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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 1 January 2013 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Ann's Bookshelf Bethany's Bookshelf
Buhle's Bookshelf Burroughs' Bookshelf Carson's Bookshelf
Crocco's Bookshelf Daniel's Bookshelf Deacon's Bookshelf
Duncan's Bookshelf Gail's Bookshelf Gary's Bookshelf
Gloria's Bookshelf Gorden's Bookshelf Harwood's Bookshelf
Heidi's Bookshelf Karyn's Bookshelf Katherine's Bookshelf
Logan's Bookshelf Lois' Bookshelf Mabeya's Bookshelf
Margaret's Bookshelf Marjorie's Bookshelf Mayra's Bookshelf
Peggy's Bookshelf Regis' Bookshelf Richard's Bookshelf
Sandra's Bookshelf Suzie's Bookshelf Teri's Bookshelf
Theodore's Bookshelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Teaching of Physics
A. K. Nayak
APH Publishing House
9788176485180, $29.15

Anand B. Surampudi

"Teaching of Physics" by A. K. Nayak delves into science education focused on physics, the science that is the substratum of empirical knowledge. Physics as a subject deals with the study of the fundamental properties of matter on all scales, from the sub-nuclear to the cosmic and the nature of space-time continuum. The author, an eminent physicist and teacher have very noble intentions in presenting this book. He is directing all his energies at physics teachers who are interested in becoming better and effective instructors so as to benefit the student community.

In its discourse covering a wide range of recently developed teaching techniques, the book shows that science education has been making steady progress toward achieving the status of a highly complex domain that require constant learning. The book is divided into five chapters each exploring the various aspects of physics teaching. It begins with a discourse on learning and teaching science. Then it proceeds to highlight the vital importance of resources mandatory for effective teaching-learning process. Next the topic of learning physics is taken into consideration. The fourth chapter deals with a topic which will interest everybody and that is aptly titled, 'Active Learning.' Lastly, the author speaks about Heat and Temperature so as to conclude the book.

The book appropriately stresses that instructors should devote much more attention to context and process and notes that each is highly complex, yet critically influential on the effectiveness of programs and the success of teachers and their students. A critically important point is made, under the label of context, that teachers must be sensitive to the needs, characteristics, and dynamics of different levels of schooling. Information needs do vary considerably across classroom, school, district, state and national levels; evaluation plans processes, and reports should take these differences into account if evaluations are to be useful at each level. To the point of improving teaching and learning, there is discussion of the pros and cons of traditional classroom-based approach and how improvement-orientation is the need of the hour for the sake of technologically exposed students of contemporary world.

Throughout the book are repeated emphases on the importance of employing multiple teaching methods, employing theoretical and practical methodology and using innovative assessment processes in evaluating student learning. The book's author agrees that it often requires team efforts. This book will be of great help to young and aspiring science educators who want to make a difference in the formation of scientific generation. A valuable resource for all!

The Quick Start Guide To Healthy Eating
Gretchen Scalpi, RD, CDN, CDE
7290-B Investment Drive
North Charleston, SC 29418
9781481002516, $14.95,

Bonnie Jo Davis

I admit it. I have food issues. You can give up vices like drinking and smoking but how do you give up food when it is a problem for you? The truth is that you can't. If you struggle with eating healthy then this book is for you.

There are thousands of books out there about diets but few that focus on actual nutrition and REAL healthy eating. We all know a few things about healthy eating like cutting back on sweets but after reading "The Quick Start Guide To Healthy Eating" I realized there is much that I don't know.

The author begins the book with two real case studies from her nutrition practice. I found those stories motivational and it made me eager to read the rest of the book.

The Table Of Contents includes:

Healthy Eating And Nutritional Myths
The Basics Of A Healthy Diet
Make It Easy To Eat Healthy
Quick Meal Prep Tips
Tips To Get Kids Eating Healthy Meals
Save Money While Eating Healthy
Put Variety Into Your Meals
Healthy Eating For Special Diets
Six Week Quick Start Guide
Appendix A: Food Safety
Appendix B: Pathogens That Cause Foodborne Illness
Appendix C: Stock Recipes
Appendix D: Easy Healthy Meals and Snack Recipes
Appendix E: Mix & Match - Meal Planning Success
Appendix F: Low Sodium Spice Mixes
Appendix G: Spice/Food Combinations
Appendix H: Low Fat Gravies and Sauces
Appendix I: Oven Roasted Vegetables
Appendix J: Leaner Cuts of Beats

This book will shatter many of the myths of healthy and not so healthy eating and includes a six week quick start guide that gives you lots of small, healthy changes you can make every week.

The author, Gretchen Scalpi, is a RD, CDN, CDE and Certified Wellcoach®. She owns a private nutritional consulting practice. She is a contributing diabetes expert for and the author of "The Everything Guide to Managing and Reversing Pre-Diabetes: Your complete plan for preventing the onset of Diabetes", "The Everything Diabetes Cookbook, 2nd ed.," "Pre-Diabetes Your Second Chance At Health E-Book", "Pre-Diabetes Your Second Chance At Health Presentation" and the "Virtual Grocery Store Tour".

I recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about healthy eating but doesn't want to go on some crazy diet that doesn't work. This book would be a great pick as a gift for you adults who need to know more about a healthy diet and for anyone who has food issues. The appendices alone make the book worth what you pay for it.

Classroom Instruction that Works
Robert J. Marzano, et al.
ACSD Publications
1703 North Beauregard Street
Alexandria, VA 22311-1714
9780871205049, $24.95,

Brian Kollack

The collaborative effort of Robert J. Marzano, Debra J. Pickering, Jane E. Pollock, and Virginia Alexandria, "Classroom Instruction that Works: Research Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement" is a tool that provides educators with a "research-based" look at instructional strategies that will help students become more successful in the classroom. The strategies outlined in this book are geared toward providing the students an efficient framework so that they will be successful and achieve maximum learning.

The book begins with a look at educational research and the benefits it can provide to classroom instruction. At the beginning of the 1970's, researchers began to look at the effects of instruction on student learning (Marzano et al, 2001, p.1). Some of the ideas presented in this book include: student-centered instruction, teaching of critical thinking skills, and the use of "hands-on" laboratory activities. The strategies outlined are geared toward these ideas and how to effectively incorporate them into lessons in the classroom. Each chapter describes a different instructional strategy. The strategies discussed are: identifying similarities and differences, summarizing and note taking, reinforcing effort and receiving recognition, homework and practice, nonlinguistic representation, cooperative learning, setting objectives and providing feedback, generating hypotheses, and cues, questions, and advance organizers.

The second chapter begins discussing the strategies. Each chapter thereafter goes into a different strategy. The authors start with the strategy that they feel is most important. The first strategy discussed is identifying similarities and differences. The authors state that "Researchers have found these mental operations to be basic to human thought" (Marzano et al, 2001, p. 14). Classroom practices include: ask students to compare, identifying similarities and differences among concepts, help students classify, grouping things that are alike into categories, encourage students to create metaphors, identifying a basic pattern in one item that is reflected in another item, and asking students to create analogies, finding relationships between pairs of concepts. Identifying similarities and differences may well be the "core of all learning. Using this strategy can deepen students' understanding and enhance their ability to apply new knowledge. Summarizing and note taking helps students sort out important information and restate in a concise form, thus improving their comprehension. If students learn to do this in the younger grades, then they will be much more successful later in their academic years. Reinforcing and providing recognition allows the teacher to teach the importance of effort and how it relates to better results. Homework should be viewed as an extension of learning, rather than extra work. Nonlinguistic representation are ways to represent learning visually, rather than linguistically. These include charts, graphs, and diagrams. Cooperative learning allows students to be interdependent, yet be accountable for individual contributions. Setting objectives and providing timely feedback is important because students need goals that are realistic and educators need to provide specific and timely feedback to assist students in meeting the goals. Generating and testing hypotheses is a basic cognitive skill that helps students apply knowledge and develop higher order thinking skills in all content areas, not just science. Cues and questions account for about 80% of what teachers do in class, so teachers need to ask effective questions that elicit higher order thinking and deeper level answers from the students.

This book has some very good ideas in regard to student achievement and effective ways to reach out to students to ensure that they have the tools to be successful in the classroom. Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock have done a very efficient job of compiling data and explaining the strategies in a manner that most people can understand what they are talking about. The strategies are easy to incorporate into a classroom and should be started at the beginning of the school year. As with any procedure, repetition will make these strategies a part of their everyday routine. The authors do a great job of giving examples of how discussions may go in a classroom and incorporating the strategies into the discussion. They also provide effective diagrams for the notetaking and summarizing section, as well as the advance organizer section.

I feel that one of the drawbacks of the book is the fact that some of the terms that go along with the research are not explained. If a teacher that has not had experience in conducting research or reading data from research reads this book, they may be confused when they get to those graphs. Also, while the cover is colorful and aesthetically pleasing, the graphics inside the book are not, which seems like a minor issue, but for some readers, color means a lot. I feel like there should be a glossary of terms at the end of the book as well.

With all of this being said, this book would be a very helpful tool for any educator in any grade. The ideas and strategies have been used and the students who use these strategies tend to perform better in the classroom than those that do not. Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock look like visionaries; their ideas presented in this book eleven years ago are starting to be realized in the Common Core State Standards.

Conversations for Change
Shawn Kent Hayashi
Two Penn Plaza, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10121-2298
9780071745284, $17.00,

Cathy Brines

Why is it so hard to have a conversation with your boss, sister, neighbor, etc? You many find your question answered in Conversations for Change: 12 Ways to Say It Right When It Matters Most.

Conversations for Change is a book on understanding the key components of effective communication. Shawn Hayashi incorporates her life coaching tools in developing strong conversational skills. I find the book easy to read and full of helpful examples and suggestions. This book would be for anyone who has the desire to improve their communication skills as well as for one who currently is dealing with a difficult relationship. Amazing insight about why conversations do not work is offered.

The first three chapters are devoted to the foundations of every conversation: emotional intelligence, workplace motivators and communication styles. As she explores emotional intelligence, Hayashi explains how the seven core emotions affect thoughts and behaviors. Becoming aware of your emotional state and learning to regulate emotions will lead to purposeful conversations. In addition to growing strong in emotional intelligence, it is important to know our workplace values. Workplace values will determine what motivates us and will drive our conversations. Knowing the values of people in your life will facilitate the topics you chose when engaging in them. Then, Hayashi tackles four communication styles. Knowing other's communications styles as well as our own, facilitates stronger connections and relationships.

The next twelve chapters explore the twelve conversation types. They range from conversations for connections to conversations for moving on. Each chapter includes the purpose for the type of conversation, phrases and questions that facilitate this type of conversation as well as mistakes to avoid.

Because Hayashi is so clear in her descriptions and examples, I could informally identify where I am in regards to my values. I realize that my greatest motivator is social. I feel very strongly about making a difference for others and I strive to solve people issues. However, my brother leans towards a utilitarian set of values. Knowing this, I can now be aware of conversations that are going to appeal to my brother and have more meaningful dialogues. Furthermore, because of the book's organization, I am able to flip through and find conversation starters for others if I have listened to them carefully enough to know their motivators.

While I enjoyed this book on its own, I see a value to using it as a book study. It would be interesting to share experiences as well as hear how others have used this valuable knowledge.

Hope for Animals and Their World
Jane Goodall, Thane Maynard, & Gail Hundson
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446581783, $15.99,

Cay Leytham-Powell

For many, hope is a powerful emotion interwoven with many fibers enveloping context, fear, pride, anticipation and optimism. In much the same vein as faith, hope is placing your belief in others and awaiting the best. Unlike faith, however, hope is the opiate of the hardworking and the optimistic, driving those willing to work to make the impossible happen. Through this tenet of hope, Jane Goodall (with Thane Maynard and Gail Hudson) draws most of the inspiration for the book Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink. In Hope for Animals and Their World, Jane Goodall weaves a compelling tale of the plight of many of the world's most endangered animals and the people who are trying to save them. While the book's greatest strength is its heart-warming tales, its greatest weakness is its coverage of the scope and complexity of the problem.

The story is exhibited by case-studies of specific animals that have been, or are close to extinction. Like most conservation books, the animals chosen for discussion are the more charismatic creatures, leaving many others' plight clouded by obscurity. The case-studies are organized in different sections of the story, totaling five sections. Section one discusses animals that have gone extinct in the wild. Section two tells the story of animals that were never declared extinct in the wild, but would have been if determined scientists and conservationists had not taken action. Part three discusses animals that do not have a secure future. This is the case because for one reason or another they cannot seem to establish a viable population that has been reintroduced into the wild. Section four focuses specifically on the plight of island birds and the damage that has come to their populations since we have started inhabiting their ecosystems. Finally, section five discusses the thrill of discovery of new species, or of finding living "extinct" creatures. This thrill of discovery still persists to this day.

Throughout all five of the sections, not only do the authors concentrate on the animals, but also the hard work of the conservationists to save these species. As Helen Brown states in her review in The Telegraph, "The conservationists whose work is celebrated in Jane Goodall's book have demonstrated all manner of brave, messy, patient, self-sacrificing and occasionally rather barmy-sounding behaviour in their battle to preserve the Earth's biodiversity".

Each section is set up in much of the same manner. It begins with a brief introduction to the animal (a context of sorts), and then proceeds to tell the audience what happened to the animal. Many times it is a combination of aspects that has plagued the species close to extinction. These factors include habitat loss, our lack of human understanding of the animal, the second-hand effects of human actions, the introduction of invasive species, and illegal capture for the exotic pet trade. For many of the case studies, these factors were intertwined with stories of the people attempting to save the animal. While setting up all of the problems and predicaments of the animal, Jane Goodall remains hopeful, discussing the power of education and outreach.

This hope and upbeat attitude is also the weakness of the work. During much of the book, Jane Goodall discusses the dire plight of these animals, but then attempts to reassure the audience of their continued survival. Due to this change of pace, many factors about the animals' lives and survival remain obscured. The conservation of any species is a complex problem that is dependent on many factors of society including the social sciences, biological sciences, economics, business, and policy work. These chapters lack a sense of the breadth of all of these groups working together for the sake of this animal, and rather focus specifically on the biological aspects of conservation. The stories, while engaging and heart-warming, fall flat in truly giving a sense of a realistic way to help future species on the brink. This analysis seems to agree with Kathryn Shevelow's review in the Washington Post, where she states that, "Each account is brief, even perfunctory, lacking the scope to narrate dramatic sagas that lasted for years. Although acknowledging the institutional support these heroes received, 'Hope for Animals' emphasizes individual efforts to combat a global crisis that can be systematically addressed only by governmental action." In essence, these incredible individuals could not have done this by themselves, and the helpers are nowhere to be seen in this story.

While there were flaws with the way that the case-studies were set-up and addressed, Hope for Animals and Their World is a captivating read that left me feeling optimistic and ready to do my part for the cause, even though I lacked a way to proceed. This seems to be something that Jane Goodall had in mind, because at the end of the book is page after page of what the reader can do to help the animal that interested them the most. For most animals or plants addressed on the pages of this book, there is a way that you can assist with their recovery and how you can go see the animal for yourself. These ways of protecting the animal connect the reader directly to the problem, giving the reader a sense of ownership. This is important because, as Jane Goodall said, each one of us that cares must be involved in the protection and restoration of these plants and animals.

This particular volume was published in 2011 as a republication of the 2009 original by Hachette Book Group. The only difference is a new epilogue. The epilogue attempts to update the reader on these animals and the people who worked for their protection's status now, and reassure the reader that each case is still a problem that needs addressing. Many of these problems are evolving and growing increasingly complex with time, and while some situations got better, many did not.

This theme of hope was pervasive through the pages. I agree with Shevelow as she states, "Yet within the environmental devastation surrounding us, it is not amiss for Goodall to remind us that, after all the evils had flown from Pandora's box, there at the bottom remained hope." While there are many important reminders of which individuals need to be aware before they run out to save these creatures, it is important to keep hope, because as Jane Goodall puts it, "If we are without hope, we fall into apathy. Without hope nothing will change. That is why we feel it is so desperately important to share our own, irrepressible hope for the animals and their world" (353). There is a chance, that through this tone of hope, people will be spurred into action on the battlefield of life and death waged before their very eyes.

America The Philosophical
Carlin Romano
Alfred A Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
9780679434702, $35.00,

David W. Rodick

America The Philosophical is a wakeup call to the institutional practice of Philosophy in the United States. Romano's claim is twofold; an incisive critique of the narrow way in which academic Philosophy - Philosophy with a capital "P" - is currently practiced; and a celebration of the vast amount of philosophical (with a small "p") energy displayed in American culture. Romano, a philosopher, lawyer, journalist, literary critic, and Professor of Philosophy, is able to marshal a unique set of skills, experiences, and insights to support his claim. The book is based upon roughly 200 interviews conducted over the course of his career as a journalist.

America The Philosophical stands in a long line of compelling appeals to American Philosophy. Emerson's Divinity School Address - represents a "first wave" of appeals for the importance of the American angle of vision - a "spiritual declaration of independence." John Dewey's call for a "recovery of philosophy" away from abstract considerations to "problems of men" constitutes a "second wave." Richard Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, emphasizing the need for Philosophy to engage the contemporary intellectual landscape in conversation, represents a "third wave."

Romano's book, admonishing the hyper-professionalization of Philosophy and its excessive formalism, while celebrating the proliferation of philosophical activity within the interstices of American culture, stands as a tsunami-like "fourth wave" - a contemporary example of what Rorty envisioned as "philosophy and the conversation of mankind." Whereas Rorty's initial interlocutors consisted of figures such as Dewey, Heidegger and Wittgenstein, Romano's conversation involves a much more diverse cast of characters, representing, at times, disciplines quite new to the western canon.

The book is consists of six parts and an Epilogue. Part 1 "American Philosophy and the Tradition" is intended to "enter the map of mainstream American philosophy ... at both its fringe and center (19)." We are introduced to figures ranging from Charles Peirce to Richard Posner. This section concludes with a chapter entitled "Rorty's Revolution." According to Romano, "In American philosophy itself, Rortyism blew in like a gust through a dusty attic (130)." In his attempt to champion philosophy's role as a partner in conversation, Rorty opened up a "demilitarized zone between analytic and continental philosophy (139)."

Within the demilitarized zone of conversation, any type of uniformity might best be characterized as a coat of many colors. In Part 2, "Abandoning Toothless Truth: Other White Males Muscle In," Romano asks: "Can philosophy, one of Western Civilizations most highly revered 'high brow' activities, flourish as a practice of Rortyian persuasion? (161)" The question should be "Can Philosophy, as it is currently practiced, survive as part of a multi-lingual conversation? The proliferation of other voices in the conversation of humankind: Psychiatry (Robert Coles), Literary Criticism (Harold Bloom), History (Francis Fukuyama), Linguistics (George Lakoff and Mark Johnson), Journalism (Hugh Hefner) and Broadcasting (Bill Moyers) signify a rather significant disconnect between academic Philosophy and the pressing concerns of American culture. According to Romano: "We think differently and more inclusively about America today, and we need to think differently and more inclusively about American philosophy, too (48)."

Part 3, "The Rising Outsiders," reports on the rise of new, dissident voices within the disciplinary landscape. African American, Native American, Gay, Feminist, and interdisciplinary figures, like Susan Sontag and Ayn Rand, are profiled in an effort to show that philosophy need not be restricted to "formal, bloodless categories." A compelling moment in this section is when Anita Allen, the Henry R. Silverman Professor Law and Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, reflecting upon the benefits of combining a career in philosophy with a career in law, offers the following diagnosis of Philosophy: "The ability to interact with the world isn't that great ... the methodologies are narrow. I feel that philosophy is hoisting itself by its own petard. Its unwillingness to be more inclusive in terms of issues, methods, and demographics, means that it is losing out on a lot of vibrancy, a lot of intellectual power (441)."

Part 4, "Gutenberg's Revenge: The Explosion of Cyber Philosophy," exposes an increasing recognition of the "fleeting nature" of new media: "The books prestige is actually increasing in an age when everything seems so ephemeral (470)." Amidst an impressive review of cyber commentators, Romano identifies a growing tide of "cybercynicism" - amongst those other than profiteers - concerning the proliferation of digitization: "Vitally important to the success of the [digital] revolution is our willingness to move indoors, to renounce the external world ... in favor of an internal one. [...] You're not alone, you're connected. You're not in your room, tapping on your keyboard. You're in touch, linked up, wired to the world (518)." These types of issues are contemporary examples of Descartes' prophetic question whether there is any distinguishable difference between dreaming and being awake. Traditional Philosophy would be well advised to recast this Cartesian issue in a more contemporary light.

Part 5, "Isocrates: A Man not a Typo," investigates the important consequences resulting from identifying Socrates and Plato, at the expense of Isocrates, as the founders of western Philosophy. According to Romano, if Isocrates had been selected, the divide between logic and rhetoric would be viewed more as a matter of degree as opposed to a difference in kind. No longer a choice between "dubious rhetoric and noble philosophy," Isocrates believed that "it is far superior to have decent judgments about useful matters, than to have precise knowledge about useful things (550)."

Part 6, "Saying No to Justification: The Magnificent Philosophy of John Rawls," explores the slippery slope between logic and rhetoric, taking the Rawlsian "project of justification" as an example. The Rawlsian project, despite its importance, fails in terms of what academic Philosophy refers to as "justification." According to Romano, "Americans, irreverent by a kind of birthright, intuitively grasp the surface logic of justification and why it doesn't compel by logical force alone. [...] To say that some claim is 'justified' implies that others should accept the claim, and one's criteria for the claim (577, 579)." There is no "magic key" to justification: "Conclusive refutations of philosophical positions are about as rare as sightings of the ivory-billed woodpecker (14)."

The Epilogue, "Obama, Philosopher in Chief," highlights the pragmatic dimensions of the Obama presidency. Through his ability to bricolage, assembling a plurality of differences into a working unity, Obama exhibits an "intellectual acuity and suppleness" indicative of "an exceptionally sophisticated and sustained engagement with the history of American thought (604)."

America The Philosophical is a powerful book that leaves the reader with a sense that something is wrong in the profession. We should not take Romano's message in a threatening way. The reader comes away with the sense that the author possesses compassion for Philosophy and for philosophy. For this reviewer, the experience of reading America The Philosophical was remarkably similar to reading Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature in 1979 - an experience that lead to the study of Philosophy at the graduate level. Caveat Lector. Dismissals of America the Philosophical as "journalism lacking in argumentative rigor" are desperate ad hominem responses that sadly miss the point. See for yourself.

Am I Like My Daddy
Marcy Blesy, author
Amy Kuhl Cox, illustrator
Bronze Man Books
Millikin University
1184 W. Main St., Decatur, Illinois 62522
9780981959139, $12.00 plus $2.50 postage

Denise Perry Donavin

Hilarious and poignant is Blesy's picturebook about 7 year old Grace who launches a search through conversation and journaling to discover "Am I Like my Daddy?" Chats with her mom and grandmother evoke amusing anecdotes and heart-lifting similarities while an aunt still cannot speak of her brother's death. The tale is based on the author's own search for family similarities and history after the death of her own father and on Blesy's experiences as a teacher and a volunteer at Lory's Place, a grief education and support center for children and families. Cox's stained-glass watercolor images add a lightness to the somber moments and illumine Grace's indomitable spirit. The father is haunting as a silhouette, but this allows young readers to fill in their own images of a parent they are searching for. The illustrator notes that she added "physical artifacts from her father (to) surround Grace" and lend ongoing intrigue to each picture. Grace's journey will guide other kids and families into discoveries of their own whether members are separated by death, geography, or emotional distance. A not-to-be-missed opportunity for family sharing or classroom projects on family life.

The Leader in Me
Stephen Covey
Franklin Covey Co.
2200 West Parkway Blvd.
Salt Lake City, UT 84119
9781439153178, $16.99,

Elizabeth Gibson

Stephen Covey is an American educator, author, businessman, and keynote speaker. Covey released his most popular book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", which proclaimed that values govern people's behavior. Covey presents his teachings in a series of habits that determine consequences. In 2008, Covey's book, "The Leader in Me: How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time", introduced a school-wide approach to student leadership based on the seven habits.

Covey recognizes the need for leadership in schools. More and more children are entering the workforce unprepared because they lack life skills like communication, teamwork, interpersonal skills, and self-motivation. He addresses this concern by using the seven habits to build a foundation for the rest of the students' lives, beginning early in school.

In this book, written for educators and parents, Covey illustrates how the Leader in Me program has been implemented at A.B. Combs Elementary School. This magnet school in Raleigh, North Carolina, took on the task of changing the school system to with the ultimate goal of embracing student leadership.

The seven habits and the Leader in Me program had a positive effect on the students at A.B. Combs Elementary. Not only did their test scores improve dramatically, there was an improved school culture, the disciplinary issues decreased, and the teacher became more invested in the students' growth.

I was motivated to read this book in a school book club because my school is looking into using the Leader in Me approach to develop our student leadership. The author spoke highly of A.B. Combs Elementary School and its successes, taking the readers through the process of beginning the program, and the successes that came from it. He did an excellent job illustrating the success of the Leader in Me program in this particular school, but he offered little practical advice for educators that want to implement this program in their own schools.

The story of A.B. Combs Elementary is inspiring. I can see the value of carrying out the Leader in Me program in schools, and I am eager to use Covey's approach with the seven habits. Although his book was a great introduction to the program, I will need to seek more information and training to really begin using the Leader in Me program in my school.

Covey encourages educators that children are capable of so much more than we give them the opportunity to be. The seven habits can change our children for the future.

A Jeffersonian Approach to Reversing America's Decline
Neal Herrick
History Publishing Company, LLC
P.O. Box 700
Palisades, NY 10964
9781933909592, $27.95,

J.L. Morin

Neal Herrick's new book, "A Jeffersonian Approach to Reversing America's Decline: A Look at America's Constitution", celebrates our Constitution and reminds us that our founding fathers handed it down as a 'work-in-progress' - for us to alter in times of crisis. The crux of Herrick's book is that it is 'love's labor lost' to fight a lot of separate battles in a money-controlled government. Instead, he suggests putting our energy into reforming government so that it responds to people rather than to money. In a lucid analysis, he shows the limitations of capitalism, detailing how corporations build out of self-interest and maximize profits taking as few precautions as lax government standards will allow. Herrick calls for a more realistic approach than expecting corporations to erode their profits by doing more for society. He considers landmark cases that facilitated, for example, the transfer of money from the corporate world to Congress, and argues that it is time to revise the Constitution of the United States with a 2nd constitutional convention and a bi-partisan strategy. At the very moment when constitutional amendments are under heavy fire, Herrick's book is more than timely: it's portentous. This is a 'must-read' for patriotic Americans regardless of their political party.

The Museum Of Abandoned Secrets
Oksana Zabuzhko
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781611090116, $8.99 pbk. / $4.99 Kindle

Janet Walker

A museum is a cultural repository of relics, artistic and functional. The interpretation of beautiful, strange or frightening objects in modern times is often dependent on the memories passed down through word of mouth or written record by the long ago creators/users of these items. Memories, particularly when they relate to human endeavour can be unreliable, prejudices and political allegiances often taint historical narratives.

Oksana Zabuzhko's novel, The Museum Of Abandoned Secrets pursues the truth about life in World War II by researching and quizzing memories of people who lived and fought during this period. Truth, always elusive, memories are not always forthcoming or welcome and cast shadows on current day relationships. Set in contemporary Ukraine, it tells the story of two modern day women, Daryna, a TV journalist and Vlada, a well known artist. Daryna, fascinated by an archival picture of Olena, a World War II Ukrainian insurgent soldier, begins research for a documentary to reveal the facts surrounding Olena's life and death. She meets and falls in love with Olena's grandson, Adrian. War, a terrible event, whenever or wherever it occurs, Daryna's search uncovers a dark past where secrets are still the local currency, memories distorted or silenced because the truth is too traumatic or dangerous to reveal. Daryna's choice is: whether to dig up the past and accept the consequences or abandon the secrets of Olena's life and let silence; the silence of the grave prevail.

The author, Oksana Zabuzhko, a prize winning Ukrainian poet, researched the book by collecting recorded evidence and anecdotal eyewitness accounts of the Nazi occupation in Lviv from local residents, Holocaust survivors, World War II veterans and members of the Ukranian Insurgent Army.

The Museum Of Abandoned Secrets is a large (708 pages) sprawling book which alternates between what could have been two novels - the present day romance set in a 2003 corrupt, slightly crazy, post Communist Ukraine struggling to emerge from the shackles of an oppressive Russian government and the tragic love story of Olena and her Free Ukrainian Army lover. The story does jump about a bit, perhaps, because the author was trying to mimic the way memory works in human minds - we know we are at the office but something triggers a return to childhood events and for a time reality takes a different turn. Once I accepted the episodic prose style I became absorbed in both stories. Zabuzhko's wonderfully creative descriptive passages and dialogue weaves an exciting entrancing story of a country and people rarely available to western readers - top marks to translator, Nina Shevchuk-Murray. Included in the story are some events that did occur in Ukraine between 1943 to 2003 which provide a historical context to the novel's theme; how memories of events resonate and shape the lives of future generations. I do think it's a mistake though, to think that the book is intended as a definitive guide to Ukranian history during this period. If readers would like to research further there are references at the back of the text.

Immerse yourself in this lovely book, let the funny, brave, idealistic, wildly romantic characters surround you - The Museum of Abandoned Secrets is a great read.

Media Magnetism
Christina Hamlett, editor
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432786496, $14.95,

Joanna Celeste

"Media Magnetism: How to Attract the Favorable Publicity You Want and Deserve" is a masterful compilation of twenty-four media professionals sharing insider snapshots of the complex and terrifying world of Media. Christina Hamlett weaves different voices into a tapestry that manages to convey the 360 panorama of what "media" truly means and how mere mortals can not only aspire to their fifteen minutes of fame, we can come to terms with what it will actually take on our part to get there, and keep the limelight shining.

Gone are the days we could walk into a PR agency, fling out our resume and demand, "Make me rich and famous". Media is not a singular-dimension entity with a one-size-fits-all solution; this is highlighted in the layout of the advice. One says to mail out a series of items as part of our press kit; the next says don't bother mailing out press kits these days, everything is done digitally. If we diligently followed every tip in the book, we would catch on such apparent contradictions. But the advice is not contrary - for some situations, a professional, physical press kit is called for. For others, a digital kit could be best. Sometimes we may require both.

Media is dynamic, scientific, visceral - and for all that this book makes possible to Do Yourself, it also showcases where we will need another person, with a trained eye, to guide us through the ropes. Gratefully Hamlett has cherry-picked a panoply of professionals to approach for said guidance.

With media, like motion pictures, what we as the untrained audience see and what happens behind the scenes to make the final two hours possible are two very different things. By approaching the vastness of "media" from both sides of the table, Hamlett leaves us with a new appreciation of media professionals and excitement at the prospect of participating in this team sport. Now that we know the nitty-gritty of what really goes on, "media" is no longer the daunting universe of princesses and ogres, but people working with other people to help them succeed in their unique and shared goals.

A word of warning: I bought the Kindle version and noted every point I could use. Before I was 50% through, I had 174 notes. I could not easily flip through pages and I got overwhelmed. Media Magnetism warrants paying out the $14.95 for the paperback, taking an exacto knife to the book, and creating a DIY workshop around this goldmine of practical knowledge: Punch holes in pages, insert into a binder, use page separators for the sections (Social Media, Interviews, Photo Shoots, Press Kits, etc.) and print out guest blog posts from, then write a one-page Plan of Action for each section (Website, TV, etc.) to check off as we go along.

Once we have our strategic plan, we're ready for tactical planning. Every business and person will benefit from buying and applying this book to achieve success.

The Element
Ken Robinson, Ph. D. with Lou Aronica
Penguin Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street
New York, New Your 10014
9780143116738, $15.00,

Lynn Holbrook

In his book The Element, Ken Robinson, Ph. D, poses the following question to his readers. "If left to your own devices - if you didn't have to worry about making a living or what others thought of you - what would you most be drawn to doing?" Knowing the answer to this question is knowing what your element is. He defines the element as the point where aptitude and passion meet attitude and opportunity, and living in your element is where you find your most successful and happy self.

Unfortunately, according to the author, the needs of aptitude and passion are not being met (in many cases) in our current educational system. Robinson argues that the educational system in the United States is built on a hierarchy of subjects with English/Language Arts and mathematics getting the most attention. All too often it is true that this is not where the aptitude and passions of our students lie. He also argues that the current use of standardized tests does not measure the creative areas in which the majority of our students thrive. Robinson puts forth the idea that we are teaching creativity and imagination out of our children and medicating them because they cannot sit still and conform.

The Element is a collection of inspirational stories of how people who either did not succeed in or did not like school became very successful adults by finding their element. Sir Paul McCartney was told that he did not have any musical talent and went on to become a member of the Beatles - one of the most famous bands worldwide. Meg Ryan who "froze in terror" when she had to speak in front of a large audience has been doing movies for over 25 years. James Earl Jones has one of the most recognizable voices in the world and stuttered terribly when he was a child. John Wilson - unknown to most - lost his eyesight in an accident at the age of 12 and went on to found Sight Savers International. These people, with the help and support of family, friends, mentors, and/or coaches, found their element after leaving primary and secondary education.

This book goes into great depth about the importance of creativity and imagination, the need for students to be able to explore the arts as well as the standard subjects, the power of allowing children to revel in their own uniqueness, and the necessity of fostering talent, aptitude, and passion in our students. It is very strong on the "what needs to be done." If there is a weakness in this text, it would be in the "how to do it."

Faith and Struggle on Smokey Mountain
Benigno P. Beltran, SVD
Orbis Books
PO Box 308, Maryknoll, NY 10545-0308
9781570759758, $25.00,

Patrick Ferraren

"Faith and Struggle on Smokey Mountain" by Benigno P. Beltran, SVD, is a book about one man's search for meaning amid, literally, the trash heap and the 25,000 scavengers with whom he lived for 30 years. Triumphant at the end, after a valiant spiritual and intellectual struggle, he shares with us his experiential wisdom, and argues the imperative of hope to save our planet.

Priest and scholar, Beltran lived with society's poorest to stay true to his beliefs, to find himself, and fathom life's mysteries. Through the scavengers' eyes, he was able to see the unseen, that reverent connection with the supernatural, and to find that religious consciousness is human experience integral to understanding the cosmos. His treatise on the God debate is a superb read about reconciling science and religion - that he adroitly relates to the garbage people's interconnectedness philosophy.

The book's humanizing element treats the people who lived on that garbage dump: their tribulations, culture, solidarity. The missionary's prophetic dialogue with them is a study of the resilient human spirit, in the dreariest of conditions. The scavengers' ability to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity provides valuable insight into how community can cope when we have trust in each other.

