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A Survivor's Tale
All Things That Matter Press
A Survivor's Tale is an apocalyptic lament contained within a slender volume of 142 pages which can be enjoyably read in a couple of sittings. It consists of a stand-alone short story entitled "City of the Dreadful Night" that is presented as a prelude to the accompanying eponymous novelette. Both works are a mixture of historical and science fiction, though the prelude leans more towards the former while the novelette more towards the latter.
Twenty-second century Earth is ravaged by the pandemic "Lazen's Disease" ("LD") - named for the researcher who first identified the affliction and later succumbed to it - which is virtually a hundred percent fatal. Crazed mobs roam the streets of London and menace the government's infectious diseases research center and the scientists striving to combat the outbreak. Brilliant but arrogant, ever-secretive infectious disease specialist Janis FitzHaven has gone renegade, stealing one of the government's dwindling number of chambers capable of time travel to visit the 14th century of the Black Death apparently in the hope of finding the cause of LD and a cure. Her theory is that the Black Death was not bubonic plague, but rather a form of LD currently threatening the existence of mankind. The mystery is why a significant number of those afflicted with the Black Death survived if it was the same disease as FitzHaven suspects.
FitzHaven is forced to steal the time travel chamber after being banned from using one as a result of an unauthorized excursion to the Whitechapel of Jack the Ripper's reign of terror in an initial attempt to find a cure for LD. This adventure on her part is the subject of "City of the Dreadful Night," a period piece of historical interest that offers a well-drawn ambience and a suspenseful dark charm for aficionados of historical fiction. Its tie-in with the succeeding novelette becomes poignantly apparent towards the end of "A Survivor's Tale."
On her trip to the year 1348 at Tilgardesle (also known as Tilgarsley) - an Oxfordshire village, located near a monastery, that was abandoned in the wake of the Black Death sometime prior to 1350 -, FitzHaven manipulates the idealistically romantic and combative medieval historian and linguist Stone (just "Stone"), her husband of a sort - with loosely binding relationship contracts having apparently replaced marriage in the social mores of the 22nd century -, into accompanying her on her latest quest for a cure into the past, ostensibly to serve as a guide and interpreter.
After Stone signals the 22nd century research center - through the time travel chamber's "umbilical" that anchors it to its home time period - that Janis has gone missing, the United Kingdom's prime minister recruits American infectious disease specialist Lara Rede to lead a team back to the 14th century in the hope of recovering Janis FitzHaven or at least her research data and notes. Rede and the team do so begrudgingly as neither FitzHaven nor Stone are popular figures within their scientific community.
Meanwhile, while searching for the errant Janis, the disease-resistant Stone forebodingly searches the pits where the corpses of the victims of the Black Death are to be burned. He encounters two men charged with conveying the bodies there. Stone discovers that one of the recent arrivals, a teenage girl, is still alive; a trifling concern to the disease-ridden corpse valets, much to the enragement of Stone. After scuffling with the men, the anachronistically gallant Stone rescues the girl and takes her back to the chamber. Using the limited knowledge he has learned from FitzHaven, Stone administers Janis's antibiotic medicine to the girl, whose name he shortly learns is Elisabeth, who seems to recover. Despite his relationship to his missing conjugal mate and the girl's initial aversion to him, Stone falls in love with the waif half his age.
Janis FitzHaven is furious upon returning and reuniting (after her harrowing encounter with the zealous local bishop who had imprisoned her as a witch) with Stone over the misguided actions of her lover; not out of jealousy, but rather out of Stone's interference with matters beyond his comprehension that now threatens dire consequences. FitzHaven eventually is forced by events to confide in Rede - who, though not in FitzHaven's professional league, Janis recognizes is humanity's best remaining hope to combat the 22nd century pandemic - concerning the true nature of the disease and her work.
The exquisite interweaving of historical and science fiction that is A Survivor's Tale lifts the work well above most other apocalyptic offerings. The historical and epidemiological aspects of the work are well-researched, plausible and eminently interesting without becoming burdensome. The book addresses profound ethical issues of the situational variety in a thought-provoking manner and is tinged with overtones amenable to readers of feminist sensibilities as female scientists with stratospheric IQs and often foul tongues (though the work is not all that profane by today's standards) command men with self-assured authority. $14.39 print; $5.99 Kindle.
Staring the Red Earth Down
Brent Martin, author/poet
Rob Cox, illustrator
Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014
1055 Agate Street, St. Paul, MN 55117
No ISBN, $12.00
"Staring the red earth down," Brent Martin writes at the end of his poem "Man Pulling Cable" - it's what "the spectral mountains" where he lives and writes in the Southern Appalachians, do. At the end of another, "the hand fades quickly with moisture and light." Between these two lines lies a breadth and depth of reach, in insight, perception and feeling - all enfolded in a keen sense of place entwined with peoples' lives; an entanglement of a land and its people - often troubled, misused, forgotten, but where "songs buried now silent, / but [still are] willing and begging to be sung."
Stopped and waiting in line along a mountain highway by a road crew laying cable, all disgusted in their tedious work "cursing their elsewhere version of a future" except for one man grappling the cable "strong and satisfied," as if trying to birth "some breeched infernal new world," the poet notices what looks down in judgement on all this: "the spectral mountains / staring the red earth down."
An old woman watches television in "her beat up house trailer/ the home old man Passmore built / next door sinking into the weeds" as the poet wanders her winter fields looking for pot shards - remnants of a lost past. In town a homeless man sells weeds, bouquets of common clover he's pulled from cracks in the sidewalk, holding out a bouquet "so delicately he could be holding a baby," saying "this one is called Everyday People."
Walking old Indian mounds, two friends recite together Robinson Jeffers' defiant poem "Shine, Perishing Republic," "his hand slapping my back for emphasis, / where water now flows in rivulets / down upon the abandoned rail lines..." Such poems take us lovingly to a place most of us already know within ourselves - the place where we struggle to come to terms with circumstances of loss, impending change, a world in the harsh throes of modernity, and yet, unaccountably, still nascent with hope.
Poem after poem teases out the worn places in the heart, the patches sewn in for repair with the broken threads that connect us to a truth echoing always in the land. Even in an airport, one of the most placeless and alienating places on earth, the stranded poet, in "The Love Trial of Virgie Arthur," finds respite gazing at an ubiquitous tv monitor watching CNN while outside "...starlings fight for scraps / on the empty winter runway."
The Ferryman tells me to fish downriver,
the crusty bastard, standing on his porch
cursing everything upstream.
He curses the town a while,
then he curses its conservative
church going citizens,
and as he is waving like the Queen
as I depart in my little red boat,
he tells me that Jimmy Sang
has been catching redeyes in the evening,
smallmouth in the afternoon.
You gotta Fish them v's though, the spot where the water
funnels through them old fish weirs.
Old angry and happy ferryman
with your bright river rolling on
birthing your final somber days.
Downriver, he says again, downriver.
Fish them v's and to hell with upstream.
This ferryman is a crotchety short-tempered descendant of Charon, resentful and cynical in his displacement from his mythical time - as we all are now in our "little red boat[s]" of what passes for modernity The land, always the land - its mountains, its history, all speak together in these poems as a Greek chorus. Following the rich thematic strand of loss and redemption in Southern story telling, they make clear how place is pivotal, how we are wedded to place whether we wish it or not, how it insists we must come to terms with where in particular we are, and that when we don't nature maintains a voice to admonish us.
In "Snowbird" the poet lays out what is permitted to him to speak of in his daily work day life - "ecosystem resources," and of what he is not - the sacredness of coyote bones that lay claim upon this place "as legitimate as the stains of cities / which line the mountain's brow."
Romantic poetry brought forth nature poetry in the 19th century, and blossomed in the late 20th century into ecopoetics. It is a long tradition now. It has always maintained a critique of modernity. Mr. Martin's work brings an important contribution to this literature of bringing us intimately close to the crisis of our time - the ecotone, the edge habitat between our human lives and culture and the nature that makes a place for us. As such they are deeply political and moral. Through these poems an important collaborating voice comes forth to sing a song "willing and begging to be sung." It is the way Mitchell Lick speaking "in splintered tongues of white" makes irrelevant the language of "ecosystem services" and such human talk finally "fades quickly with moisture and light."
#2 19-3 Avenue SE, High River, AB Canada, T1V 1G3
9781771551113, $2.99 (Kindle), www.amazon.com
Michael Thal, Reviewer
Holocaust Survivor Tales
Nurse Ilsa Michalski runs a Miami Beach boarding house filled with interesting people, a few of whom survived the Holocaust.
Dr. Ustin Jankauskas (Dr. J) receives an accident victim from a vehicle that turned over on the highway traversing the Everglades. The police believe Mr. Behrman's death was due to the accident. Dr. J recognized the mark of the Little Horn, Hauptmann Horst Bress, a sadistic Nazi captain who enjoyed torturing Jews with a Valknut spike, on Behrman's body. Ustin contacts his close friend, Nazi hunter Moshe Brodsky, to find Bress and bring him to justice.
Thus begins Debra Easterling's novel, Moshe's War. The book is set in 1967 Miami, Florida. Easterling's research brings to life the suffering of World War II survivors - Jews and non-Jews alike. The author touches on the social upheaval of the 60's as she makes a comparison between the Civil Rights Movement in the US vs the blindness of the German people to the plight of their Jewish neighbors. Her thesis statement could be summed up in this quote from the novel, "Whether it be a civilization led blind by the politics in government, or the naivety of the illiterate, prejudice is always ugly - always dangerous." As you read through this powerful book, you'll see the author's unique understanding of the pain and guilt her characters experienced as she shows it in a moving work of literature that will keep readers turning pages until the surprising ending.
Moshe's War should be required reading for all American citizens as they grapple with the significance of the Holocaust and its affect on the 21st Century. Highly recommended.
The Coconut Ketogenic Diet
P.O. Box 25203, Colorado Springs CO 80936
9780941599948, $16.95, 318 pp, www.piccadillybooks.com
Paul Lappen, Reviewer
This weight loss plan actually encourages the consumption of fat on a daily basis.
The low fat or low calorie diet that you are on is the reason why your weight loss has been slow, or non-existent. Fat is an essential nutrient; the human body needs a certain amount of it every day. It helps to slow down food in your digestive system so that it can be absorbed. Besides, food producers will add chemicals to make up for the fat or calories that have been removed, chemicals that are even less healthy than fat.
Your whole thyroid system may be malfunctioning, not just your thyroid gland, which the usual thyroid blood test may not pick up. The problem may be an iodine deficiency, or chemicals like fluorine, chlorine and bromine that are in your tap water. Take your temperature several times during the day. If it is chronically more than 0.3 degrees low, that may indicate a thyroid or metabolism problem. How can a person stimulate their metabolism? Drink lots of water, get regular exercise and exposure to sunlight, eat a wholesome diet, consume coconut oil and add cayenne pepper to the diet.
What about this coconut ketogenic diet? The two most important parts of it are to greatly reduce, or eliminate, your consumption of carbohydrates, and have three tablespoons of coconut oil with each meal. If your body tells you to start with one tablespoon per meal and work your way up from there, that's fine. The book has a list of the carbohydrate content in fruits, vegetables and breads, along with a chart showing desired body weight. The explains why coconut oil (also known as medium chain triglycerides) are so healthy.
This is an excellent book. It is not the usual "diet," where the dieter is limited to certain foods. If all a person can do is greatly reduce their carbohydrate consumption, and do a lot more exercising, without doing anything else, that can only help. This book is recommended for everyone, with and without a weight problem.
T. C. Boyle
Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780147509758, $16.00, www.amazon.com
Rachel Cordasco, Reviewer
I can't remember the last time I had such a strange feeling while reading a book. From the moment I started San Miguel (Viking Penguin, 2012), I felt like I had stepped into a time-distortion machine, where everything seemed to slow down. For the first 30 pages or so, I wondered if the book would "pick up," or just plod along like the poor over-worked horses that dragged baggage and food and other items up and down the hill between the Pacific Ocean and the lonely island house. It didn't pick up, but that soon became just fine with me. And I realized that this is one of those few books that make you forget that you're reading and tricks you into believing, instead, that you're living the story.
San Miguel is a novel of historical fiction based on the lives of three women brought by their husbands or fathers to San Miguel Island, off the coast of California, around the turn of the 20th century. Both the Waters family in the 1880s and the Lester family in the 1930s confront the desolation, loneliness, and isolation of the island and their own emotional and physical struggles. And yet, despite the island's physical isolation, the outside world and its wars, depressions, and technological progress always lingers just over the horizon.
So read this if you like: lyrical descriptions of the environment; third-person omniscient narration; psychological, rather than physical, action; a fictional take on historical events; and domestic drama.
Twilight Times Books
P.O.Box 3340, Kingsport, TN 37664
9781606192818, Print $17.95, Pages: 260
9781606192801, Ebook $6.50
A Paranormal Suspense
I really did enjoy this book. In fact I did the whole series. I remember a commercial a long time ago about a potato chip. It started out "I bet you can't eat just one?" Then of course it showed where one, was not enough!
That is like this series. You start on one book, and when you are done, you want to go to the next book. So I would suggest that you have them all before you begin. I think the author wrote a good ending for this series. To me it was sad as some of the characters were going away and never again to be read about.
I hope maybe someday Cassie and Evan may show up again in a book. Can't you just imagine them with a lot of kids all of whom have different types of magic?
Sunset Rising (Book One)
52 Franklin Cathcart Crescent, Stittsville, Ontario, K2S 2A6 Canada
9780991733033,$12.99, (PB), $0.99 (Kindle), 470pp, www.amazon.com
If I could give more than 5 stars I would! One of THE BEST dystopian books I've ever read!! The ease and imagery of S.M. McEachern's writing style is so captivating you are truly sucked into the story, without having it forced down. Sunny and Jack are so endearing and brave. The evolution of their friendship and his eye opening experience in the "pit" is such a wonderful experience. This book has it all....love story, good vs evil, drama, suspense......definitely a book you can't put down!
In a nutshell: Sunset, "Sunny", is an urchin living below the "Dome." The urchin's are basically slaves to those born into privilege that live in the Dome. Things have been that way for nearly 300 years, since the nuclear bombs went off in WW3. Born in to their stations of life, the urchins know no different until Sunny is brought upstairs to the Dome because of her beauty and the need for "entertainment" at the future President's bachelor party. And THAT is where the story takes off on a roller coaster ride you will be glad you got on. If/When this becomes a movie....I will be first in line!
24600 Mountain Avenue/35, Hemet, CA 92544
9780615923680, $14.95, 66 pp., www.amazon.com
Kathy Nelson, Reviewer
Wild Goose Poetry Review
There is not a shred of self-pity in the very difficult material Nancy Scott (www.nancyscott.net) deals with in her latest book "Midwestern Memories". Instead, whether she is dealing with the memory of her parents' divorce, the death of a cousin, or being a child during a time of war, there is humor and wry understanding. For a reader, it is an absorbing, fascinating read.
Ms. Scott has collected a series of vignettes that accumulate to capture a childhood. She offers reflections on family, such as the artist aunt who favored her ("Canvas"), and traces her Russian lineage with deft strokes ("Family Photos"). The brief lines of "How My Brother Got Religion" offer a glimpse not only of her brother's character but of her relationship with him as he is forced by their mother to return items stolen from a church. She recalls the drama of childhood friendships: skating on thin ice with Peter ("Wilder Lake") and, against the backdrop of playing "good guys" and "Nazis," watching Tommy being ostracized as he dreams of "shooting/a real gun, real bullets" ("Child's Play, circa 1944"). Many of the phrases describe so well. In "The Outside Rear Steps," the great-grandmothers' hands are "thin bones wrapped in/speckled skin." There is economy but also tenderness in these descriptions.
The most poignant poems of this book convey the complexities of the poet's relationship with her parents. In "Blackout," the poet conveys her fondness for her father, the safety he provided "on long scary nights when bombs never fell." She skillfully portrays the complicated dynamics of a family in which the parents demand good manners of their child while they battle fiercely with each other ("When Good Manners were not Enough"). And with amazing understatement, she reveals the impossible situation the child is in when her parents are at war ("Waiting for Her"). The groaning of the car at the end of this poem is eloquent. But the most memorable poem of the book is "Battle," which cleanly gives the whole brutal story of the parents' conflicted marriage, its unraveling, the father's death, and, after his funeral, the mother's counting the "spoils of a lifetime at war."
War, geopolitical and interpersonal, is a motif of "Midwestern Memories" and, even though the tone of many of the poems is wry and restrained, one is left after reading this captivating volume with sympathy for the child who witnessed it.
Dodendal: Valley of Dreams
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
Gulotta Communications, Inc.
9780989825115, $14.95, 350pp, www.amazon.com
I concluded my reading of Dodendal: Valley of Dreams and found it to be a tremendous book - highly imaginative and full of references to the Hudson Valley. As a resident of the Hudson Valley, I found the entire story to be fascinating as a potential projection of the area forward into the future. However, the story itself was the most rewarding part of the read. It essentially follows from 1984 and modernizes it for present-day readers. The story projects current trends in our society into the future, specifically, the tricentennial year of 2076. It leads us down a path in which individuals lose their fundamental rights and live downtrodden by a greater authority. The tale is captivating and culminates with a final vision that offers hope for the future as the Valley of the Dead morphs into the Valley of Dreams. The book may be viewed as an amalgam of 1984, 2001 A Space Odyssey, and Brave New World. I can honestly say that I consider this to be one of the best works of fiction that I have ever read, even after having read most of the works of Asimov, Vonnegut, and Douglas Adams. Needless to say, it is highly recommended.
Encounter With The Aberdeen Wildman: A True Story
Frank J. Bennett
1663 Liberty Drive Bloomington, IN 47403
9781496922595, $19.95, 274 Pages, paperback
B00MADHKIA, $3.99, 274 Pages, Kindle
It was a time of cultural change and paranormal is on the rise with Satanism, witchcraft and Bigfoot sightings. Bennett lives near Big Gunpowder Falls in Baltimore County, Maryland. Growing up he encounters his own paranormal of the unknown and the "Aberdeen Wildman". Here lies his story.
Bennett creatively writes with a unique flair as if the reader is seeing the story through his eyes. What starts out as a coming of age story with paranormal sightings turns to the author's own investigation into the unknown. As a Christian I loved the writer's way of comparing God's word to the supernatural, demons and the unknown giving us the readers a unique way of perceiving this subject. I like that Bennett is a serious writer but when needed he can be humorously entertaining. There is too much information within the pages to just read casually or lightly. A book that I know I will read over and over again as there is too much to learn in one reading. This is definitely one to read with the Bible in one hand and this book in the other as Bennett has a remarkable way of bring forth the truth.
I highly recommend for anyone interested in paranormal and the unknown but equally for the Christian that have questions to ask for Bennett and God's word have the answers!!
Signs of Love: A Guide for Deaf Ministry
P.O. Box 851 Valley Forge, PA 19482
9780817017538, $17.99, www.judsonpress.com
God's Great Commission for His followers is to reach a lost and dying world. That Commission must also include those with special needs. Sadly most churches seem to miss this group of people whether it's a not knowing of how or possibly a lack of desire. There are many types of special needs and in "Signs of Love" the Deaf community is covered to answer the question "How will the Deaf hear without an interpreter?"
Exceptionally written, Buck knows her subject well giving us the first keys into which a Deaf ministry is to be started, staying in contact and most of all love and study. As a Sunday school teacher of children with special needs I've wanted to open my class wider to cover all needs. When it came to students that were deaf I was at a loss. But no more as Buck's book has given me the info I needed to be able to reach the deaf community. I loved the way the author covers the background history as well as ALS and finger spelling in such a clear way giving me a greater understanding. Also great is how to develop a deaf ministry, where the deaf worship and how to incorporate the arts. Amazing is chapter five that covers how the deaf perceive a deaf ministry. With such great info who could possibly want more but Buck takes it further with a chapter on recommended resources that only enrich the learning experience.
I highly recommend as an investment for any person or church with a passion to fulfill God's Great Commission. For anyone who has read Amy Fenton Lee's book "Leading a Special Needs Ministry" this would make an excellent companion book - two excellent guidebooks for special needs ministry.
Bram Stoker and the Man Who Was Dracula
Da Capo Press
c/o Perseus Book Group
250 W. 57th St., Suite 1500, New York, NY 10107
0306810980; $18.00, 381pp, www.amazon.com
I nearly always read biography for information. Seldom do I read biography for fun because so much of it is written by people who shouldn't write anything at all. Worse still are the people - people whose lives don't merit a book - who pay authors to write doorstops about them in hope that 20 pounds of paper and puffery will get them at least one mention in history.
I hope the authors who write puff 'n' stuff are well paid. They should even get bonuses if they can write it without throwing up. On the other hand it is always a pleasure for me to open a biography by someone I don't know who wrote about somebody for whom I care little or not at all and find the book interesting for being informative, lively, and lots of fun to read.
All of which brings me to Barbara Belford's remarkable tale of 'Bram Stoker and the Man Who Was Dracula.' I picked Belford's 'Stoker and the Man' because I'm preparing to read 'Dracula' for the first time in my life, and I like to know a little something about the author of any book before I tackle the book itself. Belford's title promised me not only Bram Stoker but (here's the bonus for me) the people and personalities whom Stoker wove into what fans of horror fiction generally agree is the best tale of blood and bondage ever written.
I really can't say how much Barbara Belford knew about Dracula's creator before she started research on 'Stoker and the Man.' If she knew no more than I did, she must have been surprised (momentarily dismayed?) to find it would be impossible to tell Bram Stoker's life story without also digging up the lives of Henry Irving and Ellen Terry and the story of the London's Lyceum Theater.
When Henry Irving met Bram Stoker, Dracula's future father was still a largely inexperienced young man. All Stoker had going for him was an ardent love of drama, ambitions as a drama critic, experience as an accountant / auditor, and a vast but unrealized talent for theater-troupe management. The most important thing about himself Stoker knew for certain was that he emphatically did not want to be a civil servant - the profession into which his father tried to steer him.
When 29-year-old Henry Irving met Bram Stoker, Irving was a hard case by comparison. Having spent his adult life on-stage touring with one troupe or another, Irving was a survivor of two failed marriages. An absentee father of two children by his second wife, fast-living Irving was thought an unsavory, no-goodnik bohemian by some who knew him personally. Nevertheless, Stoker and a few others guessed correctly that Irving would rise to be one of the leading lights of British drama.
So it was that when Bram Stoker met Henry Irving, when the two of them sat in the bar of the finest old hotel in Dublin talking ecstatically of the drama and reading and writing and the theatrical life, when they smoked and drank and talked the whole night away, by the time they parted regretfully at sunup, Irving the professional poseur had charmed Stoker the honest critic as Stoker had never been charmed by anyone.
Some time after that first meeting, Irving found an angel who floated a loan to lease and remodel the Lyceum Theater in London. The place was a wreck, having stood empty for years, but Irving and his angel(s) poured a few tons of money into it. Irving hired Stoker to run the place for him. By and by the Lyceum Theater opened, and to call the public reaction favorable is one lulu of an understatement.
Irving soon discovered that Stoker was a strong, affable, honest and expert manager of people. He was good with numbers and great at logistics. He was also an experienced theatrical critic. He wrote theater columns for Dublin newspapers before he ever met Irving. So it was that Irving happily offloaded everything to do with management of the Lyceum Theater and the Lyceum troupe - including advertising and publicity - onto Stoker's broad and capable shoulders. That left Irving with nothing to do except hire and fire actors and actresses and play the male lead in every Lyceum production.
At about the same time, Irving discovered a new leading lady. She was a young actress named Ellen Terry. Ms. Terry was married but that did nothing to dilute the chemistry between two people who made a natural couple. Henry Irving and Ellen Terry together set the Lyceum stage aflame. Barons, knights, princes brought their women, waded through the crowds, helped pack the house, and applauded as madly as anybody else when the curtain came down.
Ably assisted by Stoker's management, accounting and publicity skills, Irving and Terry lifted drama out of shame, poverty and squalor into the limelight of fame, fortune, and the high life. They were the prototype of all superstars. They were the BrAngelina, the Bogey and Bacall, the Liz and Dick, the Gable and Lombard, the Tracy and Hepburn of the Victorian stage. They toured America in summers. Stoker went with them to handle booking, logistics and publicity, of course. Back in London for the winter season, the leading lights of Britain attended their backstage parties. Stoker, Irving and Terry knew everybody and everything that was anybody or anything in all of London society. Even today they are well worth reading about.
There's a lot more to tell in that direction but I don't want to spoil 'Stoker and the Man' for anybody. Trust me, it's a wonderful tale of the great golden age of London theater. It's a writer's tale, and there's a whole world of stuff going on in 'Stoker and the Man' of which I never read before or heard anyone tell. 'Stoker and the Man' is chock full of fascinating people. Is anybody curious about Oscar Wilde? Arthur Conan Doyle? James Whistler? Henry James? How about George Bernard Shaw? Mark Twain? They are all in there, along with a lot of other stuff and people of which or about whom you, too, may never have read or heard tell before.
Throughout the book, Ms. Belford pushes her thesis that Stoker based the character of Count Dracula on his experience of Henry Irving. Whether or not she proves her contention is for readers to judge and to argue about. For my own part, I found 'Bram Stoker and the Man Who Was Dracula' a howling good read. An additional virtue is that it stands alone: If you've already read Stoker's 'Dracula' or if you have not is no obstacle to a full appreciation of this book.
Solomon sez: Get this one and read it. If you like Dracula the novel, if you're a fan of the stage, or maybe just a history buff like this writer, you're gonna have a good time with Barbara Belford's biography of Bram Stoker.
I Kings: Torn in Two
c/o Koren Publishers Jerusalem Ltd.
PO Box 8531, New Milford, CT 06776-8531
9781613290040, $22.47, 350 pages, www.amazon.com
Too few people read the early historical books of the Hebrew Bible - Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings - and those who do fail to get as much out of the books as they can. Alex Israel's new book focuses on the first half of the book Kings, called I Kings because the Greek translation of the book divided the book in two, a convention that was accepted by Jews in 1517. I Kings is comprised of twenty-two chapters and covers the history of ancient Judah and Israel from the coronation of King Solomon in 967 BCE through the reign of King Jehoshaphat who died in 846 BCE. The book of Kings as a whole deals with "the four hundred years of history from Solomon to the exile, from the advent of the Temple to its destruction" in 586 BCE. It describes the kings of the two nations, Judah and Israel, the politics, wars, and a significant problem of the era, idolatry.
Alex Israel's book is subtitled "Torn in Two" because after Solomon's death in 928 BCE, his son Rehoboam refused to accept the demands of the ten northern tribes to reduce taxation. When he rebuffed them, they withdrew from the nation of Judah and formed their own country, which they called Israel. In the final chapter of I kings, King Ahab of Israel formed a short-lived alliance with King Jehoshaphat of Judah, but a prophet criticized the alliance. Israel lasted for about 200 years until it was conquered by Assyria. The ten tribes were driven into exile, and became known in history as "the ten lost tribes," although some of the inhabitants escaped south to Judah; so all the tribes continued to exist, although only Levites and the family of Aaron, the priests, know their lineage today.
This book describes the reign of thirteen kings, five from Judah and eight from Israel. Three of the thirteen stand out; one from Judah, Solomon, and two from Israel, Jeroboam, who organized the split from Judah, and Ahab, the husband of Jezebel who repeatedly repented his wrongs and then, perhaps provoked by Jezebel, reverted to the performance of improper acts. Solomon attempted to strengthen the unity of Israel, but his son destroyed his goal. Solomon began his reign as a man devoted to God, he built Israel's first temple, but he ended his life seduced by his foreign wives to worship idols. "Each of these kings suffered from divided loyalties, finding religious orientation at variance with his national agenda...making singular adherence to God's law impossible." Additionally, quite a few chapters in I Kings as well as II Kings deal with the famed prophet Elijah, the only prophet who resigned his prophetic position, an overly-zealous man, who begged God to kill him, who is described with great insight by Alex Israel. The biblical Elijah is radically different than the Elijah known through post-biblical legends.
Alex Israel offers readers an explanation of each of the twenty-two chapters, discussing each in turn, in an easy to read, comprehensive, and insightful manner. For example, among much else, in explaining chapter 1, Israel answers why it was necessary to seek a virgin from "the entire country" to lay in King David's bed to warm him; couldn't "a suitable candidate have been found in a more limited local - the province of Judah, for instance?" Israel explains that this was part of the plot of one of David's sons who wanted to succeed him; he was publicizing David's infirmity.
In his explanation of chapter 2, again among much else, Israel explains why this son of David felt he could escape Solomon's attempt to kill him by seeking asylum by leaning on the altar. The Torah states that the altar is not an asylum for a murderer. He also explains why Solomon felt he had to kill his brother.
In his discussions of chapters 9 and 10, which describe the wealth and opulence of Solomon's reign, Israel warns readers that the Solomon chapters "bear a double reading." In an initial reading, readers are "impressed and overwhelmed by the power and accomplishments of this king.... But as one revisits these chapters a second time, especially with the awareness of Solomon's failures at the end of his reign, one appreciates that he did not fail overnight; darker strands are revealed, indicating the deep flaws that threatened the impressive national enterprise." For example, in the twenty-fourth year of his reign, the country that had been so rich was now suffering a deficit and Solomon had to buy food from the kingdom of Tyre and had to pay for it by giving the Tyre king twenty cities.
In chapter 11, Israel gives readers an insightful even-handed picture of Jeroboam who rebelled against Solomon's son and established a new kingdom for ten of the twelve tribes. In chapter 12, he shows that the rivalry between Judah and Joseph - Jeroboam was from Joseph - goes back unabated to the time of Jacob's sons. "The fiercest manifestation of their feud is the terrible sale of Joseph to Egypt, instigated by Judah." In 12, he also discusses whether the two temples that Jeroboam established in Dan and Beth El, placing calves at the entrances to the temples, changing the date of Sukkot, and allowing the general public to function as priests was idolatry.
While all the kings of Judah were descendants of David, the kings of the northern kingdom came from various tribes and repeatedly suffered untimely ends through bloody assassinations. Jeroboam's son succeeded him but was assassinated by Baasha after ruling only two years. Baasha's son followed him as king but was also assassinated by Zimri after two years, and Zimri lasted only seven days. The history of these kings of Israel as well as the kings of Judah is a fascinating tale, especially with Alex Israel's explanations of the events. Readers will enjoy this book and look forward to its sequel.
The Terrible Beauty of the Evil Man
Finis Leavell Beauchamp
Finis Coronat Opus LLC
9780692237885, $14.95 pbk / $2.99 Kindle, 395 pages, www.amazon.com
This is one of the best biographies I read in years. Finis' experiences are unusual, even bizarre, but fascinating and thought-provoking. The book is written in language that reminded me of William Faulkner and was a pleasure to read.
Finis writes at age 30 about his experiences since childhood until he converted to Judaism at age 22. Finis was brilliant. He could recall events that transpired soon after he began to crawl. His parents, especially his mother, were from well-known and respected families of fundamentalist Southern Baptists living in the Deep South and leaders of the Movement. It was assumed that he would follow family tradition and be the Movement's future leader.
Yet, as far back as he could remember he asked questions about his family's beliefs and practices. His parents were shocked. No one in the community asked such questions. Everyone had the same notions about God and the New Testament. His parents brought an exorcist to drive out the devil who was "obviously" controlling the child. When this failed, his parents beat him an average of three times a day with a cowboy belt and then heavy boards until he was in his mid-teens. Finis' mother decided to have him home-schooled, and he was beaten by his mother who hit him more fiercely than his father who cried after striking him, until he discovered how to stop them.
One night, at the age of seventeen, after a party, two drunk girls from his high school, aged fourteen and fifteen, said they both had a crush on him and insisted that he date one of them. Finis refused, so the girls approached him and began to have oral sex with him. Finis expressed he was not interested in them, and that he cared about his current girlfriend deeply. The next day, they claimed to their parents that he forced them to do it. The two fathers, one of whom was a very powerful man in that county, went to the police, and had Finis charged with sexual assault.
Finis' experiences in the Deep South following the charge were horrendous. Although innocent and although a medical examination showed the child wasn't raped, the judge and later corrupt appeal judge found him guilty of sexual assault. In a politically corrupt legal environment, Finis was at the whims of a society that was often influenced by powerful members of the community rather than due process. The judge, prodded by the girl's father, issued an unprecedented sentence that was overturned on appeal, but he was still sent to jail.
Finis' treatment in a predominantly black prison environment by fellow-prisoners and staff was atrocious and unbearable. He couldn't defend himself. He had to avoid fights, for the judge told him that if he got into any trouble in prison his incarceration would be extended.
Upon release, he had problems because his mother rejected him entirely and his father on most occasions because Finis questioned the Christian faith.
Finis abandoned fundamental Christianity and became an agnostic, and then decided to become Jewish. His history of mistreatment continued with the first rabbi he contacted, but then he met a rabbi who helped him.
The story of Finis' travails is horrifying but interesting. So too are the questions he raises about Christianity and the kind of Judaism that he adopts.
You Don't Understand the Bible Because You Are Christian
9781460242717, $13.99, 176 pages
I enjoyed this book; it is intelligent, informative, and thought-provoking. It is not a Christian book, and not even religious, at least not in the usual way people think of religious. It is a book written by a Protestant minister that explains why most people, and this includes non-Christians, are unable to understand both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Richard Gist shows very persuasively, with interesting examples, in easy to read English, that is often interspersed with humor, that, among other reasons, most Bible readers are unable to understand the Bible because they take certain events literally when they were not meant to be so, are misled by mistaken translations, miss the humor and word-play in the chapters, are unable to see the subtleties in the original Hebrew or Greek, and do not know the history, mind-set, and goal of the Bible writers. Furthermore "we arrogantly insist on violating the biblical text by adding things that are not there," such as reading into the text the notion of "original sin," which is not in the Hebrew Bible, and which makes its first appearance in New Testament Romans 5:12. We are also frequently deluded by what we hear from the pulpit, which is untrue; many preachers today create "a Bible that (does) not exist to preach messages they (want) to convey."
