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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 11, Number 4 April 2012 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Donovan's Bookshelf Dunford's Bookshelf
Greenspan's Bookshelf Helen's Bookshelf Klausner's Bookshelf
Laurel's Bookshelf Lorraine's Bookshelf Micah's Bookshelf
Shirley's Bookshelf Taylor's Bookshelf Vicki's Bookshelf
Vogel's Bookshelf    

Cowper's Bookshelf

MegaMyths of Politics, Economics, and Religion
Eugene Schwarz
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781467928069 $12.95

Written in plain terms to be accessible to readers of all backgrounds, MegaMyths of Politics, Economics, and Religion is a critical, heavily researched guide to understanding complex socioeconomic problems besetting modern-day America, including proposals for some possible solutions. Subjects discussed include immigration reform (Schwarz emphasizing that holding those who employ illegal immigrants accountable is far more important and effective than building fences), gun control (Gangsters have threatened Schwarz and his family with execution, so he has a personal understanding of why the citizen's right to bear arms for self defense is so important, in addition to the philosophical understanding), the 2008 financial meltdown, our failing public schools, and much more. "Parents of private or parochial school students pay twice for their children's education, once in their taxes, and then in tuition. In many cases, these schools provide a better education at lower cost. Would we not be better off to put some of our tax money to work there?" Although Schwarz makes no attempt to hide his strong religious beliefs, MegaMyths of Politics, Economics, and Religion is primarily a politically neutral scrutiny that relies heavily on statistics from the U.S. government, and an open letter intended for readers of all faiths. The reader may disagree over his suggested solutions, but his assessments of the problems are invaluable as a means to get a practical-minded discussion started concerning America's most grievous social and economic woes. Highly recommended.

Tell Me a Story
Bea Gold
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432778002, $38.95,

As we face our adult lives, we remember how we got where we are. "Tell Me a Story: Stories from a Childhood in Old New York" is a blend of memoir and art from Bea Gold, as she presents full color artwork throughout, as she shares her youth with readers, growing up a first generation Jewish American in pre-World War II New York City. "Tell Me a Story" has its own unique charm, and is very much worth considering for art and memoir collections.

Perform at Your Best
Mike Waddell
Privately Published
9781463522797, $9.95,

Doing your best is repeated to the point where's it's a cliche - but it doesn't mean it's not true. "Perform at Your Best: By Getting Your head in the Game" is a Business motivational guide from Mike Waddell who advises readers to have an understanding of their goals and act to greatest success on many levels. The wisdom can be applied to anything in life, be it business, sports, or otherwise. "Perform at Your Best" is a strong pick for any inspirational collection.

The Siren's Call
Matthew S. Urdan
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781468506853, $19.95,

Friendship is being there for one another, but to what length? "The Siren's Call" follows the friendship of Steven Perry and Kenneth Pierson as tragedy strikes Steve, leaving him without a fiance. As Kenneth tries to help Kip cope, their friendship grows more strained as the demons of tragedy consume them, and they may leave the trip together as enemies. "The Siren's Call" is a driven story of friendship, very much recommended.

Life in Hitler's Crosshairs
Constance Krail-Self
Privately Published
9781466450936, $14.99,

As the Blitzkrieg dominated the region, the people of Europe fought back in many ways. "Life in Hitler's Crosshairs" is a novel from Constance Krail-Self as she tells the story of Marta Koblinski, a Polish woman who oblivious to Germany's growing threat before the world, jumps into the resistance full force, doing many things to defy Hitler's forces. A story of defiance through the common man, "Life in Hitler's Crosshairs" is a strongly recommended pick for general historical fiction collections.

The Opening
Ron Savarese
Home Planet Publishing
9780615460763, $12.95,

Some people need to be at rock bottom to finally see the light. "The Opening" follows Joe St. John as his drinking leaves him stranded in a blizzard. With a family back home, he tries and fails to return to them, only to hear a meek voice in the storm. Learning much about life and the death he may face, "The Opening" is a thoughtful read, much recommended.

Lazarus in the Labyrinth
TR Hanes
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432784713, $15.95,

An empty death would be preferable to some. "Lazarus in the Labyrinth" follows Reno Antonin, a man under the weight of his life. As his health continually fails and his family seems to fade away, he is left with a life he views as not worth living. Exploring the idea of consciousness, he seeks a rebirth, not fully understanding what it truly means. "Lazarus in the Labyrinth" is an original read with twists on depression, and the drive to start anew.

Nick Vasey
Privately Published
9781467954730, $25.00,

The state of reality can always be questioned. "Roppongi" is a novel from Nick Vasey, as he crafts the story of this town and its assaults on the human desire for pleasure, overdoing them with hedonism and no limits. Zack, the protagonist in this tale of debauchery, starts blind to the concept of excess, but it can quickly become all too real. "Roppongi" is an enticing novel that should prove hard to put down.

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

The Best of Jonathan's Corner: An Anthology of
Orthodox Christian Theology
Christos Jonathan Seth Hayward
C.J.S. Hayward Publications
ASIN: B0072ZX512 $9.75

Christos Jonathan Seth Hayward's kindle e-book THE BEST OF JONATHAN'S CORNER: AN ANTHOLOGY OF ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY is a new release recommended for any Christian theology reader and addresses spiritual issues of special concern to any Orthodox Christian. Discussions range from art and worship to the unique Eastern Orthodox perspective on leading a spiritual life and blend essays with poetic and spiritual reflections from Jonathan's Corner.

Author Christos Jonathan Seth Hayward "lives to contemplate God, and worship his glory": that said, he discusses the many ways this feeling can be reflected by 'creating treasure' in life; one of which is Jonathan's Corner, an online storehouse of spiritual thinking.

"There are treasures everywhere" - spiritual insights, that is - and THE BEST OF JONATHAN'S CORNER is one of them.

From an interview discussing "the damned backswing" and category theory's math and relationship to spirituality to the lovely reflection "The Gospel is the story of God changing the game", poetic, spiritual and intellectual observations blend in a series of discourses that are delightfully varied in scope, subject, and insights.

One wouldn't expect the epic poem 'A Pilgrimage From Narnia' to accompany an essay discussing theological 'trick questions' in 'Two Decisive Moments'; nor a spiritual hymn 'Akathist Hymn to St. Philaret the Merciful' to be juxtaposed with a chart analyzing basic philosophical and spiritual questions, Orthodox Christianity, Academic Theology, and Modern Science.

Each piece is a delight: partially because each 'speaks' using a different voice and partially because a diversity of topics and cross-connections between theology and everyday living makes the entire collection a delight to read, packed with unexpected twists, turns, and intellectual challenges.

Fans of C.S. Lewis and similar Christian thinkers will find THE BEST OF JONATHAN'S CORNER: AN ANTHOLOGY OF ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY an absolute delight.

Which Way Is My Home?
John G. Pedicini
BookBaby Publishing
13909 NE Airport Way, Portland, ORE 97230
9781620950982 $0.99

WHICH WAY IS MY HOME is illustrated by S. Chatterje and provides a delightful children's picture book that comes alive in e-book format and pairs a rollicking rhyme with the story of what happens when an Ivory seagull's home is washed away by melting icebergs. A snail's hourglass helps him time his journey but "Slow Moe" keeps coming across barriers to quickly locating a replacement home.

The vivid illustrations by S. Chatterje are simply stunning: vivid sunsets, bright blue skies, and an appealing quasi-cartoon version of the character attract and hold attention while the story is appealing; especially when "Slow Moe" finds himself helping lost children threatened by coyotes.

A seagull's bravery and desperate trick holds unexpected results in this appealing, fast-paced story.

Any who would doubt that a picturebook could hold as much more appeal in ebook format should consider Which Way Is My Home to be an outstanding example of superior presentation. The vivid color illustrations simply spring from the screen and engage all ages with a very simple story line and appealing animal protagonists.

Which Way Is My Home is the perfect example of picturebook fiction at its best in ebook format.

Somewhere Like Here
Melissa Dereberry
Amazon Kindle
ASIN: B0072657US $2.99

Jack Lamb's father is dead, and his recurring dream about the woman who is his mother (who disappeared over thirty years ago) prompts him to at last embark on a journey of self-discovery about the truth behind her disappearance. An old photo and a series of encounters lead him to a Missouri wilderness where he finds his very identity has been built on a fragile house of cards.

As Jack interacts with people in his life, he faces unacknowledged achievements, dreams, and an ongoing emptiness and loss that eventually prompts him to move out of his familiar world into the landscape of unfamiliarity and psychological challenge.

Unacknowledged truths in Jack's life keep adding to the mysteries he uncovers and faces for the first time - all prompted by his father's death and his now-uncertain self-identity.

Melissa Dereberry writes with a practiced, poetic hand and with the ability to bring the central issues to life: "The things of most value are not the things we create, but the things we experience, follow through, to the end, no matter what awaits us there. After all, Life decides for us, sometimes."

He might never be able to fully answer the mystery of his mother's disappearance, but by the very nature of his quest Jack will come upon some revelations that challenge his sense of self and perception of the world around him.

Jack's growing understanding of what constitutes real change, transition points, and reality culminates in a series of revelations that solve mysteries, point him in new directions of personal growth, and help him confront life, death, and the nature of choice.

The fundamental truths Jack finally arrives at will change his life - and thus transform the novel from a simple mystery to an inspirational read.

Somewhere Like Here is a powerful mystery and story of self-discovery and is a fine recommendation for novel and mystery readers alike.

A Handful of Earth
Larisa Walk
Publishers: & and
9781465831095, $2.99

Firs Sergeyevich Zhuravlev provides the captivating cover art for the historical novel A Handful of Earth, a powerful saga of ancient Russia. Here spinster princess Yaroslava faces strife and danger as a Mongol hoard draws near her village, threatening her people and complicating a dire situation in which her father is too old and ill to deal with them; yet her people refuse to follow a woman.

When her kingdom falls Yaroslava becomes a slave, destined to be a concubine to a Mongol lord, and even then faces enemies from within those ranks. To gain her freedom and any remnants of her kingdom she must use tools foreign to her: magic, deception, and even treason.

This saga is wonderful, packed with historical details and lively action; but best of all is the powerful and captivating language of a writer who begins the story with a bang: "I needed to be Princess Olga. Her people had followed her into battle when she ruled Rus three hundred summers ago. I, on the other hand, couldn't even talk my townswomen into evacuating before the Tartar siege."

A Handful of Earth is a first-person story of nobility, courage, and survival told in a spirited, involving voice that is packed with drama and psychological reflection: "I kept my silence, for I had learned from my father that when a man aches inside, he doesn't necessarily want you to draw him out of his dark thoughts. Trying to talk to him at a time like this only makes the thoughts grow darker and that darkness can turn on you if you aren't careful."

Romance, changing allegiances and issues of courage and survival of oppressors makes this a powerful and fast-paced novel packed with supernatural elements that spice the protagonist's conflicts with man with her ultimate conflict with forces on the dark side.

Ultimately Princess Yaroslava must face these dark forces both within and outside of her kingdom, and must find a way to overcome them to realize her true destiny and that of her world.

A Handful of Earth charts bravery, leadership, and a woman's struggles to become a winner. You could say it's an epic historical novel of ancient Russia, but that would be simplifying the novel's force and strengths.

More than a singular piece of historical fiction, it's a saga of what it means to be female, a leader, and how deals with the devil are contemplated in the course of a struggle for freedom.

It's a saga replete with psychological tension and struggle, and is a top recommendation.

Jonathan Thomas Stratman
CreateSpace/Amazon Digital Services, Kindle edition
9781470185909 $5.99

Cheechako is a young adult novel that opens with a bang: "Will nearly made it to safety before they spotted him. "Get him!" someone shouted."

With such a vivid opening a young adult reader can't help but continue to absorb the story of greenhorn Will Rollins (cheechako, in Native language), who has a hard time fitting in to his new Alaskan home. His rescue of a stranded dog earns him a sled dog and a new friendship, and Elias teaches him about outdoors survival in Alaska.

Chapters weave an inviting portrait of not just a growing friendship between two very different boys, but a series of lessons in outdoors survival that come in unexpectedly handy when disaster strikes.

There are many other outdoors adventures for young adults on the market, but CHEECHAKO holds more specific survivalist detail than most, backed by strong protagonists and dialogue.

From a wolf's threat and a near-death encounter with snow and cold to a storm that strands Will's family and leaves him their only hope for survival, this pairs vivid and fast-paced adventure with a strong story line that will keep young adults interested in the ultimate outcome.

Cheechako holds many insights and not a few twists and turns, and shows how a loner ultimately makes a name for himself in a challenging social and wilderness environment.

It's a saga young adults - particularly those who like wilderness survival stories - will relish.

In the Shadow of the Volcano
Maureen Klovers
Chesapeake Books
0615586457 $7.99
Hardcover available through

In the Shadow of the Volcano: One Ex-Intelligence Official's Journey through Slums, Prisons, and Leper Colonies to the Heart of Latin America provides a true story of the author's experiences in Quito, Ecuador, from September 2002 to July 2003, and is a fine pick for any reader concerned about South American social issues and culture.

It comes from a former U.S. Intelligence analyst who, during the course of her volunteer assignment, interacted with many different types of people and personally observed trends common in many parts of Ecuador today: high income inequality, extreme poverty, and political strife. Her memoir of the country's struggles against all this ingrained trouble to become a democracy provides a fine story especially suitable to any interested in conflicts surrounding the global economy and Third World nations.

Her year-long journey was simple: to understand why so many Latin American people were risking all to come to America. Her questions about what separates the developing world from the developed world and why poverty continues to be a relentless unending issues in Third World nations creates an opening query that is considered time and again throughout the course of her saga.

Chapters provide "you are there" vignettes telling of small villages, encounters with all kinds of people, and differences between peoples and places: "The land was not the only thing that changed. Each village was noisier and more colorful than the last, the people brasher and less inhibited, the style of dress more and more provocative."

It's often too easy to accept shallow media images of poverty in South America; but not so with In the Shadow of the Volcano. Maureen Klovers personalizes the entire experience and refuses to allow cliches to seep into her observations of cultures and peoples.

One of those cliches is the enthusiasm of everyone to learn, as she finds when she attempts instruction in poetry from medieval Spain in Quito: "The kids eyed me suspiciously as I passed out dictionaries. "Are we going to have to actually use these?" one of my troublemakers asked.

"Absolutely," I said in my best cheery Mary Poppins voice. "It will be a great experience. We are all going to work together to expand our vocabulary. Won't that be fun?"


From encounters with government officials and senseless rules to differences between American and Latin American concepts of punishment, prison, and freedom, chapters provide some striking observations of peoples and processes - and survey elements of freedom, repression, and even personal threat.

In the end her Ecuador experience follows Maureen Klovers back home: "I may have left Ecuador, but it did not leave me. It was a silent stalker, a jealous lover who refused to be forgotten, a spirit that lurked in the deepest reaches of my soul."

What is success, failure, and survival in Ecuador ultimately hits close to home right here in America - making In the Shadow of the Volcano a candid assessment of darkness and promise alike.

How Do I Look After My Kids Teeth? Oral 7 Hygiene: "Paint Your Mouth"
Dr Garth Pettit, GarGar The Dentist
4 Your Smile 2 Shine Pty. Ltd.
ISBN13: 9781920712273 (e-book, Volume 1)
ASIN: B004ZR9CY4 US$0.99

How can parents look after their kids' teeth? Plenty of books discuss oral hygiene but most are aimed at adults, and there are very few picture books for young kids - which is where one should ideally begin with early preventative measures.

Oral 7 Hygiene: "Paint Your Mouth" is the first book in a series of 12, comes from a dentist who teaches children how to 'paint their mouths', and teaches a preventative program that is much better than just brushing teeth. (In fact, this series shows how brushing teeth often actually leads to poor oral hygiene.)

Good oral hygiene is best taught by parents and good oral health education, Dr. Pettit maintains, is best taught by teachers in schools supported by parents - not dentists.

This first book in his series uses a friendly cartoon, GarGar The Dentist, to teach very simple points defining oral health and why it's important.

Besides the cartoon dentist we meet various characters: Booksie Owl (who is an expert in tongues), PadPaw the Rabbit (who knows all about gums), Croc-O-Smile (who is an expert in teeth), and a host of others: a kangaroo, squirrel, koalas and more.

These friendly, simple animal drawings blend with text to provide an easy exploration of habits and choices that get a mouth dirty - and what to do about them.

The case is made for a different approach that involves not the usual tooth-brushing routines, but the kid-friendlier invitation to 'paint your mouth', rinse, then 'paint your mouth' again. Using his technique the toothbrush becomes a Mouth Brush, toothpaste is Mouth Paste, and kids are invited to have fun during the 'second painting session', which does not involve rinsing off the toothpaste and its protective qualities.

Step-by-step graphics and simple instruction are parent-friendly and kid-friendly and allow for quick, easy instruction and a method that makes an oral hygiene routine fun.

The entire series also has been translated to in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese as well as the original English, making these fine choices for world-wide attention.

How Do I Look After My Kids Teeth? ORAL 7(TM) Hygiene, Simply Your Best!
Dr Garth Pettit, GarGar The Dentist
4 Your Smile 2 Shine Pty. Ltd.
9781920712280 (e-book, Volume 2)

Book 2 in the Oral Hygiene series provides GarGar's original "Mouth Painting I Will Go" song lyrics and provides Visit #2 of 12 lessons involving GarGar The Dentist and his cartoon gang. Here a fun MouthWise Oral Healthcare song is employed to help reinforce the techniques provided in Book 1.

Fun color models in vivid fuchsia outline differences between gums and teeth and provide eye-catching images of teeth while the rollicking rhyming lyrics to the song invite kids and parents to play as they paint.

The little cartoon color animals provided in Book 1 - GarGar's SmileShine Gang - each represent one of the seven important surfaces inside the mouth, so kids that are able to memorize their favorites will instantly know what surface GarGar is speaking about. These characters are peppered throughout the song, reinforcing basic concepts of dental hygiene.

Parents may wonder how they can use lyrics when there is no accompanying cd or musical notation, but the entire song is on YouTube and anyone can look up TheVideoDentist to hear GarGar sing "Mouth Painting I Will Go".

Don't expect musical expertise and polish, but do expect a lively and fun sing-along that holds many lyrics but reinforces, through step-by-step musical enhancement, the entire process of mouth painting.

As with the others in the series, translations are readily available in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese as well as the original English, making these a fine choice for a wide audience.

How Do I Look After My Kids Teeth? Learn GarGar The Dentist's Oral Health Lesson 1:
"What Are STIX, Y, ZED?"
Dr Garth Pettit, GarGar The Dentist
4 Your Smile 2 Shine Pty. Ltd.
ASIN: B004ZR00K4 US$4.99
ISBN13: 9781920712174 (e-book, Volume 3)

Visit #3 to GarGar the Dentist teaches children basic facts about food and drink choices and how they affect oral health.

The lesson covers different foods, package labeling puzzles, and explanations of basic chemicals and minerals commonly found in toothpaste and foods and how they affect oral health.

Kids are invited to draw these compounds, are given some simple lessons and phrases that avoid any confusion over terminology, and are given fun reinforcing exercises to make the 'X, Y and Z' lesson even more appealing.

A simple quiz provides ideas for further drawing activities and invites parents and kids to partake. There's also a colorful, printable Certificate of Achievement to reinforce successful tests, discussions of 'plaque monkey' challenges, and tips on how to make sensible, wise choices on what to put in one's mouth.

Answers for Visits are given in the next Visit, assuring a smooth transition between books and lessons.

As with the others in the series, translations are readily available in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese as well as the original English, making these a fine choice for a variety of cultures.

How Do I Look After My Kids Teeth? Learn GarGar The Dentist's Oral Health Lesson 2
Dr Garth Pettit, GarGar The Dentist
4 Your Smile 2 Shine Pty. Ltd.
ASIN: B004ZR9CIK US$4.99
ISBN13: 9781920712181 (e-book, Volume 4)

Lesson #2 extends information begun in Oral Health Lesson #1, narrowing the focus to cover more ingredients and nutritional information to be found on product labels.

Kids are invited to examine labels on bottles, jars, tins, packets and all kids of containers of foods and drinks, and to identify the names of contents which could be either harmful, helpful or harmless to oral hygiene efforts.

Ingredients searches are divided into breakfast, lunch and dinner and adopt a fun method of examining ingredients and understanding their oral health impact.

Drawings of different common foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner accompany further details on non-foods that can be bad to put in the mouth, such as sticky fingers or dirty toys.

Discussions of helpful ingredients such as fluoride and mouth care aids versus sugars and acidic foods like lemon juice are included along with examples of harmless ingredients.

The fun and exercise section encourages kids to keep track of how many harmful, helpful or harmless ingredients they've encountered during the day, offering the reinforcement of questions, drawing projects, and 'painting your mouth' questions, while answers to questions from the prior visit allow for another Certificate of Achievement to be assigned.

Again: translations are readily available in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese as well as the original English.

How Do I Look After My Kids Teeth? Learn GarGar The Dentist's Oral Health Lesson 3
Dr Garth Pettit, GarGar The Dentist
4 Your Smile 2 Shine Pty. Ltd.
ASIN: B004ZQZZK0 US$4.99
ISBN13: 9781920712198 (e-book, Volume 5)

Reinforcing the prior 'X, Y and Z' lessons about what goes into one's mouth is the discovery that teeth, gums and tongue are commonly covered with food and drink remnants after drinking and eating.

Lesson 3 takes the next step from examining ingredient labels and understanding their impact to understanding where 'X, Y, Zs' hide in the mouth. They don't just get on teeth, tongue and gums: they mix with saliva and stick on cheeks, lips, and the roof and floor of the mouth.

GarGar invites kids to play 'hide and seek' with these elements, using colorful drawings to outline the nature of the 'hunt' and how to identify chewing surfaces, the tongue, and other areas where residue collects.

Kids are invited to produce many more drawings illustrating all these concepts, with drawing exercises supporting questions, cartoons, treat stamps and answers to questions from Visit 4.

Translations are offered in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese as well as the original English.

How Do I Look After My Kids Teeth? Learn GarGar The Dentist's Oral Health Lesson 4
Dr Garth Pettit, GarGar The Dentist
4 Your Smile 2 Shine Pty. Ltd.
ASIN: B004ZQRL9I US$4.99
ISBN13: 9781920712204 (e-book, Volume 6)

Lesson 4 covers 'X. Y. Z. plaque and lurkeez', continuing the lesson structure of previous titles and focusing on one particular place these elements can hide to cause much damage to teeth, gums and tongue.

Plaque and different kinds of bacteria and germs are explained in a title that tells how 'X, Y and Z' are mixed up in the mouth, how tiny germs that look like worms mix with saliva and 'X, Y and Z', and how plaque builds up.

Big color drawings of plaque accompany an explanation of what it consists of, how it builds, and how saliva helps the digestive process and aids in good oral health.

Fun and exercise time includes drawings of lurkeez, saliva drops, tooth surfaces, and layers of plaque from different meals of the day.

Oral questions, more drawing exercises, and 'painting your mouth' questions reinforce learning and offer kids the opportunity for another Certificate of Achievement.

The focus on plaque, its origins and buildup capabilities, and how important it is to identify and eradicate plaque early on provides a very simple lesson plan that builds on the previous explanations and simplifies the entire process of understanding where plaque comes from.

Seven important surfaces to clean to prevent the buildup of plaque are reviewed in a title that emphasizes the layering abilities of plaque buildup.

Lesson 4 takes another giant step in outlining the building blocks of oral hygiene and continues to add depth by building oral health and dental facts slowly in a step-by-step process.

And as with the others, translations are offered in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese as well as the original English.

How Do I Look After My Kids Teeth? Learn GarGar The Dentist's Oral Health Lesson 5
Dr. Garth Pettit, GarGar The Dentist
4 Your Smile 2 Shine Pty. Ltd.
ISBN13: 9781920712211 (e-book, Volume 7) $4.99

The topic here is "lurkeez and nasteez" and this lesson provides details on how the composition of plaque is changed by bacteria breaking down complex chemical compounds into possibly harmful substances.

If this sounds too complex for a child, keep in mind the always-child-friendly format of GarGar The Dentist, which uses a blend of fanciful, now-familiar cartoon animal drawings and clear chatty text to teach even the most complex of dental concepts.

Kids learn that 'lurkeez' live naturally inside the mouth and that lurkeez bacteria in plaque are the big problem. Plaque lurkeez are unaffected by healthy saliva washes and can build up quickly after every meal, leading to the development of nasty Stix (already presented in a prior lesson) a bad situation indeed.

The focus on explaining lurkeez and nasteez is reinforced by color drawings explaining their process, then accompanied by the sections inviting kids to color their own understanding of the process, a quiz section, and reinforcing questions on GarGar's entire 'painting the mouth' process.

Again: stamps, a Certificate of Achievement, and 'lifetime tips' reinforce past and present lessons and provide a unified focus.

The translations offered in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese as well as the original English offer a worldwide opportunity for GarGar's dental health message to get through to the young.

How Do I Look After My Kids Teeth? Learn GarGar The Dentist's Oral Health Lesson 6
Dr. Garth Pettit, GarGar The Dentist
4 Your Smile 2 Shine Pty. Ltd.
ASIN: B004ZQRL3Y US$4.99
ISBN13: 9781920712228 (e-book, Volume 8)

The focus of Lesson 6 is "A Plaque Attack On Gums" and continues the progressive learning pattern by showing how plaque affects the entire mouth.

Reinforcing the prior lesson that lurkeez and nasteez are bad for your gums and gingivae, this lesson shows exactly how they work to build plaque, discussing all the evidence of buildup and identifying the gingival sulcus as an area where plaque and scale is most likely to build up and cause lasting problems.

Color drawings of healthy teeth and unhealthy teeth affected by plaque build-up show the progression of decay and emphasize that kids have a positive role in making sure this doesn't happen.

No drawings at the end of this lesson: kids are provided with pictures of a plastic mouth model and invited to do their own mouth explorations to identify different parts.

In the 'Question Time' portion kids are invited to draw as well as to answer the reinforcing quizzes on concepts, making for a diverse and fun lesson.

The usual concluding stamps, awards and cartoon interactions reinforce the ideas in this lesson plan, while the translations offered in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese continue to provide easy lessons for foreign language speakers.