Father Ben takes us into his journey of seeking truth. He discovers it in his communion with the poor and, by his quest for understanding, enriches ours. He shows how a people, with only faith and each other, transcends Smokey Mountain, and teaches the world how to live in harmony. It is a fascinating intense book, rich in human experience and intellectual discourse, that tells the reader there is much more to life and reasons for living, and hopefully, I think, to do something about his own.

The Like Economy
Brian Carter
Que Publishing
c/o Pearson Technology Group
800 East 96th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46240
9780789749062, $24.99,

Paul Lappen, Reviewer

"The Like Economy: How Businesses Make Money With Facebook" by Brian Carter shows that it really is possible for any business to increase their revenue through Facebook.

Among the first things a business owner should decide is just what they want from Facebook. Do they simply want "Likes" and popularity? Alternatively, do they want Facebook to drive people to the company's e-commerce website to buy something? If the latter, then it should be obvious that the buying process on the website should be as easy as possible.

Before you create your ads, you need to decide on your target audience. Please be much more specific than, for instance, "women 25-54." Plan your ads accordingly. Even the best ad is good for only a period of time, not forever. There are ways to keep your ads fresh.

Now it's time to come up with some ads to be tested (it's OK to test more than one ad at the same time). There are ways to analyze their performance; look at things like Cost per Click and Click-Through Rate. It's also necessary to break down an ad into separate parts (headline, color, photos, text, etc). Don't be afraid to delete the parts that performed badly. It's also tempting to come up with a cute and creative ad to show the world how "cool" and "cutting edge" you are. Forget it. How can you make your customer's life easier? How can your product or service fulfill a need that they don't even know they have?

Monitoring your Facebook page is an important part of customer service. Depending on your corporate response, an upset customer can either turn into an evangelist for your company, or be the beginning of an online "boycott" of your company.

This book is not Facebook for Business for Beginners. It does not specifically say it, but the book assumes that the reader has a working Facebook for Business page, and knows how to make changes to it. This is well worth reading for any business owner, small or large.

Ann's Bookshelf

The Selfish Giant
Oscar Wilde
Rita Voutila, illustrator
Allen & Unwin
81 Alexander St.
Crows Nest, NSW 2065, Australia
9781742376509, A$29.99

Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant is a morality tale about selfishness and love, and although it was first published in 1888 it remains fresh and timeless.

Maybe the sudden appearance of Christian imagery at the end o f the story makes it a parable, but most children will not notice that or recognize its allusions. What they will respond to is the simple tale of a selfish giant who banishes some playful children from his garden and builds a great wall to keep them out. As a result, the Snow and the Frost and the North Wind come to live there permanently. Then, mischievous children find a way of creeping into the garden. They climb the trees, which happily break into blossom, and the flowers and the birds return. Only in one corner does Winter remain, and there one lonely boy is too small to climb into the branches. The giant sees him, takes pity on him, and lifts him into the tree. Then he knocks down the garden's walls and the children happily return, all but the little boy who, to the giant's sorrow, seems to have vanished. Years pass as the giant and the children enjoy the garden but only when the giant is very old does the boy unexpectedly return and it becomes clear, at the end, that he is a symbol of love.

The story is easily available on the Internet. But what is a children's story without pictures? Certainly, Rita Voutila's pictures are full of detail and have a colour and magic of their own. Her giant is not too much larger that a normal human adult and, although selfish, he is not at all fearsome. Her children look slightly Victorian in dress and they play with marbles, hoops and kites, but they look just like any group of youngsters and their sadness at being locked out of the garden and joy at being back is clear in their faces. So, too, is their eventual love and concern for the giant and his for them. Each picture is full of detail, colourful flowers and birds abound, and there are unexpected animals and little-people in dark corners and on chimney pots.

A few of Rita Voutila's illustrations for this book can be seen on her Home Page on the Internet. But it is the pictures and the story together which will appeal to young children and to their parents

This book is beautifully produced and is a pleasure to read and share with energetic youngsters: something which is hard to do with stories on an electronic screen.

The Lighthouse
Alison Moore
Canongate Books
14 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1TE
9780857869952, A$19.99

Futh is in his forties, newly separated from his wife, and taking a walking holiday in Germany. He hasn't been doing much walking recently but he plans on doing fifteen miles a day and coming home fit and tanned. And he remembers walking with his mother and father as a child and, especially, a sunny day on the cliff tops just before his mother left them both to disappear in the USA. He was twelve when that happened, and his father became unpredictably violent, so he would keep out of his way much of the time.

Futh is, above all, ordinary. He is unassertive, has rather limited social skills, and always inspects the escape routes from his hotel rooms in case of fire. His talisman, which he always keeps with him, is a silver lighthouse which once housed a bottle of his mother's violet-scented perfume. But lighthouses, as the books' epigram tells us, not only send out kindly light, they also wan of the rocks beneath. Futh's life seems always to have more rocks than most.

Alison Moore's "The Lighthouse" (short-listed for the Man Booker Prize 1012.) is deceptively simple. We come to understand Futh through countless ordinary details of his life and through his fragmented memories. Between the chapters about Futh, there are others about Ester, the wife of the hotel-keeper at whose hotel Futh starts and ends his journey. Esther craves attention from her violently possessive husband Bernard, who mostly ignores her. She compensates for this by taking casual lovers. Futh is not one of them but he becomes involved, all unknowingly, and the results are disastrous.

Esther life, like Futh's is little different to that of most people. And it is this ordinariness and the small details of the characters' day-to-day behavior which, at the end of the book, prompt questions about the accidents of life. Are our personalities shaped by nature or nurture (or lack of nurture)? Is the pattern of your lives determined by Fate? Does the appearance of Venus fly-traps at various parts of this story suggest that we are just like flies in the biological struggle for survival?

Nothing about Alison Moore's story is as obvious as these questions but her smooth and subtle control of the reader's mood and emotions has, in the end, enormous impact.

Swimming Home
Deborah Levy
Other Stories / Faber
978057129960, A$19.99 (paperback)
Bloomsbury USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315
New York, NY 10010
9781620401699, $14.00,

A body in the swimming pool is always a good start. But "Swimming Home" (short-listed for the Man Booker Prize 2012) is no ordinary mystery story. And Kitty Finch is no ordinary body.

Her appearance at the tourist villa which the Jacobs have rented disturbs everyone - Joe, Isabel and their fourteen-year-old daughter, Nina, and their friends Mitchell and Laura. Jurgen, the German hippy caretaker, and their neighbour, Madeleine Sheridan, also feel the impact of her presence.

Kitty herself is an enigma. She is a copper-haired botanist with green fingernails; a poet; an attractive young woman who favours walking around naked; and a disturbed and disturbing presence.

Deborah Levy's book is strange and unusual in its structure and its style. Her chapters are short, and their titles enigmatic: 'Walls that open and close', 'Body Electric', 'Money is Hard'. We follow the events of each day of one week after the appearance of Kitty, and Levy conveys the moods and thoughts of her characters through seemingly random remarks and actions. Each has their own problems and secrets, their own view of the world, and their own fears, desires and confusions. Each has their own particular response to Kitty. But nothing is spelled out and the tension mounts. The week begins and ends with a body in the swimming pool but the final chapter of the book is given to Nina - her memories and her dreaming conversations with her father.

This is a curious novel, full of psychological insight, but Tom MacCarthy's 'Afterword', with its mention of Deborah Levy's reading in Lacan, Deleuze, Barthes, Duras, Stein and Ballard risks making it seem like a dry academic exercise. His assessment of what he calls the "kaleidoscopic narrative" in this book adds more name-dropping confusion and is superfluous unless its readers are bent on deconstructing the text rather than enjoying a stimulating and interesting book.

The Robber of Memories: A River Journey through Columbia
Michael Jacobs
Granta Books
12 Addison Avenue, London, W11 4QR
9781847084071, A$35.00

The Columbian folk-tale figure of the Robber of Memories haunts this book in many different ways. Michael Jacobs' journey to the source of the Magdalena River in Columbia is a record of his travels but it is also about memory and loss - about history, conflict, disappeared people, and about personal experiences of loss. Jacobs' father died of Alzheimer's' and his Italian-born mother is suffering from severe memory loss and dementia. "I needed to believe", Jacobs writes, "that certain thoughts and memories would always remain, strong enough to counteract any sense of emptiness you continue travelling upriver, towards an enigmatic source".

Jacobs' journey through Columbia from the mouth of the river to its source is full of memorable moments, full of excitement, ennui, pleasure, fear, and full, too, of the people he meets and sometimes travels with. Inspired by a chance meeting with Gabriel Garcia Marquez at a literary festival in the Columbian coastal town of Cartagena, Jacobs began a journey which had long been his dream. Fluent in Spanish, and with many literary connections, he managed to travel from the mouth of the River - The Mouth of Ashes - to its source in the "moorland landscape of bogs, boulders and bare peaks" of the Paramo de Las Papas (the Moorland of the Potatoes) - a name which Jacobs deems "wholly inappropriate to the otherworldly scenery".

He travels by various means: on a tug captained by the exuberant, pessimistic and possibly unstable Diomidio; by launch and a tiny tug to the turbulent river mouth; by car to various towns which have particular memories for him - historical and literary; and by passenger-service chalupa ("like a covered metal coffin"). Ultimately, half-falling from a horse along treacherous, slippery paths, and then on foot, he reaches his goal, but the events which occur on this final stage of his journey are frightening and worrying.

In spite of the ever present danger of being a British traveller in a country where kidnapping of foreigners is still a very real threat, Jacobs' persistent worry was his mother. Intermittently in touch with her carers by Columbian cellphone, he expected at any time to be called back to Britain. The pull of family prompts memories of his mother's younger days, and he remembers extracts from the diaries he inherited after his father's death, which fill out the story of his parents' wartime meeting and marriage. Memories, too, of the novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and of the symptoms of memory-loss which he recognized in him when they met, intrude on his travels. But for a thoughtful writer who once studied at London's Warburg Institute, over the entrance to which is inscribed the word Mnemosyne (the Goddess of Memory) this involvement with memories is perhaps to be expected.

Altogether, this is an unusual travel book in which the river, the country and its delights and horrors, history and adventure are interwoven with Jacobs' personal worries and his discoveries, delights and pleasures in a moving and thought-provoking way.

Ann Skea, Reviewer

Bethany's Bookshelf

Success in School
Colette O'Connor
9780957050501 $9.99

Colette O'Connor, an occupational therapist of 20 years' experience who specializes in working with children, presents Success in School, a straightforward guide to helping children learn. Chapters offer concrete strategies to improve concentration, debunk common myths (such as the belief that a child must sit still to learn, or that the same learning environment works for all children), as well as raising awareness of two "secret" senses - vestibular (the part of the inner ear that responds to motion and gravity) and proprioceptive sense (awareness of one's body parts without having to look at them). Practical strategies include incorporating stretches or exercise into a child's study routine, simply allowing a child to look away while processing thoughts, knowing when to start instruction (too early can be as detrimental as too late), and much more. An excellent supplementary resource for parents, teachers, and anyone responsible for the education of younger children, Success in School is highly recommended.

The Nature of Risk
David X Martin
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
c/o Kathryn Hall (publicity)
PO Box 1486, Ukiah, CA 95482
9781475184396, $14.95,

There is risk in everything we do, and how much we allow risk to dictate our actions says much about our personality. "The Nature of Risk" is a self-help take on the approach to risk, as David X Martin discusses the many approaches of risk, casting many of us as many creatures, hoping to help readers understand how they have been approaching risk, and how they can approach risk more effectively in their lives. "The Nature of Risk" is an enticing addition to self-help and motivational collections.

Liam O'Shiel
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463569327 $17.50

Eirelan is the award-winning debut novel of author Liam O'Shiel. A work of "future historical fiction", set thousands of years after an unknown catastrophe has leveled today's modern, technology-driven infrastructure, Eirelan tells of ordinary people fighting to defend their homes and their livelihoods. As the Province of the Twenty Clans prepares to celebrate its millennium, a select few realize that the Province will have to change if it is to survive. Steeped in Irish culture and tradition, yet weaving its own original tale populated with conflicted characters, Eirelan is a captivating epic saga of the quest to not only survive, but also build and protect livelihoods worth living. Highly recommended.

No Daughter of Mine is Going to Be a Dancer!
Sharry Traver Underwood
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781470086183, $15.95,

Artists always struggle against the grains of tradition. "No Daughter of Mine is Going to Be a Dancer!" is a memoir from Sharry Traver Underwood. She tells her story of pursuing a career as a dancer in the 1940s against the wishes of her parents and her journey to her success, with photos of America's post-war dance scene. "No Daughter of Mine is Going to Be a Dancer!" is a strong addition to memoir and dance collections, much recommended.

The Floater
Sheryl Sorrentino
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781477436899, $12.99,

Bouncing around law firms is a way to build experience...and be a magnet for all the drama that happens around them as well. "The Floater" is a novel following middle aged Norma Reyes, trying to piece together her life and get value of her recently obtained law degree. But as the economy tightens, no one hires, and she takes a job as a secretary floater through many law firms. Finding romance within the firm's other less than appreciated individuals, she finds challenges from above for that romance. "The Floater" is a story of romance and making your way to a better life after mid-life.

Tales from Toadsuck
John J. Dub Black
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781462063574, $20.95,

Getting by in rural America is always quite the difficult pursuit. "Tales from Toadsuck: The Adventures of a Young Boy Who Lived a Life Different Form Other People His Age" shares author John J. Dub Black's unique upbringing as a young man who had his parents abandon him, and faced many childhood challenges in the Toadsuck region on the Arkansas river. With plenty of humor and fondness of memory, "Tales from Toadsuck" is a humorous and fine pick of memoir, very much recommended reading.

High Striker
G. T. Rigdon
Smith Publicity
1930 E Marlton Pike, Suite I-46
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9780615638881, $14.95,

Justice has many forms, including the uncertainty of those who carry it out. "High Striker" is an unusual and quirky novel from G. T. Rigdon following the chronicles of the Konklin family, summing in Dr. Amos Konklin, a neurosurgeon with carny roots, who finds himself hunting evil as told to him by his dreams. Exploring the ideas of good and evil, vigilantism and justice, and other concepts, "High Striker" is a humorous yet fascinating read, well worth considering.

The Man Who Wouldn't Stand Up
Jacob M. Appel
Cargo Publishing
9781908885111, $TBA pbk. / $5.99 Kindle,

Patriotism isn't for all of us. "The Man Who Wouldn't Stand Up" is a novel following Arnold Brinkmann, a botanist whose love for his country isn't all that strong, and when this fact is known to the nation and the baseball game, everyone comes out of the woodwork to encourage him to revere his country, demanding apologies from his perceived insult. "The Man Who Wouldn't Stand Up" is a humorous novel exploring American politics and its fierce nationalism, recommended.

What I Learned From Men
Jenell Hollett
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781477483107, $10.99,

Understanding the other side of the chromosome can help a lot in life. "What I Learned From Men" follows a woman in her late twenties as she faces her life and coming to term that even at twenty-eight, she's not fully grown up and there's plenty to learn still, from herself, her family, and the very men she pursues romantically. "What I Learned From Men" is a must for general fiction collections looking for something with a unique romantic twist.

Susan Bethany

Buhle's Bookshelf

The Parisian Diet
Dr. Jean-Michel Cohen
c/o Goldberg McDuffie Communication
9782080201393, $26.00,

A diet should be something worth living with. "The Parisian Diet: How to Reach Your Right Weight and Stay There" is an original approach to weight loss from Dr. Jean Michel Cohen, who advises readers to take notes of the Parisian life style, and how to adapt the good eating habits of the city and adapt them for your life. Encouraging a balanced approach to diet and health, "The Parisian Diet" is filled with useful recipes that encourage excellent food and excellent living, sure to please and help those who want to ultimately achieve health with food worth eating.

One More Time, Jennie Darling
Jerry Jaffe
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781475929881 $17.95

One More Time, Jennie Darling is the debut novel of award-winning writer Jerry Jaffe, about the dark sides of fame and fortune. When Steve Dennis scores a big break in show biz, he is thrust unaware into a world where deception is the norm and sincerity the exception. Surrounded by predatory and self-destructive drives on every side, he must figure out what is truly most important to him before it's too late! Captivating the very last page, One More Time, Jennie Darling is highly recommended.

Paths of Promise
Donna J. Grisanti
Phoenix Publishing Corporation
c/o Page-Turner Publicity
9780970886019 $14.95

Paths of Promise is a novel of the life of Ruth Yuell, a fictional African-American woman caught in the middle of the campaign for civil rights, from her birth in 1939 to a moment in Chicago, 1967, when she is injured during a demonstration for fair housing rights, and shares her life story with a journalist who happens to also be a trusted childhood friend. Ruth's life has been one of hardship and oppression, in which she takes a stand against an unfair legal system, and the threat of terrible violence. A riveting look into the high price that human beings paid to peacefully take a stand for equality for all Americans, Paths of Promise is highly recommended.

Lincoln's Letter
David S. Leonard
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781475952759, $10.95,

A love of history can open the door to much more. "Lincoln's Letter" is a novel following high school senior David S. Leonard who receives a letter written by Abraham Lincoln as a graduation gift. Digging deeper into his family's relics, he finds he's not the only one interested in history and there are those who are far more aggressive in their pursuit of history. "Lincoln's Letter" is a fine exploration of history and learning through the eyes of an enthusiastic youth.

Mother Love
Ann McCauley
CB Publishing
9780578100937, $12.95,

Across oceans the bonds of family still hold strong. "Mother Love" is a novel from Ann McCauley, following Barbara Malone, who joins the Peace Corps to get away from a marriage gone bad and raising four children to adulthood. Following the aging mother as she faces the endurance of the adventure while still being a mother to her children back home, "Mother Love" will resonate with many a woman facing their own struggles with adult children from afar.

Emotional Core Therapy
Robert A. Moylan
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781470063269, $13.95,

Love for the self is the first step in loving everyone else. "Emotional Core Therapy" is an inspirational guide from Robert A. Moylan who shares his own experiences and rough upbringing, as well as his long experience as a counselor, to advise people to piece together their thoughts and lives, build a life without regrets and reach out to others to teach them to live more completely as well. "Emotional Core Therapy" is a fine inspirational read, not to be missed.

Reel Life
Jackie Townsend
Ripetta Press
9780983791508, $9.02,

A sister is something to lean on in the toughest of times. "Reel Life" is a novel following sisters Betty and Jamie as they face the decades of recent history and the challenges of life and living in the process. Drawing parallels to how the world television and film alters how we live our lives, "Reel Life" is poignant and thoughtful bringing the fantasy of what we see everyday and sinking it back down to earth, recommended.

Molly's Leap
Mary Lou Peters Schram
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781478222712, $16.00,

A new chance at life...and a new chance at love. "Molly's Leap" follows mother Molly, who abandoned by her husband finds new ways to keep her house afloat by delving into the real estate boom and making her money there. Meeting someone new, she rides the waves of the boom and new life in the process. "Molly's Leap" is a strong addition to modern fiction collections, well worth considering.

Willis M. Buhle

Burroughs' Bookshelf

Amelia 1868
Janet Kay
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781478193371 $15.95

Amelia 1868 is a novel about the threads that connect Rose, a sheltered modern-day woman who has just left her fiance at the altar, to a dance hall girl trying to survive out west in 1868. When Rose stumbles across a tombstone with the words "Amelia 1868" etched upon it, she is overcome with weeping even though she doesn't understand why. Her journey transcends into deeper and deeper glimpses into the world as it was a century and a half ago, but how is she to discover the path to a brighter future? Complex and thoughtful, Amelia 1868 is an engrossing blend of historical fiction and introspective discovery, highly recommended.

Lime: A Novel
Melda Beaty
Privately Published
9781475090710 $14.95

Lime: A Novel is a novel about the specter of domestic violence against women, and how it can affect even the most celebrated and successful among us. Lime Prince is a beautiful, multiracial supermodel icon, haunted by a harrowing past of abuse - which continues to the present day as her agent steals her money, and her ex-husband forces her into a sex scandal. When her closest and staunchest friend becomes victimized by her possessive boyfriend, Lime sees the dark pattern in both their lives and resolves to stand up not only for herself and her friend, but for the sake of all women. Lime: A Novel is a story of choosing to do more than survive and persevere - it's about actively making the world a better place, no matter how cruel the opposition. Highly recommended.

The Last English Village
James Ignizio
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781477674918, $11.99,

The ravages of World War II forever changed England. "The Last English Village" is a novel of a twist of time, and a fading era of English history. As a man travels to England with a friend to honor a wife's dying wish...only to find a strange village twisted in time, evading a bombing run that may come, and the fate of a lost American flying fortress. With a dose of nostalgia and an unusual look through being trapped in time, "The Last English Village" is worth considering for those seeking a story of pre-war England with a dose of fantasy.

The First Gentleman
Jacqueline Tuggle Taylor
Westbow Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781449736644, $13.95,

Women have taken up the sermon more and more. "The First Gentleman: The Role of the Female Pastor's Husband" discusses the rise of female leadership in the Church, and what role does the husband of a pastor play in the congregation and the community. Insightful with plenty of practical wisdom for a more harmonious congregation with a woman at the head, "The First Gentleman" is of value for any faith with feminine leadership.

From Schoolboy to Soldier
Quincy S. Abbot
Privately Published
c/o Common Sense Consulting
47 Griswold Street
Glastonbury, CT 06033
9780988210905, $16.95,

All the fame in the world is not worth your life. "From Schoolboy to Soldier: The Correspondence and Journals of Edward Stanley Abbot 1853-1863" explores the life of a Union soldier, and the lives of one man. Offering an insightful view of the political opinions of the time, life's challenges, and dissent within the ranks of the Union army, "From Schoolboy to Soldier" is a fine compilation of letters and documents and their value to history, much recommended.

Daniella Jeffry Pilot
Xlibris Corporation
1663 South Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781465387158, $39.99,

The world changes over time, but some places face their change all at once. "1963: A Landmark Year in St. Martin" is a personal memoir look at the Caribbean island St. Martin, and the year that an airport brought the island into the twentieth century and prepared it for the future with a wave of tourism, changing the lives of the residents forever. An insightful look into the changing of the times with much photography, "1963: A Landmark Year in St. Martin" is well worth considering for history collections, especially those with a Caribbean focus.

Scars from a Memoir
Marni Mann
Booktrope Editions
9781935961642, $15.95,

Trying to piece life back together after it falls apart can often prove so very difficult. "Scars from a Memoir" tells the story of a troubled young woman, Nicole. Facing a dark and troubled history of self-abuse, she tries to find the light at the end of the tunnel, seeing many ways out, but seeing oblivion as tempting as well. "Scars from a Memoir" is an enticing read of life's troubles and burdens, and the rough road out from it all.

The Face of Jesus
Dean R. Eyerly
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781621477952, $27.99,

Jesus Christ, the son of God, is known much. Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph, is not as much. "The Face of Jesus" is Dean R. Eyerly's own exploration of the figure of the man Jesus, exploring his family connections, his upbringing, and painting a picture of Christ not as a man who came from nothing, but a man who had respect before his ministry. An intriguing interpretation of Christ, "The Face of Jesus" is a strong addition to Christian studies collection, recommended.

John Burroughs

Carson's Bookshelf

The Chronicles of Sharon O'Mara series
Gregory C. Randall
Windsor Hill Publishing
119 Poppy Court
Walnut Creek, CA 94596

The Chronicles of Sharon O'Mara is an exciting, action-packed series of danger and intrigue featuring the tough yet sexy Sharon O'Mara, a thirtysomething (hey, who's counting?) ex-Army cop who can't overlook the injustice of a cold-blooded murder. In "Land Swap for Death" (9780982837610, $15.00) Sharon resists the soul-sucking greed of the insurance company she works for to uncover just why a man had to die in a parking lot, leaving behind a tangled real estate debacle; in "Containers for Death" (9780982837634, $14.99) Sharon investigates the Chinese Tongs and Mexican Cartels engaged in a merciless smuggling operation involving steel containers floated across the ocean; in the Global eBook Awards finalist "Toulouse for Death" (9780982837696, $14.99), Sharon's mission to return a priceless stolen painting to its rightful owners embroils her in a winner-take-all battle against a lingering Nazi SS who will stop at nothing to begin a "New Reich"; and in "12th Man for Death" (9780965651059, $14.99), Sharon's murder investigation of a skilled American Cup skipper and technical genius uncover a sinister plot to trigger World War III! In addition to their softcover print editions, all four exciting suspense stories are available as inexpensive ebooks. The Chronicles of Sharon O'Mara is a "must-read" for anyone who enjoys high-octane mystery-thrillers, highly recommended!

Ready When You Are
Robert Hammond
New Way Press
9780615673707 $10.00

Ready When You Are: Cecil B. DeMille's Ten Commandments for Success is a self-help guide based upon the wisdom of "the man who invented Hollywood". DeMille's simple principles and values have timeless importance for improving the quality of one's life as well as forming bonds that will bring success in the business world. Each chapter draws upon from events in DeMille's life to reveal examples of DeMille's Ten Commandments: Be Humble, Be Amazed, Be Ready, Be Wise, Be Steadfast, Be Courageous, Be Spectacular, Be Visionary, Be Truthful, and Be Generous. Appendices touch upon various aspects of DeMille's faith and his work as an enormously successful director, even contemplating how the silver screen can spread positive religious teachings. Ready When You Are promotes self-improvement through example, rather than through rote instruction, and serves as a font of inspiration and motivation.

Innocents Return Abroad
Jack Tucker
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781478343585, $29.00,

The ancient world still sits, much of it abandoned waiting to be discovered once more. "Innocents Return Abroad: Exploring Ancient Sites in Western Turkey" is a travel guide for those who want to see the ancient world that awaits them all throughout the world for those who want to experience the ancient world's wonders up close, sites of great cities and ancient people's traditions and faith. With black and white photography throughout, "Innocents Return Abroad" is a strong addition to travel collections with a focus on the ancient world.

Little by Little
Fadeke Adepetun
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781468586497, $15.18,

Faith gives us the endurance and the will to heal. "Little By Little: An Account of God's Healing Power" is a memoir from Fadeke Adeptun as she shares her accounts of how faith helped her through the toughest times of her life and helped her overcome her illness, and how she credits her gradual recovery, although not instant and miraculous, as no shortage of God's work. "Little by Little" is a driven read of faith, a must for those seeking an international Christian memoir.

Unto the Breach
Sidney Gale
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9780557687640, $12.99,

For medical doctors, saving lives is a key goal, but sometimes the pressure to do so can be quite overwhelming. "Unto the Breach" is a novel following a sailing adventure between three friends, when a serious accident occurs and their techniques as physicians and healers will be taken to the limit. With plenty of thrills and excitement, "Unto the Breach" is a strongly recommended addition to general fiction collections, not to be missed.

Maulik Sompura
Privately Published
9780985382001, $10.73,

Misdirection is often the most core part of a con. "Distracters" is a thriller looking to those who specialize in misdirection for good or ill, drawing attention from criminal organizations with their own plans and walking the line between becoming merely a confusing element to the target of the wrath of the law and criminals alike. "Distracters" is a twisting tale, much recommended reading.

The Sharpshooter
Charles Phillips
All Things That Matter Press
9780985778910, $16.99,

War takes a heavy toll on our lives and soul. "The Sharpshooter" follows young Jurian Baecker, a fighter for the Union army who has seen the terrible battles that spill forth from those conflicts. Coping with what he has seen, he struggles with romance, even though he shouldn't in the face of many wonderful women in his life. A poignant and riveting read of war and its psychological effects, "The Sharpshooter" is a strong addition to historical fiction collections.

Recipes for Good Living
Terry Biddington
Circle Books
c/o O-Books
9781846949029, $19.95,

Good life starts from the inside. "Recipes for Good Living: The Beginner's Guide to Spirituality" is a spiritual guide from Terry Biddington who encourages readers to open up their souls, find their purpose, and think their way to a happier life where they work towards what they want out of it all. "Recipes for Good Living" is a strong addition to spiritual and inspirational collections, not to be overlooked.

Michael J. Carson

Crocco's Bookshelf

Martial Arts Adventures in Japan
Andrew Zerling
Info Hub LLC
c/o Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
ASIN: B004JN124M $2.99 Kindle

A Kyoto green tea ice cream cone anyone?

I travel through others. My latest trip I visited major cities/places in Japan with Andrew Zerling. He planned his trip to study martial arts, but to me that was a side step. I enjoyed being a tourist alongside Andrew Zerling as his writing is descriptive, informative, and inviting.

Andrew wrote with a journal in mind, however, it read like a captivating story. When asked to read and review Martial Arts Adventures in Japan, it brought two things to mind. The first was my memory of taking Karate in 1981; the other was my son visiting Japan with his friend in 2001. I was intrigued to revisit Japan through Andrew Zerling's martial arts adventures.

Interesting facts to me:

I was surprised to learn the martial arts training Andrew received in the U.S. was practically identical to Japan's training.

As an avid green tea drinker, I now yearn for Kyoto's green tea ice cream cone.

I have never eaten sushi, but my sons enjoy it every now and then. When I get up enough nerve to accompany them to their next sushi meal, I wonder if I will be the only one who is aware of the correct way to handle a piece of sushi.

As for Andrew's journal of Japan's martial art schools, it is an absolute must read for anyone following in Andrew's footsteps. He described each school he visited and compared the training experiences. He added numerous invaluable links to everything a student would need to train in Japan.

Although the book is less than 100 pages, you can't skip anything, because Andrew included tips from preparing for your trip to Japan, including how to learn enough of the Japanese language to survive, how to appropriately present a business card, (yes, these are very important in Japan), riding The Rail, sightseeing, and the bath houses, just to name a few focal points.

For the martial arts student, Andrew highlighted everyone he met in the schools he trained in. He described how the schools operated, he shared clues for the appropriate etiquette to use, including what is legal and illegal, (yes, there are differences in

Andrew Zerling has done all the work for anyone wanting to visit Japan as a tourist or a martial arts student in his book, Martial Arts Adventures in Japan.

To quote Andrew - "With great preparation comes great success. I wish you happy traveling."

The Forgotten Age by Jack Eason
Jack Eason
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

There are some people who never give up on their dreams. Nick Palmer was one of those people. After saving the earth from destruction, his next project would be to go to Egypt, once again, and locate the library of the ancient peoples to prove who was responsible once and for all for sculpting the Sphinx. He also added to his quest the ancient myth concerning the purpose of the pyramids.

Fortunate to have his familiar team members join him in his quest was an advantage for Palmer. But the fun part of The

Forgotten Age, were the new recruits he picked up along the way.

The adventures Palmer and his team encounter are predictable to any adventure book or movie. It is the writing style of Jack Eason in The Forgotten Age that is captivating. Anyone who enjoys a good adventure story, especially about Egypt archaeology, will appreciate The Forgotten Age by Jack Eason.

I was disappointed the story was predictable. What makes a five star review, for me, is unpredictability.

The Sons of Cleito
Derek Haines
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
ASIN: B00A9G7ZEO $2.99 Kindle
9781481046053 $11.95 pbk.

A reader may choose The Sons of Cleito because they enjoy reading mysteries about ancient Greek and its mythology, maybe even Latin mythology, but even if that isn't the case, Chapter One will hook any reader immediately. It is one of the most intriguing first chapters I've ever read.

The main character, Langley Garret, is viewed as a regular run of the mill guy at one point, then becomes a complicated part of a political scheme when he is kidnapped.

Readers have no idea what is going on because poor Langley doesn't have a clue either. In Derek Haines true form developing his characters, his phenomenal writing style keeps his readers questioning the same things Langley is confused about.

In The Sons of Cleito, Langley becomes our best friend. We route for him to figure out his predicament, that is while we are internalizing (pun intended) why he thinks in terms of his internal organs, especially during some of his less friendly kidnapping ordeals.

Derek Haines showcases his expertise in letting his readers decide for themselves what his characters are all about. He is at his best writing The Sons of Cleito because it has the most unpredictable ending for Langley Garret.

Mystery lovers will appreciate reading The Sons of Cleito by Derek Haines, especially if they want to know if Langley Garret is successful unraveling his kidnapping.

Mary Crocco, Reviewer

Daniel's Bookshelf

The Bone Thief
Jefferson Bass
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10020
9780061284762, $24.99,

I started in the beginning of this series with Carved in Bone, and I am still searching to obtain copies of the earlier Body Farm novels. I somehow missed a few copies due to hard back novel sales, and people who ravished the library fairs. I have searched to complete their list while getting the newer ones at donated library fun raisers. I managed to get their latest at Half Price Book Stores, and it was a solo copy, that another dismayed buyer said "drats got here too late!" Their books are fiction, but offer interesting perspectives, and forensic information I seldom see with other authors. So my response is for these authors to keep on writing those Body Farm books Jefferson Bass and Dr. Bill Brockton. I thoroughly enjoy a good told story with crime and discoveries all wrapped into one novel. I even like the extra information and things of reality set into the stories.

Dr. Bill Brockton was to asked by a attorney Burton Devriess to assist him in observing a burial site digging to exhume a body. It was to be a just a routine case and for him to get a bone sample. This was to use as a DNA paternity test. It turns out there is less to witness, when the coffin box is opened, and the cadaver is exposed to illustrate missing body parts. The police also showed up with Detective Gary Culpepper appearing unannounced on the cemetery scene. The big question that is brought up is the funeral home were the last to handle the cadaver, so responsibility does rests with them. Brockton's initial shock of finding missing limbs exposes a lucrative black market in body parts. The real surprise is that he gets visited by the FBI to recruit him to bring down the postmortem chop-shop using the corpses from the Body Farm. The reason was to bait them by uncovering illegal practices they were doing through a sting operation.

Brockton's friend and his colleague medical examiner faces a devastating injury that could end his career. Dr. Eddie Garcia has lost most of his right hand and his entire left hand. Unless suitable hand replacements can be taken from a cadaver, Dr. Garcia's practice will come to an end. Brockton is placed on a delicate bubble of risking the Body's Farm reputation, his own principles to help his friend and continue with the FBI 's persistence to stop the grave robbers. So there are open questions whether with the sting has it's own dangers along with juggling to unravel the medical crisis converge. Will this make it possible at the same time place Garcia on the road to recovery, and make it possible for Brockton to be able to live with himself, if all of this does backfires? It hard to tell from the position of where Garcia and Brockton stand on their own survivals by trusting other people to come to their rescue.

Jefferson Bass is the writing team of Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass. Dr. Bass is a world-renowned forensic anthropologist, founded the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility known as the Body Farm. He is the author of over two hundred scientific publications, including his career memoir entitled Death's Acre, and a dedicated teacher. Jon Jefferson is a veteran journalist, writer, and documentary filmmaker. He is the coauthor of Death's acre. He is also the writer and producer of two highly rated National Geographic documentaries about the Body Farm. This novel is their fifth Body Farm novel. The Bone Yard is their next novel. The Inquisitor's Key follows which I will review.

