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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 5, Number 9 September 2005 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Atwood's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Betsy's Bookshelf Bob's Bookshelf Buhle's Bookshelf
Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf Christina's Bookshelf
Clint's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Henry's Bookshelf
Kathleen's Bookshelf Liana's Bookshelf Lynne's Bookshelf
Magdalena's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf Martha's Bookshelf
Molly's Bookshelf Paul's Bookshelf Robyn's Bookshelf
Roger's Bookshelf Sharon's Bookshelf Silver Fox's Bookshelf
Sonali's Bookshelf Sullivan's Bookshelf Taylor's Bookshelf
Vogel's Bookshelf Volk's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

The Picture Book Dictionary, The Essential Source for Bilingual Families
English/Spanish Edition
Valerie Laud
Illustrated by Valentin Latushkin
Ekadoo Publishing Group
PO Box 2286, N. Redondo Beach, California 90278
ISBN: 0974738700 $12.99 96 pp.

Alyice Edrich, Reviewer

Intended for ages 9 months to 8 years, The Picture Book Dictionary is designed to help parents interact with their children, while teaching them (or introducing them to) words used in everyday conversations. The way the book is structured, parents can easily help children understand not only the meaning of the words they are learning, but how to use them in simple, yet constructive sentences.

Each word is introduced in English first, in big bold letters, then spelled out in Spanish. Each word is then used in a simple sentence (in both English and Spanish) that helps the reader understand the meaning of the word, followed by a colorfully illustrated comic-like picture.

The largest benefit to using this book in homes with small children is the fact that the words chosen to fill the pages of this book all meet "the standards of the United States primary schools programs" so children are able to learn and reinforce words they are learning in their classrooms.

While I find this 3,000 word picture book to be a good investment for both children learning to read and parents learning another language, the only drawback I see is that there isn't a pronunciation key to help sound out the words; therefore leaving both parents and child to try to sound out the words on their own.

On a side note, studies have shown that learning a new language is easier when the first words spoken are normal, everyday words, like the ones chosen for The Picture Book Dictionary, The Essential Source for Bilingual Families. Once children and adults are able to speak and read simple, every day words, forming complete sentences and learning more complicated and/or infrequently used words becomes easier.

Assorted Flavours: A Collection of Lesbian Short Stories
Lois Cloarec Hart
P.D. Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 70, Clayton, NC 27528
ISBN: 0975436627; $19.99; 296 pages

Arlene Germain

Lois Cloarec Hart has written an outstanding collection of ten short stories which decidedly display the author's rich and vivid character development, inventive plotting, and original thematic material. These selections vary in length, and each one is a radiant gem to be appreciated. All deal with love and relationships and the inevitable conflicts that occur. At times poignant, bittersweet, and whimsical, Hart's collection is an absorbing, fascinating, and intriguing exploration of the human condition.

Three stories are particularly commendable and memorable. In "9 Minutes," the main character experiences a virtual lifetime as she and her fellow passengers await their fate during an airplane in-flight emergency while traveling to Toronto. For far too many years, this woman has alone visited her daughter, leaving behind her lover and partner - her family. Call it an epiphany or just a wake-up call; she decides she can no longer live her life the way her daughter expects. Following a successful and safe landing, she makes a startling decision given the recent events, and her actions will make the reader smile. The crisp and intelligent dialogue is alone worth the reading.

"Rude" is the story of a woman who finds she possesses a thoroughly fascinating skill. If she says it, it becomes fact. Courtesy, good manners, and the simple niceties of life are becoming farther and farther removed from everyday existence, and this collapse of human decency has compelled this woman to take drastic measures. This reader found Hart's story very reminiscent of some of Rod Serling's innovative and artful Twilight Zone episodes. The reader is reminded that things aren't always as they seem, and Hart's conclusion will leave you both bemused and disconcerted. The development of the characterization for the supersensory woman is deftly and occasionally wryly created.

The third story that this reader found impressive is entitled "Lost and Found." It is all too rare today to find authors writing about the so-called senior lesbian. Here Hart has written a moving and articulate story of love and renewal forty years after the fact. Misunderstandings, lives lived according to the tenets set by others, and realizations that, indeed, life is too short are all themes that Hart handles with a masterful and compassionate eye. Again, the author treats the reader to another relevant and lucid denouement.

Assorted Flavours: A Collection of Lesbian Short Stories is a worthwhile addition to anyone's library. These short stories are told with candor, sentiment, intensity, and acuity, and they provide the reader not only with satisfying and entertaining fiction but also with intelligent and significant substance. Hart has a highly readable and coherent style of writing which, at times, achieves eloquent elegance. This compilation of fiction is a commendable and imaginative presentation of Hart's artistry of the short story.

Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas
Tom Robbins
Random House, Inc.
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
0553377876, $14.00, 400 pages

Barry Allen

Imagine the stock market crashes. We're talking the crash to end all crashes. A crash that brings apart the end of society as we know it. Now imagine you are a young stockbroker who has spent their whole life trying to become wealthy. As your very belief system is tested, so is your sanity in this strange and hilarious tale that only Robbins could write.

This story is about the plight of Gwendolyn Mati, an intelligent Filipino business woman living in Seattle, whose life is shaken to the very foundation by a series unbelievable events.

Over the weekend she must find a monkey, recover a missing psychic, and unravel a mystery of 5,000 year old aliens that has something to do with frogs and mushrooms. Before the weekend is over she will have to make a life altering decision. Will she stay in Seattle and hope the market recovers or will she leave herself behind and join a higher consciousness with a man she hardly even knows.

This book is a brilliant look at the material world and the importance of those little green pieces of paper that everyone puts so much emphasis on. According to Robbins, if you let those little green pieces of paper run your life, "You're Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas."

Blurry and Disconnected: Tales of Sink-or-Swim Nihilism
Dave Riley
Contortmedia Press
PO Box 0068, Warsaw, IL, United States 62379
ISBN: 1411626974 $16.58 309-331-0166

Ben Jonjak

Dave Riley's "Blurry and Disconnected" is a collection of two short stories and one novella that are written in an extremely funny, satirical, alternative style. Of the three, the novella, "Chinese Finger Puzzle," is the most engaging. The novella follows the adventures of Philo Smith, a sharp-tongued (or rather, sharp-penned) columnist for a small music magazine. The work mostly deals with Philo's contempt for small-time bands trying to make it big. His contempt for these pretenders is rivaled only by the absolute scorn for he feels for mainstream music. The strong point of "Blurry and Disconnected" is Riley's pointed criticisms of many of modern culture's most irritating traits. Through the character Philo Smith, Riley takes us on an epic journey through small clubs and dingy lofts in college towns, and paints an accurate, if unflattering, portrait of the denizens who dwell there.

Philo Smith is one of those interesting characters who seems to inhabit a world that, at first glance, is similar to our own, but upon further investigation is blessedly free of many of the more irritating obstacles most of us have to deal with on a daily basis. I was reminded of Douglas Adams' character Dirk Gently, a wonderful creation who makes his living as a "Holistic Detective." Philo Smith is similar to Dirk in that he has lucked into a position as a columnist in a magazine that allows him to get away with virtually any crazy thought that comes into his head. Free from the constraints of normal magazines, and contrary to general thought (though not necessarily general practice), the magazine and Philo's column are, eventually, successful.

It is gleefully cathartic to bear witness to Philo's constant and scathing criticisms of every one and every thing he encounters. Although this formula does bear the risk of becoming stale and bitter, in this case, the book remains light-hearted, mainly, I think, because the objects of Philo's scorn are so wonderfully deserving of it. Philo's harshest criticisms are saved for pretentious rock bands made up of art-school drop-outs who live on generous trust funds--surely a group that anyone would like to see sand-bagged.

Riley uses a writing style that is somewhat distant, but effective for the material he's presenting. He'll commonly offer a great deal of information in the form of an omniscient narrator about peripheral characters. These digressions are generally designed for the purpose of injecting some humorous anecdote, and are quite often very funny. The one criticism I do have about the work, however, is that it lacks a strong thematic element. All of the component parts are there, but I would have preferred a stronger underlying thread to connect them and magnify their significance. Still, this book works very well as a sort of chaotic ensemble of snapshots from the club and music scene.

Overall, I found "Blurry and Disconnected" to be an extremely enjoyable read. It has some wonderful, piercing criticisms against culture and society in general, and it is written in an effective and innovative style. If you are looking for an alternative novel that takes chances most mainstream publications would never dream of, then this is the book to pick up.

Dancing With My Shadow
Joel McIver
4Unity Publishing, P.O. Box 548, Pfafftown, North Carolina 27040
ISBN 0975370812 $14.95 130 pp.

Carey Yazeed, Reviewer

Told through the eyes of Remus Carter, Dancing With My Shadow is a raw, yet refreshing novel about the inner turmoil's of a young African American male, trying to find his place in the world. Caught up in the party scenes of college life, Remus enjoys hanging with his boys and living in the shadow of his popular twin brother, Romulus. But his wild shenanigans and one crazy weekend adventure involving an exotic dancer turns into a manhood rites of passage for Remus as he learns some valuable life lessons regarding faith, love and trust.

It was nice to see a novel that depicts the collegian life of an HBCU student vs. the urban gang related material that is too often used as a measuring stick for Black life in America. I was relieved that the author dealt with real issues that we, as individuals sometimes take for granted, or ignore all together. Dancing With My Shadow is a breath of fresh air for young adult readers with its inspirational and insightful messages.

Gods in Alabama
Joshilyn Jackson
Time Warner Book Group
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 0446524190, $19.95, 275 pp.

Coletta Ollerer

Arlene Fleet is a little girl who, at the age of seven, loses her father to cancer. Her mother, only borderline stable, goes over the edge after that. She is unable to care for Arlene sending her to school hungry and wearing unwashed clothing. Mother's sister, Florence, comes to save them when she discovers their phone has been disconnected. She brings mother and daughter back to Alabama to live with her.

Arlene and her cousin, Clarice, share a room and became good friends. This is a story of high school relationships which confuse and alienate a sensitive, loving child and turn her down a dark path. "There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel's, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus." (p1) The god featured here is a high school quarterback, Jim Beverly, whose interest in Clarice pushes Arlene to an act of aggression which surprises her.

Arlene decides she has to get out of Alabama and with a scholarship to a college in Chicago she makes her getaway and remains for nine years. She teaches at a college there while pursuing her Ph.D. That is where Rose Mae Lolly finds her. Rose Mae is Jim Beverly's true love and she is on a mission to find him. She hasn't seen him since high school and believes Arlene knows his whereabouts.

Rose Mae's abrupt appearance into her life frightens Arlene. She is worried Rose will uncover her participation in the evil deed that occurred in her high school past. The motivation for that act is revealed in a flashback during which we see Arlene watch Clarice being treated badly by Jim. "I noticed then that Clarice's face was filthy, and she'd cried silver tracks through the dirt on her face. . . . . A dull red anger began to spread slowly through me." (p248)

In a flashback to the event itself, Arlene is amazed at herself for having gone through with it. "I shook my head, hard, and it made the world spin just enough to drive that thought sideways and out. I couldn't think about that now. I couldn't think about it at all. 'Okay, then,' said my brain, 'what about this: Someone is going to find out.'" (p164)

When Arlene runs off to Chicago she vows never to return to Alabama. Aunt Florence persistently attempts to pull her back for visits, this time to participate in a retirement party for Uncle Bruster. She confides to Aunt Florence that she is in love with a black man, Burr, hoping that will give Florence pause with respect to her campaign to get Arlene to return to southern soil. It does. Florence asks her not to bring Burr. Burr insists on meeting her family. They go to Alabama.

Joshilyn Jackson takes us on an insightful trip into southern society. We meet a family bursting with love for each other but whose emotions are so tangled they find it hard to connect. Arlene has always considered her Aunt Florence to be a controlling, bossy and dominating presence but somehow this trip shows her aunt in a different light. The reader is as surprised as Arlene at what she finds.

A Stone for Every Journey: Traveling the Life of Elinor Gregg, R.N.
Edna McConnell and Teddy Jones
Sunstone Press
PO Box 2321, Santa Fe, NM 505 988-4418
ISBN: 086534454X $22.95 309 pages

Connie Gotsch

"When I said I would go, the die was cast, and I've never been sorry. I wired them on October 18, 1922, that I would go, and I left Boston on the 26 in my open Ford runabout. Today, November 15, I'm at the Winner Hotel in Winner, South Dakota. I have just finished my breakfast and am waiting for the stage to Rosebud."

That entry from nurse Elinor Gregg's diary opens Edna McConnell and Teddy Jones' "A Stone for Every Journey Traveling the Life of Elinor Gregg, R.N.," a book that chronicles the adventures of a woman working for the Indian Health Service in its early years. Eventually, Elinor Gregg would became the first Supervisor of Nurses for The Indian Service. But right now, wet weather, winds and muddy roads have forced her to abandon her car.

She laughs about the inconvenience, despite the expense of having to house the vehicle until spring. "...It has been worth it in seeing the country and riding with the native. This the life..."

The extraordinary life of an extraordinary woman. After Gregg arrives at the Rosebud Reservation for the Sioux, the reader bounces with her over muddy roads into hospitals containing a minimum of equipment for health care, into Indian homes so remote that hospital visits are almost impossible, and through the touchy political process of working with field matrons. Not trained nurses, these women have learned basic First Aid but little more. Now Elinor Gregg must teach them proper care for patients with diseases such as T.B. and trachoma.

A nurse herself, Edna McConnell spent her entire career, from the mid 1960s to her death in 2002, researching and writing about Elinor Gregg. Gregg's place in nursing history, and her lively personality motivated the study.

Born to a Boston clergyman, Elinor Gregg grew up in an educated family. Her brothers were doctors. One sister married a business man. The other sister became a teacher. Gregg served as a field nurse during World War I, and as a hospital nurse in Boston before going west. Gregg could also write. Her lively journal entries bring her adventures, feelings, and attitudes to life.

However, "A Stone for Every Journey" is more than just a diary. In 2002, Edna McConnell discovered she had a terminal illness. She turned her research and part of the book's first draft over to colleague and friend Teddy Jones, to finish. To get her own sense of Elinor Gregg, Ms. Jones talked to her family, and visited libraries and archives from Boston to Santa Fe, where Elinor Gregg died in 1970 at nearly 84. Jones discovered that Elinor Gregg had a profound effect--for the good--on almost everyone she met. Her memoirs do not reveal this impact because, like most people, she had no idea how much influence she carried.

Jones elected to show this side of Ms. Gregg, as well as her spunky personality and place in nursing history. So, Teddy Jones invented to fictional student nurses, Alice and Melody. For an assignment in a Geriatrics class, they must interview an older person about his or her life. The year is 1966, and the two choose Elinor Gregg. They set off with a tape recorder from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, to Santa Fe to visit her.

Very quickly, Ms. Gregg becomes "Aunt El," to them, as she did to to everybody she knew, according to Jones' research. Her memoirs become transcriptions of the tapes Alice and Melody record. Gregg's thoughts and actions begin to influence the choices the young women make for their own lives. "A Stone for Every Journey" becomes a story within a story.

This mix takes the book beyond the level of autobiographical journal. Jones gives the reader a sense of how Gregg saw herself, and how other people might have seen her.

"A Stone for Every Journey Traveling the Life of Elinor Gregg, R.N." leaves the reader with fresh admiration for America's pioneering professional women. It gives a good picture of life in one part of this country between the World Wars I and II. It catches the personality of a very vital lady, who would have been a pleasure to know, and reminds everyone how much powerful people can shape another person's life.

Nonfiction Readers' Advisory
Robert Burgin (editor)
Libraries Unlimited
88 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06881
ISBN: 159158115X; $39.95 264 pages

Jennifer Downey

Readers' advisory resources are plentiful in the area of genre fiction, but have been noticeably lacking in the nonfiction arena. Robert Burgin, a faculty member at North Carolina Central University's School of Library and Information Sciences, with extensive experience and publications in readers' advisory, attempts to bring greater attention to nonfiction readers' advisory with this useful and eye-opening collection of writings by practicing librarians and academics.

While nonfiction readers' advisory is often relegated to the backburner today, this was not always the case, as Bill Crowley asserts in his chapter "A History of Readers' Advisory Service in the Public Library." Throughout the 1800s, the reading of novels was considered frivolous and even dangerous to one's mental health. Public librarians bemoaned the popularity of fiction books and, in fitting with their role as educators of the public, encouraged patrons to bulk up on biographies, historical accounts, and other nonfiction works. Throughout the past century, however, novels have lost their trashy image and public libraries have come to embrace and encourage the reading of fiction. As this trend progressed, fiction readers' advisory became more common and nonfiction readers' advisory fell by the wayside.

Despite the apparent dichotomy separating fiction and nonfiction works, Burgin and his contributors assert that the distinction between the two is not so vast. Fiction and nonfiction books can compliment one another, as evidenced by the popularity of recent nonfiction books such as Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit: An American Legend (New York: Random House, 2003) and Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea (New York: HarperTorch, 2000), which appealed as much to regular fiction readers as nonfiction fans. Nonfiction works present the reader with a new experience, seen through the eyes of another party, as do novels. The observational component is a constant throughout the two categories. In his chapter "Many Kinds of Crafted Truths: An Introduction to Nonfiction," David Carr astutely points out that "our lives are nonfiction" (p. 64). People read nonfiction for the same reason they read novels - to get to the truth behind a mystery, to experience a retelling of history, to fill in blanks and construct their own realities.

So, how does a public librarian make the leap to nonfiction readers' advisory? By using the tools necessary for fiction readers' advisory while adding a new dimension to the mix. Of course, this is easier said than done, but luckily Nonfiction Readers' Advisory offers a wealth of practical advice. Getting to the heart of a reader's motivation is key in the process. Does a reader enjoy Civil War novels such As Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain (New York: Vintage Books, 1998)? Perhaps historical accounts of the war or works by other Civil War buffs like Tony Horwitz' Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998) would appeal as well. In nonfiction readers' advisory, it is the librarian's responsibility to find commonalities and have resources on hand from which to make recommendations. In Vicki Novak's chapter "The Story's the Thing: Narrative Nonfiction for Recreational Reading," invaluable lists of nonfiction titles are presented relating to readers' preferences in humor, overcoming adversity, history, travelogues, biographies, true crime, and a host of other common themes. It is practical advice like this that makes Nonfiction Readers' Advisory such a valuable and useful tool. As a bonus, special attention is given to young adult readers' titles and books from a multicultural perspective.

Anyone who regularly spends time behind a public library reference desk would do well to read this book and take to heart its message. Just as Joyce G. Saricks' Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction (Chicago: American Library Association, 2001) and the Thompson Gale company's What Do I Read Next? (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1991) have become standard resources for fiction readers' advisory, Burgin's excellent book will certainly find its place as a well-used resource for years to come.

High Performance Marketing
Naras Eechambadi
Dearborn Trade Publishing
30 South Wacker Dr., Suite 2500, Chicago, IL 60606-4781
ISBN: 1419508237, $27.00 288 pp.

Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer

As businesses fail and the economy shrinks, many organizations are keeping a watchful eye on their marketing departments. Since many marketing departments are responsible for customer satisfaction, advertising, sales, and above all, results, marketers often become the victims of downsizing as a result of the company's overall performance. In Naras Eechambadi's new book "High Performance Marketing," the author gives sound advice on how marketers can perform at a higher level to achieve success.

"High Performance Marketing" explains the reasons and methods for metrics in detail, the importance of aligning the marketing department with the company's strategic goals, the importance of aligning the marketing department with the IT department, and much more. For instance on the subject of financial metrics, the author observes:

"Financial metrics offer a retrospective view of results; they do not indicate what actions we must take to drive results. However, these are the results most often reported to the financial marketplace and the investors who have the last word on shareholder value."

Not only is the book filled with sound advice from a strategic level but it also gives important tactical level advice on how to perform marketing tactics better. Eechambadi, the founder and CEO of Quaero, also provides real-world case studies from well-known companies over various industries to bring the message home. All in all, "High Performance Marketing" will please many marketing professionals who are looking for new and exciting ways to be effective in sales, marketing, and customer satisfaction. Highly Recommended.

The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong
Donald Kroodsma
Houghton Mifflin
ISBN: 0618405682 $28.00; xii + 482 pp.

Thomas Fortenberry

"How do I hear with my eyes?" Donald Kroodsma asks, and yes he has an answer. The answer is the heart of The Singing Life of Birds. This amazing book documents in text, sonographs, and an accompanying CD collection, a vast range of birdsongs. Kroodsma, a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, has studies birdsong for over 30 years and is recognized by all as a master in this field, or, in the words of the American Ornithologists' Union, as "the reigning authority on the biology of avian vocal behavior." Kroodsma has done it so long he professes, "As a bird sings, I see the rudiments of a sonogram form in my mind."

The wonder of this book is its shared passion. Make no mistake, this man is a lover. A very thorough, serious scientist, Kroodsma could easily have buried his readers in the hundreds of pages of explorations, experiments, explanations, charts, graphs, and tables that make up this book. But he does not mar the mystery or attraction of his subject with a numbing rubble heap of facts. He has the rare gift of not just listening, but communicating. He shares his passion with us in such a way that we long to join him, long to stand beneath the trees and immerse our selves in the ebb and flow of birdsongs. In this way, Kroodsma has accomplished a very unique thing: interspecial translation. He transcends not just language barriers, but the boundaries between species. It's not a literal translation, but it is intimate and accomplishes empathy, a shared emotional translation. This is an engaging and beautiful study, a work that, mirroring its subject in Mother Nature, becomes a work of art itself. This is why it is subtitled "The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong."

It has been said of Kroodsma that he has the mind of a scientist and the soul of a poet. I have to agree, though perhaps his poetry is birdsong rather than human speech. Nevertheless this is a joyous hymn to birds that touches on the sublime. "There's this wonderful Zen parable," Kroodsma says. "If you listen to the thrush and hear a thrush, you've not really heard the thrush. But if you listen to a thrush and hear a miracle, then you've heard the thrush." He's recorded these miracles and shared them with us all.

The Singing Life of Birds is a wonderful book. It is as in-depth a study of the subject as can be found, but it is also easy to read, easy to comprehend, and accesible to all, novice and expert alike. It tells us how to become an expert. It requires nothing more than opening our ears. Shakespeare sums it up, "The earth has music for those who listen."

In the preface Kroodsma states "Somewhere, always, the sun is rising, and somewhere, always, the birds are singing." This fact is also a clear philosophy and the best summation of Kroodsma's outlook on life. In his world the sun is always shining and the birds are always singing. Thank God he's invited us to join him on his journey.

The First Thirty: A Lesson In Humanity
as told to Jillip Naysinthe Paxson by Greg Forbes Siegman.
IdeaList Enterprises Inc.
PO Box 101187, Chicago, IL 60610
ISBN: 0975879405 $10.00 96 pages.

Frances Hartmann

The First Thirty is the story of Greg Forbes Siegman, a seemingly normal guy like you and me that learned the importance of community service at a young age and remains resolutely dedicated to the cause. The story represents not only the first thirty years of his life, but also the thirty lessons he learned while living them. It illustrates the ups and downs and eventual success of a life filled with both tribulations and blessings. Ultimately The First Thirty delivers a strong, positive message that is particularly relevant to high school students but is valuable to everyone.

The book is set in the Tempo Cafe where Greg Forbes Siegman sits down one night to tell an old friend, Jillip Naysinthe Paxson, the story of his life. As the book progresses, the role of the narrator becomes ambiguous as his voice and Greg's voice become one. The story begins with the birth of Greg and he spends his early years consumed by his best friends (some playground equipment) that later gain significance in his work in the community. He is a strange, preoccupied child with few friends and even the cover of the book proclaims: "The story of a boy so distracted by his dreams that he had to wear a helmet." From this rocky beginning, however, Greg begins to devote his life to a good cause at the age of six, and he goes on to be successful in school academically, socially, and athletically.

This seeming fairytale story is brought back to reality by a number of factors - first one of Greg's friends dies and then he is rejected by all of the Ivy League Universities he applies to. Feeling he has been wronged, Greg takes on the world little by little by excelling in school, substitute teaching, and trying to break down stereotypes and barriers through his 'Brunch Bunch.' These achievements culminate in the creation of a non-profit, the 11-10-02 Foundation, named after Greg's thirtieth birthday. But the real story is not about Greg's achievements; it's about the path that he took to accomplish them, and about all of the roadblocks that he ran into on the way. The tale is refreshing in its honesty - Greg is not afraid to take cheap shots at himself or to genuinely illustrate his faults. He is truly a character - a 29 year old man that walks into a formal event with pajamas, mismatching socks, a lunchbox, and is always drinking a milkshake. Perhaps most importantly Greg shows that he could never be where he is today without help - whether it is from his close friends, from high school student volunteers, or from his grandma.

The First Thirty is an uplifting true story that reminds us that the all the movie-caliber underdog stories we see don't always have to be make-believe. And students of any age can learn the most important lesson of all - that with hard work and determination, anything can be achieved.

No Country For Old Men
Cormac McCarthy
Alfred A. Knopf
New York
ISBN: 0375406778 $24.95 309 pages

Jennifer Litts

Dark Deeds Committed in a Blue World

Any reader of Flannery O'Connor recognizes the tenuous link between violence and redemption. Who could read the short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and not ponder The Misfit's reflection on the chatty grandmother he just killed? Is there justice in a corrupt world? If so, who is to judge it? These are the types of questions that Cormac McCarthy addresses in his latest novel No Country For Old Men. Like O'Connor, he presents us with his evidence, and then he leaves it up to the reader to decide.

The plot races along at a fair clip that would engage any reader who desires action. It begins with an otherwise ordinary man, Llewelyn Moss, who stumbles upon an extraordinary massacre in the desert while hunting antelope. As Moss climbs up the ridge to escape the bloody scene, he understands what he has witnessed: a drug sale gone terribly wrong. His immediate thoughts are about his safety, and he is comforted that he had the foresight to wipe his fingerprints off of everything he touched. It isn't until he reaches the top of the ridge that his destiny changes; he encounters a dead man with a great sum of money stowed at his side. Moss must choose the path of the righteous or the damned. The central question, poised by the villain Chigurgh, describes not only Moss's dilemma, but everyman's: "How does a man decide in what order to abandon his life?" Sheriff Bell believes that "every step you take is forever" which establishes man's responsibility for every decision he makes. Moss, however, supports the more passive belief: "Things happen to you they happen . They don't require your permission." It is at this crossroad that the plot begins to take shape and the philosophies of the hunter and the hunted begin to merge.

McCarthy uses a colorful palette to contrast the black and white morality in his harrowing narrative. During the day, the dessert carries the promise of warmth with the presence of terracotta, yellow and orange tones; at night it becomes a "blue world" with "visible shadows". On an artists' color wheel, blue is a primary, cool color. Hence, in the world of painting, blue is a receding color that helps create a sense of distance between the foreground and background. In McCarthy's world, black - the traditional representation of evil - becomes blue. Hence, the novel becomes blue, and the reader is cast into the landscape of evil, the world of the night. The color white remains, but white reflects all colors; hence its purity is questionable. When the villain, Chigurgh, enters a hotel room, he is illuminated by the "dead white light from the parking lot lamp". In addition, he also has eyes that are "blue as lapis" and opaque like the stone itself. To further complicate matters, when Moss first hears Chigurgh's name pronounced, he mistakes it for the word "sugar." This begs the question: In a world with so many hues, tints, tones, and shades, how does one recognize another's true colors?

In the blue world, the shadow world, everyone has fears. Ed Tom Bell, the lackluster County sheriff, punctuates the novel with philosophical reflections about the decline of human nature and the waning of American values. His thoughts, which are divided into distinct chapters, offer a reprieve from the escalating violence that occurs in the darkness. What they do not provide is consolation. When he meets a lady who is wary that her granddaughter might grow up in a conservative world where women's rights are denied, Bell retorts, "The way I see it goin' I dont have much doubt but what she'll be able to have an abortion. I'm goin to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she'll be able to have you put to sleep." Bell, the proverbial old man in the countryside, lives in a past where there are clear delineations between good and evil. However, one's past isn't always without blemish, and even law-abiding citizens live with the ghosts of past regrets. One can't help but wonder if Bell was reared in a time of such simple purity, or if he is just an older man reflecting on whitewashed memories.

McCarthy is a novelist who likes to challenge his readers. The questions are complicated, and the resolutions even more so. The act of reading the text requires diligence. McCarthy eliminates most necessary punctuation, especially quotation marks, which make it difficult, at times, to identify the speaker. The syntax is direct; one won't need to reach for the dictionary or reread unwieldy sentences. Instead, the reader is submerged into the vernacular of simple, ordinary Americans living in the Texan countryside. McCarthy is an astute enough observer of human nature to know that the simpler the language, the more complicated the message becomes.

Easier Said Than Done
Nikki Woods
Ebony Energy Publishing
P.O. Box 43476, Chicago, Illinois 60643-0476
ISBN: 0975509268 $14.95, 305 pages

Makasha Dorsey, Reviewer

"Easier Said Than Done", Nikki Woods' debut novel, is a deliciously written masterpiece that has the page turning elements of a "messy" soap opera.

Kingston Phillips is living the good life in Chicago as the lead executive for a newly established hip-hop label and has just signed her first client. After an evening of celebrating her current success with her friends, Essence and Keela, an early morning phone call from a relative in Jamaica brings her back to reality with the news of her grandmother's death. When she returns to the island, not only is she informed of her grandmother's last wish that she acts as the executor of the estate but learns that Dr. Damon Whitfield, the man who broke her heart ten years ago, is the one who cared for her grandmother.

Told in first person point of view, "Easier Said Than Done" is a good, slow read with characters so believable they jump off the page and act out the storyline for you. There are themes of betrayal, forgiveness, family, and friendship intricately woven into a beautifully written love story with tastefully erotic sex scenes. The settings were so descriptive I could feel the brisk chill of Chicago and the hot sun of Jamaica.

This is a definite weekend read that will make you re-evaluate the things that make you say: "Easier Said Than Done". Freshman novelist, Nikki Woods proved with this literary escape that making the decision to do anything is all about getting it done.

Writing Children's Books for Dummies
Lisa Rojany Buccieri and Peter Economy
Wiley Publishing, Inc.
111 River St., Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
ISBN: 0764537288 $19.99

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

For almost 5 years, I've doled out advice in my monthly column for children's writers, Advice from a Caterpillar at I must confess I cringe a little as I hit the send button whenever I am advising a reader to read a book with "dummies" in the title. But then, that's the whole point. "Writing Children's Books for Dummies" has only been out a few months and I'm already recommending it to my readers! Of course it is never my intention to insult anyone, but the truth is, over the years, I've been asked some pretty dumb questions. The great thing is this book has the answers.

Much more than a how-to manual, "Writing Children's Books for Dummies" is comprehensive; covering everything from what motivates you to write for children to genres to the children's book market. Yet readers will find plenty of advice such as, how to craft your story, write nonfiction, find a publisher, and market your book. With the help of the thorough table of contents and index, information on a specific topic is easy to find.

As a columnist for children's writers I am particularly impressed with Chapter 2: Children's Book Formats and Genres, and Chapter 3: Understanding the Children's Book Market. The biggest mistake prospective children's writers make is that they simply do not know enough about the age group or market they're writing for. Until now, I lacked a single resource to refer my readers to -- but this is definitely it. Lisa Buccieri is a publishing executive with over 15 years' experience in the business, so readers can take her word for it.

But wait -- there's more! Experienced authors will find plenty to sink their teeth into. Authors Buccieri and Economy dish up the real meat of children's writing by including chapters on plot, dialogue, point of view, and the awesome task of editing your own work. Authors will love the chapters on agents, contracts, and Ten Best Ways to Promote Your Story.

A reader once wrote to me: "I'd like to write for children but I can't think of any story ideas. Where can I find story ideas?" Well, guess what -- Chapter 20 offers More than Ten Great Sources for Storylines, which is more like 12 full pages of story ideas. Rich Tennant's "The 5th Wave" cartoons, plus interviews with authors, editors, and agents generously sprinkled throughout contribute to the excellence of this book and catapults it to the top of my list of recommended reading for children's writers.

Valerie C J McGee
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Ste 100, Lincoln NE, 68512
ISBN: 0595308872 $15.95 228 pages

Regina Paul, Reviewer

Insight is a thrill-a-minute, ride by the seat of your pants story, and one I couldn't put down until I'd read the last page and knew the final conclusion! The portrayal of Samantha, a blind woman and her psychic connection with Rachael whom she has never met was at times terrifying, and others heartwarming.

I especially loved the way the connection was brought out through the use of dreams, and how they each were able to experience the other's life in this fashion. It was believable in a way that helped the reader understand that such things might be possible in real life.

All the characters in this novel were real and down-to-earth, and all had a voice, even Dex, Samantha's seeing eye dog. I really liked this as many authors are not able to juggle multiple characters and personalities with the kind of finesse that Ms. McGee does. In addition to being believable, another characteristic of Ms. McGee's characters are that they are very human, as the reader you are able to see both the good and the bad in all the characters even the ones we might see as being really "bad."

I would classify this novel as a Romantic Suspense with a dash of mystery thrown in. All in all it was an extremely enjoyable read and I would recommend it to anyone who likes unusual stories that have a paranormal twist. Ms. McGee made me believe this story was possible in real life!

iCon: Steve Jobs, the Greatest Second Act in the History of Business
Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon
John Wiley & Sons
111 River St., Hoboken, NJ, 07030
ISBN 0471720836; $24.95 USA, $31.99 CAN, 15.99 Brit. pounds 344 pages + index

Richard S. Russell

His Iconic Nature

Steve Jobs is an icon. No, not one of those little images on your computer screen that hints at the delights to be found within - tho you can probably thank Steve Jobs if that's the 1st meaning of the word that sprang to mind.

Rather he's an icon in the traditional sense of the word:

(1) a portrait or image usually in a religious context. Specifically, a panel painting of a sacred figure who is the object of worship. The term more broadly applies to any building, painting, or sculpture regarded as a symbol or an object of reverence.

(2) an object representing something to be worshipped; when the icon itself is worshipped it becomes an idol, hence the objection to it by many sects.

(3) things or persons that are considered the most admirable or recognizable examples of something.

Steve Jobs is the cofounder of Apple Computer, Inc., the company that showed us why 1984 wasn't like 1984. As this unauthorized biography makes clear, he's achieved his business-icon status by triumphing not only in that initial world of computing but also, subsequently, in the worlds of movies (with Pixar animation studios) and music (with the equally iconic iPod and its supporting iTunes and Apple Music Store).

It also makes clear that he's a prime-cut, Grade A, world-class, blue-ribbon dick.

The authors, both with long experience covering the world of personal computing (Young being a cofounder of MacWorld), use a brisk, reportorial style that largely sticks to documentable facts (based on a hundred interviews) in chronological order. They seem scrupulous about not interjecting their own opinions. Toward the end of the book, I found myself wishing that they'd let go just a bit. They are, after all, highly knowledgeable about their subject, and it would have been interesting to see whether they believed that Apple and Pixar succeeded because of Steve Jobs or despite him.

I also found myself wishing that Jobs himself would have consented to being interviewed for the book. It's both a strength and a weakness that his personal take on things is absent. On the one hand, it would be fascinating to hear him respond to questions like "Of all the thousand things you've done in your career that any reasonable person would regret, do you actually feel regret about any of them?". On the other hand, if you pick up your Funk & Wagnall's, you'll see a little icon of Steve Jobs next to the entry for "self-serving", so there's some advantage in favoring the objective over the subjective.

Indeed, one of the recurring themes of iCon is the idea that Jobs himself is surrounded by a "reality distortion field" that makes people in his vicinity see things his way. With his insistence on doing things to perfection (which, by definition, is the way he wants them done), he pushed a great many highly talented and creative people into achievements they would have sworn were unattainable, in a time frame they would have sworn was impossible.

At that point, Jobs would step in to take all the glory and most of the money. The people who did the actual work would be shunted back to the salt mines to slave away on The Master's next inspiration. Steve Jobs was totally committed to the concept of loyalty. Unfortunately, for him the traffic on Loyalty Street ran one way only. His wake is scattered with embittered former associates whom he used up and discarded like Kleenex, apparently with no more compunction than remorse.

The reason the book refers to Jobs's "2nd act" is, of course, the decade he spent in the wilderness after being (deservedly) canned by Apple, the company he founded. During this time, he frittered away the millions his Apple stock had earned him on a series of high-minded but impractical new schemes for computers. He was saved from bankruptcy, ignominy, irrelevance, and ultimate obscurity by sheer accident, when a chance combination of circumstances led him to buy the computer-animation facility that George Lucas (creator of Star Wars) was looking to sell.