How Do I Look After My Kids Teeth? Learn GarGar The Dentist's Oral Health Lesson 7
Dr. Garth Pettit, GarGar The Dentist
4 Your Smile 2 Shine Pty. Ltd.
ASIN: B004ZQRLE8 US$4.99
ISBN13: 9781920712235 (e-book, Volume 9)

Lesson 7 reinforces the concepts in Lesson 6 with a more specific focus, "A Plaque Attack On Teeth and Tongue".

Here kids learn how tooth decay develops and also how plaque affects the tongue, and is the last discussion of the nasty things that can build up due to poor dental hygiene.

This reinforces why the doctor's 'paint your mouth' process is much more important than just brushing teeth alone, and provides a cartoon drawing paired with clear identification of different parts of a tooth. Enamel, dentine, pulp, nerves and roots are all discussed using the simple drawing and discussions revolve around both a healthy tooth and what happens when plaque and decay build up and attack the tooth.

Tooth stains and tongue health are also covered in this lesson, which also include more advanced discussion of pits and fissures in the tooth enamel.

Visit 9 exercises encourage several sets of drawings and provide reinforcing concepts for painting the mouth and for the concepts provided in this lesson plan.

Translations offered in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese continue to provide easy lessons for foreign language speakers.

How Do I Look After My Kids Teeth? Learn GarGar The Dentist's Oral Health Lesson 8
Dr. Garth Pettit, GarGar The Dentist
4 Your Smile 2 Shine Pty. Ltd.
ASIN: B004ZR9DL6 US$4.99
ISBN13: 9781920712242 (e-book, Volume 10)

Lesson 8's topic is 'Harmful, Helpful and Harmless X.Y.Z.' and moves past the scary decay topics of the prior lessons to discuss the hopeful facts that some STIX, some Y and some ZED can be helpful rather than harmful.

It teaches which X. Y. Z. are harmful, which are helpful and which are harmless, and it discusses how to gain access to the helpful ones, from floride water to milk.

Lists of harmful foods and drinks to be avoided accompany discussions of making wise choices and avoiding sweets shops and other places filled with poor food choices that lead to decay.

If such foods are consumed kids are advised to include a routine to paint their mouths quickly to avoid hours of build-up and decay opportunities.

Some of the places where harmful substances reside are intrinsic to the author's native country, such as a 'Tuck Shop' or 'Milk Bar'; but cartoon drawings clarify the intent and they will be no problem for young international readers.

In the Activity section kids are invited to list the ingredients they like to eat or drink, and to assess them for their health qualities. They're invited to examine labels to look for clues to healthy contents, and invited to make wiser choices to substitute better foods and drinks.

Oral questions and concluding cartoons reinforce all the concepts of good food choices and their link to dental health, with the translations in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese allowing all kids to learn.

How Do I Look After My Kids Teeth? Learn GarGar The Dentist's Oral Health Lesson 9
Dr. Garth Pettit, GarGar The Dentist
4 Your Smile 2 Shine Pty. Ltd.
ISBN13: 9781920712259 (e-book, Volume 11)

How To Paint Your Mouth provides detailed oral hygiene instructions on exactly how to 'paint your mouth', beginning with the 'why' of the operation and moving to when and where to do so.

This isn't a repeat of the first book: its instructions offer more depth and detail and provides step-by-step direction, and it re-identifies the nature of the tooth brush and helps kids identify whether a brush is too big, too small, or just right.

Tooth paste is changed to 'mouth paint' and the colorful plastic models of the mouth are used to teach the positions and names of adult teeth, the concept of 'quadrants', and much more.

There's a lot of information in this lesson, which offers step-by-step instruction on how to brush and paint the different kinds of teeth surfaces in a more effective manner.

Thirteen specific steps are reinforced by play time activities accompanied by the admonition to never rinse the mouth with water after surface painting.

By painting the whole mouth, kids create a layer of helpful plaque filled with helpful X. Y. Z's. Special cleaning tips are reinforced by fun concluding chapters in this winning presentation, which is filled with information kids and parents will want to review numerous times.

Again: translations in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese allow all kids access to key dental health information.

How Do I Look After My Kids Teeth? Learn GarGar The Dentist's Oral Health Lesson 10
Dr. Garth Pettit, GarGar The Dentist
4 Your Smile 2 Shine Pty. Ltd.
ISBN13: 9781920712266 (e-book, Volume 12)

Lesson 10 concludes GarGar's instructions to kids on how to fight tooth decay, and provides a history of his 'paint your mouth' concept. It identifies problems with the simple 'brush your teeth' approach which leaves out hygiene of the entire mouth, and discusses GarGar's inspiration for his different program of all-mouth dental hygiene practices.

It also summarizes the previous lessons, provides the lyrics and melody to the song, and tells how GarGar was inspired to revise his dental instruction books published in 2002 to embrace techniques that were more child-friendly and fun.

Having the entire music to the song 'For Your Smile to Shine' assures that parents, teachers, schools and musicians will be able to produce the song for classrooms and activities.

The chapter concludes with a special "all lessons" Certificate Of Oral Health Excellence certifying that the child has read and absorbed all the lessons.

These books are reviewed individually because they can each stand alone in offering a segment of oral health instruction for the young picturebook reader accompanied by parental or teacher assistance, but their real power lies in the entire lesson plan taken
as a whole.

The step-by-step building blocks of oral health understanding are carefully constructed with the young child in mind, reinforced by activities and quizzes, and provide an entire, unique program unparalleled in scope and nature.

Having the entire lesson plan available in other languages assures its interest to a wide audience around the world, making this entire set a powerful presentation.

How Do I Look After My Kids Teeth? 1 thru 12 Oral 7(TM) Hygiene-"Paint Your Mouth", Visits to GarGar The Dentist
Dr. Garth Pettit, GarGar The Dentist
4 Your Smile 2 Shine Pty. Ltd.
9781920712167, $49.99

Parents and educators seeking a one-volume collection of the "Paint Your Mouth" idea will find Visits 1 to 12 Visits to GarGar The Dentist presents the entire program in one convenient place.

An introduction of why GarGar's program works and how it can lead to an elimination of expensive treatments and only the need for regular check-ups covers all the basics of the "paint your mouth" kid-friendly approach, then moves to specific chapters packed with oral hygiene instruction.

Chapter One introduces the cartoon characters of The SmileShine Gang, explains why brushing teeth does not in fact totally clean the mouth or protect against oral diseases, and uses the simple cartoon animals to illustrate the concept of 'painting your mouth' twice.

The basics of how to use the toothbrush as a 'paintbrush' in the process makes toothpaste 'mouth paint' and forgoes a single scrubbing in favor of a two-paint process.

Part 2 in the Oral Hygiene series provides GarGar's original "Mouth Painting I Will Go" song lyrics and provides Visit #2 in the series. The entire song is on YouTube and anyone can look up TheVideoDentist to hear GarGar sing "Mouth Painting I Will Go".

Don't expect musical expertise and polish, but do expect a lively and fun sing-along that holds many lyrics but reinforces, through step-by-step musical enhancement, the entire process of mouth painting.

The next lesson covers different foods, package labeling puzzles, and explanations of basic chemicals and minerals commonly found in toothpaste and foods and how they affect oral health.

Kids are invited to draw these compounds, are given some simple lessons and phrases that avoid any confusion over terminology, and are given fun reinforcing exercises to make the 'X, Y and Z' lesson even more appealing.

Here bright mouth models are used to identify areas of the mouth needing attention, while the quite extensive song lyrics provides the depth needed to teach all the basics of mouth painting.

The chapter covering 'What Are STIX, Y, ZED?' teaches about the things that go in the mouth - food, drinks, and toothpaste - and how to identify their ingredients. Stix, Y and Zed are GarGar's names for the chemical compounds that are in all foods and drinks, and are simplified for kids' understanding through a series of drawing lessons and colorful cartoon examples.

The chapter covering 'WHO are Stix, Y and Zed?' covers food and drink labeling and ingredients in more depth, discussing ingredients and nutrition and how these ingredients can be either harmful, helpful or harmless to the mouth.

Ingredients in popular meals from breakfast to dinner are discussed with insights into which are 'X, Y or Zed' while lists of ingredients invite kids to understand categories and where they fall.

The next chapter covers WHERE X, Y and Zed are located in the mouth, further discussing what happens to food and drink in the mouth and how a bite of food is processed. An 'X, Y and Z' hunt is explained where kids can hunt down these elements in their mouths.

X. Y. Z. PLAQUE and LURKEEZ expands the technical information and defines plaque and GarGar's made-up word Lurkeez, exploring special ways X, Y and Z are mixed up during the chewing process and the tiny germs he calls Lurkeez, which look like worms, mix with saliva and X, Y and Z, and contribute to the formation of plaque.

Colorful crayoned cartoon drawings explore these concepts in easy terms kids can readily understand, with discussions of saliva blending into fun exercises and drawing sessions to help reinforce the technical concepts.

The technical insights continue in the section LURKEEZ and NASTEEZ, which tells how lurkeez live naturally in various parts of the body and how they can multiply to change from benign to bad. Lurkeez in plaque is the big worry, so this chapter traces the evolution of lurkeez to plaque and considers the new Stix, Nasteez.

Different ways plaque, lurkeez and nasteez build up, layer, and interact in the mouth are present in colorful crayon illustrations to help kids understand an otherwise-technical process leading to tooth decay.

Visit #8 covers plaque's attack on gums and identifies what a gum is, how plaque builds up on gums, and the problems of scale: hard plaque build-up. Clear large-size drawings show teeth, build-up points, and scale and plaque issues.

Visit #9 continues the focus of plaque's lasting effects on the mouth, here examining how it builds up on teeth and tongue and what can be done about it.

Clear, large drawings identify the parts of a healthy tooth and what happens during a plaque attack on a tooth or tongue.

The concepts of tooth decay and abscess are covered along with the causes of tooth stains.

Visit #10 returns to the harmful, helpful and harmless features of X, Y and Z and explores their appearance in different substances. Lists of foods and drinks that hold harmful, helpful or harmless X, Y and Z encourages kids to think about what they are eating, while lists of places that may be cautionary - including sweet and ice cream shops and bakeries and take-aways - help kids reflect on where they are choosing to buy foods.

Visit 11 returns to and reinforces the beginning 'paint your mouth' concept with attention to choosing a proper tooth (paint) brush and toothpaste (mouth paint).

The colorful plastic full-set teeth model is provided to reinforce the 'how to' concept, while kids are invited to identify and explore their own mouths and understand such advance definitions as 'quadrants' and properly brushing techniques for teeth, gums, tongue, and inside lips as well as the roof and floor of the mouth and the cheeks.

Visit 12 concludes the lessons and provides 'farewell fun' for a final educational visit, providing a history of 'paint your mouth' and telling how GarGar evolved a different style of oral hygiene for both kids and adults to prevent common oral diseases.

Each chapter is packed with quizzes, drawing assignments, stamps, certificates of achievement: virtually everything a parent or educator needs to engage a child. Each chapter also emphasizes the child's power in avoiding tooth decay and bad dental problems.

Any educator or parent seeking an oral health program directed to the young will find this entire set a winner, with translations in major foreign languages lending to world-wide usefulness.

Never Again: Building The Dream House
Richard La Plante
Escargot Books Online Ltd.
North Yorkshire, England LS21 2JJ
ISBN (trade paperback) 9781908191304.
Other editions: ePUB: 9781908191083;
Kindle: 9781908191199; Audio download: 9781908191076; Audio CD: 9781908191069.
Price for print edition: $14.99
Kindle and ePUB: $9.99

The author spent thirty years buying and renovating homes and building them from scratch, so he was no stranger to home renovation processes when he agreed to undertake the task of building a 'dream home' in a hidden desert valley in California.

Unfortunately his endeavour led to a half-completed house, a 'ghost ship' as he calls it - and NEVER AGAIN - BUILDING THE DREAM HOUSE is his chronicle of how a seasoned home builder hit the wall on his own dream home.

Chapters begin with his involvement in the boot business, importing boots from Mexico to the U.K., where he'd moved from the U.S. to make good easy money. His struggles getting paid and his chance involvement purchasing real estate leads to other deals
and, ultimately, to the concept of a dream home in Ojai California.

It is here that NEVER AGAIN begins in earnest, reinforcing past concepts in a series of encounters with architects, builders, and even more fateful connections with South American artists and visionaries who repeatedly thwart the dream Richard La Plante is creating.

From building permits that have to account for seismic reinforcement to converting the architect's metric measurements and getting it through the country permit process, chapters discuss everything from the potentials and problems of solar to delays that cost immense amount of money.

Add simultaneous multiple-building developments and snafus and borrowing tactics that ultimately harm the entire endeavor and you have a riveting memoir that focuses on how various deals go bad and how county building departments can put the quash on not just construction but new ideas.

Ultimately there is a happy ending. But the process of achieving a dream that often looks impossible receives lively first-person documentation in a title that tells why the author is determined to not just realize his dream, but make that dream a finality.

NEVER AGAIN is a vivid portrait of not just a building process, but how a dream affects the entire family. It's a 'must' for any who want a vivid memoir of a process that demands heart and soul from all dreamers involved, and it's both a cautionary lesson on realizing dreams and a hopefully assessment of how these dreams can become bigger than life.

Celtic Run
Sean Vogel
MB Publishing, LLC
ISBNs, E-books ($8.99)
epub: 9780962416675
fixed layout epub with audio: 9780985081409
mobi: 9780962416682
ISBN, softcover: 9780962416699 $9.95

A new teen adventure series opens with the involving Celtic Run, telling of Jake's summer visit to Ireland which opens up a Pandora's Box of mystery, a treasure hunt, involvement with different classmates including a bully and two girls, and an encounter with thieves.

The novel opens with a bang:

"Jake clenched his fists. Zach was sauntering down the airplane aisle as if he were the best thing since the iPod. Everyone has an archenemy, Jake thought. Luke Skywalker has Darth Vader. Harry Potter has Voldemort. Me? I have Zach."

Readers quickly find out that Jake is a techno-whiz kid bound for Ireland on a school trip that his father believes will help him understand his family's roots. His encounters with bullies and classmates on the plane sets the foundation for a story that continues to prove exciting when he's called upon to rescue a child who falls off a cliff.

Visits to Irish towns and encounters with the Irish come to life in a series of descriptions that include Jake's growing friendship with Maggie and his involvement with the promise of Spanish treasure, artifacts, and a journey that will lead him on adventure.

Hidden treasure and pieces of a puzzle bind him to his friends as his encounters with the Irish teach him about culture, family and values: "His humble, generous host family might be some of the poorest people on the peninsula, but they possessed the most valuable of commodities: family unity. Better to have family than money."

Jake helps his friend Maggie in a dance competition ("He clasped her hands and his eyes met hers. Since the day I met you, I haven't seen you back down from anything. Just let the music flow through you. Don't worry about the stakes. Dance because you love dancing.") And a host of different elements become interconnected in the progress of the tale as Jake's sailing background and personality become part of the skills he brings to solving the puzzle.

Romance, danger, intrigue, and personality clashes between peers: all make Celtic Run a vivid coming-of-age novel drawing direct connections between life's changes, opportunities, strife, and the process of maturity.

Middle graders - and many a teen or adult - will find Celtic Run a vivid, memorable adventure story.

Diane Donovan
Senior Reviewer

Dunford's Bookshelf

Alabama Auburn
Robert W. Callighan
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432769918, $24.95,

A good rivalry is a treasure not to be underestimated. "Alabama Auburn: The Ultimate in Iron Bowl Trivia" is a collection of sports trivia from Robert W. Callighan, as he focuses on the historic collegiate rivalry between these two teams. With countless trivia questions about the games, their players, the hometowns, and much more, "Alabama Auburn" is an excellent and much recommended pick any hardcore fan of the Iron Bowl games.

Believe Like a Child
Paige Dearth
Privately Published
9781461105671, $15.99,

When all you know is abuse and pain, it becomes normal. "Believe Like a Child" is a tragic story of Alessa, a girl plagued by abuse who finally flees it before even an adult. A decade of abuse at what was suppose to be home leaves her exposed to others who would exploit her, as she tries to claw through life and claim a life worth living. When she finally starts to find it, her past may show up and drag her back down to hell. "Believe Like a Child" is a saddening tale that rings too close to reality at times.

The Seventh Stone
Pamela Hegarty
Sky Castle Publishing
9780963079138, $15.99,

The legends of the past can be a vicious modern weapon, and it'll take something of legend to stop it. "The Seventh Stone" is a novel surrounding the mystical Breastplate of Aaron, a companion to the more well known Ark of the Covenant. When someone has added an ancient poison to New York City's Water Supply, Christa must work with FBI Agent Braydon Fox to find the counter and save millions from death. "The Seventh Stone" is a fine read for those who love Biblically inspired thrillers.

I, the People
Gary Taylor
Privately Published
9781468186628, $9.99

The famed film 'Best Little Whorehouse in Texas' had its roots in reality, but its charm wears thin when it has connections to organized crime. "I, the People: How Marvin Zindler Busted the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" is Gary Taylor's coverage of the story that tells of fellow journalist Marvin Zindler's personal crusade against the famous brothel the Chicken Ranch and the puppet strings of the Mafia behind it. For those who want the true story behind the story, "I, the People" is well worth considering.

Beyond the Secret
Ardiana Cohn
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781461006893, $15.00,

Submission is a key to victory in life; it's just a matter of when. "Beyond the Secret: The Moment You Surrender, You Win, But Only if You Recognize the Moment" is a unique approach to spirituality. Author Ardiana Cohn brings readers through a breakdown of the law of attraction, inviting people to embrace their spirit and understand it, and when to give into it fully. "Beyond the Secret" is a fine read with plenty to embrace, much recommended reading.

The Testament of Judith Barton
Wendy Powers & Robin McLeod
Privately Published
9780615589848, $12.99,

Another perspective brings many new elements to the story. "The Testament of Judith Barton" is a novel from Wendy Powers and Robin McLeod as they present an alternate perspective of the film 'Vertigo', through the perspective of Judith Barton, a character who wasn't the primary protagonist of the film. "The Testament of Judith Barton" is an excellent pick for fans of the film and alternate takes on film in general, very much recommended reading.

The Long Trail North
Isador Koblentz
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor
New York, NY 10016
9780533158768, $11.95,

What takes one on the path where they take lives for a living? "The Long Trail North" follows Ward Evans, as he embarks on his journey from a comfortable rancher to a bounty hunter. As his ranching career vanishes overnight, he seeks those responsible, and it all spills out of control from there. "The Long Trail North" is a riveting read of adventure, very much recommended reading.

The Land of Eighteen Dreams
Lawrence J. Epstein
Privately Published
97816143448726, $15.95,

The gap of generations is often illustrated through experiences. "The Land of Eighteen Dreams" is a novel from Lawrence J. Epstein as he crafts a story of grandfather and granddaughter who over decades form a powerful bond of what many Jews have faced over the span of the past fifty years. With a moving story that rings true across generations, "The Land of Eighteen Dreams" is a strong pick for general fiction collections.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Ultimate Job Directory
Amber Scanlon
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432741846, $29.95,

Working from home is a dream of many, but it is a path littered with scam. "The Ultimate Job Directory: Comprehensive Guide to Legitimate Work at Home" is a guide to finding legitimate telecommuting careers, as Amber Scanlon shares a directory of major companies which offer the option and how readers can take advantage of it. "The Ultimate Job Directory" is a useful reference that may prove useful for some chasing their dream career.

Laura's Wrath
Martin J. & Elaine R. Stab
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781105478192, $15.99,

The power of contempt is unmatchable. "Laura's Wrath" is the novel of wrath from beyond the grave, as the wife of an innocent man and woman whose life fell apart, vows vengeance on the world who took it all from her. Even a hundred years later, her spirit's presence can be felt, and the descendants of a priest who could have stopped it all may have to be the one to put her to rest. "Laura's Wrath" is an exciting spin of horror and history.

Memories Made and Lessons Learned
David Van Lear
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432781927, $18.95,

Fishing leads to many an adventure in life. "Memories Made and Lessons Learned" is a delve into the fishing stories of David Van Lear, who has fished all over North America and has seen much. With a bit of fishing know how with a focus on the experience of it all, Lear's stories are sure to appeal to lovers of fishing and those who enjoy the many slices of life. "Memories Made and Lessons Learned" is a frank and choice read for fishing collections.

The Scramble for Jerusalem
James Henderson
Privately Published
9781439273487, $21.95,

Jerusalem has been an area of conflict for thousands of years. "The Scramble for Jerusalem" is a novel from James Henderson as he spins a story of World War III and the events leading up to it, as the conflict rages over the most Sacred city to many faiths. Dual personas who prove to be both Messiah and Anti-Christ lead the powers of the world heading for Jerusalem, and it may destroy the world as we know it. "The Scramble for Jerusalem" is a religious and political thriller, much recommended.

Flying the Tailwheel Airplane
Jim Alsip
Privately Published
9781466327771, $24.95,

The skies have always held the dreams of man, and we now have the technology to embrace it. "Flying the Tailwheel Airplane: Key Points for Becoming a Great Stick and Rudder Pilot" is a guide to breaking into this specialty school of flying, as Jim Alsip provides his own experience into succeeding into this discipline, going over the fundamentals, the techniques needed to succeed, and facing adverse conditions and weathers. For anyone who wants to get behind the controls of a Tailwheel, "Flying the Tailwheel Airplane" is a strong pick for aviation collections.

Casting Shadows
J. Kelley Anderson
Privately Published
9781937593841, $10.99,

Many have grown to hate the world, but the opportunity to act on that hatred is rarely present. "Casting Shadows" follows Edward Kelley, a man with little to live for but the hate that simply grows within. With a chance to embrace his hate, he soon finds that the world may soon have some worth, as Edward stumbles into a world of classical fantasy and folklore he never knew. "Casting Shadows" is a fine pick for fans of fantasy with a modern twist.

I Am Me
Ram Sundaram
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462072736, $17.95,

When we hear a story, we only hear one side, but there is more than one character in every story. "I Am Me" is a collection of short stories from Ram Sundaram as he explores the many angles to the stories with his two-sided book, approaching many topics from two sides and offering many intriguing ideas on the concept of dreams and our paths through life. "I Am Me" is a fine assortment of stories, very much recommended.

One Thing or Another
Ritchie Piazza
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533164124, $14.95,

If you wait for everything to be perfect, you'll be waiting a long time. "One Thing or Another" is an inspirational read from Ritchie Piazza, who uses humor to encourage readers to stop worrying and get out there and live their lives - and use laughter to dispel our worries along the way. With clean and thoughtful humor throughout for everyone, "One Thing or Another" is charming and much recommended reading.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Transmutare: A Novel
Shelia Bolt Rudesill
Moonstrike Press
c/o CreateSpace
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9780615604312 $12.95

Available in both paperback and Kindle ebook formats, Transmutare: A Novel is a story of violence, suffering, and the search for faith. Shelli Segal has been a well-behaved girl all her life; but when she visits New Orleans, everything changes. Drawn into a brutal world of alcohol abuse, twisted and violent sexuality, Shelli is on the verge of drowning. Her friends Beka, an agnostic Jew, and Katie, a Roman Catholic, need to cooperate and support one another to figure out how to not only survive, but also find a stable path forward, as well as how to understand a God that allows such horrific suffering to exist in the world. Written in first person perspective, Transmutare is raw, severe, and ultimately a quest for meaning in the mystery that is life, as well as a gritty struggle for physical and spiritual survival. Highly recommended.

Dog Speak
Christiane Blenski
Hubble and Hattie
9781845843847, $19.95,

Communication is more than language. "Dog Speak: Recognising and Understanding Behaviour" is a full color guide to dogs as pets and how to understand their gestures and actions, understanding their moods, wants, and needs, interactions with other dogs, and what barking truly means. "Dog Speak" is a choice and much recommended pick for anyone with a dog and wants to live more harmoniously with their canine friend.

Lincoln and Grant
Edward H. Bonekemper
Privately Published
9781439286135, $34.99

It could be said that the best minds the North had in the Civil War were not even Yankees, but instead Midwesterners. "Lincoln and Grant: The Westerners Who Won the Civil War" looks into the pre-war experiences of the President and the General, and how their upbringing in Illinois and Ohio respectively gave them the skills and vision needed to do their part in reuniting the Union. An interesting perspective on the bigger picture of war and the impact of the hometown, "Lincoln and Grant" is a fine addition to any American Civil War study collection.

After the Storm
Anthony F. Rando
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781613466414, $19.99,

The simplicity and beauty of poetry can bring clarity to one's day. "After the Storm: Poetry That Refreshes the Soul" is a collection of poetry from Anthony F. Rando, as he presents his second collection after 'A Book of Poems'. With the aim of the soul and life, "After the Storm" is a fine assortment, not to be overlooked. "Sweet Rose": A flower was sent to me/Such a beautiful flower indeed/To express our love to thee/The sweet flower brings delight to me//To tend to her day and night/Hoping she'll never run away from me.

Another Woman at the Well
Rev. Judy Neal
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432784652, $11.95,

Life's experiences can sometimes be hard to carry over generations. "Another Woman at the Well...Through Her Childhood Until Now" is a memoir from Reverend Judy Neal, as she seeks to share her stories for her grandchildren and future generations, her faith and her struggles against illness and push through life. "Another Woman at the Well...Through Her Childhood Until Now" is a choice pick for general memoir collections, highly recommended.

Things to Bitch About
TNA Publishing
Privately Published
9780983755524, $11.95,

The world is full of irritations both worthy and unworthy. "Things to Bitch About!" is a workbook where TNA Publishing invites readers to go wild on topic by topic, with plenty of space to let out their rage. "Things to Bitch About!" is a fun concept for those with a lot to say and no one to say it to.

Deadly Pleasures
Mary Firmin
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462042371, $18.95,

A touch of hedonism may be first taste as well as her last. "Deadly Pleasures" follows Mary Firmin as he committed relationship falls apart, and she decides to embrace a more scattered taste of life. Hiring a male stripper with some friends, the strippers suspicion brings her and her unique assortment of associates into a murder investigation which takes Megan through the seedy underworld where she only wanted a taste. "Deadly Pleasures" is a humorous twist on murder, sex, and everything in between.
Cindy McDonald
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
Acorn Book Services (publicity)
9781463647193, $13.99,

What makes the person that everyone identifies as 'creep' burn forward? "" is a collection of stories, focusing on George Smuts, a man who everyone avoids in his strong presence at the local horse racing track. Lurching out using his own social networking site, he begins to make connections he and the women he lusts after may regret. With more stories surrounding the track, "" is a collection of thriller short stories compiled into one gripping narrative.