The Inquisitor's Key
Jefferson Bass
William Morrow
c/o Harper Collins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10020
9780061806797, $25.99,

I have been working really hard to catch up on reading all of their fine books. I had planned to go back through the earlier ones, I inadvertently skipped through by making other purchases or acquisitions. It's easy to find current books, but earlier ones seem to be more difficult to obtain. Fans who collect books, and some stores seemingly run out of stock. Also the author's popularity has much to do with some authors books not being as readily available. I nabbed this book at half-price book store right before another fan would have bought it. Lucky timing for me as this copy was not even read, as it was new, but sold to get money.

Miranda Lovelady, Dr. Bill Brockton's protege, is spending the summer helping old working team mate Stefan Beauvior excavate a newly discovered chamber. It is located beneath the Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France. She discovers a stone chest inscribed with a stunning claim: inside the bones of Jesus of Nazareth. Miranda summons Brockton for help proving or refuting the claim. As Brockton arrives, he meets Stefan and notices there is a relationship with the two of them. He learns that, she and Stefan had worked before on another site after her first year in graduate school. He was her crew leader, so she worked under him. The three get to the site after settling down in a quiet lodging that Stefan found for them. Both scientists are skeptical about the claims due to the fact, that fake relics abounded during the Middle Ages. The evidence for authenticity looks strong initially, with it soon growing stronger for the three investigating the site. This is all happening on the secrecy of its location in the Palace of the Popes.

Brockton and Miranda eventually attempt to link the bones to the haunting image on the Shroud of Turin, revered by the millions as the burial cloth of Christ. Brockton sends it to back to the States to be checked for the Carbon-fourteenth test to check its age. The parameters of accuracy are +/- 30 years, if the test is done properly. The test results triggers a dangerous tug of war between the anthropologists, the Vatican and a murderous seeker wishing to benefit from the bones. This triggers a final conclusion, where he stops at nothing, but to get the bones and death to anyone who gets in his way.

Jefferson Bass is the writing team of Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass. Dr. Bill Bass is a world-renowned forensic anthropologist, founded the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility-the Body Farm-a quarter of a century ago. He is the author of over two hundred scientific publications and a critical acclaimed memoir about his career at the Body Farm, Death's Acre. Jon Jefferson is a veteran journalist, writer, and documentary filmmaker. He has done two highly rated National Geographic documentaries about the Body Farm. They both are the authors of the Body Farm Novels, and this is their seventh novel.

Daniel Allen

Deacon's Bookshelf

The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History
Katherine Ashenburg
North Point Press
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
19 Union Square West, New York, NY, 10003
9780865476905, $24.00,

Katherine Ashenburg's 'The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History' is a spiffy book. The boards of my hardcover edition are covered with cloth in pastel blues. Lettering on the spine is gold. The dustjacket echoes the boards in pastel shades on a creamy white background. Thus, appearance-wise, 'Dirt on Clean' (Hereafter DoC) resembles nothing so much as a birthday cake or a freshly made, Hollywood hospital bed. When I opened it up I expected to see Kate Hepburn in a starched nun's habit, running around, changing bedpans and quacking like a duck about blooming calla lilies.

Reading DoC, I found it light and breezy, easy to ingest. Ms. Ashenburg knocked out this 300-page history of cleanliness in the Western world in tones that an affable schoolmarm might use to address a 10th-grade history class. She divided her subject neatly into 10 chapters. Topics bridge the gulf between the reek of unwashed human bodies in prehistory and the hygiene-as-mania that shapes life in middle-class America today. Marginalia provide bits of trivia that are always interesting and often funny.

My personal favorite aside appears on p. 116: "Shortly before Louis XIV died in 1715, a new ordinance decreed that feces left in the corridors of Versailles would be removed once a week."

Were I a French courtier in 1715, I'd much prefer the Sun King had hired varlets to scrape my shoes clean and wash between my toes.

Regardless, you've probably guessed by now that DoC is both interesting and fun to read, but that's not the end of it. Ms. Ashenburg and her editor(s) thoughtfully tacked a bibliography and an index on the end of this work to help readers source what they learn from this entertaining, informative, well-written survey.

Solomon sez: 'The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History' is a lively tale that I recommend you read while soaking in a big, hot bath. You can laugh over it while you slurp a little Dago Red and blow bubbles in the tub. Don't forget to wash behind your friend's ears.

Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields
Charles Bowden
Nation Books
c/o Perseus Books Group
116 East 16th Street, 8th Floor
New York, NY, 10003
9781568584492, $27.50,

There are ways to describe a book and then there are ways again. When I told my word processor to describe Charles Bowden's 'Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields,' the machine needed about five seconds to compile the following facts:

Not counting the appendices, 'Murder City' consists of 124,109 syllables; 83,243 words (8,969 of which are big); 1,694 paragraphs. Of 5,494 sentences, 2,691 are short; 454 are long; 2,376 are simple sentences. The text averages 1.49 syllables per word, 15.15 words per sentence, and 3.36 sentences per paragraph. The book reads at grade level 8.5. Eight percent of the finite verb phrases are passive voice. Sentence Complexity rates a score of 35 on a scale of 0-100 (high scores read tougher), and Vocabulary rates 14 on a scale of 0-100 (high scores read tougher).

Not satisfied with numbers, I looked at blurbs on the back of the dust jacket. Luis Alberto Urrea wrote: "There are moments when the book threatens to burst into flames and burn your hands. Crawling with ghosts and demons, dripping blood, howling with rage and terror, it's a go-for-broke apocalyptic prophecy."

I worried about burning my fingers but I'd never seen an apocalyptic prophecy go for broke, so I put on some old gloves and read 'Murder City' anyway. Now I'm glad I took the chance. I read it all the way through twice and I didn't burn my hands or scorch my eyebrows. I didn't even get soot on my sofa. So much for other people's opinions -- though in fairness to Mr. Urrea I must say: 'Murder City' is a mighty scary book.

My sense of 'Murder City' is that it's half novel and half journalism. Call it a "journovel." That's my word for a form of truth-telling in which speaking characters are metaphors because, if they were real people speaking to journalists, they'd all be dead within 24 hours. At the same time, the metaphors are not wholly fictitious because they are aggregates built from real people and real events. They represent different aspects of life on the ground in real-world Mexico. They duck in and out of the bloody narrative at odd intervals. Their words, their actions, their stories anchor incredible events in the real world and help readers make sense of the mayhem.

One such character is a young woman named "Miss Sinaloa." She is (or was) a drop-dead gorgeous, teenage beauty queen who came to Juarez to see her sister. She went to a party with some Juarez police officers. Seven or eight of them kidnapped her and held her for a week while they beat her and shot her full of dope. They raped her savagely and continuously. They bit off chunks of her breasts. Their sadistic frenzy ripped up her insides. When at last they were through with Miss Sinaloa, the cops dumped what was left at a corral in the desert where a pathetic rescue operation feeds watery bean soup to homeless mental cases and drug addicts. She flopped there for many weeks before she recovered enough of her mind to call home and ask her parents to come get her.

"Pedro Martinez," 42 years old, is another metaphor. Sodden with booze and drugs, Pedro is a piece of homeless wreckage wrapped in reeking rags. He walks the streets of Juarez and El Paso when he isn't flopped at the shelter that rescued Miss Sinaloa. Asked why he spends all his time with drugs and wine, Pedro says he likes living that way. He's made it north of the border at least a half-dozen times. He claims he got married and sired kids in Kentucky. In North Carolina (poor fellow) he got busted drunk driving. He's been in jails and institutions all over North America. It seems the most fun Pedro ever had was when a herd of gringo psychiatrists tried to diagnose his condition. The shrinks got tired of Pedro after some days of fruitless, 'expert' analysis. So they hosed him down with pills, declared him a paranoid schizophrenic, and solved what they assumed were his problems by booting him back across the border into Juarez once again.

Pedro's story brings a chuckle sometimes. But author Bowden isn't joking. "This happens," he writes. "The brain-damaged often fail to get serious notice from the authorities. But time is on the side of Pedro Martinez. Each day, there are more and more like him. The world is now designed to raise up huge crops of people just like him."

Americans who don't live in combat zones may ask "What world is that?" 'Murder City' recounts just such a world. It's the kind of place in which a city of 1.3 million experiences more than 7,000 murders in less than 3 years. It's the kind of place where lucky people live on 60 bucks a week and walk around expecting to be shot at any moment. It's the kind of place in which, for 50 bucks a week, you can hire a 10-year-old child to kill people for you. It's the kind of place in which all authorities are homicidally corrupt, no crimes are ever solved, and no civilized person wants to live. It's called Juarez, Mexico, and though it may be more than 2,000 miles from wherever you live, the drug gangs who operate the place are expanding into your area as I write this review.

The perils of Miss Sinaloa are the perils of civilized life in Mexico. Her travails are the shadows that stalk every Mexican citizen. Pedro Martinez personifies the Mexican poor. His problems in the U.S. mirror U.S. government attempts to cope with the drug war and the tsunami of migrant refugees. While the Mexican army fights Mexican police and Mexican gangsters for the riches of the drug trade, Mexico devolves into a crazy jungle where hard-working people live on beans (if they can afford beans). Mexicans endure government by goons and murderers while they live in poverty and terror. What happens to Pedro at the hands of the gringo psychiatrists echoes what happens to the nation of Mexico whenever gringo 'experts' invent another half-witted, doomed-to-fail, anti-drug policy that funnels more billions to the Mexican army and police.

The metaphor that runs the rescue corral where Miss Sinaloa landed -- author Bowden calls him "El Pastor" -- also wanders in and out of the narrative. His tales spotlight the indifference of churches and charities and other institutions in the face of the ongoing horror. There's a metaphorical hit man, too. He has no name because the cartels have a $20,000 price on his head. He shows up every now and then. His ghoulish tales give readers a sense of life on the groovy side of town. He speaks for Mexico's mob soldiers who, themselves, are nameless victims of a sort. Thousands of dead people litter the pages of the book. They are not metaphors. They're just dead.

The bulk of 'Murder City' attempts to explain the more than 4,000 murders that took place during the calender years of 2008 and 2009. Bowden himself steps into the narrative now and then. He asks readers simple, pertinent questions that the Mexican press and Mexican authorities laughably claim they cannot answer. For those who don't believe Bowden's account, there's an appendix at the back of the book It's a day-by-day log of newspaper articles from 2008 and 2009 that tell all anyone can ever know of those 4,000 murders. Of the thousands of Mexicans who have disappeared without a trace, there is and can never be an accounting.

Solomon sez: Murder City is an important book. As journalism goes, Murder City is a work of art. Numbers can't describe it. No review can tell the half of it. Everybody should read it. Those who do will never forget it.

Deacon Solomon

Duncan's Bookshelf

Return to the Whorl
Gene Wolfe
Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue
NY, New York 10010
031287314X; $19.95

A difficult book to read. Picked it up based on hyperbole I heard in writing class. Return is the third book in a trilogy. Reading it I was handicapped because I did not know what the Whorl was. There is a red whorl and a blue planet and a green planet (as seen from space) and the narrator Horn is trying to find Patera Silk, a venerated augur who could read entrails and perform rites.

The text flies back and forth from a world of reality to another world where ghosts manifest themselves as physically weak beings to another world where inhumi (boneless beings who drink blood) and this reader was frequently confused trying to place the main characters and the godlings in a reality that I could understand. Ergo, the setting is confusing. There are also flashbacks that somehow relate to the Present reality.

Wolfe has written a character (Horn) that is a paternal grandfather and certainly a sympathetic character. In the end he sails off into the sea to return to the whorl, in a scene reminiscent of the Elves and Bilbo sailing at the end of Lord of the Rings.

The 13th Warrior (previously published as Eaters of the Dead)
Michael Crichton
Ballantine Publishing Group
NY, New York 10010
0345354613 $7.99

Imagine for a moment the task of traveling from Baghdad to the land of the Rus and meeting there Vikings who are about to battle the Eaters of the Dead somewhere in the far North. Crichton jumps from a 'created' historic document to tell a story of travel over thousands of miles. Even after he warns the reader the text may seem tedious, 'It does' bore the reader.

Do not read this early Crichton (1976) unless you want to be bored to death. My apologies to Crichton fans. I loved his other novels; esp. Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park. But not this 'novel,' if you chose to be that liberal.

Marty Duncan, Reviewer

Gail's Bookshelf

After You Die
Frank Santora
Howard Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781416597315, $14.99,

Frank Santora, pastor, author and motivational speaker tackles the hard questions of life and death with captivating logic and humor in his new release, "After you die..." Where he notes, "Nobody gets out of here alive."

He begins with a story about his beloved grandfather and hero. He was eleven-years-old when he learned his grandpa died. It was the first of many personal losses that prepared him to deal with death not only then but later in life as a pastor. It was where Frank learned that "...death is a part of life."

He uses the analogy of customers who "take a number" from ticket machines to wait their turn. Then writes, "...the moment you were born, you grabbed a ticket..." It's a ticket everyone receives for a journey that begins "...thirty seconds after you die..."

In "After You Die: Unveiling the Mysteries of Heaven and the Afterlife" he provides solid evidence to state his case for why we are born with body, soul and spirit which means we have eternal souls that go to Heaven or Hell determined by our choices. With that in mind, he hopes to persuade readers to live in light of eternity because there are no second chances.

Forty-two chapters, divided into eight segments raise fascinating questions about life, death and the afterlife. Such as, is there a God, do Heaven and Hell exist, is Jesus the only way to Heaven, are there second chances and more. He uses "...cultural, scientific, philosophical, and biblical evidence to unveil the truth about the mysteries of the afterlife..." which he argues with brilliance and sprinkles of humor.

Several chapters include NDE's (near death experiences) from all walks of life, although Frank clearly favors the NDE's of children such as described in "Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back." Perhaps because they are without influence and have the innocence of a child.

Readers also learn about the "what, why and where" of Hell, what "someday" and "when day" have in common, why there are no second chances, why atheist's arguments offer "evidence, not proof" and the real reason Jesus called the rich man a fool in the gospel of Luke.

"After You Die" is written for both unbelievers and those of faith with wise and insightful answers to questions many fear to think about or ask. The author's case for Jesus is biblical, as is his foundation for hope, Heaven and Hell.

The book ends with a salvation message, extensive notes and "reading group guide." I read the book cover-to-cover in one sitting, fascinated by the insightful logic, clarity and at times laugh-out-loud humor that I end the review with. Where he writes, "...hearses don't come with trailer hitches..." to remind readers we leave the world the way we came...

Consider reading this book if you have similar questions it just might have eternal consequences for you...

Kingdom Man
Tony Evans
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive
Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781589976856, $22.99,

Mega-church pastor, bestselling author and chaplain for the Dallas Mavericks, Dr. Tony Evans writes about men's standards in "Kingdom Man" where he defines "...manhood as God intended it to be." He begins by defining a "Kingdom Man" as the "...kind of man that prompts the devil to say ...Oh crap, he's up' when his feet hit the floor..." each morning.

He gives a brief illustration of how standards are unintentionally lowered with a brief story about an athletic director and his at-the-time, short son Jonathan when the director lowered the basket hoop so he could "dunk the basketball."

While that action encouraged Evan's son, it lowered the overall standard for the game writes Evans. Something the author believes has happened with men's principles, values and ethics that cause todays "...lowered standards for... families, homes, churches and communities..." That result in indelible wounds and unhealed scars.

Wounds such as homelessness, absentee fathers, single parent mothers, high school dropouts and more, because men are unconcerned about the role God designed for them as Christian fathers, husbands and leaders. He uses the term "rule" to describe God's role for man. Then defines ruling as neither a "dictatorship nor a posture of dominion." Rather, he calls "rule" the exercise of legitimate authority under the lordship of Jesus Christ."

Perhaps because he's chaplain for athletes he draws on sport metaphors, such as "game officials..." and others to demonstrate what he means. For example, he compares the game of football, ruled by officials from the NFL to the "game of life..." Which God designed to be governed "...according to His book (the Bible) under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ..." argues Evans.

Fifteen chapters divided into three parts begin with Evan's rationale for man to glorify God in themselves, their families and their communities. Part two concerns God-given authority, man's right to rule and women's role. This segment is about "reclaiming manhood... responsibilities... delegation of authority... women... dominion covenant..." and prayer. I would have liked to see a more direct connection with Christ and the Dominion Covenant in this section; however Evan's illustrations are valid.

His refreshing definition of men and women as equals who share different roles is insightful, biblical and encouraging, as is the final section from Psalm 128, the Psalm where "David outlines the life of a kingdom man." Here Evans' teaches how to apply the previous chapters to man's personal, family, church and community life.

Evans connects "biblical spirituality with social responsibility" to question if Christian leadership is so busy building churches and church programs they have "...failed to disciple men in what it means to be about the Kingdom..."

I was prepared for platitudes in Evan's book perhaps because of his sports connections. Instead I found biblical wisdom that challenges and encourages men and women to examine themselves in light of Scripture. This is a book everyone should read.

A Season for Tending: Amish Vine and Orchards
Cindy Woodsmall
WaterBrook Press
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200
Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9780307730022, $14.99,

Cindy Woodsmall introduces her new Amish Vines and Orchards series with "A Season for Tending," a story wrapped in economic hardship, troubled family relationships, romance and suspected witchcraft.

The story opens in Morganville where readers meet Rhoda Byler a young, guilt-ridden woman tending her flourishing herb and berry gardens as she prepares for harvest. She intends to can the large variety of fruits, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries she harvests and use the herbs to help people feel better. And that's the problem.

The herbs coupled with her extrasensory powers are misunderstood in the Old Order Amish Plains community and some accuse her of witchcraft. Such as Reuben who now approached her with her father and Aunt Naomi.

"I know what you've been doing," accused Reuben, his hard eyes glinting in the sunlight. She knew Reuben hoped she would admit to what he saw as her rebellion, however she knew he only wanted to hurt her because she had exposed his "deceit" to his girlfriend. She assumed a steady stance, folded her arms, looked Reuben in the eye and said, "What is your accusation this time?"

Thus begins a story of false guilt, financial struggle, misunderstood intuitive abilities and isolation that reflects struggles many face today, inside as well as outside the Amish community. From an apple orchard infestation and the resultant crop failure, to Rhoda's agreement to partner with Samuel King, his brothers Eli and Jacob at King's Orchards for financial survival.

Then there's Leah, Samuel's younger sister who Rhoda finds in her berry patch after Leah's night of partying during her "running around" period known as Rumschpringa. Afraid her family will see her in her "English clothing" Leah accepts a change of clothing and Rhoda's offer of tea to ease her aching head and agrees to call her brother at Rhoda's urging.

Readers learn the source of Rhoda's guilt, the reasons behind her sister Emma's death and the terrible accident that exposed Rhoda's secret intuitive abilities to the Amish community in this captivating story that doesn't disappoint.

Cindy's well-developed, multi-dimensioned characters cause readers to care about them, their lives and their problems. Their choices and decisions that carry the story forward also reveal biblical wisdom without preaching. I'm sure this new series will add many new readers to Cindy's growing fan base.

Everyday Worship: Living to Capture the Heart of God
Chris Voigt
SEA22-410 Terry Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109
9781475185188, $11.99,

Chris Voigt, worship pastor from Dayspring Fellowship, Keizer, Oregon, originally penned these words as a "love letter" to his Savior." However, after he led a workshop, Teaching Your Church to Worship, he was encouraged to expand the idea into a book titled, Everyday Worship. Where he "challenges readers to consider worship as more than just that thing we do at church on Sunday." Instead, he believes "...we were designed to live a lifestyle of worship."

While he admits music is a part of worship, he believes there is far more to worship than music since worship is an expression of love, adoration and devotion for God. Such feelings can be communicated in everyday attitudes, thoughts and actions, not just on Sunday. That's the kind of worship Chris writes about.

He begins with Revelation 4:11 in chapter one, where scripture says we were created to please and praise God. With that in mind, Chris writes " part of our spiritual DNA." The next question he asks readers to consider is, "What am I worshiping?" God, self, or something else?

Intriguing chapters include worship on God's terms, offering our best to God, how to prioritize worship, our call to worship, worship as sacrifice and how through worship we "...learn to hear the voice of God." In addition, he includes Old and New Testament narratives to illustrate what a lifestyle of worship is.

I thought chapter seven was important where he reminds readers that worship is a choice, sometimes in spite of heartbreaking circumstances, irrespective of feelings or situations. It could be a simple decision to wake each day thanking God for a new day before we get out of bed, or thanking Him for a good night's rest and His protection during the night. What matters is a heart of thanksgiving and gratitude. My reading of the Bible tells me God enjoys our praise and worship, especially when we acknowledge and appreciate who God is and what He does for us every single day.

Chris's insightful and refreshing book offers a new perspective on worship. He purposefully designed the book as a quick and easy read to encourage readers. Ten short chapters teach different aspects of worship, from worships purpose, to the priority of worship and why worship requires sacrifice and much more. Chapters end with Thoughts for Reflection, that include three to five questions intended to explore what worship means to the reader.

Song in the Night
Pamela Thorson
Luminary Media Group
2850 Highway 95 South
Moscow, ID 83843-7828
9781930580381, $19.95,

Pamela Thorson's inspiring, poignant account of " family's journey from darkness to dawn..." is the subtitle of her book, "Song in the Night: One Family's Journey from Darkness to Dawn". There she shares a life-changing tragedy that forever altered their family and the life of their nineteen-year-old son Kevin. It was an event that transformed Kevin's dreams and made it possible for him to accomplish his greatest desire, although he didn't realize at what cost when he said. "I don't want to do something easy for God. I want to do something hard for Him."

Their story of irreversible change began July 11, 1997 with the " call every parent dreads..." When Pamela heard Ronda's voice, she thought their pastor's wife had called to update them on Kevin's mission trip since he was due home the next day. She sounded excited and Pamela smiled anticipating "good news," until she heard the words, "You need to sit down..."

Many years later Pamela still remembers Ronda saying, "Kevin has been in an accident," yet has little memory of the rest of their conversation. Just the horrifying words - "paralyzed... ventilator... and hospital."

The family rushed from their home in Idaho to Lethridge hospital in Calgary, where they found their son in intensive care, breathing with the aid of a ventilator. The doctors told them he suffered from a neck fracture, similar to the one that paralyzed Christopher Reeves. It happened while Kevin rehearsed backflips with the music-drama group Stratos. The doctors now had to wait for him to stabilize before they could learn the full extent of his injuries.

Thus begins a challenging journey "birthed in tears" for a family who continued to wait "...for their happy ending to arrive..." Until, through faith and God's grace, they realized their story would have a different ending than "...happily forever after..." Although different did not mean their ending would be any less rich.

When Pamela wrote about "the worst tragedy of their lives" she had to relive the event which meant she had to "write the pain." However, Song in the Night is more about long-suffering in the midst of "God's tender grace" than pain with its narrative of renewed hope and faith. The account also includes sweet moments of "divine intervention" that border on the miraculous that led Kevin to ask: "Why has God honored me this way?"

Today, Kevin is a wheelchair confined, paraplegic, although he gained enough strength and movement in his left hand to use a keyboard and mouse. Since that day he's joined his brothers in their development of Dragonfly Animation Studio. Their products are used in "television programs and websites along with short flicks." Hubert, one of their original characters, a young dinosaur, recently became a brand name. For more information:

There is something for everyone in this inspiring book of courage, faith, love and trust, whether you're challenged with struggles and hurtful circumstances or whether you need to be reminded that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. (Philippians. 4:13)

The Girl's Still Got It: Take a Walk with Ruth and the God Who Rocked...
Liz Curtis Higgs
WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing
12265 Oracle Blvd, Suite 200
Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781578564484, $14.99,

Delightful writer, Bible teacher and witty conference speaker Liz Higgs, takes readers on a "high-spirited walk through the book of Ruth," in her new release, "The Girl's Still Got It." There readers find Naomi and her widowed daughter-in-law, Ruth in a "rags to riches redemption story." Liz mischievously calls the pair, "leading ladies of the Old Testament" in her first nonfiction work in five years. The devotional focus is Christ, mankind's "kinsman redeemer" portrayed by Boaz who became Ruth's "kinsman redeemer."

In this verse-by-verse bible study from the book of Ruth readers learn no matter who you are where you come from, in spite of anything you might have done or not done, God loves you and has a plan and purpose for your life.

Twelve chapters with hilarious titles such as "A Wow of a Vow...Sitting Tight for Mr. Right" and "Our Hero Makes His Move," take readers 3,000 years back in time. There they join Ruth and Naomi as they travel to Bethlehem into what Ruth believes is an uncertain future. However, "...God knows how her story is going to unfold..." and it's anything but uncertain.

Liz's informative and easy-to-read devotional contains life lessons from our "ancient biblical sisters" wrapped within the inspirational narrative of a "kinsman redeemer." Her targeted, often humorous insights reveal "God's unchanging nature" in spite of human tendencies to complain, behave badly or act rashly.

Scripture and narrative combine to keep readers involved as well as to move the story forward. Discussion questions and a chapter-by-chapter study guide for personal use or group study are included. The YouTube video, Righteous Ruth Rap, mid-page, left side of the review is outrageously funny, enjoyable and one I hope you listen to. For those without computer access, the rap song is found in the final pages of the book.

This story, one of the few in the Bible told from the female point-of-view, is a narrative of love, trust and devotion that illustrates strong women of courage who come together to face an unknown future. Chapters end with epilogs, "Ruth in the real world," concise, real-life topical anecdotes relevant to chapter topics.

Liz used fourteen Bible translations to create a comprehensive word picture of this amazing story, although she favors King James and NIV translations. In addition to understanding the background and culture of the ancient culture, Liz's "trademark humor and heartfelt encouragement" bring Ruth and Naomi to life. By the time the devotional ends, readers know King David's great-grandmother, Ruth like they know a good friend. Or as Sheila Walsh writes, "...we weep with Naomi, kneel beside Ruth, and celebrate a God who redeems our stories in outrageously beautiful ways..."

Wild Grace: What Happens when Grace Happens
Max Lucado
Thomas Nelson
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781400320844, $14.99,

James Lund's adaptation of Max Lucado's Wild Grace is about teens who allow the moving power of God's grace to change and shape them. This much needed book offers hope and inspiration to youth, many of whom are stressed from what were once uncommon situations they now cope with everyday such as the statistics below.

"Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens," Dr. Phil:

"Approximately one-third of the United States homeless population is youth," Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, MS, LPC, Psychology Today: "One in six of America's children suffer from hunger every month," Teens Fighting Hunger:

Our nation's children, many of them un-churched today, are being shaped by these extreme pressures, as well as normal worries over good grades, peer pressure and other life-changing choices. They know little about God or His grace. Instead their selections include decisions about sex, drugs, pornography, pregnancy, abortion and for one teen illustration, the charge of manslaughter.

Lund's engaging book, written in a conversation style, uses three segments of ten chapters that teach what grace is and how to identify and personalize God's grace. I especially liked Chapter ten, "Saved for Sure" on the certainty of salvation for those who continue to ask, "Am I really saved?"

Four questions mid-chapter, with space to fill-in-the-blanks, encourage teens to journal how God's grace applies to them in "Your Story."

What's the biggest problem you're dealing with right now?

Do you have a plan to solve it?

On a scale of 1 to 10, I being "no sweat" and 10 being "I'm doomed," how confident are you in your plan?

Where does God fit into this picture?

Insets of quips, silly jokes and one-liners, such as "Grace is power, not just pardon...Grace changes lives because He does..." are sprinkled throughout, as well as personal stories, Scripture and other illustrations of God's extravagant grace. Areas of text highlighted in grey indicate Lund's additions to the original text for teen readers.

There is nothing not to like about Wild Grace as the author explores "what happens when grace happens," the subtitle of this book. That teaches God specializes in lifting "the wounded back to their feet." The book also touches on forgiveness where it says, "to accept grace is to accept the promise to give it" [to others.]

Compelling true-to-life, teen-friendly stories make the book an easy read, although some topics are quite serious. The book would be a useful tool for student ministry, high school or college age students or for parents to connect with their teens, as well as an excellent gift choice for Christmas. Released in paperback, the book is also available on Kindle and audio format.

A Merry Little Christmas
Anita Higman
Summerside Press
39 Old Ridgebury Road, Danbury, CT 06810
9781609366889, $14.99,

Two unlikely people, one raised amidst wealth and prestige, the other a down-home Oklahoma farm girl meet and sparks fly in this nostalgic 1960's Christmas romance. Although each lead very different lives they are drawn together by similar dreams. The story begins with Franny.

Franny Martin lost her parents in a storm when she was eighteen. She continues to work the family farm with the help of neighbors, even though she had to put her dream of a music career on hold. Still, with an amiable and cheerful spirit "...she'd folded the dream of music away in the hope chest of her heart." Until her early thirties when she lists the farm for sale.

Charlie, son of Albert Landau, 35-years-old, from one of the richest families in Oklahoma has tried several business ventures without success and believes he's a disappointment to his father. Still, a part of him shares his father's dream of Charlie "taking over" the family business, yet another part, deep down in his heart, hides another dream his father would think foolish. However, Charlie still plans to step into his father's shoes, but realizes his father must see him successful before he trusts him with the family business. That's when Charlie read Franny's ad. Anyone could be a successful farmer!

Charlie finds Franny slopping the hogs, swaying to the radio music of "Frank Sinatra's version of 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.'" The music prevents her hearing Charlie's approach until they come face-to-face. Startled, the radio and bucket fly through the air as Franny slides into the mud and this poignant, sometimes laugh-out-loud Romeo and Juliet style romance begins.

From city-bred Charlie who must learn to slop the hogs, birth the pigs and plant the wheat fields, all of which he knows nothing about. To Franny, who thinks in "music lyrics," who agrees to stay for three weeks to teach this handsome young man she's attracted to how to farm.

Then there's Derek, the veterinarian Franny has dated exactly six times, who has a fondness for the word "maladroitness" a word he never uses correctly. A scoundrel named Payton Dunlap, the conflict of racism, a long ago murder and two lonely people who think love will never find them. If you're looking for a Christmas story filled with warmth, wit, charm and love, look no further. Just settle back and let yourself be drawn into this delightful, magical Christmas read.

A Christmas in Sugarcreek
Shelley Shepard Gray
Avon Inspire
c/o HarperCollins
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062196408, $12.99,

An engaging, romantic love story about an "obedient daughter" and a town's "bad boy" who steals the heart of a woman he's admired since childhood makes a Christmas read. Judith Graber is the obedient daughter and Ben Knox is Sugarcreek's bad boy. He's been gone for two years, but Judith remembers his flamboyant reputation. The setting is ten days before Christmas, close to quitting time at the Graber family store where the always compliant Judith works with her older brother Joshua.

Joshua has just asked Judith if she minds if he leaves early, "a guilty tone heavy in his voice." It was the second night in a row she'd agreed to lock up for him. However, Judith "forced a smile" she didn't feel and said, "That's what sisters are for, jah?"

Joshua grabbed his coat and Judith heard the wreath-adorned door close behind him with a tinkle of jangling bells. She stood lost in thought and wished, just once, she weren't the "steady, reliable one" everybody could count on. She wished she had someone to run to, someone who missed her, who looked forward to her return...

Then the bells over the door chimed once again and Benjamin Knox walked in, not seeming to care Judith was five minutes from closing.

Thus begins a sweet holiday love story of two lonely people challenged by unexpected situations who wish Christmas Day would never come. Where, in spite of rumors, innuendos and Ben's dubious reputation, Judith is drawn to this handsome young man's good looks and his air of confidence, not to mention that he can't seem to stop staring at her.

While an easy-quick-read, this holiday romance of faith, family and misunderstandings highlights the rich magic of Christmas and why it's known as the blessed season of love, forgiveness and joy.

Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope Is Here
Thomas Horn & Cris D. Putnam
Defender Publishing
PO Box 5, Crane MO 65633
9780984825615, $19.95,

Is the world in or fast approaching the End-Times prophesied in Matthew, the Book of Revelation, Daniel and Isaiah? With unusual worldwide weather phenomena, such as the destructive 2012 East Coast super storm:, Japan's devastating earthquake, Tsunami and nuclear disaster in 2011: and Hurricane Katrina's 2005 desolation: many believe we are. Thomas Horn, internationally acclaimed author along with respected theologian and apologist, Cris Putnam believe we are as well and tell readers why in their new release, Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope Is Here. And if they are right, the antichrist is alive and waiting in the wings.

The first of four parts begins with Prophecy at our Doorstep, where they introduce Saint Malachy's "Prophecy of the Popes," a saint who many believed had the "gift of prophecy." After Saint Malachy recorded the vision he received while in a trancelike state during his visit to Rome in 1139 A.D. he gave the writings to Pope Innocent II. Where it remained hidden in the Vatican until 1590 when the prophecy was first published.

The vision contained a list of cryptic Latin verses that forecast 112 popes, from Saint Malachy's time to the last pope named, Petrus Romanus (Peter the Roman). The prophecy said Peter the Roman would be the false prophet who joins the antichrist. Together they form a one world religion and one-world government that begins the great tribulation and the "great apostasy."

Hal Lindsey said this about Malachy's prophecy, "...the current pope, Benedict XVI, will be the next to last pope of the Roman church. After him will come a pope called Petrus Romanus, or Peter the Roman. Malachy appears to indicate that he will be the one who cooperates with the Antichrist, then will be turned upon and destroyed by the leader of the confederacy that rises out of the old Roman Empire."

In part two, the authors provide an Essential history of the Papacy that includes an extensive chapter on the Pope as Antichrist in chapter eleven. The third and fourth parts are about different features of the End Times, their doctrines, the United States, Vatican and more.

Readers also learn about the secrets of Fatima especially the fourth secret, Freemasonry, President Obama, the lost book of John Hogue, what theological giant Jonathan Edwards thought about the prophecy and much, much more.

Some say these authors are setting dates for Christ's return, but I don't believe they are. What they have done is condense some exhaustive and extensive research into 500 pages that they leave to the reader to decide for themselves.

The year 2012 seems filled with omens as it draws to a close. December 21, 2012's fast approach causes excitement and fear based on what you believe. Yet our nation has never been more divided and more challenged with moral, family and economic issues than it is today. Could this mean these authors are correct and we're entering the End Times? Read for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

A Sweethaven Christmas
Courtney Walsh
Guideposts Books
c/o Summerside Press
134 Franklin Road, Suite 200
Brentwood, TN 37027
9780824931827, $13.99,

In the third and final installment of The Sweethaven series, the women of Sweethaven, Michigan, Lila, Campbell, Jane, Meghan and Adele, reunite "for a Christmas they'll never forget." Just as the circle of friends gather to prepare for a small-town Christmas celebration, recent snowfall blankets the ground, adding to the holiday scene and the spirit of the season.

The story begins at The Grotto, the group's favorite restaurant where Lila, Tom and Campbell wait for Lila's parents to join them for Thanksgiving dinner. When Lila spots them weaving toward their table, she "forced a smile" and said, "Mama insisted neither of us needed the stress of cooking" this year. "And what Mama says goes" she couldn't help thinking. Lila couldn't know the woman her father stopped to speak with on his way to their table would soon change her life forever.

