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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 9, Number 9 September 2009 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Bethany's Bookshelf Bob's Bookshelf
Carson's Bookshelf Christina's Bookshelf Christy's Bookshelf
Clark's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf Debra's Bookshelf
Gary's Bookshelf Georganna's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf Hassler's Bookshelf
Henry's Bookshelf Jennifer's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf
Kaye's Bookshelf Logan's Bookshelf Margaret's Bookshelf
Paul's Bookshelf Raja's Bookshelf Rege's Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Slessman's Bookshelf Theodore's Bookshelf
Victoria's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

The Commuter Marriage: Keep Your Relationship Close While You are Far Apart
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D.
Adams Media
57 Littlefield St., Avon, MA 02322
9781598694321 $14.95

Alma H. Bond, Ph.D.

The Commuter Marriage: by Tina Tessina is an original, charming little book, which is replete with anecdotes, advice, and case histories from the psychologist-author's practice on how to conduct a satisfactory marriage, despite physical distance. Tessina's advice is so good it would behoove all couples, stationary or otherwise, to take notice. A guidebook for commuter marriages, it offers help to spouses temporarily living apart, those residing at a distance from each other they hadn't planned on, people working such different hours it feels as though they are living apart, those who live away from home for days or weeks at a time because of job requirements, individuals in the process of deciding if a job away from home is rewarding enough to warrant a separation from one's mate, and partners who need to deal with the difference between the fantasy of a commuter marriage and its reality.

The book answers questions about how to keep the passion burning over the miles, means of communicating effectively over distances, particularly in our age of advanced technology, how to resolve conflicts peacefully and remain friends, raising healthy children when only one parent is physically present, how to avoid and overcome jealousy, and how to live well in more than one home.

My favorite part of the book deals with the benefits of commuter marriages. (Yes, they do exist!) Spouses formerly dependant on their mates to take charge of such necessities as cooking, balancing checkbooks, taking care of the kids, and making minor household repairs, may find that they have developed these skills on their own. Becoming capable of making decisions without needing to check with a mate is an ego strengthening and growth enhancing experience. Not the least of benefits gained in such marriages is the joy of reunion, with a frequent return to the passion experienced at the beginning of the relationship. One couple I know of couldn't wait to resume their sexual pleasures, and although family members were nearby went into a closet to enjoy themselves. There are other gains, as well, for the married commuter. A life of togetherness is frequently focused on the needs of others, the demands of home, family, and work. Living alone, on the other hand, gives time for the individual's needs to become primary, perhaps for the first time in his or her life. Have you always wanted to take that crazy dance class, to study French, to write the Great American Novel? Now at last is the time. In a commuter marriage, the individual becomes more self-reliant, is able to determine this future according to his or her own needs, becomes more self-confident, develops greater self-esteem, learns to be self-motivated, is more comfortable with his or her feelings, and becomes capable to a greater degree of nurturing and supporting himself or herself.

As self-knowledge increases, the person learns how to overcome loneliness. According to Tessina, (p.170), "Loneliness is a valuable emotional clue that you are feeling abandoned by yourself." What better way to surmount loneliness than to learn to be comfortably alone? And what better opportunity to develop such strength than in a commuter marriage? Being highly self-critical of oneself, for example, contributes to feelings of loneliness. Tessina advises her readers to be a friend to themselves. She asks with good humor, "If someone treated you the way you treat yourself, would you want to be around him or her? (P. 171)" Among other suggestions, the author proposes that the lonely individual ask what one would like one's partner to say or do, and then to be as kind to oneself as the partner would be.

The Commuter Marriage: by Tina Tessina is a delightful little book that I read with great interest (having at one time successfully survived a commuter marriage myself) at one sitting. It is highly original in that to my knowledge there are no other books written on the subject. The book is highly recommended for those individuals in or who are considering commuter marriages, and indeed, for all married couples who wish to get along better. Her advice is thoughtful, clever, and insightful. She anticipates every crisis, and gives exercises for dealing with each one. The book is clearly written and highly readable, and takes the fear out of the idea of being separated by miles from a loved one. In fact, when one considers all the gains that can be experienced in a commuter marriage, one has to wonder why every married couple doesn't try it, at least for a while.

Scion Book I: House of Bardin
Miriam Newman
DCL Publications
9780982361047 $3.50 ebook

Amy J Ramsey, Reviewer

Rating: 4.5

This is a time when battles are continuously being waged, poverty and slavery are widespread among the planets and Houses of the highest ranks, rule over the lesser beings. On the planet Danalaai, Lela, a beautiful girl with the bluest of eyes and the whitest of skin, is waiting for her father to seal her fate, selling her into a life of slavery. She is an estimated 16, pure and untouched, a bonus for the slavers and more profitable for her family. Now her brothers will be able to afford the much needed armor before they head into battle. This is the way of her race and Lela is prepared to sacrifice her freedom for her brother's survival. While waiting to be shipped out to the planet Thelona, Lela's mother places a gift in her hair, a pair of leather hair ornaments, secretly containing a rare herb.

It's been eight years since she was sold as a sex slave, during that time, Lela has acquired a reputation of being an unruly, rebellious, and unfruitful, slave. She refuses to be dominated by the vile men who want to claim her body; raping, beating, and eventually, impregnating her. Because of her behavior, Lela has once again been placed up for sale, but when, Caius, a handsome man with a physique of a fighter, takes notice of her, Lela senses something different about him. Why would someone of his stature be interested in her? Whatever his intentions, Lela is determined not to make his conquest easy. Will she finally submit to her passionate, sexual desires or will Caius happen to be like all the other foul men, with one thing on their mind … ravishing her body?

Scion: Book 1 of the House of Bardin is an enjoyable and entertaining read. Miriam Newman has crated a vividly touching and memorable tale, of a young woman sacrificing her freedom for her brother's survival by being sold into slavery and forced to live an unbearable life, as a sex slave to various men. As soon as I read the first chapter, I became immersed within the pages, unable to break free, until I completed the story. The characterization is vibrantly detailed and full of heartfelt emotion, along with a gradually budding plot, which entraps the reader and leaves them impatiently waiting for the next book. I look forward to recommending this book to any reader who has an interest in Adult, Futuristic Romance genre.

Ginger High
Melissa Burmester
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741453630 $14.95

Billy Burgess

Growing up in the 90's, I was a big fan of teen horror novels - Christopher Pike, R.L. Stine and Lois Duncan were some of my favorite authors. The teen horror/thriller trend has died down, except for the ones where vampires sparkle. I found Ginger High a breath of fresh air. Teen girls will easily connect with the main character, Daisy - a smart, strong young woman.

The novel begins in 1901 where a series of murders take place. All of the victims have bite marks on their necks. Could it be vampires? The story jumps forward to modern days and focuses on teen Daisy Fisher. After her school is burnt down, Daisy is sent to a new school in New York.. Ginger High is a private school for students with extraordinary powers and abilities. She befriends some of the students who can teleport, heal others, and create fire. She soon finds out that people came to Earth from a parallel world called the Kingdom of Animists.

A murder occurs at Ginger High, bringing the supernatural beings Amanta, Matthias, and Taeru from the parallel world. While they investigate the death, Daisy struggles with her supernatural powers, and with her mysterious new friend, Fredrick. Amanta must deal with a long time, buried family secret.

Fourteen year old, Melissa Burmester has written a fast paced debut novel; combining horror, mystery and fantasy. I love the cover of the book - it reminds me of the horror movie posters of the middle 80's. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery. The author has a bright future in the world of writing.

The Professor and the Dominatrix
John Harrigan
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1605633682 Hardcover $32.95; Softcover $27.95

G. Richard Bozarth

The Professor And The Dominatrix is a novel that takes on the challenge of combining crime investigation and sexuality. It just so happens I'm a good candidate to review such a novel.

I've read a lot of crime investigation fiction from Edgar Allen Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle (the great pioneers of the genre) to Dashiell Hammett (still the best writer to work in the genre) to many of the past bestselling authors that came after Hammett to a lot of the crime investigation novelists producing bestsellers today (Sue Grafton being the best of them). I've been reading sexuality fiction for approximately 48 years (I'm 60 at the moment I'm writing this). My "resume" includes Justine and Juliette by The Marquis de Sade, Story Of The Eye by Georges Bataille, The Erotic Adventures Of Sleeping Beauty by A. N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice), The Pearl: A Journal Of Facetiæ And Voluptuous Reading, The Story Of O by Pauline Reage, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, Belinda by Anne Rice, Totally Herotica edited by Susie Bright, Macho Sluts by Pat Califia, Vox by Nicholson Baker, Delta Of Venus and Little Birds by Anais Nin, and American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis.

When a person reads a book, she reads it in a context created by all the books she has read. This is unfortunate for Harrigan because his novel suffered in the context of my reading history. The Professor And The Dominatrix does not stand tall among its peers inside my head.

That does not mean this novel cannot be enjoyed. If a person reads it without the kind of context I have and is not a Victorian dinosaur, a higher evaluation would not surprise me. The story is basically simple. Professor Synan Slane is brought into a murder investigation as a consulting psychologist. The evidence suggests S/M is a component of the crime. That connects Slane with the dominatrix Orla Lowe, head of an S/M establishment called the Peabody Casket Company (the building once housed a casket factory and it amused her to keep the name when she occupied the place). He interviews her for her S/M expertise and because she might know a sadist who could have committed the murder. She's not much help, but Slane soon doesn't care. Eventually Slane and Lowe fall in love and get married.

The sexuality is pure vanilla, though I suppose a prude would be very offended. The crime investigation is commonplace. Harrigan was more interested in cultural analyses than in being creative with the sexuality or the investigation. The cultural analyses, since they are based on Freethought and Secular Humanist philosophy, are often better than what is offered by many contemporary crime investigation authors (these guys and gals write as if they desire to avoid being identified as too intellectual or too liberal).

Atheists, Freethinkers, and Secular Humanists will enjoy all the Freethought content in the novel. Chapter 4, "Critical Thinking 101", is an effective summary of hundreds - perhaps thousands by now - of articles in The American Rationalist and other Freethought magazines I have read. It succinctly hits many different Freethought and Secular Humanist nails squarely on the head. For example: "Critical thinking will help a lot in understanding. From the rattle shakers and scary-mask wearers to today's slick televangelists, status and influence are major ingredients in keeping unproven beliefs alive and making money." I disagreed with Harrigan only when he wandered down the dead end street of evolutionary psychology. Throughout the book the nails get pounded with true, driving blows.

Atheism, Freethought, and Secular Humanism can be translated into fiction of all genres that tells powerful stories. It doesn't seem to happen often. Are the novels, novellas, and short stories seldom being written or are they generally rejected by editors who are either offended themselves or overly concerned about offending "average American" readers? When a novel written for us does get published, it is cause for celebration and we should buy it if we have the extra money simply because publishers respond to sales figures. If a novel by one of us gets out there and has enough sales, the editors who work for publishers will read submissions of Freethought and Secular Humanist fiction with a more accepting attitude. The Professor And The Dominatrix should be supported by us, and I'm certain many will be very glad they did.

This Wicked World
Richard Lange
Little, Brown & Co.
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780316017374 $23.99

Jimmy Montague

Who is Jimmy Boone?

Hollywood bartender Jimmy Boone is the hero of Richard Lange's first novel, This Wicked World (New York: Little, Brown & Co, 2009; 401 pp., $23.99). Cast in that role, Jimmy Boone seems a poor fit. He ain't no Sam Spade; he don't crack wise with a gat in his puss. Mike Hammer could beat the crap out of Jimmy Boone and never bust a sweat. Philip Marlowe would notice that Jimmy Boone isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. Worse: Jimmy ain't got no class! He dresses like a bum and drinks like a sissy (Scotch, orange juice, sweet vermouth and cherry brandy? Blick!). Worst of all: Jimmy walks the mean streets with a toothless, wormy pit bull named Faggot.

Jimmy Boone's parole officer thinks Jimmy Boone is a loser. Jimmy Boone thinks Jimmy Boone is a shit magnet. Loretta the dog-rescue lady thinks Jimmy Boone has a good heart. Jimmy's friend Amy doesn't know what to think of Jimmy Boone. By the time they finish This Wicked World, readers may not know what to think of Jimmy Boone either.

This writer thinks Jimmy Boone is a guy who got tired of kicking himself around and decided to let novelist Richard Lange do the kicking for a while. If that sounds kind of wacky, it isn't, really. Jimmy's life is arguably better under Lange's personal management.

Before Richard Lange made Jimmy Boone into a crime-fiction hero, Jimmy did petty burglaries, served four years in the Marines, beat an innocent man near to death, spent four years in stir and ruined his buddy Carl's hifalutin, rent-a-goon bodyguard business. Since Richard Lange made Jimmy Boone into a crime-fiction hero, Jimmy does somewhat better: Jimmy solves a murder, rescues an abused dog, exterminates a gang of thugs, saves two friends from being thrown into the street and lays a cool roll of hot dough on the murdered man's widow and child.

The downside is that, while he's doing those good deeds, Jimmy Boone gets tied up, beat up, cut up, kicked, stomped, clubbed, punched, pistol-whipped, shot at, and nearly drowned. Pieces of Jimmy get ripped away and eaten by savage dogs. As if all that weren't enough, friend Amy pisses Jimmy off and leaves Los Angeles for a new life in Montana.

Women! They'll do it every time.

Even so, tough guys like Spade and Hammer and Marlowe shouldn't laugh at Jimmy Boone. Bartender Jimmy does have one asset that may yet land him in the Hall of Hard-Boiled Fame with the best of the professional dicks: Novelist Richard Lange, who created Jimmy, writes thunder-and-lighting prose. From the Prologue:

"Los Angeles was not its haughty self in the rain. It was like a wet cat: humiliated, confused. People stepped gingerly on suddenly slippery sidewalks, looking like they'd been lied to. The gutters, clogged with garbage, overflowed, and water puddled in busy intersections.

"Oscar waited for the bus with a mumbling loco and a couple of old ladies who shared an umbrella. The rain came down harder, the drops slamming into the pavement like suicides. Oscar zipped his jacket and pulled the hood over his head."

Beyond generous use of his ability to create a mood, a scene, a character, Mr. Lange put a bit of thought into This Wicked World. The book isn't just so much mindless violence. There is stuff here to ponder and to argue about.

For cops and public servants and do-gooders of every stripe (p. 98): "Most of the people you're dealing with on the street don't want your help. They want to be free to beat and be beaten, to rob and be robbed, to kill and be killed."

Describing the arch-villain, Taggert (p. 125): "He stares at death in the mirror every morning and carries it around inside him every day, and that gives him all the power in the world. Look into his eyes the next time you get close. The end of everything is in there. You can't reason with a man like that. You can only kill him or follow him."

Put This Wicked World under a magnifying glass, you spot a few mistakes. For example, Lange doesn't seem as familiar with Marine Corps training and the use of firearms as he needs to be and if he is, it doesn't show here: veteran grunts like Jimmy and Carl won't walk into a shootout with weapons obtained from god-knows-who that they haven't zeroed or even bothered to test. There are a couple of places, too, where characters' actions in response to motives described seem more than a bit outre. A competent editor will save an author from boners such as those -- Shame on you, Little, Brown! -- but readers who don't habitually pick such nits probably won't notice the mistakes because they'll be too busy having fun with the story.

Our verdict is that This Wicked World is rock-em, sock-em, arm-breaking, armchair adventure. The message is about doing the right thing, about how much trouble the effort brings us, about what it's worth to us as human beings. Moral ambiguity is a leitmotif in This Wicked World. Good and Evil are a hard pair to separate throughout. Wrong things (even armed robbery and murder) can look like right things if they're done in a just cause by people who for whatever reason are trying too hard to do right.

So it is with Jimmy Boone. Driven by his need to do just one right thing, Jimmy leads a small crew of his friends neck-deep into the muck of thuggery.

When the blood all dries and the dust all settles, Jimmy Boone thinks he's about through with Los Angeles. The Cyanide Hole suspects, however, that Los Angeles is not through with Jimmy Boone. Fans of crime fiction, having read This Wicked World, will hope that novelist Richard Lange finds new adventures for Jimmy (and a better editor) soon.

Art of the Upset
Bruce C. Reynolds
Advocate House (an imprint of A Cappela Publishing, Inc.)
9780981893341 hc $24.95, pbk $19.95

Jodi Grant, Reviewer

Bruce Reynolds has a philosophy for winning. He has demonstrated its success in his own life, as an award-winning football coach and a 9-times State Representative for Delaware. In Art of the Upset he shows how any David, in any field of endeavor, can overcome his Goliath.

While he talks about football, aiming his message at coaches, Reynold's advice translates into life lessons that can be applied to any career, relationship, hardship, failure or success. He gives wonderful examples, from military battles to board room tactics as well as from famous football events, of people and teams who have come from behind to take astounding wins. And he shows you the principal behind that win that made it possible..

Reynolds has always been fascinated with the psychology and the philosophy of how to pull off the big "upset". Art of the Upset, is a "how-to" for the coach. But, the principles of the upset can be applied to any profession and walk of life. He has drawn heavily from his own coaching career and career in politics to illustrate the concepts involved in the process of pulling off the upset. He has also researched and drawn from historical, professional, college, Olympic and world events to make the telling of the process come alive.

Whether you want to inspire yourself, your team, your employees or your family to strive together, this book will provide all the inspiration and how-to you'll need ... no small task in these economically challenging times.

Says Reynolds: "I believe this book is unique and would be beneficial to any and all who desire to be successful and to accomplish the seemingly impossible. It is a blueprint for success."

Hurricane of Independence: The Untold Story of the Deadly Storm at the Deciding Moment of the American Revolution
Tony Williams
Sourcebooks, Inc.
1935 Brookdale Road. Suite 139. Naperville, IL 60563
9781402221231 $15.99

Joe L. Blevins

Hurricane of Independence, the Untold Story

Imagine a hurricane the size of Katrina, Carla, or Cecilia multiplied by two! Author Tony Williams' new book tells of the fierce hurricane of September 2, 1775. Almost a year before the Declaration of Independence was signed a fierce storm blew in devastating the New England coast. During this time a hurricane was not only considered a natural disaster, but it was felt to be a punishment from a wrathful God.

This book contains a cast of characters that are well known and many that are lesser known. Still, they all help set the stage for what led the American colonists to act in a precise and decisive manner to join together against the British rule. Frustration was added by the addition of new taxes being levied on tea and the outrage of a struggling American economy trying to regroup over the loss of a great many lives. All the major American settlements that were the backbone of New England were destroyed! Most of the prominent citizens lost the wealth that they had spent years building. It was all destroyed in just a day's time.
Added to this was a possible slave revolt egged on by the British authorities. The British took arms and gunpowder away from secure colonial sites and gave them to slaves who were for the first time given some authority. The northern economy depended on indentured servants to do all the hard work. These were "gentlemen farmers," not your typical farmers that you would picture as you consider what a "farmer" would be.

All these many things came together and act as a catalyst to make the American colonists move to work together, to gather and secure arms, and to render aid to the many colonists that had lost so much. So this added influence from new British taxation put the American colonists into a mode to move beyond their differences. They became unified to act in a most desperate way! This is why you see the added importance of the "Boston Tea Party" and other forms of rebellion among the Americans. Out textbooks seldom show "cause and effect." This book does just that. It drives home the serious situation that made the Americans feel pushed to make a clean break with English rule. It was the "straw that broke the camel's back."

Tony Williams taught high school history over a decade. This is his first book. You would not know it. His writing style would suggest that he has written several books! It shows in his concern for telling the details in a careful and considerate manner. Some chapters I read several times as they are most enjoyable. I have written a few books on history, so I can appreciate how careful you must be to present the details when writing a book. It all has to be well considered, and done in the proper manner. These are things that we did not learn in school. We should have, but somehow these important details were omitted! This took away from our learning about the "actual" history. This book is much more interesting to read than any textbook, any day!

Read Hurricane of Independence by Tony Williams. You will learn what you should have learned in school. This book is interesting and informative. Each page shows the details of American history in a new light: the calm plan for rebellion, after the terrible storm. A good read for all ages: from 7 to 107! You will be glad that you did.

A Horse Of Course
Shari Lyle-Soffe
Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
St. Louis, Missouri 63128
9781935137825 $10.95

Mayra Calvani

Aaron is thrilled when Grandpa Roy gives him a horse for his birthday. After all, that's what Aaron wanted more than anything in the world. However, living with Horace the horse isn't as easy as Aaron predicted. To start with, Horace eats Aaron's strawberry cake and is incredibly messy. He spills food and drink all over the place. To make matters worse, Aaron has to clean up after him. But that's not all... Since Horace has the remote control, now they're all stuck watching horse racing. Aaron would rather watch cartoons! But sweet Horace pushes this further, stealing Mom's toothbrush and even Aaron's bed. Poor Aaron must now sleep on the floor!

Perhaps keeping a horse at home isn't such a good idea, after all. Or is it? You'll have to read the book to see all of Horace's naughty antics and to find out what Aaron decides.

A Horse of Course is the latest children's picture book by talented Oregonian author Shari Lyle-Soffe. Soffe really knows what appeals to young children and this is portrayed in her delightful books. The story is cute and quirky and will keep children's eyes glued to the pages as Horace's antics grow from silly to outrageous. I loved the artwork in this book, it just goes so well with the story. The illustrations, done in colored markers, pens and crayons, have a cartoonish style and are as whimsical as the tale. This book will not only be enjoyed by children who love horses, but by all, young and old, who love a good humorous story.

Dust in the Wind
Tom Morrow
1591291631 $32.95

Mitchell Waldman

Dave White is a seventeen-year-old boy in a small town in Oklahoma where nothing much happens. It's the summer of 1960. The country's in a recession, and, at the beginning of the novel, Dave loses his summer job to a man with a family. He's had his eye on a car, his dream, and now that he's lost his job, the dream is gone. The car is soon sold and despite the support of his family and friends, he gets the wanderlust. There isn't a job to be found in town. His girlfriend, Gayle, doesn't understand him. He wants adventure, so when another boy suggests that they go on the wheat cutting circuit for work, he soon warms to the idea. Then, in a search for adventure, and a way out of his small town (and for work), he goes in search of work on the wheat cutting circuit as a "wheatie." He soon finds out that the world is much harder away from his little town and little life, is exposed to the prejudices piled up on "wheat tramps" and gains a new sensitivity for prejudices he and others around him have long held.

He meets up with a wheatie named Frank who gives Dave a job as a driver even though he doesn't even know how to drive, and before long Dave is on his way, learning the wheat cutting trade. He learns the prejudices the wheaties must endure from townsfolk, the horrors that occur to some workers, the losses of love, the alcoholism, and, of course, the hard but unappreciated work that is involved in cutting wheat for farmers and for consumers. It's a hard life full of long hours, heavy drinking, and enduring the heat, dust, dirt, and prejudice, but it's a life, at least for the summer, that leads Dave on the road to becoming a man. He travels with the group from place to place, learning the trade, observing various personal horrors, as we follow the characters, who are as lifelike and colorful as can be. Dave and Frank become close; Frank serves almost as an older brother or father-figure to Dave, teaching him what it takes to become a wheatie and, most of all, a man in the world.

Dave meets a girl, too, in Colorado, and instantly falls in love with her, and she with him. And after that, the story becomes one of whether, when Dave returns to the wheat cutting trail, he will return to his love, and whether they have a chance together, these two young people, on the edge of innocence and from very different backgrounds and worlds.

This is an exceptional book, one that takes the reader along with him. The narration is a personal one, written in the first person. We're with Dave all the way, as he treks out into the world, rooting for him. It is very realistic, with a cast of fully realized, colorful characters that we come to love. The story is well paced and exhibits the writer's great skill as a storyteller. Although at times he tells a little bit too much about the technical aspects of the wheat cutting business, at least for this reader, it does make the story a fully realistic one. By the time Dave falls for Mary Anne in Colorado, in less than two days, and leaves to go back on the wheat circuit, the seed of her love locked in his heart, it's difficult to put this book down, eager as we were to find out what will happen with Dave. Will he get back with Mary Anne, his first true love? Will he return to his hometown, Crane, Oklahoma, and get back together with Gayle or even the pretty eighteen-year-old waitress, Sara, who works with Dave's mother, has already been married and apparently divorced, and has treated Dave like a younger brother?

In short this is a wonderful story about a subject that few are very familiar with. In addition to its educational value, it offers much more than a coming of age novel about a young man in search for his place in the world, but shows a strong young man who faces his fears and dreams on his way down the road to becoming a man.

Earthy Delights A Corinna Chapman Mystery
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave Ste 103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590583937 $25.95

Lorraine Morgan Scott

I'm not sure what caused me to pick Earthly Delights up off the shelf. Maybe it was the title. Earthly delights sounds yummy. Maybe it was the artisan bread on the book's cover, I was hungry while perusing the shelves in the library. Whatever it was, after reading the first few paragraphs, I knew I was in for a treat. Ms. Greenwood, the author, writes in a first person voice that is engaging..

"Suppressing an unworthy thought that he carefully positioned his tail so that I would stand on it and then spend ten minutes apologizing to him, I spent ten minutes apologizing to him - poor kitty! Did the big fat woman stomp on his innocent stripy tail? I would see if a little milk would assuage his sense of insult."

Corrina Chapman, the main character, shares (in a mockingly contemptuous manner) her view of the business world's manner of dress, hierarchy, and subservient environment, glad to be rid of the heels, the skirts, and the boss - now that she wakes at the unforgiving hour of 4am to work alone, but as owner of her own bakery shop.

Her life is a pleasant routine until her intrigue was piqued by yesterday's mail, which included a letter accusing Corrina of being a "Scarlet Woman," and then telling her "that the wages of sin are death." Instead of being afraid, Corrina found it weird.

From that incident, Corrina's routine was even more disturbed. One of her "Mouse Patrol" cats, Heckle, scrambled in from outdoors with a syringe in his paw. Corrina raced outside to confront the junkie, only to find a skinny young girl whose face was a dark blue. As her "skin tries to crawl off and find a more compassionate human," Corrina set up safety measures and started CPR on the young girl.

The girl survives, the first blessing, and Daniel Cohen walks into her life, the second blessing. Her life is about to take some strange turns in discovering more about herself and her capacity as "a compassionate human," as she helps solve not one, but two mysteries in her little part of Melbourne, Australia.

Author Kerry Greenwood spins a rich story, written in a humorous, self-effacing manner. You cheer when Jason, a fifteen-year old street urchin Corrina has accepted into her fold, smiles at his creation of a new-flavored muffin, cringe when you learn the multiple uses for a syringe, and crumble defenses like a flaky croissant when you hear how Daniel feels about Corrina. The neighbors of Corrina are one's you'd enjoy having at your place, well, maybe not one or two or three of them.

A fun read as you try to figure out who's sending the threatening letters and who's killing the city's junkies. The rising emotions of Corrina are hot enough to bake bread without the oven. Also fun is Ms. Greenwood's style of writing which makes you feel as if you're right there in the room with all the goings-on. I look forward to reading her other books.

Soul of a Dog: Reflections on the Spirits of the Animals of Bedlam Farm
Jon Katz
Villard Books
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9781400066292 $24.00

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

On Bedlam Farm, Jon Katz rules his kingdom of 3 dogs, 2 steers, a cow, 4 donkeys, 3 goats, a rooster and some hens, 2 barn cats, and a flock of 28 sheep. Reading "Soul of a Dog" is like taking a stroll with him through the farmyard to meet and greet some of the special ones - past and present - which have touched his heart and changed his life.

Rose is the quick and smart border collie. Through hard work and tireless energy, she has maintained order amid the chaos of so many critters. Elvis the Snickers-eating steer saved himself from the slaughterhouse. Lenore the black lab pursued a unique friendship. Meet the sweet yet stubborn donkeys, Mother the affectionate natural born killer cat, a Greek chorus of goats, and Henrietta the exceptional hen. Katz also includes the stories of two extraordinary dogs Fly and Magnus, who left their imprints as brief visitors to the farm. Even the spirit of Orson, a troubled yet much-loved border collie, materializes.

Throughout this pleasant outing Katz draws on the beliefs of great philosophers, poets, authors, and an incorrigible preacher to illuminate a variety of spiritual perspectives. As though peering through a camera lens into the animal world Katz examines the meaning of life with a focus upon memorable relationships between animals and humans.

Anyone who has ever loved a dog, or any critter, will devour "Soul of a Dog" in one sitting and contemplate its meaning forever. Those who have never bonded with an animal will discover what is missing from their lives. Katz explores the question of whether animals have souls with the humor and drama of a masterful storyteller. Readers will leave Bedlam Farm with a keen awareness of the key to unlock their own souls.

An Aquarium
Jeffrey Yang
Graywolf Press
2402 University Avenue, Suite 203, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55114
9781555975135, $15.00

Rick Marlatt, Reviewer

Jeffrey Yang's visionary collection of poems, An Aquarium, is an illuminating poetic experience inspired by the mysteries of aquatic life. Through brief, yet powerfully fulfilling pieces, Yang weaves together stunning descriptions of alphabetized marine organisms and uses their unique inspirations to explore intellectual aspects of the human existence. Throughout the book, Yang makes vivid connections between the history and lore of various creatures and their implications on literature, history, and philosophy. Many of Yang's poems such as "Holothurian," "Lionfish," and "Barnacle" follow a distinct and consistent structure which often begins with a physical description of the organism or its habitat, moves into its history both scientific and legendary, and transcends into its philosophical connection with poetics and modern life. "X-Ray Fish" is a concise gem that demonstrates this arrangement perfectly: "You can see straight thru / an X-Ray fish to its heart. / We are just as transparent / so be true, gentle, honest, just…" (56) Yang's single stanzas of brief, imaginative lines seamlessly arrive at the thrust of his connections and offer meditative opportunities for interpretations similar to imagist and haiku poetry.

