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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 7, Number 4 April 2008 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Dunford's Bookshelf Greenspan's Bookshelf
Klausner's Bookshelf Laurel's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf
Shirley's Bookshelf Taylor's Bookshelf Vicki's Bookshelf
Vogel's Bookshelf Reader Views Bookshelf  

Cowper's Bookshelf

Laura Ingalls Wilder: Farm Journalist
Stephen W. Hines, editor
University of Missouri Press
2910 LeMone Boulevard, Columbia, MO 65201
9780826217714, $34.95 1-800-828-1894

Laura Ingalls Wilder will forever be remembered for her "Little House on the Prairie" books which have entertained generations of readers and been the source of one of television's most popular and long-running series. What is not so well known is that before writing her Little House books, she wrote short nonfiction pieces in magazines and newspapers. She passed away fifty years ago at the age of 90 at her home in the Missouri Ozarks. To celebrate her life's accomplishments, Stephen W. Hines (co-editor of "Laura Ingalls Wilder's Fairy Poems") has expertly compiled and deftly edited a series of essays by Wilder that she wrote for publication in the 'Missouri Realist' between 1911 and 1924 in this newly revised edition of "Laura Ingalls Wilder: Farm Journalist", which now includes an additional forty-two 'Missouri Ruralist' articles and the restoration of previously omitted passages from some of her other articles previously published in the original edition. Simply stated, "Laura Ingalls Wilder: Farm Journalist" is a 'must read' for the legions of Laura Ingalls Wilder fans, and will prove to be a welcome and popular addition to personal, academic, and community library collections.

Shopper's Guide To Healthy Living
Kathy Loidolt
Booksurge LLC
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419671258, $12.99

In our current climate of rising costs and an economic recession, making a dollar stretch as far as possible in support of a healthy lifestyle takes more than just wishful thinking. It takes a consumer resource like Kathy Loidolt's "Shopper's Guide To Healthy Living". This is a 105-page compendium of information, advice, tips, techniques, resources, and lists for what to get and how to get it when it comes to shopping wisely and successfully on a budget for everything from skin care products, to bug spray, to groceries, to perfumes and more! Of special note are the 'tear out' shopping lists that are provided ready-made for the reader and not only note what to get -- but what to avoid as well! The section devoted to 'Recipes for Healthy Living' range from Whole Grain Pancakes and Homemade Pancake Syrup, to Healthy Oatmeal Cookies and Whole Grain Spelt Bread. The "Shopper's Guide To Healthy Living" is especially recommended for novice housewives (and house-husbands), as well as anyone else wanting to use their financial resources to the best effect in support of a healthy home and a wholesome lifestyle for themselves and their loved ones.

Her Corner Office
Trudy Bourgeois
Brown Books Publishing Group
16200 N. Dallas Parkway, Suite 170, Dallas, TX 75248
Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity (publicity)
2817 West End Avenue, Suite 126-274 Nashville, TN 37203
9781933285979, $21.95

In the 19th century women in the workforce was a rarity. In the 20th century women began to transition from the home to the workplace in increasing numbers decade by decade. In The 21st century most women work outside the home, with more and more of them entering the domain of corporate management responsibilities -- but there is still a proverbial 'glass ceiling' that must be dealt with respecting women achieve parity with men in corporate offices and boardrooms. Now in a fully updated and significantly expanded second edition, "Her Corner Office: A Guide To Help Women Find A Place And A Voice In Corporate America" by Trudy Bourgeois (President and CEO of The Center for Workforce Excellence) continues to draw upon her more than twenty-four years of experience and expertise as a speaker, executive coach, trainer, and the first African American female VP in the consumer goods industry to present an informed and informative manual for women seeking to succeed in a corporate career of their own. "Her Corner Office" covers issues of personal confidence, actionable blueprints for professional success, the 'general manager mindset', being a credible leader, overcoming stereotypes concerning women in the workplace, leadership styles within an organizational framework, as well as making conflict and change advantageous to success. Of special note is what Trudy Bourgeois has to say about women supporting other women in a corporate environment. As inspired and inspiring as it is practical and 'user friendly', "Her Corner Office" should be considered essential reading for any woman either entering the corporate world for the first time, or have been trying to work their way up the corporate ladder and achieve a corner office of their own.

Autumn Seclusion
Andrea Ferrell
Trafford Publishing
2333 Government Street, Suite 6E, Victoria, BC, Canada, V8T 4P4
1412040442, $20.00 1-888-232-4444

Told through the eyes of Anna, a thirty year old woman reflecting upon her life, Autumn Seclusion is a tale of coming to grips with one's hidden fears and blemishes. Anna's experience of rejection at home set her up for a succession of draining and abusive relationships. The one loving relationship she experienced was with a Native American from Upstate, New York; her family severed her ties at home, and she eventually left the United States entirely to reconstruct her life. A tale that encourages the reader to think long and hard about themselves and the ones they love, Autumn Seclusion is ultimately a tale of the meaning of forgiveness. Highly recommended.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

Will Rogers Says...
Reba Collins, editor
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9781834397039, $12.95 1-800-627-7377

The wit and wisdom of homespun American philosopher, comedian, actor, stage performer, and social critic Will Rogers is legendary. Hundreds of thousands of Americans mourned his untimely death in an Alaskan plane crash. Reba Collins (Director Emeritus at the Will Rogers memorial and Research Center in Claremore, Oklahoma) has a very special expertise to bring to bear in this representative collection she has compiled and edited of commentaries and comments by Will Rogers that will bring him to the approving acquaintance of a whole new generation of readers. This was a man who was as prolific in his pronouncements on everything from the foibles of government to the conundrums of human nature as he was humorously insightful. Highly recommended reading for anyone and everyone, "Will Rogers Says..." could not hope to be comprehensive, only representative. For example in the section featuring his comments on America's political parties what is perhaps his most famous quote (and one particularly applicable to our current political season) is missing: "I don't belong to any organized political party -- I'm a Democrat!" Nonetheless, there are plenty of Will Rogers gems to be found such as "You know it takes nerve to be a Democrat. but it takes money to be a Republican." WAIII: Feb. 10, 1929. Each quote cited is provided with a date. "Will Rogers Says..." is an enthusiastically recommended addition to any personal or community library collection.

The Nature Of Home
Greta Gaard
University of Arizona Press
355 South Euclid Avenue, Suite 103, Tucson, AZ 85719-6654
9780816525768, $17.95 1-800-426-3797

While home is 'where the heart is', it is also where the body happens to reside as well. "The Nature Of Home: Taking Root In A Place" by environmental literature critic, board member of the Environmental Association for Great Lakes Education, and academician Greta Gaard (University of Wisconsin - River Falls) provides a focused yet wide ranging discussion on what it truly means to be at home in the world. A collection of essays that draw upon such diverse sources as Buddhist studies, feminist psychology, ecopsychology, and environmental writing, "The Nature Of Home surveys the interplay between 'place and identity. The resulting conclusion of her theme is that 'home' is not a static concept but rather a process of 'cultivating the connections with place and people that shape who we become'. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Nature Of Home" will prove to be of immense relevance to students of the psychological aspects of the environmentally oriented concept of home, the concept of ecofeminism, and issues of environmentally relevant social justice, as well as non-specialist general readers with an interest in being and feeling at home in our world from the deserts of Southern California, to the high country of the Sierras, the Wind River Mountains, the North Cascades, Washington wildlands and Minnesota waterways in every season of the year.

The Courage To Lead
Hannah Carlson
Bick Publishing House
307 Neck Road, Madison, CT 06443
1884158250, $14.95 1-800-444-2524

The old adage that there is 'strength in numbers' is especially applicable when trying to make major life changes for those who suffer from addictions, phobias, and mental illness. The phenomenal power of the small group to assist the individual has been documented time and time again in the fields of mental health and addiction recovery. In "The Courage To Lead: Start Your Own Support Group - Mental Illnesses & Addictions", Hannah Carlson provides a truly 'user friendly' instructional guide manual for forming, organizing, publicizing, and conducting a support group. Readers will learn how to start discussion subjects, incorporate study materials, and recruit speakers, as well as using the telephone and on-line support groups. A very highly recommended addition to personal, community library, and community center reference collections, "The Courage To Lead" also addresses the common causes of mental disorders, screening tests, and treatment options. Enhanced with illustrative life stories, an extensive bibliography, as well as local and national resources, "The Courage To Lead" will enable anyone, anywhere, to establish a support group for any health problem or issue.

A Different Story: Aesthetics and the History of Western Music
Olle Edstrom
Pendragon Press
PO Box 190, Hillsdale, NY 12529
9781576471234, $36.00 1-518-325-6100

Number eight in the "Aesthetics in Music" series, A Different Story: Aesthetics and the History of Western Music is a philosophical examination of aesthetics and criticism of music throughout history - from ancient Greece to the Age of Enlightenment, to 1800's salon music and the twentieth century, including the "aesthetics of rock". Particular attention is paid to German and Swedish perspectives (partly because A Different Story grew out of a conference in a Swedish university town). "Audiation is a mental process that happens when something 'musical' is experienced as something, and only applies, of course, when we hear a recognizable musical theme like Beethoven's 'destiny theme,' or when we give a name to a chord like a diminished seventh, or when we hear internally, with our mental ears, how a clarinet sounds. In all cases we must have an inner representation of what should be described. To be able to explain how a clarinet sounds we must have an aural memory of it. It is therefore not unlike the music psychologist's point of departure in discussing the neurological-cognitive process of aesthetic experiences." Extensively researched, A Different Story delves deftly into the subtle territory of perspectives and cognition of a timeless and endlessly creative art form.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Urban Illustration Berlin
Benjamin Wolbergs
Gingko Press Inc.
5768 Paradise Drive, Suite J, Corte Madera, CA 94925
9781584232919, $29.95,

If there is such a thing as an authentic 20th Century urban artform to be found in every major city of the western world it is the phenomenon of graffiti. You don't have to speak or read German to be able to appreciate Benjamin Wolbergs' "Ubran Illustration Berlin: Street Art Cityguide", which offers a veritable compendium documenting and illustrating the diversity of that city's informal and amateur wall art that range from acts of simple vandalism to elaborately executed works of considerable complexity and artistic value. Of special value is the inclusion of a 'street art map' making "Urban Illustration Berlin" effective as a tour planning guide for on-site viewing. Interviews are included as well for those who can read German. Enhanced with a roster of thematically relevant websites for both the artists and the street art, "Urban Illustration Berlin" even features some blank-lined pages for personal notes and observations. A unique addition to personal and academic library 20th Century Urban Art reference collections, "Ubran Illustrations Berlin" is also usefully recommended for students, artists, and tourists planning an extended visit to the re-unified capital city of Germany.

Lost-Wax Casting
Fred R. Sias, Jr.
Woodsmere press
PO Box 726, Pendleton, SC 29670
9780967960005, $22.95

The art and craft of making jewelry continues to be a popular and widely appreciate hobby for the amateur enthusiast and a mainstay of the professional independent artist. "Lost-Wax Casting: Old, New, And Inexpensive Methods" is an instruction guide to a specialized form of jewelry making that takes the reader through a comprehensive, superbly presented, step-by-step process of casting. Each of the steps in the casting process is provided with a framework of the science and rational support them. "Lost-Wax Casting" covers every aspect of the casting process and addresses such issues as commonly encounter problems, the metals and alloys used, creating 'homemade equipment', and so much more. Enhanced with more than 70 illustrative drawings, photographs, and tables, as well as appendices providing supporting technical data, "Lost-Wax Casting" is an invaluable, 'user friendly' instruction guide and manual that is ideal for the novice jewelry maker and has a great deal of enduring value as a reference guide for even the more experienced practitioner of this ancient craft and its contemporary advancements.

Choosing Project Success
J. F. McCarthy
Pareto Building Improvement
1220 Bristol, Westchester, IL 60154
9780979996900, $49.95

The commercial construction industry is one of the driving forces of the American economy and a mainstay to the economic health of the community. It is also serious business involving substantial capital investment and the expertise of a whole series of professionals from architects to building contractors, from financial professionals to laborers. "Choosing Project Success: A Guide For Building Professionals" by J. F. McCarthy (a working owner of a commercial construction firm with 36 years of building experience) is a 371-page instructional manual that specifically addresses both project and construction management as well as the technical aspects of construction on the job site. The text is organized into three main sections: 'Observing Well, Thinking Right' which addresses the necessity for perceiving all of the aspects and requirements of the intended project; 'Purpose Definition, Personnel Organization, Management Tools' focusing on what is to be done and how it will be best accomplished; and 'Facts Are The Building Blocks Of Knowledge And Judgment' emphasizing all the disparate elements of a successful building project from water systems, to materials employed, to the soil upon which the building will rest, to lighting, heating, and waste disposal issues. An ideal textbook for technical college curriculums, "Choosing Project Success" is especially recommended reading for both novice as well as experienced architects, building owners and managers, facility managers, designers, project managers, superintendents, foremen, lenders and insurers.

2008 National Earthwork & Heavy Equipment Estimator
Dan Atcheson
Craftsman Book Company
6058 Corte del Cedro, Carlsbad, CA 92009
9781572181915, $57.00 1-800-829-8123

Construction projects by their very nature are complex, expensive, and fundamentally necessary to the economic well-being of the community. The volatility of the marketplace, the fluctuating costs of supplies, the operational and maintenance costs of vehicles and equipment; the complexity of the diverse elements to be considered in a construction project, even economic trends with respect to such considerations as inflation and the rising cost of fuel, make estimating and bidding projects to be an essential skill for any successful construction business or enterprise. That's why Dan Atcheson's "2008 National Earthwork & Heavy Equipment Estimator" is recommended as an invaluable and indispensable tool. Every aspect is considered including site preparation; cut and fill operations; topsoil, slabs and paving; roadwork; soil swell and shrinkage; spoil, borrow and soil balancing; basement excavation; trench excavation; grade beams and drilled piers; excavating equipment; moving vehicle performance; loaders; trucks and wagons; tractors and bulldozers; scraper; soil compaction; rock blasting and ripping; and paving. Enhanced with the addition of an accompanying 'Job Cost Wizard' CD-Rom (requiring a Windows 98 or higher computer platform) "2008 National Earthwork & Heavy Equipment Estimator" is an essential reference and it should be noted that monthly price updates on the Craftsman website are free and automatic during the entire 2008 calendar year.

Able Greenspan

Klausner's Bookshelf

The Restorer's Journey
Sharon Hinck
PO Box 35001, Colorado Springs, CO 80935
9781600061332, $14.99

Before Susan, Mark and their eighteen years old son Jake use the portal to return from the dimension of Lyric to their home on earth (see THE RESTORER'S SON), Councilman Cameron and the Rhus Media (who can twist and poison the minds of her victims) they escape through the portal into our earth too. They disappear for several weeks before they return with packages and force Susan to get through the dimension corridor with them.

Mark is unable to use the portal, but Jake travels to the other world to rescue his mother. Jake has changed since the last time he was on the other side. Cameron claims to have records that say when Restorer appeared twice in a generation, the line ends. This is a lie because Jake is the new Restorer, a person sent to the One to fight for the people and help the guardians. While Jake seeks his mother and a plan to defeat Cameron and throw the Kahlarea out of Render, Susan is trapped in the land of Rhus where Medea's protege tries his best to beak her by crawling through her mind.

Anyone who has felt the darkness close in on them while also feeling rage and despair should read THE RESTORER'S JOURNEY. Susan and Jake feel all that and more, but they draw on the strength from the One and in their hearts and refuse to allow evil to win. Sharon Hinck writes fantasy that takes the audience to a special magical place where faith is the cornerstone of life. Those who fail to adhere to that philosophy end up destroying themselves from inside their souls to their physical presence.

Healing Promises
Amy Wallace
Multnomah Books
12265 Oracle Blvd., Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601420107, $13.99, 1-800-929-0910

FBI agent Clint Rollins proudly works in the Crimes Against Children Unit risking his life whenever a child is in danger. His latest case to save a youngster led to his being shot. However, he believes he has a guardian angel because the hospital tests reveal he has cancer that was caught in time with the help of chemotherapy.

However, Clint's spouse Sara has mixed feelings about her husband's cancer. On the one hand she is very grateful that it was found early, but on the other she feels guilty that she as oncologist should have diagnosed it; she questions her abilities and in a circular logical way feels more guilt about her feelings. Meanwhile in spite of the side effects of chemo treatment, Clint needs to uncover the identity of a child serial killer before some other innocent dies.

Both Clint and Sara question whether God deserted them as they face a trial of faith, as much as the flesh in the second Defenders of Hope series (see RANSOMED DREAMS). The exciting FBI investigation returns characters from the first book in support roles. However, HEALING PROMISES belongs to the lead couple as each has something to prove more to themselves than the other or to God while doubting yet praying for Clint to recover. Amy Wallace provides a fabulous inspirational thriller starring realistic protagonists.

The Grand Scheme
Kathy Herman
9781590529232, $13.99

After all the trials and tribulations caused by drug and alcohol abuse and their legal problems, Rue and Ivy Kessler go on a magnificent well deserved honeymoon as each has straightened out their life. They come home to Jacob's Ear, Colorado to the love of their family and to raise their eight years old son Montana together.

However, not all their woes have past. Someone is stalking the newlyweds. That unknown individual slowly begins a campaign to frighten the Kesslers. The assaults increasingly turn violent including the murder of a crew member working construction under Rue's supervision. Rue and Ivy are scared but determined to uncover the identity of their enemy and learn why before someone else is killed.

The third and final Phantom Hollow tale (see EVER PRESENT DANGER and NEVER LOOK BACK) is an exciting entry as the issue of redemption and forgiveness makes for a powerful inspirational character study. However, to fully grasp how far Ivy and Rue have come, I recommend reading the previous books. Still this is a deep tale that focuses how long does one pay for one's transgressions or is it impossible even with good deeds and paying society's price to ever overcome the past. Fans of the mini series will enjoy this exciting finish as Rue and Ivy would like to look forward but someone is a present danger motivated by looking back.

People of the Weeping Eye
W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Geer
Forge Books
c/o Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765314383, $24.95, 1-888-330-8477

Almost a millennium ago, an advanced civilization existed on what is now the Moundsville section of Alabama. Split Sky City had one thousand inhabitants with giant palisades and mounds built as a gate to protect the citizens. Like suburbs, additional villages were located nearby along the river and occasionally one tribe conquered another. Alligator Town has been attacked and the Chief Clan of the Sky People avenges them with a daring raid.

While this is transpiring, Trader, who left the city after killing his brother, also left behind the woman he loves. He becomes a Trader journeying far and wide seeing things few men have ever observed. In one village, he hits the mother lode of copper, and meets Old White also known as Seeker. Old White also left the city under a cloud; he too became a Trader reaching the Aztec Civilization in the south and the icy tundra in the north. His dreams led him to Two Petals, a powerful mystic, who sees and acts the opposite way of most people. Seeker is going home with Two Petals to redress an old wrong. Trader joins them because the Power moves him to help prevent a catastrophe from happening.

This book ends with a cliffhanger as the tale of Trader, Seeker, and Two Petals will continue in the next First North Americans saga People of the Thunder. Once again the Gears bring alive an ancient North American civilization this time showing somewhat how the Moundsville tribes and the people near the head of the Mississippi lived based on archeological historical information. The research is impeccable but does not overwhelm the story as the key characters are superbly developed especially when they undergo trials and tribulations. Although no climax occurs, fans of the series and those of Jean Auel will relish the vivid details of the PEOPLE OF THE WEEPING EYE.

i heart bloomberg
Melody Carlson
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781589191044, $13.99 1-800-323-7543

Half-Hawaiian Lelani Porter, white Christian Megan Abernathy and Hispanic Anna Mendez are thinking of renting rooms at 86 Bloomberg Place. However, each expected a "luxurious" house based on the advertisement of owner Kendall Weis, but 86 Bloomberg Place is more a fixer upper. Kendall barters with them; and they agree to rent when she reduces their rent in return for helping renovate the home.

Kendall turns out to be a lunatic with enough issues to fill an abnormal psychology class. The three renters consider moving out, but each decides to remain for now as their previous arrangements remain a motivation to stay and they even pledge to be nice to their neurotic landlady.

The concept is fascinating as each of the four females has strong reasons to make their arrangement at 86 Bloomberg Place work. The characters are solid and seem fully developed although Kendall's psychological issues are overwhelming as there are too many for the audience (or the renters) to cope with. Still the story line is fun to follow as relationships begin to form, but the climax is abrupt and nothing important resolved as if this opening tale was to introduce the cast to the audience while affirming the importance of friendship.

Truth and Consequences
Bethany Campbell
Harlequin NASCAR
9780373217861, $5.99

Penny Branch has not told her husband Craig why; only that it is over. She quits modeling and kicks him out of their condo while informing him she is filing for divorce. Although she loves her soon to be ex spouse, she cannot even tell him her secrets that are driving her from him. Even her loving mother in Dallas begs her to explain why as she thought they were the perfect couple, but Penny refuses to say anything.

Craig wants his wife back as he loves her. However, her family has a bigger issue as her father, a business mogul who sponsors NASCAR since he has twin sons as drivers, fled to Switzerland, skipping Daytona, with millions of embezzled company funds. Feeling selfish and opportunistic, Craig is there for Penny because he wants to help her, but also he sees this as his last chance to reconcile with the woman he loves.

Although a tornado is one spin too many, readers will appreciate this deep look behind the scenes at an upstart newcomer family trying to break into the upper tier of NASCAR. The keys to this interesting second chance romance are the Branch family financial woes and Penny's secret that has placed her relationship with Craig on the brink of crashing; something that only his niece Lilly can commiserate with. Fans will enjoy reading Bethany Campbell's drive around the racing oval.

Getting Lucky
Joanne Rock
Harlequin Blaze
9780373793853, $4.99

Sports agent Dex "Lucky" Brantley has lived a most fortunate life as everything he touches turns to gold; for a dozen years he has been at the top of his vocation that is until his thirty-third birthday when his touch became fool's gold. Six months later, the family curse has left him mentally and emotionally devastated, symbolized by his new nickname, Dex the Hex.

Desperate to have the curse removed so he can regain a life worth living, Dex asks psychic Lara Wyland to eliminate the blight. Lara agrees to help him although he was scornful of her psychic skills when he was Dex the Lucky. Still she knows he is serious as he is willing to leave the Big Apple for Albany, a place where only politicians from the city go. She rationalizes helping the king of derision as she would be a fool to pass up the money he offers and the knowledge of how much he has crawled by asking her. Besides he is a hunk.

GETTING LUCKY is an engaging paranormal romance with a bit of late suspense that enhances the story line. Dex is terrific as he goes from scornful non believer to desperate doubter to in love fully converted. This is a fun tale as Dex the Hex feels his nothing but bad luck string of blue notes ending in a spite of ghosts, a nasty storm, and someone who wants him to crap out of life just because he won the World Series and Superbowl of his life: the love of Lara.

Coming Soon
Jo Leigh
Harlequin Blaze
9780373793907, $4.99

Mia Traverse is the concierge at Manhattan's five-star Hush Hotel. Currently she tries to keep things running smooth as Hollywood is staying at the luxurious inn, which means paparazzi is behind every flower pot.

However, Mia never expected to find the corpse of paparazzo Gerry Geiger, a royal pain in the butt, but not deserving of murder. NYPD Detective Bax Milligan leads the investigation, but realizes he needs a hotel insider; Mia volunteers. As they work together trying to solve the homicide, they fall in love, but can a pair of overworked people make time for one another once the whodunit is solved or closed.

Bax is a fascinating protagonist who is burned out at thirty six with plans to leave in three months to relocate to Boulder. Mia is TV mystery junky who loves her job and enjoys going undercover to assist the sleuth. Although the mystery is fun, it seems unlikely a cop even near his departure date would risk a civilian especially the one he is falling in love with. Still fans will enjoy Jo Leigh's entertaining romantic whodunit that is entirely not by the book.

The Marine's Baby
Rogenna Brewer
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373782239, $6.25

Caitlin Calhoun mourns the death of her Navy SEAL husband Luke Calhoun, Jr. who died in the line of duty. 89 days 9 hours and 9 minutes since the two uniforms knocked on her door with the news she dreaded, Caitlin receives a letter from CryoBank of San Diego asking what to do with his semen specimen. She decides she wants his offspring so she goes to the cryo facility to get impregnated.

However, Caitlin is unaware that her late spouse had an older half-brother with the same name; neither did the sperm bank. She learns later that she has been impregnated by the sperm of Luke Calhoun; just not her Luke Calhoun. Feeling she owes her half-brother-in-law the truth, Caitlin meets and explains to Luke "Lucky" Calhoun about the mix-up. The marine knows what he wants, which are Caitlin and their baby, but she is wary having lost one military officer she loved to the war on terrorism.

Caitlin makes this contemporary romance works as she goes from grief to euphoria to shock to love to guilt in a believable manner. Luke the marine is a caring person who understands much of what his beloved is dealing with as he learns from her that his half-brother was also a good person. Readers will appreciate this strong military romance as Rogenna Brewer brews up a deep lead couple struggling with forming a relationship as the ghost of her late spouse, his brother, lingers in their minds.

Be My Babies
Kathryn Shay
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373782246, $6.25

Her husband may be affluent and a member of high society, but Derek Wakefield fails to grow up as drugs and now women supersede family obligations especially now that his wife is pregnant. Expecting twins and no help from her addicted Peter Pan mate, Lily Wakefield leaves New York City to visit her mother's hometown Fairview, New York. There she hopes her maternal grandfather Gil Gardner, owner of the local newspaper Sentinel, whom she has never met, will help her.

In Fairview, Lily meets newspaper editor Simon McCarthy and his daughter Jenny, who calls Gil "Grandpa Gil". Soon she meets a stunned Gil who feels guilt for allowing his wife to run off their pregnant daughter Camy when she needed them. He knows Camy died, but was unaware that she had the child, his granddaughter. He needs her to stay and she wants to as her mom only had kind words for her father. Meanwhile Simon fears she has come to take over the paper as he understands how thick blood can be. Still he is attracted to the pregnant woman who might replace him as the editor after she gives birth.

This is a wonderful family drama with likable characters as Gil and Lily get second chances. Simon and Lily are a terrific pairing and love for each other and for Gil brings them together. Although a subplot involving Derek's vengeful upper crust mother using blackmail seems over the top especially the extortion gamut, fans will enjoy this fine homecoming romance.

Baby, I'm Yours
Carrie Weaver
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373782215, $6.25

Becca Smith is stunned when her spouse Gabe dies without any warning. Following his funeral the grieving Becca turns to Gabe's business partner, Rick Jensen, also in mourning, for comfort. Although he knows he must not out of respect for his and best friend Gabe he cannot resist offering her sympathy starting with a hug that soon leads to them making love.

Several weeks later, Becca knows she is pregnant, but is unsure whether the late Gabe is the father or Rick. She tells Rick, who wants to be there for the baby regardless of whose DNA is part of the child's make-up. As he and Becca try to forge a relationship, both remain haunted by guilt and grief.

Although the sex after the funeral seems a disrespectful stretch, fans will appreciate this interesting contemporary tale of grief, guilt, and relationships. Becca is a fascinating lead character as she goes through the grief process compounded by her guilt over having sex with Rick. He is the more fascinating protagonist as he wants to raise the child with the woman he loves, but feels obligated by guilt to assume the baby is Gabe's even if it really is his. Readers will appreciate this deep look at two people struggling with what is the right thing for everyone but themselves as they each feels they are the least deserving.

Klondike Fever
Kate Bridges
Harlequin Historical
9780373294916, $5.99

In 1898, Miss Lilybeth "Klondike Lily" Cromwell rides a coach in the Yukon Wilderness on her way to Alaska to find her missing sister Amanda. The wealthiest female in the territory due to gold, the former servant would return to servile work and give up all the gold she possesses if she could find Amanda safe. Also on the coach is undercover Mountie Dylan Wayburn, who is using the guise of a drifter to investigate coach robberies. He and Lily not only know each other, they concealed their love for one another.

The Maddock gang stops the coach and chains together all the prisoners as they know who Lily is. They steal her gold leaving them to die from wild animals or the even wilder climate. However, the pair survives and team up pretending to be married in their quest to rescue Amanda, retrieve Lily's gold, and end the robberies. During their ordeal, neither can hide their love any longer.

No one brings vividly to life late nineteenth century Canada better than Kate Bridges consistently does with her Mountie historical romances (see KLONDIKE FEVER). The story line is fast-paced from the moment that the coach is robbed and Dylan and Lily are chained together and never slows down until the final confrontation. Lily is terrific as she knows she would give up the gold for her loved ones while Dylan wonders how to prove to his wealthy beloved that he loved her when she was a servant. As always this talented author provides a bridge to bygone era.

Going Down to Georgia
Ann DeFee
Harlequin American
9780373752065, $4.99

Widow Grammy Liza Henderson runs around her hometown of Magnolia Bluffs, Georgia doing errands for her daughter Cassie. Liza loves her daughter, two preadolescent step-grandsons and likes her son-in-law who is half between her age and that of her only child. She detests running errands especially when she is stuck in traffic or involved in an accident that has her buried in a sea of green kudzu. She is running late on her key chore besides buying size six boys shoes and picking up former California police officer turned land developer Zack Maynard.

Zack is in town helping his brother, but is attracted to Liza from the moment they met; he is unaware of the family connection between them. However, he soon wears his former cop hat as someone has threatened Liza and several break-ins make the menace real. As he tries to keep her safe, Liza and Zack fall in love.

This is an entertaining regional romantic suspense that star likable lead protagonists and stereotypical eccentric southern support characters. Liza is a steel magnolia while Zack goes from California titanium to melted metal. Although the mystery of Liza's missing spouse assumed dead is to simplistically resolved, which takes away from an overall fine plot, fans who appreciate GOING DOWN TO GEORGIA for a visit will want to read Ann DeFee's fine contemporary.

The Gentleman Rancher
Cathy Gillen Thacker
Harlequin American
9780373752058, $4.99

Jeremy Carrigan and Taylor O'Quinn attended medical school together until she abruptly quit to become a writer. She left their Texas home for the East to fulfill her dream. He became a doctor while she wrote chick lit novels.

Taylor's book is being turned into a movie by publicity hounds Zak and Zoe. To escape them and the press, a bone weary Taylor flees for her hometown Laramie, Texas where Jeremy owns a ranch. The Z squad pursues her. Once home, Taylor realizes that she still loves Jeremy who apparently prefers a friendship with her. She needs to decide whether she can handle being a pal or the media seekers even as Jeremy wonders if he can persuade his beloved author she can write novels on their ranch.

The latest Carrigan tale (see THE RANCHER NEXT DOOR and THE RANCHER' FAMILY THANKSGIVING) is a zany Texas romance somewhat caused by the maniacal Z squared pair. However, the plot belongs to the chick lit author and her beloved as they prove you can keep them down on the ranch after they've seen New York with love and a large dose of honest communication.

Fully Engaged
Abby Gaines
Harlequin NASCAR
9780373217878, $5.99

Public Relations Specialist Sandra Jacobs struggles to satisfy her unimpressable client, Gideon Taney, owner of Taney Motorsports as she needs this job, but so far nothing has worked. When his NASCAR driver Will Branch fails to arrive at Olivia Winton Show where he was to be the guest of honor, three cups of coffee does not abate the trepidations she feels when Taney arrives. Someone must take the fall for this embarrassing debacle on the top breakfast morning TV show so Taney fires Jacobs.

Sandra knows how much she needs this client to pay for her father's Alzheimer's medical care so she refuses to slink away. Besides she feels strongly she did everything right as she had worked hard to obtain this coup; it was not her fault that Will pulled his DNF (did not finish). As she struggles to stay afloat, bossy Gideon is impressed with her fortitude, which soon turns to love.

Readers will be FULLY ENGAGED with this fine NASCAR romance due to the strong relationships between the lead couple and within her family. The actual strength of the tale is the contrast between the seriousness of her father's mental fading away vs. the humor of the relationship between the Motor Medias Group member and her client. Abby Gaines provides a wonderful mostly off track romance.

The Devil's Footprint
Amanda Stevens
9780778325307, $6.99

The cloven footprints first appeared in Adamanet, Alabama in 1922 during a freak snowstorm; nothing further was found. Seven decades later, the battered mutilated corpse of seventeen years old Rachel DeLaune is found in the same area with those same devil's footprints nearby. Her younger sister Sarah meets Ashe Cain who she thinks killed her sibling, but no one else believes he exists.

Twenty-seven years old Sarah continues to be disturbed by her sister's death fourteen years ago. Currently she works as a tattoo artist in New Orleans, which has had its worst storm since Katrina. Her father never recovered from Rachel's brutal murder and ignored his other daughter who needed him; now he is dying. Her former lover, New Orleans Detective Sean Kelton is married to Cat. She feels like she was when she was thirteen and needed a friend only back then to have Ashe appear out of nowhere and vanish into nowhere. Now two mutilated corpses are found near her home with those same telltale cloven footprints. Sam leads the homicide investigation; he asks Sarah to interpret strange etchings on the bodies. She immediately thinks of Ashe and wonders if he is coming for her.

THE DEVIL'S FOOTPRINT is an exciting action-packed suspense thriller that grips the reader from the moment the footprints first appear on page one and never vanishes until the final confrontation. The fast-paced story line hooks readers who ponder whether this is a horror tale, psychological suspense, or some sort of combination as Amanda Stevens keeps the tension stratospherically high throughout. Keep the lights on as this one will reach your gut.

Last Wolf Standing
Rhyannon Byrn
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373617821, $5.25

In Maryland half breed Mason Dillinger and his partner Jason Burns work as Bloodrunners pursuing renegade werewolves who have killed to insure these predators never murder again. While on the hunt for a particular nasty serial killing werewolf, the half-lycan half-human is stunned and extremely unhappy when he smells his soulmate in the crowded The Coffee and Croissant, Torrance Watson. He always pictured falling in love on a full moonlight night not while on a pursuit, but he needs to meet her so he trips her.

However, Mason also knows that his prey will use Torrance as a weapon against him. He must keep his beloved safe, persuade her they are fated for one another, and ultimately bring down the deadly werewolf.

This is an exciting paranormal romantic suspense thriller with police procedural elements. The action is non-stop but the cast makes the tale work especially the relationship between Tory and Mason. The support cast, his partner, her best friend and boss Michaela Doucet, and the killer add to the belief that werewolves exist while also establishing the basic physics and culture of the new Bloodrunners series. Sub-genre fans will relish Rhyannon Byrn's opening act.

Without a Trace
Sandra K. Moore
Silhouette Athena Force
9780373389797, $5.50

Delphi, whom she has never met, warned the Athena Academy for the Advancement of Women graduates that Arachne was kidnapping alumni. One of them Coast Guard Lieutenant Nikki Bustillo heeds the warning alertly watching her crewmates just in case. She loves her job working drug interdiction as she has the DNA enhanced ability to "smell trouble in a man's sweat".

After stopping a shrimp boat containing harshly treated refugees trying to sneak into the States, Nikki receives an encrypted message from Athena's Delphi. She checks with her friend Two-Finger Jimmy who provides her information on a ship owned by S.H.A. leaving Miami for Hong Kong allegedly carrying textiles. Nikki believes they are carting human cargo. She heads to Hong Kong where she works with local police detective Johnny Zhao. However, as they find themselves in deep trouble from a powerful adversary with international criminal connections, they are attracted to one another, but Nikki wants his respect while Johnny needs her safe after his previous contact was murdered.

The latest Athena Academy alumni adventure is a superb romantic suspense thriller that focuses on human trafficking. The story line is fast-paced and the lead couple a strong pairing who understands mission supersedes love. Although I am bias when it comes to this consistently entertaining series, newcomers will see why as Sandra K. Moore provides a great entry in a strong saga.

Beast of Desire
Lisa Renee Jones
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373617838, $5.25

A Knight of the White, Des is a bit surprised with his current assignment. He searches for an ancient tome The Journal of Solomon that contains a map that will lead to a treasure chest filled with the names of those whose ancient lineage were angels; normally Des is a warrior in direct fight against the evil of the Darkland Beasts in their millennia old civil war for species control. Knowing he will need help to locate the sacred journal Des turns to the Dallas World Museum curator Jessica Montgomery for help in finding the treasure before the enemy obtains it.

Her mother ignored her and her family in a futile lifetime quest to find the ancient journal. She wants to tell him to forget it as it is not worth the time, but Jessica is attracted to the enigmatic Des so decides to assist him on his quest to learn why he is interested in this tome and how he knew she was the right staff person to enlist. As they fall in love, he knows he is just a beast with a soul that could turn dark at any moment and thus unworthy of the angelic daughter of a senator.

The latest Knights of White tale (see THE BEAST WITHIN) is a terrific romantic fantasy starring two courageous heroes falling in love while on a dangerous quest with their enemies in hot pursuit as both studies understand what The Journal of Solomon means. The story line is fast-paced and filled with non-stop action as the danger mounts so does the attraction. Readers will appreciate Lisa Renee Jones' latest thriller.

All Eyes On Her
Poonam Sharma
Red Dress Ink (harlequin)
9780373895519, $13.95

At Steel Associates in Beverly Hills, associate divorce attorney Monica is depressed. Not so much because her fiance is away though she misses him; or because backstabbing peer Stefanie plots to sleazily steal the promotion that Monica feels she has earned; nor just her workload involving celebrity marriages. Instead her despondency is the news that mom is moving back to town.

Monica knows she and her mom may love one another, but need different continents for a serene relationship. To stop the rat at the office Monica puts in longer hours not easy to do when you are already on 24/7. However, in spite of her effort to save the celebrity couple marriage of "Camydia" she fails at her mission learning that the truth will set you free from marital entanglements; her attempt to save the in couple leads to her appearance on TV while a former lover wants to start a second set with her.

ALL EYES ON HER is a fascinating chick lit tale that focuses on female to the death rivalries. Interestingly there are eight associates competing for two promotions with six of them males; yet the competition as Monica sees it is fair play vs. the men but a cat fight against her only female opponent because she knows Stefanie cheats to get ahead. Besides the office cut-throat competition, there is also a relationship contest in which two females seemingly battle to the death over a hunk. Rather unique and quite amusing (just who are these celebrities modeled after?), fans will have all eyes on Poonam Sharma for more Hollywood tales; chick lit style.

Plenty Good Room
Cheri Paris Edwards
Walk Worthy
9780446699372, $13.99

In Springfield, Illinois caring professional Tamara Britton works diligently at her job in the Child Protective Unit's Stabilization Section of Care for Kids Agency. However, she hides from her friends, peers and clients her desire to learn about her own roots behind a facade of control. Her world is nuked when her friend field worker Lynnette Moore asks her to take in fourteen year old runaway Miss Sienna "mouthy" Larson.

The out of control teen misbehaves constantly leaving Tamara with a big headache as to what to do with the recalcitrant sassy "Little Miss Thang". She also finds the "housepitality" border gets Tamara to finally look into her own past as the kid has hammered at her protective barrier forcing the anger and discontent of the adult to surface. Tamara is at a crossroads of letting go or rebuilding her battlement.

This is a strong look at the dangerous life of a teen runaway as Sienna steals the show with her mouth that never rests although Tamara is the fully developed star. The story line is driven by their relationship but changing perspectives jolts the plot. Still readers will enjoy this fine inspirational tale as Sienna in her street sass style teaches Tamara that caring for someone else and oneself is not only okay but encouraged by the Lord.

Mystery Of Everyman's Way
Paul Collins
eTreasures Publishing
PO Box 71813, Newnan, GA 30271
9781605301181, $4.00

Professor Gregory Henry Case teaches quantum physics at Oxford University. Although the Expatriate American lives in London with his brilliant American girlfriend Caroline who one day he assumes he will marry, his life is conventional English style. However, that changes when he finds a corpse; but by the time authorities arrive the body is gone. After getting drunk and coming home late, his irate girlfriend leaves him.

Soon afterward, the corpse reappears. This time authorities check it for dental records to identify the cadaver. The name of the victim is Gregory H. Case as the body matches the quantum physicist professor in every way. Soon after meeting his dead self, space travelers abduct the living Case. They take him into another dimension where he meets archivist Father Thomas Toomey who informs his visitor that he about to embark on a key mission. Case believes he is the loser as the woman he has just seen and knows he loves is marrying King David and all Gregory can do is watch from his holographic existence.

MYSTERY OF EVERYMAN'S WAY starts off as if it is going to be a wild amateur sleuth murder mystery in which the hero investigates who his murderer is. However, the story line twists into science fiction and seemingly unrequited love. Although the spin from whodunit to sci fi seems a bit jarring as the Twilight Zone like murder mystery has hooked the audience; however once readers adapt to the twist, they will fully appreciate the cosmic escapades of an everyman turning into a heroic Knight.

The Voice
Bill Myers
FaithWords/Hatchette Publishing Group
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446697996, $13.99, 1-800-759-0190

In California former Special Forces Agent Charlie Madison suffers from post stress disorder syndrome, which has left him somewhat reclusive. Still he owns and manages a music store as he has to eat. Out of nowhere his thirteen years old deaf niece Jazmin Lutzer rushes into the store insisting men carrying guns are chasing her; someone claiming to be FBI Agent Bolar follows her into the store. Charlie fails to recognize his sister's daughter, but once he realizes the overall scenario, he manages to get her to safety with him only.

Charlie learns from Jazmin that her parents have been abducted as they and she developed the "Program", a voiceprint methodology that captures God's voice. Fanatics from the three major one God religions all want the recording that demonstrates miraculously healing power though it fails to enable Jazmin to hear; these lunatics compete with each other and are willing to kill to obtain the Program. FBI agent Lisa Harmon join the uncle and his niece as they flee to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East trying to keep the Program out of the hands of those who would abuse it in the name of God in order to gain power and suppress others while seeking Jazmin's parents.

THE VOICE is an interesting inspirational suspense thriller. It takes time to comprehend what is going on as there is too much action at the onset so that bewildered readers along with the reluctant hero have no idea what is happening. Still once the story line settles down even with a zillion chase scenes to follow, fans obtain a fascinating concept; that of capturing God's voice with modern technology while economic, governmental and religious powers want to control this healing commodity worth a fortune to the owner.

Par for the Course
Ray Blackston
FaithWords (Hachette)
9780446178150, $13.99

In Charleston, South Carolina, Chris Hackett owns Hackett's Golf Learning Center. His clients like him, but in spite of his skills on the links and his friendliness with people, he admits to himself that when it comes to scoring with women he has hit "a series of relational double bogeys".

One of his students, thirtyish Molly Cusack comes up with a gimmick to increase his customer base by having them swing their clubs so that they can "whack a liberal" or "whack a conservative", depending on their preference. As Chris finds his course is the in place for political hooks and shanks, he begins to have ethical concerns that golf should not become the new arena for improper partisan politicizing.

As is PAR FOR THE COURSE when it comes to a Ray Blackston amusing satire, a triple bogey hits the FLABBERGASTED star as he learns politics and golf don't mix very well. The prime story line on the Hack's Golf Learning Center Course works very well as the laughs keep on coming. However, some subplots feel as if they landed in a sand trap and are forced onto the green of the main theme. Still Mr. Blackston provides a jocular sports romance in which love, golf, and partisan politics make par.

What Was Lost
Catherine O'Flynn
Henry Holt & Company
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
9780805088335, $14.00, 1-888-330-8477

In 1984 in the Birmingham, England area, ten years old orphan Kate Meaney, accompanied by her sidekick a stitched stuffed monkey pretends to be a private investigator. The preadolescent especially keeps an eye out for criminal activity in Green Oaks shopping center near her home. When she is not sleuthing, Kate spends time at the sweetshop next door to her home discussing music with twenty-two tears old Adrian, the son of the owner. Her grandmother who raises Kate directs her to take an exam to gain entrance to a boarding school. Adrian takes her there, but no one sees Kate again. The police suspect Adrian of murder as they cannot comprehend a friendship between the tweener and the adult, but have no evidence to prove their case. However, the neighborhood condemns Adrian forcing him to move away.

Two decades later on a CCTV monitor Green Oaks night shift security guard Kurt Jump notices a girl wandering seemingly lost holding a stuffed monkey. He rushes over to where he saw her, but no one is there. Not long after that Kurt mentions the girl with the monkey to Your Music store manager Lisa, Adrian's sister. They begin a search for the girl as Lisa hopes to solve the disappearance of Kate that destroyed her family especially her forced exiled brother.

WHAT WAS LOST is a superb thriller that uses a mall, especially what happens outside the shops, as a terrific backdrop to a fascinating mystery. In many ways Green Oaks is a major character as the audience learns its economic impact on a blue collar neighborhood in which factory workers are forced to accept shop jobs at extremely diminished income; a subtle slap at the gurus who insist the economy is strong as everyone is working. The atmosphere of the non-shops is a part of the mall that is dark and gloomy at least through the surveillance cameras. With the mall playing a key role and Lisa and Kurt jumping into the cold case seeking the truth, the bottom line is fans will need to know the answer to the title question.

Hollywood Crows
Joseph Wambaugh
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316025287, $26.99, 1-800-759-0190

LAPD cops Nathan "Hollywood Nate" Weiss and Bix Ramstead are assigned as the newest "Crows" to the department's Community Relations Office. Weiss stops beautiful Margot Aziz, who ran a stop sign without slowing down. Although he tries to remain impartial officer, she hooks his libido as she explains she is in the throes of an ugly divorce from Ali.

Margot seeks to trump her spouse, who owns a nightclub that is allowed to operate freely because of his financial donations to various police activities. Meanwhile Margot believes she has a cop in her corner in the gullible Hollywood Nate and his naive partner Bix. Her plan is simple use these morons to kill her husband in order to gain his wealth; but she is unaware of a just as lethal counter operation.

The suspense subplot as described above offers no surprises as it goes just the way the audience expects. Thus the interest in HOLLYWOOD CROWS lies with the various police officers trying to do their job under federal monitoring of LAPD. The cops seem genuine with their frustrations and wary of the various social experiments to help the force overcome the scandal that led to oversight. Fans of Joseph Wambaugh will enjoy the latest police procedural at the HOLLYWOOD STATION in spite of the prime suspense element is weak.

Mystery Writers of America Presents the Blue Religion: New Stories about Cops, Criminals, and the Chase
Edited by Michael Connolly
Little, Brown
9780316012515, $24.99

These entertaining nineteen tales focus on the police procedural theme. However, as Mr. Connolly explains in his introduction, for the most part the entries concentrate on the "world of the cop" as the stories "explore the burden of the badge" more so than investigative procedures. The contributions run the gamut with a strong historical by Polly Nelson to the return of Harry Bosch to a retired cop and his wife running into trouble (T. Jefferson Parker's "Skinhead Central). There are no clinkers yet the range is vast from a dark tale of a selected amnesiac ("Such a Lucky, Pretty Girl" by Persia Walker) to amusingly light (Jon Breen's "Serial Killer"). All are excellent, especially insightful is Paul Guyton's tense "What a Wonderful World" that proves a short story can contain fully developed characters; an apropos title along with Alafair Burke's "Winning" as this anthology is a wonderful look at individual members of the Blue Religion special congregation.

Renegade's Rose
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek Press
PO Box 51052, Casper, WY 82605-1052
9781603131346, $13.95,

In the paramedical hierarchy of ultra covert Network, Hunter Savage moved up rapidly to become the Head Team Leader that places him on 5th in Command Level 1 Operatives organization. Hunter's current assignment as mission coordinator is personal as well as tactical as the enemy killed the Network's best operative Roan Emory three years ago. The prime objective is to "retrieve" the insidious Black Pope, Rex Kovacs, which should devastate his Revolutionary Echelon Defenders (R.E.D.) Remote Command Center cell.

The mission fails due to last second personnel switches and Hunter's sister Celine is snatched. Feeling that he failed his late predecessor, his mentor and his sibling, Hunter goes undercover as a gardener at the Kovac Mexican estate. There to his chagrin he is attracted to the Black Pope's "Spanish Rose", former belly dancer turned terrorist wife Tanya. Still Hunter believes she is guilty of crimes of omission ignoring the destruction of her spouse to live in a rose garden. However, he revises his opinion as he begins to fall in love and he realizes she recognizes her spouse to be a SOB abusive fiend and was seeking a way out for her and their kids, who she believes her spouse will kill them without a remorseful thought.

The sixth Incognito romantic suspense thriller stars an obsessed hero struggling to prove his worth as he has misgivings about his skills and a desperate woman in peril whose qualms about his ability to save her and her children lead to increased self doubts. The action is front and center as the attraction takes a back seat to the failed mission and the aftermath to rescue Celine, bring Tanya and her children to safety, and take down the malevolent Black Pope. Fans of suspense thrillers will fully appreciate the latest Network escapades as Karen Wiesner takes a page from Maslow's Hierarchy as safety comes before love.

Have You Found Her?
Janice Erlbaum
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780812974577, $13.95, 1-800-726-0600

Twenty years ago, as a young teen, Janice Erlbaum lived for a while in a homeless shelter for teens (see A HALFWAY HOMELESS MEMOIR and GIRLBOMB, not reviewed by me). Overcoming the dope and returning home now in her thirties, she felt a deep need to give back what was given to her by that New York shelter: her life. Thus she volunteered her time where she would bring her bag of beads and related paraphernalia to teach those who remind her of her fourteen years old Janice how to make jewelry. There she meets nineteen years old junkie Samantha Dunleavy, who told her she traveled the country with her meth chef dad and junkie mom, and sold her body as needed. Janice became like a big sister to the intelligent "junkie savant" and was always there when Sam needed her especially when her protege had accidents. However over time Janice begins to realize Sam's saga was filled with incongruities as a twelve-years-old runaway from a drug traveling show should not be a trained classical pianist. Janice finally makes some inquiries into her beloved "ward" learning a shocking past.

This is a terrific memoir that focuses deep on a savior being saved from her obsession by an apparent schemer. Ms. Erlbaum provides a combination cautionary saga with a bit of real life sleuthing, but in many ways Samantha and the "Redhead" at the beginning of Ms. Erlbaum's adventure steal the show. Although well written and gut wrenching, the overarching issue of what society should do with runaway teens and tweens is never deeply explored; still Ms. Erlbaum makes a strong case that volunteering is good for the soul, but walk cautiously before you give away your heart as the author confesses when she was the runaway lying was her norm; while an alternate title considered for HAVE YOU FOUND HER? sums that up: "Sucker: A Love Story".

Michelle Lang
Dorchester Shomi
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780505527592, $6.99, 1-800-481-9191

Sheriff Talia Fortune is the prime owner of FortuneCorp. Her current assignment combines her law enforcement duties with her role as the head of the mega-corporation. She seeks her Netherwood cyber lover Kovner known as Avenger for his wanton destruction of technological gizmos on the colony Fresh Havens.

Talia enters the Netherwood cyberspace where she meets Kovner in a forest. She tells him she must arrest him, but he insists the Singularity has begun; artificial intelligent computers have superseded humanity as the prime species. If something is not done soon, mankind will become extinct. To succeed he and his band of merry outlaws need Talia on their side, but she hesitates as all he says contradicts all she knows about the Grid and reality.

NETHERWOOD combines The Matrix with Charlton Heston's sci fi end of the world flicks like Planet of the Apes and The Omega Man in a fine thriller. The story line is action-packed from the moment the heroine goes after her "terrorist" former lover and never slows down until the final confrontation. Fans will appreciate this exciting futuristic science fiction in which Fresh Haven and Netherwood seem real and the extinction plausible, but the lead couple never comes across as more than just comic book heroes trying to save a way of life (just who's is the question).

No Good Girls
Jean Marie Pierson
Love Spell
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780505527561, $6.99, 1-800-481-9191

Wannabe writer Geri knows a lot of things, but most important she hates but needs her job and believes with her heart that the man for her is out there, if she find the right atlas and a New York minute. Helping her cope is her roommate Emmy and their friends Maria and Sally; as these four musketeers lament together about a lack of good men in the city. Amongst their other moans and groans they are there for one another.

Geri thinks her luck must be changing as she has not stepped in anything in a few days and received a promotion although she stops to ponder the female equivalent to the Peter Principle as her boss wants someone to write a children's book on the Donner party thinking it must have been a fun affair. She is also dating, a miracle of sorts, except she fears her Todd's affection might be more the rebound effect as he just broke off with his girlfriend. Still as Geri writes and revises her list of what she knows beside Nittany Lion 1990s football (the'94 team should have been at least co-champs) Geri begins to understand she needs to look inside herself to determine what she wants in her one chance at life.

This is an entertaining chick lit tale starring an interesting young woman supported by her three friends, a hunk, a boss, and a tertiary cast of millions. Geri is a terrific protagonist as she heeds Sinatra's advice to make it in Manhattan, but when she thought of quitting Emmy, Maria and Sally pick her up and get her back in the rat race as "That's Life"; just like she does for them. Fans will enjoy her lament that there are no good men out there even as she understands those good men groan that there are NO GOOD GIRLS out there on a fourteen mile island where millions live and work.

News Blues
Marianne Macusi
Love Spell
9780505527493, $6.99

In San Diego twenty-seven year old investigative news producer Maddy Madison cannot believe she still works on fluff and puff at News 9; her goal since school has been to work real news at Newsline, but each day that passes means one more nail of stereotyping her as candy. Adding to her period of discontentment is that her divorced parents have new significant others and so there is no time for parenting, which means her teenage sister Lulu with a drug problem is Maddy's problem.

However, Maddy begins investigating a real story involving drug smuggling; not the usual attack of the "deadly dishwashers" and the sequel revenge of the "Deadly Dishwashers". She and engaged photographer Jamie Hayes work together to cover the drug smuggling story even as she egotistical anchor terrorist Terrence Toller drives her as batty as her father marrying a girl younger than her.

This entertaining satire of how the news is manufactured is at its best when it focuses on reporting and on Maddy's extended family interrelationships. Especially fascinating while enhancing the lampooning on how news is produced is when the TV station provides opinion and commentary on social issues, but makes it appear to be hard core news. Fans will enjoy this fun tale while also taking a closer look at what CNN, Fox, MSNBC and the networks, etc. claim is the news especially whose advertising dollars pay for the broadcast.

Ray Garton
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843958201, $7.99, 1-800-481-9191

Big Rock, California is a small quiet town where violent crime never occurs as everyone knows everyone else. However, that was before; now Sheriff Hurley struggles with a apprehending a serial rapist whose last victim works in his office. He feels overwhelmed but keeps searching for clues.

Fargo arrives in Big Rock claiming to be a werewolf hunter and that the town is infested with them, Hurley has enough on his plate with the rapist so he ignores the lunatic's ramblings although he keeps an eye on him. However, Hurley reassesses his belief when reports of assaults by large animals begin and torn up mutilated bodies surface.

Ray Garton turns lycanthropy into a sexually transmitted disease; thus a vicious epidemic cycle occurs in which those victims who survive the sexual assault become unrepentant nasty RAVENOUS werewolves on the prowl needing to rape someone. With a nod to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs the werewolves are motivated by Physiological Needs making them seem real and more terrifying. Hurley is terrific as the beleaguered small-town sheriff initially struggling to accept the evidence, but it is the widening werewolf epidemic that turns this into a fabulous horror thriller.

Random Victim
Michael A. Black
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843959864, $7.99, 1-800-481-9191

After insulting a judge who deserved it, Cook County Sheriff's Department Sergeant Francisco "Frank" Leal, still healing from a gunshot wound and the death of his partner, is assigned to a special task force investigating the cold case murder of Miriam Walker. The victim was a judge and prevention of family violence advocate when she vanished; her corpse was found months later inside a trunk. Lieutenant Brice and Sergeant Murphy led the inquiry, but made no headway as they focused on her missing car.

Also on the task force formed by Sheriff O'Hara to silence his election rival Shay are Sergeant Tom Ryan and rookies Joe Smith and Olivia Hart, a perfectly diverse group in time for an election. Brice once again oversees the investigation, but insists on looking at chop shops like he did months ago. Ryan is in charge of the daily operation while he teams with African-American Smith and bodybuilder Olivia joins with Frank. Evidence points to the victim's spouse financial business guru Martin in spite of his airtight alibi; so ignoring Brice and Ryan Frank and Ollie put pressure on him. Fearing he will crack, his chess strategist secret partner arranges for Martin's silence.

This is an exhilarating police procedural in which the sheriff needs a task force to shut up his opponent while the brass puts roadblocks to the inquiry. The cast is strong as each of the five prime cops has differing personalities. With several fascinating twists and a romance (not between the police partners) that enhances the tale without slowing it down, sub-genre fans will enjoy Michael A. Black's superb Chicago investigative thriller and seek his kickboxing sleuth Ron Shade's entertaining Windy City private investigations.

Fires Rising
Michael Laimo
9780843960648, $7.99

Father Pilazzo oversees the renovation of the once abandoned church. He dreams of the flock returning and the ancient church regaining the respect it once had. As the workers tear up the floor, they find a pit underneath; inside this man-made excavation is a long forgotten buried wooden crate. The workers excited by their find open the box.

None knew what they have unleashed on humanity. The demon interred is free causing havoc as it leaves a trail of death with every person the monster touches. Father Pilazzo blames himself for liberating the demonic killer as his sin of pride led to his ignoring his nightmares that warned him to stop the repairs. He knows he must end the abomination even if it means he spends eternity in hell for releasing this evil on the innocent.

Although the releasing of an incarcerated buried demon has been done many times in movies and books, Michael Laimo provides an entertaining horror thriller. The demon never rests once liberated while Father Pilazzo is filled with guilt that he knows he will take to the afterlife with him, but also feels accountable as he plans to take the evil one with him even if it means being stuck in hell with this malevolence for eternity. Readers will enjoy this good and evil confrontation as the innocent become casualties.

Savage Flames
Cassie Edwards
9780843958775, $7.99

In 1851 in Florida Lavinia Price lives a perfect life with a loving adoring husband who she thinks the world of and a wonderful daughter. Their plantation home is beautiful and shows their affluence without being gaudy.

One day, Lavinia notices a white cat in a tree on their plantation; before she can blink the feline seems to change into a green-eyed Indian; and before a second blink she sees an empty tree. She has no time to be shook by what she saw because immediately afterward her beloved husband is killed. Her brother-in-law Hiram coveted what his late sibling had, the plantation and Lavinia; he schemes to force the grieving widow into marrying him. However when her daughter vanishes into the nearby Everglades, Lavinia follows. Meanwhile the green-eyed Seminole who watched her from her tree quietly and safely guides the two female Prices to his people's legendary but secret camp on Mystic Island. Lavinia falls in love with this majestic warrior and his tribe while Hiram, using the soldiers who are forcing Indians onto the reservations, sets out to make her his whether she wants that or not.