In this final story each of the women are changed as they deal with difficult issues. From Campbell who wonders if she's ready for a commitment to her boyfriend Luke when she's tormented by the thought she's only a reminder of a terrible mistake. Or Jane who struggles with weight and can't forget the childhood name "Fat Jane." Who still smarts from Lori Tiller's elementary school comment, "Careful Jane, pews have weight limits."

Then there's Meghan, Adele's "prodigal daughter," a music celebrity whose career is in jeopardy. She's been told with album sales on the decline she needs to change her image. She's worried that filming her Christmas special in Sweethaven might not be enough.

Last, but never least is Adele who feels blessed to have her family around her, with children young and old who beg her for "me-maw" stories. She can hardly wait to share the news of her new venture, a "down-home" cookbook made up of her mother's scrumptious recipes. However, she too will be challenged when she's unexpectedly reunited with her first love Henry Marshall after her daughter Meghan snaps her photo, sets up her FaceBook page and sends a friend request to a first love she hasn't seen in decades.

Walsh's compelling writing style creates unforgettable characters readers come to know and love, while her story lines contend with issues common to us all. Women of all ages will delight in this enjoyable Christmas story of real issues and emotions that also continues Walsh's scrapbooking theme. Even though the ending is emotional, (keep box of Kleenex handy) it's a story of hope, goodwill and good friends that is perfect for the Christmas season.

A Leader's Heart: 365-Day Devotional Journal
John Maxwell
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781404189478, $18.99,

Leaders are men and women of vision and dreams with skills, inner drive, motivation and commitment to make their visions or dream a reality. However, these trailblazer types need a leader as much as those who follow them. John Maxwell's scripture-based devotional journal, A Leader's Heart is designed to guide those with such skills to God, the "Ultimate Leader."

He begins with Isaiah 42:16, a scripture that promises God's guidance and Proverbs 2:6, 8-9 with verses that describe God's blessings, such as wisdom and God's protection for leaders who seek Him. In the introduction John briefly describes struggles of leadership, from blazing new paths, to the loneliness and mantle of dependency leaders acquire. All of which creates the need for higher authority, someone leaders themselves can depend on, which is God - "The Ultimate Leader."

That's what makes this year long devotional journal unique, it's designed for leaders with a devotional style and wide range of leadership topics. Each month begins with a succinct quote, such as the one for February. "Effective, godly leadership means giving what you have so that God may be gloried in all you do."

Each day's devotion and journaling space is confined to one page. Dated entries begin with a topical Scripture the author expands on and closes with a relevant question that serves as a writing prompt to journal your thoughts. The hardbound book is sturdy enough to write in and it's classic, elegant design fits as nicely on an executive's desk as it does in a purse or briefcase.

Writings are extracted from earlier Maxwell classics like, The Maxwell Leadership Bible, Developing the Leaders Around You, Failing Forward, Your Road Map for Success, The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, Becoming a Person of Influence, Developing the Leader Within You and The 21 Most Powerful Minutes in a Leader's Day.

Typical of Maxwell's writing are numerous useable quotes such as:

"Most great leaders in scripture were made, not born."

"A good leader knows that time is like gold, and good 'spending habits' are essential."

"If you desire to influence another person, start by nurturing them."

This devotional is full to overflowing with practical wisdom, guidance and inspiration. From the dedication page to the closing entry on December 31st, A Leader's Heart would make an exceptional gift choice for Christmas or to start the New Year with for the "leader" in your life.

Humphrey's First Christmas
Carol Heyer
Ideals Children's Books
39 Old Ridgebury Road, Ste. 2AB
Danbury, CT 06810
9780824955595, $14.99,

Carol Heyer's original story of a surprise gift from Humphrey, a grumpy, albeit loveable camel, to a "most beauteous and exalted king" makes a perfect addition to any family's Christmas library. With a children's story about a gift from the heart that carries a surprise ending and important Christmas message about the true meaning of Christmas in its closing pages.

Her spectacular, eye-catching illustrations capture Humphrey's comical expressions and postures that reveal his growing annoyance at the loss of his blanket, his only warmth on cold desert nights. Especially since the two camels that travel with him still have theirs. Humphrey thinks he deserves better.

With each turning page children learn of Humphrey's hilarious schemes to replace his greatest treasure, from putting his big nose inside his master's tent to show his "chattering" teeth, to squeezing his entire body inside the tent. These laugh-out-loud antics catch his master's attention and even though he's irritated, result in a brand new blanket for Humphrey, one that becomes his prized possession.

Yet, Humphrey still complains about the heavy chests he must carry, his "tired feet and rumbling belly" as they follow the star to the town of Bethlehem. There instead of the "great palace" Humphrey expected, he finds himself at a simple stable where the heavy chests are taken from his back. It's there he admits, "...I have walked past many children, but never before have I felt the need to walk toward one."

Children will delight in Carol's illustrations of comical Humphrey, from the twinkle in his eyes, to his quirky mouth, large teeth and gorgeous long eye lashes. This is story they will beg to be read aloud again and again.

Carol's heart-warming, lighthearted Christmas narrative combines with her breathtaking illustrations to make this a Christmas classic I would recommend for any age and faith.

Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free
Tullian Tchividjian
David C Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434704023, 17.99,

The theme of Glorious Ruin, by Billy Graham's grandson, Tullian Tchividjian's is pain, suffering, and God's grace, where he writes, "Pain is unavoidable..." and no one is exempt. The recent Connecticut heartbreak illustrates a tragic example. Since everyone suffers at some time in their life "'s not a question of if but when" suffering occurs. Instead of questioning the "how" and "why" of suffering, Tchividjian's unique focus is the "Who."

The book expanded on a sermon series Tullian preached from the book of Job subsequent to his parent's separation after 41 years of marriage. To his surprise, the taped sermons "...became the most- listened-to sermons..." he'd ever preached.

People worldwide contacted him with personal testimonies of " God used the sermons to set them free from bitterness, anger, and despair." With that encouragement he expanded those sermon transcripts into this book - Glorious Ruin.

The gospel centered book, consists of eight chapters that feature different facets of suffering. From the Reality of Suffering in part one, to Confronting Suffering in part two and Saved by Suffering that closes the book.

The entire book is filled with rich spiritual nuggets like the ones found in the first three chapters. "Only when we come to the end of ourselves do we come to the beginning of God...powerlessness is the beginning of freedom and desperation precedes deliverance."

Another segment from chapter one, "Glory vs. the Cross," explores how "glory" minimizes painful experiences, while the "Cross" reveals a God that suffers with us. Or the comparison of the Law and the Gospel in chapter two, "The Law reveals sin but is powerless to remove it [just as] The Law points to righteousness but can't inspire it." The illustrations point to Christ and the necessity of dying to self because it's only when we come to the end of ourselves that we find God.

The middle section on moralizing and minimizing is written with simple clarity. He describes moralizing as something akin to cosmic payback that implies the person who suffers somehow earned or deserves to suffer. Then minimizing which invalidates suffering by rationalization or comparisons, where someone might say to the one who suffers, "It could be worse." Perhaps because the person is uncomfortable in the face of pain he can't alleviate or fix.

The closing chapters are the most encouraging that teach "...the gospel is for the defeated, not the dominant." It's when we suffer and feel defeated that everyday barriers to surrender are torn down and Christ and God's grace are found.

Tchividjian's writings point to Christ, just as his grandfather Billy Graham's words pointed to salvation. While the book is not a quick read, it's a book to savor, close and return to time and time again.

God's Promises Devotional Journal
20 Contributing authors
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781404189645, $16.99,

For the next two weeks reviews will feature a wide range of devotional journals to give as gifts or for personal use. "God's Promises Devotional Journal: 365 Days of Experiencing the Lord's Blessings" draws from a variety of well-known Christian leaders on God's promises.

God's Promises Devotional Journal is a yearlong combination daily devotional and journal of inspiration and encouragement with a topical theme of God's love and God's promises suitable for women. The attractive hard cover makes it sturdy enough to write in, while providing a durable family heirloom for future generations to browse through.

Each month begins with a quotation from a well-known writer and contributor, such as Billy Graham, Sarah Young or R.C. Sproul. The epigraph for January is from Martin Wiersbe who writes, "The promises of God are dependable." Green text, easy on the eyes, matches the corresponding leaf theme and green paper tint.

Daily devotions begin with a date, a relevant scripture, a paragraph of teaching and close with an interesting question that serves as a writing prompt to journal your thoughts.

For example, Elisabeth Elliot's February 12th devotion cites Psalm 28:8, "The Lord is their strength, and He is the saving refuge of His anointed." The teaching is about surrendering to God and realizing we're safer in His hands than our own, work previously published in Keep a Quiet Heart. The question, "What does it mean for you to surrender your life to Jesus Christ?" closes the devotion with several blank lines to journal your thoughts.

What I especially liked was the variety of devotions from over twenty well-known and loved Christian authors such as Sarah Young who writes in the voice of Jesus and Billy Graham.

If you're looking for an inspiring book that encourages intimacy with the Lord, whether for yourself, a loved one, friend, or as a gift choice, take time to consider this little book packed full of God's promises and thought-provoking wisdom.

Looking Up: Trusting God with Your Every Need
Beth Moore with Lisa Guest
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781404189508, $16.99,

Beth Moore and Lisa Guest pen Looking Up, a devotional journal that teaches readers to trust God with their every need. Their material, based on the Psalm's and Beth's book, Get Out of the Pit, teaches freedom in Christ love for Jesus in addition to encouraging Bible study.

The attractive light blue devotional journal designed with women in mind, folds together with a secure magnetic clasp and is small enough to fit in purse or bag. The hard cover makes it easy to write in. Two-page devotions include scriptures biblical quotes, personal stories and questions designed around God's promises that reinforce God loves you, is with you and will never abandon you.

For example, the devotion on page 22 is on blaming God and man's suffering versus God's goodness that teaches we can't know or understand God's ways because we have finite bodies and minds. However, God, who is infinite, understands our limitations and works within our limitations. A set of questions act as word prompts to journal in the space provided or for personal application, followed by a one-sentence summary about the paradox of goodness and suffering. Then a simple prayer and Bible verse from Isaiah complete the devotion.

Over one hundred two-page devotions assure readers they can "...move up and out of any pit..." they are in, whether the issue is depression, grief, loss or something else. Beth hopes readers allow her to be "their guide" in a journey of healing and hope that defies any addiction, affliction or life-changing issue.

Beth Moore is an encourager and her materials are often life-changers. This devotional-journal fits that format. It would make an excellent gift for personal use, for a friend, family member or loved one or as a gift.

Jesus Calling: A 365-Day Journaling Devotional
Sarah Young
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781404187856, $16.99,

In this yearlong combination devotion and journal, Sarah Young takes readers into the Presence of Jesus with devotions written from Jesus' point-of-view. Out of all the devotional-journals I have reviewed, Jesus Calling is one of my favorites because of Sarah's unique talent of writing in the voice of Jesus. Her words make it seem like Jesus talks to you personally.

That doesn't mean she takes liberties with Scripture. Her uniquely inspired words, though not word-for-word Scripture, are taken from her prayer journal yet are true to the Words of Christ.

Also, don't miss the introduction where Sarah writes about her life, her missionary journey and the life-changing verse, Psalm 46:10 that prompted her to practice the Presence of Jesus and write in His voice.

Divided into twelve months, each month begins with a foundation verse. January's is Jeremiah 29:11, another favorite of mine the Lord gave my husband and I in 1994 when we lost everything we had spent a lifetime building. "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Devotions are dated and include Scripture references and a brief reading that expands on the Scriptures, with ten or more blank lines to journal your thoughts. For example, January 1 draws on Romans 12:2 and Jeremiah 29:11 where the Lord encourages readers to "seek his face" and realize your journey with Christ "...involves being transformed by the renewing of your mind."

Our lives, my husband and mine, are a living testimony of these verses. I encourage all readers, male or female of all ages, to consider this book for themselves, a friend or loved one or as a gift for Christmas. Especially if you're going through hard times or difficulties like so many are today are.

Good Morning Lord
Sheila Walsh
Thomas Nelson
PO Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781404189607, $16.99,

Sheila Walsh, accomplished musician and author, penned "Good Morning Lord: I Don't Know Where You're Going Today but I'm Going with You", a devotional journal to encourage women to "jumpstart" their day with the Lord. She writes in the refreshing voice and from the cheery perspective she's so well known for. Readings are suitable for men or women, but the glossy, attractive design with embossed flower cover is especially well-matched for women.

Sheila's writings encourage readers to look for the hand of God in everything they encounter throughout the day and to approach each day as an adventure with the Lord. This attitude is reflected in over 100 devotions that begin with "Good Morning, Lord." In the same way, readers are encouraged to find hope, healing, redemption and spiritual peace especially those who suffer from a painful past, regret, fear or insecurity.

Titled devotions follow Sheila's half-page theme messages that include personal anecdotes and biblical insight. Two probing questions act as journal prompts with several blank lines, then a short prayer and Bible verse complete the devotion. Some readers will find "ah ha" moments, while others will become so engrossed they'll read the entire book in one sitting.

For example, the devotion on page 106 is about the danger of judging others. It reminded me of the motto that says when we point fingers at others three fingers point back at the one doing the pointing. The questions for this devotion concern inaccurate conclusions, humility, self-righteousness and forgiveness. The prayer and Scripture are from Matthew 7: 1-3 that says in part, "Judge not, that you be not judged..."

The book fits easily in purse, bag, and briefcase or on a nightstand. Its hardback cover offers stability to write in with Scripture drawn from the King James Version. Sheila's words read as if they were Holy Spirit inspired and illustrate her unique ability to capture biblical insights.

That makes this devotional journal a precious gift, whether for personal use or for a friend or loved one.

The Deposit Slip
Todd M. Johnson
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Bloomington, MN 55438
9780764209864, $14.99,

Tom Johnson, attorney and debut novelist, unveils The Deposit slip, a gripping legal thriller set in the small Minnesota town of Mission Falls. His well-crafted story concerns a beautiful client, an unusual deposit slip, shady ethics, greed, malice and murder, constructed with the expertise of a seasoned novelist. From the authentic dialogue to the gripping diabolical plot and unraveling chain of events, readers are kept guessing until the last page is turned.

The story begins with Erin Lawson several weeks after her father's funeral. She not only mourns the loss of her father, she had just learned the family farm would be foreclosed and sold for non-payment of the mortgage. Then Erin opens her father's safe-deposit box and finds a machine printed bank deposit slip from Ashley State Bank among her father's papers. She thought it odd her father kept it until she read "...February 10, 2008...his old account number - and a deposit for 10.3 million dollars."

Even though Erin knew nothing about the money, if this were true it would solve everything and she wouldn't lose the farm she'd been raised on and loved. She closed the safety-deposit box and went to the bank the slip was drawn on, the account her parents had used when her mother was alive. However, when she presented the deposit slip they said the account number didn't match their records.

Thus begins a fast-paced tale of unforeseen plot twists, turns and surprises that leave readers captivated and shaking their heads. From Erin's hiring of trial attorney Jared Neaton who just lost a big case he had counted on to help bail him out financially to dysfunctional family relationships, to the loss of Erin's family farm and murder.

Add a large unethical law firm with bullying tactics, a town divided by a corrupt PR campaign, a father and son's broken relationship, subtle romance and issues of forgiveness and it's hard to believe this is the author's first book.

With every turning page, readers wonder if the money is real, where it came from, what happened to it, who benefits, who lies and why. While Todd, like a veteran novelist, keeps the pages turning with a little clue here, a little clue there scattered like bread crumbs until the last page is turned.

Faith, forgiveness and redemption add subtle depth and meaning to realistic characters with genuine problems that illustrate a variety of strengths, weaknesses and human failings. I enjoyed Todd's writing style, characterization and plotting and look forward to reading his next novel set in Washington State at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

If readers enjoy Christian novelists like John Grisham, James Scott Bell and Randy Singer Todd Johnson is an author to add to their list of favorites.

Hope for Each Day: A 365-Day Journaling Devotional
Billy Graham
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781404187870, $16.99,

Billy Graham, humble, unpretentious and down-to-earth, is also an Evangelist, spiritual leader and confidant of president's. His greatest desire is to "...walk with God every day..." Hope for Each Day is a devotional journal designed around Scriptures Dr. Graham expands on and lives by. The verses combine with his writings to offer God's strength and wisdom while they also challenge and encourage readers.

Attractive sepia-toned pages, designed with dark ink and easy-to-read font draw readers into daily readings. Each month begins with an initial thought like this one for April. "Prayer doesn't always change our situation, but prayer will always change us."

Devotions, dated for each day, take up half a page and begin with a relevant title and scripture that Dr. Graham enlarges upon. The bottom half of the page includes several blank lines to journal your thoughts and feelings.

For example the devotion for June 3rd, Living a Holy Life draws on Matthew 6:20 for the Bible verse. "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven."

Dr. Graham writes about a man on his deathbed that summons his grandson and says, "I don't know what type of work I will be doing in heaven, but if it's allowed, I'm going to ask the Lord Jesus to let me help build your mansion. You be sure you send up plenty of the right materials."

Touching and humorous, this devotion illustrates the importance of "sharing our faith...doing good works in Christ's name...and acting in love and purity..." It's from these types of materials sent ahead of us that mansions are made. The devotion closes with ample space to journal you thoughts and the question, "What kind of materials are you sending up to Heaven?"

If you seek a closer relationship with Jesus, Dr. Graham's Holy Spirit inspired words are a good place to start. I had the privilege of seeing several Billy Graham crusades as a young girl. This book illustrates all that this man of God stands for and is about. It's an excellent choice for an inexpensive gift for friend, loved one or even yourself to start the New Year with in our nation's troubled times.

Grace for the Moment: A 365-Day Journal Devotional
Thomas Nelson
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781404187863, $16.99,

As one year ends and another soon begins this devotional journal, two books in one, is a useful, inexpensive gift to consider for the New Year. Max Lucado's Grace for the Moment, a yearlong book of one-page devotions includes ample space to journal your thoughts. Reading Max's unpretentious writing is like sitting across the table and listening to a good friend.

The journal begins with "Each day..." where Max encourages readers to start their day with the Lord in "...the refuge of the early morning..." before daily decisions and deadlines commence. It's in those first moments readers "...must make a choice." The choice of living by the "fruit of the Spirit" written about in Galatians 5: 22-23, which are the fruits of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control or letting self-rule. Max's stirring words offer inspirational wisdom that guide readers to God's grace instead of selfish choices.

For example, the devotion for May 19, "Within Reach of your prayers" uses Romans 8:31 "If God is for us, who can be against us?" The brief reading is drawn from In the Grip of Grace.

The reading reminds readers the question is not about who or what is against us, instead the question affirms if God is for us it doesn't matter who or what is against us. It doesn't matter if your parents abandoned you, neglected you or ignored you. It doesn't matter if your families are ashamed of you. The God who created you is for you, followed by several blank lines to journal.

The books' format includes date, targeted Scripture, a brief topical passage and whether the passage is from a personal example or previously published book. The small size book is easy to write in with the stability of a hard cover binding. Black print on sepia colored pages makes for easy reading. The beginning of each of twelve months starts with a Scripture and framed picture of water, clouds and land in the distance. The devotional also includes a satin ribbon marker and a dedication page.

The New Year offers new beginnings and there's no better time for a new beginning than with a journal to record that journey. Whether you reference back to it in coming years or its left as a heirloom family treasure to read after you're gone, recording your thoughts helps to focus and draw close to the Lord. Anyone who uses this book will be blessed by the author's words.

The Christmas Star
Ace Collins
Abingdon Press
341 Great Circle Road, Nashville, TN 37228
9781426714689, $14.99,

Bestselling author Ace Collins, takes readers back to Christmas Eve, 1945 with a holiday story of love, grief and sacrifice - The Christmas Star. It's a glorious time when Americans gather together to celebrate the end of World War II, Christmas and the gift of peace. Everyone that is, except for 13-year-old Jimmy Reed who struggles with the loss of his father who died in the Philippines in May 1942. Although three years have passed, his grief, sadness and growing confusion is tinged with bitterness.

It didn't matter to Jimmy his dad died saving children from Japanese bombers, he only knew his father would never return home and his life would never be the same. When two Marines and a Congressman knocked on their door Christmas Eve of 1942 to give them the Congressional Medal of Honor, the medal symbolized loss instead of pride to the young boy.

However, his mom, with pride in her heart and tears in her eyes replaced their Christmas tree's top with the new "shiny star and blue ribbon." Tears rushed to Jimmy's eyes too, but they were tears of anger. That's when rebellion took hold and he "began to push the limits and test the rules."

It's now three years later and Jimmy still hates Christmas. He knows his mother will soon place the medal that reminds him of all he's lost on another Christmas tree. This year, it would be different, he promised himself. It was time to get even and he "knew just how he was going to do it."

Thus begins a Christmas story certain to become a holiday classic that includes a mysterious letter found in a Bible, a Christmas miracle, robbery and counterfeit money that carries a strong message of deliverance, hope and faith.

From an engaging cast of characters, to fascinating plot twists and turns, to true-to-life nostalgic descriptions and classic Christmas songs, this appealing Christmas narrative sets the mood for Christmas and is sure to become an unforgettable holiday favorite.

Coming Home
Max Lucado, author
Justin Gerard, illustrator
Crossway Books
1300 Crescent Street, Wheaton, IL 60187
9781581347562, $15.99,

Coming Home by bestselling author Max Lucado, written for children ages 4-10, is an "allegorical tale about the second coming of Christ" an event often called the Rapture. The story begins with teenage twins; Argo and Arion who now live on the island of Terrene with their ships captain, the only survivors after their ship wrecked and sank fourteen years ago.

The Captain had taught the boys many things over the years and now instructs them to stay out of the island forests since he has to leave and won't be there to look after them. The boys have never been alone and are afraid at the Captain's news since they've lived on the island, depended on the Captain since they were two-years-old.

Although the Captain explained about going to prepare a beautiful place of color for them called "Bluestone," they'd never known color. They only knew the colors of grey that carpeted the island "with a blanket of soot" from the grey volcanic ash.

Thus begins Lucado's account that portrays Christ's return. Justin Gerard's extraordinary artwork illustrates lifelike drawings of the Captain, the boys and the stained, colorless world they live in. The delicate brush strokes in multiple shades of gray speak louder than words.

I've never read anything written by Lucado that wasn't lyrical, clear and to the point - until now. I appreciate what the author tried to do, however the story intended for children, left me with more questions than answers, both simple and complex.

Such as, why can the Captain leave the island and the boys cannot? How did they survive on a soot covered island that apparently couldn't produce food? How could they live fourteen years on an open beach?

On a more serious level, in the Captain's absence, one boy obeys the Captain, while the other does not, yet both boys are rewarded on the Captain's return. The underlying message is children can ignore God without consequence since both boys received the same reward which raises questions about sin, salvation and redemption.

I also think the story is for children at least ages six and up if not much older. The concept of the Rapture, Christ's return, is difficult for adults to understand, let alone children. I admire the effort to simplify what for many is a confusing topic, but I felt the narrative needed more clarity. In spite of that, Lucado continues to be one of the most amazing inspirational writer's I've ever read and I will always read anything he's written.

The One Year Father-Daughter Devotions
Jesse Florea, Bob Smithouser, Leon C. Wirth
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive
Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414364865, $14.99,

This devotional, written by three fathers with their daughters in mind encourages a special bonding between fathers and daughters during that crucial tween-teen time. Dated devotions cover one year. The writing style is conversational with interesting topics such as trendy clothes, Facebook pages, flattery, guilt, pain, forgiveness, even potato chips.

Readings begin with an age-appropriate story that includes a simple Scripture message, followed by "daddy-daughter time." This segment of questions teaches how to apply what's been read and encourages discussion, perhaps the most important and compelling aspect between fathers and daughters. "What's the Word?" completes devotions with a related Scripture.

Father's lives are busy, as children's are, yet consider how special a daughter would feel if their dad set a standing date with them for a year to work through this father-daughter devotional that also will create special and memorable parent-child memories.

This would make a wonderful gift for a mother to give to a father or a daughter to give to her father for Christmas.

The One Year Devotions for Women: Becoming a Woman at Peace
Ann Spangler
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive
Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414336022, $15.99,

Women's days are filled with stress, whether at work, looking for work or managing a family on a reduced budget. Their "to-do" lists grow, while their patience diminishes. The word "peace" is not a part of their vocabulary.

Ann Spangler penned this one-year devotional with the theme of peace to " women take hold of the peace God is offering." Regardless of the season you're in or the challenges you face spending a few minutes a day with the Lord reduces frustrations, reminds women that God is in control and helps women draw close to God.

Inspirational devotions begin with Scripture, then a focused reading and end with prayer. Even if you need to rise fifteen minutes early for devotional time, a sense of God's peace is more than worth it. Since I don't know any women who aren't challenged in some aspect of life, I recommend this devotional for women of all ages. It would also make an excellent Christmas gift for friend or loved one.

The One Year Unlocking the Bible Devotional
Colin S. Smith withTim Augustyn
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive
Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414369358, $14.99,

One-year devotionals are intended for daily use and take only minutes from busy schedules, while their use establishes enjoyable habits that foster togetherness. In addition, their use increases Bible knowledge, encourages prayer, spiritual growth and intimacy with God. With Christmas and New Year's just weeks away one-year devotionals are also a good gift choice.

Pastor Colin Smith, host of the popular national radio show, Unlocking the Bible teaches how the Old and New Testament books of the Bible combine and point to Jesus Christ as "one story." Entries begin with focused Scripture, then a brief reading and additional Scripture for those who want to delve deeper.

Smith's devotions link the Bible chronologically, from one book to another that leads readers to the ultimate focus - Jesus Christ. His narratives feature the Bible as a complete story that begins with Genesis 1:1 and ends in the book of Revelation. His clear, compelling imagery throughout illustrates the Scripture message and joins the message to personal application. I would recommend this book for any Christian whether new, intermediate or advanced.

Gail Welborn, Reviewer

Gary's Bookshelf

Awesome Good Clean Jokes for Kids
Bob Phillips
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North
Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9781565070622, $4.99,

Lately joke books have been getting pretty raunchy. "Awesome Good Clean Jokes for Kids" is filled with lots and lots of funny great jokes for all ages to enjoy. From Levi & Jean to The Answer Man there are so many funny ones to remember and all are clean that all ages can tell over and over again. "Awesome Good Clean Joke for Kids" is the perfect gift book for any occasion.

Rub, Scrub, Clean the Tub Funny Children's Poems About Self-Image
Leslie C. Halpern Illustrations by Oral Nussbaum
Cricket Cottage Publishing
c/o CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
9781478254751, $11.99,

Kids today have so many messages bombarding them from what to wear to what type of person they are supposed to be. Many send out the wrong kind of image for them to learn. Through the use of poetry that is fun to read and enjoy "Rub, Scrub, Clean the Tub Funny Children's Poems About Self-Image" gets kids to also learn that they are not alone in the way they feel about themselves and the world they are a part of. Nussbaum's artwork complements each of the poems with even more positive messages to kids.

Montooth and the Canfield Witch
Robert Jay
Montooth Press
c/o Cloverleaf Corporation
1916 South Tamiami Trail, Ruskin Fl 33570
9780615296456, $27.99,

"Montooth and the Canfield Witch" is the first in a series of YA fantasy novels that introduces readers to the world of Montooth. Told in a light hearted fashion the tale unfolds with likeable characters and interesting situations. Taking place in the 1950s in a Florida pre Disney, part of the interest is also the legend of the Columbia restaurant in the Tampa area and how the author fits it into the story. There are two story lines that unfold that make the novel so captivating. Readers of the Harry Potter books should discover "Montooth and the Canfield Witch" and be charmed the same way as the Rawlings stories.

Private London
James Patterson and Mark Pearson
Grand Central
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781455515554, $14.99,

I don't know why this is the first appearance of "Private London" in the United States and Canada because the events detailed take place before those in "Private Games" Also "Private London" was the first appearance of the Private detective agency office of London in the series. I fortunately have not read "Private Games" yet so I should not have any confusion. Like all of Patterson's novels this one races along with interesting characters and a complicated plot. Though it is an intricate story line "Private London" is a page turner of suspense that Patterson fans will love.

D. C. Dead
Stuart Woods
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451237859, $9.99,

Stone Barrington and Dino Bacchetti are asked to come to Washington by the President Will Lee to work on a special operation. Back again are Holly Barker and numerous other characters from other novels of the series. Woods masterfully handles the story with a page turner that concludes with a surprising ending. "D.C. Dead is another great story of one of Wood's most popular characters.

Robert B. Parker's Killing The Blues
Michael Brandman
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425250457, $9.99,

"Killing the Blues" is the first of the Jesse Stone series not written by Robert B. Parker. It doesn't seem to matter though, because Michael Brandman continues the snappy witty dialogue that was a trademark of Parker. Parker and Brandman worked together on the TV movies starring Tom Selleck so it is obvious why he was chosen to continue the character of Jesse Stone. Through a series of events taking place in Paradise, Jesse learns that it might be someone from his past when he worked in California. "Killing the Blues" is a great addition to the series

Mr. Monk on Patrol
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451236647, $7.99,

Adrian Monk and Natalie are asked by Sharona, Monk's former assistant to come to a small New Jersey city to Randy Disher, the police chief, through a crisis he is dealing with. Monk and Natalie drop what they are doing to help their old friends in "Mr. Monk on Patrol." Goldberg unfolds the tale with laugh out loud situations that will have readers turning pages to know what happens next in the world of Adrian Monk. "Mr. Monk on Patrol" is another sure fire read for fans of this great series.

The Mammoth Book of SF Wars
Edited by Ian Watson and Ian Whates
Running Press
c/o Penguin Group USA
2300 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-4371
9780762445929, $15.95,

Authors of Science Fiction tackle the subject of war in many different ways in the collection "The Mammoth Book of SF Wars." This one of the few times that author Mike Resnick is in the same anthology as his daughter Laura that makes it very special. The editors have gathered many older writers with other present ones to present so many different views of the future involving war. "Time Piece" by Joe Haldeman is a shorter version of his novel "The Forever War." "Arena" by Fredrick Brown which many "Star Trek" fans know as the episode of the same name is the original short story that it came from. Also Laura Resnick's "Peacekeeping Mission" is a satirical look at a war the United States has with Canada because of a comment made by a governor of one of U.S. states about the leader of Canada. "The Mammoth Book of SF Wars" is a great set of stories together for the first time.

Not Young, Still Restless
Jeanne Cooper with Lindsay Harrison
It Books
c/o HarperCollins
10 East 53rd Street
New York, New York 10022
9780062117748, $25.99,

Jeanne Cooper tells all in her autobiography "Not Young Still Restless." She details her many acting jobs in her long career as an actor, others she worked with among them Maureen O'Hara, Raymond Burr, David Jansen, Robert Taylor, Tony Curtis and Shelly Winters. Later she reveals how she landed the role of Katherine Chancellor on the daytime soap "The Young and the Restless. Her many behind the scenes tales about. William J. Bell to working with her many co-stars are interesting and fun to read. Fans of "The Young and The Restless" should not miss this great behind the scenes expose by one of the longest running members of the cast.

This Time Together Laughter and Reflection
Carol Burnett
Harmony books
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor
New York, NY 10019
978307461186, $25.00,

Carol Burnett tells many great stories about her life and profession in "This Time Together Laughter and Reflection. Some of the things she reveals are how an Alfred Hitchcock movie affected her job, early days in New York, the Garry Moore variety show and how it changed her life, working with Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner, and Vicki Lawrence, her love of the soap "All My Children and that she got to be on it. She also tells about the many other people she has had an opportunity to work with through the years and the effect of her fans on her life. "This Time Together Laughter and Reflection" is a fast paced read that will be sure to delight anyone who has enjoyed and wants to know more about Carol Burnett.

If That Car Could Talk How to Locate and Maintain a Good Used Car
Joe Boulay
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432786168, $14.95,

Buying a new or used car has never been an easy task but nowadays it is even more difficult because there are so many factors to take into consideration. "If That Car Could Talk How to Locate and Maintain a Good Used Car" really applies to both when buying a new or used automobile. Written by a mechanic it takes readers through the entire process of buying and maintaining a vehicle. Boulay lets readers know things to be aware of when purchasing a car. Some of the things he goes into are how to finance the buy, checking to see under the hood and what to look for, things to know to find the right vehicle, and lots of other things are revealed by this expert in the field to help to not get taken. "If That Car Could Talk How to Locate and Maintain a Good Used Car is a great and useful resource to help ease the stress involved in this kind of purchase.

Faceplant Chronicles of Facebook's True Tales & Epic Fails
Richard N. Shapiro
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432797003, $8.95,

I am no fan of Facebook, Twitter, or any of the other online services like them. "Faceplant Chronicles of Facebook's True Tales & Epic Fails" has lots of reasons that reinforce my explanation for feeling the way I do. Shapiro shows many conversations that have taken place on Facebook, then comments on why they should not have ever been posted. Some of the posts are from a couple of thieves who boldly reveal what they stole and where. Later police easily catch them and put them in jail, people who cheat on their mates then are surprised when they get caught, are just some of the dumb things that have appeared on Facebook. Though written as humor "Faceplant Chronicles of Facebook's True Tales & Epic Fails" is a very good warning of why people should be very careful what they post on Facebook.

Gary Roen

Gloria's Bookshelf

Die a Stranger
Steve Hamilton
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312640217, $25.99,

The newest novel in the wonderful Alex McKnight series by Steve Hamilton starts out, as do most of them, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The residents of the area, referred to as the "land of the Yoopers," consist heavily of Native Americans, most of them living in the reservations in that part of the country. As the book opens, Vinnie Red Sky LeBlanc, an Ojibwa Indian who is probably Alex' best friend, is mourning the death of his mother, a legend on the "rez." Alex, a former cop from Detroit, has been living for years in the town of Paradise, where his father had built several cabins for rental to hunters and winter recreationers, lives in one of those cabins, just down the road from Vinnie, had moved off the rez years before. Much is made of the clannish nature of the folks on the rez, and how difficult it is for 'outsiders' to be trusted. Vinnie has never been allowed to forget that he is now an outsider, just as he has never forgotten that his father had left thirty years before, the same father apparently still in prison for a vehicular manslaughter/drunk driving incident many years ago, the reason Vinnie himself never drinks.

At the same time, at a little airport three hundred miles away, an event occurs that will effect their lives and those of several others when a small plane holding large quantities of high-grade marijuana lands, precipitating a hijacking which ends with several dead bodies left on the field, only one man making it out alive. Both Alex and Vinnie become deeply involved in the aftermath: Vinnie disappears, and Alex is determined to find him and to discover how he what part, if any, he played in this.

