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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 10, Number 10 October 2010 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Christina Johns' Bookshelf
Christy's Bookshelf Clark's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf
Debra's Bookshelf Edward's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gondelman's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf
Harwood's Bookshelf Karlene's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf
Katz's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Molly's Bookshelf Nicole's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf
Peggy's Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf Riva's Bookshelf
Sandra's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf

Reviewer's Choice

Shadows Over Paradise
Anne K. Edwards
Twilight Times Books
PO Box 3340, Kingsport, TN 37664
978160619354, $19.95 (pb), $6.50 (pdf)

Christina Francine Whitcher

This is not your ordinary mystery. Edwards knows how to make reader's skin prickle with wonder and shockingly plausible scenes. With her recently published book, Shadows Over Paradise, readers might think they know what is going to happen next, believe they have the plot-line figured out, but they won't. Edwards shifts gears in unsuspected ways, so much so that readers will truly be surprised.

Edward's heroine, Julia, believes her trip to the Mantuan Islands offers a fond memory, one of watching her friend Suzanne marry. She'll have a memory all right, but a fond one? Doubtful. She'll find adventure though and mystery. There will be danger too - something she didn't ask for. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. After awhile, Julia isn't sure she'll make it off the island alive. Before she knows it, she discovers Suzanne's groom has been murdered. Julia doesn't want to stumble upon more, yet fate thrusts more into her lap and she's involved up to her delicate neck. She's even a suspect in the murder.

Shadows of Paradise is a fun read. Edward's imagination combined with delightful revelations make it so. This book is for those wanting more from their mysteries, from their adventures, and light romances. Enthralling.

The Novel: An Alternative History
Steven Moore, author
Continuum Publishing Group
80 Maiden Lane, Suite 704, NY, NY 10038
9781441177049, $39.95,

Christopher WunderLee

If you read books nowadays, you're a bit of a square. If you read literature, well, you're some kind of sadomasochist 'cause you're going to get abused for being so out-of-touch, so 20th century, so - as it turns out - 4th century BCE.

And, it doesn't help that the recent recipient of Time magazine's title for "Great American Novelist" - Mr. Jonathan Franzen - continuously and very publically declares his disdain for 'difficult fiction' (that's essentially any book with any artistic merit), but it makes sense. It makes sense that our most-celebrated novelist would argue passionately that fiction should create a 'contract' with the reader and thus, negotiate for their attention - this is the 21st century after all and everything, including the future, is on the market.

But, the paradox of Franzen not being able to get through a book by, say William Gaddis, while simultaneously being lauded as our greatest wordsmith has led to some good… Turns out, it prompted Steven Moore to pen the voluminous, enchanting, The Novel: An Alternative History.

This is Moore (a name you cannot help but like ever since Erasmus teased his pal Tom) leaping into a dirty fight raging over literature and whether it is okay to convey a bit of intelligence in the novel. For years now, we've had Franzen whining about 'serious' writers being too erudite and making it hard for readers to understand immediately every word on the page (and Ben Marcus valiantly disagreeing). Franzen advocates a kind of exchange between the reader and writer in which both parties agree no one is going to try out any of those pesky things like literary devices or refer to some influential scribbler that came before. For Franzen, some writer actually trying to create art from fiction is just out for 'status' (never mind that this is the guy on the cover of Time {does anyone read Time anymore?} bragging about his standing).

Franzen is aided and abetted by The New Yorker's James Wood, who made a name for himself across the pond reviling good writers because he felt writer weren't upset enough about 9/11 and then, just decided afterwards that we all need to share our feelings a lot more. He got mad at Zadie Smith for not being maternal enough and trying to write something that would make a reader's head do some work. He wants to know how things feel and stands behind a strict 'realist' mode that leaves no wiggle room for innovation or deep thought or some dimwit trying to make sense of it all in the oddest of places - a novel. No, for Wood, fiction is struggling because there are just too many smarty pants out there recounting how profound their navel lint is and not enough melodramatic ventures into the id of invented souls. These are the two heavyweights right now jabbing anyone who dares write something other than straight prose.

This all is nothing new. Writers, critics and reviewers have been butting heads and calling each other names over fiction and how it should be written (and how it should be read) since the day it was invented. And that's what is so profound about Mr. Moore's book. When was the novel invented and what was the reason for it? Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with Steve Jobs or the Kindle.

In college (well at least at my college), they tell you the novel is some sort of absurd love child of tall tales from the age of discovery and the true (whatever that means) stories of actual sea voyages (at the time, nearly as fantastic) that continued to mature on into the 19th century. This is where Franzen, Wood, and a cadre of angry realists base their assertions that we all need to calm down, take a deep breath and write just like Fielding or Austen or Flaubert.

Moore is out to correct them. He doesn't so much poke holes in their arguments but comes out with bigger guns. In The Novel: An Alternative History, he very kindly details the true history, and argues - quite convincingly - why those obnoxious Joyces, Becketts, Woolfs, Faulkners, Gaddis, Pynchons, Smiths, Wallaces, et al are actually carrying on a tradition as old as the idea of fiction, and that it's the realists, so dependent on Balzac and Flaubert, that misunderstand that the novel doesn't have to be so structured, so one way and no other.

Moore goes to great lengths to tear into their assumptions, but more importantly, to correct them -- things have been pretty weird ever since people started telling stories. Novel is, of course, besides a book of fiction (or however you want to define it), an adjective, which means, "of a new kind; different from anything seen or known before".

This is important, it's significant, because novel writing is this rare place where being artistic is now considered bad. Not only bad, honestly, but a hindrance, a handicap, a flaw. If you try something innovative, something not done before (you'll probably not actually be the first, as Moore points out), you're some kind of obnoxious, self-absorbed poetaster pretending to be a novelist. Franzen, Wood and their cohorts have been successful in getting some of our most prestigious publications (Harper's, the Atlantic, the New Republic, the New Yorker, et cetera) to present their anti-art arguments as sound theses and this has perpetuated this line immeasurably.

There really is a struggle going on - an entire industry is trying to thrust forward the entertainment side of reading novels (even while they acknowledge that greater forms of entertainment are knocking the crap out of it) versus this small, academic, independent, pretty lonely group of misfits clinging to the idea that a novel should be/could be great art. There's plenty of books out there for those who want entertainment, but the pickings for those of us who want/expect the kind of artistic expression inherent in painting, sculpture, et cetera is seriously slim. This is pretty good evidence that the industry and their mouth pieces are kicking the ever living crap out of the artsy fartsy types.

Someone has to stick up for the losers. Moore's trying to take on this role, saying: hey, wait a minute, the very argument presented by those that criticize innovation in the novel is flawed. He traces it way back, and wags a well supported finger at the dullards merging Nicholas Sparks with Hemingway. And, he does it with wit, wisdom and plenty of footnotes (David Foster Wallace would be proud).

The Novel: An Alternative History is then an attempt to shock and awe the other side into acquiescence (or at least some understanding). We've got more information and history and better writers on our side. Unfortunately, that's the flaw. We've always had more information and history and better writing on our side. It's these very things - learning, historical context, allusions, references, inspired prose, etc. - that make the serious novel the endangered species that it is today.

It's these very things that make a writer like Franzen pissed. There's that guilty gut feeling that he should - as a serious writer - read Gaddis, but he has an entire industry (and thus, an entire culture) in his corner assuring him it's okay if he doesn't want to put the time and effort in studying a novel. It doesn't mean you're stupid. It doesn't mean maybe you shouldn't be a novelist - it means that Gaddis guy was a real jerk for thinking you could try something new, maybe expand your idea of what a novel is in order to read him.

Moore's tome is then more of a struggle to get the artistic novel off the ropes. It is a scholarly attempt to set the record straight and a defense against the volley of (undeserved) criticism heaped on just about any writer who dares to try to 'make it new'. Unfortunately, the strength of Moore's book is its Achilles heal, the very things that prove his point are those things that Franzen, et al, detest, fear, misunderstand, and they have louder voices.

The pop-writers have the novel pretty well licked. The Novel: An Alternative History is well put together and finely argued. It presents its case and one would think that would entitle it to some justice. But, as Oscar Crease can attest, that doesn't mean the other side will acknowledge the evidence.

Duchamp: A Biography
Calvin Tomkins
Holt Paperbacks
c/o Henry Holt & Company
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
9780805057898, $20.00,

Gay Donahue

Ever question the validity of that "urinal" that was passed off as art in all your Art History books? Well, this book provides the answer not only to the story behind it, but why it still is considered the harbinger of modern art. Marcel Duchamp, perhaps one of the most enigmatic and important 20th century masters of art, furnishes Tomkins with a beguiling yet lovable, complex yet simple topic in this 465-page study. This chronological study of Duchamp's very prodigious life encompasses the most important years for modern art and the two most important geographical hot spots, Paris and New York.

This biography is clearly a tour de force on 20th century art; its genesis and its evolution. Refreshingly not a dry stylistic analysis, the book is a thoughtful narrative into the why of modern art. This reviewer highly recommends this biography not only for its extensively researched content, but also for its narrative-style writing.

Red Rain
Bruce Murkoff
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307272072, $26.95,

John Filson

Red Rain, second novel by author Bruce Murkoff is a powerfully written look at a small community of completely realistic characters (you will begin to feel as though you are one of them) surviving and striving to make a life for themselves while the civil war is carried on at a distant roar. This writer cuts no slack. When he writes about the cruelty of man to man, it is visceral. When he writes about pain, whether physical or emotional, you cringe.

I initially picked up this book because I am a civil war buff. It quickly became obvious that this is not a war saga, but a closely observed look at the people left behind. They are at a distance from battle, carrying on with life, and yet suffering. The parallels to our contemporary situation are obvious, without ever being called to the forefront of the story. Bullies, entrepreneurs, hardworking women, grieving wives and children abandoned by society all find their voices in this beautifully crafted book.

Readers who long for depth of character and language that does not insult the intellect will love Red Rain. The Library journal recommended it "for smart people", Publisher's Weekly called it a deliberate and lush saga, and the Washington Post said, "Red Rain is an engaging and bloody-minded read, a historical novel of great conviction that hints at a dark vision of the American present through its confident handling of our past."

Those are words of high praise to which I would like to add my own: This is without question the best book I have read in years. It provides all the glories of books past, books that keep a reader reading even in the face of lower standards and mass publications of celebrity author books. This book is worth buying, worth keeping, and even more, worth sharing with a friend. It's one of those books you'll read more than once.

I would call Red Rain a satisfying read, but that would be false. It actually leaves you wanting more. To that end, I have ordered the writer's first novel, Waterborne. Could it be as good as his second? I'll let you know.

Instruments of the State
D.W. Aossey
Progressive Press
P.O. Box 126, Joshua Tree, Calif. 92252
16156777571, $14.95,

Lois Wells Santalo

Given the interest in the subject, this book has the potential for becoming a blockbuster. It deals with a supposed American/Israeli plot behind 9/11, beginning with its bungled first attempt in 1993. Though labeled fiction, it is in fact a roman a clef in which, under fictional names, many of the characters are easily identified. Not Bush but Cheney (as Chase) is the mastermind here.

Following closely the historical account of events of the years 1993 to 2001, the author has stayed with the facts and avoided such tired fictional techniques as inventing an embattled protagonist who's onto the plot and determined to stop it. There is no contrived wannabe "savior," no chase, none of the gimmicks producing the breathless suspense of the thriller. Instead, the story seems authentic and reads like documentary non-fiction, so real the reader begins to look for footnotes.

Presenting details as if they were fact, the technique is reminiscent of The DaVinci Code. Instruments of the State is billed on the cover as a gripping political spy thriller. Personally, I did not find it so; I found it a book that required careful reading and much thought. I found myself checking out recent historical events through a history website on the Internet, since, if even part of the plot is true, then it seemed every American ought to know about it. A grave injustice has been done to Islam.

The author's theory almost totally absolves the Muslims. Not only, in this version, were no Muslims involved in the actual destruction of the Towers, but American politicians and CIA, aided by a few corrupt Israelis, planned the whole thing with the aim of turning American public opinion against the Islamic world. By painting Islam as threatening, they make it acceptable to initiate a war with Iraq and Afghanistan and guarantee our hegemony over Middle East oil reserves. The one Israeli who raises objections, the only somewhat ethical person in the book, is murdered within hours of admitting his doubts.

As everyone knows by now, the idea is not new. There are several nonfiction books available on the conspiracy theory. Andreas von Bulow's The CIA and September Eleven, currently a best seller in Europe, proposes, as does Aossey, that the Arab hijackers may not even have been aware of the planned destruction of the buildings, and that the pilot himself may not have been a Muslim.

The book is full of disturbing images: children being tortured, abused and brain-washed until they grow up ready to do anything asked of them including flying a plane into a building, a Vietnamese who remembers the Napalm attacks on his country and longs to fight back against the Western world. The reader feels tempted to protest that nothing that bad could happen through American auspices - until recollections of Abu Ghraib and other atrocities surface, along with the horrible realization that everything the author describes is possible.

Though I question the label of thriller, the book is chilling and undeniably has the ring of truth. The opening chapters call for considerable concentration as they bounce back and forth through the years with each chapter introducing a new player in the game and a new time period - but it's well worth the effort to follow the narrative since it all comes clear in the end and has the ring of truth.

Healey's Cave
Aaron Paul Lazar
Twilight Times Books
PO Box 3340 Kingsport TN 37664
9781606191620 $16.95

Natalie Neal Whitefield

When I began to read Healey's Cave, a new novel by Aaron Paul Lazar, the author and the book immediately captivated me.

I was and still am especially intrigued by how the author as artist has drawn his characters. He sketches the relationship of man and wife in soft strokes, like a lovely pen and ink drawing on fine paper. A grandparent taking delight in the love of his grandchildren, is a pastel portrait framed in gold. Childhood friendships drenched in sepia tones are like old photographs in a long forgotten album taken from the shelf. Flowers in a garden, horses long gone from their stalls in a barn, the feel of leaf mold in the hands of a man who loves the earth - are sense memories so strong, that individuals spontaneously manifest themselves in complete fullness upon the page.

The pace of the book from the very beginning also is to my liking. Nothing is rushed. There is no leap headlong into a maze of frantic action nor is there a plunge into needless back-story. There is a gracious and soft unfolding of detail, layer upon layer, as if one were looking at a painting of a lush landscape.

At first we see the truth of things as through the mists of the natural world in early morning. Gradually the early light matures, and forms emerge; moment-by-moment, hour-by-hour, the mid-day comes. Characters reveal themselves. The story unfolds.

Sam Moore is a methodical man, used to figuring out mysteries in life by using tried and true principles. He has honed his solid intellect during many years as a physician and isn't prone to imagining things. He begins the very first day of his retirement from private practice with a degree of certainty that he would eventually like being away from the office, but before the day is over he is not quite sure whether or not he will be able to keep from going crazy.

Sam loves to work in his garden. And now that he has time to spend there, he hopes his love of the soil will soothe and smooth the inevitable feelings of transition he expects to experience. Instead, he begins an adventure of mind, heart and spirit that will shake him to the core of his being.

It all begins with the innocent discovery of a marble in the soft friable earth. One of those big, bright, green glowing cat's eye marbles kids used to call "shooters". The marble flashes scenes of his boyhood, flashes of remembrance of his younger brother Billy, who had been so dear, the brother whose disappearance had left behind an unsolved mystery and a hole in Sam Moore's heart. The marble seemed alive in his hand, glowing and almost hot to the touch, reminding Sam that this, the first day of his retirement, was also the anniversary of his brother's birth.

…memory flashed through him - brief, but palpable. Billy and he, aged twelve and eleven, had walked barefoot on the hot pavement after a spring rain. Soft tar warmed their feet. Rain puddles sizzled and misted on the road. The boys laughed, then raced home to dinner. Steak, corn on the cob, baked potatoes, and salad. Billy's favorite. Sam checked the date on his watch. May twenty-fourth. Billy turns sixty-one today.

The little boy who slept in the bottom bunk, who breathed hot, sweet breath on his face when they hid in the closet beneath the stairs, who offered his sticky hand during scary movies, and who mysteriously disappeared on his eleventh birthday - would be sixty-one today.

He closed his eyes and let the wind blow across his face. The breeze lifted his hair. Sam felt the cool soft touch brush his leathery skin. He pictured his brother communicating with him from Heaven. He'd often imagined it, and was comforted by the thought.

Had it really been fifty years? Was he hearing his brother speak to him from across the void?

A strange ritualistic serial killer had been targeting young boys every five years since the time of Billy's disappearance. Could Billy have been one of his victims? Bodies of other young boys had been found. But Billy simply had disappeared without a trace. Questions swirled and whirled in Sam's mind. Was the killer still alive? Would he strike again? Was his own grandson a potential target?

Aaron Lazar is a master storyteller. The sense of intrigue never dims in this book. As we look over Sam Moore's shoulder into the fire of the Green Marble, we are drawn with him into an experience of the paranormal, seeing into the unseen worlds he unearths, never to rest until we know the whole truth about what happened to his brother Billy - and to the others.

Though never fond of detective stories or murder mysteries myself, even when written by such greats as PD James, or Agatha Christie, I now must confess that I feel quite compelled to read all of Aaron's novels. I love a good story. This is one of the most intriguing stories I have read in a very long time.

Healey's Cave is the first of the Green Marble Mysteries, a riveting paranormal series by Aaron Paul Lazar, which feature our hero Sam Moore; t released by Twilight Times Books under the Paladin Timeless Imprint on August 28th 2010, it will soon will be followed by One Potato, Blue Potato in 2011, and For Keeps in 2012. For more information, see:

Aaron Paul Lazar tells us that he "writes to soothe his soul." The author of LeGarde Mysteries and Moore Mysteries enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys.

Bethany's Bookshelf

Laundry Wisdom
Carin Froehlich
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440198021, $11.95,

There are things so simple that's it's hard to believe you didn't think about it, especially when it comes to conservation. "Laundry Wisdom: Instructions for a Greener & Cleaner Life" is a unique take on finding better ways to improve the planet, and her own experiences with it. From getting it done now, going green and the troubles one occasionally encounters, and green money savers, "Laundry Wisdom" is a thoughtful and intriguing look at Carin Froehlich's life as well as how to be greener, highly recommended.

The Ties that Bind
Dana DeRuvo Davis
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 E. Trade Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
9781616632977, $9.99,

Faced with the challenges of disability, it's all too easy for parents to give up. "The Ties That Bind: One Family's Journey of Compassion with a Special needs Child" tells the story of Dana DeRuvo facing her young child's crippling medical troubles and coping with the fact that he won't be able to live up to society's standards of normal. "The Ties That Bind" is a remarkable journey of getting the strength to continue on in the name of parental love.

Rachel Ann Nunes
Shadow Mountain
9781606412435 $17.99

When you can read the remains of emotions, it can prove hard to use such a power well. "Imprints" is a mystery with a unique heroine. Autumn Rain can read imprints, the remains of emotions left on treasured items. Charged with a missing persons case, she works with conventional Detective Martin and Private Eye McConnell in hopes of finding the missing girl before it's too late and all their work will be for naught. An intriguing blend of fantasy and mystery, "Imprints" is a fun and fascinating read, not to be missed.

Letters to Millie
Neal Powers
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781450237161 $15.95

Standing up for honor and justice carries a massive price. "Letters to Millie" tells the story of crime and punishment in Raleigh, North Carolina. A grieving drunkard Raymond finds himself helping the Sheriff and the grocer as these three are pitted against the drug ring that seems to be corrupting their town. Crooked lawyers, political upheaval, make their struggle all the more rough. A riveting story of overcoming tragedy, "Letters to Millie" is a fine read of suspense, recommended.

Shadow Cay
Leona Bodie
WRB Publishing
Palm City, FL 34990
9780984419814 $19.95

The search for morality and justice often finds you none. "Shadow Cay" tells the story as two justice seekers in Madeleine and Peter find themselves up against greed and corruption against a powerful corporation. Through their investigations, they may be risking their lives in this mystery set in the beautiful region of Miami and the Bahamas. "Shadow Cay" is a fascinating read, not to be overlooked.

The P. Word
Renee Rosch Lewis
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440187346 $12.95

A romantic retreat to Europe for the rest of their days only sounds good on paper. "The P Word: Provence Traps and Initiates the Unwary" tells the story of Andy and Margaret Becker, as they embark on their journey to the small quiet and sleepy French town. A humorous fish out of water story, "The P. Word:" is a story for anyone who has had a vacation that wasn't as relaxing as they'd hope.

The Science of Life
Ronnie Lee
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432758639 $34.95

Some things in life can't be quantified by numbers. "The Science of Life: Philosophical Equations of Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Religion" is a discussion that seeks to blend science with philosophy and religion, with a unique format from Ronnie Lee, a Chinese poet and philosopher. Giving readers a lot to ponder and think about and discussing major scientific breakthroughs and discoveries, done in a poetic style, "The Science of Life" is a unique experience that will be hard to match.

The All-Wise Being: A Tale of God and Republicans
Laura Reasoner Jones
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9780557195268 $25.20

God and faith drive many families forward, and sometimes into politics. "The All-Wise Being: A Tale of God and Republicans" is a family memoir from Laura Reasoner Jones as she looks back at her family and the Republicans of Indiana and how they came to become major players in Indiana politics through the first half of the twentieth century. "The All-Wise Being" is a remarkable and poignant read for those with an interest in Indiana politics.

Flood Stage
Kate Scannell
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781451552454 $11.99

When a flood is approaching, many see it as a warning to move to safety. These people have other plans. "Flood Stage" tells the story of an assortment of individuals who are all struggling with their own lives as a torrential downpour soaks their Thalburg Canyon homes into a flood zone. Some seek their end to end their pain, others look for a chance at redemption, and others still have their own stories of life and death. Touching and poignant, "Flood Stage" is a fine novel that shouldn't be missed.

The Beatitudes For Today? Really?
Patricia Stinson, Inc.
PO Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402-2399
9781609101329 $11.95

It can be hard to understand much of the Bible in a modern context. "The Beatitudes for Today? Really?" is a thoughtful take on the Beatitudes, a collection of verses in the book of Matthew, Chapter 5. A book about persecution of faith, the meek, and poverty, some find it hard to relate in today's world of abundance, freedom, and individuality. With an analysis explaining why these verses remain relevant, "The Beatitudes for Today? Really" is an enlightening read with much to teach. Really.

Please, Sir
Rachel Kramer Bussel, editor
2246 Sixth St., Berkeley, CA 94710
9781573443890, $14.95,

The only thing sexier than power is having it and displaying it. "Please, Sir: Erotic Stories of Female Submission" is erotica aimed at those men and women who like the fairer sex showing a bit of obedience in their relationships, or having that obedience instilled. Spanking, bondage, and other racy elements are interwoven within the stories and make for quite the titillating read. "Please, Sir" is a choice read, and a highly recommended one for erotica readers.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

The Levi Genes
O. E. Vey
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432726072 $18.95

An invisible space wizard, an alien's science project, the ideas on humanity's origins are plentiful. "The Levi Genes: A Simple Factualized Tale of Evolution and the Gene Pool" is a humorous novel that proves O. E. Vey's own take on humanity's origins poking the fun out how far humanity has came and how little has changed. Sure to make readers ponder the world as well as laugh, "The Levi Genes" is not a read to be missed.

Faith & Football
Josh Steed
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781449003654 $15.99

There's more to God and the pigskin then the pregame prayer. "Faith & Football" is a discussion of how faith and football commonly intersect, and how they do so in many more ways than one. With interviews with many NFL players as they reflect on how God has driven them on the field, author Josh Steed wants other ball players to take this wisdom and inspire them to be better on the field as well as in the Church. "Faith & Football" has some powerful messages, very highly recommended reading.

Winning Beyond the Scoreboard
Lamont Turner
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134\
9780578039923, $24.95,

There's only one score that ultimately matters. "Winning Beyond the Scoreboard: as the UNDERDOg" is a Christian inspirational guide encouraging readers to embrace their inner underdog, and how to understand which scoreboards in life truly matter. With much faith and assurance that underdogs can win in the bigger game of life, "Winning Beyond the Scoreboard" is a pick not to be missed by Christian readers.

Manny Jones and the Place
Eli Just
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
1608360547, $29.95,

When you're out to escape the world and chill, strange things can prevent your relaxation. "Manny Jones and the Place" is the first book of the Manny Jones series, following Jones and his love of the blues as he gathers a band and Abel of Cain & Abel fame and are faced with the coming apocalypse in 2012. "Manny Jones and the Place" is an intriguing and warped take on the apocalypse, highly recommended.

Danville, Virginia
Michael Swanson
Privately Published
9781449988050, $15.95

The development of a small town can be a snapshot of the development of a country. "Danville, Virginia: And the Coming of the Modern South" analyzes this small town in the south, as Michael Swanson traces its history back from the fall of the Confederacy, through world wars into the modern town it is today. Political turmoil, social turmoil, and more, Swanson gives a complete and thought provoking history of the town. "Danville, Virginia" is a fine addition to any history collection.

Follow the Money
Ross Cavins
Privately Published
9780982772003, $13.99,

Through the avenues of the world, we're all connected in some way. "Follow the Money" is a collection of ten short stories from Ross Cavins as he presents a humorous take on the world. Presenting an overlying narrative throughout these stories, his thoughts on the world will entertain as well as introduce his own special brand of philosophy. "Follow the Money" is a piece of humor well worth seeking for short fiction fans.

Walking on Electric Air
Stephen Cubine
Privately Published
9781450501965, $19.95

When you're grasping at the straws trying to make sense of it all, a little companionship goes a long way. "Walking on Electric Air" is the novel of Dottie, a woman with a rough life, facing institutionalization. Meeting with Shelby, a man who runs an auto shop and isn't the epitome of happiness and success himself. Together, they might find something of a better life, but through their travels, they'll learn life is never easy. "Walking on Electric Air" is not a read to be overlooked, with much many readers will relate to.

God Is Not an Option
Gregory Allen Doyle
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
978144847300, $24.95,

Where does God stand in one's life? "God is Not an Option" is a collection of writings and musings from Gregory Allen Doyle as he seeks to express his belief and faith in God, stating that whether you worship or believe in him or not, God is embroiled in all of our lives and will have his place no matter what. Thoughtful and spiritual, "God is Not an Option" is well worth considering for Christian readers.

Nick Scott
Privately Published
9780615357393, $19.95,

Faced with paralysis from the waist down, some abandon their dreams. Nick doesn't. "Journey" is a memoir from Nick Scott as a car crash confines him to a wheel chair to how he became an icon of wheelchair bodybuilding, encouraging greater fitness and strength for the muscles he has left and emphasizing them. A story of not giving up against adversity, "Journey" encourages readers to never give up in the face of tragedy and makes for a powerful read with "Journey".

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Making Believers
Linda Amato
Privately Published
9780741458803, $14.95,

Love is not just a romantic desire, it is a necessity. "Making Believers: Connect to the Light Within..." is the story of Gracie and Amanda, two girls starved from the love in their lives. Faced with abuse through their lives, the only kindness they can find is each other. Through their travels they try to find what love is and find their search for it not so easy to fulfill. "Making Believers" is a fine tale of the need for comfort in one's life, highly recommended.

Too Many Secrets
Louis Joseph Barbier
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162574, $26.95,

With an unusual skillset, Jack and John have a mission beyond being expert snipers. "Too Many Secrets" is a novel following the two as they are sucked into a plot that goes beyond the mundane. From their own powers of telepathy and the ability to talk to felines, to more, "Too Many Secrets" is a unique action and adventure novel that is sure to intrigue and entertain.

Arizona Free
Doug Martin
Kanspira Publishing
650 Tamarack Ave #2306, Brea, CA 92821
9780984450008, $7.99,

A clever marketing campaign may turn out to be more than clever. "Arizona Free" tells the story of the brand new product, DiNAmite, a hot new drink that catches the taste buds of Jason, Tony, and Cloe. The secret ingredient is however, dinosaur DNA and this drink does more than give a dose of caffeine. Humorous and an absurd take on corporate greed, "Arizona Free" is a choice pick for humorous fiction collections.

Spaceship Earth
Tom Schwartz
Reagent Press
PO Box 362, East Olympia, WA 98540-0362
9781575451510, $10.99,

The universe is finite, and its time is coming to end. "Spaceship Earth" tells the story of how mankind must find a way to live through the universe's creation, a big bang situation. To survive, scientists have a plan that will take billions of years to execute, and require complete cooperation to save humanity. Easier said than done. A riveting story of speculative fiction, "Spaceship Earth" is intriguing and very highly recommended.

Tahoe Heat
Todd Borg
Thriller Press
PO Box 551110, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96155
9781931296182, $16.95,

When one man's life is falling apart, it might be up to a single detective to find out why. "Tahoe Heat" is the story of Detective Owen McKenna and his investigation of the collapsing life of Ryan Lear. Lear is faced with death threats, sudden deaths of neighbors and friends, and the haunting vision of a mustang in a forest. With little to go on, "Tahoe Heat" is a riveting thriller that will be hard to put down.

A Beautiful Death
Cheryl Eckl
Flying Crane Press
PO Box 355, Littleton, CO 80160-0355
9780982810705, $15.95,

You can live gracefully and you can die gracefully. "A Beautiful Death: Facing the Future with Peace" is a guide to facing death, be it your own or a loved ones, with dignity and strength. Telling her story of living with a husband diagnosed with terminal cancer and time is the only thing stopping death. Her stories enlighten the reader on how to approach it with care and make it a beautiful experience. "A Beautiful Death" is a choice pick.

The White Bear
Tal Leverett
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540, Castroville, TX 78009
9781935605553, $16.95,

Nature can be the big part of the lives of many. "The White Bear" is Tal Leverett telling the story of how a white bear mother saved his son from drugs and a life lived is destitution. The bear inspires his son to become an outdoors-man and the lifestyle turns his life around. A remarkable story of nature and its amazing creatures, "The White Bear" is not a read to be missed.

Paradise North
Lon L. Emerick
North Country Publishing
355 Heidtman Road, Skandia, MI 49885-9584
9780965067714, $24.95,

Northern Michigan is no place for the thin skinned. "Paradise North: Seasons in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan" is a guide to the numerous seasons of Northern Michigan, where its position gives it very cold winters, but beautiful seasons elsewhere. Season by season, Lon L. Emerick gives readers a unique exploration of the nature of the region, with black and white photos with the occasional color spread through out. With educational text, "Paradise North" is a top pick for those who enjoy the beautiful environment the north can provide.

Said the Spider
Earle E. Van Gilder
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432754334, $16.95,

The worst crimes are the ones you don't know you're committing. "Said the Spider" tells a story of deceit and corruption as Midwestern banking finds itself being corrupted by organized crime without even knowing. As the banks fall apart, it's realized too late as the corruption takes hold; the impending financial downfall will wreak havoc. Investigators are forced to run against the clock to prevent a meltdown, making "Said the Spider" a fascinating and delightful mystery.

Distrust Territory
Donald Denoon
Masalai Press
368 Capricorn Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611
9780971412767, $19.95,

The separation of nations always carries some dilemma. "Distrust Territory" tells the story of Australia and Papua and New Guinea, and their separation from the Australian state. Told through a story of romance between two teachers and their children, he provides an intriguing insight into the lives of the Oceanic nations and its people. "Distrust Territory" is an excellent read, very highly recommended.

My Love Has Fared Inland
Medbh McGuckian
Wake Forest University press
PO Box 7333, Winston-Salem, NC 27109
9781930630482, $12.95,

Failure is only the beginnings of another attempt. "My Love Has Fared Inland" is a collection of poetry from Medbh McGuckian focusing on the attitudes of loss, failure and there place in our lives. Highly educated and experienced, McGuckian provides a poetic treat with "My Love Has Fared Inland." "Broca's Area": How well one can hear the mind of a book/on an east sea road, the gold in sea-water!/Though the water in the lake is quite old/I rediscover dawn and twilight here/as the sea lily experiences the heliopause/of a warm moon paler than grass/that causes the coiled tongue of the frog to unfurl:/Echo, that nymph of words without meaning,/was triply beautiful to this reader of dreams/and gentle drugs; she fevered the orphaned/muscles of his lame hand to marker/for storminess, while black-clad women snow-choked/his separate ice-tongue with their haggard faces./But he also went out by the slaughterhouses.

When the Truth Lies
Timothy Michael Carson
Strebor Books International
c/o Simon & Schuster
c/o Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781593093075, $15.00,

Although many people search for another, they are often only searching for themselves. "When the Truth Lies" is an urban novel telling the story of four determined individuals, out for success in the world but finding that the barriers holding them back are not always so clear. Set in the nightlife of Atlanta, "When the Truth Lies" is a riveting novel and a pick for urban fiction collections.