As is typical of the Cassie Edwards' Indian romances a brave morally upright white female, an ethically courageous Indian male and an evil white male form the classic Edwards' triangle. However, also as always with a Ms. Edwards' historical, SAVAGE FLAMES is an entertaining tale that shines a light on a Seminole tribe refusing to live on a reservation; opting instead to hide and reside in the swamps. Once again Ms. Edwards provides her fans with a delightful nineteenth century story.

The Sinai Secret
Gregg Loomis
9780843960426, $7.99

The president of the United States is awakened in the middle of the night to meet with his top security advisors in the bunker because Iran fired nuclear missiles at Israel. However, as the missiles seemingly just vanish into thin air, the Israeli President calls his American counterpart to tell him not to worry and go back to sleep as he has no need to retaliate. The US president and his staff struggle with what happened.

Meanwhile Dutch scientist Dr. Yadish is visiting Bruges, Belgium when he is murdered just before another scientist Dr. Lewis is killed in Atlanta. The two have in common research into alternatives to fossil fuel funded by a foundation run by Lang Reilly. Trying to understand what is going on, Lang flies charter to Amsterdam, but is cleverly abducted at the airport. He escapes even as his kidnappers try to kill him. He continues to investigate with clues taking him to Tel Aviv as he finds another link involving a biblical era parchment that has people willing to kill to hide what has been unearthed.

The third Lang Reilly international thriller (see THE PEGASUS SECRET and THE JULIAN SECRET) is an action-packed tale that hooks readers from the moment the Americans realize the Israelis have some secret weapon that they imply comes from God. Although Reilly is too good at Houdini like escapes although they are exhilaratingly entertaining, readers will admire his dedication as he risks his life to uncover the truth and to prevent anymore of his grant scientists from being murdered. Thriller fans will appreciate Greg Loomis as it is no secret that he provides breathtaking novels.

The Golden Cord
Paul Genesse
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594146596, $25.95, 1-800-223-1244

Wyverns, griffins, and dragons are devastating the villages killing many people because they see humans as food. They also want to control Ae'leron making it free of dwarves and humans. Humans live in hidden villages as they conceal themselves from the Wyvern-kin attacks from above and the ground assaults of the Drobin Empire army that takes them as slaves.

The hamlet of Cliffton is in the middle of Thornclaw Forest near the Void, the cloud cover that does not allow anyone to look into the Underworld. Drake Bloodstone does not do much hunting unlike the rest of the men; instead he and his canine pals stay behind to guard his people and his home from outside threats. When two Drobin warriors come to the gate, Drake lets them in and learns they are seeking their kin who settled in the nearby town of Armsted in the mine of Quarzaak. They need a guide to escort them through the forest; Drake agrees to take them although he believes they hide their true objectives and intentions because he wants them away from his village and because it is the right thing to do.

THE GOLDEN CORD is epic quest fantasy in the tradition of Tolkien as the first Iron Dragon tale is an enthralling thriller filled with monsters out of the myths devouring humanity. Because of the danger from the sky and the ground, society has been forced to remain in small agricultural packets of hunters, crop growers, and gatherers. There is plenty of action, but it is the ever dangerous Genesse world that makes this a fascinating opening gamut.

A Novel Way to Die
Karen Hanson Stuyck
Five Star Books
9781594146329, $25.95

Helen Lewis calls University of Texas at Houston Criminology Professor Molly Patterson to say that her renowned mother, mystery writer Katherine Marsh dies from an apparent heart attack. Though not close to her mom, Molly is sad. She, her estranged husband Alex, and their two preadolescent children Annie and Will travel to Austin to arrange the funeral.

Tests by pathologist Dr. Lester prove that Katherine died from an overdose of Stelezine, an anxiety drug she was using while coping with ovarian cancer. Molly refuses to believe that her mother would take the drug as she rejected aspirin or that her mother would ever taken her life without taking care of her affairs as she was the queen of task management. However, her mom did provide generous Christmas presents as if she knew her time was short. She soon believes wannabe writer Suzanne Lang killed her mother, but all the evidence is in the final copy of her mom's last book, "The Summer That Changed Everything" although the version Molly finds is an earlier one containing the wrong ending.

A NOVEL WAY TO DIE is an interesting whodunit wrapped inside a deep family drama. Whereas Molly believes murder occurred as she knew her mom well, everyone else thinks suicide. With a plausible final twist, fans will appreciate the criminologist professor investigating the death of her mother, a best-selling mystery author.

Virgins and Martyrs
E. L. Merkel
Five Star Books
9781594146350, $25.95

In Spanish Bay, Florida, a powerful bomb devastates a family planning clinic that provides abortions; two are dead. At the moment local detective Beaulieu leads the investigation at least until the FBI arrives. He is proud that he found a second bomb in a car before that could explode. However, he miscalculates the cunning of the terrorist as a third bomb ignites killing police detective Tara Kinsey and severely injuring her partner Aria Quynn.

The police and FBI suspect sniper Bobby Teasdale who admits on the Centurions of the Lord website that he is hunting twenty-seven abortion-providers in northwest Florida. However, Federal prosecutor Howard Zhang-mei and FBI agent Moira Osterholm encourage Aria to investigate who killed her partner. After an ugly incident with TV reporter Jack Reason at Tara's funeral, they team up following clues that take them to thirteen year old Maddie Shepard who has had stomata cuts and godly visions that lead back to the Centurions.

VIRGINS AND MARTYRS may star a cop, but is more an urban noir than a police procedural. Aria is terrific as she faces down men and women including verbally pounding Jack and "bi*ch slapping a big ex-con as she understands no man will report police brutality against a female cop who physically over-powered them. With a great final spin that ties up the loose ends, fans will enjoy tough ass Aria's unofficial investigation into who killed her partner.

The Perfect Man
Kristine Dexter
Five Star Books
9781594146800, $25.95

Her Portland, Oregon police partner Lou Rassouli reminds Detective Natasha "Tasha" Morgan that she has a family event to attend at the Harborside Yacht Club. Tasha would prefer to continue literally digging through the garbage for clues that would prove Damon Pfeiffer killed his sibling. Instead she rushes home to change into formal wear for the pre-wedding dinner. Just outside she meets Rick Chance who has just moved back home from Chicago; his older nephew Gerald is marrying Tasha's cousin Brooke.

Rick and Tasha are attracted to one another, but he has a major problem to deal with. The Creep has followed him from Chicago leaving his calling card, an expensive basket of perfumed soaps and oils addressed to Jess. The unknown stalker believes Rick has locked away his wife romance author Jessamyn Chance. As Rick and Tasha fall in love, the obsessed for Jess Creep increases the assaults on Chance.

The irony of THE PERFECT MAN is that the reader knows Herbert Beebe is the Creep while the lead couple does not and the secret of Jess that Beebe does not. The police procedural romance is a fun tale as everyone warns the heroine to stay away from the black sheep, but besides her heart wanting him she has the Creep case to work. Fans will appreciate this romantic mystery with ironic twists starting with garbage patrol.

Hangman's Corner
Peter King
Five Star Books
9781594146459, $25.95

In 1870 Ned Parker makes a living driving a hansom cab in London. However, Ned is a bit shook when he learns that a recent fare was found dead in the Thames; the victim was under police scrutiny as a prime suspect in a church robbery.

Needing help to crack both the theft and the murder cases, London Police Detective Rollo "Jacko" Jackson asks Ned to assist him just like his late father used to help him on investigations. Ned is reluctant to get involved with a copper's inquiry until a driving pal Herbert Summers is arrested for the homicide based on flimsy evidence. Motivated to prove his associate is innocent, Ned turns to other drivers for assistance even as he follows clues that drive him around the city.

The cast especially the eccentric drivers that readers meet out of the 6000 working London make for an entertaining Victorian mystery. Ned is terrific as the focus of the gallows humorous story line. Although the overall plot seems implausible, no one except nit picking reviewers will care as HANGMAN'S CORNER is a fun historical that brings 1870 London to life (and death) through zany characterizations.

The Piara's Legacy
Scott Gamboe
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
9781933836256, $7.95,

Led by the Necromancer Volnor, a legion of the dead invaded the three countries that make up the continent of Pelacia. They killed everyone in sight ravaging the land in a blighted earth policy. Previous rivalries are put aside and the trio of nations united; they successfully repel the enemy horde forcing Volnor and his minion to take refuge in Desert of Malator.

Over time that great saviors' war became part of the ancient mythos with nobody believing that a malevolent soulless one raised the undead into an army as there are more pragmatic concerns for those residing on the continent today. In that environs Elac the Elf makes a living as a merchant with no thoughts on legends. However, renegade Kobold marauders attack his caravan leaving him fleeing for his life. Rilen the Elven warrior rescues Elac who joins him on his journey to Unity where the former hopes to gain support while calling the alarm that Volnor is back. No one except Elac and a hand full of travelers heeds his warning; so that the only hope resides within the soul of the merchant who, if he can figure out what it means in today's context, has ties to the last successful repelling of Volnor and his evil.

This is an exhilarating fantasy due to the two elves, Rilen and Elac, and the threat of Volnor, deftly handled to increase the suspense. Rilen is like a Jeremiah ignored by the leaders who scoff at the return of a mythological necromancer. However Elac is the more fascinating character as he is a successful businessman who suddenly is thrust at the head of a save the world quest in a sort of coming of age way. Fans will appreciate Scott Gamboe's fine fantasy and seek his previous science fiction thriller, THE KILLING FROST.

Fortune's Kiss
Lisa Manuel
9781933836355, $7.95

Her beloved stepfather Everett Foster always promised Moira Hughes and her mom (his widow) that he has insured they will be provided for in the event of his death. Moira understands that the brunt of the estate must by law go to his heir. However to her chagrin the codicil to his will, if it was ever written, is missing not filed with the will in the Prerogative Court in Canterbury; soon afterward the solicitor Mr. Smythe of Smythe and Davis, Legal Consultants is dead.

Desperate to find it, Moira accepts work as a maid at Monteith Hall, the house she once lived in as a lady, so that she can search for the codicil. Meanwhile the heir Egyptologist Graham Foster returns to England, a place he left years ago in scandal, accompanied by his African Sun Spider. He finds his wastrel family pretending to welcome him while unable to hide how they want this usurper back in Egypt so they can spend his estate's assets without care or control. However, he is attracted to Moira, who reluctantly tells him her story. Being an adventurer and in love, he helps her investigate her late stepfather's life and helps her search for the missing codicil.

This is an amusing engaging historical romance starring two likable heroes and a zany out of control support cast. The story line is fast-paced and though a nineteenth century tale with its obvious period piece moorings, in some ways the structure of the plot feels more like a 1930s madcap romantic suspense comedy. Fans will enjoy Graham's efforts to prove to Moira that men like Everett and himself don't stray from love.

Into the Mist
Elizabeth Sinclair
9781933836423, $7.95

The blizzard is crippling as the woman struggles to survive it while she wanders aimlessly the streets of Tarrytown, New York until some strangers tell her that her name is Carrie and she needs to come with them. With no place to go and a chance to get out of cold, she accompanies them to the misty village of Renaissance where they insist her memory will return.

Weaver Clara Webb takes in the lost soul, who begins to recall tidbits of the blood all over the library on Christmas Eve. Dr. Frank Donovan, who learned of the village from his friend Dr. Steven Cameron (see MIRACLE IN THE MIST), is attracted to her, but the widower has two ghosts from his past that haunt him so he refuses to act on his feelings out of fear of hurting another human again. However, Carrie has brought him back to the living and Frank does likewise with her.

The obvious link to Brigadoon aside, the second Mists romantic fantasy is a fascinating entry as the lead duet has demons in their respective souls to overcome before they can consider their feelings for one another. Early on the story line sets the table for an exciting strong plot, but the audience needs to give Elizabeth Sinclair's tale time to tie the seemingly disentangled divergent subplots together; it is worth it as love and hope for the future complete with grief and fear of the past.

Playing in the Dark
David Rivera, Jr.
c/o Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781593091811, $13.00,

His brothers all failed and had to leave Sodom as part of their bet. Bereft believes he learned from their mistakes and now knows how to tempt Lot so he falls from grace in spite of this man's goodness. He sexually toys with Lot's two daughters, believing they will provide insight into winning his wager. However, before he can complete his quest, the Angels of God attack the city leaving him buried in its ruins.

Thousands of years later, NYPD Detective Chemah Rivers accompanies his live in lover Michelle Thomas to Israel where she will receive controversial treatment not allowed in the States that might enable her to regain her vision. The blind stand up comedienne has hopes and fears while Chemah worries about her, his daughter Tatsuya from his ex-wife and his son Hero from a third woman. Local police inspector Yankow asks Chemah to look at five corpses arranged like an upside down cross with the rest of the evidence making less sense as a clothes model is killed with her bare hands and a deadly military martial arts instructor is a victim as well. He offers his help before returning to New York with Michelle, who needs additional treatments. Chemah is unaware that Bereft has returned and stalks him as the demon sees a Lot like Goodness in the cop. As people die on the plane and in the city, someone looking like his former wife kidnaps his daughter.

The third Chemah Rivers suspense thriller (see HARLEM'S DRAGON and STREET SWEEPER; neither read by me) is a fascinating tale that deftly takes a biblical serial killing demon and places it inside a modern day New York police procedural. Chemah is fabulous as he struggles to be there for Michelle whose fears over seeing and not seeing begin to overwhelm their relationship until the bigger crisis involving his daughter occurs. However, Bereft owns the tale as he hops bodies with a touch and leaves his calling card of arranged broken bones behind in his path of mayhem and destruction.

A World Too Near
Kay Kenyon
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781591026426, $25.00, 1-800-421-0351

The Tarig constructed the concentric circles Fortress Ahnenhoon to protect the engine that uses the Rose universe as its prime power source to provide energy to sustain the Entire universe. In the Rose universe, sentient beings on planet earth realize the power draining caused by the Ahnenhoon will suck life out of this universe.

Pilot Titus Quinn knows the only way to save earth's universe is to destroy the Ahnenhoon engine although that could result in destroying the rival universe where his wife and daughter reside. However, scientist Helice Maki insists humanity cannot trust Quinn to do his job as he has a motive to keep the Entire functioning. Maki believes Quinn will try to skip the Rose for the Entire to find his wife Johanna abducted by the Tarig over a decade ago and probably incarcerated inside Fortress Ahnenhoon; and once he rescues her they will search for their missing daughter, Sydney. Maki is sent to accompany Quinn on his mission, but the scientist has a scheme to use the nano-technological weapon to take control of the Ahnenhoon engine and from there usurp the Tarig as the power of two universes fight for survival.

The sequel to BRIGHT OF THE SKY is much more complex than described above as the two "dueling" universes contain convoluted relationships; thus plenty of twists and spins await readers who accompany Titus on his quest. The story line is action-packed, but also further describes the two universes especially the Entire while key characters like beleaguered Quinn and ambitious Maki are fully developed. With two universes on the brink of mass destruction, science fiction fans will want to join Quinn on mission.

Before They Are Hanged
Joe Abercrombie
9781591026419, $15.00

In the South Inquisitor torturer Glokta serves as the Superior of the city of Dagoska. He has two missions to accomplish if he is to survive his new position unlike his recently assassinated predecessor. He must root out the traitors before they murder him; and he must keep the city safe while it is under siege from superior enemy forces with no hope for outside supplies..

In the North the powerful well trained and equipped Northmen military have invaded neighboring Angland. Crown Prince Ladisla demands leadership of his Union army as he plans gloriously to repel the enemy back beyond his frozen border. However, as Major West escorts the bodacious royal fool he knows his side lacks proper arms, training, leadership and courage while the other side will swamp the battlefield with its superiority.

In the center the First of the Magi Bayaz leads a party of pariahs (incompetent apprentice Malacus Quai, warrior Logen, Ferro the Navigator, Brother Longfoot and Jezal) seeking the Seed. Each person distrusts the rest of the participants, but it is this band that must defeat the Eaters that threaten humanity. Bayaz understands this so he tells the tale of creation to encourage them

As with the First Law Book One: THE BLADE ITSELF, the second tale contains three well written major plots; there is also somewhat of a fourth segue re the Named Men remaining undecided. The best of the trio is Glotka's saga as the audience sees deep into his unsympathetic "soul" while he tortures (graphically) anyone using the rationale he seeks to save the people by rooting out enemy plotters; his detachment from his victims is classic. The West subplot is fun to follow too as he knows what his Prince is leading them into, but can do little to prevent their charge into the valley of death (think of The Charge of the Light Brigade). Finally, the Bayaz clip tells a lot about the history of the world in vivid descriptions, but his teammates fail to listen. This is a complex well written quest fantasy that will have the audience clamoring for the next law book.

Dawn's Light
Terri Blackstock
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310257707, $14.99, 1-800-727-1309

It has been a year since the Pulses from the dying supernova knocked out all the fiber optics sending civilization back into a pre-electrical age (see TRUE LIGHT, LAST LIGHT and NIGHT LIGHT). Beth Branning has seen her father shot; her sister Deni in the hands of a serial killer; and Deni's boyfriend Mark beaten severely by vigilantes. She is waiting for the "Next Terrible Thing" to happen; which of course occurs.

She witnesses a man kill a person and comes after her next; however a homeless man intercedes and Beth escapes even as her good Samaritan rescuer is murdered. The killer warns Beth not to tell anyone or he will go after her family. He knows her name because it is on the back of the shirt she is wearing. Mark plans to propose to Deni, but on the night he intends to give her an engagement ring, her former boyfriend Craig visits her. Since the Pulses occurred, he has been working diligently trying to get the electricity running. Beth sees a notice of a missing man on a bulleting board; he was the first victim she saw killed leaving behind a wife and their toddler. She worries about the killer coming for her loved ones until he arrives and almost kills her. Her parents find Beth hurt and rush her to the hospital where she undergoes brain surgery. Mark and a deputy search for her attacker while Craig uses his connections to get Beth medicine. The Branning clan knows that Beth's fate is in the hands of God, but a few prayers by them might influence the outcome.

The final Restoration thriller will lift the spirits of readers while simultaneously leave readers weeping. Fans care about the Branning family and friends so feel deeply they feel their trials and tribulations. Mark is heroic as his love for Deni is so unselfish he is willing to give up what he most wants in life, her, if she loves Craig instead of him. Craig likewise is a good person but he tries to put strings on Deni while helping Beth. Terri Blackstock reaches the hearts of her audience with her belief that God remains in charge especially when things are darkest.

99 Coffins
David Wellington
Three Rivers Press
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307381712, $13.95 1-888-523-9292

After the horrors she faced (see 13 BULLETS), vampire hunter Laura Caxton vows never again as field work is too gory for her. However, at an archeological dig at the Gettysburg Battle Site, Civil War era coffins are dug up. Detective Jameson Arkeley realizes what the team found is the remains of a Union vampire corps. He knows the only person to handle this gruesome finding is Caxton; so he sends for her.

Caxton reluctantly arrives at the tomb and finds 100 coffins with 99 occupied by vampires without hearts; one is empty and the coffin smashed as if a vandal attacked it. Worse someone manages to return one of the vampires from the dead to the undead; soon the rest of corps begins to reawaken to finish the mission they started in 1863. Caxton knows she must stop them before the Civil War is reenacted with real blood flowing from the victims of a night-stalking militia obsessed with completing its mission.

99 COFFINS is a unique vampire military thriller that rotates between the present, and Civil War Era journals and other writings. Thus the action-packed present stars a heroic Caxton who wants to retire from paranormal hunting while the 1860s correspondence provide insight into the vampire regiment especially their mission that they feel strongly must be achieved over a century and a half since they got their orders. With Gettysburg at stake (pun intended) the battle lines are drawn in this bloody superb tale.

Return of the Stardust Cowgirl
Marsha Moyer
Three Rivers (Crown)
9780307351555, $13.95

In northeast Texas, cowgirl Lucy Hatch worries about their future since the recording contract of her on the road husband Ash Farrell was ended. Despondent, Ash returned to Mooney to move back in with his wife and their son Jude.

Lucy has mixed feelings about Ash staying home. On the one hand he is very handy at fixing things; on the other he has issues starting with his songwriter's block. She also worries that she will soon be unemployed as Peggy Thaney, owner of Faye's Flowers, is retiring and closing the florist shop that Lucy works at. However the biggest problem besides Ash's renewed vow to his family is the arrival of her stepdaughter rising country western star Denny Culpepper, who left her cheating husband Will and his Nashville Cats although she carries his offspring.

Rotating perspective between Lucy and Denny, readers see deep into the Texas roots of both beleaguered, bewildered women as each feels their life is being nuked by outside forces causing unwanted changes and in turn forcing them to make decisions neither wants to make. The pair actually bond helping each other with coping. Fans will appreciate Marsha Moyer's wonderful look at family life in small-town rural Texas in her latest Lucy Hatch tale (see THE SECOND COMING OF LUCY HATCH, THE LAST OF THE HONKY-TONK ANGELS, and HEARTBREAK TOWN).

Will Lavender
Shaye Areheart
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307396105, $24.00, 1-888-523-9292

At Winchester University in Indiana, Professor Williams teaches Logic and Reasoning 204. He explains to his class that there is no text, no syllabus, and no lectures. Instead they have one assignment. Based on clues he provides and they find, the students must locate a missing teenager Polly within six weeks or she will die.

All the students assume this is an academic exercise and that no one is in jeopardy of murder. However, rather quickly three of the pupils begin to believe Polly not only exists but that she will be killed if they fail to rescue her. As Professor Williams provides the class with photos of Polly and other clues that affirm she lives for now, the trio panics that a D in this class means dead.

None of the prime players (the professor, the three students, and the maybe living Polly) come across as fully developed, but no one will care as it is the suspenseful storyline that grips the audience from the moment Williams explains the assignment. Readers will wonder if Polly is real and in danger, but also will ponder whether the trio is in peril. Fans of tense intriguing conspiratorial thrillers will want to attend Professor William's Logic and Reasoning class.

Good Man Hunting
Lisa Landolt
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061340390, $13.95,

At a wedding of a friend, a member of the Hunt Club asks plain wallflower Sandra Greene to join their group that assists women in making their ideal match regardless of who he is. The pizza parlor assistant manager thinks this might prove entertaining and diverting so she joins. Though some of the goings-on discomfit the nerd, Sandra for the most enjoys the club especially its matchmaking support to help a woman obtain the hand of the man of their choice.

Sandra hopes to land former sitcom star Mike Warren. However, she is stunned before she goes out on her first date with her chosen one; the FBI informs Sandra that the Hunt Club has performed some nefarious deeds that she finds somewhat hard to believe, but then again she witnessed the sordid undoing of some male meat.

This way out over the top charmer will hook readers with its "Cinderella" concept turned upside down by the FBI (could they be the wicked step-family?). The story line is whimsical as Sandra thinks the Hunt Club goes ethically too far yet she believes she will do anything to land Mike until she learns how far is far to the club members. Lisa Landolt provides her audience with an amusing twist on fairy tale romances.

Making Over Mr. Right
Judi McCoy
9780061341434, $6.99

In New York successful businessman Theo Maragos is tall, dark, and a geek who needs to change his image before he appears in a national magazine. Zeus' daughter Zoe, the Muse of Beauty, is assigned the ask of making him over; Zoe knows what failure means as her dad will not tolerate such a fiasco on her part or for that matter her two sisters, Kyra (see ALMOST A GODDESS) and Chloe (ONE NIGHT WITH A GODDESS) who have their own Herculean tasks to contend with.

Her plan is to start with the removal of the brainy wire glasses so that his blue eyes shine bright even if he cannot see. Then there is the need to remove the hair from the face so his dimples can shine bright. Then there are his clothes though Zoe is not sure she wants to put garb on that hunk of a body. As Zoe and Theo fall in love, she worries how her father will react to her wanting more than a simple tryst with a mortal. Still she hides her feelings out of fear that her dad might take out his renowned anger on her beloved. Theo assumes Zoe has her reasons for not telling him how she feels about him, but he wants her and plans to make her his one geek move at a time.

MAKING OVER MR. RIGHT is a fabulous ending to the Zeus offspring romantic trilogy. As with her siblings' tales, Zoe knows the rules of engagement include no falling in love with a mortal and the price of failure so she muses over what to do about her heart vs. her father's wrath. Fans will enjoy this lighthearted whimsical romantic fantasy as the Muse of Beauty and a computer geek fall in love to the consternation of Theo's potential father-in-law.

How To Propose To A Prince
Kathryn Caskie
9780061124877, $6.99

With her two sisters married (see Mary's tale - HOW TO SEDUCE A DUKE and Anne's saga - HOW TO ENGAGE AN EARL). the youngest of the Royle sisters, Elizabeth dreams of marrying a prince; nothing less will do for her. She even dreams of the royal she will marry. When she actually sees the royal of her dreams for the first time Elizabeth struggles to keep her deportment especially when she learns her hunk is Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield.

However, Elizabeth is taken aback when she learns Leopold is intended for the Princess of Wales. Hoping for a miracle, Elizabeth obtains a position as a lady in waiting for Princess Charlotte. As she tries to get close to her dream husband, Elizabeth begins to believe something is not right. She plans to find out what secret Prince Leopold is hiding.

This is a terrific ending to the Royle Regency romances as Elizabeth's plan is unusual and seemingly insane yet is clever as it allows her entry into the playing field. Fans will appreciate Kathryn Caskie's superb tale filled with historical persona and tidbits that bring the early nineteenth century to life; plausible twists (especially a final one) that add depth to the plot; amateur sleuthing that enables the audience to understand the heroine's strength of conviction; and a fun romance.

Vampire, Interrupted
Lynsay Sands
9780061229770, $6.99

After centuries as a vampiric mother, aunt and socialite, Marguerite Argeneau decides she needs a vocation. To the chagrin of her sons Etienne and Bastien and her nephew Thomas, Marguerite decides to become a private investigator. The trio feels good that her partner is Tiny who will keep the family matriarch safe.

Her first client is immortal Christian Notte who wants to know who his mother is; his father Julius refuses to divulge her name to him. When she vanishes in Europe, Thomas and his lifemate Inez search for her (see VAMPIRES ARE FOREVER). Meanwhile someone apparently wants Marguerite dead; Julius decides to protect her from whoever wanted to decapitate her although at times he wonders who will protect him from her. However, Marguerite is irate not so much that Julius plays the role of bodyguard, but that he is her lifemate while he needs to persuade her that they belong together forever.

This terrific Argeneau vampiric romantic suspense was set up in the previous tale, VAMPIRES ARE FOREVER, but stands alone. The fun with the entry actually is with Julius who knows his lifemate is obviously in danger, but not sure why; and knows he is in deeper trouble as he hopes courting is like getting back on a bicycle as he has not chased a skirt in five or so centuries. Fans will enjoy the escapades of a thoroughly modern Marguerite, vampiric investigator.

The Kiss
Sophia Nash
9780061231377, $5.99

In Cornwall as children Quinn Fortesque, Anthony Fortesque and Georgiana Wilde were best friends. One day Quinn left to marry someone else without warning and a heartbroken Georgiana wedded Anthony although she dreamed of being the wife of Quinn. On their wedding night, Anthony tragically died.

Quinn comes home to Penrose allegedly to inspect his estate, but instead he plans to uncover the root cause of a potential scandal that impacts his and Georgiana's family. Georgiana expects he will dispossess her leaving her with no place to go. However, Quinn has come home not because he loathes Georgiana, but because he loves her and always has. Obtaining assistance from a merry widows group and his daughter, Quinn begins his campaign to win his beloved's heart unaware he already has it as he always did.

This is an interesting historical romance starring two obstinate likable protagonists who have a second chance at love if they take that opportunity. The story line is fast-paced once the lead couple sees each other for the first time in fifteen years and never slows down. Although somewhat typical of the sub-genre, Sophia Nash's strong characters especially the Wilde and Fortesque families make this a strong tale that will send new fans seeking the author's previous work (see A DANGEROUS BEAUTY).

Return Of The Rogue
Donna Fletcher
9780061375439, $5.99

In the late sixteenth century in Scotland, her abusive stepfather Calum Tannach arranges for Honora to wed the oldest son of Laird Sinclare, Artair. However, on their wedding day, Cavan Sinclaire, thought dead, crashes the ceremony. Calum realizes he is the rightful heir and demands he marry Honora. She knows he once saved her life when she was eight years old, but one look at her new betrothed leaves her fearful that this big man will be as brutal as her stepfather although his eyes twinkle with kindness.

Cavan knows his immediate need is to keep his people safe from raiders, but he will honor the wedding contract that states the eldest Sinclaire will marry Honora. Still although he believes she is a pretty lass; he will not allow her to interfere with his obsession to insure his clan's safety. As passion turns to desire and desire to love, Cavan believes he is fortunate, but now must convince his wife they were intended for one another even as someone causes dissension, despair, and destruction.

Though typical of the historical highlander romance especially the return of the prodigal son, readers will appreciate this fine sixteenth century tale. The lead couple is a fabulous pairing as neither is prepared to marry the other, but obligation (and contracts) supersede their desires; soon love supersedes all desires. Fans will appreciate the RETURN OF THE ROGUE as he understands his duty to his clan and to his wife while she proves his equal.

Whispers Of The Bayou
Mindy Stearns Clark
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736918794, $13.99, 1-800-547-8979

Manhattan art restorer Miranda Miller knows she should rejoice in her life as she lives comfortably and her husband Nathan and Tess, their preschool daughter adore her; yet she feels depressed and though she tires to hide it tries to maintain a distance from her loved ones.

When she has an opportunity to get away from home for a while, she jumps at the chance. She rushes to Louisiana to go over with her Aunt Janet's lawyer the estate she will one day inherit from her. However, in New York where AJ as Miranda calls her has lived for three decades, her aunt worries about her niece returning home for the first time since the trauma that changed her life; the horror that her mind buried because the memories are too painful. Meanwhile someone else also wants to insure Miranda does not recall what she knows even willing to resort to murder to keep the past buried.

The key to WHISPERS OF THE BAYOU, a tense suspense thriller is Miranda whose inner soul battles between a need to know and a need for flight. The story line grips the audience from the moment that Miranda returns to the Bayou and never slows down as the tension mounts in anticipation of bad things happening to her, which of course they do. Psychological thriller fans will enjoy Mindy Stearns Clark's superb intense tale.

Charlie Stella
Pegasus Books
c/o Pegasus Communications Inc.
One Moody Street, Waltham, MA 02453-5339
9781933648651, $25.00, 1-800-272-0945

Las Vegas prostitute Agnes Lynn decides she needs to move on and find a new way to earn a living. She leaves Nevada and her sordid hooker lifestyle to start fresh in New York City where her long time best friend Rachel Wilson resides.

Rachel supplements her income to pay for the expensive exclusive private school her two children attend as a high priced hooker. However, a trick turns ugly and Rachel vanishes; eventually she comes ashore in Brooklyn. Lynn is outraged as the police seem at best useless at worst bribed by wealthy sponsors. She investigates seeking vengeance against the person who brutalized, mutilated and murdered Rachel. She and her boyfriend former cop Jack Russo quickly learn the Russian Mafiya gave Rachel a role in a snuff film in which she was killed.

MAFIYA is a fascinating crime thriller starring an intrepid reformed bad girl and her experienced partner against the Russian mob. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Rachel's body lands in Brooklyn and never slows down as Lynn and Jack work their quest. Although the Russian mob seems inept and the plot is not new (for instance Bronson's Death Wish), Charlie Stella fans will enjoy this entertaining tale.

Kill Whitey
Brian Keene
Cemetery Dance Publications
132-B Industry Lane, Unit 7, Forest Hill, Maryland 21050
9781587671784, $25.00,

Globe Package Service employee Larry Gibson is a loner who does not have much of a life. He works four hours a day at sixteen dollars an hour with health benefits before taxes. He has no close friends, but occasionally hangs out with co-workers Darryl, Jesse and Yul. They go to the Odessa, a popular strip joint owned by Whitey where Larry sees Sondra dancing and immediately lusts for her.

He goes back with and without his co-workers as often as he can afford to as she is always there. One night she fails to appear; the owner sends people for her. Larry accompanied by Darryl finds Sondra hiding under his car. The trio goes to Larry's apartment where she explains that she is pregnant and the father Whitney wants her to abort the fetus. Jesse who stayed at Odessa is tortured into revealing where Larry lives. They kill Darryl and hit Larry, but he escapes with Sondra. Whitey survives due to being a descendent of Rasputin. No matter how many bullets Larry put in Whitey he refuses to die. Larry knows he must rescue Sondra, but is clueless how to do it.

This supernatural thriller would make a fantastic horror movie as everything seems normal until a spin into Kreuger-Jason territory as there is a lot of violence that is appropriate to the fast-paced story line. Readers will pity Larry whose "significant other" is Webster the cat until he meets Sondra. Brian Keene provides a strong horror thriller that will please his fans.

DeKok and the Somber Nude
Speck Press
4690 Table Mountain Drive, Suite 100, Golden, CO 80403
9781933108162, $14.00,

On a rainy day, Kristel van Daalen with two A's comes to Amsterdam's Warmoes Street police station to report her nineteen years old cousin Nanette Bogaard with a double A is missing. Kristel explains to Inspectors DeKok and Vledders that she and Nanette co-own the Ye Three Roses floral shop, which they bought with money they inherited. She further explains that Nanette is an artistic free spirit, but always came home to the apartment they share above the store. Kristel believes Nanette is dead.

Vledders thinks it is too soon to assume foul play, but DeKok has a hunch that something bad has occurred to Nanette. They begin making inquiries starting with a spawned reporter Barry Weilen that lead to Kristel's addict brother, a "Somber Nude" painting done by Pierre Popko and aging paramour Staaten and his adult son. They see a picture of a mesmerizing serpent wearing an angel's garb before the dismembered corpse of Nanette is found in a garbage dump. The now murder investigation keeps tilting like a pin ball game that flickers back and forth between anyone who was in Nanette's sphere.

This is a fabulous DeKok mystery once readers accept the inspectors take on the missing person case (most will agree with Vledders that its pouring rain, less than 24 hours, and she is nineteen). The story line is driven by DeKok's investigation as each new clue he uncovers seems to open more questions rather than resolving any of them. Fans of this superb Dutch police procedural series will gain immense pleasure from the latest translation.

Lethal Legend
Kathy Lynn Emerson
Pemberley Press
P O Box 1027, Corona del Mar, CA 92625
9780977191352, $17.95,

In 1888 Maine Dr. Ben Northcote travels across Penobscot Bay to Keep Island to help three men suffering from poisoning. When he fails to return home or send a message to his fiancee Diana Spaulding, she becomes concerned as that is so out of character for the considerate Ben. Adding to her fears is that she has been told Keep Island is a dangerous place.

Still the intrepid Diana ignores the warning and her trepidation; she travels to Keep Island where an archeological dig led by archeologist Serena Dunbar near the home of wealthy Graham Somener, is occurring. There, Diana finds Ben looking into a questionable death that the sheriff, Graham and Serena want kept quiet to avoid negative publicity. Realizing that Graham and Serena is a couple and fearing illegal activities perhaps fraud but also likely murder, Diana and Ben investigate the goings on at the dig site.

LETHAL LEGEND is an entertaining late nineteenth century regional cozy starring an intrepid heroine who joins her beloved as they try to uncover the truth only to meet official obstacles from the law, the property owner and the lead archeologist. Their conspiracy only encourages Ben and Diana to seek what happened on Keep island. Fans of the series (see DEADLIER THAN THE PEN, FATAL AS A FALLEN WOMAN and LETHAL LEGEND) will appreciate the latest entry in the stupendous Spaulding saga.

Just Desserts
Barbara Bretton
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780515144246, $7.99, 1-800-847-5515

Kind hearted aging rock star Tommy Stiles has hired attorney Finn Rafferty to learn if Hayley Maitland Goldstein is his daughter as he wants to share his fortune with his offspring and his grandchildren. A birth certificate mentions him as her father, but a new one replaced that officially two weeks later stating father unknown. Tommy believes he sired Haley, who was born August 17, 1969 in Lexington, Kentucky to internationally acclaimed oceanographer Jane Maitland. He also knows Haley was married but divorced with one daughter Elizabeth and lives and co-owns Goldy's Bakery in Lakeside, New Jersey.

Finn leaves Manhattan for South Jersey knowing his client plans to inform his offspring at a time her mother decides to pay a visit. Having Jane insist on staying with them makes Haley suspicious that something earth shattering is coming, but she was unprepared for Tommy's claim that turned her world upside down; however, it is her reaction to Finn that sends her spinning out of control; he also loses his sense of gravity.

JUST DESSERTS is a warm family drama filled with tender humor. The amazement to the entertaining story line is the ensemble cast including two pets are fully developed and their interrelationships genuine. Fans will appreciate Barbara Bretton's invasion of South Jersey as everyone receives their JUST DESSERTS.

Predatory Game
Christine Feehan
9780515144284, $7.99

Saber Wynter knew she broke her safety first clause when she remained in town long enough to date the same jerk three times; Larry even had the nerve to provide her with a "pity fuck" as he insists she is way to skinny to be desirable. On the run since she escaped the horrors of Dr. Whitney's terrorizing experiments that turned her into a female GhostWalker, Saber knows it is past time to move on even if she likes doing her radio talk show on the Wyoming station owned by wheelchair bound Jess Calhoun.

Former Navy Seal Jess lost the use of his legs on a military mission. He wants Saber with all his heart, but knows he must go slowly or she will bolt as she always does when something frightens her. He wants to know what has left her ready to run so that he can help her overcome that demon. She shields the same feelings from him, but also conceals that she a GhostWalker with special skills; ironically besides hiding his heart he masks the fact that he too is a GhostWalker. Neither is aware that someone else is watching both of them and when each slips their cover a little, they wonder if they fell in love with the enemy.

The changing relationship between the lead couple provides a refreshing sixth Ghostwalker Game tale as they first are employer-employee, become friends, fall in love, and become suspicious of one another, etc. Thus readers see deep inside the souls of Saber and Jess. In fact the characterizations lead to less action than usual, yet one of the best in Christine Feehan's modern day military science romantic suspense saga (see DEADLY GAME and CONSPIRACY GAME).

Embrace Me
Lisa Samson
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781595542106, $14.99, 1-800-251-4000

Valentine and Lella are not just best friends; they are each other's only friend. They earn a living working at Roland Wayfaring Marvels and Oddities show knowing they are freaks to the normals who gawk at them. Valentine has scars all over her body while Lella has no extremities. Whereas Lella also has no dreams, Val fantasizes of one day being romanced by a man while she listens to her mother's copy of "Embraceable You", but once the singing stops reality returns.

However, a newcomer with scars on his soul and in his heart joins the caravan. Augustus befriends Val, but Lella who wants the best for her buddy fears she will be left behind with no one to care for or about her.

Combining a deep need to belong to others, which means forgiving and accepting the hurts they cause, inside a set from Browning's Freaks, Lisa Samson writes a powerful relationship drama that will shake the audience to the core. The cast is fully developed so that readers feel the anguish and loneliness each suffers. Adding depth to the emotional punch is the rotating story line between Drew circa 2002-3 and Val circa 2008-9. EMBRACE ME is a powerful insightful tale of love as Ms. Samson makes an ardent case that everyone needs loving mental and physical hugs.

Ted Dekker
Thomas Nelson
9780849918919, $25.95

FBI Special Agent Daniel Clay is a psychiatrist who gets into the minds of serial killers in the hopes of stopping them. His obsessive compulsive need to understand such a mind led to the break-up of his marriage to Heather. He asked for a field assignment and got the Eve killer. Sixteen young women were killed in sixteen months; each at the beginning of the lunar cycle from a previously unknown form of meningitis. With no clues pointing to a suspect, Daniel is publicly removed from the case.

However, Daniel does what he does best: work alone; his liaison to the information the FBI gathers is sent through Phoenix based pathologist Agent Lori Ames. Clues lead Daniel and Lori to Eve's latest victim who is still alive. While taking her to the hospital, Eve steps in front of a car killing Daniel and injuring Lori. Twenty-eight minutes later Daniel is resuscitated but the image of Eve is gone from his mind. In an effort to recall the killer's face, Daniel persuades Lori to kill him and resuscitate him. While they experiment, the killer grabs Heather; Daniel goes to find her. Daniel thinks he knows where the killer is, but dealing with this evil predator will still prove difficult for reasons Daniel and Lori will soon learn.

Ted Dekker tells a great police procedural supernatural thriller. Daniel is a fascinating hero who in his way is as obsessive as the Eve killer. His disbelief as to what the clues seem to imply adds to the overall tension as he discounts the mystic as nonsense. At the moment s he has given up hope, he begins to believe what his senses tell him. Readers who enjoy a great book should peruse this entertaining paranormal psychological thriller.

Smell of Death
F.M. Meredith
Tigress Press
9780979385759, $13.95

In Rocky Buffs, California, police officer Stacey Wilbur responds to the call from concerned senior citizen Mrs. Lindhall, who shows her doubts about the cop on her face as she towers over the small policewoman. Stacey enters the home of neighbor Darlene Brantley, divorced mother of two small children only to find a homicide scene. She calls it in and Detective Doug Milligan arrives to lead the investigation. The victim's ex husband Charles shows up to gather his kids. Doug sends Stacey to talk to Darlene's mother Mrs. Bender whom she finds murdered too.

At the same time exonerated officer Felix Zachary struggles with having killed an unarmed suspect. Sergeant Abel Navarro leads inquires into a missing two year old Kelley whose parents are despondent and whose aunt is blaming herself for turning her back for a minute; the prime suspect a child molester has an airtight alibi. Finally someone is laying siege to the Trimmel family. With all that going on, Doug unconsciously uses police work to see Stacey as he is attracted to the single mother of a small son; she reciprocates his feelings and appreciates his mentoring her re investigations.

Though Doug and Stacey are the stars, the latest Rocky Buffs police procedural (see FRINGE BENEFITS and FINAL RESPECTS) SMELL OF DEATH still feels like an Ed McBain's 87th Precinct thriller as several subplots focus on other police officers. The story line is fast-paced regardless of which investigation and cop is the focus. Readers will feel the tension over the double murders, the Trimmel harassment and the missing child while also empathizing with Felix and his beloved wife. This is a great entry in a strong series.

Roux Morgue
Claire M. Johnson
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Avenue, #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590584873, $24.95, 1-800-421-3976

In San Francisco when pastry chef Mary Ryan joined the faculty at her alumni Ecole d'Epicure she was unaware of the internal cold war between the "dinosaurs" and the "young brats". However she plans to avoid the politics by staying neutral as she assumes that should prove easy to achieve.

To her chagrin SFPD Homicide Inspector O'Connor is one of her students. He insists he is on medical leave due to stress, but she fears her stress will go to the sky as she and the married partner of her ex-husband Jim are attracted to one another. Tension escalates between the two cooking blocs as hostilities turn feral when a water fight ignites. Both armed camps demand Mary choose. However, things turn ugly when Chef Allison dies suspiciously; another death follows. Putting on her Nancy Drew hat, Mary investigates death by food poisoning and other culinary murder techniques.

It has been quite a while since Mary starred in BEAT UNTIL STIFF, but the wait for her second culinary cozy is well worth it. The story line is a lighthearted amusing romp as readers obtain a look at the politics of cooking. Mary is a wonderful heroine who wants to stay out of the holy war, but each side insists she commits to them or she belongs to the enemy camp. Fans will appreciate Claire M. Johnson's superb war of the chefs' murder mystery.

Burning Bright
Tracey Chevalier
c/o Penguin Putnam
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780525949787, $24.95, 1-800-847-5515

In 1792 following a tragedy, the Kellaway family leaves their Dorsetshire village Piddletrenthide for London at the encouragement of Philip Astley, owner of Astley's Circus. The city seems initially overwhelming compared to where they lived, but the Kellaway brood begins to adapt although they struggle to earn enough to keep food on the table and everyone under one roof.

The youngest child Jem quickly makes friends with street urchin Maggie. Together they explore the city and meet the Kellaway next door neighbor renowned radical poet William Blake at a time when the French Revolution has people either frightened that the zealots will cross the Channel or excited about a chance to reform the excesses of the royals and the aristocracy. Meanwhile Blake finds motivation with the adventures of Maggie and Jem in London as he begins to write a coming of age poems, Songs of Innocence and Experience.

BURNING BRIGHT is a terrific historical fiction that brings to life the expectations and fears of Londoners during the French Revolution. The Kellaway family (especially Jem) and Maggie are fully developed so that the audience obtains a strong sense of how they see things especially the fears that the family will have to break up to survive. Blake is an interesting addition to the mix, but forcing the Songs of Innocence and Experience as being inspired by the preadolescent stars seems unlikely. Still this is a strong look at London knowing Paris is burning.

God's Spy
Juan Gomez-Jurado
Dutton Books
9780452289123, $24.95

With the death of Pope John Paul II, the College of Cardinals is gathering in the Vatican to vote on his successor. At about the same time as the Cardinals Concave is to begin to travel to the Holy City, Italian Department for Analysis of Violent Crime Police Detective Paola Dicanti is at a horrific murder scene, the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina where a Cardinal was mutilated and murdered in a scene straight out of Dante.

However, the cop is stunned when former priest turned espionage agent Anthony Fowler informs her that the victim is the second Cardinal brutally murdered since the Pope died. Even more shocking is when the visiting American operative informs her who the culprit is; violent pedophilic priest Victor Karosky who escaped from the Saint Matthew Institute in Maryland. They work together praying they can prevent a third homicide.

Using real people like Bush, Negroponte, Pope John Paul II, etc adds a touch of reality to this Italian police procedural constructed around a supposedly contained sexually predatory priest stalking the cardinals. Fans will enjoy this conspiratorial thriller as image supersedes preventing homicides whether it is the Italian police, the American government or the Vatican.

Apricot Brandy
Lynn Cesar
Wildside Press
9710 Traville Gateway Dr., #234, Rockville, MD 20850
9780809572045, $6.99,

Decades have passed since Karen Fox returned to her family's farm; twenty years since she walked out on the man who was supposed to protect her, but instead sexually assaulted her. Now her father is dead having blown away his face with a self inflicted shotgun blast; Karen has come home to make special arrangements for the land and her father's cremation.

She is unaware that her father was the High Priest for the Green God Xibalba and his acolytes drop his corpse into a fissure beneath the morgue. Her sire joins his Master and confers power on Acting Assistant Sheriff Carver, who prefers to rule above ground unlike Karen's father whose preference in the underworld. From the moment she stepped onto the farm Karen sensed something was wrong. While looking at her father's body, Karen feels something close around her wrist followed by seeing a dress she wore as a child that was destroyed years ago yet is in pristine perfect condition complete with a still moist blood spot.. Quetzal a Mayan witch who knows that Xibalba is near; she plans to fight the evil God along with the ghosts that will accompany her. However, she also knows she must protect Karen from the malevolent Green God who has plans for the daughter of his loyalist worshipper.

APRICOT BRANDY is an exciting combination horror and dark urban fantasy that takes readers to the edge of sanity and leaves then there wondering if this time evil will triumph. Karen may be innocent, but she is the catalyst (thanks to her DNA) that sets things in motion although she is the polar opposite of her cruel father. She reaches inside herself with determination to defy him and his God while the Mayan witch rallies his ghostly horde and the townsfolk. Readers will find Lynn Cesar's work magically entertaining.

House of Whispers
Margaret Lucke
Juno Books
c/o Wildside Press
9710 Traville Gateway Drive, #234, Rockville, MD 20850
9780809571581, $6.99,

After she catches her husband in bed with another woman, Claire Scanlon starts divorce proceedings and returns to her California hometown where she quickly shares a home with her best friend Lindsay. She obtains a realtor position with Golden Gate properties. Because she is late on her first day on the job, her boss makes her compete with another newbie Avery for the LeGrande listing. The seller Ben Grant will select the realtor of record after he meets the rivals and gets their opinions on how to show the house.

The house has a dark past because the last tenants were murdered there by their son who turned his gun on himself and committed suicide. Claire smells blood when she enters the abode and hears a voice whispering. She next sees something out of the corner of her eye. Claire is shook to her bone marrow, but Ben picks her to show the house because she will know how the other potential buyers will feel. Claire and Ben become romantically involved. She goes to the house and picks up vibes that a fifth person was there during the murder-suicide. In spite of her sudden paranormal skills, Claire understands she has no mundane proof that the real killer got away with mass murder.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS is a fascinating blending of romance, mystery and the paranormal. Every few chapters, the ghost talks to herself wishing she could communicate more directly with Claire so that the truth becomes known about her parents, her brother and her. Claire's reactions to what her senses find seem right as she goes from doubter to questioner to believer. Margaret Lucke provides an entertaining haunted house whodunit.

Sweet Surrender
Maya Banks
The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425219430, $15.00,, 1-800-847-5515

Mick Winslow and Grayson Montgomery share in common Alex and police work although the former is retired and the latter is on sick leave. Mick was his father while Gray was his partner on the Dallas PD. Both grieve his death and want his killer caught, but the department has failed as they hold the late Alex culpable for "blatant disregard of duty". The older man provides Gray with a name, Eric Samuels. Gray takes six months leave and travels to Houston where Faith Malone is the only lead to Eric as her mother vanished with the cop killer just after he squeezed the trigger.

Faith dreams of her sexual fantasies being fulfilled by a loving dominant hunk. When she meets Gray she thinks he might be perfect for her SWEET SURRENDER. As they fall in love, she knows he is hiding something from her; Gray has not lost sight of his quest to catch his partner's killer.

This heated investigative romantic suspense is a terrific tale because of the Dallas cop who knows he is in love when he realizes his submissive SWEET SURRENDER is in peril. Faith and Gray are a wonderful pairing with some light bondage in the boudoir and plenty of love outside of it. Fans will feel Mick's tormented frustration that enhances an intense transfixing thriller.

The Paper Marriage
Susan Kay Law
9780425219355, $14.00

Twelve years ago, John McCrary was in a nasty car accident that left him comatose. His wife Ann had him placed in Cedar Ridge where he has lived ever since in a deep coma. Ann believes not only has John's life been placed on pause so has hers; still she and her therapy dog Cleo visit her husband every evening at 6:30 to insure he receives proper care at the nursing home although her mother-in-law Mary is there diligently everyday as she expects a miracle to occur as well as her daughter-in-law standing by her vow of in sickness, etc.

When Ann's neighbor Mrs. Hillerman moved into assisted living, her house was sold within a day to former baseball star Tom Nash. He moves in almost immediately accompanied by his angry purple haired sixteen years old daughter Mer who will spend the summer with him in the burbs. He is clueless about life in the suburban jungle and what to do with a teen girl, whose self-absorbed mother like the former All Star pitcher neglected her. As Tom and Ann become acquainted starting with brownies and perversions and coaxed by Mer, they fall in love. However, in spite of encouragement from her mom and discouragement from John's mother, Ann takes her vows to her husband seriously.

THE PAPER MARRIAGE is a deep contemporary relationship drama that focuses on complex personal issues. The story line contains an obvious serious undertone re when does a person move on in his or her life without neglecting or forgetting an incapacitated loved one. With some humor to lighten the mood a bit, readers will appreciate The Paper Marriage with tears glistening throughout this powerful tale. There is a final spin between Tom and John that will leave no one dry eyed.

Corpse Pose
Diana Killian
9780425220900, $6.99

The divorce hit A.J. Alexander hard knowing her husband left her for another man, which also explains why their sex life was almost non-existent. Andy wants to remain pals, but A.J. is in too much hurt to see that happening anytime soon. Tragedy strikes A.J. when her beloved affluent Aunt Dianta Mason, owner of Sacred Balance, dies; A.J. goes to Stillbrook where her aunt lived to arrange the funeral.

From the moment she arrives in town, lead detective Jake Oberlin keeps A.J. under a microscope as the prime suspect in her aunt's murder. He constantly interrogates her as she is the only one with a motive, the inheritance. When she goes to her aunt's lawyer she learns why Jake hones in on her as she is the sole beneficiary of an eighteen million dollar estate to include the yoga studio. Lily, an employee's friend and student of her late Aunt is livid because the studio was promised to her and makes that clear to A.J. and her dingbat mother. Apparently Aunt Di had as many friends as enemies, but A.J. plans to find out who loathed her enough to kill her so that Jake will back off.

The support cast is one of the major reasons that this series is going to be a hit. For instance mom acts like a moron but has good instincts even as she drives her daughter crazy especially with her desire to have A.J. and Andy get back together. Jake is romantically interested in his prime suspect, but she drives him loony when she investigates; endangering the lives of her and her mother. Andy wants to remain friends with A.J. because he loves her, but not in a sexual way. On top of each person driving everyone else batty, the mystery is well constructed with all the clues in sight, but most readers will misread them as Diana Killian provides a delightfully entertaining amateur sleuth tale.

The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy
Mary Street
9780425219904, $14.00

Arrogant to a fault, Fitzwilliam Darcy wonders how Elizabeth Bennet caught his attention when they first met. If he was to choose a Bennet female to have him take more than a first look, it would have been the much prettier Jane; although Elizabeth is lovely. Still, Darcy fondly looks back to how he could not prevent himself from constantly seeking her out even in a mob to find her. Furthermore, once he made his mind up to court her, he succeeded only to allow his PRIDE AND PREJUDICE get in his way leading to losing her before finally winning her completely when he gave her his heart.

Although Jane Austen has been told, retold, and untold so many ways in the past decade, Mary Street provides a fresh perspective with her gender twisting the classic PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by switching viewpoints from Elizabeth to Fitzwilliam. The novelty comes from new segues as the hero lays out his heart to the audience. Fans of Ms. Austen will relish this latest spin while agreeing that Ms. Street deserves more than just a chutzpah award as Darcy comes across as a full blooded confused suitor in love.

Dead Over Heels
MaryJanice Davidson
9780425219416, $14.00

"Undead and Wed: A Honeymoon Story". The married monarchs, Queen Betsy and King Sinclair, leave on honeymoon planning to take a bite or two out of the Big Apple. However, instead of sex and shoes, the pair is stalked and staked.

"Survivors". Animal World TV star Con "The Surviving Man" Conlinson is in trouble as he in a rowboat alone on the Pacific with no hope of a rescue as he sent the film crew away before the storm sent him adrift from them. Then Reanesta arrives without a boat and with a beautiful tail. If she was not so lovely, he would have assumed he lost his mind as who falls in love with a mermaid.

"Speed Dating, Werewolf Style Or, Ow, I Think You Broke the Bone". As she nears her thirtieth birthday, Cain the werewolf feels long in the tooth with her Wyndham packmates marrying their soulmate while she has no one. She persuades her best friend Saul to find her a blind date.

Vampires, mermaids and werewolves in one anthology connotes readers have entered the magical zany romantic fantasy realm of MaryJanice Davidson. The three tales are amusing, entertaining and lighthearted fun to read.

A Carrion Death
Michael Stanley
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061252402, $23.95, 1-800-242-7737

Near a waterhole in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana, game rangers Andries and Bongani find the partial human remains; as the best cleaners of a crime scene, hyenas were not quite finished devouring the corpse. The rangers collected enough evidence to make the case that a homicide not a tragic accident occurred.

Botswana Criminal Investigation Department Assistant Superintendent David "Kubu" Bengu leads the investigation. As Kubu follows clues partially concealed by local superstition and more so by powerful killers with high level contacts intent on hiding the crime and much more, he mimics the "hippopotamus" that he is nicknamed for as he calmly but resolutely makes inquiries. With Mozart and other classical greats to entertain him as he drives the dusty roads, Kubu risks his life from those who will kill anyone including a persistent detective's loved ones to keep the truth from surfacing.

The police procedural story line is superb with a strong obstinate hero; however the tale belongs to the insightful look at Botswana, a landlocked South African presidential representative democratic republic. The action-packed story line brings to life the people and cultures of a country struggling to avoid the problems besetting many of their neighbors to include tribal rivalries, government corruption, and avaricious poachers and smugglers ripping off the natural resources. The author team Michael Stanley provides the excellent debut of a police detective and readers will clamor for more investigations by this lover of the Magic Flute.

The Rosetta Key
William Dietrich
0061239550, $25.95

In 1799 he was fortunate to survive the evil of NAPOLEON'S PYRAMIDS thanks to a hot air balloon ride across the Sahara but now expatriate Ethan Gage is in danger again in the Holy Land as Napoleon's army march towards Jerusalem. Gage and Bonaparte had gotten into a dispute over the Great Pyramid power leading to the French dictator proclaiming him an enemy of the state.

Napoleon's followers Count Alessandro Silano and his aide Pierre Najac declare Gage a dangerous traitor to France placing a price for his head. Knowing the peril he faces, Gage fears more for his former lover Astiza as a pawn if the lethal sorcerer Silano captures her. Thus he rushes to Jerusalem to keep her safe, which fits with his other quest perfectly as he follows clues in search of the revered legendary Book of Thoth, an ancient tome that allegedly knows the magical underlying secrets of the universe.

Using real persona, sites and events (not just Napoleon), William Dietrich writes a terrific historical thriller starring a late eighteenth century Hans Solo impish rogue. The story line is fast-paced but also brings alive the Holy Land. This is one series worth reading as Mr. Dietrich provides THE ROSETTA KEY to how Napoleon consolidated his power.

Blind Faith
Sagarika Ghose
9780061350269, $13.95

In London twenty-eight years old TV reporter Mia Bhagat remains in shock that her seemingly healthy father committed suicide. The Bengali expatriate uses her work to somewhat ignore her grief. While on an assignment, Mia meets Karna, an instructor at the Purification Journey Brotherhood where men learn how to conquer the female ego. He could have been the model for her father's painting of the Kumbh Mela Festival of the Pitcher.

Mia falls in love with Karna, but her mother orchestrates a marriage for her with cosmetics businessman Vik Ray. Following their nuptials, the pair moves to his home office in New Delhi where she hosts his galas while praying that her Karna will soon come for her.

