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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 8, Number 10 October 2008 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Andrew's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Cheri's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf
Clark's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf
Kaye's Bookshelf Liana's Bookshelf Lockstein's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Molly's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Priya's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Stephen's Bookshelf
Sullivan's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf Tonya's Bookshelf
Victoria's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia
Ahmed Rashid
Penguin Group (USA)
9780670019700 $27.95 544 pp.

A. H. Amin

Ahmed Rashid acquired fame and became darling of the west when his book on Taliban was published in 2000 or so. Descent into Chaos is another bestseller as far as publishing statistics is concerned. It is a tragedy that the West, guardian of the present worlds intellectual property projects what suits its political and social interests and stifles what it finds "politically unacceptable". Seen in this background what Ahmed Rashid writes is acceptable to the west. Possibly because what he says fits hand in glove with western perceptions about how to shape the future.

As normal the book has some factual errors. Some insignificant some not so insignificant and some which not have escaped the sagacity of a known Afghanistan hand like Ahmed Rashid.

The Ghilzai revolt started not in 1701 as stated on page 7 but in 1709. The Durranis did not move the capital to Kabul in 1772 as stated on page 7 but in 1774 if we agree with Sayed Qasem Reshtia a great Afghan historian or 1775 if we believe Louis Dupree who is concerned the most reliable western historian. On page 8 Ahmed Rashid states that the British tried to conquer Afghanistan three times. This is not correct. It happened twice if we include the English East India Company and once if we include the Second Afghan War of 1878-80. In the Third Afghan War it were the Afghans who tried to attack India and miserably failed and the British launched some very local offensive actions at Spin Boldak and Khyber Agency to push back the Afghans. On page 9 Rashid promotes Major General Naseerullah Babar to lieutenant general rank. On page 11 he states that for first time in 300 years the Afghan capital Kabul fell in non Pashtun hands once Ahmad Shah Masud captured it. This is quite incorrect. The first time Afghanistan's capital fell in Non Pashtun hands was once the Persian Qazalbash Nadir Shah captured Kandahar the then capital of Ghiljai Pashtuns on 24 March 1738 some 224 years before 1992 and Kabul on 29 June 1738 again some 223 years and some 10 months before April 1992. In any case we must remember that Kabul was a Hindu province for a long time in twelfth century and a Mughal Indian province for some 200 plus years long before 1992. On page 17 Rashid states that the Pakistani FC managed Pakistani artillery and communications. This is factually incorrect. The FC hardly has any artillery and the Afghans did not require any training in communications. In any case the Afghans had a much larger number of ex Afghan Army gunners with Mujahideen quite capable of handling all types of artillery guns of Soviet vintage available in Afghanistan. Rashid seems to be very friendly with US officials who throughout his narrative keep on telling him so many things, like on page 18 US officials tell him that Al Qaeda was responsible for USS Cole. On page 34 Rashid states that "the British conquest of Northwest India was aimed solely at providing security from marauding Afghan Baloch and Pashtun tribes". This assertion is factually incorrect. The British company English East India Company's conquest of North West India comprising modern Pakistan was done in response to invasion of Sikhs of British territory in 1845. At that time the Sikhs were controlling all major Pashtun cities like Peshawar, Bannu, Kohat, D. I Khan etc so the question of the Pashtun, Afghan or Baloch simply does not arise. Musharraf was not commissioned in the field artillery as stated on page 45 but in the "Self Propelled Artillery". On page 45 Rashid states that in 1971 Musharraf commanded an SSG Commando unit which went behind the enemy lines. In 2002 I interviewed Musharrafs Commanding Officer in 1971 Brigadier Iqbal Nazir Warraich who confirmed that Musharraf was a sub unit commander under him and Musharraf's sub unit was not used behind enemy lines. On page 52 Rashid states that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was the ISI's investigative arm. This is also factually incorrect. The NAB was an independent public body which was not independent and not connected to ISI in any organizational sense. On page 73 Rashid calls Burhanuddin Rabbani a Panjsheri Tajik which is not correct. Rabbani was from Badakhshan province. On page 79 Rashid states that the ISI chief (Mahmood) was forced to resign. This is incorrect. Mahmood was simply removed and never resigned and to date draws his pension from the army to which an officer who resigns his commission is not entitled. On page 186 Rashid reduces the distance from Kabul to Kandahar to 190 miles which is not correct. On page 193 Rashid states that the Mazar Kabul line was financed by World Bank. This is not correct since this electric transmission line was a gift of Government of India to Afghanistan. Karachi port had not serviced transit trade for Afghanistan since 1950s as stated on page 192 but for a long time before that dating back to the Kalhora, Talpur and British times. There was a famous incident of a ship carrying armaments for Afghanistan by the British so that King Amanullah was militarily weakened against Afghan rebels in late 20s. On page 259 Rashid states that the ISI was meeting Taliban leaders in Command and Staff College Quetta. This is quite funny and ridiculous. Why should the ISI meet insurgents in an academic institution with which it has no connection rather than in a safe house. Probably Rashid was trying to be humorous. On page 261 Rashid indicates that Afghan ministers gave up their foreign passports. My inquiries while permanently based in Kabul from June 2004 till to date indicate that this assertion is not correct. On page 274 Rashid places the Mahsud tribe in North Waziristan whereas Mahsud's main area is South Waziristan Agency. On page 275 Rashid states that a murdered man's body was found in military handcuffs. This is a unique discovery . My inquiries reveal that there is no such object as military handcuffs. The military buys handcuffs from the open market. On page 331 Rashid states that the Afghan Tajikistan border is 750 miles whereas my inquiries reveal that it may be about a 100 mile less.

Factual errors done with we move on to the more serious assertions of Rashid. On page 4 Rashid dismisses Mullah Omar as a itinerant preacher who could not claim the pedigree of Karzais. On page 13 Rashid again ridicules Mullah Omar for being born without social status or pedigree. I find this distinctly snobbish coming from the pen of a leftist Ahmed Rashid. Probably in his old age he has become class conscious. On page 6 Rashid states that easy to pass through the country has been impossible to conquer. Now this is a relative statement. For more than 200 years most parts of Afghanistan were provinces of Mughal and Saffavid Empires. The Mughals actually had a Hindu Rajput Governor in Kabul.

On page 19 Rashid passes sweeping judgment on Talibans when he says that Osama Bin Laden had a clear strategy in mind to isolate them from the world. A more balanced and scholarly approach may have been used. Rashid cites no supporting sources.

Some of Rashid's conclusions about Pakistan are quite accurate. Like Pakistan as a state being grappled with an acute sense of insecurity. The army's monopolization of power in Pakistan in the name of national security. His analysis of the Pakistani military mindset is penetrating and brilliant. His exposure of of the military links of the likes of Maliha Lodhi and Shaukat Aziz is again a breath of fresh air. Rashid's revelations about the Pakistani intelligence agency ISIs negative role in Pakistani politics is bold and accurate to the dot. One may not agree with how the USA downsized the Afghan intelligence. My inquiries reveal that some of the most brilliant officers of the indomitable Khad were removed just because the American advisors wanted to severely reduce Russian influence. Rashid's analysis of US firm Louis Burger is incomplete and not wholly correct. Louis Burgers failures in delay in building of schools was because of unprofessional sub contracting procedures and because of the fallacious policy of hiring only Afghan NGOs to do the job instead of commercial firms. Most of these NGOs were owned by political appointees and haphazardly formed to siphon the fruits of US aid. I saw the whole process myself as the Vice President of an Afghan NGO which was building schools and clinics for Louis Burger in 2004 and 2005 in Helmand, Ghazni and Kunduz. Rashid does not have his facts correct when he states that Louis Burger had just 9 schools and 2 clinics ready in end of 2005. The number was much larger than this. Even in this case some Afghan NGOs like CDU did extremely well.

Rashid's conclusion that the ISI was no longer in control of the monster of extremism that it created are valid but incomplete. What about the CIA and the Saudi intelligence the real fathers of extremism?

On page 223 Rashid states that Pakistani artillery gave covering fire to Taliban militants infiltrating Afghanistan. This is an illogical and implausible assertion. The Talibans do not need covering fire because a very large part of Afghanistan Pakistan border is unmanned. The most important stretch in Helmand and Nimroz has hardly any Afghan NATO or US presence at all.

Rashid is harsh on the Americans, the Pakistanis as well as the Afghans. However he presents no tangible recommendations to remedy the situation.

His analysis ignores some important ground realities. First that the USA came to Afghanistan to achieve certain strategic objectives. Its aim was not altruistic or missionary. Thus the low per capita aid figure to USA. The US objective at least till 2008 has been to maintain control of about 15 plus military/air bases . The US troop strength is far below the minimum necessary to even ensure security in Afghanistan.

The control of Afghanistan still lies with the pre 1992 bureaucracy trained by the Soviets. This includes the army, the civil services, the police which was a real bastion of the leftists and above all the foreign ministry and the intelligence . All despite various reductions and purges by the USA and NATO. The Northern Alliance cadres on whom the USA tried to rely did not have enough trained and educated recruits. Thus the important division in all Afghan Government in between the Maslakis ( professionals) and the Wasta dars (those who came without sufficient qualifications).

Rashid also ignores the fact that Pakistan's Islamic extremism is not the result of a sudden flight but a logical result of misuse of religion by all major Muslim leaders since 1858.

Rashid's subject matter is vast and the complexities with which he is trying to deal are vast in magnitude and their dimensions. Rashid's analysis is subtle and thought provoking but marred by his extreme bias against the Taliban. This leads him repeatedly to make pre conceived statements and sweeping judgements.

Nevertheless Rashid's analysis is thought provoking and can be immensely instrumental as a catalyst in inspiring more research on the subject. My fear is that Rashid's present work is more a commercial venture with one eye on audience in the west. This is not the idealistic Rashid reporting from Kabul for the Far Eastern Economic Review. But as they say "things do not change, we change".

One may not agree with Rashid's assertion about Central Asia being the new bastion of Al Qaeda. With Russia fast moving in and re-asserting it may be more difficult for the Al Qaeda to gain ascendancy in Central Asia. The provisional centre of gravity of the Al Qaeda lies in non state actors in Pakistan and the Arabian Gulf. It is going to be a long bloody war for the USA to alter this particular strategic situation.

Hunted Mate
Kari Thomas
Black Lyon Publishing
P.O. Box 567, Baker City, OR 97814
9781934912034 $6.00

Amy J. Ramsey

An ancient prophecy was foretold by the Shifter Goddess Azina centuries ago and bestowed upon all of the shifter species. It contains vital information about future events of an impending war between Shifters and Humans. No one had insight on when the prediction would be fulfilled, except that it would take place some time in the 21st century. The prophecy predicted that Goddess Azina will claim a chosen one as her direct descendant, a female born bearing the mark of the Shifter Goddess. The chosen one will be raised and trained in the ways of the Goddess. When the time comes, the reigning Wolf Prince will claim the chosen one as his mate. After the union between them is consummated, then the powers that the chosen one inherits from the Goddess will also become his. Together they will possess absolute power to reign over the entire world of wolf clans and combine forces with the other shifter species.

The cat and wolf shifters are natural adversaries and for now, both shifter clans abide by a truce that will, sooner or later, end in war once the truce is retracted. Logan, Prince of the cat shifter clan, is a morally honest man who is best known for his brutal and unmerciful reputation. He's been summoned by Damian, Prince of the wolf shifter clan, to repay a life-debt. During the meeting, Damian informs Logan that the prophecy has finally come to pass. Damian is the chosen wolf Prince and as collection for the debt, Logan's job is to fetch the chosen one and bring her back to him. Her name is Tara Stuart, Logan is to guard her with his life and make sure no harm comes to her, since she is merely human; others are willing to kill Tara in order to claim the power for their own greed.

Tara knows her destiny; it was planned by the Goddess before she was born. Her parents have strictly prepared her for this event since birth, but her true desire is to lead a normal life and to marry a human man, that's the reason for her ongoing rebellious behavior. Along with her exquisite features, Tara exhibits a kindhearted, compassionate and selfless manner. Unfortunately, the results of her rebellious acts have cost her everything; her family, her destiny and her faith. Unable to deal with her situation, Tara leaves home with few belongings and her rescued cat (which she almost ran over) to seek a new life elsewhere.

Unbeknownst to Tara, Logan is watching her every move. Neither of them knows that their fates would be forever changed, the moment he revealed his identity to her. Logan is caught in the midst of completing his obligation to Damian and his increasing passion for Tara. Will Logan be able to claim the one he loves or will he transport her into the arms of a stranger just to fulfill a prophecy? Will Tara be able to come to terms with marring a strange half man, half beast or will another wolf shifter attain her powers…..only the Goddess will know what their fates will be.

Hunted Mate is an immensely enjoyable read. Kari Thomas adds a fresh new twist to the realm of the shifter world. As a reader, I look forward to other tales involving Logan and Tara's experiences. I recommend this e-book to anyone interested in the paranormal romance, shifters, fantasy and supernatural genres.

Kari Thomas was born and raised in FL, but now living in AZ. She was blessed with an over-active imagination and was destined to be a writer. Her first published story was serialized in the N. FT. Myers, FL Newspaper for seven weeks. Temptation Unleashed was first released in 2006. Hunted Mate was re-released June 2008. Upcoming books are "Seducing the Hero", "Her Heart, His Soul", and "Prey for the Wolf". For more information regarding Author Kari Thomas, visit her website at

St. Boniface and Its Jews
Ladislas and Nathalie Gara
Dr. Jacques Grunblatt and Hilda R. Grunblatt, translators
Melrose Press Limited
St. Thomas Place, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB7 4GG, UK
1905226578 16.99 British pounds,

Beth Brody

St. Boniface and Its Jews, a French historical novel written by Ladislas and Natalie Gara, is now available in an English translation through Melrose Books ( The book was translated by my great-uncle, the late Dr. Jacques Grunblatt, M.D., and his wife, Hilda, of New York state. The novel was successful when it was first published in 1947, most likely for its colorful characters and intriguing WWII story. Until now, it has been mostly unknown to English readers. This new edition includes an introduction by Dr. Martin Wasserstein, PhD., an American professor of psychology and anthropology, and a glossary on French names by the translators.

The novel is set in Vichy France in 1942, during German Occupation and the peak of Nazi expansion in Europe. The Garas, a Jewish couple, moved from Paris to Vichy France at that time. Their lifelike characters exhibit courage and resourcefulness in an effort to survive. It was several years before the Allied forces--the U.S., France, Russia, and Great Britain with Australia and New Zealand --won the war. The historical forces which shaped that time are beyond the scope of a book review. To focus, I will touch on characters, plot, and aspects of translation. I hope my description piques the interest of other readers.

There are many characters in St. Boniface and Its Jews: townspeople, farmers, French government officials, clergymen, schoolteachers, children, and a pet dog, Lion. The officials enforce the standards of the Supply Agency which rations the area's agricultural products. The farmers barter and try to organize for less rationing and taxes. The German army looms on the horizon, ready to put down any rebellion. Abuzz with any news, the characters meet at the schools, parishes, and shops of their little town. Within this milieu, lives the central character, Mrs. Hermelin, who owns a boarding house. Through her, we meet neighbors, travelers, and refugee Jews.

Other memorable characters include "the Hindu Mummy," a thin film actress with a fancy turban, a classical musician, and a Russian officer's wife. Some portraits are poignant--a young woman leaves an abusive husband for a lover who is already married. A spinster, teaching in a parochial school, loses her faith in life and commits suicide. Several characters personify both irony and humor. Longeaud, the schoolteacher and the mayor's secretary, lectures on the dangers of alcoholism, yet he runs for cover with a contraband flask. Tibor Veres, the journalist, weathers a series of disasters in his cottage. He endures smoke, rats, an exploding lamp, and a neighbor's scolding whenever he ties to get water. Through it all, he maintains an almost ridiculous optimism. When he learns how to light a furnace, he exclaims,"they're amazing these country folk...absolutely amazing!" [p. 68]

The plot in St. Boniface and Its Jews has a mosaic pattern. Each numbered vignette within the chapters contributes to the story as a whole. There is a repeating theme: scenes at Mrs. Hermelin's boarding house. Scenes take place in various rooms, out of linear sequence. To puzzle us, characters from one scene show up in another. We pay attention, unsure which details may be relevant. Without revealing the end of the story (ominous and frightening), eventually the puzzle pieces fit together. Though the mosaic structure is modern, we have seen it in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. There, separate tales, like tiles, cluster around a common theme, or destination. As the French say: Plus ca change; plus c'est la meme chose. The more things change; the more things stay the same.

My knowledge of French is limited, so I cannot comment on the translation per se. As an English reader, I appreciate the ways in which types of language and diction identify the characters. We hear the bureaucrat's "Synthetic Voice," [as in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World"], the refugee's Yiddish, and the farmer's dialect. Public discourse differs from private conversation. An official letter granting a travel visa (alas too late) conveys the stuffy tone of regulations. The dialogue between friends at a cafe by the sea flows briskly. The interior monologue as a woman reminisces to piano music fits the drawing room scene.

The Swiss linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure, showed how our understanding of a word is related to its context. The authors of St. Boniface and Its Jews contrast urban and rural contexts in a chapter titled, "Bernard Bloch learns the two meanings of 'binette'." Apparently, the word 'binette" can mean "face" or "hoe." This compression ( 2-4-1) could be useful to the refugees in St. Boniface. Like Paul Revere's warning "one if by land, two if by sea," the refugees' signals alert each other to their surroundings. Communication could be clear and compact, or opaque and roundabout depending on the political risk. Local expressions and double entendres are described in the translators' footnotes. There, too, we find historical references to Girondists, Jacquerie, etcetera.

Anyone interested in French literature, European history, and Jewish studies will gain fresh insights through reading St. Boniface and Its Jews. The authors' first-hand experience of the German Occupation during WWII brings authenticity to this work of fiction. The translators' travels in France inform the naturalistic dialogue. French provincial landscape and culture comes alive in these pages. The charming characters of St. Boniface illumine a dark period of human history.

The Nazi "Final Solution" nearly destroyed European Jewry, as well as Gypsies, homosexuals, handicapped people, and any artists and writers who opposed it. Yet, there was resistance in many countries which gradually, through the generations, comes to light. The French Resistance of everyday people--villagers and farmers--helped stop the Axis armies in WWII. St. Boniface and Its Jews expands our view of this harrowing time. I believe the novel would make an excellent film in the tradition of The Diary of Anne Frank, Schindler's List, Sophie's Choice, and Life Is Beautiful. I recommend it highly.

All the Stillness of the Wind
Donald James Parker
Sword of the Spirit Publishing
9781234567897 $12.95

Cheryl Ellis, Reviewer

Whether seeking personal peace, finding the path to redemption or satisfying a need for knowledge; your journey could begin by reading this book!

A 'parable' is an avenue used to get a point across, by telling a fictional story, allowing the listener to make their own conclusions. It usually pertains to a moral or spiritual idea. Jesus was famous for his use of parables, and I believe that this fictional story would best be described as a modern day parable.

Jeremy is dating Maria and coincidentally, his father, Paul is dating Maria's mother, Lisa. The women are devote Christians, who know their futures lie with men of similar beliefs. Jeremy has already studied the theory of evolution and concluded that there must have been a creator. The men set out to research religion and it's many viewpoints, with special focus on Christianity, the arguments for and against. They share their newfound knowledge and acceptance with the
women, as their beliefs are discussed or debated.

The comfort level and bantering conversations between the four characters made me laugh, as I learned right along with them. Throughout their search, they 'weed through', accept or reject different viewpoints on what man must do, to inherit eternal life. Along the way, they discover there are numerous ways to reconnect with God and inner peace, by way of music, prayer and more.

The couples celebrate their first Christmas together, the happy memory quickly shattered by a horrific accident, which would shake even the strongest of believers' faith. It is then that we learn about grace, "the ability to forgive people for messing up" and about the five steps of grieving. This is one of the many times that Satan feeds our anger and, only once he has been renounced, is the burden lifted. Love and faith are a true believers path to a good life, and the key to the much believed in, Heaven.

The author, Donald James Parker, has told a brilliant version of a parable, and shown us a way to begin the search for truth. It is easy to read and identify with, not heavy on scriptures. He provides a few web sites as well as scriptures for future research.

Donald James Parker, graduated for Dakota State University with a degree in secondary education, then went on to study computer programming. After 25 years of IT work, his passion for writing took over, the outcome to our benefit, is a book series involving two generations of the Masterson family. One never knows what the future holds, but I am sure more books are to follow. He is currently working on other books "engaging the cultural climate of the 21st century."

To review this book was incredible timing. Either divine intervention or just plain coincidence, as it came to me in a time of many questions. It has had a positive influence on my life, by encouraging me to reconnect with my roots and beliefs, on my own search for peace.

I highly recommend reading this book

Gaming for Love
Nancy Weaver
Time and Chance Publishing
149 Freedom Avenue, Staten Island, NY 12816
9780974827421 $15.95 298 pages

Christina Francine Whitcher, Reviewer

Tessa liked being married, but fate made her a widow. Now, she found herself searching for another special man. The men she'd dated however left her wondering if there were any good men left. Sierra, Tessa's good friend, suggested she close the vagina bar until the right man proved himself. At this point, Tessa wonders if there is a right one. Then, Sterling Cole happens along leaving Tessa struggling with her own rule.

Gaming for Love is straight forward about what goes through today's men and women's minds. The book doesn't leave real thoughts or actions out. For those who want a modern love story about a modern woman in a modern world. Candid.

Barbara Bergin
Sunstone Press
Box 2321, Santa Fe, NM 87504-2321
9780865345195 $28.95 (800) 243-5644

Connie Gotsch

"Endings" by Barbara Bergin, published by Sunstone Press appears to chronicle the responses people make to life altering situations somewhat beyond their control, but to which they have also somewhat contributed. Then again, maybe the story deals with the fabrications people spin to rationalize the life choices they make.

Stunned by the loss of her husband and two children in a freak automobile accident, Dr. Leslie Cohen has sold her medical practice, abandoned friends, hit the road as a locum tenens orthopedic physician, and stopped forming long term relationships.

Through a series of flashbacks triggered by events, characters and plot points, the reader learns, or seems to learn, why love terrifies Leslie. She was tailgating her husband, Chris, as they headed for a family holiday. The driver ahead of him slammed on his brakes, Chris hit his, and Leslie plowed into him, killing him and her children. Guilt and consumes her, especially since she had Chris had hit a difficult point in their marriage.

Many books on the theme of carelessness at the worst moment resulting in painful loss, would lead Leslie into a nice, comfy small town, where friendly people would wrap her in warmth. Next Leslie would go through personal growth and transformation. She would find herself in the company of a handsome man with whom she shares much, but would fight her growing love for him. His patience would win her over. She would work through her grief, forgive herself for her part in the accident, marry the hero, and go into practice with the doctor whom she has come to relieve as a locum tenens.

"Endings" sets up that possibility. Leslie heads to Abilene, Texas, to substitute for Doc Hal Hawley who is preparing to have serious cancer surgery. Then almost to town, she slides into a fishtailing horse trailer driven by Reagan, the man who ends up her love interest. That could set "Endings" on the predictable course, love marriage, more children, happily ever after. But using this twist and many others, Barbara Bergin slowly turns the story's plot to a very different kind of growth and closure for Leslie.

So cleverly does the author disguise this arc in the predictable moonlit nights and kind souls one would expect to try to help Leslie, that the tale ends with a surprise that leaves the reader shaken and wondering just what Leslie's part in her own tragedy was, or just what happened on the road that day tailgating Chris, and what transpired afterward, considering the state of their marriage.

Barbara Bergin supplements her clever plot line with elegant character development and description of locale. An orthopedic surgeon herself and a horse woman, she takes the reader both into the operating room and the rodeo area with equal vividness. Her medical descriptions never turn gory. Her description of love has just the right amount of steam.

"Endings" is not a book that will give the satisfaction of a happy conclusion, but it will leave the reader considering just genuine people really are, and what they might or might not control in their lives.

Change We Can Believe In
Forward by Barack Obama
Three Rivers Press
an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House)
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780307460455 $13.95

Don Q. Lamb

Who Obama Is and What He Stands For

Anyone wanting to know more about who Obama is and what he stands for should read this book. The first two-thirds provides a clear and comprehensive statement of what Obama would do as president to get the country back on track. Described are the concrete, specific actions he would take to create new jobs, achieve energy independence, provide universal health care, and make college education affordable to all. The last third consists of seven of the best speeches he has given during this presidential campaign. They remind us of his ability to inspire. From the Iowa Caucus Night speech: "Thank you, Iowa. You know, they said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided; too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. But on this January night -- at this defining moment in history -- you have done what the cynics said we couldn't came together as Democrats, Republicans, and independents to stand up and say that we are one nation; we are one people; and our time for change has come."

Change We Can Believe In was put together by Obama for America. Net proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to charity.

The Quest for Historical Israel: Debating Archeology and the History of Early Israel
Israel Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar
Brian B. Schmidt, editor
The Society of Biblical Literature
Atlanta, GA
9781589832770 $24.95

Fred Reiss, Ed.D.

Suppose knowledgeable archeologists were brought together to settle once and for all the question of the veracity of the history presented in the Bible. We might expect some to argue for higher-biblical criticism; the idea proposed by Julius Wellhausen in the latter third of the nineteenth century that the Bible had multiple authors and editors, who weaved the Bible together for their needed political ends. Others might argue that archeology supports varying degrees of the biblical text; making it a reliable historical source. A third group, the Minimalists, might well declare that the Bible completely lacks an historical basis.

In The Quest for the Historical Israel, renowned archeologists Israel Finkelstein, Professor of Archeology at Tel Aviv University and co-director of the Megiddo excavations and Amihai Mazar, Professor of Archeology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who excavated in Tel Batash and the Bet She'an Valley, debate how and where archeology supports or contradicts the history presented in portions of the Old Testament. Brian B. Schmidt, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible and Asian Cultures at the University of Michigan, as the book's editor, offers summaries of the points made by each of the archeologists as they interpret the archeological record. However, there are no once-and-for-all conclusions.

Finkelstein and Mazar face off in six debates spanning the time from Israel's earliest history, the patriarchs; through the conquest of Canaan, and the divided monarchy after the rule of King Solomon (Did he really live?). Unfortunately, both Finkelstein and Mazar are close to the center of the archeological spectrum and so their interpretations are similar and the debate lacks the spirit we might expect from at least one author having an extremist position.

The first debate puts a spotlight on the accuracy of the Old Testament; per se. Finkelstein takes the position that the Iron Age history described in the Bible, which covers the period from Joshua through II Kings, is generally factual. Mazar believes that the Bible contains much literary creativity and often reflects the ideology of the writers. Yet, he is willing to concede that there are many blocks of text that are historically accurate and might even preserve pre-Israelite material. He is also of the opinion that archeology confirms some of the history portrayed in books from Judges through II Kings.

Another debate covers the authenticity of the existence of the Jewish patriarchs, who by tradition lived from about the seventeenth to fifteenth centuries B.C.E. Finkelstein says that these stories could not have been written by someone with knowledge of this time frame because camels were domesticated and used as beasts of burden well after the life time of the patriarchs. The same is true of the City of Gerar (mentioned eight times in the Book of Genesis), established by the Philistines about 1200 B.C.E., or nearly half a millennium after the patriarchs lived. In fact, Finkelstein asserts that much of the descriptions about people and politics during the life of the patriarchs reflect a much later time period, possibly the eighth or seventh centuries B.C.E., than portrayed in the Bible. Masar acknowledges that the Old Testament was passed down orally and therefore one is bound to find missing, lost, distorted and changed stories. Therefore, it is quite likely that writers wove together early history with their present-day politics and geography. In short, both accede that the likelihood that the patriarchs lived the lives described in the Bible is remote.

Both Finkelstein and Mazar fall somewhere between accepting the existence of Kings David and Solomon and rejecting them outright. Finkelstein discards the idea of a tenth century B.C.E. united monarchy, but is willing to accept the possibility of a unified monarchy a century later in Samaria, ruled by Omri and his descendents. Yet, the Omride Kingdom was not a grand territory, but rather a marginal chiefdom. For him, the books of Samuel and Kings cannot be regarded as straightforward history. Mazar recognizes the historicity of a united monarchy. One prominent reason is the discovery of a tenth century B.C.E. Campaign List of Sheshonq I of Egypt, which names many cities he conquered in Judea's hill country. From this, Mazar concludes that Egypt invaded Judea because of the existence of some political entity requiring Egyptian intervention. That political power was Solomon's Kingdom.

Finkelstein ends his debate with the idea that biblical history and archeology are two very different disciplines because the Bible is not history in the modern sense of the word, but rather a fascinating tale of the relationship between a people and their God. Archeology, which ostensibly offers an objective look into the past, is itself not free from biased interpretations and modern trends. In addition, archeology might provide general knowledge, but it lacks the ability to answer many essential questions about the past. For Finkelstein, the truth about Israel's past, if finding the truth is at all possible, can only come about by using a variety of sources, such as, archeological finds, the Bible, and Near Eastern records, in combination with each other. Mazar concludes by noting that it makes no difference if this or that biblical persona ever lived or not because the importance lies not in the life, but in the spirit and values portrayed in that life. "What matters is what these stories symbolize; their heritage persists even if they were not actual historical realities."

The publisher of The Quest for the Historical Israel, The Society of Biblical Literature, makes publications available for scholars in the fields associated with critical investigation of biblical literature. As such, neither the authors nor editor take the time to define important terms used throughout the book, such as Iron Age II, Levant, Cisjordan, and so forth. This is a minor distraction. To their credit, however, the authors do provide a map of Iron Age sites; offer a thorough index, as well as an index of biblical passages and an extensive list of publications for further reading. The Quest for the Historical Israel contains noteworthy debates that shed light on many portions of the Bible with Israel's heretofore discovered archeological record as construed by two renowned scholars in the field. The Quest for the Historical Israel is a worth-while read for all who are interested in biblical archeology.

Roald Dahl
Puffin UK
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
014034019X, $4.99, 208 pages, reprint edition

Galen Trine-McMahan

Sophie is living the dreary life of an orphan when one night she awakes to see a giant in the streets of London. Upon hearing her with his giant ears, he kidnaps her and takes her back to his cave in giant country. The giant introduces himself as the BFG (big friendly giant), a vegetarian runt among giants who spends his time collecting and distributing sweet dreams to children in the night. Because Sophie witnessed the giants, the BFG says she must stay. Sneaking away is out of the question, because the other nine giants that roam outside the cave are ill tempered human eaters, twice the size of the BFG. As time passes and Sophie bonds with the BFG, she hatches a plan to get rid of the nasty giants (BFG excluded) once and for all. Sophie and the BFG cook up a special prophetic nightmare for the queen of England, explaining the giant situation, and sneak into her palace. Upon waking from her dream, the queen sees Sophie and realizes her dream must have been more than just a dream. She agrees to meet the BFG, and with the aid of the air force the queen helps them capture the carnivorous giants and drop them into a large pit where they spend their remaining days eating disgusting vegetables. The BFG becomes a writer (under the alias of Roald Dahl), and Sophie moves into the cottage next door.

It was strange to reread one of my favorite childhood novels later in my life. While the writing seems simplistic, Dahl no doubt has the ability to captivate children with his imagination. The BFG's language is at times as questionable as Dr. Seuss', but seems a sure way to catch and keep the attention of the young reader. With humor ranging from sophisticated fart jokes (whiz poppers) to grammatical puns (Greeks from Greece is all tasting greasy), your children will surely be reading something with the humor and plot of their age. Young Sophie's courage and intelligence allow her to work with others to triumph over the savagely evil. If able to loosen up to the flowing imagination of Dahl, you might just enjoy reading this book as much as your children will hearing it.

Looking for the Big Rock Candy Mountain: A Review of Riding Toward Everywhere
William T. Vollmann
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061256752 $26.95

Jessica Erica Hahn

I imagine William T. Vollmann has big, swingin’ cajones. This writer, this guy who openly admits to smoking crack, salivating over prostitutes, and elbowing through war zones, now makes no pretense of his joy when French kissing a woman with a shopping cart by the side of the railyard. Then he up and hops a freight train with his pudgy buddy, Steve, who’s antisocial towards other train yard transients, but a true, sincere comrade. Vollmann doesn’t meet wild hoboes, get roughed up by skull-knocking cops, or come close to the Big Rock Candy Mountain (that paradise with whisky streams and cigarette trees). What Vollman does in his newest publication, Riding Toward Everywhere (New York: Ecco, January 2008), is open his convoluted mind by taking us on a quest to nowhere, essentially, and then show us his crusty heart by sharing thoughts on a bit of everywhere. At first sniff, it may seem a book about riding freight trains reeks of testosterone, but Vollmann shows us a lot of heart.

Vollmann’s inner workings are not for the faint at heart. “There is a saying among some bloggers: I think I just vomited a little in my mouth. That’s how I felt,” writes a blogger for after reading Riding Toward Everywhere. However, lovers and haters can agree on the fact that William T. Vollmann is a prolific, recognized writer. Whether it was nature or nurture that led him to the pen, he’s got a touch of the godly gift in writing. He’s penned seven novels, three collections of short stories, an epic discourse - seven volumes of over 3,000 pages - about violence (Rising Up and Rising Down), a study of global poverty (Poor People), and a series of stories about Nazis and Soviets (Europe Central). The New Yorker, Esquire, Granta, and Spin all have pieces he’s written. Folks at the National Book Foundation, the PEN Center USA, the Whiting Foundation, and The Spectator (who run the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize) have bequeathed both blessings and literary awards to Vollmann.

After the accolade came Riding Toward Everywhere, a reflection on America and life while hopping freight trains. Reviewers had a heyday. Vollmann’s writing, like licorice, had a flavor you either liked or disliked. Compared to the books before, this one “…certainly falls short of Vollmann’s best” (Steve Weinberg of The Seattle Times). Wesley Yang of The New York Sun compares this book to the others as “a minnow swimming alongside…[the] whales.” Riding Toward Everywhere is, arguably, a very good read. Dig a little deep, and the captivating aspects of this book include Vollmann’s angry polemic about the American government, his honesty about not being a hobo, his archetypal quest to find a paradise, and ultimately, his naked exposure of psyche. But the first thing we notice about this book is its gripping hook, the freight train setting.

Road stories are in our cultural blood, from the time we’re kids chanting, I think I can! I think I can! in cahoots with The Little Engine, to when we’re in our twenties and orgasm over Kerouac’s On the Road, to when were able to recall Paul Theroux’s first book about a great train ride. We enjoy an armchair adventure with a book in the lap; even better when the tale is about a train and a questing spirit. Traveling the American heartland can’t help but subconsciously remind us of forebears who immigrating here once upon a golden time. When Vollmann tells us the view out of his boxcar one eve “was so perfect in its night-incarnation, being not merely my past but the vanished American West itself where I would have homesteaded with my pioneer bride,” who wouldn’t want to be in that boxcar too? If only we could toss off some of our restraints! We start to see that “Rivers, roads and tracks are life itself,” as Vollmann does. As a nation, there’s a steady love-hate relationship with the fellow who wanders the country: we love his spirit, but we hate his long hair; we want his news, even the report from the train yard, but we’re drawn to news of catastrophe almost to exclusivity.

God help the traveling bard with a boring - albeit realistic - story to tell, or he might find his reviewers “can’t help feeling relieved when its time to hop off” (J.R. Moehringer of The International Herald Tribune). Hmmm. There’s a crude saying about situations where if you can’t shit, then get off the pot. Wesley Yang of The New York Sun warns: “…if you manage to make it all the way through, [it] is a pleasure to put down.” The sounds of straining are ugly, as is the diarrhea of diatribe from critics. After riding 3,500 or so miles on freight trains myself, I believe our man Vollmann tells it like it is: train hopping means waiting for hours or days, feeling aches and pains from lack of sleep and rough rides, having glimmering revelations that fade within seconds, ruminating over freedom or grumbling about the lack of it, and occasionally seeing another train hopper.

Vollmann never ever claims to be a hobo, tramp, or transient (“I never rode the rails for financial reasons, or even to get from Point A to Point B”). We know he’s a successful writer, so it’s almost unimaginable to chose the boredom of waiting for hours by the “unlikely beauty of freight cars,” eating crap food, and experiencing the doldrums of hanging out with his travel-partner, Steve (“a droll and unretiring fellow,” writes Steve Almond from The Boston Globe). Readers who want shady vagrant characters, a man pinched in the coupler between two train cars, a Rambo cop with a swinging baton, and some mulligan stew around a fire in the jungle down by the river, need to read elsewhere. First-person freight riding narratives packed with adventure are to be found: read Jim Tully or Ethel Lynn, Jack Black (the writer) or Jack London. It’s 2008 and Vollmann doesn’t have a cell phone. He doesn’t even drive a car! He’s a hermit (“I own a place without a telephone, and because it is in a bad neighborhood I never raise the blinds”) but he’s able to crawl across the national backyard from the belly of a great big train, which is quite cool for a man of his caliber and cognizance.

The point of Riding Toward Everywhere is about self-exploration through running away, and the vehicle happens to be a freight train. The reader who gets hung up on the train yard setting might be up for a surprise because the truth is less exciting than preconceived notions. Benjamin Alsup of Esquire is one of those readers who expect pearls out of boxcars. He moans that “…once [Vollmann] does catch out, nothing happens. There is no revolution…No promised land. … At the end, he’s right back where he began.” Vollmann, let’s not forget, is one prolific writer and genuinely smart man. It’s a pleasure to know that he geeked out on train history and know-how for this book, including almost 200 citations for his facts and sixty-six black and white photos of the environs. You’re not going to tell him he’s wrong. His biggest fault is smacking of voyeurism; a hobo he meets flips him the bird when Vollmann tries to get acquainted. He doesn’t ride trains for a living; he’s matter of fact that he will take a passenger train or an airplane home. But like Tom Wolfe riding with Merry Pranksters, our man has an authentic interest in this other world, and that counts for something.

Those who are a bit sick of the Republican regime, who sometimes just want to get the fuck away, might want to read this book. Right from the start, Vollmann tells us: “I am my father’s son.” His was the kind of father who snarled over even the smallest abuse of power, even at the local bakery, when he snorted to his son about the commands of the baker: “Give some people a little power and they turn into Nazis, don’t they?” Vollmann nurtures both a deep love and sick disgust towards America, feelings which many readers resonate with. Our author wishes to be in some other time, out of the ridiculous here and now of Republican America. Vollmann claims “riding the rails is time travel.”

Vollmann places a Mark Twain quote at the beginning of his book, about rather being an outlaw than a U.S. President. But our author, although a man whom I’d want on my side in an old-fashioned street fight, is not an outlaw, but a man who wants both hearth and highway: “Who am I in my yearning for America[?] I cry over and over: I’ve got to get out of here?” He says he’s “at home nowhere and never anything but lost.” This reminds me of the porch scene in Carlos Casteneda’s The Teachings of Don Juan, where he looks all night long for that place of power, of rejuvenation. Vollmann is coming close - at least he knows a sense of “infinite freedom” on a freight train. The clincher is in the removing of the roots, of taking any train, everywhere: “I didn’t care about whether my predestined train went to the mountains; I simply wished for its magic to carry me away from here.” This story then, is for people who also “want to catch out for the stars,” far from “Plastic America,” and find that slippery Grail. Vollmann’s destination is vague (“I never cared much where we went”) and his character self-effacing (“I am a microbe hitching a ride upon an elephant’s trunk!”), but that’s okay because the story isn’t going to the end of the line. We’re privy to a selection of Vollman’s personal goings-on in his “rattleclank journey through life.” This train bumps along while the high speed MAGLEVs of the world clock by a good 500 miles per hour faster. It’s like the tortoise and the hare, or John Donne who wrote: “And seeing the snail, which everywhere doth roam/Carrying his own house still, still is at home, / Follow (for he is easy pac’d) this snail, / Be thine own palace, or the world’s thy jail.”

Vollmann searches for an elusive destination which he calls “Cold Mountain,” akin to the hobo heaven of the Big Rock Candy Mountain. This is an unidentified place, person, or idea. The angst and the fear over never finding Cold Mountain propel the search, and keep the rhetorical questions a-wheeling in the brain. “And what if Cold Mountain exists nowhere on this planet, not even back then, and what if there is no Last Good Country, either? What if the closest approach to everywhere is merely getting out?” He’s not taking the reader on an anthropological safari filled with strange American flora and fauna, or hosting a Guthrie-esque hootenany on the rails, but exploring a meditative essay on life and death (“…for it can be argued that each journey is a quest for death”).