While the impetus of Yang's poems begins with the static environment of the aquarium, he progresses beautifully with great physical atmosphere in many pieces such as "White Whale," "Triggerfish," and "Peysonnel." "Starfish" begins, "One feels a sainte-terrer walking / the starfish shore. The soul / delighteth in decussate symmetry / dwells quincuncially. Without a word / prayer elevates the heart." (46) Yang places the reader in a descriptive environment that is driven by a combination of creative imagery and powerful self-examination. By transitioning the format from theoretical to empirical, Yang invites the reader accompany him on this spiritual voyage. The poem concludes, "Star- / fish have neither brain nor heart. / Perhaps they are pure intellect of / soul pure coincidence pure / feeling clinging to the rocks of Paradise. / Far from living water the soul desiccates." (46) Yang pushes for a catharsis which lies beyond the principles of science and the realms of the spirit, and while this destination is clearly complex and elusive, it is also basic to existence and beautifully simplistic. As featured in these lines, Yang's frequent use of original words throughout the text accentuates the mysterious depths he is penetrating. Similarly, in "Crab," Yang states: "Slantwise the crab advances. Poets, / philosophers, the body / politic share different aspects / of this problem." (9) Inspired by the corporeal patterns of the crab, Yang correlates its inefficient yet ultimately logically configurations with applicable elements of human society. In this subtle yet sophisticated composition, Yang universalizes the experience of survival.

Intriguingly, Yang sees each organism as representative of a particular theory or principle, and he composes lines in their honor which exemplify those ideals. In "Sharks," he explores the power of evolution and persistence; in "Parrotfish," Yang focuses on the art of abstraction; and in "Nudibranch," Yang testifies to the value of seeking for truth through the symbiosis of science, art, and philosophy. Even more fascinating are the intellectual pieces inspired by the vastness of oceanic life. "Google," "Intelligent Design," "Aristotle," and "Vacuum" bring into question the purpose and eventual ends of science, art, and philosophy. "U.S." exhibits this intense style of investigation and anchors the entire collection by imagining the country as a fish. Line by line, the poet attempts unsuccessfully to narrow the U.S. down to a single species. After suggesting that the U.S. is every kind of fish from small, false, illegal, to secret, militaristic, and destructive, Yang concludes: "or a tin-straw-lion fish; or a Shiite Muslim / fish with a Protestant upbringing; / or a blind fish swimming thru a minefield; / or an extinct fish in a museum; / or a fish with fry full of hope; / or not really a fish but a gamba." (50) Yang demonstrates the futility in categorizing the American experience by invoking the eclectic multiplicities that compose its population and history, and he does so through overlapping layers of masterful language.

Building on the genius of each individual work, what An Aquarium manages to do as an entire collection is even more impressive. By channeling these connections through a third-person voice that is simultaneously clear and mystical, Yang is able to investigate the human existence objectively, as if looking through the glass of space and time. In a sense, we are the creatures in the aquarium, and the integral relations Yang is exploring are our own. Yang's poems undulate in alternating waves of wisdom, humor, and prophecy, and what is left behind is the powerful wash of a uniquely gifted artist. An Aquarium splashes into the reader's consciousness and drowns it in an introspective sea of inquiry, journey, and discovery. Yang's poetry leads us beyond understandings of our natural surroundings, into a perspective from which we, as he states in "Jellyfish," "rediscover new worlds."

Parkers' Encyclopedia of Astrology: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Astrology
Derek Parker and Julia Parker
Simon & Schuster
9781905857852 $19.95

Rose Glavas, Reviewer

I know this sounds a bit 'nerdy', but I love any type of dictionary! The fact that this is an astrology dictionary is even more exciting given that I have a very big interest in this subject.

This book on first impressions looks bright and colourful, hopefully describing the contents accurately! Husband and wife team Derek and Julia Parker are well known and respected within the astrological community and have been around since 1970 with the publication of many co-written books not only on astrology, but also biographies, poetry and novels. The back cover promises 'comprehensive, jargon-free' information.

Opening up this title, you'll find a brief biography of the authors and introduction… then move straight into the action. The first entry is 'Abano, Pietro d', and the last is 'Zodiac, The Man'. As promised on the back cover of this book, both entries were comprehensive and jargon free - as well as interesting and well written. At the back you'll find a comprehensive bibliography which is always useful if you want to look into your favourite topics in more detail.

This book would make a great gift for anyone who has an interest in astrology - it is concise but informative and really does make an interesting read for a person who is perhaps looking for something a bit extra in astrological knowledge - a bit like a lucky dip really! It certainly gave me some information to follow up.

By the way, the cover does describe the contents… bright and colourful!

Bethany's Bookshelf

A Pebble to Polish
Janet Lord Leszl
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419664496, $18.99

Autistic children can be blessings of their own, but few parents truly understand this at first. "A Pebble to Polish" is the story of one mother coping with the birth of her autistic child. Following the road from pondered infanticide to renewed hope for the future, "A Pebble to Polish" is a story that will warm hearts as well as inspire mothers of autistic children to cherish the gift they may not know they have.

Find Your Balance in an Out of Balance World
Barbara Tessari
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439224885, $13.99,

Too many things, not enough time to do them. "Find Your Balance in an Out of Balance World: How to Get Over Too Much Food, Too Little Time, Too Many Excuses, and Take Care of Yourself!" is a guide to managing one's life. Encouraging people who try to do everything that they need to cut back, "Find Your Balance in an Out of Balance World" advises that when too much is on the plate, doing more for the sake of health may in fact make one more unhealthy. "Find Your Balance in an Out of Balance World" is a strongly suggested read for anyone who can't find time in their life.

The Horrible Huckleberry Hex
Alani M'echel Weathers
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741453282, $9.95,

When dealing with ancient things, you must be careful; you may break it, or it could break you. "The Horrible Huckleberry Hex" follows young Jordan Davis on his first camping trip. He encounters a berry tree with supposedly cursed berries, and he soon finds his world is about to get a lot more complicated. "The Horrible Huckleberry Hex" a fun adventure for young readers, recommended.

Ginger High
Melissa Burmester
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741453630, $14.95,

Some people take to writing at an early age with ease. "Ginger High" is the first novel of a fourteen-year-old writer displays much skill. Set within a supernatural high school, "Ginger High" is a riveting saga of murder and deception sure to delight younger readers. Highly recommended.

Courting Desire
Aurora North
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434353757, $17.98,

If you don't go looking for love, love may still find its way to you. "Courting Desire" is a romance novel following court clerk Dana as she is infatuated with feisty Italian gentleman Gianni. When romance buds, fate seems to almost snipe it away once more, as they are split from the courtroom which they met. "Courting Desire" is a fun and entertaining story of finding and fighting for love.

Hook & Jill
Andrea Jones
Reginetta Press
c/o Publishing Works
151 Epping Rd., Exeter, NH 03833
9780982371497, $24.95,

Never growing up only sounds good until you grow up a little. "Hook & Jill" is an original take on the fairy tale of Peter Pan and Neverland. Taking place after the events of the classic fairytale, "Hook & Jill" has Wendy acting as a mother to the Lost Boys - but when Hook returns, Wendy is faced with the dark, more adult reality of growing up, and she is split between her childhood innocence and the joys of adulthood. "Hook & Jill" is a fine spin on the classic, and very much recommended.

Susan Bethany

Bob's Bookshelf

Shadows Still Remain
Peter de Jonge
HarperCollins, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022
9780061373541 $25.99

After collaborating with James Patterson on three novels, Peter de Jonge debuts with his mystery that introduces Darlene O'Hara, a New York cop with lots of attitude and a weakness for drink.

The brutal killing of a charismatic NYU student grabs the media's attention and although O'Hara and her partner begin the investigation, the feisty detective soon finds herself removed from the case. Now determined to continue following her leads unofficially, O'Hara is on a trail that leads from NYU to Brooklyn tattoo parlors, and from a cheap strip club to a "boutique" overseen by a Korean madam.

The introduction of this attractive but flawed heroine will delight those readers who like characters who operate "outside the box". Darlene O'Hara is quirky and certainly doesn't always play by the rules. She'll probably continue to irritate her colleagues in future novels in this new series and that's exactly what we want her to do.

A richly atmospheric thriller, "Shadows Still Remain" is a riveting read by an accomplished writer who has been in the shadows for too long. Not that he's out of the literary "closet", you'll be hearing Peter de Jonge's name more and more.

Pennies for Elephants
Lita Judge
Disney Hyperion
Disney Hyperion, 114 Fifth Ave., New York, New York 10011-5690
9781423113904 $16.99

The Orfords challenge was quite simple but rather unbelievable - raise $6,000 and we'll give you our three elephants. Since the animal trainers were retiring and the city said it couldn't afford to purchase the elephants for zoo, the couple decided to enlist Boston's children.

Collecting pennies, nickels and dimes, youngsters, and adults too, launched a campaign to purchase Mollie, Waddy and Tony, the three members of the pachyderm family. With children from all over New England pitching in by raiding their piggy banks, doing odd jobs, and sponsoring fundraising events, the race was on to find enough money to buy the elephants.

With the Boston Post keeping track of the amount of money being raised, the total went up and up and up until the goal was reached and the elephants became residents of the Franklin Park Zoo. Based on an actual even that occurred in 1914, this picture book illustrates what a group of children can do if they set their minds to it.

An uplifting story with a very positive message, "Pennies for Elephants" reinforces the idea that anything is possible, no matter how imposing the task, if individuals unite and take it bit by bit, one step at a time. Those pennies and nickels do add up quickly!

The Big Elephant in the Room
Lane Smith
Disney Hyperion
Disney Hyperion, 114 Fifth Ave., New York, New York 10011-5690
9781423116677 $16.99

"Can we talk about the big elephant in the room?" asks one of the two donkeys featured in this picture book.

'"The big elephant?' As in 'the BIG problem?' I was expecting this," replies the other donkey.

Now, the donkey goes down a list of things he has done that might have hurt his friend's feelings. From not sharing crunchy-nut ice cream or forgetting to return a video game to telling people he laughed so hard that he peed his pants, the litany is a long one that shocks the donkey's buddy.

Continuing, the guilty donkey thinks the big elephant "thing" might be his burping in the cafeteria or perhaps picking his friend last when they selected teams for baseball. Or maybe it was making fun of the other donkey's Rainbow Pony backpack.

Nope, that's not it! The question actually concerns the big, the very big, elephant sitting in the corner of the room. Oops! There's been a big, a very big, misunderstanding here! Now guess who has to do some damage control?

A silly story about a simple verbal misunderstanding, this amusing book features equally funny illustrations that show quite graphically just how badly one of the donkeys sticks his foot in his big mouth!

Bob Walch

Carson's Bookshelf

Peter Orvetti
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road, - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432741792, $12.95,

Some people don't stay in one place for long, whether that place is a physical location, or a metaphor for political or religious beliefs. "Reconciliation: A Half Life" is the story of author Peter Orvetti, reflecting on his recent life in which he traveled around the world and was exposed to many different thoughts and ideas. He lived in a socially and politically charged fashion, running a political website for years and having a hand in the controversial 2000 election. "Reconciliation" is the unique life story of a unique man.

Poetry for Adults and Children
George Henry Kotz
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533160921, $10.95,

A wide variety of poems for a wide variety of people is what George Henry Kotz hopes to offer readers. "Poetry for Adults and Children" is a collection of his life's work of poetry, giving readers his thoughts in fine verse on a large range of subjects from nature to God. "Poetry for Adults in Children" is a solid collection that poetry lovers will enjoy. "How Swift is Life!": How swift is life/Half glee, half strife./From leaving the womb,/To becoming full bloom./'Tis such a beautiful dawn,/Cherish it before it is gone./Like the new day's light,/It soon becomes night./Before we can figure out this mystery./We have just become history.

Before the Fall
Edward Michael Turrian
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533160136, $11.95,

In search of peace of mind, some leave civilization. "Before the Fall" is the story of a wanderer in 1850s Appalachia looking for God. Along his journey, he encounters many strange characters and these characters weave an intriguing and enjoyable story. "Before the Fall" is an entertaining and recommended read for those seeking a unique work of fiction, recommended.

My Battery Loves Gin
Daniel S. Goodman
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741453649, $14.95,

Simple, quick doses of humor are all one sometimes needs. "My Battery Loves Gin" is a collection of short, to the point jokes and punch lines from author Daniel S. Goodman, composed in a lighthearted manner (with a flip book within!). Sure to bring a smile to any reader's face, "My Battery Loves Gin" is a charming read.

Jack's Last Promise
Richard W. Neumann, Jr.
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
1608368130, $24.95,

Past glories always make one nostalgic. "Jack's Last Promise" is the story of one Nick Adams, who lives what is termed as an ideal life. But a crisis occurs, and he's left looking back to a close uncle and his promise. When a reunion of his old ball team occurs, he must face questions about his formerly certain future."Jack's Last Promise" is a moving and poignant read, highly recommended.

Michael J. Carson

Christina's Bookshelf

Dark Places: A Novel
Gillian Flynn
Shaye Areheart Books
9780307341563 $24.00

Anyone who visits my web site knows that I read and enjoy horror as a rule. The blurb for this book got me interested and so I ordered it. I am so happy that I did because Dark Places is actually a horrific mystery. It holds bizarre events that even the darkest of readers can appreciate.

This is the story of Libby Day. Most of Libby's family was killed in 1985 when she was seven years old, during a home invasion. Her mother and two sisters were left bloody messes by whoever broke into the house. Libby testified, all those years ago, that her brother Ben was the killer. She told that she had seen him shooting the gun used in the crime. Ben has been in prison ever since

Present day, Libby is all grown up and on her own. Since age 18, Libby has been living off of the donations made by the public following her "misfortune." Now, the money is gone and Libby needs to find a job.

I pushed a foot out from under my sheets, but couldn't bring myself to connect it to the floor. I am, I guess, depressed. I guess I've been depressed for about twenty-four years. I can feel a better version of me somewhere in there - hidden behind a liver or attached to a bit of spleen within my stunted, childish body - a Libby that's telling me to get up, do something, grow up, move on. But the meanness usually wins out. My brother slaughtered my family when I was seven. My mom, two sisters, gone: bang bang, chop chop, choke choke. I didn't really have to do anything after that, nothing was expected.

Page 2, Dark Places

Readers won't know how to take Libby. She is not a very likable character, but when her circumstances are taken into account, her reactions are understandable. By the end of the narrative, readers will find themselves rooting for Libby as the causes of her concerns are uncovered.

Approached by a rep from The Kill Club, a notorious group that looks into horrendous crimes, Libby finds a way to make money. The Kill Club doesn't believe that Ben did the murders and they know that the killer is still on the loose. Libby finds that these people will pay her to investigate her family's annihilation. Though she knows Ben is the killer, she decides she economically has no choice but to help them in their efforts to free her brother.

As the investigation proceeds, Libby finds that things look different to grown up eyes. Was the scenario she testified to in court different than what actually happened? How many of the "players" in the crime scene can she locate? And, most of all can Libby find out who really killed her mother and sisters?

Flynn's prose is flowing and colorful. Readers are pulled along in the story at an easy pace that allows them to soak up the surroundings. Many will come away with a different attitude about the victims of crime.

Do yourself a favor and read Dark Places.

The Gentling Box
Lisa Mannetti
DarkHart Press
9780978731892 $16.99

Bram Stoker Award-winner Best First Novel

This is the kind of book that comes around every once in a while. It hooks you early in the beginning and then dares you to stop reading before you finish.

Set in Hungary and Romania, circa 1893, the story is about a horse trader, half gypsy, named Imre and his family. Mimi, Imre's wife, has received news of her mother's death. The family heads for Romania, even though this is their place of childhood, a place they had vowed to stay away from.

"Smiling that narrow unctuous grin, he pushed the map at me, then clattered down the stairs. The paper fluttered to the wooden boards. I bent down, scooped it up, found myself at eye level with the Romanian gypsy. Lenore now stood in the thin, trampled grass at the foot of the steps. Her skirt was spread between her hands and sagging a little with the weight of the potatoes.

"Bahtalo drom." She said politely nodding at the stranger. She was wishing him luck on the road ahead." --Page 18

With a masterful pen, Mannetti pulls the reader into the story by painting a believable back drop. Unlike other writers, Mannetti explains concepts about the lifestyles that give the reader a familiar feeling.

It is soon learned that Mimi's mother was a powerful Romany choovahanee, or sorceress. Anyeta, the mother, possesses a "hand of the dead," and it is said that whoever possesses the hand holds a great power.

After retrieving the hand, in a course of desperation, Mimi is soon on the verge of death herself. She has been cursed by Anyeta with glanders--a disease which afflicts both horses and humans. Before the finale of the missive, Imre is also infected.

"Anyeta's eyes went as dull and black as the dead light in a cave. She raised her slip coated hand up. There was a stench from the yellowish clots, the ripe smell of bad cheese. I saw the evil rush of the glinting arc. The her hand descended downward as quick and smooth as the executioner's axe.

I closed my eyes in dread.

And her dripping hand - a wet suffocating cloud - closed in on me." -Page 281

Imre narrates the tale that has led up to the realization that in order to save his wife and daughter (and the other members of the gypsy troupe he has come to know and love), he must confront and overcome his worst childhood memory - the memory of using the "Gentling Box."

As a child, Imre had watched his father use the device. A crudely fashioned box which, when placed over the head of an animal, will put a nail in the animal's head thereby "gentling" the animal. Imre himself, now a horseman, had sworn he would never use the contraption. But now, when his family is in dire peril, he finds that he must do what he must do. Imre use the instrument to destroy the evil plaguing the family.

Readers will remember this story long after they have read it. Rich and colorful writing will make us wait impatiently for Mannetti to write another book.

Christina Johns

Christy's Bookshelf

Blood Game
Iris Johansen
St. Martin's Press
175 5th Ave. New York, NY 10010.
9780312368128 $27.99

Forensic sculptor Eve Duncan has dealt with evil killers before but Kevin Jelak is by far the worst. Jelak believes that if he consumes enough "rich" blood from strong women, he will become a vampiric god. Targeting Eve as the one woman whose blood will ensure eternal life, he leaves a goblet of blood in Eve's refrigerator and begins playing the blood game with her. But first he must reach the proper level to receive her blood, so in the interim kills young women. When Jelak murders a Senator's daughter, Eve's lover, detective Joe Quinn is drawn into the hunt for Jelak. Joe is acting strange and Eve can't figure out why and worries Joe is growing tired of her obsessive need to find the killer of her daughter years before. Seth Caleb joins the hunt, claiming he is attuned to Jalek and has been tracking him for years. Joe is reluctant at first to allow his help but eventually realizes Caleb has a connection to Jelak. But will either man find Jalek before he takes from Eve what he feels he deserves?

This latest in the Eve Duncan Forensic Thriller series touches on the paranormal through one of its primary characters. Jelak is deliciously evil and Johansen does a good job relaying his unstable mindset. Eve and Joe are interesting characters, both independent and strong and realistically portrayed as a couple. Seth Caleb is intriguing and adds dimension. Forensics takes a bit of a back seat with this thriller, but this does not detract from an exciting, suspenseful read.

Revenge of the Spellmans
Lisa Lutz
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416593386 $25.00

Private investigator Isabel Spellman quit her job with her family's detective business and is working part-time as a bartender at her friend Milo's bar while trying to decide what to do next. She's also been through one block of court-ordered therapy and has been passed by that therapist on to another. Milo persuades Isabel to take on a relatively simple case for one of his friends whose wife is acting mysterious and bringing home expensive items. Meanwhile, Isabel's brother David returns from a secret trip and stops going to work. Isabel finds out David has a secret apartment in his basement so moves in without his permission. Isabel's sister Rae has been accused of cheating on the PSATs and has finally made Detective Henry Stone angry enough he is no longer speaking to her. Isabel can't sleep in her new home due to her fear of being found by David, so takes naps on buses. She tails the wife, only to be tailed herself. If that isn't bad enough, her car keeps disappearing. And her feelings for Henry Stone just can't stay put.

Once more Lisa Lutz provides readers with a fun-filled whodunit which is more about the wacky Spellman family than the actual mystery, but readers won't mind one bit. The Spellmans are a fascinating, dysfunctional family with individual egocentricities and laugh-out-loud personas. A definite must-read for those who enjoy a good dose of humor along with a good book.

The Empty Chair
Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
0684855631 $TBA

Quadriplegic, criminalist Lincoln Rhyme, accompanied by his lover, investigator Amelia Sachs and his assistant Thom, is in Avery, North Carolina, where he hopes to undergo experimental surgery to aid with spinal cord regeneration. His first day there, Rhyme is visited by Jim Bell, sheriff of Paquenoke County, where two women have been kidnapped and a young man killed by 16-year-old Garrett Hanlon, nicknamed the Insect Boy because of his interest in bugs. Garrett's on the run and Bell wants Rhyme to help find him before he kills the two women he kidnapped. Sachs talks Rhyme into looking into the case and the two begin their unique investigating: Rhyme examining the forensic evidence in a lab with Sachs doing the legwork. They eventually track Garrett through forensics and he is arrested but refuses to reveal the whereabouts of the two women. Sachs thinks there is more to what's going on than they've been told, so she lets Garrett go under the condition he will lead her to the two women. Now Sachs is in a world of trouble with the law and Rhyme's trying to trace her whereabouts, fearing she will be shot either by Garrett or law enforcement.

Rhyme and Sachs are two very likable characters who mesh well together. Rhyme, frustrated with the physical limitations he is forced to endure, seeks a way to become whole again while Sachs secretly wants him to remain a quadriplegic, fearing he will not want her once he is mobile. As with each book in the series, the forensics investigation is fascinating. The mystery of Garrett and his reason for kidnapping the women is well-done, as is the suspense as Sachs and Garrett are pursued.

The Keepsake
Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine Books
1745 Broadway in New York, NY 10019
9780345497628 $26.00

The discovery of a preserved mummy in the basement of Boston's Crispin Museum causes much media attention. Egyptologist/archeologist Josephine Pulcillo, in hopes of not disturbing the wrappings, plans to scan the mummy beforehand to see what they can learn. Medical examiner Maura Isles is invited to be present for the scan and discovers this is no Egyptian mummy of ancient times but a woman who died more recently. When a shrunken head is discovered behind a wall in the museum, homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and Dr. Isles become suspicious they have a serial killer on their hands who is proficient in the ancient rites of preservation. This notion is confirmed when a bog-preserved body is found in the trunk of Josephine Pulcillo's car. The only thing the three bodies have in common: Josephine Pulcillo, whom Rizzoli suspects is hiding secrets from her past.

This latest in Gerritsen's series involving Maura Isles and Jane Rizzoli is an exceptional read; filled with historical information regarding mummification and forensics, enmeshed within a thrilling mystery. Dr. Isles is still involved in an illicit affair with a priest and Rizzoli remains in her stable relationship with an FBI agent. The two women are tough and independent and very likable. Rizzoli is maturing and mellowing in her marriage while Isles is in a relationship that brings her more despair than happiness. This well-written series continues to remain strong and fresh not only because of these strong women characters but the issues they face, forensically and personally.

The Sleeping Doll
Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780743260947 $26.95

California Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Kathryn Dance is a renowned interrogator with an expertise in kinesics. Kathryn is sent to question prisoner Daniel Pell, known as the "son of Manson" due to his cult activities and the brutal slaying of the wealthy Croyton family in Carmel, mimicking the murders committed by the Manson family years earlier. Pell has recently been linked to another murder and Kathryn hopes to learn more about Pell and his reasons behind the murders. After the interview, Pell manages to escape and begins a murderous rampage, targeting those he feels have maligned him in the past in some way. Kathryn leads the investigation, aided by her good friend Michael O'Neil, chief deputy with the Monterey County Sheriff's Office, and Winston Kellogg, a cult expert from the FBI. Kathryn turns to the three women who were part of Pell's family years before, as well as the one victim he left behind when he murdered the Croytons, in hopes they can offer clues as to where Pell may be hiding.

This series is a refreshing addition to the mystery genre; exploring the intriguing world of kinesics and the role it plays in criminal investigations as well as everyday life. Kathryn Dance is captivating, an intelligent woman who is now widowed and whose priority is keeping her small family together. As always, Deaver offers his reader plenty of forensics information packed within a suspenseful plot.

The Tall Woman
Wilma Dykeman
Holt, Rinehart and Winston
10801 N. MoPac Expressway, Austin, TX 78759
0030309654 $TBA

Lydia Moore grew up in the Appalachian region before the Civil War and married Mark McQueen shortly after it began. Her husband went off to fight for the Union while her father and brother fought for the Confederates. While the men were gone, outliers raided Lydia's mother's home, assaulting her and stealing the livestock. A pregnant Lydia returned to her old home place to tend to her mother and brothers and sisters. When her labor began, the doctor was too inebriated to come, so Lydia's Aunt Tildy delivered the baby, who was turned the wrong way, causing brain damage. After the war, when Mark returned, Lydia learned he had been imprisoned. Her Mark was a changed man who dealt with demons from the war and harbored a deep hatred for the men who had raided Lydia's mother's home, blaming his son's mental problems on them. Through the years, Lydia had more children while dealing with her husband's alienation and cynicism, hoping that through her love, he would become the man he used to be. Times were rough in their mountain region, but Lydia worked hard, trying to do her best for her children and their small community.

Lydia McQueen is the epitome of a strong Southern woman. She never lets challenges daunt her and plows ahead, trying to do the right thing and persevere through. The Tall Woman tells one woman's journey through life and the lives she touches as well as the changes she leaves behind.

Christy Tillery French

Clark's Bookshelf

Let's Get Free, A Hip - Hop Theory of Justice
Paul Butler
The New Press
9781595583291 $25.95

Timely is when a book hits the store shelves and the subject is extremely volatile. Let's Get Free, A Hip - Hop Theory of Justice by Paul Butler is such a book. Butler examines the issues which were similar in nature to Professor Gates arrest before they even happened.

Butler, a victim himself, when the police jumped to conclusions because he was black! He is a victim because he was a United States Prosecuting Attorney, who committed an alleged offense which led to his arrest and subsequent trial. Butler is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School who had to prove his innocence. He never was presumed innocent as guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Butler was exonerated of wrong-doing, but had to do it by means of a jury trial.

In his words: "I like justice and fair play. It turns out that we don't have a lot of either in our criminal justice system right now. This book is about how to get them back. My main concern is you - the law-abiding person. I want to keep you safe and free."

Many who get into the criminal justice system are guilty of petty crimes and serve large sentences. Some states effectively treat the problems with marijuana as a fine under $100, while others lock up those with a similar offense for 5 years. Under Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the offense and the punishment do not fit the crime. Using cocaine or having it in one's possession carries a lesser penalty than cheaper crack cocaine which is the drug of choice for the black community, because of its affordability. Butler points out the percentages of blacks in the jail system in both state and federal institutions are higher than other races because of this disparity.

How can this be rectified? Well, the people can use what he calls the Jury Nullification System. Jurors can find the defendant not guilty by ignoring the evidence and using their own common sense, thereby forcing the system to change gross miscarriages of justice.

Butler points to his own trial, where he was faced with a police officer he knew lied on the stand against him when he said he saw Butler put sawdust on the complainant's steps. Only through sharp cross-examination by his defense counsel was he able to overcome this diabolical scheme to convict him. Shortly after his trial, he left the Justice Department because he felt he could not prosecute marginal cases any longer.

With budgets skyrocketing for the incarceration of criminals who have created non-violent offenses, Butler recommends house arrest, early release, probation, or an electronic device to be used as cost-saving alternatives. He points out that these various methods can be put into effect now and that our "lock-'em-up" culture is not all that it is cracked-up to be.

Remember this book the next time that you or a family member sit on a jury. Consider the punishment to be imposed on the defendant and how it relates to the crime. Society might best be served by your participation in the Jury Nullification System by voting NOT GUILTY because the punishment does not fit the crime!

Highly recommended!

Seducing the Spirits
Louise Young
The Permanent Press
9781579621902 $28.00

Louise Young's debut novel, Seducing the Spirits, shows promising potential by a new author taking center stage in the literary world. Starting with a slow and peaceful pace, it quickly traps you into becoming involved in the jungle world of a 23-year-old graduate student who is studying harpy eagles in a rain forest. Main character, Jenny Dunfree, breaks some of the taboos which she had been warned about and interacts with the natives.

Set in the jungles of Panama, she spends many isolated days and nights on an island where her only company are animals and occasional visitors who pop in on her. She views the mating and birth of the eagles. Paid to watch, she surprisingly develops an unusual dedication to her job. Many of her predecessors did not; they left after short stays, some as soon as a day.

The Kuna tribal language is neither a Spanish off-shoot nor one that contains English. We learn various native words by progressing through the book. It is a tribal language, one from a real tribe, which the author met while working as a biologist and fiber artist. She states that writing this book as one of fiction and gives her an opportunity to introduce the Kunas to others in a way that will reflect what she has learned about them, but at the same time shall not violate their trust in her. Very little has been written about these people except for anthropological studies in the late twentieth century as they were very academic according to Young. She says, other books contained half-truths and misinformation.

Louise Young's writing style is clear, concise, and entertaining. Descriptive passages of sitting in tribal counsels and not understanding the language are factual. When an interpreter is introduced, it becomes almost akin to a visit to the United Nations. First, the words are spoken in Kuna, then Spanish, and finally English. The reader will get a flavor of all languages, since nothing is left out. Also, just by repetition, many Kuna phrases will become a part of your vocabulary.

Above all, a love story develops between Jenny and one of the tribesmen. Interaction and good relationships makes this an unusual book. It is outstanding because of Young's ability to bring insight into the lives of jungle people and is highly recommended. In fact, the publisher is nominating this book for consideration in two book-award contests.

A Circle of Souls

Preetham Grandhi
Sweetwater Books
an imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc.
9781599552354 $21.99

Author Preetham Grandhi, M. D., is an immigrant from Bangalore, India and has written a fascinating debut novel, A Circle of Souls. This book is compelling because of Grandhi's career in child and adolescent psychiatry. He is devoted to children and is a Chief of Service for House 5 at the Bronx Children's Psychiatric Center in New York City. Grandhi also is a graduate of Yale and has a private psychiatric practice for children.

Grandhi weaves an unusual story line. His main characters, Dr. Peter Gram, FBI agent Leia Bines, and a 7 year-old Indian girl named Naya, converge in an effort to unravel the brutal murder of 10 year-old Janet, who has mysteriously disappeared on her way home from school.

Naya is a patient in the Newbury, Connecticut hospital. Dr. Gram becomes her physician. She had been admitted previously for a sleep-walking disorder and horrendous nightmares. Her parents feared for her life. In her dreams, she sees Janet, the dead girl, and has audible conversations with her. As result of their friendship, Naya draws vivid pictures of these dreams, depicting an elephant, a red building, a figure with black hair, and a dismembered body of a young blond girl. Naya's chilling dreams and puzzling art work become the real clues which assist the authorities in pursuit of the perpetrator.

