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Toys and American Culture, An Encyclopedia
Sharon M. Scott, author
130 Cremona Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93117
9780313347986, $85.00, www.amazon.com
Carma L. Walsh
Who knew that the iconic Radio Flyer wagon was the brain-child of an Italian immigrant, Antonio Pasin, whose 1917 prototype, the #4 Liberty Coaster, was so named in honor of the Statue of Liberty?
Ever heard of the Barbie Liberation Organization (BLO) who orchestrated a most unusual media scandal in the name of gender stereotyping? Members purchased hundreds of Talking G.I. Joes and Talking Barbies, switched the voice mechanisms, then returned them to the stores where unsuspecting Christmas shoppers purchased them for Dick and Jane.
On Christmas morning 1989, little girls were shocked to hear a testosterone-filled male voice blasting from their bikini clad fashion doll, Barbie, barking military orders instead of party plans. Boys were similarly traumatized by the soft, female voice emitting from their bullnecked, blood and guts hero as he giggled coquettish remarks about dating and fashion woes. Notes had been placed in all of the boxes instructing parents to notify the local media. The opening salvo of the BLO's gender wars was thus unleashed upon America.
Do you know what iconic doll was brought to life by a cartoonist for the New York Herald after the 1915 death of his young daughter (whose demise was attributed to an accidently given a second dose of an experimental smallpox vaccine)?
The answer, along with hundreds of other obscure, but tasty toy tidbits, can be found in Sharon M. Scott's quintessential new book, Toys and American Culture, An Encyclopedia. A must-have volume for toy collectors, writers, and researchers, and an outstanding read for anyone who ever played with toys, Toys and American Culture isn't your standard "toy showcase". It explores the relationship of trends and social changes as evidenced by America's toy appetite over the decades. Meticulously researched, the broad scope of this volume demonstrates Ms. Scott's tenacity in presenting a refreshing look at an old, but beloved subject. Where we've been, where we are, and where we're going are but a few of the subtle undercurrents unique to this volume. The role of art, the media, endorsement, overseas manufacturing, and toy safety are but a small sample of the subject palette.
While this wonderful book has proved invaluable to me as an antique toy collector and writer, it has also become a sore subject between my 11-year-old-twin grandsons. The pair fights over who gets to peruse it first when they visit. Little wonder as it is presented in a well-organized format with many black and white photos. Toys And American Culture will stick with you long after you've scoured its pages to discover your own gems.
P O Box 1129, Duncan, OK 73534-1129
9781593935009, $24.95, www.amazon.com
Whether he knows it or not, Michael McCarty is a well used name on the web and pulling the name up means seeing information on men in all walks of life meeting all kinds of life goals. The Michael McCarty sought here has written a number of science fiction/ humor books on his own and has written a number of collaborations with writer Mark McLaughlin. Ah, there is the listing up ahead. Click on it.
In Esoteria-Land, readers will see a side of McCarty not so apparent in his fiction. Here is the consummate journalist doing a string of interviews with people as diverse as Tommy Chong, (Moody Blues Guitarist) Justin Hayward, Jerry Allison, Charlie Paul Waters (High-Octane One-Man Band), Alistair Taylor, Tina Jens, Bobcat Goldthwait, Marlene Bush, Mojo Nixon, and Terry Pratchett. The highlight here will be the interview McCarty conducted with now deceased Forry Ackerman: Famous Monster Speaks. This is only a small portion of the interview list here. Fans of eclectic, eccentric and other mindsets will be in awe at the many names on this list.
McCarty tried to stay on mark, asking things his readers would ask if they were in his seat.
Max Allan Collins, author of over seventy-five books and a two-time winner of the Private Eye Writers of America's Shamus award for his Nate Heller historical thrillers, maybe one of those writers readers knew, but didn't know. After reading this interview, Collins will be known much better.
"(McCarty asked Collins): With your Mommy movies and having Road to Perdition turned into a major film, shouldn't you be living in Hollywood instead of Iowa?
COLLINS: The secret to what we accomplished with Mommy is that we did it in Iowa. My goal isn't to use this as a stepping-stone to get to L.A. My dream is to make low-budget, high-quality suspense and horror movies in Iowa, with the Iowa crews and enough Hollywood name actors to make sure we're marketable. If my plan works, we'll see it on cable or home video. I hope to make another and another and another.
How did you meet Patty McCormick?
COLLINS: I just tracked her down. I first wrote Mommy as a short story that would later appear in the anthology Fear Itself. I sent it to her. She said she would commit to it, but she had to see a script first. So I wrote the Mommy script: I wrote it just for her. She said yes. Then we went out and raised the money for the production of the film.
--- Traveling the Road to Perdition with Max Allan Collins, Pg 100
In addition to the interviews, some of McCarty's articles and essays are in Esoteria-Land. Roger Corman: The King of Low-Budget Movies, Why These Two Americans Love Red Dwarf, with Mark McLaughlin, and Masters of the Macabre Tell Why They Like Halloween are three of the seventeen pieces offered which are not only science fiction and fantasy friendly, but also of a contemporary nature.
McCarty's writing style is casual and down to earth. The articles are interesting and thought provoking. In his article about since deceased Famous Monster of Filmland Magazine editor Forry Ackerman, McCarty wanted to know about Vampirella, a well known vampiress Ackerman served as first writer for.
The idea of the seductive vampire came to the writer during a turbulent plane flight.
"I was flying down to Rio around twenty-seven years ago. It was midnight," Forrest said. "Thunder and lightning were playing around the plane. I realized I wasn't going to get to sleep. And I thought about how the publisher wanted to a comic about a mod witch. So Vampirella - from the planet of Draculon - jumped into my mind. I got back to New York and sat down at the typewriter and two hours later, I had typed out the original story."
Years later, Ackerman's sexy vampire ended up in a low-budget movie starring Talisa Soto as the title character and Who singer Roger Daltrey as the evil Vlad.
Over his years with the magazine, Ackerman collected a fantastic array of memorabilia. His mansion boasts eighteen rooms filled with over 300,000 pieces of monster memorabilia. - Esoteria-Land, Page 115
Other sections in the book include Reviews of CD's, Concerts, movies, and books and don't forget the introduction by Linnea Quigley or the Afterword by the Amazing Kreskin. As diverse as the writer, Esoteria-Land is well worth your time.
Hold Tight: The Truck Darling Poems
Hanging Loose Press
231 Wyckoff Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217
9781934909140, $18.00, www.amazon.com
Jeni Olin, who actually goes by the name Truck Darling, is noted for her visceral, surreal, chaotically allusive poetry. Her first book, Blue Collar Holiday, was praised by John Ashbery as being "wonderfully caustic and vulnerable. Raw and strangely accommodating." That collection saw Olin within the throes of dealing with the death of a lover, the breakdown of youth, and the collision of symbols.
In her new collection, Hold Tight, we see this same crashing, internally hostile world transformed through new eyes by the poetic voice of Truck Darling, a voice that manages to be distinctive yet eerily disembodied at the same time. This time out, we find poetry that aims low and emerges high, a jarring yet coherent aesthetic which challenges readers to make sense of the contradictions of language put in front of them. In "Doll Steak," she writes:
"Do your sinuses itch, little wolf,
like boys in steaming ghettos beaming
handsomely with sinister little dolls,
racked, trembling with nightsweats,
all the coloring books streaked with piss?"
The center of the world is perpetually shaky, uncertain. The voice finds itself in many places at once, able to verbally respond but not so able to comprehend. Language falls away from being a tool of communication and towards a mode of action. The action of language is imperfect but is nevertheless a way of standing still within time, the "swampy terrain" of temporality.
Reading this book is much being on a rollercoaster going too fast, with all the visual world around you spinning so quickly that a dreamlike nausea comes on. This nausea produces an oceanic feeling, unsettling yet reassuring. The poems are based on this seemingly chaotic yet ordered movement, and the pace never lets up until you put the book down. You feel "Drawn & quartered, I'll fuse again,/my spine creamy."
Hold Tight holds up as one of the best books of poetry of the last decade, holding steady ground against many other modern masterworks like Gabriel Gudding's Rhode Island Notebook, Jennifer Moxley's The Sense Record, and Graham Foust's A Mouth in California. I would also say that Jeni Olin/Truck Darling is among the finest living poets in America, and this collection proves that statement. For all her linguistic invention, startling imagery, and wide-ranging allusions, it's difficult to imagine a more truly effective poet working today. Read this book.
77 Love Sonnets
Common Good Books,
165 Western Avenue North, St. Paul, MN 55102
9780143115274 $15.00 www.amazon.com www.commongoodbooks.com
Denton E. Morrison
We know that Garrison Keillor loves poetry. Billy Collins and other popular poets have often read their work on "A Prairie Home Companion." Additionally, Keillor has edited two volumes of Good Poems, and his reading of poems on his internet "Writer's Almanac" has long been a daily treat.
But Keillor's own poetry has been something less than visible. (Well, let's not count his song lyrics.) So this book comes not really as a surprise. We all knew he could do it. But it shows a side of Keillor we haven't until now known much about. We see here a tender and sometimes serious and thoughtful Keillor-often blending these qualities with a bit of playfulness and his patented sense of humor. What is especially revealed in this book is a horny Keillor, pulling few punches about fairly intimate aspects of his love life. He seems to be just a little bit uneasy about what he thinks might be the negative reaction of some of his flock to such candor. On the rear cover of the book he says, "If anything here offends, I beg your pardon. I come in peace, I depart in gratitude."
Relax, Garrison. (I'm thinking you'll be OK on a first name basis, since you have, after all, invited us into your bedroom several times, and yes, you are in bed with a woman, perhapsnot always the same woman.) Some of the residents of Lake Wobegon would likely be a bit offended, maybe even shocked, by some of these sonnets, were they to read and understand them. But the folks who will read (and love) this book are not in or anywhere near Lake Wobegon. Some of them, like you (and me too) may have been born and raised in Lake Wobegons, but they've been much out and about and now have worldly mind-sets, mores and tastes. You are not on a mission here to instruct residents of the small towns you stereotype on how they might have more interesting sex lives if they try something other than the missionary position. Practically none of these folks, if they still exist, will read your book, or for that matter have ever heard of you, or could tell you how many lines are in a sonnet. Not to worry about offending. Not many Minnesota Norwegian Lutheran bachelor farmers or their small town kin are out there now. They're mostly in your head, doing the entertaining, charming things you weekly share with us. A future "The News From Lake Wobegon," should be about a boy who was born and raised there, went to the University of Minnesota (English Major), and then embarrassed his family by writing sexy poetry.
These are poems for moderately sophisticated readers, not for prudes or country bumpkins. A sample of Keillor at his sexiest (from the sonnet Boom): "Up to the top and Boom and then the slow descent, / Me spooned behind you, curved and quietly content." From The Beach: "I snaked / myself into a ravine and there found / a delicate creature trembling with sensation / a pink anemone that I touched and (whoa) the sound /. . . so I put my tongue / to it and tasted caviar and Cabernet.
Whoa! Be gone, inhibitions! This is Keillor speaking? Yes, this is the news from Manhattan or thereabouts, where a poet is making love, a lover is making poetry, and his libido (or at least his candor) is above average.
The Beach, which as you may have guessed has nothing to do with sand and surf, or play on the shores of Lake Wobegon, is probably the most explicit and erotic of the 77 sonnets, but the sensual theme runs through many of these poems. The cover sets the stage for this book: a reclining, tantalizing Modigliani line-drawing of a voluptuous nude woman, who also appears on the last page as does her backside six times on the pages in between. (Amedeo Modigliani gets credit in too small print.) This book is definitely not stuff re-cycled from "A Prairie Home Companion," nor is it the tone of PHC, or of his several books previously published.
This is fresh material. Hot, passionate love is somewhat dominant, but in several poems Keillor writes also about longing for a lover lost, about the pain of separation from a lover, and angst over an unravelling relationship with a lover. Throughout the book there is a thread of Keillor's awareness of his aging and a hint of concern this may affect his attractiveness as a lover. In these poems are many mentions and intimations of his mortality. Understandable. He's 67 and had heart surgery not long ago and more recently, after this book was published, a mild, non-debilitating stroke. (Please Garrison, don't get very far away from the Mayo Clinic. Take it easy on the gravy and pie at the Chatterbox Cafe. You're much too young to have your fans lobbying St. Paul officials to have street names changed to yours. This will surely happen in due time, but we're more than glad to wait a few decades.)
Nonromantic love, general and specific affection and concern for his fellow humans, doesn't get equal billing with sexual passion (or at least seems not to). But Platonic love is the theme of many of the poems. Some of these tug at the heart, as in May, a poem about Memorial Day, one of twelve sonnets for the months of the year: "As we look on these gravestones, row on row and row. . . / God have mercy on them for their unhappy gift./ May we live the good lives they might have lived."
A random sample of the 77 titles, and of the wide-ranging subject matter: Hoops, Chopin, Ulysses, Midwest, In a Cab, Miami Sonnet, Teenager, Upper East Side, Skeptic. The sonnets are in seven untitled groups that show little obvious internal homogeneity, except for the final group, where the sonnets focus, with a smile, on aging and mortality. The 14 line sonnet structure prevails, but there are some liberties taken, e.g., a few are in free verse. Keillor is seldom subtle or opaque. If the poems in the New Yorker are your idea of good poetry, just stay away. Or hold your nose, have a little fun slumming. Keillor is an entertainer, and on that count these poems get high marks.
These poems are sometimes a little funny, sometimes a little erotic and sometimes a little profound. But it's always more than a little fun to be in this newly opened corner of Keillor's head
Evenings on Dark Island
Rhett DeVane and Larry Rock
1094 New Dehaven St, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428
If you think the trend toward vampire novels has surely run its course, you should try one more before you quit. The vampire spoof, Evenings on Dark Island, by Rhett DeVane and Larry Rock, breaks all the vampire stereotypes and is guaranteed to have you laughing.
Gay vampire Vincent Bledsoe III owns the Spa on Dark Island in Florida. He flinches at the idea of sucking blood, preferring instead to drink blood distillates drawn from spa patrons in more medically acceptable ways. The fastidious vampire has withdrawn to Dark Island to mourn the loss of his humanity and his human love, Julio:
Vincent understood, deeply, the quest for something to make the days meaningful. Vampires reminded him of spoiled rich kids with unlimited toys and amusements. Always looking for something new to engage their passions. Anything to stave off the desperation of a hollow non-life that could never be fully lived.
Millionaires pay big bucks to come to the spa and be revitalized by secret potions distilled by Vincent's groundskeeper and all-around go-to-guy, Arby. The groundskeeper hides out on Dark Island because he is rat-faced ugly. The beekeeper's mask he wears shields his visage from spa patrons, but it also keeps people at a distance. Like Vincent, he is lonely and unloved, though he finds acceptance for the first time in his life from his boss.
Throw in Reanita, an undercover FBI agent searching for a drug-running operation on the island; Emmeraud, a female vampire so bored by immortality she'll do anything for a lark; and the NASCAR-loving, juke-joint-owner vampire Jimmy Rob; and almost anything can happen on Dark Island.
The novel tracks the spa and its patrons for the week leading up to the Blue Blood Ball, a benefit for hemophiliacs. (Oh yes, Vincent thinks bleeding out that way is "such a waste of precious liquids.") Despite the detailed plans for the big gala, the unthinkable and unexpected happen. Dark island is nearly destroyed. Yet the week also brings new insights and a chance for happiness to Arby, Reanita, and Vincent.
One of the book's strengths is its lush descriptive language of both landscapes ("The last fingers of sunset filtered through silhouettes of live oaks") and food ("Florida grouper topped with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and goat cheese").
Readers of DeVane's The Madhatter's Guide to Chocolate and Up the Devil's Belly will enjoy another dose of her trademark humor and appreciate her sensitive portrayal of the undervalued, underdogs who people her novels and our society. Larry Rock brought his experience with event planning and gardening to the novel, which marks his first attempt at writing. Their combined efforts produced an enjoyable, light read, so take it to the beach, stretch out on your favorite recliner on the porch, or curl up in bed with it this summer. It'll be like going to Florida without the crowds or the mosquitoes.
The Girl Who Played With Fire
Vintage Books, a Division of Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
This is the second installment in a crime trilogy written by Mr. Larsson, former editor in chief of Expo magazine in Sweden. He died in 2004, shortly after finishing the third book in the series.
The novel opens with Publisher Mikael Blomkvist planning an expose' in his magazine, Millennium, detailing the extent of sex slave trafficking in Sweden. He will name names, which will include police officials, judges, lawyers and other prominent people.
A man and a woman that work for Blomkvist did the research and the writing and are close to finishing the articles when disaster strikes. The authors, who live as a couple, are both murdered in their home. A weapon is found, a gun, and ultimately, this evidence points to Lisbeth Salander, a young, doll like figure with a history of psychiatric problems, but who is a computer genius.
Blomkvist knows Lisbeth intimately having been her lover one year earlier. He doesn't accept the suspicion that she committed the murders and he sets out to find her, while she flees the Stockholm area. So starts this murder mystery with a score of characters including the police, criminals, doctors, writers, a famous boxer and many others. The story is a rollercoaster of surprising violence and detailed police work. The novel culminates in a stunning ending that will satisfy any fan of the crime genre.
The late Mr. Larsson has crafted a sweeping novel engaging on many levels. His legacy is firmly in place in the annals of modern crime fiction.
A Matter of Trust
Little Brown Book Group
100 Victoria Embankment, London
9781847440990 19.99 Brit. pounds www.littlebrown.co.uk
Author Robin Pilcher was born in Dundee in 1950 and is son of best-selling novelist Rosamunde Pilcher. He is married with four children and two grandchildren. He has been an assistant film cameraman, PR consultant and a farmer. He now lives between Scotland and Spain.
Claire was in love, the time was right, school was over, now it was time to spend with Jonas. Unfortunately it didn't seem to be the right time for Jonas and Claire left Scotland feeling desolate.
Claire and Daphne, her mother had lived together after David her Dad died suddenly but when Daphne met Leo their lives changed dramatically. Leo's estate and house in Scotland was huge and beautiful and Claire and her mother were blissfully happy, life was good. Leo was a lovely, kind and caring man and most importantly great fun. However all was to change when Leo's children arrived home from boarding school. Jealousy reared its head and Claire was made to feel unwelcome. And Daphne struggled to be a step mum.
A strong friendship had developed between Claire and Jonas who was the son of a man who ran the estate farm for Leo. They began inseparable until the day came when Claire thought he would tell her he felt as she did. Her heart broken Claire left Scotland but eventually many years later, now happily married to Art and a daughter violet, she was to return there to organize a funeral. Leo's children wanted no part in this and Claire did her best to avoid Jonas.
Wills were read and plans put together but plans do not always go as predicted and Claire and Art returned to America to run their famous restaurant. Things were not going right back in Scotland and suddenly Claire felt she had reason to distrust Jonas but was it long ago events that had triggered that emotion? As often happens all's well that ends well.
A lovely, delightful story with believable characters and family secrets all woven into a beautiful Scottish tapestry.
11 on my Own
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781449701338 $13.95 www.amazon.com www.thomasnelson.com
"11 on my Own" is a story of one woman's pain; pain from three failed marriages, betrayal, and abuse, but mostly pain from a source which was created to alleviate it; the Family Court System. A mother of eleven children, deserted by her husband, Kristin Luscia is left without means to support her eleven children in a dilapidated home that is subject to an impending foreclosure. Kristin's ex-husband owes her over $60,000 in child support, and has paid none of it. Yet the court continues to insist that he has 'rights' to see his children bi-weekly, at least those he hasn't managed to alienate yet. Ted has warrants out for his arrest that haven't been served, and yet he manages to show up in court unscathed. He is the Teflon Deadbeat Dad. This is the tragically unjust outcome of Kristin's exhausting three years in the Family Court System of Connecticut.
Rights for men and poverty for women. Sadly it's a familiar story from my days as a Social Worker at Catholic Charities in New York. One case stands out from 25 years ago; the wife of a cardiologist, living in a mansion without heat, where she and three small children were reduced to living in the living room heated by a kerosene heater, keeping warm under quilts, came to me seeking food for her family for Christmas Day. The not- so-good doctor had fled to warmer climes with his girlfriend, emptying the bank accounts, leaving his wife with nothing but a Bloomingdale's credit card. You can't buy food at Bloomies, so her children were well-dressed, and hungry. His lawyer settled the child support while he was on medical leave for an operation, and without income. The doctor had NO obligation to support his children. According to Family Court, two years later, while touring his hospital, the same doctor boasted about his large donations to charity. Bound by confidentiality, I replied icily, "Charity begins at home, pal!" Both men planned the abandonment of their families by cleaning out the joint bank accounts. When their wives fought for support, they discovered that their husbands could afford better lawyers.
Addressing this widespread problem though her personal crisis, Kristin speaks in a colloquial voice as she describes her situation, and takes the reader back to her childhood as an only child of adoptive parents. She tells the story of her troubled marriage to a narcissistic sociopath with candor and without self pity. Far from the latest blame-my-mother book, 11 On My Own is set apart by Kristin's humble admission of own her role in her disastrous marriages. This as well as the frequent references to Canon Law, Papal Encyclicals, and The Catechism of the Catholic Church, makes 11 On My Own somewhat akin to Confessions of St Augustine, one of two saints to whom she dedicates the book.
St Augustine said:
"I came to You late, O Beauty so ancient and new. I came to love You late ... You were with me but I was not with You. You called me, You shouted to me, You wrapped me in Your Splendor, You broke past my deafness, You bathed me in Your Light. . . You touched me, and I burned to know Your Peace."
"In my past, I had chosen several times to follow Jesus' path without fully knowing why: I had my babies baptized in the Church and gave my mother a proper burial before I was a practicing Catholic.
Yes, I had also chosen sin through many foolish and poor life decisions. My parents believed in God, yet they didn't take me to His Church. I had the benefit of graces received in Baptism, but had no idea how to channel them. I am sure that my devout Babci (Polish for grandma) praying in the Church triumphant for my soul was a means of shaping my destiny to begin making the right choices.
There is hope for me, thank God. No sin of mine (or anyone's) is greater than God's love. No matter what your past has been, we can begin anew."
Despite disturbing descriptions of abuse suffered, and intolerable legal injustice, ultimately 11 On My Own is a tale of hope. Hope that the poor sinner reading this book can learn from the hardships that Kristin endured as a result of her own sin and that of her husbands. Hope that readers will then take advantage of the graces bestowed on them through Baptism, and make good confessions in order to live in the grace of God. It's never too late. If ever there were an important message to a world with a 50% divorce rate, wounded from sin, it's this one.
Highly recommended for adults and mature teens, due to a sprinkling of four letter words, and sexual references. This may be just the book your son or daughter needs to read before heading into a disastrous life decision.
In the interests of full disclosure, I must tell you that I am the Leticia whom Kristin mentions in the last line of her book, and who wrote the blurb on the book's back cover.
I came to know Kristin within the past year, through our daughters' friendship. I was impressed at the purity and holiness of her children, as well as her determination that she would remain faithful to God and not surrender to bitterness, despite the terrible events they have endured. It was the witness of her beautiful family and the enormity of the injustice she has endured at the hands of the courts which prompted me to support her book. May it be a blessing to you.
Wire Rim Books
9780980225389 $14.95 www.wirerimbooks.com
Liana Metal, Reviewer
Henry Melton's latest novel is no less exciting than all his previous ones! Focused on believable scientific issues, this story is a gripping read for all the family. Learn more about the author's work at http://HenryMelton.com
Pixie Dust is the story of Jenny Quinn, a graduate student who takes part in a disastrous lab experiment. To make matters worse, her professor gets killed unexpectedly just after this, leaving Jenny disorientated. What's more, she has to cope with a strange change in her own body. But Jenny is determined to solve this mystery before she ends up getting killed too. Will she succeed?
The first chapter of this novel is extremely captivating, increasing the adrenaline level of the reader as they try to understand and then 'see' the result of the lab experiment. The scenes move rapidly as if in a movie, making the reader turn the pages eagerly to see what's next! The characters are quite believable and real and the dialogue, fresh and modern. There is a lot of mystery and suspense, subtle romance and casual lifestyle description. The author's descriptions are never boring to read, as his writing is concise and focused mainly on facts and action. These are elements that both teenagers and adults may appreciate!
To sum up, Pixie Dust is an interesting and exciting read that will entertain the whole family as well as educate it. It is the latest of Henry's work that shows clearly his constant development as a science fiction writer. The more he writes the more exciting his work becomes! Henry is a prolific writer full of scientific concepts that are appealing to everybody-after all, who is Not interested in the future? It may be categorized as science fiction, but to me it is pure science, and it is worthwhile reading it!
It's a great book and you can get it from www.wirerimbooks.com and all online stores.
The Imperial Maud
Robert E. Moore
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Lois Wells Santalo
Styles in literature come and go, and unfortunately, the craving for Regency novels waned at the precise moment this book was published (2004). I remember starting it at the time, feeling little enthusiasm, and shoving it back onto the bookshelf unread. Now I can't imagine what I was thinking. Picking it up again recently, I felt I was in the hands of a masterful writer, and my attention was engaged from the start. Though set in Regency times, the story is no period piece, but a very modern novel about a young woman, Polly Butler, the hard-working wife of an innkeeper who uses her as an unpaid employee. Despite this abuse, Polly has not lost her imperial qualities, and these attract the attention of the painter, Stuart Tremaine, who sets out to paint her portrait on the inn sign of the Imperial Maud. He soon falls in love and begins to think he must save Polly from her ill-fated marriage. But it turns out she has no need of saving; as an early day feminist, she has a few tricks of her own up her sleeve, and proves, as the story moves toward its surprise denouement, that she is capable of saving herself.
Though this is a first novel, the author is by no means a novice. He handles the English language with precision and carries the plot forward at a fast pace. His portrayals of characters are a delight to read. Describing the Countess of Westbury, who invites Tremaine to dinner, he says, "She had mastered the art of using her mouth for two purposes at once. She could eat and talk at the same time with never a pause in either." Of Polly herself, he says, "Her smile flashed off, replaced by an expression harder to describe, but even more impressive. Not exactly angry, not precisely disdainful...Imperious, that was the word!"
For light summer reading, this one is a winner.
To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise
Harvard University Press
What American adult does not know what Wal-Mart is? More than 90 percent of Americans live within 20 miles of a Wal-Mart store. But familiarity with, is not the same as knowledge of, the background and central characteristics of institutions. In addition to drawing on the relevant literature, some of it produced by Wal-Mart, Moreton conducted a large number of interviews in various locations of Wal-Mart employees. The result is an account of the melding of conservative religion, free enterprise economic ideology, and Wal-Mart.
The international headquarters of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. is in Bentonville, Arkansas in the mountainous Ozarks. Wal-Mart's early growth was in Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. With the exception of a few cities this area was characterized by an agrarian economy of small farmers, overwhelmingly white and minimally educated. These farmers as well as those in other occupations and of higher levels formal education were also overwhelmingly Protestant.
Wal-Mart grew by avoiding the competitive environment of the major cities, instead locating in the region's small and medium sized towns. The region had a long history of Populism, which was characterized by an animus against large corporations, particularly those based outside of the region. Sam Walton circumvented this problem by the company's stock-purchase plan for employees, which meant some degree of ownership by locals. In 1972 a second stock offering moved Wal-Mart onto the New York Stock Exchange.
Wal-Mart's personnel practices were based on a family model in which men were the leaders. Virtually all store managers were men. And because many employees knew each other before their Wal-mart employment personal ties among the hourly workers and between workers and managers fostered a level of loyalty unknown in other companies.
Also in Wal-Mart's favor was the shortage of competing employment opportunities in the small towns and cities of the region. In addition, the long work hours required for running a family farm and its characteristically low cash flow made Wal-Mart's low pay and demanding working conditions acceptable to employees from such backgrounds.
But Sam Walton faced a problem. How could Wal-Mart make mass consumption permissible for the region's underconsuming white Protestants? The answer; mass buying was acceptable if it meant obtaining things for the family and if front-line service workers could derive dignity and meaning from their labors. Also, Wal-Mart, recognizing the resurgence in the 1970s of conservative religion, promoted itself as explicitly Christian by removing such products as CDs by Tupac Shakur and Snoop Doggy Dogg and anything featuring Beavis and Butthead. Such a move was no doubt approved of by the vast majority of Wal-Mart employees and customers.
Coincident with Wal-Mart's gradual identification with its Christian constituency, customers and employees came to consider shopping not as selfishness but as service to family. And this service was a sacred calling. A new ethic, "servant leadership" offered front-line workers and managers a framework for enhancing their job satisfaction and was congenial to the down-home, how-may-I-help-you image of Wal-Mart. The concept of "servant leader" borrowed from and contributed to a Christian tradition of Christ as a servant leader. Thus in the 1970s Wal-Mart synthesized its influential ideology of free enterprise as Christian service.
By the 1980s Wal-Mart's rapid growth and increased need for technological expertise forced it to recruit new managers on college campuses. For this it turned to nearby Christian colleges. The doctrine of Christian free enterprise was particularly successful at the regional Christian colleges that drew students from rural and small-town settings.
An important organization in the dissemination of Christian free enterprise was a nonprofit from the Ozarks called Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE). Its biggest corporate sponsor was Wal-Mart, which by 2003 hired 35 percent of its management trainees out of SIFE. In 1989 over 100 colleges had worked diligently to bring the good news of free enterprise to their communities. By the 1990s SIFE had become a recruitment and training provider for Wal-Mart and many of its supplies.
