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Book Reviews - Just for Fun
Books from Small Publishers
All books are listed alphabetically by author's last name.


Shaking Hands With Lefkowitz by Melvin Foster
Every once in a while you find a book that makes you want to tell a friend, "Read this!" This is one. It is funny and touching by turns, a murder mystery and a metaphysical contemplation of the meaning of life.

Alan Borman can't remember being murdered, but with the help of Detective Lefkowitz, he's on his own case. As a lawyer, Alan wants to look for means, motive and opportunity. In the Afterlife, there's more to the investigation than that. (Since I loathe spoilers, I'd better stop there.)

I have far too many books on my shelves. This one will find a place there, anyway, because I want to read it a few more times.

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Bohemian Cats by Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov
I can't say enough good things about this book! I have recommended it to everyone who has presents to buy for children or cat-lovers. This sumptuous book combines costume drama with art while having a plot line that is mild enough for children, yet with undertones that adults will enjoy. The art, like many of the subtleties of the text, are probably over the heads of many youngsters, but they will love what they do"get."

This book can be read aloud to pre-schoolers (my 4 year old loved it), or handed to older readers. Unlike many read-aloud books, this one can hold the adult's interest, too.

The art involves taking three or more pictures, of setting, costume and cats, and then super-imposing them upon each other. The illustrators then adjusted the pictures so that they look more like baroque paintings, and added fillips of whimsy.

I see good books and bad as a reviewer; the bad I reject, but their effects can linger. This one is a gem, and thank goodness for it. It was a joy to read, and it's a treat to be able to recommend it to you.

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Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew, 3rd edition by Lin Pardey with Larry Pardey
The Pardeys are well-known for their ability to sail their small, engineless boat safely around the world with very little of the modern equipment most of the rest of us require. Their suggestions for ways to prepare for a voyage, and to increase your comfort and improve your experience while under way are fascinating. They're also amazingly useful even for those of us who rarely venture out of sight of land. More than that, they give you a vivid glimpse of what living aboard a sailing vessel is like.

I recommend this book for you if you're interested in life at sea, now or in the past, if you're an armchair sailor, and especially if you're responsible for keeping a family or crew healthy and happy on a vacation, longer race, or coastal delivery. Of course, it's also wonderful for the obvious audience: those who are considering casting off from land and crossing oceans.

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Explore the Virgin Islands, 6th edition by Harry S. Pariser
I have visited the Virgin Islands many times, and always with great delight. This book has shown me many things I didn't know, and will definitely be in my suitcase next time.

The discussions of flora and fauna in the beginning are exceptional, but this book has far more to offer. The discussion of places to eat and to stay is much more thorough than that in most other guides, and includes places I wouldn't want to miss. The discussion of activities and sites includes things I haven't seen in any other guide, and approaches I haven't found discussed elsewhere.

The dramatic cover and the charming photographs inside also help to convey the mood and beauty of the islands. Add this to the author's willingness to reveal his opinions and preferences, and you have the kind of unique and charming guide that is a rare find.

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Israel/Palestine in a Nutshell by Amanda Roraback
This compact little book does a very good job of distilling both sides of one of the most confusing conflicts currently brewing. Chock-full of both facts and the historical narrative used to evaluate those facts, this is a valuable addition to the library of anyone wishing to understand how each side sees the region and the issues. If we are to have peace, understanding both sides is an important first step.

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Dark Dreamweaver by Nick Ruth, illustrated by Sue Concannon
I like fantasy, and this is a good one. As the book opens, the world has been afflicted with an epidemic of nightmares and insomnia. David is one of the sufferers, but he still has enthusiasm for the Monarch butterflies he is raising. One of them turns out to be a wizard from another world, cursed to cycle endlessly from egg to caterpillar to butterfly. He desperately needs help to return to his world and stop the villain who is wrecking his world and causing the outbreak of nightmares in ours. Young David steps into the breach and saves both worlds with his creativity, intelligence, and attention to the world around us.

David takes control of the cause of nightmares, and he banishes them. This could be quite helpful reading for young people suffering from too much imagination at night. It should entertain and inspire its audience.

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Chip and Die by Arlene Sachitano
This was an enjoyable ride with Harley Spring, a supervisor at an integrated circuit factory. (Hence, the chip in the title.) Harley has two problems: murder and an ISO 9000 inspection, and they're both hitting the plant at the same time.

I enjoy an insight into worlds I don't know, and this mystery gave me one, as well as several interlocking puzzles. I enjoyed it all. The author produced believable characters, and plausible mysteries, as well as avoiding the common traps of either telegraphing the punches or having the solutions come out of nowhere.

I suspect that in future outings, her prose will flow a little better, and her dialogue will have a bit more snap, but neither flaw interfered with my enjoyment of this book.

This work will appeal most to those that are technically inclined, and to those who understand and are amused by geeks and nerds. Neither is required, but tech and techies run through the story in modest amounts.

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Wearing the Spider by Susan Schaab
This book is one of the few legal thrillers that manages to be an exciting, well-plotted, fast-paced thriller and to sound plausible as it describes the life of an associate in a major law firm.

Evie Sullivan is a respected senior associate who handles intellectual property disputes when the novel opens. She's also about to become the victim of an insidious plot that has everyone else around her questioning her sanity or her honesty.

The image of wearing a spider may make you shudder, but so will what happens to Evie. Something similar could so easily happen to anyone in the corporate world.

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Captain Mary, Buccaneer by Jacqueline Church Simonds
I enjoyed the unexpectedness of Captain Mary. Most pirate tales pretty it up, or gloss over the essential character of the life. This one doesn't, but also doesn't slide across the line into pointless gore. Instead, we see that pirates were no heros, not even to themselves, just people making choices, many of which turn out to be the wrong ones.

Captain Mary is the viewpoint character, although we quickly realize that her lack of objectivity about her own motives and choices makes her an unreliable narrator. This makes the whole story much more interesting. We see exactly what you would have to be in order to make your peace with this way of life, but we also need to think twice about what she tells herself in order to fully understand the action.Mary is casually brutal, and rarely introspective. She's polymorphic sexually, and wholly self-centered. She's impulsive and restless, and all in all, probably exactly the kind of person to end up in a situation where piracy is the best option. She's also exactly the kind of woman who might succeed in a risky trade, and land on her feet when the time came to quit.

This book's primary flaws are those of many first-time authors: sometimes the dialogue sacrifices flow for period flavor, and these pirates are improbably successful at finding prey. You won't find that these flaws impede your enjoyment. You may not want to meet her in person, especially in a lonely dark place, but you'll be glad you made Captain Mary's acquaintance in these pages.

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Encyclopedia Idiotica: History's Worst Decisions and the People Who Made Them by Stephen Weir
The best aspect of this book is its dry wit, and entertaining and informative perspective on history. The 50 vignettes in this book each describe one of history's most dangerously   boneheaded moments.

Teachers of history, debate coaches, and many others should take note: you could well assign these as topics. Whether or not you agree with Mr. Weir, these morsels should kick-start some truly entertaining and thought-provoking discussions. And what an encouragement to further reading and research!

For more information, visit the Publisher's web site.
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