I'll Go
Carrie Marabeas
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533164929, $11.95,

As we seek someone to be close to, we learn much about intimacy very quickly. "I'll Go" is a collection of poetry from Carrie Marabeas, as she ponders love and intimacy, touching on what she has faced and using her experience and love of the medium along the way. "I'll Go" is a fine addition to any poetry collection, highly recommended. "Milk Crate": I don't wear/Designer clothes./I don't go where/They paint my toes/Or bob my nose/Or sculpt my hair./I use a milk crate/ as a chair./Solitude is what/I prize./My gemstones are/my own two eyes.

Helen Dumont

Klausner's Bookshelf

Grey Expectations
Clea Simon
Severn House
110 East 59th Street, 22th Fl., New York, NY 10022
9780727881342, $27.95,

After the traumatic events of last year (see Grey Zone), Harvard graduate student Dulcie Schwartz feels her life has calmed down as she works on her dissertation on the anonymous British author of an unfinished 1790 gothic novel The Ravages of Umbria. Her tranquility is shattered when her friend Trista calls her; crying while saying she is a person of interest in the death of student Roland Galveston.

Soon after Trista's hysterically call, she vanishes and her boyfriend is frantic. Dulcie goes to Trista's place in the Cambridge Campus where her friend liked to go when she wanted to be left alone. Trista is not there, but Dulcie notices a ticket admitting her to the Mildon special documents. Stunned as Dulcie knows she never went there on that day; she thinks she is being framed by someone for stealing the medieval manuscript the Dunster Codex. She finds her life in jeopardy from a person masquerading as a cop; however, she has her beloved late Mr. Grey, Esme and Chris watching her back.

Once again, Clea Simon writes a wonderful Dulcie Schwartz cozy in which the heroine is an intellectual star of the Perils of Pauline. Her heroes are Mr. Grey who she still communicates with her, Esme the playful kitten and Chris; though the protagonist wonders how fickle felines alive and dead are though they have her back and keep her spirits up. The mystery is clever with red herrings and unexpected twists and readers will appreciate this engaging amateur sleuth.

The Expats
Chris Pavone
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307956354, $26.00,

Washington, D.C. based financial systems security expert Dexter Moore accepts a terrific job in Luxembourg. As he, his wife Kate and their kids prepare to cross the Atlantic, Dexter is unaware that his spouse was a CIA operative for fifteen years, who resigned to accompany her husband and their two children to Europe. Her plan is to be a caring wife and nurturing mother.

In Luxembourg, Kate struggles to adjust to a passive lifestyle. However she awakens from the housewife blues when a stunned Kate learns the FBI and Interpol investigate her nerdy husband for allegedly stealing fifty-million euros in an illegal online banking deal. Needing to know the truth about her spouse, while wondering whether she erred in giving up her espionage career to be a housewife, Kate investigates Dexter's allegedly felonious activities.

This is a great espionage investigative thriller filled with red herrings, and super twists that keep the audience wondering what next. Fast-paced, fans will appreciate Kate's inquiry with fervor as she ponders the ennui and lack of satisfaction in being a housewife. Although the relationship between Kate and Dexter never quite gels, The Expats is a terrific thriller.

Difficult People: A Gateway to Enlightenment
Lisette Larkins
Rainbow Ridge Books
140 Rainbow Ridge Rd., Faber, VA 22938
9780984495566, $17.95,

Most people prefer to avoid difficult people who tend to make one's life miserable. However, Lisette Larkins makes a strong case that dealing with a DP strengthens a person. Ms. Larkin states she learned a lot about her strengths and weaknesses while being a care provider to a late-stage Alzheimer's patient that forced the author to look at her own reactions. This SWOT led Ms. Larkin to find a spiritual awakening as she realized that everyone is a DP to someone. Seeing an opportunity to turn a weakness into a strength; she gained an inner peace that enables her to act appropriately with any DP; but especially her most adversarial DP - herself. Although some readers will object to mystical experiences as part of the path like what occurred on the drive on the Pacific Coast Highway, the concept of understanding and acceptance over denial is well written and enlightening as Ms. Larkins provides an interesting method in how to deal with the most DP mindful of the Grass Roots song Lets Live For Today, but much more.

Worlds Collide
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek Press
PO Box 51052, Casper, WY 82605-1052
9781611600193, $17.95,

For twelve years Dr. Marcus Samuels has worked as a pediatrician at Nagasaki's Children's Christian Hospital, but feels as he turns forty it is time to go home to Chicago. He has missed family events like the death of his sister-in-law and his widower brother finding love again (see Foolish Games) and the rape of his sister and her finding happiness (see Glass Angels). He prays his return will end his severe anxiety attacks that only kept in check by his belief he does God's work and his close friend Dr. Keiko Oichi.

When he learns his mom suffered a heart attack, Marcus has one more compelling reason to go home though he knows he will miss Keiko and her older brother Haruki who as foreign exchange students in the States converted to Christianity. However, he is shocked when Keiko informs him she is accompanying him back to the States as she is engaged since she was seven to older Ryu a porno manga superstar. She is attracted to Marcus who held back because of her engagement. As they recognize their love, her family patriarch demands she honors her commitments in marriage and faith.

The latest Family Heirlooms Christian family drama (see Shards of Ashley) is a fabulous tale as two cultures collide with the focus on Keiko. Readers will relish this fine entry as traditional Japanese collides with modern day American while Marcus fears he is casing a rift between his beloved and her family; failing to understand he is not the cause as she chooses.

Assassins In Love
Kris DeLake
1935 Brookdale Road, #139
Naperville, IL 60563
9781402262821, $6.99,

Rogue Assassin Rikki struggles to toss dead Elio Testrial out an airlock when Guild Assassin Misha intrudes by taking charge of the situation but sets off alarms while disposing of the corpse. He pretends to be intoxicated and takes her with guard escort to the B Deck where he has a room.

He thinks she is an out of control amoral person; she thinks he is fool for adhering to the Guild's rules. His goal is to get her to join the Guild; her goal is to get away from him. Rikki soon concludes the lone wolf is very ethical as she only hunts down those who are evil; Misha soon concludes he may be by the book, but stretches the rules with his antics. They begin to fall in love until she realizes who her fellow assassin is even as they get entangled with the Guild

The key to this entertaining Assassins Guild romantic science fiction tale is the generally accepted concept by society that assassinations are normal. The storyline is fast-paced and the diabolical scheme to set up Rikki brilliantly deployed. Readers will enjoy a visit to the Assassins Guild as Kris DeLake provides a fun thriller.

A SEAL In Wolf's Clothing
Terry Spear
9781402258909, $7.99

(Werewolf SEAL) Hunter and (human wildlife photographer) Tessa Greymere (see To Tempt The Wolf) are on a honeymoon; which his twin sister Meara feels liberating as seemingly forever her sibling focused on find her mate instead of his. Her plan is to rent the Oregon cabins her brother and her own to alphas in order to search for her mate.

However, assassins with insider information target Hunter, his SEAL mates and anyone they cherish. SEAL Finn Emerson arrives to keep Meara safe to her chagrin as she does not want a clone of Hunter interfering with her quest. However, instead of counting potential mates, corpses pile up. As he vows to keep his friend's sister unharmed, he wonders who will keep Meara safe from his desire.

The latest Heart Of The Wolf werewolf romance is an engaging thriller as the protagonists sing I'm Not In Love" (by 10Cc) while also trying to prevent either joining the kill rate. Fast-paced, with a surprising villain and an unlikely hero refreshing the series, fans of the Terry Spear Lycan saga will want to read the twin falling in love with A SEAL In Wolf's Clothing.

A Rural Affair
Catherine Alliott
9781402260117, $14.99

A recent widow, Poppy Shilling concludes she erred when she married Phil who died when blue ice hit him as he biked. Poppy came to her belief upon learning of Phil's clandestine other life. Poppy calls her neighbor Jennie who along with Angie and Peggy arrives quickly. Besides feeling guilt over wanting Phil dead, she worries how their two young children (Clemmie and Archie) will cope. Poppy hopes to have fun dating men but not committing.

Jennie struggles with the behavior of her spouse the Toad; while Angie has separated from her husband; and Peggy smokes to hide her loneliness. While her friends commiserate with her loss, Poppy is attracted to a man who has a glamorous woman in his life that a mother of two cannot compete with, but also has a secret admirer.

This is an amusing British character study that sets the tone with the discussion on dreaming of dead husbands between Poppy and Jennie. The breezy storyline is fast-paced though the dark humor supersedes plausibility starting with the sixth death in decades from the friendly skies. Readers will enjoy the mother of two seeking A Rural Affair, but relearning how convoluted relationships are.

The Needle In The Blood
Sarah Bower
9781402265914, $14.99

A few weeks after his half-brother William of Normandy conquered England, Bishop Odo of Bayeux Odo decides to celebrate the victory over Harold with an embroidery like none before. He assigns his sister Agatha, known as Sister Jean-Baptiste of the Convent of Saint Justina The Virgin, to oversee the project. She employs several Saxon women to embroider the glory of the Battle of Hastings including Gytha, a lady-in-waiting to Harold's Queen Eidth, but now a whore as like her Highness, William's conquest ended her position at court.

She accepts Sister Jean-Baptiste invitation to work the commemoration, but plans to use this to kill Bishop Odo who schemes to become the Archbishop of Canterbury for what he and his odious Normans did to her Saxons especially Eidth. Instead she cannot plunge the knife into her avowed adversary. They fall in love, but his many enemies see his mistress as his Achilles heel that they can use against him.

This is an engaging biographical fiction that sub-genre fans will enjoy based on real persona and the theory that the Bayou Tapestry was commissioned by Odo for his new cathedral. The engaging storyline contains a passionate love subplot as Sarah Bowers reflects the essence of the brutal transition of power starting just after the Conquest and for the few years.

Burnt Offerings
Michael Lister
Pulpwood Press
P.O. Box 35038, Panama City, FL 32412
9781888146899, $26.99,

Daniel Davis and Ben Greene are running in the North Forest Wildlife Preserve. Ben takes a breather while Daniel finishes the run until he finds the burned remains of a human. A retired profiler, Daniel struggles with a panic attack while near the old depot for law enforcement.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent Samantha Michaels leads the investigation. She and Daniel have worked together on cases before the academic retired as a hermit hiding in the woods. A second body is found with the same M.O. of being burned alive. Daniel believes the psychopath is performing a fiery sacrificial ritual. As the residents of nearby Bayshore and Pine Key Island panic, the predator continues the fiery deeds with Daniel and Sam trying to end the Burnt Offerings to the God of fire.

While John Jordan takes a respite from bloody inquiries (see The Body and the Blood, Flesh and Blood, Power in the Blood and Blood of the Lamb), Daniel and Sam prove more than competent to run their own superb investigation. Action-packed, the killer's commentary enhances the gripping storyline with insight into the stunning motive. Fast-paced from the first Burnt Offering, fans will relish this strong serial killer thriller.

With Full Malice
Brenda Hill
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive
Waterville, ME 04901
9781432825720, $25.95,

In Yucaipa, California, food reporter Madison Young knows the tragic event that turned her into a frightened woman afraid of her own shadow. When she was six years old she watched a man murder her parents and warned her he would come back for her one day as San Bernardino County Homicide Detective Dexter Quinn arrived. Thus Maddy limits her time outside her home as her phobia controls her life.

Maddy is covering Jimmy's Steakhouse when a woman executes paroled murdering pedophile Hawley at the location. Yucaipa Tribune editor Marie Campbell calls Madison to interview the witnesses as the other reporters are tied up and she is caught in traffic. Using the 5 W's and an H, Maddy questions those at the steakhouse until her fears take control; Dexter pulls her aside to go home. The case takes a spin into an avenging underground club that Maddy finds ties to the incarcerated beast who killed her family. However, when Marie dies, Maddy needs to know the truth before her or her beloved grandma become next.

This is an excellent investigative thriller due to the strong cast especially Maddy whose childhood trauma haunts her years later. Fast-paced and with a nod to James Coburn's Vengeance Unlimited, the key to this engaging tale is the fascinating heroine who proves she is stronger than anyone including herself realizes; though her proof may prove deadly.

Alien Diplomacy
Gini Koch
DAW Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756407162, $7.99,

Newlyweds Jeff and Kitty Martini resign their positions as Centaurion Division exterminators-commanders to raise their infant Jamie. The family moves to Washington DC as head diplomats at the recently formed Centaurion Embassy.

However, they find the American capital as dangerous as some of their extermination missions were. A bomb blows up the limo that the Martini pair were supposed to be in. Additionally, Kitty learns of a major assassination plot planned at the upcoming Presidential Ball. Though POTUS is the most obvious target, Kitty has doubts though she remains clueless who else or why, but believes aliens are involved. Jeff, Kitty and their crew hunt for a killer and for a killer dress.

The latest Kitty Katt Alien satirical science fiction thriller (see Alien Proliferation, Touched by an Alien, Alien Tango and Alien in the Family) is a superb jocular entry that is filled with twists, spins and humor. Fast-paced, readers will believe the two species are real (as are other not quite as benign ETs); while the Jamie effect continues to nuke the lifestyle of the parents. With a sort of Mork in Men In Black lampooning, readers will enjoy this amusing action-packed tale in which nothing in alien (as observed by the rest of the country and the Centaurions) DC is sacred.

Magic Without Mercy
Devon Monk
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451464484, $7.99,

In Portland, Hound Allie Beckstrom always was proud that she and her team rigidly adhered to the strict rules of the overseeing of magic Authority even when risking their lives and souls in support of the practitioners (see Magic at the Gate and Magic at the Hunt). However, to prevent a magical plague from spreading and end a serial killer's reign of terror, Allie Beckstrom shot the new Authority Chief Bartholomew Wray (see Magic On The Line). Her dead dad keeps reminding her inside her head that she had no choice, but filled with Shame, Allie, her lover Zayvion Jones, and other friends have been declared outlaws for violating the rules even if their cause was just as the end never justifies the mean.

As Allie struggles with the Shame of the killing, she and her team elude the Authority and the cops while seeking a means to cleanse the poisoned magic and finally end the plague; the answer seems to rest with a lunatic. At the same, they must cope with the Veiled murdering people.

This is a great entry in a superior urban fantasy series, as conscientious Allie knows logically she did the right thing with Wray, but emotionally feels Shame as she broke the Authority rules, which run deep in her brain. Fast-paced and loaded with action, fans will relish this direct sequel (need to have read at least Magic On The Line) as guilt wracked Allie and her cohorts struggle with doing the right thing as hostilities turn heated with the doomsday clock striking the midnight hour.

Stephen Leather
47 North
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781612182292, $13.95,

Metropolitan Police CO19 armed response unit Negotiator Inspector Jack Nightingale works a crisis at Chelsea Harbor. Apparently nine year old Sophie Underwood sits on a locked thirteenth floor balcony talking to a doll while her father works at a bank and her mom shops; Inga the Polish au pair called for help. He talks to her to try to get her inside, but she jumps anyway as the only means to escape her pedophile dad. Raging he visits Mr. Underwood who falls through a twentieth floor window to his death. Refusing to defend himself or for that matter speak with anyone, Jack leaves the force.

Two years later, Jack is a private investigator who works cheating spouse cases. His office assistant is Jenny McLean though he has no idea why this beautiful brilliant woman stays with him. Solicitor Mr. Turtledove informs Jack he inherited his late father's estate, which confuses him since his parents died a decade ago. The solicitor explains that the Nightingales were his adoptive parents, but his biological dad is the late Ainsley Gosling. His father leaves Jack a DVD in which he explains he sold his son's soul at birth and a demon from hell will collect on his upcoming thirty-third birthday. As he follows the enigmatic mystical trail, he finds out Gosling committed suicide and there is useful information in a new mansion's customized library. Meanwhile; death pursues people he knows.

This is an exciting horror noir starring an unlikable individual who inherits a place in hell. Fast-paced from the moment the little girl leaps and never slowing down, readers will enjoy Nightingale's nightmare as he realizes chain smoking will no longer be the death of him.

Midnight Alley
Miles Corwin
Oceanview Publishing
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G
Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781608090389, $25.95,

LAPD Felony Special Squad Detective Ash Levine looks forward to the weekend getaway in Santa Barbara with his estranged wife Robin. He hopes this will be a new beginning for them after a horrific two-year separation.

However, he is in Rincon twelve miles from his destination when his boss Lieutenant Duffy calls pleading with him to come home to work a highly visible double homicide case in Venice as most of the squad are out of state on vacations. One of the victims is Raymond Pinkney, the son of a LAPD bashing city councilman Isaac Pinkney. Robin surprises him when she tells him to take notes in detail to avoid the civil case Pinkney will file and to call her when he is finished. As he investigates leads that take the former Israel Defense Forces paratrooper into the dangerous milieu of the Russian Mafia, someone hires former convict Mullin to assassinate a cop.

The second Ash Levine police procedural (see Kind of Blue) is an action-packed thriller that soars from the moment Duffy calls the noir hero and never eases off the accelerator until the final confrontation. Although convoluted with ties to the Russian Mafia and Baghdad, Robin sums up the exhilarating tale with her dubbing Ash (for his over the top of Mount Lukens escapades) "Rambowitz".

The Innocent
David Baldacci
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446572996, $27.99,

Will Robie has a unique position; he is an America "sanctioned" assassin who takes on those who the Feds (civilian and military) for whatever reason cannot eliminate. A sniper of immense talent, Will always accepts the job without question even understanding his agency's mantra is the opposite of the marines with "left behind".

His work is normally outside the country in places like Tangier, but his current assignment is in Washington, D.C. The hit feels wrong to Will, but obeying orders is deeply entrenched in his soul. Perhaps it is his attraction to Annie Lambert, but for the first time in his killing career, he refuses to pull the trigger on the target a mom with her little boy. The fail safe sniper kills both of them while Will snaps photos of the victim's information and moves her baby to another apartment before fleeing. However, by failing to do the job, the forty year old hit man becomes the target of his peers. On the lam by bus to New York, he recognizes a peer and intervenes rescuing fourteen years old Julie who witnessed a man murdering her parents. Though he knows it is inane, Will helps the endangered teen unaware of a conspiracy high up the power chain ready to snuff out anyone in their way.

This is an exciting over the top of the Washington Monument thriller starring a man who lived by the code "My Country, Right or Wrong" until the American mother and her kids incident. Filled with betrayals, David Baldacci hooks readers with this fast-paced tale from the moment the protagonist just said no until the final confrontation.

The Ice Cream Girls
Dorothy Koomson
Grand Central
9781455507139, $14.99

The 1989 Daily News Chronicle contains an article about The Ice Cream Girls (teenagers Poppy Carlisle and Serena Gorringe) standing trial for the murder of their popular history teacher Marcus Halnsey. Both deny torturing and stabbing to death Halnsey who abused both of his students, warned them to remain silent or else; while also saying he loved them. Poppy was convicted of the homicide and went to prison while Serena was acquitted and set free.

Over two decades later, Poppy is released from prison. All this time behind bars she had one goal: to prove her innocence. Poppy seeks Serena to force her to tell the truth as to what happened in 1989, but the girl, who was never her friend in spite of the media lies to the contrary, vanished.

Serena is married to Dr. Evan Gillmaire. They have two children and though she is happy, Serena lives in fear that her notoriety will surface and cost her family as she has never been able to tell Evan the truth even while she believes Poppy was the killer.

Rotating perspective between the title characters in different time periods, The Ice Cream Girls is an exciting psychological suspense that grips the reader with a need to know what happened in the 1980s and what will occur as obsessed Poppy stalks family woman Serena. Both remains haunted by Marcus as neither fully moved on. The media hangs the two teens as Lolita while ignoring an adult in a mentoring position having sex with both of them and the court follows the news frenzied lead seems wrong but feels hypocritically honest. Fans will enjoy this taut thriller while wondering who killed the popular teacher.

City of Slaughter
Cynthia Drew
Fithian Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745149, $15.95,

In 5661 (1899 in the Julian calendar) in the Jewish village Lucava, Reuven Akselrod the printer provides seditious documents for those Russians outlawed as traitors. The Cossacks burn Lucava to the ground killing Reuven and his wife Yona. Their daughters (thirteen years old Carsie and nine years old Lilia escape in a wagon driven away by disgraced Cossack Mikheladze. They make it to Trushkeny, but Lilia suffers from typhus. Max Siegel takes the three into his tavern where Mikheladze tends to the child. Lilia recovers but the kind Cossack catches the fever and dies. Months later Max proposes to Carsie who reluctantly accepts. However, sneaky felonious postman Zirl Bakhton needs the siblings to leave as they can read so he arranges for the sisters to travel in the caravan to the west sponsored by affluent Rothschild, but not before stealing most of the money.

The two sisters arrive in New York where they live with relatives in the overcrowded Lower East Side. Each obtains work in the sweatshops and by 1911 both are employed at the Triangle Waist Company while Carsie still dreams of becoming a milliner owner of her own shop.

City Of Slaughter is an excellent historical fiction novel that focuses on a Jew's life under Pogrom Russia and in teeming New York. Character driven by courageous Carsie who watches loved ones die due to mankind's inhumanity, but she refuses to quit on her life's aspiration. Fans will relish this strong look at the plight, dreams, setbacks and triumph of a Jew who is far from an American princess as she brings a spotlight on the first quarter of the twentieth century.

Stuck With You
Trish Jensen
Bell Bridge Books
P.O. Box 300921, Memphis, TN 38130
9781611940862, $13.95,

Paige Hart practices law in Macon, Georgia. She is always there for her crazy large family though that leaves her more often than not in some sort of trouble.

Ross Bennett practices law too. He does not have the large family that Paige does, but he devotes plenty of time to charity and avoids slimy clients.

Paige and Ross respectively represent a divorcing couple, Jasmine and Carmon Carbone arguing over ownership of Doodles the poodle. However their snake shrew labels explode when a bomb ignites inside the courthouse. They are rushed to a hospital in an ambulance contaminated by the Tibetan Concupiscence Virus which leads to intense sexual desire. CDC quarantines the pair who turns to one another for relief and perhaps much more.

Mindful of Monkey Business starring Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers, Stuck With You is a zany lighthearted courtroom-hospital romance starring two likable combatants. The support cast from the medical to the court to the You Can't Take it With You (by Hart and Kauffman) Sycamore family adds humorous lunacy to the mix. Fans will relish a wild gender war between a snake and a shrew in viral lust and maybe love.

Summer Rose
Elizabeth Sinclair
Bell Bridge
9781611940893, $12.95

Registered nurse Rose Hamilton agreed to be a surrogate mother to her foster care friend Beth and Patrick. She carries twins, but is now responsible for them as Beth and Patrick died in an accident. In Carson, West Virginia she applies for a position at Paws & Claws Animal Clinic. Dr. Hunter Mackenzie hires her when she manages to get an orphaned lion cub to eat. This is the first time she touched an animal not counting a cricket that her foster mother stepped on years ago. Her only concern is the health insurance will not cover her prenatal care

Hunter and Rose are attracted to one another from that first interview and their attraction grows though she hides her delicate condition from him. She assumes a man in love with the wild does not need three dependents; besides which she knows her employer has issues with Mayor George Collins over his lion cubs and wolf. The vet wonders why he has a constant urge to kiss his new employee.

The return to Hawks Mountain is a warm regional romance. The support cast is strong as people like Granny Jo brings a local flavor to the mix while the animals add compassion. The lead couple is a tender pairing of two people fearful of relationships falling in love as he recognizes her as a natural and she realizes he is her hero.

One Hoof In The Grave
Carolyn McSparren
Bell Bridge
9781611940176, $14.95

In Georgia, Merry Abbott and her friend Peggy Caldwell are driving the first cross country carriage during a fog when a bull horn and a banner spook their two horses Golden Boy and Ned. Their carriage ends into nearby water, but they and the horses are rescued. Since nasty bully Giles Raleigh and his victimized daughter Dawn were to be first, the assumption is he was the target. Soon afterward, Merry sees Giles' four horses pulling his carriage without a driver. She quickly finds his corpse with a cable spike in his neck. Sheriff Stan Nordstrom leads the investigation in which Merry is a prime suspect. Peggy calls GBI agent Geoff Wheeler, who worked the homicide of Merry's dad (see The Merry Abbot Carriage-Driving Mystery). Attracted to Merry, Geoff rushes to the crime scene where Stan welcomes him.

On the way back to their farm near Missy Creek, someone runs Merry and Peggy off the road. When she checks on her horses, someone tries to kill Merry. She and Geoff realize that Giles' killer thinks she can identify him or her. As Merry hosts an event, a predator stalks her.

Although the killer should have realized Merry could not identify the murderer as the cops would have arrested the culprit, the latest Merry mayhem is an enjoyable investigative whodunit. The fun storyline is leisurely - paced with insight into the cross country carriage shows nicely enhancing the mystery. Readers will enjoy this warm lighthearted romp (unless you're the victim) as Carolyn McSparren continues to spin Mossy Creek into a radically different direction yet contains the elements of friendship that make the community a delightful place to visit.

Beside a Dreamswept Sea
Vicki Hinze
Bell Bridge
9781611940855, $15.95

New Orleans widower Bryce Richards takes his three young children to Seascape Inn hoping that the B&B will help them move on from the death of their mother photojournalist Meriam. He and resident ghost Tony Freeport especially worry about nine years old Susie suffering from nightmares that has her dad sleeping outside her room and the spirit entering her nasty dreams to help her survive them. Their father is less concerned with his son Jeremy and his third child Alyssa the baby.

In Biloxi, Caline Tate, divorced emotionally abusive Gregory, feels an abiding obsession to visit Seascape Inn. There she meets her former husband's lawyer Bryce. Though attracted to each other, neither embraces relationships love after their dysfunctional marriages. Tony and innkeeper Hattie Stillman agree Cally is perfect to nurture three children in need of maternal love, and the adults are a terrific couple if they only moved on passed their previous relationships.

The reprint of the third Vicki Hinze (written as Victoria Barrett) Seascape contemporary Maine romantic fantasy is a whimsical engaging tale as the paranormal matchmaker and his human partner must do much more than just work their magic on the commitment phobic couple. Susie draws Tony's attention as he fears for her life and she brings to him something he has not felt in five decades. Although the story line stands alone thanks to a strong cast, fans will want to read Ms. Hinze's entertaining previous entries (see Upon A Mystic Tide and Beyond the Misty Shores - both written as Ms. Barrett) and The Perfect Stranger and other Seascape novels by Rosalyn Alsobrook to enjoy the magic of this coastal Maine B&B.