SIFE Chapters reached untapped audiences by constructing information booths in malls, producing radio public service announcements, silk-screening tee-shirts, and printing their message on milk cartons, Frisbees, and billboards. SIFE headquarter's (at Southwest Baptist University) direct-marketing recruitment drive in 1985 included over 1,000 calls to colleges.
In 1985 with Central America seen by the Reagan administration as a battleground between Communism and the U.S. the Waltons established four-year scholarships to educate young Mexicans and Central Americans in free enterprise at three Christian colleges in Arkansas. Also, transnational corporations provided new opportunities for evangelizing around the world. The end of the Cold war gave Christian free enterprise a chance to win souls around the world.
In conclusion Moreton says that Milton Friedman's free-market ideology could not have survived without the attraction of Christian free enterprise and the passionate support it engendered among many ordinary people. This was because the free-enterprise doctrine compensated for the loss of the dream of self-sufficiency; it made mass consumption a good; it raised demeaning service work to the status of a calling; it provided a new basis for family stability and male authority.
Moreton provides historical background that makes clear that the Wal-Mart/Christian embrace came about because the cultural and political context was ripe. Some of the book, for example Chapter 13 concerning the 1993 battle over NAFTA, may be of little interest to readers concerned primarily with the Wal-Mart/Christian connection. And chapter subheadings would have been welcome.
In closing, I know the names of many U.S. colleges and universities, but have never encountered the names of so many unknown to me as are mentioned in this book. Guess I am one of those awful elitists.
Book Title: Roma: The Novel of Ancient Rome
St. Martin's Griffin
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312377625, $15.95, www.amazon.com
Raja N. Krishnan
"Legend is Historical Just as History is Legendary."
What a phrase…..and it's the opening quote in Steven Saylor's latest production on the Roman Republic, titled Roma. Mr. Saylor has stepped away from his acclaimed mystery based series with Gordianus the Finder to present a unique and fresh perspective on the ancient republic.
Mr. Saylor produces a nice effort to highlight the major events of the Roman Republic from pre-Roma days through the founding of Roma to the days of Julius Caesar. The story that evolves through the generations of one family, with the Roman history in the backdrop, focuses more on the legends, spirituality, and cultural aspects of the Roman Republic. The author easily weaves the story of this family into the fabric of the history of the Roman Republic. This epic story shows the struggle between the lower class, plebians, and the upper class, patricians, through the generations of the Roman Republic. It also depicts the power and ego of successful political men who tried to reach the status of King, but could not stay in that position for long.
As each chapter goes by the author fast forwards in time to the next major or controversial event in the republic's history. This might first appear as though he is skipping events, but the author does a nice job of tying chapters together and summarizing events that happened in the timeline. Although not a detailed account of the Roman Republic government, that not being the intent of the book, the book does convey how the government transformed through the generations with the rise and fall of the republic.
As I was reading this book I found myself excited about the possibilities of a second trip to Rome to visit the historical sites that I missed the first time, armed with this new knowledge of the legends of Rome. I would highly recommend this book for fans of Roman History, furthermore it would be worth a read if you plan to travel the historical sights in Italy.
Living Your Best with Early-Stage Alzheimer's
Sunrise River Press
39966 Grand Avenue, North Branch, MN 55056
9781934716038, $18.95, www.sunriseriverpress.com
Alzheimer's isn't a death sentence. "Living Your best with Early-Stage Alzheimer's" is a guide to fighting Alzheimers and living to one's fullest and putting off the more serious effects of the ailment for as long as one can. Recent research have proven it possible to live for years with the early stages, with sufferers living to their fullest extent for many years. Lisa Snyder will inspire hope to those recently diagnosed and crushed by their supposed future. "Living Your Best with Early-Stage Alzheimer's" is a valuable and highly recommended resource which shouldn't be missed.
Water the Moon
PO Box 36253, Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan 48236
9781934851128, $14.95, www.fionasze.com
A woman of the world and a musician, Fiona Sze-Lorrain knows a bit about emotions. "Water the Moon" is a collection of poetry as she presents her expertise in way that really speaks to readers well. Thoughtful and sure to make readers ask questions, "Water the Moon" is a choice pick for poetry collections. "Fragile": The sea under our bed/holds immensity for sleepless/hours that belong to last night./I am moon-fishing while/waiting for you to open your eyes and cry for light./Crawling in the sheets, I fear/burying you in my dreams where/your tears drop as water/trickling from the sky, and I am/an instant of devastating white.
No Greater Love
5249 Indianwood Village Lane, Lake worth, FL 33463
9780615331331, $14.95, www.daraviane.com
Trying to find one's way into the arms of a lover proves difficult through class and faith. "No Greater Love" is a historical romance set in the times of the Roman empire as Tiberius Marcius, a roman centurion falls for a slave girl in Tamar. But politics lie all around and Tiberius's loyalties seem hard to assert when everything seems so chaotic and confusing over the simplicity of love. "No Greater Love" is a top pick that shouldn't be missed.
Living Through Personal Crisis
Ann Kaiser Stearns
Idyll Arbor, Inc.
39129 264th Ave SE, Enumclaw, WA 98022
9781882883875, $15.00, idyllarbor.com
Crisis is something unavoidable in life. "Living Through Personal Crisis: A Compassionate Guide for Triumphantly Surviving Difficult Events and for Helping Loved Ones and Friends" is a guide for meeting life's challenges head on and pushing oneself to live to their fullest in life even when being crushed by adversity. Uplifting and inspiring, "Living Through Personal Crisis" is a fine guide on finding strength when one needs it the most.
On the Silver Edge of Time
35069-4604 37 St. SW, Calgary, AB T3E 7C7
9781926681627, $14.95, www.champagnebooks.com
Love is a timeless force. "On the Silver Edge of Time" is a romance following Erik Lotharsson, a Viking who is flung forward in time to find the chosen lover as decreed by his people. Keelin Haverland finds this strange man and their relationship blossoms into something far more beautiful. "On the Silver Edge of Time" is a fun and enticing romance that shouldn't be missed.
Hidden Napa Valley
Peter Beren, editor
6 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9781599620800, $19.95, www.welcomebooks.com
A beautiful land of wine can be beautiful even if you don't like wine. "Hidden Napa Valley" is a collection of full color photographs of California's wine country which has a distinct natural beauty not easily seen elsewhere in the world. Looking over the history of this beautiful piece of nature, Peter Beren presents a collection of vivid photography and quotations from many individuals famous and not so famous on the region, making "Hidden Napa Valley" a top pick for any who want a gorgeous collection.
Lessons for a Long War
Thomas Donnelly & Frederick W. Kagan
American Enterprise Institute
1150 Seventeenth Street, NW Washington, DC 20036
9780844743295, $29.95, www.aei.org
New conflicts will bring forth new challenges. "Lessons for a Long War: How America Can Win on New Battlefields" is a collection of essays and thoughts from many scholars on what the United States can do to win the war on Terror, as they try to stabilize and create a more peaceful Afghanistan and Iraq. Updates to America's policies, strategies, and accepting that there is no quick solution are the themes discussed, and makes "Lessons for a Long War" a highly intriguing and intellectual read.
Out of the Mainstream
Rutgerd Boelens, David Getches, and Armando Guevara-Gil
1616 P Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036
9781844076765, $99.95, www.earthscan.co.uk
Water is the world's most valuable resource because if you don't have it, you die. "Out of the Mainstream: Water Rights, Politics, and Identity" discusses the modern politics of water supplies and how future political struggles will be over water as a resource, and may radically change the future and the power structure. New technologies involving water will also have a major part, as Rutgerd Boelens and his collaborators present a scholarly insight to the topic. Also discussed is the conflicts with indigenous peoples, gender identity, and international law. "Out of the Mainstream" is a solid addition to any political collection focusing on the environment.
Third and Long
Trolley Car Press
3019 West Forty-Third Street, Minneapolis, MN 55410
9780977791521, $15.00, www.skypoint.com
Small town America just doesn't have a lot left to go on for. "Third and Long" takes place in small town America where the people in a small town find their fates in the hand of a former Notre Dame football star, whose management of the town's factory will make the town's future, or send it spiraling into obscurity and poverty. A fine story of the struggles of modern small town America, "Third and Long" is a choice and recommended read.
A Golfer's Tail
Ocelot Atlanta LLC
1695 Harts Run, Atlanta, GA 30341
A cat does not take challenges lightly. "A Golfer's Tail: The Quest for the Double Slam" is a look into the charming feline golf world as Champion Roscoe Watkin contemplates retirement only to find challengers from all sides. A fun story for anyone who likes cats and golf, "A Golfer's Tail" is a read that shouldn't be missed.
2193 E. Claxton Ave Gilbert, AZ 85297
9780977202539, $24.95, www.sortispublishing.com
Some things never change, like the fundamentals of success. "Everlasting Wisdom: Achieve True Wisdom in Business by Applying Twelve Ancient Principles" is a collection of principles that held true in the ancient world that will still hold true even in today's world. Empire building is still a relevant topic in the corporate world and Brian Hazelgren hopes to show readers why. "Everlasting Wisdom" is a top pick for any business leader looking for good advice for the future.
The Struggle to Limit Government
1000 Massachusetts Ave., NW Washington, DC 20001
9781935308287, $24.95, www.cato.org
What is the role and the power of Government? "The Struggle to Limit Government: A Modern Political History" looks at the recent debates that rage on what is truly the role of government, as people from both sides of the aisle try to both empower and limit government on many fronts. From the greatly increasing power that came with FDR to how the current Obama administration is handling it and everyone along the way, John Samples provides a concise and scholarly history. "The Struggle to Limit Government" is a read that shouldn't be missed for any political or history collection.
Willis M. Buhle
Imperfect Fitness offices
12223 Highland Ave., Suite #241, Ranch Cucamonga, CA 91739
Perfection is an impossibility, but there is something better one can try for. "Wake Up!: You're Probably never Going to Look Like That; How to be Happier, Healthier, and Imperfectly Fit" is a realistic fitness guide that realizes not everyone is going to be a model with a six pack chiseled abs or an hour glass figure. Encouraging readers to find their own realistic body image and shoot for that, "Wake Up!" is a solid and much needed read for those who are trying to get in shape only to be discouraged by the media blitz.
A Book of Unknowing
PO Box 896, Greenfield, MA 01302
9781584980681, $16.95, www.spdbooks.org
An accomplished poet and teacher, John High brings readers a fine work with "A Book of Unknowing". With much narrative and musing of the world and everything around it, High gives readers a fine treat. "A Book of Unknowing" is a top pick for any poetry lover. A sample: A role made in the ground,/you are somebody else, valuable/later to peasant life, but is that enough/from all of these two-bit stage parts,/a frog makes it way across/the mud floor, our baritone hums & the time passed is its/own radio show, just here now/there is no reason to cry.
Empowered Work Teams
Dale E. Yeatts, Cynthia M. Cready, Linda S. Noelker
Health Professions Press
PO Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285-0624
9781932529418, $34.95, www.healthpropress.com
Long term care is a much more complicated animal than many truly understand. "Empowered Work Teams: Strategies for Improving Outcomes for Residents & Staff" is a guide for those in charge of long term hospice care teams and who want to improve the care they provide for the long term and healthier future. Staff morale, reducing turnover, training, and more, "Empowered Work Teams" proves to be a powerful guide and reference no long term care leader should be without.
The Legacy of Beezer & Boomer
3515 S. Tamarac Dr., Suite 200, Denver, CO 80237
9780982126004, $24.95, www.beezerandboomer.com
A pet becomes more than a fuzzy and fun animal in one's life. "The Legacy of Beezer and Boomer: Lessons on Living and Dying from My Canine Brothers" is a memoir of loss and reflection from Doug Koktavy as he reflects on how the slow death of his two sibling labradors led to him gaining a greater appreciation and understanding of life and its challenges. "The Legacy of Beezer and Boomer" is a top pick for anyone who wants to understand the profound impact a pet can have on its master's life.
Steven A. Long
Fordham University Press
University Box L, Belmont Ave, Bronxx, NY 10458
9780823231058, $65.00, www.fordham.edu
As time moves on and changes, as does the opinions and philosophies of the world. "Natura Pura: On the Recovery of Nature in the Doctrine of Grace" delves into the modern philosophy of faith and theology, discussing things such as Loss, the nature of the world and humanity, secularism, and the philosophies of current pope Benedict XVI, as well as the pre-papal writings of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Scholarly and highly educational, "Natura Pura" is a core addition to any current philosophy and theology collection.
T. K. Thorne
c/o Laura Parenteau
1704 5th Ave. North, Birmingham, AL 35121
A catastrophe that will tear the world asunder, and will tear the dreams of a girl apart. "Noah's Wife: 5500 BCE" tells the personal story of Noah's wife, Na'amah, and what she desired in her land of ancient Turkey. Dragged between two loves, she soon finds that her own hopes and dreams may become secondary to the Ark that Noah builds. "Noah's Wife" is a fascinating read for another perspective on one of the Bible's most legendary tales.
The Light of Innocence
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432748166, $15.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Understanding is the most powerful tool a Christian has. "The Light of Innocence" is a Christian living book from Carl Marshall as he encourages readers to read the Bible for themselves and use their study to better their lives and empower their connection and bonds with God. Inspirational and uplifting, "The Light of Innocence" is a fine collection and a read that shouldn't be missed for Christians.
Impossible to Find
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432756802, $15.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Love doesn't understand a looming doom. "Impossible to Find" is a love story of adventure as a commercial airline pilot in Liam Schofield finds himself entangled with military pilot Jaclyn Appell. But they soon find that their love may be short lived, as death is a real threat at every corner for both of them. A love story up in the air, "Impossible to Find" is a fun and recommended read.
Michael J. Carson
Random House/Bantam Dell
New York, New York
9780385341974 $26.00 www.bantamdell.com
Former coroner Sara Linton hasn't visited her hometown in Grant County, Georgia since the death of her husband, Police Chief Jeffrey Tolliver. Almost four years later, she returns, planning to spend Thanksgiving with her family. Shortly thereafter, Tommy Braham, a mentally disabled young man, is arrested for the murder of Allison Spooner and asks that Sara, his former pediatrician, visit him. When Sara arrives at the jail, it appears Tommy has committed suicide. Sara, who blames the arresting officer, Lena Adams, for her husband's death, immediately suspects Lena mishandled the interrogation and provided the young man the means to kill himself. After she calls in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Special Agent Will Trent arrives in Grant County, where he is met with stubborn resistance from the police department. Sara is asked to perform autopsies on Tommy and Allison as Trent investigates both murders while trying to unravel the complexities of Lena's involvement in Tommy's murder, as well as that of Chief Tolliver.
Slaughter once more provides a tense thriller centered around Sara Linton. Although the character Jeffrey Tolliver is certainly missed, this book proves the series can move forward without his presence. Slaughter is adept at providing dark, complex characters and does not disappoint with this outing. Her revelations concerning the desperate measures hardworking, indigent people will resort to is insightful and empathetic.
Nothing to Lose
Batam Dell/Random House
New York, NY
9780385340564 $27.00 www.randomhouse.com
Drifter Jack Reacher travels the country with the clothes on his back and a fold-up toothbrush and ATM card in his pocket. Reacher's goal is to cross America diagonally, beginning in Calais, Maine and ending in San Diego, California. Taking buses and hitching when he has to, the trip proves uneventful until he leaves the small town of Hope, Colorado and walks to Despair, the next town over. Stopping in a diner for a cup of coffee, Reacher is refused service and ordered out of town by the cops. This gets Reacher's back up and when he refuses to leave, he's arrested as a vagrant, escorted out of town and told never to come back. On the way back to Hope, he stumbles over the body of a dead man and the ex military cop in Reacher suspects the man's death has something to do with Despair. So, over the next few days, Reacher, with the aid of a female cop in Hope, investigates why Despair has a no-visitors policy, what's going on with the town's metal recycling plant with an impregnable fence, and why young men are disappearing.
In this 12th installment of the Jack Reacher series, there's plenty of action as Reacher kicks butt in Despair, diligently and persistently trying to find out what the metal recycling plant is actually doing inside its secret compound and why a military base is guarding it. Reacher is absolutely one of the coolest characters written. He's tough mentally and physically, a vigilante seeking justice for those who deserve it while doling out his own kind of two-fisted justice for those who need it.
Tell Me about Orchard Hollow
Canterbury House Publishing Ltd.
225 Ira Harmn Rd., Vilas, NC 28692
9780982539613 $15.95 www.canterburyhousepublishing.com
Jenna Howell grew up under the dominion of a controlling mother only to marry a man of the same mindset. Both her mother and husband are verbally abusive and make light of Jenna's artistic talent, whittling away at Jenna's self-confidence and enjoyment of life. Reality hits hard when Jenna catches her husband in the arms of another woman. Jenna decides to take a break from her marriage at the mountain cabin of a friend in the picturesque town of Townsend, TN. There, Jenna meets local artist Boyce Hart. Although the two are attracted to one another, Jenna is still married and feels she is too vulnerable to begin a relationship. Boyce becomes a good friend to Jenna and through his kindness, respect and deep faith shows her there can be a better life for her, if she is strong enough to leave her past behind.
Book two in Lin Stepp's Smoky Mountain series is a sweet love story filled with engaging characters set against the beautiful background of the Smoky Mountains. Although the plot is not a new one, this inspiring story focuses on family values, deep faith and a woman's journey of self-discovery as she begins to believe in her own worth while seeking to become a stronger person.
The Cold Room
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario M3B3K9, Canada
9780778327141 $7.99 www.mirabooks.com
Due to restructuring of the Nashville Metro Police Department, homicide detective Taylor Jackson's been demoted from her prior position of lieutenant. If that isn't bad enough, she's being pursued by a serial killer called the Pretender. Now another serial killer's in Nashville, one who abducts young black women, starves them to death and, after performing necrophilia, poses them per scenes from famous paintings. It isn't long before Jackson's fiance, FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin, connects Jackson's serial killer to one he's been investigating in Europe named the Conductor. Jackson and Baldwin team up with Scotland Yard detective James "Memphis" Highsmythe, and the chase is on as the three try to determine if they're dealing with only one killer or perhaps two. As the investigation proceeds, Jackson's trying not to be distracted by the chemistry between her and Highsmythe, which is unexpected and confusing, and her superior's strange actions, which are hampering her efforts to investigate her case.
This fourth installment of the Taylor Jackson series is as suspenseful and intriguing as the first. This psychological thriller is gritty and realistic and filled with intense action. The chemistry between Jackson and Highsmythe, although not expected, is nicely delivered. Jackson's a great character, a woman who's tough mentally and physically but a real softy on the inside. The colorful backdrop of Nashville is a bonus to readers, as is Ellison's intelligent writing.
The Friday Night Club
Jacob Nelson Lurie
9781439262474 $9.99 http://thefridaynightclub.com
Although Davis Robertson's getting married in a few days, he finds his mind dwelling on past loves and friendships. As he hangs out with his best friends and groomsmen, Davis relives past experiences with these men, former college mates who formed The Friday Night Club, which was nothing more than a party club. Although Davis loves his fiancee, his thoughts keep turning to the one woman he never really had, a woman he's always held in high regard but never pursued. He fears committing, fears an uncertain future, but tells himself it's time to grow up and move forward. While partying with his friends, Davis vacillates from being certain he wants to marry to doubting his commitment to his fiancee.
This quasi-autobiography isn't your typical bachelor's last fling, although there are the quintessential drunken parties, humorous scenarios, assaults and ultimate arrest. Although couched as a coming-of-age story, The Friday Night Club goes beyond that, delivering poignant, profound insights into the struggling mindset of a young man as he passes into adulthood. Lurie skillfully pulls his reader into Davis's angst, his at-times conflictual relationships with his Friday Night Club partners, his earnest yearning for something he thinks is unattainable. This intriguing book doesn't limit itself to men; women will enjoy the read as much, if not more.
Christy Tillery French
Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393057300, $35.00, www.amazon.com
When you take a college course in photography, one of the first things you learn is about the famous photographers of the past. Among the illustrious are Dorothea Lange and her dedication to chronicling the hard times of the "Great Depression of the 30's" with images she took while traveling throughout the United States.
Linda Gordon's historically accurate book includes 100 photographs, many of which are still used in various advertisements, web sites, and magazines today. The photos are black and white which gives them more impact when viewed due to their raw nature.
Gordon is a history professor at New York University and has footnoted her book so that the references she makes to events which took place are fully documented. What makes this book outstanding is that it is not just about Dorothea Lange and her photographs. It is about the great depression and the steps that were taken to alleviate the suffering which had been taking place among the many Americans displaced in order to find work. Pictures of the old automobiles created images of families moving from one place to another in a broken down heap of a car with their mattresses and other belongings piled on top.
Research and reconstruction of conversations with her contemporaries makes Dorothea Lange stand out from the rest of other biographies. It is more than an historical glimpse into the past; it is a recreation of the sociological stigma that has been placed upon many migrant workers. Many farmers in California were often besieged by Oakies (Oklahomans) who had been displaced because their farms had become part of the great dust bowl that enveloped the Midwest. Laws were put in place which prohibited their entering counties in California and at the borders; the sheriff and his deputies would turn Oakies away by threat of incarceration.
Lange photographed these people and made their plight known. She also photographed for a branch of the Federal Government which attempted to assist the migrant workers by improving their living conditions. Resistance by the farmers caused many of the federal programs to fail or be delayed. Lange would meet with the workers and after warming up to them, they became her models.
Lange's life was very interesting by itself, given that she had married twice, was a free spirit from San Francisco, and was on the road for considerable periods of time documenting the blight of the depression. Yet, given all this, Gordon was able to piece together Lange's impact on humanity.
"Dorothea Lange's photographs have never been more immediately relevant. I never anticipated finishing this book under economic conditions resembling those she felt and illustrated. As I write, many are calling for 'another Dorothea Lange' to document and communicate the impoverishment and fear that so many are experiencing."
This book is highly recommended to learn more about the great depression and to see the photographs first-hand which clearly illustrates the plight that befell our country. It is no wonder today we reach out to extend benefits freely to those in need.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432730376 $17.95, www.amazon.com
It takes special talent to write a children's book. Being able to get the phrasing correct, ideas straight, and convey a story that will keep youngsters entertained is all a part of the mastery displayed by Patrick Shannon in "Viva Cisco".
Many books are in the market place which has main characters as animals, but few have them interacting in a delightful community where the main character is a parrot whose life always centers on solving problems. Broken down into three parts each segment is complete. The chapters are short and make for a good bedtime story to be read by mom or dad at bedtime. Older children, who can read, will find this book very entertaining and will hold their interest.
Viva Cisco is recommended as a good bedtime companion storybook.
Kathy M. Miller
PO Box 174, New Ringgold, PA 17960
9780984089307, $19.95, www.celticsunrise.com
When you take a professional cellist and turn her loose with a camera, watch out! For two years Kathy M. Miller photographed her garden companion, Chippy Chipmunk, recording all of his antics.
The cover of this book was selected among many for awards this past year. A nature photographer demonstrated that if you set your lens properly, you can capture some delightful images. Youngsters 4 and up will really enjoy this special book.
Dinosaurs on the Move
Figures in Motion
6278 Clive Avenue, Oakland CA 94611
9780981856612, $14.95, www.amazon.com
Teachers in the primary grades really have inspired our children to look back at dinosaurs and learn all about them. "Dinosaurs on the Move" accomplishes the task of reinforcing many of the lessons learned. The first moveable figures publication by this author was "Famous Figures of Ancient Times" and won many awards this past year.
There are dinosaur cut-outs which are both pre-colored and also can be colored in crayon. Another, plus, it has factual data which accurately describes about the life and times of dinosaurs.
A Most Vivid Day
Golden Tree Press
c/o Dream Character, Inc.
2049 Pacific Coast Hwy. Ste 222, Lomita, CA. 90717
9780978541811, $16.95, www.amazon.com
"A Most Vivid Day" introduces colors by using a clever technique of having a bat travel with Mr. Sun into the dawning of a new day. Coming from a dark and dreary night sky the bat encounters this brilliant array of color as it unfolds in beautiful water color drawings by Justin Young.
Art appreciation will be the added bonus this book brings to its audience. The story-line is cute and entertaining as well. Recommended for the younger sect as a adjunct to beginning painting which they will be doing once they start school.
Cecil Learns to Smile
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432749927 $19.95, www.amazon.com
Charlotte Bucher has demonstrated a great talent for writing a children's book with illustrations. This edition has a nice flowing story-line for children and relates to their lives by introducing a television cameraman who happens into the forest and discovers Cecil.
He takes a picture and at the same time tells the smaller than average frog, that he should smile. Cecil smiles and his world changes because the picture is used in advertising. The old adage holds true, once again, 'smile and the whole world smiles with you'. Good book for the starting reader and nicely illustrated.
1-2-3 Draw Princesses
Peel Productions, Inc.
F&W Publications (distributor)
4700 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236
9780939217656, $8.99, www.amazon.com
Continuing in the 1-2-3 Draw series is the latest book by Freddie Levin "1-2-3 Draw Princesses", this is the 12th book showing basic drawing techniques so that youngsters can learn to make sophisticated sketches using Levin's system.
The books in this series have been very successfully received by the public by having sold more than 1.5 million copies.
The methods are basic and the results can be creative. Levin has hit upon a pattern drawing blocks and circles so that budding artists will not become frustrated. Competitively priced for tight budgets this book allows the exploration of newly emerging talents with some fun, and is affordable!
Kids Can Press
29 Birch Avenue, Toronto, ON, Canada, M4V 1E2
9781554533060, $8.95, www.amazon.com
Susan Hughes has written a variety of children's books. She is an award-winning author of "Earth to Audrey," a graphic novel "No Girls Allowed," and several other books for a teenage audience. Her latest book "Virginia" introduces two friends, but Virginia's friend Ivy is really the heroine of this novel. It is through Ivy's narration the tale unfolds.
This is a compelling story of two very different teenage friends named Ivy Morrell and Virginia Donato and their growing up in the same neighborhood. One girl (Ivy) is relatively normal and the other (Virginia) is emotionally troubled. They share a secret which may prove to be very dangerous.
Something disturbing is happening in Virginia's house. She reveals to Ivy that she has been visited by an angel with a message. She calls him Gabriel. Virginia fears Gabriel, but at the same time believes all that he is telling her is the truth. Something bad was going to happen and she was the chosen one! Ivy promises Virginia she will not tell anyone about their secret.
However, Ivy feels Virginia has completely lost her mind. Ivy is determined to find out the truth and sets out to gather more information with the help of Virginia's brother Joe. She visits the Donato home frequently to make sure her friend is well and soon becomes increasingly uncomfortable. Ivy discovers Virginia's older brother Paul is acting weird after starting his own church behind his house. Ivy is sure whatever is going on in this church is related to Virginia's problems, but she just does not know how it is related.
Ivy's suspicions led her and Joe into a mysterious series of events which were intriguing and risky. She was positive that Paul was planning something unthinkable and she was going to find out what it was.
As the story picks up pace and excitement, Ivy realizes time was short for her to find out what was happening. This brave young girl takes matters into her own hands and comes close to being detected as she investigates the comings and goings of the followers of Paul's church. She concluded, Paul's mission had something to do with the end of times!
You will need to read the book to find out what happens. Virginia and Ivy tell an unusual story from beyond-their-years point of view with a suspenseful ending. The author has taken an extraordinary view into the minds of these two impressionable 14 year-olds and makes you think about your own beliefs. The book, with its religious overtones, is current and you can believe, or not, it is up to you.
A wholesome story which can be enjoyed by teenagers, appreciated by adults, and is highly recommended for both.
The New Korea
Myung Oak Kim & Sam Jaffe
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780814414897, $24.95, www.amazon.com
When two journalists tackled a topic like "The New Korea: An inside look at South Korea's Economic Rise" they developed a more readable story than what a historian would write about Korea. It is interesting, factual, and includes what Howard Cosell liked to term 'prognostication' about the future. Normally textbook images of Korea seem to center around the war between the people living in North Korea and South Korea emphasizing the relationship between both nations and the United States during the Korean War of the 1950's.
The key element throughout this sojourn into South Korea's standing among the world economic powers is the relationship of history and modern day companies in the development of products which are not only gaining a foothold in worldwide competition, but in many cases are now showing they are leaders in quality. An economic explosion is happening in Korea which is transforming how business is conducted. Old traditions are examined, new ways of management style are being introduced, and the result is a dynamic growth in product recognition through sales.
LG is a major brand recognized today as a quality product in electronics and appliances, including washing machines, air purifiers, mobile phones and air conditioners. Its lauded products started from a company which was only known as a manufacturer of "Lucky" toothpaste. Kim and Jaffe point out that through innovation this company redesigned itself with a shift in management policies which had been historically dominated by tradition and Asian culture. Managers in the past had achieved lofty positions because of age and the respect that came with it. Their decisions were not challenged. The change is that managers in their 60's are edged out by younger thinking replacements. Decisions were questioned and those things which had been accepted in the past as gospel were now re-examined.
A good example is the LG washing machine. A team of the top engineers and designers were told to perform TDR. "Tear Down and Replace" was the new slogan, take the machine apart and determine how to make it better, even to the tiniest screw! The result was a washer which aided the user by allowing clothes to sit, after cycles were completed, in a steam environment which also rotates the drum so clothes will not wrinkle if left too long before placement in a drier.