The Upper Peninsula is again brought vividly to life by this author who, along with fellow Yooper William Kent Krueger, seems to completely "own" this part of the United States, just below the Canadian border, in their fictional endeavors. Mr. Hamilton's description, in part: "It may be July, and it may feel like summer just got here, but the end is already on its way. The cold, the snow, the ice, the natural basic state of this place, it is right around the corner. . . It was another goddamned beautiful useless day in Paradise." The book veers south to perhaps a lesser-known part of the State apparently called Michigan's Gold Coast, with towns such a Petoskey and Charlevoix where one soon feels "like you're in the middle of Times Square," also beautifully evoked.

This is another terrific entry in the series, beautifully written, as usual, with a somewhat intricate, suspenseful plot and wonderfully drawn characters, and it is highly recommended.

Good Bait
John Harvey
Pegasus Books
80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605983783, $25.00,

There are two main story lines, and two cases for the cops to pursue, in this newest novel from John Harvey. The first is the murder in Hampstead Heath of a 17-year-old Moldovan boy, assigned to DCI Karen Shields and the Homicide & Serious Crime team. The second falls to DI Trevor Cordon of the Devon and Cornwall Police in Exeter, when a woman he'd known is killed under the wheels of an oncoming train, whether suicide, accident or murder is unknown. Though not strictly his problem, he takes time off the job to investigate it, as the woman in question was known to him from years back and is the mother of a girl who, though many years his junior, he knew and by whom he was intrigued all those years before. There is the tantalizing question of whether or not these two events are connected.

This is, of course, at least nominally, a police procedural, and quite a good one, although the multitude of characters, both 'bad guys' and good, were often difficult for me to keep track of. But of course, being a John Harvey novel, it is much more than that. That title, for one instance, is, typically of a Harvey protagonist, the title of a jazz tune of which Cordon collects every known recording, from Miles Davis to Nina Simone to Dexter Gordon. It is also a character study of the lead cops, entirely different from one another: Karen, a black woman from Jamaica, and Trevor, fifty-ish, with an ex-wife and a grown son from whom he's been estranged but who he believes is now living somewhere in Australia. The author philosophizes about what makes these cops tick: if it's "the mystery, the need to see things through to their conclusion, find out how they'd been put together, how they ticked. Wasn't that one of the reasons people became detectives?" and about "missed chances. Roads not taken. Relationships allowed to drift. Always that nagging question, what if, what if?" Another terrific Harvey novel, and recommended.

Jesse Kellerman
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399159039, $25.95,

The reader has an inkling of what's in store from the cover of Jesse Kellerman's new book, which appears to show a typewriter keyboard of sorts, the various keys or buttons displaying words such as "assassinate," "coup d'etat," and "war."

The first page of the book is filled with what appear to be blurbs by no less eminent writers than Stephen King, Lee Child, Robert Crais and various highly respected reviewers, which on closer inspection are very funny and relate to books written by one William deVallee, "noted author of more than thirty internationally best-selling thrillers" whose protagonist is one Dick Stapp. The protagonist of "Potboiler" is Art Pfefferkorn, who had known deVallee longer than anyone, including his wife [with whom, it should be said, Pfefferkorn had been in love]. The two men, best friends, had thirty years ago both been aspiring writers. While Bill had achieved great fame, Pfefferkorn had only had one book published.

The book takes off in a completely different direction at about one-third of the way through, part satire, part fantasy. Devious, unsettling and frightening things begin to happen. There are several memorable lines regarding writing, e.g., "good novels enlarged on reality while bad novels leaned on it" and "If one could not express something in an original way, one ought not to express it at all," and points out the "similarities between spying and writing: Both called for stepping into an imagined world and residing there with conviction, nearly to the point of self-delusion. Both were jobs that outsiders thought of as exotic but that were in practice quite tedious."

A highly original and delightful read, "Potboiler" is recommended.

Watching the Dark
Peter Robinson
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062004802, $25.99,

The 20th entry in the wonderful Inspector Banks series by Peter Robinson opens with the shocking killing of one of Banks' colleagues, a decorated detective inspector, on the grounds of St. Peter's Police Convalescence and Treatment Center, where he was a patient. The Major Crimes Unit, or Homicide and Major Inquiry Team, as it was now known, operating out of Eastvale, is assigned, the investigative team once again including DS Winsome Jackman ("all six feet something of her"), DC Gerry Masterson, and DI Annie Cabbot, Banks' close friend, who is just returning from a convalescence after having survived her own brutal wounds and subsequent convalescence in events described in a prior entry in the series.

Because there had recently been a hint of police corruption, Inspector Joanna Passero, of Professional Standards [the equivalent of the American IAB], is assigned to work with Banks. Their working relationship, perhaps understandably, is an ambivalent one, at least initially. Very shortly, another murder takes place, and there are indications that the two killings may be related. Another angle that comes into play is a six-year-old cold case involving Rachel Hewitt, a 19-year-old English girl who seemingly "disappeared off the face of the earth" in Tallinn, Estonia, a case that had haunted the dead inspector for the intervening years, having been involved in the investigation at its inception in Tallinn.

The author expertly juxtaposes the lines of investigation, with Annie and her colleagues handling the Eastvale aspect of the case, and Banks the second killing, which appears to involve illegal migrant labor activities, ultimately taking him to Estonia, though he is warned not to get diverted by the Hewitt case. Following his instincts, as always, Banks is determined to do his best to bring closure to the girl's parents if at all possible. A complex plot, carried off in smooth fashion, in a book that is highly recommended.

Vanishing Girls
Katia Lief
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062095046, $7.99,

Karin Schaeffer, ex-NYPD and now a private detective, working with her husband at MacLeary Investigations, in the newest book by Katia Lief, becomes embroiled in the hunt for a serial killer dubbed The Working Girl Killer. As you might guess, the victims have all been killed in the same manner, with the same exact type of weapon, and were all prostitutes. Seven young women had been found dead across Manhattan, then two in Brooklyn.

At 38, Karin is now seeking an undergraduate college degree in forensic psychology. She has not had an easy time of it, having survived the murder of her first husband and her daughter six years ago, and just recently had a miscarriage. She dotes on their little boy, Ben, though still grieving for her losses. As the book opens, Ben receives a text from Billy Staples, a detective at their local precinct in Brooklyn and Mac's closest friend, from a crime scene that Billy believes to be where the serial killer has left his latest victim. Eerily, a little girl is found badly injured several blocks away after what is believed to be a hit-and-run accident. The cops feel the two things could somehow be connected, as the location and timing seem to rule out coincidence.

Billy had been fighting his own demons. He has been hunting this killer for over a year. At the same time, Mac and Karin believe he is having hallucinations, suffering from PTSD after a horrifying incident when the woman he loved had tried to kill him, instead leaving him blinded in one eye; he had been forced to shoot her dead. The current investigation triggers all his symptoms again, and envelops Karin as well to a very personal degree.

It is an interesting plot, telling a very dark tale that stayed with this reader for quite a while after turning the last page. I have to admit, however, that after having read - - and loved! - - the authors two previous books, "You Are Next," and "Next Time You See Me," I felt this one did not live up to the expectations I had for it. And though it was an interesting read, in the end I was disappointed.

A Room Full of Bones
Elly Griffiths
Houghton Mifflin
222 Berkeley St., Boston MA 02116
9780547271200, $26.00,

Dr. Ruth Galloway, the 41-year-old Head of Forensic Archaeology at the University of North Norfolk, returns in this new novel by Elly Griffiths. As the book opens Kate, the baby born to Ruth a result of a one-night stand with Detective Inspector Harry Nelson in an earlier entry in the series, is about to celebrate her first birthday. The relationship between Ruth and Harry is now, however, nearly non-existent: To save his marriage, when his wife realized the truth, he had promised never to see Ruth, or Kate, again.

Nelson, head of the county's Serious Crimes Squad of the King's Lynn police, now 43 years old and known as many things (male chauvinist pig among them), loves his wife and their two daughters. Despite his intention to remain true to his promise, he encounters Ruth following the discovery of the dead body of the curator of the Smith Museum, where Ruth is to attend what was to be the opening of a coffin containing the remains, it was thought, of a 14th-century bishop.

The man was thought to be in good health, and there is no evidence of foul play. However, when another death occurs within a few days of the first, the police believe there may be more involved than meets the eye, or the medical examiner's autopsy. There was quite a bit of controversy, it seems, about the museum's 'ownership' of skulls and skeletal remains of Aboriginal Australians, with very strong feelings that they should be repatriated to their native land. There is also a legendary curse associated with anyone who comes in contact with them.

The book is replete with mysticism and lore. The characters created by the author in this series continue to fascinate, and there is much discussion of animal rights as well as the repatriation issue. Having loved the other books in the series, this reader at first thought the book moved at a slower pace than the earlier entries, but by the end, as the various plot lines are resolved, and the suspense quickens, those reservations dissolved, and the book is recommended.

Gloria Feit

Gorden's Bookshelf

Winds of Redemption
Harvey Goodman
Jupiter Sky Publishing, LLC
2689 County Road 318, Suite 100
Westcliffe, Colorado 81252
9781617507298, $14.95,

The Western has been an established genre for most of two centuries. You can find nearly every type of story in this broad genre. Goodman has written a contemporary action story with Winds of Redemption but still uses an older storyline familiar to most readers. The interesting part of the tale is the dichotomy between the very adult portions of the storytelling and the more standard and simple religious and moral attitudes of the characters. The story is a mix of the historical feel of an early L'Amour story and the horse opera style of Max Brand but with a touch of adult themes. Goodman doesn't quite pull off either of those classic writers' smooth comfortable narration styles but he does create a slightly similar feel to the writing.

Sammy Winds has just started his married life on his new ranch with his bride. A defrocked padre with a passel of orphans wonders onto his ranch with a story about killers. He lets them settle on his ranch but senses the hidden ramifications of their lethal tale. A vicious gang with money and a plan has moved into the area with their murderous sights set on his ranch. Redemption will be found only when the air is filled with gun smoke.

Most readers of Westerns think of the simple morality operas that have dominated the genre in its many forms. Winds is an adult story and can put off a reader if they are not prepared for it. It does have all of the expected action sequences and morals you would want but with the added sexual spice. Experienced readers will be able to find the minor historical missteps but the typical reader will just see the expected and layered tale. The story is a good addition to the genre and will fill in a current gap in the depth of the Western storytelling. It is an easy recommendation for the contemporary adult reader who enjoys the Western horse opera style and feel. But it might not be the best introductory novel to a novice to the genre.

The Kingdom
Clive Cussler with Grant Blackwood
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425243619, $9.99,

Cussler has a number of different series of action adventures. The Kingdom belongs to his Fargo Adventures. Sam and Remi Fargo are a husband and wife archeological team who are independently wealthy. They love to explore and follow archeological puzzles. As expected, The Kingdom begins with historic events that leave traces to be found today. In this case, a Himalayan kingdom is attacked and its religious artifact is taken into hiding.

Obscenely wealthy Charles King contacts Sam and Remi with a tale about how a friend of theirs is missing while under his employment. He is planning on using them for his own purposes but they have other plans. They take the threads of the mystery he has given them to solve it without him. King doesn't take kindly to being left out and starts a deadly war with the Fargos.

The Kingdom is slightly different from many of Cussler's other tales. The artifact being looked for is closer to the realm of possibility and this makes the story more enjoyable. The biggest weakness is that the ending is a little contrived. But overall it is a fast and fun escapist read. You can lose yourself with a pair of likable investigators who have enough money to travel easily to exotic locations worldwide. The Kingdom is an easy recommendation for a relaxing weekend.

S.A. Gorden, Reviewer

Harwood's Bookshelf

The Party Is Over
Mike Lofgren
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780670026265, $25.95,

"How did the party of Lincoln become the party of lunatics? That is what this book aims to answer" (front jacket). In fact Mike Lofgren performs a public service just by asking the question that TV commentators go to gymnastic lengths to avoid. After weeks of rationalizations by both sides about why Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama, I have yet to hear anyone state the reality that a majority of voters recognized him as a compulsive, pathological, serial liar whose only consistent policy was to do to America what Al Capone did to Chicago and priests do to altar boys. In a book published three months before Obama's victory, Lofgren was not so pretentious as to assume that his expectation of the result could not be wrong. But his belief that polls predicting an Obama win were accurate turned out to be justified.

Lofgren is highly qualified to explain why the Republican Party is intentionally screwing America in order to provide a free ride for the superrich, so that the superrich will continue to bribe them with campaign contributions; and why the Democratic Party's recognition that their own glass house is not shatterproof makes them overly circumspect in denouncing the Republicans. Lofgren has twenty-eight years' experience as a professional staffer with congressional budget committees. He states (pp. 2-3) that his experience, "enabled me to understand that when politicians claim they will cut taxes, wage war around the planet, and balance the budget at the same time, they are spouting rank falsehoods. . . . I suspect many of these politicians never believed what they were saying but were cynically playing to an increasingly deranged political base that does believe it."

He asks, "Do Democrats offer a sane alternative?" and declares that, "the answer is, finally, no. . . . Democrats who expect this book to be a diatribe against Republicans alone will be disappointed. The GOP had gone off the rails. . . . But its sorry situation is a symptom of a deeper dysfunction in American politics and society for which Democrats own a considerable share of the responsibility."

Lofgren has considerable qualifications for analyzing the problems. Unfortunately, he also has a significant disqualification. He recognizes (pp. 128-132) that, "Religious cranks ceased to be a minor public nuisance in this country beginning in the 1970s and grew into a major element of the Republican rank and file." But, "even when a different fundamentalist GOP staffer said that dinosaur fossils were a hoax . . . I did not yet see that ideological impulses far different from mine were poised to capture the party of Lincoln. . . . The Constitution notwithstanding, there is now a de facto religious test for the presidency. . . . the Republican Party has reignited the kinds of seventeenth-century religious controversies that advanced democracies are supposed to have outgrown. . . . How quickly one forgets one's own moral lapses when one can consider the manifold harms inflicted on our nation by godless leftist!"

Lofgren's disqualification as a solver of the problems created by the godphuqt is that he is godphuqt himself. He confesses (p. 136) that, "I pray devoutly every day, but being a Christian is no excuse for being stupid." He argues that being Catholic or Mormon should not be a disqualification for a President of the United States, because he fails to comprehend that being a
god worshiper should be a disqualification for a President of the United States. How could a president empathize with the Founding Fathers' determination not to allow America to become the kind of totalitarian theocracy they had left behind, if he himself shares the theocrats' belief that right and wrong are whatever the most sadistic, evil, mass-murdering psychopath in all fiction, a sky Fuhrer named God whose only redeeming social value is that he/ she/ it does not existent, says they are?

Imagine a Chinese economist describing how Communist Party hierarchs were screwing the country's economy, and advocating a pragmatic interpretation of communist dogma, while adhering faithfully to the party line that the problem was other people's misinterpretations of Marx's Revealed Truth rather than communism itself. That is essentially what Lofgren is trying to do. Even though the god delusion has been the cause of ninety percent of all manmade evil for more than 3,000 years, he thinks he can counteract the evil that Republican religiosity is inflicting on America without curing its victims of the delusion that is itself the root of all evil. Good luck with that.

Lofgren is convinced that not all Christians are stupid. But he does not grasp that all Christians are by definition uneducated, since the evidence falsifying religion is no further away than the nearest university library. He knows that his bible endorses a 6000-years old universe, and that it asserts that all species were created at the same time rather than evolving from common ancestors. But does he know that it also states in fourteen places that the earth is flat? I doubt it. As Isaac Asimov pointed out, the Christian bible, when properly read, is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived. The best advice I can give Lofgren, or any godworshipper, is read the bible! Even a person who prays every day has a good chance of being cured if he ever learns what his bible really says.

Lofgren cites Republican opposition to contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage, but does not mention that laws prohibiting such acts are laws respecting an establishment of religion. If he raised that inconvenient reality, he would be forced to acknowledge that many laws he endorses are also laws respecting an establishment of religion. But he does draw attention (p. 66) to the parallel between "public statutes on abortion in the Commonwealth of Virginia" and "sharia law." And he recognizes (p. 10) that, "the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital core today: Eric Cantor, Steve King, Michele Bachman. . . . The Congressional Directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy. . . . The Republican Speaker of the House . . . does not issue orders to them; he takes orders from them."

He quotes Bill Moyers (p. 19), "John Boehner calls on the bankers, holds out the cup, and offers them total obeisance from the House majority if only they fill it." That makes Moyers and Lofgren the first commentators I have encountered with the intestinal fortitude to accuse Republican politicians of bribing the superrich in exchange for a quid pro quo. Yet despite having seen the same news broadcasts that caused me to question whether Boehner could pass Logic 101, Lofgren refuses to raise the issue of whether a propagandist who projects onto his opponent the precise inadequacies and intransigence he sees in the mirror is a liar or a madman.

As long ago as 1922 Woodrow Wilson told an interviewer (p. 145), "Of course, like every man of intelligence and education I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised." But ninety years later, "Whether it is Michele Bachmann announcing that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation, or Senator James Inhofe condemning the findings of climate scientists as a 'hoax', or Rick Santorum doubting the validity of evolutionary biology, there can be no question that the GOP [God's Own Party] has placed itself squarely in the camp of the flat-earthers." That paragraph explains Wikipedia's surmise that Lofgren, a long-time "Republican insider," is now "probably an independent."

In his chapter, "Are The Democrats Any Better?" Lofgren reports (pp. 198-199) that, "Obama has stabilized the plutocracy he promised to reform," that, "The DOD budget grew more under Obama than it had been projected to grow by the Bush administration," and, "The main thrust of the establishment's policies will be implemented regardless of who wins [the 2012 election]." As a non-American supporter of the Democratic Party, perhaps the most significant observation I can make is that I found nothing in the chapter with which to disagree. But it disappointed me, to put it mildly, that despite Lofgren's recognition of "How Religion Destroyed My Party," he made no mention of Obama's increase in taxpayer funding for "faith based initiatives," in blatant violation of the First Amendment.

While the Democrats must share the responsibility for not solving the problem of a do-nothing Congress willing to screw the American people for personal benefit, the big difference between a Democrat and a Republican is that, in order to win a Democratic primary, it is not necessary to be dangerously, incurably, certifiably insane.

I seriously doubt that any Democrat, liberal, or MSNBC viewer will find anything in The Party Is Over that he did not already know. And no Republican or Faux News addict who starts to read it is likely to get past the Introduction. So was Lofgren wasting his time in writing it? In the short term, probably yes. But facts do tend to reach the masses eventually (or I would not have bothered writing a book disproving religion). For all of its inadequacy in refusing to recognize the continued existence of religion as America's and the human race's paramount problem, Lofgren's book, "The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted", has much to say-to the next generation.

Every Day Is an Atheist Holiday!
Penn Jillette
Blue Rider Press
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014
9780399161568, $25.95,

According to Penn Jillette (p. 9), the difference between theistic and atheistic lifestyles is, "We're not going for the promise of life after death; we're celebrating life before death." Atheists do not need an excuse to consider a day holy, such as (p. 8), "the day Tom Cruise had sex with a woman." For atheists, every day is holy. "It's a day that we are alive."

For some reason I do not comprehend, PJ pulls the statement out of nowhere (p. 25): "Dora, the Explorer (two words which do not rhyme, you stupid little [expletive]." I am familiar with the Canadian dialect that pronounces Don and Dawn as if they were the same word, and likewise cot and caught. I have no awareness of any dialect in which Dora and explorer do not rhyme.

I have long been aware that Harry Houdini exposed every spirit medium he ever investigated as a fraud. Until now I did not know that (pp. 12-13), "Some of them would do their seances in see-through robes that were left wide open in the front and the 'ectoplasm,' gooey manifestations from the other world, came out of their pussies. The sitters would reach in and feel." I had assumed that Houdini exposed frauds simply because they were frauds. Now PJ tells me that, "Houdini was very straightlaced and uptight about sex. . . . The pure sluttiness of this religion made Harry way uptight." If we assume that Houdini was telling the truth when he assured a Congressional Committee in 1926 (Google) that he was a card-carrying godworshipper, that makes it believable that he was less outraged by the spook crooks' swindling of the gullible, than by their violations of his religion-derived beliefs about the joylessness of sex.

PJ refers (p. 119) to, "Thomas Huxley, who used the weasel word 'agnostic' but he doesn't fool me." It is nice to know that I am not the only person who considers "agnostic" a cop-out. A person who does not believe that any god exists is an atheist, aka nontheist. Perhaps Huxley was justified in coining the word agnostic at a time when historians had not yet shown that all claims of a god revealing its existence can be traced to the same bible that states in fourteen places that the earth is flat. I do not call myself an agnostic on the question of whether fairies exist. In the absence of any evidence whatsoever that they do, it is a justifiable conclusion that they do not. Continued use of a word meaning "I don't know" in connection with gods is a confession of ignorance, perhaps even cowardice.

PJ discusses, without endorsing, the hypothesis that Barack Obama is an atheist who pretends to be a Christian to preempt the accusation that he is a Muslim. He writes (p. 125), "Bush was killing people overseas because he was evil and wanted to; Obama is doing it because he's good but he has to." He is of course paraphrasing doublethinkers to whom behavior is good or evil depending on who does it. He essentially shares my view that a Democratic warmonger who gives tax money to religions only looks good compared to the alternative.

PJ clearly has not read Ronald Aronson's Living Without God, in which he found (p. 12) that nontheists in America number 36 percent. Jillette recognizes that atheism is growing, but estimates it be around 20 percent (p. 126). But he answers one of the godworshippers' most ridiculous allegations when he states (ibid) that, "no religion [is] a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby." He blows another absurdity out of the water when he tells rationally challenged theists (there's another kind?) who accuse nontheists of being Satan worshippers (p. 205) that, "if I were going to have faith I wouldn't pick the side that loses." But the passage I found most advisory was his equation of the atrocity of September 11, 2001, with "faith-based initiatives." And he could not have found a more appropriate summarizing message (p. 279-280) than the one I have been using for years, "Only atheists can be moral. If you're doing it for reward or to avoid punishment, it's not morality."

Every Day Is an Atheist Holiday is a collection of essays on vaguely related issues. I have written collections of essays on vaguely related issues. So why has Penn Jillette turned up on bestseller lists while I have not? I'll give you a hint: When PJ's name is mentioned, nobody asks, "Penn who?"

The Truth Machine: A Social History of the Lie Detector
Geoffrey C. Bunn
Johns Hopkins University Press
2715 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218-4363
9781421405308, $34.95,

On his second page Geoffrey Bunn quotes the conclusion of psychologist David Lykken that, "the lie detector has no more place in the courts or in business than a psychic or tarot cards." It should not be necessary to add that Bunn and Lykken were aware that they were writing for persons with the rationality and education to know that psychics are liars and tarot readers are evenly divided between liars and cranks. They were saying that there is no such thing as a lie detector, and anyone who thinks otherwise is as impervious to reality as a hardcore believer in religion. Later on the same page he writes, "It seems that no lie detector examination takes place under 'objective' scientific conditions divorced from the wider social context."

Despite Bunn's listing in his endnotes of Anthony Gale's, The Polygraph Test: Lies, Truth and Science," he cites no evidence in support of those conclusions other than the O. J. Simpson case, in which one alleged lie detector expert concluded that Simpson's denial of any guilt was "one hundred percent hundred percent lying," while another, utilizing identical observations and equipment, concluded that Simpson was "absolutely truthful . lie test shows that O.J. didn't do it." Both of those findings were based on voice stress analyzers. According to "the police, the military, and big business, the instrument had been shown to be '95 percent accurate'." Bunn does not mention that more competent evaluations of voice stress analyzers have shown them to have an accuracy of around 33 percent, compared to 50 percent for tossing a coin: heads for true and tails for lie. Perhaps he felt that the O.J. result spoke for itself.

Bunn follows that infinitesimal amount of useful information with 190 pages detailing the history of the invention and belief in alleged lie detectors. As the author of a book about the origin and evolution of belief in the equally nonexistent concept of hypnotism, I am not about to declare a history of another delusion useless-except to someone seeking information about whether alleged lie detectors actually work. In fact, as Gale reported but Bunn does not, the polygraph has a reliability rate between 70 and 80 percent, low enough for courts to reject polygraph evidence even if unteachables in the military and FBI do not.

Bunn's concluding pages discuss Philip Dick's science fiction novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, in which investigators used devices analogous to polygraphs to determine whether a suspect is human or android. As interesting as that is, it leaves the question of whether a lie detector ever has or ever will exist inadequately answered.

The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science-and Reality
Chris Mooney
John Wiley & Sons
111 River Street, Hoboken NJ 07030
9781118094518, 335 pp, hc, $25.95,

"Reality has a well-known liberal bias-Stephen Colbert." I have read many quotations authors had appended to chapter headings to demonstrate that other authorities agree with them, but none so definitive, effective and unanswerable. Persons who boast that they are not liberal are thereby confessing that they are throwbacks to a stage of human evolution when reality had not yet falsified fairy tales, and morality meant granting unquestioning obedience to a lawgiver who could have taken decency lessons from Adolf Hitler. Such prehumans are alternatively known as "rationally, intellectually, educationally and morally challenged," and "Republicans."

"Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome, and that's precisely where our country now stands with regard to the conservative denial of reality" (p. 4). That is a succinct statement of the situation. The rest of the book is devoted to proving its accuracy.

After spelling out conservative anti-science propaganda (pp. 5-7) that can only be described as blatant lies, since accurate information is readily available, Mooney asks, "Why are today's liberals usually right, and today's conservatives usually wrong? Quoting from his 2005 book, he answers that, "the modern American conservative movement has taken control of the Republican Party and aligned it with . . . corporate anti-regulatory interests and religious conservatives. . . . Republican leaders, dependent on their votes, joined them, making science denial an increasingly important part of the conservative and Republican political identity."

Mooney reports (p. 12) that he has many times heard a liberal say, "I can't believe the Republicans are so stupid they can believe X." He denies that conservatives are stupid, and argues that they are simply wired differently cerebrally. That is like arguing that half-a-dozen is not the same as six. Of course a person who rejects the discoveries of scientists about the age of the universe, simply because it differs from the Revealed Truth written by Hans Christian Anderson (or was it the Yahwist?) is stupid! The inability to reason logically is what stupidity IS. Assuming that they really did make the statements news videos have shown them making, Phyllis Schlafly, Michele Bachman and Sarah Palin fall somewhere on the intellectual scale between a talking mynah bird and a well-trained sheep dog. Stupid is as stupid does.

In his chapter about Citizen Murdoch's Faux News propaganda network, Mooney cites seven studies and reports (p. 149) that, "The surveys also find that those who watch Fox are more likely to be misinformed, their views of reality skewed in a right-wing direction." But he recognizes that, "they don't necessarily prove that watching Fox makes people believe incorrect things. It could be that those who are already more likely to hold incorrect beliefs (in this case, Republicans and conservatives) are also more likely to watch Fox to begin with, or to seek it out."

Only on one page (97) does Mooney mention "sociobiology, now called evolutionary psychology." He refers to, "the unfortunate left-academic response" to E. O. Wilson's concocted pseudoscience, as if attacks on a discipline that could only be a useful addition to human knowledge if biology, genetics, anthropology, history, paleontology and several other sciences are incompetent hogwash, stem from a questionable liberal bias. Has he forgotten his earlier recognition that reality has a liberal bias? Is he unaware that sociobiology changed its name to dissociate itself from the criticisms of the learned?

There are chapters titled The Republican War on Economics, and The Republican War on History. There is no single chapter on The Republican War on Science, since that is essentially the subject of the whole book. And there is no chapter on The Republican War on Women, presumably because the available material was insufficient for a full chapter. The index lists only
nine entries for abortion, and one for contraception.

In the chapter on fracking, "hydraulic fracturing," Mooney suggests that liberals can be as reluctant to abandon a position after it as found to be untenable as any conservative. Like me, he first formed an adverse opinion of the procedure by watching news reports of tap water being set alight because the water had been contaminated by methane released by drilling. And like me he abandoned the belief that fracking is an indefensible evil after learning that such consequences were not caused by fracking per se but by improper drilling procedures. If we are considered typical liberals, surely that indicates that liberals are not reluctant to abandon a no-longer-tenable position, certainly less reluctant than conservatives? Fracking is only a bad thing when it violates basic rights or takes inadequate precautions against undesired consequences. The same can be said of phucking.

Mooney's summarizing conclusion (p. 273) is, "Liberals and conservatives are different, in ways that can be measured and that really matter." He acknowledges that, "The unavoidable question-given motivated reasoning-is, how do I know I'm right? The best answer I can give is the following: Because I'm willing to be wrong. Because my beliefs are tentative, and because I understand and respect uncertainty, scientific and otherwise." Compare that to uber-conservative Michelle Bachmann's lecturing Congress that the world is six thousand years old, as if she had a hot line to the absolute to reveal her inerrant truth to the infidels, and the difference becomes self-evident.

William Harwood

Heidi's Bookshelf

The Mystic Cookbook
Denise Linn & Meadow Linn
Hay House Publishing
PO Box 1500, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781401937225, $19.95,

Cooking is chemistry. In the most scientific terms, cooking and baking are both about combinations and interactions. Consider this from a longer timeline and kitchen creativity is a form of alchemy. The Linns create a way for you to open the door to connecting to your inner alchemist in the kitchen and for the joy of your home.

From a new perspective to changing your relationship to routine activities such as eating together, The Mystic Cookbook supports the desire to transform. Collecting ingredients, preparing dishes, and sharing them with loved ones can be a deep, fulfilling experience. Draw from the practices shared in the book to make your own experience richer.

My favorite little window into this idea is reflected in a quote I've been sharing with friends: "Similar to a high priest donning hallowed robes before a ceremony, an apron can be an enchanted vestment. It is your magic charm, and cooking with love is your superpower." Relating my love of kitchen time to special powers is charming and brightens up the idea.

You can also make new, interesting dishes. New combinations and flavors are another way to enliven meals or kitchen time that's become humdrum. Maybe you'll start with "Superhero Pancakes" loaded with texture, flavor and nutrition. Another option is "Gratitude Granola." This recipe understands what it really means to have hungry people who need snacks and food. It also makes use of your kitchen supplies in the best possible way. You can specifically follow the recipe or adapt the ingredients to what you have on hand: always a benefit on a busy, hungry day.

Make sure you don't miss the "Casablanca Carrots" recipe. Carrots are one of the most family-friendly vegetables around. This recipe takes carrots out of every day and makes them adult-friendly while keeping younger taste buds on line. Hints of upgraded flavors made this a versatile recipe, hence the place as the winning recipe in the group tested.

For anyone who's gotten bored and tired of the kitchen, The Mystic Cookbook could well re-ignite your interest. You may even find passion returning for making your own kitchen magic.

Clean Plates
Jared Koch
Running Press
2300 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia 19103-4371
97800762446476, $20.00,

In a world inundated with chemical solutions, Clean Plates provides insight and techniques for putting a higher, purer level of nutrition on your plate. In the commercial food world the terms like natural, healthy, and even gluten-free are virtually meaningless words. Many don't have useful, consistent definitions. In other cases, the product may not contain ingredients of concern but the processing plant isn't actually clean. And from another angle, organic produce in a market can come from a long distance. How clean is food like this for your plate?

Koch presents a book to help you identify your best options. Options include integrating meat choices, creating tasty vegetable dishes and much more. The recipes provide a number of baselines to use with your clean food selections.

The "Turkey Chili Verde" was a bit hit at my table. We used ground turkey - all the Thanksgiving turkey was already gone due to a small holiday. Many cooks know that ground turkey is tricky. Many years ago I stopped using it much as the product from large producers flat-out smelled like feathers. I reached the point of being unable to get through the cooking process. This recipe however, is just plain good chili. Thanks to flavorings completely from scratch, the fresh tomatillos and garlic bring the recipe home with a strong, winning flavor.

A surprising recipe was the biggest winner. I chose to use a combination of the root vegetables suggested. You'll find a jewel of a recipe on pages 216-217. "Skillet Casserole with Root Vegetables, Leeks, and Mushrooms" won total acceptable during the tasting party. Less common vegetables, parsnips and rutabagas, come together with other ingredients with simultaneously new and familiar flavor. The casserole is the dish that went around the table many times with comments coming that each time it was tasted more appreciation developed for the dish.

The Garlic Mashed Butternut Squash also made a tasty showing - I definitely recommend adding this technique to your squash recipe library. Still, the casserole is the one everyone at the table wanted to know how to make.

Clean Plates is a great way to improve your education on shopping, eating and cooking in a way that benefits the ground, people, and your well-being. Between recipes and straight-forward content the book is worth space on your bookshelf.

D'Lish Deviled Eggs: A Collection of Recipes from Creative to Classic
Kathy Casey
Andrews & McMeel Publishing
1300 Walnut Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
9781449427504, $14.99,

Let There be Eggs!

I'm preparing food for a party in a couple weeks - almost a catering gig, but not quite. And effective today I've changed the menu. After trying three recipes from this deviled eggs cookbook I had to add some to the list of delights going to the event. I also will be trying many more recipes.

The pre-published version I reviewed is a gorgeous, inspiring presentation. Since page numbers often change the last weeks before publication, recipe references will simply be according to title.

The author is also operates a food studio. This is a huge benefit for the reader and cook. The images are stunning. Unlike so many stylings seen today the recipe pictures are truly about the food. While appropriate dishes are used, the pieces are straight-forward. I found the lack of fight between settings, background, or style with the luscious eggs a pleasant surprise.

However, beautiful pictures don't make a good cook or curious chef happy. I did find recipes to love and more to try than my initial test group could handle. Consider these recipes the classic deviled egg goes on a food-truck adventure. With lots of tweaks and imagination you get great results.

What if you crossed a BLT with a deviled egg? You might imagine different results, but Ms. Casey gives you a recipe that is interested, delicious, and fun. In the same vein, the Bacon Cheddar Deviled Eggs are brilliantly evil. Make extra of this recipe - you and anyone around will be eating them before you are actually ready to serve them.

The cream of the crop however, goes further afield for savory, sophisticated results. Wasabi Deviled Eggs amazed and pleased my testers. The level of heat and the delicate contrast of the cucumber is perfect. I am using this recipe for every new gathering or party for the next few months until everyone in my circle has eaten them - or at least everyone who is willing. (I'll happily eat the extra serving for anyone who isn't interested in their portion.)

Wasabi Deviled Eggs represents one of those recipes each accomplished home cook is looking for: unique, effective, and achievable on a regular day. If you collect those rare, luscious recipes that impress your table guests without rendering your kitchen a disaster, you'll be glad to have this recipe and many others in the book. Let the beautiful images and accessible, fabulous recipes win you over when considering adding this cookbook to your collection.

