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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 9 September 2013 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Ann's Bookshelf Beni's Bookshelf
Cheri's Bookshelf Crocco's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf
Gail's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf Gloria's Bookshelf
Gorden's Bookshelf Heidi's Bookshelf Janet's Bookshelf
Karyn's Bookshelf Katherine's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf
Paul's Bookshelf Regis' Bookshelf Riva's Bookshelf
Susan's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Deborah Ledford
Second Wind Publishing
B00BHJC9O8, $4.99 ebook
9781938101342, $15.95 pbk.

Aaron Lazar, Reviewer

Crescendo, book three in the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela psychological suspense thriller series, follows in the fast-paced and mesmerizing tradition of Staccato and Snare, the first and second books in the series.

I'm not going to rehash the plot here, because there are already a plethora of summaries in reviews previously posted. What I do enjoy writing about, however, is the reaction I have to novels, and how the characters or plot affected me personally. I know, it's a bit narcissistic, but those are the types of reviews I like to read, not just plot rehashes!

Since I read the first book in the series, Staccato, I've loved the character Inola, a Native American cop who's constantly having to prove herself to her police department colleagues in the relatively backwoods town of the Bryson City, North Carolina. In spite of her stubborn nature, her inability to communicate with those she truly loves (Steven and her grandmother, Elisi), and her insistence on going out on her own despite obvious dangers that threaten - you can't help but love her. Tough, focused, and smart, she's everything you'd want in a heroine.

I particularly enjoyed her vulnerability in this book re. the evil villain's charms. When she is told her bullet most likely killed her best friend and partner, Cody, she is understandably traumatized. She's removed from her job, believes she is responsible for Cody's death, and is obsessed over the mention of a missing child at the scene of the accident that opens the story. These three items weaken her confidence and resolve, and she's inexplicably drawn to a fellow sympathetic listener, Preston, who happens to be a delicious villain. Preston - a wonderful actor - charms her into his arms. Problem is, Inola's currently living with and involved in a relationship with the rugged black Sheriff, Steven Hawk.

There were many memorable scenes, including Inola's visit to the villain's hotel room, the shivery cold chase scenes through the woods, and the amusing scenes with the IT jailbird who is released to help out the cops. My favorites, however, were those showcasing Inola's grandmother Elisi and the young abandoned boy they rescue from a hotel room. Her loving attention to this boy broke my heart, and I felt instantly moved. Although it seems Elisi didn't connect with Inola when she was delivered to her to be raised, she apparently has grown and changed over time, and has a great deal of love to share.

I have recently learned that Ms. Ledford is planning a fourth book in the series - hurray!

People's Science
Ruha Benjamin
Stanford University Press
1450 Page Mill Road
Palo Alto, CA 94304-1124
9780804782975, $24.95,

Andy Jordan

Stem cells are biological cells found in all multicellular organisms, that can divide (through mitosis) and differentiate into diverse specialized cell types and can self-renew to produce more stem cells. In mammals, there are two broad types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells, which are isolated from the inner cell mass of blastocysts, and adult stem cells, which are found in various tissues. In adult organisms, stem cells and progenitor cells act as a repair system for the body, replenishing adult tissues. In a developing embryo, stem cells can differentiate into all the specialized cells, but also maintain the normal turnover of regenerative organs, such as blood, skin, or intestinal tissues.

There are three accessible sources of autologous adult stem cells in humans: Bone Marrow; Adipose Tissue; and Blood. Stem cells can also be taken from umbilical cord blood just after birth. Highly plastic adult stem cells are routinely used in medical therapies, for example in bone marrow transplantation. Stem cells can now be artificially grown and transformed (differentiated) into specialized cell types with characteristics consistent with cells of various tissues such as muscles or nerves through cell culture. Embryonic cell lines and autologous embryonic stem cells generated through therapeutic cloning have also been proposed as promising candidates for future therapies.

Stem cell research and applications have been one of the most politically sensitive and controversial issues in modern medicine. "People's Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier" by Ruha Benjamin (Assistant Professor of Sociology and African American Studies, Boston University) is a 272 page compendium providing a detailed overview of the controversy involving California's 2004 stem cell initiative. An impressive work of seminal scholarship, "People's Science" is a deftly written inquiry into the social issue implications of how scientific research is conducted in our democratic society including factors of race, disability, gender, and socio-economic class. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "People's Science" is strongly recommended reading and an important addition to both community and academic library Contemporary Social Issues reference collections. It should be noted that "People's Science" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Cast in Sorrow
Michelle Sagara
Harlequin Luna
PO Box 615
Fort Erie, ON Canada, L2A 5X3
9780373803569, $14.95 pbk. / $8.49 Kindle

Ashley Esther, Reviewer

The newest addition to the "Chronicles of Elantra" series by Michelle Sagara is Cast in Sorrow. Since the previous book, Cast in Peril, was a giant cliffhanger and left many fans frustrated, I was pleased to discover that the beginning of Cast in Sorrow was very "in the moment." It did not waste several pages on review, but rather jumped right into the thick of things. If readers had previously grown weary of Elantra (although I am hard-pressed to see how), this latest installment will intrigue and entertain with its unexplored territory. The entire book was action-packed and only once did I grow impatient at a slightly prolonged description.

In Cast in Sorrow, Kaylin continues her journey to the West March, accompanied by a mixture of friends, allies, and enemies. They reach their destination fairly quickly, although of course their arrival is nothing like Kaylin expected. The West March introduces several new characters into the storyline - some of whom fall under the ally heading, and others definitely not - and lays a number of new and interesting difficulties at Kaylin's feet. Through these events, we learn much about the diversity in culture between the West March and the High Halls in Elantra. These differences prompt Kaylin to further examine her part in the greater scheme of things, to consider the roles of others, and take on new perspectives. From the beginning of the series, readers have watched Kaylin grow into an adult; in the previous book one caught glimpses of her newfound - and hard-earned - maturity, but in Cast in Sorrow there is a sense that she has stepped fully into adulthood. Of course, being mortal, this brings its own set of problems, which adds additional interest to the storyline.

Readers will be further pleased that Cast in Sorrow is not only interesting, it also does a great job of explaining and wrapping up plot threads from previous books (finally!). As the Regalia does not occur until near the end of the book, there is plenty of time for Kaylin to stumble into more trouble - and in the process make new discoveries about the Lost Barrani children and their connections to such characters as Teela and Nightshade. She also gains insight into the Consort's uniqueness, Severn's history with the Barrani, and exactly what that flying lizard is all about.

Although the Regalia takes place near the end of the book, and could easily wrap up the story, the author throws her fans a bone with the last few pages. They read like an epilogue, and while very much a part of the previous story, lead so much into the next that one almost expects it to continue. In classic Sagara style, one short conversation brings so many intriguing possibilities forth that readers will be itching for the next book - and discussing this one until it comes out.

Overall, I thought Cast in Sorrow accomplished what it set out to do. There is a lot of explanation and enlightenment about certain events in Kaylin's world, but the tone of this book matches its predecessors. While the reading may be gentle enough in outward action to suit for a YA crowd, there is no timidity in dealing with real and complex matters of an internal variety. Issues of trust, hope, loss, duty, compassion, and the line between good and evil are all worked seamlessly into the storyline to engage the reader on multiple levels. The self-reflection and evaluation bring a real-life quality to a series based in another world, making for a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Emalyn's Treasure
Joy Ross Davis
Helping Hands Press
922 South Woodbourne Road, Suite 153
Levittown, PA, 19057-1001
9781622084388, $7.99,

BarJD, Reviewer

Set in Ireland, 1938, Emalyn's Treasure tells us of a young woman with a heightened spiritual experience which contributes to the 'treasure' that she has kept close by, yet hidden from all, since she was a 6 year old child. Her encounter with lightning and a protective angel lies at the foundation for the treasure story.

Emalyn has led a privileged life during a tumultuous period in Irish history that we seldom hear about. Civic improvements for water and electricity were becoming accepted and expected, although resisted by some people. Assessment costs and resistance to change sparked civil disorder. I especially enjoy a story where I can learn - a factoid here; a skill there! Our Author's research is extremely active for this book; the descriptions of politics, available appliances, clothing, decor, architecture, and hospitably take you right into 1938!

Our Emalyn is still a young spirit, becoming more mature and generous by the day. How blessed the man and woman who find their matching 'swan' to become a life's companion as Emalyn and husband Owen have done. Joy Ross Davis brings her gentle story-telling to Emalyn's Treasure as we would expect, with some twists and turns that keep it from being at all saccharin sweet! Indeed, tragedy marks high points in the story and leads to the finale.

Emalyn's Treasure has no ghosts. Angels are present to take on earthly appearances, protecting and guiding the characters through their activities. Lives are transformed subtly. Supportive characters Fiona and Percy become more mature. I perceive the potential for follow-up stories, but as a skilled author, Joy Ross Davis brings this story to a sensible end without a cliff hanger ending that seems to just drop off that cliff.

Olivia's Wedding, Joy Ross Davis, author is added to Emalyn's Treasure print version as a delightful bonus story from Helping Hands Press.

Olivia's Wedding, historical fiction set in the midst of the American Civil war, takes readers into the Virginia home and farm of an immigrant Irish family. Olivia, a naive young family darling, is awaiting the return of her fiance Daniel from battlegrounds in the nearby Virginia hills. Danger and intrigue lurk around the farm; these peaceful people are at risk from worse than battlefield action. The tender story of Olivia and Daniel's future along with the stories of their family and "all who would come home." gives readers a different perspective on the typical political topics of Civil War stories. Joy Ross Davis delivers the angels to guide and protect her characters through the trauma of war as she does with her other books.

Trust me - Emalyn's Treasure is going to be a favorite. I recommend the book for a book club discussion because of the socio-political topic potential.

I purchased my copies of Emalyn's Treasure and copy of Olivia's Wedding from Amazon. I am acquainted with the author and had the privilege of being a 'trusted reader' before final publication and a consultant on the cover design.

Emalyn's Treasure and Olivia's Wedding are each available separately in digital format. Olivia's Wedding was featured as Volume 4 in Murray Pura's Cry of Freedom Series. Emalyn's Treasure is the leading story and pace setter for an inspiring romance series/collection from Murray Pura entitled Blue Heaven. The series is the first release from Stardust Romance, a new imprint with Helping Hands Press.

This book was the topic of an author interview, with reviews for both published at

Robert Linn
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
1438982208, $14.49

Irene S. Roth

Did you ever think that there is more to life than meets the eye or that one can ever imagine? This is a metaphysical question, but one that is worth pondering. It would be a shame if the world was only what we perceived and saw with the naked eye.

How many would fathom the idea that the illusory could become reality? Very few would perhaps. However, it is important to realize that life is not what we think it appears to be. There is more to what is real than meets the eye and our senses. And that is precisely what this novel is about. It is about stretching our idea of what is real and Robert Linn does a great job conveying this idea.

Over and over throughout the novel, Robert Linn invokes examples of how illusions can be real. Illusions can come to us in many different forms from dreams to daydreams. They can give us inspiration and something to look forward to.

The book is about a store called the Emporium of Illusions. At the beginning of the novel, a wealthy businessman comes to a small town and buys a big old building that has been vacant for a while. But as time goes on, he not only renovates the building to house his new business, but the intrigue of the business itself raises a lot of eyebrows and the small town is never the same again. People's minds and hearts and changed and stretched.

I loved the novel in that it appealed to my philosophical background. There is nothing better than a well-written metaphysical novel to keep you wondering what will happen next. And Robert Linn's book promises to deliver that and more. It is a wonderful joy ride of adventure and intrigue. When I started reading it, I couldn't stop until I finished it. And I'm sure all readers will have a similar experience.

This review was first published on Blogcritics.

A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher
Sue Halpern
Riverhead Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781594487200, $26.95,

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

At a crossroads in her life, author Sue Halpern decides to train her free-spirited Labradoodle, Pransky to be a therapy dog at the local county nursing home. Pransky's natural talent and training provide an opening for Halpern into the lives of the residents. Throughout the book, she intertwines their stories with her own observations about the aging and dying process. At the core of it all she explores her own philosophy about what it means to live a good life. There's no doubt that Pransky's visits made a stunning impact on the residents' emotional well-being, though I wish Halpern had included more of those fascinating interactions. For anyone contemplating therapy dog training, especially in nursing home care, "A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home" provides an intimate and inspiring view of what to expect from the staff, the residents, the dog, and perhaps one's own self.

Ann's Bookshelf

In 100 Words or Less...
James Wood
Olympia Publishers
60 Cannon St. London, EC4N 6NP
9781848973367, 5.99 Brit. pounds / $TBA pbk.,

Every young poet faces the difficult task of finding a poetic 'voice' that is unique, natural and distinctive. James Wood's poetic voice in this first book of his poems is often satirical and defensive - the voice of a young man who is not yet willing to reveal much about himself. Even in his brief biographical note at the front of the book he dissembles and jokes; and his poems often end in a dismissive exclamation, as if he cannot trust himself (or his readers) to take them seriously. But every writer knows how daunting it is to expose their work to public scrutiny. As Wood writes in 'Promote the Notion: "Everyone can write' (Show and Tell):

How hard can it be?...

...All you need to do is
offer yourself up like a
lover's open palm
to the eyes of the whole World.

In 100 Words or Less... presents each poem as if it were a homework topic, yet, the poems reflect an adult view of the world. They are perceptive, often wry, and sometimes thought-provoking. Wood is good at seeing the commonplace from a new perspective. Blake's Jerusalem, and Capability Brown's carefully created landscapes, scarred by a major road; the juxtaposition of graves and a compost heap; dying flowers by the roadside where a fatal accident happened: "a strange mausoleum/....Death on Display to celebrate life". He can be funny, too. The carefully placed blacked-out words in "...Describe the Benefits of Censorship: Part 1 (The Sermon)" offer great scope for imaginative substitution:

XXXX all of you little XXXX for coming
to share this XXXXXX experience in
your XXXXX village. On such a
illustrious occasion, which thanks
to that XXXX Mrs Grayson promises
to surpass even last year's XXXXXX.

At times, Wood's poems would benefit from a brief footnote. Part 1 of "...Empathize with the Plight of Donne's lovers (White Nights in Russia)", is more understandable if you know that the parenthetic phrase in the title is a common Russian way of describing those days when the sun does not set far enough below the horizon for the sky to get dark, and dusk meets dawn. Similarly, a note identifying Nardis as a modal jazz composition acknowledged by its composer Miles Davis to be best played by pianist Bill Evans (the "random player" in the poem), is almost essential for an understanding of the poem titled 'ziix hacx tiij catax'.

Wood's poems work best when he drops his defensive guard. 'The Psychosomatic Advantages of Optimism (Two Brothers)', is sensitive and shows a more empathetic side to his nature. And I enjoyed his philosophical irony in 'Give an Account of Contemporary Existential Thought (Sensing)'.

The final few pages, in which a psudonymous S.G Conners writes experimental nonsense poems, is the weakest part of this collection. Here is another defensive poet struggling to express the chaos of the world. The poems, perhaps, are influenced by jazz rhythms (Wood is a keen jazz musician) and Conners' struggle to write them is funny, but, for me, they too closely reflect Conners' own words:

....A bit dreary but
I use some clever words.
I'll keep it up and maybe
give it some obtuse (use that...)
title that'll hold it together

Wood already has a distinctive voice and he shows versatility in style and form. Altogether this is an interesting and promising first collection.

Margaret Atwood
Bloomsbury Publishing UK
c/o Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781408819708, A$35.00 / $13.99,

MaddAddam is the third book of the trilogy which began in 2003 with Oryx and Crake and continued with The Year of the Flood . Judging by the thanks offered by Atwood in her 'Acknowledgements', without the encouragement of her readers, "including those on Facebook and Twitter", it might never have been written. But it does not matter if you have not read either of the first two books, this one can stand alone. In fact, I found the outline of the earlier books, which prefaces MaddAddam, totally confusing in spite of having read them, and I resorted to making a sort of flow-chart of the characters who had already appeared. It was unnecessary.

"There's a story, then there's the real story, then there's the story of how the story came to be told", says Toby, who is the writer-protagonist of this book. And this is the way the book unfolds, with the back-story of several of the characters and events from the earlier books being told, as well as a more detailed account of Toby's own story. She is one of the few survivors of the ecological/biological disaster which has destroyed most of humankind, and her ongoing diary begins with the final events of The Year of Flood. Amongst the survivors are the murderous Painballers, the injured Jimmy, The Snowman, and a small group of Crakers, bio-engineered, gene-spliced, human-like beings who are "free of sexual jealousy, greed, clothing and the need for insect repellant". The Craker males are also sexually voracious and this becomes the cause of distress and curiosity amongst the few human women, but with potentially hopeful results for the whole group.

In 2003, Oryx and Crake described seemingly outlandish inventions, corporations and social changes, and Atwood had fun inventing appropriate names: such as 'Pigoons' for "gen-mod" pigs with human characteristics; the powerful 'CorpSeCorps' technocrats; and 'BlissPluss' pill for sexual energy and prolonged youth. Now, bioengineering is well established, gated communities and powerful technocrats are common, and ecstasy and other 'life-style drugs' have taken on the agenda of BlissPluss. In fact, as Atwood remarks in the 'Afterword' to MaddAddam, although the book is fiction, she has not included "technologies or bio-beings that do not already exist, are not under construction, or are not possible in theory".

In fact, MaddAddam is less science fiction than the earlier books and more a gripping adventure thriller and love story. The chapter headings suggest the story-telling nature of the book: 'The Story of How Crake was Born', Snowman's Progress'. 'Moontime', for example. 'The story of Zeb and Fuck' is particularly funny, as Toby tries to support the Crakers' assumption that the exclamation "Oh Fuck!" calls on a God of Misfortune for help.

Atwood's dark humour, her concern for our survival in a changing world, her intelligence, and her clear-eyed, wry, dry observation of human nature are always apparent. Some may find the Crakers too simple and too fanciful an invention but, for me, her loving depiction of them and of Toby's humorous and gentle interactions with them as she tells her stories, are a delight. The innocence and curiosity of a young Craker boy, Blackbeard, and his pleasure at learning from Toby that the dark marks she makes on her pages mean sounds which can also be heard by other people who see them, is tempered by Toby's concern for the results of this learning "What comes next? Rules, dogmas, laws? The Testament of Crake?". It comes as no surprise that these people who purr illness and hurt away, sing joyfully at the slightest provocation (so that Toby has constantly to restrain them so she can continue her story) and can communicate with the Pigoons, ultimately save Toby and her companions from death.

Forget labels like 'science fiction', 'futurist fiction', 'dystopian fantasy', 'ecological disaster novel'. MaddAddam is an imaginative book full of great characters, action, horror, humour and sadness, told by a masterly story-teller.

Snake Bite
Christie Thompson
Allen & Unwin
9781743316863, A$24.99,

"Jez is seventeen and lives with her alcoholic single mum in a government rental in Canberra's outer suburbs".

This fragment from the back of Snake Bite told me that this was not a book I had asked to review. But since it has been likened to the notorious Puberty Blues (written in the early 1970s by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey and all about surf-chicks, surfie gangs, and underage sex in the southern beach suburbs of Sydney) I decided to read it as an educational experience.

In the foreword to the reprinted edition of Puberty Blues in 2003, Germaine Greer notes that teenage boredom and experimentation have not changed since the 1970s but that the drugs and the venues are different. And they are: very different. Marihuana appears only in the final pages of Puberty Blues and heroin is hardly mentioned, but in Snake Bite, although sex and the loss of virginity are still rites of passage for teenagers, so, too, are piercings, tattoos, 'joints', ecstasy and 'poppers'. In Snake Bite, too, the constant and casual use of drugs and alcohol, and the foul language, make teenage world of Puberty Blues (where fucking was "doing it" or "screwing", girls didn't eat in front of boys, and single girls who got drunk were "molls") look like a world of innocence.

Jez is the main character in Snake Bite and she tells her own story in her own language, which is ripe and offensive but is considered normal amongst her friends. Some of the Australian slang was new to me and some of the SMS messages defeated me, but I found this book a gripping read. Christine Thompson writes well and she captures the ethos, the speech and the moods of her teenage characters vividly. She manages to convey their growing maturity and their uncertainties subtly and realistically; in particular, Jez's often fraught relationship with her mother, who starts a relationship with a much younger man and who struggles with her own reliance on alcohol whilst trying to give Jez the freedom to make her own choices in life.

In the end, Jez is too intelligent to be brought down by the bad friends she makes and the sordid world some of them inhabit. Snake Bite turns out to be a funny, shocking, sensitive and hopeful book about growing-up and learning to survive in the dead reaches of suburbia. I always thought of Canberra as a fairly sterile city populated by civil servants and politicians. But clearly there is a different kind of life out there in the suburbs and this book will tell you all (or more, perhaps, than you ever thought you wanted to know) about teen-life, language and behaviour in what the book's blurb calls "a Canberra you never dreamed existed".

Dr Ann Skea, Reviewer

Beni's Bookshelf

The Mist-Torn Witches
Barb Hendee
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451414151, $7.99,

The Mist-Torn Witches is a one-sitting book, and is unexpectedly hard to put down. What looks like another ordinary sword and sorcery book surprised me.

The story centers around two sisters, Celine and Amelie, from a small village plunged into the intrigue of court politics. They find themselves caught between princely rivalry, murder and mystery.

Celine and her sister Amelie run an apothecary shop begun by their mother. Celine is also know as a Seer: someone who sees the future. The only problem is that she's a fake. When their shop is destroyed by fire, Celine and Amelie are rescued by Prince Anton's men and taken to his castle.

When the prince asks Celine to use her seer powers to help solve a series of murders, Celine and her sister find themselves in a completely new world.

Barb Hendee writes a fantastic mystery thriller that grabs you in the very first page and does not let you go till the end.

Magic, mystery, heroes and villains: Barb weaves a murder mystery that is a delight to read.

Jean Johnson
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425256503, $7.99,

Hellfire is the third book in the series about La, a massive Precog, Captain of the Terran Space Force ship Hellfire, and Prophet of a Thousand Years. Her mission is nothing less then to save the galaxy.

Like A Soldier's Duty and An Officers Duty before it (both great sci fi), Jean Johnson takes readers on a fast- paced, breathtaking ride around the galaxy. La, using her Precog abilities and with her crew, must race against time to slow the advances of the Salik, who are taking over the galaxy.