Irish Twins
Michele Van Ort Cozzens
McKenna Publishing Group
1230 Sandy Point Lane, Lac du Flameau, WI 54538
9781932172362, $19.95,

Motherhood carries a legacy of its own. "Irish Twins: A Story About Life, and Death, Sisterhood and Forgiveness" tells a story of two generations of Irish twins who cope with the legacy that they share between them. Facing the many challenges of life and trying to grasp death and the loss of a sister, "Irish Twins" is a moving read that emphasizes the importance of sisterhood, very highly recommended.

Defying Gravity
Daniel Henderson
Moody Publishers
820 N. LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60610
9780802409522, $14.99,

Becoming a good leader and staying a good leader is something hard to do. "Defying Gravity: How to Survive the Storms of Pastoral Ministry" is a guide to keeping one's head high and staying on task when it comes to being an excellent pastor. Speaking on his own two decades of experience, he gives readers the advice and tools they need to remain that go to church leader even as time tries to wane enthusiasm. "Defying Gravity" is quite the read, and not to be missed by church leaders.

The Room Within
Moore Moran
A Swallow Press Books
Ohio University Press, The Ridges, Athens, Ohio, 45701
9780804011280, $26.95,

Fifty years of experience can be fifty years of entertainment. "The Room Within" is a collection of poetry from Moore Moran, providing a glimpse at the poet's work dating back over the decades as he provides his love for the art and gives much to ponder and think about in the process. "The Room Within" is an excellent collection, not to be missed. "Silent Night": We try, this Christmas Eve, to make things right./But as we meet and share gifts, once love's token,/Our hug's too keen, our smiles too quick and bright,/And through we speak, the final word's been spoken.

The Torturer in the Mirror
Ramsey Clark, Thomas Ehrlich Reifer, Haifa Zangana
Seven Stories Press
140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013
9781583229132, $8.95,

What leads American soldiers to torture prisoners? "The Torturer in the Mirror" examines three different figures and viewpoints to provide an intriguing dissection of thought surrounding torture and how it reflects on the American nation. Investigating torture and its effect on the victims, the nations perpetrating it, and the world as a whole, "The Torturer in the Mirror" is a fascinating and educational dissection of torture and its consequences.

Out of Harm's Way
Sandy K. Wurtele
Parenting Press
11065 Fifth Avenue NE, Suite F, Seattle, WA 98125
9781884734977, $9.95,

Sexual abuse has effects that can last decades on young children. "Out of Harm's Way: A Parent's Guide to Protecting Young Children from Sexual Abuse" is a guide for parents who want be prepared to protect their children from the predators that lurk int heir lives. From spotting problems before they start, learning their methods, and how to educate one's child. "Out of Harm's Way" is a useful tool, very highly recommended.

Boxes of Secrets
Veronica K. Wright
Privately Published
9781450701273, $18.99,

Nothing stays bottled away forever. "Boxes of Secrets" is a reflection of Veronica K. Wright, a woman who had achieved what many would call the ideal life. Faced with her own crippling history, she looks back find that her past still haunted her even as she has happily married. Telling her story of how she came to terms with her distant past, "Boxes of Secrets" is a remarkable tale that Wright hopes will help other women face their past head on, and not let it control them.

Who Said What?
Dale Carson
Bick Publishing House
307 Neck Road, Madison, CT 06443
1884158285, $14.95,

A bit of thoughtfulness goes a long way in living life to the fullest. "Who Said What?: Philosophy Quotes for Teens" is a guide to the many bits and pieces of philosophy from many sources, be they religious, science, political, or social leaders. With simple wisdom spread throughout on many topics, "Who Said What?" is a useful compendium with plenty of thoughtful wisdom aimed at teens who want to be more thoughtful about their lives.

Stripper Pole to Heaven
Hunter Hayes
Privately Published
9780615231129, $15.95,

Stripping is never the career chosen when you're asked what you want to be when you grow up. "Stripper Pole to Heaven" tells the story of Lisette Jones, who through her desire to maintain her quality of life, turns to stripping after her husbands death. When a Bible-obsessed friend tries to help her find a new way, Cynthia is forced to see that Lisette isn't the only one with a troubled life. "Stripper Pole to Heaven" is an intriguing read of faith and the need to live life to the fullest.

Powers of Attorney Simplified
Daniel Sitarz
Nova Publishing Company
1103 W. College St., Carbondale, Il 62901
9781892949561, $29.95,

Power of attorney is a powerful thing to put in someone's hand, but it is necessary on occasion. "Power of Attorney Simplified" is a guide to the many forms of power of attorney and how to apply them where needed. Defining the many varieties, the living will, and more, Daniel Sitarz gives readers a useful resource on when and how to assign such things. "Power of Attorney Simplified" is enhanced with a resource of a CD-ROM filled with formats and files to make it legal, making it a must for anyone who wants to prepared for the many degrees of the worst that can happen.

Richard W. Kelly
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432760625, $14.95,

One man's good can be another man's evil, making the line a blurry one. "Testament" tells the story of Thomas, a slacker with no direction in his life until his survival of a violent shooting leaves him with a certain spirituality journey that lets him discover himself, and the nature of God. A thoughtful story on the basis of good and evil, "Testament" is an intriguing and fun read, not to be missed.

The Lady Actress
Kelly S. Taylor
The Wapshott Press
PO Box 31513, Los Angeles, CA 90031-0513
9780615262505, $14.00,

Women wielding pens was much a much more uncommon thing. "The Lady Actress: Recovering the Lost Legacy of a Victorian American Superstar" is a biography of Anna Cora Mowatt, telling the story of one of the first American playwrights, who got her start in the middle of the nineteenth century. Independent yet traditional, her life was an intriguing duality of the emerging role of the women during her era. An intriguing look at society and the arts through one woman, "The Lady Actress" is a choice pick, highly recommended.

Hell and Gone
Henry Brown Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 9949, College Station, TX 77842
9781602645233, $13.99

The world sits on the brink of nuclear war, and no one is the wiser. "Hell and Gone" tells the story of a lost Russian nuke and how it may be aimed at an Israeli city and how the lost beliefs of a teenager may be the thing that starts World War III and a devastation to the unstable Middle East. The hopes for peace lie on Rocco Cavarra and his special operation troops who must crusade through the region and create some semblance of peace. "Hell and Gone" is an exciting action and adventure novel, highly recommended.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Understanding Strategy
Geoffrey P. Chamberlain
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781450517454 $16.49

A directionless company has the direction of nowhere. "Understanding Strategy" is a discussion of business strategy from Geoffrey Chamberlain, a man with thirteen years of being a CEO at a major Australian company. Stating that having a vision, a strategy, and a plan to get where the company hopes to go is what can make or break both the best and worst companies, he offers much insight for one to give direction to their own companies. "Understanding Strategy" is a thoughtful take on business leadership, highly recommended.

Through Loving Eyes
Dave Caraccioli
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432755836 $19.95

Love is something that needs to be nurtured, left idle, it'll fade away. "Through Loving Eyes" is a collection of poetry from Dave Caraccioli, with a discussion of love and what it means to keep the passion strong. "Through Loving Eyes" is thoughtful and dedicated, recommended reading. "My Valentine": My heart belongs to you and my soul does too!/When I lay down to sleep and you're not there./My heart feels so empty and my mind says it's not fair./The body understands but it yearns for your touch./My mind wants to let you know how I love you so much./All it wants is your lovely body pressed against mine./All I want is for you to be my Valentine!!//Happy Valentine's Day!

Mind, Body, & Spirit
William Pillow
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450236638 $21.95

Truth may need to reconsider itself once in a while. "Mind, Body, and Spirit: Challenges of Science and Faith" is author William Pillow's challenge of traditional dogma and thought as he urges readers to provide their own understanding of their world, offering a metaphysical outlook to the world, telling people to understand their world and be open minded to what may not be traditional understanding of social beliefs. "Mind, Body, and Spirit" is a read for readers who want to gain a better understanding of the metaphysical.

Rasputin's Legacy
Troy Matthew Carnes
Black Rose Writing
9781935605416 $18.95

Rasputin's Legacy is a harrowing, suspenseful novel set in Russia during World War II. Giorgi Lazarov is a young boy who has inherited the power to predict the future from his grandfather, the famous Grigori Rasputin. Adolf Hitler has learned of Lazarov through the machinations of Heinrich Himmler's most talented witch, and Joseph Stalin has learned of Lazarov through the ramblings of a prostitute in an insane asylum who claims to have birthed Rasputin's child. The two most ruthless men in the world, engaged in one of the most savage conflicts in human history, want Lazarov either dead or serving their cause. The people of Ukraine are caught in the midst of a remorseless engine of murder, and hope seems all but lost - yet the Giorgi can see what no one else can, even the one chance for salvation. Rasputin's Legacy is a gripping page-turner to the very end.

France Creates a New Nation
Gilbert Di Lucia
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor, NY, NY 10016
9780533161751 $25.00

France Creates a New Nation: The United States of America at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781 challenges commonly held perceptions of the last great naval battle of the Revolutionary War. Traditionally, students of history have been taught that the Revolutionary War ended when General Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown, Virginia - suggesting that Cornwallis was defeated on the field of battle. France Creates a New Nation focuses on how Cornwallis was pinned down and unable to evacuate; when Admiral Thomas Graves, commander of the British flotilla, tried to aid Cornwallis fleet in Chesapeake Bay, Admiral de Grasse's blockade prevented him. In successfully blockading Cornwallis, the French admiral effectively forced his surrender, ending the Revolutionary War and birthing a new nation. France Creates a New Nation is an aptly researched and presented re-evaluation of American military history, strongly recommended especially for college and academic library collections.

The Butcher's Thumb
Greg Haas
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity (publicity)
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781450206075, $19.95,

Politics isn't the career for the nice guy. "The Butcher's Thumb" is a story of cutthroat politics as author Greg Haas draws on his own long political experience as he paints a tale of backstabbing and political intrigue at the highest level. Where what's right for the people seems to only be of minor consequence, "The Butcher's Thumb" is an exciting and very fun read that is not to be overlooked.

Seven Days from Darwin
John Buckland
Privately Published
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781451519976, $19.95,

Greed is a very powerful motivator in life. "Seven Days from Darwin" tells the story of Robert Mayfair and his travels with the enigmatic Victor Blood. This friendship sends them to the remote island of Pulao Menara and in the pursuit of treasure. But Robert is lead astray and soon finds that the island paradise is anything but. An exciting adventure on the seas, "Seven Days from Darwin" is a fine read, highly recommended.

The Long Swim
Raymond Fabregas
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159703, $13.95,

A photographer does much in capturing the essence of a time. "The Long Swim" explores the life of photographer Alfredo Caldi, assigned to photograph the famed power duo of Juan and Evita Peron in Argentina, as well as an assignment to monitor the long swim of Mario Pezzone. Looking at the social status of Argentina during the time of the Peron government, "The Long Swim" is an enticing blend of history and fiction.

Balance of Assignment
Leon Juarros
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162413, $13.95,

The firefighters are all that stands between a disaster becoming a catastrophe. "Balance of Assignment" tells the story of Leon Juarros, Jr. as he reflects on the life of the professional hero, the fireman. He reflects on his history at his profession, including the 1970s strike in Sacramento, the longest standing strike in Fire fighter history. Insightful about one of the most dangerous professions, "Balance of Assignment" is a fine read and very highly recommended.

Phoebe is Not a Bird
Jack O'Rourke
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162000, $12.95,

It may take a while to realize your soulmate is right there waiting for you. "Phoebe is Not a Bird" is a story as Jack O'Rourke tells the story of how he and his wife Phoebe started as friends and how they both had failed marriages for years before realizing that what they needed to be happy for a lifetime was each other. Touching and charming, "Phoebe is Not a Bird" is quite the read for those looking for a story of a touching romance.

Willful Women
Randall S. Smith
Privately Published
9781452801827, $15.99

PG is too tame for some readers. "Willful Women" is a collection of short stories focusing on the more fun and adult sort of entertainment, murder, scandal, corruption, and of course, sex. With the theme of the willing and able woman for many adventures, Randal S. Smith tells many pulpy and fun stories that will give readers a great deal of fun. "Willful Women" is a fine collection, not to be missed.

Michael J. Carson

Christina Johns' Bookshelf

Festive Fear
Stephen Clark editor
Tasmaniac Publications
P.O. Box 45, Hagley, Tasmania 7292, Australia
9780980636727 $15.95

For those of you ready for a little Christmas strange, wanting to try something new, I give you Festive Fear. This is an anthology containing 14 short stories by Australian writers such as Stephen Studach, Felicity Dowker, Danielle Ferries, Marty Young, Amanda J. Spedding and more. This compilation brings a summer Christmas to readers. Where, as editor Stephen Clark says in his introduction, "the festive period can be hot and dusty - not a snowflake in sight."

With "Christmas Lights," Brett McBean takes us into the kind of Christmas that we are not really used to. As single-parent Doreen deals with her young son thinking he has seen Santa on his way, it is soon that we find the red light the boy sees is not Santa. And Doreen's Christmas surprise for the boy is not a stock pile of toys. This is the darkness of this tale. Quite chilling.

"They had nowhere to go - no home, no family. Everyone else in the area had evacuated. Some had even stopped off and told Doreen to get away, take Luke and leave, now. It wouldn't be long before the area was awash with flame."

Pg. 14, Festive Fear

"Mr. Gallows Christmas Gift," by Josephine Pennicott, is a quiet little story that will get readers to think about the charity work they do on Christmas and what kind of danger there is in the evening. "I'm Dreaming," by Martin Irvings, forces us to think about that beloved "better half" when it comes to gift giving without being too graphic (something readers will appreciate).

Other contributions here are: "Black Peter," by Marty Young, "Christmas Breakdown," by Leigh Haig, "A Creature was Stirring," by Amanda J. Shedding, "The Package," by B. Michael Radburn, "Echt Garampus; or, The Dinkum St. Nicholas Offsider,"by Crisetta MacLeod, "The Bearded Ones," by Felicity Dowker, "The Wish," by Loretta Leslie. "Santa's Little Bitch," by Mark Farrugia, "Little Drummer Girl," by Danielle Ferries and "White Christmas," by Steve Gerlach.

"Daddy's Angel," by Stephen Studach, is a quick look at the Christmas of a Heroin addict who has become estranged from his wife and daughter. Lloyd has invited the two over for a Christmas surprise. The author here really knows how to surprise his readers. A gut wrenching tale.

"This is a showcase of Australian writers," Clark also says in his intro, "A worthy collection to keep the reader turning those pages."

It certainly does that. Worth your time.

Blockade Billy
Stephen King
c/o Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York, 10020
9781451608212, $14.99.

Blockade Billy is the nickname given to a baseball player who was picked in a moment when analysis was absent. No one in charge of the team had a chance to look into this person's background or check credentials. After all, the team had lost two catchers in the span of forty-eight hours. They couldn't be too choosey.

The story is told by an old third base coach, George Grantham (aka Granny). In a picturesque voice, the old man shares how William Blakely, aka Blockade, came to be on the Titans. Later, the old man clues the reader in on Blakely's horrible secret. It is indeed a big surprise.

This story is well paced and easy to read. Working more for baseball fans, the story educates the reader on some of the unseen dimensions of the team the Titans.

"The count goes three and two, right? Anderson off with the pitch, right? Because he can run like the wind and the guy behind the plate's a first-game rook. Genert, that mighty man, gets just under a curve and beeps it - not bloops it but beeps it - behind the pitcher's mound just out of The Doo's reach. He's on it like a cat, though. Anderson's around third and The Doo throws home from his knees."

Blockade Billy, page 23

No individual chapters here, which I really didn't like, so be ready to read when you open the cover of this tale. Don't worry, it goes fast.

This is the edition containing the short story "Morality." I won't ruin "Morality" for you, but will encourage you to read it and not skip over it as I had first thought to do.

This story is about a couple that has to make a life altering decision and what happens after they have made their choice.

"He reached for the aluminum ashtray he kept tucked under the windowsill and butted his cigarette in it. Then he took her hand. 'Tell me.'

He listened with amazement but not disbelief. He sort of wished he could disbelieve it, but he did not."

Morality, page B9

To criticize would be to point out a few typos and some bad language. The foul mouths of the ball team are a negative for the story and not needed here. Even though the cover of the book would lend to belief that it is a book suitable for children, this book is not for children.

If you like Stephen King - if you like baseball - if you like a well paced story: this book is for you.

Let King take you out to the ballgame, you will view the sport from a different angle than before.

Christina Johns

Christy's Bookshelf

Delicious and Suspicious
Riley Adams
Berkley Prime Crime
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425235539, $6.99,

Lulu Taylor is matriarch of a family that runs Aunt Pat's barbeque restaurant, a favorite eatery in Memphis, TN. Hoping to win a spot on the Cooking Channel show, Lulu intends to wow the show's scout, Rebecca Adrian, when she visits. But Rebecca is arrogant, rude, and not so easily impressed with the food or colorful characters gracing Aunt Pat's. Rebecca manages to insult most of the people she meets, and when she's found dead in her hotel room from food poisoning, all eyes turn to Aunt Pat's, the last place she ate. In hopes of saving her restaurant's reputation, Lulu turns amateur sleuth, but suspects keep adding up, most of whom are patrons of Aunt Pat's, some of whom are members of Lulu's own family.

Readers who enjoy eccentric characters will not be disappointed with Adams' first book in her Memphis BBQ mystery series. Adams places the series against an appealing backdrop: Memphis, Tennessee, with its gentle Southern charm, charming vernacular and mouth-watering food. Although the plot at times takes a second seat to a plethora of zany characters, Adam's witty narrative and dialogue move the story along in a fun, entertaining way. An added bonus: great recipes at the end of the book.

Heart with Joy
Steve Cushman
Canterbury House Publishing
225 Ira Harmon Road, Vilas, NC 28692
9780982539637, $14.95,

Fifteen-year-old Julian Hale is not the typical teenage male. Instead of playing sports or actively dating, Julian loves spending time cooking with his mother. Julian's world is upended when his mother unexpectedly moves to Florida and suspects her reason, to manage her parents' motel, is just an excuse. Julian, who rarely interacts with his father, blames him but remains behind, determined to move to Florida after the school year ends. When an elderly neighbor befriends Julian, he begins to enjoy his time with her, feeding and watching the birds in her yard. Through her, Julian begins to understand it's important to know someone other than superficially and to follow one's passion. Since Julian's passion is cooking, he begins to make dinners for his father and befriends a young woman who shares his love for cooking. When school ends, Julian is faced with the decision to move to Florida or stay at home with his father and new friends.

This well-written coming-of-age novel is heartwarming and poignant. Characterization is exceptional and realistic, the plot meaningful and intriguing. The development of the relationship between Julian and his father as it evolves is insightful and well-done. Through Julian's narrative, the reader witnesses his journey of self-discovery, acceptance of his parents' estranged relationship, and love of family and friends.

Jane Sasser
Finishing Line Press
Post Office Box 1626, Georgetown, KY 40324
9781599244976 $14.00,

Jane Sasser's eloquent poems speak of life's journey via memories of childhood, parents and relationships.

Of her mother's infirmity:

Uncertain on her feet, my mother
stumbles like a toddler, each step
a whole new learning of the world -
as thought she were not the woman
who at thirteen strode around the bend
of a country road right into
the midst of a chain gang…

Of the death of her father:

I see no final sadness
which I cannot resign
no regrets left
like half-done sketches,
just these haunting memories
my bones will not let go.

A relationship:

Lying awake, I thought about endings,
how sometimes there's an explosion
of tangled limbs and veined leaves,
but sometimes there's simply a slump,
the quiet droop of riven wood
sinking from the green canopy.

The words tumble pleasingly off the tongue with a soothing cadence, filled with emotion and wistfulness, subtle humor, and profound insight, each poem executed with great skill and deftness, instilling the need to return to read and savor again and again.

Dean Koontz
Bantam Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780553807158, $28.00,

Recluse Grady Adams and his Irish wolfhound Merlin spot two white, unidentifiable animals while on a walk one afternoon. That evening, the two animals make their presence known and Grady calls his good friend, veterinarian Camillia Rivers. Camillia is fascinated by the animals, who show distinct human characteristics, but can find no record of such species. When she calls two former colleagues, she puts in motion a series of events that could lead to the destruction of the two friendly animals. Homeland Security shows up, declaring the two could be a threat to national security, and Grady and Camillia fear for their safety, unaware more animals of like nature have appeared across the globe and strange things are happening around them.

This standalone is hard to classify as to genre, enveloping a bit of most into its content. The plot moves along at a fast pace, offering suspenseful scenarios and a mystical feel. Koontz's usual characters are evident: man, woman and dog, each involved in a suspenseful plot, and all well developed and essential to the story.

Down to the Wire
David Rosenfelt
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312373948 $24.99

Chris Turley, reporter for the Bergen News, lives in the shadow of his father, award-winning investigative reporter Edward Turley. Chris's anonymity comes to an end when he witnesses the explosion of an office building while waiting to meet a source. Chris rescues five people and is hailed a hero, finding himself an instant celebrity. Chris's life and career take a dramatic turn when his source subsequently feeds him information that establishes Chris as an investigative journalist. But Chris's celebrity status fades as the mysterious source begins randomly killing people, using Chris as his reason for doing so. Law enforcement personnel and the FBI initially suspect Chris is the culprit but eventually turn their investigation outward, following clues that lead to nowhere.

Rosenfelt is best known for his light, comedic Andy Carpenter mystery series. This standalone thriller offers a fast-moving plot filled with twists and turns. Chris is a likable character, an everyday guy thrust into a complicated situation from which there seems no escape. Although some may question the reason behind the murders, the psychopathic killer is well portrayed and adds a thrilling dimension to the plot.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

The Lonely Polygamist
Brady Udall
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393062625, $26.95,

Discovery of an old cultural taboo, polygamy, is the theme of "The Lonely Polygamist". Golden Richards has 4 wives and 28 children. His relationships are described in vivid detail showing how he interacted with his family even though they lived in different homes. Richards is a nice man and his daily encounters with family life as a polygamist are downright funny. He coped with problems by isolating himself from the interaction which normally would go on between a man and his spouse.

This is not a book for the faint hearted as it is adult reading, not smutty, but the use of realistic language should be expected. Golden was not a saint by any means, but at the same time he had a set of morals which came through in the way that he treated his wives and children.

Written in a style which is reminiscent of many wonderful authors of the past, this story gives insight into the nuances one would expect when he visited his wives in their respective homes to have connubial relations. One of his wives took on the responsibility of scheduling his visits, but occasionally he failed to show up! Golden was not the stud one would expect to find in such a paradise, at times he is impotent. He was not able to live up to his end of the bargain with some of his wives which led to his isolation when he took up living in a tiny Airstream trailer near the job site he had contracted to build. While his families lived near St. George, Utah, he worked in a remote area of Nevada constructing a cathouse!

We see the sensitive side of Golden as he dealt with the death of one of his children who had been born disabled. Empathizing with his grief, the reader feels his genuine sorrow. Udall's descriptive prose really conveys the essence of a father's loss.

In reading this novel, one cannot wonder, who wrote this book. Was the author close to Mormon life, or was he writing about what he fantasized it would be? The answer was not in the book, but in the material which accompanied it for publicity purposes. Brady Udall was raised in a Mormon family, his great-great grandfather was a polygamist and he says that he would not exist if polygamy didn't exist. Briefly put, Udall opines why people are so fascinated about polygamy, "in one word, sex".

This novel compels the reader to read on with its interesting characters and their interactions which are totally bizarre and complex that one is compelled to find out what will happen next. Recommended to be a good read with the added bonus of experiencing the inside story of what it is like to be a polygamist.

The Lost Throne
Chris Kusneski
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
978039915586, $25.95,

Chris Kuzneski is an internationally best-selling author of "Sword of God", "Sign of the Cross", "The Plantation", and the fourth in this series "The Lost Throne." "The Prophesy" is the fifth novel and was just recently released in hardcover. This review is about "The Lost Throne" which took place primarily in Greece and Russia. This is an exciting action-packed adventure loaded with mystery, lost treasures, and ancient monasteries.

Portrayed as legendary-like characters are Jonathon Payne and David Jones who were best friends, and part of an elite group called, the "MANIACS'. These brave men were considered invaluable assets for use by this 'Special Forces' organization. A mysterious cell phone message led them to investigate a situation concerning imminent peril to the life of a United States citizen in Russia who was an assistant to a renowned collector of antiquities. They believed it necessary to travel to Russia at once.

Meanwhile in Greece, Nick Dial, head of Interpol's Homicide Division in France, was investigating the unspeakable murders of 7 monks. They had been beheaded at a monastery in Greece. He and young Marcus Andropoulos, an officer of NCB (National Central Bureau) and a native of Greece teamed up to find out why the monks were killed. Monks were from a variety of countries which gave jurisdiction to Interpol.

Adding to the flavor of the book was the only female character named Allison Taylor, a young doctoral student whose expertise was in rare documents and ancient treasures. She witnessed her boss's assassination in a Russian square and was perplexed as to what to do next. Payne and Jones arrived there to protect her and take her out of Russia, no matter what! There was a vital link between the death of her boss and the massacre of the religious monks in Greece. Dramatic scenes unfold when the characters were under pursuit by an unknown person. They knew their lives were in jeopardy!

The plot intensified when the trio's investigation led them to Greece. Kuzneski brought the storyline together for impact and continuity, and thus, the novel exploded!

A riveting and bizarre night-fight with Spartan warriors will entertain you. Are there still fighting Spartans in Greece? It is well-known that modern Greece holds many secrets. But, Kuzneski makes you believe they are still searching for a valuable book. A book the Spartans would kill for in order to protect their heritage.

Murder and mayhem abound at Mount Athos (The Holy Mountain) where women were not allowed and men needed all the proper papers to get in. Mount Athos was an important place where rare documents and worldly antiquities were stored because it was considered a safe place.

The mystery of the dead monks was revealed and the reason why they had to die. What they were trying to protect and the significance of "The Lost Throne," awaits the reader. Kuzneski has penned a smart, tough, and humorous unique story. Historically accurate and presented with awesome detail, you feel taken to places you have never seen before.

A superlative drama that reads like a screenplay and one you will not want to miss. This book is highly recommended.

The Trials of Zion
Alan M. Dershowitz
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, NY, NY 10017-0010
9780446576734 $26.99,

Stepping into the national spotlight during the O. J. Simpson trial, Alan M. Dershowitz became a member of the defense team which influenced a jury to have reasonable doubt as to the guilt of this famous athlete in his infamous murder trial. Here is a Harvard Law professor who has written over 30 books ranging from non-fiction to fiction and now has created a wonderful blend of the love of a father for his daughter and her loving respect for him. "The Trials of Zion" dramatically starts with a suicide bombing of the highest magnitude. 32 leaders of the world are assassinated in one fell swoop in the Middle East.

This fast- paced novel is about a trial attorney who has achieved extreme notoriety in his defense of many criminals who had committed crimes which were considered lost causes by other attorneys, but were won by main character Abe Ringel. Abe was able to discern obscure facts which enabled him to often analyze minute details better than his peers.

Dershowitz has been able to weave an opaque fabric through the eyes a father and his daughter with great impact. Abe Ringel is forced to try a case defending a Palestinian who has not only been charged with the deaths of the world leaders, but has confessed his guilt! If Ringel does not get this man acquitted and freed, terrible consequences will befall his daughter Emma. Emma has been kidnapped and is being held hostage by those who want to see the alleged perpetrator set free. If the 'Perp' is not exonerated of all crimes, then Emma must perish!

What makes this book extraordinary is how the main characters interact in their dire situations. Generally, we read books which are only seen through the eyes of the author or one of his characters. Here, we are able to feel what it is like to be a captive and also what it is like to be a grieving parent.

This novel is a page-turner and written with such intense clarity that the reader is swept into the story's main theme. A trial in an Israeli court could only be told by a legal scholar who is able to differentiate the nuances of the American court system with that of Israel's.

Dershowitz's style is subtly in the method of describing some very complicated legal issues. He obviously realized that his audience was not a gaggle of Philadelphia lawyers who would clearly understand the legal gymnastics he exercised during the trial.

There is no need for a higher level of comprehension of legalese because he has simplified all in this suspenseful novel. This book is entertaining, delivers a message about conflicts in the Middle East, and is highly recommended.

Clark Isaacs

Daniel's Bookshelf

One Second After
William R. Forstchen
c/o Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765327253, $14.99,

I like futuristic survival books about our nation. This is a fictional cautionary tale. The weapon choice of this future war by our enemies is an Electromagnetic Pulse. (EMP) The United States loses a war and we are sent back to the Dark Ages. The story follows a man who struggles to save his family and his small North Carolina town. I noticed this book on the book store shelf, and I thought I would take a shot at a new author and this interesting story set in the immediate future radiating a dire warning of what might be our possible future and our end.

It doesn't take long for John Matherson to notice on Day One, that something very wrong has happened close to his home of Black Mountain, North Carolina. he is driving one evening near the interstate not far from the town. The cell phones already have failed, and John's family members noticed a large number of cars were stalling with people now walking and leaving their cars. Some were then walking up to the security fence along the interstate near a road used by John and his family. John is driving in an older Edsel and this car seem to be the only one running. He becomes extremely nervous as interest in his car, because it is the only one that could appear to be a form of mobile transportation, so he quickly exits with his family. He learns later on that an EMP has been dropped, and the electrical power and systems are failed over an unknown huge area This affects a group of people under hospital and intensive care which has shut down, and the first problem is dealing with the rise in the number of medical deaths. There is a lack of care of patients who are now left unprotected without the electricity needed to assist those needing the power source to live. This also is added to include any equipment using computers and car engines with chips. This also includes refrigeration equipment protecting food sources like dairy, and others to preserve with above freezing temperatures. It also includes those fresh meat requiring longer time with freezers. It also has ben learned this has shut down America has lost the war. America has to now brace for survival with desperate people traveling across the countryside on foot in search of food, medical supplies, and shelter. Black Mountain forms its own council to discuss the problems happening in Black Mountain, and in nearby communities They discuss to investigate a nearby city, which John goes with a group to a small city nearby named Ashville, North Carolina. After returning and discovering, that they will have to pretty much survive on their own without any help or the growing issue of already depleting needed supplies. From this point on the town has to segregate any influx of arriving newcomers who might have skills to help the smaller town of Black Mountain. They also work on distribution of the dwindling food and medical supplies. The problems escalate with incoming threats of scavengers from anywhere outside their town's boundaries. The youth and town's people of Black Mountain prepare for protection of their limited supplies. Some important information leaks to the town council, that a huge army-like band are moving in their direction armed to the teeth to take what they need from their town. On top of the worst fear of the band, John faces a personal fear that reaches closer to his own home, and his torment digs inside him close into his own family. This all happens close to the time-line while friends, family, and the town are waiting for this upcoming attack. On day Three Hundred Sixty-Five in the conclusion of this riveting cautionary tale illustrates the aftermath to its survivors who have faced this die warning, what could be our outcome and eventual end. The general of the USA army appears one day to survey the area and give Black Mountain survivors the low-down, as to what lies ahead for those who are still left on America's landscape. John fears are now fully realized, as he prepares for that discovered blunt reality.

William R. Forstchen has a PH.D. from Purdue University and he specializes in military history and history of technology He is a faculty fellow and professor of history at Motreat college. He is the author of more than forty books including novels Gettysburg and Pearl Harbor (coauthored with Newt Gingrich) He also has written numerous short stories and articles about military history and military technology. He wrote the award-wining young-adult novel We Look Like Men of War. His interests include archaeology and resides in Asheville, North Carolina. I look forward to more efforts of his imagination of science fiction or contemporary novels similar to the one he wrote here seemingly so real and plausible.

Look Again
Lisa Scottoline
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312380724 $26.95,

I have just begun with this author upon selection at a library book sale. I just read the premise off the jacket and picked out the book for a new author change for me and my wife. I like thrillers and mysteries which delve in emotional justice facing the main character concerning her adopted child.

Reporter Ellen Gleeson notices a mail flier advertising a "Have You Seen This Child?" and she looks again to notice it looks like her not long adopted son Will. The photo looks so much like her son that her heart practically stops. She knows the adoption process was lawful, but the similarity is too striking. She is a journalist and has a hard time not thinking about this flier and her curiosity starts brainstorming to investigate the truth. She wants to know if her adopted son rightfully belongs to her or she will have to give him up, if there is a problem. She further investigates and eventually uncovers clues into the uncharted truth, and turmoil of her now unraveled emotions of this investigation. She even risks her life and Will's in this emotionally charged heart pounding thriller. The author has broken new territory exploring the essence of parenthood, and the moral quandary which will affect readers when they reach the end of the book and its final pages. The biggest question being how would they have handled this problem, and situation of a child found, and loved. Everything seemed normal until this flier appears to have shattered the short-lived lives of a new mother and adopted son.

