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

Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 9, Number 10 October 2009 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Ann's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Christina'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 Janie's Bookshelf
Jessica's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf Kaye's Bookshelf
Liana's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Molly's Bookshelf Ochs' Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Peggy's Bookshelf Raja's Bookshelf Regis' Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf
Victoria's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

For All Our Days
Polly Curry
Mariner Publishing Companies
212 East 21st Street, Buena Vista, Va. 24416
9780984112807 $30.00 540-264-0021

Adelaide Simpson

Polly Curry's autobiography of her 96 years is a joy to read. Polly was a Marine Brat and Married a Marine, thus had a life of moving... setting up and dismantling over 45 homes with never a complaint. She lived around the world and makes observations of the countries, the people and the events. Her writing goes swiftly from splendid food in France to Hawaiian beaches. For all of us who remember the Great Depression... or those who think this current depression is significant, Polly tells us of living (and living WELL) on $20 a week in the depression, with military salaries cut. Incredible are Polly 's memories of WW2 with her husband fighting thru the Pacific islands Her clear and precise writings tell us the difficulties of being a Marine wife in these times. That Polly would even consider writing her life story at age 96 is surprising: that she actually DID WRITE IT, is astonishing. I like this book, a VERY GOOD READ.

To Tempt the Wolf
Terry Spear
Source Books Casablanca
9781402219047 $6.99

Amy J Ramsey, Reviewer

Rating: 4.5

As a professional photographer, Tessa Anderson is obsessed with photographing wolves. When a raging wildfire is reported in California, Tessa braves the fiery inferno to photograph nature during one of its deadliest moments. Everything was going smoothly until she's attacked by an enraged wolf. Barely escaping the terrifying encounter, she notices the wolf's behavior, it seemed different compared to others of its kind, but being pressed for time, she considered the animal rabid. The only thing on Tessa's mind is hiring a private investigator to get her brother, Michael, out of jail for a murder he did not commit. When she stumbles upon an unconscious, GOD-like hunk of a man, lying naked on the beach, her life begins to make a turn for the worst. Not only does the strange man, Hunter, have amnesia, but Tessa has a stalker that's breaking into her house and her electricity is out, due to the oncoming of an ice storm.

Hunter is Alpha of a pack of shape shifting grey werewolves. He and his twin sister are in the process of evacuating California due to the wildfire. In hopes of reuniting with the rest of their pack members, Hunter and his obstinate sister, Meara, relocate to their Uncle's house in Oregon. Before their Uncle retires to Florida, leaving them the house, he warns Hunter of the nosey neighbor, Tessa Anderson, who likes to roam around their property taking pictures and the potential danger of revealing what they are. After Hunter scents several male werewolves in the area, he returns home to find that his sister has been kidnapped and his attempt at saving her has literally lead him off a cliff.

Now in the arms of a beautiful redhead, Hunter is only aware of his werewolf abilities and his promise to help Tessa solve her brother's case, proving that Michael is innocent, As their growing attraction develops, Tessa's fear of Hunter leaving increases, but without his protection she would become the stalker's next victim. Will Hunter be able to regain his memory, before his sister and the woman he loves is claimed by another?

To Tempt the Wolf is an extremely enjoyable and fascinating read. I am impressed with the way Spears has added her own unique twist, mixing it into the realm of shape shifters. She has successfully achieved creating a story that the reader will become absorbed in. The characters are wrote exuding life-like characteristics, the background is full of vivid description, making it easy for the reader to visualize and the plot was perfectly blended, keeping the reader guessing till the end. I am left satisfied and anticipate Terry Spears next book. This book is recommended to any readers who have a taste for the Paranormal, Supernatural, Shape Shifter and Romance genres.

Cruel and Usual Punishment
Nonie Darwish
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781595551610 $24.99

G. Richard Bozarth

Cruel And Usual Punishment is a warning to the First World, which she calls the West, about the threat of Islam. She bluntly declares, "Islam must be contained, and its tumultuous and destructive lifestyle must be prevented from spilling over and becoming a power in the West." What makes Islam so dangerous? That's the question the average First World reader will be most interested in having answered, and Punishment thoroughly answers that question. Reading about Islamic theofascism today is like reading about Christian theofascism prior to the Enlightenment in Western culture's 18th century, which was when Christianity began being tamed by the cultural forces of secularization. Islam has been and still is a very dangerous religion.

Islam is now and has been from the beginning one of the most oppressive, repressive, and suppressive religions because of the Shar'i'a, which is the compilation of laws that have been derived from the Qur'an and the Hadith (the other collection of Islamic holy scriptures, consisting of sayings by and anecdotes about Prophet Muhammad). These are harsh totalitarian laws that have been used to create nations as wretchedly dysfunctional as the Christian nations were prior to the Enlightenment. "To live under Islamic Sharia law is to live in the world's largest maximum-security prison." That hard condemnation is backed up by plenty of evidence.

Punishment compares Islam to Communism because "what counts is obedience to the State." Before I was half-way through the book I had been persuaded she was right. Shari'a law strongly resembles in nature the laws of the Soviet Union, especially during the reign of Stalin. I didn't expect to find the comparison embraced by any Muslim religious scholar, but Darwish gives this quote by Sheikh Maulana Maududi in a 1955 book called Islamic Law And Constitution: "A state of this sort cannot evidently restrict the scope of its activities. Its approach is universal and all-embracing. Its sphere of activity is coextensive with the whole of human life. It seeks to mould every aspect of life and activity in consonance with its moral norms and program of social reform. In such a state no one can regard any field of his affairs as personal and private. Considered from this aspect the Islamic State bears a kind of resemblance to the Fascist and Communist states." Darwish amply demonstrates that this vile theofascism is the horror all too many Muslims want to inflict on every nation on Earth.

How is this conquest going to happen? Not by dawa (Islamic proselytizing), though dawa is used. The primary and most important method is jihad, which by now should not surprise any First World reader. The United States and Europe have been attacked by mujahideen (Muslim warriors engaged in jihad) with horrifying success and now have to be constantly vigilant to prevent other groups of mujahideen from being successful. Those Muslims who try to persuade the First World that jihad is not important to Islam or is actually a personal struggle against the temptation to sin are engaging in the Shari'a-approved practice of taqqiyya (lying and dissimulation to advance the cause of Islam). To read the Qur'an is to learn that jihad is definitely holy war and also a fardh'ayn (an obligatory duty on each and every Muslim). If he or she cannot join the mujahideen for some acceptable reason, her or his fardh'ayn is to support the mujahideen with money and/or services. The Hadith and the Shari'a preach the same message relentlessly. "There are 35,213 Qur'an verses, hadiths, Sharia laws, and various Muslim scriptures commanding and encouraging killing, violence, war, annihilation, corporal punishment, hatred, boycott, humiliation, and subjugation aimed mainly against non-Muslims."

There are many Muslims who write books that are blatantly honest as though no infidels will ever read their books or the authors don't care if they do. So there is nothing secret about what all too many Muslims hope to accomplish with jihad today. Darwish quotes from Jihad In Islam, a book by Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi publish by Holy Koran Publishing House in 1980 (a sayyid is a descendant of Muhammad): "Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and program of Islam regardless of the country or the nation which rules it. The purpose of Islam is to set up a state on the basis of its own ideology and programme, regardless of which nation assumes the role of the standard bearer of Islam or the rule of which nation is undermined in the process of the establishment of an ideological Islamic state. It must be evident to you from this discussion that the objective of Islamic jihad is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system and establish in its stead an Islamic system of state rule. Islam does not intend to confine this revolution to a single state or a few countries; the aim of Islam is to bring about a universal revolution." In a 4 July 1998 interview Omar Ahmad, cofounder of the Washington DC-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, told Muslims living in the U.S. that "you have a responsibility to deliver the message of Islam…Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant.…The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth."

Those of you who read this and are old enough will be reminded that Communists once had the same goal and many of them had been equally honest about it (for example, Nikita Khrushchev promising to bury the First World when he was in power). I've read the Qur'an. These two Muslims are saying with different words exactly what is preached repeatedly in the Qur'an, and Darwish proves the Hadith and the Shari'a preach the same message more harshly than the Qur'an. Islam's mission today is to bury all non-Islamic nations. If there are Muslims secularized enough to have a more benign interpretation of Islam, they seem more interested in avoiding a fatwa that would make them targets for the mujahideen than in engaging in activism that would meliorate Islam.

There is much more about the Shari'a in Punishment that is always fascinating and frequently repulsive. Its laws are so atrocious because Muhammad turned the violent, sexist, primitive culture of the Arabian Bedouin tribes into the foundation upon which he constructed Islam. Muhammad incorporated a lot of religious ideas he assimilated from Judaism and Christianity, but it was the Bedouin warrior culture that determined the nature of Islam and continues to determine it. Islamic nations are so violent and dysfunctional today because Islam makes the obnoxious behaviors of the 7th century Bedouins religious laws Muslims must obey. Punishment demonstrates how desperately the Islamic nations need an Enlightenment to begin the theological melioration of what is now the most theofascist religion on Earth.

The Shari'a was created after the death of Muhammad because the Qur'an didn't have enough religious commandments to serve the needs of the Caliphs, who were trying to rule without the authority of being Islam's last and most supreme prophet. Using the Qur'an and the Hadith even though both were still in the development stage in the 7th and 8th centuries, eminent Imams began the process of interpreting the two scriptures to produce the laws the Caliphs needed. Eventually there evolved four Shari'a schools: Hanafi (the most liberal and the one most Muslims follow), Shafi'i, Maliki, and Hanbali (the strictest and followed only in Saudi Arabia). To put it mildly, four different interpretations of how Muslims are supposed to behave to make Islam's deity happy do not contribute to ensuring domestic tranquility in Islamic nations.

Punishment shows the terrible impact of Shari'a law on women and men to reveal how grotesque and perverted life is when humans must submit to Islamic theofascism. It shouldn't be surprising that women suffer the worst. The purulent Christian sexism that used to be a cultural cancer in Europe and the Europe-like nations created by European colonization has been drastically reduced since the Enlightenment. That kind of vile, faith-based sexism is still thriving in the Islamic nations. It starts with Islam's basic definition of a woman. "According to many hadiths, a woman is an awrah, Arabic for "pudendum," the external genitalia. It is as if the main religiously sanctioned word for women in American culture was the detestable four-letter c word. A woman is an awrah, not 'like an awrah,' but she is an awrah, meaning a woman in her totality is an exposed genital area." This is the real reason why Islam commands women to wear clothes that cover their bodies entirely or almost entirely (meaning only face and hands showing).

This sexual definition of woman is revealed in Islamic marriage. "The Sharia marriage contract is essentially a document granting sexual intercourse rights to the male and giving him total control over his wife or wives." That is why "the Muslim marriage contract is traditionally called Akd Nikkah, and the literal meaning of the word nikkah in Arabic is 'sexual intercourse'.……The use of the word nikkah to describe marriage was not a mistake or mistranslation; it is the word often used in the Qur'an and Hadith to describe marriage." If that is not insulting enough, the word the Qur'an uses for dowry is ujur, which literally translates as "wage". When a Muslim woman signs a marriage contract and the Muslim man pays ujur, her faridah (obligation) is to earn the money by providing sexual and other services on demand. If she does not, she is guilty of nashiz (rebelliousness of a woman) and that is a crime in Shari'a law.

Punishment proves that oppression, repression, and suppression of women are legal in Islamic nations. This involves several practices that horrify and outrage non-Muslims in the First World. Shari'a law does not directly mandate honor killing, but it provides loopholes to male relatives who murder their female relatives when they believe the girls or women have dishonored their family, which explains why "men who commit that crime are rarely punished, and even then the punishment is very light." Female circumcision is one of the primitive Bedouin practices embraced by Islam, especially by the Shafi'i school. Islam allows men to rape women with impunity because "to prove rape either the rapist would have to confess or there must be four male witnesses to the rape (and how likely would that be?). No other evidence is allowed." If a woman fails to prove she was raped, "she may become a victim of honor killing or be flogged by the Islamic court for having premarital sex." Shari'a law establishes "the right of Muslim husbands to beat their wives if they are rebellious, such as refusing to be always sexually available." Muslim fathers also have the right to batter their kids. A hadith has this message from Muhammad to Muslim husbands and fathers: "Hang up the whip where the members of the household can see it."

Punishment has a lot more to offer than what I have discussed, such as recommending several tactics the First World should use to combat Islam. Many I agreed with, especially the one about not weakening, limiting, abridging, circumventing, or eliminating the freedoms of speech and press to protect Muslims from having to take it as it comes in Freethought's entrepot. One recommendation is definitely terrible. Darwish thinks Europe and to a lesser extent the U.S. are vulnerable to Islamic conquest because secularization has made them too weak to resist, which is why she believes "it is time for Europe and America to reach into their rich Judeo-Christian heritage and champion those values that made them strong and can sustain and give purpose to the youth of the West." Has there ever been a good end when fighting one religion with a different religion was the means?

Darwish needs to study the history Christianity has made since it emerged from Judaism. If she does, she will discover this: secularization is the reason why Europe and the U.S. are no longer theofascist mires like the Islamic nations are today. What the world needs now - especially the Islamic nations - is Freethought and Secular Humanism erected on a strong foundation of Atheism. Ecrasez l'infame! There's no other way to go.

The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn
Elizabeth (Liz) Johnson
Steeple Hill Books
233 Broadway New York, NY 10279
9780373443482 $5.50

Cheri Clay

Mackenzie Thorn named after her grandfather and prefers to be called Kenzie was raised by her grandparents after the death of her parents. She works at the prison teaching a GED prep program to the inmates. A program started by her grandfather Governor Mac Thorn. Along comes handsome inmate Myles Parsons. Kenzie is drawn to him but doesn't know why but knows despite the innocent flirtation-taking place between them she must keep her distance. After all, he is an inmate.

Than one night as she leaves class Myles is hiding in the backseat of her car waiting to kidnap her. Kidnap her he does and together set off on the wildest adventure of her life. Kenzie is sure that Myles is going to kill her as he holds a knife to her side and tells her to drive; frantically she does as she is told praying to God to help her. Driving to a cabin in the woods where Myles' mother Lenora lives, Kenzie tries to get Lenora to help her but to no avail. After risking his life fighting a mountain lion after Kenzie tries to escape the truth comes out. Turns out Myles is not who she thought he was. He is an FBI agent working under cover to protect her from who knows what or whom. As our duo sets out to find out who wants Kenzie dead and why and trying to make those people believe she is dead through chases and hiding out it is clear along the way God has his hand of protection upon them. Both try hard to fight the feelings growing between them.

Kenzie is not sure she can trust Myles if he lied about who he is what else has he lied about but at the same time feels she has no one else to turn to. And Myles knows he will jeopardize his job and yet the romance grows.

Where will it all end, will both end up dead or will they be able to stop whoever wants Kenzie dead? And what about romance will Kenzie ever trust Myles in order to follow her heart only time will tell in this amazing tale of inspirational suspense and romance. Author Liz Johnson in this her debut novel has an amazing way of bringing her characters to life. You'll love the sweet and spicy sides of Kenzie and the gentle protectiveness of Myles that you can't help to be drawn into the story from page one.

I Hate People
Jonathan Littman & Marc Hershon
Little, Brown, and Company
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316032292 $19.99

Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer

There's no "I" in teamwork but there is one in "I Hate People." It is the clever title of the new book from authors Jonathan Littman and Marc Hershon. In it, the duo discusses how teamwork is overrated, how to deal with the ten least wanted coworkers in the office, and how flying solo should be your ultimate goal. The premise is based on the following excerpt:

Corporate America is in the midst of a crisis. The spirit of the individual has played a huge part in forging our nation's history. Yet the scourge of teamwork pap has made solo efforts in companies seem unwanted, crazy, even dangerous.

We have a solution: the Soloist.

The book begins with a section called The Ten Least Wanted. It explains how to deal with personalities such as Flimflam who gets other people to do his bidding; Switchblade AKA Judas; and Stop Sign, who will pour cold water on your every ambition. The section made for an interesting first chapter but it doesn't gel well with the rest of the book.

The authors are at their best when they get into the idea of working solo, also known as Solocrafting. In this section of the book, they give examples of people who made off well going solo, including the creator of Craigslist and a corporate lawyer who won the Pulitzer for the poetry he wrote during his lunch hour. The book then goes into detail as to how you too can become a Soloist.

As a loner who loves eight hours a day to actually work and not deal with the constant interruptions of dealing with coworkers' personal issues and disruptive behavior, I appreciated what they were trying to accomplish. However, I did have a few issues with the book.

For starters, the excellent cover of a stickman kicking over a water cooler led me to believe the book would be a little more humorous. Secondly, within the book's pages, the authors seemed a bit too optimistic in assuming that solocrafting in the workplace will be as easy as they make it out to be since the teamwork mentally is branded into corporate America's brain. And finally, the instructions how to get people to leave you alone at work got a little too stale and obvious.

"I Hate People" is the ideal book for those of us who want to turn our side gigs into full-time jobs, for those of us who function better in solo settings than in groups, and for those of us who just want to be left alone to do our work.

Torah for Your Table
Rabbi Yisroel Jungreis - and - Rabbi Osher Anshel Jungreis
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
Artscroll/Mesorah Publications
4401 2nd Ave Brooklyn, NY 11232
9781422609248 $24.99 718-921-9000

Fern Sidman, Reviewer

There is no doubt that the times that we live in are fraught with innumerable dangers. For the Jewish people, it is a particularly horrifying juncture in the annals of our history, as we witness an exponential rise in anti-Semitism and the continued demonization of Israel; while the world remains eerily silent. On a collective scale, our nation is faced with the escalating and alarming scourge of intermarriage, assimilation and youth alienation. Our personal lives have taken on an ever increasing load of financial challenges and emotional stresses that often result in families being torn asunder. From time immemorial, the indefatigable Jew has faced similar, if not infinitely worse scenarios in terms of our personal and national survival, yet has continued to prevail over all pernicious forms of adversity. The question has often been asked, "Given their history, how could the Jewish nation possibly survive and even triumph?"

In order to keep us afloat and exhilarated for the upcoming new year, Artscroll Publications has released an exceptionally enlightening and incredibly inspiring compendium of Torah insights, entitled "Torah For Your Table", penned by brothers, Rabbi Yisroel and Osher Anshel Jungreis. If the surname of the writers sound at all familiar, these Rabbis are the sons of the internationally renowned Torah luminary, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, and it is she who has masterfully compiled all of her sons' Torah lectures into this impressive volume for use at home, school or synagogue. The authors have most befittingly dedicated this monumental work of intellectual and spiritual gravitas to their beloved father and mentor, the esteemed Torah scholar, Rabbi Meshulum HaLevi Jungreis, ZT"L.

It is in these pages of "Torah For Your Table" that the brothers Jungreis make it abundantly clear that the key to our survival as Jews can only be found in our unbreakable bond with our G-d and our consistent devotion to His Torah. History has proven that it was the stubborn insistence on the part of the Jew to study Torah, despite the punishments inflicted upon them by their tormentors, that served as our eternal life raft in the tumultuous waters of time. The authors tell us that the legacy of the Jewish people is inextricably tied to our ultimate blessing; our acceptance of the Torah at Sinai. Thus, G-d has bequeathed to us a precious "road map" called the Torah, in order that we may successfully navigate the often uneven terrain of everyday life and in His munificence, has provided us with the exclusive source of our cherished and unique value system.

Our sojourn through the weekly Torah portions; from Bereishis through Devarim (Genesis to Deuteronomy) is brilliantly enhanced by the profoundly personal, highly original and erudite interpretations of both authors; while their cogent concepts remain traditionally predicated upon the teachings of our commentators and sages of blessed memory. Teaching Torah as it applies to each of us as individuals is no small task, but Rabbi Yisroel and Rabbi Osher speak to our hearts and souls by prodigiously paving the path to a comprehensive understanding for students from all backgrounds and all levels of observance. It is apparent that the flames of Torah burn bright in this classic tome, as the passion, warmth and love that the authors have infused here can only be termed palpable..

This refreshingly honest book does not aim to sugarcoat Torah precepts that the world at large may find "politically incorrect" but rather offers a sagacious perspective on the salient and nuanced points in each parsha and how they personally relate to our lives. Citing a plethora of Midrashic and Talmudic sources, the subject matter covered here includes the veritable gamut of Torah related concepts such as the power of prayer, performing chesed, the establishment of a Torah true home, respecting our parents and teachers, designating time for regular Torah study, sensitizing ourselves to the needs of others and the critical importance of remaining ever vigilant concerning our conduct and speech, among hundreds of other timeless concepts.

Reminding us of the infamous words of King Solomon who said, "Death and life are in the tongue", the authors teach us that through the power of speech we have within our capability to create or destroy. "There are more commandments in the Torah in regard to speech than to any other mitzvah; seventeen negative and fourteen positive mitzvos", the authors teach us, adding the admonition, "Think before you speak and ask yourself, 'Will my words generate light or darkness, love or hatred, blessing or curse?' The choice is yours to make. Use your Divine gift of speech carefully and wisely, in the service of the Almighty."

Concerning the tenet of "Gemilus Chasadim" (acts of loving kindness) we learn that our proclivities for such kindness and largesse can be found in our spiritual DNA, as we are taught about the "Ark Rehab" that Noach endured. Of Noach and his family, the authors teach, "In the Ark they had to care for all the animals that G-d had commanded them to gather; backbreaking labor consumed them day and night. Yet through that labor they learned the meaning of chesed - reaching out with gemilus chasadim - one of the pillars on which G-d built His world."

We are also treated to especially poignant anecdotes about beloved members of the Jungreis family and how their living example of Torah precepts helped shape the character of the authors. They recall with great love, "Our bobbe, Rebbetzin Miriam Jungreis, a'h, was a true embodiment of this trait of chesed. Her life was one of constant giving, and even in her last days, as illness racked her frail body, she continued to organize chesed programs for needy Russian immigrants, explaining that if she could not offer help to others, her life had no meaning."

In our fast paced and harried existence, quality time for genuine communication with our families and friends has become severely limited. It would appear that the only time that we have to communicate is at meal time and the authors urge us to use the time we spend at our dining room tables wisely. Rather than engage in mundane chit chat, it is imperative to use our communication skills to impart Torah values to our spouses, children, extended families, friends and guests. Thus, the title of this book, "Torah For Your Table" is not intended as a stellar guide for exclusive use on Shabbos and Yom Tov but for each and every day of the week. Whether it be Monday morning breakfast, Sunday lunch or Wednesday night dinner, we must start off the new year in the proper manner. Throughout the weeks and months ahead we can savor the feeling of re-birth that fills our hearts on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur by making this invaluable Torah companion a staple item at our tables.

Moreover, this parsha book represents a most significant, historic and vital contribution to the corpus of books on Torah literature and its impact will certainly be felt in this generation and generations to come. No home, school, community center or synagogue library should be without it! A must read for anyone seeking Torah knowledge!

A Good Man
Larry Baker
Ice Cube Books
North Liberty, Iowa
9781888160444, $24.95,

Garry Klein

Larry Baker's latest book "A Good Man" is a meaty piece of fiction writing which is as much a revisitation of some of his characters from books past as well as digging up characters from the likes of Flannery O'Connor and Harry Chapin. In so doing, he gives them a renewed vitality and place to go in our times. It is a bit of religious treatise blended with a boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl story.

Set in eerily real settings in West Branch, Iowa, St. Augustine, Florida, and places that only Baker's finely honed, fertile imagination can take us, "A Good Man" tells the story of Harry Ducharme, one part morning DJ from WOLD and one part Larry Baker's crotchety alter-ego. Ducharme, a once formidable radio personality, has hit the skids as a barely-functional alcoholic who spouts poetry and philosophy from 10 pm until 2 am in the morning for all the waking world to hear on WWHD in St. Augustine. With a rag-tag group of others, including a Rush Limbaugh acolyte with a heart of gold, a stay-at-home radio cooking show host, a real-live fireman, and a cast of ne'r do wells that keep the tale rolling down A1A with humor and a whole lot of truth. And did I mention the parrot named Jimmy Buffett?

All of this artifice sets up an exceptional and unusual story of love, loss, and redemption that would make an evangelical take notice if they weren't offended by the presumption of a chosen One walking the earth with Harry Ducharme as their guardian angel. It is a marvelous piece of writing that is at once cynical and endearing about how life takes unusual twists and turns and everyone ends up in somebody else's story.

Where does the road lead? If you have read Baker's "Athens, America" or "Flamingo," you will be surprised where this trip takes you. Baker has found a mature, compelling voice to write this tale which is both brutally honest and rib-tickling. More like Tom Robbins without the shaman-aesthetic than William Faulkner, it still manages to entertain and intrigue as the reader becomes part of the bumper car ride between the real world that Ducharme and his comrades inhabit and the world of the possible. As much as a love offering to writers that Baker admires as an original piece of American fiction, you may find yourself, as I did, dropping your jaw by the time you approach the end of the story. At a brisk 264 pages, it moves with liquidity toward an ending that is nothing short of deja vu.

Project Multiscam: Channeling Jesus' Beloved Disciple
William Harwood
BookSurge Publishing
7290B, Investment Drive, North, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439247310 $15.99

Leland W. Ruble

This is the fictional account of an individual, who under hypnosis, reveals a past close relationship to Jesus of the gospels. Even though fictional, it reads like the true story of an individual who, because of his intimate relationship with Jesus, relates in a series of events just how and in what way Jesus was able to achieve notoriety during the few years he practiced his pseudo religious deception, evangelical preaching, faith healing, and god adoration in and around the vicinity of Jerusalem.

The author, who has an extensive knowledge of religion and biblical history, has woven a tale, which even though fictional, explains how Jesus, a simple man with limited intelligence, an unimposing physical appearance, and few other capabilities, possessed the ability to scam naïve people into believing irrationally that he, Jesus, was gifted with supernatural abilities beyond the ordinary.

The individual who relates the events under hypnosis, is described as having lived in the past as Nathanael or Bartholomew, depicted in the gospels as a disciple of Jesus. Here we are presented with a character, who as the most intimate companion of Jesus, is himself described as "educable mentally handicapped." However, it is through Nathanael that we learn (from the author) how Jesus cleverly conceived certain acts to appear as supernatural miracles, but were essentially natural acts cleverly disguised to appear as miracles.

We come to view Jesus, not as a son of a god, but rather as just another of many past and present evangelical preachers who make lofty claims of possessing psychic supernatural powers that allow them unlimited access to cure the ill, predict the future of humanity, and inform their congregations when to expect the "Rapture".

Even though the novel is a satire, many of the events described are more believable than the vague, nearly incomprehensible and improbable fantasy of Jesus as depicted in the gospels.

Unless one is actually a believer in a supernatural reality inhabited by a god, demons, angels, and other contrarian spirits, this book is bound to upset your present state of mind. If not a believer in the fantastical and deluded, this book will serve to reinforce your skepticism by showing how Jesus was able to manipulate, in the same manner of a Joseph Smith, Mary Eddy Baker, Ron L. Hubbard, and countless other religious scam artists who successfully founded a religion based on nothing more than absurd claims and irrational notions which eventually became acceptable as the foundation for the establishment of a pseudo religious establishment.

The author through the voice of Nathanael, explains how it was possible for Jesus to deceive others into accepting him as the possible savior of humanity, in the disguise of a Messiah or as the Righteous Rabbi.

Some of the incidents described, such as the mythical planet of Barnard 3, where "there are from five to twenty or more Bernardians on earth, on loan to Allah from the god of Bernard 3," (p.37), are bound to make one smile at the absurdity of such a possibility, but could enrage any god believer or dedicated Jesus worshiper.

Jesus is depicted as a psychic. "How could he not be aware of what was in the hearts of men?" (p.41)

The reader is exposed to various examples of how miracles attributed to Jesus were not really miracles, but clever deceptions meant to befuddle any witness and conceal the actual underlying cause that made the miraculous displays of Jesus appear unexplainable. These are acts still performed and perpetuated by some religions, specifically the Catholic, notorious for using so-called miracles as the means to further finance their religion and delude its converts.

Nathanael explains the generic (Lord's prayer) "…that Jewish Jesus taught his disciples. Parts of it are generic, that is, applicable to other times and cultures," (p.71).

"To the gentiles of two thousand years later, who would consider a worldwide theocracy with its capital in Jerusalem, ruled over by an absolute monarch of the Jewish persuasion, unacceptable, it is as meaningless as the Sanskrit mantra chanted by Hare Krishnas who likewise have no idea what they are saying. I wonder how long the popularity of 'Om mani padme hum' would last if the parrots spouting it knew they were chanting, "The penis is in the vagina,'" (p.71).

The author introduces us to an entirely different Jesus than the one we have come to know through the gospels. From his early youth until the crucifixion, and the resurrection, we are confronted by a Jesus who is a master of deception. He like all evangelists, is a mortal man who used his limited abilities to scam others into believing the unbelievable. He is not the authentic son of a god, but rather a con artist who uses whatever mental capabilities he has to scam others into believing he's on a divine mission from his father god to create the circumstances for a future theocracy established on the Christian faith.

For anyone interested, this book is a provocative interpretation of what might have really motivated Jesus of the gospels to do what he did, and why he so fanatically pursued his unreal real fantasy of reality even to his eventual death on a cross.

Even though there is overwhelming evidence that Jesus was not what he claimed to be "the son of a god," millions of converts to Christianity persist in thinking that he was, and that he continues to exist in some remote, inaccessible region of the universe. Indeed, that he is still contemplating (after 2000 years) a return to earth and the establishment of a theocracy. As the author explains, "Bartholomew's Gospel, allegedly narrated by the reincarnation of a man long dead, invents the most transparent science fiction confidence swindle posing as a religion since Scientology."

I recommend this book to both religious and non-religious who entertains some doubt concerning the authenticity of Jesus, and any non-believer who would enjoy a few laughs, and the enjoyable wit and wisdom of the author who conceived this remarkable portrait of the otherwise fantasized and exaggerated religious character of the Jesus depicted in the gospels.

The Name of the Wind: The Kingkiller Chronicle
Patrick Rothfuss
DAW Books, Inc
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
978075640407 $24.95

Lorraine Morgan Scott

The Name of the Wind, and author Patrick Rothfuss guide you along, slowly, introducing you to new words, new ideas, and different takes on things--things you thought you knew--but suddenly you realize you didn't know as you turn the page.

The setting (per a map) is provided but the timeframe isn't. What makes it all so interesting is, one minute you think you're reading a novel set in the 14 or 1500's, and then the next something from the 19th or 20th century is discussed.

As I read, I was compelled to race ahead in the story because I wanted to know things. Things like why the innkeeper knew which items to arrange on a nearby table, or why there was a (yuck) "spider as large as a wagon wheel, black as slate," with legs sharp as razors on the table. Why? How did the innkeeper know what it was -- when no one else in the room did?

All these questions and I was only on page 11. Obviously, the story really drew me in.

Rothfuss writes in such clarity that I could feel the main character, Kote, withdrawing into himself. I could feel his despair, and I wanted to know why he was so unhappy, so distanced. Emotions of Kote differed when other characters joined the story, such as Bast.

Bast called Kote "Master," and I was taken aback. It isn't cool to call other people master. What type of master is Kote? As I read, Bast, who by his actions and his words form an image of a beautiful man with dark curly hair, angelic features, and a slight, lean build. Lean I think, but strong. Bast, who "...moved with a strange delicacy and grace, as if he were close to dancing," seemed to draw patience from Kote, and a gentleness as well. Such mannerisms are contradictory to the image I've formed of Kote - which is hard, rugged.

More questions arise when Bast calls Kote, "Reshi and Master," and Kote calls Bast his student.

The story begins to unfold when a person called "Chronicler" enters the inn. After some show of will and temperament, Kote begins to tell his story. And what a story it is! Kvothe's story (for in the beginning he was Kvothe - not Kote) is chock-full of youth, happiness, exploration, and the encouragement of those who love him. Then the story takes a dark turn to one of pain, loss, hiding, and solidarity. Just as you feel you cannot take any more pain, the story, as in life, has events occur that once again change Kvothe.

In an easy to follow thread, Rothfuss weaves us from present day (at the inn with Chronicler and Bast) to the first person narrative of Kvothe and his childhood to teen years. We are introduced to the life of the Edema Ruh (so much more than traveling performers), to the life of orphans in the backstreets of Tarbean, and then to university life.

The story is engaging and entertaining and frustrating. I say frustrating because I see Kvothe as an adolescent in chains. He's restrained by his ignorance yet his mind is brilliant. He taunts others, yet doesn't possess the cruelty of spirit to fight on the same level as his opponent. He is handicapped because his ego compels him to commit acts which would have been better left undone.

I envisioned young Kvothe had a charismatic personality, often persuading others to do what he wanted. I warmed to the love shown by his mother. I ached when his future was shattered. And I wanted to infuse common sense and a drive for self-protection into his naive body. He didn't seem to gain the common sense or people skills to maneuver in a world of elders even as the years passed. He was a child (the story stopped at 15) among older teens (maturity and years) and adults (many of whom were accustomed to life just so), so it was unnerving at times to be part of the experiences he went through because of his immaturity or age.

It wasn't until near the end of the book, with maybe 75 pages left, that I realized the story would be continued. Ah, the joke was on me! I so prefer to read all stories in a series back to back, because I go crazy waiting, or I forget to get back to the story and finish it when the next book comes out. I don't believe I'll forget to get the next book in the series. It's a good read. I still have many unanswered questions in my mind.