Gist shows us what we do not see. For example, in chapter two, Gist explains why God accepted Abel's animal sacrifice and rejected Cain's farm produce offering. The story reflects the ancient fights between farmers and shepherds. Gist describes this history in several interesting pages.
Gist gives examples where the Bible is offering humorous events or descriptions that people misunderstand when they read the passage soberly today. Esau, for example, is described as red and hairy. "In Hebrew, the word 'red' is edom, and the word 'hairy' is se'ir. Edom, of course, refers to the territory of that name, and se'ir is the mountain range that dominated Edom." When Esau came famished from the field, and begged Jacob for "that red, red stuff," ancient Hebrew readers saw the joke - a red man begging red - which English readers miss.
The nuances of Hebrew words are missed. Moses was placed in a teva in Exodus 2:3. The word means "ark"; it is the identical term used for Noah's ark, the only other time the word appears in the Hebrew Bible. The English translation "basket" misses the connection; both men are set in an ark on water and save people. In the book of Ruth, Ruth lies down at Boaz's "feet." But the Hebrew term for feet, margelotav, appears only one other time in the Hebrew Bible, in Daniel 10:6 to describe the lower extremity of an angel. In Isaiah 6:2 angels covered their faces and feet with their wings. Why did they cover their "feet"? Gist shows many examples where "feet" is used in the Hebrew Bible as a metaphor for genitals. This nuance is missed in translations.
Gist asks: Isn't "it odd that so many of the well-known Old Testament women were barren? The list is striking. It includes Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Samson's unnamed mother, and Samuel's mother, Hannah. With divine help, each gave birth to a child destined to become a national hero." Should we take these tales literally? Gist says, no, "they are simply a literary device used to declare that these people's lives were from the beginning, touched by God." Gist explains that "conventional patterns" is a technique that the Bible uses repeatedly, and he describes other conventional patterns that people generally miss and misunderstand, such as tales of leaders secluding themselves in the dessert where they gain wisdom, as Moses and Jesus, and the miraculous crossing of a water-way, as Moses, Joshua, Elijah, and Elisha.
One of the most misunderstood biblical conventions is prophecy. Most Bible readers of all religions imagine that biblical prophets foretell future events, like soothsayers, but a careful examination of all biblical prophecies reveals that few prophecies came true. Gist clarifies, as did many Jewish thinkers, such as Maimonides and the Tosaphists that, in the words of the Tosaphists, prophecy is "not what will be, but what should be"; prophecies were information and guidance given by wise men and women.
Many Christians fail to recognize that Jesus was a Jew and the early Christian Church was made up of Jews until Paul converted non-Jews and allowed them to disregard Torah commands such as keeping kosher laws and circumcision. This misinterpretation of the origin of Christianity distorts their reading of the New Testament. In the early days there were "two Christianities." This division impacted upon how the New Testament was written. Gist reveals that this early division in Christianity between those who kept Jewish law and those who rejected it explains why Mark 3:21 states that Jesus's mother rejected him, why the gospels repeatedly portrays the apostles being unable to understand Jesus, and why the gospels of Mark and Matthew have different world views. Remarkably, there are eight times in Mark's Gospel that "we find Pharisees disputing with Jesus, and (they are) always about issues which the Jerusalem (anti-Paul) leaders disputed with the Paulines. Eight times Jesus agrees with Paul. Consequently, the Jewish Christians (but not the Pauline Christians) became identified with the Pharisees."
In summary, with these few of the many examples Gist discusses, we can see that there is no doubt but that readers of his book will learn much about the Bible, literature in general, and the early history of Judaism and Christianity. Whether readers agree with his conclusions or not, Christian and non-Christian readers will find Reverend Gist's discussions eye-opening, thought-provoking, and enlightening.
Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer
I Will Praise You in the Storm
Danny L. Deaube
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781490813059, $11.95, http://www.westbowpress.com
Danny L. Deaube' and his wife Bonnie retired in Oregon where he penned "I Will Praise You in the Storm: The Story of Stephen and Holly Deaube, a Journey of Faith", a true story of medical trauma, organ donation and illness when two of Danny and Bonnie's four children were diagnosed with familial intrahepatic cholestasis." Their journey of faith and trust in the Lord taught them, "We can do all things through Christ..." (Philippians 4:13)
Their heartwarming and heartbreaking story began in 1975, one year after the young couple "went forward at Community Grace Brethren Church" to accept Christ and "discovered the love of God." They felt renewed and their "priorities" changed as they attended church, read the Bible and learned the ways of God.
Danny took his responsibilities as "head of the family" very seriously and his new desire to please God "overrode his earlier desire to please himself." Their healthy son Donald, born in 1969, brought the joys of parenthood and they anticipated more children.
Until their second son Stephen was born with fatal liver disease, a "rare form of chronic active hepatitis diagnosed as familial intrahepatic cholestasis." Within a short time Stephen's damaged liver caused the whites of his eyes to yellow, his skin to turn golden and he experienced "extreme itching," symptomatic of a compromised liver. When Stephen was old enough to talk he would implore his parents to "scratch...harder."
Months of testing resulted in the fatal diagnosis of FIC, familial intrahepatic cholestasis. The doctor said, "There is no hope or cure...few patients survive into the third decade of life without treatment." With heavy hearts they prayed for a donor liver. A liver transplant "in the near future" was their only hope.
Even though Stephens medical issues were difficult for the family Danny and Bonnie wanted more children. Doctors assured them their "odds were one in a million to have another child with liver disease" and Holly was born one year later. However, at her two week checkup the doctor said, "She has it too."
Thus begins a story of trust forged in the fires of pain, trial and loss that would test anyone's faith. Yet Danny continued to say, "God is good all the time" because he and Bonnie trusted "all things work together for good to those who love God." (Romans 8:28 NKJ) Even when God's answer to prayer didn't come in the form they prayed for.
Their journey of faith is also a poignant account of organ donors and organ donation that offer the gift of life, especially for patients compromised with Hepatitis C and Cirrhosis of the liver.
The Deaube's inspiring story of faith in the face of life-changing events offers hope and encouragement to those who struggle with medically challenged children or those who experience medical, physical or financial struggles that challenge their faith. Their poignant account is a testimony of God's grace and blessing that affirms our children are only on "loan from the Lord."
A Deadly Business, a Mia Quinn Mystery
Lis Wiehl & April Henry
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9781595549044, $26.99, www.thomasnelson.com
In Wiehl and Henry's latest Quinn mystery, A Deadly Business, Mia learns there are "even more ways to die than she thought" when she walks into the courtroom for the sentencing of twenty-two-year-old Bernard Young. Her prosecution had been "airtight" against the defendant for the rape and strangulation of two runaway girls and she'd recommended life in prison to Judge Rivas so he would "never be able to hurt anyone again." She felt confident "Young would get it."
Now she stood behind the prosecution table for Young's sentencing and saw him walk into the courtroom behind his attorney. Without missing a step he broke away from the guard and run toward Mia with a "face filled with rage." She felt him crash into her and they tumbled to the floor, his weight knocking the breath out of her.
Thoughts of now fatherless fourteen-year-old, Gabe and three-year-old Brooke fueled a fresh burst of adrenaline until Mia "felt the small sharp edge of a razor blade against her throat." Her husband had been killed in a single car accident seven months ago and Gabe and Brook just couldn't lose her too. Seconds later she felt the crush of piled on bodies ease and she heard a deputy say, "I got his wrist...cuff him from the other side."
Thus begins book two of the Seattle based Mia Quinn series where Mia prosecutes high profile cases for the Violent Crimes unit. She still struggles with the loss of Scott, her accountant husband and the mountainous "pile of debt he'd left behind" and feels ill-equipped to be a single parent.
Detective Charlie Carlson's suspicions Mia's husband's death wasn't an accident adds intrigue to an already complicated murder investigation when Mia's house is broken into by someone who didn't find what they were looking for.
Mia's pending decision whether to prosecute three fifteen-year-old boys as juveniles or adults for dropping a shopping cart from a bridge onto a woman below adds to her stress. Was it an accident or deliberate? A question she struggles with. She knows her decision will not only affect the boys lives it will also affect her bosses bid for reelection if she makes the wrong choice.
Add teaching law classes at night to her already busy schedule, a home break in and a killer who knows where she lives and Mia has little time for district attorney Eli Hall's romantic intentions.
The complex plot offers multiple plot lines with an action packed tale of deception and intrigue that keeps the pages turning, although the underlying Christian theme is more subtle than in previous books.
However, the suspense is solid, the courtroom scenes realistic and there is no obscene language which makes "A Deadly Business" a fun, easy read. Book three, Lethal Beauty is scheduled to release March 3, 2015.
The Holy Land Key
Ray Bentley & Genevieve Gillespie
12265 Oracle Blvd, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9780307732064, $14.99, http://waterbrookmultnomah.com
In "The Holy Land Key, Unlocking End-Times Prophecy Though the Lives of God's People in Israel", Pastor Ray Bentley of Maranatha Chapel in San Diego, with Genevieve Gillespie writes, "it's time to step into the prophetic story." The story he references carries dual significance, both for today as well as historically, back thousands of years to the time of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar and their children Isaac and Ishmael. In light of world events understanding their story is key to prophecy interpretation, Jewish biblical feasts and the blood moons.
Bentley "looks at certain passages of Scripture from a Hebrew perspective" and brings prophecy to life through the lens of "God's unbroken relationship with the Jewish people." He begins with the role Israel plays in prophecy and why "Israel is the key to God's blessings and a witness of promises God intends to keep." An unconditional promise made to Abraham known as the "Abrahamic Covenant" that includes land, nations and blessings. (Deuteronomy 30:5, Genesis 12:2, Genesis 12:2)
The fact that Israel exists today, writes Bentley, is the fulfillment of God's promise in Isaiah 11:12 where God promised to" gather the exiles of Israel...the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth." A remarkable event when considered in the light of history.
He also looks at patterns that coincide with specific dates and "repeated cycles of astronomical events" in relation to the seven Jewish feasts of the Lord. (Leviticus 23) The first four feasts, Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Pentecost point to the first coming of Christ.
While the last three, the feast of Trumpets, Atonement and the feast of Tabernacles points to the second coming of Christ.
He notes prophecies that have already come to pass, such as the Jews return to Israel in 1948, Daniel's Old Testament 70 weeks prophecy and previous lunar and solar eclipses on Jewish feast days called Tetrads. He includes NASA's report of a "series of 4 consecutive total eclipses occurring at approximately six month intervals that began April 15, 2014, followed by another on Oct. 8, 2014, and another on April 4, 2015, and another on Sept. 28 2015."
Rare Tetrads and Jewish Feast Days have occurred eight times in recorded history, however only three in the last five hundred years. The Jews persecuted in Spain, discovery of America (graph 5), Israel's rebirth, 1948 (graph 6) and the Arab Israeli 1967 conflict (graph 7) that restored Jerusalem to Israel.
Pastor John Hagee, author of Four Blood Moons-Something is About to Change writes "traditionally in Judaism a (blood) moon is a signal to Israel and an (eclipse of the) sun is a signal to the world, Joel 2:31.
Pastor Bentley's revelation of "little known [Jewish] aspects of prophecy" adds to the growing volume of information about "End-time" events Billy Graham speaks of. From ancient issues that cause wars between the Israelis and Palestinians to who the "spiritual sons of Abraham are," in addition to the symbolism of the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Who mandated Sunday as a day of worship and why Martin Luther is known as the "theologian of the Holocaust.
The book, available in print, Kindle or audio, is balanced, compelling and one I rate at ten stars on a scale of one to ten. It belongs on the bookshelf of anyone interested in Bible prophecy.
The Devil's Edge
c/o Harper Collins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062303141 $10.95 pb, Kindle & Nook e-book, $2.99
Devil's Edge is a fairly insular world, defined, geographically at least, by the cliff edges which surround it. This book is, in a similar way, equally circumscribed. As the reader is told on the opening page, "It was one of the drawbacks of living in the countryside. Too much of the outside world intruding. Too many things it was impossible to keep out." In this novel, the outside world, and the aspects of it one would most like to keep out, intrudes in the worst way. On the eastern fringe of the Peak District, in the village of Riddings, in rural Derbyshire, there has been a rash of break-ins. The burglars have been dubbed The Savages by the press. The newest incidents escalate the anxiety when they suddenly turn deadly. The author speaks of the residents having sought sanctuary in the rural haven, noting, however, that "everyone had monsters in their lives." Suspicion turns from looking for an outside group of burglars to someone from within the community, targeting the victims, for reasons far more personal. Recently promoted D.S. Ben Cooper is assigned the investigation. He, particularly, believes it is not the work of The Savages, being much more meticulously planned and leaving no trace of the culprit[s].
D.S. Diane Fry, formerly with the West Midlands Police "in the days before she transferred to yokel land," is brought back into the squad to take over the investigation after an almost unimaginable turn of events changes Ben Cooper's life forever. Despite the past ambivalence of their relationship, where they were both vying for the same promotion, their usually well-concealed respect for each other is here on display.
The author's descriptions bring the land to palpable life, e.g., "the distant rocky outcrops seemed to change shape. They slid slowly sideways, merged and divided, their outlines shifting from smooth to jagged to a distinctive silhouette. It was all the effect of altering angle and perspective. With each step, a transformation took place in the landscape, a gradual reveal like the slow drawing aside of a curtain. At a point halfway across the flats, a split rock he hadn't noticed before came into view. As it emerged from behind a larger boulder, its two halves slowly parted and turned, like the hands of a clock creeping past noon." Simply gorgeous. [The landscape, and the writing, that is.]
(Happily, Mr. Booth's newest book, "The Corpse Bridge," has recently been published in the UK in hardcover; the e-book will be released in the US in November.)
William P. Wood
445 Park Ave., 9th fl., NY, NY 10022
9781620454664, $19.95, Paperback, 415 pp.
The opening line of this new book by this former Deputy District Attorney in California immediately explains the title, and propels the reader into the book: "Officer Bob Quintana did not see the car that hit his partner Tommy Ensor." The two men are cops with the Sacramento Police Department, working an off-duty late night job providing security around a construction site in the downtown area. Ensor is 12 years older than Quintana. It is 1:30 AM on a cold, stormy night; visibility was poor, and the vehicle that struck Ensor sped off immediately after striking the man.
Assistant Chief of Police Jerry Nishimoto heads up the investigation into the hit-and-run. Twenty-three years as a cop, he is one of two men in line for the top job, and apparently the office politics endemic in much of society is front and center in this instance, notwithstanding that a beloved cop's life lies in the balance. The hero cop had been a recipient of the Medal of Valor, the men who worked with him feeling it was an honor to work with him. "Nish" assigns Detective Terry Nye of Major Crimes as lead investigator, together with his partner of six months, Rose Tafoya, and obviously he pulls out all the stops to try to find the perpetrator. Nye has 31 years on the job, and is 13 days from retirement, and says "I sure as hell wouldn't have picked this for my last detail."
The identity of the driver of the vehicle that struck Ensor is revealed to the reader immediately - - well, on page 7. He is 42-year-old Superior Court Judge Frank Stevenson, a man with a wonderful wife and 11-year-old daughter; it appears that till now he has led an exemplary life, "the youngest judge in the courthouse [and thought to be the one] with the brightest future," culminating in a hoped-for appointment to the appellate court, which has become a cause for his wealthy and influential father-in-law. However, any sympathy the reader may have felt for Stevenson quickly disappears when he realizes that there are no witnesses to the event, other than the victim himself, lying in his hospital bed with his recovery gravely in doubt.
The novel is engrossing and suspenseful, with p.o.v. switching primarily among Nye and Tafoya, and Stevenson, as they work in opposite directions to resolve the investigation. The ending was unexpected, and expertly handled, and the novel is recommended.
Under Your Skin
Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476716237, $25.00, Hardcover, 295 pp
In the pre-dawn hours, Gaby Mortimer, a successful 42-year-old "presenter" on a popular mid-morning current affairs tv show, is taking her usual run through the woods near her home near London when she comes upon the dead body of a young woman. And her life will never be the same. (I should add here that the author had my rapt attention within those first few pages.)
Gaby immediately calls the police, and they soon arrive at the scene: PC Morrow, a woman who "looks about twelve . . . small and freckly," and DI Perivale, of the CID. Till now, Gaby has led what many would call a charmed life: a successful career, married to a man she loves (although the marriage has fallen into a somewhat imperfect state of late) and an eight-year-old daughter she adores. But all of that is threatened as Perivale seems to focus on Gaby when some evidence seems to point to her not as the horrified witness to a gruesome murder, but as a suspect, and her nightmare begins.
The book is wonderful well-written and - plotted, and I can say no more for fear of giving anything away. Suffice it to say that the conclusion is totally unexpected, and the twists and turns of plot are nothing less than stunning. I must admit that I had to put the book down briefly when I came within about 20 pages of the ending: An instance of delayed gratification, as I couldn't imagine what was coming next, and didn't want the book to end.
The Dead of Summer
Mari Jungstedt, author
Tiina Nunnally, translator
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
9789187173981, $14.95, Paperback, 336 pp.
This is the fifth in this series from Swedish author Mari Jungstedt and the second novel to be published in the US, which begins with the murder of Peter Bovide in the early morning hours as he jogged along the beach on Faro Island. Bovide was married and the father of two, and there are no clues other than the fact that apparently the murder weapon was a very old Russian gun.
The case is assigned to D.S. Anders Knutas, 52 years old and head of the criminal division of the Visby police force, and D.I. Karin Jacobsson, as well as the other members of the squad: Thomas Wittberg, 28, with his "surfer looks and the Casanova of police headquarters; technician Erik Sohlman; and Lars Norby, the police spokesman, as well as the Swedish TV journalist Johan Berg and his cameraperson, Pia Lilja, as well as Johan's significant other (and the mother of his adored one-year old daughter Ellin), whose relationship reaches a critical point during the course of the novel.
The setting is primarily the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, the Swedish equivalent of the US Martha's Vineyard, as well as the nearby island of Faro. Whereas the last entry in the series, "Killer's Art," took place in the heart of winter, as the title suggests this one takes place in the middle of July. It isn't difficult, though, to think that the title "The Dead of Summer" is also meant in more literal terms, as indeed it is. For the most part, p.o.v. alternates between the cops and the tv people, and their very different perspectives.
Karin, 39 years old and single, has a bilingual cockatoo named Vincent. A dedicated cop, she shares the lead in the investigation, and does a very creditable job of it, not easy in a case with no apparent motive that they can discern, no clues, and no suspects. The plotting is very clever and kept this reader guessing until very near the end, when unpredictable events ramp up the suspense by a large quotient. The book is a very fast and entertaining read, highly recommended.
Three Can Keep a Secret
By Archer Mayor
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250054685 $15.99, Paperback, 336 pp.
This newest in the Joe Gunther series opens with the devastation in the author's native Vermont which accompanied Hurricane Irene in the northeast US a few years back. One of the scenes to which Joe and his Vermont Bureau of Investigation squad are called is a small cemetery where several coffins at a 17-year-old gravesite were unearthed by the force of water, one of which was discovered to contain nothing but rocks, with no sign of any body ever having inhabited it. The cops believe it "might mean somebody faked his own death; might mean something more complicated." This plot line unearths, as well, the first of the secrets hinted at by the title (from Ben Franklin's well-known "Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.").
But some very corporeal bodies turn up soon after, not the victims of the storm, but from unclear circumstances, the causes of death undetermined but appearing not to be natural, in addition to a missing patient from a state mental facility in Waterbury which had been flooded, the latter being an elderly woman who called herself The Governor. In an unlikely coincidence, all of these people are found to be connected. All of which leads to more secrets waiting to be uncovered.
Joe and the members of his team are, as always, wonderfully well-drawn, particularly Sammie Martens and Willy Kunkle, now the parents of a baby girl - - Willy, a former sniper in the military whose "arm had been destroyed by a bullet years ago, taken in the line of duty," learning to live with discomfort, physical and psychic, "as a recovering alcoholic with a crippled left arm and an attitude problem. The tale spins out in clever plotlines, along with references to "the flooding and its impact and implications [not the least of which are political in nature]. There was little else being discussed anywhere in the state, and probably wouldn't be for some time." As one whose life was impacted greatly by Superstorm Sandy in late 2012, I could relate very well to that statement.
Not a page-turner in the usual sense of the word, the novel proceeds at an appropriate pace for a police procedural, with a denouement which was totally unexpected by this reader, and what I felt was a wonderfully wrought ending. Another solid entry in the series, and one which is recommended. (The next entry in the series, Proof Positive, is due out shortly from Minotaur - great news!!)
110 E. 59th St., NY, NY 10022
9780727883315, $28.95, Hardcover, 236 pp.
As this new novel by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles opens, her protagonist, DI Bill Slider, has his week off cut short when he is called to the scene of a brutal murder. The victim, 66 years old, had had his head bashed in while sitting at his desk, a checkbook opened in front of him. The scene itself seems quite odd, and as the investigation begins, the man himself appears to be a cipher: Very well thought of by all his friends and those who had known him in his professional capacity as a solicitor, most of whom he represented pro bono, in the eleven years since he had moved into his home in Shepherd's Bush, none of them knew virtually anything of his life before that time. The more they investigate, the more it becomes apparent that he was a very private person. Unravelling the mysteries of his life is quite a challenge, with a wholly unexpected revelation in store.
Reading this seventh entry in this wonderful series, I felt as though I was back visiting with old friends: Slider himself of course as well as DS Jim Atherton, his second-in-command (or "bagman" as seems to be the colloquial British term of reference) and, on the personal side, Slider's father, who lives in a granny-flat attached to the new house where Slider lives with his wife, Joanna (a Royal London Philharmonic violinist now several months pregnant), their toddler son, George, and Bill's two children from his first marriage. Of course, also present and accounted for is Slider's boss, DS Fred Porson, that master of malapropisms, e.g., "[be] thankful for small murphies,' a reference to their boss who likes to "cast nasturtiums," and to "the Bavarians at the gate."
As I wrote in my review of the last entry in the series, "Blood Never Dies," this one too is meticulously plotted, and the author brings matters to a most satisfactory resolution. As much as the mystery itself, and the wonderful characters who inhabit it (of Atherton, she says "if mattress surfing was an Olympic event, he could have represented Britain . . . riding the carnal carousel). among the most enjoyable ingredients of this series are the charming descriptions, of people and places, employed by her, e.g., a man with "eyes blank, mouth ajar, as if he had evolved from a fish;" a woman who "looked like a bulldog that'd swallowed a wasp;" an attorney whose "suit would have brought Giorgio Armani himself to his knees, his aftershave was so subtle you might think you'd imagined it." I always finish a Cynthia Harrod-Eagles/Bill Slider book anxiously awaiting the next one, and this one is no exception. A fast and delightful read, it is highly recommended.
The Red Road
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316188517, $26.00, Hardcover, 304pp
In her third book featuring DI Alex Morrow, Denise Mina has her usual protagonist almost take a back seat to Rose Wilson, introduced to readers on the first page as a fourteen-year-old prostitute ("looking sixteen, feeling twelve"), a resident of a care home. Her pimp is Samuel McCaig (known as "Sammy the Perv" for obvious reasons), who also resides in the care home, and the only one in Rose's life who takes any interest in her, as unwholesome as that interest may be. Those opening pages encompass much tragedy in the course of one evening: The death of Princess Diana in Paris and, on a much more personal level, and within a short time of each other, the almost unintentional deaths by stabbing of Sammy and of "Pinkie" Brown, resident of yet another local care home, immediately after he had handed the murder weapon, a bloody knife, to Rose to "hold," thereby accomplishing his reason for giving it to her: placing her fingerprints on it. Fingerprints become the central obsession in the novel.
The Red Road of the title refers to the newest crime scene assigned to DI Morrow: the death of a 25-year-old Pakistani man. For those unfamiliar with the series, Alex Morrow is seen by her colleagues as "problematic: her background, her attitude, her brother;" she has a husband she loves, twin one-year-old boys she adores, and a half-brother who is a "famous local heavy." Unlike many of those same colleagues, she goes about her job determined to "do the right thing."
The opening scene described above takes place in 1997, the first in a series of flashbacks which are juxtaposed with the present in nearly alternating chapters over the first half of the book. That fact, combined with varying points of view, proved somewhat disorienting to this reader, but all is made clear before too long. Rose was arrested for and convicted of murder in 1997. She pleaded guilty, served her time, and is now 29 years old, working as a nanny to the three grandchildren in the household of the attorney who was appointed to represent her and who had immediately taken a very personal interest in her. Corruption, money laundering, and arms dealing all come into play in the course of the book.
The novel is engrossing, despite the problems I had with it in the early going, will only add to the author's growing reputation, and is recommended.
After I'm Gone
195 Broadway, NY, NY 10007
9780062083418, $14.99, Paperback, 384 pp.
Laura Lippman is known for her wonderful series featuring p.i. Tess Monaghan, among other terrific books. So I started this book believing it to be a murder mystery, especially as it begins with the discovery of a dead body. But then it appeared that I was wrong, that it was instead a very interesting character study, or rather 'studies,' dealing as it does with a dysfunctional family, the wife and three daughters (as well as their significant others) of a fascinating man, Felix Brewer, rarely seen in these pages, the husband and father of these women, and others who were close to him. These latter included the lawyer and bail bondsman who were his best friends since their Baltimore high school days, and Julie, the younger mistress with whom he had cheated on his wife for several years as the story opens, which story encompasses a 35-year period.
Felix met Bernadette ("Bambi") when she was 19 years old at a Valentine's Day dance and quickly swept her off her feet, marrying her soon after. (Valentine's Day, New Year's Eve, when Felix and Bambi married, and July 4th are significant dates in the story.) A bookmaker, he keeps her in very comfortable surroundings until he is arrested, convicted, and about to start serving a prison term when, on July 4th, 1976, he vanishes, with no clue as to his plans or his whereabouts, leaving his wife relatively impoverished, his mistress slightly less so. Ten years later, to the day, Julie vanishes as well, her dead body found soon after. The present-day narration begins 26 years later, when Roberto ("Sandy") Sanchez, the Cuban-born retired Baltimore cop who, as a consultant working on cold cases for the police department, picks up the murder file.
If all this was was a book encompassing character studies of each of these, it would very interesting reading. But that would be selling Ms. Lippman quite short: She has rendered a fascinating mystery, dealing with Brewer's disappearance, his mistress' murder, and the complex stories of the lives of these people, the detective on the case as well as all the others who make up the suspect group, each rendered in fine detail. Infidelity, in several manifestations, plays a large role in the plot. The author has fashioned an ending that you won't see coming, even when you're sure you do. (Parenthetically, the tie-in to Tess Monaghan near the book's end was a delight.) As with all Ms. Lippman's books, this one too is highly recommended.
The October List
By Jeffery Deaver
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
2237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9781455576670 $15.00, Paperback, 208 pp.
Sub-titled "A Novel in Reverse," this book is literally unlike anything I have ever read.
The author is apparently enamored of what he calls a fractured time line. In his newest novel, following the conclusion (really the beginning, although it appears at the end of the novel), that is, after the final page (actually page 1), there is, naturally, a Foreword. The opening chapter, which, one soon discovers, is the denouement, is Chapter 36, labeled "6:30 P.M., Sunday," and is marked as page 297. The final chapter in the book, which naturally is Chapter 1, takes place on the Friday morning prior to that.
As for me, one could add the terms disorienting and, certainly, original.
A more immediate appreciation of the novel would take minds perhaps more agile than that owned by this reader, but appreciation did certainly take place in the end.
The crux of the novel is the eponymous document, something so valuable that Gabriela McKenzie, the protagonist, says of it "everybody in the world, it seems, wants the goddamn October List!" Indeed, such is its value that Gabriela's six-year-old daughter is being held by a kidnapper until such time as Gabriela turns the List over to the kidnapper(s). The major problem being that she has to find it first. All the while being chased through the streets of New York, in eye-catching manner: a "homicidal auburn-haired woman and her actor look-alike companion." She has of late been involved with one Frank Walsh, a knife fetishist in both the real and the virtual worlds.
Anything more I leave to the reader to discover, in this mind-bending, and recommended, novel.
4170 Noyac Rd., Sag Harbor NY 11963
9781579622531, $29.95, Hardcover, 318 pp.
The protagonist of this wonderful new novel by Dennis Hart is Jason Najarian, a 28-year-old accountant employed by Winston Rope Company in Boston who hates his job, his ex-wife, and the new partners of his divorced parents. When fate brings him a multi-million-dollar windfall, he sees himself putting all of that behind him, and moving to an island paradise. However, he is soon reminded of the axiom that one should always "be careful what you wish for."
The first thing Jason does is buy three homes, at over a million dollars each, for himself and each of his parents (and, unfortunately, their new significant others). He envisions his life as "a stress-free happy hermit" on Gulf Boulevard, off what he calls Hermitville Lagoon on Sand Key, off the west coast of Florida, and enjoys sunset gatherings with some neighboring islands, a heron nicknamed "Harry," and soon an African grey parrot. After the first two months, however, life as he used to know it, unfortunately, intrudes, as do some gangster types, the reason for whose presence Jason cannot quite discern. The writing as a whole is wonderful. I found myself laughing out loud with nearly every page, or at least with a broad smile on my face.
Delightfully, before each chapter, including the Prologue, the author has inserted a quote from well-known sages. I loved these, and will only encumber this review with the first few: "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the former." Attributed to Albert Einstein. "Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called everybody, and they meet at the bar." Attributed to Drew Carey. And one I immediately recognized: "Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?" Attributed to Groucho Marx. Others are attributed to a widely diverse number of great philosophers, e.g., Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill, Woody Allen, Al Capone and Yogi Berra. All of which just added to my thorough enjoyment of the book, which is highly recommended.
The Wrong Girl
Hank Phillippi Ryan
c/o Tor-Forge Books
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765369147, $7.99, Paperback, 464 pp
In the opening pages of this book from Hank Phillippi Ryan, Tucker ("Tuck") Cameron contacts Jane Ryland to ask for her help in what has been a long quest to find her birth mother. Only acquaintances, the lives of both women had taken them along somewhat similar, if negative, professional paths: Tuck had been fired from her job as a reporter at the Boston Register for sleeping with a source. Jane is now working at the Register, after having been an award-winning investigative tv reporter before she lost her job for refusing to give up a source. Her job at the Register is a somewhat shaky proposition, what with all the paring down of personnel at newspapers around the country. The two had only worked together at the paper for about two weeks, but Tuck doesn't know where else to turn.
Seeking to find the truth about her birth parents, Tuck had years ago gone to Brannigan Family and Children Services, the name her adoptive mother had given her. It had been a closed adoption, with the records sealed, but apparently her birth mother had now given permission for them to be opened. Tuck finally has the information she is so desperate to acquire. We quickly meet some of the personnel at the Brannigan, whose theoretical purpose is making connections and putting families together. But now Tuck has reason to believe that her newly found mother has been sent the "wrong girl" of the title. And soon things take a sinister turn as two of the people at the Brannigan are found dead. And more deaths swiftly follow.
Initially the p.o.v. was constantly and quickly changing and revolving among the lead characters, with many balls in the air at one time. That was a bit dizzying in the early pages, less so as the story picks up speed and suspense, which it quickly does. Jane is still ambivalent about her romantic attachment to Jake Brogan, the cop who is assigned to investigate the deaths that take place, and they still find that their respective professional obligations make any relationship difficult. The investigation takes many unexpected turns, and the suspense is well-sustained throughout.
I have loved all of this author's previous novels, especially the last one, "The Other Woman," which introduced Jane Ryland and set a high bar for its follow-up. "The Wrong Girl" is a fine addition to the series, and it is recommended. (It should be pointed out that the author's newest book, "Truth Be Told," is due out in September in hardcover from Forge.)
Not My Father's Son: A Memoir
Dey St. / Wm. Morrow
195 Broadway, NY, NY 10007
9780062225061, $26.99, Hardcover, 288 pp
This wonderful memoir by the ultra-talented actor/performer/artist Alan Cumming is a candid look at his childhood growing up on a large estate on the east coast of Scotland and the physically/mentally abusive father whose violence shaped (and nearly derailed) his life. His father was the head forester, and the laborious tasks that he set for his son were the least of his problems. The reader is startled to learn that "dealing with my father's violence was the beginning of my studies of acting." He learns to submerge his feelings, from his father, in order to spare himself from even worse beatings, and from himself as well. The book goes on to explore that period and the toll they take on him, as well as other family mysteries. He states "our family had always been one of secrets, of silence, of holding things in."
The chapters alternate between "Then" and "Now," the latter period starting in the Spring of 2010, when the author has already achieved a high level of fame and celebrity in film and stage displaying an extraordinary range, everything from playing a transvestite on film to introducing Masterpiece Mysteries on PBS television, the Emcee in Cabaret (the latter such a success that he is now playing the same iconic role in a revival on Broadway), as well as, in an entirely new production, "a man who is admitted to a psychiatric unit and then proceeds to act out the entire play of Macbeth," an unforgettable performance. Mr. Cumming also has done concerts in 2 of the most beautiful and sophisticated cabaret venues in all of Manhattan: the now-departed Feinstein's at the Regency, and the Allen Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center. And of course who can forget his wonderful portrayal of Eli Gold, political operative, on the terrific series The Good Wife?!
But all of this takes a back seat to the central mysteries of the book: His relationship (such as it was) with his father, in the exploration of which he is joined by his older brother, and seeking the truth about his maternal grandfather, a celebrated WWII hero who disappeared in the Far East, when he agrees to participate in a popular celebrity genealogy show. The surprises come early and often, wringing much emotion and some tears from the author and, I suspect, many of his readers.