It can be argued that love is the path to Cold Mountain. Vollmann asks, “Do you think it’s true that most men who ride freights do it to go to a woman or get away from a woman?” He finds himself in the train yard two days after his wife “expressed her wish for a divorce.” She’s certainly not enjoying this ride, but she and variations of her wisp in and out of the pages. More importantly, we glimpse a middle-aged man’s quintessential fear: “What if Diesel Venus, the goddess who waits for me on Cold Mountain, never existed except back then?” Did he miss her, or does she thunder towards him, just around the bend? His heart is burned but beating.

In the end, the reader sees the figuratively naked person among the train cars in the American panorama. Vollmann muses: “Where would I like to slide to? If the rest of my life were summer, and I rode toward everywhere, how would the world open before me?” Instead of become a train hopping expert in the peak of his game, he “would rather just clickety-clack along toward everywhere, taking heed from Heraclitus that since one cannot cross the same river even once, I might as well let my travels be quiet, smooth and lovely.” It’s interesting to note Heraclitus, a philosopher known for his melancholia, his belief that everything is in flux, and that there is a yin-yang duality to existence. In this world, a love-hate relationship fits perfectly. There’ll be readers who cannot and will not find it within themselves to enjoy Riding Toward Everywhere, as there will be those who resonate with the author’s words and ideas. We might agree on certain sensibilities Vollmann has: “I ride freight trains in the belief that I can trust myself, that I deserve to be trusted even to be a reckless fool if circumstances so turn out - and, after all, if I am dead as a result of my own folly, I am no worse off than if I died safely and soberly.” We, too, want to trust ourselves. We vibrate to that culturally ingrained maxim. As readers, we want to trust our authors. I think we have something here. If we get beyond the hook of the setting, we see Vollmann as he is. And it’s not the big, swinging balls that we see, but rather something unassuming and soft-skinned, and ultimately, totally human.

Saving Faith
Patrick M. Garry
Inkwater Press
6750 SW Franklin Street, Suite A Portland, OR 97223-2542
9781592992645 $17.95

Dr. Michael Hollister

Saving Faith is a rare accomplishment, a philosophical novel of ideas with an allegorical structure and popular appeal. The style appears to be plain, but "Everything is more than it seems." Cast in the form of a mystery, it evokes the fundamental mysteries of life, combining popular with high art. The narrative is poignant in tone, humanistic in perspective and rich in ironies, similes and wit.

Patrick Garry has emerged in the tradition of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Flannery O'Connor, allegorical writers with moral visions that have a striking clarity and power when contrasted to novels by even the best postmodernists, such as Thomas Pynchon or Don DeLillo. Garry is strongest where the New York postmodernists are weakest, in vision—in showing us ourselves with historical perspective, an objective sense of proportion, psychological insight and spiritual depth.

The young narrator is Jack, an orphan who grew up in an institution, one of the many young people today who were conditioned to feel unwanted in a society dominated by narcissistic adults. "In the orphanage we were all mistakes," he observes. The opposite of most Americans in the past, with their great expectations, he has no expectations at all: "The key to finding love, I figured, was to find someone who didn't want to be in their own home." What he misses most about the orphanage is "being around people who believed, despite the odds." To survive in the cynical and corrupt world outside the institution, he learns, a person must be able to place faith in something, however unlikely. Love, in particular, depends upon faith.

At the center of this novel, giving birth to its allegory, is an otherwise unidentified patient called Faith Powers, who demonstrates the powers of faith by reviving the lives of those around her while herself remaining comatose. Jack's personal life seems empty until he happens into the room of Faith, where he meets the nurse who keeps her alive, befriends a disgraced journalist who uses her to revive his career, and gets involved with a confused modern woman who talks to Faith as if praying, or talking to the best part of herself. As he gets to know the people who care about Faith, Jack compares them to orphans with unrealistic hopes.

Insightful satire and wit display the range of Garry's fiction. His greatest appeal as a writer, beyond even his talent for allegory, is his overall perspective and elegiac tone, both here and in his deeply moving previous novel In the Shadow of War. His writing has a soul. It is redemptive and sustains a loving spirit of compassion, sacrifice and transcendence.

African, Native, and Jewish American Literature and the Reshaping of Modernism
Alicia A. Kent, Ph.D.
Palgrave Macmillan
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781403977977 $68.95

Jessica M. Safran

African, Native, and Jewish American Literature and the Reshaping of Modernism is a must-read for those in academia as well as those who wish to hear the repressed voices of the African, Native, and Jewish American cultures come to life. This book is also for those who can appreciate the works of ethnic authors and their contribution to modernism. Kent helps to redefine the definition of modernism using the literatures of African, Native, and Jewish Americans. She provides a way for the reader to put into perspective what the modern era looked like to those branded "primitive" or "traditional." This book encompasses the prominence of these literatures within the discipline of English, and establishes these ethnic groups' fiction writing a strong place within modernism.

Kent demonstrates her knowledge of multicultural literatures and her respect for the oppression that each ethnic group endured, and uses that understanding to provide an interesting way of relating these three ethnic groups to each other. Kent is no stranger to the writing practices of multicultural literatures. She is an assistant professor of English at the University of Michigan. She teaches classes in Native American, Jewish, and African American Literatures, as well as literary analysis. In addition, her previous publications include, "Mourning Dove's Cogewea: Writing Her Way into Modernity," "Native American Feminist Criticism in the Contact Zone," and "Migrant Modernities: Fiction by African, Native, and Jewish Americans. However, African, Native, and Jewish American Literature and the Reshaping of Modernism is her best contribution to the world of ethnic literature and modernist texts.

Kent focuses on making these ethnic groups' voices be heard through their writings, instead of being interpreted and demonstrated through the ways others see them. She accomplishes this through her interpretation of how these three ethnic groups, African, Native, and Jewish American authors, came into their own as modernistic writers. There is no reason why these authors should not be considered while discussing modern texts. By taking the writing of these authors, and conceptualizing them to stand on their own accords, Kent allows the reader to be immersed into their worlds, without the crude interruption of the viewpoints of others. In five chapters, Kent demonstrates to the reader that African, Native, and Jewish American literatures have a strong place among modern texts.

She starts the book with a strong introduction that lets the reader know that she is going to be using ethnicity and race to discuss modern texts, "African, Native, and Jewish American Literature and the Reshaping of Modernism focuses on what modernity would look like when viewed from the vantage point of those culture labeled 'primitive." Kent goes on to demonstrate this task by breaking the book into three subsequent chapters. Kent not only analyzes each ethnic group's works, but also uses historical context to provide evidence for her analysis.

"African Americans: Moving from Caricatures to Creators, Charles Chesnutt, and Zora Neale Hurston" is an intriguing chapter that provides the reader with a clear view of how African Americans overcame the migration of their people, and the oppression of both their views and works, and became one of the most prominent voices in multicultural literatures. Kent evaluates Charles Chesnutt and Zora Neale Hurston to convey this transformation. According to Kent, African Americans fought their way up from being used as caricatures, and overcoming slavery, to creating great works that are read in many classrooms today.

"Native Americans: Moving from Primitive to Postmodern, Mourning Dove, and D'Arcy McNickle," is another chapter that explains to the reader how, just like the African Americans, the Native Americans too had to overcome hardships and the injustice of stereotypes. However, they too managed to overcome the adversity, and migration of their people, and are now considered among the top of multicultural literatures. Kent focuses on the works of Mourning Dove and D'Arcy McNickle to express her knowledge of these authors in regards to the Native American cultures, and how they were able to use their oppression to form beautiful works of art, through their writings.

"Jewish Americans: Moving from Exile to Authorship, Abraham Cahan and Anzia Yezierska," is a chapter that gives the reader an opportunity to view the Jewish Americans, in the same regard as the African Americans and Native Americans. Kent analyzes the works of Abraham Cahan and Anzia Yezierska to convey her message in this chapter. Jewish Americans too had to overcome great oppression, the sting of stereotypes, and the painful memories of their displacement. However, like their brethren in literature, the Jewish Americans use these injuries to create great works that are revered among today's modern texts.

What makes this book, unique in the world of literature, is that Kent demonstrates the connection among these three ethnic groups using the turn of the century's migration, dislocation, and displacement as her argument for these groups' works being considered among modern texts. For, like other modern writers, these writers faced "a crisis of representation," but the crisis resulted from the need to respond to racist and anti-Semitic depictions of these ethnic groups. In the historical section of her book, Kent includes visual examples of some of these representations; she also examines how these writers re-wrote these images.

After reading this book, the reader should accumulate a respect for multicultural literature among the rest of modern texts, a strong voice to be heard after overcoming pain, oppression, and negation. Kent reiterates the role of these ethnic groups' works among the rest of the works in the modernist world. One influential quote, in Kent's book, that demonstrates the justification she provides for each ethnic groups' works states that, "By claiming their new role as fiction writers, these novelists implicitly reject the role of de facto native informant and instead forge new literary forms that not only add to the cadre of literary expression but also expand the form of the modern novel itself."

Through her expertise of African, Native, and Jewish American literatures, her admiration for these three ethnic groups and her knowledge of modern texts, Kent effectively argues that the works of these three ethnic groups belong among the works of other modern authors. Not only does she provide a clear, authoritative viewpoint, but she also incorporates historical context and images to provide evidence for her claims. It is a book that will not only cleanse one's pallet with a fresh taste of modernistic views, but a book that will leave the reader with a newfound conception of the correlation between African, Native, and Jewish American literatures and their impact on the literatures of the early twentieth century, as well as today.

Trudy's Promise
Marcia Preston
Mira Books
Ontario, Canada
9780778325334 $13.95

JoAn W. Martin

Trudy fell in love with Rolf in spite of his intense determination to leave East Berlin. When he crossed the newly constructed Berlin Wall, in October, 1962, she recognized that he loved politics more than he loved her and their son, Stefan. Rolf's friend, Wolfgang, told her that she, as the wife of a defector, was under suspicion and could be arrested by the notorious "stasi" communist any day.

Trudy left her baby with Gisela, her mother-in-law, to crawl through a dangerous tunnel under the Berlin wall to search for her husband in West Berlin. Did he survive his attempted escape? Unable to find him, she suffers in agony, missing her child. She walks the Wall, hoping to find a gap to at least see her son. Her efforts to get Stefan and Gisela out of East Germany take her to America, but even President Kennedy is unable to help her.

She returns to Berlin and tries every way to get back to East Berlin to be with her family. Now her son and mother-in-law are out of reach. Vicious armed guards patrol the wall and will stop at nothing to prevent passage over the wall.

Marcia Preston learned first-hand of the agony of relatives and friends split by the Berlin Wall. Germans were unable to see their families in 1970 when she first visited. A whole generation grew up never being with their people after the wall was built in the early 60s. Nearly thirty years would go by before the hated obstruction came down in 1989.

The author offers readers a glimpse into a frightening period that few writers have chosen to explore. Trudy's story is Marcia Preston's first book with a foreign setting. She says, "It is a personal story of a mother's love."

Margaret Mahler: A Biography of the Psychoanalyst
Alma Halbert Bond
Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9780786433551 $45.00

Kathi Stringer

Margaret S. Mahler - Larger then Life

To the outside world, Mahler was a gifted researcher and analyst who had authored many groundbreaking papers and books that revolutionized how we view child development. Her insight was heralded as the golden key to understanding child pathology. Many of us came to love Mahler through her innovative work and her words. And now, after decades of research, author Bond (who worked for Mahler) has given us a look of the woman behind the mask.

As Bond's lens focuses on Mahler, we begin to see into the dark depths of this complex woman. We are exposed to her quick temper and intolerance of anything less then perfection. She was a woman on a mission. We discover there were myriad conflicting interviews and memos--many hated her, but many loved her, as well. And all the while, whether they loved her or hated her; they surrounded her and basked in her status as a "living legend."

It is said, "Eyes are the mirror of the soul." Bond relates how in infancy Mahler had the ability to stare down her wet-nurse with the eyes of a lynx so she would continue to cradle her. A lynx has the ability "to immediately tell truth from error," according to author Bond. The infant Mahler was born equipped with the observation tools she needed to fulfill her destiny.

Bond begins with Mahler's birth in Hungary and parallels her life with the relentless advancement of Hitler's war machine. Her mother was only a teenager when she became faced with the pregnancy of an unwanted child. Years later, her mother gave birth to another daughter, whom her mother favored. To emotionally survive, Mahler became attached to her father, and she idealized and emulated him on an intellectual level.

We see how Mahler overcame early academia hurdles at a time when girls were not allowed in high school. But in typical Mahler fashion, she found a way. She left home, completed her studies, became a medical student and earned her diploma. Later in analysis, her bungling analyst rejected her and said she could not analyze her, which was a requirement in Malher's profession. It nearly cost her a place in the coveted Vienna analytic community. Mahler had shared her all only to be horribly rejected. This seemed to be another piece of Mahler's life that impacted the formation of her developmental concepts.

As Hitler unleashes his storm troopers, Mahler escapes with only the clothes on her back, leaving her family behind in peril.

Far away in America, Mahler eventually secures grants to begin her research and her conceptualization of the pre-Oedipal phase, namely "symbiosis," the four sub-phases of "separation-individuation," and then "on to object constancy." These developmental blueprints emerged from years of research done by a team that observed mothers and their children. Theory formulation, of course, did not happen in a vacuum and the author makes clear that Mahler's concepts grew out of intellectual conversations with her colleagues. She didn't like to think alone and surrounded herself with professional peers and friends. Bond implies that this served as a sort of "trial symbiosis," a need that was unresolved from the relationship with her mother.

Bond illustrates for us how Mahler's arrested developmental framework from her childhood was perhaps the original template for her theories, which was reflected in her research. It was if she knew where she was headed all along - driven by instinct and insight from her own unfinished developmental business. Mahler seemed to oscillate between the symbiotic libidinal pull and the resolution of the rapprochement crisis. Bond sprinkles bright commentary throughout and correlates Mahler's own developmental snags and milestones to Mahler's theories.

The author brings us ringside to the embattled personal, brilliant, and complicated life of Mahler through photos, memos, interviews, data, her professional publications and more. She depicts Mahler much like a courageous explorer who discovers the world is indeed round and then, in certain elite professional circles, is snubbed for it.

To my surprise, author Bond includes a chapter on highlights from a film interview with Mahler as she candidly dispenses concerned advice to new mothers. Many of the questions directed at Mahler were challenging, e.g., in addressing the importance of the mother-infant dyad, she was asked, "What about mothers that have to work and are not available to their children all the time?" Good question, and as is well known, theories formulated within a nice tidy framework can often be impractical in actual application. The interview questions challenged Mahler, but she unfailing responded to the "what ifs" with clarity and an almost uncanny personal insight.

All in all, Bond shows us how the name of Margaret Mahler became bigger then one woman. Her theories seem infallible, unlike the woman behind them. It brings to mind a saying I recall: "Keep your heroes afar because if you get to know them, then you will find out they are really human after all." I think the Dr. Sam Vaknin said it best, "For she was Eve, no less, in the field of child psychology and therapy." Kathi Stringer, author of the book "5150, The One Who Flew Into the Cuckoo's Nest"

The Express: The Ernie Davis Story
Robert C. Gallagher
Ballantine Books
The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345510860 $13.00

Kevin Coolidge

The Elmira Express

I love the Twin Tiers in the autumn. The days are still warm; the nights cool, giving birth to vibrant fall colors. The hills seem almost alive, and the threat of colder weather is a promise on the wind. Fall in the Twin Tiers ushers in a revered tradition. When it's autumn in America, it's time for football. Across the land, in big cities and small towns, in large stadiums and rural high schools--the sights, sounds, and colors of the game are all around us. The common thread is the game, and the athletes that practice and play it with heart and determination to the very best of their abilities.

Few players have shown more heart or determination than Ernie Davis. Davis was born on Dec. 14, 1939, in New Salem, Pa. His parents separated shortly after his birth, and his father was soon killed in an accident. He grew up in poverty in Uniontown, a coal-mining town 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, where caring grandparents raised him.

At 12, Davis moved to live with his mother and stepfather in Elmira. He went on to become Elmira's favorite son, both as an outstanding athlete and as a respected and well-loved citizen. Ernie's talent bloomed, and the honors came early and often. He led Elmira Free Academy to a 52-game winning streak in basketball and as a Syracuse sophomore helped the Orangemen gain their only national football championship.

As a senior in 1961, he became the first African American athlete to win the Heisman trophy and was the number one pick in the 1962 NFL draft. And then, suddenly, he was gone. He was diagnosed with leukemia the summer before his rookie season. He never played in the NFL, but succumbed to the disease less than a year later. Though Ernie never played a game for the Cleveland Browns, they retired his number 45, worn only in practice.

Davis was easily recognized as a great athlete, but his high school coach, Marty Harrigan, summed up what many felt for Ernie Davis when he said, "Everyone knew Ernie's athletic greatness, but few realized what a great human he was. His concern for his fellow man, and his affection for children, was sincere."

I think this is what moved me the most when I read The Express, The Ernie Davis Story by Robert C. Gallagher. There are lots of talented professional athletes today, and most of them are more than willing to inform you just how gifted they are, but the media exposure never changed him. "Ernie was the same kid at the end as he was at the start," said Jim Flynn, his high school basketball coach.

Ernie believed he was fortunate to be so gifted and never took his ability for granted. He worked hard both on the field and in the classroom. "Ernie was always the first one on the practice field and the last to leave." Many athletes, assured of a college scholarship, would have coasted in class, but "Ernie worked hard when it wasn't popular to get good grades. The teachers loved him. He never would excuse himself from work and say he had too many outside activities." Ernie intended to play professional football, but he knew that career expectancy in the NFL was only a few seasons, so he wanted to be prepared for another career when he retired from football. He believed that education would lead to social and economic success.

Syracuse University experienced its greatest football success during Ernie's career. The Orangemen became the national champions and winners of the Cotton Bowl. Four days before the game, Ernie pulled a hamstring while practicing place kicks. It was doubtful right up until game time whether he could play. Before leaving the game in the fourth quarter, he scored two touchdowns, including a then Bowl-record pass play, scored twice on two-point conversions, and intercepted a pass that led to Syracuse's final touchdown.

He was voted the game's Most Valuable Player. Davis was to have received his MVP award at the awards banquet that night. But when bowl officials said that only white players were invited to the dinner and that Davis would have to leave after picking up his trophy, the Syracuse team refused to attend.

It was Ernie's performance against the University of Pittsburgh that same year which inspired the nickname "The Elmira Express." Elmira Star-Gazette sports writer Al Mallette coined the phrase. Penn State coach Joe Paterno had this to say about Ernie Davis: "He's the kind of runner you hate to coach against; you can't instruct a boy to tackle a man if he can't catch him."

It was December 1961 when Ernie won the Heisman trophy. Winning the Heisman is a significant accomplishment regardless of the year or player, but it was a significant racial breakthrough at a time with segregation was just beginning to become a social issue. Today, black players often win the award, and it might be hard for his contemporaries to appreciate his achievement.

When he was in New York to receive the Heisman, Davis was treated with media coverage usually reserved for national heroes. President John Kennedy was in the city at the time and asked to see Ernie, a visit that thrilled him. "Imagine," Davis said, "a president wanting to shake hands with me."

Ernie was the number one pick for the 1962 National Football League draft following his senior year. The Washington Redskins had the initial selection, but soon traded him to the Cleveland Browns, who signed him to a three-year no-cut, no-trade $65,000 contract with a $15,000 signing bonus, a new record for a rookie.

The next summer while training for the upcoming All-Star game, Ernie awoke with swelling in his neck. A trainer sent him to the hospital, and doctors soon discovered the leukemia. At the time, Ernie and the public were told only that he had a "blood disorder". He wasn't told it was leukemia until October, after he had been in and out of the hospital. "Either you fight or you give up," Davis said in remembering how he felt when told the news.

The disease went into remission, and Davis kept planning on pro football. He practiced with the Browns. Coach Paul Brown, heeding the advice of medical people who warned him of the risks, did not play Davis. The next spring, Davis noticed more swelling and entered the hospital again. Two days later, on May 18, he died in his sleep. In Elmira, more than 10,000 citizens passed the Neighborhood House on May 21 where Ernie lay in state. Flags in the city were flown at half-mast. He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, also the burial place of Mark Twain.

Universal Pictures has finished production on the film adaptation of Davis's life. The movie is slated for release Oct. 10. The book is available now. Stop by your local bookstore or library and check it out. You can catch Kevin tailgating at From My Shelf Books in Wellsboro. Stop by or tackle it online at

The Winter War: Russia's Invasion of Finland, 1939-40
Robert Edwards
Pegasus Books, LLC
45 Wall Street, Suite 1021, New York, NY 10005
Distributed by W. W. Norton & Company
9781933648507 $26.95

Richard N. Larsen

Russian foreign policy hasn't changed a lot since 1939. Author Edwards calls it "forward defense," while others call it "Finlandization," but simply defined as an attempt to exercise control the internal affairs of a neighboring nation without possessing it or colonizing it. The truth is, nothing much has changed since the winter war of 1939 with Finland and the August 2008 war with Georgia.

Russia's invading army, fresh from defeating Japan was thought by many to be the best in the world, outnumbered the Finish army nearly five to one in troop strength, and technical superiority, took 105 days in the cold of winter to put finis to the plucky Finns.

Much of Europe, already engaged in what we call World War 2, did not act upon the actions of Russia and Finland, but likely the weakness shown by the Russian military gave Hitler a chance to shelter and convert Finland to an ally. The Russian weakness against Finland likely led Hitler to attack Russia in 1941, in what we now call Operation Barbarossa, the German attack which ended at Stalingrad.

Mr. Edwards tells a great story of mistakes, alliances, battles and outcomes so well that when I finished Winter War I actually think I understand European politics prior to World War 2. This is a very readable book, well drawn conclusions and as an added bonus, it helps us understand forward defense in Georgia in another Olympic year 2008.

Quick Meeting Openers for Busy Managers
Brian Cole Miller
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780814409336 $17.95

Mark Nash

Who hasn't been to a meeting where you don't know a soul? Setting the stage for a great meeting takes finesse and Brian Miller's new book. Getting people to break the silence and feel comfortable can turn a "have to" meeting into a "want to". And, don't think for a minute that this is one of those "up close and personal" technique books, it's a power-packed guide for managers, team leaders and facilitators to warm up groups before moving them into difficult territory.

Chapter titles are: Activities for Grouping People, Icebreakers for Introductions, Activities Best for Small Groups, Activities Best for Large Groups, and Activities Best for Huge Groups. Additional features include acknowledgments, an introduction, about the author, index and an appendix.

With over fifty tied and true step-by-step examples by an author who knows, Mr. Miller is the principal of Working Solutions, Inc a management training and consulting firm and the author of three additional management books. No one gets anything out of a meeting in which participants are listless, uncomfortable, or uninspired. If you are looking to perk up your meetings, pick up a copy of this book and raise your meeting productivity exponentially.

Christmas with Norky: The Adventure Begins
Steve Allgeier
Illustrated by Beatrice Favereau
Visikid Books
1350 E Flamingo Rd, Suite #50, Las Vegas, NV 89119
9781933156255 $17.99

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Santa is far too busy delivering presents to keep up with his Naughty & Nice List. So he calls on his flying friend Norky, who is part penguin and part eagle – a Peneagle. Norky's special job is to look for kids doing good deeds and practicing kindness all year round. However, Norky knows that no kid is perfect. That's why he created the "FIX-IT" card, which gives a kid a second chance in case he has a bad day.

Allgeier's rhyming verse brings to mind The Night Before Christmas with a gentle lesson about doing your best. Favereau's attractive cartoon-like character illustrations make this an inviting tale for pre-schoolers who love to make Christmas last all year long.

Norky also has a companion website where kids can join the Norky Adventure Club, view photos of the live-action Norky character, and check out Norky gear.

This first book in the Norky adventure series makes a great gift for kids who are crazy about Christmas.

Restless Astronomy, poems new and selected
Michael Gilmore
Dalton Publishing
P.O. Box 242, Austin TX 78767
9780981744308 $12.95

Robert Stikmanz

"Michael Gilmore's long anticipated Restless Astronomy assembles the poet's first collection in over two decades. The volume includes both older poems, such as the lovely, "Minotaurian Architecture," retitled from his 1981 chapbook, Lyrika, and newer pieces appearing for the first time in print. Subjects range broadly, from love to loss, to parenting, to past relationships, the passing of heroes, and encounters with the world. Throughout, Gilmore writes with delightful wit and invention.

"...He dreamed as he stood in the darkness
Water falling like miniature hooves
During those first rains
On the skylight"
("Minotaurian Architecture")

The poems vary from narratives of several stanzas to short, deceptively offhand pieces of under a dozen lines. Most often, the voice is straightforwardly that of the poet in autobiographical, even confessional, mode. Other times, especially in those poems where emotion flows nearest the surface, he dons the mask of a historical or mythic figure. By turns playful and sober, the poet examines incidents of the life he has lived and other, emblematic lives of his imagination.

"...This new device I'm going to call a centrifuge
It's what I built when I thought of you
You make my head spin, and within
What is heavy separates from the light"
("After Reading Freud Rutherford Addresses His Secretary")

Wistfulness, at times melancholy, pervades these poems, captured in the same self-ironic tone whether he writes as swift Achilles or as himself. The poet or his ciphers have taken hits, paid dues, survived proverbial slings and arrows, and had time enough to reflect on missed opportunity. However, even when the subject is darkest, the language is deft, original.

"...Each of us in the squad
Suffers the solitude
Of a desert Byrd or Amundsen

"We are wandering Trappist monks
Huddled over our sacred text
Out-of-date topographic maps..."
("The Messenger May Be a Witness Against You")

Characterized by unexpected imagery and sly, often sidelong, eroticism, Restless Astronomy charts a poet's trajectory across the mental, emotional, and physical spheres of his life. These poems rise from the page with confidence, grace, and strange beauty— moving out of the realm of the personal to that of wider experience."

Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist
Nancy Goldstein
The University of Michigan Press
Ann Arbor MI
9780472116249 $35.00

Shari Maser

It was an unexpected pleasure to read Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist. I learned and laughed a lot.

With the popularity of Barack Obama, community organizers like Jackie Ormes are getting newfound, and well-deserved, attention. The African-American community has a long history of individual activists effecting change, and this illustrated biography profiles one such quiet leader, whose influential artwork was published in African-American newspapers such as The Pittsburgh Courier between 1937 and 1956.

Jackie Ormes was a cartoonist, political satirist, and doll-maker whose work was clearly a reflection upon her times. It is evident that she also purposefully used her artistic talents to influence society by promoting civil rights.

When middle school, high school, and college students are assigned research papers about historical figures, they often gravitate to the most famous (and infamous) characters. Yet this book is appealing enough, with its extensive collection of comic art, to open their minds to examining history through the story of someone less well-known. Reading Ormes' biography is sure to inspire them, as it demonstrates how effectively one person can impact the issues she cares about. Doll collectors and history buffs will also appreciate this fresh look at 20th-century African-American politics and culture.

The Lucky One
Nicholas Sparks
Grand Central Publishing
Hachette Book Group
0446579939 $24.99

Annie Slessman

You can bet if Nicholas Sparks put a book out there, it is going to sell. This scenario is due to his expertise as a storyteller extraordinaire. His latest work, The Lucky One will be touted by readers as one of his best works. Having written books like Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, readers know what they can expect when they buy a Nicholas Sparks book…great characters, great storyline and an electricity that stays with you long after you have finished reading the story.

Sparks main character in The Lucky One is ex-marine, Logan Thibault. Logan has served three tours of duty in Iraq and believes his survival is due to a lucky picture he found of an unknown woman. Once he completes his tour of duty, he walks from Colorado to Hampton, North Carolina in search of the woman in the picture.

Once he arrives in North Carolina, he takes a job at a dog training facility where he meets Nana, the elderly owner of the facility, Elizabeth, her granddaughter and her young son, Ben. Elizabeth, he discovers is the woman in his lucky picture.

The storyline stays true and builds to an exciting climax. There are stories within this story that adds story interest. Sparks knows how to build a story and keep a reader anxiously turning pages.

If you are a Nicholas Sparks fan, you won't be disappointed with this work. If you have never read Nicholas Sparks, this work is a great starting point.

Nicholas Sparks is the author of fourteen best selling works of fiction. Several if his works have been adapted to movies. Sparks and his family lie in the Carolinas.

Voodoo Laws
Jim Michael Hansen
Dark Sky Publishing, Inc.
218 S. McIntyre Way, Golden, CO 80401
0976924374 $13.95 US

Wanda Maynard

What a burst of exploding suspense! This swift moving work of fiction will cause hidden emotions to rise to the surface leaving you panting for breath.

Bryson Coventry, our brave detective from homicide division, was on a mission to find a murderer or murderers before another innocent person fell prey to voodoo. Through determination he must find the evil and stamp it out before it's too late. In his quest to solve the mystery, will our hero wind up a victim himself? The edge of the seat excitement kept my nerves on end as I read on to see what could possibly lay ahead for him. With every page I turned anticipation grew along with adrenaline. Danger lurked like an unseen shadow in a dark corner that was ready to pounce at any given moment.

Jim Michael Hansen is not only an Attorney, but also a very talented Author. His immense ability to bring out compelling tension hooked this reader from the first line to the last with his hottest creation, Voodoo Laws. This triumphant book, to me, is a superb thriller and an outstanding read.

Andrew's Bookshelf

Merrill Bartlett & Jack Sweetman
Naval Institute Press
9781591140207 $60.00

If you google "Books – Marine Corps", they provide "about 286,000 listings in 0.19 seconds." So does the world need yet one more book describing the heroics of Marines since 1775? The answer is a resounding YES!! if the book is as good as this one.

When one walks around the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington, D.C. he or she is treated to a history of the Marine Corps when reading the inscribed battles… the French & Indian Wars…the Boxer Rebellion…Belleau Wood…Guadalcanal…Chosin…Fallujah… Authors Merrill Bartlett and Jack Sweetman have collaborated to give us the same tour around the Memorial, but with all 233 years of Marine lore added. "Leathernecks" is simply one of the finest illustrated histories of the Marine Corps published.

The difference between this book and the many others is both the depth of detail and its readability. Finding a balance between an academic book and an ooh-rah flag-waver, the authors present not only the Corps battle history, but the equally important story of the men who built it. Traditions are not created overnight, but are earned over generations; a fact of which the authors remind the reader with 280+ old photos, maps, and illustrations, many of which are published for the first time.

While the casual reader likely knows of the Marine Corps 10 November 1775 founding, it's Bartlett and Sweetman's "Leathernecks" that provides the background information that the 10 Nov. act of Congress chartering the Marines "…that two battalions of Marines be raised…" was in response to a petition by the residents of Passamaquoddy, Nova Scotia who wanted to join the newly independent United States – and these same Marines were to be used to capture the British Naval base at Halifax.

While Marine Corps lore in recent years has been built on such land-locked fights at Chosin, Khe Sanh, or An-Nasiriyah, prominent naval historian Jack Sweetman has teamed with Marine historian Skip Bartlett in a way that emphasizes the sea roots of America's pre-eminent sea service. Describing the first landing (and victory) of the Continental Marines back in March 1776, when an eight ship convoy sailed to seize Nassau, The Bahamas. The Marines captured "fifty-eight cannon, fifteen mortars, more than sixteen thousand shot and shell…," as well as establishing a tradition for those hard-chargers following: the Bahamas governor complained that the Marines "helped themselves to his liquor."

Drawing on a collection of rare photographs and illustrations from the depths of Marine and private archives, authors Bartlett and Sweetman personalize the early days of the Marine Corps that makes one understand the institution today. In addition to describing the battle in Veracruz, Mexico after the Marine landing in April 1914, they have a picture of LtCol Wendell Neville, Col John Lejeune, Col Littleton Waller, Maj Smedley Butler, and Maj Randolph Berkley; all China, Philippine, and Cuba hands, sitting together on a Mexican veranda: Butler-two Medals of Honor, Lejeune and Neville –commandants, Waller –lost the commandant's position 2x due to politics…what Marine alive today would not want to discuss counter-insurgency with these men? If it is the institutional ethos that drives the operational, it is fair to say that this was the generation – and these were the Marines – who were responsible for the birth of both.
The authors made a considerable effort to present the Marine faces behind the battles, many of which were fought in the halls Congress. Shortly after Gen. Alexander Vandergrift (aided by the familiar names of BrigGen Merritt Edson, LtCol Victor "Brute" Krulak, and Col Merrill Twining) beat back President Truman's and the Army's plan to reorganize the American military, Gen Vandergrift added the equally familiar LtGen Roy Geiger and future commandant Gen Lemuel Shepherd to analyze amphibious warfare in the atomic age. Their report initiated the movement of the Marine Corps into "Vertical Envelopment" – helicopter assaults – which was the beginning of a doctrine that the Corps saw as the key to its future. Battles are easy to analyze, it is the men who fight the battle that make or break the story – or the battle – and authors Bartlett and Sweetman present them superbly.

"Leathernecks" ends with a discussion of the war on terror, with emphasis on the current fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. The battles and counter-insurgency operations are discussed candidly and accurately, no small feat when so many of the participants are available for interview.

There is an old adage to the effect of the world being divided into two groups: those who are Marines and those who wish they were Marines – and after reading "Leathernecks", both groups will understand why the adage is so true.

The Border
David J. Danelo
Stackpole Press
9780811703932 $24.95

Is the Mexican-American border defensible? Should it be? These are questions that our politicians in Washington should be asking, but are not, so former Marine David Danelo drove the 1,951.63 mile border from the Gulf of Mexico's Boca Chica, Texas to Border Field State Park on California's Pacific coast, and he asks the questions for us.

Danelo took three months driving along both sides of the border, and his interviews and observations illuminate the growing divide on the crisis, and also whether or not the real crisis is immigration or narcotics. Talking with citizens of both Mexico and the United States in the major border cities of Matamoros – Laredo – Ciudad Juarez – Nogales- and San Diego, he personalizes the situation with a series of interviews with Border Patrol agents, local sheriff's, church groups, Minutemen, various American and Mexican citizens, and even a couple of Mexican teenagers who were about to be deported.

It is when talking to these young men, and a Mormon couple in Arizona, that Danelo cuts to the heart of the matter "why do Americans hate us so much," the teenager asks, "why do they pay us so much to work for them, and then kick us out?" An interesting question, to be sure, and especially when posed to an American couple who run a restaurant in Arizona; they find themselves torn between obeying American immigration law, yet seeing that not only do American teenagers refuse to work as busboys and dishwashers, but that the work they offer provide hope, dignity, and survival to otherwise impoverished individuals. These are good questions, and ones whose eventual answers will help provide solutions to the problem.

But the immigration question is not a simple one, and Danelo touches on its many facts. The issue is a combination of economics, narcotics sales, cultural change as American demographics change from Anglo to Latino, and perhaps one of a slowly failing state (Mexico) whose citizens are fleeing by the hundreds of thousands for a better life. Similar to situation in Iraq, where peace came only after the Iraqi government became engaged with their own citizens, the Mexican government needs to become more engaged in resolving those conflicts that otherwise send its citizens fleeing north.

The first 535 copies of "The Border" printed should be delivered to our congressmen and senators. This is a book that discusses immigration without a political slant, which makes it a rarity in these days of Lou Dobbs-led hysteria. "The Border" is an impartial, honest, and well-written recap of the situation on the border; now let's hope those 535 books are delivered to Washington before election day; Danelo asks all the right questions; now let's see if anyone can provide a thoughtful answer.

Flying for her Country
Amy Goodpaster Strebe
Praeger Security Int'l
9780275994341 $39.95

It is an accepted part of today's military that women pilots today fly helicopter gunships into combat, as well as virtually all the other planes in the American air fleet. To read Amy Goodpaster Strebe's book "Flying For Her Country" brings the reader back to those bad old days when women were known as "gals", their temperament and qualifications to vote were hotly debated, and college was considered a waste of 4 prime child-bearing years.

Ms. Strebe shoots those myths right out of the sky with "Flying For Her Country" as she recounts the stories of the American and Soviet women aviators in WW2.

The American WASP's grew to a program with one thousand pilots who flew 78 different aircraft some 60 million miles. Founded by famed aviatrix Jacqueline Cochran, her pilots flew every American fighter and bomber ranging in size from the tiny scout planes to the massive B-29's.

The Soviet women pilots were no less competent, and in fact were formed into their own fighter wing. Strebe describes how Marina Raskova, the first famous Russian pilot, commanded a unit flying combat missions against the Germans.

"Flying For Her Country" gives the reader an excellent view of how difficult it was for women to be allowed to fight for their country. Despite the dangers of flying (with the WASP's losing 38 killed), the WASP's were not officially members of the American military – the WASP's regularly chipped in to pay the freight charges incurred in shipping a body of one of their killed members home. Strebe recounts the problems and prejudices these patriotic and professional women encountered through the tenure of their service.

If anything, the book is far too short. Greater detail on both the American and Soviet pilots would be welcomed – as would have sections on their English and German counterparts. In all, this is a book that will be read with great interest by both pilots as well as those looking to understand how American society has changed in the last 60 years.

Fire Mission
Earl J. Gorman
Red Desert Press
9780615205946 $19.95

While there are many book from Vietnam veterans about their time in 'Nam on bookstore shelves today, there are too-few good ones. "Fire Mission" is one of the few good ones.

Author Earl Gorman was a Marine officer fighting in Vietnam in 1965-1966. An artilleryman, his was a slightly different view of the war; at times he was stationed out in the field with an infantry unit as a forward observer where he lived and worked with a 'grunt' unit, and then later was based back on the gun line responsible for a battery of 105mm howitzers.

Gorman is an excellent writer with a grasp of detail. "Fire Mission" (an artillery term) lets the reader begin to understand the mindset of a Marine officer trying to maintain his moral balance in the midst of a brutal war. He comments on his disgust in seeing VC bodies being displayed for American civilian and military visitors from Saigon, yet keeps his humanity as he meets and builds a relationship with a Vietnamese mother and daughter.

Commenting on the politics, Rules of Engagement, his superiors, and his times in combat, former 1st Lt Gorman blends the sarcasm and accuracy of a young Marine with the poignant observations and recollections of an older citizen soldier; one who has done his duty to his country yet hopes that others may not have to follow in his footsteps.
Well done, Sir!

One Weekend a Month
Craig Trebelcock
9781591138921 $17.95

This book is the Iraq War's answer to frustration and cynicism we saw so many years ago in the movie **MASH**

First-time author – and decorated veteran – Craig Trebelcock has written a highly revealing and irreverent 'memoir' of the 2004-2005 war in Iraq. Drawing on his extensive time on the ground during both the 2003 invasion as well as 2004-2005's poorly-planned and led post-invasion occupation forces, Trebelcock shows the reader how the Marines and soldiers tried to succeed in spite of the odds against them.

A JAG officer (lawyer) and Civil Affairs officer in real life. Trebelcock writes about the war through the eyes of an 8-man civil affairs team (Team Jaguar") made up of Reservists. As a reservist himself, he experienced the disdain the regular Army hold for Reservists, despite this being the first war in which Reservists played such an important role as combatants.

Writing on his experiences in Iraq through the fictional persona of Major Trevanthan, the team leader, Trebelcock describes the incompetence and disinterest he and his team encountered through their year in Iraq. From senior officers only interested in their next promotion to officers too interested in paperwork to learn how to actually lead troops in combat, it is no surprise that not only did the Iraqi people quickly learn to think of America as an occupying power, but also that it's no surprise that 2004-2005 are considered two wasted – and unnecessarily bloody years.

For as bad a light as "One Weekend a Month" portrays the REMF's in the Green Zone and back in Washington, D.C., it shines a brilliant light on the efforts of the American Reserves and National Guard; the citizen-soldiers who answered their country's call. They gave the mission 150 % of their effort, blood, and dedication, even if their superiors did not. Highly recommended.

Andrew Lubin, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

Shadow of Forgotten Love
Norma Gatlin
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd. #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432724863, $16.95,

Sometimes immortality is overrated. "Shadows of Forgotten Love" is a story of the romance between mortal woman Elizabeth Rains and her potential lover in Immortal vampire Anthony Devonshire. Yearning for even the slightest time with Elizabeth, Anthony is willing to do anything. A fantastical blend of fantasy and romance, "Shadows of Forgotten Love" is a solid piece of writing, highly recommended.