The Fat Tail
Ian Bremmer and Preston Keat
9780195328554 $27.95

Stephen J. Hage

I bought this book because Fareed Zakaria recommended it at the end of one of his Global Public Square (GPS) broadcasts.

The authors describe a Fat Tail as being the same as what Nassim Nicholas Taleb described as a Black Swan in his book of the same name. One which, by the way, I bought for the same reason I bought the Fat Tail.

Early in the book, the authors, after showing what a fat tail looks like on a graph compared to a normal Gaussian distribution or bell shaped curve made a statement which caught my attention and made reference to Taleb's excellent work.

"Those who would apply Taleb's theory to political risk face another important problem. Unlike financial, economic, or environmental risks, political risks are usually generated by individuals, people with particular and identifiable sets of motivations and limitations. This makes them predictable-and not black swans. If we can map these incentives and constraints, it is considerably easier to forecast downside risks (and the limitations on upside outcomes.)"

I grabbed my pen and wrote in the margin BIG IF!

It's hard to argue against the conclusion that political risks are usually generated by individuals. I'm not as sanguine, however, regarding how readily identifiable sets of motivations are in any individual at any given time. And, the moment I hear anyone begin talking about mapping incentives and constraints, alarm bells start going off and red lights start blinking on my danger grid. Human nature, motivations, political advantage and hidden agendas are, under ideal circumstances, at best squishy.

When I think of mapping something…anything, I see mental images of scientists, mathematicians or technologists working with sets of data represented by numbers. I see graphs, computers and mathematical models. In this book, I saw none of that.

Instead, I saw a series of discussions about events like geopolitics, political risk and capital markets, domestic instability, civil war, state failure and terrorism discussed with anecdotal references to how such events impacted the business of companies and corporations and how they were able to deal with those situations.

And, while these discussions were interesting and instructive, in my opinion, they hardly represented even any semblance of the word mapping, as I believe most people understand the term.

I found the book disappointing because, as I read it, I couldn't help thinking that what Bremmer and Kent were saying, in addition to their exposition was, we're the ones who know this stuff and, if you are interested in or worried about any of what we've said, maybe you should get in contact with us.

Now, maybe that's just me but after making a concerted effort to read the book objectively I can't, in good conscience, recommend it.

My strong recommendation for and support of Taleb's Black Swan, however, remains unchanged.

Ann's Bookshelf

How to Paint a Dead Man
Sarah Hall
Faber & Faber
9780571224890 A$35.95

The curious title of this book gives no clues to its contents other than to suggest that art is the link which binds this book together. Even the quotation from Cennino d'Andrea Cennini, from which the title is taken and which is included at the end of this book, only confirms that subtlety, colour, light and shadow are a necessary part of the way in which Sarah Hall paints her characters.

Signor Giorgio is an Italian artist famous for his obsessive depictions of a small group of bottles. Dying of cancer in a small town in Umbria, he looks back on his life and work, meditates on the meaning of art, remembers a past troubled by war and loss, and has daily battles with Theresa, his housekeeper, to maintain his smoking habit. One of his fond memories is of a young English artist, Peter, who once wrote him stimulating letters about art but who never included his address, so could not be answered.

Thirty years later, Peter Caldicutt, successful, middle-aged and described by his daughter as "one of his generation's formidable eccentrics", still struggles with the demands of art, both philosophically and literally. Trudging the rugged Cumbrian landscape which is his inspiration, he slips and becomes trapped. So begins his own musing on life, death and art, as he also contemplates the irony of being so unpredictable and unreliable that no-one will immediately miss him or know where he is and he may well die of exposure.

A little later again, Sue, Peter's daughter, is also an artist. Her own field is photography but she is currently curator of an exhibition of objects which have had close personal significance for famous artists. A bottle given to her for the exhibition by her father forms a link with Signor Giorgio. Sue is reeling from the sudden, accidental death of her twin brother. Her sense of self has been fragile since childhood, but now, again, she is distanced from everything around her. She talks of herself as 'you', struggles to feel present, and discovers that only in the dangerous and illicit affair with her close friend's husband can she feel alive and human. Sex, described in graphic detail by Sue, is voyeuristic and coldly un-erotic in spite of shared lust and passion, but only through this sex can she find relief from the numbing separation from reality which she feels.

The fourth person whose life we enter in this book is a young Italian girl, Annette Tambroni, whose growing, congenital blindness has given her a special quality of imaginative vision which Signor Giorgio, who briefly met her whilst teaching art to local schoolchildren, describes as a gift for discovering invisible things. As readers, we experience Annette's world through that vision, and Sarah Hall's exceptional ability to convey the experiences and personality of each of her characters is at its best in Annette's story.

Annette is innocent and vulnerable. She vaguely remembers a painting in her church which depicts 'the Bestia' but cannot describe it exactly and in her imagination it comes to represent all the unspeakable things which her obsessively religious mother fears for her but will not discuss. The atmosphere of suppressed sexual tension, especially associated with the men in Annette's family, is palpable, but Sarah Hall also manages to create incredible beauty, even in the final horror that enters Annette's life.

Four different characters, four different stories, four different ways of telling the stories and a shifting pattern of time-frames throughout the book, all make this an ambitious novel which poses challenges for both the author and the reader. But Sarah Hall writes beautifully, intelligently and, at times, with simple poetic flair. The chapter titles, 'The Mirror Crisis', 'Translated from the Bottle Journals', 'The Fool on the Hill', and 'The Divine Vision of Annette Tambroni', repeat in that order throughout the book as each character's story develops; and inevitably, perhaps, some stories are more gripping than others. I must admit that Peter's dilemma caused me to skip chapters in order to discover whether he escaped and survived. But I did go back and finish the other chapters, and Signor Giorgio, Sue and Annette each held my attention in different ways.

Structurally, and in some of its content, this is not an easy book to read but it is absorbing, interesting, innovative and a thought-provoking way of considering some of the many aspects of art.

The Selected Works of T.S.Spivet: A Novel
Reif Larsen
Harvill Secker: Random House
9781 846 5 52786 A$34.95

T.S.Spivet is a twelve-year-old genius maker of maps, plans and illustrations. "I think". he tells a CNN interviewer, "we are born with a map of the entire world in our heads...the patterns are already there and I see the map in my head and then just draw it". This is a simplified version of what he tells the scientists at the Smithsonian, but they are cleverer than a CNN man trying to entertain an audience. T.S., however, is still just a child and his Selected Works are a wonderful grab-bag collection of his notes, drawings, maps and stories, as well as a vivid, funny and sometimes terrifying tale of how he came to be at the Smithsonian that night and the adventures he had getting there.

T.S. (the initials stand for 'Tecumseh Sparrow', and how he came by them is a story in itself) lives with his family on a ranch in Montana. He can recite the latitude and longitude of his address to the nearest second, but he is not so certain about the thoughts and feelings of his family. His sister, Gracie, is sixteen and T.S. regards her as "the most together member of the family". She is smart, sassy, and, when the family exasperates her, is inclined to a behaviour which T.S. has labelled 'Dork Retreat': i.e. she will plug in her earphones and/or retreat to her room with her music. If T.S. is the cause, he knows he can mollify her with 500 grams of chewy tape.

T.S's mother, Dr Clare, is, so he says, "a misguided coleopterist" who has spent her entire adult life studying and classifying beetles. She can't cook, is a champion blower-up of toasters, and she is "the kind of mother who would teach you the periodic table while feeding your porridge as an infant". T.S. feels close to his mother and shares some of her interests but doesn't understand her continuing obsession with finding a particular species of moth. He is much less close to his father, who is a taciturn farmer: "the sort of man who will walk into a room and say something like 'you can't bullshit a cricket', and then just leave".

No longer part of the family, but still very much a part of T.S's notebooks, is Layton, his younger brother who has only recently died in a shooting accident which none of the family will talk about and which T.S. fears may have been his fault.

T.S. makes sense of his life by charting it in diagrams, maps and plans which he keeps in the colour-coded notebooks lining the walls of his room The extent of his curiosity and the huge variety of his work is apparent in the Selected Works, where panels alongside the text show (in a random selection) detailed botanical drawings; plans for corn-shucking; stages of male pattern baldness; "My first Inertia Experiment...a disaster"; his brother's rocking horse; a map of the locations of the 26 McDonalds restaurants in North Dakota and much, much more. Some of this work has been sent by a family friend to the Smithsonian, Scientific American, Science, Discovery and Sport Illustrated for Kids, and some (in particular, his meticulous illustration of how the Bombardier Beetle mixes and expels boiling secretions from its abdomen) has been published.

T.S's Smithsonian adventure begins with a phone call from an official who tells him that he has won the prestigious Baird Award for the popular advancement of science. Unaware of T.S's age, he invites him to attend the Smithsonian's hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary celebration dinner in Washington in order to accept the award and to give a keynote address. T.S. initially declines the invitation, but after a really scary day failing to help his father free 'Old Stinky', the bad-tempered goat, from some barbed wire on the farm and almost being bitten by a rattlesnake into the bargain, he changes his mind. To get to Washington, however, without talking to the Smithsonian official again and disclosing his age, is a problem. T.S. decides to make it a true adventure and, like Hanky the Hobo of a story he once heard, he decides to jump a freight train.

A large part of the Selected Works tells of T.S's adventures, some of which are terrifying. Interspersed with these, however, are extracts from a notebook which he stole from his mother's study as he was leaving. These tell the story of Emma Osterville, who married Tecumseh Tearho Spivet, T.S's great, great, grandfather.

Emma's life and her struggles to be accepted as a geologist in the conservative, male-dominated scientific world of America in the 1800s, make fascinating reading. Nevertheless, I was so taken up with T.S's adventures that I began to skip over them to find out what happened to T.S. and then came back to them later. If T.S. had drawn a plan of the way I read this book (and he did once try to map Melville's Moby Dick), it might have looked like this:

Whichever way you read this book, it is a wonderfully imaginative work of art and literature. Reif Larsen captures the spirit of a twelve-year-old boy, but also manages to tell a story, or stories, which will appeal to a many age-groups. Many of T.S's observations are very acute and very funny, although only an adult might see the humour of some of them. Larsen's publishers, too, have done him proud. The book itself is innovative and inventive and a delight. Even T.S's thanks page and Reif Larsen's own acknowledgements are worth reading, and I particularly liked T.S's additions to the publisher's information page at the front of the book - a page which only publishers, booksellers, librarians and reviewers would normally read. Added to the CIP Catalogue information is a note: "This book is about"- and a list of 27 entries, which includes "7. WHISKEY DRINKING - FICTION", "12. HOBO SIGNS - FICTION", "16. HONEY NUT CHEERIOS - FICTION", and even an entry for "MIDWESTERN WORMHOLES", which is also Fiction. That should make shelving the book in any particular section of a bookshop difficult!

This is a truly inspired, inspiring, imaginative and novel novel, and you can see more about it at

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

A Matter of Keeping
Gabrielle F. Culmer
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor, New York, NY 10016
9780533159444 $13.95 1-212-736-1767

The pursuit of an artistic career is never a simple one. "A Matter of Keeping" follows young Mindy as she's faced with the challenge of leaving her childhood home for the big city in her journey to gain her career as an artist. A story that will resonate with many readers, "A Matter of Keeping" is both inspiring and down to earth. "A Matter of Keeping" is a story that many a young adult will enjoy.

Let Me Translate For Ya, Sugar
M. Elizabeth Martin
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor, NY, NY 10016
9780533161430 $7.95

Understanding is an important thing, but each region seems to have its own tongue at times... "Let Me Translate for Ya, Sugar: Simplified Southern-Speak" is a guide for those who want to better understand the southern lexicon. Written by a Southern patriot of sorts, she offers the flavor of the Southern United States in a simple way for readers to understand if they speak any sort of English, be they from Brooklyn or a Kentuckyian behind on their lingo. "Let Me Translate for Ya, Sugar" is a must for anyone who doesn't want to be branded as a Yankee as soon as they cross the Mason-Dixon.

Break on Through: Surviving Autism
Constance Porter, RN
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595479023 $18.95

Autism brings unique challenges to families, but they can be overcome. "Break on Through: Surviving Autism" is an inspirational memoir for families of children with autism who want to provide their afflicted young ones with all the appropriate love they need. Belonging to a family that now has an adult son with the disorder, Constance Porter offers much in the way of experienced wisdom. "Break on Through: Surviving Autism" is of high recommendation to any parent of an autistic child.

The Missing Peace of a Heritage Puzzle
Frank Koerner
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
0595333443 $16.95

One week can make all the difference in the world. "The Missing Peace of a Heritage Puzzle: A Memoir Uniquely Set in a Vanished Sudetenland" is the reflections of a single week in Frank Koerner's life where everything about his life seemed to change. An honest and frank memoir that Koerner hopes will inspire other readers, he holds fast that you don't need to be famous to have an autobiography, and "The Missing Peace of a Heritage Puzzle" is his evidence.

The New & Improved Republican
Jay Johnson
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781438962368 $21.49

America wanted change, but did it really need to go left? "The New & Improved Republican" is a conservative call to Republicans to reinvent themselves and find what the American people really want, instead of catering to the hard left and distancing themselves from unpopular figures such as George W. Bush. Of interest to anyone who has become disillusioned with the Republican party but also doesn't want to go Democrat, "The New & Improved Republican " is an informed and informative read.

The Never Pals
Rocky Kuznik
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432704018 $24.95

If you took a Miami vacation with your next door neighbor, do you think your relationship would improve? "The Never Pals" is the novel of a hotel chef and a used car salesman and their sudden trip to Miami for a chance to get away from it. Before this trip, they had little in common, but the two will soon see that even if nothing is shared at first sight, there may be something deeper to unite them. "The Never Pals" is a fun and entertaining read mixing an 'odd couple' inspired story with romance.

Susan Bethany

Bob's Bookshelf

Empires of Trust: How Rome Built - and America is Building - a New World
Thomas E. Madden
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014-3658
9780452295452 $17.00

Historian Thomas Madden addresses the question of has the United States been corrupted by its own power and is the nation on the verge of collapse? Or, is America so strong that it will remain a major power for hundreds of years to come?

Presenting a unique concept of empire, the author suggests that the global power of ancient Rome and the modern U.S. is similar in that it was uniquely built on trust between allies, not the conquest of enemies.

In this book Madden discusses the unusual set of circumstances that led the two republics to attain unprecedented levels of power. In each chapter he explains how certain aspects of Roman history mirror landmark event which have occurred in America.

A quick glimpse at the chapter headings (Family Values, The Empire and Its Aging Cultural Parents and The Threat of Terrorism) show the areas of discussion. As he elaborates upon the parallels between the two super powers, one ancient and one modern, the reader can decide for himself if Madden's arguments make sense or not.

From start to finish, this is a provocative book that serious readers interested in the direction the country is moving in will want to read. Are our best days behind us or yet to come? You'll have a better idea of the answer to this important question after reading "Empires of Trust".

City at the End of Time
By Greg Bear
Ballantine Books
1745 Broadway, New York, New York 10019
9780345448408 $16.00

Three young people have dreams of a doomed, distant future. In the case of Ginny and Jack, they are transported to Kalpa without warning, leaving their bodies behind while carrying their consciousness forward, into the minds of two Kalpa residents.

Ginny and Jack take up "residence" in a wannabe warrior named Jebrassy and Tiadlba, an inquisitive explorer. Having been genetically retro-engineered to possess qualities of ancient humanity, these two Kalpasians are receptive for such an exchange.

Not as fortunate as Ginny and Jack, the third youth, Daniel, only dreams of empty darkness. But there are more than dreams that link these three characters; they are also fate-shifters, born with the ability to skip like stones across the surface of the fifth dimension, inhabiting alternative versions of themselves.

Also, each of the three youths guards an object whose origin and purpose is unknown. Called "sum-runners", these objects have remained unchanged through all versions of time.

Drawn into a mission to rescue the future, Ginny, Jack and Daniel must protect the sum-runners from a terrifying goddess-like entity known as the Chalk Princess. Along with her fate-shifting minions, the princess wants to possess the artifacts and the power they represent.

With two Hugos and five Nebulas to his credit already, Greg Bear has carved a niche for himself in the science fiction genre. The accomplished writer's ability to combine strong characterization and riveting plots with bold scientific speculation has earned a place for his fiction on best sellers lists throughout the world. Bear's in top form in this latest novel, so if you are a sci-fi fan you won't want to miss "The City at the End of Time"!

More Than It Hurts You
Darin Strauss
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014-3658
9780425295520 $15.00

Josh Goldin's world is turned completely upside down when he gets a call that his infant son is in intensive care. His wife Dori is frantic and the doctor's are doing what they can for Zack.

The situation goes from bad to worse when one of the hospital's doctors, pediatrician Darlene Stokes, suspects the baby's injuries have been caused by his mother. Thus begins a harrowing story of how Dr. Stokes tries to verify what happened and then protect Zack from his mother.

Dr. Stokes suspects she is dealing with Munchausen by proxy, a rarely diagnosed and controversial phenomenon where a mother intentionally harms her baby. It is a nightmarish situation for Josh and Dori as well as the medical people who have to sort through the mess.

Explaining that it is much more common in the US than people realize, thousands of cases of Munchausens are documented each year but many more go unreported.

Since the novel was released, Strauss reports that, "Many doctors contacted me to say they know it happens, but that it's so hard to prove…It only happens in rich countries, such as ours or the UK. It's a disease of luxury, of idle minds."

American Libre
Raul Ramos y Sanchez
Grand Central
237 Park Ave., New York, New York 10017
9780446507752 $13.99

It begins with the shooting of a young Latina by Texas police. The ensuing riot brings out the state's National Guard and after the soldiers gun down 23 people in San Antonio, the mayhem spreads throughout the country.

When the problems hit Los Angeles, Manolo Suarez becomes caught up in the trouble. At first the former U.S. Army Ranger tries to defuse the violence, but then, after the senseless killing of two neighborhood children, he falls in with a Latin activist group.

Quarantine Zones for members of the Hispanic community soon follow as a way of curbing the violence and as the security director of the La Defensa del Pueblo, Suarez is right in the center of the maelstrom. With his family sent to one of the centers, Manolo has to make some hard decisions as the country moves towards the brink of civil war.

The winner of the 2008 International Latino Book Award, this novel was originally self-published before being released by Grand Central. It focuses on some of the concerns raised by immigration policy and underscores the dangers of extremism on both sides of this explosive issue.

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

A Dragon's Tale
Long Lee
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781606968925 $24.99

Even with all the awfulness around us, we still endure. "A Dragon's Tale" is the memoir of Long Lee, a woman who over the course of four decades found her place in the world, strengthened by her family even as the headlines of the world seemed to be endlessly foretelling doom. From Vietnam to America, she lives her life, and she finds that family is something that is always needed, even if the family may change. A touching and moving memoir, "A Dragon's Tale" is a shining and uplifting read of the indomitability of the human spirit.

An Angel For Maxey
Ronald Winters
Xlibris Corporation
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113
9781441523822 $19.99

Religion and business are matters that can sometimes intersect. "An Angel for Maxey" follows one Reese Maxey, a renown marketer. Called on to help push a new worldwide religion, he soon finds that faith backed by business isn't all it's cracked up to be and that his pushing of the new faith may cost him his life. But an angel might be there for him yet. "An Angel for Maxey" is a religiously inspired thriller that will entertain as well as empower one's faith.

Sugar Time
Jane Adams
Privately Published (publicity)
9781439237618 $14.99

There are some things that can make one's health wait. "Sugar Time" is the story of TV producer Charolotte Kane, who is called Sugar by her friends and coworkers. Working on what could just be the next hit television show, and smitten with what could be her new boy toy, she has everything that a woman could want. But what she has to keep secret may be tearing her own world down as well as her own life. "Sugar Time" tells a story that will resonate will with many professional middle aged women.

Thoughts of a Beautiful Mind
El Sharieff Kirkman
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor, New York, NY 10016
9780533157617 $11.95 1-212-736-1767

Life is different on so many spectrums that true understanding would take at least an observation of each. "Thoughts of a Beautiful Mind" is the collection of El-Sharieff Kirkman as he reflects on the status of the world through his experience and verse. Moving and solid work, "Thoughts of a Beautiful Mind" is of strong interest to many a poetry reader. "The Miracle of Birth": Exotic fish that swam through the sea/No!/It was just a child growing inside of she//For three months/less than a year/At nine months/This mother waits to hear,//The cries and screams/Of a newborn child/The cries and screams/Of a newborn smile.

A Full-Grown Man
Bill Hunt
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440150104 $18.95

Lost love seems to lend itself to being sought after. "A Full-Grown Man" tells the story of one Ben Bennefield, and his object of infatuation, Anna Mancini. A small southern boy, he found himself struck with the Yankee girl through the summer, yet when the summer ended, so too did their relationships. Although his life seems set for him at his farm, Ben doesn't want to settle when there was something better he could have had. "A Full-Grown Man" is a unique story of not settling until you get what you really want.

Remember Me
Omid Olfet
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440151033 $8.95

When faced with something that doesn't make logical sense, the only solution is to turn to the illogical. "Remember Me" is a story of one officer of the law forced to face off against the supernatural. A plague devours thousands, and that would be tragic enough, if not for the fact that the deceased linger on as ghosts. Officer Jones must get to the bottom of this nonsense where there is little to help him. "Remember Me" is of recommended reading for those who like a blend of thriller and mystery.

The Wrong Side of an Illness
Owen Stanley Surman, M.D.
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity (publicity)
9780595477524 $17.95

The most horrifying thing for a doctor is to be faced with a loved one's illness and be powerless to stop it. "The Wrong Side of an Illness" tells the story of Own Surman, a doctor who stands by his wife as she fights ovarian cancer. A rare glimpse of cancer through the eyes of a medical professional and the powerlessness he fights within himself, it's a fresh perspective on a tragic subject. "The Wrong Side of an Illness" will empower many people who are trying to help a loved one beat cancer.

Beautiful Dreamer
Joan Naper
Booksurge LLC
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439226247 $18.99

Few young girls ever aspire to be a housewife. "Beautiful Dreamer" is the story of one Kitty Coakley, a young girl in the early twentieth centuries with aspirations to make her own way in life. Resolved to become a teacher, her independence is challenged by suitors - and romance tends to stand against her being her own woman. "Beautiful Dreamer" is a fine novel of what many ambitious career women faced during this era.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

The Catalyst
Sidney Beaver
Small Dogma Publishing Inc. (publicity)
9781935267010 $15.95

The good life is addictive because once you get it, you don't ever want to go back. "The Catalyst" follows self-interested individual Lukas Straw as he tries to regain his rich playboy lifestyle that eluded once he took it too far for trying rig a horse race. His story is one of greed, and a story that will read all too true for some readers as Straw's life is surrounded by intriguing characters. "The Catalyst" is an intriguing novel of the scummier side of life.

Eva Augustin Rumpf, Inc.
PO Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402-2399
9781601457899 $14.95

Hurricane Katrina destroyed many things, some of which were memories of the past. "Reclamation: Memories from a New Orleans Girlhood" is a look back at the New Orleans of around World War II. Eva Augustin Rumpf, after the disaster of Katrina, realized that so much had been lost and now offers readers her recollection of this past that many have forgotten but Rumpf doesn't want forgotten. "Reclamation" is a snapshot of the past, which sits warmly in the heart of many readers and will educate others.

The Gathering of the Clan
Thomas Richard Harry
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440117503 $19.95

A choice between something you disagree with and something you disagree with isn't a very good choice at all. "The Gathering of the Clan: An Independent Political Option for America" is a discussion of the rising number of political independents in recent years, and such movement is a move to overwhelming dissatisfaction with the current government. Discussing these movements, what they mean, and how various third parties stand on the issues, "The Gathering of the Clan" is an informative read, sure to open many a mind.

Shakespeare Ashes
Chris DeBrie
c/o Buy Books On The Web
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741454491 $13.95

If you keep wanting everything, you're bound to end up with nothing. "Shakespeare Ashes" is a novel following a group of friends in the prime of their lives. In their mid twenties, they have a future to anticipate, but attaining that future might require looking back and surrendering artifacts of their childhood that they may still cling on to. "Shakespeare Ashes" is a fine and humorous novel about the modern American quarter life crisis.

Stepping Over Myself
Ayis Caperonis
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781438946023 $14.99

When your brain changes, so you do you. "Stepping Over Myself: Finding My Way and My Life After a Brain Tumor" is a memoir of recovery as author Ayis A. Caperonis reflects on the challenges he faced in recovering from being one of the first to survive a dangerous process that saved his life, but left him a very different person. Inspirational reading about the human spirit and its desire to go on, "Stepping Over Myself" is a must read for those who want to gain a better understanding of brain tumors.

Conversations We Never Had
Patrick J. O'Shea
c/o Buy Books On The Web
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741451794 $12.95

Poetry is just another form of communication for some. "Conversations We Never Had" is a collection of poems reflecting on a sons conversing with his late father through poetry. Using poetry to respond to the poetry left behind by his father, he creates a unique approach, making "Conversations we Never Had" quite the poetry read to consider.

Almost Joke Book
Marty Drexler
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th fl., NY, NY 10016
9780533158157 $11.95

Some people take their sense of humor and run with it. "Almost Joke Book" is a collection of one liners from Marty Drexler offering his brand of humor through a simple and straightforward book filled with one liners. Something to keep the easily humored entertained for hours, "Almost Joke Book" is a solid pick for those who need their day brightened. A sample: Where in the U.S. is life insurance most expensive to buy? Death Valley, California.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

An Educational Applied Dissertation Model
Karen P. Rooks-Dotson
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd., -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432741563, $24.95,

You have to know there's a problem before creating a solution. "An Educational Applied Dissertation Model: Effectively Identifying Students at Risk Using School-Based Problem Solving" is a workbook for teachers to help them gain a greater grasp of how to identify the problems that a child might have so that they can respond to them more effectively. Written by someone experienced with children who have had many educational problems, "An Educational Applied Dissertation Model" is of strong interest to many teachers who want to reach out to those children with educational problems before they go ignored for too long.

Lucifer's Trumpet
John C Williams
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440130304, $28.95,

The future is a frightening thing, no matter how potentially bright it may be. "Lucifer's Trumpet" tells the story of a Canadian youth who through his young life is forced to work the deadly mines. When a chance at escape appears, Samuel jumps on it, but it seems his chance includes being on the wrong side of the law, in what first seems minor but quickly begins to turn far more sinister. "Lucifer's Trumpet" is the story of a young man forced with constant moral choices in his quest for a better life.

R. L. Sloan
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432740320, $15.95,

Evil has a high tendency of showing back up in one's life. "Embellish" tells the story of Solis, a woman who's dark history nearly consumes her. But a guardian angel seems to appear in her life, and the truths that she finds out makes the concept of guardian angel not seem so ridiculous after all. Evil seems to be lurking, and Solis may just be empowered to stop them the second time around. "Embellish" is a fun mix of fantasy and modern fiction, sure to please many a reader.

The Last Byzantine
Ken McClellan
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432723859, $17.95,

No one listens to a heretic. "The Last Byzantine" tells the story of one of the last heirs of the Roman empire, and the Spanish Inquisition that seems to be intent on preventing the truth from getting out. But it seems this truth may be what's needed to stop the oncoming Ottomans from marching right into Europe and claiming it as their own. An exploration of medieval politics with allegories to the modern day, "The Last Byzantine" is an exciting work of prose that encourages the reader to ask many questions.

Tut's Queen
Bela I. Sandor
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440112669, $14.95,

Monarchal affairs are as old as the concept of monarchy. "Tut's Queen" is a dive back into history, using the backdrop of King Tut's Egypt as the basis of the story. The central character is Tut's queen, Ankh, and her object of entertainment, an apprentice called Carver. When Tut's early death comes without a son, the intrigue of the kingdom becomes all the more interesting. "Tut's Queen" is a must for those with a love of ancient Egypt and romance.

On Belay
M.G. Anderson
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438957982, $15.99,

The call of adventure drives so many through life. "On Belay: Adventures in Mountaineering on Two Continents" is the recollections of one M.G. Anderson as he reflects on his adventures in nature throughout Europe and the Americas. Admitting that sometimes his imagination can get the best of him as he tells his stories, he assures readers they are 90% true and encourages them to figure them out for themselves which parts are false. "On Belay" is a top pick for readers looking for tales of true adventure.

Michael J. Carson

Christina's Bookshelf

A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage
Sharon Gilchrest O'Neill, Ed.S.
Cedar Mill Press
Kennebunkport, Maine 04046
9781604330915 $12.95

The idiom "you can't judge a book by its cover," applies here. When readers look at this book it appears to be a gift book that a parent would give to a daughter for a wedding or anniversary gift. This book is much more than that. The message of the book is one that should be read by all married couples. Though the message can be relayed to them, readers will have to read this book to understand the importance of the message within.

This short guide is the culmination of years of study and research by Sharon Gilchrest O'Neill, a family therapist with more than 25 years experience. O'Neill tells that she has used hundreds of self-help books poured over by couples in search of answers. This missive presents twenty insightful and, in some ways, surprising suggestions to help couples recapture and maintain the romance and closeness that she says needs to be an integral part of marriage.

Not Sharon Gilchrest O'Neill's first book, A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage is the author's third work. Lurning: 147 Inspiring Thoughts for Learning on the Job, published in 1993 and 98 pages, is exactly what the title reads: inspiring thoughts for learning on the job. Sheltering Thoughts, publication in June 2005 and 148 pages, on the other hand, offers words of understanding for the family who has lost a family member. At 64 pages, her latest book is the shortest of her publications.

Believing that marriage can only work as a team effort, O'Neill gives the following insight.

"Here's a little philosophy to set the stage. Many have conceptualized marriage as tedious, lifelong work, day in and day out. That's enough to make anyone ponder jumping ship. Marriage, to me, is better thought of as a creative work in progress. Just as the artist or writer has times when his or her work flows and all is going well, so does a marriage.

But there are inevitable times when marriage, like work, does anything but flow. This is when you need those little behaviors you can absolutely count on for support."

-A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage

Pages 15-16

Using a direct and simple approach, the writer asks couples in A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage to "live by the tenets of a committed relationship." This is the way to promote communication, happiness and passion throughout the years. O'Neill has a natural popular voice in this book. She has written A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage at an understandable level for the many people who will read it. Her tone is matter-of-fact, as well as enticing, as it beckons readers to continue reading.

"Buy the biggest bed you can, always choose honesty, perfect the quickie, and at some point during the relationship, sacrifice something for your spouse," O'Neill says via promo material. "Find a special way that is yours alone to connect with each other every day."

Far Dark Fields
Gary A. Braunbeck
Leisure Books
N.Y., N.Y.
9780843961904 $7.99

Perhaps you have missed Braunbeck's earlier novels, Mr. Hands (2007) and Coffin County (2008), and Far Dark Fields does make references to the books, but (as it is told on Amazon) the book is not a sequel to either. Don't be afraid to read this if you haven't read the other two, this novel stands alone.

"To all the readers who have followed the Cedar Hill Cycle over the years; I thank you from the bottom of my heart. We're not quite out of the woods yet, so stay tuned…"

--Dedication page

Far Dark Fields, 2009

This is not just the story of high school teacher Geoff Conover. This is a story about coming to terms with the past, controlling your own future, and a monster named Hoopsticks.

When Joseph Hamilton was a baby, his brother killed thirty-two people in their hometown of Cedar Hills, Ohio. The killings had been most brutal and Joey had been in his baby seat in the truck that Andy used to get around through a number of the killings. Most of Joey's family was killed, but he was spared. Whisked off to a nearby city, by the authorities, the baby known as Joey Hamilton was quickly adopted and became Geoff Conover. Why he wasn't killed remained an unsolved mystery.

Geoff's parents had never really talked to him about Cedar Hill or the events leading up to his becoming Geoff Conover. They did, however, supply him with a file containing the entire story, as well as news clips, cards, letters, etc. Everything his parents felt he would need to know who he was.

Away from Cedar Hill, Geoff built a solid life for himself. Things were going well and Geoff rarely thought of the materials about the crimes at Cedar Hill his parent's left.

Now, thirty years later, another boy, Bruce Dyson, has gone on a similar rampage and killed nine people. Bruce Dyson attends the school Conover works at. Though Dyson's crimes occurred in a town on the outskirts of Dayton, Ohio, he leads authorities on a car chase, ending with the shooter under ICU care at a hospital in Cedar Hill, Ohio.

When the police come to Conover's home following the Dyson rampage, they ask the teacher to accompany them to Cedar Hill. For some reason, even though Dyson is in custody and Conover only knows him because he has seen the boy in the halls at school, Dyson will not talk to anyone except Geoff Conover.

Then, there was "Hoopsticks."

"It had probably always been there, but it wasn't until the autumn of 1924 that the people of Cedar Hill began to call him or it "Hoopsticks." Said to roam the streets of West Cedar Hill, he was the nightmare dread of every child, an umbrella repairman whose deformed twin brother, Gash, grew out of his back. The two of them wore a quiver slung over their shoulder, and that quiver was said to be filled with the severed spinal cords of unruly children."

Far Dark Fields, page 37

To share anymore with you would probably ruin the story. This tale is a thick, colorful weave of a piece of life that you will probably never experience yourself. Let Gary help you live it with Far Dark Fields with his descriptive style. Then once you have read this, you can help us wait for his next yarn.