Lisa Scottoline is a New York Times bestselling author, and Edgar Award winning author of seventeen novels including Lady Killer, Daddy's Girl and Dirty Blonde and she writes a weekly column for the Philadelphia Inquirer entitled "Chick Wit." She also teaches a course called Justice and Fiction at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Her next novel is entitled Think Twice already out in hardback. I tend to read it, and review it at a future date. I enjoyed Look Again, so it should be fun and interesting in this realm of thrillers from an author recently discovered.

Daniel Allen

Debra's Bookshelf

The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks
Josh Lanyon
MLR Press
9781934531143, $14.99,

When Perry returns home early from an unsuccessful tryst--his promising internet relationship having come to nothing in the real world--he's surprised to find a dead guy in his bathtub. One panic attack and an asthmatic episode later, and the police can't find the body Perry claims to have seen. They're none too happy to have been called to the scene, a creepy, remote boarding house in Vermont. Perry's neighbors, a mixed bag of loons, mostly assume that he was imagining things: he's a delicate, waifish boy whom people tend to treat with well-intentioned condescension. One neighbor, however, does believe Perry--Nick, an ex-marine, whose search of Perry's apartment turns up signs of foul play, if not the body itself.

Josh Lanyon's story follows Nick and Perry as they amateur sleuth their way around the boarding house, which turns out to have a colorful past. The story is also a romance: anyone who's squeamish about reading fairly graphic gay sex scenes should stay clear.

Yellow Socks is a decent mystery and a decent romance, though the latter seemed to me highly unlikely for about half of the book. The novel isn't a must-read, but it's a pleasant enough cozy.

Never Wave Goodbye
Doug Magee
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439153987, $24.99,

Never Wave Goodbye sets up a nightmarish scenario: Lena Trainor puts her nine-year-old daughter Sarah on a bus bound for sleep-away camp, the girl's first time away from home. Lena is pleased with the farewell. There was no trauma, no dramatics. But half an hour later the camp bus pulls into the driveway to pick up Sarah. The first bus wasn't from the camp.

Sarah is one of four kids who are abducted that morning. The book follows what happens to them and also the efforts of the police and their parents to find them. But the book's focus is on Lena--on her self doubt, her reaction to the press, her relationship with her husband, and her connection to her daughter.

Magee's hook is great. It plays into every parent's fear that their children might one day be stolen from them. The book should be a nail-biter, but somehow it never quite gets there--perhaps because we always know what's happening with the kids, and it's never particularly scary. Beyond its general ho-hummedness, there were some things about the story that bothered me. The kids were for the most part annoyingly helpless. Granted, they're only nine, but still I found myself wishing they would do something smart for once. At nine, too, a couple of them had Facebook accounts--which doesn't jibe with my experience of the online lives of that age group--yet didn't know their parents' email addresses. (This last doesn't surprise me, but it doesn't fit with their comfort using Facebook.) There wasn't much point to the involvement of Lena's father in the story, and there was no point at all that I could see to Lena's occasional visions involving her grandmother. The subplot about her husband's affair peters out into irrelevance, and the mystical nonsense at the end of the book was irritating.

All of the above makes it sound like I hated the book. I didn't. But given how great the hook was, I was expecting more.

Still Missing
Chevy Stevens
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312595678, $24.99,

Chevy Stevens' debut novel Still Missing is a breathless nightmare of a book. It tells the story of real estate agent Annie O'Sullivan, who is kidnaped by a stranger during an open house she's hosting. Annie narrates the painful story of what happened during and after her abduction in a series of sessions with a therapist. Annie's captor is a violent control freak who terrifies her into obeying his exacting rules: the punishment for disobedience--for, for example, urinating at other than the prescribed time--are severe. (The details may be disturbing to some readers.) But freedom, when it finally comes, offers less comfort than one might suppose. And it remains to solve the mystery behind her abduction: Why her? And why did her captor know so much about her?

Still Missing is written in conversational prose that makes for a quick read. And it's a book that you won't want to put down. Although we know from the start that Annie ultimately survives her abduction, the plot is nonetheless gripping because we don't know how she survives, or whether her ordeal is really over when she gets home. My only complaint about the book is that the voice of the narrator when she's telling her story to the therapist is very different from her voice in the conversational passages that frame her recollections. I assume this is intended to differentiate the earlier, stronger Annie from the damaged goods she is in the present, but some of her recollections are more recent, so I don't think that differentiation quite works. Also, the voice of the damaged Annie seems younger than that of a 32-year-old woman. I found this jarring, but otherwise this one is a really good choice for when you're in need of a page-turner.

Unexpectedly, Milo
Matthew Dicks
Broadway Books
1745 Broadway, New York, NY, 10036
9780307592309, $14.99,

In his second novel, Unexpectedly, Milo, Matthew Dicks tells the story of Milo, a 30-something home health care aide who's been living a lie since childhood. When we meet him his marriage is troubled, principally because he and his wife are inherently incompatible, but also because their relationship is based on a fiction: Milo has never let his status-conscious wife know who he really is. She can just about stand her husband driving around on a moped and playing Dungeons and Dragons with his nerdy friends, but she is unlikely to accept the fact that he is routinely plagued by the need to satisfy random urges--harmless but strange things like being compelled to open Smuckers jelly jars or to sing "99 Luftballoons" at a karaoke bar or to let all the air out of his tires. Thus for all the years of their courtship and marriage Milo has satisfied his urges on the sly. When Unexpectedly, Milo opens, our hero's life is about to change in a big way. Not only is his marriage in crisis, but Milo also makes an unlikely discovery: he finds a stranger's video diary and camera on a park bench. Viewing the videos leads to Milo taking a road trip south. Thus we first meet him in a Burger King parking lot off of I-95, south of Washington, DC, surreptitiously opening the Smuckers jars he had stashed in his trunk.

Anyone who's read Matthew Dicks's Something Missing will recognize similar elements in this story: an unlikely hero with a secret life and obsessive compulsive tendencies sets out to save a stranger with whom he feels an intimate connection. Milo and Martin--the protagonist of Something Missing--are both hugely likable characters with sweet stories that end well. I enjoyed Something Missing a bit more than Unexpectedly, Milo, however, because Martin's career and problems were more interesting to me than Milo's. Also, Unexpectedly, Milo seems a bit repetitive at times. But on the whole the book is an enjoyable read. I'm very glad to have discovered a new author whose books (and blog posts) I will continue to look forward to.

Suzanne Collins
Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
9780439023511, $17.99,

Mockingjay, the final book in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy, closes the series with a shrug. In a sense, a lot happens in the book: a civilization is overthrown, good people die, bad people die, the romantic triangle of Katniss-Peeta-Gale is finally unraveled. Still, while reading it it feels like nothing much ever happens. Katniss--who, admittedly, has been through a lot (but who in this society hasn't?)--mopes around and spends most of her time being sick or injured or overwhelmed. She takes up the mantle of "Mockingjay," the figurehead of the rebellion, only reluctantly. The war that she has helped foment never feels real: the dramatic action takes place largely off-stage, and it plays out like a video game, with exploding pods and other special effects. Despite the death count, it never feels like anything important is at stake. When Katniss is allowed to become involved in the action, which is rarely, it's as the star of a photo op: yes, she fights against the restrictions imposed on her and finds a way to get her hands bloodied, but still, the nature of her involvement makes it seem less than heroic. There is, in short, never very much tension in the book--and that includes romantic tension. I would probably have enjoyed this one more if my memory of what happened in the first two books were fresher. As it is, there were people and events referred to that I had no recollection of. This surely added to my general lack of investment in the characters this time around.

Although its conclusion offers hope, Mockingjay is not the most uplifting of reads. One dystopia is nearly replaced with another, and humans are shown to be an inherently defective species. The ending makes sense: it reminds me of the final scene of the Holocaust television miniseries, in which children playing soccer signified (or so I remember the scene, thirty years later) the potential for a better future. And the last few lines of the last chapter of Mockingjay are simply perfect.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
Joan Aiken
c/o Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 10-1, New York, NY 10019
9780440496038, $6.50,

The wolves haunting Willoughby Chase are both literal and figurative. The literal ones are preternaturally aggressive and make traveling outside after dark a potentially fatal exercise. They're also capable of surprisingly high levels of thinking: they understand that a train's slowing on its tracks means that potential victims will soon be alighting from its doors, and they'll move to intercept. Thus when Sylvia's train arrives at the station near Willoughby Chase, where she is to begin her new life, it lurches to a halt, and the exiting passengers have to flee before the descending pack. Sylvia is an orphan coming to live with her cousin Bonnie at the same time that Bonnie's parents are setting off on a year-long voyage in the hopes of improving her mother's health. Sir Willoughby and Lady Green are the finest of people, doting parents, kind employers, and thoughtful already for the welfare of their niece--though they are surprisingly unaware of the conditions in which she's been living up to this point. The governess who will be watching the girls while Bonnie's parents are away is a distant cousin, Miss Slighcarp, one of the figurative wolves that inhabit this book. She is quite the opposite of what Bonnie's parents had in mind, and things go downhill at Willoughby Chase from the moment she steps through its door. The girls, with the aid of a handful of friends, must persevere against cruelties that any villain--one thinks immediately of Count Olaf in Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events--would be proud to take credit for.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is an award-winning classic, originally published in 1962. I was not familiar with until very recently. It is also the first in a series of twelve books, and it was made into a movie in 1989. The book is deservedly popular. It's a well-written story with plucky heroines in an appealingly unusual setting; the grim governess is delightfully grim; the good eggs are very good, the bad as rotten as they come. I'm left confused by the point of the literal wolves in the story. They are so prominent at the beginning of the book--and the fact that they don't behave quite as they should is immediately intriguing--that I thought they would be important also at the story's end. Indeed, I fully expected the story to be resolved by wolf--a lupus ex machina--the bad guys coming to a grisly end suited to their deeds. But no. Probably the wolves are important later in the series. But taken on its own, I'd argue that this book doesn't quite hang together because the animals all but disappear from the storyline. Still, it hardly matters. The wolves are an appealing element, even if they don't quite make sense. I wish I'd read this one back when I was still a member of its target audience.

The Human Bobby
Gabe Rotter
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439168110, $15.00,

Through a series of understandable mistakes, Bobby Flopkowski loses everything that mattered to him--his wife, his son, his medical practice. A handful of years later, after a long period of being drunk and drugged, Bobby is homeless but reasonably content--despite the incessant clicking in his head. He's got a good friend, a tent, a gun, and the only copy of his father's unfinished novel, The Human Being. It's all he needs. But even this modest happiness is lost to him after a chance sighting of someone from his past leads Bobby to dig into the truth behind his tragedy.

Composing my review of The Human Bobby in my head while I read, I was going to say that the book holds one's interest surprisingly well given that what really happened to tear Bobby's life apart is patently obvious to the reader long before Bobby himself catches on. But about 75 pages from the end I began to realize that things weren't as obvious as I had supposed: subtly at first, then more directly, the author suggests that our narrator is not as trustworthy as he at first appeared. The transition is very nicely done, just a hint at first that makes the reader's brow furrow. In the end, we understand fully what's going on, even if our narrator doesn't. It's a clever ending, though I confess to being left feeling a little unsatisfied--the result, I suppose, of having reality pulled out from under you.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Edward's Bookshelf

The Rembrandt Affair
Daniel Silva
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399156588, $26.95,

A long-lost portrait by Rembrandt is being restored in the English city of Glastonbury. Suddenly, the painting is stolen after the artist is murdered.

Gabriel Allon, Israel's top spy is semi-retired with his wife in Cornwall, England when he is approached by his friend, Julian Isherwood, who commissioned the restoration of the painting and is now faced with total financial ruin unless it can be recovered.

Allon accepts the challenge of finding the masterpiece and the killer, and he decides to trace the history of the painting from its ownership in Amsterdam in the forties. A visit to the Netherlands unearths the shocking fact that a Nazi SS officer traded the life of a Jewish art collector's daughter for the painting in 1942. The rest of the family was sent to a concentration camp and their deaths shortly thereafter.

As Gabriel pursues the hidden truth, he connects the painting to a famous Swiss businessman whose father acquired the portrait from the Nazis during the war's final days.

Time moved on and the son of the Swiss banker, Martin Landesmann, uses art, jewels and other riches stolen from Jewish people to build his own personal wealth. He also develops a façade as a philanthropist so generous that he is called Saint Martin.

The Israeli's Secret Service has reason to believe that Landesmann is selling critical machine parts to Iran for the development of nuclear weaponry. They call upon Gabriel to assemble his former team of operatives to hatch a plan designed to bring down Saint Martin and stop the flow of parts to Iran.

Allon accepts the assignment reckoning that he can solve the Rembrandt mystery and also help his endangered country. Further, he feels that he must investigate Landesmann from within and he decides to attempt to enlist the help of Landesmann's mistress, Zoe Reid, a glamorous investigative journalist with London's Financial Journal.

So begins the complex and exciting story of a skilled team of operatives out to steal the electronic evidence of Saint Martin's sins.

Daniel Silva, once again, delivers a spy thriller of the highest echelon. The story moves from England to Buenos Aires, from Paris to Tel Aviv, with violence along the way. The author doesn't disappoint with a stunning climax in Lake Geneva, at Landesmann's mansion.

I highly recommend this novel to fans of the international spy genre.

James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
Little, Brown & Company
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316096157, $27.99,

Private is an investigation company operating out of Los Angeles with branches around the world. Jack Morgan, the owner and chief operative, served as a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan and still has nightmares from his war experiences.

As we enter Jack Morgan's world, his top three cases are: (1) voluntarily searching for a serial killer of high school girls, (2) searching for the killer of his best friend's wife, and (3) investigating a possible betting scandal for his uncle, an NFL owner.

As the story unfolds, Jack and his best people appear to be working these cases on a pro bono basis. It is hard to believe that a major security company would operate in such a manner. Whatever happened to the hard boiled, venal Sam Spade's and Mike Hammer's of the private eye business?

This is a big Mulligan stew of a novel with cameos by Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson and Julie Roberts. Any moment, you expect a walk on by Bill Gates or Donald Trump. There is unrelenting violence, casual sex, plots and subplots. We even get an earthquake thrown in to fill up two pages.

Despite all of its sound and fury, the ending disappoints. The story seems to have a tacked-on but welcome ending.

Mr. Patterson continues to create best sellers with the help of co-authors. The bad news is that the books are just not that good. I do not recommend this novel.

Edward F. Smith

Gary's Bookshelf

Dial Emmy for Murder
Eileen Davidson
c/o Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451228235, $6.99,

This second novel in the soap opera mystery series begins with a dead body that shows up at the Emmy Awards show in the middle of an award presentation. The story is a fun mystery set against the backdrop of the soap opera world. Alex Peterson is back, along with many interesting characters. She is once again paired with Detective Frank Jakes to solve the murder. As the tale unfolds, so does the relationship between the two as they are on the trail of the killer. There are several conflicts that make this another pleasurable read. This is a delightful series.

The Postcard Killers
James Patterson and Liza Marklund
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hatchette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316089517, $27.95

After the book "Private" that was pretty slow and boring, I am happy to say this one is a great read and is a typical Patterson thrill ride. Detective Jacob Kanon of the NYPD is on a case that takes him to many different cities of Europe on the trail of a killer. This time it's personal be3cause one of the first victims was his daughter. The novel is a tense roller coaster ride of suspense that will have readers turning the pages.

Santa Fe Edge
Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399156925, $25.95

I thought when I saw this book. Oh good, something other than a Stone Barrington and his numerous trips to Elaine's. Well that's about the only good thing I can say. I am tired of Barbara, Ed Eagles former wife who once again tried to have him killed. This, I think, is the third time she has attempted to get rid of her former husband. I am also worn-out with Teddy Fay who now seems to show up in many of Woods' novels with no real purpose in the story. The pacing is pretty even but I am just bored because this one is a re-hash of other books he has written. I think it's time to come up with some new characters and ideas.

The Season of Risks
Susan Hubbard
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
978183427, $14.00,

This third novel in Hubbard's vampire series has a lot of conflicts going on that move the story along at a nice pace. The characters are very different from other genre fare because she depicts the people with real life situations and they are not monsters, as we are used to reading. One of the characters is running for president of the United States. He has to keep secret that he is a vampire. The work is filled with many things fans of the genre will not agree with, but she handles them so well with explanations of why things are the way they are so that the complaints are bogus. I like this series and want to see where the author goes next time.

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future the First 25 Years
With Kevin J. Anderson
Galaxy Press LLC
7051 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, California 90028
978015921284107, $29.95,

L. Ron Hubbard had an idea that is now over twenty five years old. The concept was to bring new writers into the field of science fiction. So he created "The Writers of the Future" contest. So far more than 700 novels and 3,000 short stories have been published by authors who participated in the contest. The list of writers is huge with so many different books published. This is a look back over the last twenty five years in pictures and prose that celebrated Hubbard's crowning achievement. Readers will be astounded at how many writers have come through the program.

Poetry to Feed the Spirit a Contemporary Anthology
Poets of Central Florida
CHB Media
3039 Needle Palm Drive, Edgewater, FL 32141 386-690-9295
9780982281918, $10.99,

There are many talented writers who have written scores of interesting poems. You do not have to be from Central Florida to enjoy these fascinating bits of poetry. There are many different styles and subjects. This is a great anthology to add to anyone's poetry collection.

Next Incredible Dating Adventures
Angela LaTorre
CHB Media
3039 Needle Palm Drive, Edgewater, Fl 32141 3866909295 386-690-9295
9780982281925 $12.99

We've all had bad dating experiences. This is one lady's adventures with being single. There are many memorable men she writes about. One in particular is the man who values his dogs more than the company of a good female. The pieces are interesting and many will make you laugh out loud. All are true stories of men she has dated for the last couple of years. Readers should take this book as a resource of red flags of the wrong type of person to have a relationship with.

Rules of the Lake
Stories by Irene Ziegler
Southern Methodist University Press
P O Box 750415, Dallas, Texas 75275-0415
9780870744471, $19.95,

Before Disney, Florida was a very different place. These are stories that take place in that time era. I loved the other attractions the author writes about and she conveys the other Florida very well. Her characters are very interesting and appear to be very innocent. This is a book for anyone who would like to know what the state was like before Mickey Mouse and Disney.

The Secrets of Paradise Bay
Devon Vaughn Archer
Urban Books LLC
78 East Industry Court, Deer Park, NY 11729
9781601622198, $14.95,

This author has written another great novel of romance that races along with well defined characters and many conflicts that drive the story along with a satisfying ending. Archer is also an author to read for budding authors to learn how to create detailed characters. This is the type of book you do not want to put down and are sad to see it end.

Their Last Suppers Legend of Time and Their Final Meals
Andrew Caldwell
Legacy Publishing Services Inc
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
9781934449332, $17.50,

Ever wonder what the last meal someone famous had before they died? Author Andrew Caldwell reveals these things and more in an interesting book that is sure to be a first in a series. Some of the people he writes about are Abraham Lincoln, Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana. There are also many recipes for the foods each person ate.

Gary Roen

Gloria Feit

The Bricklayer
Noah Boyd
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061827020 $9.99

The reader is introduced to Steve Vail, the titular brick mason, in the opening pages of this book as he calmly and efficiently thwarts a bank robbery by two armed men, in the aftermath of which he just as calmly disappears. Just a matter of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. For both Vail and the gunmen.

The FBI is in the midst of a case involving a group calling itself the Rubaco Pentad, which has pulled off a series of high-profile kidnappings across the country over a span of six weeks and demanded millions of dollars in ransom money directly from the FBI, ultimately killing the hostages. Their planning in each instance is flawless, the Bureau made to look ridiculous and inept. Since each of the victims had had serious public problems with the FBI, the media has dubbed the case 'the Enemies of the FBI murders.'

The author's background has more than a passing similarity to that of his protagonist: Noah Boyd is a pseudonym for a former agent with the Detroit FBI. He retired in 1993 after writing a book unflattering to the Bureau, earning him a suspension, and later wrote a scathing article for a national magazine. In the novel, Steve Vail was an agent for three years before being fired for insubordination. Now, five years later, after the FBI has been duly impressed with the video taken at the scene of the bank robbery, they have sent a female Deputy Assistant Director, Kate Bannon, to try to prevail upon him to help them where all other efforts have failed, and try to bring down the extortionists and prevent any more killings, believing him to have the requisite skills and discretion they need. One agent is killed in the case of one payoff attempt and another disappears during the course of a second.

Vail is an extraordinary protagonist, displaying what he calls 'world-class scorn' toward the world in general and the FBI in particular, but is persuaded to assist in the case. He is fearless, has great instincts, brains and courage. [In short, another Jack Reacher.] The writing contains just enough humor to release the tension, sexual and otherwise, as it ratchets up higher and higher. And the ending is masterful. The book is fast-paced and compulsively readable, and is highly recommended.

On the Nickel
John Shannon
Severn House
555 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10022
9780727899972 $28.95

Jack Liffey is a P.I. whose business card states "I Find Missing Children." Not so much lately though, as Jack has for several weeks been confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak, although his doctors tell him there is nothing physiologically wrong. The loss of the use of his legs and voice occurred after his last case, when he was buried alive in a massive landslide after a dynamite blast, which in turn kick-started his latent claustrophobia.

The usual characters populate the novel, including Loco, his elderly half-coyote pet; his teenage daughter, Maeve, and his girlfriend Gloria, an LAPD Sergeant with whom he and Maeve live. New in this book is Eleanor Ong, "formerly and once again Sister Mary Rose, by special dispensation," with whom Jack had had an affair ten years prior and had not seen since - she was one among several who suffered the fallout of Jack's work and went back to a convent as her way to deal with that.

When Jack's old friend Mike Lewis calls to ask Jack to find his missing 16-year-old son, Maeve intercepts the call and, in an effort to ease Jack back into some semblance of a normal life and also as a way to bond with her adored father, takes on the task herself. Mike assumes his son has headed to LA to try to break into the music business, and Maeve's search takes her to Skid Row, "The Nickel," where SROs predominate. One of the SROs, in fact, is the target of a ruthless real estate owner/developer, and the fact that Conor Lewis is staying there at just this point in time makes him - and those searching for him - additional targets of a pair of psycho hired guns trying to empty the building so that it can be converted into luxury lofts.

Much of this novel is not easy reading, portraying as it does the very real and depressing plight of the poor and the homeless, in particular those in LA, and it is punctuated by stats at each chapter's end that make the reader shudder [as I'm sure was the author's intent]. Nietzschean philosophy is invoked here, as is what I assume is the author's, e.g., "Why should the strong and ruthless always win?" It is a well-written series entry, and is recommended.

Empty Ever After
Reed Farrel Coleman
Busted Flush Press
P.O. Box 540594, Houston TX 77254-0594
9781935415190 $14.00

Moe Prager is a complex man, and Empty Ever After, the newest book in the series of which he is the protagonist, is a complex novel. Moe is an ex-cop and currently a p.i., as well as co-owner of four wine shops in and around New York City. He adores his teenage daughter, Sarah, and has a more or less amicable relationship with his ex-wife, Katy. As he says, "Divorce, no matter how amicable, isn't easy, and Katy, Sarah and I were still in the midst of realigning our hearts to deal with the new tilt of our worlds…Divorce impacts couples in different ways. It's an equation of losses and gains. The gains, however large or small, are usually apparent early on. The losses, as I was discovering, reveal themselves slowly, in painful, unexpected ways."

Moe's marriage fell apart when the truth of Katy's brother's death years earlier became known to her, and the fact that Moe had kept that truth a secret for all that time. Moe is called to the grave of Katy's brother, Patrick Michael Maloney, when it is found to have been desecrated, and subsequent events make it apparent that someone is out to hurt, if not destroy, Moe's family. Secrets are a big part of this tale, and the harm that they can do which can far outlive the events that gave rise to them. Moe finds it necessary to search back over the last few decades of his life, and has to "focus on closing chapters in my life." [Vengeance, cemeteries, and 'ghosts' all play a part.] He tries to comfort his daughter, distraught at the awful way unfolding events have affected her mother. In the past he had always been able to provide that comfort, but now wonders "Had she finally outgrown the magic…or was it that the magic wouldn't work if the magician no longer believed in his powers?"

Mr. Coleman has written a book that is much more than a suspenseful novel - it is a beautifully written work imparting some universal truths. About truth itself, the author says "….the truth doesn't conform to the rules of Sunday school or sermons, to cliches or adages. The truth doesn't always come out in the wash or in the end and it's frequently not for the best. The truth often makes things worse, much worse. The truth can be as much poison as elixir, cancer as cure." It's often moving, and struck a resounding chord in me, and I related to it as much as I did not partially because I, as Moe, grew up as a Jew living in Brooklyn, with the Belt Parkway part of the backdrop of my life, and Shea Stadium such a big part in that life, but also because of the very human and well-drawn characterizations. Highly recommended.

[It should be noted that Mr. Coleman's newest book, "Innocent Monster," will be published in October 2010 as well, by Tyrus Books.]

Last Writes
Sheila Lowe
Obsidian Mystery
c/o The Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451231109, $6.99,

Claudia Rose, in the fourth entry in this series by Sheila Lowe, has the Southern California graphologist and her nearly life-long friend, Kelly, responding to the latter's half-sister, Erin, who pleads for help in finding her young daughter, Kylie. Kylie's father has apparently abducted her, and the note Erin shows the women is frightening enough to galvanize them into action. When Erin was four years old, their mother, an alcoholic, moved, taking her four sons with her. Kelly, the oldest and the same age as Claudia, had already been taken in by Claudia's family till the girls finished high school; Erin ultimately left home at fifteen and joined The Temple of Brighter Light, referred to as TBL [a new religion, or cult, depending on your beliefs]. Kelly hasn't seen Erin in almost two decades, but feels both responsible for her and guilty for not having 'been there' for her in all the intervening years.

Erin's husband, 14 years her senior, is also a member of TBL, and the couple was given the somewhat dubious honor of having their exquisite daughter dubbed The Chosen One, the plan being for Kylie to join Jephthah's Daughters and be taken to a convent to devote her life to prayer and service, this to be done when she turns three years of age, which is five days away. Erin beseeches the women's help in finding her daughter, terrified, she says, of what her husband might have planned.

The author has once again written a fast-paced, suspenseful tale, augmented by her protagonist's fascinating profession, which goes beyond detecting forgeries to forensic statement analysis and handwriting analysis [a field in which the author is herself considered an expert]. Apparently the publisher of this terrific series to this point does not plan to publish future entries, which would be unfortunate for the author's fans. It is to be hoped that Ms. Lowe and Claudia Rose will find another home before too long; it would be a shame if this is the last we will see of the Forensic Handwriting Mysteries.

Highly recommended.

As Husbands Go
Susan Isaacs
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10020
9781416573012 $25.00

As Husbands Go . . . well, the husband who is at the center of this novel - went. As in, murdered, in a scenario which initially put this reader in mind of Eliot Spitzer, former New York governor, except this time it's not a politician. Dr. Jonah Gersten, who to all appearances had been a very successful Park Avenue plastic surgeon, devoted husband to Susie, and proud father of four-year-old triplets, has been found stabbed to death in a call girl's Manhattan apartment. On the night he first fails to return home, Susie had been thinking to herself: "Jonah and I have some lucky star shining down on us." That mindset is soon dispelled when, the following morning, the police are at her door to give her the news.

Theirs was an idyllic relationship, having met when Jonah was a senior at Yale, quickly fell in love and married. Though she feels others may fail to see how she had "score[d] a privileged-attractive-charming-gifted-successful Yale doctor," Susie would have sworn by all that was holy that Jonah had never been unfaithful to her, and refuses to believe that he was patronizing a prostitute. She is determined to find out the truth, even if it undermines the case against the woman who everyone else believes is guilty of the murder. Jonah's s parents and brother believe Susie is in denial, if not completely delusional, which seems to be the opinion of the police and the chief of the DA's Homicide Bureau as well.

Susie's only allies are her business partner, Andrea, and Grandma Ethel, the grandmother she had met for the first time not long after she and Jonah had married. The portrait drawn by the author of Ethel Nachman O'Shea, 79 years old, for 25 years the host of "Talk of Miami" and presently in a lesbian relationship with a much younger civil liberties attorney known as Sparky, is an indelible one, as are many of the other characters who provide the backdrop to this novel.

I have enjoyed Susan Isaacs' writing since reading her first novel, "Compromising Positions," in 1978. Her finely honed sense of humor and irony is evident throughout, and the murder mystery and the relationships among the various Gersten/Rabinowitz family members satisfying, and the novel is recommended.

I'd Know You Anywhere
Laura Lippman
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061706554 $25.99,

Eliza Benedict, 38 years old, has by choice always been a full-time wife and mother, devoted to caring for and protecting her family. The serenity of that life is threatened one day when her mail holds a letter from Walter Bowman, the man, now on Death Row, who had kidnapped her and held her hostage for 39 days when she was a child, then called Elizabeth Lerner. No one in her present life knows about her ordeal [forever referred to with the euphemistic phrase "the summer I was fifteen"] other than her parents, her sister, and her husband. Even, or perhaps especially, her children - 13-year-old Isobel [or "Iso," as she prefers to be called, with a long "I"] and eight-year-old Albie - know nothing of that time. Having spotted a photo of her and her husband in The Washingtonian, Walter has tracked her down and sent the letter which, hauntingly, concludes with the words "I'd know you anywhere."

The early chapters alternate pov between Eliza and Walter, to illuminating effect. Walter had two other known victims, young girls both tall and blonde [neither of which describes Elizabeth], both killed and apparently raped. The question had always stayed in her mind: Why had he let her live? And was Walter, as long suspected, also behind the disappearance of several other young girls from the area who had never been found? Twenty-two years after she had been rescued, Walter's attorneys had gone through two appeals and a retrial; 46 years old, he has now been on Death Row in Virginia longer than anyone else in history, and implores Eliza to write and ultimately to visit him, teasing her with the promise that he would finally disclose to her things he had never admitted to anyone else.

Eliza and, by extension, her husband, are forced to relive that time, when "Elizabeth" had determined she would do whatever was necessary to stay alive, becoming a modern-day Scheherazade, telling him her own version of Steinbeck stories lest he get bored and kill her, obeying him without question when he threatened her life and the lives of her family should she fail to follow his orders. Since his last victim was kidnapped while Elizabeth was with him, she bears the guilt [and the accusations of that girl's family] of perhaps having been able to do something to save her life had she but known how. A full airing is also given to the arguments on all sides of the death penalty: "for, against, or confused."

This latest novel by the author of the wonderful Tess Monaghan series and, more recently, the terrific standalone "What the Dead Know," is also highly recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gondelman's Bookshelf

Mister X
John Lutz
Pinnacle Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
0786020261, $7.99,

Frank Quinn and his partners are back in the newly formed Quinn & Associates Investigations. Pearl Kasner was done working as a security guard at a bank and Larry Fedderman (Feds) wasn't all that interested in catching fish in Florida anymore. So the three of them have settled back into the life they know and love - detecting. Chrissie Keller, having come into a large sum of money, comes to see Frank to hire him. Five years ago her twin sister Tiffany, along with four other young ladies, was killed by the serial killer known as the Carver (I'll leave why up to your imagination), but he was never caught, and his killings stopped. Frank and his team have a long history of being able to solve serial killer cases. So it's no surprise that Chrissie Keller would turn to him. But when the team starts digging into the killings word comes down from Police Chief Harley Renz, who Frank has an interesting relationship with, calls and tells them to back off. Let sleeping dogs lie. Now why would he do that? Are his reasons personal or political? Then Chrissie disappears and it's a whole new ballgame.

Then the killings start again. Is, after all of this time the Carver back? Or is there a sick copycat killer out there? One who knows way to much about the case not to be connected somehow. At this point Renz knows he has no choice but to bring Frank, Pearl and Feds back onto the force. He gives them badges, two other detectives to work the case and a profiler named Addie Price with a dark past of her own. But as Frank and his team really start digging they realize that things just aren't adding up. Why are there no pictures of Tiffany in the file given to them by Chrissie? When they finally find a picture of her, why does she look nothing like Chrissie? Who is the mystery woman that seems to be shadowing them? Showing up at every crime scene they do and running away before they can catch her. And just what do the flashback chapters of an abused boy named Jerry Grantland, who sneaks out of his house at night to cross the road and watch Tiffany & Chrissie being abused by their father have to do with anything?

After all this time, the feelings between Frank and Pearl seem to still simmer below the surface. But that soon changes when Pearl meets Yancy Taggart and their whirlwind relationship begins. Can Frank deal with his feelings about this relationship while at the same time hunting a deranged serial killer? And when tragedy befalls one of them, will they all be able to go on? The hunt for The Carver and Chrissie heats up and based on information obtained during the investigation, Frank brings in a family member to help draw both The Carver & Chrissie out. The race to stop the killings leads to a stunning, yet deadly conclusion. One that still leaves them with unanswered questions and will have the reader thinking "Holy ….." John Lutz is a masterful story teller who has written a tense, action packed novel filled with so many twists and turns you'll think you are on amusement park ride. Mister X is a superb suspense novel that will have you reading well into the night, keeping the lights burning bright, while at the same time getting up constantly to make sure all of the doors and windows are locked tight. X definitely marks this spot!