The visualizations of La's precog abilities and the time streams that represent the life of every living thing in the galaxy were well thought out. I found the Feyori and their "Game" to be quite an interesting subplot in the story.

Jean Johnson does great military sci fi: right up there with Ringo and Weber.

Magic Rises
Ilona Andrews
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781937007584, $7.99,

In Magic Rises Kate Daniels Curran, in the company with members of the Pack, journeys across the ocean to arbitrate between different clans of shape-shifters hosted by Lord Megobari (who, we find out, just happen to work for Kate's father.)

With three groups of shapeshifters and Kate as the lone human the group, she gets the feeling that a target has been painted on her back. But Kate has a few tricks up her sleeve too. Plus, she finds help in the least likely people and places.

As I've grown to expect from the first Kate Daniels novel to this one, the team of Ilona and Andrew have created yet another excellent novel with fabulous writing: humor, bravery, wit, and intrigue with just a dash of sexual tension.

The Kate Daniels novels remain pinnacles of urban fantasy.

Pile of Bones
Bailey Cunningham
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425261064, $7.99,

Pile of Bones is about a trio of grad students (Shelby, Carl and Andrew) at Plains University. At night they are Morgan, Babieca and Roldan of the city of Anfractus: a place not of this world.

They find themselves in the middle of a power play in Anfractus which leads to the highest levels of the city. But the trouble really begins when the trio learn that Anfractus is merging with the real world.

The story offers an interesting mix of urban fantasy, sword and sorcery and role playing from the eyes of the typical grad student. It's sure to please RPG (Role Playing Games) sci-fi readers.

Queen of Wands
John Ringo
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781451639179, $7.99,

Queen of Wands is the second book (long awaited by this reviewer) about Barbara Everette. Barbara is a typical soccer mom... if that soccer mom has a familiar cat named Lazarus, is a level three adept at the Foundation for Love and Universal Faith (or FLUF), and works for GOD.

Queen of Wands, like Princess of Wands before it, has Barbara, Janea and the rest of the gang at FLUF battling darkness and demons.

The story climaxes with the arrival of a Gar (or old one): just a glance at the Gar will drive one permanently insane. Not to mention the whole "destroy mankind" thing.

Barbara Everette is one of the most interesting characters to come out of John Ringo's mind. Glad to see Barbara is still around kicking butt and taking names.

Beni Bacon

Cheri's Bookshelf

Killer Weed: An Ed Rosenberg Mystery
Michael Castleman
MP Publishing, USA
6 Petaluma Blvd N. Suite B6
Petaluma, CA 94952
9781849822404, $14.95

Journalists Ed and Julie Rosenberg's family faces bankruptcy after being laidoff from their jobs at the paper. Facing their own fights, raising kids and increased addictions Ed is weed and Julie is wine they struggle to find jobs. When offered their jobs back as freelancers Ed returns to the paper while Julie refuses to go back instead works on ex-drug dealer Dave Kirsch's mayoral campaign with a possible future of a great job if Kirsch is elected, than Kirsch is shot leaving no suspects and them back where they started. Than what seems as a chance in a lifetime Ed hears from billionaire Gene Simons who is funding a Haight-Asbury of the sixties exhibit at the museum offering Ed a well paying chance of a lifetime as researcher on the exhibit. Simons has a vested interest in the project as Ed learns Simons is adopted and his birth mother was a drug dealing hippie who was murdered in 1968 leaving behind a three year old and as an adult still wondering what name his mother gave him. Simons is willing to pay Ed an amazing sum of money if he can find out. Ed turns detective turning on his tape recorder and dives into the past learning separate pieces of the puzzle seem to be fitting together leading to a killer when Ed himself is shot.

Summer of Love meets mystery in this amazing book! The reader will be captivated at page one with a roller coaster ride that goes through forty year old tales, sixties history, murders, suspense, and yes sex drugs and rock and roll! Each twist and turn leads the reader in a different direction in the quest of the hippie murder leaving just more unanswered questions. Castleman is an amazing writer that will have you on the edge of your seat until the very end. Outstanding is the 60's history that has the reader wondering if they are reading a novel or actual events from a history book. This is the author's fourth novel and this one will send the reader on the quest to read anything from this outstanding author! So if you are seeking an amazing mystery do not miss Killer Weed you will not be disappointed!!!

Memory: Simple, Easy, and Fun Ways to Improve Memory
John Parker
Amazon Digital Services
B005Z6AYFK, $4.99,

As we age we struggle to remember the simplest of things blaming age, genetics or our inability to memorize. In this excellent book we learn that the first step to know is anyone can improve their memory. The author says it best "If you want to improve memory, therefore, you have to change your internally held beliefs about your ability to remember". In this concise yet detailed guidebook we are shown there are techniques and tips to improve our memory with the greatest of which is to use humor when using the techniques. Such as silly little sentences that make it easier to remember information for example "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nuts" which helps us remember the solar system as the first letter of each word is for a planet. Some of the techniques included are repetition, attention, affirmations, associations, clusters, senses and note taking. Also included are the importances of good eating habits, avoiding stress and memory supplements. Each technique and information is written in easy to understand format not like the usual textbook form making it easy to understand and apply. The author uses excellent examples so the reader can fully comprehend the application of the technique which only adds to the reading experience. Also great to note are the quotations before each chapter that leads the reader into the next suggested technique or thought.

This is an excellent resource book for seniors, students, housewives, the career-oriented or anyone who wishes to improve their memory or retention of information. All that and more is wrapped up in this not to be missed little gem. So remember again the author says it best "Work at it, yes, but don't forget to have fun with it too" and this little book will show you how!

As we age we struggle to remember the simplest of things blaming age, genetics, or our inability to memorize. In this excellent book we learn that the first step to know is anyone can improve their memory. The author says it best "If you want to improve memory, therefore, you have to change your internally held beliefs about your ability to remember."

In this concise yet detailed guidebook we are shown techniques and tips to improve our memory. Some of the many techniques included are repetition, attention, affirmations, associations, clusters, senses, and note taking. Also included are the importance of good eating habits, avoiding stress, and memory supplements. Each technique and information is written in an easy to understand format, not like a cumbersome textbook. The author uses excellent examples so the reader can fully comprehend the application of the technique which only adds to the reading experience. Also great to note are the quotations before each chapter that leads the reader into the next suggested technique or thought.

This is an excellent resource for seniors, students, housewives, the career-oriented or anyone who wishes to improve their memory or retention of information. All that and more is wrapped up in this not to be missed gem. The author says it best "Wor k at it, yes, but don't forget to have fun with it too."

Cheri Clay

Crocco's Bookshelf

Relic (The Dean Curse Chronicles)
Steven Whibley
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00E663790, $2.99,

The secret Society began more than a thousand years ago, during a time when kings took war seriously, while disregarding human life. The Society evolved out of necessity to preserve life.
Dean Curse continues to be the youngest member of the secret Society, being only fourteen. He wonders why he was never given the chance to accept or reject membership. In Relic, he learns why everyone in the world isn't a member - People are different, and some would use the gift for their own benefit, others would go insane having to deal with the visions and possible failures resulting in death.

Accepting his life's fate as a member in the Society, Dean's visions of people in danger of losing their life, is all-consuming. He shares his visions with a few of his best friends, which certainly helps Dean deal with his vision to vision occurrences, especially since he only has twenty-four stressful hours to save a life.

Relic is about Dean's vision of a museum robbery, where he believes a monk will be killed. Brainstorming strategies, he and his friends involve breaking the law and the police.
I recommend Relic, because it is packed full of adventure for kids, and may spark an interest to put down the video games and start a fun secret society of their own. Family and friendship values are sprinkled throughout the book, which is a secret bonus in itself.

Loss, Limbo, Life and Love: A Poetic Journal
Derek Haines
4900 LaCross Rd
North Charleston, SC 29406
1449531261, $9.95,

Deciding which is more powerful, the Forward, or the verses of the journal, is subjective. The poems expose the deepest of inner pain suffered by the author over a specific period. The Forward is preparation for the emotional ride.

Relating to ninety percent of Derek's personal hell may be the reason his words hit home. The poems are moving and evocative. After reading each one, and choosing a favorite, I would change my mind as I read the next entry.

'The Clown' is an outstanding piece of writing. A poem that will linger in your heart, as it will forever in mine. I have substituted the word 'woman' for 'man' and the matching pronouns for personalization. Including the poem in this review, I urge you to do the same to appreciate. After reading 'The Clown', there's no doubt you will crave Loss, Limbo, Life and Love: A Poetic Journal by Derek Haines.

The Clown

Everybody's happy, I'm everybody's clown,
I always wear my smiling face, even when I'm feeling down.
No one sees the tears I shed, every single day,
"Make me smile, I'm feeling sad", all the world does say.

And so I make them laugh, and warm them from within,
They all think they love the clown, but I let no one in.
My grease paint smile, always there, for that is all they see,
Everybody loves the clown, but no one will love me.

It's not because some haven't tried, but they have tried in vain.
I am so unsure that I can love, without causing pain.
The gift of love is the power to hurt, and so hurt, I must be,
That now I flinch in fear almost, when love approaches me

I crave the warmth a woman brings, as any man would do,
But lying deep within me, is the fear I will hurt you.
So if you want the man that lies beneath the wide smile charm,
Be prepared to bring with you, a very soothing balm.

For it will take a woman, with patience, warmth and care,
To wipe away the grease paint smile, and find me under there.
And when she finds the man I am, and sees the wounds I bear,
Will she have the courage, to take me in her care?

And will I have the strength I need, and trueness to the core?
To return her love and care, and make her all I'll live for.
I live in hope that just maybe, this special woman lives,
And we can share the happiness, that true love always gives.

Alas, I fear I'll never find the happiness I seek,
I lick my wounds but always find a reason to be weak.
So anytime I hear the words, "Oh My Clown, I love you."
I cringe and find my hiding place, then run to somewhere new.

Francis: Man of Prayer
Mario Escobar
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
0849922038, $15.99 print / $9.99 Kindle,

A brief history of the papal office is the content of Francis: Man of Prayer. While the information was educational, it lacked the personal component expected.

Written in haste, a sequel seems appropriate by Escobar. Allowing sufficient time to pass would help gather the personal neglected material needed to compliment the business of being pope, in Francis: Man of Prayer.

The Glothic Tales
Derek Haines
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
9781490942964, $18.99,

Over time, I've had the great pleasure of reading separately, the three Glothic tales by Derek Haines. The tales included, February The Fifth, The Adventures of Hal, and Septimity and the Blood Brotherhood. Derek Haines currently provides his readers with these three entertaining stories, bound together in a select paperback titled, The Glothic Tales.

After reading each book, I had written a timely review. The following are excerpts from each review:

February The Fifth is the first book I have read by Derek Haines. It was an easy read with slight touches of science fiction and comedy throughout. There was no shortage of characters, some of whom the reader would most definitely relate to, thereby making the book more enjoyable.

It's a mad world on Gloth, as experienced through the eyes of Halbert Hoop - Hal to the reader. Hal is a well-developed character who gets himself into unusual and kooky situations. It's great fun for the reader to share Hal's strategies in unraveling and solving these situations.

Ending my review of Septimity, I wrote - After reading Derek Haines books, I think I have come to realize he expresses his own personal views on life through his apropos vocabulary in his characters, and excellent writing skills. Reading between the lines and having a good laugh is a treat.

Owning a print version of The Glothic Tales is a welcoming edition to my bookshelf. E-books are convenient, but there's nothing like reading a good book in print from your own personal library.

On Self Publishing
Derek Haines
Amazon Digital Services
B00EU6GUGS, $3.99,

A seasoned writer and early publisher of his own books, Haines gathers his thoughts to share his experiences in the publishing world. Writers will find invaluable advice on self-publishing, writing, and book promotion, delivered in the unique style owned by Haines.

Explanations are in depth regarding the advantages of blogging, creating websites, and the principles of social media. Sprinkling his words of wisdom with humor makes learning about the world of self-publishing a pleasurable read.

I recommend On Self Publishing by Derek Haines, for passionate writers who are searching for sensible advice and useful suggestions about writing and self-publishing.

Vandalism of Words
Derek Haines
4900 LaCross Rd
North Charleston, SC 29406
1453777458, $8.95,

I can't praise this book enough. It is hysterical. After purchasing a copy, I thought it looked like the perfect read while waiting in the doctor's office. Not only was I laughing out loud, but I ended up sharing the title and author with the person next to me, my doctor, and his nurse.

Vandalism of Words is a compilation of blogs written by Haines. There's no common sense or thread of reasonableness, which makes reading the entries mindlessly hilarious. However, there's a surprise if you read between the lines, because it will leave you with food for thought.

A great combination of entertainment and hidden messages, what more could a reader want?

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Daniel's Bookshelf

Private Berlin
James Patterson
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316211178, $27.99,

I had no problem selecting this latest series. Along with the series of Michael Bennett, and the one involving Alex Cross, these three series are my favorite James Patterson to read novels. This novel was his latest from the Private Series and the premise was interesting as one of their main investigators would be missing from action. Patterson has engaged a different plot-line with these stories as the investigators have a different role than police or detectives. The agency has many resources including a forensic lab that police use in crime solving. I enjoyed this story and I hope he keeps the creativity juices flowing in future stories.

Chris Schneider was checking out the abandoned building of the Slaughter house. He was in search of the person who was after a woman. He had been searching all over Berlin looking for her. He noticed almost immediately the smell of urine and foulness permeate the dusty ruins of the building. He comes across her naked body knowing he was too late. He gets a surprise inside the confines of the deserted building. He is not alone with her. The attack is swift, and he is quickly over come, while the hidden intruder finally gets the upper hand.

The Slaughter house in Berlin becomes a crime scene shortly after Private Agency and the German detective along with his partner have the crime scene investigation searching for clues in the building. Mattie Engel another top agent in Private has a personal interest in Chris which was closer than a working relationship. Tom Burkhart and her have to deal with Hauptkommar Hans Dietrich a living legend inside Berlin Kripo. Chris Schneider is missing and the Private Team along with the police use Private's Forensic Lab to detect the blood splatter and clues in the building. The detective Dietrich is not so friendly to Mattie as she taken maternity leave awhile back, and he is following his superiors line when she was dismissed off the police force. He is rude and uprupt to Matte, while he only takes Private's help to better his own position on the force.

This case unwinds more as the body count increases to people that Private discovers upon further investigation is linked to Chris's childhood past. The very people that were connected to him for some unknown reason. A lone killer that eventually Private, and the Kripo have to stop. That it must be done before the people who have been living newer peaceful hidden lives are all dead. Their existence are now discovered, and the danger lurks at their door steps. It becomes a cat and mouse game that takes Private and the Kripo to the dark and complexity of a past in Berlin, that holds evil deadly secrets. It is such a secret that endangers Mattie, Burkhart and her lone family member just to stop it.

James Patterson and Mark Sullivan have collaborated on two other Private Series novels. James Patterson has written novels in the following series; Alex Cross, The Woman's Murder Club, Michael Bennett, Private, Maximum Ride, Daniel X, Witch & /Wizard, and Middle School. (The last four for readers of all ages) He also has many stand alone novels too. Mark Sullivan is the author of eight mystery and suspense novels including Rogue. I enjoy this series very much and await his next one.

Silken Prey
John Sandford
G. P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399159312, $27.95,

I enjoyed Mad River and Stolen Prey, so I failed to hesitate to take one his novels to read. I picked this one up at a library fun-raiser, and I flip flop between Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers novels.

It doesn't take Lucas Davenport long to get wrapped into a political crime committed with the Governor pushing the buttons to get this matter quickly solved. A scandal involving a Republican candidate instigated by the opposite party wanting him not to win the election. The governor has Davenport investigate to minimize the damage and put the situation on an even keel of fairness. He doesn't believe through the evidence that the Republican candidate would be as stupid to have photos pop up so easily, so anyone could view them by throwing papers on the computer key board.

Davenport is finding out this case has other implications of ruthlessness going on as everybody connected to the scandal seem to wind up dead. The BCA Detective and his staff are locating the bodies, as they think they have a clue to who did what in the case investigation. The bodies are cold and the searching joins it shortly after they do. The Democratic party candidate Trayn Grant is suspected of orchestrating behind the scenes using her body guards to do the dirty work. The evidence trail is null and void looking like professional killers do the work. Lucas Davenport keeps hot on the trail, and uses all his resources, including Virgil Flowers to assist him in doing the tracking and reconnaissance work. The team will be keeping an eye on all the possible suspects. The first victim's is a disappearance, but suspected of some foul play. The body isn't found so is hard to prove other than a strong hunch. The other victim was Helen Roman who is Small's secretary was brutally murdered in her house, awakened by the killer's entrance. Somehow the lack of evidence and motives lead to who will have the power and resources to make all these crimes happen. That person or persons drive Davenport to keep moving to face them in a battle of wits and force to hopefully learn the truth. Davenport won't have it any other way.

John Sandford is now the author of twenty-three Prey novels featuring Lucas Davenport and six of his eventual replacement Virgil Flowers novels with two other stand alone novels. His is the author of his previous four Kidd novels. He is a Pulitizer prize winner and one of my favorite authors throughout the years. He definitely is one of the best crime writers in an elite group of authors who stand out in that genre'. I usually red flag his upcoming books to keep an eye on their release dates. He writes two series which jump back and forth with novels. I his next book will be a Virgil Flowers novel entitled Storm Front.

Daniel Allen

Gail's Bookshelf

American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms
Chris Kyle
William Morrow
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062242716, $29.99,

Besides a decorated and lethal Navy SEAL sniper credited with the longest kill shot ever recorded - 1.2 miles - Chris Kyle was also a loving husband and father. Chris's love for guns began as a young boy "fighting imaginary bad guys with sticks for guns." When his parents taught him "...the proper use of real guns," and how to shoot and use weapons safely, weapons were the tools Chris used in the outdoors. His passion for guns was only surpassed by his love for history, a love that provided the inspiration for him to write American Gun: a History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms.

In these pages Chris selected "...ten guns to serve as the flagship weapons..." he believed influenced and shaped American history that he then wrapped in stories of "...individuals whose sacrifices and strength changed history." Complete with black and white photos and intricate gun diagrams.

He did it this way because he didn't want to write a "stodgy textbook" that put readers to sleep, he wanted to "talk history with the bullets flying." He did that and more as he blends specific gun details with fascinating true stories that explore the "remarkable role guns had in shaping our great nation."

He begins with the "American Long Rifle," a gun that earned young rebel Timothy Murphy, a position in the elite brigade of sniper riflemen, led by Colonel Daniel Morgan in 1777. The British never expected anyone to "...deliberately aim at them rather than fire generally at the mass of men on the front line." That would be uncivilized, akin to a "war crime," they thought.

The British couldn't have been more wrong when America's very existence was at stake. In a short time they called these expert "colonial riflemen - widow-makers." Their account, wrapped in the rifle's historical context, to eliminate Red Coat officers in America's fight for independence, adds fascinating historical detail.

Chapters features "thrilling turning points in American history" characterized by specific guns and their uses. From the "Spencer Repeater" that made confederates ask "What kind of Hell-fired guns have your men got?" to Abraham Lincoln's personal gun-testing range, a "weed-and-garbage-strewn field east of the White House."

One page specifics of each gun with their evolution, known names, when first designed, caliber, primary and current use with notable features are listed in the Appendix. Featured weapons include the "Winchester 1873 Rifle, Springfield Model 1903 Rifle, Colt M1911 Pistol, Thompson Submachine Gun, M1 Garand, .38 Special Police Revolver and M16 Rifle."

Chris Kyle, America's most lethal SEAL sniper, protected our nations "patriotic young men and women" on the battlefield with extraordinary shooting skill. Even though that skill came with a "hefty price," writes wife Taya, a price that cost Chris his innocence. However, he "...willingly paid the price ...time and time again" using his "...weapon to save the lives of those he was sent to protect." Many Americans are alive today because of his service.

In retirement Chris "...found a new use for the gun" to bring healing in his work with "wounded veterans." However, when the book was in "...its final stages..." Chris was killed Feb 4, 2013 when he and another friend were allegedly shot by a fellow troubled veteran on a Texas gun range.

"Perhaps more than any other nation in the world," Kyle wrote, "the United States has been shaped by the gun..." Tragically, Chris's own life and death were also shaped by the guns he loved and used. His wife Taya hopes you get to know the man she loved as you walk back in time with him through the pages of this book, brought to completion with the help of William Doyle and publisher William Morrow.

To Keep or Not to Keep: Why Christians Should Not Give up Their Guns
J.D. Timothy Baldwin & D.D. Chuck Baldwin
Baldwin Publishers
1107 Taylorsville Road, Suite 101
Washington Crossing, PA 18977
9780988898806, $14.95,

Guns are a hot topic today that provokes emotional responses and vigorous debate on both sides of the issue, whether in support of or opposition to guns. Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, said, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" after the Sandy Hook school shooting.

While LaPierre's statement was true, it only added fuel to an already raging gun debate, yet LaPierre's statement didn't address the real problem. Although guns have the potential for violence, they have to be loaded, aimed and the trigger pulled before a gun can maim or kill.

I don't believe the issue is gun control. Instead it's a mental health issue that escalated when so many psychiatric hospitals were emptied and closed:

One of the best, Northern State Hospital outside of Sedro-Woolley, WA, closed in the 1970's: and patients were loaded onto busses and dropped off at "rest homes and group homes" across the state.

Today, with psychiatric hospitals closed, police far too busy to answer 911 calls in a timely manner, citizens need to protect themselves and guns are a good choice. Yet, guns need to be handled responsibly with education and training. For our household that also included what God and the Bible had to say about guns?

The Baldwin's book, To Keep or Not to Keep: Why Christians Should Not Give up Their Guns, written by Pastor Chuck Baldwin and his constitutional attorney son, Timothy Baldwin write, "Scriptures confirm the right of self-defense."

Their findings, based on the "burden and standard of proof," natural rights and a "consequence based approach" is supported by the Old and New Testaments. For example, they cite the story of Melchizadek in Genesis who blessed Abram, later Abraham, for saving "his abducted nephew Lot, by force." Genesis 14: 12, 18, 19 and Hebrews 7:1, among many other examples. The Baldwin's also believe "natural rights form the basis of justice and are the root of human compassion."

Readers learn whether gun rights are a divine right, why they shouldn't give up their guns and what "meaningful self-defense" is. They also write about "proportionality" and "necessity," whether the Bible says to sell your clothes and buy a sword if you don't own one and when the "other cheek" should be turned.