Mr. Cumming has described himself as "Scottish elf trapped inside middle-aged man's body," and the reader cannot but be completely charmed by this engaging man, and completely caught up in this engrossing albeit often-disturbing tale, which is highly recommended.
When Shadows Fall
225 Duncan Mill Rd., Don Mills, Ontario, CA M3B 3K9
9780778317104, $5.99, Paperback, 448 pp
Dr. Samantha Owens receives a letter one day that will seriously impact her life. It begins: "Dear Dr. Owens, If you are reading this letter, I am dead and I would be most grateful if you could solve my murder . . . " The first complication appears to be that the man who apparently sent th letter is indeed dead, but his death had been ruled a suicide. The second complication arises from the will, of which she has a copy: It requests that she autopsy his body, the results of which differ strongly from the first one. Further, she must locate each of the several beneficiaries, a difficult task and one with many consequences.
Still recovering from traumatic events described in the preceding books in the series, Dr. Owe3ns ("Sam") is about to begin an entirely new phase of her life as the head of the forensic pathology department at Georgetown University Medical School in Washington, D.C., quite a departure from her former position as Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Tennessee. She has chosen her new job despite being offered one as special consultant for the FBI, not without misgivings. The book is replete with fascinating and well-drawn characters in Sam's life, both professional and personal.
About halfway through the book, things take a sudden turn, with things going off on an entirely different tangent, one which didn't engage this reader quite much as what had preceded it, although there were certainly hints of what was to come, some of it still very unexpected. While the tale as a whole was an interesting one, with some very dark aspects, I must admit that I found the whole somewhat less satisfying than its parts.
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9780743289245, $25.00/$28.99 CA, Hardcover, 320 pp
The page before the first page by Ken Nunn contains a definition of the word "chance," which concludes with the sentence "Sometimes granted agency, as in Chance governs all." "Chance" is also the name of the protagonist, one Eldon J. Chance, MD, Associate Clinical Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry at UCSF Medical School. He is a forensic neuropsychiatrist (a new term for this reader) whose primary source of income these days is as an expert witness at or in preparation for trials. "He rarely saw someone more than once or twice and rarely worked with them as patients."
Now, separated from his wife after 20 years of marriage and with "his personal and financial life in such total and utter disarray," despite always before being "a believer in caution," he has found himself becoming fixated on first one, then another, of those patients. The latter of these is also the more fraught with complications and potential danger, both psychic and physical, Jaclyn Blackstone, a 36-year-old woman living in Berkeley thought to suffer from apparent "dissociative identity personality disorder. About 50 pages in, the tale morphs into something much more sinister. The problem arises from the fact that Jaclyn's husband is not only violent and possessive, but is also a cop. Chance finds himself "half in love with an impossible woman, a potentially malignant blip on another man's radar."
Chance believes that "[l]ike Houdini, we construct the machinery of our entrapment from which we must finally escape or die." And he certainly does that. He is aided by a totally unique character, a seemingly deranged loner who makes it his current life's work to assist Chance in extricating himself from either his relationship with Jaclyn, or at least, one way or another, from its more dangerous aspects. His characters are very well-drawn, and the plot engrossing. (And his appreciation for Chet Baker and Charlie Parker is certainly a plus.) Though generally well written, I found some of the writing to be less "smooth" (for lack of a better term) than the rest, and therefore a bit uneven. That said, "Chance" is certainly interesting, and it is recommended.
The Cana Mystery
Tuscany Press, LLC
B00DV639YE, $4.99 (Kindle)
9781939627094, 338 pages, www.tuscanypress.com
The Cana Mystery is a blend of action, mystery, history and fantasy. None of the genres are strong enough to sustain the story but the mix just makes the complete tale. For the history reader, there are obvious gaps. The action is more extreme than it needs to be with the characters actions not completely believable. The mystery is average. The fantasy is used to pull the weak historical links into a high tech subplot. Surprisingly this mix of marginal story aspects creates a solid but average action adventure.
The Cana Mystery revolves around two core characters -- Ava a language expert at MIT and Paul an old friend. Paul is on an archeology dig that uncovers two of the jars of Cana. The jars in which Jesus turned water into wine. The mythology claims that these jars hold prophecies of the future. A modern day antichrist wants the jars and is willing to kill anyone to get them. Ava and Paul have to escape across Egypt from the authorities and an evil sheik with ties across the European, African and Middle Eastern underworld. While running for their lives, they have to solve the mystery of the jars' prophecy.
The Cana Mystery is a light action read. If you don't look closely at its elements, you can get lost in its alternative historical context. The story has the light modern feel of a cable TV miniseries plot. For true historians and those with deeper technical backgrounds the story has many flaws. The most glaring problem I had with the storyline is that, after every life threatening event in Ava and Paul's travails, they forget the danger and permit themselves to be found by the evil henchmen. The Cana Mystery is a solid, though average, fun read. But don't expect anything more than a light plot that hits the expected highlights.
Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, The Untold History of English
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781592404940, $16.00, 229 pages, www.amazon.com
Our Magnificent Bastard Language covers exactly what the title implies. It linguistically examines the history of how English became what it is today. Using techniques many historians will recognize, McWhorter lists how English has changed over the centuries and looks for clues on how those changes might have occurred. He questions and easily disproves many of the old linguistic ideas about how English changed and points out the older studies just examined when and how long the changes occurred and never attempted to place a reason for the changes.
McWhorter starts by examining how Anglo Saxon German was changed into English. First by the slow assimilation of the native Celtic grammar and later by the slimming down of word meanings by the Viking invasion and assimilation. In the middle, he explores the relationship between language and culture and shows how most assumptions on the topic are incorrect. He even ends the story by a brief look at how the Proto German used by the Anglo Saxons was possibly changed from the Proto Indo European language family by an even earlier bastardization by Phoenicians.
Our Magnificent Bastard Language doesn't read as smoothly as it could. McWhorter repeats himself over and over again. Many sections are not laid out and structured for the casual contemporary reader but written more as a textbook on the subject. A slightly different formatting and an assumption that the layreader might need less commentary and more functional help would create a more readable book. But overall the book does a great job of examining the roots of the English language and brings this knowledge to the general public.
Our Magnificent Bastard Language is an easy recommendation for anyone interesting in the use of English. Knowing the history of our language makes it both easier to understand and to use. With its limitations, it is not the easiest book to read but it is well worth reading. The book is reasonably priced and, since it is used as a textbook, used and sale pricing makes it a steal.
S.A. Gorden, Reviewer
9781497458222, $6.99, Paperback, 150 pp, www.amazon.com
I had the pleasure of reading, Jesper Jinx by Marko Kitti over the weekend. Jesper Jinx is about an eleven-year old boy who has an appetite for trouble whether it is intended or not. This book features a collection of his stories, from pranks on his sister to his new friendship with classmate who has a moustache. It is appropriately targeted for middle grade audiences. This book is a gem!
'Jesper Jinx' will leave you wanting more. From the very beginning to the unwanted end, Marko Kitti does a wonderful job making his readers laugh out loud in delight. The illustrations are adorable and enhance this already exciting book. 'Jesper Jinx' engages the readers by talking directly to them and having them swear not to let Jesper know the narrator is telling these stories. In addition, there is a cute rebuff from Jesper's cat that is a creative literary gift from Mr. Kitti.
Overall, this book is highly recommend because the voice, pace, and cast of characters are humorous, creative, and exciting!
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
1475252404/ASIN: B008R8B8T4, $9.99 US Paperback/ $5.99 US Kindle
Chasing Fate by Maria Miller is an enjoyable read. This YA story is an action-packed, emotional journey that follows a teenager as she finds herself in the middle of an unexpected adventure. The daughter of a successful businessman, Kate seems like she lives the charmed life. But she faces some harsh daily truths behind the walls of her luxurious exterior. Kate learns to hid her misfortunes of having an alcoholic, abusive father and timid, excuse-giving mother from others. That is until her teacher catches on after Kate fails to turn in her final project.
Her teacher offers her a redemption assignment-- she has to interview someone in order to pass. Kate does not want to interview one of her father's friends, so she chooses a low-life bum to finish her assignment. Little does she know, this "bum" has led a secretive life as an ex-Navy Seal. When he asks her to return an idol, Kate finds herself in the middle of a crazy mission. With the disappearance of the bum to traveling across new lands, this story keeps the reader engaged.
Maria Miller does a great job with plot and character development. Her characters are strong, believable, and exciting. Her story is filled with plot twists that keep the pace fast and exhilarating. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an awesome adventure story with a twist.
The Young Mystery Series: The Missing Lunch
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
B00L2XVK0I, $6.99 US Paperback/ $2.99 US Kindle
The Young Mystery Series by B.K. Maxwell is a new detective series following a sibling duo, Kia-9 years old and Marcus 8 years old. In The Missing Lunch, the story starts in the children's elementary school in a small Michigan town. While having lunch, their friend Dennis asks for help. His mom's world famous pb&j sandwich has been stolen out of his lunch box for the past couple days, and he has been forced to eat the gross cafeteria school instead. He hopes they can find the culprit quick. Kia and Marcus agree to help their friend. But this is a difficult case for them to solve. Their culprit is super sneaky and has the duo on a wild goose chase.
My daughter and I really enjoyed this story. It is a classic fun detective story similar to Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew. My daughter instantly connected with the main character, Kia. She loved how strong-willed and clever she is. The settings, dialogue, and characters are kid-friendly and relatable. My daughter chimed in several times about experiences the characters faced and how they reminded her of things in her own life. This page turner kept her interest from the second she opened it to the very unwanted end.
B.K. Maxwell is a new force in the "kidlit" world, and there are plenty of reasons for him to go far: his dialogue is convincing, fun, and well-crafted; his plot development is exquisite; and his character development is awe-inspiring. Overall, we would highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a great new detective series for their children. It is a fantastic read.
Robbie Zero, Super Girl Hero
C.L. Vaagen & Mike Henderson
B00BMUUZL6, $5.99 US Kindle, 20 pgs.
Robbie Hero, Super Girl Hero by C.L. Vaagen is a must read for elementary and middle grade students. It addresses the main aspects of the anti-bullying campaign in an well-crafted short story. Robbie Zero is a young girl who is bullied by a mean boy named Tommy. Instead of standing up for herself, she tries to remain invisible, hoping the bullying will stop. But instead, she suffers silently. That is until one day when she encounters her bully in a terrifying predicament.
We liked this story because it explains the struggles bullying victims encounter both physically and mentally. It details the terror victims feel at the sight of their tormentor. And the great thing about this story is the main character's transformation. She grows from a timid child to a strong girl with a purpose. This story teaches empathy, standing up for what is right, and treating others how you would want to be treated. Additionally, the illustrations by Mike Henderson capture the emotion of the story. Overall, this is wonderful book that all kids should read.
Monarchs In Rhyme
B008RLGRYW, $7.99 US Kindle
A true case of you cannot judge a book by it's cover. At first glance, I must admit I wasn't sure how I would feel about this book, especially since I share these with my children. But once I opened the first page, I was more than pleasantly surprised!
This book is one clever and entertaining take on the history of England's Royal Monarchs. Linda Mockett is delightful, and her rhymes are clever, witty, and educational. I remembered more about these historical figures after reading this than I had ever learned in History class. And the best part, is your children will love it too!
This is a great supplement to world history for older children, including high school & college-aged kids, as I am sure it will help keep their interest. Overall, I would highly recommend this for anyone who needs help in history class or would like to know more about England's monarchs.
Jaclyn M. Bartz, Reviewer
Eat Smart In Denmark
Carol L. Schroeder & Katrina A. Schroeder
PO Box 5346, Madison, WI 53705
9781938489020, $15.95, 160pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Danish cuisine has been in the gastronomic spotlight since Noma was voted the best restaurant in the world four times, starting in 2010. Noma is part of the New Nordic Cuisine movement, making use of fresh local ingredients to create variations on traditional food and drink. The average visitor to Denmark is not likely to eat at Noma - reservations are almost impossible to get and prices are high even by Danish standards - but there are countless opportunities throughout the country to enjoy traditional and New Nordic Danish dishes ranging from the world-renowned wienerbrod pastry to rye bread topped with pickled herring. This indispensable guide will educate you about the time-honored foods that form the cornerstone of New Nordic Cuisine, as well as the correct way to eat smorrebrod, how to order a hot dog from a polsevogn, and what Danish words you need to shop for fresh grontsager in an outdoor market. For a small country, Denmark is surprisingly rich in culinary traditions, many of which date back to Viking times and earlier. Join us for an entertaining, informative trip through the country, from Sjælland to Jylland, sampling the full range of Danish national specialties. "Eat Smart in Denmark" connects menus and markets to geography, history, and regional pride. The easy-to-use guide includes these practical and fun features: "Tastes of Denmark" provides dozens of delicious recipes from chefs and other food experts to allow travelers and food lovers to re-create Danish specialties at home; "Danish/English Menu Guide" demystifies food selection, equipping restaurant diners to order with confidence; "Danish/English Food and Flavors Guide" provides a comprehensive list of foods, spices, kitchen terms, and more to assist in shopping and cooking in Denmark; "Culinary History of Denmark" delves into the origins of ingredients and Danish dishes from pre-history to the present; "Regional Danish Foods" explores local culture, specialty dishes, and holiday traditions; "Helpful Phrases" provides phonetic translations of phrases essential to the "foodie" traveler.
Critique: Enhanced with a section of color photography, a Bibliography, and an Index, "Eat Smart in Denmark: How to Decipher the Menu, Know the Market Foods & Embark on a Tasting Adventure" is thoroughly as informed and informative as it is 'user friendly'. A pleasure to simply browse through for the armchair traveler, "Eat Smart in Denmark: How to Decipher the Menu, Know the Market Foods & Embark on a Tasting Adventure" is absolutely indispensable for anyone traveling to Denmark for business or pleasure. It is an exceptional and extraordinary to enjoying the culinary culture of the country and highly recommended for both personal and community library Travel Guide collections.
The Red Chameleon
80 Broad Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10004
9781605985688, $25.95, 320 pages, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: As a private investigator, Kathleen Stone relies on her ability to blend into the background. Aided by her street-smart drag queen friend and the best wigmaker in New York City, she feels confident that her camouflage is up to snuff. But when a cheating spouse she's been trailing ends up dead under suspicious circumstances, she fears that someone she angered in her past job - busting gangs and drug dealers as an undercover cop - has seen through her disguises. Now she must work with her former colleagues in the NYPD to solve the case before she's the next victim.
Critique: Simply stated, Erica Wright is a master of the private eye mystery genre. Deftly crafted plot twists and surprises, "The Red Chameleon" is pure and riveting entertainment from beginning to end. An enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted that "The Red Chameleon" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.99).
This Private Plot
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
MM Book Publicity
9781464202421, $14.95, 250pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: If a blackmail letter drives a man to suicide, is the sender guilty of murder? "Yes," says Oliver Swithin, author of bestselling Finsbury the Ferret children's stories and amateur sleuth, who is on holiday in an ancient village. A midnight streak with his naked girlfriend - Scotland Yard's Effie Strongitham - abruptly ends in the discovery of a corpse. Retired radio broadcaster Dennis Breedlove has hanged himself from the old gibbet. Evidence suggests blackmail may have driven this celebrity to suicide. Irresistibly intrigued, Oliver believes discovering the dead man's secret will lead to the identity of the blackmailer. But in Britain today, when shame is a ticket to fame, why suicide? What if it wasn't? When the mystery abruptly turns inside out, black-clad strangers attack Oliver in the night. The Vicar behaves strangely. So do the village's ¬ five unmarried Bennet sisters, a mysterious monk, the persistent, self-effacing Underwood Tooth, and Oliver's Uncle Tim, Ef¬fie's superior at the Yard and a part-time Shakespearean actor. Plus Oliver's aunt and his mother. Who else might play a role in This Private Plot? Two William Shakespeares? It's time to put the laugh back into slaughter with the long-awaited third chapter in the career of Oliver Swithin. Yet under the clever wordplay and bawdy jokes lies an inventive and, yes, scholarly plot.
Critique: A riveting and entertaining read by a master of the mystery genre, Alan Beechey's "This Private Plot" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted that "This Private Plot" is also available in a hardcover edition (9781464202407, $24.95) and a Kindle edition ($6.99).
Secrets To Surrender
New Hope Publishers
PO Box 830711, Birmingham, AL 35283-0711
9781596694064, $14.99, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Secrets to Surrender: Living Wholeheartedly" reveals the hidden mysteries to wholeheartedly following Christ. Based on the result of a personal word study started in the Book of Numbers, author Debby Akerman encourages believers to practice three areas essential to living wholeheartedly: surrender, sacrifice, and service. She recognizes that most believers know about serving and serve well, but what is often overlooked is the surrender and sacrifice. In a very gentle way, Akerman shares biblical and contemporary stories of believers whose lives reveal all-for-you living, as well as biblical truths to put into practice.
Critique: As informed and informative as it is inspired and inspiring, "Secrets to Surrender: Living Wholeheartedly" is a life changing read. An extraordinary testament to the joys available through Christian service and sacrifice, "Secrets to Surrender: Living Wholeheartedly" is especially recommended to a Christian readership regardless of denominational affiliation. It should be noted that "Secrets to Surrender: Living Wholeheartedly" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.69).
Michelle Knight & Michelle Burford
345 Hudson Street, 13th floor, New York, NY 10014
9781602862562, $24.99, 280pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Michelle was a young single mother when she was kidnapped by a local school bus driver named Ariel Castro. For more than a decade afterward, she endured unimaginable torture at the hand of her abductor. In 2003 Amanda Berry joined her in captivity, followed by Gina DeJesus in 2004. Their escape on May 6, 2013, made headlines around the world. Barely out of her own tumultuous childhood, Michelle was estranged from her family and fighting for custody of her young son when she disappeared. Local police believed she had run away, so they removed her from the missing persons lists fifteen months after she vanished. Castro tormented her with these facts, reminding her that no one was looking for her, that the outside world had forgotten her. But Michelle would not be broken. In Finding Me, Michelle will reveal the heartbreaking details of her story, including the thoughts and prayers that helped her find courage to endure her unimaginable circumstances and now build a life worth living. By sharing both her past and her efforts to create a future, Michelle becomes a voice for the voiceless and a powerful symbol of hope for the thousands of children and young adults who go missing every year.
Critique: Candid, informative, "Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings" is an extraordinary but true event. Exceptionally well presented and holding the reader's totally engaged attention from beginning to end, Michelle Knight's personal story is highly recommended reading and appropriate for community library American Biography and True Crime collections. It should be noted that "Finding Me" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.50).
Getting a Life with Asperger's
Jesse A. Saperstein
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399166686, $15.00, 240pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Author, speaker, and autism advocate Jesse A. Saperstein knows a lot about living with Asperger's. Diagnosed at the age of 14, Jesse has struggled, triumphed, flubbed, soared, educated, and inspired. Along the road to adulthood, he has learned many lessons the hard way. In this honest and engaging book, he offers a guided tour of what he's learned about getting along with others, managing emotions, succeeding in school and work, building relationships, and more. Among his Asperger's Rules are: Clean Up Your Own Mess (including but not limited to credit card debt, out-of-control collections, and your cesspool of a room); You Can't Bail Out the Titanic with a Wine Glass (or change the world of online dating); Serving as a Role Model to the Next Generation of Asperger's Syndrome; Navigating the challenges of college and the unrelenting storm of transition; The Road to Catastrophe is Paved with Good Intentions (understanding how others perceive you, even if they're wrong); WIN (Work Is Necessary) You are talented enough to maintain employment even if your options are not ideal; Confronting Memories of Bullying and Showing Mercy toward Yourself.
Critique: Asperger's is an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. In "Getting a Life with Asperger's: Lessons Learned on the Bumpy Road to Adulthood" author Jesse A. Saperstein writes with extraordinary ability, candidness, a more than a bit of humor, providing the reader with truly impressive insights on what life with Asperger's is like for the afflicted and those around them. Of special note is Saperstein's practical observations and advice founded upon his own Asperger's affected transition into adulthood. Very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted that "Getting a Life with Asperger's: Lessons Learned on the Bumpy Road to Adulthood" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.64).
Richard Strauss: An Owner's Manual
c/o Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group
19 West 21st Street, Suite 201, New York, NY 10010
9781574674422, $24.99, 186pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The life and music of Richard Strauss (1864 - 1949) span what was arguably the most turbulent period in human history, encompassing the Franco-Prussian War, the unification of Germany, and two world wars. He was one of the very last composers to have started his career in service to the old European aristocracy, but near the end of his life, the continent lay in shambles, and he faced financial ruin even as he remained Germany's greatest living composer. Virtually from the day they were written, Strausss tone poems from the late nineteenth century works such as Don Juan, Till Eulenspiegel, Also Sprach Zarathustra, and Death and Transfigurationhave been repertory standards. So have the operas Salome, Elektra, and Der Rosenkavalier. And yet a tremendous quantity of very good music, both early and late, has only recently come to the attention of musicians and music lovers alike. This owners manual, accompanied by a full-length CD, surveys all the major works with orchestra: symphonies, concertos, tone poems, operas, ballets, suites, and songs. Many of them will be new even to listeners familiar with the popular pieces, part of a vast legacy of immaculately crafted, beautiful music that deserves to be rediscovered and treasured.
Critique: A brilliant and extraordinarily well written overview of the life and accomplishments of the man dubbed by his peers as the 'King of Waltzes', "Richard Strauss: An Owner's Manual" by music critic, author, percussionist, and music review magazine journalist David Hurwitz should be considered a mandatory read by students of Richard Strauss musical heritage and will prove to be a valued and enduringly popular addition to academic library Music History & Heritage reference collections and supplemental reading lists. It should be noted that "Richard Strauss: An Owner's Manual" is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.99) that includes audio and video elements.
A Season of Change: Seasons in Pinecraft
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426753558, $14.99, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Can a past filled with loss lead to a new season of life? Stranded at a Sarasota hospital at the bedside of his ailing daughter, Amish widower Jacob Miller is wary of his unfamiliar surroundings - including the strange curiosity of Englischer Natalie Bennett. Natalie, an aerial silks artist whose career in the circus ended before it began, has just uncovered a secret her mother kept hidden for years. Her mom was once Amish. A hundred questions suddenly surface. Why did Natalie's mother keep this secret for so long? Does Natalie still have Amish relatives? How can she learn more about her heritage? Can Jacob trust Natalie's piqued interest in his family and their simple ways, or will their clashing cultures thwart their hopes for finding the love of a family?
Critique: Lynette Sowell is a skilled and gifted novelist. "A Season of Change: Seasons in Pinecraft" is the first volume of her newest series and is a solid entertainment from first page to last. Of special note is the background accuracy of the Amish elements in her storyline and character developments. Very highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library collections, it should be noted that "A Season of Change: Seasons in Pinecraft" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Eat Him If You Like
Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
9781906040390, $12.95, 112pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Tuesday 16 August 1870, Alain de Money, makes his way to the village fair. He plans to buy a heifer for a needy neighbor and find a roofer to repair the roof of the barn of a poor acquaintance. He arrives at two o'clock. Two hours later, the crowd has gone crazy; they have lynched, tortured, burned and eaten him. How could such a horror be possible? With frightening precision, author Jean Teule's novelization of a true incident faithfully reconstructs each step of one of the most shameful stories in the history of nineteenth-century France.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, "Eat Him If You Like" will have a very special appeal to suspenseful mystery enthusiasts, students of 19th Century French history, and extraordinary accounts of extraordinary human behavior in extraordinary times. It should be noted that "Eat Him If You Like" is also available to an American readership in a Kindle edition ($4.97).
Ghost Pines Publishing, LLC
9781937223120, $14.84, 384pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Kagen Silivasi is a powerful, ancient vampire with a unique gift for healing - he is also a son, a brother, and a loner who has survived unspeakable tragedy and loss: Beneath his handsome, well-mannered exterior lies an alter ego consumed by rage and an overwhelming impulse to "kill them all..." Arielle Nightsong is a brave human, a rebel spirit, and an accomplished healer in her own right. Born into a harsh world of violence, cruelty, and danger, she was enslaved at the age of ten and given as a gift to the most depraved being in Mhier - the infamous king of the lycans. If not for her enduring friendship with a captive vampire, she might not have survived to escape the slave encampment...or to discover her mysterious role in an ancient Blood Curse. When Kagen and his brothers voyage into Mhier in search of their long lost father, it will take more than stealth and cunning to get out alive: Secrets will be revealed; loyalties will be tested; and an indomitable spirit will fracture beneath the weight of an impossible choice.
Critique: An extraordinarily well written novel, "Blood Father" by Tessa Dawn is a truly impressive addition to the growing library of vampire fiction. A wealth of engaging plot twists and memorable characters offer solid entertainment from beginning to end for vampire enthusiasts who will be left looking eagerly toward author Tessa Dawn's next novel. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Dark Fantasy collections, it should be noted that "Blood Father" is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.95).
Christian Concepts for Care
David J. Ludwig & Mary R. Jacob
Concordia Publishing House
3558 South Jefferson Avenue
Saint Louis, MO 63118-3968
9780758644169, $24.99, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Christian Concepts for Care: Understanding and Helping People with Mental Issues" is a resource that provides a basic understanding of mental health from both psychological and spiritual perspectives. Authors David J. Ludwig and Mary R. Jacob collaborate to offer the reader a deep understanding of the value of both perspectives and shows how they work together for the care of souls. Also included are guidelines to help the congregational community become a center for wellness. Christian Concepts for Care gives readers a unique understanding of the spiritual basis to mental health and to the development of mental and emotional disorders. The of "Christian Concepts for Care: Understanding and Helping People with Mental Issues" is a detailed guide of mental and emotional disorders, offering explanations on how one can work with such disorders in a healing community, on when referrals should be made to professionals, and on how pastors and congregations can work in positive ways to support members during and after treatment.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented by the collaborative team of David J. Ludwig (a licensed therapist and assistant pastor for Christ Lutherna Church in Hickory) and Mary R. Jacob (a psychiatric nurse practitioner with Lutheran Counseling Services, Winter Park, Florida), "Christian Concepts for Care: Understanding and Helping People with Mental Issues" is enhanced with the inclusion of a glossary, suggestions for further reading, and informative endnotes. Informed and informative, "Christian Concepts for Care" is very highly recommended for academic, professional, pastoral, and seminary library counseling instructional resource collections.
Accidents of Marriage
Randy Susan Meyers
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
Meryl L. Moss Media Relations
9781451673043, $25.00, 368pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Maddy is a social worker trying to balance her career and three children. Years ago, she fell in love with Ben, a public defender, drawn to his fiery passion, but now he's lashing out at her during his periodic verbal furies. She vacillates between tiptoeing around him and asserting herself for the sake of their kids - which works to keep a fragile peace - until the rainy day when they're together in the car and Ben's volatile temper gets the best of him, leaving Maddy in the hospital fighting for her life. Randy Susan Meyers takes us inside the hearts and minds of her characters, alternating among the perspectives of Maddy, Ben, and their fourteen-year-old daughter. Accidents of Marriage is a provocative and stunning novel that will resonate deeply with women from all walks of life, ultimately revealing the challenges of family, faith, and forgiveness.
Critique: A deftly written novel by Randy Susan Meyers, "Accidents of Marriage" is superbly crafted s story by a truly gifted author who presents the darker side of a marriage and at how an ordinary family responds to an extraordinary crisis. As riveting read from beginning to end, "Accidents of Marriage" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Contemporary Fiction collections as well as personal reading lists. It should be noted that "Accidents of Marriage" is also available in a Kindle edition.
Harmony Ink Press
5032 Capital Circle SW, Suite 2, Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886
9781627989145, $14.99, 180pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Raimi Carter is finally a girl, just like she always knew she was meant to be. At a new school where nobody knows she's had gender reassignment surgery, she hopes to finally live the normal life she's longed for, happy in her own skin. Life is great until she discovers a dangerous bully is blackmailing head cheerleader, Clare Strickland, threatening to reveal her secret: she's gay. As Raimi fights to free Clare from his clutches, the two girls move beyond friendship. But secrets from their pasts and their own fears of coming out tear them apart-maybe forever. Baring their souls to each other could cost them everything. For two girls trapped and desperately in love, only strength, courage, and trust in each other will help them break free and claim their future.
Critique: An especially well written coming of age novel descriptively dealing with the issues of being an LGBT adolescent, "Breaking Free" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to both school and community library collections. It's remarkable that the author was fourteen when writing this deeply personal and candid work that provides accurate insights into LGBT teenagers and provides a positive message of hope when struggling with cultural, family, and social issues associated with being lesiban, gay, bisexual, or transgendered. It should be noted that "Breaking Free" is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.79).
Robert E. Hosmer Jr., editor
University of Notre Dame Press
310 Flanner Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9780268030995, $35.00, 296pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Dame Muriel Spark, DBE (1 February 1918 - 13 April 2006) was an award-winning Scottish novelist who had a literary career that spanned from the late 1940s until her death in 2006, and included poems, stories, plays, essays, and, most notably, novels. The extensive bibliography of her works included in this collection reveals the astonishing output of a powerful and sustained creative spirit. Hidden Possibilities gathers a distinguished group of writers from both sides of the Atlantic to offer an informed overview of Muriel Spark's life and work. Critics have often read Spark in a somewhat narrow context - as a Catholic, a woman, or a Scottish writer. The essays in this volume, while making connections between these contexts, cumulatively situate her in a broader European tradition. The volume includes interviews with Spark that cast light both on the course of her professional life and on her notably distinctive personality.
Critique: Comprised of sixteen erudite and scholarly essays, "Hidden Possibilities: Essays in Honor of Muriel Spark" is a seminal collection that is enhanced with the inclusion of an informed and informative introduction by the editor, plus a Biographical Note: Muriel Camberg Spark 1918-2006; a ten page bibliography of the works of Muriel Spark; Notes on the Contributors, and a comprehensive index. An extraordinary collection, "Hidden Possibilities: Essays in Honor of Muriel Spark" is very highly recommended reading and an essential addition to academic library Literary Studies reference and study collections.
An Early Frost
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781499503357, $13.95, 356pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Will Remmond is a high-powered Family Law attorney. He's the one that battered mothers and abused kids turn to for help. Will's the best at what he does, and he wins. He's also fed up, burned out, and ready to walk away from fighting the insanity of the Family Court system. But there are two abused children left to rescue. One of them is five-year-old Alexa Reynolds. She and her mother are being stalked by a criminal sociopath. Her mom calls the guy "demonic." Alexa calls him "Daddy." And Alexa's daddy calls Will a walking dead man.
The other abused child lives inside of Maxine Allen, the woman who Will waited decades to find. Max is becoming more and more withdrawn. Increasingly hostile. She's turning abusive, striking out at him - and he knows only that it has something to do with her father. Unable to learn the secrets from her childhood, he's watching as the woman he loves descends into her own private hell. But Will waited half his life to find her, and he's not about to abandon her there. He intends to get to the truth of what happened to her. Between saving Alexa from her murderous father, and Maxine from her demons, he's walking into the fight of his life. One that he intends to win. -- Or die trying.
Will Remmond is about to learn that the most terrifying battles don't take place in the courtroom. They are waged within the darkest places of the human mind: in the abyss where the force of love confronts the power of evil head-on.
Critique: Exceptionally well crafted from beginning to end, "An Early Frost" is the sequel to author Jenna Brooks debut novel "October Snow" (9781479234820, $12.95, 382pp) and demonstrates her ability to embed her riveting and surprise laden storyline with truly memorable characters. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library contemporary fiction collections, it should be noted that "An Early Frost" is also available in a Kindle edition.
Boy on the Edge
Fridrick Erlings, author
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763666804, $16.99, www.amazon.com
A troubled boy learns about love and friendship when he's sent to a desolate, seaside British foster home in this beautiful story that takes memorable literary and poetic twists.
Henry, an illiterate stutterer with a club foot, lands at a wayward boys' home, the Home of Lesser Brethren, when he loses control of his temper and attacks his mother. There, on a farm in the midst of a vast, rocky lava field, he meets Emily, the home's sweet, compassionate matron. Emily's husband, the Rev. Oswald, in contrast, preaches fire and brimstone while doling out harsh discipline.
That this is a brutal place perhaps plays out no more starkly than in the progression of a connection between Henry and the farm's once belligerent bull. That Henry's greatest desire is to have a true friend comes sharply to the forefront as a manipulative boy repeatedly uses and lies to him. That he is burdened by disappointment, jealousy and stark reality - yet also possesses an inner strength that he ultimately must tap - will leave readers both relating to and cheering for him.
Erlings' exquisite scene setting leaves you feeling like you've spent all you life in the barn where Henry milks cows and shovels manure. You can taste Emily's rye pancakes. You can hear the buzz of dung flies on the window. You can smell the cut hay in the field, feel the ocean salt spray, hear the foghorns in the distance and touch the rusted carcass of a long-ago wrecked ship on the beach. And you can hear Henry's last friend, named Ollie, reading aloud in a window well and pacing off poetry stanzas in the yard. This is a fully living, breathing place.
This is also a story about second chances, and appropriately, even those who behave in the worst ways are shown to deserve sympathy. And most of the time you find yourself agreeing that they should get it.
This is storytelling of rare quality, woven in a way that will catch and hold your heart.
Terra Elan McVoy, author
Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781481401364, $17.99, www.amazon.com
Sex becomes a game to win in this young adult drama about making choices in the ultra disciplined world of competitive swimming.
Brynn has what it takes to make the national, and potentially Olympic, cut. She's on an elite local swim team.
But as she focuses more and more on winning, she finds herself turning more and more inward, and caring less and less about her grades, her health and the people she once called - or could potentially call -- friends.
An explicit encounter with a flirtatious swim team member -- who is purportedly her best friend's boyfriend - quickly spirals her life downward, on a host of levels.