After his return to Apple, it was another walk-in opportunity that led to the development of the iPod (which makes Apple as much profit as its top-of-the-line G5 Macintosh computers) and iTunes. And, of course, it was the technical genius of the other Apple founder, Steve Wozniak, that got the ball rolling in the 1st place.

So, in many respects, it could be said that Steve Jobs was just lucky - that he was the right person in the right place at the right time, that all the real innovation, genius, and hard work should properly have been credited to others. And there's a strong element of truth to that, especially with regard to the brilliant John Lasseter, the creative head of Pixar.

But it's also true that not just anybody knows what to do when opportunity comes a-knockin'. Here we cite the "Columbus Mid-Atlantic" analogy. Suppose you're sailing west to try to discover the Indies, and you've brought along 40 days' worth of food and water. 20 days out, you've got a decision to make. You haven't yet found the Indies, but you can turn around now and make it back to your home port disappointed but alive. Or you can press on, knowing that in another 3 weeks you'll be either successful or dead. That kind of "full speed ahead" optimism - the willingness to gamble everything on little more than a gut feeling - is why, today, we remember people like Columbus and Jobs, when many more prudent people have been long forgotten.

The authors, considerably more self-effacing than their subject would ever be, leave it to the jacket-blurb writers to point out that Jobs is the counter-example to F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous observation that there are no 2nd acts in American lives. Young and Simon are also silent about how appropriate the book's title is. In addition to the 2 meanings of "icon" noted above, the title evokes:

- a jolly Jamaican rendering of "I can!"
- resonance, via the intercap spelling, with Jobs's internet-facing names for Apple products like iMac, iPod, iTunes, iDVD, etc.
- the pirate theme of "I con.", as in "I am the greatest confidence man of all time."

The authors regularly refer to their cast of characters by their first names, which you might think would produce some confusion when dealing with the Steves Jobs and Wozniak or the Michaels Eisner and Ovitz (in a lengthy but relevant side excursion into the internal workings of Walt Disney Pictures), but they manage to keep everything straight as well as flowing.

Speaking of Disney, the book dramatizes that its upper reaches are even more dysfunctional than Apple's, rife with personality struggles and bloated egos. Tho the authors never explicitly say so, their ostensible biography is a double case study in corporate mismanagement in America today, with vast amounts of power, money, and glory going to willful CEOs who make staggeringly bad decisions without visible regret or repercussion. It's astonishing how many of those bad decisions are based on petty personal annoyances and "who you know" wheeling and dealing, rather than fact-based analyses. As one bemused former Apple employee remarked about the company's early days, "Our market research consists of Steve looking in the mirror every morning and asking what he wants."

Technically, the book is well edited - except for references to "LaserPrinter" when clearly "LaserWriter" was intended, or the redundancy of "$300 million dollars" - but these quibbles are more than offset by the presence of a 15-page index, something that, in this reviewer's humble opinion, should be standard equipment on all non-fiction books but which appears in far too few of them these days.

Best of all, it's up to date, concluding with Chapter 13: Showtime (highlighting another of Steve Jobs's masterful, unrehearsed keynote performances - so inadequate to call them speeches - at MacWorld Expo in 2005 January) and an epilog in which the authors speculate that Jobs still has a score to settle with Bill Gates ... and not to bet against him.

Zipporah, Wife of Moses
Marek Halter
Three Rivers Press (Crown Publishers)
New York, NY
ISBN: 1400052793 $23.00, 278 pages

Shayla Hawkins

You know you're reading an awful book when you can't even get through the sex scenes without rolling your eyes and yawning. Marek Halter's latest novel, Zipporah, Wife of Moses, is one such example. For a novice author, such a miserable failure of storytelling, with its crepe-paper thin plot, half-developed characters, corny dialogue, unnatural and unnecessary emphasis on race and skin color, jarring switches to and from the first person and third person narrative voice, and ridiculous ending, would have been almost comical in its stupidity and quickly forgotten. But for Marek Halter, a richly gifted and bestselling novelist who's been writing for well over 30 years, such missteps are shameful, inexcusable, a waste of any intelligent reader's time, and a slap in the face to Halter's God-given literary talents.

Based on the very brief information in Numbers 12:1 of the Ethiopian woman whom Moses, Judaism's great prophet and law-giver, married (and who may or may not have been Zipporah -- there is not one Biblical passage that confirms that Zipporah and Moses' Ethiopian wife were one and the same woman; and a careful reading of Exodus and Numbers or a good Biblical concordance shows that the words "Zipporah," and "Ethiopian" or "Cushite" never appear in the same Bible verse or Bible chapter at the same time), this sham of a novel quickly falls apart at the seams because, from its vague, tepid beginning to its utterly unbelievable conclusion, Marek Halter makes the same mistake about race that, unfortunately, most human beings do: He makes much more of a issue and a fuss about skin color and ethnicity than God ever intended it to be.

It's hard to believe this book came from the same man whose last nove was Sarah, a brilliant and beautifully rendered fictional account of the woman who became Abraham's wife. Whether or not she was indeed Ethiopian, Zipporah deserves to have an interesting fictional account of her life created by a capable and talented writer. But she did not get it from Marek Halter. Zipporah has got to be spinning in her grave if her spirit has any knowledge of what good fiction is and just how far Halter deviated from it in writing so poorly about her. My wish after reading Zipporah: Wife of Moses is that she will get the literary honor that Halter's words have stripped from her.

I broke the speed limit driving back to the store to get my refund for this book. I can only hope that you avoid the same mistake by not buying Zipporah, Wife of Moses at all. But if you do, be very careful to read this schlock with a fine grain of salt and by reading the Biblical account for yourself. And, above everything, keep your receipt!!!

The One Minute Millionaire
Mark Victor Hansen & Robert Allen
Harmony Books
New York
ISBN 0609609491 $15.00

Oyvind Hennum (Shiva)

In "The One Minute Millionaire" Mark Victor Hansen and Robert Allen gives a practical and simple explanation on how to use the "millionaire minute". They define the "millionaire minute" as a discipline the rich are using to gain and grow their wealth. It involves simple, practical everyday money skills, and they define 7 important skills that wealthy people are good at. The good thing is that you do not have to be wealthy already; you can start to practice and develop these skills just where you are right now. There are many good points in the book and one of them is the possibility to earn an extra million in a lifetime on saving a dollar a day.

If you have read my review of "Cracking the Millionaire Code" by the same authors, and you are wondering if the books contain the same information, I can assure you that they are different. "The One Minute Millionaire" is not as spiritually oriented and is "safe" for the ones who do not like to mix the idea of spirituality and business. "The One Minute Millionaire" was published in 2002, and "Cracking the Millionaire Code" was published this year (2005). Any how I recommend both the books, I like them very much.

So, a bit more of the "good stuff" from "The One Minute Millionaire": The book is split in two: The right-side pages tell the (fictional) story of a woman who loses everything and has to earn 1 million dollars in 90 days. Even if it is fiction, the story is intense and dramatic, and of course, full of learning.

The left-side pages contain the facts and figures, but are still very easy to read. The first chapter is called "The Millionaire Aha's" and teaches about the principles of wealth, which Hansen and Allen call Aha's. According to them there are at least 24 universal principles of wealth.

The other chapters of the book are on these subjects: Leverage, Mentors, Teams, Networks, Skills, Tools and Systems. The book contains great information and Mark Victor Hansen and Robert Allen manages to write in a very catching way. They make it an experience in it self to read the book. It certainly lights the fire in me and I know that is what it is supposed to do. It is clearly in the "Self Help" and "Motivational" categories.

I know many people are sceptic to this kind of literature, but what these books are giving to people is hope and inspiration. And many practical techniques to gain wealth, used by others with success. Many mistakenly think the books in them self are going to change their financial situation, and gets frustrated when they don't. The books are never giving you any guarantee that their system will make you a millionaire. That guarantee can only come from your desire and effort. Read the book, and get inspired!

La Charrette: Village Gateway to the American West
Lowell M. Schake
iUniverse, Inc.
ISBN: 0595275389 $19.95

Stephen E. Smith

Today the site is visible only as weeds and rushes along the Missouri River near Marthasville in Warren County about 45 miles west of St. Louis. There are no ruins, nothing to see. However, two centuries ago, this plot of land contained a community of seven cabins that was the genuine gateway to the West.

La Charrette was a remote Creole village that provided a site for a river landing on the Missouriand the farthest city of people of European derivation west of the Atlantic.

It is probably most significant for being a haven for fur traders and the final stop for Lewis and Clark in May 1804 before they headed upriver to the Dakotas, the Columbia River and on to the Pacific.

La Charrette: Village Gateway to the American West, by Lowell M. Schake tells the story of this long-gone community. Schake, a retired college professor, hunted, trapped and farmed on Charrette Creek as a boy.

His book, the result of exhaustive research, tells the story of that small community of French settlers on the Missouri River. La Charrette--also the name of a small creek and later a township--existed from the late 1700s to the early to mid 1820s.

Schake's book is most interesting when he uses the development of La Charrette as an historical microcosm. La Charrette helps explain the slow, but steady, progress of carving out the wilderness and the sacrifices made by those who were caught up in the dynamic of a rapidly-changing North America.

From about 1550 until the middle of the 1800s, felt hats were the rage in most of Europe. The felt hat industry was the force behind the fur trade. By the late 1500's, the beaver was extinct in Europe and was nearing extinction in both Russia and the Scandinavian countries. North America, however, was rich in furs. The land was there for the taking--at least in the eyes of the French and English eyeing it from the eastern side of the Mississippi.

As Shake's book shows, the impact of whites encroachment on native American territory began very early in the nation's history. As early as 1800, tribes several tribes began moving west across the Mississippi River. With the advent of European Americans came guns, liquor and unfamiliar strains of smallpox, influenza and other diseases These and other stresses came to a head in La Charrette Village in 1815 when a pregnant mother was mortally wounded and several children were scalped.

La Charrette says a great deal about cultural assimilation and the efforts of the white man to relocate and assume Native American lands. Native Americans served as guides, helped the white men grow crops and survive in the wilderness. La Charrette makes it clear that whites in the regions freely intermarried with Indian women. In fact, French settlers in the 1700s held Indian slaves just as they held black slaves. Schake says most Indian slaves were bought with liquor from other Indians who had taken them prisoner. Yet, no less than Daniel Boone, who spent his last few years in the La Charrette area, is quoted as saying the Indians treated him "far better than others of his own kind".

One section of the book tells the story of an Indian man who was accused of killing his wife. Pennsylvania lawyer/scholar H.M. Brackenridge offered his legal services basing his defense on the provision in English common law for extradition of aliens to their home jurisdictions for trial. The lawyer said it was not the arrested Indian but the Americans who were the aliens. He won the case. The Indian--having become a man without a country--was freed.

Some 75 Indian tribes met to establish a peace treaty that was ratified by Congress and signed by President James Madison in December 1815.

But, as La Charrette points out, the westward expansion was the death knell for the traditional life of the Native Americans. By 1822, Congress abolished all trade with Indian tribes, putting the lucrative fur trade in the hands of licensed private traders. The red men were moved into present day Oklahoma, many along the infamous "Trail of Tears."

La Charrette is rich with detail. Schake writes of America's first "Mountain Man" John Coulter, and of the flamboyant Zebulon Pike who traveled all over the American west and narrowly escaped death on the Mexican border. He describes Daniel and Rebecca Boone's sugar camp, the process of soap making, the construction of a French river cabin, the development of pioneer medicine, hunting and fishing expeditions and the growing of wheat and corn and other staples.

La Charrette's demise remains something of a mystery. Schake says it may have been displaced by floodwaters, and the constant movement of the Missouri River that was "too thick to drink, to thin to plow," although no one knows for sure. Certainly by the 1820s, it was well on the way to destruction. Eventually it was replaced by the city of Marthasville, now located on Highway 47 west of St. Louis.

The French Creoles were caught in a legal morass over land holdings in the administrations of three governments. Some were unable to obtain proper titles as U.S. laws replaced those of France and Spain.

Today, travelers to Marthasville, Missouri can come close to the original site of the frontier settlement. The people are said to be just as friendly as they were two hundred years ago. There are several monuments and historic sites to visit.

But the best monument to the tiny long-gone community on the Missouri River could well be the book La Charrette: Village Gateway to the American West. Lowell Schake has written a fine book that would make a valuable addition to anyone's personal library of American history.

Xibalba's Gate: A Novel of the Ancient Maya
Rob Swigart
AltaMira Press
A Division of Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
(301) 459-3366 (301) 429-5748 fax
075910879X $26.95 320 pp.
0759108781 $72.00 320pp

Steve Glassman

The ancient Maya are a great distance away from us, not so much in time (just a thousand years or so), but in sensibility. Their Creation Myth illustrates this point.

Two young men challenge some gods to a match of the ball game, a rough and tumble sport in which body armor was worn by the players. The young men, of course, lose the game and forfeit their lives as the price of their foolishness. The tears of one of them hanging from the gibbet falls into the hand of a daughter of one of the gods. She conceives and bears a pair of twins, known as the Hero Twins. The hero twins, bent on vengeance, attract the Lords's attention by talking loudly and rudely. A ball game ensues from all this. One of the youngsters loses his head and replaces it with a gourd and at another time another dies and is brought back to life by his brother. The Lords - falling into the trap set for them--say, "Wow, that's a nice trick. Can you do that to us?" One by one all nine of the gods are killed and condemned to becoming the Lords of the Underworld in Xibalba, the Maya hell. The Hero Twins were rewarded by being transformed into the two most important bodies in the night sky, the sun and the moon.

Ten of thousands, perhaps hundred of thousands of people from other lands, set off every year to view Maya ruins. At some point many of those travelers are confronted by the great enigma that the ancient Maya represent. Yes, nowadays, much of the Maya's ancient hieroglyphic writing can be deciphered in the sense that the words are known. What is not known is what they mean, exactly. Who were the Maya in the sense of what motivated them to act as they did? The culture erected some incredibly beautiful cities but practiced one of the most exotic and, yes, grotesque religions imaginable. (For instance to the Maya suffering actually made the world go round; it was thanks to human pain - hopefully endured by one's enemies but by oneself at times - that propitiated the universe and kept the sun coming up and the rains falling.) In other ways too, the culture seems extremely hard to understand. Many of us have pulled out our hair wondering, regarding their creation myth, for instance, how it can be regarded as an account of the genesis of the world? There is no creation there, unlike in Genesis where Adam and Eve fool around and all of humankind is conceived.

Professional Mayanists, professors and graduate students and a few independent scholars, can provide answers, more or less, to these and other questions regarding the Maya, but it is practically impossible to find an account written by any of them that answers the questions in a way that a lay person - no matter how interested she is - can understand without a great deal of supplemental reading. The best and most lucid of Maya scholars, Michael Coe, for instance, has produced some remarkably interesting books. Anyone with a hankering for things Maya could read Coe's Breaking the Maya Code to profit, but it and most other of his books deal with only a small aspect of the larger Maya experience. On the other hand, Coe's textbook The Maya which first came out in the sixties, and though much updated, is a book of little use for the lay person. The writings of the great Mayanist Linda Schele are so dense that she finally in later works engaged a writer to help get her points across, but unhappily with little effect.

Fortunately, for anyone who wants to gain an understanding of what the Maya were about AltiMira Press has given us Rob Swigart's Xibalba's Gate. It's a novel. It goes about the business of letting us know who the Maya were by indirection. Like Elizabeth Peters and many other popular writers who provide a glimpse of life in ancient times, the narrative line develops along parallel lines, one contemporary, the other historical. At the outset we get a teasing glimpse of a Maya city called Xultunich, which seems to have characteristics of Xunantunich and Caracol in Belize, Copan in Honduras, Yaxchilan in Chiapas Mexico and seems to be located rather equidistant between all these polities on a river which appears to have characteristics of the Usamacinta. It is the ninth century and the ruler of this many pyramided kingdom, Knot Eye, is burdened with the fact that many of great Maya cities, Tikal and Palenque, for instance, have collapsed. The malaise that got them is knocking at his door. The skies which foretell all these things have produced an omen, the so-called God With No Name, that ordinary mortals must be careful not to look at and which we in a more prosaic age call Halley's Comet. A politically crafty ruler, Knot Eye knows where his demise is most likely to hail from, a neighboring enemy kingdom. In order to cut them off at the pass and enhance his personal prestige, he determines to forge an alliance with a powerful intermediate state by marrying that ruler's daughter. Luckily for his political ambitions, his wife of long years has not produced an heir and a marriage to Evening Star is perfectly acceptable.

Cut to contemporary northern California. Dirt archeologist Van Weathers has lost funding for his long term project at Xultunich, Knot Eye's now long defunct kingdom. This fact is particularly appalling because Weather's feels he is close to solving the riddle of Xultunich's collapse, which may explain why the Maya at large collapsed, which may in fact shed light on our own tenuous hold on the planet. Weathers would be vastly annoyed by this circumstance if it didn't happen that the same private funding group, or an arm thereof, has provided money for an interactive on-line simulation which allows an individuals to log on to a website and become an actual Maya character in a great computer charade.

Now come the complications: an admiring female graduate student, Anne Opple, and an embodiment of a Cartesian evil genius in the way of Elliot Blackman, Weather's office building's new janitor. Blackman is out to do Weathers in - and Anne is just out to do him. Weathers is completely oblivious to the former, but like any politically correct albeit middle-aging professor, he is pleased by Anne's attention but dead set on avoiding her intentions. Anne logs onto the simulation website as the character Evening Star, Knot Eyes fiance by arrangement. She intuits that her professor is playing Knot Eye in the sim. She cleverly has her way with him in cyberspace. However, while Weathers/Knot Eye is fooling with Anne/ Evening Star the evil genius, Blackman, adopts the persona of One Death and sets out to harvest Knot Eye into the underworld of Xibalba. The plot twists, turns, mutates and permutates in many of the expected ways of the contemporary thriller. As usual, not all of those turns are wholly satisfactory, but Weather's/Knot Eyes re- enactment of the hero twins besting of the Lords of the Underworld in a ball game match is a brilliant stroke. Even better are the vignettes of Maya life. If while wandering through, say, the Nunnery at Uxmal you ever wondered what happened when the west wing was dedicated, a scene from this book will answer this and other such question better than any text I can point to. Here's what happens in the text. Knot Eye takes a stingray spine, perforates his penis and catches the blood on strips of paper that are then ignited. Knot Eye watches the smoke roll heavenward, glaze eyed and hallucinating from the pain, yearning for a prophetic clue for his conduct as head of state. Or say, you get behind some of the reconstructed temples at say Copan and are see workman squatting among the carefully stacked and marked facade stones. They are eating tortillas and listening to a transistor radio, and you wonder what the original Maya workers ate and heard. Xibalba's Gate will provide an answer.

There are puzzling lapses of fact in the text. For instance, the glossary lists Calakmul as a site in southern Belize - it actually is located in southern Campeche, Mexico on the border of the Peten, Guatemala, and Temple One at Tikal is said to be the highest pyramid in the Maya world; it's not even the highest at Tikal. Hopefully, these and other similar gaffes will be edited out in subsequent editions, but the important thing is the glimpse of the Maya world the reader can get nowhere else that I know of. Even if some of those reconstructions are a bit skewed - and every thing is a bit skewed - there is no better way for an interested amateur (and perhaps even professional) Mayanist to get a look at the Maya at the height of their glory just before the lights winked out in the central lowlands in the 9th century of the present era.

The Third Son
T.L. Vance
iUniverse, Inc
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
ISBN: 0595346049, $24.95, 468 pages

Tami Brady

Kellson Berkley (Kells) is completely stressed out. His job is hectic and his migraines are becoming his closest companion. Even a month long vacation in Costa Rica doesn't seem to help Kells outlook on life. Upon his return, he realizes that things are about to get much worse.

While Kells was away, his friend Bryant invited his latest fianc‚e Cydney Nash to move into Kells' apartment. Bryant then suddenly made a quick retreat to Italy to spend time with another woman leaving Cydney with a bunch of broken promises and lame excuses. At first, Kells believes the situation is going to be a huge hassle. Unfortunately, Cydney isn't half the irritation that Kells expected. In fact, she's quickly turning into his best friend and maybe even a little more as the two are drawn together by common interests, a love of adventure, and a feeling of easiness. This could get really complicated.

The Third Son has a good deal of drama and romance but is based upon a firm foundation of friendship, common interests, and respect. Unlike a lot of the whirlwind romances in other romance novels, the romance in this book is much more realistic, more complex, and more likely to create a lasting true love affair. This is a true love affair that we can all dream of and attain, even if we aren't the rich boy or the beauty pageant winner.

Shadow Patriots
Lucia St. Clair Robson
Forge Books
ISBN: 076530550X $24.95 336 pages

Terez Rose

In 2003, True West Magazine named Lucia St. Clair Robson the year's Best Living Western Historical Novelist, "combining a historian's knowledge of facts with a novelist's understanding of the human condition. As a result," the article continues, "she's able to transport her readers to a world that is so real, they can smell the sweat."

This aptly sums up her latest effort, Shadow Patriots, where Robson has left the West behind to explore the terrain of colonial America during the Revolutionary War. The story revolves around one of George Washington's key spy operations, called The Culper Ring, and the crucial participation of "355" (code word for "lady"), a female spy whose true identity has remained a mystery.

The Darby family lives in Philadelphia. They are Quakers, and as per the precepts of their religion, do not fight or take sides in armed conflicts. This is a period of tumult, however, in which one is branded either a patriot or a loyalist. Siblings Kate and Seth Darby, both young adults, realize they can't continue to stand at the sidelines. Seth slips away by night to go serve his fledgling country in the army. Kate, at seventeen, is more rational and pragmatic than her hotheaded younger brother. But soon circumstances force her to confront the temptations and intrigue lurking outside her door. In addition to the lure of the patriot cause, there's the winsome British Major, John Andre - a hugely appealing character brought to vivid life by Robson's pen - who is temporarily posted in her family home. And then there's the more mysterious but frustratingly shy Rob Townsend who catches her eye, and she his. Through Rob and her brother Seth, Kate grows more deeply involved in the country's struggle for independence. Espionage, secret codes and invisible ink messages lead to ever greater danger and drama during this decisive period in American history.

Robson, whose work includes the 1982 bestseller Ride the Wind, now in its 17th printing, has made a name for herself in writing authentic historical fiction. Her background - a Master's degree in Library Science - supports her extensive research efforts (up to 300 sources per project). While only a quarter of that research may show up on the finalized page, the other three-quarters lends authority to the author's voice. Occasionally a gesture or statement would cause me to wonder, would that really happen then? Did Quakers treat their black servants with such warm familiarity and affection? Were the women of that era really so bawdy and earthy, often wearing nothing at all beneath their hoop skirts? Did mice truly find a home in some of the powdered wigs? Robson's clear command of her subject tells me, yes, these are all accurate, and she put them in precisely because they were quirky, true and noteworthy.

Reading Shadow Patriots is like paging through a fascinating history book, with characters such as George Washington, Benedict Arnold and Alexander Hamilton springing to life in a visceral fashion unparalleled by any nonfiction on the same subject. The reader learns how people dressed, spoke, and what colonial Philadelphia and New York looked and smelled like (the answer: dirty and stinky). Each description both moves the story forward and offers us a whimsical history lesson. The American encampment at Valley Forge, for example, is brilliantly depicted.

"The engineers had marked out the arrangement of huts by companies, battalions, and brigades, but their efforts looked more like wreckage than construction. The temporary quarters of dugouts, leantos, and tents were hard to distinguish from the heaps of rubbish. No one had completed the first log hut, and the soldiers dragged the timbers across the survey lines, churning the ground into icy mud."

Robson shines particularly in her descriptions of people, be it the maccaronis - trendy men with foot-high wigs, lace and face powder, or the general population with their dirty homespun smocks, manure-caked boots and missing teeth.

"Mary Ludwig Hayes looked as if someone had thrown her clothes on with a pitchfork. Her pinned-up skirt revealed a man's boots and stout ankles in wool stockings that she described as more holey than righteous. Her hair rioted around the ruffled bottom of the dirty linen mob cap. In Mary's case, mob was an apt name for it."

Few words are wasted in this novel - it's a veritable treasure trove of interesting, pertinent history. This, however, leads to my one complaint. So much information in a short space proved overwhelming. In the first thirty-six pages, characters from history are fired at the reader like cannonballs: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Rob Townsend, New York mayor David Matthews, Hercules Mulligan, William Cunningham, Benjamin Tallmadge, Nathan Hale, General William Howe, Elizabeth Loring. They were all well-drawn, but I felt myself flailing, unsure of who was to become a key character. By chapter four, when the reader meets Kate and Seth Darby, the story begins to settle into place. Had I known my Revolutionary War history, I might have better appreciated the historical characters' presence in the story.

The book's flaws, however, are minor compared to its virtues. As accurate, lively, historical fiction, this book succeeds wildly, and as such, I would highly recommend it to fans of that genre. To others, I'd still recommend it. But you might want to dust off your history book first.

This review first appeared in Peace Corps Writers (July 2005 issue)

Lance Armstrong's War
Daniel Coyle
Harper Collins
ISBN: 0060734973 $25.95 336 pages

Terry Mathews

Recommendation: *****

I am an avid fan, but not a rider with any inside information about the workings of a cycling team, be it a weekend recreational group or one as sharply honed as Team Discovery.

So, it was with great interest that I picked up LANCE ARMSTRONG'S WAR. Had read IT'S NOT ABOUT THE BIKE and EVERY SECOND COUNTS...even read RAISING LANCE, RAISING ME by Lance's mom. Still wasn't expecting to get such a schooling as Daniel Coyle provides in his up close and personal look at the life and times of Lance Armstrong.

Armstrong and his team granted Coyle almost unlimited access to every aspect of Lance's life -- a feat in and of itself -- during the months leading up to last year's TdF. While Coyle sometime seems to be a little over impressed with LA's main squeeze Sheryl Crow, his focus on the energy it takes to BE Lance Armstrong pretty much stays on course.

Like I said, I was schooled in the art of being a professional bike rider.

(1) I knew Lance and his tightly knit team were into control, but I had no idea how seriously they need to be in control. Being a newbie to the strategies of the peleton, I was not aware how carefully they selected just who got to "stay in the breakaways" each day.

(2) Coyle taught me about Lance's relationship and reliance upon Dr. Michele Ferrari, convicted on doping charges.

(3) I learned about the motivation of author David Walsh (LA CONFIDENTIAL) who truly believes Lance is a doper. It's not all about the dope.

(4) Don't think for even an instant that you can put one over on, for example, Filippo Simeoni, a whiner who has branded Lance a doper and who tried to break away during a stage in 2004.

Lance went on the attack and hunted Simeoni down...then Lance flew on up to the front eight riders on the breakaway and said, "If he stays, I'm staying," meaning my team will be up here in just a minute and we'll ride your legs off. The eight leaders yelled at Simeoni to get the heck outta there...and he did. When Lance got back to the peleton, several members cheered him...and jeered Simeoni, whose humiliation was complete.


(5) I learned that once burnt, Lance does not looks back. He seems to be devoid of sentimentality. Screw with him, his team, his family or his reputation, and you're not only gone, you're forgotten.

The only surprise of the book was Coyle's near disdain for Linda Armstrong Kelly. To me, his portrait of her was one-dimensional and really comes close to cartoonish. I can't believe he spent much time with her. My bet is Coyle wasn't raised by a southern belle like Linda Armstrong Kelly. Nobody gets between a southern boy and his mama. Wonder how that chapter sat with Lance.

Other than his handling of "the mom," Coyle's easy-going style is light, lively and entertaining.

If you've ever ridden a bike around your neighborhood or even watched a stage or two of the wonder they call the Tour de France, you might do well to spend a few hours reading LANCE ARMSTRONG'S WAR. It's a whole other universe. Enjoy!

Atwood's Bookshelf

Charlie's Notes: A Memoir
Cherie Kerr
ExecuProv Press
809 N. Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 92701
ISBN: 0964888270 $14.95

Cherie Kerr's memoir of her father Carluchi (Charlie) DePietro is "a true American story" in every sense of the phrase. It is a book about the aspirations of turn-of-the-century European immigrants, it is a book about the hopes and dreams of their children, and it is a book about the American love affair with popular music and the silver screen.

Charlie was born in upstate New York to Italian immigrants Francesca and Eugene DePietro. When it becomes apparent to Francesca that Eugene will never provide her with the lavish lifestyle she craves, she emerges as the story's monster, forcing her five-year-old daughter into virtual slavery (to make up for the servants they couldn't afford) and taking every opportunity to make her husband and family miserable.

Eugene, a hardworking tailor, endured his miserable marriage by losing himself in his work, his music and his children. He instilled a love for music into his children, especially in his two eldest boys, Charlie and Joe, providing them with violin lessons, encouraging them to practice for hours a day, and proudly tailoring little suits for them to wear at their radio debut.

When the story isn't overdosing on the horrors inflicted by Francesca, it focusses on Charlie's growing passion for music, which, during his adolescence, begins to take a decidedly jazzy turn. He and his brother Joe play in a local band where Marge, Charlie's future wife, joins them. The couple eventually migrates to California where Charlie, now playing guitar and string bass, pursues his musical dreams in earnest.

He attains a certain amount of success in Tinseltown, landing background musician roles in dozens of films and playing at private parties, rubbing elbows with such luminaries as Bob Hope, Jack Benny, George Burns, and John Wayne. In a scene that is arguably the book's most dramatic, Charlie gets a insider's glimpse of Judy Garland's powerful artistry when the singer, obviously drugged out and inebriated at one of her own parties, is miraculously able to belt out a powerful rendition of the then-new song,"The Man That Got Away" before wobbling back to her table. The song's lyricist, Ira Gershwin, could be seen nearby, silently weeping.

Although Charlie never pursued his dreams at the expense of his family, Hollywood's glitter seems to have gotten into the eyes of his memorist daughter, who occasionally seems to exaggerate the star qualities of her parents. When her "sultry and sexy and stunning" mother, Marge, was first observed dancing by her father, she "appeared as spunky as Claudette Collberte, as sumptuous as Marlene Dietrich and as stylish as Mary Pickford." Charlie, while desperately maneuvering through a crowded room to meet this combination of female stars, ostensibly "looked like Fred Astaire, zigzagging his way on his toes." Charlie's own good looks which apparently "reeked of sexuality," once made Elizabeth Taylor do a double-take which "indicated she obviously found him dazzling." It's hard to know just what Ms. Taylor was thinking, but it's obvious that Kerr has stars in her eyes; at times some of her inferences seem a bit over the top.

Kerr is a tremendously detailed writer and she occasionally gives more detail than necessary (I didn't really want to read an entire paragraph describing Francesca's huge, middle-aged, misshapen breasts) but when she focuses on Charlie's passion for and pursuit of music, this attention to detail provides for a tremendous sense of time and place and makes her writing almost cinematic, quite appropriate for a book largely set in Hollywood. Her wonderful storytelling ability pulls the reader in until we're so involved with Charlie's "notes" that we are whole-heartedly rooting for him to achieve his dreams.

Did he achieve them? He didn't become a household name, but if he wanted to live a life dedicated to music, he most definitely achieved his goal. His story, just like a beautifully written song, will linger long in the mind of the reader.

Writing Home
Cindy La Ferle
Hearth Stone Books
Self-Reliance Press
1525 Vinsetta Blvd., Royal Oak, MI 48067
ISBN: 0923568638 $16.95

(a portion of all proceeds will be donated to homeless shelters in Oakland County, MI)

One of author Cindy La Ferle's prized possessions is a card which reads, "The sacred is in the ordinary. It is found in one's daily life - in friends, family, and neighbors; in one's own backyard." These words summate the theme of her enchanting collection of essays, "Writing Home." Culled from previously published essays and newspaper columns, the diverse subjects covered in her book share a common thread: the joy and wonder that can be discovered in the every day.

Divided into topical chapters, the book's broad range of topics includes a neighborhood squirrel who found his way into La Ferle's heart ("Willie"), a humorous discussion of household labor ("A Woman's Place?), and musical memories that centers on an ungainly, presently unwanted piano ("The Family Piano"). La Ferle is a working mother, so the chapter entitled "Child Care" contain especially poignant and insightful essays. Because she's a baby boomer, her essays included in the chapter entitled "Older and Wiser" also ring humorously true.

She is clearly domestic and yet modern enough to be slightly embarrassed by the fact: in the essay entitled "Domestic Diva Comes Clean" she lets us know (blushingly) that she's into hearth and home. But her love for domesticity goes deeper than making soup, banana bread, and keeping her house clean (things she's quite good at); she is able to articulate a clear philosophy on the subject. In her essay entitled "Puttering," she defines this homey activity as "a way of clarifying life's myriad details, especially when it's done with reverence for the objects at hand. It's an opportunity to reconsider what we most enjoy in our homes, and to make a mental list of what we like to edit later."

At times, I wished some of the essays were longer; the subjects she covers are so interesting and valuable, it seems a shame that they were hindered by a seemingly arbitrary word count. But there it is: little gems of wisdom from a modern working woman who has a valuable and interesting philosophy on life.

My Father's War
Paul West
McPherson & Company
P.O. Box 1126, Kingston, NY 12402
ISBN: 0929701755 $24.00 187 pages

For writer Paul West, the connections between the two world wars of the last century transcend the likes of a train car at Compiegne and a Bavarian private named Adolph Hitler. West's connections are personal, powerful memories of a one-eyed father, maimed in the "Great War," playing war games with his son while Nazi planes regularly bombed a nearby English town. West's father, forever transformed by "his war," was an enigma and mystery to West; My Father's War is his attempt to work out that mystery.

As West seeks to assemble the puzzle pieces at his disposal, a beautiful and moving portrait of his father emerges: a teenager issuing from the mud and blood of WWI trenches who became a respected veteran never quite comfortable with peacetime. His discomfort with post-war life far surpassed his frequent unemployment due to his war-damaged eye. When other Englishmen were hiding in their homes with their curtains drawn during Nazi air raids, West's father would go outside to watch the planes, partly because he had come to admire the Germans while gunning them down on European battlefields and partly because, as West relates, he was "going after some sullen undesirable beauty he must first have seen from the trenches." Beauty in the trenches? Yes. It was there that "he had found men at their noblest." He never stopped longing for that beauty but it almost completely evaded him during his civilian life. That is, until the outbreak of the second world war: then, for a few years, he embraced the beauty of his old war with a salute to the new. He began to teach his pre-adolescent son soldering through war games.

Is it possible that the senior West played war with his son in order to prepare him for real warfare? Possibly. No one knew how long World War II would last. But perhaps the more likely reason was that "the only busyness he regarded as genuine toil was soldering. All the rest, which is to say life's work, he regarded as frippery, trivia." He was first and last, a soldier.

The book is comprised of a series of essays, some previously published, written in novelist West's inimitable prose which is so lyrical at times, it occasionally threatens to leave earth (and some readers) behind. In the chapter entitled "An Extraordinary Mildness," West describes his father's later years in terms of a certain lightness of existence: "almost all the woes of the human condition [were] floating away from him, although ascending with him toward the nullity that, compared with his post-mortem paradises, was the merest tincture of slightness." Excellent prose? Well, yes. Slightly incomprehensible? Definitely.

If West's writing sometimes aviates into clouds of rarified incomprehensibility, it also (and usually) soars into prose of pure gold. Ruminating on Hitler's reticence to invade England, West opines: "If only Hitler the knowitall had followed through, brushing aside the popguns and Robin Hood pikes along with the remnants of the British army, we would all have been goners; but by then he was lusting eastward toward Mother Russia and "Uncle Joe," and my father and I had joined the survivors in the street, crisp with our sense of reprieve." West exhibits his formidable descriptive skills while watching his father watch American bombers returning from the mainland: "Not a bomber left its place on this return trip as the crews, with the correct bustle and protocol of bombing left behind, tuned in to swing music on the American Forces Network, chewed fresh gum, and over the sea slung out their machine guns and other gubbins to lighten the load."

Was West was able, at last, to completely understand his father? The emotive center of his book focuses not on the mystery solved but the journey through it. Whether writing in convoluted or golden prose, West has succeeded in piecing together a very moving account of his father, an eternal soldier, discovered by his son between two wars.