Christina Johns

Christy's Bookshelf

206 Bones
Kathy Reichs
Scribner/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780743294393 $26.99

Forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan is called to North Carolina, where she is accused of mishandling an autopsy. Brennan is determined to find out who is behind the accusation through an incriminating phone call, but the man who received the call dies shortly after he relays this. Brennan returns to Montreal and, with her former lover Lt. Andrew Ryan, begins investigating the deaths of several older women that may be connected, although she and Ryan are having a hard time finding the one thing that links them. As their investigation proceeds, Brennan is accused of ineptitude more than once and begins to strongly suspect she is being sabotaged by an ambitious newcomer whose motives lie with advancing her career. Coworkers are acting mysterious around her and her boss is hinting at dismissal, but Brennan plunges ahead, unknowingly placing her life in danger.

Reichs's series is always rich with forensic anthropology, a good mystery and plenty of suspense. This 12th installment, however, does not live up to prior books in the series with regard to mystery and suspense. Brennan comes across as flighty and not too observant, as if she's off her game. She seems more concerned with her relationship with Bryan than the fact that someone is out to get her and her career may be in jeopardy. The plot moves slowly at times, although forensics data is, as always, interesting and well delivered.

Lonesome Point
Ian Vasquez
St. Martin's/Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312378103 $24.95

Leo Valera works the night shift on a psychiatric ward but his real passion is poetry. Leo's brother Patrick is commissioner for Miami-Dade County with plans to run for mayor in the upcoming election. The two brothers are polar opposites: Leo is lackadaisical and prefers to spend time smoking pot and composing poems while Patrick is aggressive and ambitious and will do anything to accomplish his goals. Leo's girlfriend is pregnant and he knows he needs to do something more with his life but isn't motivated. Patrick, married to Leo's former girlfriend, is as content as Leo to keep their relationship at a distance. Both brothers share one thing in common: escaping the vile secrets from their past which will undo them if revealed. When Freddie Robinson, a friend from their childhood, shows up where Leo works and tries to coerce Leo into releasing one of the patients, Leo reaches out to his brother for help, not realizing this is the first step for the two brothers in a sequence of events leading them back to their past and the demons they have tried to elude.

Ian Vasquez writes with an interesting style, drawing the reader in with his flowing cadence wrapped around a fast-paced plot filled with mystery and suspense. Character development is superb. Leo, the quintessential underachiever, is forced to take a serious look at his life and choose whether to remain uninvolved or become the man he should have been. Patrick's true character is revealed when he is confronted with having to decide what matters most: family or career. Dialogue stands out, especially with the secondary characters, who add an extra dimension to this engaging thriller.

Promises in Death
J.D. Robb
Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399155482 $26.95

Amaryllis Coltraine transfers to the New York City police force from Atlanta, GA, and begins a relationship with chief medical examiner Li Morris. When Amaryllis's body is found in the basement of her apartment building, Eve Dallas is on the case, determined to find Amaryllis's killer for two primary reasons: as a fellow cop, Eve take this killing personally and will not let the killer get away, and she wants to do this for Morris, a good friend. Eve's usual "force" is around her, along with husband Roarke, who discovers a connection between Amaryllis and a long-time nemesis. Although this man is incarcerated off planet, Eve suspects he's found a way to taunt them through this murder.

The In Death series remains one of the bestselling series in America due to the intriguing characters Robb has inserted into these books. In Promises in Death, Eve is showing signs of maturing and mellowing. She's more involved in her marriage, more attuned to Roarke and his needs. She even treats some people with respect and manages to hold her tongue at times, something she has had trouble with in the past. Although this is a nice change, some readers may long for the more cynical, jaded Eve.

Terminal Freeze
Lincoln Child
Doubleday Publishing Group
New York, NY
9780385515511 $24.95

Paleoecologist Evan Marshall is part of a scientific team studying the effects of global warming in Alaska's Federal Wildlife Zone. Exploring an ice cave, the team discovers a mysterious animal frozen in ice. When their sponsor, a media conglomerate, learns of this, they send a film crew to the Zone to film a documentary about the unthawing of the animal. But once the unthawing begins, the animal disappears. The film's director suspects the scientists have something to do with it, which they deny. When one of his employees is found slashed to death, the scientists begin to suspect the animal may not have been dead, after all.

Lincoln Child delivers a suspense-filled thriller, setting a host of characters, from military men to scientists to a film crew in a remote area, in the middle of a snowstorm with a killing machine wreaking havoc. The usual obsessive persona is present in the form of demanding director, flanked by flunkies catering to his every whim, nonsensical or not. Marshall is an empathetic character, a scientist dealing with a past trauma who has sworn to never again hold a gun in his hand but is forced to. Once the action gets going, the plot becomes fast-paced and tense.

The Life Plan
Sybil Baker
Casperian Books
PO Box 161026, Sacramento, CA 95816-1026
9781934081167 $13.50

Patent attorney Kat Miller has had a life plan since college and means to stick to it. So far, she's gotten the husband and satisfying career and next on the list is a house and kids. But her husband Dan, unemployed and lackadaisical about finding a job, has other plans. Dan enrolls in a massage therapy course in Thailand and tells Kat she can come or not; either way, he's going. Kat, suspecting Dan's interest in Thailand has to do with a beautiful yoga mate from that country, decides to accompany her husband just in case. Once they arrive in Thailand, Dan changes from loving husband to irritable spouse and decides to pursue his enlightened course which translates to "share the love". Kat wallows in misery for awhile then decides since she's in an exotic country, she might as well enjoy it. Through friends she meets, she travels the countryside, visiting Buddhist ruins and spending time in a jungle village, and along the way rediscovers herself. By the time Kat's vacation is over, she has a big decision to make: continue on with the life plan or simply let life happen.

Sybil Baker pens a hilarious peek at one woman's journey as she discovers more about herself than she thinks possible. Kat Miller is an engaging character, a woman with insecurities and idiosyncrasies who initially seems frail and vulnerable but shows a propensity to roll with the punches and come out ahead. Secondary characters are well-developed and add zest to this thoroughly entertaining book.

The Soldier's Ride
Edie Hand with Jeffery Addison
Parkway Publishers Inc.
9781933251677 $11.95

Diana Meade is a busy career woman who spends the majority of her time working. Divorced from her husband, away fighting in Iraq, she has sole responsibility of their son. When Diana's car breaks down at a busy intersection, she is frustrated beyond measure but something compels her to cross the street to a veteran's cemetery. There, she sits on a bench to cool off and notices an elderly woman who seems to come from nowhere. The older woman tells Diana she is an angel and begins to relay a story about a young soldier during World War II, a man with great promise who went off to war and returned injured and cynical. The woman tells part of the story, followed by another angel, an older man, who relays the rest of the soldier's inspiring tale, and a third angel, a young soldier, who delivers his own saga. Diana, irritated at first by their intrusion, becomes fascinated and slowly begins to understand what compels soldiers, including her ex-husband, to go to war and the great sacrifices they make in doing so.

This novella, written as a salute to all veterans and their sacrifices, as well as those they leave behind, is insightful, inspirational and heartwarming, and it is hoped will reach denizens of countries across the world dealing with war and strife. The messages it delivers about faith and love and redemption are poignant and powerful and so very important. Readers will shed tears over the soldiers' sacrifices, rejoice at their deliverance, and appreciate what motivates these glorious heroes to serve their countries.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

The Secret Speech
Tom Rob Smith
Grand Central Publishing
0446402400 $24.99

Fresh on the heels of his outstanding debut novel Child 44, author Tom Rob Smith unveils his sequel, The Secret Speech. So widely acclaimed was Child 44 that it swept up to high rankings on the prestigious New York Times Best Seller List. When Smith captured many awards in his native London, his success was assured as a widely accepted new thriller writer.

Main character, Leo Demidov, was responsible for hundreds of arrests and interrogations. He was a bad man who was following orders, but at the same time had become hardened to the need for decency in the way he treated others. He was brutal in the manner in which he quested for confessions under the guise of following orders from his superiors. Times changed under Khrushchev and his job changed, as did he, to now being in charge of investigations for murders pursuing justice on behalf of murder victims. The Secret Speech is the story of Leo and how he survives as he returns to intrigue, suspense, and violence. This is an adventurous thriller about the treacherous lives led by those who were in power in Russia after Stalin

Raisa, Leo's wife, and their two daughters are put in jeopardy by a vengeful wife of one of the people who Leo had previously imprisoned. One of his daughters is kidnapped and the other is hospitalized. He is then forced to accede to that wife's demands to get her husband freed. Leo travels undercover as a prisoner to the Siberian Gulag (prison) where the husband is being kept. In an effort to bring his wife and children together again, a series of dangerous escapades involving Leo become dangerous, murderous, and downright gruesome. He experiences a wild trip at sea in a prison ship through a storm, and then he becomes a prisoner in the Gulag, and is imprisoned with some people who he had caused to be there years before.

After about 50 pages of reading full impact is realized. The Secret Speech is disclosed. Premier Khrushchev's secret manifesto is distributed to the entire nation exposing the wrongs which had been committed under Stalin. This is the start of the split in the Soviet Union and more action ensues in the Hungarian uprising.

The Secret Speech is a novel which uses actual historical facts to base its woven fabric into fiction and becomes very entertaining. Tom Rob Smith is an author to be followed through his career. At 30 years old, he promises to be a successful writer. Highly recommended!

The Woman Who Named God
Charlotte Gordon
Little, Brown and Company
9780316114745 $27.99

The Woman Who Named God is the direct opposite of what you would expect when you examine the foundations of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Charlotte Gordon has written a clear, concise, and exciting recital of biblical patriarch Abraham and his wife Sarah. Many texts have been written about their lives and how they have evolved creating the three major religions in the world.

The importance of Abraham in the Koran is brought to light with factual clarity by Gordon when she footnotes all of her work, showing her meticulous research. She points out that Abraham was mentioned more in the Koran by only one other person, and that person was Moses, showing the importance of these two patriarchs in the world of Islam. His wife Sarah is known to have born a son Isaac at the age of 90 when Abraham was 137.

Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, was a handmaiden in the camp of Abraham. They were banished from the camp by Sarah. Gordon's excellent skills vividly depict the story of Hagar's tribulations in the desert which ultimately led her to the site now known as Mecca. Mohammad called Hagar, "the most blessed of women".

Islam considers Ishmael a prophet and tradition holds that the Kaaba in Mecca (the holiest site in Islam) was rebuilt by Abraham and Ishmael on the foundation of a building erected by Adam. Conversely, Jewish and Christian traditions believe Ishmael was exiled and would not inherit God's covenant of the Promised Land.

It is the belief of Judaism and Christianity that Sarah was the cornerstone of their religions because Isaac, her son, was the father of Jacob whose children became the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Many of the recitations of ritual in all of the religions are explored by Gordon. She clarifies some of the aspects of the Jewish New Year and how prayers relate to Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac. Islam's celebrations of Hagar and Ishmael finding Mecca and their discovery of water are described in equal detail.

Further concepts are explored by Gordon showing the foundation of Jewish and Christian beliefs and how God chose Isaac to be Abraham's heir. However, according to Islam, Ishmael, the eldest son, is the one who receives his father's blessing. Each religion has found it difficult to recognize the other's blessings.

The chapters in this book are short and for good reason. Reading a segment about a given event or recitation of events, demonstrates that pause needs to be taken to reflect upon what has been presented by Gordon. When you realize this is not a story which can be read quickly from cover to cover, more enjoyment and enlightenment are achieved. This book is highly recommended for all religions. A book club or reader's group will find great enjoyment in discussing many of the chapters, especially if representatives from different religions are present. We may find ecumenical differences in how we view religion, but the reality is they all stem from the same source. How we interpret the writings are probably the only major difference.

J. R. LaGreca
Xlibris Corporation
9781441513138 $18.99

Jody Riva LaGreca has written four other books, "Afternoon Tea", "Suburban Weird", "The Gloaming", and "Fleshpot". She says her latest novel, "Seduction", "is a mix of my college inspired mind and my adult mind, merged into a saga of vintage seduction, revisited…"

The setting of this novel takes place on Long Island's South Shore in New York, 2008. The young and beautiful Camille Casey shudders and cannot believe what she is reading. In the South Shore Weekly, the Nuptial Section announces the engagement of her high-school rival, Tasha Brookes, to Raphael Manex, a 40-year-old Philadelphia jeweler and diamond dealer. Camille will never forget that day two years ago when her best friend, Tasha, seduced her high-school sweetheart and took him away from her.

On a snowy, winter night, Camille devises a scheme of revenge. She invites Raphael to her house under the ruse of buying some vintage jewelry. When he arrives, the story becomes very intense and complicated. The handsome and debonair Raphael, forces himself upon Camille using her as an object of his obsession. Camille had schemed to woe him from Tasha, but had not considered falling in love with him at first sight.

"A haunting tone is set when Marianne Franz, an old widow, hires Camille to do odd jobs," says LaGreca. This strange and mysterious old woman becomes an integral part of Camille and Raphael's lives as they become friends.

Camille and Raphael invite Marianne for a New Year's Eve dinner at a posh restaurant as they recognize that solitude has brought loneliness to Marianne. In turn, Marianne invites them to her house for many delicious home-cooked meals. Unexpected circumstances' surrounding these three diverse characters begins to unfold and curiosity compels continued reading.

LaGreca has written an intelligent and thought-provoking novel. She skillfully exposes how revenge, jealousy, love of ambition, and quest for money can change the innocent and inexperienced. These elements led to wrong decisions and showed that the rich and powerful don't always get what they want.

A great book and eye-opener for mature men and women because they can be very much alike when it comes to romance and passion. Get ready to be entertained as all of your senses will be awakened. A surprise ending is waiting to shock you! This book is highly recommended.

Clark Isaacs

Daniel's Bookshelf

War Like The Thunderbolt: The Battle and Burning of Atlanta
Russell S. Bonds
Westholme Publishing
Eight Harvey Avenue, Yardley, PA 19067
9781594161001 $29.95 1-800-621-2736

I was pleasantly surprised that Russell S. Bonds did give treatment to a period of the Civil War, that I took so strong an interest during my childhood with Gone With The Wind. I remember the vivid picture of the burning of Atlanta in the movie, and the sweeping power of Margaret Mitchell's words. She presented what all America needed to know about our nation's four year struggle. Her story presented a lens viewed look at the plight of the South. Mitchell researched the book with a good amount of historical research. I believed that War Like The Thunderbolt brought me back to that visual image of the movie. I thought it would be a great addition to my library. I had confidence in the book due to my previous knowledge of this author. Bonds has demonstrated fine narrative skills to truly make the non-fiction history come alive.

Russell S. Bonds with extensive research and footnotes along with two appendixes covering the order of the battles available as of July 20. 1864 to the division level. The complete order of the battle is available going to the site The second appendix is a report by Confederate Colonel W. P. Howard to Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown on the destruction of Atlanta. Bonds takes the reader behind the lines and through the battlefields of Peachtree Creek, Atlanta, Ezra Church and Jonesboro. He utilizes all the main characters of the conflict including the hot- tempered and intelligent General Sherman, General John Bell Hood, who was the last hope of the Confederacy to defend Atlanta; Benjamin Harrison the young Indiana colonel who would rise to become President of the United States; Patrick Cleburne, the Irishman turned-Southern- officer. Also the ten-year-old diarist Carrie Berry, who bravely watched and bore testimony to the fall of the city. Bonds wraps package into an iconic episode in our nation's most horrific war. The author tells the dramatic story of Atlanta itself along with the five week artillery bombardment, the expulsion of its civilian population, and the infamous fire that followed. He uses new research including diaries, newspapers, and previously unpublished letters and other archival sources. It is a captivating narrative with an understanding of the military analysis. This becomes a stirring retelling of the battle and the burning of the "Gate City of the South."

Russell S. Bonds first Civil War book Stealing the General was the recipient of the 2007 Richard Barksdale Harvard Book Award of the best Civil War book of that year. War Like the Thunderbolt is an equal follow-up to those narrative skills by this author to present a glimpse back in time and analysis of the combat with the commander's performances. I plan to keep an open space on my bookshelf for his next disciplined work. His expertise on his Civil War projects gives history an excitement into the reading and understanding no matter what choice he selects of the period.

No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864
Richard Slotkin
Random House
1745 Broadway 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10019
9781400066759 $28.00 212-782-9000

I especially enjoy the history of the Civil War, and the battles of fortifications including the more protective trenches. I recall after reading this book, the backdrop of a very good 2003 movie Cold Mountain still running through my mind. I also have the fine earlier 2007 book by Alan Axelrod The Horrid Pit to refer to the understanding the Battle of the Crater which he has an appropriate second title entitled The Civil War's Cruelest Mission. This author gives a disciplined treatment of the battle and events that surrounded this interesting period of the war. He presents a political and social ramifications of the War. The racial tensions on both sides of the struggle gets a very even fresh perspective on perhaps the most consequential period in American history. I found this book to offer fascinating insight to the men, and their racial hatred intensifies the action and the outcome. It was an added bonus to get more understanding of the conflict, and lesson's learned through the battle, and the high stakes with an attempt to drive Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia away from the defense of their capital Richmond to end the war. The result was something more different.

The Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864 engineered plan by the Union would have a regiment of miners burrow beneath a Confederate fort, and pack the tunnel with explosives to blow a hole into enemy lines. Then a specially trained division of African American infantry would lead a powerful assault to exploit the breach created by the explosion. The massive explosion ripped open an immense crater, which became a death trap for troops that tried to pass through it. Thousands of soldiers on both sides lost their lives, that was an earlier brutal combat similar to the savage trench warfare found in World War I. The fighting was intensified by racial hatred, with cries on both sides of "No Quarter." A final horror transpired when the battle ended with the massacre of wounded or surrounding Black troops by the Rebels, and by some of their White comrades in arms. The result was the great attack ended in bloody failure, and the war would be extended for another year. The book retells this event with gripping and unforgettable depictions of battle with detailed character portraits of soldiers and statesmen. No Quarter tells it in a compelling manner reliving the human scale an epic event and mind boggling in it cost of life.

Richard Slotkin is a widely regarded cultural critic and the author of Lost Battalions, Regeneration Through Violence, The Fatal Environment, and Gunfighter Nation. He has written three historic novels, The Crater, A Novel, The Return of Henry Starr, and Abe: A Novel of the Young Lincoln. He is the Olin Professor of English and American Studies at Wesleyan University. His new book No Quarter touched a nerve with me and I highly recommend it.

Daniel Allen

Debra's Bookshelf

Without a Map
Meredith Hall
Beacon Press
9780807072738 $24.95

When Meredith Hall was sixteen she learned that her parents' love for her was conditional, dependent on her continued adherence to the moral code that prevailed in her church-going community in small-town New Hampshire in 1965. A summer spent flirting with danger in the guise of a college boy she should have stayed clear of culminated in "scared sex on a beach on a foggy Labor Day night." When her pregnancy became known, Meredith was kicked out of school and effectively shunned, kids she'd known all her life crossing the street to avoid her moral contagion. All the A's she'd banked over the years and her regular church attendance were as nothing compared with this visible sign of her fall. Far worse was that her parents failed her completely at the moment that she most needed them.

Hall's memoir traces the reverberations of her pregnancy and her parents' betrayal across her lifetime. It's a heartbreaking story but not an angry one. In fact, the author has a surprising capacity for forgiveness given her experience. Hall's story generally moves forward across four decades, but it is not told in strict chronological order. We see snapshots of her life at different moments: Here she is walking hungry across Greece and Turkey or being taught to sew by her mother or running a fishing boat out of Gloucester or living out the months of her pregnancy in virtual isolation. The pictures are different enough that they could come from different lives--our own lives might look similarly disjointed if we showed only snapshots at intervals--but the emotional journey is a constant: Hall is always in the process of overcoming the loss of the life she lived and the person she was pre-pregnancy, and suffering the loss of the baby she gave up for adoption.

I can't write well enough, I'm afraid, to do this book justice. Suffice it to say that it's beautifully written and unforgettable. You won't be sorry to have read it.

La's Orchestra Saves the World
Alexander McCall Smith
9780307378385 $23.95

In his new stand-alone novel La's Orchestra Saves the World, Alexander McCall Smith tells the story of La (Lavendar) Stone, a Cambridge graduate who marries her sweetheart because it's the thing to do and subsequently finds herself falling in love with him. But her life doesn't unravel quite as she might have expected. World War II intervenes, for one thing, and La finds herself living in a small village in Suffolk, tending hens as part of the war effort and conducting an amateur orchestra by way of keeping up morale in the village and on the nearby RAF base.

I had every intention while reading the book to express surprise in my review that the author should have tacked onto his story such an unnecessary and uninteresting first chapter: it's set probably in the present day, or close enough, and introduces La as someone already dead, her orchestra a distant memory. Her life story, then, is a reminiscence. I dislike having a story framed in this way as it distances one from the main narrative. And I suppose it's an unwelcome reminder of the ephemerality of a single life. It tells you the end of the story--she's dead; it's all finished now one way or the other--before it even begins. That said, when you get to the last pages of the book, the first chapter suddenly makes sense, so it is not just an unnecessary appendage after all. I still don't like it, though, and I don't like the last chapter, either. It would be a slightly different book--but quite possibly a better one--if the first and last chapters were simply cut from it and the rest left as it stands. The last sentence of the book's penultimate chapter would even serve very nicely as this revised story's conclusion. Still, La's Orchestra, a quiet book about momentous times, is yet another worthy addition to McCall Smith's extensive oeuvre.

Dragon House
John Shors
NAL Trade
9780451227850 $15.00

Dragon House is like John Shors's previous novels--Beneath a Marble Sky and Beside a Burning Sea--in that it is set in Asia and involves a romance, but those earlier books were historical novels (set respectively in the 17th century and during World War II) while this one takes place in the present day. The story begins with the death of a Vietnam veteran who spent the last years of his life working toward opening a center for street children in Ho Chi Minh City. After his death the man's daughter, Iris, takes up his mantle, moving to Vietnam with a childhood friend, Noah, who lost a leg and his spirit to a roadside bomb in Iraq. The book in fact centers more on Noah than Iris, as he finds redemption while trying to help a trio of Vietnamese children. Minh and Mai live on the street and survive by selling fans and gambling with tourists over a battered Connect 4 board. They're forced to surrender most of what they earn to Loc, an opium addict who controls them and who cut off Minh's arm years earlier to make him a more sympathetic beggar. Loc eventually emerges as the book's main bad guy, a threat to the children and to the Americans trying to help them. The other child whom Noah and Iris come to care about is Tam, who lives on the street with her grandmother and who is dying of cancer. Disease and poverty and hunger and apathy are the other villains of this story.

After a slow start, Dragon House has its exciting scenes, but it's not so much a thriller as a book with a message to get across. It's an assault on the reader's conscience. Shors certainly succeeds in engaging the reader's emotions--it's a tear-jerker of a book. But one feels manipulated as the author milks the story's heartbreaking scenes (of which there are many!) for all they're worth. The book can be annoyingly preachy as well when Noah complains about the Iraq War.

Dragon House isn't my favorite of Shors's books, but it's not a bad read. I'll be interested to see what the author writes next.

The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins
9780439023481 $17.99

I kept hearing about The Hunger Games. On Twitter, in blog posts. People were referring to it with that "Oh my God you have to read this" language that gets one's attention. So I looked at the book's description on Amazon, and it didn't seem like my kind of thing: It's a futuristic YA novel set in a post-apocalyptic North America. The country of Panem has risen from the ashes of a continent devastated by (apparently) natural disasters. Panem is divided into twelve districts, each of which has its own specialty--agriculture or factory work or the production of luxury items. District twelve, in the Appalachian area, specializes in coal mining. It's among the poorest of the districts, if not the poorest, and its people struggle to keep themselves from starving. The book's protagonist, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, is from district 12. She's been feeding her family for years, since her father died in a mining accident, by poaching in the woods surrounding her community, an offense which could easily get her executed. But her time in the woods has also honed her survival skills, which will prove to be essential.

Panem is a Big Brotherish society, the civil liberties of its citizens severely restricted. Among the demands made by the government is the annual participation by each district in The Hunger Games, a reality TV show to which each district must contribute two children as participants. They're selected in a lottery--the "reaping"--that isn't quite fair: the selection process favors the rich. The winners of the reaping are compelled to participate in the Games, a televised fight to the death in which there are no rules (though cannibalism is frowned on). The one participant who's left alive at the show's end is the winner, and goes back to his or her district a fawned-over champion. If you're looking for antecedents, think The Truman Show mixed with Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," 1984 and Survivor and the ancient Greek myth of the minotaur.

The bleak futuristic society aspect of the book was a turn-off for me. I decided I wouldn't be reading it.

Weeks passed, and again I started seeing references to The Hunger Games, comments prompted by excitement over the recent release of the second book in the series, Catching Fire. Again I went to Amazon. Again I thought I wouldn't like the book. But I downloaded a sample to my Kindle. That was about 24 hours ago.

It was immediately apparent from the sample that The Hunger Games was well written. By the end of the sample it was apparent that I would have to read the whole thing. I downloaded the book and devoured it, sometimes having to force myself to read more slowly because I was reading too fast, the literary equivalent of swallowing food unchewed. All of which is to say that the book is for some reason immensely readable. Katniss is a very compelling character: she's smart and motivated by sororal love; she's a survivor. But her character alone can't fully explain the book's appeal. The book never slows down. The evil government that imposes the Games on its citizens is easy to root against. The writing is flawless, at least as far as I could tell while gulping down the story. In particular, the author does an excellent job of describing the complicated details of the Games and the society of Panem so that they're easily digested and don't come across as instructional or out of place. It's a great, great read.

The World According to Twitter
David Pogue
Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
9781579128272 $12.95

Impressed by the collective intelligence and humor of his Twitter followers, New York Times tech columnist David Pogue (@pogue on Twitter) decided to harness some of it and make it available to a larger, non-Twittering audience. He asked his followers a different question or posed a challenge every night (there were 95 questions/challenges in all), collected the responses, selected his favorites from among them, and got permission from the authors of the selected tweets (Twitter posts) to publish them. The result is The World According to Twitter, a book I wouldn't want to read straight through but which is fun to skim.

The questions Pogue posed were varied. For example:

What cool anagram can you make from the letters of your own name?
What made your first kiss memorable?
What's the best prank you ever witnessed?
Redefine an existing word in a punny way.

Of course, a lot of the tweets included in the book (a total of 2524) aren't, to my mind, funny or clever or worthy. But that's my subjective response, and everyone who skims the book will probably feel the same way, but will favor different entries. That's the nature of this sort of book. And some of the entries are worth reading. Here, for example, is my favorite response to Pogue's challenge to his followers to "explain a facet of modern life in the style of Dr. Seuss":

"I mail, I text, I tweet, I blog,
I build a Facebook for my dog,
I speak no words, I shake no hands,
I am at last a modern man."
-- @smacbuck

And I laughed aloud reading this series of responses to "Who's had a
brush with greatness?"

"My dad once waited in line for a bathroom in between Henry Kissinger
& Rupert Murdoch." -- @harrymccracken

"I peed at a urinal between Ronald Perelman and Henry Kissinger at the
NY Hilton in 1990." -- @EricSails

"I once used the urinal next to Henry Kissinger at intermission of
'Guys & Dolls' on Broadway. Kevin Costner was also in the bathroom!"
-- @nolanshanahan

"OMG, I once peed next to Kissinger too. Seriously." -- @vidiot

In an inset box on the page Pogue writes: "I can't explain why so many brushes with greatness take place in public restrooms. I'm even more helpless to explain why so many of these bathroom encounters involve Henry Kissinger." Great stuff.

Anyone interested in reading more tweets about these kinds of insignificant brushes with celebrity should do a Twitter search for #lameclaimtofame. People regularly tweet their lame claims to fame using that hashtag (to make the related tweets easily found in search), and it makes for some funny reading.

The World According to Twitter isn't likely to serve a higher purpose than pure amusement (and I doubt it was intended to). It would be nice if it could help to convince Twitterphobes that there's more to Twitter than lunch menus, but (a) they probably won't be reading the book anyway and (b) it's too insubstantial a read to accomplish that task. (It's more likely the naysayers will be won over by Twitter's continued use in reporting breaking news.) This certainly isn't a must-have book, but if there's a reader of bathroom books in your life, then this may be just the gift for them. (Be sure to note the cool flip movie in the book's margins.)

DeKok and the Mask of Death
A.C. Baantjer
Speck Press
9781933108308 $24.00

A.C. Baantjer certainly knows how to grab readers at the start of a novel. In the first chapter of DeKok and the Mask of Death, originally published in Dutch in 1987, Inspector DeKok of the Amsterdam police department meets a nervous young man who's lost his girlfriend. The woman had vague complaints of listlessness and was referred by her doctor to a neurologist at Slotervaart Hospital. Her boyfriend drove her to the appointment, waited for her after she was led away by a nurse, and never saw her again. Worse, the nurse subsequently denied ever having seen her, as did the attendant manning the admission desk.

DeKok and his younger partner Vledder ponder the seemingly insoluble case while the number of those disappearing within the hospital's walls increases. Vledder is oddly--not quite credibly--insistent that no one associated with the hospital can be involved in criminal activities. DeKok is more open to the possibility. And he of course figures everything out in time to reveal all to his wife and colleagues over cognac at book's end. The resolution, when it comes, is a little hard to swallow. That's my one substantial complaint about the book. A lesser complaint is that one character's dialogue is written in a horrible dialect--at least in the English translation--that is the literary equivalent of nails on a chalkboard: "Iffen youse gotta distant look inna yer glimmers, there is somethin' special goin'. Ain't I right?" Happily this particular character doesn't get a lot of lines.

In the author's description on the back of the book, Baantjer is described as the "Dutch Conan Doyle." I would disagree. DeKok isn't Sherlockian at all. He's a character more like Colin Dexter's Morse--believably human (unlike Sherlock), humane, given to going off alone to brood about work, but not tragically lonely in the way Morse is, nor elitist. I'm very happy to have discovered the DeKok series--happier still that it includes some sixty novels.

Anthony Horowitz
9780399236204 $17.99

After Ian Rider dies in a car accident, fourteen-year-old Alex Rider discovers that his secretive uncle was not in fact a bank manager, as he'd always said, but a spy who died while on a mission. Alex is recruited by MI6--not quite willingly--to take over where his uncle left off, trying to uncover the evil schemes of a billionaire philanthropist whose plans to benefit England's schoolchildren smell fishy.

Stormbreaker is a sort of James Bond adventure for the 9-12 set. There's a version of "Q," for instance--the man behind Bond's clever gadgets: Smithers equips Alex with a number of helpful goodies, including a pimped-out Nintendo GameBoy Color. The bad guy's an evil genius whose henchmen have inventive ways of disposing of enemies. And the villain also enjoys one of those Bond-ian, spill-all moments near the book's end, when he explains his master plan right before the hero's imminent death. (I love the fact that the madman's father is described as a "failed oral hgienist.")

Stormbreaker is the first book in Anthony Horowitz's bestselling Alex Rider series. (The book was made into a 2006 film starring Robbie Coltrane and Alex Pettyfer.) I can understand the series' success. It's a good read, filled with action and decent writing. I would argue that a couple scenes in the book have credibility problems, but I wasn't too bothered by it. I'd certainly be willing to suspend my disbelief for as long as it takes to read the next installment.

American On Purpose
Craig Ferguson
9780061719547 $25.99

In his memoir American On Purpose Craig Ferguson tells the story of his life from his childhood in Glasgow to his current job as host of The Late Late Show on CBS. There are three strands to the story: Ferguson's hesitant, sometimes almost accidental forays into show business; his drug use and alcohol addiction and ultimate recovery from alcoholism; and, as the book's title suggests, his desire to live in and eventually to become a citizen of the United States. The book's focus is mostly on the first two of these, despite the book's title and the publisher's copy, which seems to be describing a different book: "In American on Purpose, Craig Ferguson talks a red, white, and blue streak about everything our Founding Fathers feared."

I had mixed feelings about the book. Certainly Ferguson is a likable guy--at least since he's been sober--and he never blames anyone but himself for his bad behavior, which is commendable. He's supportive of friends. He doesn't have any complaints about his parents. (Though he does have some harsh words for the Glaswegian school system of his youth, which sounds horrific.) The problem is that the book bogs down in details as Ferguson describes the people he worked with or got drunk with or otherwise socialized with along the way. Here he is, for example, describing the opening night of the American Modern Dance Theater's production of "Telemachus Clay," in which he appeared:

"The first night was fun, though. James and Susan came in from the burbs, Anne was there of course, and also Jamesy and his junkie wife, Lucy--who had taken to talking to me a little more since she realized I was in a play. Roswell and a couple of guys from the construction site showed up. So did the painter Steven Campbell from Glasgow, who was causing quite a stir in the New York art world at the time. Anne had been friendly with him and his wife, Carol, at art school but it was a tricky social situation. Steven loathed cocaine and had absolutely no time for Jamesy, another classmate at the Glasgow School of Art, whom Steven dismissed as a worthless trendy. It was an unfair assessment, and Steven could be a pretty opinionated guy."

This works as a point-by-point description of what was going on, but it makes for dull reading. We never care about these minor characters, and they all blend together after a while. The book does pick up a bit after Ferguson gets sober and starts to appear on American television, and there are certainly some moving moments in the book. But it's not as interesting a read as it should have been given the author's personality and story and talent.