This book is not only about a gruesome murder of a child. It also reveals spiritual elements of Indian philosophy such as, the concept of a previous life and passing of one soul into another. This belief may seem strange to American culture and tradition, but whether you believe or not, this is a definite eye-opener to a different culture and Grandhi makes you think about it!

A Circle of Souls is a psychological thriller, mixed with suspense, the supernatural, strange cultural phenomenon, and the fascinating world of child behavior. Grandhi has the ability to open your mind and pull you into the characters' lives so fast that you cannot put the book down. His experience, together with his unique background, plainly shows the pure, honest, and natural behavior of children. At the same time, he delves into the demented, deep, dark, depths of delusion and its subsequent atrocities.

This is an adventure in the "who-done-it" idiom that will keep you speculating. Highly recommended!

Living with Goats
Margaret Hathaway, Photographs by Karl Schatz
The Lyons Press
c/o Globe Pequot Press
9781599214924 $24.95

Raising Meat Goats for Profit
Gail B. Bowman
Bowman Communications Press
9780967038103 $19.95

August is National Goat Cheese Month! There are many recipes for making goat cheese on the internet, but the best way to obtain this delicacy is from your neighborhood grocery store. Goats are people-friendly and historically important for the three major religions. In the spring all these sects are often highlighted by their celebrations involving goats or goat meat (Chevon).

Living with Goats by Margaret Hathaway is being published October 1, 2009 and is an excellent resource book for those who want to raise either dairy or meat goats. Finding good information about goats is very difficult if you do not have access to the internet. Few books are desk reference manuals where you can look up sites and suppliers of unique materials related to goat raising. This book is clearly that manual.

The "How To-s" in this book relate to testing for diseases, what to look for in buying goats, and how to connect with an experienced mentor that will ease the selection process.

A short-coming of the book is it does not specifically get into the treatment of problems encountered by the novice goat herder, but does send the reader scurrying to obtain more information. Experienced Veterinarians take courses relating to goats, however, very few have been exposed to daily treatment. Establishing a goat facility for either dairy or meat production and interviewing the right Veterinarian is vital for keeping the herd healthy.

Another book is Raising Meat Goats for Profit by Gail Bowman. Even though this book was written in 1999, it contains many great ideas for calculating costs of feeding, care, and profit. Some of the methods are greatly detailed and describe the care of goats which is very helpful, but the dollar amounts are dated when it comes to the cost of feed and resale. Changing to today's costs is not difficult since the basic formulas are there.

Some special recipes are contained in Bowman's book. Chevon is the name given to goat meat and how to prepare it is quite different than beef preparation. Think about Texas Ranch-Style Gumbo or Chevon Teriyaki or Stir-Fry Chevon with Green onions, just to name a few. They are wonderfully described in this book. Goat meat is lower in cholesterol and fat. It is actually more heart healthy than chicken!

Chevon is not readily available in the stores because the demand has not been great in the United States. World-wide consumption of Chevon is 63%. As more marketing of the beneficial use of this meat is forthcoming, the consumer will become more educated. The United States only imports 1 million metric tons of Chevon per year because there are not enough goats being raised domestically. This is an opportunity to become a goat herder.

Together these books discuss how prolific goat raising has become. Each Doe is capable of having 1.5 kids per gestation period. This means that on average they can have 3 kids per year since the gestation period is 5 months. Many goats have triplets and it is common to have twins. Goat herds grow in population very quickly and it is possible to have 60 goats in a very short time. Goats are very manageable because they are docile. Even a small child can lead them around by a leash. Where you live determines how you will care for goats.

Author Bowman says "meat goats are not jumpers because of their weight". Fencing is very important because all goats are "escape artists". In the desert, you do not need the shelter of a barn, but if you live in Maine or another cold climate, it is important to have warmth in the winter.

Both of these books are recommended as being useful in the care and feeding of goats. However, if you have been raising goats for some time, you already know most of the facts contained in these books. New goat owners or those considering raising goats will benefit from the basics discussed.

Clark Isaacs

Daniel's Bookshelf

Gone Tomorrow
Lee Child
Bantam Dell
A Division of Random House Inc.
1745 Broadway 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385340571 $27.00 1-212-782-9000

I have read all of Lee Child's novels all of which are about Jack Reacher, and I will use this testimony to say I will read his next one. It all started with the Killing Floor in a fresh provocative one character thriller with the desire to go solo in his life, after retiring as a military policeman. His knack for being in the thick of the action by doing his own thing in his own way caught my attention from the beginning. I enjoy the first person perspective where the character is reflecting on the setting and people who pop into his space, and bring him right into the action. His analysis of the situation is interesting to the reader as he dissects the possible chain of events, and the people's next possible movement. He surmises them taking that course after some thought. I take Reacher now for granted as any reader would, and I still crave that freshness of the his first novel. I like it best though on the thoughtful observing powers of the main character Reacher. He observes and then reflects on the course or figures what he may do or not do based on the opposition. This novel is no different, and one will likes the intriguing plot and the development that does help it move briskly along.

On a subway he goes by the book that the character who catches his interest might be a sitting people bomb because she fulfills all the protocol of the situation. This subway ride sets off an explosive chain of events. Susan Mark is approached by Jack Reacher into his surmising her possible course of action on being on this subway is to cause havoc and other deaths. The reader will be enthralled as to the outcome, and Jack is propelled into the hunt for the truth where the players are keeping back their real reasons of their involvement. The story progresses with skilled soldiers hiding in the shadows and a beautiful woman relaying her story covering three decades. She is in the backdrop of the plot, and she is being caught up in the middle of the action. It all boils down to Jack being on the danger seat, and everyone hiding the truth to maybe get Jack killed. Jack is suspicious and he hopes he can figure out this mystery and will face the real enemy face to face.

Lee Child has now written thirteen novels involving the Jack Reacher solo character and is working on his fourteenth Reacher novel entitled 61 hours. As I said in the beginning of this review, I will add one more to my bookshelf as soon as a copy can be obtained.

The Sign
Raymond Knoury
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street New York, NY 10014
9780525950974 $26.95 800- 847-5515 / 212-366-2000

I owe it all to a co-worker who generously offered to share this novel for my summer reading, and he proposed that he was not in a rush for the book's return. We enjoy reading many of the same type novels including Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child adventure thrillers. He thought this fit a type of change, but also a common ground of a new author unknown to us. I welcomed something different in style and storyline, and I breezed through the novel through the summer slow time without a problem. It's plotting was different, but not a strange one based on many of my favorite novel-types read through my life. I love mystery, adventure and thrillers, so this novel fit some of those identities.

The plot thickens with the sign being seen and affecting various people in the story. The characters journalist Grace Logan and Matt Sherwood are possibly on a story of a lifetime based on a shimmering light seen on a scientific expedition and where this controversial phenomenon that's now sweeping the globe threatening to erupt into violence and chaos. Or is it something else happening here like the birth of a new age dropping in to confront the non virtues of power, greed and the final outcome of death? I prefer to restrain from plot devices and spoilers, so will leave that to the other reader's take on the story.

Raymond Knoury is the author of The Last Templar, and The Sanctuary. He has been noted as a screenwriter for both television and film. This is his third novel. I hope he keeps writing provocative novels, that challenges the need for a fresh outlook of the adventure thriller. I will locate his earlier novels, and I await further offerings from this London writer.

Daniel Allen

Debra's Bookshelf

DeKok and the Dead Harlequin
A.C. Baantjer
Speck Press
9781933108278 $14.00

A.C. Baantjer has written some sixty novels featuring Amsterdam's Inspector DeKok. DeKok and the Dead Harlequin, my first foray into the series, was originally published in Dutch in 1967. The English edition was released by Speck Press earlier this year. The book starts with a most intriguing puzzle. DeKok receives a note from a man who asks for an appointment, saying that he has determined to commit a murder. The murder indeed takes place, but while the visitor is in DeKok's office, so it's solution is not as obvious as one would at first suspect. The crime remains a puzzlement to the end, when DeKok reveals all to his wife and his perplexed colleague Vledder. It's the sort of crime novel in which the reader is not given all the information that DeKok has at his disposal, so that while we may have ideas about who did it, we cannot solve the crime ourselves.

The elaborate precautions taken by DeKok's note writer are what makes the story immediately interesting, yet in the end--though I don't want to give anything away--I'm not convinced that that aspect of the story quite makes sense, as if it were introduced because it was sensational rather than necessary to the plot. But I quite enjoyed my introduction to the series nonetheless. DeKok is a wonderful character--shambling and humane and imperfect and quite realistic. I imagine this won't be my last dip into the world of Amsterdam's criminal element.

One For the Money
Janet Evanovich
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312362089 $13.95 334 pages

I'm coming late to Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, which is now fifteen novels strong. But increasingly I've been reading positive references to the books, bloggers anxious for the next installment, so I downloaded a sample. I was sold on reading the whole thing by the writing style. Passages like this one suggested the series would offer better than average writing:

"Food is important in the burg. The moon revolves around the earth, the earth revolves around the sun, and the burg revolves around pot roast. For as long as I can remember, my parents' lives have been controlled by five-pound pieces of rolled rump, done to perfection at six o'clock."

In this first installment, published in 1994, Stephanie Plum is out of work, having been laid off from her job as a buyer for a mafia-connected lingerie emporium. She falls into a job working as a bounty hunter for her bail bondsman cousin Vinnie. Her first assignment: bringing in Joseph Morelli, who's wanted for murder and has skipped on a $100,000 bond. Stephanie knows Morelli from the old neighborhood: she played "train" with him when she was six and he eight, and ten years later they played a variation of the same game on the floor of a bakery after hours. He kissed and told and she's held a grudge ever since, so hauling him back to jail has its appeal.

While learning on the job and trying to locate Morelli, Stephanie runs into some other bad guys, a seriously scary championship boxer and his trainer, a low-life who's skipped bail on a stolen car charge. She also bonds with Ranger, a co-worker who looks like what a bounty hunter should look like and who proves to be a good friend to have when there's trouble.

Now that I've been initiated into the series everyone else seems to have been reading, I have to say, I'm sold on it. The book never seemed formulaic to me. The writing is punctuated by clever turns of phrase. I didn't have problems with the story's credibility. And I like the cast of characters. I've already downloaded the second book to my Kindle.

Two For the Dough
Janet Evanovich
St. Martin's
9780312948962 $7.99

In this second installment in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, Stephanie is tasked with locating Kenny Mancuso, a local bad boy who skipped bail after inexplicably shooting a friend in the knee. Mancuso happens to be the cousin of another local tough, Joe Morelli, a policeman and one-time paramour with whom Stephanie is continually butting heads. While Morelli is trying to track down ammo that's been stolen from a military facility and is now being used to kill cops, Stephanie is hired to find some stolen property, a garage-load of cheap caskets. Much of the action in the book thus revolves around the mortuary business whose manager is looking for the caskets, a rat-faced character who's a long-time friend of Kenny Mancuso. The low-lifes of Trenton, New Jersey, operate within a small world.

I didn't enjoy Evanovich's second Plum novel as much as the first. The writing is fine, but it doesn't sparkle as frequently as Evanovich's prose did in book one. Stephanie's bounty-hunting mentor Ranger, a character I've come to like, doesn't feature as prominently in this book. Instead, we get more than anyone could want of Stephanie's Grandma Mazur. She's one of those little old ladies who says and does things that aren't appropriate for little old ladies. Think Ruth Gordon with a firearm. We're supposed to find them cute, just like we're supposed to find precocious sitcom children cute, when in fact they're all just annoying. I'm hoping Grandma bites the dust early on in the series.

Otherwise, a decent read with a decent mystery to unravel. I'm particularly enjoying watching the lust-hate relationship between Stephanie and Morelli develop.

Three to Get Deadly
Janet Evanovich
St. Martin's
9780312966096 $7.99

Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series started strong, with good writing and likable characters. The second book was less enjoyable, primarily because of an over-emphasis on Stephanie's annoying Grandma Mazur, an old bitty with attitude. In my review of the book, I expressed my hope that Grandma be killed off sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, she's still around in book three, but her role is, happily, much reduced. This time around the annoying character with too much air time is Lula--whom we've also met in previous books in the series--an ex-prostitute turned office worker turned bounty hunger in training. She provides assistance throughout the book while Stephanie tries to locate "Uncle" Mo Bedemeier, a revered character who's sold candy to generations of Trenton's kids. But Lula is hardly credible as an assistant. She brings a driver's licence and wheels to the mix--which is handy, since Stephanie so often has car trouble--but otherwise she's all brash talk and recklessness. I keep wondering if she's worth whatever cut she's going to earn from the cases she works on with Stephanie.

I continue to like enough about Evanovich's series to continue with it (probably). Stephanie is an okay character, and I enjoy her romantic dance with bad boy-turned-cop Joe Morelli. I also very much like the character of Stephanie's bounty-hunting colleague Ranger, an enigmatic Superman with cuffs and an undisclosed home address. But in this third outing there's a lot to dislike also. The story is hard to swallow in many places. Lula has become obnoxious. And for all the high-octaine scenes--gun blasts and comic chases and a guy in a chicken suit--the story drags. I'm hoping things will improve in book four. If not, I'm not sure there will be another next time for me.

Bad Things Happen
Harry Dolan
9780399155635 $24.95

David Loogan has a mysterious past. We know from the outset that he's using an alias, when he's in a department store buying a shovel--one with a short handle, so it can be used in a confined space. ("The shovel has to meet certain requirements," the book begins.) He's living a quiet life in Ann Arbor, but falls into a job there working as an editor for a mystery magazine. The man who hires and befriends him turns out to have secrets of his own--as do many of the writers he publishes. And one night, when the book opens, David's new boss calls him asking for a favor. Trouble ensues.

If you were setting out to write the type of book that I would most like to read, you couldn't do much better than Harry Dolan's Bad Things Happen. In a blurb on the book jacket Karin Slaughter likens the novel to Scott Smith's excellent A Simple Plan (which was made into a good but not excellent movie), and the comparison is a good one. Bad Things Happen is smart and filled with oodlees of unexpected twists. David Loogan is a great character, enigmatic and clever and likable. The book is suspenseful. There's a subtle romance thrown in. Dolan's debut novel is simply a great read. I'm hoping this is the start of a prolific writing career for him.

Killer View
Ridley Pearson
9780399155055 $24.95

Killer View is the second book in Ridley Pearson's series featuring Sheriff Walt Fleming of Sun Valley, Idaho. In this outing Walt has to contend with domestic terrorists, the kidnapping and rape of a young woman, the potential contamination of the water supply, and a missing persons case--all of which may be related to one another. At the same time he's got problems on the home front: emergencies at work keep him away from his twin daughters, and his soon-to-be-ex-wife is starting to think she wants the girls back. But much of the time Walt's most challenging adversary is the weather: early snowfall has made the remote areas in which much of the story takes place impossible to travel by car. There's a lot of trekking around on snowshoes in this book, and Walt sweats through more than one undershirt while climbing mountains and running from avalanches in freezing temperatures.

I've read and enjoyed the first and third books in Pearson's series. Unfortunately this second book was a bit of a disappointment. The principal villain is uninteresting, a madman--or close enough--who's motivated by ideology. It's never made very clear precisely what his cause is, so we don't get a great sense of what's at stake for him. The challenges Walt's up against are for the most part physical rather than cerebral. There are some parts of the book that go on too long and slow down the narrative--descriptions of guns or geography. Walt is beset by self doubt in this book more than in the others. It sometimes seems as if he's a character who's stepped in from a different series. And the book's climactic scene was over the top--the role played by a dead cow was like something out of Silence of the Lambs.

Happily, Pearson regained his mojo in book three, so I've high hopes for whatever he comes up with next.

A Reliable Wife
Robert Goolrick
Algonquin Books
9781565125964 $23.96

The first chapter of Robert Goolrick's A Reliable Wife is superb. Fifty-something Ralph Truitt is waiting on a train platform in the snow. It's 1907. It's middle-of-nowhere Wisconsin. The locals have to come to watch--to see the man everyone in the town works for meet his new wife for the first time--so there's a crowd, but he's alone, disconnected from humanity.

"Standing in the center of the crowd, his solitude was enormous. He felt that in all the vast and frozen space in which he lived his life--every hand needy, every heart wanting something from him--everybody had a reason to be and a place to land. Everybody but him. For him there was nothing. In all the cold and bitter world, there was not a single place for him to sit down."

Ralph has ulterior motives for the impending marriage, and he has something painful in his past that we haven't learned of yet. He is a highly sympathetic character at the outset, and the author has created great suspense from the quiet few minutes described in the chapter. Later in the story we learn that the woman Ralph's waiting for also has ulterior motives, and she is not immediately sympathetic. But as the story continues, our perceptions of both characters shift.

A Reliable Wife is lyrical, with lengthy descriptive passages spent on the subjects of sex and misery. And more sex. The principal characters of the book are all or have all been hedonists, and their pleasures--current or remembered--are described lavishly. Goolrick's principals are also all, in the end, largely unsympathetic. They are none of them innocent. The author describes a bleak world filled with madness and cruelty and privation, where sex only allows people to forget temporarily the misery of their lives. It's not really a pleasant read.

Eventually, it's all too much. The sex and misery and callousness, finally, are over the top, and it's hard once that point is reached to take the story seriously. (My "oh, come on!" moment was on page 258, but your mileage may vary.) Still, you'll read it through to the end, because the story behind the melodrama is a good one.

The Wandering Heart
Mary Malloy
Leapfrog Press
9780981514857 $15.95

Lizzie Manning is a historian who's invited by George Hatton to spend some time at his ancestral home--Hengemont, in Somerset, England--researching and cataloging his ancestor's collection. Francis Hatton had sailed with Captain Cook on his second voyage of exploration in the last quarter of the 18th century. He'd collected items of interest along the way, now displayed in the Hatton manse, and had also written a journal which was never published. It's an exciting opportunity for Lizzie, and she leaves her husband behind during her January break from teaching. Arrived at Hengemont, Lizzie finds her aristocratic host perfectly accommodating and one of his sons perfectly charming, but the oldest son, who's due to inherit Hengemont, is alarmingly and inexplicably hostile. Lizzie sets to work on the journal and artifacts at once, but soon runs into two mysteries connected with the Hatton family. The first concerns what was described on the pages that, she finds, have been carefully sliced out of Francis Hatton's journal. The second is connected with a piece of family lore, some seven hundred years old: Elizabeth d'Hautain had jumped to her death off the tower at Hengemont when her husband Jean failed to return from the Crusades. The suicide has haunted successive generations of the Hatton family.

Mary Malloy tells a good story in her debut novel. The mystery of the "curse" of Elizabeth d'Hautain, its echoes over seven centuries, kept me reading. I liked that in the end we weren't required to suspend our disbelief to swallow the story. I found the writing for the most part good and the characters likable and believable. But there is one problem with the book that could prevent me from reading a second Lizzie Manning story (there's a sequel in the works), despite that I enjoyed so much about this one: it needs to be cut down considerably. Malloy, to my mind at least, goes overboard in describing the architectural details of various buildings Lizzie finds herself in. This would be fine if the details were relevant to the story, but they're not, so the narrative is slowed by all the description. There is also a lot of unnecessary ink spilt at the end of the book, after the mysteries are tidily resolved--many pages given to Lizzie and her husband discussing their relationship, for example. I think that much of this could be shaved off. Take 50 or even 100 pages out of this story and it would be a much leaner, more exciting read.

Sin & Vengeance
C.J. West
22 West Books
Sheldonville, MA
9780976778806 $14.95

I waited an unconscionably long time to read this book. It's been sitting on my shelf for several years, watching me read other books. I suppose I wasn't expecting much from it: The cover image doesn't scream "read me!" There are a lot of words squeezed onto each page, so that the book seems forbidding, far longer than its 240 pages (in my edition) would suggest. The title is overly dramatic. But I finally started it and, well: Wow! By the end of the first chapter I knew I was in for a great read.

Charlie Marston is a likable guy who's recently graduated from college, where he studied oenology and chemistry with a view to joining his father's winemaking business. But lately Charlie's been sowing his oats with a troublemaker, Randy Black, who's exactly the sort of guy Charlie's father doesn't approve of: Randy is an amoral hedonist and a thrill seeker who's almost certainly going to get Charlie in trouble if he continues to hang around with him. One night, something terrible happens, and Charlie's life turns on a dime. Randy, he comes to understand, is a dangerous friend to have. Just how dangerous becomes increasingly clear over the next months.

I don't want to give anything away by being more specific in the above summary. Suffice it to say that the book was spellbinding. The plotting is brilliant, and Randy is an exquisite character, an evil genius for the modern age. I had some problems with the very end of the book. The resolution seemed too tidy, things resolved too easily. And I'm left with a couple plot-related questions that, unless I missed something, weren't answered in the book. (What was the deal with the plane? What finally happened to Sebastian?) But up until the very end I'd say the plotting and pacing were flawless.

The author's web site reports that the book has been optioned for a feature film. That's excellent news. I kept thinking while reading that it was the sort of story Hitchcock might have filmed. It reminded me a bit of Scott Smith's A Simple Plan in that it follows what happens when a regular guy is thrown into a very unusual situation. But it's not really the same sort of story, because the events in this book are being manipulated rather than happening naturally as they do in Smith's story. It also calls to mind Patricia Highsmith's Ripley series because of the sociopathy of Randy Black, but Randy is not as fleshed out as Tom Ripley, nor as sympathetic, and he's much more evil. Still, fans of both of those authors will probably enjoy reading Sin and Vengeance.

Anybody Any Minute
Julie Mars
St. Martin's
9780312378691 $24.95

On a whim, while en route to Montreal to visit her sister, 46-year-old New Yorker Ellen Kenny buys an old house in the middle of nowhere. It's a reaction, presumably, to her having been fired from her most recent job, and it's the first clear indication that she's disenchanted with her life in the city with her husband Tommy. Ellen moves into the house for the summer, trying on an alternate life while searching for her identity. She creates an ad hoc family out of her new acquaintances: Rayfield lives in a trailer and is recently separated from his wife, "Wide Load," who left him because of his penile dysfunction; Rodney, who sold Ellen the house, turns out to be a sort of artistic genius. At the same time, Ellen's 18-month-old nephew Olivier winds up staying with her for much of the summer because of a family emergency, which allows Ellen to try on the role of motherhood for the first time.

As the above may suggest, Anybody Any Minute is more about character than plot. And the book does offer readers a number of characters who could walk off the page: Rodney, Rayfield, and Ellen are each very well realized. Unfortunately, if Ellen were really to step out of the book I'd soon want her out of my house: she's a very annoying character, a one-time free-loving hippie who's never quite grown up and who is given to bouts of hysterical laughter and naval-gazing.

"'Take a nap,' Rayfield said. 'I'll drive.'

"At first, Ellen wanted to resist. To surrender her keys to Rayfield seemed dangerously symbolic. Jungians, she knew, called cars in dreams 'personal vehicles.' If someone else was driving yours, it was time to ask why. Of course, Jungians believed that all the persons in the dream symbolized an aspect of the dreamer herself. What part of her did Rayfield represent? Her aimless inner male, handicapped by a penis that could not stand up and be counted? Or perhaps the part of her that was tired of coping with the high-stakes world of New York City, the part that wanted to throw itself into a bucket seat, crack a beer, and blow smoke rings?"

Not for nothing is Ellen told to shut up a time or two in the book.

The second and most important problem with Anybody Any Minute is that it's too damned long. It's filled with passages like the above, endless verbiage that makes reading the book a chore. You could easily knock a hundred unnecessary pages off the story and leave readers wanting more. That would be a great improvement, because again, the characters Mars created in the novel definitely deserve an audience, and I'm glad to have been introduced to them.

Nobody Runs Forever
Richard Stark
Mysterious Press
9780892967988 $30.00

According to the list of novels at the beginning of the book, Nobody Runs Forever is the 26th installment in Richard Stark's series featuring professional thief Parker. In this outing, after one heist has to be aborted during the early planning stages, Parker falls in with an acquaintance who's got a line on another job: the transfer of assets from one bank to another during a merger, coupled with some insider information, provides an opportunity for a big haul. The book follows Parker and his associates through the preliminaries to the heist, a few weeks during which they have to scout out locations and get their hands on weaponry and put out a number of fires--calming squirming accomplices, threatening others who don't follow directions. Throughout, Parker remains smart and cautious and deadly serious about his work. We also follow developments from the perspectives of a number of characters on the periphery of the main action, including a police woman who is suspicious of Parker's claim that he's a landscaper.

After having read this book and Ask the Parrot, which is the next in the series (see my review), I am eager to read all of them. They are smart and well-written and provide a fascinating look at crime from an unusual perspective, that of the cold-blooded professional. We learn very little about Parker as a character except that he is good at what he does, yet we don't come away from the book thinking him two-dimensional. He is rather unknowable. It's also interesting that so much of the book is cerebral. The focus is on the planning of the crime. Its execution is almost anticlimactic. Again, somehow this works.

Here's hoping all of the Parker novels will soon be released for the Amazon Kindle.

Debra Hamel, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

James Patterson and Maxine Puerto
Little Brown and company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316018777 $27.95

Patterson and Puerto just keep getting better and better. This one is not a "The Women's Murder Club" but it is just as good. The novel takes place all over the world and has one of the best vicious killers ever written in fiction. It is easy to see why Patterson continues to dominate the fiction market with this tense nail biting suspenseful read.

An Unlikely Duke
Debra Killeen
Helm Publishing
3923 Seward Avenue, Rockford, IL 61108
9780979232831 $15.00

Normally I am not a fan of fantasy novels, I think because they are too far out for me to enjoy. This one far surpassed anything I have read in a long time in the genre. The characters are well defined, with interesting conflicts and writing that flows along to the final pages. This is the first of a series and the author is off to a very good start with this one.

Ignite the Passion A Guide to Motivational Leadership
Peter A. Laporta
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive Suite 200, Bloomington IN 47403
9781410728418 $16.50 1-800-839-8640

The author of "Who Hired These People" once again sets his sights on business and how it can run more efficiently. Laporta has a lot of interesting perceptions that he passes on to readers to make business more efficient. Laporta is an expert who makes it easy to understand.

What Are You, Stupid?
Henry Shephard
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432730567 $14.95

I think this is the first book I can recall that talks about being stupid. There are many forms the author talks about that make the book very interesting. In a series of exercises the author shows that people who do not listen can be called stupid. This transfers to servers who get orders wrong because they do not listen or write it down so they are going to get it wrong. Shephard has written a very easy to follow expose on what makes a person stupid. Read this book and see if you qualify.

Wits of Pitts
Nolan T. Pitts
Legacy Publishing Services Inc
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park, Florida 32789
978919344439486 $14.95 407 647 3787

These are inspirational witty sayings we have all heard collected for the first time in one compilation. There are many topics covered and this is a gift giving book perfect for all occasions. I would love to see the author do a series of these type books because they are so much fun to read.

Die For You
Lisa Unger
Shaye Areheart Books
New York
9780307393975 $24.00

What do you do when you find out that your husband is not the person you thought he was? That is how this novel starts and it races along to its shocking ending. The author is a master of suspense and her tale has tight writing that has interesting conflicts and believable characters. This writer continues to get better with each book. Lisa Unger should be on anyone's reading list who likes a good suspenseful tale.

Steppin Stones to Personal Empowerment
Rodney Groves
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive Suite 200, Bloomington IN 47403
9781438980768 $12.95 1-800-839-8640

I liked the author's approach to life. He talks about positives and negatives and how we all should learn from them. His concept that one person can't do it alone reminded me of the Hillary Clinton book "It Takes a Village" and how we all need each other. Groves has an easy to read style that flows along while he makes his points.

To M*A*S*H and Back
Gary Burghoff
Bear Manor Media
P.O. Box 71426, Albany, Georgia 31708
9781593933432 $19.95

Say the author's name to anyone you know and most likely they have no clue who you are talking about. Mention "Radar O'Reilly" and everyone knows who he is. Burghoff tells all about Radar and the other roles he played including Charlie Brown in the stage play "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown" He also discusses his life after M*A*S*H. I liked some of the little known facts he reveals. He is the only cast member to play in the movie and the TV show. What is Radar's first name and how the character evolved are some of the things I found interesting. He is candid and tells all in a book that is a fun read

The Crumbling Empire
John and Katherine Ford
Tate Publishing
9781606967041 $13.99 1 888 361 9473

For years we've known there are problems in this country. Many books have discussed them with no resolution This is another one that has many great ideas on how to solve them. The authors show that Democrats and Republicans are to blame and that the people of this country want action now. I feel though that nothing is going to be solved because the political parties, special interests, and lobbyists are too well entrenched into the system. The change we need is just not going to happen because the country is so far away from what it was originally intended. I liked what the authors had to say but just feel that the system is too broken and can not be fixed.

The Storyteller II
Erik J Ekstrom
Outskirts Press Inc
Denver, Colorado
9781432741006 $14.95

This is what I said about this author's first book. "The Storyteller" "The first part of this book had the feel of a Ray Bradbury horror tale. But something happened from the second portion of the book to its end that made it very uninteresting. I could not figure out what the author was trying to accomplish. The writer led off with a weird cover, interesting characters, a dark and sinister situation but it is not enough to carry the book all the way through. "The Storyteller" becomes a look at different cultures that does not seem to tie in with the beginning of the novel. I was very disappointed and have very little interest in the sequel". After that the author asked me to take a look at his next novel in manuscript form which I did. I gave him a few comments. In this sequel he has a page of quotes with one attributed to me. "The Storyteller II Chicago Blood is a very good book. Erik J. Ekstrom remains focused with believable characters and a terrific plot. He is an author reminiscent of Ray Bradbury. Great Job!" What he used is not what I said. In his haste to get it published he forgot to get my approval. Makes you wonder about the other comments he has as well. All he has accomplished in my case is that I will not read or review any of his other books. There is a trust between author and reviewer when comments are used and this author violated that understanding. When you quote someone, make sure it is accurate. This author may learn that lesson the hard way.