But will she actually apply the subsequently learned lessons? Will she reconnect with those she has harmed and pushed away?
The teens in In Deep are particularly sexually savvy; everyone doesn't just seem to be doing it, they are.
They are also technologically savvy. Texting and social media are front and center, and central to the vicious climax.
But this is also a story about swimming. Readers familiar with that world will relate to Brynn's daily practices, laps, locker rooms, drills and pre-meet super pasta meals.
Older adult readers may find the sexual content a bit unnerving.
But this is a novel written for teens. They may simply find it to be...real. Even more so, if elite competitive sports are their world.
Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer
Blood Profit$; the Lithium Conspiracy
James N. Patrick, Sr. and J. Victor Tomaszek
Station Approach, Alresford, Hants, 5024 9JH, UK
9781782794837, $18.95, www.amazon.com
The co-authors of this book, Blood Profit$, James N. Patrick and J. Victor Tomaszek have teamed up to write a chilling novel of the machinations of the CIA, high government officials, the Mafia and Wall Street traders who attempt to take advantage of a global conspiracy. Three inexperienced friends work together to upset a scheme that would shake up the whole world if it succeeded. The people involved are, at first, incredulous that something of this magnitude could happen, then determined to upset the plans of some very degenerate characters.
Each of the young people involved, AJ Morales, a newly elected U.S. Congressman, Charles Prendergast, a young up and coming businessman in a suspect organization and Julia Abbot, a hand-picked lobbyist for that same organization have their own reasons for foiling the conspiracy.
This fast paced, enthralling novel will hold your attention throughout. It is reminiscent of the books of authors such as James Brown and James Rollins. I am looking forward to more of the works of these two fine authors. Be sure to put Blood Profit$ at the top of your "to read" list.
James N. Patrick, a political scientist for many years, is a former Washington insider, campaign manager and expert in world political and business affairs. He has made numerous radio and television appearances over the last 25 years; discussing and predicting social, economic, political and business change. He now lives on his alpaca ranch in Denton, Texas and owns the Old Irish Bed and Breakfast.
J. Victor Tomaszek is a published novelist, amateur opera singer, former Vietnam era USAF Air Rescue airborne firefighter and has lived in Europe and Asia for extended periods. He believes his exposure to numerous cultures adds unique color and spice to his novels. He has performed in historical reenactments, and can ride and shoot from the saddle with the best of them. He and his family breed alpacas in the far northwest Chicago suburbs.
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9780785229216, $17.99, www.amazon.com
Have you noticed someone who might need help? Andy Andrews has. He relates his encounter with a wise, mysterious man named Jones (or is it Garcia or Chen?) He was different to different people.
Jones seemed to be at the right place at the right time, always carrying a suitcase full of what he needs to help each individual. Andy met him at the lowest time of his life. Jones (not Mr., just Jones) spent time with Andy. Through probing questions, discourse on life and books, he helped Andy change his perspective and find a way to change the direction of his life.
As time passed, Andy saw Jones several times, sometimes to help him and sometimes to help others. The Noticer by Andy Andrews will make you think, frustrate you and possibly give you some answers to some of life's questions.
Persistence is the watchword in this thought-provoking novel. The author is persistent in his attempt to make the reader think; Jones is persistent in his effort to change people; the people Jones helps are persistent in their determination to find the best path to take in their life. The reader does not have to be persistent in reading this book as it flows naturally to the answers to life. I can't imagine it not making a difference in your life - it did mine.
As Jones said in a note to the people he helped, "I am not gone. I will be around. The best is yet to come."
Andy Andrews is a best-selling novelist and corporate speaker for the world's largest organizations. He has spoken at the request of four different U.S. Presidents and at military bases worldwide. He lives in Orange Beach, Alabama with his wife Polly and their two sons.
The Kidney Sellers
Carolina Academic Press
700 Kent Street, Durham, NC, 27701
1611635128, $35.00, www.amazon.com
"If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject" - Ayn Rand
People who dream to see a better future, not just for themselves, but for everyone in their community work tirelessly to do the right thing in life. Changing the world always starts with a small and a simple act, usually done on a daily basis. The step by step process involves changing our habits, beliefs, and roles we have within our society, and by also becoming conscious of the consequences of our everyday action. This must also lead to understanding emotions better, not just of our own but also of the people around us. Passionate people with big hearts and an even bigger vision for the little home we all call planet earth often undertake such personal journeys that change the course of the fate of all mankind.
Dr Sigrid Fry-Revere's nonfiction book 'The Kidney Sellers: A Journey of Discovery in Iran' is a systematic study of people and culture told within the backdrop of the kidney donor shortage in the U.S to a seemingly trouble free Iran in the same regard. Set in the format of a quasi adventure story and part documentary style, this research rich book primarily focuses on Iran and the Iranian medical culture that seems to have overcome the problem of kidney shortage for transplants through compensated organ donation. The Kidney Sellers is an exploration into the underbelly of it all, where the author looks at the ethics of compensating for organ donation; from exploitation to the numerous number of lives it has managed to save. Sigrid Fry-Revere tries to find answer to the question why patients are dying in U.S for a lack of kidneys while there is actually a waiting list of people willing to donate in Iran.
This scholarly work began as a quest to find solutions to the U.S. organ shortage, as there are over 100,000 Americans who need organ transplants at any given time. When Dr. Sigrid learns that Iran is supposed to have a waiting list of donors, she flies out there to research the ethics and even functionality of compensated kidney transplants. She finds out that there are some strict guidelines laid out when it comes to organ transplant in Iran plus a combination of recipient monetary donation and government help which ensures that the donor gets the best medical treatment post surgery. All this has contributed to Iran solving the kidney shortage problem to almost a full extent. Comparatively in America the congressional law preventing compensated kidney transfers and a preference to cadaver organ donation to live donation has all contributed to a pitiable condition for the patients who suffer waiting for the kidney, as the demand keeps outrunning the supply of cadaver kidneys. It has also given way to a parallel black market for kidneys, but this has often ended up exploiting the patients than helping them. Sigrid through her work wants to tell people that a good idea is a good idea no matter where it originated from and sometimes overcoming hasty emotional responses or predisposed judgement calls is necessary to see the bigger and possibly the brighter picture.
Early on in an understated but pivotal moment in the book the author describes meeting Steve, a friend of a friend currently on dialysis and also on the waiting list for kidney transplant. Description of the author's meeting with Steve presents itself as the perfect start to the rest of the book. It grabs hold of you by the cuff of your collar and shocks you into attention with the absolute reality of the human element in the entire issue. Sigrid Fry-Revere comes across as very worldly wise, perhaps due to all the travel to different parts of the world and being introduced to different cultures as a child and also perhaps because of the early start to discussions on ethics with her parents, all of which seem to have helped her prepare better and undertake this journey which has been nothing short of an epic one in its preparation, build up and execution.
It's not often you pick up a book that doesn't have a detective, a vampire or pretty young things as its 'heroes' and yet compels you to read it cover to cover in one sitting. There are a large number of human interest stories that reveal themselves in light of the interviews that Sigrid conducts, which are both staggering and heart warming at the same time. Sigrid's Iranian adventure has this very subtle undercurrent of humour element to it, especially in the beginning when she's acclimatizing to the foreign environment, which is very original and helps in establishing this instant connection to the author's pursuits.
A couple of subtle gems that you will in this book are the chapter numbers which are also shown in Farsi numerals and the use of image of a lotus flower as a typographic symbol for section breaks all somehow lead more authenticity and helps establish the mood, since most of the book does deal with Iran. It would be tough for anyone with a mature and functioning conscience reading the book not to feel the gravity of the situation and feel this compelling urge to do something, a positive step in the right direction, to contribute to solving this crisis.
Honor and Polygamy
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781491732953, $11.95, 132pp; B00KBSPUX8, Kindle $4.38, www.amazon.com
"Fate leads him who follows it, and drags him who resist" - Plutarch
Author Omar Farhad's novel, 'Honor and Polygamy' narrates the story of Nicholas Blake, a diplomatic officer working with the United Nations in New York City. Having just returned from an overseas tour for U.N, Nick is looking forward to a peaceful domestic life with his wife, Lisa and his two children, Ashley and Fargo when fate deals him the first of many wild cards. He is asked to report back to Afghanistan on a six month mission; landing there and even before he gets to officially feel homesick, fate arrives in his life once again in the form of lean & bearded Taliban men who kidnap him and imprison him in a village on the hills. Months go by quickly before Nick escapes from their clutches, albeit only partially, as he now finds that his only chance at redemption lies in the hands of the villagers. In a bizarre life and death situation, Nick is forced to take a second wife, to try and to survive and hopefully get back to his real family in America. But as fate would have it, Nick can't help falling in love with his new bride, Shaista and thus begins the struggle to make sense of the world around him while trying to overcome the guilt and confusion in having to choose between his two families.
Honor and Polygamy is a fascinating look at Afghanistan that goes over and beyond what a mere travelogue, a history lesson or even an adventure thriller set in the mountains does. On the face of it, it is an adventure story involving a character called Nick but a deeper introspection will reveal that the author has painfully strived to tell something more through this book, to enlighten and shed more light on the rich and sometimes perplexing culture of a country. Afghans and people who have visited or served in Afghanistan are sure to applaud the level of accuracy and deep insights Omar provides into the country's social, political and cultural environment.
The opening chapters in 'Honor and Polygamy' brilliantly capture the feelings of the lead character Nick as he prepares himself for the arduous journey ahead. Omar has captured Nick's sense of awe, fear, confusion, guilt and determination very well as he discovers himself on this journey. A love story that springs out of nowhere reiterates the fact that you can never predict the wild aces life will throw at you. The portrayal of desperation and agony Nick has to undergo not once but twice, once trying to get back home and then trying to return back to where he started from is very realistically done. The kind of extraordinary undertakings he goes through is testament to the fact that a man will do just about anything and go to any lengths when his mind is clear about the decision made.
At times 'Honor and Polygamy'reads like a memoir, partly because of the likeness to a first person narrative and partly also due to the amount of detailed emotions the author has been able to convey through the lead character's journey; it is a rarity that you don't usually get to see in other books of similar genesis. Omar Farhad very skilfully pulls you into this claustrophobic situation early on and from then, every step of the journey; the reader becomes a willing accomplice or a witness to Nick's emotional and physical travails.There is a good mix of political and historical insight into the past, the present and the possible future for Afghanistan that has been presented alongside the core story. And it is something that should bring a little more awareness in people's minds about a region that they have been hearing about for a long time but don't really know much about due to the kind of limited and biased reporting we see today from the major news networks.
Omar Farhad takes you on a journey through 'Honor and Polygamy' that is bound to leave you with more knowledge and understanding than before. And everything in the book from the terrain to the people are going to leave a lasting impression in your mind. It's one of those rare books that's difficult to put down once you start reading it.
Kevin Peter, Reviewer
Duncan Hines: How a Traveling Salesman Became the Most Trusted Name in Food
University Press of Kentucky
663 South Limestone St., Lexington, KY 40508
9780813144597, $19.95, www.amazon.com
Author Louis Hatchett reminds us Duncan Hines (1880-1959) was a real person with a zest for living well and not a fictitious advertising contrivance like Betty Crocker, Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben or Captain Crunch to sell the eponymous brand-named line of dependable packaged baking mixes that continues to dominate supermarket aisles decades after their introduction. Bowling Green, KY residents have tangible reminders that he was a native son with an annual festival, the Duncan Hines Scenic Byway, an 82 mile loop past historic homes and sites through Warren and Edmonson Counties, and the Hardy and Son Funeral Home, site of the former Hines residence on Louisville Road. Although his photograph was omitted from product boxes following his death, Duncan Hines face was instantly recognizable in his day and businesses strived to achieve the distinctive accolade "Recommended by Duncan Hines", an assurance of success.
Hines was a printer's sales representative during the 1920's and 1930's who traveled for business and pleasure thousands of miles primarily by car through small towns and rural communities in the era before interstate highways were built. There were neither chain restaurants nor established, regulated food safety standards, no guidebooks for roadside eateries, restaurant critics outside of major cities or a Food Show Network. In point of fact, dining out in Middle America could be as hazardous to one's health as consuming snacks from Third World street vendors. In his quest to find consistently reliable, clean, quality places to eat and sleep, Duncan Hines was a revolutionary pioneer who permanently transformed the food service and hospitality industries and laid the foundations for the countless food and restaurant critics, food writers, bloggers and television programs that followed. In 1935, Hines self-published his first Adventures in Good Eating, a tightly bound, expertly printed paperback with a bright red cover containing a list of his 475 favorite places to eat. The book was an instant success; updated and reprinted many times until 1962. It spurred him to publish a companion book, in vivid yellow, Lodging for a Night. He retired from the printing business to focus on his guidebooks and wrote a syndicated newspaper column thrice weekly sharing advice and restaurant recipes for home cooks.
This nattily dress businessman, son of a Confederate veteran, visionary entrepreneur, bon vivant, discerning food critic and writer of self-published guidebooks for food and lodging had already made a comfortable living from his various ventures. Partnership with Roy H. Park in Hines-Park Foods led to lucrative brand name licensing agreements which continue to generate wealth.
Could Louis Hatchett have imagined when he chose Duncan Hines as the subject of his Master's Thesis at Western Kentucky University more than two decades ago that he would become the foremost biographer of the "most trusted name in food" as well as becoming a key conservator of his legacy? It took the author several years to research his subject, a process which included interviewing family, friends, employees and associates of Duncan Hines. His original thesis evolved into the now out-of-print hardback biography, Duncan Hines: The Man Behind the Cake Mix (2001). University Press of Kentucky in adherence to the perfectionist subject's insistence on print quality excellence has recently released a trio of books written or updated and edited by Henderson resident Louis Hatchett: Duncan Hines: How a Traveling Salesman Became the Most Trusted Name in Food, Adventures in Good Cooking, and The Dessert Book. All three have forewords written by Michael and Jane Stern, contemporary critics experts on "Roadfood," who owe a large debt of gratitude to their predecessor for blazing a trial.
Louis Hatchett spoke about Duncan Hines and signed copies of his three new books at the Warren County Public Library on July 15th.
Never Come Back
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014-3657
9780451417510, $15.00, www.amazon.com
Headlines Blaze: Nice Guy, College Professor David Bell Bares Dark Family Secrets in "Never Come Back", a Tale of Murder and Mystery
David Jack Bell has a quirky sense of humor. He dedicated his 2013 mystery thriller Never Come Back to his mother then worried aloud she might sense a hidden message when the victim, a widowed sixty-nine year old mother, is found dead in her own home in the first chapter. Darkly chilling scenes, psychological drama and closely held family secrets are hallmarks of rising star Dr. Bell's mysteries published by New American Library, an imprint of Penguin. It's become a tradition for Bowling Green, Kentucky's Warren County Public Library to host a 'hometown proud' author talk/ book discussion followed by a book signing to celebrate his book launches where fans and friends, Western Kentucky University English Department colleagues that include 'Professor Porkbelly' Dr. Wes Berry and his wife Dr. Molly McCaffrey, also a talented published author, and Potter College students gather to hear him read from his latest work. This year's release party for The Forgotten Girl will take place on October, 7 at the Bob Kirby branch. If David didn't have dual careers as a writer and educator, he could consider stand-up comedy as evidenced by his rapier sharp flashes of dry wit.
Previous mysteries, Cemetery Girl (2011) and The Hiding Place (2012) are both critically acclaimed. His earlier works in horror fiction, published by Delirium Books, are The Condemned (2008), and The Girl in the Woods (2009). Sales are soaring for this articulate, soft-spoken wordsmith whose works have been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize and been awarded for best American literature published by a small press. Since the WKU book launch, it has been announced that Cemetery Girl has been awarded France's prestigious Le Prix Polar International de Cognac.
Reviewer Linda Hitchcock shares conversations with author David Bell:
How old were you when you received your first library card? Were libraries an important part of your childhood?
I always had a library card. My parents were big library users. I used to love the way our library smelled when I was a kid. It's a beautiful old stone building with lots of woodwork inside. Both of my parents read a lot and they encouraged my love of reading. I'll tell you how much they encouraged me. When I was about fourteen or so, there were certain books I couldn't check out because they were marked as "adult." They had a round "A" stamped on the inside. We're talking books by Tom Robbins or people like that. I asked my parents if I could get their permission to check out adult materials, and they said yes without batting an eye. I loved the library and went there all the time.
Who were your favorite authors growing up? Which authors have influenced you the most?
There are a number of books I loved when I was a kid: King Arthur and His Knights by Mabel Louise Robinson, The Hobbit by Tolkien. I read The Hobbit in one day when I was home sick from school. When I was really little I loved a series of books about a character named "Papa Small." I also loved Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and I read collections of Charlie Brown comics over and over again.
A lot of authors have influenced me, almost everyone I've ever read. Hemingway, Flannery O'Connor, Richard Ford, William Trevor, Jhumpa Lahiri, Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, James Crumley, Karl Edward Wagner. The list goes on and on.
Who are your current favorite authors? What books have you read or are reading currently that you would recommend? Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction?
I recently read a book of short stories called Indian Country by Dorothy M. Johnson. She wrote about the American West, and three of her short stories were made into famous movies: "The Hanging Tree" starring Gary Cooper, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence" starring John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, and "A Man Called Horse" starring Richard Harris. Johnson wrote stories about the West at a time when women weren't expected to write that way, and she refused to write under a pen name. A fascinating writer.
I've also recently read and enjoyed Winding Star by Douglas C. Jones and The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. I have read some non-fiction lately: Manhunt by James Swanson, the story of the hunt for John Wilkes Booth. I feel like I need to read more narrative non-fiction. Really good non-fiction reads like a novel, and the best non-fiction writers and historians get us to see familiar stories in new ways. I guess fiction writers do the same thing - they take the familiar and turn it inside out.
Banned Book Week was Sept. 22-28. Do you have a personal favorite?
I wish one of my books would get banned. It seems to be the best thing someone can do for a book's sales. Banning books only makes people want to read them more. I looked at the list of most challenged books, and they all seem to be classics. And they all survive.
Did you always want to be a writer? Who were your mentors?
I was always a reader, a big reader. I loved books. Not just reading them but also books as objects. The way they felt, the way they smelled, the way they looked. On some level, I always wanted to be a writer, but it can be tough to tell your dreams to the rest of the world. People have a tendency to think, "Oh, isn't that nice" but they don't really take us seriously when we say those things. I felt I wanted to or had to prove myself before I could say I was a writer. I needed to publish something first before I said I was a writer.
I've been fortunate to have a lot of great teachers, both in high school and in graduate school and beyond. But a couple of people have really played a big role. The great writer Tom Monteleone taught me at a workshop. On the last day of the workshop, Tom pulled me aside and he said, "You have what it takes to make it." I'll never forget that. We all need someone to talk to us that way. And Ed Gorman, the great mystery writer has helped me in too many ways, also Jim Reiss who taught at Miami University. He always believed in me and told me I would make it. I can't thank those guys enough.
Which is more important: a good plot or fascinating characters? What is the inspiration for the wellspring of darkly hidden secrets in your novels?
I think stories begin with characters. Characters drive the plot rather than the other way around. Fascinating characters make for fascinating plot. I think characters and story come first. If a writer gives a reader those things then the genre doesn't really matter. As far as where the ideas come from...they can come from anywhere. Newspaper stories, observations, things overheard in restaurants and in line at the dry cleaner plus my own imagination. I think people who write suspense novels and thrillers are healthier than other people because we exorcise all our demons in the stories. That's just a theory, though. The people closest to me might disagree.
What courses are you teaching at WKU? What is the most important lesson you would like to impart to your students?
Mostly I teach fiction writing classes. The number one thing for students to do is to read. Read, read, read, I tell them. Read all kinds of things: the news, The Bible, trashy romance novels, history, fiction, poetry etc. Then write what you want to write. Write the kind of story you would like to read. Don't worry about trying to impress anybody. Don't write what you think you should be writing; write what you want to write. It sounds simple but it isn't always. We let other people get inside our heads and tell us what we should be reading or writing. Trust yourself!
How do you balance your time with teaching, writing and marketing your works? Which do you prefer teaching/mentoring or writing?
I'm good at compartmentalizing. I'm good with a deadline, so I can get a lot done. I don't really think I have to choose between teaching and writing. The two go hand in hand as far as I'm concerned, and I feel like I'll always be doing both of them in some way. They're too much a part of my life and I enjoy them both too much. I learn to write better from being a teacher, and I become a better teacher the more I write.
What's next? Would you consider a series as a future project?
I just completed my next novel, The Forgotten Girl, which should be out next year. For now, though, everyone should run out and buy my latest, Never Come Back. I don't have any plans to write a series. There are plusses and minuses to doing that. For now I'm writing standalone thrillers, so I get to crank up a new batch of characters every time.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
When I'm not writing, I love watching movies and reading. I'm a big sports fan, even though the Reds were knocked out of the playoffs. I'm motivated by telling good stories, by seeing my work in print, by hopefully learning more about writing and getting better each time out. There's nothing I'd rather do and nothing else I'm good at. I don't even want to think about what I'd be doing if I wasn't doing this. I'd be lost and unfulfilled, that's for sure.
Paris at the End of the World
195 Broadway, New York, NY 10007
9780062221407, $15.99, www.amazon.com
The centenary of the "Great War" has brought forth a flood of new books and a plethora of magazine articles covering every aspect of the conflict from minutely analyzing root causes through the horrors of trench close combat and the transition from naval, cavalry and field based defense to modern warfare utilizing poisonous chemical gases and airstrikes as well as the aftermath of a less than satisfactory peace treaty. The estimated number of 37 million casualties among military and ordinary citizens with 17 million killed and 20 million wounded in the years 1914-1918 continue to stagger the imagination. The ripple effect of diseases, shell shock, battle fatigue, and sustained deprivation and economic depressions impacted succeeding generations worldwide.
Australian native John Baxter who has made his home in Paris since 1990 is a must-read author with a prodigious output of works on diverse topics ranging from science fiction, biographies of several film directors, screenwriting, journalism, book collecting, memoirs and autobiographies. He turned his attention to World War I with Paris at the End of the World. Since relocating to France, this master raconteur has written several books celebrating his adopted country including my personal favorite, Immovable Feast: A Paris Christmas. The current book focuses on the hedonistic elements of the City of Lights as the avant-garde, artists, adventurers and expatriate writers ushered in the Jazz Age while exuberantly creating, partying and living life extravagantly within 50 miles of the frontlines and under threat of imminent invasion. Every night was a feast for the gladiators about to enter the arena. Old world aristocrats emptied their wine cellars and mingled with the demimonde likes of Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Jean Cocteau in nightclubs and salons. As the glitterati set Paris ablaze by night, the city was also besieged by waves of foreign troops on liberty.
The author has skillfully blended history and biography. Paris at the End of the World also has a deeply personal aspect as Baxter reconstructs his grandfather Archie's mysterious wartime service. When the war began, William Archie Baxter of tiny Burrawang, New South Wales, Australia was 31 years-old, employed, married and a father who would not have been drafted yet inexplicably volunteered to serve and was sent overseas. John's grandfather did not discuss the war or his part in it and having died when the boy was nine, was not available for questioning. Instead, Baxter examined diaries and service records to learn Archie suffered from varicose veins that kept him out of the combat zones and were treated by military physicians.
The book is highly original, engaging and revelatory and is a paean to a transformational era in Parisian history beautifully expressed by one of the city's most ardent chroniclers.
Blind Moon Alley
Seventh Street Books
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228
9781616148874, $15.95, www.amazon.com
John Florio's stunning debut novel Sugar Pop Moon was a welcome addition to the noir canon of literature. If W. R. Burnett and James M. Cain, two of the grand masters of this hard bitten genre, were still alive, they might have raised a shot glass of cheer to this welcome newcomer. Blind Moon Alley is an equally impressive sequel that leaves the reader wanting more. Brooklyn born, Queens raised native New Yorker Florio has earned an impressive array of degrees including an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine. He honed his writing skills in a career that has included crafting ad copy beginning as he states with "birdseed and pudding boxes", television programs including a series called Kid Fitness, and as a musical composer for a decade's production of 50 episodes of Dateline NBC, the music for a documentary Roger Maris, Reluctant Hero and other shows. Florio credits his musical abilities to his policeman father who providing him with classical piano lessons starting at age four. He's taught courses including writing, symbolism, advertising and film music at several universities. His second book, One Punch from the Promised Land: Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks, and the Myth of the Heavyweight Title, co-written with his wife Ouisie Shapiro, a veteran television sports documentary screenwriter, was published in 2013.
With Sugar Pop Moon, Florio introduced readers to 'Jersey Leo,' one of the most interesting anti-hero's to inhabit a work of fiction in a long time. The series is set a decade into the benighted, legislated experiment of Prohibition. The manufacture, sale and transportation of alcohol were illegal, ironically spurring demand for the commodity thus spurring the growth of organized crime networks to supply it along with corruption fueled by its profits. Twenty-four year old Jersey stands out in a crowd, an outsider marked by his singular appearance; a watery eyed, yellow-haired biracial albino, abandoned shortly after birth by his white mother to be raised by his upstanding, one-time champion boxer black father, Ernie Leo. Disparagingly called "Snowball" by many, Jersey is a highly intelligent, well-read individual whose job options are severely limited by the entrenched economic depression. His aspirations to complete college were placed on hold by his sense of responsibility and choice to help his father keep his spartan boxing gym open to provide a gathering place for neighborhood youth. Jersey's singularity is reflected in his choice of vehicle: an Auburn Speedster touring car that aptly reflects his richly introspective imagination. In Blind Moon Alley, he has moved to nearby Philadelphia where he tends bar in a cheerless speakeasy called the Ink Well. A newspaper article featuring his photo lauding his actions in saving a local child has been glued to the wall of the dingy bar. Jersey gets pulled into danger when his grade school chum Aaron Garvey, a convicted cop killer, escapes death row on the eve of his execution. The action and plot twists don't stop until the final page. Author John Florio has kept several sympathetic characters from Sugar Pop Moon and elevated the role of others such as Myra Banks, another fourth-grade classmate of Jersey's. A congenitally defective club foot made this otherwise striking girl a shy misfit and an ally in school. After successful foot surgery, Myra emerged from her chrysalis and became a sexy siren lounge singer. Madame Curio, a questionable palmist, soothsayer and street smart Johalis are among the crew who help Jersey learn the truth about his pal Garvey and stay alive in the confrontational battles between crooked cops and local gangsters.
Blind Moon Alley is gritty and dark; densely layered and lightened with humor. It's a riveting tale with heart that keeps the reader engrossed and rooting for the protagonist. The novel has the rapid-fire repartee characteristic of the era but is sure to offend some of the P.C. police with the frequent yet authentic use of racially charged epithets. John Florio has written another refreshing change from formulaic thrillers and deserves a wide audience. Seventh Street Books "where fiction is a crime" is the publisher.
Linda K. Hitchcock
What We Leave Behind
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781499502718 $40.48 www.amazon.com
Illustrated with vintage black-and-white photographs and reproductions of correspondence throughout, What We Leave Behind: Four Generations in Cicero, Illinois (None of Them Knew Al Capone) is a multigenerational family memoir. The great-grandmother of author Catherine Eisen kept a diary from 1944 until her death in 1958 at the age of 84; her stories as well as the tales of Eisen's grandmother and mother paint a picture of family resilience, the tolls of poverty, coping with tragedy, and burden of Eisen's grandfather's alcoholism. A touch of the miraculous permeates this family chronicle, almost as if an angel came to answer their prayers, at their hour of greatest need. An absorbing, evolving, and ongoing family record, What We Leave Behind is highly recommended.
31 Days: A Memoir of Seduction
The Story Plant
c/o Studio Digital CT, LLC
PO Box 4331, Stamford, CT 06907
9781611881882 $14.95 pbk. / $7.99 Kindle www.amazon.com
31 Days: A Memoir of Seduction is a true story of real-life passion, although some names have been changed. When author Marcia Gloster was a college student, she visited Salzburg, Austria to study painting at Oskar Kokoschka's School of Vision, she unexpectedly became enraptured in a passionate love affair with her instructor, the charismatic Bill Thomson (a married man with a storied past of indiscretions). 31 Days is both a glimpse into daily life at a famous art school, and a tempestuous love affair; a month-long saga of life transformed, memorable to the very end.
The Jewels of Happiness
9781938599644 $19.95 CD
9781938599491 $16.95 MP3 CD
9781938599484 $14.95 digital www.audible.com
Originally narrated to celebrate the first International Day of Happiness, and featuring a foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Jewels of Happiness is an audiobook with chapters read by notable global figures. Its 13 chapters are devoted to ways to bring happiness into one's life. Simple, practical exercises, and inspirational passages fill this excellent aid to improving one's outlook upon and satisfaction with life, now in a new edition with music composed by Sri Chinmoy and performed by international artists. Highly recommended! 4 hours 27 min.
Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476773957, $28.00, www.amazon.com
Our church book study group is reading this book, and Jimmy Carter is amazing. At the age of 89 he is still going strong and trying to make a difference in a very troubling world. This time he has taken women's issues worldwide and compiled them in a very readable book. I applaud him. Besides being an excellent writer, he has organized the topics well and in the last chapter lists 23 actions that his Carter Center monitors and supports and encourages readers to participate with them in their efforts. The web site is www.cartercenter.org.
Two of the twenty three actions are legislative issues that need action in the US: Insist that the US Senate ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; and insist that the United States adopt the International Violence Against Women act. Ask your senator or congressperson if they support these. Another action is "Encourage more qualified women to seek public office and support them." Women, get out there and run for public office.
Human trafficking, full prisons and legal killing, sexual assault and rape, violence and war, genocide of girls, slavery, prostitution, honor killing, genital cutting, child marriage and dowry deaths, and politics, pay and maternal health are all covered in this book. It will give you something to think about and, hopefully, take action upon.
He and others make a very important point: women's issues need the support of men. By ensuring that women worldwide are supported, cared for, given social, economic, medical, and legal support and opportunity, we create a better world for everyone.
The Hiding Place
Corrie ten Boom & John & Elizabeth Sherrill
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780800794057, $12.99, www.amazon.com
I read this true story on a trip to Europe. It takes place in Haarlem, near Amsterdam, and we spent a few days in Amsterdam, so this book took on special meaning for me. It is the story of a Dutch woman during World War II who sheltered Jews from the Nazis and was a member of the Dutch resistance. The Dutch were neutral in World War I and again in World War II but that did not stop Hitler's troops from overrunning Holland and occupying the country. Their occupation was brutal for the Dutch. Corrie's family members were watchmakers and she learned the trade from her father, a much respected man in the community. Her sister, Betsie, was Corrie's inspiration, and they were very close. What is gripping about the story is that Corrie starts out by describing their normal life in Haarlem, the watch shop, her love for her family, especially her father, and being jilted by a man she loved. Then she describes the occupation and little by little how conditions worsen. Jews were beaten, their shops destroyed or confiscated. Corrie and her sister began to hide Jews in their home and then in a secret room that the Dutch resistance helped build out, and then family members disappear or suffer. Corrie and her sister are taken away to a death camp because someone snitched on them to the Nazi police. They suffer unimaginable horrors, which she describes. All the while Corrie's sister remains an inspiration for her, and Corrie is able to transcend time after time the terror of her situation but not without struggling with her faith. Corrie survives the death camps but her sister does not. The rest of her life she dedicates to telling her story. What is most inspiring is her living her Christian faith and describing how she struggled to love and forgive the people who made her life a living hell. This is a slim volume but timeless in its message.
Twenty Feet from Stardom - DVD
Anchor Bay Studio
c/o Anchor Bay Entertainment
2401 West Big Beaver Road, Suite 200, Troy, MI 48084-3304
B00E1LR2B4, $19.98, www.collagevideo.com.fordummies
Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Judith Hill, and Lisa Fischer star as themselves in this DVD with appearances from Bruce Springstein, Better Midler, Stevie Wonder, Sting, and Mick Jagger. This documentary is about backup singers. The music is fabulous, the singing incredible, the harmonies astonishing. I learned that many backup singers aspire to be lead singers, but some just don't make it. The movie explores why some do and some don't. Lisa Fischer, who has sung back up to the Rolling Stones for twenty-five years, likes being a backup singer and has made a good living at it. Many different backup singers are interviewed, and I would have liked to know more about them. The out takes at the end are helpful in rounding out more of the singers in the documentary. I was most impressed with Lisa Fischer. Her voice is unbelievable, and she is so versatile and seems to be very supportive of other singers. Once again we learn that all of us don't have to be stars to be important in this world.
Marjorie Thelen, Reviewer
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
The Barrett Company (publicity)
9781495250149, $14.99, 440pp,, Kindle $7.29, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The Aeril Forest has been completely healed, the battles are finally over, and yet, the corrosive blackness that has been haunting Raf still seems to be growing in strength. Can the source really be Pavor, the Gerent's cousin, as he suspects? Whatever it is, they know they must race to reach Miern and try to stop the vile traitor from taking over the city. But the Pass has become far more treacherous than before... They quickly become entangled in plots that flare up around them, tearing them apart and dragging them down dark and dangerous paths that push them all to their limits. With time pressing, Raf rushes blindly forward through the chaos, knowing that he is all that stands in the way of the darkness consuming their world.
Critique: The third volume in David Lundgren's outstanding fantasy series 'The Melforger Chronicles', "Rhapsody" continues the adventures of Raf in the aftermath of the wars so eloquently chronicled in "Melforger" (volume one, 9780615719603, $11.89, 316pp, Kindle $6.89) and "Disharmony" (volume two, 9781484076507, $14.50, 412pp, Kindle $7.29). An exceptionally imaginative writer, David Lundgren holds his reader's rapt attention with all manner of unexpected plot twists and surprising turns. A reliable entertainment from beginning to end, and highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library fantasy fiction collections, "Rhapsody" can be read with enthusiasm by anyone not familiar with the first two volumes of this deftly crafted series -- but they will be highly motivated to seek out the earlier volumes!