A Tale of Two Sons
John MacArthur
Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Nashville, TN
9781400280060 $22.99

A New Interpretation and Application of the Parable of the Prodigal Son

"A Tale of Two Sons" captures the compelling drama and intense emotion experienced by the two sons introduced in the parable of the prodigal son as imparted by the Apostle Luke in his gospel. John MacArthur presents a whole new concept in this commentary on the passage as he explores the cultural setting and historical context of the passage.

John MacArthur maintains there is a deeper meaning and message within the parable. He begins with the premise that Jesus used the parable of the prodigal son to point out and expose the Pharisees' hypocrisy when he was confronted by the religious leaders of the day. He calls attention to the central characters, of the parable, the father, the prodigal, and the older brother throughout the narrative. He develops creatively how each of the sons may have viewed their actions and their mutual relationship as well as developing a look at each of them, individually, from the viewpoint of the Pharisees.

MacArthur champions the position that the parable is a wake up call to the self righteous of Jesus' day as well as the Christian in our society today. He calls for the Christian to do some self examination while reflecting on the attitudes of self-righteousness and judgment of others while pursuing truth.

There will be those readers who resist any interpretation that is not traditional, however, MacArthur's observations are worthy of consideration. MacArhur's writing is thought provoking, credible, clearly set forth, convincing, and relevant.

Joseph Finder
St. Martin's
9780312379087 $25.99

Joe Finder's novel Vanished, the first in a new series, features Nick Heller as an ex-Special Forces guy who works at a high-end private detective agency in Washington, D.C. He and his brother Roger grew up in opulence, but the chauffeured rides to school ended when their father became the Kenneth Lay of his era. His arrest caused a rift between the once inseparable brothers. In this debut, Nick is finishing up an investigation into a plane-load of stolen money when he learns from Roger's stepson, Gabe, that Roger and his wife Lauren have been attacked in Georgetown. Lauren is in the hospital and Roger has disappeared. Trying to locate his brother and figure out what prompted the attack leads Nick into some seriously dangerous situations, many of them involving the burly, thick-necked employees of a Blackwater-type private security firm.

Nick Heller is the sort of character I enjoy in a thriller: we don't learn much about his softer side, it's true--there's time for that in subsequent installments in the series--but he's ultra-competent and quick on his feet. The plot of Finder's book is, I suppose, admirable in its intricacy, but I confess that, having just finished reading it, I'd be hard-pressed to tell you exactly what was going on. Nick uncovered various plots centered on his brother. People we thought were uninvolved were in fact complicit. It was all a bit too complicated. And some specific incidents left me wondering: Why was someone going around gouging out people's eyeballs? I don't know! How was Nick able to stealthily carry a stepladder around a military complex in the middle of the night? (Especially the part where he pulled the ladder up through a window after himself with guards relatively nearby. Surely that would make a lot of noise.)

I wouldn't doubt that my problem with the plot is my fault rather than a failure of the book: more attentive readers than I may not have a problem with it. But while I've found Finder's earlier novels gripping, this one never grabbed my attention or got me invested in the characters.

Cambridge Blue
Alison Bruce
Soho Constable
9781569475201 $25.00

Alison's Bruce's Cambridge Blue, which was released in the U.S. in January of this year, was first published in the UK in 2008. This means, I hope, that in the last year the author's been hard at work on the second book in the series, because when it comes out, I want it. Cambridge Blue is a police procedural set in Cambridge and featuring DC Gary Goodhew, the youngest officer to ever make detective in Cambridge's Parkside Police Station. It's not that Goodhew is brilliant in a Sherlock Holmes sort of way, though he is very intelligent. It's more that he has a genius for noticing things, and a single-minded interest in his job, and a tendency to go off on his own and follow leads no one else has noticed. And besides he doesn't sleep very much. He is an enigmatic figure, living a sort of double life which, one is surprised to discover, he shares the details of with the only significant woman in his life, his grandmother.

Goodhew is an intriguing character who's more than up to the task of anchoring this series. The secondary characters also show promise: Goodhew's exasperated superior DI Marks, his deeply unpleasant colleague Michael Kincaide, Mel from the admin department, who plays the sax and likes the wrong kind of men. Not one of them is superficially drawn.

In this installment Cambridge is rocked by a perplexing series of murders by strangulation, all of them seemingly related to one another. It's not clear until the very end what's going on, and even then, when the details come spewing forth on the page, the story is a bit of a head-scratcher. One has to rethink the various clues to get things straight in one's mind. (I'm still not sure why one of the deaths had to happen.) Delightfully complex, then, both in its plot and its characters: none of them are what they seem to be; most everyone seems to be hiding something. You'll spend much of your time with the book wondering what this character or that is up to, from the prologue on. A very, very promising debut.

The Lost Symbol
Dan Brown
9780385504225 $29.95

Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol continues the adventures of Robert Langdon, Harvard Professor of Symbology, a genius with an eidetic memory whose peculiar ability to interpret symbols lands him in hot water more often than his job description would lead you to suspect. This time around Langdon is summoned to Washington D.C. by an old friend, Peter Solomon, who asks him at the last minute to give a talk in the Capitol's Statuary Hall. Needless to say, the trip doesn't go as planned, and Langdon finds himself plunged into yet another crisis, this one brought on by a religious crazy with a thing for tattoos. Saving the world--or at least the United States--involves Langdon in a sort of treasure hunt that leads him to explore the Masonic underpinnings of the country and the Masonic imagery that decorates many of its monuments.

I've enjoyed Dan Brown's books in the past because they are--or have been--page-turners. The DaVinci Code, for example, starts with an exciting scene, as a killer chases the curator of the Louvre through the museum. Strangely--unfortunately--The Lost Symbol is very slow to get going. The action doesn't begin in earnest until about a third of the way in. Instead, there's a lot of exposition--Langdon explaining the significance of this or that symbol. When things do finally get moving the story moves quickly, though it's still periodically slowed by further explanatory passages. Similarly, the final ten percent or so of the book is extremely dull, the surviving characters blathering on about religion with the unwelcome fervor of evangelical door-knockers. This 50-odd pages of boring (mostly) dialogue is tacked on after the dramatic stuff is over, which is to say that it's close to completely unnecessary to the story. It's also hard to believe, after everything the characters have been through by this point, that they'd opt to tour some Washington landmarks and lecture one another about religion and science instead of going home to nap. This part really should have been cut.

A few other things bothered me about the book. In no particular order:

-- Inoue Sato, Director of the CIA's Office of Security, does not come off as a credible character. I also found it impossible not to picture her as the diminutive, accented seamstress in The Incredibles.

-- Particularly in the first third of the book, the prose is interrupted frequently by the characters' italicized thoughts. Used more sparingly, this would have been fine, but it's overdone, the must mundane of thoughts sometimes meriting this kind of attention:

"Langdon left his coffee half made and hurried toward his study to return the call.

"_I hope he's okay._"

-- In addition to threatening the lives of Langdon's friends, the chaos planned by this book's bad guy also threatens national security, as we're frequently told. Hence the involvement of the CIA. But while the impending crisis might indeed have serious repercussions, it somehow fails to terrify. It's rather like threatening someone with a really bad splinter that will eventually become infected and might result in the loss of a limb. Worrisome, to be sure, but it doesn't get one's attention the way, say, the threat of a gouged-out eyeball would.

-- For all his brilliance and his ability to make startling intellectual leaps, Langdon sometimes comes across as profoundly stubborn and rather slow. (I actually beat him in recognizing the meaning of one series of symbols near the book's end. This does not speak well for Robert.)

-- It was inevitable that some drama or other would play out in the pitch dark of pod 5 of the Smithsonian Museum Support Center, where Katherine Solomon, Peter Solomon's sister, has her lab. I thus understand why things had to be left dark for dramatic reasons, but for the life of me I can't imagine otherwise why the woman never invested in a flashlight.

In short, a lot bothered me about the story, but the main problem is that it's a good hundred pages too long. Cut out the lectures so the book is action-packed right out of the gate and doesn't end with a whimper, and it would be a much better read, on a par with the author's earlier works.

Jack Kilborn and Blake Crouch
Grand Central Publishing
B002AJ7X2C $0.00

Serial (which is currently only available for the Kindle) is a novella co-written by horror writers Jack Kilborn (a.k.a. J.A. Konrath) and Blake Crouch. The story grabs your attention immediately with a great first line: "The hardest thing about killing a hitchhiker is finding one to pick up." As that sentence and the book's title should suggest, the subject matter of the book is disturbing. It's definitely not for the faint of heart.

The story is told in three parts. The first section, written by Kilborn, is about Donaldson, a serial killer who likes to pick up hitch hikers and do bad things to them. His latest conquest and Donaldson's subsequent disposal of his passenger's remains are described in lurid detail. In the second part of the book Blake Crouch tells the story of another serial killer, Lucy, who is arguably even sicker than Donaldson. I won't ruin the surprise by describing her modus operandi. The third part of the book was co-written by the two authors, who took turns contributing 100-odd-word snippets until the story was finished. But they did so blindly, without the benefit of having read one another's initial sections. (The authors describe the writing process in an interview section following the story.) The last segment reads like a macabre chess match as the two killers meet and, unaware of the other's nature and intentions, try to outmaneuver each other. The story hangs together very well, particularly given its mode of composition. And it ends fittingly, if not surprisingly. The story doesn't offer anything by way of character development, but it's a quick read and it certainly holds one's attention for the short time it takes to read it.

Tree Huggers
Judy Nichols
Zumaya Enigma
9781934135235 $15.99

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

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

The Mephisto Club
Tess Gerritsen
9780345477002 $7.99

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

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

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

Murder Past Murder Present
Edited by R Barri Flowers and jam Grape
With an introduction by Jan Burke
Twilight Times Books
PO Box 3340, Kingsport TN 37664
160619206X $19.95 http//

There are nineteen stories here written by many up and coming writers of the thriller genre. Several of the best are "Murder Past, Murder Present" where a college student plans to re-create a murder case and prove the guilt or innocence of the man originally tried. Before they are ready there is a body left at the scene of where the re-enactment is to take place. Now the plot thickens of who and why the crime was done. In "The Crimes of Miss Abigail Armstrong" it seems murder follows Miss Armstrong around wherever she goes. Did she do them or not?. The story is a fun filled tale that will have readers guessing. These are just two of the great pieces in a wonderful collection.

There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales
Ludmilla Perrushrvskaya
Seclected and Translated by Keith Gessen and Anna Summers
A Penguin Original
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780143114666 $15.00

When I saw the title for this collection of short stories, I had no idea what to expect. I have to say this is a very strange compilation of tales by one of Russia's most interesting writers. The author has written nineteen bizarre looks at the world through different characters' eyes. One of the weirdest is "Hygiene" in which there is a deadly disease that is spread by rats. The way she unfolds the story is peculiar and the ending is very weird. What makes the book more interesting is that we as readers learn a lot of things about the country of Russia that we did not know before. Perruskrvskaya is the Russian Stephen King.

A Guide to Public Speaking
Joseph A Grippo
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432734848 $9.95

This is a great resource for anyone who is not accustomed to making a public speech. The author gives many tricks to get over stage fright to make a decent speech. You do not need to have taken a speech course to learn the different simple things one can learn.

A Fortunate Life
Robert Vaughn
St. Martins Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312371128 $25.95

Vaughn, who played Napoleon Solo on the hit series "The Man From U.N.C.L.E". talks about the show, his work with Steve McQueen in "The Magnificent Seven" and "Bullitt," and shows and movies he has acted in. But the book is more than an actors behind the scenes book. He also talks about his life in politics and the many politicians he has known and their influence on him.

The Adventures of Captain Tag
Art and story by Don and Lisa Epperson II
Legacy Publishing Services Inc
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
978919344439442 $15.55 407 647 3787

This is the first of a series of kid's books that are a lot of fun. The artwork adds to the unfolding story of a super hero who uses a red wagon to fly around the galaxy. The story is filled with positive messages for kids to learn. Readers of all ages can enjoy this fine tale.

Play Dirty
Sandra Brown
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416523338 $9.99

Griff Burkett, a former Dallas Cowboy superstar, ruined his career by throwing a game for the Mob. Now five years later he has served his time and things are not looking up for him until he is given a proposal he can not turn down. What it leads to is he is a suspected murderer, with a cop with a grudge out to bring him in. Brown once again tells a story that races along to its final conclusion with fast pacing, interesting characters, and a plot that unfolds with many great twist and turns.

Edited by Clive Cussler
World Wide Library
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9
9780778327233 $6.99

This is the second in a series of anthologies that is better than the first one. The stories are very interesting by some of our best writers in the genre. Some of them are Jeffery Deaver, Phillip R.L. Stine, and Ridley Pearson are some of the top names. In all there are 23 tales by masters of the suspense thriller.

Where Are You Now?
Mary Higgins Clark
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416570882 $7.99

Normally I love novels by this author; unfortunately this one I did not finish because I found her premise to be too unlikely. Her story with a man who is a college student who voluntary disappears is too hard to accept. For ten years no one does anything to find him. As if that was not enough every year on Mother's Day he calls his mother to wish her a Happy Mother's Day. As I read the novel I felt the ten year idea is just too hard to believe. It detracted from the rest of the story so much that I finally had to just put it down and go on to something else.

His Father's Son
Bentley Little
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451227775 $7.99

It's been a while since I have read a novel by this author but I am glad I read this one because it is one of the best thrillers I've picked up in a while. It starts simply enough with a call Steve Nye gets from his mother telling that his father tried to kill her. As he delves into the situation he finds that his father is not all that he seemed. Now in a VA hospital, doctors have told Nye that his dad is in a state of dementia. Nye begins to realize that things are not as they seem for him as well, as he learns more about his father. The writing is tense with an unfolding story that gets more and more bizarre. The author never lets up in the suspense and will have readers turning pages well into the wee hours of the morning.

An Unusual Experience
Kim Robinson
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
97814327358485 $9.95

I have to admit I have no idea what this kid's book is about and I was also wondering who did the artwork. because nowhere does it give any credit to the artist. Putting words together is nice but it has to have some kind of meaning and after several readings I just didn't get it.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Nick Brownlee
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312380618 $24.95 646-307-5560,

For nearly the first half of "Bait," the excellent debut novel by Nick Brownlee, apparently disconnected events transpire over a period of several days, in measured pace.

The mien of the patrician owner of the luxurious Marlin Bay Hotel, situated in the midst of squalor and stunning poverty in Kenya, is captured by the author perfectly and succinctly: "Getty paused in front of a wall mirror in order to smooth his augmented silver hair across his skull and liberally spray his tongue with peppermint breath-freshener." [His emotional distance from the lives of those who lived outside the protected walls of his compound, embroiled in a civil war that had to that point cost many lives, is perhaps best summed up by his reference to "a little local difficulty."]

Filled with brutality and actions fueled by - in equal parts - as stated by more than one player, stupidity and greed, together with pervasive corruption, the novel begins with the disappearance of Dennis Bentley, a white Kenyan who ran a game boat and had a reputation as "a loner and a cantankerous bastard," soon followed by the disappearance of George Malewe, described as a lowlife from Mombasa Old Town, whose young wife is convinced he has been slain. Things turn ugly when a body is washed up on the beach and Bentley and his bait boy are found to have been blown up in the water, in what may be connected events.

Twenty-nine-year-old ex-Scotland Yard cop Jake Moore is now six years later a game boat skipper, and is asked to assist Mombasa Detective Inspector Daniel Jouma of the Coast Province CID. Jouma, 51 years old and thirty-three years a serving police officer, is seemingly the only good cop on the force. He finds himself almost ludicrously defending his refusal to succumb to the corruption taken for granted by everyone else, and is told "Why? Because you are a policeman? Because you have sworn to uphold the law and protect the people? Don't think so highly of your vocation, Jouma. You saw what happened when they gave the people ballot boxes. Chaos. Anarchy. Death. They are animals and should be treated as such. No, Inspector, Kenya is about one thing and one thing alone: survival of the fittest. "

Set variously amid the five-star luxury and third world squalor of Kenya's east coast, the challenge to Moore and Jouma is clear. The "bait" of the title is as innocent as the simple thing used by Jake and others on their fishing boats, or something much more sinister. This is a first-class first novel, and promises to be the initial entry in a promised series, with the next title, "Burn," being published by Piatkus in the UK in July of 2009 and hopefully in the US without much further delay. It is next up for this reviewer, and I can't wait!

Highly recommended.

The Amateurs
Marcus Sakey
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014, 800-847-5515,
9780525951261 $25.95

The Amateurs of the title, in this absorbing new book by Marcus Sakey, author most recently of the wonderful "Good People," are Alex, a bartender with an ex-wife to whom he is perpetually late with child support payments for his adored ten-year-old daughter; mysterious Ian, a trader with a coke habit; Jenn, who has a 'friends with benefits' relationship with Alex but feels like her life has her in a place where she has 'missed something,' that 'now I'm out of time. All there is left to do is wait to turn into my mother;" and Mitch, a hotel doorman who pines for Jenn [unknown to her]. All in their early thirties, with a vague dissatisfaction with their lives, they have drifted into a years-long friendship that puts them together for an occasional dinner at Ian's, Cubs games in the summer, Saturday brunch, and Thursday evenings at the bar at which Alex works.

When the opportunity presents itself, therefore, although some are at first hesitant, they ultimately jump at the chance to do something radically different, and make a big score at the same time - an adventure, something they think is pretty much risk-free, and take them all out of the rut in which they individually and collectively find themselves. But such things are rarely risk-free, which these amateurs find out to their peril. The violence, when it comes, is fast, and unexpected, and from that point on [as was the case with Mr. Sakey's previous novels], I could not put this book down.

The last section of the novel is prefaced with a quote from George B. Leonard: "The best games are not those in which all goes smoothly and steadily toward a certain conclusion, but those in which the outcome is always in doubt." Which is certainly the case in Mr. Sakey's hands. The author continues his fictional forays into the minds of everyday Chicagoans who make decisions that in an instant cause their lives to veer off into unforeseen and grim directions. Mr. Sakey just keeps getting better. [And I loved the tip of the hat to Jack Reacher/Lee Child!] The writing is terrific, and the novel is highly recommended.

Sworn to Silence
Linda Castillo
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312374976 $24.95 646-307-5560

Linda Castillo's newest book is set in January in northeastern Ohio, a cold and at times forbidding time of year. As the book opens, a dead body is discovered, in indescribably brutal and hideous condition. When the local police department is called in, they fear it is not the last one they will find, as it is horribly reminiscent of a series of murders committed in nearly identical fashion sixteen years before, all the victims being young women or girls, four in all, over a two-year period and, because of the manner of death, dubbed the work of The Slaughterhouse Killer. The case was never closed, and the cops cannot believe that he has struck again after all this time. Especially in a peaceful town like Painters Mill, where one-third of the population is Amish.

The Painters Mill, Ohio Police Department is comprised of the following: Kate Burkholder, its Chief, now thirty years old, born and raised Amish but having left the church at eighteen, when in accordance with tradition she had the choice of being baptized or not and chose the latter, and shunned by the Amish in town ever since, including by her own siblings. Kate's professional background was as a cop in Columbus, six years in patrol, two as a homicide detective. Under her are three full-time officers and one auxiliary officer. They are each well-drawn and interesting, as follows: T. J. Banks, young and inexperienced, with, Kate thinks, "the makings of a good cop . . . diligent and serious about his work;" Rupert "Glock" Maddux, former marine and the most experienced, as well as being the first African-American, on the force; Chuck "Skid" Skidmore; and auxiliary cop Roland "Pickles" Shumaker. Called in to assist in the investigation is John Tomasetti, from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI). On the brink of forced retirement, he is a cop with a haunted past. His reactions to meeting Kate are varied, surprised to find her "a gun-toting, cursing, former Amish female chief of police . . . [with] secrets nearly as dark as his own."

I had some misgivings about the book, which tended to detract from an otherwise gripping and suspenseful novel. The author tended to spell out and hammer home the same points, often in nearly identical verbiage, a tad more than necessary. The prose, lyrical and brutal by turn, as befits a tale of predominantly peaceful people living in a gorgeous landscape, in which a monster has been turned loose, at times becomes clunky, e.g., a description of the wind whining "like an injured dog;" midnight descending "with the cold stealth of a nocturnal predator;" a woman being struck with a "fist like a sledgehammer making nice with the bridge of my nose;" a cop being told "I want you to drop everything" and then asking, on the next page, "This a priority?" That said, I was drawn into the unfolding tale, with suspense and tension building to a slambang denouement, and almost despite myself found it a satisfying read.

S. J. Bolton
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312381141 $25.95 212-674-5151/646-307-5560

The little English village on the Devon/Dorset border where Dr. Clare Benning lives and works as a wildlife veterinary surgeon is suddenly overrun with snakes, or so it seems. First a man is brought to hospital suffering from snakebite poisoning; then a snake appears in the crib of an infant. Other incidents are found to have occurred, all within a few days. Clare thinks: "People didn't die of snake bite in quiet English villages. They didn't wake up to find poisonous tropical snakes in their houses. And they certainly didn't come back from the dead." Snakes happen to be Clare's area of expertise, and she is called upon for assistance, and her "quiet, orderly life [goes into] meltdown."

Somewhat dysfunctional [to call her existence solitary would be a gross understatement, and all made clear to the reader in due course], one could almost say Clare identified with the snakes, saying of herself: "I'd had it with human contact. I was slithering away, through the undergrowth, away from the noise and vibrations, seeking solitude and safety." Unexpectedly, there is a romantic connection hinted at, the object of which says to Clare: "You really don't do the human race, do you? . . . You should give your own species a chance, you know." And then there is the possible presence of ghosts; or rather, one ghost. Rather than testing my suspension of disbelief, as I expected, this element of the book only intrigued me further. A malevolence is being visited upon the villagers, but why? The author speaks of "our willingness to mistreat those weaker than ourselves," that "given a legitimate reason to be cruel, how often do we jump at it?"

The pacing of this book frequently left me literally holding my breath. In the process, I learned more than I ever thought I wanted to know about reptile aficionados and herpetology, e.g., the various ways specific kinds of snakes strike and bite and the precise manner in which snake venom kills its victims, varying with the type and species of the particular snake. Who knew? All fascinating, to be sure, albeit rather grim stuff. This is a very well-written, suspenseful and definitely different book, and is recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Small Favor, A Novel of the Dresden Files
Jim Butcher
New American Library a division of Penguin Putman Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451462008 $9.99

Small Favor is the first Dresden Files book that I have read. It is obviously a formula series book but it has such rich characters, detailed plotting and fast action that you can't put it down. Butcher has taken the wizard magic story and brought it into today's world. The sorcerer paranormal fantasies that entertained you in your youth have been given new life as adult action adventure. Harry Dresden is a lead character that you search for. He has the weaknesses that the reader can relate to with the wisecracking ability in tough situations that, in real life, only come to you a day after the event. This makes Dresden the perpetual underdog that you have to root for and who still wins.

Harry Dresden is training his young apprentice to use a magic shield to protect her from harm. He has her younger bothers and sisters throwing snowballs at her so she can magically block them. Suddenly Harry is attacked by Gruffs, the same creatures from the nursery tales about trolls, bridges and Billy Goat Gruffs. They are much more powerful than the nursery tale implies. Harry, his apprentice and her siblings barely survive the attack. Harry has just become a pawn in a power play between the Sidhe of the Winter and Summer Courts. But that is not all. Other players in both the mortal and magical worlds have decided they have a stake in this new game. All of these powers and forces have become focused on Harry Dresden and what he has to do to survive.

One of the best compliments for a writer is when a reader tells them that they are going to look for and buy more of their books and that is what I am going to do. Small Favor might be just one in a line of formula fantasy books but it has everything you need to escape into the story, rich in-depth characters, multi-level plots, detailed events and a non-stop storyline. It has the added benefit of a familiar story from nursery rhymes to mystical folklore with a modern setting so everyday it is like stopping by the corner gas station for a fill up and a gallon of milk. Don't expect any great learning or insight into the human condition, just fun and escapism.

The Betrayal, The Lost Life of Jesus
Kathleen O'Neal Gear, W. Michael Gear
A Tor Book
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765354563 $9.99

The Gears take on the task of building a plausible set of historical facts around the Gospels and other early Christian religious books. The task is fraught with dangers. Archeology and linguistics have a much easier time ruling facts out than adding them in. There are multiple lines of reasoning with realistic proof that contradict other facts. Garry Wills and many others have put together good alternative lines of thought on the subject. Bart Erhman has put together a very logical proposition that many of the problems with the religious books have been with scribes who added and changed the originals over time and not with the original constructions. This doesn't negate the story or work the Gears have created. It just highlights the point that to create a novel out of history you have to pick and choose which details and how to use them. Once the reader makes these necessary adjustments to the core storyline it is possible to enjoy an alternate version of Jesus' life and death that makes him more accessible as a human walking the earth.

Factors that are frequently neglected in our knowledge of Jesus are the books that were considered unsuitable for the official religious library. Some of these books outright contradicted the beliefs of the majority while others just didn't fit in with a core library on Christianity. Some where violently censored while others were just relegated to a minor standing. These books had been part of the core beliefs of thousands of Christians in the past but, as with all things human, the beliefs of the majority overshadow those in the minority. The complete accuracy of these books can be easily question as can the complete accuracy of many passages in the accepted bible can be. But many concepts in these books are so universal and logical that they must have some relationship with the real truth. It is possible to pull details from these many religious writings to create a different whole.

The Betrayal is written in three story lines. The first is a persecution of alternate Christian beliefs under the Emperor Constantine, being a true Roman Emperor this includes assassination and violent suppression. The second line is a Gospel style rendition of Jesus' life using an original Christian belief that he was a holy man but not physically God's son. The third is a post-death story of what happened after the crucifixion.

The writing of The Betrayal is average but what makes the story very interesting is the pulling together of multiple stories about Jesus using knowledge that was frequently missed by typical Christian commentators over the years. It takes a systematic and comprehensive study of linguistics and history to pull together which facts were added in by later scribes and editors and why and how these changes might have been made. This has created an enjoyable novel that is both revealing of history and troubling. The story can be used to either vilify Christianity or to strengthen religious faith.

The Betrayal is highly recommended to true scholars in religious history as a short-cut on blending many of the early period Christian writings into a true picture of the broad, rich and varied Christian faiths. It can be troubling to those who haven't taken the time to study in-depth their beliefs and might not fit a religious reader until they are ready to look deeper. The actual writing style is average but when added to the power of the subject matter the whole novel becomes very good.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Science Under Siege: Defending Science, Exposing Pseudoscience
Kendrick Frazier
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst NY 14228-2119
9781591027157 $21.98

Kendrick Frazier states in his introduction to this collection of articles previously published in Skeptical Inquirer, "My hope is that this publication in book form will help bring these particular articles to an audience well beyond SI's loyal readers: scientists and scholars in all fields, educators and teachers, students and inquirers at all levels, and citizens who long for scientifically reliable information in what has regrettably become an age of misinformation" (p. 11).

In a summary of the research published in the first thirty years of Skeptical Inquirer, Paul Kurtz writes (p. 23), "I surely do not wish to suggest that conscious deception is the primary explanation for all or even most paranormal beliefs. Rather, it is self-deception that accounts for so much credulity." Kurtz points out that pro-paranormal books that once sold in the millions (The Bermuda Triangle) are now considered bestsellers in the field if they rack up 200,000 sales (p. 27). And he observes that, "there are very few television programs devoted to the paranormal, though there are smaller-market cable shows." Certainly two constitutes "very few." But when those two reach the mass audience that watches Medium and Ghost Whisperer, they do as much to misinform the unlearned masses as any ten cable programs. That individual episodes are acknowledged to be fiction does not mitigate the networks' crime of pretending that the concepts behind the series exist in the real world.

On the subject of "Science, Religion, Wonder, and Awe," Ann Druyan writes (p, 38-39), "It's puzzling that Eden is synonymous with paradise when, if you think about it at all, it's more like a maximum-security prison with twenty-four hour surveillance. It's a horrible place…. As Diderot observed, the God of Genesis 'loved his apples more than he did his children.'"

Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science, writes (p. 80), "Though there are prominent exceptions, most GOP representatives remain unwilling to seriously investigate or criticize the Bush administration." Perhaps because his article was published in Skeptical Inquirer before sufficient time had elapsed to make such an observation, he does not mention that the person most responsible for protecting the Bush administration from prosecution for its crimes against science, education, the Constitution, the First Amendment, the Geneva Convention, the American people, and the human race, is Barack Obama. Editor Frazier comments that, "We are non partisan…. but it is well documented that the past administration's efforts were particularly egregious" (p. 12).

Massimo Pigliucci (pp. 81-82) cites a book by a Christian apologist who described as "absurd" an alleged statement by David Hume that, "no testimony will ever be sufficient to establish a miracle." While Pigliucci does not generalize that the setting up of straw men and refuting statements they never made is standard operating procedure for propagandists for the god delusion, he does show that quoting out of context is indeed conscious, unmitigated lying. The entire statement that Hume made was that, "no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish."

Frazier's introduction points out that, "A fallacy often committed by well-meaning skeptics, especially physical scientists, is enunciated - attempting to explain some proclaimed unusual phenomenon in natural terms before one knows that there is a real phenomenon to explain" (p.12). Robert Sheaffer (p. 84-86) illustrates that generalization by examining, among other things, the Star of Bethlehem. He quotes attempts to explain it as a comet, a supernova, or a rare conjunction of planets. "But the proper question to ask is: 'Was there really a Star of Bethlehem?' From a strictly historical perspective, the answer appears to be no." The same situation applies to attempts to rationalize the biblical Plagues of Egypt. Sheaffer advises readers to "make sure that the skeptic does not join the religious believer in proposing improbable events to explain a story that is probably fictional."

Two chapters are devoted to the Dover, Pennsylvania School Board's revival of the Scopes monkey trial. The judge's ruling that "ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory, as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community" (p. 95), destroyed any credibility ID's alleged expert witness Michael Behe ever had, and likewise his partner-in-ignorance William Dembski, who charged the school board $200 an hour for his testimony (p. 101). Not only are Behe and Dembski still passing off their religion as science; Dembski wrote on his blog after ID's defeat, "I have little to add to what I wrote in September, so I'll just leave it there" (p. 107). The chapter also includes evidence that shows ID's most prominent apologists, besides being genuinely ignorant, gullible and unteachable, are also conscious liars who do not merely create straw men by quoting their opponents out of context; they accuse them of writing documents that do not exist (p. 109).

The authors of a chapter on evolution refute four common myths, including what has all the appearance of a conscious lie, "Evolution is theory, not a fact." They explain (p. 114) that, "In popular usage the word refers to an unsubstantiated guess or assumption…. When scientists use the word theory, however, they're referring to a logical, tested, well-supported explanation for a great variety of facts. In this sense the theory of evolution is as well supported as the theory of gravitation" (p. 114). Is it credible that the propagandists who denigrate evolution as "theory, not fact," do not know that? Or is it more likely that, writing for addicts who really do not know what theory means in science, they propagate what they are fully aware is a falsehood?

The most surprising element of Martin Gardner's annihilation of the "recovered memory" delusion that destroyed thousands of innocent lives is that, as recently as 2006 when the article was first published (and presumably still today), "The memory wars … are still far from over" (p. 138). In other words, despite the awarding of millions of dollars in damages against self-styled therapists who manipulated patients into "remembering" childhood sexual abuse that never happened, and hundreds of accusers who later recanted when they discovered how they had been manipulated, the pretence that therapist-induced false memories are recovered memories still persists. Monstrous!

The chapter on "AIDS denialism vs. science" took me by surprise. I was aware that religion-motivated condom opponents deny that HIV causes AIDS. I was unaware that there is an organized cult that has testified in court cases that HIV does not exist. While the religious motivation of Holocaust deniers is transparent, the motivation of AIDS deniers is less clear. They surely cannot all be promoters of homeopathic and other spurious alternatives to antiretroviral drugs?

Two long chapters by Stuart Jordan answer the arguments of global-warming deniers. While most deniers are concerned about the economic consequences of solving a problem they think may be exaggerated, the minority who start from the assumption that their deity would never permit such a disaster are not mentioned in the chapters. But such a position does exist, and is by no means a trivial problem.

The chapter, "A skeptical look at September 11," suggests that America's response to the Twin Towers atrocity (without naming the administration responsible for that response) was ill-considered. "Some responses to 9/11 were rational. Soon after jumbo jets were used as flying bombs, workers in landmark skyscrapers might reasonably have feared that their building could be next…. To imagine that Al Qaeda's next target might be the stadium in, say, Ames, Iowa, is far-fetched indeed" (p. 176). For the sake of balance, Frazier included a follow-up article by Steven Pinker that argued (p. 183), "But if one defines the class as 'acts designed to inflict as many American deaths as possible' - which could include nuclear bombs … taking expensive measures to prevent such events is not necessarily irrational."

In a chapter debunking the alleged link between vaccination and autism, Steven Novella reports (p. 191) that, "Just as shown in the 2005 Dover trial of intelligent design, where the full body of scientific evidence was given a thorough airing in court and subjected to rules of evidence and the critical eyes of experienced judges, science tends to win out over nonsense. By all accounts, the lawyers for those claiming that vaccinations caused their children's autism put on pathetic performances with transparently shoddy science, while the other side marshaled genuine experts and put forth an impressive case."