Kathryn J. Atwood

Bethany's Bookshelf

A Fresh Vision of Jesus
Cheri Fuller
c/o Baker Book House
PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
0800758536 $12.99

Award-winning author Cheri Fuller presents A Fresh Vision of Jesus: Timeless Ways to Experience Christ, a simple reminder of the importance of forging a closer relationship with God and Jesus despite the hectic bustle of daily life that pulls one's thoughts away from the sacred. Revealing the many ways in which God demonstrates his presence, A Fresh Vision of Jesus stresses that one should search for a personal vision or encounter with Jesus, in order to transform one's life. A deeply inspirational and spiritual book, written especially as an antidote to the increasingly rushed and worldly demands of the changing times.

The Last Word And The Word After That
Brian McLaren
Jossey-Bass, Inc.
DeChant Huges Associates (publicity)
989 Market Street, 5th floor, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741
0787975923 $21.95 1-800-225-5945

The Last Word And The Word After That: A Tale of Faith, Doubt, And A New Kind Of Christianity by Brian McLaren (Founding Pastor of nondenominational Cedar Ridge Community Church) challenges Christians to rethink their assumptions about hell while offering a new understanding of God's justice and mercy. The sequel to "A New Kind of Christian" and "The Story We Find Ourselves In", The Last Word And The Word After That is written in the style of a narrative novel but focuses on a discourse about what hell really is and how Christians conceive of it. Conventional doctrine is all too quick to portray God as a sociopath, loving one minute and vicious the next. Through soul-searching dialogues, the characters of The Last Word And The Word After That debunk common misperceptions of the depiction of hell in Scripture - many of its fiery notions actually come from the poets Dante and John Milton, and hell is not revealed in the Old Testament; it is first mentioned by Jesus. A challenging, emotional, and faithfully resonant examination of belief, what it means, and new ways of understanding divine justice, punishment, and the problem of evil.

Bless The Lord: The 103rd Psalm
Jonathan Bluedorn
Trivium Pursuit
PMB 168, 429 Lake Park Boulevard, Muscatine, Iowa 52761
1933228024 $14.00 1-309-537-3641

Creating thirty original illustrations, artist Johannah Bluedorn offers a compelling vision of family life and the joy of being a child as exemplified through the words of the 103rd Psalm that begins with "Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name." A self-taught, homeschooled artist who won her first art prize at age 14 and published her first book at age 17, Johannah Bluedorn has a unique and detailed style that perfectly showcases each individual verse of the Psalm with portraits of "sumptuous simplicity" that includes farm and wild animals celebrating the bounty of nature, the beauty of family, the blessedness of God's provision, and the benefits of His protecting hand. The result is an acclaimed and highly recommended children's picture book making the King James Version of Psalm 103 wonderfully accessible and understandable to a new generation of children. Also very highly recommended is Johannah Bluedorn's children's Psalm based picture book, The Lord Builds The House: The 127th Psalm (0974361615, $12.00).

Celebrating the Rest of Your Life
David Yount
Augsburg Publishers
100 Fifth Street, Suite 700, Minneapolis, MN 55402-1210
0806651717 $12.99 1-800-328-4648

Theologist and syndicated columnist David Yount presents Celebrating the Rest of Your Life: A Baby Boomer's Guide To Spirituality, a matter-of-fact guide to opening one's eyes to the future, considering both practical matters such as making financial safeguards, and matters of the soul, including the intimidating task of making peace with one's mortality and eventual death. Encouraging the reader to accept God's grace in order to more fully experience the richness of life, Celebrating the Rest of Your Life is a profound yet plain-spoken testimonial sure to resonate with readers regardless of individual faith. Highly recommended.

God Thought Of You
Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones & Jennifer Johnson Haywood
Morehouse Publishing
4775 Linglestown Road, Harrisburg, PA 17112
0819219878 $16.95 1-800-877-0012

An Episcopal priest, Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones has collaborated with artist/illustrator Jennifer Johnson Haywood in God Thought Of You, a picturebook introduction for your children into their relationship with God. "Before God created the world / you were in God's mind / God thought of you and loved you / from the beginning / Before God created the world / God knew that / you would be a child of God". God Thought Of You is not denomination-specific, and embraces a positive, uplifting, and loving view of God. The beautiful, watercolor-style illustrations show young African-American children among the many other creations of God - moon, sun, stars, and animals. A deeply heartwarming and spiritually uplifting picturebook written especially to show young people that we are all children of the living God.

What God Really Said
Betty Gannon-Bar
Noble House
c/o American Literary Press
8019 Belair Road, Suite 10, Baltimore, MD 21236
1561678805 $14.95 1-800-873-2003

What God Really Said is a thoughtful analysis of the Bible, as revealed to legal assistant and grandmother Betty Gannon- Bar. The chapters consist of scriptural verses and their meaning spelled out in plain terms and modern language. For example, 11 Thess: 1:11 "Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling" is interpreted as "Wherefore we also pray always for you, that our God would find you suitable, deem you fit and count you worthy." Many of the chapters are quite brief, perhaps only a few pages, paragraphs or verses long. A simple guide deeply infused with the author's vision, passion, and faith.

Earth Trek
Joanne Moyer
Herald Press
616 Walnut Avenue, Scottdale, PA 15683-1999
0836192915 $14.99 1-800-759-4447

Earth Trek: Celebrating and Sustaining God's Creation is a deeply spiritual, week-by-week guide to simple ways in which ordinary people can meditate, reflect upon, and take individual action concerning major environmental issues, for moral, spiritual, and ecological benefit. Divided into seven sections reflecting the seven days in which God created all there is, Earth Trek includes such recommendations as removing shoes before entering one's apartment to reduce dust, lead, and pesticide imprints; writing letters to elected representatives about serious environmental issues; organize a carpooling program; consider population issues when planning one's family; and much more. Prayers for meditation, brief discussions of a wide variety of environmental issues, questions for discussion and reflection, and more round out this deeply spiritual guide that balances reflection upon the divine with immediate beneficial actions to take in the material world.

Susan Bethany

Betsy's Bookshelf

The 1st American Cookie Lady
Barbara Swell
Native Ground Books & Music
109 Bell Road, Asheville, NC 28805-1521
1883206499 $12.95 1-800-752-2656

The 1st American Cookie Lady: Recipes from a 1917 Cookie Diary offers all 208 recipes of Anna "Cookie" Covington, first recorded between 1917 and 1920. Classic and tasty cookie recipes range from Sand Tarts to Snickerdoodles, Fig Bars, Coconut Jumples, Maple Brandy Snaps and more. In addition , The 1st American Cookie Lady offers a host of fascinating cookie trivia tidbits, including vintage art and photographs, baking superstitions, the story of women's suffrage and cookies, cookie poems, WW I food shortage recipes, and much more. An excellent dessert cookbook filled with recipes that survive the test of time with flying colors.

Come Around If You Want
Jillian Brasch, OTR
Seven Locks Press
3100 West Warner Avenue, Suite 8, Santa Ana, CA 92704
1931643636 $17.95 1-800-354-5348

Occupational therapist Jillian Brach, whose experience includes teaching art to AIDS patients and leading bereavement groups, presents Come Around If You Want, a collection of true stories of seventeen dying patients with whom she worked. Written give caregivers insights, strength, emotional tools, and advice to meet the emotional, psychological, and spiritual challenges the dying must face, Come Around If You Want presents its tails with honesty, and the will to transcend the overwhelming fear of death with an expectant understanding of the importance of human relationships at all stages of life. The power of trust and intimacy are paramount in Come Around If You Want, a very highly recommended guide to prepare oneself for sharing the journey of a terminally ill or dying person.

Lucian M. Whyte
Florida Academic Press, Inc.
PO Box 540, Gainesville, FL 32602-0540
189035712X $29.95

Antinomy: A Union of Mind is an extraordinary blend of fiction and philosophy. Antinomy revolves around two characters without names: the Other, who experiences difference, rejection, and learning through suffering; and the One, who experiences understanding, bliss, and cultivates a firm and holistic character. Act Two observes the descent of One and experience with human needs. The final act reveals the Divine Mind through a conversation between the One and the Other, who both understand their mutual dependence. An impressive and thought-provoking debut novel of complementary states of mind and being from a philosophy and literature student of eighteen years' experience.

Journey Through Japan
Hans H. Kruger
Tuttle Publishing
364 Innovation Drive, North Clarendon, VT 05759-9436
0804836396 $29.95

Hans Kruger's engagingly informative text is massively illustrated with more than 180 full color photographs illustrating diverse facets of the Japanese urban and rural landscapes, people, and artifacts in Journey Through Japan, a superbly written and presented travelogue of the diverse islands of the eastern coast of Asia that comprise the modern nation of Japan. Here presented for the armchair traveler is a survey of high technology and urban development, side-by-side with primitive folk festivals and ancient landscapes. Entertaining, informative, and thoroughly "reader friendly", Journey Through Japan truly lives up to its title and is especially recommended for community library collections.

Religions of the World: Shinto
George Williams
Chelsea House Publishers
2080 Cabot Boulevard West, Suite 201, Langhorne, PA 19047-1813
0791083551 $11.95 1-800-848-2665

Part of the scholarly and educational Religions of the World series, Religions of the World: Shinto offers an introduction and close examination of Japan's indigenous religion. Shinto defies simple categorization; it involves the worship of kami, which can be translated as gods, nature spirits, or spiritual presences. Yet kami are not seen as fully transcendent deities, but rather as that which is called down into our world. There is no place or person deemed the most holy, nor is there a set dogma, and the rituals and festivals connected to Shinto simply preach harmony with nature and people. Unlike Buddhism, Shinto focuses upon creating happiness within life, not the hereafter. Author George Williams, Emeritus Professor of Religion at California State University, Chico, is well-versed upon Japanese religion as his numerous published articles attest. Religions of the World: Shinto discusses sacred depths perceived in sound, story, action, space, time, and the ruler, and reflects upon the Shinto's presence and role in modern-day Japan and the world. Black-and-white illustrations enhance this plain terms resource accessible to lay readers and scholars alike, which gives an excellent grounding in the complexity and worldview perceptions of Shinto.

The Harder They Fall
Gary Stromberg & Jane Merrill
Hazeldon Press
PO Box 176, Center City, MN 55012-0176
1592851568 $21.95 1-800-328-0094

The collaborative work of Gary Stromberg & Jane Merrill, The Harder They Fall: Celebrities Tell Their Real-Life Stories Of Addiction And Recovery is a compendium of autobiographical accounts of self-help and recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction told by a range of readily recognized men and women who range from singer and songwriter Paul Williams, to comedian Richard Pryor, to actor Malcom McDowell, to musician Alice Cooper, to U.S. Congressman Jim Ramstad, and sixteen others. All of these stories are revealed with candor, insight, humor, humility, and hope. The Harder They Fall is a unique anthology and should be available to everyone (especially those struggling with their own addictions) in the community through their local public library.

Full-Body Flexibility
Jay Blahnik
Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.
PO Box 5076, Champaign, IL 61820-5076
0736041508 $17.95 1-800-747-4457

Athletes stretch before and after exercise sessions in order to warm up their muscles, prevent injuries, and cool down after their exertions. Personal trainer and fitness educator Jay Blahnik blends the best of yoga, Pilates, martial arts, and sports training in Full-Body Flexibility to create "user friendly" stretching sequences that anyone can safely use for warm-ups and cool-downs, as well as during the course of performing challenging workouts on their own. Blahnik operates with three key stretching principles in mind: Variety (challenging muscles with multiple techniques to attain maximum flexibility); Strength (ensuring that muscles can support the body throughout the entire range of motion); and Balance (developing equal strength and flexibility in opposing muscle groups on both sides of the human body). Offering 10, 20, and 40 minute fitness routines; sport-specific sequences; and specialty stretch sequences, Full-Body Flexibility is an ideal and recommended introduction for even the most novice of beginners, while also holding much of value for even the more experienced athlete and fitness enthusiast.

Betsy L. Hogan

Bob's Bookshelf

Lullaby and Goodnight
Wendy Corsi Staub
0786016426 $6.99 383 pp.

Peyton Somerset is eagerly awaiting her first child. As the 39 year old moves into the final term of her pregnancy, she is convinced something isn't quite right. It's not a physical problem but something far more sinister. Someone has broken into her apartment and Peyton is convinced she's being stalked. It appears that someone is set upon making sure, one way or another, the expectant mother either doesn't give birth or doesn't keep her infant. Either way, it's a frightening situation.

Suspense writer Wendy Corsi Staub is skilled at taking her reader to the edge of his seat and keeping him there for most of the novel. Hang-on, for once again she's going to keep you flipping pages into the wee hours of the morning with this latest thriller.

O'Rourke's Revenge
L.J. Martin
0786017007 $5.99 285 pages

The western novel is alive and well as the debut of this new series illustrates. The O'Rourke clan from the Emerald Isle have made their mark in the southwest. Ryan O'Rourk has just survived a stay in Arizona's infamous Territorial Penitentiary and he's bent on seeking vengeance on those who sent him there.

When his Irish temper and flashing six shooter get him sent back to prison before he can met out his brand of frontier "justice", the fiery gunslinger needs some family assistance. Now his people have to break him out of jail so he can complete the job and make it clear no one crosses an O'Rourke.

Although it may not exactly be "your father's (or grandfather's) cowboy yarn", Martin's version of the classic western has all the essential components for a riveting read. If you hanker for a little action that involves a quick draw, comely women, and action on horseback grab a copy pf "O'Rourke's Revenge" and take it for a test ride!

Code Name: Kill Zone
William Johnstone
0786016892 $5.99 256 pages

When a Colombian drug lord pays off enough politicians so that he can transform a section of the country into a new nation called Pangea there's good reason for concern in the U.S. As the ruler of Pangea , Luis Mendoza will be beholding to no one and cocaine will be his nation's main export.

Enter John Barrone and his clandestine strike force. Their mission is as simple as it is dangerous and deadly. Go in and take out "El Presidente" and the rest of his cartel.

Johnstone's "Code Name" series has struck a positive cord with readers of fast paced, violent espionage novels. He has the formula down pat and delivers an action filled story. It won't win any literary awards but "Kill Zone" will provide a couple of hours of mindless entertainment.

Bob Walch

Buhle's Bookshelf

100 Great Things About Texas
Glenn Dromgoole
State House Press
McMurray Station, Box 637, Abilene, TX 79697-0637
1880510960 $6.95 1-800-421-3378

100 Great Things About Texas is an enjoyable, pocket-sized trivia book filled with 100 "did you know?" tidbits about what makes the great state of Texas different. Some of the great things are based solidly on fact ("Texas still has the right to divide into five states. But if we did that we wouldn't be Texas"); some are historical lore ("The Texas Rangers trace their history back to 1823. Stephen F. Austin called them 'Rangers' because they ranged over such a wide territory protecting colonists"); and still others are a more subjective matter of opinion ("No matter what state you're traveling to, you're practically there once you cross the Texas state line"). A lighthearted, gung-ho, unabashedly pro-Texas little book, ideal as a welcome gift for Texas visitors or a souvenir for tourists.

Building Sustainable Peace
Tom Keating and W. Andy Knight, editors
University of Alberta Press
Ring House 2, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2E1
0888644140 $30.00

Building Sustainable Peace is an anthology of essays by learned contributors focusing on the complex problem of reconstructing and building a sustainable peace, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq but also with an eye for other nations such as West Africa's Liberia and Sierra Leone. Individual selections include "Rethinking Humanitarian Intervention", "Praxis versus Policy", "From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace", and many more. A serious-minded compilation that blends philosophy with a coldly practical eye for twentieth and twenty-first century conflicts and acts of terrorism and genocide. Numerous specific peace-building strategies are exhaustively discussed in this heavily researched compendium particularly recommended for college libraries, activist organizations, and political science shelves.

The Science of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Michael Hanlon
Publicity Department
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
1403945772 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

Michael Hanlon, one of Britain's most successful and respected science writers, presents The Science of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a fascinating and completely serious overview of the real science nestled between the witty humor Douglas Adams' classic science fiction novel, now a major motion picture. From discussions about alien life to the possibility of time travel, teleportation, theories behind parallel worlds, contemplations concerning the existence of God, The Science of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reviews some of the most popular knowledge conundrums with a lighthearted wit and snappy satire worthy of its title. Written to be accessible to readers of all backgrounds - even those who have yet to page through The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - The Science of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a most entertaining and thought-provoking companion to Adams' immortal sci-fi comedy.

Cleanroom Microbiology For The Non-Microbiologist
David M. Carlberg
CRC Press
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway, Boca Raton, FL 33487
084931996X $39.95 1-800-272-7737

Now in an expanded and updated second edition that acknowledges key international cleanroom standards, greater understanding of the role of biofilms in pure water systems, and other improvements in scientific understanding, Cleanroom Microbiology For The Non-Microbiologist by David M. Carlberg (Professor Emeritus, California State University - Long Beach) is specifically designed and written for the professional who has a pressing interest on the subject, but little or no previous training in the area. Chapters discuss basic microbiology and microorganisms, how to control their growth and activities, cleanroom facilities and personnel controls, and the detection and enumeration of microorganisms in the cleanroom. Black-and-white photographs illustrate this serious-minded guide that presents basic information as thoroughly as possible without straying into an excess of technical jargon.

Contagious Success
Susan Lucia Annunzio
Portfolio/Penguin Group
Jane Wesman Public Relations (publicity)
375 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
1591840600 $24.95 1-800-847-5515

Contagious Success: Spreading High Performance Throughout Your Organization by Susan Lucia Annunzio (Chairman and CEO of the Hudson Highland Center for High Performance) is based upon the first global study conducted on the factors that accelerate high performance in a work environment. The lessons and invaluable insights learned from this research, some of which defy conventional wisdom, spell out not only how to create high performance but how to effectively destroy it. A straightforward do's and don'ts recommendation list, with key tips enumerated in bullet points, covering everything from the effects of workgroup size to the extent to which secrets should be shared to the nuts and bolts of the study itself and how it was conducted. An excellent resource for business and task managers looking to create the optimum work environment and flow.

Government in the Future
Noam Chomsky
Seven Stories Press
140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013
1583226850 $7.95 1-800-596-7437

Based on a talk Noam Chomsky originally gave at the Poetry Center of New York City in 1970, Government in the Future is a fierce political manifesto discussing how society should best be structured to maintain democratic control. Urging fellow intellectuals to rethink the balance of societal, political, governmental, and corporate power, Government in the Future clearly foresaw issues that are as critically important today as they were when they loomed over thirty years ago. Notes point out references to the main speech and indirectly suggest supplementary texts for readers interested in learning more. A brief yet motivational and persuasive call to heed the problems of modern society and take action.

The Little Guide To Your Well-Read Life
Steven Leveen
Levenger Press
420 South Congress Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33445-4696
1929154194 $24.50 1-561-276-2436

In The Little Guide To Your Well-Read Life: How To Get More Books In Your Life And More Life Form Your Books, author Steven Leveen shares some of the most effective and personally rewarding methods he's found for expanding his ability to read into a life-long passion for books that are worth his time. Listeners will discover how they can read twelve more books a year -- even if they think their current schedule won't permit such a luxury. Additionally, The Little Guide To Your Well-Read Life addresses such issues as how a personal library should be adapted, adopted, and organized to accommodate the books the reader wants to read according to his or her choices, desires, preferences, interests, and favorites. Aspiring bibliophiles will learn how to get a reading on a book even before its read, as well as when to give up on a book -- even if it's a classic. Practical, inspiring, thoughtful and thought-provoking, The Little Guide To Your Well-Read Life is enthusiastically recommended. Especially for anyone who has felt that there were more books they wanted to read than they had time to -- which is every book collector, librarian, and avid reader I have ever known! 3 discs, 225 minutes, unabridged.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

American Cancer Society's Complete Guide To Prostate Cancer
David G. Bostwock, MD, et al.
American Cancer Society
c/o Health Promotions Publishing
1599 Clifton Road, NE, Atlanta, GA 30329
#9652.00 $19.95 1-800-227-2345

Collaborative compiled, organized and edited by the team of Doctors David G. Bostwick (Clinical Professor of Pathology, University of Virginia); E. David Crawford (Associate Director, University of Colorado Comprehensive Cancer City, Aurora, Colorado); Celestia S. Higano (Oncology Specialist, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and Associate Professor, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle); and Mack Roach III (Professor of Radiation Oncology and Urology, Department of Radiation Oncology, University of California, San Francisco), the American Cancer Society's Complete Guide To Prostate Cancer is a single volume compendium providing the non-specialist general reader with all of the up-to-date information available on prostate cancer. Included are the latest advances in prevention, early detection, and treatment of prostate cancer; varied prostate cancer treatments and the decision making process to determine the best one for the reader; coping with emotional stresses and potential physical side effects (including incontinence and erectile dysfunction); practical issues related to work, finance, and medical care; as well as the fundamental quality of life issues after treatment, including sexuality and relationships. With prostate cancer affecting one in six of American men, with more than a quarter of a million American men diagnosed with prostate cancer, the American Cancer Society's Complete Guide To Prostate Cancer is a vitally important addition to every community library Health/Medicine reference collection in the country.

Snakes Of The Americas
Bob L. Tipton
Krieger Publishing Company
PO Box 9542, Melbourne, FL 32902-9542
157524215X $94.50 1-800-724-0025

Snakes Of The Americas: Checklist And Lexicon is a book/CD combination compiled and written by herpetologist Bob L. Tipton that provides a single volume comprehensive checklist of all known snakes found in North American, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. This seminal work also serves as a lexicon listing all the common names (in several languages) of these snakes. The information covers the subspecies level, as well as citations and distribution information. The lexicon (on an easy-to-use, searchable, compact disk) includes common names in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Guarani, and other languages of the Americas, along with references. An extensive bibliography is included. A superb work of impeccable research, expertise, and scholarship, Snakes Of The Americas will serve as an indispensable, standard, "user friendly" reference for professional herpetologists and is especially recommended as a core addition to all academic library reference collections.

Jannaway's Mutiny
Charles Gidley Wheeler
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
Avalon Marketing & Communications (publicity)
1193 - 392nd Road, Utica, NE 68456
0595339565 $18.95

Jannaway's Mutiny is an historical novel based on the September 1931 mass mutiny at Invergordon, Scotland, by sailors of the Royal Navy's Atlantic Fleet. Frank Jannaway is a British sailor who finds himself at the center of the mutiny where the stakes are high -- and the penalties are higher still. Author Charles Gidley Wheeler is a former Royal Navy Pilot and brings a special expertise to creating a vivid and totally engaging story that grips the readers attention from first page to last. Highly recommended reading and a welcome addition to a community library's fiction shelf, Jannaway's Mutiny is a deftly written action/adventure historical novel that will linger in the reader's mind long after the book is placed back upon the shelf.

Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome
Nick Constable
Mercury Books
c/o International Publishers Marketing
22841 Quicksilver Drive, Dulles, VA 20166
1904668402 $25.00 1-800-758-3756

Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome is an eye-catching summary of ancient Roman geography, history, and visual splendor. Illustrated with full-color photographs of Roman artifacts, architecture, and maps - including reconstructed maps of the city as it must have once stood - grace this amazing reference cover to cover. Since it is a historical atlas, the main focus is on geography and maps, but references to all aspects of Roman culture and its impact on subsequent civilizations abound. The text is accessible for lay readers and spells out the course of Roman history from its rise to its increasingly inevitable fall due to incompetent emperors, a self-serving bureaucracy, and a border far larger than its armies could protect. Highly recommended for library and personal history collections.

U.S. Naval Officers: Their Swords and Dirks
Peter Tuite
Andrew Mowbray Inc., Publishers
PO Box 460, Lincoln, RI 02865
1931464162 $75.00 1-800-999-4697

U.S. Naval Officers: Their Swords and Dirks is a lavish guide especially for weapon collectors. Full-color photographs present a vast assortment of historical swords, especially featuring the collection of the United States Naval Academy Museum, and the text narrates the amazing stories behind these weapons and the brave naval officers who wielded them. Astonishing in its close scrutiny of every last engraving upon vintage weapons, U.S. Naval Officers: Their Swords and Dirks is as appealing to lay readers who enjoy rousing true adventures as it is for weapon aficionados.

Eyewitness D-Day
D. M. Giangreco with Kathryn Moore
Union Square Press
c/o Sterling Publishing Company
387 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016-8810
0760750459 $19.95 1-800-805-5489

Eyewitness D-Day: Firsthand Accounts from the Landing at Normandy to the Liberation of Paris is a coffee-table book filled cover to cover with testimonies of those who participated in the most ambitious amphibious military operation in history, and the subsequent crusade to break the Nazi hold on Europe. Illustrated throughout with black-and-white and a few color photographs, and packaged with an audio CD of selected eyewitness interviews, Eyewitness D-Day captures the tumultuous shifts of history from those who miraculously survived. In-depth explanatory sidebars for details within the photographs and other nuances that may be unfamiliar to lay readers, Eyewitness D-Day is enthusiastically recommended for military historians and casual readers alike.

SEPECAT Jaguar In Action
Glenn Ashley, et al.
Squadron/Signal Publications
1115 Crowley Drive, Carrollton, TX 75011-5010
#1197 $8.02

With an informed and informative text by Glen Ashley, and enhanced with illustrations by David Gebhardt and Darren Glenn, as well as coloring by Don Greer, SEPECAT Jaguar In Action is one of the latest additions to the outstanding Squadron/Signal "In Action" series showcasing all aspects of fighter aircraft. In this case, its the SEPECAT Jaguar, a fighter jet that gave superb front-line service to several national airforces around the world. The plane's origins stem from when England and France worked closely to produce sever significant Anglo-French aircraft back in the 1960s. As with all "In Action" series titles, this 49-page book is replete with historic photography, museum class artwork, and covers all elements of the plane's design and function. Other recent and highly recommended "In Action" titles include Bone: B-1 Lancer In Action (#1179); F-15 Eagle In Action (#1183); B-2 Spirit In Action (1178); F-105 Thunderchief (#1185); AH-1 Cobra (#1168); and F-16 Fighting Falcon (#1196). Military aviation enthusiasts would be well served to request the free Squadron/Signal catalog for a complete listing of their entire collection of outstandingly produced and thoroughly budget friendly titles.

Fly-Fishing Coastal Cutthroat Trout
Les Johnson
Frank Amato Publications
PO Box 82112, Portland, OR 97282
157188339 $29.95

Also available in a hardcover format (1571883347, $45.00), Les Johnson's Fly-Fishing Coastal Cutthroat Trout is the definitive book on the coastal cutthroat, from their habitat and life histories, to the most productive flies, techniques and tackle to use when pursuing them. Coastal cutthroat trout populate nearly all of the streams and lakes along the Pacific Coast rainforest belt from Northern California to Alaska's Prince William Sound. With salmon and steelhead populations in decline, more and more anglers are turning their attention to the coastal cutthroat, and it's Les Johnson's vast knowledge and love for this fish, coupled with data contributed by biologists and academics from California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and British Columbia that make Fly-Fishing Coastal Cutthroat Trout the indispensable, highly recommended instructional guide for seeking to land this particularly feisty and tenacious trout!

A Bibliography Of American County Histories
P. William Filby
Genealogical Publishing Company
3600 Clipper Mill Road, Baltimore, MD 21211
#1825 $35.00 1-800-296-6687

A reprint of the 1985 paperback bibliographic reference originally compiled for use by historians and genealogists, A Bibliography Of American County Histories by the late P.W. Filby (a world-renowned scholar, bibliographer, cryptologist, and genealogist) is once again available. Primarily based on the holdings of the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library, Filby also drew upon published state bibliographies and lists of county histories furnished by librarians in each state. A Bibliography Of American County Histories is justifiably considered to be a standard bibliographical reference. This seminal work is very strongly recommended for all county and state historical society libraries, as well as personal, professional, and academic genealogical reference collections.

The Other Side Of Russia
Sharon Hudgins
Texas A&M University Press
Drawer C, College Station, TX 77843-4354
1585444049 $19.95 1-800-826-8911

In The Other Side Of Russia, author Sharon Hudgins takes the reader along on her Trains-Siberian Railroad adventure through Siberia and the Russian Far East, an area that was closed off to Westerners (and most Russians) prior to 1990s and the collapse of the old Soviet Union. Here the reader will be treated to a unique travelogue that will take them from the frozen surface of Lake Baikal, to feast with native Siberian Buryats, the food markets and "high-rise villages" of Vladivostok and Irkutsk, Christmas celebrations, New Year's banquets, Easter dinners, and Siberian festivals. The Other Side Of Russia dispels the myths and misconceptions about the Asian part of Russia which extends across eight time zones between the Ural Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Offering a window of observation into this land of harsh winters, vast uninhabited spaces, friendly people, strange cuisines, and thriving modern cities, The Other Side Of Russia is a welcome, informative, and highly entertaining read which is especially commended to the attention of armchair travelers and students of Russian culture and history.

Innocents In The Arctic
Colin Bull
University of Alaska Press
PO Box 756240, 104 Eielson Building, Salcha Street, Fairbanks, AK 99775-6240
1889963739 $34.95 1-888-252-6657

Innocents In The Arctic: The 1951 Spitsbergen Expedition by Colin Bull (who was awarded the Polar Medal by Queen Elizabeth II and the Antarctic Service Medal by the U.S. Government, and who has made more than twenty-five polar expeditions during his distinguished career as a glaciologist) writes with personal expertise because he was the cook and glaciologist on the trip that saw ten naive young Birmingham men venturing north to the nearly uninhabited, ice-covered island of Spitsbergen in 1951. The scientific progress of this that ensured was despite misfortunes caused by calamitous weather, an unworthy ship, and an entertaining by ill-informed approach to arctic survival. Bull's realistic, deftly written insider story of arctic adventure is especially recommended reading for armchair adventurers, arctic exploration historians, and polar enthusiasts.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

Driveway Basketball Drills
Marty Schupak
Youth Sports Club
9 Florence Court, Valley Cottage, NY 10989
0974851744 $24.95 1-800-268-2058

With a total running time of 30 minutes, Driveway Basketball Drills produced by Marty Schupak and the Youth Sports Club is an impressively coherent visual compilation of creative drills and games that young basketball enthusiasts can perform in their own driveway, in their school gyms, or at community/neighborhood basketball courts. The more than 30 basketball drills include shooting, ball-handling, passing, defensive moves, offensive moves, and more. In addition to the drills themselves, Driveway Basketball Drills also showcases different forms of creativity using household props that will help young players acquire and hone their ball handling skills and performance with other aspects of the game. Driveway Basketball Drills is especially recommended for personal, community center, and school physical education department basketball instruction collections.

Our Ladies Of The Tenderloin
Linda R. Wommack
The Caxton Printers Ltd.
312 Main Street, Caldwell, ID 83605-3299
0870044443 $16.95 1-800-657-6465

In Our Ladies Of The Tenderloin, author and historian Linda Wommack provides the reader with a uniquely informed and informative survey of the lives of prostitutes on the Colorado frontier. Here is the fascinating story of the women who were also pioneers, who worked the Rocky Mountain mining camps brothels, as well as the rancher and farmstead supported township saloons, dance halls, and red light districts, with their own ingenuity, sacrifice, hardship, humor, and occasionally successful elevations into a more "acceptable" social status through marriage. Linda Wommack has a positive gift for storytelling and treats her material by combining painstaking scholarship and research with a flair for bringing facts, events, and historic personalities to life in the mind's eye of the reader. Our Ladies Of The Tenderloin is a welcome and seminal contribution to American Frontier History reading lists and reference collections.

Ansel Adams in the Lane Collection
Karen E. Haas and Rebecca A. Senf
MFA Publications
c/o Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
0878466940 $40.00 1-800-338-2665

Ansel Adams in the Lane Collection is an astounding compilation of black-and-white photography by Ansel Adams, who emerged as one of the first American "superstars" of photography in the late 1960's. Commercial photographer, mentor, curator of some of the first major photography exhibitions in the United States, and environmentalist, Ansel Adams devoted himself to becoming one of the best in his field, as evidenced by the haunting majesty of natural scenery, cities, and people captured with crystal clear perfection in Ansel Adams in the Lane Collection. A superb giftbook or contribution to photography shelves.

Reading Medieval Culture
Robert M. Stein and Sandra Pierson Prior, editors
University of Notre Dame Press
310 Flanner Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556
0268041113 $37.50 1-800-621-2736

Reading Medieval Culture: Essays in Honor of Robert W. Hanning is an anthology of original essays by learned authors, written in tribute of Robert Hanning and his influential works and teachings. The essays cover a broad range of medieval studies fields, from Anglo-Saxon England to twelfth century Eurpoean intellectual culture, Italian Renaissance humanism and visual art, and even medievalism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A scholarly compilation, with individual essays offering numerous quotes, and sources, for evidence of medieval thought and way of life, Reading Medieval Culture is a welcome contribution to literature shelves, particularly historical literature shelves, especially given its sweeping scope.

The Trinity Apocalypse (literature/religion)
David McKitterick, editor
University of Toronto Press
10 St. Mary Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4Y 2W8
0802048935 $39.95 1-800-565-9523

The Trinity Apocalypse is the most detailed study of the Trinity Apocalypse manuscript to date. Written and illustrated in England in the mid-thirteenth century, with text in French, the original manuscript was a work of art as well as faith, depicting detailed images of the dream of John alongside the text of the Book of Revelation. Color plates as well as black-and-white photographs allow for close examination of the stunningly beautiful medieval artwork, and the text spares no details in its examination of the nuances in the manuscript's words and art. An accompanying CD-ROM (PDF file, requires Adobe Acrobat Reader) contains the whole manuscript text, with English translation. A striking and multi-layered analysis of a beautiful and haunting ancient work.

The Ancient Maya of the Belize Valley
James F. Garber, editor
University Press of Florida
University of Florida, 15 Northwest 15th Street, Gainesville, FL 32611-2079
0813026857 $75.00 1-800-226-3822

Written by a profossor of anthropology at Texas State University San Marcos, The Ancient Maya of the Belize Valley: Half a Century of Archaeological Research carefully reviews the abundances of research and discoveries of ancient Maya settlements, striving to collect and integrate information gathered since the publications of Gordon Willey's classic analysis decades ago. Carefully edited and intended to serve as an interim publication pointing the way to long-term production of final site reports, The Ancient Maya of the Belize Valley explores the land, the evidence, and the theories that can be drawn in meticulous detail, and points the way to future discoveries and reinterpretations of commonly held beliefs concerning long-ago civilizations. An outstanding contribution to archaeological reference and study.

Philip Roth Novels and Stories 1959-1962
Philip Roth Novels 1967-1972
Philip Roth
The Library of America
14 East 60th Street, New York, NY 10022
1931082790 $35.00 (Novels and Stories 1959-1962)
1931082804 $35.00 (Novels 1967-1972)

A two-volume set, Philip Roth Novels and Stories 1959-1962 and Philip Roth Novels 1967-1972 is the Library of America's definitive edition of the collected works of Philip Roth. Both published by special arrangement with the author, the volumes gather his early works and also offer a brief chronology of Roth's life as well as an assortment of notes on the texts, the better to clarify little-known references. Novels and Stories 1959-1962 consists of "Goodbye, Columbus", "The Conversion of the Jews", "Defender of the Faith", "Epstein", "You Can't Tell a Man by the Song He Sings", "Eli, the Fanatic", and "Letting Go". Novels 1967-1972 consists of "When She Was Good", "Portnoy's Complaint", "Our Gang", and "The Breast". Together, they offer an experience in American literature that runs the gamut from soulful realism to comedic wit, political satire, and thoughtful social commentary. Highly recommended.

The Shadowlands of Conduct
Beth A. Rosenson
Georgetown University Press
3240 Prospect Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
1589010450 $26.95 1-800-246-9606

The Shadowlands of Conduct: Ethics and State Politics is a scholarly study of how, why, and when state legislators enact ethics legislation that applies to their own behavior. Revealing that such self-regulation tends to take place only when public pressure becomes an irresistible force in democratic elections, thereby necessitating a constantly vigilant citizenry, The Shadowlands of Conduct meticulously applies case studies, extensive research, and the author's expertise as an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Florida. Chapters divide modern ethics legislation into pre-Watergate and post-Watergate periods, and also warn about the limitations of ethics self-regulation. An excellent history and thought-provoking discussion resource especially for political science and law students.

Michael J. Carson

Christina's Bookshelf

The River
Cheryl Kaye Tardif
Trafford Publishing
6E - 2333 Government Street, Victoria, BC, Canada V8T 4P4
ISBN: 1412062292 $20.50

Cheryl Kaye Tardif skillfully balances scientific intrigue, and the human desire to retain a youthful body, with tantalizing sexual tension, and vivid characterizations in this engrossing romantic thriller.