Although the above description is like the Ganges River, there are several major tributaries not described above that add depth to this insightful look at modern day India through the comparisons between and the interrelationships of a strong cast. Somewhat confused, Mia holds the threads together. Readers will enjoy the focus on materialism vs. spiritualism and heritage vs. globalization that makes BLIND FAITH an interesting glimpse at a changing India.

South of Shiloh
Chuck Logan
9780061136696, $24.95

At the reenactment of the Civil War battle of Kirby Creek, Mississippi visiting Minnesotan Paul Edin dies when he is shot. The Corinth sheriff's department rules death due to accident with no investigation.

The victim's widow Jenny grieves her loss, but accepts the official position until she hears a rumor that the bullet that killed her Paul might have been intended for Sheriff Deputy Kenny Beeman, who was near her late spouse when he was killed. Needing to know the truth, Jenny gets her former lover and biological father of her child that Paul lovingly helped her raise, John Rane to investigate. A cop turned photographer, John teams up with Kenny to try to uncover the truth; but what they find out shakes both as someone plans a real bloody reenactment of the battle of Shiloh

The whodunit is cleverly devised; the planned bloody massacre lacks some supportive substance, but in a world of terrorism seems plausible; and the lead sleuths are fully developed; however, this exciting thriller belongs to the support cast. Chuck Logan provides his audience a deep look into the souls of the enactors who replay the Civil War with passion and diligence down to every minute detail.

A Little Trouble with the Facts
Nina Siegal
9780061242908, $13.95

Perhaps it is a classic reaction formation to her still hippie parents but Sunburst Rhapsody Miller wants fame and fortune. She assumes that fortune will come once she becomes famous. Changing her name to Valerie Vane, she begins to gain local acclaim in New York City one celebrity gossip at a time (to the horror of her DNA pool). Soon she obtains work at the prominent Paper as a style section columnist reporting on the rich and famous. However when she becomes the story during one of her cocaine temper fits she is demoted to a dead end job working obituaries.

The call challenged her write up re "Sue Side"; insisting that renowned graffiti artist Malcolm Wallace would never have jumped off the Fifty-ninth Street Bridge especially on the Queens side after taking out a mortgage and going to buy ice cream; besides who jumps into the East River to die. Taking advice from her unknown caller to research not depend on cop truisms, Val begins to investigate whether Malcolm took a swan dive with assistance; soon she begins to uncover official corruption that should bring her career back to life if she lives long enough.

Taking the Hollywood glamour mysteries of Jackie Collins and bringing them to pre 9/11 Manhattan so that the shine is street gritty, Nina Siegal provides an enjoyable chick lit investigative tale. Val is fun to follow as her asides about life defined as gossip and rumor, newly found lost kin, fleeting almost fame, and Malcolm make for a delightful tale that is somewhat amateur sleuth in nature (though she is paid as a reporter). Fans will clamor for more Val Vane investigations.

The Red-Headed Princess
Ann Rinaldi
9780060733742, $15.99

In 1533, serendipitously Ann Boleyn secretly marred King Henry VIII while they waited for his the Archbishop of Canterbury to affirm his divorce from Catherine of Aragon before announcing their wedding. Nine moths later she gave birth to Elizabeth Tudor, his second daughter. In 1536 Henry accused his second wife of adultery with her brother and others. She was incarcerated in the Tower of London before being convicted and beheaded. Although an infant when her mom died, Elizabeth had learned early on the virtue of caution as she navigates her father's court. Over the years she failed at ever pleasing her sire, but when he died her older brother took the throne. Elizabeth found her life improved until a sick Edward died placing her step sister devout Catholic "Bloody Mary" on the throne. Even as she once again walks cautiously Bess expects to one day be the Queen of England and rule in a strong way that would make her late father finally proud of her accomplishments.

This fine biographical fiction tale targets the preadolescent female with her humanizing Queen Elizabeth I. The audience learns what motivated the princess to be the best that she can be once on the throne and how she survived her father executing her mother and her step-sister's religious fanaticism. Although obviously slanted in an Elizabethan Era direction, Ann Rinaldi provides a deep look at the soul of THE RED-HAIRED PRINCESS who one day became one of England's most influential rulers.

Miscarriage of Justice
Kip Gayden
Center Street/Hatchette Publishing Group
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9781599956879, $22.99, 1-800-759-0190

In 1896 a pastor's sixteen years old daughter Anna Dennis and a Vanderbilt University medical student Walter Dotson meet at the Red Boiling Springs Christian Camp in Tennessee. They fall in love and he arranges for his final year's internship at Lafayette City Hospital where she does volunteer work. He courts her and soon they marry. Twelve years later with four children they move to Gallatin, Tennessee.

By 1912 Anna felt the spark in her marriage was barely flickering. She tries to reignite it, but Walter seems ignorant of her desires. Instead she turns to newcomer Charlie Cobb who showers her with attention. Not long after that she is tried for murder.

MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE is based on a true event that had much of the southeast fascinated by the murder trial. When the story line reenacts the marriage and the affair, it lacks spark although that is needed to set time, place and relationships. However once the plot turns to the trial and the media feeding frenzy, readers will not be able to stop until the verdict. Overall this is a fine historical fiction in which the legal thriller elements make Kip Gayden's novel worth reading.

Scott Spencer
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780060760151, $24.95, 1-800-242-7737

Thirty-seven years old New York writer Avery Jankowsky is tired of not making it as he lives from day to day with no money put away and a diet that would make peanut butter seem like a luxury. Worse his apprehension for the future turns uglier when he learns his girlfriend Deirdre is cheating on him.

Being depressed and feeling sorry for himself, he turns to his Uncle Ezra at their monthly luncheon in Grand Central Station; Ezra says all his nephew needs is a quality sex vacation for the affluent as everyone has these moments when they can't get it up. Ezra sends him to Iceland and from there the continent on a tour of the upper crust sex capitals of the world. Avery's early encounters lead him to realize his tour is worthy of a book; his publisher loves the idea and gives him an advance, but as he gets to know his male companions he wonders if a tell-all is ethical.

Although the plot is somewhat limited, readers who appreciate a deep introspective character study will want to read the adventures of Avery Jankowsky on a sex tour starting in Reykjavik and climaxing seemingly all over the continent. Avery makes the tale fun as his growing understanding of himself is poignant and that of his companions insightful and humorous as he knows this tour is like traveling in a locker room with high school randy boys. Fans will enjoy the ups and downs of Jankowsky's sexual tour.

Sister's Choice
Judith Pella
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
9780764201349, $13.99, 1-800-328-6109

In 1882 in Maintown, Oregon Maggie Newcomb feels good for her sister who fell in love with the circuit riding preacher and has his affection too (see BACHELOR'S PUZZLE). However, she is a bit envious as her heart is set on someone who does not appear to share her love. Still although she knows she is not that good at quilting and hears how bad she is all the time from Emma Jean Stoddard, she feels that is the way to her beloved. Maggie dreams un-Christian thoughts as she would like to not turn the other cheek and for once tell the woman to stick it where the sun don't shine. However, she fears alienating the woman she hopes will one day soon be her mother-in-law as she feels she is in love with Emma Jean's son Colby.

Maggie works extra hard to improve her quilting skills, but apparently all for naught when affluent beauty Tamara Brennan arrives. Colby joins the chorus line of admirers leaving Maggie stunned by his sudden disregard for her. She turns to her close friend Evan for help, which he reluctantly gives as he loves Maggie with all his heart, but understands how unrequited love hurts.

The second Patchwork Quilt inspirational historical romance once gain brings to life the Pacific Northwest during the post Reconstruction Era. Maggie is magnificent as she holds the tale together with her campaign to win the heart of Colby, but soon begins to wonder if she is fickle as she begins to look at her aide differently. More character driven and less action than the first story, fans will appreciate this vivid late nineteenth century tale that picturesquely displays community living.

A Touch of Grace
Lauraine Snelling
Bethany House
9780764228117, $13.99

In 1900 Blessing, North Dakota eighteen years old Grace Knutson was born deaf. However, her mother refused to allow her daughter to wallow in silence. Instead she learned and taught anyone interested how to use sign language. Grace complemented that by also learning how to read lips.

Grace has always been in love with Toby Valders, who works at the local mill when he is not in a brawl; she is also his only friend. His haughty mother feels strongly that a deaf mute is not good enough for her son. Affluent New Yorker Jonathan Gould comes to Blessing at the invitation of Grace's aunt to learn first hand life on a farm. He is unsure he will survive the difficult rugged lifestyle except for that fact that he wants Grace, who inspires him to be all he can be.

The third Blessing inspiration historical saga is an entertaining tale that enables the reader to vividly see life on the Northern Plains at the turn of the previous century. Especially enlightening is observing the hard often harsh lifestyle through the eyes of big city Jonathan as he provides a fresh perspective how difficult it can be. Through the hard winters that embellish the isolation, faith in the Lord keeps the Knutson brood and their neighbors going and ready to face anything. This is a fine entry, but references to the past as described in the previous novels (see SOPHIE'S DILEMMA and A PROMISE FOR ELLIE) behooves fans to read them first so as to understand their context. Still this is a delightful story as fans will wonder if Grace will stay inside her comfort zone (Toby), take a risk on the new player on the farm (Jonathan), or neither.

Road to Nowhere
Paul Robertson
Bethany House
9780764203251, $17.99

On Jan 2 in North Carolina, the Jefferson County North Carolina Board of Supervisors meets with the new Chair Joe Esterhouse who just replaced the recently deceased Mort Walker. Joe reads a document from Raleigh for the county to apply for a grant and if they succeed in obtaining the money determine whether they want a road to bring the Gold River Highway over a mountain to Wardsville. They vote in the affirmative. However the county residents split in two between supporters and dissenters.

The people of Gold Valley with expensive homes want the highway to cut down on their commute. A developer Charlie Richer wants it done so he begins bribing folks to vote for the highway and Selectman Wade Morris is killed when his car goes off an embankment. Joe thinks some one murdered both men and another selectman was shot so he works behind the scenes trying to uncover who has taken the debate to a lethal level.

From the onset when he makes his proposal Joe knows the locals will be polarized into two camps, but believes the highway is the right thing for the county. However, he never anticipated how violent and ultimately deadly the argument turned as neighbors and families turn on each other and the selectmen. Thus readers obtain a regional drama with a whodunit wrapped inside it.

The Warriors
Mark Andrew Olsen
Bethany House
9780764202742, $19.99

Abby Sherman and Dylan Hatfield argue over the differences between spiritual and mortal combat. They are Watchers; humans who hear God's voce and can see demons and angels fighting one another. Dylan is with a black ops operation in Tora Bora; the place where Osama escaped in Tunnel Nine from the allies during the overthrow of the Taliban. The Watcher realizes he and his peers have uncovered a Principality; a demon hold on earth. He is the only one to come out alive, but those who saved his life want him dead because they are possessed.

Abby goes to Jerusalem to visit the Watcher the Sentinel who is dying but needs to deliver a message for Abby. A giant wave of destruction is going to destroy the North American eastern coast; to prevent onslaught Abby must find the summons in stone that will call forth the Warriors. Abby and Dylan meet up with both on the run while searching for the stone etching. Demon possessed American agents pursue them to prevent them from bringing the Warriors to fight the horde.

Mark Andrew Olsen is an expert at writing exciting faith based supernatural thrillers in which a chosen few are chillingly able to see the true meaning of Revelations. Most people are unaware of Watchers and the few who do rarely believe they are part of God's plan, but instead assume they are crazy religious fanatics. Whereas Abby's faith carries her through one crisis after another, Dylan's doubts make him work harder at acceptance. Readers will enjoy this couple who if successful will prevent biblical calamity.

Unleashing the Storm
Sydney Croft
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385340816, $13.00,, 1-800-726-0600

The Agency for Covert Rare Operatives (ACRO) send their best Ender to "bumble-fuck" Idaho to either bring in or kill animal psychic Kira Donovan. Using his former identity before he joined ACRO, Tom Knight cases Rainbow Ridge Sanctuary unaware that his target has been telepathically talking to Cheech the goat about "Peeping Tom". She also has hired Derek as her two farmhands vanished; Tom assumes they are dead as he and Derek know each other as enemies.

As Ender struggles to understand the tree hugging vegan, ACRO chiefs argue over whose division gets her while Derek's gang ITOR want her too. He does not want to kill her but begins to think he will have to. Then he learns she is in heat and needs sex to survive. In between making love, Tom kills Derek, but ITOR is on top of them. Tom persuades Kira they must flee to the safety of his people. They do with the enemy in pursuit, but must stop every few hours to relive her of her heat even as she fears her soulmate will desert her when they reach ACRO.

Normally, I have issues about a couple on the run stopping for sex, but UNLEASHING THE STORM uses the concept of a special human in animal heat as its underlying premise so that in this case the premise works. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as Kira's sexual needs forces the pair to stop when escape is critical. Fans will root for the lead protagonists while appreciating this cleverly done romantic suspense erotic fantasy and seek the previous ACRO saga RIDING THE STORM.

Smoke & Mirrors
John Ramsey Miller
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440243106, $6.99,, 1-800-726-0600

Paulus Styer , a professionally trained assassin, once told Ex US Marshal Winter says he will walk away from his (the target) if his Massey does not search for him. Ex-Marshal Winter Massey and his family go deer hunting in the Mississippi Delta. Tunica County Sheriff Brad Barnettt asks Winter to look at a corpse who had his business card near it. Winter knows immediately that his enemy assassin Styer left his calling card, toothpicks soaked in clove oil.

Winter realizes why Styer is in the Delta; he plans to kill the former Marshal and whoever contracted him for a hit. Brad deputizes him because he needs someone who knows the assassin. After doing some investigating in the county record they both believe Styer killed the wrong person. The Sheriff's girlfriend Leigh Gardner owns the last strip of land that Royal Resorts International covets in order for the firm to build a new gigantic gambling complex in the Delta. The woman he killed was supposed to be Leigh. The theory is that Styer came to kill her and her children. Skyer abducts Leigh's daughter Cynthia forcing Winter to take counter action.

The protagonist is a quixotic mix of macho ruthlessness and gentle sensitivity depending on friend or foe. The assassin sets up a brilliant cat and mouse game in which he makes and breaks the rules while disguising himself so his antagonist cannot recognize him. There is plenty of action, but the thrust of this fine crime caper belongs to the cast as Brad and Winter become brothers-in-arms in a war against Styer.

Midnight Rising
Lara Adrian
9780440244448, $6.99

Dylan Alexander is in the Czech Republic when she sees the ghost of a young woman who begs her to save him. She finds a cave with a stone coffin inside and glyphs on the wall. In the cave is also Rio a Breed vampire whose face is scarred due to a fight he got into with Rogues in Boston (feral vampires who drink human blood). A straightforward mission was compromised by the traitorous actions of his now dead wife Eva. He senses Dylan in the cave but isn't worried because when she leaves he will scrub her memory.

Rio destroys the cave, tracks her down and brings her to the Darkhaven in Germany; where Breeds and Breedmates live. He learns that she sent pictures she took out to her boss, relatives and friends. She shows him her mark and he knows she is a rare female known as a Breedmate. Dylan is having a hard time believing Rio, but at his Boston Order residence he tells her she must choose between living in a Darkhaven with a mate and having her memory scrubbed so she can return to her life. When she sees Eva's picture, she realizes his late wife is the ghost she saw and tells Rio. He goes into a rage and turns into his vampire form; forcing Dylan to believe. As they fall in love, they must find the Ancient vampire father held captive by a mad scientist experimenting on him and destroy them both.

Vampires, ghosts and breedmates seem genuine although it helps especially at the beginning to have read previous Breedmate tales (see KISS OF MIDNIGHT, KISS OF CRIMSON, and MIDNIGHT AWAKENING) to fully savor the supernatural goings on. The changing relationship between Dylan and Rio is wonderfully developed so that the audience appreciates each one as an individual and as a romantic couple. Fans of the series will appreciate Lara Adrian's latest romantic fantasy although the confrontation between good and evil sets up future entries more than it does plot closure.

The Headhunters
Peter Lovesey
Soho Press
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
9781569474907, $24.00,

Near Selsey, Jo Stevens saw what she thought was a beached dolphin amongst the trash that came ashore on the beach. However, she got closer and realized she found a half naked woman dead amidst the seaweed and garbage. Chichester CID Inspector Henrietta "Hen" Mallin and her team lead the official inquiry starting with who she is and whether her death was an accident or a homicide.

However, before the cops can dig into the case, Jo finds a second corpse eerily similar to the first one she reported. This time she fears telling the cops because the coincidence is too weird and she would become the prime suspect of two murders. She fails to inform the police. When the body is reported, Hen and her subordinates focus on Stevens and even more on her boyfriend who knew both victims.

THE HEADHUNTERS is a unique English police procedural as the storyline rotates points of view between the inspector and the corpse finder; especially fascinating is reading the logical rationalization of Jo when she fails to report the second dead body to the authorities. Fans will appreciate this diamond of a tale as Hen and her CID team works on solving the two homicides while also seeking her first investigation (see THE CIRCLE).

Seduced by a Spy
Andrea Pickens
Forever/Hatchette Publishing Group
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446617994, $6.99, 1-800-759-0190

She, like her peers, was taken from the London slums and sent to attend Mrs. Merlin's Academy for Select Young Ladies where she learned espionage skills including weapons usage. By 1812 as Napoleon wins every battle, this member of Merlin's Maidens, espionage operative Shannon having proven extremely competent with a gun is assigned to kill French spy D'Etienne who her superiors know is making trouble in Ireland, expected to cause waves in Scotland, and ultimate believe he plans to assassinate the family of a ballistics expert. Russian agent Alexandr Orlov is assigned to work with her, but she distrusts him; writing him off as a rogue while he has doubts about her competency.

The duo pursues their target into Scotland. However, the prey proves diabolically clever ready to use innocent pawns to keep his mission functioning. Shannon knows she has no choice but to trust her teammate if they are to prevent D'Etienne from achieving his objectives as well to stop him from killing people. As they fall in love, time is running out on their assignment.

The latest Merlin's Maidens espionage Regency romantic suspense (see THE SPY WORE SILK) is an exhilarating action-packed thriller starring two fascinating lead characters whose relationship initially reflect that of their respective countries; needing but distrusting one another. The story line is fast-paced once Shannon negotiates her way to an apprentice under fire role and never slows down as she and Alexandr must learn to believe in one another if they are to achieve the mission and follow up on their love for one another. Andrea Pickens provides a fun historical.

No Control
Shannon K Butcher
9780446618663, $6.99

Having survived a terrorist kidnapping in Armenia in which everyone else was killed, she had prayed that she would join them. Eighteen months later, not feeling safe even in her home in Columbia, Missouri, Lana Hancock suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, euphoria for being alive, and a horrific case of survivor's guilt. The nightmares make it impossible for her to sleep. Worse one of the evil abductors, Miles Gentry, appears in each of her horrific dreams as he saved her life but failed to prevent torture or keep the others alive.

Unbeknownst to Lana, Miles is actually undercover Delta Force operative Caleb Stone, who struggled to keep his identity concealed for fear of crippling his mission when all he wanted to do was rescue her. He would like to comfort her, but feels the best thing for Lana is to never see him again. However, the CIA believes she might be a target of the terrorist cell wanting to complete the job; Caleb is assigned to keep her safe; filled with guilt for allowing her to be battered, he vows to die if necessary to insure she is not harmed by these monsters.

Romantic suspense fans will have NO REGRETS after reading Shannon K. Butcher's action-packed NO CONTROL due to the lead couple whose guilt complexes supersedes rational thought. Both are fascinating characters struggling to cope with the memories of that ugly incident; however, readers will especially find Miles interesting as he has regrets for not interceding earlier even though he knows logically it would have destroyed the mission. He keeps asking himself esoteric questions like whether freedom is a sham when innocent pawns are sacrificed for the common good. Fans will relish this strong character driven thriller as Miles has a second chance but he also knows he can never make up for what he allowed to happen to the woman he loves.

Remember Me?
Sophie Kinsella
Dial Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385338721, $25.00, 1-800-726-0600

Twenty-eight years old Lexi Smart thinks it is still 2004 and that she disgracefully just missed her father's funeral. However, the working girl struggles with why she is in a London hospital (from a car accident) and worse she learns that it is 2007. Adding to her confusion of where the last three years went is her physical appearance; she looks great and somehow has become a successful shark businesswoman.

Lexi decides to investigate herself in order to learn what happened that changed her from mouse to lioness. She also tries to kindle warmth between her and her aloof spouse Eric while his associate Jon passionately insists she was dumping her husband for him before she bumped her head in the car accident.

Although the theme has been used numerous times, Lexi refreshes Sophie Kinsella's fun tale with her quest to learn what happened to change her as radically as she has forgotten the last three years. Her inquiries into herself enable the audience to better understand who she is, how she got to where she is, and her relationship with Eric and Jon. Ms. Kinsella provides a smart contemporary tale.

Honor Thyself
Danielle Steel
Delacorte Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385340243, $27.00, 1-800-726-0600

One time Oscar winner Carole Barber leaves Hollywood for Paris where the fifty year old actress plans to write her first novel. However, on her first night in town, a terrorists' assault kills many innocents and leaves the stage and movie superstar severely injured and rushed to a hospital suffering from amnesia amongst other injuries.

As she recovers physically, the paparazzi are like locusts assaulting the hospital. Someone she does not recognize keeps visiting her as he has not forgotten her from their time together fifteen years ago. Her adult children cross the pond while praying for their mom to heal. During all this Carole slowly one fact at a time begins to remember her life, her failures, and her regrets, but realizes God has given her a second chance with those she loves if she has the courage to go for it.

This is an interesting character driven tale in which Carole meeting her loved ones for the "first" time since her amnesia will garner a lot of reader empathy. However, the story line never digs deep into her decision making as to why she kept her secret lover and even her children at a distance. Still fans of Danielle Steele will enjoy her second chance at living and loving relationships as fans will root for the heroine to succeed.

The Crystal Skull
Manda Scott
9780385340106, $25.00

Her new husband Cambridge Professor Kit O'Connor gives his wife expert speleologist Stella Cody the perfect marriage present. The professor provides her with the sixteenth century work of Cedric Owen who in his poetry says he hid an ancient powerful artifact in the Gaping Ghyll, England's deepest known pothole. The newlyweds spend their honeymoon digging in dirt inside the Yorkshire cave until Stella finds the incredible sapphire skull.

They soon realize others want the skull and will do anything including murder to obtain it; Kit gets hurt while they escape. Stella learns more about the skull yet understands less as conflicting information surfaces. It appears that it is one of thirteen that need to merge to avoid Armageddon as prophesied by the Mayans which will occur on 12/12/12; or perhaps it needs to be destroyed at the right time in the right place to avoid the 12/12/12 end of the world; then again maybe doing something with it leads to 12/12/12 Armageddon.

Based on a crystal skull in the British Museum, Manda Scott provides an action-packed fast-paced tale. The story line mostly focuses on the modern day countdown, but also has interesting interludes to the Elizabethan Era travels of Owens to Zama in the Mayan Empire. Readers will appreciate this end of the world thriller so Brownian yet so different as even seemingly loving Kit is under suspicion by the bewildered heroine who is unsure what she should do next as any error could mean Armageddon.

Howling the Moon
Karen MacInerney
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345496256, $6.99, 1-800-726-0600

In Austin, Texas, Sophie Garou is a highly regarded auditor at Withers and Young. She receives a strange box that contains a Ziploc bag of dried green leaves. The note makes it clear that someone knows she is a werewolf though she is only a half werewolf as her mom is a human witch. Sophie uses wolfsbane to control the transformations but that does not work during the full moon especially at the equinox.

Sophie gets a call from her mom's employee at her store informing her that her mom has been arrested for the murder of Congressman-elect Ted Brewster who apparently died from a love spell she sold him. Sophie tells her best friend accounting associate Lindsey and goes to see her mom in jail.

On the way Sophie is shocked to see a werewolf as she thought there were none in Austin. She tells her mom she needs a lawyer, but mom is not worried. Lindsey suggests they investigate as the cops are only looking at her mom. They can start with the librarian who Ted bought the love spell for. Meanwhile Sophie's human boyfriend Heath reminds her he has arranged a special date for their anniversary. She is worried because he is unaware that she is a half werewolf and their date is on the full moon equinox. Adele informs Sophie they will be conducting drug testing on the day of the full moon equinox. Things get worse from there.

This amusing paranormal amateur sleuth tale works because readers will believe werewolves and witches are real and living in Texas. The half-breed urban werewolf heroine is terrific with her humorous asides as she faces all types of woes especially with the demands on her time at the equinox. The support cast is fully developed to bring out more of the lead female's troubles or to help her, which also can lead to more tsuris for her.

To Bed a Beauty
Nicole Jordan
9780345494603, $6.99

In 1817 Roslyn Loring strongly believes that a happy marriage must include an exchange of the hearts; although she also understands that she must keep her spouse sexually satiated. Still abetted by her friend Cyprian Fanny Irwin she attends a masked ball as a courtesan. Andrew Moncrief is drawn to Roslyn, whom he recognizes in spite of her mask.

He offers her a tempting deal in which he will teach her the art of lovemaking if she becomes his mistress; she accepts with the stipulation her reputation must not get ruined by this scandalous behavior as she plans to marry the duke next door; Drew's mentoring lessons will keep her future husband in her bed and not that of a mistress. The sex is incredible leading Roslyn to wonder if Drew is the one or perhaps she is wanton. He realizes she is the one when an adversary threatens his beloved.

The second Courtship Wars skirmish (see TO PLEASURE A LADY) is a delightful Regency romance starring two likable protagonists. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Roslyn makes her Faustian deal and never slows down as she begins to comprehend what the devilish details mean to her heart and soul. Readers will appreciate the second battle between sensual sirens and the hunks obsessed with making love with them.

Therese Fowler
9780345499684, $21.95

In 1989 in Florida Meg Powell was falling in love with Carson McKay, but is marrying Brian Hamilton. In fact thirteen hours before she is to exchange I do she sneaks off to see Carson. Although she knows her marital vows are false, Meg goes ahead with the marriage; Carson leaves town after telling her they will next meet in hell.

Almost seventeen years later, now an obstetrician with a teenage daughter that she and her spouse neglect, Meg Hamilton learns from her physician that she suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease. Engaged to a professional surfer, Carson, who has become a successful rock musician, has just returned home. As an older nefarious male seduces her daughter Savannah with false words of affection, Meg realizes how much she lost when she chose stability over love, but feels she has a second chance.

This is a warm second chance at love soap opera that readers will enjoy as Meg suffers regrets over Carson and Savannah, who is being lured into a nasty net by a twenty-three years old punk. The characters are fully developed except for Brian, who is the stereotypical selfish sh*thead who could not give a sh*t about his wife or daughter except how it impacts on him; thus his personality makes relationship decisions by Meg much easier to choose than if he was a kind caring individual who loved and adored his wife and daughter. Still contemporary fans will appreciate this fine Florida romance.

The Alpine Traitor
Mary Daheim
9780345468185, $24.00

In Alpine, Washington, Dylan Platte, representing his wife Kelsey and her brother Graham, offers to buy the Advocate from Emma Lord who says no. Dylan insists that his late father-in-law Tom Cavanaugh planned to buy the newspaper to add to his empire, but died before he could make a deal. Emma thinks back to how she almost married Tom and would have been stepmother to his now thirty something children who allegedly are carrying out his wishes.

Emma goes to spend the weekend in nearby Seattle. Alpine Sheriff Milo Dodge calls her to inform her that someone murdered Dylan, shot in the chest in his motel room; and she is considered a viable suspect. Returning home, Emma and Milo investigate the homicide with the help of House & Home Editor Vida Runkel. However, the case takes a strange speedy spin in Sacramento while another person is shot in Alpine.

The newest Emma Lord mystery is a brisk entry as the audience learns much about the heroine's past with the late Tom. The investigation is as always well done and entertaining, but it is an emotionally wrought Emma, reliving what if thoughts, who makes this a strong Washington State murder mystery.

Still Shot
Jerry Kennealy
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312370916, $23.95, 1-888-330-8477

San Francisco Bulletin film critic (and one book author with a few sales to his mom) Carroll Quint receives a call from his mother, retired two bit actress Karen Kass. Her Hollywood roommate Ulla Kjeldson apparently committed suicide in Sausalito; she knew the Norwegian born Ulla as Vicky Vandamn and does not believe her friend whom she lost touch with would kill herself. Karen demands Carroll investigate a homicide that the lazy police call suicide so they can avoid an inquiry.

Just after the mom call, the newspaper's editor Katherine "The Great" Parkham, who knows Carroll is a super card player (thanks to his maternal "Uncle Crime") asks Carroll to prove that Charlie Talbot, son of ruthless Sir Charles, is cheating in their friendly poker game. He will play with them at the Talbot estate. Also going to a gala there is the paper's art critic and Carroll's on and off girlfriend Terry Greco who is working a Talbot museum exhibition.

At cards he catches how Charlie cheats, which does not endear him to the punk. On the Vicky front, he seeks a manuscript called Payback that she was writing while he receives "help" from Della the psychic, Bert the peaking Tom, Freeze the retired Noir cop, Sir Charles' fifth trophy wife Erica and of course Terry. However, the murder of art curator Ron Maleuw occurs; tying the two cases together with him in the middle holding jokers.

STILL SHOT pays homage to the tough screen sleuths like Marlowe and Spade (Carroll's first tale JIGSAW revered Hitchcock). Yet even with this adulation this remains a tongue in cheek "Hollywood" Noir that takes place approximately four hundred miles to the north in the Bay Area and Marin County. The story line is fun to follow as Carroll disproves Sir Charles' first assessment that he is a "barmeake"; keep in mind the source of calling him an a-hole British slang is a guy who burned an original Matisse.

Empress of Asia
Adam Lewis Schroeder
9780312376406, $24.95

Harry Winslow is stunned when his wife Lily on her death bed at St. Paul Hospital informs him that his French World War II buddy Michel Ney was still alive; Harry had thought Michel had died several years ago. She gives him an address and unanswered questions like how did she know this man whom he assumed she never met. His quest to meet up with the Frenchman who saved his life back in 1942 takes him to Kanchaburi Province, Thailand.

On his quest Harry reflects back to his days as a Canadian marine in Singapore. He met, married and lost Lily there in one day when the Japanese invaded the island and captured him as a prisoner of war. He went to a Japanese prison camp where he met Michel. They became friends until the Japanese separated them. He later learned Michel died trying to escape internment. After the war ended, Harry finds Lily, freed form a women's prison, but she hid a dark disturbing secret from her husband.

EMPRESS OF ASIA is a fascinating look at the negative impact of war on the lives of people even decades after the conflict is over. The story line is superb when it focuses on the three main characters in the present and during WW II. However, there is an overwhelming sense of place due to overwritten but picturesque descriptions of geography. Still filled with excitement, readers will appreciate Adam Lewis Schroeder's fine tale that armchair cheerleaders insisting the surge is working should read to understand the long term side effects of war on the soldiers (and their families).

Days of Atonement
Michael Gregorio
9780312376444, $24.95

Bonaparte's French forces occupy Prussia as it has for several years. Most villagers try to avoid the troops who need no reason to arrest someone. In Lotingen magistrate Hanno Stiffeniis knows the constant fear of incarceration or death although he is more concerned with his family's safety than his own.

At a formal party Stiffeniis and French Colonel Lavedrine discuss criminology, which both has an interest in. The Prussian magistrate mentions applying philosopher Immanuel Kant's classic Critique of Pure Reason to a case (see CRITIQUE OF CRIMINAL REASON), which excites the French officer. He asks Stiffeniis to help him investigate the ghastly murders of Prussian Major Bruno Gottewald's three small children and the disappearance of his wife who Lavedrine believes was abducted and probably dead. The wife is soon found dead in a warehouse. Meanwhile Stiffeniis goes to inform and question Gottewald, but instead finds his murdered corpse. A family of five I killed in less than a week, but Stiffeniis cannot fathom why or who would commit such atrocities.

The second Prussian-French historical mystery is a superb thriller that hooks the audience from the moment the two criminologists talk about crime theory over dinner. The whodunit is fun to follow because of the sleuths as Stiffeniis and Lavedrine share prevalent theories of the Napoleonic Era on how to solve a murder mystery; they each bring their form of logic to the Gottewald family mass murders.

China Dolls
Michelle Yu & Blossom Kan
9780312378011, $12.95

Chinese Americans M.J., Alex and Lin are best friends and have been so since they met as children. Each encourages the others to seek their dreams. Thus M.J. is a sportswriter hoping to make TV broadcasting; Alex has become a successful lawyer; and Lin has succeeded as an investment banker.

Each of their parents is concerned with the Americanization of their offspring, as the only acceptable roles for an Asian female are wife and mother. However the three musketeers want more from their lives and plan to prove to their respective families that Asian women at least in the United States can be all they want to be.

The American assimilation that divides the third generation from especially the first (the second is caught in a tug of war) is aptly described in CHINA DOLLS. Readers will see the Grand Canyon in beliefs as the acceptable Chinese norm (brought from the old country) clashes with the desires of women to be all that you can be in a society that encourages much more flexibility. Although none of the three young professionals are fully developed, the clashing lifestyles make for an interesting tale as each has to decide between gratifying their family by staying inside the narrow cultural restraints or satisfying themselves by taking advantage of the wider opportunities America offers.

The God of War
Chris Stewart
0312289561, $24.95

The United States Air Force is euphoric with the latest jet fighter, the F-38. Known by the military as the Ares, no aircraft is nears it capability as the F-38 can locate and identity upwards of fifty-eight flying objects at a distance of several hundred miles and shoot all of them out of the sky before a person can blink.

In front of a large crowd attending the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport, two F-38s are put on display. Everyone watching is stunned by the magnificence of this fighter jet as it soars over the adulating assembly. All seems perfect as the President, his National Security Advisor, and the Air Force brass pat each other on the back until suddenly they all realize the jet has run off as something goes deadly wrong.

THE GOD OF WAR is a superb adrenalin pumping High Noon in the sky as U.S. Air Force Major "Jesse" James is assigned the role of "Snoopy" vs. the unbeatable "Red Baron". However although Jess is fully developed and even has the required love interest to add intrigue and soften him, the star of this tale is the F-38. Conspiracy buffs will appreciate flying with Jesse and his opponents as Chris Stewart's fine thriller is at its best when everyone is flying; on the other hand the ground is filled with clutter starting with POTUS and his stereotypical untrusting advisor.

Winter Study
Nevada Barr
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399154584, $24.95, 1-800-847-5515

District Ranger Anna Pigeon of Rocky Mountains National Park is going to have wolves in the park; to know what to expect she is sent to Isle Royale in Lake Superior where scientists have been studying the wolves in their natural habitat for fifty years. They can work without tourists around as the park is closed for several moths due to dangerous weather. Homeland Security would like the park opened year round as it is on the Canadian border; they send Bob Menchinn to determine the feasibility.

Strange things are happening on the isolated island beginning with Anna's first night there. A group of seven wolves walk by the cabin where Anna and the winter study group resides. This anomaly shakes everyone as wolves normally avoid humans. Anna sees a giant wolf almost twice the size of a normal sized wolf and humongous paw prints. They think it is a wolf/dog hybrid and soon afterward an assistant is mauled to death by the wolves, which have no reported history of assaulting humans. The words "help me" appear on an ice coated window. Anna knows something is wrong and begins investigating just before another scientist disappears in what looks like a kidnapping; making her inquiries even more urgent.

A new Anna Pigeon mystery is a treat for fans of the series who expect the best from Nevada Barr and gets it with this strong "closed door" whodunit in a wintry outdoors setting. As Anna digs into the lives of the scientists and their aides, she uncovers dark secrets and blackmail, hidden agendas and ties to a cold (pun intended) case. Readers will enjoy armchair trekking with Anna as she seeks the truth allegedly of a killer wolf stalking humans.

The Genius
Jesse Kellerman
9780399154591, $24.95

Ethan Muller owns a successful art gallery in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, but recently his enthusiasm for his endeavor has diminished. Although he and his father no longer talk to one another, they communicate through Tony, his dad's second in command. Tony calls Ethan to tell him that in a Queens' slum apartment are boxes and books of ink and felt-tip drawings by a vanished genius.

Ethan goes to the wilderness where he concludes the work is brilliant as individual drawings, but the genius is that they fit together like puzzle pieces into a large piece. He takes a section and displays it at his gallery where a patron buys up the entirety of what he displays. The artist Victor Cracke vanished and none of his neighbors knew this reclusive loner or where he went. A retired cop recognizes the faces of murdered children in the exhibit he and his assistant DA daughter Susan have an interest in the Muller gallery as they want to find the artist of these portraits to perhaps crack open a forty year of cold case murder.

This is an excellent psychological suspense cozy that will haunt the audience due to the superb characterizations especially with Ethan, Susan, and the title character Cracke who makes a cameo appearance. Ethan is the reason the strong story line works as his everyman flawed personality especially a touch of larceny brings plausibility to the plot that otherwise would feel over the top albeit groovy of the 59th Street-Queensborogh Bridge. With plenty of twists and shockers, fans will wonder along with the now besieged Ethan just who is Victor and where he is.

Karen Robards
9780399154614, $24.95

Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Kate White prosecutes her first case in court when embarrassingly her cellphone chimes. Judge Michael Moran "the moron" tells her to shut it now; Kate worries her young son Ben needs her when the shots are fired by the defendant "Little" Julie Soto. Moran is dead with his head blown off and two other prisoners join in the melee. Soto abducts Kate to allegedly use as a hostage while escaping.

Kate manages to escape while believing she killed Soto in doing so. However, she is not free as someone stalks her and Ben even breaking into their home. Philadelphia Police Detective Tom Braga leads the official investigation into the courtroom murder and its aftermath. He thinks Kate's escape was planned by her captors and that Soto lives. As he tries to keep the single mom and her son safe, Tom begins to connect the dots leading back to when 1994 Baltimore when fifteen years old Katrina Kominski was part of the foster care system.

This exciting urban thriller works because the audience believes that fully developed Kate and Ben are in deep trouble, and that Tom feels a deep need to protect them from Soto and who knows who else. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Kate's cell phone rings a Pussycat Dolls tune and never slows down until the final biting confrontation. Karen Robards provides a strong entertaining romantic suspense.

Wicked City
Ace Atkins
9780399154577, $24.95

1954 Phenix City, Alabama, just across the Chattahoochee state boundary from Columbus, Georgia has a population of 23, 305; most of which are law abiding citizens, but running the town is the redneck mafia; affectionately called the Phenix City Machine. The economy is fueled by illegal activity although a group of concerned citizens, the Russell County Betterment Association (RBA), want gambling and prostitution stopped and the sale of illegal alcohol (moonshine to you northerners) controlled.

Alabama's newly elected State Attorney General Albert Patterson is in town when someone assassinates him, gangland style. The RBA membership is outraged by the hit and led by former professional boxer Lamar Murphy are determined that the killer and his employers, who everyone knows run the redneck mafia face a jury not of their peers as they demand justice. Tensions mount between the RBA and Phenix City machine until they boil over when Lamar is named temporary sheriff and marital law is imposed by the National Guard. High noon has arrived at Phenix City.

As he did with true 1950s events in Florida (see WHITE SHADOW), Ace Atkins does likewise with Phenix City, Alabama (see When Good Men Do Nothing: The Assassination of Albert Patterson by Alan Grady). The story line focuses on the abuse of power by avaricious souls sponsoring and tasting vice and those courageous enough to challenge them; the ultimate civil war between the RBA and the redneck mafia. Thus readers obtain an interesting historical account in which decadence and corruption rule a WICKED CITY, but with so many players involved and bribes making it easy for some to switch teams, it is difficult to keep score; still Mr. Atkins brings to life a town so depraved that nearby Fort Benning brass suggested artillery shelling it back to the mud age.

Santa Fe Dead
Stuart Woods
9780399154904, $25.95

No one is more surprised than Santa Fe lawyer Ed Eagle when his ex-wife, who is on trial for two murders and sundry other charges, escapes from the courtroom just before the verdict was to be announced. Not concerned except for some pampering, Barbara visits a nearby spa to relax under the alias Eleanor Wright. There she meets billionaire Walter Keeler, who is interested in her. After a couple days together, he whisks her away and marries her. A legal acquaintance tells Ed who sends a letter to Walter warning him not to change his will

Ed worries that Barbara will come after him and his lover as she once hired a hitman to kill him. His current client Don Wells is in Rome where he receives a call informing him his wife and stepson were killed. Ed goes to Don's home where he finds the pair with a bullet in each of them. Walter dies in a car accident, but his will fails to provide Barbara what he promised her. His lawyer explains that Walter changed his mind when he read Ed's letter. Barbara plans to make Ed pay by hiring a hitman to kill his lover and Walter's attorney; Ed knows she is coming.

Although readers will wonder where the police fit in except to do what Ed says, Stuart Woods can always be counted on to provide his audience with a fast-paced thriller that holds reader attention from start to finish. Fans of the Barrington tales will also appreciate the appearance of a character from that series; a trademark of Mr. Woods that enhances the setting. The two subplots run concurrently with the story line smoothly switching back and forth between them. SANTA FE DEAD is terrific as Ed once again fights the black widow he used to call wife.

Silent Run
Barbara Freethy
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451412539, $7.99, 1-800-847-5515

Following a nasty car crash, a woman is rushed to St. Mary's Hospital in Santa Barbara County suffering a traumatic injury to her brain. To her shock she cannot remember who she is. Angry Jake Sanders arrives claiming Jane Doe is his lover Sarah Tucker, who vanished with their daughter Caitlyn. However, Sarah suffers amnesia and the emergency rescuers insist no baby was in the car or at the accident scene.

Although barely talking to one another, Jake and Sarah team up in a frantic hunt for Caitlyn. However, Jake who thought he knew Sarah when they were together revises his opinion when he concludes she was on the lam even when they lived together. When an unknown adversary tries to kill Sarah, Jake knows that Caitlyn is in jeopardy because of her mother's unknown past.

This is a one sitting suspense thriller from the moment that Jane Doe awakens in the hospital to the final altercation. The romantic subplot enhances the desperate search as she knows she has lived a life of lies but cannot recall them and he feels betrayed by the woman he loves, who might not exist. As they continue their SILENT RUN, readers slowly learn what Sarah forgot. Barbara Freethy provides a gripping romantic suspense.

Poison Sleep
T.A. Pratt
Bantam Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780553589993, $6.99, 1-800-726-0600

Felport chief sorcerer Marla Mason is called to the Blackwing Institute for deranged sorcerers; she learns that an insane prisoner tried to escape, but was caught. However, her escape attempt wakes up Genevieve Kelly, who has been in a catatonic sleep for fifteen years after being raped. She is considered dangerous because Genevieve is a reweaver who can change physical reality. Genevieve transported herself to a dream state and only enters the real realm for a few minutes at a time with no pattern to her visits.

Maria has to find Genevieve because her reality is bleeding into the real world with flowers, towers and supernatural beings appearing. Maria is unaware that she is also under assault from powerful sorcerer Gregor who was informed by a seer that if he leaves his building Maria will kill him. Zealand the assassin tries to kill Maria, but he becomes entangled in Genevieve's world and his feelings for Genevieve change his priorities. Marie knows that a battle is coming between her and her allies against Gregor and hi minions with the future of Felport at stake.

In the Pratt universe, magic remains in the shadows so the ordinaries remain ignorant. Thus this dark urban fantasy is dominated by a ruthless lead protagonist who will do whatever it takes to protect her friends and city even if it means causing havoc amidst the mundane realm. The sorcerers have their own culture that coexist with the mundanes but are more powerful as they work behind the scenes. However in POISON SLEEP Maria and company may prove too weak against Gregor and his cohort Reave who wants to rule the world after he takes care of Marla.

The Lost Ones
Christopher Golden
9780553383287, $12.00

Oliver Bascombe has learned so much about the creatures of legend since that night Jack Frost busted into his Maine home (see THE MYTH HUNTERS) and the Sandman abducted his sister Colette (see THE BORDERKIND). The American attorney has crossed the Veil several times to and from the Two-Kingdoms mostly to save his sister, but has learned of an interesting prophesy that vaguely implies earthlings saving this realm; could the Bascombe siblings be the saviors?

However, when the sly Atlantans destroy the peace between Euphrasia and Yucatazca, Oliver realizes he must prevent Armageddon. He blunders when he is fooled into using the sword of Euphrasia and kills the ruler of Yucatazca. As the doomsday clock ticks down, Oliver frees himself, Collette, and his fiancee Juliana Whitney from the Yucatazca royal dungeon. Whereas Collette and Frost journey to Euphrasia to reason with Hunyadito, Oliver and Juliana beg the indifferent legends of the Two-Kingdoms to save the realms as no one will remember them if they fail to act. However, no longer one to sit idly on the sidelines with cold feet, Oliver attacks Atlantis bringing the hostilities to the place that started the fiasco.

Although like in most if not all (can't think of an exception) quest fantasies, readers know what to expect, but will still be enthralled by the conclusion to the Veil trilogy as this is a golden winner. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as the Maine siblings use Yankee know-how and some magic to try to save the day. Fantasy fans will appreciate this fun finish to a fine saga.

The Bible of Clay
Julia Navarro
9780385339636, $24.00

President Bush has put a clock on Iraq so that if Hussein fails to cooperate by handing over his weapons of mass destruction a regime change will follow. Meanwhile Iraqi archeologist Clara Tannenberg makes a startling announcement at a Mesopotamia cultural panel. She talks about the finding of two cuneiform text clay tablets scribed by an apprentice that references a pair of tablets that tell the Abraham's version of creation etched a thousand years before the papyrus version that serves as the basis of the Old Testament.

As the invasion nears, several adversarial groups search for the biblical First Patriarch's story because each understands what this mean in terms of present day religion and power. Meanwhile Clara's husband Ahmed Husseini, head of the Bureau of Archeological Excavation in Iraq, is irate with her for telling too much and for her insane reverence of her renowned grandfather, who he believes is a nasty sort. However, as Clara realizes her call for help has backfired with so many interested in absconding with the first BIBLE OF CLAY for either personal profit on the black market or to conceal the truth, she finds herself reassessing her family especially her idol, her grandfather who has fallen off the pedestal.

Although there are too many players at the beginning that clutter the story line, once Julia emerges as the lead, THE BIBLE OF CLAY becomes an exhilarating religious artifact race thriller. The premise is engaging as the biblical past impacts the present; yet fascinatingly the entire tale occurs around the time of the Bush invasion. This tale starts off slow and is hampered by a cast out of a De Mille movie, but once it gets going, patient fans will appreciate the changing perspectives and opinions on finding Abraham's original oldest testament.

Personal Demon
Kelley Armstrong
9780553806618, $20.00

She works for a tabloid writing articles about the supernatural; a subject Hope Adams personally knows very well since she is a half-demon as her father is Lucifer, who for those who don't know is not Satan. She inherited from her dark side a thirst for Chaos so when Cabal chieftain Benicio Cortez, who once helped her out of a mess, asks her to do him a favor in Southern Florida, she accepts; besides it is not healthy to refuse an offer from the supernatural mob leader. He wants her to infiltrate a teen gang who are rebelling from Cabal life.

Hope passes the initiation and goes out on a job to steal from the rich. Karl the werewolf who dumped her is livid that Benicio contacted her without consulting with him. He rushes back to the States to help her. While undercover Hope meets low level magician Jasper who makes it obvious that he desires her. When Jaz and his best friend Sonny disappear, she fears the Cabal got them. Karl promises her he will help her find them, but at Cabal Headquarters someone has penetrated security endangering the Cortez family. Hope and Karl work to assist both sides unaware of the peril to their lives.

Kelley Armstrong has written spellbinding Women of the Otherworld tale that has the audience so engrossed in the plot, time vanishes until the one sitting read is finished. Hope and Karl are a magical couple whose love grows although neither has faith in that emotion because each is a loner. Fans will appreciate the spins involving the gang warfare including the murders of higher echelon members of the Cortez family as this comes together in a fascinating fantasy crime caper filled with shockers especially who is behind the mayhem.

The Magician and the Fool
Barth Anderson
9780553383591, $13.00

Disgraced as an academia art historian Jeremiah Rosemont fled to remote areas to just get away from the treachery of his peers. He is currently hiking through Central America when a stranger informs him he has been summoned to Rome; the man gives him a plane ticket and leaves.

Rosemont flies to Rome and enters through a back door a hotel where he sees some sort of weird gala occurring; filled with people he once knew. At the same time that Rosemont is left bewildered, two killers in Minnesota pursue Boy King, a dumpster driving tarot card reader. They seek a legendary ancient pack that they believe Boy King owns; that same pack is why Rosemont has been brought out of self exile; disgraced or not he is expected to affirm its origin. If he is able to do so it will change recognition of this thought to be pseudo science into something valid and acceptable.

This is an exhilarating convoluted thriller that is not going to allow readers to remain in their comfort zone. Instead THE MAGICIAN AND THE FOOL is a well written complex tale that questions what is real in a singular and collective sense and is the singular real normal if it differs from the collective. Fans looking for something radically different and not easy to comprehend will relish Barth Anderson's atypical tale that will either turn someone off early or have them re-read immediately to gain additional nuances and perspectives.

Karen Miller
Orbit/Hatchette Publishing Group
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316008358, $7.99, 1-800-759-0190

In Mijak, seven Warlords, with each one having a Godspeaker, have divided the land into fiefdoms. However, poverty is rampant as the soil is failing. Most assume the Nameless God is punishing the wicked. In that realm a hysterical woman pleads with her man to keep this one. However he is adamant that the she-brat will be gone once the Traders arrive as he cannot afford another worthless female to feed. He warns the woman with his fists that she has cursed his seed with five bitches and to give him strong sons who can work or face the Godspeaker.

Thus when the Traders come to the hostile north they purchase the nameless she-brat. In chains Hekat as she is now called arrives at the flourishing capital city of Et-Raklionwhere she is sold in bondage to warlord Raklion. The she-brat may be a domestic slave, but she has ambition and intelligence. Hekat learns the secrets of power and how to keep it by observing and listening as most in the inner circle fail to notice a slave even one as beautiful as she is except as a sex object. Manipulating rivals becomes her tool of choice. Hekat climbs in power until she becomes the EMPRESS of Mijak with a vision of turning the country from seven fiefs into the most powerful empire ever one bloody battle at a time.

This is an exciting epic fantasy starring a powerful heroine whose ambition makes Lady Macbeth look like a kindergarten student claiming she will become a nurse. The strong support cast starting with Hekat's parents and enhanced by those in the capital bring to life a country where women and children have no rights and betrayal is an acceptable practice. Especially fascinating is The Godspeaker, a frightening individual even in the shadows. Character driven, the first of the Godspeaker trilogy is a strong opening act that will have fans seeking Karen Miller's previous saga, Kingmaker, Kingbreaker.

Orphan's Journey
Robert Buettner
9780316001731, $6.99

As an advisor to the Tibetan rebels, General Jason Wander had orders not to fire at the Chinese troops unless he came under fire from them. However, he could not let the rebels he trusted die in combat so he disobeys a direct order. To keep him out of further trouble the brass exiles him to the New Moon resort station where scientists work on figuring out how to fly a space ship captured from a Slug with engine powered Cavorite at its core. The ship was captured during the most recent hostility. Jason is on the station to get his godson Jude to power it up with reflexes only he has and which are needed to interface with the engine starting up.

Jason persuades Jude they need it done so they can fly back to earth together, but something goes wrong; the Cavorite fueled ship takes off from the station and travels through a black hole before landing on the planet Bren. For a millennium they have mined Cavorite and given it to the Slugs so they will be left alive and alone to fight amongst themselves. However, when Jason and his crew touch down, the Slugs decide to eradicate all humans except those they need as drones and slaves. Jason has to unite the feuding clans, who have been at war with one another for years, if they hope to extricate the Slugs from Bren for that is the only way they will survive. Adding to his dilemma is the Slugs are breeding so his chances of winning are nil unless he can come up with a dramatic Hail Mary. Whatever happen he is responsible because the clan leaders named him Commander.

The latest Jason Wander military science fiction thriller (see ORPHANAGE and ORPHAN'S DESTINY) is a great space opera reminiscent of the early Heinlein sagas. The protagonist still struggles with accepting that in war there are casualties including collateral damage of the innocent. He detests that he sends men to their deaths, but understands the greater good. He is sensitive and willing to disobey orders if he feels they are wrong. However, what makes this tale so strong is the insight into Bren culture where Homo sapiens fight one another with nineteenth century equivalent technology while avoiding a confrontation with the Slugs.

Blood Ties
Pamela Freeman
9780316033466, $12.99

Over a millennium ago the Northern invaders displaced the locals throughout the Eleven Domains. The conquerors became brutal warlords and the conquered Travellers; nomads with no place to call home or a haven from their abusive rulers. Men watch their women of all ages raped and can do nothing but eat their rage for that is the lot of the Travellers to keep on shuffling from one place to another unwelcome by any warlord.

In this world Travellers flee from one atrocity to another. However several have taken differing approaches. Bramble a young villager has tasted the taking of a life but feels no remorse as she flees from soldiers wanting to rape her. Apprentice Ash has been trained by street wizard Doronit as a safeguarder assassin who has killed, but feels regret with ghosts of his victims visiting him; he knows he is no better than the butcher Acton the warlord. However it is Saker the enchanter who considers using black magic to destroy his people's enemies and return what he believes is rightfully his. Their actions and that of other Travellers and the warlords impact the ordinary people who just want to survive.

The first tale of the Castings trilogy is an insightful fantasy in which an event has repercussions that have further repercussions; nothing is isolated. In some ways it will remind readers of Palestine. When the prime Travellers Ash and Bramble act, readers see their actions and the consequences on others, but not just warlords as communities are impacted. This brings a deep sense of reality, but can detract from the prime theme of the warlords vs. the outcasts. Still few fantasy sagas make the villages seems so genuine. BLOOD TIES is a strong opening gamut to the Freeman fantasy realm.

Victory Conditions
Elizabeth Moon
Del Rey
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
0345491610, $26.00, 1-800-726-0600

The ISC war against Gammis Turek and his pirate empire has enabled Kylara Vatta to rise rapidly in the admiralty to where the relatively youthful officer commands forty spacecraft. However, she knows the enemy is brutal and brilliant with his latest threat being Slotter Key, her homeworld.

Ky learns rank may have privilege, but it also has difficult decision making responsibility. She knows she will send soldiers to their deaths but also realizes the war could devastate her family like her Aunt Grace and Vatta Enterprises. Still as she feels haunted by those who died and will die under her command, she feels strongly failure to act will lead to even more deaths by Turek and his horde. Combat is inevitable; she knows what she must do though it weighs on her mind, but hopes her actions will make her side victorious.

The key to the final Vatta's War is the strong cast not just the heroine who bring to life and death the full facets of the impact of war on everyone. The story line is fast-paced yet no critical thread is left dangling while the cast drives the saga. Fans of the series will relish Elizabeth Moon's finish as Ky concludes that the conditions for victory mean deaths for friends and family.

The Time It Takes to Fall
Margaret Lazarus Dean
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
0743297229, $24.00, 1-800-223-2336

By the 1980s everyone who lives in the towns that make up Florida's "Space Coast" understands that NASA is the prime employee. All working adults either are employed by NASA or provide services to NASA's employees. Most of the young like preadolescent student Dolores Gray dream of becoming astronauts or space engineers.

Delores' father moved here in 1965, but insists the space exploration ended abruptly in 1972 as Nixon had no vision. By late 1985 in spite of her dad's negativity and that most of her peers admired teacher in space astronaut Christa McAuliffe, Delores wants to one day be just like her heroine mission specialist Judith Resnick. However, funding is cut for the agency as another no visionary sits in the White House; NASA has to RIF employees like Delores' dad, which propels her parents' marriage into a tailspin until her mom leaves. Then on 28 January 1986, the Challenger explodes.

An interesting coming of age tale; what keeps THE TIME IT TAKES TO FALL entertaining is 1980s NASA Florida vividly described with a royal pyramidal hierarchy while rocket science is made simple and comprehensible without dumbing it down. The family crisis pales next to space science and space disaster. Still Margaret Lazarus Dean provides a fascinating look at Space Coast Florida circa 1985-86.

Patrick F. McManus
Simon & Schuster
9781416532774, $14.00

In Blight County, Idaho, Blanche Wilson calls the Sheriff's Department to report her spouse Mike is missing. Sheriff Bo Tully sees the investigation as an opportunity for him and his team (the previous sheriff his dad Pap and Dave the tracker) to take advantage of the upscale facilities at the West Branch Lodge, owned by the Wilsons.

However fantasies of hot tubs vanish as fast as an avalanche traps the father and son detecting team. The Tullys manage to get to the lodge where they find a horde of outsiders vacationing at the exclusive spot and a few locals including his dog sledding former girlfriend Janice. As they investigate in between hot tub soaks, they find the corpse of Mike and Bo's deputies inform him that Horace Baker, Wilsons' business partner, was murdered. The only motive to surface is Blanche has a multimillion dollar insurance policy on the two victims, but Tully and Pap think that is too obvious.

The latest Bo Tully Idaho police procedural (see THE BLIGHT WAY) is a terrific tale not because of the investigation, which lies behind the last sled dog, but due to the loving teasing between Tully and Pap, and Tully and Janice (as well as a few other females the hero meets during his hot soaks). The case is well written though straightforward, but it is the younger Tully's eccentric relationships that make for a fun whodunit.

The Winding Ways Quilt
Jennifer Chiaverini
Simon & Schuster
9781410403711, $24.00

The Elm Street Quilters camp is about to reopen and participants eagerly hope to learn more about their craft and meet old friends and make new ones. This year's opening is bittersweet because some of the founding members are leaving.

Judy wouldn't leave for anything less than a tenure position at U of Penn and her husband is getting a job at the Philadelphia Inquirer. It is a time for new beginning for pregnant Sara and her husband Matt. Bonnie lost her store Grandmother's Attic when some thugs destroyed it beyond repair and her husband changed the numbers to their accounts and the locks to their home. Summer who is also one of the founders is taking her doctorate at the University of Chicago. It is time for the Elm Street Quilters to have welcomes and farewells to characters who are coming and leaving.

The characters are fully developed and likable especially bringing in two new faculty members to replace departing instructors adds freshness to the saga. However, the story line feels very similar to previous tales with flashbacks overly employed and there are very little interactions between the main characters as the tale is more of a series of vignettes. Still fans will want to say goodbye to leaving quilters and welcome new members.