The World I Imagine
Debbie Jordan
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432718619, $11.95,

Is true peace truly possible? "The World I Imagine: A Creative Manual for Ending Poverty and Building Peace" comes to readers with a simple message, that ending poverty and ending peace are two goals in the same, and if one is gone, the other shall fade as well. Peace can't coexist with poverty, and within, Debbie Johnson puts her mind to work and tries to put forth answers to the many questions that the world asks. "The World I Imagine" is food for thought for any reader who wants to work towards a better world.

Never Assume
Patricia McGuire
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432717179, $11.95,

First impressions are something so many make the error of going off of when evaluating others. "Never Assume: Getting to Know Children Before Labeling Them" is a book focusing on the demeanor of children and how to understand them. With educated writing from a behavior pediatrician, she discusses the temperament of children and how to deal with it to better understand the children for whatever one is trying to do. "Never Assume" is a solid child psychology manual, highly recommended.

Brain Matters
Elizabeth Nelson
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432722012, $19.95,

Depression is beatable. "Brain Matters" is Elizabeth Nelson's story of her fighting through her depression over her life time. She fought the severe depression that denied her the very ability to get herself out of bed. She hopes to share her story and her advice to those who offer suffer from the ailment on how they can overcome their depression and resume living their life. With much encouragement and wisdom, "Brain Matters" is highly recommended.

Susan Bethany

Bob's Bookshelf

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
Vicki Myron and Bret Witter
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Ave, New York, New York 10017
9780446407410 $19.99

This is the true story of an abandoned kitten who lived an extraordinary life. Dewey not only inspired a struggling single mother, he also transformed a sleepy library and the inhabitants of its depressed Iowa farm town and ultimately captured the hearts of animal lovers around the world.

After surviving the loss of her family farm and an abusive husband, Vicki Myron became a librarian and landed in Spencer, Iowa. Her major task was to try to raise the spirits of the library's patrons who were deeply mired in the farm crisis of the 1980s.

When a nearly frozen kitten was dropped through the library's night drop box, Vicki found a symbol to rally the small town's citizens. Receiving permission to adopt the kitten as the "resident" library cat, the new arrival became a local celebrity and began to change the attitude of the local residents.

Named by the townspeople, Dewey's antics but a smile on their faces and he brought people in from the surrounding area to see this remarkable feline. When he died two years ago at the age of 19, Dewey's obituary appeared in over 250 newspapers and was announced on the national television evening news.

The heartwarming story of this extraordinary cat will put a smile on any reader's face and might be a nice change-of-pace from the dire headlines that have recently captured the front pages of our newspapers.

Swan Peak
James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas. New York, New York 10020
9781416548522 $25.95

The seventeenth novel in the top-selling Dave Robicheaux series finds the righteous, complex, and humanly flawed Louisiana lawman in the Bitterroot Mountains of western Montana.

Hoping to enjoy a little R & R fishing in Montana, Robicheaux, his wife, Molly, and a friend, Clete Purcel, have their vacation marred by a series of murders. The execution style killing of a college student and the rape and murder of the boy's girlfriend set in motion a chain of events that not only ruin the trio's holiday in the bucolic Rockies but also nearly get them added to a rapidly expanding "victims" list!

With two Edgar awards already sitting on his fireplace mantle, Burke might have elected to rest on his laurels, but the Missoula, Montana, writer hasn't lost his deft touch. As good as any of its predecessors, this latest Robicheaux adventure won't disappoint Burke's legions of fans.

Andrea Kane
William Morrow
9780061236785 $23.95

Andrea Kane launches a new romantic thriller series with the introduction of Sloane Burbank, a former FBI agent and trained hostage negotiator who is now working as an independent consultant.

Specializing in training law enforcement personnel and private organizations in crisis resolution, Sloane has her own "crisis" closer to home to deal with when a childhood friend mysteriously disappears.

Joining forces with her ex-lover, Derek Parker, the FBI agent in charge of the case, Sloane and Parker uncover a complex situation that involves a number of grisly murders in Chinatown. With more women disappearing and others turning up brutally murdered, the investigation quickly turns into a hunt for a crazed killer.

When she becomes the target of the madman, Sloane will need to use all of her considerable skills to avoid becoming his next victim. Andrea Kane has built her reputation on intricate and accurate plots; with this new series she takes her writing to the next level with a complex and thoroughly captivating heroine. Sloane Burbank will surely appeal to more readers and swell the numbers of Kane's fan club!

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

Treading Lightly
David A. Anderson
Pensive Press
205 Bluffwood Drive, Danville, KY 40422
9780970905727, $15.00,

The key to a better tomorrow is not as complicated as one would think, but in fact, far simpler. "Treading Lightly: The Joy of Conservation, Moderation, and Simple Living" is a call to solving the world's energy and environmental issues by simply living a simpler and more Earth-friendly life. Saying that standard of living doesn't have to fall, but much wiser decisions must be made, "Treading Lightly" offers newer and more innovative ideas for readers who are concerned about the state of the environment.

One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve With Science!
Eric Yoder & Natalie Yoder
Science, Naturally!
627 A Street NE Washington, DC 20002
9780967802015, $9.95,

Science can be a highly entertaining and appealing subject, if presented right. "One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve With Science!" is a collection of simple science experiments to get children motivated and excited by science. Encouraging critical thinking skills, it teaches children to think quickly and scientifically. "65 Short Mysteries You Solve With Science" is a highly recommended purchase for science teachers who want to introduce a bit of extra fun into the classroom.

Me, Myself, and I
Sandra McLeod Humphrey
CSS Publishing Company
517 South Main Street, Lima, OH 45804
9780788025600, $13.95,

The time between young adulthood and childhood, a time where you're just stuck in the middle. "Me, Myself, and I: Youth Meditations for Grades Five Through Eight" is a collection of solid and inspirational advice for children in these years. Offering a Christian perspective for Christians growing up and dealing with the strange middle time in their lives, the advice is solid and should help kids deal with the coming problem of becoming teenagers. "Me, Myself, and I" would be a great gift for religious tweens.

God's Strategy for Tragedy
Ben Godwin
Deeper Revelation Books
PO Box 4260, Cleveland, TN 37320-4260
9780942507454, $14.99,

God has a plan for us all, but where does tragedy fit into them? "God's Strategy for Tragedy" is the story of Ben Godwin and the tragedy of a severe bicycle accident. He was ruled a cripple, but a miracle from God, as Godwin dubs himself, allowed his bone to heal and him to regain his ability to walk. Devoting his life to the lord, he hopes to inspire faith in readers, explaining how miracles can still happen in the modern day. "God's Strategy for Tragedy" is a must for those who want to still believe.

More Than The Gift
Larry Robinson
Aventine Press
750 State St., #319 San Diego, CA 92101
159330546X, $13.95,

Giving is something cherished by many as charity, but what does it really mean? "More Than The Gift" is an examination of the purpose for giving for Christians. It's more than the gift, it's the thought, the motive, and the relationship between the giver and the receiver. Composed in a work book format that allows readers to read along and write down their own thoughts, "More Than The Gift" is an educational and thought provoking look at the practice of gift giving.

Doubt After Doubt
Rob Jacik
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9781435719637, $21.95,

Many believers are full of questions, ending in doubt. "Doubt After Doubt: Doubting the Christian Faith" is Rob Jacik's collection of thoughts on his doubts about Christianity, after being raised a Catholic. He speaks on many subjects on the road of embracing modern paganism, including the contradictions and misuses of Christianity, and the universal dilemma of worldly evil. "Doubt After Doubt" is food for thought for anyone questioning their faith.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Inside Scoop
Marilyn Peake, editor
Double Dragon Publishing
PO Box 54016, I-5762 Highway 7 East, Markham, Ontario, L3P 7Y4, Canada
1554045436, $5.99,

One has to consider the source when taking advice on any subject. "Inside Scoop: Articles About Acting and Writing By Hollywood Insiders and Published Authors" is a collection of works from people who do know what they are talking about. With writers talking from many positions in the wide reaching label that is show business, it also contains biography listing the writer's credentials. A valuable resource for a Show business wannabe who wants to be smart about his career, "Inside Scoop" is a must.

Withstanding the Lie
Roger & Nicole Brewer
Privately Published
95 Ross Road, Rockfall, CT 06481
9781419695506, $15.99,

The lie that everyone will accept you for who you are – a lie, that although inspiring, is still a lie. "Withstanding the Lie" is a collection of anecdotes, short fiction, essays, and other writings from the father daughter team of Roger & Nicole Brewer. Honest and upfront, their words tell people how the world is and inspires them deal with the harsh realities that life puts in front of them. "Withstanding the Lie" is worth reading for anyone who feels they are a minority in their environment.

Senior Smart Puzzles: Box 2
Lindy McClean & James Cloutier
Booksurge LLC
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419654657, $10.99, 1-866-308-6235

As seniors age there is a need to keep their intellect stimulated. One of the best ways to do this is through simple puzzles and exercises. "Senior Smart Puzzles: Book 2" is another compilation developed by author Lindy McClean providing hidden objects, same/different, mazes, and other stimulating exercises that are as fun as they are effective. Enhanced with full page black-and-white illustrations of each of the games and exercises. Of special note is the concluding section of 'Solutions' for each featured puzzle. "Senior Smart Puzzles: Box 2" is especially recommended for activities directors of Senior Citizen Centers, Assisted Living Facilities, and Nursing Homes. Also highly recommended is the first volume of "Senior Smart Puzzles" (9781419646881, $10.99) by Lindy McClean.

Start Talking
Mary Jo Rapini & Janine Sherman
Bayou Publishing
2524 Nottingham, Houston, TX 77005-1412
KSB Promotions (publicity)
55 Honey Creek NE, Ada, MI 49301-9768
9781886298316, $14.95,

Talking to one's child is a dying art that parents need to rediscover. "Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex, or Whatever" is a book to help mothers and daughters reform that bond that has so often been lost. Focusing on teenagers and the smorgasbord of changes that come with that age, it tackles everything from the first period to virginity to yoga to most importantly, how to deal with boys and everything that comes with them. "Start Talking" is highly recommended as reading for both mother and daughter, sure to forge quite the bond between them.

The Sign Of the Grail
C.J.S. Hayward
C.J.S. Hayward Publications
530 East Indiana, Wheaton, IL 60187-5562
9780615202198, $40.00,

Down through the centuries, the Legend of King Arthur has been used as an icon for so many literary works in the western world. "The Sign of the Grail" is a collection of memorable literary works by C.J.S. Hayward centering around the Holy Grail and what it means to orthodox religion, as well as those who follow those teachings. Tackling diverse subjects such as iconography and an earthly paradise, he pulls no punches when dealing with many of the topics laid out through the legends. "The Sign of the Grail" is a unique, scholarly, and thorough examination of the Grail mythos, granting it a top recommendation for academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in these subjects. Also very highly recommended for personal, academic, and community library collections are C.J.S. Hayward's other deftly written and original literary works, essays, and commentaries compilations and anthologies: "Yonder" (9780615202174, $40.00); "Firestorm 2034" (9780615202167, $40.00); "A Cord Of Seven Strands" (9780615202174, $40.00); ""The Steel Orb" (9780615193618, $40.00); "The Christmas Tales" (9780615193632, $40.00); and "Hayward's Unabridged Dictionary" (9780615193625, $40.00).

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Nic Bettauer
Above the Line Publishing
468 N. Camden Drive #200, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Noelle Brown Public Relations
1891803239, $19.98,

Hope can come in the strangest of packages. "Duck" is a novelization of the critically acclaimed independent film. Arthur is down on his luck and his only friend is a duck named Joe. Trying to make something of his life, he soon learns that the duck has more to offer him than the occasional annoying quack. Hope for life and hope for the future are the name of the game, and "Duck" is a brilliant novelization of an excellent film.

None of the Above
Joseph Farah
WND Books
c/o Midpoint Trade Books
27 West 20th Street, Suite 1102, New York, NY 10011
9781935071013, $16.95,

"None of the Above: Why 2008 Is the Year to Cast the Ultimate Protest Vote" comes at voting readers with a powerful political message – that sometimes the best choice is to not make one. Saying that rejecting the two party system will further American civil rights, help purge corruption, and other benefits, that a revolt of this magnitude is needed to put America on the right track, not a Democrat or Republican in the White House. "None of the Above" offers a new and fresh message, food for thought for anyone who is sure of who they are going to vote for in November.

As If We Were Grownups
Jeff Golden
RiverWood Books
PO Box 3400, Ashland, OR 97520
1883991730, $12.00,

Honesty is the best policy is what we're told as children. But how many follow this policy? "As If We Were Grownups: A Collection of 'Suicidal' Political Speeches That Aren't" looks into the harsh reality of American politics that many simply attack listeners with an array of feel good cliches and everything they simply want to hear. Inside, are an array of speeches from politicians that are frighteningly honest, and while many campaign managers fear them, have proved highly effective on their respective campaign trail. "As If We Were Grownups" is enthusiastically recommended reading, and a 'must' for those who demand more political honesty in their politicians.

My Life as a Bush
John Morgan
Creation House
c/o Strang Company
600 Rineheart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746
McCain & Co. (publicity)
1318 Riverwood Dr., Nashville, TN 37216
9781599794594, $14.99,

Everybody has their imitators, and some make a career out of it. "My Life as a Bush...and my heart for imitating Jesus" tells the story of a man who has made quite the name for himself impersonating our commander-in-chief. He tells many stories of his life in times and goes to spread on the words of another man he tries to thrive to imitate, free of charge – Jesus Christ. A story from a man with an interesting career with a powerful message, "My Life as a Bush" is a highly recommended and intriguing read.

Michael J. Carson

Cheri's Bookshelf

A Guitar and A Pen: Stories By Country Music's Greatest Songwriters
Robert Hicks, John Bohlinger and Justin Stelter
Center Street a division of Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue New York, NY 10017
9781599950648 $23.99

Who else could write stories to tug at your heart strings or lift your spirits than some of Nashville's great song writers! After all we've seen how country songwriters can write three and a half minute songs that become great but what can they do with a blank piece of paper and a pen and this book "A Guitar and A Pen" proves that they can do it. This book is a collection of twenty-five short, short stories written by some of Nashville's best. After all who best to write these brief stories than the greatest storytellers – Nashville song writers. The book opens with a Forward written by who else but Vince Gill and goes on from there with stories by such writers as Charlie Daniels (Curtis Loach), Kris Kristofferson ( A Rock a reviewer favorite), Tia Sillers (How I Stayed a Boy), Gary Nicholson (Whitey Johnson), Dony Winn (Shiny, Like New) , Hank Ketchum (The Clock Struck Nine), Janis Ian (Of Guitars and Righteous Men), Don Cook (Born and Raised In Black and White), Bobby Braddock (Cybersong) and Tom T. Hall ( The Day Jimmy Killed the Rabbit also a reviewer favorite) as well as the authors Robert Hicks (Gathering Together) and John Bohlinger (A Big Batch of Biscuits). This is an awesome blend of fiction, non-fiction and humor and also included is a short biography of each writer.

The authors spent six years compiling stories and searching for a publisher and as luck would have it found Center Street. This reviewer loves the quote by one of the authors Robert Hicks in an interview with Carrie Runnals "Nashville is a small town in many ways; even more important, it's one of the most accessible places on earth for the creative. Many of the contributors in this book are not only colleagues but also life-long friends." Be sure to check out the rest of the interview at

Whether you are a fan of country music or a reader of short stories this is one book not to be missed. Co-writers Robert Hicks, John Bohlinger and Justin Stelter have certainly delivered as they have done an amazing job of compiling an awesome group of stories. So sit back and enjoy "A Guitar and A Pen" and check out the other side of some of Nashville's greatest song writers!

The Bride Bargain
Kelly Eileen Hake
Barbour Books
PO Box 719 Uhrichsville, OH 44863
9781602601758 $10.97

Clara Field determined to care for herself and her Aunt Doreen Edgerly, are on their way out West to Oregon leaving behind their unhappy lives of the East. But when things got rough for them on the wagon train the trail boss leaves them behind to fend on their own. Stopping in Buttonwood they find they are two days behind the wagon train and can't possibly catch up before winter.

Josiah Reed owner of the General Store sets up a deal with the two ladies to care for his home and help with the store in exchange for a place to stay until Spring. Having no other choice Clara agrees.

While in Baltimore Josiah's son Saul is making plans to come to Buttonwood to watch Josiah's store so that he can go back East to attend the birth of his first grandchild. Saul is determined to return to Baltimore to his medical practice and to raise the orphan girl Midge that he has taken in to raise after the death of her sister.

Plans and deals are made between all players as all have ulterior motives of their own. See what happens when all set their own dreams and desires aside and allow God to set forth His plan to the amazement of all as love blossoms between unlikely characters.

In this amazing tale that can't be put down the author does an outstanding job in the lives of her characters as they leap off the page and into your heart. Determination is key in this unique tale of romance set on the Oregon trail as the West was being built. God-teaching abounds as all must learn that God is in control. And it's nothing short of amazing what young author Kelly Eileen Hake has accomplished in her twenty-three years. Check her out at her website at you'll see that this accomplished author is not afraid of hard work or seemingly impossible goals and just like her character Clara in this novel "The Bride Bargain" is definitely no exception.

The Twelfth Window: The Cychaea Series Book One
J. M. Norwood
1663 Liberty Drive Suite 200 Bloomington, Indiana 47403
9781434314861 $14.95

It's the 1980's and the sophomore year of high school and Michael Joseph and Lisa Chess begin dating. But this is not your normal high school romance. This is a love much deeper that goes beyond all time and space and if possible even Heaven above. At first no one understands but as time progresses everyone except Lisa's father sees the deepness of this love affair that goes beyond everything.

Michael even stands by Lisa when she decides to date an old crush Monty Ray the captain of the football team. During that time Lisa goes off the deep end and deserts her true friends and stops going to Temple where special times had been spent between Mike and Lisa. But than one night Lisa sees Monty with another girl and drinks herself sick. One of Lisa's and Mike's friends – Dormey is called by his sister Rae who sees what happens to Lisa and calls her brother. Dormey calls Mike who goes to get her. Romance begins once again and if possible even deeper than before. The gang is all together again Kim, Amanda, Jenny, Dormey, Richard, and Amanecer who are Lisa's true friends.

The big question is how does Atael the Giver of Life and the twelfth window play into all of this? You'll have to read for yourself to see!

As a fantasy tale this one will blow you away! You won't be able to put this one down! After all this story is a new way to tell the timeless story of the relationship between God and man. Revealing how the Bible is really a love story. This is book one in a planed series of seven in the "Cychaea Series" this is author J. M. Norwood's first major publication, a proud Gen-Xer who also has a successful career in the hip-hop industry. "The Twelfth Window" was a finalist in Foreword Magazine's 2007 Book of the Year Award. Before reading this one you may want to check out Norwood's blog at Norwood has done an amazing job of bringing God's Word to reality. The characters truly come alive and the novel itself is so true to life. A story that will seem strange as it begins will have you spellbound and after you close this book your own relationship with God will never be the same!

Cheri Clay

Christy's Bookshelf

Dragonfly in Amber
Diana Gabaldon
Dell Publishing
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0385335970 $15.00

The second installment in the Outlander series is just as much a rollicking adventure as the first, albeit this one is told in flashbacks from time traveler Claire Beauchamp's memory. The first of the book may be confusing to readers, as the end of Outlander left Claire with Scottish Highlander Jamie Fraser in the 1740s, yet the beginning of this book finds Claire in Scotland in 1968, where she has returned with her daughter Brianna, intending to tell Brianna who her true biological father is. Frank, Claire's present-day husband, is dead and Claire hopes to learn what happened to Jamie some 200 years earlier. She asks historian Roger Wakefield to help with her search and relates to Brianna and Roger her history with Jamie, laird of Lallybroch.

Claire picks up her story when she and Jamie escape to France, where Jamie is to be interpreter for Prince Charles. Aware history shows that the bonnie prince's failed attempt to reclaim the English throne caused massive devastation to the clans of Scotland at the battle of Culloden, Claire and Jamie are intent on thwarting Prince Charles' efforts to accumulate the funds necessary to stage such a war. While in Paris, Claire and Jamie enjoy a lifestyle of luxury, but it seems that no matter what they do, they cannot stop the tide of history, and the battle takes place. But beforehand, Jamie is forced to kill his uncle Dougal, who tries to murder Claire. Knowing he must face punishment for killing his chieftain, Jamie tells Claire she must go back to the future, as it is his intent to die on the battlefield of Culloden. Claire goes back, but she takes a part of Jamie with her: his unborn child.

This series is a fascinating read, filled with historical facts, interesting information about medicines from the 18th century, nonstop action and nail-biting suspense. Claire and Jamie's committed love for one another shines through the book and adds hot spice to a galvanizing read.

Lisa Black
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061544453 $24.95

Theresa MacLean is a forensic scientist called to gather evidence at the murder of a bank officer which her fiance, homicide detective Paul Cleary, is investigating. Later that morning, she learns that Paul has been taken hostage in a bank robbery which occurred at the bank where the slain man worked. Theresa heads to the scene and meets acclaimed hostage negotiator Chris Cavanaugh. Theresa convinces Cavanaugh to allow her to stay on during the negotiation and watches in horror as her fiance is shot by one of the armed robbers. In an effort to save Paul's life, Theresa approaches the robbers and asks that she be exchanged for Paul. The robbers agree, and from that point on, things spiral out of control.

This book has the makings of a good thriller, but distracting factors are the initial slow pace and lack of characters with real depth. A forensic scientist makes for not only an entertaining but an edifying read; however, there is very little forensic information relayed in the book. Theresa takes too long to figure out what's actually going on and can't seem to keep her emotions in check. The robbers' rationalization for robbing the bank is not plausible; there is a much simpler way they could have accomplished what they were trying to achieve.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

Mike's Election Guide 2008
Michael Moore
Grand Central Publishing
a division of Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446546270 $13.99

A thrilling election season is upon us with Obama vs McCain. Michael Moore's new book Mike's Election Guide 2008 provides Democrats a way to gain numerical majorities in the House and Senate. Moore's book provides ten Presidential Decrees for Obama's first ten days, should he win the election. Among the ideas are reinstating the draft, criminalizing health care profiteering, and banning commercials in movie theaters.

The book is Democratically biased; Republicans may be offended by some statements. This book has questions and answers, some of which are tongue in cheek, but generally hit upon issues which are important to voters. In one answer, Moore talks about the donations of party faithful and what they get in relationship to high roller lobbyists. He says for a $25 contribution you get "… a guarantee that every presidential speech will end with that phrase that makes you feel all warm and gooey and patriotic 'God bless the United States of America'. Cough up a lot more and you've got a front row seat at the trough."

Moore has a number of ideas attempting to solve America's campaign issues. McCain and Obama have similar platforms which do not address these issues. True universal health care is not advocated by either candidate. Moore feels we should provide it free of charge similar to fire and police protection. Social Security is not being contributed to fairly by those who earn more than $102,000.00 per year. Mike says, raise the limit!

Homeland Security is addressed by a novel approach. "Defeat Al Qaeda and the Next Generation of America-Haters by Building Wells." Providing pure and fresh drinking water for people of the world will cost little and do a lot. Moore points out that $10 per person is all it will take to dig a well in any country with our current technology. Clean, safe drinking water will enhance our standing with the people of the world.

Don't miss out on Mike's Election Guide, as this is a great year to be an American, and a voter. Get in on all the fun! I recommend this book.

Freeman Walker
David Allan Cates
Unbridled Books
1755 York Avenue No. 6B, New York, NY 10128
9781932961553 $25.95

Jimmy Gates begins his journey through the mystery of life with one great disadvantage; he is a mulatto! Set in the 1860's during a period of time when it was not unusual for slave owners to have relations with their slaves; this book portrays this relationship with a keen insight into how it might have been back then. Freeman Walker is the third novel by David Allan Cates whose previous works were X out of Wonderland and Hunger in America which were recognized as a New York Times Notable Book and a Montana Book Award Honor Book.

Freeman Walker is a fast paced novel which moves from America to England where he is enrolled in an English gentlemen's school to obtain a proper education. Born of a white father and a black mother his appearance can be distinctly either black or white depending upon how he combs his hair. After the death of his father, he has to fend for himself. He earns funds to return to the Civil War to find and free his mother whom he had left behind. Changing his name from Jimmy Gates to Freeman Walker he does exactly what the name implies, he walks through history to find peace in his life as a free man!

After the civil war, Walker travels west to seek a new life. He meets up with several colorful characters and becomes the center of attention because of his command of English and ability to write. The territorial governor sees in him a person who is endowed with a keen intellect and an ability to be far more than a fallen down drunk which he had become. Rising up from the gutter, literally, he is placed in a position where he can be a leading respected citizen. I recommend this book, as it will take the reader on a challenging journey page after page and does not disappoint when it ends.

The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish
Elise Blackwell
Unbridled Books
9781932961515 $14.95

In Elise Blackwell's second novel, The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish, she tells a compelling story of the 1927 flood in Louisiana. Louis Proby, the main character, now living in New Orleans, is 95, and looks back on his life when he was 17 years old awaiting the first flooding of New Orleans.

This is a tale of sacrifice and heroism with a delicate balance of history and fiction as it portrays a family in the mid 1920's. Many characters seem authentic and come alive as Louis narrates his account. He remembers Cypress Parish was destroyed because the city fathers said dynamiting the levees was necessary to save New Orleans. Louis always knew the truth that his own father had played an important role in the decision which allowed Cypress Parish to go under pointlessly.

Proby lives through a complex time in history. Louis writes detailed descriptions of seedy clubs in Crescent City (New Orleans), of bootlegging, of levee construction, of Carville leper colony and the philosophy of Pliny the Elder. Louis falls in love with a French girl by the name of Nanette Lancon, but loses his heart as she wanders away from him.

This book delicately balances history with fiction and shows how politics destroyed a city and changed an entire way of life in Cypress Parish.

This powerful story is of a young man and events which lured him from boyhood to manhood. He learns the truth about his father and how he was one of the driving forces which helped save New Orleans. Because of Blackwell's upbringing in Louisiana, she brings life to the South, accuracy to people, and reality to places. She thoroughly researched the era, used familial records and historical events, to accurately weave these materials into her book. A grim subject matter embraces the reader with a feeling of pleasantness because of Elise's elegant prose.

Readers will appreciate the life experiences in the 1920's as Louis Proby awaits his flood. This book is highly recommended especially after the disaster in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina and the failing levees.

Clark Isaacs

Daniel's Bookshelf

Nothing to Lose
Lee Child
Published by Bantam Dell
A Division of Random House Inc.
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385340564 $27.00 262-785-9000

Lee Child has finished his twelfth novel involving his main character Jack Reacher. The stories portray this person as a loner, and an ex military policeman trying to survive by his self without any baggage traveling around the States. This time we find him in the center of the country near Kansas and hovering around Colorado after hitchhiking along the highway. He ends up near two towns named Hope and Despair. Despair is where the reader finds the action, and Reacher eventually is involved in finding out about a conspiracy. It involves a secret between the military and the town's main employer regarding something they are trying to keep low-key. Reacher visits the town of Despair and gets arrested for vagrancy. He fails to pay heed to suggestions to stay out, and runs into the law again. The townspeople are deputized to remove him. His character is one of survivalist and one-man fighting machine by story reputation. His fighting skills remind one of Rambo via David Morrell writer regarding him suffering of post war syndrome. Reacher does well against many, where one person would be more than overwhelmed. Reacher's curiosity and observations keep the story moving and he proves he is worthy of undertaking the needed tasks to right the wrong. He does it with class, and he has help with the local attractive police officer of Hope who becomes his love interest in the story. A most engaging story which labors on adventure and part thriller, but becomes more like a Route 66 story and Reacher is a one- man army.

Lee Child has written a dozen of these Jack Reacher stories and seems to find different scenarios settings, and looks on his main character, Lee likes to put him in harms way, while creating Jack as a mind-engaging character with keen observations and thought process working in high gear. He has him well armed with his training and survival instincts, and able to handle more adversaries than most men could handle while warning them then do battle. I have always enjoyed a fresh prospective on not being predictable or a self reliant character who fears no one. I have read all of his books so far, and I will anticipate the next one being a different adventure with a different twist of plot. The main character is transient and carries little but the clothes on his back, ample money with reserve in a distant bank, and a toothbrush on him. His new clothes replaced when needed, and an engaging story to place him somewhere between the coasts. A lot like Route 66 without the plan of the same highway or direction. A man without a home, and interesting for the reader to turn the pages reading his new story.

David Morrell
Vanguard Press
387 Park Avenue South, 12th Floor, New York City, NY 10016
9781593154417 $24.95 1-800 343-4499

I read his book where David Morrell introduced the same main characters in Creepers. Frank Balenger and Amanda Evert continue with a new story that displays creative imagination and research by Morrell. I enjoyed the earlier book which won the Bram Stoker award, and the book appeared on several best lists. Morrell balances good stories with adventure, thriller, and mystery all rolled up into one. This book Scavenger takes the reader into new territory with surprises and thrills along the way from the master of terror suspense. The story takes five people on a chilling hunt for a 100-year-old time capsule in Wyoming, while being forced to play this high technology game by the Game Master. Frank Balenger is separated from Amanda from the beginning and he is trying to follow clues to locate her. The tale is spun in a race against the clock to solve the puzzle of the time capsule. The real problem of the search is discovered in the pursuit. Morrell's trademark action sequences are ingrained with intriguing historical clues that makes Scavenger a thrill-a-minute page turner, as well as a mesmerizing literary experience.

Morrell has written a book that is unique in its time- squeezing and life- threatening problems to the characters who are the pawns in the Game Master's game. This book follows his knowledge of his all of his learned skills. He is noted for his research, and he is a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School for wilderness survival as well as G. Gordon Liddy Academy of Corporate Security. He is also an honorary lifetime member of the Special Operations Association and the Association of Former Intelligence Officers. He has been trained in firearms, hostage negotiation, assuming identities, executive protection, and offensive-defensive driving among numerous other action skills that he describes in his novels. Morrell also is co-founder of the International Thriller Writers organization. Morrell has his own bag of tricks in plotting, setting, and thrills that scare the readers in an manipulating entertaining style. The author has researched the setting of old New York, time capsules, video games, and various other phenomena into this plot he moves to keep the reader in awe and steal away their breath away in this story package. I recommend this suspense yarn to encourage readers to pick up the earlier Creepers, and learn how these two books are packed with historical tid-bits. The reads are fast paced fun, and definitely intriguing books of the thriller genre.

Daniel Allen

Debra's Bookshelf

Gudrun's Tapestry
Joan Schweighardt
Beagle Bay Books
3040 June Meadows Road, Reno, Nevada 89509
9780967959139 $24.95

Gudrun's Tapestry is set in the 4th century A.D., when Attila the Hun and his hordes of stocky, scar-faced warriors were menacing Europe, the western Roman Empire enjoying its last gasps. Gudrun is a Burgundian, whose people were decimated by Attila at the behest of the Romans during her childhood. We meet her as an adult, when she has made her way into the city of Attila under false pretenses. She is kept prisoner there, and her story--told in the first person--jumps between her intrigues and survival strategies among the Huns and her earlier life among the Burgundians. The latter story builds to explain fully why she came to be with Attila.

Schweighardt's story is based on the history and legends of the Germanic and Hunnish tribes. I confess that I was ignorant of the relevant stories prior to reading the book. My experience as a reader will thus presumably have been rather different from that of someone who approached the book already knowing, for example, the significance of Gudrun to the Attila story. But one doesn't need to be well-versed in the period to enjoy the book.

As we are introduced to Gudrun's story in medias res, and because information Gudrun imparts in the book's first chapter is purposefully deceptive, I found the beginning of the story a bit confusing. It can also be confusing when Schweighardt's characters discuss the various machinations of the various political forces at play in the western Empire--Visigoths and Romans and Franks and Huns. As a final negative, I'll mention that the author's dialogue can be stilted:

"I laughed. 'Who would bother to seek out such a thing among the remains of the dead?'

"'No one, perhaps. I used the songs only as an example. There are many other ways in which writing has been useful to the Romans.'

"'Name them.'

"Edeco's eyes twinkled. 'I shall, my ignorant friend.'"

I can't really fault the author on this account, however, as the writing style seems to be a convention of the genre--why I've never understood (it's a reason I tend not to read much historical fiction).

All that aside, I must say that by the end of the book I had been thoroughly sucked into the story, the characters and the setting having become very real to me. The author's pace is leisurely: she takes the time to describe Gudrun's life among the Burgundians, for example, in great detail--hay drying in the fields and the seasonal slaughtering of animals, her father's grave, the servants' huts--so that the world she describes is quite vivid. The characters, too, are complex, their allegiances not always clear, and sometimes vacillating. There is a gret deal of intrigue and deception in the lives of Gudrun's small circle! In short I am glad to have read the book, and I expect that scenes from it will stay with me for a long time to come.

Joseph J. Neuschatz
9781601450159 $13.95

TerrO.R. is a brief, self-published novel by Joseph Neuschatz, a doctor, whose medical expertise is apparent on every page of the book. The book's protagonist is Dr. Philip Newman, an anesthesiologist at Soundedge Hospital, whose troubles begin when a 19-year-old patient, otherwise in good health, inexplicably dies during routine surgery. The case is strange at the outset: despite his age, the patient is being forced by his dominating father to have his tattoos removed. And when the operation goes awry, the father is unusually quick to sue. Neuschatz takes us through the operation and other day-to-day experiences in the life of a busy anesthesiologist. And he turns Newman into an armchair amateur sleuth insofar as Newman figures out--from a pattern of such cases--the complicated story behind the tragic tattoo operation.

TerrO.R. is a sort of didactic novel, a lightly fictionalized vehicle for delivering information about medical care as well as Neuschatz's opinions about the health care industry. Neuschatz talks readers through procedures in passages that are authoritative but rather dull for the layman:

"The side about to be operated on received an intravenous cannula (attached to a syringe extension) and a deflated tourniquet. After most of the venous blood was ejected by the rolling of a tight elastic bandage (on the vertically elevated arm) from the finger tips down, the tourniquet was inflated and the bandage removed. The veins of the now pale and anemic looking arm were ready to be filled with a diluted Lidocaine solution."

There are a great many such descriptions in the book. In the non-medical parts of the book--the narrative holding the medical sections together--the writing is bland and the dialogue very stiff:

"'You never stop making me laugh, Arthur! I always know I can count on your good advice.'

"Any time, Dr. Newman! Give my love to Mrs. Newman.'

"'Only if you give my love to Mrs. Ross.'

"With pleasure! But I will be able to do that only if she decides to talk to me tonight. By tomorrow, I will probably forget!'

"'Tell her that I insist she be nice to you. You are my hero!'

"'I will tell her what you just said, for sure! Have a nice Sunday!'

"'You too...'"

There is also a loose end I would have liked tied up. (Or was that car accident really just a car accident?)

All that said, the mystery behind the failed operation is an interesting one, and its solution perhaps not so far-fetched. I can imagine the book's plot being translated successfully into an episode of a medical show such as House.

Travels in the Scriptorium
Paul Auster
Henry Holt
9780312426293 $12.00 160 pages

An old man in a room. There's a bed and a desk and a chair that can rock and swivel and has casters on its feet. There is a bathroom and a door that may or may not be locked that leads to whatever's outside the room. On the desk there is a stack of pictures--photographs of people--a pen and paper, an unfinished, apparently fictional manuscript. The old man cannot remember who he is or anything about his circumstances. He tries to piece things together from the scant information he has--including the manuscript, which he reads--and from halting conversations with the people who come in and out sporadically to care for him. But his mind is not sharp and his groping for clues is ineffectual. Nor is his body functioning well--with the singular exception of his penis, which works admirably.

Reading Auster's novel, we experience the old man's frustration over his failure to remember things, but also frustration because of the man himself, because he is unable to react effectively to his circumstances--presumably a function of the medicine he's been given.

"He ponders the details of Sophie's recent visit, chastising himself for not having asked her any questions about the things that concern him most. Where he is, for example. Whether he is allowed to walk in the park without supervision. Where the closet is, if indeed there is a closet, and why he hasn't been able to find it. Not to mention the eternal enigma of the door--and whether it is locked from the outside or not."

For the reader, the experience is akin to having a frustration dream.

Auster is playing with us in his short book, blurring the boundary between reality and fiction and tormenting us along with his protagonist, nesting fiction within his fictional framework--some of the story within a story written down, some composed orally by the old man. We are invited to speculate about the relationship between the two stories--the main storyline and the story of the manuscript. (We may wonder, too, at the old man's acuity, despite his diminished state, when it comes time for him to craft a conclusion to the story in the manuscript.) In the end we are let it on what's going on. The revelation is interesting but not affecting or shocking. It's rather like an episode of The Twilight Zone, complete with a Rod Serling-esque wrap-up at the book's end. One closes the book thinking it clever, but ultimately forgettable.

Jean-Philippe Toussaint
Dalkey Archives
9781564783721 $12.95

The protagonist and narrator of Jean-Philippe Toussaint's novella has decided to stop watching TV. On sabbatical in Berlin, and living off of grant money, Toussaint's unnamed antihero is supposed to be working on a book--a monograph having to do with Titian and Charles V. Television, distracting as it is, must go. But the narrator's continued interest in TV, whatever his noble intentions, runs through the rest of the narrative. Still, the book isn't so much about television and its pull as it about the protagonist's continued procrastination, even with the TV off, his literary paralysis. In the course of the summer, plagued by doubts about whether to refer to the painter as "Titian" or "le Titian" in his book, he manages to write only two words: "When Musset." He is inordinately pleased with them.

Toussaint's book is amusing at times, as when the writer runs into the man who gave him his grant money at a nude beach. And Toussaint writes very well about his narrator's failure to write:

"Sitting on the couch in the living room, I then began to muse on the little problem that had been occupying my mind on and off for what would soon be three weeks, which is to say the name I should give Titian in my monograph, and I tried to console myself for not having made a definitive choice by observing that, paradoxically, what would truly have justified the accusation of avoiding my work and enjoying an easy summer in Berlin would surely have been settling straight down to write without fully considering the question of the artist's name, and that in fact I had every reason to be pleased with myself for having, in a spirit of scholarly scrupulousness and perfectionism, maintained myself for nearly three weeks in a state of perpetual readiness to write, without taking the easy way out and actually doing so."

The best and funniest part of the book by far, however, is the drama connected with the narrator's agreement to water his neighbors' plants while they're away, a task he sees to with the assiduity he applies to his writing.

But for the most part the book drags, with a great number of episodes that don't seem to have much point to them except to underline that the narrator still isn't writing (e.g., the flight around Berlin, the trip to a museum). The book is short, but I found myself wishing it was shorter, or that a larger percentage of it had to do with watering plants.

Well Enough Alone
Jennifer Traig
Riverhead Books
9781594489914 $23.95

Jennifer Traig's Well Enough Alone is a memoir centered around the author's health, a history of the real and perceived sicknesses and syndromes and symptoms that have shaped her life. Traig writes about a childhood soaked in free samples of prescription medications foisted on her father, a physician, about her discomfort with her body and its emanations, about her life as a hypochondriacal college and grad student. She discusses the social joys of food poisoning, the heartbreak of eczema. Her chapters mix memoir with medical information and the occasional health-related historical tidbit (e.g., Abraham Lincoln's final bowel movement is on display in a museum in Baltimore; George Washington's teeth were spring-loaded, so that he was compelled to clench his jaw at all times to keep his mouth shut). The result is a narrative that flows so smoothly you barely notice when it changes direction, from puberty to bat mitzvah to the Talmud to donkey urine, autopsies, the Eucharist, and breasts.

A book-length investigation of hypochondria might seem an unlikely vehicle for humor, but Traig's a very funny writer. There's a delightful turn of phrase or two on nearly every page of the book. Most of these I merely appreciated in silence, but a passage in Traig's chapter on the breast reduction surgery she underwent sent me into a sort of hysterical tittering that made the children come running from another room:

"When I heard about the 'pencil test'--an assessment of perkiness in which you place a pencil under your breast and pray the breast is not saggy enough to keep the pencil in place--I was eager to see what, besides pencils, my breasts could actually hold. I went from pencils to playing cards to CDs, stopping only after I successfully held up a VHS tape."