The plot steps beyond reality, but by how much? Science grows in its knowledge more every day. One thing is for sure, and history shows it to be true, greed and absolute power taint fabulous discoveries and inventions.

Tough and tender Professor Delia Hawthorne aches for her father, and she wouldn't admit it, but also a decent relationship. Is her father really alive or is something unethical going on? She remembered what the disturbing man at the doorway of her classroom said. The elderly man wore a grimy suede jacket, needed a haircut and a shampoo, and his clothes were torn and worn, but his eyes seemed vaguely familiar.

"They're going to kill him Delly. Find the river and stop the Director before he destroys humanity. Its all in the book," the old man said.

Del examined the leather-bound book later, along with a strange symbol, the notes inside, and what appeared to be a code.

For seven years she'd believed her father dead. There was even a funeral. He'd gone on an excursion down the Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories, and came up missing. If he lived, she'd find him, but first, Del decided to visit the company her father had worked for, Bio-Tec Canada.

Award-winning Cheryl Kaye Tardif is a Canadian mystery author who's appeared on television and radio. She's been told that she has the highest, most consistent sales during a book signing in Edmonton.

Other books include:
- 'Divine Intervention'
- 'Whale Song'

Exciting and vivid. Tardif's latest novel sweeps readers along into uncharted, wild Canadian territory. A thrilling adventure where science sniffs harder, desperate to find the fountain-of-youth.

Dare to Dream! 25 Extraordinary Lives
Sandra McLeod Humphrey
Prometheus Books
59 John Glen Drive, Amherst N.Y. 14228
ISBN: 1591022800 $14.00 121 pages

A great deal of wisdom and inspiration between the covers of this book makes it destined for good only. Its message: Never, ever give up.

"Heroes are ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary things, and this book is dedicated to all our heroes - past, present, and future," writes Humphrey.

The title suggests we should dare to dream. There are those who could have given up. They certainly had enough reason to, but their desire did the driving.

"Dare to Dream! 25 Extraordinary Lives" offers profiles of 25 inspirational people. Some are of individuals from long ago, but many are alive today. Much of the information isn't new, but the combined selection, along with the reason for their selection, is. Humphrey places these special folk inside her volume because they're dreamed big and had a positive influence on those around them. They're not in the book because they're big entertainers in Hollywood, they're actual regular people. They also didn't give up when agonizing odds plagued them, or hardships blocked their way.

6 of the 25 biographical sketches include:

Albert Einstein
Martin Luther King Jr.
Gloria Estefan
Wilma Rudolph
Sandra Day O'Connor
Jackie Robinson

There are also:

Note to Adults
Note to the Young Reader
Final Thought

Humphrey includes quotes from each of the 25 lives. Here are a few:

"The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." -Michelangelo (1475-1564)

"Don't be afraid to reach for the stars." -Ellen Ochoa (1958-)

"Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." -Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)

"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." -Bill Cosby
(1937- )

Selection of heroes and their account answer questions such as:

How do heroes achieve their dreams?
Are there any ordinary women heroes?
Are there any ordinary African-American heroes?

Sandra McLeod Humphrey is a retired clinical psychologist and an award-winning children's author. Her web-site provides areas for kids, parents, teachers, and ongoing essay contests for grades 1-9.

Might this author write another book with 25 more extraordinary lives? Kids can never have too many heroes, especially in this day and age. They need authentic examples, and sometimes adults do too.

This book does accomplish what it set out to do. It contains more inspiration for children than all but a very few books published this year. It's the kind of reading that can encourage both young and old. Perfect as a gift and in the classroom.

Christina Francine Whitcher, Reviewer

Clint's Bookshelf

Live Well on Less Than you Think: The New York Time's Guide to Achieving Your Financial Freedom
Fred Brock
Times Books
Henry Holt and Company, LLC
115 West 18th Street, New York, New York 1011
ISBN: 0805077254, $15.00, 165 pages

It's not difficult to figure out the major concept of this book. Author Fred Brock states it succinctly, "Cutting expenses increases income." Having stated his thesis, he proceeds to show how and why this concept can lead to financial independence. In a writing style that is almost conversational in nature, Brock discusses a wide range of ways in which the average reader can cut expenses without undergoing a major change in lifestyle. It is possible, he points out, to spend less, live well, and still build the foundations for a financially secure future.

Brock introduces his strategy with a discussion concerning the attitudes toward spending and saving among today's younger generations. He believes they are too willing to take on dept and too pessimistic about their chances of affording a comfortable retirement. He then leads his readers into the details of nine concepts which he recommends as the way to fulfill the goals indicated in the book's title.

Briefly stated, these concepts include paying down debt, taking into account financial realities such as moving to more cost effective locations and considering areas where job growth is above average, buying only the type and amount of insurance you need, being realistic about selecting colleges, refraining from frequent purchases of new cars (buy one and keep it for ten years to beat the depreciation penalty), and being very careful of credit card dept

Most of these suggestion, as you may have noticed, are not new nor original. However, Brock's commentary on each adds a better understanding to the "why" and "how" of the recommendation. All in all, this is an easily understood book which presents a plan for managing your finances that seems simple in concept but may be difficult to practice. Brock does a good job of helping the reader to overcome the difficulties and to plan for success.

Your Money Your Future (A Life-long Toolkit for Leveraging Your Financial Future)
Ivan Gelfand
Belltower Productions, Inc.
P.O. Box 360161, Cleveland, Ohio 44136
ISBN: 0976034506, $12.95, 125 pages

Gelfand begins this slim volume with a brief discussion of his central view that a successful plan for managing one's wealth must begin with a good understanding of some basic financial issues. He suggests that among these are knowing your current net worth, understanding your cash flow, having an awareness of where and why your present savings are deposited, and understanding how to choose a financial planner.

Following up on the introductory section, Gelfand divides the book into nine additional short chapters each briefly discussing a separate issue basic to understanding the world of finance. Included are topics such as real estate, insurance and health, investing, bonds and fixed income securities, and retirement and estate planning. Each chapter contains information on a variety of sub-topics related to the major subject matter. For example the chapter which deals with the broad topic of investing, covers such sub-topics as investment styles, how to choose among the various types of brokers, and the top five stock scams to avoid. These scam types are, incidentally, e-mail, investment seminars, affinity group frauds, phone solicitations, and telemarketing schemes.

This is a very basic reference book most suitable for those who have little or no knowledge of investments and financial planning. It provides a short-hand explanation of many of the complicated concepts and topics in the world of finance but suffers from an overall lack of depth. Its value would seem to be as a guide to which the reader might refer to find topics of interest and as a starting point for further research.

Fund Your future: Winning Strategies for Managing Your Mutual Funds and 401(k)
Julie Stav
Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
ISBN: 0425183610, $20.95, 216 pages

Author Julie Stav is a financial planner and broker who hosted a popular PBS series on finances. Her previous book on how to get rich in the stock market was primarily directed toward women looking for a good primer on investing. This book, however, is intended to reach a broader audience. Its emphasis is on setting realistic financial goals, understanding and investing in mutual funds, and assembling a diversified portfolio of funds appropriate for your tax deferred 401(k).

Stav leads her readers through the various sections with hands-on examples. Although the charts and tables that pop up from time to time may initially appear daunting, she is able to simplify the process by providing concrete examples for each of the steps and presenting them in a remarkably easy to understand manner. For example, in the chapter on targeting which mutual funds may be the right ones for your particular goals and financial situation, she includes specific steps for logging on to the Morningstar web site and guides the reader through various areas of information contained on the side, providing succinct bits of advice on how to interpret the collected facts along the way. Among other topics covered in detail are five steps for determining your goals, building a nest egg, short-term investment vehicles, understanding and evaluating mutual funds, tracking your investment results, periodic re-evaluation of your investment mix, and making your money last.

Perhaps the best way to appreciate all that it contains is to arm yourself with a pencil, a notepad, and your computer and participate in the work along as you read exercises. If you follow the procedures and suggestions, I think you will find this easy to understand book is loaded with specific information and advice you can use to put together a plan that fits your own special circumstances.

Clint Hunter

Debra's Bookshelf

The God Particle
Richard Cox
Ballantine Books
ISBN: 0345462858 $13.95 304 pages

Richard Cox's The God Particle is told from multiple points of view, but principally through the eyes of its two good-guy male protagonists. The first is Steve Keeley--a super-charged businessman type who's looking to gain the vice presidency of his company within a few weeks of the book's opening, and looking to propose to his girlfriend within twenty-four hours. His path will eventually cross that of Mike McNair, the brilliant physicist in charge of a 12-billion-dollar independently-funded super collider in Texas aimed at discovering the "God particle" of the book's title, a theoretical particle physicists believe gives mass to other particles. The book opens promisingly: readers quickly feel a sick sense of dread as Steve, on a business trip to Switzerland, is pursued by an overly aggressive female employee whom we suspect--and whom he suspects--might very well "tumble off her precarious ledge of good judgment and fall into the Fatal Attraction abyss." But nothing comes of this, and more unpleasant events propel Steve toward his true fate, a fall from a third-floor window that leaves him with a serious head injury. He undergoes brain surgery and survives, but during his convalescence Steve begins hallucinating and finds that, among other things, he can sometimes read people's minds.

Steve's story eventually becomes the less frequently visited of the book's two storylines. We read about Mike McNair's work and his incipient relationship with a certain Kelly, an attractive anchorwoman with whom he exchanges emails laced with scientific and religious musings. One cares about Mike and wants his relationship with Kelly to work out, but in the end what happens between the two does not matter very much to the story. And while some of their weighty philosophical back-and-forth is necessary to provide readers with background information about Mike's work, it tends to slow the narrative down, particularly when they continue the discussion as the book's denouement approaches. In the end, Steve's and Mike's stories intersect, as Steve's hallucinations, he begins to think, are somehow related to the God particle, though precisely why he and the book's bad guys converge on Mike's super collider at the same time was never very clear to me. By the book's end, meanwhile, Steve has become a secondary character, and the people who filled out his story at the book's beginning--his parents, his amorous employee, his would-be fianc‚e--have been mostly forgotten. After an unsatisfying ending one leaves the novel feeling that the story never quite came together--that several characters in the book never fulfilled the promise of their introductions.

Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy
Lindsay Moran
ISBN: 0399152393 $22.95 295 pages

In Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy author Lindsay Moran tells the true story of her relatively brief career with the CIA, a five-year stint that straddled the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Moran begins with her early interest in espionage--childhood fantasies fueled by spy novels and James Bond matinees--and her first application to the Agency, right out of college, which she did not pursue past an informational meeting in a Washington D.C. Holiday Inn. ("The CIA representatives who greeted us were somewhat disappointing: a dowdy, middle-aged woman with thick glasses and orthopedic shoes, and a paunchy, balding guy who had the aura of someone just completing a messy divorce.") Five years later, however, Moran reapplied to the Agency, over her family's objections, and this time she saw the process through to the end.

Moran spends a little more than half of her book detailing the intensive training that she underwent at The Farm, the CIA's site in Virginia. She and her fellow would-be spooks learned how to defuse bombs and jump out of planes. They practiced wearing disguises and ramming beat-up Cadillacs through walls and fences and lines of parked cars. Plunked down separately in a wilderness area, they were required to navigate to a specified location using only a contour map and a compass, a feat the trainees accomplished with varying degrees of success. ("Sally was found close to dark, half naked in a swamp. Frustrated by her inability to find her destination, she'd inexplicably decided to bathe.")

After graduating from The Farm Moran was sent to Skopje, Macedonia, a post for which she learned Serbo-Croatian (and such handy phrases as "Some of the women were raped, but all the men were killed.") As a case officer for the CIA, Moran's primary job was to recruit foreign agents--people who had access to information and would be willing to sell it--and to maintain the agents who were already under her control. Some of her job had a cloak-and-dagger excitement to it--clandestine meetings and coded signals--but much of it was dull, from the reams of paperwork she was required to fill out to the necessity of listening to some low-level agent's marital complaints during a meeting. Perhaps it is a reflection of the banality of much of her work as a spy that Moran's narrative, downright fascinating in the first half of the book, is less compelling in the second.

Two themes run throughout Moran's book. She complains often about the difficulty she had as a CIA operative maintaining non-Agency relationships. The easy lies and ostensibly bizarre behavior of spies--the odd hours and unexplained departures--take their toll on friendships and love affairs. And Moran was ill at ease even during her training about the nature of the work she would be required to do as a CIA case officer, preying on targets, approaching them under false pretences, and using their vulnerabilities as a means of convincing them to sell their state's secrets. Moran's loneliness on the job and her moral discomfort with it were jointly responsible for her decision to resign from the Agency in 2003.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
J.K. Rowling
ISBN: 0439784549 $29.99 652 pages

It's Harry Potter's penultimate year at Hogwarts and things in the wizarding world--and the world of Muggles, for that matter--are not looking good. Voldemort is back and the Death Eaters, the dark wizard's evil minions, have begun claiming victims. Meanwhile, in the relatively safe haven that is Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher has been installed, the sixth DADA instructor in as many years. And Hogwarts's newest faculty member, a certain Horace Slughorn, seeks to gather Harry--"The Chosen One," as the Daily Prophet is now calling him--into his flock of favorites. Harry, however, is spending his time instead in the company of Hogwarts's headmaster: he and Dumbledore clamber about in other people's memories throughout much of the book--a trick achieved with the use of Dumbledore's handy pensieve. Ron and Hermione, not privy to these adventures, pass their time instead simmering at a slightly higher temperature than usual. The book simmers as well, building slowly, almost quietly, as Rowling plays with readers, making us wonder repeatedly whether we know for certain where her characters' allegiances lie. We find out for certain--or so we must think, anyway--in the dramatic events that unfold toward the book's end, when the identity of the Half-Blood Prince of the book's title is revealed and Rowling's latest read becomes--fans will not be surprised--nearly unputdownable.

One can criticize J.K. Rowling's sixth book on a few counts. The author does not throw out very many life preservers to those of us who have not recently read or reread the earlier books in the series, frequently alluding to characters and events from previous installments without reminding us of their significance, which can be confusing. The identity of the Half-Blood Prince, too, once revealed, is not as important as readers are led to expect. And the final chapter of the book, while some of its material is necessary to complete the story, is over-long and makes for an unfortunately dull conclusion. But these are relatively small complaints. After many thousands of pages, Rowling's prose continues very much the same--a kind of straightforward, unaffected writing that gets the story across without slowing things down, a style that has proved unusually accessible to a vast readership. In the six volumes of her oeuvre Rowling has carefully and vividly brought to life a complex, fully realized world, plucked from her imagination, one that will stand on its own and continue to engage the imagination of audiences long after Rowling herself is able to oversee it (much like the universe of Gene Rodenberry's Star Trek in this respect). Her creation of this alternate world, so real to her readers, is, I believe, a remarkable achievement.

The Torment of Others
Val McDermid
St. Martin's
ISBN: 0312339194 $24.95 400 pages

Derek Tyler has been in a mental institution for two years, locked away after confessing to a string of savage crimes, the ritual mutilation and murder of four prostitutes. Derek's not a bright guy, but his crimes were meticulously planned: the Voice, after all, had given him very precise instructions. Elevated by his acts of sadism, Derek was changed from one of life's losers to a somebody whose crimes could terrorize a community and stump the police, at least for a while. But two years on, with Derek safely behind the bars of his asylum, it's happening again: prostitutes are being killed in precisely the same way, grisly details that had never been released to the public replicated in a gory reprise of the earlier murders. And the Voice is commanding a new killer.

The elite major incident squad investigating the killings has brought in Britain's top psychological profiler to consult on the case, but Dr. Tony Hill is, frankly, at a loss. There is no doubt that Derek Tyler was guilty of the first crimes, and a copycat killer would need inside information about the Tyler murders to reenact them. More problematic is that no one else would want to reenact the murders, at least not for the purpose of satisfying their own sexual fantasies. As Dr. hill repeatedly insists, no two people committing sexually motivated homicides will derive satisfaction from the same complex of details--how their victims are bound, how they are tortured, how they are killed.

While Tony Hill tries to enter the mind of the maniac cleaning up Bradfield's red-light district, the city's police department, under the leadership of DCI Carol Jordan, investigates the crime by more traditional means--poring through paperwork, interrogating everyone working and living in the seedy area in which the crimes took place, and planting an undercover policewoman among the city's vulnerable working girls.

Val McDermid's The Torment of Others, the fourth book in her series featuring profiler Tony Hill, is a solid police procedural and simply a very good read: well-written, with likeable but flawed good guys, creepy bad guys, and a plot that will keep you guessing until Tony himself starts putting the pieces together. And when he does that, some 60 pages from the book's close, readers will be hard pressed indeed to put this one down.

Joseph Finder
St. Martin's
ISBN: 0312992289 $6.99 466 pages

Adam Cassidy was just another drudge in a cubicle farm, doing as little as he had to to keep his job at Wyatt Telecommunications. But his practiced underachievement ended suddenly the day after he effectively embezzled $78,000 from his employer: Adam threw an elaborate catered party for a retiring dock worker and billed the affair to the company. Adam's prank, as he naively thought of it, attracted the attention of the company's megalomaniacal president Nick Wyatt, who found something to like in his employee's attempts to talk his way out of trouble. He issued Adam an ultimatum: serious jail time unless he agreed to become a mole in another technologies company, Wyatt rival Trion Systems. An intense few weeks of training followed while Adam was groomed--literally and figuratively--for his new role. He emerged from Wyatt's crash course with the look and (faked) credentials of a rising corporate superstar, and with the know-how that would allow him to land a job at Trion and defeat the company's elaborate security systems once he got there.

Adam's story, told in the first person, becomes increasingly suspenseful the longer our hero stays at Trion. Working with unprecedented fervor by day in order to fake his way in a position for which he is not qualified, Adam is forced to spend many of his nights prowling around the darkened headquarters of Trion, breaking into offices, scamming security guards, riffling through top secret files. His actions are fraught with danger, and they become increasingly difficult for him morally as well. Fed information on the sly by Wyatt, Adam appears at work as a kind of Wunderkind and moves up the corporate ladder with impressive celerity. Now enjoying constant access to Trion's founder and president, Adam becomes fond of the man whose company he is doing his best to undermine.

Finder's novel is an exciting, well-written, fast read. Though filled with corporate speak and technical jargon, the book is never weighed down by it. And the corporate world to which Finder introduces us, with its petty politics and hierarchical struggles, is fascinating. The story's various twists and the increasingly impossible position in which Cassidy finds himself will keep readers riveted.

Assassination Vacation
Sarah Vowell
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 0743260031 $21.00 258 pages

Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation is a sort of historical road trip, a digressive account, with a personal spin, of the events and personalities, the places, memorials, and memorabilia connected with the first three presidential assassinations in the United States--the murders of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. Vowell devotes a chapter to each president--Lincoln, not surprisingly, gets the most ink--and closes the book with a brief fourth chapter on, primarily, the Lincoln Memorial. In her presidential chapters Vowell discusses the antecedents to and political context of the assassins' crimes, including the sort of homely details that bring her subjects' stories to life. And she describes with an infectious delight the locations at which historically important events occurred, the sorts of places, often plaque-bearing, that one can easily pass on the street without recognizing their significance. She visits the usual suspects on her tour, the Ford Theater, say, but there are many unexpected stops as well--the site of the shop at which Charles Giteau purchased the gun he would use to kill President Garfield, the island prison where Samuel Mudd, the doctor who treated John Wilkes Booth's broken leg, was incarcerated in the 1860s.

Vowell imparts a lot of information in the book. Some of it comes in large chunks which she makes more palatable in an interesting way: she frequently writes about her conversations with third parties, some friend she's pressed into driving her around, or a tour group guide, and rather than weighing down her paragraphs with monotonously related facts and figures, she rattles them off at what seems to be high speed to these poor souls while her readers look on. It turns out to be an effective device. That Vowell abuses her friends by boring them with historical lectures is also a part of her self-presentation in the book: she paints herself as a sort of uber-nerd whose quirks, including her fascination with dead presidents, her friends tolerate only with difficulty. ("That is the kind of person I have become," she writes of her sister's Christmas present to her of a single hair from the head of abolitionist John Brown, "the kind of person who rips open a package in snowman wrapping paper to discover that her only sister has bought her an executed slavery hater's hair.") It's cute, though it sometimes seems that she's trying a little too hard to be quirky.

Vowell writes very well, and she's often funny. ("Once I knew my dead presidents and I had become insufferable, I started to censor myself. There were a lot of get-togethers with friends where I didn't hear half of what was being said because I was sitting there, silently chiding myself, Don't bring up McKinley. Don't bring up McKinley.") Much of what Vowell has to say, moreover, is downright fascinating, the kind of stuff you'll be mentioning to your friends: Did you know, for example, that Edwin Booth, John Wilkes Booth's brother, once saved the life of Robert Todd Lincoln? Or that the younger Lincoln was in close proximity to all three of these assassinations? (Vowell clearly loves this detail: she refers to Lincoln early in the book as "some kind of jinxed Zelig of doom" and later on as, well, "Jinxy McDeath.") Or did you know that Henry Rathbone, the guy who was in the box with Lincoln at Ford's Theater, subsequently moved to Germany, went crazy, and shot and killed his wife? This is great material.

But Vowell's book, unfortunately, is uneven: cute and funny and fascinating in parts, it is also sometimes slow and weighed down by the author's less successful attempts at being folksy. Like the aforementioned "Jinxy McDeath," or the too lengthy discussions of her macabre three-year-old nephew Owen, or a bizarre digression on the Fox television show The O.C. and it's star's fertile eyebrows. References like the last are unfortunate also because they will date the book, as will her frequent diatribes against President Bush, which she shoehorns into the text whenever possible. Despite its faults, however, Assassination Vacation has enough going for it that it remains very much worth the read.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

Oz Kids and Our Auntie em
Bill Goettel
C&M Press
ISBN 0963452746 $17.95

Goettel makes the connection of his Auntie Em and L. Frank Baum, the author of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," and says it is his aunt that Baum portrayed in the novel. The stories Goettel writes about are of a very different era of this nation. What emerges is a country that was much more distinctive than today. It was as former President Bush said " a kinder, gentler, nation" in which you did not have to lock your doors, neighbors knew and cared for each other. The pieces are funny, revealing, and very enjoyable of a different period of this country's history.

Faith & Fairies
C.S. Haviland
LegendMaker Scriptoria
White Plains, New York
ISBN 0975935518 $14.95

Rarely do I read, nor enjoy fantasy novels but I am very happy to say this is one I like very much. I think its because I can relate to the characters, unlike other fantasy novels that are about long ago societies, or worlds very different from our own. It's the story of several teenage boys who enter a magical world that becomes more interesting page after page. Haviland is in the class of L. Frank Baum, Terry Brooks, or Stephen Donaldson who are some of the authors I have enjoyed.

William F. Nolan
Dorchester Publishing Co. Inc
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
ISBN 0843951915 $6.99

The author of the classic science fiction novel "Logan's Run" has compiled 22 of his best short stories into a second collection. They are some of his finest works written over a period of 50 years. Some are dark and sinister, while others are biting horror. All are from a master of many genres that should have fans asking for more.

Swamp Man
Donald Goines
Holloway House Publishing Company
8060 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90046
ISBN 0870679937 $6.99

I have to say this is the best novel I've read so far by this author. "Swamp Man" is a simple story of George Jackson who seeks revenge on all of the men responsible for raping his sister Henrietta. Jackson. His nickname is "The Swamp Man" because he was born and bred in the swamps of the Mississippi, hunts down and kills each of them on his own turf of the swampland. Goines is a master of suspense as his narrative unfolds with a clear-cut plot that races along at a page turning pace to its conclusion. I think what's remarkable is that Goines wrote close to fifteen novels in the short period of five years. So far I've read three and they all are great novels that are as timely today as they were when they were written in the 1970's.

When it Comes to Guys, Whats Normal?
Bernice Kanner
St. Martin's Griffin
175 Fifth Avenue, New York N.Y. 10010
ISBN 0312348169 $9.95

The author reveals what makes a man normal. She exposes such things as; How many women he has been to bed with. What makes a good lover? Does size matter? What is great sex? I found this to be in interesting study that includes many other aspects about males that gives women a new perspective on men.

Hide Yourself Away
Mary Jane Clark
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010
ISBN 0312994206 $6.99

Grace Callahan, an intern at Key News, is on assignment in Rhode Island. Along with her are correspondents and several other interns competing for a position with the major news organization. I've always liked suspense novels and this one is a gem. In fact, this is a great one by this author. Known for her titles that are song titles, this one races along to its final shattering climax. They say write what you know and in this case Mary Jane Clark, who works for the news department of CBS, has once again filled the story with believable characters who work for a news network, I love the way she has come up with so many different tales that involve the same network. Clark has also filled the novel with conflicts that drive the book along to make it that much better. Some of them are Callahan must fight her ex-husband for custody of their daughter, contend with other younger interns for a job with the news organization, and find out who the serial killer is before he kills her This is a fast paced read that is also very revealing in how the news media really works.

The Ancient Breed
David Brookover
Outskirts Press
ISBN 1598000322 $16.95

FBI agent Nick Bellamy is back in a second novel that picks up just after "Mortal Eclipse. This time Bellamy must tie up the connection between the fountain of youth and a monster that is preying on people in Florida. The story is tense with numerous conflicts that steer the tale along, while the writing is sharper and gives the feel of a Stephen King or Dean Koontz. Both books would make a great movie series.

Publishing Gems Insider Information for the Self-publishing Author
Brent Sampson
Outskirts Press
ISBN 1932672850 $16.95

The president and founder of Outskirts Press takes authors and readers into the world of publishing and tries to make it a lot easier to understand, because the business is very different from any other. He talks about selling books to bookstores, the reasons to consider mainstream publishers versus self or print on demand, setting up publicity, reviews and a list of reviewers in the country, author appearances. This is a book that should be read by any author who wants to self publish or go with a print on demand publisher, to avoid making many blunders.

Expanded Universe
Robert A. Heinlein
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
ISBN 0743499158 $7.99

I loved this collection, that has been expanded and finally back in print, of works by Heinlein that really defines the author. For those of us who know his take on politics, this book shows a lot of the thoughts, ideas and perceptions that ran throughout his novels, short stories and other pieces.

Gods and Androids
Andre Norton
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
ISBN 0743499115 $7.99

Like most kids, when I was in high school I read Andre Norton novels because they were fast easy reads. Now many years later it is nice to see that the Norton titles that have been out of print for so long are back with new art work, and combined into two novels for one price. I have a different perspective also with these books because back when I read them I enjoyed them for the action; now I see that her stories are very well written character driven tales as well. Norton is to me the Agatha Christie of the science fiction fantasy genre. It is easy to see why with this edition.

Girls Hold up this World
Jada Pinkett Smith
Photographs by Donyell Kennedy-McCullough
Cartwheel Books
Scholastic Inc
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012 212-343-6100
ISBN 0439087937 $16.95

Here's another kid's book that is a role model for all young girls to read and believe they can be whatever they want to be. The writing has other positive implications for young girls with scores of beautiful pictures that reinforce the messages.

Gary Roen

Gorden's Bookshelf

Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen
Warner Books, Inc.
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 0446611034 $6.99 428 pages

Stewart and Cohen have re-written a classic SF tale. They bring modern science and a new voice to the classic story. Most readers will never notice the re-telling. For those who recognize the story the modern variations in speculation and science make the story fresh.

'Heaven' is a story about religious ideas going beyond religion into fanaticism. Stewart and Cohen make a great choice at the beginning by producing a religion with few ties to today and using technical terms such as memeplex to separate the reader from the emotional strings of today's world. The reader feels safe to look deeply into the way benevolence can be corrupted into evil. The novel is pure SF action that pushes the reader to think.

A unique mix of creatures are on the planet called No-Moon. Neanderthal information traders are meeting with a mariner called Second-Best Sailor who has special information from his reef wife about an upcoming danger. A fleet of fanatical evangelists from Cosmic Unity are heading for the planet. Their plans are to convert the planet to their religion or kill everyone while trying. An acolyte of Cosmic Unity, Samuel, sees the dark side of Unity and tries to help.

'Heaven' is a great hard science SF novel. The science and creatures are interesting, unique and plausible. The tale is action with hints from the Golden Age of SF. It is recommended to all readers who like to get lost in an action story that makes them think.

Monday Mourning
Kathy Reichs
Pocket Star Books published by
Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc.
Rockefeller Center
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 0743453018 $7.99 380 pages

Reichs uses deliciously macabre real serial killers to base her latest story on. It has the creepy feel of reality oozing from its pages. I have one personal problem with her writing. Montreal is a bilingual city and she blends in the French language into her stories. This adds a richness to the detail but I have to drop out of the story flow with every French word while I consider its meaning.

Reichs' heroine, Tempe Brennan, hates Mondays. This Monday starts out with her in a filthy sub-basement digging up bones while Sergeant-detective Luc Claudel shoots rats next to her. The skeletons of three young girls are unearthed. Claudel assumes the skeletons are from the turn of the Twentieth Century and decides to stop investigating. Tempe thinks the skeletons are recent and has to find ways to force an investigation. Tempe's best friend, Anne, shows up with personal problems, her romance with Detective Andrew Ryan is in trouble, and her home is vandalized. Every new Monday brings more problems.

'Monday Mourning' is a good addition to the Tempe Brennan forensic mysteries. It has a creepy murderer, a complex heroine and more than enough technical details mixed with action to bring joy to the heart of any mystery reader.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

Memory and Identity: Conversations Spanning Millenniums
Pope John Paul II
Rizzoli Publications
300 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10010
ISBN 0847827615, $19.95 192 pp.

The Catholic Church teaches superstitious hogwash that even those Catholics who are not totally brainwashed recognize as falling somewhere on the credibility scale between the memoirs of Baron Munchausen and the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. The Church teaches superstitious hogwash because its current theofascist Tyrannos, Karol Wojtyla, believes superstitious hogwash.

Wojtyla, commonly called Pope John Paul II, himself falls somewhere on the intellectual scale between John Steinbeck's Lenny Small and Simple Simon, and somewhere on the rationality scale between Caligula and Incitatus. Not surprisingly, this collection of edited conversations in Polish between Wojtyla and two sycophants in 1993 propagates the hatemongering of his most paranoid predecessors.

For example, Pope Pius IX in 1870 repudiated the declaration of Pope John XXII that the doctrine of Papal Infallibility was diabolic, and pronounced himself infallible. Wojtyla clearly believes that he is infallible. In 1869 Pius IX repudiated the doctrine of all predecessors that abortion prior to quickening was permissible, and declared that, from the instant of conception, all medical procedures that reduced the number of births of tithe-paying believers were sinful. Wojtyla goes beyond even the most paranoid pope in Catholic history (to that time), and equates the abortion of a pre-human tadpole with zero brainwave activity indicative of human thought, with Hitler's extermination program commonly described as the Holocaust. The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany released a statement, "The Catholic Church does not understand or want to understand that there is an enormous difference between the mass genocide and what women do to their own bodies."

Wojtyla, in contrast, refers to, "a legal extermination of human beings who have been conceived but not yet born an extermination which has been allowed by nothing less than democratically elected parliaments." As the appointee of a self-perpetuating oligarchy, Wojtyla is no fan of democratically elected parliaments. He believes he has the right to impose the taboos of his religion on whole populations that reject them. At a time when governments worldwide are recognizing that, regardless of their religion-based attitude toward same-sex marriage, denying same-sex couples equal recognition under the law is a violation of human rights, Wojtyla describes equal-rights legislation as, "part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden."

Wojtyla discusses the attempt on his life in 1981. Since the conversation reported in the book took place some years before the Big Lie was concocted that the 1917 Fatima hoaxers had "prophesied" the assassination attempt, naturally he made no mention of any such prophecy. Instead he reports a subjective feeling that his imaginary goddess intervened to save him. Sure. And the reason I did not choke on a Halloween candy is that the Great Pumpkin similarly intervened.

Satanic cults, according to Wojtyla, are widespread and growing. This despite the FBI's finding, after an exhaustive investigation, that they exist only in the undisciplined imaginations of evangelicals and fundamentalists. And at the same time that this book was being prepared for publication, a university tied to the Vatican was training priests in the rite of exorcism. Even liberal priests are embarrassed by their Fuhrer's endorsement of the reality of demon-possession.

The book does not discuss the suspicious death of Pope John Paul I in 1978. That Luciani's death was a murder or a suicide has never been proven, but there is little doubt that the true circumstances were covered up - conceivably because the current Secretary of State thought it was a suicide. That a diaper-wearing retard was appointed pope as a reward for his role in the cover-up is not improbable.

With rare exceptions, Catholic men become priests for the same reason Protestant men become scoutmasters: lust for absolute power, and access to lots and lots of little boys. Lord Acton declared that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and Hitler, Stalin and Wojtyla are three proofs that he was right. Wojtyla sheds crocodile tears over the millions of dollars his church has been ordered to pay to victims of pedophile priests. But it apparently has never crossed his mind (assuming that he has one) that his continued enforcement of priestly celibacy is the reason the Catholic Church has become a Shangri La for gay men, including a disproportionate percentage of pedophiles.

This book will offend Jews, democrats, egalitarians, moderate religionists (including Catholics), and supporters of human rights. J. Messelier wrote in 1733, "I should like to see the last king strangled with the guts of the last priest." If Wojtyla is the archetype priest-king, it cannot happen soon enough.

reprinted from Humani, May 2005 A Deity for the New Millennium, revised second edition
John A. Henderson, M.D.
Parkway Publishers
P.O. Box 3678, Boone NC 28607
ISBN 188790591X, $16.95 217 pp.

John Henderson has written a fair and balanced account of religion, "balanced" in the sense that he considers all of the evidence. Nonetheless, brainwashed god addicts (tautology) are bound to object that he focuses on the down side of religion and does not take into consideration the up side. That is analogous to criticizing a historian such as A. J. P. Taylor for focusing on the down side of Nazism and not considering the up side. NEWSFLASH! Religion has no up side. It has been responsible for ninety percent of all man-made evil for at least 3,000 years. "Even during this 21st century, religion continues to be the most powerful source of hatred and violence" (p. 118).

Most of the factual errors (not affecting the book's thesis) of the first edition have been eliminated in this revised version - but not all. Henderson writes that the ancients "created hells, deep in the earth" (p. 6). But to the ancients, "deep in the earth" would have been meaningless. They saw the earth as a flat disk, with an underworld that was literally below the earth, just as the sky was a solid hemispherical dome, to which the sun, moon and stars were attached, above the earth. He also repeats the misinformation that, "the number one, the top god, has always been masculine" (p. 7). Not so. Male gods were not invented until men discovered that children have fathers as well as mothers, c 3500 BCE. Prior to that date, all deities were female, and the head of the pantheon was The Mother.

Henderson also endorses the "golden rule" (pp. 133-134), apparently unaware that it took a dictum that was already perfect ("Do not do to another whatever is hateful to yourself"), and inverted it into an impossibility. I want a billionaire to give me a million dollars. The "golden rule" says I should do likewise to him. That is so impossible, it is not even a joke. He does, however, acknowledge that the original was "more logical and better" (p. 133). He describes the pater noster as "the Lord's prayer" (p. 112), a peculiarly Protestant designation that carries implicates I, as a nontheist, utterly reject. He does, however, point out the absurdity of the Big Lie that there are no atheists in foxholes (p. 98). And while pointing out that alleged monotheisms actually have two gods, the god of good and the god of evil (p. 6), he ignores the reality that, by any reasonable definition of a god, "angels" and "saints" are gods under other names.

Also, Henderson's bibliography of recommended reading leaves something to be desired, both for what it includes and for what it excludes. For example, some books Henderson must have viewed favorably, since he incorporated their findings into his own thinking, are missing. And his recommendation of the Revised Standard Version, with its blatant falsifications of the original Hebrew and Greek, rather than The Compact Fully Translated Bible ( that corrects those falsifications, seems hard to justify. Quoting the mistranslations (pp. 76-77) when a correct translation is available is even harder to justify.

So much for the down side. Fortunately those imperfections do not undermine's thesis, or diminish its usefulness to the curable believers who are the book's market.