Capitalism v. Democracy
Timothy K. Kuhner
Stanford Law Books
c/o Stanford University Press
425 Broadway, Redwood City, CA 94063
Victor Gulotta Communications
9780804791564, $27.95, 376pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: As of the latest national elections, it costs approximately $1 billion to become president, $10 million to become a Senator, and $1 million to become a Member of the House. High-priced campaigns, an elite class of donors and spenders, superPACs, and increasing corporate political power have become the new normal in American politics. In "Capitalism v. Democracy: Money in Politics and the Free Market Constitution", Timothy Kuhner (Associate Professor at the Georgia State University College of Law) explains how these conditions have corrupted American democracy, turning it into a system of rule that favors the wealthy and marginalizes ordinary citizens. Kuhner maintains that these conditions have corrupted capitalism as well, routing economic competition through political channels and allowing politically powerful companies to evade market forces. The Supreme Court has brought about both forms of corruption by striking down campaign finance reforms that limited the role of money in politics. Exposing the extreme economic worldview that pollutes constitutional interpretation, Kuhner shows how the Court became the architect of American plutocracy. "Capitalism v. Democracy: Money in Politics and the Free Market Constitution" offers the key to understanding why corporations are now citizens, money is political speech, limits on corporate spending are a form of censorship, democracy is a free market, and political equality and democratic integrity are unconstitutional constraints on money in politics. Supreme Court opinions have dictated these conditions in the name of the Constitution, as though the Constitution itself required the privatization of democracy. Kuhner explores the reasons behind these opinions, reveals that they form a blueprint for free market democracy, and demonstrates that this design corrupts both politics and markets. He argues that nothing short of a constitutional amendment can set the necessary boundaries between capitalism and democracy.
Critique: As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Capitalism v. Democracy: Money in Politics and the Free Market Constitution" is a minor masterpiece of political science and judicial scholarship. A seminal contribution to academic library collections, "Capitalism v. Democracy: Money in Politics and the Free Market Constitution" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it ideal for the non-specialist general reader seeking a better and non-partisan understanding of the impact money has on democracy and the American political system. It should be noted that "Capitalism v. Democracy: Money in Politics and the Free Market Constitution" is also available in both a hardcover edition (9780804780667, $90.00) and a Kindle edition ($18.49).
The Splintered Paddle
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432828592, $25.95, 303pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Private eye Ava Rome's calling is to protect the defenseless. She takes on the cases of Jenny Mordan, a working girl who is being harassed by a police detective, and Cassie Sands, a teenager who is mixed up with a marijuana grower. Norman Traxler did ten years in San Quentin nurturing his hatred of Ava Rome, the young MP who took him down for assaulting a prostitute. When Traxler, the detective and the grower join forces against her, Ava's calling, protecting the defenseless, becomes a fight for her life.
Critique: A riveting read from first page to last by a master of the mystery/suspense genre, Mark Troy's "The Splintered Paddle" continues the private eye adventures of Ava Rome and will prove to be a popular addition to community library collections and a 'must' for fans of Mark Troy's P.I heroine. It should be noted that "The Splintered Paddle" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.19).
The Dangerous Divide
Lawrence Hill Books
c/o Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781613748367, $26.95, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Since the attacks of 9/11, the United States has steadily ramped up security along the U.S.-Mexico border, transforming America's legendary Southwest into a frontier of fear. Veteran journalist Peter Eichstaedt roams this fabled region from Tucson, Arizona, to El Paso, Texas, meeting with migrants, border security advocates, and communities ravaged by cross-border crime. He rides with the border patrol and reveals the tragic situation that has evolved along the border. Eichstaedt finds that despite tens of thousands of border agents and the expenditure of billions of dollars, an estimated one million Mexicans and Central Americans continue to cross the border each year. These migrants fill jobs that have become the underpinnings of the U.S. economy. Rather than building more and better barricades, Eichstaedt argues that the United States must reform its immigration and drug laws and acknowledge that costly, counterproductive, and antiquated policies have created deadly circumstances on both sides of the border. Recognizing the truth of America's long and tortured relations with Mexico must be followed by legitimizing the contributions made by migrants to the American way of life.
Critique: A fascinating and informative read, "The Dangerous Divide: Peril and Promise on the US-Mexico Border" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it a critically important contribution to today's national discussion with respect to the volatile subject of immigration. "The Dangerous Divide: Peril and Promise on the US-Mexico Border" is especially recommended for community library collections and the personal reading lists of anyone interested in immigration reform issues. It should be noted that "The Dangerous Divide: Peril and Promise on the US-Mexico Border" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).
Andrea Sterk & Nina Caputo, editors
Cornell University Press
512 East State Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
9780801478574, $26.95, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Historians of religion face complex interpretive issues when examining religious texts, practices, and experiences. "Faithful Narratives: Historians, Religion, and the Challenge of Objectivity" presents the work of twelve eminent scholars whose research has exemplified compelling strategies for negotiating the difficulties inherent in this increasingly important area of historical inquiry. The chapters range chronologically from Late Antiquity to modern America and thematically from the spirituality of near eastern monks to women's agency in religion, considering familiar religious communities alongside those on the margins and bringing a range of spiritual and religious practices into historical focus. Focusing on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the essays address matters central to the study of religion in history, in particular texts and traditions of authority, interreligious discourse, and religious practice and experience. Some examine mainstream communities and traditions, others explore individuals who crossed religious or confessional boundaries, and still others study the peripheries of what is considered orthodox religious tradition. Encompassing a wide geographical as well as chronological scope, "Faithful Narratives: Historians, Religion, and the Challenge of Objectivity" illustrates the persistence of central themes and common analytical challenges for historians working in all periods.
Critique: Compiled and collaboratively edited by the team of academicians Andrea Sterk (Associate Professor of History, University of Florida) & Nina Caputo (Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Florida), "Faithful Narratives: Historians, Religion, and the Challenge of Objectivity" is an impressive anthology of twelve seminal articles. Informed and informative, While "Faithful Narratives: Historians, Religion, and the Challenge of Objectivity" is a strongly recommended addition to Academic Library collections, it should be noted that it is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.55).
Edge Of Valor
John J. Gobbell
Naval Institute Press
291 Wood Road, Annapolis, MD 21402
9781612515199, $34.95, 344pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Todd Ingram is the commanding officer of the destroyer USS Maxwell (DD 525) who saves his ship when it is hit by a kamikaze off Okinawa. For repairs, they pull into Kerama Rhetto, Okinawa, where they receive news of the war's end. Ingram expects to be shipped home like the rest of his crew but instead receives orders to fly to Manila, where he is met by Brig. Gen. Otis Dewitt, an Army buddy from his days on Corregidor who is now intelligence aide to Gen. Richard K. Sutherland, chief of staff to General MacArthur. On Ingram's C-54 are sixteen Japanese senior military and civilian diplomats who meet with Sutherland to discuss formal surrender arrangements. Two days later the terms are settled and Ingram is working with one of the Japanese delegates to ensure that mines laid in Tokyo Bay are neutralized, allowing for safe passage of more than two hundred Allied ships. While Ingram is promised that he can attend the surrender ceremony on board the USS Missouri (BB 63), DeWitt, in concert with the State Department, has an ulterior motive and sends Ingram to Karafuto (Sakhalin Island, according to Soviet maps) to defuse a Soviet attack on Hokkaido, the northernmost home island of Japan. Ingram's old adversary, Edward Dezhnev, is the brigade commander responsible for laying siege to a Japanese holdout garrison in Toro, a natural jumping-off place for an attack on Hokkaido.
Critique: This is author John J. Gobbell's fifth action/adventure novel set in World War II and continues the exploits of Todd Ingram. A deftly crafted and complexly woven storyline populated by memorable characters all presented by an extraordinarily talented writer, "Edge Of Valor" is a compelling and wonderfully entertaining read which is highly recommended for community library collections. It should be noted that "Edge Of Valor" is also available in a Kindle edition ($16.99). For those to whom this is their first introduction to this talented author, his previous and highly recommended World War II combat novels includes: "A Code for Tomorrow" (9780312205119, Kindle $7.95); "When Duty Whispers Low" (9780312986759, Kindle $7.95); "A Call to Colors" (9780891418900, Kindle $7.95); "The Neptune Strategy" (9780312988401, Kindle $7.95).
Jeremy B. Jones
John F. Blair, Publisher
1406 Plaza Drive, Winston-Salem, NC 27103
9780895876249, $24.95, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Jeremy Jones and his wife move into a small house above the creek where his family had settled 200 years prior. He takes a job alongside his former teachers in the local elementary school and sets out on a search to understand how this ancient land has shaped its people-how it shaped him. His search sends him burrowing in the past-hunting buried treasure and POW camps, unearthing Civil War graves and family feuds, exploring gated communities and tourist traps, encountering changed accents and immigrant populations, tracing Wal-Mart's sidewalks and carved-out mountains-and pondering the future. He meshes narrative and myth, geology and genealogy, fiddle tunes and local color about the briskly changing and oft-stigmatized world of his native southern Appalachians. Somehow, these journeys continually lead him back to the mystical Bearwallow Mountain, a peak suddenly in flux.
Critique: Bearwallow is an unincorporated community in Buchanan County, Virginia, United States. Bearwallow is located in the extreme northeastern corner of the county on Virginia State Route 616, approximately 19.8 miles east-southeast of Grundy. The community is named after the use of the area by bears to wallow. "Bearwallow: A Personal History of a Mountain Homeland" is an exceptionally well written and inherently fascinating memoir that is both engaging and entertaining from beginning to end. Very highly recommended reading and sure to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections, it should be noted that "Bearwallow: A Personal History of a Mountain Homeland" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Long Night of the Tankers
David J. Bercuson & Holger H. Herwig
University of Calgary Press
2500 University Drive, N.W.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
9781552387597, $41.95, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Long Night of the Tankers: Hitler's War against Caribbean Oil" presents a fresh account of a lesser-known but critical component of the Atlantic naval theatre during World War II. Using war diaries, after-action reports, and firsthand accounts relating and examining the story behind Operation Neuland, the German plan to interrupt vital oil supplies from reaching the United States and the United Kingdom by preventing Allied oil tankers from leaving refineries in the Caribbean. "Long Night of the Tankers" begins in February 1942 and follows this German attempt to scuttle the Allied war machine through to the end of the war. " details the planning and execution of the Germans and the diplomatic, political, and military responses of the Allies, particularly the United States, to overcome the German effort.
Critique: A seminal contribution to the growing library of World War II literature, "Long Night of the Tankers: Hitler's War against Caribbean Oil" by military historians David J. Bercuson (Director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, University of Calgary) and Holger H. Herwig (Canada Research Chair in the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies and a Professor in the Department of History, University of Calgary. is an impressively documented and detailed account that is very highly recommended for academic library collections, as well as the non-specialist general reader with an interest in World War II naval history.
State University of New York Press
State University Plaza, Albany, NY 12246-0001
9781438454146, $19.95, 248pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Born just north of New York City, Edward Kanze traveled as far as the wilds of Australia and New Zealand, working as a naturalist, park ranger, and nature writer, before finally settling in New York's Adirondacks for the riskiest of all life's adventures: marriage and children. Adirondack tells the story of how he and his wife, Debbie, bought a tumbledown house, rescued it from ruin, started a family, and planted themselves deep in Adirondack soil. Along the way, he brings the unique history of this area to life by sharing stories of his ancestors, who have lived there for generations, and by offering captivating descriptions of the world around him. A keen observer, Kanze will charm readers with his tales of bears, birds, and fluorescent mice.
Critique: The Adirondack Mountains are an unusual geological formation located in the northeastern lobe of Upstate New York in the United States. "Adirondack: Life and Wildlife in the Wild, Wild East" is an impressively presented memoir that is as informative as it is entertaining. An inherently fascinating read from beginning to end, "The Adirondack Mountains are an unusual geological formation located in the northeastern lobe of Upstate New York in the United States" is highly recommended and will make an enduringly popular addition to community library collections. It should be noted that "Adirondack: Life and Wildlife in the Wild, Wild East" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
International Volunteer Tourism
Stephen Leslie Wearing & Nancy Gard McGehee
c/o Stylus Publishing, Inc.
22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166-2012
9781845936969, $125.00, 184pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Volunteer tourism has increased in popularity and prevalence and is no longer considered only a small section of alternative tourism. It is now part of the mainstream tourism industry and tourism experience for many people. Concentrating on the experience of the volunteer tourist and the host community, this new edition builds on the view of volunteer tourism as a positive and sustainable form of tourism to examine a broader spectrum of behaviors and experiences and consider critically where the volunteer tourist experience both compliments and collides with host communities, using multiple case studies.
Critique: Now in a fully update second addition, "International Volunteer Tourism: Integrating Travellers and Communities" by the academic team of Stephen Leslie Wearing (School of Leisure, Sport and tourism, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia) and Nancy Gard McGehee (J. Willard and Alice Marriott Junior Faculty Fellow in Hospitality Management, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia) and featuring contributions by Simone Grabowski (UTS Business School, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia), Matthew McDonald (Visiting Research Fellow, Graduate School of Psychology, Assumption university, Bangkok, Thailand); and John Wilson, Existential Counsellor, Graduate School of Psychology, Assumption University, Bangkok, Thailand) provides an exhaustive and detailed description and analysis of the global nature of volunteer tourism, its contributions, and a projected future. Informed and informative, "International Volunteer Tourism: Integrating Travellers and Communities" is an extraordinary and seminal work which is very strongly recommended for academic library collections. It should be noted that "International Volunteer Tourism: Integrating Travellers and Communities" is also available in a Kindle edition ($100.00).
Six Simple Rules
Yves Morieux & Peter Tollman
Harvard Business Review Press
c/o Harvard Business School Press
60 Harvard Way, Boston, MA 02163
9781422190555, $30.00, 240pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: According to The Boston Consulting Group's fascinating Complexity Index, business complexity has increased sixfold during the past sixty years. And, all the while, organizational complicatedness - that is, the number of structures, processes, committees, decision-making forums, and systems - has increased by a whopping factor of thirty-five. In their attempt to respond to the increasingly complex performance requirements they face, company leaders have created an organizational labyrinth that makes it more and more difficult to improve productivity and to pursue innovation. It also disengages and demotivates the workforce. Clearly it's time for leaders to stop trying to manage complexity with their traditional tools and instead better leverage employees' intelligence. "Six Simple Rules: How to Manage Complexity without Getting Complicated" shows you how and explains the implications for designing and leading organizations. The way to manage complexity, the authors argue, is neither with the hard solutions of another era nor with the soft solutions - such as team building and feel-good "people initiatives" - that often follow in their wake. Based on social sciences (notably economics, game theory, and organizational sociology) and The Boston Consulting Group's work with more than five hundred companies in more than forty countries and in various industries, authors Yves Morieux and Peter Tollman recommend six simple rules to manage complexity without getting complicated.
Critique: Simply stated, "Six Simple Rules: How to Manage Complexity without Getting Complicated" should be mandatory reading for anyone and everyone charged with a corporate management responsibility. Articulate, practical, insightful, informed and informative, "Six Simple Rules: How to Manage Complexity without Getting Complicated" is exceptionally well written, organized, presented, and thoroughly 'user friendly'. Very strongly recommended for corporate, academic, and community library Business Management Studies instructional reference collections, it should be noted that "Six Simple Rules: How to Manage Complexity without Getting Complicated" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.99).
Michael J. Lee
Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25
East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781611861273, $34.95, 312pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Creating Conservatism: Postwar Words that Made an American Movement" charts the vital role of canonical post - World War II (1945 - 1964) books in generating, guiding, and sustaining conservatism as a political force in the United States. Dedicated conservatives have argued for decades that the conservative movement was a product of print, rather than a march, a protest, or a pivotal moment of persecution. "The Road to Serfdom", "Ideas Have Consequences", "Witness", "The Conservative Mind", "God and Man at Yale", "The Conscience of a Conservative", and other mid-century texts became influential not only among conservative office-holders, office-seekers, and well-heeled donors but also at dinner tables, school board meetings, and neighborhood reading groups. These books are remarkable both because they enumerated conservative political positions and because their memorable language demonstrated how to take those positions - functioning, in essence, as debate handbooks. Taking an expansive approach, Michael J. Lee documents the wide influence of the conservative canon on traditionalist and libertarian conservatives. By exploring the varied uses to which each founding text has been put from the Cold War to the culture wars, "Creating Conservatism: Postwar Words that Made an American Movement" generates original insights about the struggle over what it means to think and speak conservatively in America.
Critique: Conservatism as a political and social philosophy promotes retaining traditional social institutions. A person who follows the philosophies of conservatism is referred to as a traditionalist or conservative. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others, called reactionaries, oppose modernism and seek a return to "the way things were". The first established use of the term in a political context originated with Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand in 1818, during the period of Bourbon restoration that sought to roll back the policies of the French Revolution. The term, historically associated with right-wing politics, has since been used to describe a wide range of views. There is no single set of policies that are universally regarded as conservative, because the meaning of conservatism depends on what is considered traditional in a given place and time. Thus conservatives from different parts of the world - each upholding their respective traditions - may disagree on a wide range of issues. "Creating Conservatism: Postwar Words that Made an American Movement" by Michael J. Lee (Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, College of Charleston) is a seminal work of truly impressive scholarship. Informed and informative, "Creating Conservatism: Postwar Words that Made an American Movement" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it a an extraordinary contribution to academic library of American Conservative Political Studies collections and supplemental reading lists. It should be noted that "Creating Conservatism: Postwar Words that Made an American Movement" is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.49).
The Historical Character of Jesus
David M. Allen
P.O. Box 1209, Minneapolis, MN 55440-1209
9781451469370, $29.00, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: By their very nature, historical Jesus studies inevitably focus on the Gospel accounts, canonical and non-canonical alike. Scholarly portrayals so generated may vary, but the 'source material' tends to be restricted to Gospel texts, with the other NT testimony rendered secondary as result, and its 'value' limited by either genre or late dating. "The Historical Character of Jesus: Canonical Insights from Outside the Gospels" responds to this neglect by focusing specifically on non-Gospel material to see how the other texts of the New Testament contribute to the picture of Jesus. The book helpfully collates and reflects on the historical significance of key New Testament texts in relation to their presentation of Jesus, bringing them together in one place, and generating fresh perspectives on the early Jesus movement.
Critique: Jesus (6 - 4 BC to 30 - 33 AD), also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth, is the central figure of Christianity, whom the teachings of most Christian denominations hold to be the Son of God. Christianity regards Jesus as the awaited Messiah of the Old Testament and refers to him as Jesus Christ, a name that is also used in non-Christian contexts. Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed historically, although the quest for the historical Jesus has produced little agreement on the historical reliability of the Gospels and on how closely the biblical Jesus reflects the historical Jesus. Most scholars agree that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi from Galilee who preached his message orally, was baptized by John the Baptist, and was crucified in Jerusalem on the orders of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate. Scholars have constructed various portraits of the historical Jesus, which often depict him as having one or more of the following roles: the leader of an apocalyptic movement, Messiah, a charismatic healer, a sage and philosopher, or an egalitarian social reformer. Scholars have correlated the New Testament accounts with non-Christian historical records to arrive at an estimated chronology of Jesus' life. One such correlation is "The Historical Character of Jesus: Canonical Insights from Outside the Gospels" by David M. Allen (Tutor in New Testament and Academic Director at the Queen's foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, Birmingham, UK). A masterpiece of academic scholarship, "The Historical Character of Jesus: Canonical Insights from Outside the Gospels" is as informed and informative as it is insightful and thought-provoking. Extraordinarily well written, organized and presented, "The Historical Character of Jesus: Canonical Insights from Outside the Gospels" is very highly recommended reading and will prove to be an enduringly valued addition to seminary and academic library Christian Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.
Wine and Climate Change
L. J. Johnson-Bell
Burford Books, Inc.
101 East State Street, #301, Ithaca, NY 14850
9781580801744, $18.95, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Climate change is changing the way winemakers make wine. Once temperate grape-growing regions are growing hotter, challenging winemakers to produce high quality wines in unfamiliar ways. Many of the negative effects of climate change on the wine world are already apparent: European vineyards in the heart of traditional winemaking areas, for example, are suffering lower yields due to increasing temperatures. But new opportunities are also presenting themselves: areas in Europe and the Americas that could not successfully produce vitis vinifera grapes are becoming important players in the new world of wine. "Wine and Climate Change: Winemaking in a New World" explores climate change in a wine producing context, discussing why climate is important to grape growing and how climatic changes can affect grapes and wine. "Wine and Climate Change: Winemaking in a New World" will cover each major wine region in the world, analyzing the likely trends and their responses. And it will cover the ways wine producers are coping with this very quickly changing landscape.
Critique: Climate change is a significant time variation in weather patterns occurring over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. Climate change may refer to a change in average weather conditions, or in the time variation of weather around longer-term average conditions (i.e., more or fewer extreme weather events). Climate change is caused by factors such as biotic processes, variations in solar radiation received by Earth, plate tectonics, and volcanic eruptions. Certain human activities have also been identified as significant causes of recent climate change, often referred to as "global warming". Climate change has an profound impact upon agriculture everywhere in the world. All this is especially relevant to the world of wine and vitally critical to wine connoisseurs with respect to the regional complexity and variety of the world's wines. "Wine and Climate Change: Winemaking in a New World" is a seminal work and is especially recommended for professional, academic, and community library Agricultural Studies reference collections in general, and the personal reading lists of wine connoisseurs in particular.
Outlaws of the Atlantic
25 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108-2892
9780807033098, $26.95, 248pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Outlaws of the Atlantic: Sailors, Pirates, and Motley Crews in the Age of Sail" explores the dramatic world of maritime adventure, not from the perspective of admirals, merchants, and nation-states but from the viewpoint of commoners ordinary sailors, slaves, indentured servants, pirates, and other outlaws from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth century. Bringing together their seafaring experiences for the first time, "Outlaws of the Atlantic: Sailors, Pirates, and Motley Crews in the Age of Sail" non-racist, democratic, and multi-ethnic the crews were and how they were an unexpected yet driving force behind the American Revolution; that pirates, enslaved Africans, and other outlaws worked together to subvert capitalism; and that, in the era of the tall ship, outlaws challenged authority from below deck.
Critique: The recent films of Johnny Depp may have recently brought the subject of pirates back into the public consciousness, but pirates and piracy have held a fascination and that has never gone away. "Outlaws of the Atlantic: Sailors, Pirates, and Motley Crews in the Age of Sail" by Marcus Rediker (Distinguished Professor of Atlantic history, University of Pittsburgh) has deftly written a history of piracy that is as informed and informative, as it is entertaining. Very highly recommended for community and academic library collections. An ideal selection choice for non-specialist general readers with an interest in the history of piracy in the 'age of sail', "Outlaws of the Atlantic: Sailors, Pirates, and Motley Crews in the Age of Sail" is also available in a paperback edition (9780807034101, $18.00) and a Kindle edition ($14.55).
Markus Wiener Publishers
231 Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ 08542
9781558765955, $14.95, 232pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Stella" by Emeric Bergeaud is the first published Haitian novel and combines descriptions of moving scenes with factual accounts of the 13 years of the Haitian revolution (1791-1804). Stella is an epic saga and chapter headings refer to major events in Haiti's history and the major historical figures are present - Toussaint. Petion, Christophe, Sonthonax, Leclerc - among many others. The allegorical figures are mainly episodic and are meant to hold the plot together. "Stella" is also an important document of Caribbean history and fictionalized history.
Critique: Ably translated into English for an American readership by Adriana Umana Hossman (French language instructor at Rice University), and featuring an informative introduction by the translator and Louis Duno-Gottberg (Associate Professor of Film and Caribbean Studies at Rice University), "Stella" is a 19th century novel that holds up extraordinarily well and is an inherently fascinating and entertaining read. Very highly recommended for both academic and community library collections, it should be noted that "Stella" is also available in a hardcover edition (9781558765948, $69.95).
Phoning Home: Essays
Jacob M. Appel
University of South Carolina Press
718 Devine Street, Columbia, SC 29208
9781611173710, $24.95, 136pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Phoning Home" is a collection of entertaining and thought-provoking essays featuring author Jacob M. Appel's quirky family, his Jewish heritage, and his New York City upbringing. Appel's recollections and insights, informed and filtered by his advanced degrees in medicine, law, and ethics, not only inspire nostalgic feelings but also offer insight into contemporary medical and ethical issues. At times sardonic and at others self-deprecating, Appel lays bare the most private aspects of his emotional life. "We'd just visited my grandaunt in Miami Beach, the last time we would ever see her. I had my two travel companions, Fat and Thin, securely buckled into the backseat of my mother's foul-tempered Dodge Dart," writes Appel of his family vacation with his two favorite rubber cat toys. Shortly thereafter Fat and Thin were lost forever--beginning, when Appel was just six years old, what he calls his "private apocalypse." The essays range from unrequited love gone awry to the poignant romance of his grandparents. We learn of the crank phone calls he made to his own family, the conspicuous absence of Jell-O at his grandaunt's house, and family secrets long believed buried. The stories capture the author's distinctive voice--a blend of a physician's compassion and an ethicist's constant questioning.
Critique: Essays are generally scholarly pieces of writing written from an author's personal point of view, but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of an article, a pamphlet and a short story. In "Phoning Home: Essay", author Jacob M. Appel has taken this format to record what would ordinarily be classified as a memoir, that is, memories of his life and times. Superbly written and replete with deftly crafted character sketches, these are essays as candid as they are entertaining, and as entertaining as they are memorable. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections, it should be noted that "Phoning Home: Essays" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.39).
An Evening With Claire
The Overlook Press
141 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
9781468308846, $16.95, 144pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Originally published in 1930, Gaito Gazdanov's debut novel, "An Evening with Claire", is a masterpiece of Russian emigre literature. Written when its author was just twenty-six (with the memories of his harsh years in the Russian civil war still hauntingly vivid in his mind), "An Evening with Claire" is a psychological novel that is an intimate and sensual account of a young man's coming-of-age, and a tribute to the shattered dreams of the early twentieth century.
Critique: Gaito Gazdanov (6 December [O.S. 23 November] 1903 - 5 December 1971) was a Russian emigre writer of Ossetian extraction. Ably translated from Russian into English and now available to an American readership, "An Evening With Claire" is a literate, contemplative, and engaging read from beginning to end and will prove an excellent introduction to an undeservedly obscure Russian novelist to an appreciative new generation of readers. Very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Russian Literature collections and supplemental reading lists.
Lindford Western Library
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781444819571, $20.99, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Having hunted down notorious outlaw Frank Cuskin, Marshal Abe Ryan's problems are only just beginning. Lack of sleep, the desert, Indians, Cuskin's polecat kin, thirst and exhaustion make it ever more likely that Ryan's mission will end in failure. When Cuskin gets the upper hand and leaves him for dead, a lesser man than Ryan would have abandoned the task. But Ryan is not a lesser man, and he will use every weapon in his arsenal to deliver the killer to the gallows.
Critique: A deftly written western action/adventure novel from first page to last, Ben Coady's "Gallows Bound" features a wealth of unexpected plot twists and lethal surprises that grip the reader's attention and just won't let go until the last word on the last page. Highly recommended for personal reading lists and especially for community library Large Print fiction collections.
Startup Business Chinese, Level 3
Jane C. M. Kuo
Cheng & Tsui Company
25 West Street, Boston, MA 02111-1213
9781622910304, $69.99, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Startup Business Chinese Level 3 builds on the basic daily Chinese communication skills taught in Levels 1 and 2 to prepare students for successful communication in a wide range of professional and social interactions. Designed for students who have studied at least one year of Chinese, Level 3 introduces intermediate-level vocabulary and grammar structures while seamlessly incorporating essential cultural background and social courtesies. Perfect for adult learners of Chinese or business professionals relocating to China, Startup Business Chinese Level 3 builds a solid grammar foundation at the same time it explores business life abroad. Features include: Pinyin is included throughout for learners who want to focus on the spoken language; Situational dialogues introduce typical business scenarios one would encounter while abroad; Supplementary listening comprehension dialogues and practice exercises build communicative competence; Cultural notes present contemporary Chinese social customs relevant to doing business in China; and free audio downloads for pronunciation and listening comprehension practice.
Critique: A 352 page, bilingual (English/Chinese) combination textbook and workbook, "Startup Business Chinese, Level 3" is exceptionally well organized, methodically presented, and thoroughly 'user friendly', making it an ideal learning tool for Americans seeking to do business in China. Also very highly recommended for personal, corporate and academic library Chinese Language instructional reference collections are Jane Kuo's two previous textbook/workbook manuals: "Startup Business Chinese: An Introductory Course for Professionals, Level 1" (9780887274749, $69.99, 352pp) and "Startup Business Chinese, Level 2 Textbook & Workbook:An Intermediate Course for Professionals" (9780887276354, $69.99, 360pp).
Seals, Sea Gulls and Other Sounds
Dolly K Elligson, author
John Everds, illustrator
Systems for Education
B0007FB0PM, $5.99, 95 pages
Available from Amazon, Seals, Sea Gulls and other Sounds hardcover $5.99 and paperback $3.06 edition covers do not do justice to the original work. Sometimes the old books we have in Osage County First Grade are some of the most favored by the six year old set. Dolly K. Elligson's marvelous work is as pertinent today as it was back in 1966 when it was printed.
The original cover features a zany seal lolling against a sand dune with his buddy, a sea gull wearing a captain's head gear as the duo gaze out into the sea.
This is a read to book meant to be aloud by adult or student partner to young child; opening page asks the quest What is a sound and goes on to relate much of what we teach today. A sound is many things, you can hear it with your ear, it can wake you up, help you sleep, cause you to feel happy, and is everywhere.
Osage County First Grade listen raptly as I show the drawing of a head and explain how and where sounds are made as we speak. And that there are breath sounds and voiced sounds.
Using poems, short stories and child friendly graphics produced by an illustrator who obviously had young children nearby as he worked on the drawings for this book. Consonants, nasal sounds, blends, stop sounds, and long sounds onset and rime, last sounds and pairs are introduced. Because the sounds follow alphabetical order it is easy for teachers and parents to use the with any reading program. I do not start with page one and read to the end, I open the book to the particular sound, letter or phoneme we are studying this day or week.
Some of my personal favorites, are often chosen by students as their favorites too. These include Captain Young's Yaks, with a duo of long haired yodeling yaks, Denty The Duck Who Didn't Want To Do Things a morality tale in which a young duck learns the value of working with the group, listening to elders and learning that older members have learned what he needs to learn. Great Grandmother's Garden is a sweet tale of a little boy and barefoot walks at dusk when stars are showing and magic of childhood is completed with grandma nearby. Larry Lee Lives in a Lighthouse introduces children here in landlocked mid-continent to some of the commonplace activities, sights, sounds, activities of a child who lives near the sea and how his life though different is also the same as is ours where we do not see the sea.
Mark Moose, and Mohini A Marvelous Mammal introduces sounds and many M words along with scientific notions regarding mammals, warm blooded living things in addition to the social concept that adults work and work may be mundane and may be something more.
A Seal And A Sea Gull is a meandering poem filled with s words, focused on the sea and many facts about the worlds oceans.
Osage County First Grade enjoys Seals, Sea Gulls and other Sounds beginning on the first day of school as I introduce the letter c and read Chair CH CH CH a breath sound. During the first week of school Chang Fu Was a Chinese Child, introduces a junk, vendor, chestnuts, fortune cookies, egg rolls, allows us to search our maps for China and piques our interest for the sounds, words, worlds and learning we will enjoy throughout the term.
I use the book every week, nearly every day, and should I not have used the book by rug time signifying the close of our day, children are quick to point out the lack and hope we will use it tomorrow. Seals, Sea Gulls and other Sounds is carried home each day to be shared with parents and siblings as Little Learners show off their learning.
Osage County First Grade and I like Seals, Sea Gulls and other Sounds very much despite the fact that it is not new, glitzy filled with slick or bright or showy graphics. I find the work as significant for use in Early Childhood Education classroom today as it was when I began my teaching career three+ decades ago.
Happy to use and recommend any copy you can find Seals, Sea Gulls and other Sounds for use in the classroom, home school environment or as an adjunct to online learning.
The Copper Braid of Shannon O'Shea
Illustrator Pam Newton
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780525461388, $5.00, 32 pp, www.amazon.com
A troupe of copper tressed sprites marching across both leaves of the frontispiece set the scene for the fun to follow.
The Queen of sprites leads the group, there are old and young, some with picnic baskets, some with babies on their backs, male and female, children sprites towed in a cart and some flying overhead. The copper braid of Shannon O'Shea begins the tale, was unbraided one fall on account of the hay
Directed by Bernice, their queen, the sprites who should have known to leave the braid bound began undoing ribbons and bows holding Shannon's braid. As they worked more and more things began to appear, beginning with the hat the sprites found thimbles and buttons, crab apples, a jar of orange marmalade and raccoons and even some crows nibbling on corn growing in the coppery braid.
Shannon began to sneeze due to the dust and the pollen, but nobody could hear, the sneezes were drowned out by the honking of geese. And so it went with seagulls, and silky cocoons, butterflies, moths and a flock of lost loons, carolers still singing were surprised to learn the holiday was now 9 months passed. Steeples and pillars and spires, purple potatoes, wild green tomatoes, and some marvelous beasts, a griffin, a sphinx with a hummingbird perched on his head, emeralds and gold nuggets, limos and taxis AND much more!
At last the diligent sprites release everything cause in that coppery braid, and they reach the girl! Ah, the reeling and serenading, laughter and song. Shannon asked them what took you so long.
It took dozens of sprites to rebraid the hair as Shannon sat sipping lemonade while sitting on a chair seventeen miles from the end of her braid.