Traig's pendulous, VHS-holding breasts would eventually be much reduced. The size she selected, after some research, was a 36C:

"The end result would be a perky little 36C, a size I'd settled on after spending several weeks staring at women's chests. Friends, relatives, elderly nuns: no one was spared my penetrating gaze. Companions started to avoid going out with me. 'Oh, cut it out, will you?' my best friend pleaded. 'You're embarrassing every woman here. Well, except for the 34B with the graying brush cut, who's mouthing you her phone number.'"

Traig is an honest writer--unless she's exaggerating for effect--insofar as she paints herself as a very unlikable person at times. She is immature and abrasive; she drinks too much (or did) and takes (or took) drugs and doesn't practice good dental hygiene; she was highly irresponsible as a teacher when in graduate school. On the other hand, Traig is self-aware and self-condemning, chastising herself for this behavior, which one rather admires. Whatever the childishness of her first several decades, Traig seems well past it now.

But while I'm not entirely sure I like the author's persona, the quality of her writing is not in question. Well Enough Alone is a fascinating and funny book.

Dot Dead
Keith Raffel
Midnight Ink
9780738708331 $13.95

Ian Michaels, the number two guy at Silicon Valley's Accelenet, comes home early on a Wednesday only to be knocked unconscious by some unseen assailant. When he gets home on Thursday, the maid is lying dead on his bed. Ian is the obvious suspect: he'd never met the woman, but a surprising number of clues point to him having been romantically involved with her. Eager to clear his name, Ian makes himself unpopular with the police department by playing amateur sleuth--contacting the dead woman's family and friends, searching her computer. In the process, he finds himself half falling in love with a woman he'd only known through Post-It notes.

Compounding the stress of the police investigation are some tensions at work. Ian needs to prepare for an important board meeting: he wants to convince its members to move Accelenet in an exciting if risky new direction. His success may prompt Ian's boss and long-time friend, Silicon Valley legend Paul Berk, to finally make Ian CEO.

Dot Dead is a very good, well-constructed mystery: Raffel artfully punctuates the book with subtle clues that leave us mentally fingering a number of different suspects. After going back and forth a number of times, I did finally focus on one particular character--and I turned out to be right--but it took me a while. Near the book's end a British-drawing-room-style exposition of the case, translated to the modern living room, is perhaps slightly anticlimactic. But that's the worst criticism I can come up with. The book, Raffel's first, is a great read. I hope he has more coming.

Assisted Loving
Bob Morris
9780061374128 $24.95

Bob Morris's father (not the guy on the book's cover!) is pushing eighty when Assisted Loving opens. He's a youthful eighty, though, and newly widowed, a retired traffic judge, so he's a hot commodity among senior singles. Not one to mourn over-much, he is ready only months after his wife of fifty-plus years died (in 2002) to start the search for a new mate. He enlists his son to help him, and the younger Morris chronicles his fathers re-emergence on the dating scenes of Palm Beach and New York. That's the plot of the book, but the dates merely serve as the framework onto which Morris packs a meatier story about his relationship with his father and about growing up. At book's end, Joe Morris remains the man he was at the beginning: happy-go-lucky, exasperating, utterly devoted to his son. It's Bob Morris who emerges from the experience a changed (to a degree) man.

It's difficult to like Bob Morris for the first third of his book. His father may be legitimately annoying--most parents are--but at forty-four the younger Morris still acts like a teenager around him: pouting and saying just the wrong thing and not having much patience for the eccentricities of an old man. Worse, Morris is a superficial, elitist jerk. He's embarrassed by his old neighborhood, turns up his nose at his father's kitsch. He's irritated that visits with his father take him away from his usual party-hopping. Morris's mother had been very ill for years before her death. Morris was disappointed during that period because she lost interest in her appearance. He was ashamed to be seen with a dying woman who wasn't fashionable: "It was hard, watching her in her hopelessness. It was even harder seeing her thin, bruised arms and neck because she dressed in the most unflattering T-shirts." He dragged her out to Macy's to buy her new clothes--blouses, and hats to cover her thinning hair. He claims it made her happy, but it sure sounds like the new wardrobe was for him more than her.

Morris may be a jerk, but he's also self-aware. He is, after all, drawing attention to his bad behavior and, largely, condemning it. In the course of hanging out with his father during the dating period, the younger Morris becomes a better man--still, it seems, someone whose instinct is to be impressed by the superficial, but a better man. It is impressive that Morris is able to alienate the reader at the beginning of his book yet still bring us around by the end so that he seems likable. Also impressive is the portrait Morris paints of his father. The initial image we get of Joe Morris is a negative one, a man as seen through the eyes of a son who has little sympathy for him and is still harboring adolescent resentments. But as the book progresses we are given more insight into the older Morris, who turns out to be more supportive than many parents are and wiser than we might at first have supposed. It's a powerful portrait. And Assisted Loving is a well-written, funny, and surprisingly affecting book.

Past Perfect
Susan Isaacs
9781416572084 $15.00

Katie Schottland dabbles in espionage and show business. She writes the frothy TV show Spy Guys, which was adapted from her book of the same name. The show is cloak-and-dagger-light, but Katie brings some real-world experience to the series. For reasons she never understood, she was unceremoniously fired from her low-level job at the CIA 15 years earlier, escorted from the premises by a security detail. The injustice of it still pricks at her. When an acquaintance from the old days calls out of the blue asking for help on a matter of "national importance" and offering information about why she was fired, Katie's curiosity is piqued. But the revelation never comes. Her source disappears. And Katie does some real-life spy work to try to figure out what's going on, and what happened 15 years earlier.

Like the series her character writes, Susan Isaac's Past Perfect is espionage light. Katie Schottland is a likable character, and the book's premise appeals very much. It would in fact make for a good television series, of the Remington Steele variety, though there is no indication that the author intends to take her characters further. My only complaint is that the book, very readable much of the time, slows to a crawl too often, as when, for example, her characters are discussing the various intrigues that led to Katie's firing--a story that goes back to the German Stasi and the toppling of the Berlin Wall.

In short: I like Isaac's main character, love the novel's premise, but the pace of the book is just too slow.

The Map Thief
Heather Terrell
9780345494689 $25.00

In The Map Thief, Heather Terrell tells three related stories. Mara Coyne, the protagonist of the book's principal story, is hired in the present by a Republican kingmaker to find a priceless 15th-century map that's been stolen from an archaeological dig in China. What her client doesn't tell her is that the map offers shocking evidence that could re-write the history of the European Age of Discovery. Terrell also tells the story of the eunuch Ma Zhi, who accompanied a Chinese naval expedition west in the 1420s and subsequently created the map Mara is searching for. Finally, there is the story of another navigator, Antonio Coehlo, who used the map while sailing with Vasco da Gama in the 1490s.

Terrell's book should be a great read. It's got a lot going for it: an inherently interesting story that spans continents and centuries, an ancient secret whose revelation could cause a storm in the modern world, a pair of protagonists who could wind up having more than a professional relationship. If you're thinking that the book sounds something like The DaVinci Code, you're right: added to the above similarities is the fact that there is a lot of attention given to iconography and imagery in The Map Thief. Unfortunately, that's where the similarities end. Because while The DaVinci Code--whatever its detractors say--is a thrilling read, The Map Thief is utterly lacking in suspense. There are two other substantial problems with the book. Most importantly, the characters are uninteresting (with the exception of Ma Zhi, who is the most compelling): Mara's fate--whether she finds the map or not, hooks up with the archaeologist she's teamed with or not, or is plugged by one of the Chinese mobsters she runs across--is of no interest at all. In addition, the book often gets bogged down in boring details, descriptions of imagery and architecture that, usually, are not relevant to the story. A disappointing book, given its initial promise.

The Red Parts
Maggie Nelson
Free Press
9781416532033 $24.00

In 1969 twenty-three-year-old Jane Mixer was murdered--shot twice and horribly strangled--and dragged into a cemetery in Michigan, where her body was found the next morning. At the time her murder was believed to have been one of the "Michigan Murders," the work of a serial killer who had raped and murdered six other young woman around the same time. But in 2004 genetic evidence from the crime scene indicated that Jane's murder was not committed by the now incarcerated serial killer but by a different man, Gary Earl Leiterman, a retired nurse. Given the evidence, the chances that someone other than Leiterman committed the crime are about 171.7 trillion to one. The brutal murder has haunted the victim's family, including Jane's niece, Maggie Nelson, who was not yet born in 1969. Nelson wrote this account of the crime and the trial of Leiterman with some misgivings, feeling some shame over--if I understand her correctly--making something private public, over further exposing Jane's suffering to the world: it's the shame of someone gawking at an accident at the side of a highway, I suppose.

The Red Parts is not a straightforward account of the murder and the family's reaction to it. Rather, the book is primarily about how the murder affected the author's life, how Jane's violent death still stained lives in the second generation. It's a sad book, not just because of the murder but because of the other deaths and near deaths and wrenching difficulties that Nelson has experienced: her father's early death from natural causes, a boyfriend's near overdose, a murder she witnessed, her parents' divorce, her older sister's adolescent life on the dark side. Nelson has flirted with the dark side herself, engaging in self-destructive behavior, fantasizing a bit too much about suicide. Jane's murder may have cast a pall on the family, but one suspects that things would have been movie-of-the-week miserable for Nelson even without that back story.

The Red Parts is written in spare prose that goes down easy, so it's a very quick read, and the story is inherently interesting. But you may find yourself annoyed at Nelson's sometimes bloodless reaction to the prosecution of her aunt's murderer. Granted, one cannot know how one might feel in similar circumstances, but I'm pretty sure a thought such as this would never cross my mind:

"Over the course of the trial my mother [Jane's sister] and I had each wondered aloud to one another whether Leiterman should 'pay' for Jane's murder (assuming he committed it) by being the best father, grandfather, girls' softball coach, nurse, whatever that he can be--presuming, of course, that he is no longer a danger to anyone."

This sentiment seems to me of a piece with the author's "deep-seated opposition to capital punishment." (Capital punishment wasn't in fact in question in this case, since Michigan doesn't have the death penalty.) But while reasonable people may disagree about the efficacy of capital punishment, it is to my mind thoroughly unreasonable to imagine for even a moment that being a really good grandfather, etc., is sufficient payment for having twice shot a young woman and then strangled her with stockings until her neck was the diameter of a toilet paper tube.

John Marks
9780143112532 $14.00

John Marks's Fangland is, in short, a Dracula updated for the modern age. Evangeline Harker (note the last name), an Associate Producer for The Hour, a 60 Minutes-like news show, travels alone to Romania to scout out a story. (Marks used to be a producer for 60 Minutes. His familiarity with the behind-the-scenes world of broadcasting fuels much of the story.) In Romania Evangeline meets up with the physically repulsive Ion Torgu, Eastern Europe's enigmatic crime lord. From the first, however, even before Torgu's appearance in the story, there is something forbidding about the journey. Eventually, the dark suspicion of the book's early chapters gives way to more open threats and then blatant violence. Finally the evil that is Torgu is translated from Romania to lower Manhattan: the pit exposed by the terrorist attacks of 9/11 appeals to him. And Torgu begins to infect with his peculiar madness a new continent's worth of souls, starting with Evangeline's co-workers at The Hour.

Like Bram Stoker's Dracula, Fangland is an epistolary novel, told from multiple perspectives and via different means--Evangeline's first-person account, a production assistant's emails, another producer's journal. There are other intentional similarities with Stoker's book as well, some of them with a modern-day twist: Evangeline is housed in the penthouse of a decrepit hotel rather than the tower of a decrepit castle; a pair of male monsters haunts the halls rather than Dracula's undead seductressess (another reversal of sexes in the book); and like Stoker's Johathan Harker, Evangeline has left a fiance back home. But the book is more than just a reiteration of the Dracula story. It's very rich, bursting with details that add to the sense of general decay, of miasma, wherever the Romanian Torgu has left his mark.

Marks's novel is ill-served by its name. "Fangland" suggested to me, at least, that this brightly-bound novel (see its original cover as published by Vintage) would be a light-hearted romp through vampire lore. It's anything but that. The book is an engrossing read: Marks has created a whole world between its covers. It's hard not to be impressed. Fangland is also a tough slog, however: it can be confusing, and it's certainly over-long. But by the time you find yourself wishing the author had lopped 100 pages off the manuscript prior to publication, it's too late to stop reading.

The Dinner Club
Saskia Noort
Bitter Lemon Press
37 Arundel Gardens, London W11 2LW
9781904738206 $14.95

After Karen moved into the village from Amsterdam with her husband, Michel, and their two daughters, it took her a while to make friends. But finally she found Hanneke, and through her three other woman, and the five of them became fast friends. They dubbed themselves "The Dinner Club" and became a mutual support group--they drank and ate and vacationed together, watched one another's kids. Their husbands did business together. But when the book opens one of their houses is on fire. Someone dies. And the tragedy, together with another which follows shortly afterward, lays bare various truths, among them that the relationships among the members of the Club are more superficial than Karen had supposed. Nor were the members' five marriages as happy as she had supposed.

Saskia Noort's The Dinner Club follows the downward trajectory of the Club's relationships. As things disintegrate, Karen comes increasingly to suspect that the fire was fueled by something more than middle-aged angst and alcohol. The book is filled with a quiet menace, and Noort does a great job of keeping us guessing, our suspicions alighting now on one character, now another. After this slow, steady build-up of tension the book's conclusion, an explosion of violence, is jarring. It doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the book. The conclusion also left me thinking I might have to re-read some chapters to figure out what, precisely, was the truth behind the complex of relationships among the five Dinner Club members and their husbands.

The Dinner Club, which was originally published in Dutch in 2004, has been a best-seller in the Netherlands, and film rights to the book have been sold. It would, I think, translate well to the screen.

The Swap
Antony Moore
9780385342346 $11.00

Harvey Briscow's life hasn't changed much in the last twenty years. He owns a comic book store in London and has one employee, apart from whom he has no meaningful relationships. He lives in a messy flat that he hasn't bothered to decorate--except for tacking up a few superhero posters--in fifteen years. He falls into bed drunk most nights. He's one of those men who's somehow failed to grow up, who stopped maturing emotionally when he was sixteen or seventeen. And for all of that time he's been nursing one regret, wishing one small moment from his past away: the day in 1982 when--half out of pity--he traded a first edition Superman One comic with the boy everyone picked on at school, Bleeder Odd, in exchange for a lousy piece of plastic. The comic wasn't worth much at the time, but now, as Harvey well knows, it could go for hundreds of thousands of dollars in mint condition. It would be fine if Harvey knew the comic had been destroyed decades before. He could get on with his life. It's the uncertainty that's killing him....

Harvey's 20th high school reunion stirs up his one big regret anew, and he attends with the hope of running into Bleeder and finding out once and for all what happened to the comic. As it turns out, the reunion offers him far more than he could have anticipated--a lifetime's worth of dramatic events in the space of a few days. Among these is a highly unpleasant development that threatens to undermine Harvey's nascent chances for happiness. Unfortunately, Harvey has a peculiar way of making things much worse for himself the more he tries to extricate himself from difficulty.

Antony Moore's The Swap is a very funny book. It's also wonderfully plotted, a sort of Hitchcockian thriller--an average Joe unwittingly getting into very bad straits--with a comic twist. I do have two complaints. First, Harvey has a tendency to walk through events--indeed, through most of his life--in a fog, often alcohol-induced. This works in the novel most of the time, but at certain key dramatic points Harvey's tendency to become distracted by the non-essential becomes hard to believe, which makes it difficult to suspend disbelief. The ending, too, is disappointing: without giving anything away, it seems to me that the author has taken the easy way out by not tying things up more cleverly. But these two concerns aside, I highly recommend this one.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

An American In Auschwitz
Elsie A. Ragusin
Legacy Publishing Services Inc
1883 Lee Road
Winter Park, Florida 32789
9780977677740 $15.95 1-800-951-9730 1-800-247-6553

We've heard so many stories since WWII about the death camps of the Nazis. The author is a survivor of Auschwitz but hers is very different. She and her family did not fit the profile of those Hitler's army chose to murder. She was not Jewish, not European and had no connection to anyone in Europe. Her family just happened to be living in Europe at the time. She was an American who for some reason was taken to Auschwitz. To survive she knit a patch with USA that she wore on all of her clothing and kept her faith in God. Somehow she was able to live through this dark time in history. She tells her story now because there are so few Holocaust victims still alive. This is another side of the flawed logic of Nazi Germany's massacre of innocent citizens. This should be required reading for courses on Nazi Germany or the Holocaust.

Rufus Who
Kester Branford
Upfront Publishing LTD
9781844261093 $15.50

Rufus is a character who lives in Trinidad and wants a better life by going to an American university. But first he has to get a passport. Easy enough he thinks until he is told that his birth certificate does not count because it does not tell who his father and mother are. Throughout the novel he is on a quest to find out what he has never been told. Who are his parents? There are many interesting characters and situations with a story that is told in a series of flashbacks that relate to the present situation of the main character. It is also a revealing look at how poor a country Trinidad is. This is a fast paced novel with writing that takes readers along to its surprising ending.

The Raw Mentality of Success
Tabitha Daniel
Legacy Publishing Services Inc
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
9781934449240 $14.95 1-800-247-6553 1-800-951-9730

Daniel lays out practical advice to follow to get ahead. She talks about the things you should learn to control, believing in yourself, making a plan, making goals and sticking to them, the power of fear, the uses of energy and desire, and lastly the importance of faith. The book is easy to read and has a lot to say about getting ahead.

Write, Publish, Sell
Valerie Allen
9780595476930 $11.95 www.iuniverse.coim 1-800-288-4677

Most books about writing tell about writing but this one has a lot more to teach to authors. It tells them many ins on how to get publicity for their books. She talks about the value of networking, where to find reviewers and press people, how to write a press release, setting up book store appearances, and the many different options to publishing. She also gives advice about e mail, the internet, and new ways to sell your book. This is a well researched resource for any novice

Queen of Halloween
Mary Engelbreit
Harper Collins Children's Books
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780060081904 $16.99

Just in time for the holiday is a new book that is fun for everyone no matter what age. Ann Estelle and her brother Michael dress up for Halloween and go to all the neighborhood homes to get candy and goodies for the holiday. As they approach one house they are a bit afraid but find out that their fears are for nothing the woman who lives there is one of the nicest they encounter. The book has a lot to teach kids about first impressions.

Cat Nights
Jane Manning
Harper Collins Children's Books
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
978006008138881 $16.99

You can't go wrong with a kid's book that has cats and witches in the same one. Felicity Witch is very unhappy; she'd rather be a cat but she is not allowed to change herself into one because she is not the right age of 263. But she has a birthday and it's the one that will allow her to change into a feline. Does she? Only readers will be able to tell you because my lips are sealed.

Sky Painters
Story by Kaycee Clancy
illustrated by Summer Clancy
Leagcy Publishing Services
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
9780977677788 $11.95 1-800-951-9730 1-800-247-6553

Combining the talents of writing and art two generations of one family tell this wonderful tale of two characters who achieve what they want in life. Matty gets his wings and is able to fly through the clouds. As he becomes familiar with his wings he stumbles but picks himself up and starts over again. He encounters Joy, who also has her wings. They fly around to face different challenges together. The author and illustrator are saying to kids that you can get what you want by working for it. There is a lot of symbolism here that readers will find to be very entertaining.

Tales of a Modern Mushroom
George Wirshing
Legacy Publishing Services
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
9781934449233 $14.95 1-800-247-6553 1-800-951-9730

I'm not sure about the title but at any rate, this is an interesting assortment of thoughts on everything from television to bird cages. The author has written poems while he has collected sayings by famous people. On the right page are his poems while on the left are statements by well known public figures. Wirshing's fascinating collection has a lot to say about many things we take for granted.

Halloween Night
Marjorie Dennis Murray
Illustrations by Brandon Dorman
Harper Collins Children's Books
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061351860 $16.99

Goblins, witches, ghouls, vampires, and other frightening characters are out this month to tell their story for Halloween. The author tells the story in a poetic form reminiscent of the classic tale "T'was the Night Before Christmas." The artwork captures the dark and sinister mood of the story, helps it unfold. This is a great kid's book to bring in the holiday

Abraham The Alligator
Paula Allene Stark
Tate Publishing
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, Oklahoma 73064
978160462470 $10.00 www.tatepublishing.ocm 888 361-9473

Abraham, an alligator does not like the way his fellow gators are treating the frogs of the pond. He runs for president of the pond to help his frog friends. Adults will recognize the historic story the author is telling here while kids will enjoy the interesting characters, artwork, and fast moving tale told from the perspective of animals of the lake. This is the first of a series of books that people of all ages can appreciate.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

We All Fall Down
Simon Wood
Leisure Books/Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
9780843960532 $7.99 800-481-9191

Hayden Duke is delighted to be starting his new job at Marin Design Engineering, and even happier to be there at the behest of the man who was his best buddy in college, who he hadn't seen in three years. Now 28 years old, he is a successful design engineering contractor, but the chance to work under his friend on a very high level government project seems the best of all possible worlds. But his first day of work doesn't start out promisingly: The body of a Marin Design worker has just been discovered, an apparent suicide. According to a witness, his last words were "I have done a terrible thing, and I can't be forgiven. I must pay for it. This is the only way."

Within one week, Hayden's former best friend, Shane, is also dead, also a suicide, his last words: "I'm sorry, Hayden, but you don't understand what they've done. What I've done. It's terrible. I'm going to hurt you and so many others, but I have to do it." Hayden has no idea what Shane is talking about, but fears, one must feel with reason, that his own life may be in danger. When he returns home, he finds that the house has been ransacked, and among things his computer has been stolen. The only possible clue Hayden has is that on the night he killed himself, Shane had sent him an e-mail attachment, password protected, exhorting him not to read it but to store it and keep it safe.

The reader is thrust headlong into this suspenseful tale, much as Hayden is thrust into a situation fraught with peril as he and Shane's sister, Rebecca, try to discover what has led to these two deaths, and others that soon follow. The action becomes fast and furious and one just has to hang on for the ride. A terrific read.

The Fire Baby
Jim Kelly
Leisure Books/Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016,
9780843960013 $7.99 800-481-9191

Philip Dryden, described one of Fleet Street's sharpest reporters for over a decade, is now working as chief reporter for The Crow, a small local paper, so as to allow him the time he needs to be at his wife's bedside. They had been in a terrible car accident which had caused their auto to plunge into 20 feet of water. She has for four years been in a special facility for those suffering from Locked In Syndrome, a condition where the victim "appeared to be in a deep coma but could, at times, be entirely conscious despite their lack of movement." His wife, who had been a British soap opera star, has only lately shown some signs of awareness. Philip suffers from survivor's guilt, having been rescued from the water but forced to leave Laura for what turned out to be three hours while he went for necessary help.

The novel begins with an horrific plane accident in England's Cambridgeshire Fens which occurred 27 years earlier, one which claimed many lives, including all passengers and crew with the exception of a 15-day-old baby, and the family into whose home the plane crashed: a woman, her husband and their infant grandson, Maggie, the baby's mother, having survived purely by chance after she had gone into the basement to retrieve a celebratory bottle of champagne.

The author brings these survivors together when Maggie, whom Philip had known since childhood, and Laura, Philip's wife, are hospital roommates as Maggie lies near death. Desperate to see her daughter before she dies, she extracts a promise from Philip to find her. She has been on holiday and is unaware of Maggie's turn for the worse. The daughter and her male companion, a "friend of the family," arrive at the hospital not a moment too soon. But before that occurs, Maggie has made a shocking deathbed confession which has a profound effect on Philip and the stories he is covering, dealing with porn merchants and illegal immigrant smuggling, not to mention those involved in Maggie's life over the past three decades.

The time jumps are at times a bit confusing, but is perhaps essential to the unfolding of this psychological mystery spun by the author. It is always interesting and unfailingly holds the reader's attention.

The Frailty of Flesh
Sandra Ruttan
Leisure Books/Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
9780843960754 $7.99 800-481-9191

Lisa Harrington has received notice that Donny Lockridge, the convicted murderer of her sixteen-year-old daughter, Hope, is up for parole, and she asks Canadian Constable Craig Nolan for help in thwarting his release. Lockridge, convicted as a teenager, had served ten years of a twenty-year sentence, and the brutal way in which Hope had been killed is enough to convince nearly anyone that he does not deserve to walk the streets again. The conflict for Nolan is in the fact that his own father had worked the original investigation, and was instrumental in obtaining the conviction.

In Port Moody, in the Vancouver area, Constables Hart and Tain are handling the investigation of the violent death of a four-year-old boy, the only witness being the eleven-year-old brother of the victim, who identifies the killer as his older sister, who has disappeared. When the parents are told what has transpired, their first reaction is to refuse to talk with the RCMP officers, and to consult with their attorney, one who is well-known to the police, and not in a good way, and who is also the attorney threatening a lawsuit for the alleged wrongful conviction of Donny Lockridge two decades ago.

The two cases, each dealing with the violent death of a young child, have unsettling parallels. The author details the procedural investigation with deliberation while building up suspense at the same time as the cases proceed, and the reader gradually realizes that the present case may present a crime to which there is no good solution.

The complexity of the relationships among the players as well as the cases, past and present, are riveting. Whatever one might guess as to where the author is taking you, nothing can prepare the reader for the shocking resolution. One reservation: I must admit to some confusion about the final chapters of the book, which had almost an anticlimactic feel to them. Nonetheless, it is a great read, and I am looking forward to the next entry in the series. The three protagonists are each skillfully drawn and certain to have Ms. Ruttan's readers anxious to know them better, as am I. Highly recommended.

The Cleaner
Brett Battles
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780440244387 $6.99 800-726-0600

Jonathan Quinn, the "cleaner" of the title [not his real name, by the way---we are never told what that is], is a man in his mid-30's who goes about his job in a workmanlike manner, mentoring an apprentice in the process, just as he was mentored years before when he was learning his craft, one in which your 'graduation' is earned by your having survived the course, quite literally. An apprenticeship, we are told, lasts anywhere from three to four years; Quinn's own apprentice has been learning on the job for four months as the novel opens. One of Quinn's own early lessons: "We come in, gather whatever information's been requested. Maybe do a little cleanup if necessary. Then get out. That's the job. Kill your curiosity, kid. For your own sake." Advice that's not always easy for Quinn to follow.

Quinn prefers being a cleaner and gatherer, as opposed to being an "op agent:" "Operations were a dangerous life choice. Which was why Quinn liked what he did. No one bothered with the guy who came in after the fact, nosing around a bit, making things pretty for the locals. Quinn's line of work was about as safe as it came in the world of freelance espionage. Not without its hazards, but he was usually able to sleep soundly at night." He is described as a "day-player . . . hired per job, but not part of any bigger picture."

As the book opens Quinn has been called in by one of his regulars, known merely as "The Office," for an ostensibly simple investigation of a suspicious fire in Colorado. But it is anything but simple, and Quinn cannot leave it alone, especially when he becomes the target of an assassin. He asks himself: "Why him? He wasn't a member of the Office. He was only a freelancer. He should have been exempt, right?" Wrong, apparently. Someone wants him dead, and he needs to find out who.

The scope of the novel quickly turns international, with Quinn required to go to Vietnam [where he enlists the help of Orlando, a woman he hasn't contacted in several years but who is the only one he can trust completely], thence to Berlin and Brussels. He is suspicious of every job he is offered, which suddenly become plentiful: "Recently he'd been receiving more messages than usual, averaging at least one a day. Things had been quiet for several months, as everyone was anxious to make some cash. It was a kind of espionage recession." Who knew?

The book is fast-paced, the ending a stunner. Quinn is a wonderful new protagonist, and the good news is that Mr. Battles has recently written the second in what is a terrific new series. Happily, that's next up for this reader.

The Deceived
Brett Battles
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385341578 $24.00 800-726-0600

Jonathan Quinn, the "cleaner" introduced in the book by that name released a year ago in hardcover but just recently in paperback, is back in a follow-up in this terrific new series. He is a freelancer whose job is to discreetly clean up crime scenes and the occasional body after the bloodshed. International in scope as was the first book, it takes the reader from Los Angeles to Houston, Texas, to Washington, D.C., and finally to Singapore. This time, the job becomes personal when the body he is called in to dispose of is discovered to be that of Steven Markoff, an old friend and a man who had saved Quinn's life, who he hadn't spoken to in six months. The man had been CIA, but had recently taken early retirement. So why had he now become the target of an assassin? That becomes Quinn's obsession, believing in the rule that "the debt to someone who saved your life can never be repaid in full."

When Quinn decides that he must tell Markoff's girlfriend, Jenny, about Steven's death, he opens up a Pandora's box: Jenny, who had been working for the Majority Whip in the House of Representatives, has disappeared, and Quinn feels duty-bound to find her, an extension of his debt to Markoff. He is again assisted by his apprentice, Nate, and Orlando, a woman who has become his closest and most trusted friend. The plot becomes complex as Quinn explores secrets within secrets to a pulse-pounding conclusion.

This second book in the series goes into somewhat more detail on Quinn's training years during his apprenticeship, all of them engaging. There are twists and turns and James Bond-like action. Mr. Battles is a masterful storyteller, and the reader is kept on the edge of his [or her] seat throughout. "The Deceived," as its predecessor novel, is highly recommended.

John Connor
Bloody Brits
P.O. Box 3671, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-3671
9781932859386 $13.95 866-300-7426

Tantalizingly, this novel opens with a brief scene which takes place in Shepherd's Bush, London, in March of 1988, to which no further reference is made until much later in the book, after the reader has been left to ruminate and try to place it in the context of the balance of the book, which takes place in West Yorkshire, eight years later. DC Karen Sharpe is called to the scene of a murder, where she is asked to identify the victim: Her partner, Phil Leech, 37 years old, who has been shot to death, the same man who she was to accompany the previous night but was too drunk to do it. Now it would appear that the person they were to meet, a long-time informant, or someone connected to or following that person, had murdered him, and would have perhaps murdered her as well.

The Senior Investigating Officer on the case, DCS John Munro, is sympathetic to Karen's understandable feelings of guilt, which are only magnified when the 22-year-old informant is also found murdered, a short distance from the spot where Leech was killed. But Karen appears unemotional, and insists she needs no time off and is ready and able to assist in the investigation [dubbed "Operation Phoenix"]. Munro tells the officers: "There has never been an undetected murder of a serving officer in the entire history of the West Yorkshire Police Force. This one will be no different. You will see to it."

Karen Sharpe, thirty-five years old, six feet tall, is an intriguing protagonist, wonderfully drawn. One has heard of the detective who is "flawed" [not to be too cliché about it], filled with guilt, complex, and with little respect for authority – Karen is all of the above. The author says: "There would be something hard at the center of Karen Sharpe, something she kept only for herself . . . Most of the time she felt like an iceberg. Not just frozen. But moving around in the midst of more trivial objects." And she is indeed something of an enigma, thought of by her co-workers as a maverick. The story is compellingly written, the characters three-dimensional. The novel is one of the latest from this publisher, whose mission is to bring to the US the works of authors well-known in the UK, and for good reason. The book is highly recommended.

Double Cross
Tracy Gilpin
Black Star Crime
18-24 Paradise Rd., Richmond, Surrey TW9 15R, England
9781848450059 3.99 BPS

NOTE: This book is not yet available in the US, only in/through the UK/Canada

Dunai Marks has been employed at STOP [Strategies for Targeting Over-Population, an NGO pressure group], for two years, which was, she says, a record, since she'd been fired from almost every job she'd had. She is now twenty-eight years old, living in Cape Town, South Africa, and came to the organization at the behest of Siobhan Craig, its founder and a social activist. In the ensuing two years Siobhan had become her friend, family and mentor. Since Dunai had never known her own mother, the relationship becomes very precious to her. All the more tragic when she comes into work one morning and finds Siobhan's dead body.

Dunai [pronounced "Doonie"] becomes determined to find who murdered her dear friend, and is aided in her quest by Bryan Larsen, STOP's American statistician described as "the perfectionist who brought order to Siobhan's brilliance," and Carl Lambrecht, a man "in his mid-thirties, divorced, who had turned to private investigating after leaving the police force." No easy task, as Siobhan had been the recipient of a great deal of hate mail and death threats.

The title reference, aside from the obvious, is also to a ubiquitous item of jewelry comprised of two melded crosses, and its enigmatic significance. Beyond the well-told story, the book presents a rather frightening picture of the abuse and misogyny to which women are subjected world-wide, something from which for the most part it is more comfortable to avert one's eyes and collectively look away. But is the cure for these horrors worse than the disease? This is a question that Dunai must answer, while protecting herself and her 2-1/2 year old son.

Black Star Crime is a new imprint, launched in the UK in August 2008, whose aim is to bring out five titles every two months, each for the price of 3.99 BPS and none longer than about 256 pages. This book is an impressive part of that debut.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Rising Tide
Jeff Shaara
Ballantine Books
A division of Random House, Inc.
New York, NY
9780345461377 $9.99

Shaara has produced another good war story. Unfortunately for him, World War II has been explored by many great writers over the years. The Rising Tide is a well balanced story about the North African campaigns. Shaara uses the standard characters, such as Rommel, Patton, Eisenhower and Montgomery, but he also adds in a few lesser known characters to put in a feel of the front line action. Because of its slightly different thrust, it is a necessary read for the World War II history buff.

Shaara has taken his method of trying to put a human face on the great commanders in the North African campaigns. His version seems more balanced than some of the more sensational biographies of the generals. He has spent a lot of time with Eisenhower during this period in the war and this fills in many of the gaps that the more traditional histories have left opened.

The Rising Tide is a solid history of the entrance of the Americans into the war in Europe. With its entry into the mass market, it has produced a very good low cost introduction for those wanting to learn more about World War II. Other books do a better job covering the stories of the separate individuals in the war but The Rising Tide does make a balanced history that is easy to read. One omission that I missed was the lack of a detailed appendix covering the various weapons used in the war. It is one thing to read that the Stuart tank couldn't stand up against a German tank but a handy appendix showing the differences would give the reader needed information that the typical reader today just doesn't know.

In final analysis, The Rising Tide is a good solid history of the first part of the American involvement in World War II. It is not the best but it is different enough to find a place on the shelf of anyone wanting to learn more about the period in time. Shaara has found a niche with readers today and this book doesn't disappoint.

The Mummy, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Max Allan Collins
Berkley Boulevard Books
A division of Penguin Group Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425223130 $7.99

The conversion of a screenplay to book can make for a fun fast paced story. Collins is a writer who knows how to change the visual screenplay into an action novel. Tomb of the Dragon Emperor lives up to the previous Mummy stories. It has all of the fun bits from the other stories and adds just enough new threads to keep the story fresh. It is the perfect story when you need to fill time or just need to be lost in action.

Evelyn and Rick O'Connell have decided to try retirement after their adventures in World War II. Their son Alex is at college and their life becomes too relaxed for their adventurous life. When a government official asks them to bring a lost artifact back to Shanghai Museum, they jump at the chance. In Shanghai, they stop by Evelyn's brother's bar and accidentally run into their son Alex who has dropped out of college and dug up the mommy of the Dragon Emperor. They have been drawn into another life and death struggle with a mommy bent on conquering the world.

The Mummy, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a good stand alone action fantasy story. It becomes a great one when it is linked to the two previous stories. For action junkies, it is a must read. For those of a more literary bent, it is still a good story. Hidden in the action passages is very good writing. Take it with you for the next slow weekend or for that interminable time in the doctor's or dentist's waiting room. You will be glad you did

Tell Me How this Ends: General David Petraeus and the Search for a Way out of Iraq
Linda Robinson
250 West 57th Street, Suite 1321, New York, NY 10107
Special Markets Department
Perseus Books Group
2300 Chestnut Street, Suite 200, Philadelphia, PA 19103
9781586485283 $27.95 800-810-4145, ext 5000

Linda Robinson, an accomplished reporter and super storyteller traces the Iraq debacle from its roots, through the missteps of 2003-2006 and brilliantly reports on the General Petraeus-Ambassador Ryan Crocker surge of 2007-2008 in a masterful combination of company and battalion action and renewed diplomatic action as a way to end the conflict.

I spent the last week reading this book, and I can say I know a lot more about the Iraqi War, the personalities, the country and its people. I know much more about the battles, bombings, and diplomacy. Tell Me How This Ends should be required reading for the new administration, and a lesson for the outgoing. Maybe it will all end.

Tell Me How This Ends is not final word from the Iraq War, but certainly Ms. Robinson sets a high benchmark for those who follow. All the players are present -- some we haven't heard from previously and others from whom we've heard too much.

Among those new names are General David Petraeus, who he is and how he succeeded where other military leaders failed and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, their common sense and questioning attitude brought about a climate where political goals would take precedence over military action.

A landscape is emerging where there is hope for a lasting political outcome and an end to costly military action.

Linda Robinson last wrote a history of Special Forces, Masters of Chaos: The Secret History of the Special Forces. It is another fine read and a New York Times best seller.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Everything You Know About God Is Wrong
Russ Kick
The Disinformation Company Ltd
163 Third Avenue, Suite 108, New York NY 10003
9781932857597 $24.95

"Millions of Hindus pray over statues of Shiva's penis. Do you think there's an invisible Shiva who wants his penis prayed over - or are you a skeptic?"

"Muslim suicide bombers who blow themselves up are taught that 'martyrs' instantly go to a paradise full of lovely female houri nymphs. Do you think the bombers now are in heaven with houri - or are you a doubter?"

"Members of the Heaven's Gate compound said they could 'shed their containers' (i.e., their bodies) and be transported to a UFO behind the Hale-Bopp comet. Do you think they're now on that UFO - or are you a skeptic?"

"Members of Spiritualist churches say they talk with the dead during their worship services. Do you think they actually communicate with spirits of deceased people?"

"I'll bet there isn't a church member anywhere who doesn't think that all those supernatural beliefs are goofy - except for the one he believes…. Meanwhile, it's encouraging to realize that almost everyone in the world is a skeptic - at least about other people's religion." Those words from James Haught's chapter (pp. 16-18) echo Richard Dawkins' observation that everyone is a nontheist about other people's gods; he just goes one god further. And while it is seldom mentioned in the media, a full third of the human race, both worldwide and in North America, go that one god further and recognize all religion as "goofy" or worse.

Russ Kick's anthology begins with Richard Dawkins' satirical exposition of the mind-destroying effects of the psychedelic drug, geriniol (anagram of religion). Then follow Haught's chapter, chapters arguing that religion is an illness and that America, being a free country, therefore cannot be simultaneously a Christian nation, and a news report on the Catholic Church's systematic cover-up of priestly pedophilia.

Then come four chapters of biblical criticism, and it is here that Kick's status as a well meaning amateur becomes transparent. His contributors get as much right as they get wrong, including the recognition that the anonymous gospels were not written by the historical (Mark, Luke) or fictitious (Matthew, John) persons to whom they were retroactively attributed. Kick is not a biblical historian, and consequently reprinted articles by persons who share that deficiency. For example, they claim that Peter and Paul were embarrassed by the virgin birth fable and argued against it, when in fact the myth was invented long after Peter and Paul were both dead. They think virgin birth was an original part of Matthew and Luke, and that both authors placed it alongside a genealogy that traced Jesus' ancestry through Joseph to King David. Just how stupid do those commentators think the anonymous gospel authors were? In fact the virgin birth fairy tale was interpolated into Matthew perhaps a decade after its completion, and into Luke much later than that.

More than one Amazon reviewer voiced the opinion that Everything You Know has nothing to say to persons who have read The God Delusion; God: The Failed Hypothesis; and God Is Not Great - and on that point at least they are right. But Kick's anthology is even more inadequate in its biblical criticism, due to its editor's choosing to include articles by other amateurs (in the field) instead of excerpting writers who do know what they are talking about, such as Robert Price, Randel McCraw Helms, William Harwood, and Bart Ehrman. As an example of ineptitude: one of the section's authors, in responding to the rationalizations of inflexible dogmatists, chose as his target J. P. Holding (p. 125), a fatuous ignoramus whom even other creationists regard as an embarrassment to their cause. In rebutting Holding, they inevitably generate the impression that they have set up a straw man because they lack the competence to demolish the doublethink of a professorial theologian - as indeed they do

The six chapters in the section, "I was there," provide probably the book's most useful information. They are eyewitness accounts of some of America's most insane and bizarre god cults, describing a Muslim gathering that openly advocated doing to non-Muslims what the Inquisition did to imagined heretics; a Santeria incident in Florida; a revived Bhagwan commune; a black-Jesus creed; and a gaggle of biblical literalists who handle venomous snakes and attribute the periodical snakebite deaths to the victim's lack of faith in the Jesus who promised that snakes could not harm them. While such cults are aberrations denounced by mainstream religions, it is worth reminding the moderate majority that they are the inevitable consequence of mistaking 2,000-year-old fairy tales for divine revelations.