Henderson starts with some self-evident truths: "It is religions that create gods. A single god would never create thousands of religions" (p. 13). "Religion is not a simple set of soothing beliefs; it is a recipe for violence . Even at an early age I knew that if god existed, it couldn't be as bad or as cruel as some of the religious experts would have you believe" (p. 3). "If you still believe that religion does more good than harm, read your daily newspaper with an open mind. If you are able to separate morality from religion, you will be able to see for yourself the terrible damage that is done throughout the world in the name of religion" (p. 16).

"More individuals and governments should reject religions that promulgate hatred and encourage their members to act on that hatred . We can and should stop supporting those institutions that teach and preach hatred and antisocial views. Don't point to the wonderful things that good people do for their fellow man and call that religion. That is morality" (pp. 16-17). "Humanism, a philosophy for the good of all mankind, could and should replace religion" (p. 17). "God must be like a cat I had when I was a child. The more I stroked it, the louder it purred" (pp. 22-23). "If a powerful human being displays the qualities of anger, vengefulness, unaccountability, and unpredictability, we call him bully, tyrant, and despot - we don't call him loving and merciful" (p. 24). "We should ask those who are talking with god to record the conversation on tape, so that all of us could hear it" (p. 28). "There are people who know more about religion than you and I, but none of them know more about god. It is time for us to ditch the middlemen and think for ourselves" (p. 29). "Remember this: no one knows more about god than you do" (p. 191).

Henderson draws attention to the doublethink that enables believers to credit their god with responsibility for everything good while acquitting him/her/it of any responsibility for everything bad. He uses the example of a plane crash in which 257 are killed, 5 are injured, and 3 escape unscathed. He points out that the 3 survivors are likely to claim that an angel or a saint intervened to save them (p. 37). He then asks whether they blame their god or their satan for the 257 deaths. If the god was responsible, what was his purpose? If the satan was responsible, was the god otherwise engaged (on a coffee break? relieving himself? seducing a virgin?). "Why was god allowing satan to wreak pain and suffering on the people it purportedly loves?"

On the current attempt of creationists to pass off religion, in the guise of Intelligent Design, as science, Henderson writes, "I see children on the playground filled with energy and lacking in wisdom; I look in the mirror and see an old man filled with wisdom and so lacking in energy; then I say to myself, 'Intelligent Design bah! I could do better'" (p. 46). And he asks: If humans were intelligently designed, who or what designed the designer? "If everything must have a cause, then god must have a cause" (p. 33).

Henderson has nothing good to say about missionaries. He shows that missionaries who "do good" have their own ulterior motives, predominantly lust for personal power (pp. 55-58). He had to visit Israel to learn that conservative Jews and orthodox Jews hate one another as much as Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims hate one another (p. 13). Perhaps he should visit Hawaii, where it is an open secret among the native Polynesians that, "The missionaries came here to do good, and did real well."

Henderson's chapter on the "ten commandments" should be skipped. Henderson is not a biblical scholar, and consequently starts from the assumption that the commandments meant what modern religion pretends they meant (see Mythology's Last Gods, pp. 159-164). But I should mention that Henderson's alternative commandments (p. 80) are significantly more moral and useful than the original Big Ten, either as formulated by their authors or as falsified by misleading translations.

Henderson devotes a short chapter to The Wall Street Journal, chosen simply because he reads it, but essentially to illustrate a problem common to all news media. He points out that its staff writers go to great lengths to investigate all sides of an issue when writing about anything else, but blindly adhere to the Party Line when writing about religion. He summarizes, "I appreciate why a newspaper cannot criticize religion, as it is politically incorrect and economically unwise. It could, however, stop implying that all would be right in the world if we would just let religion and god rule it. This belief flies in the face of the evidence in front of our eyes - just look at the theocratic states and their human rights violations" (p. 95). Reading that, I could not help thinking of a bumper sticker I once saw: "One nation under God - Iran."

On the efficacy of prayer, Henderson writes, "Every study has shown that prayer is completely ineffective in bringing a supernatural being to our aid" (p. 103). "If prayer worked, we wouldn't need doctors, hospitals, social security, or flood and hurricane insurance. Christian Science would reign supreme" (p. 106).

Nor is Christian Science the only cult Henderson singles out for criticism. He reports that the French government "favored dissolving extremely dangerous groups like the Church of Scientology" (p. 16). No argument from me. He gives two definitions of a cult: "You may prefer Tom Wolfe's definition: 'A cult is a religion with no political power.' We can update the definition by saying that a cult is a religion that doesn't have its own newspaper and television channel" (p. 135). And in quoting with approval a criticism of Judaism, Protestantism and Catholicism, he repeats the conclusion that, "Catholic Christianity is the most preposterous of the three" (p. 15).

While leaning over backward to avoid offending curable believers, Henderson does not go so far as to minimize reality. "The myths of Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, and the tooth fairy are enjoyable and do little harm. The myths of religion, which continue into adulthood not to be altered or discontinued, are harmful and cause guilt, fear, and anxiety" (p. 115).

On the blatant double standard of religious fanatics, Henderson notes that, "President George W. Bush wants a secular democracy in Iraq and a Christian theocracy in the United States" (p. 128). Given that Bush is a theofascist moron who ranks slightly lower on the intellectual scale than John Steinbeck's Lenny Small, perhaps he is not really representative of anyone except other morons. But observable reality indicates that the entire Republicanazi Right Wing have the same double standard.

Henderson's ultimate advice to believers in an imaginary playmate in the sky is, ""Keep your own fantasies, but do not act upon them. Like the stage play and movie Harvey, it's all right to talk with the imaginary rabbit or even a god - just be careful about making important decisions based upon this conversation with yourself" (p. 54). The consequences of failure to follow that dictum are seen nightly on the television news: "God tells Osama bin Laden to destroy America and god tells President Bush to destroy Iraq. Don't you think god should back off a bit?" (p. 43, quoting an unnamed "wag"). No one doubts that bin Laden's belief that his god talks to him is further proof that he is dangerously insane. Since Bush also participates in two-way conversations with his god, one is reminded of Thomas Szasz's observation, "When you talk to god, you are praying. When God talks to you, you are schizophrenic."

And finally: "Keep Santa Claus; retire god" (p. 198). will not stop theofascists like Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush from perpetrating atrocities or treasonously circumventing the First Amendment. And it will not enable such moral cowards to overcome their mind-crippling terror of death that forces them to believe in life after death as the only alternative to being institutionalized and diapered. Its usefulness is limited to curable believers. In Dr Henderson's revised edition he has written a simple, easy to understand book on the harmful effects of organized religion and the illogical beliefs in an all-powerful, all-knowing god. It will not arm the reader with ammunition capable of penetrating the opiated minds of dogmatists. But for persons who, although addicted to pie in the sky when they die, are capable of recognizing that any god responsible for observable reality is not a nice entity, it is definitely worth a read.

The Gathering of Infidels: A Hundred Years of the Rationalist Press Association
Bill Cooke
ISBN 1591021960, $25.00 356 pp.

Bill Cooke's history of the Rationalist Press Association is very much a history of the evolution of freethought, particularly the debate over how best to combat religious dogma and persuade the masses to substitute thinking for blind acquiescence to whatever the proponents of the Big Lie instructed them to believe. One faction of freethinkers viewed religion as a crutch that should be replaced by (metaphorically) learning to walk. The opposing view was that religion could best be overcome by offering what advocates of the former view saw as an alternative crutch.

Suggested alternatives to religion ranged from communism and psychoanalysis to agnosticism. Marx and Engels proposed that a religious interpretation of history should be replaced by an economic and political dogma now generally recognized to be as unworkable, unjust, and every bit as impervious to dissent as religion. Sigmund Freud replaced belief in fantasy "A" with belief in fantasy "B". In The Future of an Illusion, he replaced "God" with the now-discredited imbecility he called psychoanalysis, and suggested the bible as a source of truth should give way to the allegedly hidden content of dreams. Religion is unmitigated nonsense based on the need of the intestinally challenged to annul the terrifying reality of death. Psychoanalysis is unmitigated nonsense based on the need of the intellectually challenged to believe that fantasies spouted to an alleged therapist somehow contribute to the fantasizer's mental health.

Communism and psychoanalysis continue to survive only among the patently unteachable. Agnosticism has proven more resilient, and to this day is defended even by acknowledged nontheists, even though the man who coined the word wrote twenty years later, "Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed but a method" (quoted on page 24). But agnosticism's pretence that "God" cannot be disproven is as false as the pretence that Frodo, the Wizard of Oz, and Count Fosco cannot be disproven. While the abstract concept of a god can be neither proven nor disproven, historians disproved the god of religion as definitively as Martian canals more than 150 years ago, and philosophers did so more than 2,000 years ago.

There is also an ongoing dispute as to whether believers in nonsense should be subjected to scorn, satire and ridicule, or treated as if their beliefs were reasonable, and the Rationalist Press Association was similarly divided on the issue. Some believed that the ridiculous should be ridiculed, while others held that politeness should be paramount. But whichever approach was taken, the reaction of incurables was identical. "Churchmen are wont to burst with indignation when an attack is made on their religion which they feel to be undignified or churlish. But, sadly, this does not prevent some of their number from feeling justified in making precisely that sort of attack on non-believers while surrounding themselves in a halo of sanctity" (p. 57).

Cooke catalogues the origin of a particularly trite nonsense aphorism. "It is a common assertion of a particular class of believer that there are no atheists in foxholes. Few more insulting and offensive slanders have ever been made. On the contrary, many brave men became atheists in foxholes . And more than that, they became atheists from a spirit of indignation and anger at the mocking hollowness which declarations of God's love would engender in those circumstances" (p. 77). If in fact many believers were cured of their brainwashing by exposure to the horrors of World War I, recognizing that they were living in a reality that could not exist if the universe were produced and directed by an omnibenevolent god, one can only wonder whether the benevolent god's latest atrocity, the tsunami murder of 280,000 Asians, will finally drive home the reality that there is no protector in the sky. Do moral cowards need to believe in life after death so badly, that a sadistic, antihuman, mass-murdering god willing to provide it to sycophants is better than no god at all? If so, and they continue making Planet Earth uninhabitable in the conviction that a deus ex machina will intervene to save them from the consequences of their shortsightedness in the last act, the extinction of the human race cannot be far distant.

Despite internal disagreements, the Rationalist Press Association flourished until it was for all practical purposes superseded by Prometheus Books. When members found it undesirable to go along with the majority, they broke away and founded alternative organizations that usually predeceased RPA. One of these was the Federation of Progressive Societies and Individuals. In 1932 FPSI published a manifesto advocating repeal of oppressive divorce laws, repeal of laws discriminating against homosexuals, dissemination of birth control information, legalization of abortion, and abolition of censorship and "Sabbath" enforcement. It also advocated sterilization of the feebleminded. Since most of the other demands have subsequently been attained, it may be that the sterilization proviso was what the believers most feared. If such a procedure had been implemented, it would have affected Karol Wojtyla, George W. Bush, Hillbilly Graham, and the overwhelming majority of theofascists worldwide. And if that had happened, the world would now be a far safer place than it was a century ago instead of a more dangerous one.

Humanism, What's That? A Book for Curious Kids
Helen Bennett
ISBN 1591023874, $12.00 77 pp.

Helen Bennett's book is written in the form of a dialogue between a teacher and her pupils on the subject of Humanism and its role in human relations. It has all the appearance of nonfiction, in the sense that it takes the form of questions asked by pupils and the teacher's answers. It is, however, too carefully designed to be an unedited transcript of a single discussion that occurred at a specific time and place, and is in all likelihood a synopsis of several discussions with different groups of pupils. The teacher's answers to the pupils' questions are at all times intended to teach tolerance as well as the other Humanistic principles espoused by the more enlightened religions. But perhaps the most significant paragraph in the whole book is the description of what happened when the fictional teacher asked her pupils to have their parents sign a permission slip for them to attend a discussion group to talk about Humanism:

"The class took permission slips home and six children (out of thirty-two) were allowed to take Mrs. Green's after-school class on Humanism. When the discussion group met, here is my best recollection of what happened" (p. 13). The rest of the book is the dialogue from their discussions.

When twenty-six out of thirty-two pupils are refused permission by their parents to attend a discussion of what Humanism is all about, it is self-evident that trying to overcome religious bigotry by reasonable discussion has little or no chance of making a difference. Bennett presumably wrote her book in the hope of doing just that. She should not hold her breath.

William Harwood

Henry's Bookshelf

The Singers I Prefer
Christian Barter
CavanKerry Press
6 Horizon Rd. - No. 2901, Fort Lee, NJ 07024
ISBN: 0972304541 $14.00 87+xiv pp.

What Barter says in the poem "On a Beethoven Cello Sonata" could also be said about his own poems: "The strain/that labors cadence after cadence toward/resolution, wresting its course away/from the pestering piano, arrives/only after everything is so changed/that where it meant to go is no longer/possible...." Similarly, you never know where Barter's poems are going to go. But this doesn't mean they are anarchic, or are simply pleasing or inspired gatherings of images. Like music, the poems have no reason, but rather play out intimations and ideas inhering in their animating moods, memories, and thoughts. Though Barter uses a Beethoven cello sonata in tendering something about music which also wittingly or by intuition or chance refers to his own poetry, Barter's poetry is more like Bach's music than Beethoven's. The emotional restraint and preciseness of Barter's poems makes them more like Bach's music.

The Black Death in Egypt and England: A Comparative Study
Stuart J. Borsch
U. of Texas Press
PO Box 7819, Austin, TX 78713-7819 800-252-3206
ISBN: 0292706170 $50.00 195+xii pp.

Borsch's comparison is based on the different kinds of ownership of land in the two societies in the 14th century, the time when the Black Death struck Europe and the Middle East. "In contrast to their Egyptian counterparts, English landholders had a much more direct economic interest in the welfare and management of their estates." The basic reason for this was that the English landholders could pass their land on to their heirs. By contrast, the large majority of Egyptian landowners were "specialized warriors known as Malmuks" who could not pass their land on to their heirs; and even their ownership of it was tenuous in the factional conflicts and intrigues in Egypt at the time. Borsch finds the answer to his main question of why England managed to recover economically after the Black Death while Egypt did not in this difference in land ownership. A considerable proportion of each country's population, including those who worked the land, succumbed to the plague; which some historians have likened to a nuclear holocaust in the areas it afflicted. England's system of land ownership was the decisive factor in its economic recovery in the years after the Black Death. In order to keep their land productive and thus valuable, England's landowners were obliged to adapt to the new power the surviving workers had gained in the agrarian economy with the loss of so many to the disease. The Malmuks in Egypt, on the other hand, had scant incentive to make any adaptations to hold up the value of land they had only a precarious ownership of. Borsch draws out the economic, social, and to a lesser degree the historical effects of this fundamental difference between English and Egyptian landownership in the late medieval period. An assistant professor teaching Islamic and Middle Eastern history as well as history of the world and Western civilization, he has the right learning for this work.

Savvy Guide to Fantasy Sports
Michael Harmon
Indy-Tech Publishing
9850 E. 30th St., Indianapolis, IN 46229
ISBN: 0790613131 $26.95 367 pp.

Fantasy sports is an area of online game-playing that is booming, like the other video games it is related to have in recent years. Harmon--a staff writer at Yahoo Sports doing columns covering many of the fantasy sports--does a manual for play which is comprehensive and in-depth, but also well-focused and reader-friendly. Each of the major sports fantasy games such as football, baseball, and auto racing as well as lesser-played sports of cricket, soccer, and also reality TV shows (similar to the sports) are dealt with in individual chapters. These chapters include many short sections so readers can learn about improving skills in the particular, complex, multifaceted games one step at a time, as if "having a good friend by your side." A chapter "Ask the Experts" includes tips from others experienced players and recognized names in the field. In Harmon's enthusiasm, readers recognize a shared keen interest; and his knowledge will help players at any stage develop greater prowess.

Living Room
Geoff Bouvier
American Poetry Review
117 South 17th St., Suite 910, Philadelphia, PA 19103-5009
ISBN: 0971898189 $14.00 76+xvi pp.

Bouvier finds an ebullience and often amusement in ambivalence. No Hamlet is he, riddled with doubts. He gets above the ambivalences by a bright, sometimes almost mocking style. This obviously does not get to any answers, or even any ways out of the ambivalences. But it surely presents an unfamiliar, entertaining view on this common state. Bouvier can write, "If we touched hands, it was too much. We touched hands. It was not enough...We lost ourselves, we found a house. We found a house, we lost the house." ("The House In Order") He ends "Somebody Stop LaSalle, "To the left and right fantasies. Come amok with me." The insouciant style yields fetching, occasionally intriguing wordplay.

Behind the Scenes of Hindi Cinema: A Visual Journey Through the Heart of Bollywood
Johan Manschot and Marijke De Vos
KIT Publishers, Amsterdam
distributed in U.S. by Stylus Publishing
PO Box 605, Herndon, VA 20172-0605 800-232-0223
ISBN: 9068321862 $49.50 159 pp.

The heavily-illustrated work imparts the carnivalesque style of the now globally popular Bollywood films of India--the exotic, often extravagant, costumes, the promotional stunts, the common themes such as traditional morality and romance and marriage, the blaring music, the theater and constant motion and sense of anticipation and surprise. In the foreword, Amitabh Bachchan explains the Bollywood films are "inspired by epic and folk theatre." In the early days of the films, movie moguls would send messengers with drums to announce a film's opening; like Indian royalty in ages past would have bells and drums sounded to call the public for an announcement. The often collage-like visual material is so vivid and jumpy that it can override the text. But for ones looking for material on the making and promotion of Bollywood films, social and religious subjects reflected in them, their distribution in the global entertainment system, and the marginal, yet influential Tamil cinema, it's found in substantive chapters by different writers knowledgeable in these areas. A timely, unique work on the Bollywood films whose mixed, yet focused content mirrors the mixed elements and vitality of such films.

The World of Tattoo: An Illustrated History
Maarten Hesselt van Dinter
KIT Publishers, Amsterdam
distributed in U.S. by Stylus Publishing
PO Box 605, Herndon, VA 20172-0605 800-232-0223
ISBN: 9068321927 $80.00 304 pp.

The encyclopedic work answers the fascination with tattoos in contemporary society by focusing on the origin and purpose of tattoos in ancient and aboriginal cultures in all parts of the world. In modern society, tattoos are a matter of personal choice and often personal design, whereas in ancient and aboriginal societies, a tattoo was "the tribal variant...generally applied according to custom and associated with taboos and magic." These "variants" are covered in richly-illustrated, anthropological-like chapters on the different areas of the world. Innumerable illustrations include color photographs of tattooed individuals, historical art works showing tattoos, photographs of tattoos being put on, tattooing instruments, and close-ups of tattoos showing their details. With its diversity of captivating visual matter, encyclopedic scope, and informative, general-interest text, "The World of Tattoo" is a leading text on this subject of renewed interest in contemporary life; and it can also be used as a reference for tattooing in particular cultures or particular historical eras.

Stray Dogs and Lone Wolves: The Samurai Film Handbook
Patrick Galloway
Stone Bridge Press
PO Box 8208, Berkeley, CA 94707
ISBN: 1880656930 $19.95 235 pp.

Dissatisfied with the academic reference books on this popular Japanese film genre of samurai films, the longtime student of Asian and Japanese culture Galloway wrote this jaunty, learned reference providing "historical background, cultural insights, production anecdotes, actor and director bios, and detailed plot synopses" for more than 50 of the films from the 1960s into the '90s. Besides the classics "Seven Samurai" and "Rashomon," others of the numerous films included are "Three Outlaw Samurai," "Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance," "Heaven and Earth," and "Band of Assassins," as well as "Samurai Reincarnation" and "The Razor: Sword of Justice" and others in the series these two are a part of. Galloway's outstanding guide treats the films as part of the global popular culture rather than "foreign" films calling for explanation in terms of some film theory or film critic's abstruse, involved ideas.

New York Poems
D. H. Melhem
Syracuse University Press
Syracuse, NY 13244-5160
ISBN: 0815608138 $16.95 181 pp.

Melham's world is expansive and diverse, filled with teeming humanity, hopeful, indefatigable life. She's the "daughter of Lebanese immigrants and a native of Brooklyn [who feels she is] quintessentially American." The abundant life in her poems is mostly in the upper West Side of New York, where she now lives. It has come to her as traditional immigrant groups and newly arrived ones, and the myriad activities and behaviors of the huge population of a vibrant and crowded city. "Broadway Music" goes in part, "And the old men sing with her/they dream through the curving wood and metal/and the forms of the sounds that go out/as if the dirty newspapers and today's news/the people running up subway stairs/the dogs the pimps the hustlers...." This calls to mind Lorca's vision of New York, the eye of a newcomer. The bustle and melange of street life is not the hollow motions of idlers and the aimless, but the music of the infinite dreams and constant negotiations of the nameless, but not faceless nor anonymous, population.

The Indestructible Man
William Jablonsky
University of West Alabama
Livingston, Dept. of Languages and Literature
UWA Station 22, Livingston, AL 35470
ISBN: 1931982481 $14.95 138 pp.

Jablonsky does not marginalize his characters with abnormalities, but rather illustrates how their ideas, behavior, and aims affect those around them, sometimes to the point that others become involved in their impossible schemes. The abnormalities of the main characters reflect the everyday hopes, dreams, aspirations, burdens, and frustrations of the wider world of normal individuals around them. Henry's friends accept his becoming "unhinged" from the death of his wife Cora, and "have learned to accommodate him." This "accommodation" broadens to involve helping Henry pilfer steel spikes, empty oil drums, wooden planks, and other materials he needs for a large catapult which he believes will catapult him to the moon. Watching Henry's crazed ambition come to a tragic end, the small crowd that had helped him try to fulfill it "for the first time...feel[s] the pull of gravity upon us." Stories of Jablonsky's have appeared in the Southern Humanities Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, and other respected literary journals. Somewhat simplistic in conception and structure (probably due to the limitations of space for a short story), the stories memorably portray the sometimes subtle, even insidious, sometimes overt, even flamboyant, effects wishful thinking can have on others.

Materializing the Military
edited by Bernard Finn and Barton C. Hacker
Science Museum, London
distributed in U.S. by Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road - Suite 25 Manly Miles Building East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
ISBN: 190074760X $39.95 183+viii pp.

This work is a part of the series named "Artefacts" associated with London's Science Museum, whose editors "encourage authors to use objects as evidence for their studies of the history of science and technology." The eleven chapters of this volume were written by authors from universities and museums. The topics vary widely, from 15th-century Valois Burgundian artillery, World War I U.S. women's uniforms, the display of arms in museums, artifacts of the German occupation of Britain's Channel Islands in WWII, to the use and image of U.S. submarines in the Cold War. The essays get at what can be learned about the respective military forces of the time and also what can be learned about the relationship between such forces and the society of which they were a part.

Driver: Six Weeks in an Eighteen-Wheeler
Philip Wilson
Lyons Press/Globe Pequot Press
246 Goose Ln., Guilford, CT 06437
ISBN: 1592286798 $22.95 376 pp.

Wilson's journal of his time as a driver trainee for an eighteen-wheeler truck is a travelogue across much of America combined with the work, lore, and challenges of driving such a mammoth truck. Wilson decided to give this occupation a try after losing a job he had in management, the field he went into after service in the Navy. The author's combustible relationship with the driver who was training also makes for much of the unfailingly colorful, light tale. Wilson and his trainer spent long hours together in the cab of the eighteen-wheeler. The rewards and low points--though never regrets--of driving one of these behemoths across desert and mountain, prairie and forest to deliver goods to towns and cities across the country has never been more amply and engagingly described.

The Battle for Zimbabwe: The Final Countdown
Geoff Hill
Zebra Press/Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa
distributed in U.S. by International Publishers Marketing
PO Box 605, Herndon, VA 20172-0605 800-758-3756
ISBN: 1868726525 $21.95 308+xii pp.

Africa correspondent for the Washington Times who grew up in different countries of southern Africa, including Zimbabwe, Hill gives a detailed account of the overthrow of the white-controlled government when the country was known as Rhodesia by indigenous black rebels and the subsequent cementing of the autocratic, often brutal rule of Robert Mugabe. Mugabe was one of the leaders of the insurrection and political leader of Zimbabwe (as the country was named after the end of white rule). To a large extent, this is the story of the murky circumstances whereby Mugabe became leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), including the assassination of its leader, and its role in helping to keep him in power. Instead of a bona fide political party in a democratic system, ZANU became the enforcement arm of Mugabe's one-man rule. Hill's chronicle of unfortunate Zimbabwe and biographical portrayal of its autocratic leader is a set piece in how things have gone wrong in many countries in Africa.

Ahmed Kathrada
Forewords by Nelson Mandela and Arthur Chaskalson
Zebra/Struik Publishers, South Africa
distributed in U.S. by International Publishers Marketing
PO Box 605, Herndon, VA 20172-0605 800-758-3756
1868729184 $27.00

From Ahmed Kathrada's lifelong involvement in the thick of South Africa political activism and his 26 years in prison in the notorious Robben Island and Pollsmoor prisons for political prisoners, he became the fellow activist with and confidant of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, and other historic figures in the struggle against that country's apartheid. And with them, Kathrada played a leading, though for the most part less visible, role in developing a post-apartheid South African political and social system. Though apartheid was abandoned years ago, the full story of the struggle against it is just now beginning to emerge, as the leaders of this struggle are finding the time to write their memoirs in their later years after moving out of the political arena and giving way to the succeeding generation of leaders. Kathrada sees his own "Memoirs" as a "modest addition to the growing and most welcome body of work that is emerging about a particularly significant period in South Africa's recent history." Kathrada's modesty kept him from moving into the political, governing, arena as visibly as others, notably Nelson Mandela. But it's clear from this modestly-written "Memoirs" that Kathrada was a major figure in bringing apartheid to an end and setting South Africa on a new course.

Converging Stories: Race, Ecology, and Environmental Justice in American Literature
Jeffrey Myers
U. of Georgia Press
330 Research Press, Athens, GA 30602-6130
ISBN: 0820327441 $39.95 188+ix pp.

Myers--assistant professor of English at Manhattan College--explores the roots of his belief that "racial oppression and environmental destruction [are] inherently and historically related" by critiques of the founding views toward nature in American society--Jefferson's "Notes on the State of Virginia" and Thoreau's "Walden." With his deconstructive treatment of these, Myers discloses that these two influential authors set up a bifurcated scheme leaving nature and individuals apart from one another, with individuals having mastery over nature. This "bifurcation" based on Thoreau's ideas of social reform and environmentalism in his writings "reproduces the human/nature duality at the root of ecological and racial hegemony." Thoreau came to feel uneasy about this bifurcation; but he never explicitly renounced it or went beyond it even implicitly in his writings. To find expressions of the harmony, rather than the duality, between the human and nature inextricably bound in with real equality, Myers turns to works by Native Americans, but also by African Americans and some American authors of European heritage. African Americans essentially and intuitively have this harmony with nature from their origins in Africa and also their work on the land as slaves in America. He points to the 1988 nonfiction book "Mississippi Solo" by the African-American writer Eddy L. Harris--"an account of his solo canoe trip down the length of the Mississippi River"--as containing the "ecocentricity that respects the intrinsic value of the larger world and from which springs a consciousness of human equality and an imperative for social justice." Myers does not attempt an exhaustive study of his subject, but rather presents a relatively abbreviated, though well-developed study of it; and along with this, persuasive analysis and reasoning in support of his point of view.

Henry Berry

Kathleen's Bookshelf

An All Night Man
Brenda Jackson, Joylynn Jossel, Kayla Perrin and Tamara Sneed
St. Martin's Griffin
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
ISBN: 031232877X $13.95

This is a book of four sensuous novellas by today's hottest African-American authors: Brenda Jackson, Joylynn Jossel, Kayla Perrin and Tamara Sneed.

The Hunter - By Brenda Jackson

Hunter Sloan and Mallory Standish had a very sexual relationship, but when Mallory wanted a commitment, Hunter ran. Six months later, they are thrown back into each other's lives. Mallory hires Hunter, who's a private investigator, to spy on her sister's husband, Lewis, whom Mallory thinks is having an affair.

When Mallory walks into the restaurant for their first meeting, the sexual desires he had for her are once again awakened. Only this time, he realizes that he wants her for life and is determined to do whatever he has to do to make Mallory realize they are meant to be together. She's feeling the same way but is afraid to let Hunter know how she really feels.

Hunter spends weeks following Lewis and comes up with nothing to prove that he's cheating on his wife. Hunter doesn't mind because his investigation allows him to continue with his plan to win Mallory over.

Hunter finds out that Lewis isn't cheating on his wife; they are in fact having lunchtime trysts trying to make a baby. And Mallory can no longer deny her love for Hunter and the fact that she wants him to be her "all night man" only.

Just Wanna Love Ya - By Joylynn Jossel

This is a story about two friends looking for love; one is African-American and the other is White. Jai and Rissa are best friends, and every Friday after work, they went to Club Cream. One Friday while they're at the club, in walks an Italian stallion by the name of Sloan, and when Rissa spots him, she announces that he's the man she's gonna marry. Once Sloan spots them, he walks up and asks Jai to dance, and there are instant sparks between the two of them.

They start dating and she invites him to meet her family in Columbus, Ohio, but forgets to mention that Sloan's Italian, and the dinner becomes a complete disaster. Rissa tries to make Jai see that she's making a mistake dating Sloan, because there are people who still don't accept interracial couples. Jai starts to think about their relationship and how they never go out, how she hasn't met any of his friends and how she's never introduced him to her friends. But she doesn't care about that because she loves Sloan.

One night Rissa and Jai spend time hanging out and, afterwards, Jai decides to surprise Sloan because he told her he was gonna be home all day working. Once she arrives at his house, she's the one who gets surprised. Sloan has thrown a party for his co-workers and didn't invite her. He tries to explain why he had the party without inviting her but she doesn't want to hear it.

When Jai tells Rissa that she's no longer dating Sloan, Rissa is inwardly happy because she's never gotten over the fact that Sloan chose Jai and not her.

Two weeks later, Jai and Rissa are at Club Cream and Sloan walks in. Seeing Sloan again makes Jai weak in the knees. Rissa, seeing the light come back into Jai's eyes, knows right then and there that Sloan is the man for Jai.

Never Satisfied - By Kayla Perrin

When Amani Milford was in high school, she spent nights fantasying about her English teacher, Aaron Hayes. When they are given an assignment to write a very personal story, Amani wrote a story detailing her fantasy in hopes that Aaron would want her. When he rejected her, she was so devastated that she gave up her dream of writing.

Amani married Carl, who mentally abused her, taking her self-esteem away. After she and Carl divorce, she dates off and on. She dates Earl who, after a couple of months, is in love with her but isn't the man for her. He keeps coming by the caf‚, Coffee, Tea & Mail, which Amani and her longtime friend, Suzette Gordon, are co-workers, hoping to win Amani over.

One day, Aaron Hayes walks into the caf‚ and recognizes Amani. When she tells him that she's no longer writing he feels guilty because of how he rejected her when she was his student. Now that she's an adult, and he's no longer married, he is suddenly attracted to her. He convinces her to join his writing class, and she does.

They spend a night together, making passionate love, but once it's over Amani runs off because she's afraid that he'll once again reject her. He tells her that he's in love with her and she tells him that she's always been in love with him but was afraid of being rejected by him like Carl rejected her.

Never Satisfied - By Tamara Sneed

Olivia Hawkins promised her brother, Jack, whose wife had gone into labor, that she would accompany his client, Clark Stone, a Hollywood actor, to his television appearances so that Jack could be with his wife.

When Clark saw that it was Olivia that would accompanying him, he wasn't happy because whenever he came over to their house for dinner, she was always rude to him. But deep down, they were both attracted to each other even though they never expressed it.

They spent time together and decided that they would have a one night fantasy and then go their separate ways, but it didn't end there. Clark realizes that Olivia is the woman for him and that her being in his life could make him change his Hollywood bad boy ways. But Olivia isn't so sure about that.

Clark takes Olivia to his hometown to attend the engagement party of his childhood friends and once there, he shows Olivia his true self and she falls in love with him but runs away before he can leave her. When Clark finds out that she's left him, before going to Scotland to film his next movie, he races to the train station to profess his love and to ask to marry her.

Overall, I give this book four stars.

Take It There
Kaira Denee
Kaden Publishing
ISBN: 0976660105 $15.00 292 pages

This is the story of three women, Tanya, Shari and Nia. The three of them meet when they all realize that they've been dealing with the same guy, Quincy Malone. He's the President and CEO of a printing company in New York. After all three women bust Quincy in Nia's dorm room, they become the best of friends.

Tanya, who's a gold digger, always winds up brokenhearted. She's a professional Art Director during the day and, at night, she gets her freak on by pursuing men solely by their material possessions. Both of her parents died when she was in college and her younger sister, Tangie, went to live with their Aunt Niki until she got kicked out of their Aunt's house. She then came to live with Tanya, which was not a good match from the start.

Shari was dating Chris, an unemployed bum, who was using her. She knew it, but since the sex was the bomb, she stayed with him. On the day that Chris finally gets a job, Shari finds out that he's married with a three-year old son and another one on the way. She finds this out because the night Shari plans for them to go out and celebrate, Chris shows up to her house late, and his pregnant wife, along with their son, comes knocking and screaming at her door. At this point, he comes clean with Shari, but it's a little too late for that. She then meets Dexter and they fall in love and eventually get married. He's the man of her dreams; considerate, thoughtful, all the things she wants in a man.

One night Tanya and Tangie have a knock down, drag out fight and Shari agrees that Tangie can come stay with her and Dexter. After a while, Shari starts to suspect that Tangie and Dexter are having an affair, but she has no concrete evidence of this.

Nia, who's the youngest of the three, is very insecure about her biracial heritage. Her half sisters are always telling her that she's not a real Black woman. Tanya and Shari are like she wishes her sisters were. She's an Account Executive at Glow, the fourth best selling hip-hop publication in New York, New Jersey and the Connecticut areas.

One day, when all three of them are at lunch, Mike, Nia's college sweetheart, re-enters her life. She comes to realize that she's still in love with Mike, but her biggest question is whether she can forgive him for raping her when they were college. Mike explains to Nia how sorry he is for what he did to her back then, and he's determined to win back the love of his life, no matter how long it takes. He wines and dines her until she can no longer deny her feelings and gives in to his advances.

Tanya and Shari go to Club Heat, where Tanya meets Warren Banks. A man who she thinks is a keeper. But boy is she wrong. She then meets Marcus, a teller at her bank. He leaves his number on her banking receipt and, one night when Warren stands her up, she decides to give Marcus a call because she's horny and needs to be taken care of. A couple days later, they run into each other again at the gym and decide to have lunch. She realizes that there's much more to Marcus then she initially thought. But she pushes those thoughts away because, at the time, she only has eyes for Warren.

But she comes to realize that Warren isn't the man she thought he was when she and Nia go to Violet's one night to check out this band that Marcus was in. Tanya, thinking that Warren is out of town, is all up in Marcus' face when Warren walks into the club with another woman. When Tanya approaches him, he totally disses her in front of the woman by telling Tanya that she's not his woman and to get away from him and his date. Tanya proceeds to whip the woman butt until Nia and Mike pull her off of the woman and takes her home.

On Thanksgiving, Shari overhears Tangie on the phone talking to her girlfriend about how she's having sex with some woman's man. Immediately, Shari thinks its Dexter Tangie is having sex with. Upset, she accidentally drives her car into a tree.

While in the hospital recovering, Shari starts talking to Tanya about Tanya's promiscuous ways. When Tanya tells Shari that she doesn't use condoms, Shari immediately makes Tanya take a home pregnancy test. She tells Tanya to go to her house and get the pregnancy test that she has in her bathroom. When Tanya arrives at Shari's house, she hears noises coming from her sister's bedroom. Being as though when she arrived at the house, she saw Dexter's car in the driveway, she immediately jumps to the conclusion that Tangie is having sex with Dexter. When Tangie won't open her bedroom door, Tanya runs out the house. She never mentions anything to Shari but she finds out after taking the pregnancy test that she's pregnant. But she's not really sure who the father is.

Over lunch, Tanya tells Nia her suspicions about Tangie and Dexter. Tanya is hoping against hope that she is wrong, because she just can't believe that Dexter would ever cheat on Shari. They both dread going to the hospital to tell Shari Tanya's suspicions, but they both agree that Shari needs to be told. They're both shocked to hear that Shari already knows, and that's how she ended up running into that tree on Thanksgiving.

The day Shari is released from the hospital, she tells Dexter that she isn't coming home. That she needs time to think. She never tells him her suspicions. She goes home and packs up her things and leaves. But before she leaves, something seems to tell her to go into Tangie's room, where she finds Tangie's diary with entry after entry after of what Shari assumes is Tangie and her husband's sexual encounters.