Taking a Stand
Ken Casper
Bell Bridge
9781611940879, $13.95

In Coyote Springs, Texas, developers Winslow Carr and Burton Hazlitt plan to tear down the slummy barrio and replace it with an affluent resort. The only roadblock is local resident Jesse Amorado, owner of a construction company and six houses in the designated zone. He could use the money offered by Carr and Hazlitt and understands his neighborhood needs desperate renovation, but he rejects their offer on principal that his friends and neighbors will have no place to live once their homes are bull-dozed.

Winslow's daughter Tori resigns her Air Force officer commission to fly home. She agrees to help her father with his business until she obtains a pilot's position at an airline. While, Burton wants to renew their relationship, she says no. Meanwhile, Tori learns of Jesse's plans and seeks a way for her father and the local builder to each have their dream met. However, as they fall in love, someone makes Jesse look dangerous and felonious while his family, having survived the tragic drive-by murder of his brother, but even when they live on a nearby ranch they are threatened.

The latest Coyote Springs romantic suspense (see As The Crow Dies) is an exciting action-packed thriller starring a strong cast who bring to life real urban development issues re the poor. Although the villain is obvious from the start, readers will relish this engaging tale as tenacious caring Tori seeks a viable solution to the problems keeping the two men she loves from reaching an agreement.

Upon A Mystic Tide
Vicki Hinze
Bell Bridge
9781611940848, $15.95

After several years of separation, married couple, New Orleans radio psychologist Dr. Bess Cameron and investigator John Mystic, has their lawyers battle over a divorce settlement. Bess wants nothing while John wants her to have everything. They meet at Seascape Inn in Sea Haven Village, Maine to finalize their divorce.

Though angry at Bess for failing to attend the funeral of Elise, who was like a mother to him, John knows he does not want their marriage to end as he still loves his wife though he remains uncertain why she left him. Bess still loves her husband, but believes he loves someone else as he chose the case of Elise's missing daughter over her. Resident Tony the ghost not only calls Bess at her show, he speaks to John in the man's head. To insure Bess can no longer run, Tony disables her car. Tony and his sidekick inn proprietor Miss Hattie plan to make this couple communicate.

The reprint of the second Vicki Hinze (written as Victoria Barrett) Seascape contemporary Maine romantic fantasy is a whimsical engaging tale as the paranormal matchmaker works his magic on the recalcitrant married couple. The storyline is character driven by the living couple and the matchmaking spirit who with his human helper struggles to bring this couple in love back together. Although the story line stands alone, it behooves the audience to read Ms. Hinze's entertaining Beyond the Misty Shores (written as Ms. Barrett) and The Perfect Stranger by Rosalyn Alsobrook to better understand the magic of Seascape. Regardless, readers will enjoy their visit to this coastal Maine B&B.

Dark River Road
Virginia Brown
Bell Bridge
9781611940558, $14.95

In 1987 in Cane Creek, Mississippi, fourteen year old Chantry Callahan lives with his mom, his stepfather, his younger brother Mikey and two older stepbrothers. He believes his biological father died in Viet Nam. His stepfather Rainey hated the two reminders that his spouse was married once before; especially Mike who needs heart surgery and walks with braces. Chantry turned to the family's black neighbor Dempsey Rivers the gardener as a father figure while he played with the daughter Tansey whose mother was white.

The Quinton family owns the town as they have for generations. Bert is the patriarch who rules as a despot while his spoiled grandson Chris enjoys his status as a future heir by picking on other though he has one chick in his royal armor; his attraction to unacceptable Tansy. Chantry and Bert's granddaughter Cinda begin dating until her mother ends their relationship and the town patriarch takes it out on the lad's loved ones. Chantry leaves town, but vows to return to learn the truth. Fifteen years later he is back seeking justice.

This is an entertaining regional drama told in two distinct periods with both eras coming vividly to life as the Mississippi Delta having radically changed in many ways in the fifteen year gap; yet in key ways remain the same as Bert still owns the town. Character driven with several mysteries then and now, fans will enjoy Chantry's return home that shakes decades of status quo.

Beyond A Misty Shore
Vicki Hinze
Bell Bridge
9781611940541, $14.95

New Orleans-based artist Tyler James "T.J." MacGregor left town after the car accident left his fiancee Carolyn dead from an inferno in which she was severely burned beyond recognition. They needed her teeth to identify her; ironically his painting of Seascape Inn that the art gallery manager claimed she stole was found inside the car unmarked. He vowed to never use his gift to paint again. T.J. arrived at Seascape Inn in Sea Haven, Maine nine months ago, but like the song Hotel California he can never leave. Every time he tries he blacks out after his first step off the property.

Carolyn's cousin marketing executive Maggie Wright has waited two years in which took care of her invalid mom to learn the truth as to what happened to her relative. Now with her mom healed and feeling a compulsion after seeing the infamous painting, Maggie heads to Maine to confront T.J. At the inn, he is shocked to learn his fiancee has a cousin and aunt while she hears voices encouraging her to help him as she watches him faint every time he tries to leave. As the pair falls in love, the tragedy of Carolyn links them yet keeps them apart as both need inner healing before reaching out of the darkness.

The first charming Seascape romantic fantasy is a terrific tale as two wounded warriors begin to move on passed the tragedy that brought them together. The whimsical storyline is fast-paced while the paranormal rules of Seascape Inn are established through the protagonists. Fans of paranormal romance will want to stay at the spiritual healing Maine B&B with Vicki Hinze as their innkeeper.

Too Close For Comfort
Eve Gaddy
Bell Bridge
9781611940466, $11.95

In Texas at the Fort Williams Center Hospital, the gunshot wound victim Frankie Lemont begins babbling about what happened as calm Trauma Center emergency surgeon Dr. Marissa Fairfax tries to save his life. However, Frankie sees JuJu Jerome arrive with a cop. Jerome takes the cop's gun and fires it at Frankie shutting his mouth forever. He shoots the cop next and grabs Marissa as a hostage to escape from the hospital. FW Detective Lieutenant Jack Corelli intercedes as he rescues "Dr. Ice", but Juju Jerome escapes.

Stunned as two years of hard police work died with Frankie, Jack and Marissa argue over his actions. He interviews her and realizes that Lemont gave a surgical death bed confession to Dr. Ice who is in peril from Juju Jerome who needs to silence her. His case is alive, but he protects her until she testifies.

This is an entertaining police procedural romance starring two obstinate resolute enemies falling in love. Each believes their feelings for the other is an unwanted disease, but growing respect has both reconsidering their initial reactions. The suspense is somewhat minor, but enhances the tale of Dr. Ice and Detective Ice (except in his case when it comes to Tony) melting in love.

When the Night
Christina Comencini, author
Marina Harss, translator
Other Press
2 Park Avenue, 24th Floor, NY, NY 10016
9781590515112, $15.95,

Feeling like she cannot breath or do anything right, Marina struggles with her husband's obsessive probing. Needing to escape the glare, Marina, accompanied by her two year old son Marco, goes on a month-long vacation in the Dolomites. Her landlord Manfred, whose wife just left him, prefers a local renter of his upstairs apartment, but in July he settles for the only interested party, the mother and toddler.

Following an accident, Manfred rescues the pair. He intervenes when her son refuses to eat or behave as the misogynist, who detests all women, thinks she is a lousy mother. Yet the two adults have a n attraction to one another in spite of his harsh treatment of her. Fifteen years later, she returns still obsessed over what she dreams should have been.

When The Night is a deep psychological tale that looks into the souls of two mentally wounded warriors who fear relationships because they have failed at them. That profound scrutiny into the minds of the adults is two edged as it brings a powerful focus on motives especially phobic, but also lingers too long keeping the storyline's pace rather slow. Still fans who enjoy a pensive glimpse into the hearts and souls of the protagonists will want to read Christina Comencini engaging drama while wondering if the memory matches the second time encounter.

Sweet Talk
Stephanie Vaughn
Other Press
2 Park Avenue, 24th Floor, NY, NY 10016
9781590515167, $14.95,

This is a reprint of an excellent ten story collection first published as an anthology in 1990. Many of the entries deal with childhood, family and dogs who are key family members even after they go onto "Dog Heaven" ("Kid MacArthur" and the classic "Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog"). Others focus on young women dealing with issues like infidelity as an upset woman realizes her spouse impregnated her BFF in ''The Architecture of California'' and cheating is the norm for "Other Women." In "Snow Angel," a snowstorm traps a mother with no escape from her two children and in wintry weather a driver crashes into a police car musing "We're on TV in the Universe." This is a strong collection throughout summed up nicely by an extended family identity in "My Mother Breathing Light."

Cats Can't Shoot
Clea Simon
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590583256, $24.95,

In Beauville in the Berkshires, Police Officer Jim Creighton explains to pet behaviorist (and psychic) Pru Marlowe that the Persian is a "killer kitty". Apparently she accidentally fired the gun that killed Donal Franklin. The feline's prints are on the weapon as are feline fur. Pru looks the Persian in the eyes and asks if she did it; however, instead of "hearing" what the cat was thinking, the feline's brain is silent as she hisses at the behaviorist before being removed.

Pru accompanied by Wallis her cat, turns to the other animal residents of Beauville for information as she is increasingly convinced the Persian is traumatized by what she saw and is not guilty of homicide. Creighton and his support team disagree so Pru knows she will need hard evidence, but Wallis becomes frustrated with her failure to truly listen; while her ex NYPD cop Tom Reynolds is in town allegedly working a case.

The second Pru Marlowe Pet Noir is an enjoyable whodunit that is similar in plot to its predecessor (see Dogs Don't Lie) in that a traumatized pet is accused of a homicide and the heroine investigates by chatting with the animals. However this time the heroine is not the prime human suspect and Wallis refreshes the mystery with his mounting frustrations with Pru. .Fast-paced from the moment Pru drops her ire when she learns a kitty shooting literally meant a kitty shooting an owner rather than visa-versa, readers will relish this fun caper.

James Sallis
Poisoned Pen
9781464200113, $19.95

After Driver killed Bernie Rose, he felt remorse for the first time (see Drive) since he began his obsessed revenge vendetta. He decided the time was right to move on and end his vengeance killing spree.

Seven years later, thirtyish Paul West enjoys his middle class life in Phoenix. His dream shatters on a Saturday morning while walking with his fiancee Elsa. Two men attack them; killing Elsa before he can kill them. Driver is back as Paul dies when he sees Elsa die. His friend former Ranger Felix helps him temporarily hide, but his enemies keep on coming. This time two vehicles with hit men wait for Driver who is more Driven now then he was seven years ago.

The return of Driver will elate fans especially with the movie of the first thriller coming. The antihero fights back against his adversaries with renewed feral vigor fueled by his watching Elsa take her last breath. He knows one thing: those who arranged the hit will die. Action-packed from the opening assault on a Phoenix street, the accelerator never breaks even at the finish line as Driver is Driven by his new mission.

In-Flight Entertainment: Stories
Helen Simpson
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307595584, $24.00,

On the micro level, this thirteen short story collection focuses on all types of relationships as people realize death is the outcome; on the macro level the contributions provide a cautionary theme of humanity's suicidal destruction of the planet. All the entries are excellent as Helen Simpson smoothly blends her big and little pictures into a cohesive anthology. The opening title story In-Flight Entertainment has an indifferent flyer upgraded to first class only to find his row mate passionately blaming mankind for an inconvenient truth caused by the dangerous carbon footprint ironically including air travel. The academic ridicules his lover over her environmental fears as "ecospeak", but that scorn proves to be The Tipping Point" ending their relationship. The romantic "Geography Boy" cannot win his beloved's heart fully as she fears the death of the planet nears, but each tries as they have each other when the end comes. The business guru once again proves "Ahead of the Pack" of lemmings with a plan to make money on the global warming fears. "Diary of an Interesting Year" sums up the compilation as by the year 2040 avarice fuels mankind's destruction. With the tome differing from humorous to stark essayist, this is a great collection summed up by Pogo" We have met the enemy and he is us."

Cuts Like a Knife
M.K. Gilroy
Worthy Publishing
134 Franklin Road, Suite 200
Brentwood, TN 37027
9781936034697, $14.99,

Chicago Police Department Detective Kristen Conner has anger management issues, which she controls by her love for her family. She enjoys coaching her seven year old niece Kendra's soccer team, goes regularly to church and still squabbles with her TV news reporter sister Klarissa.

Data leads the FBI to believe an "organized" serial killer has surfaced in Chicago; the perpetrator targets successful young woman. The DC FBI Headquarters sends agent Austin Reynolds to help CPD on the case. He advises Kristen as to where the predator meets his chosen ones while she realizes her sister Klarissa fits the profile of the maniac's victims but is unaware that she does also. With Reynolds having her back, she goes undercover to catch a psychopath.

This is an exciting police procedural that spends a bit more time following the civilian life of a dedicated detective although the serial killer's diary provides short bursts of counterpoints. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy kick butt Kristen as she tries to balance her loving family life with her deadly occupation as the first Connor mystery is an engaging tale.

Tom Pawlik
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414338736, $12.99,

Twelve years ago, University of Chicago anthropologist Dr. David Kendrick said goodbye to his nine year old son Jack before going west to study an ancient civilization reported to be more advanced than the Egyptians were; he never came home. Jack, who dreamed of joining his dad on his expeditions, obsesses over recovering his late father's damaged reputation. Joining him on a trek to Beckon, Wyoming is his best friend Rudy Peterson where they will search the nearby caves allegedly home of the Native American legend Sh'ar Kouhm, the Soul Eater while he also seeks closure with a deep need to know what happened to his dad.

Ben Graywolf becomes their local guide with the Caieche, other locals and the geography. Caieche Running Bear warns them the cave means death. The trio enters the cave, but only Jack leaves. When he tells his tale to the law, he becomes a prisoner. Meanwhile ex-cop Elina Gutierrez arrives in town seeking her missing cousin, but she becomes the hunted. Finally George Wilcox comes to Beckon seeking a miracle cure for Alzheimer's destroying his wife; he too is a guest of the townsfolk.

This is a gripping horror thriller that hooks the audience from the moment Jack and his comrades enter the cave and never slows down as he, Elina and George learn the secret of Beckon, but readers doubt they will get away to tell it; though each assumes no one will believe them. Fast-paced and filled with twists and strange venomous beasts (including humans), fans will enjoy this taut thriller wondering what the secrets of Beckon are.

Games Traitors Play
Jon Stock
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312644772, $25.99,

Last year in Delhi, Salim Dhar almost assassinated the President of the United States. Since then he has been a marked man with the CIA targeting him for death. However, their attempts to kill the terrorists have failed while the drone strikes in Af-Pak run thirty a month only anger the locals.

Rogue MI6 officer Daniel Marchant thinks the espionage agencies are inane as they depend on electronic surveillance to find his half-brother Dhar. He thinks Dhar has gone under the radar using the Berber storytellers as cover in Marrakech to pass information. As the CIA proclaims the hit, Marchant follows Dhar up Atlas Mountains until the terrorist flies away in an unmarked military helicopter. Stunned that Dhar has some powerful allies, Marchant needs to follow in the rumored shoes of his allegedly traitorous father by turning to the Russians. His superior M16 chief Marcus Fielding does not believe Marchant is betraying his country while CIA liaison Lakshmi Meena forces him to work with her over his objection. As he hunts for Dhar, Marchant believes his killing sibling has something horrific planned for London.

Still a Dead Spy Running, who trusts no one and has no one trusting him, Marchant struggles with his side's duplicity and triple crosses as the Brits, Americans and Russians strongly believe the end justifies the mean. Each uses Marchant as an expendable pawn. Although the insight into the agencies' rivalry is fascinating, the convoluted plot filled with betrayals can be difficult to follow especially if you have not read the first thriller as the rules of engagement is realistically bizarre. Still readers will hope Marchant can stop running and get in from the cold.

Mix-Up In Miniature
Margaret Grace
Perservance Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel, Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745101, $15.95,

In Lincoln Point, California, retired teacher Geraldine "Gerry" Porter and popular romance novelist Varena Young meet and become friends. Varena owns a large miniatures collection; so when the library hosts an auction to raise funds, she donates a valuable museum-quality Georgian mansion dollhouse.

Gerry is at Varena's mansion when she overhears her host argue with an unknown male. The maid tells Gerry that the man is her employer's brother. Not long afterward someone murders Varena. The police question Gerry, who tells them she overheard a fight between the victim and her sibling. However, the cops explain there is no brother. With her trusty eleven year old sidekick Maddie and her granddaughter accompanying her, Gerry investigates to prove her innocence starting with the clue in the secret room of an antique dollhouse.

The latest Miniature Mystery (see Mourning In Miniature and Monster In Miniature) is a wonderful cozy starring a dynamic amateur sleuth team trying to prove Gerry's innocence. The fast-paced storyline is lighthearted fun as the geriatric and the tweener escort readers on a room by room tour of dollhouses in their search for clues.

Laura Crum
Perservance Press
c/o Daniel & Daniel, Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745088, $14.95,

Fifty is a monumental pivotal age for many mothers as their kids reach an age of self-reliance. In Santa Cruz, California, single mom Gail McCarthy believes so as she faces a major decision as to whether to return to work as a horse veterinarian or retire permanently at a relatively early age since her son Mac is a tweener.

Gail muses over her future while taking a ride on Sunny when she meets Jane Kelly on her Arab mare Dolly. Jane is angry at Tammi Martinez of the Red Barn Stable, Bill Waters and his sic 'em big dog, Sheryl Silverman who stole her boyfriend, and stupid Julie and Jim of Lazy Valley. After departing, Gail hears a shot, which nearby Lazy Valley horse trainer (credentials come from sleeping with owner Julie Barnes) Jonah Wakefield denies hearing. He leaves her as a dirt biker zooms past Gail. She soon finds Dolly meandering alone and subsequently a dead Jane. Police Detective Jeri Ward investigates the homicide in which Gail assists her when a second rider is murdered.

The twelfth Gail McCarthy equine mystery (see Going, Gone) combines a meandering light cozy with a profound coming of middle age acceptance and realism. Gail has turned fifty with the knowledge that she is skiing down the slope of life (per my nephew re his uncle) as over half of hers is gone. Fans of the series will relish this engaging whodunit as the heroine considers to be or not to be employed while Laura Crum probably has her riding off into the sunset but not off a cliff.

Bring Me One of Everything
Leslie Hall Pinder
Grey Swan Press
9780983490012, $16.95,

In British Columbia, fortyish Alicia Purcell has been hired to write the libretto for an opera based on the late anthropologist and Haida expert scholar Austin Hart. Alicia heads to Vancouver to research the opera's subject who committed suicide and to visit her estranged mom Sophia suffering from cancer.

Alicia learns what drove Hart including his leading the cutting down of the Haida totem poles in the 1950s so they could be placed in museums. As she reads his papers and talks to his family and friends, and the Haida tribe on Queen Charlotte Islands, Alicia looks introspective and decides what is important as she begins to reconcile with her mom.

From the opening cutting down of the Weeping Woman Totem Pole until the final aria is sung, the aptly titled Bring Me One of Everything is a thought provoking tale starring a seemingly compulsively obsessed woman with a gut need to know the whys of her subject. The debate over the "safety" of the totem poles is intelligent as readers will ponder between the museum with its easy accessibility and controlled environment or the natural habitat; ironically ownership was irrelevant during the 1950s and earlier as possession by the powerful was ten tenths of the law. With a deep look at Haida art and the subsequent cutting down and removal of the Totems, fans will appreciate Leslie Hall Pinder's fabulous insightful story.

Beyond Reason: Lessons from the Loss of a Gifted Child
Gregg Korbon, MD
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440123979, $13.95,

In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Central Virginia, nine year old Brian Korbon scores the first run of his Little league career. Euphoric he enters the dugout where his teammates and coaches high five him. He immediately collapses. The next day the media headline reads "Boy Dies Playing Little League." Many people across the nation paid their respects to the grieving family. Seeking closure, Brian's dad decided to write a biography of his son. However, he and other family members begin to find evidence that somehow Brian knew he was about to die; as he left behind gifts to his loved ones and letters telling them he is okay so not to worry. Part one is the original concept of Dr. Korbon to honor his son and to help him and his family move on. Part two is his discovery that his beloved son was cognitive of his pending death and conformable with the concept. This leads Dr. Korbon to research similar metaphysical cases Beyond Reason.

This passionate in memoriam memoir starts with a tender short biography by a father struggling with the loss of his son; made worse by his feeling guilt over being a physician who saw no signs of illness in his late child. The second section (most of the book) follows Dr. Korbon as he walks the extraordinary metaphysical trail his gifted son traversed. Readers will empathize with the author who has found solace in what Brian left behind for him and their loved ones.

A Rogue By Any Other Name
Sarah Maclean
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062068521, $7.99,

In 1821 Michael Lawler realized the eight of diamonds left him penniless as all he now owns is the title Marquess of Bourne. The Ton rejected him, which forced Michael, fueled by an obsession to regain his ancestral home from the Marquess of Needham and Dolby, into working the underground. He started as a pit boss, but a decade later worthy Michael is co-owner of The Fallen Angels gambling hell.

Penelope Marbury ends another engagement to the chagrin of her family and the ostracism by the Ton. She recklessly decides to find her former friend and pen pal Michael as she thinks she may love him. When she succeeds, she realizes he is not the warm person she remembers, but instead is cold and angry. He sees an opportunity to achieve his goal as she is the daughter of his enemy. They marry and begin to fall in love, but Michael cannot move past is his need for revenge.

The opening The First Rule Of Scoundrels is an engaging historical romance that is fun to read as love battles acrimony. The lead couple is a nice pairing as she is his redemption card but he believes she is his revenge card. Although their personal tsuris eventually slows down the plot, readers will enjoy the 1831 version of Guys and Dolls with humorous eccentric support characters.

The Tattooed Duke
Maya Rodale
9780062088925, $7.99

After a dozen years globetrotting in search of adventure, Sebastian Digby returns to England in 1825. He has come home not out of love for his country, but because he is broke and can no longer afford the lifestyle he cherishes; at least not as a bachelor. In the tradition of financially strapped aristocrats, Sebastian plans to marry wealth so he can fund his escapades with her money, but knows his scandalous past severely limits the available pool.

The London Weekly assigns Eliza Fielding to go undercover inside the prodigal duke's home in order to report his activities. Eliza obtains a position of housemaid in Sebastian's home. She exposes his secrets in her reporting. However, she finds him caring and warm while he is attracted to the witty maid. Though she fears his reaction when he learns of her duplicity as he hunts for the reporter making him the laughing stock of the Ton; Eliza also wants to kiss every tattoo on Sebastian's body. Love is inconvenient for Eliza and Sebastian.

The latest Writing Girls late Regency romance (see A Groom Of One's Own, A Tale Of Two Lovers and The Tattooed Duke) is a charming tale starring two fascinating protagonists. The storyline is fast-paced from the moment Eliza joins Sebastian's household and never slows down until the explosive finish. The epilogue reminded me of Bob Thaves' comment: "Sure he (Fred Astaire) was great, but don't forget Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards and in high heels!"

Between The Duke And The Deep Blue Sea
Sophia Nash
9780062022325, $7.99

At Whites' Club in Mayfair, several dukes and the Prince Regent get drunk at Lord Candover's bachelor party. No one remembers what happened except the hangover is very painful. However, a reporter jogs their memories with an article on their outrageous behavior and Candover's marriage was cancelled due to the scandal that has many outraged by the intoxicated behavior and one person is dead. The Prince Regent informs his fellow partiers they will rusticate while finding brides.

Lady Roxanne Vanderhaven searches for her beloved Edward the dog when her spouse Lawrence insisted he fell off Kynance Cliff. She looks' falls over and now dangles over the edge while her husband says he will return with a rope. Eddie arrives to see his mistress in peril. The mongrel finds Lord Alexander Barclay, one of the Regent's exiles, heading to his Cornwall estate. He rescues her from certain death. While Roxanne is in shock over her near death experience and her spouse's betrayal, Alex offers her a haven pretending to be a visiting relative. After attending her "funeral", they become friends and soon fall in love. However, her husband's activities leave Alex in trouble. His beloved and his drunken mates believe in him so he investigates what her husband wrought.

The first Royal Entourage Regency romance is a humorous historical version of the Hangover. The jocular storyline is fast-paced while even the mystery is filled with mirth (unless you are the magistrate or Lawrence). Though the protagonists and the antagonist are not fully developed, fans will enjoy the first aftermath of the early nineteenth century's most scandalous bachelor party.

Blame It On Bath
Caroline Linden
9780062025333, $7.99

Plan A is for Gerard de Lacey to find the blackmailer threatening his family; his backup plan is to marry wealth so he can pay off the extortionist. Widow Lady Katherine Howe knows Gerald needs funds so she offers him a deal as she needs a husband. She explains that her late older husband's nephew, his heir Lucien, wants to force her into unholy matrimony as he needs her money; if he fails to wed her he owes her a fortune due to the dowry arrangement. Gerald accepts her proposal of a marriage of convenience.

Katherine conceals from her new spouse that she always has had a crush on him. Meanwhile Gerard finds his wife an equal partner in his investigation and Katherine finds her husband very protective of her. As his admiration grows for Katherine, Gerald falls in love with his passionate mate.

The latest Truth About The Duke (see One Night In London and the prequel I Love The Earl) is an entertaining Regency romance. The marriage of convenience premise has been used a zillion times especially in historical novels but is made fresh by the inquiry into who blackmails the de Lacey siblings. Though Lucien proves too weak an opponent, fans will enjoy the youngest brother working his way through the maze of love.

The Husband Hunt
Lynsay Sands
9780061963100 $7.99

Lisa Madison loves Robert Langley; Robert Langley loves Lisa Madison too but not in the same way. He still sees Lisa as an impish child rather than the woman she has become. Although like her older siblings (see The Heiress and The Countess), she has many wannabe suitors, Lisa plans to prove to Robert that she is a woman in love with a dolt who she believes loves her too.

However, someone stalks Lisa. She is poisoned and almost abducted. Robert vows to protect Lisa though he prefers to keep his distance as he knows beneath his veneer of pretending she is a child, he wants her. His parents' marriage left him with a commitment phobia. However, when his beloved Lisa vanishes, Robert risks his life to save her and tell her how he really feels.

The latest Madison Sisters historical romantic suspense is an engaging tale as Robert affirms the child is the adult with his anti-marriage stance that needs a greater trauma to shake him up. The story line is fast-paced and filled with pathos and humor. The villain's obsession comes across genuine though his overall performance (four attempts) is poor. Readers will enjoy this exciting nineteenth century thriller due to the fully developed flawed key characters.