Deeply Desperately
Heather Webber
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312946147, $7.99,

When I found out that Heather Webber was not continuing the Nina Quinn series I wanted to cry. It was one of the first cozy books I had read, and I loved the entire series. I was sad to see it end. BUT, luckily for me, and the rest of her fans, she has since brought us Lucy Valentine. And boy, do I love Lucy!

While Lucy does not possess the same talents as her father in being able to read people's auras and know who they will best match with romantically, she does have her own special gift. She is able to find lost things, simply by holding the hand of the person that has lost them. She has turned her gift of finding lost items into finding Lost Loves, a new department for the family's matchmaking business Valentine, Inc. Will Lucy be able to find the lost loves of her first two clients? Clients who could not be more different. First is Faye the distraught mother, brought to her via the police, who is looking for her daughter that went missing two years ago, presumed dead at the hands of her cop husband. Then there is the ever so adorable elderly gentleman Leo who is looking for the love of his life, the woman he lost so many years ago. As if these two cases aren't enough to keep Lucy busy, she's also dealing with a father who has started acting very peculiarly, harassing/threatening letters she has begun to receive in the mail, a mother and grandmother who have exposed more than they should, a budding (gasp) friendship with reporter Preston Bailey, and Marisol's quest to turn them into PI's to prove that Em's fiance is no good for her. Then there is her new escalating relationship with Sean. A relationship, that while she wants to take it to the next level, is afraid to because she fears it will fall prey to Cupid's Curse (well that and they just can't seem to "get together.")

One of the things I loved best about this book is that fact that it's set in Boston, and that I can picture myself in each and every setting. For me, it helps me feel even more a part of the book, as if I'm taking each step with the characters. However, even if this book had not been set in Boston, I would still have found myself deeply entrenched in it. While this is the second book in the series, following Truly, Madly, it can be read as a stand-alone (but you really shouldn't miss the first one). There is never a dull moment in Deeply, Desperately, nor is everything what it appears to be. Just when you think you've got something figured out, you should think again. This book has everything a great book should have ~ fun, romance, psychic ability, mystery, humor and a quirky cast of characters that you'll fall in love with immediately. The only problem I have with this book is that it ended and that I'm going to have to wait until February to find out what the Lovable Lucy gets herself into next.

Third Degree
Maggie Barbieri
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312593287 $24.99,

Last time we visited with Alison, she had been proposed to by her boy…..Crawford (she thinks she's too old to be calling him her "boyfriend"). Now while she tries to figure out just what she wants for the future she finds herself wondering how she can get out of the pool party she and Bobby are heading to where she will meet his entire family, including his parents, for the first time. She doesn't swim and she refuses to put on a bathing suit. Both of which seem to be a requirement at this gathering. So she did exactly what I would do if I were in her situation and headed out to get an iced coffee. Life is always better when you have an iced coffee in your hand. She walks over to Beans, Beans and after she ties up Trixie turns to head inside. Instead of going inside, she gets a door to the face (and a pretty little shiner for her troubles) as two men come tumbling out, in the midst of a fist fight. The police arrive, break up the fight and Alison goes inside the coffee house with Greg, the owner, to wait to speak with the police. Carter Willmont (fighter #1, local rich guy and blogger determined to bad mouth everyone and everything) comes back inside, coughing and struggling for breath. Shortly after he comes inside, George Miller (fighter #2 and head of the DPW) comes in and cold-cocks Carter with a hard shot to the head, dropping him to the ground - dead! Well this is certainly one way for Alison to get out of the family meet and greet!

Open and shut case right? Guy gets punched in the head right in front of witnesses, hits the ground and is dead. Absolutely no need for Alison to get involved. Right? But things are not as cut and dry as they seem when the grieving widow shows up at Beans, Beans requesting to see her husbands' body. After that she demands they turn over his car keys and the next thing you know, everyone hits the ground as the car explodes outside, with the wife holding the remote. Seriously? How many people want to see this man dead??? Alison does her best to stay out of things until Mrs. Miller starts harassing Alison, begging her to "tell the truth" about what she saw. She really didn't see her husband hit Mr. Willmont. He must have fallen and hit his head on something in the coffeehouse. Mrs. Miller is desperate to get her husband out of jail and will stop at nothing to do so. But since the evidence all points to the blow to the head as the cause of death - off to prison he goes.

Geez, Alison has a lot on her plate these days. She's got the murder she witnessed, the harassment of the suspects wife, the beginning of the college semester (you have to love those new students), and her BFF Max who thinks nothing of cutting the screen in Alison's kitchen to let herself in whenever she wants. Not done yet. She's got a new roommate named Queen, a Hooters waitress who doubles as a private eye for Max's new TV show, all while taking college classes. Then there is the missed period and nausea - hmm…wonder what that's all about? Unfortunately there is something mysterious going on with her other BFF Kevin - but I'll let Alison tell you about that. FINALLY - there is the BIG question. Yes or No? Does she marry her boy…..Crawford or not? Only Alison can figure that out for herself. But first - she may or may not have a murder to solve!?!?! Filled with humor, wit, page turning suspense, and tons of emotion, Third Degree is Maggie Barbieri at her best! Just don't give me the Third Degree, because my lips are sealed!

Murder at the PTA
Laura Alden
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
0451231090 $6.99,

Beth Kennedy, mother of Jenna and Oliver, has been divorced for a year now, and her BFF Marina thinks it's about time she got off her butt and got out some more. It doesn't seem to matter to Marina that Beth thinks she gets out plenty. Hello - she does own a children's bookshop in town and has two children - all of which keep her plenty busy. Unfortunately for Beth, that is not what Marina has in mind. She thinks that Beth should run for secretary of the PTA. What Beth doesn't know is that there are no other "candidates". She's it, and she has just volunteered for the position. There go her Wednesday nights alone while the kids are with her ex.

Granted the PTA meetings never go easy, but had Beth known what was about to happen at her very first meeting as secretary, she never would have "volunteered." Agnes Mephisto, the much despised principal of Travers Elementary School, has decided that, thanks to a very anonymous and very large donation, there will be a new addition to the school. And not only has SHE made this decision, she already had the plans (they were hideous) and the builders are ready to start. Since it was a private donation, there needed to be no discussion about it, as there were no taxpayer dollars involved. WELL….let me tell you, this news did not sit well with the parents. And not to long after the meeting, Agnes ends up dead.

The gossip blog, WisconSINS, starts printing not so nice information about the locals and soon Marina (the not so anonymous author of the blog) starts receiving death threats warning her to back off. With her friend's life in jeopardy, and having gotten a better understanding of Agnes's life after speaking with her sister, Beth sets off to track down the killer. With a list of parents/suspects a mile long, it takes some clever sleuthing on Beth's part to whittle down the list. But will she find the killer before he/she finds her or Marina? Is it a parent hoping to put a stop to the ugly addition or someone that has nothing to do with the school itself? Or just maybe it's the handsome, mysterious man that has reappeared in Beth's life? A man she hasn't seen since she was a little girl. While it was fairly easy to figure out who the mysterious donor was, it wasn't so easy when it came to the killer. There are lots of hints that will have you thinking one thing, only to find out they mean something completely different, and those things having nothing to do with murder and mayhem. Laura Alden's Murder at the PTA is a fun, fresh, and exciting addition to the cozy genre. It's great start to a new series by a new author. Just don't let the teacher catch you not reading it.

Lori Gondelman

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Lost Symbol
Dan Brown
c/o Random House, Inc.
1745 Broadway, New York, NY
9780385504225, $29.95,

By now most people know the style of book Dan Brown writes. The Lost Symbol takes his mix of history, symbology, mystery and action into the Capital of the US. The average person doesn't know how filled the Capital is with symbology. People should however expect this. The US has a relatively new history in the world and the founding fathers had a clean slate to build a capital and they wanted to link it to the history they wanted the new nation to emulate. This has filled the Capital with symbology and structures that rival any in the world. Brown is a more experience writer now and it shows in his using less of the impossible in his storyline. The few threads that don't match reality are easier to ignore. The biggest weakness is that the ending is a little too soft when compared to the hardcore action and mystery of the rest of the book.

Robert Langdon, a Harvard symbologist, is tricked into coming to Washington to meet a friend and give a lecture. Instead of finding a lecture hall filled with guests, he finds his friend kidnapped and his severed hand left at the Capital as a clue. Langdon must use the severed hand to solve an ancient mystery that is embedded in the symbology of Washington for nearly two hundred years or his friend will die horribly at midnight. The CIA sees this as a terrorist threat to the nation and forcibly steps in to control or stop Langdon's search.

The Lost Symbol is a book that will be enjoyed by the reader. It has all of the twists, intrigue and history you expect in a Dan Brown novel. But because it is expected, it doesn't have the unique force of his previous stories. The history and symbology of Washington is the best and greatest strength in the story and alone is enough to warrant finding and reading the novel. With the weakness of the ending, it is satisfying ending but doesn't match the rest of the novel's pace, the story is less impressive. It is a must find in the library or even paperback but the price of a hard cover seems a little much for the tale.

Simply Complexity: A Clear Guide to Complexity Theory
Neil Johnson
Oneworld Publications
185 Branbury Road, Oxford OX27AR, England
9781851686308, $15.95,

Most introductory books on complexity try to survey the whole topic. Johnson uses his own personal experience in complexity as a limiting factor, leaving out the work of many others. This brings a surprising depth and focus on the topic. The drawback is that there is a huge amount of the discipline that is missing. The book reads as an adjunct to a broader curriculum. The reader is left wondering about the missing information or what steps should follow next.

Johnson uses a nice mix of very simple mathematical logic and real life examples to give this introduction a satisfying feel. How complexity works with real life traffic jams, disease, finances, war and terrorism gives an immediate purpose for this new science. Johnson's restatement of the standard population equation as a set of files is an especially fun building block to understanding the real examples. Since Johnson takes the time to build from basic logic to complex examples in real life, the typical reader will have the satisfaction of a true learning experience.

Johnson does make a few misleading statements in the book. If these statements are caused by over simplification or a too narrow focus, it is unknown. But the obviousness of the misstatements does question why they were left in the book. The strength of the rest of the material makes the problems forgivable.

Simply Complex is a solid text. It is a little too focused for the average lay reader but it is an ideal text for the mathematically inclined. There is not an over abundance of math but the logic used to build from very simple beginnings is similar to those used in math. If you are interested in looking deeper than a general review of complex topics, this book is a good intermediate step.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Toxic Talk: How the Radical Right Has Poisoned America's Airwaves
Bill Press
St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10010
9780312606299, $26.99,

The first question this book raises is: Why is Rush Limbaugh not confined to an asylum for the criminally insane for the term of his natural life?

A second should be: Since 16 million Americans, five percent of the population, listen to Limbaugh's hate-fest on a regular basis, and no one would do that unless Limbaugh's thought patterns mirrored his own, does that mean that five percent of Americans are certifiably insane?

A third might be: Who in hell is Michael Savage? Bill Press lists Savage alongside Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck as the Big Four of Hate Talk. Press describes Beck and Limbaugh as blowhards, and Hannity as someone who "tries hard to be as outrageous, obnoxious, and funny as Limbaugh. But … he's simply not as talented." I was familiar with those three from watching Countdown. But Savage I have never heard of.

The fourth obvious question that springs to mind is: Why was G. Gordon Liddy, a devout admirer of Al Capone's Valentine's Day method of cementing his absolute power, ever released from incarceration?

In the chapter, "Rush Limbaugh: The Big Fat Liar," a title borrowed from Al Franken's book of similar name, Press details a large number of statements made by Limbaugh on his radio program. He follows up each quotation with the words, "That was a big fat lie, and Limbaugh must have known that." He summarizes (p 28), "As entertaining as he may be, you can't believe a word you hear on the Rush Limbaugh program. In fact, every time you hear Limbaugh say, 'I'm not making this up, folks,' you can be pretty sure he is."

The same chapter describes the hypocrisy of Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and other fanatic Republicans, and points out that a big reason the Republican Party is actively self-destructing is that it takes its position on practically every issue from Rush Limbaugh. George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum warned (p. 51) that, while voters could not vote Limbaugh out of office, "They can vote against Republican candidates for Congress. They can vote against Republican nominees for president. And if we allow ourselves to be over identified with somebody who earns his fortune by giving offense, they will vote against us." Press advises (p. 32), "Want to know what the Republican Party talking points are on any given day? Tune in to Rush Limbaugh." And he observes that, "Despite warnings from Frum and others, Republicans seem to have chosen Rush Limbaugh and fellow talker Glenn Beck as their leaders. And they are more than willing to follow them, right over the cliff." But despite Limbaugh's success as an entertainer and darling of the lunatic fringe (p. 52), "There's a good reason Limbaugh's never run for public office: He couldn't win!" In fact two-thirds of persons interviewed by CBS expressed an unfavorable opinion of Limbaugh and declared that he does not share their values.

Having demolished Rush Limbaugh to such a degree that anyone less thick-skinned than a pachyderm would have slunk away into well-deserved oblivion, Press next takes on Glenn Beck, whom he compares to the Peter Finch character, Howard Beale, in the movie, Network (pp. 55-56). "The difference, of course, is that Beale implodes because he gets sick of spewing standard-issue media bullshit. Beck never tires of it." Press quotes some of Beck's vicious ad hominem attacks on Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, using language once restricted to the likes of Fred Phelps. And he identifies the real enemies of the American people and the human race (p. 57): "After years of ugly personal attacks by Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and others, you might have thought there was no limit on what Fox anchors could say and get away with it, no line they could not cross without getting away with it. But Glenn Beck may finally have found it." The Faux "news" channel in fact repudiated Beck's calling Obama a racist. But - significantly - they did not fire him, and he continues to spew his hatemongering in an exponentially increasing volume on a daily basis. The line that really says it all (p. 60) is, "Glenn Beck is a very sick man." Yet for some reason Press does not mention that Beck is a Mormon, addicted to a religion that stands or falls on the pretence that Native Americans are descended from the "lost tribes of Israel," a pretence that recent DNA analysis has definitively falsified.

The Big Lie, the practice of repeating an outrageous falsehood over and over and over until the intended audience comes to accept it as truth, did not originate with its current habitual users, the Limbaugh/Beck/Faux News propaganda conspiracy. Press quotes (p. 59) a historical document that advocated precisely such a strategy. My first suspicion was that the quotation was from Machiavelli. In fact it was from Adolf Hitler. Press does not emulate the liars he attacks by taking the position that, since Hitler ate Corn Flakes for breakfast, eating Corn Flakes must be evil. He simply points out that, when conservatives denounce liberals for any action their undisciplined imaginations can compare to Hitler, they are wielding a two-edged sword.

Press identifies his next target, Sean Hannity (p. 75) as, "little more than the loyal, fast-talking parrot of the Republican National Committee, trained to repeat whatever outrageous new talking points they deposit in the bottom of his bird cage every morning." He notes (p. 88) that, "Throughout his broadcasting career, Sean Hannity has never been what you'd call a truth teller. From his earliest days as Ollie North's defender, he's always been a purveyor of misinformation. It's his bread and butter…. Every day for twelve months, he told so many lies, engaged in such repeated deception, and spread so much obvious propaganda that …. Sean Hannity is Media Matters for America's Misinformer of the Year." In summary (p. 112), "He may pontificate, but he will never come up with an idea of his own…. On the ideas side, perhaps Al Franken said it best: 'I love Hannity, because he's just dumb.'"

Chapter four focuses on a man who, like Rush Limbaugh, is confined to radio because his attempt to graduate to television was a disaster: Michael Savage.

Michael Who?

Actually, Savage has a degree of notoriety outside of America (pp. 113-114). In May 2009 he was one of sixteen people banned from the UK for hate speech, along with a former KKK grand wizard; militant Hamas and Hezbollah leaders; six Muslim advocates of terrorist violence; and Fred Phelps.

The chapter on Toxic TV details the repeated failure of successful radio hosts to make the transition to television - with the exception of Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz, both liberals. If there is a lesson there, Press is cautious enough to ignore it. The chapter on Minor League Talk Radio focuses on local-market wannabes who think the way to national syndication and fame is to out-lie Hannity, out-sick Beck, out-clown O'Reilly, and out-hate Limbaugh. After all, it worked for their role models.

Among the minor leaguers, Press cites a particularly repulsive piece of "Human Garbage" (p. 205) who accused the victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, as well as the victims of Hurricane Katrina, of bringing their fate on themselves. But he makes no mention of the theofascists of the Christian Broadcasting Network who similarly blamed the victims of natural disasters that killed a half-million human beings. According to the CBN ayatollahs, those disasters were their Sky Fuhrer's reprisals for America's failure to override the First Amendment and impose CBN's taboos on the American people. Why cite a minor leaguer and ignore the major hatemongers? Does Press think that, since liberals virtually never justify their political philosophy by arguing that "God said so," it must be mere coincidence that evolutionary throwbacks (the real meaning of "conservative") hate all the people their deities hate?

On Homegrown Toxic Talkers (p. 211), Press notes that, "local talk show hosts form the bottom of the toxic talk pyramid. They are the real workhorses of the industry." As to How Right-Wing Talk Works, he explains (p. 246), "Conservative radio station owners are not always driven by the bottom line. Time and again, they have shown that, in their zeal to push conservative talk and bury progressive talk - they are even willing to lose money doing so!"

Like most of the morally evolved (real meaning of "liberal"), Press is cautiously optimistic. And after spelling out the problem, he offers a plausible solution (pp. 278-279): "Based on the ratings success enjoyed by Al Franken, Rachel Maddow … and others, I am convinced there's a bright future ahead for progressive talk radio…. In fact, all indications are that the glory days of conservative talk are in decline, and the golden age of progressive talk is just beginning…. Until wealthy donors step up to the plate and start buying and building their own network of progressive talk stations.… until liberals buy their own radio stations, progressive talk radio will always be the poor, neglected stepsister of right-wing talk." While I have no problem with the word "progressive," just as I have no problem with the sellers of second-hand cars calling them "pre-owned," I refuse to see the right wing's distortion of "liberal" as a justification for replacing it with a word the morally retarded have not yet vilified. I consider being called "liberal" a compliment, and so should "progressives." But I fully endorse Press's final summation (p. 284), "In short, we have let the airwaves - and our political system - be consumed with a poisonous cloud of toxic talk. Now's the time to get active, get involved, build a powerful progressive media machine, and help clean up the air."

A brief quibble: Press reveals his cultural conditioning when he takes the position that Bill Clinton lied about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. I have never committed sexcrime. But the Catholic and other religions would argue that I have, because their definition of "sexcrime" differs from mine (and the law's). Clinton stated that, "I did not have sex with that woman," and by his definition of "have sex" that was the truth. He did not engage in pregnancy-inducing recreation, and even the composers of the biblical Big Ten did not define what he did as a taboo violation. Since Press acknowledges (p. 17) that, "Like every book by every author, this … one is built both on my own experience and bias," such a display of religious brainwashing is understandable.

Press also casually refers to "statutory rape," showing no ability to see "rape with the consent of the victim" as the most insane, oxymoronic, "law respecting an establishment of religion," on the face of the earth. Other Western nations have "age of consent" laws, and rightly treat seduction of the under-aged (usually under age 16) as a criminal offence. It is the description of consensual behavior involving an adolescent (not a child) as "rape" that is a theocratic violation of the First Amendment.

Then there is Press's reference (p. 147) to a "feud" between Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilly, reported as if the two were analogous to the Yankees and the Mets, when a better analogy would be Churchill and Hitler. Is Press so afflicted with the Politically Correct virus that he sees a need to treat outspoken truthtellers and outspoken liars equally? His statement that O'Reilly trounces Olbermann in their ratings by a factor of three to one was true for a long time, and Olbermann beating O'Reilly did not happen until June, 2010, after Press's book had gone to press. But the gap has been steadily narrowing for some time, just as the gap between theists and nontheists, now 64 percent to 36 percent, has been steadily narrowing. In a society with a teachable majority, eventually truth will win out. Hardcore Republicans are down to 20 percent, half the support they enjoyed before the Fox/Limbaugh Huns turned them into the Party of No.

America needs Limbaugh, Beck, O'Reilly and Hannity like Germany needed Hitler, Himmler, Göring and Goebbels.

The Truth about the Gita: A Closer Look at Hindu Scripture
V. R. Narla
Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2119
9781616141837, $18.00,

The Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu bible, was "originally written to combat Buddhism," and eventually achieved the same scriptural status as the Vedas and Upanishads in ancient Hindu literature (p. 7). As explained in the Foreword (pp. 9-10), "As a reaction against the inequalities and rigidities of Hinduism, a new religion called Buddhism, based on the teachings of prince-turned-sage Siddhartha Gautama … arose sometime between the sixth and fourth century BCE…. The Hindu caste system was undermined by the egalitarian character of Buddhism…. Brahmans who were waiting for an opportunity … tried to undermine Buddhism by creating … the Bhagavad Gita dialogues." And toward the end (p. 188), Narla summarizes, "I have made enough points to convince any open-minded man (sic) that the Gita was fabricated to arrest the rapid spread of Buddhism."

The author clearly has little knowledge of Judaism, Christianity or Islam, as his whole book (including the Preface by Innaiah Narisetti) takes the position that the doctrines of Hinduism are unique - evil, but unique. For example (p. 8), "The Hindu religion is perhaps unique among the world's religions in that it prohibits almost 85 percent of its followers from reading its own scriptures." Is Narisetti unaware that for more than a thousand years, the Catholic religion prohibited its bible from being translated into any language that rank-and-file Catholics were able to read? "All the women (50 percent of the population), including those belonging to the Brahman caste, and both men and women belonging to the Sudra caste (about 35 percent of the population) were prohibited by the Hindu religion from reading the Vedas and other scripture and from having any education at all." And that differs from Islam in what way?

"The Hindu religion … treated some humans … much worse than that of Jews in Nazi Germany and black people under the apartheid regime of South Africa…. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, one of the leaders of the untouchables … said that Hinduism was nothing short of racism, fascism, and Nazism combined" (p. 9). So Hinduism is as anti-human as anything the Middle East has ever produced.

"There is scarcely a case on record where a religious persecution was so successfully carried out as that by which Buddhism was driven out of India" (p. 11). Except perhaps the way Jews were driven out of Torquemada's Spain, Moslems were driven out of Europe (unfortunately they have come back), and Christians were driven out of Moslem lands.

"The Bhagavad Gita is full of contradictions - both at the fundamental level and at the highest level of philosophical discourse. What is said in one chapter is contradicted in the very next chapter" (pp. 11-12). Newsflash! All religious tomes are full of self-contradictions. The Tanakh classifies male homosexuality as a capital crime in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, even though in Deuteronomy 13:6 it refers favorably the "the male lover who means as much to you as your own breath." The Christian bible endorses the validity of private property in Exodus 20:17, and communism in Acts 4:34-35. The Koran contains both a declaration that three Arabian goddesses are Allah's daughters (deleted from the Penguin translation), and a denial that Allah has daughters (17:40).

"It can be made to lend support to any opinion, belief, dogma, fad, oddity, or eccentricity. It can be used to justify social inequality and economic injustice. What is far more shocking, it can be cited to justify mass murder" (p. 198). "Gandhi thought that the Gita was supporting his viewpoint, and he quoted the Gita in support of his nonviolence, whereas his assassin, Godse, also quoted the Gita in support of his abominable act" (p. 12). Pope Ratzinger and Ian Paisley quote the same bible in support of incompatible interpretations. Islam's al Qaeda and Christianity's oxymoronic "right to life" clinic bombers cite their sacred books to support their mass murders.

The Gita chronicles the Kurakshetra War, which may or may not have actually happened. "On a very liberal estimate the total number of participants in the war could not have been more than four million…. And yet the total number of the dead exceeded 1,660 million. So we have to presume that each combatant died more than four hundred times" (p. 29). Compare that to the biblical account of the Exodus from Egypt, which allegedly involved two million Jews surviving for forty years in Sinai oases capable of supporting no more than three thousand. The Torah authors recognized the incompatibility of such figures, and showed the Jews living on "wherefrom?" (Hebrew: man). But the whole fable is at least as absurd as the Gita statistics.

Narla refers (p. 33) to the "silly tradition, dead tradition, of the Hindu mind…. And one or two of them have such a fuddled mind as to argue in all seriousness that what millions and millions of people believed for thousands of years as true cannot be fictitious." To this day there are Christians and Jews who believe, solely because of what they read in their bibles, that humans did not evolve from lower lifeforms and the universe is less than seven thousand years old.

"The orthodox, here as elsewhere, now as always, believe that the higher they raise their voices, the louder they bang the table, the truer the beliefs they profess will be…. Faith and fabrication always go together, just as reason and truth march together" (pp. 42, 47). Reminder: Narla is describing Hinduism, not Judaism, Christianity or Islam.

Referring to the Gita's many revisions over the centuries, Narla notes (p. 64) that, "With every revision, that influence has become more reactionary, deadlier. A part of that revision, let me add, is the Bhagavad Gita, the Song Celestial, with its exhortation to kill, to kill in cold blood, to kill as a matter of caste duty." Those exhortations to kill could have been copied from almost any page of the Torah or the Koran.

Like the Koran and the Bible, the Gita is a paean to evil. "The morals of the Mahabharata [into which the Gita was interpolated] are muddy, crude, revolting" (p. 67). Anyone who has read a bible or Koran is aware that the paramount gods of those books are the most sadistic, evil, insane mass-murderers in all fiction. "What it all boils down to is this…. you should not forget your caste nor fail to perform your caste duties…. Otherwise, you will land right down in hell. It is to sound that grim warning that the Gita was written" (p. 171). Caste duties, as non-Hindus might not know, mean that persons whose great-great grandparents were potty-emptiers are themselves required to spend their lives as potty-emptiers. Narla's evaluation of such a system is (p. 144-145), "Action without any care for its evil consequences to other men and the world at large is something reprehensible, even diabolical…. To justify your unspeakable action as your caste duty or as an inevitable expression of your nature, prakriti, is to make yourself a robot, an unfree man, a member of a herd of wolves and jackals." That is as accurate a description of Catholic cardinals as I have ever heard.

"In every respect, Krishna the god is even less credible than Krishna the man…. He enters the Mahabharata as a man and exits as a god" (p. 95). "The elevation of Krishna to godhood was, however, a long and tortuous process" (p. 175). "Krishna's rise from the status of a Kuladevata to that of the incarnation of Vishnu was a long process spread over centuries" (p. 177). "There is a longer, tougher, and more tortuous process than elevating a tribal hero into a national god, and that is to provide him with a gospel. In the case of Krishna, the process took almost a thousand years" (p. 183). Jesus enters the gospels as a man and exits as a god. His deification was not, however, a long and tortuous process. Elapsed time from his execution in 30 CE to his deification in the fourth gospel in 130-138 CE was only a single century, although it took an additional two centuries for the Council of Nicaea to turn him into the incarnation of Yahweh. And providing him with a gospel (Mark) took only forty years.

"The Bhagavad Gita can, of course, only be regarded as in part a combination of the most highly diverse pieces" (p. 106). "To demarcate the portions written by the three different authors, Khair printed the full text of the Gita toward the end of his book in three different colors" (p. 110). "Where Khair has recognized three authors, others can discover a dozen or more. Had it not been the work of many authors spread over many generations, it would not have been the medley, the melange, and the mess that it is" (p. 111). This is equally true of the Torah, composed over the period 920-434 BCE. Most scholars identify four primary authors and two redactors. But a few have identified several more than that.

"The Gita will not stand up. For it is too evasive and equivocal on almost all vital questions. Is God personal or impersonal? According to the Gita, he is now this and now that" (p. 129). "And yet the admirers of the Gita - or should we call them 'the apologists'? - dismiss these as not real but only 'apparent' contradictions. It shows that they are either willfully blind or dogmatically perverse" (p. 129). Every biblical scholar is familiar with the way Christian apologists describe diametrically opposite assertions in their bible as "apparent contradictions," as if pinning such a label on incompatibilities can make them go away. (Did Noah take two of every unclean animal on the ark, or seven? The apologists' response: "Don't ask.")

Just as Catholicism recruits priests by offering them access to an unlimited number of altar boys, Hinduism offers a similar incentive - but only in the next world. "You might be guilty of every conceivable act of immorality, and yet you can attain heaven in case you die with Krishna's name on your lips. Is that not, so to say, a Magna Carta for immorality?" Catholic doctrine is that, if Al Capone died after asking, "Forgive me, Father…" he is unquestionably now in heaven.

Narla states (p. 197), "I am one of those who believe that if you insist, as Gandhi did, on absolute truth, absolute celibacy, absolute nonviolence, absolute self-sacrifice, and such other obsolete ethical values, you will end up with absolute hypocrisy…. The roots of this hypocrisy can indeed be traced back to the Gita." And if Christians accept as valid morality the teaching attributed to Jesus in Luke 16:1-9, "Cheat those who are no longer useful to you, and use the stolen money to bribe those who are in a position to do you good," absolute hypocrisy does not begin to describe such doublethink.

My only quibble with the passages in Narla's book quoted above is his apparent delusion that Hinduism's pre-scientific superstitions and its insane concept of morality are not equally applicable to every religion that has ever existed, in particular Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I totally disown him when he reveals that he is as godphuqt as any religion addict in his attitude toward victimless, consensual, nonconsequential sexual recreation, an activity that has no more connection with morality than tennis of chess. He refers (p. 21) to the sex-goddess Kunti having five children by different fathers as if that were reprehensible, even though no husband was deceived into raising a cuckoo's chick. He calls the children "illegitimate," meaning "not lawfully born," as if that puritanical concept existed centuries before it was invented.

He asks (p. 23),"Can anyone who cares for naked truth deny that fornication in its grossest form was part of the more important of the Vedic sacrifices?" While fornication, meaning copulation dedicated to a sex goddess, was denounced by the Christian psychopath Paul, it was perhaps the most rational element of Hinduism. On the morality of copulation per se, the Talmud expressed the sanest attitude (Nazir 19a): "Anyone who causes himself anguish by abstinence from something he desires is to be deemed a sinner/ disobedient/ pervert" (a single Hebrew word means all of those things).

While not disputing Narla's scholarship, I am reluctant to give his book either a thumbs up or a thumbs down. I lack the expertise to evaluate its usefulness to scholars in the same field, but I do see it as having little value for anyone else. I can only guess that Prometheus has no expectation of recovering their production costs, but chose to publish The Truth about The Gita to plug a hole in their catalogue. Just because Hinduism has little support in America, that is insufficient reason to ignore it.

William Harwood

Karlene's Bookshelf

World War Z
Max Brooks
Three Rivers Press
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0307346617, $14.95,

Whether a fan of zombies or not, "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War" by Max Brooks is a well-written "account" of first-hand experiences which thoroughly engrosses the reader. From the first page, the reader is drawn in by the unique voices given to each of the people relating their stories. It's easy to forget that the story is entirely fictional because of the details given to each individual case. The "interviewer" sets up each tale with a description of place and person, and then proceeds to give each their own accent and tone as they try to explain what they went through and how they survived.

While mention of zombies plays through the entire book, the main focus is on what happens after a form of war that, while every bit as destructive as nuclear, raises new questions on how people handle the devastation and fear of something that destroys our way of life. It takes us from the first encounter, through the ways our world's governments tried to cover it up, the fear of knowing there was little help, the betrayal of some leaders and on through to a small measure of hope as they look to the future.

World War Z candidly looks at the flaws and failings of humanity in the real world while showing how stubborn and tenacious we can be when faced with our own annihilation. Clearly fictional, Max Brooks still manages to strike a nerve, making you frown at what you see is wrong in yourself then making you smile to realize how great we are as a people and what we can overcome when we join together.

Magic Lost, Trouble Found
Lisa Shearin
Ace Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
0441015050, $7.99,

Raine Benares is a Seeker of items. She makes it clear throughout the story that her magic is not as strong as others, and that the world is mostly made up of elves and goblins. The two races don't get along, often leading to misunderstandings, especially when Raine is hired to steal a powerful item from a necromancer's house.

An amulet turns out to be more than a simple necklace, leading to intrigue, near death, and a need to discover secrets about her own past that ties her missing father to the mystery.

A great secondary cast of a goblin that loves Raine, a paladin elf that also loves her, and very young spellsinger add to the complexities surrounding the duty Raine has to deal with the amulet. Raine has a snarky attitude that makes her fun to read about but the pacing is a little uneven. This one fault is forgivable in this author's first book considering the detail given to creating a well-rounded world with wonderful characters. I look forward to what this author will bring in the future!