Another is the Hyundai automobile. It was the first car to have a 100,000 mile or 10 year warranty. This was an innovation by a Korean company which drove Detroit manufacturers to re-examine their policies and change.
There are many examples of products and how they gained recognition in the market place with quality rather than price.
Culture is examined in this book and is brought to the forefront because outside of China and Japan, the United States has the third largest Korean population living outside of the Peninsula of Korea. Korea towns in Los Angeles and New York have brought into vogue an interesting tradition, the Spa concept Korean style. We have spas, but they are not the same as what the Korean's offer. Special techniques are employed using sandpaper for foliation of the skin and is enjoyed by Americans as well as Asians
This in-depth examination of Korean attitudes, religion, and culture makes for an interesting read that is pleasingly informative. "The New Korea" is highly recommended.
In the Trenches at Petersburg
Earl J. Hess
The University of North Carolina Press
116 South Boundary Street, Chapel Hill, NC, 2514-3808
9780807832820 $45.00 www.uncpress.unc.edu 1-800-848-6224
This volume completes my set of the trilogy Earl Hess set out to complete covering the field fortifications in the Civil War depicting the Eastern Theater. I selected the book because of my interest in this aspect of the war, and the reasons for the usage of fortifications and protective trenches. The history of the Civil War written by the disciplined authors like Hess helps any Civil War student, buff, disciplinarian who loves this type of history. It is a richer text resource that is an informative definitive study way beyond the general coverage.
The author Hess, concludes his installments on field fortifications of the Civil War with this volume depicting the Eastern Theater in the Petersburg Campaign. The book recounts the strategic and tactical operations in Virginia, during the War's last months. The book covers all aspects of the campaign especially the military engineering, including mining and countermining, the fashioning of wire entanglements, the laying of torpedo fields and the construction of underground shelters to protect the men of both sides who manned these works. It also humanizes the experience of the soldiers working in the fortifications, revealing their attitudes toward attacking and defending the earthworks and the human cost of the trench warfare in the waning days of the war. Wrapping up in this book, Hess examines in great detail one of the most important weapons that Ulysses S. Grant used to defeat Robert E. Lee at Petersburg. He extracts evidence from maps, and earthworks systems, historic photographs of the entrenchments, extensive research in published and archival accounts by men engaged in the campaign. He includes official engineering reports, modern sound imaging to detect mine galleries, and the firsthand examination of the remnants of fortifications on the Petersburg battlefield today. The Petersburg Campaign began June 15,1864, with Union attempts to break an improvised line of Confederate field fortifications. By the time the campaign ended on April 2, 1865, two opposing lines of sophisticated and complex earthworks stretched for thirty-five miles covering not only Petersburg, but also the southeastern approaches to Richmond.
Earl J. Hess is an associate professor and chair of History at Lincoln Memorial University. Previous books in his series are Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War: The Eastern Campaigns, 1861-1864 and Trench Warfare under Grant and Lee: Field Fortifications in the Overland Campaign. He also did The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat: Reality and Myth. His books explore theory and depth not found in many books of the period. I enjoy getting his expertise and exploratory knowledge when delving into the Civil War battles. This is a fine book which the reader should assess to start the trilogy and add the previous two books to complete the set on their bookshelf.
John Brown's Trial
The Harvard Press
79 Garden Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts,02138
9780674035171 $27.95 www.HUP.Harvard.EDU 1-800-405-1619
I selected this book, because I was interested into a definitive glimpse into John Brown's trial. The trial has not been covered in such a fine and completed manner. It helps to understand what happened in leading from his trial to his eventual becoming condemned to death.
Abolitionist John Brown was an idealist and utilized violence and stirred up the feelings of people who were pro and con slavery by the general treatment of the slaves by slaveholders. He did this with volatile unpredictable proportions. John Brown cut a wide swath across the United States in the 1850s. In October 1859, he led an attack on the U. S. armory and arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. He was supported by a "provisional army" of twenty-two men, Brown had hoped to rouse the slaves in Virginia to rebellion. It proved to be pointless, as he was captured, and after a short but stormy trial in nearby Charles Town, West Virginia and he was hanged.
The author Brian McGinty provided the first comprehensive account of John Brown's trial which raised important questions about state and federal jurisdiction, judicial fairness, the nature of treason under the American constitutional system, and the future of American Slavery in the United States. After the jury returned a guilty verdict, an appeal was quickly denied, and the governor of Virginia refused to grant clemency. Courageous to the end, Brown met his death on December 2, 1859. He was not an enemy of the American people but an enemy of the Southern slaveholders. The period was cited by historians that credited the Harpers Ferry raid with rousing the country to a fever pitch of sectionalism and accelerating the onset of the Civil War. McGinty sees Brown's trial, rather his trial, as the real turning point in the struggle between the North and the South. Brown was almost killed during the raid, and McGinty views that the trial had Brown condemned to death after surviving a trial before a judge and jury. He argues the case became an issue against slavery with an eloquence that reverberated around the world. John Brown then became a symbol of the struggle to abolish slavery and a martyr to the cause of freedom.
Brian McGinty is an attorney and the author of Lincoln and the Court. It was published by Harvard Press. I hope Brian offers more history with the legal expertise told in such an enlightening manner and readable style. I look forward to any of his future endeavors in his well-written, compelling and lucid. His research is impressive showing a legal history discipline which is his forte'.
Daughters of the Witching Hill
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780547069678, $24.00, www.amazon.com
In her novel Daughters of the Witching Hill Mary Sharratt imagines the story behind a real-life drama, the 1612 Lancashire witch trials. Her major characters come from the pages of a court clerk's account of the proceedings. Bess Southerns, also called Demdike, is a "blesser," who calls upon the now outlawed Catholic rites and folk remedies of her childhood to comfort and care for the sick of Pendle Forest. Her vocation is dangerous in a world in which one's neighbors are quick to cry "witch," and when an accusation is too often tantamount to a conviction. Demdike has a son and daughter and numerous grandchildren, among them Alizon, on whom much of the story centers. Daughters of the Witching Hill follows Demdike's career through the good times, when her powers were appreciated enough to keep food on the table, and the worse.
The world Sharratt describes--and she makes it a breathing thing--is frightening even when things are going reasonably well. Anti-papism has driven priests underground, what passes for justice is risible, and human compassion is in short supply. But the last quarter of the book in particular makes for difficult reading, like watching a nightmare. And it goes on for a while, the details fully explored, so one's discomfort is extended. Sharratt's book is, in short, an excellent, well-researched (as far as I can see), beautifully-written account of horrible events that are, unfortunately, historical. I am quite sure that some images from the latter part of the book will stick with me indefinitely. Certainly I'll never think of witch trials in quite the same way again.
The Singer's Gun
Emily St. John Mandel
2000 Wadsworth Boulevard, #195, Lakewood, CO 80214
9781936071647, $24.95, www.amazon.com
Emily St. John Mandel's The Singer's Gun opens on an investigation. A woman working for the State Department is listening over and over to a snippet of conversation recorded 15 days earlier--a few words only, confirmation of a job completed, nothing much. It's not clear for a long while how the recording fits into what follows. And what follows is an exploration of why Anton Waker abandoned his wife on their honeymoon and is now sitting alone on the island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples, biding his time and missing his one-eyed cat. Eventually all is made clear: the layers of Anton's life are slowly peeled away in chapters that explore his unusual childhood, the strange circumstances of his employment, his adversarial relationship with his cousin. Nothing in Anton's life is quite what it looks like on the surface. Any guess we may have initially about the reasons for his wait on Ischia would be wrong.
Anton is a complex character who's been living in a world that doesn't fit him. He's disturbed by his environment but doesn't break away from it given the opportunity, and he in fact participates in activities he doesn't quite approve of. The book thus introduces questions about what constitutes moral behavior and about personal responsibility. While it is by no means a fast-paced thriller, the book does become a tense read toward the end, and it is always compelling. Anton's situation--the wait on Ischia, and more so his being warehoused at work prior to his honeymoon--is so strange that you can't but read on for the answers. St. John Mandel's second book--see my review of Last Night in Montreal--is another winner.
Debra Hamel, Reviewer
Gary Vaynerchuk knows social media like nobody's business. Twitter. YouTube. Facebook. You name it, and he has used it to take his family's wine business from a $4 million company to a $60 million empire. His new book "Crush It" tells the story of this immigrant's journey, his road to success, and how he used online marketing to realize the American dream.
So what exactly does it mean to crush it? It's a term used to plan your dream and surpass all expectations by harnessing the power of the Internet to market and sell it. Vaynerchuk gives tactical instructions on how to use tools like blogs, Flip Cams, and Twitter to build your brand. The author also shares his experience with traditional advertising versus social media. For example he writes:
In December 2008, I spent $7500 to offer free shipping codes for Winelibrary.com via three marketing/advertising channels---a perfectly placed billboard on the New Jersey Turnpike, direct mail, and radio. The billboard brought in a hundred and seventy orders. The radio campaign did about two hundred and forty orders. Through direct mail we got a little over three hundred. I Twittered out---for free---a free shipping code and got seventeen hundred orders in forty-eight hours.
Vaynerchuk is no hype man though. He readily admits that it takes hard work, sleepless nights, and patience to build your online brand. For some adapters in could take months to years to build an audience, get them to trust that you care about them, and convert them to buyers. His realistic take on building your brand is refreshing.
There is a downside though. Readers who may want to take their business from scratch should not assume that they will create a $60 million dollar company. Not everyone gets a $4 million dollar start. Also, we should keep in mind that the dotcom folks were preaching some of the same things regarding the end of traditional media and the beginning of something new and wonderful before the dotcom bubble burst and the NASDAQ crashed. In today's economy, adapters need more proof that if you build it and they will come.
All in all, if you care about the future of marketing, selling, or becoming an entrepreneur, you will love this book. Vaynerchuk is personal, humorous, and speaks from personal experiences. His teachings are all you really need to master leveraging social media to your advantage.
When it comes to sales, Jill Konrath is a genius. While her first book "Selling to Big Companies" established her as a true player in the crowded author/consultant/guru field, her new book "SNAP Selling" solidifies her as THE go-to person regarding turning a prospect from someone who has never heard of you to someone who can't wait to do business with you. But what exactly is SNAP?
SNAP is an acronym for Simple, iNvaluable, Aligned, and Priority. The author explains that these four factors should be at the back of your mind when selling to crazy-busy people:
Simple: Your ability to eliminate complexity and effort from your prospect's decision-making process will improve your chances for sales success.
INvaluable: In a world of copycat products and services, the value you personally bring to the relationship becomes essential.
Aligned: You must stay relevant to your client at all times; they don't have time for anything else.
Priority: With an ever-changing business environment, you can't afford to have your prospect deem your services non-urgent.
This book is worth its weight in gold, and there is rich content in just about every chapter. Examples include "How Frazzled Customers Think," which explains that when frazzled prospects sense that the effort required [to buy] will make their lives even more complicated, they call it quits, even if the change would have been good for them. The chapter titled "Inside the SNAP Factors," asks readers to remember that the greater the complexity, the longer the buying cycle and the higher the likelihood of losing to the status quo or to a competitor who made the decision easier. Those are just the tip of the iceberg.
The main thing readers will take away from this book is that all of their selling efforts should be geared towards helping the prospect solve a problem. This starts by doing research on prospects to determine what those problems might be, contacting prospects by phone or e-mail to explain how you can help solve a problem, and finally and most importantly, listening to the prospect before making any recommendations or sharing any marketing literature on what you sell.
As excellent as this book is, there are a few caveats you may take issue with. Since the author encourages readers to draw from current customer experiences and the industries they work in, you may wonder how start-ups without customers can use this advice. Also, Konrath's first-meetings approach seems to actually lengthen the sales cycle. If your selling cycle is already long and complex, her way may cause you to wonder if competitors will ease their way in while you're planning multiple meetings. Finally, if your target account is not in driving distance, it seems like these multiple meetings may turn out to be a costly way to go after new business. Justifying more travel and lodging expenses in a down economy is more than a notion.
That being said, if you are ever in a position to hire Konrath to help you with your selling process: DO IT. Considering the plethora of information "SNAP Selling" contains that you can implement immediately, you can just imagine how great it would be to have this author/consultant go beyond the book. Konrath is the real deal. "SNAP Selling" is superb!
Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer
Farming of Bones
Penguin Group USA
Suitable reading audience: 16 and up
Amabelle is a young Haitian woman who has lost both of her parent to drowning, adopted by Dominican family where she lives as maid with the family that took her in. As the story progresses she falls in love with Sebastian, a sugar worker commonly called "braceros", who was also orphaned by ill fated circumstances. In love, together they devise to return to their native soil Haiti, where they would start a new life together, away from servitude.. Alas, when their lives and desires become enmeshed with Haitian Dominican political friction only time will attest if and how they make it back to their precious Alma mater. The farming of bones is compelling story of love, dignity and triumph over one's circumstances.
Amabelle as the leading character is loving and moving. Her joys and angst are what keep the reader turning page after page. She is brave and unwavering in her aspiration to become wife to her sugar cane itinerant beau Sebastien and the mother of his children. Her daily struggles and the prejudice she endures because her nationality makes her very identifiable to readers across the board. The death of her parents has left her prone to insomniac nights and she can only find solace in the arms of the man she loves. Her heart's desire and that of her lover is to make a new life: "We had made a pact to change our unhappy tales into happy ones..."
Ms. Danticat skillfully recounts true hidden story which occurred in October 1937, when then President and Dictator, Trujillo ordered the massacre of Haitian living in the Dominican Republic in retaliation for the discovery and execution by the Haitian government of his most valued cover agents. The Dominican army slaughtered as many as 20,000 largely unarmed men, women and children, mostly in the border areas, but also in western Cibao. The author, an excellent storyteller weaves with great dexterity fact and fiction, keeping the reader riveted to every word she lines on the page.
Edwidge Danticat is also the author of : Kril Krak (1996);Breath,Eyes and Memory(1998), The Dew Breaker (2004), Brother, I'm dying (2007). She is the editor of The Butterfly's Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States and The Beacon Best of 2000: Great Writing by Women and Men of All Colors and Cultures. She has been a finalist for the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and is an American Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award winner, as well as the winner of the first Story Prize. She lives in Miami with her husband and daughter.
Reflections on The Shack
Shae Cooke, Tammy Fitzgerald, Donna Scuderi
"God is accessible and his accessibility is greatly underrated" says Tammy
Reflections on the shack is a conversation piece that takes place among four women: Angela,Tammy, Shae and Donna, who are a nice mix of married and single, mothers and sisters, career women and stay at home moms. Chapter by chapter, they discuss and give the opinion on the best selling novel "the Shack" by William P Young. The tone is easy, familiar and definitely warm. They express their concerns and knowledge as to how we as Christians deal with God during the raging storms of our lives; what the book titles as the Great Sadness. The same question is also examined during our times of calm. They share their personal beliefs and perceptions of the God and follower relational dynamics. The discussion in the powder room brings to the forefront our perception of God in light of how we tend to reduce his magnitude because the human rational is incapable of fathoming his omniscience and omnipresence.
All in all, as the members of the powder room discuss and comment on the Shack you will find how you will also take a seat facing the mirror in the powder room compelled to examine your own spiritual decadence or brokenness. As we travel through this book, one becomes more willing to reconcile with a God that loves us and a the end to rebuild us from the ground up, mending all the cracks of our soul and sealing all of life insecurities because He is our refuge. All we are exhorted to do his to believe in his accessibility and his willingness to love us regardless of our short comings.
The Invaders A Quinn Martin TV Series
The Autumn Road Company
9780972868464, $17.95, www.amazon.com
Finally there is a book about the classic TV series that lasted just two seasons. It's easy to see why, with the behind the scenes information the author researched. ABC made many changes to the format while they also shifted the show so that no one could ever find it. The author interviewed many of the people behind the show as well as Roy Thinnes, the actor who played David Vincent. There are also episode guides, explanations for such things as what was the influence that helped name the character David Vincent, bios for many of the guest stars, and lots of great pictures and trivia any fan should not miss. This is a great resource to use to further enjoy the two different seasons on DVD and Blue Ray Disc.
Robert B. Parker
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399156236, $26.95, www.amazon.com
This, I am sad to say, is one of the last books written by this author. It is a good one of the Jessie Stone series. Stone still has his addiction to booze and is the tough sheriff of Paradise. Sunny Randall is also in this great novel that races along to its final conclusion. The trademark of snappy dialogue is also here as well. Parker was the master of this type of tale. I, for one, will miss this author when the final book is published later this year
The Wild Zone
1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020
9781416585299 $25.00 www.amazon.com
Fielding is back with another great nail biting suspense novel. This time it starts a little slower, with the characters who meet up in the bar "The Wild Zone." As readers get to know them they begin to evolve and change until the final smashing blow away surprise ending. Everything is not as it seems with this one. Fielding takes readers on a roller coaster ride that never lets go. This is one of her best in years.
Tea Party Revival The Conscience of a Conservative Reborn
Dr. B. Leland Baker
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432749170 $11.95 www.amazon.com
People are fed up with government because the system is broken and no one knows how to fix it. That is very obvious after reading this book about the party that fashions itself after the original. The thing is this group is nothing like the first one and if they were in control this country would be back in the stone ages. Tea Party people want the elimination of the court system, Department of Transportation, and every other office that is on a federal level. I want to ask any of them who have served in the military. How many partook of the GI Bill and go through the veteran's administration for medical care? Also how many people use the interstate highway system that we have in this country'. Their answer of just tack whatever you want on the constitution as an amendment is plain stupid. This is a party to stay away from because they are so negative.
Power of Vitamin D
Sarfraz Zaidi, MD
Outskirts Press Inc
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432748104 $15.95 www.amazon.com
This is a groundbreaking book that shows the influence vitamin D has on our health. The doctor tells people being outside in the sun is not the best way to get the vitamin because what we thought many years ago is no longer true. He shows how being deficient opens us up for so many diseases. Zaidi also tells many other ways to compensate and why it is so important for our wellbeing. The book is easy to understand and reveals a lot of new scientific information.
Never Look Away
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
97805535807172 $25.00 www.amazon.com
Wow this is the second book I've read by this author and, like "Fear the Worst," it had me turning the pages and going "what's next?" He begins the story with an outing to a theme park with David Harwood, his son and wife. The story begins in the prologue where David thinks his son has been kidnapped. By the end of it, he finds his son but has lost his wife. She has just disappeared from the face of the earth. He searches for her and finds out nothing is really what it seemed. He is determined to find out what happened. The novel roars like a run away freight train until the final smashing ending. Barclay is a great suspense writer.
The Shadow of Your Smile
Mary Higgins Clark
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
978439172261 $25.99 www.amazon.com
I wanted to like this one but found it too confusing with three separate plotlines that went along until the very end where she tied them up. The writing was slow shortly into it, and never got better. The opening drew me as Olivia Morrow was told she had a short time to live. The author just did not hold my interest with this one. I have to say ho hum. Maybe here next one will be better.
A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To The Future
Michael J. Fox
77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023
9781401323868, $17.99, www.amazon.com
This third book by Fox goes into a little more detail of his relationship with Gary David Goldberg and his "Back to the Future" movies. He also continues to be so positive about his Parkinson's disease. The book is interesting and very candid. He has a lot to say and does it very well.
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, NY, NY 10019
9780307387783 $7.99 www.amazon.com
It begins with a victim of assault who does not want to talk to the police or the DA about the crime. The novel races along with many twists and turns to satisfy any fan of legal thrillers. Linda Fairstein is one to put on your must read list.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399156441 $25.95 www.amazon.com
Here is another story of Stone Barrington. This time Stone has several friends and enemies back to fill the mystery and twists that Woods is known for The novel is typical Stone Barrington and Stuart Woods action.
Steven M. Forman
175 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY 10010
9780765319883, $24.99 www.tor-forge.com
Eddie Perlmutter, after his sparkling debut in "Boca Knights," makes a welcome return in Steven M. Forman's new novel. Eddie is still working as a pi in Boca Raton, this time having to deal with a widow with dementia, a neo-Nazi father and son, the apparent disappearance of a gay couple, and his own prostate problem. And that's just skimming the surface of this laugh-out-loud funny novel.
Eddie describes himself as "one of Boston's most decorated policemen from 1966 to 2000, but now I was just a sixty-year-old retired cop living in Florida. I was five feet seven and weighed slightly over my fighting weight. I was in great shape for an antique." He had been dubbed The Boca Knight by an area news reporter, becoming a local hero and mini celebrity and inspiring others to call themselves Boca Knights, living by the principal, as Eddie says, of being "willing to fight for everyone's right to live in peace." Widowed for many years, he is famously determined to live an uncommitted life, despite his fondness for his much younger Haitian-born girlfriend.
Eddie refers to his new place of residence as Broken Heights, where "murder is rare and rape is ninety percent below the national average," but, as Eddie points out, "so is consensual sex." He enters into a strange partnership with another senior citizen improbably named "Louie Dewey" - don't ask. There are references to scenes from the original Depression and some ensuing years, with all seemingly loose ends tied up completely and very satisfyingly by the book's end. Without doubt the author has a wacky sense of humor, but neither he, nor his protagonist, is without sentiment, and along with the broad smiles elicited by the writing were, I am unashamed to admit, some tears. The book more than lives up to the challenge presented by the follow-up novel to an excellent beginning of the series, and this one is just as highly recommended.
77-85 Fulham Palace Rd., Hammersmith, London W6 8&B, England
9780007243488 18.99 BPS www.harpercollins.co.uk
[Note: This book is only available in/through the UK/Canada at this time]
In this, the tenth book in the series featuring CID officers DS Diane Fry and DC Ben Cooper of the Derbyshire Constabulary based in Edendale, the tale opens with Ben trying to rescue an eight-year-old, out on a bank holiday in Dovedale with her family, from drowning in a few inches of water. His efforts, however, are to no avail.
Neither Diane's nor Ben's primary story line deals with any formally assigned case. Ben is dealing with the aftermath of the little girl's death, and his conviction that it may not have been an accident, while Diane's has to do with an equally personal but perhaps more traumatic event: When a hit on the National Database opens an enquiry into the rape years ago in which she was the victim, she must finally try to come to terms with the assault. Diane is granted an indefinite leave of absence so that she can work with the officers working the cold case, and Ben is appointed Acting DS. Ben thinks of himself as "the officer who failed to save Emily Nield's life." He becomes involved with the dead girl's family, and is soon viewed by his colleagues as "a police officer who'd become obsessed and was trying too hard to make a case out of nothing."
As to Diane, she is described by colleagues as "Straight as an arrow . . . always going by the book." This time, not so much. She sees herself as "no different from all the washed-up people everywhere, all the fools who'd ever messed up their lives or destroyed their relationships. Work was safe ground, a place where personal feelings could be put aside, shrugged off with her coat at the door of the office. The trouble was, right now she could feel the safe ground shifting under her feet. She was still as dedicated to the job as she'd ever been. But she had a suspicion the job wasn't quite so loyal to her any more." In the end, both Ben and Diane find that the only one they can completely trust is each other.
Detailed descriptions [almost - but only almost - to a fault] are provided of the towns and the countryside, bringing the Peak District, among other areas, to life for the reader. The book deals most of all with memories, and the distortion thereof
For readers familiar with this wonderful series and its protagonists, "Lost River" provides in-depth character studies of both, and makes them that much more human, and both those readers and others only now being introduced to them will look forward to their return. I must admit that a certain ambiguity in the final pages made me question whether or not that will happen; I am sure I am not alone in hoping that they will reappear in Mr. Booth's future novels. This one is, obviously, recommended.
Pretty in Ink
Karen E. Olson
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451229625, $6.99 www.penguin.com
Karen E. Olson here brings back, after the initial entry in the series, "The Missing Ink," Brett Kavanaugh, owner of her own tattoo shop, The Painted Lady, in Las Vegas. Brett, a graduate of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, specializes in custom designs. She and her staff attend the opening night at a club on the Strip featuring drag queens, the first paragraph in the book reading: "If your name is Britney Brassieres, being taken down by a tsunami of champagne might seem only fitting." However, things are not as innocent as they might at first seem: The cork of the bottle in question was seemingly aimed right at the dancer, hitting "him" squarely in the chest, ultimately proving fatal. Then another drag queen is found dead not long after, and Brett becomes involved in the investigation, partly explained by the fact that her father was a cop, and her brother, with whom she shares a house, is a cop as well. The other part of the equation is that first one, and then another, of her staff come under suspicion. Brett soon finds herself in jeopardy, "being shot at outside a dead drag queen's apartment," and she longs for the serenity of her beloved Red Rock Canyon.
Bret is a 5' 9" redhead, 32 and single, her body adorned with several pieces of her own artwork as well as those of her 'friend' [it's an ambivalent relationship] Jeff, whose work generally tends to the less demanding 'flash,' or stock tattoos. She regularly invokes the lessons of her former teacher, Sister Mary Eucharista, in invariably amusing asides.
I had enjoyed the debut novel in the series, and found this entry compulsively readable for the most part. I hedge only because the latter part of the book, perhaps the last fifty to sixty pages, seemed somewhat repetitious and it was difficult for me to keep the characters straight, but that may have just been me. Brett is an interesting protagonist, and I will look for the next in the series, "Driven to Ink," due out in the Fall.
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169
9780446511346, $24.99 www.HachetteBookGroupUSA.com
Cornelia Read had me hooked from the first lines of her new book, wherein she absolutely nails the New York City of two decades ago. Madeline Dare makes her third appearance here. Maddie is a former socialite whose mother had gone "from deb parties to the verge of food stamps, [her] father from the floor of the Stock Exchange to a VW camper behind the Chevron station in Malibu." She is now 27 years old, and after growing up in California and then living in upstate New York and the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, she and her husband of two years are living in Manhattan, where she works taking phone orders for books, having previously "worked as a teacher at a boarding school for disturbed kids and as a journalist for a couple of small newspapers," which readers will recognize as the settings in the first two books in the series.
Maddie and her husband share an apartment with her younger sister, Pagan ["Pague"], and a friend of many years, Sue. We are soon introduced to another boarding-school friend, Astrid, whose vagaries are difficult to fathom, by Maddie as well as the reader. They soon find out that Madeline's much-married [and divorced] mother is planning a Valentine's Day wedding to her newest beau. Those story lines are suddenly superseded by a much darker one, when Madeline discovers, among leaves and weeds in a small cemetery in Queens, the skeleton of what turns out to be a boy of about three years of age, the body apparently having been dumped there about six months previously. There is evidence that the boy was and had been the victim of severe abuse during his short lifetime. Madeline is one of the early witnesses in the ultimate trial of the accused killers.
The writing is by turn lyrical, funny as well as witty, and deeply moving. The chilling subtext throughout, that of child abuse and its implicit "destruction of trust," is handled with great empathy and, at the same time, necessary brutality. The vivid courtroom scenes are impossible to read without choking up, even before the closing arguments are made. And yet this reader was totally unprepared for the final pages. This is a beautifully written novel, one which will stay with me for a while, and it is highly recommended.
Never Look Away
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780553807172, $25.00 www.bantamdell.com
In this completely engrossing suspense novel, David Harwood is a reporter for the local [and only] paper in his home town north of Albany, New York, the Promise Falls Standard. These are difficult times in the newspaper publishing industry, as David is well aware. His opposition on a sensitive political issue dealing with local corruption makes him some dangerous enemies, and creates pressure for him to find some hard evidence before his bosses will let his story run, and it becomes a matter of principles vs. the bottom line. The author's 30 years in the newspaper business lend an unmistakable authenticity to the tale.
In his late 30's, married for five years and with a four-year-old son, Ethan, David and his wife decide to spend a warm August Saturday afternoon in a nearby amusement park. When Ethan seems to vanish, and the public relations people want to squelch any widespread dissemination of the incident, David reflects upon what is possibly [or not] an urban legend, in which small children are kidnapped at theme parks but news of which never makes it into the media because the park owners want no bad publicity. But things only go from bad to worse as the tale evolves, with stunning twists and turns, and the reader kept slightly off balance throughout.
No further details can be given, for fear of spoilers, but rest assured that this is one terrific read, and is highly recommended.
The Fall Girl
Kaye C. Hill
Creme de la Crime
P. O. Box 523, Chesterfield, S40 9AT, England
Dufour Editions Inc. (distributor)
P.O. Box 7, Chester Springs, PA 19425, 610-458-5005
9780955707896 $14.95 www.DufourEditions.com
Lexy Lomax, working as a private detective out of her fisherman's cabin in the Suffolk, England village of Clopwolde-on-Sea, is hired by a 16-tear-old girl to investigate the recent death of a woman she'd never met. This strange request is, somewhat dubiously, explained by the fact that the girl, Rowana Paterson, is convinced that her attempt at witchcraft has produced fatal results. A fuller explanation deals with the dead woman having left to Rowana all her worldly goods, including her cottage in a place called Freshing Hill.
Thirty-year-old Lexy has literally escaped three months prior from her previous life as Alexandra Warwick-Holmes, the trophy wife of an antiques dealer of questionable morality, taking her [well, technically, her husband's] scarred, caramel-coloured Chihuahua, Kinky, with her
While I must admit that generally books with paranormal/occult/four-footed beings are generally not in my comfort zone [understanding that YMMV], this author and her protagonist had me completely charmed very quickly. [The tiny animal has an important but non-speaking, non-detecting role. I must say, though, that I'm not sure what a Chihuahua's eyes look like when they "tighten."]