In some ways, the book is written almost like a legal brief, yet their reasoning is clear, easy to read and understand. Although I firmly believe the gun debate today is more about politics than guns those who follow Christ need to know what the Bible has to say on this vital issue and the Baldwin's thought-provoking book provides timely answers.

Second Amendment:

Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks
August Turak
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023
9780231160629, $29.95,

What do successful business principles have to do with God and Trappist monks? Quite a bit says August Turak, successful author, corporate executive and software entrepreneur in his tell all book, Business Secrets of the Trappist Mon:: One CEO's Quest for Meaning and Authenticity. Where he explains why "mission, personal transformation and community" are the reasons he adopted the Mepkin Abbey's business model after a seventeen year association with Brother John and Mepkin Abbey.

Turak frequented the Abbey as a monastic guest in need of spiritual refreshment. He adopted their dress and manner of living at those times and recognized their commitment to a special "...mission and management philosophy." They practiced the Belgian Monks of St. Sixtus's principle - "piety, not profit" and followed the rule of Saint Benedict - "to pray is to work."

He describes their "monastic business model" as "service and selflessness" that for the monks was a "by-product of a life well lived." He saw their 1,500-year-old economic model featured the positives of capitalism while limiting capitalism's potential for greed and "ethical and internal contradictions."

Their philosophy also included the word - "authenticity" which Turak knew as a new business model "buzzword" in the secular world. Yet authenticity was not new to the monks who had built their "...businesses, leaders, brands, and products for more than a thousand years" on that belief.

He describes and elaborates on three critical parts of authenticity:

Mission - serving something of worth with unaffected sincerity.

Personal transformation - another name for saintliness that transforms ordinary people into "authentic individuals," also the focus of this book.

Community - to pray for and commit to authenticity with "...customers, retreatants, government regulators and neighbors..."

Readers also learn the fascinating history of Mepkin Abbey, once the ante-bellum rice plantation owned by Henry and Clare Booth Luce, gifted to the monk's by the Luce family in the 1940's.

Today it's a sanctuary for twenty-five or more Trappist monks who operate the self-sufficient, self-supporting abbey and grounds selling humble commodities like eggs, mushrooms and cheese. For a virtual tour of the beautiful Abbey:

While listed as a business book, Turak's practical and refreshing work includes personal stories and vivid case histories that underscore and portray the principles and ideas of the purpose driven servant-leadership he advocates. Whether a student or business owner, this book on issues of trust, selflessness and personal sacrifice could influence and change the business world as we know it.

I especially liked one quote, "Everyone wants to die like a Trappist monk. No one likes to live like one." Highly recommended!

The Promises of God: Discovering the One Who Keeps His Word
R. C. Sproul
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434704238, $19.99,

Dr. R. C. Sproul elaborates on God's promises and covenants, what they are, how they differ, why God is known as the "Promise Keeper" and what "agreement God the Father made with Jesus before the beginning of the world" in Promises of God. He begins with why "...the concept of covenant is integral and foundational to..." our lives and times today.

This celebrated theologian, bestselling author, speaker and distinguished academic teacher describes how "...God reveals His Word and His plan...through the structure of various covenants." However, he believes there is confusion over what covenants mean when used in the biblical context.

He suspects the confusion arises because of the interchanging of old and new covenants terms with the Old and New Testaments, as if old covenant-Old Testament and new covenant-New Testament meant the same thing. Although they are "closely related," he explains, they are not the same exact thing. He uses the example of John the Baptist to explain why before he tells readers how the terms differ and why he believes the "...New Covenant began in the Upper Room on the night of Pentecost" after the New Testament began.

Fourteen chapters include introductions, scripture readings, learning objectives, quotes, outline and a series of multiple choice questions from the material as part of a study guide. If used for small group studies, ten additional bible study and discussion questions are incorporated with book suggestions for further study.

While not a quick read, The Promises of God, like a glass of fine wine, should be sipped and not swallowed whole. Instead it's a book that should be savored in times of quiet reflection to give readers time to appreciate the personal application of the message. To learn how covenants and forgiveness are interrelated, why Jesus had to die to complete God's covenant and how God's covenant with Adam is relevant for Christians today.

Taylor's Gift
Todd and Tara Storch w/Jennifer Schuchmann
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9780800721886, $19.99,

Taylor's Gift, by Todd and Tara Storch with Jennifer Schuchmann, is an emotional account of one family's tragic loss - their journey of grief and how they found comfort and renewed hope when their thirteen-year-old daughter's life was tragically cut short. It's also an inspirational tale of organ donation which gave the gift of life to a cowboy, a nurse, a bike rider and a teenager whose lives were forever touched.

Their story begins as Todd prepares to video his children's final run down a Vail, Colorado, ski slope. Todd thought he was "...experiencing the trip of a lifetime." He could hardly wait to share the videos and pictures with his wife, Tara, and nine-year-old Peyton, who were having cocoa in the alpine village below.

Todd grabbed his poles and followed eleven-year-old Ryan and Taylor down the slope. With his flip camera in hand, he captured Ryan and Taylor's fluid movements through the snow. When he saw Ryan pull off so Taylor could catch up, she shot past him, gaining momentum as she flew by. Todd could only watch helplessly as his precious daughter hit a pine tree head-on, and then propelled into a second tree.

Writer Jennifer Schuchmann captures their tragic loss and insurmountable pain with empathy as reader's journey through the valley of death with the Storch family. From their overwhelming grief to funeral arrangements to difficult choices that led to a question they were unprepared to answer. "Would you be willing to donate Taylor's organs?"

Their courageous story reminds us how fragile and precious life is and how our choices make memorable differences in the lives of others. Jennifer captures their story of suffering, coping and even inability to cope with honesty and raw vulnerability, page by page, often prompting tears.

Reading their life-changing account, (box of tissue required) reminded me of Romans 8:28 "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (NKJV)

The Storch family's remarkable testimony and well-done account of God, hope and change, though at times hard to read, is captured in Todd and Tara's quote, "The greatest gift we've received on this journey didn't come from Taylor...It came from God. Her death is not the end of her story. God is sovereign, and he is still writing."

When Todd and Tara learned that the state of Texas' registered organ donors was only 2 percent, they cofounded Taylor's Gift Foundation where they now work "...tirelessly to help families touched by organ donation." To register as an organ donor:

Prayers for Prodigals: 90 Days of Prayer for Your Child
Dr. James Banks
Discovery House Publishers
P.O. Box 3566, Grand Rapids, MI 49501
9781572934528, $10.99,

What makes this book of prayers special? It's filled with prayers for prodigals on behalf of those we love and have concerns for! Although we worry about them, fear for them and pray for them when time passes without change, discouragement and fear can set in. That's why Pastor James Banks penned Prayers for Prodigals, a small book that features ninety days of prayers for "...mothers and fathers who agonize over wayward children." To remind readers that God "...understands exactly what you're up against because God knows what it's like to have a world full of prodigals."

The book, organized into thirteen weekly themes, includes ninety, page-and-half, scripturally based intercessory prayers that cover an array of "emotional and practical challenges" parents of prodigals and those who love them face. Such as:

When you feel like a failure as a parent
When you're stuck in the blame game
When you've said something you regret
When you need encouragement
When you're afraid for your loved one and can't sleep
When you let your imagination run away with negative thoughts
When you doubt God and need to remember God's promises
When you need to pray but don't have words

Simple short narratives recount tales of answered prayer to begin each week. The inspirational accounts inspire renewed faith, hope and trust as loved ones are brought before the Lord. While prayers bless the one prayed for, offer comfort to the one who prays, the mix of Scripture passages with profound prayer reminds God of His promises. Partnering with God in prayer brings prodigals "boldly before the throne of grace" for Christ to work in their lives and bring them into an intimate, life-changing relationship with Jesus.

If you're a parent who agonizes over a prodigal, feel tired and discouraged, without hope because situations or circumstances have gone on so long. If thoughts of "if only," worry, doubt and fear consume your nights and you feel your prayers reach no higher than the ceiling, this book of prayers belongs on your bookshelf.

Billy Graham's wife Ruth wrote the introduction and reminds readers prodigals come in all sizes, "...genders, races and ages..." and they share " thing in common: They left home, and they are missed." She considers prodigals a special, precious gift because they teach "...patience...our own need of forgiveness...and dependence on God in prayer." She also admits, "God blessed me with two prodigals," that kept her on her knees, which she believed was "...the best place to be."

With minor revision, these prayers would be useful in any situation, however I would insert the name of the person prayed for to personalize the prayer. Visit Pastor Banks website: for encouragement and to leave prayer requests.

When Jesus Wept - Jerusalem Chronicles, #1
Bodie & Brock Thoene
Zondervan Publishers
5300 Patterson Avenue SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310335931, $14.99,

Award winning writers, Bodie and Brock Thoene begin their new series, The Jerusalem Chronicles with When Jesus Wept, a fictionalized account of David-ben-Lazarus's life and death. It's the intriguing tale of Mary, Martha and Lazarus and their unique friendship with Jesus that includes Lazarus' death, his time in the heavenlies and return four days after burial.

Readers first meet Lazarus with his "eternal companions" in the introduction when all the angels and saints "...turn to look down upon the earth with wonder..." at the sound of Jesus' voice. Lazarus and the celestial beings wait in breathless anticipation for what is to follow.

When he hears Jesus call the name - "Lazarus!" - the dead man could only "...whisper, 'Here I am, Lord.'" With those few words, Lazarus regained his body and walked forth from the tomb. For a brief moment of sweet understanding he saw the sorrow in Jesus' eyes for "...only Jesus knew what joy and beauty..." Lazarus had left behind and this moving story within a story begins...

The Thoene's use of first person gives readers an extraordinary immediacy and sense of connection with Lazarus since the story is told through the eyes and voice of Lazarus. It also affords a greater appreciation of the times, culture, political and religious turmoil that surrounds Judea at the time of Christ and His crucifixion. Although their well-researched story reflects the biblical context, they did use literary license in character development.

In their account Lazarus is a wealthy vineyard owner and maker of fine wines who recently completed the traditional thirty day mourning period for his wife Eliza and their newborn son.

He and his sister Martha live in Bethany near Jerusalem where they frequently meet and talk with Jesus. However, their sister Mary leads a life of sin in Galilee. (Readers know Mary and Martha from bible stories in different roles.) Although his mourning period is officially over thoughts of "if only" cling to Lazarus when he resumes living, prior to the illness that would take his life.

The author's use of rich historical detail adds vivid imagery to characters, scenarios and the overall narrative. I especially liked the comparison between Lazarus's devotion to his vineyards to that of Jesus' devotion to His children, in addition to the description of heaven and eternity as real places. Since many have fallen away from the beliefs of earlier generations their reminder of this reality is timely, authentic and realistic.

These authors bring the scriptures to life with true-to-life characterizations, dialogue and settings that enable readers to visualize and feel connected to distant times, peoples and events. It's not a book to miss. If you aren't already fans of the Thoene's writings you will be after reading this book and will understand why they have earned eight ECPA God Medallion Awards.

Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story
Ken Tada, Joni Eareckson Tada & Larry Libby
Zondervan Publishers
5300 Patterson Avenue SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310314691, $18.99,

Ken Tada and Joni Eareckson married in 1982 after their two-year friendship turned into loving courtship. Their authentic Christ-centered relationship taught them the meaning of sacrificial commitment in the months prior to their wedding where Ken learned to help with Joni's care. Still the true cost of their mutual commitment was one time would test. This book is their "untold love story."

Joni Eareckson Tada, immobile from the shoulders down and confined to a wheelchair is most remembered for her heroic walk of faith after the diving accident that paralyzed her. In time, her "Christian outreach in the disability community" led to the founding of Joni and Friends, an organization that"...provides practical support and spiritual help to special needs families."

However, her amazing achievements only started there. She would learn to paint holding a paintbrush in her mouth and write books with voice recognition software, yet as amazing as this was, she never considered the challenges of marriage. However, God had other ideas.

When Ken, a high-school teacher-coach, and Joni said their wedding vows in 1982 they anticipated a "happily-ever-after" marriage. Neither realized how their bond would be challenged and tested once romance faded into the required routine basic to Joni's health care.

They also couldn't anticipate Joni's broken leg, her diagnosis of breast cancer in 2010 or the onset of chronic pain that would stun her paralyzed body in the 90's. Pain that "...shot through her with hellish...twisted, razor-edged agony..." without let up. They would later look on this time as "the testing years," where Ken would once say in frustration, "Joni, if I met all your expectations, you wouldn't need God."

Their unforgettable story of love, dogged by frustration, depression, and a joint sense of abandonment brought new meaning to the wedding vows of "...for better, for worse, in sickness and in health." It's an account of challenge and testing, complicated by 24/7 caregiving issues for Ken and learning to accept Ken's help in the most intimate ways for Joni. Their issues could only be met with faith and trust in Christ, forged through a sense of selflessness and sacrifice where each learned to give and receive.

Thirty years later, their tried and tested commitment is "tighter than ever...bound by a cord of three strands." Sixteen pages of color pictures and black and white photos illustrate their ministry, international travels and time with evangelist Billy Graham's Moscow Crusade, where 10,000 stood "outside the Lenin stadium unable to get in."

Although few readers will experience the uncommon physical challenges Joni and Ken faced and continue to face, their story illustrates issues common to all marriages and relationships. Such tests, trials and challenges can only be met through Christ, where self is set aside and we learn to become "Christ's hands and feet" with those we love and care about.

Joni and Ken's untold love story, written with realism and raw vulnerability, carries the scent of God's grace and should be required reading for anyone contemplating marriage or in a serious relationship.

Saying Goodbye: Facing the Loss of a Loved One
Cecil Murphey & Gary Roe
Paintings by Michal Sparks
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR 97402-9173
9780736950596, $10.99,

Far too many feel lost and uncertain when confronted with terminal illness and the reality of death, perhaps because it means the loss of a loved one and anticipated grief for those that remain. Other times it may involve the pain of things that should have been said and never were or issues of forgiveness never granted or received.

Cecil Murphey and Gary Roe, former full-time pastors, share their own and others personal experiences of loss, grief, hope and healing in Saying Goodbye: Facing the Loss of a Loved One. They penned the hard backed gift book for times loss must be faced because "...death puts an end to possibilities and dreams," writes Cec.

Ten chapters, some written by Gary, others by Cec, begin with brief vignettes that illustrate themes of hope, healing, regret, denial, failure and forgiveness. Short chapters end with scripture and short summaries.

For example, Gary writes about "unfinished business" in chapter eight where a man realizes he's carrying "the weight of unfinished business" and isn't prepared to die. This chapter is about past mistakes, bitterness and pain from anger, hurt and resentments that were never released and healed. "Unfinished business doesn't have to stay unfinished," writes Gary, "I can give, ask for and receive forgiveness."

In the last chapter Cec writes about "giving someone permission to die." He's had to do just that six different times both personally and as a pastor. He says it's never easy, but it's "important." Cec says it's like the one dying needs to be reassured that the loved ones they leave behind will be "all right." When permission is given for the loved one to leave, it's like "I can assure my loved one that God will take care of us."

"Additional information" completes the gift book with eleven suggestions of what to do and what not to do and eleven more on comfort issues for self and family. The book also includes websites for Stephen Ministries, CaringBrindge, GriefNet and Good Grief ministries.

Floral paintings and garden scenery by Michael Sparks enhance peaceful messages of hope, healing and coping found inside. Written with sensitivity and compassion, the "touching guide" is small enough to slip into briefcase or purse to equip those who need to say "goodbye."

Gail Welborn

Gary's Bookshelf

Nathan's Run
John Gilstrap
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9780786028276, $6.79 print / $5.23 Kindle,

"Nathan's Run" is a suspenseful nail biting thriller that starts on a high plateau and races to a final crashing finish. Twelve year old Nathan Bailey does not have an easy life. He is thrown into juvenile detention because of the system, he then fights for his very existence and has to kill an officer of the court. Knowing the authorities will not listen because of what he has had to deal with so far, he runs way from the detention center. There is no one he can turn to, but there are those who do help him fight to tell his side of the story. Nathan's Run" is more than a good novel because it has a lot to say about how the juvenile and adult criminal court systems are failing the people of this country

Owl Goingback
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451205674, $6.95,

Stop what you are reading and pick up a copy of "Breed" by Owl Goingback. Something is on a killing spree in old St. Augustine and detective Jack Colvin of the St, Augustine Police Department is on the case. Until this occurrence Colvin thought he had seen it all. An ancient Indian chief spirit contacts St. Augustine tour guide Ssabra Omith because she is part Cherokee Indian, about the murders. He wants her to contact the police. When she talks to Colvin and tells him that a Wican priestess from Cassadaga, Florida opened a door for an evil spirit to attempt to crossover and mate with beings of this existence, he shows very little interest in what he's been told. He thinks Ssabra is just too weird to believe. Later when he hears from another source the same information, he begins to allow himself to realize that he is not dealing with something human but that the killer is something supernatural. Goingback known for his three other tales of horror that involve Native American folklore is on solid ground with the spirits that frequent this novel. He is also in new territory with telling the many interesting facets of the legends and lore of America's oldest city, St. Augustine. Owl Goingback is one of the finest horror writers writing today.

Return to Sender
Les and Sue Fox.
West Highland Publishing Company
9780964698604, $49.95

Unlike many other books about the King, "Return to Sender" is a fun what it story that is written by fans of Elvis and in no way damages his image. In 1995 a young man named Jamie Randolph who reminds people of Elvis Presley inherits $4 million dollars anonymously. Not content to just take the money, Randolph tracks down a strange set of clues dating back to 1973 that lead directly to Elvis himself. The authors fill their tale with enough twists and turns, interesting characters and situations to please any reader of mystery novels as well as the millions of Elvis fans.

Bimbos of the Death Sun
Sharyn McCrumb
Fawcett Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780345412157, $3.97

"Bimbos of the Death Sun" falls into the category of mystery fiction, but science fiction fans will have a very good time with it. The novel takes place at Rubicon, a science fiction convention. One of the guest authors is killed. The mystery is finding out who would want to kill him, and why. Half the fun of this novel is reading about the numerous people who also attend this convention. Rubicon is surely the most memorable gathering of science fiction fans ever to be written about. "Bimbos of the Death Sun" is great fun.

Richard Bach
Dell Books
c/o The Random HousePublishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440205623 $7.99,

"One" is an interesting blend of fantasy, sf, and a love story. Bach and his wife take of in their small plane and have adventures back in time with themselves. The writing is sharp and races along to a grand conclusion. "One" is one of Bach's best novels.

Island of Tears
Troy Soos
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9781576667683, $19.50,

"Island of Tears" is far different from all of Troy Soos's other books. This time the work has nothing to do with baseball. The novel takes place in the 1890s in New York when America opened Ellis Island, involving corrupt police, immigration and a murder. The writing is very easy with characters that are realistic while the description of the time period is very educational. "Island of Tears" is a great novel to read and enjoy

Mystery in the Sunshine State
Edited by Stuart Kaminsky
Pineapple Press
P. O Box 3889, Sarasota, Fl 34230
9781561641855, $14.95,

Some of the tales are a bit weird while others are great mysteries, but all are by authors who live in Florida. Some of the names are Robert W. Walker, Les Standiford, Edna Buchanan, Harold Q. Masur, and 18 other writers. "Mystery in the Sunshine State" is a fine collection of stories of the State of Florida.

The Dollar Collar
Ed L'Heureux Jr.
Sabal Palm Press
P.O. Box 756 Goldenrod, Fl 32733
978096161634100, $4.00,

"The Dollar Collar" is the first collection by the author of "Clay Of Vases. The 13 short stories are about suburbia and set the tone of life in America. Two of the best stories are "The Blade" in which a man makes a new friend when he takes his lawnmower in for repair, and "Passing at the Beach" where a couple finds out the value of a walk at the beach. Other stories in this collection show that this author is gifted and his writing ranks in the class of a John Cheever or John Updike. "The Dollar Collar" is a wonderful collection of short stories.

Where Garagiola Waits
Rick Wilber
University of Tampa Press
401 Kennedy Blvd, Tampa 33606
9781879852617, $24.95,

"Where Garagiola Waits is a collection of writings about the national pastime game of baseball with an SF slant as well as editorials, articles, and poetry. Wilber even tells some stories that involve his father Del who played the game in the 1950's, in a what if universe that brings together some of the best ball players from different generations. 'The short stories appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, and used bits and pieces of my history with the game, blending them with fictional elements to tell the story at hand. Most of what you'll find in the short stories isn't true of course, at least not in the way it's used in the story. But fiction writers write about what they know and lie to fill in the rest...Writing is a lonely business in most cases, but when I write about baseball I get e mail, phone calls, letters. People really read these stories and they care. I find that strange and wonderful." "Where Garagiola Waits" is a great baseball book for any fan of the game.

The Andy Griffith Show Book
Ken Beck and Jim Clark
St Martins Press
175 Fifth, New York, NY 10010
9780312661770, $15.99,

"The Andy Griffith Show Book" is another fine book for fans of the show. Unlike the Richard Kelly account of "The Andy Griffith Show, this one focuses on the town of Mayberry, instead of the actor. This is the only history of the people, city, and other good little tidbits of the fictitious town of Mayberry, U.S.A. No fan of the show should miss this great book.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Never Go Back
Lee Child
Delacorte Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780385344340, $28.00,

The good news is that the 19th Jack Reacher book is here, and it is just as wonderful as the first eighteen. At this point, that would seem to be a given.

The title notwithstanding, Reacher does indeed attempt to go back, to consummate [after a fashion] a telephonic contact he had made while in South Dakota in the 2010 entry in the series, "61 Hours," with Major Susan Turner, the woman who holds his former title as Commanding Officer of the 110th Unit of the Army's Military Police. When he finally makes his way to Virginia, he discovers that she has been arrested and is incarcerated in some very serious charges. To make matters worse, much worse, he himself is soon arrested and held on some pretty serious charges of his own, having to do with events that ostensibly took place nearly 16 years previously. To say more would be to disclose unforgivable spoilers.

The tale moves quickly, with moments at irregular intervals that bring the reader up short, then plunges him/her even more swiftly ahead, with Reacher and Turner in jeopardy and then out, using a mixture of skill, brawn and intelligence to get there. There is the usual quota of Child/Reacher suspense and great writing, with just enough wit and humor to balance the inevitable violence.

Pedant that he admittedly is, Reacher delights the etymologists among his readers, going back to the original French and Latin derivations of words such as "affidavit," "shrapnel," and "expedition." I loved it!