Gary Roen

Georganna's Bookshelf

Mother of All Believers: A Novel of the Birth of Islam
Kamran Pasha
Washington Square Press
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York NY 10020
9781416579915 $16.00

"Mother of All Believers" is historical fiction, but if you are curious about how Islam arose, you have a wide choice of nonfiction accounts. History, as we know, can skate close to fiction, depending on who writes the account and their political agendas. Some of these alternative resources are: "Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time" by Karen Armstrong, "The Wives of Prophet Muhammad" by Bint Al-Shati and "Women in the Qur'an, Traditions, and Interpretation" by Barbara Freyer Stowasser.

If you are a Muslim, you may not agree with the spin Kamran Pasha puts on the story in his fictionalized account. However, few will disagree that this first novel from a successful screenwriter makes use of his cinematic literary skills.

"Mother" (for short) is the story of Aisha, Muhammad's youngest and among the first of twelve wives. She was the daughter of one of The Prophet's childhood friends and married him when she was approximately six years old, but spent only about a dozen years with him before his death. Multiple wives and child brides were acceptable in Arabian lands in the seventh century C. E. The Arabic tribes at that time determined that females became women as soon as they experienced their first menses, and people lives shorter lives.

Aisha tells the story as a weary, dying old woman, not unlike the many fictional depictions of Christ's mother Mary or Mary Magdalene at the end of their lives. Pasha seamlessly switches the narrative voice among the points of view of the storyteller at various ages. His scenic descriptions of the arid countryside, oases and cities of the Arabian Peninsula give readers strong sense of how living was then (and probably still is for impoverished peoples there).

Consider the Muslims' approach to the site that would become Medina after ten days in a caravan across an ocean of sand:

"We spurred our camels up the flowing expanse until we reached the summit of the dunes and could see what lay beyond.

My heart soared as I saw it for the first time. An emerald valley lovingly planted between a circle of volcanic hills, blackened by the sun and lava, the majestic palm trees swaying in the wind as if waving to greet us."

Pasha's novel deftly places the start and development of Islam in historical perspective. He presents The Messenger of God as a human as well as a charismatic leader. Whether Muhammad's inspiration came from the divine, epileptic seizures, hallucinations or what else causes people to see and hear angels, his goals of religious reformation and unification of the indigenous tribes of the area were not unique. How so few people from such a small patch of land came to be as widespread and numerous as Islam is today is a wonderment in itself.

An even greater mystery is how three great religious groups, all springing from the influence on one man, Abraham, can still be fighting over the same little patches of land. And all in need of reformation.

The Anthologist
Nicholson Baker
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY
9781416572442 $25.00

An irresistible book comes along every so often. I do not intend to read it. I didn't ask for it. I'm busy reading other books that I requested or agreed to receive. Still, I can't resist holding this new one a moment longer. Is it the title, the picture under it, the feel of the cover paper? Nice. It almost matches the background of my blog, I notice.

The cover graphic shows only a ripe plum. I don't like the title, The Anthologist. Never read Baker's other books. Nice cover. I like the way the little book feels as I turn it over to find the plum cut open on the back, a plum pit on the spine. "What is this?" I wonder, purposefully averting my eyes from the hype. I open it to riffle the pages. They also feel nice, soft, even though they don't have deckle edges, which I dearly love. Reading the first page is a fatal error. I'm hooked. Hard. It begins: Hello, this is Paul Chowder, and I'm going to try to tell you everything I know. Well, not everything I know, because a lot of what I know, you know. But everything I know about poetry.... What is poetry? Poetry is prose in slow motion.

Gasp! The guy sounds gay! (He's not.) It's another introspective, gloomy poet maundering about his lack of fame, fortune and current writer's block, I suspect. (No, he's blocked writing an introduction to a book of others' poems, an anthology; like me writing about other writers and their books.)

Multiple story strands braid together smoothly in what I thought at first was a Hallmark gift book, although it's a little larger than that. It's fiction all written well in first person, the sign of a master writer. Anyone can mope about and brood on personal tales. Pretending to be someone else brooding takes some talent. What continued to hold my interest was the didactic flow about writing poetry threaded through Chowder's struggles with middle-aged angst, love lost, strength ebbing, single male foibles.

Baker plays with words in a way that delights. At times, I had the creepy sensation that he was inside my head, thinking in the self-referential way that makes sense only to my self. He isn't afraid to expose those distant connections we make when rummaging around in our mental attics, wasting time to avoid responsibilities, waiting for something to happen in our lives. And the character talks as I do (though not here - space constraints and all that) throwing in all those slightly irrelevant but punchy sideways asides.

It's a quick read, requisite for light summer fare; however, The Anthologist is quite filling and sticks to your mental ribs. Let's see, what else did this guy write? Something called Vox, another, Human Smoke (sounds horrible). What else? Where's the poop sheet on this piece? Ah, The Fermata - is that about theorems? And Double Fold, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. I begin to think I've been missing something good.

City of God
Beverly Swerling
Simon & Schuster Paperbacks
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY
9781416549222 $15.00

I didn't think I liked historical fiction until I read Beverly Swerling's CITY OF GOD, fourth in a series about the Turner and Devrey families. It takes place in old New York City in the years right before the Civil War, providing fascinating peeks at Chinese customs, the struggles of Jewish families, medicine, religions and the shipping industry as steam was overtaking sailing vessels. What I liked most, however, was the major story line about a woman who found the strength to do as she wished with her life despite enormous oppression, even by other women. I'll be looking out for the earlier novels in this series and any to come. Even Swerling's acknowledgments were fascinating, especially her nod to research assistance from Google and (surprise!) Wikipedia.

Back to Barron: Life in the Heartland at Mid-Century
Daniel E. Van Tassel
North Star Press of St. Cloud
P.O. Box 451, St Cloud, MN 56402
9780878392711 $14.95

Daniel Van Tassel, who grew up in Wisconsin and Minnesota, embarks on a nostalgia tour in his memoir of "Life in the Heartland at Mid-Century". Back to Barron delights the Boomer generation no end with true tales of farm life, town trips to little Lake Wobegones as well as the big city and all the trouble little boys can get into. Van Tassel and his siblings had double trouble, being the kids of a Lutheran pastor.

If you're over 60 and still living in the Midwest, you'll chuckle at the memories. If you're over 60 and living somewhere else, you'll chuckle at the memories and perhaps heave a little sigh of sad fondness or relief--your choice, or your luck.

The 5 Keys To the Great Life
Tomi Bryan and Jerry White
R2 Media Group Publications
315 W. Center St., Pocatello, ID 83204
9780982458709 $19.95

Two Ph.D.s who have worked in assorted fields ranging from technology to law to education pool their experiences dealing with their own family crises to produce a typical self-help volume. The Great Life System framework involves six dimensions, five F's, five keys, multiple charts and checklists, nifty graphics and quotes from just about every organizational management gurus' books published since 1980. Just over 100 pages of instruction contain multiple snippets from 59 references listed in a Bibliography. Head-spinning complicated advice.

Sonora Moonlight
Florence B. Weinberg
Twilight Times Books
P. O. Box 3340, Kingsport, TN 37664
9781606191149 $16.95

The venerable Father Ygnacio Pfefferkorn, S. J., solves another mystery in 18th century old Mexico. Rigorous research by a seasoned pro has yielded a nice little ecclesiastical tale of intrigue within the Catholic church, cowboys and Indians, and conquistadors, drawing on an almost mythological crucifixion story. Love unrequited, a culture decimated and conquering heroes populate this early Southwestern setting.

A Disobedient Girl: A Novel
Ru Freeman
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY
9781439101957 $25.00

Class and caste-bound Sri Lanka is the setting for this tracery of three women's lives, told somewhat inside-out. Perhaps it is a little too complex for a debut novel. The reader is never quite sure whose life she is reading about, as backwards and forwards the story moves, tangling and untangling the women's interconnected tales of sadness, loss and betrayal. Exquisite details of dress and setting delight the inner eye, making the book a perfect substitute for a trip to the topics.

Georganna Hancock

Gloria's Bookshelf

Fake I.D.
Jason Starr
Hard Case Crime
c/o Winterfall LLC
301 E. 62nd St., NY, NY 10065
Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
9780843961188 $6.99 800-481-9191

Tommy Russo is a 32-year-old bouncer at a bar on the Upper East Side of Manhattan who, "after over 13 years of trying to make it as an actor and not getting anywhere," is offered a chance to buy into a syndicate intent on purchasing a racehorse. Since he is also a degenerate gambler, what could be better? The only obstacle: He doesn't even have enough money to by his next meal, much less the requisite $10,000. What he does to achieve his goal [he has consistently shot himself in the foot in all endeavors to this point] is whatever he thinks it will take, to a shocking degree.

In complete denial in general in his life, he thinks of "when I was at the bar, checking IDs, or at auditions with all those phony pretentious wannabes, I felt out of place," failing to see himself in those around him, and completely oblivious to how pathetic he is. The reader is presented with a classic scenario of schadenfreude.

From the first line, the book's dialogue is so pitch perfect I would think I was on the streets of New York City [if I was not already a resident thereof of course]. But that was only the first thing that got me hooked in this terrific newly published novel by Jason Starr - the characters - each one more desperate than the last, and the plot - fast-moving and skillfully woven, kept the pages turning. Thoroughly entertaining, and recommended.

Hunt at the Well of Eternity
Gabriel Hunt and James Reasoner
Hard Case Crime
c/o Winterfall LLC
301 E. 62nd St., NY, NY 10065
Leisure Books
c/o Dorchester Publishing
200 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
9780843962468 $6.99 www.HardCaseCrime 800-481-9191

When a stunningly beautiful woman with a slight Hispanic accent barely has a chance to introduce herself as she approaches Michael Hunt at a Metropolitan Museum of Art reception in honor of a new exhibit on loan from the Hunt Foundation, neither Michael nor his brother, Gabriel, could know it would precipitate gunfire and the woman's kidnapping. Michael is described as "shorter, younger, and studious-looking rather than ruggedly handsome" and "accustomed to paling into insignificance next to his more dynamic older brother." Gabriel is decidedly the more adventurous of the two: "He would find Mariella Montez, and he would find out what was behind her kidnapping, and the attack at the museum, and he wouldn't stop looking until he did."

Gabriel's search takes him from Florida to Mexico to the jungles of Central America. But even before that quest can begin, the action immediately goes into high gear [no pun intended] with a high-speed chase over the East River on the Queensboro Bridge, and doesn't let up till Gabriel's mission is accomplished.

Hard Case Crime, through Leisure Books/Dorchester Publishing, has their own mission: to revive the beloved genres of pulp crime fiction, which it has already done with over 50 titles and counting, and now pulp adventure fiction. This is the first entry in that endeavor, written in true swash-buckling style by Western author James Reasoner. I must admit to a slight hesitancy as I started this book, not sure an Indiana Jones-style book was for me, but that feeling was quickly dispelled after no more than the first few pages. It all comes off in plausible, exciting fashion. The novel is very fast-faced and well-written, and I'm looking forward to future entries in this series. The next one, "Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear," written by Charles Ardai, the erstwhile editor of Hard Case Crime, has an August 2009 publication date, and it should be an equally terrific yarn.

Man Corn Murders
Lou Allin
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, Maine 04901
9781594147500 $25.95 207-859-1000

The opening pages of this novel thrust this reader squarely into the 112 degree heat of Utah's desert. Terry Hart, a suburban journalist in her early thirties, had traveled to the town of Escalante from Ohio with her 58-6ear-old Aunt Judith, a retired schoolteacher who had raised Terry after her parents died in a car crash when she was 11 years old. They have come in their RV both to explore an historic Mormon road as well as to look up Judith's old friend, Deborah, who had been living in a retirement ranch called Sunset Years. Instead they find some mystery as to Deborah's present whereabouts, as well as the disappearance some six weeks earlier of a much younger woman, a teenager, one of a group of anthropological students from the University of Michigan, who had gone missing.

They only have a few weeks before going back to their "boring, uncomplicated life" and want to make the most of their vacation, saying "nothing ever happens in Ohio." Just another example of 'be careful what you wish for." Their 'holiday' couldn't be further from boring and uncomplicated. There's male interest for both women, each attractive as can be but with a hint of suspicion attached until the mysteries are solved. The action is unhurried, but the spaces are more than filled up with a wealth of geographic, botanical, anthropological and geological data. The solution when it comes and the suspenseful conclusion are hinted at by the author, but no less satisfying for all that.

The Man Corn of the title has to do with a controversial theory about the Anasazi and Fremont tribes who had lived in the area and the possibility of their having resorted to cannibalism for survival centuries ago.

An entertaining summer read.

Killer Cuts
Elaine Viets
Obsidian Mystery
c/o Penguin
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451226860 $22.95 800-847-5515

In the latest entry of her Dead-End Job Mystery Series [the other being the popular Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper Series], Helen Hawthorne, 41 years old, has been working as a gofer at a chic, high end [read 'obscenely expensive'] beauty salon in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Miguel Angel, Cuban-born hairstylist and makeup artist to the stars and celebrities, is himself an international celebrity. As the book opens, Miguel Angel and staff are preparing one of their clients for her wedding to a wealthy gossip blogger and cable TV show host, Kingman "King" Oden, 61 years old and boorish almost beyond belief. Of course when, shortly before the vows are taken, with Helen and Miguel Angel in attendance, the latter says "What can go wrong? We're supposed to have beautiful weather, and you're a beautiful bride," the reader just knows that something terrible will happen: Within an hour of the ceremony, the groom is found dead in the pool on the grounds of his palatial property.

With an ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, and ex-business partner, among many others, in attendance, there is no shortage of suspects. [The groom had described himself as having "six million readers - - and probably six million enemies."] Chief among them is Helen's boss, a Cuban-born, gay and occasionally cross-dressing man who was caught on videotape threatening to kill King shortly before the wedding. Another suspect is the new bride, 38 and six months pregnant and now wealthy beyond her wildest dreams.

Helen has her own problems beyond wanting to protect her boss and thereby her cushy new job. She is due to marry Phil, her PI boyfriend, in less than two weeks. She is also using a false name and is on the run from the law in St. Louis after a disastrous marriage and an even worse divorce. Despite all that, she has to help Miguel Angel, and determines that the only way to do that is to find the real killer, and allow her to get back to her 'normal life.'

I thought the author was reaching a bit with a brief TSTL moment near the end of the book, but otherwise I found this a delightfully breezy, well-crafted book, and a perfect beach read.

Gone Tomorrow
Lee Child
Delacorte Press
c/o Bantam Dell, 1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
0385340571 $27.00 800-726-0600

I picked up this book with a happy sigh and the same thought I usually have when opening a Lee Child book, "ahh, pure pleasure awaits!" And from the first paragraph: "Suicide bombers are easy to spot. They give out all kinds of tell-tale signs. Mostly because they're nervous. By definition they're all first-timers," one is plunged into the world of Jack Reacher, at once scary, exhilarating and, always, exciting.

The setting is a normally innocuous one: a New York subway train, at 2:00 AM, on which Reacher finds himself with no particular destination in mind. Reacher, to the uninitiated, is an itinerant, heroic ex-soldier and -MP always ready for anything. His attention is caught by a woman who, to his trained eye, exhibits all the classic signs. The refrain known to all NYers after September 11th is "If you see something, say something." I quickly learned more than I ever wanted to know about the "behavioral indicators" of a would-be martyr. Any more details on the story line would constitute a spoiler, because the suspense starts on page 1 and doesn't let up till the final page, sometimes abating slightly, and briefly. There are layers upon layers, with always another twist, another surprise, ahead.

One of the things at which the author excels is making entirely plausible to the reader what would, in lesser hands, be incredible. All the while caught up in writing witty and wonderful, deft, swift-moving and sure, with just the right amount of leavening humor. Characters and situations are introduced in succinct manner, telling you all you need to know. The same could be said for the book as a whole. Reacher is a man who famously travels light, no backpacks or any other kind of luggage, only what he can fit into his pockets, ""everything I need, nothing I don't." Exactly what Mr. Child gives the reader. It is, obviously, highly recommended.

Andrew Grant
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781312540265 $24.95 646-307-5560

David Trevellyan has been employed by the British Government for fifteen years, the reader never quite sure in what capacity - his exact job description is a bit murky. He describes himself as a "consultant," in the business of "telecommunications," among other things. He tells the reader "What you see depends on what you look for. You can enjoy the positives, or seek out the negatives. It's your choice." The same might be said for "Even," the first book by Andrew Grant.

There is a lot of action and suspense tinged with an underlying sense of menace. As the book opens, Trevellyan is in New York City, with his mind on his trip back to England scheduled for the following morning, when he almost literally stumbles upon what appears to be the dead body of a homeless person. He feels compelled to try to give assistance if the man is not actually deceased, when he immediately realizes he has been set up as a police car pulls up, and he is brought to the police station on suspicion of murder. Although he is certain that the British Government will extricate him from this situation, he quickly becomes aware that nothing of the kind will happen, and he is completely on his own, with no idea as to who is on his side and who is not. Then a whole nuther investigation crops up, and a different crime or crimes: "a spate of homicides involving elderly and vagrant victims," and the natural question arises as to whether they are related to this latest death.

Some of the motivational scenarios seemed a bit implausible to me, and I had a problem with the credibility of the story lines themselves. The author starts most chapters with flashback scenes, little vignettes which allow some insight into his personality and/or background, and added to this reader's enjoyment of the book. Comparisons have been made by some reviewers between David Trevellyan and another well-known protagonist. Admittedly, they are both well over six feet tall, British, and Commanders in the Royal Navy. And there is a lot of derring-do and self-assured action on the part of each. But David Trevellyan is another character entirely, and I think that at this juncture it remains to be seen whether he can become as iconic as the man called "Bond, James Bond." The book ends with what I would describe as a precipice, as opposed to a cliffhanger, and I sincerely hope Mr. Grant [the brother of author Lee Child] has a follow-up novel in the works so we can find out what he has in mind for the next chapter in the story.

The Guilty Client
Roberta Rogow
Deadly Ink
P.O. Box 6235, Parsippany, NJ 07054
9780978744281 $13.95 973-663-4334,

In the first of a new series, Roberta Rogow introduces the law firm of Pettigrew and Roth, comprised of the esteemed Ephraim Pettigrew, his niece, Margaret ("Peggy") Pettigrew; 25 years old and employed for a few dollars a week for the past ten years as his clerk, and the junior member of the firm, Joshua Roth, whose best friend, Michael Riley, is an assistant district attorney and Uncle Ephraim's prize protege. The firm's offices are maintained in an office on West Street, looking out on the docks of the west side of New York and the Hudson River. The time is 1870 New York City, five years after the end of the Civil War, with all habits of class and race distinctions and Polite Society of the day firmly in place.

The firm has been hired by one Henry Ward Long, whose family is definitely a member of the city's High Society, to defend his nephew, one Bertram "Broadway Bertie" Delacorte, against a charge of murder. Delacorte has been accused, on scant evidence, of murdering Mrs. Suzanna Kendall. Roth succeeds in having the charges dismissed and the case against him thrown out at arraignment when none other than Peggy herself provides the man with an ironclad alibi. The celebration of their victory is short-lived, however, when Delacorte's dead body is fished out of the Hudson River less than a day later. Mr. Long asks the firm, "in good faith and in good conscience," to find the killer. The unlikely trio of Peggy, Michael and Josh set out to find the killer of both Mrs. Kendall and Bertie Delacorte.

The title derives from the suspicion among the protagonists that while Delacorte was without doubt not Mrs. Kendall's killer, he almost certainly was guilty of something - they're just not sure what. The author achieves a distinct voice for each of the three narrators as their investigation proceeds. The era is painstakingly and it would appear faithfully set forth before us, including some real-life characters, to fascinating effect, evoking the world of Boss Tweed and the infamous Tammany Hall. The book is a well-written and very quick read, perfect for late summer, and is recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Battle at Sea 3,000 years of Naval Warfare
R.G. Grant
DK Publishing
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756639730 $40.00

Battle at Sea is a beautiful coffee table book. Its massive ten inch by twelve inch size permits every page to be filled with pictures, charts and graphics. The visual art alone is worth the price of the book. Grant does a good job of covering major naval warfare events across the world for the last 3,000 years.

There are short comings. The major content problem is that with the considerable time and space covered by the book you are limited to only a few paragraphs on the major battles and just a single paragraph for the noteworthy ones. Grant does a good job on trying to give detailed examples of representative ships and equipment but with any such selection a skilled reader will always want another example. The only significant complaint I have is the line editing done by DK Publishing. Transposing the numbers on dates, confusing words and misplacing sentences is a distraction not worthy of this otherwise great book.

Anyone wanting a visually great coffee table book will not be mislead by purchasing this one. A true naval historian will also find this a great reference. Grant covers the subject very well and there is more information in the limited 360 pages than seems possible. A historical reader will find Battle at Sea invaluable as a key reference source.

The First Apostle
James Becker
New American Library a division of Penguin Putman Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451226709 $7.99

The First Apostle is an action thriller with an ounce of history and a ton of speculation. The speculation that Paul was a fraud or that he highjacked Christianity is possible, however unlikely. The premise that he was blackmailed into doing this by Nero goes a little too far. The later places modern culture and logic above historic facts. By not taking this added step with Nero, Becker would have produced a stronger and more fascinating alternative history. The other weakness to the story is the repetitive mistake by the characters of absentmindedly walking directly into a dangerous situation even when they must know that it exists.

Police detective Chris Bronson is shocked when his best friend, Mark Hampton, calls him and tells him that his wife Jackie died in an accident at their second home in Italy. He asks Chris to fly with him from London to help with the funeral and legal arrangements. When they arrive, Chris looks over the accident reports and becomes suspicious. They discover a Latin inscription on a stone over the fireplace and are soon running for their lives. Bronson must discover the meaning of the inscription to save his life. He and his ex-wife are soon exploring the past and shifting through the dark portions of Christian history in a race with ruthless killers to find the truth and save themselves.

The First Apostle is one of the many current suspense thrillers that delve through accepted history looking for alternatives and hidden meanings, It is good light reading but it doesn't have the deep historical background that many other stories in this subgenre have. For those who have not explored this genre it is a good first read. Do not expect the depth or details that you would find in a Dan Brown or even David Gibbins story but The First Apostle is still worth a little time to explore. The action is non-stop and the details make The First Apostle a good escapist story for a weekend read.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

13 Things That Don't Make Sense
Michael Brooks
Doubleday Canada
One Toronto Street, Unit 300, Toronto ON, M5C 2V6, Canada
9780385664233 $29.95

Michael Brooks must be a great communicator. What I know about the astrophysics of the expanding universe could be written on the head of a pin with room left over for the Gettysburg address. But as Brooks spelled out the discoveries and theories of such persons as Bekenstein, Brahe, Dirac, Einstein, Hubble, Kirshner, McGaugh, Milgrom, Moffat, Oort, Perlmutter, Riess, Rubin, Schmidt, Slipher, Steinhardt, Susskind, Weinberg, and Zwicky, he had me believing I understood them. A pop quiz would quickly blow that delusion out of the water. But I continue to believe that I know more about the subject now than I did before I opened Brooks' book.

In the three decades since Pioneer 1 and 2 were launched from Cape Canaveral, they have been veering from the trajectory predicted by Newton's laws at the rate of eight thousand miles a year. Attempts to explain the discrepancy have raised more questions than they have answered. Since both probes are veering in the same direction and at the same rate, even though they are millions of miles apart, any "malfunction" explanation must assume that whatever went wrong with Pioneer 1 also happened independently to Pioneer 2. Brooks does not resort to the metaphysicians' rationalization that, "There are things science can never explain." But he does suggest that an explanation is as far away today as it was three decades ago. "All we can do is press on and add a new finding to the pile of evidence" (p. 45).

Brooks devotes a chapter (4) to the 1989 cold fusion fiasco. He stops short of disputing that the initial positive result was a "dirty test tube" syndrome. But he argues that there are still unexplained anomalies, and further research into something that logically cannot exist is not indefensible. The U.S. navy apparently agrees. As recently as 2007 the navy chose to resume funding cold fusion research (p. 67).

He also devotes a chapter (5) to Life, and catalogues disparate attempts to find a better definition of what "life" is than, "I know it when I see it." He points out (p. 69-70) that, "no scientist on earth ... can take something from the not-alive state and turn it into something that everyone would agree is alive. In fact, scientists are still struggling to agree on what would constitute such a step." He describes an experiment in which two scientists sent charges of electricity through a collection of compounds thought to have been in earth's primeval atmosphere, and succeeded in producing amino acids. The experiment did not, however, produce proteins, lipids, carbohydrates or nucleic acids. "So, it's hard to call the Miller-Urey experiments a true success" (p. 72). Is Brooks right in denying that amino acids are life, or that the atmosphere in the test tube adequately matched that of primitive earth? Or is he nitpicking to nudge readers toward a personal belief that only an imaginary Sky Fuhrer can create life? His reference to persons who accuse scientists of "playing God" (p. 74) is sufficiently ambiguous to avoid alienating either believers or non-believers in the god hypothesis.

Chapter 6 questions, without actually disagreeing, Carl Sagan's conclusion that, "the possibility that we actually detected life on Mars is vanishingly small." Chapter 7 questions the overwhelming consensus that narrowband signals received from deep space in 1977 do not constitute evidence for extraterrestrial intelligence. He provides sufficient data to refute any allegation that he is manipulating the evidence in favor of credulity. But the fact that he raises questions generally deemed to have been answered makes one wonder if he was looking for any excuse to find "13 things" that do not necessarily exist. Similarly, Chapter 8 on "a giant virus" is informative. But whether the virus's unparalleled size "doesn't make sense" is debatable.

Chapter 9, "Death," raises an interesting question. Since the earliest lifeforms were immortal, and natural selection favors survival factors, how could death have originated? Despite Brooks' refusal, at least openly, to endorse the hypothesis that, "God did it," that strikes me as the conclusion he is hoping readers will reach. Someone who can rationalize that a message from extraterrestrials is the Occam's razor explanation of 1977's detection of anomalous radiation (p. 97), would have no difficulty convincing himself that Occam's razor also supports the god hypothesis. It most assuredly does not.

Chapter 10 takes the position that sex doesn't make sense, since in all species that reproduce sexually, an individual only passes on half of its genetic material to the next generation. Brooks details the various explanations offered for natural selection favoring sexual reproduction, mainly centered on the build up of non-survival mutations and the fact that sexual reproduction only passes on survival genes - since offspring that inherit the non-survival mutations do not live to reproduce. But he cites evidence that falsifies such a hypothesis, such as the fact that 360 species of bdelloid rotifers have been reproducing asexually for seventy million years. In quoting Richard Dawkins' acknowledgement that he has no explanation of why sex evolved, Brooks calls Dawkins an "arch-Darwinian" (p. 136), the clear implication being that Darwin's theory of evolution is less definitively established than Newton's theory of gravity. Since Brooks makes clear that he believes in evolution, what point is he trying to make? The only answer that comes to mind is that he sees Dawkins' recognition that, like Laplace, he has no need for the god hypothesis, as a kind of dogmatism.

Leading into Chapter 11 on Free Will, Brooks writes (p. 150), "The illusion - rather, the delusion - of free will is our next anomaly." That says it all. He swallows, hook, line and sinker, B. F. Skinner's masturbation fantasy that genetic programming determines whether an individual becomes an altruist or a serial killer, and that free choice plays no role in his day-to-day decisions. The element that doesn't make sense, in his view, is that human automatons delude themselves that they have free will. What really doesn't make sense is that Brooks' position on the issue is incompatible with the teachings of all religions - and he is a brainwashed godworshipper (tautology). But to a god addict, what is one more inconsistency?

Before reading this book, it had not crossed my mind that The Placebo Effect (Chapter 12) should be included in a list of things that don't make sense. But the observable reality that a pathological condition can be alleviated by the mere belief that one is experiencing a valid therapeutic procedure indeed doesn't make sense. Brooks reports that Valium has been the top-selling pharmaceutical in the United States for decades. But (pp. 164-165), "The strange thing is, it doesn't work unless you know you're taking it. In 2003 a paper in Prevention and Treatment reported that [Valium] had no effect on anxiety when it was administered without the patient's knowledge…. Witch doctors, shamans, and other purveyors of the magical arts … carry out a sham ritual to cure a paying believer [and] that cure can work wonders. The same might be said of televangelists." As a former associate of a placebo therapist posing as a hypnotist - hypnotism does not exist - I saw thousands of patients cured of such undisciplined behavior as cigarette smoking, and observed that the higher the hypnotist's fee, the more effective the alleged treatment. But while reporting (pp. 167-168) that, "Of the Israeli doctors who prescribed placebos, 94 percent said they found them to be an effective means of treatment," Brooks also notes (p. 166) that, "Some analyses of the data suggest that the placebo effect is largely a myth." To Holocaust deniers and global warming deniers, we can now add placebo deniers.

Chapter 13, on homeopathy, begins with the subheading (p. 181), "It's patently absurd, so why won't it go away?" He provides page after page of proof of the first part of that sentence, but finds no answer to the second part. The prime directive of homeopathy is that the allegedly curative substance must be diluted to the point where the product administered to the patient does not contain a single molecule of the supposed medicine, the rationale being that the weaker the solution, the greater its therapeutic value. That reasoning led a group of medical doctors to report, facetiously, that a patient who forgot to take his daily homeopathic pill died of an overdose. While Brooks does not swallow the homeopathy delusion, his use of the word "allopath," the homeopaths' name for real doctors, serves to grant the homeoquacks an undeserved dignity. In 2005, the Lancet announced that homeopathy is dead. Unfortunately, it still refuses to lie down. London's Royal Homeopathic Hospital, funded by taxpayer money, has a staff of six thousand (p. 181), and England's comic opera clown prince is an avid supporter.

Brooks' Epilogue focuses on the limitations of science: "No one knows how or why the universe might have started blowing up … or why the inflation suddenly stopped" (p. 208). Is he hoping that readers will see metaphysics as the logical answer? Perhaps. And in acknowledging (p. 212) the "enormous insight and clarity from discussions with my New Scientist colleagues," his concluding sentence, "Any mistakes in the text are their fault," was surely a typo.