Karlene Clark

Karyn's Bookshelf

The Night Fairy
Laura Amy Schlitz, author
Angela Barrett, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763636746, $16.99,

It's clear just a few lines into "The Night Fairy" that Newbery Medal-winning author Laura Amy Schlitz is a master wordsmith. Flory, a young fairy who finds herself unable to fly after a bat chews off her wings, has "great sharp eyes that sparkled like blackberries under dew," Schlitz writes. On her first injured night alone, curled up in a giantesses' backyard wren nest that becomes her foreseeable home, Flory comforts herself with thoughts of "warm things: the breast feathers of a bird, the softness of a mulberry leaf, the nubbins of pussy willow." In a brisk yet unfettered writing style that's efficiently void of slow points, Schlitz deftly carries Flory through 117 pages of adventures in which she encounters a barrage of garden creatures including a spider, a squirrel, raccoons, a praying mantis and a hummingbird. Some are foes whose threats provide sparks of plot edge. Some, particularly the squirrel, become friends. Originally a night fairy, Flory is inspired by the brilliance of the garden's summer foliage to stay awake during the day, and Schlitz's abundant descriptions of the garden surroundings are pure delight. When it comes to infusing any kind of moral lesson, Schlitz treads lightly, saying a bit of something about forgiveness, friendship and helping others but mostly just spinning a good story. The result is an imaginatively original, fresh tale of a tiny heroine who gets by on her spunk and a keen talent for talking her way out sticky situations. Great reading.

The Song of the Whales
Uri Orlev, author
Hillel Halkin, translator
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780547257525, $16.00,

Hans Christian Anderson medal-winner Uri Orlev's "Song of the Whales," is a gentle, poignantly earnest coming-of-age tale about defining the parameters of your own life, rather than accepting the box others would put you in. Originally published in Israel in 1997, now translated from Hebrew into English and released this year in the U.S., the short novel (108 pages) is about Michael, a young boy whose family moves from the U.S. to Israel to be near his long-estranged grandfather. The two quickly discover a shared interest in things not usually liked by children, things with a "soul" like antique furniture, old machines and old books. Such interests have left Michael isolated from other children, more comfortable with adults than with peers. As their relationship grows, the story takes a wonderfully mystical turn from simply spending quality time together to the grandfather pulling Michael into his dreams. The dreams become increasingly enigmatic, as they swim as whales in the deep ocean; as Michael finds himself face-to-face with two identical grandfathers, having to discern which one is an evil imposter; and as Michael ponders whether an anti-time machine, which would keep him a child forever, would really be a good thing. Later, the grandfather's increasingly ill health results in dreams about his life memories and the foreshadowing of his death. Orlev crafts a deep bond between grandfather and grandson, while meanwhile weaving in the grandfather's romantic relationship with a long-time housekeeper and the strained relationship Michael and his grandfather have with Michael's parents. That Michael's parents rarely step outside their neatly defined, business-like life boxes is a constant source of conflict, as they can't accept the things that make their son different. But the dream thread goes one step further; the grandfather has the ability to enter other people's dreams, even those of strangers, sometimes dusting off old memories or injecting hope or happiness, sometimes fixing something painful. It's a skill he is willing to pass onto to Michael if Michael wants it. Ultimately, Michael has the chance to alter the dream of a girl he has met, potentially changing his actual life. And he has a chance to intervene in the final dreams of his grandfather's life. Beautifully written, an evocative tale about being yourself, forging personal connections, taking chances and making a difference while you can.

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.
Kate Messner, author
Walker & Company
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780802798428, $16.99,

Seventh-grader Gianna Zales isn't a tidy, detail-oriented person like her bookkeeper mother. She's not on top of her class assignments like her uber-organized, chess-playing best friend, Zig. Her curly red hair, that "frizzes itself into a bad imitation of a shag carpet when I sweat," meets its match in her bedroom, which is part messy art studio scattered with potential collage material and one (accidentally) paint-splattered wall. Gianna loves photography, her sketchbook, foreign languages, potpourri, poetry and the richly ethnic atmosphere of the market her family visits on Saturdays. But she's not good at things that require advanced planning, like the leaf collection assignment that she's had weeks to work on and that she needs to start if she's going to be allowed to compete in an upcoming cross-country sectional race. As she struggles to pull the assignment together, repeatedly beset by obstacles like her father accidentally throwing her leaves in the trash and her mother manically insisting that the final product look neat and orderly, she's also increasingly worried about her live-in grandmother who is showing early signs of dementia and tormented by a mean girl at school who wants to take her place at sectionals. A brilliantly colored leaf is distracting; she's inspired to sketch it, ultimately using seventeen colored pencils in an effort to capture its mix of hues, on an evening when she should be pasting it and others onto index cards. Funny, colorful, poignant without getting too weighty and nicely tied into the poetry of Robert Frost, "The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z." is about meeting life's challenges in a way that works best for you, not how other people do things and without compromising what makes you - or your school project -- unique. That Gianna's science teacher ultimately appreciates her unorthodox approach to her leaf project is a great nod to the importance of letting kids be themselves.

Amazing Monty
Johanna Hurwitz, author
Anik McGrory, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763641542, $15.99,

Young readers who first met first-grader Monty Morris in 2007's "Mostly Monty" already know he's great at reading and math, likes karate and has asthma. In "Amazing Monty," author Johanna Hurwitz continues the story, this time tackling topics like bouncing back from disappointment, losing teeth, being a good friend and generally negotiating an elementary school day. The first four chapters - out of six total - are set at school and home, with situations young readers will relate to, including a great, over-the-top character sketch of a mean substitute teacher, perfectly enhanced by illustrator Anik McGrory's hilarious drawings. But the final two chapters takes a decided turn, focusing entirely on the impending birth of Monty's sibling. Ultimately, the expected baby defines "Amazing Monty," as Monty ponders questions like whether it will also have asthma and where his grandparents will sleep when they visit, now that the guest room is a nursery. His parents, who throughout are loving and approachable, gently address his concerns. A must-read for older children who are soon to be first-time siblings, who can also relate to the non-sibling things going on in Monty's life.

Flora's Very Windy Day
Jeanne Birdsall, author
Matt Phelan, illustrator
Clarion Books
c/o Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780618986767, $16.00,

The award-winning talents of author Jeanne Birdsall (The Penderwicks) and illustrator Matt Phelan (The Higher Power of Lucky) combine in "Flora's Very Windy Day," an ode to sibling ties. The story follows Flora, a gangly elementary schooler who starts out enraged at her chubby, cherub-cheeked younger brother Crispin, who has spilled her paints. But when they're sent outside together and a powerful wind whisks him off the ground, she protectively sails up after him. Once airborne, she has multiple chances to give him away to a host of increasingly threatening characters ranging from a sparrow to a cloud to the man on the moon. Ultimately, Flora shields Crispin from harm and they gently descend, Mary Poppins-like, back to their own yard. Birdsall's writing is crisp and clean, the dialogue between Flora and the wind, as well as between her and the various elements seeking to steal her brother away, is easy and unforced. There's great, kid-friendly use of language such as Flora's description of her footwear as "super-special heavy-duty red boots." Phelan masterfully captures Flora's initial rage at the spilled paints and her mother's tired eyes, as well as details like Flora's protective arm around her brother at the tale's conclusion and Flora's unkempt hair that, as often is the case with young girls, could use a comb. The story could have been set in any season but the choice of autumn allows for a swirling bright red and orange backdrop of blowing leaves that mingle beautifully with the red and purple coats Flora and Crispin are, respectfully, dressed in. A wonderfully original, expertly-crafted and illustrated story, with a good message to boot.

Leslie Patricelli, author and illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763644765, $6.99,

Author/illustrator Leslie Patricelli once again takes on the toddler set, with a humorous original board book that points kids away from diapers, toward the potty. Where's the best place to poop and pee, toddlers are asked to consider? Dogs and cats go outside and in a litter box, respectively. Perhaps the best place for children is in a toilet. Children will love to repeat aloud the story's textual resolution, a "tinkle, tinkle toot," that comes after a long sit on the potty. It's followed by a big "hooray" from mom and dad, a toilet paper parade and a two-page, unisex display of the next big step: "undies." Brief, very simple language is young child-friendly and Patricelli's unisex approach makes it good for boys or girls. A great addition to Patricelli's previously published toddler-centered board books that have included "Baby Happy, Baby Sad," "Higher! Higher!" and "Yummy Yucky."

Snook Alone
Marilyn Nelson, author
Timothy Basil Ering, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763626679, $16.99,

What does a little dog, mournfully bereft of its owner, think about as it waits to be reunited? For 13 brilliant pages that begin midway through "Snook Alone," following an eight-page set-up that looks textually lengthy but is so well written it doesn't feel so, award-winning author Marilyn Nelson masterfully approaches that question. The morning after his owner hastily abandons him on an island in the face of an approaching storm, Nelson writes that "there were only faint sips of his friend's scent left for Snook to drink in here and there." Later, he "watched the horizon at dawn, noon, at sunset, the incomprehensible vastness a closed door to his friend… Every molecule listened for his friend. Wind, breath, breath, waves." A past recipient of Newbery, Printz and Correta Scott King honors, Nelson has crafted a lengthier than typical picture book that will appeal to older elementary children who, perhaps guided by an adult, can take the time to savor her exquisite command of language. In addition to battling wrenching loneliness, Snook encounters other island creatures including sea birds, a massive crab, sea turtles that come ashore to lay their eggs and a shark that attacks the turtles in the shallows, lending additional plot intrigue. In the hands of a lesser wordsmith, "Snook Alone," would have required more brevity. There's only so much an author can have an abandoned dog do and think about, right? But Nelson's talent is immense, with "Snook Alone" not only effective in all her use of verbiage, but poetically unforgettable. Timothy Basil Ering, who illustrated Kate DiCamillo's Newbery Award-winning "The Tale of Despereaux," completes the near-perfect package with his initially blissful, later sadly wistful drawings.

Karyn L. Saemann

Katz's Bookshelf

Catalogue of Publications and Excerpts
William Harwood
World Audience, Inc.
303 Park Ave South, Suite 1440, New York, NY 10010-3657
9781935444831, $29.00,

Here is a book that truly lives up to its title - for Harwood is as prolific as a literary Tomcat! There are 93 excerpts in three sections, plus 20 letters, 13 commentaries of some of his books by reviewers, a short autobiography, a list of his fiction and non-fiction books, and a final section listing all of his 651 publications. I believe that this makes Harwood a one-man inspirational library! The surprising result is that each of these excerpts is an intellectual treat, each has nuggets of enlightenment, each is challenging to Jews, Christians and Muslims, and each provides non-theists with devastating ammunition.

Do as I did, dive in anywhere and you'll come up with a golden nugget. In his essay "Muhammad and the Koran," Harwood minces no words in condemnation, writing, "Like the Deuteronomist, Muhammad banned murder. And also like the Deuteronomist, he limited the concept to the capricious killing of a fellow believer: Do not kill except for a just cause (25:68). He that kills a believer by design shall burn in Hell forever (4:93). The killing of non-Muslims was specifically authorized. Slay the pagans wherever you find them. Make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. When you encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads."

He treats the same theme in his "Yahweh: A Morally Retarded God," telling us that "The Deuteronomist created a racist god that did not regard the murder of gentiles as immoral. The Priestly author, who wrote between the composition of Deuteronomy in 621 BCE and the fall of Nineveh in 612 BCE, expanded on that concept and described a god so xenophobic that Jews who showed any toleration for gentiles could expect to be exterminated."

In his "Biblical Fairy Tales" he tells us the truth about one of the patriarchs of the Jews, saying, "So Jacob, who even the Torah authors who wrote about him agreed was a liar, a thief, and a thoroughly nasty person, set out to swindle his father-in-law..."

Harwood easily proves his thesis in "Has Religion Been Disproven?" by writing, "Historians [and Harwood is a historian] therefore do not even attempt to prove that gods do not exist. Instead they settle for proving that no god has ever revealed its existence, by tracing all claims of a divine revelation to demonstrable liars or fantasizers."

He is convinced that Jesus was a historical person, but of little consequence, in "Was Jesus a Real Person?" Harwood even gives us a physical description of him as provided by four of the early Christian Fathers.

Harwood easily proves his thesis in his "The Pagan Origins of Christianity," writing, "It was the anonymous Greek authors of the Christian gospels who started the process of turning Jesus into more than he had ever claimed to be. The earliest gospeller, Mark, introduced into his pseudo-Jewish mythology elements of pagan worship that, despite centuries of foreign overlordship, had not previously penetrated Judaism. For example, he had Jesus describe himself as a shepherd and his followers as sheep (Mark 14:27), as Zoroaster had done over 600 years earlier. He emulated Zoroaster's biographers in describing his Hero's death as a sacrifice for many (14:24). He gave Jesus a last supper with twelve followers, identical in every way with the last supper of the Persian god Mithra. And he had Jesus' disciples cannibalize their self-proclaimed king's body in the form of bread and wine (14:22-26), as the Egyptian god Osiris had instructed worshipers to do 3,000 years earlier in the Book of the Dead.

In his "Has Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion been rebutted?" he boldly states, "The Tanakh, Bible and Koran are the most obscene paeans to evil ever written, with Mein Kampf not even a close contender... The character mistranslated as 'God' in English bibles is the most sadistic, evil, mass-murdering psychopath in all fiction. Anyone who does not know that either has never read a bible or is insane."

In his review of Benjamin Wiker's 10 Books that Screwed up the World, Harwood blazes forth with his tongue of fire, saying, "Benjamin Wiker is a Senior Fellow with the Discovery Institute, an organization dedicated to repealing the 2nd Millennium and forcing schools to teach that the universe is less than 10,000 years old, and that urine, excrement and menstruation were intelligently designed by a benevolent creator."

In Harwood's book review of Kendrick Frazier's Science Under Siege, he gives us a juicy quote from Ann Druyan: "It's [the Garden of Eden] a horrible place... As Diderot observed, the God of Genesis 'loved his apples more than he did his children.'" His book review of Dan Agin's Junk Science: How Politicians, Corporations, and Other Hucksters Betray Us, takes a swipe at Sociobiology, writing, "Richard Dawkins, whose status as a public figure began with a book stemming from E. O. Wilson's Sociobiology masturbation fantasy, has largely backed away from his earlier endorsement of a 'selfish gene'.... But he has yet to denounce 'evolutionary psychology,' as the new pseudoscience..."

Harwood's style is aggressively lively - think of H. L. Mencken as you read him. And there are a few coined phrases you might want to add to your own vocabulary: "incurably godphuqt," "pushers of the god psychosis," "bovine excrement," "a victim of god addiction," and "masturbation fantasy."

On September 14, 1813, John Adams wrote to his old friend Thomas Jefferson, "Howl, snarl, bite, ye Calvinistic, ye Athanasian divines, if you will! Ye will say I am no Christian! I say Ye are no Christians. And, there the account is balanced! Yet I believe all the honest men among you are Christians in my sense of the word."

In this collection, Harwood trumps the outspoken Jefferson by declaring that even those who call themselves honest Christians - as Jefferson referred to himself and to those who agreed with him - are actually hypocrites and liars, and even mentally flawed.

These are a few examples of a book that slays the sacred cows of religion and pseudo-science, with every excerpt enlightening and intellectually exciting. It should be part of every nontheist's library.

Pope Ratzinazi and the Faux News Gestapo
William Harwood
Do to Altar Boys
World Audience Inc.
303 Park Avenue South, Suite 1440, New York NY 10010-3657
9781935444428, $45.00,

"Pope Ratzinazi and the Faux News Gestapo: Doing to Democracy What Priests ", Harwood's latest collection of his many essays used to be called a "straphanger's book" because each of his essays is short enough, terse enough, and enlightened enough to be easily read and enjoyed while hanging onto a strap of a bus, trolley or elevated train as you rode to your destination.

Think about it: there are 432 pages in a book that has 63 essays, 50 book reviews, and an addendum of nine other items - which gives each piece an average coverage of only three-and-half pages - certainly that's short enough to be called a "straphanger's book"

The first section consists of 63 commentaries that can roughly be put into the following groups: the Roman Catholic Church, the Republican Party, and Barack Obama. The book review section evaluates evolution and creationism, science and superstition, Jesus the Nazirite, arguments from "natural" theology, morality, psychiatry, and scientology, and God. And the third much smaller section deals with the reviews others have made of Harwood's most recent books.

To give you some idea of the value of Harwood's lively, verbal jarring commentaries, let me use the "cafeteria-style" technique - a few tastes from here and there.

One very important insight is found in his "The Pseudoscience Hall of Infamy: Worthy Inductees," in which he says: "All alleged knowledge can be divided into three categories: science, pseudoscience, and fantasy. Validly obtained information is science. Information obtained by any invalid methodology posing as science is pseudoscience. Information attributed to a metaphysical source that cannot be scientifically tested is fantasy. The postulation that the universe began with a Big Bang is science. The postulation that the universe was created by a god is fantasy. The postulation that a god has revealed its existence is pseudoscience, since all claims have been traced to the same 'sacred' books that also assure their readers that the earth is flat."

Another intellectual jolt comes from his, "What a Difference 30,000 Years Make." Here he writes: "The difference between someone who can read the Tanakh, Bible and Koran and see its paramount deity as admirable, and someone who can read the Tanakh, Bible or Koran and see its paramount deity as the most sadistic, evil, insane mass murderer in all fiction, is 30,000 years of evolution." And: "The difference between any creationist and any evolutionist is 30,000 years of evolution."

One last Menckenian comment, this from "The Virginity Concept: Its Origin and Original Meaning." Harwood jars us with: "God addicts are not the brightest lights on the candelabra. The ability to believe that a book endorsing a flat earth is nonfiction is proof that Christians and Jews are as incapable of rational thought as any Muslim. If brain amputees such as recent presidential candidates are able to rationalize that the discoveries of science are wrong because they falsify a 2,000-old book of fairy tales, it is understandable that they can continue to view victimless recreation as taboo even though they have no awareness of why it was so categorized in the first place."

In Harwood's "Mithra Is Alive and Well and Being Worshipped in the Vatican," he writes of his own conversion to atheism: "It was my being assigned to write an undergraduate essay about the similarity of Christianity and the mystery religions of the early Roman empire that guaranteed that I would sooner or later be compelled to recognize the difference between what I believed and what I knew to be true. Once I learned that fifty other virgin-born savior gods had risen from the dead on the third day centuries and even millennia before Jesus, my cure became inevitable. And one of the first things I learned was that, while the Roman world had been full of savior gods, including Attis, Tammuz, Adonis, and Dionysus, the most popular was Mithra. Jesus and Mithra competed for three centuries, and the reason Jesus ultimately triumphed was that Mithra suffered from a fatal flaw."

For a further explanation as to why he rejected Christianity, you must read his "My Escape from Cloud Cuckoo Land."

In his, "It is not impossible to prove a negative," Harwood emphasizes: "There is no such thing as extrasensory perception. There is no such thing as hypnosis. No intelligent alien has ever visited the earth. Those negative assertions can never be proven in a strictly literal sense. But believers in each of those delusions have been searching for evidence of their reality for decades, with no success whatsoever. An argument can be made that, if ESP, hypnotism, or visiting aliens were real, a point would be reached - some say has been reached - where someone would have proven it by now. That has not happened. Nonetheless, a logical conclusion is not 'proof.'"

Harwood's book review section is equally compelling. Here's one of his trenchant remarks from "The Atheist's Introduction to the New Testament: How the Bible Undermines the Basic Teachings of Christianity" by an author named Mike Davis: "Davis cites gospel passages ... that give opposite answers to the question of whether Jesus was a god. But apparently it escaped his notice that only the fourth gospel portrayed Jesus as a god. No other NT author gave any indication that he had ever heard of such a theory. To the synoptic authors and authors of the various letters, Jesus was the adopted, mortal King of the Jews-and nothing more."

Other insightful reviews are his somewhat negative critique of "What Is Man? And Other Irreverent Essays" by Mark Twain. And he pummels Paul Tobin's "The Rejection of Pascal's Wager: A Skeptic's Guide to the Bible and the Historical Jesus."

However, he does give a positive review to many of the books, including Victor J. Stenger's "The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason." Here Harwood approves of most of Stenger's conclusions, such as, "The theist argument that science and reason are also based on faith is specious. Faith is belief in the absence of supporting evidence. Science is belief in the presence of supportive evidence." And this truism, "When the evidence disagrees with a scientific proposition, the proposition is discarded. When the evidence disagrees with a religious proposition, the evidence is discarded."

In his review of "The Rise and Fall of Jesus," Harwood says, "Steuart Campbell [its author] maintains that the person best qualified to write a definitive biography is an ex-Christian. Certainly a Christian cannot do so, for if he had any ability to reach conclusions compatible with the evidence, he could not remain a Christian. I have met Christians who have actually read the Bible, yet continue to regard Jesus as a nice guy. That is like reading Mein Kampf and continuing to regard Hitler as a nice guy."

Reviewing Robert L. Park's "Superstition in the Age of Science," Harwood writes, "'If things were different, things would not be the way they are. If that doesn't strike you as terribly deep, you may not be suitable material for the Templeton Prize.' The Templeton Prize, in case anyone is unaware, is the richest bribe available to scientists who 'say something nice about religion.'"

In his last three pages, Harwood cleverly summarizes "everything God, Pope Ratzinazi, and Faux News has ever revealed to man" by filling each page with a great big circle - or zero!

Harwood's "straphanger's" book has it all: satire, irony, sarcasm, cynicism, acrimony - and great insights. By all means you must own this one.

Bernard Katz

Logan's Bookshelf

My Life, For Her
Robert J. Saniscalchi
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781448976843 $24.95

The call to war is never called off for some soldiers. "My Life, For Her" is the story of a Vietnam veteran turned cop as he goes back into the fray to save his family from the terrorists that would do him harm in Columbia. An exciting read of love, faith, and nonstop action and adventure, "My Life, For Her" is a fun read that will prove hard to put down.

The Science of Getting Rich
Wallace D. Wattles
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432735562, $14.95,

Successful people share common traits throughout history. "The Science of Getting Rich" is a reprinting of a 1910 book of the same name, where Author Wallace Delois Wattles explained the key ideas to getting rich. Although over a century old, some advice is timeless and makes "The Science of Getting Rich" an intriguing read, not to be overlooked.

The Grass Widow
D. A. Chadwick
Privately Publishing
9781453623916, $12.00

The drive of a woman is not something that only appeared in the past century. "The Grass Widow" is a novel following Bethel Erwin as she serves as a nurse for both the Confederate and Union armies. Hoping to analyze the role of women in mid-nineteenth century America and the desire to be more than a housewife. "The Grass Widow" is a fine read, and not to be overlooked.

The Last Layer
Lawrence Perlman
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity (publicity)
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781450216210, $15.95,

Jewel thieves aren't about slumming it up - they have much higher standards than that. "The Last Layer" is a novel of jewel thieves and Senior Inspector Gerard de Rochenoir, a French Policeman who finds himself addled with two of these heists. Complicating it further, there's murder involved and Gerard finds himself traveling the world and making new friends and enemies. A riveting thriller mystery of cunning criminals and hard to catch jewel thieves, "The Last Layer" is not a novel to be missed.

Outskirts press
10940 S. Parker Road -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432759223, $17.95,

Sometimes the only thing holding a town up is a single company. "Duckegg & Persons of Interest" tells of a town where the conflict between the people of the town and a powerful pharmaceutical company collide and butt heads. A man called Duckegg, not exactly the best family man but with aspirations of heroism, seems to the town's only champion against the company's power. "Duckegg & Persons of Interest' is an intriguing novel of small towns and big business, recommended.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

It's Murder, My Son
Lauren Carr
Privately Published
c/o Terri Lynn Zaleski
9781452819433, $14.99,

Inheritance always comes at a price. "It's Murder, My Son" tells the story of Mac Faraday is faced with a major inheritance he never knew about. A retired cop, he takes his inheritance as a cue to look for the truth and finds more than enough suspicious events to put the retired cop on edge. An exciting mystery with plenty of intriguing and enigmatic characters, "It's Murder, My Son" is not a read that should be missed for mystery fans.

Everything That Was Inside Me
Jose Juan Rodriguez
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134\
9781432760656, $13.95,

Life gives you everything you need from poetry. "Everything That Was Inside Me: The Collected Poetry of Jose Juan Rodriguez" is the work of Jose Rodriguez, who has a previous volume of short stories to his name. This collection compiles twenty years of work, and makes "Everything That Was Inside Me" a work of heart and passion. "Vivian": Flashes of your name/across a star-spangled sky/Fireworks in my heart/You make me wanna die/Intoxicated on your love/You are the ultimate high/On Heavenly wings of a dove/You make my spirit fly/Like the Angels up above/Who know without asking why/This I know, this I'm sure of,/I feel the same when dead I lie.

Beyond Biology
Charles S. Yanofsky
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134\
9781432754013, $30.95,

What is the full extent to humanity's potential? "Beyond Biology: Metaphysical Brain Science" looks into the potentials of the human mind, and asks many questions, like the nature of biology and technology as extensions of the human brain and where it can lead. Hoping to use technology and science as a means to a greater state of mind, "Beyond Biology" is a choice pick for metaphysical readers, very highly recommended.

Albie Cullen
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781615826964, $24.95,

Very few people get rich off of music, and Billy Sunday is no different. "Drown" is the story of a musician who not only fails to gain his dreams of glory, but becomes a high profile murder suspect. Doomed to a conviction, Billy wants to settle things, and it seems those really responsible will escape justice. "Drown" is a fun mystery, not to be missed.

The Student Prophet
James Licholas Logue
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432760786, $21.95,

To fall from paradise inspires great revenge. "The Student Prophet: New Partners" is a clash between God and the angels who have fallen and seek revenge against their creator. Causing havoc over the world, all over the world, God calls upon three prophets from all over the world. In a Christian novel and clash of vengeance, guardians, and justice, "The Student Prophet" is an entertaining and highly recommended pick that shouldn't be missed.

Catherine of Siena
Don Brophy
240 West 35th Street, Suite 500, New York, NY 10001
9781933346281, $24.95,

In a world where upward social mobility was essentially impossible, one woman ignored her class to make life better. "Catherine of Siena" looks at this figure who lived in the second half of the thirteenth century as Europe was still entrenched in feudalism and plagues were sweeping through the lands and killing thousands every year. Catherine, an uneducated daughter of a tradesperson, dared to stand up for what she believed was right on the fronts of politics, social justice, and for her faith. Believed to be a big player in convincing the papacy to return to Rome from Avignon, France, "Catherine of Siena" is a remarkable tale of the drive of spirit can mean more than everything else in the world.

Sooner or Later
Damaino De Sano Iocovozzi
Transformation Media Books
PO Box 4204, Charlottesville, VA 22905-4204
9780984225866, $12.95

Keeping sane during the final days of life can prove to be a rough challenge for many. "Sooner or Later: Restoring Sanity to Your End-of-Life Care" discusses end of life care and what readers can do to care for loved ones during this tough time. With questions to ask specialists, keeping emotions in control, and maintaining comfort and the best of things during turbulent times, "Sooner or Later" is a read that shouldn't be missed for anyone with family facing the pain of terminal illness.

Accidental Ambition
Rhett DeVane and Robert W. McKnight
c/o Buy Books On The Web
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9780741460363 $18.95

Political power often turns into a race between the lesser evils, and the lesser evil is occasionally hard to divine. "Accidental Ambition" tells the story when a Republican Senator dies in a non-clear cut plane crash and the senate is thrown into disarray. A beautiful woman without experience is placed against the unsavory characters on the other side of the coin, as the nation looks on, as the seat determines the power of the senate. "Accidental Ambition" is an exciting political thriller full of scandal, highly recommended.

A Scattered Life
Karen McQuestion
Amazon Encore
c/o Goldberg McDuffie Communications (publicity)
444 Madison Avenue, Suite 3300 New York, NY 10022
9781935597063, $14.95,

Being a housewife isn't always the fulfillment many women seek. "A Scattered Life" is a novel following Skyla Pinka as she settles her life down as a wife and mother. But she soon finds this life wasn't cut out for her, growing ever restless. Taking a job as a bookstore clerk, she tries to find joy in her life once more, and finds a new understanding of family. "A Scattered Life" is a fine take on the life of a woman and mother and coping with it, highly recommended.

Glass Halo
Colleen Smith
Friday Jones Publishing
9780984428908 $24.95

A crisis of faith comes to challenge many as they age. "Glass Halo" is the story of a stained-glass artist and her loss of faith in her life. As she encounters a Catholic priest, her faith is discussed, and the artist soon learns that the greatest source of her faith is the power of her creations. Focusing on the healing power, faith, and inspiration that art can bring, "Glass Halo" is a thoughtful read that will inspire those who doubt their own faith.

Cry Ohana
Rosemary & Larry Mild
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781451244786 $12.95

Shame can tear families apart, and murder can obliterate them. "Cry Ohana: Adventure and Suspense in Hawaii" tells the story of a Hawaiian family who through a string of tragedies finds their family torn apart. But when the need to find justice, the family struggles to reunite. A story of family and reunion for the betterment of it all, and dedicated to Hawaiian culture, "Cry Ohana" is a choice pick, highly recommended.

Margaret Lane

Molly's Bookshelf

Saving Max
Antoinette van Heugten
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778329633, $14.95,

Antoinette van Heugten's Saving Max begins as Danielle Parkman, successful attorney, mother of teenaged Asperger beleaguered Max realizes she must act quickly if Max is going to have any future at all. After a series of disappointing social problems as plague most who exhibit symptoms of the high functioning autism condition known as Asperger Syndrome; Max has retreated into a world seemingly controlled by his cell phone, his computer and the recently located journal in which he writes in vivid detail his planned suicide.

Admission to Maitland Psychiatric Asylum will take Max and Danielle from New York to Des Moines to Plano. Max will be housed, at least for a time in a secure unit, allowing no unauthorized persons in and requiring a pass for getting out.

Danielle's life soon is filled with visits to the hospital, a growing friendship with another Maitland patient mother, and visits with doctors as Max begins to show unexpected downturns rather than improvement. The cycle continues until at last another patient is found dead and Max is thought to be the one who killed him. And, not only Max, but Danielle herself is implicated in the death.

With the singled minded focus and intensity of a mother who knows her child could not have committed this fatality, no matter how the circumstances may appear, Danielle sets out to find the actual killer, get the evidence and expose the murderer so that she can clear Max, and herself, from any suspicion.

At last, with not a little courtroom drama, and more than a few surprising twists; the case against Max and Danielle is resolved, the murderer is revealed and Max and Danielle can begin a new, happier period in their lives.

Max is finally correctly diagnosed, he suffers from bi polar disorder something easily treated when it is properly diagnosed and becomes the sweet young man Danielle has always known was possible. Max and Danielle's lawyer becomes much more than just friend or lawyer and life appears to be heading into nothing but smooth sailing and no worry.

Be ready for a surprise in the final paragraph.

I enjoyed reading Antoinette van Heugten's Saving Max, it is not always easy to read, disability and children are not always something easily faced. As a teacher I have begun to see children diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in my classroom; this is something of a new experience for me. I suppose that we did have children with undiagnosed Asperger during the earlier years of my career, however during the recent five years following my return to teaching I have had two such students. Perhaps the problem is on the upswing, or perhaps it is simply diagnosed more correctly today.

Saving Max is a novel rooted in solid understanding of the subject the writer has chosen, is well written, filled with lots of specificity and detail and moves forward at breathless pace carrying the reader along on a mad roller coaster of action, anticipation, despair and optimism.

On the other hand, writer van Heugten's fast paced work is not necessarily based on a particular case even though the writer, a lawyer and parent of a child diagnosed as Asperger Syndrome knows well symptoms, medications, behaviors, social problems for parents and children with disability as well as courtroom procedure and drama. While Max and Danielle are central to the tale it is Asperger itself that becomes the true focus for the work.

Happy to recommend Antoinette van Heugten's debut novel Saving Max.

Hold Your Light
Wayne Bien
9780557515813 $TBA

Wayne Bien's Hold Your Light is billed as a novel, work of fiction, and is dedicated to Bien's friends whose lives have inspired this tale.

It is a narrative worth the read.

Rodney Albert Blake's story begins in October 1955. He was seven days old. Rodney picks up the narrative a few years later as he tells of his house, his bedroom where he enjoys playing records and thinking of David and some of the other boys in his class. He does not yet realize that society is not particularly patient, kind or tolerant of either child or adult who deviates from the so called norm.

Rodney didn't have much of a chance for normalcy, he was overweight, his parents were intolerant, his thoughts were not the so called norm. He preferred staying to himself, mainly in his own room where he listened to music his parents disliked and daydreamed of boys in his classroom, which when his parents realized they disliked even more.