Trail of the Spellmans
Lisa Lutz
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781451608120, $25.00,

San Francisco private investigator Izzy Spellman avoids her live in boyfriend Henry Stone as if he has a contagious disease. His mom Gertrude is visiting him and she fears what he means when he insists they "talk". Meanwhile three clients hire the family to conduct surveillance. Margaret Slayer wants her spouse observed; Adam Cooper wants his sister followed; and parents want their daughter Vivian Blake, a Berkley freshman, followed.

At the same time, Izzy's mom becomes the hobby queen with CIA baking and Russian crocheting her way to nirvana. Her brother David tosses out her sister Rae from the basement apartment of his house that she has lived in. While her father speaks in code as if English was a second language, the three surveillances cases morph into one super inquiry while Walter Perkins calls about his stove.

The latest Spellman thriller (see The Spellman Files, Curse of the Spellmans and The Spellmans Strike Again) is a humorous madcap tale as the family that investigates together fights with each other. Fast-paced, Izzy quickly concludes her siblings, parents and boyfriend are crazier than she is; even if her new drinking buddy is Henry's mom Gertrude as she employs the Avoidance Method.

All That Is Bitter And Sweet
Ashley Judd with Maryanne Vallers
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345523624, $16.00,

Overall All That Is Bitter And Sweet is a fascinating memoir as actress Ashley Judd describes her childhood and her philanthropist activity around the globe. Ms. Judd describes growing up childhood amongst a family of performers as abusive though some of the anecdotal assertions don't come across as very heavy at least to this reader but more like a family interacting such as teasing her when she sings. Her work as a dedicated activist for several causes especially her efforts for Population Services International is intriguing as Ms. Judd with a Harvard Master's degree proves she is no pampered Hollywood star (living remote on a Tennessee farm and in Scotland). Not for everyone as there is little about her movie life or her marriage to Indy winner Dario Francitti; the focuses are on her bitter childhood and her sweet overseas advocacy.

Dorchester Terrace
Anne Perry
9780345510624, $26.00

In 1896, Thomas Pitt still struggles with replacing Victor Narraway as the chief of Scotland Yard's Special Branch. Part of his concern is that his former boss was exonerated of all wrong doing in the recent Irish fiasco (see Treason at Lisson Grove), but was not returned to his position.

Pitt's staff reports that someone has made inquiries into railway signals and points at the Dover-London rail. Pitt fears an assassination is being planned of a European dignity due to the Dover connection, but whom, where and when are unknown. In London, a demented elderly Italian ex agent and a Croatian wife may have the information Pitt needs; he turns to his spouse Charlotte to ferret out the data to prevent a heinous crime. When he learns Austrian Duke Alois Habsburg is coming to London via Dover, Pitt thinks he is the target, but cannot fathom why kill so many innocents to get at a minor noble; so he ponders whether that assassination is a distraction from the prime plan.

The latest Pitt late Victorian police procedural is a great mystery as the hero feels out of his depth running the branch while many others in government agree with his assessment. In fact only his wife and his former boss believe he is capable of doing the full job, which includes decision making in the gray fuzzy areas. Action-packed, fans will relish the insight into the tottering Austro-Hungarian Empire within a fabulous time ticking investigative thriller.

The Deep Zone
James M. Tabor
9780345530615, $26.00

Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority microbiologist Dr. Hallie Leland was on the verge of a break though of a super-antibiotic rivaling penicillin when she was accused of selling government secrets. To avoid prison, she resigned.

Currently, Hallie works at the Deep Enough Dive Shop in Northern Florida only because her best friend Mary Stilwell hired her. Thomas Brewster arrives asking for a guide to take him to the Boneyeard. She takes him down and saves his life. HSD Agents Fortier and Whittle arrive to chat with Dr. Leland, who stuns them with her lack of respect. They say Dr. Don Barnard of CDC, who supported her when BARDA sold her out, sent them to her. She travels to DC immediately where she meets with Don, Delta lab supervisor Dr. Lewis Casey and CIA agent David Lathrop. Wounded soldiers were infected with a new form of Acinetobacter contagious bacterial infection that has come from Afghanistan to the States. Time is running out however, as they need to complete her original work but what they need is in a deep Mexican cave where two people died on the last expedition there and lawlessness is the law in the general area.

This is an exciting bioterror medical thriller that grips the reader from the moment the disgraced heroine is brought back at the eleventh hour to save the day until the final bloody twist. Although the supervillain and to a lesser degree his conspirators and the supporting good guys are stereotyped, fans will enjoy the dive into the weird world of subterranean caves escorted by Hallie.

Caine's Law
Matthew Stover
Del Rey
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345455895, $16.00,

Professional Simon Faller begs Badlands Facility Director Administrator Gayle Keller to not make him do the mission as he is very afraid. Faller has seen first-hand what prisoner Chairman Hori "Caine" Michaelson can do to his enemies. Keller is scared even knowing that Caine is held in check by the Studio, but tells Faller their roles is to get Caine to try to kill them than those outside the facility. The two frightened men visit Caine in his cell. They inform him that the Board rejected his proposal on access to the Overwold in exchange for amnesty. Instead they counter with a fried brain wiring or accepting the oily elixir that insures total loyalty. With no real option especially after seeing what happened to a dedicated follower of his, he takes the chemical.

However, everyone underestimates the ruthless Caine; as he understands acting is to build off the sh*t that motivates you. His allies enable Caine to escape to the Overwold' which he once saved from genocide by the ruling elite of Earth. Caine begins a time and space odyssey that will either bring him what he lost or eradicate the universe.

The latest Caine speculative fiction thriller is a gory yet intelligent and entertaining tale. The storyline is convoluted as time proves liquid (as Matthew Stover notes) with this entry in the Act of Atonement saga coming before, during and after the events of the previous novel Caine Black Knife; to further complicate matters, incidents that were real at one time vanish as if they never happened. Readers will appreciate this exciting complex thriller while wondering if the universe ended would anyone notice.

The Games
Ted Kosmatka
Del Rey
9780345526618, $25.00

The Olympics include the Gladiator blood-sport in which genetically created competitors fight to the death. The only rule is no human DNA is allowed as strict testing will lead to disqualifications and ruined reputations.

Geneticist Silas Williams has led the Americans to the gold in every previous contest and there is no reason to believe he and his team will not do likewise again. However, this year, instead of Silas creating the entry, an AI was programmed to do so with one business rule¨ survive the competition at all cost. However, the new representative proves diabolical, bellicose and amoral as it heeds the prime directive by killing anyone, gladiators and human, in the way. Additionally the out of control monster enjoys dining on humans. Silas and xenobiologist Vidonia Joao must find a way prevent further mayhem by unlocking the American entry's genome code.

The cast is solid as even the creation seems genuine while the subplots nicely converge into a strong tense finish. Taut throughout, but especially when the AI completes the mission, The Games is a terrific tale even though reader will anticipate the PERT chart path of this exciting cautionary science fiction; as Ted Kosmatka makes his intriguing modernization of Frankenstein a gold medal winner.

Angels of Vengeance
John Birmingham
Del Rey
9780345502933, $26.00

Several years have passed since the catastrophic wave of energy destroyed the United States killing millions in 2003 that came like a tsunami Without Warning; scientists remain baffled as to the cause and why it abruptly vanished a year later. President Kipper and the White House moved to Seattle where the new America is formed in the Pacific Northwest (see Without Warning and After America). World War III explodes as many nations want to fill the mantle of superpower.

In Uruguay, South American Federation, Echelon senior field special agent Caitlin Monroe seeks Ramon Luperico, held prisoner by a dictator; as she plans to interrogate the former prison governor of Guadeloupe detention center to learn how a terrorist escaped to destroy New York City and her loved ones. Teenager Sofia Peiraro survived the murderous rule of General "Mad" Jack Blackstone by fleeing to Kansas City with her dad Miguel; but a homicide hits home has her retuning to Texas to even the score with Mad Jack. In Darwin, Australia British smuggler Lady Julianne "Jules" Balwyn calmly waits for her stalker contract killer Norman Parmenter so she can kill her predator.

The final super alternate historical post-apocalyptic thriller works on four prime fronts (though there are other lesser ones) to show a world filling a power vacuum. The President's problems in attempting to help the country heal and recover have issues from dissenters within his circle, from vicious despots throughout the nation and potential foreign invaders. The subplots led by the three female led subplots display how much the earth changed and yet remains the avaricious same since the wave. Together they make a cohesive exciting international tale as they converge as Angels of Vengeance.

Uglies: Shay's Story (Graphic Novel)
Scott Westerfeld, Steven Cummings and Devin Grayson (illustrator)
Del Rey
9780345527226, $10.99

In Uglyville humans are ugly until their sixteenth birthday. At that time they must choose to become a Pretty and enjoy the fruits of society or remain as they are. Most opt for the Surge to change them into a Pretty as the materialistic hedonism of obedience supersedes toiling as an Ugly.

As Shay nears her landmark birthday, she looks forward to transforming into a Pretty; as does her friend Tally. Both are daredevil risk takers tampering with their hoverboard safety mechanisms. After a crash landing, Shay meets Zane known as Stretch. She says her friends call her "Skinny". He tells her he plans to go out not up as she did. Shay thinks he means the burbs with the middle Pretties, but he says beyond the grid. Stretch introduces Skinny to the skeptical teen Crims who question anything society claims as fact. Feeling an affinity with the Crims, as her sixteenth birthday nears; she must decide between Shay the Pretty in the city or Skinny the Ugly in the wilderness.

Fans of Tally's saga sees the story from Shay's perspective in this terrific graphic book that captures the same values questions of what rights a citizen has to say no to a society demanding conformity. The storyline is fast-paced with illustrations enhancing the action. Readers will appreciate Shay's choice in a society that demands compliance in exchange for a life of "pleasure". Though targeting middle school children, the entertaining storyline will remind readers of commentary by Dylan Ratigan (see Greedy Bastards) and Charles J. Sykes (see A Nation of Moochers: America's Addiction to Getting Something for Nothing) though Shay insists there is a price to pay.

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse
Troy Denning
Del Rey
9780345509222, $27.00

The Force flows strongly through father and son Luke and Ben Skywalker as well as female teenage Sith Vestara Khai. Ben and Vestara are attracted to each other though she hates these weak feelings that go against her nature. Still she has saved their lives several times which also goes against her Sith DNA.

The Skywalker pair completed their mission so they return to the Jedi stronghold on Coruscant. However the Sith have infiltrated the Galactic Alliance in a bold plan to destroy their enemy from within and Abeloth has begun her quest to take over the galaxy by controlling the Galactic Alliance. Some of the Alliance members are aware of the twin threats, a bold plan is deployed to force the Sith out into the open while the targets employ a counterplot; meanwhile Abeloth continues to feed on the fear that the adversaries bring to her.

The ninth and final Fate of the Jedi (three authors - Aaron Allston, Christie Golden and Troy Denning) is a terrific ending to a strong post New Hope saga. The two overarching prime plots (and much more) converge on Coruscant with the Skywalker pair ready to take the fight to Abeloth while the Jedi and Sith face off in a Force Armageddon. This is a must read.

Body, Inc.
Alan Dean Foster
Del Rey
9780345511997, $15.00

Scientist Dr. Ingrid Seastrom seeks to understand the enigma of quantum-entangled nanoscale implants. Whispr the thief has found a silver data-storage thread that he believes will make him rich and he hopes wins the heart of Ingrid though he fears she rejects his extremely emaciated body made paper thin by nano modifications. They travel from Namerica to Africa to locate the maker of the thread and to flee deadly pursuers who want the gizmo.

Assassins chase them, but they reach their destination the South African Economic Combine (SAEC better known as SICK), which appears to have answers to their questions. However, SICK's response to the Namerica visitors is to dispatch their deadliest operative Napun Mole to kill the intruders before they get smart on what is happening. Genetically enhanced to be an army of one, Mole obsesses over then as he failed to kill them when first sent to Namerica South, which leaves a blight on his assassination scorecard. They must be tortured for their gall of surviving his initial assault before he murders them.

The second Tipping Point futuristic industrial espionage science fiction satire is a fast-paced chaotic thriller that is fun to read, but lacks the freshness of The Human Blend even with new locations and novel modified human killing machines. Still the action is catchy as fans will enjoy traversing the world of Alan dean Foster with Dr. Ingrid and Whisper as their guides.

The Gods of Gotham
Lyndsay Faye
Amy Einhorn Books
c/o G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399158377, $25.95,

In 1845 Irish immigrants flee the potato famine back home to inundate New York City. The newcomers struggle to adapt to their new world.

Twenty-something Timothy Wilde tends bar near the downtown Manhattan Exchange until a devastating inferno left him scarred; without dreams, a job and homeless. His older politically connected brother arranges for him to receive a copper star as a policeman on the newly created New York force. Skeptical and bitter, Timothy hates his beat is the horrific slum, the Sixth Ward. As he completes his disheartening night rounds, Timothy sees a young girl running in a nightshift with blood all over her. Feeling for the child, he breaks the rules of don't get emotionally involved by taking her home with him instead of dumping her at the House of Refuge. She tells him an insane story of bodies buried in the wilderness above 23rd Street. Unable to resist he finds the gruesome truth, as he investigates a case in which he must keep the Irish and the Democratic Party out of the inquiry if he wants his loved ones and himself to survive.

This is an excellent historical mystery that brings to life New York at a time of mass Irish immigration becoming the backbone of a Tammany hall spoils system. The investigation is fast-paced, but driven by a strong cast to include the city (a forest in Manhattan means to this former Bronx resident German Forest Cake in the Germantown bakeries) and the beginning of NYPD. The whodunit has enough suspects to fill The Battery as Lyndsay Faye provides a great nineteenth century whodunit.

The Witness
Nora Roberts
c/o G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399159121, $27.95,

In Bickford, Arkansas, beautiful, brilliant Abigail Lowery keeps to herself in her fortified house on the outskirts of the remote Ozarks town. The hermit intermingles with townsfolk only when she has no choice as she prefers to remain inside her mini fortress. Her abode contains several locks on the door and windows, a self-developed top of the line security system that the White House would envy, and carries a gun especially when leaving her fort. Her sole companion is her sentry dog Bigg who will kill at her signal.

Police Chief Brooks Gleason realizes Abigail is hiding from someone behind her barriers. He cares about her so he refuses to keep his distance. Instead Brooks breaks down her personal fortifications until Abigail confides in him. In 2003 she witnessed a murder by the Volkov branch of the Russian mafia. Brooks assists Abigail in using the information she gathered since the homicide to bring down the Volkov family. She agrees to testify against them, but the mob has contacts inside key federal and state agencies. Brooks risks his life to protect Abigail so she can one day soon live outside of a gilded cage.

Nora Roberts writes an outstanding romantic suspense as the resolute hero peels away the defenses of the beleaguered woman in peril until they risk their lives to fight for their love. The storyline starts with sixteen years old Abigail who tries to break out of the rigid controlling rules of a strict martinet mother who demands total obedience. After becoming the reluctant Witness, she learns you sometimes get what you wish for; as she switches jails while the Russians are coming and only her canine and her beloved have her back.

Helsinki White
James Thompson
9780399158322, $25.95

In Helsinki, police inspector Kari Vaara is ecstatic with the birth of his daughter Anu and that his beloved American wife Kate is okay. However, a few days later, he informs Kate that he has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. If that is not enough of a shocker, Kari also tells her Finland's national chief of police Jyr Ivalo assigns him to head up SUPO; a police unit fighting organized crime by committing crimes against these mobs. SUPO, who reports to Jyr only, consists of Kari, his former partner Milo Nieminien and his mentee Sulo "Sweetness" Polvinen.

Kati goes on sick leave to have the tumor removed. After recovering, he his two teammates begin the robbery campaign as they successfully steal cash, drugs, and weapons from the mobs. Although rumors of his being on the take abound, when the Minister of Immigration Lisbet Soderlund is beheaded in a racial assault, Tom is assigned to investigate this and the cold case kidnapping of wealthy superego Veikko Saukko's children Antti and Kaarina, and Kaarina's murder just after her return home. He obtains needed help from former French legionnaire Adrien Moreau while he fears he has become part of the cesspool destroying the city.

The latest Vaara Finnish police procedural Kari (see Snow Angels and Lucifer's Tears) is an ultra-dark thriller that grips readers with its insightful look at racism and the related anti-immigration fervor. Action-packed yet character driven by the protagonist who fears he has become one of the sordid unworthy of his two females, aptly titled Helsinki White depressingly reminds readers that this may be fiction, but real incidents makes it sadly easier for James Thompson to write his exciting grim tale.

Unnatural Acts
Stuart Woods
9780399158865, $26.95

Stone Barrington earned his full partnership at prestigious Woodman & Weld by diligently handling those cases the law firm preferred no association with. He meets Marla the Broadway director at a dinner. They hit it off and she moves into his home when a stalker becomes increasingly dangerous.

Stone hands the case over to NYPD police lieutenant Dino. Former Assistant FBI Director Shelley and Dino make love before she leaves. To stay out of trouble, Dino fails to report their tryst because she became a fugitive after killing five people.

Seeing himself when he was younger, Stone advises associate Herbie Fisher, who listens to his suggestions leading to a promotion. He brings in billionaire clients, but one of them hedge fund manager Marshal Brennan wants his new lawyer to deal with his wastrel son Dink; who owes $200,000 to a bookie and is probably dealing in drugs. Herbie gets Dirk committed and deals with the bookie using legal means. Stone warns his mentee to watch his back. Dino searches for Marla's stalker who is more dangerous than they know and Shelley arranges their encounter in which he fails to recognize her.

The three subplots keep Stone in a peripheral role with Herb and Dino as the protagonists. Herb proves cunning in using quasi legal methods while Dino allows his love for Shelley to handcuff his official need to arrest her (mindful of TV's Detective Chief Inspector John Luther). Although the premises seem unlikely and the closing of Elaine's matches the real closing in November, fans will enjoy Stone mellowing while Herb and Dino carry the footballs.

Echoes of Titanic
Mindy Starns Clark and John Campbell Clark
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North
Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736929462, $14.99,

In 1913, Adele Brennan stands in Lower Manhattan overlooking the Hudson on a cold April day thinking about her family members (Uncle Rowan and Cousin Jocelyn) who died horribly one year ago today in the frozen ocean. Their bodies were never recovered for her to properly bury her loved ones except to honor them by making something of herself in New York.

In 2002, Adele's great granddaughter Kelsey Tate knows the family tragedy and achievement as she works at the firm Brennan & Tate her late relative established nine decades ago. As Kelsey stands on the memorial in Battery Park honoring those who died on the Titanic, she fears she is failing Adele with a hostile take-over seemingly imminent. A distant relative Rupert claims that Adele died with Rowan, but Jocelyn survived and changed her identity so that Adele's father who had not seen his daughter since she was a toddler would welcome her into his home. He is suing the estate based on the alleged fraud committed by Jocelyn. Stunned by the assault on her idol, Kelsey finds her boss Gloria dead near the office. A desperate Kelsey turns to her beloved Cole Thornton, who dumped her for her tunnel vision, to learn what happened in 1912 and in 2002.

This is a superb mystery that looks back to what happened to Adele and Jocelyn on the Titanic, which has impacts ninety years later. The storyline is fast-paced and filled with action while the heroine's world shatters starting with the allegations. Fans will relish this strong entry as Team Clark provides an engaging tale with a strong final twist to what happened to the cousins on that doomed voyage.

Edge Of Dark Water
Joe R. Lansdale
Mulholland Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316188432, $25.99,

In Depression devastated East Texas, sixteen year old Sue Ellen Wilson finds the body of her friend May Lynn Baxter in the Sabine River. A sewing machine was used to hold the corpse under the water. Sue Ellen is stunned by the reaction of May Lynn's family; as the victim's normally ill-tempered father and her less hostile but bellicose uncle prefer to pretend nothing happened than report the homicide to law enforcement.

Sue Ellen enlists the help of her two best friends (sissy Terry Thomas and colored Jinx Smith) and her alcoholic mom Helen on an odyssey to pay homage to May Lynn. She plans to dig up the interred corpse and incinerate the body so she can spread May Lynn's ashes in Hollywood where the deceased dreamed of becoming a star. The trio finds money hidden by May Lynn's dead bank robbing brother, which they take with them as they raft down the Sabine for California. However, others want that stolen loot and are willing to kill three bratty teenagers and a drunk to obtain it.

This is a great historical regional suspense that grips the audience from the opening moment when Sue Ellen discovers the murdered corpse of her friend and never slows down until the final altercation. With a nod to Huck Finn, fans will enjoy rafting down the Sabine as feisty Sue Ellen guides us over the edge of Dark Water into deadly currents.

Peter Behrens
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307379931, $25.95,

On St. Patrick's Day 1900 in Montreal, Michael O'Brien joins a cavalry unit to fight in the Boer War. Michael leaves behind five children (oldest is thirteen years old Joe, Grattan, Tom, Hope and Kate) and a wife (Ellenora). Joe took over the role of patriarch making sure everyone was fed. The new priest Father Lillis thinks stoic silent Joe is the loneliest person in the world. What Joe thought was temporary becomes permanent when Ellenora learns Michel died at Geluck's Farm. Six months later, Ellenora married wastrel Mick Heaney who brings nothing but an appetite for drink to the table. Two years later Ellenora is dead.

With the mentoring of Father Lillis, fifteen years old Joe begins a successful lumber company. When Mick molests Hope and Kate, Joe and his brothers retaliate. Over the years Joe becomes a railroad builder while his siblings move on with their lives. Business takes him to California where he gets together with Grattan and meets Iseult Wilkins. His sister Elise gives her a camera, but soon afterward Iseult and Joe marry and have three children; with Joe obsessed with his construction company, and Iseult with their kids, charity and photography.

This is an epic family drama that focuses on the child being the adult. The storyline brings to life construction during the early twentieth century as Joe is the prime player though his extended family plays major roles. Although some sections seem overly descriptive slowing down an insightful family drama; fans will enjoy the biographical fictional account of the O'Briens.

Thomas Mallon
9780307378729, $26.95

In 1972, President Richard Nixon's Committee to reelect him (CRP) wants to bury his opponent Senator George McGovern by using his rival's anti-Viet Nam War position as unpatriotic if they can tie him to Castro. Five men break into the Democratic National Committee's headquarters in the Watergate complex. Security guard Frank Willis catches them. They are arrested but evidence is destroyed. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein investigate with the help of Deep Throat until the scandal reaches the Oval Office forcing Nixon to resign.

This is a great historical fictionalized account of Watergate that impacted future generation inquiries (Iran-Contra comes to mind). The storyline focuses on fictional accounts of many of the players' personal lives after the incident occurred so it behooves readers to pursue what happened. None of the cast is prime focus as the crime holds the storyline together. Reactions divide along party lines similar to the OJ murder trial divided amongst race lines; Republicans insist a silly political prank (as the lyrics of Sweet Home Alabama imply) though they cannot alibi evidence destruction and obstruction; Democrats insist burglary and cover-up are crimes regardless who you are or what connections you have (unless it happens to be a democrat lying under oath). Nixon is somewhat in the background as a tragic Shakespearean character fated to fail while three females (his wife Pat, his secretary Rose Mary "18 and a half" Woods, and Teddy Roosevelt's nonagenarian daughter Alice Longworth) deal with the scandal. Other secondary and tertiary characters step forward from the shadows onto the stage as readers observe different perspectives of the immediate and somewhat longer term aftermath of Watergate by those involved.

Abaddon Rising
Lawrence Miller
Blue Mesa Books
304 Calle Oso, Santa Fe, NM 87501
978-0983943501, $14.95,

National News Cable Network reporter Nick Strong is about to expose on his show The Hard Truth that a mysterious person Abaddon is behind the recent officially declared accidental deaths of at least four global financiers. Nick opens up with his teaser of what is to come after the commercial. Instead he becomes the news when he dies during the two minute break.

Retired National Counterterrorism Center agent Adam Dekker investigates the Strong allegations. The clues take him from New York to Europe while operatives of Abaddon's shadowy cell try to kill Dekker whose former Army Ranger experience keeps him alive. As he begins to connect the dots, Dekker concludes that Abaddon's thirst for world domination was set in motion centuries ago and traverses a supernatural energy plane that the ex-soldier does not fully comprehend. Still Dekker remains steadfast as the countdown to pandemic catastrophe closes in with the Mayan prediction as the doomsday date. Finally Dekker tracks his foe to the Black Forest; knowing a horde awaits his arrival.

This is an entertaining fast-paced thriller that grips readers with the abrupt death of the TV journalist and never slows down as the audience anticipates the confrontation in Germany. The storyline is clever as the paranormal and the Mayan prophecy merge with the international financial and political meltdown. Over the top of The Feldberg, fans will relish this superb good and avarice action thriller.

Moonlit Desire
Carolann Camillo
Camel Press
c/o Coffeetown Press
PO Box 70515, Seattle, WA 98127
9781603818728, $14.95,

In 1759 Catherine Bradshaw leaves London to marry wealthy Jeremy Flint in the colony of New York in an arranged marriage. As soon as she steps off the ship, he weds her immediately. His behavior frightens her as they travel by coach to his Tarrytown estate. However, French Army Captain Rive St. Clair and his associate stop the coach. Rive abducts Catherine after informing Flint who he is and where he can collect his wife.

Sixteen years ago, Flint made his first killing when he stole pelts after arranging for a massacre at an Indian village. Rive has waited for the right moment to lure back this sleaze to that village as he knows the coward will follow as he cannot accept such an affront to his reputation. Flint behaves just as Rive expected, but Catherine is nothing like he anticipated. As they fall in love, the honorable and loyal Rive escorts her to Quebec City as the British army begins to take the last major North American French stronghold; she will soon know what it means to risk one's life for someone you cherish.

This is an exciting late Colonial Romance starring an intrepid hero and a woman with plenty of mettle as she adjusts to a life far different than what she had in London or expected with Jeremy. Fast-paced from the moment of the kidnapping and never slowing down, sub-genre fans will appreciate this engaging tale though Flint proves an unworthy opponent with more than half the historical storyline left after his cowardly failed attempt at retrieval.

Shore Excursion
Marie Moore
Camel Press
c/o Coffeetown Press
PO Box 70515, Seattle, WA 98127
9781603818742, $13.95,

Sidney Marsh left small-town Mississippi to become a resident of the Big Apple. She obtains a job as a travel agent at Itchy Feet Travel. Currently she and her best friend Jay Wilson lead a cruise ship tour of Scandinavia and Russia. Her clients on the Rapture are the High Steppers senior citizens. Meanwhile ship Captain Vargas is interested in Sidney.