I Googled Brooks' name, and learned that he describes himself as "a church-going Christian." Despite his attempts to disguise his metaphysics in this book, it nonetheless reveals itself in various places. For example, he writes (p. 27), "The laws of our universe may be as they are because of our own existence." But he also notes (p. 26) that, while "our universe is the way it is because otherwise we couldn't be here to observe it", "It doesn't necessarily invoke a designer or any intention." So he is a believer who tells himself that his belief in a hypothesis (God) that really doesn't make any sense does not diminish his objectivity. Not everyone will agree. As for his refusal to recognize that dowsing has been definitively falsified, while simultaneously asserting that he does not believe in it (see his website), could he be afraid that, if the same standards that falsified dowsing were applied to religion, he would not like the end result?

A scientist who believes in religion is analogous to an astronaut who believes that the earth is flat. At some level Brooks knows that, or he would not have gone to such lengths to conceal his religious orientation from his readers. But while he succeeded to the degree that only by consulting other sources could I be really sure he was addicted to the god hypothesis, evidence of his brainwashed status did keep coming through.

Whether this book could constitute a course in Astrophysics 101, I lack the expertise to determine. Just because a historian was unable to detect any inaccuracies or absurdities, it does not necessarily follow that a physicist could not. But if I could learn from it, the same must be true for other non-physicists. At least tentatively, 13 Things That Don't Make Sense strikes me as "astrophysics/biophysics for dummies" that every seeker of knowledge should have.

The Naked Darwinist: Questions about Human Evolution
Elaine Morgan
Eildon Press
121 Tynwald Drive, Leeds, LS17 5NW, England
9780952562030 $24.00

When Elaine Morgan wrote her first defence of Alister Hardy's hypothesis that humans evolved such attributes as subcutaneous fat and bipedal locomotion in an aquatic environment, if she had called it Amphibious Ape Theory rather than Aquatic Ape Theory, she might never have encountered the adamant hostility that she has been combating for three decades. Certainly Stephen Jay Gould's cursive objection that an aquatic habitat would have caused the legs of homo aquaticus to atrophy from disuse would have been blown out of the water. But Hardy's postulated hominid was a wader, not a diver, and the alternative name would have made that clear. Unfortunately, changing the name at this stage is not practical, and denunciations of what is essentially a misinterpretation of AAT are bound to continue.

But misunderstanding of AAT was never the biggest problem. It flew in the face of the widely accepted Savannah Theory of humankind's development of bipedalism, and even now that the Savannah theory has been discredited, paleoanthropologists continue to reject the only plausible alternative. As for why humans lost their body hair and evolved an alternative heat-preserving system found elsewhere only in aquatic mammals, defenders of orthodoxy who see AAT as analogous to blasphemous heresy not only have not answered the problem of why such changes occurred; they refuse to this day even to ask the question.

For example, neither the 1992 Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution nor the 2004 Principles of Human Evolution, each over 500 pages, refers to the fact that humans have lost their body hair. As Morgan comments, "If the entire contents of these books could be beamed up to one of those mythical life-forms on some distant planet, the aliens would be left with the mistaken idea that we are just as furry as our nearest relatives." She continues, "There is no agreed explanation for any of the anatomical features distinguishing humans from their nearest relatives. Not one." That the attributes (other than speech) that differentiate humans from apes are also found in cetaceans and other aquatic mammals is - there is no other word for it - suppressed.

Is Aquatic/Amphibious Ape Theory so incompatible with the methodology of paleoanthropology that scientists view it as unworthy of the dignity of a rebuttal? Philosopher Daniel Dennett, whose field of specialization includes evolutionary biology, does not think so. He is quoted as acknowledging that, "During the last few years, when I have found myself in the company of distinguished biologists, evolutionary theorists, paleoanthropologists and other experts, I have often asked them just to tell me, please, why Elaine Morgan must be wrong about the aquatic theory. I haven't yet had a reply worth mentioning, aside from those who admit … that they have also wondered the same thing."

AAT can explain all differences (except as noted) between humans and their closest relatives. Differences for which alternative explanations are as plausible as AAT include the comparatively enormous size of the human penis. It is generally agreed that what made a large penis a survival factor was bipedalism, and for that AAT is indeed not the only possible explanation, merely the most reasonable. For those qualities that humans share with cetaceans but not with apes, no other explanation has ever been proposed, for the logical reason that no other explanation would make sense. The suspicion arises that persons who refuse to give AAT a fair hearing have never heard of Occam's razor - or Sherlock Holmes: "When you have eliminated the impossible…."

In drawing attention to the absence of any rebuttal of her arguments, Morgan points out that, "There has been no failure to find explanations of why we are naked and fat and vocal and bipedal. There has only been a failure to find explanations that the leaders in the field are willing to take a look at…. When [creationists] demand: 'If man was not a special creation, why is he so different?' it is no answer to say: 'Oh, didn't we tell you? We don't talk about that any more. We've moved on.'" Paleoanthropologists who deny that they need to explain specific differences between apes and humans are playing right into the creationists' hands.

The one situation in which all hominids walk upright is when they have to move through water. When the water gets too deep to do otherwise, they have no choice but to stand upright in order to breathe. In such a situation, heritable bipedalism becomes a survival factor. And, since water tends to be chilling, so does the combination of nakedness and a layer of subcutaneous fat. Morgan concludes that, "the case for an aquatic explanation of our naked skin is not proven: it is hypothetical. But every other explanation is equally hypothetical." In fact other explanations are more hypothetical, since no alternative explanation can offer a sufficiently self-consistent, all-inclusive incorporation of the totality of the evidence to rise from mere hypothesis to the level of a scientific theory. AAT does so.

My biggest problem with AAT, still unresolved in the 2006 edition of The Disinformation Cycle, was the absence of a break in the fossil record when an aquatic interlude could have occurred. Morgan answers that problem by showing that there does not need to be a break. Some time between four and eight million years ago, when the last common ancestor of humans and apes separated into the bipedal genus Australopithecus and the quadrupedal genus that was the ancestor of the hairy apes, the Afar Valley where Lucy was found was the Afar Sea. It was the earliest Australopithecines that spent sufficient time in neck-deep water to acquire aquatic characteristics. There is no absence of fossils in the Afar Valley dating from the transitional period. What is absent is any way of proving or disproving that the quadrupedal last common ancestor was hairy and Australopithecus was naked, and that a few millennia as virtual amphibians caused the transition.

Morgan does not reiterate the convincing amount of evidence she detailed in her 1997 book, The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis. The main purpose of The Naked Darwinist is to show persons who parrot the Big Lie that she has been discredited, not only that her opponents have done nothing of the sort, but that they have not even attempted to do so, for the same reason that theologians have made no attempt to explain why their bible is adamant that the earth is flat: the hope that, if they ignore the evidence, it will go away. A subsidiary reason might be that she hopes to shame the dogmatists, who refuse to acknowledge that an aquatic ape theory even exists, into explaining to the world why they consider it fatally flawed. Good luck with that.

Evolution: The First Four Billion Years
Michael Ruse & Joseph Travis
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
7 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
9780674031753 $39.95

Michael Ruse and Joseph Travis state in their Introduction (p. xii) that, "the contributors to this volume show again and again, truly the best of proofs that we are made in the image of God." And if they believe that, I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn that I think will interest them.

The first four hundred pages of Evolution consist of sixteen essays that no doubt have a legitimate place in academic journals. Bringing them together into a book seems less than justified, since I doubt that even the authors of individual chapters have any interest in reading the other chapters in the section. Perhaps the editors were paid by the word?

The remainder of the book is an alphabetical dictionary of science and scientists relevant to evolution. Unfortunately, there is no index, and the only way to find out if any subject of interest is included is to skim through the whole six hundred pages. As science dictionaries go, it is a useful addition to every scholar's reference library, but that is as much of a recommendation as I am willing to provide.

The forward is by Edward O. Wilson, in whose undisciplined imagination the ridiculous pseudoscience of sociobiology, which could be a valuable contribution to knowledge only if biology, genetics, anthropology, paleontology, and several other sciences are not, originated. I should have taken the warning and not read past page vii.

What was Harvard Press thinking?

Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design
Barbara Forrest & Paul R. Gross
Oxford U. P., 198 Madison Avenue, New York NY 10016
9780195157420 $19.99

The last 85 pages of Creationism's Trojan Horse consist of notes and an index. The first 315 pages of text are devoted to proving that proponents of intelligent design such as Michael Behe and William Dembski are unlearned, unteachable, dogmatic, anti-science propagandists, with no more understanding of the issues on which they pontificate than a Canada goose, no more moral integrity than Joseph McCarthy, who similarly utilized whatever lie would help him achieve the self-glorification that was his only real purpose, no more understanding of the reason for the separation of church and state than Joseph Ratzinazi or George W. Bush, and no more functional intelligence than the brain amputee James Dobson who thinks that a book that affirms that the earth is flat is nonfiction.

According to Richard Dawkins, "Unfortunately, ID 'theorists' have a streetwise political professionalism to outweigh the amateurishness of their science, and we therefore cannot ignore them…. [This is] An excellent and sadly necessary book." I do not dispute that a detailed rebuttal of creationist pseudoscience and an expose of the creationist conspiracy to insert their masturbation fantasies into school curricula was necessary. But it would have been more effective at one-fifth the length. On the major issue of demonstrating that ID is religion posing as science, Dawkins' own books have done a better job.

Writing this book is best compared with using a hydrogen bomb to swat a fly.

William Harwood

Hassler's Bookshelf

Families at Risk
Jodee Kulp
Better Endings New Beginnings
6289 Brunswick Avenue North, Brooklyn Park, MN 55429
0963707205 $29.95

Foster and surrogate parents professionally parent other people's children. There are times when these professional parents are required to learn a complicated, sometimes contradictory and hostile social welfare system. Families at Risk, is an informative textbook guide that offers comprehensive details to how the social welfare system works to protect children and their caregivers. Set up as a learning manual for professionals in social welfare, foster and adoptive parents, this book makes sense out of an often misunderstood and highly underestimated system. With social workers, supervisors, lawyers, legal advisors, judges and numerous others involved in the future of one child, Families at Risk leads the way to understanding who is doing what and why.

Author, Jodee Kulp, shares her story to help others find their way through the thickness of a complex legal system. Providing a wealth of experience as an out-of-home caregiver since 1986, Ms. Kulp, engages her audience to be proactive professional parents. Families at Risk helps adoptive/foster parents learn unfamiliar laws and policies in a safe comfortable and non-threatening environment. Because the social welfare system can have so many legalities and policies this book helps to clear the way to what policies are beneficial and which ones may not be, in some cases, in the best interest of the child or the family that has provided them care. For professionals in child welfare like social workers, doctors, educators, judges and others, Families at Risk, offers a supportive tool to learning how to asses, react and follow protocol for the benefit of the child, while keeping the surrogate family protected so both of their futures are secured.

Openly discussed is surrogate parenting and how to help a child adapt into a new home and family. Legal terms, social welfare policies and protocol are all addressed. Also discussed is how to parent an abused child, how to handle allegations of abuse and how to work within the system for the benefit of the child while protecting the caregiver's family and it's family members. Proper communication within the system, how to get facts and understand the legal system is another area that caregivers can count on for information. The fine line between discipline, punishment, maltreatment or abuse is a main focus of Families at Risk. Reference Tools for Preservation help caregivers learn how to document their experiences and stay healthy as a family unit. Creative reform for children and families rounds out this essential caregiver guide.

Families at Risk is an essential guide to the consistent and at times inconsistent social welfare system. For adoptive and foster families, Families at Risk will explain how "The System" works. For professionals involved in protecting children this book will be a guide to making informed decisions as it opens the doors to an intimate understanding of children and their caregivers. Families at Risk, builds the bridges necessary for everyone involved in the welfare of children to work together, to understand each other and find the common ground needed to benefit the children they are working for.

The Best I Can Be Living With Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Effects
Liz and Jodee Kulp
Better Endings New Beginnings
6289 Brunswick Avenue North, Brooklyn Park, MN 55429
9780963707239 $12.95,

A reported 78% of children in U.S. foster care suffer from prenatal alcohol exposure and an estimated 40,000 babies in the U.S. will be born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder. The costs to the USA are up to 6 billion to treat these affected children and their families.

Daughter, Liz Kulp, shares private diary entries that express her personal feelings of what it's like to live with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in her book, The Best I Can Be Living With Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Effects. Her adoptive mom, Jodee Kulp, guides her daughter's audience with vivid short stories that describe their family dynamics, experiences and resolutions. With autobiographical accounts and detailed descriptions of their own family's experiences, Co-Authors, Liz and Jodee, offer hope to others who live with FASDs.

Teaming up to educate and make a difference in the world, Liz and Jodee include a list of Primary Disabilities and Secondary Disabilities so others can better understand the multiple challenges a person with FASD's faces. A comprehensive Reading List provides another valuable resource. Additional supportive information in the appendix includes the National FASD Directory, Online Support Groups and Parent Teacher Strategies. Also included by the Co-Authors are Teaching Tips & Resources, a list of the Talents and Good Qualities of a FASD child and a Parent Pledge/Tips page. A list of Mental Health Characteristics, Auditory/Visual Readiness Processes and a Motor/Sense Developmental Outline, help guide parents and educators to how a child with FASDs can learn. The Best I Can Be, closes with uplifting thoughts, tips, things to remember and how to communicate with a child who has FASD.

Liz and Jodee Kulp have embraced their challenges and turned their personal struggles into parenting tools meant to benefit other families. The Best I Can Be Living With Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Effects is a valuable book that will help other individuals and their families learn to lead successful lives inside the confines of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. With so many children born with hidden brain or body damage, this book is a must read for professionals involved in the welfare and education of children as well as for foster and adoptive parents. The Best I Can Be Living With Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Effects is a wonderful resource, directory, diary and account of a family who loved unconditionally, weathered storms, overcame and together continues to triumphantly create a beautiful life with and for each other.

Littluns and the Book of Darkness
Mark Glamack, Author
Mark Glamack, Illustrator
EZ Gift Shopping
PO Box 285, West Bloomfield, NY 14585
9780615169972 $29.95

Adventure, courage, and determination surround loyal friends in the fantasy novel Littluns and the Book of Darkness. Movie Producer and Director now Author, Mark Galmack, uses his background in animation and writing to create this family friendly and Christian based young adult novel. With a mission to positively motivate, educate, enlighten and inspire through entertaining content, Galmack uses his own spiritual guiding light to draw his readers into the struggle between good and evil in this debut novel. The Littluns and the Book of Darkness will entertain audiences of all ages with its fast paced, intriguing storyline and elaborate illustrated life of the Littluns world in the Hollow Hills of the land, Terra Fermata. Author, Mark Galmack, shows off his artistic talent with colorful and meticulous illustrations. His veteran motion picture experience shines with expertly written detailed scene changes and engages readers with screenwriting skills that make his audience feel like they've been deep inside a high production animated movie. Galmack has exceeded his goal in depicting the journey of life, how to choose between the light and dark side of the world while showing the gifts of friendship and how they can influence us in the shadows of our own life choices. Littluns and the Book of Darkness is a delightful, skillfully written novel that will capture both young and mature readers and leave them with full hearts and the tools necessary to know the difference between good and evil. Littluns and the Book of Darkness is a wonderful gift for lovers of fantasy, for parents and educators who want to offer a faith based book and for librarians who want to expand their offerings.

Sara Hassler

Henry's Bookshelf

Landmines in War and Peace - From Their Origin to the Present Day
Mike Croll
Pen & Sword
c/o Casemate, Drexel Hill, PA
9781844158416 $39.99

Though a part of the weaponry of warfare since Roman times, land mines have never gotten the attention other weaponry has. Among the reasons for this, Croll notes, is that land mines are for defense; and defense even among the many with interests in military history does not have the strategic factor, risks, or drama of offense in warfare. Croll calls land mines "agricultural rather than martial" for their "concealment in the earth." And despite their long history, no land mines have been given names like Sherman (a tank), Spitfire (a plane), or Kalashnikov (a rifle) which helps to identify them. Instead land mines are given technical names like OZM 72 and M14 which sound like serial numbers. Though the IED's used against American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are bringing more notice to mines in warfare.

Julius Caesar's defenses against an army of Gauls attempting to relieve his siege of another Gallic army in Alesia in 52BC is one of the first known examples of land mines being used in warfare. In this engagement, the mines were rows of stakes with sharp points in a rampart, sharply pointed logs buried in concealed trenches, and pieces of wood with iron hooks in them--a mine known as a goad--strewn over the ground that would have to be covered by the attacking Gauls. Though heavily outnumbered, with such defenses Caesar was able to turn back the attacking Gauls while at the same time keep the other Gallic army from breaking out of Alesia. Similar mines of sharpened branches and logs and metal were used in many other battles of the ancient world. One such simple mine was lengths of metal with sharpened points twined together so that one point was always facing up known as a caltrop. This was effective disabling horses, camels, and elephants in an attack. Caltrops could also allow a retreating army to keep from being decimated by pursuing forces.

The invention of gunpowder greatly increased the deadliness and the variety of mines. Having been invented independently in China and Europe, by the fourteenth century it was being used in primitive mines in both places. As explosives evolved to later include TNT, modern-era plastic explosives, and others, mines concomitantly evolved in ingenuity and destructiveness. Mines played important, though often overlooked roles in all major wars in the past two or three centuries; notably the Crimean War, the Civil War, and the Vietnam War. Croll deals with land mines' design, use, and effectiveness in each stage of their development.

In the last part of the book, Croll discusses "humanitarian mine action" to remove mines remaining from past conflicts in countries around the world as called for in U.N. resolutions. Croll is a former British Army Bomb Disposal Officer who has led demining and bomb disposal operations. His knowledge and curiosity of all aspects of mines make for a study which is informative and engaging.

Strike it Rich with Pocket Change - Error Coins Bring Big Money, 2nd Edition
Brian Allen and Ken Potter
Krause Publications
Iola, WI
9780896899414 $17.99

Not all coins with irregularities have the high auction or sales values into the tens of thousands of dollars you hear about from newspapers, TV spots, or trade media. Some errors from minting coins are worth only a few dollars up to twenty or so. This is nonetheless obviously a large multiple of the face value of the coins, enough to make this field of interest to many.

Allen and Potter's book can be used in two ways. With its many magnified photographs of errors in specific coins, it can be used as a reference for identifying and confirming errors; and in relation to this, a pricing guide for such an errors.

Many errors, however, are minute or can to the untrained eye appear a natural part of the striking of an individual coin. Beginners or less experienced persons might not pick up such errors. For these, the many different types of errors covered with descriptions and close-ups serve as a survey of errors. By reviewing these, one learns about kinds of errors which can have value to collectors.

Since coins are being designed and struck all the time and there are countless numbers continually being circulated, not all errors can possibly be recorded or known about. There's always the possibility anyone, even an amateur, can discover an error in examining coins. Strike It Rich orients one to be able to spot many known errors and to possibility find an unknown one. Starting with the 5-page section "Coin Terms and Definitions" and then moving on to the descriptions of particular recognized errors is a reliable, efficient way to get the basic orientation.

Henry Berry

Jennifer's Bookshelf

Carl The Frog
David N. Weiss
Worthwhile Books
5080 Santa Fe Street, San Diego, CA 92109
978600103384 $16.99

David N. Weiss touches on some major issues in his children's book "Carl The Frog." Although written for children, Weiss' characters exhibit timeless depth and meaning. The practicality of the lessons learned in this story can be appreciated and applied to everyday life by readers young and old. Weiss' story fosters problem-solving skills and encourages self control when dealing with a problem.

The tale of "Carl The Frog" begins at the point where all life begins. Carl starts his life as an egg and develops into a tadpole. Life seemed so wonderful to Carl in his early developmental stages. As he grows, so does his tongue. It stretches and reaches far and long. Now that Carl has become a frog, he grows ever so hungry, and so begins all of his troubles.

Carl faces a big problem. He feeds his hunger by eating his friends. As Carl's world becomes lonelier and lonelier, we reach the crux of his problem. His tummy was full, but his heart was empty. He has a moment of self-realization where he reflects upon himself. He realizes that eating his friends was making him lonelier than ever. As is usually the case, everything comes full circle when a kingfisher wants to eat Carl. He begs and pleads for his life. The kingfisher provides the moral of the story: "If all you care about is getting what you want, all you'll get is ...what you deserve."

After making a dramatic escape, Carl becomes ill from his adventures, causing him to regurgitate all of his friends he had previously eaten. It is almost satirical when Carl thinks to himself that life was much easier when he was a tadpole. Readers of all ages can easily relate to the character of Carl the Frog.

Carl then meets an ant and hunger overwhelms him once again. However, this time, he fights giving into his desire, and exercises self-control. In the end, Carl is rewarded when his friend the ant invites him to a picnic where he enjoys communing with his friends rather than eating them.

Weiss does a remarkable job making such a simple story transcend age barriers, allowing for a comfortable environment where open dialogue between parent and child can take place. Along with the fable-like quality of this book, the vibrant illustrations created by Pete Whitehead, compliments Weiss' characters so that they truly come alive to the reader.

He Who Sings Last
Lisa Laird Dirosso
Tate Publishing
9781606966952 $17.99

Jimmy Covelli, the egotistical former singer of the Floating Hearts is wanted by police for a murder that occurred nearly twenty years earlier. The cold-case murder of Connie Calabrese is being investigated by Detective John Vintoni. Vintoni questions Covelli - the overweight, washed-up has-been, as several witnesses placed him with Calabrese on the night of the murder. Covelli was seen leaving the Green Garden Coliseum with Calabrese, as she found the famous crooner appealing, and she herself had lived a life of promiscuity.

Miranda Madison, an obsessed fan of Covelli's, stops at nothing to meet him. After meeting him once at a concert when she was 15, she becomes fixated on meeting him again, certain that the two of them are destined to be together. Years later Miranda comes into contact with Covelli's brother Justin, as he was selling an item which used to belong to Jimmy. Justin arranges for her to meet his brother, whom he despises for his own personal reasons. Upon meeting, Jimmy seeing that Miranda would do anything for him, coerces her into establishing an alibi for him on the night of the murder. Vintoni, instinctively sensing that Mirandi was lying, continues his investigation relentlessly trying to convict Covelli.

The intricacy in which Dirosso weaves this story along with elaborate and very well defined characters makes this murder mystery novel an intriguing read. Fluctuating narratives among characters that had known Jimmy in the past, as well as characters that know him in the present, laid an eloquent foundation for the entire novel. A background, birds-eye view is provided through use of Dirosso's characters, so as to enable the reader to see the whole picture being drawn as they turn each page. Dirosso allows the reader to enter the mind of her characters, giving the reader an understanding as to why certain behaviors were carried out by them.

With its' cliffhanger ending, the reader is enthralled by "He Who Sings Last", and left anticipating a future novel by Dirosso.

Saving Ben: A Father's Story of Autism
Dan E. Burns
University of North Texas Press
1400 Highland Street, Stovall Hall, Room 174, Denton, TX 76201
9781574412697 $22.95

"Saving Ben: A Father's Story of Autism" is a truly heart-felt account of the struggle and hope of a family recovering their son Ben, after he is diagnosed with autism in 1987. In this first person narrative written by Dan E. Burns, the reader is brought on a journey into a world where a father battles with the medical establishment, while simultaneously trying to effectively cope through his own personal issues. Dan E. Burns tells the story of his struggle, celebration, and grief, as well as his journey of perseverance and life learned lesson.

For readers who are not familiar with autism, it is "a severe developmental disorder that begins at birth or within the first two-and-a-half years of life. Most autistic children are perfectly normal in appearance, but spend their time engaged in puzzling and disturbing behaviors which are markedly different from those of typical children. Less severe cases may be diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) or with Asperger's Syndrome (these children typically have normal speech, but they have many "autistic" social and behavioral problems)."

Burns does a phenomenal job revealing the hopes and fears experienced by many parents of autistic children. The stigma attached to such as disease, along with the defeatist attitude of some medical professionals is brought to light, along with an issue long standing in western medicine, that being "doctors never see the whole child."

Throughout several months and years after being diagnosed, Ben achieves minimal developmentally appropriate accomplishments. There is little improvement academically, almost no speech, and physicians continue to alter Ben's unacceptable behavior with the use of medications such as Clonidine and Haldol.

Unyielding in his attempts to recover Ben rather than surrender to the disease of autism, Dan E. Burns begins to research alternative treatment methods. After incorporating these techniques, Ben starts to make some marked improvements.

This book is a great support for those who may be going through similar circumstances. It leaves the reader with hope and encouragement, and displays how a parent's love for a child can unequivocally make all the difference in the world. Dan E. Burns gives us a portrait of virtuous humanity in his endurance, hope, and love as he goes throughout his life journey, "Saving Ben."

For further information on autism: - Autism Research and Defeat Autism Now

Jennifer Ochs, Reviewer

Karyn's Bookshelf

Coffeehouse Angel
Suzanne Selfors, author
Walker & Company
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
9780802798121, $16.99

A small, independent coffeehouse being overrun by a mega mocha neighbor. A quaint tourist town celebrating the solstice with a carols and St. Nicholas. A teen cast that has every stereotypical type -- the perky leader, best-friend jock, chubby sidekick and alternatingly dejected and up-by-the-bootstraps heroine. A cliche plot at first glance yet "Coffeehouse Angel" succeeds - on great writing. In her latest novel, "Saving Juliet" author Suzanne Selfors ultimately serves up a warm, funny, satisfying tale about friendship and accepting the possibility of the miraculous. The story, about an angel determined to grant teenager Katrina her fondest wish in debt to her act of kindness, thrives on the depth of its characters and its witty prose.. Katrina, an orphan who works in her grandmother's coffeehouse and lives in an apartment above, is thoroughly believable as she struggles with an array of anxieties topped by her best friend's courtship of a rival coffeehouse owner's daughter. A classroom scene where she airs her anger about that is really funny, as is a school assembly where the angel Malcolm shows up looking for her . There are also uncertainties about her future, concerns about money and her grandmother's health and a growing attraction to someone that she has a hard time believing is actually an angel. There's just the right amount of poignancy and some memorable eleventh-hour twists. Good to the last drop.

Richard Bong: World War II Flying Ace
Pete Barnes, author
Wisconsin Historical Society Press
816 State St., Madison, WI 53706
9780870204340, $12.95

The Wisconsin Historical Society Press continues its time-trek around the state with the twelfth installment of "Badger Biographies" of Wisconsin residents. This time the series, geared for fourth-graders who are learning state history, looks at Poplar native Richard Bong, one of World War II's most decorated American fighter pilots who died tragically in a training accident in 1945, soon after returning home from the Pacific.

In addition to focusing on Bong's character and family life, the book is a good primer on how pilots were trained and what they experienced in combat skies of that era. Aircraft enthusiasts will find mention and photos of many different types of American and Japanese planes and a discussion of flying formations and maneuvers used by the opposing sides. On a human level, Bong's dislike of publicity is a testament to his down-to-earth personality, and a good lesson for young readers. The Bong family's involvement in the book is evident in those sentiments and in personal photos and reminisces. Like previous titles in the series, "Richard Bong: World War II Flying Ace" includes a glossary, index, reading group guide and suggested activities. Another great title in a much-needed niche series.

The Magician's Elephant
Kate DiCamillo, author
Yoko Tanaka, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763644109, $16.99

The bizarre - an elephant magically falling through the roof of a packed opera house - meshes with the dreamingly poignent - an orphaned brother and sister's wish to be reunited -- in a tenderhearted tale that celebrates the connections between us and the courage it takes to follow dreams. Newbery Medal-winning author Kate DiCamillo succeeds once again with "The Magician's Elephant," a story about a magician who one winter evening brings an elephant crashing down onto his audience. On that same evening in the same city, a fortune teller informs a boy that an elephant will appear and lead him to his presumed-dead sister. A beggar and his a blind dog, a noblewoman crippled by the falling elephant, a nun who oversees the local orphanage, a policeman and his wife who have no children of their own, a crippled former stonecutter hired to scoop elephant poop, the elephant, the boy Peter and his sister Adele form an ensemble cast who confront life's deepest questions in their nighttime dreams, and who, each in their own small way, contribute to the tale's simple yet miraculous conclusion. Each mired in their own difficult circumstances, the characters don't have much reason to believe that life will change. But one by one they allow themselves to ask "what if?" What if they took a chance, what if they believed that change was possible, what if they were capable of making it happen? When that mindset takes hold, amazing things occur. The black and white illustrations bolster the story's wintry feel, as characters wish for snow as they suffer through gray, laden skies and bitter cold. The perfect illustrative accompaniment to a story about daring to move after long standing still.

The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
American Heritage Dictionaries editors, authors
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116
9780547212555, $20.00

The text of a dictionary is pretty set - it has to reflect the human language. But creativity can rule in the presentation. In their choice of globally-minded illustrations, primary-hued borders and type and special features like spelling notes, vocabulary builders and word history boxes, the editors of "The American Heritage Children's Dictionary" do a great job of emphasizing ethnicity and lend a kid-friendly feel. The global emphasis ranges from a group of children of different races lined up to illustrate "abreast" to a demonstration of "aikido," to an African-American woman using a "blow dryer," to an Austrian airliner illustrating "disembark," to a scattered array of skin tones.

"Enchiladas" are illustrated, as are "falafel," "folk dancers," "hijab," "menorah," "sitar," "temple,"

The content, for kids ages 8 to 11, has also been updated to reflect modern words like "biofuel," "greenhouse gas," and "baby boom." There is a geography glossary and world and United States maps. At 885 pages, a hefty and thorough yet accessible tome that has young learners squarely in mind.

The Lion & the Mouse
Jerry Pinkney, author and illustrator
Hachette Book Group/Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780316013567, $16.99

When the art is this stunning text only detracts. In his retelling of a classic Aesop's fable, renowned author and illustrator Jerry Pinkney stuck to illustrations only, with the exception of occasional animal sound words like squeak, screech and roar. And what a good choice. The cover art, featuring a yellow-eyed, whisker-joweled, firey-maned lioned staring down a pink eared, knuckle-toed, bucktoothed mouse, is so exceptionally beautiful you would hate to see a printed title cover even a millimeter of it. So, happily, the title runs up the spine. The tale is a familiar one. After a mighty lion frees a small mouse that he might have eaten, the mouse returns the debt by nibbling the lion out of a hunter's net. While the blazing oranges of the lion's mane form the most spectacular image, other details further the delight. The setting, in the African Serengeti, allows for a great array of animal life as well as small, geographically distinct details like colorful flowers, grasses, insects and butterflies. Beautiful beyond words.