A few bright spots were present in Rodney's life, Sophie, his grandparents colored maid was a kindly soul, Grandfather, an artistic man was loving and horses helped to keep Rodney grounded and feeling that life was worth living. His growing awareness of his own body and his attraction to members of his own sex coupled with little understanding that societal mores were against either were soon going to cause Rodney much grief.

From a child living at home in an environment filled with rigid traditions Rodney came to understand that his parents could not fathom, or agree with his feelings; he was sent to a military boarding school and was not permitted to return home.

Rodney's introduction to the boarding school came as he was taken to the resident psychiatrist, a Doctor Barnes who asked a point blank, -are you queer?- Followed with the notation that since Rodney admitted he likely was, the school would feel little need to protect him from fellow students.

Getting used to a southern accent and mannerisms, learning why being -queer- is so troubling to so many, and learning that his parents had effectively abandoned him to the school and whatever he might face, being sent back to his first military school as a boarder, renewing old friendship, meeting a horse who would help to change his life, meeting a teacher who would be part of the change of his life, moving from school to a farm, and papers from his parents releasing their custody of him are all a part of Rodney's story.

Writer Bien has crafted an easy reading tale sure to appeal to youngsters who may be in search of their own gender identity. I can see a place for Hold Your Light on the counselor's shelf, as well as in the public library and even in many progressive school libraries. I might venture that many, if not most of us do in fact know a Rodney or two, teachers face a wide range of youngsters as the years go by. I suspect that young gender troubled students have sat under the tutelage of many of us whether we choose to accept or believe so.

Hold Your Light is a well written, fast moving work having a few grammar or typo type problems which in no way detract or prevent enjoyment of the work.

Happy to recommend Wayne Bien's Hold Your Light for the YA audience, middle to upper grade and high school students, counselors, and parents who may suspect their own child may have gender issues and do not know how to broach or talk to their child as well as any segment of readers who know little of gender issues and are willing to read with an open mind.

I plan to offer my own paperback copy to our school counselor where I think the work may well fit into a counseling program.

ZombieStop Parade
Richard Buzzell
Smashwords, Inc.
2940000823132 $4.99 (ebook)

Richard Buzzell's ZombieStop Parade begins on Jan. 1 as the narrator notes; - My only New Year's resolution this year is to keep a written record of the events that started last month. -

It seems that a person calling himself Jackal, actual identity unknown, who has a history of hacking into computer records at financial institutions, has been doing what he does best, again.

ZombieStop is a website, the brainchild of two twelve year olds at the time of its inception, designed by a character the reader comes to know as Corky who is seen, described and a friend of the voice of the narrator who we learn is called ZombieStopperUno.

With all the publicity surrounding The Jackal and his activity followed by a firebombing at the home of a public figure interest in the ZombieStop site is on the upswing. There are those who question whether the site designers might somehow be behind the firebombing to bring more interest to their site. On the other hand, the site does not run advertising, and that causes more than a little distrust from the corporate world.

ZombieStopperUno notes that he is becoming the face of ZombieStop and that he is not at all comfortable with the arrangement.

Buzzell has crafted an intriguing premise, laid out an intriguing methodology for presenting the narrative, and reels the reader right into the action from the opening lines.

It does not take the reader long to realize that the zombies of the title are those in our society who move, take part in corporate economy and in general let others do their thinking. ZombieStop is a website intended to offer young folk a venue wherein they may voice their disquiet, skepticism and perhaps even expectation for the future.

The journal begun on Jan 1 will continue for some ten months, ending on Oct 31. During the intervening time mainstream media and corporate elitist view ZombieStop with growing cynicism; there is no place in their world for allowing free thinking, or doing anything that smacks of non profit.

The FBI, old relationships, criticism, increasing media, corporate and authority interest bordering on hysteria abound as conspiracy theories are investigated, promulgated and disseminated.

Economic spin doctors abound, what does ZombieStop hope to accomplish, how are they involved in the fire bombing attacks, are they a site inspiring terrorists, what is their agenda.

By October 26 The Jackal seems to have disappeared, somehow ZombieStopperUno has been finagled into producing a book which is none too proud of, he thinks that perhaps a class regarding how to write a book might have been helpful. Corky vows he will not read the book.

ZombieStopperUno hints that a flashy ending will take place once the book is published and notes that the FBI now suspects himself of being the mastermind behind ZombieStop.

All in all I found Buzzell's book to be a highly readable, fast moving, noteworthy offering filled with enough action to hold attention and keep the reader interested. Humor abounds as writer Buzzell offers a number of analogous characters; Dork Queen, Professor Shillfield, Dynamic America, Seedy Bank and Corporate Divine Right are a few.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend Richard Buzzell's ZombieStop Parade. It is sure to interest the target audience of savvy 20 something readers.

Fire in the Hole
Colleen Kelli
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450211680 $17.95,

Colleen Kelli's "Fire in the Hole: A Year in the Life of the World's Sorriest Stuntwoman" is a highly entertaining, easy reading narrative detailing `events described happening as related; others were changed. Some of the individual portrayed are composites of more than one person and many names and identifying characteristics have also been changed.'

The narrative opens as the writer and her soon to be ex-partner drive toward New Mexico. Two days prior; the author had injured her knee walking the dog and now, in the midst of a break up, the partner is driving the car while the writer rests her leg out the passenger side window of the Honda Civic. Not the conventional method for dissolving a relationship.

Within the first few lines readers understand this is not a conventional gal, her life is not formula and the reader is in for a roaring good read filled with humor, self awareness and more than a little poignancy.

FIRE IN THE HOLE a year in the life of the World's Sorriest Stuntwoman is an introspective year long journey filled with ups and downs as Kelli learns to understand how to accept herself, her fellow actors and life in general.

Moving from a gravely dysfunctional family situation into a society which is none to forgiving, accepting or patient with anything deemed off the norm, bringing with her predictable baggage caused by, left over, and exacerbated by upbringing, lack of self awareness and societal mores which tend to pound down and not uplift, Kelli is an accomplished TV actress, has forged a life which while not perfect has been satisfying, but something is lacking.

Not understanding that the healing, including dealing with and ridding herself of much of that predictable baggage, she needs must begin from within; Kelli physically moves to begin anew.

The year ahead is one during which life really begins dealing Kelli a hand she had not wanted to play. Parting from any partner after nearly a decade is not an easy thing to do, if that were not enough distress, Kelli's angst ridden, younger sister commits suicide. Kelli finds initially; that while moving from the turbulent urban chaos known as Los Angeles to the soothing desert of Albuquerque actually does little to uplift her spirits, it does permit her to continue the acting career she does enjoy.

The tale of a lesbian woman embarking on a journey of self realization plunked into the center of strait laced America, finding work at a minor western theme park filled with colorful, often riotously unconventional, also dysfunctional folk cannot help but bring a smile, a chuckle and even a guffaw or two during the reading.

Interposed with flashes of delight and contentment, Kelli is on a trek that is, at times, demanding, onerous and out-and-out physically uncomfortable. Kelli does learn to twirl guns, make bombs, climb great heights, all from buildings and survive during one of the most trauma filled, emotional years of her life.

Kelli pens her account in a charming manner filled with a deadpan self deprecating, unique style which draws the reader into the narrative and keeps the pages turning. Kelli's descriptions of her sluggish and at times downright pain filled changeover from awkward 2 left feet to capable stunt-woman are set down in highly readable, at times laugh out loud, hilarious detail.

I have found that too often we humans find it so difficult to laugh at ourselves, Kelli has learned to do just that and has improved, perfected and improved her life in the doing. I like Kelli's easy reading writing style, interspersing bits and pieces concerning the folks she meets during her year in New Mexico serve to hold reader interest from the opening paragraphs right down to the last lines of the book.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend Colleen Kelli's FIRE IN THE HOLE a year in the life of the World's Sorriest Stuntwoman.

Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Trucks and Trains
Ed Emberley
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, 15th floor, New York, NY 10017
9780316789677, $6.99,

Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Trucks and Trains: Learn to Draw the Ed Emberley Way! Is another of Emberley's dandy how to books respected by teachers and others who may be a bit artistically challenged while nevertheless face a necessity now and then for producing a train that looks like a train or truck that looks like a truck.

From old time engines having cow catchers and smoke stacks to immense 18 wheelers; Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Trucks and Trains: Learn to Draw the Ed Emberley Way! is an excellent edition to use to guide young children toward increasing center of attention and concentration while increasing poise in their drawing.

As we begin an exercise I do not tell Little Artists what we will be depicting, rather I begin line by line and shape by shape and Little Artists mime each line amidst much conjecture regarding what it is we are drawing.

Through use of the simplest of lines, letters and geometric shapes; Emberley provides step by step training for fashioning a considerable assortment of items I might otherwise not attempt. Emberley's books have proven themselves in my classroom many times over during the years I have spent in the company of Little Learners.

Emberley's works maintain a simple format composed of two lines of shapes; the bottom line designates what to draw and the other shows where it goes on the drawing.

Representations created from the first page of the book right down to the very last one located on the last page are very identifiable by Little Learners and teacher too. Emberley's uncomplicated instructions, if followed, will fabricate drawings that actually do look like the train or the truck we set out to generate.

My threadbare edition of Drawing Book of Trucks and Trains: Learn to Draw the Ed Emberley Way! Has been used to direct many classes of Little Learners per how to fashion small to big trucks, locomotives and the train cars pulled by them by putting together fundamental geometric shapes including circles, squares, triangles, and what not required by state standards by means of effortless to follow directions. Slowly but surely, a mixed bag of lines, dots or shapes are united into a final creation from cable car and trolley to pick up, vans and more. At each step, the precise instruction offered is such that even the most fumble fingered can produce credible drawings.

Emberley's basis for sketching is elementary; he believes that just about anything can be generated through use of scribble, squiggles and geometric shapes, as well as with the intermittent addition of dots and lines, and, letters and numbers.

During my earliest teaching year in California, Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals was the original Emberley book I bought way-back-when. The K - 1 classes I taught all those years ago loved the book, and had enormous fun, and pride, creating critters everyone recognized. Little Artists enjoy it as much today.

Happy to recommend Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Trucks and Trains: Learn to Draw the Ed Emberley Way!

Antique Trader Salt And Pepper Shaker Price Guide
Mark F. Moran's
Krause Publications
c/o F+W Media
4700 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236
9780896896369 $19.99,

Mark F. Moran's - Antique Trader (R) Salt And Pepper Shaker Price Guide is a handy reference, and just plain interesting read for collectors or those who have even a passing interest in novelty salt and pepper shakers.

Moran's - Antique Trader Salt And Pepper Shaker Price Guide show cases some 1,000 of the writer's 3,000 set collection, and with millions if not billions of sets in existence cannot possibly show every set available. It is not intended to do so. Moran's multicolored, wide-ranging reference work DOES list some 1,000+ salt & pepper shakers, offered as shakers by appearance as well as shakers by producer.

I especially like that listings include a color photo for positive identification, as well as an explanation, some history, and collector pricing.

While I do not collect salt and pepper shakers I do collect depression era glassware and recognize many of the manufacture names including American Bisque, Fenton Art Glass Co., Goebel, A.H. Heisey & Co., Rosemeade, Shawnee, Westmoreland Glass Co. and others.

Of particular value for neophyte collectors is the fakes and reproductions chapter written by noted authority Mark Chervenka. I know reproductions are being offered in the field of depression glass and am saddened to learn that the same deception is being perpetrated for collectors of these novelty bits of our collective history.

Not all and sundry on earth collects the things of course, on the other hand, I suppose few have not at least seen some of the wide array of shakers which have been manufactured, lovingly collected and perhaps are sitting in joyous display, or have been boxed up and now can be found in a jumble shop.

Collecting salt and pepper shakers is said to be a hobby with something for everyone. Many families collect as a group with family get togethers completed with names drawn and shaker sets given or traded.

In our family one beloved auntie loved the things and a visit to her house was always an adventure to see what new shakers she had acquired.

The not so very to dedicated serious collector soon learns there is a whole new vocabulary to learn if shaker collecting is something enjoyed. Sets include nodder shakers having one or both of the shakers nodding in a base, carriers, holders and carts holding the shakers, figural or character shakers, i.e., those appearing as people, animals objects, or animals. go-togethers, hangers those having a hook for hanging from the base, huggers with one partially wrap around the other in a hug, kissers shakers sit on the table, have lips touching or lips to cheek, may be people or critters, may have magnets to hold them together, nesters, stackers, sets consist of two different but related objects with a common theme ie mitt and glove, tall boys all over 6 inches tall and a couple of sets are over 10 inches tall or long-boys, all one piece shakers with the salt coming from the front end of the animal and the pepper coming from the other.

Moran offers specificity regarding a great many, not all of course, unfeasible to accomplish in a single volume, types of descriptive terminology and shaker sets existing including some identifying details, manufacturers, years when first appearing, as well as suggested pricing guides and the like for those who have perhaps acquired a few sets and may want to try to augment, sell or other wise learn approximate value of their sets.

Moran's Salt and Pepper shaker guide includes an agreeably detailed table of contents, collector resources contact information, is divided into shakers identified by type and manufacturer and features 1000 color photos of some of the writer's collection of novelty shakers.

There have likely been millions if not billions of shakers created and collected during the last 100+ years. Locating a particular shaker or set in any reference work is always exciting, not finding one is not surprising given the mammoth volume of shakers to be had.

I adored my auntie, found her shakers fascinating, but limit my own collecting to depression glass dishware, and leave the actual shakers for others. I do enjoy reading collectible books, including this attention-grabbing, well developed work by Mark Moran, on the subject.

Happy to recommend Mark F. Moran's - Antique Trader Salt And Pepper Shaker Price Guide

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Nicole's Bookshelf

Ghost Hunt: Chilling Tales of the Unknown
Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson
LB Kids
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316099592, $16.99,

The guys from T.A.P.S. are delving into the scariest territory of all - adolescence. Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson's first foray into the realm of young adult fiction is Ghost Hunt: Chilling Tales of the Unknown, a collection of imaginary stories based on real-life cases investigated by the Ghost Hunters of the SyFy Network. The familiar T.A.P.S. logo adorns hats, shirts, converted Roto Rooter vans - now it graces the cover of a book aimed at a young audience. Tweens love to shiver between the pages from R.L. Stine's Goosebumps to the writings of Christopher Pike, and this particular installment is much like the T.V. show - more technical than emotional. The focus is on electromagnetic field detectors and electronic voice phenomena rather than blood-curdling screams and heart-racing panic. By employing a female point-of-view through new team member, Lyssa Frye, the book attempts to target both genders, but with more terminology than horror it is a better fit for a boy's bookshelf.

The publisher's sampler includes two chapters. The first is "Pennies from a Ghost," where two brothers keep finding seven pennies in their room arranged in the shape of a flower. The spare change appears in different locations next to the bed, under the window, etc. Lyssa fields the distress call on her first day at The Atlantic Paranormal Society office. The reader experiences the investigation through her eyes as the new chief interviewer. She has a panic attack investigating a dark basement with Jason. This is harder than it looks! Lyssa realized suddenly. She was talking to the dark. She was asking a ghost to show itself. Most people would be running the other way. But I'm not most people. I'm a T.A.P.S. investigator. Or at least she was trying to be one. The end result has shades of the plot from Zac Efron's Charlie St. Cloud.

Chapter two entitled "The Ghost of Grandma Helen" explores an area not often addressed on the show - psychic mediums. The goal of any T.A.P.S. investigation is to debunk paranormal claims. They rarely, if ever, turn to those with the ability to converse with the dead. However, the team turns to a psychic to commune with the spirit of a deceased grandmother who is appearing to her 4-year-old granddaughter. This paranormal dialogue is not on the level of Kate Hudson's terrorizing ordeal in The Skeleton Key, but it is a departure for T.A.P.S. It concludes with a poignant ceremony at the family grave site.

The end section is a Cliff-Notes/Wikipedia introductory guide to ghost hunting. Told in the narrative voice of Jason and Grant, the appendix adheres in tone to the T.A.P.S. philosophy - "If you set out to prove a haunting, anything will seem like evidence. If you set out to disprove it, you'll end up with only those things you can't explain away." It's a junior high entry course to Ghost Hunters Academy. The seven steps of the T.A.P.S. method are explained; a test case measures ghost hunting skills with a multiple choice quiz; and a back-of-the-book glossary defines terms of the trade.

For Ghost Hunters fans, the book feels like Jason and Grant just slapped their names onto the project. Only the introductory pages to the fictional stories and ghost hunting guide are attributed to the guys from T.A.P.S. When they appear as characters, their actions ring false. A weird romantic undertone is found in the lines: Grant leaned forward. His dark eyes stared into Lyssa's. Jason appears as if he is talking to a room full of kindergarten kids when he says, "Don't be afraid to admit you're scared, Lyssa. We all are sometimes." Meanwhile, Steve and Tango are replaced by an annoying set of twins. Chris Williams is M.I.A. instead the fictional team is led by female technical manager, Jen Shorewood. The producers of the book are more interested in creating formulated drama than depicting the reality behind the series.

Overall, Ghost Hunters Jason and Grant only have a supporting role in their own book.

Cold Lonely Courage
Soren Paul Petrek
Black Rose Writing
10859 Apple Trail, Grey Eagle, MN 56336
9780982582374 $15.95,

Believability is key in historical fiction, especially when your main character is a female assassin. The blending of real-life conditions within the framework of an imaginary narrative is a fine line to walk for a writer. Soren Paul Petrek begins Cold Lonely Courage with a quote from a flesh and blood figure:

"Women, as you must know, have a far greater capacity for cool and lonely courage than men."
- Captain Selwyn Jepson
British Special Operations
Executive Senior Recruiting Officer
World War II

His heroine emerges out of this echo from the 1940s. Her name is Madeleine Toche, and she is known throughout France as the Angel of Death. All she wants is "a husband who loves me, some children and a little restaurant to call home." Instead, she is brutally raped by a German officer on her way back from the market. Coupled with the occupation of her native land, this act of violence leaves an indelible mark on her psyche. Fueled by hate, she exacts her revenge. She becomes a killer.

Escaping to London, Madeleine seeks to aid the French Resistance. After answering a newspaper ad, she is selected by the British Intelligence (SEO). They train her to withstand all forms of torture from water-boarding to unexpected beatings. Her devotion catches the eye of head trainer, Jack Teach. He requests permission - from none other than Winston Churchill - to have her trained as an assassin. Her mission is to take down the leaders of the Nazi party and the most sadistic officers of the S.S. Like Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft Tomb Raider, she is designed to cut down the enemy with stealth and precision. She is transformed into a lethal killing machine.

Madeleine is introduced to the art of assassination by former German soldier, Berthold Hartmann. Recognized as a national hero for his bravery in World War I, he is now rejected by his country for being a Jew. Much like the relationship between Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery in Entrapment, the two form a student-teacher bond. With his family taken away to a concentration camp, Berthold is alone in the world. He promises to look out for Madeleine. When she wants to walk away from the job, he makes an oath to kill anyone who tries to stop her.

Often, Madeleine is described conflicting terms. She is charmingly French, much like Audrey Tautou in Amelie. Yet her beauty cannot be denied even when she is undercover. Instead she uses her physicality to gain access to her intended targets. As a femme fatale, she is a mixture of innocence and seduction. Her method is to play on the passions of men, while remaining level-headed and focused in the face of danger. It is a survival mentality. "Her life had been an endless path of death. She had to make it through."

However, she lets down her guard to form a relationship with Jack. Petrek relates, "It was her love for Jack that proved to her that she could enjoy physical love to the extent that she had even after her rapist's brutality." Madeleine's emotions mirror those of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Her feelings for Jack are described in the passage: "The joy she felt filled her completely, pushing deep inside the last vestiges of her anger and her hate, its power absolute and cleansing. The same way the venom of her anger and malice had permeated her being after her rape, love burned it all away." After a brief moment of intimacy, they make a promise to find each other after the war.

"But if we make it through the war, you had better come looking for me. I will not worry if you stray as long as you come running back."

"You're joking," he blurted, lost in disbelief.

"No, I am French. And by the way, you're no schoolboy, Jack Teach," she said.

A pivotal episode in the book occurs in a small French village called Oradour sur Glane. An entire town of civilians is massacred by the S.S. for supposed ties to the Resistance. According to Petrek, "The reasons behind the actions of the Nazis and their destruction of Oradour are clouded. There is no definitive answer. I chose to incorporate the theory put forth by Robin Mackness in his nonfiction book, Massacre and Aftermath concerning a possible explanation." Petrek's heart-wrenching detail of the aftermath is riveting.

Soldiers covered the wounded men in straw and doused them with gasoline. Most of the dying men were trapped in the tangle of bodies were beyond resisting. He saw more than one child's clog that had not been completely engulfed by the flames and explosions that had ravaged the church. He saw blood cooked by the intense heat into the porous stone floor of the building.

The witness to this tragic event is a German military police officer, Horst Stenger. It is to Petrek's credit that he includes a German character who is not brainwashed by Nazi propaganda. Stenger says, "These Nazis are bad. Although we try not to speak about it, we have both always known that to be true." After Oradour sur Glane, he has a further change of heart, "Humanity drove him to pursue a life of service and to hunt down those that preyed on innocence. His eyes teared as he realized the true magnitude of the barbarity that had occurred to the people of the small town. He raised his own camera and began to take pictures, having to stop periodically to wipe tears from his eyes so that he could do his work and record the shadows that remained of an unspeakable act that demanded justice."

One part of the story doesn't quite fit - the American from the 82nd Airborne, John Trunce. He parachutes into France on D-Day only to miss his landing site when his plane takes on enemy fire. He meets Madeleine on a German-patrolled road.

They were two young people who could have just as easily stepped out of a dance hall for a quick smoke and a chat.

She found herself liking the young soldier immediately. He had a calm, easy way about him. He hadn't shown any fear and seemed to care less that she was a woman. She was sure there weren't many like him. It was the mark of being at home within one's own skin.

He knew that he'd come across someone special. Without a second thought he knew he'd die to protect her.

They shared an instant bond.

At this point in the story, Madeleine hasn't seen Jack in over three years. Feeling instantly attracted to John, it is hard to believe that she would cling to the distant memory of Jack. Petrek doesn't explore the possibility of a romance between John and Madeleine, instead he prefers to keep his heroine on course for a fairy tale ending.

Other minor drawbacks include the cover art by Michael Morgan which seems to have little to do with the book's subject matter. Also the brutality of the language can be a bit coarse at times: "She knew she would be raped until there was nothing left of her and then hung for public display." There are spelling errors and typos throughout and mid-chapter shifts in scene could use asterisks or extra spacing. Yet the chapters are short, and the book is fast-paced.

Overall, this female assassin belongs on the big screen.

Secrets on Lake Drive
Tina Martin
Xpress Yourself Publishing, LLC
P.O. Box 1615, Upper Marlboro, Maryland 20773
9780984527304, $14.95,

Sometimes a character is left in the dark throughout an entire novel. In Tina Martin's Secrets on Lake Drive, Monica Smith is clueless. She may be a college graduate, but her intuition is sorely lacking. She is more aware of the brand name fragrances people are wearing than their ulterior motives. When pitted against a master manipulator, this kindergarten teacher doesn't stand a chance. Little does she know that she is on a collision course with one such smooth operator. Sean Beauvais is the disinterested father of Monica's favorite student, Roman. Sean is known around town as a notorious ladies man. He owns a real estate firm and lives on Milwaukee's exclusive Lake Drive. Using Roman's well-being as a bargaining chip, he virtually forces Monica into the role of live-in babysitter. But living in an opulent mansion is anything but paradise. The two bicker constantly. Sean insists on knowing where Monica is and what she is doing at all times. To say he is cramping her style is putting it lightly.

This controlling behavior sends Monica over the edge. Not having family as a support system, she vents to her lifelong friend, Keisha. The two go way back. Keisha was there for Monica when she had a baby while in high school. Monica's son was given up for adoption, and Cornelius, the baby's father, infuriated by the decision walked out of her life. Like scenes out of the CW's The Game or Girlfriends, Martin nails the authenticity of the dialogue between African American women talking about men. Keisha realizes that beneath the verbal sparring Monica is falling for Sean. "Mmm hmm. I knew something was going on up in that house." Keisha started singing R. Kelly, wiggling her neck and snapping her fingers. "I don't see nothing wrong with a little bump n' grind."

Due to Monica's positive influence, Sean begins to pay more attention to his adopted son. Yet he begins to make a series of odd requests. Roman is to call Monica, "mommy." She must tell Sean she loves him at least once a day since they are officially married (?) for the duration of her contract. But Sean also begins to open up sharing how his native Haiti influences his taste for home decor to the music of Wyclef Jean. She learns that Sean is a triplet and gets to know his brothers over impromptu breakfasts. She is encouraged to mingle with his mother and sister at a backyard barbecue. Everyone begins to feel that she has become a permanent part of their lives.

But Monica resists their gravitational pull. When the summer ends, so does her commitment to Sean and his son. However, Sean doesn't agree. He uses every trick in the book to get Monica to stay. Frustrated at not getting his way, he explodes and the two go their separate ways on the worst of terms. Yet Monica is intimately connected to Sean and Roman in ways she cannot even imagine. The flaw is that she is so unbelievably blind she is unable to see what is right in front of her face. It is a classic case of Lois Lane not perceiving Superman in Clark Kent. Yet be forewarned, the ending is worthy of the Lifetime movies Monica is so fond of.

Overall, fighting leads to passion leads to WHAT?!?!

The White Queen
Philippa Gregory
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416563693, $14.99,

Royal families hold the title of being the precursor of reality entertainment. These infamous courts provide more melodrama and intrigue than chivalry and decorum. Regardless of their high station, morality takes a back seat to murder, incest and betrayal. Power is the asset that all strive to cultivate. The characters in Philippa Gregory's The White Queen are taken from the bloody battle for the crown in the Cousins' War, a.k.a. the War of the Roses. A civil war tore 15th century England apart when the Plantagenet family split into the rival factors of Lancaster (the red rose) and York (the white rose). The book's heroine is Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of York king, Edward IV. Her riveting story is deserving of a full-length novel. From whore to witch and everything in between, she is a woman whose many faceted personality defies categorization.

God forbid a royal marry for love. Like a modern day Princess Diana, Elizabeth is an English commoner without massive fortune or titled family. She meets Edward while begging on the side of the road. Her beauty is enough to stop him in his tracks. They exchange vows in a secret ceremony. When they go public, the kingdom's gossip mill goes into overdrive. Why would a king reject an advantageous alliance with one of the princesses of Europe for a nobody who has nothing to offer? The only plausible explanation? Witchcraft, of course. She tricked him into it with her mystical allures and diabolical enchantments.

Claiming to be the descendant of a goddess doesn't help. Melusina is the inspiration behind the tale of The Little Mermaid. The half woman/half fish desires to keep her dual identity from her husband who nevertheless discovers her secret ultimately resulting in rejection and separation. Elizabeth is a firm believer in her fabled ancestry. [Melusina] is the ancestress of the royal house of Burgundy, and we, her descendants, still try to walk in the paths of men, and sometimes we too find the way unbearably hard. Her position as Queen of England leads to similar conflicting emotions between what it means to be a mother versus what it requires to be a monarch.

Edward seizes power from the sainted Lancaster king, Henry VI eventually being accused of his predecessor's murder. Elizabeth, as the usurping queen, has a tenuous hold on power. Her mother, Jacquetta, goes even further stating, "It is a battle to the death. This is what it means to be Queen of England. The road you have chosen will mean that you have to spend your life scheming and fighting. Our task, as your family, is to make sure you win." Yet Elizabeth can't help but revel in her new position. "I become a new being, one above mortals, only one step below angels, beloved and elect of heaven. Half the kingdom may hate [my family] but now I have made us so powerful that I do not care."

However, the love match isn't all bliss. Elizabeth turns a blind eye to her husband's notorious philandering. "Edward's whoring doesn't trouble me. He is the king, he can take his pleasures where he wants. And I am the queen, and he will always come home to me. Everyone knows that." Edward does not try to hide his infidelity, in fact, he boasts about his excessive virility. "I have a score of whores, perhaps hundreds. I hope that no woman can resist me." In fact, he is so consumed by desire he frequently summons Elizabeth with the command, "Bed, Wife."

With shades of the Clintons, Elizabeth seeks to hang onto the throne even without Edward at her side. Despite her humble beginnings, she is determined not to lose what she gained through her advantageous marriage. But there are those who question Elizabeth's priorities including her own daughter. "I think we are cursed. I blame you and my father for bringing us into the world and putting us here, in the grip of ambition, and yet not holding strongly enough to power to make it right for us. You love the crown more than your children (i.e. the unresolved fate of the princes in the Tower - were they murdered, hidden, etc.?)."

Gregory hits her stride when she depicts Elizabeth debating the roles of her new life with her mother, Jacquetta; her brother, Anthony and her daughter, Elizabeth. The scenes of dialogue illustrate a woman grappling with what is right in a world that does not play by a set of rules. The narrative falters when Elizabeth is depicting conjuring storms or scheming for influence while in sanctuary. The book is heavy in explanatory exposition and could have moved at a faster pace if it did not follow such a rigid time line. Some moments that occurred during Elizabeth's life could have been told with a brief chapter introduction instead of pages of battlefield play-by-play.

Overall, love at first sight ends with heartbreak in the Tower.

Nicole Langan, Reviewer

Paul's Bookshelf

Tesseracts Thirteen
Nancy Kilpatrick and David Morell (ed.)
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary, AB T2P 2L7 CANADA
9781894063258 $16.95

Here is another group of imaginative tales from the Great White North. Because of the number of this volume, 13, this book focuses on horror and dark fantasy stories.

The world has been ravaged by a very contagious disease that destroys undeveloped frontal lobes of the brain, thereby turning all children, whose brains are not yet fully developed, into brainless automatons. In one family, the father is ready to commit suicide out of despair; at this point, the parents are expected to take their affected children with them. The wife refuses to give up hope that someone, somewhere is working on a cure.

A former stockbroker suffers from a debilitating disease which looks like ALS on the outside, but it isn't. It is as if his body is slowing down, almost to the point of stopping, and he is always cold, even in the middle of summer. A group of children are held prisoner by a man who, by playing his flute, can make them do anything, even throw themselves off a cliff. A woman has to deal with her dead ex-husband living in her house, eating pizza and using the shower. An elderly man, living alone in the woods, is asked about the disappearance of a member of another family also living in the woods.

A woman is in the process of giving birth to quintuplets, at home. The doctor is old enough to remember the Dionne quintuplets, who grew up as media darlings and were not allowed to live regular lives. He has a very difficult decision to make when two of the babies develop severe breathing problems. Having just returned from her husband's funeral, a woman does battle with a bluejay that got into her house, and will not leave her alone.

These are all first-rate stories. They are weird and spooky without going overboard. They will keep the reader entertained, and they are well worth reading.

Lucky You: How to get Everything You Want and Create Your Ideal Life Using the Law of Attraction,
David Hooper
P.O. Box 121135, Nashville, TN 37212-1135
9780608420032 $14.95

Everyone has heard of the Law of Attraction, but does it really work? How can the average person get the universe to send some good things in their direction?

A central concept of the Law of Attraction is that "like attracts like"; we attract people and situations that correspond with our dominant thoughts. Negative thoughts attract negative events, while positive thoughts attract positive events.

You need to get in the habit of saying positive things to yourself each day; it all comes down to beliefs and attitudes. It is going to take practice, but it is very much worth it. The book gives plenty of examples of things to say to yourself; the actual words are not as important as the attitude behind them. For instance, don't focus on getting a million dollars. Focus instead on the peace and freedom you will feel when you no longer have to worry about whether or not you can pay the monthly bills. Focus instead on the joy you will feel from contributing to a local organization that helps people in need.

Most people are much too impatient when it comes to the Law of Attraction. They ask for a million dollars, look around and ask "Where's the money?" Then they convice themselves that it doesn't work, get angry and sullen, and all that negative energy flowing out of them attracts more negative energy to them. Let go and trust that the universe will fulfill your request when it thinks is the right time, not when you think is the right time.

Most people also want to fix all their problems at once. They want a million dollars, and the willpower to lose 50 pounds, and a fancy car, and a fabulous vacation... Slow down and take one thing at a time. Instead of jumping from a state of constantly stressing about money to having a million dollars, start small. Ask for enough money to pay your monthly bills. When that is covered, ask for a little more, then a little more and work your way up to a million dollars.
You cannot remove all stress and negative people from your life, but you certainly can control your reactions to them. The book tells what to say to yourself to let go of that negative energy, to turn that frown upside down. The book also covers what to do if you "stumble," or if, despite your best efforts, you can't help but think that is not working.

If there is such a thing as a Law of Attraction how-to manual, this is it. Even if you can't do all the things in this book, doing just some of them will only help. It is very much worth reading.

The Rich Switch
David Hooper
P.O. Box 121135, Nashville, TN 37212-1135
9781608420025, $4.95,

"The Rich Switch: The Simple 3-Step System to Turn On Instant Wealth Using the Law of Attraction" is a very short book asserts that the Law of Attraction (who has not heard of it?) can be activated in your life using just three simple steps.