I devoured this novel; finishing it in less than 24 hours. Meticulously plotted and ingeniously written, as I've said in the past the book provides just what Reacher and Mr. Child always do: All you need, and nothing you don't. Highly recommended.

The Caller
Karin Fossum
Translated by Kyle Semmel
Mariner Books
c/o Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780544002180, $14.95,

Lucy thought she had everything a woman could want [and who could disagree]: youth, beauty, health, a loving husband, and a baby girl they both doted upon. Until the warm summer day when evil is suddenly visited upon her perfect life in the form of an unknown monster, for when Lily approaches the pram under the maple tree outside their house where the baby had lain sleeping, she discovers that the baby is covered in blood. In their terror and panic, they rush to the hospital, where they are soon told that the baby is unharmed, that the blood was not hers, and that the police have been called. The Inspectors assigned to the case are Konrad Sejer and Jacob Skarre. Later that same night, a postcard is delivered to Sejer's door reading "Hell begins now."

Happy people content with their lives, suddenly made anxious, unable any longer to feel secure, as "a soundless form of terror" and utter vulnerability spreads through the community. This is the story line of this newest in the Inspector Sejer Mysteries. And a gripping, albeit somewhat depressing, tale it is, with a perpetrator who fancies himself as invincible, with unimaginable cruelty and an almost equally twisted quirk: He needs to see for himself the effects of his pranks: "Everyone lives on an edge, he thought, and I will push them over."

The writing is wonderful, as one has come to expect of this author. She describes Sejer's dog as follows: "a Chinese Shar Pei called Frank, lay at his feet, and was, like most Chinese, dignified, unapproachable and patient. Frank had tiny, closed ears - and thus bad hearing - and a mass of grey, wrinkled skin that made him look like a chamois cloth," and someone's "cat [which] slept in a corner, fat and striped like a mackerel." The humans are just as well-drawn. Widowed at a young age, Sejer is now feeling the frailty of impending old age, and along with him the reader feels a palpable sense of inescapable mortality, as well as "what was raw and brutal in the heart of every living creature." A disturbing but ultimately thoroughly enjoyable novel, very fast reading, and highly recommended.

The Sound of Broken Glass
Deborah Crombie
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061990632, $25.99,

The central geographical theme in this newest book from Deborah Crombie is the area of South London known as Crystal Palace and its environs, with each chapter preceded by some fascinating information. It certainly has historical importance, originally known for the site of The Great Exhibition, a great iron and glass building moved to Crystal Palace Park in 1854 and destroyed by fire on November 30, 1936. Its importance in the present-day tale spun so wonderfully here, however, is as a crime scene, when DI Gemma James is called to investigate the murder of a well-respected barrister found in a seedy hotel in the district, naked, trussed, and apparently strangled.

At irregular intervals, there are flashback scenes in the same geographical area taking place fifteen years in the past, when a 13-year-old boy is befriended by his next-door neighbor, a young widow, providing a lifeline of sorts for the lonely youngster, whose alcoholic mother has little time for him. The connection with present-day events becomes clear much later in the book.

The personal life of Gemma and her husband, DS Duncan Kincaid, and their blended family, primarily their 3-year-old foster daughter, Charlotte, is once again a major part of the plot. He is now on leave from Scotland Yard to be primary caretaker of Charlotte and the other family members, the boys, Kit and Toby, and their assorted animals: Sid the cat, the terrier Tess, and the cocker spaniel Geordie. Things become complicated when Duncan realizes he has a personal connection with one of the suspects, and a second, similar murder takes place.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable novel, much like the prior books in the series, which is high praise indeed. The plotting is complex and suspense-filled, the characters wonderfully well-drawn, and the book is recommended.

Arnaldur Indridason
Translated by Anna Yates
Picador USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1800
New York, NY 10010
9780250037749, $15.99,

At the outset of this newest book by Icelandic author Indridason, the eighth in the series available in English translation, a young man picks up a woman in a bar, slips some rohypnol into her drink and brings her back to his home in an historic area of Reykjavik. When two days later the police are called to the scene, the body found lying in a pool of blood on the floor is not that of the woman, but the young man who lived there, his throat having been slashed. The only clues are a woman's shawl, and a strange smell that lingers in the air.

In this latest entry in the series, Detective Elinborg has the primary role, while her colleagues Erlendur and Sigurdur Oli take on lesser roles, the former only by reference in the early and late parts of the book [referred to as "a failure of a father," an "irascible loner," and "an insightful detective" whom Elinborg admires but does not necessarily like]. As the book opens he has apparently taken a leave of absence to travel to the East Fjords, where he had lived as a young boy. Oli has only a secondary role in the present investigations, with Elinborg taking the lead.

As always, Elinborg has conflicts between her job and her role as a wife and mother, and worries that she is not devoting enough time to her family. The older of her two sons, 16 years old and increasingly distant, has been a cause of concern lately, and she "sometimes worried about the relationships between parents and their children," a theme which recurs throughout the book. In the course of her investigation, Elinborg is drawn into an old case, one involving the disappearance of a 19-year-old girl six years prior, and the possibility that the two cases are tied together.

Having been steadily absorbing reading for more than the first half of the book, it suddenly becomes more intriguing as the plot turns more complex, and maintains that level till the denouement. This is a powerful book, consistent with all this author's prior work, and highly recommended.

Fangs Out
David Freed
Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Rd., Sag Harbor, NY 11963
9781579623333, $29.95,

From its title, I was largely ambivalent and didn't know what to expect from this new book by David Freed. So lest you have the same uncertainty, fear not, dear reader, and allow me to quote from its pages: "There's an expression among fighter jocks that described what I was feeling, the adrenaline-fueled determination to close with the enemy and destroy him. They call it 'Fangs out.'" Let me also assure you that what awaits you in those pages is a delightful, very enjoyable novel, which along the way will enlighten you with some obscure facts such as why vultures are bald.

Cordell Logan (just "Logan" to one and all) is many things: broke, a self-described "Buddhist work in progress . . . striving to become one with the universe," adding "I had a long way to go before attaining true enlightenment . . . How does a man prone to violence by nature and training embrace a religion that preaches peace above all else?"). A recovering alcoholic, he now runs a flight school as an instructor in his beloved 1973 Cessna, the Ruptured Duck, which looks like "a homeless person with wings," and is still in love with his ex-wife who years ago had left him for his best friend. His past includes having played wide receiver for the Air Force Academy; later a National Security "go-to" guy (read "assassin") whose job was "chasing bad people to the dark corners of the globe in the name of national security."

Logan is hired by Hub Walker, Lt. Col. USAF Retired, a "living legend" and "one of less than 100 living recipients of America's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor," whose daughter, a beautiful young woman who had been second in her class in Annapolis, had been murdered. The man convicted of her murder had just been put to death by lethal injection. The problem was that just before the sentence was carried out, he stated that the actual murderer was a close friend, whose integrity and reputation had suffered greatly as a result. Hub's job? "Validating the innocence of a man falsely accused." No easy task.

Thoroughly entertaining, the book is recommended.

Gods and Beasts
Denise Mina
Reagan Arthur Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316188524, $25.99,

Alex Morrow, DS with the Strathclyde police, is back in the newest book by this Scottish author. The twins with whom Morrow was pregnant in the last book, the wonderful "The End of the Wasp Season," are now a few months old. As the new book opens, she is deep into what is referred to as "the Barrowfields investigation," when a new case comes her way: One week before Christmas, during the course of an armed robbery in a busy Glasgow post office, an elderly man who was patiently waiting in line suddenly is seen to assist the gunman, but not before handing his young grandson to a stranger, soon after which the grandfather is brutally murdered by the robber, who makes a clean escape. The only clue the police have is the fact that the alarm system was not working the morning of the crime. And the additional fact that the innocent bystander to whom the young boy was entrusted turns out to be much more complex than he at first appears.

I have had nothing but praise for the several earlier novels by Ms. Mina that I have read, and would like to say that this newest book was equally wonderful. But I have to admit that I found it slow-moving and felt almost disjointed, as the several story lines unfold, including rampant control of the city by gangs (mostly involved in the drug trade, said to be worth more than a billion pounds a year in Scotland); police corruption; and a goodly amount of political discussion. The final pieces don't fall into place until nearly the very last page. I should perhaps add that Paddy Meehan, the protagonist of several of Ms. Mina's earlier books, makes a couple of peripheral appearances here.

I will still look forward to future offering from this author, but this one didn't come up to the high level reached by its predecessors for this reviewer. Oh, and should one wonder, the title is from Aristotle: "Those who live outside the city walls, and are self-sufficient, are either Gods or Beasts."

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

The Golden Queen
David Farland
Amazon Digital Services
B005SJR420, $5.99,

The Golden Queen is a mix, both in genre and in publishing. The e-story is a re-issue of a two decade old book. The e-formatting is poor. Worlds are blended together, lines a left hanging, misspellings... can all be found on multiple pages. The formatting problems stem from not properly proofing a digital file after conversion to the e-reading format. A degree of these problems are expected when an individual tries to do all of the editing that a publishing staff usually does but the editing here is more than what should be expected. The story itself is a solid mix of science/fantasy. The tale is well constructed and unusual. For the fantasy/SF reader it is a tale worth looking for.

On a primitive world of humans and intelligent creatures lives Gallen O'Day. Gallen is a professional escort protecting merchants and others from thieves and scoundrels. A mysterious woman with her protector traveling between worlds needs his help and protection. Gallen, a barmaid and an intelligent bear get swept up in a race between planets to save tens of thousands of worlds from oppression.

For the fantasy and SF reader this book is a nice find. It is well constructed and plotted. It starts as a fantasy tale and the science portions build into the story in a nice twist. The fantasy science blend harkens back to a more classical style of SF. The story depends on the character development and moral dilemmas of cultures and individuals. Unfortunately these key ideas are not as well developed as they could be. If you can put aside the poor formatting of the story, this book is an easy recommendation for the fantasy or SF reader.

The Catalyst
Chris Reher
Amazon Digital Services
9781991698523, $3.25,

This is your classic spy/suspense tale that just happens to be set in a science fiction world and not in a contemporary location. The story's character development and underlying storyline could easily have been written about a contemporary setting or even a historical one. The reason why a SF story works so well with this type of topic is that you can remove many social and personal biases by taking the story outside of the real world and you can also use fantasy situations to highlight your specific character interactions. Reher does a good job with the character development that is reminiscent of many classic SF societal storylines.

Lieutenant Nova Whiteside is serving as part of a protection squad for a biological creature being transported between planets. The carrier she is on is attacked by pirates and the sealed container housing the creature is broken. The creature lives in an atmosphere poisonous to most life forms and the ship's atmosphere is poisonous to it. The dying creature injects Nova with a catalyst it was carrying. An old lover, Seth, came aboard the ship with the pirates and he whisks her away from the dying crew and passengers. Nova must find out who told the pirates to attack her and the ship before dying form the catalyst in her blood.

The Catalyst is a throwback to a classic SF stories where the character interactions and development is as much of the tale as the science fiction. It is an easy recommendation for those looking for this classic SF storyline or for any standard suspense reader looking to tryout the SF genre. The sexual scenes will make this story a little much for preteens but the classic storyline can be enjoyed by teens to adults.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Heidi's Bookshelf

4 Ingredients Kids: Simple, Healthy Fun in the Kitchen
Kim McCosker
Atria Paperback
c/o Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781451677997, $16.00,

Appealing and Accessible: A Great Way to Start Children on the Road to Independence

Getting kids to eat can be a challenge. Personality, changing bodies, and a variety of challenges can make healthy meals a difficulty. Ms. McCosker does a great job putting together recipes that are accessible for parents, children, and manageable meals for busy families. Another goal she makes accessible is getting kids into the kitchen. You'll find the layout is easy to use and each recipe includes great, illustrative pictures.

Roommates are a common experience for many young adults. I didn't realize until I started sharing an apartment what a great job my mother did preparing her children for independence. A number of roommates over the years had no idea how to shop and/or cook. Preparing balanced meals was beyond the basic information of a number of my companions.

I love how Ms. McCosker put together a collection of recipes that parents can prepare together. Likewise, children can master many of the recipes at a young age and carry them into adulthood. As a person's tastes mature, the recipes lend themselves to successful experimentation.

One recipe I tried caught my attention due to the unusual combination of ingredients: canned dulche de leche, egg, butter, and flour - no added moisture! Based on our experience with the recipe, young taste buds will enthusiastically embrace the results. Adults found the texture a bit odd as it was more like a muffin and less like a cake. Perhaps your family will have a different response to the "Caramel Cupcakes."

I found the "Brekky Bars" an interesting recipe. Although I had to bake the recipe much longer than recommended to get the bars to brown, we ate all of them. I'd also vary things with different dried fruit and other options. I highly recommend trying this recipe for your crew that's hungry in the morning.

The "Chicken Orchard Sammie" met with a similar response. The recipe as it stands is adequate for adults and perfect for children. The adults voted for a touch of mustard and champagne vinegar to properly age the recipe. The requests also indicated a variety of ways kids can adapt the recipes to their own tastes over time.

If you need ideas for children-friendly recipes you will find a number of ideas. The majority of the recipes call for ingredients you'll already have on hand. Fast, accessible solutions for the hungry youngsters around you are plentiful in this cookbook.

Week in a Day: Five Dishes, One Day
Rachael Ray
c/o Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781451659757, $TBA,

The Flavors Converted Me

Years ago I had two Rachael Ray cookbooks with those thirty-minute meals that were the foundation of her empire. However, in about two years I was tired of the books. The flavor combinations went flat quickly and so many people were using her recipes I experienced less satisfaction making and sharing the results. I opted out of the growing Rachael Ray fan-club.

Last year, her Burger Book came out. Even my husband saw the review copy arrive and sighed; later he had a long list of recipes to try. The trend continued with this cookbook. I chose recipes scattered through the book rather than completing an entire week-group. Regardless, each of the three recipes hit a home run.

First, we tried "Sausage, Pumpkin & Arborio Soup." An unexpected combination and variation in method caught my attention. The flavor combination was unexpected and successful. Although it felt a little out of season, pumpkin season will definitely be more interesting with another great recipe on hand for the bounty.

Although I've seen many gazpacho recipes this summer from a variety of sources, the "Yellow Tomato Gazpacho with Toasted Almond Bread Crumbs" gave me another flavorful option for using up all the summer veggies. The yellow color is a nice change and the serrano chili pepper is also a small tweak the gives this recipe its own personality in the family.

While many of the recipes were good, solid base hits, the "Mexican Brisket 'n' Biscuits" was a serious home run. The cooking process sets up the recipe to make a great sauce. The brisket was really good, and the sauce was drinkable. The cookbook is designed to make recipes stretch into other things and meals. We definitely used the sauce in a couple days. When you get this cookbook, you've got to make this dish.

The Flavorful Kitchen Cookbook: 101 Amazing 3-Ingredient Flavor Combinations
Robert & Molly Krause
Fair Winds Press
c/o Quayside Publishing Group
100 Cummings Center, Suite 406-L
Beverly, MA 01915-6101
9781592335893, $21.99,

Interesting Ideas Create Unexpected Results

I was intrigued to find the authors are based in Lawrence, Kansas. I lived in Kansas City for 17 years and Lawrence was where one found more liberals, interesting new restaurants, and the energy that comes with a large college campus. Many have said the food scene in Kansas City has improved since I left a number of years ago - of course the barbeque was always amazings.

I consistently found recipes in this book that intrigued me with unexpected flavor combinations. The "3-Ingredient" part of the title really refers more to dishes with three ingredients you wouldn't normally expect. The test recipes created flavor surprises; however, a number of testers found the results interesting but no one requested any of these recipes.

That was my overall response as well. On the other hand, I loved the layout: it's intelligent, useful, and accessible. The formatting of the Table of Contents is exceptional. If you're looking for new ideas in an easy-to-browse structure, this book excels in that way.

The "Za'atar Roasted Chicken" was tasty. Some home cooks may find the za'atar mixture a new spice mix. You likely will need to shop for the sumac. Know this is NOT the poison sumac commonly growing wild in different areas of the United States. The spice is very specific and has an interesting, usual flavor. I was disappointed a recipe for salt-cured lemons wasn't included with the option to use fresh lemons, salted, in the cavity of the chicken. Cured lemons are easy to make and a joy to use and keep them as a regular part of my pantry for a few years now. Overall the recipe is accessible, successful, and moderately interesting.

The dressing for the "Pretty in Pink Salad" is well worth a try. The combination of vegetables in the salad worked well and everyone agreed that the dressing was the star. A small food processor is a god-send for these blended dressings. You get extra flavor and nutrition with this combination.

"C-Spice Blend" was the most successful recipe tested. Blending the coffee with other spices created a finer rub so the coffee flavor integrated to a greater level than other recipes I've seen. Although tested on chicken, it seemed the rub would be a stronger match for pork or beef. The remaining rub is waiting for later in the month to test on another type of meat. If you've never used coffee and cocoa powder in a spice rub this is a good place to explore it in a successful combination.

Vegan Slow Cooking: For Two or Just for You
Kay Hester
Fair Winds Press
c/o Quayside Publishing Group
100 Cummings Center, Suite 406-L
Beverly, MA 01915-6101
9781592335633, $19.99,

A Slow-Cooker Education

Ms. Hester presents tasty, useful ideas in this cookbook. Vegetarian cooking has come a long ways in the past twenty years. This book is a good addition to the options. Even in our omnivore household the recipes provided good flavor combinations and some great ideas on additional techniques to use in your slow cooker.

I found one consistent thing I would change about the savory dishes. The addition of a small amount of fat to many of the recipes would be a big improvement for my tasters. While the low- or no-fat status of most of the recipes can be a beneficial health consideration, healthy fats are important to a balanced diet. However, that wasn't why this addition is valuable: it improves the experience of eating the vegan dish. Just a small amount in many cases changed the mouth-feel and increased satisfaction. Coconut oil worked well, and of course a small splash of olive oil could also be used.

One technique, oiling the crock before loading in the ingredients, is now my new go-to approach. It worked very well. Clean up was easy even with something with a huge potential for stickiness such as chili with groats. I learned many things from this cookbook - perhaps others will find new ideas and how to apply them.

Most of the recipes also are broken down into two steps: the long-cooking part of the recipe and the short-cooking part of the recipe. The second group of steps, with a shorter cook time, happen between twenty and thirty minutes before serving. This accomplishes a number of objectives: stops softer, starchy elements from cooking down and becoming invisible; and a fresher layer of flavor is added so not everything bears the quintessential color and texture of slow-cooker recipes.

"White Bean Quinoa Gumbo" is a great demonstration of mastering the first technique. Quinoa cooked 7-9 hours would add to the recipe but would reach the slurry stage of integration. By adding the grain 30 minutes before serving it retains some individuality. The spices are well balanced, the meal successful overall while highlighting the value of a little fat in a recipe.

The "Tomatillo and White Bean Chili" worked well - the second time I made it but that might be due to a small slow-cooker's swan song. I liked how the tomatillo added a bright high note to the chili. I'll definitely keep this idea in my regular arsenal. We did add many additional vegetables to the leftovers for the follow-up meal. For me the result increased my menu satisfaction. The spice profile is successful and I love the subtle color from the cooked green fruit.

The favorite recipe, however, was the "Bean & Oat Chili." I chose this one as I'd never put groats (steel cut oats as the substitution) in my chili before. The recipe instructs one to cook the sweet potato whole within the chili. Another new technique showing how the author thought in layers or compartments to really make her recipes stand out. Serving the chili over the sweet potato worked exceptionally well. The texture of the sweet potato will help any of your non-vegan eaters to get on board with the recipe. For the leftovers we stirred in a small amount of Ghee and the response was positive. You may find that a little vegan margarine will do the job for you.

Heidi Sue Roth

Janet's Bookshelf

The Partner Track
Helen Wan
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250019578, $25.99 hc / $11.04 Kindle,

Climbing the corporate ladder is hard, one rung up, two rungs back, not uncommon for even the brightest of young men. If you're a woman, then the rungs are not only further apart they're damn slippery. Women (colour can be a problem, white is best) who make it to the top, face a discriminatory glass ceiling; falter when trying to shatter it and the white males deciding who joins them up where the air is rarified, may inflict cuts on the downward descent. Yup, the jungle is not only out there, it's up there as well.

Ingrid Yung, a thirty three year old associate lawyer, is the narrator of Helen Wan's debut novel, The Partner Track. Chinese American, Ingrid works for corporate law firm, Parsons Valentine & Hunt and is the firm's poster girl for their recruiting brochures. On track for partnership, Ingrid is living proof that Parsons Valentine not only believe in equal opportunity, it happens.

Ingrid is ambitious, she has worked/slaved for the firm for 12 years and figures while virtue is its own reward it's really only applicable to Mother Teresa. In the real world of corporate politics, working hard is good but fitting in is better. And oh-my-goodness, Ingrid has turned fitting in into an art form.

An intelligent sensitive child, she observed the discrimination suffered by her Chinese born parents and decided it wouldn't happen to her and a law career was the way forward and, at whatever cost, she would fit in - unaccented English, work clothes not too stuffy, not too sexy and most important: be accepted by the boys. Ingrid fits in so well at Parsons Valentine the boys even tell dirty jokes when she's around - seriously boring but all part of the game plan.

And then it happens; Ingrid, up for partnership selection, attends the firm's annual summer outing and witnesses a crass exhibition of racism by three young white male employees. While a few of the firm's partners are horrified, most look the other way and the perpetrators escape meaningful punishment. It is only when the offensive racist parody is reported in the newspapers that the firm takes action.

Parsons Valentine announce a 'Diversity Initiative' and who better to be the centerpiece for their attempt to regain acknowledgement of an unprejudiced employment policy than Ingid? A 'twofer' (Asian and a woman), Ingrid is attractive, smart and has the right attitude - ignores the slings and arrows of outrageous white males to always put the firm first.

Only problem is: Ingrid's already snowed under working on a deal of huge importance both in prestige and dollars to Parsons Valentine. Marty Adler, the partner in charge of the deal, requests Ingrid join the diversity initiative, intimating she's only one step from her goal of partnership.

Reluctantly, Ingrid agrees and feeling isolated and lonely, breaks the firm's rule of no romance with a fellow employee by becoming involved with another associate. Long working hours, becoming longer, the affair segues into minefield territory. Doesn't matter - everything will work out when her name is added to the Parsons Valentine partnership list.