On Christmas Eve, when Tanya tells Warren that she is pregnant and that she thinks they should get married, his response is that "you can't turn a ho into a housewife, which totally devastates Tanya. They argue and he eventually pimp slaps her and tells her to lose his number. He states that he has no intention of ever raising a child with a whore, and leaves her there all alone. With Shari having her own drama and Nia in Houston, Tanya calls Marcus, who immediately comes to her rescue.

Tanya, still thinking that Marcus is just a bank teller, is shocked to find out that he is the President and CEO of fifteen branches of First National Bank, and that when she met him, he was in the last phase of his training. He also tells her that his father was killed by a police office in a routine traffic stop, and that his mother had sued the state for a wrongful death and that when he had turned twenty-one, he got his portion of the settlement.

Even knowing how well off Marcus is, Tanya still can't get Warren out of her head. She finally calls him and, instead of getting him, Warren's father answers the phone and spills the beans about his son, Warren. She finds out that Warren has four other sons, which he never sees or takes care of. She is so shocked by this, she never tells Warren's father that she's also pregnant by Warren.

Nia had to go to Houston for work, and while there, she meets this woman named Kitara, who is a lesbian. They hang out together and, after getting drunk, Kitara comes to Nia's hotel room and does things to her that Nia would rather forget. She comes back from Houston and, one night while her and Mike are having sex, she can't seem to get what Kitara did to her out of her mind.

For New Year's Eve, Nia plans to have a party and she's inviting all of her friends. Shari reluctantly goes but she can't fathom going to any party without Dexter. What she doesn't know is that Dexter has talked to Nia and he told her that he had never had sex or an affair with Tangie, and Nia believed him. She decides to try and get Shari and Dexter back together again.

This fast paced novel, keeps you wanting to turn the pages. This is Kaira's first novel, and she gives two alternate endings to this book. Whichever one gets the most response will be how she starts the sequel to Take It There. Kaira makes you feel for these three women and, I know that if she keeps writing the way she wrote Take It There, she'll become a very well known author in the future.

Kathleen Jackson

Liana's Bookshelf

The Canadian Don Quixote
The life and works of Major John Richardson, Canada's first novelist
David Beasley
Davus Publishing
150 Norfolk St, S., Simcoe, ON N3Y 2W2, Canada
ISBN: 0915317184, US $14.95, CND $19.95, 341 pp.

Very Highly Recommended

David Beasley writes fiction and non fiction. The Canadian Don Quixote and his other books are featured on his site at

THE CANADIAN DON QUIXOTE is the biography of John Richardson, a Major who loved writing. Historical events combined with his life story make up a good read that will educate and entertain readers at the same time.

Having descended from Native Americans, John Richardson is in favor of the Indians and this fact is depicted on his works. John Richardson's life was full of adventures both in military life and in his personal life as a journalist. He had a vivid personality that made him get involved in battles and duels, and his love for women is also illustrated in this book.

Rich in quotes from Richardson's works this book is also enhanced by scattered black and white pictures of Richardson's era depicting places he visited and historical figures of that time. Major Richardson enjoyed military life but his passion was writing. A list of Richardson's works is included at the back of the book along with bibliographical notes and an index. The style of this book is literary, complex and addresses an educated audience. It caters to those who love history/biography and those who love literature and wish to know more about Canadian novelists.

Sarah's Journey
David Beasley
Davus Publishing
150 Norfolk St, S., Simcoe, ON N3Y 2W2, Canada
ISBN: 0915317141, $19.95 462 pp.

Very Highly Recommended

David Beasley writes fiction and non fiction. SARAH'S JOURNEY and his other books are featured on his site at

SARAH'S JOURNEY is set in the United States and Canada in the 1800s. Sarah, a half negro girl, is born into slavery in Virginia, but flees to freedom in Canada in 1820 where there is no slavery. The story starts when Sarah is 16 year old and follows her life till her death in Upper Canada. As the story unfolds, Sarah encounters the violent face of racism that marks her life as a slave and later on as a free slave. She has a lot of children, many of which are white. What is going to happen to them? Are they going to be regarded as slaves for ever?

Sarah is a heroine of admirable courage and spirit whose saga is inspiring and positive. She overcomes the difficulties in her life with optimism and helps other people cope with their life. The author has managed to depict a real life character in the most skilful way and make the readers identify with the plight of Sarah who is struggling to have the privileges that she was deprived of. This story is a document against racial prejudice and is based on real events and characters. The author's views about racism are echoed in many parts of the story such as these quotes: 'If blackness was a stigma in society then she would bring up her children as whites.' And 'they think of black and slavery together now.' Though it is a historical novel it is by far very different from the other novels of this kind as it presents a historical account worth reading.

SARAH'S JOURNEY is a real page-turner. The reader follows step by step Sarah's life and is curious to know what happens next, so that once started, this novel will be read from cover to cover. The novel includes romance elements, mystery elements and a lot of adventure that will keep the readers' interest intact. The writing style is rich and complex at times, yet simple and easy to read by all kinds of readers. It caters to a wide readership but those who are keen on historical novels will love it best.

Liana Metal, Reviewer

Lynne's Bookshelf

ABC Art Riddles
Carol Murray
Illustrations by Freddie Levin
Peel Productions Press
c/o Peel Productions, Inc.
P.O. Box 546, Columbus, NC 28722
ISBN 0939217589; $13.95 32 pp. Ages 4-8

Both unique and clever, teacher/author Carol Murray's ABC Art Riddles challenges young children to solve a fill-in-the-blanks puzzle using picture or rhyming word clues. Simple, but colorful crayon illustrations by artist/art teacher Freddie Levin compliment the text without distracting the child from his/her main focus of solving the riddle. The riddles are, for the most part, easy-to-solve, with the exception of a few interesting choices like "illustration, landscape, origami, palette," etc., which will appeal to and challenge somewhat older readers.

This book not only increases a child's art vocabulary, but provides introduction to a wonderful array of art media, many of which the children may want to explore further. Great for both parents and teachers! Includes an idea page which educates the caregiver in use of the book, but challenges them to help the child/student create art, as well as their own art riddles, and most of all, to have fun!

Kyra Teis
Star Bright Books
The Star Building
42-26 28th Street, Suite 2C, Long Island City, NY 11101
ISBN 1595720227; $6.95 Ages 1-4

This visually-appealing board book earned an immediate nod and drool of approval from my two-year old daughter when she first laid eyes on the book. Then, she was 10 months, and at 15 months, she continues to enjoy it. Initially, she became stimulated by the bright and interesting patterns, shapes, colors and abstract objects. Now, she also responds to the familiar words, like "Look," "Up" and "Down," to name a few. This book spans several age categories and will continue to be of interest as she becomes able to identify and point out the shapes, colors and objects in the spreads, and ultimately, answer the questions about them which are part of the text. "Look!" highly promotes interaction between the parent and young child and fosters good "together" reading habits for parents/children.

Kyra Teis utilizes a variety of interesting colors, designs and media in her paper- collage technique illustrations. "Look" is a definite must-have in any diaper bag to share in tender moments as well as times when distraction becomes necessary.

As an added plus, a parent guide is available for the book online at:

It's a fabulous resource! Keep Reading!

A Small Dog's Big Life: Around the World With Owney
Irene Kelly
Holiday House
ISBN 0823418634; 32 pp., $16.95 Ages 6-10

Roll over Balto, Lassie and Greyfriars Bobby, here's a story about another dog that made a name for himself---Owney!

Owney's story begins in a post office in Albany, New York. Through engaging full-color watercolor illustrations, letters, postcards, newspaper clippings and telegrams, author/illustrator Irene Kelly tells the story of Owney's transformation from an Albany postal pooch to a National treasure, and ultimately, a world traveler.

This endearing account of Owney's travels includes maps of the United States and the world, as well as challenging opportunities for children to find Owney's locations on these maps. An author's note tells the factual basis for the tale of Owney, who worked for the United States Postal Service from 1889 to 1897, will delight readers. Humorous and fun, a worthwhile read!

Keep Reading!

Lynne Marie Pisano

Magdalena's Bookshelf

Write it Right: The Ground Rules for Self-Editing Like the Pros
Dawn Josephson and Lauren Hidden
Cameo Publications
PO Box 8006, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
ISBN 0974496626, $17.95 144 pp.

Publishing a book is no longer expensive. Anyone can do it, and everyone seems to be. What is expensive however, and what many authors make the mistake of skimping on, is hiring an editor. That isn't only an issue for self-published books either. In order to get a decent publishing contract, manuscripts have to be near perfect. However wonderful, poetic and rich the characters, the ideas or the writing in general, if a book needs extensive (or even relatively minor) editing, it won't be chosen. So learning the art of editing is crucial for modern writers. You could, of course, hire a professional at high cost, but for a mere $17.95, Josephson and Hidden provide some very simple and useable techniques for doing it yourself. Of course there is the obvious financial benefit, but self-editing has other benefits. Firstly, even if you hire someone, the chances are, aside from a line proofread, their advice will be merely guidance, and you'll still need to do the hard work. Secondly, you are the only one who knows what your intentions are, and self-editing allows you to retain complete control of your manuscript. Even if you are taken on by a big publishing house and get an editor, the more polished your work is, the easier it will be for them to clean up any last little errors. As the authors clearly state, anyone, even those whose writing is limited to business letters or letters to their school board can benefit from improved editing skills. For those writing full length manuscripts, skills in self-editing aren't optional.

The book is fairly short, simply and clearly written, and follows the clean structure of Other "Ground Rules" publications. Each chapter begins with the "Ground Rules" which talks about the core of the section, and is followed by real-life illustrations and examples, turning points or questions to help with the self-discovery/reflection process, frequently asked questions, and key points. Bullet points, graphics, exercises with blank lines to fill in, and checklists are all used liberally to lighten the text and signal that this book is meant to be used immediately as a workbook. The book contains four steps which can be used in most editing projects, and the more these steps are used, the faster and better writers will be at using them. They begin with knowing what your own particular writing challenges are. These are errors that are specific to your writing and repeated regularly. The book contains a test to help you identify your gaps in grammar, difficulties that you have with sentence structure, overuse of passives, run ons, word repetition and so on. It may surprise you (as it did me) how basic and consistent you are with your problems as you work through some of your existing pieces. As the authors state, knowing where your regular problems lie is half the battle, not just in editing, but in becoming a better writer in general.

Other steps include creating your own personalised editing checklist (based on the list made in step one), changing perspective/stance from writer to editor, reading through the text several times for different purposes, reading through from back to front or choosing sentences at random, getting a colleague to proofread, and read the work aloud to you, and printing out a clean copy for the final proofread. The casual, easy to follow text may make this book appear relaxed, but the prescriptions are anything but. A good editing job means working through the entire text many times - once for each of your regular problems and several more times for good measure. If you do what Write It Right suggests, you will certainly improve your prose; probably to at least the same level as a professional editor. You'll also be strengthening your writing skills, so that your work needs less editing in general.

The tone of the book is light and affirming, with plenty of positive reinforcement like "Congratulations, you've now," "go for the gold," and inspirational quotations. Appendices cover things like how to do a quick edit, what not to do, some basic rules of grammar and usage, and checklists. Despite the didacticism inherent in the subject matter, this book doesn't prescribe how you should edit your work. Instead, it leads you down the path of self-discovery, so you can uncover your own weaknesses, and work, as an increasingly experienced editor of your own work, towards cleaner, clearer and better writing. The steps are easy but the process isn't. You still have to work through the writing, time and time again, which is the heart of any editing process--there's no substitute for it. Good editing/revising is the one thing which differentiates great work from average work. Writers who make the techniques in this valuable book part of their regular writing routine will most certainly stand out in a very crowded field, and that, of course, is the name of the game.

Springboard to Early Learning: Encouraging children from birth to 4 years
Kerrie Shanahan
Ibis Publishing
Suite 7, Level 2, 150 Albert Road, South Melbourne VIC 3205 (Australia)
ISBN 1920923543, $A 24.95

It's never too early to start teaching your preschooler. Their little minds are developing so quickly, and they are so open minded and eager that all play can be education, and all education can be fun. Ibis Publishing have been putting together a series devoted to guiding parents towards educational play, with lots of ideas for teaching early maths and sciences, reading and writing. The latest books in the series focuses solely on early learning and learning through play (both of which are fairly synonymous). Springboard to Early Learning provides a wide range of activities -- just the kinds of songs, activities, games and play that children do at preschool, playgroup, on educational television shows like Playschool, and early learning centres. The book has been designed for children from birth to age four, and activities range from the very basic involving mostly tactile sensations and simply sounds, to some fairly complicated ones which will prepare children for big school.

The book is divided into sections which deal with speaking and listening, reading and writing, number and maths concepts, learning about the world (HSIE if you like), music, and art activities and works progressively from activities for younger children to those for older ones. Some of activities are really obvious ones which you are likely already doing (but it doesn't help to be reminded of their value) such as talking to your baby in a sling, playing word games in the car, or reading nursery rhymes to your baby. Others are more innovative and will help you find things to do with your preschooler other than plunk them in front of the television -- something which many studies show (and this book stresses) should be limited as it is passive. There are recipes for play dough, tips on choosing the right books, directions for making puppets, math and counting games, craft games like making handprints, songs that involve activities like "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes" or "Hokey Pokey," ideas for getting grandparents involved in singing favourite songs together, and tips for making collages, and lots more. Again, there is nothing really dramatic or even innovative here -- just simple and easy activities that children will likely already be familiar with, however, for tired parents looking for ways to do more with their children, this easy to use book may be just the ticket.

The book is written in simple language and can be easily digested by tired parents, or just used as a reference -- to obtain one activity and then put away until you need another or are ready for the next level. Each activity is clearly set out, and contains a short-cut tip and a hint to expand the activity. It's the perfect way to turn your simple playtime into a home school experience. Your children will also love the together time - and it's a good excuse to stop working for a few minutes and do some playing.

Magdalena Ball, Reviewer

Margaret's Bookshelf

Nightingales & Pleasure Gardens
Talat S. Halman, editor
Syracuse University Press
1600 Jamesville Avenue, Syracuse, NY 13210
0815608357 $16.95 1-800-365-8929

Nightingales & Pleasure Gardens is a gathering of Turkish poetry from the sixth century A.D. to the present day, including passages from epics, classical poems of the Ottoman Empire, folk poems, and enduring verses by immortal authors such as Rumi, Yunus Emre, Nazim Hikment, Fazil Husnu Daglarca, and more, all skillfully translated into English by Talat S.Halman. The common thread of entries in the anthology is that, with a uniquely Turkish spirit, they capture the emotion of love in all its forms and foibles. Some praise love; others satirize it, all do their part to reveal the many faceted splendors of a truly mysterious emotion. A collection of brief biographical notes of the various authors rounds out this excellent romantic gift or contribution to poetry shelves. "Say just one word to me, make one promise, / My lovely brunette with moles on her face / And those bewitching, enslaving eyes. / If you could hear how may loving heart cries."

Picking Clean the Bones
Sally Atkins, author; Marianne S. Suggs, illustrator
Parkway Publishers
PO Box 3678, Boone, NC 28607
1887905030 $18.95

Picking Clean the Bones is a poetry anthology by poet, dancer, ritualist, and psychological counseling professor Sally Atkins, brilliantly illustrated with the full-color artworks by art professor and mixed media artist Marianne Stevens Suggs. The brief, free-verse poignantly speaks to affliction, fear, and the subtle majesty of a complex and ever-changing world. Picking Clean the Bones reads swiftly yet lingers long in the mind. "In the Pine Woods": In the pine woods / This morning / The quiet was thick like fog / And full of mystery. // The first shy wind / Of autumn whispered / To the goldenrod / And Joe Pye weed, // Bloom. Bloom now. // Fill the woods / With urgent gold / and purple. // This is your last chance / for truth.

Margaret Lane

Martha's Bookshelf

A Grace Disguised
Jerry Sittser
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
ISBN: 0310258952 $16.99 224 pages

The author of this book, Jerry Sittser, lost his wife, Lynda, his mother, Grace, and his 4-year-old daughter, Diane Jane, in a tragic car accident in rural Idaho, leaving him at 41 to raise three children alone. A Christian educator and believer, Mr. Sittser deals with the all-encompassing effect this heartbreaking loss of three family members has on his life and discusses, ironically, some blessings that have come from it. Zondervan published A Grace Disguised three years after the accident in 1995 and an expanded version in 2004.

This is not a how-to book on overcoming or conquering grief. Mr. Sittser says the pain of his loss remains with him but that he feels it enlarges the soul, causing a person to become deeper, more caring and better able to appreciate life's good moments. The author does not present himself as heroic and indicates he has often gone through denial, bargaining, escape and anger, the well-known stages of grief. But he advises the reader to both embrace and be open to sorrow rather than deny or try to escape from it because pain and sadness, as well as happiness and joy, are the stuff life is made of. And since everyone experiences some type of loss sooner or later in life, each person has a choice to become bitter and resentful or to learn and grow from it. Though human tragedy may appear random and without purpose, like Mr. Sittser's loss of three of his family, the author feels this may be because we cannot see the "big picture" as God does.

And there is help to be found in other human beings. The author discusses what he calls the "community of brokenness" and the "cloud of witnesses." The "community of brokenness" is made up of family members, neighbors, acquaintances or anybody who identifies and involves themselves in a person's tragedy; suffers with him, in other words. This involves both emotional and everyday-life support that lifts up and carries a person who is grieving. The "cloud of witnesses," on the other hand, are examples of people throughout history who have endured severe hardships and have, in spite of their pain, accomplished great things. The foremost example of this is Jesus who, though God, endured crucifixion and death for the sake of humankind and was victorious in the end, even over the grave.

This is a thoughtful and sincere study of grief by a person who has lived through it and would be of great help to anyone who has experienced a loss, whether by divorce, loss of job, sickness, disability or death. And for those people who live in fear of such losses, A Grace Disguised offers realistic comfort and hope from a Christian perspective.

Outlaw of Red Mesa
Craig Alan Hart
PublishAmerica, LLLP
Baltimore, Maryland
ISBN: 1413753736 $19.95 191 pages

The fact that Craig Alan Hart and I share the same publisher, PublishAmerica, drew my attention to this book, as well as the classification of Outlaw of Red Mesa as a Christian Western. Though I am not well acquainted with that genre, it sounded interesting.

The first striking thing about Outlaw of Red Mesa is that most of its primary characters exist outside the sphere of Christianity, at least in the beginning, and that some of their "sins" are very blatant. Johnny Cavanaugh, a/k/a "The Ivory Kid," from whom the novel gets its name, is indeed an outlaw, a bank robber who uses the money he has stolen to buy a rundown ranch in the hopes of becoming a respectable citizen. His partner in crime, Rio Henessy, has also given up bank robbing for the slightly more acceptable profession of gambling, although he sometimes cheats. Another more minor character, Clara Davis, is a pregnant former prostitute who is also trying to better her life by working in a restaurant.

Even characters like Sheriff Wyatt Cashman and banker Reese Stanton, who are originally introduced as respectable, have their flaws. Sheriff Cashman bargains with Johnny Cavanaugh about his arrest and the stolen money, not holding to the law but at least showing compassion for an outlaw who is trying to reform, while Reese Stanton's vices of gambling and carousing come to light later in the novel. The real unredeemable villains of Outlaw of Red Mesa, however, are the brutal ranch owner Jud Dawson and his conscienceless foreman, Buck Sorenson, who are out to kill Johnny Cavanaugh and incorporate his ranch into the Lazy A Ranch's vast spread.

Beautiful and strong-willed Abby Gentry, the General Store owner's daughter, serves as the catalyst who brings Johnny, Clara and Rio to the Lord. Then the four of them have to trust in God in their struggle to repay $25,000, the amount of money Johnny and Rio stole, to Sheriff Cashman in order to purchase Johnny's freedom. Then, of course, Johnny must finally deal with Jud Dawson and his underlings in the fight to keep his ranch and his life.

Outlaw of Red Mesa demonstrates how people who have obviously broken the laws of both God and society can repent and reform when presented with God's forgiveness in the person of a loving Christian. The book, in addition to fast-paced action and a couple of exciting "showdowns," explores how people's interactions with each other reveal the love and compassion in their hearts far more than their outward "positions." And in the old-time West, where law and order were often ignored, a person's inner worth held great value. This book would appeal to anyone who enjoys Westerns and a gritty, realistic look at life and faith. Highly recommended.

Martha Robach

Molly's Bookshelf

Caveat Games
Michael Wegman
ISBN: 1411608771 $10.00 - $17.95

Entertaining Read .. Recommended 5 stars

The narrative opens as Naval Lt. Jill Sinclair is jolted awake by the sound of the telephone. On board a warship moving toward Cuba she was loathe to give up the dream she had been enjoying. As yet Jill is unaware that her life and that of NFL Quarterback Terry Jackson will be caught up in the same dangerous scheme. Terry and his wife Patty live in Pensacola. Jill a skilled underwater acoustics specialist is an enlisted sailor now commissioned. A plane crash, dives to recover the black box, gambling and danger all are part of the developing tale. Jill struggles against government venality, stumbles upon secrets sure to stun the world of professional sports and finds herself facing an increasing fume of mendacity. Jill receives an intriguing email from her husband. Ross warns Jill to watch her back and she is more than a little puzzled why he might be worried. Jill disobeys an order, battles makes a discovery that could lead to more danger than she had bargained for and finds herself confined to quarters. A kidnapping aboard a ship loaded with explosives, Jill worries while confined in the Guantanamo Bay Brig and terrorists willing to sacrifice themselves for their cause all move the narrative toward the conclusion.

Writer Wegman is a career naval reserve officer who calls upon his knowledge of the military to produce a meritorious work filled with esotericism, excellent dialogue and zestful action. Fans of fast paced suspense thrillers are offered plenty of each from this rousing chiller. I enjoyed the character Jill Sinclair. She is a strong woman with firm ideas as to right and wrong and what to do. Sinclair doesn't back down when she thinks she is right. Wegman deftly capture the essential quality of mystification in this well written work. Enough red herrings are tossed into the mix to keep the reader on their toes as the story line continues. While easily read Caveat Games is not a formula work with the ending discerned by the end of the first few pages. Wegman's exquisitely masterminded plot is set against a tapestry of engaging characters, powerful circumstances and compelling situations in this keenly focused tale. Reader interest is piqued from the opening lines as we are drawn into Jill Sinclair's tantalizing dream and is held fast as the reader moves from sea to land and back again.

Good book for a long afternoon spent lazing while reading in the shade of a tree on a summer afternoon. Caveat Games is a good addition to the home library pleasure reading shelf, the home school high school level reading program and for those who simply enjoy a well written, good thriller.

Caveat Games is available as both eBook download and paper versions. I was sent a soft cover print edition for review. I do not keep all books I receive for review; Caveat Games is one that I will be keeping.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

The Boyfriend List
E. Lockhart
Delacorte Press
a division of Random House Children's Books Inc
1745 Broadway, New York City, NY 10019
ISBN: 0385732066 $12.95

Engaging Read .. Recommended . 4 stars

The past ten days have not been good ones for fifteen-year-old Ruby Oliver. It is no wonder Roo, Ruby Oliver, Tate Prep Sophomore, has begun to suffer anxiety attacks. She has lost her thirteenth boyfriend, Jackson, together with all of her best friends, Kim, Nora and Cricket and has dropped from being a 'social butterfly to a social misfit.' She drank her first beer AND got caught by her mom. She had an argument with a boy, did something suspicious with another, AND did something advanced with yet another. Not only that, Roo lost a lacrosse game, failed a math test, became a social outcast, hurt someone's feelings, in addition to had stuff written about her in the girls' bathroom. Roo's Mom, Elaine is a health nut stage performer who tries to force her family into eating all kinds of health foods, thinks Ruby should see a psychologist to help her deal with her panic attacks. The family lives on a houseboat in Seattle where dad works from home and Roo's brother is driving her mad. It is while seeing the psychologist that Ruby talks about her home life and the experiences she has had with all her boyfriends. And, it is because of her shrink, Dr. Z that Roo is in the midst of much of her turmoil. Dr. Z is the one who suggested Roo set down the boyfriend list : Roo wrote the name of every boy she ever liked and then she threw the list into the trash. When the list becomes public Roo begins to realize just how much she needs help to sort out the mess. She reveals, that boys were denying that they had ever gone out with her along with the fact that her best friend stole one of her boyfriends. Ruby reveals that her parents fight a lot over her, and they're way too protective of her.

Writer Lockhart's The Boyfriend List is a whimsical, albeit perceptive appraisal of Ruby's, teen life. Roo is a charming character. The Boyfriend List portrays the development of self-understanding, pain over loss of friendship, at times inconstant social life, and the progression of loss and gain of one teenaged girl. Angst filled Roo deals with her problems in much the same way real teenagers do. Teenaged readersl will to relate to one or more of Ruby's fifteen boyfriend anecdotes. The tales themselves are replete with the naivet‚ and ineptitude that is elemental to most teenage relationships.

First person narration along with format used in The Boyfriend List occasions interesting reading. Each name on Ruby's list of fifteen boyfriends is detailed in a separate chapter. Roo's experience with each particular boy, along with the elemental story of Ruby's relationship with her boyfriend and ensuing move from popular to school slut reputation is slowly revealed within the recounting of the various boyfriends. Ruby's is a particularly heartfelt voice sure to touch the heart of every girl who has ever had a crush or a boyfriend.

Excellent choice for upper middle grades to Young Adult reading pleasure, Therapist 'books on hand for clients to read' and Parental 'trying to understand my kid' reading shelf.

Brought back bittersweet memories not only of my own teenaged angst, but that experienced while raising teens of my own. Happy to recommend.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Nine for the NightLight: Nine Creepy Tales Just For Kids
Maria Perry Osborne
SwanBeauty Books
3131 RDU Center Dr STE 210, Morrisville, NC, 27560
ISBN: 1411632451 $3.44

Spooky Read . Recommended 4 stars

The Table of Contents lists the nine creepy tales. Messages in the Lunch Room is a spooky tale featuring a teacher who should never be allowed near a classroom. While in the lunch room one child after another reads the words, "There will be a terrible accident," in their bowl of soup. And, sure enough, there is. Mushed relates how Jason and Pinch O Luv Nanny, Mrs Cutshaw, get along while Jason's Mom and Dad are caring for his Grandmother. Ashburger tells the story of Kyle, his parents and Aunt Tanith. Missy Mage and the Mean Old Lady Down The Street :Jayona 10 and Tyler 6 have moved to a new town, before long they meet the mean old lady down the street. Tyler's favorite toy is Ace, Missy Mage belongs to Jayona. Cal and the Birthday Party is the tale of Cal and his behavior at Mandy Whitemore's birthday party. Cal was not a pleasant party guest. The Parrot : Jake Swafford likes the cookies his neighbor Mrs. Harrison bakes. Before long the cookies stop and Jake is not happy to find Mrs Harrison is now busy with a new interest. Her nephew brought her a parrot. There must be something Jake can do. In The Overanxious Paddler Tina and Bobby often feel the whack of Father's paddle and then one day the children disappear. Russell and Aunt Olympia know how to handle bullies in Stone Jimmy . The last tale is The Ghost of Jacob Abel : it is moving day and the family soon learns that a mysterious jar of coins, a table and a ghost are part of the deal.

Writer Perry, mother of 4 youngsters, and respected author of erotic romance has tried her hand at writing for the juvenile market. On the pages of Nine for the NightLight: Nine Creepy Tales Just For Kids Perry cleverly captures the pith of the genre with a shrewd adroitness for presentation. Author Perry puts to worthy use her burgeoning writing aptitude as she pens the nine anecdotes meant for the adolescent reader. The narratives offered are easily read, are fast paced and are action packed. Each tale is kept to 4 - 5 pages, vocabulary is within the sphere of most middle school to Young Adult Readers and the anecdotes are eerie enough to fascinate the most picky reader within the target age.

Nine for the NightLight: Nine Creepy Tales Just For Kids is sure to prove a winner for 'the sitting around the campfire telling spooky stories,' or 'the supernatural stories at slumber party' set.

Spooky read, true to the genre. Not for everyone: readers who do not care for gothic tales will not care much for the yarns, those who love the genre will find much to delight their reading senses.

Callie and the Stepmother
Susan A Meyers
Rose Gauss, illustrator
Blooming Tree Press
PO Box 140934 Austin TX 78714
ISBN: 0971834806 $6.95

Absorbing Read .. Recommended 5 stars

Callie and the Stepmother opens as Callie is hugging her dad goodbye. Dad drives a truck, and Callie must stay home with her new stepmother Pam. Everyone knows stepmothers are evil and do bad things when your dad is away. To make matters even worse Callie also has a new fourteen-year-old stepsister. To make matters even worse Andrea doesn't like Callie and doesn't want to share her room with Callie. Callie knows it is going to be a long two days before dad returns. First, Callie has a horrible nightmare, then she had to explain why she moved Andrea's shampoo, then she is surprised to learn that her step brother and step sister have chores and no one expects Callie to do all the work. Callie is not sure what is going on, everyone knows that the step child has to do all the work. Callie has another nightmare, when she starts to feel sick Callie wonders if her nightmare might be coming true, after all everyone knows the evil step mother fixes poison fruit for the step child to eat. A trip to the store helps Callie understand that her new stepmother really is not an evil stepmother.

Callie and the Stepmother is writer Meyers' first children's chapter book. The work is an outgrowth of the writers' bedtime stories she made up for her son when he was younger. The book offers a list of illustrations, table of contents and chapters meant to be enjoyed by middle grade readers. The tale will lend itself to use as a 'read to' for the younger set, while vocabulary used is within the reading scope of most 9 - 12 year olds. Illustrations provided by artist Rose Gauss set the written word off to perfection.

Writer Meyers has taken a sensitive issue, one common to many children today, incorporated children's misunderstanding and produced a credible work sure to aid 'blended' families as well as providing listening and reading pleasure to children ages 5-12. The misconception children often harbor regarding what is real and what is storybook is often blurred at best. Meyers' Callie and the Stepmother takes those misconceptions, adds a likeable little girl Callie, a patient stepmother and a typical older step sibling and manages to meld them all into an interesting, entertaining, readable work.

Excellent resource reading suggestion for the child therapists shelf, the home pleasure reading library, the blended home library, home school and classroom reading corner.

This is a book I would use in my own classroom for a unit on family, understanding and working through fear and misunderstand.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

The Mountain of Stone
Christy Davis
1663 Liberty Drive Ste 200 Bloomington IN 47408
ISBN: 1418417963 eBook $6-$10 Ages 9-12

Exciting Read .. Recommended . 4. 5 stars

The narrative opens with Jenny smiling on the first day of summer vacation. At last the school year has ended and next year Jenny will be starting High School. When Jenny's parents announced they were planning a move from San Francisco to Millersville, Jenny was less than thrilled. That was two years ago and now Jenny has a new best friend Laura and loves her new life. Everything is pretty great except when Jenny and Laura must deal with Laura's little brothers Alan and Casey the boys are only six and seven however, they are less problem than Laura's older brother John and Jenny's older brother Ben.

It is when the girls find a bottle in the river that an unexpected summer adventure begins. The bottle holds a key and a note signed by 'Gus' telling of a cache of treasure, misfortune and even death. Jenny decides to show the note to her brother John's friend Ben and that is when the hunt for the treasure cache begins. Backpacks filled with supplies, an unexpected slide into the interior of the mountain, a skeleton, another bottle, a trapdoor, more skeletons, something that growls, and more notes all figure in the adventure before the kids find their way out of the cave.

Writer Davis has crafted a quick, fun read meant for kids in middle grades. Repartee between the siblings is typical, believable and real. That The Mountain of Stone is a kid's adventure that might well take place is a good part of the draw for kids in the target audience. Writing is good, fast paced and easily read. Characters are detailed enough to give the reader a clear picture of who and what the kids are all about without being over done. Siblings squabble as youngsters do, grumble over chores and having to watch over 'tag along' little brothers, also as youngsters do. The kids also work together when the situation calls for it and they care for one another when the going gets tough. The storyline itself is believable and acceptable.

Writer Davis throws in a little quiet teaching as the kids consult the dictionary for help in deciphering the cryptic note left in the bottle, or when they decide what supplies might be needed to ensure the success of their adventure.

Reader interest is captured from the opening page as Jenny faces summer vacation with a smile on her lips and is held fast right down to last paragraphs as the kids make it home in time to avoid being grounded.

Sure to please both boys and girls in the target audience The Mountain of Stone is a good choice for the home pleasure reading shelf, the home school reading list and the classroom library.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Molly Martin, Reviewer

Paul's Bookshelf

Sam Boone: Front to Back
Bud Sparhawk
FoxAcre Press
PMB 281, 1977 North Olden, Avenue Ext., Trenton, NJ 08618-2193
ISBN 0970971176, $15.00, 200 pages

In the late 22nd Century, Earth's first interstellar spaceship is involved in a collision with a much larger vessel outside the approved travel lanes. In its desperation to avoid the Galactic Hegemony, the captain gives Earth a more modern ship out of its inventory. This allows Earth to build more ships, and explore local space. Intelligent life is pretty common, and the only reason Earth hasn't heard about it is their use of inefficient and outdated electromagnetic energy for communication, instead of the much more efficient galactic phloomb. About the only talent humans have, according to the rest of the galaxy, is that of negotiation and arbitration.

Sam Boone works at Earth's major spaceport, near Trenton, New Jersey. It's there because one of the favorite tourist destinations is the nearby city of Hoboken (along with Disneyworld, of course). In one story, Sam must deal with a pair of alien races who decide to settle their differences in a professional wrestling ring, thinking that humans also do it this way. Another popular export for Earth is magazines of any type. Whether it is a home and garden magazine or a mechanical hobby magazine, the other alien races find them absolutely hilarious. In another story, Sam must escort a pair of aliens around Disneyworld. This wouldn't seem so difficult, except these are group mind aliens, where one individual inhabits 20 or 30 separate bodies. Do they get a group discount on tickets? In each of these stories, Sam must deal with very different cultural values, while keeping his alien boss happy and keeping himself out of some potentially disastrous situations.

There is a sad lack of humor in science fiction. This book helps to fill the gap. For lighter, humorous reading that is still well written, this is very much worth checking out.

Don't Eat This Book: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America
Morgan Spurlock
G.P. Putnam
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ISBN 0399152601, $21.95, 308 pages

From the person behind the documentary Supersize Me, this book looks at the fast food industry in America. He explores the ways in which fast food is marketed to children, the supersizing of the fast food menu and the accompanying rise in conditions like obesity, heart disease and diabetes, even among children. The average school cafeteria has replaced its food with sugary and sweet items like pizza and soda, that is, if the cafeteria hasn't actually been turned into a food court. Cash-strapped schools are obligated to let soda and candy vending machines in school, for a cut of the money, while physical education is being eliminated. Diabetes is supposed to be an "adult" disease; in the last few years, it has started to show up in children under 10 years old. Most nutritionists recommend limiting fast food to no more than once a month. How many people, or families, can honestly say that they can do that? In 2005, obesity related diseases will come close to smoking as the biggest killer of Americans; the estimate is that 400,000 people will die from such diseases. As an experiment, put a plate of McDonald's fries under glass, for several months. What will happen to the fries? The answer is: basically nothing. They might start to smell, but there will be little or no decomposition to the fries. One can only wonder what is in the fries or the vegetable oil to cause this to happen.

Part of this book is also a chronicle of his 30 days on the "McDonald's Diet" for the film. He got three different doctors to independently keep an eye on his health, which basically fell apart. He suffered bad headaches and chest pains, he couldn't focus mentally and his cholesterol and blood pressure rose dramatically. Oh, and he also gained more than 24 pounds.

A measure of liver function is the presence of an enzyme in the blood called serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase (SGPT). During his month of McDonald's food, his number rose from 20 to 290; under 40 is normal. Another enzyme to measure liver function is alanine transaminase (ALT); his number skyrocketed from 17 to 471, before settling at 240. Again, under 40 is normal. Is it any wonder that a child born in 2000 has a 1 in 3 chance of developing diabetes from poor dietary habits?

This is a gem of a book. Filled with lots of information for all Americans, it is very easy to read, and is helped with bits of humor that Spurlock spreads all over the book. This is very highly recommended.