Murder, Mayhem, and a Fine Man
Claudia Mair Burney
Howard Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416551942, $12.99, 1-800-223-2336

In Michigan, Carly Brown treats her younger sister forensic psychologist Dr. Amanda Bell Brown to dinner at Fishbones on the latter's thirty-fifth birthday. However, the medical examiner is on call so when she receives a page to come to a murder scene, Carly takes Amanda with her. At the crime scene, Carly introduces Amanda to police detective Jazz Brown (no relation to the two sisters), who leads the investigation. They are attracted to one another and he invites her inside for her opinion. Used to working at jails and having never met a corpse, she still provides interesting insight to the double homicides before puking on Jazz's shoes.

Jazz learns that Bell, a theologian, has investigated toxic churches where nasty cults surface. He asks for her help and she takes him to her mentor septuagenarian Dr. Mason "Pop" May who insists he is the one for her. As Jazz and Bell work on the case, they begin to fall in love, but he insists no relationship can occur between them; he offers no explanation except that he is celibate. As they argue and psychoanalyze one another, Bell goes out on her own frightening Jazz once he realizes what she is doing.

This is a fine police procedural due to the fascinating lead couple as each struggle with desire and rejection. The investigation into what seems a cult murder mystery is cleverly designed so that the audience follows the clues, but also gain insight into Bell and Jazz. Although his celibacy vow is invoked too often, fans will appreciate this strong tale in which murder and mayhem converge on religion and love.

When the Tide Rises
David Drake
Baen Books
PO Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9781416555278, $25.00, 1-800-223-2336

The war continues unabated between the Republic of Cinnabar and the Alliance of Free Stars. Although his side is short on battleships and experienced combat officers, Cinnabar Space Navy Officer Daniel Leary expects to be mothballed since his mentor on the Board was replaced by someone who detests the maverick as success does not matter; political connections do.

Instead he and his crew are assigned to help the fledgling navy of the Independent Republic of Bagaria, who seceded from the Alliance. Espionage agent Signal Officer Adele Mundy accompanies Daniel and his crew. Upon arrival at the frontier republic, they find the biggest problem is from within the divided Bagarian political leadership as treason seems to be the norm especially for those who lost power when Bagaria left the Alliance.

The latest Leary outer space military science fiction thriller (see SOME GOLDEN HARBOR, WITH THE LIGHTNINGS and THE WAY TO GLORY, etc.) is an excellent entry that has the author's trademark look at the brutality of war, but much more. The story line contains the usual Mr. Drake's deep look at the outcome of hostilities on civilian populations as well as the surviving military. However, the tale also provides a fascinating political twist that is mindful of Iraq and the Baath party. Those who were in power under the Alliance want back what they lost; while those who gained power refuse to share. WHEN THE TIDE RISES is a thought-provoking entertaining entry in the Cinnabar-Alliance war.

Andre Norton
9781416555292, $23.00

"The Crossroads of Time". Orphan Blake Walker is about to attend Havers as an art student, but currently resides in a nearby hotel waiting for school to begin. When he opens his door he sees a man holding a gun on another person. Blake intercedes and saves FBI Agent Mark Kittson who fears for the teen's safety so he takes him with him to a loft over a warehouse, where he meets three associates including Jason Saxton, who believes historical pivotal points lead to alternate timelines. When someone attacks Blake mentally from outside, the agent save his life before further explaining CROSSTIME, but not the full mission involving a rogue maniac.

"Quest Crosstime". Blake has become a full member of the CROSSTIME project. His assignment is to track down a missing telepathic twin with the help of her sister by traveling across a series of alternate earths formed during pivotal moments in the timeline. They find several odd places, but finally feel the mission is achievable when they reach earth E6525. Blake pretends to be a New Britain trader in a world where the Plantagenet rule modern day England because Richard III won the decisive Battle of Boswell and the Aztec Empire includes all of America west of the Mississippi River as the Spanish Empire never occurred nor did the Louisiana Purchase.

These are fun well written reprints from four or five decades ago (about the time of the most influential classic DC comic Flash of Two Worlds) that showcase the creativeness of late grandmaster Andre Norton in spite of the scientific background seeming obsolete. Each of the tales is entertaining with The Crossroads of Time more a coming of age story (a theme that Ms. Norton excelled at) and by Quest Crosstime he shows his leadership skills. Although the ending of the sequel leaves many threads hanging loose on E6525 and as far as I know no other time Crosstime novel was written, fans of the author will appreciate these fine enjoyable science fiction time thrillers.

Getting Away Is Deadly
Sara Rosett
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780758213402, $22.00, 1-800-345-2665

When your husband is in the military, plans change at a moment's notice; just ask professional organizer and pregnant Ellie Avery. She was looking forward to a Caribbean vacation with her husband Mitch who returns home from an overseas tour, but instead learns he must attend a class in sweltering DC. Like most military spouses flexible Ellie adapts and accompanies him to Washington.

Ellie promise her cousin Debbie that she will meet Jay MacInalley, who served in the military with Debbie's father who died in Korea. Her family will not talk about him and she needs to know why. She also goes to see her sister- in- law Summer who works for a powerful K Street lobbyist. Before hooking up with either person, Ellie is in the Metro when a man falls down and dies. The police look at security tapes that show he was pushed. Summer knows the man who was killed and the tapes show her or her someone who looks almost exactly like her next to Jorge. Obviously the prime suspect, Ellie believes Summer is innocent and investigates to prove her assertion.

Fans of amateur sleuth mysteries will relish GETTING AWAY IS DEADLY as the tale contains a delightful whodunit that serves as a tour of Washington DC. Debbie's quest and Summer's legal problems are subtly indirectly linked while spunky Ellie waddles from one clue to another resolutely trying to solve both cases with a killer watching her DC tour ready to coldly guide her to a non-tourist site, the morgue.

The Beast in Him
Shelly Laurenston
Kensington Brava
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780758220370, $14.00, 1-800-345-2665

In Smithtown, Tennessee, werewolf Bobby Ray Smith always protects wild dog Jessie Ann Ward from his sister and her pack. As he is about to join the navy, he wants to kiss Jessie Ann, but controls himself as he knows that once started he will not be able to stop and neither has sexual protection. Jessie Ann is mortified when he seemingly rejects her.

Sixteen years later in New York former SEALs Smitty and his partner were-lion Mace Llewellyn run a security firm. They are currently providing protection to a wild dog pack of computer geeks, Kuznetson Security Systems. The CEO and alpha dog turns out to be Jessie Ann. She pretends she does not remember much about Smitty, who is upset by her action and subsequent behavior towards him. Smitty and Jessie go for coffee where he tells her she is afraid because she wants him. Jessie says she hates him.

Jessie sees Walt Wilson, a cousin to the notorious Smith clan. He means trouble for her pack as his teenage daughter Kristin and her mother Maylin are part of the group. He never cared about them before so she knows he wants something besides Kristin. As she hides how much she loves Smitty from him, he works on keeping her safe and making her his, but fears wildly marking her as a wolf is so much bigger than a dog.

The sequel to THE MANE EVENT affirms that in the Laurenston world, the various breeds of shapeshifters come across as genuine. The lead couple is a nice pairing as both are likable protagonists who have a misinterpreted history, a confusing present, and a potential future as soulmates. Although the climax is too soft, fans will enjoy this lighthearted amusing paranormal second chance at love.

Lost Souls
Lisa Jackson
9780758211835, $22.00

Kristi Bentz returns to All Saints College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to major in English. Her goal is to write true crime books; having been a victim twice with one incident leaving her in a coma. After she awakened and recovered physically, Kristi had visions in which she saw people like her father turn from color to black and white, which she interprets as meaning that person will soon die.

At the school Kristi learns that four female students have disappeared in the past two years. The police believe they are runaways, but Kristi thinks they are dead. Her former roommate mentions a vampire cult whose members wear a small vial of blood around their necks. The four who vanished were in the same classes in the English Department and also had in common parents who disowned them. Kristi, being a chip off the old block, investigates with the help of her professor and ex-lover Kay McKnight; not realizing that a clever killer has marked her for death.

Lisa Jackson writes another chilling thriller filled with action and fully developed characters, but refreshed by going to the next generation, the daughter of New Orleans Detective Rick Bentz (partner of Detective Reuben Montoya). A romantic subplot between Kristi and Jay grows slowly and more significantly does not intrude on their investigation making it feel real. Whereas the police with one exception assume the coeds are runaways, ironically readers know otherwise. With twists including who had an inkling of what was going on and spins, fans will appreciate LOST SOULS.

At Her Service
Susan Johnson
Kensington Brava
9780758209405, $15.00

In 1855 Aurore Clement travels to Sevastopol in the Crimea to bring her injured veteran brother back home. She is using a wounded sibling Etienne who allegedly lies in one of the filthy hospitals as a cover for her undercover spying for the French government. Meanwhile in the beleaguered city she meets British Marquis, Hugh D'Abernon, who offers a ride to her to the nearby city after he introduces himself as trader Gazi Maksound to hide his secret service work as an undercover British espionage agent.

Aurore and Hugh desire one another from the first moment they met. That wanting leads to an incredible all night tryst. However, when both are exposed as spies, they flee eventually making it to Paris where he must rely on her to keep him safe, but he also has doubts about trusting her or his feelings for her.

AT HER SERVICE is an engaging historical romance starring two courageous likable star-crossed heroes working as spies for their respective governments. The fast-paced storyline hooks fans from the first fateful February meeting in Sevastopol and never slows down until Paris. The 1914 coda is a perfect ending to a great tale as Susan Johnson provides a powerful mid nineteenth century espionage romantic suspense as only she can.

A Fiend In Need
Maureen Child
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451223074, $14.00, 1-800-847-5515

One month ago her mom died, but Cassidy Burke has had little time to grieve her loss as she has become the most powerful demon duster in the world; or at least in California. The thirtyish mother of Thea wonders what next since she began spraying people with her specialized cleaning solution that turns selected people smoking and had to rescue her offspring (see MORE THAN FIENDS). No longer quite shocked by what has happened to her world since she learned about her DNA, Cassidy finds out that someone has posted a reward to the person who kills her on a website; just another day as a duster.

However, Cassidy actually becomes flustered when six feet five inches Brady demands she give him a haven in her home. She figures she would be a light snack for the hunk, but he explains that he is a runaway slave. For the past hundred years, Brady has been a sex slave used and abused by his owner Demon Queen Vanessa. He insists the demon duster is the only one who can keep him safe although that might mean war between her and the Demon horde. As she ponders what to do encouraged by her teenager to keep him, she admits to herself the road to sanctuary is through her stomach as he can cook and through her libido as he is one heck of a hunk.

This amusing chick lit romantic fantasy is an entertaining tale starring a likable save the world from a dusty demons heroine. The story line is fast-paced as Cassidy feels she has enough on her plate between demon dusting and raising a daughter, but to take a runaway slave in means warring with Queen Vanessa and her horde. Her first bite makes up Thea's mind to keep the hunk who can cook. A FIEND IN NEED is a pest, but a lovable nuisance not quite as weird as having a cheerleader offspring.

Thigh High
Christina Dodd
9780451223371, $7.99

In Philadelphia, Jeremiah "Mac" MacNaught is stunned by the behavior of his always professional investigator into the Beaded Bandits robberies of the New Orleans branches of his Premier Central Bank during Mardi Gras. The staid Reed seems full of life as he explains he danced with the prime suspect Ionessa Dahl, who works at the bank and whose family has lived at renowned Dahl House for generations. Arrogant that he will never fall for the Dahl party life that he believes his banks bankroll, Mac assumes this Nessa who graduated Summa Cum Laude from Emery school of business is the brains behind the thefts. Obsessed he travels to Philadelphia to prove his theory.

Nessa Dahl made one error while working at the Premier Central Bank, but hopes that her dedication, hard work, and success at her job will overcome that indiscretion leading to a promotion. Mac goes undercover masquerading as an insurance investigator. However, when they meet during Mardi Gras, he is totally under her spell and that of her zany aunts, who live with her. Their parties are the in place to be, but Mac's fixation has changed radically as he wants Nessa as his, but fears when she learns who he is she will send him home alone.

This zany New Orleans frolic is a humorous over the top wild spin of the Big Easy starring two likable protagonists. Interestingly he has honesty at the top of what makes a good person list and she has trust at the top of hers; ergo the truth may set you free, but separately in this case except her matchmaking eccentric aunts will not allow that to happen. Fans will enjoy Christina Dodd's amusing romantic dance around New Orleans.

Shadows of the Night
Lydia Joyce
9780451223425, $6.99

During the courtship Colin and Fern behaved as expected of aristocrats by Victorian society. Both expected a normal somewhat boring relationship as neither showed a tendency to break out of the mold. Then came their wedding night in which Fern displays sass, boldness, and desire, which makes Colin hot for her and dream perhaps they can have an ardent loving marriage that breaks sexual taboos with some safe S&M.

They go on their honeymoon to his most remote estate where she wants independence and he desires more of what they had on their wedding night. They fall in love and enjoy their isolation until Joseph Reston from Colin's past arrives with demands that shake apart the newlyweds as she realizes he has hidden things from her while he insists they no longer matter as love has changed him from what he was.

SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT is an engaging Victorian romantic suspense in which the peril comes later in the plot, but enhances the story line by causing a major rift between the lead couple who struggle to understand their sexual appetites. Fans will enjoy this heated historical because the conflict comes from within the relationship between Colin and Fern even before Reston arrives and amplifies the already existing issues.

Kindred Spirits
Jocelyn Kelley
9780451223449, $6.99

In the North Yorkshire Moors of England, sisters China, Jade, and Sian Nethercott mourn the loss of their father, who recently passed away. However, the middle sibling Jade has moved on since meeting the ghost of murdered Sir Mitchell Renshaw and her soulmate Lord Gideon Bannatyne (see LOST IN SHADOW). China affectionately remembers how he believed in ghosts although she has never seen an apparition. That is until China meets Roman era spirit Quintus Valerius.

The centurion explains to China that he is cursed to wander the earth until he rescues one of his descendents from being killed; since almost two millennia have past since he died, Quintus knows failure. However, his plan this time differs than in the past when he tried to intercede directly. Quintus plans to injure Major Alexander, Lord Braddock, who was admitted into the Order of the Bath for his courage during the Napoleonic Wars. That will mean he is forced to stay home to heal and ergo prevent his murderer from succeeding. China tries to help Alex heal, but the war hero cannot sit still even as they fall in love while Quintus omitted the rest of the story that China's future is tied Alexander in life or death.

KINDRED SPIRITS is a terrific, lighthearted, paranormal Regency romance that will have everyone believing in ghosts. China is a courageous heroine who rescues Alexander and brings him back to her isolated home Nethercott Castle to heal. Fast-paced, fans will wonder whether the love between them will end the curse with a happily ever after in this life or eternity together in the afterlife (it is a romance). Jocelyn Kelley provides a delightful charmer filled with subtly like setting the time frame ten years after Napoleon claims emperorship, her devoted readers will look forward for Sian's encounter.

The Amateur Spy
Dan Fesperman
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781400044672, $24.95, 1-800-726-0600

After years working in the world's most dangerous spots as an aid worker, fifty-five year old Freeman Lockhart retires. He and his thirty-something Bosnian spouse Mila take residence on the island of Karos in the Aegean Sea.

However, on their very first night, three home invaders abduct Freeman. They demand he do their bidding. He is to go to Jordon to spy on a former aid co-worker Omar al-Baroody. If he refuses, they will publicly destroy him and his wife by revealing his darkest secret involving his spouse when they worked in Africa. Stunned, he travels to Amman while in Washington, D.C. Dr. Abbas Rahim plans a terrorist attack that ties back to Freeman's Jordanian mission.

THE AMATEUR SPY is a superb espionage thriller and the audience will show their appreciation by reading it in one entranced sitting. Freeman is terrific as the title character blackmailed into a scenario that is out of his skill level but failure is unacceptable as he knows the price. Fans will sympathize and root for him while watching him bungle his way through a dangerous mission in which he knows no matter what he does someone will die.

Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana
Anne Rice
9781400043521, $25.95

Rumors have always abounded that Yeshua bar Joseph was miraculously a virgin birth child. However, he never gave that a second thought as he faithfully attends synagogue every Sabbath just like his brother James and everyone else in the village of Nazareth. However, recently Yeshua has had emotional issues between his religious calling and his love for a kinswoman. He knows what he must do, but is reluctant to embrace it as he sadly realizes he is about to lose his youth though he accepts the cause is worth the cost. On the "Road to Cana" he changes water to wine at the family wedding of Reuben and Avigail. Three years later Yeshua starts preaching the people must return to God. He performs miracles as he walks the path that the Lord has assigned to him.

The first Christ the Lord tale (see OUT OF EGYPT) was a strong opening story, but added little poetic license to the gaps of what is already known of Jesus. THE ROAD TO CANA is much deeper and better as Anne Rice provides an insightful look at Yeshua that miraculously makes him human as he covets love and feels loneliness with his increasing understanding of the heavenly mission bestowed on him. He displays human feelings yet Godly responsibilities that converge at the wedding where a family dispute has led to unhappiness at a moment that all should be rejoicing.

The Spare Wife
Alex Witchel
9781400041497, $23.95

After graduating high school in Harding, South Carolina Ponce Porter heeded Sinatra's advice by coming to Manhattan to make it as a model. Instead the teen married wealthy TV producer Lee Morris, who was older than her parents. Finding marriage to a man four decades older than her boring, Ponce went to NYU and law school.

Over two decades later, the fortyish Ponce is a wealthy widow known by her socialite friends as "THE SPARE WIFE" as she is a companion to husbands at sports galas and to their wives at charity events. Everyone trusts the popular Ponce. However, in Chicago Boothby's Review wannabe reporter Babette Steele catches Ponce kissing happily married fertility Dr. Neil Grossman. Whereas Babette feels she has the ticket into journalism. Ponce and her friends begin a discrediting campaign to spin the story by destroying the aspirant and the other jealous media sharks trying to devour their affluent superiors.

Ponce and her social set prove that President Bush is right that the economy must have a strong base affirmed by the excess hedonistic extravagance in which one would expect this crowd to answer health care issues with "Let them eat cake". Alex Witchel goes deep into the soul of the title character, ironically a shallow person socializing with her superficial friends. Readers will enjoy this powerful character study of the ultra elite whose earmarked connections would be the envy of lofty politicians.

Judas Horse
April Smith
9781400042050, $23.95

Seven months ago, FBI Special Agent Ana Grey was forced to shoot "a crazed detective on a suicide mission". Her badge and weapon was confiscated as is normal procedure while the Office of Professional Responsibility works with the agent on administrative leave to cope with the psychological trauma of a life changing incident; they determine when an agent returns to duty. When the agent does another agent escorts them back to the office. For April that was her friend Steve Crawford.

Soon afterward he vanished leaving the insomniac April with another reason not to sleep. Now Steve's remains was found scattered by a hiker on Oregon's Cascade Mountains; apparently a victim of a homemade bomb. Ana goes undercover to infiltrate the anarchist most likely to have perpetrated the execution, Free the Animals (FAN) so as to obtain evidence of who killed Steve and how big of terrorist threat this group is. She quickly realizes that former FBI agent Dan "Allfather" Stone has something horrific in mind that he dubs "the Big One".

The third April Smith FBI thriller (see GOOD MORNING, KILLER and NORTH OF MONTANA) is a fabulous tale in which the heroine has a difficult task to obtain information re The Big One while staying alive. The difficulty in what she does is simply that the FAN members distrust everyone even themselves; as Stone especially knows the Feds will be back with a new infiltrator now that they have learned what happened to Crawford. In this milieu of obsessive behavior Ana remains calm as she deals with brilliant lunatics over the edge.

The Blood Ballad
Rett MacPherson
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312362225, $23.95, 1-888-330-8477

New Kassell, Missouri genealogist Torie O'Shea uncovers some fascinating information re her fiddler grandfather, John Robert Keith. He apparently had ties to the 1930s regionally popular country band Morgan Family Players. Glen Morgan, the grandson of band member Scott Morgan, informs Torie that he has found a tape that implies his grandfather claimed authorship of songs that apparently her grandfather wrote.

While on a bird watching expedition, Torie notices someone dump what turns out to be the corpse of Clifton Weaver, another Morgan grandson. She already rules out coincidence and her opinion is affirmed when a CD arrives apparently sent by Weaver before he died with someone singing the tune of a murder confession by Belle Morgan, who vanished many years ago. Torie follows the song's clues that take her to Belle's body. Starting to fear what else will fall out of the family trees, Torie keeps on shaking the branches.

This is a fun entry in a fine series (see THICKER THAN WATER) as Torie learns a lot about the apparently cutthroat Depression music industry in the Ozarks as much as the modern day murder mystery while she follows the genealogical paths which converge on a contemporary killer. Although not quite as exciting as her past escapades in BLOOD RELATIONS investigations, cozy readers still will appreciate Torie's latest genealogy adventures as a murderer makes research dangerous.

The Mirror's Edge
Steven Sidor
St. Martin's
9780312354138, $24.95

Independent reporter Jase Deering believes it was the disappearance of his brother Mathias who at twelve years old walked into the wintry woods and never came safely home. Now as one year has passed since the kidnapping of two-year-old twins Liam and Shane Boyle, Jase and his blind girlfriend Robyn Matchfrost decide to investigate what the police have classified as a cold case.

The Chicago police detectives who worked the official inquiry assist Jase and Robyn as much as they can as they want closure almost as much as the victims' parents crave it. The journalist team interviews the Boyle former nanny who lives in total abject fear and shows them the term "mirrorrorrim" that the abductor etched on her skin. That message leads Jase and Robyn to black arts cult leader Aubrey Hart Morick, who believed strongly in human sacrifice; however Morick was dead long before the snatch occurred. Jase turns to Aubrey's offspring and soon uncovers disturbing information that makes him wonder if the son is a chip off the evil father's block. Finding the twins and proof remain elusive as the years go by with Jase now a solo act digging deeper and deeper into the cult and the supernatural. He knows he is too late for the boys and for himself, but obsessively keeps drilling deeper in search of the truth

This is a one-sitting superb but upsetting suspense tale (keep the antacid tablets handy) that plays out like an investigative thriller, but is much frighteningly more. Readers will follow every disconcerting twist with macabre fascination as Steven Sidor keeps the audience mesmerized with what is going on especially in the obsessed mind of Jase. You will not sleep well thinking about what really happened in this unforgettable novel.

The Law Of Second Chances
James Sheehan
St. Martin's
9780312366308, $24.95

Defending insurance companies against claimants made attorney Jack Tobin wealthy, but unsatisfied. He gave up that practice to defend death row inmates in Florida as he totally opposes capital punishment.

Seventeen years ago, poor black Henry Wilson was convicted of murdering a drug dealer; Jack believes he is innocent and sets out to prove his assertion. He also decides to represent Benny Avrile, who has a long criminal record and on a robbery that turned ugly allegedly shot and killed oil mogul Carl Robertson; the case against him is air tight with no lawyer wanting to go near it. At the same that Jack steps in to represent Benny in a death sentence case that he knows will take up much of his time and have an emotional cost, he is also is distraught that his wife Pat is suffering from a life-threatening illness.

With more courtroom time than Jack's first tale (see THE MAYOR OF LEXINGTON AVENUE), THE LAW OF SECOND CHANCES is an excellent legal thriller due the protagonist's deliberations on life and law; although at times he slows the pace with flashbacks to growing up in 1950s-1960s New York. Still it is the hero's balancing his emotions and time to defend capital punishment sure shot losers with the needs of his wife and (himself) that make this a terrific legal thriller.

Mummy Dearest
Joan Hess
St. Martin's
9780312363604, $24.95

It has been a long road with many complicating detours, but Farberville, Arkansas bookseller Claire Malloy and Lieutenant Peter Rosen tie the knot. Peter disappeared after the wedding, going to Egypt on business where he will meet up with his bride for the honeymoon in Luxor. Claire understands her Peter will vanish periodically because he works with Egyptian authorities in connection with a newly formed terrorist organization.

Also on the honeymoon are Claire's seventeen year old daughter Caron and her friend Inez. The three ladies are quickly absorbed into the expatriate community, of who many are not what they seem as they have hidden agendas that arouse Claire's suspicions. The girls believe a mustached man with a scar is following them. They tell Claire and Peter that they were late because they eluded this stalker. While sightseeing, one of the female visitors is kidnapped by men on horses; her lover persuades Claire to help him find her, but he disappears too. Soon expatriates are killed allegedly linked to an undiscovered tomb. Claire investigates with a need to know what is going on amidst the tourist trap.

The latest Claire Malloy book is a delightful, charming and hilarious amateur sleuth tale that refreshes the series by moving the heroine from the States to Egypt where she and readers meet an eccentric cast. Armchair travelers will thoroughly enjoy the tour of Luxor, but make no mistake it is Claire's investigation that carries the plot. Although why the student asked Claire to make inquires seems odd, fans will appreciate this charming complicated cozy as no one except Claire and her retinue is what they purport to be; thus much of the fun is figuring out just who each of these masqueraders truly is.

Bad Blood
L.A. Banks
St. Martin's
9780312949112, $6.99

Most humans remain ignorant to the fact that the Columbia Disaster twenty-five years ago was caused by supernaturals turning against each other. The US military said the drug cartels went crazy and that was why blood ran down the streets like an overflowing river. Sasha Trudeau is part of a Black-Ops organization that consists of people with the werewolf virus in their system, but none has Turned due to the meds they take. Their mission is to prevent werewolves being captured by other nations besides America because werewolf and human DNA merge into a super soldier.

On an operation in Korea, the werewolf Shogun tells Sasha that the dangerous lycans are demon infested while the rest of the species is harmless and in control of the change. Sasha is unaware that her superiors already know that and are trying to breed a super soldier. When the Alpha in her group Turns, Sasha kills him; later she meets Max Hunter, a shadow wolf who is a different species. He insists she is part of his clan and they cannot be infested by demon blood. Both feel the attraction between them and a relationship develops, but she must fight the military who are committing atrocities against humanity and needs the help of her lover if she hopes to succeed.

Book one of the Crimson Moon novels, BAD BLOOD is a fantastic urban fantasy filled with action, intrigue, betrayal, double dealing and plenty of mano a fema as well as romance. The compelling story line uses the concept of the forces of good and evil vying for supremacy with the malevolent side cleverly disguising their activity as altruistic. The protagonists struggle to survive as there are traitors within the were, human, and shadow communities. L.A. Banks provides a spine tingling supernatural thriller that shows why her fans always clamor for more.

The Ancient Rain
Domenic Stansberry
St. Martin's
9780312364533, $24.95

San Francisco Private Investigator Bill Owens asks his colleague Dante Mancuso of Cicero Investigations for a favor; keep his two frightened children, fourteen years old Kate and ten years old Zeke safe while he is charged with murder; his wife attorney Jill is in Chicago. Twenty-seven years ago, Bill was part of a radical group, the Symbonise Liberation Army that killed Eleanor Younger while robbing a bank. Eleanor had left her eleven years old daughter Elise in the car and so she witnessed the murder of her mom. She accuses Bill Owens who came out without a mask of her mom's murder.

The Feds go all out to nail Bill while his backers hire Dante to investigate. As he makes inquires to a homicide that occurred thirty years ago and is colder than the tundra except for the eye witness; Dante begins to close in on the puppeteer who manipulated what happened then and what is happening now.

The third Mancuso private investigative tale (see BIG BOOM and CHASING THE DRAGON) is a superb urban noir that uses history to include the Symbonise Liberation Army of Patty Heart fame and much more like the title coming from a poem by Bob Kaufman. Bill pegs Dante as the perfect person to protect his kids as he knows that the mane never let's anything go; and he proves totally right especially with a late twist. From the moment that Bill is stopped on the bay Bridge with the cops ignoring his two kids sitting in the back seat in stark terror as they are inconsequential to the arrest until the climatic end, fans will read this strong suspenseful tale in one shocking sitting.

Night Life
Caitlin Kittredge
St. Martin's
9780312948290, $6.99

Nocturne City Police Detective Luna Wilder, a werewolf, leads the investigation into the mutilated murder of a prostitute. Luna knows no one besides her cares about some lowlife Jane Doe hooker even though dark magic was involved. After learning the victim's name is Lilia, Luna finds clues leading to were-biker Dmitri Sandovsky as the killer.

When a second murder occurs similar to the first with dark magic again, Luna is stunned to find the son of the District Attorney at the crime scene. He being an untouchable and she being a werewolf leads to her suspension. However, a forced leave of absence does not prevent Luna from investigating because she knows the killer is not finished as there is more to these homicides than meets the eye. At the same time alpha werewolf Dmitri is fuming as he knew both dead females and he plans to kill their predator. He and Luna team up trying to track down the culprit.

NIGHT LIFE is a tense gritty police procedural urban fantasy that grips the audience from the onset by insuring the paranormal species seem genuine; part of achieving this is an X-Man like prejudice that Luna receives from mortals. The investigation is entertaining as it provides the duality of chasing after a serial killer while also taking the reader on a tour of Nocturne City. Caitlin Kittredge provides a dark crime caper set in an urban center in which humans and supernaturals distrusting co-exist side by side.

Hell's Bay
James Hall
St. Martin's
9780312359584, $24.95

Leaving his peaceful Key Largo, semi-hermit Thorn is helping his friend Rusty establish a fishing oasis for tourists in the Everglades. However, he is taken aback when Rusty's affluent client John Milligan insists Thorn is his nephew. Preferring to ignore his so called DNA family, Thorn finds himself sucked into the drama of the drowning of the family matriarch billionaire Abigail Bates.

Abigail's granddaughter insists she was murdered, but almost everyone else believes she died from a fortunate accident. Thorn asks his police friend Sugarman to investigate. Meanwhile an angry war veteran wants the Bates clan dead as she blames Abigail for making her billions with no regard for the environment especially of others; she holds the entire clan including Thorn culpable in the deaths of her spouse and her soon to be dead son. Cut off at HELL'S BAY in the Everglades, Thorn may be the only person capable of keeping them alive against deadly avenging predators planning to turn the Bates brood into alligator bait.

The latest Thorn thriller (see UNDER COVER OF DAYLIGHT, GONE WILD and TROPICAL FREEZE) is an action-packed tale that works because readers will feel transported to the isolation and remoteness of the Everglades. The story line is obviously people trying to survive against much more powerful adversaries who have isolated the hero and others from obtaining assistance. However, there is also a secondary serious theme re the opportunity costs between competing demands of economic growth and protecting the environment. The bottom line is blood may be thicker than water, but it flows freely when you are shot as Thorn learns with this tense one sitting suspense.

The Price
Alexandra Sokoloff
St. Martin's
0312357516, $23.95

Will Sullivan has the inside track to becoming the next governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Everything is going perfect until his daughter Sydney is diagnosed with a malignant tumor. While his child is at Briarwood Medical Center, he displays a stiff New England upper lip to the public hiding his pain; however his wife Joanna is so despondent Will fears for her sanity.

However, Will soon finds strange HARROWING happenings at Briarwood that he cannot comprehend. He is ignorant to the real residents of this medical center where the supernatural reign. As he considers committing his spouse and ending his campaign, a stranger visits him with information about the patients past and present of Briarwood that explains the unexplainable that he sees whenever he is at the medical center. Will begins to wonder about his own sanity especially as Sydney seems to miraculously begin to recover.

THE PRICE is a fascinating thriller that will have the audience pondering supernatural horror or psychological suspense. The key players especially the Sullivan family feels fully developed so that Will wonders if his wife is insane and he suffers from dementia perhaps caused by a stress while also putting up a public front as the campaign must go on at all costs. Fans will appreciate this deep HARROWING tale mindful of Dean Koontz.

Sleight of Hand
Robin Hathaway
St. Martin's
9780312370923, $23.95

In New Jersey, Dr. Jo Banks rides her motorcycle to Bridgeton Hospital where she works. However, she does not have a smooth commute as she finds an executed corpse that reminds her of a gangster movie. At Bridgeton, everyone gossips about the deceased she saw with the prevalent belief being he was a Philadelphia "gangsta".

On her way home, Jo hears what sounds like a printing press near the crime scene. She stops to look and inside a barn she observes a man diligently working at the printing press when his hand becomes stuck in the roller. Using his free hand, Max pulls out a gun and threatens to shoot Jo if she fails to free him. After she does, he points the gun at his Down syndrome daughter Lolly claiming he will kill her if Jo fails to return with proper equipment to perform surgery on his crushed hand. More for Lolly's sake, Jo agrees wondering why Max rejects hospitalization.

The third Dr. Banks "S" thriller (see SATAN'S PONY and SCARECROW) is an enjoyable amateur sleuth tale although the initial encounter between Max and Jo seems implausible. Still fans will join with Jo wondering why Max rejects hospitalization and why he uses his daughter as a blackmailing pawn. Moving past the opening two dominoes (the road kill and the initial meeting) of the plot, readers will find SLEIGHT OF HAND turns into an exciting mystery.

Antiques to Die For
Jane K. Cleland
St. Martin's
9780312368272, $23.95

In New Hampshire, antiques trader Josie Prescott is shocked when she finds out that her friend Rosalie Chaffee drowned near Rocky Point. Josie insures that Rosalie's preadolescent sister Paige is okay as she willingly takes the twelve year old into her home. However, her focus somewhat changes when she learns from her boyfriend Police Chief Ty Alverez that Rosalie's death was murder not an accident as she initially assumed.

Ty investigates adhering to police standard operating procedures to focus on those who knew the victim very well in her personal life or at work. He has three prime suspects: at Heyer's Modular Furniture where she worked he considers Rosalie's boss and his wife while outside the job there is the deceased's boyfriend. Although Ty would prefer Josie to stay out of the investigation, she begins to follow the clues one antique item at a time.

The third Josie Prescott amateur sleuth cozy (see CONSIGNED TO DEATH and DEADLY APPRAISAL) is a delightful New England mystery that interweaves antiquing tidbits into a fine whodunit. Josie is tough on the outside, but soft as mush inside as she cares for Paige while also seeking the culprit. The large ensemble augments the tale with depth into the world of antiques, New Hampshire, or murder.

Dream Chaser
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin's
9780312938826, $7.99

A "deceased" half-demon demi-god, Xypher lives for one thing vengeance against the female whose betrayal has left him locked away in Hade's most secure prison Tartarus. His target Satara knows he will try to come for her if he escapes; especially in her dream state so to mute his threat she has "bonded" him to Tulane University medical examiner Simone Dubois. If either dies the other also dies, but this time permanently.

Although he does not like being tied to anyone, Xypher realizes that Satara made an error by selecting Simone as she is used to the paranormal rooming with a teen ghost and solving murder mysteries by consulting with the victims. Instead of panic, Simone begins to work with Xypher especially when the mortal world becomes threatened.

DREAM CHASER is a delightful often amusing romantic fantasy starring two interesting protagonists and a fascinating antagonist. Readers will emphasize with Xypher who understandably out grouches Oscar and admire Simone who does not blink when the paranormal enters her life. Their debates make for a fun time especially their discussion as what to do to Satara. With additional spins leading to save the world or else, Sherrilyn Kenyon provides a superb romantic thriller that answers the question of whether bonding includes love at least for this couple.

Iris Johansen
St. Martin's
9780312368067, $26.95

She became a forensic sculptor to put a face on the skeletal remains to bring closure to the families of the dead victims. Eve Duncan knows what it is like not to have that closure and not a day goes by that she doesn't think of her seven year old daughter Bonnie who was taken from her years ago. Her live in lover Atlanta detective Joe Quinn has been with her whenever she searched for Bonnie's remains through a tip or a hunch but he is getting weary of seeing Eve tear herself apart whenever her search winds up in failure.

Eve's friend Colonel Montalvo from South America, who is in love with her, has found three possible suspects who might have killed Bonnie. One of them Henry Thistle is located in Bloomberg and Joe goes there without telling eve to try and catch him. Montalvo contacts Eve and tells her where Thistle might be. Eve immediately goes there to be with Joe and hopefully get some answers. Thistle escapes and Joe, Montalvo and Eve mount a search for him. He has kidnapped a young girl to use as bait to lead them to his trap. Helping them is psychic Megan Blair (see PANDORA'S DAUGHTER) who hears the voices of the dead.

The Eve Duncan thrillers are absolutely mesmerizing and QUICKSAND is one of the best books in the series. Almost no body can create such sympathetic characters who have endured so much pain and yet still have the strength to keep going even if it is obsessive like Eve who thinks of what she does as a mission. Montalvo inverts himself into Eve's life forging an unusual romantic triangle; but it is the action scenes that keep the audience turning the pages until they finish the thriller in one sitting.

Debra Webb
St. Martin's
9780312942236, $6.99

Three years ago, his superior left FBI Agent Ryan McBride taking the hit when a child kidnapping case turned fatal. Despondent even before he was left holding the bag, Ryan quit and turned to drinking to numb his pain while vanishing in the Keys.

Rookie FBI agent Vivian Grace joined the force because she knows first hand what it is like to be kidnapped as a kid. When a kidnapper snatches a child and demands Ryan is brought on the case, Vivian goes to enlist his help. Although he prefers to be left alone, Ryan cannot allow a child to suffer or die. He teams up with Vivien even as their unknown adversary uses both their pasts with frightening insight while snatching more kids.

This is an exciting redemption police procedural that never slows down from the moment the amazing Grace meets McBride. Although the chilling NAMELESS is stereotypical, the culprit still a remains frightening, monstrous and diabolical villain. Readers will appreciate this exhilarating romantic suspense with the emphasis on the cat and mouse game in which the killer makes and breaks the rules; the two heroes know that their kinky relationship is for later.

What Lies in Shadow
Tina Wainscott
St. Martin's
9780312941642, $6.99

In Boston Jonna Karakosta is bored as her successful husband Rush ignores her except when he needs his trophy on display for business purposes. Still she tries to remain loyal to him even if he mostly disregards her needs. Instead feeling all alone with no outlet for her frustration, Jonna sets up a blog where she anonymously releases her inner torment.

She provides her innermost desires and disappointments on her "Montene's Diary", which to her surprise becomes popular thanks to the Globe claiming she is an every person; people write back on her blog including Dominic. Meanwhile Jonna becomes hurt when she concludes that Rush is cheating on her. She accepts Dominic's request to meet in person and see where that goes. However, she begins to have second thoughts as she decides to save her marriage; but Dominic has a different outcome in mind.

WHAT LIES ON SHADOW is a modern day cautionary suspense thriller that makes a case not to provide personal information on the Internet. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the characters as Dominic knows what he wants and will do anything to achieve his desired rush. Although some of the twists are obvious, fans will appreciate this look at the dark side of blogging and wonder whether Montene is a part of Jonna or just her imagination running wild.

Bound By Blood
Rick Nelson
St. Martin's
9780312372644, $24.95

In Louisiana, attorney Neil Gross calls New Orleans Police Detective Jack Brenner with intriguing information although the source is unreliable. Neil's client "redneck scumbag" Emmett Graves on death row claims he has information pertaining to two homicides three decades ago in Bon Terre; one of the victims was Jack's cousin David who along with another civil rights advocate was murdered. Graves insists Brenner visit him at Angola if he wants to know more.

Unable to resist, Brenner learns from Graves that he was in Bon Terre when the murders occurred. He implies town martinet businessman Avery Hammond was involved. In the town, no one will talk to Brenner. However as he and his temporary partner Keisha Lundy work the drive-by shooting of a high school athlete; they also investigate the Grave's claim with the help of reporter Willow Ashe, who was the now married Brenner's long ago first girlfriend in an atmosphere where someone is willing to kill cops and a TV journalist to keep the 1972 homicides a cold case.

This is an entertaining Big Easy police procedural although the two cases at times slow each other down. Still Brenner is a fascinating lead character as he tries to do what he believes is right for his late cousin, but not only has someone trying to kill him, his family and his boss are upset with him. New Orleans police procedural fans will enjoy this suspenseful tale.

Sleeping Dogs
Ed Gorman
St. Martin's
9780312367848, $23.95

The US Senator from Illinois the Honorable Warren Nichols and his long political consultant Phil Wylie acrimoniously argue before the latter angrily quits the reelection campaign. Not long after their public spat, Wylie commits suicide. Based on the polls Nichols knew the race would be close as his opponent right-wing conservative Jim Lake has strong backing, but he still expected to win in spite his inability to keep the zipper up and the flag pole from a "bimbo eruption". However the death of Wylie places Nichols at risk of losing.

Nichols hires Dev Conrad as a political consultant just before a critical debate between the candidates is scheduled. The race already dirty turns ugly and perhaps illegal as both sides use dirty tricks. However, Dev has issues with his team as he thinks they have gone too far. He believes Nicholas' staffers are using blackmail and campaign sabotage to destroy the opposition's support.

Ed Gorman makes a strong case that those who can make it work private; those who cannot make it work government, and those who cannot work run for office. The story line satirizes the American way of electing officials as being no better than a Hollywood B horror flick. Surprisingly although this is a dark lampooning of the electoral process and its candidates, Dev is combination optimistic cynic with a rationalization to believe the system works yet expects the worst out of those who become the poster faces of that system. Ironically Mr. Gorman is at his cynical optimistic best with this entertaining look at the American electoral process and the mugs who try to con us that we own it.

Double Fantasy
Cheryl Holt
St. Martin's
9780312942564, $6.99

In 1813, it is bad enough being the poor relatives but sisters Sarah and Anne Carstairs are treated like rubbish by their kin. Having recently inherited an earldom, Jamieson Merrick accompanied by his twin brother Jackson arrives at their new estate Gladstone; their reputation preceded them from being politely called smugglers to being children eaters. When the pairs of siblings meet for the first time, Anne and Jamie are instantly attracted to one another.

Jamie demands all that was stolen from him and his brother when they were babies; as they were exiled and forced to become privateers. He has his title and his estate, but now he demands Anne as his wife; he sees her as the beginning of his vengeance scheme. She loves Jamie, but rejects his command to marry him. At the same time Jack and Sarah hit it off especially after he learns her secrets. However, waiting for the right moment is an adversary who plans to dispatch the brothers Merrick to a place no one ever returns from: the grave.

From the onset when the brothers come home until the final confrontation this is a superb Regency romance that never slows down. The four prime players are fully drawn with each having suffered maltreatment from family. Thus loving someone besides their sibling is emotionally dangerous and very difficult for any of them to accept. Sub-genre fans will thoroughly enjoy Cheryl Holt's wonderful historical as Jamie must learn that it is okay to love someone while Anne is his teacher.

Desperately Seeking a Duke
Celeste Bradley
St. Martin's
9780312939687, $6.99

In 1815 their late grandfather Sir Hamish Pickering, disappointed in his daughters not marrying up, placed a stipulation in his will that has his grandchildren jumping. The first of the trio to marry a duke inherits his fortune.

The competing cousins (the rustic vicar's daughter Phoebe, the elegant Deirdre and the too tall Sophie) begin their respective quest; if White's took a book the bets would be overwhelmingly on Deirdre. Phoebe plans to go through the motions of her London season, but refuses to truly participate until she meets Rafe Marbrook, who to her shock seems interested in her. However as he courts her, she learns he is not the heir to the dukedom of Brookhaven, but instead the half-brother to the future Duke Calder; who decides to marry Phoebe. She must choose for love or money.

This amusing take on the Regency marriage go round will have readers laughing out loud with the antics of the first Heiress Bride who must choose between the brother she loves and the brother Sir Hamish would select for her. Adding to the fun is the heroine's ethics that do not allow her to tell the Marbrooks the truth about the will as she does not want to harm her cousins' chances (coming in the next couple of months). Celeste Bradley continues her level of historical excellence (see the Royal Four spy romances) with this entertaining charmer.

Snowbird's Blood
Joe Hensley
St. Martin's
9780312241117, $24.95

While her spouse Charlie Cannert was in a Chicago hospital being tested for what proved to be untreatable stomach cancer, his wife Martha went to Florida to find a new home for them. Charlie received one post card from Martha, which is not like her before she disappeared. Now he is driving to Lake City where that post card was sent from almost a month ago.

Martha resides at Tepsicon Rest Hospital, a state mental facility, under the name Jane Doe having suffered amnesia and multiple body injuries from a particular vicious assault. Meanwhile Charlie believes someone murdered his long time spouse. However, as he continues his search, Martha begins to recover slowly some of her memories especially with her Charlie. She flees Tepsicon knowing Charlie is looking for her so she searches for him. Charlie was once a guardian angel vigilante; starting with his Nam "tunnel rat" days to his bringing violence to sociopath attackers of the helpless. He works with local cop Tom Ryan to find those who assaulted his Martha and other missing Snowbirds.

Joe Hensley provides a powerful stand alone thriller that focuses on the predators who take advantage of the elderly; especially still grieving Snowbirds. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Charlie asks his Florida host whether he and his wife killed his Martha. Although the climax seems a bit weak readers will appreciate this fine tale from the late Mr. Hensley (the back cover mentions he passed away last year) whose underlying theme is condemnation of a society that allows the elderly and the young to be unprotected victims of amoral soul suckers.

Michele Martinez
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780060899028, $23.95, 1-800-242-7737

Attorney Lester Poe meets with federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas at the Manhattan federal courthouse where he offers her a deal. His client legendary rapper Atari Briggs is on trial for a murder rap, but offers a DVD of big wig terrorist Gamal Abdullah using Atari's yacht to arrange a hundred million dollars a week Afghan heroin shipment to the CEOs of the major American illegal drug empires; their payments would go to support the Taliban.. Moments after their meeting and arranging a post trial date, a car bomb explodes killing Lester in front of Melanie's horrified eyes.

Single mom, Melanie knows the explosive image is imprinted on her brain forever especially the man with the "prop" dog who used a cell phone to ignite the bomb. However, by stepping up Melanie exposes herself as a witness that the assassin must take out. Sleazy Evan Diamond takes over the defense insisting he knows nothing about a deal to hand over Abdullah. Melanie knows that Diamond is pulling stunts, but is more worried that the killer will come for her daughter, her witnesses against Briggs, and ultimately her.

This exhilarating tale starts off with an explosive opening scene and never slows down whether the plot is in the courtroom (legal thriller) or involving the terrorists (investigative thriller). Melanie is terrific as is the support cast especially a female judge and Susan another prosecutor. Although the storyline is thin, fans will enjoy Melanie's efforts to keep her and others alive and should bring in new fans for Michele Martinez.

The Forgery of Venus
Michael Gruber
9780060874483, $24.95

Chaz Wilmot's father C.P. Wilmot as he signed his work is a highly regarded illustrator. However, Chaz is much more talented than his dad or any of his contemporaries. Still they sell while he hacks out a living doing commercial crap. His former wife Lotte, owner of an art gallery, is disappointed in Chaz as she recognizes his talent and believes he would sell big time; but he feels obligated to avoid the starving artist syndrome since they need money now for their ailing son.

Chaz accepts work to restore a ceiling in a Venus palazzo. Before the trek overseas, a friend from their Columbia University days gives him a hallucinatory drug. In Italy, he finds the assignment exciting as it calls for a recreation rather than a restoration. With the aftereffect of the drug enabling him to focus while he somehow lives the life of noted seventeenth century artist Diego Velasquez, he becomes the Renaissance master past and present. As Chaz worries about his sanity with each time travel trek eradicating a piece of his memories, the art forger underground offer him wealth that will provide the best medical care in the world for his child in exchange for a few Velasquez masterpieces.

This unique odd thriller is a terrific character study as Chaz is caught between his talent, what sells, his essence and his son's life. In a Twilight Zone like way, as he becomes more like Velasquez, the protagonist becomes less Chaz; yet if he quits he loses the opportunity for funding his beloved child's medical needs. THE FORGERY OF VENUS is a strong tale starring a fascinating lead character who must make difficult choices amongst the art of love.

The Body in the Gallery
Katherine Hall Page
9780060763671, $23.95

In Aleford, Massachusetts, the Ganley Museum is gaining quite a reputation for quality items and exhibits. Board member Pasty Avery asks her close friend Faith Fairchild, owner of the catering business Have Faith, to visit the museum to see if a valuable Bearden collage she donated has been replaced by a fake. Faith is small enough to crawl under the laser beams to grab the painting, which she takes to Patsy, who becomes hysterical when the back lacks a telltale mark making this a fake.

A few days later at an extravaganza at the museum, Faith finds the dead body of a bald woman in a fish tank that is part of the exhibit. Patsy and Faith believe that the forgery and the homicide are linked with the latter trying to figure out how. Someone identifies the victim, but the police insist no such person exists. By the time the two amateur sleuths learn who the deceased is, someone else is killed. Faith is in the middle of another homicide investigation that brings her to the attention of a dangerous killer.

The latest Faith Fairchild amateur sleuth tale contains the usual delightful mystery with a murderer who is not easy to identify, but when revealed seems plausible that this person committed these atrocities. The story line also focuses on the heroine's home life and the problems she is having with her teenage son. Thus readers get an insightful family drama that adds depth to the plot, but also questions why she failed to address the issues with her son when they first surfaced. Nevertheless this is a fine body of work that will please fans of the author.

Death Walked In
Carolyn Hart
9780060724054, $23.95

February in Broward's Rock, a South Carolina sea island is supposed to be quiet and relatively crime free now that the tourists have gone home. However business mogul Geoffrey Grant had much of his coin collection stolen and the appraised value was over half a million dollars. Max Darling, who almost got convicted for murder by a damsel in distress who elaborately framed him, got a call from a woman who needs help at his office Confidential Commissions.

He refuses to take the call and comes to regret it when wife Anne goes to see the caller Gwen Jamison. Max's assistant called Anne and told her that Gwen put something in the Franklin House which Max and Anne are rebuilding and where Gwen was once the housekeeper. When Anne goes to Gwen's home she finds her dead body on the floor. A woman calls Anne who goes to the dock at night to meet her; the woman tells her she knows who stole the coins because she saw the person bury the cache at her graveyard. Two more deaths follow over the next few days causing Max and Anne to investigate, not aware the killer is watching them.

DEATH WALKED IN is an exciting investigative tale with a husband and wife team as the main protagonists. They are the reason the Death On Demand series is popular as their team-up smoothly blends amateur sleuth and professional detective elements and they are bold enough to follow the clues wherever they may lead. The romance has not gone out of their marriage and is interwoven into the storyline. Carolyn Hart has written a charming and well constructed mystery that her fans will appreciate.

What Never Happens
Anne Holt
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446578035, $24.99, 1-800-759-0190

In Oslo, the first victim is Fiona Helle, talk show hostess of On the Move With Fiona, whose tongue was carefully and neatly severed. The next to die is politician Victoria Heinerback crucified in her bed with a copy of the Koran partially shoved up her vagina. The third fatality of this serial killer was a nasty critic who received a stab wound through his eye.

Married detectives Adam Stubo and Johanne Vik investigate the homicides, but for several weeks find no links except for the viciousness of the serial killer; that is until Johanne finds a nebulous connection between Helle's children and the victims. With something to go on, Adam seeks a motive that he believes will uncover the diabolically clever killer.

This is an entertaining Norwegian police procedural that provides the audience a taste of Oslo to enhance the serial killer plot. The look at Norway is done through the eyes of the victims and the killer, which also distracts from the investigation. Still fans will enjoy this fine thriller as Stubo and Vik work a difficult case (see WHAT IS MINE for their previous investigation; not read by me).

Because She Can
Bridie Clark
Grand Central
9780446697576, $14.99

The New York publishing world knows that Vivian Grant, CEO of Grant Books, is the nastiest person in Manhattan. Her staff affirms what everyone knows that Vivian is the boss from hell, cursing them when she is not having a tantrum that would be the envy of the most terrible two years old. Her firm is renowned and profitable for best-selling expose books that make tabloids jealous as Vivian understands "smut sells" to American women who never get any outside of novels.

Literary fiction editor Claire Truman knows the reputation of Ms. Grant as the queen of mean and Grant Books as the schlock of literature, but accepts the position of an editor anyway. Claire learns quickly what working for Vivian means and not just having her skin ripped off by her meanness; Vivian demands pounds of flesh 24/7. This constant requirement interferes with her relationship with her handsome successful fiance Randall Cox and her dreams of being kissed by Luke Mayville, the writer she recently met.

Although this takes place inside book publishing (where the author worked) instead of magazine publishing as the case of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, BECAUSE SHE CAN is also an enjoyable look at working for the boss from hell. As long as the audience is not in a similar employee relationship with a Marquis de Sade supervisor, readers will find the antics amusing, as Bridie Clark using hyperbole (I hope that is) provides a portrayal of the nasty malicious manager although that tale has been told obviously before.

Border Wedding
Amanda Scott
Grand Central
9780446197984, $6.99

In 1388 British sympathizer Sir Iagan Murray catches his neighbor stealing cattle that he previously stole from his prisoner Scottish supporter Sir Walter "Wat" Scott. Iagan gives Wat an alternate to hanging; he can marry his daughter Lady Margaret "Muckle-Mouth Meggie" Murray, who besides ripping off men's skin is not pretty.

He chooses marriage more to save the lives of his loyal men, but has doubts that he made the right selection especially when he expects his betrothed to be dragged to the altar and later to kick his butt (and another part of his anatomy) when he beds her. Instead she seems elated with the marriage as Meg believes this is her time to find happiness. However, as Meg and Wat fall in love, she catches her sibling spying on her spouse for the British. Meg knew her birth family and marital family were in conflict, but never expected to be the rope pulled by each side.

Few authors do medieval romances as consistently excellent as Amanda Scott does. Her current tale brings to life the late fourteenth century near the English-Scottish border, which constantly changes. The romance is a classic gender war battle between two fully developed likable individuals, but it is the historical tidbits that anchor an era filled with betrayal, machinations, and changing loyalty that makes the great Scott's latest offering a winner.

Wild Jinx
Sandra Hill
Grand Central
9780446616539, $6.99

Fontaine, Louisiana Police Detective John LeDeux hides from the media and the Dixie Mafia until his time to testify in court. However, Little Tee-John cannot stay hidden from his Bayou swamp neighbor his Tante Lulu. She informs her nephew that she hired Jinx, Inc of New Jersey to find pirate treasure on Bayou Black; that is after she blithely informs him he will be married this year.

New Orleans Times-Tribune investigative reporter Celine Arseneaux is a single mom raising a five year old. Like John she was undercover at the notorious Playpen, but he failed to recognize her from when they first met and made love; he is the father of her son, but remains ignorant about siring an offspring as she never told him since her grandfather loathes his family. Her boss editor Bruce Cavanaugh assigns her to cover the treasure hunt. As red neck pirates and the Dixie Mafia come swamp hunting, Tante Lulu ferments her famous juju love potion as she has done before (see PINK JINX and PEARL JINX).

Although the hide the baby from the dad ploy has been used a zillion times in second chance romances as well as shows like the Maury Povich show, Sandra Hill refreshes the plot device with a swamp oil love potion that readers cannot resist. The story line combines plenty of humor with suspense, Cajun style as the LeDeux tribe up and meets the Jinx crew in an all out wacky thriller.

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
Joshilyn Jackson
Grand Central
9780446579650, $23.99

Laurel Gray Hawthorne is a nationally acclaimed quilter whose products created out of throwaways and scraps are in demand. Living with her husband video game designer David and their preadolescent daughter Shelby in Victoriana, Florida, Laurel prefers scandals not occur and skeletons remain buried. Her sister Thalia is an actress though Laurel believes drama queen is more fitting as she believes any news is good publicity while their parents live nearby in Pace.

Laurel is stunned when she sees the ghost of a little girl in her bedroom. She follows the spirit to her swimming pool in her backyard where she sees the corpse of young Molly. The police investigate and determine an unfortunate accident occurred. However, Molly lingers and soon Laurel begins to believe Shelby and her friend Bet played an active role in the drowning. At about the same time Thalia comes home to stay with them for now only to open a thirteen year old secret involving the death of her Uncle Marty, whose house Laurel and her family reside in.

This is a terrific modern day southern family drama that enables the audience to see deep into the secrets that Laurel prefers interred under a cloak of respectability as she ahs come a long way from her impoverish roots. Each of the key players is fully developed and brings hidden agendas and motivations to hiding or revealing the goings-on. Fans who appreciate a strong regional character driven tale will want to learn why THE GIRL STOPPED SWIMMING.

Dirty Money
Richard Stark
Grand Central
9780446178587, $23.99

Master thief Parker cannot believe how much went wrong when he and his two partners robbed an armored car (see NOBODY RUNS FOREVER). Not only was the loot no good as it was "poisoned" by authorities, the cops caught one of his cronies Nick Dalesia when he tried to use the DIRTY MONEY. Nick escaped but killed a marshal. Parker fled Massachusetts leaving the two plus million behind hidden in a loft of an abandoned rural church as he heads to Long island to regroup knowing that the cop murder places Nick in a different zone from robbery. He assumes the third partner McWhitny will agree with his assessment.

Bounty-hunter Sandra Loscalzo knows that Parker is the means to her getting a cut of the loot. Though he knows she is on his tail and so are other less moral souls from both sides of the law, Parker decides the time to return to Massachusetts to collect the money is now. All he needs is a plan to elude law enforcement, miscreants, and Sandra starting with the Holy Redeemer Choir van.

This is a direct follow up to NOBODY RUNS FOREVER, but though DIRTY MONEY can stand alone it behooves fans to read the first book because references back to that tale become more meaningful. Long time readers will find a different Parker in this crime caper as he is much more subdued than usual; an apropos reaction to the robbery fiasco and murder. This is an entertaining crime caper with the antihero seeking more than just the stolen cache, he tries to regain his swagger as he lost some of his moxie when he fled Massachusetts empty handed.

Death of a Gentle Lady
M.C. Beaton
Grand Central
9780446582605, $23.99

In Lochdubh, Scotland and the surrounding villages everyone thinks the world of affluent elderly Mrs. Margaret Gentle; the lavender dressed woman is considered the lady of the castle by those who know her as she donates to all sorts of causes. Perhaps only fiftyish Constable Hamish Macbeth believes the lavender covers up a cold heart as much as it sprinkles through her grey hair; he knows she is the prime cause of the brass considering the closing of his police station.