Anyone who disagrees with the conclusion that, "animal rightists are domestic terrorists" (p. 199), has not read the article by Michael Conn and James Parker.

The final third of the book, consisting of fifteen chapters on pseudoscience, reached the following conclusions:

(p. 245): "Psychoanalysts, unlike psychologists, do not perform any empirical tests. In particular, no laboratory has ever been set up by any psychoanalysts." In other words, if there is any difference between the sympathetic listening practised by psychoanalysts, and the sympathetic listening of bartenders and taxi drivers, it has never been demonstrated.

(p. 261): "The Columbia University prayer study [which claimed to have produced evidence that prayer can influence reality] was based on a bewildering study design and included many sources of error. But worse than flaws … one must consider the sad possibility that the Columbia prayer study may never have been conducted at all…. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. Unless replicated under strictly controlled conditions, studies claiming to have demonstrated 'miracle' cures belong in religious and paranormal magazines, not in scientific journals."

(p. 274): "Data in support of psi have so far failed to meet the acceptable scientific standards of lawfulness, replicability, objectivity, falsifiability, and theoretical coherence…. Until such evidence is forthcoming, it would be difficult for the scientific community to accept a claim for an anomaly."

(p. 276): "The parapsychologists, who now admit that their evidence cannot be replicated, also argue that this failure to replicate is one of the unusual properties of psi!" The most prominent proponent of a parallel argument was Tertullian, who asserted that the very absurdity of the Christian fairy tales was the strongest reason why they should be believed.

(p. 287): "The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) group is shutting down after twenty-eight years of searching for [and not finding] proof of the paranormal." But while Princeton University finally recognized that they had been financing a search for the-thing-that-is-not, the founder of PEAR "fervently stood by his claims and said that he would repeat this long effort 'in a heartbeat.'" Anyone who thinks that 28 years of failure would convince any reasonable person to stop looking, is reminded that 2,000 years of waiting for a "second coming" has not convinced Christians to stop waiting.

(p. 314): According to Martin Gardner, Energy From the Vacuum, by Thomas Bearden, "is much funnier [meaning pathetically laughable] than Frank Tipler's best-seller of a few decades ago, The Physics of Immortality." Repeating that 2007 statement in his 2009 book, The Jinn From Outer Space, Gardner added, "but not as funny as its 2007 sequel, The Physics of Christianity." What makes Gardner's evaluation particularly meaningful is that he wrote of the first Tipler book (paraphrased from memory), "My first thought was that he is joking. Sadly he is not."

(p. 315): The hypothesis that the moon landing was a hoax is dead but it won't lie down. In the secular world, deniers tend to be the same kind of conspiracy freaks who insist that the biggest news story in human history, contact with space-faring aliens, has been successfully covered up through 11 presidencies by the same government agencies that were unable to cover up one insignificant break-in at the Watergate Hotel. But, "Some religious fundamentalists - Hare Krishna cultists and some extreme Islamic mullahs, for example - declare the theological impossibility of human trips to other worlds in space." Presumably those are the same mullahs who have pronounced it an article of faith that the earth is as flat as their Koran (and the JC bible) says it is.

(p. 322): "Some magnet advocates contend that no one has conclusively proven that magnets cannot heal. Of course, they have it backwards. When it comes to healing, the burden of proof is on the seller, not the buyer. One is supposed to prove that a therapy works before marketing it to the public."

(p. 337): Describing his undercover infiltration of "the Coney Island of spiritualism," Joe Nickel observed that, even though "the frauds, fakes and fantasies of the Chesterfield Spiritualist camp" had been exposed over and over and over, "Indeed, the deception hearkened back to the days of Houdini and beyond - actually, all the way back to 1848 when the Fox sisters launched the spiritualist craze with their schoolgirl tricks."

(p 361): On the myth that a patent officer once resigned on the ground that there was nothing left to invent, Samuel Sass writes, "It would be the height of optimism to believe that efforts to debunk this myth will cause it to disappear. It's too good a story and lends itself too readily to those who are eager to make a point and to whom facts and truth are secondary." By the same token, it would be the height of optimism to expect their repeated exposure as delusions to lead any time soon to the disappearance of belief in religion, astrology, the paranormal, hypnotism, extraterrestrials who look like humans in Star Trek make-up, scientology, psychoanalysis, chiroquackery, homeoquackery, naturoquackery, recovered memory, multiple personality, intelligent design, facilitated communication, sociobiology, or psychology as something other than a field of research that has as yet not discovered anything.

Despite my highlighting of chapters that do exactly that, there is no indication that Frazier made a point of including articles that expose pushers of religion as conscienceless liars willing to perpetrate any fraud in order to preserve their bread and butter. Indeed the only articles critical of religion published in Skeptical Inquirer, which he edits, rather than in Free Inquiry, are those that falsify specific religious claims that pose as science and can therefore be refuted by the methodology of science. That several such articles found their way into Science Under Siege is just the way it turned out.

Science Under Siege will not cure incurables. But it will educate everyone else.

Inevitable Illusions: How Mistakes of Reason Rule Our Minds
Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini
John Wiley & Sons
111 River Street, Hoboken NJ 07030-5774
047115962X $16.95

"The fundamental materials of psychoanalysis are brought to light by studying dreams, what we repress, our notorious complexes, our lapsus linguae.…" That was an early warning (p. 1) that this is an author whose discernment falls somewhere between that of a theologian and a Scientologist. Even in 1994, anyone who could still mistake the masturbation fantasies of Sigmund Freud for science probably owned a lot of books by Shirley MacLean. And the swallower of such snake oil plans to explain to others how their judgment is fallible? Good luck with that.

Freud invented the uber-ich to enable him to ramble on, without his marks recognizing that he was peddling gibberish, about mental processes that existed only in his own imagination,. P-P has now invented a "cognitive unconscious" for the same purpose. And his Italian and French sales indicate that it worked. Why are so many otherwise intelligent adults able to assume that if something they read is unintelligible then it must be profound? On the upside, passing off psychobabble as factual information enables P-P to make a living without having to wear a paper hat and ask, "Do you want fries with that?" I can only conclude that the University of Arizona, which currently employs him, is less discriminating that Ronald McDonald.

What made P-P's book a bestseller is that it consists of a collection of probability puzzles best described as trivial but interesting. The author compares them to the parlor game of Trivial Pursuit (p. 116). The puzzles are of such a nature that even persons who have taken statistics courses are likely to dispute that the right answer is indeed the right answer. I derive as much pleasure from watching Jeopardy! as most of the audience that has kept the program on television for twenty-five years (despite its imbecilic pretence that questions are answers and answers are questions). But thirty minutes a day of mentally pitting myself against game show contestants is plenty. A book full of such exercises I can do without. Inevitable Illusions may be the largest collection in print of such material. If it is not, then I hope I never have to read an even larger one.

Interspersed among P-P's puzzles are observations made by "psychologists and cognitive scientists" (p. 148) for the purpose of transforming observable reality into something only they (for a fee) can explain. These are the same people whose self-serving imaginations turned undisciplined thinking into "clinical depression," compulsive playacting into "multiple personality disorder," doublethink into "cognitive dissonance," self-delusion into "facilitated communication," therapist-induced fantasies into "recovered memory," moodiness into "obsessive-compulsive disorder," statistical generalization into "psychological profiling," sympathetic listening into "therapy," asking "How did that make you feel?" into "treatment," placebo therapy into "hypnotism," refusal to refrain from antisocial behavior into "mental illness," lying on behalf of the highest bidder into "expert testimony," and a dice roll that turned up heads rather than tails as "type A personality." Enough said.

In an appendix (p. 195) P-P writes, "Present-day evolutionary psychology and cognitive ecology are pathetic attempts to deduce from a few paleo-Darwinian adaptationist cliches certain 'constraints' on the evolution of the human mind." So he recognizes that evolutionary psychology, previously called sociobiology until recognition that it was pseudoscience forced a change of name, is pathetic. So he is not completely purblind.

I do not dispute that Inevitable Illusions is entertaining. So is the equally profound Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance. A meaningful contribution to science it is not.

Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools, ed.
Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch
Beacon Press
25 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108-2892
9780807032787 $14.00

"Intelligent design represents a religious viewpoint, but this does not mean that all leaders of the faith community support it; in fact, many do not see any conflict between the evidence for evolution and their own theological views about divine purpose in the universe" (p. x). Anyone who concludes that the author of those words is a godworshipper is right. The quote is taken from Not In Our Classroom's Foreword, by United Church of Christ minister, Barry Lynn, who (p. 170) "is considered a liberal Christian." The fact that evolution is incompatible with the opening chapter of Genesis strikes him as insignificant because, like an overwhelming majority of godworshippers, he sees Genesis as "true" in some vague, metaphorical way, while recognizing that it is no more literally true than Alice in Wonderland.

It is biblical literalists who are determined to have Intelligent Design (ID) taught in biology classes as an alternative to evolution. Yet for some reason even the most intransigent IDers, while insisting that their bible is right in its declaration that the universe is less than ten thousand years old, are making no serious attempt to have that Genesis myth taught in astronomy and geology classes. Why not? The answer is that, while a pretence that astronomers are not unanimous that the universe is over twelve billion years old would be laughed out of existence, they are able to convince the gullible that biologists are less than unanimous about the reality of evolution. BIG LIE! And when asked if they believe their bible's fourteen unambiguous assertions that the earth is flat, the IDers tend to agree that planet earth is indeed an oblate spheroid, and instead argue that the bible's flat earth passages do not mean what they clearly do mean. BOVINE EXCREMENT.

Lynn mentions (p. xi) conversations with science teachers who "see the ID proponents as promoters of a pseudoscience that is barely worthy of discussion." That was the reason astronomers initially refused to dignify Immanuel Velikovsky's masturbation fantasies by acknowledging their existence - big mistake! In urging that ID be given a point-by-point rebuttal, Lynn writes, "If no one rebuts these ideas in plain English, listeners may presume that the ID claims go unanswered because they are true." That is what happened in Velikovsky's case, and Lynn is right in recognizing that ID must not be allowed to win by default.

The primary reason ID should not be taught as science is that it is not science. It is religion disguised as science. And since teaching religion, as opposed to teaching about religion, is a violation of the First Amendment, proponents have come up with pseudoscientific vocabulary that the masses do not recognize as meaningless doubletalk. "There are only two concepts comprising ID theory: Michael Behe's 'irreducible complexity' and William Dembski's 'complex specified information,' which is related to what he calls the design inference" (p. 21). As editor Eugenie Scott observes (p. 27), "Antievolutionists are realizing that teaching creation science or intelligent design may be superfluous if teaching straight antievolutionism will do the job of discrediting evolution in favor of a religious view…. The two-mode approach is alive and well: if evolution is disproved, students will naturally default to special creationism." Fortunately, that is less true now than in 2006. Since the publication of Not In Our Classrooms, courts have ruled that evolution is not a "controversial" theory as far as scientists are concerned, and attempts to prove otherwise have been transparent attempts to get around the First Amendment by passing off religion as not-religion.

Nicholas Matzke and Paul Gross quote the assertion of The Creation Hypothesis that (p. 42), "purely natural processes … remains essentially mysterious on any current naturalistic evolutionary account." They respond, "The only problem is that it is scandalously wrong. Competent scientists know how new genetic information arises: a variety of well-understood mutational mechanisms copy and modify the DNA letter sequence that makes up a gene." Non-specialists will have no idea what that means, and that is precisely why persons whose conscious purpose is to manipulate the ignoranti make such claims. If a Scientologist says that the first umbriago was a shrdlu, and an opponent says the first umbriago was not a shrdlu, a potential recruit is likely to believe the one whose emotional appeal is stronger. Since ID cannot appeal to reason, it is therefore manipulated to appeal to emotion.

It has been explained many times that, to a scientist, a "theory" is a developed, consistent, detailed explanation of an observable reality, such as the theory of gravity, the theory of relativity, and quantum theory. That antievolutionists continue to deride evolution as "a theory, not a fact," cannot be attributed to ignorance. They are fully aware that when they contrast theory with fact, in the pretence that a scientific theory is nothing more than a hunch, they are LYING. They lie because they know that the unlearned masses will believe them. Like Paul of Tarsus, they are convinced that lying to further a greater "truth" is virtuous - and since nothing but lying can achieve their objective, that is what they are obliged to do. Despite being totally discredited in court, Behe and Dembski continue peddling the same lies that have been completely blown out of the water. That they are conscious liars is the most charitable explanation, since the alternative is that they are certifiably insane.

The Big Lie that evolution is "only a theory" makes the Big Lie that scientists recognize it as controversial seem plausible. It is not. "What would be a great disservice would be for the state to require teachers to teach the falsehood that there is any scientific doubt about common ancestry…. Unfortunately, it is clear that this is exactly what the Kansas Board of Education is doing" (p. 55). As Jay Wexler explains (p. 91), "As a result, anyone trying to understand why some public school system would make a conscious decision to teach widely rejected criticisms of only evolution (and not, say, gravity, or the roundness of the earth, or some other widely accepted scientific notion) would surely surmise that the reform was intended to promote the clearly religious view that evolution is an unconvincing scientific position."

Persons who are convinced that the evolution of all lifeforms from a common ancestor is proven beyond a reasonable doubt are no more dogmatic than persons who are convinced that the earth is round. The likelihood of new evidence calling either conclusion into question is vanishingly small. Nonetheless (p. 108), "Good science, of course, should always be open to alternative explanations, to different theories. Advocates of intelligent design take advantage of this by contending that high school science textbooks leave no room for discussion of alternative theories to evolution, so students should be made aware of the controversy and of intelligent design as an alternative theory. The first problem with this argument is that there is no scientific controversy about evolution, and the second problem is that intelligent design doesn't qualify as a scientific teaching."

The one question that is nowhere raised in this book is: Given the quantity and quality of the evidence for evolution, why are even persons with legitimate scientific qualifications (Michael Behe is a biochemist) incurable? Do the editors recognize that the Occam's razor answers are lying and insanity, but see that observation as adding nothing useful to the conclusion that the IDers are wrong? Perhaps so. But since Behe, Dembski and other incurables have all at different times sat on a toilet seat and watched TV ads for tampons, how have they been able to shut out the reality that such experiences are incompatible with the existence of an omnipotent intelligent designer that is not a sadist? Perhaps they are so terrified of death that, without the mind-deadening opiate of an afterlife belief, they would lose control of their bodily functions. And since that promise of eternal life comes from a bible that says species were created independently and did not evolve from common ancestors, rejecting the proven fact of evolution is the only way they can avoid having to be institutionalized and diapered.

The Flat Earth Society's hardcore members believe that the earth must be flat because their bible says so. IDers believe that species did not evolve from common ancestors because their bible says so. Either both groups of unteachables are entitled to respect, or both groups are raving lunatics. Flat earth theory should not be taught in American classrooms, and intelligent design should not be taught in American classrooms.

Inerrant the Wind: The Evangelical Crisis of Biblical Authority
Robert Price
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2119
9781591026761 $25.95

While I was reading this book, I inserted bookmarks to enable me re-find passages I might want to cite or quote in a review. There were only two such places. One referred to the Scopes trial of 1925 and the movie based on that trial, Inherit the Wind. Robert Price gave his book the parallel title, Inerrant the Wind, since it catalogues the arguments for and against biblical inerrancy that the Scopes trial was essentially about, and shows how such arguments evolved from Scopes' time until 1981 when Price's doctoral dissertation, only slightly updated for this first published version, was written. The other was a reference to the beliefs of the Flat Earth Society.

"To the American public at large, probably the central image of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy was (and still is) the courtroom battle between fundamentalist politician William Jennings Bryan and agnostic lawyer Clarence Darrow, technically over the fate of nondescript high school teacher John Scopes, but actually over the validity and legality of Darwinism…. So many Americans (scientists more than anyone else) were shocked to learn of a new legal offensive by 'Scientific Creationists.' As everyone knows, this battle was lost; every single anti-Darwin law was repealed, declared unconstitutional. So today, the tactics of creationists must be different, but basically the goal and the presuppositions are the same. Now creationists demand 'equal time' for their belief, which is dressed up as an alternative theory of origins deserving of (compulsory) inclusion in any (in fact, every) biology curriculum. Bills to this effect have thus far been defeated in at least fourteen state legislatures" (pp. 24-25).

The other passage that struck me as worth repeating was (p. 163), "However, there are fundamentalists who are not content to live, so to speak, in the world of electric lights, radio and entropy while reserving the prescientific worldview of Genesis for the primeval past. Flat-earthers ('Zetetic Astronomers') insist the Bible is right, and science is wrong, and that is that. 'Scientifically' derived 'evidence' to the contrary is simply falsified, according to these people. Flat-earth leader Wilbur Glenn Voliva once declared, 'We are fundamentalists. We are the only true fundamentalists.'" And of course Voliva was right. The Bible states unambiguously in fourteen places that the earth is flat, so that anyone who claims to believe that every word in the Bible is literal truth, while simultaneously rejecting flat-earth theology, is either a liar or is even more self-deluded than the Flat-earthers.

As to the developing arguments and rationalizations of antievolutionists, Price spells them out in the kind of detail that was legitimate in a dissertation, but raises serious questions about why he or Prometheus deemed them worth reprinting. I have no interest in reading two hundred pages about the changing opinions offered by theologians on the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin, and I find the transitional arguments, from "The Bible says so, so there!" to "Intelligent Design," no more interesting.

Robert Price has written some of the most useful and enlightening books on the falsifiability of religion. This is not one of them.

The Old Testament: An Introduction to Biblical Scholarship
Arthur J. Bellinzoni
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2119
9781591026730 $29.95

Arthur Bellinzoni's Introduction provides the most accurate, detailed description and indisputable justification of valid historical methodology ever published. He explains that, "Biblical scholars apply to the books of the Bible the same critical tools that they would apply to any writing that is a human production" (p. 37). "For the historian as historian, nothing, not even so-called revealed truth, can stand in the way of the consistent application of canons of historical reason. There are no exceptions, no exemptions, no bending of the rules, and no retreating from the consistent application of the principles of historical reasoning." (p. 38). "Accordingly, a historical study of the Bible poses serious concerns and sometimes grave personal challenges for many readers, because it is exactly that impartial, detached, neutral, unbiased, dispassionate, and objective perspective that not only troubles some students but that lies necessarily at the heart of all rigorous and serious biblical scholarship" (p. 16).

In contrast to the methodology of history, Bellinzoni spells out the methodology of theologians, even though he does not identify them as such: "Our challenge is that we sometimes think that we know so much about the Bible that we set our conclusions first and then look selectively for evidence to support those conclusions. That of course is not the method of good biblical scholarship. It is, however, often the method of unexamined and uninformed blind faith" (p. 113).

Having said that, and pointed out that historians are not bound by courtroom standards of "beyond a reasonable doubt," and are forced to identify disparate conclusions as probable, possible, improbable, impossible, and too close to call, he acknowledges (p. 37) that, "That is, however, not an easy task, and equally competent unbiased scholars will often examine the same evidence and come to very different conclusions" (p. 37).

That explains why his conclusions, although identical on all major issues with those I reach in God, Jesus and the Bible: The Origin and Evolution of Religion, are quite different in the specifics. For example, we reach such different conclusions on what, if any, historical events were the basis of such traditions as the Exodus, that I find myself wondering if he is in fact unable to practise what he preaches. Does he cling to the belief that, despite the Bible's multitude of identifiable errors, its unsubstantiated claim of a god revealing its existence can be accepted as nonfiction? Or is his naïve, gullible parroting of biblical fantasies political correctness for the purpose of concealing what he really believes? I strongly disagree with the minimalists who argue that no part of the Tanakh is a legitimate source of history, and even deny that David and Solomon were real persons. But Bellinzoni, if I am reading him correctly, appears to be taking the position that biblical passages should be accepted as true unless they can be proven false. I can find no justification whatsoever for his ignorant, incompetent, superstitious assertion (p. 111) regarding "who was the author of the Exodus and of the Sinai covenant, particularly the Ten Commandments. From the perspective of biblical scholarship, there can be only one answer to that question: namely Moses." We agree that Moses was an Egyptian, in my view Ramoses' grandson Atonmoses who, being far down in the line of succession, offered to become the expelled Israelites' sheik and lead them back to their original homeland of Midian, as his only hope of becoming a big frog in a small puddle. But author of the Ten Commandments of Exodus 34, or the lawcode of Exodus 20 that no biblical author identified as the Big Ten? Bovine excrement.

Nonetheless, while I am obliged to describe some of his interpretations as gullible, most of the evidence that we interpret differently allows for alternative conclusions, including his translation (p. 71) of El Shaddai as "the mountain [god]" rather than "Allah the demon" - but not his translation of the dual-sex, generic plural elohim as "God" rather than "the (male and female) gods." He certainly gets right the assertion (p. 53) that the cumulative weight of the evidence "eliminates entirely the possibility that Moses could have written the Pentateuch…. It is absurd for anyone to continue to claim Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch in light of such overwhelmingly irrefutable evidence to the contrary." That same evidence, by the way, was spelled out in Mythology's Last Gods (of which God, Jesus and the Bible is an update), which is inexplicably missing from Bellinzoni's bibliography. And only the intellectually bankrupt dispute the conclusion (p. 73) that, "The material in Genesis 1-11 has no merit whatsoever as history."

I can confidently recommend Bellinzoni's The Old Testament to everyone interested in learning how the Tanakh was composed and edited - with the stipulation that they also read Mythology's Last Gods and decide which interpretation of events is the more plausible. Some of Bellinzoni's analyses of the evidence and choices of which predecessor's work to reiterate made me shudder, but the questionable choices are not sufficiently significant to make his overall contribution to educating the masses less than outstanding. Definitely a "must read."

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

Laura Ashley
Martin Wood
Frances Lincoln
9780711228979 $60.00

The book with easy-going text and varied photographs takes one beyond Laura Ashley the brand to the husband-and-wife team of Laura and Bernard who were also business partners. From their marriage in 1949 to Laura's accidental death in their showcase home in 1985, the path of their success in business and complementary talents playing into this come to be seen.

What strikes one most is the rhythm of fortuitousness, seizing upon opportunities such incidents afforded, timely fundamental business decisions, and enlightened public relations on the road to the Laura Ashley brand's phenomenal success; while all along the road, the company kept its basic aesthetic sense intact. The company's sensibility and standards "remained firmly rooted in the Victorian era" throughout the brand's somewhat meandering path to the top. Laura herself realized in hindsight, "I didn't set out to be Victorian but it was a time when people lived straightforward, basic lives, when everything was clear cut and respectable...Respectability matters a lot to me." This reference is seen throughout the product line over the decades from the 1950s to '80s when the company was at its height. This reference remained constant in spite of nods to rock celebrities and occasions of showiness and glamour; which were advertising and public relations gambits, not signals of a changed direction. Though Victorian in its sources, Laura Ashley was fresh, not retro or stodgy, in its image, designs, and products.

In getting behind the brand, one sees also the essential role played by Bernard. "Bernard was the colourist and to him colours were like language...The color palette, for which they were to become famous...." Bernard also made some fundamental early decisions concerning production facilities which put Laura Ashley on a firm footing by which to pursue the opportunities that arose. Besides contributing ideas for designs and new products, Laura was largely the public face of the company to the fashion- and interior decoration-worlds and the media.

Laura Ashley got its start by bringing to the London fashion market the small colorful scarves which were attracting attention from being worn by Audrey Hepburn in the movie Roman Holiday. The Ashleys got the idea from seeing young women wearing them while on vacation in Italy is 1953. The scarves "proved to be an ideal product" for the printing equipment Bernard had set up. The supply Bernard had talked a department store buyer into buying sold out in two hours--and the company had all of a sudden gotten a name for itself.

Laura Ashley is a business that ideally integrated the personalities, interests, talents, tastes, and drives of its founders. (Martha Stewart is a later example of this distinctive type of modern business.) Martin Wood has written previous books with an art-book style on other businesses in the area of design, style, and fashion based on individuals who combined an outstanding artistic sense with an outstanding business sense. In this work, the many sides of Laura Ashley from the aesthetic of its founders, the sources of their product ideas, their manufacturing equipment, to their decisions on the path to their extraordinary and influential success are covered in words and pictures.

Hajj Paintings - Folk Art of the Great Pilgrimage
Ann Parker and Avon Neal
American University in Cairo Press
c/o International Publishers Marketing
Herndon, VA
9789774162596 $49.95

The color photographs (more than 100) bring to Westerners an aspect of Islam few know about, much less would ever get to see. The "hajj paintings" are a "rural art tradition" in small villages far from the usual tourist destinations. Such art is a Middle Eastern folk art done on the outside walls of villagers' adobe-like houses. So it would not be seen in museums nor sold in shops; and besides, the ones who had it done would not be likely to see it go.

The hajj paintings have both religious and social significance. They signify to neighbors in the small villages that the one who commissioned them has made the hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. This is a religious act all devout Muslims plan to make at least once in their lives. Because of common circumstances such a raising a family and especially for rural Muslims who would not have much money, the ones making the hajj are mostly older married couples with grown children who have had many years to save enough for the pilgrimage. Such older couples, particularly the men, acquire a more revered status in their communities after making the hajj. The paintings on their houses indicate they have done this. The paintings also have religious meaning in that they memorialize this important religious experience and like religious art of other faiths, are a means of showing reverence for Allah and Muslim beliefs.

The hajj paintings of this work of religious art and cultural study are from villages in Egypt. Many of the paintings represent steps of the hajj from Egypt on the way to Mecca. As in most journeys, the steps along the way are as meaningful as arrival at the end. Experiences, scenes, and symbols relating to the cities of Mina, Medina, and Arafat are in some of the paintings. These cities can be stops depending on the route taken to Mecca and how extensive pilgrims wanted to make a hajj. The whole region of Saudi Arabia around Mecca has relevance for the founding of Islam.

Other paintings, however, can have purely religious meaning in portraying or representing historical incidents of Islam or elements of its theology. Paintings of airplanes, boats, cars, and occasionally camels are reminders of the means of transportation. While others are personal in portraying individuals at one or more points in the hajj or seeing oneself as reflecting an aspect of Islam. In one, a butcher shows himself cutting up a piece of lamb with other pictorial elements indicating the scene is to bring to mind the Feast of the Sacrifice. The lengthy annotation points out "for practical reasons as well as religious sentiment, a painting will combine the hajji's occupation with his journey to Mecca...": in this case, having the painting serve as a sign for the man's occupation as well.

Such paintings are done by members of the communities who are hajji house painters. They are amateur artists who are often schoolteachers, and they are respected members of the community for their trade tied in with the religion. As with other folk art, the Islamic religious folk art has the charm of the fusion of simplicity, the primitive, and guilelessness.

Public Faces Private Places: Portraits of Artists 1956-2008
Sandra Lousada
Frances Lincoln Limited
9780711230491 $40.00

From an artistic family and living and working in an artistic milieu, Lousada is naturally in sympathy with artists. She intuitively understands them--their psychology, their situation, their means of presenting themselves to connect with others.

Lousada's photographs are the opposite of publicity photographs. Many of them are candid. But even the ones showing film or theaters actors in performances overcome the usual distance between performer and spectator as relative close-ups, the lightly noir-like shadings and contrasts of the black-and-white, and scenes that are not much dramatic. The individuals are mostly English artists of various levels of recognition. One sees Vanessa Redgrave, Albert Finney, and Rex Harrison; but most are not so well known, are known mainly to theater and film devotees. Succinct captions denote the subject, the location, and the date. Not a glossy catalog of celebrities nor a photojournalism compilation, Lousada's observant photographs are more artful than they first appear. Photographing celebrities and actors so that no trace of putting them on a pedestal nor commercialization of them inhere in the photographs requires a special eye and artistic composure--both of which Lousada has.

Dames, Dolls, and Delinquents - A Collector's Guide to Sexy Pulp Fiction
Gary Lovisi
Krause Publications
Iola, WI
9780896899681 $24.99

One could easily forget that this is a guide to collectible paperbacks in looking through page after page of colorful cover art. Lovisi has divided the roughly 700 covers mostly four per page with a few full-page into certain subjects and types of images. These include the basic Sexy Pin-up Dollsexy Pulp Fiction and Sultry Sweethearts to the troubling and somewhat more complex Bad Girl Delinquents and Deadly Femme Fetales to the provocative and exotic Luscious Lesbians and Fetish Covers. Other categories are eroticized women in certain activities--Women in Peril, Women and Violence, and Heated Embraces. Inevitably there is overlap since the aim of any of the covers of such pulp fiction is to strongly suggest or depict outright sex--better yet, forbidden sex--danger, and uncontrolled and often perverse emotions.

Underneath these striking, evocative cover illustrations are the book's author, cover illustrator, publisher, and prices according to grades. Though many of the illustrators are unknown. In an introductory section, Lovisi discusses the art of a few of the most notable artists who are known. In many cases, however, the publishers would block out the artist's name. The selling point of such pulp fiction was not who was the cover artist. In most cases, publishers would alter the cover art anyway in the printing by making reds and other bright colors more vivid and glaring and would freely intrude on the art with titles, subtitles, and story blurbs.

Such fiction of interest mainly for the covers doesn't get high prices as far as collectibles and auction prices go. Between $40 and $125 is the range for most in better condition. There is one though titled Junkie (1953) by the author named William Lee which can go for over $1,000 in near perfect condition. William Lee is the pseudonym of William Burroughs, author of the Tarzan series whose first editions written in the early 1900s bring thousands of dollars.

So many pulp fiction titles were published when they were at the height of their popularity during the 1950s and into the 1960s that no guide can include them all. Along with being of interest as a gallery of book cover art in the vein of mass-market publishing and popular culture, this guide presents covers which have been proven to have value to collectors.

Agatha Christie at Home
Hilary Macaskill
Frances Lincoln Limited
9780711230293 $40.00

The top best-selling author of all time (rivaling Shakespeare), Agatha Christie (1890-1976) had as many as eight homes at one time. Some were in London, and one was in Baghdad. Her favorite however--the one she felt was her true home for her and her husband, gave her the most inspiration, and is most associated with her mysteries--was Greenway in the county of Devon. A series of previous homes beginning with her childhood home and including rentals and changing homes as her career grew leads up to the stately Greenway. Though not a grand English estate which Christie could have lived in, Greenway was a small mansion. The presence of servants seemed natural; and Christie furnished and decorated the home with all types of Victorian objects. Her sensibility was always more Victorian than modern. She called one modernist building where she rented an apartment at one time "an ocean liner."

Though Greenway was the center of Christie's life, sensibilities, and ideas for her mysteries, this was so because it was situated in the midst of a traditionally English country environment (which to a large degree survives today). The book is organized so circles of this are seen as both extending from and enclosing Greenway. Each circle of the larger surrounding environment--town, county, parish--is perused as if enriching the atmosphere of Greenway--thus casting a light into the sources of Christie's works and her particular creativity.

In citing physical features such as rivers and hills and man-made parts such as shops and roads in delving into the widening circles of town, etc., Macaskill notes these as they appeared in different Christie mysteries. Even when names or some details have been changed for the sake of fictionalizing them, they are nonetheless apparent; for despite her bottomless imagination and numerous mystery novels, Christie never did stray far from the ideas and materials she found at Greenway and its environs.

The color photographs on nearly every page (80 of the total of 110 photos) are pleasing photos of Devon known for its Mediterannean-like climate. That they are connected with the popular author Agatha Christie adds immeasurable interest to them however. Devotees of her mysteries will enjoy matching photos to aspects of the books with author Macaskill's help as a guide. Readers interested in literature and writing find a window onto the connection between biography--and with Christie particularly, place--and an author's books. The photographs range from panoramas to nature scenes to shops and train depots and such to interiors of Greenway, now a public site under the direction of England's National Trust.

Without Wings
Poetry by Laurie Lamon
CavanKerry Press
Fort Lee, NJ
9781933880129 $16.00

Laurie Lamon means to unburden herself. "I'm forgetting sex, the mother and father/mythology...I'm recanting my allegiances..." [from I've Stopped Staying Up Late to Write Poems]. Yet she is too sensitive to leave reality behind. Especially, awareness of pain holds her. This awareness is not like a root attaching her to the innards of existence, but is a sense coloring her thoughts. About a quarter of the poems have the word "pain" in the title--e. g., Pain Thinks of Heaven and Earth, Pain Thinks of the Pale of Settlement, Pain Thinks of Eschatology. Pain is sensed, though not necessarily experienced, as an aspect of reality. The relationship with and treatment of pain exemplifies how the poet is unburdened. So does Lamon emotionally, not intellectually, negotiate refreshed (though not necessarily refreshing) affinities with the qualities of human being.

Uttermost Paradise Place
Laura McKee
American Poetry Review
Philadelphia, PA
9780977639571 $14.00

McKee's poems are like a madcap scene. Sometimes she tricks out the comedy of one. But she's not so much concerned with farce as the knowledge of the tentativeness and autonomy of things and situations and of one being thrown off kilter by this. "The surfaces are wrong," the poet tells the reader in the opening of "Sun On One." In most of the poems though McKee goes beyond such simple declarations to show the reader how wrong." In "Death of a Blue Vase," "The little lead soldiers from a former time creep up to the window/in ranks and report: it was the blinding sun-/light, clouds too racing past./Once the ladder was secured upright to the bed/the truck sped north to a superfluous question/interrupts a magic truck." Time and different levels or dimensions (suggested by "ladder"), incongruence, and the artifice of magic all come together." Even Heaven itself is a madcap scene: "Paradise is on the floor above us...we can hear the participants/moving furniture around...It sounds like no one is in charge./Chairs gouging the floor. Collisions. Very little coordination/in general... (from Glacier 4).