Lexy's investigation at the dead woman's cottage, with the invaluable assistance of her friend, DI Bernard Milo, takes some suspenseful and unexpected turns, with a wholly satisfying resolution. A thoroughly delightful tale [the second in the series], the novel is recommended.
St. Martin's Paperbacks
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312947835, $7.99, www.amazon.com
I enjoyed The Furies more than Nemesis, a previous book by Napier. The Furies is a complex action/spy novel that is rich in details. The back story of Germany's secret weapons of mass destruction is very plausible. The reason why anyone would use these ancient weapons when new ones could be easier built and used is a question. But the fast paced ride through the present and past is worth the implausibles. Napier writes books that try to balance the fantasy with the reality and this spy novel leans slightly closer to reality than many stories that are better known.
A UFO is spotted in Fossil Creek Arizona and a large number of people die. A disk shaped flying machine with Nazi markings has delivered Anthrax mixed with poison. A cryptic note has been sent to Downing Street threatening London with another lethal UFO. Lewis Sharp is brought into the investigation against his will because of his extensive knowledge of World War II history. A conspiracy of terrorists has started the first moves in a campaign to start a war. They are more than willing to kill an interfering historian and anyone else that might get in their way, including millions in the middle of London.
The Furies is a fun escapist weekend read. It has enough facts and history to challenge the reader and enough action to keep you turning the pages. The ending is more of a continuation to the next story and there is a deep underlying weakness in the plot but these can be easily ignored. The Furies has more pluses than minuses and is something to look for on the mass market shelf.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0553212419 $6.95, www.amazon.com
It is great fun reading very good stories that would never be published today. By today's publishing standards every one of the Sherlock Holmes stories would never appear under a major publishing label. They could only be self-published or find a home in one of the small niche electronic publishing houses. Your typical agent would start the process by shredding the narrative style of Doyle into the homogenous format typical in today's print. The major publishers would then continue the abuse by first making the tale fit the popular communication protocols required to get past the lawyers and activist groups while finally rejecting the short stories until they have been padded with page after page of filler making sure the stories are long enough to produce the optimum thickness for ideal sales numbers.
Great and simple storytelling is lost in today's corporate adult marketplace. This makes the reading of these classic tales much more enjoyable. You can again read past the rough edges of dialog and literary protocol and into just a great simple and fun storyline.
"Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories, Volume 1" includes the first two Sherlock Holmes novels, A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four. Both are short by today's standards but are a perfect fit for filling a long night or passing time during a short weekend. The volume also includes three collections of short stories, Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes and The Return of Sherlock Holmes. These stories are ideal for the mystery buff to fill in time between job and family.
Many people think of Holmes stories as being the murder mysteries of the movies or TV. Only a few are murder mysteries. Many are tales of unusual events and smaller crimes that pull the reader into the favorite Holmes type logic puzzle. The characters are also different from our movie introduction into the stories. Dr. Watson is a real partner to Holmes and the policemen are foils who are recognizable as any modern police officer or elected official today. The setting of Nineteenth Century London is both different enough and familiar enough to be unique and understandable as any modern location.
My recommendation is not to miss this book. You will not find as pleasurable a mix of easy reading and logically fun mystery stories on the modern shelves today. The rough edged narrative is a joy to read without the fancy techniques required by publishers today. And the variety of short novel and short story is a lost art in the corporate publishing world. The short story is a market that is missed by any true reader today and here you will have hours of fun short stories to read.
S.A. Gorden, Reviewer
Hollywood, Satanism Scientology, & Suicide
c/o Jerry Staton
4241 E. Ahwatukee Dr, Phoenix, AR 85044
9781441450845, $14.95, www.amazon.com
"How is it possible for Scientology to continue growing when the truth about this cult is so widely available via the internet?" After such a promising start (back cover), I had high hopes that this would be a book I could unequivocally recommend. Alas, before I even started page one, I read, "This book is dedicated . most of all to our Heavenly Father for all that is good and right and just in this world." It was like expecting to read the definitive debunking of astrology, only to find that the author was an alleged alien abductee. Despite the validity of the arguments presented in the book, we are stuck with the reality that its author lacks credibility. Anyone who has actually read a bible and failed to recognize its protagonist, called "God" in English mistranslations, as the most sadistic, evil, mass-murdering psychopath in all fiction, could not be taken seriously even if he were to argue that Adolf Hitler was not a nice man.
And in case his being a god addict did not constitute sufficient evidence that Jerry Staton lacks the ability to examine evidence and reach only conclusions compatible with the evidence, he also turns out to be the proprietor of a website promoting the reality of the pseudoscience of hypnotism, a delusion that has been as fully falsified as religion, astrology, UFOlogy, parapsychology, phlogiston, N-rays-and Scientology.
Despite its title, Hollywood, Satanism, Scientology, & Suicide is about Scientology and nothing but Scientology. Staton was motivated to write it when a friend was driven to the point of suicide by the vicious manipulation of its victims by Scientology's neo-Nazi, neo-Mafia, conscienceless confidence swindlers. He raised objections, actually daring to tell the truth about a cult that the human race needs like it needed Hitler, and as a consequence found himself on trial before a self-confessed Scientologist judge.
I know how Staton feels. When I wrote a favorable review of A Piece of Blue Sky, the definitive expose of the Scientology organized crime syndicate, I was bombarded by more than three hundred booby-trapped emails in two days, and was forced to change my email address. Silencing critics by constant harassment, including SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation), is what Scientology does. As the cult's founding swindler, L. Ron Hubbard, explained to his subordinates (p. 173), it does not matter that a SLAPP has no chance of winning in court, since it will never get that far. Its purpose is to put critics to so much expense that they will be forced to back down before the cult bankrupts them. So far as anyone has proven, Scientology stops short of following Al Capone's Valentine's Day recipe for ridding himself of antagonists. But in at least a few cases, the end result has been the same.
Staton's first three chapters look at the question of what Scientology is not. He starts by arguing that Scientology is not a religion. He is obviously right, despite Hubbard's own often-repeated admission to his magazine editor and others that he would like to invent a religion because, "that's where the money is." The cult's hierarchy can come up with no better response to that confession than to claim that it is taken out of context. In what context would it not mean what it clearly does mean? Before science fiction writer Hubbard ever claimed to have received information from aliens, he admitted that he planned to invent a religion. And he based his pretend religion on a science fiction scenario not unlike Star Wars. Staton quotes many statements from Hubbard that could have been part of a novel by Isaac Asimov or Robert Heinlein. Scientology is science fiction.
The reason Scientology does not qualify as a religion, in my view, despite its endorsement of religion's Prime Directive (p. 28), "The only way you can control people is by lying to them," is that it does not postulate any kind of metaphysical "He who must be obeyed." The cult grants Hubbard such a status, but does so without depicting him as a god. Staton makes his point by quoting Hubbard's own words, published in a 1951 manifesto but removed from all reprints after 1974, "Scientology has opened the gates to a better world. It is not a psycho-therapy or a religion. It is a body of knowledge which, when properly used, gives freedom and truth to the individual." What made Hubbard change his propaganda and start calling his science fiction scam a religion was the realization that only in the guise of a religion could Scientology legally fleece its suckers without having to pay taxes, and only in the guise of a religion could it make blatantly false medical claims and not be required to offer any substantiation. Its demand to be recognized as a religion, and thereby acquire the tax-exempt status granted to religions in treasonous violation of the First Amendment, was supported by other fruitcake cults as well as the larger god-cults, in recognition that, if Scientology was rejected, their own tax-free status might then succumb to the domino effect.
Staton disputes the claim parroted by the cult's most Manchurian-Candidate-ized icon, Tom Cruise, a mark so gullible that he became a shill for the confidence swindle that is fleecing him, that Scientology is compatible with Christianity and Judaism. Of course it is not. No religion, even a pretend religion, is compatible with any other religion. If Catholicism is true, then all other religions are false. If Jehovah's Witnesses are right, then between three and six million Jehovah's Witnesses are going to Cloud Cuckoo Land in the sky, and 6.5 billion non-JWs are going to the underworld Auschwitz. And Hubbard's own statement makes clear that, for Scientology to be true, Christianity must be false and vice versa. In chapter two (p. 16) Staton summarizes a Hubbard missive from 1963, "Anyone in Scientology who professes a belief in Christ, or God, or who sought help through prayer, was subtly viewed and handled as a 'psychotic.'" So Hubbard got something right, just as he was right when he denounced the pseudomedical tealeaf reading of psychiatry. That his evaluation of head-shrinking was a reaction to his incarceration in a psychiatric ward after World War II (p. 75), and the comment that he "appears mental" (Atack, p. 139) by an FBI consultant, does not change the reality that, on the validity of psychiatry, he was right. A stopped clock is also right twice a day.
The problem is that, in quoting one of Hubbard's saner conclusions, Staton thinks he is discrediting Hubbard. What he is really doing in endorsing the god delusion is discrediting Staton. And in defiance of the finding of a thorough investigation of satanic-cult allegations by the FBI that satanism does not exist (would even the most mindless fruitcake side with the absolute guaranteed ultimate loser?), Staton distinguishes between "classical Satanism" (p. 31) and "other Satanic groups [that] are much, much smaller" (p. 25). He thereby shows himself to be infested with the kind of credulity that would have had P. T. Barnum beating a path to his door. In case he is unaware, Anton LaVay's Church of Satan in San Francisco was a hoax created for the purpose of farting in the faces of persons who believe there really is a Satan.
Staton quotes (p. 31) from a 1982 Hubbard publication, "A very effective thought control technique could be worked out from Scientology which could be used to make individuals into willing slaves." Of course it is reprehensible when Scientology brainwashes Tom Cruise and other mental midgets into becoming mindslaves. It is no less reprehensible when the Vatican, Christian Science, and the Mohammed delusion do the same thing, as they have been doing for as long as they have existed.
Staton opines that Hubbard was "wry in his sense of humor and such a subtle perverse twist and deceit of lower initiates" that could explain his calling his aliens "thetans," as a person with a lisp might pronounce Satan (p. 34), with whom Hubbard allegedly equated himself (p. 27). That is consistent with Hubbard's naming the thetans' home planet "Arslycus" (Atack, p. 134), a name that can only be explained as a measure of Hubbard's absolute contempt for the rubes who took his science fiction cult seriously. Indeed, an overwhelming preponderance of Hubbard's fairy tale nonsense that Staton quotes is best interpreted as an experiment by Hubbard to find out how insane he could portray himself without his marks' grasping that they were being had.
While there is little overlap between Jon Atack's A Piece of Blue Sky (which Staton does not appear to have read) and Staton's book, Staton does repeat (p. 56) a report also in Atack's book of judge John Breckenridge's 1984 finding concerning L. Ron Hubbard, "The evidence portrays a man who has been virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background, and achievements. The writings and documents in evidence additionally reflect his egoism, greed, avarice, lust for power, and vindictiveness and aggressiveness against persons perceived by him to be disloyal or hostile." Since that ruling has not got through to Hubbard's 500,000 marks (the cult fraudulently claims fifteen times that number) in 26 years, it does not auger well for the likelihood of the revelation that Joseph Ratzinger is a liar and pedophile-protector getting through to the world's 0.7 billion brainwashed Catholics (the RC cult claims twice that number) in the foreseeable future.
Staton argues that (p. 58), "After an individual is hooked by a bait and switch come-on, Scientology uses exercises that covertly put the receiver in a hypnotic trance." I can attest to the "bait and switch come-on." I answered a newspaper ad for a free I.Q. test in Melbourne, Australia, in 1961. I had never even heard of Scientology at the time. After writing an I.Q. test, I was then given an alleged personality test to complete. The reason I agreed was that I feared I would not be informed of the result of the I.Q. test if I did not. On returning to learn my test results, I was subjected to a sales pitch by the cult's resident pusher, starting with higher-priced items and eventually dropping down to a 20 cent pamphlet. In retrospect, it seems to me that parting me from even 20 cents (actually 2 shillings) would have encouraged them to view me as a potential mark. But having been offered something for nothing, I felt that even buying a 20 cent pamphlet would make me a sucker. So I refused to do so.
As for "exercises that covertly put the receiver in a hypnotic trance," it is entirely possible that the Scientologists believe they do exactly that. But forty years of working with hypnotists leaves me with not the slightest doubt that hypnotism does not exist, has never existed in the past, and will not exist in the future (to quote Robert Baker). Many hypnotherapists are sincerely unaware that they are practising placebo medicine, but they are nonetheless quacks.
On the physical dangers of submitting to Scientology brainwashing procedures, Staton writes (p. 67), "An entire book could be written just about those who have lost their lives due to suicide and being denied proper medical treatment while undergoing Scientology processing (www.whyaretheydead.net)." He includes the details of two such cases. They leave little doubt that Scientology hierarchs, like the Vatican oligarchy, have a depraved indifference to the welfare of their victims and are motivated solely by lust for power and profit.
Scientology has no credibility. Unfortunately, neither does Jerry Staton. He acknowledges (p. 85) that, "I have attention deficit disorder," a psychobabble euphemism for undisciplined lack of intellectual focusing. And he quotes (p. 100) a letter from a Homeland Security official, "The shrill daffiness of this article [by Staton] smacks of an invasion of the body snatchers." Staton's inability to grasp that he is as much a fruitcake as the cult he is trying to expose diminishes his case, to put it mildly. It is like trying to prove that Charles Manson was reprehensible by calling Rush Limbaugh to the witness stand. Despite all of the valid points Staton makes, his book boils down to, "The Hubbard superstition must be wrong because it contradicts the Staton superstition." The only jury likely to buy that kind of reasoning is an Iranian one, or one appointed by the Vatican.
While the following passage appears in the middle of the book (p. 99), it is a concise summary of the evidence: "Scientology is not an organization that is harmless, but rather one that is extremely dangerous. People everywhere need to be aware of the fact that Scientology is a dangerous and manipulative cult." At least he got that right.
Scientology's logical response to Staton's book will be, "Consider the source." In contrast, their response to A Piece of Blue Sky (after initially terrifying Amazon UK into deleting it from their catalogue, only to restore it when they realized that giving in to one blackmailer would set a dangerous precedent) is to ignore it in the hope that it will go away. There is a lesson there, if Staton is capable of grasping it.
50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology
Scott Lilienfeld et alia
350 Main Street, Malden MA 02148-5020
9781450131124, $26.95, www.amazon.com
At infrequent intervals I come across a book I could have written myself, in the sense that it annihilated a popular belief I had already abandoned but which the media-manipulated masses continued to lap up as if it had more credibility than phlogiston or N-rays. One such was They Call it Hypnosis, by Robert Baker, who confirmed my conclusion that hypnotism does not exist, has never existed in the past, and will not exist in the future. Others were Baker's Hidden Memories: Voices and Visions From Within; and Mind Games: Are We Obsessed With Therapy? each of which similarly demonstrated that I was not the only sighted person in the country of the blind.
The same situation occurred with Thomas Szasz's The Myth of Mental Illness; The Myth of Psychotherapy; Mental Healing as Religion, Rhetoric and Repression; and The Therapeutic State; all of which would have wiped the religion called psychiatry from the face of the earth if the glorified bartenders who practised it had as much capacity to recognize a self-evident reality as a merino sheep.
Now to augment that mini-library of books that tell it like it is comes "50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior". Among the media-propagated delusions that Lilienfeld and his co-authors demolish are the following:
-criminal profiling is helpful in solving cases. (A criminal profiler is actually a self-deluded poseur with no more useful ability than a blind air traffic controller.)
-criminals regularly escape justice by using a "not guilty by reason of insanity" defence that has no more reality than "the devil made me do it." (Actually only one jury out of every 400 is sufficiently gullible to swallow the fraudulent NGI defence.)
-memories of traumatic events can be suppressed and later recovered. (Allegedly recovered memories are really false memories.)
-forgotten memories can be recovered by hypnosis. (While the authors recognize that all positive results achieved by alleged hypnosis are probably placebo effects, their statement (p. 113) that, "People can be hypnotized while exercising vigorously," indicates an unawareness that hypnotism is as much a delusion as phrenology.)
-the human memory retains information as accurately as a tape recorder. (In fact witnesses to a crime or other event consistently give incompatible descriptions of what they all saw.)
-extrasensory perception (ESP) is a well-established scientific phenomenon. (No properly conducted, double-blind ESP experiment has ever produced a positive result.)
-polygraphs are lie detectors. (Polygraphs are only fifty percent more accurate at determining whether a testee believes what he is saying than tossing a coin, heads for "truth" and tails for "lie.")
-dreams possess symbolic meaning. (Sigmund Freud's pushing of that piece of pseudoscience is the big reason he is now widely regarded as a fruitcake first class, even by a majority of psychoquacks. Yet the authors describe him (p. 143) as "an expert in human behavior." Do they also see George W. Bush as "an expert in weapons of mass destruction"?)
-it is possible to learn new information while asleep. (When relaxed in bed and not consciously listening, perhaps, but not when actually asleep.)
-women have a "G-spot," a vaginal area that intensifies sexual arousal. (p. 134, "There's little or no scientific evidence for the G-spot." In fact there is absolutely no evidence. The authors' insertion of the words "little or" is best attributed to the reluctance of one of them to be unambiguous about even a 99.99 percent probability.)
-subliminal messages can persuade people to purchase products. (While the jury is still out on whether the person who first published alleged evidence for such a conclusion was self deluded or consciously lying, attempts to replicate his research have produced universally negative results.)
-people's responses to inkblots tell us a lot about their personalities. (Hermann Rorschach's belief that fantasies concocted by people viewing inkblots reveal anything about their personalities indeed reveals a lot-about Rorschach.)
-our handwriting reveals our personality traits. (One of the book's co-authors, Barry Beyerstein, demolished that masturbation fantasy in his 1992 book, The Write Stuff.)
-astrology predicts personality traits at better than chance level. (p. 179, "Astrology is useless at predicting people's personality traits.")
-psychiatric hospital admissions and crimes increase during full moons. (Investigated and fully falsified.)
-police psychics have proven useful in solving crimes. (While the authors acknowledge (p. 226) that, "Police psychics do no better than anyone else in helping to solve crimes," their comment implies that "police psychics" exist. No law enforcement agency utilizes psychics, and self-styled psychics who intrude into investigations are taken no more seriously than self-styled alien abductees.)
-"Insanity" is a formal psychological and psychiatric term. (p. 226, "Insanity and sanity are purely legal terms typically referring to the inability (or ability) to distinguish right from wrong." In fact, as Thomas Szasz has been trying to get through to the devoutly ignorant for fifty years, while many criminals have a depraved indifference to the question of right or wrong, the inability to tell the difference, that is the definition of insanity, does not exist.)
One of the authors' alleged myths of popular psychology is (p. 205) that, "psychiatric diagnoses are unreliable." (A card-carrying psychologist stating that undisciplined behavior is a mental illness is like a priest stating that holy water is really holy.)
Given the authors' endorsement of the self-serving propaganda that psychology is more scientific than literary criticism (Melville's white whale is really God? Yeah, right!), and that psychiatry is more therapeutic than bartending, it came as no surprise that neither Robert Baker nor Thomas Szasz is listed in their bibliography or index. Nonetheless, they are not unwilling to draw attention to pushers of the psychology delusion who are blatant flashers of the emperor's new clothes. They point out that the mental masturbator, "Dr Phil," made famous by the fatuous ignoramus Oprah Winfrey, who also provided a soapbox for such humbugs as Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle, thinks that polygraphs are lie detectors. They are equally critical of the author who coined the metaphor that "men are from Mars and women are from Venus," based on the delusion that the thought processes of men and women are significantly different. But while they cite a demonstrably false assertion by the poster boy for the hypnotism hoax, psychiatrist Milton Erickson (p. 104), they clearly have not read enough of his published articles to recognize that he was a blatant, unmitigated liar.
America has long been a paradise for snake oil peddlers. Humbugs who learned everything they will ever know about medicine by watching reruns of Dr Who have only to adopt a pseudomedical title such as "psychotherapist", "homeopath", "chiropractor", "hypnotherapist"; "naturopath", or "faithhealer", to be permitted to practise medicine without a licence. But I was amazed to learn (p. 244) that there are two American states that permit persons who have never seen the inside of a medical school to prescribe medications. But what can one expect in a country in which a brain amputee whose knowledge of foreign policy is based on being able to see Russia from her backyard could become a major political party's nominee for Vice President of the United States? Compared to that reality, every piece of misinformation exposed in this book is anticlimactic. And this in a country that produced Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov and nurtured Albert Einstein!
The book's account of post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning echoes a personal experience. A career postal worker once assured me that, since most heroin addicts previously smoked marijuana, therefore smoking marijuana causes heroin addiction. I responded that virtually all heroin addicts previously ate mashed potatoes, so according to his reasoning, eating mashed potatoes causes heroin addiction. He totally failed to grasp that, if two arguments are parallel, falsifying either one falsifies the other. The example cited by the authors of 50 Great Myths is that most serial killers previously ate cereal.
Typos are rare. I detected only one (p. 96) that a computer spell-check should have caught, and two others (pp. 13, 85) that a closer proofreading might have spotted.
The authors state in the preface (p. xvi), "Laypersons interested in learning more about psychology will find the book to be an invaluable and user-friendly resource.. we modestly believe that this book should be recommended (dare we say required?) reading for all journalists, writers, educators, and attorneys whose work touches on psychological topics."
First the bad news. Laypersons interested in learning the truth about psychology should read the definitive exposes of the subject by Thomas Szasz and Robert Baker, not a book by persons who think that psychology is more scientific than tealeaf reading.
The good news is that, despite the authors' belief in the legitimacy of one pseudoscience, their book should indeed be required reading for journalists, writers and educators whose endorsement of the myths that this book annihilates helps keep the myths alive and contributes significantly to the dumbing of the human species. It is no more likely to have an immediate effect on incurable believers in urban myths than the books of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris had on incurable believers in the god myth. But as Max Planck observed, "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." 50 Great Myths will increase the likelihood that the next generation is less ignorant than the current one.
Nonsense on Stilts
University of Chicago Press
5801 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago IL 60637
9780226667850, $70.00, www.amazon.com
Even a cursory perusal of Massimo Pigliucci's opening pages was sufficient to explain why Nonsense on Stilts was published by the University of Chicago Press rather than Prometheus Books. While Prometheus's review process is as stringent as any purely-academic publisher, and only a handful of truly dreadful or disinformative titles (Secrets of the Amazing Kreskin; You Don't Have to be a Buddhist to Know Nothing) have ever got past the usually discriminating editors, Prometheus is faced with the unending problem of any publisher, that of staying in business, and therefore has no option but to prioritize the bottom line. U of C Press, in contrast, has the financial backing of the university, and accordingly focuses on books aimed at such a narrow audience that they are likely to be incomprehensible to any reader not in the same specialization. They consequently consider a book that sells a thousand copies a spectacular success. That is not to say that Pigliucci does not direct his arguments at non-specialists or even non-academics, or that he fails to make his case. Rather his book, "Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk" is a conglomeration of (accurate) information that only a graduate thesis examiner would feel a need to know.
In the last chapter Pigliucci asks (p. 279), "Why should you trust anything you've read so far in this book? Certainly not because it is printed in black on white, as there are plenty of books out there that are not worth the paper they are printed on.. It isn't enough that I have a Ph.D. after my name, since Michael Behe of Lehigh University also has one, and yet he would have you believe that astrology and intelligent design are legitimate sciences." Pigliucci's naming Behe as the poster boy for the conclusion that possession of a Ph.D. does not necessarily indicate possession of a functioning human brain was no random choice. He devotes several pages to Behe's role in attempting to validate the long-discredited jury verdict in the Scopes monkey trial of 1925 when it was replayed in Dover, Pennsylvania in 2004, and the Dover trial did to Behe what Clarence Darrow did to William Jennings Bryan. He describes Behe (p. 185), as "perhaps the most disastrous player at the Dover trial.. he admitted that by his criterion of science, intelligent design is on the same footing as astrology.. What is really astounding is that these buffoons actually have gotten as far as having their day in court." But he does not settle for showing that supporters of intelligent design are buffoons (an ad hominem argument at best). He makes clear (p. 91) that, "There is no scientific controversy about evolution versus creationism, and the fact that half of the American public rejects the scientific findings in this area is an interesting, and worrisome, social phenomenon, but certainly not a measure of scientific uncertainty!"
Pigliucci tends to make his points by citing earlier writers and evaluating their conclusions. For example, he cites philosopher Karl Popper, and writes (p. 2), "We all know of perfectly good examples of science, say physics or chemistry, and Popper identified some exemplary instances of pseudoscience to compare them with. Two of those he considered in some detail are Marxist theories of history and Freudian psychoanalysis.. Popper claimed that theories like Freudianism and Marxism were unscientific because they were 'unfalsifiable.'" Pigliucci raises many objections to the necessity of strict falsifiability to qualify a practice as scientific. But he does appear to agree with my own thinking, that Marxism and psychoanalysis are pseudosciences because they do not work.
Pigliucci raises the much-debated question, "Is evolutionary psychology a pseudoscience?" He explains (p. 41) that, "Evolutionary psychology is the most current incarnation of what started out as sociobiology, a branch of evolutionary theory aimed at explaining the behavior of animals (and in particular humans) as a result of evolutionary processes, especially natural selection." He describes the inventor of sociobiology, Edward O. Wilson, as "a first rate student of social insects," but either ignores or is unaware that, for sociobiology to be a useful contribution to human knowledge, the sciences with which it is incompatible, such as biology, anthropology, genetics, paleontology, history, and several others, must be incompetent hogwash. He appears to recognize that Stephen J. Gould's denunciation of the new pseudoscience was both accurate and justified; yet he accuses Gould of "behavior that borders on the unethical" for writing two reviews of Wilson's book. That Gould might have been writing for two different audiences, and saw the need to warn both against Wilson's incompetent masturbation fantasies, apparently did not cross his mind. He asks, "is evolutionary psychology a legitimate branch of evolutionary biology, or does it approximate more the status of a pseudoscience?" Having missed the aforementioned incompatibility problem, his rambling attempt to answer that question is best described as space-filling. He should have simply advised Wilson to stick to ants, a subject in which he does know what he is talking about.
Pigliucci also recognizes that, in labeling science and religion "non-overlapping magisteria," Gould violated the same logical procedures that he recognized as indefensible in Wilson. Not only do scientists reject NOMA when religion makes claims that science can falsify. So do religionists (p. 126): "It is precisely because most religions blatantly violate NOMA as a matter of principle that we have a problem: pretty much all the world's religions do include as a fundamental component of their creed some 'creation story,' that is, an account of how the world (and human beings) came about." He summarizes (p. 127), "Gould's rather Solomonic solution to the science-religion issue, therefore, doesn't stand up to scrutiny because it is based on an overly simplistic understanding of both science and religion."
Pigliucci rejects the claim that researchers should refuse to investigate any theory that might lead to a politically-incorrect conclusion. He cites (pp. 46-47) the arguments of Jared Diamond that both the genetic and geographic explanations for ultimate causality in human history are unlikely. "The genetic explanation says that, to put it bluntly, the Spanish conquered the Inca rather than the opposite for the simple reason that Europeans are intellectually superior to South Americans.. Diamond finds the genetic hypothesis appallingly racist, but of course that is entirely irrelevant to its validity: if there were demonstrable and significant genetic differences in the intellectual capacities of different groups of humans it would be simply irrational (and profoundly antiscientific) to deny them. The bottom line is, however, that we have no credible evidence that such group differences exist."
Diamond's pontificating that the possibility of genetic inequality of races should not be investigated tells me (but not necessarily Pigliucci) that Diamond is himself a racist, terrified that his suppressed belief that races are unequal might be proven accurate. Different levels of performance are a proven reality. Jumping to the conclusion that environmental factors do not explain the difference is unscientific. A comparison of the average measured I.Q. of white male adults in San Francisco and white male adults in regions that voted to make Sarah Palin Vice President would show the same difference between the two groups as the non-randomized testing of blacks versus whites from unequal social and economic environments that have been obtained in the past. The factor disqualifying such research was not the test results themselves, but the non-sequitur conclusion that the measured difference in scores was genetic rather than environmental.
In discussing the dangers of pseudoscience, Pigliucci mentions (p. 56) the "strong correlation between cold dips in climate in Europe and witch hunting." He cites a story from an Italian newspaper about fifteen women in Kenya, at a time of an unwanted environmental event, being accused of being witches and burned at the stake. He goes on to describe a radio interview in Knoxville (p. 59) in which the host asked him, "so what if people believe in pseudoscience or are superstitious? Who are they hurting anyway?" His response is, "Ask the fifteen women burned to death in Kenya, to begin with." He might have added, "Ask the fifteen million victims of the Inquisition," but perhaps he is himself sufficiently infested with political correctness to consider religion off-limits.
Pigliucci effectively rebut's Jared Diamond's contention that history is not scientific, since it has no predictive value. Certainly no historian can predict whether there is any way to avoid a nuclear war between the civilized world and the world of fanatic rugbutters. But (p. 53), "making predictions is possible for historical science, as long as one understands 'prediction' to indicate the formulation of hypotheses that can be tested by uncovering new data."