However Hamish may not like Mrs. Gentle, but he feels sorry for her personal maid, Ayesha, who is on the brink of deportation back to Turkey. He offers to marry her so she can stay in Scotland. Soon after he proposes, Ayesha vanishes and someone kills Mrs. Gentle. Hamish investigates only to learn his fiancee is not the helpless immigrant and that an unknown adversary was blackmailing the kindhearted Mrs. Gentle.

The latest Macbeth police procedural is a superb tale with several plausible powerful spins that will keep readers hooked. The story line is fast-paced as Hamish investigates the homicide, struggles with his feelings for Ayesha who might be a blackmailing killer and has issues with his superior Detective Chief Inspector Blair. This series has been around forever yet remains as fresh as Macbeth's first whodunit.

Chasing Cans
Laura Crum
Perseverance Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel, Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781880284940, $14.95, 1-800-662-8351

Nobody is more surprised than Gail McCarthy is that her veterinarian career that meant the world to her now takes second fiddle to raising her one years old son Mac. She was supposed to return to her practice soon after giving birth, but keeps putting it off; preferring to be a stay at home mommy. The only fly in the ointment is her new neighbor Lindee Sloan who owns and operates a barrel racing training establishment. Gail becomes incensed when Lindee blackmails her neighbor Joan into leasing her pasture where the vet keeps her horses.

Gail goes to have a chat with Lindee, but sees her enemy on a horse that balks at the third barrel before tossing her rider and crushing her. To Gail, it seemed as if Lindee pulled the horse on top of her in what looked like a bizarre accident. Not long after that deadly incident, a trainer rides a horse when the woman falls unconscious and the horse kicks her in the head. Gail reconsiders her opinion on Lindee's death as the two lethal events seem unlikely unless someone caused it. She investigates naively unaware of how dangerous sleuthing can be for her and Mac.

Laura Crum's love of horses shines through her mysteries. In this case the key to the whodunit is that everyone who met Lindee quickly despised her including the usually tolerant Gail. However, it is the second incident that makes Gail wonders if someone hated the two riders so much he or she killed them; the probability of two accidents or an accident/suicide seemingly insignificant. Lead Police Detective Jeri feels Gail's insight is helpful and asks her to join the investigation into the deaths of two riders. CHASING CANS is a terrific puzzler starting with murder or not.

Savor Me Slowly
Gena Showalter
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416531630, $6.99, 1-800-223-2336

Mishka "Maria" Le'Ace is a half-breed undercover operative; Maria is part human, part killing machine and a life prisoner as her handler holds the one-button gizmo controlling a death chip inside her brain. Maria is sent to rescue Alien Investigation and Removal Agent Jaxon Tremain tortured by the Delenseans who demand he tell them what he knows about their enemies the Schon. She saves his life killing his capturers without much of a blink.

She is stunned by her human attraction to Jaxon as this has never happened to her before. However though he feels the same way towards Maria, he fears she cannot be trusted as she wants the same information that he refused to provide to the Delenseans although he admits her seductive torture will be harder to elude. As Maria helps Jaxon recover from his ordeal, her handler orders her to take care of business ASAP or else.

The latest Alien Hunter police procedural science fiction romance (see AWAKEN ME DARKLY and ENSLAVE ME SWEETLY) is a great thriller starring two strong individuals; whose strengths differ. She is physically dynamo while his is dedication and loyalty. Their forbidden relationship in which neither quite trusts the other enhances a sharp action-packed story line.

J.F. Lewis
Pocket Books
9781416547808, $14.00

In Void City Eric the vampire cannot remember the last time had so much trouble as he has had over the past few days. It is not that his blood sustenance has turned sour, but he has had some bouts of mini amnesia and suffers apparent blackouts. Roger his business partner at the Demon Heart Strip Club acts strangely as if he wants more; and Eric fears he may owe Police Captain Stacey an exorbitant "Fang Fee" to cover his recent unknown crimes. His human girlfriend Tabitha has begged him to turn her; something he has been hesitant to perform, but mental erosion sets in as the insistent nagging persuades him to change her; only to have her dump him once her new teeth are set; besides her sister seems cuter.

However, Eric has even bigger problems as he had an incident with a werewolf pack that kill his Mustang and capture him, but immediately afterward turn up dead in Orchard Park with the evidence affirming that a vampire killed them. He knows he is being framed but does not know why or who. The dead lycans' pack led by the father of one of the deceased, is outraged by the affront. Evangelical William the Alpha sends his minion after Eric.

STAKED is a thrilling action-packed urban fantasy starring a predatory fall guy who finds everyone in his circle seemingly using him for personal gain. The story line is filled with action as Eric does what vampires do to stay alive while battling vicious werewolves, magical assaults; clever blood suckers, bribing cops, and the most dangerous species of all: human females; all in a night's bite. Fans will appreciate J.F. Lewis' fine opening tour of Void City where even the undead wonder if you are better off dead.

Let Sleeping Rogues Lie
Sabrina Jeffries
Pocket Books
978141651515, $7.50

Madeline Prescott is upset that her beloved father has become the laughing stock of the medical profession because he believes the use of nitrous oxide will relieve some of the pain of surgery. His daughter seeks a reputable scientist to prove her dad is correct. To achieve her goal she accepts a teaching position at Mrs. Harris's School for Young Ladies.

She also is realistic enough to know that society will ignore her as a mere female so she needs male assistance to achieve her objective. She asks Lord Anthony Dalton for his help; he agrees as he is fascinated by the female "scientist". Madeline persuades Mrs. Harris to allow Anthony to teach a session on how to avoid a rake, but although she audits the class, she flunks as she is unscientifically attracted to him. To his amazement he reciprocates her feelings.

The School for Heiresses Regencies are consistently some of the best historicals on the market today (see ONLY A DUKE WILL DO and NEVER SEDUCE A SCOUNDREL). Although in many ways the lead couples are similar, Sabrina Jeffries finds a way to refresh them; for instance in this case the medical science angle. Thus readers obtain an entertaining battle of the sexes between a pleasure loving huggable male and a scientific minded beautiful woman.

My Immortal Protector
Jen Holling
Pocket Books
9781416525851, $6.99

In 1597 renowned healer William MacKay has found happiness with healer Rose MacDonell (see MY SHADOW WARRIOR), but his daughter Deidra suffers horrific nightmares due to her "gift". She is an animal whisperer who feels the pain of those begging her for help. Every day she suffers her burden praying for silence.

Twelve years later, Deidra cannot take the cries anymore that leave her growling and whimpering. She knows of the myth of how her skill was formed by an ancient pact between her ancestors and a vampire and that only the vampire can remove the curse and make her normal. Her hope lies with a crippled recluse who will see no one as Stephen Ross bitterly hides from society inside his damp remote castle. Deidra breaks down his fortifications with her enthusiasm and need. He agrees to help her on her quest to find the one who can bring her salvation. Neither understands as they begin their journey that an easier path paved by their love is available if they take a chance.

Following up on the super MacDonell Brides romantic fantasy trilogy (see MY DEVILISH SCOTSMAN and MY WICKED HIGHLANDER), Jen Holling continues the saga with the fantastic tale of Deidra. Readers will feel empathy for the beleaguered lead couple especially Deidra with her special bond to animals that haunts her. The story line enchants the audience as Ms. Holling makes her world seem plausible while her fans will enjoy seeing what happened to Deidra's dad and stepmom in the dozen years since their story was told. Sub-genre readers will relish the next generation saga.

The Atlantis Prophesy
Thomas Greanias
Pocket Books
9780743491921, $7.99

On his deathbed, George Washington knew that there was a secret organization using the Masons as a cover that has one goal. The Alignment plans to one day use the newly created nation as a weapon at a time when it becomes powerful. However Washington handed a document to a trusted person who was to deliver it to someone whose descendents would make proper use of the information to preserve the Republic.

Archeologist Dr. Conrad Yeats visits his father's gravesite where on his dad's stone is etched astrological signs and a number. Curious, he breaks the code and using the signs he realizes that everything points towards to a cornerstone of a Washington site where something apparently was buried. If he cannot find it in time, July 4th 2008 to be exact, a few days from now America will no longer exist. Instead the Alignment will rule.

Similar in tone and content to National Treasure, THE ATLANTIS PROPHESY starts off at light speed and then accelerates. Conspiracy buffs will enjoy this roller coaster thriller as intrigue is the norm with many characters having secret operations leading to the hero unsure of who to trust spinally as he learns the Alignment has taken over much of the government and other major national components. Thomas Greanias makes it wild DC ride plausible as the Republic is being taken over from within.

The Little Lady Agency and the Prince
Hester Browne
Pocket Books
9781416539063, $24.00

After the "Little Lady" got engaged to her American boyfriend Jonathan Riley in the Big Apple, Melissa Romney-Jones returns home to Britain to continue her service as sexpot Honey helping the romantically impaired male. Her newest client is womanizing Prince Nicolas von Helsing-Alexandros whose family wants him turned into a gentleman.

Honey hopes to keep Nicky focused on her and her lessons. At the same time, Jonathan begins making demands of her that make her wonder if marriage to him is far from her ideal. Instead Melisa begins to wonder if long time pal Nelson would make a better mate.

The latest Little Lady Agency tale retains the freshness of the previous books in this endearing series as Melissa thanks to her Honey persona refuses to return to mouse status even for Jonathan who becomes demanding and commanding; then again he is a CEO. The story line is fast-paced as Melissa reconsiders her options and trains the Prince to be more considerate of women in this fine entry.

To Wed a Texan
Georgina Gentry
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780821779910, $6.99, 1-800-345-2665

In 1895 Dallas, Jack "Cash" McCalley is hosting a prizefight. Widow Mrs. Bonnie O'Neal Schwartz Purdy, president of the Lone Star Ladies for Decency and Decorum, is hosting a convention. They meet over who will occupy his suite at the Cattleman's Hotel. When she learns of his plan to bring a fight to town, Bonnie becomes upset as she opposes such brutality. She arranges for her group and several preachers to protest the violent confrontation in which she has the law on her side as Texas has banned boxing; the women and the religious leaders demand the city leaders enforce the law and stop the fight from occurring.

Not one to buck such a trend, Cash decides to relocate the fight, but somehow each site he picks, Bonnie is there although he is not sure how she knows. He decides retreating for another day has failed so he goes on the offensive. He plans on seducing his opponent, not realizing the gender fight he has begun.

In the prologue Georgina Gentry explains this superb historical gender war is based on a true occurrence in which a Texas promoter tried to bring the Fitzsimmons-Corbett heavyweight championship bout to the Lone Star State. The unlimited rounds mixed gender championship is between Cash and the Widow-president is an amusing terrific Gay Nineties romance populated by real people who were part of the original media circus.

Hokus Pokus
Fern Michaels
9781420101850, $6.99

The magnificent seven who make up the Sisterhood have been forced into luxurious exile in Barcelona as their merry escapades of exacting vengeance on men who done them wrong was so successful, law enforcement noticed. At the same time they enjoy their "vacation", US Supreme Court Justice Pearl Barnes is being blackmailed by her odious former son-in-law Tyler Hughes. He threatens to expose her and her underground railroad she operates to transport women and children to safety from abusing men.

Pearl does not want to pay off this blackguard, but likes his concept of extortion so she contacts the Sisterhood and with a bit of blackmailing obtains their services. The septet knows they cannot just return to Americas as themselves as they will be arrested at customs. Instead, they must play HIDE AND SEEK knowing the FBI desires PAYBACK and Maggie's former lover Ted Robinson wants SWEET REVENGE. They decide to impersonate the Australian G-String Girls.

The latest Sisterhood thriller is an amusing entry as the seven samurai sneak back into the States to cause mayhem. The story line is as always implausible but absolutely enjoyable as fans will once again root for these ladies to succeed in their newest wild endeavor. HOKUS POKUS is a zany over the top tale filled with action, mirth and mayhem.

One Sinful Night
Kaitlin O'Riley
9780821780930, $4.99

In Galway, Ireland, Aidan Kavanaugh is stunned to see his beloved sixteen year old Vivienne Montgomery being hugged by Nicky Foster. Angry and upset observing the woman he planned to marry in a compromising position, Aidan leaves his hometown; Vivienne's heart is broken and her reputation ruined although she knows she is innocent and cannot understand why Nicky did what he did.

A decade later in 1870, Vivienne lives with relatives in England; hiding her past from them and everyone else. Successful shipping magnate Aidan has had a bad business week topped off when Gregory Cardwell introduces him to his cousin Vivienne. Aidan is engaged to someone else but like her still feels the attraction. Whereas Aidan refuses to act on it, Vivienne decides to take a chance on love even if she fails means her reputation will be destroyed again, but history repeats itself as he sees her compromised again.

The key to this entertaining Victorian romance is the underlying jocularity to the warm second chance at love plot. Aidan and Vivienne are superb lead characters while the villain makes Karl Rove look like child prankster. This my first Kaitlin O'Riley historical, but will not be my last.

Embrace the Night
Karen Chance
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451461995, $7.99, 1-800-847-5515

The Silver Circle is stunned that untrained magic practitioner and vampire crime chief protege Cassandra Palmer has been named Pythia, the chief seer as they expected one of their own to be honored as such. This has always happened for the past few millenniums. Cassandra knows she must become the one due to the domino chaos effect in which a chain of disasters pretty much left her the last one standing.

However to perform her new duties responsibly she has to rid herself of a minor problem. Cassie and sizzling hunk Mircea the master vampire are magically bound to one another; both find this arrangement abhorrent as it crimps their lifestyles. Research leads Cassie to conclude that the only way to survive breaking the link is through an incantation found in the long lost spell-book Codex Merlini. She decides to search the past for this ancient tome not understanding when she starts on her quest why the Codex Merlini vanished; but she will learn soon the hard way that possession places the world in danger from the evil she might inadvertently release as an unintended consequence.

The third entertaining Cassie Palmer dark fantasy (see TOUCH THE DARK and CLAIMED BY SHADOW) focuses on Newton's Third Law of Physics that "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction". Fans will appreciate Cassie's escapades as she tries to end her magical tie to Mircea (though she would not mind a hickey or three from him) leading to potential pandemic peril. Sub-genre fans who have not read Cassie's sags should take a chance as these are well written horror-fantasy tales.

Dragons Wild
Robert Asprin
Ace Books
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780441014705, $14.00, 1-800-847-5515

Long before man appeared on earth, dragons ruled the planet killing off the dinosaurs and ant other species that got in their way. They looked at the newcomer humanity as harmless until it was too late, forcing the proud dragons into hiding by disguising themselves as humans. Recent Michigan University graduate Griffen McCandles thinks dragons are nothing more than a mirthful myth until his Uncle Malcolm claims that his nephew (and niece) is almost a full bred dragon and will soon come into his secondary powers. He also warns Griffen that some dragons will want him dead because of the prophecy while others will want to use and abuse him; some will remain cautious observing him closely to see what powers he develops before acting.

Griffen wonders what type of weed his uncle took as he does not take his relative seriously; that is until his girlfriend Mai says something about dragons and vanishes. His bookie Jerome tells Griffen that he too is a dragon albeit a lesser blood and that his boss Mose wants him to head up their gambling operations in New Orleans. Griff and his sister Valerie take up the offer since the George the dragon killer has left his calling card the Knight of Swords at his door. In New Orleans Griffen begins to grow into his powers and though George followed him, there are also other local dragons using animals to spy on him. Griff realizes he has an enemy besides George who wants him dead.

This is the start of what looks like will be a great urban fantasy series that is funky, funny and fun. The young dragon must learn what his powers are while trying to stay alive by avoiding the George and the unknown adversary. Griffen's sister is like all female dragons as she is independent, temperamental, and charming and she too must learn to control her new skills instead of just protecting her helpless male brother. Robert Asprin has begun another fine myth with his first entry in his wild dragon culture.

Magic Burns
Ilona Andrews
9780441015832, $6.99

Magic has returned to the world, but it comes in waves. When it flares, it is out of control; when it flows it works. The world obviously has changed since the return with cities devastated as the magic hates tech and skyscrapers and either destroys them or changes them into something else.

In Atlanta Kate Daniels works for the Order and the Mercenary's Guild who helps people in need. She takes down a killer in an underground garage but an unknown person does the actual kill using a special dart. A member of the shapeshifting Pack asks her to find maps stolen from them. The thief used the same dart that killed the man in the garage.. Kate returns to the scene where she got the dart. There she follows a clue to a child Julie, who is looking for her mom, a witch belonging to a nearby coven. Each vanished without a trace. Kate takes Julie home with her, but that proves no haven as sea demons attack. She next brings the child to the Order. She finally meets the dart thrower Bran who informs her that she, the witches and the shifters are caught in the middle of a war between two gods.

This urban fantasy is a spellbinding compelling read. On this alternate earth, vampires, shifters and other paranormals co-exist with humans; often not in harmony. Kate has a secret agenda and apparently has powers and a secret that are hinted at throughout the exciting story line. She makes the tale work as this alternate Atlanta seems genuine as a fascinating culture built around magic feels plausible. However it is Kate who will bring fans back for future tales.

Galaxy Blues
Allen Steele
9780441015641, $24.95

Being caught helping his brother to pass his exams at the Space Academy by giving him the answers, Jules Truffaut is kicked out of Union Astronautica Space Fleet. For months he works towards one goal: to get airborne. He stows away on the spaceship headed for Coyote but he gets caught. He steals the shuttle and lands on the planet where he is arrested. He hoped to ask for asylum when he landed but instead he knows with the charges against him that the Chief Magistrate will deport him.

Before he goes in front of the judge, billionaire Morgan Goldstein visits Jules in his prison cell; the wealthy man offers a proportion to the prisoner. He gives Jules a chance to become a crew member of the Pride of Cucamonga en route to the Rho Coronae Borealis System in order to make a trade pact with the elder species the hjadd. If he agrees all charges will be dropped and he will receive asylum. He agrees to go on the mission.

When the crew reach their destination, a cultural misunderstanding turns disastrous. Jules and his mates take part on a dangerous mission that more than likely will mean their death, but correcting the blunder is critical. If they succeed the hjadd will reconsider allowing humanity into the Talus, an organization of highly sentient races who exchange science and technological advances.

Set in the same universe as the Coyote trilogy, GALAXY BLUES is a rip roaring electrifying space opera in which humans are infants compared to the elder races. Readers will thoroughly enjoy learning about the hjadd and their strong unconscious belief in their superiority to the visiting barbaric mankind. Jules is an interesting antihero who tries to disapprove the hjadd perception that advanced technology equates to superior culture and species. Fans will appreciate his efforts.

Lord of Lies
David Zindell
Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765311306, $27.95, 1-888-330-8477

The seventh son of the King of Mesh, Valashu "Val" Elahad uses the ancient sword Alakaladur. However, he and his bone tired friends come home for some needed rest and recuperation after their traumatic but successful adventures to recover the powerful LIGHTSTONE golden cup. They hope the outcome of their quest leads to peace and prosperity for the kingdoms of Ea as prophesied.

Now that he is home, Val knows the next step is to figure out how to release the power of the Lightstone. He knows that something or someone named Maitreya is the source, but who or what remains an enigma while he has doubts about his inner strength to remain virtuous; failure to do so by him or his inner circle means defeat. While he and his team begin the second part of their quest to find a prophet who can either point them to Maitreya or better yet release the power, the dark lord Morjin, angry over his recent loss to Val, plans to steal the Lightstone and kill those who recently defeated him.

The third Ea fantasy (see THE LIGHTSTONE and THE SILVER SWORD) is an entertaining Tolkien (some might say early Robert Jordan) quest thriller. The keys, as with the previous entries, are the vivid details that make the Ea continent seem genuine and the hero; especially the latter although he comes out of the fantasy quest type casting. Although the rest of the players are one dimensional including Morjin the angry who lost some depth since his previous appearances, fans will appreciate the well written LORD OF LIES.

Hellbent and Heartfirst
Kassandra Sims
9780765358011, $6.99

Anthropology Professor Jacyn Boaz takes a leave of absence from her teaching position at the University of Texas in Austin. Jacyn feels it is important to volunteer in her hometown so she has agreed to help Oxfam in Biloxi, Mississippi cleaning up from Katrina.

Jacyn meets self-proclaimed magic guru Jimmy Wayne Broadus, a beer guzzling barbeque dining, guitar-playing Texan. The hunk insists he is searching for a deadly child-eating lamia attacking the bone weary survivors of Katrina especially the homeless refugees. To their mutual surprise, they are attracted to one another and soon after meeting Jaclyn and Jimmy Wayne make love. However, he continues with his quest traveling to La Batre, Alabama to consult with a voodoo warlock and a witch in order to understand what he must do to destroy the lamia. To his delight Jacyn joins him on the hunt.

This is an interesting and unusual romantic fantasy that provides a unique fresh look at the aftermath of Katrina as the Gulf Coast turns into a massive third world refugee encampment filled with haunted people wondering how their lives were washed away leaving them adrift in trailers. The lead couple is also an odd pairing that works as each finds something they desperately need in the other; she a sense of purpose and he a grounding. Although the shifting geography makes for abrupt changes, fans will enjoy the escapades of the two Js as they battle evil whether it is a cursed necklace or the Lamia as their way to help the Katrina victims.

Timeless Moon
C.T. Adams & Cathy Clamp
9780765356659, $6.99

Josette Monier knows the responsibility of being a powerful Sazi seer, but also realizes how much it costs her as she can never live a normal life. She knows being near people leads to pain as she can feel their anguish so the ancient Sazi keeps her distance from everyone. Once over a century ago, Jostte was not a hermit as she fell in love with Rick Johnson, but that ended tragically with his death reminding her what she cannot have.

Meanwhile someone is killing Sazi seers ironically using of all things an incantation; the Sazi Council desperately need help to stop this serial murdering snake. They turn to Rick hoping his surfacing will bring out Aspen who seems immune to the spell. However Josette is irate that she was led to believe her beloved was dead wasting a century they could have had together while the snakes keep on attacking the one person who can prevent their latest nefarious scheme from happening.

The latest Sazi romantic suspense fantasy tale is an exciting addition to this strong saga as the story of a strong legend is told. However that is also the problem with the plot as Josette is one of the most powerful Sazi, but in spite of being the savior she spends much of the time in peril saved by her beloved; instead of the other way around. Still this is an exhilarating entry as the complicated story line filled with twists hooks the audience once the lead couple sets eyes upon one another for the first time in one hundred long lonely years.

The Hidden World
Paul Park
9780765316684, $25.95

Miranda Popescu is beginning to understand her heritage as the once lost thought dead Roumanian princess and as the mythical shape-shifting White Tyger. However, that knowledge also means responsibility to her people and lethal threats from within and without. Nasty sadistic Colonel Bocu wants Miranda dead; the spirit of evil Baroness Nicola Ceausescu may be even more malevolent than when she was living if that is possible; her late Aunt Aegypta has proven untrustworthy and so has the deceased evil Elector of Ratisbon a sinister alchemist. As Miranda now knows dead does not mean the threat expired as they can still cause havoc from the Hidden World. However, the biggest danger comes from the aristocracy still inanely and insanely experimenting with ancient magic that is not understood very well.

In that environs her country is losing the war to Turkey and some in her inner circle want that to happen so the outside upstart is dethroned. As she relies on her friends from the other earth's Massachusetts army officer Peter Gross and gender-species shape shifter Andromeda, rumors abound that tinkering with the old magic has led to a weapon of mass destruction that some say is a planetary doomsday machine based on necromantic physics.

The fourth and final tale in this superb alternate earth (circa WW I) epic coming of age fantasy is a terrific conclusion to a strong saga. The story line is fast-paced as peril seems to come from everywhere and on just about every page; yet Miranda remains a strong center holding the tense story line together. Although it behooves newcomers to read the previous three novels (see THE WHYTE TIGER, THE TOURMALINE and A PRINCESS OF ROUMANIA) as threads from them are tied up in THE HIDDEN WORLD, Paul Park provides a great finish.

The Automatic Detective
A. Lee Martinez
9780765318343, $14.95

Mack Megaton was created as the ultimate doomsday machine capable of mass killing; his handlers planed on using him as the ultimate weapon of mass destruction leading to global supremacy. Instead something went haywire as Mack not only developed a conscience he was too kind to kill for profit. Now he drives a cab in sector of Empire City or what the Learned Council calls "Technotopia".

When his neighbors the Bleakers vanish without a trace, Mack becomes concerned though they kept their distance. He decides to investigate to insure they are all right and if not save them. He is unaware that aliens seek the blood of Holt Bleaker because it contains a mutation that they believe will prove useful when they invade Empire City. However, if Mack learns of their treachery, he would prevent it, but he has personal issues as the evil psychic Grey has done something nefarious to his programming while robotic guru Lucia Napier tries to return him to his normal state.

This is a brilliant satirical science fiction Noir in which the zany cast lampoons several typical genres' standbys such as the little green alien mob boss. Mack is fabulous as THE AUTOMATIC DETECTIVE in a city filled with eccentric lunatics. Fans who relish something different will enjoy this well written amateur sleuth save the world investigative tale.

The Golden Rose
Kathleen Bryan
9780765313294, $14.95

The Duchess of Quitaine Averil knows it is time to fulfill her promise that she made to her uncle last year. She pledged to the traitorous malevolent bachelor King Clodovec that she would come to his court in Lutrec within a year to select who will sire the heir to the Kingdom of Lys with her. She made that vow to keep Clodovec from destroying the people of her duchy.

The depressed Averil begins her quest knowing her soulmate and magecraft bondmate is commoner Gereint, who she can never marry. However, Averil finds some hope when she meets opponents of the monarch who believe in the Serpent God of Chaos like the king does, but not to release this deity from his incantation incarceration. She also learns that her seditious uncle is planning to do to the Ladies of the Isle what he did to the Orders of the Knight. She knows he must be stopped with her only hope residing with Wild Magic; that means introducing chaos and anarchy by finding a way to void the marital laws of nobility to marry Gereint so besides their love they can craft the mystical counterpoint to the king.

The second War between Order and Chaos tale (see THE SERPENT AND THE ROSE) is a terrific fantasy suspense thriller that will have readers on the edge of their seats from the moment Averil knows it's time and never slows down until the cliffhanger sets up the next entry. The story line is action-packed and fast-paced, but it is Averil and Gereint's forbidden relationship that makes this saga excellent as the kingdom's laws forbid their marriage yet they need to bond in holy matrimony to raise the Wild Magic in order to save the people. Although this novel stands alone, it behooves readers to obtain the first stupendous story as that explains how Kathleen Bryant got us to this magnificent point.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

The Winding Road: Imprints of Passing
Marcus E. Omer
Shadows Ink Publications
1209 Milwaukee Str., Excelsior Springs MO 64024
9780979907272 $6.95

Marcus E. Omer grew up "back when a good name came with honesty." He's known the joys of living in a simpler time, a time when people didn't have to lock their doors and kids played outside from daylight 'til after dark. He's seen the world change from the days when few people had telephones to an age of cell phones and computers. Like all good poets through time, Omer leaves it up to his readers to decide if life is better now. He simply shares his memories, those precious imprints of passing time as he's traveled forward through life.

This verse from "The Days We Remember" sets the tone of Omer's chapbook. Some poems are rhyming verse, some iambic pentameter, and others free verse, but all tell a story of kinder, simpler times:

Those days are now read
through time's golden thread,
fond memories bring to our mind.
Though some may be gone
like a passing song
that we sang then left behind.
May the ones we knew
that made dreams come true,
from our hearts ne'er disappear.
For this life we know,
lived with ebb and flow,
let the good days always ring clear.

For most of us, our mother was an ever-present comfort and integral force in childhood. In this excerpt from "To My Mother" Omer remembers her with beautiful memories that never faded, even when her life force waned:

As sweet fragrance,
her smile did not pale even as the petals
fell from the essence of her being,
as life was fading away.

"Treasures of the Past" shows the contrast between people and places in the past and present. This excerpt is a telling commentary, told through the eyes of a man who saw time's passage and the changes it wrought:

In a withering part of town,
which once was overflowing with bustling patrons
seeking dry goods and hardware,
there stands a sagging, creaking building.
Where money flowed through the hands of shrewd proprietors,
now desperate entrepreneurs
try to suck from this dying scene
the last bit of commerce with the word

Through poetry, Omer touches on the pivotal experiences of several generations. Readers will find poignant reflections on war, the heat of young love, the blessings of children, and the inexorable passage of time. This chapbook is visually and poetically beautiful.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

Burst of Sound
Trevor Scott
Broadhead Books
PO Box 7396, Beaverton, OR 97007
1930486731 $15.95

Trevor Scott has three mystery series to his credit: the Tony Caruso series; the Hypershot series; and the Jake Adams International Series. Mr. Scott was a captain in the Air Force, where he was stationed in various missile units in Germany and the United States. He was also an aviation ordnance man on flight decks for the Navy.

Tony Caruso's home base is anywhere his truck will take him in the Pacific Northwest. He lives out of the back with his bilingual dog Panzer, who was trained to sniff bombs. An old Navy buddy's wife calls upon Caruso to find her missing husband. Simultaneously someone is setting off suspicious explosives disguised to look like environmental terrorism. Tony begins searching, only to run into an old FBI special agent named Bob McCallum, with whom he has a history. McCallum is investigating the explosion of a forest service building, where a dead body is found. Tony becomes suspicious that his old friend might somehow be mixed up with the Environmental Defense League, a radical group with a history of incidents. When Tony finally finds Caleb Hatfield, he isn't sure whose side Caleb is on:

"'So, you're not working for the FBI. Then who?'
'They think the FBI might have a mole,' he said.
Tony waited for him to speak. 'Caleb?'
'What the hell does the National Security Agency have to do with this?'"

Trevor Scott chooses the gorgeous Puget Sound area of Seattle as a backdrop for his latest Tony Caruso mystery. Tony is still a loner, except for his dog Panzer. He is irreverent and wise-cracking, which endears the reader even as Tony takes on corruption of the alphabet government agencies. Scott's plot moves quickly, and this book is easily read in a short amount of time (preferably on the beach). Scott develops his characters nicely with his knowledge of the military and security. The action is non-stop, and of course Caruso's dog Panzer is one of the highlights.

BURST OF SOUND is another mystery/thriller that is highly entertaining and ends all too soon for the reader's taste. Caruso and Panzer are a great investigative team!

A River to Die For
Radine Trees Nehring
St. Kitts Press
PO Box 8173, Wichita, KS 67208
9781931206020 $16.00

Radine Trees Nehring has garnered awards and great reviews for her "Something to Die For" mysteries. She is also a journalist, and her mysteries deal with people, places, and thing in her beloved State of Arkansas. She also writes for magazines and newspaper features, and her books usually contain a few of her tasty recipes.

A RIVER TO DIE FOR brings up back to Nehrings' newly married seniors, Carrie and Henry. They are busy establishing family ties, and when Carrie's son Rob and Henry's long-lost half-sister Catherine suggest a camping/fishing trip, Henry is thrilled. Carrie is not so happy and elects to stay home to clean and give herself some quiet time. The location is the Buffalo National River, which is as famous for its caves and artifacts, which suit Rob, the family college professor, interested in anything having to do with American Indians. Rob and Catherine are at a tender time in their newly formed relationship, and they explore happily on the first day of the excursion. Then calamity hits as Catherine is accosted by a thieving local who decides to kidnap her:

"'Go ahead and holler all you want. You think anyone will hear? Naaa, not where we are, not here outside the park. You're gonna come with me and you're gonna keep your mouth shut.' His voice dropped to a purr. 'We're gonna have us a fine time together. I'll show you what a real man can do, and then maybe I'll let you go…after.'"

Nehring plots a particularly nasty scene, but as usual surrounds the tale with love and tenderness. Carrie and Henry are a lovely couple who are picking their way through their new status as a married couple. Nehring infuses her tale with the love of family; good cooking; and chasing the bad guys to save loved ones. Her description of Buffalo National River transports the reader back and forth in time.

As usual, Nehrings' books are so bewitching that the reader can't put them down once begun. Her camping trip turns into a nightmare to rival the old movie Deliverance, but Nehrings' characters come through. The conclusion of the book comes all too soon, and the reader feels like they have been through it all with the characters. A RIVER is a delightful mystery full of all things that make books worth reading.

Trumpets Sound No More
Jon Redfern
Napoleon and Company
178 Willowdale Ave., Ste 201, Toronto, CAN M2N 4Y8
9781894917407 $19.95

Jon Redfern hails from Alberta, Canada. He worked as a free-lance journalist for both the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star; as well as stints with the CBC and work as a children's playwright. He has published numerous short stories in literary journals. His graduate thesis dealt with operas and melodramas in London's great theaters. His first novel, THE BOY MUST DIE garnered the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel in 2002. Jon teaches English at Centennial College in Toronto.

Set in 1840, TRUMPETS SOUND NO MORE is the tale of a brutal killing within the theater world in London. Samuel Cake's battered body is found with no apparent motive. Inspector Owen Endersby is pressured by his clueless superiors to solve the murder before Christmas Eve. Endersby is known for his scientific method, which is at odds with the political games played in his department. In spite of pressure to make a reckless arrest, Endersby enters the world of street vendors; servants; lenders; and the vagaries of the theater in search of the killer:

"He stood by me there once he had received his money. I had no intention of ever paying off the full amount of the note, and he knew that. But on Friday last, he wore a different face. No longer pleading, no longer like a frightened servant. He stood there, and he threatened me with dismissal if I did not stop taking rum and hashish. 'Into the street, Miss Root, where starvation awaits you,' he said. It was that simple…"

Redfern does a beautiful job of presenting Victorian London with all of its blemishes: an overcrowded city where children were routinely abused by elders versus the world of performance, considered vulgar, even as the wealthiest attended the shows. His plot is carefully laid out; characters range from the sedate and tranquil Endersby and his sweet wife to the sad and talented child Betty Loxton. In the middle are the actors and lenders, with their macabre dance of life and death. TRUMPETS is a solid historical mystery written by an author who has spent years researching this fascinating period. Redfern is a sensitive author whose books transport the reader back to the Victorian Age in order to entertain and enlighten. This is a beautifully crafted and haunting mystery.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Charlie Bird
Linda Bird
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd., Colorado 80134
9781432704896 $12.95

In this delightful tale we meet a parrot named Charlie. Charlie lives with his best friends, Sara, who is nine years old, and Molly, who is seven. Charlie loves the girls and they love him and take extra special care of Charlie.

Charlie also has some outside friends that come and talk to him every morning after the girls go to school. One day Charlie and his friend Rusty decide they want to trade places and see how the other one lives. They know of a white dove sorceress, Fiona, who could help them make the switch and they decided to do it. Rusty and Charlie soon find out that the grass is not always as green as it looks on the other side.

Charlie Bird is a very nice book. It is full of fun facts about Charlie the parrot, and it also shows many of the cute antics that Charlie does, like watch TV, and taking a bath.

The addition of the outside birds and the adventure of swapping places between Charlie and Rusty shows children the different lifestyles the birds live and added adventure to the story. Illustrations brought a good visual to the mind's eye of the storyline. Cute book.

The Bunko Babes
Leah Starr Baker
Emerald Pointe Books
PO Box 35327, Tulsa, OK 74153
0978513754 $14.99

I suppose the first thought at picking up this book is that it will be a light-hearted chick-lit read, but this baby has much more substance than that. Inside the pages of this book we interact with Becca and seven of her closest friends. Each week they come together to play "Bunko," but more happens than just enjoying a game. The ladies share their hearts, souls and very lives with each other, forming bonds that they will use to help each other in both good and bad times in their lives.

The characters were real and quickly I found myself involved in the parts of their lives that our author allowed us to share. Friendships past and present, lost loves, new loves, hidden secrets, betrayal, and struggles against sickness all became interwoven within the group as they battled inward demons and outward circumstances. Becca's inward battle with issues of faith, her own relationship to God, and her testimony as a Christian added much to the read.

I found this book to be very enjoyable. It stirred inside me emotions from laughter to tears as I shared in the lives of these women. I found a great mix of unfailing love and friendship and the essence of what life is all about. I recommend this to every woman. Very well done.

The Devil Called Collect
J. Stephen Conn
iUniverse Publishers
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595479092 $12.95

Perhaps some would recoil when asked to review a book that tells the story of an exorcism. Like it or not, there is good and evil in our world and often the evil takes souls captive, and they are lost forever. This is the story of one young woman's soul, trapped in the world of the dark Occult, and crying out to be free, battling against forces that would chill even the seasoned worker for the Lord.

Our author, J. Stephen Conn, is a true man of God. One who did not turn his back to the cries of another human being. One who opened his heart, and called upon his God to help free this soul. In this book you will read the story of Jessica. You will travel with her as she battles the forces of darkness that have kept her captive for most of her life. You will see the power and leading of a loving God through Pastor Conn and his friend, Paul, as they refused to lose this precious soul to the dark force within her.

Many read stories like this that are fiction, not realizing that this does indeed happen in our world everyday. It is the story of a battle between light and dark, death and life, winner take all. It is not a pretty story, but is one that has a beautiful ending.

I, for one, know that there are many in our society that face the dark side every day of their lives and often don't know where to turn to for help to escape their bondage. Perhaps this book will be placed in their hands and give them the courage and hope they need to be free. That is my prayer.

This is a sensitive subject, but Pastor Conn has told it with honesty and integrity. Very well done, a book all Christians should read to understand, indeed we do have an enemy, but our God is greater.

"The Devil Called Collect," is the story of a young woman, a woman who was overcome by the dark side of the spiritual world, one who desperately wanted to be free, and her quest at achieving that freedom.

Anatomy Lesson
Raymond Obstfeld
IOTA Publishing
92 Corporate Park, Suite C-110, Irvine, CA 92606
9780979372001 $23.95

In this outstanding novel we meet Stevie Croft; a young woman who is running for district attorney, but is fighting a losing battle. Now, to make matters worse, she must investigate a horrible crime; one where a body is discovered composed of severed parts from five different people, all sewn together. Totally gross! This is no ordinary killer, that's for sure, he has an agenda. It also appears he has targeted Stevie as he begins to leave messages for her everywhere; from her home, her office and even her bathroom. Creepy!

Stevie harbors another secret. Since he was a young girl she has had "hyper-memory." I didn't know what that was so I was glad to find out it is a combination of photographic memory and total recall. She remembers everything, and I mean everything. Why she has this is a question left unanswered, another mystery brewing under the table........... until! No, we are not going there, but believe me you will be stunned at this revelation.

As the killer keeps going, the messages keep coming, giving clues that Stevie must figure out or someone else will be killed. Stevie begins to have migraines and her memory isn't as good as it was. What could be happening? And why is it happening now? The pressure is on.

I have to tell you I absolutely loved this book. The characters were so well developed that I thought of them as people I had known all my life. The story took me down alleys, into close spaces, and had me racing for my life just like the characters in the book. Talk about drawing a person into the action, this book certainly does that. I was caught up in their trauma's, their emotions, and every aspect of their lives. Good job!

The kicker here however, is the conclusion. I was shocked, beyond shock. I would have never guessed what was coming in a million years, and I'm pretty good at figuring mysteries out. What a twist!

All I can say is hold onto your hat when you're reading this book. It's going to have you speeding down the road at a one fast clip. You will not be bored, that much I guarantee, as your mind is racing trying to figure out the next move of the killer, what is going on in Stevie's personal life, and how all the other characters are involved. I don't know when I have enjoyed reading a book as much as I have this one. Exceptional! Highly recommended.

Ideas and Adventures: 1200-1700
Sonia Seherr-Thoss
Synergy Books
PO Box 80107, Austin, Texas 78758
9781933538730 $22.95

In this outstanding book we travel through history in a definitely unique way. Trust me, this is definitely not a boring read. Inside the pages of this work our author takes us into the very heart of the places and people she is writing about. Her words are written in a way that every person can understand, enjoy, and definitely learn from. The author breaks down the work into time-frames, and brings the human touch into play. That is where she captures your heart and keeps you reading. Included are some beautiful pictures that really bring to life what she is trying to bring across.

Definitely in this work you will see how the past played such an important part in ur culture today. Here is one for you. Did you know that the American Indian gave us the invention of the snowshoe and canoe? I was really surprised at some of the facts I learned. What you read will delight and definitely educate you. Very nice work, very well done.

Hooked Up
Joyce & Jim Lavene
Llewellyn Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125 $13.95
9780738711102 $13.95

In this outstanding novel by Joyce and Jim Lavene we are at the speedway again with Ruby and Glad. Of course we are not going to be able to just sit and enjoy the races, no, not with our two, murder finds you, around. I love it.

Ruby picks up a hitchhiker who ends up dead the next day under a bridge, or is it really him? After all, he has a twin brother and there is a rumor that ten million dollars in cash is missing, and perhaps the dead man, or his brother, who is a powerful casino man, may just know where it is. Do you see the plot thickening? Great pull in, and to Glad's dismay it definitely pulled them into the thick of it all.

To add a little spice to the read, our authors brought in an old acquaintance of Glad's, who just happened to be in charge of the case. Unfortunately for Glad she felt he had left her waiting so many years ago, and their relationship was left unfinished. Not a good thing to have the main investigator holding a grudge against you, now is it?

I really enjoyed this read. The main characters are totally likeable and real. The way Ruby and Glad are so opposite, yet so in tune somehow makes you grin and cringe at the same time. The author's bring just the right amount of mix between the love they have for each other, yet showing the distinct personalities of each especially as they become involved in a murder case. Somehow it works and it works well.

I have to say this story had a lot of twists and turns in it. The unexpected popping up around every corner, adding more questions than answers. I was totally confused and did not have a hint who the guilty party was until it was revealed. There was mystery, suspense, action, romance, racing, and even some animal interaction in this read. Malibu, the cat, definitely brought a few giggles along the way. What more could you ask for?

Hooked Up is a book you will cuddle up and gobble up. A really top-notch mystery that will leave you wanting more. Recommended.

Truth In Translation: Accuracy and Surprising Bias in the Old Testament
A. Frances Werner
ARTB Publishing
PO Box 270069, St. Louis MO 63127-0069
9780978976316 $44.00

I have to admit I was a little concerned about my own ability to review this outstanding work by Ms. Werner. In review of other works by this author, she has shown herself to know her business when it comes to the true Word of God. I was a little afraid that her new book, Truth In Translation, which analyzes the accuracy of 20 English versions of the Bible, would not be understood by a simple person like me. I was dead wrong.

As I began to read this work I found it was presented in a factual way, yet easy to follow and understand. I soon found myself submerged in the read, and I was shocked at how many errors were found in just about every translation written of the Word of God. In translating into English, it appears we can use several different words to mean one thing, the translators chose which words to use or not to use. Think it isn't that important? Think again, the switching around of words can throw an entire different light on what our Heavenly Father is trying to teach us in His Word. Some of the examples our author shows us in this book will boggle your mind. I like how our author put it, that translators have no problem going back and forth with words like worship/bow and hear/obey. I don't know about you, but to me worship has a totally different meaning than to bow. And certainly if God said to obey, I would know it wasn't just a casual remark, but a command. How about you?

I truly wish I had the words to tell you what an eye-opener this book will be to you as you compare your translation of the Bible with the information inside these pages. You will see that you are not feasting on many of the true meanings in the Word, nor absorbing what God is wanting to enter your spirit. I know that I haven't come near to doing justice in my review concerning the importance of this book. To me, it is like a bell ringing telling the translators and publishers that we want the pure Word of God, as exact as it can be translated, and I am sure that is what God wants as well.

Thank you, Ms. Werner, for the research and hard work you have done to bring this to our attention. I highly recommend this book to all those who want the pure Word of God. You will be amazed as you see for yourself what I am talking about. I also recommend, Ancient Roots Translinear Bible, which I have found to open my eyes to many of the truths of God's Word.

In conclusion, if you are truly seeking what your Creator is saying in His Word, don't be afraid to let your voice be heard, demanding a pure translation of the Words you live your life by. Highly recommended.

Beautiful Women: Celebrating Beauty in Stories and Stills
Nancy Bruno
Bridgeway Books
2100 Kramer Lane, Ste. 300, Austin, TX 78758
9781933538884 $15.95

In this work by Nancy Bruno, I found delicate tales of true life, and pictures of intense beauty. No, not the kind that is plastered all over the television, or printed in magazines, but the beauty that life brings; the hidden beauty that we all need to see, and appreciate.

Inside the pages of this book, we are graced to read life experiences from 35-women. The strength, courage, accomplishments of each is the true beauty that shines. The black and white pictures add the visual that completes and satisfies the perfection of this beauty. A reminder of truth for all.

Beautiful Women, celebrates the true essence of the pure beauty of women, and brings it forth for all to appreciate and enjoy. A lovely work.

Deadly Laws
Jim Hansen
Dark Sky Publishing Inc.
121 Bradley Street, Golden CO 80401
9780976924333 $13.95

"It always amazes me how author Jim Hansen writes a book that is filled with the actions of terrifying un-godly murderers, detailing their hideous and repulsive acts of violence, yet pens his words in such a way that you are propelled into a story that locks you in until the final page. I sat glued to the pages reading his latest work, "Deadly Laws," hating the horror poured upon helpless victims, yet desperately needing the conclusion I knew awaited me at the end of the read. Indeed the mark of a great writer.

Unlike our author's other works, that focused mainly on the life of a Denver Homicide Detective; this story takes us more into the lives of two young woman, Kayla Beck and Aspen White. Our story begins as Kayla receives a phone call from a serial killer telling her that Aspen is tied up in an old railroad car; if Kayla can get there in time she can save her life; if not, she will die. Kayla does save her life but not before Aspen kills a man who has stumbled upon her and assaulted her while she lay helplessly tied-up. After the rescue the two women become fast friends and set off to try and find this serial killer before he decides they both need to die.

Not to worry, there is still plenty written about our beloved Bryson Coventry, 34-year-old head of Denver's Homicide Unit. He is drawn into the story as he investigates this man's murder. Getting a line on a car seen at the scene of the murder that matches Kayla's car he investigates, meets the two woman and becomes involved with the beautiful Aspen. Soon young girls turn-up missing and end-up dead and Aspen and Kayla step up their search for this killer knowing they may well be next. In the meantime, Coventry finds out that he may be searching for a serial killer as well but does not know the two woman are doing the same.

I cannot begin to tell you the entire storyline as it has more twists and turns than a mountain road. Characters upon characters are added in, some bringing spice, others bringing fear, some bringing romance and more than one serial killer suspect rises up leaving you totally at the mercy of the author to bring this mountain of mystery to its final conclusion. Just when you think you may be starting to travel on a straight road more is added to the mix as there are some hidden motives behind some actions taken by our characters and your mind will totally explode when you find out the secret that Aspen has been hiding and who the real killer is. An unbelievable conclusion awaits you; or is this really the end of this story? Somehow I'm suspicious that it is not. However we will have to wait and see.

To bring my review to a close I would have to say this is one top-notch read. Again, Mr. Hansen adds just the right amount of mystery, suspense, romance, horror and nail-biting adventure to keep you turning the pages. Be warned, there is some rude-talk and sexual content to be aware of. However, for those who love the hair standing-up on your neck fear; the delving into the mind of a heart-less killer and the challenge of solving one outstanding who done it read; you will love this book. It is a murder mystery that you will never know or even imagine what lies around the next turn; I promise you that. Excellent read!

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Journal Of The Angelic
Mark A. Raborn
WingSpan Press
c/o Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity
2817 West End Avenue, Suite 126-274, Nashville, TN 37203
9781595941640, $13.95

Angels are metaphysical beings that are recorded in the sacred books of all three of the Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. A conservative Christian believer, Mark Raborn has chosen a fictional format in which to explore a myriad of issues concerning the existence, purpose, function, and behavior of angelic beings. The method is a narration by Karmus, an angel who ponders the depths of antiquity and the events from his own past beginning with his creation by the deity, his maturation among the hosts of Heaven, the wars in heaven, the fall of Lucifer, and the Adamic dispensation. Along the way such issues as why did so many supposedly superior beings betray God and follow Lucifer? If God is all knowing, how could he let such a development come to pass -- and why? Although a skillfully articulated work of speculative fiction, "Journal Of The Angelic" is as thoughtful and thought-provoking, as it is informatively challenging and occasionally iconoclastic as it provides the reader with a scripturally based glimpse into the heavenly realms of the past and the present. "Journal Of The Angelic" is especially recommended and rewarding reading for anyone who has ever speculated on the role and purpose of angelic beings with respect to our lives and the history of the human race.

Another Place, Another Time
C. D. Montana
Coramar Books
c/o Warwick Associates
18340 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma, CA 95476
9780977059010, $16.95

Reincarnation is one of the bedrock concepts of Metaphysical Studies. The idea of birth, death, and rebirth is the foundational belief systems of millions of people around the world. Although born in Melbourne, Australia, C. D. Montana feels that she has a lifelong connection to the Lakota Indians which led her to explore her own past lives and her relationship with the spirit world. The result of her inquiries and studies is "Another Place, Another Time: The Reincarnation Of Crazy Horse". Now in an expanded and updated second edition, this extraordinary account of the spiritual world includes Montana's close relationship with her spirit guide Maryanne. It was through the aid of her spirit guide (and many other spirits) that enabled Montana to uncover amazing proofs of her past life as the Native American warrior leader Crazy Horse. "Another Place, Another Time" is a fascinating and well-written memoir that will prove of special interest to students of Metaphysical Studies in general, and direct spirit world guidance in particular.

Dungeons & Desktops
Matt Barton
Publicity Department
A K Peters, Ltd.
888 Worcester Street, Suite 230, Wellesley, MA 02482
9781568814117, $39.00

Dungeons & Desktops: The History of Computer Role-Playing games is an incredible tour-de-force of a recreational industry. Chapters cover early tabletop wargames such as "Chainmail" and its precursors, to the pencil-and-paper Dungeons and Dragons game, to the very first computer role-playing games programmed into university mainframe computers (and often deleted by administrators, making many of the first RPGs forever lost to history!). The saga continues with early classics like Wizardry, The Bard's Tale, Ultima, and Pool of Radiance; the rise of casual-friendly action RPGs like Diablo; and the success of massively multiplayer online roleplaying games (MMORPGs) such as the wildly popular World of Warcraft. Console RPGs are also mentioned briefly, most notably trailblazer console RPGs such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. What sets Dungeons & Desktops apart is its in-depth discussion of literally dozens of early CRPGs, many more that even the most avid gamer has likely ever heard of. From two paragraphs to several pages are devoted to each CRPG title, giving a crystal clear picture of what playing the game was like (including its highlights, flaws, and bugs), its commercial success (or failure), and sometimes notes as to what its development team may be doing today. Black-and-white computer screenshots and a handful of color plates illustrate this "must-have" history and resource for CRPG aficionados everywhere. "My advice to anyone who really wants to learn the history of CRPGs is to start with the newer classics and gradually work backwards. It's still relatively easy, for instance, to find copies of Baldur's Gate or [Might & Magic VI: The] Mandate of Heaven and get them running on a modern PC... I would recommend skipping the early Windows 95 or Windows 3.1 games though - these can be excruciatingly difficult to get running even for emulation experts. If you a little further back, though, to the DOS era, things get much easier thanks to DOSBox." Highly recommended.

I See A Red Door
Ayna Meppelink
James A. Rock & Company Publishers
9710 Traville Gateway Drive, #305, Rockville, MD 20850
9781596637788, $19.95

There are reasons why a well crafted mystery novel is one of the most enduringly popular and versatile literary genres. "See A Red Door" by Ayna Meppelink is just such one of those reasons! When small town college teacher Fae Nelson discovers her pesky neighbor Lani Pochard dead in a ditch is thought by others to be the unfortunate results of a combination of alcohol, Boozabuse and mud. But Fae, who experiences the occasional psychic vision, feels that Lani is trying to send her a paranormal message that her death was no accident! As Fae investigate's Lani's rather unusual personal history that includes two discarded husbands, three disconnected children, a rather unpleasant boyfriend, and several other assorted and suspicious characters who all have a diversity of motives to wish Lani dead, Fae feels that as a reluctant psychic she will need all six of her sense to discover the source of Lani's last and lethal cocktail. Ayna Meppelink is a skilled and inventive storyteller who has managed to deftly blend precognition and the paranormal with an original mystery/suspense storyline. The result is a thoroughly entertaining novel that can be wholeheartedly recommended to mystery buffs and paranormal enthusiasts alike!

John Taylor

Vicki's Bookshelf

Molly's Cooking Studio
American Girl editors
American Girl / Pleasant Company
8400 Fairway Place, Middleton, Wisconsin 53562
9781593692650 $15.95

Calling all chefs! With this package of recipes and cooking tools, American Girl fans will discover how much fun it is to make the meals that book character Molly loved in the 1940s when her fictional American Girl stories occurred. More than 20 easy-to-follow recipes feature full color photography and step-by-step instructions. There's also a fold-out poster full of cooking hints and kitchen safety tips. When you've mastered these 1940s-inspired dishes, a final chapter provides ideas for Molly themed parties! Also includes a cookie cutter, 20 "table talker" conversation starters, and 10 reusable place cards.

Just Mom and Me
American Girl Editors
American Girl / Pleasant Company
8400 Fairway Place, Middleton, Wisconsin 53562
9781593693404 $9.95

"Just Mom and Me" is a new spiral-bound activity book to foster bonding between mothers and daughters. Whenever there's a little quiet time, this tear-out, punch-out, fill-out book of fun provides the stimulus for getting-to-know you activities, such as how to interview your mom about the girl she used to be. Filled with quizzes, car games, recipes, and story starters, it makes special one-on-one time all the more valuable. It tests each other's knowledge of one another, and helps busy families get to knew each other even better. Recommended for ages 8 and up.

See What You Can Be
Dianne Heiman and Liz Suneby
American Girl / Pleasant Company
8400 Fairway Place, Middleton, Wisconsin 53562
9781593692773 $9.95

Are you a dance queen? A computer whiz? A promising poet? The things you enjoy now are clues to the many careers you might enjoy in the future. This book gives a glimpse of nearly fifty careers, from clothing designer and coach, to animator and aerospace engineer. Tweens will like appreciate reading over a dozen interviews with real career women from a wide range of professions. Then readers are encouraged to "try out" each career at home with fun activities. After filling out the quizzes, puzzles, and journal pages, they will have a book that's all about them, who they are now and all that they could become.

Kaline Klattermaster's Tree House
Haven Kimmel
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9760689874024 $15.99

Meet Kaline Klattermaster, a little boy who understands the importance of a few good friends -- make-believe or otherwise. Kaline loves his mom. Adores his mom. But his mom can be, well, a bit forgetful sometimes. A bit lax. A bit crazy. For instance, she's a bit crazy when she leaves him in the tub for three hours. Or gives him a chicken leg for breakfast. Or forgets that he needs to go to school. AND he's not completely sure his mother understands how time works. She's been even a bit more crazy since his dad left. So it's a very good thing that the folks in Kaline's tree house are not so crazy. They understand him. They don't mind that he sometimes just has to play his pretend bugle, and, of course, they are full of good advice on how to handle bullies. His mom hints that the tree house is imaginary. Kaline is unconvinced. A delightful middle grade novel from the author of "A Girl Named Zippy."

Jody Sullivan Rake
Capstone Press
151 Good Counsel Dr., P.O. Box 669, Mankato, Minn. 56002
9781429612494 $19.93

"Meerkats" is a sample title in the "African Animals" series of eight titles for kindergarten and first grade students. Photos and carefully leveled text introduce readers to some of the most fascinating animals on the planet. Basic geography information, including maps, accompany descriptions of the animals and their habitat. Each book covers the life cycle and physical characteristics of such favorite African animals including cheetahs, elephants, leopards, giraffes and pythons.

Keeping Score
Linda Sue Park
Clarion Books / Houghton Mifflin
251 Park Avenue South, NY, NY 10003
9780618927999 $16.00

From Newberry medalist Linda Sue Park, an engaging novel about a girl who doesn't play baseball, a team that doesn't win, and a war that isn't a war. Both Maggie Fortini and her brother, Joey-Mick, were named for baseball great Joe DiMaggio. Unlike Joey-Mick, Maggie doesn't play baseball but at almost ten years old, she is a dyed-in-the-wool fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Maggie can recite all the players' statistics and understands the subtleties of the game. Unfortunately, Jim Maine is a Giants fan, but its Jim who teaches Maggie the fine art of scoring a baseball game. Not only can she revisit every play of every inning, but by keeping score she feels she's more than just a fan: she's helping her team. Jim is drafted into the army and sent to Korea, and although Maggie writes to him often, his silence is just one of a string of disappointments being a Brooklyn Dodgers fan in the early 1950s meant season after season of near misses and year after year of dashed hopes. But Maggie goes on trying to help the Dodgers, and when she finds out that Jim needs help, too, she's determined to provide it. Against a background of major league baseball and the Korean War on the home front, Maggie looks for, and finds, a way to make a difference. Even those readers who think they don't care about baseball will be drawn into the world of the true and ardent fan. Linda Sue Parks captivating story will, of course, delight those who are already keeping score.

Who Was First? Discovering the Americas
Russell Freedman
Clarion Books / Houghton Mifflin
251 Park Avenue South, NY, NY 10003
9780618663910 $19.00

Award-winning nonfiction author Russell Freedman examines the ongoing debate over who really discovered America. Many generations of American schoolchildren were taught that Columbus discovered America, and a holiday reminds us every October. But historical investigation in recent years has shown us otherwise. There is evidence that adventurers, explorers, traders, and nomads from various parts of the globe set foot on American soil long before 1492. And expeditions that landed in the Americas reported people already living there-indicating that America had been "discovered" before. Russell Freedman brings his legendary skills as researcher and storyteller to this fresh and intriguing look at the American past. Colourful legends and first-person accounts are woven into the riveting narrative, which also illuminates the way historians and map-makers have gathered, evaluated, and recorded information throughout the ages.

30 Days to Getting Over the Dork You Used to Call Your Boyfriend
Clea Hantman
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385735490 $7.99

Being dumped hurts. But you know what? It happens to everyone. Even Gwyneth, even Cameron, even Madonna have been on the losing end of love. The part you might not believe is that no matter how brutally your heart's been broken, those wounds will heal. But the longer you dwell on the dork, the longer your heart will remain cracked. Enter "30 Days to Getting Over the Dork You Used to Call Your Boyfriend." One day at a time, 30 days in a row. At the end, you'll find you have the power to yank that dagger out of your chest, stand tall, walk proud, and move on. And along the way, you may just discover something marvelous and surprising about yourself.