Dianna Narciso's chapter, "The honesty of atheism," is more than anything else a defence of the word "atheist," and a denigration of persons who prefer to describe themselves by any of the available synonyms, presumably including "nontheist," a word identical in meaning but which the religious majority have not yet been brainwashed into interpreting as meaning something it does not mean and never has meant. Far too often, a person who calls himself an atheist is obliged to explain that the word describes someone who does not have a belief in a god, not a person who dogmatically insists that there is no god. An atheist or nontheist can be as certain that "God" does not exist as he is certain that the Mad Hatter does not exist, since each is a character in a work of fiction. But it is the absence of belief that makes him an atheist; what he actually believes is irrelevant. In my view, attempts to educate the masses that "atheist" is not pejorative are doomed to failure. The use of a synonym, particularly "nontheist," that does not conjure up a negative image in the mind of the ignoranti is to be preferred.

A chapter by Kristan Lawson alleges that a carving on the Vatican's High Altar is a depiction of a vagina. That is not intrinsically improbable. Before the Kaaba at Mecca was rededicated to the male god Allah, it was seen as a representation of the Mother Goddess's vulva. But interpreting the photographs included in the book as what Lawson says they are is beyond the limits of my capacity for seeing what one wants to see even when it is not there. And Lawson states as fact that Peter was "the acknowledged founder of the Christian Church" (p. 233), a status actually belonging to Paul, and that "recent archaeological discoveries revealed that St. Peter is indeed buried in the exact center of the Basilica." Since Peter never visited Rome in his life, and died in either Jerusalem or Babylon, accepting Lawson's word on anything whatsoever would be no more defensible than Christians accepting a fairy tale simply because it is authenticated by the same bible that states in fourteen places that the earth is flat.

David Barrett's demolition of the novel, The Da Vinci Code, says nothing to scholars, but should be read by anyone who still believes Dan Brown's big lie (p. 270) that, "I try to get it right." Michael Standaert describes the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and his co-hatemonger as "thinly veiled anti-Semitism" (back cover). A better description would be, anti-human, sadistic, and plain sick. LaHaye's Jesus is a prototype Osama bin Laden, presumably because his hatred of the human race is a projection of what LaHaye sees in the mirror.

"In the Dalai Lamas' Tibet, torture and mutilation - including eye-gouging, the pulling out of tongues, hamstringing, and amputation - were favored punishments inflicted on runaway serfs and thieves" (p. 293). "One twenty-four-year old runaway welcomed the Chinese intervention as a 'liberation.'" "Tibet's former slaves say they, too, do not want their former masters to return to power" (p. 297). Tibet under the Dalai Lamas was as totalitarian a theocracy as Afghanistan under the Taliban. But despite that reality, easily confirmed by anyone who cares to look at the published research, "Western news media, travel books, and Hollywood films have portrayed the Tibetan theocracy as a venerable Shangri-La" (p. 292). Tibetans are still oppressed by Chinese communists - but not nearly as severely as they were oppressed by Buddhist monks and their theofascist Dalai Lamas.

John Bourke's chapter, "Holy Shit," on religions with an excrement or urine fetish includes the statement, "The inference is that the excreta of Christ were believed, as in many other instances, to have the character of a panacea, as well as generally miraculous properties" (p. 324). So some early Christians ate Jesus' shit. Big deal. The world's 1.1 billion Christians still do the same thing every time they deny themselves an enjoyable experience in the belief that Jesus pronounced it a no-no, or talk to themselves in the belief that a man who ceased to exist 2,000 years ago is listening.

Ron Hubbard was not the first humbug to invent a confidence swindle posing as a religion (Joseph Smith comes to mind). But Hubbard was the first to call his science fiction hoax "Scientology." The word scientology, however, was coined by Allen Upward thirty years earlier to mean linguistic doubletalk posing as science (p. 378). While I did not know that, Hubbard probably did. Calling his scam by a name that revealed it to be a hoax would have been one more way of showing his contempt for the marks gullible enough to take a pretend-religion seriously. That is assuredly why he called his imaginary Thetans' home planet Arslycus.

I hate to give a thumbs-down to a book that is more informative than disinformative. But if Everything You Know were to achieve the same recognition value as the books of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Victor Stenger, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett, it would provide propagandists for the God hypothesis with a welcome opportunity to gloat that, "If this is the best argument for the nonexistence of God that atheists can come up with, we have little to fear." By all means read it. But don't expect it to provide the final nail for the God delusion's coffin.

Relics of Eden: The Powerful Evidence of Evolution in Human DNA
Daniel J. Fairbanks
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2119
9781591025641 $24.95

Daniel Fairbanks devotes the first eight chapters of Relics of Eden to the scientific evidence that evolution is a fact of reality. "The current evidence supporting evolution is so overwhelming that denying it is the intellectual equivalent of denying gravity" (p. 157). But he adds two final chapters arguing (p. 8) "that science and religion are complementary ways of seeking answers and need not be at odds." He declares (pp. 168-169), "Modern science is absolutely incompatible with the creationist views of a universe less than ten thousand years old, a worldwide flood that obliterated all terrestrial life except that preserved on an ark, and the special creation of all species including humans. For those who still insist on such a narrow interpretation of the religious texts, there is indeed a dichotomy. Is such a literal view really necessary?"

Unlike Stephen Jay Gould, who destroyed the reputation he had taken decades to acquire when he described science and religion as "non-overlapping magisteria" that must be evaluated by incompatible methodologies, Fairbanks argues that science is only compatible with religion if religion is defined (not verbatim) as including the idea that a god decreed, "Let there be evolution," and then conducted a policy of strict nonintervention. That deistic hypothesis, while it may qualify as theology, is not religion. Religion is most accurately defined as the belief that a god has revealed its existence and imposed laws that must be obeyed. But all such claims, at least in the Western world, are to be found only in the same Tanakh, Bible and Koran that also assure their readers that the earth is flat and less than ten thousand years old. Even if science is not incompatible with deism, the hypothesis that the universe is produced and directed by a metaphysical entity that may not even be aware that humans exist, it is incompatible with religion.

And Fairbanks knows that, even if his "deeply religious convictions" (p. 15) cause him to delude himself that theology, a discipline politely described as deistic thought experiments, and religion are the same thing. Does he grasp that, in describing himself as "deeply religious," he is expressing the belief that humans are the domesticated livestock of a petmaster in the sky? Does he grasp that, in so describing himself, he is claiming to believe that "sin" is whatever a god, through its self-appointed scriptwriter, says it is, and can include victimless, consensual, non-consequential sexual recreation or eating a ham sandwich or a cheeseburger? I find myself suspecting that he does not.

In explaining why he wrote his book, Fairbanks acknowledges (p. 7) that there is no shortage of books on evolution that "tend to focus on archaeological, geological, anatomical, physiological, and theoretical evidence with little or no discussion of the literally millions of molecular fossils in DNA." He adds (p. 14), "The intent of this book is to present just a fraction, but a very compelling fraction, of the DNA-based evidence of evolution," focusing on human evolution for the logical reason that, "we now have more evidence of evolution for humans than for any other species."

Fairbanks's opening chapter, using page-long charts, shows how two of the 24 chromosomes of the great apes fused into one, producing the 23-chromosomed hominid line of which Homo sapiens is the only survivor. He summarizes (p. 29), "The only reasonable explanation of this evidence is a chromosome fusion that happened after the lineage leading to humans diverged from the lineage leading to the great apes." The chapter makes very clear why previous authors ignored the DNA evidence in books aimed at making evolution comprehensible to the general reader. No doubt other geneticists and biochemists can recognize the correctness of Fairbanks's logic. To a historian with only a layman's competence in the natural sciences, it might as well have been written in Etruscan. Nonetheless, the absence of an essential treatise on the most definitive of all evidence for evolution has now been eliminated, and opponents of Fairbanks's evidence can no longer claim victory by default, although that is unlikely to stop them from doing so.

Chapter two describes Barbara McClintock's discovery of transposable gene elements in spotted corn kernels, a discovery ignored and virtually ridiculed until the discovery that the same situation also applied to humans led to her 1983 Nobel Prize. Elaborating on the role of these elements, Fairbanks notes (pp. 38-39) that, "In case after case, transposable elements in human DNA were present at exactly the same positions in chimpanzee DNA, and to a lesser degree in other apes and monkeys. The human and chimpanzee versions of these elements were highly similar, about 98 percent similar, but not identical. These observations could best be explained if the transposable elements became established in the DNA of a common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees, then they mutated into separate lineages." Yet creationists continue to deny common ancestry. Go figure.

Research findings that Fairbanks elucidates in the following chapters include: "Although this [GULO] pseudogene is highly mutated and utterly useless, humans and chimpanzees have almost identical copies of it…. 98 percent identical" (ch 3, p. 53). "There is a small amount of DNA in a set of microscopic, bean-shaped structures in our cells called mitochondria…. By the 1960s, scientists had found multiple lines of evidence showing that mitochondria are very similar to bacteria" (ch 4, p. 62). "A basic tenet of biology is that genes encode proteins and proteins govern the development of inherited traits…. Ultimately, variation in DNA is the raw material for natural selection" (ch 5, p. 78). "Thousands of genes [in humans and chimpanzees] are almost identical … and transposable elements and pseudogenes are usually found in the same places" (ch 6, p. 87). "Whereas maternal inheritance can be traced in mitochondrial DNA, paternal inheritance can be traced in the DNA of the Y chromosome" (ch 7, p. 110). "Conclusions derived from DNA analysis can be integrated with information from traditional studies of anatomy, physiology, the fossil record, archaeology, and geology to decipher the history of life on earth" (ch 8, p. 130). Am I being unduly pessimistic in fearing that such details are far more than most people other than graduate students in microbiology want to know?

In his concluding chapters, Fairbanks rebuts the "wedge" tactics of Intelligent Design propagandists such as Michael Behe who, without actually citing their bibles, imply that religious fairy tales must be the default alternative by arguing that the reason proponents of evolution theory contradict one another on minor details is because the theory is intrinsically flawed. He points out that disagreement on details does not constitute disagreement on the correctness of the theory itself, and that (p. 149), "There is practically no disagreement among scientists regarding the common ancestry of humans and chimpanzees." And rather than voice his own opinion of Behe's intellectual limitations, he contents himself with quoting another author who (p. 155) described Behe's imaginative doubletalk as an "argument from ignorance." If he is hoping that pseudoscience peddlers like Behe and William Dembski are more likely to consider arguments from polite opponents than from critics who identify them as brainwashed Christurian Candidates, I suggest that he does not hold his breath.

The archaeological and anatomical evidence has been sufficient for more than 150 years to convince anyone capable of putting his brain in gear before engaging his tongue of the reality of evolution. DNA evidence discovered a century after Darwin's death is merely the icing on the cake. But it is now the ultimate proof that all terrestrial life is indeed descended from common ancestors. The only way ID pushers can explain away the observable reality that human and chimpanzee DNA are 95 to 99 percent identical is to rationalize that their intelligent designer ran out of ideas and had to plagiarize himself. Good luck with that argument.

While Fairbanks adds a necessary appendage to the published material on evolution, the definitive single work on the subject is still Richard Dawkins' The Ancestor's Tale.

Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks
Christopher Brookmyre
Little, Brown
Brettenham House, Lancaster Place, London WC2E 7EN
9780316730136 $14.48

"One thing he knows for certain, however: death is not the end - it's the ultimate undercover assignment." That promo from the back cover of Rubber Ducks had me fearing that I had made an appalling mistake in recommending (on the basis of an article in New Humanist) that my local library purchase this book. Then I opened it and found the dedication, "For James Randi and Richard Dawkins", and was able to breathe easily again. (The New Humanist article, Sep/Oct 2007, would have reassured me, but several months after reading it all I could remember was the book's title.)

I had a problem with the statement on page 3 that skeptics who reject the "ghost" hypothesis "are as slavish and inflexible in their fidelity as the most dedicated religious fundamentalist. Nothing will sway them from their beliefs, and they exhibit a staggering level of closed-mindedness that stems from an unshakeable faith in their own intellectual superiority." That those words are put into the mouth of one of the first-person narrators who will turn out to be less than credible is not immediately apparent, and they may well prevent the book's target audience of educated realists from reading any further. And a few pages further on, when the same narrator endorses the legitimacy of the obscene humbuggery of psychic surgery, readers who think she speaks for the author may see that as the final straw and start shredding the pages into unperforated bum-wipes. That would be a mistake.

There are many passages in later pages in which a first-person narrator cites superstitious hogwash in a manner that gives the impression it represents the author's beliefs. But then comes an eleven-page scene (73-83) that annihilates the insane beliefs of the morally repugnant Jehovah's Witnesses cult as totally as anything I have ever read. From that point on, I felt that I was reading something worth my while. And I was positively delighted when Jack Parlabane, the holdover investigator from Brookmyre's previous mystery novels, explaining how he came to be a university rector after being nominated as a joke, boasted (p. 89) that, "I managed to outdo George W. Bush's achievement in getting comprehensively humped in an election yet ending up with the job anyway." I was equally delighted when an exploiter of the spiritualism hoax explained why the Catholic Church ordered its mindslaves to shun spiritualism on pain of excommunication (pp. 250-251): "If you're McDonald's, you don't want another burger franchise opening up across the street, do you?"

A character I was initially tempted to equate with Uri Geller declared (pp. 92-93) that "'fake medium' is practically a tautology. The only real distinction to be drawn is between the ones who know they're fakes and the ones who are also deceiving themselves." But when he added, "What I'm still trying to work out is whether the latter also describes me," that ruled out the Geller equation, as Geller is assuredly well aware that he is a fake.

When the novel finally got around to explaining the conjuring behind the pseudo-Geller's accomplishment of seemingly inexplicable "remote readings" - long after I had started fearing that maybe the author was as much a True Believer as his Jillian Noble narrator - I found myself wondering if such shenanigans, designed to fool the University of Edinburgh into establishing a Chair of Spiritual Science, were in fact an exposé of how that same university in 1985 was deluded into establishing the Koestler Parapsychology Unit, which, despite two decades of failing to produce a single replicable positive result, continues to exist, presumably on taxpayer money. At least George Washington University had the good sense to cut its losses and close its parapsychology lab when James Randi exposed its researchers as gullible suckers who could be fooled by schoolboy conjuring tricks.

Why Brookmyre uses the American spelling, asshole, on page 179, and the British spelling, arsehole, on page 185, I cannot even guess. And fifty years (Perth, 1958) after I first heard the expression, "have sex", used to mean an intimate activity rather than a quality like height and weight, I should be sufficiently used to it to accept that Brookmyre uses such baby talk (p. 235) because it has become part of the language. But I still shudder. Likewise his use (p. 125) of the kindergarten preterit, "snuck". Ditto his having a male narrator describe himself as a virgin (p. 235), as if "male virgin", a man capable of producing a legitimate heir because he has never been implanted with bastard seed, were not an oxymoron. And narrator Parlabane's denigration of the spook crooks, addressing them by the Old English name of a female body part (p. 287), is bound to puzzle North American readers, since North Americans use the word only as the ultimate put-down of a woman, whereas in England it is a term of abuse hurled only at men.

While Rubber Ducks seems at first to be no more than a fictionalization of the debate over the paranormal, it eventually turns out to be a violent-crime story, with antagonists who make Ernst Blofeld look like an amateur. That it follows the Columbo pattern of identifying the primary perpetrator up-front, so that the only suspense lies in how the crime will be solved, was logical, given that it parallels a particular Columbo episode in which a fictionalized Uri Geller murdered a fictionalized James Randi.

Fans of the Jack Parlabane character will be pleased to learn that this will not be Brookmyre's last novel about their hero, although how that can be, since we learn of his death early in the story, they will have to read the book to find out.

Snake Oil Science: The Truth About Complementary and Alternative Medicine
R. Barker Bausell
Oxford U.P.
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780195313680 $24.95

"Studies employing credible placebo controls do not indicate positive effects for CAM therapies over and above those attributable to random chance…. Research on any therapy that does not factor in the placebo effect will inevitably produce false results." That excerpt from Snake Oil Science's cover flap explains why such pseudo-medicine as acupuncture, homeopathy and hypnotherapy have been pronounced effective even by professional medical practitioners who should know better. Sugar pills do relieve symptoms, at least temporarily, because patients who expect them to do so make their expectations self-fulfilling. And as Barker Bausell proves in spades, "complementary and alternative medicine" is indeed a sugar pill.

The definitive question is whether symptom alleviation that follows CAM treatment (post hoc propter hoc) was in fact caused by the CAM. And that question can be and has been answered. As Bausell explains (p. xv), "Fortunately, this logic is simple, involving nothing more than comparing one group of individuals who receive a therapy with another group who think they are receiving that therapy." That double blind methodology (meaning that neither the patient nor the therapist knows whether a particular patient is receiving the product being evaluated or a placebo) is de rigueur in all scientific research, and is the only methodology capable of answering the question (p. xix), "Is any complementary and alternative medical therapy more effective than a placebo?" While Bausell takes 300 pages to answer that question and prove the correctness of his conclusions, the answer is an unequivocal NO!

Bausell points out early in his book (p. 2) that a common tactic of snake oil peddlers was to invent imaginary ailments that their product could cure. When the Alka-Seltzer company was not finding sufficient customers with the stomach cramps its little tablets really could alleviate, it succeeded in conning large numbers that they suffered from a nonexistent condition called the "blahs" that could be treated by - guess what? - Alka-Seltzer. And to justify their existence, the chiropractic scammers declared that all ills were caused by displaced vertebral subluxations that only a chiropractor could "adjust." Since chiropractic's basic technique was the same kind of muscle-relaxing massage provided by holistic hetaeras, not surprisingly patients tended to find such "adjustments" effective, even though medical doctors, anatomists and x-ray technicians are unanimous that the alleged "subluxations" do not exist. Anyone who doubts that nonexistent ailments are still being concocted by psychoquacks to justify their existence has only to watch a TV program endorsing the thing that is not. "Temporary insanity"? "Suppressed memory syndrome"? "Dissociative identity disorder"? "Facilitated communication"? "Type A personality"? Oh come now.

So that there can be no dispute as to whether a perceived alleviation of symptoms is a placebo effect or a consequence of the body's innate ability to fight off most ailments with no treatment whatsoever, Bausell defines a placebo as (p. 31), "Any medical treatment that can have a therapeutic effect only if administered to a patient who is aware that he or she is receiving a medical treatment." If experimental group A is given, for example, a homeopathic treatment, control group B is given an inert similar-seeming substance, and control group C is given no treatment whatsoever, the difference between experimental group A and control group B results represents the therapeutic value of the homeopathic treatment (since both groups will experience equal placebo effects and equal spontaneous remission), and the difference between control groups B and C represents the degree to which improvements in group B are placebo effects rather than spontaneous remission. It should surprise only incurable believers that all properly conducted research has resulted in groups A and B having identical (within error of measurement) improved results over group C, while groups A and B had results identical with each other. Even homeopaths are not so reckless as to claim that they can cure the common cold, since their patients know full well that the cure rate after six days will be close to 100 % due to spontaneous remission, and any claim that Granny Clampett's Remedy made a difference would expose them as what they in fact are - quacks.

Bausell's findings on specific applications of glorified sugar pills are as follows.

ACUPUNCTURE (p. 210): "Acupuncture appeared to be safe but without clear evidence of benefit."

CHIROPRACTIC (p. 15): "Chiropractors … believe that the body has an innate ability to heal itself and that one of the primary barriers to this ability … resides in these [nonexistent] subluxations."

HERBALISM (p. 224): "There is no firm evidence of efficacy of any medicinal herbs [for specified viral infections including HIV]."

HOMEOPATHY (p. 15): "The final product is so diluted, in fact, that in many cases not a single molecule of the original [poisonous] substance would be expected to survive in the final product."

HYPNOTHERAPY (p. 268): "Hypnosis and the placebo share a good deal in common." After quoting a motivating speech by a hypnotist, Bansell comments, "Anyone who can distinguish between this quacking and that of the placebo duck is a lot more sensitive to animal sounds than your author." (p. 229): "The effects of hypnotherapy on smoking cessation claimed by uncontrolled studies were not confirmed by analysis of randomized controlled trials."

MASSAGE (p. 268): "I would categorize these procedures as more recreational than medicinal."

MEDITATION (pp. 266-267): "I believe most therapists advocate the practice more as a lifestyle or stress reduction technique than as a medical therapy."

NATUROPATHY (pp. 260-261): "Their prescriptions undoubtedly have fewer side effects than those of most conventional physicians. This means they may be physiologically preferable for one extremely large group of patients: the worried well."

OSTEOPATHY (p. 260): "There is no evidence for the effectiveness of therapies such as cranial manipulation, nor is there any firm rationale for why the body's natural healing processes need to be 'gently prodded,' which is one of the rationales for the osteopathic approach to medicine."

PRAYER (pp. 273-274): "There was no difference in complication rate between the experimental and placebo group (group 1 versus group 2). Surprisingly, however, the group that knew they were being prayed for did significantly worse than the other two groups."

THERAPEUTIC TOUCH (p. 244): "There is insufficient evidence that TT promotes healing of acute wounds."

Bausell's final summation of all of the evidence is (p. 275), "CAM therapies are nothing more than cleverly packaged placebos."

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Ary Stillman - From Impressionism to Abstract Expressionism
James Wechsler, editor
Foreword by Donald Kuspit, With Essays by Michael Betancourt, David Craven, et al
London and New York
9781858944333 $59.95

In the opening essay, the noted art critic Donald Kuspit brings Ary Stillman into focus by comparing him with the much better-known Jackson Pollack: "Stillman and Pollack synthesized Cubism and Expressionism. That is, they were inventors, not simply Cubist campfollowers." This originality is evident in Stillman's paintings as it is with Pollack's. Their synthesis "was catalyzed by Surrealism in particular, by the Surrealist turn into the unconscious for inspiration [which gave their works] energetic depth." Stillman however differs from Pollack in that while Pollack's paintings evince his "inner chaos," Stillman's inventive paintings "never collapse into chaos." Another quality one sees in Stillman's paintings (not seen with Pollack's) is a surface brightness like the brightness and mercurialness of a liquid; this is largely from the bright colors of the larger and usually more uniform shapes despite their being abstract. This is presumably a quality carried over by Stillman (1891-1967) from his beginnings in Impressionism. The surfaces of many of his abstract paintings have some resemblance to the water in Monet's paintings. The second essay by the critic James Wechsler is titled "Alchemy of Light."

Besides delving into the sources and aesthetic qualities of Stillman's art, Stillman's biography and career spanning the first part of the 20th century and peregrinating from Russia to the U.S. are covered. After emigrating to the U.S., he then went to Paris in the years between the World Wars when this city was the center of major developments in all the arts. Returning to the U.S. before once again spending time in Paris, Stillman traveled to the American art center of Taos in New Mexico. While there for a few weeks, he did a series of paintings inspired by the "indigenous Pueblo culture and desert landscapes" for a scheduled exhibition when he returned to Paris. It was during this period of the 1920s when Stillman began to get wide recognition as an artist, fulfilling his dreams from when he was a child in Russia.

Another vein of the essays is the different types of Stillman's paintings. Although he is identified with Pollack for purposes of placement in the spectrum of modern art, Stillman worked in different styles during is career, including figure painting, still life, and drawings.

The seven essays and scores of illustrations go as far as anyone can go in defining and revealing Stillman. But he nonetheless remains beyond ultimate definition or image. Unlike Pollack, Stillman seemed to glide over the displacements, disturbances, and demanding. often torturous visions of his time rather than assimilate and reproduce them. He is notable in the development of modern art; and artists as well as art historians and critics can learn from him so as to be influenced. But Stillman is not notable or influential for one simple thing. With other themes and topics such as Stillman's "doubling back" at points in his career and Jewish identity as embodied in his art, this distinctive work on this artist reflects his many facets.

Fernand Leger, Paris-New York
Yves-Alain Bois, Raphael Bouvier, et al, Introduction by Phillippe Buttner.
Hatje Cantz Verlag
9783775721615 $75.00

To put it simply, "one might say that [Leger] conceived his compositions as unified wholes consisting of parts that remained discrete." But in the first chapter "Encounters With Paintings," art critic/historian Phillippe Buttner puts the appeal of Leger's paintings in more complex, analytic terms. Remarking that while Leger's compositional ideas and visual style relate to the three-dimensional world, this is not the world of nature, but rather the world of mechanical apparatus. A mechanism "is an assembly of parts that fit together in such a way as to enable it to function." Similarly, Leger's paintings "function." "Leger adopted the constructional principle of the machine and used it to 'sponsor' the unity of his compositions. Like an assembled locomotive, his paintings [were] pictorial machines that developed visual dynamism and definitely ridded themselves of one thing: the illusion of forming an organic, 'natural' unity."

Eight essays on Leger's art in different periods from 1912 to 1954 not only delve into characteristics of his art, but also by comparison with other major modern artists, further shed light on the unique nature of Leger's art and distinguish his singularity. While Leger's art reflects major veins of modernist art such as cubism and constructivism, he cannot be placed in any school of modern art or even group of artist doing similar work. Unlike Picasso whose works over his long career often can be placed in descriptive categories or with a style such as cubism or primitivism, Leger's art cannot. One reason for this is that Leger had such strong, clear ideas about how he wanted to paint that his works have a fundamental similarity over his career. Leger's few, simple ideas were not constricting, however. His art is not variations on a theme, nor repetitive even though--as with Miro--a work by Leger is almost always immediately recognizable.

As a part of the book's main approach of enhancing understanding this major modernist artist by comparison with other major, influential artists, there is a 1997 interview with Roy Lichtenstein. In it, Lichtenstein notes that when Leger was in the United States, "he was interested in billboards and the brashness of American culture." Lichtenstein reminds one that Leger "was a worker...and always portrayed himself as a worker."

The remark by Liechtenstein is another example of the material continually cropping up from biographical facts, reminiscences, and insights into particular paintings to luminous summations giving fresh, stimulating ideas and perspectives on Leger. Taken in relation to the paintings, for example, Lichtenstein's remark about Leger being a worker reveals in his filled out, almost exaggerated forms an earthiness despite their manifest modernism; and from Lichtenstein's remark, one intuits a simultaneous sense of order and rambunctiousness in the paintings.

Conrad's Trojan Horses - Imperialism, Hybridity, and the Postcolonial Aesthetic
Tom Henthorne, Foreword by Andrea White
Texas Tech University Press
Lubbock, TX
9780896726338 $40.00

Henthorne sees in conflicting aspects of Conrad's writing and his situation as a writer the prototype (though not the only one) for postcolonial works by authors in or from former colonies. The main difference between Conrad and these latter authors such as Chinua Achebe, V. S. Naipaul, R. K. Narayan, and Salman Rushdie is a difference in time, not a difference in the basics of the formalities of approach (i. e., author stance), general treatment of subject matter, and ironic tone in the presentation of setting and relationships between central characters. When Conrad is categorized at all, even by some later writers whose works have a close, though often unrecognized affinity with his, he is usually seen as a colonial or imperialist writer. This is because he is regarded as an English author (though he was born in Poland) writing for an English audience at a time when Britain was the world's major colonial power. Nonetheless, as the author uncovers in critiques of major and secondary works throughout Conrad's career, through dialogue, characterization, interaction of characters, and sometimes narrative or commentary, Conrad portrayed the dilemmas and plights of colonial subjects and the uncertain legacy of imperialism.

Born in Poland, Conrad was inevitably always to some degree in the position of the Other in English society. But this alone does not account for the postcolonial aesthetic Henthorne discerns. Not beginning his writing career until he was 38 after years in the Merchant Marine, Conrad had to give English publishers what they were looking for to get published. Late Victorian readers were not looking for critiques of colonialism. They were looking for stories with exotic locales and colorful, but not threatening or even self-evidently very intelligent or worldly native characters. As interest in English explorers and adventurers and the popularity of authors such as Isak Dinesen ad Rider Haggard attests, the public wanted literature which confirmed England's control over her colonies, even if this came from putting down revolts of native populations. While Conrad's works did move from the formulas of English virtues winning out over native resistance or rebellion, contented rulership, and civilizing primitive lands, they did not so much that British readers shunned them.

On one level, Conrad's works can be read as dramatic, adventuresome tales of individualistic English men in exotic places. Henthorne attributes Conrad's success with English readers at the time to this. It is in their details, not their ostensible themes, general narrative, or action that Conrad's novels represent postcolonial literature. This is seen with the death of Jim in the novel "Lord Jim" after his failure to live up to his image of himself as having a superior morality and being able to have mastery over local natives. In keeping with the euphemistic conventions of the popular literature, Jim's death is described as "romantic." But in portraying Jim as a failure, Conrad suggests with this character that similarly colonialism is flawed and cannot forever keep its hold over foreign lands for its primary aim of "greater profit" as another character in this major work by Conrad assents.

Locating, analyzing, expounding such limited, partial, and to some degree conflicted elements throughout work of Conrad, associate professor of English and women's and gender studies at Pace University Henthorne places the author with postcolonial literature; mostly as a progenitor. Henthorne shows that postcolonialism is not necessarily rooted in geography, but more importantly is a style of irony, double consciousness, cultural ambivalences, and awareness of the fatal flaws of imperialism. Writers in the couple of generations following Conrad would work with these techniques, perspectives, and critiques found in Conrad's writings.

Antique and Collectible Dictionary
Robert and Claudette Reed
Collector Books/Schroeder Publishing
Paducah, KY
9781574325805 $24.95

Newcomers to the antiques field and veterans of it would find this reference particularly worthwhile. Types of items, descriptive terms, and historical datings are sorts of information more for newcomers. With use of this reference, they would also get educated as to the importance of relatively specialized points, such as manufacturers. Veterans of the field would inevitably learn something new from the details mentioned in many of the thousands of entries. As everyone in the antiques field says, "No one can know everything." Skills in buying and appraising come from a continual learning process - which this book contributes to.

A sample entry is the one for "Kettle front furniture." In full, it is, "A kettle-like outward swelling of the lower section of eighteenth-century furniture. Sometimes called bombe." One learns quickly about the feature by the description and the date of it in authentic antique pieces of furniture. The entry for "bombe front" explains that the term came from the French for "bulging or jutting outward." In this case, as with hundreds of other entries, there is a photograph of a "Bombe chest of drawers in Dutch rococo-style." Then, as you'd expect, there's an entry for rococo. A "Jumeau doll" is "quite possibly the finest doll ever made in the nineteenth century." The "bisque dolls" were made in France from the 1860s to the 1890s. There's an entry for "bisque."

With the great diversity of the antiques and collectibles field and flux of it from continual introduction of new types of items and the development of new interests, no book can be definitive or encyclopedic. This reference is especially useful for the field of American antiques and related areas of European antiques. Anyone involved in the field, especially ones for whom it is a business to some degree, have a limited number of reliable references they find crucial in their work. This is one such reference those in the field will want to include in this number. It's the sort of easy-to-use, wide-ranging reference many would want to bring with them to the flea markets, estates sales, etc., where they do their buying.

New Mexico During the Civil War - Wallen and Evans Inspection Reports, 1862-1863
Jerry. D. Thompson, editor
University of New Mexico Press
Albuquerque, NM
9780826344793 $34.95

Throughout most of the Civil War, New Mexico Territory was occupied by Northern troops in a network of fairly simple forts mostly along the Rio Grande River or not far off it. Northern forces from Colorado had won the Territory back after having previously been routed by Southern forces out of Texas. Once New Mexico was taken back and Northern troops garrisoned there, Union General James Henry Carleton in California was directed to have the troops prepared to defend the state in the event of another Southern attempt to retake it.

Carleton appointed the Army captains Henry Davies Wallen and Andrew Wallace Evans to go on an inspection tour of the Union forces in New Mexico and write reports on the condition of the troops, the available war supplies, and other matters relating to military preparedness. Though of little importance to the course of the Civil War, New Mexico Territory was fought over by opposing regional forces because whoever occupied it would determine the course of its development. There was no more military conflict of any significance in New Mexico. But the Wallen and Evans reports have much historical interest not only for providing a detailed picture of what life was like in New Mexico in its early days as a United States territory following the Mexican War and also a picture of the foundations--i. e., the forts and nearby settlements--for development leading to statehood.

Parts of the collected reports are simple inventories. "The post ordnance on hand consisted of 970 rounds rifle-cartridges, Cal. 54, 2,000 rounds Cal. 58, 1,500 blank, & 2,400 percussion caps," Evans writes in his report on Fort McRae. But as historians will recognize, the inventories are basic parts of the picture of the frontier time. In the following paragraph, Evans goes on to list the food stores: "The only anti-scorbutics on hand were 30 gals. of pickled rations. Rations of the following articles, in proportion, to last till June 30 [the report was dated May 8] were on hand--viz: bacon, flour, rice, beans...candles, salt...molasses, & corn meal. The following articles were needed, and not on hand, viz: soap, vinegar, kraut, chili, and fresh beef. There is a herd of about a dozen herd of beef cattle, entirely too poor to kill." Besides counting the number of officers and soldiers, the reports often comment on certain officers, as when Evans writes, "Of Capt. Pfeiffer, as regards his personal qualifications, I feel it my duty, though reluctantly, to speak. He is an old soldier who served well & faithfully...." But the old soldier suffers from some disease, and should be allowed to go somewhere to improve his health.

Wallen's reports are similar to Evans'. Both captains were clearly well-suited to the task of the inspections. Not only observant and able to get to the actual situation of each fort, they were also knowledgeable about how the forts stood with regard to acceptable military preparedness, including the competence of the most important officers, morale of the men, and training regimens. Occasionally, raids by Indians and limited actions against nearby troublesome bands are reported. In descriptions, comments, and recommendations for the living conditions of troops quartered in towns adjacent to some forts, one learns about their supplies, buildings, and inhabitants.

Thompson is a professor of history at Texas A&M International University and author of many other books on the history of the Southwest. In introductions to each of the reports, he relates historical background on the respective fort or location. His 36-page Introduction goes over the Civil War-related military engagements in New Mexico and relationships between the relative newcomers the Anglos and traditional Hispanics and Native Americans. Though plain and factual in style, with their unique store of military and historical details, the Wallen and Evans reports are unflaggingly colorful and informative.

Global Soundtracks - Worlds of Film Music
Mark Slobin, editor
Wesleyan University Press
Middletown, CT
9780819568816 $85.00 (hb) 0978819568823 $34.95 (pb)

Wesleyan U. professor of music draws together 15 articles, including a few of his own, on the topic on "ethnomusicology." Most of the authors are connected with U.S. universities, though one is from Nigeria and others are foreign-born now with U.S. colleges. Ethnomusicology is as yet loosely-defined subject area combining elements of multiculturalism, anthropology, popular art and culture, and music as a foremost feature and influencer of global and local cultures.

The articles concern the music of films from various perspectives from theoretical and general to music of specific films in specific countries. But first, starting in the introductory chapter "Preview of Coming Attractions" Slobin lays out "A Topology of Global Cinema Systems" for the sprawling, heterogeneous topic. The topologies are based on films from major regions such as Europe or from major countries such as the U.S. and India and Russia. Exploration and analysis of the typologies is demonstrated in the first section of three articles by Slobin on American films, titled "American Worlds." This treatment is continued in following chapters on films mostly from Asia (India and Indonesia), but also Brazil, Caribbean islands, and Egypt.

One notable film Slobin writes about in one of his pieces is Apocalypse Now. In the memorable scene of an attack on a Vietnamese village by American troops, "a three-second sound of chanting schoolchildren...precedes the horrific helicopter attack by the Wagner-laying American choppers, setting up a musical contrast of peace versus horror, and local vernacular versus mainstream, here figured as classical music." Such treatments of types of music, music wedded to visual elements of film, and effects and themes of music enhance one's experience of films.

Music is present in almost every film. Many viewers are unaware of it, however, as they are unaware of the color of a room's walls; or they do not think of it distinctly when thinking about a film. In the 1965 horror film "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte," before the credits, the children "mock the title character as someone who chops off hands and heads; their tune becomes the main title music, so infuses the score." The high-pitched violin strains in the murder scene in Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" are one of the best examples of how music adds to a scene, in this case the terror of the murder. This was a highly-compressed instance of music in film.

Slobin and the other authors discuss how music is an aesthetic element often regarded as something added, even superfluous, to movies; but which truly and in many cases necessarily has a part in the making and effects of a movie. The authors explore how music is integral to movies even though movies are commonly regarded as a visual medium.

Encyclopedia of Collectible Children's Books - Identification and Values
Diane McClure Jones and Rosemary Jones
Collector Books/Schroeder Publishing
Paducah, KY 42002-3009
9781574325751 $29.95

This outstanding reference has a range of material and specificity of information on particular books and authors to be of use to collectors at all levels. Even though somewhat specialized, the area of children's books is of interest to large numbers of collectors and dealers, even ones not particularly interested in books. Children's books can be used for gifts for children or adults; in many cases, they are sought after mainly for their illustrations; children's books reflect social history in shedding light on education, domestic life, and raising of children. Some children's books--especially prized ones--are illustrated by major illustrators or artists.

The format is not strictly that of an "encyclopedia" with the conventional, straightforward alphabetical entries. Unexpected, yet plainly relevant and useful sections are succinct publishers' histories, a listing of Newbery and Caldecott Winners from their beginnings in 1922 and 1938 respectively thru 2008, a glossary, and a bibliography. A listing of childen's books by author of about 160 pages with hundreds of illustrations of book covers and another section of about 150 pages also with hundreds of illustrations are the encyclopedia-like sections.

More so than with most categories of collectible books, with children's books, publishers can be a sign of age and value. Books by McLoughlin Brothers, for instance, are usually from the 1800s and are desirable for their handcoloring or chromolithography. Scribner's is well known for its especially desirable series of classics illustrated by notable illustrators such as N. C. Wyeth. Many of Mark Twain's books and books by Jules Verne and Alfred Hitchcock and other authors who are not automatically regarded as children's authors are included--one example of the information and guidance in the range of coverage.

As for a sampling of the reference's depth, the Oz Series by Frank Baum is laid out over four pages. As with many classic children's books, including Mother Goose rhymes and A. A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh books, popular children's books have gone on from their first publication to many subsequent reprintings over decades. The treatment of the Oz series helps readers distinguish between first and early printings that can be worth thousands of dollars and later reprintings having little monetary value.

All in all, this is a exceptional, knowledgeable, reliable reference on the perennially popular field of collectible children's books, one of the major categories of book collecting.

Henry Berry

Karyn's Bookshelf

Ghostgirl: Rest in Popularity
Tonya Hurley, author
Little, Brown and Company/Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780316113571, $17.99

In her often hilarious tale of a dead teen trying to navigate the afterlife, author Tonya Hurley spins a good yarn but really shines in her crafting of characters. It's the personality quirks of the living and dead at a suburban high school that make this a great Halloween read. The wildly divergent personalities range from the egocentric nastiness of the school's most popular girls, to the determination of one girl's younger sister to be goth and anti-establishment, to the soul-searching of the main character, who was a wallflower before her death and wants to be something different now. Other supporting characters run the gamut from mean to confused to sympathetic. The wonderfully readable story follows Charlotte, who chokes to death on a gummy bear moments after realizing a life ambition – securing the school's male heartthrob as her science lab partner. Once she dies, Charlotte joins a group of other deceased teens in the school basement in "dead ed" class. The dead teens live together, dorm-like, in a nearby abandoned mansion. None of the teens can pass over into the afterlife until all have completed a predetermined mission. It's up to Charlotte to figure out what her mission is, so they can all graduate. Charlotte gets sidetracked, however, by her feelings from her former lab partner, and when she continues to pursue him a host of complications arise. Often funny, frequently poignant, "Ghostgirl" is thoroughly entertaining, complete with a Halloween dance in a haunted mansion. Of course, none of the living teens at the fall dance realize until too late that the house is otherwise inhabited. Spooky fun.

The Best Gift of All
Jonathan Emmett, author
Vanessa Cabban, illustrator
Candlewick Press
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140
9780763638603, $15.99

"The Best Gift of All" is well-written but simple, elevated by its illustrations. Vanessa Cabban's brightly hued leaves, raining down and scattered about on autumn-inspired page are marvelously engaging. From start to finish, the watercolor and pencil drawings are impressively done, with particularly favorite moments including when three animal friends travel underground through the roots of a huge tree. The story follows Mole, Squirrel and Hedgehog as they travel to the home of rabbit, who is holed up with a bad cold. The three proceed to care for their sick friend, in a message of friendship and putting others first. A sweet tale, that looks even better than it reads.