The Muse and the Mechanism
Josh Davis
Pretend Genius Press
3417 Beret Lane, Silver Spring, MD 20906
ISBN 0974726176, $14.95 252 pages

This is the story of Charlie Fell, a twentysomething writer living in the small town of Alton. It's a rather grubby sort of life, watching his friends smoke, drink and use various other illicit substances. James, one of Charlie's housemates, is a fall-down drunk who imprints the outline of his body in Charlie's ceiling because of one of his falls. Charlie finds himself less and less interested in Lola, another housemate, and wonders how to make a reasonably painless break with her.

Charlie's mother and stepfather go on a week-long vacation and ask Charlie to housesit. Naturally, the house becomes the site of a week-long party, populated by an ever-changing group of friends and friends of friends. Throughout much of the story, Charlie is engaged in the pursuit of Grace, a lovely, and to Charlie, extremely compatible woman.

This is a beautifully written novel. It will also take some work on the part of the reader. There will be periods where the reader will wonder what happened to the story. The plot is laid out in broad chunks with little or no advance information. By all means, stick with this book. It is very much worth reading.

Paul Lappen

Robyn's Bookshelf

I Am A Book
Linda Hayward
Millbrook Press
ISBN: 0761329056, $17.90

It's easy to accept a book as is. The insides are filled with words. The words can weave a story or fill us with information. The voice of a book is the creation of an author's imagination. These are creations that can take you to far away places or empower you with knowledge. But if we were to pick up a book and look at it physically, just what is it really? What are we holding in our hands? How do the words inside an author's mind mix with plain paper to make something so powerful it can fill you with wonder? That is the premise of I Am a Book.

It takes the youngest reader from the very beginning of a free standing tree to something stacked on the library shelves to be read. It explains how each part of the binding process comes together to produce the book we hold in our hands. Told through a book's point of view, the voice is whimsical and lighthearted, highlighting the bare basics of book production. Numerous illustrations emphasize key visuals in the production process. The pictures portray a book with a happy face and animated scenes to help us on our journey. Controlled vocabulary and short sentences are appropriate for the reading level, but it also makes a great story for the youngest of listeners too. Ages 5 to 9, Early Reader.

Mick Manning & Brita Granstrom
Frances Lincoln Children's Books
ISBN: 1845070887, $14.95.

Yuck is right. That's exactly what you'd think if you envisioned eating a furry rat, worms, and eight legged spiders. Imagine as a little kid, gulping down rotten eggs or a raw fish, guts and all, for breakfast. But that's exactly what animal babies do.

In this truly enjoyable read of diversity, children realize the words stinky, slimy, and revolting may not describe the delicacies eaten by others. We soon see, what is yucky to one may not be to the other. "What's for supper? This baby eats a worm. A wriggly worm, tugged out of the lawn? That's not our baby's supper! Yuck!" The rhythmic verse is simple and succinct, highlighted by illustrations drawn in dabbled watercolor. The authors are well known artists having earned several awards and their oversized caricatures of nature's babies do not disappoint. Picture book, Ages 3-5.

Tip the Mouse Can't Sleep
Carol Ottolenghi
Marco Campanella, Illustrator
School Specialty Publishing
8720 Orion Place, Columbus, Ohio 43240-2111
ISBN: 0769642993, $10.95

After finishing his cheese soup for dinner, Tip the mouse readies himself for bed by putting on his pajamas and brushing his teeth. Accompanying his every move is his best friend, Teddy the stuffed bear. When its time to crawl into bed and Mama Mouse puts out the light, Tip and Teddy become very nervous. Strange noises creep up in the night and Tip is certain someone or something is going to take Teddy away from him. Scared of the dark unknown, Tip and Teddy run to Mama's room for comfort. Mama knows how to soothe the anxious pair.

This is a classic night time story for all children afraid of the night. Through Tip, we feel the anxiety of the mysterious monsters lurking under floor boards and hiding in corners we can't see. We feel the security of a best friend, and the fear of losing what we hold so dear. And through Mama we learn to handle the trepidation gripping our imagination. Supporting the tale are illustrations as charming as the story. Painted in soft watercolors, the pages are filled with delightful images. The expressions on Tip's face speak volumes and the richly colored, padded book cover softens the touch for the tiniest of hands. Picture Book, Ages 3-5.

The Best Book of Ponies
Claire Llewellyn
ISBN: 0753458747, $5.95

Imagine owning your own pony. What do you need to know? How would you take care of it? What does it eat? What are bridles and bits? How do you show your pony for competition? What is the difference between a Palomino and a Dun?

Well written short introductory topics present the young reader to the responsibilities and world of owning a pony. For example, under the heading Handle with care, the reader will learn about natural instincts and how to read a pony's expression. Under Stablemates, the reader learns about safety first and the different types of bedding materials needed for a warm comfortable night. Topics range from birth, to ponies of the past, to proper handling, to learning how to ride, to having fun. Especially nice are the generous illustrations highlighting every aspect of pony life. Rich in detail and realistic in appearance, these are the type of illustrations children will love to study. A glossary and index are provided. Early Reader, Ages 5 to 8.

Time to Say "Please"!
Mo Willems
Hyperion Books for Children
ISBN: 0786852933, $15.99

Learning good manners is a must, and an entertaining book teaching us when and how to say "please" helps the medicine go down. "If you ever really want something, really, really want something, don't just grab it! Go ask a big person and Please say "Please"!" The reader also learns to say please when they want a turn, a toy, or they want to borrow something. Or maybe they want to try something for the first time. And please is not the only magic word. Excuse me, sorry, and thank-you are important too.

A fun book with simple animated characters is an effective way to capture the imaginations of very young minds. Minimal illustrations carry the action across the page and on to the next. With a little scrutiny, you'll notice small pointy-nosed mice in the background, teaching the word please at the chalk board, carrying signs, parachuting into the kitchen, flying air balloons and riding helicopters.

A nice addition to the story is the game built into the book. The book jacket opens up to reveal a small game board ready to be mounted on cardboard. Attached to the back cover is a spinner with four game pieces featuring four action-packed mice. It should also be noted, the author has won six Emmys for his Sesame Street scripts and his mastery of the craft is evident. Ages 3-5.

Robyn Gioia, Reviewer

Roger's Bookshelf

The Next Global Stage
Kenichi Ohmae
Wharton School Publishing
ISBN 013147944X $27.95 282 pages

A Whole New World Explained - from a regional perspective

When a man has written over 100 books, it would be easy to assume there's nothing more for him to say. That assumption would be unfounded when you consider the work of Kenichi Ohmae. This prolific professor - in the broad sense of the word - still has a lot to share and a worthwhile portion of it is in this book. Although he weaves in some work from previous writing, all the pieces in The Next Global Stage fit nicely together.

Looking at the title of this book, I thought about the expression that "All the world's a stage ." And, sure enough, that's the way Ohmae approaches his perspective of what's coming next. He presents his thoughts in theatrical terms, beginning with the plot to open our thinking. Part one is The Stage. The curtain rises with a world tour as our eyes are opened to some of what is happening in various parts of the world. For those who have focused so intently on China and India, insight into Ireland and Finland will be a new direction in thinking. The global economy is defined as we learn more about Ohmae's view of the end of economics. Beyond nation-states, it is now more appropriate to think of regions.

Stage Directions (Part 2) takes us on a journey to understand the playmakers and views of global regionalism and their roles in future development. Government and politics are discussed in the third section of the book and readers gain insights into future markets and a wide range of countries where things are happening probably beyond the knowledge of the average reader. There is much to be learned from reading this book.

As we look at the world of today and consider where we may be going, The Next Global Stage will help us to appreciate what's next. Thoughtful reading, easy to follow and absorb. Good index supports research and re-reading. Global strategists seeking food for thought will find what they need in these pages.

Our Fathers Who Art in Heaven
Gerry Murak
WAIH Publishing
Post Office Box 502, Getzville, NY 14068
ISBN 0975905716 $17.95 190 pages

Meaningful, Inspirational. Loaded with Lessons.

When you look at the title of this book - and the cover with its picture of clouds, you may suspect that this is one of those far-out religious books. No, it isn't. It is spiritual, but not by the text. The message may have religious overtones - if you're religious. The powerful value of this unassuming little book is in the heart and mind of the reader.

This volume is a collection of short stories from the author and a number of other people, talking about their fathers, their experiences, and the impact their fathers had on their lives. You may come close to tears a few times as you feel what the authors are writing about. If your reading experience is anything like mine was, you'll gain a fresh, new understanding of your father's influence on who you are today.

The stories are organized by category in the book: Attitude, Integrity, Memories, Determination, Compassion, Wisdom, Inspiration, Character, Nature, and Courage. Investing a few minutes with this book will pay dividends for years to come. My wife noticed a significant change in my demeanor right away.

If your father has passed, refresh the memories with this book as the key. If your father is still alive, expect to gain insights that will draw you closer to the special man in your life. Recommended for people who have lost their father, as well as for today's father who wants to know how Dad managed to do such a fine job of raising you. Today's fathers will learn lessons from this book that will empower you to be the kind of father your children want you to be.

Fortunes Crossing
Lowell Teal
Oakhill Press
1647 Cedar Grove Road, Winchester, VA 22603
ISBN 1886939713 $23.00 236 pages

Interesting, good message, disappointing

Recently I read "Bath Pond" by Lowell Teal. I was delighted with the book and gave it a glowing review. In my opinion, the author had done a superlative job. Read my review and you'll see what I mean.

With that experience, I looked forward to another book by Teal with eager anticipation. When I saw the similar cover and the branding on the cover, I assumed that this book would be a continuation of the Bath Pond story. Nope, not related at all. And I read all the way through Fortunes Crossing looking for the connection. Nothing there. Apparently the author and/or publisher are attempting some sort of branding, but branding needs more than just the same author to be effective. If there is supposed to be some sort of moral message coming through, it's not clear enough nor explained in an afterthought. Missed opportunity?

I found some of the dialog in this book to be a bit more stiff and contrived than the fine work I experienced in Bath Pond. The story was interesting, but seemed to drag a bit in places. References to places where characters lived was fuzzy early in the book, then presented specifically at the end of the volume. Even when presented, the locations and the story line didn't seem to quite make sense. Such continuity issues took away from the high enjoyment I had anticipated.

A page at the end of the book announces that Fortunes Crossing is the second in the Bath Pond series, and that the third book is planned for release in late 2005 or early 2006. Well, that dates this book, doesn't it? I'm surprised the publisher bound that time-sensitive notice into the book instead of inserting a flyer in some percentage of the first print run. And, I hope that Teal writes a little more at the beginning or end explaining the principles and connection with Bath Pond. A mere mention is not enough; assume we readers are ignorant of your purpose and give us a thorough explanation and linkage.

Values messages are appropriate in a series of books, but the continuity and relationship of the books in the series must be apparent or the impact is lost.

Business Under Fire
Dan Carrison
ISBN 0814408397 $24.95 227 pages

Insightful, Educational, Inspirational

When the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001, America was changed forever. Wherever they were, people who could scurried home to be with family. The question of the day was whether the attacks were over. A whole new sense of vulnerability spread across the land like a flu virus.

Corporate executives caught the bug - fear flu. Is it over? Will it happen again? How vulnerable are we - as a nation, but also as our company? As paranoia set in, business leaders slowed plans for research and development, the building of new facilities, and the growth and development of their employees. It became more difficult to plan for the future, not knowing how the market - and each company's marketplace - would respond.

Trying to run a business - any kind of business - under the threat of terrorism was a whole new experience for the domestic operations of global American companies. With the threat hanging over their heads, at least psychologically, corporate leaders struggled to cope. Ignorance was rampant; most executives had never operated under crisis or potential crisis and this field of leadership is certainly not taught in our business schools. Confusion reigned and many organizations became less productive, more cautious, and less profitable.

Dan Carrison observed this shift in American leadership. As a consultant, speaker, and former journalist, he realized that he was equipped - through background and skill - to create a guide to help leaders understand their new environment and how to excel under these new circumstances. So, he went to Israel to get answers. The story is more complicated than that, but you'll read about the process of Carrison's collection of information and advice.

Carrison interviewed executives in a number of fields - face-to-face - in Israel. He learned first-hand how they function in a world that is much different than what we have known in the United States. Numerous interviews are reported, with commentary. A summary list of lessons learned adds value at the end of each chapter.

Prepare to learn about creativity in a new way. Resilience, defiance, and resolute leadership make things work - "Goliath in assets, David in attitude." Carrison points out several times that just about everyone in Israel knows a victim of terrorism. This volume takes the concept of contingency management to a whole new level. Highly recommended.

Roger E. Herman, Reviewer

Sharon's Bookshelf

Thomas & Friends: Percy Saves The Day & Other Adventures
Anchor Bay Entertainment
1699 Stutz Drive, Troy, MI 48084
DV13428 $17.98

What happens when Thomas ignores Percy's warning of a wobbly track! And so another adventure of Thomas the plucky little railroad engine begins. This 35-minute, full-color, animated, enthusiastically recommended DID features six new stories of the inhabitants of Sodar Island including Percy Gets It Right; Something Fishy; What's the Matter with Henry; The Old Bridge; Trusty Rusty; and Bill, Ben & Fergus. This superbly produced children's DID is enhanced with "Bonus" features that includes a "Character Gallery; the Read-Along Story "Thomas and Percy and the Dragon"; the Sing-Along Song "There Once Was An Engine Who Ran Away"; the DID game "Pick That Sound"; two DID-rom Games: Percy's Maze Adventure" and Counting Fun"; and computer website fun at Thomas & Friends: Percy Saves The Day & Other Adventures is also available for family, school, and community libraries in a VHS format ($12.98).

Preschool Prep Company
PO Box 1159, Danville, Ca 94526
Andrea Blain Public Relations, Inc. (publicity)
9750 Crawford Avenue, Skokie, IL 60076

The Preschool Prep Company has produced three truly outstanding and highly recommended introductory DVDs for preschool children ages 9 months through 5 years. In Meet The Letters (0976700840, $14.99, 40 minutes) babies and toddlers learn the alphabet. In Meet The Numbers (0976700867, $14.99, 30 minutes) they learn the numbers from zero to ten in just a few days -- even while learning to talk! In Meet The Shapes (0976700883, $14.99, 30 minutes) they learn the differences and relationships of circles, squares, rectangles, etc. Each of these wonderfully "kid friendly" DVDs uses bright, bold, colorful animation, humorous characters, and a gentle repetitive style that is particularly effective with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. All three of these highly recommended DVDs are particularly appropriate for families, preschools, daycare centers, and kindergartens.

Table Time: Volume 2
Holly Beth Moncher
Time for Manners
Anrea Blain Public Relations (publicity)
PO Box 2213, Birmingham, MI 48012
30 minutes $16.95

Children ages 3 to 7 can have fun learning good table manners with Table Time, the second volume in the Time For Manners DVD instructional series for children. With a total running time of 30 minutes, children will basic table manners such as "smile and sit tall", "put your napkin on your lap", as well as how to communicate socially, chew quietly and with mouth closed, and other mealtime manners. A charming group of multi-cultural puppets guide young viewers into the world of proper table conduct which, combined with playful, original songs, create an educational program that will delight as well as instruct. Very highly recommended.

KidzBop 8
Razor & Tie Direct, LLC
PO Box 503, Village Station, New York, NY 10014
79301891042 $TBA

The eight CD album in the very highly recommended "KidzBop" series, young listeners will be treated to eighteen hit songs sung by kids for kids! The tracks in this energetically recorded collection include Since U Been gone; I Don't Want to Be'; Obsession (No Es Amor); Boulevard of Broken Dreams; Caught Up; Rich Girl; Let Me Love You; Vertigo; 1, 2 Step; Lonely No More; Over and Over; Nobody's Home; Incomplete; 1 Thing; True; Let Me Go; Karma; and Take Me Out. There is even a bonus video (Since U Been Gone) that plays on the computer with Quicktime 5 or higher software. Note to be missed are the games and fun activities for kids available to kids on the KidzBop website at

Storieszzz: The Adventures Of Faye & Fred
Michael Preston
PRE Records
c/o Waldmanial Publicity
130 Maywood Drive, San Francisco, CA 94127
PRE0224-2 $17.98

Storieszzz: The Adventures Of Faye & Fred is a collection of four short stories that arose from Michael Preston's experiences with his own children as the problem of their resistance to naptime and bedtime became an issue that had to be addressed with originality and a born storyteller's flair. The individual stories comprising this superbly produced CD include "Camping Trip with Mom and Dad" (6:44); "Sleepover at Granda and Granpa's House (5:26); "A Day at the Beach" (6:32); and "Let's Go to the Zoo" (5:39). Each of these stories featuring Fay and her brother Fred conclude with the two siblings falling asleep as the narration becomes softer and slower to reinforce a sleepy state in young listeners. Very highly recommended (especially for parents whose children are having trouble calming down from the day's stimulation), Storieszzz: The Adventures Of Faye & Fred is additionally enhanced with an epilogue: "Go to Sleep Lullaby (3:32).

The World According To Kaley
Dian Curtis Regan
Darby Creek Publishing
7858 Indstrial Parkway, Plain City, Ohio, 43064
Lerner Publishing Group, dist.
241 First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1607
1581960395 $14.99 1-800-328-4929

In The World According To Kaley, author Diane Curtis Regan takes young readers ages 9 and up on a funny, partly factual, partly personal spin on world history as seen through the eyes and imagination of a girl assigned to write a history essay. Filled with doodles and personal "insights", The World According To Kaley is a fun to read and fun to look at middle-grade chapter book where creativity runs wild on notebook pages. Dian Regan is an expert at writing original, imaginative, and highly entertaining picturebooks, chapter books, as well as both middle-grade and young adult novels. Other highly recommended titles from this accomplished author include Chance; Dear Dr. Sillybear; Princess Nevermore; The Friendship Of Milly And Tug; and the "Ghost Twins" series.

The Child's World
PO Box 326, Chanhassen, MN 55317-0326
1-800-599-7323 www.childsworth

Science Around Us is a twenty title series specifically designed to appeal to reluctant young readers in grades 3 through 8. Written at a grade 4 reading level, each 32 page volume is enhanced with full-color photographs, a table of contents, informative sidebars, a glossary of key words and phrases, interesting facts sections, a timeline of key events or an animal kingdom chart, sources for further research (including thematically appropriate websites), and a comprehensive index. Twelve titles are dedicated to Biology (Amphibians, Birds, Fish, Insects, Mammals, Mollusks and Crustaceans, Reptiles, Sea Jellies, SeaStars, Spiders and Scorpions, Sponges, and Worms). Eight titles focus upon Physics (Electricity; Energy; Light; Magnetism; Matter and Material; Motion; Solids, liquids, and Gases; and Sound). Basic core additions to school library collections, each of these volumes (available individually: list price $27.07; school/library price $18.95), both school and community library systems would be well advised to acquire the Science Around Us series in its entirety for the benefit of their students and young patrons. This outstanding series is also ideal for homeschool curriculum development and supplementation.

Environmental Disasters
Jane Walker
Stargazer Books
c/o The Creative Company
123 South Broad Street, Mankato, MN 56002
$108.40 (list), $75.80 (school/library) 1-800-445-6209 fax: 1-507-388-2746

Environmental Disasters is a four volume series from Stargazer Books for young readers grades 4 and up that focuses on the consequences of human actions which have worked to the harm of the environment. Jane Walker's informative and "kid friendly" text is enhanced with maps, facts files, color photographs and illustrations, a glossary, and an index. The four titles comprising this outstanding and strongly recommended series for school and community library Environmental Studies reference collections, includes Atmosphere in Danger (1932799125); The Ozone Hole (1932799095), Oil Spills (1932799109); and Vanishing Habitats And Species (1932799117). Although each titles is available individuals ($27.10 list; $18.95 school/library), because these titles are so well written and presented, bringing young readers to a clear understanding of the implications and effects arising from man-made environmental disasters, library systems are encouraged to acquire the entire four volume set for their young students and patrons.

Upstart Books, c/o Highsmith Inc.
PO Box 800, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538-0800

The "Instant Library Lessons" series by Karen A. Farmer Wanamaker is specifically designed to introduce children in kindergartner through the second grade to what is available for them in a school or community library. Each of the three grade appropriate volumes contains 36 lessons focusing on six content areas: Library Skills, Literature Appreciation, Learning Techniques; Comprehension, Oral Language, and Writing Experiences. Instant Library Lessons: Kindergarten (1932146145, $16.95) includes Teddy Bear Time, Farmyard Friends, and Stories in Threes. Instant Library Lessons: First Grade (1932146121, $16.95) features Bug Out Over books, quilt Me a Story, and Focus on Frogs. Instant Library Lessons: Second Grade (193214613X, $16.95) offers Duck Fever, Out of This World, and It's Raining Cats and Dogs. Certain to be popular supplements for classroom curriculums on Library Science, Each of this outstanding and thoroughly "kid friendly" workbooks are ideal for use in homeschooling use as well.

Good Night, Sweet Dreams, I Love You
Patrick C. Friman, Ph.D.
Boys Town Press
14100 Crawford Street, Boys Town, NE 68010
1889322652 $10.95 1-800-282-6657

Clinical Professor of Pediatrics Patrick C. Friman, Ph.D. shares his wisdom with sleepless parents in Good Night, Sweet Dreams, I Love You: Now Get Into Bed and Go To Sleep!, a simple guide for anyone having problems getting their children to go to bed. Chapters cover specific issues with helping children from infants to toddlers, preschoolers, elementary schoolers, middle schoolers and beyond. Written in plain terms, Good Night, Sweet Dreams, I Love You emphasizes the importance of building good sleep habits, and warns parents that children of all ages are always learning - and therefore responding to their excessive crying, defiance, attempts to leave the bedroom, and other activities with an abundance of warmth or gentleness will create positive reinforcement for the negative behavior of resisting bedtime! Good Night, Sweet Dreams, I Love You walks the reader through time-tested procedures to help children get their sleep, including "cold turky" and graduated methods for tuning out nighttime crying, and the "robotic return" method for dealing with a child who wanders out of bed (return the child silently and emotionlessly and say nothing, so as not to associate comfort or other positive responses to a child deliberately leaving the bedroom). Above all, stresses Friman, the parent must remain in control and not negotiate, discuss or argue about bedtime with a very young child; children need rules, limits, parental authority, and sleep at an early age. A brief discussion of problems such as bedwetting, night terrors, or sleepwalking rounds out this straightforward, problem-solving guide, which points parents to a list of resources for further reading as needed. Enthusiastically recommended for parents or caregivers of young children, and also an excellent baby shower gift.

Sharon Stuart

Silver Fox's Bookshelf

A Place for Ida
Patricia Richardson
ISBN: 1592864805 $19.95 200 pages

An emotional journey, in search of love, acceptance and redeemption.

In her debut novel, author, Patricia Richardson conducts a a heart wrenching trip from South Carolina to New York City that spans more than a decade. Ida has been denied the most precious of things needed to thrive, love. The sole source of solace comes from the maternal grandmother. Carrie finds herself, at an age and physical condition where she should finally be able to relax, carrying the weight of her offspring and theirs as well. Relying solely on her faith in God, Carrie provides for her charges often hindered by their parents' shortcomings. In a racist South, during the turbulent 60's, she does the best she can with what is available.

Despite her very obvious physical beauty Ida is shunned and mistreated by all of the females in her family (except Carrie). She pretty much experiences only the negative aspects of her birthright. Fortunately, the men in her life seem to appreciate her but are often too busy just trying to survive to give her the kind of affection Ida's soul cries out for.

Today one can turn to any one of the daytime talk shows and hear young, troubled, teenaged girls potentially destroying their lives in futile attempts to get attention or unconditional love.
A Place For Ida will make you want to holler. She suffers several deeply traumatic incidents and in her suffering grows into her adult self. Her family, in much need of healing and redemption will be inadvertantly forced to see themselves in a new light.

I found the story to be compelling and only wished she had shown more of the story that was told in narrative. It should be a great movie some day and I look forward to reading more books by Patricia Richardson.

author - poet - publisher founder of Infinite Spectrum

SF - Why and When did you start illustrating creatively?

JC - I've been drawing [well] since elementary school, and illustrating professionally since college, off-and-on for over three decades.

SF - Where do you get the inspiration for your artwork?

JC - From God, [and client-specifications.]

SF - Are there parts of you contained in your works?

JC - God has blessed me with the ability to document images through art.

SF - What art form(s) are you most comfortable with?

JC - Fashion Illustration, Life Drawing, Landscapes, Still Life

SF - Where do you hope to see your creative career go?

JC - Internationally, Prosperous

SF - Have your life experiences influenced your work? If so, how?

JC - [To date] as a Fashion Illustrator, the craft became practically extinct with the increase in popularity with photography. Otherwise, I would suspect that everything in life influences each and every one of us.

SF - What, if anything, would you like to share about you,the person?

JC - I'm honest, kind, intelligent, talented, and spiritual.

SF - How has your transition to publication gone?

JC - Surprisingly well.

SF - What would you like to do differently the next time?

JC - Be more [financially] and emotionally prepared.

SF - To whom do you seek advice and / or support from?

JC - I'm in prayer first/last, and my youngest sister is extremely supportive.

SF - When can your fans expect to enjoy your work again?

JC - I've recently completed another book [cover/interior] art.

SF - How can your fans reach you?

JC - Through email - and my web site -

SF - Do you have any presently scheduled events for the next few months?

JC - Not at the present moment, though I am working on two projects for clients.

SF - What books / poetry / artwork have you read / seen lately that you would like to recommend?

JC - Insight by Valerie C.J. McGee, Getting Out Alive by Regina Paul, A Place for Ida by Patricia Richardson; all of Nikki Giovani's poetry; artwork by me, Jerri Council and the artwork of Kaliq Rashad.

SF - What is your idea of fun?

JC - Dancing to and/or listening and/or singing good music!

SF - What experiences do you hope to one day have?

JC - Monetary wealth accompanied with good health and happiness, and the ability to travel.

SF - What places do you still wish to travel to?

JC - Africa, Hawaii, Jamaica WI, Canada

SF - Do you have an agent and if not are you looking for one?

JC - No, and no.

SF - Are there any other professionals you are seeking to enhance your career?

JC - I'm currently available for book-cover art [exterior/interior], and am founder and CEO of my creative development business...Infinite Spectrum, where one's artistic abilities can be directed towards a successful career.

SF - How many not yet to be released works do you have keeping warm on the back burner?

JC - I'm writing my memoirs, and wrote a short autobiographical story that was entered in a popular magazine's annual literary contest. The illustrations are done on demand.

SF - Off all of your released works which is your favorite?

JC - My first book cover was for Ms. McGee, [my sister] and she's by far my biggest, I'd have to say doing her illustrations is most favorable, collabrative and the greatest reward, due to the profound love and respect we have for each other's talent, as women, sisters and friends!

SF - When and where - what type of environment are you most creative in?

JC - My home.

SF - What other talents should everyone know you have?

JC - Singing, Dancing [hmmm, well maybe not injury], Crafty [sewing, knitting, crocheting], very good cook, great managing/organizing skills, recognizes outstanding talent [in its begining stages]

SF - Where would you like to see your life five years from now?

JC - See the answer to #17. (Wealth, health, happiness, travel)

SF - Anyone out there you like to acknowledge?

JC - My four sons, Chris, Kaliq, Gennes, Raymond and my only daughter Sade for being my purpose and inspiration to be a great example of how an adult should try to live...with humility and confidence, righteousness and goodwill, and responsibility and consequence. Also, my grandchildren and their mothers, my sister Val and her family, Spyder, Agnes, Kim, Zain, Kandis, Bridget and a host of others [too many to name at this time.]

SF - I thank Jerri Council for taking time out of her very busy schedule to share with her fans
new and old a glimpse into the woman behind the beatiful book cover (and interior) illustrations Please vist Jerri Council at her web site. Don't forget to sign her guest book.

I took the liberty of contacting the authors, whose books display the creative genius of Ms Council.They each stated that she created the illustrations based upon their individual requests and the content of the written works. Personally I have seen Ms. Council's artwork not yet on her site (watercolors, acrylics, oils and charcoals) and suggested that she add them to her gallery. I suspect at some point in the near future Jerri Council's artwork will be a much sought addition for collectors of fine art. My four sons, Chris, Kaliq, Gennes, Raymond and my only daughter Sade for being my purpose and inspiration to be a great example of how an adult should try to live...with humility and confidence, righteousness and goodwill, and responsibility and consequence. Also, my grandchildren and their mothers, my sister Val and her family, Spyder, Agnes, Kim, Zain, Kandis, Bridget and a host of others [too many to name at this time.]

SF - I thank Jerri Council for taking time out of her very busy schedule to share with her fans new and old a glimpse into the woman behind the beatiful book cover (and interior) illustrations Please vist Jerri Council at her web site. Don't forget to sign her guest book. I took the liberty of contacting the authors, whose books display the creative genius of Ms Council.They each stated that she created the illustrations based upon their individual requests and the content of the written works. Personally I have seen Ms. Council's artwork not yet on he r site (watercolors, acrylics, oils and charcoals) and suggested that she add them to her gallery. I suspect at some point in the near future Jerri Council's artwork will be a much sought addition for collectors of fine art. Her talents quite evidently do cover an Infinite Spectrum.


SF - Why did you start writing creatively?

RP - I've been writing almost as long as I've been reading so that's a hard question to answer. I started out initially I think because I liked the ways words fit together, and it was a challenge to get them to fit together well and descriptively.

SF - Where do you get the inspiration for your stories?

RP - I get inspiration from a lot of places. Sometimes I go for walks and just let the old brain percolate and ideas will come to me. Sometimes a phrase or title will pop into my head from nowhere and I'll ask myself what story goes with that, and I'll go with it from there. My best ideas though seem to come from times when I'm meditating or dreaming. I got the idea for GETTING OUT ALIVE from a dream.

SF - Are there parts of you contained in your works?

RP - Of course, I think most writers put pieces of themselves into their characters. Although, I also pick traits that I definitely don't have as well, especially with my villains!

SF - Do you identify with any one particular character? If so how?

RP - I identify a lot with the character Molly in my book due out in Spring 2006 from THE KEEPERS OF ETERNITY. I think I identify with her because she's Native American like myself, and she's very spiritual which I also consider myself to be.

SF - What genre(s)/art form(s) are you most comfortable with?

RP - I am probably most comfortable with the Romance genre, although I have a tendency to cross genres and mix romance with science fiction as I did with GETTING OUT ALIVE, or with fantasy as I'm doing with THE KEEPERS OF ETERNITY.

As for art forms, I like to do Native American beading and I paint watercolors as well.

SF - Where do you hope to see your creative career go?

RP - Well, like most writers, I'd love to see my work on the New York Times Bestseller list. However, realistica lly I'd like to see my fictional works in the hands of those who also enjoy cross genre fiction, and be able to make a decent living with my writing. If I could quit my day job and just write and market my books, I would be very happy.

SF - Have your life experiences influenced your work? If so, how?

RP - Oh, definitely. Well, those that know my work know I tend to write about Native American characters, usually mixed bloods as I am. I use my writing to try and dispel some of the stereotypes people have about Native Americans. It's truly amazing to me how little the general public knows, and how there are even those out there who think there is no longer an active American Indian culture. I try to use my writing to dispel that myth, along with t he one that we don't exist anymore.

SF - What, if anything, would you like to share about you, the person?

RP - I believe very strongly that what you put out into the universe is what you get back. I live by this idea, so I think it's important to do what you can for others, to be kind, helpful and loving as often as possible, especially with those who are not so to you.

SF - How has your transition to publication gone?

RP - I guess I'd have to say it's been like a roller coaster ride. I had no idea until I'd actually got into the process how much work it would be. It's been difficult at times, but also very rewarding. I've had the great good fortune to meet many people on the road to publication, some of whom have become like family to me. So, I'd say that despite the difficulties it has been more than worth it.

SF - What would you like to do differently the next time?

RP - I would edit my book a little more slowly, and carefully and give myself enough time to have a couple of other people do a read through as well.

SF - To whom do you seek advice and /or support from?

RP - My husband Vince, divinity, and my heart sister Valerie CJ McGee.

SF - When can your fans expect to enjoy your work again?

RP - Spring 2006 is when tentatively I expect THE KEEPERS OF ETERNITY my next novel to be available. However, I'm writing a bi-monthly newsletter called Regina's Universe which you can sign up for at my website, and I plan on releasing a novella sometime in the next few months or so.

SF - How can your fans reach you?

RP - Presently I can be reached at my e-mail address and at my website

RP - While I am not always logged onto the messenger services, I can be reached on yahoo messenger under the name tiwatz, and the AIM Messenger under the name EagleWoman36. But please e-mail me first and set up a time to chat with me so I can be sure I'm logged in.

SF - Do you have any presently scheduled events for the next few months?

RP - Not at this time. I'm hoping to set some up soon though.

SF - What books/poetry/artwork have you read/seen lately that you would like to recommend?

RP - I haven't been doing much reading lately as I've been working on marketing GETTING OUT ALIVE. However, the last book I read was OCEANS OF FIRE by Christine Feehan, and I would definitely recommend any and all of her books to anyone who likes reading paranormal romance.

SF - What is your idea of fun?

RP - Sitting in a hot bubble bath reading a good book.

SF - What experiences do you hope to one day have?

RP - I would love to travel more.

SF - What places do you still wish to travel to?

RP - Ireland, Scotland and Greece.

SF - Do you have an agent and if not are you looking for one?

RP - No, I don't have an agent and I'm not presently looking for one. However, if one came along and I was impressed enough with the person, I would consider it.

SF - Are there any other professionals you are seeking to enhance your career?

RP - Not really. My budget is kind of tight right now, and professionals have a tendency to be expensive. I've made it my policy to learn to wear different hats so I can be my own professional.

SF - How many not yet t o be released works do you have keeping warm on the back burner?

RP - I'd have to say I have 8 on the back burner presently. I want to write at least 5 more books in the Other World Series of which GETTING OUT ALIVE is the first. THE KEEPERS OF ETERNITY will probably be the first of another series. I have at least three books one of which is completed there.

SF - Who did your cover illustrations for Getting Out Alive?

RP - The very talented artist Jerri Council. You can view more of her work at

SF - Of all of your released works which is your favorite? (If you only have one out so far.) Which scene is your favorite and why?

RP - I presently only have one work that's been released. I have several favorite scenes in GETTING OUT ALIVE, but one of my most favorite is the one where Wolf, Angel's hybrid dog, decides he wants the code to Darek's door to include him, so he can bark and the door will open! It's very comical how he sends the picture to both Angel and Darek telepathically, and then to see their reactions.

SF - When and where / what type of environment are you most creative in?

RP - I'm most crea tive in the early morning planted in front of my computer in my home office. I like to play soft music in the background such as Enya or Native American flute music by artists Carlos Nakai or Kevin Locke.

SF - What other talents should everyone know you have?

RP - Well, as I said before in addition to writing I do Native American beading and watercolor painting. Also I create and design websites for other creative types. I designed the official websites of Infinite Spectrum at and Valerie CJ McGee at as well as my own website. I also like to design marketing materials I can use for book promotion.

SF - Where would you like to see your life five years from now? I'd like to see my books in bookstores, and me not working the traditional 9 to 5, but rather making a living off of my writing skills.

SF -Anyone out there you like to acknowledge?

My husband Vince for always believing in me no matter how hard this journey has been at times. My family without whom I would not be where I am today, my parents, brother, and his wife, and my in-laws who all have been extremely supportive. Valerie CJ McGee for being such a wonderful heart sister and supporter and for giving me a kick in the behind every so often when I need it. Beverly R. Jones, and Krista Braaten for writing such wonderful reviews for GETTING OUT ALIVE. Also, Jerri Council for her artistic endeavors on my behalf and for creating such a beautiful cover for GETTING OUT ALIVE. I can't thank you all enough, you are the best!

Getting Out Alive
Regina Paul
ISBN: 1-411629752 $17.20 383 pp.

Valerie C J McGee
iUniverse, Inc
ISBN: 0-59566217X $25.95

A Place For Ida
Patricia Richardson
ISBN: 1-592864805 $19.95 200 pp.

Silver Fox, Reviewer

Sonali's Bookshelf

The Last Kingdom
Bernard Cornwell
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd St New York NY 10022 212-207-7000
ISBN 0060530510, $25.95, 352 pp.

Bernard Cornwell is a masterful storyteller, combining history, war strategies, romance, political intrigue, bloody battles and unforgettable people with such verve, intricacy and attention to the smallest telling details that the reader remains mesmerized throughout the tale and cannot forget it long after the book is finished.