However, the idyllic cruise turns ugly when High Stepper Ruth is murdered in her cabin. Vargas and crew insist on continuing as if nothing happened because Ruth's death was declared a suicide. A second suspicious death occurs when another High Stepper is found in the freezer among the desserts. Positive that the murders are covering up on-board criminal activity, Sidney investigates not trusting the captain or the crew to do a diligent inquiry. A third death occurs in Tivoli Gardens, but this person is not High Stepper; but instead a seemingly homeless person who apparently hung around wherever Sidney is.

Marie Moore writes a wonderful amateur sleuth mystery starring an intrepid heroine and a quirky support cast. Armchair travelers will enjoy cruising the fjords of Scandinavia. Sidney makes too many mistakes on her first inquiry, but like the Mississippi bulldog she is, she keeps on trying; her error-filled efforts bring plausibly to a magical mystery tour of Scandinavia.

Dance Of The Electric Hummingbird
Patricia Walker
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
9780984495573, $17.95,

In 2003 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Dee and Pat Walker enter the Cabo Wabo Cantina to hear owner Sammy Hager perform. Ironically she never heard of the famous rock musician former Van Halen fame who has been playing for three decades plus. However, his performance triggers thoughts of dreams long forgotten by Pat as she feels she floated away from her body onto a white light of euphoria. Pat believes she found her lost soul and God. This is the beginning of her enlightenment journey into the enigmatic psychic realm. Pat envisions past lives and meets angels and otherworldly essences while fearing she has lost her mind. Desperate she returns to Sammy Hagar who tries to act as her guide into what neither can explain or understand; only accept that music is a path to the enlightenment of being.

Most readers including me will begin with at best skeptical scorn that a rock musician's performance instead of just getting you to dance to the music is the path to understanding life and beyond. Those of us who open our closed mind will find a fascinating journey whether you believe in the magic of the music or not. Like Patricia Walker, I thought initially she was a lunatic and would stop reading early on; but to her credit she makes a passionate case that music triggered the beginning of her inner quest for harmony. Fans, even some of us who remain doubting Thomasinas, will appreciate Ms. Walker's engaging and encouraging Dance of the Electric Hummingbird as music is a healer so why not an impetus to the search for one's inner soul.

Love Finds You In Nazareth, Pennsylvania
Melanie Dobson
Summerside Press
9781609361945, $12.99,

In 1754 in Germany, the Unity of the Brethren Moravian congregation wants to spread the Word of the savior to the Indians in the New World. The Moravians choose by lot who will go as married couples. Christian and Susanna Boehler do not know each other when they marry before heading to the Americas. Also traveling with them is Catharine and Elias Schmidt.

Susanna knows her spouse loves someone else, but prays he will one day love her as she does him in spite of his aloofness; he knows he is wrong but cannot stop himself from loving his best friend's wife Catharine. Meanwhile Susanna also struggles with the change in her lifestyle from affluence to the ruggedness of the Pennsylvania Colony towns like Nazareth. As she is left behind while her spouse and the other couple trek into the wilderness, he betrays her, his friend and his God.

Melanie Dobson, author of the fabulous Amana LFY historical romances (see Love Finds You in Amana, Iowa), provides a strong entry due to a deep cast and a sensational sense of time, place and purpose. The storyline is vivid (often harsh) and fast-paced as danger mounts to the soul as much as to the body. Fans will relish this engaging Christian colonel era thriller while wondering whether redemption and forgiveness is there for a missionary who knows he violates his Ten Commandments credo.

A Crown Imperiled
Raymond E. Feist
Harper Voyager
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061468414, $27.99,

Jim Dasher and his espionage unit conclude Midkemia appears on the verge of deadly chaos and there seems to be nothing they can do to prevent what looks inevitable as hostilities explode almost everywhere. Meanwhile the Moredhel dark elves fear the arrival of the powerful feral Taredhel elves of the stars. Desperate War Chieftain Arkan enters the realm of man to bring back to the land of elves Pug the Magician, prophesied to save his realm.

Pug, accompanied by Sandreena and Amirantham, asks the Conclave of Shadows for help; but fails to obtain any definitive support and the trio seeks what is behind all the mounting evil that appears the be destroying Midkemia. Demons breach the realm from the outside while various coups in neighboring states leave the Kingdom fractured as unrest grows from within.

The second Chaoswar fantasy (see A Kingdom Besieged) is an entertaining Riftwar thriller containing several subplots tied together by Dasher and his crew. Filled with twists and a strong look at political and military intrigue Midkemia and its neighboring lands, this is a fast-paced entry that readers will enjoy. Fans of the long running saga will wonder what darkness next will befall the people of Midkemia and especially ponder how present events tie back to the past.

Ian Douglas
Harper Voyager
9780061840272, $7.99

By 2404 AD, mankind has colonized nearby space with settlements as far away as 60 light years from earth. However, on the verge of an incredible technological transcendence, the feral Sh'daar collective launch an assault on the human space sector including a brutal Earth Strike. After slaughtering billions, the enemy demands total surrender especially an end to the transcendence

The Terran Confederation of States leaders bicker on how to react to the hostile blitzkrieg. Many prefer surrender while under staffed and poorly equipped Marines fight the overwhelming servile horde of the invincible foe. Admiral Alexander Koenig knows there is something about the transcendence that frightens the bellicose Sh'daar. He knows his side has one chance to survive the ordeal as the adversary will not stop even with total surrender; he decides to lead the Star Carrier America on an attack of Sh'daar system.

The third Star Carrier military science fiction (see Center of Gravity) is an exhilarating thriller that provides interesting insight into tactics and strategy when you fight shorthanded though all that jargon slows down the otherwise fast-paced storyline. The awesome alien adversaries steal the show from the earth leaders and the admiral and his crew as they are incredibly developed, which is a prime reason fans will enjoy the engaging "Vinge" Singularity.

Capitol Murder
Phillip Margolin
9780062069887, $25.99

In Portland, Oregon, Senator Jack Carson has a tryst with Jessica Koshanil which she records on a DVD. Koshanil shows Carson her evidence of his sex scandalous action and blackmails him into providing her with information. Carson returns to DC knowing if he is to remain in office, he must give her what she demands. She wants to learn what the Feds know about a planned suicide bombing at a football stadium that will kill many.

As private investigator Dana Cutler is in Oregon looking into the illegal and amoral activity of the Senator, Carson's aid Brad Miller worries about his life, that of his wife and others when his former client serial killer Clarence Little escapes custody from the Marion County Circuit Courthouse in Salem, Oregon. Soon afterward Koshanil is found murdered in Carson's Georgetown home by someone using Little's M.O. of removing a finger from each hand even as the terrorism scheme moves forward.

The third branch of government Cutler-Miller thriller (see Executive Privilege and Supreme Justice) is an exciting twisting tale though the prime subplots never smoothly converge. Fast-paced, fans will enjoy the countdown as a scandalous sleazy senator, an escaped serial killer, and a terrorist attack will have readers wondering what next.

Scorpion Betrayal
Andrew Kaplan
9780062064585, $9.99

In Cairo, General Budawi, head of State Internal Security Intelligence, enters a cafe to meet with a man protected by Egypt in Secret Service. A bomb explodes killing Budawi. Before leaving the operative murders the cafe owner. The dangerous man with no face terrorist, the Palestinian, brutally has announced a new front that caught the Western and Middle Eastern Intel groups napping.

The CIA, fearing something catastrophic is coming as evidence points to a plague killing millions, assigns rogue outsider Scorpion to hunt down and if need be kill the Palestinian. Overseeing Scorpion's efforts and that of others is CIA National Clandestine Service Deputy Director Bob Harris. Scorpion is provided information on a need to know basis; with Harris being the one to define when to give information. This handicaps the mercenary patriot as he plays chess against another grandmaster with checkmate involving millions of lives.

The return of Scorpion after a two decade respite will excite fans of action-packed espionage manhunts. The storyline is faster than the speed of light as the plot opens with an assassination and never stems the flow of blood while the captured audience anticipates the confrontation between two vigilant vigilantes as each believes their side is in the right.

How To Eat A Cupcake
Meg Donohue
9780062069283, $13.99

In the exclusive Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, the affluent St. Clair family hires Ecuadorian Lucia Quintana as their nanny-cook; the new employee and her little daughter Annie live on the enormous estate. The same age, Julia St. Clair and Annie became close friends growing up in the mansion. However, as seniors at Devon Prep, Julia betrays Annie just before the latter's mother dies mysteriously.

Julia goes to New York while Anna becomes a highly regarded pastry chef. Nearing thirty, Julia returns home to marry Wesley Trehorn. Her mother Lolly hires Annie to provide dessert for a charity gala. This leads to Julia and Annie seeing each other for the first time in a decade even as Jake Logan arrives. However, Julia keeps a secret that could ruin her happiness and also persuades her former BFF to open up a cup cake bakery. As each of the two women seeks to forgive and move on, someone wants to destroy them.

This is an entertaining mostly sweet chick lit tale of two women trying to regain what they once shared and lost. The cast is extremely powerful as the rotating perspective enables the readers to understand how Julia and Anna feel while also moving the enjoyable storyline forward. Although the stalking subplot adds tension and the culprit has a powerful justification for the actions, this detracts from a terrific Treat of sisterhood rebounding.

David Farland
East India Press
Empire State Building
350 Fifth Avenue, 59th floor
New York, NY 10118
9781614757870, $25.99,

In North Carolina, Sommer Bastion flees from the safe house with dogs in pursuit. Adel Todestall, head of security for Lucius Chenzhenko catches her. He accuses her of theft of the child she carried in her womb for eleven months; as part of her years as Lucius incarcerated guest. She has no idea of whom he is talking about, but her gut says find the child to save herself and her sisters.

Over the next few years in Alpine, Utah Bron Jones lives with brutal Melvina Stillman who sees him as a commodity to get a check from the state and as labor. His foster mother accuses Bron of stealing nine peaches and the sucking out the joy of her home. His caseworker James Bell immediately places Bron in the home in Tuachan of teacher Olivia Hernandez and her husband. She is the polar opposite of the abusive Melvina as she treats Bron kindly while he waits for her "true colors" to surface. Instead, Olivia knows she wants to adopt Bron though she knows he is a Nightingale, which places her in danger. Her premonition soon proves accurate as danger comes calling.

Readers will be hooked with the twin mysteries of Sommer and Bron as David Farland provides a suspense twisting young adult fantasy. Fast-paced with a strong support cast and a powerful lead with a bulls-eye on his chest, fans appreciate Bron's opening act while anxiously awaiting the second tale as this one ends in a stunning cliffhanger.

Live Ammo
Linda Fitzgerald
Crystal Dreams
c/o Multi-Media Publications Inc.
Box 58043, Rosslynn RPO
Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, L1J 8L6
9781591462637, $19.95,

In Cocoa, Florida, reporter Allie Grainger works for the Brevard Sun. One of the biggest stories to hit the county is the suicide of the wife of Sheriff Cord Arbutten. Allie works the story interviewing Cord whose adult son Rand, without offering any proof, believes his father murdered his wife and made it look like she killed herself. Although the gun used proves to be Cord's and they were in the middle of a hostile divorce, Allie knows her friend Sheryl and her late Aunt Lou adore the sheriff. In fact Lou loved Cord, who though he felt the same way refused to act on their feelings as he believed she deserved better.

At the funeral Rand agrees to an interview. Though he tries to hide his disdain for his dad, Rand makes it clear he despises his father. Sheryl encourages Allie to investigate because she is positive her boss is innocent. As the journalist looks into the death, someone shoots at her and tries to run her over. Allie knows she needs to find the killer before she becomes the next victim.

Talented Linda Fitzgerald provides an exciting journalistic investigative mystery that has an Ann Rule true crime feel to the inquiry done by the likable heroine. In her latest appearance (see Live Ringer), intrepid Allie risks her life to get the story. Rand, who does not want to hear what the reporter has to say when she pokes holes in his theory, nevertheless keeps a vigilant eye on her to try to keep her safe. Live Ammo is an exciting thriller that deserves to be on the bestsellers lists.

Kristine Ohlsson
Emily Bestler Books
c/o Atria Books - Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
9781439198896, $25.00,

On the express from Gothenburg to Stockholm, a switch problem stropped the train in Flemingsberg for twenty minutes. Conductor Henry Lindgren notices red haired Sara Sebastiansson step out onto the platform without her dark haired six year old Lilian who stayed inside the coach asleep. However, Sara loses track of time as she assists a stranger with a sick dog and fails to get back on the train that continues the journey. Lindgren is concerned so he keeps an eye on the child, but also does his duties when two girls brawl. Three minutes prove a lifetime as Lilian is gone.

Intelligent Police Inspector Frederika Bergman leads the missing child investigation to the chagrin of her male peers who scorn her lack of experience. She quickly learns no witness on the train saw what happened to the little girl while the girl's father Gabriel, in a custody battle with Sara, is the most likely abductor. The child is found dead with the word "unwanted" written on her head. Bergman knows she pursues a brilliant serial killing psychopath who makes the arctic weather seem balmy as the body count and the ridicule rise.

The first Bergman Swedish police procedural translation is an excellent investigative thriller starring a protagonist ready to quit the force as unchallenging until now and a vile creepy predator. Fast-paced, readers will be hooked from the opening abduction in a taut chess match between two geniuses.

Jonathan Kellerman Silent Partner
Art by Michael Gaydos; adapted by Ande Parks
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780440423638, $23.00,

Just after his girlfriend Robin Castagna ends their relationship, Dr. Alex Delaware's former lover Sharon Ransom asks to see him. He remembers her strange behavior, which drove him to end their relationship, so he refuses to meet with her as he does not need her tsuris. However, the psychiatrist is shocked and overwhelmed with guilt when he learns the next day that Sharon committed suicide.

Obsessed with a need to know fueled by his remorse for saying no to her and a thirst to regain his shattered self-esteem, Alex investigates what happened to make Sharon kill herself. With the help of his friend LAPD police detective Milo Sturgis, Alex traces Sharon to a twisted horror version of Hollywood in which murder, pornography, blackmail and much more are the norm of those living in the luxurious mansions and on the streets.

This is a great graphic adaptation of a powerful dark Delaware 1989 thriller. Ande Parks does a super job of capturing the essence of Delaware's battered ego while Michael Gaydos portrays Los Angeles vast wealth gap connected by a stark darkness, made eerier by the black and white drawings. Though one must adapt to seeing a young Delaware's picture (extremely well done), fans will appreciate the superb comic book version of Silent Partner.

Geared For Pleasure
Rachel Grace
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425245668, $15.00,

"Earthly Desires." When Queen Idony of Theorrey is kidnapped, Queen's Chalice Demeter "Dare" Senedal and her comrade the Queen's Sword Cyrus Arendal risk their lives to rescue their royal friend. Dare becomes a captive found chained and naked by Bodhan who teaches her pleasure while she wonders if she trust him with her quest; if yes then with her heart.

"Fiery Temptations." Seraphina the Felidae thief is a cat burglar extraordinaire because of her feline nature. Phina can do anything including making men bow to her needs. However, when Phina meets prisoner Cyrus, she wonders who the captive is as he tries to persuade her that this guardsman has the right saber to thrust into the thief.

The interrelated Elemental Steam Romance novellas are two engaging heated fantasies. The protagonists in both tales are fully developed yet a bit of mystery lingers with each. Readers will enjoy the visit to Theorrey as the Grace mythos proves compelling.

Taking A Shot
Jaci Burton
9780425245521, $15.00

Jenna Riley understands the irony of her disinterest in sports as she runs the family sport's bar as the last man (woman) standing and has a brother Mick (see The Perfect Play) who is a NFL quarterback and another sibling Gavin (see Changing the Game) playing major league baseball. Instead since her birth, sports have left her mind drained.

NHL star Tyler Anderson has fallen in love with Jenna. However, she refuses to play ball (puck) with him because he is an athlete. He rejects her game misconduct penalty in order to purse the only prize greater than the Stanley Cup. Tyler learns why she resolutely denies her desire for him; He encourages her to stop doing the family thing in order to do her thing while offering to play defense for her.

The third Play-by-Play Riley heated sports romance is an entertaining tale starring an intriguing female protagonist. Jenna's anti sports fervor brings freshness to the storyline and somewhat abates the non-use of a gender bending concept in which she is the athlete and he the fan. With enough heat to melt the ice, fans will enjoy Tyler's game plan as he takes a slap shot at love.

The Star Beast
Robert A. Heinlein
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781451638073, $13.00,

Generations ago, a starman ancestor of John Stuart Thomas XI brought Lummox back with him from space. Over the decades in Westville, Lummox has grown from cute to humongous. Everyone assumes Lummox is a moron as he speaks at the skill of a child. People would be partially right with their assessment of the eight-legged beast as in terms of his species he is a child and sounds ignorant because English is a light-years different second language.

John is with his friend Betty Sorenson arguing over college. To battle ennui and hunger, Lummox takes a stroll that destroys property. Police Chief Dreiser sends Sergeant Mendoza to get John to control his pet. The Department of Spatial Affairs Permanent Under Secretary Henry Gladstone Kiku sends his top aide Sergei Greenberg to take control. Not trusting the Fed or any authoritative figure, John and Betty vow to keep Lummox from becoming a lab rat. They flee Westville though hiding their trail might prove difficult; while aliens arrive demand the return of an infant abducted by an earthling decades ago or face planetary annihilation.

This reprint of a 1950s satirical science fiction is a fun young adult read as Robert Heinlein mocks know-it-all political appointees running agencies they cannot spell (that is why we use acronyms) and the teen eternal revolt against former teens. Lummox challenges the neurotypical definition of intelligence in a comedic slapstick way; while the rotation of lead perspective among four characters remains sharply relevant (Mr. Heinlein would have enjoyed mocking vagina politics). Although the storyline never quite settles on an overarching premise between incarceration of ET and lampooning the socially correct determinants, fans will enjoy The Star Beast.

Andre Norton
9781451638080, $12.00

Forerunner. On Kuxortal, Sims worked as a scavenger for Ferwar until the old woman dies. She, like many of the Guild, lives off the ancient ruins and burrows of the Forerunners. However, she is unique with her blue-black skin coloring and with her telepathic connection to Zass the zorsal and her children. Off-worlder Thom arrives from space seeking his missing brother. He realizes Simsa is more than just different. They explore the Forerunner caverns where she was first found as a baby. However, neither is prepared for what they discover.

Forerunner: The Second Venture. Simsa escaped Kuxortal, but now the off planet scientists imprison her as a "guest" but she feels more like a lab rat as they want to extract what she knows about the highly advanced technology of the Forerunners. Her companion Zass the zorsal enables her to escape, but Simsa crashes on another world in which the Forerunners impacted. While sentient natives want the outsider dead, something inside her wants control of her. However, neither understands how resolute Simsa is to live free.

This reprint of the entertaining first two Forerunner science fiction thrillers is a fun collection. Simsa is a great protagonist surrounded by a horde of villains (too many) in both novels as ethics mean nothing to the interchangeable Guild, archeologists and scientists. Still readers will appreciate these exciting outer space tales as Simsa refuses to sit idly by while others use her for their personal gain.

Guardian of the Night
Tony Daniel
9781451638028, $13.00

In 2075 for two months the USX Chief Seattle tracks a Sceeve ship the Power of Heaven. As the SIGINT, Petty Officer Second Class Melinda Japps monitors the enigmatic enemy odor broadcasts of the "Poet" and sends recordings and reports back to headquarters. Japps figures out how to convert the encoded smells into lights. From there she interprets the pattern in which the Poet is pleading with the humans for help while Power of Heaven political officer Transel seeks the traitor.

Captain Sub-receptor Arid Ricimer commands the Guardian of Night. He grieves the deaths of his beloved family killed by his side. An honorable officer who fought bravely with the kinetic energy weapons that devastated the earth, Ricimer decides enough treachery from those in his supposed side's comfort zone. He chooses to defect with his ship, crew and a weapon of mass destruction. His former Sceeve fleet mates pursue him with orders to kill while the former enemy navy and civilian leaders consider him and his ship as a Trojan Horse needing to be eliminated. Only Japps thinks otherwise.

This is an exciting extremely complex (thank Mr. Daniels for a needed glossary) futuristic science fiction military-political thriller. The storyline is fast-paced from the moment Japps begins to translate the Poet's odor language and never slows down until a final confrontation. Filled with political intrigue on both sides and mindful of Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October, fans will enjoy the challenges to earth and Sceeve by the Guardian of Night.

World Divided
Mercedes Lackey, Cody Martin, Dennis Lee and Veronica Giguere
9781451638011, $25.00

The meta-humans of Echo and CCCP managed to halt the blitzkrieg Invasion by the Nazis in spite of the seemingly superior ultra-powerful weaponry of the invaders. Both sides know they have no time for respite as the Nazis robotic war machine was created by the Thule Society. Echo chief Alex Telsa, though severely injured from the recent hostilities, knows his team hopefully allied with CCCP must take the war to the real enemy.

Romance writer Victoria Victrix Nagy struggles still with her anxiety attacks. However, a techno-mage, she figures out how she can enter any computer network. Alex assigns Bulwark's unit to beta test Vic's concept. Red Djinni rejects the proof of principle but rescues Vic from an ambush from an interested multibillionaire third party planning to defeat Echo and its allies the Thule. Meanwhile Bulwark's unit and Vic escape; Alex declares Operation Overwatch a success while some remain skeptical.

Action in the second Secret World Chronicle is a bit muted compared with Invasion as much of the hostility is from within rather than the Nazi/Thule threat. Once again the key is the superhuman are filled with flaws that reduce their super quality while making them more human. The enjoyable storyline emphasizes the shaky political bedfellows who make for a World Divided at a time when unity is needed.

When Maidens Mourn
C.S. Harris
Obsidian Mystery
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451235770, $24.95,

In 1812, Sebastian St. Cyr and Hero Jarvis marry. He has concerns as she is the daughter of his bitter enemy Lord Charles, the real power in Britain; and she has doubts as she refuses to give up her independence. While the pair argues over their honeymoon, Hero's close friend Gabrielle Tennyson studies the Camlet Moat dig in Trent as she theorizes that these ruins may be Camelot; which encourage the fervor of those demanding the return of King Arthur in order to rid the country of the decadent Hanover family.

Someone stabs to death the female antiquities expert; her two younger cousins (nine years old George and three years old Alfred) are missing and presumed dead too. Hero and Sebastian go their separate ways as each investigates the homicide and missing children. However, they unite when danger threatens their lives.

The latest Sebastian St. Cyr (and Hero Jarvis) regency mystery (see Where Shadows Dance) is a superb thriller with a complex missing children's case and a homicide as well as the even more complicated (and convoluted) relationship between the protagonists. The whodunit is excellent with its tying of King Arthur to King George as C.S. Harris provides a fabulous investigative historical thriller.

Mr. Churchill's Secretary
Susan Elia MacNeal
Bantam Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780553593617, $15.00,

In 1940 London, someone murders Diana Snyder, a typist in Prime Minister Winston Churchill's office. American raised British citizen Maggie Hope remains bitter over not being offered a more prestigious position in the Intel community as a code breaker as fitting a mathematician; she knows sexism kept her from obtaining the job. Still she agrees to replace the late Diana.

The Snyder stabbing case is solved rather quickly while Diana adapts to her work and living in Nazi and IRA bombed London as opposed to MIT. However, Maggie begins to uncover a plot to cripple the leadership with assassination at a critical moment when the Battle for Britain is being fought in the skies. The intrepid Maggie seeks the identity of those involved, which places her at risk.

The first Maggie Hope WWII mystery is an engaging tale that vividly brings to life a grim London in May 1940 at a time when everyone anticipates the blitzkrieg to cross the Channel. The amateur sleuthing is fun to follow as the heroine is an intelligent person, but also contains too many happenstances to bail her out of dire straits. Still readers will enjoy Maggie's marvelous mystery tour as she escorts armchair time travelers around besieged London.

Memory Of Blood
Christopher Fowler
9780345528636, $25.00

In London, Peculiar Crimes Unit (PCU) senior (citizen) detective John May tells his geriatric partner Arthur Bryant that his buddy belonged in the nineteenth century rather than the information age. May insists Bryant wants a return to the days when kids climbed into chimneys as sweeps rather than climbed into a virtual chimney as a role player. Meanwhile the brass wishes the octogenarians would retire and PCU would expire. However, these seemingly dementia pair solves cases that require extraordinary measures.

The New Strand Theatre hosts a production of The Two Murderers. Those associated with the play throw a party. Soon afterward, the son of the theater owner falls from a sixth floor window. The case looks like a suicide, but the locals ask PCU to take a look at the locked room scenario. Bryant believes a murder occurred when a grotesque life sized Mr. Punch is on the floor. He explains to May that the opening scene in the Punch and Judy shows has the former throwing the baby out the window. The party attendees are all people of interest while the two ancient sleuths seek a motive along the lines of Punch and Judy. Meanwhile the Home Office tries to push PCU off the case as a government official's daughter is a suspect.

This is a superb PCU police procedural as readers obtain a fascinating look at the macabre history of the Punch-and-Judy shows that is tied to the present day "Theatre of Blood". With humor and a touch of satirizing those nostalgically wanting a return to a so called golden age that happened before they were born, this locked room entry is one of the best cases in a terrific long running series.

The Big Cat Nap: The 20th Anniversary Mrs. Murphy Mystery
Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown
9780345530448, $26.00

Fortyish Latigo Bly owns the highly successful Safe & Sound auto insurance firm that operates in the Mid-Atlantic region. Also in his forties Victor Gatzembizi owns the also successful and as lucrative as Bly's business ReNu collision repair with many locations in Virginia including Crozet. Safe & Sound includes ReNu on its list of acceptable vehicle repair companies that they recommend to their customers.

Crozet resident Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen and the Very Reverend Herbert Jones take his Chevy pick-up to ReNu. In the office they found the murdered body of mechanic Walt Richardson whose head was bashed in. The other mechanics insist they know nothing about Richardson's death. Soon afterward someone shoots mechanic Nick Ashby with a bullet to his heart. The third mechanic Bobby Fultz is also killed with his body left by the Trumball monument on Flag Day. Victor offers a sizable reward for the capture of the serial killer. Harry, with Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, and Tee Tucker having her back, investigates the homicides only to find she placed herself in a dire situation in which she and her menagerie may join the dead mechanics.