The Mystery of the Fool & The Vanisher
David and Ruth Ellwand, authors and illustrators
Candlewick Press
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140
9780763620967, $18.99

With splendid illustrative and textual creative depth, husband and wife team David and Ruth Ellwand conjure up a suspenseful, original tale of intrigue that readers simply won't put down. That's partly due to length -- only about 100 pages, with an ample chunk of that illustrations. But mostly, it's just a great, mildly spooky, spine-shivery read. The purely fictional story is set in the English Downs, which for centuries have been rumored to be inhabited by pixies. The author purports to have found a century-old box with artifacts and a journal from a photographer who says he discovered a colony of pixies while shooting an archaeological dig in 1889. The photographer's story, as laid out in the journal, constitutes the bulk of the book. The illustrations, largely cast as photographs of artifacts, combine with the real-life tone of the journal to leave readers wondering if they might be reading about something that actually occurred. Of course, it's all made up but the approach succeeds grandly. A great, quick read in this Halloween season.

Willow Buds: Friendship Stories Inspired by The Wind in the Willows
When Toady Met Ratty
Mary Jane Begin, author and illustrator
Little, Brown and Company/Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780316013536, $14.99

In this second of a series that is as wonderfully illustrated as its predecessor, author and illustrator Mary Jane Begin continues to add to the "Wind in the Willows" legacy with a peek at what its main characters might have been like as youngsters. In the installment released last spring, Toady and Badger had their first encounter. This time, Ratty is introduced and a threesome is created with Mole the only "Willows" character still missing. Once again, there is a moral message. This time it's about competition, gracefully accepting that everyone has different interests and navigating the pitfalls that can arise when you have two very different best friends and want to spend time with both of them simultaneously. In the end, young Ratty, Toady and Badger find resolution, just as repeatedly occurred in the Kenneth Graham's original tale. Begin started working on this prequel series around the same time that she was chosen to illustrate a new edition of Graham's full-length story. The illustrations are simply exquisite, done by a tremendously talented hand.

Gone Fishing: Ocean Life by the Numbers
David McLimans, author and illustrator
Walker & Company
175 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10010
9780802797704, $16.99

Non-fiction is never boring under the masterful hand of Caldecott Honor winner David McLimans. In "Gone Fishing: Ocean Life by the Numbers," McLimans brings both familiar and obscure sea creatures to life with a series of wonderful ink illustrations. It's the approach to the illustrations, with each creature curved into a numeral (one through ten) that memorably elevates "Gone Fishing." Ultimately, 20 animals are featured with ten counted upward in the book's first half, a midway break with a two-page "facts by the numbers" spread, and then ten more counting down to the book's end. The well-researched text has a distinct conservation focus, mentioning which creatures are endangered and talking about problems like floating garbage that harms aquatic birds. It also touches on the degradation of coastal areas by humans and has general notes on things like the size, in million square miles, of each of the world's five oceans. Nearly two dozen related websites and nearly a dozen books are listed at the end for those who want to explore further. Great information packaged in a way that kids will pick up, enjoy and learn from.

Can You See What I See? On a Scary, Scary Night
Walter Wick, author and illustrator
Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780439708708, $13.99

With millions of copies in print, Walter Wick has become famous for his series of "I Spy" books in which children are encouraged to hunt for lists of items in intricately detailed themed illustrations. This time, Wick takes on Halloween, with a wickedly fun trek up to and through a haunted hilltop castle. Younger readers might not fully appreciate the artistic elements, most notably the manner in which Wick begins the book with a zoomed-out depiction of a town with the castle on a hill. As the pages progress, he continues to zoom in until he ends with a close-up of a "scary, scary bottle" with a ghost in it. But all children will appreciate how much fun it is to look for the scores of items listed, some of which are easy to spot and others of which are virtually indiscernible. Another fabulously entertaining title in a series that never gets old.

My Dad's a Birdman
David Almond, author
Polly Dunbar, illustrator
Candlewick Press
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140
9780763636678, $15.99

In the tenderest of ways, award-winning author David Almond explores how someone teetering on a breakdown might need understanding more than reproach. That's a weighty subject for a middle grade novel, but Almond's masterful hand tackles it with sensitivity, and even more, with humor. A lot of humor, in fact, making "My Dad's a Birdman" one of those rare stories that can leave readers both howling with laughter and crying, sometimes on the same page. An only child named Lizzie is coping with the death of her mother sometime in the undefined past, and with the grief-induced mental melting down of her father. From page one it's clear that Lizzie has assumed the parental role at home, reminding her disheveled father to shave, eat and dress before she heads off to school. He has other plans, however.. Determined to win an upcoming contest in which people fly like birds, her father spends his days dressing up in feathers and eating worms in the backyard. Lizzie's aunt, understandably, is trying to get Lizzie removed from the home. But in a series of sweet, comic moments that define this remarkable story, Lizzie and others approach her father's eccentricities with compassion. Lizzie helps her father build a large bird nest in their kitchen and the two ultimately enter the human flying contest together. In the end, other adults and even Auntie Doreen admit that laughter, not condemnation, may be the best way to handle the situation. Dunbar's marvelous illustrations further enhance this memorable tale.

The Little Yellow Leaf
Carin Berger, author and illustrator
HarperCollins Publishers/Greenwillow Books
10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022
9780061452239, $16.99

Emerging author/illustrator Carin Berger continues to impress with her latest tale, the autumn-inspired story of an oak leaf facing a big leap. "The Little Yellow Leaf" combines themes of fear, change and teamwork with stunning collage art that has a similar feel to the work of renowned children's author/illustrator Lois Ehlert. The story follows the leaf as he watches other leaves drop from the old oak tree but hangs on, telling himself "I'm not ready yet." Eventually, he and one other leaf are left on the tree. They make a pact to tumble together, and after fulfilling that pledge swirl off into the coming winter. Berger is undoubtedly an artist to watch, with more good titles certain to come. In the meantime, young readers will relish "The Little Yellow Leaf."

Old Bear
Kevin Henkes, author and illustrator
HarperCollins Publishers/Greenwillow Books
10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022
9780061552052, $17.99

With a feel reminiscent of 2007's "A Good Day" Caldecott Medal winner Kevin Henkes offers a simple tale that celebrates the change of seasons. An old bear, asleep for the winter, dreams first that it's spring. Later, his dream progresses through summer, fall and winter until he wakes up and discovers it actually is spring. Illustratively, Henkes strikes a winning note with lovely, vibrant use of color in his depiction of each season. Spring pastels, summer greens, fall burnt oranges and reds and winter blues may sound typical, but under Henkes' masterful hand the result is special. Children will love the small elements, like the blueberries that rain down in a summertime cloudburst. A beautiful book.

Wabi Sabi
Mark Reibstein, author
Ed Young, Illustrator
Little, Brown and Company/Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780316118255, $16.99

Breathtaking illustrations and a beautifully crafted, culturally poignant story combine in "Wabi Sabi" a perfectly exquisite picture book that is destined to rake in honors. Caldecott Medal winner Ed Young's collage art only elevates the text in which a pet cat tries to define an ancient Japanese phrase that, as a string of characters put it, is "hard to explain." The cat, named Wabi Sabi, embarks on a journey to discover the meaning of its name, ultimately encountering a wise old monkey who offers that it's about appreciating beauty in simplicity. That message, which is illustrated in a variety of ways, from the cat's brown coat to a "pale moon rising on foggy water" to a falling leaf in a hushed autumn woods, is a wonderful one for young readers bombarded each with modern culture that is anything but tranquil. But there's more. As a bonus, "Wabi Sabi" is a wonderful primer in haiku poetry, with most pages including textually related poems in English and Japanese. The book concludes with background on the history of wabi sabi and haiku and translations of the Japanese poems found throughout the book. A simply gorgeous endeavor on a host of levels.

Karyn Saemann

Kaye's Bookshelf

Life Is Too Short: Choices in Life Second Edition
David W. Dorris
Llumina Press
9781605940458 $9.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"All of us go through life once. Life is not a rehearsal. Life is a series of choices that lead us to our destiny. We make choices about all our actions in life, such as how we treat others, how we communicate to others and how we help or hurt others. We choose the kind of jobs that we want to do, where we want to live, and the kind of families that we want to have.

"Life can be deceiving and we're not always sure what to believe about the kind of world that we think this is. A lot of things don't make any sense. We don't always know what we want out of life or who we really are. Few, if any of us, ever reach our full potential intellect.

"Life may not be as easy as we think. It's a tough world and life isn't that easy for all of us. Life is hard work, and we should be prepared for what life deals out. The more that we educate ourselves and understand the mysteries about life on Earth, the easier our lives can be. All of us are looking for the brass ring, and we may wish to know many things to get the best out of our lives.

"To be successful and happy, we have to make the right choices. Every day and every minute we have choices to make, even if they're not to make any choices and to do nothing. Most of our choices care be very difficult. Our choices can affect our friends, our families, our co-workers, and anybody else that comes into our lives. If we make the wrong choices, our lives become harder to live. Our lives can be full of problems. We know that our futures are going to be full of choices, and at this very moment we are going to start making the right ones."

This little book has been written from a good heart with hopes to inspire. David W. Dorris has done a good job at getting down to basics and everyday problems. He writes in a straight-forward, simplistic style as he tells us how he preceives the world and what we should do. Life Is Too Short is well edited and for the price of $9.95, you might give it a try.

Power Tools - Powerful Thoughts and Questions for Personal Excellence
Binyamin Klempner, MSW, Life Coach
BookSurge Publishing
North Charleston, SC
1439202311 $15.99

Quoting from the back cover:

"Do you have a vision of the life you want, but feel you might need some help in realizing that vision? Are you having trouble achieving your personal, family, and professional goals?

"Think of this book as your personal life coach, here to help you take full advantage of the skills and knowledge that you already possess.

"Through thought-provoking stories and practical exercises, you and the author will work together to help you define, reach, and master your goals.

"Your life is a journey and you have the ability to set its direction. A lesson in spirituality in action, this book is designed to provide you with tools you can use to build the life your want."

The majority of the books I receive to review are "self-help" books...the authors tell us how we can improve ourselves and our lives. I read them all with hopes of finding something new and innovative (sure could use some improvement), and when I do, I'll let you know.

Power Tools doesn't have anything new or innovative for self-help readers, but how it is presented is appealing. Its size is unique, small and thick; colorful cover and quality paper; the print is dark and easy to read; each page is a different topic; it includes many AA principles–a definite plus; and the manner in which Klempner conveys his help is more appealing than some self-help gurus. Power Tools is an inspirational little excellent bedtime or sitting-on-the-john read.

Isn't it nice to know that there are so many people out there wanting to help us live better lives and make a few bucks along the way. Some become very successful, such as Dan Millman. Dan taught at my Gymnastic Studio in San Francisco while he was writing his Way of the Peaceful Warrior.

The Plantation - A Twisted Tale from a Demented Mind
Frank J. Stoppa
BookSurge, LLC
18663086235 $9.99

Quoting from the back cover:

"The Plantation is a book about the ancient battle between good and evil. Author, Frank Stoppa takes the reader into a world of hedonistic pleasures where the line between right and wrong becomes blurred by love, passion, lust, and greed. The protagonist, Samuel faces the battle of his life: to reclaim not only his soul, but the soul of the love of his life, Juliet. Samuel and Juliet take a journey into a world of voodoo rituals and unimaginable depravity that will cause them to question their faith, their beliefs and ultimately, their place in eternity."

This little novella is a fast, entertaining read right to the finish, reminiscent of an Ambrose Bierce tale. Frank J. Stoppa has an active imagination, and I did enjoy it; however, my one constructive criticism would be that it be professionally edited as there are more than a few grammatical errors.

The DVD Murders
Bob Frey
Infinity Publishing
West Conshohocken, PA
0741449722 $16.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"Someone is killing the A-List actors of Hollywood and leaving a defaced DVD of one of their films at the crime scene. Follow Detective Frank Callahan, a big, rough and tumble sort of guy who happens to be gay, as he pursues the DVD killer through bath houses and cruising grounds, on a chase around Magic Mountain, and other L.A. landmarks. Witness Callahan's evolution from a seeker of personal glory to team player and his monumental showdown with a gay-bashing rival detective. Good, old-fashioned police work leads to the killer's downfall in a climax reminiscent of Hollywood's legendary gangster films."

I enjoyed The DVD Murders very much. As always...nothing is simple–the human condition is complex and multi-faceted. Bob Frey does an excellent job of portraying his gay protagonist and aspects of the gay lifestyle. The "gay" element of this mystery certainly gives the novel a unique twist, adds some humor and insight. You may not like all you learn from this novel, but at least you'll come away with a better understanding. Yes, I would recommend this book on many levels.

Kaye Trout

Liana's Bookshelf

The Truth: What You Must Know Before December 21, 2012
Stephen Martin
Oaklea Press
6912-B Three Chopt Road, Richmond, Virginia, 23226
9781892538215 $14.95

Stephen Hawley Martin is the author of nine books, three-time winner of the Writer's Digest Book Award, Winner of First prize for Fiction from Independent Press, and Winner of the National Best Book Award from USA Book News. Learn more about him at his sites at and

The Truth is an innovative book about how the mind works and how people should be prepared for the ultimate change that is going to happen on the planet in 2012. The author handles aspects that make the reader get absorbed in the story, such as the issue of belief which is highly interesting. "Belief is powerful" the author says on page 27. "It is the key to manifesting your desires." He also refers to the effects of prayer, an issue that will attract the attention of all people, even those who do not pray. His philosophical statements such as: "We indeed create our own reality" (p.28) are amply scattered throughout this book. The author talks about the subconscious mind and gives the readers valuable information and examples, thus making this part highly interesting to read. He urges people to change their beliefs and "your circumstances will change" (p.32). There are numerous examples and points he highlights in this fine work that will make this book of his worth reading. There is Bibliography at the end of the book and an index for easy reference.

The book is written in a simple and clear style that everyone can understand. It caters to those who seek personal and spiritual growth and also those who wish to educate themselves on such issues. It is a good read that will educate the inquisitive mind and help readers shift to higher consciousness before 2012. It is a highly interesting book that will make readers 'think' about important issues in life. Get it from

Thank you!

The Power2be You! Ways Women Lose Their Power & How To Get It Back!
Sharon Capehart
Aardvark Global Publishing Company
9781427628329 $24.95

Highly Recommended

Sharon Capehart empowers women via her books and site at Visit her to learn more about her and her work.

This book is a helpful guidebook aiming at women who need empowering. It can be used as a workbook to monitor the reader's progress and it is easy to read and include in our daily life. The author illustrates her points by referring to four women's life stories. It will appeal to a wide female audience as it is helpful, inspirational and educational, as well as enjoyable to read. It is the perfect gift for every woman.

The author shows how society has formed the female taboo issue and how women can now get away from it and reclaim their lives. She indicates ways women can change their image and do what they wish to do rather than what others want for them. It also shows how a woman can stand on her own feet with or without a partner. The whole process is based on psychology factors; therefore the first step for women is to understand who they really are and what they want from their life. Sharon then helps women in setting goals and realizing them. It is worth reading this wonderful book whether or not you actually need it. It is interesting to see the methods Sharon uses in inspiring and motivating women to stop taking their life for granted but gaining the strength to change it for good. Get it from and

The Skye in June
Booksurge Publishing
9781419689666 $15.99

Very Highly Recommended

J. Ahern, a successful Life Coach, Intuitive Arts Mentor and author, has also founded and directed the Bernal Heights Metaphysical Center in San Francisco. Learn more about her at and

This story is set both in Scotland and San Francisco and is about the adventures of a Scottish family who move to USA to change their life. The story unfolds in Glasgow, the author's birthplace, where the MacDonald family live. The author is very skillful at her descriptions of the setting and the Scottish culture, thus making this novel vivid and real. The family faces misery and tragedy and as a result they decide to move to USA to have a try. How successful will they be in their quest for happiness? Can the secrets of the past let them enjoy life?

From the start of the story the main character, June, seems to attract everyone's attention as she is a special child with a unique charisma; she is a 'fey' as her mother, Cathy, says. Readers can learn a lot about Scottish language and culture and this novel is certainly a work of art on these issues. The author addresses several issues of importance such as religion, with an emphasis on Catholicism, paganism and witchcraft. They all have their own explanation and meaning in this story. It is also interesting to see how the author treats the issue of child abuse throughout the plot. June and her sisters are physically and verbally abused both at home and at school and this is relevant to our times as well.

This novel is a wonderful story of a woman's journey in life and shows the impact she has on her daughters, especially on the youngest one. The colloquialism throughout the story adds to the plot and the ample cultural aspects enrich the story. There is an optimistic ending where problems are resolved and family members learn to be open-minded and adapt to new life conditions, accept reality and keep love for one another. The content is spiritual, the characters are real life facing real problems and the whole story revolves around family bonds and relationships and the way they have evolved. It is an exciting read that grips the readers' attention from the start to the very last pages. It caters to everyone loving family stories and mystery and learning about the Scottish culture and the spiritual world. It is worth reading it and a great gift for all book lovers. Get it from

Universe God's Jewel
Nick Kostovic
Outskirts Press
9781432717902 $ 25.95

Nick Kostovic operates the Bio Technological Health Center in Beverly Hills, California. He has worked for decades on research into natural laws and phenomena and has invented the Kostovic/Tesla Electric Engine and Kostovic/Tesla Vacuum Electric Laser Sheaves. Learn more about him at

This book is a scientific account of the author's research in the field of astronomy. It deals with human origin issues, energy and health. The author explains in detail how his inventions work and how he applies them to heal people. He claims that he is capable of rescuing people from different types of cancer. His method is currently on review in National Institute of Health.

This book caters to an educated audience as the style is complex and academic. The author illustrates his theories in great detail and offers readers ample examples of the therapeutic effects his inventions have on human beings. It is interesting to learn about his theories and the laws of universe. It is certainly an educational book that can be read not only by those who are keen on health issues but also by any reader interested in universe issues. Get it from and

Liana Metal, Reviewer

Lockstein's Bookshelf

Faking Grace
Tamara Leigh
1745 Broadway, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10019
1590529294 $12.99

Faking Grace by Tamara Leigh is the third book in her charming and quirky chick lit series. Maizy Grace Stewart is trying to rebuild her life and career in Nashville after it bottomed out in Seattle after she lost a major scoop as an investigative reporter due to her trusting nature. She's working part time in the Lifestyle section on a big newspaper and waiting for her big break, but the bills are piling up. So she applies for a job at Steeple Side Christian Resources, but there's a big catch to getting and keeping a job there: you have to be a Christian. Maizy became a Christian in her teens, but hasn't attended a church or pursued a relationship with God since then, so she buys The Dumb Blonde's Guide to Christianity to help her fake it. Cross necklace and earrings, check. Jesus is My Co-Pilot bumper sticker and fish sticker on the back of her car, check. Faith in God to get her through? Not so much! Leigh has a wonderful ear for writing realistic dialogue and creating lovable characters. Maizy, who uses Grace at Steeple Side, finds herself learning a lot more about the reality of faith that she expected. People who follow Jesus still struggle with addiction and infidelity. They hurt and make mistakes just like everyone else; the difference is that they are supposed to love each other through it. Of course it wouldn't be chick lit without a cute guy, and Jack Prentiss, Daniel Craig look-a-like, fits the bill. One of the greatest things I've noticed about Leigh's writing is that when a character goes off on a long mental soliloquy, other characters actually notice! Maizy is regularly overthinking things, and her friends wave their hands in front of her to bring her back to earth. It's a refreshing characteristic that firmly grounds Leigh's books and her characters in the real world.

The Road of Lost Innocence
Somaly Mam
Spiegel & Grau
1745 Broadway, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10019
0385526210 $22.95

The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam is a heart-breaking story of a woman's fight out of slavery and her quest to save others from suffering as she did. Somaly was raised in the forests of Cambodia in a primitive tribe without electricity or running water. Living in the remote jungles, her parents abandoned her and left her with a grandmother who then died before Somaly could remember any of them. She raised herself until the age of eleven, sleeping in a hammock, fishing for some meals, and receiving some little care from the rest of the villagers. At eleven, a man claiming to be her grandfather took her to a larger city and used her as slave labor, beating her and forcing her to work for others as well. She learned how to read at a small school run by a man who claimed to be her uncle and tried to do his weak best by her. At fifteen, her grandfather sold her into a violent marriage with a soldier, until he disappeared, and the grandfather appeared again to sell her into a brothel in Phnom Phen. There Somaly was raped and beaten until all of her will was driven out of her, and the fight to survive overcame the desire to be free. Eventually a French aid worker came to her aid, and Somaly was able to break free of this devastating life. But Somaly is more than the average women. She was unwilling to let other women suffer as she did, so she began distributing condoms to the brothels, and then opened a home to take in girls who fled their life of forced prostitution. She has faced threats, including the kidnapping of one of her daughters, but has emerged unwilling to bend again. Her story is amazing and awful, not something that is easily considered. It's much easier to skim over the details and refuse to internalize them. But when I read about men raping 5 and 6 year old girls and then pimps sewing the girls up again so they can be resold as "virgins" again and again, and then look at my own 5-1/2 year old daughter, my heart is broken. I can't imagine the degradation that these girls suffer daily. Somaly tells her story in raw, harsh words. They are not prettied up, nor does she gloss over what she has faced. This book needs to be read to expose the world to the truths about what is going on in Cambodia to these young girls. A portion of the profits from this book go to Somaly's charity that helps free girls from their abuse, and I know that her foundation is one that I will be donating to in the future.

If God Disappears
David Sanford
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
1414316178 $16.99

If God Disappears by David Sanford is a powerful book about the times when we question God in our lives and how we can seek and find him. Sanford picks nine crises that when they strike can make us wonder what God is doing or if He is even paying attention. Sanford offers several anecdotes about the ways that God has worked for him and people he knows, and sometimes when God hasn't worked, but we still have to trust him anyway. I can't help but admire Sanford's deep faith after growing up with an atheist father who disapproved of his son's decision to follow Jesus. The chapter about betrayal by the church resonated strongest with me. After the deep pain Jesse and I suffered at our previous church, we are healing at our current one. But it isn't perfect, and we still have issues with commitment there. Sanford reminds me that no church is perfect, but God is there, and I need to trust in and wait on that. The most powerful part of the entire book just may be the epilogue. Sanford tells the story of how Jesus got Peter and his brother to follow him; by meeting them, hanging around, and then disappearing so that they had to seek him out. Perhaps that's just what God does on occasion: disappear so that we seek Him out. The book is intelligent with a great deal of heart, the type you want to read over the course of several readings so that you can really take in the message and let it soak into your soul.

Travis Thrasher
322 South Enterprise Blvd., Lebanon, IN 46052
0446505544 $13.99

Isolation by Travis Thrasher is a haunting, frightening book about the malevolence of Satan, and at the same time a striking, life-affirming view of the power of God. James and Stephanie Miller are missionaries recently returned from the field of Papua New Guinea with their children 8-year-old Zachary and 4-year-old Hannah. Their faith has been deeply shaken by failures there, and they are looking for a way to reconnect with each other and God when the opportunity arises to spend time in a remote mansion in the mountains of North Carolina. But Stephanie is seeing visions of blood pouring down the walls, James doesn't believe her, and Zachary has some secrets of his own. This book made me turn on every light in the house, and I didn't dare go to sleep until my husband came home. Stephanie's visions and the chapters in the mind of the villain are startling and jarring. Thrasher never crosses the line between frightening and titillating the reader, keeping the adrenaline level high. Stephanie and James have grown apart in their marriage and instead of talking to and confiding in each other, they rely on themselves, which allows Satan to trick both of them. The revelation at the end about the glory of God is wonderfully done giving insight not only into the story but as to why suffering exists in the world. This is Thrasher's best work to date.

The Wonder Singer
George Rabasa
Unbridled Books
200 North 9th Street, Suite A, Columbia, MO 65201
1932961569 $25.95

The Wonder Singer by George Rabasa is the mesmerizing tale of a writer who becomes so obsessed with the object of the biography he's ghostwriting, he loses his wife and his sanity. Mark Lockwood has been hired to write the biography of famed opera soprano Merce Casals. This is a step up from the nihilistic series How to Talk to Your Teen he's been writing, as well as freelancing brochures and ads for anyone who comes up with the cash. Mark sits with the diva for six hours a day recording the stories of her life and immersing himself in her memories, until the day Merce's nurse, Perla, finds her dead in the bathtub. Now the demand for Casal's story has skyrocketed, and a high profile Hollywood writer has been hired to write it. Mark's tapes are of value; Mark himself is not. So Mark absconds with the tapes and hides out with Perla and a Merce fan named Oscar who dresses in drag and lipsynchs to the diva's recordings. Throw in Merce's husband Nolan who was banished from her life to a retirement home, and the story is quirky in all the right ways. The story flips between the tale of Mark's quest for this story and his actual telling of Merce's life. Rabasa has a talent for writing beautifully, poignant passages: In the end the voice does what it wants. It's never hungry or thirsty, hot or cold, never sad or angry, guilty or innocent. It doesn't shop or gossip or tingle to another's touch. It just is what is wants to be. In the end of Merce's long and eventful life, she sought only to be happy within herself, and that is the lesson that she imparts to Mark and the reader as well. Lyrical and funny, this is the perfect book for a rainy, fall day.

Gum, Geckos, and God
James S. Spiegel
5300 Patterson Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49530
0310283531 $12.99

Gum, Geckos, and God by James S. Spiegel is a sweet and often insightful look at the questions that kids ask about God and what those questions can teach us about our own faith. Spiegel has three young sons and a daughter who regularly pose tough questions. But Spiegel is better prepared to answer them than the rest of us; he's a philosophy professor at Taylor University in Indiana. As a philosopher, he delves deeply into each of his children's questions, looking at their motivations and the answers that can be found in Scripture. Spiegel never goes overly philosophical. It's a perfect mix of children's innocence and profound faith. It was a thoroughly enjoyable book, one that parents will especially enjoy.

Claudia Mair Burney
David C. Cook
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
1434799387 $14.99

Wounded by Claudia Mair Burney is the unlikely story of a young, black single mom, Gina, who experiences the wounds of Christ on Ash Wednesday, the drug-addicted journalist, Anthony, who can't seem to stay away from her, and the story that God makes through them. As a Protestant, the stigmata is something that seems unreal to me, more than a little bit crazy, and Burney tackles the story from just that frame of reference. Gina suffers from bi-polar disorder and is a Protestant, so even she can't be sure if this eruption of bleeding from her hands and feet is real or just another twist of her fragmented mind. Anthony has been a drug addict for so long, he doesn't know any other kind of life, and more than three hours away from heroin has him writhing in pain from withdrawal, but one touch from Gina's hands, and the craving and addiction is gone. Anthony and Gina become connected to each other while he cares for her and her daughter, Zoe. Anthony tells Gina stories of saints who have suffered stigmata throughout the centuries to help her make sense of her own story that is quickly disintegrating. Anthony's mother, Veronica, has caused him no end of suffering through her hatred of his conception. When she discovers Gina and her wounds, she takes charge and determines to make this her chance to be a part of something bigger. Her religious zealotry gives the story a sense of urgency and also helps ground the story. Burney captures the wide range of reactions to Gina's story with startling clarity. The most powerful message in the book is Gina's passion for Christ, her Lover. The faith that I experience is so weak and watered down compared to the love that she (and the other stigmatics from history) bears. Gina makes me want more. I want that kind of passion in my faith, even if it means suffering. I want to love God that whole-heartedly. Burney weaves Scripture with the writings of saints into a powerful love story that leaves the reader wounded, wanting more from their own faith.

Trusting in the Names of God
Catherine Martin
Harvest House
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR. 97402-9173
0736923454 $12.99

Trusting in the Names of God by Catherine Martin is the most recent addition to Martin's growing repertoire of outstanding devotionals. Honestly, when I see her name on a book, I know that it's going to help me grow spiritually, and it immediately goes on my wish list. In Trusting, Martin takes the Biblical names of God (Elohim, Yahweh, Abba, etc) and puts them into a 30 day Bible study taking the reader deep into Scripture and giving new understanding of the nature of God. She gives information about the character of each name and how we can rely on it. I've used Abba in my praying, but I had never used the other names before, and I found that my prayers took on a new life when I specifically addressed prayers to names. Yahweh Sabaoth, the deliverer, is the name that held the most power to me. When I was reading in Jeremiah several months ago, I kept coming across that name in my reading, and while I knew it was important, I didn't understand how it applied to me and what was going on in my life. Martin really helps the reader understand that while all of the names apply to the same God, they are different aspects of her character that help us to understand and love him better.

Christy Lockstein

Margaret's Bookshelf

Pieces from the Heart
Linda Hairston Helms
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd – 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432724580, $10.95,

Held from the world, what happens when freedom is finally gained? "Pieces from the Heart" is the story of a girl kept secret from the world. Events begin to tumble forward and she is soon thrust into the real world where the impulse of new things is frightening, but she must overcome the emotions. An emotional story of escaping one's torments, "Pieces from the Heart" is highly recommended.

Land Lover
Ryleigh Renee
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533157792, $13.95,

How much are you willing to sacrifice for success? "Land Lover" is romance taking place in a somewhat unusual setting of the corporate world. On opposite sides of a business deal, Randall must decide between love in her future or the success of happy clients and the approval of her father. Her journey in trying to find out how she can possibly set her life where both those who she works for and herself can be happy, "Land Lover" is a must for romance fans seeking something different.

Me, Myself, & My Life
Sandra Graves
Rory Media
125 Winterstein Drive, Folsom, CA 95630
9780980211337, $19.95,

What's your story? "Me, Myself, and My Life" is a workbook to be used to put down the net result of one's life. Crafted to help people write down their life history, asking questions from everything from a reader's birth to their marriage to any tattoos or piercings that they had. Designed to be filled out by now to be later reflected on by oneself, or by their family, friends, and loved ones, "Me, Myself and My Life" is an original and recommended acquisition.

Losing the Way
Kristen Skedgell
Bay Tree Publishing
PO Box 70236, Pt. Richmond, CA 94807-0236
9780972002196, $18.95,

A deftly written and reader engaging story of how the daughter of East Coast intellectuals came to be recruited into joining an established and fanatical religious cult calling itself 'The Way International', Kristen Skedgell's "Losing The Way" is a very chilling and candid account of how she was emotionally manipulated, her trust betrayed, and how she was abused and exploited spiritually and otherwise, before being rescued by her own mother whom Kristen had previously rejected. Readers will learn from a real life example of just how easily any young, idealistic, and naive person can be deceived and caught up into a calculated spiritual con game by an unscrupulous, malevolent, yet charismatic leader. Informed and informative, "Losing The Way" is a personal and highly recommended memoir that underscores that ancient Biblical warning against false prophets -- even in this modern age.

Margaret Lane

Molly's Bookshelf

The Story of the Sand
Mark B. Pickering
iUniverse, Inc.
9780595472055 $15.95

The narrative opens with Sampson Roy awakening in his tent after drinking himself to oblivion the night before. His fondest wish was that he did not have to see another living person, ever. However, when he was hungry or wanted something to drink he was forced to trek into town. The work continues as Roy comes face to face with the ghost of an army buddy, recalls his military service, the deaths of friends, the horror of the war and his anger. The tale weaves and spins is filled with lust, booze, misunderstanding, as first one ghost and then more appear to take part in the story and the narrative continues toward the final chapter.

Story of the Sand is a fictionalized recounting of the dilemma surrounding a combat soldier who has seen comrades fight and die. The result, according to the author, is a man now facing myriad problems; mental, relationship, financial, inability to cope with what has happened as a result of the disillusionment felt by the main character Sampson Roy who went off to war full of optimism and the belief that those in power can be trusted; that the war undertaken was right, proper and needful.

Sampson Roy has returned to his home in Georgia a changed man after spending months fighting in the sands of Iraq. Roy finds himself powerless to deal with home, society, life in general. He soon learns that the government he served has little care concerning his problems; he receives little help from the VA or any other agency. Gone is the patriotic idealist who went off to serve his country, in the wake is an angry, aggrieved pessimist.

Roy's psychological harm due to what he observed while serving in the Middle East has left him with a marriage in tatters, himself a pariah to those he has known and with whom he had relationship. He retreats into a lonely world filled with liquor.

The unexpected dreamlike appearance of a ghostly figure of a dead soldier, David Tree, killed during the fighting in Iraq and unable to pass to the other side, brings Roy some unexpected news. His wife is pregnant.

Author Pickering sets down an intense portrayal of war's devastation for the individual soldier, and the aftermath filled with loneliness, misery and attempts at rehabilitation.

Roy cautiously attempts to re enter the world he left; however his alcoholism and self-destructive temperament has left him branded an outsider. His wife rejects reconciliation. Roy yearns to return to the life he knew prior to his military deployment, he hopes to raise his child. Finding the resolve to conquer his addictions and turn his life around may be too daunting.

Through Pickering's clever writing the reader carried along in unanticipated, imaginative directions. While the various twists and turns are fundamental to the story, the tale borders on the bizarre, unless Pickering is attempting to portray some of the drunken stupor induced hallucinations Roy may have experienced.

Even though PTS is not mentioned, Story of the Sand is presented as a glimpse into Post Traumatic Stress many battlefield survivors experience. The personal battle each combatant fights once the return home is completed is of course undertaken by a very changed person, that is an indisputable fact well known by those of us who may be married to a combat veteran, or who are themselves veterans. I was often left pondering what the writer really meant to portray as I read the book. At times the overwhelming reference to sexual activity, and the ghosts became so blurred I felt lost in the wake. The ghosts seemed at times to take over the story until the story of the soldier and his stress were only a sidelight to the activity of the ghosts.

The sense of personal loss, desperation for a hope for tomorrow and a yearning for things to return to normal, as they were before the soldier went off to war is difficult reading for readers who may themselves have personal relationships with a PTS suffering former combat soldier.

Pickering's writing is gripping, stirring, troubling at times and with the line between reality and allegory so blurred as to render difficult reading in spots. The Story of the Sand is recommended for those who enjoy a gritty, hard hitting novel filled with tangled interpersonal relationships and compelling characters.

Skies Over Sweetwater
Julia Moberg
Keene Publishing
9780979237126 $15.00

We first meet Bernadette Thompson, Byrd, as her mother stands, disapproving, on the ground while Byrd and her father in the small airplane prepare to takeoff into the sky. The wind whipped at Byrd's hair in the open cockpit, looking down she could see their farm house. Byrd's father encouraged Byrd to consider becoming the next Amelia Earhart.

Everything went black at the end of a dive.

Julia Moberg writes Skies Over Sweetwater depicting a little known incident in the history of women pilots. A must read for those having an interest in history and those early women aviators Skies Over Sweetwater is a well written, fast paced work sure to please the upper middle grade – high school reading audience.

Set before the advent of the Second World War in 1936, Iowa, at a time when airplanes and flying were much different than today; Byrd's father loved flying. When he died in the flying accident, Byrd's mother became embittered against flying and airplanes. Byrd disobeyed her mother, learned to fly and even began giving flying lessons.

It was during WWII, 1944, that Byrd heard about a special school for women pilots, not really thinking she might be accepted into service she nonetheless took the entrance exam and soon, without her mother's blessing or even

knowledge was on her way traveling aboard a train moving South toward Sweetwater, Texas. On board the train Byrd met Sadie, a young Oklahoma woman with whom she would form a firm friendship. The pair each looked forward to the training they would receive upon their arrival at Avenger Field.

Julia Moberg writes about a little remembered fact of American history when women at home took to the skies. Testing airplanes for the Air Force, doing their part for the war effort, ferrying planes for male pilots, towing targets for gunnery drills; women pilots were an integral part in the effort to keep America safe.

On their way to attend the Avenger Field WASP, Women Air Force Service Pilots, training school where the young women slept on cots, learned to share a bathroom with twelve others, and underwent rigorous training; Byrd and her new friends were dismayed to learn that the men met, and later those with whom they were training had little belief that they could even pilot an airplane and openly hoped they would fail.

Byrd was eighteen when she joined that cadre of dedicated young women. Bi-weekly tests assured a girl's place at the school, however if performances were not up to standard, then the girls washed out to be sent home. Byrd and her friends loved the exhilaration of flying and were determined that no matter what; their squad would make the grade.

Nothing would be allowed to come between them and their determination. Before their graduation the girls learned that it would take supreme effort to remain focused as they faced one event and then another which might, and one did, cause other girls to simply give up.

Writer Moberg's novel, is filled with complex characters, a richly detailed landscape and plenty of action. Although Skies Over Sweetwater is a fictionalized account dedicated to the upper middle grade to high school reader it is also a stirring read for booklovers of all ages. Each of the characters is appealing, believable and down to earth. The main characters

are people with warts and foibles, fears and hopes, the secondary characters fill in the gaps. These are girls you feel as though you know. Skies Over Sweetwater presents a dandy method for learning a bit about an all but forgotten component of our history.

The elite Women's Air Force Service Pilots training program at Avenger Field in Texas found young women from many backgrounds offering their service to the war effort. Writer Moberg adds day to day details to help readers gain a better understanding of the time; from Victory Gardens to eyebrow pencil lines drawn on the backs of the girls' legs to emulate the wearing of rationed, all but impossible to get, nylon stockings to butter rations Moberg fleshes her text.

And, as the war came to a close, their planes were sent to other bases, and the young women all paid for their own tickets home where they rejoined their communities.

NOTE: Those women comprising the WASP were not recognized as veterans until President Carter signed a bill into legislation in 1977 granting veterans status to the brave women who had freed male pilots to fight in the war zone while they served their country at home. Fictionalized work, excellent read, well written, happy to recommend.

Osborne Russell's Journal of a Trapper and maps of his travels in the Rocky Mountains
Aubrey Haines, Editor
University of Nebraska Press
Bison Book reprint edition
9780803251663 $14.95

Trappers were the first to blaze a trail across the wild frontier west of the Mississippi. Osborne Russell's Journal of a Trapper edited by Aubrey L Haines is a first-person must have account for fur trade enthusiasts whether those who read of the era or those who re-enact.

Russell's first hand comments, descriptions and discourse concerning the time, the topography, the wildlife and life in general provide a peek into the area we know as Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Oregon long before settlement took place by the pioneers. Russell's book provides much information regarding many of the events in the Rockies during this time. Russell was a discriminating observer who was careful to mention distances, directions, who he was with and names of physical locations, as well as animals, topography and the like in his writing. He describes other fur traders, including some of the 'big' names we know from history, as well as providing description of many Native People in the area; particularly Snake also known as the Shoshones, the Blackfeet and Crow.

The hardships faced by the first whites into the country far from the –civilized- East Coast is documented, as Russell provides insight into the Native people already living in the area, and the mountain men who made their way to the Rockies.

Russell lived the time of the 1830s and 40s as a fur trapper/trader in the Rocky Mountains he set down a journal to record his thoughts, impressions and what he saw, in doing so he has provided a realistic depiction for those who have interest, but no first hand knowledge. He was not one of the lauded of history, rather he was a simple man, who described in detail the day to day life, survival, excitement and events of the time.

Joining an expedition heading into the Mountains during the mid-1800's acquired the skills essential for survival in the mountains, and kept his journal recounting the last days of the beaver trapping era of the Mountain Men who have appeared in movies, stories and books.

Rather than the romanticizing of events as is prone in Hollywooded up movies Russell listed the typical commonplace tasks of cooking, cleaning, and other camp chores which all Mountain Men performed while on trapping expeditions and in doing so he offers true insight into what it was that made these men leave the comfort and safety offered in the towns and homes of the Eastern Coastline to tramp out into untried, little known areas where privations were many and ease was hard to come by. He told of laying traps and hunting for game, of scouting the country, and problems that came from weather and terrain, and he described the rendezvous which was the highlight of the fur trapper year as men carried their furs to be traded or sold, re-supplied their food stores, enjoyed the company of others for a short time before returning to the mountains. Russell himself attended six rendezvous before he left the mountains for good.

He told of the travels and the exhilarating episodes of the life experienced by the fur trappers. Trapping for beaver in the Northern Rockies between 1834-1943 Osborne took part in a number of expeditions in addition to battles with the Blackfeet who were less than thrilled to find the white men on their hunting grounds.