Ingrid's mostly worry free ascension of the Parsons Valentine corporate ladder runs into trouble deep; the penultimate rung shaky, the prize at the top, moves further and further away.

I liked Ingrid a lot and really wanted to interrupt her climb to give a little career advice about Parsons Valentine, boyfriends and ladders per se. I underestimated her though, Ingrid is way ahead of the game and after a reversal that would have had most taking a nasty tumble, she triumphs in a conclusion that is unexpected and exciting. Not ashamed to say the last chapter had me cheering - one to the good gals.

The author, Helen Wan, with a background in corporate law, has created realistic characters and an involving, suspenseful story set around the racial and sexual politics that exist in corporations.

Whether you've a mind to climb a corporate ladder or not, The Partner Track is a great read - well done Helen and Ingrid.

Grains Of Truth
Lydia Crichton
Barringer Publishing
9780988203495, $14.95,

The cover of Lydia Crichton's new book, Grains Of Truth advertises it as a novel of suspense and it is suspenseful but at the heart of the story is the main character, Julia Grant's love for two men, a devout married Muslim and an arms dealer of indeterminate background and intention. This book would be better classified as romantic suspense.

The romance, written with an eye to emotions rather than body parts is suitable for your maiden aunt, who will enjoy it, as I did for its realistic depiction of Julia's dilemma - who to choose; the younger, dark eyed, married lover or the mysterious older man, whose line of work is anathema to Julia's pacifist convictions.

The suspense begins when Julia, a longtime traveler to Egypt, is approached by US Intelligence to sub for an agent located in Egypt who has inexplicably gone missing. The disappearance of the agent would have been enough for me to say, 'Thanks, but no thanks. I'm washing my hair all this year.' Julia though, swallows the major-terrorist-threat-Uncle-Sam-needs-you line of the intelligence agent and signs on for the Pres. and her country.

As the details of her previous trips to Egypt and romance with Mohamed Zahar are known to US Intelligence, Julia's cover story will be that of a writer researching a book on places of antiquity. Zahar, unaware of Julia's mission has been hired as her guide.

Julia is met in Cairo by Zahar and despite the impossibility of a life together discovers she still loves him, accepting Zahar's offer of second wife in a Muslim menage a trois is though, quite a stretch.

Warned not to tell anyone about her intelligence task, Julia decides to stick to the script - make contact with an agent who will give her information about a terrorist threat which threatens all out war in the Middle East. Zahar and their complicated love affair will have to wait.

The author interleaves some interesting descriptions of Egyptian street scenes and characters as Julia trawls ancient sites with Zahar, their interaction fraught with misunderstanding and unconsummated passion.

Julia makes contact with an Egyptian man who after giving her information is murdered. To avoid being caught up in a police investigation, Julia and Zahar flee the scene, boarding a cruise boat ferrying tourists along the Nile.

At dinner that evening, Julia meets Alexander Bryant, an attractive man of mystery. Julia suspects that pealing back a layer of Alexander's magnetic charm will reveal a criminal past and present. He is though, a spunk and now Julia has two men in her life.

From here on in things start becoming unpleasant, Julia becomes aware of a horrific terrorist plot which, if it goes ahead, will cause widescale death and destruction. Frightened and sure her life is in danger, Julia doesn't know who to trust and phones home for instruction.

The reply, 'Stay put, the cavalry is coming' reassures Julia, until all hell breaks loose in an action packed conclusion where one false step could lead to annihilation.

The plot themed around the clash of cultural and religious beliefs in the Middle East, refreshingly, the author, Lydia Crichton, attempts to explain fairly the motives and actions of terrorist groups and the reasons behind the mistakes western countries have made in trying to implement policies that only add fuel to the seemingly never ending conflict.

Grains of Truth, an interesting read is set in a region where truth comes packaged in many different forms, grains are just one of them.

Heroism in the Forest, The Jewish Partisans of Belarus
Zeev Barmatz
Moshe Alon
KIP - Kotarim International Publishing Ltd.
c/o Moshe Alon, Publisher
Glil Yam, Israel 4690500
9789657589014, $16.95 pbk. / $9.50 Kindle,

Heroism In The Forest is not a work of great literary merit, it is though, a work of great humanity; a testament to the suffering and bravery of Jewish men, women and children whose villages were overrun by the German Army's advance into Soviet Russia in the area now known as Belarus during WWII.

It is also a testimony to the bestiality and greed of the German forces as they moved Jewish people from villages where they had lived for generations to herd them into overcrowded ghettoes where starvation, transportation to a labour camp or death by firing squad was the most likely outcome.

As Jewish families marched to internment in ghettoes, German soldiers and Russian neighbours stole their possessions - heartbreaking for families to watch as people they had lived alongside for years ransacked their homes - incomprehensible as well. During WWII the German Army treated Russian people very badly; using civilians to check areas for mines resulted in horrific injuries and deaths in local communities. Why not then join with Jews against the common enemy? The answer lies in Russia's centuries old antisemitism; government sanctioned raids/pogroms on villages and unfair laws which restricted education, employment and living areas for Russian Jews.

Author, Zeev Barmatz's intention in Heroism in the Forest is to dispel the myth that Jews did not fight back during the years 1941-45 but allowed themselves to be dispossessed and passively marched to their deaths. Barmatz concentrates on the Jewish ghettoes which were set up around the densely treed Belarus forests, presenting facts and figures along with survivor accounts of the Jewish resistance movements which were formed to harry and halt the German Army's advance into Russian territory and importantly, rescue Jews from starvation and death in the ghettoes.

The true stories of life in the German run ghettoes and the forming of the partisan units are both tragic and awe-inspiring. There is a great deal of sadness in the realization that some Jewish village leaders did not accept the expressed German intention of religious genocide and thought that if they offered money or waited for a miracle they would be spared. Money doesn't last forever and miracles are hard to come by, entire Jewish populations of some Belarus villages were cold-bloodedly slaughtered.

These murderous events hardened the resolve of Jews to escape the ghettoes and create partisan camps in the forest. It's fair to say some Russian farmer's did provide support (not nearly enough) and with a small amount of help, little food or weapons and enormous amounts of courage, Jewish villagers succeeded in forming, deep within the forests, fighting communities that became a threat to German patrols stationed in the area. They also tracked and killed Russians and Lithuanian soldiers who for a sack of potatoes or German patronage betrayed or killed Jews escaping from the ghettoes to join the resistance.

There were other partisan groups in the forests, made up of Russian soldiers cut off from their units by the speed of the German advance and local villagers. Jewish partisans were wary of these groups with good reason; they often killed Jews who had escaped the ghettoes to join the forest fighters. Once again: incomprehensible. Incredible to believe that prejudice can run so deep that ridding the area of Jews was as welcome in some communities as the defeat of the German occupation forces.

Despite the betrayal of Russian partisans and the certain knowledge that capture by a German patrol meant torture and death, Jewish partisan groups flourished, attacking German positions and rescuing many Jews from imprisonment and death. The Bielski brothers, Tuvia, Zus and Asael, formed a particularly successful forest camp and are credited with saving many Jewish lives.

Women and children joined the forest groups - the children acting as messengers between the partisans and the ghettoes. Barmatz acknowledges the importance of Jewish women in the partisan movement - the backbone of the camps, they cooked, sewed, cared for the children and elderly, and created a welcoming environment for the men and boys returning from battle.

In writing Heroism in the Forest, Zeeve Barmatz has recorded the true story of Jewish partisans who lived, worked and fought during WWII in the forests of Belarus. In so doing, he acknowledges and honours the courage and indomitable spirit of those who were trapped where the light of human goodness rarely shone. To say the actions of the partisans were awe-inspiring is not nearly enough - read the stories and find out.

Janet Walker, Reviewer

Karyn's Bookshelf

Brian Floca, author and illustrator
Atheneum Books
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781416994152, $17.99,

It's summer 1869, and a family is headed west on the newly completed transcontinental railroad. From the first audible hisssssssss of the approaching locomotive, the journey from Omaha to Sacramento is chronicled and illustrated in breathtaking detail. Young readers learn all about the hot, dangerous jobs of crew members and about cabin peculiarities (the toilet is a hole to outside). Technical details abound about everything from brakes to boilers to the links and pins that connected the cars. Awe-inspiring starry nights roll by on the Great Plains, when "those up late hear her whistle, her wild and lonesome cry." There are rickety wooden bridges, tenuous mountain descents and deep blasted tunnels. Special details, like the end papers that include reproductions of Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroad advertisements and other historic facts, plus a bonus spread about steam power, lend wonderful depth. Wrapping the book around a young family, that is traveling west to meet up with their father to begin a new life, lends warmth and heart. Beautiful.

What Came From the Stars
Gary D. Schmidt, author
Clarion Books
c/o Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780547612133, $16.99,

In a far distant galaxy, a desperate warrior tosses a precious necklace into space, before it can fall into the hands of his enemies. It lands after a long journey in the lunch box of sixth-grader Tommy Pepper of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Soon, it is changing Tommy in ways that he can't explain. Now, someone has come to Earth in search of the necklace. Alternating chapters weave a story of two colliding worlds. In archaic prose, that can sometimes be hard to wade through, we learn of the plight of the Valorim. In much more accessible modern language, we learn about Tommy, his sister and their father, who are mourning the recent death of their mother. Complicating matters, a developer wants their ramshackle beachfront home for condominiums. It's the chapters that focus on Tommy's world, that are the heart and soul of the story. The familiy's grief is palpable, as is the sadness of a lonely extraterrestrial sea monster that Tommy unwittingly creates out of sand, and the fear of the entire community as houses are ransacked by those who want the necklace. Throughout the book, there's an underlying message about the beauty found in art such as music and painting. But the true beauty of this sort-of sci-fi tale is that of a family finding its way after unspeakable tragedy.

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made
Stephan Pastis, author and illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763660505, $14.99,

If 'Timmy Failure' was just a loose-knit story about an elementary school detective, it would still be hilarious. But Timmy's struggles and insecurities lend surprising depth. Money issues force Timmy and his single mother to move to a small apartment. She begins dating. Academics aren't Timmy's strong suit, a wealthy classmate has started a competing detective agency and he has borrowed without permission - and then lost - his mother's Segway. All situations that older elementary school readers will relate to. But then throw in the hilarious and absurd. Timmy's business partner is a garbage-eating polar bear and he's surrounded by an oddball cast of characters, from Rollo, who spends all his time studying, to the flighty Molly Moskins to the heavy-lidded, villainous competitor, Corrina Corrina, to his aging, checked-out teacher, Old Man Crocus. Cartoon drawings add to the fun as Timmy desperately tries to unravel the mystery of what happened to the Segway, and tries to make sense of an often confusing world. Laugh out loud funny. A great new hero.

Karyn Saemann, Reviewer

Katherine's Bookshelf

Black Eagle Force: Blood Ivory
Buck Stienke, Ken Farmer, & Doran Ingrham
Timber Creek Press
312 N Commerce St.
Gainesville, Texas 76240
9780984882083, $16.99,

I have been privileged to read all of the Black Eagle Force novels by Buck Stienke and Ken Farmer and comment on them. In my opinion, Blood Ivory is the best, so far. I don't know if it is by accident, the premise, their learning curve or the addition of a third writer, Doran Ingrham, or all of the above. You can make up your mind when you have read it. You will not be able to put it down until you find out what happens.

Senator Brietbart and his daughter are kidnapped while on a photo safari in Kenya by elephant and rhino horn poachers. The BEF joins Mark Ingram, a Kenyan Wildlife Service agent and inactive US Marine on the trail of the kidnappers in Kenya. They work together to save the Senator and his daughter. (Not a spoiler, we knew that was going to happen.)

At the same time, the honeymoon trip of the President's two sons and their wives on the maiden voyage of the Royal Pleiades, the largest cruise ship in the world, is abruptly brought to a halt with a hijacking in the Indian Ocean. The ship is hi-jacked by al Queda and Somali pirates and the intrepid BEF agents work to get the ship back. (Not a spoiler here, either, we knew it was going to happen.) Read how the BEF agents foil the plans of the perpetrators with some BEF tactics combined with some MacGyver devices. President Annette Thompson, the mother of the two grooms, calls on the BEF to help with handling these predicaments.

"Once the Black Eagle Force has recaptured the Indian vessel and it is under our protection...I want you to turn your best efforts into decimating the Somali piracy threat... once and for all."

"I'm honored to accept the responsibility, Madame President, Mr. Secretary. What are the ROEs?"

"There are none, General White. There are none."

Thus begins the beginning of the end - or does it? Do the two stories merge or not? You will have to read the book to learn how it all happens and the end result. You will feel as if you are a member of this elite force as you follow the BEF on another exciting clandestine mission (or two).

Buck Stienke is a retired captain and fighter pilot for the United States Air Force and a graduate from the Air Force Academy. He was a pilot for Delta Airlines for over 25 years and also executive producer of the award winning film Rockabilly Baby.

Ken Farmer served in the Marine Corps and graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University. Ken has been a professional actor, writer and director with memorable roles in Silverado, Friday Night Lights and Uncommon Valor. He continues to write and direct award-winning films, including Rockabilly Baby.

Doran Ingrham's former life included the USMC, Risk Management/Close Security Specialist and extensive experience dealing with terrorists. He has appeared in commercials, TV and films. He now lives with his wife in an undisclosed location.

Grandpa Jack
Jeff Hampton
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781622951055, $17.99,

What if happenstance catapulted you into the national spotlight as a "third party candidate" for president of the United States? That is exactly what happened to Jack Dodger in Grandpa Jack by Jeff Hampton. Jack is an almost 70 year-old, retired man who just wanted to play cards with his friends in the back of his "retirement" barbershop business and spend time with his granddaughter, Wendy, dubbed by Jack as his "Little Blossom" and his constant canine companion, Blackie. What ensues is a sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes passionate run for the presidency with a motley crew of people as advisors and the backing of the Golden Eagles, a national organization of senior citizens.

The campaign workers had to make decisions on a "platform", make plans on how and where to campaign and most of all pick a running mate for Jack. When Wendy volunteered to be the VP candidate, media aide Billy Briar used that to answer questions about the search.

"Jack did not like playing verbal games and initially he was uneasy with the implied meaning of the statement - that they had talked to a "real" contender. But Billy reasoned that they had indeed spoken to a candidate - even though she was just in grade school - and in truth they had not heard from others yet, though they had no idea who those others were."

With this accomplished, they began to campaign in earnest. The road to the White House was filled with surprises, meeting new people and winning them over to their way of thinking. How did Jack run his campaign? What promises did he make? What were the obstacles and rallying points? Will he make it all of the way to the White House and the Presidency? Read this stimulating and attention-grabbing take on the presidency to see what happens.

Grandpa Jack is a quick, enjoyable read. You will enjoy the premise put forth as well as the tale of this senior citizen hero. I know I did and I am looking forward to future books like this from Mr. Hampton.

Jeff Hampton has covered election campaigns and the civic and business leaders who have shaped the Greater Dallas region. His bylines have appeared in publications such as the Dallas Morning News and The New York Times. He is the author/editor of several regional and corporate history books. He is the co-creator of "The Last Cowboy" an award winning stage play. He now lives in old downtown Garland with his wife, LeAnn.

Katherine Boyer

Mayra's Bookshelf

Pelican Bay
Jesse Giles Christiansen
Imajin Books
4561 Olde Perimeter Way, Unit #2302
Atlanta, GA, 30346
1927792126, $13.99 pbk. / $3.99 Kindle,

Part suspense novel, part literary mystery, Pelican Bay is an original story set in a small, forlorn beach town in South Carolina.

The tale begins with our young protagonist, Ethan Hodges, discovering a sunken cemetery just off the beach that could very well be four centuries old. Compelled to find answers, he begins to ask questions to an old, quirky fisherman named Captain Shelby, a man thought crazy by the town. However, it soon becomes clear that the old grandfatherly figure wants the past to remain buried, and he doesn't waste time in making that clear to Ethan.

Of course, Ethan doesn't listen, in spite of the fact that "the old man guards that spot like a great secret -- a secret perhaps he'd kill to protect."

Morgan Olinsworth, a beautiful girl Ethan has loved ever since he can remember, joins in the investigation, and soon the young couple begin to unearth secrets, secrets that are better left hidden under the sea...

Then, Captain Shelby is suspected of murder and disappears, and it isn't long before unsettling discoveries are made, discoveries that shock Pelican Bay.

The South Carolina coast comes to life in this well-written, well-crafted story by Jesse Giles Christiansen. I was engrossed from the start by the sense of mystery, as well as by the magical, eerie sound of the sea. Ethan and Morgan are sympathetic characters and I loved the eccentric wisdom and quirkiness of Captain Shelby. The author did an excellent job with the old fisherman's mannerisms and use of dialect.

The tone and atmosphere gave me a haunting feeling about old secrets better left untouched. If you're looking for a different mystery, give this one a try. Recommended.

Room of Tears
Linda Merlino
Imajin Books
3715-14 Street NW Edmonton, AB, Canada T6T 0H9
9781927792087, $13.99 pbk. / $3.99 ebook,

Room of Tears is a spiritual story about heroes, miracles, and faith. It's also a story about love, death, and tragedy.

In the summer of 2041, 71-year-old Diane O'Connor invites Friar Antonio Ortiz to her home in Queens. The reason is nothing short of mysterious: she has a request for him, which entails giving him a letter and a recording that was made right after the tragedy of September 11, 2001.

Friar Antonio is the friend of Diane's son, Peter, whom she believes to be destined to become the first American Pope. Diane's request is for Antonio to keep the two items until Peter is ready to accept his Papacy.

From Diane and Antonio's conversation while he's at her home, a mystery is slowly unfolded - though not completely, for it isn't until decades later when Antonio gives the letter and recording to Peter that everything is revealed, to the shock of not only these two characters but also the reader.

Through Diane's account, diary entries, the letter, and the recording, the reader is taken back in time to when Diane's firefighter husband and Peter's father, Billy, died during 9/11.

Merlino is a talented writer and some segments of the book are written in a truly lyrical, insightful way. It's clear the author put a lot of time and craft in her creation, which I read took her six years to research and write.

Diane and Friar Antonio are both compelling characters, and I was engrossed by their conversations as the mystery was slowly revealed through some very interesting dialogue. The chapters move at a steady pace that well suits this type of novel where theme and characterization have a heavier hand than plot.

In short, this was an unusual, out-of-the-ordinary read that I enjoyed. The reason I'm giving this review 4 stars instead of 5 is that the ending, while surprising and unexpected, didn't resonate with me.

Mayra Calvani

Paul's Bookshelf

Tesseracts Sixteen: Parnassus Unbound
Mark Leslie, editor
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB T2P 2L7 Canada
9781894063920, $15.95,

This latest collection of speculative fiction stories and poems from canada focuses on the subjects of culture and the arts.

A long-time rock music fan is looking for the ultimate AC/DC bootleg tape, which may or may not actually exist. There is a story about language (not any particular language, but language in general) being intelligent. In a world where genetic engineering has eradicated most congenital diseases, the next genetic abnormality to be eradicated is the "art gene." A famous composer lives alone on a space station orbiting Saturn. His final composition involves playing Saturn's rings like an instrument.

There is a poem called "Zombie Poet". A pair of stories explore the world of dance. The first is about a special kind of memory cloth that can transfer insanity to a sane person, and the other concerns a dance competition between humans and aliens. A woman returns to her high school for her 60th high school reunion. She became a famous singer, and she meets up with an old boyfriend (she is white, and he is black). Muses are treated like intestinal parasites, and removed from people, but destroying them is not easy. A man has rented an isolated cabin in British Columbia to write a novel, but what is on the page becomes a little too real. Another story is about genetic engineering, but, this time, humanity has abolished moods, in effect making Prozac permanent. A desperate attempt is made to bring artists about to die forward in time to provide a dying humanity with emotion and creativity.

This is yet another first-rate collection of stories from Canada. All parts of "the arts" are covered, in very unique ways. Individually, these stories are excellent; together, this book is highly recommended.

Give and Take
Adam M. Grant
Viking Press
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014
9780670026555, $27.95,

American business is supposed to be a tough, ultra-competitive arena where only the strong survive, and nice guys get trampled, right? According to this book, that is not totally true.

This book looks at three different kinds of people. Takers claim as much value for themselves as possible. If, for instance, they are the CEO, they are the sort of person who has a full page picture of themselves in the company's annual report, where most other CEO's will have a much smaller picture in their annual report. Takers are very deferential to superiors, and very mean and inconsiderate to subordinates. They use words like I, me and mine, as if they single-handedly caused their company to have a profitable year.

Matchers aim to trade value evenly, as if they want to keep their spiritual inbox and outbox equal. Givers contribute to others without expecting anything in return.

The giving could involve something like arranging a business introduction, or mentoring a younger employee. There is a fine line between being a giver and a doormat; a giver must also make sure that their business duties are not being ignored. In the short term, takers may do better than givers, but, in the long term, a giver's networking, collaboration and leadership skills will come to the forefront. A giver uses words like we, us and ours.

How can a person increase their giving capacity? Take a test to see just how much of a giver you really are. Start a reciprocity ring at work. A group of employees meet weekly to make requests of each other. The intention is that everyone do what they can to fulfill those requests. It may seem a bit silly, but someone in your circle may know someone who knows someone who can fulfill your request. Publicly recognize givers at work. If you would rather give on your own, start a Personal Generosity Experiment.

This is a very thought-provoking book, which shows that nice people can finish first. The average CEO, or division head, could do a lot worse than read this book, and start to implement its recommendations.

Modern Disciples (Volume 1)
Ian Anderson
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd., #515
Parker CO 80134
9781432772703, $15.95,

In a world where the gods of antiquity take human form and have been mating with present-day humans, one man begins to learn his destiny.

Ryan Hunter has been on his own for most of his life. One night, while accompanying a bounty hunter, Ryan sees some very strange things, and feels his godly "abilities" awakened within him. He soon finds himself, along with five other Disciples, in a hotel conference room in Orlando, Florida. Each are sitting next to their godly parents. It is not just Greek gods who are alive and well, but gods from many other cultures, including Norse, Aztec and Japanese.

The six are given a mission. They must travel into the Everglades, and kill a very special alligator. After several days trudging through the swamps, they find the alligator. Think of a giant, mutant alligator on steroids (that can climb trees). Later, the group finds a small town where they think can rest and recuperate for a few days. Strange things are going on in the town. All the women are dressed in very revealing outfits, and they all have blank looks on their faces. There are separate gatherings for men and women every night. Attendance, even by visitors, is expected. The group has to fight their way out of town.