After citing the inflexibility of global-warming deniers, he continues (p. 57), "While not often lethal, faulty thinking about how the world works can hurt plenty. People can be swindled out of significant sums of money by practitioners of 'alternative' medicine (alternative to what? to practices based on evidence?), can make really bad decisions about their lives if they listen to an astrologer, and can be taken advantage of emotionally and financially by 'psychics' who claim that they will put them in touch with loved ones who have died." He then proceeds to discuss (pp. 57-58) "various aspects of pseudoscience, from the new AIDS denialism to more canonical beliefs in astrology, parapsychology, and UFOs." He cites a truck driver in Durban who, despite not having a medical degree, opened a "HIV and AIDS clinic" under the name "Dr. Gwala," and attracted "hundreds of people every day and equally certainly condemning them to death by their fateful choice of magic over science."
Pigliucci identifies astrology as (p. 62), "an almost perfect example of pseudoscience, because its claims can in fact be tested, have been tested repeatedly and shown to be wrong, and yet people continue the practice." That the same is true of "prayer," he chooses not to mention. He recognizes the role of statistically-illiterate Dr Joseph Rhine in perpetuating the parapsychology myth by interpreting hundreds of equal-to-chance test results as better-than chance, and acknowledges (p. 82) that, "Rhine, to his credit, also tried to have his results duplicated by other laboratories. but to no avail: researchers at [five universities] tried, but they could not get any significant evidence of paranormal phenomena." But because Rhine refused to identify fraudsters whom he caught cheating, "there is an unknown number of published papers in the literature that claim paranormal effects while in fact they were the result of conscious deception." He concludes the chapter (p. 83), "We hear repeated calls from ufologists, parapsychologists, psychics and astrologers to keep an open mind.. But as astronomer Carl Sagan aptly put it, you do not want to keep your mind so open that your brain is likely to fall out."
On the UFO delusion he writes (p. 70), "I have to make clear that a typical defense of ufologists is that no matter how hard the skeptics try, they have not succeeded in explaining all of the alleged UFO and alien sightings. Of course not. This is precisely the same logical fallacy that we will see underlie the Intelligent Design creationist movement: the idea is to shift the burden of proof from the person who makes the extraordinary claim (to whom such burden logically belongs) to the person who simply asks for the evidence before accepting the belief. This error is pernicious because it is common not only in pseudoscience, but in political and everyday discourse."
In discussing a 1986 event in which a Japanese rocket was seen by thousand of observers in North America and misidentified as a UFO, Pigliucci summarizes (p. 71), "Thousands of people are unlikely to all be lying at the same time, which means that something real happened that night; but equally obviously, thousands of inexperienced observers of the sky can be wrong about what they are actually seeing. This by itself goes a long way toward explaining most UFO cases."
Pigliucci shares my view of the Vast Wasteland when he writes (p. 85), "I always found the concept of 'reality TV' rather self-contradictory, and I must admit that I have never been taken by any of the many popular shows of this type that have appeared at a breathless pace during the past several years." He cites as a particularly egregious example of the genre an Australian TV network's search for "Australia's top psychic. Since I don't believe there is such a thing as a psychic, this promises to be the quintessentially oxymoronic reality show: one about a reality that does not, in fact, exist."
Pigliucci indicates (p. 211), "I do not wholly subscribe to what is sometime scornfully referred to as 'the great men theory of history,' according to which major historical turns occurred because particular individuals see much further than their contemporaries and push things forcefully in a given direction." But he then cites Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, and Charles Darwin, whose effect on future history should not be downplayed. I personally attach more legitimacy to the "great men" theory than Pigliucci (or the "economic historian" I vetoed as one of my M.A. thesis examiners) does, but that does not mean that he is wrong. And I am on his side about practically everything else. Notwithstanding its detailed trivia (from the perspective of the average reader), Nonsense on Stilts has much to say that can be recommended.
The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails
John W. Loftus, editor
59 John Glenn drive, Amherst NY 14228-2119
9781616141684, $21.00, www.amazon.com
Reading this collection of essays by authors whose expertise (other than Robert Price) is in some field other than biblical history, I found myself constantly assuaging my irritation by reminding myself that they were rebutting Christian apologetics by theoretically accepting the assumption of believers that, "If the King James Version was good enough for Jesus and the apostles, it's good enough for me." Nonetheless, I shuddered every time I encountered situations where they were arguing from a perspective that was historically indefensible, and quoting mistranslations as if they were accurate. Consider the following:
"Jesus of Nazareth" (p. 323). John Loftus may be unaware that there was no village named Nazareth until many decades after Jesus' death. But any philologist could have told him that Iesous Nazoraios and Iesous Nazarenos were sectarian, not geographic, titles that could not possibly be translated as "of nazareth." Instead of endorsing a mistranslation, he could have adhered to the book's policy of rebutting believers on their own terms by substituting "Jesus of Galilee."
"the predicted prophet 'like unto Moses'" (p. 327). Admittedly Loftus is quoting the passage in connection with a NT passage. But he acknowledges that the original source was Deuteronomy 18:18. In showing that the passage was not a prophecy of Jesus, he might have taken time to explain that the author of Deuteronomy was Jeremiah, and the "prophet like unto Moses" prophesied by Jeremiah was-Jeremiah!
"speaking in tongues-so much, in fact, that outsiders thought they were lunatics" (p. 300). Is Richard Carrier unaware that "speaking in tongues" is a mistranslation of "speaking foreign languages"? The gospel authors did not accuse the disciples of speaking the gibberish that evangelicals call "speaking in tongues."
In referring to the biblical attitude toward slavery (p. 218), Hector Avalos makes clear that "servant" in authorized bibles is a falsification of "slave." Yet instead of quoting from a correct translation, he quotes a church translation, "Servants, be submissive to your masters." Why?
"Peter, the first Pope" (p. 194). Loftus questions whether the "rock" on which Jesus was to build his church was Peter or Peter's theology. Is he unaware that the passage about Peter being "the rock" was interpolated into Matthew centuries after Peter's death? Is he unaware that the first pope was Siricius, (384-399), who created the papacy by unilaterally claiming that his four co-equal popes were henceforth his subordinates? Is he unaware that Peter was never bishop of Rome, a city he never visited in his life?
As irritating as those imperfections are, they do not detract from the book's overall accuracy and usefulness as a rebuttal of the Christian delusion. Consider some passages more representative of the book's overall message:
"brainwashed people do not know that they have been brainwashed" (p. 20).
"One of the great mysteries is why, despite the best arguments against it, religion survives. After all, every argument in support of religion has been shown to be inconclusive or demonstrably false. Yet religion persists" (p. 25).
"Christianity is rich with terminology that often has no correlate in other religions, such as 'god,' 'heaven,' 'sin,' 'angel,'. and so on." (p. 33).
"All told, by some estimates, there are as many as thirty-eight thousand sects and denominations of Christianity in the world today.. Many Christians deny that Mormons are Christians" (pp. 43-44).
"Today in India, for example, evangelical missionaries are much more likely to target Hindus than Sikhs or Muslims who would have to immediately abandon their primary religion in order to embrace the idea of Jesus as a god" (p. 49).
"Members of a Southwestern United States evangelical cult who retreated into a bomb shelter to avoid a predicted imminent nuclear apocalypse went on to believe, after it didn't occur, that it did not take place because of their prayers" (p 72).
"If an intelligent, rational group of people who were never exposed to the idea of religion were asked to become experts in the history of the ancient Near East, the unanimous consensus of the group would be that the Bible is bunk" (p. 76).
"While it's true there are still plenty of highly intelligent people who are religious, we should ask ourselves why this is so. The best answer . comes from [Michael] Shermer . 'Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons'" (p. 77).
"What else can explain why there is still a Mormon church even though DNA evidence now shows that Native Americans did not come from the Middle East, as the Mormon Bible claims?" (p. 83).
"In light of the preponderance of evidence presented here, it's clear that the Bible is a product of the prescientific period in which it originated" (p. 132).
"It has long been known that the story of the great Flood told in Genesis chapters 6-9 is a scientific impossibility" (p. 151). Paul Tobin does not mention that the total meltdown of the polar icecaps would not raise ocean levels sufficiently to reach the top of the Empire State Building, let alone the top of Mount Everest, since fundamentalists would have no difficulty rationalizing that evaporation of the surplus water into space could explain where it went. Instead he cites evidence that cannot be rationalized away, even though incurables have made attempts to do so.
"From his description of Herod, it is quite obvious that Josephus hated him.. Yet nowhere in Josephus's works do we find any mention of this massacre [of Bethlehem infants]. This silence speaks volumes, for he should have been in a position to know, and he would have had every reason to tell the story if he had known about it. But he said nothing" (p. 159).
"The Bible is filled with so many diametrically opposite viewpoints that if they were present in a human being we would probably label that person bipolar or, even worse, schizophrenic.. The Bible contains prophecies that were faked (i.e., made after the fact) and prophecies that failed" (pp. 168-169).
"I call [Michael] Behe's 'irreducible complexity' argument fraudulent because it was refuted long before he made it" (p. 279).
"Just read the resurrection accounts yourself . and you'll see far too many contradictions to plausibly reconcile" (p. 294).
"Hitler's holocaust, rather than a result of some form of Darwinist atheism, is actually the most tragic consequence of a long history of Christian anti-Judaism and racism. Nazism follows principles of killing people for their ethnicity enunciated in the Bible" (p. 369).
"The fact that Hitler saw what he was doing as a continuation of Catholic policy is confirmed by a conversation he had on April 26, 1933.. the following statement by Hitler in Mein Kampf is most relevant: 'by defending myself against the Jews, I am fighting for the work of the Lord'" (p. 375).
"This new idea that Christianity was not only responsible but necessary for the rise of modern science is certainly delusional.. I think people unmoved by the evidence in this chapter are not just delusional, but off their rocker. None of the premises on which this delusion is based are true" (p. 412).
A review excerpted on the back cover says, "Forget Dawkins. If you are looking for a truly substantial, well-informed criticism of the Christian religion, this is your book." That is not a legitimate comparison. Dawkins' refutation of the god delusion remains unequalled. Unlike Loftus, Dawkins did not focus on Christianity. But let us not forget that falsifying religion automatically falsifies Christianity. Loftus and his co-authors do it well. Dawkins did it best.
Dr. Jason Long
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100
Lincoln NE 68512
8780595341825 $,17.95, www.amazon.com
Jason Long acknowledges at the beginning of his book (p. 4), "You're not holding an exhaustive scholarly study into the issues covered, but rather a brief introduction to the facts we have and analyses we can make concerning pertinent biblical issues.. If you already consider yourself a biblical scholar, you probably won't find any groundbreaking or earth-shattering ideas in this book." Unlike many other writers who venture into territory outside of their expertise (None of Dr. Long's degrees is in history or any subject that involves documentary analysis), he sets the bar sufficiently low that his occasional errors do not detract from his generally praiseworthy results. While I found nothing new, "doubting Christians" will encounter an overwhelming amount of information falsifying the Jesus delusion that they do not know-or they would have cease to be Christians.
As to why he wrote a book that says nothing to scholars, Long explains (p. 1), "People often ask me why I spend a great deal of time denouncing and disproving the Bible. Although I can't offer an exact reason, my passion is probably driven by the salient danger created by Christianity and its subsequent influence on nearly two billion people every day. While the evil forces of certain deceitful religions have somewhat subsided in more recent times, the hatred inadvertently generated by these belief systems remains the greatest threat to humankind's continued existence."
I have one quibble with that passage. Since Long repeats the same inaccuracy elsewhere (p. 106), I can only assume that he buys into the religious propaganda that there are two billion Christians worldwide. He should read Living Without God, by Ronald Aronson, whose accurate analysis of professional surveys leads to the conclusion that there are only 1.1 billion Christians (the RC church claims more than that just for itself), 1.0 billion Moslems, and 2.2 billion nontheists. But Long's warning that religion threatens humankind's continued existence is one I heartily endorse. I have been trying to tell the world for more than a decade that either humankind must exterminate religion before the point of no return that I estimate as 2150 CE, or religion will exterminate humankind before 2250 CE.
Since what Long gets wrong is less important than what he gets right, I will get it out of the way first. His statement (p. 7) that, "The early spread of Christianity is almost entirely attributed to the Apostle Paul," is accurate. But it ignores the reality that Paul invented Christianity-as a gentile religion that Jesus the Jew would assuredly have repudiated as a pagan, infidel superstition. Paul did not invent the religion of "Jesus the god." The anonymous author of the fourth gospel did that seventy years after Paul's death. But Paul did invent the religion of "Jesus the king," crediting Jesus with essentially the same role Islam later assigned to Mohammed.
(p. 62): Long's discussion of the bible's flat-earth cosmography makes mistakes that are irrelevant to the point he is stressing, but nonetheless detract from his credibility. His dating of Pythagoras to 600 BCE can be pardoned as an approximation. But dating Aristotle to 500 BCE while simultaneously dating Plato to 400 BCE indicates an unawareness that Plato was Aristotle's teacher.
(p. 97): "Let's begin by considering the adultery law. While cheating on a spouse is certainly one of the most selfish acts a person can commit, being unfaithful is nothing deserving of death." I would be in complete agreement with that assertion-if Lane was discussing adultery as it was defined by the author of the biblical commandment and continued to be defined when Sir Thomas Mallory showed Lancelot and Guinevere copulating but avoiding adultery by practising coitus interruptus, as a prohibition of fraudulent impregnation that robbed a man of his right to pass on his inheritance to his legitimate heirs. But despite his being cured of religion, Long remains brainwashed by the delusion that a victimless act can be reprehensible simply because an imaginary god's dead scriptwriter is (incorrectly) is believed to have said so. Does he throw a cloth over his television set so that no one else can watch it when he is not at home? Treating non-consequential copulation as intrinsically "selfish" or "unfaithful" is tantamount to the same thing.
(p. 158): "God doesn't want anyone to boil a young goat in its mother's milk. If you're going to boil a young goat in milk, is it that much more deviant to do it in its mother's milk? Why is an eternal, omnipotent god concerned with such trivial and outdated matters?" That would be a legitimate question if biblical historians had not long ago ascertained the answer. The surrounding Phoenician tribes boiled kids in their mothers' milk as an act of worship to the goat-god Samael. That was why the fanatically henotheist author of Deuteronomy denied Jews permission to do the same thing.
(p. 188): "Pope Clement I alluded to the blood of Christ in 101 CE." The Clement referred to may well have been an early, perhaps even the first, bishop of Rome. But retroactively designating him "Pope" only happened after the creation of the papacy in 384 CE, when bishop Siricius promoted himself from one of five co-equal popes to "Pope" by unilaterally decreeing that the popes of Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople and Alexandria were his subordinates.
(p. 9): "Jesus prophesied his own return within the lifetime of certain individuals who personally witnessed his miracles." Since a "miracle" is defined as an event that cannot happen, obviously Jesus performed no miracles and nobody saw him perform any. And while Jesus prophesied that persons listening to him preach would next see him at the head of an army of sky fairies who would drive out the Romans, the way Long uses the word "return" suggests that he thinks Jesus prophesied his own death and second coming. He did not. Jesus was so convinced that he was the prophesied "messiah" whose destiny was to reestablish Jewish independence, that he believed he could never die, or at least not die until he had accomplished his task and founded a dynasty. Long repeats his error (p. 169) when he writes, "The most condemning of such prophetic statements were his predictions of a return to earth during the long-passed era that he designated."
Long is aware that bibles contain only two kinds of prophecies: those that failed, and those that had already been fulfilled before the "prophecy" was composed. He declares (p. 165) that, "Matthew 21:22 is Jesus' most damaging statement against the legitimacy of the Christian faith. He says, 'And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive' ... That statement is undeniably false, and we can easily demonstrate it as such."
Long tackles the absurdity of the Christian god having the oxymoronic quality of omnipotence, by asking if the god could create a drink so hot that he could not drink it. I once encountered a believer who responded to whether his god could create a rock so heavy that he could not lift it, by stating in all seriousness that the god could decree that it be so heavy that he could not lift it. A better question, one that no believer to my knowledge has attempted to answer in the affirmative, is whether it could create a number that is more than ten but less than nine, or a triangle with four sides, as an omnipotent god could do.
Long recognizes that even the most brainwashed godworshippers are unintentionally so, and as such are deserving of understanding. He writes (p. 4), "Regardless of the actions such religious people take, I could never deem them evil because I understand that they're victims of an unfortunate destiny misleading them down a path of ignorance and unwitting gullibility." As a recovered godworshipper, I am aware that I was indeed a victim of unwitting gullibility. But even at the height of my affliction with the god delusion, I never committed any religion-inspired act that hurt another person, and I strongly suspect that the same is true of Long. So do I see enforcers of theofascism as "not evil"? For Osama bin Laden and Joseph Ratzinger, definitely not. Even in a world devoid of religion, such men would still be self-serving mobsters. For lesser hurters, such as brainwashed zombies who picket (but do not bomb!) abortion clinics, let us say that the jury is still out.
Some of Long's points are so demonstrably provable that only the incurably Manchurian Candidate-ized continue to dispute them. For example (p. 22), "An intelligent person with a low level of Christian influence has the best chance of leaving the religion at a young age, whereas an unintelligent person with a high level of influence is almost certain to remain within the church for life.. Nearly three-fourths of all studies since the 1920s that investigated a correlation between intelligence and religious affiliation have found that the proportion of atheists, agnostic individuals, and deists increased dramatically as you move up the scale in school grades, exam scores, and IQ tests.. zero reviews suggested that people in organized religions are more intelligent than those with secular beliefs."
Among the "101 reasons why Noah's story does not float," Long includes (p. 47), "Within the story, we have a god who has to modify virtually all of his creations for the solely expressed reason of the people having become wicked and evil, yet wicked and evil people continue to exist throughout the Bible. Right off the bat, the foundation for the story fails to make sense."
(p. 85): "I firmly believe that the Hebrew god is the most evil character of all times. Starting with the book of Genesis, we learn that he's an insanely angry deity. Of the many atrocities committed in the Old Testament, God is usually the sole participator."
(p. 197): "The Hebrew god is a loathsome, despiteful and abominable deity. The Old Testament portrays him as a being that experiences pleasure from distributing strange and ridiculous punishments for breaking his equally strange and ridiculous laws." Experiences pleasure from hurting people? Isn't that the definition of a sadist? Long is not alone in reaching such a conclusion. I consistently describe the entity mistranslated as "God" in English bibles as the most sadistic, evil, insane serial killer in all fiction. And Richard Dawkins has written that, "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction . megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." But no one needs to take Dawkins' word for it, or mine, or Long's. All a god addict has to do to see that we are right is read the Bible.
"Biblical Nonsense: A Review of the Bible for Doubting Christians" contains information about the composition of the Torah that in all likelihood came from Richard Elliot Friedman's Who Wrote the Bible? But Long shows no indication of having read the works of Robert Price or Bart Ehrman, probably competent biblical scholarship's most successful authors. He should do so. He should also read the even more accurate, God, Jesus and the Bible: The Origin and Evolution of Religion (by guess who?).
As aforementioned, Long has nothing useful to say to someone who considers himself a biblical scholar. But for his target market of "doubting Christians," if this book does not cure them, they are probably incurable.
175 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10010
9780765317872, $24.95, www.amazon.com
"Mars Life" is a very depressing book. Ben Bova's delineation of the rise to absolute power of the "New Morality" is terrifyingly close to what is currently happening in the real world, and raises serious doubts that the Religious Right's determination to bring back the good old days of the Inquisition can be stopped.
A priest who is also a scientists travels to Mars in an attempt to show the world that science is not incompatible with a metaphorical interpretation of biblical myths, and has a heart attack. Can anyone dispute that the fictitious fundamentalists' interpretation of such a coincidence is a mirror image of the lunatic fringe's response to such natural disasters as hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis?
There is no equivalent of Robert Heinlein's "First Prophet" in Bova's nightmare world. But the Falwells, the Coulters, the Huckabees, the Palins and the Clintonesses (despite no Bova character having a one-to-one resemblance to any real person) are easily identifiable. At first glance, the New Morality's attempt to suppress the discovery that there had once been intelligent life on Mars, on the ground that such information was incompatible with a literal interpretation of Genesis, may seem so far fetched as to be absurd. In fact it differs from the Religious Right's attempt to suppress the discovery that the universe is billions of years old and that humans and other animals evolved from a common ancestor only in the details. The attempt to purge all science from school curricula is only half a degree removed from what is happening to science textbooks in Texas at this (2010) moment.
"Mars Life" is indeed depressing, and if I had not read Bova's two earlier books in the series, which assumed the existence of the New Morality but did not place it front and center, and developed an interest in the series' Navaho hero's fate, I might not have been able to finish reading it. But I am glad I did, and I recommend that anyone who has not done so read Bova's Mars novels in the order they were written. He is indeed one of the giants.
Finnish American Rag Rugs - Art, Tradition, and Ethnic Community
Yvonnne R. Lockwood
Michigan State U. Press
East Lansing, MI
9780870138645 $29.95 msupress.msu.edu
"Conservativism and dynamism are two powerful forces pulling at the traditions of [Finnish] rag rug weaving...Over time, Finnish American rag rugs have changed in size, content, appearance, and function from those made by the immigrant generation." Lockwood, a Michigan folklife museum curator and author of books on Michigan folklife, covers the origins, evolution, and present of this distinctive folk art tradition practiced mostly on Michigan's upper peninsula. The style of much of the book is like oral history as the content is based on interviews with rag rug weavers with nearby photographs of them holding a rug of theirs. Most of the weavers are women, though there are enough men so this is not unusual. Lockwood also goes into techniques and equipment for the rug-making, especially the all-important loom, with respective photographs.
The Finnish rugs have changed "in size, content, appearance, and function from those made by the immigrant generation" of the earlier 1800s. The larger rugs often made up of narrower rugs sewn together covering entire room floors have given way to scatter rugs. Rugs from the modern era also make use of modern fabrics such as polyesters, brightly-colored cottons, and subtly-colored pastels. Even plastic bread wrappers have been used by some weavers in the innovation constantly going on within the bounds of the tradition. Today, some rag rugs are made specifically as products for folk art collectors and mementos for visitors to Michigan.
Lockwood's book is comprehensive and learned. With its balance between academic-like historical and ethnic material and material for popular interest in a colorful tradition and its craft, it appeals to varied types of readers.
The Vatican Secret Archives
9789088810077 $99.50 www.vdhbooks.com
In a foreword, Cardinal Farina who oversees the famed Vatican archives writes that the presentation of the documents in this book "create[s] a harmonious relation between knowledge and curiosity, on the one hand helping to discover the unknown and the surprise of a portrayed representation and on the other its luminosity and beauty." This is achieved by expert photographs of the varied documents going back over centuries against a black background. Each document sharply photographed against such a background stands out so that it seems almost tactile and its details of calligraphy, marginalia, decoration, seals, and when present, its color are readily gleaned. Lengthy annotations to each relate the background of its composition, its historical or religious significance often including quotes, and its material (e. g., vellum).
"An illustrated publication on the Vatican Secret Archives is not a novelty," the Cardinal also writes. Nonetheless, this publication stands out because of its incomparable photography emphasizing the uniqueness of each document and its authoritative, well-focused annotations. Readers coming new to the field of historical manuscripts and documents will understand the enthusiasm among collectors for not only their historical significance, but also their unique aesthetic qualities. Collectors of similar documents available through dealers or auctions can pore through the photographs for familiarity with touches such as calligraphic flourishes or stamps that increase the desirability of a document.
Front matter explains that the term "secret" for the Papal archives is related to the Latin derivation for "secretary" as someone in a position of trust often making up documents for a Pope, as with "secretarial documents". Though translated "secret" in English, the term in this sense implies "personal" or "private." While regarded as "private archives of the pope," most are made available to scholars with a good reason for seeing particular ones. Every year about 1,500 scholars do study documents in a reading room or internal library. The archives now have a laboratory for photography and digital reproduction, computer databases and operations, and administrative services connected to them.
This publication on the Vatican Secret Archives is an ideal gift for any book or ephemera lover. An art and coffee-table book offering moments of visual treats when opened to any page, it is also a work to be referred to again and again by the serious collector and the scholar for the knowledge to be gained.
The Most Beautiful Wine Cellars in the World
edited by Astrid Fobelets, Jurgen Lijcops, and Janneke Sinot
9789088810152 $89.50 www.vdhbooks.com
Many of the nearly 60 wine cellars photographed are found in the renowned wine regions of Europe--France, Italy, and Germany. But there are also many of this appreciable number from regions which have not been known as wine-growing regions for centuries, but which nonetheless have come to be established as regions producing desirable wines for wine lovers around the world.
The book on wine cellars made up largely of photographs of them brings in both the old and the new. Among the newer areas are the United States and Canada, Lebanon, and China too. Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Monaco are among European areas brought in which have not been traditionally identified as areas associated with fine wines. And as wine cellars is the topic, the wines cellars of outstanding hotels expands the geographical area even more; though most of the hotels are in cities or regions with ties to the modern international wine trade. There are also photographs of wine cellars of private homes, one cellar containing more than 80,000 bottles in six cellars throughout the home. This variety of cellars brings a new perspective on the subject of wine to many readers. One sees that for some wine collectors and connoisseurs, wine can be like fine art.
The sequence of the wine cellars from older to newer roughly follows both the geographical spread of the development of new wine areas and interest in wine and also the development of wine cellars. Each cellar is introduced with a short essay on its origin, history, size, etc. It is the photographs especially though which highlight such developments in the field of wine and wine cellars. Catacomb-like ancient wine cellars have kegs of wine and wine bottles stacked one on top of the other in rows in recesses of tunnel-like or cavernous areas. Seen in some photographs is the dust accumulated on the old bottles. Later and modern-day wine cellars have better lighting, clearer organization, designer compartments and fixtures, wood and metal construction, and in some cases art work and furniture. Modern cellars are meant to be showcases as well as practical in that particular wines can readily be found for showing or use, not simply the storage areas for the keeping and maturation of wine of the early wine cellars. Despite the marked differences in styles over the centuries, the proper storage of wine involving temperature, ventilation, light, and other factors remains the same. Wine cellars old and modern allow for these essential considerations.
Brought into wine cellars they would never otherwise see, readers come into contact with the romance of wine from the artful photographs. The photographs also allow architects and interior designers to get ideas for cellars. Most broadly, the book makes an outstanding gift book for any wine lover.
WOW: A Handbook for Living
Zen Ohashi and Zono Kurazono
One Peace Books
57 Great Jones Street, New York, NY 10012
9780978508487 $14.95 www.onepeacebooks.com
Zentaro "Zen" Ohashi is a successful entrepreneur who has taken his savvy business strategies and interpersonal skills and formed a new venture - the management coach. He has become one of the most sought-after speakers and consultants who has worked with many Japanese companies as well as Exxon-Mobil, Johnson & Johnson, British Airways, and Canon. Ohashi partnered with Zono Kurazono, a well-known Japanese singer/songwriter and guitarist, who now operates JOYWOW, his own consulting firm, to write WOW: A Handbook for Living.
This deceptively little book (only 168 pages) is a graphically-rich book full of simple wisdom that can be applied to any relationship or business, larger or small. The techniques Ohashi and Kurazono present are essential for attaining happiness in one's work and personal life. These tools are pro-active that can help readers learn how to listen to others, how to inspire goals and create follow-through, and how to solve problems.
The information presented is written in clear language, though I did have to rethink a one of their concepts: the difference between serious and smooth personalities. What they meant by serious was the pessimistic personality and the smooth personality was more optimistic and pro-active.
Central to their philosophy are the three questions that you can ask (or have someone ask you) when you need to solve a problem. Those questions are worth their weight in diamonds.
One other technique that I found extremely helpful was to ask How? instead of Why? Though "why" questions help with understanding the process behind a situation (and can help prevent the problem from happening again), "how" questions push us forward to finding solutions.
WOW: A Handbook for Living is a great way to start working on yourself or your company. And then call in Ohashi and Kurazono for the deeper changes.
Connecting with Angels: Communicating with God's Messengers
Blake Cahoon has been talking to spirits since she was 12 and it is no surprise that she has had encounters with angels. Those experiences, however, happened later in her life at a pivotal moment when she needed help lost on a backcountry road late at night. She asked for help and her guardian angel Elijah spoke to her, showing her the way back to safety. That moment of asking is crucial to discovering your own angels and is repeated often in her short book, Connecting with Angels: Communicating with God's Messengers. Within its pages, Cahoon talks about angels throughout history, types of angels and what their duties are, and, most importantly, how to find your own angels. Cahoon presents proven exercises that she has used in her angel workshops that you can do at home to talk to your angels, find out their names, and ask them for help.
I found it curious that Cahoon combined genii, fairies, divas, elementals, sprites, and brownies with other angelic beings. Though I agree that these non-physical entities or beings can be messengers as angels are thought of (the word "angel" means "messenger"), some readers may find that explanation difficult to understand since angels have been relegated to the three major religions (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity). Also, some of these other non-physical entities or beings have a history of being difficult to work with or even down right nasty, particularly brownies and sprites. In addition, elementals and genii are very powerful beings that should be handled with respect and some knowledge.
Still, Connecting with Angels: Communicating with God's Messengers is a good beginning for people who want to learn to connect with angels. The techniques are solid and can help people make appropriate contact with spirit helpers. Cahoon's workshops and one-on-one consultations would be the next steps to going deeper into angel communication.