Editor Haines has set down the routes of travel taken by Russell as 10 maps in addition to adding clarifying notes to his account. The maps are scattered throughout the text. Without chapter or paragraph divisions to aid the reader the journal is set down pretty much as a man might do in his own journal.

At times it takes a little digging to figure exactly where or when an event is taking place. On the other hand, a true devotee of the era should have no trouble muddling through, as is done when reading the originals of many of the old journals of the time. Leaving the journal pretty much intact in the newer edition provides the reader a better feel for the man and his writing than might be accomplished were the text –cleaned up- with modern paragraph breaks and the like.

The landscape of the area changed so much during the decade Osborne describes. Disease, in particular small pox, alcohol, and loss of lifestyle are the depressing legacy left for the Native People. Reading of the decline of populations of Native Americans, beaver in particular, but all fur bearing critters and the near disappearance of buffalo leads the reader on to the last journal entries as the reader follows Osborne. He grimly describes the plunge in buffalo populations and the approaching finish of the fur quest as beaver populations dwindled, the European desire for the fur declined and other furbearers were becoming more profitable.

Born in Maine in 1814, Osborne Russell left home at sixteen, and became a fur trapper when he was seventeen. He spent eight years as a trapper working for several of the big fur companies before becoming an independent trapper working out of Fort Hall on the Snake River. Opportunely for us, when Osborne first went to the mountains with Nathaniel Wyeth's expedition in 1834 at age twenty, he began keeping his journal.

After leaving the mountains in 1843 to settle in the Willamette Valley in Oregon Osborne used his journal to compile a manuscript for publication. From that manuscript the present book has been built. Osborne wrote in the fashion of the day, despite Samuel Johnson's 1755 dictionary; spelling rules had not yet been standardized as hard and fast, and writers often used a variety of spelling in the same text. Osborne had a tendency to run sentences together and to present unusual language usage, plus, Osborne as journalists then and now tended to abbreviate and use his own form of shorthand, all of which editor Aubrey Haines has kept in this text. Reader's quickly gets used to it Osborne's style and his style is what makes the text such interesting reading.

Working from the original handwritten manuscript housed in The William Robertson Coe Collection of Western Americana at Yale University, Aubrey Haines' edition represents one man's enormous effort for getting Osborne's work to the people. For a step back to life as it was before the Interstate, McDonalds, shopping malls, and rockets in space, Osborne Russell's Journal of a Trapper can carry the reader to the open clear sky of the Rocky Mountains and to the camp of the fur traders who were an important component of our collective history. Excellent read, excellent resource, Happy to recommend.

The Fine Print of Self Publishing: The Contracts & Services of 45 Self-Publishing Companies Analyzed, 3rd edition
Mark Levine
Bascom Hill Publishing Group
9780980245578 $17.95

Mark Levine has written a work devoted to the growing number of Self Publishing book publishers. The Fine Print of Self Publishing: The Contracts & Services of 45 Self-Publishing Companies-Analyzed Ranked & Exposed is presented as an aid to those writers who may be considering using one of the Self Publishing book publishers rather than languishing while waiting for a major publisher to notice their work.

Levine points out in his Introduction 'the publishing world is changing, thanks to advances in digital printing and the Internet, new authors are realizing they don't really need traditional publishers.'

From presenting advice on how to make your own big break in Chapter 1 in which he explains that whether a new, unknown author decides to self publish, or is so fortunate as to be offered a contract from one of the major publishers, readers discover the author is likely the one who will be doing most if not all marketing of the finished product.

And, Levine points out that should the book actually do well, sell many copies, become well accepted, and appear on a best seller list; then the large publisher will take most of the credit and most of the profit leaving the writer with perhaps 10% royalties at best. Levine says bluntly, 'If you believe in your book, then publish it.'

As a reviewer I frequently receive a query from a writer who hesitantly tells me that they are self pubbed and will understand if I choose not to read or review. I point out that Hemingway, Twain and Dickens all self published their work at some time in their careers.

Chapter 2 details why the hopeful writer needs to read this book: one big idea offered by Levine is that by reading The Fine Print of Self Publishing authors will discover what is needed to avoid many of the pitfalls which may be waiting if Self Publishing is the method used for getting the manuscript into print. That is valuable information.

I found Chapter 3 to be especially interesting. Levine details what he views as nine qualities of a good Self Publishing Company. Some of the qualities he lists includes: a good reputation among writers, fair publishing fees, low printing costs, ISBN as part of the basic package. Levine goes on to explain fully what he means regarding each of the qualities he feels are essential.

Chapters 4 and 5 are filled with a good bit of information regarding publishing contracts and how to understand the fine print of various publisher contracts and service.

Chapters 6 – 9 then list a number of publishers in categories ranging from excellent Self Publishing Companies to the Publishers to Avoid. The various publishers listed in each category are detailed as to what is good, bad or just plain outrageous regarding fees, what to expect and the books themselves plus much more valuable information which will serve to help the writer get a book printed and hopefully launch a career as a writer.

Levine rounds out the book in the conclusion in which he discusses marketing the book and making it sell; he makes no bones about the fact that for every book printed there are many which are little known, little read. "There is no guarantee that if a book is published it will sell. Writers must be ready to get out and market their work." Levine points out that one big help to writers today is the Internet itself, and he explains how he himself uses the Internet to his advantage to sell his books.

I enjoyed reading The Fine Print of Self Publishing, the book is filled with many helpful suggestions, hints and ideas for writers who may have decided to Self Publish, but have no idea regarding how to go about locating a publisher. Publishing a book yourself can be very expensive, The Fine Print of Self Publishing provides information regarding a number of the best known names in the business, those who are reputable, and those who while not totally dishonest are going to do little more than publish the work and wait for the author to get it sold, or not.

Because I review I am often asked about Self Publishing, whether or not I know anything about one or another of the various publishers. So, I sent off two manuscripts; one each to the two about which I am most often queried, and which happen to be in the list of to avoid. Both companies were pleasant to work with, in due time I received my package copies, I am not a marketer, neither publisher did much to provide any marketing and on a rare occasion someone actually buys one or the other of the books.

If I should get the yen to self publish another work I'll check Writer Levine's The Fine Print of Self Publishing: The Contracts & Services of 45 Self-Publishing Companies-Analyzed Ranked & Exposed to find a publisher who may charge a bit more, but with whom I may have more success in seeing the books actually moved into the hands of readers.

Filled with information about how to go about locating a publisher and what to expect; The Fine Print of Self Publishing is reader friendly, detailed and filled with valuable information which can help direct a hopeful author to the perfect, for him/her, Self Publishing house. Levine's writing style is very readable, he guides the reader into an understanding regarding which of the well known houses are perhaps not the best and lists exactly why in an instructive manner that is not preachy or authoritarian. He also lists which of the houses may be the best, and again lists exactly why. Enjoyed the read. Happy to recommend.

The Bunko Babes
Leah Starr Baker
Emerald Pointe
2761 E Skelly Dr, Tulsa, OK 74105
9780978513757 $14.99

It is May 2006, 6:16 PM, Thursday. Hurrying around the house; the speaker is preparing for a weekly Bunko night.

Becca and Thomas have been married for fifteen years. They are parents of thirteen year old twins, Robert and Brooklyn. Thirty-seven year old Rebecca –Becca- Thornton is a move it, hide it but not inevitably a clean it up type housekeeper.

The author says in her opening: The game of Bunko isn't necessarily about dice and door prizes. Rather it is about fun, food, and fellowship, and the taking time out of our unbelievably busy lives to come together, once a week or once a month, to reconnect with our community of friends.

When this particular Bunko crowd begins to appear at Becca and Thomas' home we get together with several of Oklahoma inhabitant Becca Thornton's acquaintances. There is Becca's best friend Jessica Goldstein and calamari toting, Prada clothed Madison Monroe. Jessica's newlywed, pregnant, half sister Kathleen Stone, nicknamed Kitty Kat is among the group as is left over flower child Autumn Levitt, mother of eight who homeschools and is into organic foods, home birth and homeopathic foods. R. N. Karen Jones who works at St Francis Hospital, Mercedes Wallace from Argentina, and newest member of the group Michelle Black round out the members of the Bunko group.

The narrative moves the reader into the talk and foodstuff that accompanies a Bunko evening, and proceeds into the heart ache felt by one woman who has discovered she will not ever be able to have children. The reader is brought face to face with the dread another woman must face during a life threatening medical problem. Camping trips, teen angst, toilet training, recipe ideas, these women face the many of the issues as do most wives and mothers.

As does many women, Becca Thornton loves her husband and children nevertheless she craves some time with women friends as well. It was with the assistance of three close friends, that Becca begins the weekly Bunko group. The women thought the group would present some enjoyable visiting, and talking time.

The women little realized at the start that they would eventually come to depend upon one another in more depth than they any of them had ever realized. The women come to depend upon each other to find the power and faith they require to face calamity and upsets in their lives.

Set in Tulsa, Oklahoma, The Bunko Babes is Christian fiction based on the first person reflections of wife, mother, friend, Becca Thornton. Well developed characters are nicely fleshed, have all the foibles, idiosyncrasy, shortcomings and faults as do we all. Becca is abruptly taken aback to be told that her recently widowed mother, plans to remarry. Kids perform as kids pretty much do everywhere. Marriage, hidden secrets, unfaithfulness, infirmity, pregnancy, battles of faith, in addition to wellbeing, divorce, betrayal, tears and laughter along with the speaker's own bond with God are all part of the book as they are part of life itself.

To some extent, I found The Bunko Babes to be a most out of the ordinary read simply because I live not far from Tulsa, the setting for the tale and know many of the places, mentioned in the narrative. Grand Lake where I used to live, Zios where we have enjoyed many a meal and St Francis Hospital where a relative is employed brings the story to life in a special way to me.

I enjoyed reading of these fictional, true to life women. Their at time giggly madness, faith, vigor and pulling together when needed are all part of long and considerate relationship that can grow between people having dissimilar interest but who share companionship despite the differences.

While not a deep thought provoking exposition The Bunko Babes is a good book for a summer after noon spent on the front porch sipping sweet tea, reading and enjoying summer in the South or for reading before a roaring fire as the wind howls and the reader enjoys a nice cup of tea while reading a compelling, well written work.

Happy to recommend.

Confederate Arkansas: The People and Policies of a Frontier State in Wartime
Michael B. Dougan
University of Alabama Press
Box 870380, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0380
9780817305222 $24.95

Biblical passages scattered throughout the work may put some readers off. On the other hand, Becca and her friends are women to whom belief and faith come as easily as does water from the tap, plus, Biblical reference is often part of the South conversation.

Today the word Confederate or The Confederacy has come to presume slavery and ill-treatment of many at the hands of all who served in the Confederate Army. Writer Dougan's Confederate Arkansas: The People and Policies of a Frontier State in Wartime quickly puts to rest that misconception.

The state of Arkansas joined the Confederacy on 6 May 1861. This was an area having of four specific and differing types of citizenry. The mountaineers were folk eking out a continued existence in the hills and so called –hollers- as my Arkie grandmother called them. Yeoman farmers were established on the better-quality farm land; in general slave owning plantations were found in productive bottom land located along the Red, White, Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers. Swamp dwellers and so called poor white trash as well as hunters were found living along the periphery of the plantation economy.

The sectional antagonism which was widespread in other areas of the South was as lively and flourishing in pre war Arkansas. A paucity of transportation kept the economy at survival level in northwest Arkansas.

Even when traversable; river travel was often perilous. Transportation during the seminal years of our nation was always dependent upon rivers. Other than a few oblique pathways, generally unpaved, found in and near towns and villages; there were few roads in those days. Those of us who enjoy genealogy learn quickly to trace the route of rivers for location of our ancestors.

1835, the juncture when Arkansas sought admittance into the Union, was also a time of difference as well as a strength of mind for white manhood suffrage in the area as the political minded railed against the planters who wanted slaves counted under a 3/5s rule. An appeasement was finally worked out, the state constitution was set, and the yeoman class was given control of the lower house and the wealthy planters the upper in the Arkansas state congress.

Fractional political views persisted as the new state moved into the 1860s. A swelling population brought new occupants to the district. These were most often folks who anticipated roads, schools, railroads, and levees to restrain the swamp areas. The newcomers were mostly apathetic to old political powers, thoughts or obligations; these new emigrants were a force with which to reckon. In due course the die was cast; Elias Boudino, editor of the Fayetteville Arkansian and brother to Cherokee Chief, Stand Watie, who would become the only Native American to reach the rank of General in the CSA helped draw up the secession order.

Confederate Arkansas: The People and Policies of a Frontier State in Wartime is a compelling read as it fills an old breach in state history dealing with the period of The War in the western frontier. Arkansas was an important member of the Confederate Trans Mississippi district.

Arkansas, as well as other Confederate states, or areas sympathetic to the Confederacy did have pockets or even wide spread areas of plantation living and large holdings of slaves. Arkansas as well as other Confederate states, or areas sympathetic to the Confederacy also had wide spread areas of non plantation living or large holdings of slaves. That there would be conflict between the two was predictable and understandable.

With the advent of war further east and south; men in plantation areas, and non plantation areas, flocked to join the Confederate States Army. History has long forgotten or simply ignored that the poor, white trash, yeoman farmers and hunters were not fighting to make powerful the plantation owners nor were they fighting to encourage slave ownership.

My own Confederate ancestors and relatives, hard scrabble, independent mountain farmers who owned no slaves, or plantations; fought FOR Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, N. Carolina, and Mississippi. For a Southerner WHERE you are born is WHERE your allegiance lies, true then, true now.

Michael Dougan, professor of history emeritus at Arkansas State University at Jonesboro, undertook abundant research including diaries, official military reports, newspaper articles, letters, personal reminiscences, legal documents, and songs prior to writing the report he intended to make available a full picture of the political situation in Arkansas just prior to the war.

On the pages of Confederate Arkansas: The People and Policies of a Frontier State in Wartime Author Dougan sets the stage for the Arkansas' entry into the war despite the fact that only one third of the population supported secession.

Confederate Arkansas: The People and Policies of a Frontier State in Wartime examines the politics at play in the region in front of sectional catastrophes threatened to destroy the community. The election of 1860 that in Arkansas and in the Union – the period from November 1860 to March 1861, Secession, The First Year of the War, The Second Year of the War, Wartime Conditions, and The War's End are all related in forthright, austere realism based in the fact of the time, place and research.

During the early months of 1861 Arkansas was in a situation of furor. Regrettably for Arkansas the area was reduced in importance to a trifling role in the tactical thinking of leaders of the Confederacy. Innumerable citizens living in Arkansas were convinced that the rabid abolitionist, James Lane of Kansas, had a unending determination to invade Arkansas.

Along the western border between Arkansas and Indian Territory the state of affairs was worrisome, the Native People were enmeshed in as many fractional differences as were found in Arkansas. Blood shed, killing and despair were widespread.

The assault upon Ft Sumter solidified the mixed feelings of those who had harbored less than full strength of mind to serve with the Confederacy. Arkansas sent numerous units into the burgeoning conflict.

A seething storm developed around the choice of Gen'l TC Hindman to command Arkansas which was secured for him by Senator Johnson through Gen'l Beauregard. On the day Hindman received his orders; Richmond assigned Gen'l JB Magruder to the same command.

The domestic strife over who was in charge of the area continued for months. Of much importance was Hindman's Order Number 17 which gave standing to the partisan groups fighting for the South. Guerrilla warfare was officially recognized, and remains an indispensable element of the military even today.

Then and now the –special forces- were, and are, looked upon as unfocused and poorly disciplined. Col Quantrill, Gen'l 'Little Joe Shelby' and many other colorful names were all true partisan leaders who live on in history despite revisionist mentality and Hollywood versions so prevalent today.

In an article found in the 12 August 2007 Arkansas Democrat Gazette Dougan wrote of the teaching of history: -Teaching Arkansas history is not the same as brainwashing; like any intellectual discipline it has to be grounded in historical reality. Our rich and colorful past, which includes one of the most controversial presidents in modern American history, must not be shoved out of the way or trivialized.

Understanding Arkansas is a lesson that begins at the local community, reaches out to encompass the entire state and forms the basis for understanding American and global history. The first rule when recording history is honesty: Communities have to confront their histories, overcome the negative legacies of the past and set agendas based on their strengths that will carry them forward.

Second, honesty is not possible without knowledge. He articulates exactly my own feelings regarding history, it is what it is, copious research to gather perspective from many of those who lived through the era helps put everything into historical order; then, write and teach history from the result of research and let the chips fall as they may.

Confederate Arkansas: The People and Policies of a Frontier State in Wartime was awarded the prestigious Mrs. Simon Baruch University Award of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1972. Michael B. Dougan presents the reader with an excellent look, based in research, at Arkansas' political situation before, during, and after the war.

Excellent work for true students of history, those who reenact or those who want to know more of the time and place. Happy to recommend.

Success is a Team Effort
Dr. Charles Dygert
Moo Press
PO Box 54 Warwick, NY 10990
9780979237133 $10.00

Presented in less than 100 pages Success is a Team Effort is Dr Charles Dygert's endeavor to offer workable answers to questions on the subject of why people lose their natural born originality, what research discloses about beta endorphins and encouraging environments as well as whether tension can actually or at times be a positive influence.

The author contrasts joint effort as used in Japan and the former Soviet Union, advocates methods for moving from traditionalism to opportunity, and presents some illustrations regarding the cause of non-cooperative thinking.

Working in a team environment is a given whether we are leading a group of students at school, gaining the support of children or siblings in the home, joining forces with coworkers, or working with volunteers in a nonprofit or other groups.

Recently Dr. Dygert was queried about what he judged to be the most imperative components of a winning organization. The question came subsequent to Dygert's presentation of a seminar to a national trade association. Writer Dygert reveals he did not have to ponder the question long before answering: 'teamwork and cooperation.'

One immense roadblock per Dr Writer Dygert; too often, the management approach used is dictatorial or repressive or diverse members of the team spend more time haranguing and following personal schemas rather than centering their effort on the tasks to be done.

In many work situations unit leaders and department managers fight against one another for perks or bonuses while lower staff members come to recognize that not speaking out is a lot easier, less nerve-racking, and perhaps even less likely to effect termination, with the result being, lower quality customer services are provided, poor quality products are being generated or cutting corners and less company commitment becomes the norm.

Directors and leaders who want to comprehend the power working behind the scenes and desire to learn ways to promote better team cohesiveness will discover much to think about as they read Success is a Team Effort.

Success is a Team Effort can provide assistance for learning how to distinguish pitfalls including recognizing the signs of in-house disputation and dogmatic administration techniques and methods. The reader will be shown the tools needed for understanding how resolving such issues can lead to more individual and organizational success for the association.

Success is a Team Effort gets right to the core to put forward to leaders the tools needed to obtain results. On the pages of this exemplary guide for leading a diverse assortment of people toward working together in a team effort readers will find that collaboration is not downgraded only to the work place.

The modus operandi and processes taught on the pages of Success is a Team Effort are intended to give support to leaders whether at school, home or in the workplace; anywhere where groups can be found and the need to work together effectively is required.

Writer Dygert steers the reader little by little from beginning to end of the progression. The reader will become skilled at how to go about building their team through using the seven intelligences of keeping democracy working, recognizing the miracle of shared goals, seeing beyond competition, recognizing the inside team, understanding that everyone is important and is a part of the whole, developing a secret strategy for success, realizing the value of –we- and entering into a new environment of participative work culture.

Success is a Team Effort is a small, powerful work designed for facilitating leaders toward finding their natural born ingenuity and then guiding them to make the move from oppressive management styles to a more democratic environment which inevitably leads to renovation into a participative, more productive, work culture. Happy to recommend.

Falling Under
Danielle Younge Ullman
Plume - Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street New York, NY 10014
9780452289659 $14.00

Falling Under opens with a small child, Christmas and melancholy. Ask Santa for a new bike, and you might get it. You might also face yelling, and Daddy might leave on Christmas yelling that he is not coming back until Mommy calls and begs him to come home. He has already stomped away and she has already called and begged him to come back four times now.

And this time when Daddy leaves you know that there is no Santa and Daddy
is not coming back.

Mara turns to Erik when all else fails. Mara's love/hate relationship with the emotionally damaged Erik, her sometime lover, who Mara sees only when she feels like she's on the edge of an abyss, is at once gratifying and non rewarding. And, once again, as the narrative begins; all else has failed.

The account moves forward quickly swinging back and forth between Mara the child who is facing life in a less than satisfying one parent home and the adult Mara, now Mara an artist, who despite talent, hopes and flair; goes on to face life living with the result of parents' enormous inability to acquit themselves as adults.

Writer Younge-Ullman's masterful writing pulls the reader straight into the often dismal, poignant, extreme and ardent life of Mara, who as an adult maintains her fighting of the debilitating issues instigated by the trauma she experienced from being raised by warring, angry parents who put themselves and their feelings, dreams and wants before that of their child.

The house divided in which Mara Foster grew up following her parents acrimonious divorce became more than Mara could face living with her mother. Ultimately her mother sent Mara to live with her father where teen aged Mara who loves both her parents faces the stress caused by a father who spent more time in jail than he did working because he spent more time drunk than not.

The narrative opens with a touching scene of a child facing the end of life as she knew it to fast forward to the grown up Mara is now. She is an artist who works from home because she cannot often face leaving the security of her home. Her friends include Bernadette her best friend, her agent and Erik, Lucas, Caleb, Hugo, and the men to whom she offers her body in the search to prove her worth.

Writer Writer Younge-Ullman is a first rate story teller. Her account moves easily between the present and past. We read as young Mara matures to learn more of what has really caused her to become caught up in the small world she has made for herself, and exactly why she is finds herself powerless to face life in a more customary manner.

Younge-Ullman has keenly captured the wounding, perfidy, torment and at time utter hopelessness felt by Mara. The character portrayals as well as the at times raw, gritty verbal exchanges of Mara's dysfunctional family and her subsequent relationships are often difficult and disquieting. Reading how Mara uses her body to gratify others and rebuke herself makes for difficult reading at times. As a teacher, there are times that I see the result of teens, and younger, who find little in their own dysfunctional home lives to support or hearten themselves and see them begin to move in this direction while I too often find myself powerless to do little but watch.

It is when Mara meets a man she hopes she can love and will love her that her two stories, her past and her present smash together and the reader discovers the full tale behind Mara's powerlessness to accept herself, to love or to let herself be loved.

Falling Under is dismal in places, however it is not all gloom and drear. There are moments of funny, hilarious and hopeful as Mara moves through her life.

One scene in particular brought a chuckle as I read, Bernadette has insisted Mara come with her to one of her causes. The pair end up in a watering hole where Bernadette spots a former lover, commands, flirt with me and Mara proceeds to attempt to do so only to learn that she has flirted with Bernadette not when the former lover approached, but when the new interest Bernadette hoped to cultivate stopped to visit. Mara's character is complex. Her sadness is deep, palpable and understandable, her hopes are no less deep, palpable or understandable.

Best friend Bernadette is a superbly out of the ordinary character with her gender issues, her lifestyle, and her issues and causes. The men Mara knows are filled with their own issues, problems and angst.

The ending leaves the reader wanting more, is both settling and unsettling and is perfect for this tale.

Not for everyone, sexual scenes while integral to the plot will bother some readers. Excellent book for a book club group, therapists shelf or for those who simply want to read a well written work meant to cause the reader to pause and think. Happy to recommend.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Paul's Bookshelf

Dennis Dufour
Trafford Publishing
2657 Wilfert Road, Victoria, BC, V9B 5Z3, CANADA
9781425132491 $13.00

Gabe Boudreau, a New York investigator, is called in to a crime scene with plenty of blood, but no bodies. He realizes that this will be an unusual case, but he has no idea how unusual it will be. At the same time, he is still in love with Renee, who rejected his marriage proposal and moved to New Orleans. Jake, his friend, tries to set him up with a local lady bartender, but Gabe is not interested.

Suddenly, the media is full of reports of people attacking each other like animals. The only way these zombies can be stopped is with a bullet in the head, and the sickness (actually an American bioweapon that got out of the lab) is spread with a bite.

Gabe decides that he is going to New Orleans, and take Renee somewhere safe, no matter what; Jake goes with him. Along the way, they meet Luccia, a Peruvian singer who is attacked by one of them in the middle of a concert. Dr. Lieberman is the scientist who developed the bioweapon. Trying to break through a military cordon, the group is arrested, and handed over to a corrupt lieutenant named Delgado. All women are taken to another room to be gang-raped by the soldiers. Gabe prevents Delgado from doing it to Luccia, and the group escapes, heading south.

The group is at a New Orleans boat dock, about to board a boat for a safe island off the coast (Dr. Lieberman gave them the coordinates just before he died). The dock entrance is blocked by a couple of school buses. Delgado, who has followed them from New York, and is obsessed with hurting Gabe as much as possible, intentionally moves the buses away, to make it easier for the zombies to attack. Gabe finally finds Renee, though not under the circumstances for which he had hoped.

This is more than just a really good zombie novel. It's a story of love and friendship and obsession. It's a very short novel, and it is very much recommended.

As Fate Decrees
Denyse Bridger
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary, AB T2P 2L7, CANADA
9781894063418 $15.95

In Ancient Greece, a woman named Amarantha finds herself as the next item up for sale in the Athens slave market. She is bought by a mysterious stranger who refuses to identify himself. He trains her as a warrior, and makes it clear to Amarantha that disobedience is a really bad idea. After her skills have been perfected, the stranger reveals himself as Ares, the god of war, and son of Zeus. She has been trained to be Champion of the gods of Olympus, to vanquish evil forever, until the gods say otherwise.

Sent into the world as a kind of traveling warrior, Amarantha runs into Iphicles, now King of Corinth. The two were very good friends, almost lovers, when they were younger. She stays for a while as one of his advisors, to the whispers of nearly everyone that their relationship is not exactly platonic.

While in another city also ruled by Iphicles that has been badly damaged by bandits, Ares tells Amarantha that Iphicles must return to Corinth, now. She can't tell Iphicles how she knows this, but when he finally listens to her and returns to Corinth, with Amarantha as part of the procession, the city has been decimated. There are many deaths, including Iphicles' queen.

Switching suddenly to present day Athens, Amarantha finds herself in the body of archaeologist Alexandra Christophi. This is not the first time that Ares has sent her elsewhere in time. This time, the enemy is a shadowy terrorist organization that has been bombing religious sites all over the world, including Macchu Picchu, the Vatican and all the religious sites in Athens. The object is to destroy all other gods and bring about the coming of The One True God. The gods of Olympus understand that their fate hangs in the balance. In the final battle, Amarantha/Alexandra is severely injured. Will the gods grant her the peace she seeks?

Here is a first-rate piece of writing. It's very readable, the characters are well done, and it is an interesting look inside Greek mythology. This gets two thumbs up.

Looking Glass Portal
Larriane Wills
Swimming Kangaroo Books
1907 Green Apple Lane, Arlington, TX 76014
9781934041185 $17.99

Garrett is your quintessential modern-day cowboy loner. He has spent the last 12 years cutting ties with everyone in his life, including his ex-wife and daughter. He is in constant physical pain, due to a non-removable piece of glass stuck in his spine; Garrett has saved a bullet for the day he is paralyzed.

One day, while out on the range fixing fences, Garrett is attacked, and shot, by a being that looks like a pig on two feet. Next thing he knows, he is in a gray, featureless room, being attended to by a giant bumblebee called a yantz. It sprays an organic substance on Garrett to replace the flesh and bone destroyed by the upright pig. He finds himself, along with his horse, on a Thornn research vessel, one of many hunters from civilizations all over the galaxy. The other hunters want a piece of Garrett, the sooner the better, but the yantz bandages constitute a very effective Do Not Touch sign. Those who ignore the sign are swiftly dealt with by the yantz. Garrett is more than ready to do battle with the other hunters, once the bandages come off.

Among the hunters is Freet, a humanoid who looks, and talks, like a stereotypical Native American. The two are not friends by any means, but they manage to get along, with help from translator earpieces, which both are reluctant to wear. Included in the array of animals on the ship is the glemm, a large spider that can understand Garrett and sometimes takes his words a little too seriously. A couple of times, the animal cages get opened, forcing Garrett, Freet and some of the other hunters to hustle the animals (ranging from small and harmless to big and ornery) back to their cages. At the end, Garrett learns that his estranged daughter is physically a lot closer to him than he thinks.

This very interesting story belongs somewhere in that large gray area of Pretty Good or Worth Reading.

We Need Madmen
Sam Smith
Skrev Press
41 Manore Drive, Hebden Bridge, HX7 8DW, UNITED KINGDOM
9781904646457 $18.99

This story takes place in a near-future Europe that has recently gotten over a new war, caused by a man named Soper.

It came about because of the newest attempt to purge Europe of "undesirables," like welfare spongers, slackers and social benefit scroungers. The generally accepted myth in Europe is that minority migrant workers are the culprits. In France, the problem is with the Algerians; in Britain, it's the Blacks and Asians; in Denmark, it's the Cypriots. All of them went to the Camps. They no longer try to hide them with names like Internment Camps or Re-education Camps; they're just Camps.

Henry is your average petty thief who spent time in the Camps. Now that he's out, he goes back to his old ways, and hides the Camp tattoo on the back of his hand as much as possible. One day, Henry decides to become a serial killer, targeting members of the Soper regime. There is no blinding flash of inspiration, or sudden righteous anger to go along with it. Henry patiently and methodically cross-references phone book addresses with newspaper articles and tax records. His target is not the high-level members of the regime, but the low-level clerks and prison guards, those who were simply "doing their job."

In a last-ditch effort, Soper launched Europe's nuclear missiles to all parts of the globe. The world had gotten together to oppose him, so space-based lasers took care of the missiles. After Soper was gone for good, the rest of the world, led by America and Russia, decided that building weapons against each other was no longer necessary. It took six months for the world to disarm, and not much longer for a World Constitution to be established.

This is a short book that says a lot. I would have preferred a bit more background into Soper and the Camps, but this is still a gem of a story.

Petrified World
Piotr Brynczka
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary, AB T2P 2L7, CANADA

Do you remember those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books from the 1980s? Well, they're back.

You, the reader, are in a present-day airplane, traveling over Tibet after a trip to China. Suddenly, the plane develops engine trouble and crashes in the mountains. You are thrown from the plane and knocked unconscious. A group of Tibetan monks find you and nurse you back to health in their lamasery. After a month-long coma, you wake with total amnesia. The monks let you stay and regain your memory, along with learning the mystical arts of the East, at which you become very proficient. After nine years of training and living with the monks, it is time for you to head home. One night, after you are back home, the head monk appears to you with an important mission.

The peaceful land of Zaar is being ravaged by an evil sorcerer named Darkblade. He plans to become absolute ruler of Zaar, then go on to other lands and other worlds. With help from an evil potion called Black Death, Darkblade has gained a number of magical powers, among them, the ability to hypnotize anyone just by looking at them. Your mission is to capture Darkblade alive (killing him is not an option) and bring him to a druid named Keinu, so that all knowledge of Black Death can be erased from his mind, and he can be turned back into a druid named Rekken. Then you must take him to the Tibetan lamasery, where he will spend the rest of his days. Naturally, Darkblade knows you are coming, and has put many obstacles in your path, including rock monsters and ice slides that are so long that the unlucky traveler will starve to death before reaching the end.

For younger readers, it is very much recommended, and will certainly keep them interested. It's very good for older readers, too.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Priya's Bookshelf

The Book of Chameleons
Jose Eduardo Agualusa, author
Daniel Hahn, translator
Simon & Schuster
9781416573517 $12.00

How are personal histories made? What exactly are memories made of? The Book of Chameleons (original Portuguese title O vendedor de passados) by Portuguese author Jose Eduardo Agualusa explores these fundamental questions. The protagonist of this book, an Angolan albino called Felix Ventura, is a vendor of pasts. For a fee, he will concoct a history for you, as complicated and detailed as you want it to be, provide you with adequate documentation such as birth certificates, family tree, even photographs and similar. In his home resides the narrator of this tale – a gecko named Eulalio, so christened by Ventura because his words are so pleasant to the ear.

Ventura's client Jose Buchmann brings things to a head when he takes his fake past a little too seriously. A photojournalist, he traces the history of his fake parents, and sets out to visit and photograph his so-called birthplace. At Ventura's home, he runs into Angela Lucia, a fellow photojournalist and professional nomad who roams the world photographing light. The connections between the characters become clear through a surprise twist in the end.

The book is enlivened by gecko's perspective. He and Ventura dream individually but the stuff of their dreams is the same in content, and thus the two main characters communicate with one another. The gecko's knowledge transcends this life into his past incarnation as a mama's boy. In this book of fake and creatable pasts, Eulalio's is the memory that is deepest.

The book is not without its flaws. The gecko/first person narrative leads to a few stilted sentences, since the writer has to explain how a gecko comes across this knowledge, but these are few and far between. The prose reads like poetry and the free flow of the writer's style causes the pacing to suffer at times.

However the book also works on several levels – as a mystery/thriller, as a meditation on spirituality, as a satirical commentary on how money can buy anything – including a past. An interview with Agualusa at the end of the book reveals several interesting tidbits. The book is set at a point in Angolan history soon after the country gained its independence from its Portuguese rulers. A new class of nouveau riche came into power, and with this new wealth came a craving for new histories as well. The author mentions that he has based the gecko character on Jose Luis Borges.

We live in times of relentless and Google-able documentation, and hence poor memory may no longer be an acceptable excuse. As I write this, China's doctoring of a gymnast's date of birth is being unearthed via Googling, and a Bigfoot hoax was revealed after several incriminating videos were found on Youtube. But this tale shows us how imprecise histories can be and why it might sometimes even be necessary to have a certain fluidity to memories, histories and life in general.

Brother, I'm Dying
Edwidge Danticat
9781400041152 $23.95

Edwidge Danticat has made a name for herself chronicling the lives of Haitian immigrants in the States as well as in the home country. In this autobiographical book, she writes eloquently of her own life. In 2004, she finds out she is pregnant while at the same time she gets the news that her father Andre is dying of cancer. Danticat's parents emigrated to the US on their own initially, leaving Edwidge and her younger brother in the care of Andre's brother Joseph and his wife. Danticat thus has deep and enduring ties to two sets of parents. During the duration of her pregnancy, her uncle is fighting his own battles in Haiti, targeted by the regime for his outspokenness as a pastor.

On hearing of his brother's illness, Joseph Dantica travels to United States, only to be held at the point of entry in the States when he innocently and honestly lets the immigration officials know that he requests political asylum. In post 9/11 America, anyone and everyone with a less than stellar past is fair game, and Joseph becomes a victim of the heightened security situation in the States.

The author weaves her life story beautifully with those of her father and uncle - one in which birth and death, loss and gain, the personal and the political intertwine. If immigration is one of the compelling narratives of the 20th century, this book shows us the human costs of that narrative.

Priya Ramachandran

Richard's Bookshelf

Rocky the Lighthouse Makes a Difference
Jeffrey Noel
Robert D. Reed Publishers
PO Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
9781931741934 $14.95

Standing True in Rocky Times

Children, ages 4 – 8, will love Jeffrey Noel's colorful illustrations and his heartwarming story of Rocky the Lighthouse. Rocky learned an important lesson about letting his light shine in times of adversity and difficulty.

Happy and smiling, Rocky enjoyed visiting with friends. Fish, mussels, tourists, seamen, starfish, and the stars were all his friends. Rocky felt important in his role as protector of travelers and as the light of the sea coast.

Rocky was shattered and heartbroken, after overhearing a tour guide tell the tourists that in this modern age of electronics and satellites, lighthouses are not too necessary. He rationalized that he was not needed and deserved some rest. He stopped smiling and slept the nights and days away.

During a terrible storm he was awakened to the need. Captain Crabby was in distress in the storm. Rocky understood his purpose and his joyful twinkle again lit up the sea around him. Captain Crabby and his crew were saved. Rocky truly did make a difference.

This delightful children's story is dedicated to propagate the love and philosophy of Susan Carroll Holmes-Noel. The story is inspired by the verse from Matthew, chapter five: "A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel."

"Rocky the Lighthouse Makes a Difference" is an excellent choice for read aloud family fun and as an pleasurable reading experience for the young reader. The characters are enjoyable. The plot is strong and encourages character building in the young child. This is an important and timely contribution to children's literature.

Embracing Life, Spirit, Faith and Adversity
Greg Rice
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768427073 $15.99

Greg Rice writes with clarity and simplicity in "Embracing Life, Spirit and Adversity" the first book in the series "The Gifts of Freedom." This series is written to "offer Christians a clear path toward living in wholehearted freedom" and to give a better understanding of the life changing message of the Bible.

I found the meditation point at the end of each chapter offered an ideal time to stop, take a minute and quietly reflect on the truths introduced in the chapter I had just read. These few minutes spent in mediation led to a natural progression of moving on to the suggested study questions for the chapter in the second section of the book. This study guide is designed to help you remember the main concepts and to personalize them and apply them in your life.

Another feature I enjoyed were the action and visualization instructions found throughout the book. Rice maintains that when we understand and practice these instructions we will see long term positive behavioral changes in our life.

With insight and directness Greg identifies the primary concerns facing people in today's society. These include financial worries, spiritual doubt, guilt, emotional stress and loneliness. He goes on to show the reader how to receive the gift of life, what the Holy Spirit means in the life of the Christian, the importance of faith, and the lessons we can learn from adversity.

"Embracing Life, Spirit, Faith, and Adversity" offers basic instruction in personal and spiritual growth. The message is inspired, powerful and compelling. This is a book for new believers, seekers, or mature Christians. An excellent combination of reading and studying.

Activating the Angelic
Flo Ellers
Destiny Image Publishers
PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768427066 $15.99

Keys to Unlocking the Miraculous

Flo Ellers writes with excitement of revival, renewal, and describes times of refreshing in her book "Activating the Angelic." She traces Biblical history into periods of three hundred year generational periods. Using, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Elijah, Elisha, and King Josah, Saul, Jonathan, and Mephibosheth as examples, Ellers concludes that we are now living in a third generational period. We are at the beginning of a new century and should be ready and prepared for a new move of God.

Ellers provides keys to releasing the Holy Spirit and unlocking the miraculous. She uses clearly marked "key icons" to help the reader stop to consider important truths including: Holy Spirit anointing, pitfalls of satan to avoid, moving beyond failure, ministering in humility, and holiness.

Flo is articulate and a gifted communicator. She includes stories of her own miraculous experiences and illustrations from fellow ministers and missionaries who have been anointed and set apart for God's use by the Holy Spirit's power. I appreciated the testimonies and stories of those chosen and uniquely anointed, and enraptured with His presence.

Ellers includes stories telling of deliverance ministry. She then gives instructions on how to walk in victory. She then challenges the reader to become a spiritual revolutionary.

I appreciated those "keys" that dealt with expectations, submission, and pride. I learned from the study about Elijah's miraculous mantle. The stories which told about praying in crisis, Holy Ghost and Fire Rallies, or the return of lost jewelry all drew me in to an interactive journey in praise, anointing, and prayer.

"Activating the Angelic" is a book that will challenge the reader to discover new excitement in their personal spiritual journey.

Emerging Worship
Roland Worton
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768426984 $15.99

Releasing New Levels of Corporate and Individual Worship

Roland Worton in his book "Emerging Worship" guides the reader into a new awareness of the presence of God. Worton introduces and celebrates the sounds of heaven and the emergence of the "Soundforger." Worton has a Global three dimensional in function which reestablishes the tabernacle of David as a model for corporate worship with the multidimensional representation of priestly, prophetic, and apostolic worship.

Roland points out how Apostle John was exposed to the sounds of heaven and records the experience in the book of Revelation. These sounds of heaven include: the voice of the Father, the Bridegroom, and the angels.

Worton incorporates the concept of understanding the realm of Christ's government to relate Kingdom principles and to help understand the decrees and declarations of the Apostolic Church today. Roland reiterates the strategic purpose, societal transformation, and role of intercession, impacting the transition of this emerging worship.

Roland incorporated the writings and concepts of highly respected leaders within today's apostolic movement. I appreciated the depth of research and comprehensive end notes and credits Worton included. Appendix A was helpful. Roland listed the priestly Psalms, the prophetic revelatory Psalms, and the governing apostolic Psalms. These lists become an important resource tool for worship leaders.

In his book "Emerging Worship" Roland Worton invites every member of the Body of Christ to permeate their community, city and nation with the sounds and songs of Heaven. This is an important and timely book. I recommend it for anyone seeking a fresh approach and a fresh approach to gaining entrance to the presence of God.