Road to Revolution
Stan Mack and Susan Champlin, authors
Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children's Books
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
9781599900131, $10.99

If children can envision themselves in a historical era they may actually read about the past and learn something. That's the idea behind books like cartoon-based "Road to Revolution," that inject fictional characters into real history. Unlike real people, they can move around and can be eyewitness to key moments at the author's will. The cartoon feel, naturally, further entices.

"Road to Revolution" follows Penny, the daughter of a Revolutionary War-era Boston tavern owner and Nick, an orphan who befriends her. By being conveniently in the right place at the right time the duo overhear important British conversations and relay them to undercover patriots. They find themselves at a commemoration of the 1770 Boston Massacre, held at the packed Old South Meeting-House. Later, Penny overhears British officers planning an invasion. And at the Old North Church on the night of Paul Revere's famous ride, Nick helps light the lanterns that told rebels the British were advancing by a water route.

Age-appropriately reigning in its graphics, the book also delves into the horrors of war, including the death of a real-life Patriot leader and mentor of Nick's on Breed's Hill.

From a historical perspective, the hero and heroine sometimes talk and act a bit more modern than kids of that time might have. Penny, in particular, seems a bit more bold than girls of that era. But that can be excused given the emphasis on their being fictional, and the goal of drawing in modern young readers, who relate best to people like themselves.

Mack and Champlin also go to pains to lay out a chapter-by-chapter epilogue account of which moments were actual history and which were fictional. Interestingly, those that were fictional were based on legend. For instance, legend has it that a girlfriend of the one of the participants offered her petticoat to muffle the oars on a boat trip across the Charles River. In the book, Penny did the offering.

Ultimately, a good account that teaches kids what they need to know, while well-delineating the line between what is real and imaginary. Depending on the child an adult might have to help them see the line, but it is there.

Karyn Saemann

Kaye's Bookshelf

Southcrop Forest
Lorne Rothman
Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595495887 $13.95

Quoting from the back cover:

"The trees of Southcrop have made a striking discovery-one that could change the world for all their kind. But they are trapped in a forest fragment and face destruction from human sprawl. They cannot spread their new-found gift across the land.

"The Auja, a young oak, finds little Fur amongst her branches. Fur is a legendary creature not seen for a thousand years, a single intelligent being emerged from a colony of caterpillars. Fur is small and meek and slow, but can travel through the forest and talk with trees. Auja persuades the reluctant Fur to help.

"Fur embarks on a desperate quest to find the source of all tree power-the mysterious Riverside Farm. Here he must gather the trees' great treasure and carry it across Oak River to the forest of Deep Sky.

"Fur's long trek is fraught with peril as he races to reach Riverside Farm before it is destroyed. Ghoulish enemies hunt him while machines wreak their deadly havoc. Yet Fur's journey is one of enlightenment as he learns about the ecology of his world, the threat of the human species, and finally, the secret of his existence."

Lorne Rothman is a good writer and has created a fantasy tale around the subject of ecology. He holds a PhD in zoology and has studied ecology at several universities. The story is set in current times in a real forest, and prior to writing his story, Rothman studied all the flora, fauna and history of the area. If you enjoy fantasy adventures with a realistic twist, you might consider giving Southcrop Forest a try.

Anaximander's Annex
Edward Fotheringill, Inc.
9781601458728 $15.95

If you've read my past reviews, you're aware not all the reviews were favorable...I'm not a book promoter. Sometimes I don't have much to say about a spark, but occasionally a book comes along that lights my fire, and Anaximander's Annex is one such rare book...a true masterpiece!

Intriguing, thought provoking, simplistic yet convoluted, metaphysically and sociologically insightful, multi-layered, open-ended, and so tight Hemingway would be proud.

As always, I'll begin by quoting from the back cover:

"Five scholars of international renown in the academia of Ancient Greek philosophy harbor a secret that could forever change the intellectual landscape of Western civilization. As they deliberate how best to share their discovery with the world, mysterious machinations of fate make them question the entire nature of truth and revelation."

That's extremely complex, don't you think?...questioning "the entire nature of truth and revelation." which, indeed, they do. But, there is also a simpler level and here Anaximander's Annex is about aliens, werewolves, murders, death, sex, alcohol, cigars, indifference, redemption, and the color yellow.

For those of us who missed Ancient Greek Philosophy 101 (myself included), Anaximander (610 BC - 546 BC) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who lived in Miletus, Ionia. He was one of the earliest Greek thinkers at the start of the Axial Age, the period from approximately 700 BC to 200 BC, during which similarly revolutionary thinking appeared in China, India, Iran, the Near East, and Ancient Greece. He was a proponent of science claiming that nature is ruled by laws. In physics, he postulated that the indefinite (or apeiron) was the source of all things.

Anaximader's Annex contains 94 succinct chapters and a cast of enigmatic characters: the 5 scholars-Harry Foxworth, Roger Stone, Arthur DeMonet, Justin Campbell and Brigitte Pernod; Patrick Foxworth, Harry's twin brother; 3 homicide detectives; 2 forensic pathologists; 3 prostitutes; a mad housewife; a French werewolf; a suicide in progress; a professor of abnormal psychology; a nameless ex-professor in a Baltimore alley; a one-armed hag in a London slum; a blind, abandoned mother who had no daughter and no fear; and other minor players.

Alan Watts once said, "An essential element of creativity is the mysterious." And, that rings true in Anaximander's Annex. The most perplexing and provocative aspects of this novel are the elements that are not there-full disclosure and anticipated reactions. There is no clear protagonist, but circuitously, alcoholic homicide detective Al Wherle gets my vote.

Fotheringill's writing style is unique yet not affectatious; his metaphors are dramatic yet not contrived; his extensive vocabulary enriches the patterns he weaves; there are messages here and yet he says nothing. Each chapter may answer a question and partially define a character but at the same time create a new mystery and leave something unexplained. Here is an excerpt from page 169 to tempt you.

"Al closed his tired eyes and opened them again. 'The way I see it, words don't do much to reveal the truth. They're a cheap substitute. Language always falls short. Always. Silence has no boundaries. It's infinite enough to make room for the truth.' Al stared at the ceiling, his mind settling and resting in nothingness. 'Look up there, at the ceiling. It's a tabula rasa. It is what it is. The shadows of the candle dance on the surface of the ceiling but don't affect it. The ceiling is the truth, the shadows are words that try to capture the truth.' Al wondered whether or not to continue. 'You can tell who among us can endure the truth. And you can tell those who can't. Those that talk incessantly and have opinions about everything and are enamored with their own opinions cannot endure the truth.'

"'Why do you say that?'

"'Because an encounter with truth makes you silent. Only silence gives room for the truth. Silence is the space where truth can breathe.'"

Edward Fotheringill teaches philosophy at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland. His other novels include Lanterns in the Mist, Darkness Withdrawn OR The Eclipse of Nietzsche's Shadow and Halfmoon Confidential. All good, but this is the best yet.

I highly enjoy this type of novel, mostly for what it is not...a tragic memoir, a classic murder mystery, a lusty romance. It has multiple messages, entertains and informs and still leaves me with unanswered questions.

Truly...a masterpiece!!!

Anaximander's Annex
Edward Fotheringill, Inc.
9781601458728 $15.95

If you've read my past reviews, you're aware not all the reviews were favorable...I'm not a book promoter. Sometimes I don't have much to say about a spark, but occasionally a book comes along that lights my fire, and Anaximander's Annex is one such rare book...a true masterpiece!

Intriguing, thought provoking, simplistic yet convoluted, metaphysically and sociologically insightful, multi-layered, open-ended, and so tight Hemingway would be proud.

As always, I'll begin by quoting from the back cover:

"Five scholars of international renown in the academia of Ancient Greek philosophy harbor a secret that could forever change the intellectual landscape of Western civilization. As they deliberate how best to share their discovery with the world, mysterious machinations of fate make them question the entire nature of truth and revelation."

That's extremely complex, don't you think?...questioning "the entire nature of truth and revelation." which, indeed, they do. But, there is also a simpler level and here Anaximander's Annex is about aliens, werewolves, murders, death, sex, alcohol, cigars, indifference, redemption, and the color yellow.

For those of us who missed Ancient Greek Philosophy 101 (myself included), Anaximander (610 BC - 546 BC) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who lived in Miletus, Ionia. He was one of the earliest Greek thinkers at the start of the Axial Age, the period from approximately 700 BC to 200 BC, during which similarly revolutionary thinking appeared in China, India, Iran, the Near East, and Ancient Greece. He was a proponent of science claiming that nature is ruled by laws. In physics, he postulated that the indefinite (or apeiron) was the source of all things.

Anaximader's Annex contains 94 succinct chapters and a cast of enigmatic characters: the 5 scholars-Harry Foxworth, Roger Stone, Arthur DeMonet, Justin Campbell and Brigitte Pernod; Patrick Foxworth, Harry's twin brother; 3 homicide detectives; 2 forensic pathologists; 3 prostitutes; a mad housewife; a French werewolf; a suicide in progress; a professor of abnormal psychology; a nameless ex-professor in a Baltimore alley; a one-armed hag in a London slum; a blind, abandoned mother who had no daughter and no fear; and other minor players.

Alan Watts once said, "An essential element of creativity is the mysterious." And, that rings true in Anaximander's Annex. The most perplexing and provocative aspects of this novel are the elements that are not there-full disclosure and anticipated reactions. There is no clear protagonist, but circuitously, alcoholic homicide detective Al Wherle gets my vote.

Fotheringill's writing style is unique yet not affectatious; his metaphors are dramatic yet not contrived; his extensive vocabulary enriches the patterns he weaves; there are messages here and yet he says nothing. Each chapter may answer a question and partially define a character but at the same time creates a new mystery and leaves something unexplained. He spins a metaphysical web while he entertains, educates and then leaves us hanging. Here is an excerpt from page 169 to possibly tempt you.

"Al closed his tired eyes and opened them again. 'The way I see it, words don't do much to reveal the truth. They're a cheap substitute. Language always falls short. Always. Silence has no boundaries. It's infinite enough to make room for the truth.' Al stared at the ceiling, his mind settling and resting in nothingness. 'Look up there, at the ceiling. It's a tabula rasa. It is what it is. The shadows of the candle dance on the surface of the ceiling but don't affect it. The ceiling is the truth, the shadows are words that try to capture the truth.' Al wondered whether or not to continue. 'You can tell who among us can endure the truth. And you can tell those who can't. Those that talk incessantly and have opinions about everything and are enamored with their own opinions cannot endure the truth.'

"'Why do you say that?'

"'Because an encounter with truth makes you silent. Only silence gives room for the truth. Silence is the space where truth can breathe.'"

Edward Fotheringill teaches philosophy at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland. His other novels include Lanterns in the Mist, Darkness Withdrawn OR The Eclipse of Nietzsche's Shadow and Halfmoon Confidential. All good, but this is his best yet.

Truly...a masterpiece!!!

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Lisa See
Random House, Inc.
1400060281 $11.56

Quoting from the cover:

"In nineteenth-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion, the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu ('women's writing'). Some girls were paired with laotongs, 'old sames,' in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.

"With the arrival of a silk fan on which Snow Flower has composed for Lily a poem of introduction in nu shu, their friendship is sealed and they become 'old sames' at the tender age of seven. As the years pass, through famine and rebellion, they reflect upon their arranged marriages, loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a brilliantly realistic journey back to an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is sorrowful. With the period detail and deep resonance of Memoirs of a Geisha, this lyrical and emotionally charged novel delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship."

From reading past reviews and listening to others discuss this novel, I understand that most readers found Lily lacking in her compassion and love for Snow Flower and her tragic life. This is understandable, as it is Lily herself who believes this to be true as she reproaches herself for her shortcomings.

Chapter 1, Sitting Quietly, opens with: "For my entire life I longed for love. I knew it was not right for me-as a girl and later as a woman-to want or expect it, but I did, and this unjustified desire has been at the roof of every problem I have experienced in my life."

To me, this thought is the essence of this story and though Lily may not have experienced love from another person, she did experience love through all her giving and efforts, ignorant as they might have been, to love and help her laotong Snow Flower.

Narrated in the first person by Lily, as a memoir, we know only what she experienced, thought and did. She had been deceived for years by Snow Flower, Madame Wang and Lily's mother. When she visited Snow Flower's home for the first time, Snow Flower reacted with angry tears:

"Don't pity me! I don't want it!"

Lily's reaction was:

"Pity had not entered my mind. I felt sick with confusion and sadness...

Maybe I should have been angry at Snow Flower for lying to me, but that's not what I felt. I had believed I had been plucked for a special future, which made me too self-centered to see what was directly in front of me. Wasn't it my lack as a friend-as a laotong-that had prevented me from asking Snow Flower the right questions about her past and her future...

"I was at a moment of supreme confusion, and I believe it set the stage for what happened later. I didn't know my mind. I didn't see or understand what was important. I was just a stupid girl who thought she knew something because she was married...."

Lily had no control over Snow Flower's social disgrace, marriage to a husband with a polluted occupation, and her tragic life. And yet I see her expression of love for Snow Flower through her actions: 1) When Lily realized the problem at Snow Flower's home, she set about making the bad situation as nice as possible so Snow Flower would have a proper, traditional marriage; 2) When Lily's mother-in-law and husband wanted her not to have any contact with Snow Flower, she continued to visit her secretly; 3) When they were in the mountains and it was evident that Snow Flower was not fond of her first son, Lily taught the boy what she knew from what her son had been taught.

It was Snow Flower who wrote the letter:

"I have too many troubles... I cannot be what you wish. You won't have to listen to my complaints anymore. Three sworn sisters have promised to love me as I am. Write to me, not to console me as you have been doing, but to remember our happy girl-days together."

Lily's response to receiving this letter was:

"This pain was unlike anything I had felt before...I had always made allowances for Snow Flower out of love. But once I began to focus on her weaknesses, a pattern of deceit, deception, and betrayal began to emerge. I thought about all the times Snow Flower had lied to me-about her family, about her married life, even about her beatings. Not only had she not been a faithful laotong, she had not even been a very good friend. A Friend would have been honest and forthright. If all this were not enough, I let memories of the recent weeks wash over me. Snow Flower had taken advantage of my money and position to gain better clothes, better food, and a better situation for her daughter, while ignoring all my help and suggestions. I felt duped and immensely foolish."

At a later gathering and in front of other women Snow Flowers sang a Letter of Vituperation to tell about her sad life.

"It seems I am cursed by fate. I must have done bad deeds in a former life. I am seen as less than others."

She berated Lily :

" ...for 27 years...we always spoke true words. We were like long vines, reaching out to each other, forever entwined. But when I hold her of my sadness, she had no patience. When she saw how poor I was in spirit, she reminded me that men farm and women weave, that industriousness bring no hunger, believing I could change my destiny.... Why have your turned away fro me? You and I are laotong-together in our souls even when we couldn't be together in our daily lives. And why have you hurt my daughter?"

And Lily retaliated.

When Snow Flower was dying, the sworn sisters told Lily that Snow Flower loved only her and not them. And once again, Lily was there, in the end, for Snow Flower.

Throughout their contracted laotong, Snow Flower felt sorry for herself and her fate, deceived Lily, chose to interpret Lily's love and help as pity, didn't appreciate Lily's efforts to stay in touch, and berated her in public. Very little in this story demonstrated any actions or behavior by Snow Flower that could be interpreted as love for Lily...other than her verbal words. And, just saying so, doesn't make it so.

In the end, as in the beginning, and after lengthy consideration, it is my feeling that Lily just wanted to be loved and through this desire experienced love by giving love.

Lisa See is a wonderful, gifted writer with an enchanting, lyrical style. Her research for this fictional memoir brings to life aspects of Chinese culture in the early 1800s such as Confucian thought, foot binding, nu shu writing and the economic/political hierarchy.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Lisa See
Random House, Inc.
1400060281 $11.56

Quoting from the cover:

"In nineteenth-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion, the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu ('women's writing'). Some girls were paired with laotongs, 'old sames,' in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.

"With the arrival of a silk fan on which Snow Flower has composed for Lily a poem of introduction in nu shu, their friendship is sealed and they become 'old sames' at the tender age of seven. As the years pass, through famine and rebellion, they reflect upon their arranged marriages, loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a brilliantly realistic journey back to an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is sorrowful. With the period detail and deep resonance of Memoirs of a Geisha, this lyrical and emotionally charged novel delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship."

From reading past reviews and listening to others discuss this fictional memoir, I understand that most readers found Lily lacking in her compassion and love for Snow Flower. This is certainly understandable, as it is Lily herself who reproaches herself for her shortcomings.

As you read this fictional memoir, I would ask that you consider the following questions: What is a loving relationship? Can a friendship initiated and perpetuated on lies and deception be considered a loving relationship? Was this a true laotong (contracted loving relationship) or a one-sided effort at love?

Chapter 1, Sitting Quietly, opens with:

"For my entire life I longed for love. I knew it was not right for me-as a girl and later as a woman-to want or expect it, but I did, and this unjustified desire has been at the root of every problem I have experienced in my life."

To me, this thought is the essence of the fictional memoir, and though Lily may not have felt she was loved during her lifetime, she did experience love through her giving and efforts, ignorant as they might have been, to love and help her laotong, Snow Flower.

Narrated in the first person by Lily we know only what she experienced, thought and did. She had been deceived from the very beginning by Snow Flower, Madame Wang and her mother. When Lily visited Snow Flower's home for the first time and discovered the truth, after ten years of friendship, Snow Flower reacted with angry tears:

"Don't pity me! I don't want it!"

Lily's reaction was:

"Pity had not entered my mind. I felt sick with confusion and sadness...
Maybe I should have been angry at Snow Flower for lying to me, but that's not what I felt. I had believed I had been plucked for a special future, which made me too self-centered to see what was directly in front of me. Wasn't it my lack as a friend-as a laotong-that had prevented me from asking Snow Flower the right questions about her past and her future...

"I was at a moment of supreme confusion, and I believe it set the stage for what happened later. I didn't know my mind. I didn't see or understand what was important. I was just a stupid girl who thought she knew something because she was married...."

Lily had no control over anything...her own life and future, nor Snow Flower's social disgrace and marriage to a husband with a polluted occupation. And yet, I see her expression of love for Snow Flower through her actions: 1) When Lily realized the problem at Snow Flower's home, she set about making the bad situation as nice as possible so Snow Flower would have a proper, traditional marriage; 2) When Lily's mother-in-law and husband wanted her not to have any contact with Snow Flower, she continued to visit her secretly; 3) When they were in the mountains and it was evident that Snow Flower was not fond of her first son, Lily taught the boy what she knew from what her son had been taught. The girls learned from each other. Lily appreciated Snow Flower's talents--her delicate nu shu and embroidery, and Snow Flower learned how to clean a house and do chores.

It was Snow Flower who wrote the letter which caused so much pain and misunderstanding:

"I have too many troubles... I cannot be what you wish. You won't have to listen to my complaints anymore. Three sworn sisters have promised to love me as I am. Write to me, not to console me as you have been doing, but to remember our happy girl-days together."

Lily's response to receiving the letter was:

"This pain was unlike anything I had felt before...I had always made allowances for Snow Flower out of love. But once I began to focus on her weaknesses, a pattern of deceit, deception, and betrayal began to emerge. I thought about all the times Snow Flower had lied to me-about her family, about her married life, even about her beatings. Not only had she not been a faithful laotong, she had not even been a very good friend. A Friend would have been honest and forthright. If all this were not enough, I let memories of the recent weeks wash over me. Snow Flower had taken advantage of my money and position to gain better clothes, better food, and a better situation for her daughter, while ignoring all my help and suggestions. I felt duped and immensely foolish."

At a later gathering, in front of other women, Snow Flower sang a Letter of Vituperation to tell about her sad life and to berate Lily.

"It seems I am cursed by fate. I must have done bad deeds in a former life. I am seen as less than others.

"...for 27 years...we always spoke true words. We were like long vines, reaching out to each other, forever entwined. But when I hold her of my sadness, she had no patience. When she saw how poor I was in spirit, she reminded me that men farm and women weave, that industriousness brings no hunger, believing I could change my destiny.... Why have your turned away from me? You and I are laotong-together in our souls even when we couldn't be together in our daily lives. And why have you hurt my daughter?"

And Lily retaliated with the truth.

When Snow Flower was dying, the sworn sisters told Lily that Snow Flower had never loved them, only Lily. And once again, Lily was there for Snow Flower.

Throughout their contracted laotong, Snow Flower felt sorry for herself/her fate, deceived Lily, chose to interpret Lily's love and help as pity, didn't appreciate Lily's efforts to stay in touch, and berated her in public. There is very little in this story, as demonstrated by Snow Flower's actions or behavior, that could be interpreted as love for Lily...or for anyone else. Just saying so, does not make it so.

In the end, as in the beginning, and after lengthy consideration, it is my feeling that Lily just wanted to be loved and through her strong desire experienced love by giving love.

Lisa See is a wonderful, gifted writer with an enchanting, delicate, lyrical style. Her research for this fictional memoir brings to life aspects of Chinese culture in the early 1800s such as Confucian thought, foot binding, nu shu writing and the economic/political hierarchy.

Kaye Trout

Logan's Bookshelf

The Sweet War Man
Paul Barcello
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440119958, $19.95,

Duty to one's love and duty to one's country are things held in equal esteem to many. "The Sweet War Man" is a love triangle between an army man, his beloved who hates war, and a third woman who is more understanding of the soldier's duty. Randy is split between loyalties, and can't decide what's right. An intriguing story emerges.

Storm Approaching
Brian Libby
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438947785, $17.00,

Life for a mercenary is not simple. "Storm Approaching: Mine the Labor, Yours the Glory" is the first novel of author Brian Libby's mercenary series. A fantasy novel free from the usual cliches, "Storm Approaching" is saga of Andiriel and her life as a mercenary employed by an order of Knights. "Storm Approaching" is a novel of fresh political intrigue and war, highly recommended.

Twilight of Pacific Colonialism
Gordon W. Groves
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533160075, $25.95,

Colonialism is not a centuries dead thing. "Twilight of Pacific Colonialism" tells the story of the waning days of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony of the United Kingdom, through the eyes of a man who called the place home. Covering something that isn't commonly in public eye, author Gordon Groves tells a fascinating story and has quite the personal tale of his own - he wanted to marry a native when the government forbade it. "Twilight of Pacific Colonialism" is a unique and recommended read for those seeking unsung history.

Denny Swartzlander
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780980127812, $15.95,

Motherhood is easy for no one, but especially not for Ethywyne Eleganta. "Eleganta" tells the story of fairies off the coast of Dark Age England. For the first time in long time, a new fairy is born. But this young one's life is threatened off the bat, and her mother must travel long and far to keep her daughter alive. "Eleganta" is a fun fantasy and a treat for fairy-lovers everywhere.

Always My Fault - A Survivor's Story
Jim Woodring
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533160167, $13.95,

Love is powerful, and what we think is love can blind us. "Always My Fault - A Survivor's Story" tells the story of Natalie, a woman who finds she has married a con-artist. With a front corporation, Natalie finds herself sucked in to the scam, and only realizing what the real problem is when it may be too late. Designed as a fable of sorts, "Always My Fault" is intriguing reading and a warning to not be blinded by love.

The Pick Pocket Pirate
Timothy E. Dillinger
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438940434, $15.99,

You can be very skilled at something you despise. "The Pick Pocket Pirate: An Original Pirate Tale" tells the story of young Ezekiel as he embarks on the life of a pirate. He makes the most of it as he soon finds himself in pursuit of the treasured Mermaid's Eye with the crew. "The Pick Pocket Pirate" is a fun adventure for young readers who have taken a liking to tales of swashbuckling buccaneers.

Carl Logan

Margaret's Bookshelf

A Game Called Salisbury
Susan Barringer Wells
c/o Buy Books On The Web
1094 New Dehaven Street, #100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741444259 $23.95

Titled after a lynching game played by children, A Game Called Salisbury: The Spinning of a Southern Tragedy and the Myths of Race is the non-fiction account of author Susan Barringer Wells' investigation into the unresolved, century-old murder of four of her relatives in Jim Crow North Carolina, and the subsequent lynching of the family's black sharecroppers for the crime. In her search for the truth, Wells relentlessly grilled her family members and searched through news accounts; she was struck by the extreme bias of the media and culture at the time, the transparent flimsiness of the case against the accused, and the utter inability for black men and women to receive any kind of justice. Profound to the point of disturbing, A Game Called Salisbury is a search for answers that transcends itself to give an all too vivid picture of the racism that saturated America only a few generations ago.

De-con-struct-ing Superwoman
Monique J. LeBrocq
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595527885, $20.95,

Infidelity can turn out to be a lot of fun, even for those not doing the cheating. "De-con-struct-ing Superwoman" is the story of how Holland Barrett turned her husband's betrayal into the adventure of a lifetime. Along with her friends, she embarks on a road trip and even through all the chaos and misfortune, she has the time of her life. "De-con-struct-ing Superwoman" is a fun read, recommended.

Daughter of Narcissus
Colin Campbell
Dynasty Press
9780955350733, $24.99,

To be entirely obsessed with oneself is an addiction, and it can destroy lives just like any other. "Daughter of Narcissus" is an observation of narcissism, from the perspective of a family member. Colin Campbell shows the impact of narcissism, something that she has noticed has taken a strong occurrence of infecting the upper and middle classes of the world, leaving them forgetting what's truly important. "Daughter of Narcissus" is an intriguing exploration of a serious personal problem.

Reflections of a Human Being
Bobby Derricotte
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533160884, $8.95,

Family is something that one has to make time for. "Reflections of a Human Being" is a collection of poems from Vietnam veteran Bobby Derricotte who reflects on his lifetime through the avenue of poetry. Contemplating the family and the simple beauty of life, "Reflections of a Human Being" is the work of an honest, down to earth man. "A Bee": A Bee is something tiny, that's always buzzin' round./And if you really took a look, you'd hear a little sound./Like a giant airplane, or an electric saw./And all that yellow pollen, a hangin' from its paw.

Out of My League
Judith Kay
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113
9781436396660, $23.99,

How far does love truly reach? "Out of My League" is a romance story of a couple torn asunder. Far from each other, they both act independently and their faithfulness to one another is tested by the immense distance. A moving story of love and how it guides us, "Out of My League" does much in delivering a poignant and excellent read, well worth considering for romance fans.

Donald R. Fletcher
Outskirts Press
10940 S Parker Road, - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432738495, $15.95,

Life is one long road with many different twists and turns along the way. "Turnings: Lyric Poems Along a Road" is a collection of poems and memoir from Donald R. Fletcher, a veteran of the world who brings his long and vast experience to the table through his work, enchanting readers with his stories. "Turnings" is a highly worthwhile read.

Margaret Lane

Paul's Bookshelf

Ending an Ending
Danny Birt
Ancient Tomes Press
c/o Cyberwizard Productions
1205 N. Saginaw Blvd. #D, PMB 224, Saginaw, TX 76179
9780981566917 $16.95

First of a series called the Laurian Pentology, this book takes place on a flat, polytheistic world where the gods take an active role in everyday life. People called Seren awake from Sleep, which could last weeks or centuries, knowing the name of "their" God. Their mission, and destination, is generally implanted in their brain. Sanct is the exception.

He has no idea who his God is (which is totally unheard of), and has come into possession of a staff of great power. No matter how much he tries to get rid of it, the staff always returns to him. In his present mission, Sanct has this vague feeling to travel in a certain direction, but agrees to go in the opposite direction to help Pander, who he met on a previous mission. They travel to the castle of Seighn, where Pander's mission is to prevent an assassination, but he doesn't know who or how or when. While there, the castle is destroyed by a magically-created earthquake, and the King and Queen are killed. Pander and Sanct get their daughter, and heiress to the throne, Eiry, out of the area, fast. Whoever caused the earthquake will be looking for Eiry.

Along with several others, a young man named Claren joins the group. He was subject of some high-level magic, which scrambled his neural circuits, causing him to talk in gibberish. After his brain is unscrambled, he and Eiry instantly fall for each other. Alaris, a mage of great power who seems to know everyone and everything, finds an isolated farming community where all of them, especially Eiry, can hide. The urgency is because the amount of time allotted to the world is quickly running out, so there is the great danger of everything just ceasing to exist.

This is a fine piece of storytelling, and of world-building. It may seem a little slow, and will take some work on the part of the reader, but it is very much worth the time.

Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait
K.A. Bedford
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB, T2P 2L7 CANADA
9781894063425 $17.95

In a near future Western Australia where time machines for personal use can be bought out of a catalog, Aloysius "Spider" Webb is a time machine repairman. He was a member of the Western Australia police, until he was forced to leave under very unpleasant circumstances.

He spends most of his time dealing with idiot customers who don't bother to read the instruction manual, or are upset because they can't travel to some major event in history, and change things. The Department of Time and Space (DOTAS) has rules about such things, and the ability to enforce them. His boss is a thoroughly dislikable person who everyone calls Dickhead, right to his face.

Things get interesting when, one day, a time machine arrives with another time machine inside it. In that second time machine is a female murder victim. DOTAS comes and slaps a Top Secret sign on everything. Things get even more interesting when Spider finds a future version of himself, brutally murdered. Iris Street, the local police Inspector, is called in. She and Spider had a brief, but torrid, affair while he was a cop. It was part of the reason for his abrupt departure.

Spider meets several other future versions of himself, including a ninja type at the end of time. There is one spaceship of "good guys" holding out against the "bad guys," led by Spider's boss, Dickhead. There are also alien beings called vores, who are literally eating the universe from the outside. Back in the present, Spider, Iris and another future version of Spider deal with the aftermath of a woman who, six years previously, uploaded a video to the internet of her suicide by self-immolation. It was in retaliation for her husband having an affair with Clea Fassbinder (the dead woman in the time machine).

This will certainly give the reader a mental workout. The plot may get a little gory, and convoluted, but it is a really good story, and is very much worth reading.

Tesseracts Twelve
Claude Lalumiere, editor
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary, AB, T2P 2L7 CANADA
9781894063159 $19.95

This newest collection of Canadian fantastic fiction looks at the novella (17,500 to 40,000 words), the hardest-to-sell length of fiction.

