobias S. Buckell
Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765315076, $24.95, 320 pages

Nashara left her world, a planet now cut off from the rest of humanity, to help in the fight for survival. Aliens and alien technology rule most of the planets and humans are little more than drones to their evil masters. Nashara is a Ragamuffin, an elite group of trained fighters descended from peoples who migrated from the Caribbean islands of Earth.

She is a trained killer, part human, part machine and deadly. She holds a secret that could destroy not only herself but those she's come to help. Nashara soon finds herself on the run from a group of humans who work for the aliens. The Hongguo will stop at nothing to capture her. The enemy is hot on her heels; can Nashara escape and fulfill her destiny?

I took to Nashara on the first page. Her character is complex and tough, but likable. This is a well written fast paced tale that fans of science fiction will like. Ragamuffin is the sequel to Crystal Rain.

Victoria Kennedy

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design