Back at the same hotel conference room, the group learns of a fancy charity ball happening in the hotel. The organization's official address is an abandoned warehouse, and the people listed as the Board of Directors are all dead (no, they're not zombies). The group infiltrates the ball, and learns that, among other beings, vampires are involved. Do all members of the group survive their tasks? Do any of the group, three men and three women, hookup with each other? Do they stay together, and become the newest group of superheroes?

This book is better than excellent. The author does it the right way from start to finish. It has action, it has weirdness, and it has lots of good writing. I am very interested in reading future books in this series.

Modern Disciples (Volume 2)
Ian Anderson
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd., #515
Parker CO 80134
9781432788964, $16.95,

This is part 2 of a series about a group of average humans who are actually offspring of the gods of antiquity. It is not just Greek gods, but also Norse, Japanese and Aztec gods, who are alive and well, and mating with present-day humans.

In this book, the group of six has been given three different tasks, forcing them to split up. Jane and Ryan head into the Nevada desert, looking for a drug factory that is creating a very powerful and very addictive drug. It happens to look and taste exactly like regular tap water.

After several days of hiking, they find the drug factory (by being taken prisoner). Among the other prisoners are several women who are used in all sorts of unspeakable ways, and members of a US Army unit who were ambushed while on a training exercise. They are guarded by a number of dark elves, and members of the Army unit who were induced to go over to the "dark side." It is run by Andre Wittenburg, the local crime boss, who knows exactly what Jane and Ryan really are.

To call conditions "brutal" is a huge understatement. Jane and Ryan free the other prisoners, and destroy the camp. They have to fight a mythical creature or two along the way. After a few days to recover, the six are back together and off to their next challenge. The tears of Freya (Norse goddess and Jane's mother) were encased in amber a millennia ago. It is very important that they not fall into the wrong hands. The group heads to a very restricted part of the Atlantic Ocean, just off the Florida Keys. It's the sort of place that no sane ship's captain would ever visit. There they meet another couple of mythical creatures (who really are not so mythical).

Most times, literary sequels are not as good as the previous book. That is not true in this case. If anything, this book is better than Volume 1, because the reader gets more of the back story. This is very much worth reading.

Ctrl Alt Delete
Mitch Joel
Business Plus
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781455523306, $27.99,

Digital technology and the Internet have changed American business from top to bottom (what else is new?). What can you, or your company, do to survive in this new landscape? This book gives some answers.

If your company doesn't already have a social media presence, forget about hiring some college kids to create one, while the rest of the company continues with its 20th century mentality. The entire company has to embrace social media, starting with the CEO. Most companies assume that they know who their customers are. Do some research, and find out for sure.

There are ways to measure, for instance, who visits your website, what pages they click on, and how long they stay. If your company is not already up to its eyeballs in analyzing such data, you are missing out on a lot of potentially useful information.

When you are talking to your customers, ask them how they stay connected. It's not a case of web or mobile or tablets being most important, but whatever screen the customer is using now. How can you make your customer's lives easier?

This book also looks at how individuals can thrive in this new landscape. It is very rare for a person to, for instance, grow up wanting to get into marketing, and then spend their entire career in marketing. It's even more unlikely for it to happen at one company. You career path is going to resemble a squiggly line. Embrace the squiggle.

As much as possible, get rid of cubicles and internal walls at your company. Encourage collaboration between different parts of your company. Such collaboration may create the new must have "killer app." The office itself is becoming less of a requirement, as it is now possible for a person's "office" to be anywhere they can use their laptop, tablet or smart phone.

Many books have been written about the new digital world. This one belongs high on the list. It is easy to read, and is full of information for employers and employees.

Star Power Astrology
Suzan Hayden
NorLights Press
762 State Road 458, Bedford IN 47421
9781935254805, $18.95,

"Star Power Astrology: Your Red Carpet Guide to Living a Totally Fabulous Life" shows how to look at your life through astrology. It also explores how famous people recognized their abilities and how those abilities were used.

The first thing a person must do is to have their natal chart created. It's much more specific than the average newspaper horoscope, in that it looks at the position of the planets at the exact date, time and place of your birth. It will help identify major obstacles in your life. The position of Saturn at the time of birth means a lot. The other planets of the solar system correspond to areas of your personality (any angles or connections between them can be very good, or very bad).

The author spends much of the book with astrological biographies of famous people, ranging from Elizabeth I to Albert Einstein to Lady Gaga. Read about their childhood challenges, and perhaps they will sound very familiar. After each negative part of their personality, the author lists ways that the reader can overcome such obstacles.

Here are some examples. If your Sun opposes Neptune, maybe one or both of your parents demeaned you when you were younger (like Angelina Jolie). Find someone you can trust who can help you decide if your goals make sense. If your Mercury is square with Uranus (like Lady Gaga), you have a know-it-all attitude with a short attention span. Ask yourself why are you rebelling; is it just to challenge authority? If your Sun opposes Jupiter, you tend to promise more than you can deliver (like Nostradamus). You need to learn your limitations and develop some self-control. If your Mercury opposes Pluto, you tend to obsess about everything (like Pablo Picasso). Think before you speak, especially when you feel emotional.

This is a very interesting book, and will help people, both astrology believers and skeptics, make their way through life. I admit to being an astrology skeptic, but I am always ready to change my mind. This is very much worth reading.

Son of Sedonia
Ben Chaney
TIPS Technical Publishing, Inc.
108 E. Main St., Suite 4
Carrboro NC 27510
9781890586232, $8.95,

This story is about a young man who is the spark needed to bring change to a near-future Earth.

Less than 100 years from now, Sedonia City is home to over 40 million people. It is a bright, shining city, with giant skyscrapers, and neural implants called meurals that can provide any needed distraction. On the other side of the half-mile high Border is the Rasalla slum. Home to another 20 million people, it was cut off from the Future like a diseased limb, and allowed to collapse. A gang called the T99 runs the slum. Among its residents are brothers Jogun and Matteo.

If an airship, for instance, from Sedonia City is unlucky enough to crash in Rasalla, within minutes it is stripped clean of every useful bit of electronics. Anyone found alive in the wreckage is quickly murdered. During a paramilitary crackdown to root out suspected "terrorists," Jogun is taken away. Matteo manages as best he can, until, several years later, he too is taken into custody (Matteo is not your average slum resident). He finds himself in a prison on the Moon, where the inmates are forced to mine an element called Helium-3. It seems that Sedonia City is in serious danger of using up the entire known supply. If the citizens lose their modern conveniences, things will get very unpleasant for those in power. While in prison, Matteo meets up with Jogun, who tells him some very interesting things about his origin.

The prisoners stage a jailbreak, hijack several ships and head back to Earth, where they plan to do something about their treatment by Sedonia City. It seesm like the entire Rasalla slum is in open rebellion, but not if Sedonia City's paramilitary force, the EXOs, have anything to say about it. There are many pitched battles.

Imagine this story as "Black Hawk Down" in the world of "Blade Runner." It's got heart, emotion, good writing and plenty of action. It is a gem of a book.

Dave Duncan
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB T2P 2L7 CANADA
9781894063906, $9.95,

Throughout history, there have always been people willing to risk large amounts of money looking for something lucrative in places where no one else is looking. Wildcatters are best known in the oil drilling industry. In the future, there is a different kind of wildcatter.

Mankind is starting to explore the galaxy, but not for the usual reasons. When unmanned probes report the discovery of a suitable planet, the race is on. There are corporations that specialize in visiting alien planets and looking for chemicals that can be turned into pharmaceuticals back on Earth. The risks are huge, and the profits uncertain. But, if a corporation finds something that becomes the future equivalent of a drug like Viagra or Lipitor, the payoff can be immense.

The spaceship "Golden Hind," part of the Mighty Mite Corporation, is racing to the planet Cacafuego. Having to spend more than a year in hyperspace, in the equivalent of a 2-bedroom apartment, makes relations among the crew very important. That is why the crew consists of 2 men, 2 women and 2 hermaphrodites. When they reach their destination, Galactic, the dominant corporation in the field, has put a beacon in orbit. But, it's a "beware of this planet" beacon, instead of a "stay away, this planet is ours" beacon. The crew of the Golden Hind decides to stick around, so Seth, the prospector of the crew, comes up with a very risky plan to land on Cacafuego.

That is not as easy as it sounds, because the planet is barely tolerable for humans. The temperatures are worse than tropical, the gravity is noticeably higher than on Earth and powerful hurricanes go over the potential landing site every couple of hours. The planet is also inhabited. While on the planet, Seth finds that Galactic has broken nearly every rule in the planetary exploration "book". Does Seth find anything potentially profitable? Does he even get off the planet alive?

This is a solid, well-done piece of writing. Duncan is a veteran writer who shows, once again, that he knows what he is doing. The reader will not go wrong with this short novel.

Vampyric Variations
Nancy Kilpatrick
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB T2P 2L7 Canada
9781894063944, $13.95,

Here is a collection of new and different vampire stories, written by one of the masters of the field.

For hundreds of years, a small village in Rumania has played host to an ancient man who does not seem to age. The job of taking care of him has fallen to one family; the responsibility is passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter. He is kept in a cage, and deliberately kept weak, so he will not be a threat to the villagers. Count Dracula is in Victorian-era London, and is quite disgusted by what he sees around him. In a zoo, he finds a wolf who still has plenty of "wild," and helps it gain its freedom.

Turning women into vampires, and making them your "followers," may not be such a great idea if they still have the ability to perform sexually, but you, their "maker," have lost it. The eternal search for vampire victims enters the 21st century, with a blog called Vampires Anonymous. Vampires are not limited to Southeast Europe. They can also be present-day domestic servants in Southern California, originally from Ecuador. There are also a couple of longer "classic" vampire stories, that involve lust and romance.

I am not much of a horror reader, but I really enjoyed these stories. They show other aspects of the vampire world, and the "horror" part is not overwhelming. Vampire readers will love this book (if you have not yet read anything by Nancy Kilpatrick, what are you waiting for?), and everyone else will also like it.

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

Regis' Bookshelf

The Tenth Witness
Leonard Rosen
Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Road, Sag Harbor, NY 11963
9781579623197, $29.00,

Publicists and readers alike have often asked me if I ever write negative reviews. The answer is simply, "No." I will not take the time to read a badly written book and then waste more time writing a nasty review. Is this a 6th sense of mine? Don't know!

Let me say that Leonard Rosen's book, THE TENTH WITNESS, is not just a good book; it is a great book. As a reviewer, I was smitten by this book long before I ever reached the end of the first chapter. Maybe it was Rosen's writing style; maybe it was the horror of the books World War Two atrocities that goaded me on but this book caught me within its first pages.

On page 46, one of Rosen's characters speaks abruptly:

"Listen to me. Never underestimate the importance of blood."

This sentence grabbed the arteries leading to my brain. I wondered if I felt the same way about blood-lines. Do they really mean that much? Are they forever? Are they more important than life itself?

In THE TENTH WITNESS, a young explorer of the deep, Henri and his partner build an extremely durable steel platform above a sunken treasure ship, The Lutine. Allegedly, the vessel sank with countless bars of gold waiting to be claimed by whosoever located the wreck and escaped with its treasure.

Henri, a budding engineer, and quite by accident, becomes infatuated with the wealthy daughter of the bazillionaire whose steel he used in building his stalwart diving platform. Immediately, Henri finds that the German steel magnate and his uncle are unusually interested in him and his ocean rig, particularly when divers find the rusting shaft of a World War II submarine.

Because of this peculiar interest, Herni begins to examine their backgrounds knowing that his new lover's father and uncle were both alive during Hitler's reign of terror against the Jewish nation. Were their steel production plants under the crazed Nazi Hitler the source of the family's exorbitant wealth?

Henri's best elderly life-long friend dies. While mourning the man, Henri becomes awestruck by statements made by the deceased man's wife and friends. They claim that he survived one of Hitler's notorious steel labor camps; he had survived The Third Reich and truly deserved an honorable moratorium send-off. For Henri, the world War was years ago before his youth.

Henri uncovers just what kind of horror his deceased friend endured in the tortuous labor camp. He searches one informatory after another hunting the truth about his female lover and her family. What he discovers will haunt you like it did me. It not only brings Henri to the edge of death but it also taunts you, the reader, to speed through the pages of this terrifying but realistic story. As a reviewer, I was alive then; I saw the pictures in my Dad's newspaper.

Leonard Rosen has a way with words that cry out to one's inner being:

"... a dull line at the horizon cracked open like the eye of a drunk after a bad night ... (45)

... I walked along the rows of headstones ... a newborn's wailing ... a hole in the ground ... dirt thudding onto a box ... (49)

... spouses, over decades ... tend to look alike, with their slack faces and ears and noses ... oversized and attached with putty ... (167)

... Blood is blood ... when the body rattles is beyond our ken no matter which flag drapes the coffin ... (182)

... Forty years ago this place was hell on earth - and these people, and their parents and grandparents, let it happen ..." (197)

Some situations in THE TENTH WITNESS are somewhat crimped off - just a bit too short when several pages or even a chapter could have better explained the author's intent. Yet, in the end, that might be a good thing - true evil in an exposed form is so shocking it that it could easily turn away a reader.

If you are looking for a good read, no, a GREAT read, pick up a copy of Leonard Rosen's, THE TENTH WITNESS. This is a tale that ALL should read, especially the young who have only heard of the Holocaust but had not lived with it or, God forbid, through it. This chilling tale with its well spoken characters will incite you with revulsion - wrath that a "civilized" nation could call itself, "The Third Reich" - a rule of slaughter and killing that would last 1000 years.

What will last for 1000s of years, perhaps forever, was its ignominious downfall; hopefully, whomever or whatever you and I call God, will see that it never spreads its Nazi disease again!

Mama & Boris
Carey Neesley with Michael Levin
Reader's Digest Trade Publishing
44 South Broadway
White Plains, NY 10601
9781621451150, $19.99,

Carey Neesley's story, Mama and Boris, will quickly win your heart. "Mama & Boris: How a Sister's Love Saved a Fallen Soldier's Beloved Dogs" is a tale of joy and sadness, courage and sacrifice, extreme bravery and honor, all weaved together into a haunting tale of stick-to-itiveness and love. Carey tells her unusual story using first-person narration. From its very personal beginning it becomes quickly obvious that the author is a giving, thoughtful, and very affectionate person who cleverly weaves three themes into one.

At the beginning of Mama and Boris, Carey tells of the love that existed between her brother and herself from the very first moment each was aware of the other. The kin were each other's best friend. To Carey, Peter was "... caring and kind, wise beyond his years." During school years, each had other friends; still it seemed that the best part of Carey and Peter's busy lives was getting back together at the end of any day. And as they developed and matured, single Peter became a mainstay in Carey's life, helping to raise her son. Naturally, Peter became inseparable from this tiny nephew.

According to Mama and Boris, Peter was restless. He was a thoughtful man who pondered the meaning of existence, the meaning of world events, particularly the horrors brought about by the collapse of New York's Twin Towers. What could be more despicable than thousands of innocent souls crushed lifeless in the instants when the two skyscrapers collapsed?

Peter joined the army after President Bush declared war on the Axis of Terror. It had disturbed Peter deeply that Saddam Hussein could kill his own people. Peter was one of the soldiers that began liberating Iraq. On one patrol, he encountered two dogs, Mama and Boris, her pup. Instantly, in the frightful terror of war, Peter adopted the two dogs and they, in turn, accepted him. He phoned Carey regularly, telling about his two best friends but she began to notice strangeness in Peter's voice. It was unmistakable - atrocities he saw were so close that her brave soldier brother feared he wouldn't come home.

Peter dies.

At home, Carey screams in disbelief when she hears the fatal announcement. Only her words in Mama & Boris can express her feelings: unbelieving, saddened, sickened, shocked, horror-struck. Yet, she must rise above her depression - she must. She has her own son to face now, alone, without her loving brother. From the deepest recesses of her soul, a thought begins to form, unspoken at first, becoming clearer, yes clearer now, a plan of intense action for Peter. Somehow, she will bring home the two creatures Peter loved.

It is no easy feat to find, catch, and transport two dogs from a war theatre across miles of dangerous territory to an airport in Kuwait - across miles of open water to Washington, D.C., and across miles of land to finally arrive in Gross Pointe, Michigan.

Mama & Boris is about all of the above. How could all of these events take place? How did Carey's loved brother Peter die - in combat? - where? - when? How and who helped capture the canines in Iraq's battle zone and transport them all the way from Bagdad to Gross Pointe, Michigan? Author Carey does her very best to answer all of these questions, some of which remain unanswered to this day. Her first person feelings and descriptions will clutch your heart as only a lover's can. Carey and Peter were in love - the kind of love only death can steal.

I would very highly recommend Mama and Boris to everyone who enjoys true stories. It is a tale of pathos, courage, grief, honor, and, above all, Platonic love between two kin that death so rudely snatched away. Its characters are real people - individuals who love and laugh and live and die like the rest of us. This book would be a terrific read for young adults, particularly high school and college students. So often, youth who think they have experienced it all have only just begun life's journey. This is a top-notch book. My hat comes off to Carey Neesley for her truthful insight and open expression of sisterly love.

These lines are for her:

Peter brought peace to a world much depraved.
He's gone now, but his deeds will never fade.
He lives in glory with heroes beyond the grave.

Regis Schilken

Riva's Bookshelf

The Silver Sphere
Michael Dadich
Evolved Publishing
PO Box 522, Cassville, GA, 30123
9781622536023, $29.95 hc
9781622536016, $14.95 pbk
B00AAJUSWQ, $3.99 ebook

I loved this YA novel with strong female leads and lots of action. It offered an unusual twist on how and why the teenagers, who are pretty much picked on and unpopular back home, come to represent salvation to not just one, but two planets.

I loved watching the characters evolve from rather withdrawn, insecure teens into people who are competent in their power and know exactly what they have to do, no matter the odds against them. They become strong and self-assured from the various trials they face, alone and together. They develop friendships with people on the planet they are transported to, Azimuth, and they find themselves caught up in key roles in a war that could determine not just the fate of Azimuth but also that of their home planet Earth.

I felt for all of the characters as they faced their different trials, both at home and at Azimuth, but the characters of Shelby and Zach were definitely my favorites as they both transformed so much in the course of the novel and had the most to gain and lose at different points in the book.
Dadich displays wonderful world-building skills in his creation of Azimuth. It is a strange mix of medieval life, magic and some pretty advanced technology. It is a classic battle of good versus evil, which is never really assured. The story finishes up nicely but leaves an interesting lead-in to a sequel that I can't wait to read when it becomes available.

I would recommend the book to lovers of YA, good fantasy, and people who want something different from the run of the mill YA. This book held my interest from the beginning and had me reading as quickly as I could to get to the end and see what happened. I strongly recommend it.

3 Gates of the Dead
Jonathan Ryan
Premier Digital Publishing
9781624670992 $16.99 print
9781624671005 $TBA eBook
Kindle ASIN B00DEOG8TQ, $9.99

3 Gates of the Dead, by Jonathan Ryan is a roller coaster ride of a horror story - the suspense keeps building and you know when you hit the other side you are going to come out screaming - but you can't help turning the pages anyway.

I was caught up in this book almost immediately. I liked the main character and really identified with what he was going through. I didn't see the twists along the way coming and I found the story to be engrossing and some of the characters, especially Father Neil and Zoe to be particularly memorable. Detective Brown was also a really great character.

Pastor Aidan Schaeffer is going through a crisis of faith. An Associate Pastor at an Ohio church he is tormented by the fact he no longer believes in God. He then becomes a murder suspect in the death of his ex-fiancee Amanda. Even when he is cleared, he remains involved in the investigation because of its ritualistic nature and supernatural elements. Will Pastor Schaeffer resolve his crisis of faith in time to save himself and those he cares for? Is the killer a sick serial killer or is there something more behind Amanda's death? Can Aidan figure out the clue Amanda has left behind in enough time to prevent the next killing and what is with the letters carved into Amanda's forehead?

This book falls in with the tradition of the Exorcist and with Stephen King's supernatural thrillers. There is a quality to the story that reminds me of Poe's short stories at their best with their unforeseen macabre twists.

This is a complete stand-alone book, but there is a bit of a cliffhanger at the end that means we will be seeing more books involving Pastor Schaeffer, Father Neal and the supernatural world from this promising new horror writer.

I highly recommend this book to all readers of horror, suspense and the mysterious. It really is excellent.

E.V. Medina & Jack Shepherd
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
9781463520960, $18.95 pbk.
B007DLLKIK, $3.99 Kindle,

I found Realmwalkers by Medina & Shepherd to be technically proficient but somewhat lacking in drawing me into the story emotionally. Many of the characters are rather flat and one-dimensional and although the storyline did keeping me guessing as to how the end would occur - the outcome is rather assured. I felt that by keeping certain elements of the story hidden for a longer time the storyline could have ultimately greatly benefitted. The one thread flowing through the story that seemed to be timed and paced completely correctly was the romance between Hilo and Felucia and its outcome is never assured, clear to the end of the book.

The supporting cast was interesting though. Felucia, a pirate at the beginning of the story undergoes many changes through various challenges in the story. Solita, around whom I think the writer's meant for the story to revolve, undergoes some changes, though not as many and is overshadowed by the male character, Alain Harper, who seems to become the main character in the story, though I do not think this deliberate.

The plot line is technically complex and the authors follow it through well leaving relatively no loose ends at the end of this novel, but leaving themselves room to write another story involving these characters without over taxing themselves as the framework is definitely in place for a sequel. I would be interested in seeing a sequel that managed to keep the role of the Undying Singer to a minimum and strongly kept the focus on the other characters

The world building is interesting, though the rules which limit magic in the realm are far from clear and it seems that most anything is possible. I found this lack of clear-cut magical rules, with the exception of the rule that one won't be able to be resurrected if it happens to be one's "time" regardless of the skill of the magic practitioner, a bit disorienting. I like a story where there are logical limits on things, even magic, so that the rules concerning its use are clearly understood and I didn't feel this story offered that.

Cobweb Bride
Vera Nazarian
c/o Norilana Books
P. O. Box 209
Highgate Center, VT 05459-0209
9781607621126, $24.95 hc
9781607621133, $14.95 pbk
B00DK02MHG, $5.99 Kindle

I really enjoyed the rich, complex and highly unusual storytelling in the Cobweb Bride. Nazarian does an excellent job of painting the Renaissance world of her alternate reality and bringing in interesting twists of fantasy to the story.