Grimpow: The Invisible Road
Rafael Abalos
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385733748 $17.99

Rafael Abalos' convoluted tale, set in 1313 France, features the young tramp Grimpow, who is transformed by the discovery of a frozen corpse and a magic stone. The stone launches him on a journey to uncover secrets left behind by the persecuted Knights Templar. Richard McGonagle portrays Grimpow as a chipper, nave young man who is bewildered by his quest. His bewilderment is shared by the listener as clues are slowly parsed out using riddles and maps -- not easily shared in the audio format. McGonagle's steady narrative flow does not alter whether characters are in the midst of battle on the jousting field, beset by French thugs, or uncovering yet more clues to the invisible road.

The Sweet Far Thing
Libba Bray
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385730303 $17.99

It has been a year of change since Gemma Doyle arrived at the foreboding Spence Academy in this book's prequel, "A Great and Terrible Beauty." Her mother murdered, her father a laudanum addict, Gemma has relied on an unsuspected strength and has discovered an ability to travel to an enchanted world called the realms, where dark magic runs wild. Despite certain peril, Gemma has bound the magic to herself and forged unlikely new alliances. Now, as Gemma approaches her London debut, the time has come to test these bonds. The Order -- the mysterious group her mother was once part of -- is grappling for control of the realms, as is the Rakshana. Spence's burned East Wing is being rebuilt, but why now? Gemma and her friends see Pippa, but she is not the same. And their friendship faces its gravest trial as Gemma must decide once and for all what role she is meant for. Epic historical fiction with a magical flair and exquisite prose.

Collectibles Price Guide 2008
Judith Miller, Mark Hill
375 Hudson St., NY, NY, 10014
9780756631215 $25.00

Whether you're hoping to grab a bargain at a yard sale or aiming to find out the value of that 1960s coffee set in the attic, this easy-to-use guide is invaluable. Judith Miller's latest "Collectibles Price Guide" is a practical photographic listing of items to help even the most amateurish collector identify and appraise collectibles quickly and easily. It is perhaps the clearest price guide on the market, but, as with all of the English author's books, has a slant toward English collectibles that many - or most, in fact - American collectors do not have interest in or ready access to. A recommended guide but with one caveat: previous pricing guides from DK Publishing have been sloppily edited with prices incorrectly converted (or not converted at all!) from English pounds to American dollars, and with volatile exchange rates, buyers and sellers would be wise to take the prices listed here with a grain of salt.

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
Gabrielle Zevin
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
19 Union Square West, NY, NY 10003
9780374349462 $17.00

If Naomi had picked tails, she would have won the coin toss. She wouldn't have had to go back for the yearbook camera, and she wouldn't have hit her head on the steps. She wouldn't have woken up in an ambulance with amnesia. She certainly would have remembered her boyfriend, Ace. She might even have remembered why she fell in love with him in the first place. She would understand why her best friend, Will, keeps calling her "Chief." She'd know about her mom's new family. She'd know about her dad's fiancee. She never would have met James, the boy with the questionable past and the even fuzzier future, who tells her he once wanted to kiss her. She wouldn't have wanted to kiss him back. But Naomi picked heads. After her remarkable debut, author Gabrielle Zevin has crafted an imaginative second young adult novel all about love and second chances.

The Book of Jude
Kimberely Heuston
Front Street
20 Battery Park Ave., Asheville, NC 28801
9781932425260 $17.95

A brilliant young woman's fight against a debilitating psychological illness is set against the historical events of the Prague Spring and the anti-Soviet struggles in Czechoslovakia. When Jude's mother gets a fellowship to go to Prague to study, Jude's world is thrown into chaos. The teenage girl feels threatened and isolated. It turns out her whole family is going, but still Jude feels adrift. When she arrives in Prague and discovers that their life in the embassy compound is closely circumscribed by rules and regulations and that they are closely watched at all times, she begins to suffer even more. Desperate to break out of the constraints imposed on her and her family, Jude sneaks out one night only to encounter a security crackdown on students and dissenters. Although she makes it home safely, her consciousness continues to deteriorate as she fluctuates in and out of rationality. Only when Jude steals a friend's car and drives into the countryside does the true seriousness of her condition become apparent to her family. Then the long road to recovery begins. For young adults ages 14 and up.

Lizard Love
Front Street
20 Battery Park Ave., Asheville, NC 28801
9781932425345 $17.95

A startling debut novel about a girl growing into a woman, kicking and screaming every step of the way. Grace's life was perfect in Mooresville at her grandparents' home. Nature was close at hand, and she could explore it endlessly. But Grace and her mother move to New York City, where nature has been paved over and left to die. Grace hates the city and all it represents . . . until she discovers a pet shop run by a toad-ugly boy and his father and which is full of exotic creatures, none more so than Spot, an iguana. Grace spends every minute she can at the pet shop, especially as she realizes that she doesn't fit in at school and she can't stand the city streets where men and boys are starting to notice her. Grace doesn't like what's happening to her body and the attention it's drawing. Even when she goes back to Mooresville for a summer break, she discovers that things aren't the same. So there is nothing to be done except return to the city and confront who she is, what she is becoming, and deal with it.

The Lucky Place
Zu Vincent
Front Street
20 Battery Park Ave., Asheville, NC 28801
9781932425703 $17.95

When her father, Sikes, gets drunk and forgets three-year-old Cassie at the races, it's the last straw for her mother. Soon Cassie and her brother, Jamie, have a new dad and move into what their mother calls their Lucky Place, where her two little brothers are born. Cassie wants to believe in the Lucky Place, but behind the rosy picture of sixties suburbia is another, more fragile and complex world. Cassie adores her new dad, Ellis. If only Jamie would love him, too. If only their charming, sloppy-drunk father would quit popping in and out of their lives to ruin things. If only their mother would stop pretending. They might be happy on Diamond Street. Then during a family trip, Cassie learns a terrible secret about Ellis that threatens to shatter the dream of the Lucky Place forever. In the end, Cassie faces great loss, but by also facing the truth about her family, and learning to look at them with unflinching love, she discovers a stronger sense of self.

A Beginning, a Muddle, and an End
525 B Street, San Diego, CA 92101
15 E. 26th St., NY, NY 10010
9780152055554 $14.95

Avon the snail and Edward the ant are back for another funny and philosophical adventure. This time, Avon has decided he wants to be a writer, only to discover that writing is way more difficult than he ever imagined. He finally gets the word "something" written down, but there's a problem: What to write next? Luckily, his friend Edward is there to advise. Brimming with wit, wisdom, and humor, this warm and winning tale of two friends on a quest intended to entertain readers (and writers) of all ages.

An Artists America
Michael Albert
Henry Holt & Co.
115 W. 18th St., NY, NY 10011
9780805078572 $17.95

Meet Michael Albert, modern Pop artist. In an effort to combine his art style with his recycling philosophy, he has created a signature line of artwork in which his materials are derived from consumer packaging, old photographs, and discarded cardboard. The results are brilliant collages in the spirit of Andy Warhol's famous "Campbell's Soup" pieces. Through his own interpretation of historic and epic events, such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address, Michael Albert shares his vision of American popular culture.

The Hearts of Horse
Molly Gloss
Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
97680618799909 $24.00

A breakout novel from the author of "The Jump-Off Creek," the heartwarming story of a determined young woman with a gift for gentling wild horses. In the winter of 1917, when a young woman shows up at his doorstep looking for work breaking horses, George Bliss hires her on. Many of his regular hands are off fighting the war, and he glimpses, beneath her showy rodeo garb, a shy but feisty girl with a serious knowledge of horses. So begins the irresistible tale of 19-year-old Martha Lessen, a female horse whisperer trying to make a go of it in a man's world. At the time, it was thought that the only way to break a horse was to buck the wild out of him, but when the ranchers in this remote county of Eastern Oregon witness Martha talking in sweet tones to horses believed beyond repair -- and getting miraculous results -- she earns a place of respect in the community. Along the way, she helps a family save their horses when their wagon slides into a ravine; she gentles a horse for a dying man -- a last gift to his young son; she clashes with a hired hand who is abusing horses in unspeakable ways; and gradually, she comes to feel enveloped by a sense of belonging and family she's never had before. With the elegant sweetness of Plainsong and a pitch-perfect sense of western life reminiscent of Annie Dillard, "The Hearts of Horses" is a remarkable story about the connections between and among people and animals and how they touch one another in the most unexpected and profound ways.

Grace for President
Kelly DiPucchio and LeUyen Pham
114 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10011-5690
9780786839193 $15.99

When Grace's teacher reveals that the United States has never had a female president, Grace decides to be the first. And she immediately starts off her political career as a candidate in the school's mock election. But soon she realizes that she has entered a tough race. Her popular opponent claims to be "the best man for the job" - and seems to have captured all the male votes. So Grace decides the only thing to do is concentrate on being the best person. In this timely story, author Kelly DiPucchio not only gives readers a fun introduction to the American electoral system, but also teaches them the value of hard work, courage, and independent thought - and offers an inspiring example of how to choose our leaders.

The True Meaning of Smekday
Adam Rex
114 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10011-5690
9780786849000 $16.99

Twelve-year-old Gratuity "Tip" Tucci is assigned to write five pages on "The True Meaning of Smekday" for the National Time Capsule contest, and she's not sure where to begin: when her mom started telling everyone about the messages aliens were sending through a mole on the back of her neck? Maybe on Christmas Eve, when huge, bizarre spaceships descended to Earth, and aliens - called the Boov - abducted her mother? Or when the Boov declared Earth a colony, renamed it "Smekland" (in honor of glorious Captain Smek), and forced all American to relocate to Florida via rocketpod? Gratuity's story is much, much bigger than the assignment. It involves her unlikely friendship with a renegade Boov mechanic named J.Lo, a futile journey south to find Gratuity's mother at the Happy Mouse Kingdom, a cross-country road trip in hovercar called Slushious, and an outrageous plan to save Earth from yet another alien invastion. A hilarious, perceptive, genre-bending novel by a sharp-witted new writing talent.

We Are The Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball
Kadir Nelson
Jump At The Sun / Hyperion
114 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10011-5690
9780786808328 $18.99

The story of Negro League baseball is the story of gifted athletes and determined owners; of racial discrimination and international sportsmanship; of fortunes won and lost; of triumphs and defeats on and off the field. Most of all, the story of the Negro Leagues is about the unsung heroes who overcame segregation, hatred, terrible conditions, and low pay to do the one thing they loved more than anything else in the world: play ball. Using an "Everyman" player as his narrator, Kadir Nelson tells the story of Negro League baseball from its beginnings in the 1920s through its decline after Jackier Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947. The voice is clear and true, and the images are brilliant - providing deep perspectives, rich emotions and an understanding and affection for these lost heroes of our national game.

Around the World in 80 Tales
Saviour Pirotta, Richard Johnson
Kingfisher / Houghton Mifflin
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116
9780753459997 $19.95

This richly illustrated book takes readers on a journey across six continents, with entertaining folktales from eighty different storytelling traditions. An excellent introduction to foreign countries, these beautifully told stories are perfect for reading aloud and encouraging children to learn about different cultures and other parts of the world. From a dragon princess in China to a clever peddler in Morocco, children will meet wonderful characters as they travel story-by-story around the globe. A lovely gift, this deluxe volume is a joyous celebration of the world's wonderful diversity.

Tree Shaker: The Story of Nelson Mandela
Bill Keller
Kingfisher / Houghton Mifflin
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116
9780753459928 $17.95

He was a child of royalty, born and raised to defend tradition, But his African name - Rolihlahla, meaning "tree shaker" - hinted at a very different future. Nelson Mandela would spend most of his life shaking his country to its roots. In South Africa, Europeans had invented a bizarre system called apartheid. Merciless laws kept power and wealth in the hands of whites, who treated the Africans as foreigners in their own land. For challenging this cruel system, Mandela would be condemned as his country's most notorious outlaw and imprisoned for 27 years. He would emerge to lead a peaceful revolution, becoming the father of a new South Africa and one of the world's most inspiring heroes. This is his story.

The 15 Greatest Board Games in the World
Editors of Klutz
450 Lambert Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94306
9781591745075 $24.95, 36 pages,

In 1990 Klutz published "The Book of Classic Board Games" and sold more than a million copies. Now they've done it again with "The 15 Greatest Board Games in the World". Featuring a new selection of games to play on 15 different game boards, along with clear directions for play. Each spread is uniquely illustrated. Custom-designed playing pieces and dice come in a storage compartment attached to the book, which is cleverly engineered to lie flat during game play. The games themselves range from the familiar (Checkers) to th exotic (Tigers & Goats, the national game of Nepal). Each has been play-tested to assure directions are complete and the game is completely kid-friendly. Altogether, it's an entire game cabinet conveniently packaged between the covers of a book.

Mother Nature Goes Nuts
Editors of Klutz
450 Lambert Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94306
9781591743385 $16.95

This book is a total disaster. In a good way. This is a book about storms, floods, landslides, and tornadoes. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. It's filled with survivor stories, photos, trivia and the science of what happens and why. The editors at Klutz spent a year collecting photography and facts - everything imaginable about amazing natural disasters. Each category of disaster gets its own section, including up-to-the minute coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the global warming trend. In Klutz tradition, they also include a variety of hands-on experiences, most noteworthy being the twister-in-a-jar doo-dad affixed to the front cover.

My All-Time Top 5: A Book of Lists
Karen Phillips
450 Lambert Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94306
9781591745167 $16.95

Tween girls - as you might have noticed - have opinions. Lots of them. "My All-time Top 5" is a unique opportunity to immortalize those opinions in list form: lists of favorites, un-favorites, pet peeves, proudest achievements, weirdest phobias, secret crushes, wildest ambitions, and more. The book features 60 pages of list ideas, games, and activities ranging from thought-provoking to just plain goofy. It's divided into five sections (Me & My Deep Thoughts, Boys & Other Animals, etc.), each with a different illustrator. The package also features a customized 150-page, coil bound notepad and coordinating pencil to make list-creating pretty irresistible, whether one is with a group of giggly friends, or on one's own, looking for some quiet contemplation. A record-keeper worth keeping as a keepsake.

Paper Fashions Fancy
Editors of klutz
450 Lambert Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94306
9781591745198 $21.95

Two years and 4 1/2 million tiny hangers ago, Klutz introduced "Paper Fashions" and unwittingly launched a pandemic passion for itty-bitty fashions. Girls of all ages went crazy designing their own unique paper outfits. And they asked for more, so Klutz now introduces its Spring 2008 collection: "Paper Fashions Fancy." This season it's all about glamour. They've designed a brand new set of patterned and colored papers, including some with glitter, foil, and velvety black flocking. There's a new selection of seed beads, sequins, ribbon, stencil shapes, and more than a hundred sticky-back "jewels" for embellishing the fashions. And, of course, the tiny wire hangers are back - and this time the publisher has included clever ideas for decorating those hangers to make them gown-worthy.

Short Stuffs: Create Your Own No-Sew Stuffed Animals
Editors of Klutz
450 Lambert Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94306
9781591745280 $16.95

"Short Stuffs: Create Your Own No-Sew Stuffed Animals" offers a fresh new spin to the beloved stuffed animal for children ages 4 and up. Following the simple directions here, kids can make their own snuggly friends without sewing a single stitch. Just stuff the two soft fabric bodies with the included squishy "pillows." They can choose from the ready-made felt features - ears, noses, arms and tails - to create their own animals. Sturdy Velcro tabs ensure that all of the parts attach and detach with ease, so kids can instantly make a monkey, mouse, dog, cat or bunny. Or to follow their imagination and create any combination the like. Cute enough to catch the attention (and affection) of young boys and girls alike.

Quick Draw Flip Books
Michael Sherman
450 Lambert Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94306
9781591745112 $14.95

With "Quick Draw Flip Books," kids can turn their own doodles into hand-made motion pictures. To make this classic kid activity even easier than ever, "Flip Books" features several sets of perforated pages, each with a sequence of partially finished pictures illustrating a funny story. Each sheet is ready for the user to complete the drawings in any style they like. They then tear out the pages, bind them with one of our custom clips, and flip them to see their art in action. It's the "Rip, Clip, Grip, and Flip" method, making it the easiest way yet to make a mini-movie. The book comes with four sturdy clips, a set of colorful mini-markers, enough pages to make eight flip books, and a how=to guide to lead you every step of the way. By the time the pages run out, the reader/movie-maker is all set to make their own flip books from scratch.

How They Met and Other Stories
David Levithan
Knopf / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375848865 $16.99

Just in time for Valentine's Day comes a confection from David Levithan that is sure to appeal to fans of Boy Meets Boy. Here are 18 stories, all about love, and about all kinds of love. From the aching for the one you pine for, to standing up and speaking up for the one you love, to pure joy and happiness, these love stories run the gamut of that emotion that at some point has turned every one of us inside out and upside down. What is love? With this original story collection Levithan proves that love is a many splendored thing. A varied, complicated, addictive, and wonderful thing.

Cranium Fun Folio
Cranium Fun Folio: Family Edition
LB Kids
1271 Ave. of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9780316012041 $14.99

Cranium FunFolio books are activity gift collections all about you and the great things you can do! These one-of-a-kind books include plenty of fun activities, plus game cards, stickers, a portable Doodler pad, a Cranium marker, and a front-cover photo frame for personalizing your FunFolio. Each edition includes new adventures -- you'll draw, act, play, laugh, and make your mark on every page. In "Cranium FunFolio," kids will create a museum exhibit, design their own robot, and invent silly songs. In "Cranium FunFolio: Family Edition," you'll work with your family to build a time capsule, scavenge your house for fun finds, and even write your own movie script! When you finish all the activities in the book, you'll have an amazing keepsake that is unique and all your own -- a treasure trove of wacky adventures and hilarious memories you'll return to for more fun. Recommended for ages 7 and up.

All Around Us
Eric Carle
Philomel / Penguin
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399250088 $16.99

Here are three never-before-published Eric Carle board books about direction, gathered together in a smart, handsome slip-cased gift package. One book features things above us, such as planes, clouds, rainbows, and the moon. A second book shows things on the Earth's surface, like trucks, boats, and trees. The third book presents things that are below us, like roots, fish, and hibernating bears. Each picture is paired with a simple noun-and-verb text that is perfect for teaching young children words and concepts. A clever tool for parents and teachers, this fun, colorful package also makes the ideal gift for Eric Carle fans of all ages.

Atlas of South America
Karen Foster
Picture Window Books
5115 Excelsior Blvd. Suite 232, Minneapolis, Minn. 55416
9781404838871 $20.95

These basic school reference books feature easy-to-understand icons and an entertaining narrative to draw the reader into the diverse regions represented. Political, physical, and thematic maps - population density, industry, climate, and ecosystems - emphasize the unique attributes of each continent, while facts about the lands. Animals, plants, flags and languages offer additional fundamentals. Each volume includes an at-a-glance section for a quick overview of each continent - including Africa, Australia, Europe, and the Far East/Southeast Asia -- covered in individual series editions. The disproportionately-high price point of these school library books seems unjustified, considering the many alternatives on the market.

Bambiraptor and Other Feathered Dinosaurs
Dougal Dixon, Steve Weston and James Field
Picture Window Books
5115 Excelsior Blvd. Suite 232, Minneapolis, Minn. 55416
9781404840133 $22.95

Written by dinosaur expert Dougal Dixon, this "Dinosaur Find" series presents a diverse selection of dinosaurs, based on their behavior, continent, ecosystem and region. Lifelike illustrations and size comparisons provide readers with an up-close look at these extinct creatures. The six titles each focus on one obscure dinosaur -- from the Chungkingosaurus to the Pawpawsaurus - and their ilk. For the school and library market servicing students ages 5 - 9.

One President Was Born on Independence Day
Barbara Seuling
Picture Window Books
5115 Excelsior Blvd. Suite 232, Minneapolis, Minn. 55416
9781404841185 $17.95

This "wacky" Freaky Facts reference series is designed for reluctant readers in grades 3-5. Still, facts are abundant here - unusual and fascinating facts about fun topics. Each title has at least 120 strange-but-true factoids about presidents ("One President Was Born on Independence Day") and animals ("Some Porcupines Wrestle and Other Freaky Facts about Animal Antics and Families") and, upcoming titles on money, geography, and the human body. As with most Picture Window Books, unfortunately, the publisher's steep price tag seems dramatically overpriced.

Our U.S. Capitol
Mary Firestone, Matthew Skeens
Picture Window Books
5115 Excelsior Blvd. Suite 232, Minneapolis, Minn. 55416
978140483719 $17.95

Both real and fictional narrators serve as your tour guides on this fun and factual trip into American symbols. Francis Scott Key, Ben Franklin, and James Madison offer insight on their roles in history and the resulting symbols, such as the National Anthem, that are still honored today. Fulfills national standards for history (standard 4), albeit in the most bare-boned fashion possible.

Rescuing the Rain Forest
Bob Temple, Savannah Horrocks
Picture Window Books
5115 Excelsior Blvd. Suite 232, Minneapolis, Minn. 55416
9781404836471 $15.95

In this numbered "Read-It! Chapter Books: Science Tales" series, readers follow best friends Ari and Kenra on their quest to help the Imps protect Earth's vital biomes from the evil trolls. Engaging and informative, this cleverly devised infotainment series of simple fiction for ages 7 - 10, is infused with information about such habitats as the desert, prairie, ocean, tundra, wetlands and rain forest.

Booker T. Washington
Siri Weber Feeney
Picture Window Books
5115 Excelsior Blvd. Suite 232, Minneapolis, Minn. 55416
9781404839779 $18.95

Four new Picture Window biographies have been published for the elementary school and library market to meet standards in history for grades kindergarten to four. The result are four basic primers inviting young readers to take a fresh look in to the fascinating lives of such famous Americans as Marie Curie, Thomas Jefferson, Jackie Robinson, and Booker T. Washington. All books in the Picture Window biography series Includes glossary, index, timelines, and fun facts in a simple style for beginning-readers and new researchers.

No Castles Here
A.C.E. Bauer
Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375839214 $15.99

Augie Boretski KNOWS how to get by. If you're a scrawny loser in the destitute city of Camden, New Jersey, you keep your head down, avoid the drug dealers and thugs, and try your best to be invisible. Augie used to be good at that, but suddenly his life is changing. First, Augie accidentally steals a strange book of fairy tales. Then his mom makes him join the Big Brothers program and the chorus. And two bullies try to beat him up every day because of it. Just when it seems like things can't get any worse, an ice storm wrecks Augie's school. The city plans to close the school, abandoning one more building to the drug addicts. But Augie has a plan. For the first time in his life, Augie Boretski is not going down without a fight.

The Opposite of Invisible
Liz Gallagher
Wendy Lamb Books / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375841521 $15.99

Alice and Jewel have been best friends since grade school. Together, they don't need anyone else, and together they blend into the background of high school. Invisible. To Alice, Jewel is the opposite of invisible. Jewel is her best friend who goes to indie concerts and art shows with her. Jewel scoffs at school dances with her. Alice is so comfortable around Jewel that she can talk to him about almost anything. But she can't tell him that she likes the cool, popular Simon. And then Simon asks her to the school dance the same day that Jewel kisses her for the first time. Still, she can't say no to Simon. He seems like the easy choice, the one she's attracted to, the one she's ready for. But will it mean losing Jewel? In a bright debut novel set against the lively backdrop of Seattle, Alice must learn the difference between love and a crush, and what it means to be yourself when you're not sure who that is yet.

How Many?
Ron Van Der Meer
Robin Corey Books / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375842269 $24.99

"How Many?" may seem like just another counting book at first, but far from it. It's the most artistic pop-up book in ages, a rainbow of colors, geometric shapes and incredible paper engineering that unfolds into giant spectacles with each flip of a page. Each spread poses a series of questions for the viewer to answer. There are questions for young children and mind-boggling ones for adults. Both devious and gorgeous -- the kind of trouble that knows how to have fun. An utterly beautiful and fascinating novelty book for all ages.

Gordon Korman
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780439903448 $16.99

After a mean collector named Swindle cons him out of his most valuable baseball card, Griffin Bing must put together a band of misfits to break into Swindle's compound and recapture the card. There are many things standing in their way -- a menacing guard dog, a high-tech security system, a very secret hiding place, and their general inability to drive -- but Griffin and his team are going to get back what's rightfully his . . . even if hijinks ensue. This is Gordon Korman at his crowd-pleasing best.

Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls
Meg Cabot
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545039475 $15.99

When nine-year-old Allie Finkle's parents announce that they are moving her and her brothers from their suburban split-level into an ancient Victorian in town, Allie's sure her life is over. She's not at all happy about having to give up her pretty pink wall-to-wall carpeting for creaky floorboards and creepy secret passageways -- not to mention leaving her modern, state-of-the-art suburban school for a rundown, old-fashioned school just two blocks from her new house. With a room she's half-scared to go into, the burden of being "the new girl," and her old friends all a half-hour car ride away, how will Allie ever learn to fit in?

The Many Rides of Paul Revere
James Cross Giblin
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780439572903 $17.99

Paul Revere is commonly remembered in the Longfellow legend of his Midnight Ride before the 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord. In this bright, informative biography, award-winning author James Cross Giblin follows Revere's life from his humble beginnings as a French immigrant's son to his work as a silversmith and a horse messenger amid the mounting pressures of revolution. In precise, accessible prose, Giblin chronicles Revere's daring acts -- both the famous and the overlooked. Along the way, he portrays a brave, compassionate, multitalented American patriot. Paul Revere had a wide range of activities: Besides being a rider for the Revolution, he was a famed silversmith, engraved cartoons and paper money, and practiced dentistry. He was an early American manufacturer, and his silver business is still thriving today. Connections to contemporary times can be drawn from his being the son of a French immigrant, and from his activities in the American insurgency against Britain in the Revolution.

The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum
Kate Bernheimer, Nicoletta Ceccoli
Schwartz & Wade Books / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375836060 $16.99

Once there was a girl who lived in a castle. But this castle was tiny, and was located inside a museum. When children visited, they'd press against the glass globe in which the castle sat, to glimpse the tiny girl. But when they went home, the girl was lonely. Then one day, she had an idea! What if you hung a picture of yourself inside the castle inside the museum, inside this book? Then you'd able to keep the girl company. Reminiscent of "The Lady of Shalot," here is an original fairy tale picture book that feels like a dream-haunting, beautiful, and memorable.

Mary and the Mouse, the Mouse and Mary
Beverly Donofrio and Babrara McClintock
Schwartz & Wade Books / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375836091 $16.99

"Mary lived in a big house with a very little mouse. The mouse lived in a little house inside of a very big house, with Mary." Even though Mary has been warned to stay away from mice -- and Mouse has been warned to steer clear of people -- the two can't help but peek at one another. Side by side, they grow up, go to college, get married, and have children of their own -- Maria and MouseMouse. And then one day, Maria and MouseMouse do something surprising . . . something their parents never did. They actually come nose-to-nose and speak to one another! This is the first book for children by Beverly Donofrio, author of the memoir "Riding in Cars with Boys."

The Wakame Gatherers
Holly Thompson, Kazumi Wilds
Shen's Books
1547 Palos Verdes Mall #291, Walnut Creek, CA 94538
9781885008336 $16.95

Nanami has two grandmothers: Baachan, who lives with her family in Japan, and Gram, who lives in Maine. When Gram visits Japan for the first time, Baachan takes her and Nanami on a trip to the seaside to gather Wakame, a long, curvy seaweed that floats near the shore. While the three assemble their equipment and ride the streetcar to the beach, Baachan explains how Wakame and other seaweeds are used in Japan. Gram shares stories about how seaweeds are used in Maine, and Nanami translates for them both. By the end of the day, Nanami's two grandmothers discover that they have much in common despite being from countries that fought in the war they both remember vividly. Now, looking out across the beach at the surfers, dog walkers, and seaweed gatherers, they share an appreciation of this precious peace. Holly Thompson's beautiful prose captures the exuberance of a young girl who easily traverses between two cultures and languages. It also illuminates the love and understanding that grow between two older women who are so different, yet share an unbreakable bond. Kazumi Wild's bright, vivid paintings make the Japanese landscape and the rocky shores of Maine come alive, reminding us all that we share this earth and the peace that we create.

Scott Westerfeld
Simon Pulse
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416951179 $16.99

In the latest chapter in the "Uglies" series, it's a few years after rebel Tally Youngblood took down the uglies/pretties/specials regime. Without those strict roles and rules, the world is in a complete cultural renaissance. "Tech-heads" flaunt their latest gadgets, "kickers" spread gossip and trends, and "surge monkeys" are hooked on extreme plastic surgery. And it's all monitored on a bazillion different cameras -- the world is like a gigantic game of "American Idol." Whoever is getting the most buzz gets the most votes. Popularity rules. As if being fifteen doesn't suck enough, Aya Fuse's rank of 451,369 is so low, she's a total nobody. An extra. But Aya doesn't care; she just wants to lie low with her drone, Moggle, and maybe kick a good story for herself. Then Aya meets a clique of girls who pull crazy tricks, yet are deeply secretive of it. Aya wants desperately to kick their story, to show everyone how intensely cool the Sly Girls are. But doing so would propel her out of extra-land and into the world of fame, celebrity...and extreme danger. A world she's not prepared for.

George's Secret Key to the Universe
Lucy and Stephen Hawking
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416954620 $17.99

Stephen Hawking, author of the multi-million copy bestselling "A Brief History of Time," and his daughter Lucy explain the universe to readers of all ages. George's parents, who have always been wary of technology, warn him about their new neighbors: Eric is a scientist and his daughter, Annie, seems to be following in his footsteps. But when George befriends them and Cosmos, their super-computer, he finds himself on a wildly fun adventure, while learning about physics, time, and the universe. With Cosmos's help, he can travel to other planets and a black hole. But what would happen if the wrong people got their hands on Cosmos? George, Annie, and Eric aren't about to find out, and what ensues is a funny adventure that clearly explains the mysteries of science. Garry Parsons' energetic illustrations add humor and interest, and his scientific drawings add clarity; there are also eight 4-page full-color inserts of scientific photos.

Isamu Fukui
Starscape / Tor / Forge
175 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10010
9780765317674 $16.95

In an alternate world, in a nameless totalitarian city, the autocratic Mayor rules the school system with an iron fist, with the help of his Educators. Fighting against the Mayor and his repressive Educators is a group of former students called the Truancy, whose goal is to take down the system by any means possible -- at any cost. Against this backdrop, fifteen-year-old Tack is just trying to survive. His days are filled with sadistic teachers, unrelenting schoolwork, and indifferent parents. Things start to look up when he meets Umasi, a mysterious boy who runs a lemonade stand in an uninhabited district. Then someone close to Tack gets killed in the crossfire between the Educators and the Truants, and Tack swears vengeance. To achieve his purpose, he abandons his old life and joins the Truancy. There, he confronts Zyid, an enigmatic leader with his own plans for Tack. But Tack soon finds himself torn between his desire for vengeance and his growing sympathy for the Truants. Notably, Isamu Fukui wrote "Truancy" at the age of 15. The author's purpose is not just to entertain, but to make a statement about the futility of the endless cycle of violence in the world as well as the state of the educational system. And, as he put it, "I need to be in school myself if I want to write about it."

Pippi Longstocking
Astrid Lundgren, Lauren Child
Viking / Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670062768 $25.00

In this new, deluxe edition of "Pippi Longstocking," exuberantly illustrated by Lauren Child, Pippi remains an irrepressible, irreverent, and irrefutably delightful girl who lives alone (with a monkey) in her wacky house, Villa Villekulla. When she's not dancing with the burglars who were just trying to rob her house, she's attempting to learn the "pluttification" tables at school; fighting Adolf, the strongest man in the world at the circus; or playing tag with police officers. Pippi's high-spirited, good-natured hijinks cause as much trouble as fun, but a more generous child you won't find anywhere. Astrid Lindgren has created a unique and lovable character, inspiring generations of children to want to be Pippi. More than anything, Pippi makes reading a pleasure; no child will welcome the end of the book, and many will return to "Pippi Longstocking" again and again.

The Snowy Day / Whistle for Willie
Ezra Jack Keats
Viking / Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670062539 $19.99

The 1963 Caledecott Medal winner, "The Snowy Day," Ezra Jack Keats's lushly illustrated story of Peter, a young boy experiencing the year's first snowfall, has delighted millions of readers. When "Whistle for Willie," featuring Peter and his dog Willie, followed in 1964, the New York Times wrote, "Mr. Keats' illustrations boldly, colorfully capture the child, his city world, and the shimmering heat of a summer's day." These two classics are now available together in a striking package. Complete with a DVD that includes a short film of each book, this is a no-brainer gift for winter birthdays and holidays.

Lock and Key
Sarah Dessen
Viking / Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
0670010882 $18.95

"Ruby, where is your mother?" With that question, Ruby knows the game is up. For the past few months, she's been living on her own in the rundown yellow farmhouse, knowing that her mother will probably never return. Despite her determination to live on her own, Ruby is forced by a well-meaning social worker to move in with her Cora, the sister she hasn't seen in ten years, and Cora's husband Jamie. This new, very privileged, world of private school, new clothes, and college applications comes with very high expectations, and Ruby isn't ready to take help from anyone. Especially not Nate, the next door neighbor, a popular, easy-going jock, who is Ruby's total opposite and the last person she expected to befriend. Ruby has left her old life behind, but where does she fit into this new life? Only Nate seems to understand, and Ruby begins to realize that he has a secret life of his own.

A Beatrix Potter Treasury
Beatrix Potter
Warne / Penguin
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780723259572 $19.99

Ten of Beatrix Potter's most popular tales are brought together in this beautiful, jacketed hardcover treasury. The tales trace the life of Beatrix Potter from her first publication of "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" (in 1902) to her later tales set around her farm, Hill Top, including the lesser-known stories "The Tale of the Pie and The Patty-Pan" and "The Tale of Ginger and Pickles." A wonderful illustrated introduction provides background on Beatrix Potter and the people and places that inspired her writing. A classic story collection for the perfect nursery gift or library.

How to Find Flower Fairies
Cicely Mary Barker
Warner / Penguin
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780723258902 $19.99

After centuries of being hidden from human sight, the Flower Fairies allowed Cicely Mary Barker a glimpse into their enchanted fairy world in "Fairyopolis." Now fairy fans can continue the adventure with this spectacular new novelty book where every page unlocks the secrets behind the magical places the fairies call home. Five eye-popping spreads include intricate three-dimensional pop-up images of flowers and trees that magically open up to reveal the secret homes of the fairies. Lift-the- flaps, booklets, maps and other ephemera provide interactive fun on every page leading up to a stunning surprise on the final spread.

The Monarch's Progress
Avis Harley
Wordsong / Boyds Mills Press
815 Church St., Honesdale, Penn. 18431
9781590785584 $16.95

Celebrated poet Avis Harley looks at the science, art and history that surround the monarch butterfly in this picture book. Eighteen structured poems - haiku, sonnet, cinquain, limerick, and other forms - consider how ancient Egyptians favored butterflies, how thousands of tiny scales cover each flapping wing, and how monarch butterflies blanket entire forest groves when they rest. Harley's detailed pencil illustrations and a fact-filled Small Matters section complete the package.

Vicki Arkoff
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Lucian Freud
Starr Figura
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019-5497
9780870707063, $40.00

Lucian Freud is an artist whose work has redefined portraiture and the nude over the past twenty-five years. His ability to evoke psychological tension and formal abstraction with reference to the human form has been as seminal as it is influential in the modern American art world. "Lucian Freud: The Painter's Etchings" compiled and with commentary by Starr Figura showcases 128 illustrations which comprised The Museum of Modern' Art's major exhibition of Lucian's work and represent the breadth of his work with twenty-two paintings and seven drawings encompassing a diversity of themes involving the human form, portraitures, landscapes, dogs, and Lucien's unique multi-medium cross-pollinating diversity of mediums. Starr Figura is the exhibition organizer and the Assistant Curator of Prints and Illustrated Books at MoMA whose informed and informative essay explores both the scope and significance of Lucien's work, and provides a welcome context for viewing the Lucian prints and his aesthetic values. "Lucian Freud" is a welcome and critically important contribution to personal and academic 20th Century American Art History reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Christopher Beane
708 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
9781579653521, $35.00, 1-800-722-7202

One of nature's most diverse and artistic creations are the flowers. This is amply documented by the spectacular photography of Christopher Beane as compiled in a coffee table photography book that rises to the timeless level of great art. Each full-page, captioned and visually stunning photograph comprising this remarkable volume showcases an particular flower bloom and could well be framed separately and be mounted upon the wall of an elegant home, a prestigious art gallery, or a premier museum. Enhanced with an informative introductory essay by Anthony Janson, "Flower" is a technical masterpiece of the photographer's art and a memorable homage to the architectural diversity and spectacular wonder of the blooming and colored petals of flowers. "Flower" is a welcome and enthusiastically recommended addition to personal, academic, and community library world-class photography collections.

Digital Photography Outdoors
James Martin
The Mountaineers Books
1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134-1161
9781594850875, $18.95, 1-800-553-4453

With every passing year, digital cameras are becoming more 'user friendly', more popular, more effective, and more versatile. Now in a thoroughly updated and significantly expanded second edition, James Martin's "Digital Photography Outdoors" continues to be the premier instructional manual and guide for the use of digital cameras in taking memorable and dramatic photographs in the field. Still providing novice digital photographers with a comprehensive and basic grounding in how a digital camera works, special considerations for its use and maintenance in the field, and how to select the best equipment and most useful accessories for capturing outdoor action and then storing those images safely, this new edition goes on to provide up-to-date information on the latest changes in Photoshop (CS3 version) and an illustrative description of the latest equipment options. Profusely illustrated throughout in full color, "Digital Photography Outdoors" provides digital camera users with a wealth of invaluable tips on photographing outdoor subjects in all manner of field conditions. Superbly organized and presented, practical and portable, "Digital Photography Outdoors" is a welcome and enthusiastically recommended addition to personal, professional, and community library Photography instructional reference collections.

Georgia's Lighthouses
Patricia Morris
Arcadia Publishing
420 Wando Park Blvd., Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
9780738553054, $19.99

Part of the "Images of America" series cherishing beloved local landmarks, Georgia's Lighthouses is a treasury of black-and-white archival photographs of lighthouses built along Georgia's 100-mile coastline. Images of the Cockspur Light, Sapelo Light, Simons Light, and Cumberland Light (now located on a private island) along with brief yet evocative captions help recreate the vibrant history of these historical buildings. Some of the pictures and captions are quite telling, such as one of a chicken coop - "Lighthouse keepers often cultivated gardens and raised chickens to help feed their families. Many keepers took second jobs to make ends meet." Written by the executive director of the Coastal Georgia Historical Society and the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum, Georgia's Lighthouses is a superb giftbook for lighthouse enthusiasts.

Paul T. Vogel

The Reader Views Bookshelf

Irene Watson, Editor

A Handful of Sand
Mary Louise McCaffrey
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595393480, $17.95, 2007

Reviewed by Cherie Fisher

Before I read "A Handful of Sand: A Love Story Woven Into Violent Class Struggle During the French Invasion of Mexico", I knew that the Civil War in Mexico had happened but I did not know much about it. "A Handful of Sand" is a beautifully-written historical romance. After reading this book you will walk away with the knowledge of the caste system and oppression in Mexico and have read a really good romance.

The two main characters in the story are Isabella Escalon, the beautiful daughter of Don Pedro Escalon and Miguel Torres, handsome son of a wealthy merchant. The two meet right before Isabella's Quinceanera (her 15th birthday and coming out for Mexico's elite where she becomes eligible for marrying). She invites Miguel to the party but his father convinces him that he will end up with a broken heart because her father will never let her be with a mestizo (part Indian). Civil war breaks out during this time and Miguel and Isabella do not see each other for a long time as they both do their part for Mexico. Miguel is a secret fighter for Juarista's army, the army who fights to free Mexico from the conservative caste system. And Isabella becomes the angel con cintas (angel with ribbons) who helps the Juarista's escape the conservative forces that her father supports.

In time Isabella and Miguel do see each other again and fall in love. They see each other in secret for as long as they can before Mexico City falls to the French invaders and conservatives. During this time they do not know that they each are supporting Juarista's army but the truth comes out about Miguel when he is called North with his troops. With Miguel gone, Isabella tries to live in her father's world but still does what she can for Juarista's men.

The author does an excellent job intertwining the romance with the story about the Civil War. The historical information was excellent and I walked away with a lot of knowledge about the French invasion of Mexico, and the heroic response by the true Mexican people. I would highly recommend "A Handful of Sand" to anyone who enjoys a good romance and historical novels.

Mindfulness and the Art of Choice
Karen H. Sherman, PhD
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690514, $15.95, 2008

Reviewed by Irene Watson

Dr. Sherman, in practice as a relationship expert for over 20 years, has written a book to help readers create a better life for themselves. Taking excerpts of her own life and experience, she explains how to live mindfully, "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice: Transform Your Life" consists of two parts, the first part "How the Art of Choice Works" and the second part is "The Art of Choice Exercises." Both sections include a thorough explanation plus exercises.

Dr. Sherman stresses that experiences in the past encode our mental and physical memory. These are called core issues or "baggage." She believes the feeling attained during a negative experience remains in our being, and often the same feeling comes up in other similar situations. This in turn creates an emotional response. The experiences could be traumatic, yet on the other hand, something perceived to be very menial could also create an emotional reaction. For example, a child is walking with her father and reaches up to hold his hand. At that same moment the swing of the father's arm goes away from the child. The child, at that moment, could feel rejected by not realizing what caused the father's arm to move away. This feeling would become embedded in the child's memory as rejection. From then on, anytime something or someone is pulled away from her, the same feeling of rejection occurs. Often the feelings are replaced with distraction, such as alcohol, drugs, or adverse behaviors. In "How the Art of Choice Works" Dr. Sherman addresses how to embrace the feelings, yet react differently. She also addresses patterns caused by the situation and how to change them.

In a short two-paragraph section, Dr. Sherman explains awareness is the key response to making changes and gives a simple technique to generate it. Once we are aware of the reaction, she gives exercises to become conscious of the body, observe the behavior, note thoughts, address the thoughts/fears and ultimately break the old patterns, creating a new flow in life.

There are many books on the market that cover the same issues as Dr. Sherman, however, there isn't one that is as concise and to the point as "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice" is. In less than 100 pages she helps the reader become aware of personal issues/reactions embedded in the memory. Within a few simple exercises we can change the feelings associated with the situation, while at the same time move away from recreating with those feelings in another situation. It may sound like a difficult task, and it could be. However, Dr. Sherman simplifies everything for us through her explanations and exercises - to a point where "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice" becomes truly a self-help book. This book is highly recommended for anyone that is considering choosing to have "the good life."

Coyote Kill: A Carol Ward Mystery
Karen R. Wilson
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595442713, $16.95, 2007

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson

A good mystery is the perfect way to pass a rainy afternoon and they do not come much better than Karen R. Wilson's "Coyote Kill." Showcasing Carol Ward, a rather involuntary amateur sleuth, this fast-paced and thrilling story will take you for a roller-coaster ride you won't forget quickly.

Carol Ward happens upon a grave and the killer's calling card nearby - a tree decorated with the personal items stolen from the victim. After she starts to investigate the crime, she quickly realizes that the killer is watching her and definitely does not want her to discover his true identity. From a message written on her mirror to a boxed snake delivered to her, Carol is more and more aware that she's in danger. She does not have many clues to help her in her quest, but she believes that the killer is wearing a long, waxed Australian coat and she also suspects that the crimes are somehow linked to rain. The trouble is that at least five people in her community wear such coats, and the rain is not an uncommon occurrence either.

When the weather forecast predicts rain again, Carol is alarmed about it, realizing that the killer is likely to strike again. And he does, this time much closer to Carol… Can she stop him on time or will she become his next victim?

Tightly written, with complex and believable characters, "Coyote Kill" is a riveting read. From the female bonding to the interesting and quite surprising profile of the killer, this book provides enough food for thought to make it interesting beyond the simple mystery level. There are touches of well-placed comic relief as well as some minor romance, which stays as an undercurrent throughout the story. I found the variety of very strong female characters particularly engaging. I would highly recommend this book to the mystery lovers of just about any age, particularly those who enjoy female sleuths and their adventures.

Deadly Vision
Rick R. Reed
Quest Books
Regal Crest Enterprises, LLC
4700 Hwy 365, Suite A, PMB 210, Port Arthur, TX 77642
9781932300963, $16.50, 2008

Reviewed by Tyler R. Tichelaar

Rick R. Reed's new novel "Deadly Vision" is another page-turner from this masterly horror writer. The novel opens with Cass, a single mother, who also happens to be a lesbian, simply trying to make a life for herself and her son by working as a waitress in a diner. One day, she gets hit on the head by a tree branch during a storm, and when she wakes up, she begins to see strange visions, which she realizes are related to the recent cases of missing girls within the community. Cass is reluctant to be in the public light, but she knows she must use her knowledge to save lives. She has a difficult time trying to get help from the authorities and media, but eventually, she convinces them and one of the girls' bodies is found. When Cass's name appears in the paper for having helped the media find the missing girl's body, the killer decides he must stop Cass from revealing more. His revenge leads to an exciting showdown.

Unlike many horror, thriller and detective novelists who center the plot around a detective character searching for an unknown killer, Reed eliminates the mystery behind who the murderer is, and instead depicts the killer in alternate chapters. Reed did an exceptional job in his previous novel "IM" of getting into the killer's mind, and by doing so, while the mystery is absent, the excitement and adrenaline flow all the more. In "Deadly Vision" Reed writes in third person, so we do not understand as well what causes the villain, Ian, to act as he does; instead we view the action from the eyes of Ian's girlfriend, Myra. Ian is obviously crazy, talking about how he must sacrifice people to The Beast, yet Reed fully makes the reader understand why Myra remains with Ian for so long, first because he is gorgeous, secondly because he taught her how to lose weight and make herself attractive, and finally out of confused loyalty and eventually fear of Ian. Myra is forced into the role of accomplice to Ian while she continually tries to manipulate him to stop the crimes, and yet helps him out of fear. I personally thought Myra the most developed and interesting character in the novel.

Reed's characters are often homosexual, and in past books his characters' sexual orientation has added to the novels' plots. However, while the back cover includes Lesbian with Fiction/Mystery/Thriller as one of its genres, I didn't see any reason why Cass or Dani, her reporter friend, were depicted as lesbians. It was clear they were going to become a couple, but their sexual orientation was not detailed enough to advance the plot or motivate their actions, unlike the detective in "IM" who is himself homosexual and seeking to save his male lover from a killer bent on murdering gay men.

I would gladly welcome a sequel to "Deadly Vision" where Reed further develops the relationship between Dani and Cass so their sexual orientations are more integrated into the plot. The two women make a great team, and I can definitely see possibilities for further adventures as Cass learns better how to use her psychic abilities. I would also like to know more about what became of Myra. I hope another Rick R. Reed book will soon roll off the presses.

Devil's Peak: A Novel
Deon Meyer
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316017855, $24.99, 2008

Reviewed by Leslie Granier

"Devil's Peak" begins with a bang and the action never ceases. There are three seemingly unrelated stories occurring. Benny, a police officer, has just been thrown out of the house because he is an alcoholic who will not seek help. Naturally, his alcoholism also affects his job performance. His supervisor shows faith in him by putting him in charge of the investigation into the murders of people who have been accused of committing crimes against children (the second story). In the third story, a young woman is explaining to her pastor why she became a prostitute. As the book progresses, these characters' lives overlap and it becomes clear as to what motivates each of them to act in the ways they choose.

I liked the plot of this book very much. I enjoyed learning about the methods that are used for profiling serial killers. The characters were realistic and I was moved to hear some of the things that had occurred in their lives. I especially enjoyed the very descriptive struggles Benny encountered while trying to stay sober. It was touching when he tried to explain to his children why he has difficulty resisting alcohol. His son's anger toward him was strongly emphasized. I could feel his pain as he berated his father for always thinking only of himself instead of his family. It was also great to see Benny and his son make up because it can provide hope to others who are in a similar situation.

Meyer discusses many people's vices, including prostitution and alcoholism, in a straightforward way. He provides an honest explanation as to why people make the choices they do. A key concept in this book is that help is there if people are willing to accept it and put in the effort to change their own behaviors. He also focuses on the debate between legal justice and moral justice, and whether morals should sometimes supercede the law.

"Devil's Peak" will appeal to any adult reader. It will make people think about what actions are justified even if they are not legal. It will also challenge individuals to accept responsibility for their own lives and not to blame events from the past for their present behaviors.

Down to a Sunless Sea
Mathias B. Freese
601 East Delano Street, Suite 104, Tucson, AZ 85705
9781587367335, $13.95, 2007

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson

While I have to admit I usually prefer sunnier reading, I was very much impressed by "Down to a Sunless Sea," a collection of short stories by Mathias B. Freese. Each of the fifteen stories leads the reader into the mind of another struggling character, trying to deal with whatever lousy set of cards life dealt them.

All of the stories are undoubtedly dark and deal with troubled people, yet they are not necessarily depressing. After having read about such tremendous struggles, one cannot help but to feel better about his or her own life, having put one's own little miseries into much better perspective. Seeing life through the eyes of Mr. Freese's characters makes you realize how lucky you really are compared to so many other people.

Mr. Freese's characters are truly believable, if not always easy to relate to and not always likeable. His writing is rich and tight, with just enough words to convey the message and no unnecessary flowery or overly sentimental passages. He seems to be able to dissect the human soul and lay it bare in front of the reader's eyes. Nobody's misery is beyond his reach, regardless of whether that person is mentally or physically challenged, abused, lonely or simply just old. He understands them all and he shows sympathy and concern for everybody.

As I mentioned earlier, "Down to a Sunless Sea" is not exactly sunny reading, but it is undoubtedly good reading. As such I would highly recommend it to all readers who love good prose and who are not afraid of something a bit more challenging to read. Take them one at a time, and those stories just might make you understand your fellow men - and women - better.

Sweeping Up Glass
Carolyn D. Wall
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave. #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590585122, $24.95, August 2008

Reviewed by Danielle Feliciano

In her debut novel, "Sweeping Up Glass," author Carolyn D. Wall draws you into the world of Olivia Harker and her community in rural 1930s Kentucky. Olivia runs the grocery store her father started and raises her grandson, William. She tries to keep to herself and live as peaceful a life as possible, but once she finds wolves shot on her land and missing an ear, she sees this as a message and sets out to find out what is happening.

"Sweeping Up Glass" takes us from past to present and back again, yet does it so fluidly that the reader never gets lost. We see Olivia as a young girl, idolizing her father until he welcomes home the mentally ill mother than left them both behind. Olivia then suffers abuse at the hands of her mother and the knowledge that her father ignores it. After a horrible car accident, Olivia wakes to find her father dead and buried near the outhouse in their backyard.

As a teen, she finds love with Wing Harris, yet that love all but disappears when his parents die within weeks of each other and he turns his attentions to the family business. Olivia acts out and ends up pregnant as a teen. She has a daughter, yet having had no mother figure, she doesn't know how to raise a child. History repeats itself when her daughter has a son as a teen and leaves this son behind to go to California. Olivia steps up and raises her grandson as if he were her own.

The underlying current in this town is one of evil and fear, stemming from the Phelps family. Olivia found out at an early age that something happens at their farm on Saturday nights, and once the wolves start dying, she begins to solve the mystery that she didn't know existed until now.

"Sweeping Up Glass" is beautifully written. It drew me in quickly, making me truly feel as though I was part of the environment. It got away from itself a bit at the end, as though the author suddenly felt a need for high drama, but Ms. Wall quickly redeemed herself by returning to the simplicity that made this book so realistic. This book is a truly stunning debut.

The Legacy of Ogma (The Weapons Trilogy, Book 1)
E.A. Rappaport
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595464043, $14.95, 2007

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson

E.A. Rappaport's "The Legacy of Ogma" takes the reader on a fast-moving and quite exhilarating chase through a well-described fantasy world. Halia, a young orphaned woman and a thief by profession, is on a run after her latest adventure. While in the forest, she finds an abandoned castle, which houses a treasure. After overcoming a series of traps and obstacles, Halia discovers an unusual crystal sphere. Since it was so well guarded, Halia decides that it must be worth a great deal, so she embarks on a quest to find more information about the sphere.

After meeting a powerful wizard by the name of Minaras, Halia hopes that her quest is over; yet she soon discovers that it had barely began. The information that could have revealed the mystery of the unusual orb she found is missing from Minaras' library and it appears to have been stolen. Minaras and his two apprentices decide to help Halia. Halia and the older of the two apprentices, Thulin, are sent to the Great Library in Zairn to try and get some more information on the Arboreal texts and Minaras, accompanied by Oswynn, heads straight to the Arboreal Forest.

Halia's sphere helps her and Thulin to soon join forces with three other travelers who own similar orbs: sorcerer Ahriman and two warriors, Xarun and Arwold. They soon discover the location of the fifth and last missing orb and decide to try and unlock the ancient secret those spheres are obviously holding the key of. Unfortunately one of the adventurers has not been forthright with the rest of them. He is hiding a dark secret, which could destroy all of them. Will evil prevail?

E.A. Rappaport's fantasy world is vividly depicted and very imaginative. He used traditional figures of thief, wizard, sorcerer, warrior and more to great advantage; but he also added some new fantasy beings, of which I found the Arboreals the most compelling. The age old battle between good and evil was very gripping and convincingly described. My only criticism concerns two issues: the slightly annoying habit of the characters to "talk to themselves" and lack of proofreading. Since this is the first book in a planned trilogy, I have to admit I am looking forward to the continuation of the story and reading more about the fascinating characters in "The Legacy of Ogma," which I found to be a great read for any fantasy lover.

Harvey the Great Lakes Whale
William George Nelson
Whale Tale Publishing
430 South 14th Street, Escanaba, MI 49829
9780979622007, $12.00, 2007

Reviewed by Brianne Plach (age 10)

Have you ever taken a wrong turn and ended up somewhere wonderful? Sometimes making a mistake can lead to an exciting adventure. Harvey is a young whale who doesn't always listen to every thing his parents tell him. His not listening has led him to become entangled in a ship. Unable to free himself, he ends up traveling many miles from his home and the salt of the ocean.

Being in fresh water rather than salt water gives him an opportunity to make new friends and learn about where he now lives. His new best friend is Tommy Trout. Being friends they help each other out of difficult situations. Some of the other characters he meets are: Gertrude the Gossipping Sea Gull, Susie Salmon and Stuart Sturgeon.

This is more than just a great story book. After each chapter, there are descriptions of many different types of fish. It is like a travel book to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I have visited some of the very same sites that Harvey visits. I remember feeling much the same way when he found himself inside the Soo Locks between the United States and Canada. I loved this book and hated to see it end!

If you are looking for a book to get your young fisherman or fisherwoman hooked on reading, you will definitely want to catch "Harvey the Great Lakes Whale!"

Laura's Victory: End of the Second World War (1945) (Sisters in Time #24)
Veda Boyd Jones
Barbour Publishing, Inc.
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781597891035, $4.97, 2006

Reviewed by Anne Marie Medema (age 12)

"Laura's Victory" is written by Veda Boyd Jones and is appropriate for children ages 8 to 12. Veda Boyd Jones cleverly winds a fictional family into the historic events of the Second World War. The author takes the tragic events of World War II and relays them to what is happening in America. The words chosen to tell the story are descriptive and understandable for a child. Veda Boyd Jones brings the history of World War II to a level that can interest and influence children. Veda Boyd Jones has a simplistic writing style that makes the reader want to continue to the end of the book. The whole book can be summed up in the final three words of the book, God Bless America. These words say that no matter what nationality you are, America is one melting pot of the world, and Veda Boyd Jones makes us understand that clearly.

In the beginning of "Laura's Victory" Laura's brother Eddie comes down with the deadly disease called polio. Eddie fights the polio and survives although the disease cripples one of his legs. Eddie is confined to a brace on his right leg. Laura's other brother, Bruce, is fighting for the United States Army during World War II in an undisclosed location. Laura wants to know where Bruce is fighting. So Laura devises a code that makes Bruce's letters look like simple letters. Yvonne, Laura's friend, helps Laura devise the code. Laura and Yvonne give the code to Maude, an old woman whose son is also fighting for the US in WWII in the Pacific Ocean. Maude helps Laura's mother run the family's hotel business. Class elections are held in school. Both Laura and Eddie became President of their respective classes. In social studies they are asked to find out their nationality. Laura discovers her father is from South Africa and her mother is from Germany. A boy in class ridicules Laura and others because their ancestors are the enemy. Laura's old friends, the Wakamutsu family, bring home a surprise. They adopt a 5th grade girl named Miyoko whose father is fighting in England for the United States. They learn that President Roosevelt is dead and Harry Truman, Vice President, takes over the office of President. Laura feels a special bond to President Roosevelt because he had polio just like Eddie, her brother. Later Laura finds out her family is moving to a home in the outskirts of Seattle, Washington. Laura is sad because she grew up in the hotel and loves the people she has known. Laura's family still owns the hotel. The Second World War ends. Upon hearing the news, Maude cuts open her pillow; and she shakes the feathers around the streets of Seattle in delight. A few weeks later, Laura and Eddie spot their brother Bruce coming home from the war. They are overjoyed. The book ends at a Thanksgiving dinner that Laura says is the best ever!

I recommend the book "Laura's Victory" because it is filled with suspense and adventure. I consider "Laura's Victory" to be one of the best "Sister in Time" books that I have ever read. It is a touching story because of how the war has affected Laura and her family who live in America. The author entwines the life of common Americans into a fascinating adventure during World War II. Laura is a character I can relate to because she is independent and devoted to her family. With every page turn there was a new twist to the story that made me feel like I was Laura Edwards. "Laura's Victory" is a must read.

Rosa Takes A Chance: Mexican Immigrants in the Dust Bowl Years (1935) (Sisters in Time #21)
Susan Martins Miller
Barbour Publishing, Inc.
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781597890656, $7.95, 2006

Reviewed by Anne Marie Medema (age 12)

The book "Rosa Takes a Chance" by Susan Martins Miller is written for children ages 8 to 12 years. Susan Martin Miller pens a good story through a heartwarming tale about a girl named Rosa. Susan Martins Miller cleverly winds in facts about Texas during the dust bowl years in a way that interests the reader. At this time in history, the Mexicans had discrimination problems in Texas and throughout America. The author's writings encouraged me as a young girl to persevere through trouble just like the Mexicans and Rosa were forced to endure. The stories heroine, Rosa, is portrayed as a young girl with a strong faith in God. It is this faith that helped Rosa to gain admittance into a white school. Susan Martin Miller wrote in a way that shows God's work in ones life through real life circumstances. Biblical points are illustrated in this book through tough worldly situations. Susan Martin Miller writes a cunning story that is both funny and sad at the same time.