In a small town in Alberta, an intact baby woolly mammoth is found buried in the snow. When Samuel, the town's "smart person," touches the carcass, the mammoth's life force is transferred to him, and he begins to have weird visions about being chased by beings on two legs. During a town-wide party, with mammoth stew as the main course (over Samuel's strong objections), strange things start happening, and several of the townspeople turn into cavemen, and chase Samuel as if he is the baby mammoth.

A young warrior, in feudal Japan, is sent to a small town to find out why they haven't sent in their annual amount of rice. Taking along his concubine and his brother, the mayor of the town says that it is not their fault; the land is somehow cursed. Solving the mystery, the warrior is shocked to find that his concubine and his brother are not exactly what they seem. They are mythological beings in human form.

Superheroes in present-day Korea deal with maniacal villains, inter-Korean politics, corporate downsizing (and overbearing mothers). As the world faces environmental catastrophe, reality-TV adventurers battle giant squids in the very deep ocean. Another small town in Alberta conducts pagan rituals during the year as if it was totally normal (though not everyone agrees). A pair of average women with the power of life and death travel the streets of present-day Montreal.

Here is another strong bunch of stories from north of the border. They are very easy to read, and very weird. It's recommended.

Sword Masters
Selina Rosen
Dragon Moon Press
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary, AB, T2P 2L7 CANADA
9781896944654 $19.95

Tarius, of the land of Kartik, travels to the neighboring land of Jethrik to join their swordmaster academy. Both his parents were killed by the Amalites, and Jethrik is currently at war with the Amalites, so Tarius wants to kill Amalites. He quickly distinguishes himself as an expert with the sword, and is noticed by Darian, the headmaster, and by King Persius. Tarius also attracts the notice of Jena, Darian's daughter, who only has eyes for Tarius. He tries everything possible to push her away, to no avail. Tarius is hiding a huge secret, which will not stay secret forever; Tarius is a woman.

Jethrik is a land of rigidly defined gender roles; among them is the absolute prohibition on women wielding steel. Tarius leads several successful campaigns against the Amalites. Persius gets the Amalites to leave Jethrik land, and agree to a peace treaty (over Tarius' strong objections). Beings like the Amalites, with a philosophy of Convert or Die, will not be bound by a piece of paper; they will be back.

Eventually, Tarius' secret is revealed, and, as expected, Persius, Darian and Jena hit the roof. Tarius is to be immediately executed, by being dragged throughout the kingdom, tied to the back of a horse. She is helped by friends, nursed back to health, and heads home back to Kartik. Jena is forced to marry Tragon, a man she despises. After her repeated refusal to let him into her bed, Tragon unintentionally kills her unborn child, and Jena kills Tragon. For a wife to kill her husband is a major offense, so Jena is convinced that fleeing to Kartik, to see if Tarius will take her back, is a really good idea.

This is an excellent piece of writing. It's a sword and sorcery novel with an emphasis more on the "sword" than the "sorcery." The reader will not be disappointed.

Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes
J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec (ed.)
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary, AB, T2P 2L7 CANADA
9781894063173 $16.95

Even though Arthur Conan Doyle was a well-known occult writer, he had to keep Sherlock Holmes, his most famous creation, grounded in reality. Doyle couldn't weaken his popularity by giving Holmes a number of occult and fantastic cases to solve. This book takes care of that.

Watson was severely injured, and should have died, while serving with the British Army in Afghanistan. He was saved by a blue djinn who exacts a price from Watson for his help. Years later, while solving a case of what looks like suicide by crossbow, Watson suddenly stabs Holmes with an arrow. In his death throes, "Holmes" turns into the blue djinn who saved Watson's life years before.

During World War II, Holmes is in a California nursing home. The damage to British morale would be too severe if he should be killed by the Nazis. Holmes helps a local detective discover how a man can be shot three times, twice in the chest and once in the head, and walk away. It has to do with the importation of fifty pine boxes from Romania, filled with vampires willing to work for the Allies.

In other stories, Holmes and Watson meet up with two famous literary occult detectives, Flaxman Low and Thomas Carnacki. Holmes is very much of a realist; no matter how weird and occult things may seem, there is usually a rational explanation. But he does not totally dismiss un-rational explanations.

I really enjoyed these stories. They are well done, and they are nice and weird without being too weird. Holmes fans will love this book, and so will occult fiction fans.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Raja's Bookshelf

Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
Malcolm Gladwell
Back Bay Books/Little, Brown and Company, Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316346627 $14.99

I consider myself to be an analytically inclined person that enjoys science. An interesting book that I read made me realize how science can be applied in different ways. I'll start with the following: what do you think of when I say the word "epidemic" (pause to think for a few seconds before reading on)? Well for me it would be, the black plague, viruses, and disease. There is somebody that had a different way of applying this word, which keenly surprised me. That somebody is Malcolm Gladwell, author of the Tipping Point. He applied a scientific concept to social phenomena that is observed in society. In the Tipping Point he expertly describes this way of thinking, and discusses results of different social studies in an easy way for readers to understand. One of the concepts that Dr. Gladwell describes is that of stickiness, and this is the idea that a certain threshold level of popularity needs to be reached before a concept would quickly gain mainstream recognition. In science this can also be viewed as a form of momentum. In the book the author describes in detail the process and the components that are involved for a concept to gain stickiness or go mainstream. Is this not a simply amazing application of science? The author cites many examples in society where he applies his theories. The concepts Dr. Gladwell explained in the Tipping Point really made me think and gave me a peak of phenomenon in society from an interesting angle.

This book is certainly a must read for those MBA students in graduate school. I found the book in the Management section of the bookstore and I would argue that a book like this could be found in many different sections in the bookstore, such as self help, or sociology. I would also highly recommend this book for those of you like me who enjoy analyzing data, looking at trends and then applying them, in this case to social issues. If you want to become wiser about things around you and learn how to be better positioned in life then read this book. Oh by the way, if you want to learn some interesting trivia facts, that's also another reason to read this book. I always enjoy these nuggets of historical facts. Was there anybody else making the famous ride along with Paul Revere? Why is Blues Clues such a successful educational show compared to Sesame Street? I think I'll leave you in suspense, just read the book for these answers and more. Now when you ask me what would I think when I heard the word epidemic, I would include the Tipping Point, and the spread of social trends.

Book Title: The Last Lecture
Randy Pausch, Jeffrey Zaslow
c/o Hyperion Books for Children
114 Fifth Avenue, 14th floor, New York, NY 10011
9781401323257 $21.95

The Last Lecture is a small packet of interesting lessons from life that packs a good punch. The author, a terminal cancer patient and a professor, conveys a nice compilation of his learnings through a natural, and fun manner. This book is a summary of a lecture that he delivered to students at the Carnegie Mellon University. Each short chapter, which conveys a different message, can be read easily before bedtime. While reading this book, I really felt as if I was attending his Last Lecture Seminar. It's a great book for those couples wondering about parenthood, and also those people that like to dream. It is a highly recommended book to keep by your bedside for that nighttime reading.

Raja N. Krishnan

Rege's Bookshelf

High Order
Mike Sutton
Comfort Publishing, LLC
9450 Moss Plantation Avenue N.W., Concord, NC 28027
1935361228 $15.99

High Order is a bone shattering multi-murder mystery that will keep readers racing through its exploding pages from the deadly blast in the first few until the very ending in the chilling epilogue.

Jim Grabowski is Baltimore's Lead Bomb Technician who risks his life each time a suspicious package or gadget is reported. The threats are bogus - sometimes, but not always. On all occasions where the lives of others are at risk, Jim and his co-workers try to determine if a suspect device is armed. If it is, how can they defuse or explode it safely?

In High Order, the wife of a seventy-year-old man is hideously killed. Although two people do not see the actual butchery, by happenstance, they secretly witness the killer tossing the elderly corpse into a dumpster. Both know the auto's make and license number.

Hassled police hope they finally have an open and shut case against a serial murderer who has raped and slaughtered other women. He follows a routine somewhat familiar to detectives. The husband and wife witnesses independently identify the killer from a line-up.

But the alleged killer's enormously wealthy father hires a fiendish high-priced lawyer to buy-out prosecution's top two witnesses. Given enormous sums of money to pay off their home mortgage and to pay for a needed medical procedure for their own son, both witnesses conveniently forget exactly what they saw the night of the murder. The judge must release the suspected serial killer.

However, the seventy-year-old widower learns of the witness buy-out. He will avenge his wife's murder. He has nothing left to lose. An extremely intelligent man and an electronics expert, he secures materials to build camouflaged bombs he'll use to execute the unethical lawyer, his wife, and eventually the young man who dodged a murder rap.

Throughout High Order, each time a bomb detonates, the reader and Jim Grabowski investigate. Knowing murder for revenge is morally wrong, the reader cannot help but feel a pang of justified revenge. Of course, the elderly man is devastated when his killing bombs accidentally destroy the lives of innocent people.

Thus, two deadly threads run a questionable collision course through High Order:
1. Will the serial killer eventually be caught?
2. Will the seventy-year-old widower be stopped before he kills those responsible for the infamous trial acquitting his wife's murderer?

Only the reader of this taut nerve wracking thriller will find out. By far, even though most of us consider murder wrong, I found this book hard not to read. At the beginning, I thought I should not be reading about such atrocities: rape, murder, hatred, bombings. Yet, I confess I couldn't help myself. I had to find out what happened to the infamous men in High Order.

As a reviewer who has written several mystery novels, I would recommend this book as a great read but definitely not for the squeamish. The writing style of Mike Sutton is precise, accurate, descriptively gory at times. It could easily fit both the mystery and horror genre.

In the end, the story is redeeming because it shows an inside view into the unimaginable horrors that police women and men must deal with, live with, look at, and try to forget; sights most of us never have to face.

Other books you might enjoy: Eye of the Needle and Blue Mercury.

Voices From The Heart
Jonikay Pace
Comfort Publishing, LLC
9450 Moss Plantation Avenue N.W., Concord, NC 28027
0980205166 $15.99

Voices from the Heart tells of the warmest love found within the hearts of human beings. It reveals hideous hatred buried deep within the souls of a few individuals whose demonic lives seem inspired by Lucifer.

Voices from the Heart highlights this contrast. A young seventeen-year old, Clara, runs away from home because of a father who is abusive physically and emotionally. Hank, Clara's brother, has escaped the farm home with her but they go separate ways hoping their violent father cannot trace them.

"If he ever gets into his head that you think he had something to do with Mamma's death ... then he'll shut you up permanently."

Both teens suspect their father killed his wife in a fit of rage, even though police reports listed her death as accidental. Authorities thought she had slipped in soapsuds and fallen, banging her temple against a nail sticking out from a loose wallboard. Little did they know the woman had been clobbered by the board before her husband nailed it back in place.

With no resources of any kind, runaway Clara meets an extremely charitable woman - the caretaker of an apartment building in Dallas. The building is owned by a generous wealthy man. Both elderly people befriend her.

While working as a Courthouse clerk, Clara meets an egotistical law student who sponges off her, pretending love. True to his maggoty nature, her beau finds her an additional job as a waitress. Now, he can complete law school.

Quickly, they marry, but this unholy merger degenerates into abuse. Her husband belittles her alone and in public. He tells people her mind is simple. She has a bumpkin-like upbringing and only earned a trite GED. "I am the best thing that ever happened to you. I am the only good thing that ever happened to you," says her unfaithful husband.

The elderly woman and man who helped Clara when she first arrived in the big city pass away. To her surprise, Clara is the recipient of the wealthy man's huge fortune. Wealth does not change her. Clara volunteers at a homeless shelter and uses her money to help the needy.

Voices from the Heart tells how Clara's gentle, effeminate brother, Hank, partners with a selfless man whose father is wealthy. The gay couple enjoy an enduring faithful relationship.

But Hank's intimate relationship abruptly ends when his partner-for-life is killed in an automobile accident. "I'm thinking I should have Daddy's attorneys write up a will that takes care of you in case of my death." Although the couple pledged to write this will, they didn't.

Hank slowly recovers from very serious injuries but is penniless. Released from the hospital, he is taken by authorities to a homeless shelter where fate reunites him with his wealthy sister.

Voices from the Heart is a tragic tale. It is a happy tale. It is filled with hate. It is filled with emotion and love. You'll read it but won't forget. Its characters are burned onto your imagination. The heartless people - Clara's father and her demonic, condescending husband - are so loathsome, you'll hope they get their just due.

I chose this book hoping to be inspired and I was. I couldn't help but root for Clara, Hank, and those who loved them. You'll find yourself hoping their kindness and love for others will close up deep emotional gashes before Voices from the Heart concludes.

I'd recommend this book to all readers hunting a good mystery. It's a tale that shows the incredible trials people endure trying to carve a purposeful life. It is a tale that offers encouragement to anyone coping with emotional wounds left from a deeply troubled childhood. Hats off to Author Jonikay Pace.

You might also enjoy these books: Annie's Ghosts and The Story Sisters.

Rege Schilken

Richard's Bookshelf

Wisdom is the Answer - Common Sense is the Way
James Giambrone, Jr.
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
9781934759332 $14.95

Hundreds of Common Sense Ideas for Daily Life

James Giambrone, Jr. draws on experiences from his varied career in law enforcement, as a martial arts instructor, and as a massage therapist to re-enforce the concepts set forth in his book "Wisdom is the Answer - Common Sense is the Way."

Each of the twenty chapters are packed with tools, tactics, and recipes for finding success, laughing more, improving relationships, and taking positive action. Giambrone reasons that wisdom and common sense are learned skills. He establishes this claim with lessons and insights on the importance of learning relaxing techniques through breathing exercises, meditation, and imagery for healing and healthier living. He talks abut posture, exercise, and alternatives in medical care, and gives hundreds of practical down to earth ideas for incorporating common sense into the choices we make, safety precautions we can take when driving or walking, weight control, honesty, and morality.

I found the keys to good communication especially helpful and was reminded that, "The message received might be different that the message given. The chapter entitled "Dreams, Goals, and Success" talks about turning your dreams to goals and provides keys for implementing those goals to achieve success.

The attractive format, meaningful chapter titles, summary statements, bulleted pointers, and chapter highlights are consistent throughout the book, from the "Acknowledgements" to the valuable "References" suggestions.

Giambrone has a unique communication style that will appeal to readers of all ages with diverse reading interests. "Wisdom is the Answer - Common Sense is the Way" is a pleasurable, informative, reading experience from cover to cover.

Winning Salesmanship - The Glengarry Way
Larry Krakow
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
9781934759271 $11.95

Closing Sales with Integrity, a Flair, and Assurance

Inspired by a scene from the film "Glenngary Glen Ross" in which Alex Baldwin as manager leads a sales meeting, Larry Krakow offers sales tips to "close" more sales in "Winning Salesmanship - The Glengarry Way."

Throughout the book eye catching illustrations draw attention to important keys to remember on successful salesmanship. The narrative that follows explains in detail the reasoning behind the concept being considered.

The element that makes this book unique and important to every salesman, beginner, intermediate, or advanced is Larry's focus. Every chapter is a springboard to reveal specific techniques to help close sales more efficiently with more frequency. An important aspect Larry maintains throughout the book is carefully following the prescribed clear cut phrasing and methodology presented. Krakow's broad experience and success in sales and marketing give his writing credibility.

Every page is packed with clear cut instructions, powerful selling tips, and essential closing techniques. I appreciate the emphasis Krakow puts on integrity, finesse, and confidence.

The appendix includes such valuable information as a "Winning Salesmanship Checklist." There are also important "Winning Salesmanship Closes," suggestions for "Handling Objections," and "Preempting Buyer's Remorse."

The compact size of the book as well as the format make it ideal for keeping handy on your desk, in your briefcase, or on your bedside table for a quick review, to reread a chapter, or choose a technique or dialog to use in your next "Close."

"Winning Salesmanship - The Glengarry Way" is forceful, straight forward, and innovative. Larry Krakow challenges the reader, "Get them to sign on the line that is dotted." ABC "Always Be Closing."

How to Pray
Morris Cerullo
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768428414 $17.99

Prayer Anointing for Spiritual Warfare

Morris Cerullo continues his challenge to call the church to corporate prayer and to the individual to practice a life style of intimate prayer in. "How to Pray" is written with the express purpose of assisting the reader to experience a new all consuming delight in prayer.

The book provides three sources for learning how to pray. These include the example of Jesus' prayer life, the fundamental role of the Holy Spirit as our teacher in prayer, as well as illustrations from Old Testament prayers. Cerullo talks about using prayer in praise and worship, in intercession, and about implementation of authority in prayer. He encourages the reader to discover God's plan for end time prayers and the need for developing a relationship with Christ through significant, consistent, effective prayer.

Section II of the book reveals Christ as intercessor, and discusses throne room intercession and what it means. Cerullo shows how the Holy Spirit is our prayer enabler. Section III is made up of powerful lessons on experiencing the unlimited potential of supernatural prayer, and the key to releasing heaven's resources through prayer. The chapter on perseverance and wrestling in prayer is both challenging and helpful. The final chapter teaches important lessons from Christ's seven-fold high priestly prayer.

Each chapter closes with a compelling prayer which models the lessons taught throughout the chapter. These prayers can be individualized, paraphrased, or effectively used in the personal prayer life of the reader.

Thought provoking classical quotes and meaningful gems from well known Christian leaders are included throughout the text. A helpful list of Verses on Prayer is included in the appendix.

"How to Pray" is valuable as a manual and guidebook for pastors, evangelists, and lay Christians. Morris Cerrullo's writing is forceful, insightful, and passionate.

Prayers that Bring Change
Kimberly Daniels
Charisma House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599797519 $11.99

Equipping for Life Change - Power Filled Prayers

"Prayers that Bring Change" is made up of power filled prayers that give hope for healing broken relationships and which will result in spiritual revival both individually and corporately. The collection includes prayers that bring promise of financial freedom in these turbulent times.

Best selling author, Kimberly Daniels, has compiled a collection of actual prayers generated during seasons of prayer with her intercessory prayer team. These prayers are centered on changing the spiritual life of the reader. They are prayers designed to revolutionize the prayer life and to produce positive life changes in the believer.

The selection of intercessory prayers designed to transform principles of ethics in business and to establish peace around the world include prayers which speak to economic issues, prayers which promote community revival, the president of the United States, well known celebrities, as well as prayers for Israel and the Middle East.

There are powerful prayers for breaking out of the bondage of sin. These prayers lead to victory over addictive behavior brought about by oppression and spiritual warfare. There are prayers included that bring strength, change and healing to marriage and family relationships.

The prayers are intentional prayers of proclamation, confession, and intercession. They have been anointed with the Holy Spirit's touch.

It is essential for the reader to interface with the Spirit, and His ministry of conviction, teaching, comfort, and empowerment to offer meaningful prayer for personal enrichment, change, and transformation.

Kimberly Daniels provides a strategic, Spirit anointed, resource in these power prayers that produce results" in her book "Prayers that Bring Change."

Power for Living
T. D. Jakes
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768428384 $25.99

Principles for a Victorious Life

T. D. Jakes establishes basic concepts and principles for discovering purpose and power through the anointing of the Holy Spirit in his book "Power for Living." These perceptive and soul searching guidelines offer the reader specific directions for experiencing answered prayer, maintaining focus while in their quest for God, and the power to live out their dreams.

The narrative includes touching stories which get in touch with an inner focus on the soul which translate into self examination, conviction and confession. Bishop Jakes puts an emphasis on the importance of maintaining an open conversation with God. He encourages the reader to ask questions of God as a part of their diligent search for truth.

Each chapter highlights a feature called "Power Points for Living." These are made up of exercises for contemplation, reflection, or journaling with specific suggested action steps which when taken lead to the realization of power for living.

Part II of the book includes 30 power principles intended to equip the reader to face their every day challenges. Each principle includes an inspiring scripture passage which provides both wisdom for decisions and comfort for hardships.

A concluding "Bonus" section contains instruction designed to help the reader release the Holy Spirit's anointing power to give them "Power for Living." Bishop T. D. Jakes writes out of a sincere heartfelt sense of compassion. It is his desire for each reader to commit themselves to an unreserved pursuit of God, His Son Jesus, anointed power of the Holy Spirit.

100 Answers to 100 Questions about being a Great Mom
Lila Empson and Melissa Killian
Christian Life (a Strang Company)
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599794778 $10.99

Balancing the Roles of Motherhood

Lila Empson and Melissa Killian have collaborated to compile "100 answers to 100 questions about being a Great Mom." Principles used in the book are taken from the scriptures, lessons learned from their own experiences, quotes from Christian leaders, and many suggestions gleaned from family and friends.

Lila and Melissa provide answers to women that want to know what it takes to be a great Mom, questions which address how a working Mom's can balancing her responsibilities. Suggestions are offered on how to become your child's greatest fan and how to establish and create the right tone for your home. The authors talk about developing positive attitudes, building Christ like character, and nurturing God's love by example.

As a father, I was intrigued by the answers to questions on the topics such as respecting children's differences, their personal faith, having fun as a family, and on establishing family traditions. The authors also addressed the more difficult issues of purity, morals, dealing with the teen years, and preparing kids for the realities of daily life. The "Worth Thinking About" feature is packed with practical tips, sage counsel, and valuable suggestions for action.

The questions included in the book are well rounded and were prayerfully selected. The answers given are Biblically sound, practical, and realistic. The advice is balanced with do-able hands-on action steps.

The book can be perused randomly, as a practical pro-active study, or when a crisis is pending. Mom's everywhere will find something unique for practical application from the guidelines provided in these "l00 answers to 100 questions about being a Great Mom."

The Firstborn
Conlan Brown
Realms, A Strang Company
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599796079 $13.99

Intrigue Suspense Supernatural Thriller

Conlan Brown has intertwined creative imagination and a complex plot with unexpected plot twists that keep the reader deducing and turning pages at a breakneck speed right up to the final scene in his novel "The Firstborn."

The Prima, the Ora, and Domani, three distinct ancient religious orders make up the Firstborn. Individuals within the order have been empowered by God with the ability to use hindsight, insight, or foresight to intervene in crisis situations. Individual members originally were bonded together and dedicated to the purpose of using these gifts as agents of God serving man. The order dates back to the cross of Christ. Duplicity, suspect, internal strife, compulsion and manipulation resulted in disagreement and division. The Firstborn became an organization of warring factions doomed to destruction.

Faced with the facts of a planned terrorist plot of retribution after the violent murder of a religious leader the Firstborn are faced with the need to again become a united front, elect an overseer to prevent this planned bloodbath of the innocent including children.

Brown's characters are wide-ranging and authentic. They are fanatical in their commitment to opposing systems of belief. Brown reveals stereotypes of the extreme followers of the Evangelical Christian and radical fundamentalist Muslim by creating caricatures, of bigotry, hatred, and dissension among people who blindly claim to be serving God's purposes.

I particularly appreciated the way Brown developed growth, understanding and maturing in many of his characters as they evolved from shallow self centered individuals to mature dedicated purposeful Christians as they teamed together in trust and oneness of purpose to thwart evil and to work toward the good of others.

40 Days of Power
T. D. Jakes
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768428407 $17.99

Refreshing Purposeful Perspectives for Living

New York Times best selling author Bishop T. D. Jakes provides readers a study guide, "40 Days of Power," to accompany his book "Power for Living." This study guide or devotional journal is divided into forty individual themes which expand the concepts and principles found in the book itself.

Each day's inspirational meditation features a Scripture, based on the topic being considered for the day. The topics under consideration correspond directly with material presented in the "Power for Living" book. The reader is directed to reflect on a power perspective or principle from life and given probing questions for reflection, meditation, and for personal application. The topics include exciting principles which encourage living empowered by purpose, discovering a fresh perspective, reaching out in compassion, walking in victory, triumphing over fear, developing perseverance, and growing in steadfastness.

Profound in deep spiritual truth, each devotional is designed to provide food for contemplation, refresh insight and to encourage the reader to receive, realize, and release the power of God's anointing on their life. This study guide is ideal for individual use, small group interactive study, or for larger Bible classes and fellowships.

"40 Days of Power" is a noteworthy resource intended to enhance your study and help you integrate the principles developed in Bishop Jake's "Power for Living." The study will prepare the reader to face up to the challenge of life's struggles and to bring glory to God the Father, Jesus the Son, and His Holy Spirit.

The Love Shack
Don Nori, Sr.
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
97807684330554 $15.99

Fulfilling Your Destiny - Finding God's Compassion, Forgiveness and Hope

Using an interesting approach, publisher and author Don Nori Sr. weaves the themes addressed in the best selling books "The Shack," "The Love Dare," "The Purpose Driven Life," and others in his new book "The Love Shack," a message of compassion, forgiveness and expectation.

Throughout the book "The Love Shack." Nori uses these themes as a catalyst for a deeper treatment of each premise as he presents the reader with new insight into a more complete understanding of the full gospel message. He leads the reader from chaos and disappointment to purpose and joy. He invites the reader to experience God's grace and salvation.

Nori begins his by illustrating how well known and best selling authors, contemporary and classic, have promised pleasure, contentment, achievement, and providence to attract their readers. Don's writing resonates with heart warming frankness. He invites the reader to experience intimacy with the God of the universe. He makes himself vulnerable as he reveals his own heart, afire in worship of the Savior.

After reading "The Love Shack" you will no longer settle for anything less than experiencing the fullness of God's love for you. Your heart's desire will be to walk confidently in Him, to fulfill your mission, and to see the world as God sees it, while you discover true happiness.

Some may feel Nori's writing is way-out or extreme. I found "Love Shack" uncompromising, authoritative, and convincing. "The Love Shack" is filled with compassion, mercy, and hope.

When the Many are One
Francis Frangipane
Charisma House
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746
9781599798294 $14.99

Engaging in a Citywide War Against the Powers of Darkness

The church is on the brink of a major advance. God wants to shape a righteous and faithful people in our land. He is looking for our nation to come to Him. "When Many are One" written by Francis Frangipane is built on the premise that if as a nation we must cleanse the Lord's body, the Church.

This mandates that we must:

Recognize and pay the cost and sacrifice self ambition

Accept His highest purpose

Unite spiritually with other church assemblies in our communities

Model holiness within the church

Break and destroy demonic strongholds

Individually seek to follow Jesus

Commit ourselves to seeking God.

Frangipane describes the principles and necessary steps for the corporate citywide church to rebuild the Lord's house. He presents a vision for obedience as prerequisite to the task. He asserts that forgiveness, reconciliation, and release must take place if we are to impact our cities or be blessed as a nation. Frangipane instructs and cautions the reader regarding apostolic anointing and the difficult pressures in establishing citywide prayer. He talks about the need for wisdom and the dynamic component of revival in God's plan.

Each chapter includes a heartfelt prayer of declaration, confession, petition, intercession, or praise. These prayers lead to soul searching reflection, and an awareness of the glory and presence of God, inspiring compassion for others, a passionate desire to see a revival of purity and righteousness in the church.

The task is enormous however power for the task is unlimited. God's plan for the mission is to see one person, one church, one city dedicated to the cause, one at a time. In "When the Many are One" Frangipane calls on the church to put aside their diversity to come together as one "the house of God" and together to become a powerful influence in the world today.

Critical Mass
Kathleen M. Henry
iUniverse, Inc.
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595524129 $10.95

A Critical Look at the Traditions of the Catholic Mass

"Critical Mass" by Kathleen M. Henry, captures the fidelity and the disenchantment, the dedication and the disillusionment that has emerged within the Catholic Church for over nine decades. Henry uses fictional accounts of intertwined stories of people's lives to expose the impact of the church's unyielding dictates and traditions which are so firmly entrenched within the doctrines of the Catholic Church and the Mass.

During a time in which the world has experienced two world wars, multiple economic crisis's, political power struggles, and scandals within the church, tradition has established a pattern of Papal pronouncements inconsistent with world view and often prejudiced in the eyes of four fictional Catholic women representative of differing time periods.

Ms. Henry effectively uses time sequences and flashbacks as spot lights to set the stage for her message while juggling a complex plot. Henry's premise is haunting, her characters believable.

I find it disappointing when a devoted, steadfast follower of Christ becomes so distressed and cynical by the accouterments of religion that they lose heart and denounce their faith. Henry's fictional account of this tragedy closely parallels reality. I became so hopelessly engaged in empathy with the characters and the drama of the narrative that felt I was reading a poignant biographical account of real people.

Kathleen Henry as a community ordained priest is certain to receive acclaim as well as criticism for her book "Critical Mass." Her work is thought provoking, articulate, and intellectually stimulating. She has presented the Roman Catholic Church a powerful challenge to re-examine and re-access the deeply engrained traditions, inequities, and unrealistic expectations of their religion of outmoded dogma.

The Shovel
Baker Fore and Tom Massey
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411
9781934759349 $12.95

Lessons on Personal Transformation

Imagine rookie architect Jason Clark reporting for his first day on a new job with the Lincoln Construction Company. He is awed by the prospect as he tours the massive building prior to a planned luncheon meeting with his new boss, A. B. Lincoln, president and founder of the company. Jason's becomes curious by a single gold shovel displayed prominently on a wall of the complex.

"The Shovel" is a first person narrative. Jason Clark relates the story behind the laws of "The Shovel" as told him by the successful A. B. Lincoln. During their first lunch Mr. Lincoln initiates Jason to the laws of the shovel by telling his life story. He tells of past hurt and personal grief. He explains to Jason how he turned these obstacles into opportunities.

Tom Massey and Baker Fore masterfully crafted a story of mystical meetings with an old prospector into a springboard for presenting universal truths and self actualization principles for personal transformation and satisfying success.

"The Shovel" models the concept of mentoring throughout. A. B. Lincoln, as a young man, learned the practical principles of a work ethic, and job knowledge and how these translate into building character. His mentors were men like Jeff Howell, Mr. Stevens, Andy Rodriquez, and others.

This imaginative combination of highly developed story telling technique with the potential of coupling adversity and determination, provide practical action steps for establishing and realizing personal goals. "The Shovel" is destined to become another best selling book for authors Baker Fore and Tom Massey.