The premise of the story is that Death has refused to do his duty until his Cobweb Bride is brought to him at Death's Keep. The problem is no one knows for certain who the bride is so a call goes out to all eligible marriage age females in the Realm to report to Death's Keep to see if they are the Cobweb Bride.

What would be so terrible about death refusing to do its duty, you might ask? Well think about hovering on the edge of death for days, suffering but unable to pass over, or being in a body that is physically dead, but that cannot pass over into the next realm so you continue to walk and talk though you are in fact quite dead. Think of the evil some people might do if they believed themselves to be immortal?

The book focuses around a key set of characters varying from daughters of royalty and merchants to those of peasants who band together on their way toward Death's Keep to present themselves as potential Cobweb Brides. The only problem is no one actually knows where Death's Keep is, beyond in the frozen lands to the north - oh and a crazed Duke who has seen better days is determined to stop Death from finding his Cobweb Bride, because he has ideas that would best be served if he and his forces were immortal.

Everything about this story that was fresh and new. I loved the premise it was built on and I loved the story itself. The characters are rich, multi-dimensional, and so easy to get to know and identify with. I am really looking forward to reading the next book in the trilogy when it comes out and in finding out more about what happens to the characters that still have a mission to carry out and how the story eventually resolves by the end of the trilogy. I recommend this book to readers of YA, lovers of fantasy, alternate-history, and alternate-reality. It was a terrific read.

Third Willow
Lenore Skomal
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
9781478192497, $14.95 print
B00BZYV34C, $4.95 Kindle

Third Willow is the penultimate coming of age book by author Lenore Skomal. It is the story of Beah, Raz, Patty, and Hap, four children on the cusp between innocence and adulthood and the summer in which they all become friends and learn that life can be both so much better and so much worse than what they have experienced in the past.

I loved Third Willow from the opening pages. From the second I began the book it was if I had been transported back to the summers of my childhood when life was simpler, and innocence was all the protection a child needed from the world.

I rejoiced in the growing friendship between this unlikely cast of characters: Patsy, the perpetual tomboy; Hap, the outcast boy playing the perpetual Peter Pan to his gang of friends; Beah, the shy girl who comes to discover so much more about herself than seemed possible at the beginning of the summer and Raz, the daughter of the Jewish rabbi who wants playmates for his children from among the neighborhood.

Third Willow is a wonderful juxtaposition of sunlight and shadows. Of days spent playing in the sun imagining wild adventures, and veterans returning from the Korean War, the outward emergence of homosexuality into society and the outrage of the Red Scare of the McCarthy era. Against all this turmoil are four children, forging bonds of friendship, learning to stand by one another and learning who they really are in the new world in which they are finding themselves.

Each child has a battle, literal or figurative that he or she is fighting throughout the pages of the book. For Patsy it is how to help her brother who has returned legless and mentally ill from the Korean War. It is learning how to relate to her father, who she is beginning to see as a controlling autocrat who brooks no deviance from his own strict moral and ethical ideals. For Beah it is for love, which she feels she never receives and for the opportunity to share her own love with those around. To discover what is best and purest in herself. For Raz, it is the struggle to hold onto her traditional Jewish identity and still be heard as an emerging young woman in a culture in which women's voices are devalued. For Hap it is to find acceptance, and happiness in a world where he normally feels outcast and despised.

Skomal artfully foreshadows the end of the book almost from the very beginning. You can see the storm coming on the horizon, its clouds gathering until the only questions you can focus on are when, who, how and why as the threatened storm becomes a tornado leaving everyone in its path forever changed.

I feel this book should be on everyone's to-be-read list alongside classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the books of the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series of books. Each shows the challenges and joys of coming of age in different eras, in different ways and each is a classic beside which Skomal's Third Willow is sure to rightfully earn a place. I cannot give it high enough praise or a strong enough recommendation. This is a book you simply must read.

The Talisman
Holly Zitting
Whiskey Creek Press
PO Box 51052, Casper, WY 82605-1052
9781611606126, $17.95 print
B00CLRRCDI, $3.99 Kindle,

I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up The Talisman. I hadn't read the previous book, The Amulet - although I am now going back to read it - and didn't know if the book could stand alone, even though I had been told it could.

Well it can and in three simple words, it's freaking awesome. I love the characters, all of them the good, the bad and the merely human. I love the story line of a simple teenage girl who suddenly discovers that she not only has powers, but that she is also the one a prophecy told of long ago. Of course, forces of good and forces of evil are both trying to recruit our heroine, Emma. Emma just wants to live her life without the politics and the struggle. The Council - who are mostly good guys - are willing to give Emma the time and space she needs. The Wicked though are another story - they will stop at nothing to get their hands on Emma and turn her to their side of the conflict. They want her powers so badly that nothing else matters, except getting their hands on the traitor, James, who told the Council what the Wicked were up to, even though it resulted in his powers being stripped from him.

When Emma tries to save James during an attack by the Wicked, a terrible accident happens that places her life in further jeopardy. It is around the quest related to this incident that the rest of the book revolves.

I loved this book. I went out today and got the sequel and I plan on going back and reading the first book in the series to find out how Emma came to find out that she was the long awaited Amulet. I highly recommend this book to readers of the paranormal as well as readers of fantasy. It has a lot to offer to both. I also recommend it to readers who want a really good read that offers something different from the run of the mill paranormal fantasy story. I cannot praise this book highly enough. You simply have to read it!

Never Gonna Desert You
Jessica Subject
Decadent Publishing
B00DKA2CIK, $2.99,

I have waited for Melina and Brook's story ever since Melina faked her own death on the planet Airondelle in order to finally escape Planet Core and the control of Brook's father. Well, the story was well worth the wait.

In Never Gonna Desert You Subject briefly goes into the history that led to the forbidden love affair between Brook, the head of Planet Core's daughter, and Melina, who will do anything Brook's father asks in order to finally be with the woman of her dreams. But Melina realizes that Brook's father will never grant her the exception that would allow her to be with Brook, so she fakes her own death and smuggles a letter back to Brook, telling her to come to Airondelle so they can finally be together.

However, things on Airondelle aren't as they appear and Brook's life is put in danger by her father's own orders because there are secrets on Airondelle that he cannot afford to have discovered.

When Melina finally finds Brook, she is in shock from a gunshot wound. The planet has fierce predators on it and Melina must get Brook to safety before one of them is drawn to the injured woman. Can Melina save Brook and get her to a cave or another place of relative safety before the planet's predators find them?

Subject has lots of surprises in store for readers of the Underground series in this book. And the love story is awesome and so touching. Yes, it is erotic, but it is more loving and tender than simply erotic. The reunion between Melina and Brook is heartwarming, even though Melina has a secret that could destroy her newly rediscovered love before she gets to bask in it.
I highly recommend this book to fans of Subject, to lovers of F/F romances and to fans of the Underground series. A definite hit.

The Wizard of Oz Series Illustrated
L. Frank Baum
Original Illustrations by W.W. Denslow
Doma Publishing House Edition
Amazon Digital Services
B0083MO1DO, $2.99,

This book would be a steal at ten times the price! A priceless treasure Doma Publishing House's edition of Wizard of Oz Illustrated is quite honestly priceless. It contains all the original books from L. Frank Baum's wonderfully successful Wizard of Oz series, along with all the original artwork created for the story by W.W. Denslow.

The Wizard of Oz Illustrated contains all fourteen books in the series spanning a period of twenty years from the Wizard of Oz, originally published in 1900 to the posthumously published Glenda of Oz, which was released in 1920. It also includes the charming Oz story, The Woggle Bug Book.

This collection is truly wonderful and brings to life the author's original vision through the combination of his story and the artwork of Denslow. The illustrations are vibrant and truly bring the story to life. The books are all hyperlinked from the table of contents and one may read them in any order they prefer, as each story is stand alone, but it is best to read them in the order in which they are written as the books build upon one another.

I spent weeks reading all the books in Wizard of Oz Illustrated. It took me back to a time of innocence when I believed all things were possible and that magic truly existed. It brought me laughter and edge of my seat excitement and a sense of wonder, which I think are all the things Baum wanted to convey when he originally wrote the books.

I give the Doma Publishing House edition of the Wizard of Oz Illustrated my highest recommendation and suggest that it be purchased as a family book for young and old alike will enjoy the magical stories of a bygone era and the imagination that brought Oz to life for hundreds of thousands.

A Meeting of a Different Kind
Linda MacDonald
Amazon Digital Services
9781780883250 $TBA print
B009IT1RPQ, $2.99 Kindle,

I'm usually not a fan of books written in third-person, but MacDonald's A Meeting of a Different Kind uses the technique very masterfully to follow the main characters of the story. The transitions following one character or another are always smooth and clearly defined and the storyline is fascinating as it follows three characters through what are essentially mid-life crises. Marianne has already gone through her mid-life crisis and has emerged out of the other side of it relatively unscathed except for a few bumps along the matrimonial road. Taryn is entering mid-life with untreated borderline bipolar illness and a history of abuse. Edward has been propelled into his mid-life crisis by his wife's newly inherited wealth and the life it is enabling her to lead - a life that seems totally separate from the one they have lived during all the years of their marriage and one that appears to be leaving Edward and his aspirations behind.

It is at this junction of life crises that Edward, Taryn and Marianne all meet. Marianne is an old friend who meets Edward again via email. The two of them went to the same boarding school when they were younger and Marianne makes use of her friendship with Edward to help rid herself of some of the ghosts from that experience that are still haunting her. Edward comes to treasure his friendship with Marianne and looks forward to finally having the chance to meet her in person. Marianne is what holds him up as his life goes through more changes than he would have thought possible just a short time before. Edward's wife Felicity has inherited near a million pounds from her family and is using to pursue all the dreams she has put on hold for years. Edward feels lost in the shuffle as he comes to feel redundant in his own family. Taryn is Marianne's best friend and confidant, but before the book is over she will betray her friend in a manner that threatens everyone's relationships.

MacDonald's writing felt a bit stilted at first, but I think that was just because the complicated introduction with the characters and storyline were being laid. Once I got further into the book I found it to be a fascinating look at life from the halfway point and at the things that really matter, like friendships, relationships and love. The book was always interesting and managed to look deeply at some complex subjects without appearing above them. Neither was the book awash in sentimentality and I found it to be a delightful excursion into literary fiction. If you are looking for a book to escape into for several days then this is the book for you. While I am certain it could be read quickly were one so inclined, it is best when read slowly and the subtle nuances allowed to circulate in the mind allowing the intricacies of the storyline to germinate in the field of one's imagination.

Summer of Stolen Souls
Veronica Lawson
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781475936216, $29.95 hc
9781475936193 $TBA pbk
B008OD6OO6, $3.99 Kindle

Manny's parents were murdered when he was still a baby. He has spent his life growing up with his grandfather, a Ute medicine man, whom he barely tolerates, but when an ancient prophecy begins to come to pass Manny will have to learn to rely on his grandfather as he never has before as he and three of his friends are called to become warriors in the upcoming battle.

Lawson brings this mystical horror story to life by drawing deeply on Native American, Ute, legends. I found myself lost in the story and never quite sure what was coming. The story was always fresh and exciting and never predictable.

The storyline is unique, not in the aspect of an ancient prophecy coming to life, but rather in the way Lawson brings the story to life. She sets it in a small town and on the Ute reservation in Unitah Basin. She relies on the small town setting only as a backdrop for certain key scenes, keeping most of the action on the reservation itself.

The scenes she paints come to vivid life on the page and she draws deeply on the mystical elements of Ute legends to help her story become real to the reader.

I would highly recommend this book to people who like horror stories, zombie stories - no this story is not about zombies though there are some similarities between zombies and the Ute skinwalkers and people who just want a good escapist read.

Tracy M. Riva

Susan's Bookshelf

Starlet's Web
Carla J. Hanna
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
1480231827, $11.99,

Brief bio: Carla J. Hanna is the author of the STARLET SERIES young adult romance. A former housewife of Santa Monica, marketing communications executive, and graduate of Colorado State University with a Master of Arts, she lives in Colorado with her family.

Can a teen actress and a Tim Tebow stand up to Hollywood's web of lies? A fast read with plot twists.

As soon as I started reading this book I realised it would appeal immensely to many girls in their teens and twenties.

Set in Hollywood it has all the glitz of a Jackie Collins novel but with a young adult storyline.

Marie Michael's is a child star emerging into adulthood amidst the cutthroat cynical film industry, under the guidance of her very famous actor mother. A woman who has herself had to make hard choices and decisions in order to become successful, and make her career flourish in the spider's web of Hollywood.

The story begins with Marie learning from her handsome heartthrob star boyfriend Evan that she has to accept the studio's decision for them to endure a public break-up, for the sake of her career. Devastated, immediately we discover her vulnerability as she turns to her lifelong friend Manuel for comfort.

A child star and still a teenager, she has great support on set from her mother both emotionally and spiritually, fantastic prospects, and a great team behind her. However, Marie's love lies elsewhere, away from Hollywood, forbidden and secret, safe in a world so different from her own.

Weaved into the pages of this exciting novel are glimpses of the show business world. We are treated to peeps on set, and an insight into what life is really like in Hollywood behind the glamorous facade, the strict training schedules, fitness and food routines and dedication it takes to be a star.

The story follows Marie as she discovers how to handle the emotional and physical demand of her acting career, the Hollywood scene, and the attentions of her handsome heartthrob co-stars who are used to adoration wherever they go. This is a false world, where emotions are for show, and the actors spend their whole life acting out their part, portraying the image, which is expected of them by their fans.

Starting as a sizzling romantic Hollywood novel, full of heartthrobs and glitz, this enthralling story evolves in a surprising way, when Marie makes a startling discovery, the repercussions of which are unforeseen. With the love and support of those around her, she evaluates her life, and through her strong sense of family and her faith in God, finds the ability to face the future, and go forward with her life.

This is a very appealing young adult novel with a great storyline, strong characters and a good plot; I look forward to reading the other books in this series.

Engine 24: Fire Stories
Joe Corso
Black Horse Publishing
B00E8898M6, $1.99,

Best collection of fire fighting short stories ever!

About the Author: I was born in 1935 and I grew up in Queens, New York. I started writing at the age of 75 hoping to raise money to send my grandchildren to better schools. In the past three years I've written 12 books and 6 short stories. Right now I'm working on The Starlight Club 5. After that I'm considering writing a sequel to the Lone Jack Kid which is a finalist in the 2013 Readers Favorite book contest. The Starlight Club won the silver in the 2012 eLit TRUE CRIME category, and is a finalist in the Readers Favorite 2013 book contest. My short story FIRE: Box 598 is also a finalist in the Readers Favorite short story category.

Go figure. If I would have known I could write a good story, I would have started my writing career a half century ago.

About the book: Every firefighter has a treasure trove of interesting stories to tell and the stories more often than not are instructional as well as exciting. When I was a firefighter, I kept notes of the fires I responded to. Now that I am retired, I have reflected on my career as a firefighter and have written a book about the men alongside whom I worked, facing dangerous situations daily.

This book is a compilation of five FIRE short stories written between 1964 and 1972, from notes I wrote after returning from fires. FIRE: Box 598 tells the tragic story where 12 New York City firefighters lost their lives in a fire. The short book won the Readers Favorite 2013 award in the short story category. FIRE: Trapped on the Fourth Floor takes place in the mid 1960s and was written from notes I took after the fire. While the story was still fresh in my mind, I added a sub-story about a friend of mine who I worked with in the FDNY. While searching through boxes I hadn't opened in decades, I came across notes about the day I drove my buddy Joe Black to the hospital and I decided to honor his memory by including a few words about what happened that day in this short story. FIRE: The Bouncing Lieutenant occurred at the Keneret Restaurant cellar fire on Jane Street in lower Manhattan and was taken from notes written by me almost a half century ago. As I wrote this story, the memories of that night came flooding back in vivid detail. I hope that I have successfully captured and conveyed the drama of the moment to the reader.

The final two stories are FIRE: The Broadway Central Hotel and FIRE: Mutual Aid.

Susan Keefe

Suzie's Bookshelf

Beloved Enemy
Mary Schaller
P.O. Box 5190, Buffalo, NY 14240-5190
9780373293018, $TBA print / $4.61 Kindle

Two years ago, Julia Chandler received word that the love of her life had been killed in a battle at Manassas. Heartbroken, she found comfort in the pages of her beloved books. She dreamed of the day the war would be over and she would be able to live out her dream of becoming a school teacher.

At Gettysburg, Major Robert "Rob" Montgomery received an injury that resulted in the loss of the use in his right hand. Returning home, his fiancee quickly broke off their engagement due to her inability to accept his disability.

Julia's mother is convinced that Julia is close to becoming a spinster. To save her daughter from that fate, she arranges for her to marry her cousin Payton. Julia has always detested Payton; she knows she must act quickly to stop the unwanted marriage.

When Julia's sister Carolyn "finds" an invitation to a local Union new year's masquerade party, she decides this could be the solution she needs to get out of the unwanted marriage. At the ball, she meets Robert Montgomery; although she is loyal to the confederacy she can't help but be intrigued by the handsome Yankee.

Rob is enchanted by Julia's beauty and innocence. He questions why when they suddenly find themselves alone that she requests that he "ruin" her. Being a gentleman, Robert has to resist Julia's request for he knows that she would live to regret it as of tomorrow.

When the two of them part from the ball Robert knows that he must see more of Julia. Can two young lovers from different sides of the war find a love when their country is so torn apart?

BELOVED ENEMY is an outstanding historical romance! I applauded Mary Schaller for writing her story with such historic accuracy in researching this book. Readers will not be able to resist Rob and Julia's love story. Historical romances are like fine wine, once savored you can't resist revisiting them again.

Embattled Minds (Lost and Found Series Book 2)
J.M. Madden
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00DQDB0L6, $2.99,

In Afghanistan, Zeke Foster receives a traumatic brain injury when a wall collapsed on top of him. His recovery was slow and painful; a patch work of scars still mars his body. He tries to hide them behind a beard and his long hair, but the pity stares he receives from strangers tear down his self-confidence.

Ember Norton helps her father to run his restaurant because he suffers from PTSD from his time in Vietnam. Often she finds herself waiting on tables when they are short staffed. She finds herself looking forward to a group of soldiers who visit the restaurant each week. One scarred soldier in particular has caught her interest.

In Zeke Foster Embers sees a man who has fought gallantly for his country, and has been wounded in the process. She sees his scars as badges of courage she feels he should wear proudly. Will Ember be able to convince Zeke that she can see past his scars and love the man she sees before her? Or will Zeke push Ember away convinced that in his battle weary condition is unworthy of any woman's love?

EMBATTLED MINDS is another outstanding tribute to the LOST AND FOUND SERIES. This series just keeps getting as J.M. Madden keeps introducing her readers to unforgettable characters. In EMBATTLED MINDS you meet Zeke and see how he is coping with the injuries he received in Afghanistan.

J.M. Madden does an outstanding job in painting a picture with her descriptive words of how serious Zeke's injuries were and how he is learning to deal with them. The love and his acceptance he finds in Ember's arms will melt any true blue romance fans heart. After reading this book, I am thoroughly convinced that it is one of the all-time top series I have ever experienced. Five ribbons just doesn't do this book justice, it is well worth 10 ribbons because it is a perfect romance!

Her Dream Dom - Masters of Submission
Jan Bowles
Siren Publishing, Inc.
2500 S. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78704

It has been three years since Jack Montrose entered Club Submission. Almost immediately upon his arrival he sees the perfect submissive in Sarah Deveraux. He approaches her and asks that she accompany him for a demonstration in Japanese Rope Bondage.

Sara Deveraux's former boyfriend endangered her life in a bondage scene that went wrong. Ever since that incident, she is reluctant to get fully back into the BDSM scene. When she is approached by Jack, she can't help but be attracted to his over powering sex appeal.

Jack is a highly skilled rope player who uses the utmost caution when it comes to his trade. Will he use his talents to bind Sara to his heart?

HER DREAM DOM is another fine example of Jan Bowles superb writing talent. In this story she gives the reader a reality glimpse of how BDSM in the wrong hands can have deadly consequences. For anyone mildly curious about BDSM, there is no better teacher than reading a Jan Bowles book! I highly recommend any of her titles for she presents a true sense of BDSM.

Other titles in the MASTERS OF SUBMISSIVE series include:

Master of Submission - Book 1
Destined for the Dom - Book 2
Taming the Boss Lady - Book 3
Master and Inquisitor - Book 4
The Dom and the Dragon Tattoo - Book 5
Master's Pet - Book 6 (publishing date TBD)

Suzie Housley

Teri's Bookshelf

The Plague Within
Lawrence W. Gold, M.D.
Create Space
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
9781489534521, $14.99,

What can you do is you are sick, very sick? Naturally, you seek someone in the medical profession that believes and hopes to make you feel better and to lessen your symptoms. What happens though if you don't heal or improve? Do you continue with the same doctor or do you look for a second opinion? At what point do you break with the traditional methods and look for other alternatives, even new untested possibilities?

THE PLAGUE WITHIN is a story about two doctors and two philosophies of medicine, the traditional conservative and the alternative or possibly experimental treatment.
Dr. Jack Byrnes is a traditional doctor treating his patient, Rachel Palmer, who despite caring approaches is becoming sicker each day with her family seeing her close death. Rachel's husband believes and trusts Jack, but her mother wants to look at other possible avenues of treatment, whether they have been successful or not.

Dr. Harmony Lane firmly believes that women are not always respected as either patients or colleagues by the older, male-dominated, hospital staff and that their refusal to accept alternative ways, hurts the patients. She is willing to do whatever it takes to help her patients feel better.
Then there is the underlying disease, lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease where the person's immune system is hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue. Frequently, a diagnosis of lupus is accompanied with swollen joints, tiredness usually with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Nine out of ten lupus patients are women. The treatment and care requires more attention from a doctor and being that each person's immune system is different, each treatment also needs to meet these challenges.

Dr. Andre Keller is a gifted research scientist. His work with DNA and viruses is impressive, even if his research statistical data is not completely correct. In his pursuit of fame and success, he hides the negative consequences of his project while publicly announcing his successes.
When these three medical professionals merge into the treatment of Rachel Palmer and others with lupus, the short-term effects are miraculous, but the long term consequences delve into a race to save lives.