In the book "Rosa Takes a Chance" the main character is a 12-year-old Mexican girl named Rosa Sanchez. Rosa lives in a Mexican town in Texas. When living in Texas, the Mexican children must attend the Mexican school that is all play and no learning. Since Rosa is Mexican she is required to be a student at the Mexican school. Rosa longs to receive an academic education to become a teacher. Soon, Rosa secretly walks to the white school and hides in the bushes to hear the school lessons. Mrs. Madden, the Pastor's wife discovers Rosa hiding in the bushes and encourages her to achieve her dream. Mrs. Madden suggests to Rosa to enter the essay contest writing about why I love America. The results of Rosa's entry are magnificent. Not only does Rosa win first place but she enters 6th grade in the Texas public school. During this time in history Texas suffers from an event called the Dust Bowl Years. Rosa's aunt, who is living in Texas at the time, is suffering from breathing in all the dust. A specific dust storm begins and covers the house in dust up to the second floor. During the dust storm Rosa rushes outside to find her Dad who is caught in the dust storm. They find each other and find protection in an adobe hut. When they arrive back at their house they find a shovel to dig out to the front door. This dust storm causes all of Rosa's teachers to leave Texas and Rosa's aunt to move to California. This encourages Rosa to start a school available to anyone regardless of race. Rosa becomes one of the teachers at the school. Finally Rosa achieves her lifelong dream of being a teacher.

"Rosa Takes a Chance" by Susan Martins Miller is a heartwarming book. This book inspires me to keep on going when the going gets tough. The author writes in a way that encourages me to never give up. Just as Rosa had a lifelong dream, so the reader must have a goal and the endurance to achieve it! Our ancestors living in the 1930's had a tough time surviving. This thought gives me pride because they were hard-working and never gave up. If you want to be swept away by dust, read "Rosa Takes a Chance."

Skippyjon Jones: Color Crazy
Judy Schachner
Dutton Juvenile
Division of Penguin Young Readers Group
345 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
9780525477822, $6.99, 2007

Reviewed by Cayden (age 3-1/2), Max (age 18-months) Aures and Mom

"Skippyjon Jones: Color Crazy" is a non-conventional 12- page board book designed to teach young children their colors. In Skippyjon Jones' world the sun is blue, a bunny is green and a tree is orange.

This was our first Skippyjon Jones book and at first my children did not know what Skippyjon was.

Cayden: "I like him. Is he a bunny?"
Mom: "I think he is a cat with big ears."
Cayden: "Oh yeah, he is!"

Cayden: In response to Skippyjon coloring a big blue sun on the ground: "He's drawing on the carpet??"

Cayden: "Skies aren't pink!"
Mom: "Sometimes when the sun sets they are."

Mom: "Which picture did you like best?"
Cayden: "The one where he is coloring on himself because that is funny!"

Parent's comments:

After the second time reading "Skippyjon Jones: Color Crazy," Max went through and was able to name some of the colors. He did not get into the book as much as Cayden did though. Cayden wanted to take the book and go "read" it by himself and Max did not have any interest in it once we were done reading.

I like how the words for the colors were printed in the corresponding color as this helps preschoolers learn how to read. However, whereas a 4-year-old knows what color certain things are, I think this book may be confusing to a younger child when it is telling them that a puddle is purple.

Skippyjon Jones: Up & Down
Judy Schachner
Dutton Juvenile
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
345 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
9780525478072, $6.99, 2007

Reviewed by Cayden (age 3-1/2), Max (age 18-months) Aures and Mom

"Skippyjon Jones: Up & Down" is a sturdy 12-page board book that explores six different sets of opposites.

Cayden: "Look at the cover! Those things are jumping up and down!"
Max: "Jump! Jump!"
Then they both start jumping up and down.

Cayden: On the page where the cat's tail is big: "Cat's tails aren't supposed to be big!"
Mom: "They sometimes get big when the cat is scared."

Cayden: On the page when the cat is jumping over the chair: "He shouldn't jump over chairs. He will get hurt!"

Parent's comments:

The concepts that "Skippyjon Jones: Up & Down" teaches are great for the younger children and the illustrations are entertaining. I also like that the words that Skippyjon Jones is demonstrating in the illustrations are printed in different colors to help preschoolers who are beginning to read. Cayden enjoyed "reading" the book to Max after I read it to them both a couple of times.

Baxter Moon Galactic Scout
John Zakour
Brown Barn Books
119 Kettle Creek Rd. Weston, CT 06883
9780976812692, $8.95, 2008

Reviewed by Matthew Feliciano (age 7)

"Baxter Moon Galactic Scout" is about a boy named Baxter Moon. Baxter is a galactic scout on his first mission. His boss is a chimpanzee named GiS. Baxter does not like taking direction from a monkey. He also does not like to cooperate with adults too much. His simulations of missions don't always go well because he makes his own choices and does not listen to his officers.

I liked Baxter but he did use bad language too much (blooping was used as a swear word). That is not a good character for kids. I liked that he thought on his own even if it didn't always work out.

I did not really like "Baxter Moon Galactic Scout" too much. It did not keep my interest because the story was way too slow and there was too much happening at once that did not always make sense. I could not always understand what was happening in the story with so many things going on at one time. It is hard to like a book if you can't understand it.

Parent's comments:

I read "Baxter Moon Galactic Scout" with Matthew and agree with his opinion. I found it to be difficult to follow, and it did not keep either of our interest. As a parent, I also kept editing out the main character's use of "blooping." It was clearly used in place of a more traditional swear word and I was not happy to see a main character in a juvenile book using this language.

Cindy Ella
Robin Palmer
Puffin Books
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York, 10014, USA
9780142403921, $7.99, February 2008

Reviewed by Casey Holt (age 14)

"Cindy Ella" is about an average, unpopular, teenage girl. Cindy thinks that prom is silly, but her step-mom and step-sisters think otherwise. They can't wait for it, and they are constantly talking about it and shopping for it and planning for it. So she writes a letter to her school newspaper complaining about the prom, and how it's just a giant scam to make girls feel bad about themselves. Her letter gets printed! This just makes her more unpopular.

As everyone is getting ready for the prom, she is crushing on three boys, or so she thinks. She spills her feelings out to brklynboy, her IM buddy, thinking that he lives in Brooklyn and will never meet her. On the night of the prom, she gets a huge surprise! Cindy gets on IM, and brklynboy says, "How 'bout I pick you up at 7?" Cindy is so confused! "What? I thought you lived in Brooklyn." Brooklynboy tells her that he lived in Brooklyn until he was four, and that he now lives in Nichols Canyon. Where she lives! THEN he tells her that he is Adam Silver, the most popular boy in her entire school, that she's had a crush on for ages! "Wow!" She can't believe it. "Can you pick me up at 8 instead of 7? Oh yeah, and where are we going?" "It's a surprise." Adam tells her that Noah, her tutor whom she recently learned was gay, had set them up. In a panic, she calls her tutor, Noah. "I think that you and Craig have a prom to go to, but seeing that you set this up, I think it's only fair that you get your butts over here and help me get ready." Noah and Craig come as fast as they can, and with the help of her step-mom's credit card and makeup, she's ready to go! She goes, and gets her first real kiss, and her second, and third, and fourth, and fifth.......

I thought "Cindy Ella" was a really good book! I enjoyed it a lot. I would recommend this book to girls ages 12 and up.

Nobunny's Perfect
Anna Dewdney
Viking Juvenile
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
345 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
9780670062881, $12.99, 2008

Reviewed by Cayden (age 3-1/2), Max (age 18-months) Aures and Mom

"Nobunny's Perfect" by Anna Dewdney teaches children how to be good and polite by first demonstrating terrible behavior and then by showing why good behavior is so much better. The book starts with the bunnies throwing toys, hitting, kicking, spitting food out, and biting. The second half of the story shows the bunnies sharing, following the rules, and using their manners.

Comments from the first part of the book when the bunnies are naughty:
Cayden: "Why is he doing that? That is bad!"
Cayden: "You are not supposed to spit carrots out! Look, that guy spilled his juice!"
Max: "Don't! Don't!"
Cayden: "Mom, they are biting!"
Cayden: "Look what he did mom!"
Max: "No, no." (shaking his head)

Then when we got to the part when the bunnies were good they really didn't have any comments but Max kept copying the good behavior. When it came to the hugging part he hugged and he waved goodbye at the waving part.

Mom: "What was your favorite part of the story?"
Cayden: "When they were nice because I don't like when people are mean."

Parent's comments:

"Nobunny's Perfect" is a fun book, especially for little boys who like anything disgusting! The book is very humorous and engaging and they wanted to read it again and again. The illustrations are very entertaining and, together with the text, the book is a great tool for teaching young children the difference between good and bad behavior.

The Mental Environment (Mostly about Mind Pollution)
Bob Gebelein
Omdega Press
P.O. Box 1546, Provincetown, MA 02657
9780961461119, $27.00, 2007

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

The author Bob Gebelein defines mind pollution as "…any thought, idea, fiction, hypnotic suggestion, judgment, etc. - any mental input - that makes one's view of reality less accurate." The author extensively discusses these inaccuracies. He uses both research and his own personal experiences to delve deeply into the subject. He feels that mind pollution is mainly created by "social manipulation." We are conditioned to believe that if we don't think as others, we won't belong. Normative pressures influence us to feel the need to fit in with the norm. Ridicule is used extensively by society to keep people at a level where our culture feels they belong. This can be erroneous and limiting to one's personal growth. He sees our cultural as currently being heavily influenced by three areas: religion, academia, and the New Age Movement. He uses examples of the New Age Movement from the Course in Miracles.

Gebelein started contemplating his own personal experience at age nine. In "The Mental Environment," he discusses the paths that he took to find answers. This included extensive sessions in psychotherapy. He also discusses dream analysis and hypnotism. The information that he provides outside of his own personal experience is referenced. This material is very deep and complex. I found that his candid personal experiences helped bring more meaning to the material and make it easier to understand.

Gebelein discovered that sometimes it is necessary to spend time in solitude so that we can free our minds of the pollution that comes in from outside sources. He relates a personal experience that he had. He also refers to Thoreau's experience at Walden Pond. Solitude without the influence of cultural input helps a person to truly be able to hear and think for himself. The more aware that we become about how our mental environment influences us, then the more we can work on freeing ourselves.

I found the information presented in "The Mental Environment" to be profoundly true. I do not like knowing that my outside environment has so much influence over my inside environment. This is something that I had already been contemplating on my own. The media does a wonderful job of manipulating me and my friends into buying expensive products that we really don't need, just so we can fit in. I need to take more stock in my life to decide what I really think I need to be content vs. what the outside world is trying to convince me I need. If nothing else can convince me that I need to make some changes, it is the thought that I am being manipulated and controlled by forces outside myself. It's time for me to shut off the TV, cancel the magazine subscriptions and just sit down and breathe deeply. This is a book that should not be missed. When you read "The Mental Environment" and see the intrinsic value that it holds, you will want those close to you to read it as well so that you can share in the changes that you will ultimately want to make in your life. Kind of 'Mind Controllish' sounding, but this time the choices will be coming from within you.

Mr. Inside: A Novel (The Adventures of Lost and Found International)
L. Frank James
The Salt Works
Publishers Design Group, Inc., P.O. Box 37, Roseville, CA 95678
(916) 784-0500,
9781934080016, $15.95, 2007

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

As a child, on a mission with his family in Africa, a horrible tragedy causes Gustov Miller to completely shut down his faith in God. He cuts off all ties with his brother and dedicates his life to his company, Lost and Found International. Throwing himself into his studies provides him with an incredible depth of knowledge that helps him solve ancient mysteries and help people locate missing artifacts. He has two people working for him. Beatrix Peters is his beautiful and capable assistant. James Morrison is his field man whom he sends out to do the dirty, dangerous work. Dr. Miller prefers to handle all of his work from home.

When Beatrix's life is endangered, Dr. Miller is forced into the outside world to help look for her. He also needs to discover who is behind her kidnapping. A mysterious parchment, a beautiful mystery woman, and an oaf with a heavy east coast accent, all add to the adventure. Dr. Miller's and James' mishaps add excitement to their escapades. They also are forced to confront their feelings about their faith. It is time for a wake up call. Dr. Miller has to do a tremendous amount of soul searching to discover what he really feels and to let go of his anger.

"Mr. Inside" is written for people who wonder why God lets bad things happen to good people. I am sure that this question occurs to most of us at some point in our lives. The story shows how strongly anger can shut down a person's life. People can get so caught up in being mad at God and the people who hurt them, they stop allowing themselves to really live and enjoy life.

L. Frank James writes this fictional novel using his experience as a pastor and a person who has been on many missions. He vividly brings his scenes to life. His characters seem real, especially with their flaws. By having an underlying theme of Christianity thread through his story, he really made me look at my own life and wonder if I didn't still have a few hurts that need letting go. He did a wonderful job of making me laugh while I was reading; yet I still held on to the deeper meaning that runs through the book. This past year, the author passed away. One of his legacies is this novel. How incredible it is that he left behind a work of fiction that reminds people that they need to believe. Even gone, L. Frank James will continue to touch lives through "Mr. Inside."

Sundays at Tiffany's
James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group, 237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316014779, $24.99, 2008

Reviewed by Tyler R. Tichelaar

The title of "Sundays at Tiffany's" recalls "Breakfast at Tiffany's" but the comparisons end there, other than it being a love story, and its main characters are actually somewhat more bizarre than Holly Golightly. The story begins with Jane, about to have her ninth birthday, and her imaginary friend, Michael, a handsome adult male. Jane lives with her mother, a famous Broadway producer and distant parent, whose only quality time with her daughter is on Sundays when they go to Tiffany's to look at jewelry. Jane has almost no relationship with her father, which implies she created Michael as her imaginary friend to replace her absent father.

On Jane's ninth birthday, Michael tells her she is now old enough that he must leave her. Jane is heartbroken by his departure. Michael tells her she will forget him, but she never does. The story then flashes forward to Jane as an adult, living with her mother, trying to turn the play she wrote about her relationship with Michael into a film, and having to fight with her mother and her handsome but obnoxious boyfriend, Hugh, about whether Hugh will get the lead role in the film.

And then, Jane and Michael spot each other. Actually, Michael sees Jane first and follows her around for a few days, fascinated that she is the first child he has served as an imaginary friend whom he has encountered as an adult. Michael turns out not to be imaginary at all, but rather like an invisible Mary Poppins, who helps children gain self-reliance, and then leaves them, apparently also making them forget him. When Jane also sees and recognizes Michael, Michael cannot understand why, unlike other children, she never forgot him. He soon notices other strange things also happening as he and Jane begin to fall in love, creating several complications in their lives.

"Sundays at Tiffany's" is the kind of light fare from which romantic comedy films are made. The book is entertaining, but I felt stronger character development was necessary. All the characters save for Jane and Michael are stereotypes. I'm not sure even Jane and Michael aren't stereotypes. Jane's journey is one of learning to follow her heart and stand up against her mother, yet when she and her mother come to understand each other, it is more her mother's doing than her own. I found it hard to admire Jane, although I sympathized with her frustrations. Michael was rather a disappointment to me. The book alternates without any pattern between first person narration told by Jane, and third person from Michael's viewpoint. Had Michael's sections also been in first person, it would have made him more real and interesting to the reader. I also thought the authors should have been more specific about Michael's past and purpose, something even Michael did not understand. I imagine the authors wanted to make Michael's assignments mysterious, but by more fully realizing what his duties and role were in terms of the bigger picture of his work, he would have been a more fully realized and intriguing character.

"Sundays at Tiffany's" is the first James Patterson novel I have read, and it does not appear to be typical of his writing. I suspect Gabrielle Charbonnet did most of the writing, although Patterson states the idea originated from something his four-year-old son once said. I doubt this book is what most Patterson fans will expect, but female readers looking for a romantic escape will enjoy "Sundays at Tiffany's."

An Embarrassment of Riches
Gerald Hansen
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595447596, $17.95, 2007

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson

Gerald Hansen's "An Embarrassment of Riches" is a fast-paced, very amusing read. Set in the Irish town of Derry (or Londonderry, depending on your faith…) and generously colored with the local language as well as numerous very contemporary issues, this novel will take you on a wild ride.

Ursula Barnett and her husband Jed recently won the lottery, so they decided to retire to Derry. Ursula tried very hard to make things better for her family, but all of those acts are interpreted by her sister-in-law, Fionnuala, as being directed against them. Fionnuala herself is a wretched person - married to a drunk, working two jobs and trying to raise an assortment of seven ruffians. Perennially behind with her bills and always looking at how to get more money out of Ursula; Fionnuala decided to go for the jugular this time.

With family members being pitted against each other, many supposed secrets are revealed and the results are not always predictable. Will Siofra manage to get the money for her dream First Communion dress? Who's the father of Dymphna's baby? Where is Eoin getting all that money from? And where did Ursula's money disappear?

Gerald Hansen's writing is smooth and appealing. With a cast of incredibly amusing, if not always charming characters, this book feels like a cross between a roller-coaster and a carousel. The plot moves on very quickly and it would be impossible not to get drawn in. The succession of wild events hitting both Ursula's and Fionnuala's families will keep the reader amused and slightly dazed. There are some truly priceless images in the story; among which the one of Siofra selling discount-priced "disco sweeties" to her First Communion companions is decidedly my favorite. The Derry-speak used liberally throughout the story adds depth and richness to the story, yet it can make for slightly tedious reading at times. Although Gerald Hansen did supply a "Derry-speak Dictionary," there are passages that are difficult to read for non-Derry speakers.

The engaging and oftentimes hilarious story of a family torn apart because of money matters should have a broad appeal. I am certain that most of us will recognize some of our own family members in the characters of this black comedy; or at least see some familiar traits. While wildly amusing, this tale should also make you think of some important life issues, so I'd consider the time spent reading An Embarrassment of Riches" well spent.

Fisherwife or Aquatic Euthanasia: Short Stories of Outdoor Humor
E. Jake Miller
Crystal Dreams Publishing
Multi-Media Publications Inc.
Box 58043, Rosslynn RPO, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada L1J 8L6
1-866-721-1540 (toll-free),
9781591460724, $10.95, 2008

Reviewed by William Phenn

Jake the adventurer is a man's man. Born in New Caney, Texas back in 1955, he spent his life working around his family's homestead. He lived in the country, so it was easy for him to wander the woods and rivers in the surrounding area. Mr. Miller joined the Navy at the age of seventeen and spent four years as an aviation electrician. Honorably discharged in 1976, he spent the rest of his time as a rancher and now lives in San Antonio. Having always been a storyteller, his friends finally convinced him to compile some of them into a book.

This is one hilarious volume from the first to the last page. It caught me right from the beginning and didn't let up till the last page of its short 96-page length. Hunting stories like the description of his deer hunting in "Spike Buck," or "Lost;" brought back comical memories of my own hunting experiences. The worse fears of any hunter are realized in "Spike Buck" when you realize your game is still kicking; or, to be lost in the woods and chased by a mean bull. Then there is the tale of "The Hunting Bag," that major piece of hunting equipment that is second only to the gun.

The hunting stories are funny but the fishing stories take the cake. To be outdone by your wife is a fisherman's worst nightmare. In "Fisherwife," Jake relates the story of the first time he took his wife on a fishing trip to the Gulf of Mexico.

Jake Miller, outdoorsman extraordinaire. His hunting, fishing and outdoor experiences are some of the funniest I have ever heard. His stories are well compiled, very well told and unusually funny. The quality of the publishing is very nicely done and the only off-beat thing I can comment on is the cover art. I don't know what a beautiful pair of legs in a pool has to do with fishing, hunting, or the outdoors but to be honest; it was cute!

I fully enjoyed "Fisherwife or Aquatic Euthanasia" and gave it my highest A+ rating. It was a joy to read and I recommend it to any and all age groups.

A Promise to Remember
Kathryn Cushman
Bethany House Publisher
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Bloomington, MN 55438
9780764203800, $13.99, 2007

Reviewed by Lisa Kisner

Andie Phelps is married to a successful businessman, has a wonderful son and is active in her community. Melanie Johnston is a hard-working single mother of a son and daughter. A tragic accident claims the lives of each of their sons. What follows is a heart-wrenching journey as each woman tries to come to grips with the tragedy. Although from different worlds, each is gripped by grief, which consumes their personal lives and reaches into the community. Both women must undergo a journey of discovery about themselves and their faith, facing adversity every step of the way.

Kathryn Cushman's debut novel is well written and engrossing from the first page. This book depicts a realistic account of lives torn apart by tragedy and dealing with the repercussions. I felt each woman's raw pain and anger as if I knew them personally. I found myself nodding as each woman made choices, realizing I would have made the same decision should I be in her shoes. There was no clear "right" or "wrong" in this book, only choices made in the wake of devastating heartache. "A Promise to Remember" is a book about loss, forgiveness and renewal of faith should be on everyone's must-read list. I am looking forward for more from this gifted author.

Beijing's Games: What the Olympics Mean to China
Susan Brownell
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
4501 Forbes Blvd Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
97807425056416, $24.95, 2008

Reviewed by Lori Plach

Why were the Chinese people all excited when it was announced that the 2008 Summer Olympics would be held in Beijing? Why was it so important to them? Sure, it is a major boost to their economy. What with all the people from all over the world coming to China to cheer on their children or country's athletes. It is more than money and people that will come to Beijing this year. It will be a first in all the years of the modern-day Olympics. China has never hosted an Olympic Games. China is not known to have many Olympic champions; in the last few Olympic Games, China has accomplished their first medals of any color, including Gold.

Susan Brownell has written a brief history book about China and its customs as well as an explanation about what impact, more than financial, these Olympics will bring to Beijing and China itself. The author uses her personal experience as a previous exchange student to China to bring her book to life. She has even competed in athletic events with Chinese women and can bring their stories about not having the advantages that men have. In recent years, more has come out about possible doping in order to make better athletes achieve even higher; she addresses some of the issues of performance enhancing drugs.

For anyone who will be watching any of the 2008 Olympic Games from Beijing this book is very good reading. Through the pages of "Beijing's Games," you will learn more about this Olympics history, host country, host city and invitation to be the "people's Olympics."

Heavenly Pleasures: A Corinna Chapman Mystery
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., Ste. 103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590584262, $24.95, 2008

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

At first glance, you might assume that Corinna Chapman has a boring life. She is a baker that resides among elderly people. At second glance though, you learn that she has an assistant that is newly recovering from his heroin addiction. She also has two anorexic actresses helping out at her shop. Plus, the people she resides among are eccentric and so are all of their cats. She also has a sexy Israeli lover named Daniel. Life is definitely more interesting for Corinna than one would expect.

Heavenly Pleasures is an incredible chocolate shop located near the bakery. Two sisters run it. They are very distressed to report that somebody is tampering with their delightful desserts. This is hurting their business. Investigating further into their lives, Corinna learns that an employee has disappeared. She comes from a very strong cultural background and has fallen in love with an Asian man. There is also an unscrupulous assistant who seems to know more than he is telling. Corinna also is suspicious about a mysterious man who has moved into her apartment building. His presence seems to be putting them all at risk and endangering the cats. She has a lot on her plate.

"Heavenly Pleasures" is a delightful, laugh-out-loud tale. I totally enjoyed reading the exploits of Corinna. Her need to get involved, and help solve the mysteries presented, is not always appreciated and puts the people around her in danger. The relationships that she has with her cats and the people closest to her are heartwarming. While she is trying to solve the mysteries, she is also learning a great deal about herself. Her relationship with Daniel provides her with a lot of lessons in learning to trust and in learning to accept her self for how she is. This is really a fun book to read and the perfect gift for mystery fans, especially if they are cat lovers. The recipes in the back of "Heavenly Pleasures" put the perfect icing on the cake. My stomach growled my whole way through the story!

The Unraveling of Violeta Bell (Morgue Mama Mysteries)
C .R. Corwin
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 East First Ave., Ste. 103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590585016, $24.95, 2008

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

Maddy Sprowls is back again. This time she is investigating the murder of Violeta Bell who claims to be the Queen of Romania. Maddy feels a close connection to the case because she recommended that an article be written that involved this woman. She fears that her idea helped draw attention to Violeta, which resulted in her death.

Normally, Maddy likes to keep quiet and just do her job as librarian in "The Hannawa Herald-Union." But one day her interest is sparked when she sees four elderly women get out of a taxi at a yard sale. She finds out that they do this every weekend, with the same cab driver. She thinks that it would make a great human interest story so she recommends it. It is titled, "The Queens of Never Dull." After the story is featured, Violeta Bell is murdered and the cab driver is accused, Maddy feels compelled to investigate.

She discovers that the case is much more complex and interesting than she could have imagined. As she investigates she gets to know the other three women in the group. She enjoys discovering their eccentricities. She also gets a lesson in Romanian royalty. As she works on solving this case, she is able to find answers to another mystery. She also accidentally gets to meet the president of the United States.

"The Unraveling of Violeta Bell," is a laugh-out-loud mystery. Maddy Sprowls is truly an irrepressible character. I totally enjoyed watching the mystery unfold. I also enjoyed reading about Maddy's relationships with her boyfriend, her co-workers, the police and her not-always-potty-trained dog. I definitely plan on reading other adventures about the Morgue Mama.

Trance Warriors: The Siege of Scarn
Robert C. Auty
Apex Publishing Ltd
PO Box 7086, Clacton on Sea, Essex, CO15 5WN, United Kingdom
9781904444596, $18.00, 2006

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson

Robert C. Auty's "Trance Warriors: The Siege of Scarn" is the first in the hopefully very lengthy series of Trance Warriors books. While I am usually not a fan of warfare and bloodbath books, I have to admit I've enjoyed every page of this book and I honestly hope to see the sequel(s) as soon as possible. Although it is filled with blood and gore in copious amounts, this never distracted from the storyline.

Connor, an outlaw, sets out to kill the King, believing the King has been responsible for killing the entire Connor's family. Due to some strange twists of fate Connor soon realizes that the King is not the real enemy. Connor discovers many hidden truths about himself and his family as well as his role in the upcoming key battle between good and evil. Aided by many friends, both new and old, Connor assumes his rightful positions and leads the combined forces of good in the decisive battle against evil in the Siege of Scarn.

The losses on both sides are tremendous and it is quite clear that the war is not over yet. Who will come out of this victorious? And at what cost?

Robert C. Auty's writing style is extremely engaging and fluid. His descriptions are vibrant and colorful. The situations he puts his characters into, although placed in a fantasy world, have enough parallels in the "real" world to make this an appealing read. The conflicts and struggles encountered by Connor, Janice, Stort, Cheryl and all of their friends will draw the reader in extremely fast and the author's insights into those characters will continue to hold the reader's interest until the very last page. Believable, yet never predictable nor boring, this is a powerful book.

The whimsical fantasy world of "Trance Warriors: The Siege of Scarn" is inhabited by many familiar figures, yet most of them are presented in a new light or with some unusual twists. The elves, the dwarves, the braves and the gods fighting a fascinating array of evil creatures are all compelling and strangely believable. The heroes' characters are well developed and convincing. Filled with fresh ideas, such as the time-warping Trance Warriors and the Sundering of the Elves, this flight of the imagination will remind you of the Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" and it will be a certain hit with anybody who enjoys well written, intelligent fantasy.

God's Army to Purge Homosexuality
B. Alan Bourgeois
Wizard Consulting and Publishing
PO Box 66448, Houston, TX 77266
9780979628801, $12.95, 2008

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

In February of 1977, a group who calls themselves "The Army of God," took responsibility for bombing a gay night club. This group is known for bombing abortion clinics. For some reason, they seem to think that people that are gay are responsible for abortions. I find this interesting because people that are gay can't get each other pregnant. "God's Army to Purge Homosexuality" is a fictional story written with this incident in mind.

Charles MacDougale is secretly gay. He has kept this secret through his 35-year marriage. He is very well connected and has tremendous influence over the Republican Party. Keeping his sexuality a secret, he privately helps fund support for homosexual groups. When a radical anti-abortion group starts bombing gay bars, he hires Nicole, his bodyguard, and Brent, a private investigator, to go undercover to discover who is responsible. Nicole and Brent pose as a married couple to infiltrate this group. What is interesting about this is that they are both homosexual and in spite of their attractiveness, they have no relationship interest in each other.

As Nicole and Brent go undercover, they have to deal with some very unsavory characters who appear to be fine upstanding citizens on the surface. As they do their undercover work, more bombings occur that affect them personally and a tragedy strikes close to home. This makes the situation even more dangerous for the duo. It also helps them to grow personally because they develop a deeper friendship with each other.

I really found this book to be interesting. It is very scary to know that there are radical groups in our country that feel that it is okay to kill people for their cause. Wanting more information about the real incident that happened, I investigated on the Internet and learned a lot. In addition to gaining knowledge, I also really enjoyed the story. Bourgeois definitely has a talent for developing complex plots and creating interesting characters. Having read tons of romance novels, I really enjoyed the way that he developed the relationship between the two characters. They bonded into a real friendship that was not marred by sexual tension. They also developed a better understanding for each other's differences.

"God's Army to Purge Homosexuality" is really a good book; however, it is not for people who are anti-abortion or anti-homosexual. Everybody else will find this book compelling, and refreshingly different.

Do You Get The Feeling?
Celia Rabberg
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781425987794, $71.99, 2007

Reviewed by Casey Holt (age 14)

I thought "Do You Get The Feeling?: A handbook to facilitate emotional awareness and communication 150 ways to express yourself?" was a very good and helpful book. I used it kind of like a diary. At the end of each day, or if I felt a really strong emotion at that moment, I would open up "Do You Get The Feeling?" and flip to the table of contents, looking for feelings that fit me; then, I would then read the poem, see how it related to me, and circle or underline certain sentences that I felt STRONGLY about. Then I would put the date under the "notes" space.

I think that this book could help anyone, any age. A parent could use it with a very small child, maybe not actually READING the poem, but to help the child identify their feelings and emotions, possibly writing a poem with the child? Teens and adults could use this book alone or with a group. I showed it to my parents, and they thought it was very interesting as well. I am still working on the "Create your own poem." I am sure that I will use this book in the future a lot. I hope that everyone can get a chance to have this book, "Do You Get The Feeling."

The Necromancer
Kevin Dunn
Crystal Dreams Publishing
c/o Multi-Media Publications Inc.
Box 58043, Rosslynn RPO, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, L1J8L6
9781591460718, $14.95, 2008

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson

Kevin Dunn's "The Necromancer" is set in the extremely tumultuous times at the end of the seventeenth century. The year is 1692 and the infamous witch-hunt has begun in Salem, Massachusetts. People are falling ill and dying of smallpox. Tempers are running high. Neighbors are telling on neighbors, reporting them for real and, much more often, for imaginary crimes.

Two unlikely people are thrown together - the very pure and innocent Susanna Harrington, a young woman from Salem, and the Reverend Ambrose Blayne, a man with a violent and unhappy past and a dark secret. He is 'The Necromancer' - a very dangerous and very powerful warlock. His seduction of the pure, naive Susanna will lead the young woman down an incredibly vile, sinister route.

While the characters in this book are undoubtedly formidable, the sheer saturation with evil and brutality makes them too distant to be believable. Kevin Dunn's writing is occasionally stiff and feels overwhelming at times. Sometimes use of more straightforward words and phrases makes for less laborious reading; and austere is not necessarily boring. On the other hand, I found author's insights into the human soul and the low resistance of most people to foolishness and iniquity very enlightening.

Kevin Dunn's "The Necromancer" is certainly a powerful book, but unfortunately too dark for my taste. While I am certain it would appeal to the lovers of dark fiction and horror stories, the very graphic and vivid descriptions of the orgies and rituals, the incessant evil and cruelty as well as the pervading sense of malevolence throughout the book did not endear it to me. That does not mean that the book is not a good one, it simply means that I did not manage to connect with it. But if you are a horror lover, by all means go for it - this is a truly dark and truly scary one!

HowToons: The Possibilities Are Endless!
Saul Griffith, Nick Dragotta, Joost Bonsen
HarperCollins Publishers
1350 Ave. of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
9780060761585, $15.99, 2007

Reviewed by Ben Weldon (age 10)

"HowToons" by Saul Griffith, Nick Draggota, and Joost Bonsen is a graphic novel that teaches you to build many neat contraptions with household items. The book has an entertaining storyline about a brother and sister who undertake various projects in their basement workshop. There is information about tools, safety and creating a workspace. There are also a few historical facts.

This book includes directions for a marshmallow gun, motor, terrarium and rocket launcher, but these are just a few of the things you can make! I tried to build the motor from the instructions but I couldn't get it to work. I even worked on it with my dad who is an engineer. Some of the projects sound really neat but you shouldn't expect to get them done quickly or without additional experimentation.

The graphics are exciting. There are some subtle illustrations and humor. For example, the first page of the safety section "An Eye for Safety" has a drawing of a cut-out paper mask with a pair of scissors poking through the eye. The siblings exchange nightmare stories of unsafe events, and Tucker says, "The list reads like an emergency room clipboard."

I would recommend "HowToons" to people who really like to invent things, but they must have a lot of patience and interest because the projects take a lot of effort. I liked this book but I don't think I will try all of the projects.

Ruth (Chronicles of Faith)
Kjersti Hoff Baez
Barbour Publishing
P.O. Box 796, Ulrichsville, OH 44683
9781597899284, $4.97, 2007

Reviewed by Brianne Plach (age 10)

Perhaps you have heard of Ruth; she is one of the most famous women in the Bible. But you're a kid and want to read the story in a way you understand. "Chronicles of Faith" take historical figures and tell their story in a kid-friendly way. The books read like novels, but are very easy to read. This series has been created for kids ages 8-12. With larger print words and illustrated with many pictures, the stories read easily.

The story opens with Ruth holding a baby. She had lost her husband and wondered how she would go on. Her former mother-in-law Naomi and sister-in-law Orpah are by her side. Naomi tries to encourage the two widows to return to their homeland and families. She feels that the young women would be better off without her and perhaps will each find other husbands. Orpah listens while Ruth clings to Naomi's side.

With God's guidance, Naomi and Ruth travel to Naomi's homeland. Naomi encourages Ruth to glean in the fields not knowing the fields are owned by a relative who can redeem the land and Ruth could still have the family and prosperity that she desires.

If you wish you could understand more of just what happened in the story of Ruth, you need to pick up this book, "Ruth (Chronicles of Faith)." Based on Biblical facts, you are sure to learn some things that you may have missed in Sunday School or Bible Class. It's amazing how perseverance and God's guiding hand can change the course of what looks like certain disaster.

Dreaming BIG: Energizing Yourself and Your Team with a Crystal Clear Life Dream
Bobb Biehl and Paul Swets
Authentic Publishing
1820 Jet Stream Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781934068366, $16.99, 2007

Reviewed by Vicki Landes

Looking to make big changes in your life but overwhelmed with the number of self-help books promising to do so? Need a push into the unknown while maintaining your Biblical morals and standards? Bobb Biehl and Paul Swets promise just that in their book, "Dreaming BIG: Energizing Yourself and Your Team with a Crystal Clear Life Dream." With their help, you are just a month away from a more meaningful existence.

In "Dreaming BIG," Biehl and Swets break down their methods in 31 separate lessons - not only meant to give you time to deeply contemplate each concept, but to guide you step-by-step through questions and situations that will help you discover what matters most. By creating a foundation of these answers - unique to each person - you begin to build on that with activity and energy you never knew you had. Further, these life dreams aren't meant to be 'islands' in the world; instead, they interconnect you with your fellow man. In a world where selfishness and personal gain reign supreme, it's refreshing to read a self-help book that isn't just about 'self.' Biehl and Swets inspire you to reach beyond yourself and learn to empower others while sparking their interest in their own life dreams.

"Dreaming BIG" is a highly motivational book, written with the gentle tone of experience and authority. Biehl and Swets feel like two old friends guiding you through a transitional period with encouragement, energy, and spirituality. Their 31-day process allows you to 'see the light at the end of the tunnel' yet they don't restrict the reader if more time is needed. Their entire system is comfortable and enlightening.

"Dreaming BIG" is the perfect read for mature readers looking to preserve their Christian values while changing their lives for the better. The book would also be of interest to those looking for change and do not currently practice a form of spirituality but would like to and don't know where to start. Anyone sick of their current state of affairs will find plenty of helpful ways to change their situation in the pages of "Dreaming BIG."

Anyone who has tried to break a bad habit or learn a good one knows that change is never easy. Bobb Biehl and Paul Swets acknowledge this but challenge you to reach past your comfort zone and grab your aspirations by the horns. In "Dreaming BIG: Energizing Yourself and Your Team with a Crystal Clear Life Dream," they show you how little steps each day can make all the difference. Pretty soon, the difficult changes become easier and even exciting, giving you the motivation to attain what's uniquely your own life's goal.

Silent Voices Volume III
Peter A. Balaskas
Ex Machina Press
P.O. Box 11180, Glendale, CA 91226
9780977276349, $11.99, 2007

Reviewed by Dr. Carol Hoyer

As the reader first began reading "Silent Voices Volume III," she has great difficulty understanding the concept of this literary journal. After putting it down several times and trying to get motivated to read the contemporary stories, I just decided not to have any expectations and go into reading with an objective point of view.

I certainly admire Ex Machina Press for their courage to jump into the literary field with this unique approach. These short stories are not for those who want light-hearted reading or something that is an easy read. One really has to think about what each of these authors is presenting, and sometimes you might have to read it a couple of times.

The one short story from "Silent Voices Volume III" that I did enjoy reading, "War in Babylon," by Marlon James speaks to current societal issues of how people can afford to buy guns but can't put food on the table for their family. It also addresses the larger issue of younger children having access to guns and don't hesitate to use it if someone gives them the wrong look. In this story the author is really saying that we need to take a look at society as a whole and address the violence that is going on today.

Then We Came to the End
Joshua Ferris
Back Bay Books
Hachette Book Group, 237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316016391, $13.99, April 2008

Reviewed by April Sullivan

"Then We Came to the End" by Joshua Ferris is a hilarious novel about a subject that is so day-to-day: life in the office. Most of us spend eight hours a day at work, behind a desk, or in a cubicle. Someone may ask, "Why would you choose to read about this subject when you do find those few precious hours to pick up a book?" Even though most people would not want to admit it, I think we all have some voyeuristic tendencies to find out if other offices, even fictional ones, operate the same way ours does. It's obvious in the cult status of the movie "The Office Space" and the wild popularity of the TV show "The Office." We all want reassurance that these many hours spent away from our families is worth something besides a paycheck.

In this book you find all the juicy bits of an office; the office romance, the boss' mysterious illness, the crazed ex-employee, the threat of lay-offs, the meetings after the meetings, and so much more. Benny, Marcia, Tom, Amber, Larry, Jim, Joe, Lynn. You know them all too well. "Then We Came to the End" is a sociological study in the subculture of the office.

Ferris writes with a unique style. He writes in first person plural from the point of view of "we" and "us," immediately drawing the reader in as a member of the group. You are in on all the pranks and scared you will be fired or "walked Spanish down the hall," as he put it, any minute. You get caught up in the dramas and inter-office emails along with the rest of the characters. There are so many great lines and scenarios in this book. Too many to share, and it is like you had to be there anyway to really get it.

"Then We Came to the End" by Joshua Ferris is the best book I have read in a long time. It is a National Book Award Finalist and amazing first novel that is going to be hard for Joshua Ferris to top. Plus, he goes above and beyond with a website to accompany the book. I read the last line of "Then We Came to the End" with a big grin on my face and even said out loud "I love this book!" When was the last time a book made you say that?

Why Am I So DAMN Unhappy?: And What to Do About It
James Downton, Jr., PhD
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P.O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
(541) 347-9882,
9781934759028, $11.95, 2008

Reviewed by Dr. Carol Hoyer

A fictional character called "Dr. Bob, the Happiness Coach" creates "Why Am I So DAMN Unhappy?" Dr. Bob gives the reader several stories from his days as a university instructor, as well as uses his stand-up comedian humor to let us know that happiness is not something we find. Each story gives true-life examples of blaming others, guilt trips, self-pity and lying.

Through modeling and asking the right questions, Dr. Bob is able to get others to think about how they sabotage their own happiness and that of others around them. Although his techniques are not new to the "self-help' books, his humor makes the reader really look at how they are unhappy campers and thrive on it. Everyone from teenagers to the mature audience will enjoy this book. What I really appreciated about the book was that the author didn't attempt to give readers the impression he was the "guru" of self-help. He only gave the impression that his suggestions have worked for countless others.

Being a Psychologist, I have certainly heard this type of self-help technique before, however, while reading the book I could laugh and point to myself in ways that I have made myself unhappy. "Why Am I So DAMN Unhappy?" is very light-hearted reading, but you get the point. What turned me off was the way it seemed too easy to become a happy person and in the times the author uses "bluntness" my thoughts were "what damage would this do to an vulnerable person?"

Rooke's Island: The Prophecy of the Staring Eyes
S. K. Whalen
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595445455, $13.95, 2007

Reviewed by Maya Landers (age 10)

"Rooke's Island," by S. K. Whalen, is well suited for younger readers because the only enemy the main character, Margery Mutters, has to face is a crazy old owl by the name of Cockeye. Although Margery faces some challenges, they are scarce, and she recovers from them in a matter of minutes.

Margery Mutters (well, her given name is Adelaine Margery Josephine Hilda-Ann Mutters, but she prefers just Margery) finds a rather unusual envelope in the mail. It has two black eyes on it that seem to watch Margery. The letter bids Margery come to Rooke's Island, so she does. Once she arrives on the mainland, she spends the night in the hideous Purple Inn. The next day, on her way to Rooke's Island, she meets Mike, a boy whose face and hair resemble hers almost exactly. These mysterious similarities will be explained during the course of the novel.

When Margery arrives on Rooke's Island, she finds Mike waiting for her. Together, they discover that Rook's Island is a haven for owls. To discover this fact, they first have to make the journey to Inner Earth, the place where most of the owls live. On the way, Cockeye, the crazy old owl, tries to stop them from arriving. He is easily dissuaded, however. In fact, there are few real challenges for Margery or Mike to face during the course of the story. Even when a challenge appears, they are able to overcome it with little to no difficulty.

The plot moves quickly, perhaps even too quickly. For instance, one minute Margery is gardening at her home, the next minute she has arrived at Alwyn's Village. When Margery first gets to Alwyn's Village, which is the mainland near Rooke's Island, she is greeted by Gabriella (Gabbi) Mooleys. Gabbi, the chatty owner of the Purple Inn where Margery spends the night, talks mostly about things that are completely irrelevant to what Margery was discussing.

During the course of the story, Margery changed in several significant ways. Her new friendship with Mike helps her smile at what previously would have driven her crazy, such as her encounter with Gabbi. Even more important, however, is the gift Margery received when she first arrived on the island: the gift of being able to speak to owls. Margery did not face dangerous challenges, and the smaller ones that she did encounter were conquered swiftly. "Rooke's Island" would be a good choice for a read-aloud or for young, easily-frightened children.

Do You Get the Feeling?
Celia Rabberg
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781425987794, $71.99, 2007

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

The author Celia Rabberg has a gift with words. She used her talent to write "Do You Get the Feeling?: A handbook to facilitate emotional awareness and communication 150 ways to express yourself" as a handbook with 150 ways for people to express themselves. As a therapist, she noticed that a lot of her patients had difficulties with getting their feelings out. By giving people a tool to help them express themselves, she feels that it will help them to progress faster with developing better communication and self-expression skills.

She wrote this book for therapists, teachers and people who are interested in being in touch with their own feelings. In this book, 150 emotions are organized into 39 groups. The feelings range from positive to negative. The reader is directed to select a group or two that contains feelings they are currently experiencing. The index directs you to the pages that the emotions are written about in the form of beautiful poems. These poems lead to contemplation. I read all 149 of them and found them all to be profound and for every age. The 150th one is for the reader to write for herself.

The idea behind this is based upon Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Included is an Educational Utilization in CBT or Self-Help form to help guide the reader to connect the emotions to their body language, feelings and behaviors. It is very interesting. These techniques have three main uses: personal enjoyment, improving communication with others and clinical or educational training.

The book itself is bright and colorful. It is well organized. I found this to be very helpful. The pages are clearly laid out and uncluttered. I feel that this makes it easier to focus on the emotion and the poem without distractions. For people who have difficulties, or resistance, with getting in touch with their emotions, it is very important that they don't have anything to distract them. The poetry itself is poignant and meaningful. I really could relate to the poems about the emotions that I most frequently have been experiencing. I also liked the poetry about the positive emotions because it is uplifting and hopeful.

"Do You Get the Feeling?" is a really important text for people who are needing help with connecting with their emotions. Cognitive Behavior Therapists will love to have this to use as a resource. I also thought that it would be a really good tool for counseling internship students who are supposed to be keeping a journal. It will make their lives much easier and clearer.

Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach
Melanie Watt
Kids Can Press Ltd.
2250 Military Road, Tonawanda, NY 14150
9781554532254, $15.95, 2008

Reviewed by Conner (age 4) and Mom

Scaredy Squirrel is frightened of a lot of things: crowds, seagulls, and jellyfish. He wants to experience the tranquil getaway of his own beach, but he is missing things to make it real. So he embarks on a mission to go to the beach and bring back the objects he needs to make his own beach feel like a real getaway. Of course, no adventure goes exactly as planned, even with Scaredy's extreme talent in plan and map making.

"Do you think that the squirrel should be scared?"
"No, he made plans. Though he was scared of seagulls, jellyfish, coconuts, lobsters, pirate ships and sea monsters."
"Are you scared of them?"
"Why not?"
"I can just hit them."
"Do you like the beach?"
"Not very much, because I don't like sharks."
"Do you think it's important to make plans?"
"Yes, because you could get lost. Let's make a map Mommy."
"Why do you think he was scared?"
"I don't know."
"Do you think he was scared because he doesn't know what things are?"
"No! I'm not scared of anything."

Then we proceeded to make our own map.

Parent's comments:

"Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach" is a very humorous book about problem solving and handling contingencies. I liked that it took a relatively simple event, going to the beach, and broke it down into steps and ideas that probably occur naturally to an adult, but could be very important detail in the mind of a young child. It was also inspiring to us to make our own plans and detailed maps.

Vocabulary Power: Grade K: 150 Sight Words to Build Reading Skills
Audrey Carangelo
Play Bac Publishing
225 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014-4381
9781602140219, $9.95, 2007

Reviewed by Conner (age 4) and Mom

"Vocabulary Power: Grade K: 150 Sight Words to Build Reading Skills" presents 150 sight words which are common words that are instantly recognized while reading; they are presented in an easy-flip format that can stand on its own, like a word-of-the-day calendar. Each word is presented on its own page, accompanied by an illustration to learn its usage and a full sentence to show it in context. It also lists rhyming family words on the page.

"What do you think of this word builder?"
"I like it a lot. I like the pictures."
"Are the words easy to remember?"
"No, but I like it when you read to me."
"Do you know what the pictures are trying to say?"
"Some of them are funny."

Parent's comments:

I think that "Vocabulary Power: Grade K" is a great tool and like the word-of-the-day format. My son is at a stage where he likes to rush through things, so I'm not sure if he'll remember word 4 when he's asked for so many that we find ourselves suddenly on word 30. But the introduction of rhyming word families helps him visualize how some words are subsets of larger words and that letter order is important when making words.

I Wonder . . .
Harriet Fishel
American Literary Press
8019 Belair Road, Suite 10, Baltimore, MD 21236
9781561679959, $14.95, 2007

Reviewed by Conner (age 4) and Mom

Sara wonders what the world we be like if there were no "5, 4, 3, 2, or even 1" or if the cows and other farm animals quit their jobs. Our hands wouldn't be the same and stories would read differently. If the farm animals quit their jobs then we would have milk for cereal or eggs for breakfast.

"Do you think we could be without the number 5?"
"No, because six would make no sense."
"Do you think we'd look alright with just one eye?"
"No, silly!"
"What would you do if the cows stopped making milk?"
"I'd have hot chocolate instead."

Parent's Comment:

"I Wonder. . ." has very amusing illustrations to get the author's point across. It was a good exercise in thinking of other possibilities and to appreciate what we have. My son likes to know where things are, so discussing situations where things are changed helps him think of alternative ways of doing things.

Elijah (Chronicles of Faith)
Susan Martins Miller
Barbour Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781597899239, $4.97, 2007

Reviewed by Regan Zaborowski (age 8)

"Elijah" is the story of the real man, Elijah, who lived a long time before Jesus was born. He was a prophet; that is a friend of God who God speaks to and tells him what to say to other people. Elijah wants all the people in Israel to believe in God instead of the god Baal that most of the people there worship. The story begins when Elijah goes to see King Ahab to tell him that God wants his people to believe in Him or he will send a drought. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel want to kill Elijah, so he goes away. No rain comes for a long, long time, and that makes the food and water dry up so the people have nothing to eat. Then Elijah meets a lady named Leah and her son Hiram, and she prays to God when Elijah asked God to keep giving her flour and oil so that she could bake bread. God also brings Hiram back to life after he died. At the end of the book, Elijah goes back to see King Ahab to try to make him believe in God. They all go to a mountain and the real God wins a contest to make fire first on some bulls. All the people who prayed to Baal were killed. Then after another long time God makes it rain; and King Ahab finally believes in God.

I liked reading this book, "Elijah." The printing was big, and I could mostly read the words by myself. I read this book to my mom, and she liked it too. It was cool because I learned about Elijah and Moses and Abraham and some of the other prophets that told people about God, before in school -- but this book told the whole story of Elijah and the things he did to make people believe in God. I didn't know that he prayed so much about bringing food and water and rain, and that he brought Hiram back to life. It was cool that he could ask God for rain and fire and to make somebody alive again, and God would do it. My favorite part of the book was when everybody was on the mountain and lots of people were on Baal's side, and just a few people were on Elijah's side, and God made lightning come out of the sky and make fire on Elijah's bull. It was sad that all those people on Baal's side got killed because the law said so. This book was also interesting because it was about a real person that actually lived on earth and did those things, not a made up character. It makes me want to read about other prophets like Elijah and find out what kinds of things God helped them do. I'm not sure if there are any prophets still alive today, but I would like to read about them if they exist.

Girl Overboard
Justina Chen Headley
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., New York NY 10017
9780316011303, $16.99, 2007

Reviewed by Emily Robbins (age 13)

"Girl Overboard," by Justina Chen Headley, is about Syrah Cheng, the daughter of a billionaire, the famous Ethan Cheng. Decked out private jets, expensive designer snowboards, all of the latest hot fashions, it's all hers. She is definitely living large. The only problem is that she hates it. Instead of parties, Syrah would rather be up on the tall, snowy mountains doing what she knows best, skateboarding.

Syrah's life is just going downhill. Her best friend's girlfriend is ruining their relationship. Her knee was supposed to have healed by now, after a horrible snowboarding accident she had a while back, but it is still giving her troubles. She's also struggling with trying to figure out who her real friends are, and who she herself is.

My favorite character is definitely Lillian, one of Syrah's friends. She is energetic, kind, and seems like the best type of friend a person could have. Unlike the rest of Lillian's popular friends, she is more concerned about the sick and deathly-ill kids in the hospital than the juicy gossip her friends enjoy so greatly.

Wayne, Syrah's unkind brother, completely does not understand Syrah. He is just after his very large share in his father's very large inheritance, and making loads of cash. So, instead of trying to understand her, he is just a cruel sibling, trying to ruin her snowboarding dream. Wayne is unquestionably, my least favorite character of them all.

"Girl Overboard" was an inspiring book. I really liked how it really went into her lifestyle, trying to show you just how much she loathed it. The author did a really good job with all the diverse characters, and showing their different personalities. Some parts in the book I admit were a little dull and monotonous; in those sections I just skimmed over those paragraphs, but all in all it was an all-around great book! Two thumbs up, and I would definitely recommend "Girl Overboard," by Justina Chen Headley.

Janey Junkfood's Fresh Adventure!
Barbara Storper, MS, RD
FoodPlay Productions
1 Sunset Ave., Hatfield, MA 01038
1-800-FOODPLAY (1-800-366-3752),
9780964285859, $15.95, 2008

Reviewed by Brianne Plach (age 10)

Do you want to eat better? Do you find yourself always wanting junk food even if you know it's not good for you? Maybe you just want to get to know more about better food choices. If you do and don't want to read about how to diet or want a book that stresses dieting, you need to pick up "Janey Junkfood's Fresh Adventure!: Making Good Eating Great Fun!"

Janey and her dog Tobi, which is pronounced 'to be,' are your guides throughout the book. They go through an average day and explain what choices are available to you. Not skipping breakfast is stressed. You might think you will lose weight or be healthier by skipping it, but it's simply not true. If you skip breakfast, you are skipping nutrition that will be used through your whole day. This book is very easy to read and is a fun book without sounding preachy or too technical for kids to understand.

The pictures by Frances Schneid are awesome! They are bright and colorful. The ones that look like photos in a scrapbook are so funny and just add to the delight of this book. I think kids of all ages will enjoy this book and learn a lot about nutrition while having a lot of fun. In my opinion, the ideal audience would be kids in grades 2-6 but this could definitely prove to be enjoyable for kids outside those ranges. I wish Barbara Storper and Frances E. Schneid combine their talents together for more great books about issues that are important for kids to understand!

One taste of "Janey Junkfood's Fresh Adventure!" and you won't be satisfied till you are done indulging in the pages of the whole book!

101 Things You Should Never Say To Your Spouse
Peter R. Garber and Nancy C. Garber
Multi-Media Publications, Inc.
Box 58043, Rosslynn RPO, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, L1J 8L6
9781897326008, $18.45, 2007

Reviewed by Vicki Landes

For authors Peter and Nancy Garber, their over-30-year marriage has provided them with more than just love and companionship - it's also given them 101 reasons to write a book. By combining common sense and good-natured humor, their new release "101 Things You Should Never Say To Your Spouse" lists some of the 'don'ts' with regard to communicating with your loved one.

"101 Things You Should Never Say To Your Spouse" is an entertaining look at some potentially serious issues that can come up during the course of a marriage. From more minor infractions such as an unhealthy attachment to the television control to ultimate romance killers like "you look fat in that," the Garbers list each tabooed comment with a short reason why it should be avoided. Sayings are also organized into 'feelings,' 'opinions,' 'tastes,' 'communication,' 'schedules,' 'time off,' 'roles,' 'compatibility,' 'lifestyles,' and 'romance' for easy reference.

Super quick to read and fun to share with your significant other, "101 Things You Should Never Say To Your Spouse" is a great gift idea for engagement or wedding parties. With advice based on good common sense and a level of respect for the other person, the information given is extremely brief before moving on to the next item - not adequate for those couples in need of more professional marital assistance. However, those in healthy relationships will probably find the book very enjoyable and affable to peruse together…while maybe even learning they are guilty of using a few of the offensive statements themselves. Straightforward and honest, the Garbers present some good advice on how to love another person while ensuring they see that love in action. Further, "learning to be more aware of what you say and more sensitive to your spouse's feelings can only serve to strengthen your marriage." And that's the most important thing.

Peter and Nancy Garber have learned a thing or two about how to make a marriage work but just as important, they've learned what not to do! Avoid 101 different 'open mouth, insert foot' scenarios with their helpful book, "101 Things You Should Never Say To Your Spouse." You just might end up with an entirely new way of looking at your communication!

The 7 1/2 Habits of Highly Humorous People
David M. Jacobson, MSW, LCSW Publishing Inc.
P.O. Box 9949, College Station, TX 77842
877-376-4955 (toll free)
9781602640375, $12.95, 2007

Reviewed by William Phenn

David M. Jacobson, MSW, LCSW is a professional speaker, licensed psychotherapist and social worker. He is a self-proclaimed international expert in humor and health and is also President of Humor Horizons. Among his other affiliations is the National Speakers Association. David received the National Hero Overcoming Arthritis Award and the Arthritis Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award. He has been presented with the "Joy Mask" for his work with the Korean Broadcasting System, The President's Award from Flashnet Marketing and the Jim Elliot Award for his fund-raising, 50-mile unicycle ride. David also served on the Arizona's Governor's Office for Children's Justice Task Force.

Mr. Jacobson's book was a pleasant surprise compared to some of the other comical editions by others. His mixture of poetry and prose brought a refreshing tone to this little 120-page volume.

David explains the seven and a half habits in this way, beginning with "The Half Habit." "The half habit: This is a half habit because you don't need the whole habit in order for you to be effective." He goes on to say that it is the most difficult habit to maintain because it is the habit of changing your thoughts.

Habit number one he says is to treat humor as a necessity. As much as using the bathroom is a necessity, so is humor--placing an importance on treating your sense of humor as high up as a basic bodily function. Habit number two is termed "Use Self-effacing humor." What it is and how to use it, when making yourself the butt of a joke.
The third habit is very self-explanatory. "Keep your eyes open for humorous situations or create them with your imagination." Habit number four begins with a cute poem and is titled, "Use the Power of Humor and its positive influence on your own self and that of others." Habit five goes into detail on how to use your humorous imagination to improve your communication. This chapter deals with the ability to communicate with others. In habit number six, David throws in his own words that are not in Webster's. "Humorize with Humorgy," he professes that your whole life will change. The grand finale comes in habit seven when David says, "Act like the highly humorous person you've become or are becoming."

I enjoyed "The 7 1/2 Habits of Highly Humorous People," and think it would make a nice addition to a library. It's a well-worded, funny little book that would make great reading on an airplane. I gave it a B and that was only because
I did not find all the cartoons as funny as the verbiage.

New York Brides: Heart Appearances
Pamela Griffin
Barbour Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 719, Ulrichsville, OH 44683
9781597899840, $6.97, 2007

Reviewed by Lori Plach

What do Eliza Doolittle and two children who survived the sinking of the Titanic have in common? These are just two similar stories to the ones inside "New York Brides." In "Heart Appearances," our young heroine is not named Eliza but, instead, Darcy Evans. She talks much like Eliza and is placed under the care of the harsh schoolmaster Brent Thomas who does not see himself as much of a Henry Higgins' type man. Will Darcy be able to break through his tough outer shell and discover that inside Brent has a heart of gold and is eager for true love to impact it?