The Death of a Pope
Piers Paul Read
Ignatius Press
2515 McAllister Street, San Francisco, CA 94118
9781586172954 $21.95

Conflict and Conspiracy Designed to Destroy the Catholic Church

Ex-priest Juan Uriarte is on trial in a London courtroom. He has been charged with involvement in terrorist activities. Uriarte is cleared of all accusations. Kate Ramsey, a young journalist, who covered the trial, is determined to find the truth about Uriarte's work as an advocate for the poor, the suffering, and the Aids victims in Africa. Kate travels with him to Africa to personally report on his work as a journalist.

"The Death of the Pope" is a theological thriller driven by compassion, conflict, betrayal, and romance. In a series of plot twists Piers Paul Reid builds an intense story around terrorism, blackmail, and the threat of mass murder. Kate Ramsey finds herself involved in an international conspiracy to demoralize the papacy and bring upheaval to the Catholic Church.

The story is taut with tension throughout. The emotional conflict and suspense as Kate and Uriarte are driven toward an unexpected conclusion is intense. Read has crafted colorful, strong characters who are both diverse and genuine. The stimulating dialog expose the reader to exciting, behind the scenes, drama and provide interesting insight into the conflict being experienced within the Catholic Church, their rigid adherence to traditions, their system of belief, and the power of the Pope.

Read's writing is fresh, rewarding entertainment. Read is a gifted storyteller and has established himself as an award winning author. "The Death of the Pope" is sure to become another best selling, award winning work for Piers Paul Read.

They Thought for Themselves
Sid Roth
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768428421 $16.99

Life's Questions Answered

"They Thought for Themselves" is made up of testimonies and stories of ten very diverse Jewish individuals, who like Sid Roth dared to question the forbidden, think for themselves and find their God ordained destiny.

Individual writers have written their own story. The narratives have a common thread of personal success in individual career paths. Each contributing writer had become familiar with an emptiness or void in their spirit.

The all came to the same conclusion "There has to be something more." Each story presents a clear salvation message. Sid Roth provides transition comments which segue into the broader-spectrum of the book.

Barry Minkow's story demonstrates the price of sin and the grace of God which provides forgiveness and new life. His life was filled with deception, fraud, business collapse. The Holy Spirit's conviction brought him to confession, repentance, and salvation, and recompense. Rose Price's testimony illustrates how forgiveness restored her to a new depth of meaning. Rose is a Holocaust survivor. She discovered that she had to forgive her tormentors before she could find the peace which removed the poison of hate deeply engrained within her. The Holy Spirit gave her a new intimacy with God as well as physical healing.

These testimonies are representative of the new life experienced by ten supernaturally changed individuals, who with Sid Roth found fullness of life when they were willing to think for themselves in their pursuit of truth.

"They Thought for Themselves" is another positive evidence that God is at work today. The book makes an ideal gift for a friend who is pursuing truth, Jew or Gentile. Roth's writing is biblically balanced with strong contemporary testimonies of individuals who exemplify the fullness of experiencing a solid enduring Christian experience.

God Wants You Rich
Scot Anderson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768427455 $24.99

God Wants to Bless You

"God Wants You Rich: Not Poor & Struggling" compares two theological explanations of how God intends for Christians to look at the plethora of prosperity in the world today. There are those who teach on the virtue of sacrifice. Some go so far as to advocate taking vows of poverty. On the other side there is a theology of "pledge," of declaring, and expectantly receiving God's bountiful blessings. Scot Anderson introduces new concepts and tactics for generating affluence while experiencing God's blessing in receiving material goods.

Excerpts from his book "Think Like a Billionaire, Become a Billionaire" and "Millionaire Habits in 21 Days" are included to provide the reader with key points of how to use money as a tool, ways of investing, suggestions for gaining wisdom, how to use time wisely, the importance of changing from the inside out, experiencing the power of belief, making successful choices, and how effective habits can change your world. Scot reminds the reader to use their talents, skills, and opportunities to break out of a poverty mind set.

Anderson stresses and reiterates for the reader the importance of relationships, (God, family, and others), he examines priorities, and introduces the concept of fulfilling the great commission in light of "motivation" for attaining wealth.

Each chapter includes a variety of action steps on topics included in the narrative. There is also a page to establish a personal journal to re-enforce implementation these action steps. I found these exercises very beneficial for personal application and integration of these principles.

I also appreciated Scot's concern for taking into account the poverty and needs in underdeveloped parts of the world. He offers suggestions for how riches can be channeled through the church to provide funds to alleviate economic, medical, and educational needs worldwide.

"God Wants You Rich, Not Poor and Struggling" draws from well chosen Biblical passages and principles to stimulate the reader to take steps toward experiencing wealth. Scot is both a motivator and a mentor. This is a book for one desirous of getting out of personal economic crisis or for the reader needing a reminder of the accessibility to God's plentiful blessings.

Richard R. Blake

Slessman's Bookshelf

50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons In 50 Days - And How You Too Can
Achieve Super Endurance!
Dean Karnazes with Matt Fitzgerald
Grand Central Publishing
Wellness Central Paperback
9780446581844 $14.99

We all have dreams…winning the lottery, writing a novel that Oprah loves and will promote, or maybe, a government that is always truthful and honest. Few of us wish to run fifty (50!) marathons in fifty days. However, that is just what Dean Karnazes possessed as his dream. Be careful what you wish for as Dean finally got his dream. Sponsored by The North Face, a sportswear icon, Dean and a small crew set out in an RV to visit existing and newly created marathons daily and complete a marathon at each stop.

50/50 SECRETES I LEARNED RUNNING 50 MARATHONS IN 50 DAYS - AND HOW YOU TOO CAN ACHIEVE SUPER ENDURANCE! by Dean Karnazes with Matt Fitzgerald is one of the most complete journals of one-mans dream run and the lessons he learned along the way. Getting to know Dean Karzazes via this work was a true pleasure. He is a shining example of self motivation, physical endurance and a loving family member.

Included in this work is not only a daily journal of the marathons he ran and the people he met along the way, but also, advice on avoiding race induced sickness, proper nutrition, taking care of racing injuries and even a twenty-six week beginner's marathon training plan. Since I have trouble fitting in a daily walk, I was amazed to learn that this man's idea of a relaxing was running from twenty-six to one hundred miles at a time.

Karnazes will go down in history as one of the greatest long distance runners. If you enjoy running, or even reading inspirational stories, this book will go the distance for you. Sorry, I just couldn't resist the pun!

Man in the Middle
Brian Haig
Grand Central Publishing
9780446616676 $7.99

Sean Drummond, main character of Brian Haig's newest work of fiction, MAN IN THE MIDDLE, is not sure if he wants to take on his new assignment or not. Phyllis, his boss, has assigned him to the investigation of the death of Cliff Daniels, a man who appears to have been heavily vested in the war in Iraq though his work as a Defense Department civilian.

During his initial site visit where Daniels was found dead, he meets Bian Tran, an Army Military Police who is also investigating Daniel's death. While they do not get along initially, he and Tran eventually partner in their search for the answers they seek.

The part Daniel's plays in the Iraq war seems to have been initiated by two high-ranking members of the U.S. government. To get to the truth behind the death of Daniels and also the reason the U.S. has become involved in Iraq leads Drummond and Tran to dangerous places in Iraq.

At 688 pages, this work will not be read in one sitting. That is, unless you read around the clock. While it is a rather cumbersome work, the story seems to warrant its size. I found myself drawn to continue my reading and see the story to its climatic end.

Danger, intrigue, a budding romance, and a look inside a war we are still fighting do make for interesting and compelling reading.

The Last Song
Nicholas Sparks
Grand Central Publishing
9780446547567 $24.99

"Honey, the new Nicholas Sparks book, THE LAST SONG, is here," I yelled to my husband working diligently in his workshop. As a Nicholas Sparks fan, I look forward to his work with anticipation. Reading the title, THE LAST SONG, evoked all kinds of images as to its content. The word "last" means that something is ending brings with it images of sadness. And so it is with this book. I spent the last two hours of reading wiping the tears from my eyes.

Main character, Ronnie is just short of her eighteenth birthday when her mother insists that she and her brother spend the summer with their father at the beach in Wrightsville, North Carolina. Her father left to give a piano concert three years ago and didn't come home. Ronnie hasn't spoken with him since. She is not as eager as her younger brother, Jonah, to visit with her father and spends the first days of her visit walking the beachfront and acquainting herself with the locals rather than spend time with her father. She develops a friendship with Blaze, a young woman who doesn't exactly fit the ultimate child picture of every mother and father.

Ronnie also develops a relationship with a young man named Will. She and Will spend the entire summer together and Ronnie's attitude changes for the better.

When her father reveals a secret he has kept all summer, Ronnie has to deal with more than she bargained.

Nicholas Sparks once again proves he is one of the world's best storytellers. If you want a book that you can relate to, one that will clean out the eye ducts and hold your interest…this is your book!

Annie Slessman

Theodore's Bookshelf

Trust Me
Peter Leonard
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312379032 $24.95 212-674-5151/646-307-5560,

In his second novel, following the very favorably received "Quiver," Peter Leonard has proven that he is the more than capable heir to his father, Elmore Leonard. "Trust Me" is as good as the master gets and demonstrates that the son has a lot more to show us. The quirky characters, the twists in plot, the utter zaniness of the story, demonstrate that the genes have continuity.

Typically, the plot starts with the unusual. Two hapless characters invade the home of a man who just won some money at a casino, intending to rob him. Instead, they are induced by his lover to help her recover $300,000 she entrusted to a former boyfriend who refuses to return the money. From that point, anything that can go wrong usually does, although they do invade the ex-love's home and remove a safe containing $1.6 million.

And then the chase begins. In some ways, the various situations are hilarious, in others deadly. The various entanglements are as unexpected as they are purposeful. Written with ease and sly wit, trust me and read it. Recommended.

Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder
Shamini Flint
c/o Little Brown UK
100 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0DY
9780749929756 6.99 BPS

Introducing Inspector Singh, a grossly overweight Singapore detective who goes his own way much to the chagrin of his superiors. But his results are far too impressive to allow them to get rid of him. So, in this debut novel, they send him to Kuala Lumpur to monitor a murder investigation involving a former Singapore model, married to a prominent businessman and accused of his murder, to make sure she at least gets a fair hearing.

Convinced she is innocent, Singh undertakes to conduct his own investigation to prove her innocence and find the real murderer. His problem, of course, is that he is unofficially there and the Malaysian police are determined not to help, happy with a "solved" crime. But that doesn't stop him as he plods on.

This novel is the first installment in a projected series: Singh will be sent to Bali in a September UK release and finally work at home in Singapore in a book to be released next February. Singh is an interesting character, a veteran detective who follows his instincts to solve the crime at hand. For a neophyte crime novelist, the author (who has written children's books) has written a very readable, enjoyable work. Recommended. [It should be noted that this book is only available at present in or through the UK, not yet available in the US.]

Devil's Food
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590584286 $24.95 800-421-3976

Kerry Greenwood is the author of two delightful series featuring two unusual and interesting women: the Hon. Phryne Fisher and the zaftig Melbourne baker, Corinna Chapman. This novel is the third appearance of Ms. Chapman and her collection of unusual neighbors; ex-junkie apprentice, Jason; Israeli lover Daniel; and assorted cats and dogs. The series not only brings to the reader the smells and tastes of her bakery, Earthly Delights, but the various mysteries and troubles in which she gets involved which she has to solve.

Corinna, assisted by Daniel and others, are faced with three situations in this entry. First is the appearance of an herbal tea said to guarantee weight loss, but which almost kills four people. Then there appears a mysterious customer, a monk, requesting her to make 'famine bread,' a tasteless concoction which easily could be made of sawdust. The two problems merely have one thing in common: an aversion to obesity, which, of course, is anathema to Corinna's beliefs. Lastly, her estranged mother turns up after her father disappears, demanding that Corinna find him and make him return.

"Devil's Food," as its predecessors, is a recipe for light but delightful reading. And the actual recipes included at the rear should appeal to those of us with a sweet tooth. It's all good fun, and recommended.

My Soul to Take
Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder and Anna Yates
Wm. Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022, 800-242-7737,
9780061143380 $24.99

This second novel in a series featuring Icelandic attorney Thora Gudmundsdottir gives the author an opportunity to not only write a murder mystery, but to incorporate the history and ghost tales of the past into the plot. Thora is a middle-aged single mother of two and apparently becomes involved in matters other than her law practice.

A client, Jonas Juliusson, has purchased a couple of farms in western Iceland with Thora's assistance, and has opened a hotel on the property. He asks her to renegotiate the purchase price on the flimsy basis that something is wrong, such as ghosts wailing. She visits the hotel in an attempt to dissuade him from such a claim, but the architect working on an annex is found murdered and Jonas is arrested and charged when a second victim, an employee, is also killed. It's up to Thora and her lover to save the client.

While the plot moves forward, the reading is slow (I can't tell if it is the author's style or the translation) and there is a certain amount of repetition which slows things down. On the whole, the book is well-plotted, suspenseful and different, but, at least to this reader, somewhat laborious reading.

The Secret Speech
Tom Rob Smith
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017, 800-759-0190,
9780446402408 $24.99

In 1956 Nikita Krushchev delivered an amazing speech to a party Congress denouncing Stalin for his excesses. The speech was later widely disseminated and laid the groundwork for the ultimate easing of conditions in the country. The plot of this novel emanates from the supposition that the speech gave rise to a reaction to the "crimes" committed during the Stalin years, the arrests, denunciations and exile of innocent persons to the Gulags.

The protagonist of "Child 44," Mr. Smith's previous [and highly praised] novel, Leo Demidov, now head of a secret homicide division of the militia, spent three years as an MGP agent, acting under orders resulting in many of the atrocities conducted under official policies. The novel juxtaposes his desire to forget the past excesses and build a new life with his wife and two adopted daughters, the girls of parents murdered by him. Unfortunately, one of Leo's former victims is determined to make him pay for her own arrest by forcing him to go to a Gulag and help her husband escape. This gives the author the opportunity to describe the harsh conditions to which the prisoners are subjected.

The novel raises the question of "second chances," as does the "secret speech" itself. Can individuals be redeemed after the horrors they committed? The speech, at least according to the novel, unleashed a wave of "freedom," exemplified by the brief uprising in Hungary, brutally shut down by massive Soviet force. The real thrust is whether or not those guilty of such acts can be saved. Written powerfully, it gives hope, deserved or not. Recommended.

The Mercedes Coffin
Faye Kellerman
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061227370 $7.99 212-207-7000/800-242-7737

Money can't buy everything, but a billionaire can try. When she reads about a murder, Genoa Greeves is reminded about her high school guidance counselor who suffered death by the same MO fifteen years earlier, and she is prompted to do something about it. So she makes a deal with the LAPD, offering a million-dollar endowment if the original case is revived and solved. Who can resist such an offer? Certainly not the cash-strapped police department.

So, the stage is set for another Peter Drucker- Rina Lazarus novel. And a marvelous tale it is, complete with the customary references to the couple's orthodox Jewish beliefs and culinary tastes. Lt. Detective Peter Drucker is assigned to the task, and he quickly becomes involved in both cases (with a little assistance from his detective daughter Cindy). The task becomes complicated with additional murders, especially those of one of the original detectives.

As entertaining as the novel is, it is intriguing in its composition, keeping the reader perplexed amid the lies, deceptions and relationships among the cast of characters. It is an exciting read, among the series' best. And the twist at the end is as tasty as a raisin challa. Highly recommended.

It Only Takes a Moment
Mary Jane Clark
c/o Harper, 10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061286100 $7.99 800-242-7737

The author's father was an FBI Special Agent, specializing in high profile kidnappings; so, in a way, she grew up with the topic in her background for a long time. As a result, this novel reveals in depth the emotions of a parent whose child is abducted, and the efforts of law enforcement personnel in attempting to solve the crime and rescue the child.

In this case the child is Eliza Blake's Janie. Eliza made her appearance in the predecessor novel, When Day Breaks, along with her co-workers at the TV station where she co-hosts a morning program known as the Sunrise Suspense Society. The group doesn't play as prominent a role in this story as it did in the previous one, but they still contribute somewhat to its resolution. Here a psychic is featured, providing clues to Eliza while the FBI and others remain skeptical.

The poignancy and heartbreaking descriptions of a mother whose child has been kidnapped cut to the quick. The author's many years as a television writer and producer enable her to convey the circus atmosphere created by the media in such a situation realistically and brutally. The plot unwinds to a totally unexpected denouement. Recommended.

Embrace the Grim Reaper
Judy Clemens
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590585894 $24.95 800-421-3976

Casey Maldonado's husband and baby son were killed in a fiery car explosion in which she was thrown free. As a result, she received a large sum from the car manufacturer, but she has no desire to remain living. She takes off, just roaming around, using an alias, Casey Smith, accompanied, no less, by The Grim Reaper, with whom she carries on conversations. (She can actually see Death, begging her - for it is a woman - to take her and reunite her with her loved ones. To no avail.)

Among her wanderings, she finds herself in a little town in Ohio, where the only employer is closing the plant and moving to Mexico, leaving hundreds of unemployed behind. She becomes involved with a group of thespians putting on a Shakespearean play and close to the leading man. She learns that his lover had recently died of an overdose, said to be a suicide. But there are doubts, giving the basis for solving a murder mystery.

The basic plot is believable, and the writing is fine. However, the improbable use of the interplay throughout between Casey and The Grim Reaper was to this reader artificial and improbable. However, as light reading, the novel is enjoyable despite what was for me a shortcoming. (It would appear that this might be the start of a new series.)

Server Down
J. M. Hayes
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590586273 $24.95 800-421-3976

This is the fifth in the Mad Dog and Englishman Series, and the plot is more consistent with Dorothy's fantasy characters in the Land of Oz than in the small town Kansas jurisdiction of Sheriff English. It is replete with computer geeks and the evil avatars of a computer game, known as War of Worldcraft (WOW).

Mad Dog, English's half-Cherokee, half-brother, and would-be Shaman, drives to Tucson at the suggestion of his niece, Heather, to witness the Yaqui tribe's Easter Ceremonies. Almost immediately upon his arrival he is confronted by a Bad Guy who stabs a tribal policeman to death implicating Mad Dog by using a knife with his name etched on it. Mad Dog runs, with the police force after him, and his wolf, Hailey, and Heather trying to save him. Meanwhile, English, hampered by his spinal injury and back in Kansas, tries to unravel as much of the mystery as possible, especially when Mad Dog's home is blown up and his office explodes as well.

Lots of action keeps the story moving at a brisk pace, and the mix of personalities as well as a look at politics in the Arizona city set the stage for an interesting 24-hour period. A fast and enjoyable read, up to the series' standards, and recommended.

The Last Child
John Hart
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312359324 $24.95 646-307-5560

Thirteen-year-old Johnny Merrimon and Detective Clyde unt share a common obsession: Johnny'stwin sister who disappeared a year ago. In their quest to find her, or lat least whaHHunt share a common obsession: finding Johnny's twin sister who disappeared a year before, or at least determine what happened to her. In their quest, their paths continually cross, each discovering new facts and leading to more and more surprising avenues of investigation.

The plot involves only a few days and nights, but is packed with so many surprises and twists that it boggles the mind. Nevertheless, it is a startling tale, especially told from the teenager's viewpoint. The insights into the minds and personalities of the characters are penetrating.

This is the author's third novel. His first, "The King of Lies," was nominated for the Edgar Award, and the second, "Down River," won that prize. Child certainly is equal to or better than his prior acclaimed efforts. What's yet to come? Highly recommended.

Roadside Crosses
Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416549994 $26.95 800-223-2336

Logic and Intuition, one or the other, is how Kathryn Dance solves the crimes she investigates. The California Bureau of Investigation Special Agent, in the third in the series featuring the body-language expert, faces a murder mystery involving the cyberworld of games and blogs. And her skill in going from A to B to X is largely clouded by a shrewd killer and the complete lack of credible clues.

A young teenager becomes the target of countless postings on a blog criticizing him for driving a car that crashed, killing two young girls. As the attacks mount, he disappears and various persons who posted comments on the web are attacked or murdered after crosses are planted on the previous day on the sides of roads.

This reader having just finished another novel involving computer games, which was much shorter and more concise, the overwhelming detail in Crosses, while to some degree necessary, was a bit much. As well, composed with the author's accustomed ability to provide twists and surprises, the plot and development seemed to be extremely contrived. Despite these shortcomings, the novel was surprisingly interesting, and, of course, being a Jeffery Deaver book, well-written.

The Lovers
John Connolly
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781416569541 $26.00 800-223-2336

There is always an element of the supernatural in the Charlie Parker series, and this novel is no exception. It begins with Charlie's PI license being suspended and his permit to carry taken away. To keep a roof over his head, he's tending bar four nights a week, giving him time to undertake a personal investigation into his own beginnings.

Among the questions he needs answering are those to do with his parents, and who they really are; also, why his respected cop father shot and killed two young persons near his home one night and blew his brains out the next. In the process, he uncovers many more mysteries, some real, others supernatural.

As with other Connolly books, "The Lovers" is written with a firm hand and a tenseness that keeps the reader on edge. The complexity of the story and eerie quality of the tale probably defy the average person's imagination. But it is fascinating just the same, and highly recommended.

Frederick Ramsay
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590586358 $24.95 800-421-3976

Ike Schwartz, former CIA operative and now sheriff of Picketsville, the small Virginia hamlet, takes a long-delayed vacation on the Maryland shore of Chesapeake Bay. Only it turns out to be a busman's holiday. A friend and former colleague at the CIA asks him to look into the disappearance of his niece's fiance who was flying over the bay on July Fourth when his plane disappeared from the radar.

Meanwhile, back in Picketsville, trouble was brewing among the high school crowd, giving Ike's deputy trepidations: Should he take action or not? Also, some communion silver has gone missing from the church. What to do about this as well? And are the two things related?

While the two separate story lines progress smoothly, the more exciting tale is the one Ike begins to unravel as he looks into the disappearance of the plane. The result is an exciting thriller, well worth the effort to read. This is the third in a well-constructed, finely written series, and let's hope a fourth is in the works. Recommended.

Death Wore White
Jim Kelly
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martins
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312570811 $24.95 646-307-5560

This first in a new series introduces DI Peter Shaw, whose father served in a similar position in Norfolk, England, before being forced into retirement after what was said to be a botched investigation. The father's partner, George Valentine, was demoted and exiled for a decade, but ironically is now paired with Peter. Two more different cops and personalities probably cannot be found.

Shaw is a by-the-book detective whose motto is check-and-double-check. Valentine is old-fashioned and intuitive. His past association with the old bungled case weighs heavily on the relationship, but somehow they sort of get along and make progress. At the heart of the novel's plot are three supposedly unrelated deaths which turn up within a short time of each other. Are they related? Or not? Meticulously, the story moves forward, with Peter uncovering clues, carefully checking and rechecking. Meanwhile, always in the background haunting both is the ten-year-old case that besmirches the reputations of Jack Shaw and Valentine.

The award-winning novelist has written a compelling murder mystery, building suspense at every turn. His character interpretations are penetrating and the tightly plotted narrative is richly written. Highly recommended.

The Well Meaning Killer
Miranda Phillips Walker
Krill Press
P. O. Box 396, Rogue River, OR 97537
9780982144329 $16.95

This novel, by a first-time novelist, is replete with all the necessary elements of a good murder-mystery: an interesting plot, well-drawn characters and good writing and suspense. The only real question, however, is the protagonist's ability to rise from the dead, so to speak, not once, but twice, and continue to pursue a maniacal killer.

I had one problem with the book as to the realism of some of the action. Any specifics might well constitute a spoiler, so suffice it to say that one hospital scene in particular seemed implausible to this reader, prompting the question of whether such a scenario was even possible. Given the fact that the author is an ER nurse, we have to accept her description, albeit with a skeptical eye.

Otherwise, for an initial effort, the book is really praiseworthy. The protagonist, Megan McKenna, an FBI agent, is appealing, as are other characters. Since this is a debut novel, references to previous experiences can be confusing, but only a minor annoyance. Recommended.

This Wicked World
Richard Lange
Little, Brown
c/o Hachette Book Group, 237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316017374 $23.99 800-759-0190

In the old Lil Abner comic strip, there was an unfortunate character who walked around all day with a black cloud overhead inviting disaster. Obviously, he was a forerunner for Jimmy Boone, who embodies the principle: if something can go wrong, it will.

While a young man, Jimmy got himself into a situation as a result of which a judge gave him a choice: enlist or serve time. After four years in the Marines, he musters out and forms a relationship with a rich girl whose father doesn't approve. They marry anyway, but she soon leaves him. Then a Marine buddy calls and asks Jimmy to join him in a new venture, acting as a bodyguard and protecting celebrities and businessmen. Everything goes well, with Jimmy becoming a partner and living well, until, of course, they don't.

After a four-year stint in jail, Jimmy is trying to do things right. He's a bartender and part-time superintendent in the building where he lives. Things are quiet, until they're not. Troubles again follow Jimmy around even when he tries to do everything correctly. [No spoilers here, these things all transpire very early in the book.]

The novel is less of a mystery than a series of misadventures and deep character descriptions. Written with a sharp edge, the book concentrates on men and women on the edge of society and the rough and violent lives they live. Recommended.

Back to the Coast
Saskia Noort, Translated by Laura Vroomen
Bitter Lemon Press
37 Arundel Gardens, London W11 2LW
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 W. 108th St., NY, NY 10025
9781904738374 $14.95 917-493-3601

Maria Vos is not an overly sympathetic character. She appears to be a self-centered, single mother of two (from two different fathers), bent on self-satisfying experiences. She is a singer, living in Amsterdam, and has just kicked out her latest live-in lover after having an abortion of his child without telling him.

She then begins to receive threats from what appears to be an anti-abortion activist and the police inform her that they can do nothing until some harmful act takes place. She becomes more and more frightened and takes the kids and flees to her sister's home, the scene of their childhood during which her mother suffered from mental disease and attempted to kill her father. Maria begins to fear for her own sanity as well as her life. Her home in Amsterdam burns down the night she arrives at her sister's, and the police believe she's at fault.

The novel is a suspenseful mystery, with all appearances indicating that Maria may be the culprit. Clues are few and far between, while Maria points the police toward her ex-lover and her missing brother-in-law, who is said to have walked out on the sister two weeks before Maria's arrival. The reader really isn't informed of any developments until the final denouement. Written with a sharp pen, it is an interesting and unusual tale, but seems a bit mechanical in the telling.

Trust No One
Gregg Hurwitz
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312534899 $24.95 212-674-5151/646-307-5560

Nick Horrigan was frightened away from his LA home when he was 17 years old, under threat of being arrested for murder, to Alaska, and now in his thirties, he's back and leading a relatively quiet life in Los Angeles. But, as the old saying goes, you can't escape the past. And now he is caught up in it. And somehow he has to chase it down.

A SWAT team bursts into his apartment one evening, ripping everything apart, then taking him to a nuclear power plant because someone who is threatening to explode a bomb there will only speak to Nick. Nick enters the plant and the person there hands him a key before being blown up. And that is the key to the mystery which Nick has to solve.

It is an excellently conceived story, written with an eye toward contemporary political intrigue and spin. It is engrossing and full of conspiracy leaving the reader to twist and turn, not only at the surprises, but pages, as quickly as possible. Recommended.

Theodore Feit

Victoria's Bookshelf

In Their Blood
Sharon Potts
Oceanview Publishing
16 Paradise Road, Ipswich, MA 01938
9781933515625 $25.95

Rebellious, spoiled and self-centered Jeremy Strobe returns home after the murder of his parents. He finds himself named guardian of his sister, Elise, but Jeremy's obnoxious, self-serving uncle wants him out of the way so he and his wife can move into the posh digs of his late brother. Jeremy's stubborn innocence and naivety causes him to find a job with his mother's old firm where he starts poking around trying to find out what he can about his parents' deaths. He soon discovers there's much more to his parents' lives than he ever dreamed. They weren't the people he thought they were. To make matters worse, his obvious nosing around may put his own life in danger.

The story allows us to see Jeremy grow up as we follow him on his search for the truth. The tale's fast paced, complex, entertaining and suspenseful from first to last. To learn more about Sharon Potts and In Their Blood, you can go to: or

Blue Heaven
C. J. Box
Minotaur Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312614836, $7.99

The story takes place in the panhandle of Idaho or North Idaho as it's called by the locals. Annie and William Taylor are off on a fishing trip by themselves. Annie's mad at her mother and her boyfriend and the pair steal off on their jaunt without permission. The children's plans change drastically when they stumble across a group of men engaged in a brutal execution. One of the men sees the children and they flee in terror, hunted by the killers.

Many retired cops have moved to North Idaho and one group offers to help the local sheriff find the missing children. The sheriff, who's obviously unsuited for the job, gladly accepts and soon the ex-lawmen take over and start to control the investigation to suit their own agenda.

Meanwhile the children take refuge with a local rancher who decides to check out their story before he turns them over to their mother.

The author does well with his description of North Idaho and it brought back many memories for me. The story's engrossing, believable and terrifying in its intensity. This was my first C.J. Box experience. I plan to read more of his work and he's now at the top of my favorite author's list. For more information on C.J. Box and his books go to:

Chasing the Dragon
Justina Robson
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2119
9781591027461 $15.98

Chasing the Dragon, Book Four in the Quantum Gravity Series begins with Special Agent, Lila Black. Agent Black is no ordinary person, she's half machine with special abilities, scarred and abused by elves and humans. She's lost most of the people who were dear to her and finds herself depressed and homicidal when she and her demon husband find themselves sent fifty years into the future.

Life on Otopia or earth is strange and troubled with its citizens of different worlds providing a bizarre mix of faeries, elves, demons, and other assorted creatures.

Temple Greer, the head of a new agency, recruits Lila to hunt down and kill her demon husband Teazle. Lila also searches for her half dead lover Zal. She wants to find him and bring him back. As if life wasn't bad enough, the voice of the machine known as The Signal continues to haunt Lila everywhere she goes. What does it all mean? Lila feels disconnected and lost.

The story's interesting, well written, sexy, fast paced and a little crazy. I liked Lila and found her intriguing. And the different take on ghosts, demons and elves was unique. Sometimes it was hard for me to understand what was going on, and I would recommend that anyone wanting to read this book read the previous three first. The other titles in the Quantum Gravity series include: Keeping it Real, Selling Out and Going Under. For more info go to:

Victoria Kennedy

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

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