Heidi Sue Roth

Karyn's Bookshelf

Noodle Loves the Farm
Marion Billet, author and illustrator
Nosy Crow
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763662752, $8.99,

Vibrant color, soft touch-and-feel elements and the chance to pipe in with familiar farm noises make this the perfect toddler barnyard tale. There's a distinct Asian cultural element, with the main characters two young panda bears who, uniquely, wander around a western-style farm. The younger panda is named Noodle. The pandas quietly visit horses, sheep and a sleeping cat, stroking their soft fur. Then a rooster appears and things get loud. A field of cows caps it all off with the invitation to young listeners, sure to bring a noisy response, "And just like Noodle, you love to say 'Moo'!" The heavy board book pages are built to last. Just-right fun.

The Elephant's Friend and Other Tales from Ancient India
Marcia Williams, author and illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763659165, $16.99,

Child-pleasing, comic book panel art elevates these eight animal-based Indian fables. Themes such as greed, vanity, friendship and wisdom are easy to grasp in the short stories that blend humor and poignancy. Each fable is distinguished by its art in a unique color scheme, from earthy to bold red, lending separation and interest. Children will be lured by the wide diversity of animals including an elephant, a golden swan, a tortoise and a lion. Some stories end with the demise of a foolish creature while others end with the triumph of a wise creature, often simply that they elude being eaten. Conversation bubbles and lots of small illustrative detail add interest for independent readers. Younger children won't realize they're being introduced to a literary style in the fables; they'll just like the stories. Lots to look at and learn in quick, attention-holding bites. Perfectly packaged wisdom.

Eggs 123: Who Will the Babies Be?
Janet Halfmann, author
Betsy Thompson, illustrator
Blue Apple Books
515 Valley St., Maplewood, NJ 07040
9781609051914, $17.99,

Counting skills combine with exploration of habitat and visual/tactile concepts like size, color, shape and feel (tough and leathery, round and smooth) in this excellently conceived and packaged science primer. Children are introduced to 10 different species that uniquely include a penguin, a platypus, butterflies, robins, glowworms, snakes and turtles. They live in various, distinct locales from the Arctic to the ocean to a backyard tree. Each spread begins as a guessing game, introducing the creature and asking who the baby or babies will be. The answer lies under a page flap that must be lifted. Each successive animal lays one additional egg, ultimately requiring children to count up to 10. Older children, in particular, will enjoy the final spread which compares by size the different featured eggs from huge ostriches to tiny frogs. The number of eggs laid doesn't necessarily mesh with that laid in real life; a turtle can lay hundreds of eggs. But that's OK, as the lesson is really about habitat and description, and limiting the count to 10 keep things simple. The earth-toned, collage-inspired artwork beautifully compliments the text. A kid-minded, first-rate introduction to animal babies.

Running with the Horses
Alison Lester, author and illustrator
NorthSouth Books
350 7th Avenue, Room 1400
NY, NY 10001-5013
9780735840027, $16.95,

A young girl named Nina rescues an old, abandoned horse that helps her flee her besieged city in this breathtaking story inspired by World War II events. Nina, on the horse named Zelda, rides with her father and a guide past burning buildings and gunfire, escaping into the mountains. Zelda continually intervenes to save them, including balking before a bridge that the humans don't realize is collapsed. Ultimately, the perilous journey brings them over the border to her grandparents' farm. Nina's father suggests leaving Zelda to die when she collapses from exhaustion not far from the farm, but the old horse is coaxed on. The illustrations are often dark, befitting the dramatic tale. They are also rich in emotion, such as Nina's tortured face when she pleads with a labored, sweat-streaked Zelda to keep going. Brighter colors are reserved for the red of the city burning and Nina's bedroom before the escape, where she lays out her belongings and chooses one item, an embroidered horse from her deceased mother, to keep. A yellow cover font suggests hope in the face of great adversity. Beautiful all around.

House Held Up By Trees
Ted Kooser, author
Jon Klassen, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763651077, $16.99,

Kooser, a renowned poet, weaves simple, elegant prose about the power of nature to reclaim itself. Two children watch their father labor to maintain his perfectly manicured lawn. Their house and square of green lawn were built on once forested land. The children play in the surrounding thick woods. Ultimately, the family moves away. The house is abandoned and the woods returns. As the trees grow they press around the crumbling foundation so tightly that the house rises high into the branches, tree house-like. The illustrations, by renowned artist Jon Klassen, are earth-toned with splashes of color. Particular illustrative attention is paid to natural elements like the woods, the grass and saplings that reclaim the yard, as well as to the home's weathered exterior. You can almost feel the scratch of boughs, the rough clapboards, the stubble of freshly cut grass. Such a tactile response to a flat picture is remarkable. A beautifully written and illustrated tale about nature's ability to bounce back from human-inflicted wounds.

Black Dog
Levi Pinfold, author and illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763660970, $15.99,

The youngest member a family, awakened by a monstrous dog peering in her window, keeps her head while parents and siblings panic. The child, poignantly named Small Hope, heads outside with the dog where they romp under a snowy bridge, slide down an enclosed playground slide and slip back home through a cat door. The dog gradually shrinks to normal size as it squeezes through successively tighter spots. The story's quirkiness is matched in the illustrations that depict an eccentric family whose home is crammed with old-fashioned clutter. The home's interior is an illustrative feast. Great details included exposed wooden beams; a narrow, winding staircase; a stained, claw foot bathtub with a brass soap holder and hot water boiler; and scattered toys, books, blankets, knitting needles, trunks and knickknacks. The jumbled living room where the family ultimately shares a warm fire with the dog is particularly endearing. Outside, the art is as stunning: thin, hairline-cracked pond ice; tiny birdhouses nailed to leafless winter trees; a hushed, snow-strewn playground; and an icy stoop. A grand story, with even grander art.

Little Blue Truck Leads the Way (Big Book)
Alice Schertle, author
Jill McElmurry, illustrator
c/o Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10003
9780547850603, $26.99,

Librarians, teachers and anyone else who reads aloud to young children will clamor for this big book edition in the "Little Blue Truck" series. Enlarging this sequel to the beloved "Little Blue Truck" to 14-by-18-inches (36-inches-wide when open for reading) enhances the bold, eye-popping illustrations that even in the smaller format zoomed off the page. The slow-moving, antique Little Blue Truck heads down a country lane, away from its farm, toward the big city. There, it encounters a variety of vehicles including a police car, a double decker bus and a grocery truck. All are in a hurry. In a poignant nod to manners, Little Blue Truck becomes ensnarled in a traffic jam, where it implores short-tempered city vehicles to calm down and to proceed one at a time. Little Blue Truck carries the mayor in a parade when the official's limousine stalls. And in the end, it heads home to the quiet countryside. The text is chock with beeps, zooms and other automotive sounds that will enthrall young listeners. The city streetscapes and variety of vehicles, whose grills are painted as wonderfully emotive faces, really pop at this size. A winning adaption.

Who's Like Me?
Nicola Davies, author
Marc Boutavant, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763658021, $9.99,

Bright colors and lots of lift-the-flaps beckon in this delightful early science primer. On five individual spreads, children are presented with a familiar creature - a rabbit, a goldfish, a chameleon, a pigeon and a frog - and offered four choices of other animals that are hidden by flaps. They must choose the one that is most similar. On succeeding spreads, the similar creatures - a fox, a tuna, a snake, an ostrich and a newt -- are individually featured. The unique mix of creatures lends great interest. The simple text is ideal for either reading aloud or for newly independent readers. The illustrations are gentle and child-minded with simple lines, abundant color and playful elements like oversized animal eyes. Age-appropriate science teaches children, ultimately, that they are mammals just like some familiar animals. Just right.

In the Sea
David Elliott, author
Holly Meade, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9780763644987, $16.99,

Playful, expertly woven verse and bold, expressive woodcuts capture the awesome beauty of the sea and its inhabitants. Twenty creatures are featured, including the more familiar sea horse, octopus and blue whale, and less familiar chambered nautilus and herring. Some creatures get longer descriptions while others get one word; the mackerel is shiny, the shrimp briny. The varying cadence keeps things interesting. Some animals are big and ferocious, with verse that leans a bit darker. Others are small and/or less threatening, like the dolphin that jumps, leaps, twirls and spins. The woodcuts are animated and colorful enough to engage younger listeners yet sophisticated enough in their rich detail that older children will be drawn in. As they gain in years and expand their knowledge of the sea, children will delight in returning. They will notice with each successive visit news layers of detail that once went over their head. One to grow with.

Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer

Katherine's Bookshelf

The Life He Never Knew
Ryan Petty
Whiskey Creek Press
PO Box 51052, Casper, WY 82605
9781611602913, $17.95,

I am going to tell you up front that the twist to this Civil War novel, The Life He Never Knew by Ryan Petty is one you will never guess. Mr. Petty takes us to the Battle at Shiloh, as seen through the eyes of Thomas, a nineteen year old Confederate soldier from Texas. Their tramp through rain and mud, lack of food and warm clothing, including shoes, is told in great detail.

Thomas learns that one of his brothers had died at Wilson's Creek. He meets a lovely Southern Belle, Sarah, when the Texas contingent he is with bivouac at a southern plantation. He is wounded in a skirmish on the way to the big battle. He depends on his friends in the battle of Shiloh. Then comes the twist to the book. It is an exciting and very different ending to a well written, engrossing book. You will not see it coming, but it will be unforgettable.

"...She leaned in and whispered one last thing to him. "And please come back to me safely." Quickly and quietly she looked up at him and gave him that wonderful smile. Thomas was proud of her. Even with her small lie she found a way to see him again, even for a short moment. He never thought he'd have the chance to see her smile in the daylight hours, but the early sun's rays cast down and showed how stunning her features truly were."

What happens with Thomas and Sarah? Do they meet up again? Read the book to find out about it. You are going to love it, I can guarantee it.

Mr. Petty will hold your attention throughout the whole book. It can be termed a page turner in every sense of the phrase. You must get it and read it for yourself. Just be sure you have enough batteries for your flashlight if you have to read under the cover.
His research shows as he relates the march to Shiloh, the battle and the living conditions.

Ryan Petty is a high school/college history teacher in northeast Texas. He holds a Masters in History from Texas A&M - Commerce. He and his wife, Megan, live in Northeast Texas. They have one child.

The Life He Never Knew has been named a winner of the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award for historical fiction and a finalist in fiction at the 2012 North Texas Book Festival.

Lady Justice and the Candidate
Robert Thornhill
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
100 Enterprise Way Ste A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781477588536, $12.99,

Robert Thornhill has written another winner in Lady Justice and the Candidate. His inimitable style of writing comedy within a mystery will capture his reader's imagination yet again. You will laugh in many places and have chills in others.

Walt Williams, a senior police officer with the Kansas City Police Department, is asked to help protect an independent Presidential candidate because of a very interesting fact. He was the spitting image of the candidate.

""We have enough creditable intel to know that the man's life is in danger and it's our job to protect him. We need you to help. There it was --- I was being offered the job of sacrificial lamb."

We join Walt and Ben Foster, the candidate, on the campaign trail with some trepidation.

Walt has been sworn to absolute secrecy, so not one of his usual cohorts, with the exception of his wife, Maggie, knows what he is doing. There is an attempted assignation or two that he has to circumvent, answer questions about the candidates' stand on issues without knowing all of the background and generally stand in for him several times.

How will Walt get out of this escapade that he is involved in? Will he have the help of the Secret Service? The Kansas City PD? The local citizens? His rag tag bunch of cohorts? Or will he have to rely on himself? You must read Mr. Thornhill's book to find out the answer.

Robert Thornhill began writing at the age of 66. He has written nine novels in the Lady Justice series, seven Rainbow Road series for children, a cookbook and a mini-biography. He lives with his wife, Peg in Independence, MO. His website is

Katherine Boyer

Logan's Bookshelf

Shadows Chasing Light
Brian Bowers
5th Principle Productions ThoughtPress
9780988211704 $15.95

Shadows Chasing Light is an anthology of brief, free-form poetry that explores the nuances of meaning hidden everywhere - amid natural beauty, amid tragedy, amid humanity's quest to know the unknown, and amid the depths of one's own emotions. The reverberations of the ideas explored linger long in reader's mind, peering beneath the surface, in an endless search to better understand ourselves and our world. Highly recommended. "For Truth": For this wisdom, no degree to reach, / No title given for a soul to teach / That as a fool, man in his choices makes / An unwise decision to control his stake - / For in his hands he is always told, / It is his destiny that he holds - / These great lies bewitch the soul, / Because he finds true freedom / Simply, by letting go.

Genie's Bottle
Berta Bauer
Balboa Press
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781452543505, $23.99,

We cannot hide what we truly want forever. "Genie's Bottle" is a novel from Berta Bauer, who tells a collection of personal stories driven by three individuals around Lake Superior, as each of them pieces their lives together and faces the secrets they have tried so strongly to keep covered up, only for those secrets to emerge and change their lives forever over a single month. "Genie's Bottle" is an enticing and insightful novel, much recommended.

Olive Park
C.J. Booth
Privatley Published
9780983832904 $14.95

Winner of Best Mystery of the 2012 Global E-book awards, Olive Park is a chilling mystery about a child-murderer on the rampage. In 1997, the bodies of three slain children were found in shallow graves in Olive Park, California; fifteen years later, the cold case is reopened, and the evidence reveals that the monster responsible for Olive Park has continued to kill, and threatens new victims even now. A devious and twisted contemporary novel, Olive Park is gripping and horrific, and will leave the reader with chills to the very end.

Operation Take-Over The Day
A. O. Solomon
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781467069908, $29.95,

Prayer is a powerful tool for our everyday lives, finding guidance and thought. "Operation Take-Over The Day: 365 Days Prayer-Devotional" is a collection of prayers to be taken for everyday of the year, as author and Pastor A. O. Solomon presents his own insight on the souls of the world and finding one's own light towards the day. "Operation Take-Over The Day" has plenty to consider for Christian readers, very much recommended reading.

Unclaimed Legacy
Deborah Heal
Write Brain Activity
9781478311492, $12.99,

Time is a strange thing to fully understand. "Unclaimed Legacy" is a novel following Abby and John, with an unusual computer program that lets them see through time, although unable to affect anything directly, and see things through the eyes of the past. Trying to solve a century old murder mystery and clear a family's name, "Unclaimed Legacy" is an enticing and riveting read that should be hard to put down.

Nikos Acuna
c/o PR by the Book
978098506613, $24.00,

One mind is powerful, many minds can do much. "Mindshare: Igniting Creativity and Innovation Through Design Intelligence" explores modern creativity and innovation as a communal thinking exercise, and how Nikos Acuna believes this founds that mankind flourishes on creation instead of simply survival. Delving into the psychology of business and creation, "Mindshare" is well worth considering for psychology and motivational collections.

Sounds of a Coo
Kelly Lambert
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432783037, $23.95,

When a child enters your life, everything seems to change. "Sounds of a Coo" is a collection of art and poetry from Kelly Lambert, touching on the youth of a child and the impact they can bring in on our lives. "Sounds of a Coo" is a charming addition to theme poetry collections focusing on children and motherhood. "Bath Time": I hear the running water, and my robe is on the bed./It's time for my evening bath, which I never dread./Splishing and splashing sure makes bath time fun./I love the smooth, soft sponge, rubbed across my tum./It sure feels nice when my hair's washed/and the cracks between my toes./You lean my head back/gently/to avoid the water in my nose./We finish with my chubby legs moving all around./Bath time s very special with you I have found.

The Fact/Faith Debate
Jack Gage
Two Harbors
9781938690228, $15.99,

Faith exists even when logic states it shouldn't. "The Fact/Faith Debate: Why Science Hasn't Killed Religion" analyzes religion in the scope of a very scientific world, as Jack Gage offers his own interpretation on the continuing break down of many major factors in many religions and their insights on the world, and how they manage to coexist with science in today's world. "The Fact/Faith Debate" is a strong addition to science and religion collections, especially those with a focus on their contrasts, recommended.

Carl Logan

Lois' Bookshelf

Twice Begun
Reina Lisa Menasche
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781478238058, $15.00,

Suppose you had a life situation that you knew would make a great novel. Should you write it like a journal, present tense, exactly as it happened, merely changing the names? Does that create fiction?

Twice Begun inspires me to ask the question. I don't know if it's a true story or not; I only know it reads like one. Being familiar with the locale, San Diego's Hillcrest area, I can almost name the name of the street the family lives on and the school the child attends. And I can testify that the story is not "shaped" in the way a novel usually is, attempting to ensure that the reader's expectations are met. The story is Life as It Happens, with all its randomness. None of your Hollywood tricks, no hanging the rifles on the wall, no time out for the back story. Just a steady progress from Day One forward. All we get of the back story is an occasional sentence or two where it fits.

Certainly, novelistic tricks have grown worn out with over-use, to the point where novel endings become predictable right from the set-up. If a man is a great father who adores his children, and to whom they are deeply bonded, then have no fear, dear reader; he will be reunited with them in the end. The couple will work out their differences somehow. If he's an indifferent or downright bad dad, then a better replacement will turn up. The woman will come to realize that the man who loves and cares for her children is the better guy, even if he's not quite so glamorous. I've read that story so often, and seen it play out on television so frequently, that it's become ho-hum. Here we go again. If someone opts to change it, I offer them a resounding Yes!

But change it to what? In real life, Mom doesn't always make the switch. She returns to the rogue, who tends to be more attractive than the steady and dependable guy. Or she gets involved in a career and opts for no guy at all, or maybe the new guy doesn't go for her. Nothing is neat. The witnesses are seldom left satisfied, and the characters remain the subject of gossip.

Twice Begun starts off smashingly, with a truly fascinating French hubby who adores his little daughter, sings French songs to her at bedtime, and tells her exotic French stories. He is apparently happy with his family. Yet unpredictably and without explanation, he walks out on them and returns to his original fiancee in France.

I'm hooked. I have to read on and find out what happens. What caused the sudden change of heart? His wife can think of no good reason except that his family had disapproved of her and of the marriage, and since they are wealthy owners of a winery and his source of income, he must please them. Apparently she has taken no initiative and made no effort to mend fences or sell herself to them. They still push for his return to his old world, and he has lost heart and given in.

Back with his fiancee, the French dad wants his daughter to visit. Mom is absolutely opposed. She will not put an eight year old child on a plane alone to cross the Atlantic, and even when he makes the trip to America, she fears that Dad may kidnap the child and keep her. There is much tension between them as he requests, begs, pleads, and she refuses. The child has screaming fits in which she demands to see her father.

So far, so good. It's about this point that everything goes real-life-ish. Other things take center stage. Rather than a resolution, we are given change. Well, problems do often become irrelevant rather than become solved. That's life. But is it fiction?

This author is very talented, the book is a great read, and much of the story is riveting. The only problem is, it's not wholly satisfying, even as a non-fiction novel. As one who hates the old predictable plot, I have to commend the author for avoiding it and offer my best hope that in future volumes she will find that magical technique that will solve this problem and tweak novels toward the new look they so badly need.

Faking Faith
Josie Bloss
c/o Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.
2143 Wooddale Drive
Woodbbury, MN 55125-2989
9780738727578, $9.95,

A young adult novel, this book has a gutsy heroine named Dylan who doesn't fall apart when her traitorous boyfriend posts photos on the internet of her topless nudity. Instead, embarrassed, she seeks another life for herself with a different circle of friends - Fundamentalist Christian girls with a very different view of everything included relationships between the sexes. She sets up a website, calling herself "Faith," and for a while finds happiness by catering to the lifestyle where men support and protect their women while women are happily subservient to their men. She claims to look forward to a life of cooking and sewing and child-raising. She is only partly faking. As the child of a busy lawyer mom who expects her to have a career, she is rather enjoying the escape from freedom. Faith doesn't have to worry about passing SATs nor getting into a good college, as Dylan does.

Faith is invited to spend two weeks with a Fundamentalist girl in the Midwest, and Dylan goes off, telling her parents she is going to camp. She finds the lifestyle to be far more cramping than she had realized, to the point where finally she can no longer fake. She is wildly attracted to the son of the family, and when she learns that he feels the same about her, tensions grow toward an inevitable blow-up with the father of the family. Meanwhile, the daughter of the family has researched and found out the true author of that phony website. Dylan will learn through some hard life experiences that it is not such fun to be Faith, and she must find her way back to herself.

These two elements, the modern, science-based families and the Fundamentalist faith-based families, are realities of our society; all of us have to deal with them. This author has done young people a real service in spelling out the differences and the problems within each. She writes without demonizing either side; she shows both the sadder side of the religiously restricted life and the hazards of the non-religious life. And she points to ways of handling the duality and helping the participants get along with one another. A great read with fascinating contrasts of lifestyles, this book is highly recommended.

Lois Wells Santalo

Mabeya's Bookshelf

Contemporary Political Sociology
Kate Nash
350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148
9781444330755, $51.95,

"Contemporary Political Sociology: Globalization, Politics and Power" by Kate Nash (Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK) explores contemporary political sociology basing it arguments on post-modern, global and feminist theory. The main argument of the literature is that the forms of relationship between the civil society and the state that were previously used are valid. However, new forms need to be formulated based on new theories of political culture, identity and difference. The author makes a great contribution towards this thinking and thus contributes a lot to the new political sociology embedded with, globalization, new social movements, politics, citizenship and democracy. The book has five chapters in total.

Chapter one critically analyses the transformation of the traditional state or class centered theories of elite power which are transformed to include other social institutions in the civil society. This transformation has seen society move from state centered models of individual participation in politics to where politics means all encompassing experiences in social aspects of modern society. Nash argues that social change and structure of society in new political sociology encompasses cultural politics transformations. She calls this change; a post-modern turn in Sociology characterized among other indicators the absence of universal values of truth. This leads her to come up with two theoretical schools of thought; Ludic and oppositional. She defines Ludic as being anti-political and oppositional to be pluralistic which seeks equality. This is very political in nature. Her writing is based on oppositional postmodernism, thus its contribution to new political sociology.

Nash moves to address globalization in her second chapter. This chapter is important as it challenges the theory that society is made of structures that are always controlled by the state (theories of the state). She makes an argument that globalization goes beyond the control of the state in cultural politics, information and economy and no single entity can control these factors. However, Nash is quick to note that the state remains an entity and has not faded away or any time soon. She says all this is only possible because of capitalism and modernity, therefore her main argument that globalization is post modernization. She argues that globalization of culture is postmodern because it surpasses the traditional definition of culture in societal terms, adding that that technology has transformed the way society works through information technologies and thus the emergency of "global village." Nash goes on to explain that a global cape which provides a stage within which cultural politics is played provides also opposition to cultural politics to reach a consensus.

Her third Chapter deals with theories of social movements. Nash argues that the traditional way has been centering politics around the state. However, emerging social movements in the new political sociology are engaged with the state in coming up with new identities, lifestyles, and politics never seen before. Embedded with these new identities are cultural politics in the struggle for social change, where the theory of social movement is based on resource mobilization and new social movement theories. These two theories she says, has put a lot of strength on culture and in shaping the perceptions of individuals. She contends that social movements are always engaged in politics of culture and this makes them a cornerstone under which the new political sociology can be understood.

Chapter 4 deals with the issue of citizenship. Nash argues that the traditional way of understanding citizenship is through class as the basis of inequality in society, whereas the new forms of political sociology are based on cultural and rights of citizenship. Nash argues that the new political sociology undercuts the idea of modern universal citizenship as this idea is not all inclusive but rather exclusive, that the rights of citizenship are based on certain social groups. Those who are not in the in-group are considered as out groups and thus not as citizens. She goes on to say that individuals are denied citizenship on the basis of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, race and wealth. She even extends her imagination to globalization and international law for citizenship and rights of the individual and says that is a possibility and that this will supersede that of the state.

Chapter five delves into democracy and democratization. Her main focus on this chapter is on deliberative and poststructuralist models of democracy. She supports deliberative model stating that post-structuralist democracy cannot deal adequately with cultural democracy. More so, the idea of equality and pluralism is important because the new political theory is both normative and analytical. Therefore it is important to look for alternatives in the existing conditions with a target of getting progressive alternatives. She seems not to agree with agree with both Herbermas, Laclau and Mouffe's model of democracy arguing that their models are culture specific and so inefficient. Her alternative is a global democracy that recognizes cultural politics and which allows international and transnational politics with cultural traditions.


Nash's work without doubt makes a great deal of contribution to political sociology field. It is a contribution that students who are interested in Contemporary Political Sociology cannot afford not to read. However, I don't get a clear difference between her definition of political sociology with that of other proponents in the same field (say the liberal-democratic idealists). Her other area which is not clear, is when she makes the difference between ludic and oppositional forms. She ends up rejecting the Ludic form on the premise that are anti-political. Indeed this rejection of Ludic tends to be more subjective of the whole subject of the new political sociology instead of being more objective and open. Lastly, her explanation of what she calls oppositional postmodernism is not wholesome and thus not very clear. In general what I conclude is that Nash's works seems to give one side of what political sociology is.

Social Movements in Advanced Capitalism
Steven M. Buechler
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4314
9780195126044, $52.95,

"Social Movements in Advanced Capitalism: The Political Economy and Cultural Construction of Social Activism" seems to be perfectly suited in the current social changes in the world more so as we see different protests around the world. It is a very ambitious book that helps to analyze social movements within an empirical context. Especially the May Day 2000 in London 'reclaim the streets,' 'tea party movement,' and 'occupy wall street' in the U.S. The central theme of this book is the get the link between academic sociology and emergency of different political and cultural movements. This helps in coming up with a structural approach in understanding social movements, in both historical and dialectical approach.

Buechler intends his readers to understand that social movements and sociology are the outcome of modernity and that sociologists are concerned with bringing forward what he calls "social statics and social dynamics" where as movement actors are "practical social change theorists." Buechler covers a wide ground of social movements ranging from collective behavior, resource mobilization, and social constructionism to new social movement traditions and to contemporary social movement debates. He also covers the capitalist system by using the world system theory in trying to understand global stratification, economic and social change. Buechler uses Herbermasian way to explain this by focusing mostly on advanced capitalism of the western states where mostly research on social movement is carried out. He says advanced societies experience what he calls, "rationalization of the life world and is measured by reliance on discourse and communicative action for justifying social norms and cultural practices." What comes out of this is bring about identity and expressive movements over traditional movements in the western societies thus challenging global capitalism through global economic policies on norms and social responsibility. This is Buechler's central theme in this book, putting forward emphasize on what identity plays and culture in social movements.

There are other chapters in this book with diverse topics. This includes; a topic on national level, and a topic on regional level with sub topics on class, race and gender that call for coherent collective action. Buechler argues that it is class in advanced societies that is responsible for the capitalist mode of production. Therefore, race and gender movements are just a response to historical social construction. This response can only be better understood through the capitalist mode of production. Buechler says in capitalist advanced societies, power relations in politics can be better understood through Foucaultian perspective. This perspective presupposes that whoever controls the mode of production has the power over those who don't (workers).

This is an excellent book in understanding social movements in political sociology because it explicates the relationship between national processes and global economic process. It remains an eye opener to social movement debates. The book explains how both national and global capitalism are challenged by conservative policies in the world's democratic societies. Importantly this book explains clearly the relationship between sociology and social movements. The last chapters of this book are very positive as they explain the relationship between politics and culture and that the two are closely related to social movements. Identity and ideology are the main concepts in understanding politics in advanced capitalism. The book explains well how political and economic structures influence culture and identity.

This book has some shortcomings worth noting. The author mentions Gidden, Gramsci and Weber but does not include Beck, Lash and Marx who are also social movement proponents. More so there is no statistical data to support the theoretical analysis of this book. There is no quantification of social movements in terms of demography, class, gender, race and their relations to power. Further there are no case studies to support the author's arguments of social movements in advanced capitalist societies. Lastly, I don't see where the author explains clearly how social movements arise from societal social structures and how these social movements are eventually transformed from national to international structure through globalization. An example is 'occupy wall street' movement in the U.S. which at one time nearly turned to be a global movement.

Dr. Danvas Mabeya

Margaret's Bookshelf

The Book of Psychological Truths
R. Duncan Wallace
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781462015610, $24.95,

Much of the gatekeeper to our own potential is ourselves. "The Book of Psychological Truths" is a self-improvement guide from R. Duncan Wallace as he uses his nearly half century of psychological experience to advise readers to take their own lives into heir hands, eliminate the stress of life, realize one's true potential and bring it all together and enjoy life for what it can be. "The Book of Psychological Truths" is a strongly recommended addition to inspirational collections, not to be missed.

No Compelling Reason
William Boudreau
Brule Press
c/o Langdon Street
9780963117625, $11.95,

Medical marijuana is nothing new, being used for tens of thousands of years. "No Compelling Reason" is William Boudreau's own exploration on the nature of marijuana, and how an ancient plant that had been used safely for recreation and medicine for much of human history became the target for public, political, and legal hysteria. Looking at studies throughout recent history leading up and past to the national prohibition, "No Compelling Reason" offers strong evidence to the wrongful persecution of the use of marijuana for many a purpose.

The General Theory of Information Origin of Truth and Hope
Dr. Christian Bach & Dr. Salvatore Belardo
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781470026134, $16.88,

What is man if not their desires and will? "The General Theory of Information Origin of Truth and Hope" is a metaphysical spirituality book from Dr. Christian Bach and Salvatore Belrado, who offer their own insights into the human condition and how we hold the secrets to better life and humanity within our own willpower. "The General Theory of Information Origin of Truth and Hope" is well worth considering for spirituality collections.

Life Has Frozen in Albania
Sami Gjoka
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781475268577 $15.00

Life Has Frozen in Albania is a collection of original, free-verse poetry that touches on topics ranging from a grand battle between demons and the divine, to the inevitability of passing from this world, to the wonder and beauty in such a simple thing as a smile from one's beloved. Stark and expressive, impossibly balancing the elegant and the earthly, Life Has Frozen in Albania is an unforgettable experience. "Sunny Morning": The dawn broke and opened like a cotton ball / Under sunny rays that tease and provoke / As if nipples fondled by lips and by tongue / Nature, soon, unzipped and took off her robe.

Nick Choo
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781475946888, $23.95,

The world rolls on, although our stories stumble over many different things. "Bench" centers around a particular park bench, touching on the many stories of people facing their lives, in many stages, and the lessons they learn passing over a simple park bench. With a touch of poignancy and life, "Bench" has much to ponder about it all, and is very much recommended reading for those seeking tales of life, living, and coming to terms with the weight of it all.

Growing Up Bipolar
Preston C. Northcraft
Yorkshire Publishing
9781936750948, $8.99,

Bipolar disorder presents many challenges of life and living. "Growing Up Bipolar: Conquering the Mental Disorder" hopes to explain and define the disorder that many don't fully understand even in the modern day. Drawing on his own experiences, he tells the story of coming to terms with the disorder, the episodes, and trying to find help to live life just as anyone else would. "Growing Up Bipolar" is a strong addition to psychology memoir collections.

The Vagrant Chronicle
Paul L. Centeno
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781475078268 $16.95

The Vagrant Chronicle is a dark fantasy epic, about one man who struggles against an onslaught of darkness. Bra'dune, once known as The Pure Land, has become ruptured, tainted, and transformed into the Eight Hells. Beneath the sundered sky, children are being kidnapped and murdered, and the only humyn determined to do anything about it is the impoverished and homeless Mor'reius Krelsin. Striving to save others from the suffering he endured as an orphan, Mor'reius uncovers the force behind the kidnappings - and learns that he is up against something far more powerful than any one humyn. A monster wielding the seven elements of existence may yet extinguish not only children's lives, but any vestige of life or hope left in the sundered world! A fantastic saga of the struggle to build upon the slightest ray of hope amid a morass of destruction, The Vagrant Chronicle is thoroughly engaging and highly recommended.

For Bears to Dance To
Tom Morrison
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781463744991, $14.95,

For the pursuit of the almighty dollar, there's little many won't do. "For Bears to Dance To" is a novel of wall street and the prelude to a great market crash as Wilton X seeks his own way to wealth, love, and success as the world begins to melt down around him. "For Bears to Dance To" strikes a chord with the modern economic climate, a choice read.

Margaret Lane

Marjorie's Bookshelf

The Black Hole War
Leonard Susskind
Little, Brown and Co.
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Ave, NY, NY 10017
9780316016407, $15.99,

I found "The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics" through Goodreads' recommendations and since I hadn't read Susskind before but had heard a lot about him, I wanted to read something he wrote. I requested the book through our local library and when I read the dust jacket I knew I was hooked. The title alone is a hook. The war was about Stephen Hawking's attack on one of the most trusted principles of physics - the law of information conservation that says information is never lost. (p. 179, 180) Leonard Susskind, an American elementary particle physicist who teaches at Stanford, and Gerard 't Hooft, a Dutch physicist, were deeply disturbed about Hawking's claim that once information crosses the horizon of a black hole it is lost forever. Susskind realized that this claim undermined the fundamental laws of physics and with Gerard 't Hooft, he went about disproving Hawking's theory. What hooked me when I read the dust jacket was that in doing so, they arrived at the "mindbending conclusion that everything in our world - this book, your house, yourself - is a hologram projected from the farthest edges of space."

I read the book often not understanding what I was reading because I'm not mathematically adept. But Susskind is able with endless examples, drawings and prose to get his ideas across to the lay public. The glossary in the back of the book was very helpful. I liked the way his discussion and thinking is laid out in short, well titled sections. The "war" in itself was interesting to follow from Susskind's prospective. He lays out Hawking's arguments and then systematically disproves them. The book is jammed packed with insights into modern physics. Here are just a few of the ideas that I came away with that were helpful to me. They might get you thinking.