Project U.L.F.: Reacquisition (Book 2 in the U.L.F. Series)
Silver Leaf Books
P.O. Box 6460, Holliston, MA 01746
9780978778286 $19.95 http://www.silverleafbooks.com
When I reviewed Project U. L. F. a few years ago, I was very impressed with Stuart Clark's work. He had written a story about a team of expert trappers who went to alien worlds to find specimens for the Interplanetary Zoological Park (I.Z.P.) in Chicago. It was one of the best off-world adventures I've read in long time. So, I was eagerly awaiting the second book about these exotic animal trappers.
Project U.L.F.: Reacquisition does not disappoint, though its premise is very different. This time Wyatt Dorren, who once headed the U.L.F. team and left the risky but thrilling job when he married and had a family, returns to help Chris Gault, the current U.L.F. leader. An act of terrorism by the Alien Liberation League has shut down the containment fields and security systems of the Interplanetary Zoological Park and unleashed all of the exhibits onto the unsuspecting residents of a thriving urban center. Wyatt and Chris call in all of the U.L.F. trappers available. The U.L.F. is suffering from budget cuts and downsizing and results just a handful of weary trained trappers and sixteen raw recruits with equipment that is meant to work in wilderness areas, not with the electromagnetic interference of a big city. The trappers pursue these dangerous animals into urban rooftops, cellars, subways, and sewers, hoping to capture them and return them to confinement and not have to put them down.
One unique addition to their team is a blind woman with heightened abilities. She can sense where the more sentient alien creatures are located, making her a valuable asset but also an untried one in the heat of a capture.
The police department, meanwhile, is trying to protect a population that is growing hysterical as the alien creatures range farther into the city. These events, though, turn Detective Superintendent Ed Lieberwits' attention to a suspicious murder/suicide that happened at the Interplanetary Zoological Park five years before that he hasn't been able to let go of. He thinks that there's a connection somehow between the current crisis and what happened there five years before.
Project U.L.F.: Reacquisition is a creepy, well-crafted tale that will keep readers turning pages well into the night and will leave them sleeping with the light on. Stuart Clark's prose is dynamic and descriptive, his dialogue is crisp and lively, and his plotting is exquisitely detailed. He gets into the heads not only of the U.L.F. team but also into the heads of the police, of the aliens' victims, and even of the creatures themselves. It is a very rare gift that an author can do that so fluidly within a novel that is a sequence of little scenes and not just one chapter devoted to the good guy and one to the bad guy. Though I wanted to read this book quickly to find out what happens, I just had to savor passages and marvel at what I was reading.
Stuart Clark has Michael Crichton's ability to inject technical/scientific information without the reader being aware of it, but I think Clark does it with more finesse. Clark's pacing is also top notch.
Project U.L.F.: Reacquisition is a great read. Though it's listed on some bookstore sites as a YA title, it really is for adult readers as well. And, there will be more coming from this talented writer. Stuart Clark isn't finished with these characters or this concept yet.
My Life: A Workbook
One Peace Books
57 Great Jones Street, New York, NY 10012
9780978508494 $12.95 www.onepeacebooks.com
Psychotherapist Lyzz Yamazaki has written what could be the best book of self-discovery journaling I have ever seen. My Life: A Workbook, a little book (186 pages) that fits easily into even a small hand, asks 254 questions that probe deeply into life's most profound areas that not only will produce insightful answers but can reveal delightful memories and forgotten hopes and dreams. These questions dig into your personal experiences (what movies you like, what's convenient about your neighborhood, how much sleep you get, what are your favorite hangouts, where do you travel by yourself). From these questions, Yamazaki begins to guide the person journaling to explore more areas about themselves (what makes you happy, what makes you angry, childhood experiences, your ideal environment). The questions eventually move into friendship and love, money and goals.
Yamazaki often used pages of questions such as these in her work as a therapist. Her goal here, she says in an afterword, is to give readers a way to do the work she offers in her client sessions on their own. But she cautions that this can be difficult work and should not be whipped through as if trying to finish a final exam. The questions are designed to be attacked a few at a time, thoughtfully pondering the answers. This process can take a few days or even several months.
Ayumi Ishikawa's whimsical black-and-white ink drawings that are sprinkled throughout the book are a merging of early Edward Gorey and Patricia Coombs' Dorrie illustrations. They add a playful element to the process.
I found the book to be a useful tool for digging deeper. Most journaling that I have done and that of friends who journal can be insightful, but it is usually a response to the day's events. Oftentimes, it becomes a private gripe session. That has its place, but Yamazaki's approach is guided and structured to go from very easy questions to more difficult ones. She asks questions that don't just deal with the bad stuff in one's life but also the joys and dreams.
My Life: A Workbook is the best self-help journaling I've seen in years. Highly recommended.
A Journey, A Reckoning & A Miracle
9781846942068 $24.95 http://www.o-books.com
KJ Fraser's debut novel, A Journey, A Reckoning & A Miracle, is a must-read, especially for those readers who have been angered by current events. It is a side-splitting, tears-laden redemptive book involving three of the most unlikely characters. The first is young fundamentalist Christian Lucy who has just graduated early from high school and sets out on a journey through the middle of the country to sites of mass killings to pray for the dead. She thinks it will be her last act before The Rapture comes. Readers meet the second character, Judith, an African-American soldier who came back from the Iraq War missing her limbs and her sight, in her VA hospital bed. And, the third most unexpected character is George W. Bush, ex-president, struggling with retirement and visits from God in a variety of forms and nightmares of zombie-like injured war vets.
Fraser weaves all of their stories into a tapestry of miracles, insights, and personal struggles. The writing is rich and evocative but also has a black humor that will make readers laugh in spite of themselves. And the spiritual elements are unexpected and deeply moving - even to tears. Fraser's background as a psychiatrist is most telling in her handling of deep emotional crises and catharsis.
Though I was aligned with Fraser's political point of view before I cracked open this book, I found greater depth in the author's picking through the knots of tangled thinking and lies. A Journey, A Reckoning & A Miracle is a book about change and hope and tremendous courage.
KJ Fraser has written an epilogue to A Journey, A Reckoning & A Miracle that will be posted on her website sometime in 2010. See what happens after The End in the book at: http://www.jrmstory.com/epilogue.htm
Girl with Skirt of Stars
9781932636567 $19.95 http://www.pronghornpress.org 877 765-2979
Jennifer Kitchell"s debut novel, Girl with Skirt of Stars, launches a bright new talent. This book introduces Lilli Chischilly, a traditional native lawyer for the Navajo Nation's Historic Preservation Department. She is thrown into a political and cultural morass when a tribal leader puts her in a raft in the middle of the Colorado River with Presidential front-runner Lee, a Mormon, and his family. Lilli brings along Jerome Bah, a childhood friend who has been away from the reservations for many years and who wonders if he has forgotten how to be a Navajo. Lee wants to get Lilli's help in Washington to put yet another dam on the Colorado. Lilli is determined never to let that happen. Not only do Lilli and the other members of the expedition face the natural dangers of the river, but they are being stalked by a killer who wants to right a wrong done by John D. Lee, an ancestor of the political hopeful, who participated in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
Kitchell dips deep into Navajo mysticism as her predecessor Tony Hillerman has done. Carrying on his legacy, Kitchell has been able to expand Hillerman's understanding of native spirituality, providing a much more native-centric view. This was by far the best element of Girl with Skirt of Stars.
The author is able to draw realistic but unusual characters that readers will come to admire or revile. The plot is well developed and very unexpected. The ending is very unusual, though it made sense. The only question I had at the end was about the stalker with the vendetta. That may either be due to a parallel with Navajo justice or it may indicate another book in the works. Certainly, with this promising beginning, Kitchell should keep writing.
Steam & Cinders: The Advent of Railroads in Wisconsin, 1831-1861
Axel Lorenzsonn, author
Wisconsin Historical Society Press
816 State St., Madison, WI 53706
With rapt attention to detail, railroad enthusiast and historian Axel Lorenzsonn explores the politics, economics and characters that shaped the emergence of the first Wisconsin railroads in the three decades before the Civil War. In 304 pages that feel somewhat short on illustrations but are long on information, Lorenzsonn traces hopes for the first railroad in 1830s Wisconsin territory; the recession of 1837 to 1843 that stalled plans; and the explosion of track laying across the state in the late 1840s and 1850s. Particular care is taken to note the contributions of common people who bought railroad company stock and farmers who mortgaged their acreage to help. Some of those farmers paid the ultimate price, losing their farms as many railroads fell into bankruptcy in the economic depression of the late 1850s. What ultimately emerged from that 1850s economic downturn was a consolidation of railroad companies, creating some of the state's most well-known lines including the Chicago and North Western Railway and the Milwaukee and Minnesota Railroad. Lorenzsonn also looks intently at the men behind the early railroads, including early Milwaukee Mayor Byron Kilbourn and others whose determination to see tracks laid sometimes crossed unethical and even illegal bounds. There are also folksy tales of local depots rising across the state, great celebrations in town after town as the first engines steamed in, the emergence of the communities that got a rail stop and the descent into obscurity or disappearance of those that didn't and the first derailments and accidents. Ultimately, readers will cheer as trains finally connect Milwaukee with the Mississippi River, and major cities like Madison hook into the network. "Steam & Cinders" is not a quick read, with lots of names, financial details and a deep exploration of the politics that shaped the era. But taken slowly, it's a wonderfully memorable journey and an important contribution to Wisconsin history.
The Dust Bowl Through the Lens: How Photography Revealed and Helped Remedy a National Disaster.
Martin W. Sandler, author
Walker Publishing Company, Inc.
175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
Layout is key in "The Dust Bowl Through the Lens: How Photography Revealed and Helped Remedy a National Disaster." In his look at the southern Great Plains of the 1930s, author Martin Sandler largely lets the photos do the talking, with the text complimenting. The 96-page book consists of a long series of two-page spreads, each with one, full-page historical photo and a small inset wrapped by explanatory text. The text is neatly and accessibly organized with three or four long paragraphs for each spread. Sandler follows the emergence of the southern Plains as a wheat growing region in the 1800s; destructive farming practices that by the early 1930s had pulverized the topsoil to dust; the long drought of the 1930s that left once rich cropland parched and cracked and brought historically horrific dust storms; and the federal assistance and rain that finally rejuvenated the area. By the time the situation bettered many families had left for other locales like California, where they found migrant labor conditions not much better than what they had left behind. The photos are some of the most famous taken during the "Dust Bowl" era by photographers employed by President Franklin Roosevelt's Farm Security Administration. The photographers' socially conscious approach raised nationwide awareness of the plight of Plains residents, brought federal and other aid and eventually spurred soil conservation efforts that continue today. The photos are deeply human, capturing the strength, determination and spirit of adults and children who were down but determined not to be out. Some realized their only hope was to allow photographers into their lives, creating images that would resonate among wealthy East Coast viewers who might take an interest in their plight. Better focused than Sandler's previous, sometimes meandering "Lincoln Through the Lens" about photography in the era of Abraham Lincoln, "The Dust Bowl" is a concise, well-arranged, very readable primer on a decade-long environmental catastrophe that humans helped cause. The text is offered in a logical, not necessarily chronological order, transitioning easily from page to page. It is a thorough introduction to the era for those who want a brief overview and a good stepping off point for those interested in more in-depth study. Sandler includes a list of related books, websites and DVDs, including resources for children. "The Dust Bowl" is listed for readers age 12 and up.
Levi Pinfold, author and illustrator
Templar Books/Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
Exquisite art and an imaginatively original, wonderfully engaging story soar together in author/illustrator Levi Pinfold's debut picture book. Pinfold's emotive watercolors, which spread over one and sometimes two pages with occasional small insets, leap out in antiquely bold red, blue and green hues. Every page is awash in detail, from an early 20th Century European gypsy wagon with its paper lanterns and wooden wheels to a lush, fern-floored forest to a narrow, cobblestoned city streetscape. The story follows the exploits of a Django, a short, flat-nosed, wooden-like, exceptionally troublesome creature whose sudden appearance makes life miserable for a boy name Jean, the son of a travelling gypsy musician. Before the Django is finally banished it smashes Jean's father's banjo, spooks their horse, makes Jean call strangers unacceptable nicknames, forces Jean to dance a jig through a farmer's barnyard and ties everyone's shoes together at a gypsy gathering. "The Django" is a treasure, both textually and visually, by an immensely talented new artist and writer.
D.B. Johson, author and illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116
Inspired by the loopingly ingenious work of 20th Century Dutch artist M.C. Escher, author/ illustrator D. B. Johnson recounts the topsy-turvy day of a beleaguered architect's apprentice's in the fabulously imaginative "Palazzo Inverso." From page one, creativity leaps far outside the ordinary picture book box. The text, contained to one line per double-page spread, first follows the bottom of each spread. Then, on what appears to be the book's last page, it meanders up the right-hand margin and continues upside down on the top of the page, forcing readers to turn the book upside down. From there, the tale continues back to page one. The illustrations are a grandly successful optical illusion, viewable right-side and upside down, with new details emerging when the book is flipped on its head. The mixed-media, sepia-toned illustrations burst with energy and offer fun twists like the boots of Mauk the apprentice hanging upside down from the ceiling on the first page and later resting on the floor while Mauk's bed is suspended from the ceiling as the tale winds up. Heaps of fun, and on an educational level a starting point for an art history lesson on Escher's use of eye trickery and illustrative perspective.
904 Edgewood Road, Yardley, PA 19067
9781594160998, $26.00, www.westholmepublishing.com
The pen is mightier than the sword, and the mouth is mightier than any machine gun. "Great Negotiations: Agreements that Changed the Modern World" looks through history and the major figures who through recent history have changed the progress of the world. Peaceful resolution has the been the goals of the twentieth and twenty first centuries, and Fredrik Stanton shows times where it changed the way the world worked. "Great Negotiations" is a choice and solid read that shouldn't be missed for any history buff.
The Lapp King's Daughter
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564744982, $14.95, www.amazon.com
The Finnish have their own story of trying to make it through the wars. "The Lapp King's Daughter: A Family's Journey Through Finland's Wars" is a memoir from Stina Katchadourian as she tells her families story of how they were in Germany when the war broke out and how they fled through Europe trying to keep their heads above the war. Through the eyes of a little girl at the time, "The Lapp King's Daughter" is a riveting and moving story, very highly recommended.
On the Way to Fun
5 Commonwealth Road, Suite 2C, Natick, MA 01760
9781568815824, $29.00, www.akpeters.com
You can have the most realistic graphics in the world, a wonderful symphonic soundtrack and the best actors in Hollywood doing the voice acting, but the bottom line is - is it fun? "On the Way to Fun : An Emotion-Based Approach to Successful Game Design" discusses video game design and the concept of fun. Looking at early games and how they created fun without much resources and how some modern games can miss it, Roberto Dillon provides a thoughtful and solid analysis. "On the Way to Fun" is a choice pick for any would be game designer.
Wilde Stories 2009
Steve Berman, editor
118 Heritage Ave, Maple Shade, NJ 08052
Different people, different worlds, but people are still people. "Wilde Stories 2009: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction" is a collection of short fiction that editor Steve Berman holds to be the best gay Science Fiction and Fantasy, as these tales present a perspective of gay life while still being fine science fiction and fantasy in their own rights. "Wilde Stories 2009" is a choice pick for those looking for short gay fiction, or simply science fiction and fantasy.
Bad Cop... No Donut
John L. French
PO Box 117, Yulan, NY 12792
9781890096458, $16.00, www.padwolf.com
The Police Officer is a unique figure in literature, both hero and villain. "Bad Cop... No Donut" is a collection of short stories focusing on the cop, and the many different routes they can go with their duty and power. Corruption that has already sank in, hunting criminals, life and death situations, and Satan himself are some of the themes used throughout. "Bad Cop... No Donut" is a fun and very highly recommended read.
Managing Corporate Lifecycles
Adizes Institute Publications
2815 East Valley Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93108
Why do some businesses falter immediately and others stay around for a century or more? "Managing Corporate Lifecycles" is a revision of a previous book on corporate longevity and how to stand the test of time as a business. Businesses have stages of life, just like everything else, and Dr. Ichak Adizes calls this process PRIME. Understanding PRIME is a key tactic in furthering one's business, and it makes "Managing Corporate Lifecycles" a powerful and invaluable resource for any business executive who keeps the future in his head at all times.
Secularism and Scripture Reconciled
Eloise T. Choice
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781448966325, $34.95, www.publishamerica.com
The world does not work in absolutes. "Secularism and Scripture Reconciled" is the writings of Eloise T. Choice as she studies the Bible and her scientific beliefs as she creates a view that may show that faith and science are not enemies, but instead can be tools to better understanding the world as a whole. Thoughtful and thought provoking, "Secularism and Scripture Reconciled" is well worth picking up.
A Penny for the Violin Man
Circle of Life Publishing
8901 Eton Ave., #109, Canoga Park, CA 91304
9780615338071, $24.95, www.apennyforhtheviolinman.com
Life is never one problem at a time. "A Penny for the Violin Man" tells the story of the Schecter family and their struggles. Despite the endless crusade to simply make ends meet, Norman will not give up his desire to from a teacher's union. Reflecting on the past and future, Eli Rill paints a picture of a family line that is always struggling and the endless pursuit of a better life. "A Penny for the Violin Man" is a remarkable and thought provoking story, very highly recommended.
International Publishers Marketing
PO Box 605, Herndon, VA 20172-0605
9780958489119, $12.95, www.30degreessouth.co.za
South Africa has much to court the modern world traveler. "South Africa: 2010 Travel Guru" is a guide to South Africa and what can be experienced through it. With plenty of full color photos and a good deal of references of where to find such attractions, Kerrin Cocks gives reader a solid and very thorough understanding of South Africa's tourist destinations. "South Africa 2010" is a choice and solidly recommended read which shouldn't be missed.
Black Rose Writing
924 Pioneer St., Yreka, CA 96097
9781935605065, $16.96, www.blackrosewriting.com
Life can change at the drop of a hat. "Timeless" is the story of Alexandra Kane and the challenges that she faces entering into the Genesis program, where she learns that she has the potential to travel through time, making the life she had before, while fulfilling be the furthest thing from her mind as she soon realizes time travel is nothing to take lightly. "Timeless" is a choice and very highly recommended pick for fiction readers.
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781441557476, $19.99, www.canadianmedsbook.com
When you can't get care from your own country, people will look north for their answers. "Canadian Meds" is a novel following an ex-Corporate executive as he finds his new empire in internet drug selling, making his new fortune selling across borders to Americans in need of medicine but unable to pay American prices. Telling a tale of the rise and fall of his empire, "Canadian Meds" is a tale that reflects well on modern society's medical woes, and proves a fine read.
The Power of Hope
Anthony Scioli & Henry B. Biller
3201 S.W. 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442
9780757307805, $19.95, www.hcibooks.com
Hope is the desire to press on even when it looks like there's no way out. "The Power of Hope: Overcoming Your Most Daunting Life Difficulties -- No Matter What" is a guide for finding hope when one needs it the most to keep on living their lives in the face of the countless adversities, such as the loss of loved ones, facing one's own illnesses, and the fear that comes with life. "The Power of Hope" is a powerful and very highly recommended read.
Be Well. Messages from Moms on Living Healthier Lives
The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation
PO Box 163867, Austin, TX 78716
9780578028101, Free, www.BeWellBook.org
With the recent focus on healthy eating and exercise many people are motivated to make a change; for themselves and for their families. But where to start? There is an amazing amount of information out there; sometimes it can be hard to know what to do or how to begin. If you are ready to make a change but are feeling confused or overwhelmed, inspiration has arrived.
Be Well. Messages from Moms on Living Healthier Lives is a collection of 15 inspiring stories from real moms all across the country and the changes they made to help their families get healthy. Dietary changes, activity level changes, even how they are educating their children about healthy eating and healthy lifestyles. The book is full of tips and suggestions to help you and your family on your journey toward health. Ideas in the book include taking your children grocery shopping and teaching them to read and understand nutrition labels. Involving them in cooking, learning to eat a colorful diet from whole foods, ideas for exercising as a family, and watching less television. Real stories from real moms who live the same hectic lives and juggle the same issues as any other mom.
Quotes from some of these motivated moms:
"Little food changes plus exercise make big changes."
"[Bad eating habits] are not okay even if your mama made it that way."
"You can be an athlete without being on a team."
"Be ambitious enough to see your child grow old."
This message of healthy kids and healthy families is so important that the book has been underwritten by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. You can download your copy for free (and watch inspiring videos from the moms) at http://www.healthiergeneration.org/bewell.aspx?id=3971. Schools, church groups, youth groups and other large organizations can request multiple bound copies from the Foundation at http://www.healthiergeneration.org/bewell.aspx?ekfrm=4045.
As the book says in the introduction, Live Well. Eat Well. Be Well.
SOS! The Six O'Clock Scramble to the Rescue
St. Martin's Griffin
You're feeling tired; it's been a long day, the kids are hungry, they're cranky, and chaos abounds. The witching hour has arrived and you're left wondering what you're going to make for dinner. Whether you work from home, outside the home or don't work for pay you are probably all too familiar with that hectic time of day when kids, and grown-ups, need to be fed, but inspiration (and sometimes motivation) just isn't there.
The answer has arrived. SOS! The Six O'Clock Scramble to the Rescue by Aviva Goldfarb promises to "take the "thinking" out of meal planning, saving time, money and stress."
The concept of the book is very straightfoward, make menus and meals that get you in and out of the kitchen with a minimum of fuss. But this is more than just a cookbook. Arranged by season it allows you to take advantage of what should be fresh, in season. and hopefully local, produce. Each seasonal section is prefaced by five weekly menus with a free organized grocery list available online. Particularly nice is the fact that these pages are a different color making it easy to easily flip through the seasons. In addition to the seasonal menus there is an ingredient breakdown showing which pages within each season the meat, fish, pasta, and other dishes are located on as well as the expected prep + cook time for each recipe. Vegetarian dishes are clearly marked as are make-ahead dishes. There's even a notation for those dishes that fall into the Scramble Express category, 30 minutes or less.
Each recipe comes with full nutritional information which is nice to have. I made the divine eggplant with chickpeas and mint on page 140 as well as the middle eastern stuffed pitas on page 156. These delicious and flavorful recipes were easy to follow and did cook up in the promised time.
Carrying through with the earth-friendly theme in the title, the frontpiece of the book notes that "A generous portion of the proceeds from this cookbook are donated directly to the Environmental Working Group."
Less time in the kitchen with fast, healthy, earth friendly recipes? If you're a busy family, this is a book that can help.
Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy
Summer is just around the corner. With the warmer weather comes a change in wardrobe; sandals, shorts, and, oh, yeah, sleeveless shirts. Most of us love the freedom from heavier clothing and shoes that this change in weather brings. But sleeveless? Maybe not.
A lot of women worry about their upper arms, this area of the body makes them feel very self-conscious, especially when it comes to picture time at family gatherings, barbecues and other social occasions. There's a whole host of clothing accessories to hide them from view, but I've never been a fan of wearing a shrug with a sundress.
Now you no longer need to fear summer and the baring of arms that it frequently entails. Just out is a book by JJ Virgin, President of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals and a nutrition and fitness coach to celebrities, CEOs, Olympians and others. Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy offers a 5-step plan that JJ says will have you "free to flaunt your arms in public. The book has step-by-step instructions and some good, clear pictures are very helpful in showing you what you need to do to work out properly. This is, however, more than just a book of exercises. JJ also explains the nutrition behind a solid workout program. How to eat healthy so that you can support your body through the change. Including lists like a Protein Cheat Sheet, the 10 So-Called Healthy Foods You're Eating Now That Keep Your Arms Fat, a Sleep Quiz (yes, how you sleep contributes to your weight) and recipes for shakes, salads and dressings, the book is an all-around health tool. It even has a resource list in the back with some of JJ's favorite supplements, equipment, and skin care.
My only complaint about the book is that there is no appendix to help you easily refer back to certain exercises or recipes. But with JJ's supportive, encouraging approach this book should have you "baring arms" in six short weeks.
No Greater Love
New Hope Publishers
PO Box 12065, Birmingham, AL 35202
9781596692770, $14.99, www.amazon.com
Romance with a social message rooted in Christianity is the basis of Kathi Macias' Extreme Devotion Series. In the first installment, No Greater Love the chain of events is based on the Bible verse John 15:13: There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. This is a tale of modern day martyrdom.
The setting is 1989 apartheid South Africa. The star-crossed lovers are Andrew, the son of an Afrikaner farmer and Chioma, an African servant on the farm. When attraction blurs the line between black and white, the status quo is violently reinforced.
Chioma flees the farm joining a band of rebel nationals. Themba, the group's leader, takes an immediate liking to the beautiful young girl and makes her his wife. The only condition he imposes upon their nuptials is absolute loyalty.
At first, Themba's passion is unrequited, but over time Chioma begins to feel something for her protector. Her parents were massacred while fighting for the cause and her tragic past helps her to understand her husband's motives. Yet, will her conscience allow her to obey Themba and participate in the group's - often bloody - raids?
Things come to a head when Chioma unexpectedly encounters a connection to Andrew. Will the memory of the man she truly loved be enough to prevent an atrocity? Will the words of the Holy Bible - which she first heard at Andrew's farm - be enough to keep her from crossing the point of no return?
Overall, a love story resonates by delving into deeper issues.
Nu-Del: Of the Forest
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781929228973, $15.00, www.amazon.com
Imagine a pristine world out of the realm of Avatar peopled by creatures from Where The Wild Things Are and you have a glimpse into the mental imagery of Ray Shoop in his sci-fi work, Nu-Del: Daughter of the Forest. Humans are outgrowing their space station homes. They are on an active search to discover unoccupied planets for resettlement. When Laura's family arrives at a prospective site, they fail to realize that they are not alone.
The Dumeasets, a rebel gang of subterranean beings, dig their way to the surface killing the men and kidnapping the women - including Laura's pregnant mother, Arlene. These proceedings are not unusual since the Dumeasets have been inflicting similar treatment on the planet's other native people, the Fumalsets.
During the attack, Laura wanders away from the settlement getting lost in the forest. A group of Fumalsets led by Cordac take Laura into their tribe. Cordac's wife, Sel, treats Laura like a daughter and teaches her about the herbs and plants of her medicinal trade. However, Cordac is jealous of the new arrival, but will not go against his wife.
Laura is renamed Nu-Del which means "daughter of the forest." She develops a main role in the camp due to her ability to read minds. She is able to telepathically hear the approach of a Dumeaset raid and warn the Fumalsets.
In the meantime, Arlene is promoted to the number one position in the Dumeasets' harem. The leader, Ram, takes a liking to this woman from another world. However, when she is forced to deliver her baby without assistance, the child arrives stillborn. She sinks into a deep depression that only abates when she receives word that another of her kind is living with the Fumalsets. Arlene is determined to do whatever it takes to find her long-lost daughter.
The Dumeasets also adjust their strategy throwing Laura off her game. The Fumalsets begin to think she is crying wolf and refuse to abide her warnings. The Dumeasets surface inflicting damage on their encampment. Cordac, Sel and Laura survive, but Laura leaves her adoptive parents and goes to live with Transoni, a male who lost his wife to the kidnappers. She feels Cordac will never accept her and that she can be of more assistance to Transoni and his children.
The story comes to an abrupt end. Will Arlene reunite with Laura? Will Transoni rescue his wife from the Dumeasets? Will Ram make good on his threat to kidnap Laura? The door is open to a sequel.
Shoop excels at providing the interior dialogue of his characters, especially Cordac as he tries to come to terms with the conflicting emotions he has for Laura. He creates a picturesque world of lush forests and deep, dark caverns. The cover image is a surprising invitation to a sci-fi novel, but it piques the reader's interest to pick up the book to see what it is about. Is it a Native American story? Is it a nature publication?
Overall, creatures bring nature to the forefront of an alien world.
Story of a Disastrous Internet Romance
Svetlana Repina with Steve Fortosis
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781449537593, $14.99 www.svetlanarepina.com
Authors who share unusual life stories usually provide a treat for a reader. They provide an insider's look into a world not experienced by many. Svetlana Repina recounts the horrors of being a mail-order bride. Leaving her native Russia for the Long Island suburbs was supposed to be a step up. Instead, she becomes entangled in the web of a professional criminal. In Stories of a Disastrous Internet Romance, Repina relives the ordeal under the name Natalia as she takes the reader step by step through the destruction of her naivete.
While working for a British time share company catering to the new Russian mafia, Natalia connects with a fellow Russian woman who publishes profiles in a mail-order bride catalog. Natalia is bored with Russia and feels that she must escape the poverty and endless supply of cheating, alcoholic men whose only positive attribute is surviving their tour of duty in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, she immediately attracts the interest of Carlos, an "entrepreneurial" American looking for a wife to add a woman's touch to his newly purchased home.
Natalia falls hook, line and sinker for Carlos' charm. After numerous phone calls and video messages, Carlos comes to Russia to marry her. He arrives presenting a large diamond engagement ring. Despite occasional flashes of his temper and her family's lukewarm acceptance, Natalia marries Carlos.
The fairy tale abruptly ends when she arrives in America. Carlos does not have his own house. Instead, he is the definition of a "mama's boy" still living with his parents and sister. The newlyweds take up residence in the basement. Natalia is distraught learning that she can go nowhere without supervision and her phone calls home are limited to a few words.
The main purpose of the marriage for Carlos is Natalia's persona as a white woman. He uses her identity to apply for loans backed by the endorsement of her signature given under duress. Setting up a counterfeit workshop in the midst of their home, Carlos' main employment is identity theft initially funded by his wife's good name.