The Power of Praise and Worship
Terry Law with Jim Gilbert
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
PO Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768426766 $15.99

The Sacrifice of Praise and the Blessing of Worship

"The Power of Praise and Worship" is a story of tragedy, healing, and of the resultant blessings of worship through the sacrifice of praise. Terry Law shares the lessons he learned as he moved into a new dimension of ministry by combining praise and worship as a lifestyle. This is an updated and revised edition of Terry's earlier book. The earlier edition was written primarily as a teaching tool. In this expanded edition Terry has asked his long time friend Jim Gilbert to collaborate with him in providing the biographical background of two tragedies that impacted his life and ministry in dramatically different ways.

Terry tells of moving from the dark night of despair after Jan's death into the crucible of praise which followed. He helps the reader understand the five stages of spiritual warfare. He uses scripture, illustrations from his own ministry and experiences, and those of other anointed ministers and ministries to reinforce his message. Terry goes on to emphasize the importance of the Word of God, the Name of Jesus, and the Blood of Jesus as the three war heads needed to combat satan's attacks.

In Part II Terry, again, calls on Jim Gilbert to record another devastating occurrence. Jim relates the stigma and trauma experienced by Terry when his second wife Shirley sued for divorce. A four year court room scene followed that left Terry nearly insolvent with a virtually ruined world ministry.

The experiences that followed include lessons learned from the sacrifice of praise, a lifestyle of praise, as well as those other elements of praise important to establishing a pattern of praise.

Richard R. Blake

Stephen's Bookshelf

Cultural Amnesia
Clive James
W.W. Norton & Company Inc.
500 Fifth Ave. New York NY 10110
9780393061161 $35.00

In the introduction Clive James offers this as prelude to what's coming: "What this book then proposes-what it embodies, I hope-is something difficult enough to be satisfactory for an age in which to be presented with nothing except reassurance is ceasing to be tolerable."

At the end of the introduction James offers this: "What I propose is a sum of appreciations that includes an appreciation of their interdependence: a new humanism.

What these words mean is expect to encounter chateaubriand, bouillabaisse, caviar and lobster instead of pablum. It's not a breezy read. It is, rather, one that grabs you by the throat, wrestles you to the ground and forces you to pay attention. I promise it will not put you to sleep.

James is a world renowned critic. I became aware of him and this book while watching him being interviewed on the PBS television series Bill Moyer's Journal.

The book is big, 851 pages; but it is divided into essays listed in alphabetical order dealing with historical figures and luminaries like Louis Armstrong, Jorge Luis Borges, Albert Camus, Miles Davis, Adolph Hitler, Franz Kafka, and Margaret Thatcher. And keep in mind, this is just a smattering.

As I read it I became increasing impressed with how learned, intelligent and urbane Clive James truly is. He can speak, read and write in several languages and his curiosity along with his deep commitment to humanism infuses every idea he presents in every essay.

The essays are bite sized making this a book that invites you to take it in; in bite sized chunks and almost fooling you into thinking it might be easy-breezy. But as I said, it's not.

While reading it and afterwards, what struck me and haunted me most was this thought: I'll never be able to write as well as this. I am a writer but Clive uses words to reveal he is both magician and sage.

Read this book and feast on the incredibly sumptuous bite sized offerings within; but don't gorge, that might make you sick.

A World Without Time The Forgotten Legacy of Godel and Einstein
Palle Yourgrau
Basic Books
Perseus Books Group
11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge MA 02142
9780465092949 $15.00

Two of the twentieth century's greatest thinkers, Kurt Godel and Albert Einstein became friends in 1942. This book describes how intimate that friendship was and how they influenced each other's thinking.

For people interested in pure mathematics the name Kurt Godel is as famous as Albert Einstein. His incompleteness theorem shattered the efforts of Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whithead in their attempt to write the definitive tome to end all tomes on mathematics, the Principia Mathematica. The stated goal of the Principia was to tie together everything that was known about mathematics so that it would, once and for all, be complete. Godel's incompleteness theorem not only demonstrated but proved, mathematically, that such a task was not only folly, it was impossible.

For people interested in physics and relativity, Yourgrau reveals how Godel brought his formidable mathematical skills to bear on Einstein's work to show that time, as we understand it simply doesn't exist. He deals with the metaphysical and philosophical implications of that in ways that are both lucid and satisfying. But, more than that, he offers insight into the personal aspects of the two men in ways that humanize them by elucidating not only what they did but who they were. Here's an example:

"Physically they were opposites. Godel, thin to the point of emaciation, hid his spectral body even in the heat of summer in overcoat and scarf. Gaunt, harrowed, and haunted, peering through thick glasses like an owl from another dimension, he could not fail to arouse suspicion. Early in life he had come to the conclusion that the less food one ate the better. This dubious insight he carried out with ruthless consistency, unencumbered by the excess baggage of common sense, a faculty he approached life without.

Einstein, in contrast, whose sanity was never in question, was as satisfied by a good sausage as by a good theorem. He had a taste for solid German cooking, which he consumed with relish, topped off by his omnipresent pipe….Late in life he was the proud owner of a respectable professorial paunch."

Even more satisfying, Yourgaru offers four pages of archival photographs of Godel with members of his family and other scientific luminaries like Albert Einstein, Rudolph Ladenburg, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Eugene Wigner.

Godel's insights had philosophical implications that were and are deep and strong but he was vilified by the philosophical establishment.

The book is valuable because it provides insight into the man, his friends and his thoughts on so many different levels.

For people interested in such things this book is a must read.

Stephen J. Hage

Sullivan's Bookshelf

The Portable Atheist Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever
Christopher Hitchens
Da Capo Press (A member of Perseus Books Group)
9780306816086 $17.50

Hitchens isn't letting any grass grow under his disbelieving feet. Herein he's quickly followed up his recent, successful book, God is Not Great, with this compendium of essays from those who do not believe in a supernatural god but do believe in rationality.

Within these pages are to be found the comments of disbelievers throughout history starting with Lucretius, Omar Khayyam, Thomas Hobbes, and Benedict [Baruch] De Spinosa to modern-day writers like Salman Rushdie, Ibn Warraq, Sam Harris, A.C. Grayling, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In between those there are important others such as David Hume, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, H.L. Mencken, Bertrand Russell, Carl Sagan, John Updike, Penn Jillette, and more.

They all expound and elaborate on disbelief, mostly in relation to the monotheistic Jewish, Christian, and Moslem traditions. All the individual writers in the book are, or were when alive, mighty brave. Many people today are still subject to being killed for their disbelief.

Perhaps the most enlightening chapters were the two by Ibn Warraq entitled 'The Koran' and 'The Totalitarian Nature of Islam,' for the West knows little and understands less of this religion than of the others. The unthinking fanaticism of numerous Moslems is downright scary like the will to assassinate anyone who reasons that the religion is untrue and departs from it.

The Christians have been just as bad according to their Bible. Witness the killing, often by burning at the stake of witches and disbeliever's. And the Inquisition is a shame on Christianity down to this day. It's not unlike the Moslems. Both faiths used a Holy Book to justify their actions.

The writers in this unique tome all point out inconsistencies and unreasoning in the Pentateuch, Bible, and Koran. The many cruelties and downright barbarity in those books are discussed, too. Believers' scripture would seem to justify such real evils as slavery, genital mutilation, and the downgrading of women.

In the Introduction of this new read, the compiler writes: "One is continually told, as an unbeliever, that it is old-fashioned to rail against the primitive stupidities and cruelties of religion because after all, in these enlightened times, the old superstitions have died away. Nine times out of ten, in debate with cleric, one will be told not of some dogma or religious certitude but of some instances of charitable or humanitarian work undertaken by a religious person. Of course, this says nothing about the belief system involved: it may be true that Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam [NoI] succeed in weaning young black men off narcotics, but this would not alter the fact that NoI is racist crackpot organization. And has not Hamas - which published The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion on its Website - won a reputation for its provision of social services? My own response has been to issue a challenge: name me an ethical statement made or an action performed by a believer that could not have been made or performed by a non-believer. As yet, I have had no takers. (Whereas, oddly enough, if you ask an audience to name a wicked statement or action directly attributable to religious faith, nobody has any difficulty in finding an example.)

The man who put this boo together, Christopher Hitchens, is a writer who has published such books as Letters to a Young Contrarian, Why Orwell Matters, Thomas Paine's 'Rights of Man': A Biography. Hitchens is also a contributing Editor for Vanity Fair.


God the Failed Hypothesis How Science shows That God Does Not Exist
Victor J. Stenger
Prometheus Books
9781591024811 $28.00

This book was bound to happen. Creation science and Intelligent Design (ID) have been dabbling in scientific argument with science attempting to prove the existence of God. Now science uses scientific arguments to prove there is no God.

Stenger, obviously a nonbeliever, is a renowned and retired physicist and astronomer. He taught at the University of Hawaii. This is not his first book proving there's no God. But this volume is, perhaps, his most comprehensive. And it is replete with 'End-of Chapter' notes and citations.

"Throughout history," writes the author in his Preface, "arguments for and against the existence of God have been largely confined to philosophy and theology. In the meantime, science has sat on the sidelines and quietly watched this game of words march up and down the field. Despite the fact that science has revolutionized every aspect of human life and greatly clarified our understanding of the world, somehow the notion has arisen that it has nothing to say about a supreme being that much of humanity worships as the source of all reality."

But science has a lot to say about God. And Stenger expounds on it. His method of argument is a scientific one - 'hypothesis testing.' "The existence of a God will be taken as a scientific hypothesis and the consequences of that hypothesis searched for in objective observations of the world around us."

His primary focus is on the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God, though he occasionally comments on other gods. Using scientific arguments for the development of human eye, for example, he knocks down the 'intelligent design,' case that the eye is so complex that it had to be intelligently designed. Stenger debates the fact that humans have a soul. He, further, poopoos ESP, out-of-body, near-death experiences, and all those sort of mystical occurrences humans report to have happened to them.

He shows study after study on how prayers don't work. Indeed, some people who are prayed for become worse off for it.

The author goes on to explain scientifically the big question 'Why is there something,' such as cosmos, solar system, and Earth, 'rather than nothing?'

He also looks closely at the Bible and find it full of errors like unfulfilled prophecies, absence of the knowledge of scientific discoveries of the modern world, and statements of fact that are historically untrue or totally not provable. Included, also, is a lucid discussion on 'How come there is evil in the world?' if there exists a God of three O's: omnibenevolence, omniscience, and omnipotence.

Victor J. Stenger also wrote Physics and Psychics, Not by Design, and Has Science Found God?, among other tomes.

Highly recommended.

Jim Sullivan

Theodore's Bookshelf

Black Out
Lisa Unger
Shaye Areheart Books/Crown
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307338488 $23.00 800-726-0600

For those who enjoy reading abnormal psychology texts, this novel will give them something to mull over. It is the story of Annie Powers, a comfortable mother of a young daughter and the wife of a fairly wealthy ex-Navy Seal now partner with his father in a civilian paramilitary company. But she is haunted by her past when she had another name (Ophelia March) and faces frightening memories as she begins to recall them.

The book is more complicated than an ordinary thriller, and neither the reader, much less Annie, knows what's fact and what's fiction. The novel moves forward with numerous flashbacks and misdirection, so that it can be somewhat confusing. However, the writing is smooth and the insights absorbing and penetrating.

Swan Peak
James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416548522 $25.95 212-698-7000/800-223-2336

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Dave Robicheaux, his wife, Molly, and sidekick, Clete Purcell, leave ravaged New Orleans for some R&R, peace and quiet and some fishing in Montana. But where Dave and Clete are, tranquility is rarely, if ever, present. No sooner do they get there then trouble finds them - in spades.

While fishing, Clete is accosted by two men telling him he is trespassing on the land of a wealthy Texas oil family, the Wellstones. Soon, Dave and Clete are in the middle of not one, but two, double murders. Clete's past association with a mafia don comes home to haunt him. Then Clete finds himself amorously involved with the wife of one of the Wellstone brothers, among other entanglements. Meanwhile there are subplots involving other characters, and it all becomes very complicated.

Written with the accustomed smoothness of a Robicheaux novel---this is the 17th in the series---the setting enables the author to pay tribute to one of his two homes - Montana - where he lives in addition to the one in New Iberia, LA, Dave's normal domicile. It all comes down to an astounding finish. Don't miss this one!

The Fourth Watcher
Timothy Hallinan
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061257254 $24.95 800-242-7737

Bangkok once again stars as the setting for an adventure by Poke Rafferty, who makes his second appearance in what one hopes is a continuing series. He is determined to avoid trouble this time and settle down, marry his girlfriend Rose and enjoy his newly adopted daughter Miaow. Unfortunately, the best laid plans . . .

Poke has an idea for another book - something involving someone being followed and trying to avoid those tailing him. The book would be similar to those he writes for his "Looking for Trouble" series. This leads to an amusing episode which has little to do with what ensues. Now that Poke is ready to enjoy family life, who turns up but his father, who abandoned Poke and his mother 20 years before. Frank Rafferty is a rogue and is being chased by a Chinese gangster whom he has defrauded of a lot of gems and cash.

All this leads to an exciting story, filled with violence, descriptions of the Thai sex trade, counterfeiting, and of course, the exotic splendor of the city. Once again, as in the initial entry in the hoped-for series, intrigue and danger prevail mightily.


Moscow Rules
Daniel Silva
G.P Putnam Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399155017 $26.95 800-847-5515

Despite the end of the Cold War, the Russian bogeyman still is accessible to the writers of spy/suspense stories. Even before the recent invasion of Georgia, the Russian "bad guys" were available to populate tales such as Moscow Rules. In fact, the title dates back to the classic le Carre novels.

This novel is another in the Gabriel Allon series. He, of course, is the larger-than-life art restorer cum Israeli agent, equally adept with paintings and mayhem. In this case, he has to save the world from a Russian arms dealer supplying accurate ground-to-air missiles to al Qaeda.

Written with the intensity and smoothness of its predecessors, Rules is as thoroughly exciting and entertaining as its forerunners. If Gabriel is a bit unreal, the character demands such a persona.


Beneath the Bleeding
Val McDermid
77-85 Fulham Palace Rd., Hammersmith, London W6 8JB, England, 44-208-741-7070
9780007243280 6.99 BPS

[Note: This book is not yet available in the US, only in/through the UK/Canada at this time]

When one reads a Val McDermid novel, the expectation is that it will involve a serial killer. This book is no exception, although the author intertwines a couple of twists. To begin with, her protagonists - Dr. Tony Hill, psychologist and profiler, and DCI Carol Jordan - are continually at odds in attempting to solve their personal problems, as well as the crimes they are involved with. Tony's insights seem far out to Carol, which she sometimes attributes to the fact that he's in the hospital with a smashed knee, courtesy of a patient in that hospital, where he practices.

Be that as it may, the challenge, at first, is to solve the poisoning of a popular footballer on the eve of a big game. Then during the game, an explosion under the stands kills 35 persons. Are the events related? Is the bombing a terrorist act? Carol and her team's efforts are complicated by the invasion of a specialized terrorist force which takes over with strong-arm tactics. Two more poison murders gives Tony and Carol a few leads, and Tony continues to have free-thinking thoughts about all the crimes.

The intricate plot is surpassed only by the smoothness of the writing. Tony and Carol are two marvelous creations, and they continue to enchant this reader. The book works on several levels - as a mystery, in delving into the relationships and personalities of the characters, and the contemporary nature of the "terrorist explosion," which was set off by a Muslim male.

Great reading, and highly recommended.

Queen of the Flowers
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scotsdale, AZ 85251, 800-421-3976
9781590581711 $24.95

There isn't much more one can say about the eccentric and charming Phryne Fisher, the thoroughly modern woman ensconced in Australia after the First World War: She has appeared in numerous entries in this series and her deductive powers as a detective continue to be acute.

Two missing young girls are at the heart of the story line. One is Phryne's adopted daughter, Ruth, who is seeking the father she never knew, the other, a 13-year-old, one of the flower girls serving Phryne, who is to be the Queen of the Flowers in the Flower Parade.

There have been many novels in this series before and after this one. PPP continues to publish them in no particular order - much to this reader's delight. Keep them coming!

Highly recommended.

Chasing Darkness
Robert Crais
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9780743281645 $25.95 800-223-2336

Could Elvis Cole have made a mistake? Three years before, he had found evidence to clear Lionel Byrd of a murder charge. Now Byrd has committed suicide, leaving at his feet evidence of seven murders. Cole doesn't believe it, but everyone accepts the new evidence, especially the police, from the deputy chief down to various detectives. So what does the redoubtable Elvis do? Conduct his own investigation parallel to an ongoing official inquiry, stepping on everyone's toes.

Of course, being blamed for letting a serial killer go free has its price. The brothers of one of the victims take their frustration out on Elvis - but that doesn't stop him, or his buddy Joe Pike. In the course of his investigation, Elvis trips over all kinds of detours, pointing in various directions and to various suspects. Despite warnings by the police to leave it alone, he plods on, complicating not only the cops' efforts but the plot, which goes off in myriad directions.

This is the eleventh in the series, and is equal to the task. Until the surprising end, the reader (not to mention Elvis himself) is left clueless as to the real perpetrator. But then, that's the nature of a good mystery. As usual, the writing and pace are excellent. Recommended.

Hell Hole
Chris Grabenstein
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312382308 $24.95 212-674-5151/646-307-5560

John Ceepack and Danny Boyle make their fourth appearance in this unsettling mystery novel. The two Sea Haven, NJ, police officers are caught up in a web of conspiracy and intrigue stretching from Iraq to the Jersey shore. They become involved in investigating the apparent suicide of a corporal who had just returned from Iraq, at a rest stop on the Garden State Parkway.

The cast of characters include the dead soldier's buddies, enjoying some R&R in the resort town, a United States Senator and other unpleasant persons. About the only levity in the book are Danny's wisecracks and the ongoing identification contests regarding Bruce Springsteen lyrics between the two police officers.

The plot and writing are solid, and John and Danny are a likable pair. The story line is an unusual one reaching to the limits of various major issues stretching from My Lai to who-killed-President-Kennedy theories. A fast and rewarding read, and one which is recommended.

Killer View
Ridley Pearson
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399155055 $24.95 800-847-5515,

Sun Valley Sheriff Walt Fleming faces a formidable task in this sequel novel. Not only must he fight the elements of the natural environment, face the deterioration of his marriage, work with a valued deputy bedding Walt's soon-to-be-ex-wife, solve acts of terrorism but also solve a murder, rescue a friend and perform all sort of social good deeds, not to mention running for reelection. How's that for a plot?

The story is a real thriller, from the chase of the villains to the travails of the storms and the environment. The pacing is quick and sure, and the descriptions of Sun Valley and the Idaho landscape (it is home to the author) vivid.


Fuzzy Navel
J.A. Konrath
77 W. 66th St., NY, NY 10023
9781401302801 $23.95 800-242-7737

If you like unadulterated, non-stop violence, this novel is for you. It is the latest in the Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels series, and begins with three vigilantes conducting simultaneous sniping murders of three sex offenders. Jack is on the scene and one of the shooters thinks she saw him so he gets his confederates to join him in following her home to eliminate her as a witness.

At the same time, Jack's old nemesis Alex Kork escapes from the facility where she is incarcerated and invades Jack's home with the intent of torturing and killing Jack and others responsible for her capture. She begins a game of Russian roulette, asking Jack all sorts of questions. If an answer is incorrect, Alex pulls the trigger, giving the selected victims---Jack's mom and fiance - a one-in-six chance of survival. Then the snipers show up and all kinds of mayhem occurs.

The story is a continuous series of gruesome murders, maiming, fighting, wounds and other misfortunes. If that's your cup of tea, fine, but it might not appeal to everyone.

Don't Tell a Soul
David Rosenfelt
St. Martin's Minotaur
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312373955 $24.95 646-307-5151

After have written six much-appreciated novels in the Andy Carpenter series, the author has now chosen to write a taut, well-constructed standalone mystery/thriller. It begins when Tim Wallace takes his wife out on his boat on Long Island Sound where her hat is blown overboard. She urges him to go in the water to retrieve it. As he turns to go back to the boat a fire erupts and an explosion obliterates it and his wife.

Tim heads a construction firm working on a new Federal complex in Newark. For months after the accident he just works, avoiding any social contact. Then on New Year's Eve his partners prevail upon Tim to join them at a favorite watering hole. Just before midnight, a stranger sidles up to Tim and confesses the murder of a woman who is buried in a New Jersey town. This is the beginning of several stranger events which seem to implicate Tim in two murders - the aforementioned woman as well as his wife - in addition to possible acts of terrorism.

The cleverness of the plot is surpassed only by the tense pace and quality of the prose. The story is briskly paced and rushes to a rousing finale. Very much worth the read, and highly recommended.

Theodore Feit

Tonya's Bookshelf

The Dream Begins: How Hawai'i Shaped Barack Obama
Stu Glauberman and Jerry Burris
Watermark Publishing
1088 Bishop St. Ste. 310, Honolulu, Hawai'i 96813
9780981508689, $17.95, pgs. 152,, 1-808-587-7766

Understanding the environment in which someone was raised gives insight as to how they developed their values. In "The Dream Begins: How Hawai'i Shaped Barack Obama" A truly remarkable book, authors Glauberman and Burris examines Barack Obama's early years in Hawai'i. This timely book discusses the history of Hawai'i including, cultural influences, values, and tradition. Obama's paternal and maternal family histories as well as his years in Indonesia are included. Interviews of teachers and classmates of Punahou School where Barack attended give personal insight to the narrative. Easy to read, with multiple facets of Hawaii's history and culture this book reveals how it has shaped Barack Obama and still influences him today. A must have addition to any library. Recommended for anyone wanting to know more about Barack Obama's personal background.

Haunted Spaces, Sacred Places
Brian Haughton, author
New Page Books
c/o Career Press, Inc.
3 Tice Road, Franklin Lake, NJ 07417
9781601630001, $15.99, pgs. 256,, 1-800-227-3371

Why are strange phenomena often connected with ancient sites around the world? In "Haunted Spaces, Sacred Places: A Field Guide to Stone Circles, Crop Circles, Ancient Tombs and Supernatural Landscapes", a well researched and designed book, author Brian Haughton explains the most common questions surrounding many of the more well known mysteries such as Stonehenge and the Tower of London and many not so well known scared sites. 32 ancient monument and sacred landscapes, arranged by geographical region, are discussed through the exploration of the archaeology, legends, folklore and modern mysteries. Intelligently researched and designed the format of this book reads like a novel. Each chapter includes a picture and provides the reader an intriguing exploration of the phenomenon that has peeked local to worldwide interest. Brian Haughton is a qualified archaeologist and research with an interest in the strange and unusual. He previously wrote Hidden History: Lost Civilizations, Secret Knowledge, and Ancient Mysteries, as well as written on these subjects for the BBC's Legacies Website, New Dawn Magazine, Awareness and Paranormal Magazine in the UK. Recommended for anyone with an interest in the history and mystery surrounding these phenomenon.

Crazyman's Economics
T.E. Scott & Stephen Edds
Dog Ear Publishing
4010 W. 86th Street, Suite H, Indianapolis, IN 46268
9781598586404, $17.76, pgs. 156,

With the disaster of Wall Street still being sorted out there is no wonder so many people are outraged for many reasons. Coauthors Scott and Edds bring forth the truth about what they call the most brilliant con game in the United States: the stock markets and commodities markets. In this straightforward book which does not provide a beat the system approach because according to this book there isn't one and this is something Wall Street doesn't want you to know, when in fact it is the entire system that is flawed. This book inspires readers to understand what is going on, who really profits, and what can be done to bring real changes, such as regulation. This is a must read for everyone who is tired of corporate greed, who wishes to understand Wall Street in non complex terms and to get a better understanding of how they can quit losing. Written by two non financial gurus this book is designed for all readers, who according to T.E. Scott, "Crazyman's Economics is the beginning of a movement to force Congress to hold the stock, bond and commodities markets accountable for their actions, as well as revisit the entire premise upon which they operate." Recommend for all adult readers.

The Trouble With Lions
Jerry Haigh
The University of Alberta Press
Ring House2, University of Alberta
Edmonton, AB, Canada, T6G 2EI
9780888645036, $34.95, pgs. 488,

Going on safari in Africa is some thing most people may have on their bucket list. In his memoir of his life and work while living in Africa, author Jerry Haigh, a Glasgow-schooled veterinarian takes the reader through Kenya Now and Then-1965-1975, Forested Africa And The Bushmeat Crisis-1995-2007, 1997 The Trouble With Lions, and On The Ground In Uganda-2002-2007. Thoughtfully written and including captivating photos, this book will delight readers. Recommended for adult readers.

Castaway Kid
R.B. Mitchell
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781589974340, $13.99, pgs. 242,

All of us have a story of personal triumph and failures starting with our earliest memories. Imagine being three years old and being dropped off at an orphanage hoping your mommy will return, but she never does, and you find yourself homeless at the age of 17. Author R. B. Mitchell, recounts his life growing up in an American orphanage. In this heartbreaking, heartwarming true life story, see how one man rises above his past and creates a healthy future and life. Recommended for adult readers.

Peter Neil Carroll
Higganum Hill Books
P.O. Box 666, Higganum, CT 06441
9780977655694, $12.95, pgs. 90,, 1-800-888-4741

Historic character Huck Finn tells of his adventures along the Mississippi river. In this captivating book of poetry, author Peter Neil Carroll, travels along the Mississippi from Minnesota to New Orleans first in 1972 and now 35 years later. Carroll delightful brings together his insights and observations of the river, the small towns, and the people who live there of present and past. Recommended for poetry lovers or anyone with an interest in the Mississippi.

Beyond Betrayal
Jane Hoppe
Xulon Press
2180 West State Road 434, Ste. 2140, Longwood, FL 32779
9781604775594, $15.99, pgs. 264,

Wonder how twenty year olds deal with relationships or the world today? Author, Jane Hoppe brings you a delightful story about 25-year-old Maria Beaumont who thinks her social life and career are cool until her boyfriend dumps her and her boss hands her a mission that seems impossible. This hip, thoughtful story about today's fast-paced world and the twenty-somethings who are plugged in and chasing their dreams, learning life lesson and being there for each other. In this gentle read, find out what Maria discovers as she balances workplace challenges, fuzzy dating rules and her own dreams. Does she choose the Italian artist, the genial high school teacher, or her dream of studying art in Europe? This book will have you hooked until you find out. Readers will enjoy identifying with a character in this book as well as seeing your friends, family and coworkers in this story. Recommended for adult readers of all ages as this story invites readers to look at old assumptions with new eyes.

China: A Traveler's Literary Companion
Kirk A. Denton, editor
Whereabouts Press
1111 8th Street, Suite D, Berkeley, CA 94710-1455
9781883513238, $14.95, 256 pgs.,

Traveling to China? This book is a great complementary guide providing literary short stories from China's best writers. This book focuses on modern China and the stories explore the shifts and cracks in recent Chinese society as it moves towards its goal of becoming the world leader in the market economy. Recommended for anyone wishes to learn more about China's culture and a must have for the traveler going to China.

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume XXIV
Galaxy Press
7051 Hollywood Blvd., Ste. 200, Hollywood, CA 90028
9781592123742, $ 7.99, pgs. 506,

Looking for a way in to publishing your fiction/fantasy writing? L. Ron Hubbard presents Volume XXIV. Thirteen of the best tales from the Writers of the Future international writers' program with essays on writing and illustration by L. Ron Hubbard, Rebecca Moesta and Cliff Nielsen. Read these delightful tales the will spark your imagination and take you into unbelievable worlds. After reading these colorful tales, enter into the contest and you could become one of the writers of the future in the next volume. Recommended for fiction/fantasy enthusiasts.

A Season of Eden
JM Warwick
Grove Creek Publishing
1404 West State Road, Suite 202, Pleasant Grove, UT 84062
9781933963907, $12.95, pgs. 234,

Students hitting on teachers in strictly forbidden, or at least most parents would not approve. In this tale, author JM Warwick, brings readers a tale of one students crush on her music teacher and the dangerous boundaries she is willing to cross. Will her handsome bright teacher give into to his student's desires? Author Warwick has published one previous novel entitled An Open Vein. Recommended for young adult readers.

The 7 Biggest Mistakes Trustees Make and How to Avoid Them
Sandeep Varma
S&N Publishing
5405 Morehouse Drive, Ste. 340, San Diego, CA 92121
9780979559303, $39.95, pgs. 142,

Throughout your life, you work to accumulate assets to leave behind to your loved ones someday. Creating an estate plan can be sometimes confusing and difficult to discuss with the ones you love, however, without proper planning and proper discussion, things can turn disastrous. Author Sandeep Varma brings to light the seven biggest mistakes that Trustees make. Varma share client's stories and provides solid information to avoid these mistakes that Trustees often make. Whether you have already established a trust or not this book is a must read book for all trustees and potential trustee. This book is designed to show Trustees the framework of how to effectively develop an estate planning strategy and how to open up the lines of communication about difficult planning issues between your family members and other beneficiaries. Author Varma has been a financial advisor for over 18 years, has developed the seven mistakes trustees make seminars and has develop resources and tools to assist advisors and their clients with advanced estate planning strategies. Straightforward, easy to read and understand, this book is recommended for all adult readers.

What Dog Are You?
Lori Lebda & Tami Bergeson
WingSpan Press
P.O. Box 2085, Livermore, CA 94551
9781595941749, $11.95, pgs. 75,

Every wonder if you were a dog what kind you would be. This humorous and charming books discover what breed of dog you are! Self-quizzes help you discover your inner dog. Once you have that figured out, read on to find your Sign, picture, and breed summary. Authors Lori Lebda & Tami Bergeson provider reads a fun and delightful chance to discover just truly what dog you are! Further information is provided at Recommended for readers of all ages.

Feed the Goose
Kitzy Gayle, author
Vantage Press, Inc.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158065, $12.95, pgs. 241, (212)736-1767,

Love a good love story? One that has heart break, struggles and triumphs with life experiences? Author Kitzy Gayle brings readers the story of Ludwig and Louisa who come to America in the mid-1800s to find life in a free and peaceful country and their journey of the year leading up to World War II. Written with sensitivity and realism drawn from her own family's experiences, Gayle writes a heartwarming and enduring story about the deep bonds of love that sustained immigrant families as they adjusted to their new and understandably frightening cultural surroundings. Included are recipes used during the Great Depression. Recommended for adult readers.

No Urn for the Ashes
Alison Sawyer Current
Bayfire Press
1750 30th Street, #197, Boulder, CO 80301
9780981546445, $16.99, pgs. 288, (303)718-6395,

Unlocking the key to a discovery, which could potentially change the world, has its downside. Taylor loses her husband, the brilliant scientist who finds a substitute energy source for fossil fuel, and her daughter in a fire bizarre fire. Now eight years later as her second marriage is dissolving. Kevin, who was Taylor's former colleague who shared in this monumental research suddenly resurfaces and sparks the almost unimaginable: Taylor's daughter may not be dead after all and her husband did not accidentally die, he was murdered. As all the plots unfold readers bear witness to Taylor's emotional journey as she attempts to make sense of her past and how to deal with the dilemmas of the present. In this brilliant novel, author Alison Sawyer Current will delight mystery readers and those who enjoy moving character studies.

The Horror Within
Rachel Cox, author
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434369949 $9.90, pgs. 214, 888-728-8467,

Buying a charming older home landscaped by woods out side the city might be most people's dream home, at least it is for 38-year-old actor Marcia Evans. Purchasing a home for a suspiciously low price, Marcia moves into this charming home and rents a room much like the stories of the original owners did; or did they? As mysterious events including chronic illness and terrifying nightmares, author Rachel Cox will keep readers biting their nails to the end. A novel of mystery, relationships, and the secrets of a house and self-discovery this novel is sure to please. Recommended for adult readers who love a good psychological thriller. Rachel Cox has published six books on Ohio history and U.S. history; this is her debut novel.

Hunger Pains in our Heads
Mansel Philip McCleave, author
Tavine'ra Publishing, LLC
270 Baker Blvd. Suite 700, Birmingham, AL 35242
9780971395336, $19.95, pgs.196, 205-218-7678,

Historical moments such as those that ignited during the 1960's Civil Rights Movement have shaped this nation. Traditionally students learn of such events through textbooks that describe these historical moments in a factual historic manner. Author Rev. Mansel Philip McCleave brings to you real life, behind the scenes stories and events leading up to and during the student sit-in movement in Greensboro, North Carolina. Not only does he shares his experience as an instructor at North Carolina A&T College where the students attend school, but that of his family and their real life experiences, before during and after the Woolworth Student sit-in movement. Thoughtfully designed including pictures, versus, song lyrics with footnotes, there are just a few errors found such as spacing in the initial paragraph on page 115 and on the back cover. This book includes discussion questions, intended by the author to continue and spark discussions on deep issue, which still are found and felt today. Highly recommended for high school and college students, Civil Rights enthusiasts, and organizations.

Cries From The Abyss: Alcohol Blackouts Revealed
Donal F. Sweeney, M.D. with Robert Liston, authors
Mnemosyne Press
222 West Anapamu Street, Suite 7, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
9780974794310, $18.95, pgs. 204 with Index and Bibliography

Blackouts as a result of consuming alcohol for some people can mean destructive and sometimes deadly results to those experiencing the blackout as they are almost always unaware of what it happening. Sound frightening? It is for those who suffer from the blackouts and for those who live with them. Author Donal Sweeny, M.D. previously wrote The Alcohol Blackout: Walking, Talking, Unconscious & Lethal in which he invited readers to submit their blackout experiences. In this book author, Donal F. Sweeney explains to readers what a blackout is and the misconceptions associated with blackout such as heavy drinking when as he explains and as told through peoples stories, that some people experience blackouts on two glasses of wine. Throughout this addresses the many questions society and the criminal justice system has about blackouts and the sometime bizarre behaviors and acts. In the last two chapters, he discusses the issue about what can be done to encourage governmental agencies to recognize and study blackout and includes a listing of actions people can take to minimize the effects of blackouts on their own lives. In the final chapter- The Last Word, Dr. Sweeney provides concise tips on drinking to avoid blackouts; how to recognize them; what to do it one occurs; what to teach your children. Dr. Sweeny is still warming of the dangers of blackouts and decrying the neglect of them, however, he now has the voice, often-desperate voices as the Cries from the Abyss are informative and persuasive indeed. Highly recommended for anyone who works with children and adults, the criminal justice systems including forensics and law enforcement, public health, and parents or children of alcoholics, or alcoholics themselves who wish to understand more about blackouts.

The Moon Says It Will
Vell Sweeny, author
Pink Pig Press
980 Broadway, Suite 248, Thornwood, NY 10594
9780981636009, $14.95, pgs. 688

Mystery, drama, forbidden love, crime and suspense is at the heart of every great thriller. Author Vell Sweeny hits the jackpot with her first fiction thriller, The Moon Says It Will. Twenty-nine year old Flyn, a writer, becomes the prey of a stalker after a break in at her home. This stalker is wanted on several charges, due to his crime connections, including murder, but the Feds are unable to make any of the charges stick. But once they see that this thug has fixated on Fly the set her as the bate. Two special agents are assigned to the case however, each of the them brings their own secret, one of this dark dealings and the other of protection from not only the stalker but of the corrupt in his agency and worst of all from his self. This thriller will have you turning pages until well after the moon has risen. Recommended for adult readers who love mystery, suspense, romance, action and everything in between!

2013: The End Of Days Or A New Beginning? Envisioning the World After the Events of 2012
Marie D. Jones, author
New Page Books
c/o Career Press, Inc.
3 Tice Road, P. O. Box 687, Franklin Lakes, NJ 07417,
9781601630070, $15.99, pgs. 256

Every wonder where all the hype of Y2K the end of time comes from and what new prophecies about future dates and events will arise? Well here you go. Some believe the fabled 5,125-year-long Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012 and an apocalypse - a series of disastrous earthquakes, eruption or volcanoes, solar storms, etc will bring the end of the world, as we know it. Author Mare D Jones, examines all of the myths, prophecies, and predictions surrounding the impending milestone and answers the questions surrounding them. Widely published with hundreds of credits including five Chicken Soup for the Soul titles, author Marie D. Jones extensive background in metaphysical studies, paranormal phenomena and spiritual inspiration walks the reader through the history, theories and beliefs surrounding these prophecies. Handsomely designed including pictures, and well written this book is highly recommended for adult readers who wonder are we really coming to an end or are we just beginning?

U.S. National Debate Topic 2008-2009: Alternative Energy
H.W. Wilson
950 University Ave. Bronx, NY 10452
9780824210809, $50.00 ($55.00 outside the U.S. & Canada), pgs. 198

Explore the topics of the 2008-2009 U.S. National Debate Topic: Alternative Energy. Excellent reference for any school, library, or the general public interested topics important to modern society. Six sections cover political, economic, environmental, and viability-related issues of energy alternatives. This is the third title of six to be released in The Reference Shelf 2008 (Volume 80.) Designed with information from notable articles from respected publications, abstracts of 20 to 30 additional articles and a bibliography of other sources provides the reader with a thought provoking question with intriguing viable solutions to an increasing problem facing society today.

Wisdom Rising
Vaishali, author
Purple Haze Press
2430 Vanderbilt Beach Road # 108, PMB 167, Naples, Florida 34109
239-513-3313, or
9780977320066, $14.95, pgs. 198

Ever wonder when you hear people who tell you of their unimaginable stories of over coming defeat, illness, death, and just any other downer in life can throw at you, survive? Some of in life seem to get just more ice cream than others do, oh but this is no ordinary ice cream; it is the ice cream we hate! In Wisdom Rising, author Vaishali offers readers wisdom through her witty down to earth awareness of the world around us. Smart, funny and downright sensible, this book is a great read for those wishing to improve or learn more about the importance of life and how we choose to be in it. This out of the box author puts life lessons out there for the reader to learn by weaving in her own personal experiences. Recommended for adult readers, who wish for an easy read with a big impact.

Tonya Thul-Theis

Victoria's Bookshelf

The Ten Thousand
Paul Kearney
Willow Road, Nottingham NG7 2WS, UK
9781844166473 $7.99

On the world of Kuf, a prince of the Asurian Empire hires an army of mercenaries from a people called the Macht. He needs their help to overthrow his brother the Great King of the alien looking Kufr race. The Macht risk their lives and reputation when they take on the Empire, but their ferocity and stubbornness in battle gives them the confidence they need.

There are many characters in the story, but I didn't start to warm up to any of them until somewhere in the middle of the book. Some of the most interesting were: Rictus, the proud but emotionally damaged survivor of Isca, Jason, one of the Macht generals, Vorus, a Macht serving the Great King, and Tiryn, the former concubine of the rebel prince.

The Ten Thousand, though well written and entertaining for the most part, contains one gory battle scene after another. Some of it was a little too graphic for my taste, but that's just me. It might not bother someone else at all.

Mr. Kearney has written many other books. You can check them out on his website at:

Robert Stickmanz
Dalton Publishing
P.O.Box 242, Austin, TX 78767
9780981744339, $11.95, 124 pages

All the fans of Robert Stickmanz will be happy to see Margaret Christmas is back in this tale that follows Prelude to a Change of Mind. Meg's continuing antics and her attempts to save her world will make you stop and think. You may even scratch your head or chuckle for it's another bizarre and erotic tale filled with oddities that overwhelm the reader.

Dying In a Winter Wonderland
Compiled and edited by Tony Burton
Wolfmont Press
238 Park Drive N.E., Ranger GA 30734
9781603640053 $11.95

This is Burton's third Christmas anthology for the benefit of Toys for Tots. If that alone doesn't entice you into buying the book, the well written and entertaining stories should.

In A Mom for Christmas, a young girl comes to a detective on Christmas Eve asking for him to help her mother. The mother is an exotic dancer and some rough people are after her. Two thieves in The Alternate Plan find themselves doing a good deed on Christmas. It's a tale that will touch your heart, at least it touched mine. Taking Her Medicine involves a drunken driver and her antics. And I got a chuckle out of Just Call Me Nick, where two guys in Santa suits come face-to-face at a gas station.

Even though I've only mentioned a few of the thirteen stories in the anthology, I enjoyed them all. The stories in Dying In a Winter Wonderland lifted my spirits and put me in a Christmas mood. It's a fun holiday read that I highly recommend.

Victoria Kennedy

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

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