"A Gentle Fragrance" is a gentle story of a young man named Bill Thomas who has to let go of his past and focus on his present and his future. Set in 1921, he is enlisted to escort a missionary's daughter from the South Pacific to New York. What happens along the way is truly God's plan as Sarah La Rue and he travel alongside each other to another location and another time in their life. When God is at the control, no one can stand in the way, not even those who think they have complete control over every aspect of their lives.

Peter Caldwell and Melissa Reynolds are survivors. They had survived the sinking of the Titanic. They may have been on a sinking ship and the waters continue to get very rocky, but just as clouds have silver linings, the waves will subside and something truly beautiful will result. They need to take "A Bridge Across the Sea" and discover what lies before them and if they will share more than just their past together.

This is an excellent book for anyone who likes historical romances. There are plenty of historical facts presented in three beautifully-crafted storylines. "New York Brides" of days gone by are here for today's readers to enjoy and embrace!

One More Sunrise
Michael Landon Jr. and Tracie Peterson
Bethany House
11400 Hampshire Ave South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
9780764203626, $13.99, 2008

Reviewed by Tyler R. Tichelaar

Joe Daley is a crop duster. He is also a man allowing his past to destroy his present life as a husband and father. In Kansas in the late 1950s, Joe is still unable to forgive himself for not being able to fight in World War II to revenge his brother's death and make his family proud of him. His self-hatred has resulted in marital problems, heavy drinking, and fear an old friend will take his wife from him.

Then one day Joe has an accident with his airplane. Out of nowhere a giant bird, or what appears to be a bird, hits his plane. As he struggles to regain control of his plane, he begs God to spare his life so he can change and become a better man. His transformation does not happen overnight, but with the advent of a new situation facing his community, and a mysterious stranger who shows up in town, Joe begins his journey to become the man he needs to be for his family. He finds out others in his family have their own secrets and guilt, and he learns that miracles are still possible.

The book's biography of the author, Michael Landon Jr., states that he wishes to bring the same quality family entertainment to his writing as his father did to his television programs. He has succeeded in creating a story closer to the plots of "Highway to Heaven" episodes than "Bonanza" or "Little House on the Prairie." While "One More Sunrise" has room for improvement, Landon has done well with his first novel. (I imagine he was largely assisted by his co-author, Tracie Peterson, who has written or contributed to seventy novels).

I found the first hundred pages of "One More Sunrise" rather slow, but I grew more interested in the story when the mysterious stranger came to town. While the stranger had some important messages to give Joe, the stranger's presence was rather anti-climactic and his role not very large in the book. Joe was largely left to figure out things on his own, but perhaps the book was more realistic for that. I thought the novel's conclusion, where the villain overreacts, was out of touch with the rest of the novel, turning it into almost a suspense thriller. The book also tended to be overly descriptive, probably a quarter longer than it needed to be.

Nevertheless, people who enjoy good family entertainment will enjoy "One More Sunrise." I will anticipate another story from this writing duo.

The Essential Engstrom: Proven Principles of Leadership
Ted W. Engstrom
Authentic Books
1820 Jet Stream Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781934068069, $16.99, 2007

Reviewed by Lori Plach

Some people are leaders, while others are better off being followers. From the time we are children we are already looking for others to be leaders. Who doesn't like to be at the start of the line in the popular game "Follow the Leader?" Are leadership traits just inherited? Are some people just born leaders? Or, can true leadership traits be learned? If you are a leader who is looking for principles of leadership and possible ways you can become a better leader you need to check out "The Essential Engstrom."

Ted W. Engstrom uses his experiences as president, CEO and board member of some of the most successful and largest Christian organizations. Where did he get his knowledge about being a terrific leader? He starts with the book with the best ever leader, Jesus Christ. He uses Holy Scripture references to bring out how leadership principles can be utilized. The Bible has a wealth of leaders in both the Old and New Testaments. There are certain characteristics that most all proven and successful leaders have. Do you have what it takes?

"The Essential Engstrom" is a terrific resource for ministry leaders, leaders in the workplace who want to use successful Biblical principles to enhance their positions and teachers who want to instill strong leadership traits within their students. There are plenty of practical strategies within the pages of this book. Anyone can put these principles to use and not be toted as "preachy." "The Essential Engstom" is an essential resource for any leader in the church, workplace or anyone who wants to eventually be placed in a place of leadership.

If you want to "Follow the Leader" you will definitely want to read "The Essential Engstrom: Proven Principles of Leadership" and put Ted Engstrom's principles to use in growing your business relationships and ultimately your faith in your God-given abilities.

The Boy in the Window: A Journey Through an Unexpected Tragedy
Barbara Coppo
Morgan-James Publishing, LLC
1225 Franklin Ave., Suite 325, Garden City, NY 11530-1693
9781600372650, $19.95, 2007

Reviewed by Carol Hoyer

One of the things we mothers have is an incredible sense of things going wrong with our children. Barbara Coppo was no different. She and her husband Ken already had a beautiful healthy girl, when she found out she was pregnant again. She wasn't sure how she felt about being pregnant again now that she had a great career and her daughter was a teenager, but as time went on she was very excited and hoped that this pregnancy would bring her husband and her closer together. On February 1, 1978 she delivered a healthy boy whom they named Kenny. Kenny was the center of attention for his first year of life--adored by everyone. When it came time for Kenny to have his eighteen-month shots, Barbara got a "feeling," and wasn't sure what was causing the apprehension. After several lengthy discussions with her pediatrician, her husband and family members, she finally decided to get him his boosters.

On September 6th, 1979, Kenny got his last series of the d.p.t. booster - his life would change forever. After a few days, Kenny wasn't able to talk, walk or respond in his normal happy way. Even the doctor's were stumped as to what had happened-- they continued to explain that vaccines for children were very safe. And again the next day Kenny began to have convulsions -- still no reason why.

This was Kenny's life to this day-- seizures, mobility problems, no friends and he has characteristics of autism. Doctor's even had the gall to tell his mother that he was retarded. With numerous evaluations, behavioral schools, special classes and countless hours of care and research by his mother, it was realized Kenny would never be a normal child again.

Even through the years, pediatricians kept telling Kenny's parents that vaccines were safe. Yet one doctor finally told Barbara that through research it was indicated, after the d.p.t. vaccines, that some children became autistic, mentally-challenged and some even died. This is a parent's worse nightmare - all of us today think about the effect of vaccines on our children. Yet never once did Kenny's parents, friends, therapists give up on him. They continued to push him to the point that he was finally able to talk through the use of facilitative communication. No one even imagined he had all those thoughts and intelligence in him. He was very aware of his challenges and knew he was different. He was also very mathematically inclined.

To this day, Kenny is a loner, but has many friends and supporters. He loves to watch people through his upstairs window. He has a set routine that no one can upset or his violent behavior will come out. But he has made great strides even though he came across many obstacles with very little support from the school systems.

How does a mother do this? You do what you have to do to save your child, never take no for an answer. Many parents of children with special needs have been through this high and low road.

Having worked with family members who have children or adult children with special challenges for over 25 years, Barbara Coppo's story is the same for many of them. The frustration, anger and trying to figure out what they did to cause this. My personal and professional opinion is that everyone involved with children; teachers, coaches, school boards and therapists should read "The Boy in the Window" to get a first-hand knowledge of what families go through.

The Winds of Wharhalen
Tom Nelson
Crystal Dreams Publishing
c/o Multi-Media Publications Inc.
Box 58043, Rosslynn RPO, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada L1J 8L6
1-866-721-1540 (toll-free),
9781591460909, $ 12.95, 2008

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake (03/08)

Locke Thomason experienced a series of personal tragedies and unexpected misfortunes. As a result of these, Locke left his mountain homeland bound for Killarassee in the south of the kingdom. While there he met a young peasant girl, a slave of a ruthless nobleman. In an effort to buy her freedom, Locke himself was arrested and later sold into slavery.

"Winds of Wharhlen" is a chronicle of Locke's story woven into a backdrop of medieval warfare, in an exciting adventure, of romance, betrayal, and reprisal.

Nelson has created a plot that includes all the elements of good story telling. Suspense, drama, adventure, and romance draw the reader into a fast-moving plot that includes the gambit of extremes from the gory details of medieval battle scenes to tender romantic interludes of two shy teenagers.

Characters range from evil warlords, courageous Knights, unfortunate peasants, and slaves, to regal rulers seeking the best for their countrymen.

Kaine, Myleia, Queen Engrid, Jocar, Eylese, and Kira are only a few of the cast of characters who rallied together to fight the warlords vying for power. Tom's heroes are authentic, resourceful and courageous. His characters create emotions of empathy, distrust, admiration, and animosity. The storyline is believable and fast-moving.

Tom's own passion for horses and his knowledge of training and riding comes through in his writing as he describes Locke's specialty, training and bonding with his horses like his own Arawae.

I personally enjoyed Tom's word pictures which create visual depictions of castles, battle fields, and the canopy of the forest. I felt the cold air in the mountains, the warm sun, and hot days working in the quarries, as well as the emotions felt by the characters as they experienced personal hardship, the urgency of battle, and fear of atrocities, the sense hopelessness, and the prospect of triumph.

Readers of fantasy, medieval history, and romantic escapism will all find a wealth of background information, adventure, fast moving entertainment and pleasure in "Winds of Wharhalen."

Hobo Finds a Home
Hobo, Illustrated by Susan Ferretti Gage, Inc.
PO Box 2399, Bangor, ME 04402-2399
9781601452641, $11.95, 2007

Reviewed by Cayden (age 3-1/2), Max (age 19 months) Aures and Mom

"Hobo Finds a Home" is the story of a cat named Hobo who is not happy with his current living situation on a farm. He decides to leave the farm in search of a better life and as the title implies he finds a new home.

The author of the book is listed as "Hobo" and when I told my children that Hobo the cat wrote the story, Cayden looked at me in disbelief and told me that cats can't write books. I showed him the picture of Hobo on the back cover and told him that this book was Hobo's story.

The book is written and illustrated in a very child-like way which completely drew my children into the story.

Max: Pointing at the illustrations: "Color, crayon!"
Cayden: "They forgot to color in the silo!"
Mom: "Sometimes silos can be white."

In the beginning of the book after Hobo left the farm Cayden was very concerned about him being cold and hungry.

Cayden: "He has to go back to the farm! There is nothing to eat and he is getting cold! He has to go back! He can't use a rock as a pillow! That would be hard."

After being on his own for awhile Hobo found a man to follow home. The man fed him some tuna outside but a cat named Gonzo chased Hobo away.

Cayden: "The fat cat is eating his food and Hobo was eating it first! He will get hungry!"

But then after the man brought Hobo into his house Cayden was concerned about Gonzo's well being.

Cayden: "Did that one find a new home too? Are there other cats like Hobo outside that need homes?"

Parent's comments: The format of "Hobo Finds a Home" was refreshingly unique. The crayon-colored illustrations and handwritten words definitely appealed to my children. The storyline is wonderful and very easy for a young child to follow and enjoy. We hope that Hobo the cat writes more books in the future!

Proceedings of the 6th Rocky Mountain Region Disaster Mental Health Conference
Edited by George W. Doherty, MS, LPC
Rocky Mountain DMH Institute Press
c/o Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690569, $24.95, 2008

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

The 6th Annual Rocky Mountain Disaster Mental Health Conference was held in Cheyenne, Wyoming from November 8-10, 2007. The main theme was: "From Crisis to Recovery: Resilience and Strategic Planning for the Future." Presenters from the conference put their materials into articles which are in this book. This is an excellent resource for people who attended the conference because they can use this as a reference for the information presented.

The purpose of this conference is to present information, "to promote the development and application of practice, research and training in disaster mental health, critical incident stress management, traumatology, and other emergency response interventions and to promote community awareness, resilience and recovery." This information is needed by people who deal with critical incident stress management, behavioral health professionals, first responders and others who might be dealing with crisis situations.

I did not attend this conference; however, I found the information presented to be fascinating. Several important topics were discussed, in areas of critical importance to what is happening in our world today. It is imperative that people who are involved in crisis situations read this material. It is all well written and presented in a way that is easily understood and very interesting.

Some of the topics covered traumatic stress in the workplace with issues like police suicide. Others involved emergency preparedness. It is so important that people who deal with emergency and disaster situations are appropriately trained and have resources to handle the stressors of dealing with these situations. Many times, their lives have been impacted in a way in which they are unable to handle the aftermath of having dealt with horrific situations, such as having to deal with an airplane crashing. There are also discussions about the importance of having disaster readiness plans in places such as tourist vacation spots where natural disasters or terroristic acts can occur. In addition to needing to be trained in advance about how to handle these events, people also need to have an understanding of the traditions of the cultures that they might be helping.

"Proceedings of the 6th Rocky Mountain Region Disaster Mental Health Conference" is a must have for first responders and mental health professionals. Addressing the needs of people who work in these fields is critical. The better trained they are to be emotionally equipped for disasters, the better they can help others. I think that the 120 pages of information covered in this book will be some of the most important information needed by people in this field today.

Baseball Treasures
Stephen Wong
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061144646, $16.99, 2007

Reviewed by Eric Zeda (age 9)

This book is about baseball memorabilia. It shows stuff that people who love baseball collect. Collectors collect baseball cards, trophies, gloves, shirts, and many other things. The book includes baseball treasures that many people have not seen before. It is interesting to read, because it also has photographs that show you what the author is talking about. The author writes about the history behind the items and gives tips on how readers can become collectors. For example, one of the rarest cards is the Honus Wagner card; it was issued by the Tobacco Company between 1909 and 1911.

My favorite section is the trophy collections. I liked looking at the World Series rings won by the New York Yankees. "Baseball Treasures" is great for kids who love baseball, or for anyone interested in collecting baseball memorabilia.

Heir of the Forgotten Realm
Michael J. Svigel
Baker Trittin Press
P.O. Box 277, Winona Lake, IN 46590
9780978731632, $10.95, 2006

Reviewed by Maya Landers (age 10)

"Heir of the Forgotten Realm," by Michael J. Svigel, was a tame, somewhat dull book that failed to engage me or make me even mildly concerned for the character's sake. A dragon, Haarlok by name, comes and burns the kingdom of Trallia; her motivations are unclear. The main character, Lukas, has an irrational fear of fire and cowers back while this is happening. His bride-to-be, Princess Lilia, is carried away by the dragon, forcing Lukas to come and rescue her. The first thing he must do is get the legendary armor that will protect him from the dragon's flame, thus enabling him to rescue Lilia from the dragon's fiery keep.

This story did not hold my attention because, first of all, everything seemed too easy; Lukas survived -- and conquered -- challenges other knights who had more experience and knowledge had been unable to pass through, and Lukas did it all too quickly. Also, Lukas is driven by the need to rescue Princess Lilia, but the reader never really sees if and/or why Lukas loves her; the reader does not know if Lukas really loves her or just wants to rule. Lilia sits in the dragon's lair, waiting to be rescued, but why does she not try to escape? She could at least attempt something; but no, she waits for Lukas to come and release her from her fiery prison.

Second of all, things happen very quickly -- too quickly -- and the only challenges are major ones that Lukas passes very easily; there are no minor challenges, there are no nuisances that Lukas has to deal with. He just goes from here to there, never stopping, never falling behind.

Third, Lukas only thinks about what is going on right then in the story, and he never stops to consider what might be happening to Lilia, or if he will ever get to his home again. He is confident that he will win, that he will survive, and, as he has had no trouble in achieving everything he has attempted, his confidence is only boosted more. He never mourns if someone dies and forgets about their death in a matter of moments. For instance, when his friend dies, he acknowledges the fact; then he quickly forgets about it in favor of the "excitement of his quest."

I would not recommend "Heir of the Forgotten Realm" to my friends because the 'heroes' did not have very demanding challenges. He easily passed through one thing to the other, making the reader unworried for Lukas's safety, even bored. I do not think that Svigel did a very good job illustrating difficult challenges, and even if at first Lukas had a bit of trouble, he quickly recovers from it, swiftly moving on to more tests of his courage and bravery -- but are they really tests? He passes them all so easily, it is uninteresting to the reader.

Conor Kostick
Viking Juvenile
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780670062805, $18.99, May 2008

Reviewed by Dylan James (age 11)

Ghost is named that for a reason: she has no memory of her past. Her only family is a gang that loves tense, death-defying action. She longs to regain her memory, but before long she is mixed up in more than thought possible. There is some crazy girl (or boy?) called Cindella Dragonslayer that tells them that they are living in a game! Then the gang and she meet a creepy assassin called Michelotto that wants Ghost's help to defeat the dark queen. Ghost doesn't know what to do. One option is to keep her gang personality and help the humans get out of her world. The other option is to learn her name and past, but she may not have time for the humans.

What Will Ghost DO?

My reader point of view would rate this book as fantastic: recommendable to friends, cool thoughts, and just a plain good book. My reviewer side though noticed things like: repulsive violence, major use of drugs ("jeebies," rush…), and alcohol. All the main characters are gang members, hence multiple break-ins and defying the law. Just because the dark queen is evil does not make it okay to use drugs, alcohol, any violence they feel like using, plus a whole lot more. The way the (15 and 16-year-old) characters make it seem like everything they do is fine might worry parents. Again my reader side LOVED this book: the action from gangs, the wild stunts, and the freaky parties. But because the violence was just so awful in a few parts, even my reader side was a little shaken. It helped a little (it IS in a game…) that when the big rebellion happened every one knew how awful it was to kill something and were all dead set against it. I recommend the book be for kids ages 14 and up, not 12+. The main thing I loved about this book was that you didn't have to read the first one to love this one. It all makes since even if you haven't read the first one, but it will be an over all better experience if you read the first one before this one. The writing in "Saga" was the best I have ever seen as far as everything flowing together.

Snowed In
Rachel Hawthorne
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
(212) 207-7000,
9780061138362, $5.99, 2007

Reviewed by Emily Robbins

"Snowed In," by Rachel Hawthorne, is a cute story about Ashleigh and her mom. They just moved to a very tiny island in the Great Lakes, thinking it would get them away from all the exhausting drama. They expected it to be fun, but did they really know just how cold this little island could get? Ashleigh has to adjust to this extraordinarily different new life, battle out the freezing weather, make some new friends, and possibly a new boyfriend, in this funny modern romance.

Ashleigh is my favorite character in "Snowed In." She was unpredictable, and always made me laugh. Ashleigh was always doing something funny, and I could never figure her out! She was by far my favorite character.

Nathalie, Ashleigh's new best friend on the chilly island, came off as rude and very pushy to me. She was a great character for this book, and she made the story more interesting, but I didn't like her in the least bit. Nathalie was absolutely, no question, my very least favorite character in the whole entire book.

My favorite part in this book would have to be in very beginning, when she Ashleigh has just woken up, still half asleep, and she stumbles across 'the lumberjack,' Jake. She was so not a morning person, so she was a little grumpy, and she just starts chewing out Jake. I was laughing for the rest of the chapter.

"Snowed In" by Rachel Hawthorne, though a little predictable in some parts, was an all-around incredible book. I just could not put it down! There was never once a boring moment in it, and I loved every little inch. The author did a fantastic job, and I thought the she wrote the book very well. I would absolutely, without hesitation, recommend "Snowed In," by Rachel Hawthorne, to everyone.

Marketing Your Small Business for Big Profits
David Mason
Morgan James Publishing
1225 Franklin Avenue, Ste 325, Garden City, NY 11530
9781600370779, $12.95, 2007

Reviewed by Irene Watson

The synopsis on the back of the book starts with "If you are ready for success…then this book will inspire you to take your business and your life to the next level!" Just reading this quote would inspire any person in a small business to quickly dig through all the information David Mason provides to be more successful. Being a small business owner myself, I'm always looking for ways to improve it. "Marketing Your Small Business for Big Profits" certainly didn't disappoint me and I've already implemented some of his suggestions. My report: it works!

One of the most important things Mason stresses is to think of the customer, specifically to answer their question of "What's in it for me?" He advocates that at the start of a "business relationship the prospect doesn't care about you. All he or she wants to know about is the benefit, advantage, service, or personal enhancement you offer that no one else does." Furthermore, this should be spelled out in the USP (Unique Selling Proposition). Often this USP is referred to as a tag line - the few words that tell the prospect exactly what you offer.

Throughout the book Mason has blocks called "Performance Development Insight" which basically are the aha's. For example: A prospect who wants to be a customer will remain a prospect if the information on how to order your product and start benefiting from it is unclear. One that I had to smile at is "The litmus test for any direct mail piece is to ask yourself 'If this were to arrive in my mailbox today, would I open it?' How many of us sit by the garbage can as we sort out our mail and immediately throw out the direct mailings? I'm sure I'm not the only one.

"Marketing Your Small Business for Big Profits" is a short book, a little over a 100 pages. However, it's extremely powerful and to the point. Mason doesn't mince words; he just tells it like it is. His vast experience and knowledge comes through his writing and the reviews and endorsements from high-powered successful people are plenty. But, there is more. Mason not only shares facts in this book, he gives away a half-hour of his time to any buyer of his book. His telephone session of consultative coaching is worth $250.00, and you can get it for only $12.95 plus desire to succeed. Now, isn't that enough to entice you to find out what David Mason has to say about your success in your business?

Dead Bang: An Art Hardin Mystery
Robert E. Bailey
M. Evans & Company, Inc.
c/o The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Avenue Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
(800) 462-6420,
9781590771099, $21.95, 2007

Reviewed by D. H. Brown

When a copy of Robert Bailey's new Art Hardin book "Dead Bang" came into my hands, I knew I was in for a thrill-ride. Not many authors since the great Chandler and John D. MacDonald of Travis McGee fame have the ability to write a book I know beforehand will not disappoint.

In the third book in his Art Hardin series, Robert Bailey does not disappoint. "Dead Bang" is filled with the usual thrills and spills that Art and his family get into, seemingly on a routine basis. From a street shooting, to terrorist charging around shooting up the lower-half of Michigan, this tale keeps the reader racing along with howls of laughter and seat of your pants excitement.

Art Hardin is no faint-of-heart PI. When lead comes flying his way, he answers full throttle with fire downrange. Dead-eyed and with the full intention of stopping said lead, he says an emphatic YES to keeping his "Right to Keep and Bear Arms." You shoot at Art and you die.

I hope this author has a long and storied life of writing ahead of him as I want those years to help satisfy my need for speed and good reads!

Second Chance: A Novel
Joy Collins
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595456024, $16.95, 2007

Reviewed by Tammy Petty Conrad

Unfortunately, this is a familiar tale about a woman in a second marriage with a man whose ex-wife is a real pain. I immediately felt sorry for Sara, the protagonist, because of the insults she has to endure and the interruptions she suffers in her otherwise satisfying life in Arizona. As Sara says, her husband "…didn't just have the baggage from a previous marriage," but "…steamer trunk loads full of crap leftover from his life with Mona."

Sara has a college-age step-daughter who just happens to pick a college in their town and move in with her and Paul. But as you might imagine, Mona, the meddling mother, comes along and Sara's frustration and imagination run wild with every snide comment and intercepted email and phone message.

I liked the plot line and found myself often reading past my bedtime to disentangle the twists and turns of Sara's life, but at the same time, I found her continuous complaining annoying. I really tried to be sympathetic, imagining what it would be like to be involved with someone with an ex-spouse. I imagine it can't be easy, and maybe I'm sensitive because I'm now an ex-spouse myself, but I didn't enjoy reading about the constant struggle between Sara and her husband. One minute she's imagining the worst, and the next, she's "…mentally unpacking all the furniture and (moving) back in."

But it's not only a story about two spouses dealing with conflict, but it is also about Sara's childhood and her own parents. At an early age her parents divorced and her dad subsequently disappeared from her life. Now while Sara is going through difficulties in her marriage, she is also confronted with her past and nothing is as it seems. This does help to move the story along and kept me awake longer than I had planned on more than a few nights.

I could relate to Sara's list making. From time to time, I too have made lists of the things I need to do. Although I often forgot to refer back to my lists, Sara relishes the action of crossing off each completed item. When she isn't writing lists, she imagines mental ones with all the possible solutions to her problems. It doesn't matter how implausible, if she can imagine it, it might happen!

In "Second Chance," Sara's friends try to help, but in the end only she can make things right for herself and her marriage. I won't tell you whether she resolves things to her satisfaction, but if you don't tire of her whining about Mona before the end of the book then you will probably appreciate the ending. And I hope I'm never like either Sara or Mona driving both my ex and future spouse crazy!

Now For My Next Number!: Songs for Multiplying Fun (with CD)
Margaret Park; Pictures by Sophia Esterman
Great River Books
161 M Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84103
(801) 532-4833,
9780915556380, $16.95, 2007

Reviewed by Matthew Feliciano (age 7)

This book, "Now For My Next Number!" is a lot of fun. It teaches you how to multiply by using skip counting. It starts with twos and goes up to twelves. Each song tells a story to help the numbers make sense. The twos talk about shoes, the threes are witches, and there are animals in some of the other songs.

The CD for this book was amazing! I liked how it sang the song because that made it easier to read the book. The songs also fit the pictures really well. Take track 8 for example: the story was in a dark haunted night and when I listened to the music for it, it fit because there were bells ringing in an old church and bats in the picture and it all fit really good.

I think this book is a great way to help kids my age and higher start to learn how to multiply. The songs are easy to sing and stick in your head and it works best with you listen to the CD at the same time as reading the book. Once you learn the songs, you can sing them to yourself to help you keep learning your times tables. I really liked "Now For My Next Number."

Say Goodbye: A Reluctant Sleuth Mystery
E.J. Rand
Deadly Ink Press
PO Box 6235, Parsippany, NJ 07054
9780978744212, $12.95, 2008

Reviewed by Danielle Feliciano

"Say Goodbye" is a promising debut by writer E.J. Rand. It tells the story of Gary, who is reluctantly drawn into solving the mystery of the murder of his neighbor. The neighbor was killed in a car accident, but comments he made to Gary that very morning, as well as the widow's convictions that something else happened, triggers Gary into promising to look into things. The deeper he looks, the deeper he finds himself in danger. Those around him who had any connection to the murdered man are finding themselves to be new targets.

The sole witness to the accident is Becca, who interjects herself right into the middle of things. She originally comes to share her condolences and tell what happened at the scene of the crime, but soon is right along with Gary, trying to find out what truly happened and trying to do it in time to save her own life.

The writing was a bit stilted at times, as though the author wasn't able to really let go and just write. The mystery aspect of this book was good, and it did keep the reader in suspense. The characters, however, need work. It is impossible to believe that Gary and Becca, both coming along with so much baggage, would fall in love pretty much immediately, and that Gary would propose out of nowhere. There never felt like a true connection between these characters at all and their conversations felt forced and awkward most of the time. Also, the scene where Becca told her daughter of something that happened in the past was so far out there that I almost put the book down. Nobody is going to make such a revelation after all that time in front of a near stranger in a restaurant.

Despite it character weaknesses, "Say Goodbye" was an easy read and it did its job of drawing the reader in to find out what happened.

The Durples Get Lost in Elkton Forest
Kathy Jardine and Ashley Jardine
1663 Liberty Dr. Ste. 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434313171, $18.55, 2007

Reviewed by Matthew Feliciano (age 7)

"The Durples Get Lost in Elkton Forest" is about three Durples named Cindyloo, Mollyboo and Woodroo. They are brother and sisters and are very original. They don't look like anyone else but themselves. One day they were walking, talking and kicking the soccer ball and they were so deep into their conversation they forgot to make a turn at the big oak tree. By the time they realized they didn't make the turn, they were lost and all held hands. They were now trying to find their way back to Turpleville where they lived.

On their adventure to find their home, they made some new friends. First was Odalee-McBuddy. Odalee had an original instrument he made called a mookaluke. The mookaluke was made of a boot, some sort of stick and some noisy things hanging from it. During their trip, everyone sang songs and made music with the mookaluke. Other friends they made were a dog Willy Wagstail, Billy Bullion (who was a bully but learned how not to be one) and Princess Lilly. All of the new friends had one thing in common: they were different and had been picked on for what made them unique.

Close to home they were picked on by some flying creatures called Dweeblets. The Dweeblets all looked the same and sounded the same. They picked on the friends for being different.

The story in "The Durples Get Lost in Elkton Forest" teaches you one important lesson: no matter how you look, you are all the same inside. It is not fair to be picked on when you, too, look weird. And you should not pick on anybody else because of their differences.

The Elusive Lean Enterprise (2nd Edition)
Keith Gilpatrick and Brian Furlong
Multi-Media Publications, Inc.
Box 58043, Rosslynn RPO, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada L1J8L6
9781897326640, $29.95, 2007

Reviewed by Cherie Fisher

This book is not just another book on why Lean Enterprise works; it is more of a how-to manual. It became clear very quickly that the authors have expertise in Lean through working with many, many companies. The book is heavily focused on manufacturing in the beginning but moves to non-manufacturing and healthcare later in the book.

What is Lean Enterprise? The authors answer this question in Chapter 1, "Lean is a process improvement strategy comprised of Elements, Rules and Tools. Lean focuses primarily on the elimination of waste from all business processes. A smaller, yet no less important portion of Lean, involves specific concepts that are intended to provide excellent quality products, delivered on time, at the lowest total cost, and only on the specific demand of the customer." Or, I like the way that the co-author Keith Gilpatrick describes Lean on page 43 "Some say the glass is half full; others say the glass is half empty. Lean thinkers challenge the size of the glass."

I found this book to be an easy-to-read, no-nonsense approach to Lean. The authors have found that many companies that claim to be Lean are not and attribute this to the management. They start the book comparing the difference between Leaders and Managers. Guess which one works best in Lean? They explain why all people in the company need to be involved in Lean to make it successful and not just the management level.

I especially liked the description of successful Standard Work (page 80) that the authors used. "Albert Einstein quotes 'To repeat the same thing over and over and expect that the results will change is insanity.' We use this quote early in our introduction to Lean to make the point that management cannot expert different results if they do not change the way they do business. The quote also applies in reverse: if you create a process that is repeatable, the results will not change."

Other chapters include how to institutionalize Lean, Lean math and the 7 habits of Lean people, just to name a few. As a business owner, I found "The Elusive Lean Enterprise" to be full of translatable information that would work in almost any business. I highly recommend it for leaders who are considering Lean in their company or companies that have not successfully implemented Lean in their enterprise.

The Angel Hunter
J.A. Leary
Your Book2Print, 4012 S. Rainbow Blvd. Suite K, Las Vegas, NV 89103
9781595072160, $28.99, 2007

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

Victoria Hunter has not had a good year. First, her beloved husband dies in a tragic skydiving accident. Shortly afterwards, miraculously, she finds out that she is pregnant with twins. When they are three-months old, she discovers that she has intruders in her home. They are there to kidnap her babies. She fights for them, but there is a strong evil presence involved and she loses them. The evil makes her forget them. When Victoria's mother discovers they are gone, she calls the police. Victoria realizes that there is something wrong, and she struggles to remember. She gets placed in a mental institution. At first they think she has postpartum psychosis, but when chilling events occur, her psychiatrist knows there is something happening on a deeper level.

Victoria is desperate to find her babies. She feels called to Notre Dame in Indiana. There is a grotto there on the campus that is supposed to contain the souls of the damned. The grotto has been breached; a priest there heard their cries and knows that Victoria's babies have passed through. Victoria's creation, and those of her twins, was not the typical one. She has to enter into the grotto to find her children. Entering into this hell-like place, she discovers her inner strength and has to fight the evil trying to suck her in and destroy her.

"The Angel Hunter" is an incredible story. On a scale of 1 to 5, it is a ten. J. A. Leary has done a remarkable job with writing this supernatural thriller. He uses science, psychology, history and a touch of the divine to pull the reader into his world. Many times I found myself with chills and goose bumps as I read. As a supernatural thriller, this is a phenomenal book, yet underneath it all is an even greater message to be conveyed to the reader. The message teaches us about the divine that is in us all, and the pain that comes when we distance ourselves from it. I absolutely loved this aspect of "Angel Hunter," because it made me reach beyond the story to look within myself and where I am at.

In the appendix of "The Angel Hunter," Leary lists books that the reader can use as resources to help with their own awakening. He states that Victoria's story is a journey, "of enlightenment coming through extreme suffering…her pain is something that we can all identify with on some level." I cannot wait to read further books by this author.

The Travel Adventures of Lilly P. Badilly: Costa Rica (with CD)
Debbie Glade
Smart Poodle Publishing
PO Box 817468, Hollywood, FL 33081
9780980030792, $22.95, 2008

Reviewed by Matthew Feliciano (age 7)

"The Travel Adventures of Lilly P. Badilly: Costa Rica" is a book about a millipede named Lilly. Lilly is about to go on a trip to Costa Rica because her grandparents are sick of living in an airport. Once day, they decided to get on a plane. The grandpa didn't want to go but they went anyway. Lilly loved to read and learn and was excited about this new adventure.

Lilly used a guidebook to help her learn about Costa Rica. She was looking forward to going and seeing all of the many animals there. She wanted to eat new food and see all there was to see. Even when things got tough, they all stayed together and happy as a family.

They came back from their trip and lived back at home in the airport. They liked Costa Rica but were happy to be home.

I liked "The Travel Adventures of Lilly P. Badilly: Costa Rica" a lot. It was educational and showed me new things about a new country. I didn't like the CD that came with it because it read the story to me. I liked the background music but since I can read, I didn't need the CD to read the book for you. For younger kids who can't read the CD might help but for me, I didn't like it. Other than that, this book was really good.

Sean P. Griffin
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
9781604745535, $24.95, 2008

Reviewed by Ian McCurley (age 14)

Thane is a normal teenage boy -- normal, in the world of Aegea. Aegea is a medieval world where everyone has both a human form and an animal form. Where the members of the Five Realms are constantly warring, the Realms of Carnivore, Vegan, Aquan, Avian and the lesser-known Reptile must survive by instinct coupled with sheer animosity.

Thane, the son of the Vegan King Arvyn who had led his people from carnivore land into the safe haven of Arvyndale, has been having strange headaches, some so violent that they cause him to pass out. When he and some other members of the village are almost killed in an assassination attempt, he discovers that his animal form has changed from a horse to a mythical creature, giving him magic powers. An evil man named Fatalis, with his carnivore army, is heading towards Arvyndale. Now Thane must use his powers to defend the village from odds of 1000 to one.

Sean P. Griffin excels in his book "Animalkind." This novel is a truly great work of fiction and balances suspense and plot with character development seamlessly. "Animalkind" is for young readers from ages 12 and up, who enjoy animals, eating animals or watching animals eat other animals.

I am a Jew
Mel Waldman
World Audience Publishers
303 Park Avenue South, #1440, New York, NY 10010-3657
9781934209516, $17.99, 2008

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

In "I am a Jew," Dr. Mel Waldman shares a collection of essays, memoirs, short stories, poems and plays that he has written. The underlying theme involves his exploration of his belief in God and his Jewish roots. Raised as an Orthodox Jew, his studies into other beliefs and faiths takes him on a journey where he has to decide what he really believes. His mother provided him with a kind and loving home. His father was emotionally abusive to him. He appeared to be jealous of his son's relationship with his wife. To escape from the abuse, Dr. Waldman retreated into his studies.

By sharing his writings, we get a glimpse into his world. His musings about God and his Jewish faith teach us about Judaism, the traditions and the conflicts that are causing divisions among the followers. Some of his writings, especially the Jewish Haiku teach us about the horrors caused by the Nazis. He also questions the presence of God and evil that is in this world.

People of the Jewish faith will appreciate Dr. Waldman's exploration into his Jewish roots. As a non-Jew, his writings made me contemplate my own beliefs. I enjoyed learning about Jewish mysticism and the Kabbalah. I found the writings about the Nazis and the suffering that they brought about on innocent people to be very painful to read. I fully understand people's need to question the existence of God when such evil as this has been allowed in the world. I appreciate that the author shared his in-depth musings on this subject. By taking a risk and sharing his questions and doubts, he helped me to admit my own doubts to myself. I realized that these thoughts exist within me, yet they do not override what my true spiritual beliefs are. By airing them, I am able to move on from them.

"I am a Jew" is an excellent book to read. It is fine for the reader who is enjoying a solitary journey; however, I would recommend it to reader's groups. I think that it will stimulate some fascinating conversations. It would also be a great resource for people to use who are studying World War II and the horrific acts of the Nazis.

Where My Heart Belongs
Tracie Peterson
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Ave. South, Bloomington, MN 55438
9780764203619, $13.99, 2007

Reviewed by Tammy Petty Conrad

This story follows the tale from the Bible of the Prodigal Son. Only this time, it is a daughter in modern-day Kansas who comes home having lost her inheritance and hurting her family deeply. The author, Tracie Peterson, gets right to the heart of things on page one and keeps moving all the way to the end, undoubtedly changing a few hearts along the way.

Kathy is a Kansas farmer's daughter who has done her duty. She stayed home and cared for her parents when her younger sister Amy left the stifling confines of their small town and the high-school sweetheart she was afraid she'd end up marrying. Actually it was "Sunshine" who left, because even her birth name seemed to hold her back from the future she yearned to have.

The story moves easily between the present and the past with the use of flashbacks into the family's history. Kathy remembers exactly what it was like when Sunshine left and what she had to give up during the twelve years her sister remained absent. Although Kathy has just become engaged, she pushes her young man away once her mother becomes too ill to care for herself.

Of course Sunshine knows nothing of the tragedy that befalls her family after her departure. And her family knows nothing of the horrors she endures. They fear she is dead and Amy often wishes she was.

This is a tale of how Kathy comes to grips with the actual reality of Sunshine's existence and how she allows her to become part of the family again. But it is not a quick and easy adjustment for Kathy or her sister. Although raised in a Christian family, she finds it extremely hard to accept her sister back into the family and to forgive her. Finally she does realize something about grace: "But isn't that what grace is all about? Getting what we don't deserve?" She has this light-bulb moment with a particularly annoying woman which makes it all the more meaningful!

I appreciated that this wasn't just Kathy's story, but Sunshine's too. Although both were selfish at times, their motivations were revealed and I could imagine becoming friends with either of them and understanding where they came from and why they made the choices they did. The author has written over 70 books in a variety of genres. "Where My Heart Belongs" entertains, inspires and encourages readers to look at people and events from every angle before drawing conclusions.

Journey to the Spirit Kingdom
Rob Henning
Olympus Books
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741446383, $11.95, June 2008

Reviewed by Ben Weldon (age 10)

"Journey to the Spirit Kingdom" by Rob Henning is a magical adventure. There is a problem in the kingdom -- an English mining baron has started to mine for a very rare mineral. This mining will tear up the land and destroy animal habitat. Can the soft-spoken princess Savuti save the kingdom from the evil mining baron?

Princess Savuti is quiet, hates gossip, and does not have a cell phone. She has eleven older bully-ish brothers. She loves animals and wants to be a vet when she grows up. Until she is tricked by a bush baby and "borrowed" by the Animal Spirit Kingdom, she does not know that she has an ability to communicate with the animal spirits. When she is brought to the Spirit Council, the problem is revealed to her that the mining baron is destroying her kingdom. After Savuti learns a great secret about the baron at a royal banquet, will she and the animals be able to work together to find a bloodless way to get rid of the thieving baron?

This book is different than any book I have read before because it combines several elements that I wouldn't expect to find all in the same story. It is the story of a princess in Africa in a magical kingdom full of animal spirits, and it all takes place in modern times. Some readers may find this book easier to relate to because the setting includes things like soccer, television, computers and cars that readers nowadays would be more familiar with.

There are a few illustrations (six, to be exact) in this book which might make it more appealing to some readers. The pictures are computer-generated, and the characters are bobble-headed. Animal paw prints also scamper across the pages.

I would recommend this book to readers who like stories about animals and princesses. I think that girls would especially like this book, but some boys might like it, too. Whoever reads "Journey to the Spirit Kingdom" will find no offensive comments and nothing but a good book. I think that everyone who reads this book will enjoy it.

Carrie's Courage: Battling the Powers of Bigotry (1923) (Sisters in Time #19)
Norma Jean Lutz
Barbour Publishing, Inc.
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781593106560, $4.97, 2005

Reviewed by Anne Marie Medema (age 12)

"Carrie's Courage" by Norma Jean Lutz is another book written for the "Sisters in Time" collection. Lutz is a skilled author who writes historical novels to give knowledge to her readers of specific events or issues in history. She weaves in characters with numerous personality traits to make her point about what life would be like during that time period. Lutz successfully brings characters alive and relates them to young female readers. Lutz uses vivid descriptions to tell her story and makes the reader feel like they are actually where the story takes place.

"Carrie's Courage" is about a young girl named Carrie who likes to pretend when she plays. In this story Carrie meets Dvora, a Jewish girl. Carrie helps Dvora get over the fear of going to school because she is new in the neighborhood. Soon after Carrie meets Dvora she finds out that her great Aunt's adopted son is part of the Ku Klux Klan, a group of people who harass others because they are from different nations or religions. Carrie and Dvora quickly become good friends. Dvora is ridiculed because of her Jewish religion. Carrie has to decide if she will stay on Dvora's side and lose her friends or remain with her friends and reject Dvora. Carrie soon finds out that her friends do not care if she plays with Dvora. Carrie's decision is made for her. Later the Ku Klux Klan burn a wooden cross in Dvora's yard. Dvora and the uncle she lives with are obviously scared and upset. Carrie's parents assure them of their safety because the Ku Klux Klan is disliked in the community. Carrie discovers that her friendship with Dvora is so strong that nothing can break them apart. Dvora eventually moves to another neighborhood with Jewish roots. Even this distance between the girls cannot break their friendship.

I recommend "Carrie's Courage" by Norma Jean Lutz to girls who are age 9 to 12 who treasure lasting friendships. I like the way Lutz encourages girls my age to build relationships based on what is inside a person's heart. Race or religion should not matter to a relationship because you like the person for who they are. In my own life I related to this story because I have Jewish friends who I am a friend with because of our common interests and personalities. Friendship is not based on religious beliefs. Bring yourself into a wave of friendship with "Carries Courage" by Norma Jean Lutz.

Ears, Nose & Toes!: Discovering Me & My Friends! (Fisher-Price)
Alexis Barad
c/o Harper Collins Children's Books
1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
9780061447693, $4.99, 2008

Reviewed by Cayden (age 3-1/2) & Max (age 19 months) Aures & Mom

"Ears, Nose & Toes!: Discovering Me & My Friends!" is a smaller-sized board book that has pictures identifying the different body parts of rainforest animals and human babies. For instance, the first page says "Two eyes" and there is a picture of a frog with two big eyes. On the opposite page there is the same text but this time a picture of the baby's eyes.

Cayden sat for the book but determined that at age 3-1/2 he was "too old for the book and that it was for babies like Max." I definitely agree with him on that one. I think the book is most appropriate for newborns up until approximately the age of two. It would be a great tool to use to help teach and reinforce first words and body parts to a child.

Max enjoyed the pictures of the animals and the babies and as soon as I read the text he was able to point to the appropriate parts on the pictures. He enjoyed repeating the words as I was reading them to him and by the second time through he was "reading" the book to me.

A great feature of the book is that it has a stroller strap so that you can take it with you on the go. This is very handy so you can have entertainment when you are out and not have to worry about the child dropping or losing the book somewhere.

"Ears, Nose & Toes!: Discovering Me & My Friends!" is also part of Fisher-Price's "Animals of the Rainforest" line, so if you have any of the other rainforest toys or items your child may enjoy seeing those same familiar animals in the book as Max does.

Elise the Actress: Climax of the Civil War (1865) (Sisters in Time #13)
Norma Jean Lutz
Barbour Publishing, Inc.
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781593106577, $4.97, 2005

Reviewed by Anne Marie Medema (age 12)

"Elise the Actress" is a cunningly-written book by Norma Jean Lutz. Lutz winds in many Civil War historical events with her own storyline. The way she creates the characters is amazing because Lutz makes the reader feel like they are a part of the story. Her characterization is clever as she creates many breathless episodes relating to the Civil War in this book. Lutz chooses the traits and personalities of her characters in a way that is so detailed for that time in history that the reader imagines the characters actually made history. Writing with an easy flow of words gives Lutz her unique writing style. Norma Jean Lutz wrote a charming tale involving interesting characters during the Civil War. Tragic events of the Civil War are included in the storyline to give the book depth of emotion. But when Lutz writes of happy events "Elise the Actress" truly shines!

"Elise the Actress" by Norma Jean Lutz is about a young girl named Elise. Her family lives during the Civil War. Elise, Verly, her friend, and neighbors make up a random play. The group of children including Elise put on the show at the house during a New Year's Eve party. On New Year's Day Elise goes sledding with her brother where his ankle is injured. Later, Elise creates a new play for her neighborhood friends. Her admission fee is a riddle. Mr. Finney is a confederate father. He attends the play in secret because they are living in Ohio, a Union state. A nurse attends the play and enjoys it so much that she asks Elise if they could perform the play at the local hospital. Elise agrees. The day arrives when Elise and her friends perform the play at the hospital. It is a huge success. Mr. Finney breaks his leg. Elise helps Mr. Finney with his broken leg and does not care that his son is fighting for the Confederate Army. In school, classmates refuse to play with Elise because she helped Mr. Finney, a Confederate father. Elise wants to quit school. Elise's Uncle George returns from the Civil War after being shot. Soon after this she finds a deserters' camp. In sympathy, Elise leaves food for the deserters. Eventually one of the deserters discovers that Elise is the person leaving food. Alex Boyd is one of the deserters; he is sick. Alex is Verly's brother. Elise calls for the doctor and Mrs. Boyd, Verly's mother. Unfortunately, Alex dies. Mr. Finney builds a coffin for the dead body at no cost. Finally news is received that the war is over. Everyone celebrates and rejoices. Their celebrating is saddened when they learn that President Abraham Lincoln is shot! Elise and her family go to Springfield, Illinois to view President Lincoln's funeral train. Elise's father places pennies on the track to be flattened as a remembrance. Elise goes up to the coffin to say a memorial good-bye to the President. When Elise arrives home, she gives Verly a flattened penny and they remain friends forever.

"Elise the Actress" by Norma Jean Lutz is an excellent book. I would recommend this book for girls, ages 8-12 years. It is a charming and heartwarming book with subject matter that would interest young girls. The author has created, in the character Elise, a young girl that I can relate to. I enjoyed this book because I can envision being friends with everyone in the story and living as they did during Civil War times. This is the kind of book I would read over and over again. Crash into the Civil War era and see what the civilians thought of the War Between the States.

Of a Predatory Heart
Joe Parry
Infinity Publishing
West Conshohocken, PA 19428
9780741444288, $12.95, 2007

Reviewed by William Phenn

Joe Parry is a Vietnam vet that is also an outdoorsman and a writer. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, son and daughter and writes his stories about this area. His stories have appeared in: Fins and Feathers, Turkey Magazine, Sports and Field, the Pennsylvania Game News, Field and Stream, Readers Digest, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Northwest Outdoors, the Philadelphia Daily News, and the Wellsboro Gazette.

Joe's stories on hunting, fishing and the outdoors cover so many areas of this lifestyle, from rip-snortingly funny to tear-jerking and sad. The tales that Joe recounts in his book are compelling and full of life. He mentions the torment within the heart of a hunter that has returned from the war, not wanting to kill again but missing the hunt -- taking that first shot and how it brought him back. Then there are the amusing tales of missed game, falling out of a tree stand and killing a tree with multiple arrows. The heartfelt stories of a young man's first hunting rifle. Joe introduced his children to the outdoors and instilled in them the appreciation of nature. He tells of his daughter being all excited about going hunting and the excitement of his son's first kill.

Joe does not limit his stories to just the people of the wilderness and outdoors, he also includes vignettes about his pets Bear and Tippy Two. He tells a very sweet story of how Bear saved his life by bringing him his Nitro when Joe left home without it. Out in the woods one day as the pain started shooting in his chest, who came to the rescue but his trusted hound Bear? Joe tells about his other hound Tippy Two, a little Beagle he bought for forty dollars. The story of her death is very sad and gives the reader an insight into Joe's feelings for his animals.

"Of a Predatory Heart" is a great book of the outdoors and it's more than just hunting stories. It is a book of love and feeling, sadness and courage, it is an emotional adventure. I enjoyed "Of a Predatory Heart" and gave it a very well-deserved A; it was an enjoyable read.

The Four Little Children: A Likely Story
Larry Michalove
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Ste. 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595347995, $12.95, 2005

Reviewed by Mathew Feliciano (age 8)

The story "The Four Little Children" is about four siblings named Lisa, David, Stacy and Karen. They go on wild adventures with their imaginary friend Ramor. Ramor takes the children on the coolest adventures ever!!

Ramor was going to take care of the children since their father was at war. Every day he takes the children on a new adventure. The first adventure was over the Pacific Ocean and into a secret cave where they found a pirate ship. All of the pirates were trying to find somewhere to bury their treasure. After the pirates buried their treasure, they went to a hidden city beyond the cave and all of the pirate children ran to come and greet Lisa, David, Stacy and Karen. Some of the other adventures the children went on were being in the circus, going to the North Pole and learning how to drive a dog-lead sled, and riding on a polar bear.

Reading this book was like doing all of the things the children did right along with them. It was easy to imagine myself being there and having the same experience and doing the same thing. "The Four Little Children" was a lot of fun to read and was like being in another world.

War Wings: Films of the First Air War (The Historic Footage Project)
Phillip W. Stewart
PMS Press
PO Box 1496, Crestview, FL 32536
9780979324345, $24.95, 2008

Reviewed by William Phenn

This Florida-based author does not seem to be very well-known on the internet. For an author that has previously been published, I found it difficult to find much information on him. What I did manage to find out about Mr. Stewart is that he is a retired USAF Lt. Colonel, aviation film consultant, and TV producer. I am sorry to say, "I don't have much more than that."

Colonel Stewart spent the better part of twenty years researching and reviewing thousands of reels of rare WW I footage and cataloging them in this very complete volume. In this, his latest reference book, "War Wings," he identifies and describes the 71 titles with aviation content. His book documents and describes each scene in detail for over 2,550 action-packed scenes, taken from those 71 titles that he has found in the archives. Scenes of pilots in training, airplanes being manufactured, Dog Fighting in the skies over France, and the post-Armistice testing of the enemy's new airplanes. This and much more was all captured on black and white film back in the years of 1917-1919.

Colonel Stewart has set his book up with very well-written appendices, index and even added a few official letters from that era. "War Wings" is an exceptional reference of all the aviation footage in the National Archives. It is interestingly written, well made and the cover art is very fitting. I think Colonel Stewart did a good job in chronicling all the file films and scenes. I gave the book an A rating and I suggest it to anyone who will be researching the aviation aspects of WW I.

Maximum Ride Book #2: School's Out Forever
James Patterson
Little Brown Young Readers
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446618892, $6.99, 2007

Reviewed by Jevaryon Jennings (age 16)

All and all, I would have to say that this book is excellent. The storyline is great and there is just enough action so that you enjoy the book at the same time not forgetting the main plot. I would jump at the chance to recommend this book to readers, young and old, although it is written for the younger generation. I would highly suggest that the author James Patterson, would, if not already, continue to write books from this series -- not only from this series but from any other things he has to offer from his imagination. I would rate "Maximum Ride Book #2: School's Out Forever" very high on any scale, so all and all, this book has my approval and I highly recommend that more readers, young and old, take the time to read and appreciate books written by James Patterson.

STORM: The Infinity Code
E. L. Young
Dial Books for Young Readers
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780803732650, $16.99, 2008

Reviewed by Ben Weldon (age 10)

"STORM: The Infinity Code" by E. L. Young is the intriguing story of three brainiac kids who try to save the earth from the hands of an evil madman. When fourteen-year-old Will Knight is invited to join STORM (Science and Technology to Over-Rule Misery), he thinks it is impossible for kids to help the world. But when STORM member Caspian Baraban's father is abducted by Russians and forced to create a dangerous new weapon that threatens the earth, Will, Gaia and Andrew use their brains and real science to save the planet. Along the way, Will also discovers a shocking family secret.

STORM members Andrew, Gaia, and Will are not ordinary kids. Computer geek and self-made multi-millionaire, Andrew provides plentiful funding for STORM. Gaia has many talents, among them a talent for getting kicked out of school for blowing things up. She is also fluent in many languages and has a photographic memory. Gaia invited Will to join STORM when she witnessed him testing his invention Rapid-Ascent, a contraption that helps people climb buildings fast. Will is an inventor and is often called 'The Maker' by Andrew. Together they are quite a team.

When they unexpectedly find themselves tailing a former STORM member from London to St. Petersburg, they have to go through passport control but they don't have their passports. So, Will uses the Speak Easy on the passport control guard making it seem as if the boy in front of them was saying "Mom, we should tell him - he'll see my passport's fake. I shouldn't have bleached my hair." Taking advantage of the confusion this caused, Andrew, Will, and Gaia rush past the guards. Once on the train, they use the Fly Spy (an insect-sized flying camera) to keep track of their target. Will their brains and their gadgets be enough to stop the psychopath?

Author E. L. Young is a science writer, and she based all the gadgets in this book on genuine research and inventions. At the end of the book there is an author's note which provides references for the inventions and more detailed information about some of the science in the book. She makes very clear the few fictional scientific aspects of the book. There are even several pages of schematic drawings of the gadgets.

I would highly recommend this book to people who like action and adventure and science. "STORM: The Infinity Code" was a terrific book, and I was thrilled to find out that this is the first in a series of four books that have already been released in the UK.

A Mirthful Spirit: Embracing Laughter for Wellness
Mary Huntley & Edna Thayer
Beaver's Pond Press
7104 Ohms Lane, Suite 101, Edina, MN 55439-2129
9781592981656, $18.95, 2007

Reviewed by Regan Windsor

"A Mirthful Spirit" uses stories, research, quotes, poetry, tips and suggestions by two scholars in the field of mirth and laughter. More than a guidebook for embracing mirth and laughter, "A Mirthful Spirit" provides guidelines for incorporating humor in the workplace, hospitals, and schools to improve productivity, wellness, and creativity.

One of the best things about laughter is that it is contagious. By teaching yourself the techniques and tips for living a mirthful life, one of the biggest benefits is that you will soon find yourself surrounded by people dispersing the joys of living with a mirthful spirit.

From the physical benefits (Initiates Internal Jogging, Thwarts Infections, Alleviates Pain) to mental benefits (Lightens stress, Increases brain-cell functioning), "A Mirthful Spirit" provides a handbook for healthy, happy, humor-filled living.

"A Mirthful Spirit" closes with an intriguing section on the historical and cultural highlights of humor. Even humor has evolved and matured from its beginnings (ridicule) to the healing powers of mirthful living we can access today.

"A Mirthful Spirit: Embracing Laughter for Wellness" is a perfect bedside companion and coffee table book; this is certainly a book to put on your gift lists. Not only will the receiver benefit from the wisdom among its pages, all will benefit from the gift of spreading mirth.

Keep Walking
Larry Jones
Doubleday Publishing
1745 Broadway, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385521369, $23.95, 2007

Reviewed by Carol Hoyer

Larry Jones knew that someday he would become great at what he would do, but nothing prepared him for seeing starving children in the United States and in his own hometown. He was brought up in a God-loving home and followed strict guidelines set by his mother and himself. He wasn't perfect, but he followed his heart.

I can honestly say that every time I see a commercial on TV about starving or orphaned children I change the channel. I'm not a cruel person, but there have been so many times that you hear that charities don't give the money to the people they should. So when I started reading this book I had my doubts. However, I can say that Larry's outlook on life and his fellow man made me feel guilty for doubting some charities-- Feed The Children is one of them.

Larry Jones is an evangelist and his mission is to ensure that all children are fed and cared for. Throughout the book he repeatedly says he is always surprised at the number of people in the United States that do not know that we have people living below poverty all over in every state and yet we turn a blind eye to them. When was the last time you came across some child who had dirt 5-inches thick, rotting teeth or no teeth, couldn't walk, barely talk and hadn't eaten for a week? Did you just ignore it? Larry Jones didn't.

Feed The Children Foundation began before it was officially organized in 1979. The vision came from Larry Jones and his wife Fran. It is amazing what one man's faith can do to help children all over the world. Jones ability to promote this program and get individuals, groups--famous and not so famous--to help sponsor Feed The Children in itself is amazing. The reading of this book made me realize that my life isn't so bad - for others it isn't so good through no fault of their own. "Keep Walking" is a story that everyone should read, regardless of his or her faith. It really is about faith of mankind.

Flavors of the Seasons Cookbook
Virginia J. Ruehlmann (Compiler)
Barbour Publishing, Inc.
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781597896740, $14.97, 2007

Reviewed by Regan Windsor

I love reading a good cookbook, but I think this is the first one I've sat down and read cover to cover. More than just a fabulous cookbook, it is a combination of chef-inspired recipes and down-home cooking, along with poetry and insight to feed the soul.

"Flavors of the Seasons Cookbook" is split into four sections covering each of the seasons. Each section opens with a seasonal prayer, followed by a selection of seasonal recipes by Chef Diane Juergens, and ends with a section of simple but scrumptious seasonal recipes covering beverages, appetizers, entrees, sides, and desserts (including special holiday selections). Interspersed throughout all sections are poetry, insights, and thoughts of the season.

My favorite "Flavour of the Seasons Cookbook" meal so far is from the Flavors of Winter section - Cheesy Ham and Potato Soup with Buttermilk Biscuits. With a lot of extreme cold weather this year, these recipes were a warm and delicious way to end the day!

Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 egg and enough buttermilk to make 2/3 cup

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and nutmeg. Cut in butter. Add egg plus enough buttermilk to make 2/3 cup. Blend, pat out dough. Cut with biscuit cutter. Bake on a baking sheet at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes. Do not over bake.

With Easter around the corner I am looking forward to trying out the Chef Dianne's Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Herb Sauce, Amazing Marinated Copper Carrots, Wild Rice Casserole, and Quick as a Bunny Cupcakes.

"Flavors of the Seasons Cookbook" tops my list of favorite cookbooks. Don't just buy one for yourself, however, as it makes the perfect gift for any season!

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