The 20th Anniversary of the Brown writing team is a charming and enchanting mystery that affirms the Crozet cozies remain fun tales as Harry and her Puss 'N Cahoots squad investigate the homicides. Even while the heroine continues her battle with breast cancer that she believes she is winning, she still makes inquiries into the murders. While Harry has landed in death-threatening scenarios before (see Santa Clawed) fans will appreciate this engaging anthropomorphic whodunit.

Archive 17
Sam Eastland
9780345525734, $25.00

In 1939, Stalin and Hitler expect war soon in spite of armistice talks. However, the vicious Russian dictator has inside issues as he has led the Communist nation over the edge spiraling into bankruptcy. Needing capital, Stalin assigns his most trusted (at the moment) investigator Inspector Pekkala to look into the homicide of former Tsarist cavalry Captain Ryabov in the Borodok labor camp in Siberia. Pekkala knows the camp first hand having spent time there as a former Trist guard courtesy of Stalin.

Though Stalin worries that his enemies will use the murder to try a coup, the homicide inquiry is partly Pekkala's cover, as he demands his agent find the missing Tsarist gold. Thus Pekkala must pretend to be a political prisoner while he infiltrates the dwindling remaining loyal Tsarists, those willing to die for the cause of the Comitati gang.

The third Pekkala Stalin era thriller (see Eye of the Red Tsar and Shadow Pass) is a great tale that shows how quickly the brutal dictator can turn from best friend to murderous enemy. In many ways Siberia steals the show as an incredible location for the tundra-isolated stark camp (mindful of the Gulag Archipelago memoir of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn) in a sort of locked room mystery with "barbarians waiting at the gate for escapees. This is a strong historical.

The Shape Of Desire
Sharon Shinn
Ace Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9781937007171, $25.95,

For over a decade Maria Devane has loved Dante Romano and believes with all her heart that he loves her too. She accepts that he holds back his feelings out of fear that he would lose control of the beast and harm his Maria; especially when he has no control over his monthly change into the beast. Dante also fears the animal is taking over his soul as he spends longer time as a beast and wanders wider areas.

Although Maria knows she sees her mate through rose colored glasses, she believes he would harm no one. However, she becomes fearful that the animal has won when brutal assaults by a feral beast begin occurring in nearby parks. She needs to report him to the law, but her heart has been shattered as if claws ripped it into strips.

This is a great urban romantic fantasy as love seems not enough for this couple struggling with an increasingly dysfunctional relationship which also makes shapeshifting seem genuine. The protagonists are magnificent as each goes through their customized version of grief as if they buried what they have had for the last fifteen years. The mystery of the attacks engages the reader further as Maria knows all the evidence points to Dante, which leaves her in hell as Sharon Shinn provides another super paranormal thriller.

Sins Of The Son
Linda Poitevin
9781937007379, $7.99

Toronto Homicide Detective Alexandra Jarvis was a key player in ending the serial killing spree of Caim the fallen angel who had escaped from Limbo incarceration (see Sins of the Angels). However, victory came at an exorbitant price as she lost her soul mate. Seth Benjamin the angel, who insisted he is the appointed judge of mankind, saved Alex's life.

To her shock, Alex sees Seth's picture on a police bulletin. She knows something went terribly wrong as Seth was to prevent Armageddon but instead suffers from amnesia. Led by Lucifer, the Fallen come for Seth, as do the archangels. At the same time Caim's exiled brother Aramael the Guardian Angel seeking divine redemption plans to kill the Appointed one before he destroys the Creator's greatest creation. Alex plans to protect Seth from heaven, hell and anything in between.

The second Grigori Legacy is a great urban fantasy filled with twists, back stabbing and several terrific subplots that converge in Vancouver. Fast-paced from the onset, fans will relish this strong thriller as Lucifer and the Fallen hatch a diabolical plan to cause Armageddon.

Robert J. Sawyer
9781937007164, $25.95

Near the Washington Monument, an assassin shoots President Seth Jerrison from behind as he gives a speech on terrorist attacks in Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphian. Secret Service Agent Susan Dawson takes charge of the chaos sending agents to find the assassin and rushing Prospector (as POTUS is called by his protective detachment) to nearby Luther Terry Memorial Hospital for emergency surgery. Also there is Dr. Ranjip Singh working with PTSD flashback veteran Kadeem Adams.

An explosion rocks the hospital causing a weird electromagnetic change to Dr. Singh's equipment. Memories swap between a near dead Jerrison, Dawson, Singh, Adams and others. Dawson realizes quickly that at least one of the twenty-one has gained access to Prospector's memories, which include top secret information. This is dangerous now as an authorized military operation has begun that jeopardizes those involved if the information is given to the enemy.

This is a superb science fiction thriller with a great dystopian spin that will have readers admiring the brilliance of Robert J. Sawyer. Loaded with action, the storyline focuses on twenty-one people who become interrelated with collective wireless memories of someone. Readers will enjoy this tremendous taut twisting thriller.

Black Howl
Christina Henry
9781937007331, $7.99

Agent of Death Maddie Black escorts the souls of the dead to the afterlife. As long as she deals with the deceased, her life is pretty good in spite of her vocation. When she gets involved with the living, being a dead transporter is a respite.

However a weird phenomenon has gripped Chicago when people not scheduled to die yet suddenly pass away. Complicating matters these recently dearly departed refuse to move on as they wander the streets as dispirited spirits. Maddie knows if the dead fail to move on, her job becomes obsolete. She investigates the screaming dead; while she also searches for the abducted werewolf pack leader and their cubs, and get untangled from the convoluted politics of the underworld. Even with various species wanting to transport her in pieces to the afterlife, Maddie finds work heavenly compared to dealing with her thrall Gabriel, her rival J.B. and her ex Nathaniel is out of the picture--or so she thinks

The third Black Wings (see Black Night and Black Wings) urban fantasy is an engaging paranormal mystery with the heroine dealing with two investigations and playing dodgeball with the Fae and the males in her life. The storyline is fast-paced, but the ending feels more like a middle book set up rather than a strong climax. Still fans will enjoy Maddie's efforts as a ghostbuster trying to insure the streets of Chicago are for the breathers.

Fair Game
Patricia Briggs
9780441020034, $14.00

North American werewolf leader Bran Cornick brought his race out of hiding. However, he also understood by doing this, his pack needed stricter enforcement so as to avoid negative publicity of being out of control murderous beasts. His son Charles the alpha is his prime enforcer. However, execution of his kind (even murderers and being sanctioned by his dad) has disturbed Charles. Only his mate omega Anna Latham calms his raging demeanor (See "Alpha and Omega" in On the Prowl anthology for how they met). Recently he has rejected her.

The FBI asks for assistance with a serial killer case in Boston. Charles and Anna arrive in town and look at the evidence. Both realize that most of the victims were either fae or werewolves. An abduction has the werewolf couple and a law enforcement task force on a massive predatory hunt to prevent another homicide.

The latest super Alpha and Omega investigative urban fantasy (see Cry Wolf and Hunting Ground) is a fantastic thriller that plays out on two levels. First there is the paranormal police procedural as a hunt reminiscent of the Fritz Lang classic movie M occurs. Second there is the personal issue between the Alpha and the Omega as she refuses to allow him to stonewall her while he feels she deserves better since he is losing his mind to guilt and remorse. Overarching remains the X-Men theme of de facto and perhaps de jure racism. This is another winner by the fabulous fantasist Patricia Briggs.

Kevin O'Brien
Pinnacle Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21
New York, NY 10018-2522
9780786021383, $9.99,

In 1996 in Glenview, Illinois, a child finds human body parts in a garbage bag. The police arrest prominent surgeon Dr. Glenn Swann for the murder of his wife Lisa. Following the "garbage bag killing" story in the Chicago Tribune from Seattle, Megan Keeler gives birth to a son Josh while her sadistic husband is convicted of her murder back in Illinois. She rationalizes not coming back home to her belief her abusive spouse would one day kill her and their unborn child.

A few years later, while always looking over her shoulder, Megan begins receiving anonymous threatening emails from someone who knows who she is and what she did. At the same Glenn has been released from prison. Living in total fear of what might happen; Megan is stunned when someone wearing a mask kidnaps Josh. Her worst nightmare has occurred and she has no doubt that Glenn abducted Josh as part of his terror campaign aimed at his runaway wife.

Though the theme of a spouse fleeing for her life by pretending to be dead (see Sleeping With the Enemy) is not new, Kevin O'Brien provides a fresh exhilarating spin by making the child the rope in a deadly tug of war. Lisa-Megan seems genuine with her obsessed fears even before the terror begins anew with the taking of Josh as she makes the exciting twisting psychological suspense storyline work with her personal horror.

Hush Now, Don't You Cry
Rhys Bowen
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312628116, $24.99,

In 1903, newlyweds Molly Murphy and NYPD captain Daniel Sullivan arrive in Newport for their honeymoon during a terrible storm. The couple is staying at the cottage of New York City alderman Brian Hannan, but they find the gates locked. As they are about to leave, Molly notices a hysterically laughing child in a window of the main house; as apparently their host failed to tell his family of the Sullivan couple staying at the estate. Soon afterward, Hannan is found dead at the nearby bottom of a cliff and the Newport police deem the two New Yorkers are the only suspects though they declare an accident occurred.

The victim's family wants the pair to leave, but Daniel is ill suffering from pneumonia. Though Molly promises not to investigate, she cannot prevent herself from making inquiries when she rejects the coincidence that an accident occurred as she learns Brian's granddaughter died in the same way at the same spot.

The latest Molly Murphy historical mystery (see Bless the Bride) is a great entry with a strong solution as the location provides a fresh look at early twentieth century America. The unsinkable Molly seeks the motive, which she assumes is money in what she believes are two homicides done by a family member while her frustrated ailing spouse is bedridden. Fans of the Murphy amateur sleuth saga will relish this particularly excellent whodunit.

Play Nice
Gemma Halliday
9780312656072, $24.99

Yugoslavian Kontraobavestajna Sluzba (KOS) counterintelligence service trained young Anya Danielovich to be an assassin. She wanted out, but knew only in death could she be free. In Kosovo, to escape she kills odious General Federov and flees for her life with his bodyguards in pursuit. She reaches her vehicle, which explodes.

In San Francisco, thirtyish single woman Anna Smith lives a quiet life always looking behind her while her memories haunt her. Recently her paranoia intensifies as Anna believes she is under surveillance. Hit man Nick Dade has observed Anya Danielovich with an intense scrutiny as his objective is to kill her. He feels ready to complete the hit after a few weeks of preparation as she walks her dog Lenny in cold wet weather. However, Lenny manages to introduce his owner to her hit man. Still as he finds it hard to reconcile Anna with Anya, he sets up the assassination until a third party begins firing. Nick and Anna flee together as they team up trying to unravel who called for a second hit on his target; as he knows he would have been eliminated too.

The first Anna Smith and Nick Dade Mystery is an exciting San Francisco treat as the pair work together while neither trusts the other. Fast-paced and filled with action except when Lenny provides amusing slapstick moments; fans will enjoy this entertaining thriller even if the motive for one of the hits seems preposterous.

An American Spy
Olen Steinhauer
9780312622893, $25.99

After the harrowing nightmare that killed many of his top secret Department of Tourism assassins by Chinese rogue agent Xin Zhu (see The Nearest Exit) and the seditious link between the governments of China and America (see The Tourist), CIA agent Milo Weaver opts out. He never was comfortable with his work and these recent lethal nefarious incidents have Weaver reflecting that he prefers quality and quantity time with his family especially since his cell has been decommissioned.

However, Weaver's former Company boss Alan Drummond obsesses over what has happened to his unit. He travels to London using a Milo compromised alias. There he vanishes while his wife and daughter are kidnapped. Weaver feels obligated to try to save Drummond and his family as raging Xin Zhu still seeking revenge attacks the families of both spies just before the Beijing Olympics is to begin.

The third Weaver espionage thriller is a great spy vs. spy tale as the attacks turn psychotically personal. Fast-paced with a strong look at surveillance and intelligence gathering in the digital age, readers will relish Weaver's efforts to keep his loved ones safe and rescue the family of his former boss who had his back many times when they worked the field.

Hunting Sweetie Rose
Jack Fredrickson
9780312605261, $24.99

The Argus-Observer newspaper showed the pictures of the clown falling from a rooftop when the rope he used proved limp not taut. In nearby Riverton, TV reporter Jennifer Gale meets Vlodek "Dek" Elstrom while following a scandal involving salad oil labels. After she leaves, a limo carrying Tim Duggan arrives. Tim hires unlicensed private investigator Dek to look discreetly into the clown's demise which is ruled a suicide. With a terrific retainer and an open expense account, Dek asks no questions though he assumes the clown committed suicide.

Dek finds a link to ex-wife's affluent philanthropic circle when clues lead to wealthy Sweetie Fairbairn; who abruptly vanishes from her penthouse; she left behind in her hasty exit a dead security guard and an old postcard with a picture of a covered bridge. Following the clues leads Dek to Hadlow, Minnesota known for its humongous statue of Chief Winnemac and in Dek's mind convoluted clues.

The third Elstrom private investigator mystery (see A Safe Place For Dying and Honestly Dearest, You're Dead) is a great whodunit due to the protagonist's wicked self-deprecating sense of humor. The case is cleverly filled with complications as the hero follows bridges to nowhere. On the personal front, he and Jennifer hit it off though he misses his former wife. Readers will enjoy the quips and capers of Elstrom as he investigates who wiped the smile off the clown's face.

The Devil's Odds
Milton T. Burns
9780312643355, $25.99

In 1942 Jim Rutherford sends friend Texas Cattle Ranger Association Detective Virgil Tucker to meet a frightened woman at the Longhorn Barroom of the exclusive Weilbach Hotel in San Gabriel. Madeline Kimbell explains she witnessed two hoods working for Marty Salisbury murder Beaumont City Council lawyer Henry DeMour outside the Snake Eyes Nightclub in Port Arthur. Additionally, Madeline is hiding from her former boyfriend Jefferson County Deputy Sheriff Nolan who demands they marry.

Virgil takes Madeline to a safe house, but she abruptly flees and is found dead. Meanwhile Virgil finds himself in the crosshairs of a mob fight as New Orleans mobsters want to take over the Galveston operations from the kinder gentler local gang. Virgil leads with his fists in the middle of a WWII range war.

With a powerful sense of time and place, The Devil's Odds is a superb historical thriller in which readers will feel they are traversing the Texas Gulf Coast circa 1942 when law enforcement used local methods. Fast-paced and filled with action, Virgil is a delight as a kick butt nourish hero with a soft heart.

If You Were Here
Jen Lancaster
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451236685, $15.00,

In the Chicago burbs, Amish zombie romance young adult writer Mia and her husband Mac seek to buy their first home. They find in the market the house used by John Hughes in Sixteen Candles. Mia believes strongly this is their destiny so they purchase the fixer-upper.

However, neither Mia nor Mac was prepared for how much repair is needed. Their first rude awakening is when the toilets collapse through termite-infested rotted floors, but cannot find a contractor to work on their project. At the homeowners' association meeting the pair finds themselves being ripped asunder by conflicting groups. Their neighbors prove hostile and their former landlord nasty. As the bills mount and the isolation remains unmovable, the relationship between the couple begins to crack under the stress of home repair.

John Hughes seems to be in favor with his movies referred to in Easy A and throughout this jocular contemporary updating of The Money Pit (ironically a Richard Benjamin movie). The lighthearted storyline is amusing as the M&M new rule is Murphy's Law may be "whatever can go wrong will go wrong", but Schwartz's Law applies to them as "Murphy was an optimist."

Abby Finds Her Calling
Naomi King
9780451235732, $14.00

In Cedar Creek, Missouri James Graber becomes engaged to Zanna Lambright. Zanna's older sister, Abby is heartbroken as she loves James. Vowing to never marry, she focuses on her sewing shop and her family.

On the day of their wedding with guests arriving from as far away as Pennsylvania, Abby tells James that Zanna ran away. Stunned he feels as if his heart has been ripped asunder while the runaway bride's family is shamed by her actions. James vows to never marry especially after learning why his beloved left. Abby feels for him as she knows no way to mend a broken heart while trying to help her beloved, her family and her Amish community who must deal with the unthinkable trauma.

The first Home at Cedar Creek Amish family drama is an entertaining tale with two surprising wonderful twists from the usual sub-genre stories. Abby is terrific as she displays her fortitude by being there for her sister when pressure is on her to ignore her sibling. Her inner strength of supporting others makes Naomi King's opening Lambright saga is an enjoyable read.

Beastly Things
Donna Leon
Atlantic Monthly
c/o Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003-4793
9780802120236, $25.00,

In Venice, the corpse of a drowning victim with one shoe is found in a canal. Venice Questura Commissario Guido Brunetti leads the inquiry as the deceased may have drowned but it was a cut into a major vein that left him helpless when he was dumped into the water. The M.E. Dr. Rizzardi explains the man with no identity and a battered visage was in reasonable health for a fortyish person though he suffered from the rare genetic disorder Madeling's Disease that left his neck and chest seem abnormally fat.

Brunetti realizes when he saw the victim and soon knows where he can get a photo of the man's face. He and Inspector Vianello start with a shoe store that leads them to another branch in Mestre until they learn the identity is that of Dr. Andrea Nava, veterinarian. He was estranged from his wife for having an affair and working two jobs, his practice and at a meat factory.

The latest Commissario Guido Brunetti Venetian police procedural is a super whodunit as readers follow the interesting investigation. Brunetti and Vianello are marvelous as they piece together clues mostly using old fashion shoe leather but also ably supported by the IT gurus Signorina Elettra and Pucetti. Beastly Things is a super whodunit, as the lead detectives' reaction to the meat factory will turn many readers into vegetarians.

Fury of Fire
Coreene Callahan
Montlake Romance
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781612182728, $14.95,

In Washington State, the hybrid dragon-human species are divided into two opposing groups. The Nightfuries vows to protect humanity with their lives; while the Razorbacks led by Ivar the scientist believe that the half dragon species should be at the top of the food chain vowing to destroy mankind. Hostility between the dragon shifter species is extremely high.

Bastien, head of the Nightfuries knows his duty as time runs short with the Meridian's axis realignment in five days. He must mate with a human female in order to promulgate the first of the next generation males. However, Bastien knows his woman will die in childbirth.

Nurse Myst Munroe grieves the death of her murdered mom while making a house call on her pregnant patient Caroline Van Owen. When she finds Caroline lying in blood, she gives first aid to save the lives of the mother and her unborn dragon child. Bastian and his top aide Rikar arrive as emergency medical workers just before agents of Razorbacks. A battle ensues over who claims the infant. Meanwhile Bastien knows Myst is the one, but realizes he is condemning her to a death sentence.

The first dragon shifter romantic urban fantasy is an exhilarating thriller in which the Callahan mythos comes across as genuine with a refreshing concept of fostering the species. The storyline rotates perspective between the protagonists, Ivar, Riker and human police detective Angela Keen; this enhances the plot especially the fantasy elements but also takes some adjusting due to the volume of switching leads. Although Razorbacks will remind readers of vampires sucking energy not blood, readers will enjoy the seemingly bittersweet romance between Bastien and Myst.

The Thirteenth Sacrifice
Debbie Viguie
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451236364, $7.99,

Boston PD Detectives Samantha Ryan and her partner Ed Hofferman arrive at the scene of coed Camille's homicide in an off campus apartment. On the forehead of the victim is a bloody pentagram, but there is no blood anywhere else on the deceased or in the room. They interview the roommate Katie who claims to be a solitary practicing witch, but Samantha realizes she offers nothing not even emotion; while the victim's new boyfriend Brad cries. George the coroner informs Samantha that the pentagram was drawn in nail polish several hours after the death.

The two cops head to St. Vincent's Cathedral where Sister Mary Ellen has a waxed pentagram on her forehead. Next Katie's former boyfriend Kyle is found dead by his roommates. Samantha believes Kyle's death is a red herring by a clever killer who wants the cops looking at Katie as the killer. His girlfriend Tina arrives hysterical; which leads to Samantha hugging her. Soon afterward, Samantha loses her cross while subsequently more murders follow; she increasingly believes the vicious witches that she descends from have returned to Salem using sacrifices to embellish their power.

The first Witch Hunt urban fantasy police procedural is a terrific thriller due to a strong protagonist who converted from witchcraft practitioner to Christian believer. The whodunit is clever as Samantha has to return to her roots going undercover to ferret out the serial killer as she believes the motive is power. Readers will appreciate Detective Ryan affirming "You Can't Go Home Again" (Thomas Wolfe) as she returns to a community she fled several years ago.

The Thirteenth Sacrifice
Debbie Viguie
9780451236364, $7.99

Boston PD Detectives Samantha Ryan and her partner Ed Hofferman arrive at the scene of coed Camille's homicide in an off campus apartment. On the forehead of the victim is a bloody pentagram, but there is no blood anywhere else on the deceased or in the room. They interview the roommate Katie who claims to be a solitary practicing witch, but Samantha realizes she offers nothing not even emotion; while the victim's new boyfriend Brad cries. George the coroner informs Samantha that the pentagram was drawn in nail polish several hours after the death.

The two cops head to St. Vincent's Cathedral where Sister Mary Ellen has a waxed pentagram on her forehead. Next Katie's former boyfriend Kyle is found dead by his roommates. Samantha believes Kyle's death is a red herring by a clever killer who wants the cops looking at Katie as the killer. His girlfriend Tina arrives hysterical; which leads to Samantha hugging her. Soon afterward, Samantha loses her cross while subsequently more murders follow; she increasingly believes the vicious witches that she descends from have returned to Salem using sacrifices to embellish their power.

The first Witch Hunt urban fantasy police procedural is a terrific thriller due to a strong protagonist who converted from witchcraft practitioner to Christian believer. The whodunit is clever as Samantha has to return to her roots going undercover to ferret out the serial killer as she believes the motive is power. Readers will appreciate Detective Ryan affirming "You Can't Go Home Again" (Thomas Wolfe) as she returns to a community she fled several years ago.

Dire Needs
Stephanie Tyler
9780451236234, $7.99

Medical resident Dr. Gwen Kadlin knows she is dying from her unexplained seizures. With nothing to lose, Gwen seeks passionate lovemaking before she is unable to have sex. She goes to the unsafe Were biker bar where she plans to hook up with a dangerous hunk.

Rifter leads the six remaining immortal Dire wolves whose mission is assigned by the enigmatic Elders to protect humans. However, they and the Weres are in mortal combat with human Weretrappers, who seek to capture and experiment on them. Rifter is shocked when Gwen enters the bar; as she is out of place here and his inner wolf wants her. They begin to make love when a seizure hammers Gwen, which makes Rifter sense shapeshifting is involved. However when his Gwen becomes the target of the enemy, Rifter vows to keep her safe but also wonders if the threat is because of her connection to him or something else.

Tyler moves from romantic suspense (Night Moves) into paranormal romance with the derivative first Eternal Wolf Clan book. Rifter must sort out a deadly plot involving rogues, witches, black magic, and weretrappers while grappling with his unlikely longing for Gwen.

The first Eternal Wolf Clan romantic urban fantasy is a fast-paced tale from the moment the "strangers in the night exchanging glances wondering in the night what were the chances (they'd) be sharing love" (Frank Sinatra) and never slows down until the final altercation. Although the overarching combat premise to protect humans has been used frequently (see The Walker Papers by C.E. Murphy), sub-genre fans will enjoy this engaging suspense laden thriller.

Elle Jasper
9780451236258, $7.99

Savannah tattoo artist Riley Poe the demon hunter (see Afterlight) still struggles with the vampiric bite (see Everdark) that has changed her. She fears the worst will happen to her as her humanity seems to be slipping away. Her lover Eli Dupre the vampire also is concerned about the changes in the soul of his Riley. Strigoi Victorian Arcos suggests she travel to Romania to meet with the head vampire whose minion attacked her.

Though concerned about her entering the evil lair, Eli agrees with Victorian's assessment and escorts his beloved to Eastern Europe. There she will confront what is destroying her from within or die soulless, but to survive she must depend on Eli; a need she loathes as she prefers her independence than reliance on another person.

The final Dark Ink Chronicles urban fantasy is a great finish that will elates fans of this super saga. The Jasper universe is fully developed so that the audience believes in vampires, demons and hunters residing by the neurologically typical. The lead couple is at their best, but this is Riley's show as readers will wonder whether Eventide is nevermore.

Dying Wish
Shannon K. Butcher
9780451236050, $7.99

Jackie Patton desperately wants to return to the life she had before the Synestryn captured and tortured her for the past two years. However, Jackie "blue' knows she will never live that carefree life ever again. Besides the impact of the ordeal on her mind and the knowledge her vile kidnappers stalk her; she feels a debt of gratitude to her rescuers, Theronai warriors. To make some remittance, Jackie believes she should mate with one of them as that will save the life of her chosen partner; though she hopes temporary is enough.

Jackie stuns everyone when she selects tundra cold Iain. He rejects her offer as he insists his soul already died when the Synestryn killed his betrothed. She ignores his rejection as he is the one. However, although both refuse to accept no, they team up to try to prevent the insidious enemy from abducting the recently liberated children a second time.

The latest, as always, great Sentinel Wars romantic urban fantasy (see Blood Hunt) is a superb paranormal suspense. The story line is action-packed from the moment Jackie chooses and never slows down until the final confrontation. Readers will appreciate this exciting thriller as two courageous opposites, ethically uber-optimistic Jackie and morally ultra-pessimistic Iain must choose.

Now Or Never
Michele Bardsley
9780451236241, $7.99

Nevermore, Texas contains a population under a thousand residents that includes humans, witches and wizards. Lately Town sheriff Taylor Mooreland has been troubled by recent visions of the sacrifice of a woman. In the woods, he is shocked when he locates the female who has haunted him tied to a concealed altar. He does not need an oracle to know trouble has arrived in Nevermore as he frees the feisty raging Lenore "Norie" Whyte.

She thanks the sheriff, but knows the Black Robes, who kidnapped, drugged and tortured her, need her. She is the chosen one for their sacrifice; no substitute will do. To keep the woman he rescued safe and prevent a maniacal magical maelstrom, Taylor and his allies need to learn why the enemy willingly sacrifices their members in an obsession to recapture Norie because It's Now or Never for the townsfolk.