The secondary aspect of the nuptials is providing his mother with a grandchild. Carlos gets his wish when he impregnates Natalia practically upon her arrival. He constantly threatens her that if she ever tried to leave him, he would make sure that she would never see their child again. For a woman in a strange country living with foreign customs, Carlos holds the trump card. He knows he has her right where he wants her.
To make matters worse, Carlos takes a mistress who inserts herself into their lives acting as if she is a part of the family. At her wits end, Natalia finally is able to make a friend with her neighbor, Maryanne. The older woman provides Natalia with a much-needed source of support.
Things take a turn when detectives arrive at the door when Natalia is home alone. She takes a leap of faith and lets them in. Natalia through tears tells them her sad tale. They are the only Americans she informs about her plight besides Maryanne. One detective, Greg, takes an interest in her and urges her to leave Carlos. He assures her that she will be protected.
With Maryanne's urging, she takes the risk and leaves the house along with her son. They make their way first to a safe house for battered women, then to a Russian friend's house in Georgia and finally back to Russia. Reunited with her family, Natalia begins to feel an unexpected longing for the United States. She decides to return partly to make a fresh start and partly to testify in Carlos' upcoming trial. The door is left open for part two of this real life drama.
Repina really gives the reader a look at what it was like being 20-years-old living in mid-1990s Russia. What qualified as her only excitement was her sister sewing an outfit copied from a fashion magazine. Employment was sporadic. The building of a Christian Orthodox church was a jolt for a girl brought up under God-less Communism. The wealth of the "New Russians" was a slap in the face for those who chose to earn an honest living. America was seen as a Mecca constantly calling devotees to her shores. Natalia fell under the siren's call.
Co-written with Steve Fortosis, the writing style is mediocre, but the story is strong enough to keep a reader turning the pages. The choice of cover graphic does not mesh with the book's theme and is too blah for such a riveting tale. The ending puts a halt to the forward momentum, and it is a detriment to the story that notice of a sequel is not given at the conclusion leaving the reader feeling unsatisfied.
Overall, taking a big risk results in a dreamer turning into a pragmatist.
9781450575638 $17.99 http://doccbradford.com
Promises Kept is a fairy tale for adult women. Cindy Bradford entrances with the love story of Faith and Tyler. For any doubters who think romance is dead, this book will reclaim their belief in dreams fulfilled. The chapters relating to their relationship are filled with details that will make ladies sigh.
The narrative encompasses a split personality. The first half deals with a court case involving a pedophile priest. Faith's father was one of the victims and Faith is an attorney on the side of the prosecution. Tyler is a fellow attorney who is assisting her on the case. From the moment the two lay eyes on each other, things quickly heat up.
The trial rapidly reaches its conclusion and the couple starts preparing for a Christmas wedding. This is where Bradford leaves law and order behind and transports the reader to Tuscan villas and secluded cabins in the wilderness. Fantasy is readily indulged on the page.
Tyler is the quintessential leading man - and he is meant to be. No man can live up to this depiction. He serves as a vehicle of escape from unfaithful boyfriends, distant husbands, unrequited love. He is too good to be true, but that doesn't stop women from hoping deep down that he could be.
Readers will fall in love with him along with Faith. He remodels an old house with his own hands. He takes Faith with him to pick out a puppy. He asks Faith to marry him within weeks of meeting her. He gets along great with her family. He is not threatened by her successful career. He says things like, "I could look at you forever" and "I've never seen you be anything but good at whatever you do." He's extremely tidy and helps with the housework including landscaping the entire lawn. He's thrilled when Faith goes off the pill. He has a love of good food and takes Faith to a number of delectable restaurants. He likes to go Christmas shopping.
Things take a turn when Faith has trouble getting pregnant. At first, she thinks it's her, but an unforeseen development occurs when Tyler discloses the results of a recent medical exam. The young couple undergoes a tragedy of epic proportions. The emotion Bradford evokes is touchingly poignant. It leaves the reader wondering if is it better to have love and lost than to have never loved at all.
Overall, this is a great book to turn to when you need for your faith in love to be restored.
Devices and Desires
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316003384, $12.99 www.orbitbooks.net
First of a trilogy, this fantasy novel is about an engineer who starts a major war so he can be re-united with his wife and daughter.
Mezentia is a city-state that is the local technological superpower. They don't let their technical knowledge get out to the surrounding kingdoms, which is how they keep their superiority. Mezentia is also a land of guilds, where technical specifications and tolerances were decided long ago. It is written into law that, for instance, a certain gear shall be no larger than a certain size (down to hundredths of an inch) or a certain lever shall be a certain length, and no longer. Ziani Vaatzes, a talented engineer, breaks the rules, unintentionally, in building a mechanical toy for his daughter. He is sentenced to death by the Mezentian Council, accused of Abomination, and manages to escape with his life.
Vaatzes is picked up by the remnants of the army of Eremia, one of the neighboring kingdoms. They are struggling to get back home after attacking Mezentia, and getting slaughtered by superior Mezentian weapons. His offer to train Eremians in how to build the weapons that just decimated their army is politely declined, but Vaatzes is set up in a factory of his own by the Eremian equivalent of a venture capitalist. Vaatzes does not just start at the beginning, he has plenty of building, planning and training to do just to reach "the beginning." In Mezentia, tolerances and specifications are expected to be exact (anything less is not good enough), but in Eremia, the best Vaatzes can do is "pretty good." He and his employees have scoured the city looking for scrap metal to use in the weapons, but they will get the job done.
Meantime, the Mezentian Council has learned that Vaatzes is still alive, and is building weapons for the Eremians. The decision is made to invade Eremia, and wipe the entire race off the map. Nothing is more important than Mezentian technological superiority. Civitas Eremiae, the Eremian capital, is built into the side of a mountain, and is nearly impossible for an invading army to conquer. But, it does have a very secret, and very ancient, "back door."
Parker is an author who Gets It. This is a big novel, but it is an excellent piece of writing that will really keep the reader's interest. I may just read the other two, equally large, parts of this trilogy just because the storytelling is so good.
Brain Wave Vibration
Best Life Media
6560 Highway 179, Suite 114, Sedona, AZ 86351
9781935127000, $14.00 www.bestlifemedia.com
This book looks at an extremely simple way to access the physical and mental healing power that already exists within the human brain. The claim is that this can help to better manage stress, find your higher self and rediscover physical vitality.
The physical world is full of vibrations. Sound waves are vibrations, it could be said that light waves are a form of vibrations, and brain waves are also vibrations. "Stress" is a major cause of physical and mental illness in our present-day world. Perhaps a cause of stress is our brains being somehow out of alignment with the natural level of vibrations. If our brains could be "re-aligned," the possibilities are interesting.
Have you ever been in a good mood, and have that mood suddenly disappear in the presence of a sullen, angry person? Alternatively, have you ever been in a bad mood, and the presence of a happy and optimistic person makes that bad mood not so bad? Maybe it's possible to be "sensitive" to the brain waves of others, or to have strong brain waves that can affect other people.
What is this very simple method to change one's life, a method that can be taught in a couple of minutes, and can fit on one piece of paper? It is rhythmic vibratory shaking of the head, or the whole body (the book goes into detail). This will create brain waves that will promote mental and physical well-being. The brain stem is the healing center of the brain. If it can be accessed the right way, lots of good things can happen. This can also quiet the constant noise of the prefrontal cortex, which is the thinking part of the brain, letting the brain stem do its thing.
The average person may consider this way too simple, and more than a little silly, but what have you go to lose? This technique takes only a couple of minutes at a time and can be done anywhere, including at your desk (any way to reduce workplace stress is automatically a good thing). This book is very easy to read, and it may be just the thing to change your life.
Charles D. Hayes
5755 Begich Drive,
P.O. Box 872749, Wasilla, AK, 99687-2749
9780962197970 $16.95 www.autodidactic.com
"September University: Summoning Passion for an Unfinished Life" is intended for those in the second half of their lives who are not ready to die just yet.
September University is not an actual school, but more of a frame of mind or philosophy. It radically changes the idea of retirement from doing very little while waiting for the Grim reaper, to helping to create a better world for future generations. Within the next 20 years, the baby boomer generation will reach retirement age. They have plenty of demographic power to change American society for the better. Why not start using it?
Among the major obstacles to getting more out of life are a fear of death, and a lack of curiosity. The book shows how to turn those around. In this extremely media-centric world, it is more important than ever to be able to filter through the media noise and get to the important stuff. In attempting to get past the "us versus them" way of thinking, the author looks at the human belief in the "group," those who look or think like us, and the automatic bias against those who are not part of the group. Imagine the possibilities when new technologies are used to quench a thirst for knowledge. How does one reconcile a new-found desire for a just society with the system presently in place? The author gives alternatives.
What can the average person do to help create such a society? Pick a subject or issue that you really care about, and find organizations working to build such a future. Seek out chances to engage in civil dialogue. Join or visit groups whose values are different from yours. Read the books that you have never had a chance to read. Create an e-mail list of legislators to contact, and don't be afraid to use it. Learn about the Internet world of teenagers. Visit a senior center or an orphanage. Connect with younger generations. Write frequent letters to the editor of your local newspaper. Write your own epitaph.
Just because you are getting on in years, don't think for a second that you can't still contribute to society. This is a wonderful book full of inspiration for those who have the desire to better society, but don't know what to do with that energy. This gets two strong thumbs-up.
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439172636, $24.00 www.simonandschuster.com
Set in present-day rural England, this novel is about young Samuel Johnson and his faithful dachshund, Boswell. Samuel is showing initiative by going trick-or-treating three days early. He sees strange things happening at 666 Crowley Road.
Looking in through a basement window, he sees two local married couples, the Renfield's and the Abernathy's, dressed in long black cloaks, and with a pentagram drawn on the floor. They got hold of a book of spells, and are playing at devil worship. Things work better than they expected, because an actual gate to Hell is opened. All four are taken over by demons from Hell. Mrs. Abernathy becomes the extremely sexual "leader" of the invasion of Earth, while the others have become decaying, humanoid things that catch flies with their tongues.
What can Samuel do? His mother doesn't believe him, and his father walked out on the family months before, and is now living elsewhere, with another woman. Knowing that Samuel is "the enemy," Mrs. Abernathy sends some demons to take care of him, once and for all, but they are failures. Meantime, the invasion of Earth has begun, with "minor league" demons coming through the gate, but the townspeople start to fight back. Samuel recruits a couple of friends, Maria and Thomas, who is pretty good at whacking demons with a cricket bat. The only way to stop the invasion is to reverse the portal, which has now consumed the house. They get some unexpected help from Nurd, another demon who was planning to rule Earth, but had a change of heart.
Here is a wonderful piece of storytelling. It is made to be read aloud to older children (it may be a little too much for younger children). Adults will love it, because it is full of that dry, understated, British-type humor. Either way, this is very much recommended.
Side Effects: Death, Confessions of a Pharma Insider
P.O. Box 9949, College Station, TX 77842
9781602645165 $21.95 http://www.virtualbookworm.com
This book, written by a pharmaceutical industry insider, exposes many of the secrets that led to drugs with major side effects, like Prozac, to be approved and widely prescribed.
Born in Guyana (northeast South America) to Indian parents, Virapen found himself, in the 1960s, in Europe, hungry and homeless. He went to Sweden, to live with a woman he met in his travels. It was there that he got a job as a sales representative for Eli Lilly and Co. He visited local physicians, bringing them small gifts and other things and generally encouraging them to prescribe Eli Lilly drugs. He rose quickly through the ranks, eventually running the entire operation in Sweden. Virapen was very involved in getting drugs like Prozac approved, with a corresponding rise in the gifts given to doctors. They now ranged from expensive "scientific conferences" in exotic places to brothel visits, to outright bribery. This book is an attempt to atone for what he has done in the drug industry.
Virapen spends much of the book talking about Prozac. The drug industry has no problems with creating "diseases" like ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), to get otherwise healthy people to think that they are sick, and need a pill (an expensive pill, of course). If a clinical trial is not going well; for instance, if Drug X works just as well as Prozac, a drug company can stop the trial, and switch Drug X with another drug against which Prozac works really well. There is no obligation to tell the Food and Drug Administration, or any of its foreign counterparts, about this. Clinical trials on psychotropic drugs, like Prozac, last a couple of months, at the most. There has been no attempt to study the effects of such drugs over years.
When it came time to get Prozac approved in Sweden, the information supplied by Eli Lilly was to be evaluated by an independent doctor, who would send his recommendation to the national authorities. Virapen's job was to figure out who that doctor would be and find out what it would take to get that doctor to give a favorable opinion. Unfortunately, that doctor was very willing to be bribed, even helping Eli Lilly to write the report the "right" way. Virapen mentions case after case of normal, well-adjusted people who, after taking Prozac for a very short time, kill other people or themselves.
On the positive side, this is a very interesting book that shows the lengths to which drug companies will go to create new markets for their drugs. On the negative side, if there are to be future printings of this book, it really needs a trip, or another trip, to a copyeditor or proofreader.
Why Do You Kill? The Untold Story of the Iraqi Resistance
The Disinformation Company Ltd.
163 Third Avenue, Suite 108, New York, NY 10003
9781934708149 $14.95 http://www.disinfo.com
This book looks inside the Iraqi resistance and shows how it is not only fighting the American occupiers, but also Al-Qaeda terrorists and the various private militias.
A person can argue about the conduct of the war in Iraq, how well or how badly it was executed, and whether or not waterboarding is torture, etc. The central premise, that we are guided by noble desires, to help Iraqis enjoy the fruits of democracy, can not be questioned. Supposedly, Arabs are not ready for Western-style democracy. Opinion poll after opinion poll, including those done by US officials in Iraq, show that large majorities of Iraqis want US troops to leave, fully and immediately.
If a US ally was invaded and occupied by another country under false premises, and the invaders were unwanted by the local population, don't they have the right to resist that occupation? Unquestionably, the answer is Yes; such a person would be hailed as a freedom fighter. But, when America or an ally does the occupying, there is no legitimate resistance. Freedom Fighter automatically equals Terrorist.
The author entered Iraq through Syria in 2007, intentionally without the knowledge or consent of American authorities. He wanted to avoid the Green Zone in Baghdad, Potemkin (fake) villages set up by the American military and talking to "approved" Iraqis. He was able to meet with, and stay with, many Iraqis who told him exactly why they joined the resistance.
A central principle of Islam is to never kill innocent people. That is the difference between resistance fighters and terrorists. Every family has lost someone during the occupation, some arrested and never to be heard from again. To the assertion that civil war will erupt if American troops leave; like that is so much worse than what is going on when this book was written (2007). If the American troops left, the Iraqi resistance could easily get rid of Al-Qaeda on its own. Early in the occupation, American troops in Fallujah fired on a peaceful demonstration of Iraqis upset that the troops had taken over a local school, killing 15 and injuring 65. American General Geoffrey Miller has been quoted as saying that Iraqi prisoners should never be allowed to think that they are anything "more than a dog." After a bomb blast in Baghdad, an imam asked for blood donations over the mosque's loudspeaker. The American response was to bomb the mosque, and shoot the imam. The reason given was that that district supported the resistance.
This is an excellent piece of journalism of the type rarely seen in America these days. It easily reaches the level of Wow.
And Another Thing
114 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011
9781401323585, $25.99 http://www.hyperionbooks.com
Here is the sixth, and latest, installment in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "trilogy," created by Douglas Adams. It was also published with the approval of Adams' widow.
Arthur Dent has made his way back to Earth, but it isn't "his" Earth. The Vogons, with the extremely bad poetry, are working on destroying all possible versions of Earth, so Arthur must take off, again. Ford Prefect, writer for the Guide, and Zaphod Beeblebrox, former president of the Galaxy, are still around. Tricia McMillan is a former TV reporter who ran away with Zaphod, just before the Earth was destroyed. She changed her name to Trillian, and used some of Arthur's DNA to have Random, a daughter. Random is very smart, and has taken teenage surliness to new levels.
A small remnant of humanity has made its way to a planet called Nano, run by an Irish property developer named Hunter Hillman. He feels that the humans need a god to worship. The Norse God Thor is one of the applicants. A being named Wowbagger travels around the galaxy handing out insults on various planets. What follows is a titanic battle involving Wowbagger, Thor and a cheese-based deity.
For die-hard fans of the series, concerned that no one could do it like Adams, relax. Colfer is a veteran author who knows what he is doing, and it shows here. For those new to the series, read one or two of the early books first, and then read this. It's really worth reading.
Paul Lappen, Reviewer
A Home for Mr. Easter
Brooke A. Allen
40 Exchange Place, Suite 1308, NY, NY 10005
9781561635801, $13.99, www.amazon.com
In the most popular graphic novels, a social outcast develops extraordinary abilities and performs heroic deeds. Tesana is a tubby teen who is all caught up in her own little comic book hero fantasy world. In her real world she has no friends. She's a target for bullies. A real loser. Until one day she barges in on the pep rally committee meeting and discovers a bunny that lays colored eggs. When the super jock wants the bunny back, Tesana morphs into her comic book hero alter ego and fights back. She escapes with Mr. Easter and begins a raucous journey to take him back home. Pursued by mob of madcap characters, her fantasy world gradually swallows up her real world in her crusade to save the bunny.
While the plot seems, at times, over the top, it contains enough rollicking hilarity to make it campy. Allen's black & white panels are vivid and action-packed, which keeps the story moving at a breathless pace. Tesana is a comical, animal loving super hero with a gi-normous - uh - heart. She will definitely grow on you. "A Home for Mr. Easter" is witty and fun to read.
Diary of a Wimpy Vampire: Because the Undead Have Feelings Too
Michael O'Mara Books, Ltd
9 London Yard, Tremadoc Road, London SW4 7NQ
9781843174585 7.99 Brit. pounds
If the title sounds familiar it's because this hilarious new graphic novel is "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" meets "Twilight". As vampires go, Nigel Mullet is so pathetic even the squirrels in the park beat up on him. Turned into a vampire as a gangly 15-year old, he never developed the usual vampire traits like mesmerizing beauty, lightning speed, or supernatural strength. As he approaches his 100th birthday, he has never even had a girlfriend. When Chloe, the new girl, shows up in History class one day, he is immediately smitten with her black eyes, pale skin, and long neck. Unlike the girls in the popular gang, Chloe is independent and has a mind of her own. Nigel has a long way to go before she'll let him sink his fangs into her.
Tim Collins' portrayal of teen angst through the eyes of a geeky vampire is laugh-out-loud funny. His comical black & white drawings add a cartoon layer to this brilliant parody. "Diary of a Wimpy Vampire" is destined to become a cult classic among middle school boys.
Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer
Sandra J. Gerencher
PO Box 95, Archbald, PA 18403
9780981461922, $12.95 570-876-2416
What if animals could talk? What would they say about autism? There are so many researched articles explaining how a pet can help people with this disorder yet it remains a challenge to the scientific community because of its diversity of symptoms and because there seems to be no one specific cause.
And yet in her small book, Second Chance: How Adoption Saved a Boy with Autism & His Shelter Dog, author Gerencher explains how a mother who adopted Ryan, a child with autism, also adopted Chance to be his companion. Chance is a Rottweiler puppy and he is the voice of this heart warming story.
It begins with the Rottweiler explaining his somewhat formless life in an adoption shelter where he shares a cage. Days simply come and go. But to this dog's good fortune, a mother and her adopted son, Ryan, are impressed by this four-month-old puppy that seems equally impressed by both of them.
Ryan's mother calls the Rottweiler, Chance. He hears the word "adopt." In his puppy mind, he ponders "Adopt? Now there's a new word." With a new leash attached, Chance proudly prances out the front door of the kennel but balks at the idea of getting into a scary automobile. Nevertheless, Ryan and his mom hoist Chance into the car and drive away.
Ryan and Chance distract one another with hugs, kisses, and slobbers and by the cheerful atmosphere in the auto. Once home, The Rottweiler meets three other dog relatives. At once he notices that Ryan's mother has a special love for her son and his new pet. He begins to wonder when this bubble of living in a caring home will burst because he's uncertain what the word "adopt" means.
In language only Second Chance and Ryan understand, the young boy communicates to his pup that "adopt" means becoming part of a loving family for the rest of his life. Chance thinks, "There's something different about this boy, but I sense that he is friendly and that he likes me." During this explanation, Chance sees Ryan jumping up and down, sometimes flapping his hands in the air-sometimes chewing on the sleeve of his clothing.
What will become of these two friends? The rest of the story is short but to the point. From the wisdom of a dog, Chance, I came away with a better understanding of what it means to be adopted and what it means to accept someone who is noticeably different.
I would recommend this book as an imaginative read for any age, but particularly grade school students. It could be a great leaping off point for discussions about children labeled as autistic, and also about the meaning of adoption.
The not-so-perfectly-clear water color graphics in the book are intriguing. It is quite possible that Chance and Ryan just might see their worlds with this somewhat blurred outlook. The important thing is: Each accepted the other unconditionally. Is that not what love is all about?
You Are Here: A Portable History of the Universe
c/o Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
0061137871, $10.19, www.amazon.com
You Are Here is a thoughtful exploration of our being in relationship to an unimaginably monumental universe which, at this time according to most scientists, seems to have come from one single flash of creative energy known as the Big Bang. In an extremely easy-to-read fashion, Christopher Potter's book deals with complicated concepts in layman terms so that any interested person can glimpse the paradoxes facing modern science.
Beginning with a grasp of the age of the universe-13.7 billion years since the Big Bang-You Are Here also talks of its immense size. Potter asks what is beyond the edge of this expanding mass of planets and stars and distant galaxies. Is it nothingness, if such a state is even possible? Is it empty space? Is it more star clusters just too distant for their light to reach planet earth? Or is it something more mystical? This cannot help but bring to mind the crystalline spheres deigned by ancient Greek scientist-philosophers to hold the stars.
And from whence cometh this conglomeration of stuff we name the "universe?" Common sense proclaims it could not have burst forth from nothingness, yet scientific theory claims that such an eruption is quite possible. Are we to set aside common sense and tag along with scientific theory with its astutely refined mathematics? Something seems contradictory with this picture yet most people go about their daily lives ignoring any rationalization about it.
You Are Here addresses the critical conditions necessary for our tiny earth to solidify from this vast void of particles, atoms, molecules, gases, substances. There were so many critical events that had to happen at just the right moment in time so "stuff" would coalesce into our one small planet that it seems downright impossible. But happen it did-and we are here.
And what about our existence? Is the very essence of humanness to be found preexisting in the primordial nothingness before the Big Bang? If it was, then whatever brought about the spark of life and a life of the mind also existed back then. You Are Here ponders whether living energy started on our earth, or whether it somehow traveled here from outer space as part of the Big Bang's ongoing evolutionary expansion. In either case, there could be any number of far distant stars with solar systems similar to our sun's. The conclusion: These systems would almost certainly contain earthlike planets where eventually the spiral helix of life could form.
I would recommend You Are Here as a fun read that will make you think and question. By far, it is one of the best books I've read that encapsulates human existence against a scientific background, and acknowledges the "pre scientific" wisdom of the ancients who looked out at the heavens with a combination of pure reasoning and mysticism.
Is there a time-is there a place for us humans under the heavens? I think You Are Here would suggest, yes. Maybe the most we can say of being is this: Either by accident or by decree, we are here, alive, riding atop the third planet from the sun. We will stay alive as long as that sun gives us life.
Regis Schilken, Reviewer
Standing on the Promises: Finding Comfort, Hope, and Purpose in the Midst of Your Storms
Joan M. Blake
Key to Life Publishing Company
P O Box 190971, Boston, MA 02119
Finding Hope in the Rough Times
"Standing on the Promises: Finding Comfort, Hope, and Purpose in the Midst of Your Storm" combines memoir, inspiration, and encouragement, with a promise of hope and joy for times of crisis.
Joan Blake (no relation to this reviewer) tells of growing up in Trinidad, of receiving a college education in Boston, of her engagement and marriage, of the early days of beginning a family, and of how she found find peace and hope in the midst of crisis and chaos when in the depth of devastating disappointment.
Each chapter concludes with an original prayer poem of inspiration, a heart stirring response, and a thought provoking reflection. I especially appreciated Joan's insight into human nature in light of man's spiritual hunger. These meaningful prayers are as moving and relevant to the individual reader today as they were when Joan was inspired to write them during her times of crisis throughout her own spiritual journey.
Another unique feature of the book is that in addition to providing practical help for the individual reader, the material can easily be adapted as a small group discussion guide, for use when mentoring, or in a discipleship relationship.
"Standing on the Promises: Finding Comfort, Hope, and Purpose in the Midst of Your Storm" is a compelling example of the results of walking in an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ while stepping out in faith. Joan's is a powerful message of hope, well-timed and applicable to all who find themselves in the tight spots we so often find ourselves in today.
The Healing of a Broken Vessel
Denise Joyce Williams
Publish America, LLLP
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
Finding Deliverance and Healing in the Midst of Tribulation and Tragedy
"The Healing of a Broken Vessel" is the story of Denise Joyce Williams. Joyce. It is a powerful testimony of how Denise found healing and deliverance in the midst of adversity, tragedy, discouragement, difficulty and disappointment. It is a story of finding and fulfilling her destiny.
Denise relates her personal experiences of feeling defeated, broken, rejected, of self hatred, and a sense of abandonment. She tells how poor health, physical pain, and an unplanned pregnancy resulted in depression and worry. She tells how things turned around as she allowed God to use these adversities to reveal His unconditional love for her.
She tells of disappointment while serving on a church staff as youth minister. She tells how she was deceived by her pastor, his wife, and a guest prophet who were self serving and motivated by greed and of how they allowed this to take precedence over integrity and purity. Denise resigned her position. Through the experience the Lord taught Denise lessons in fasting, intercessory prayer, and ultimately lessons in forgiveness.
I appreciated Denise's willingness to be open, candid, and vulnerable as she tells of her spiritual journey and of how she discovered the Lord's best for her life. Denise Joyce Williams opens her soul to the reader in her book "The Healing of a Broken Vessel" in hopes of bringing the Christian community a message of deliverance from things that hinder spiritual growth. This is a book for anyone who has experienced verbal, spiritual, emotional abuse or sexual violation. Denise's story is a valuable source of healing and deliverance. Her writing is compelling and conveys a powerful message of hope and encouragement.
Richard R. Blake
A Widow's Hope
Harvest House Publishing
5355 Ed Cone Blvd, Eugene, OR 97402
9781615231621, $10.99, www.amazon.com
What do you get when you take an independent Amish widow named Hannah, and a stubborn Amish widower named Seth? You get a book that is interesting and entertaining. Hannah loves being Amish but sometimes does things that can get her into trouble. At the risk of being shunned, she sells her farm to her brother and moves to another state. There she tries hard to help her sister who is ill and is having trouble taking care of her own family.
If you enjoy reading books about the Amish this one you will love. The author is talented and I love how she leads us to realize it does not matter if you are Amish, or English, we all have problems. We just handle them differently.
Excellent book and easy read.
Face the Rain
Misty Peak Publishing
Box AL, Filer, Id. 83328
9780974679457 $15.95 mistypeak.com 208-326-5845
We the jury, find the defendant, guilty on all charges."
Just one simple word, but it was the word Jenna had been praying to hear. The moment the jury foreman uttered it the air rushed from her lungs and she felt a suffocating pressure lift from her chest leaning forward, she lowered her head and covering her face with her hands, allowed herself to cry for the first time since that night. That night was the night her husband tried to kill her.
As Jenna was leaving the court house her concerns were getting to the "safe house" and getting her daughter Kylie and son Erik. Then heading up to the Oregon coast to the home she grew up in. A home her children could finally feel safe in. She knew she would have to face some things she had left unfinished when she left there many years ago. Things that would change her son's life forever. Plus the one man she had never stopped loving.
The characters are well thought out and the story line compelling. I have read this book twice now and both times it captured my attention and held my interest. It is the type of book you can read over and over.
I highly recommend this book. With the problems we are having in our economy, it can be a luxury buying a book. This book will not let you down.
A Journey to Die
Nadine Trees Nehring
Wolfmont Press 238 Park Drive NE, Ranger, GA 307
9781603640206 $16.00 www.wolfmont.com 706-509-8004
In the opening pages, Carrie and Henry King are about to take the historic train ride from Springdale to Van Buren, Arkansas. Carrie is left alone (to her disgust) with a nosey busybody who rudely comments on how old she thinks Carrie looks, by saying Carrie and Henry look old enough to be retired. Carrie tells her no, she and Henry are not retired but are in fact private detectives.
"My how very unique. I guess you chase after people who owe money, spy on husbands, stuff like that. I know if Claude ever did-" "No, Carrie interrupted, we chase after murderers." Then she walked away, hoping Henry would never find out what she'd just said. Little did Carrie know how soon her words would come back to haunt her.
This is the first book I have read by author Radine Trees Nehring but it won't be the last. I have to warn everyone who may buy this book; do not decide to read just a few chapters before going to bed. You will find you can't stop. Your mind will not shut down as it will be filled with questions.
Who would have ever guessed the importance a handful of buttons would make in solving a murder investigation? I love the many twist and turns this book has. Just when you think you have the mystery solved, along comes something new and you are lost again. Dang, I hate it when that happens. But that is what makes a book good. This book is really good.
Plus, at the end of the book you will find some recipes mentioned in the book.
Excellent read for all.