THE PLAGUE WITHIN is a fast-paced medical thriller utilizing up-to-date discoveries with real-life situations. Well-written, THE PLAGUE WITHIN is a page turner that leaves you breathless with realistic characters in authentic situations. Regarding the differing perspectives of the patients, the medical staff, and their families, this novel is unique in the all aspects are encompassed.

This novel gives a snippet of awareness for those living with lupus and the challenges and misconceptions of the medical community and the general public. Living with a "hidden" disease that attacks any area of the body at any time requires special treatment with caring medical professionals, as well as family and friends.

THE PLAGUE WITHIN is a startling, informative, dynamic, page-turner that will open your eyes to the challenges in today's medical community packaged into one phenomenal novel.

The Demon's Parchment: A Medieval Noir
Jeri Westerson
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312609269, $14.99,

Oh, reading a well-written, well-researched, well-organized novel where the crime is horrendous, but the writing is so outstanding that you feel as if you are the investigator is a privilege and luxury. That is reading THE DEMON'S PARCHMENT.

THE DEMON'S PARCHMENT is one of a series in an unusual medieval series which is considered a noir by its darkness and style. This particular novel in Westerson's Crispin Guest series is the third, following VEIL OF LIES, and SERPENT OF THE THORNS. Previously, I have reviewed the fourth book, Troubled Bones, and enjoyed it so much that I was asked to look at the previous ones. These books can be read as standalone novels, but are definitely better when you know the characters and some of their history.

Crispin Guest is a former knight who lost everything when he was accused of treason and lost his favor with the king. Essentially living minimally in a bare existence now, with his young apprentice, Jack, he works as a Tracker, one who logically tracks from the victim back to the criminals.

Crispin has agreed to find the lost parchments stolen from a Jewish physician residing at the King's court. This is definitely unconventional since Jews are not allowed to be living in England at this time and were previously expelled. It was generally believed that those of this religion practiced human sacrifice.

Also, Crispin has agreed to help the new sheriff in stopping who is killing young boys in a distinctive gruesome manner. These unfortunate victims though have not been reported as missing. Why would someone give their son to another?

THE DEMON'S PARCHMENT is enthralling. The characters are believable and likable with the murderer always being in disguise. With shared responsibilities, the relationship between Crispin and Jack is strong while neither is without fault. The supporting characters are outstanding with vivid descriptions and definitely showing the "shady" side of London while still demonstrating how nobility was frequently above the law. With actual historical events being intertwined into this story, the reader truly feels like this mystery transports them to another time and place. THE DEMON'S PARCHMENT is not for the feint-of-heart. The descriptions are graphic and gory. However, this novel excels in all categories and proves that Jeri Westerson is a true story teller.

The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning
Hallgrimur Helgason
Amazon Crossing
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781611091397, $14.95,

Tomislav Boksic, better known as Toxic, is one of the best at what he does. As a hit man for the Croatian mafia in New York, his reputation and performance has been perfect. He kills quickly and efficiently with the minimal amount of attention during the actual "hit".

Unfortunately when you're at the top of your career, there is only one way to go and Toxic spirals down as his latest victim in actuality was an F.B.I. agent. He did exactly what he was assigned to do, so why was he blamed for this. Who messed up? Was this intentional within his organization? Why would someone set him up?

With all law enforcement and mafia associates searching for him, Toxic darts to the airport and looks for someone who resembles him, someone who he can kill and take his identity. He discovers a member of the clergy who he quickly kills while in the restroom, shaves his own head to steal the victim's identity, and departs to whatever destination is on his ticket. So, what does a middle-aged, overweight, Croatian hitman to do while pretending to be a television evangelist in Iceland?

THE HITMAN'S GUIDE TO HOUSECLEANING appealed to me as this self-publication through Amazon has quickly turned into a best seller, thanks to Amazon marketing. Why this book as opposed to the many other possible selections? Very simply, is that this book is definitely different.

This novel paints a vivid picture of Iceland with the descriptions of the environment, people, life style, laws, along with the background of the Croatian hitman, making this book humorous and light-hearted while having a slew of eccentric residents with lengthy names filled with consonants. With vivid descriptions, the reader sees Toxic as more than a killer, a real person who definitely knows the difference between a killing and murder while learning of life in this isolated country.

The author, Hallgrimur Helgason is an artist who resides in Iceland and has shown his art in galleries in New York and Paris. Internationally, he is also a well-respected author whose books have also resulted in films.

THE HITMAN'S GUIDE TO HOUSECLEANING is his only novel currently published in English. With a hit man as the unlikely likable protagonist, this picture of everyday life in Iceland allows the reader to feel like they are sharing the body with Toxic. Viewing the world through this character, justifies some of his immoral and unethical behavior since you actually see that he has few choices while avoiding all law enforcement that is globally searching for him.
THE HITMAN'S GUIDE TO HOUSECLEANING is definitely a different novel which you cannot predict but will remember.

Saving Faith
Patrick M. Garry
Kenric Books
9780983370314, $17.95,

"You know what I wish?" she sobbed. "I wish you could repossess my past."

Wouldn't that be a great thing? To allow the guilt of your past to be taken away?

Jack grew up in an orphanage. No one had ever adopted him since much of his childhood was in a hospital bed equipped with an oxygen tent. The sisters at the school had arranged for him to find work. His job as a repossessor, one who takes back the possession of used cars from those you cannot pay, was not glamorous, but he actually enjoyed it and had pride in doing his job well.

One mistake changes Jack's life. He repossesses the wrong car. When he realizes his problem, Jack searches out the owner of the green Saturn to explain the situation and to offer his assistance in making this right.

Ev Sorin, the car owner, doesn't get mad but just accepts his situation while Jack works to return his vehicle. Ev has problems of his own from losing his reputation as a top journalist, now finding meaningful employment as a reporter seems impossible. He just doesn't care about anything.

While at the courthouse officially to release the impounded car, Jack and Ev wander into a courtroom and both are fascinated about what they are hearing. An unusual case is before the judge where a nurse and a young woman want to be responsible for a comatose patient, Faith. The hospital is closing and Faith is on life support. To move her to another facility means that she must be off life support likely causing her death. Why are these women fighting for Faith? Simply, because no one else will.

When this woman was discovered near death years ago, she had no identification on her. There were no inquiries into a missing woman that matched her description. After a time, both women became involved with caring for her and named her Faith Powers. With this facility closing, what choices do they have? Should they just quietly sit by and watch as life support is removed? What is the right thing to do?

SAVING FAITH is about doing the right thing while questioning our choices. There are not always easy and obvious answers. The perspective of success and life is strictly up to the individual.

With Jack's childhood in the orphanage, he witnessed many children ecstatic when adopted but also their immense disappointment when they were often returned, rejected back to the orphanage. Jack figured that he was fortunate since no one wanted a sickly child who needed an oxygen tent for survival, so that he had no expectations of happily ever after and didn't suffer the rejections of life.

SAVING FAITH is a well-planned story with the mystery of Faith's identity as well as a drive-by shooting situation while all the characters seem to be in need of someone saving each of them. Dealing with people and relationships is difficult and doesn't always follow the path we want. Faith, even though comatose, is the one thing that these characters have in common. They each independently make their own choices while each attempting to save her. In doing this, each of them learns a little more about themselves, their friends and families, and life.

Author, Patrick Garry has won numerous awards for his previous novels which all effectively demonstrate the conflicts with ethics and morals in daily life. He currently teaches at the University of South Dakota.

SAVING FAITH has already won the best novel in both the Mystery and the General Fiction categories for the Global Book Contest. SAVING FAITH will leave you questioning your own choices, hopefully, from a different and enlightened perspective.

Just the Pits
Hetta Coffey
Mystery Book Five
Jinx Schwartz
Amazon Digital Services
9781490920948, $12.99,

Having a job that allows you to travel in your own yacht is perfect for Hetta Coffey. Her yacht, named the Raymond Johnson, makes life a little easier when your destination is close to a harbor and convenient with a home that is wherever you drop anchor.

So being a self-employed engineer contractor who is portable sometimes places her in awkward situations with the male dominated mining industry for her newest assignment. Hetta's long-time friend and employer, Trob, realizes her resourcefulness as well as her commitment to getting a job completely, quickly and efficiently, also knows that he can rely on her to solve any problems or situations, even those involving danger.

This latest opportunity places her at a mining facility near the historic town of Santa Rosalia, Mexico in the Baja. So far, there is a problem with exorbitant cost overruns and people who work with company seem to be disappearing. Are the two linked?

As usual, Hetta's love, Jenks is as usual, independently completing an assignment in Dubai. Even though they Skype frequently, Hetta still feels abandoned. To help with her loneliness, Jan, her long time friend, agrees to stay with her for awhile. Jan has her own problems and is probably best to also take a break from the man who loves her. These two women do find love in the form of an abandoned dog which is appropriately named, Po Thang.

The characters in this latest installment are realistic with the continuation of friendships from the previous novels. The new characters definitely make you wonder about who you can trust and who is out to get you, or steal your Velveeta. (Yes, Velveeta is stolen from Hetta's yacht. This is not something that is easy to replace in a Mexican port.) Whether being a passenger in a vehicle that is unquestionably speeding up and down a narrow mountain road, Hetta's and Jan's snooping and investigating create uncomfortable and often humorous situations, reminiscent of Lucy and Ethel, both at the marina or the office.

While hiding someone that is suppose to be dead, there are always the questions about honesty and who has ulterior motives. The story has constant action and adventure in Just the Pits as also in these prior novels featuring Hetta. With each installment, these characters feel like a reunion with old friends.

Just the Pits is the fifth in this series by Jinx Schwartz. Because of the characters evolving throughout the series, I would not recommend this as a standalone novel, but could easily be enjoyed after reading the first book in the series, Just Add Water. The introduction of many minor characters later on are well-established in this book. Jinx Schwartz uses many of her own experiences traveling on a boat part of the year and the other part in landlocked Arizona.
Just the Pits is a delightful, fun adventure for adult readers from an author that might not be well-known but who is a masterful and wonderful storyteller.

Learn to Tie a Tie with the Rabbit and the Fox
Sybrina Durant, author
Marie Naval, illustrator
Sybrina Publishing and Distribution Company
9780972937214, $14.95

For many, the thought of tying a necktie is an unrealistic vision which just doesn't work. That perfect triangular knot is often off-center or a complete mess.

For many, the solution was a clip-on tie. They would never have existed if there hadn't been people who couldn't tie a necktie and make that perfectly triangular knot. Somehow though, that seemed like cheating and society frowned on those who wore the clip-ons. Obviously, the idea of tying the perfect necktie is a task that puzzles many people, young and old, men and women. How does anyone figure out this complicated knotting?

Taking the legendary story of the rabbit and the fox and modifying it to parallel a journey of between trees in the forest is a clever way to understand the path to create the perfect knot. With a rabbit running for safety while being pursued by a wolf and comparing it to the path of the tie perfectly makes this the perfect instructional children's book that even grown-ups can use. Imagine the rabbit as the tie actually proceeds on a journey around the person's neck. With the rabbit's pursuit being illustrated while the story is being read is also compared on each page with a detailed drawing of the necktie in comparison to that part of the story.

Also available, is a free version of the story in the form of a song which the author enthusiastically sings online. I recommend listening to the song after the book has been read as the song moves quickly. The book is offered is both Spanish and Tagalog, as well as English and e-book form in each language.

The vocabulary greatly enriches learners with words like forage, blazing, morsel, tender, abrupt, and more.

Sybrina Durant writes practical books to help people. Besides Learn to Tie a Tie with the Rabbit and the Fox, she has also written Sybrina's Phrase Thesaurus with different editions while realizing that language is more than words, but how we put those words together into phrases is most important and useful.

Learn to Tie a Tie with the Rabbit and the Fox is a fun book for children of all ages to look through, study, and most importantly, learn to tie a necktie.

Teri Davis

Theodore's Bookshelf

The Missing File
D. A. Mishani
Translated from the Hebrew by Steven Cohen
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062195371, $25.99,

There's an old saying: "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." It is a fitting reverse description of the author of this debut novel. He is a literary scholar and editor of international fiction and crime literature at Keter Books in Israel and a literary scholar, specializing in the history of detective literature. So he is something of an anomaly. He has created a new protagonist, Israeli detective Avraham ("Avi") Avraham, an introspective character who, while being a policeman, is unsure of himself when he is away from his duties.

In this case, he is confronted by the mother of a 16-year-old boy who is said to have left home one morning for school and disappearing. .As Avi investigates what should be a simple missing person inquiry, it spirals out of control and takes over his life, ultimately becoming complicated by a neighbor who inserts himself into the investigation with what may be false information.

Aside from the fact that the novel is set in Israel, where crime is a rarity, it could just as easily be placed elsewhere. Avi is a memorable protagonist, and the plot is well thought out. He is bruited about as the preeminent Israeli detective of the 21st Century. The translation is smooth, and the twist at the end is so unexpected that it is worthy of a more seasoned novelist. Presumably there is more to follow in a sequel.


Buffalo Bill's Dead Now
Margaret Coel
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425252253, $7.99,

This novel, the newest in the widely acclaimed Wind River Mystery series, is a little different from its predecessors. While still featuring Vicki and Father John, the thrust of the book is well in the past: the late 19th century, to be exact, when Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show toured Europe featuring various Indian groups, including Arapahos like Chief Black Heart.

It appears that the regalia worn by the Chief went missing when the tour came to an end, only to be discovered when the building in which it was hidden was being demolished. The items were purchased by a local rancher and donated to the museum at the St. Francis mission. However, en route from Germany the shipment is hijacked, and Vicki and Father John, as usual, have to come to the rescue. The mystery includes the murder of the donor, who might have known more about the stolen goods. Complicating the investigation is a feud between two Arapaho families with lineage back to the principal players way back when.

Intertwined in the tale are descriptions of what it is like living on a reservation, now and in the distant past, and the effect on the lives of Native Americans. The plot is well-presented, with the requisite suspense to keep the reader wondering what comes next. The real question, always present, is the relationship between Vicki and Father John and what, if anything, will ever develop.


Capital Punishment
Robert Wilson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02166
9780547798165, $26.00,

It's not often that kidnappers do not demand money in exchange for the victim. But that is precisely what happens when Alyshia D'Cruz, daughter of an Indian billionaire, Frank D'Cruz, is grabbed one night in London, and she is subjected to intense psychological interrogation, for reasons that are unclear to her father.

The ramifications of the abduction are wide. One possible motive is revenge on her father - but at whose instigation and for what reason: Gangster associates with whom he has been in business? Terrorists in Pakistan, where he has operations and dealings with intelligence agents? There are other theories involving MI-6 and other spy agencies, personal relationships of various characters, including Frank's ex-wife, Frank's relationship with his daughter, and her relationship with her mother (Frank's ex-wife). Ultimately Charles Boxer, a private security officer, is retained by Frank to rescue his daughter.

This is a very complicated novel, written with great depth and on many levels, encompassing religious fanatics, Indian mobsters, London crime lords, Pakistani politics, and British government officials, all kinds of plots within plots and distorted personal relationships.


The Golden Egg
Donna Leon
Atlantic Monthly Press
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802121011, $26.00,

It is no mean feat to sustain a mystery series at this high a level through 18 novels. Of course, that is just what Donna Leon has accomplished, and more (this is the 19th Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery). Of course, "The Golden Egg" features that charming and erudite Venetian detective in a tale that begins with the death of a mentally challenged deaf mute who works in a tailor shop frequented by Brunetti's wife, Paola. She goads Brunetti into looking into the death, which appears to be natural.

At the same time, Brunetti's boss timidly asks him to look into whether or not the mayor's son's fiancee, part owner of a store, is evading taxes or paying bribes to tax officials. The mayor, of course, is running for reelection and could do without any embarrassing revelations. The Commissario solves this one quickly and smoothly, but spends the entire novel on the other investigation, which becomes more complicated with every interview, no part of which is an official inquiry.

The charm of Brunetti's home life, his relationship with his wife, daughter and son are always plusses in the books that make up this series. Unlike most others, the central theme of this novel is not a serious issue, but a personal, subtle one. Written with the usual depth of knowledge about Venice, its allure and atmosphere, the novel is recommended.

The Prophet
Michael Koryta
Back Bay Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316122597, $15.99,

Although football is a main topic throughout this novel, in this small Ohio town (dominated, it seems, by the high school team) it is anything but a game. Typical of many rust belt areas, when the steel plants closed the population dwindled. But life goes on, especially for two estranged brothers, both of whom played for the Cardinals in their youth: Adam Austin, a fullback who was on the last championship eleven, and Kent, who starred as a quarterback after Adam's graduation, and is now the head coach.

Their subsequent lives have been dominated by an unfortunate occurrence one night when Adam was preoccupied with his girlfriend and Austin couldn't leave his football duties to accompany their sister, Marie, home from school. It was Adam's responsibility, and she never made it home. At some point after she went missing the family learned that she had been murdered. Neither brother forgave himself, especially Adam, who maintains the boyhood home with Marie's room as a shrine. When the culprit is finally captured on a fluke in Cleveland and sentenced to prison time, Austin visits with him in jail and tells him he forgives him, an act which Adam hardly condones.

Thus, the stage is set for a repeat performance when the girlfriend of the star receiver for Coach Kent's team asks Adam to locate an address for her father who apparently has just been released from prison. Adam gets an address and the girl goes there, only to be brutally murdered. It turns out that Kent had recommended Adam, who has a PI license, to the boy, who had passed along the information to the girl. Each of the brothers feels responsibility, leading to a series of events through which they seek to redeem themselves for present and past actions.

The author has written a suspenseful crime story based on good and evil, selfless acts, and atonement of sins. At no point does the reader know what will happen next, even when it is on the one yard line with goal to go.

Highly recommended.

J.J. Hensley
Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Rd., Sag Harbor, NY 11963
9781579623135, $28.00,

This debut novel probably tells the reader more than he/she wants to know about running a marathon and the various Pittsburgh neighborhoods in which it is run, but it ties together the plot of several murders. Dr. Cyprus Keller is the protagonist. He is a professor at a relatively undistinguished Steel City university and is one of several academics forming a running group in addition to their teaching responsibilities.

When one of his students is found murdered, he becomes part of the police investigation. And then several more murders occur, and he is a common denominator. Deeply involved, he undertakes his own investigation into the crimes, and as a result is an active participant in the developments that arise. Early on, he discloses that he will murder one person during the marathon, and as the race progresses, the reader awaits the act and how Keller proposes to get away with the deed.

Each chapter begins with a description of the various phases of the 22.2 mile race, sometimes dropping a clue, others just describing the neighborhood or the pain of running. The summary is then followed by a narrative of events leading up to the novel's denouement. It is an interesting technique. While a reader can become bored by a lot of minutiae, the novel is cleverly written and for a first effort deserves praise. Recommended.

Creole Belle
James Lee Burke
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451648140, $9.99,

The latest adventures of Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcell read like a massive morality play in 500-plus pages. The series tales place in southern Louisiana, the bayou country and New Orleans, with all the historic corruption derived from the Civil War and slavery, the oil industry, prostitution and other societal evils. Dave and Clete are supposed to represent the good fighting the sleaziness.

In the previous entry in the series, the duo suffered near death in a bayou shootout, and we now find Dave in a New Orleans recovery facility in a morphine-induced haze where he receives a midnight visit from Tee Jolie Mellon, a creole barroom singer who leaves him an i-pod filled with music, including three songs she sings and which apparently only he can hear. Raising doubts that the visit was in fact real. Meanwhile, Clete is confronted by two goons claiming they hold a marker for a debt he believes was paid off many years before. To further complicate his life, Clete witnesses his illegitimate daughter murder one of the goons. Then Tee Jolie's young sister washes up on the Gulf Coast in a block of ice. An oil well blow-off fouling the environment adds to the corruption endemic to their world.

To say the very least, the plot is a highly complicated series of inter-related components weaved into a long and somewhat tiring saga. The author has stretched his formidable abilities to include wide-ranging comments on a variety of subjects, some poignant, others evocative. But always clear and concise. One has to question the violence performed by Dave and Clete in their quest for justice. Is it excessive and, perhaps, unwarranted? But certainly it is in character, and the novel is recommended.

The Money Kill
Katia Lief
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062091376, $7.99,

Sometimes an offer is too good to be true. That's what happens to former NYC police detective Seamus ("Mac") MacLeary, now a private investigator, when he is offered an easy half-day job in London for an exorbitant fee and a house-swapping vacation on an Italian island. Without thinking, he grabs the offer; the consequences are enormous.

Mac is now specializing in marital infidelities, and is approached by the wife of billionaire Godfrey Millerhausen to investigate what she believes to be an affair. It seems that if one can be proved, it would nullify a pre-nuptial agreement which would cut her off from lots of money. In the midst of Mac's surveillance, he receives a lucrative offer from a respected organization, and suspends his investigation into the Millerhausen marital situation. He goes to London with his wife, Karin Schaeffer, sending his family on to Sardinia with his associate, Mary, and her son. And then the deluge. It takes Mac and Karin the rest of the book to unravel the evil perpetrated by the billionaire's money

This is a straightforward tale of mystery and misery. What mystery exists, however, is merely who, what and when, but no deep, penetrating unknowns. The novel drags on to a fairly obvious conclusion, with a lot of repetitious language and superfluous lovemaking. Not to be misogynistic about it, but I suspect the book may appeal more to women than to men.

The Cuckoo's Calling
Robert Galbraith
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316206846, $26.00,

The author, known for the Harry Potter series and writing this under a pseudonym, creates an interesting protagonist, Cormoran Strike, a down-at-the heels PI trying to stay alive. He is the illegitimate son of a rock star brought up by an unusual mother, who found a home in the British army until he lost a leg in Afghanistan. It yet remains to be seen whether he can (or will) be more fully developed as a character in the future, since he really is two-dimensional in this novel.

The plot revolves around the death of a supermodel who fell from the balcony of her luxurious penthouse. Her adoptive brother insists that she would not have jumped, and retains Strike to investigate. The police look into the case in detail and rule it conclusively a suicide. Strike interviews various persons, looks at the police file and comes to a different conclusion.

The real mystery about this book is whether or not it was ever proofread. Or, in the alternative, if it was, did the proofreader wear his or her glasses. The novel is rife with errors. The story itself is a straightforward tale, carefully constructed and well-written, although somewhat formulaic. Now that the cat is out of the bag, will Rowling write another in this genre? And will it be a step forward in the development of an interesting protagonist? We shall see.


Theodore Feit

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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