The first step is to put your dreams and wishes on paper. Don't worry if they are too big, or not "appropriate," putting them on paper and hanging the list where you can read it several times a day, is much more powerful than just saying it to yourself.

The second step is to donate to charity. Clearing out clutter, and giving it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, shows that you are making room for the good things that the universe will send your way. Donating money, with no expectation of getting repaid, is much more powerful, and shows that you are confident that the universe will financially "take care of you." It certainly does not have to be a huge donation; even 10 dollars a month is very reasonable. The joy you feel at financially helping someone in need; that's the important part.

Finally, join or start a mastermind group. It sounds sinister, but it is actually a group of 6 or 7 people who meet regularly to help each other access the Law of Attraction (strength in numbers). The meetings can be in person, by phone or over the Internet. The book gives details on how to run the meetings. As with any group, those who don't take it seriously, or are frequently absent, should be quietly dropped.

There will be days when, despite your best efforts, it does not seem to be working. Set aside a day where you pledge not to say anything negative about anyone or anything. If that is not possible, start with an hour at a time. Changing your beliefs and attitudes, to be a more positive person, will take practice, but it is very much worth it. Another idea is to pretend that all your dreams and wishes have been fulfilled. Write a letter to God, Spirit, the Universe, etc., saying thank you for your good fortune.

It does not get much easier than this. It is very easy to read and follow, it is full of information that anyone can use, and is greatly recommended.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Peggy's Bookshelf

Along Came Ziro
18 Grey Media
3870 Crenshaw Blvd., Suite 600, Los Angeles, CA 90008
9780615325163, $14.99,

One day a big round ball crash lands in a barnyard. A little, round blue alien named Ziro steps out and introduces himself to the bewildered farm animals. When the farmer and his dog show up to see what's going on, the animals hide the spaceship. Ziro can see they aren't happy on the farm. He invites them to come along on his spaceship so they can "travel and learn". But the thought of leaving the farm sends them all into a tizzy.

This story sets the theme and establishes the characters for what are expected to be the further adventures of Ziro and his barnyard friends - the pig, the sheep, the cow, the mouse, and the hen. Pre-schoolers will find this simple story in verse easy to understand.

Townie's exceptional illustrations are vibrant and engaging. The brilliant colors and rounded lines are Manga-esque. Think Hello Kitty meets Pokemon. Pre-schoolers will find these adorable cartoon characters irresistible. Townie is a talent to watch.

The Duck Song
Bryant Oden, author
Forrest Whaley, illustrator
Flinders Press
PO Box 3975, Burbank, CA 91508
9780984395590, $14.99,

Kids love a sing-along and "The Duck Song" delivers. This is a hilarious ballad in picture book and song about a plucky little duck that enjoys pestering the heck out of the owner of a lemonade stand. The amusing story is rhythmic and fun to read-aloud or sing-along. Young Forrest Whaley's illustrations blend brilliant colors, layered panoramas, and a touch of whimsy. The result is a captivating two-dimensional effect.

"The Duck Song" includes a CD which contains Oden's musical version of the story, plus eleven brand new playful songs kids will find easy to learn and fun to sing. Story, song, and pictures combined create an entertainment package that is guaranteed to be a kids' favorite.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

Humility: The Hidden Key to Walking in Signs and Wonders
Mark R. Anderson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768432527 $14.99

The Impact of Humility on the Ministry of Signs and Wonders

Jesus is established as the model for true humility in Mark R. Anderson's book "Humility: The Hidden Key to Walking in Signs and Wonders."

Mark's writing is refreshing, solid teaching, a straightforward prophetic message from a Biblical perspective. Mark maintains that genuine humility is imperative for the ministry of signs and wonders.

Mark also talks about the blessing of humility and the destructive effects of pride. He warns of the dangers of flagrant pride and counterfeit humility. He challenges the reader to pursue the mandate of Jesus to do "greater works" than even He did. Mark includes practical lessons from his own experience and ministry in which he has seen the miraculous intervention of God. He also tells of the blessings received when trusting God in expectation of the "miraculous" to see God at work in supplying everyday needs.

I found the" Points to Ponder" section included with each chapter to be especially practical and helpful and. Each chapter is filled with principles for contemplation, daily living, for meaningful one on one discussion or group study. Memorizing the key scripture verses suggested help the reader gain a deeper appreciation for the theme of each chapter, and lead to adapting and assimilating the material into practical life applications.

I highly recommend "Humility: The Hidden Key to Walking in Signs and Wonders." Mark Anderson's writing is articulate, insightful, and profound. Mark clearly communicates the significance of humility in meaningful lasting ministry. Refreshing, inspiring, transformational.

The Supernatural Skyline: Where Heaven Touches Earth
Jim Hylton
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768432862 $14.99

A Wake Up Call to a Sleeping Church

Jim Hylton writes from a Kingdom perspective and awareness in his new book "The Supernatural Skyline: Where Heaven Touches Earth."

Jim's purpose in writing this book is to proclaim a wake up call to a sleeping church. He alerts the reader to a new realization of the truth that the Church is on the verge of a great awakening that will turn it "right side up" as Jesus' presence eclipses any revival the church has ever before experienced.

Hylton writes with an infectious passion that authenticates his confidence and anticipation of a forthcoming "invasion from heaven" that re-establishes Christ's presence and His order of authority. Jim is a gifted story teller. His holistic approach to Kingdom teaching and his dynamic writing style awaken in the reader the motivation to pursue a spiritual awareness and a spiritual reality.

During Jim Hylton's fifty years of church ministry he has been impacted by voluminous reading from well known authors, ministry and mentoring relationships with world leaders, formal training, and extensive travel. His extensive chapter notes contain a hint of this wide breath of experience, influence, and ministry. Jim is highly respected for his integrity and is the perfect contemporary voice for proclaiming this Kingdom message.

"The Supernatural Skyline: Where Heaven Touches Earth" is an approach for church growth through Kingdom building. Hylton goes beyond the popular formulas, cliches, and cynicism prevalent in American churches today to declare the message of the Kingdom of God as His "operative, eternal plan."

From the Wilderness to the Miraculous
Therese Marszalek
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310

Rich Lessons in the Wilderness Experience of Waiting on God for His Perfect Timing

Therese Marszalek writes openly and candidly of her wilderness journey. She describes an extensive season of severe anguish and pain in "From the Wilderness to the Miraculous." Therese encourages the reader to join her in their own comparable spiritual journey, through the shadows of doubt, disease, and distress to discover the exciting, sometimes painful, lessons God is teaching. Therese exposes the secret chambers of her heart as she relates her personal experiences, of brokenness, of the emotional scars resulting from feelings of rejection, and of physical suffering.

Each chapter contains a meditation which includes a spiritual challenge, a thought provoking application question, a scriptural focus for contemplation, and an important truth centered on a lesson learned by Therese during her wilderness journey. There is also a series of questions for reflection and discussion with prayer suggestions and an opportunity to record a personal insight learned from the chapter.

The book follows an orderly progression as the reader is guided through their own personal wilderness journey. Therese's writing is moving as well as intellectually and spiritually stimulating. It is rich in substance for contemplation or discussion. I especially valued the scriptural applications, the suggestions for prayer, and the opportunity provided for recording a personal response after waiting quietly for a word from the Lord.

"From the Wilderness to the Miraculous" resonates with transparency, is God honoring, and is jam-packed with illustrations of expectation, hopefulness and the miraculous.

Seven Big Things That Make Life Work: Principles for Successful Living
Phil Pringle
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768432459 $14.99

Foundational Teaching of the Christian Faith

Phil Pringle is known for his leadership skills and for his books on leadership and finance. "Seven Big Things That Make Life Work: Principles for Successful Living" is written with Christian leaders in mind. However, the contents of the book cover principles for Christian growth from new birth to maturity. Based on the foundational truths found in the sixth chapter of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament the material is also easily adapted to teaching new Christians the basics of the Christian faith. It is an ideal resource for individual or group study.

The format is well organized and user friendly. Pringle uses Biblical examples, personal experiences, and stories from classical revivalists to illustrate principles of Christian living. Phil presents step by step instructions to help the reader through the necessary steps of growth from spiritual infanthood to maturity.

Comprehensive end-notes give credit to his quotes and to the authors and materials used in research for this work. These references provide the reader with a valuable list of available resources. I find this information to be an excellent source for future reading and personal study.

Phil Pringle's works are highly acclaimed and endorsed by a broad spectrum of respected, successful Christian leaders. His writing is upbeat and encouraging. "Seven Big Things That Make Life Work" is a unique and important addition to the myriad of resources available on the subject of personal Christian growth. Pringle champions a practical theology backed up with solid life application.

When the Devil Whistles
Rick Acker
Abingdon Press
P. O. Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426707674, $14.99,

Government Fraud, International Intrigue, and Deep Sea Conspiracy

Allie Whitman has combined her expertise in accounting and a knack for "sniffing out fraud" in government contracts into a successful and lucrative career as a professional whistleblower. Attorney Conner Norman acts in Allie's behalf as lawyer for Devil to Pay, Inc. a shell corporation that files fraud suits based on Allie's discoveries.

Allie's life suddenly begins to fall apart as the results of bad choices and closely held secrets come to light. Conner finds himself in a dilemma as trust, loyalty, professional ethics, and deep inner convictions threaten to endanger his career, his character, and his life.

Rick Acker is fast becoming recognized as a fresh voice in the genre of the legal thriller/suspense novel. "When the Devil Whistles" is intense drama and unrelenting tension, with a riveting fast moving plot. Acker is a master at building suspense, conflict, and tension. His intricate plotting and intriguing story line take his carefully defined characters in uncharted waters that are beyond realism, yet believable. Acker is gifted in his ability to create a sense of constant uncertainty and surprise through his intricate plot twists, and unpredictable circumstances.

An underlying theme of ethics in business and the consequence from wrong personal choices move the story forward enriching the perceptions of Acker's characters and the driving force behind Conner's motives and actions as they impact the final climatic explosive outcome of "When the Devil Whistles."

Acker is well on his way to being identified in the ranks of best selling authors like John Grissom, Scott Turow, and Steve Martini.

Discussion questions and author's notes at the conclusion of the book give insight into Rick Acker, his profession, his motivation, and his faith.

21 Days to Your Total Healing By: Morris Cerullo
Destiny Image Publishing, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768432541 $14.99

A Devotional Step by Step Guide Book to Experiencing Total Healing

Known for his dynamic healing ministry to people in nations throughout the world, Dr. Morris Cerullo continues to equip others to pursue the supernatural power of God. "21 Days to Your Total Healing" is an inspiring devotional book made up instructions, guidelines, and resource tools. These are designed to help the reader apply and assimilate the step by step principles and exercises into their daily life and to achieve complete healing at three levels: spiritual, mental, and physical.

In addition to the three levels of healing, Dr. Cerullo defines three approaches to healing:

1. A description of Satan's attack to keep the reader from experiencing healing.

2. A contract which includes a scripture to claim and an affirmation or confession of faith for each of the 21 days.

3. A seven point strategy for defeating satan's assaults with examples from the scriptures of how healing results when people claim His promises in faith believing.

"21 Days to Your Total Healing" includes many familiar stories from both the Old and the New Testaments. These stories illustrate God's miraculous power. Dr. Cerullo gives the reader powerful and practical steps for affirming and realizing miraculous healing. He girds the reader with the weapons to proactively meet Satan's attacks in a world filled with sham, catastrophe, and pandemic diseases.

Dr. Cerullo's writing is Biblical in its perspective, practical in its application, and life changing in its results. A refreshing approach to receiving release, deliverance, empowerment, and healing.

Fire & Fragrance: From the Great Commandment to the Great Commission - Other Websites
Sean Feucht and Andy Byrd
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
97807684929009 $14.99

Adopting a Lifestyle that Demonstrates the Fire of Worship and Revival

Convinced that God is on the verge igniting a new wave of revival Sean Feucht and Andy Byrd collaborate as to cast a vision for global mission and prayer and revival for a new generation of believers. Their purpose in writing is to create a hunger for God and a commitment to a life-style of revival fire and worship.

"Fire & Fragrance is a blue print, a guidebook, for becoming immersed by the transforming power of prayer and passion in worship. Feucht and Byrd challenge the reader to commit to an all consuming pursuit of experiencing the permeating presence of an Almighty God.

The authors talk about stirring events and experiences they have experienced while leading worship services throughout the world.

They include amazing stories demonstrated by revivalists throughout church history. These examples add validity to these contemporary accounts of supernatural manifestations.

Sean Feucht and Andy Byrd are fresh prophetic voices representing a new generation in grassroots global worship. Their writing bears evidence of a depth of understanding of their Christian heritage and a vision of the direction and destiny the Lord has for a new generation of committed followers. "Fire and Fragrance" is destined to ignite an explosion of reformation, prayer and worship in preparation for an imminent revival. Theirs is a resonating cry for and uncompromising abandonment to Christ and His Kingdom.

Richard R. Blake

Riva's Bookshelf

The Faithful
Jonathan Weyer
Brio Press Publishing
12 South Sixth Street, #1250, Minneapolis, MN 55402
9780982668702, $14.95,

The Faithful by Jonathan Weyer is an absolutely stunning debut novel in the emerging genre of Christian horror. While many may think that term is any oxymoron Weyer proves that not only do the two go together, but they can do it extremely well.

Weyer's main character, Pastor Aidan Schaeffer is undergoing a crisis. He's lost his faith in God, is embroiled in the middle of an investigation involving the ritualized death of his former girlfriend, and is being attacked by demonic forces. Furthermore, some parishioners of his are having strange occurrences at their home and the wife is having strange dreams that seem somehow prophetic.

Pastor Schaeffer's former girlfriend was just one in line of women killed by a group seeking to resurrect an evil power. They are seeking to perform ritualized murders at places of power, drawing on the energy of the places to help them accomplish their purpose.

The Faithful includes a modern group whose purpose is to stop demonic actions. They are referred to rather tongue-in-cheek by Pastor Schaeffer as Ghostbusters, though he is warned not to use the term in their presence as they would fail to find any humor in it. Thought at first to be ruled against by the Bible, Aidan is shown that is not what the Biblical passages in reference actually say. Men, and women, have to have a way to combat evil and this group goes as far as possible in their attempt to stop the evil permeating their town from coming to fruition.

Weyer's skill is unsurpassed as he spins a tale of the macabre that leaves you turning each page desperately longing for more. Once I started the book I couldn't put it down except to go to sleep at night. I found each page leading me further into a mystical and at times terrifying world that showed glimpses of the other side of goodness, kindness and Godliness and left me hoping the good guys would prevail, even though this is far from assured in this page-turner.

What follows is an excerpt from the book:

"Detective Brown, I'm a minister, and like doctors, we often get calls at three in the morning. On that night, I got the call at about 11:00. A member of our congregation called to say her husband was having severe chest pains."

Jennifer traced a finger along her scar.

"And you rushed right off to be there?"

"I did..."

..."Can you tell me their names?"

"Yeah, of course, Olan and Edna Wilkes. It turns out Olan just had a bad case of acid reflux, thank God, but it took them about seven hours to get that diagnosis right."

"You stayed the whole time?"

"Of course I did."


"Um, because I didn't want Edna to be alone while her husband might be having a heart attack."

"You care that much?"

Okay, enough was enough.

"I'm sorry, Detective, does this have anything to do with Amanda's murder?"

"It could."

"What, are you trying to establish my alibi? Am I a suspect or something? I said, staring at them, not quite believing the direction the conversation had taken.

"Yes, actually, that's exactly what we are trying to do?" Lieutenant Weaver spoke.

The Faithful by Jonathan Weyer is a must read for this fall season. Curl up under a blanket beside the fire, relax, as much as possible given the nature of book and enjoy the thrill-ride. Just make sure you leave plenty of lights on.

I Am Legend
Richard Matheson
Tor Books
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765357151, $7.99,

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson is in fact a short story. It is amazing that they managed to make a movie of it, much less one that differed so much in content from the original story. In I Am Legend the main character, Robert Neville, is a blond haired man who spends his days killing the victims of a plague that has swept the entire earth, though I applaud the film's use of Will Smith as the main character. At night he hides within his fortified house hearing the screams of the undead to come out to them.

If you've seen the movie you should still read the book because there are next to no similarities between the book and the movie. There is a possible explanation provided as to why Neville has proved immune to the the virus that has taken over mankind.

While on his daily searches for virus-afflicted "people" to kill Neville encounters another human being. He takes her into his house, giving her refuge, but a short-time later she is gone. I'll leave the rest for you to read. The entire story shouldn't take more than four hours from start to finish and that's if you read slowly.

What follows is a brief excerpt from I Am Legend:

"Come out, Neville!"

Robert Neville sat down with a sigh and began to eat.

He sat in the living room, trying to read. He'd made himself a whisky and soda at his small bar and he held the cold glass as he read a physiology text. From the speaker over the hallway door, the music of Schönberg was playing loudly.

Not loudly enough, though. He still heard them outside, their murmuring and their walkings about and their cries, their snarling and fighting among themselves. Once in a while a rock or brick thudded off the house. Sometimes a dog barked.

And they were all there for the same thing.

Robert Neville closed his eyes a moment and held his lips in a tight line. Then he opened his eyes and lit another cigarette, letting the smoke go deep into his lungs.

He wished he'd had time to soundproof the house. It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't that he had to listen to them. Even after five months, it got on his nerves.

He never looked at them any more. In the beginning he'd made a peephole in the front window and watched them. But then the women had seen him and had started striking vile postures in order to entice him out of the house. He didn't want to look at that.

He put down his book and stared bleakly at the rug, hearing Verklärte Nacht play over the loud-speaker. He knew he could put plugs in his ears to shut off the sound of them, but that would shut off the music too, and he didn't want to feel that they were forcing him into a shell.

He closed his eyes again. It was the women who made it so difficult, he thought, the women posing like lewd puppets in the night on the possibility that he'd see them and decide to come out.

A shudder ran through him. Every night it was the same. He'd be reading and listening to music. Then he'd start to think about sound-proofing the house, then he'd think about the women.

Deep in his body, the knotting heat began again, and he pressed his lips together until they were white. He knew the feeling well and it enraged him that he couldn't combat it. It grew and grew until he couldn't sit still any more. Then he'd get up and pace the floor, fists bloodless at his sides. Maybe he'd set up the movie projector or eat something or have too much to drink or turn the music up so loud it hurt his ears. He had to do something when it got really bad.

He felt the muscles of his abdomen closing in like tightening coils. He picked up the book and tried to read, his lips forming each word slowly and painfully.

But in a moment the book was on his lap again. He looked at the bookcase across from him. All the knowledge in those books couldn't put out the fires in him; all the words of centuries couldn't end the wordless, mindless craving of his flesh.

The realization made him sick. It was an insult to a man. All right, it was a natural drive, but there was no outlet for it any more. They'd forced celibacy on him; he'd have to live with it. You have a mind, don't you? he asked himself. Well, use it!"

As I already said the book is very different than the movie, so much so you'll find yourself amazed that they used the same name for the movie as for the book. Until the movie though the book was a little read text but since it there has been a renewal of interest in the book. I have to admit I didn't read the book myself until after I saw the movie trailers. I've always preferred books to movies so I bought the book. When I finally saw the movie several years later I was stunned by the differences. Both were interesting, but in very different ways. I suggest you enjoy both of them. The book is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, other fine booksellers and can be ordered or may be available from your local bookstore.

Cast in Courtlight
Michelle Sagara
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373802821 $6.99,

Cast in Courtlight by Michelle Sagara is a change for our reviews. It is one in a sequence of six books and I recommend reading the first novel in the series, Cast in Shadow as there are some missing pieces of back story that leave you wondering exactly what is going on. Most of this revolves around the various species (ie., dragon, imperial, Barrani, outcaste) and their relationships to one another - or lack thereof. Part of this may be due to Sagara's writing style as she prefers to lead her readers in a general direction and then allow them to draw their own conclusions, but I feel it is more due to reading the books out of order.

I'm very familiar with Michelle Sagara, having read her under both her current name of Michelle Sagara and her previous name of Michelle Sagara West. She has also written under the name of Michelle West. Michelle Sagara is a writer of epic and high fantasy and Cast in Courtlight is a prime example of both combined into one elegant text. The story is compelling and has a mix of light and dark forces, as well as some political tension, though this element is not that well-defined so it doesn't bore the reader. In fact, the book makes a point of how the heroine, Kaylin, failed her classes in politics, and history for that matter because, except for where they had practical applications she didn't care about them. So the political scenes in the book are directly relevant to the plot, and thankfully very brief.

Cast in Courtlight is peopled with interesting characters, the most fascinating of which is of course, the heroine, Kaylin Neya. Kaylin has tatoo like marks covering at least her arms, although the book cover also shows them on her back. they are some type of ancient rune, which, it would appear, none of the existing species can read, though it is believed the runes are written in the language of the "Old Ones." Kaylin has fought and killed a dragon bent on destruction - We are told briefly of this event. Apparently it happened in the first book. She gains various magical and other powers during this book and reveals some of her existing powers to a few people who were unaware of her abilities.

What follows is an excerpt from Cast in Courtlight:

"Above, birds flew from branch to branch; they were colored so brightly, they caught her eye. Their voices were not the tiny, fluting voices of sparrows. they were raucous and squawking. She hoped they didn't crap on her dress.

Severn's lips compressed in a line that almost resembled a smile. She wondered if he'd had the same thought.

But the forest - or the trees - cleared, pulling away like a planted curtain, and the stones beneath their feet broadened in a large circle. Flowers were interspersed among those stones, and small fountains were laid along the circle's edge.

If she had wondered where all the Barrani were, she now had an answer: they were congregated here, in this odd chamber, trees rising like columns, and hemming them in like walls. They sat upon the edges of fountains, and stood, as if on display, among the careful artistry of flowering plants. They spoke in groups of three and four, moving slowly and gracefully when they moved at all.

In the center of the large circle - and it was huge, once it was entered - was a chair that was, like the others she had seen, a living symbol; it had branches that flowered with white blossoms and golden hearts. They rode above the seat like tines, and cast similar shadows, smaller than the ones that rose above, higher and higher, until it broke the line of trees that hemmed them in.

A Barrani Lord sat upon this throne, and it was a throne, even if it hadn't yet been cut from the wood that formed it. He spoke with a woman who stood by the side of the chair, dressed in pale green and gold, her arms and shoulders bare, her pale hair hound in a braid that seemed to be composed of equal parts hair and blossom. she looked young, delicate, ethereal. Kaylin had to tighten her mouth to stop herself from gaping. She was the only Barrani Kaylin had seen whose hair was not black.

This was the castelord and his consort. Not even Kaylin could have mistaken them for anyone else. She hesitated, feeling so profoundly awkward she was suddenly certain a step in the wrong direction would crush flowers and crack stone. But Teela moved with a quiet confidence toward the throne, and if that was the last place Kaylin wanted to go, it was also the only place she would be allowed.

She knew it. And because she'd been in places far worse - although she had to force herself to remember them, they seemed so far away - she followed Teela, trying not to cling too hard to Severn's arm. She was grateful for the presence of the two Barrani guards, simply because they were Barrani. They had their order; they followed her like shadows cast by unseen light."

Cast in Courtlight by Michele Sagara is an interesting read and a good experience in epic, high fantasy. It is not however, great. It loses something because it really is necessary to read the first book in the series. I consider books that can't truly "stand alone" a weakness in the novel. It also has the drawback of leaving you hanging at the conclusion. There is the required release of tension a novel needs, but there is no complete resolution between several key characters as the intent is to draw you into the next books in the series. This problem, however, seems specific to this volume though as I went ahead and read the next volume in the series and found it far more capable of being a "stand alone" volume. perhaps had I read the first volume before this one I would have far more immensely enjoyed this bookd.If you like epic fantasy this may just be the series for you.

Mortal Ghost
L. Lee Lowe
2940000690130 available as a Nook e-reader book, or for free from the author's website

Sometimes you get exactly what you pay for and Mortal Ghost by L. Lee Lowe is the proof to that rule. Mortal Ghost was a free download from Barnes and Noble e-reader Nook for PC. It was a singularly disturbing tale about a young man who has the ability to heal others, and who also has the ability to start fires simply by thinking about them, or by getting too angry.

The young man, whose name is Jesse falls in love with a young woman named Sarah and ends up staying with Sarah and her family. He becomes quite close to, and quite protective of all of them. As time goes on Sarah is brutally raped by her ex-boyfriend and a friend of his. Sarah is ashamed of what has happened and so remains silent about her experience. It's only to Jesse that she'll open up, talk about the rape and allow him in her room at night when the worst of the nightmares overtake her.

Sarah's father Finn has noticed Jesse's fire-starting abilities. Finn in turn brings Jesse's abilities to the attention of certain covert elements of the government he is involved with. The problem is that more than one unexpected thing occurs when Jesse becomes involved with the secret government program. First, he is able to pull a manifestation into the virtual-reality world he is thrust into. secondly, a bond of sorts is formed between the human, Jesse, and the computer matrix who Jesse comes to call Red.

Red begins to warp Jesse's sense of reality, as well as right and wrong, almost from the beginning. Jesse, fearing for his safety and his sanity lashes out the only way he knows how. He sets out to take down Red.

Red isn't going down without a fight though and Jesse may never make it back from the realms he must enter to defeat the computer gone crazy; or is it that Jesse has gone crazy and the voices in his head are just manifestations of that?

What follows is an excerpt from Mortal Ghost:

"Jesse wanted nothing more than to be left alone to sort through his own feelings and impressions, maybe to test himself a little. Red had been strangely quite in the last few minutes. Was it his imagination after all? He gave it a tentative prod. Back off, I'm busy, came the swift rejoinder. OK. Anyway, what did that prove?

"Jesse, quit stalling before I lose my temper."

A surge of irritation flared in Jesse's gut. The crown of Finn's head, deeply bronzed, gleamed in the sunlight streaming through the closed window. Jesse glared at him. Leave me alone, he thought, why the fuck don't you just leave me be, Christ's enough ENOUGH. He shoved at Finn - no, at something, at his frustration, his fate maybe - and felt it resist

then buckle

then give.

The window exploded outward with an enormous WHOMP of sound: a set of amped-up monster cymbals booming in their eardrums: a blast of highspeed air. The glass fell with a deafening crash to the patio outside. Nubi jumped up, barked, and ran from the room. The cracking and ratcheting of breaking glass seemed to go on for a long time.

Finn and Jesse sat frozen in place

"Did you do that?" whispered Finn after his heart finally returned to his chest.

Jesse nodded a bit sheepishly.

"Shit." Finn expelled the word in a hoarse rush, disbelief and something close to admiration in his voice.

"Look, I'm sorry. I'll replace it. I really shouldn't have done that."

"Yes. I mean, no, of course you shouldn't have, but it's only glass. Easy enough to repair. but how the hell did you break a window without moving a muscle? And why do I have the feeling that I don't want to know?"

"Ayen's computer."

"Ayen's computer?" Finn asked. "What in god's name are you talking about?

Jesse decided he had no choice but to give Finn an abridged version of the truth. Very abridged.

"The prototype seems to have had some lingering effects on me."

Finn waited for an explanation. It didn't come.

"And that's it? That's all you're going to say?"

Jesse shrugged.

"Lingering effects,"Finn muttered, glancing towards the window. "Talk about understatement." He dug at his beard. "Are you absolutely sure there are no other new tricks you're not mentioning? That I need to watch out for?"

Jesse held his tongue.

"Have you heard from Ayen while I was away?" Finn finally asked.


Jesse drained his coffee, now cold, and went to have a closer look at the damage. Most of the glass lay in small shards scattered widely across the patio. The garden table where they often ate looked as if it were dusted with a thick sprinkling of coarse sugar. He could even see some glass glinting from the herb bed. The window had shattered with the force of a detonation. Idly he picked at a sharp splinter still lodged in the frame. He winced and sucked his forefinger which he'd nicked. He stood for a while looking out into the garden, his shoulders slumping. Finally, he took a deep breath and drew himself up, then spoke, turning round to face Finn.

"I'm not going back there."

"I've always said it was up to you. but will you tell me why?"

"They'll try to use me."

I'd like to say the plot was original, but it's not. It was explored many years ago with Stephen King's The Firestarter, in which a young girl, nicknamed Charlie, has the ability to start fires and is captured in a top secret government installation where she is blackmailed into performing various pyrotechnic feats in the belief it will free her father who is also being held at the installation. Of course, Charlie can't heal anything, so the similarities end there, but the point is the story has been done before and done better.

Jesse's little reality breaks are very confusing too. It is difficult to determine how much of his breaks are due to his exposure to Ayen's computer prototype and how much may be due to possible blossoming mental illness. Mental illness is not given as a possible excuse in the novel, but still, the boy hallucinates, has a God complex, hears voices, suffers from paranoia and believes he can go back in time to influence past events. All in all, these are markers of serious mental illness, but everyone in the story seems to overlook these traits, instead looking for a supernatural excuse.

As I said, you sometimes get what you pay for. This book was free, and it shows. The story quality is fair but the story line has been done before and the tendency of the story to flash back and forth between "real-time" reality and "warped-time" reality or "delusional-reality" where you doubt Jesse's sanity is very disorienting. In some ways it's interesting but overall I don't recommend it.

American Indian Stories
Book Jungle
9781605979717 $8.45 (pb)

American Indian Stories by Zitkala-Sa offers a view into life for the American Indians, specifically the Dakota Sioux, near the turn of the twentieth century. There are multiple versions and formats of this book appearing on the website. I am unable to obtain an ISBN from the copy I have, so I cannot tell you which Kindle version it is, other than to affirm it came with no cover image and was $1.00 or less. I have a collection of old mythologies and legends on my Kindle for PC obtained from Amazon for little to nothing and this volume is among them. The lack of information on older volumes is a particular problem with Amazon's Kindle versions. This difficulty is outweighed by the fact the electronic format makes widely available many obscure texts that would otherwise risk being lost.

American Indian Stories is rather short. An exact page count is unavailable because Kindle varies pages from a true text document like a .pdf format. It can be easily read in 8 - 10 hours.

American Indian Stories recounts in vivid detail the early childhood of Zitkala-Sa. She speaks of how free her life was and how much she loved it. Then, when she was eight she convinced her mother to allow her to go off to a mission school. Her mother was opposed to this idea. Zitkala-Sa's older brother Dawee had gone off to school and thought it would be too difficult for her, still, between Zitkala-Sa's own pleas and the belief that Zitkala-Sa would need to be prepared for the "white-man's world" her mother finally assented to her leaving.

American Indian Stories does not go into great detail regarding Zitkala-Sa's time at the missionary school, but from what detail it does provide it is easy to surmise her time there was not happy. When she returned home following her early years at school she found herself unable to fit into either her Native American world or the "white-man's world," after a time she returned to school to further her education.

American Indian Stories talks about her life at college briefly. It provides few details of her teaching years afterward. It gives no details of her writing time, but it does provide some insights into the deep resentment caused by white Americans of the time. The American Indian suffered great disenfranchisement at the hands of a government they tried to make peace with and they found themselves forced from their traditional lands and migrating ways onto reservations. Indians died in the process of the moves. No consideration was given to the sick among them and many, including Zitkala-Sa's own sister and uncle perished because of these circumstances. The bitterness of heart suffered by people made to endure so much is unimaginable. We are given brief examples of it in American Indian Stories but it is apparent the feelings run deeper than the brief asides and stories of injustice.

American Indian Stories is a valuable work of American literature. It contains both auto-biographical accounts from Zitkala-Sa's life and several tales from the Dakota Sioux treasury. You must pay attention to the titles of the sections so you know when the shift to the tales occurs otherwise you will not notice when the shift occurs and will find yourself confused when suddenly the story starts to speak about a male - I know I was.

What follows is an excerpt from American Indian Stories:

"I was a wild girl of seven. Loosely clad in a slip of brown buckskin, and light-footed with a pair of soft moccasins on my feet, I was as free as the wind that blew my hair, and no less spirited than a bounding deer. These were my mother's pride,-my wild freedom and overflowing spirits. She taught me no fear save that of intruding myself upon others.

Having gone many paces ahead I stopped, panting for breath, and laughing with glee as my mother watched my every movement. I was not wholly conscious of myself, but was more keenly alive to the fire within. It was as if I were the activity, and my hands and feet were only experiments for my spirit to work upon.

Returning from the river, I tugged beside my mother, with my hand upon the bucket I believed I was carrying. One time, on such a return, I remember a bit of conversation we had. My grown-up cousin Warca-Ziwin (Sunflower), who was then seventeen, always went to the river alone for water for her mother. Their wigwam was not far from ours; and I saw her daily going to and from the river. I admired my cousin greatly. So I said: "Mother, when I am as tall as my cousin

Warca-Ziwin, you shall not have to come to the river for water. I will do it for you."