This is not surrealism because it is not meant to--nor does it in fact--represent the illogic or meanings of dreams or the subconscious. McKee craftily deals with the situation known as existence.

Style City - How London Became a Fashion Capital
Robert O'Byrne
Consultant Annette Worsley-Taylor
Frances Lincoln
9780711228955 $60.00

The English cultural historian O'Bryne (author of After a Fashion: A History of Fashion in Ireland) and London fashion promoter Worsley-Taylor (e. g., London Fashion Week, London Design Collections) follow how London rose to become a world-class fashion center starting in the mid 1970s and continues to maintain this position by a "superabundance of design originality." The story is told by highlighting particularly influential designers and events within phases of the pathway to the top; including the germinal factors, business sense and practices assimilated into the fashion world, and the crisis of the global recession in the latter 1980s which might have ended the developments. The many color photographs are instructive in supporting the author's account of the innovation and appeal of the London fashion industry. These photographs are accompanied by many others of leading designers and of celebrities such as Andy Warhol and Tina Turner who became interested in the developments and also took part in promotional events.

The most important germinal factor was Britain's punk rock. "Widely reviled, punk nevertheless touched some kind of nerve with the general public." Along with the general sense of excitement and promise it sent through the popular culture, punk rock (and its cousin New Wave music) showed that artistic success was possible without the imprimatur of the traditional media and cultural critics. The clothing of these musicians as well as their hair styles and performance behavior also generated a social milieu and anticipations new fashion styles could flourish in. Punk rock's worldwide popularity while keeping its association with England set the stage for the development of the fashion industry along new avenues. And punk rock sent the message that England was moving out of its image of staidness and propriety exemplified by its reputation as a financial center into the constantly changing and commercially important field of popular culture.

Familiar social phenomena especially from the media and entertainment fields and well-known celebrities are seen in new perspectives in being woven into the vibrant London fashion scene. The work is a pleasing combination of keen social history and art/coffee-table book.

Henry Berry

Janie's Bookshelf

So Punk Rock and Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother
Micol Ostow (illustrated by David Ostow)
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
9780738714714 $9.95 800-843-6666

Ari Abramson, has had life his all planned for him for years. But as he approaches his junior year at Leo R. Gittleman High School, a Jewish day school in New Jersey, he realizes that he doesn't want what his parents and his teachers expect of him. He wants to be a rock star. Lofty dream? Yeah, but with it, he sees freedom, respect of his peers, and most of all being noticed by Sari Horowitz. Ari draws together arrogant but handsome and popular Jonas Fein to play bass and pudgy, bookish Yossi Gluck to play drums and who can offer the band the use of his family's indoor racquet ball court to practice in. But there's a catch, Yossi's parents insist that the band include Yossi's little sister, freshman Reena Gluck, who by the way can sing like Nora Jones. Also, Yossi has a number of restrictions on when they practice and where they perform because he's more strict in his practice of Jewish codes than his peers. Oh, and there are a couple of other things: They all need to learn how to play their instruments, and they need to keep all of this from Ari's parents!

The band, called the Tribe, finally manages to pull together a version of "Hava Nagilah," a traditional Jewish folk song, and they play it for a one-song gig at a friend's Bar Mitzvah. The kids are instant hits. But instead of the band bringing all sorts of perks and an entrance to a teenage Nirvana, the kids find themselves dealing with egos, the downside of fame, groupies, and misplaced love, as well as sneaking out, fender-benders, and a bit of underage drinking. They find that being a rock star isn't all it's cracked up to be. But the lessons learned and the friendships the band forges are priceless.

This fun romp through teenage angst and life lessons is presented in So Punk Rock and Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother by Micol Ostow and illustrated by David Ostow. It is a mix of text and graphic novel illustrations that will make it a big hit with youthful readers. The characters are fresh and ones you don't always see in teenage literature because these are Jewish Conservative students who come from families who observe Jewish religion and culture in varying ways. Though I knew a lot about Jewish practices, I was surprised as how Micol Ostow was able to explain these to readers without going into long discussions. The author also did include an illustrated glossary at the back of the book for further clarification.

I was surprised, though, to find that book was written not by a man, but by a woman, in first person. To some adult readers, this ongoing teenage monolog would be tedious, but I found it true to life and just as applicable to my grand-nephews who are Christian as it would be to other Jewish children.

Young readers will love So Punk Rock and Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother and might learn a lot about another culture and religion.

Pretty Is as Pretty Dies
Elizabeth Spann Craig
Midnight Ink, an imprint of Llewellyn Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN, 55125-2989
9780738714806 $13.95 1-888-NITE-INK

Elizabeth Spann Craig's brand new cozy mystery series, Pretty Is as Pretty Dies, from Midnight Ink (an imprint of Llewellyn Publications) is a hoot. Octogenarian Myrtle Clover, her son Red (the Chief of Police), and the quirky inhabitants of Bradley, North Carolina, are sure to become some of my favorite literary folks. When beautiful Parke Stockard, a new arrival in town, is found in the sanctuary of the Methodist church with her head bashed, Red not only must investigate but find ways to keep his mother busy so that Myrtle doesn't start nosing around herself. But some of his plans blow up in his face as Myrtle finds ways to ferret out information in ways her son could never do. She infiltrates the local Book Club and enlists the aid (or really the car) of the elderly bachelor who just moved next door and has been warding off a stream of casseroles delivered by all of the mature single women in town. She buttonholes politicians, arm-twists the hot-shot big-city reporter who moved back to town, interrogates the local Methodist Women and Altar Guild, and interviews Crazy Dan, the purveyor of boiled peanuts and hubcabs. Ultimately, Myrtle comes down to the truth of a web of lies and family skeletons.

I loved this book. The story is typical of a lot of small towns anywhere in the US, but Elizabeth Spann Craig added a new dimension with Myrtle and her elderly friends. I found the characters funny and endearing, and the plot challenging enough to keep me reading. I can't wait for Myrtle's next adventure.

The Youngest Templar: Trail of Fate
Michael P. Spradlin
G. P. Putnam's Sons/division of Penguin, Young Readers Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399247644 $17.99 800-847-5515

When I got my copy of the first book in The Youngest Templar trilogy, Keeper of the Grail, I was richly impressed with author Michael P Spradlin ability to tell a good story. It began the tale of fifteen-year-old Tristan, a young orphan who was raised in a monastery and then selected by Sir Thomas Leux, a Templar Knight, to be his squire. Tristan not only learns the art of war and has the opportunity to see the world, but he begins to realize that Sir Thomas, evil Sir Hugh (also a Templar Knight), and King Richard himself may know about Tristan's origins.

Soon, Tristan is forced from the Templar world on a most urgent mission by Sir Thomas, to carry the holiest of relics, the Grail, to Scotland for safekeeping. That journey is the main plot device for all three books in this series.

Tristan is added on his journey by a young Arab girl named Maryam and a teenaged King's Archer named Robard Hode. Given that there is a blacksmith named Little John in Dover, England, and deaf/mute Brother Tuck at the monastery, Spradlin produces some very interesting twists with literary/historical icons.

Keeper of the Grail left the reader hanging, impatiently waiting for the next installment. And, the next book Trail of Fate does the same. This is the second book series that I have read in the past two years that uses old-fashioned cliffhangers as a devise to get readers to the next book. I have never seen this in modern novels, though I've read that it was a device used in Dime Novels in the Americas and Penny Dreadfuls in England, and was also a part of American movie houses during the 40s. Needless to say, it works!

Trail of Fate finds young Tristan in France, pursued by Sir Hugh and is men and also by soldiers of the French High Council. Aligning himself with a Cathar princess, Tristan and his friends fight one foe after another, drawing more and more upon Tristan's Templar military training and Robard Hode's tracking skills. And, all of them apply their own hand-to-hand techniques. When Tristan and his friends escape a Cathar mountain refuge, they are captured by forces that have yet another piece of Tristan's past. Through all of these battles, pursuits, and narrow escapes, the Grail seems to offer a mystical protection, drawing more friends and allies.

All of Spradlin's characters are well drawn, even the minor ones that support the action. And, then there's the action! Spradlin is able to capture the details of battle scenes without getting too caught up in military strategy or too enamored with the size of the pyrotechnics that he's put on the page. Everything is done with just enough tension and description to spur the story along - that's the mark of a great storyteller.

And, Spradlin has skillfully sustained all of this through two books so far. The Youngest Templar series is an excellent adventure trilogy that also has a wee spark of romance in this book, Trail of Fate. Young readers of both genders will fight heroes and heroines within these pages and wonderful adventure.

Run out and grab a copy of both Keeper of the Grail and Trail of Fate for all of the young readers on your holiday list. This series is sure to launch even reluctant readers into adventures that they'll be fantasizing about for a long time! But be prepare to buy the third book when it comes out next year.

Janie Franz

Jessica's Bookshelf

Follow Me
Joanna Scott
Little Brown Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York
9780316051651 $24.99

Sally Werner is the heroine of this enchanting and beautifully written story which comes to life as soon as you open the first page. You will find yourself unable to put it down.

Sally was the first daughter born to Dietrich and Gertrude Werner, German immigrants from the village of Utilspur in the Black Forest.

Sally's life with her family was pleasant to start with; Gertrude led a women's Bible class study group and made ends meet with the jam she sold at a roadside stand.

However fate was to strike when an outbreak of Polio took the life of Gertrude's youngest daughter, Anna. It also left another daughter, Trudy, dependant on a leg brace for the rest of her life.

Looking upon what had happened to them as God's angry call, Dietrich and Gertrude decided to spend more time fulfilling their religious duties and slowly the Werner's crop of corn and hay decreased and decreased.

It was left up to young Sally, at the age of twelve, to go and raise money by going to work at a neighbouring farm and helping with housework and the care of the Jenson twins. Here Sally found bed and board as well as a weekly ration of sausages which she made sure her parents got every Sunday morning before church.

One day Sally's life was to change forever when she accepted her cousin's offer for a ride on the back of his new motorcycle.

The ride was fun watching the slopes and Stockhams Woods blurring past her eyes as one-eyed Daniel put his foot down.

However foolishness was to follow and no matter how many times Sally wished it had never happened she knew it was too late.

Her troubles were left behind in a basket on the kitchen table as she ran away - hoping she would not be caught and made to face up to the responsibilities of her actions.

Would things ever improve?

A kind family helped Sally back to her old self again and she learns while some show kindness others show cruelty.

Why does the box stashed up high on the shelf tempt Sally - can she really be so dishonest?

What are the Tuskawali? You'd better read on to discover.

This book portrays a woman's life led by reckless actions at times and the need to keep moving from place to place to perhaps escape her own ghosts and seek pastures new.

Follow Me is also a love story, tragic and yet oddly beautiful at the same time.

Scott is able to give us such lovely imagery with the use of only a few words. She captivates the reader and is unquestionably one of the finest American storytellers of the modern era.

A fantastic book to own.

The Ridges of England, Wales and Ireland
Dan Bailey
2 Police Square, Milnthorpe, Cumbria LA7 7PY
9781852845391 £17.95

Cicerone, publishers of over 250 award-winning guidebooks, have recently published The Ridges of England, Wales and Ireland by Dan Bailey. It is a fantastic guide to own, especially if you are interested in outdoor activities including scrambling, mountaineering and climbing.

Outdoor journalist Dan Bailey has a passion for the world's wild places and not to mention steep edges where many would fear to tread. Bailey has hiked and climbed mountains across five continents, although he claims the hills around his home are still a fond favourite.

Whether you are a beginner learning to grabble with the steep slopes and rocky edges of mountains or a more experienced climber this book will still keep you amused as there is plenty in here for just about everyone. Each route is described as accurately as possible and accompanied by clear photographs and Ordnance & Survey map excerpts. Routes are covered for all kinds of weather with of course the usual safety precautions.

The author lists climbing grades as well as a section on learning which ropes to use and other equipment such as headgear and footwear.

The first section of this book focuses on the Lake District - "a source of inspiration for generations of poets and romantics."

We have guided walks up Lakeland's peaks such as Blencathra, Dove Crag and Grey Crag amongst others. Bailey provides beautiful photography which capture the essence of each mountain, ridge and crag.

Moving on there are further sections on trekking and climbing areas of England, Wales and Ireland. The Peak District gets a mention as does the Isle of Wight and Cornwall.

Quite a large part of this book is dedicated to climbs and treks in Wales. Here Bailey takes us on some of the most picturesque walks Wales has to offer.

If Ireland is your kind of place there are walks on that too with some stunning photography yet again. It does make you want to grab your walking gear and have a go at the walks and climbs yourself.

Every walk featured is listed on the contents page for easy access and there is also a Map Key to further help readers.

This book is the kind of thing you'd want to have packed in your rucksack on a day out or it is the perfect present to give to someone who loves all outdoor physical pursuits.

Jessica Roberts

Karyn's Bookshelf

Once Was Lost
Sara Zarr, author
Little, Brown Company/Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780316036047, $16.99

In "Once Was Lost," National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr deftly shreds the myth that pastor's families are perfect - not that anyone with sense actually believed that.

It's a subject written about by other authors but often the focus is on out-of-control pastor's kids.

This time the young heroine is the rock of the family. Having an alcoholic mother suddenly whisked away to rehab and a pastor father too busy with congregational needs to give his daughter or wife adequate attention is slowly crumbling 15-year-old Samara's faith. Hints of parental adultery and the abduction of a 13-year member of their congregation only add crushing weight.

Teen readers don't have to be involved with a church to nod in rapt understanding at the damage adults can do by spending too little time on things that matter most. Picking up the wreckage from misplaced priorities is the primary focus of "Once Was Lost."

But Sam's constant interactions with youth group members and youth leaders, and with other adult church members, ring so wholly true that Zarr's well-written story will resonate best with teens struggling to define what they believe. Especially those just old enough to see - but not sure what to do with the recognition -- that God's house isn't above getting messy.

Kevin Henkes, author
Laura Dronzek, illustrator
Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins Chlidren's Books
1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY, 10019
9780061363047, $17.99

Childlike wonder spills over in "Birds," an ode to the beauty and mystery of winged creatures of all sorts.

Husband and wife team Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek lend, respectively, their writing and illustrative talents to simple observations and questions about birds that might be seen from a child's window or in their neighborhood. That birds come in various colors …"I think…," perfectly captures a child's not-so-certain knowledge of the natural world around them. Spread after spread delights, with memorable moments including a sky full of zigzags that tail feathers could make as birds fly; a red cardinal in a snow-covered, leafless tree; the childlike innocence in a wish to be able to fly; and the "surprise" of a tree full of birds suddenly taking flight. A beautifully kid-centered, softly illustrated treasure.

Hooray For Fall!
Kazuo Iwamura, author and illustrator
North-South Books, Inc./Ingram Publisher Services
1201 Ingram Dr., Chambersburg, PA 17202
9780735822528, $16.95

The English translations of Japanese author/illustrator Kazuo Iwamura's ongoing tale of a squirrel family marking the seasons continues with "Hooray for Fall!" Previous books, celebrating winter and spring, became available in the U.S. in early 2009. Once again Iwamura offers a wonderfully animated, laughter-filled, thoroughly childlike take on the coming of fall and impending winter. Donned in matching red sweaters knitted by their mother, three squirrel siblings spend a day observing the changes to the landscape that the shift in seasons has brought. Woodland creatures and birds are preparing to hibernate and to fly south. Leaves and berries are changing colors. A sense of familial warmth as cozy as the red, orange and yellow hues that dominate Iwamura's artwork culminates around a wood stove topped by a steaming tea kettle, as the siblings relay the day to their parents. Perfect, yet again.

Karyn Saemann

Kaye's Bookshelf

Jack's Dreams Come to Life
Sara Jackson
9781439242810 $12.99

Jack's Dreams Come to Life is a simple little story about a dog named Jack on his ranch and a bad dream. I don't think there's any message here for young children (that I can discern), but the lively illustrations are well done with muted colors and a unique texture. Also, professional editing wouldn't hurt.

Is this 22-page picture book worth $12.99 ($13)? Maybe that's a little high, but if you're interested, go to and take a look for yourself.

Islands in the Sand - An Introduction to Artificial Reefs in the USA
Charlie Hudson, Inc.
9781601458445 $15.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"Charlie Hudson has written a book that is long overdue. Islands in the Sand is a lucid account of the history and the importance of artificial reefs. She has done her homework. Fascinating facts and background detail are spiced with informative interviews with people who have conceptualized, designed, manufactured, or deployed various forms of manmade marine habitats. Her compelling treatment examines these burgeoning oases from a variety of angles, giving readers the multifaceted viewpoints of the main beneficiaries: anglers, divers, scientists, anyone who cares about the environment, and the creatures that take residence in their newfound abode. She clearly demonstrates why artificial reefs are for the betterment of all. Her lyric prose is a testament to modern educational theory, proving elegantly that one can both instruct and entertain at the same time.

"Gary Gentle, Author, lecturer, photographer, explorer, and deep-sea wreck-diver."

This is, indeed, what Islands in the Sand is about and makes Charlie's book a "must have" for anyone interested in artificial reefs. It's informative, entertaining and the price is reasonable.

Charlie Hudson is a retired U.S. Army veteran with a love for scuba diving and a passion for writing. Not only does Charlie have a passion, she is a gifted, educated writer. I have reviewed several of her fiction novels in the past, became a fan, and had this to say about Shades of Truth:

"Of course, there's nothing new about mystery genre - you have a bad guy who is pursued by a good guy or gal, as this case may be. But what is new and unique and the challenge for the writer is the telling - those unexpected twists and turns that keep you turning the page. Charlie Hudson's plot is solid, her characters come alive, the setting is real, and her style is smooth and colorful. She's clearly an accomplished writer...."

Other books by Charlie Hudson include Shades of Gold, Shades of Truth, Orchids in the Snow, Shades of Murder, and The Parent's Guide to Business Travel. You can find out more about Charlie Hudson at hhtp://

B-Shifter - A Firefighter's Memoir
Nick Brunacini
Phoenix, Arizona
9780974753461 $10.00

Refreshing!!! Nice to know I still have a sense of humor...was beginning to wonder.

Basically, B-Shifter is 13 chapters and multiple short stories from Nick Brunacini's life as a second generation firefighter in the Phoenix Fire Department. He starts with his father, Alan Brunacini, and family; describes fire station life - cooking, cleaning, shifts, cult attitudes; tells about women, fighting fires, and emergency services; and ends with "Our dysfunctional family helping your dysfunctional family."

Besides being hilarious, the book is very informative. In Chapter 5, we learn what the title B-Shifter means:

"Most organizations with around-the-clock staffing have three eight-hour shifts. Fire departments don't. Our ancients chose to work 24-hour shifts. Instead of having morning, swing and graveyard shifts, we have A, B and C shifts. If you were to visit a fire station every day for a week, you might not notice much difference between the shifts assigned to that station. To the casual observer, the firefighters pretty much look and act the same. This changes dramatically once you join the organization and get categorized as an A-, B- or C-shifter. The shifts' personalities are at the core of all of our stereotypes and are also the stuff of legend."

Nick Brunacini is a consummate, educated writer with a special gift - humor, and it's Nick's humor and honesty that define his writing style and make this memoir unique. The book is extremely well edited and very tight. Here's another brief sample from page 13:

"When I was 6 years old, I wanted to be a Chevy truck. I have been imbalanced most of my life, but this is not entirely my fault. I was forcibly pulled from my mother's womb with a set of stainless-steel salad tongs. Adding insult to injury, the doctor proceeded to smack me hard on the ass, and the very next day, some sadistic bastard cut off part of my dick. This series of events was so traumatic, I wasn't able to walk for a year. I have spent my life coping with these weighty issues."

To me, the essence of B-Shifter is expressed by the Chinese word 'jen' - sometimes defined as benevolence, but a better definition might be 'humanheartedness'.

Confucius considered jen to be the highest virtue but one he refused to define. It is above righteousness, justice, and propriety and involves the principle that human nature is a fundamentally good arrangement, including not only our virtuous side but also our passionate side, our appetites and our wayward inclinations, or what Alan Watts liked to call 'the element of irreducible rascality', that God put into all human beings and put it there because it was a good thing. It was good for human being to have these two elements in them. So, a truly humanhearted person is a gentleman with a slight touch of rascality, just as one has to have salt in a stew. Confucius said "the goodie-goodies are the thieves of virtue," meaning that to try to be holy righteous is to go beyond humanity, to try to be something that isn't human.

This approach to life develops a queer sort of humor...sort of 'boys will be boys' attitude, which is, nevertheless, a mature way of handling human problems.

Confucianism, despite its limitations, has been one of the most successful philosophies in all history for the regulation of government and family relationships.

Humanheartedness won't be disappointed.

Kaye Trout

Liana's Bookshelf

Lori's Song: The true story of an American woman held captive in Iran
Lori Foroozandeh
Outskirts Press
9781432738297 $17.95

Lori Foroozandeh was rescued with one of her fellow inmates by the girl's family. She wrote this book to let people know of her unbelievable ordeal in Iran. More about her at

Lori's Song is a memoir that reads like an adventure story. The facts the author describes seem unbelievable at first, yet as the reader goes on they get to understand the author's personality and identify with her in the events to come.

Lori trusted a man and followed him to his home country, Iran. There it was that all her troubles began. Foreign to the eastern culture that oppressed women, Lori had a hard time adjusting there. However, she soon managed to run a successful business and gain the respect of the local people. Her husband though became abusive and when she finally was about to return to America, a most terrible thing happened to her: she was arrested and held captive in an Iranian camp where she was brutally tortured. But Lori survived, flew back to USA and was finally able to tell people about her horrific experience in Iran.

This book is a good read that will cater to all adventure and travel lovers, memoir readers and culture researchers. The story is full of cultural elements that are very interesting since the western people do not really know much about Iran and its people. It may also help those who are addicted to drugs since the author herself was an addict and her troubles are closely related to this fact. The story is easy to read, it is gripping and can be read in one sitting. I mostly enjoyed the book due to the fact that it gave an outlook of the Iranian culture from the inside rather than from a general point of view. Get this book from

The Green Green Pear
Manjula Naraynan
Author House
9781438969572 $14.49

Manjula Naraynan was born in 1976 in Madurai, India. She was brought up and now lives in the South Indian city of Chennai. A graduate in Corporate Secretaryship from the University of Madras, she enjoys sketching and inventing fun characters that liven up her mind. The green Green Pear is her first work to be published as writer/illustrator and is also the first in the Color Trilogy she is working on.

The Green Green Pear is an illustrated book for kids focusing on the theme of self esteem. The little green pear does not love himself and he wants to be anything but a green green pear. Children are taught indirectly that it is important to have their own unique personality and that they should not try to change. Self confidence is a great issue in families and schools worldwide and should not be taken for granted.

The author is also the illustrator of the book and the combined result is impressive. The colors are vibrant and the forms cute. This book caters to very young kids, educators and parents worldwide. It is a great gift for pre school aged kids. Get it from

Liana Metal, Reviewer

Logan's Bookshelf

After the Verdict: You Be the Judge
Lamon K. Griggs
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781438971575 $24.99

There have been no shortage of claims of Wal-Mart's evils. "After the Verdict: Crossing the Line" tells one man's story of how he was falsely accused from Wal-Mart, fired by them weeks after the fact, and return sued for nearly nine million dollars. Telling his side of the story, he hopes to expose Wal-Mart's more shady practices and hopes his knowledge will either put people off of shopping at Wal-Mart or at least encourage Wal-Mart to change its ways. "After the Verdict" is of interest to any of those who want to read of Wal-Mart's controversies.

Living the Law of Attraction
Rich German & Robin Hoch
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595474110, $19.95,

Life is better if you stop thinking it's terrible. "Living the Law of Attraction: Real Stories of People Manifesting Health, Wealth, and Happiness" is an inspirational guide encouraging a more positive outlook on life. Optimism inspires confidence in oneself, is good for the mental health, and can drive one to better exercise their bodies for more physical fitness. With much to help people reach this inspiration, "Living the Law of Attraction" is a solid and highly recommended read for those who want to learn the value of a positive outlook.

Manager Mechanics
Eric P. Bloom
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440133497, $16.95,

It can be quite overwhelming at first. "Manager Mechanics: Tips and Advice for First-Time Managers" is a guide to the wonderful world of management where one is first tossed into the pool without much experience or advice given to them. Written in a light hearted manner, Eric P. Bloom hopes to equip business leaders with the advice they need to keep their head above the water and deal with everything from employees who act like children and how to take charge. "Manager Mechanics" is a top pick for anyone just starting out in the world of leadership.

Roger D. Grubbs
Privately Published
9780981668055, $17.95,

The story of Camelot is true, but instead of using the tale as inspiration, many use it for only profit. "Excalibur" is a story following the race to find the legendary sword once solid evidence of King Arthur's existence is found. But two individuals seek the blade for a more enlightened purpose, but in the face of power-mongers, having good intentions may not be enough. "Excalibur" is of interest to any fans of modern intrigue who seek a blend with Arthurian lore.

Wintry Winds
L. A. Pembrook
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533161386, $11.95,

It's unreasonable to wish for heaven, but you can find something in between and get your happiness there. "Wintry Winds" tells the story of Molly, a simple farmer's daughter who is sent out to the world and finds life is cruel. Series of events leave her a used and abused widow, only to find that the best she can really hope for isn't so bad. "Wintry Winds" is a story that starts depressing, but brings the message that it can get better.

A Better Man
Kelly H. Johnson
Brandylane Publishers Incorporated
9781883911843 $25.95

Bettering oneself is a goal many people should constantly aspire to. "A Better Man: True American Heroes Speak to Young Men on Love, Power, Pride, and What it Really Means to Be a Man" is a collection of stories from various figures of recent history, in sports, politics, military, and even more. These men faced challenges and, through their determination, emerged from them better for it. "A Better Man" is a worthwhile read for any man who wants emphasize his manliness the right way.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

The Other Side of the Coin
J.E.F. Seguin
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595528639, $12.95,

There are those who deserve it, no matter what the law says. "The Other Side of the Coin" tells the story of Albert Stone, a man who is forced hot onto the trail on a criminal called Jack. But Stone soon learns that Jack isn't like the other crooks, as the targets of his crimes seem to be people who have escaped traditional justice. A unique tale of the law versus the vigilante, "The Other Side of the Coin" is a fine thriller that will entertain many a reader.

The Two Martini Diet
Jerry Sorlucco
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity (publicity)
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781438920832, $14.99,

You don't have to eat nothing but broccoli to lose weight. "The Two Martini Diet: How I lost 100+ Lbs While Eating Well and Having a Drink" is an approach to weight loss for the common person who wants to dump their excess pounds but don't want to utterly torture themselves in the process. "The Two Martini Diet" contains much conventional wisdom for weight loss and has much that should be understood and followed, for a very highly recommended read.

Immaculate Deception
Courtney J. Webb
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9780646508856, $22.95,

The stupidest decisions you make can somehow only get stupider. "Immaculate Deception" tells the story of one Craig Connery, a former convict who's fresh out of prison. When he's the sole survivor of a brutal car accident, something compels him to take a dead man's identity, which leads a lecher and a thief to soon become a man of the cloth. The change is not one easily taken as Courtney J. Webb produces a fine and entertaining story exploring the church and the weaknesses of a man.

From Darkness to Light
Lynn Christopher Roby
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd., -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432736897, $15.95,

Recovery is a long road, especially from severe brain trauma. "From Darkness to Light: My Journey Back from a Brain Filled with Blood" is the story of Lynn Christopher Roby and her recovery from a severe brain aneurysm that nearly took her life. Through yoga and other holistic techniques, she found her recovery and hopes to inspire other victims of severe trauma that there is hope. "From Darkness to Light" is a charming and uplifting read sure to please.

Not Intuitively Obvious
J.A. Rodriguez
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113
9781441515421, $24.99,

Common sense can get you far, but it isn't the answer to everything. "Not Intuitively Obvious: Transition to the Professional Work Environment..." is a combination memoir and business manual from one J.A. Rodriguez, a senior manager of a highly successful company. Offering perspective from the middle management, he gives readers much advice on honing their craft to inspire the most from their employees. "Not Intuitively Obvious" is a fine addition to any business collection focusing on management.

Creating Your Legacy
Raymond W. Empereur
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741454173, $11.95,

Memoirs are a way of leaving one's memory behind after one is gone. "Creating Your Legacy: A Do-It-Yourself Guide for Baby Boomers" is a guide to memoir writing tailored specifically towards the baby boom generation of those born from 1948 to 1964. Many essays on the subject give solid and frank knowledge for readers to help them along the way, making "Creating Your Legacy" an absolute must for legacy-minded baby boomers of any level of fame.

Margaret Lane

Molly's Bookshelf

Angel Singers
Dorien Grey
Zumaya Publications, LLC
9781934841068 $14.99

A Dick Hardesty Mystery finds Dick, his partner Jonathan and their ward, Joshua searching for the perfect pair of black pants. Jonathan has joined a men's chorus and wants his first performance with the group to be faultless.

Jonathan has kept Dick apprised of the members of the group, the machinations that seem to be a part of most situations involving more than one person, and his personal take on some of his fellow singers including a rather full of himself member Grant Jefferson the - nephew- of the man who is sponsoring the group.

Dick is busy as always with his PI work, Jonathan's friendship with chorus member Eric is applauded by Dick and viewed with predictable distrust by a jealous Joshua.

The Chorus seems to be snake bit, first the singer who is to sing the part Grant wants in the upcoming production injured during a hit and run, then Grant dies following a horrendous explosion. The chorus board of directors hires PI Hardesty to take a look at the circumstances of Grants death and the tale begins to travel forward in typical Dorien Grey fashion.

Grant created so much discord among chorus members Hardesty realizes he has an ample selection of possible murders, then Hardesty is bemused to realize he being hit on by a chorus member who is well aware of his relationship with Jonathan. Another death, exchanging information with the local Police Department where Hardesty's long friend Marty Gresham is a homicide detective, and meeting the needs of a typical five year old are part of the tale as are a hustler working the local bar, a chorus member with a surprising childhood situation and the psychologist who worked with the youngster and knows far more than he can reveal to PI Hardesty.

When Dick finally realizes that the last person he might have suspected should have maybe been higher on the list he is faced with a dilemma. Hunches don't play well, evidence is needed.

And to top it all off PI Hardesty becomes aware in the nick of time that his own family, Jonathan and Joshua are in eminent danger.

As always I find Dorien Grey's works to be filled with memorable, fully detailed characters, settings filled with more than enough specificity to draw the reader into the narrative, and a nicely complex story line to appeal to the curiosity of the most demanding reader.

Writer Grey is an accomplished writer who creates characters to love, hate, and enjoy. I like Joshua, having raised kids and teaching this age Grey has the petulance of the five year old down pat. Jonathan continues to grow, mature and become more likeable than he was when he appeared in a previous of the PI Hardesty series. Previous characters to the series; the Glicks, Iris and Arnold, Phil and Tim, Jared, and Jake are presented as the old friends they are for Hardesty and the reader too.

Straight from the Horse's Heart: A Spiritual Ride Through Love, Loss and Hope
R. T. Fitch
BookSurge Publishing
9781439214282 $15.99

A Spiritual Ride Through Love, Loss and Hope is a book of 255 pages, filled with anecdotes of horses and life and love. A Prologue of five sections leading the reading to an understanding of how the writer came to be, and the players with whom he has spent a large part of his life are followed with Anecdotes and finally an Epilogue to close the book and all are centered in the special relationship between human and equine. With more than 30 narratives there is a little something for everyone.

The reader travels along with Writer Fitch from his military billet in Hawaii, the Dolphin Research Center, loss and recovery, and Ethan, the writer's Appaloosa gelding. Ethan, left behind when his owners moved from the area was to be sold to pay for his boarding fees. It was auction or being sent to a Texas slaughterhouse. Seven rescue horses soon followed. As the writer and his wife became involved in horse rescue they were introduced to the horror of equine abuse and slaughter.

I Sit In Wonder brings the reader to the harsh reality of sadness of the Space Shuttle Columbia passing overhead and the marvel of equine understanding and sympathy.

On Sleeping With Horses opens in a deluge of rain. The writer hurried out to the barn where the pounding of rain on metal roof was near to deafening. Four wet, hungry horses stood under the overhang of the roof. The tale closes with the writer and his plans to spend some time sleeping in his hammock out in the barn with his equine kids.

Writer Fitch offers much for the reader to ponder as he writes of time spent with his horses and dogs. Companionship, moving the herd, contingency plans in case of hurricane, care for horses, and caring by them are all part of this heart warming work.

These narratives are poignant, stirring, genuine and attention-grabbing. I enjoyed reading the writer's chronicle of -conversations- with his horses, we too have horses, and while I have never heard them speak, I have no reason to doubt the writer his experience regarding communication with his equine mentors. Our Shadow and Cimmarron, recently deceased due to old age, always seem(ed) to communicate with each other and with us.

While horses do not speak aloud of course, they do commune, if you are willing to listen. The unique personalities of each of the horses is so well portrayed that I can picture each of them standing in our pasture chatting with Shadow.