I have always enjoyed St Paddy's Day, the wearing of the green and all. And while we talk of leprechauns and little folk and Ireland; nothing is quite so Irish for Osage County First Grade as when I bring out the book featuring Shannon O'Shea and all that wonderful coppery hair.
I find Osage County First Grade enthralled with the tale of Shannon O'Shea, her hair, the sprites and all the strange and wonderful and fun things going on in that braid. What a lovely imaginative read! Sprites all have coppery hair, are dressed mainly in turquoise with a little orange and green added here and there, are cheery in appearance and do not appear frightening at all.
The family with the cart also have a dog, Osage County First Grade looks on each page hoping to find the dog.
The page showing raccoons also receives much attention, Osage County First Grade loves the stories I can tell about visiting raccoons who come to my house each night hoping to find left overs from the food I put out for feral cats, abandoned dogs, and the raccoons themselves. These in the book are some might cute, roly poly raccoons, and they eat the orange marmalade found by the sprites.
A super fun, child friendly, totally implausible tale, filled lots and lots of fun two line rhymes / Bernice found raccoons and a rather large crow, Nibbling on corn in a dark copper row, / As they unbraided, a song filled the air From some caroler who had been tangled in there / And the old barn cat, come to no harm, Along with the cows from the Henderson's farm / Are but three of the couplets children laugh, and listen and adore.
As the sprites unravel the braid, Osage County First Grade begins to realize we have not seen Shannon O'Shea, until at last, page after page is unplaited and THERE, two red shoes can be seen, and on the next page is SHANNON O'SHEA.
And Shannon joined in with the laughter and song, After she'd asked them 'What took you so long?'
And the sprites quickly set to rebraiding all seventeen miles of that, clean, beautiful, coppery hair while Queen Bernice and several of the babies sit smiling and munching bagels, Shannon is shown sipping lemonade, and that cute dog sits nearby.
This is a book I get out during the last days of February, and begin reading 1 page a day, day 1 is page one, day 2 read 1 and 2 and so forth. Until on the last day before our spring break I read the book in its entirety, we get to finally see Shannon O'Shea and have enjoyed the tale and rhymes to the fullest.
Each day we write the new rhyming, onset and rime work, words in our journals and practice saying them. By books end we have added many rhyming words to our journals. And have enjoyed a really fun tale about a little Irish girl. During the period we work with our globe and maps to help us understand where to find Ireland in the world, we discuss leprechauns and societal tales and the fun of childhood.
All in all I find The Copper Braid of Shannon O'Shea to be a wonderful teaching aid for ages 4 - 6, a lovely and fun narrative, and a book Osage County First Grade enjoys to the fullest.
Happy to recommend The Copper Braid of Shannon O'Shea.
Charles B Neff
Bennett & Hastings Publishing
2400 NW 80th St # 254, Seattle, WA 98117-4449
9781934733868, 14.95, 276pp, www.amazon.com
Charles B. Neff's Fractured Legacy opens on a Monday, March 15 as Bebe Sorensen, local historical archivist, who is getting ready to mount the outside flight of stairs of History House heard an unexpected noise followed by the advent of a murky figure, mask covering much of his face, as well as his holding a lengthy cylindrical object advanced.
That accidental meeting with Herb, custodian, wholly intimidated Bebe, Executive Director of the Swiftwater and Portal Historical Society so critically that she began her predictable check of the museum stunned and apprehensive. All seemed satisfactory. Nonetheless something nagged at her. At the foot of the staircase leading to the third story, Bebe noted a piece of paper on the floor. She supposed it might have been torn from a computer print-out, odd. Tomson family records was typed on the fragment.
Opening the door to the storage room, Bebe soon observed the usually tidy files were now in some disorder. Whenever possible Bebe shied from interaction with others concerning most matters; under the circumstances, with her being the director and all, Bebe did feel obliged to request that a police officer be sent over to help evaluate the situation.
From that commencement; the chronicle moves rapidly onward wherein a chary death filled with jeopardy for those committed to learning the solution to what may be a homicide.
In the Pacific Northwest Cascades Mountains misfortune is developing in the midst of acrimony centered on an old family legacy. A troubled marriage in addition to contesting regarding ancestral land rights, compounded with a suspicious death, which looms over the lives of those endeavoring to decide the cause only adds to the problem.
A homegrown business having problem keeping afloat financially, siblings who are more than simply disagreeing with one another, tribal connections, a surreptitious cabin deep in the woods, a blank envelope jam-packed with vital official papers, and even the potential for a new and unanticipated liaison; all of this and more are profoundly involved in the anecdote.
I found characters to be well fleshed, credible, some are not completely likeable, on the other hand. that is what we find in life in general. Situations and locales are chock-full with dynamism, discourse is realistic, convincing and set down in satisfactory manner. Movement of the narrative grips the reader at the inception, clenches reader attentiveness with a powerful grasp from opening lines to the last paragraphs and leaves the reader with a sentiment of a saga jam-packed with twists and turns, major themes and minor is one well done.
Fractured Legacy is writer Neff's 6th in a succession of works set in the Cascades; a milieu he knows well.
I like a multifaceted story line in which a red herring or two hovers to perhaps move the reader awry, and demands the reader pay close attention, dig deep and remain involved with the narrative. This is not a bubbly, read in the afternoon before tea tale, it is a sit on the porch, book in hand and savor the afternoon, account.
Tension swiftly begins, builds and is decided in satisfactory custom in this well-constructed thriller.
Excellent read, happy to recommend for those who enjoy a good whodunnit.
Molly Martin, Reviewer
Hyperbole and a Half
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781451666175, $17.99, www.amazon.com
Sometimes Allie Brosh hates herself. Sometimes she's selfish and self-obsessed. In "Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened" she writes with startling emotional honesty about both. Equally striking is that she writes about these experiences with surprising humor, as when she describes her resentful trip to the video store to return overdue movies after being too depressed to leave the house. Or when her mother is upset at the revelation that her daughter doesn't want to live anymore and Brosh comforts her by saying "Shhhh, it's okay, life is meaningless anyway... Can I get you some juice or something?"
Hyperbole and a Half collects material from Brosh's blog of the same name and new material. The book is a mix of personal essays and memoir, illustrated with Brosh's deliberately crude artwork. She depicts herself visually as a hunched pink and white lump with a spike of yellow hair and a twisted smiley face. The art makes the stories funnier - because of the juxtaposition of serious emotional content, cursing, and what look like children's drawings - and makes the stories more relatable - her smiley-faced characters seem more universal for the lack of detail. The artfulness of the art is also easy to overlook: Brosh works in Microsoft Paint. This is a kind of artistic limitation turned into opportunity. Her extensive illustrations are something like assembling a model of the Eiffel Tower out of sea glass.
While some of the piece in the book are quite emotionally heady, others are much more light-hearted. For instance, there is a story about a time when a goose ran in the front door of Brosh's house and chased her and her boyfriend around their couch. They trap the goose in the kitchen and momentarily consider never cooking again. The shift back and forth from lighthearted stories to darker subjects, combined with the deliberately child-like illustrations, helps convey to the reader a sense that everything will ultimately work out, even if the characters can't currently see how. That's especially important in her stories about depression, as she narrates the loss of any sense of possibility and any ability to motivate herself to do even basic daily tasks. The humor helps as well. The laughs serve to sweeten the more bitter elements of the book. I could imagine the depressions stories being important to people experiencing depression, as a reflection of their experiences and a demonstration (as distinct from an argument) that depression can end and things can get better. I could also imagine these stories helping people whose loved ones experience depression, to help them understand the condition and (as Brosh describes with great wit) what not to say to comfort a depression sufferer. Everyone else could just enjoy the fact that the book is very funny. No hyperbole at all -- on a recent family vacation the book had my wife and I bickering over whose turn it was to read the book before bed, reading parts of it to each other, and laughing out loud.
No Cheating, No Dying: I Had a Good Marriage. Then I Tried to Make It Better.
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
1439168229, $25.00, www.amazon.com
Are you happy? How happy? What would make you happier? These simple-seeming questions get complicated fast, and they can become the emotional equivalent of a rock in your shoe. People who are happy are often happy enough. If we tried, we could usually imagine being happier, and that imagining diminishes our current happiness.
In "No Cheating, No Dying: I Had a Good Marriage. Then I Tried to Make It Better", Elizabeth Weil poses these kinds of questions about her marriage. For several years her marriage's main commitments were in her book's title: stay alive and don't have sex with anyone else. She and her husband were happily married, but surely they could be even more so. And so they set out to move from good marriage to better marriage, spending a year trying a range of activities from couple's counseling to sex therapy to cognitive behavioral therapy. In telling the story of that year, Weil tells the longer story of her and her husband's marriage and the elements of their childhoods that shaped their marriage. Weil writes with humor, as when she lovingly pokes fun at her husband's intense focus on butchering hogs and curing meats, and with drama, as when she describes tensions with her parents and her husband over decisions about her children's religious upbringing. The passages about a lost pregnancy are particularly poignant.
Readers in marriages or other similar long-terms relationships may find the book interesting to discuss with their partners. (My wife and I had very different responses to the scene where Weil's husband grabs her brother by the collar after the brother insults him; that difference and its roots in our different upbringings made for fun conversation.) Weil writes about private experiences that many people have but few people share. Her emphasis on narrating and reflecting on her own experience - rather than providing prescriptive advice as in self-help books - gives No Cheating, No Dying a non-judgmental tone that is particularly welcome for thinking about one's marriage.
Part memoir and part personal essay, Weil presents herself and people in her life as characters in stories and also ponders the meaning and importance of family, intimacy, and independence, all with great wit and with an emotional honesty that is intense but never exhibitionist. As literature, the book moves and entertains. As meditation on marriage, the book is thought-provoking and instructive. She writes, for example, that she initially thought of improving marriage as similar to improving photographs - remove the minor flaws and get a prettier product. By the end she thinks of marriage improvement as involving effort to accept and be accepted by one's partner while also being better people. This means both asking how could we be happier and accepting the happiness we have now, settling for neither lazy complacency nor restless perfectionism. That's valuable in marriage and beyond.
Frostborn (Throne and Bones)
c/o Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 10-1, New York, NY 10019
9780385387781, $16.99, 336 pp, www.amazon.com
Karn and Thianna are as strikingly different as any two 12-year olds could possibly be. Karn hails from Norrøngard, a mythical Norse country. Destined to become a farmer, he faces a future of slopping pigs and bartering at the local market. In the meantime, clever Karn is obsessed with playing Thrones and Bones, a board game which happens to be the locals' favorite pastime. Unbeknownst to him, his Uncle Ori plots and plans a wicked game of this own which is about to turn Karn's life inside out.
Thianna is half-giant, half-human, and seven feet tall, which is small for a giant but she's still growing. Born and raised with the giants on Gunnlod's Plateau in the Ymerian Mountains, Thianna knows only a little about her human mother who died. But she is about to learn a whole lot more when a flock of warrior women swoop into her village to take back what they deem to be their property.
In the midst of their crossed purposes, Karn and Thianna cross paths and destiny takes over. Their otherwise boring lives become a non-stop, action-packed adventure that includes close encounters with sprites, farting trolls, one enormous rude dragon, wyverns (flying reptiles), and the dreaded After Walkers.
"Frostborn" is the first book in the Thrones and Bones series. The actual rules of the game are included in the end notes. Anders weaves game strategy throughout the story, which adds a layer of fun and games for savvy readers who want to get more involved in this exciting new series.
Lucas the Lion & the Pirate Ship
Illustrated by Smokini
The Essential Library
9781500628123, $9.49, 28 pp, www.amazon.com
Lucas the Lion is very brave and scares a hunter away from his jungle friends. The hunter is so afraid he leaves his boat behind. Lucas's friends call it a pirate ship and they want to play on board. But Lucas doesn't want his friends to know he doesn't want to play on the boat because he doesn't know how to swim. Will Lucas learn how to swim before the big birthday bash on the pirate ship? Fear of water and learning to swim are two big challenges all kids must face. The colorful cartoon illustrations will delight preschoolers in this story about how friendship can help overcome fear.
The Complete Insider's Guide to Dogs
United Publishing House
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
B00KOUUXJY, $4.99, 211 pp, www.amazon.com
Caesar Owens - not to be confused with Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer - is a professional dog trainer from South Carolina. This book is a compilation of his five books including, in order of appearance: "A Quick Start Guide to the Raw Dog Food Diet"; "A Quick Start Guide to Traveling with Your Dog"; "An Insider's Guide to Solving Dog Aggression Problems"; "Dog Training: A Simple Guide on How to Train Your Canine"; and "The Insider's Guide to Proper Dog Nutrition." Each book is presented as a chapter however they are out of sequence. Much of the information in the first chapter about raw dog food is repeated in the last chapter about dog nutrition. Likewise the chapter on training a dog should come before the chapter on solving dog aggression problems.
In the first chapter, Owens describes the raw dog food diet in depth along with the pros and cons. For anyone considering making their own homemade dog food, they will find plenty of well-researched and helpful information. The second chapter on traveling with your dog contains good, common sense advice along with valuable tips on out-of-the-ordinary travel plans with your dog. From famous dog parks to dog-friendly restaurants, hotels, and cruise lines, Owens answers any and all questions related to the dog days of vacation. He even includes a section on international travel and the most dog-friendly countries.
Because Owens is a professional dog trainer it is to be expected his emphasis is on training, and chapter four is quite thorough, albeit lacking any emphasis on the importance of exercise and developing a bond and/or relationship with your dog. In the third chapter on dog aggression, Owens describes eleven different types of dog aggression and suggests methods to solve the problem. If you're looking for simple, useful tips on canine nutrition, travel, training, and dog aggression, "The Complete Insider's Guide to Dogs" is good place to start.
The Real Cost of Fracking
Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald
24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210
9780807084939, $26.95, 256 pp, www.amazon.com
In 2012, veterinarian Michelle Bamberger and Cornell University professor of molecular medicine Robert Oswald published their study, "Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health." Their report documented cases studies with animal owners in Colorado, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. In 24 cases they found evidence of animals affected by drilling and fracking operations. However their report received little media attention. So they wrote a book.
In "The Real Cost of Fracking: How America's Shale Gas Boom Is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food," Bamberger and Oswald tell the stories of those people whose lives and the lives of the animals they loved and cared for were changed forever by drilling and fracking. They even go so far as to mask the identities of people who signed non-disclosure agreements, and who are in some cases speaking out for the first time.
The people in these stories are farmers. They raise livestock and pets, and/or grow "organic" fruits and vegetables that end up on dinner tables across the country. But how safe is food that has been grown and raised in an environment that contains toxic chemicals? In some cases the crops and cattle were contaminated directly from spills of drilling fluids and wastewater, and they went to market anyway.
Bamberger also pays a visit to a tiny community without water after a company fracked in the aquifer underneath the town and blew up all the wells, then walked away from the mess. It is inconceivable that she is describing a town in the United States. Further evidence that fracking is transforming rural America into the Third World.
This book speaks to people who live in the gas patch. Where I live in Silt, Colorado, we are surrounded by more than 10,500 oil and gas wells. My own experience and the experiences of my family, friends and neighbors echo these stories. Yet no matter how much I've learned about this issue, no matter how much I think I know there is always something new to learn. I came away from this book with a better understanding of the cumulative effects from exposure to drilling and fracking chemicals in water and air, not only on humans but also animals and plants. How insidiously, over months, then years, the air and water become contaminated and people and animals become sickened.
Moreover "The Real Cost of Fracking" has something for everyone - believers and non-believers alike. Readers who want to stick to the facts about drilling and fracking will find "A Primer on Gas Drilling." Spoiler alert -- you cannot reach the end of this book and believe fracking is safe. Unless you think it's all lies. But Bamberger's and Oswald's research is well-documented and included.
With fracking happening in 32 states, plus the proliferation of interstate pipelines, silica sand mines (for fracking), bomb trains and earthquakes, and with natural gas exports on the horizon, the impacts of oil and gas development are coming to a neighborhood near you. I advise you to read "The Real Cost of Fracking" as soon as possible.
Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer
The Wishing Stone (The Eve Project, book 2)
B00MMQYLPU, $4.11, 151pp, www.tegonmaus.com
Genre: Science Fiction
This is the second book in the Eve Project series, and at the beginning, we go back briefly to before book one 'Machines of the Little People' to when Kate and Ben were children, and Kate found the wishing stone. It seemed magical, and most of the wishes they made came true, however, years later, as adults, with Kate dying, Ben, Kate and her husband Roger made the last wish they would on it, one which thousands of people through time, before, and since have made. Book two opens with Ben, who suffers from B.C.E.D (Bio-chemical electrical discharge) which means he produces too much electricity and can't be allowed near electrical instruments etc., discovering that the inhibitors which Roger, his impossibly brilliant scientist brother-in-law designed for him are now failing...
In desperation, Ben agrees to go with Roger to the Warwick Facility, a top secret special scientific research centre. Roger reassures him that they will be able to help him, however, once inside, the Roger Ben now sees bears no resemblance to his brother-in-law.
What would you do for love?
"Anything!" is the common response.
What has Roger done...?
This is a great science fiction story, which follows on nicely from The Eve Project: Book 1, Machines of the Little People, however could easily be read as a stand-alone. It has it all for science fiction fans, top secret scientific projects, a great storyline, twists and turns round every corner, yet, at its very core lies, dare I say it, a love story. It has a great finish, however, at the end, all I wanted to know from the author - is there is another book in the series coming?
I hope so...
B00L4MAXYG, $4.01, 314 Pages http://consuellaharris.com/users/awp.php?ln=718894&p=intro
Genre: Women's Fiction
The subject of surrogacy raises various emotions and views in people, depending, I suspect, on such factors as, their sex, religious viewpoint and life experiences.
Many think what a wonderful, selfless thing it must be to carry a child for another woman and bring happiness to a couple who would never have been parents without help. They ask themselves, "Who are these generous women, and why do they do it?"
The more cynical wonder who finances the companies who set up the matches between the surrogates and the adopter's, and what is in it for them?
However, it's never as simple as that, there are no black and white answers to be found when dealing with human lives and emotions - we are complicated beings.
Truth be known, like most things, most people, most of the time don't think about it, and neither did Keith Brown, ex-retired police officer, now successful investigative reporter until he received a phone call from Valerie Scovall, a Superior Court Judge for Cuyahoga County.
Valerie is sure there is a connection between the deaths by natural causes, i.e. heart attack, on the same day, of two prominent public figures.
Meeting her, the next day, in her chambers, Keith agrees to take on the case, and to her requirement that the source must remain confidential. Only one person is the exception to this rule Denise Jones, one of the surrogates.
For anyone interested in people this is a compelling read, as Keith reveals the stories behind Denise, Sharon and Carolyn, three women who decided to become surrogates. However, inextricably entwined are of course, the children they gave birth to, and the people who adopted them.
And, we mustn't forget the men who were the founders of the Lake Shore Parenting Group, the adoption agency who put them together, and their motives, after all, without them, none of it would have happened.
Or of course, Valerie...
A really enjoyable and absorbing story which I would not hesitate to recommend. It is about a controversial subject, packed with human interest, mystery, intrigue and plenty of twists and turns.
When The Drum Major Died
9781938070013, $13.50, 400 Pages
Genre: Fiction, Romance.
A fascinating story.
When I started reading this book, the first thoughts which came into my mind were that, it's amazing how ignorant one can be, about events which happened in your own lifetime. Being a British child at the time these events were taking place, somehow they slipped into a hole between the history I was taught at school, from ancient up to and including WWII, and the recent history which I remember as an adult.
The main character in the story Florina, is a young colored woman who has married Dr Richmond Austin, and moved to his home town Poinsettia, in the South of America. Her new in-laws are very welcoming and her new home is to be his grandparent's house. However, she very quickly discovers that her new neighbour Agnes, who is married to the other colored doctor in the town, Macon, used to go out with Richmond, and Florina fears that the attraction is still there. However, she has her own secret, one not even her parents know... A secret which lies buried in her heart and which she can only hint at in her very poignant poetry.
This incredibly absorbing story is set at a very turbulent time for the colored people of America. The Civil Rights movement was strong, and was led by the Baptist minister and activist Martin Luther King Jr., a man who worked tirelessly for, and who played such a strong part in the ending of the legal segregation of the African-American people.
Also all the time, in the background, and twisted inextricably throughout the plot of this story is the Vietnam War which was taking thousands of lives...
However, another element of this story, which was very interesting to me, is that I never realised that there was such color snobbery within the families of colored folk, causing so much tension, prejudices, terrible rifts, and great sadness. This was so evident in this book, where at one end of the spectrum there was immense color pride and at the other the seemingly desperate need to appear white.
This book is amazing, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. For me, it has all the essential ingredients for a good story excitement, intrigue, love triangles, lies, deceit, confessions, betrayal I could go on. However, more importantly for me, it gives a fascinating fly on the wall account of what it was really like as a colored person to live in those times, something I would never be able to experience otherwise.
Susan Keefe, Reviewer
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780812993271, $27.00, 544 pp, www.amazon.com
Surprisingly, most people have some knowledge about vampires. For being fictional characters, in general, we have common "facts" about their existence such as their aversion to silver and holy water and that they must be "invited" into a residence. For creatures that do not exist, we certainly do have quite a bit of knowledge.
What if there is some truth to their existence? Wouldn't that be more sensible? Is the idea of a vampire all legend, or is there some small grain of truth?
In the last part of the nineteenth century much of England was beginning to change. Many families who had inherited grand estates were beginning to feel the financial pinch of daily upkeep for appearances of grandeur.
For Charlotte and James Norbury, this was true as they spent much of their childhood isolated at the crumbling family estate outside of London. Charlotte being older, took it upon herself to educate her younger brother since they were motherless and their father was frequently absent only coming home to die.
Fortunately, James was able to attend Oxford and discovered a love for reading and writing poetry. However, poets do not usually profit financially. While attending a play in London, James saw the brilliance of Oscar Wilde and immediately dreamed of becoming a playwright.
Dreams don't pay bills.
James was fortunate in that a friend of his knew of an aristocrat who was looking for a roommate. It seemed the perfect solution. This new acquaintance though opened James to the world of the upper echelon of people who are not always as sincere as they seem. Besides that, there are numerous secrets that are intriguing to his natural curiosity.
When James no longer answers the letters from his sister, Charlotte, she waits for quite some time until she decides that she must go to London to find, or rescue, her little brother. What she didn't plan on finding were the back alleys where the notorious Jack the Ripper was becoming infamous.
The Quick is an unusual novel in that the paranormal almost sneaks into the story without being obvious. Charlotte's search for her brother is the basic thrust of the novel catapulting the naive spinster into the dark back streets with the corrupted, immoral and poor people of the time intertwining vampires and the undead into the mix.
In much the same unsettled style of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, The Quick is a haunting tale. Except for Charlotte, most of the characters are realistically flawed and not likable. The writing style is at times rambling, but there is an unusual undercurrent that keeps the story flowing and making it impossible to put down.
The Quick is a haunting tale with a fresh twist making this story memorable.
Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
97802279385, $27.99, Hardcover, 467 pp, www.amazon.com
"We dance not only to a different drummer, but to an entirely different orchestra."
These are the words of Lord Alexander Hawke, British counterspy, and fictional hero of the novels written by action and adventure author, Ted Bell. Lord Hawke does not always play by the rules. He understands that frequently the rules or the drumbeat need to be changed to accomplish what needs to be done. This requires a close-knit group of friends and acquaintances who realize the dangers to themselves and others, while at the same time valuing the respect and expertise of each person. Lord Hawke is the one person who can get done what needs to be done.
When a brilliant scientist working at Cambridge University is tortured to death by ancient and little known Chinese methods, who can discover the reason he was killed, why, and who would actually be capable of this?
When the President of the United States dies and those burying him at Arlington Cemetery are attacked by a drone, who investigates this crime? Who would have the nerve? Who would want to purposefully start a war?
Are these two events connected?
A brilliant military technician and inventor is celebrating a family birthday when both parents and their two children mysteriously disappear. Where are they? Are the wife and children being used to control the scientist, forcing him to work against his own country by threatening his family?
Warriors is the story surrounding all these events into the fast-paced action/adventure tale of Lord Hawke and his staff revolving around the idea of China having the next level of technical military advancements bringing about a new world dominance with the countries of the United States and England having no idea of how to protect or defend against these new weapons. With the persistent race of newer and better military technology, the idea of the United States no longer being the dominant power, definitely is unsettling.
Warriors is lightning-paced with hardly a second to breathe from page to page. The characters of previous Ted Bell novels unite in Warriors with two new characters introduced. Because of this, the novel spends time developing the new characters and expects the reader to know the recurring ones including their personal relations and friendships. I would recommend to someone who has not read Ted Bell books, to read at least two of his many earlier books before reading Warriors.
Warriors is a fast-paced, action-adventure thriller for all those who enjoy breath-taking escapades barely squeaking by with their lives.
When Dreams are Calling
Amazon Digital Services
9789730166255, $16.50, 238 pp, www.amazon.com
"And this is a story about change: What it brings into our lives and what it takes out of it; a story about pain, disappointment, frustration, loss but also about courage, love, lust, faith and kindness, a story about dreams and our power to make them come true.
The story of a permanent traveler."
When Dreams are Calling is the loosely based events of author, Carol Vorvain who recorded her dreams, wishes, desires, and travels into this book in the hopes of letting others learn of the life lessons which guided her.
Growing up in Romania, Dora learned numerous lessons while discovering that her day-to-day life wasn't fulfilling her dreams. She made the choice to relocate to Canada, completely packing up her life in pursuit of a possible new career, a new life, and hopefully a new love. Quickly she learned that moving does not always solve all your problems and challenges, as this move became only the first, but not the last time of completely relocating in another country.
"Grandma told me loneliness is a demon that blinds your eyes, petrifies your hear and kills your spirit." These wise words guide Dora as she searches for whatever she feels is missing in her life without really understanding what that is.
All of us have made numerous mistakes and some hasty choices throughout our pasts which have taught us some lessons about life while at the same time helping up to develop our own character and learning to define who we have become and why.
For Dora, her life appears to be exciting to outsiders. Sometimes it really is but at other times, she realizes that her current situation is not what she really wants. Added to that, she is uncertain of what she really wants.
What makes Dora different from most of us is that she doesn't just dream of relocating, she actually completely moves to another country immersing herself in the country with her job or career as well as the people. During her travels though, she learns numerous lessons which are listed after each short adventure.
Some of these lessons involve love and attempting to find the balance between loneliness from the lack of love as compared to love that is suffocating overwhelming every breath. She always realizes and values the importance of books in her life as guides through her dreams and reality. Also well-stated are learning the differences between adapting and belonging.
Many of the lessons learned in this small novel are from the voice of knowledge and experience.
For example, "Nobody remembers your mistakes better than your child, followed closely by your spouse." When reminded of my past errors, I usually turn my failures into a lesson for them to learn from my mistakes so that you can completely own your own mistakes.
What motivates someone to completely uproot themselves to another country?
Read When Dreams are Calling.
What is one book you can read that might help you learn from other's mistakes so that you can completely make your own creative errors of life? Read When Dreams are Calling.
Stillwell: A Haunting on Long Island
Michael Phillip Cash
Red Feather Publishing
133 Steep Mountain Ct., Livermore, CO 80536
9781484196090, $12.99, 232 pp, www.amazon.com
Any young family with one parent suffering from cancer has immense challenges that few people can really comprehend. Sometimes just maintaining a career, a marriage, and raising three children is overwhelming.
For Paul Russo, this is his life.
Paul has been a successful real estate agent in the Long Island area. Fortunately, his financial situation is healthy enough that he can take off time to be with his dying wife. However, a year with cancer treatments, death, and three children can be taxing on anyone financially, physically, and most of all, emotionally.
His wife, Allison was diagnosed a year ago with a brain tumor. Keeping a household running smoothly usually fell on Allison's shoulders, but now Paul must do everything possible to keep the family together. Allison and Paul were blessed with the twins, Jesse and Veronica and their younger sibling, Stella. Without Allison, Paul knows that he must return to work while helping each of the children and himself through their grief. He quickly realizes that to meet everyone's needs, including his own, this seems like a never-ending insurmountable task.
Not being active in real estate for the past year has made it more difficult to work with new listings and fortunately an old friend contacts Paul about selling their 200-year-old family mansion name Stillwell. With a phenomenal location but the house not in the best of condition. He quickly wonders if this is a blessing or a curse especially when he hears the rumors about the house being haunted due to two tragic deaths.
How do you sell a haunted mansion? If he is able to accomplish this sale, at least this would solve his current financial issues.
Stillwell does more than just haunt the locals. The house haunts Paul and his children in their dreams causing them not to be able to eat or sleep. In the nightmares, a demon is holding Allison's spirit as hostage. What is strange is how much Allison resembled one of the tragic residents from years ago. How do you stop this nighttime haunting of the minds?
Stillwell is considered to be a horror story, but in reality, it is a well-written story of love and caring. The strength of this novel is its phenomenal grasp of the characterization. Each person is realistic with daily struggles looking for any positive aspect in their lives as they move through their grief.
Michael Phillip Cash grew up and continues to live in his beloved Long Island creating wonderful horror stories that are more than blood and gore but show the best of humanity.
Stillwell won the award of being a finalist in horror by ForeWard Reviews in 2013. However, this is much more than a horror story, this is a human story of grief, caring, and love that is an outstanding novel by the masterful storyteller, Michael Phillip Cash.
Daughters of the Dragon: A Comfort Woman's Story
9780991395859, $12.99, 339 pages
"It is your fear that will prevent you from becoming who you are meant to be."
Being a Korean child adopted into a Caucasian household, Anna frequently felt that she did not belong. People would make comments to her parents while her parents always insisted that they were a "real" family beautifully showing their unconditional love to their daughter. Anna realized that the parents who raised her and were completely devoted to her but she always wondered about her "birth" parents.
After completing three years at Northwestern, Anna still didn't have a major. When her mother
passed away from pancreatic cancer, she dropped out of college due to money and her lack of focus. She decided to visit Korea to find her "birth" family and her father insisted on accompanying her on this journey.
Anna's first stop was an orphanage which unfortunately had no information to assist her. With feelings of defeat, leaving the orphanage was disappointing. When an elderly woman approached her, forcing a small package into her hands explaining in English that she needed to meet with her at an address inside the package to tell her a story.
This story and the package were to change Anna's life forever.
The story started in 1943 when Korea was again occupied by the Japanese being subjected to their rule. Two sisters, Ja-hee and Soo-hee had grown up living and working on their family farm. With the Japanese occupation, their father was forced to leave the home a year ago to work for the war effort in a steel mill. Now the family received orders for the two girls to also leave for another town to work in a boot factory. Their mother was realistic enough to know that she would likely never see her daughters again. Soo-hee, the older sister was given a family heirloom, a two-headed dragon comb with five toes.
This begins the story of the comb and the two sisters.
With Ja-hee being only fourteen-years-old the reality was shocking. There was no boot factory. These young teens were to be comfort women, meeting the sexual desires of the Japanese soldiers. If they refused or caused problems, they were killed.
Even surviving this time, these women were further condemned by society throughout their entire lives.
William Andrews has written a poignant, heart-wrenching fictional tale based on the many stories of comfort women. He beautifully found a true voice for both Anna and Ja-hee making the reader feel as if they are the character.
His initial motivation stemmed from his daughter who he adopted from Korea. He superbly interviewed former comfort women and is committed to telling their story as they weekly protest in Korea outside the Japanese Embassy requesting acknowledgment of the atrocity and an apology.
Daughters of the Dragon won the IPPY (Independent Publishers Book Award) in the historical fiction genre for 2014. He also won the Mayhaven Award for his novel, The Essential Truth.
Daughters of the Dragon is a story about humanity educating readers in an effort to never allow history to repeat itself. In every war there are numerous perspectives which we have no idea of how they were involved with a conflict and to understand point-of-view. All of these are needed to truly understand any war.
One of the best written, enticing, intriguing novels I have ever read is Daughters of the Dragon.
Originally published in 1986 by Avon Books
9781611876864, Paperback, $17.99, 378 pages, e-book $5.99
"Things have power because you give them power."
For David Sullivan life would be perfect if he could just have the time to read his books. He loves the Celtic tales of faeries with the Irish legends of years ago. In real life, he is a teenager who has grown-up on his family farm so there are endless chores and just not enough time to be with his friends and to read.
While reading a book about the Sidhe, the Irish Faeries, he accidentally spoke aloud a chant which enabled him to see into a parallel world, the world of the faeries who are currently on the family land. At first he is confused about why others, especially his friends Alec and Liz, are not seeing this alternate reality, but then he realizes that this is a gift only for him. How do your friends react with your viewing of the alternate world? Obviously, with disbelief.
Viewing two worlds overlapping can be a problem, especially when David's uncle is shot by a faery arrow. To the human world, it appears as if he had a heart attack or stroke since the arrow is only visible to David. How can he save his uncle when no one else believes or sees it?
However, his mother is convinced that something horrible is happening when David's little brother is kidnapped and a changeling is left in his place. She knows that this creature is not her child.
For legends in the Appalachian Mountains about Irish faeries to exist in present day Georgia, is not unusual. The heritage and traditions of the settlers merged in the New World with the culture of the Cherokee who traced much of their legends back to the year 1170. This was supposedly the time of Prince Madoc of Wales who permanently settled with those living in the present area of Alabama creating the tales of the moon-eyed people.
Windmaster's Bane is David's encounter with the legendary Sighe complete with the evil Aihill who even as a faerie is determined to kill David. Using the knowledge in his books and sticking to the principles of Earth and Water, Fire and Air, and Time, David learns about trusting his friends and himself. Through a test of his courage, David learns of the responsibility and trust of others in his life.
Windmaster's Bane is a delightful adventure for readers of all ages. The pace is quick with believable characters in this quest of truth and courage, as well as being a heart-warming tale by a masterful storyteller.