Wake UP! You're Probably Never Going to Look Like That; How to Be Happier, Healthier and Imperfectly Fit
12223 Highland Boulevard Suite #241, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif 91739
9780557272907 $14.95 www.imperfectfitness.com (909) 693-3543
At last we learn the truth of losing weight and keeping it off. I hate to say this but I have tried some of the weight equipment that says, "buy me and I will make you look thinner and younger, in just weeks." They did not work for me, no matter how hard I tried.
The author tells us of her life and the battles she has gone through to try and lose weight. What it was like in school being the fat kid that others made fun of. The many diets she has tried, the failures and the success of finally getting something that for her worked.
Diet alone will not work. You have to get off your duff and exercise. Michelle also tells us of many well known people who have had surgery to help them lose weight. Also the dangers of the television show,"The Biggest Loser," and how most of the contestants have gained the weight back. Michelle tells all who will read this book about how to deal with the starvation your body will feel.
I can honestly say that I have never been more impressed with a weight loss book. Some people write books to make a lot of money. But I feel this author has wrote from her heart and only wants to help.
Misty Peak Publishing
PO BOX AL, Filer, Idaho 83328
9780974679426 $13.95 www.mistypeak.com (208) 326-5845
This book is a reviewer's dream. It provides an escape from the mundane of everyday life. It has everything a good book needs. It has love, drama, a taste of mystery, adventure and a happy ending. We started at "Carrie's Farm" which was the first book and now we are into the final book "Carrie's Journey."
Carrie's Journey, finds that Carrie's beloved husband has died. Carrie has to create a new life in order for her to survive. Carrie begins to think she is going crazy when she hears a voice talking to her, and she answers. The voice stays with her giving her advice on things until she does not need it any longer.
I loved every page of this book. If you like a good romance with a little of something else added to it, then I highly recommend this book. When a book brings good tears to my eyes, then it is a great book in my opinion. Need I say more?
Two Brides Too Many
The WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9780307458902 $13.99 http://waterbrookmultnomah.com 1-800-603-7051
Life has a way to not turn out the way you expect it...
Kat and Nell Sinclair's world is turned upside down with the news their father's job had been cut and he was taking a new position in Paris. He made arrangements that his two youngest daughters were to go live with their aunt and that his oldest daughters, Kat and Nell would place mail order bride ads in a local Colorado newspaper.
Through the ads they placed, both Kat and Nell received marriage proposals. They were required to travel west to the town of Cripple Creek, Colorado. Nell held the fantasy that her intended would be a man of honor and Grace. Kat sees the arrangement as nothing more than a business agreement that would provide her the safety and security she needed.
When the two arrives at their destination, they are shocked that neither of their intended is present. They know to survive in the harsh western world they would have to depend on each other. Will they be strong enough to endure the hardships the Old West presents?
Two Brides Too Many is an exceptional historical romance. It provides the reader memorable characters that are faced with some of life's most challenging aspects. Kat and Nell are characters that you will form an instantaneous bond in getting to know their story. I highly recommend Two Brides Too Many for the true historical romance enthusiast.
Skinny Is Overrated: The Real Woman's Guide to Health and Happiness at Any Size
MD, Danielle Milano
PO Box 80107, Austin TX 78758
9780984235834 $15.95 http://www.synergybooks.net (512) 478-2028
Love the person you are no matter what size you may be. . .
Many women dream of the day when they will be able to fit into a size two. To accomplish this goal they adopt diets to lose weight and spend countless hours in the gym. When they don't reach their ideal weight, they often fall back into an unhealthier lifestyle then what they were leading before they decided to work towards their unrealistic goal.
In Danielle Milano's Skinny Is Overrated: The Real Woman's Guide to Health and Happiness at Any Size she provides words of encouragement to see no matter what your weight that you are a beautiful person. She educates the reader on learning to live a healthy lifestyle by making the changes that are unique to each individual. Her theory allows a self discovery to quickly emerge.
Skinny Is Overrated: The Real Woman's Guide to Health and Happiness at Any Size is written for any woman no matter where she stands in her life. It will provide you the information needed to learn how to live a healthier life no matter what physical shape you may be in. By using this book you will quickly discover a new way to view the world and see that the person you are is a truly unique individual.
Forget Me Not - (Crossroads Crisis Center)
The WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601422057 $13.99 http://waterbrookmultnomah.com 1-800-603-7051
Benjamin Brandt's life went spinning out of control the day his wife and son were murdered. Grief-stricken, revenge became his constant companion; he vowed to find and punish the one responsible for his misery.
Three years past and Benjamin has yet to locate the one responsible for his family's murders. He questions why God would allow him to live when all that he loved had been destroyed.
At Crossroads Crisis Center, an amnesia victim appears. The only clue she has to her identity is a card from Crossroads Crisis Center with the name Susan on it and a necklace. She hopes that someone at the Crisis Center will recognize her and be able to fill in the blanks of her missing past.
When Benjamin meets the mysterious women he is stunned at how much this woman resembles his deceased wife, Susan. He is determined to help her find the answers to her lost memories. Will he be able to accept what he uncovers, or will be putting his own life in jeopardy?
Vicki Hinze has written a high adrenaline rush in Forget Me Not. As the title suggests, you will have a hard time forgetting this high action packed novel. Those that crave roller coaster ride thrillers will definitely be pleased when they discover Forget Me Not. This is one book that will keep you on your edge of your seat.
The WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601421371 $13.99 1-800-603-7051
Vada Allenhouse's life changed when her mother suddenly vanished from their home in Ohio. Her father consumed himself in his medical practice to help deal with the pain of losing his wife. Vada, being the oldest child knew it was up to her to raise her three younger sisters.
As Vada grew to be an adult she captured the eye of Garrison Walker. Still her number one priority was to her father and sisters. Their happiness was of the upmost importance to her life.
When the Brooklyn Bridegrooms played the Cleveland Spiders the town is excited about the game. When one of the spectators gets injured he is brought to her home for her father to treat. The event brings a host of unexpected guests to Vada's home.
Through these new acquaintances her sisters are excited at the opportunity to meet eligible bachelors. Will Vada play a hand as a matchmaker to enable her sisters to find love so that she will be able to live her own life?
Allison Pittman is one of my all time favorite authors. Her writing talent sets her aside from other historical authors. The Bridegrooms is an exceptional example of how she is able to weave a cast of characters into your heart and soul. With each offering I experience I grow more in love with her writing style.
P.O. Box 5190, Buffalo, NY 14240-5190
9780778327950 $7.99 1-888-432-4879
Nate Ferrentino and Rachel Jessop learned that business and pleasure didn't mix. The two had shared a brief one night of passion. Rachel would have liked to explore the growing feelings she harbored for Nate but he showed no interest in continuing with their affair, he treated it as nothing more than a one night stand.
Department 6 is a private security company where both Nate and Rachel work. They are assigned to work together undercover to expose a religious cult who has taken up residence in Paradise, Arizona. Rachel is not looking forward to the close contact the assignment will offer due to their past relationship.
Ethan Wycliff is the found of the Church of the Covenant. His members follow his ever command. To betray him will result in dire consequences. One of his former members barely escaped with her life after Ethan sentenced her to be being stoned to death after she crossed him. Now the cult is rumored to be associated with the disappearance of a teenage girl who disappeared in their compound.
Upon meeting Rachel, Ethan is enchanted by her beauty. He takes an immediate interest in her and decides she is to be the chosen one known as "the vessel". To be selected to be "the vessel" will entitle her to carry Ethan's seed to create a child. To be bestowed that honor is the highest form any woman could hope to obtain in Ethan's religious cult.
Rachel is unaware of Ethan's sinister plot. Will Nate and she be able to put an end to Ethan's madness? Or will they become pawns in his deadly game in the name of all he sees as Holy?
Brenda Novak has written the best high action thriller of 2010. White Heat far exceeded my expectations. From page one I was immediately hooked on this fast action plot that was like solving a Chinese puzzle box. Once again Brenda Novak has proven she is the Queen of romantic suspense!
Naked Dragon: A Works Like Magick Novel
PENGUIN GROUP (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014-3657
9780425232002 $7.99 http://us.penguingroup.com 1- 800-847-5515
McKenna Greylock finds that time is not on her side; she has ninety days to restore her family bed-and-breakfast to the standards needed to meet the building inspector's approval. If she fails she will lose her property and the dreams of her mother and grandmother.
In desperation she enlists the services of Works Like Magick employment agency. The owner, Vivica Quinlan finds the perfect solution to McKenna's dilemma in the form of Bastian Dragonelli.
Bastian was once a Roman solider now he finds himself back on earth using his talents to fulfill McKenna's requirements of a handyman. As an added bonus he is devilish handsome. When McKenna learns that Bastian true dragon heritage will she be able to accept him for what he is?
Naked Dragon is the first in the Works Like Magick series. What a wonderful way to jumpstart what is to be a very highly entertaining saga. Annette Blair has once again proven she knows how to delight her fans.
Kundalini Rising: Exploring the Energy of Awakening
Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa
Sounds True, Inc.
413 S. Arthur Avenue, Louisville, CO 80027
9781591797289 $19.95 http://www.soundstrue.com 1-800-333-9185
For centuries Kundalini has been a scared state in which its existence has been closely guarded. Its theory revolves around the ultimate form of energy source of the highest spiritual awakening.
Through Kundalini Rising you will discover and in-depth look of the true meaning of Kundalini and how it has the power to change your life.
This one is divided into four different sections. Part one is entitled The Experience; this is where you are able to read actual events of people who have experienced Kundalini and all its majestic wonders. Part two is Kundalini and your Health it is essays from medical practitioners who show how Kundalini provides health benefits. The third part is called Kundalini at Large it shows how Kundalini has evolved throughout history. The last section is Kundalini in Motion it discusses how Kundalini has been incorporated into meditation and yoga.
In all there are twenty six essays that allow the reader to fully understand Kundalini and how it has the power to change one's life.
Kundalini Rising: Exploring the Energy of Awakening provides a comprehensive look at a spiritual energy that has existed for centuries. I felt that I gained not only knowledge for a deeper appreciation for all the greatness Kundalini has to offer once I finished this book. Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa is a highly talented author who has brought to light one of life's greatest mysteries.
The Practical Mom's Disney Vacation 2010 Edition
Companion Media, LLC
9780979849244 $19.95 http://www.momswdw.com
Summer time signals vacation time! With the kids out of school it is the ideal time to start planning their summer activities.
Many parents will decide to take their children on a Disney vacation. A vacation of this magnitude takes a lot of planning and organizing. The best book on the market I have discovered to provide the ultimate Disney experience is J.J. Davis's The Practical Mom's Disney Vacation 2010 Edition.
This is more than a book; it is a reference tool that saves you a huge amount of time, effort, and money. It walks you through all stages of the Disney vacation process. As an added bonus it provides the user pre made templates and organizers that will help in ensuring you leave nothing out.
What sets this book far above is competition is its ability to be accessed online. With today's PDA and smart phones, mothers are able to take this invaluable book with them to Disney in case they have a question. It being readily available in electronic form is a huge bonus you won't find in similar titles.
For anyone planning a trip to Disney there is only one book that you need and that is J.J. Davis's The Practical Mom's Disney Vacation 2010 Edition. Once you see how easy and stress free it is to plan a visit to Disney you will find make Disney a part of your vacation each year.
Creating the Perfect Lifestyle
3130 US Hwy 220, Madison, NC 27025
9780473161927 $TBA 336-427-5850
The world is mine oyster
Shakespeare Play, "The Merry Wives of Windsor."
Ask yourself are you living the life of your dreams. If the answer is no then take a step back and analyze what elements need to be changed in order for you to have the life that you deserve.
The pathway to living a rewarding and fulfilling life can be found in Oli Hille's Creating the Perfect Lifestyle. This book will start you traveling on the pathway of success. You will be able to accomplish your goals in as little as five years.
Creating the Perfect Lifestyle enables the user to define the type of lifestyle they wish to have, then it shows you what steps you need to take to turn your dreams into a reality.
Creating the Perfect Lifestyle is the must have book of the century. It's helpful advice can set you on the pathway of living the life you were meant to live. By far this is one of the most interesting titles this reviewer has ever discovered. Oli Hille should stand up and take a bow, he has written a book that can literally change the way you live your life.
Suzie Housley, Reviewer
Berkeley Prime Crime
375 Hudson Street, NY, NY 10014
9780425232323, $24.95 www.penguin.com
The fourth book in the WILD mystery series is an unusual story. Jamaica Wild, the Bureau of Land Management agent in New Mexico, witnesses what appears to be a crucified man on a cross dumped off a bridge into the Rio Grande. It is assumed that it is part of a ritual reenactment of the death of Jesus Christ. But that is only the beginning of the story.
Jamaica already was fascinated by Los Penitentes, an ancient religious group that annually, during Easter week, reenacts the Crucifixion, and practices excessive penance. She was already making sketches of shrines and events and attempting to write a book on the sect. Then all sorts of strange events, including attempts on her life, set her off on a path leading to solving several mysteries.
In addition to the main plot, the novel is quite an outdoor adventure story, together with the mystic elements. Attention to detail and background blend with the plot and descriptions of Native American lore and history.
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312378769, $25.95, www.minotaurbooks.com
This is a love story filled with a lot of suspense. It involves Anders Erickson and Olivia Mayfield, both of whom have pasts they prefer not to remember, or perhaps can't recall. They come from very different backgrounds, but share one thing in common: pretty mixed-up families with extremely dominating fathers.
They live together in Florida. She prefers not to speak about her past, and he accepts that. Then one day, while riding on his motorcycle, they are run off the road and she suffers a blow to her head. At the hospital, where she lies in a coma, Anders is refused any information. Olivia's father, whom he had never previously met, blames him for her injury, and later tells Anders he caused her death. A few weeks later, Anders learns that Olivia is still alive, and he begins to search for her, the search taking him to Africa, where she had been born. [No spoilers here, I assure you.]
Written with a great deal of psychological insights regarding the various relationships, the characters have to come to terms not only with their pasts but their futures. It is an absorbing tale with an intensity that is gripping, and is recommended.
77-85 Fulham Palace Road
Hammersmith, London W6 8JB, England,
9780007244607, 14.99, BPS www.harpercollins.co.uk
[Note: This book is not yet available in the US, only in/through the UK/Canada at this time]
Stuart MacBride has used a true crime story as the basis for this novel, the sixth in the Logan McRae series. It serves as the main case among the Detective Sergeant's work overload, exacerbating his moodiness, drinking and smoking, all of which is heightened, of course, by his interaction with DI Steele, one of the more interesting characters in the genre. On top of her continually riding Logan, he has to cope with another superior, incompetent DI Beattie.
The main plot involves Richard Knox, a man convicted of raping an elderly grandfather.
After serving his time, Knox decides to come to Aberdeen and occupy his late grandmother's home. He is brought to the Scottish city by DI Danby, who originally arrested him. The arrival of Knox sets off waves of protest and his house is burned down. He is whisked off to a "safe" house, from which he is soon kidnapped. Logan, among others, has the task of "protecting" Knox, so it falls to him to find him and the reason for his abduction. At the same time, DI Danby disappears, doubling Logan's task.
The lengthy novel is awash in various subplots, keeping Logan busy virtually 24/7. It seems he has to stop a flood of counterfeit currency in Aberdeen, the murder of a confidential informant, and a couple of jewelry store robberies, among other side issues. All in a day's (or week's) work. Despite the book's length, it is fast reading, tautly plotted and engrossing. Logan, Steele and the other characters are all interesting, and the dialogue, as usual, sparkling.
James Lee Burke
Pocket Star Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781439128305, $9.99, www.simonandschuster.com
An enigmatic new protagonist is introduced in this novel of nearly epic proportions. Sheriff Hackberry Holland, cousin of Billy Bob Holland, featured in many of the author's previous novels, confronts his past and present evils in his small Texas border town, accompanied by his deputy, Pam Tibbs, who provides backup. To start with, the brutal murder of nine Thai women obsesses Hackberry until a final confrontation with psychopaths, hired killers and assorted lowlifes.
Holland is a tragic character, haunted by the death of a wife with whom he was very much in love, as well as his time as a POW in a North Korean-Red Chinese prison camp during the Korean "Police Action." His methods are somewhat unconventional, as are his thought processes.
Deeply drawn characters inhabit these pages, with the prose sometimes rambling on so the reader wonders why it is slow going. However, the story draws the reader on and on in an effort to discover what's going to happen. In the end, it comes down to a battle of wills. Recommended.
The Devil's Star
Don Bartlett, Translator
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061133978, $25.99, www.amazon.com
There are several questions raised in this novel, the third in the Harry Hole series. And they apparently can only be answered by Harry Hole, the Norwegian alcoholic detective, if he sobers up. Haunted by the death of his partner he is frustrated after pursuing proof of the identity of her murderer for two years and goes on a four-week binge resulting in his superior finally giving up on Harry and putting papers in for his dismissal. But a three-week reprieve before the final papers can be signed allows Harry to be part of the search for what appears to be a serial murderer.
In the meantime, his relationship with his lover, Rakel, is jeopardized when she, fed up with his drinking and his devotion to the job, asks him to leave. And then Harry continues to pursue the Inspector whom he believes responsible for the death of his key witness in his search for the reason behind his partner's death. And in this effort, he uncovers a broad conspiracy within the police department.
All these elements make for an extremely complicated novel, almost as complex as Harry himself. But the writing and characters are so well-done that the reader is carried along swiftly to a rousing denouement that only Harry can wrap up.
Jo Nesbo was nominated for an Edgar for best novel this year for "Nemesis." "The Devil's Star" should garner it for him next year, and it is highly recommended.
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590586945, $24.95, www.amazon.com
Enzo MacLeod has solved three cold cases and undertakes to clear up another in this series which began when he accepted a bet that he could find the solution to seven cases described in a friend's book. This novel involves a 20-year-old murder on a little island off the coast of France. The victim, a retired British scientist, implored his daughter-in-law to maintain his study just as it was in the event of his death so that his son, for whom he left an enigmatic message, could "finish the job."
Unfortunately, the son died a short while after the man's murder, and the study has been kept unchanged for two decades, while various attempts to unearth the secret message failed. Now it is Enzo's turn.
This novel gives the author the chance to exhibit the techniques of a forensic biologist, the intuitive analysis of an investigator, as well as his tastes in food, wine and women. Just as important are the descriptions of the locale and the emotions of the characters.
Don Bartlett, translator
c/o Random House
20 Vauxhall Rd., Londoon SW1V 2SA
978-1-846553-348-6 12.99 BPS www.randomhouse.co.uk
[This book is only available at present in/through the UK and Canada.]
The Harry Hole series presents the reader with somewhat of an anomaly. On the one hand, we are informed that Norway is virtually free from serial killers. On the other hand, Hole is reputed to be the only detective in the nation with experience in catching serial killers, having accomplished his experience in Australia and also attending an FBI course. And then, serial killers tend to appear in the Harry Hole novels, including this one.
The first of several missing persons is a married mother, and the only clue is a snowman outside her home. Shortly before her disappearance, Hole received a mysterious letter which, in retrospect, leads him to believe there was a link between it and the woman's vanishing. In reviewing unsolved cases, Harry and his team find an alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over some years.
Once again, Jo Nesbo has written a taut thriller, one that is forceful and gripping and, this time, full of madness. His novels just keep on getting better and better. Fast-paced and staggering, always keeping the reader looking ahead to the next shift, keeping one off balance with wonder. Highly recommended.
Money to Burn
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061556302, $25.99, www.harpercollins.com
By combining the issues of market manipulation and identity theft, James Grippando has raised some interesting questions in this somewhat flawed but timely novel. This reviewer's reservations, which admittedly are probably in the minority, apply to whether or not the premise that a single hedge fund could actually bring down a thinly disguised Goldman Sachs without steps being taken by the New York Stock Exchange or the Securities and Exchange Commission stepping in to stop naked selling of the brokerage's stock is valid.
Nevertheless, legal issues aside, it makes for a provocative tale, especially in view of recent events in the financial world. Essentially the plot involves a 35-year-old star of the venerable Wall Street firm Saxton Silvers, Mike Cantella, who discovers on the night of his birthday that all his accounts have been transferred to an offshore bank and he is left without a penny. At the same time, these funds are used to short the firm's stock, driving its price down, and continued pressure pushes the firm into bankruptcy. Further, other events point to his involvement in the demise, as well as in subsequent murders.
The story is over-plotted, with all kinds of devices including spyware on cell phones and computers, enigmatic e-mails from unidentified sources, FBI probes, corporate espionage, and a wife of four hours who disappears and is presumed dead, eaten by a shark, not to mention a second wife who complicates Mike's life while he is fighting to clear his name. And to wrap up, introduction of the Madoff Ponzi scheme seems a bit gratuitous. Nevertheless, the novel is an entertaining read, and does have some useful insights into today's financial picture.
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312380755, $26.99, www.stmartins.com
First there was Cain and Abel. In this novel we have Bennie Rosato and her twin sister, Alice Connelly (they were separated at birth and raised by different mothers). Bennie grows up to be a highly successful Philadelphia lawyer, heading her own firm, while Alice turns out evil.
Alice has drugged Bennie, burying her alive, and then impersonates her in an attempt to transfer all of Bennie's money out of the country and flee. She convinces everyone, including the bank, that she is Bennie, and succeeds in transferring the funds to an offshore institution. Meanwhile, Bennie breaks through the box in which she is buried, but runs into all kinds of obstacles when she is believed to be Alice.
In the end, the real question asked and, perhaps, answered is: is the nature of evil born in us or is it in the genes? While the main plot is charged to a high degree, the tale is interspersed with a bit of old-fashioned schmaltz, including the caricature of an Italian immigrant family, up and down love lives of a couple of characters, the emotional permutations of a candidate for a law partnership, and even an Italian witch. Of course, Lisa Scottoline's writing is smooth and forceful, so the reader is carried along for an enjoyable read.
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780061561221, $24.99, www.harpercollins.com
There's a rumor going around that an ex- New York Governor, who resigned amid a sex scandal, is being considered for an hour-long CNN program. The wags are pointing out that it would be a switch: This time he would be paid by the hour instead of forking over money to a working girl for services. Then, of course, there were a former President and a certain southern Governor also involved in sex scandals.
Of course there is nothing new about the sex trade; just look back to the Bible and Mary Magdalene or David and Bathsheba. But the topic is timely. Just consider the murder of a Boston woman who advertised her "services" on Craig's list about the time the manuscript for the present novel was submitted. Such a topic plays an important role in helping Ellie Hatcher and her partner, J.J. Rogan, to solve at least three murders in this well-written police procedural.
The novel moves forward, with either one or the other of the two detectives uncovering possible facts or motives in a confusing array of clues, each raising different theories until the pieces finally fall into place. The author utilizes her deep knowledge of the legal system, pitting it against a contemporary issue, to create an absorbing story line, replete with all the necessary twists to keep the reader turning pages. With characterizations to match.
Down to the Wire
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY 10010
9780312373949, $24.99, www.amazon.com
It is a journalistic axiom that a reporter should never become part of the story. Unfortunately, that principle does not apply to Chris Turner, a reporter for the Bergen News who is led by the nose by a serial killer, who initially entices him with a tip about a scandal about a leading political figure and then feeds him additional leads. To dead bodies.
At one point, even Chris is suspected of being the mysterious "PT," the source of the information which has made him nationally, and even internationally, famous, while he claims modestly he was only lucky, being in the right place at the right time. It makes for a rousing plot.
This is the author's second standalone novel, following the highly popular Andy Carpenter series, which included seven entries. What this book proves is that he is not limited to a formula. The book is well-written and the story moves ahead swiftly, keeping the reader off kilter [in a good way]. Recommended.
The Mapping of Love & Death
10 E. 53rd Street, NY, NY 10022
9780061727660, $25.99, www.harpercollins.com
How do you solve a murder that took place on a battlefield more than a decade earlier? With a little bit of luck and a lot of skill and intuition. When an elderly American couple engaged Maisie Dobbs when their son's body was uncovered on a French farm, they provided her with many love letters sent to him by an English nurse, as well as his journal. These documents provided elusive clues.
However, more important were the results of an autopsy which indicated that the man was killed by a blow to the head with a blunt instrument, rather than a Boche shell, which buried the dugout with his body and those of his bunkmates inside. Serendipity, of course, plays an important role in solving the murder, and Maisie certainly doesn't lack for that either.
The seventh novel in the series, which traces the adventures of a young woman from her humble beginnings to serving as a nurse during the First World War to becoming an accomplished investigator, this story demonstrates not only Maisie's growth as a detective, but also the changes in her life that presumably will become apparent in future installments. They are something to which one can look forward.
Eight Days to Live
Johansen Publishing LLLP
c/o Saint Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312368159, $27.99, www.amazon.com
I found Eight Days to Live by Iris Johansen to be okay, but it didn't put me on the edge of seat or draw me deeply into the story. It was moderately interesting and well-written. It was easy to read and had a decent plot. It just didn't live up to my expectations.
In Eight Days to Live Jane MacGuire, an artist is pursued by a cult dedicated to Judas Iscariot, because a painting she did, named Guilt resembles a mosaic in their sacred temple. The cult figures Jane is a blasphemer who somehow found the temple and made the painting based on what is within it.
Jane is targeted for "total extermination" which means not only is she a target, but so is anyone close to her - family, friends, neighbors. Jane has a few unusual friends to help protect her and her loved ones: a Scottish Laird, a former assassin and a vampire, yes, I said a vampire. He breaks away from the stereotypical vampire. He's a good guy, but not so good that he's boring.
The opening and closing chapters are the best of the book; everything in between those points is mediocre. There is lots of running and hiding from the bad guys, but getting away from them is almost too easy and causes no heart stopping action. Overall the book was a disappointment.
What follows is an excerpt from the early chapters of the book, before it begins its nose-dive:
"You'll get in trouble. I could only report an obscene caller. I don't even know if we can even prove he was trying to attack me. I know you were only trying to help me, but you have to get out of here."
"No. Tell them I was up there in the suite already, and I came down to protect you until the police got here."
"But we can't prove he was any threat to me. It was only an obscene-"
"We can prove it, Jane," Jock said gently. "Look at the door."
"Door? What are you talking about?" Jock's hands were on her shoulders, gently turning her to face the gallery, to face the huge oak door that had slowly swung open to reveal the man who had attacked her."What has-"
She lifted her head and looked at the door, which had swung back closed from the weight of the burden it carried. The burden that was now illuminated by the streetlight.
"No! Oh, God on heaven, no!"
Celine Denarve, still dressed in her flamboyant red cloak, stared back at Jane, her face frozen and contorted with pain and horror. She had been nailed to a cross that had been fixed to the oak door by a huge crucifix nail. There were nails in her palms and feet. There was another nail piercing her chest.
a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
House Rules by Jodi Picoult is a realistic view into the world of a family dealing with Asperger's Syndrome. She illustrates the character with Asperger's syndrome, Jacob, wonderfully, painting a picture of his keen intellect coupled with his stunted emotional growth. Jacob, and all people with Asperger's aren't like the typical autistic children and adults. A person with Asperger's wants to connect with those around him or her, but lacks the necessary skill to do so.
The story is written from multiple points of view: Jacob's; his brother, Theo; his mother, Emma; his lawyer, Oliver and a detective, Rich. Despite all the different points of view Picoult weaves a cohesive story with a strong plot and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the end.
House Rules is the story of Jacob and his family, their "normal" life and their life after Jacob is accused of the murder of his social skills tutor, a grad student named Jess. What follows is a passage from the book:
"Once when Jacob was ten, we were walking the aisles of a Toys "R" Us in Williston when a little boy jumped out from an endcap wearing a Darth Vader mask and brandishing a light saber. "Bang, you're dead!" the boy cried, and Jacob believed him. He started shrieking and rocking, and then he swept his arm through the display on the shelves. He was doing it to make sure he was not a ghost, to make sure he could leave an impact in this world. He spun and flailed, trampling boxes as he ran away from me.
By the time I tackled him in the doll section, he was completely out of control. I tried singing Marley to him. I shouted at him to make him respond to my voice. But Jacob was in his own little world and finally the only way I could make him calm was to become a human blanket, to pin him down on the industrial tile with his arms and legs flung wide.
By then, the police had been called on suspicion of child abuse.
It took fifteen minutes to explain to the officers that my son was autistic, and that I wasn't trying to hurt him - I was trying to help him.
I've often thought, since then, about what would happen if Jacob was stopped by the police while he was on his own - "
Jacob has to have a strict routine in order to function. He has a photographic memory, but watches Crime Busters every day at 4:30 p.m. When his routine is interrupted he becomes agitated and may harm himself or others. He has been known to injure others on occasion. He is a forensic science buff. His reason for watching Crime Busters every day is to see if 1) he can solve the crime faster than the CSI detectives on the show do and 2) to see if the ending of the show will be different. He has over a hundred composition books filled with notes from the various episodes, which have been repeats for quite some time and he subscribes to at least one forensic science magazine. He keeps an overturned fish tank in his room to process prints and sets up elaborate crime scenes for his mother to solve.
After Jess is killed the evidence points to Jacob as her killer. He had an appointment with her on the day she disappeared and she is found with his handmade quilt wrapped around her. As time goes on more evidence mounts against Jacob, including some of his own comments and notes. Did Jacob kill Jess and if he did will he be sent to jail or found not guilty by reason of insanity?
Tracy M. Riva
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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