Susskind said to memorize this: high energy means short wave-length; low energy means long wavelength. (82)

Richard Feynman: "I think it's safe to say that no one understands Quantum Mechanics." (83)

The Uncertainly Principle was the great divide that separated physics into pre-quantum classical era and post modern era of quantum weirdness. Classical physics is deterministic; quantum physics is full of uncertainty. The Uncertainty Principle, as developed by Werner Heisenberg who along with Erwin Schrodinger discovered the mathematics of quantum mechanics, says that any attempt to shrink the uncertainty of the position of an object will inevitably expand the uncertainty of the velocity. Or it is not possible to know both the position and the velocity of an object at the same time. (p. 92)

Nature didn't prepare our brains for quantum uncertainty. There was no need. In ordinary life, we never encounter objects light enough for the Uncertainty Principle to matter. (96)

The First Law of Thermodynamics is the law of energy conversation: you cannot create energy; you cannot destroy it; all you can do is change its form. The second Law: ignorance always increases. (140)

Hawking claimed that "when a black hole evaporates, the trapped bits of information disappear from our universe. Information isn't scrambled. It is irreversibly, and eternally, obliterated." He was dancing on the grave of quantum mechanics. (185)

Nothing can return from behind the horizon of a black hole because to do so would require exceeding the speed of light, an impossibility according to Einstein. All the relativists believed this, like Hawking. (191)

Mathematical physics would come to embrace one of the most philosophically disturbing ideas of all time: in a certain sense, the solid three-dimensional world of experience is a mere illusion. (291)

In some way that we don't understand, every bit of information in the world is stored far away at the most distant boundaries of space. (294)

Leonard Susskind's confession: Despite the fact that I have been an elementary particle physicist for more than forty years, I really don't like particle physics very much. The whole thing is too messy. Why keep doing it then? Because the very messiness must be telling us something about nature. At some yet undiscovered level, there must be a lot of machinery underlying these so-called elementary particles. It's curiosity about that hidden machinery, as well as it implications for the basic principles of nature, that pushes me on through the miserable swamp of particle physics. (325)

Nothing compares with the difficulties of trying to build a Quantum Field Theory of gravity. Gravity is geometry. In trying to combine General Relativity with Quantum Mechanics, at least according to the rules of Quantum Field theory, one finds that space-time itself constantly varying its shape. . . . Applying conventional methods of Quantum Field theory to gravity leads to a mathematical fiasco. (334)

The remarkable fact is that String Theory is quintessentially a holographic theory describing a pixilated universe. (335)

String theorists discovered many years ago that the mathematical consistency of their equations breaks down unless six more dimensions of space are added. . . . With nine directions to move in, it can be shown that String Theory is mathematically consistent. . . . String theorists make the six extra dimensions of space compact, thus compactifying or hiding the existence of extra dimensions. The idea is that the extra dimensions of space can be wrapped up in very small knots, so that we enormous creatures are far too big to move around in them, or to even notice them. (339)

The fact that black hole entropy can be accounted for by the information stored in string wiggles went strongly against the view of many relativists, including Hawking. He saw black holes as eaters of information, not storage containers for retrievable information. (393).

Holographic Principle: The three-dimensional world of ordinary experience - the universe filled with galaxies, stars, planets, houses, boulders, and people - is a hologram, an image of reality coded on a distant two-dimensional surface. . Everything inside a region of space can be described by bits of information restricted to the boundary. (410)

Maldacena and Witten had proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that information would never be lost behind a black hole horizon. The string theorists could understand this immediately; the relativists would take longer. But the war was over. (419)

So the black hole war ended with Susskind proving that information is not lost. At the same time he makes it very clear that all this is theoretical (based on mathematics) and not experiential. I stayed with the book to the very end, my eyes glazing over by the chapter on nuclear physics. But it was well worth the read. In the last chapter, Susskind gives us physics in a nutshell: The more we discover, the less we seem to know. That's physics in a nutshell.

A Pioneer Woman's Memoir - based on the Journal of Arabella Clemens Fulton
Judith E. Greenberg and Helen Carey McKeever
Franklin Watts
Division of Grolier Publishing
Sherman Turnpike, Danbury, CT 06813
053111211X $11.92

I have read many memoirs and diaries of the people who travelled the Oregon Trail, since I have an abiding interest in those amazing pioneers who braved incredible hardships to make a new life in the West. This memoir is unique in that it was written by Arabella Fulton when she was already in her eighties, so she is looking back on the experience instead of writing about it as the trip unfolds. It is a fascinating account. The two women listed as the authors actually edited the piece and added helpful historical information at the beginning of each chapter. Arabella was born in 1844 Missouri and died in 1934 in Washington. She set out for the West in 1864 with her sister and her husband, leaving behind her father and his wife and children. The era was the civil war. Arabella and her family's sympathies lay with the Southern cause. The strife of living in Missouri was too much, and Arabella left to find a new life in a new land. She describes how they prepared and what it was like living along the trail. In Boise, Idaho they decided to stop for the winter, and this is where she met her future husband. They lived in Idaho for eight years, made an ill-conceived (it was her husband's idea) move to Texas to ranch, and eventually ended up in Ellensburg, Washington where Arabella lived the rest of her days, raising ten children. She completed the memoir in 1930 at the age of 86. If you are a devotee of the Great Migration history, this book should be in your collection.

Marjorie Thelen, Reviewer

Mayra's Bookshelf

Tax Cheating: Illegal - But Is It Immoral?
Donald Morris
State University of New York Press
22 Corporate Woods Boulevard, 3rd Floor
Albany, NY 12211-2504
143844270X, $18.21,

Tax Cheating: Illegal--But Is It Immoral? is one of the most informative and interesting nonfiction books I've read in a long time.

From tax fairness, to cheating, to fraud, to evasion, to the complexity of moral and legal dilemmas and much, much more, author Donald Morris, in his clear, well-organized and straightforward style, offers an in-depth, fascinating glimpse into the intricate, multi-faceted world of taxes.

Why does the process of filling out a tax return and writing a check to the treasury strike such a powerful moral chord in so many people? Why is there so much confusion about taxes and the origins of moral duties? Are there instances when evading taxes is the moral thing to do? What is the difference between tax evasion and tax cheating and when is cheating unintentional? These are important questions requiring complex answers; Morris, however, does a good job in providing answers for the general layman reader.

Tax Cheating: Illegal--But Is It Immoral? published by the State University of New York Press, is clearly well researched and contains an impressive, extensive list of bibliographical data. If you wish to become more knowledgeable about the IRS, income tax, and the blurry boundaries of what constitutes tax cheating, I strongly recommend you pick this one up. This is an essential title that should be in any home's reference shelf.

I should state that Donald Morris is a Professor of Accounting at the University of Illinois and the author of Opportunity: Optimizing Life's Chances (Prometheus Books, 2006 -, co-author of Accounting Desk Book (Commerce Clearing House, 2005-2011), and has published papers on tax, business ethics, investing, and business strategy. He has a PhD in Philosophy from Southern Illinois University and a Master's in Taxation from DePaul University in Chicago.

Wasp's Nest
Gabriel Valjan
Winter Goose Publishing
2701 Del Paso Road, 130-92
Sacramento, CA 95835
9780988184534, $16.99 paperback; $7.99 digital

In this the second installment of his Roma series, author Gabriel Valjan takes secret government analyst Alabaster Black from Rome to Boston to investigate Nasonia Pharmaceutical and its CEO, Cyril Sargent for Rendition, the covert government agency she works for.

Nasonia uses advanced molecular biology and genetic sequencing technology to target human diseases. Sargent, who's demonstrated lack of transparency in his dealings and unorthodox strategies in the past and who's named his new controversial venture after a group of wasps, claims that his company is in no way perverting the natural order of things or doing anything unethical. He also claims that his research with wasps might lead to developing a methyl toolkit to use against cancer.

Thus, it is up to Alabaster to figure out what's really going on and, because of her unnatural pattern recognition ability, she soon gets hired by Sargent.

While this is going on, Alabaster is still being haunted by her last adventure in Rome in the form of a Bulgarian hit man set on killing her after a price has been put on her head. Old friends and a love interest from book I join in, adding further tension to the story as they uncover a twisted conspiracy.

I really enjoyed reading Wasp's Nest. In fact, I liked this book better than the first one. Somehow, I was able to feel closer to Alabaster: she's smart, bold and fearless yet has a soft side that is at times humorous. But mainly, I think it was the whole idea about DNA and wasps that did it for me. The information was fascinating. As Valjan did with Rome in his first book, Boston is fleshed out in vivid detail in this one, to the point where the setting becomes almost like a character. Also, as in the first book, the author goes into detail bringing Italian food to life--to the point where the reader has no other option but to love it. In short, an interesting, entertaining read. Recommended.

Mayra Calvani

Peggy's Bookshelf

Firefighters! Speeding! Spraying! Saving!
Patricia Hubbell, author
Viviana Garofoli, illustrator
Amazon Children's Books
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9780761453376, $14.99,

When the fire bell clangs, the firefighters are ready to go - even Spot the Dalmatian. In rhyming text, author Patricia Hubbell tells the story of firefighters (male and female) racing to the scene of a flaming building. When they arrive, a daring rescue awaits them. All in a day's work for the brave firefighters. Viviana Garofoli's action-packed, vivid illustrations fill in the details of this exciting adventure. The pictures and story combine nicely to show and tell what firefighters do. "Firefighters!" will be a raging hit with pre-school and kindergarten boys - and girls. This is one they will want to read again and again. Also available in paperback, board book, and Kindle edition.

1-2-3 Va-Va-Vroom!
Sarah Lynn, author
Daniel Griffo, illustrator
Amazon Children's Books
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9780761461623, $16.99,

It's a car racing book! It's a counting book! It's two books in one - and a lot of exclamation points. In this little story in rhyme, three kids imagine racing their toy cars in a big race. As readers count the laps, they discover the excitement and the pitfalls at the race track. The combination of counting with a familiar activity helps pre-schoolers understand that numbers refer to sets of things - like 3 race cars and 10 laps around the race track. Vibrant illustrations capture all the thrilling action. Even pre-readers will find this book is a real page-turner. I won't tell you who wins. But I will tell you "1-2-3 Va-Va-Vroom!" is not just for boys. Girls will love this book, too. Also available in Kindle edition.

Shaggy Dogs, Waggy Dogs
Patricia Hubbell, author
Donald Wu, illustrator
Amazon Children's Books
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9780761459576, $17.99,

So many dogs - so little time. This is not a storybook. It is a gallery of small, medium, and large purebreds and mutts doing all those entertaining things doggies do. Patricia Hubbell's rhyming text makes perfect captions for Donald Wu's exceptional illustrations. Together they bring these canine characters to life with warmth and humor. This is an excellent book for pre-readers because they will fall in love with the dogs in the pictures and want to learn the words, or make up their own. Not necessarily just for kids, dog lovers young and old will find this delightful assortment of dogs absolutely irresistible. "Shaggy Dogs, Waggy Dogs" is guaranteed to make you smile. -- Also available in Kindle edition.

Hello, Bicycle!
Ella Boyd, author
Daniel Griffo, illustrator
Marshall Cavendish
99 White Plains Road
Tarrytown, NY 10591
9780761459644, $12.99,

It's time for the girl in the pink helmet to let go of the old blue tricycle for a new red bike. Preschoolers can ride along on her slightly shaky and very bumpy first bike ride. Preschoolers are fascinated with bicycles and will certainly enjoy this little adventure in rhyme enhanced by Daniel Griffo's colorful, cartoonish illustrations which have a familiar "Sprout" appeal. However balance is the biggest challenge in learning how to ride a bike and it's never even mentioned. The bike doesn't have training wheels, the dad never holds onto bike to help the girl balance, and the girl doesn't fall, making this a rather unrealistic first bike ride. For this reason, readers might find it hard to identify with the girl in the pink helmet. "Hello, Bicycle!" is a charming picture book, but it falls short as a book about learning how to ride a bike.

Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer

Regis' Bookshelf

Fighting the Effects of Gravity: A Bittersweet Journey into Middle Life
James Robinson, Jr.
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781479187997, $15.95,

For a rundown of the bizarre bombs middle age drops on those who dare enter, James Robinson's book, Fighting the Effects of Gravity, provides an explosive and very humorous summation of devastation. Robinson was a weight lifter who achieved his hulk like appearance through intense physical exercise and a dedicated regime of lifting heavier and heavier weights starting during early adolescence and continuing until his butt fell. So proud was he of his bounding biceps, well-defined abs, and sensuously thin waist that "I wore tank tops and sleeveless shirts ... even in ...the dead of winter ... because ... you never can tell when you might have to remove your coat in public."

Robinson's overtly muscular physique might be the reason that his impression of mid-life crisis begins at - thirty-five - the age when his distinctively broad upper torso still funneled down through a narrow waist - thirty-five inches. We more "normal-bodied" males don't notice the disappearance of Robinson's unneeded packed on muscle. What tissue we have, we need/use just to get out of bed each day and live on.

One can imagine the author's horror when he stood naked in his bathroom before a large steamed up mirror. His "inconsiderate buttocks" had drooped. Ah-hah, this was the reason his form fitting blue jeans no longer felt comfortable. "Mr. Gravity" had claimed a first victim. Soon to follow would begin the slow buildup of a stomach paunch and the need for looser sized shoes as gravity yanked down hard on arches formerly held high by striated muscle tissue.

Fighting the Effects of Gravity tells a broader tale of times and events of Robinson's past that added to his nagging sense of aging. He speaks of televisions with rabbit ears for antennae, some draped with silver foil to improve picture quality - and the days when Pittsburgh had only three channels. He mentions Chiller Theater when Chilly Billy Cardilly ran "B" rated horror flicks for late night entertainment.

Then he talks of the normal aging memory problem where he could easily remember the names of popular old automobiles or the names of childhood friends and even those in grade school. He easily recalls names and events from the Nixon-Kennedy era but dares not involve himself in a heated discussion about Iraq and the WMD that - um, damn, what's his name - lest he can't recall the president's name. Yes, he remembers details about the U.S led invasion when that guy - um, that militarist idiot who guided Bush into battle ...!

In Fighting the Effects of Gravity, the author takes comfort in the fact that many old timers were alert until they passed on. Specifically, he mentions James Brown who shouted and gyrated on stage at age seventy-three. He talks of George Burns who planned on doing a comedy stint to celebrates his 100th birthday. He recalls Captain Kirk as William Shatner still doing Priceline ads, and still making special TV appearances. In a delightfully comedic way, Robinson, states that for him, middle age began around age thirty-five, a bit early I think for most people. Even the book's cover is comical because it shows a grasping hand which probably belongs to a person far beyond mid life.

The book is a good read because it ends on a positive note. Growing older is "all in how you look at it." People who plan now, on living, loving, and being active past the age of sixty, will probably live far beyond that age. Of course diet and exercise are still part of his routine, but Robinson advises proper nourishment and a positive attitude for all. This involves enduring regular physical checkups, the notorious prostate finger exam, and even the dreaded colonoscopy which actually led to invasive surgery and saved the author's life.

I would highly recommend Fighting the Effects of Gravity for persons of any age who want a laughing-out-loud glance at middle age. For some it will be a glimpse at their near future - for others it will be a stroll down memory lane. And for those living through mid-life, you'll find a shoulder to lean on. Read this hilarious book. It will not disappoint.

The Map of the Sky
Felix Palma
Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, N.Y. 10020
9781451660319, $26.00,

An author has written a sequel to H.G. Wells Book, The War of the Worlds. Wells considers the book a failure by a lesser writer who just wants to make his fortune riding on the coattails of Wells' success. After the two men drink to excess, they stagger to a nearby museum where, with a stolen key, they sneak into a very strange storage room. There they find a trove of unusual items, most of which Wells believes facetious.

But Wells sees an octopus-like body inside a coffin. It appears to be some ghastly type of creature. In his inebriated stupor, Wells is led to believe the stiff is a Martian from another planet. It has been kept secret from ordinary Britts who might well panic to know the existence of such a creature. Would it mean an invasion of earth is imminent? Leaning against a wall beside the coffin stands a strange saucer-like machine believed to be the mode of transportation used by the creature in the coffin. Neither they nor can scientists open the flying vessel.

Author Palma jerks the reader back in time to tell the story of when the museum creature and its saucer were reconnoitered. A sailing crew seeking the alleged entrance into earth's hollow interior world, believed to be located at the South Pole, find themselves ice locked. Suddenly, a saucer (eventually stored in the museum) streaks overhead and crashes nearby into Antarctic ice. The ship's crew search for the saucer and after several hideous deaths attributed to the invader that story stops.

Again, The Map of the Sky plunges the reader back to England where an ongoing love story continues at a slow rather dull pace. A young rich actor, considered lower caste by his beautiful beloved, promises her he will do anything to win her love. Her request: fabricate the landing of Martians right here in London in such a realistic way that all England will eventually panic. She suggests the actor use Wells' imaginary War of the Worlds as a guide for his production.

Author Palma truly bamboozles readers of his book as he combines ALL of the above places, events, and promises, into a realistic novel that successfully brings them together in a believable, yet fictitious way. Throw in a real Martian invasion of the earth at this precise time in history and you have all the elements of a downright exciting science fiction tale from the H.G. Wells era of 1898.

To enjoy this well told tale of fantasy, it would benefit the reader to be patient with Palma's Victorian prose that is quite dissimilar to today's mainstream books where sentences are short and concise, maybe downright choppy. In The Map of the Sky, author Palma interrelates a multitude of ideas in a single long sentence which might need several sentences to explain by modern standards. I enjoyed reading this book precisely because I felt I was intelligently thinking along with the author, especially when Palma broke right into his tale to speak to the reader. An example:

Ignore my mistake, which is almost certainly due to my failings as a narrator, and travel back with me a few moments in time, to when the monster has fought off the dogs and is lurching toward Reynolds and Allan, spreading its claws, and let us see how things turn out.

If you are seeking a book with an incredible story that will transport you back in time to what would have been a compelling read at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, this is the book for you. The story is rather long, but it is divided into three separate parts, each of which could be an entertaining story in its own right. Yet when you make the connections between all three parts, the resulting tale is all the more enjoyable. Read The Map of the Sky. It will not disappoint.

Regis Schilken

Richard's Bookshelf

Nourishing the Seed: Learning to Please God as a Father
Bob Mumford
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257
97807698441383, $16.99

"Nourishing the Seed - Learning to Please God as a Father" is made up of 128 profound short devotional readings in which gifted Bible teacher Bob Mumford draws from spiritual nuggets and lessons he has gleaned from over a half-century of walking with God as Father. He uses the metaphor of the seed to help the reader understand Agape love in growing in a relationship with Father God.

These scriptural seeds when nurtured encourage and produce growth and spiritual maturity in the believer, providing additional nutrients through introspection on the thought provoking questions at the end of each reading. Application of suggested actions included with these "Thoughts and Questions" act as an agent of cultivation to encourage maximum growth during the period from germination to maturity and harvest.

A user friendly format includes diagrams and charts that help the reader visualize the key thoughts of the narrative and add to the overall understanding of the material.

Mumford is known for his desire to bring about reconciliation and unity among the family of God and for his worldwide ministry of prophetic teaching. "Nourishing the Seed" is written for anyone serious in their desire to follow Jesus and to grow in their relationship with God the Father.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Insanity of Unbelief: A Journalist's Journey from Belief to Skepticism to Deep Faith
Max Davis
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768441499, $ 15.99, 222 Pages

A Documented Experiential Approach to Apologetics

Within the first five pages I was hooked. I had to go on and read the entirety of Max Davis' book "The Insanity of Unbelief" which tells of his own spiritual journey from belief to skepticism to deep faith through the eyes and experiences of a journalist.

The book relates inspiring stories of real life encounters with Jesus, incredible miracles of healing with documented medical records, powerful evidence and solid facts required in journalistic writing. Stories of answered prayer are engaging and uplifting backed up with powerful evidence.

Davis carefully details the criteria of how a journalist is trained to break down the facts as he applies the approach to the illustrations used throughout the book. He also provides the reader with guidelines for safely discerning God's voice, archaeological evidence of the supernatural nature of the Bible and the fulfillment of prophecy of Jesus as the promised Messiah.

Davis writes with clarity and passion to encourage believers and those whom God is drawing to Himself. "The Insanity of Unbelief: A Journalist's Journey from Belief to Skepticism to Deep Faith" is moving and scholarly, thought provoking, and compassionate addressing the uncertainties of exceptionally intelligent people with doubts about their own beliefs. Davis delivers an important message to a politically correct, culturally relevant, media driven society.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Whose Big Idea Was That?
Jo Kline Cebuhar, J. D.
Murphy Publishing Company, LLC
P. O. Box 65370
West Des Moines, Iowa 50265
9780966185164, $5.00,

Valuable Nuggets and Lessons for Leaving a Legacy of Family Values

Jo Kline Cebuhar, J. D. packs profound quotes, valuable nuggets, stories, and lessons for leaving a legacy of family values to the next generation in her concise book "Whose big idea was that? Lessons in giving from the pioneers of value-inspired philanthropy."

I read with interest the concept of "Footprint Philanthropy" and the mission statements of the founders of six charitable organizations. These organizations range from campus, animal, and children's rights to medical research, and history preservation. Common themes of; achievement, community, compassion, diligence, self-respect, faith and family are found as the core values of these pioneer charities and are written as affirmations of the founder's intended purposes.

Cebuhar provides practical guidelines for the donor and supporters of worthy causes as well as for the fundraisers and development officers of non-profit organizations. She challenges the donor to identify their personal core values and to incorporate and communicate them as a legacy in their plan for giving, "whether as a pioneer problem solver or a sustaining supporter of a cause."

Cebuhar's writing reflects her personal dedication as a pioneering entrepreneur, volunteer, and innovative promoter of "value-inspired philanthropy."

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Italia: A Father & Son Journey
Don Smarto
Frontline Press
P. O. Box 764499
Dallas, Texas 75376
9781467511551, $22.00,

A Proud Heritage, Childhood Memories, and a Walking Miracle

A first generation Italian-American International award winning photographer and author Don Smarto shares poignant stories and treasured memories of his youth with his adult son Luke as they visit ten cities in Italy, including Rome, Florence, Milan, and Naples. Smarto skillfully weaves absorbing stories touching anecdotes, and treasured memories into the history, and background data on important art, architecture, and Italian food..

The over 200 extraordinary color photographs from the regions of Lazio, Umbria, Veneto, and Toscana provide the reader with inspiration, encouragement, and entertainment.

Smarto's writing comes from a father's heart. This is a touching story, emotionally packed with expressions of parental love and friendship. Smarto tells of a proud heritage filled with unforgettable memories of his childhood and youth. He describes the difficult journey experienced during the days of his son Luke's heart surgeries, and of his role as father in developing a bonding relationship with his son.

In another kind of journey Smarto details the father/son tour of Italy and a father/son friendship. He talks of ancient and contemporary Rome, developing unique insights not found in generic travel guides. He tells of their experience in Vatican City in the heart of Rome, other cities throughout the duo's extensive visit to Italy. These include:, Venice, Murano, Pompeii, Naples, and Perugia.

Frequent references to popular movies featuring Italian cites, fountains, art, and sculptures help the reader identify with Smarto's narrative, photos, and well-known Italian personalities introduced throughout the manuscript.

Don includes interesting highlights from Italy's history, technological advances, with detailed descriptions of the points of interest he and Luke visited throughout their trip. The text is generously seasoned with Italian idioms, familiar and not so familiar words and phrases. These add a uniqueness not found in traditional generic travel guides. I found it interesting to note that the Vatican museum includes not only religious art, but also features ancient Greek, Etruscan, and Roman sculptures.

"Italia: A Father & Son Journey" is a book that will have a prominent place in our home for years to come. Don Smarto's writing and photography are inspiring in the imagery created by well-chosen word pictures and spectacular photography.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Chosen: One Family's Journey With Autism
Janelle Esker
Koozzz Publishing
133 Colonial Woods Drive
Mt. Vernon, Ohio 43050
9780983076070, $12.99,

A Family's Journey with Autism from Diagnosis to Adulthood

"Chosen: One Family's Journey With Autism" is the story of Mike and Janelle Esker's journey with their daughter Kylie which began twenty-two years ago. Janelle shares the details of her feelings, reactions, joys and struggles she experienced; told from a mother's point of view.

Janelle's writing is heartfelt and transparent as she identifies with the others parenting special needs children. Over and over again she reminds the reader that they are not alone in their struggles. She discusses allergies in light of symptoms, reactions to medical treatments, prescription drugs, and special diets. Janelle is a strong proponent of advocacy for special needs individuals and introduces a wide range of choices available for management and treatment therapies, intervention, and support.

"Chosen: One Family's Journey With Autism" like many other books available on Autism is situation specific based on the experiences of the author, the support of her husband, and the interaction and involvement of the entire family. A chapter of the book is devoted to a an unedited response from each of Kylie's five siblings: Hannah, age 20, Andrew, age 16, Carrie, age 14, Sarah, age 11, and Fredy, age 22.

It is the prayer of the author that "Chosen" will be an encouragement to the reader to recognize that God's ways are perfect. Janelle shares freely of her own Christian faith. The book is written in layman's terms, told with tremendous insights into the role of parenting a special needs child.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Walking Thru Hale
Angie Pelphrey
Yawn's Publishing
210 East Main Street
Canton, GA 30114
9780981867342, $19.95,

Stories of Addiction, Bondage, Incarceration, and Redemption

"Walking Thru Hale" is a beautiful compilation of over 300 short fictional and nonfiction heartfelt stories of women who discovered freedom from lives of rejection, abuse, bondage, and low self-images. Angie became addicted to prescription drugs while being treated for the excessive pain that accompanies fibromyalgia. When her addiction became greater than that which could be handled through doctor's prescriptions, Angie found ways to steal pills from her patients. In 2004 she was arrested and sentenced to two years in the Ohio Reformatory for Women.

The book is written with refreshing candor, transparency, and humility in a conversational style that gives the reader a sense of visiting with Angie over a cup of coffee. Her narrative allow the reader to catch the glimmer of hope in a prisoner's eyes as they discover personal freedom from the bondage of their addictions. Angie Pelphrey tells of her own struggle with addiction, of her incarceration, and of her redemption.

The book is filled with insight into recovery, new beginnings, with devotional inspiration, personal encouragement or spiritual applications. As I read the stories of rejection, anxiety, and fear, I sensed a plea for understanding, empathy, and intercessory prayer.

Today Angie is the Recovery Administrator of New Beginnings Outreach Ministries' Freedom Hall Recovery Center. "Walking Thru Hale" is engaging reading made up of stories of survival in the cold, uncaring world of prison, of finding hope while incarcerated behind a razor wired fence, and of ministering while living as a captive of prison.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Kisses from A Good God
Paul Manwaring
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768403091, $15.99

A Personal Journey in the Midst of Unexpected Detours

"Kisses from A Good God" is Paul Manwaring's story of a personal journey through suffering that turns tragedy to triumph and victory. Paul guides the reader through Abraham's inspiring journey of faith. He helps the reader learn from the life of Moses, and the Psalmist as they experience periods of waiting. He teaches lessons from the example of Job through his trials and ultimate twofold restoration.

Manwaring's writing is genuine and authentic, filled with encouragement, solid biblical principles, personal experiences, and practical applications. His writing is both profound and inspiring. Paul is transparent as he offers fellow travelers on the path of suffering and trials a message of hope and healing. His life is a portrait of "theology in action" relevant to all of life circumstances, faith and character. Paul details the dangers of allowing feelings of shame to keep you from letting God manifest his love. He describes the melding of medicine and the miraculous.

"Kisses from A Good God" is filled with examples of God's promises of love in the midst of a personal battle against pain, distress, and suffering. This is an important book for believers going through illness and suffering or other trials common to life.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Prayer Changes Things: Taking your Life to the Next Prayer Level
Beni Johnson
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
0980768402995, $15.99

An Amazing Compilation of Effective Secrets for a Powerful Prayer Ministry

In "Prayer Changes Things: Taking your Life to the Next Prayer Level" Beni Johnson, co-senior pastor of Bethel Church, has compiled important secrets from the writings and lives of nine influential Christian leaders recognized for their example, understanding,teaching, and exercising the power and authority of prayer in their ministry.

Beni Johnson's role as overseer of Bethel's intercessors and Pray House has given her keen insight into many facets of prayer. She discusses the role of personal righteousness in receiving answers to prayer, and gives the reader exciting glimpses into the deep communion, ecstasy, and experienced in the spirit realm by the Mystics, as well as examples of meditation leading to contemplative prayer.

I personally appreciated Don Nori Sr.'s practical lessons on interpreting the scriptures in light of the living word, and, James Gall's discussion on Spirit empowered; Spirit led prayer, directed by the Holy Spirit. He also gave examples of intercessory prayers that plead the promises of God.

The book is formatted with the reader in mind, frequent side bars highlight important truths for ready assimilation and inspirational quotes from classical writers on prayer, including: E. M. Bounds, Teresa of Avila, S. D. Gordon, Andrew Murray, and many others. Suezette Caldwell provides prayers and examples from the scriptures with references, accompanied with exercises assist the reader in drawing from the "Power Source." Mahesh Chavda captures the life-changing benefits of fasting in a study from Isaiah 58.

"Prayer Changes Things" is power packed with practical lessons on "taking your life to the next level of prayer."

Exploring your Dreams and Visions: Receive and Understand your Dreams, Visions, and Supernatural Experiences
James W. Goll
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768403152, $15.99

An Adventure in Receiving, Understanding, and Journaling Your Dreams, Visions, and Supernatural Experiences

"Exploring your Dreams and Visions" is an exciting adventure in understanding; filled with dynamic truths and examples from scripture, personal experiences, and illustrations from the ministry of national best-selling author James W. Goll.

Dr. Goll helps the reader discern and understand the mysteries of personal dreams and visions, and encounters with God; carefully defining dream symbols and then clarifying how to interpret them, and recognize their fulfillment. Dr. Goll's writes with clarity and authority. The format and organization of the content of the book are reader friendly. I found the prophetic guidelines with insights into the terminology and use of images, symbols, and colors to be especially helpful. I also learned from the insights Goll reveals in prophetic ministry, intercessory prayer, and the spiritual discipline of journaling. Another helpful tool is the basic alphabetical and topical listing of terms with their interpretations.

"Exploring your Dreams and Visions" is an interactive journal, a step by step process, designed to help the user record, interpret, and understand the purpose and meaning of specific dreams or visions; an excellent resource tool with practical guidelines, and applications for every Christian today.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Understanding Bible Mysteries
Ira Milligan
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768402964, $15.99

Practical Guidelines for Biblical Studies

Best-selling author Ira Milligan examines theological tenets frequently misunderstood or misinterpreted in his book "Understanding Bible Mysteries." In his exposition he brings new insight into topics of tithing, the Rapture, predestination, and church structure along with other important issues relevant for today's Christ followers. Other topics include: Baptisms, sin, sickness, demon possession, positive confession, godliness, and postmodernism.

Topical headings within the narrative guide the reader through the text and help them to readily assimilate key points of the chapter. Scripture for referenced are provided both as a reference and as fully printed within the text providing a balance for future study and immediate locus. Each chapter contains a set of carefully chosen frequently asked questions for further consideration. Milligan challenges the reader to be like the New Testament Bereans, who were commended for their personal study of the Scriptures. He also provides some practical guidelines for studying and interpreting Biblical passages. Comprehensive and Concise.

I found the recommended reading suggestions and the end notes to be an excellent source of material for further reading and study.

Milligan's conclusions add clarity to each of the topics considered. His writing is articulate and authoritative. "Understanding Bible Mysteries" is an excellent resource for every Bible teacher, small group facilitator, and serious Bible student.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Supernatural Forces in Spiritual Warfare: Wrestling with Dark Angels
C. Peter Wagner
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768402988, $ 16.99

An In Depth Study of Power Evangelism and Spiritual Warfare

C. Peter Wagner has compiled the works and observations of highly respected participants in a symposium representing Pentecostal, Charismatic, and traditional Evangelical institutions of higher learning who convened to consider significant issues on teachings regarding the Holy Spirit, spiritual warfare, and prayer. John Wimber of the Vineyard Ministries presented the keynote address titled "Power Evangelism: Definition and Direction." John Wimber's address set the theme for the symposium.

The twelve chapters in this book "Supernatural Forces in Spiritual Warfare: Wrestling with Dark Angels" are gleaned from Wimber's address, those of many other recognized participants, and responses to the presentations.

Wimber opens by describing his own "spiritual pilgrimage;" he goes on to consider how Jesus evangelized, and His commission to the disciples, and then introduces the concepts of Kingdom conflict, power encounters, and supernatural insights.

I particularly found Ed Murphy's contribution on Spiritual Warfare, Neil T. Anderson's "Finding Freedom in Christ," and the chapters dealing with the Wesleyan understand practical and helpful. I also looked forward to the summaries and conclusions to the teachings on exorcism, and demonic influences.

Participants of the consortium went back to their institutions feeling that the general consensus and response to the symposium opened the door to academic pursuit to further study, and provided an equipping tool for equipping students, in subjects related to the supernatural power of God in Church ministry and world evangelism.

"Supernatural Forces in Spiritual Warfare: Wrestling with Dark Angels" is destined to become the principal work on the reading list of every academic class on the subjects of the Holy Spirit, spiritual warfare, prayer, evangelism, and missionology.
A complimentary review copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Old Story New: Ten-minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God
Marty Machowski
New Growth Press
1451 S. Elm Eugene St., Suite 1102
Greensboro, N. C.
9781936768660, $19.99,

Family Devotionals That Teach

Marty Machowski skillfully blends the elements of suspense, drama, and mystery in telling the Gospel story. "Old Story New: Ten-minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God" combines a strong family focus with an emphasis on the relevance of Biblical truth and specific applications for all ages.

Each of the 78 Devotionals follow a five day plan beginning with a creative activity, exercise, or bit of trivia to introduce the passage, moving to a reading from the scripture, concluding with simple thoughtful questions which draw out the content and meaning the passage. Suggested parallels from the stories found in Machowski's early "Bible Story Bible" add to the approaches available to make expand the usefulness of the book.

Marty's writing is captures the imagination is clear, creating, and challenging. His content is theologically sound, rich in Biblical narrative, spiritual significance, and life transforming truth. Devotionals are made up of doable family worship practices, relatable lessons with Christ as the focal pointing to the need for a personal faith. Old Story New: Ten-minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God is a rich, unique resource, filled with illuminating insights presented in an enjoyable style, designed to involve preschool, elementary children, pre-teens, and teenagers.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Nothing is Impossible with God: Reflections on Weakness, Faith and Power
Rose Marie Miller
New Growth Press
1451 S. Elm Eugene St., Suite 1102
Greensboro, N. C. 27404
9781936768684, $15.99,

The Ministry, Outreach, and Vision of World Harvest Mission

In her book "Nothing is Impossible with God: Reflections on Weakness, Faith and Power" Rose Marie Miller shares a collection of personal meditations, journals, Bible studies, and stories of ministry experiences with her husband Jack. She tells of experiences during the years of ministering in the New Life Presbyterian Churches, and in the vision, formation, and outreach of the World Harvest Mission.

Miller's reflections include profound insight in Bible studies on forgiveness, a good conscience, and an in depth study on learning to pray. She tells of facing loss, her transition while moving beyond grief, and of discovering open doors of ministry. I enjoyed the balance of sound theology, practical in depth teaching on discipleship living and the stories telling of unique opportunities open to her through the World Harvest Mission.

Rose Marie's writes with candor and humility as she relates her feelings of a dark cloud of guilt hovering over her in the early days of her faith and ministry. Her focus is always on the power and grace of the gospel of Christ.

"Nothing is Impossible with God" a testimony of learning to trust God, to rely on His strength in impossible situations. Timely and relevant.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes, The opinions expressed are my own.

At the Feet of Jesus: Daily Devotions to Nurture a Mary Heart
Joanna Weaver
WaterBrook Press
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200
Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9780307731005, $15.99,

A Challenge to Intentionally Choose to Make Time Alone With Jesus

Bestselling author Joanna Weaver challenges the reader to become intentional in their choice to lay aside personal busyness to focus on spending time alone with Jesus. In her book "At the Feet of Jesus" Joanna invites the reader to "fall in love with God's Word in a whole new way."