The only complaint I have with this wonderful novel is the cover which is not a true depiction of the story.
The author, Tome Deitz was a native of Young Harris, Georgia. He studied medieval English literature at the University of Georgia earning both his Bachelor and Masters of Arts degrees. He was a professor of English at Gainesville State College. He died in 2009 still dreaming of someday owning a small castle in Ireland.
For a wonderful tale, read Windmaster's Bane. You might want to keep you own rune stick made of iron and ash near as a precaution.
Under the Cajun Moon
Mindy Starns Clark
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736926249, $13.99, 332 pp, www.amazon.com
"You know all the etiquette in the world, cher, but if you use it to make a person feel small, then I hate to tell you, that's not good manners. Not at all. That's just ugly.
Chloe is an expert in the field of international business etiquette can make a person appear a little "stuffy". Emily Post was well-respected years ago, but was she a popular person that people would want to be around? More than likely, probably not.
While being interviewed for a local television program, a phone call from home is answered by Chloe's assistant. As soon as she is off camera, she is informed that her father is hospitalized and in has been shot. Who would shoot her father? Is he alive?
Her assistant immediately arranges for her to fly to New Orleans to be with her father. Chloe planned to immediately take a taxi to the hospital, but her mother calls to insist that she go to her father's restaurant to sign some papers. Since she has power-of-attorney, now that her father's life in endanger, he insists that these papers must be signed immediately. What can be more important than his life?
When Chloe arrives at the restaurant, she is surprised to find the son of her father's lawyer. Apparently he inherited the law firm after his father's death. She is slightly surprised but notices that he is an attractive and personable attorney and the restaurant is providing their meal while Chloe signs the forms. This has become a wonderful evening even though she does feel guilty about not being at the hospital.
Chloe is shocked to awaken in a hotel room. The lawyer from last night is in the next room, dead. How did she get here? What really happened? It looks like she scratched the lawyer as one of her fingernails is broken and the police believe that she could have murdered him.
Who knew where she was? What did she actually sign for her father? Why would someone frame her for murder? Did she kill the lawyer?
Under the Cajun Moon is a well-written page turner set in New Orleans intermixing the mystery of the dead lawyer, the shooting of Chloe's father, the mysterious form signed by Chloe, while also referring back Cajun history into a wonderful story with a little romance, a dash of Christianity, and greed. The story is exceptional well-planned with the purpose and culprit not being revealed until the very end. This is not an easy story to predict the ending.
Mindy Starns Clark's books are wonderful books to read with roller-coaster adventures into a delightful mystery.
Echoes in the Night
B. J. Betts
Tornado Alley Publication
9721500370060, $9.99, e-book $ 2.99, Paperback, 168 pages
Twin brothers, Mathew and Marcus Manning grew up as each other's shadow in their home town of Council Bluffs, Iowa. Being the neighborhood football heroes, they were naturally popular with dreams of college until they received their draft notices. In 1967 the draft was active. Even with the prospect of college, if your birthday was on one of the first chosen days of the federal lottery, then you were to be in service to your country in the army.
The brothers realized that their senior prom was their last teenaged celebration without parental supervision.. They were to report to active duty training immediately after graduation. For most eighteen-year-olds, the destination was Viet Nam.
In 1968 Matthew returned home to bury his brother. The two had maintained their closeness while being together in the same unit. For one brother to arrive at home alive and the other in a coffin, created an immense burden of guilt for the surviving twin, Matt. Could he have prevented his brother from being killed? Why was his brother dead and not him?
Fighting in Viet Nam during the time of the TET Offensive of 1968 was one of the most gruesome in any battle history. The fighting on foreign soil was completely different from life in the U.S.
"No cigarettes from this point on. No bug repellent. No fires. The Viet Cong can smell you coming for miles. Take pieces of masking tape and wind it around your dog tags."
Added to these basic instructions were the heat and humidity, bugs, poisonous snakes that could kill within seconds, elephant grass which could hide your enemy, and rip palm which had razor sharp leaves that could easily rip their clothes and skin. The constant challenge of helping people who could be your best friend one minute and your enemy, attempting to kill you was a reality difficult for eighteen-year-old boys fighting as men.
This is Matt's story as he reflects on the past few years attempting to understand his brother's secrets and to attempt to deal with his own post traumatic stress of fighting in a war while dealing with his own guilt of living.
The Viet Nam War was a time of extreme division within our country and B. J. Betts perfectly understands being a teenager at the time reflecting the thoughts and perspectives of the time. Living in the city of Council Bluffs, Iowa, Betts creates a picture of the city and life during that time period.
The characterization in Echoes in the Night is phenomenal. Seeing the story through Matthew's eyes, while also having the story unfold from his perspective create a multi-dimensional protagonist frequently confronting the shallow-minded former girlfriend antagonist.
Echoes in the Night moves quickly as a romantic novel involving real situations from the Viet Nam War era.
B. J. Betts writes of her home town and a time that truly impacted her life forever. Her previously published novel, Saigon Moon, is to be re-released in August through Tornado Alley Publications. She is an active member of Romance Writers of America and Romance Authors of the Heartland.
Echoes in the Night is a journey back to the Viet Nam War era by an author who thoroughly understands those who fought as well as those who waited for their return.
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464202247, $24.95, Hardcover, 250 pp, www.amazon.com
Veterinarian Rachel Goddard and Sheriff Tom Bridger have finally tied the knot and are living in depressed Mason County, Virginia, where she has bought an animal clinic and he is the newly elected lawman. The area, in the western part of the State, s extremely depressed, with high unemployment. Then the prospect of jobs arises when a development company proposes to buy land, paying top dollar, to build a resort.
The proposal pits those would sell against those who wish to retain their land. A nasty circumstance at the best of times. Then, three persons, on opposite sides of the issue, are killed by rifle shots, and Tom has his work cut out for him. First he has to solve three murders. Then he has to keep the peace between the warring factions. No easy task, either of these.
The tension mounts as the plot thickens and Rachel and Tom separately attempt to find out the truth about the attacks, each in their own way. It turns out a lot more complicated than the reader is initially led to believe. It is an interesting combination of the history of an Appalachian area and human interaction, written in an engaging manner, well-told and developed with care to a surprising conclusion.
"Poisoned Ground" is also available in a trade paperback edition, ISBN 9781464202261, $14.95, and a Large Type trade paperback edition, ISBN 9781464202254, $22.95.
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250030733, $24.99, Hardcover, 328 pp, www.amazon.com
This thriller novel begins with the protagonist, Sam Dryden, going for a run on the boardwalk near his home in a little California town in the middle of the night, and the characters continue running throughout the novel. What they are running from or to is the question. While catching his breath, a young girl runs into him, and he finds out she is being chased by a bunch of men and her life is threatened. So the former black-ops soldier literally takes her under his wing to protect her
So begins a nationwide chase, as Sam and the girl, whose memory appears to be affected, travel in an attempt to find out why she is a target, and the pursuers close in on the pair. The pages are filled with lots of action and derring-do, with Sam exhibiting a wide range of creative feats worthy of the best of characters a la Jack Reacher. Meanwhile the reader is kept on edge waiting for the next dangerous situation and exploit to get them out of a seemingly impossible spot.
The author blends elements of science fiction and futuristic scientific fundamentals in a fast-moving plot. It is easy to recommend.
John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard
Emily Bestler Books/Atria
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
978147675712-4, $24.00, Hardcover, 448 pp, www.amazon.com
John Connolly is best known as the author of the Charlie Parker mysteries and has written a trilogy for younger readers and even a modern fairy tale. Now he has turned his attention to a new series called the Chronicles of the Invaders, sort of sci-fi aimed at teenagers, teaming up with his life partner, Jennifer Ridyard. It is the story of the invasion of the earth by a highly developed alien species, Illyri, and of resistance by humans to the occupation.
The main characters are two teen-age Illyri girls, Syl and Ani, daughters of the Governor and commanding general of the Illyra in the British Isles and Europe, headquartered in Edinburgh, and two human boys, Paul and Steven, members of the Resistance, and their interactions. Each, in turn, saves the other pair from either capture or death. And thereby hangs a tale.
This is the first of the Chronicles books, introducing the characters for what apparently will be a fairly long-term project. Written with all sorts of scientific mumbo jumbo, the plot contrasts all kinds of human and other types of emotions. As otherworldly as the subject may seem, when it comes down to basic values there does not seem to be much difference in either personalities or beliefs between the cultures. Only circumstances. While the book is mainly intended for a teenage audience, an adult also can easily enjoy the novel, and it is recommended.
Lion Plays Rough
The Mysterious Press
c/o Grove Atlantic
154 W. 14th St., NY, NY 10011
978080212216-2, $24.00, Hardcover, 246 pp, www.amazon.com
Leo Maxwell is a defense attorney with a conscience, and in this follow-up novel he exhibits all the ego and characteristics of the breed. He thinks he knows it all, and as a result nearly gets himself killed. It all begins when he is handed a possible case by a woman tipster and he is blind to the possibility that he is being duped.
But being a lawyer isn't enough for Leo. He becomes an investigator and performs other roles, some of which are possibly unethical. All these machinations sometimes are too much for the reader to slog through, and the complicated plot slows progress through the pages. There is a courtroom scene which is well-presented and written by an author who is, after all, a practicing attorney, albeit not in criminal law. On the other hand, the same cannot be said for the remainder of the novel.
Thomas & Mercer
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
276 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10001
9781477808726, $14.95, Paperback, 510 pp, www.amazon.com
Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the nation about the dangers of a Military-Industrial Complex. But what he didn't envision was something even more invidious: the development of private contractors that supply civilian employees to serve in military operations or even as DEA, Homeland Security or other type of government agents. Such activities can lead to rogue operations as in the Blackstone affair, and serves as the background to this overly long but exciting novel.
Jon Cantrell and his paramour Piper are employed as contract DEA agents, paid on a commission basis. They set out to confiscate a shipment of drugs in the hope of scoring a sizable amount of money, but instead set off a chain of events that takes them across Texas and become involved with Mexican cartels. Death and destruction mark the journey, as they attempt to deliver a witness to a U.S. Attorney trying the convict the number two man in the cartel being held for trial.
The thread of the tale portrays the murky relationship between government officials, drug traffickers, police, and the contractors seeking ever-increasing and larger contracts. It is a horrifying thesis, well-told, often with humor but more frequently with lots of gore.
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10018
9780345542340, $9.99, Paperback, 656 pp, www.amazon.com
Reading "Sycamore Row" reminds one of a boxing match, the early part of which is filled with preliminary bouts, with jabs and uppercuts and left and right crosses, building up to the main event. And that's just what happens in the novel until it reaches well past the half-way mark and the trial begins. Mr. Grisham certainly knows how to present a trial, expertly building the case, highlighting the lawyer's actions, looking at the jury's thinking.
In this case, it revolves around the Last Will and Testament of one Seth Hubbard who, dying of metastatic lung cancer, committed suicide a day after writing a holographic Will, renouncing a prior Will, cutting out his family and leaving his fortune to his housekeeper and sometime care giver, a black woman who had worked for him for three years. Of course, the family contests the Will. And it is up to Jake Brigance as the attorney specifically chosen by Hubbard to represent the Estate "at all costs," and to see that his instructions are carried out without question.
The story takes place three years after Jake won the famous case in the Clanton, Mississippi, courthouse depicted in "A Time to Kill" that found his African-American client not guilty (by pleading insanity) of murdering a white man. Now, Jake has an equally controversial case by which an African-American woman stands to become the richest person in the State.
And what's next for Jake? Surely Mr. Grisham will not let this popular character die away.
The Funeral Owl
Crème de la Crime
c/o Severn House
110 E. 59th St., NY, NY 10022
9781780290492, $28.95, Hardcover, 247pp, www.amazon.com
It is a fundamental precept of the journalistic trade that a reporter should never be part of the story. Apparently this precept doesn't apply to Phillip Dryden, the editor of the local newspaper The Crow and former Fleet Street reporter. Time and again throughout this latest story in the mystery series, he not only is a participant in the story, writing first-hand, reports his discovery of a body of a Chinese man hanging from a cross of Jesus near Christ Church, in an explosion of an illegal still, in which three men, two Chinese and a Pole, when he is nearby, or several other crimes where he is either in the middle, aiding the police in analyzing the event, or solving it.
The police theorize the original murder and subsequent occurrences in a nearby town are the result of a turf war, either between opposing tongs or a splinter group, each seeking control of illegal harvesting and black market sale of metal obtained from various sources, including lead ripped off the roof of the church. Somehow, Dryden finds links between the supposed disparate murders and other odd events.
Dryden is a hardworking editor and reporter, ever on the go. The writing is sometimes slow and mired in Anglicism's, but on the whole the plotting is sharp and there is plenty of human interest. And, to top it off, the Fens geography and weather, together with a touch of the area's history, increase the reader's interest, especially the intimate descriptions of dust storms a la the 1930s Midwest, and the novel is recommended.
Emily Bestler Books/Atria
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476757100, $15.00, Paperback, 336 pp, www.amazon.com
The last of the Samuel Johnson novels written by the author of the Charlie Parker mysteries and meant for young adults (and children of all ages), his hometown, the little English village of Biddlecombe, is once again besieged by the forces of evil. This time, however, the setting is a new toy store designed to entrap Samuel, his dog, Boswell, and the demons and policemen who accompanied Samuel to hell in the previous book of the trilogy, "Lost Things," and back to earth, saving it from the forces of the Great Malevolence.
The newly opened toy store is really the stage established by Ba'al, whose body contains the heart of Mrs. Abernathy, whose hatred of Samuel is unbounded, seeking revenge for his actions in the previous entry. An invitation is sent to Samuel and the two demons as special guests for the opening of the toy store, and Samuel accepts, only to encounter all kinds of dangers as the toys become "alive" and battles occur floor to floor.
As in the previous two entries, the well-written fairy tale is filled with amusing footnotes, historical references and asides. The trilogy is an interesting exercise by a talented writer, but I miss Charlie Parker. Can't wait till he comes back. That fact notwithstanding, "The Creeps" is recommended.
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, Ny 10019
9780345505750, $28.00, Hardcover, 355 pp, www.amazon.com
After many years of training and working in hospitals, followed by establishing his private practice, Dr. Alex Delaware was contacted by a family court judge with a new approach: He was asked to undertake work ascertaining the facts surrounding divorce proceedings, evaluating the effects on children. Specifically a particularly complicated case. Alex was hesitant and struck a hard bargain, agreeing only to be employed by the courts, rather than serving on a panel of experts, employed b the attorneys for the parties to the cases, some of whom were mediocre and not up to his standards.
Thus was the beginning of a new line of work for the psychologist, and one that led to a case in probate court, in which a childless sister was suing for custody of the 16-month daughter of her younger, flaky sister. When Alex wrote his report favoring the mother, the elder sister threatened Alex. And subsequently attempted to take out a contract on his life. As a result, the events stemming from the case had many ramifications including several murders.
An Alex Delaware novel usually combines a crime mystery with psychological overtones. And, includes, of course, Lt. Milo Sturgis, the gay LAPD detective, with whom Alex consults as well. Killer is no exception. The popular series is, as always, well-plotted and smoothly written.
Translated by James Anderson
c/o Houghton Mifflin
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02166
9780544227811, $14.95, Paperback, 336 pp, www.amazon.com
First published in Norway in 1995, this novel is the first of the Inspector Sejer Mysteries. He is introduced as a quiet, methodical investigator, and is presented with an interesting case: A man, missing for months, floats to the edge of an icy river, witnessed by a woman, Eva Magnus, and her daughter. Sejer is already working on another unsolved murder, a woman prostitute who was found dead just about the time the man went missing.
From this beginning one would expect a methodical police procedural. Instead, it develops into a study of Eva, who plays a key role in the developing plot. A single mother and a starving artist, who only occasionally manages to sell a painting, lacking financial resources to pay her bills, she becomes the focal point of the novel.
To some degree, the book is a bit confusing. Whether it is the original writing or the translation is difficult to determine. There are a number of interesting techniques which the author demonstrates, along with a tricky conclusion. The story is well-developed, but I found it slow reading. Having read some other novels in the series, this book certainly demonstrates the characteristics of future Sejer investigations, especially the in-depth portrayals of the various personalities involved. At the least, from an historical viewpoint, therefore, "Eva's Eye" can be recommended.
W is for Wasted
By Sue Grafton
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY, 10014
9780425271575, $7.99, Paperback, 448 pp, www.amazon.com
How to create a new plot after 22 previous Kinsey Millhone novels was no deterrent to the author who wasted no time in solving the important murders and tackling the problem of the homeless. In addition, a dilemma for Kinsey: What to do with more than a half-million dollars she inherits from a homeless man who dies on the beach, leaving her an inheritance in his will.
A scurrilous PI turns out to be a murder victim, the apparent result of a robbery gone bad, leaving Kinsey another mystery to solve. It turns out the PI is part of the plot, related to the death of the homeless man. As the tale unfolds, there is just one additional thing for Kinsey to solve, and that is, what to do with the money: distribute to the man's three children (despite the fact that he had disinherited them); keep it; or find some other use for the moolah in accordance with his perceived wishes.
The novel is well-plotted, but weighed down with all kinds of extraneous fill-in material, e.g., baking, Kinsey's love life (or lack thereof), introduction of former lovers, and one with a tangential relationship to the murdered PI. Otherwise, "W" is the usual smooth effort, and another letter bites the dust.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451468161, $9.99, Paperback, 528pp, www.amazon.com
After a couple of decades, this series draws to a conclusion. It picks up from events that took place in the penultimate book in the series, "Line of Fire," in which Dr. Alan Gregory's wife, Lauren, was shot by his friend and partner. Floundering in his personal and professional life, Dr. Gregory begins to learn disquieting information which threatens his ability to function and protect his family.
Consequently, Gregory begins to question the people around him, and starts looking at them with mistrust, especially his good friend and sometime partner in various endeavors, detective Sam Purdy. Together, Alan and Sam face a future fraught with danger, the result of the murder in an earlier entry in the series of a woman intent on murdering their children.
The plot really is somewhat disjointed, and seems to be put together haphazardly. It lacks the tightness of previous entries in the series. Gregory comes across in this novel as an insecure person, suffering from a persecution complex. Would you want to be treated by such a psychotherapist? On the other hand, Sam Purdy finally grows up and seems a lot smarter and more capable than in the past.
The basis for a recommendation in this instance is derived from the entire body of work, which this novel brings to an end.
The Fire Dance
Translated by Laura A. Wideburg
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616950101, $26.95, Hardcover, 336pp, www.amazon.com
Fifteen years is a long time between police investigations involving the same person, but that is what Inspector Irene Huss finds as she investigates the death of a young woman, Sophie, who as an eight-year-old girl was suspected of arson in the death of her stepfather when their house burned down. What is so striking in the present is that Sophie was burned to death.
The novel proceeds basically in fits and starts, as Irene and the rest of the Gotberg Murder Squad encounter other cases taking up time, and as she seeks either a clue to the past, as well as the present, or inspiration. Sophie had grown up to be a choreographer and dancer who created a dance called, naturally, The Fire Dance, which debuts posthumously to great acclaim.
As in the previous five installments in the series, Irene juggles her police duties with family life, her gourmet chef husband and twin daughters who now exhibit minds of their own in relation to their interests and boyfriends. This portrayal makes Irene a sympathetic, and somewhat harried, character. But she prevails somehow in both roles. At the same time, the author manages to move a crime story forward subtly with panache.
A Blind Goddess
James R. Benn
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616953775, $15.95, Paperback, 307 pp, www.amazon.com
Just prior to the Normandy invasion in 1944, Billy Boyle, just promoted to the rank of Captain, is handed an assignment by Britain's MI5: work with the local police to find the murderer of a supposed civilian, without any background, but the admonition to "stay away" from a couple running a rooming house. At the same time, a boyhood friend, a Negro sergeant in a tank destroyer platoon, beseeches him to look into the arrest of his gunner after the murder of a local policeman, stressing the man is innocent.
As in the previous novels in the series, the book traces various aspects of World War II in which Billy, who serves on Dwight Eisenhower's Supreme Headquarters staff, acts as a detective, solving crimes and other mysteries. Only this time, the author also portrays the injustice of race relations, since the army continued to be segregated until after the war. And the indignities suffered by Black servicemen.
The plot proceeds smoothly with unexpected turns, but with familiar faces from previous novels, including Kaz and Big Mike, as well as Major Cosgrove and Billy's girlfriend, Diana. Once again, Mr. Benn has done a superlative job of creating a first-class mystery while authentically describing the period and circumstances.
Heirs and Graces
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425260036, $7.99, Paperback, 304 pp, www.amazon.com
Lady Georgiana Rannoch continues to live hand-to-mouth, yet manages to eat well by landing plum assignments. In this case, she is asked by Her Majesty the Queen to undertake to train an "uncivilized" Australian youth, Jack Altringham, in the ways of nobility since he is an apparent heir to a dukedom. It seems the present duke is disinclined to provide an heir and the young man is discovered to be his nephew and the next in line. He is the offspring of the duke's brother who married a young lady in Australia and was subsequently killed during World War I, and has grown up on a sheep farm shearing bovines.
And what would a Royal Spyness Mystery be without a murder or other crime to be solved? So shortly after Georgiana travels to the duke's estate to meet and coach Jack in what fork to use, the duke announces he is going to adopt his valet and make him his heir. The next day, the duke is found dead in a glen on the estate, and it doesn't look good for Jack, whose knife is found in the corpse's back.
Like the other novels in the series, the plot combines humor and crime-solving, with Georgiana helping to crack the mystery. It is good, old-fashioned fun. She is a fun character, and the writing is equally charming. The plot is clever and the story, despite the death, is lighthearted.
195 Broadway, NY, NY 10007
9780062365446, $14.99, Paperback, 224 pp, www.amazon.com
This is an interesting study of a character named Bob Saginowski, a bartender in the Boston Bar called Cousin Marv's (Marv is actually Bob's cousin). He comes across as a sort of nebbish, a loner, who shows almost no interaction with people. Until, that is, he discovers a dog beaten and abandoned in a closed barrel and rescues it, developing an overwhelming attachment to the canine. Then he meets Nadia, who helps him care for the dog.
Meanwhile, events take place in the bar, which is no longer the property of cousin Marv, having been taken over forcefully years before by Chechen gangsters. To begin with, one night the bar is robbed of $5,000, the night's register receipts. Then it is designated as "the drop" for all proceeds collected on betting on Super Bowl Sunday. (The cash is dropped from all over by bagmen, collected to be picked up from the drop later.) A tempting prize of millions for a would-be robber.
The main characters wander along in life, looking for something to believe in. Or something for nothing. Or atoning for past misdeeds and hoping for absolution. It's a fast read and is being made into a movie. Mr. Lehane apparently has written this novel based on a short story, previously included as a short piece in an anthology, in support of the motion picture.
It should perhaps be noted that the book is also available in a limited edition hardcover, ISBN 9780062365576, $24.99, and e-book, both Nook and Kindle ($7.99).
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250027153, $24.99, Hardcover, 258 pp, www.amazon.com
It would not be a Puzzle Lady Mystery unless Cora Felton gets herself into a most outrageous situation. And in this latest entry in the series, she outdoes herself. It begins when her attorney, Becky Baldwin, asks Cora to accompany her to meet a new client in his bachelor apartment in New York City. When they get there, they find a body on the floor, shot and killed.
Cora checks out the rest of the apartment and finds a stocking-masked perpetrator in the bedroom. She pulls out her gun and tells him to freeze. Instead he jumps out a window and she fires at him, missing. And when the cops arrive, of course she is found holding the proverbial smoking gun. Cora is arrested, but is released when Becky points out that a comparison of Cora's gun and the slug in the victim wouldn't match. Meanwhile, a crossword puzzle left on the corpse provides the first clue.
That is the beginning of a series of crossword and sudoku puzzles spanning the novel, leaving clues of a sort along he way. A Puzzle Lady Mystery is always good for an amusing read, as well as for an intriguing plot. Cora's wacky dialogue and behavior certainly adds to the zest of each story. And "NYPD Puzzle" keeps up the reputation of the series. Recommended.
The Purity of Vengeance
Translated by Martin Aitken
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780142181317, $16.00, Paperback, 528 pp., www.amazon.com
It's hard to believe that the western European nation of Denmark, for almost four decades, condemned women deemed to be prostitutes, "pathologically promiscuous," feebleminded, among other "indications of less desirable social attitudes," to an offshore island where they were kept, perhaps mistreated and even sterilized to prevent them from breeding children who might be a "burden" on society. It apparently came to an end in the 1960's, but the plot of this latest Department Q novel is based on this history.
Carl Morck, who heads the department charged with reviewing and solving cold cases, and his assistants, Assad and Rose, undertake such a case, that of a missing woman named Rita, a madam, which leads them to the island of Sprogo, where the women were sent. As they progress in the investigation, they learn more and more about a doctor named Curt Wad, who leads a group known as the Purity Party, which espouses the principles which guided the Sprogo efforts, not unlike the Nazi program of ethnic purification.
The book's title, of course, is a play on Wad's movement, which seemed headed for the political scene and a place in parliament, and a plan of one of his victims who was sent to the island. Once again the Danish mystery writer has created a memorable novel, a mystery combined with deep material that captures the reader's mind.
Tiger Shrimp Tango
195 Broadway, NY, NY 10007
9780062092816, $25.99, Hardcover, 306 pp, www.amazon.com
Serge Storm is forever on some sort of crusade, this time, as employed by private detective Mahoney and assisted by his drugged-up alcoholic sidekick Coleman, he roams Florida removing perpetrators of various types of fraud against the Sunshine State's inhabitants. Apparently, in this once again far-out but amusing novel, Serge (and Mahoney) discover a gang with several participants specializing in diverse types of frauds.
The scams range from the "Dating Bandit," who occupies the mark while confederates clean out his or her home of its contents, to readers of obituaries who remove valuables and other items from the insides of the dwellings of the grieving relatives attending the funeral. Of course, as varied as the scams are, so are the techniques Serge uses to punish the culprits.
Serge is still recoiling from the assassination of his beloved Felicia, and this past misfortune enters into the conclusion of this adventure, as we learn that the same assassin is aiming for Serge this time.
As always from this author a fun story, "Tiger Shrimp Tango" is recommended and also in available in a paperback edition (978067092823, $13.99, 320 pp).
Polyglot Joyce: Fictions of Translation
University of Toronto Press
10 St. Mary Street, Suite 700
Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4Y 2W8
9780802038975, $67.00, 340pp, www.amazon.com
In the 'Introduction', Patrick O'Neill has rightfully stated about his book Polyglot Joyce that it is a comprehensive survey of the entire corpus of Joyce's works in almost all the major languages. The book proposes to make an interesting study of comparing the original texts of Joyce and various interpretations the originals has gone under mirroring the native idiom, interests and responses of the reader-translator attitudes. The reader-translator and the original make an interesting case of 'a single polyglot macrotext' (p.3).
O'Neill reminds us that this book is not about Joyce's own 'logo maniac' interest in European languages due to the larger part of life he spent out outside English-speaking countries, but rather the Joyce that evolves from the heteroglossia of languages other than English, which makes him stand at par with Shakespeare in popularity. As the 'bench mark' of Modernist era, Joyce's popularity rests upon the readership of his translated works. Substituting 'breadth for depth', these 'textual mountains' (p.5) interweave a 'richer' texture.
O'Neill insists that reader's response is a 'continued' life of a text who depends on translation both prototextual and metatextual. He refers to the metatext as text in which 'authority is displaced from the original author to the interaction of individual texts and individual readers' (p.8). The 'original' is now 'displaceable' by new authors and new readers. O'Neill sums up by saying that Joyce's works which emerge after the multiple, variable translations, smack of 'holistic' principle of gregarious kind rather than of a monoglot 'quasi-religious' one based on 'master/servant' antinomy.
The book has three parts. In Part One 'Macrotextual Joyce' O'Neill gives a detailed account of the history of the translations of Joyce's texts. The first part of chapter one is devoted to a detailed research on the history of these translations which ranges from 1919 to 2002. In the second part of the same chapter, O'Neill proves that the number of French and German translations far exceeds the rest of the languages. In chapter two, we learn about Joyce's own interest in the translations of his own works as noted by Sylvia Beach and Adrianne Monnier. O'Neill also states that the translation of Ulysses was 'hampered' because of the race for authenticity among French translators. Philippe Lavergne 'wrestled' on his project on Finnegans Wake for years 'with only an hour or two of sleep a night.' In chapter three, after having enamored Georg Goyert for his role in establishing Joyce's reputation as the most popular writer of twentieth century in Germany, O'Neill accounts for Joyce's life in Trieste and the access it gave him about the cultures and languages around Mediterranean. In chapter Four, O'Neill gives a survey of the translations into the Scandinavian, Russian, and Southern and Eastern European languages besides the South East Asian ones. About the forthcoming Arabic translation of Ulysses by Mohammed Darweesh, O'Neill vindicates the translator's remark that the project smacks of 'transgressing the social norms of one's own target audience.' We may also note the trend of the reader's mind-set by observing the way the Chinese translation of Ulysses (1994) by the husband and wife - Xiao Qian and Wen Jie-ruo targeting 'a popular rather than a scholarly audience' could sell 100,000 copies in a few days of its publication. O'Neill also touches upon the masculine kanji ideograph and the feminine but appealing Japanese katakana syllabary of Molly Bloom.
Part Two of Polyglot Joyce focuses on the way the translated versions vary from not only the originals but also within the same language, various languages of the same cultural bedrock, and different languages of different cultures. O'Neill notes that despite Ulysses setting in Dublin, it seems 'inhabited by speakers of French and thinkers in French.' O'Neill also analyses the errors in the translations that misrepresent the originals. He insists that we shouldn't blame the translators for this because they have to pander to the literary, aesthetic format of needs and mores of their particular cultures. The Dubliners story 'Counterparts' is translated in French as 'Correspondences' by as many as four translators. On the whole, O'Neill believes that the translations are a rich mine of metamorphoses. Sometimes, the translated versions of terms embellish Joyce's own words. O'Neill refers to Molly's repetitive use of the alliteration 'O' which in French version becomes oui for 'yes'. O'Neill advises the reader in Part Three to read the original texts before embarking upon the translations. O'Neill suggests in the 'Conclusion' that Joyce's translated works are 'undiscovered portals of discovery' (p.221) though as my own experience of teaching in Saudi Arabia indicates, the translations constrain the ability to understand the originals rather than enhance it.
The Prophet promised in World Scriptures
Ali Unal &Harun Gultekin
345 Clifton Avenue Clifton, New Jersey 07011
9781597842716, $22.95, 540pp, www.amazon.com
The Prophet promised in World Scriptures is a rare work eliciting some deep-rooted devotion of Ali Unal amd Harun Gultekin. Unal and Gultekin plead that Islam is the religion of peace, can face global challenges and resolve the psychic dilemmas of multiform narcissism of the post-modern societies. God Almighty sent Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) to guide humans to the path of success. Unal and Gultekin argue that God's choice is verified not only by the Quran but also in the scriptures of the major religions. The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) is a sign of hope and human salvation in these religious texts. This volume explores this spiritual zeal in great depth by examining the signs and symbols used in these texts. The Prophet of Islam is a practical example of a perfect human being. His life and message answers these questions:
"Who am I? Where did I come from? What is my final destination? What is the purpose of life? What does our dying mean? Is death absolute non-existence or only a door to a new, eternal life?" (p.39).
After stating that "Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) occupies a position in which the diverse religions of the world find a common converging point" (p.XXI), we are introduced to the entire tradition of the revealed religions and others and their scriptures acknowledging the advent of this "world teacher." Before dwelling in detail about the main theme, we learn briefly how the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) had to be sent as a warning to a people who lived in an age of Jahliya or ignorance. The life of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) before and after the Prophet Hood is briefly touched upon. The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) is to illuminate the path of righteousness to his people and the whole of humanity, to guide people to learn the Divine Laws, be a practical example of these laws by being truthful, trustworthy and sincere.
Unal and Gultekin endorse that despite alteration in the Old Testament, the text put together by Ezra and his friends is more reliable. The phrase "he will crush your head" (Genesis 3:15) is interpreted as the task assigned to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) with regard to the crushing of the "Satan's head." In the "Farewell Pilgrimage" the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) had said, "O people! This day Satan has lost all hope of re-establishing his worship in the land of yours" (p.69). Similarly, the phrase "The Lord's coming with ten thousands of his holy men" - a prophesy made by Prophet Idris, is concerned with the strength of numbers (approximately ten thousand) of the soldiers who accompanied Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings upon him) at the time of the conquest of Makkah (p.71). Regarding Prophet Noah's prognostication (p.72-3), we learn that the age of such universal floods is over after the placement of the "bow in the clouds" by the Prophet of Islam. The Quran and Sunnah are the Islamic Ark of Noah. Connected to the same theme of the Deluge and Noah's Ark is the phrase "the Ship and its Master" used by the Rig Veda, which Unal and Gultekin interpret as applying to the Prophet of Islam. "With a hundred oars" (Rig Veda) when the sun mounts a ship is observed in the light of the total number of the Surahs of the Quran. The Sanskrit word shat in the Veda "is not always used exactly for a hundred, but for around a hundred. "The ship with a hundred oars" state Unal and Gultekin "stands for the Quran which has a few more than a hundred chapters" (p.75). Dwelling upon another cross-religious theme, we learn that just as Prophet Noah was known in India and the rest of the world, Prophet Abraham is actually Brahma the father of mankind. We learn a great deal about this in the book. We also learn how the prayer of Abraham and Ishmael was answered in the shape of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) as the latter had said: "I am the answer of the prayer of my father Abraham" (Ibn Hisham, Ibid., 1:175; al-Tabari, ibid., 2: 128).