Straight from the Horse's Heart is a superbly penned work, reader attention is held from the outset, venues are detailed nicely, horses are fully introduced, narratives flow well. A marvelous work for animal lovers and especially for those who have an affinity for that noble creature; the horse.

Not for everyone; if you are a person who believes all critters to be -dumb animals- unable to commune feelings or wants then this is not the book for you. Should you be a person who looks into the eyes of your cat, dog, horse, critter and can feel a bond passing between you, then you will likely like this book very much.

Happy to recommend Straight from the Horse's Heart: A Spiritual Ride Through Love, Loss and Hope.

NOTE: The proceeds are donated to Habitat for Horses an Equine Protective Organization.

Blue Moon
Cindy Lynn Speer
Zumaya Otherworlds
9781934135723 $15.99

Cindy Lynn Speer's Blue Moon opens on the other side of the world, not the other side of the globe, but the other side of existence where a dragon took flight.

Dragons knew the truth, the mountain he circled was one of strange myths. It was so tall that no man, elf or beast had ever climbed it, and it was so hard that no dwarf had ever dug into it. Dragons alone could attain the heights of the mountain. Only they had the will and breath to do so.

Throughout that world everyone anticipated the coming blue moon.

In a cellar divided into two rooms a bound woman lay naked and frightened on a table. Her help appeared in a most amazing manner just as Sabin prepared to kill her.

Libby Halstead has been protecting the Merlin Stone, it is to be used to cast one last great spell which will rip the worlds of magic and technology. Now the stone is gone, Sabin and his mother have taken it. Libby has little knowledge what might take place during a blue moon, she has little help in trying to retrieve the stone. Libby's only allies are Sierra a woman, Zorovin a dragon searching for his son and a man with no memory, Alex.

Winter has come, Libby really wasn't ready for it, she has already run out of heating oil, and the two days wait for the truck to refill the tank were not pleasant for Libby or her German Shepherd Dashiel.

Sierra Morgan enjoyed driving at night. She, thirty two, widowed, somewhat infamous and given to running into crows, really liked her car, she was going to miss it.

Sabin has been resting, hiding perhaps in the stolen body of the last son and heir to the Pierce fortune. Jonathan Pierce's body has been lying in the cold niche where he had spent the last several years wishing he were dead. His body was no longer his, another also lived in his body with him, and that thing was not human. Jonathan was helpless to do more than live in a corner of his own mind and watch as Sabin committed evils.

Alex had no job and no fiancee, no car and little money. He also had little memory; nything past five years and nothing. He had been found lying in a ravine, didn't a bump or scratch to indicate how he had gotten there, fingerprints run by the police had shown nothing.

Zorovin had begun his journey up the mountain as a dragon, he now continued his journey as a man dressed in boots that made prints in the snow, a long black coat and black pants. Zorovin was on a search to locate his missing son.

Centuries ago when Merlin realized that magic and technology could not co exist he had created the Merlin Stone and had cast one last spell to break the two worlds. Libby Halstead is about to find out more than she wanted regarding the stone and what takes place during a blue moon.

Libby is the protector of the stone, and when it is stolen it is Libby who must locate it before it is used to reunite the separated worlds. Her help will in the form of a dragon who has crossed over to this world, Alex the man who has no memory of his past and Sierra a woman who has given up on this world.

The blue moon is rising, Sabin and his mother are determined to locate the stone and see that the separated worlds are reunited.

Filled with strong, well portrayed characters, settings that are fully developed and more than enough action to keep the reader turning the page, Cindy Lynn Speer's Blue Moon is a compelling read. A well thought out complex storyline serves to move the narrative smoothly, Speer's attention to detail whets reader interest for what is to come next.

Happy to recommend Cindy Lynn Speer's Blue Moon.

Chiana Ryan PI: Murder Sucks
June Whyte
Zumaya Thresholds
9781934841129 $12.99

Chiana Ryan PI: Murder Sucks opens as Chiana, her friends Tayla and Jack McEvoy discuss the dead body Patsy Turner has found. Dead as a fish dinner according to Jack.

It didn't Chiana long to get her notebook open and begin to take notes. A mystery short story contest for kids under 14 in KidLit magazine offered a $500 prize, plus the winning entry was to be published on the Internet. Chiana was determined to write the winning tale.

Adding to the narrative, the body has disappeared. Chiana intends to use the expertise she has gained from her reading of each and everyone of the Nancy Drew book series.

Tomboy Chiana and her gorgeous step sister Sarah are at odds, a dog named Leroy, step father Ken is besotted with Marg, Chiana's mom, laughing class and a girl with the name Krystal Masters all serve to move the narrative forward.

Chiana sleuths on trying her best to get to the bottom of puzzle in which she finds herself. Chiana enlists the help of friends, her somewhat languid, albeit cookie crazed bulldog and even her self-satisfied step sister

Writer Whyte has created a venue filled with kid pleasing characters, action and excitement.

Chiana Ryan and her desire to become a murder mystery writer when she grows up is sure to interest girls especially but boys too of the target reading age.

A body that appears, disappears and then reappears two days later, a strange old fellow who spins a hard to believe tale of aliens landing a space ship on the nearby church roof, and a pink handkerchief emblazoned with the letter K all meld in the tale of murder, a cache of drugs and a surprising escape are only some of the amusing escapades centered on screwball clues and red herrings designed to keep the reader turning the page and more than a little confused for who it is exactly that is the perpetrator behind all the chicanery.

Attention-grabbing settings, appealing stratagem and out of the ordinary characters are all part of the mix in this first in the series from Writer Whyte.

Happy to recommend Chiana Ryan PI: Murder Sucks especially for middle grade readers.

Resurrection Diva
Eva Batonne
Zumaya Publications, LLC
9781934135686 $16.99

Resurrection Diva Joan Lambert Series, vol 1: The narrative opens with Lake of the Ozarks incident report listing the death of Drake Lambert at the hands of his daughter Joan.

Presented next is the typewritten report from the County of Hollister Sheriff's Department Supplementary Report written by Juvenile Office Barbara Banks in which the officer details that Joan has refused a rape kit, will not explain visible injuries to her face and arms, confesses to killing her father, that Joan's mother, Lila Lambert has been deceased some ten years, Joan claims having no memory of the incident, that Trish Lambert is married to the brother of the victim, Drake Lambert, and is sister to Joan's mother, Lila Lambert and that Trish has nothing to add to the facts.

Sheriff Robert Lambert, Joan's uncle is Drake's brother, and has no more information to add to the report, however he does state that everything points to justifiable homicide, Joan has been informed minimum age for execution in Missouri is fourteen, Joan will become a ward of the state and an attorney has not been retained.

Following the initial documents is a letter from Joan to her aunt and uncle with whom she has had little to no contact from her mother's death to the present. In her letter Joan assures her Uncle and his wife, her mother's sister, that she does not blame them for not offering her a home, and tells a little of what her days are like, filled with court dates and people asking why she killed her father. Joan awakens reader interest by alluding to what took place in the past as having more to do with her heartache that the present incidents do.

From that beginning the reader is brought right into the action. We move to Venice, California with the speaker, Joan Lambert who tells us she has just returned after vacationing in New Orleans. The arrival of a UPS truck brings a large carton which Joan is certain is tied to a visit with a eerie fortune teller in NOLA. Joan has just received a package from her Aunt Trish Lambert. Joan had spent her time in New Orleans searching for any information regarding her mother. Newspaper articles showing her mother and sister Trish helped flesh out the mother Joan barely remembered.

Joan, an elite homicide investigator with the LAPD, just back from a leave, has still not opened the UPS box when an early morning telephone call jolts Joan back to her grim reality; a young woman from St Louis has been found dead. Detective Lambert is no longer on vacation. Autumn Riley, beautiful, ambitious and quite dead, is taken to the morgue.

The work continues with a determined entertainer, under cover work, a surfer who happens to be an ecologist who appears at a S and M club during that undercover investigation, insomnia, a soul mate of a partner- Gus VanChek, a dead rich girl, a wave of missing kids, nine missing females, a body that disappears from the morgue, a stray dog, a stalking ex, a new interest, a missing ten year old, a movie producer with a sadistic streak, a driven police investigator, a run in with those who dabble in the occult and finally a hostage situation that brings everything into focus.

Writer Batonne has crafted a gripping spell binder that draws the reader into the tale from the outset, holds reader interest and keeps the pages turning from the opening paragraphs and on to the final pages. Settings are nicely detailed to bring the read right into the scene. Characters are fully developed. Joan is believable, the scoundrels are suitably ill-famed, the tale itself is well written by a novelist having a fine grasp of language, situation and stratagem.

Serving to move the tale forward, dialogue, is at times gritty, hard hitting and realistic. The tale filled with raw power, ambition and other world activity; presents the reader a peek into a world few of us can imagine. Writer Batonne keeps the pages turning as the reader continues seeking resolution to the mystery of the missing girl, the missing kids, and the dark past surrounding Joan's childhood and parents.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Creating the Intrapreneur: The Search for Leadership Excellence
Victoria C. DePaul
Synergy Books
9781934454183 $15.95

Creating the Intrapreneur: The Search for Leadership Excellence offers the reader information regarding Human Quantum Energy, Polarity, Polarity and Negative Energy, Happiness, The Nuclear Energy of Life, The New Human Operating System; The Causal Sequence in Depth, Being your Identities at Work, Cause and Effect, The Fatal Identity and Its Paradigm, Space, Negative Nuclear Identity Behaviors, The Law of Attraction…revisited, Response-Ability, and Where Do You Go From Here.

Written in fifteen chapters, Creating the Intrapreneur: The Search for Leadership Excellence provides a model for ground-breaking corporate supervision techniques that promote the notion that workers within an business can be the ones to generate innovative product ideas. In addition to the chapter work Creating the Intrapreneur also includes acknowledgments, an Introduction in which the writer points out In this age of road rage, and now desk rage, if you are employed, your safety is at risk. As stress levels escalate, employees are increasingly fueled by anger, resentment, pessimism, frustration, anxiety, distrust, and other negative emotions. That is a sobering thought at best.

A glossary of terms, and explanation of The Universal Laws of the Quantum Universe precede an Index to round out the work.

Creating The Intrapreneur makes available to the reader a framework for building spot on accomplishment in business endeavors as well as life itself.

The leadership models introduced by author Victoria C. DePaul are founded on personal experience gained during attendance at various seminars coupled with years spent in the business community. Victoria C. DePaul has a quarter century experience working in the corporate world where her background includes positions corporate trainer, as well as human resource management, including supervisory, and leadership positions.

On the pages of Creating the Intrapreneur, the reader will discover secrets for:

-constructing the life the reader wishes for by motivating the understanding that each of us is in charge of the various episode and happenings of our lives.

-liberating the intrapreneurial spirit within both self and the business.

-amplifying individual control allowing each person to benefit from a life filled with accomplishment, contentment, and tranquility

-Raising the energy climate of the business by making lasting modifications in the way people suppose, be aware of, and respond to one another.

I found Creating the Intrapreneur to be a highly readable work presented by a writer whose credentials clearly indicate she does know 'her stuff'. I like the notion that we each are pretty well in charge of our own destiny and should act and react with that mind set.

Beginning with the introduction writer DePaul has packed the pages of Creating the Intrapreneur with reflections of workplace violence she has experienced or read about as that violence has escalated over the past decades. Telephoned threats of violence toward - the boss-, bomb threats, employee breakdowns, out of control absenteeism, extensive turnover rates, and an overall climate of chaos all are becoming all too commonplace. Writer DePaul says if new and different results are desired then new and different methods for working within the business world.

DePaul is convinced that -To be profitable, and therefore competitive, the business of the future must adopt a strategy based on corporate entrepreneurship -- intrapreneurship. The successful Organization of the third millennium will embrace and encourage intrapreneurship."- Reading DePaul's book I am encouraged that the future can be improved if her ideas are put into action.

Happy to recommend.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Ochs' Bookshelf

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

"The Last Song ", set to be released on Tuesday, September 8, 2009 is another remarkable work by Nicholas Sparks.

Veronica "Ronnie" Miller is a 17 year old rebellious teenager from New York City who travels to Wilmington, North Carolina with her brother Jonah to spend the summer with her dad, Steve. Ronnie has a lot of built up anger and resentment against her father. They have not spoken over the past three years. Ever since her parents divorced she blamed her father for leaving her and family.

Steve is a retired concert pianist and teacher. Music is his passion, and it used to be Ronnie's as well. As a child she sat by his side, always learning from him. However, she dwelled on her anger so much, that she gave up playing the piano altogether. She didn't even want to look at a piano. She started hanging out with a rough crowd, going to clubs, and subsequently got into some trouble with the law.

In the beginning of the novel, Ronnie gives the impression of a spoiled, childish and unappreciative deviant. However, as her character builds throughout the novel, she grows. The depth and richness of Ronnie's character unfolds as you are taken along her summer journey in this coming of age novel.

As love runs into Ronnie at the most unsuspecting time, many truths unfold as the summer progresses. Her dad and Jonah are actively pursuing the work of constructing a stained glass window for a new church building. Ronnie's relationship with her father progresses as well as her relationship with her new found love. Many circumstances surrounding events that caused Ronnie's anger in the past as well as the present, resurface and she is confronted with a host of problems that she must face as her eighteenth birthday approaches.

Sparks is very crafty in his choice of character names. He displays his writing skill so eloquently by threading themes throughout the book, expanding on characters and their personalities and so innocently portraying the love of God in the life of humans. You develop a sincere interest for the characters. You have empathy for their feelings. The powerful emotions that Sparks brings to the reader, is so moving it brings one to tears. It is truly a very fluent and expressive work of the human heart and brought a joy to me as a reader that I have not felt in quite some time.

Familiar with his work, Miley Cyrus sought to work with Nicholas Sparks. As a result, the screenplay is currently being filmed and will be released in January 2010, starring Miley Cyrus as Ronnie, Greg Kinnear, Kelly Preston, and Liam Helmsworth. Other works by Sparks that went from books to movies are: A Walk to Remember, A Night in Rodanthe, The Notebook, and Message in a Bottle.

A Change in Altitude
Anita Shreve
Little, Brown & Company
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316020701 $26.99

A Change in Altitude is not only descriptive of the actual story, but also a metaphor for what happens to Margaret, the protagonist of this story.

Patrick is a physician doing research in Africa on equatorial diseases. Accompanied by his wife Margaret, a photographer, they decide to venture off and go hiking. The goal is to climb Mount Kenya and reach the summit, as the view from atop this mountain is known to be remarkable. The couple sets forth on this expedition with a small group of friends. Although this novel has a bit of a slow start, once they begin climbing the mountain, you cannot put this book down.

Anita Shreve touches on many themes in this intricate, yet simple story. As Margaret enjoys the attentions of another man, which inadvertently leads to a tragic accident, Shreve expresses the consequences of dabbling in seemingly innocent flirting, the consequences of over reacting when controlled solely by our emotions and how a single event in life can change everything. Thematically, Shreve also explores comparable concepts by paralleling fidelity and emotion and what drives ones actions, with the love of photography and what drives a person to put themselves in danger due to the feelings one is experiencing at that time. The nature of forgiveness is also explored.

Similarly, Shreve eloquently uses the theme of altitude to express the growth of Margaret's character, while simultaneously writing a story about cultural diversity and feelings of displacement outside one's "natural" environment. Shreve additionally explores the very depths of a relationship through expressing that a fine line exists between emotional fidelity and physical fidelity, and the place its serves within a marriage. This novel illustrates that crossing such a fine line can put a break in the strength of a marriage, and ultimately lead to a Change in Altitude.

Shreve's novel is exceptional, particularly in her use of Margaret's character and her struggles to reach the top of this mountain. The use of supplemental characters are additionally instrumental throughout this story. The characters are rich, as well as the descriptive scenery of Africa depicted by Shreve, who lived and worked in Africa as journalist in the past. Shreve is very successful in drawing readers into her story and her vivid descriptions allow the reader to feel like they are there with the characters. She easily achieves credibility. Moreover, those who enjoy philosophical debates will undoubtedly devour the themes woven throughout this novel. A Change in Altitude is good read.

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much
Allison Hoover Bartlett
Riverhead Books (Penguin Group)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781594488717 $24.95

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, by Allison Hoover Bartlett is a fun, refreshing and quick read. From the prologue to the afterword, Bartlett successfully keeps the reader intrigued with her story.

Bartlett, a journalist, apparently comes across a four hundred year old book. As with most avid readers and collectors, her curiosity leads her journalistic instincts to investigate this book, and with the help of a librarian finds out that it is a rare German book about plants, The Kreuterbuch. Further investigative research leads her to numerous references to rare books and book theft. The trail continues as she comes across the name of Ken Sanders, a detective set on capturing John Gilkey, one of the most well known successful book thieves. This book is the goose chase of Sanders and his many attempts to catch Gilkey, and how Bartlett befriends both persons, seeking to find the story of what it is exactly that drives a person to put it all on the line for an object as seemingly simple as a book.

What I found interesting in Bartlett's quest was her learning experience of covering this story as a journalist. The story itself caused her to reflect on her past reading experiences and brought out some very important truths. For instance, she speaks of her daughter retrieving a book after dropping it in a creek and how she could not bear to part with it writing "This book's body is inextricably linked to her experience reading it". Furthermore, she states that "A book is much more than a delivery vehicle for its contents...". Bartlett refers to books as "historical artifacts" and "repositories for memories". I would have to agree with her. People develop an emotional attachment or bond with the memories linked to the physicality of the book. It becomes sentimental, something of value (even if it is not a rare expensive collectible). It is what makes a person want to collect books, write stories, and is the drive and inspiration of book lovers. Her philosophical reflections throughout the book lend character to the author's honesty and credibility. At one point she mentally debates whether the technology of today will lose that which is captured in having the physical book in one's hands.

Other interesting factors that contribute to the brilliance of this book is Bartlett's reference to Freud and the psychological profile of a collector, and how the bookshelf becomes a reflection of who the person is as a person. It defines them. Bartlett continues to seek after her story, attempting to understand the difference in how both Sanders and Gilkey live their lives, but yet how their lives become intermingled and both showing characteristics of the same madness. One set on stealing books, the other set on capturing the thief, both risking it all in the process.

Bartlett achieves everything a true storyteller hopes to achieve. There is love, suspense, truth, passion, and inquisitiveness. This book is truly an enjoyable read.

Jennifer Ochs, Reviewer

Paul's Bookshelf

The Judges Chronicles: Rebirth of Shavron
Ivan Sugarwood
Xulon Press
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, FL 32779
1600342752 $14.99

The land of Shavron is a nice place, seemingly favored by God. But, because of its location, it has found itself in the middle when its neighbors go to war. Many, many years ago, the Holy One appointed three Judges to rule over the people of Shavron. The current Judges are Gideon, the judge of battle; Deborah, the judge of instruction; and Samson, the judge of commerce.

This is a time of fear and uncertainty in Shavron. The neighboring lands are being menaced by the black leopards of Chetz. The only way to prevent a Chetzian attack on Shavron is to appoint a king, or other ruler, of Shavron; then, the Chetzians will leave them alone. Gideon, a rabbit, is totally against the idea, because it would mean abandoning the Holy One. He, and Deborah, a cheetah, try to convince Samson, a wolf, to join them before the Council to change their minds. Samson refuses, not convinced of the seriousness of the situation.

Gideon and Deborah return to Eldos, the capital, to find that a queen has already been chosen by the Council, a red fox named Jezerah. Along with Iya, the power behind the throne, she turns Shavron into a dictatorship. High taxes are imposed, repression is increased; the usual. The Holy One knows what's going on; He tells Gideon that He will never abandon Shavron, and that things will get worse before they get better.

Gideon spends the next couple of years in an impregnable mountain top prison; Samson and Deborah are similarly mistreated. Under such circumstances, it would be easy for anyone to lose their faith, but that does not happen to Gideon.

I was very prepared to not like this book (religion and talking animals usually do not bode well), but it's pretty good. It's not just a good religion story, it's also a good fantasy story.

Legends in Time: The Contrived Senator
Vincent Hobbes et al
Hobbes End Publishing LLC
P.O. Box 193, Aubrey, TX 76227
9780976351016 $14.99

Since time immemorial, the tribes of Men have lived in peace with each other. The usual quarrels have never turned into outright war, that is, until the Barbarian Wars united the five separate lands into the Empire of Nador. It is run by Emperor Makheb, who rarely is seen in public, and never without his face covered. That leads to the usual speculation that the Emperor is an alien from another land, or another planet.

One day, Makheb calls Veris, a senior member of the Senate, into his private chambers. He tells Veris, that he, Veris, has been relieved of his Senate duties, and must undertake a difficult journey to Aronia in the north, starting now. Veris is told that, in a few hours, his Senate colleagues are going to come looking for him, ready to execute him for killing Emperor Makheb. Veris is totally loyal to Makheb, so he is shocked, to put it mildly. An attempt on Makheb's life, in his chambers, convinces Veris. At the same time, Makheb is going, alone, to the desolate Endlands, in the west, to confront Ramunak, the cause of all this.

Veris stops at his home in the city of Cosh, to grab a few things, and to try to convince his Senate colleagues that this is all a misunderstanding. Veris barely escapes with his life; Ramunak has been very busy, controlling people's minds. His journey is extra difficult because he has to go through the Denok Forest. It used to be a nice place to visit, until it was taken over by some sort of evil. Now, it is a dark and sinister place, to be avoided at all costs.

First of a series, this is intended for younger readers, but the three authors do a very good job with it. It's very much worth reading.

Edgar Allan Poe's Annotated Short Stories
Andrew Barger (ed.)
BottleTree Books LLC
128 Ivy Brook Cove, Collierville, TN 38017
9781933747187 $45.98

Edgar Allan Poe is one of America's most famous, and most misunderstood, men of letters. As this book shows, he was much more than just a horror writer.

He made his living, such as it was, with his pen, so he did all sorts of writing. He wrote satire, comedy, poetry, adventure and gothic stories. He was also one of the originators of the mystery genre, along with being an inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle. Poe was also known as a literary critic; others may have disagreed with him, but they could not discount his arguments. He did not write easy-to-read, "tabloid" fiction; his stories required some effort on the part of the reader.

The stories that one would expect in any Poe collection are here, like "The Purloined Letter," "The Cask of Amontillado," and "The Masque of the Red Death." Included is one of his many satires, looking exactly like a newspaper article describing a successful trans-Atlantic trip by balloon. In the 1840s, the public was abuzz with talk of balloon trips across the Atlantic greatly shortening the travel time. Poe simply took that national obsession and ran with it.

With illustrations by Harry Clarke, this book is very much worth reading. It's good for scholars and researchers looking for lesser-known Poe works. It's good for those who enjoy 19th Century writing. It's also good for those who like a variety of really good writing. It gets two thumbs-up.

Beyond The Secret
Alexandra Bruce
The Disinformation Company Ltd.
163 Third Avenue, #108, New York, NY 10003
9781932857931 $9.95

Who here has not read the book or seen the movie "The Secret?" (Raise your hands.) This book attempts to bring some perspective to "The Secret," so as to better understand what seems to be its message of materialism gone wild.

The philosophy behind "The Secret" is nothing new. The New Thought movement was popular in America from the 1850s to the 1950s. It was an offshoot of the Age of Enlightenment, which swept through Europe in the 1700s, and led to advances in law and science. New Thought asserts a monistic theory of the universe; One is All, and All is One. It is still as heretical to established religion as it was 300 years ago. The book that started it all and is a New Thought classic is called "The Science of Getting Rich" by Wallace Wattles (a complete copy is included in this book). The ideas in "The Secret" are generally those of the Unity Church, which today has about 2 million members.

There are short profiles of many of the teachers featured in "The Secret." Some of them are more oriented toward science and technology, others are more corporate-oriented, and one embraces the occult.

A big controversy involved the appearance in the film of Esther Hicks, channeler for a group consciousness named Abraham. She was to appear in the film, but ended up on the cutting room floor, due to a dispute with Rhonda Byrne, the brains behind "The Secret." A person might wonder what the reaction would be if a major inspiration for "The Secret" came from a disembodied consciousness.

This book is well worth reading for skeptics and true believers. It doesn't attempt to prove or disprove The Law of Attraction, but it will give the reader a lot to think about.

The End of Days
Zecharia Sitchin
William Morrow
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0061238236, $25.95

Last in a seven-book series, this gives a very different, and very challenging, view of mankind.

Eons ago, alien beings called the Anunnaki came to Earth to plant man's genetic seed. They came from a planet called Nibiru, which is part of our solar system, but takes 3,000 years to complete one trip around the sun. As a spacefaring race, they built a spaceport and a mission control, in the Tigris/Euphrates river valley, in present-day Iraq. It was destroyed in The Deluge (from the Bible).

The spaceport was rebuilt in the Sinai Desert, with Mission Control in Jerusalem, and the pyramids at Giza used as landing beacons. Remember the Tower of Babel? It was the first major structure built after The Deluge, back in the Tigris/Euphrates valley, and was intended as an alternate launch platform.

There were many disputes and power struggles among the Anunnaki, leading to an attack on the "sinning states" of the West by the East. In approximately 2020 BC, five cities built just south of the Dead Sea, including Sodom and Gomorrah, along with the Sinai spaceport, were destroyed by nuclear weapons. There are a number of ancient Sumerian texts that talk of an "evil wind" that sickened everyone, and that no door or wall could keep out (sounds a lot like nuclear fallout). In historical terms, the Sumerian civilization disappeared overnight; invaders are the usual reason. Here is another explanation.

It would be easy to snicker to at this book if it were just some New Age speculation, and not based on years of archaeological study and actually reading the ancient texts. As a history buff (and a science fiction reader) I loved this book. It is my first exposure to Mr. Sitchin, but it won't be my last.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

Days of Little Texas
R.A. Nelson
Alfred A. Knopf
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780375855931 $16.99

He was christened Little Texas when he was 10 years old because of his involvement in a miraculous healing. From then on he was thrust into the role of child prodigy preacher and faith healer for the Church of the Hand, a tent revival operation run by his great aunt, Miss Wanda Joy. Like a rock star he travels from town to town with his entourage, including his manager Miss Wanda Joy, his spiritual coach Sugar Tom, and his personal assistant Certain Certain.

His frail human side is a young man named Ronald Earl. Now, as an almost 16-year old, the two personalities converge in a colossal test of will power. One night in Verbena, Alabama, Little Texas lays his hands on a critically ill young girl named Lucy. She responds enough so that everyone believes she is healed but Ronald Earl senses something is wrong. Tormented by doubt and questions of faith, he is haunted by her image. Because he has never had any friends his own age, an unearthly bond forms between them. His love for her lures him into the murky spiritual realm and a supernatural secret involving the Church of the Hand. In a tent revival to end all tent revivals his two worlds collide in a holy war.

"Days of Little Texas" blends the occult and religion to expose long-buried roots of the deep South. Like an old-timey preacher at a tent revival, Nelson pulls readers into this steamy mystery that is part coming of age, part Gothic romance and utterly intriguing. This is an enticing story for all ages.

Violet Wings
Victoria Hanley
Egmont USA
443 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016
9781606840115 $15.99

Zaria Tourmaline is not a typical teen. For one thing she's an orphan whose parents and brother disappeared years ago. She lives with - of all people - her cranky teacher, Beryl Danburite. And she's not exactly human. She is a lavender fairy with violet wings. On her 14th birthday, along with receiving the customary watch and wand, Zaria discovers that she possesses enormous magical powers. This shocking revelation immediately turns her world upside down. Her world is Tirfeyne, which is not typical either. Tirfeyne is located in Feyland, another dimension where fairies, genies, gnomes, leprechauns, trolls, and quite possibly a few trogs live.

Zaria is not content to learn about her new abilities from her mentor, Lily Morganite whom she despises. She studies her mother's spellbook which provides her with a comforting connection to her long lost family and an overwhelming desire to find out what happened to them. She and her friends sneak through an unauthorized portal to visit Earth where they experiment with casting spells on unsuspecting humans and wind up in more trouble than they could have ever imagined.

But fairies are charged with using their magic to do good in the world. Amid all the turmoil and mischief that surrounds her - not to mention the part she plays in it - Zaria unravels a mystery that involves her missing family. When everything seems lost, it is up to Zaria to make something good come from all of it.

"Violet Wings" is part fantasy, part mystery, part coming of age. All together Hanley takes readers on a fascinating journey into another realm with enough friends, family, scoundrels, rascals, plus those pesky rules and laws to stay engrossed without being overwhelmed. Genie historian Orville Gold's narratives at the beginning of each chapter dispense Feyland fun facts and even some clues for the careful reader. Zaria and her friends are enchanting creatures who are just beginning to understand their own powers. Feyland is a mystical world that readers will long to return to again and again.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Raja's Bookshelf

The Encore Effect: How to Achieve Remarkable Performance in Anything You Do
Mark Sanborn
WaterBrook Press
c/o Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781400073061 $15.95

For those of you who hesitate to pick up a self help type of book due to the impression that it may be slow or dry, then you are in for a delightful surprise with Mark Sanborn's Encore Effect. This treat is a page turner and easy to read. At times as the author describes stories of people making remarkable performances, I could feel a few tears well up in my eyes. Not only is it powerful, it is also inspiring. As I was reading this book, there was the motivation to do a remarkably good performance, and to be the best every day. To sum it up, the author gives you insight on what it might take to make that remarkable good performance, and leave the audience asking for more, thus the Encore Effect.

The book is divided into three main parts that provide logical transitions: understanding the Encore effect, achieving the Encore effect, and sharing the Encore effect. By the way, as I have learned from previous experience, its always good to read the epilogues and introductions at the beginning of the book, the epilogues at the end of the book, in other words as the saying goes reading the book from cover to cover. Reading these sections can provide a lot of insight into how the author wants the reader to read the book and what he wants the reader to gain from the book, and this is no different in the Encore Effect. So, I would encourage reading the section that starts with When reading the Encore Effect……., and also the Introduction to this book. My favorite part of the book is the section on practicing to be the best, and specifically the examples of how great performers at some point in their lives have failed. It speaks to the old proverb "Failures are the stepping stones to success".

I would recommend this book to all, specifically I would encourage college students and new college graduates entering the workforce to pick up and read this book. It is not only about how to be a remarkable performer; in a way it is also about harnessing passions to achieve your dreams. This is a self help book to have in your collection to read over several times.

Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome
Robert Harris
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780743498661 $14.00

Do you enjoy reading good legal thrillers, how about politics, or history? If the answer to this question is all of the above then I have the book for you. That book is Imperium by Thomas Harris. The first part is legal thriller a la Steve Martini meets ancient Rome, and the second part is about the politics in the first republic of the world. For those of you that have read Steven Saylor's historical fiction on Rome, Thomas Harris' Imperium is similar although more focused on the legal, and politics for Rome rather than the wonderful mystery of Steven Saylor's books.

The central character that drives this story is the historical Roman oratorical figure of Marcus Cicero. The story is narrated from the perspective of Cicero's secretary, Tiro. At the start of the book the writing style can seem legal in nature and too Romanesque. As the story moves forward, I found that this same language and style immersed me into that period of time. It became as if I was taken back in time and were listening to Tiro directly.

In the first three quarters of the book the author builds a nice foundation, which picks up momentum to a dramatic climax and then leads to an exciting conclusion. The initial foundation is developed with the rise of Cicero as an orator and lawyer by taking on a challenging case. This case and all the political drama involved was conveyed through some descriptive storytelling.

I would highly recommend this book for advanced readers of court room dramas or political thrillers. Imperium achieves all this with the backdrop of ancient Rome. A way of getting excited about History is to start by reading Historical Fiction. This book may peak the curiosity and interest of those non-history lovers to give History a chance. In this case the excitement of Ancient Roman Republic history.

Raja N. Krishnan

Regis' Bookshelf

In the Foothills of Medicine: A Young Doctor's Journey from the Inner city of Chicago to the Mountains of Nepal
Robert McKersie, M.D.
iUniverse, Inc.
0595363687 $14.95

Rating: * * * * *

From the Prologue to its final Dedication, Dr. Robert McKersie's book, In the Foothills of Medicine is not just a story of one man's legacy to heal his fellow man on opposite sides of the globe. It is an epic of courage, passion, enlightenment, inspiration and above all, a tale of human love.

Throughout each inspiring page, the reader can see an unspoken virtue in Dr. McKersie that he could never attribute to himself. Persons of his caliber are blind to their own goodness. He is a physician in love with the beauty of human existence.

In the beginning pages of In the Foothills of Medicine, Dr. McKersie writes of the nine hour automobile ride into India's magnificent Ganesh Mountains to a camp, from whence a hike of several days would walk him to the first medical clinic of Tipling. Mostly, he dismisses the discomforts endured himself, but consistently writes of the trials and courage of those carrying heavy clinical supplies and equipment over steeply inclined, seldom-trekked mountain footpaths. These precipitous ascents and descents in some places were so hazardous, that a misplaced footstep or loss of balance could result in a death-tumble of hundreds of feet.

So why does he travel regularly to these remote medical outposts and leave his practice in the United States? McKersie is a thorough idealist. In these remote mountains of Nepal he can practice medicine as it should be practiced. He can establish a relationship with patients, because they need help and because they are human and beautiful. Here, he does not worry about salary. Rather, he worries about curing infection, controlling tuberculosis, stabilizing diabetes or a failing heart, or epilepsy.