With a strange tremor in her voice I could not understand, she answered, "If the paleface does not take away from us the river we drink."

"Mother, who is this bad paleface?" I asked.

"My little daughter, he is a sham-a sickly sham! The bronzed Dakota is the only real man."

I looked up into my mother's face while she spoke; and seeing her bite her lips I knew she was unhappy. This aroused revenge in my small soul. Stamping my foot on the earth, I cried aloud, "I hate the paleface that makes my mother cry!"

Setting the pail of water on the ground, my mother stooped, and stretching her left hand out on the level with my eyes, she placed her other arm about me; she pointed to the hill where my uncle and my only sister lay buried.

"There is what the paleface has done! Since then your father too has been buried in a hill nearer the rising sun. We were once very happy. But the paleface has stolen our lands and driven us hither. Having defrauded us of our land, the paleface forced us away.

"Well, it happened on the day we moved camp that your sister and uncle were both very sick. Many others were ailing; but there seemed to be no help. We traveled many days and nights; not in the grand, happy way that we moved camp when I was a little girl, but we were driven, my child, driven like a herd of buffalo. With every step, your sister, who was not as large as you are now, shrieked with the painful jar until she was hoarse with crying. She grew more and more feverish. Her little hands and cheeks were burning hot. Her little lips were parched and dry, but she would not drink the water I gave her. Then I discovered that her throat was swollen and red. My poor child, how I cried with her because the Great Spirit had forgotten us.

"At last, when we reached this western country, on the first weary night your sister died. And soon your uncle died also, leaving a widow and an orphan daughter, your cousin Warca-Ziwin. Both your sister and your uncle might have been happy with us today, had it not been for the heartless paleface."

American Indian Stories by Zitkala-Sa offers a unique view into a world overlooked by society, and one that still persists in some degree to this day. Native Americans still face challenges unique to their minority status among white Americans. This novel helps bring some of the roots of this inequality to light. It is short, but I highly recommend reading it for its historical value.

Gene Doucette
Hamel Integrity Publishing Inc.
1410 E 52nd St., Tacoma, WA 98404
9780984568512, $14.95

Immortal by Gene Doucette introduces a character, currently called Adam, who happens to be immortal. His earliest memory comes only in the form of a prehistoric dream at the beginning of the story, when his name resembled something like "Urr."

Adam's story flashes between the present and his experiences of both the recent and distant past. Through the millennia "Adam" has appeared as different people with different names depending on the time and place he is currently living. He has been all races, varying them according to the predominance of the region. No explanation is given for this ability. Adam lives continuously and never dies or is reincarnated so this poses a slight problem, but in no way interferes with the ability of the reader to suspend belief and enter deeply into the story. Also, Adam is a random name chosen by the character for the time being; at other times and in other places his names have been as varied as his appearance.

Adam appears unable to call this skill at will though, which is a shame as it would be infinitely helpful with some of the situations that occur in the book. The ability to change appearance at will would also help to explain, to a degree Adam's mysterious skill throughout the ages. Exactly how and why did his changes come about? Was it simply a matter of geography and racial predominance or was there some great, mystical aspect at work and if so, why won't this mystical force help him at a time when his very existence is threatened?

Doucette's character in Immortal is well-rounded. He comes with his flaws as well as his redeemable qualities. At times he is brave and fearless; at other times the preservation of his own life is his highest priority. He is in general a complex enough character to have survived through the ages.

Immortal, generally speaking moves clearly and easily between the present, the past and the distant past. Recollections are vivid and seem as though they could in fact be the recounting actual historical events. The character has lived through some interesting times and events and his retelling of these stories, via memories, is lively and interesting.

Pixies - who by the way like mushrooms and are incredibly innocent, but not too astute - are figures in a few significant events in the story. A dragon appears once. There are a few vampires that Adam has become acquainted with over time and Adam has had the misfortune of coming across a few demons in his lifetime too. I find the inclusion of these "mythological" beings add to the story rather than detracting from it. In fact, in a few places they are keys to action scenes or supply a bit of comic relief to ease the story's tension. Immortal manages to avoid the pitfalls of these characters and uses them in only relatively small ways that do not interfere with the readers' ability to maintain the suspension of belief necessary to enjoy the fiction/fantasy elements of the story.

My biggest complaint with Immortal has nothing to do with its writing style or storyline, both of which are very good. My complaint comes in the somewhat stereotypical presentation of Adam's young, nubile "girlfriend". Within less than a day of their meeting she has him in bed. She walks around her curtainless windowed apartment naked or clad in only a pair of panties. Actually I believe in one scene she has a bit more on - a belly shirt and a pair of panties. No male erotic fantasy in that scene.

Reasonable explanations are given as to how Adam manages to remain immortal, though no explanation is offered as to how he came to be that way to begin with.

Was he born immortal or did something happen to him? He has astounding immunity, to date there has not been an illness that can affect him, which, as he points out was a great benefit when the average lifespan was 30 and the seasons were measured by the plagues they brought. Incidentally, Adam appears around thirty and for reasons that are unclear is sterile. If this is somehow connected to his immortality is never made clear, but there is a sense that it could be.

While Adam is immortal he is not, as he points out, invincible. He has had close calls with death before. He simply now does his best to avoid those situations. His immortality does not give him any special or superhuman powers. It has merely endowed him with an unspeakably long life in which all those he has known, and in some cases cared about, have died while he has lived on. He is an alcoholic, though he doesn't see himself as such. To him, even decades spent drunk is no worse than the average human going on a bender. Time, after all loses relevancy when you have eternity ahead of you and his decades are perhaps the equivalent of weekends or holidays are to those of us endowed with 75 years if we are fortunate.

What follows is an excerpt from Immortal:

I returned to my immediate concern, which was the stuff I'd been able to carry from Stan's Escalade. I would have just driven the car someplace where I could search it thoroughly, but that struck me as a dangerous thing to try. There was too much I didn't know, such as whether his car could be tracked or whether he would be found and connected to the car soon enough for the police to consider looking for it. So I had taken what I could, tossed his keys into the sewer and left the scene.

I found only two things worth keeping: a large square suitcase and an oversize manila folder. I slid the contents of the folder onto the bed and examined them by candle light. There wasn't much: just the phone Stan had talked about and a two page info sheet.

Page one had a bad black-and-white photograph of me. It was recent. Within the last six months recent. I couldn't fathom how anyone had managed such a photo, as I take great precautions in this regard.

The rest of the page was notable for its lack of information:

Name: Various
Age: looks early thirties
Sex: Male
Race: Various
Height: 5' 11"
Weight: 180 (Approx.)
Hair: Various
Eyes: Brown
Scars, other identifying marks: None

Clearly whoever had sent Stan knew enough to list race as various, which is not the sort of thing one customarily sees in a tally of vital statistics. I flipped to page two.

Target is an immortal man, but in all appearances and mannerisms a normal human being. He is immune to all diseases but can be physically harmed with ordinary weaponry. He typically travels alone but has been known to befriend humans at times, and also various underspecies. He prefers to use cash when he travels. (Source of cash is unknown.) He will rarely stay in one place for an extended period. He was last spotted in Cleveland.

Target is not usually armed. However, he is extremely cunning and is not to be taken lightly. His greatest weakness is his penchant for alcohol, which makes him sloppy and overly reliant on strangers.

Goal: Target is to be taken ALIVE. Use of lethal force - or damage caused leading to his subsequent demise - will result in nonpayment or forfeiture of payment. Once you have safely secured and positively tested target, contact is to be made via the enclosed phone. NO OTHER FORM OF CONTACT IS ACCEPTABLE. Transfer of target and the necessary payment arrangements will be negotiated at that time.

As is clear from the above passage Adam is being hunted, rather ruthlessly by a person or group of people. Whether he will escape their clutches, and their intent for him remains to be seen. All in all, it is a book that is worth the read. The suspense and unusual storyline make it well worth the time.

Tracy M. Riva

Sandra's Bookshelf

Oregon Trail
Rick Steber
Bonanza Publishing
Box 204, Pineville, OR 97754
0945134010, $1.99,

This book is an excellent book for teachers to use as a tool, for teaching young minds about our country and its beginnings. The "Oregon Trail," tells how hard it was for early pioneers to travel to the N.W. Each little story is only a page long, which will hold the attention of younger school age children.

Even adults can enjoy some of these stories. I found it funny that ox's went crazy when they smelled or saw buffalos.

Spoken from the Heart
Laura Bush
Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, INC
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439155202, $21.00,

This book is moving in many ways. I have laughed and cried while reading it. Laura Bush has gone from the small oil town of Midland, TX, to the Governor's Mansion in TX, to the "White House," as our First Lady. I want to emphasize Lady as she is gracious, charming, elegant, smart and beautiful. She did not use her book as a platform to knock all of those who have said such terrible things about President Bush or herself.

I had no idea how much was expected from a First Lady until I read this book. Nor did I realize how little private time they have for their family and friends. Laura Bush has worked hard to make people aware of the basic needs that everyone should have around the world. Women's rights in Afghanistan, to literacy, both here and so many other countries as well. These are just a few of the things she has done. To list them all would take up several pages. But she points them out in her book in hopes that others will still get on board and help.

Laura has really opened up and shared a large part of her personal life with us in this book. While there were others who wanted her to be something different than what she was; Laura Bush stayed true to who she is. She is still the girl next door and a loyal friend.

I feel honored to have had her as our First Lady, and all that she has done. Laura Bush has "true grit" and it doesn't come any better than that.

Sandra Heptinstall

Suzie's Bookshelf

The Astrology of Great Sex
Myrna Lamb
Hampton Roads Publishing
c/o Red Wheel/Weiser
65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950
9781571745095, $17.95,

Astrology is a language. If you understand this language, the sky speaks to you. ~Dane Rudhyar

For centuries astrology has revealed hidden facts of each sign of the zodiac. It is well known to be able to unlock characteristics that show if two signs are destined to have a love future together.

In The Astrology of Great Sex: Discover Your Lover's And Your Own Deepest Desires; Myra Lamb showcases each zodiac sign. She provides in-depth perceptive that allows the reader to learn what turns their lover on. It also enables the reader to get a look into each signs deepest fantasies.

I was impressed at the accuracy this one book offers. When I read my own sign I immediately saw similarities and characteristics that I knew were in my own values system. By using this book when you encounter a love interest I am assured you will have an upper hand on the relationship developing into something deeper.

Myrna Lamb has done an outstanding job in writing The Astrology of Great Sex: Discover Your Lover's And Your Own Deepest Desires. By surveying more than 1,200 men and women and combining it with her 30 years of astrologer experience this makes for an award winning novel.

Hell's Warrior
Jaye Roycraft
ImaJinn Books
PO Box 74274, Phoenix, AZ 85087-1004
1933417552, $14.00,

The past has a way of returning, just when you least expect it...

It had been twenty years since Che "Cade" Kincade put an end to a war between humans and vampires in Chicago. To bring peace to the city he helped get Deborah Dayton elected for Mayor.

The unexpected assignation of the Mayor sets up a chain of events that catches Cade in the middle of the crossfire when he finds himself being accused of her murder. Neither the vampire world nor the human race believes he is innocent.

With the death of the Mayor law and order is in a state of chaos; Chicago threatens to return to its bloody past. Is it possible that hell can be reincarnated? Can Cade stop the war from occurring and prove his he is innocent before it is too late?

Hell's Warrior is the highly anticipated sequel to Half Past Hell. Once again Jaye Roycraft has proven she is a writer who is a legendary master of the paranormal. Fans will be delighted as they revisit beloved characters from Half Past Hell. Hell's Warrior is a fast paced roller coaster ride one that you will not want to miss.

The Backyard Bird Lover's Ultimate How-to Guide
Sally Roth
Rodale Books
733 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017-3204
1605295191 $21.99

No matter where you are in the world there is an opportunity to invite a bird into your backyard. Birds are a means to achieve a peaceful existence. Their beauty and simplistic actions will provide a relaxing oasis to your life.

To learn to attract birds there is no better guide than Sally Roth's The Backyard Bird Lover's Ultimate How-to Guide: More than 200 Easy Ideas and Projects for Attracting and Feeding Your Favorite Birds. In this book you will learn creative ways to attract all types of feathered friends.

I was impressed with the colorful pictures that showed the many types of birds in existence. I felt this book could be used for the beginner or the advanced bird watcher. It definitely provides an easy to understand A-Z approach that shows what types of foods and feeders that are needed to attract all types of birds.

Of the two hundred projects in this book there was one I tried and loved. It was the idea of how to use an old license plate as a roof for a wren's home. This idea worked perfectly, I had never seen wren's migrate to this birdhouse until I used the license plate to form a roof.

Sally Roth's The Backyard Bird Lover's Ultimate How-to Guide: More than 200 Easy Ideas and Projects for Attracting and Feeding Your Favorite Birds is an exceptional book. Readers will fall in love with all the ideas and projects this one book offers. By using this book, you will quickly lure the birds that have been missing from your life into your own backyard.

Vanishing Act
Liz Johnson
Steeple Hill
P.O. Box 5190, Buffalo, NY 14240-5190
9780373444069 $5.50

Nora James world was turned upside down eighteen months ago when she witnessed her father being shot in an alley. To protect herself, she changed her name to Danielle Keating and moved away from her hometown in Portland.

Danielle hid in the small town of Cresent City where she teaches at a local community college. Fearing for her safety, she is very protective of revealing anything of her past life.

Special FBI Agent, Nathan Andersen came to Cresent City in search of Nora James. Her testimony is needed for an up and coming trial. When his car is in need of repair, Danielle Keating comes to his rescue. Danielle's beauty takes his breath away; he knows that he cannot afford to be distracted from his assignment.

The past has a way of revealing itself when you least expect it. When Nathan discovers Danielle's true identity will his feelings be the same as when he thought she was someone else?

Liz Johnson's Vanishing Act is a rollercoaster ride of high action suspense. From the moment you read the first page you will find that you cannot put this book down until you finish with the last word at the end. This is definitely the type of book that will live in your memory long after you finish. Books of this high quality come along so few and far between; when we find them we immediately add them to our collector shelf.

Suzie Housley, Reviewer

Theodore's Bookshelf

Dying for Mercy
Mary Jane Clark
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061286124 $7.99

A 20-year-old event in exclusive Tuxedo Park, NY, haunts the newest Eliza Blake mystery, as she and her co-workers, comprising the KEY News group (and the Sunrise Suspense Society), grapple with a series of clues left to unravel why Innis Wheelock committed suicide by stigmata. A scion of Tuxedo Park, well-liked and married to his childhood sweetheart (who became governor of New York and later ambassador to Italy), Innis returned home after their stint in Rome to rebuild and refurbish their home in Tuxedo Park, a fancy enclave 40 miles from New York City.

In working with his architect, Innis insisted on incorporating various features in the estate. When the work was finished, he hosted a party on the Feast of St. Francis, inviting hundreds of persons, during which event he told Eliza she could unravel the mystery. Subsequently, the architect, his secretary and others are murdered, and Eliza and her lover nearly so.

This well-drawn and -researched story progresses with a great deal of information about St. Francis and the stigmata (the five wounds sustained by Jesus upon his crucifixion) and other events surrounding his betrayal and death. This is the third novel in the KEY News series, and it is imaginative and moving. The plot, built around several hidden clues, is intriguing and the writing well-done. Recommended.

Live to Tell
Lisa Gardner
Bantam Books
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780553807240 $26.00

Whatever the cause, whether child abuse, a traumatic experience or some other reason, the event can manifest itself in the personality and behavior of a child, or in his or her later life. And various examples are exhibited in this novel, ostensibly a police procedural, but more closely resembling a psychiatric case study. It features hard-boiled, sex-starved D.D. Warren, of the Boston PD, and her team.

The first case to arise is the brutal murder of four members of a family and the apparent suicide of the father. At first blush it appears to be a murder-suicide, but as the investigation progresses it seems there is more to the event. Another similar case follows and a common factor appears to be a pediatric psychiatric unit at a Boston hospital, where disturbed children are treated.

Other characters include Danielle Burton, a conscientious nurse in the unit who 25 years earlier survived a childhood trauma, being the only survivor in a family massacre. The present-day murders take place within days of the anniversary of that event. Then there is Victoria Oliver, a devoted mother of a troubled son who will do anything to protect him.

All the characters interconnect and the past obviously influences the present. Written with zeal and an apparent understanding and sympathy for the underlying theme, the author has not only created an interesting crime story, but also a penetrating look into a vital subject. Highly recommended.

The Grim Reaper's Dance
Judy Clemens
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590587317 $24.95

The second novel in this series finds Casey Maldonado (a/k/a Jones) hitching a ride after her last misadventure in Ohio right into another one. Apparently, death doesn't take a holiday when Casey is around, but just tags along so she has company. The road in front of the semi in which they are riding is blocked by construction vehicles; the road is wet from rain and the vehicle skids and crashes, killing the driver. But before he dies he tells Casey about something hidden in the truck and tells her to prevent it from being found by "them."

Casey escapes and hides in surrounding fields in Kansas and later finds papers secreted in the truck. Assisted by an assortment of teenagers and others, Casey eventually comes to understand the meaning of the hidden papers and undertakes to bring down those responsible for the crash, who will stop at nothing to obtain them and head her off before she can expose them.

The story moves apace, with a good look at small town America. While a conventional thriller-mystery, what is unusual here is the use of the Grim Reaper as a foil. After all, how often can "death" be a force for "good," much less a sounding board and an advance scout?


Don Winslow
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439183366 $25.00

On one level, "Savages" is a pretty straightforward story about two guys who create a fabulous product and make a lot of money until the competition decides to embark on a hostile takeover. On another level, however, is the writing, which is inventive, very different, and amusing. Together, these two elements provide the reader with a decidedly entertaining read.

Ben is a creative genius, creating the best combination of plants for the marijuana user. Chon, a former Navy Seal, is the hard-nosed strong man. Together they build the number one operation of its kind in southern California until the Baja cartel decides to move in, allowing Ben and Chon to, in effect, work for it, with the bulk of the profits reverting to the Mexicans.

The choices are not simple, since they can't shut down and walk away, especially when their girlfriend, O (for Ophelia), is kidnapped by the cartel, which threatens to decapitate her unless the two comply with their unilateral demand. Consequently, the duo resorts to every trick they can conjure up to turn the tables on the cartel and free O.

The narrative is so unusual, the language so smooth and original, that the reader is carried along on a wave of fancy, despite some of the gruesome events along the way. The novel is not only a look at the evils of the drug lords, but the moral choices faced and addressed by those who are affected and the steps they have to take to deal with indescribable pressures. Recommended.

The Wolves of Fairmount Park
Dennis Tafoya
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312531164 $25.99

This mystery novel is more about the characters than the crime involved. It begins with a drive-by shooting in a bad Philadelphia neighborhood in which two teenage boys are hit, one dying, the other in a coma at the ER. As a result any number of people want to find out why the two had been shot at.

To begin with there is the father of the slain lad, who seeks revenge. The cop father of the other boy has a drug addict brother, perhaps the only one, including various detectives, who can eventually put all the pieces together, at great personal risk.

The violence throughout the novel, some basically superfluous to the main plot, albeit necessary to delve into the character of the main culprit, is graphic. The story moves along smoothly, with well-written analyses of the relationships among the downtrodden, especially as they grasp for help or love.


Soul Patch
A Moe Prager Mystery
Reed Farrel Coleman
Busted Flush Press
P.O. Box 540594, Houston, TX 77254-0594
9781935415091 $14.00

This novel is the fourth in the series whose protagonist is Moe Prager, a former New York City cop, prematurely retired due to injury, who misses the life. In this installment, he becomes involved with the past - friends and co-workers in the Coney Island precinct where he broke in. Now partners with his older brother in a chain of wine stores, he still keeps his hopes alive as a sometime private investigator.

At the opening of the latest wine shop, his long-time friend, the chief of detectives, hands Moe a tape, setting off a chain of events resulting in a series of murders and unwanted revelations. It all began many years before, under the boardwalk in the shadow of the now-defunct parachute jump.

As were its predecessors, this book is good and entertaining reading, the character development solid, the writing terse and graphic.


Hemlock Lake
Carolyn Rose
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, Maine 04901
9781594148842 $25.95

There are few small towns left in the country, places where generations of families have occupied the same homes and known each other intimately, with few things, if any, changing. Fictional Hemlock Lake in the Catskill Mountains, a short distance from New York City, is one such community until one very elderly inhabitant dies, and a distant relative sells off the homestead to a developer who razes the house and apple orchard and begins to build several homes for "outsiders."

Locals, of course, resent the intrusion, which will upset the time-honored traditions of the community. Then threatening letters, graffiti and minor annoyances erupt to hinder the progress of the development. When that doesn't work, attempts to stall the builder escalate to arson and even murder. Dan Stone is a sergeant in the sheriff's department who grew up in Hemlock Lake. He left some months previously after his wife drowned on the lake and his brother committed suicide. The sheriff asks Dan to return to his family home and try to find the arsonist.

Ostensibly the novel is the mystery of who the perpetrator is and the difficulty Dan has in discovering his identity. But more importantly, this is the story about people, and especially Dan's relationship with those he grew up with and their attitudes about those who chose to leave Hemlock Lake instead of staying put. On another level, it is a deep look into the interconnections between the residents, as well as Dan's learning more about himself and his wants and needs. Written with a sharp eye on small town America and how the past infringes on the future, the book is highly recommended.

The Eye of the Virgin
Frederick Ramsay
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590587607 $24.95

For a small town sheriff, Ike Schwartz manages to get himself and his deputies involved in major international situations. This time an apparent murder case devolves into a major spy conspiracy. A dead body is found sitting in a local clinic. The same day, a B&E at the home of an adjunct professor occurs. Are the events related?

At first, Ike treats it as a murder inquiry, but as events unfold it does become more complicated. It seems the professor has an icon with an embedded microchip. Ergo, involvement of the CIA and the Mossad, in a case which brings to bear all of Ike's past experience.

Ike is a charming character, and the other inhabitants of Picketsville serve to endear themselves to the reader as well. This is the sixth novel in the series, and each has been a welcome addition. And, in this entry, at least another mystery has been solved: Ike and Ruth, long a-courtin', finally become engaged.


The Ghosts of Belfast
Stuart Neville
Soho Crime
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781569478578 $14.00

The "Troubles" in Northern Ireland have spawned many novels, but none as intense and different as Ghosts. Based on the past efforts of Republicans to force unification with Eire and the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in the North, the novel focuses on the torment of Gerry Fegan who has, as an assassin on orders from above, killed a dozen victims, some of whom were innocent, two of whom he liquidated while on a furlough from prison to attend his mother's funeral.

After serving his prison sentence, Fegan returns to Belfast and is given a sinecure by the Party to support him. But he is haunted by the "ghosts" of his victims who demand he avenge them by slaying those responsible for ordering their deaths. The novel is divided into 12 sections, one for each of the avenging ghosts. As Fegan accomplishes each step in the series, complications in the political situation arise as he upsets the delicate balance achieved in the peace process.

The story is told basically through the eyes of Fegan and Campbell, an undercover British intelligence operative. Both are viewed sympathetically, although Fegan more so. Each, however, is considered redundant in the present-day province. Meanwhile, British, IRA and other northern Irish personages are treated as hypocritical opportunists.

The history of both parts of the Irish isle is gruesome, and the events and characters in the novel emphasize the cost. As one of the "ghosts" states: "Everybody pays." Tightly written and graphically presented, the debut novel is the first in a series, giving the reader something to look forward to. Highly recommended.

The Dark Vineyard
Martin Walker
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780307270184 $23.95

It is difficult to say whether the fictional town of Saint-Denis or its sole policeman, Benoit ["Bruno"] Courreges, is more charming, but certainly this novel is simply a delight. It is a murder-mystery wrapped up in the French countryside surrounded by grape vines, vats and wine bottles. Bruno is overly protective of his village, especially when a brash American offers to revolutionize the bucolic area and buy up most of the land to introduce mass wine-making and marketing to 'upgrade' the traditional small-town methods.

Adding to Bruno's woes initially is an arson fire which destroys a research station where genetically modified crops are being grown. The first suspects are militant environmentalists. Then two of Bruno's friends are found dead, one of carbon dioxide asphyxiation from inhaling wine fumes, the other from a heart attack or broken neck falling off a ladder looking for the victim in a wine vat.

It falls to Bruno not only to solve the murders, but to save the town and preserve its values, and create new desperately needed jobs. Then there is the dichotomy of his love life and his love of Saint-Denis. The novel is written simply but enjoyably and is recommended.

Still Missing
Chevy Stevens
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312595678 $24.00

This is an interesting novel, despite its shortcomings: basically the writing is uneven, and in many ways pretentious. A young woman, Annie Sullivan, a realtor on Vancouver Island, Canada, is abducted by a psycho and kept captive for a year, subjected to daily rapes and severe regimentation, severe enough to drive anyone practically insane. She becomes pregnant and the baby dies after a short period of time.

The story of her year-long captivity is recounted in a series of sessions with a psychiatrist. In fact, instead of calling each new section of the book a chapter, it is called a Session. And, of course, the after-effects are recounted as well. What is unexpected is the ultimate unraveling of just why she was abducted to begin with, in a terrific twist.

The descriptions of just how unbalanced the abductor is, as well as Annie's mental torment, are excellent. What this reader found somewhat disconcerting was the language too often used by Annie, especially four letter words, which to me was excessive. Surely some of it was appropriate to mark her discomfort or anguish, but the constant repetition really could serve little purpose other than to shock the reader or display the fact that this is the author's debut. Nevertheless, this thriller is recommended.

Silent Scream
Lynda LaPlante
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439139288 $15.00

This is the story of two women whose lives become intertwined, one a beautiful and upcoming actress, the other a talented and ambitious detective. The former, Amanda Delany, is a promiscuous, drug- and sex-addicted film star found brutally stabbed in her bed. Anna Travis' career is put to the test as she and the rest of the Metropolitan Police team investigate the bizarre murder.

This is a highly detailed British police procedural, with lots of suspects and false leads. In the beginning there is certainly a great lack of leads, but Anna, who, by the way, is up for promotion, goes solo too often to come up with the breakthrough information to solve the case.

The plot is cannily crafted to keep the reader absorbed, with the suspense building page by page. The author brings to life the unfortunate victim as Anna looks back deeply into her past to determine just who the murderer may be. And not until the very end when we learn all the necessary information can the reader even begin to guess the result. Written with simplicity but great detail, the novel is recommended.

Death Message
Mark Billingham
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061432774 $7.99

It's not often that a homicide detective receives a picture of a victim prior to the murder, but that's exactly what happens to Tom Thorne in this latest volume in the series, when his cell phone rings and he opens it to see a photo. And it happens more than once. A connection occurs after the second victim is identified and Thorne discovers that the murderer is a recently released man named Marcus Brooks, who had learned that his girlfriend and his son were killed deliberately in a hit-and-run accident two weeks before he was to be released from prison after serving seven years for the killing of a bike gang leader.

Thorne has to balance the capture of Brooks with several other pressures, including his relationship with his own girlfriend, the death of his father, possible connections between bike gangs and the Turkish mafia, drug and other illicit activities, and an investigation by Internal Affairs.

It is a long story, but an absorbing one, with the plot(s) moving forward at a steady pace. Thorne is depicted on a basic human level, with all the doubts and wonders inherent in a person. As police procedurals go, "Death Message" is not so much a step-by-step investigation as it is an insight into the detective's mind and ability to weigh alternatives, especially in his own ethos and life.


Bad Intentions
Karin Fossum, author
Charlotte Barslund, translator
Harvill Secker
c/o Random House U.K.
9781846552922, $25.00 Cdn.

[This book is only available in/through the UK or Canada at this time, not yet available in the US]

This tale takes place in Norway, but the venue could be anywhere. The story has a universal base: Does the moral fit the event? It begins on a September weekend, with three long-time friends spending some time in a remote cabin by Dead Water Lake.

In the dark, they decide to row out onto the lake, with only the moon to provide some light. Only two return to shore, and they decide not to call for help until morning. Inspector Sejer is the lead detective, and he quickly forms the opinion that the two boys are hiding something. But no further clues arise and time passes, until the body of a young boy is found by another lake.

This is a penetrating look at diverse personalities, and the effect of past deeds on each. The plot is less a police procedural than a penetrating analysis of how each of the three friends' minds works. Other than what drives each of them to act finally as they do, there is little doubt that in the end justice will be done. Recommended.

The Hanging Tree
Bryan Gruley
Touchstone Books
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416563648 $15.00

This second book in the series continues a look at the small town of Starvation Lake and the people who live in that northern Michigan burg as seen through the eyes of Gus Carpenter, the executive editor of the bi-weekly hometown newspaper. The plot involves the apparent suicide of his second cousin, Gracie, who left the town about the same time Gus did years before for Detroit. Gus, of course, returned when he lost his job with the Detroit Times, Gracie only recently.

But what Gracie did in the big city is a big mystery, as is the question of why she had returned to Starvation Lake. At first, it cannot be determined whether she died by suicide or had been murdered. She was found hanging from an oak tree from which townspeople and kids routinely hung paired shoes, just like many carve initials into trees. It falls to Gus to look into Gracie's past to determine the secrets of the present.

The Price of Liberty
Keir Graff
Severn House
555 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10022
9781847512482 $15.95

(This book is only available at present in/through the UK/Canada in hardcover [ISBN 9780727868725], not yet available in the US)

The question raised by this novel is: Is it a political commentary or just an old-fashioned thriller? It seems that a cost-plus government contract to build a highly secure prison to house terrorists deep in the heart of Montana leads to all kinds of chicanery involving some innocent people. To begin with there is Jack McEnroe, who drives a construction vehicle, and his ex-wife, Kyla, who is secretary to the owner of the construction company.

When Kyla discovers her boss is overcharging the prime contractor, who presumably is marking up the invoices and happily passing them along to Washington for payment, her conscience prods her to at least consider exposing the fraud. This leads to attempts by the owner's son, who conceived the bilking plan originally, to cover up the misdeeds, placing Kyla and her children in great danger.

The ensuing events include murders and chases, with the tension building to a crescendo. For readers who revel in such plots, the book should be rewarding. For those who do not, the book can be a bit tedious at times. However, it is a fast-reading, exciting novel, and is recommended.

Just an admittedly trite aside: the novel truly starts off with a "bang." And while there are elements of sex and violence, they are relatively mild. More important is the analytical drive bringing the story along to its conclusion. And once again, for hockey and journalism fans, Mr. Gruley has presented, with sensitivity and deep first-hand knowledge, an intensive look into the relationships of small town residents, family, and what makes a community the size of Starvation Lake tick. Highly recommended.

The Cobra
Frederick Forsyth
G.P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399156809 $26.95

Frederick Forsyth has written numerous books with far-out themes. "Cobra" is another one, just more so. The plot is fairly simple: A not-so-thinly disguised President [Obama] and his chief of staff [Emanuel] call to the White House Paul Deveraux, known as The Cobra, ostensibly retired from the CIA (with sighs of relief from the powers-that-be because of his extremism), because of the overwhelming growth in the cocaine market.

Asked if cocaine can be eradicated, Paul demands unlimited powers and a billion dollars, which he is granted. He puts together all the necessary equipment and personnel to accomplish the task and begins attacking the supply from the Colombian cartel. So far, so good.

However, the premise is kind of shaky. How could such a program be developed and implemented in total secrecy? Such a scenario is very unlikely. Certainly the Manhattan Project is a model, and the A-bomb was developed in total secrecy. But that was during a world war. Not likely under today's conditions, I think.

Written with the author's signature ability for research and an eye for detail, the novel, despite the criticism above, certainly is entertaining. With regard to the conclusion, the events are recounted without explanation, although the motivation is apparent. But a couple of more sentences might have been in order.

The Queen of Patpong
Timothy Hallinan
William Morrow
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061672262 $24.99

While its predecessors in this delightful series set in Thailand focused on all the trouble in which Poke Rafferty could find himself, this novel is exclusively the property of his wife, Rose. As readers of the previous entries have learned, Rose was a bar girl (i.e., dancer and prostitute) before meeting and marrying Poke. And as most know, that is a dangerous profession.

While the domestic side of the novel includes Poke's participation in a school production of "The Tempest," in which his adopted daughter, Miaow, stars as Ariel, the dangerous aspect of the plot arises from Rose's past. This gives the author the opportunity to accomplish two objectives. First, of course, is to show the miserable lives and inherent dangers of the life of a bar girl. Second is to force Poke to really face Rose's past and come to grips with its meanness and horrors.

The recounting of Rose's life is poignant and sensitive, and the various characters in her life are skillfully drawn. Descriptions of Patpong Street and Bangkok and the strip joints and bars are graphic. The suspense builds and builds.


Theodore Feit

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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