The Arab race, comments Roberts Dummelow, is the realization of the promise made to Hagar in the Bible. Prophet Abraham was a hundred years old when Prophet Isaac was born. Prophet Ishmael was fourteen then and was the only son of Abraham whom God commanded to sacrifice him by testing Abraham's trustworthiness and patience.
According to Genesis, God had promised Abraham that his progeny shall flourish "as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore" (p.81). This statement applies to the descendants of Prophet Ishmael to whose lineage the Prophet of Islam belongs, rather than Prophet Isaac's. Prophet Jesus was born in the family tree of Prophet Isaac. Jesus "had no offspring and Isaac's own offspring has been lost in the darkness of history..." (p.81).
The section "Prophet Moses' Prophecies" (p.88-94) may be summed up by referring to the phrase "The Lord's shining forth from mount Paran" (Deuteronomy, 33:2). "Mount Paran" signifies the hilly Makkah unto which Prophet Abraham and Hagar had journeyed. The phrase "that Prophet" (John, 1:19-22) as part of the Children of Israel or the lineage of Prophet Moses, relates to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) as belonging to Ishmael's Patriarchal pedigree. Similarly, the line "At his right hand was a fiery law for them" (Deuteronomy, 33:2) signifies the sacred law of Shariah introduced by the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) according to the Quran. The Psalms (118:26) line "The Prophet who comes in the name of the Lord" is literal version of the Surah al-Alaq's verse "Read in the name of your Lord, Who has created" (96:1). The introductory line that appears before each of the Surahs of the Quran also repeats the phrase from the Psalms, "In the name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate." Furthermore, Prophet David predicted about Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) by calling the latter as the "Promised one", who shall protect the poor and the needy by annihilating oppression. He will be the beacon of light for the righteous and shall establish peace on earth (Psalms 73:4-1). Prophet David also mentions Makkah as "Baca" in his prayer, and, says that those who pray in "the Lord's House" are the blessed ones (Psalms, 84:4-7). Similarly, Prophet Solomon foretold that God shall send the last Prophet "Mahamaddim" to humanity to establish Monotheism (Song of Solomon, 5:16). The suffix "im" stands for "respect" as in "Elohim" (for God). The promised Prophet shall be from Solomon's cousins or the Ishmaelites in a neighbouring country or Arabia. Prophet al-Yasa'a (the Quran) and Isa'iah (Bible) attributes the "promised one" to be a "wonderful counsellor, mighty master, everlasting father, prince of peace" (Isa'iah, 9:1-7). The promised one shall save his people from ignorance or "the valley of the shadow of death" (p.122) as he is "a rod out of the stem of Jesse" (Isa'iah, 11:1-9). "Jesse" is a contraction of Ishmael. God, furthermore, will have blessed the promised one with might and wisdom and he shall be a commander like Prophet David. He shall settle in Medina "In the thickest in Arabia you will lodge, O Caravans of Dedanites" (21: 13-17). Dedan was the grandson of Prophet Noah and the caravans of Dedanites are the Banu Aws and Banu Khazraj, who had migrated to Medina from Yemen to live in Arabia Felix. The "inhabitants of the land of Tema" (p.137) are the descendants of the ninth son of Ishmael, Tema. The land they finally settle in is also known by the same name, that is, "the land of tema", or the land of Banu Aws and Khazraj. The sub clauses "to him that was thirsty they brought water....and the fugitives with their bread" direct attention to the same tribes earning the title of al-Ansar for helping the Prophet and his Companions on their emigration into Medina. We also learn the mentioning of the Battle of Badr in which the major Chiefs of "the children of Kedar" shall be slayed, according to Isa'iah.
This intimate survey covers the whole of the Old Testament with detailed comments on the presence of the promised one as acknowledged by the entire tree of Prophetology. The same method applies to the New Testament and the sacred scriptures of the Indic canon.
According to Luke (2:14;10:24;12:49,51), the promised one is blessed by Jesus Christ as the peacemaker in Arabia. His name shall be "Ahmad" augured Jesus, and, he shall be "praiseworthy" and the "sought one." John the Baptist prognosticated that the promised one shall be "mightier than him" (p.296). In the Gospel of Barnabas (chapter 44), Jesus is reported as saying about the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) that a Prophet mightier than him (Jesus) is about to appear in the world, after he is gone.
The expression "son of God" attributed to Jesus is used as a metaphor, just as the Prophets before him were titled as "gods." According to Luke, Jesus is quoted as "son of Joseph" due to the same family tree to which the two belonged besides "the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God." The scriptures at times also use the same titles for entire nations as "sons" or "children of God", viz: "that the sons of God saw the daughters of men..." (Genesis, 6:24). Moreover, the promised one, according to the Psalms, shall flourish like a thick tree laden with fruit. The promised one is also the "last stone of the edifice of Prophethood" (p.338- see the references from the Mark, Luke and other scriptures). John (15:25-27;16:14) coins the name of the promised Prophet as "the promised Paraclete", who, after having established peace in the land, shall also glorify Jesus and his disciples.
Ulan and Gultekin also touch upon the theme of Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ as mentioned in the Quran. The "Addendun 2" elaborates the "Messianic" doctrine attached to the life of Jesus. The "Second Coming" of Jesus shall follow the course of the sweet Will of God. Yet, this will happen when "the children will not be dutiful to their parents, the rights of women will be violated, and chastity will not be given its due importance," etc.
The experience of Mi'raj manifests the spiritual sublimity of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him). The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) was escorted by the angels to the most sublime presence of God. On his return, he establishes the Kingdom of God on earth, based upon the rules and values as revealed in the Quran.
Besides these predictions from the New Testament and others, the living rulers such as the Negus, the king of Abyssinia and Heraclius, the emperor of Byzantium also showed their heart-felt respect to the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him).
The promised one is also commemorated in the Zoroastrian scriptures as "the saviour of the world" or Saoshyant. A friend of Ahura Mazda, this meritorious one shall vanquish evil (druj) and Satan (Angra Mainyu) and "make the world perfect and immortal" (p.401). His Companions shall support him in the "fiend-smiting." Ulan and Gultekin also interpret one of the incidents from Zamyad Yasht (19:89-90) as assigned to the victory of the Muslims in the Battle of Badr, and, the way the hand of God protected the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) and his fugitive Companions at the time of emigration to Medina.
Parallel to Saoshyant, Maitreya in the Buddhist scripture suggests the qualities of the promised Prophet. Maitreya is the bodhisattra or the compassionate one who "devotes all his life to the ultimate welfare of all other beings" (p.425).
Ulan and Gultekin, finally, concentrate on the evidence available on the promised one in the Hindu scriptures and quote from Bhavshya Purana as stating that "a malechha, a spiritual teacher, will appear with his companions. His name will be Mahamad. Raja (Bhoj) after giving the Mahadev Arab (of Angelic disposition) a bath in the Panchgayva and the Ganges water offered him the presents of his sincere devotion... (111:3, 3, 5-6, quoted by Vidyarthi, 3:1105)." The washing of the heart of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) with the water of Zamzam by the two angels is well-known to the Muslims in the context of Mi'raj. There are many more mantras about the promised one in the Hindu scriptures. We learn some amazing things about the promised one in this section. The last few pages of this promising research-based project recapitulate the gloriously merciful character of the last, but the greatest of all, the Prophets, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him.
Pearls of Persia
Edited by Alice C. Hunsberger
I. B. Tauris Publishers
6 Salem Road, London, W2 4BU, UK
9781780761305, $45.00, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Chapter 1 of this illuminating study, Pearls of Persia epitomizes the life and mind of Abu Muin Hamid al-Din Nasir b. Khusraw. Inspired by the vision one night, Nasir renounces "his self-harming ways" (p.5) and sets out on a journey and arrives in Cairo, where, in this splendid city, there is water, pure like "the spring of kawthar" (p.6). He meets the ridwan from whom he learns that neither the philosophers nor the theologians knew the truth about this universe, the truth which is revealed to the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him). Unfortunately, the adversaries of the Ismaili da'wah harass him, forcing him to leave Balkh and in 1052 he settles in the state of Yumgan, ruled by an Ismaili prince. In Nasir's teachings, ignorance is a "veil" which is removed once the soul is enlightened and refined with the knowledge offered by the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him), who was enlightened by the angel Gabriel. The Imams in turn were blessed by the Prophet. Basirah, or insight, comes from obedience, or itha'ah. Faquir Muhammad Hunzai notes that the soul, on submission, progresses from the mineral to the vegetative, the vegetative to the animal, and the animal soul to the rational. Similarly, the soul on submission to the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) progresses in stages: the mustajibs can cultivate spirituality to become the natiq and then asas before being blessed as the Imams of their times. The ascension continues to the rank of hujjat before experiencing "the fullness of the Holy Spirit" (p.19) of the prophet (peace and blessings upon him).
M. J. Esmaeili (ch.2) notes the prolific nature of Nasir's poetry and prose and says that inspired by the works of Abu Hatim al-Razi (d.890 AD), he claimed that Persian was as holy as Hebrew and Arabic, as "the language of revelation" (p.29). Nasir was a thorough scholar of the Islamic traditions and the esoteric exegesis and believed that the "rational soul is aetherial" (p.35), Esmaeili quotes from Dr Pourjavadi.
Daniel Rafinejad, in chapter 3, observes Nasir's beauty of expression, depth and emotion in poetry and prose. Nasir believed that God "elevated poetry over prose." By liberating emotions within moral limits (huddud), poetry offers sweet and rare insights. Nasir believed in "radical notions" and denounced his contemporaries for their blind use of conventional language and imagery. Used properly, language can reveal the Universal Soul. Such a refined vocabulary reflects the enrichment of the intellect - a process, a journey "from a friable, human clay to solid gold" (p.45). Refinement of intellect alone produces proportionately refined verses of "eternal quality."
In chapter 4, Leonard Lewisohn relates to Nasir's "high-minded" maxims maximizing the appeal of the Persian language and culture that gains popularity outside Iran into Afghanistan and Tajikstan etc. Lewisohn observes the complexity of Nasir's verse epitomising multiple inter-related subjects popular in his time. Nasir's "Ode to the Universal Soul and Intellect", says Lewisohn is one of the profound works and may be discussed in "wider philosophical context" (p.56). This Ode encompasses the "Ismaili cosmology" and solves life's painful riddles. Towards the end of this Ode, Nasir exhorts humans to endure suffering in this transitory journey.
In Part 2, chapter 5, Mohammad Azadpur argues that Nasir's poetry teaches us the cultivation of the soul because this is how "the dense" mundane life is transformed "into the subtle" by practically training "the body (tan) and the soul (jan)." The training makes the initiate aware of the veils or the "appearances" first before opening the mind to "the Universal Soul." Nasir synthesises the Greek and Abrahimic canon by following the example of al-Farabi. Urged on by the "active intellect", thorough self-scrutiny enables the initiate to attain insight into the mystery of things. Nasir's quality of "dialogical verses" engage the reader as an active partner with the poet provided the two are well-acquainted in the "discipline of thoughts, feelings and imaginations" (p.80). Poetry is a noble art and teaches virtue by heightening the feelings, revealing the universal in particular.
Mehdi Aminrazavi in his chapter elucidates Nasir's moral vision by quoting from Rawshana'I - nama, that "... Divine secrets you know not, for in you/Lucifer and Adam are in battle..." Humans can steer clear of the Satan if they follow "wisdom" reposed in the Quran and use reason or the sense of judgement. By comparing Immanuel Kant with Nasir on the subject of morality, Aminrazavi says that "self-love" (Kant) may be interpreted as Nasir's "respect for one's moral worth" (p.95). The difference is that Nasir's moral code is based upon Divine sanctions. Neither the Greeks nor Kant and Nasir promulgate hedonism. Happiness lies in "well-being" achievable through Din. Kant believes that moral values ought to be "universalised." Nasir preaches that virtues are "the Divine commands" implicit in "fitrah."
Mohsen Zakeri in chapter 7, assesses Nasir's Rowshanai-nama as a major compendium of proverbs and maxims in Persian literature "over and above Ferdowsi, Asadi, Nizami, Sa'di and Mawlana Rumi." Zakeri traces the sources used by Nasir and argues that his work remains within the limits set by the Fatmid Ismaili doctrine of creation and the purpose of life. Nasir had avidly read the Persian and Arabic literature, the Shahnameh, Kasra's Tawgiat, the works of the Zoroastrian priests and Zoroaster himself. Zakeri also states that Nasir's spiritual metamorphoses owe to the dream which led him to the realization that earthly existence is a temporary abode. We should do good deeds because "what you sow in this world, you shall reap in the next" (p.104).
In chapter 8, Michael Beard explains in detail the way Nasir correlates philosophy and poetry as a mutually interactive, creative process. After giving us an insightful comparison on the symbols such as the wheel or "charkha" and the "sky" by referring to Edmund Spenser, John Milton and Nasir-i-Khusraw, Beard examines the motif of "eagle" in one of the poems from the Diwan. Beard distinguishes between the voices of the eagle and the poet, alludes to the elements such as the earth ("rock", "earth's surface"), air, water and describes the bird's haughtiness which, like Icarus, causes its downfall.
Nasrollah Pourjavady in chapter 9, elaborates "zuban-i-hall" as the state characterising a thing and its quiddity in Nasir's poetry. After touching upon "Nature" as a character that defines itself in its own speech as in Plotinus's Enneads or the birds in The Conference of the Birds, Pourjavady traces the motif of "zuban-i-hall" in Nasir. The "wheel of heaven", for example, speaks for itself by saying that everything passes away "The wheel of heaven, by its turning is telling us: "I will pass."' Pourjavady also refers to "zuban-I bi-zubani" or "tongue-less speech" and says that the world laments upon its own state of loss or "khusr", "Listen to what the world is telling us, / Without a tongue or mouth/ It says: "Sleep not, /For I am just the caravanserai, and you the caravan." Essentially, the numerous speakers speak only in a "figurative" way. Behind these voices lay the cosmic symphony of the archetypes manifesting by glorifying the Omniscient and the Omnipotent God.
Alice C. Hunsberger in chapter 10 throws light on the symmetry and wholeness in the works of Ibn Tabtaba and Nasir. Hunsberger then concentrates on one of the qasideh "On the Stead of Speech" examining Nasir's philosophical vision textured in beautiful imagery that enables the verse to flow majestically like the flow of water. The composition is deeply embedded in the richly refined poetic sensibility of the Iranian culture, the Ismaili cosmology and ethics, though the warp and woof remains Islamic.
Julie Scott Meisami picks up one of the qasidas from the Diwan as an analogy and applies the meaning to the rest of his writings. According to Meisami, Nasir's Ismaili spiritual system corresponds to the Pythagorean and the Neoplatonic thought. Nasir presents his complex cosmology and other doctrines "in the form of advice, homily, and words of wisdom" (p.192). Referring to this qasida, Meisami describes that the poet wills to "slay his impure body" through piety. The goal is to sift good from evil, enrich grace "worthy of divine forgiveness" and obtain "mizan" or moral equilibrium during the travails of the worldly journey.
Finn Thiesen in chapter 12 assesses Nasir's innate capacity for feeling the poetic rhythm and the knowledge of tab'-i-shairi. Nasir is amazingly elegant at the use of a variety of metres, without subscribing to any one for long. Nasir likes "slow metres" unlike Hafiz. Both, however, prefer "two short syllables and alternate with two long syllables" of "fast metres." Thiesen contends that Hafiz and Nasir use different methods in handling metres. Hafiz is gifted in ghazal as he would continue to rewrite verses achieving perfection by using sweet metres. Nasir preferred to deliver the doctrinal message and as long as the idea was perfectly conveyed, "he would see no need continuing polishing" (p.218).
The final chapter by Meisami sums up the themes discussed in this well written volume by focussing briefly on qasida as Nasir's main vehicle which he uses in the expression of philosophical, ethical and political polemics. His poetry remains the poetry of wisdom and asceticism preparing the reader to renounce the temptations of this world for the life after death. Reiterating the themes discussed in this volume Meisami says that Nasir's poetry addresses several types of audiences. Ramal and Hazaj are his favourite musical metres. The Amir of Badakhshan, having provided protection, is often extolled as well as the Ismaili thought and doctrine. He exhorts the addressees to follow the path of righteousness. Meisami elaborates Nasir's use of the figures of speech, figures of thought and concludes that "Nasir's poetry has only recently begun to be studied as poetry, and not merely as a vehicle for his exposition of Ismaili thought or philosophy, and it is high time that his superior poetic talent (of which he himself was not loath to boast) was given its due right" (p.251).
Iran: Politics, History and Literature
711 - 3rd Avenue, Floor 8, New York, NY 10017-9209
9780415636896, $160.00, 336pp, www.amazon.com
Can we identify the characteristics of Iran as a cultural and political entity? Part I of this work is an erudite attempt in understanding the Iranian national pulse. By juxtaposing the ancient Iran with the modern, Homa Katouzian deciphers the way the society has transformed registering the internal and external influences that range, invariably, from the glorious empire of Cyrus the Great to the wars against the Greeks, conversion to Islam and beyond.
Katouzian states that Iranians seek inspiration from Ferdowsi's Shahnameh- an epic saga rich with mythology circumscribing the Divine, the Heroic and the Human Ages. The Iranian Ulama keep the spirit of Shahnameh in mind in their interpretations of the Quran.
Katouzian, then, compares the West with Iran and says that historically the Iranian society is "a short term society", for, an "Iranian may be a merchant this year, a minister next year, and a prisoner the year after" (p.20), but for the late 20th Century democratic structure which has sloughed off this mind-set for good.
Chapter 1 traces the theme of succession to rule, practiced in the past. A ruler of the "royal descent" enjoys the Divine "Grace" and is more appropriate to rule provided he is also wise, by which, Katouzian borrowing from the Shahnameh, means the one who is "free of all needs." The "heroic" spirit of this magnitude is in line with the Platonic concept of the king. Islam endorses these qualities. Islam, however, permits the right to rule to pass on to the one who "holds the reins of power" (p.12) in the absence of an ideal candidate. Katouzian quotes Ferdowsi's example of "Mahmud of Ghazna" (p.12) as such a wise and just ruler, operating within the ambits of Islam.
Chapter 2 suggests that the western society has progressed because of its tradition of a "plough back capital." This outstanding cultural more goes back to the "burghs" of the Middle Ages (p.32). Iran has lagged behind because the landlord had "no right to his title, or security of his own income" (p.33). The rulers used their subjects at will without long term rewards hindering the growth of the establishment unlike the West which encouraged "not only acquisition and innovation, but also, accumulation and preservation" of wealth and knowledge.
Chapter 3 throws light on the start of the modern era: the intellectuals learn that the nations like Russia (with whom Iran had fought several wars), Britain, and Japan (the nation which had fought against Russia in 1905), were strong because of the fundamental rights and duties that their nationals enjoyed. Demanding the constitutional reforms, the merchants, intellectuals and Ulama rose up against the weak Qajar rule. The unsystematic and haphazard reforms that were introduced under duress failed to deliver and, hence, the lampooning of the people in power by the poets: the beneficiaries are dubbed as having "made it" through "constitutionalism", the cities which provoked rioting and pillage were castigated as the places "of constitutionalism." In the next two chapters, we learn about two of the reformers: Seyyed Hasan Taqizadeh and Khalil Maleki. Taqizadeh was active in Tabriz and Tehran for ten years (1900-10). He was forced to live in exile in the West. During this period he gained the support of the European intelligentsia for change back home. Two decades later, he was offered the post of a Majlis deputy. From 1934, Taqizadeh earned the title of a "progressive political leader", but, like Khalil Maleki, the active and domineering conservative, radical, leftist and above all the democratic forces did not suit his mind and temper. Like Maleki, Taqizadeh was cornered or silenced to live in seclusion for the rest of his life. This is exactly how the political culture was in Iran right up to the 1979 Revolution. Just as Taqizadek, Maleki hoped for change, after Iran was reformed radically. His behaviour was admired by his peers, both in the East and the West. He was fairly vocal in his condemnation of those who criticised the West, out of sheer racial prejudice. His detractors levelled the charges of treason to completely drown his voice, like rain drops in the desert. The final chapter, which is about the 1979 Revolution, is a pleasantly refreshing account. The post-Revolution era is touched upon briefly, with a promising future of better understanding with the West and the rest of Asia.
Part 2, the Persian or "Dari" Literature, is another concise attempt at surveying this vast genre spread over a millennium, from the 7th Century poet, Yazid ibn Mofarragh's lampoon of the Governor of Kufa to our own age of Farrokhzad's poem "Sin" that defies the social norms. Homa Katouzian synthesises the Classical Persian Poetry written over the centuries, both in forms such as qasideh, ghazal, masnavi, roba'I, dobeyt and qat'eh; and, in substance such as the wide-ranging panegyrics, epics, romances and mysticism and so on. We enjoy reading the essence of the poetic canon put in easy language without tempering the profundity of the substance and the form. Katouzian substantiates the research, taking genuine pride in the world-over icons of Persian poetry such as Rumi, Hafiz, Khayyam, Ferdowsi and Sa'di, besides others.
We learn about the "serious and solemn" (p.123) religious eulogies, the transience of time, praising of wine and the addressing of friends in long poems or qasideh. In "pomp and loftiness", qasidehs of these poets were comparable to "Beethoven's symphonies" (p.127). Masnavi- a well-rhymed poem became the vehicle of expression for Ferdowsi, Sa'di and others. Amir Khusrow of Delhi wrote five long romances in masnavi. Ghazal, the purest form of Persian poetry was another genre penetrating India and remains one of the cultural icons of Urdu. In chapter 8 we read excerpts from Sa'di's poems on the love of flesh of women and youth, the descriptions of the beloved and the endless craving of the lovers for union. Katouzian highlights the poetry of the 19th Century Fath'ali Khan Kashani (known as 'Saba' by takhallas or nom de poesie) and his revival of the classical spirit in qasideh and masnavi. A pioneer of the neo-classical form, Saba salvaged "Persian poetry from the decadent state" (p.171) for being "unoriginal and worthless imitations." Katouzian also touches upon 19th Century Iran and mentions how the poets like Qa'em-Maqam, Qa'ani Shirazi and others lamented the dire state of their country against the imperialism of Russia and Britain. Chapter 10 concerns itself with the 20th Century Persian literature and its absorption of the European themes since the 19th Century. Mirza Malkham Khan and Fath'ali Akhunzadeh are the "precursors of modern trends." The poets of this era, such as Nima Yushij, Bahar the Poet-Laureate, Seyyed Ashraf al-Din, Iraj Mirza, Mehdi Hamdi, Fereydun Tavalloli and others, were naturally interested in "contemporary themes" glossed in the stylistics of their own times in metaphor, pun and imagery. Nima Yushij's dialogical form put dramatically reminds us of "the dialogue of various personages in a Shakespeare play" (p.189). Sohrab Sepehri, a loner, compensated his vitiating loneliness by glorifying nature, both in verse and through paintings. Besides the recent trends, such as "Jadvali (Crossword)" and "Sowti", Katouzian mentions the growing popularity of Malkam Khan's simple but eloquent prose: Sadeq Hedayati's Hajji Aqa, a satire on the establishment which weighs in "superficial appearances" heavily: The Blind Owl, a psycho-supernatural thriller in which the protagonist disappears in mysterious "macabre" circumstances.
We also learn about the Poet-Laureate Bahar and the way he spent his life by playing into the hands of fate: in return for the support, the Shah honours him with the title only to take it away as soon as Bahar starts supporting those who were for "modernization": "Modernization, reform or death/ No other road is open to the motherland" (p.215). Nevertheless, Bahar was against violence and favoured whosoever gave Iran "a well-thought-out and systematic plan" (p.214). We also learn about the most able and eloquent Mirza Jalal al-Mamlek Iraj and his neo-classical but modernized version of qasideh, which is full of wit and humour. Zohreh O Manuchehr is one of Iraj's well-known long poems. Iraj draws upon Shakeapeare's Venus and Adonis and develops this theme of love and romance in a fluently clear manner that he embellishes with contemporary imagery and metaphors.
In chapter 13, Katouzian reiterates the Iranian mind-set through illustration and says that "the fall of an arbitrary state, often even the death of a ruler, led to division and chaos" (p.233) in the country. Apart from, says our worthy author, "the fall of Reza Shah in 1941 up to the 1953 coup", most of the 20th Century Iranian history is mired in chaos. The poets, as well as the prose-writers, lampoon this phase with vengeance. In chapter 14 we read about Yeki Bud va Yeki Nabud or "Once Upon a Time" by Jamalzadeh. In this novel, Jamalzadeh adapts to the style of James Joyce's classic work Ulysses and others. The characters are rooted in the Iranian society. This work also adds the genre of short stories to the Persian canon. The emphasis is on simple and eloquent language avoiding the usually ornate Persian prose.
Finally, we read about Forugh Farrokhzad's poem "Sin." We learn how the poet is "vocal" in defying the social norms, though as our reverent author believes, Farrokhzad "was constantly looking for a Paradise Lost" in his poetry.
Persian Service: The BBC and British Interests in Iran
Annabelle Sreberny & Massoumeh Torfeh
I. B. Tauris Publishers
6 Salem Road, London, W2 4BU, UK
9781848859814, $75.00, 232pp, www.amazon.com
The PERSIAN SERVICE is a rare volume on the subject: it unfolds the history of the tense relations between Iran and Britain and the impact on the BBC of such tensions that owe or owed to the riddled regional and global politics. The volume analyses these fluctuating relations by focussing on the eventful happenings in Iran, such as the abdication of Reza Shah, the nationalization of the oil by Dr. Mossadeq, the 1979 Revolution and, last but not least, by scrutinising the nation-wide protests in the 2009 Presidential election. This book is about the BBC's Jihad of steering clear of the Scylla and Charybdis of the pressures of these two nations. The BBC had to remain sincere to the cause of a free and fair journalism when faced with the nuances of the Foreign Office and the Iranian accusation of its being a "state orchestrated propaganda" (p.169).
The PESRSIAN SERVICE reiterates that the Iranians, especially the establishment, does not trust the West or the UK and the US. Therefore, the prudential plea made by the BBC, that it remains "independent of its paymaster, the Foreign office" (p.10), falls on deaf ears in Iran. The "soft war" syndrome of the Western Media including the BBC, the Iranians believe, is meant to obliterate the Islamic Civilization by destroying their values. Iran remains the prime target: the 9/11 incident spells the well-calculated encirclement of Iran both from the East, that is, Afghanistan and the West or Iraq. But Iranian intellectuals will fight back from the "barracks" and save Iran from the "velvet revolution", such as the coup de'te'tats in Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Serbia. The "bullying and arrogant" tactics of the "Imperialism and Zionism" are unacceptable. Iran should not be dubbed as the "axis of evil." The irony is that the same Iranians, who flood to the streets with candles out of sympathy for the victims of 9/11, are being harassed by the dissidents living in diaspora and the dissenters in Iran. The BBC understands this and is trying its best to foster trust through digital diplomacy, respecting the Iranian stand on the Arab-Israel issue as the "axis of resistance." Ironically, according to the PERSIAN SERVICE, the establishment in Iran is not telling the truth to its public. The establishment uses the Western "soft war" as an excuse, making it inevitable that Iran as a nation, a culture, should fight back by launching its own state broadcasting worldwide. All "independent actors, perhaps small NGOs" are portrayed as "fifth- columnists" (p.30).
Chapter 2 traces the history of the BBC service in relation to Iran. Reacting to the German jamming of the Persian Service from India, the Foreign Office, the BBC and the British Legation in Iran collaborate and the result is the direct broadcasting in Persian from London, which, rather quickly earns respect among the listening milieu, including the Crown Prince Mohammad Reza. When the BBC warns the Shah against the German presence he blinks. The Shah did not realise that the Iranian army hated the Germans. He also did not know, despite the sincere warnings of the BBC Persian Service that the state was collapsing. Eventually, the members of the Majlis force the emperor to abdicate. But there were other Western nations as well, besides BBC, vying for influence in the garb of cultural exchanges, such as France (p.45) and the US Information and Educational (USIE) Exchange Program.
Sir Reader Bullard, the head of Legation asks the BBC to play its constructive role by bringing about the rapprochement between the beleaguered Dr Mohammad Mossadeq and the British. He blames the British monopoly of oil as the root cause of Iranian economic and socio-political backwardness. Despite the candid advice of the BBC and the peaceful overtures of the British government, Mossadeq nationalizes the oil. Showing solidarity, the BBC's Persian staff, abstains from work for two weeks. This shows the sense of nationalism ingrained in the Iranian mind for their soil. The BBC cautions the Mossadeq administration of its lack of vision which can only isolate Iran from the civilized world and that the British navy, not far from Abadan, may take action. The BBC coverage was so popular that people "huddled around radio" (p.62), deciphering the truth which they soon learn: misinformed by the communists, Dr Mossadeq was rejecting the "fair" and "equitable" solutions with regard to oil. The Shah gets the feel of the public mood reported and registered by the BBC, dismisses the Mossadeq administration, directs the new administration to resolve the oil-related issue with Great Britain and thus saves the country from Communism. The Shah reasserts his royal authority, impresses the world by celebrating the 2,500th anniversary of the monarchy. He also introduces the land reforms, unaware of the growing disgruntlement of the middle-classes against corruption and the tyranny of the SAVAK. While the rise of the price of oil through the workings of the OPEC had filled the state coffer and raised his status as the bulwark defender of civilization against Communism, its fall shakes the monarch, and the wary public, unable to tolerate the tyrannical rule, the gap between opulence of the establishment and the rest of the nation, challenge the system reported with insightful detail by the BBC. The latter becomes "a major thorn" (p.78) on the side of the establishment, though, the government in London warns against such a ruthless but honest reporting. Nicholas Barrington argued that the BBC was interested in the "medium" to "long term" solutions, for, who knows "who may one day form an alternative government" (p.79). The Iranian establishment blamed the BBC for its relentless coverage that brought the Islamists, the leftists and the rest together during the final days of the Revolution and said that it, besides the CIA, was more dangerous than the KGB.
The book makes an interesting case by stating how the Foreign Office denied the truth to the press and the BBC about the coup and the way the word "coup" was interpreted as "spontaneous popular uprising." The Foreign Office accused the Tudeh or the Communists for the chaos and that only Great Britain could rescue the situation after the settlement on oil (p.72). We get an inkling of how the BBC's "subtle persuasion" fails to win the hearts and minds of the Iranian public opinion, even if the latter thronged to watch the news over the oil dispute. The Iranians, to this day, remain ambivalent about the BBC mainly because of the "master from London" for its habit of manipulation "behind the curtain" (p.74).
In Chapter 5, we learn how the BBC Persian Service expands by incorporating Pashto as Afghanistan becomes the centre for contention between the East or the Soviet Union and the Capitalist West. Responding to the eagerly listening public of this war torn nation, the BBC starts reporting from Islamabad and is helped by the British and the American Consulates. Eventually, recommended by a close relative of President Najibullah, Lyse Doucet becomes the first BBC journalist to report from inside the country. Within a decade the Mujahiden, possessing satellite phones, could call, reporting on the warring sides in the middle of the battles or the negotiations. The number of the Afghan listeners of the BBC increases dramatically during the Taliban rule as the latter ban the television. "Even the Taliban loved it" (p. 129), that is, the BBC Pashto Service, said Andrew Skuse.
Chapter 6 finally lets us peep into the residual Iranian reservations about the BBC and Britain in general, throughout these several decades: the government had imposed fatwa on Rushdie, a British national, and jammed the BBC's broadcasting in the 2009 elections. The British, like the rest of the West, raise hue and cry against the Iranian nuclear programme, impose sanctions on Central Bank of Iran; and, as the Islamists storm the British Consulate in Tehran, the British retaliate by expelling the entire staff of the Iranian embassy in London. The rest of the chapter is about the "soft war" and the heavy investment that Iran is making for the promotion of her cultural identity like the rest of the world. The BBC rethinks, once the Iranians forbid the British FM presence, and launches its own television programmes in Persian, watched by the majority of the youth in Iran. The BBC looks for a positive change in the media landscape through independently edited news and useful documentaries, preserving the accuracy of a balanced view. Despite this, the Iranians remain cautious. "The BBC Persian TV is not appropriate for our country's security" (p.149); the words of the Intelligence Minister reflects the legacy. The "Stolen elections" of 2009 exposed the truth as people flocked to the streets and watched the BBC PTV instead of listening to the multi-lingual radio and watching the Iranian Channel (IRIB). The authorities clamp down on the internal dissent, control the use of internet and terminate the visas of the international media. Yet the digital imagery revealed the truth, even if President Ahmadinejad blamed that Neda Agh Sultan was killed after the filming and that the BBC had directed this video. The BBC, however, vows to fight on against censorship, the severe and partial jamming and the harassment of its employees and their families; though, this alone is the medium that provides proper communication between the Islamic Republic and Great Britain, by offering impartial news analysis, engaging in the cultural and public diplomacy, and above all, bridge the gap of misunderstandings. After all, it was BBC whose reporting of the 1979 Revolution surprised the Shah and "the BBC management and the FCO" (p.114), by demonstrating the advantages of professional journalism and by broadcasting the views of the opposition, adding to its credit as the most popular channel of the year.
With regard to Afghanistan, we learn how, by catering to the tastes and needs of the audiences, the outlets of the local media are becoming more popular. The BBC is expanding its sphere by cooperating with other channels, both in Afghanistan and Iran. President Hassan Rouhani, for example, believes that the IRIB is losing "valuable audiences" (p.167) to the "external broadcasting channels" such as the BBC. Finally, the book states that the nature of the political system in Iran is such that the freedom of press can still pose challenges ahead, affecting relation with both the British government and the BBC. We have to remain hopeful, though, after President Hassan Rouhani's statement, that we are living in an age in which media is directly interactive with the masses. We are no longer living in "the age of monologue media" (p.167).
Dr. Zulfiqar Ali
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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