In Nepal he does not hassle over medical insurance. The mountains provide no such aid. Instead, he labors to mend a broken arm or leg, or to deliver a baby. Nor does he obsess about begging specialists to see poor or underprivileged patients free of charge. Instead, he and a handful of doctors and nurses are the "general" specialists. They provide what help they can, then counsel village family members on continuing care.

A half world away during part of each year, Dr. McKersie is a regular family physician doing his utmost to provide the same kind of personal health care to patients on the South Side of Chicago as in distant Nepal. But should that statement not be reversed? McKersie would say, "No!" He often feels frustrated here in the United States attempting to arrange needed health care for seriously ill patients lacking insurance. In addition, there is the ongoing struggle for affordable medicines for those without big bucks. In the end, people who cannot pay for health care in this country are tantamount to a Nepalese villager.

In the Foothills of Medicine is a fascinating story--an adventure that leaps from its pages as you follow a single doctor's efforts to heal the sick and promote social change in two vastly different cultures: Nepal and the United States. His vision of the latter is simple: the US needs a vital health care system now, for every citizen regardless of income.

Dr. McKersie's tell-it-like-it-is memoir will grab your interest from its first page. This book is an outstanding read for everyone, but has a special message to those involved in health care. It is a critical document for every politician. It is my hope that readers of In the Foothills of Medicine will urge their congress women and men to live up to their social responsibility and not rest until vital health care is available to every United States citizen. Hats off to Doctor McKersie for his remarkable story.

Punk Science - Inside the Mind of God
Manjir Samanta-Laughton
O-Books; illustrated edition
1905047932 $15.61

Rating: * * * * *

Because science can explain that an event happened in space/time down to the most infinitesimal starting point, it assumes it has explained why this occurrence took place. In Punk Science, Dr. Samanta-Laughton attempts to address a host of "Big Questions," which up till now, have been mere paradoxes. In particular she posits that scientists use the act of observation in their studies but do not address how humans are able to observe at all.

At CERN in France, the 17 -mile in circumference hadron collider, has been completed. It will attempt to uncover what types of energy/particles were responsible for the Big Bang and its immediate expansion into our known universe. However, if this underground machine produces even more infinitely small particles with no mass, the question will still linger: why did the Big Bang happen at all and how is it possible that humans are capable of observing the collider's results?

In Punk Science, Doctor Samanta-Laughton provides an extremely persuasive argument for why things are the way they are: the universe, the world, living creatures, human beings, human thought, and the great mystery of the One - God.

Early in Punk Science, Manjir explains why consciousness lies outside the human brain. In our ordinary everyday experience, we observe reality - chairs, cars, people, stars - as stable real objects in space, so much so, that we can measure them in four separate dimensions: length, width, height, and permanence through time. Liquids and gases we measure by volume and/or weight, but we know they are real.

However, under a microscope, every one of these so called real objects is made of molecules which in turn are composed of tiny atoms. The atoms are built from smaller subatomic "thingies" which scientists have broken into even smaller particles. The CERN monster mentioned above is supposed to find the ultimate, infinitely small particles.

But here's the rub. These small particles are not particles at all. Left alone, they are merely strings of probable energy with enormous spaces existing between them. When measured, they only appear as particles without mass.

This is to say that when our brains make a conscious effort to locate them, the particles appear to exist because we stop their energetic movement. Unstopped, they are non-existent. In this sense, it is our act of consciousness that brings possible matter into existence. Thomistic/Scholastic philosophers during Medieval times may have been correct with their directive that things exist either in potentia or in actu (as possible beings or as real things.)

Furthermore, the human brain is made of matter. The logical conclusion of this entire argument is this: our consciousness gives human brains, chairs, cars, people, stars, liquids and gases, their reality. Thus, consciousness must be an inherent quality of everything that exists. It does not reside in the brain. According to Punk Science, "consciousness is the soul of the universe."

Further on in her book, Manjir discusses the process which brought about life within the universe in the first place. Once again, reductionist biology claims that when conditions were ripe, given enough time and with the proper positive mutation, the very first cell(s) evolved in a primordial soup.

This she does not dispute, but she fervently adds that the molecules of the very first cell and those that followed, surely grouped themselves into plants, animals, and humans, organized by a principle outside the cells themselves - a consciousness - an intelligent awareness which pervades the entire universe.

"It is consciousness itself that undergoes evolution and this is reflected in the increasing complexity of species."

Finally, Punk Science explains that current theory is rapidly changing about stars imploding throughout the universe. Traditionally, these disintegrating stars were thought to be destructive events where stellar debris was sucked inward forming a singularity - a black hole in space from which nothing could escape, not even light.

Manjir is one of the scientists ready to reverse black hole thinking. A black hole is not a destructive event but an infinite source of creative light which comes from the formless center of the black hole singularity. Ultimately, this transcendent light cannot be seen nor measured because it normally is beyond our conscious ability to measure it.

Yet Manjir would admit that legitimite mystics, psychics, prophets, and healers can often sense this light energy beyond the "Perception Horizon." It is the light of the spirit world traveling infinitely faster than normal light rays/particles (photons). Punk Science explains that it is within this realm that a theory-of-everything, which eluded Einstein, might finally be explained but certainly not understood.

For those readers fascinated by - or like this reviewer, obsessed with - thoughts about where the universe came from, where it is going, and how we arrived within it, Punk Science is the read for you. The book weaves together diverse scientific theories, faulting some and positing others. Best of all, it offers a new model for the universe that is both satisfying and inspirational.

At times, I found Manjir's ideas and implications hard to follow, but that was probably due to my own ignorance of high level physics and my inability to leap the same logical gaps as she. The simple diagrams in the book certainly helped me in these cases.

Like the BHP (Black Hole Principle) Manjir refers to, Punk Science is a trip spiraling from the seemingly infinite cosmos, downward into the tiniest of particles/wave strings which exist only because we are conscious of them. It is a fun read that will rattle your perception of existence and provide you with thoughtful meditation for a long, long time.

Incidentally, it is this reviewer's opinion that, in many ways, Dr. Samanta-Laughton might view the CERN supercollider as a waste of time and money that could be more humanely spent helping her and other medical doctors heal their patients.

Regis Schilken

Richard's Bookshelf

The Y Factor
Liam Roberts
Realms (A Strang Company)
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
978159796239 $13.99

A Spellbinding Technological and Scientific Action Adventure

Driven by intense hatred and extreme violence the Muslim Brotherhood is in a battle for religious and racial supremacy. They are in a mission, a thirst for world power and domination. Celebrated scientist Ahmed Alomari is in a conspiracy to research the DNA of the Islamic race to the beginning of human history and to uncover the Y factor.

Liam Robert's book "The Y Factor" had me mesmerized before the end of the first page. The book is a fusion of mystery, trepidation, and intrigue. The fast moving plot includes computer and genetics technology, scientific data, al Qaeda assassins, detailed information on the Muslim religion, culture and history as well as military tactics

Ominous plot twists, murder, bedlam, terrorists, and government agents find young computer analyst Eric Colburn and his geneticist girlfriend Alana McKinsey in a battle for their lives in cities around the world including: Atlanta, Georgia; Delhi, India; Tokyo, Japan; Cairo, Egypt; and Karachi, Pakistan. The plot is filled with an adrenaline rush that intensifies page after exciting page, combining conflict and resolution, and then a cycle of more conflict and resolution.

Liam Roberts is a new voice in the techno thriller genre. Crisp strong writing and an amazing creative imagination insure that Roberts is destined to become a best selling author. His plot ideas are fresh and relevant, his descriptions are exceptional, and his characters are credible. Liam's fascination with genetics and his insight into the National Geographic's Genographic Project provide him with the creditability to author this unique insight look into DNA research into tracing a race of people back into Israel's history.

"The Y Factor" will soon be a favorite for fans who enjoy the thriller techno suspense genre. Readers specifically drawn to novels which incorporate the role of Biblical prophecy with current events will find Liam's writing exciting, enlightening, and plausible. I am eagerly looking forward to Liam Robert's next novel.

Raised from the Dead: A True Account
Richard L. Madison
Deeper Revelation Books
P. O. Box 4260, Cleveland, TN 37320-4260
9780942507430 $13.95

Dramatic Stories of Miracles, Healing, and Restoration

Richard L. Madison shares an amazing story in his book "Raised from the Dead." The book is a personal testimony of a series of miracles in his life. He was pronounced dead on arrival (DOA) at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 1986.

Well know Christian leaders as well as Madison's own medical doctors bear witness to the complexities of Richard's injuries, his multiple surgeries, and his incredible healing which they can only explain as "miraculous."

Today Madison travels the world as a full time evangelist. He powerfully proclaims the gospel of Christ, demonstrates the realities of present day miracles by his own life, and preaches the message of receiving healing by faith.

Madison has written "Raised from the Dead" as a testimony to honor God and give God the credit for his miracle power to heal. It is his desire to help the reader to find God's will and to discover the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He encourages the reader to claim physical healing, and in turn to minister to others.

The book is full of testimonies and poignant stories of people whose lives have been changed because of miracles and faith healing. They are eager to affirm the ministry of Evangelist Madison and to share their faith in the ongoing miraculous work of healing taking place in the world today.

Madison's writing is sincere, simple, and straightforward. "Raised from the Dead" is a captivating story, moving, and charismatic.

Buddha's Wife
Gabriel Constans
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR
9781934759295 $14.95

Princess Yasodhara and Her Son Rahula

"Buddha's Wife" is a brilliant contribution to the genre of literary fiction. Gabriel Constans combines traditional stories of the heroism of Siddhartha (Buddha) with an imaginary fictional account of the story of Yasodhara and her son Rahula.

Yasodhara narrates her story. Hers is a story of birth into royal lineage and of then choosing poverty for love. She tells of the happiness of her early marriage and the birth of her son. This is followed by the experience of "drowning in sorrow" after her husband, Siddhartha, betrayed her and deserted them to pursue a life of "enlightenment."

Constans beautifully recreates Yasodhara's life to draw attention to the women around Buddha, to encourage the reader to rethink the spiritual implication and the injustice of inequality within the caste system. This inequality has yet to be resolved today, both in society and in religion. He exposes the inconsistency of religious men and expresses the emotions of Yasodhara's brother as he is "locked behind his daunting exterior of privilege."

Constans' writing reveals an amazing insight into the emotions of the heart. He puts into words the fear and pain of rejected love. He describes the price and sacrifice of following one's heart. He paints word pictures of the smoldering poison of hatred, of love turned to loathing, and of the gift of freedom found in forgiveness.

Each of the characters share an important role in calling attention to the nature of genuine religion, evidenced by Godlike attributes and character. "Buddha's Wife" is inspiring, and fervent, written with sensitivity.

Praying with the Conquerors
Elmer L. Towns
Destiny Image Publishers
P.O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768428438 $ 17.99

Another Unique Commentary in the Praying Through the Scriptures Series

"Praying with the Conquers" is made up of thought provoking prayers of Old Testament conquerors. They are taken from the books of Joshua, Judges and Ruth. Prayers of Gideon, Joshua and Samuel are among the prayer warriors represented in these inspiring pages.
Elmer Towns writes in a powerful descriptive style using a combination of lyrical poetry and prose in these devotional prayers of encouragement and inspiration. He takes the reader back into Old Testament days to challenge them to pray with these familiar Biblical conquerors, to triumph over personal challenges and struggles.

Using a combination of contemporary narrative and modern day language Towns gives additional insight into the culture and religious practices of Biblical times. He ingeniously creates an engaging interactive sense of fighting with Joshua on the battlefield, of being in the presence of Gideon as he meets face to face with the Angel of the Lord. I found myself empathizing with Samson in his hour of deepest defeat. I stood back to observe Boaz as he fulfilled the required rituals to become the kinsman redeemer before marrying Ruth. I found the "My Time to Pray" reflections to be important inspiring motivation for personal prayer.

These prayers are profound and moving. They touched my heart as I reached out to touch the heart of God through words of inspiration from the Holy Spirit.

Elmer Towns always provides rich information in Biblical and cultural background, and geographical settings. Practical life applications and words of inspiration add to the value of this series as resource for pastors, lay Bible teachers as well as individuals eager to grow in their understanding of Biblical truth.

"Praying with the Conquerors" is another masterfully crafted milestone for Elmer Towns, a Gold Metal Award winning author.

Jumping through Fires
David Nasser
Baker Books
P. O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
9780801013355 $17.99

Escape from Death and Religion to New Life and Redemption

David Nasser, son of an Iranian military officer, an Iranian exile tell his story in "Jumping through Fires." David born and trained as a Muslim grew up in Iran. During the turmoil of the Iranian Revolution in 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini came into power. A holy war was declared against Iran's Supreme Military Council. David and his family fled the country to escape certain death.

Filled with intrigue, spine-tingling action, tension, and romance this real life story reads like fiction. The family's miraculous escape from Iran is only one of the many evidences that show the hand of God at work in David's journey as well as through the many detours in his education, and ministry training in preparation for God's call on his life.

David tells of the many difficulties he faced while adjusting to a new culture. Grammar school, junior high, and high school each held a new challenge. The evening after his high school graduation David felt alone with a sense of emptiness and without a significant purpose. A fellow classmate class invited David to church. The events came about as a result of this invitation reveal the intricate working of a supernatural God concerned for the individual. David experienced an amazing and unexpected change of heart as he found faith, forgiveness, and salvation.

Nasser's writing is passionate, his message compelling, he has the ardor and zeal of an evangelist, is authentic, and candid. "Jumping through Fires" is a forceful message of the life changing power and grace of God.

Richard R. Blake

Suzie's Bookshelf

Sun Signs & Soul Mates: An Astrological Guide to Relationships
Linda George
Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125
9780738715582 $17.95 1-800-843-6666

The stars are our inner source of knowledge …

Finding true and everlasting love is one of the greatest adventures life has to offer. It is the journey that will eventually lead you to find your true soul mate. Often the path to find love and understanding is filled with many obstacles.

To unlock the mysteries that surround you and your potential mate astrology is often consulted to reveal unknown facts that will help understand each other on a deeper more intimate level.

Linda George's Sun Signs & Soul Mates: An Astrological Guide to Relationships explores each one of the twelve astrological signs. It shows the light and dark side of each sign by providing clear in-depth cosmic knowledge that can help you learn crucial traits about your mate.

For any type of relationship that you find yourself in this book will definitely improve yourself and those around you as it allows you to discover the inner most traits that makes each person a unique individual.

Linda George astrological knowledge reigns superior. In Sun Signs & Soul Mates: An Astrological Guide to Relationships you will find an invaluable wealth of knowledge in this one book. It is one that you will find yourself referring back to often as your life situations change. Very highly recommended.

Earth (Full Spectrum Sound Healing)
Alex Theory
Sounds True, Inc.
413 S. Arthur Avenue, Louisville, CO 80027
0083513452 $17.98 1-800-333-9185

Many secrets of art and nature are thought by the unlearned to be magical.

-Francis Bacon

The universe opens up, the journey has begun. North, south, east, west the musical flow will show you the way to find peace, love, and a healing mind. At this magical journey when earth and magic meet you will discover all great there is.

Alex Theory's Earth is the third installment in the "Full Spectrum Sound" Healing series. It consists of eight tracks that are entitled different directions (North, Northeast, East, Southeast, South, Southwest, West, and Northwest). Like a compass each one will guide you to a deeper understanding of oneness.

Alex Theory is a brilliant composer. His music is able to penetrate deep within your body and soul. This audio will offer you the ultimate form of total relaxation as each track provides its own form of healing magic. Those who seek music from the nature grace of the Earth's majesty should definitely experience the music contained on Alex Theory's audio. Very highly recommended

I Always Always Get My Way
Thad Krasnesky, author
David Parkins, illustrator
Flashlight Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610 USA
9780979974649 $16.95 1-800-888-4741

Emmy is only three, but what a mess she can be. She spilled juice on Dad's pants but her mom came to her defense. Then when her brother made her trip and fall it was he who was blamed for it all. When she took her sisters glue to build like no one could, it was overlooked.

One afternoon she was feeling up to playing a Pirate Queen. She gathered up everyone's lost loot and buried them by a tree. When her Dad caught her in the act she was unable to get out of all the condemning facts. As punishment he made her clean, didn't he know that she was just three?

One Saturday morning she was a wake before any other; she made her own breakfast and left the kitchen in such a mess. When mother woke and seen what she had done she made her clean, she figured she was too sleepy to realize that she was three.

Emmy wanted to play with her brother's pet lizard. She dressed him up in her dolls clothes, then decided to sail him in a boat, using her sister's shoes she knew they would make a good vessel. When she turned her back, the lizard decided to flew, she wondered where he could be. With a scream from her mother she knew that he had been discovered. Rushing to her side, she seen everyone's accusing eyes. It didn't matter that she was three. For all eyes were focused on she; as punishment for all she did she was banished in her room, she feared she wouldn't be out any time soon.

Thad Krasnesky is a master storyteller. Through the expert illustrations of David Parkins, I Always Always Get My Way is a sheer delight to read and experience. With its rhyming storyline, a cast of loveable characters, this book will quickly become one of your child's all time favorites. Very highly recommended.

Detox Flow Yoga: A Guided Practice to Purify Body, Mind and Spirit

Seane Corn
Sounds True, Inc.
413 S. Arthur Avenue
Louisville, CO 80027
9781591797128 $24.95 1-800-333-9185

Yoga is the essence of life…

The month of September is recognized as National Yoga month. For the entire month yogi's unite together and celebrate their love of yoga. In this sacred month, I wanted to challenge myself to discover a new yogi practitioner, in doing so I felt it would lead me to a greater form of self discovery.

Of all the titles that were available I selected Sean Corn's Detox Flow Yoga with the intent o not only experience someone new but to learn a new way to cleanse my body though the use of yoga. Detox Flow Yoga was just what the doctor ordered. It allowed me to discover hidden toxins my body was exposed to daily, some that were listed I never knew existed.

This audio program consists of three CDs. The first one builds a strong foundation of knowledge that educates the listener of these unknown toxins and the health benefits yoga can generate. It discusses in-depth how vulnerable our bodies are though the thoughts we have, to the food that we consume, to the amount of exercise we practice; all of these elements play an important key into our overall well being.

With the ground work laid from the first audio the second one introduces a sequence of yoga poses that consist of Vinyasa Flow Yoga. Vinyasa Flow allows your body to stay in constant motion as one pose gently blends into another. The second audio dedicates an entire track to our breath pattern. It is essential that proper breath techniques are learned for it provides the ultimate form of relaxation.

The last audio presents more challenging poses that consist of Sun Salutations. It also focuses on your core, twists, and back bending poses that is critical to your overall well being. At the end of this CD it offers a relaxation mediation followed by a closing prayer. In all there is a total of three hours and forty five minutes of cleaning detoxification.

The best massage could not even come close to providing the healing magic that I gained in Seane Corn's Detox Flow Yoga. After I completed this audio I felt that my body had been reincarnated into a new being that was filled with positive energy. Very highly recommended.

Suzie Housley

Theodore's Bookshelf

Below Zero
C.J. Box
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399155758 $24.95 800-847-5515

In an earlier novel in the Joe Pickett series, his foster daughter, April, was seen killed. Now his oldest daughter, Sheridan, seems to be receiving text messages from her. Is she somehow still alive, or is some gigantic hoax being played on Joe and his family? Joe is doubtful, especially when the messages are coming from locations where serious crimes are being committed.

As in prior Box books, there is an environmental theme in "Below Zero." The title refers to an attempt to pay back to mankind the amount of carbon for which one is responsible, and reducing the total to nil.

The smoothly written tale is full of interesting developments, and the plot moves forward with dispatch. The characters are well-drawn and the chase to find April an exciting one. Recommended.

The Signal
Ron Carlson
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670021000 $25.95 800-847-5515

The wide open ranges and mountains of Wyoming provide a broad tableau for this thriller, as does the development of character of Mack, the protagonist, from his early boyhood on his father's ranch where he helped with guests and chores through to his adulthood. It also depicts the difficulties of keeping the ranch in the family, as taxes and other costs erode finances and cash is always tight.

Among the guests is Vonnie, a young girl who Mack eventually marries. Each September they go up the mountains hiking and fishing from one lake to another. But as financial pressures begin to weigh on Mack, he starts drinking and taking on shady jobs in an effort to raise money. Finally Vonnie leaves and Mack really goes off the deep end, smashing her new boyfriend's windshield and landing him in jail. When she visits him in the hoosegow, they make a date for one last September trip, which develops into one hell of an experience.

The novel is short but deep, written with a fine hand. The nature descriptions are quite beautiful. The tension slowly builds as Mack and Vonnie embark on a harrowing excursion. And the question is raised whether or not redemption is always possible. Recommended.

The Venona Cable
Brent Ghelfi
Henry Holt
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780805088946 $25.00 646-307-5237

The third Volk novel is very different from its predecessors. It is more cerebral and introspective. While the accustomed violence is present, it plays only a peripheral role in the plot. Volk is arrested when an American film director and long-time Communist sympathizer is found murdered in Volk's warehouse. He is freed to find out the real murderer. A secret cable from 1943 is found on the victim, one of many deciphered by the NSA. It describes the decision by FDR and Churchill in 1943 regarding a Second Front, and was sent by an agent known as "19," giving Stalin an edge in negotiations with the Western Allies.

Among the mysteries is a picture found on the murder victim of himself and Volk's father, who supposedly defected to the United States. The question, of course, is whether Volk's father really defected or was a double agent. Volk never knew his father, and part of his quest is to discover the truth about his father as well as his efforts to uncover the reason for the death of the filmmaker.

The plot takes Volk to the United States where he follows the trail from Los Angeles to Albuquerque to Los Alamos. Along the way there are more murders and attempts on Volk's life. Written with the author's usual intensity, the novel takes a deep look at the past and the present, depicting the craft of spying, looking at the subterfuges of the CIA, GRU and other government agencies, asking who is a double agent and how each side tried to steal from the other to achieve superiority during the Cold War (and beyond?).

Highly recommended.

Where the Dead Lay
David Levien
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10018
9780385523677 $24.95 800-726-0600

An investigator uses also sorts of techniques while attempting to solve a mystery: interrogation, forensic evidence, confidential informants, and other methods to obtain clues. Too often, however, it just boils down to pure luck. And that's what, in the final analysis, guides Frank Behr, who first appeared in this author's "City of the Sun," in this repeat performance as a hard-boiled Indianapolis PI.

Behr is forced to follow two cases in this second novel in the series until the point when they begin to fit together. The first involves the murder of a martial arts instructor, which Frank takes personally. Then he is asked by a high-powered PI firm to undertake an investigation to track down two of its operatives. Frank turns the job down when no background is disclosed. However, he is induced to take on the assignment by the very police captain who drummed him off the force years earlier, with vague promises.

Amid all sorts of violence, whether on a martial arts mat or on the streets or in the gambling dens Frank is investigating, he also has to learn something about himself and his past to cope with the future of his relationship with his girlfriend. All sorts of complications are distracting not only to Frank but at times to the reader as well. Nevertheless, the plot is powerful and swift, and the book is recommended.

[It should perhaps be noted that the book has been published in hardcover by Bantam Press in the UK in July, 2009 as well - ISBN: 978-0-593-05934-0]

DeKok and the Mask of Death
A. C. Baantjer, Translated by H. G. Smittenaar
Speck Press/Fulcrum Publishing
4690 Table Mountain Dr., Golden, CO 80403
9781933108308 $24.00 800-992-2908

Inspector DeKok has appeared in at least 60 novels in The Netherlands, where the series is extremely popular, as well as in 100 episodes on Dutch television. This novel is the first in hardcover form in the United States, although the publisher has issued several in paperback. It is committed to publishing the entire series, for which it should be commended.

The graying, cerebral detective has a sidekick, Vledder, who serves as his assistant and foil, sort of a bumbling Dr. Watson. He is quick to jump to conclusions and is available to sit and listen to the musings and analyses of his mentor. About three days before Amsterdam Sail, a locally-held international sailing event which DeKok has been planning on attending with great anticipation, a man walks into the station and reports that his girlfriend is missing. It appears she was feeling ill and was referred to a hospital by a local physician. He accompanied her to the hospital and some time later he was told she was never there. The doctor denied he ever had a patient by her name or referred her to the hospital. The next day, another man reported his girlfriend disappeared from the hospital, and that same man was subsequently found murdered. Two more women soon disappear in similar fashion. Can DeKok solve the case?

The novels are written in a simple, straightforward style, with excellent translation. DeKok (who always responds to his name: "er, as in kay oh kay") is an unusual character, and Amsterdam is presented with the full flavor of the city and its famous Red Light District. The stories are deceptive, more complicated than their outwardly plain appearance, and the inspector is a lot deeper than his portrayal.

There are a lot of books in the series, something for which to be thankful. Recommended.

Island of the Naked Women
Inger Frimansson, Translated by Laura A. Wideburg
Caravel Mystery Books,/Pleasure Boat Studio
201 W. 89th St., NY, NY 10064
9781929355563 $18.00 888-810-5308

Tobias is an author, and after publishing short stories and poetry, has seen his first detective novel published. Now struggling to write another, he is called to his boyhood home, a farm, because his father has fallen from the hayloft, severely injuring himself, and help is needed. He returns home, setting the stage for a series of events that are astonishing.

To begin with, Tobias is drawn to his elderly father's much younger wife. Then, he encounters a part-time hand who taunts him as being a soft city person. And a woman who attended school with him, who now runs a riding academy, asks him to stay and work for her while writing his novel. The interplay of all these characters results in most unexpected consequences.

The Swedish author has published more than 25 novels, specializing in psychological thrillers and sudden murder resulting in the tension from the viewpoint of the murderer. The novel has been translated into nine languages, with good reason. It has now been published in the US by Caravel Mystery Books [, 888-810-5803], and is recommended.

The Silent Hour
Michael Koryta
Minotaur, 175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312361570 $24.95 212-674-5151/646-307-5560

A convicted murderer who has served his sentence walks into Lincoln Perry's office one day asking him to find the missing daughter (and sister) of Mafia figures. Immediately distrustful of the man, Perry resists the potential client, but finally succumbs to the challenge. The missing woman and her husband had built a secluded home where they began a pilot program to rehabilitate paroled murderers. Thus begins a complicated tale in this latest entry in the series.

On the surface, the woman and her husband appear to have abandoned the multi-million-dollar home, leaving no clues to their whereabouts. And after 12 years, there is little to go on, until the bones of the husband are discovered in Pennsylvania, far from Cleveland where Perry operates. The investigation is daunting both as a case and to Perry's commitment to the PI business. He weighs the dangers in which he places his girlfriend, partner and those close to him against his desire to continue.

The plot is intricately woven and moves forward slowly with intuitive leaps of faith. As a protagonist, Perry is completely human, with knowledge, ability and insecurities. The twists in the story are so unexpected that the reader can only scratch his or her head in awe and wonderment.

Highly recommended.

A Plague of Secrets
John Lescroart
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525950929 $26.95 800-847-5515,

This latest in the courtroom thrillers featuring Dismas Hardy and Lt. Abe Glitsky of the San Francisco homicide squad takes the reader right down to the last page in a murder trial virtually without evidence but plenty of motive and hidden secrets. Background includes blackmail, marijuana, politics, murder, and good old-fashioned legwork and intuition, much less courtroom drama.

The manager of a popular Starbucks-like coffee emporium in San Francisco is found shot, killed by a single bullet, and the owner, a prominent woman, niece of the mayor and sister of a supervisor, is accused of the deed. Hardy has his work cut out for him to defend her with the police and prosecution stacking the cards against the defendant with little or no evidence. She is charged with a second murder as well. Both victims were known to her while they were in college and she was present at the scenes of their deaths around the time of the events. Hardy's friend Glitsky is distracted throughout by an accident to his son and the investigation had proceeded without his supervision.

The tension mounts as the trial progresses, and the complicated plot provides an intriguing mystery for this, the author's 20th novel. Fluidly written, sometimes Hardy's leaps of knowledge defy one's imagination, but, after all, that's what makes the genre appealing. Recommended.

Passport to Peril
Robert B. Parker
Hard Case Crime
c/o Winterfall LLC, 301 E. 62nd St., NY, NY 10065
Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
9780843961198 $6.99 800-481-9191

Long before Smiley and other Cold War characters took the stage, Robert B. Parker wrote a spy story set in Russian-occupied Budapest just after World War II. No, not the Parker who created Spenser, but an adventurous wartime foreign correspondent of the same name. It was published in 1951 and has now been reprinted by Hard Case Crime.

It tells the story of John Stodder, a newspaperman whose brother was lost in an air raid over Budapest toward the end of the war, and he wants to find out what happened to him. However, the Russians wouldn't allow him a visa, and he enters the country with a supposedly forged passport of a Swiss watch-and-clock exporter and even purchases the man's seat on the Orient Express when he doesn't show up.

From this point, the complications grow and the confusion mounts with competing interests attempting to gain access to information they think the protagonist brought with him from Vienna, the starting point for the trip. Russians, Americans, even defeated Nazis vie in an exciting chase to the end. Written with verve, the book certainly set a standard for those of the genre to follow, and is recommended.

Rain Gods
James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439128244 $25.99 800-223-2336

An enigmatic new protagonist is introduced in this novel of nearly epic proportions. Sheriff Hackberry Holland, cousin of Billy Bob Holland, featured in many of the author's previous novels, confronts his past and present evils in his small Texas border town, accompanied by his deputy, Pam Tibbs, who provides backup. To start with, the brutal murder of nine Thai women obsesses Hackberry until a final confrontation with psychopaths, hired killers and assorted lowlifes.

Holland is a tragic character, haunted by the death of a wife with whom he was very much in love, as well as his time as a POW in a North Korean-Red Chinese prison camp during the Korean "Police Action." His methods are somewhat unconventional, as are his thought processes.

Deeply drawn characters inhabit these pages, with the prose sometimes rambling on so the reader wonders why it is slow going. However, the story draws the reader on and on in an effort to discover what's going to happen. In the end, it comes down to a battle of wills. Recommended.

The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu
Michael Stanley
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061252495 $25.99 800-242-7737

Following the successful introduction of Detective David "Kubu" Bengu in "A Carrion Death," the writing duo of Stanley Trollip and Michael Sears have followed up with another excellent novel featuring the rotund Botswanan. In addition to drawing a colorful character, the authors depict the African landscape, people and environment with realism.

The case begins in an area which includes the confluence of Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia, providing the setting for illegal smuggling and international tensions. At a rustic hunting camp, two murders followed by others lead Kubu and his associates on a merry chase. Initially, the theory is a drug trade gone bad. But as the investigation progresses the past and present turmoil in what was formerly Rhodesia provide other possibilities.

The combination of the colorful black detective and an unusual setting provides readers with an entertaining read, in a complex and compelling mystery. Recommended.

All the Dead Voices
Declan Hughes
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061689888 $25.99 800-242-7737

The Troubles. At the heart of much Irish history is the violence committed by the Irish Republican Army. And The Troubles plays a very important role in this latest Ed Loy novel of crime and the contemporary Irish scene.

Actually there are two parallel stories unfolding amid the history of the fight for Irish independence. One is a simple case of murder, for which a man served five years before his appeal earned him a release from prison on a technicality. Unsure of the man's guilt or innocence, the victim's daughter retains Loy to find the real murderer, and suggests as the possible perpetrator any one of three persons who the murdered man, a government auditor, had suspected of tax evasion.

As it turns out, the three men were active in the IRA. In addition, Loy suspects one of them to be responsible for the murder of a friend's brother who Loy was supposed to "keep an eye on." The investigation, together with the entry of the IRA into the drug business, leads to a dark tale in this author's fourth Dublin thriller. Rich in Irish history, and written with an insider's knowledge, Mr. Hughes writes with passion, and the novel is recommended.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

Mage-Guard of Hamor, Saga of Recluce
L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765358820 $7.99

Mage-Guard of Hamor is the sequel to Modesitt's Natural Order Mage and the fifteenth novel in the Recluce Series. Young Mage-Guard Rahl, banished from his homeland because of problems with his magical talents, is now living in the country of Hamor. Rahl is childish and still has much to learn. A powerful mage-guard takes him under his wing and begins to help Rahl learn more about his great magical talent and how to control it. Along the way, Rahl begins to mature.

Rahl finds himself caught up in a rebellion against the emperor of Hamor. He and his mentor must fight those who would destroy their homeland to serve their own greed.

Modesitt's detailed descriptions of battle scenes and day-to-day life and customs in Hamor are interesting and believable. While there are many similarities and common threads running through all Modesitt's books, I still find them entertaining and always want to read more.

Imager: The First Book of the Imager Portfolio
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765320346 $25.95

This is the first book in Modesitt's new series. Rhennthyl is working his way towards being a master portrait painter when he discovers he has magical abilities in which he can imagine things and make them real. Now he must join with others of his kind and learn more of his craft. Imagers such as Rhennthyl live apart from the rest of society, for their own protection as well as that of others. They do secret and important work for their country and often make enemies.

Rhennthyl must learn to control his magic, while following all the strict rules imagers must live by. The young imager lives in a land of people uncomfortable with his kind and where there are some major problems that will have to dealt with.

In Imager, Modesitt creates a whole new world with its own magic. I always look forward to adventures with new characters and magical systems. I like the way the author gives details of the everyday lives of his characters. It seems more real and allows me to feel like I'm living each scene. I've enjoyed all the author's books and never tire of reading another one. This one is no exception.

For more information on the author and all his books you can go to his website:

Victoria Kennedy

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design