The story is set in Northumberland in northern England, in the second half of the ninth century: the time of the Danish Vikings and King Alfred, the Great. "The Last Kingdom" is as much a war story for the kingship of the entire country of England, as it is a story of Uhtred, the ealdorman of Bebbanburg (present day, Bamburg, located on the shores of the North Sea, not far from Lindisfarne island), and his transition from childhood to adulthood. This is also a story of deeply rooted paganism versus early Christianity.

Uhtred is ten when he is captured by the Danes, who kill his father and his older brother. He spends his adolescence with the Vikings, learning how to become a skillful and ruthless warrior. He fights in battles against the English and would prefer to be considered a Dane. However, destiny has other things in store for him: It puts him under the command of King Alfred. His loyalty to Wessex is sealed with his marriage to a West Saxon woman named Mildrith. Uhtred comes into adulthood through the trials and tribulations he undergoes as commander of the king's new fleet of ships and their battles with the Danes. The death of all three Lothbroksons through Uhtred's cunning strategizing and superb swordsmanship, brings victory for Alfred and a time of peace for Uhtred to spend in his hall at Defnascir, with Mildrith and their son Uhtred Uhtredson by his side.

Uhtred is born Pagan, but his early childhood is marked by continuous attempts by the Christian priests to stamp out all traces of his beliefs. His later childhood, after his capture by the Danes, is spent renewing and reinforcing his pagan beliefs, for the pagan Angle god Woden was none other than the pagan Norse god Odin. His marriage to Mildrith and his acknowledgment of King Alfred as his overlord in his early adulthood, cause him to come once again under Christian influence. But however much he outwardly proclaims to believe in the one true God, his core belief remains with Odin, Thor and Valhalla.

Cornwell's battle scenes are powerful, with no two alike in strategy, mayhem or emotions. His wizardry with words takes the reader there -- right on the battlefield -- to personally witness the carnage, smell the fear and triumph, hear the swords and shields clashing, listen to the cries of dying men and the whinnying of terrified horses, and to behold the sheer bravery, glory and devilry.

Few English writers have ever painted the Vikings as anything but godless people, intent only on raiding, warring and savaging. With Uhtred relating this story, we see the Danes as human beings, having a deep love of family, loyalty to friends, and a code of honor and integrity far stronger than any beheld before in the lands of the Angles, Saxons and Celts. "Men die," they said, "but reputation does not die." The Vikings believed that "strength, generosity, hardness and success" are the true mark of a man.

"Destiny is everything." And so ends this story. Having visited Bamburg and the surrounding areas and having a special interest in King Alfred made this story especially memorable for me. I look forward to following Uhtred as he faces the challenges life chooses to throw at him in the upcoming sequel.

The Stories of English
David Crystal
Overlook Press
141 Wooster St New York NY 10012 845-679-6838
ISBN 1585676012, $35.00 584 pp.

"The Stories of English" should ideally be a textbook for the "History of the English Language 101" course. However, Crystal's superbly crafted and meticulously researched tome makes complex linguistic theory readily accessible even to the armchair enthusiast through masterful storytelling. Interwoven through the evolution of Modern English is the history of the dialects of the world.

The standard history of the English language starts with the arrival of the Germanic tribes and proceeds along predictable Anglo-Saxon rails: Old English, the Norman influence leading to Middle English, the Renaissance leading to Early Modern English, the discovery of printing leading to dictionaries and further standardization and eventually to the emergence of Modern English by 1800. This is the story of only one kind of English and only in England -- Standard English -- and even that ignores early Celtic and later East Indian influences, to name two.

However, as Crystal points out, there are three observable problems with this history: most English speakers don't speak Standard English, a significant number of writers don't write it and it is not used in a large percentage of online interactions. Regional, socio-cultural and ethnic dialects and accents reveal the true linguistic history, as does the study of language patterns in say, the Caribbean, South Africa, the United States, India, etc.

Most people are taught Standard English in school and tend to use it in most formal settings. However, they also have command over different informal styles of speech; for example, at lunch with work colleagues, at a party of high school buddies, at a gathering of parents, your child's friends and their parents, etc. No historical account of English can or should ignore the entire gamut of the language's formality range.

Crystal's history of English starts with the existing Celtic and Pictish languages in Britain before the arrival of the Romans. Old English emerged as a polyglot of the Celtic Roman, Germanic and Nordic Viking tongues, not to mention some Frankish and Frisian influences thrown in by traders. Even as Old English was coming into its own as a language, lexical diversity was already present depending upon who spoke it: a Dane, an Angle or a Saxon.

And so the story goes on to the tales of a trilingual nation (English, French and Latin) in the High and Late Middle Ages that led to the emergence of Middle English. The first written record of dialect is in Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," where Chaucer uses dialect to express character. This period also sees the start of linguistic discourse and dialect groupings by occupation, social structure, regional location, etc. These dialects were also readily reflected in the written language, because the language in those times had not yet become prescriptive.

During the Renaissance, the London and Oxbridge triangle of power and influence was instrumental in creating the early Modern English (Midlands dialect). However, the process was haphazard at best; there was no academics or standards body. The printing press and printed material, such as the Bible, literature and early dictionaries greatly aided this process. The chancery with its complex judiciary was also a primary influence on defining Early Modern English.

By Shakespearean times, English was a rich language with thousands of words, and all writing (formal or otherwise) was conducted in Early Modern English. Writers then began devising new literary forms, inventing new words and using old words in new senses, thus, contributing greatly to the lexical expansion.

The age of colonization and the industrial revolution saw the incursion of words from the following languages into English: Greek, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, AmeriIndian languages, Middle Eastern languages (such as Turkish, Hebrew and Persian), East Indian languages (such as Hindi, Tamil, etc.) and other Asian languages (such as Tibetan, Malay, Chinese and Japanese).

Johnson's dictionary as well as the later Bibles were instrumental in shepherding in Modern English, and that transition happened from 1700 to 1800. "Early [medieval] manuscripts had no punctuation marks or even spaces between words." However, ever since punctuation marks were introduced as oratory guides, the Lynne Trusses through the ages have whinged and argued about their usages.

And to all the readers who run away in horror from split infinitives, and consider them a transgression of the computer age, Crystal has a little snippet from the anthology of "Punch" magazine, titled "Mr. Punch in Society" (c.1870) that shows that Victorians, too, shuddered from them while their writers just as cheerfully employed them.

"The Stories of English" is a groundbreaking history of the language in a compelling narrative of a truly global adventure. For the first time, regional speech and writing command center stage. With examples from Bede's "Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation" (8th century) to "Lord of the Rings," David Crystal underscores his theories and conclusions.

Sonali T. Sikchi

Sullivan's Bookshelf

The Friar and the Cipher: Roger Bacon and the Unsolved Mystery of the Most Unusual Manuscript in the World
Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone
ISBN: 0767914732 $26.00 320 pp.

Here's another true, interesting, grippiing story about an unusual book. The saga is brought to discriminating readers by that well known, book hunting, history researching, married couple, the Goldstones. This current volume is just their latest in an ever-growing list of timeless tomes on tomes.

This tales involves Roger Bacon, a 13th Century Franciscan monk/academic/scientist/philosopher. He was known as the Miraculous Doctor for all his deeds, thought to be magical, like producing a rainbow, creating explosions louder than thunder, and having a looking glass that allowed him to see for 50 miles in any direction. Needless to say, he was an early practitioner of science, quite unknown by the public at large in that era.

This academic was educated at the newly founded higher education institution of the University of Oxford in England. He later taught there and at the University of Paris. Mainly, he studied, then instructed in, science, mathematics, and philosophy, and the recently introduced fields developed by Arab scholars from Aristotle's works, which had purposely been ignored in the Christian West.

A contemporary of Bacon's, Thoms Aquinas, a Dominican monk/academic/philosopher/theologian, teaching at the University of Paris was interpreting Aristotle and fitting a portion of the ancient Greek's writing into Roman Catholic Church doctrine. Bacon felt that Aquinas, because he lacked knowledge of science and math, couldn't possibly know what he was doing. For opposite reasons, church leaders, up through many reigning popes, thought that Bacon was way off base, giving too much credence to science, which didn't always fit so neatly into established doctrine.

Going against church teaching, at this time, could be dangerous to one's health. Indeed, what with the inquisition and with other official, royal, and/or churchly intrigues, challenging religious doctrine could even get you burnt at the stake, one of the less cruel methods of capital punishment of its day.

Still, Bacon continued to flirt with danger. But he was prudent enough, being an expert in many areas of leaned life, to use codes, or ciphers, in some of his writing. Most people believe that he wrote a work, that in more recent years has come to be referred to as the Voynich manuscript after it was found in 1912 in an old trunk full of illuminated manuscripts in Italy by Michael Voynich, a rare book dealer.

"[..]Voynich himself," writes the authors, "described it [the manuscript] as an 'ugly duckling.' It was just over two hundred pages and small, only six by nine inches, about the size of current-day hardcover. The pages were vellum and the cover was blank. No title or author's name was visible anywhere. There was a letter attached, on which was written a date--1665 or 1666, Voyich couldn't be sure--but he knew immediately from looking at the script and the style of writing that the manuscript itself was actually much older."

From the time it was discovered, the attempt at translation, the determination of its authorship, and the tracing of its provenance (who's owned, held, or secreted it over the years) has been frenetically underway. The quest has been unceasing, taking many twists nd turns.

Much of the history of the Middle Ages is dipped into during this story's telling. Such outstanding historical figures on the world's stage as Queen Mary, King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth, Francis Bacon, apparently no relation of Roger's and born 300 years later, and numerous others of interest, such as the various, but mostly short-lived, popes during those years.

Since the discovery of the manuscript, numerous code breaking experts, from different countries that participated in World War One and Two, have spent great chunks of their lives trying to decipher Bacon's manuscript. The tales of their superhuman efforts are full of tension, frustration, and cleverness.

The Goldstones last book, OUT OF THE FLAMES, like their current one, was hard to put down, too. Highly recommended!

The Post-truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life
Ralph Keyes
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0312306482 $24.95 312 pages/indexed

From the Pulitzer-prize winning history professor, Dr. Joseph Ellis, who told fibs to his students at Mt. Holyoke College about his military service in Viet Nam, to football coach George O'Leary, who became Notre Dame's football coach but was fired six days later after being caught lying about his academic degrees on his resume, this book is replete with stories of high profile liars.

U.S. Presidents aren't overlooked either, like LBJ who lied to Americans about the Gulf of Tonkin incident to Tom Harkin and Albert Gore and Ronald Reagan who told some whoppers of their own. And, yes, the Clintons are both discussed at length in this volume, too.

It would seem that lying today is sweeping the country like never before. Certainly lying, fib telling, and plain old prevarication has been with mankind since time immemorial. But the prevalence of rerouting the truth today seems truly astounding. Many of the episodes mentioned in the book were well known. But most aren't. Certainly everyone has heard and read about the New York Times reporter, Jason Blair, who lied in nearly all the stories he wrote, and the Boston Globe's Mike Barnicle, who did some fabricating, also, but few know about several others reviewed.

Then there're the Hollywood storytellers from Wynona Ryder, with her shoplifting problem, to the Coen brothers who brought the movie-going public the film FARGO, supposedy based on a true story that wasn't. Brian Dennehy and John Wayne come in for criticism, too, along with Nick Nolte, and many others.

Besides, those academics mentioned earlier above, many others in that sphere of influence are raked over the proverbial coals by Ralph Keyes: Michael Bellesiles, for instance, and his fictitious research about how few revolutionary period colonialists owned muskets. Then there was Edward Said from Columbia University who told fibs about his background to appear more in line with his sympathies for the Palestinians and on and on.

There's even a chapter debating whether lying is good or ever justified. The answers are inconclusive, except in cases where someone could be hurt or killed. Essentially, like moms and dads have told children that it's always best to tell the truth, especially to their parents, it might not be wise, however, to tell your elderly aunt that she looks awful even if its true. Not surpisingly, kids get mixed messges from their elders, not to mention from their bosses and superiors in other realms, too.

Of course, the subject of lying to spouses or to significant others takes up several pages of this volume. Is dishonesty between men and women a new phenomenon? Is it growing in amount? Should one engage in truth telling within relationships? Naturally, but....

The author comments in the book, "Lying has existed in every society for all of time and undoubtedly always will. The question then becomes whether a given society facilitates or discourages dishonesty. Certainly we need more truth telling throughout our own society. But even more than this we need a context that rewards honesty and penalizes dishonesty."

Ralph Keyes resides in Ohio. He's written a dozen earlier books, including, Is There Life After High School? and The Wit and Wisdom of Harry Truman. Keyes has also been a guest on various TV and radio programs. Recommended.

Jim Sullivan

Taylor's Bookshelf

A History Of Christianity In Asia
Samuel Hugh Moffett
Orbis Books
PO Box 308, Maryknoll, NY 10545-0308
1570754500 $65.00

The 36th title in the Orbis Books' "The American Society of Missiology Series", A History Of Christianity In Asia: Volume II, 1500-1900 focuses upon four centuries that say tremendous missionary efforts by the Catholic Church in Asia with what can only be described as ambiguous results. Informatively written by Samuel Hugh Moffett (Henry Luce Professor Emeritus of Ecumenics and Mission, Princeton Theological Seminary), this 742-page masterwork is a seminal contribution to the study of Christian history in general, and Asian oriented missionary outreach in particular. Enhanced with maps, abbreviations and Acronyms of Journals, Annuals, and Organizations, a Bibliography, and an Index, this second volume is a document of impeccable and exhaustive scholarship, and a welcome contribution to Christian Studies. Also very highly recommended is the first title in this series, A History Of Christianity In Asia: Volume I, Beginnings To 1500 (1570751625, $30.00).

Oasis of Wisdom
Rev. David G. R. Keller
The Liturgical Press
St. John's Abbey, PO Box 7500, Collegeville, MN 56321-7500
0814630340 $16.95 1-800-858-5450

Rev. David G. R. Keller, Ed.D., presents Oasis of Wisdom: The Worlds of the Desert Fathers and Mothers is a scholarly and spiritual examination of the lives, beliefs, and wisdom of early Christian monastic men and women in Egypt and other desert lands. Chapters discuss daily lives and survival in such communities; the virtues that those living in such communities strove to achieve; and the lessons the postmodern world can learn from the early ascetics, such as the importance of stillness and science, humility, and patience. The importance of praxis, literally "action that is habitually repeated" and considered to be labor and vigilance toward the inner spirit leading to love of God and neighbor in this context, is also a key founding point. Oasis of Wisdom will prove most accessible to intermediate students and scholars of history, religion, and spirituality, yet it is careful to define and delineate terms so as not to exclude lay readers. Highly recommended for anyone seeking a deeper understanding in the theological and spiritual as well as the historical lives of early Christians.

The Sacred Art of Fasting
Thomas Ryan, CSP
Skylight Paths Publishing
Sunset Farms Offices, Route 4, PO Box 237, Woodstock, VT 05091
1594730784 $15.99 1-800-962-4544

Written by Catholic Priest and member of the Paulist Fathers Thomas Ryan, CSP, The Sacred Art of Fasting: Preparing to Practice is a straightforward look at fasting as a means to open oneself spiritually. Chapters survey the use of spiritual fasting in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and among the Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and strive to explain what makes fasting a "sacred art". The final chapter discusses in detail proper preparations for fasting, what health conditions make it unsafe to fast, alternative means of fasting for those who cannot safely do so, how much exercise is appropriate during a fast, and more. The Sacred Art of Fasting specifically focuses upon fasting as a spiritual practice rather than a weight loss or health practice, yet there is some discussion of the physical benefits of a controlled fast. A sober, practical, and deeply reverential discussion of an ancient practice undertaken in search for enlightenment.

The Mystical Language of Icons
Solrunn Nes
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
255 Jefferson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49503
0802829163 $30.00 1-800-253-7521

The Mystical Language of Icons is a straightforward and breathtakingly illustrated guide to Christian iconography throughout history. Full color photographs of iconographic artworks on almost every page are enhanced with an in-depth text that describes the history, meaning, and purpose of Christian icons; the techniques that religious painters used to create these works; specific nuances of individual motifs, gestures, and colors; Christian hymns, poems and prayers appropriate to individual artworks; and much more. Written by one of Europe's most well-known iconographers, The Mystical Language of Icons is a serious-minded text yet highly accessible to lay readers, historians, and anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of iconography as a form of Christian worship, expression and communication.

Till My Last Breath
Vision Video
PO Box 540, Worcester, PA 19490-0540
#500821D $19.99 1-800-523-0226

Till My Last Breath is the true and inspiring story of Pastor Sunday Adelaja who left his come country of Nigeria to study journalism in Belarus, USSR. There, government officials tried to persuade him to study socialism instead, but Sunday resisted, preferring to turn to God and not the State for his ideals. Threats and false accusations followed his refusal of the authorities demands, but Sunday started reaching out to those in need. Today he is pastor to more than 20,000 believers in the Ukraine and has founded churches all over the world. Till My Last Breath showcases the impact of one man's faith and what God can do when that man obeys His call. Pastor Sunday Shares the secrets of his heart and the keys to his successfully ministry in this full color, 28 minute, DID documentary that is strongly recommended viewing for all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliation.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Ruy Lopez Exchange
Krzysztof Panczyk and Jacek Ilczuk
Everyman Chess
c/o The Globe Pequot Press
PO Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437
1857443896 $23.95 1-800-243-0495

International Chess Master Krzysztof Panczyk and e-mail World Championship semi-finalist Jacek Ilczuk present Ruy Lopez Exchange, an in-depth scrutiny of the Ruy Lopez Exchange (or Spanish Exchange), an oft-used opening among Grandmasters and leisure players alike. A wealth of diagrams and sample games thoroughly explore the possibilities of this opening, how to strengthen it or counter it, as well as a discussion of its variants. Like its many companion volumes published by Everyman Chess, Ruy Lopez Exchange is an excellent resource for intermediate to advanced chess players looking to strengthen their understanding of the game.

Play Poker Like Johnny Chan: Book One Casino Poker
Johnny Chan and Mark Karowe
Seven Locks Press
3100 West Warner Avenue, Suite 8, Santa Ana, CA 92704
1933074485 $29.95 1-800-354-5348

A solid "how-to" guide co-written by the highly-regarded poker player Johnny Chan, whose titles include 2002 WSOP Match Play NLH Champion and 2003 WSOP No Limit Hold-em Champion among many others, Play Poker Like Johnny Chan: Book One Casino Poker is a simple guide to poker basics for players who are out to win. Chapters discuss general poker concepts for the uninitiated, and the rules and favorable versus unfavorable situations for many poker variants including Limit Hold-em, Seven Card Stud, Eight Or Better Stud, Omaha High, Omaha Hi-Low, and No-Limit Hold-em. Some background information on tournaments and internet poker is included, as is general (and very sound) strategy advice for the would-be career poker player, as well as a mentions of famous and skilled individuals Chan has played with. Notably absent from Play Poker Like Johnny Chan is any in-depth discussion of card-counting or related mathematical methodology; it is primarily an introductory guide to give the reader a hands-on understanding of game mechanics as well as the importance of the professional mindset. Chan's key rules - keep playing when you are winning, stop when you are losing, stay to an environment where you feel comfortable, take a vacation from poker when you need it (never try to win the money needed for a vacation from poker when you need one, that's a certain way to burnout), and discipline yourself to move back down to smaller tables when you're losing at big tables - are vital and should be taken to heart by all prospective professional poker players. Full-color photographs illustrate this handy primer, which is printed on glossy paper.

The Anime Companion 2
Gilles Poitras
Stone Bridge Press
PO Box 8208, Berkeley, CA 94707
1880656965 $18.95 1-800-947-7271

Written by the author of "The Anime Companion", The Anime Companion 2: More... What's Japanese In Japanese Animation? is a reference especially for hardcore fans and casual viewers alike of Japanese animated movies and television shows, usually called "anime" for brevity. Both The Anime Companion and The Anime Companion 2 are arranged encyclopedia-style, but each one has its own list of A-Z entries; they are independent collections of entries gathered over the course of years. Like its predecessor, The Anime Companion 2 consists of entries, each one a few paragraphs in length, that define a specific Japanese geographical location, historical event or thing that often appears in anime and may well be unfamiliar to Western viewers. From the names of districts of Tokyo and other populous cities, to famous historical revolts, to foods commonly eaten in Japan, religious customs, and much more, the entries in The Anime Companion 2 give the casual browser a better understanding of Japanese daily life and culture roots. Entries are listed in alphabetical order according to the romanized form of the Japanese words, but each one is also written in the traditional Japanese writing system of kanji, both the modern and old forms if applicable. All words that have an entry are in boldface for easy cross-reference, and icons show the reader at a glance the general facet of life that each word refers to: food, geography, religion, etc. The Anime Companion 2 especially focuses upon Japanese historical references, which were more scarce in anime when the first volume was published but seem increasingly common in modern anime, plus the author's sidebars and comments about anime fandom in general are intriguing. Highly recommended, especially for anime and Japanese popular culture fans.

Going Places Reader
IEP Resources Publications
PO Box 930160, Verona, WI 53593-0160
#GP-020 $49.00 1-800-327-4269

Developed and designed for students in grades 7 through 12, Going Places Reader: 96 Lessons Focus On USA destinations divides continental American into eight geographic areas and provides details on twelve unique tourist destinations within each region that have a special apple to middle and high school students. An ideal curriculum supplement as high-interest reading comprehension material attractive to teen readers, each of the 96 lessons consists of a pone-page story written in a modified travel brochure style at a third to fifth grade reading level, and includes two pages of comprehension quizzes about the story. Students locate their destination on a map and connect its location to their own state and town of origin. The students are also encouraged to write their own experiences and opinions about each site. The lessons are illustrated and include actual photographs of the locations. Enhanced with thematically appropriate internet addresses, Going Places Reader would be especially effective with "reading phobic" students and would make a an effective and fun addition to homeschooling curriculums as well!

Facility Design And Management For Health, Fitness, Physical Activity, Recreation, And Sports Facility Development
Thomas H. Sawyer, editor-in-chief
Sagamore Publishing Company
804 North Neil Street, #100, Champaign, IL 61824
1571675655 $69.95 1-800-327-5557

Now in its eleventh edition, the spiral bound textbook, Facility Design And Management For Health, Fitness, Physical Activity, Recreation, And Sports Facility Development, is augmented with new chapters on financial management, promotions, public relations, merchandising, ticket operations, programming, as well as event and risk management. Anyone acquiring Facility Design And Management For Health, Fitness, Physical Activity, Recreation, And Sports Facility Development also has free access to a commercial level computer aided design and drafting program: VersaCAD. In fact, there was so much new material that the textbook simply could not accommodate that the Sagamore Publishing Company decided to post some 200 pages of it on their website at With its 500+ printed pages and the additional online information, Facility Design And Management For Health, Fitness, Physical Activity, Recreation, And Sports Facility Development is the definitive and strongly recommended instructional compendium and reference for students and professionals in this specialized field.

Collectables Records Corp.
PO Box 35, Narberth, PA 19072-0035

Collectables Records specializes in packaging classic, inexpensive, superbly produced collections of outstanding musicians, singers, bands, and musical groups that have made their mark in the fields of jazz, R&B, country, rock 'n roll, and popular music. Among there latest and enthusiastically recommended releases are Dee Dee Bridgewater's Just Family/Bad For Me (COL-CD-7802, $14.97) showcasing 27 of her best songs ranging from Open Up Your Eyes and Night Moves, to Love Won't Let Me Go and Is This What Feeling Gets? Dizzy Gillespie's Closer To The Source (COL-CD-6738, $12.97) features special guest performers Marcus Miller, Stevie Wonder, and Branford Marsalis along with seven notable selections that include Could It Be You; Iced Tea; and Textures. The Very Best Of Luck Millinder (COL-CD-2898, $16.97) offers 24 classic tracks from "I'm Waiting Just For You; Let It Roll Again; and Who Said Shorty Wasn't Coming Back; to Bongo Boogie; The Right Kind of Lovin'; and It's A Sad Sad Feeling. The Very Best Of Lonnie Johnson (COL-CD-2897, $16.97) showcases 25 classic tracks including What A Woman; Feeling Low Down; Trouble Ain't Nothin' But The Blues; Seven Long Days; and You Can't Buy Love. The Best Of Little Esther (COL-CD-2896, $16.97) has 25 songs by Esther Phillips that span Heart To Heart; Cryin' And Singin' The Blues; and Bring My Lovin' Back To Me; to Saturday Night Daddy; Flesh Blood And Bones; Cherry Wine; and Love Oh Love. For a complete listing of the hundreds of memorably impressive CDS readily available in the Collectables Records music catalog, visit their informative website at

Paul T. Vogel

Volk's Bookshelf

Cory Fagan & Jari Love
Ripped Workout
411 Video Information (publicity)
Unit 2, 1709, 8th Avenue, NE, Calgary, AB, Canada, T2E 0S9
90 minutes $19.95 1-866-800-8678

Ripped! features total body workout exercises led by personal trainer and fitness club owner Jari Love using barbells, dumbbells, and body weight. The exercise instructions are enhanced with technical information provided by exercise physiologist Cory Fagan in order to ensure the safety and effectiveness of each exercise for the participating viewer. Bonus features for this outstanding physical fitness workout DID include recaps of scientific research and individual success stories. Easy to follow and highly recommended, Ripped! will enable men and women to burn body fat while achieve improved muscle mass, tone, and a general overall improvement in their physical well being.

Speaking Of...Creativity
Joel Asher
Joel Ahser Studioes
411 Video Information (publicity)
13448 Albers Street, Van Nuys, CA 91401
48 minutes $29.95 1-818-785-1551

In Speaking Of...Creativity, nine truly talented men and women drawn from the broad field of the Arts focus upon the wellsprings of their own particular creativity, how sensory awareness affects their creative process, what creativity feels like, and how creativity is an integral part of their personal and professional lives. The commentators include Joel Asher (director, acting coach); Dori Atlantis (installation artist, art teacher); Richard Bruland (artist); Fu-Ding Cheng (artist, author, film maker); Gordon Hunt (director, voice actor); Jon Lawrence Rivera (director, artistic director); Maria Royce (cellist, sound artist, composer); Mimi Seton (composer, vocal artist); Stacey Stone (actress, graphic artist, poet); Charlayane Woodard (actress, playwright). Speaking Of...Creativity will prove to be of particular interest to aspiring actors, artists, writers, and anyone else seeking to instill or enhance creativity in their own chosen fields of expression.

Crane Chi Gong
Dr. Daoshing Ni
Seven Star Communications
13315 Washington Blvd., Suite 200, Los Angeles, CA 90066
V-CRAN $39.95 1-800-578-9526

Chi Gong standing exercises were developed several thousands years ago by Chinese Taoists and an integral part of the Qigong forms developed in the 1980s and now practices by over 20 million people worldwide today. Practiced for healing purposes and demonstrated in Crane Chi Gong, a thoroughly "viewer friendly" DID by Dr. Daoshing Ni (an acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner, as well as a master and teacher Qigong and Taijiquan for more than 15 years). Clearly explained and illustrated by example, these exercises integrate movement, mental imagery and breathing techniques. They are easy to learn for all ages, and are intended to increase the practitioner's energy and metabolism, relieve stress and tension, improve mental clarity, and restore general well-being. Crane Chi Gong has a total running time of two hours and is a welcome, enlightening, inspiring, instructive addition to any martial arts, alternative medicine, and Qigong reference collections.

Secrets, Lies and Apologies...America's Domestic Violence Crisis
Crime Prevention Resources
c/o Advantage Source, Inc.
33 North Central Avenue, Suite 202, Medford, OR 97501
V0401 $89.00 1-800-867-0016

Secrets, Lies and Apologies...America's Domestic Violence Crisis is a 45 minute video that is instructive, informative, and thought-provoking as it introduces the viewer into what was once a suppressed, "socially impolite" subject, but has now come firmly to the forefront of public awareness as an endemic personal, familial, and social issue -- domestic violence. Stories from victims and perpetrators tell it all. Abusers talk about how and why they became violent. Victims talk about the abuse they suffered, why they did not end the relationship, and why they still love their batterers. A daughter explains how her father's need for complete power and control has continued to affect her as an adult. Along with these compelling stories, this documentary details one community's unique approach to handling domestic violence cases. Mandatory arrests for perpetrators and court-ordered education for both perpetrators and victims are explained by a judge, a sheriff, a court advocate, a probation officer, and a counselor. This program makes it clear that all of us are affected by domestic violence. It is not just a victim's problem. The underlying message is that no one deserves emotional or physical abuse and that solutions must focus on education through the community. Secrets, Lies and Apologies...America's Domestic Violence Crisis should be a core addition to all community library "Social Issues" multimedia collections and is especially recommended to the attention of domestic violence victims, perpetrators, parents, counselors, women's issues advocates, law enforcement officers, and members of the clergy charged with the care and welfare of their parishioners. Also very highly recommended are the other instructional videos from Crime Prevention Resources: "Blueprint For Home Security" ($89.00); "Identity Theft: How to Protect Your Money, Your Credit & Your Good" ($89.00); "Internet Safety for Kids" ($89.00); "Internet Safety for Parents" ($89.00); and "Reducing the Odds: Personal Safety Techniques" ($89.00).

Teens & Tanning: Sun Safety Update
Learning ZoneXpress
PO Box 1022, Owatonna, MN 55060
1571751009 $49.95 1-888-455-7003

Suntanning first became popular in the 1920s when fashion designer Coco Chanel made the practice truly fashionable. Today the medical science of dermatology has verified the hazards of overexposure to the sun and the indiscriminate use of tanning beds. These medical hazards include skin cancer and premature aging of the skin (wrinkles). Now there is a 16-minute informative DVD that sums up the problems associated with suntanning, and shows how a few changes, such as seeking shade, applying sunscreen, wearing sunglasses and hats, utilizing spray tanning, and avoiding tanning beds, can keep any teenager or young adult looking good and keeping safe while enjoying the sunshine. Every high-school and community library Health/Medicine collection should include the Teens & Tanning: Sun Safety Update DVD. Also highly recommended for young viewers grades 6 to adult is the MyPyramid: Pass It On! DVD (1571751041, $49.95) for healthy eating guidelines and information.

Cryptozoo Crew, Volume 1
Allan Gross and Jerry Carr
NBM Press
555 8th Ave, #1202, NY, NY 10018-4364
1561634379 $9.95

Cryptozoo Crew, Volume 1 is a raucous, exciting, and more than a little satirical graphic novel following a handsome, brawny, gung-ho cryptozoologist and his stunningly beautiful not to mention ruthlessly resourceful wife. Together their voyages of discovery pit them against chupacabra, cave monkeys, carnivorous plants, skunk apes, yeti, and many more monstrous denizens of terrible jungles in which no man can bear to ask for directions and listen to the answer. Tongue-in-cheek humor, rip-snortin' black-and-white action, and a lighthearted nod to many pulp adventure comics in the past make Cryptozoo Crew, Volume 1 just plain fun cover to cover, and leave the reader hungry for more.

It's All About Love
Lisa Bell
Lisa Bell Music
c/o The Creative Service Company
4360 Emerald Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
#52442 $14.98

Lisa Bell is one of the new jazz singers making a well-deserved reputation for excellence as a song writer and a performing vocalist. Her new and eagerly recommended CD album, It's All About Love, has her performances backed by some of the best musicians in her home state of Colorado. The twelve tracks comprising this expertly produced album include When I Wish (4:51); don't Wait Forever (4:34); She's Not Right For You (4:33); Ain't Divorce Grand (4:43); Along the Beaches (4:07); Here I Am (4:00); Mary had a Little Plan (4:12); You'll Find Me (4:05); Faraway Friends (4:51); When You Look for Love - Redux (3:45); Burning Desire (4:13); and the title piece, It's All About Love (4:54). Note: Lisa Bell's CD album is available online through,,,,, and (along with more information on Lisa and her career) her own website,

Spirit Of A Woman
Radmilla Cody
Canyon Records Productions
3131 West Clarendon Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85017
CR-6384 $15.49 1-800-268-1141

Navajo singer Radmilla Cody has a distinctive voice that is put to good use as she continues her musical exploration of her Native American music, both traditional and contemporary, in her CD album, Spirit Of A Woman. The listener is treated to fourteen memorable works including Prayer to the Creator (2:08); A Beautiful Dawn (3:31); A Child of Water (3:01); Grandmother and Mother's Legacy (3:24); My Horses (3:31); The Fancy Dancer (3:28); She's My Hero - Ode to Lori Piestewa (3:12); Possession Song - Yodi Biyiin (2:53); Keyah Baa Hozho - My Country 'tis of Thee (2:41); Remembering the Taino (2:07); Blessing in Disguise (4:21); Guaraguao (2:03); Tears (3:55); and the title piece, Spirit of a Woman (3:19). With a total running time of 44 minutes, 31 seconds, Spirit Of A Woman is a welcome and strongly recommended addition to any personal, community library, or academic Native American Music collection.

Seu Jorge
Wrasse Records
c/o Rock Paper Scissors
216 West Allen Street, Suite 137, Bloomington, IN 47403
WRASS-160 $13.99

Seu Jorge was once a homeless kid in a Brazilian slum just outside of Reio de Janeiro. He spent years developing his talent with music and theatre, eventually landing a part of Knockout Ned in "City of God" which proved to be his first big break. Cru is the solo album debut that introduces Seu Jorge with his distinctive voice with an accompaniment of acoustic guitar and percussion. This superbly produced and enthusiastically recommended CD album features Tive Rzao (I Was Right, 4:32); Mania De Peitao (Large Chested Mania, 2:35); Chatterton (3:52); Bem Querer (My Dear, 3:21); Don't (3:06); Sao Gonca (4:22); Bola De Meia (Sock-filled Ball, 5:25); Una Mujer (4:37); Eu Sou Favela (I Am Favela, 2:27); and two bonus tracks, Mania De Peitao (Jamais Plus Jamais Mix, 2:51) and Tive Razao (Valtair Mix, 4:39).

A&E Productions
2409 Sepulveda Boulevard, Suite 206, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Brickman Marketing (publicity)
395 Del Monte Center, #250, Monterey, CA 93940

Edie "The Salsa Freak" Espinoza and her husband Al "Liquid Silver" Espinoza collaborate to create a three volume series of instructional videos on Salsa Dancing that will take even the most novice beginner through all the steps, moves, and motions to become world class Salsa dancers for personal fun or dedicated competitions. Accomplished, award winning Salsa dancers, Edie and Al have performed at major Salsa events and taught dance workshops in more than forty countries, and have even invented their own distinctive "Millennium Style" of Salsa dancing. Beginner Salsa! Dancing: Step-by-Step ($19.95); Intermediate Salsa! Dancing: Step-by-Step ($19.95); and Advanced Salsa! Dancing: Step-by-Step ($19.95) have Edie and Al demonstrating every aspect of the Salsa, from the simple to the complex, from the basic steps to competition winning choreography. The production values are flawless, the instructions wonderfully illustrated, and the advancing levels of accomplishment are logically methodical. The "step-by-step" format is ideal for even the most non-specialist general viewer seeking to learn one of the most popular dances in the world. Also very highly recommended is Edie and Al's fourth instructional DVD -- Latin Nightlife: Learn To Dance Cha Cha Cha, Merengue; Bachata; and Salsa! ($19.95) and their "Dance Freak" website at

New Dieter's Cookbook
Better Homes and Gardens
Meredith Books
1716 Locust Street, Des Moines, IA 50336-0001
0696225646 $19.95 1-800-678-8091

The New Dieter's Cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens showcases five hundred terrific recipes for the weight conscious, along with the latest practical recommendations for weight loss success from experts in the field of weight management. There are formulas designed to help figure out calorie needs, calorie amounts for a variety of everyday commonplace foods, and each individual recipe features complete nutrition information for the dish. From Cherry-Apple Cobbler; Sage and Onion Mashed Potatoes; Herbed Pineapple Refresher; and Pinot Noir Beef Stew; to Caribbean Pork with Sweet Potatoes; Balsamic Turkey with Zucchini; Rosemary Trout with Lemon Butter; and Ginger-Date Pumpkin Loaves, each recipe comes with thoroughly "kitchen cook" friendly instructions and a color photograph of that particular culinary delight. When you eat well, lose weight and/or maintain desired weight levels, you can't help but feel great -- and the New Dieter's Cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens can be of immense and practical help to achieve your best health goals while pleasing even the most gourmet of palates and satisfying even the most compulsive of appetites.

Carol Volk

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

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