Each of the 366 one page daily devotionals begins with a verse of scripture, a thought provoking worshipful reading and suggestions for reflection and life changing application.

In addition to the devotionals featured I found the practical pointers included in the "Going Deeper" sidebars especially helpful in areas of journaling, creative ideas for meaningful quiet times, and the tips for getting more from my Bible study.

A resource reference list of powerful devotional writer's and their works is included in a "Notes" section at the end of the book, in addition to a helpful one year Bible reading plan.

I highly recommended Joanna Weaver's "At the Feet of Jesus" to anyone looking for a devotional guide designed to nurture their faith on a daily basis. The beautiful cover and devotional nature of the contents of the book make it ideal for gift giving for any occasion.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Understanding Bible Mysteries
Ira Milligan
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768402964, $15.99

Practical Guidelines for Biblical Studies

Best-selling author Ira Milligan examines theological tenets frequently misunderstood or misinterpreted in his book "Understanding Bible Mysteries." In his exposition he brings new insight into topics of tithing, the Rapture, predestination, and church structure along with other important issues relevant for today's Christ followers. Other topics include: Baptisms, sin, sickness, demon possession, positive confession, godliness, and postmodernism.

Topical headings within the narrative guide the reader through the text and help them to readily assimilate key points of the chapter. Scripture for referenced are provided both as a reference and as fully printed within the text providing a balance for future study and immediate locus. Each chapter contains a set of carefully chosen frequently asked questions for further consideration. Milligan challenges the reader to be like the New Testament Bereans, who were commended for their personal study of the Scriptures. He also provides some practical guidelines for studying and interpreting Biblical passages. Comprehensive and Concise.

I found the recommended reading suggestions and the end notes to be an excellent source of material for further reading and study.

Milligan's conclusions add clarity to each of the topics considered. His writing is articulate and authoritative. "Understanding Bible Mysteries" is an excellent resource for every Bible teacher, small group facilitator, and serious Bible student.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Supernatural Forces in Spiritual Warfare: Wrestling with Dark Angels
C. Peter Wagner
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257-0310
9780768402988, $16.99

An In Depth Study of Power Evangelism and Spiritual Warfare

C. Peter Wagner has compiled the works and observations of highly respected participants in a symposium representing Pentecostal, Charismatic, and traditional Evangelical institutions of higher learning who convened to consider significant issues on teachings regarding the Holy Spirit, spiritual warfare, and prayer. John Wimber of the Vineyard Ministries presented the keynote address titled "Power Evangelism: Definition and Direction." John Wimber's address set the theme for the symposium.

The twelve chapters in this book "Supernatural Forces in Spiritual Warfare: Wrestling with Dark Angels" are gleaned from Wimber's address, those of many other recognized participants, and responses to the presentations.

Wimber opens by describing his own "spiritual pilgrimage;" he goes on to consider how Jesus evangelized, and His commission to the disciples, and then introduces the concepts of Kingdom conflict, power encounters, and supernatural insights.

I particularly found Ed Murphy's contribution on Spiritual Warfare, Neil T. Anderson's "Finding Freedom in Christ," and the chapters dealing with the Wesleyan understand practical and helpful. I also looked forward to the summaries and conclusions to the teachings on exorcism, and demonic influences.

Participants of the consortium went back to their institutions feeling that the general consensus and response to the symposium opened the door to academic pursuit to further study, and provided an equipping tool for equipping students, in subjects related to the supernatural power of God in Church ministry and world evangelism.

"Supernatural Forces in Spiritual Warfare: Wrestling with Dark Angels" is destined to become the principal work on the reading list of every academic class on the subjects of the Holy Spirit, spiritual warfare, prayer, evangelism, and missionology.
A complimentary review copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

If We Survive
Andrew Klavan
Thomas Nelson, Inc.
501 Nelson Place
Nashville, TN 37214
9781595547958, $14.99

A Masterpiece of Action, Adventure, and Spine Tingling Suspense

Award winner author Andrew Klavan has produced another winner in "If We Survive." This is a young adult fiction novel filled with intrigue, revolution, jungle survival, Christian core values, adventure, and nonstop action. Klavan has a writing style that allows the reader to get into the "soul" of his characters, their thinking, their fears, opinions, biases, and values.

Sixteen year old Will Peterson relates the story of a volunteer short term mission project in Central America turned from a service motivated commission to a nightmare of horror as terrorists take over the country. Americans become targets as enemies of the new government and Will's team find themselves in danger of imminent death. They are fire at by machine guns; then stalked by wild beasts and the danger of crocodiles and water snakes in the foaming white rapids over the rocks rushing toward the falls, as they seek refuge in the density of the jungle.

Klavan's characters grow and learn through their experiences as the plot progresses; they show maturity in judgment and trade cowardice for bravery when faced with difficult decisions requiring sacrifice and selflessness.

This is a book for anyone who has ever volunteered for a short term mission project in a country where political may break out into a crisis of danger, fear and horror. "If We Survive" is a masterpiece of action, adventure, spine tingling suspense.

A reading guide is provided for group use.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Seventy Reasons for Speaking in Tongues
Dr. Bill Hamon
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768487749, $15.99

Understanding the Purposes and Benefits of Speaking in Tongues

"Seventy Reasons for Speaking in Tongues" is Biblically based and well documented. Dr. Bill Hamon helps the reader understand the purposes and benefits of speaking in tongues.

The book combines a balance of instruction, Biblical text, and clearly marked topical headings. Dr. Hamon discusses: Basic principles, descriptions, definitions, and illustrations of the Holy Spirit's ministry, roles, and the potential power available to the obedient Christian.

Each of the 12 chapters are filled with "Power Packed" insights, Biblical proofs, benefits and blessings to help the reader activate and increase their faith, to exercise their spiritual gifts, to gain victory in spiritual battles, and to effectively intercede in prayer for a world needing to heed the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Hamon's writing is filled with anointed powerful and dynamic action words that generate excitement, command action, and infuse the reader with the desire to personally experience the benefits, blessing, and power of praying in their Spirit language.
"Seventy Reasons for Speaking in Tongues" is a basic primer on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit's ministry and should be in the hands of every Spirit filled-believer, and every follower of Christ desiring to know more of the Spirit's fullness and power in their life and ministry.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Visions of Heaven
Roberts Liardon
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768402971, $15.99

Testimonies of People Who Have Seen the After-Life

Bestselling author Roberts Liardon relates the accounts of four people who have had glimpses into the after-life in his book "Visions of Heaven." The stories begin with his own account of an open vision of a visit to heaven as a child. This testimony has been received by over a million people through the use of spoken and written presentations.

Liardon carefully explains four types of visions and angels: he also discusses the subjects of the rivers of life, the substance of praise, the throne room of God, unclaimed blessings and the river of life. He describes Jesus as Lord, Savior, and friend and the awareness of God's presence.

In Marietta Davis' account of her vision of heaven in the year 1848 she provides the reader with assurance of the absence of fear in heaven, no sorrow, or suffering. Rebecca Springer's vision tells of the beauty of heaven, the river of life, the mansion of heaven and of life in heaven. H. A. Baker and his wife while serving as missionaries opened Adullam Home for teenage beggar boys on the streets Kotchiu, China. These children were caught up in a vision to the city of God and testify of seeing Jesus on the Throne, much as He appeared to John on the Isle of Patmos.

Every reader will appreciate the Question and Answer section included in the appendix. Answers include what the Bible says with specific references providing the answers.

"Visions of Heaven" is a beautiful story of promise; it is a revelation of God's love, offering joy, comfort, affirmation, and rest to the believer.

Committee of One: Making a Difference, One Life at a Time
Patricia Martin Holt
Matriarch Press
100 Lloyd Ave, #C
Tyrone, Georgia 30290-2157
9780985493202, $14.95,

Helping the Helpless Become Helpful

Award winning author Patricia Martin Holt describes the work of Leila Wahbeh among the Palestinian refugee camps north of Ammon, Jordan. "Committee of One" opens the reader to consider the Israeli/Palestinian dilemma in the volatile environment in the Middle East a new awareness. Thousands of Arabs became displaced persons when they fled Palestine during the Israeli-Arab wars of 1948 and 1967. Over 40 years later they remain in refugee camps living in utter destitution where widows are often the sole support of their children. Patricia tells how while visiting in Ammon her interest in the fine crafts of the area but her in touch with Leila Wahbeh.

Martin-Holt introduces several persons to illustrate how Leila Wahbeh accomplishes amazing cooperative projects.

Ahmed - a story of survival and achievement

Yahya Wahbeh - (Leila's husband) a doctor deported to Jordan for providing care for refugees

Mustafa - an engineer and accomplished artist who volunteered to help with a sanitation center

Miss Nazha Khairy, a shop owner who sells the cultural crafts passing all the monies back to the to the creators to nurture initiative

And many, many others

The book is thoroughly researched and well documented. The book's appendix includes important statistics and summary information of the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine, and the near east and a feature article in the Jordan Times telling of the work of Leila Wahbeh "building bridges" between the rich and the poor.

"Committee of One "is a heartwarming, perspective changing challenge to make a difference one life at a time, a story of survival, heroism, bravery and fortitude.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

The New Covenant Prophecy: A Supernatural Jewish Journey of Faith from the Old to New Covenant
Grant Berry
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310
Shippensburg, PA 17257
7980768402940, $16.99

The Good News of Yeshua - Jesus the Messiah

In his book "The New Covenant Prophecy" Grant Berry records the story of his supernatural journey of faith from the old covenant to the new covenant. He draws from his own personal experience and from the depth of his study in the scriptures. This is a book for anyone seeking answers in their own journey of faith.

Berry's study reveals God's purpose for Jewish peoples, the nation Israel, and for Jewish Christians. Grant himself is a Jewish believer in Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah. He provides the reader with a deeper understanding of the New Covenant, and the good news of the gospel from a Messianic perspective.

I enjoyed Grant's writing style; as a gifted communicator he establishes a conversational approach establishing a comfortable warm sense of sharing individually from his inner heart; challenging and inspiring the reader. Berry writes with authenticity and spiritual sensitivity. His story is engaging, well balanced with scripture and personal observation - a compelling narrative.

"The New Covenant Prophecy" invites the reader to move from observing a religious experience of ritual or ceremony to a quest to know the truth and to find an intimacy with God through the good news of Yeshua - Jesus the Messiah.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Richard R. Blake, Reviewer

Sandra's Bookshelf

The Christmas Note
Donna VanLiere
St. Martins, Press
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
9780312658960, $14.99,

This story is different than any other Christmas book I have read. While this story brings all the warmth and joy that comes with Christmas; it is also filled with one surprise after another. Mystery abounds in this book.

I love the way the author ties up the ending except for one thing, and I can't even tell you what it is without spoiling the book for you. I can only tell you to read the book for yourself.

I enjoyed this book and hope you will also.

Rated G -- Four stars

Trading Christmas
Debbie Macomber
Mira Book
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario M3B 3K9, Canada
9780778313342, $15.95,

When I first received this book, I thought it was going to be like the movie, "The Holiday". Much to my delight the only thing that was the same is that two people trade homes for the holiday. This book is a warm, feel good read. It has the happy ending that one comes to expect from this author.

Then I discovered the author had put another book at the end of the first story. I have to tell you that if a book built around Christmas does not make me cry, then it is not good. Both of the stories did, and I was ready and had a box of Kleenex next to me.

Sandra Heptinstall

Suzie's Bookshelf

The Pleasure Club: The Mercenary
Madison Layle
Cobblestone Press, LLC
9781600888090 $2.99 ebook

Ronda Davis joined the Pleasure Club to live out her inner most fantasies. The one night encounters suit her life perfectly for she isn't looking for a commitment. Her latest escapade involves a madcap adventure. For this fantasy she decides to use the alias of Raquel Dubois as she feels the name projects a higher level of mystery and sex appeal that is lacking from her real name.

Jon Ryan is a Navy SEAL who is used to living his life on the edge. When he isn't busy with his job, he works for The Pleasure Club providing erotic dates. He enjoys combining his real life maneuvers with the fantasy roles his client's request. His latest mission involves saving "Raquel Dubois".

The day comes when Ronda's Pleasure date is to occur. The only details she is provided is to go on about her day as if nothing is going to happen. As she goes for her morning jog, she is abducted by two men who take her to an abandoned building. There she is rescued by her Pleasure Club mercenary.

Her fantasy date is everything she has dreamed about in a man. Jon radiates the alpha male sex appeal that is a standard requirement for any mercenary. All too quickly she finds that her dream date is about to end. There is a selfish side to her that wishes that this dream date could turn into a long time relationship. The Pleasure Club specializes in answering their clients every wish, could this be one wish that is destined to be answered?

THE PLEASURE CLUB - THE MERCENARY is a high action erotic romance. Madison Layle demonstrates that she is an author who knows how to add all the perfect ingredients to make an unforgettable romance. Jon is the type of alpha hero that ever woman dreams would come into their own life. THE MERCENARY is another great installment in the all-time favorite PLEASURE CLUB series. Having read several titles in this addicted series, I can highly recommend each one will leave you craving more.

Dreaming in Blue (1 Night Stand Series)
Olivia Starke
Decadent Publishing Company, LLC
9781613332863 $1.99 ebook

Sierra Applegate had made a successful career as a relationship therapist. She didn't let the fact that she was blind stop her from living out her dreams. There was one area in her life that was lacking and that was finding someone to share it with. Upon the suggestion of her sister she contacts the 1Night Stand dating service. Madame Eve sets her up with Daniel T. McIntyre.

When she meets Daniel, she feels an instantaneous attraction to him. Daniel's had lost his wife three years ago in a house fire. In the inferno he was able to save his daughter, but the fiery blaze had left permanent marks on his body.

Sierra and Daniel both provide the healing balm that is missing from each other lives. Will one night be enough to satisfy these two lost souls?

DREAMING IN BLUE is an outstanding romance! Olivia Starke has done a tremendous job in the creation of this book. I feel that it is an exceptional addition to the 1 Night Stand Series. I highly recommend DREAMING IN BLUE to any true blue romance fan.

The Pleasure Club - The Stranger
Ardith Bale
Cobblestone Press, LLC
9781600887598, $2.99 ebook

At work Dr. Marcus Dean overhears his coworker's talk of an erotic date site called The Pleasure Club. How they describe their pleasure date intrigues him enough to sign up for a membership. Marcus's decides this is the perfect way in which he could replay a missed encounter at a bar when he was twenty.

The date night is set at a classic and expensive bar, his wait is not long for he feels a hand tease him by rubbing his back. He discovers that his Pleasure date is with a man named Ethan. Ethan boldly invites him to his bed.

Marcus accepts Ethan's invitation and the two of them go to a reserved room. Ethan takes command of Marcus's body and quickly his body is set on fire by Ethan's caresses and passionate kisses. Marcus finds this experience is one that he never thought possible. Will this encounter be enough to put his past behind him and live for the future?

THE PLEASURE CLUB - THE STRANGER is a satisfying erotic adventure. The characters waste no time in making their feelings know and start an unforgettable experience that leaves the reader wanting to see more. In visiting the author's website I am pleased to see that fans will once again be able to revisit with Marcus and Ethan for their stories continues with another installment entitled THE PLEASURE CLUB - THE RENT BOY. Rest assured, this reader can't end with this one story, and I look forward to the day when once again I will get a chance to revisit Ethan and Marcus.

Suzie Housley

Teri's Bookshelf

Travels with a Road Dog: Hitchhiking Along the Roads of the Americas
R. K.
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781478348467, $19.95,

"...I had decided my own future."

What do you do after you flunk out of college? Some people get a job, some join the military, some move back home to continue to live as children, and then there are the few who are daring enough to take to the road. For a young woman, the idea of hitchhiking can be threatening, but with a little luck and learning who to trust, what a thrilling way to find out about themselves and to learn some life lessons while becoming what is known to hitchhikers as a "road dog".

R.K. decided that she wanted to see the country. With few financial resources, she departed from her mother's home for a life of possibilities, deciding to hitchhike along the way.

One of her first rides was with an old man who was drinking. After being rescued by the police, she made the decision early on to never ride again with someone who was drinking.

She quickly discovered the world of the Rainbow Gatherings around the country. Either walking, riding with acquaintances, or hitchhiking she found a way of life that perfectly matched her current ideals. This communal gathering excited her with the gypsy lifestyle at first, taught her much, and allowed her to discover certain qualities in herself and others. Along the way she met many generous people and managed to travel with two extraordinary dogs for companionship and protection.

This book is her memory of particular events and places she experienced through her naive and adventurous eyes. While looking for safety, shelter, and companionship, this young woman also discovers much about herself relying on her personal instincts. The lessons learned as solutions to particular problems changed her life especially in the area of natural medicine. Traveling without much money but literally by her wits, she finds that there are numerous ways around the bureaucracy of passports and visas. Also, learning about people, problems, and trust makes Travels with a Road Dog an educational, but enlightening read through an unusual perspective.

Most of the names of the characters were changed. However, there was one place where the changed name was confused with the real name, making the recounted memory a little confusing for this one episode. For the most part, the book was well edited and especially well-organized. The strength of the writing was definitely the author's passion with her choices at this particular time in her life.

This account was wonderful in experiencing another lifestyle through someone else. Her experiences and problems are informative and uplifting with her solutions and sometimes, learning with her from the failures. Travels with a Road Dog is the true account and lessons learned from a young woman while discovering more about other people, places, and most importantly, about herself.

The Right Hand
Derek Haas
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316198462, $25.99,

Using the philosophy of most spies, the right hand should not know what the left hand is doing. Most successful spies basically work alone while accomplishing their goals.

For everyone's protection, the right and left hands of any mission do not communicate especially if illegal actions are needed. The only one who has some idea is the mission handler who even then, only knows the bare necessities of
these activities.

For Austin Clay, he is the right hand of the C.I.A. usually being assigned the most dangerous and critical missions possibly even illegal. His current mission is to find a missing spy who has been captured by the Russians. The C.I.A. Is fairly certain that the missing man is being tortured and with previous dealings with the Russians, they are certain that at some point the man will be forced to reveal secrets. With Clay's background, intelligence, and skills, he is the most likely one to be able to fit into the setting to get close enough to actual succeed in the rescue.

However, reality is that things are not usually as simple as they seem and he quickly discovers a multitude of related issues surrounding this situation, all of which involve the Russians. Along the way he finds himself looking for a young woman who the Russians are also racing to find and eliminate. Inside Russia, he will do anything to successfully keep this woman alive, but there are costs to everything. Added to that, Clay discovers the planned assassination of the new European bureau chief branch of the C.I.A.. This is obvious to Clay that the assassin is someone within the agency. How can he possibly achieve both goals.

The Right Hand is an enthralling page turner with action/adventure as well as time for personal friendships and relationships. The characters are well-described and authentic with their choices and actions. The story is logical and organized in this gripping tale. Definitely the strength of this novel is the character of Austin Clay as a James Bond like character, who has the courage and wisdom to do the right thing in this riveting tale.

Derek Hass has co-written three books and has also published the novels, The Assassin Trilogy: The Silver Bear, Columbus, and Dark Men.

For a fast-paced riveting tale of adventure, The Right Hand by Derek Haas is definitely the "right" choice.

Spyder Hole
Bob Nesoff
Strategic Book Group
Durham, CT
978612040448, $ 19.95

Once in a while you read a book that is exceptional. Spyder Hole by Bob Nesoff is that book. Did our country have the knowledge of the attack on the Twin Towers before it happened? Could anyone have stopped this attack?

Before the 9-11 attack on the Twin Towers, the government agencies knew that there was to be an attack but were unable to figure out the details. They learned from their mistakes with a degree of guilt and the hope and diligence to never allow this to happen again.

Since then, how many attacks could have happened?

After the distractions from a two-career family, Hesh Whitman is finally able to enjoy his honeymoon with his gorgeous wife, Shoshanna on a Red Sea resort beach. What he never planned on was the attack the killed his wife and seriously wounded him when terrorists opened fire on the beach. He was one of the few survivors after this attack. Why would any group send terrorists to open fire on innocent women and children? Is this an act of revenge?

For Hesh as a Mossad agent, this is one of the many questions that he plans to answer. His boss, Dan Halevi is a former Green Beret who now works as a Mossad agent. The two frequently collaborate with the C.I.A. and MI-6 and SAS from Great Britain. Trying to break the attack/revenge cycle between the Israelis and the Arab terrorist groups is difficult and seems to be never ending. How can it stop?

Through unofficial channels, the agencies from the three countries collaboratively work together when they learn of the possibilities of nuclear attacks in the U.S., Great Britain, and Israel. How do you prevent further disasters from happening? This tale, based on some real events, explains the possibilities through this fictional account.

Bob Nesoff is a former Army Green Beret sergeant who resides in New Jersey.

Spyder Hole is exceptionally well-written and relevant in today's society. Using real events and filling in the background to these tragedies, even fictionally, gives the reader a broader understanding of world issues. This author thoroughly understands the relationships between the terrorist groups and the various agencies that collaborate around the world allowing the reader to actually understand the conflicts between the groups.

This well-researched novel is extremely detailed and intense. Spyder Hole is not a quick read but an intense experience that completely engages the reader.

As with many books today, Spyder Hole sometimes had typos and editing errors that distracted from the story. Overall though, this is an outstanding novel with constant action and intensity.

Teri Davis

Theodore's Bookshelf

Left for Dead
J.A. Jance
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451628609, $9.99,

The Ali Reynolds series usually has the protagonist solving some kind of mystery, but in addition to the whodunit, this novel begins with two attempted murders. First is Jose Reyes, a classmate of Ali's when she attended the Arizona Police Academy, who was shot in the stomach while on a routine traffic stop. The second is a young girl who ran away from home years earlier, left to die after being tortured and raped in a part of the Arizona desert where illegal immigrants cross over from Mexico.

Both victims end up being medivac-ed to the same hospital in Tucson, and Ali and another classmate go to the hospital to help Jose's pregnant wife and look after their two daughters. Meanwhile the redoubtable Sister Anselm acts as patient advocate for the other victim. And there the plot is joined and the action moves forward.

The novel is a mixture of sleuthing and human emotion, and in the author's capable hands neither becomes maudlin or overbearing. The story moves forward at a fast pace and is brought to a conclusion with a completely unpredictable twist.


Capitol Murder
Phillip Margolin
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062069990, $9.99,

The fact that the author long served as a defense attorney in 30 murder trials permeates this tale of terrorism, murder and treason. It is the third novel featuring Brad Miller, an attorney; his wife, Ginny, also an attorney; and Dana Cutler, a dogged private investigator and sometime reporter for a sleazy Washington supermarket scandal sheet. In previous books, their investigation revealed the role of a President in a series of murders and saved the life of a Supreme Court Justice while preventing a CIA plot to fix a case before the Court.

Now Brad is serving as the legislative assistant to the U.S. Senator from Oregon and Ginny is working at the Department of Justice. Murders in Oregon and the District of Columbia seem to implicate an escaped serial murderer, one of whose previous convictions Brad helped to overturn. But, of course, nothing is what it appears to be. A Terrorist plot surpassing the Twin Towers destruction completes the story, uniting all the elements.

The plot is pretty much humdrum, and the characterizations less than fully developed, but Mr. Margolin certainly knows how to spin a narrative. In the end, he makes sense out of the diverse elements in an interesting manner. It is, perhaps, a light read, but still one that is recommended.

Catch Me
Lisa Gardner
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451413437, $9.99,

D.D. Warren, the Boston homicide detective featured in this widely-read series, faces two challenges in this latest installment: a new baby boy who keeps her and her boyfriend, Alex, up through the night and, now that she's back from maternity leave, a complex mystery surrounding a young woman who approaches her with the admonition that she expects to be murdered four days hence and she hopes D.D. will handle the investigation. What to do? How can you undertake the investigation of a murder that hasn't even taken place yet?

The prospective victim's name is Charlene, known as Charlie throughout. She's spent the past year in training: running, boxing, and learning to shoot in anticipation of the big event. It seems her two best friends were strangled on January 21 in each of the previous two years, and logic dictates that it's now Charlie's turn.

The plot traces the next days and the events that take place, which demonstrate D.D.'s evolving character change brought about by her domestic developments and Charlie's preparations to meet her expected fate. An interesting aside within the sub-plot, which addresses murders of pedophiles, involves a young boy lured into a potential sex act by the user of an internet game appealing to youngsters. The author uses the technique to tell the story by alternating third person p.o.v. to relate D.D.'s activities, and first person describing Charlie's. Not a thrill a page, perhaps, but certainly an excellent thriller, and recommended.

Elmore Leonard
William Morrow
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062119476, $14.99,

Resurrecting Raylan Givens, the U.S. Marshall from Kentucky given to wearing a Stetson cowboy hat and shooting instead of apprehending, Elmore Leonard once again uses his unusual talent for writing droll dialogue and creating amusing and unusual characters to entertain the reader. This time, he begins in Harlan County, where marijuana is king instead of coal (100 pounds of weed can fetch $300,000) which apparently doesn't satisfy two nincompoop sons of the dope-grower who turn their attention to reaping and selling body parts.

Then the author goes on to tell us about another cast of characters, with the slyness only he can muster. It's a world only people created by Leonard inhabit, and they talk as only he can make them speak. Read it and laugh. Highly recommended.

Broken Harbor
Tana French
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670023653, $27.95,

Tana French's novels are full of psychological twists and turns, and this book is no exception. It features Irish detective Mike "Scorcher" Kennedy, a straight-laced professional with an enviable track record of solving the most difficult cases. Also, he does it by the book, with no short-cuts or unauthorized techniques.

After a down period, he is assigned to a high profile murder case, in which two young children and their father are found dead and the mother fatally stabbed but barely alive. Together with a rookie partner, Kennedy has to face not only what seems to be a clueless case, but his own personal psychological burdens, including his mentally unbalanced sister and the suicide death of his mother in the very town in which the victims are found.

This well-written novel is part police procedural, part psychological thriller. It is not an easy read, as it narrowly follows Kennedy as he intuitively moves the investigation forward. The characterizations are complex, the insights into each deep and penetrating. However, the 459 pages are rewarding, and the book is well-recommended.

The Age of Doubt
Andrea Camilleri, author
Stephen Sartarelli, translator
Penguin Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780143120926, $15.00,

The books in the Inspector Montalbano series usually are lighthearted stories about the Sicilian detective combined with a mystery for him to solve. However, while in this novel he does have a mystery to solve, this entry reflects more of his introspection. The contrasts are intriguing, to say the least. It begins when the Inspector rescues a bespectacled, rather mousy woman whose car is about to be swallowed into a chasm, or sinkhole, created in a collapsed road. She tells him she's the niece of a rich widow whose yacht is about to enter port.

When the boat does enter the port, it brings with it a corpse and a dinghy retrieved at the mouth of the harbor. The victim's face was smashed, and the fingerprints are not on file, making identification extremely difficult. The yacht docks alongside a luxury craft, whose crew appears suspicious. This leads Montalbano on a convoluted investigation based on information - - or misinformation - - the woman has given him

As usual, the Inspector's lusty appetite is exhibited, with descriptions of lunches and dinners at his favorite restaurant, or dishes left for him to heat in the oven by his housekeeper. Perhaps more poignant is a side story about the 58-year-old Inspector's possible love interest, a beautiful young woman Coast Guard lieutenant he meets during the investigation. It makes him even more human as a character, lightening what would otherwise be a heavy murder mystery.


Before the Poison
Peter Robinson
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062204684, $14.99,

Diverting his attention from the popular and successful Inspector Banks series, the author has written a murder mystery of a different genre. Instead of a police procedural, he has undertaken to use a variety of literary devices to unravel the truth behind a death that took place sixty years ago.

It begins when Chris Lowndes, reeling from the death of his wife, decides to buy a home on the Yorkshire Dales. He purchases Kilnsgate House, a large, bleak, isolated structure in which he hopes to recover from his depression, and, perhaps write a sonata instead of the incidental music for motion pictures which he did for many years on the West Coast of the US. No sooner does he take possession than he becomes haunted by its past: Grace Fox, the former owner, was accused and convicted of poisoning her husband, a respected local physician. And she was hanged for it.

Chris becomes so obsessed that he endeavors to "discover" the truth, initially convinced that she was innocent of the charge. The author leads the reader (and Chris) from supposition to fact, alternating excerpts of Grace's wartime diary (she was a nurse, first in Singapore, then escaping the Japanese, suffering a series of devastating experiences, finally serving in France before returning to her husband at Kilnsgate House) and various interviews with aged characters, including her younger lover now living in Paris and a man who as a seven-year-old lived with the Foxes for a time as an evacuee at the beginning of World War II.

The shifts in the plot, as Chris conducts his "investigation," are truly ingenious, keeping the reader off balance to a fare-thee-well. The characters are well-drawn, and the author undertook deep research to create Grace's diary. While the novel may seem at times somewhat dry and slow to read, it constantly draws the reader forward and is well worth reading, and it is highly recommended.

Night Watch
Linda Fairstein
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525952633, $26.95,

Two characteristics of the Alex Cooper series are a crime based on real events and inclusion of some landmark or aspect of New York City. This novel is no exception. The crime is a thinly disguised recap of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair in which the former managing director of the World Bank was accused by a hotel chamber-maid of attempted rape. The landmark is a loose one in this case, the former renowned restaurant Lutece, allowing the author to include a lot about the eatery business.

The story begins with Alex taking a vacation with her lover, Luc, in southern France, where he has a three-star restaurant. Le Relais a Mougins. In previous books, his plan to open a new Lutece in Manhattan was unveiled, and in this book the project begins to come to fruition. A former bookkeeper at Le Relais is found dead, setting up the subplot involving Luc, especially when a waiter supposedly recruiting for Lutece turns up with his throat slashed in the Gowanus canal in Brooklyn.

Somehow, the stories don't fully come up to the level of previous novels, especially Cooper's sidekicks, detectives Chapman and Wallace. The usual touches, including Jeopardy questions and the like, permeate the story, but perhaps the DSK affair is still too fresh in one's mind to have it practically repeated here, bogging down the other plot which seems to receive short shrift and perfunctory treatment. Still, Ms. Fairstein, as always, tells a good story, and so "Night Watch" is recommended.

Leader of the Pack
David Rosenfelt
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312648046, $24.99,

A reader can always expect two things when reading an Andy Carpenter novel: a lot of wit and an unanticipated ending. This latest entry in the series is no exception, as the dog-loving attorney pursues a case that has haunted him for six years. Joey Desimone, son of a mafia boss, was convicted of a double murder of which Andy believes him innocent. And almost by mistake, he learns something that sets off his investigation in order to gain a new trial.

While Andy gets a retrial, he really, as usual, lacks the facts and evidence to prove Joey's innocence. Meanwhile, during the course of the investigation, this, of course, continues while the trial goes on, he trips over a bigger crime, making for an exciting double-barreled story.

This book is perhaps the most complicated of the entire series, raising a deep moral issue for the lawyer, which he resolves handily. The humor continues to be light and wholesome, while the cast of familiar characters provides excellent backup to the main protagonist.


Midwinter Blood
Mons Kallentoft, author
Neil Smith, translator
Emily Bestler Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451642520, $15.00,

It would be easy to blame the translator for the slow, plodding read of this first novel in a series of what purports to be police procedurals, but it would not be true. It appears to this reader to be the result of the author's writing, and an editor who did not live up to the task. This Swedish novel reminds me of the stories told on how Thomas Wolfe created his work: He wrote and wrote, endlessly, delivering reams and reams of paper to his publisher. It was only Maxwell Perkins, a brilliant editor, who made sense out of it all. Well, whoever edited this Swedish book was no Maxwell Perkins. And it is difficult to judge if the author's attempt to write this book is on Wolfe's level.

One has to approach the novel on two levels. First, as a whodunit, then as the author's loftier endeavor to write it as a higher form of literature. To begin with, a rather obese man is found hanging nude from an oak tree, severely cut up. It falls to Malin Fors, a single mother of a 13-year-old girl, and her partner, Zeke, to lead the crime unit's efforts to solve the murder. The case becomes more complicated as the investigation progresses, with a lot of past history. If the book kept it that simple, it might have made more sense. But then the author's more esoteric writing introduces observations and asides that really add little to the narrative, especially italicized statements from the victim who hovers over the proceedings as a spirit.

As far as characters are concerned, there is little in the way of real development. Malin is a frustrated woman, possibly alcohol-dependent, yet a determined, driven detective. There is much about her inter-action with her daughter, but it is hardly enough to define either person. And there is little more to define the rest of the cast as well. Maybe the author chose to add this information in the future novels in the series. But the question is: Will I want to find out?

An Unmarked Grave
Charles Todd
Wm. Morrow Paperbacks
c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062015730, $14.99,

The Bess Crawford series, in which this is the latest entry, takes place during World War I, with Bess serving as a nurse in France, but usually getting involved in all sorts of crimes, including murder. This time, deaths result not only as a result of the conflict, but the Spanish influenza epidemic and at least four murders, including that of a major who served with her father, the Colonel sahib, in India. Unfortunately, the major had no identification and was buried in an unmarked grave before Bess could supply his name. But first, she falls ill with the flu and is returned to England to recover. And it's quite possible that Bess saw the murderer, placing her in jeopardy.

The rest of the book finds Bess, after recovering from her illness, shuttling back to the front and then returning to England in search of the killer. Of course, there are the Colonel's mysterious capabilities and super-human contacts within the British establishment which are never disclosed, as well as the abilities of his sergeant-major, Simon Brandon, which permeate the novel, as well as Bess always finding just the right help, be it a person, automobile or telephone, just in the nick of time to make the reader scratch his or her head. And too often, coincidences arise along the way.

Nevertheless, as in previous books in the series, the battlefield descriptions, the medical efforts to save the wounded and the effects of the conflict on both military and civilians are excellent. Perhaps the plotting is over-developed, but that is typical of this mother-son writing team, which pays great attention to detail. Characters are well-drawn but the conclusion is sort of forced. Over all, though, the novel reads well, and is recommended.

Kill the Gigolo
Robert Fate
Privately Published
ASIN BOOA3K21QQ e-book, $3.99

The author has led a varied life, including having won an Academy Award. Perhaps best known for his Baby Shark books, this novel, although an entirely new story, was inspired by a screenplay he co-authored but never sold. To it he has added new scenes to enliven the tale. It's a wild story about a character named Erik Lamar, who specializes in entertaining rich women for compensation, better known as a gigolo.

The basic plot involves Erik being hunted by a Boston mobster because he is seen in a video in which the Don's granddaughter is shown having sex. While Erik was an innocent bystander, it doesn't matter to the gangster. Fortunately, the woman Erik is entertaining at the moment decides to go to Mexico, so he escapes the hunt, for the moment. South of the border, Erik encounters a series of adventures, adding to the fun.

While the suspense keeps the story moving, and the writing is sharp, the story really isn't that much of a mystery. Nor is the conclusion. It is, however, a quick and entertaining read.

Theodore Feit

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

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