The second wizards of Nevermore Texas romantic small-town fantasy (see Never Again) is an excellent thriller as the ethical sheriff and the target make a great pairing. Some of the locals want to give Norie back to the Black Robes as they feel that is the safest easiest way to prevent a dangerous magical war; others call that appeasement, which will stop the combat. Fans will enjoy this exhilarating tale as the crosshairs are on a beleaguered waif though neither she, the sheriff who loves her or other residents of Nevermore know why her.

The Detour
Andromeda Romano-Lax
Soho Press
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
9781616950491, $25.00,

In 1948, Ernst Vogler visits Piedmont, Italy as he looks back a decade to what he did. Back in 1938, Ernest works as a trainee for the Sonderprojekt. His job is to collect masterpieces that reflect favorably on the Nazi credo and bring them to the Gestapo in Germany. When the authorities arrest his outspoken mentor with Jewish blood Gerhard and takes him to Dachau Prison as a political criminal, Vogler is assigned a special order of the Fuhrer who has "purchased" the ancient Roman statue, The Discus Thrower. He has three days to validate and deliver the classical work by rail to the Gestapo.

When he is unable to use the rails, he hires twin Italian policemen (Enzo and Cosimo Digiloramo) to escort Herr Vogler. The truck is terrible breaking down frequent and rarely picking up speed; additionally only Enzo can drive it while the roads are worse. Besides Cosimo demands a detour so he can spend the night with his Bella. Three days is no longer an option especially when he sees firsthand the classical masterpieces of the ancients that he fears what the Gestapo will do to the masterpieces and the modern day beauty Rosina.

This is an exciting WWII historical thriller that grips the reader with a sense of pending doom yet a feeling of optimism that all this will pass. The cast is powerful as the audience obtains life mostly in Italy as a lesser country cousin to the Third Reich. Filled with murder, mayhem, masterpieces and bittersweet love, readers will appreciate Vogler's road tours circa 1938 and 1948.

One Man Rush
Joanne Rock
Harlequin Blaze
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373796823, $5.25,

The client Phil Goodwell placed Philadelphia Phantom hockey star Kyle Murphy on the top of his list for those he considered as a match for his twenty-four year old daughter Stacy. Matchmaker Marissa Collins attends a Phantom event at the suburban Normandy Farms Hotel to arrange an introduction between the client's daughter and the hunk on ice. However, when Marissa sees Kyle and him her, the sparks between them destroy their respective professional goal; as she loses sight of the needed lucrative fee and he loses sight of the Stanley Cup.

However, as Kyle and Marissa fall deeper into lust and god forbid love, the team makes a strong run towards making the playoffs, but the couple has problems as she panics over her need to earn money to take care of her ailing mom. Phil is upset with the matchmaker and with his daughter who is attracted to non-athlete graphic chips maker Isaac Reynolds.

This delightful "Double Overtime" sports romance is an entertaining contemporary as two couples fall in love though the hockey player and the matchmaker are the prime lead. The protagonists are a wonderful pairing with their fears keeping their relationship in peril; while the support cast is solid especially the other couple, his "Wrong Bed" family (see Riding The Storm), his teammates (especially his foster brother Axel - his tale to come) and her mom. Readers will enjoy Joanne Rock's engaging tale.

Blazing Bedtime Stories, Volume VI
Tori Carrington & Kate Hoffmann
Harlequin Blaze
9780373796793, $5.25

"Maid for Him" by Tori Carrington. Off the coast of Southern California, Kieran Morrison is taken aback when he finds Daphne Moore on his ship. She came out of the Pacific and is a mermaid, but that species only exists in movies. Daphne is attracted to the human, but knows that always ends badly for her race. When they meet on shore, they make love. She must decide between love of this landlubber and her love of the sea.

"Off the Beaten Path" by Kate Hoffmann. They met seven years ago at work at Johnson-Jacobs Advertising; Alex Hansen and Greta Adler became best friends. He invites her to join him at a cabin owned by his top client Thea Michaels. However, Thea is also there with plans to take Alex. Instead Alex persuades Greta to pretend to be his lover; only in his case he has wanted that since they made love four years ago while drunk. Greta fears relationships having watched her parents' marriage collapse as a child. However, Alex's kisses make her forget her commitment phobia.

The latest "Blazing Bedtime Stories" contains two well written romances with engaging characters; although the fun storylines are somewhat linear and the sub-genres different.

The Werewolf's Wife
Michele Hauf
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373618804, $5.50

Near the Twin Cities, werewolf Ridge Addison the lumberjack is the Principal of a dwindling pack. He and Jason are the only ones left on the compound while two pack members live with their spouses nearby. The rest of the pack died or fled after Ridge's predecessors caused a war with the vampires.

Ridge needs a real wife to start a family so he decides it is time to divorce Abigail Rowan the witch he married thirteen years ago while intoxicated in Vegas. In Minneapolis he seeks her out only to learn she is on a desperate hunt to save her twelve year old son Ryan, who was abducted at the Detroit Airport while on his way home from Switzerland by a person claiming to be part of the Light. The kidnapper uses the tweener as a hostage chip to force his mom to rescue a vampire being used in a blood sport in exchange for her child. The werewolf agrees to help his spouse, who he claims placed a spell that has left him unable to procreate, as long as she signs the divorce papers.

Fast-paced from the moment Abigail receives the nightmarish call and never slows down until the final marital confrontation, fans will relish this engaging romantic urban fantasy. The lead couple is a delightful pairing as they argue, fuss and fight on their way to a second chance at love. Most women would cherish Abigail's below the belt skill while men would cringe. Brilliantly refreshing common romance tropes, Michele Hauf provides a wonderful visit to the "Land of 10000 Lakes."

Warrior Rising
Pamela Palmer
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373618811, $5.50

In DC, computer company CEO Harrison Rand prepares for the war against the hated Esri Kingdom now that the Dark Gate and other portals between the realms have been breached. The few Sitheen humans with Esri blood are the last hope for mankind to prevent becoming enslaved by ruthless King Rith. Harrison has doubts he belongs with warriors like his brother Charlie who went through a gate to rescue Princess Ilaria (see A Warrior's Desire) or Kaderil the Dark Esri who joined their side due to loving a human (see Dark Deceiver).

In fact the divorced Harrison prefers to protect his children, but his sibling needs someone he trusts to protect Ilaria. Although he loathes the Esri, Harrison finds himself attracted to the exiled royal and soon realizes she is caring and kind towards humans and worries about her people like he does for his. She seeks two stones to prevent Rith from completing the destruction of two worlds.

This is a terrific finish to a strong romantic urban fantasy saga as Harrison learns not to be a racist profiler when the Princess destroys his beliefs about her people. Fast-paced and filled with action and romance, fans of the Esri series will appreciate the wonderful magical ending.

Goddess Interrupted
Aimee Carter
Harlequin Teen
9780373210459, $9.99

Kate Winters barely survived the seven tests the Council made her endure to prove her worthiness. However, she passed gaining immortality as the soon to be crowned Queen of the Underworld and marriage to her beloved Henry. They have a trusting arrangement in which she spends the wintry months with Henry in Eden and the summer doing her thing.

However, Kate feels isolated from her beloved who appears aloof rather than loving her on her return to his side. During her coronation, an epiphany hits Kate that Henry does not love her; he marries her out of a sense of duty. Before she can respond yes to wedding him anyway as hope is eternal, Titans crash the ceremony. Gods fear the Titans who created them and can kill them. Calliope most likely arranged for the awakening of King Cronus who has kidnapped her Henry. Kate needs help to rescue her beloved from the dungeons inside the Gates of Cronus; which means turning to her deadliest rival, Henry's first wife, Persephone.

The sequel to The Goddess Test is an exciting fantasy starring an intrepid heroine who risks her immortality to save her beloved. The storyline is fast-paced yet readers obtain an intriguing look at the Underworld. Besides thoroughly entertaining, Goddess Interrupted encourages the young adult audience to read the Greek mythological classics (not just the terrific movies) as Aimee Carter spins a wonderful modernization.

Outside the Law
Kara Lennox
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373717675, $5.50

Houston based not for profit Project Justice forensic scientist Beth McClelland is attracted to coworker computer nerd Mitch Delacroix. Part of her fascination is that Beth believes Mitch is not a risk taker. Beth's best friend Raleigh Shinn calls her chicken as she encourages her to tell the geek how she feels. Screwing up her courage, she asks him to attend a concert, but he says he is busy as he conceals his feelings for her because he knows in his heart she deserves better.

Mitch's half-brother Coot's Bayou, Louisiana cop Dwayne informs him that his partner in an auto theft twelve years ago Robby Racine recently was found dead; he died a dozen years ago when all this time everyone though he fled town to avoid three strikes and you're out. The only suspect is his auto-thieving partner Mitch. Unable to accept her gentle Mitch as a killer in spite of learning about his secret identity, Beth accompanies him to Coot's Bayou to investigate a cold case homicide.

This is an exhilarating romantic investigative tale with a great twisting finish. The storyline is fast-paced from the moment Dwayne arrives and never slows down until the final altercation. This is a super thriller as love may not be enough for this pair especially with his violent history including his clandestine Cagey Cajun character.

From Father To Son
Janice Kay Johnson
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373717644, $5.50

His dad got ten years while fifteen year old Niall MacLachlan lingered in youth detention. His older brother Duncan tells him mom left. Duncan says he will take him home, but expects Niall and the tweener youngest Conall to shape up or leave. Niall realizes Duncan the valedictorian and star athlete has given up on his dream of attending college to care for his younger siblings. Niall knows this is hard core love.

Straightening himself out, Niall becomes a police detective with a vow of no family. Duncan became a cop too and has a pregnant wife (see Between Love and Duty). At a time when he struggles with his second killing of the year and an almost shooting of a child, Niall loathes his attraction to his new landlady Rowan Staley, who inherited the place from her octogenarian grandma Enid Cooper. Making matters worse the widow is the mother of two small children (Desmond and Anna) and a nudnik canine. He wants to break the lease, but she needs his rent in order to avoid moving into the home of her in-laws.

The second Brother's Word romantic family drama is a terrific tale starring a wounded warrior and the brood that heals his soul. The cast is fully developed as Niall proves the child is the adult. He knows only tough love so chooses a loner lifestyle. Readers will enjoy this tale as the impetus to shake up the hermit comes from two families loving him and a deep need to protect the landlady and her kids from a viable threat.

Cassie's Grand Plan
Emmie Dark
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373717699 $5.50

In Melbourne Cassidy Hartman is the head of operations for Country Style furniture. San Francisco based Conroy Corporation sends consultant Ronan Conroy to assess the firm as the owner wants to sell. Cassie thinks Ronan is here to assess her skills, but he knows his work will leave her unemployed while he will prove his worth to his father and become his dad's partner at Conroy.

Cassie has a life plan to move up the corporate ladder, get a makeover, find a husband and raise a family in that order. She escorts Ronan on a tour of the company, but he realizes rather quickly that though he will cost her the management job, he has another position in mind for her as his wife and mother of his children. All he has to is convince her that love and business make strange but contented bedfellows.

The key to this engaging contemporary romance is the lead couple has immediate career goals that appear in conflict while sharing personal goals that seem in harmony if they survive the outcome of their mutually exclusive first objectives. Although the resolution seems abrupt, readers will enjoy this bi-continental romance as the protagonists appear to be an ocean apart.

Forever Claimed
Rachel Lee
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373618781, $5.50

Vampire Luc St. Just has not been the same since his claimed mate Natasha died. Some of his kind insists he is insane and he would agree. However, his friend Messenger Investigations, Inc. private investigator Jude Messenger (see Claim The Night) thinks otherwise and has been there for Luc as he grieves his loss and thirsts for vengeance against rogue vampires.

He intrudes when four rogues leave a woman near death. Luc takes her with him, but is stunned when Dani Makar rapidly heals with no need of medical assistance. Dani fears the vampire as the natural enemy of werewolves, even one who cannot shift; but Luc acts differently towards her than what she always believed to be true about the bloodsuckers. As they fall in taboo love, the star-crossed pair must persuade their respective "clans" that each are trusted good guys, which goes against the natural order of life; while the evil rogues stalk Dani to finish the job and Jude for interfering.

The third Claimed Messenger romantic urban fantasy is a fabulous paranormal starring two courageous souls in forbidden love. Dani's deep rooted instinctive and learned racism against the vampire species enhances a delightful thriller as evil stalks the duet who may find themselves with no allies due to the "unnatural" alliance between vamps and shifters. This is great work by a top gun author.

The Half-Breed Vampire
Theresa Meyers
Harlequin Nocturne
9780373618798, $5.50

In the Cascade Mountains, wolves attack hybrid vampire Slade Donovan. Game Warden Raina Ravenwing rescues him from a pack of werewolves; killing one of them. She explains she hunts this pack for abducting Robbie two weeks ago with a plan to transform the teen. He agrees to help her complete her mission because it coincides with what he is doing for the Cascade Vampire Clan who took him off the streets of Seattle.

Raina knows her instant attraction to her new teammate comes at a bad time as the task must come before her need. He feels the same though he also knows he offers nothing, not even his heritage to Raina. Complicating their pursuit, the rogue pack leader knows the officer is his mate.

The third Sons of Midnight Cascade Vampire Clan romantic urban fantasy (see The Truth About Vampires and The vampire Who Loved Me) is a fresh tale with terrific twists including what the hero is. The storyline is fast-paced from the onset as the rogues prove to have unique power that places Slade and the other vampire security members in peril for their lives and Raina as the intended soul mate of the evil Bracken. Theresa Meyers provides a great thriller.

On A Dark Wing
Jordan Dane
Harlequin Teen
9780373210411, $9.99

Five years ago, Abbey Chandler missed the school bus that takes her home. Her mom picked her up, but died in a car crash in which her daughter escaped death thanks to an ephemeral boy of the clouds taking her hand. She remains haunted by survivor guilt compounding her belief she caused her mother's demise.

Unable to move on pass the tragedy, Abbey has only one friend, Tanner Lange, paralyzed from the waist down since a childhood accident. Abbey is attracted to Nate Holden, who does not know she exists though she knows everything about him. He is joining his father and others on a climb of Denali. However, when Abbey begins seeing the Angel of Death's ravens, she knows the grim reaper is back in her life; her fear is Nate is the target. She wants to go to her crush but her dad insists they go on their annual pilgrimage to her mom.

This is an exciting teen paranormal thriller that rotates perspective between Abbey and on Denali. The storyline focuses on death, guilt and redemption. Abbey is a wonderful protagonist who keeps the stirring tale focused though her actions with Nate seem off kilter; first as a stalker and later when he arrives at the remote cabin where she and her dad retreated to pay homage to their late loved one. In some ways Tanner steals the show with his freshness while the heroine's first kiss is a stunner. Fans will enjoy Abbey's efforts to come to grips with death.

Soul Screamers
Rachel Vincent
Harlequin Teen
9780373210602, $8.99

My Soul To Lose. Dallas high school students Kaylee and Emma are at the mall shopping Suddenly Kaylee suffers a panic attack. Emma helps her calm down until Kaylee sees the shadows engulf a wheelchair bound boy. Hours later Kaylee awakens in a psychiatric ward where she cringes at the shadows surrounding another patient. Kaylee begins to recover until the scream surfaces; however Lydia of the green eyes calms her down.

My Soul To Take. Underage Kaylee sneaks into the Taboo Club where she dances with Eastlake High School hottie Nash. She senses someone is about to die and when that happens she has a deep need to scream. Nash calms her and explains that banshees like her must scream when someone is about to die. They begin dating but the pair has to stop a serial killer focused on Eastlake High School.

My Soul To Save. Teen pop star Eden dies on stage, but Kaylee, who was at the concert with Nash, fails to wail at death, she knows the idol traded her soul for fame. In spite of the fact her dad will kill her for cutting class and violating curfew, Kaylee risks her life and soul to prevent other teens from bartering theirs for a short life span of fame in exchange for eternity in the Netherworld.

This entertaining reprint of the prequel novella and the first two novels in the Soul Screamer teenage fantasy is a fine collection. The opening act introduces Kaylee with her instinctively need to wail; the other entries follow her struggling adjustment to control the urge with mentoring help by Nash's mom while history and trig wait for no student even a banshee.

The Iron Daughter
Julie Kagawa
Harlequin Teen
9780373210138, $9.99

Sixteen-year-old hybrid Meghan Chase is the daughter of the Summer Fairy King Oberon. She recently proved her mettle when she defeated the Iron Fey (see The Iron King). However, as an honored "guest" of the Winter Fairies Unseelie Court, Meghan is stunned when the Iron Fey steals the Scepter of the Seasons, but leaves incriminating evidence that point to Meghan as the thief.

Deciding to leave though her hosts will try to prevent her escape, Meghan follows the trail to recover the Scepter in order to lessen the tension between the Summer and Winter clans. As war seems imminent, Winter Prince Ash, who ignored her while at court, accompanies Meghan on her quest that leads to her maternal realm as well as their travels in the land of Fairy.

Although the second Iron Fey fantasy (see The Iron King) starts slow at court, once the theft is done, the storyline accelerates into an action-packed fast-paced thriller. The half-breed princess, who has feet in two worlds but belongs in neither, shows her fortitude. Ash provides fascinating support as he is attentive once again now that they're away from his family. The Iron Daughter is a terrific tale.

Yours To Keep
Shannon Stacey
Harlequin HQN
9780373776863, $7.99

Worried about her granddaughter Emma Shaw's single status, family matriarch Grandma Cat leaves her new Florida home to visit her in New Hampshire. Emma told her Grandma that she has a fiance, but now needs to introduce her persistent relative to a flesh and blood male. Previously selecting now honorably discharged former soldier Sean Kowalski as her man based on her friend Lily mentioning him as her cousin-in-law, Emma visits him at his home; where she informs him she is his fake fiancee.

Though a bit surprised by her confession, he agrees to pretend to be her future mate living together while also working for her landscaping firm. However what started as pretend turns real when the kisses become increasingly passionate and needing.

Though the theme of a pretend spouse to fool a caring relative has been done a zillion times (see Brigit Asher's The Pretend Wife), the latest Kowalski contemporary romance (see Exclusively Yours and Undeniably Yours) is a fun tale. Putting aside the ethics of deception, fans will enjoy this zany tale as his boisterous clan and her persistent diligent relative make it impossible for the couple to have a respite; love compounds the dilemma as Sir Walter Scott said: "Oh what a tangled web you weave when first you practice to deceive."

Tempted by Blood
Laurie London
Harlequin HQN
9780373776450, $7.99

In the Seattle area, the Guardians feel good after defeating the Darkblood Alliance when they rescued humans containing the Sweetblood during their enemies' Night of the Wilding gala on a San Juan Island. While his side is festive following the bust but they also remain wary as they expect another attack by their deadly foes, Guardian Jackson Foss fears his craving for blood is becoming out of control, which he bitterly knows will turn him into what he loathes, a Darkblood abomination.

Software expert Arianna Wells writes as Icy Shadows the blog, Paranormalish. Her mission is to find the truth about the strange and inexplicable. She meets Jackson in his shadow form when he rescues her Sweetblood cousin Krystal from the Darkblood. However, Jackson is stunned when his attempt to delete certain inconvenient truths from Arianna's brain fails; while the Darkblood stalk the cousins and his cravings stalk him.

The third Sweetblood romantic urban fantasy (see Bonded by Blood and Embraced by Blood) is a superb vampire tale. The hostilities between the two vampire groups remains heated as the paranormal war in the Pacific Northwest makes the London mythos seem real. However, it is the hero's struggles to remain faithful as increasingly he and no one else trusts him to do the right thing; with one exception the incredible Arianna who believes in her beloved personal Guardian to protect her and Krystal.

Return To Grace
Karen Harper
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778313236, $14.95,

In Home Valley, Ohio, heartbroken by Seth Lantz's infidelity leading to his marrying pregnant Lena Miller, Hannah Esh left her Amish home to become a singer. Three years later, her worldly Englishe friends (Liz Bartoli, Tiffany Miles, Mike Swanson and Kevin Miles) have a Halloween boos and booze party at the Oakridge Road Amish Graveyard near where Hannah used to live. Their irreverence towards the dead disturbs Hannah. Shots are fired with Tiffany hit in the shoulder, Mike in the head and Hannah in the wrist. Hannah calls 911.

Seth riding home hears the shots and screams. He arrives at the cemetery where Hannah fled with shame and guilt sits in shock. He also has issues as the shooter destroyed the marker of his late wife Lena. Hannah's parents, Bishop and Mrs. Esh arrive while the emergency vehicle comes to take the victims to the hospital. FBI agent Linc Armstrong leads the official investigation into what seems like a crime of hate. Hannah serves as the tie between the Fed's Englishe roots and her Amish community as she wants to prove her worthiness to herself and her family. Single dad Seth, who never stopped loving, Hannah, prays for a second chance.

The latest Home Valley Amish romance (see Fall From Pride) is a wonderful character driven suspense as the heroine must choose between two cultures and potential loves; her dilemmas that provide insight into the Amish lifestyle are at the heart of the storyline. The investigation is superb as a killer observes the inquiry especially Hannah's role, but it is the overall heroine's tragic homecoming that makes for an engaging thriller.

Against The Night
Kat Martin
9780778313199, $7.99

In Los Angeles, former Army Ranger turned civilian private investigator Johnnie Riggs visits the Kitty Cat Club on Sunset to nail a skip, child pornographer Ray Carroll, grandson of a late oil billionaire. However, when Angel Fontaine works the pole, he becomes totally distracted. Out of character for him when he is on the job, he wants to meet Angel, but captures the perv when he gleefully stuffs money into Angel's G-string.

Riggs learns Angel's day job is Grand Rapids Elementary School kindergarten teacher Amy Brewer. She is undercover searching for her missing sister Rachael, who stripped at the Kitty Cat. Johnnie offers to help her, which she accepts. However, instead of just following her sibling's trail through the sleaze of Hollywood and worse, they struggle to survive as someone wants her dead.

The latest Raines of Wind Canyon (see Against the Wind and Against the Fire) is an exhilarating romantic suspense as two seemingly opposites fall in love while dodging nasty villains during the hunt for her exotic dancing sibling. Fast-paced form the moment their eyes met while she pole danced, Kat Martin provides an engaging thriller.

Redwood Bend
Robyn Carr
9780778313106, $7.99

Single mom of five years old twins (Andy and Mitch) Katie Malone quits her job after a failed attempt at a romance with her boss who rejects her since he is gay. With her her sons, she drives from Vermont so that she and the boys can spend the summer with their only family, her brother Connor (see Hidden Summer) and the woman he loves whom she has not yet met.

When the Malone vehicle has a flat in the rain, chivalrous Dylan Childress, biking with his buddies on their way to Virgin River, stops to change it. They are attracted to one another, but he warns her that commitment-is not him. Both accept a summer romance, but love intrudes. When he fails to admit his feelings, she ends their tryst. Realizing his blunder, Dylan who adores her kids, knows they are the way back into her heart.

The latest Virgin River contemporary romance (see Moonlight Road and Paradise Valley) is an enjoyable tale though there is a sense of deja vu as readers have traveled this road before. The lead couple is a wonderful duet, consisting of a single mom and an avowed bachelor with both understanding that the twins come first. Fans will enjoy this tender family drama as the second Malone finds love in Virgin River.

Songs of the Earth
Elspeth Cooper
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765331656, $24.99,

Gair has been a dedicated holy knight who has devoted his life to the revelatory service of the Lady and the Church. However, his loyalty proves insufficient as he breaks the prime law of the Holy City when he hears the music of magic. Declared rightfully as a witch he expects to burn at the stake. Tormented by his taint though keeping his head up and looking at his accusers, Gair knows even if he wanted to escape, which he does not as he must die, the Church Knights led by the Witchfinder would hunt him down like an animal.

However, he is taken aback when Preceptor Ansel changes his death sentence to permanent exile from the parish. Leaving the Holy City to starve to death, a mysterious stranger Alderan of the Guardians of the Veil, who watched the court proceedings, escorts the shocked young man away. However, a dying Goran sends his Knights and a Witchfinder after them, but they escape as they begin their journey to a place where the lad can learn to control his magical skills as he learns that the Guardians of the Veil patrol the barrier that separates this realm from a hell; while being mentored by Aysha the shapeshifter.

This is an entertaining fantasy with several subplots, but mostly the trek, the school (especially the older woman younger man romance) and the search for answers by Ansel and Goran. The fast-paced but somewhat straightforward storyline will remind fans of E. Rose Sabin's "School For Sorcery" saga though the protagonist of Songs of the Earth is older. Readers will enjoy the opening Cooper mythos as a breach in the gate of hell gives a trainee a baptism of fire.

The Galahad Legacy
Dom Testa
Tor Teen
9780765321121, $17.99

On earth, mankind is dying out. Only 250 chosen teens were sent into space on board the Galahad to find a new home for what is left of the species (see The Cassini Code). One year away from their home, the survivors have faced a difficult journey, but so far prove that the adults who selected them picked those with the right stuff. However, the latest problem seems insurmountable as the vessel is falling apart having gone through the normal rigor of outer space, but amplified by alien attacks, internal sabotage and worm hole devastation (see The Comet's Curse and The Web of Titan). Days remain with no exit strategy as a virus loaded to the computer has speed up the doomsday countdown.

That is until Council leader Triana Martell returns from her journey through a wormhole (see Cosmic Storm). Accompanying her back to the Galahad is the ambassador of the Dollovit who offers them a chance to survive but at what price.

This is a strong finish to a great teenage science fiction thriller. The storyline is fast-paced as the leader returns with an option that may save the crew but can they trust this alien race after meeting a bellicose species early in their journey. Readers will enjoy the adventures of the space crew Galahad as Dom Testa provides a fabulous space odyssey in which he sums up in his afterward note to his audience that like those on board, the cool person is the smart person.

Songs of the Earth
Elspeth Cooper
9780765331656, $24.99

Gair has been a dedicated holy knight who has devoted his life to the revelatory service of the Lady and the Church. However, his loyalty proves insufficient as he breaks the prime law of the Holy City when he hears the music of magic. Declared rightfully as a witch he expects to burn at the stake. Tormented by his taint though keeping his head up and looking at his accusers, Gair knows even if he wanted to escape, which he does not as he must die, the Church Knights led by the Witchfinder would hunt him down like an animal.

However, he is taken aback when Preceptor Ansel changes his death sentence to permanent exile from the parish. Leaving the Holy City to starve to death, a mysterious stranger Alderan of the Guardians of the Veil, who watched the court proceedings, escorts the shocked young man away. However, a dying Goran sends his Knights and a Witchfinder after them, but they escape as they begin their journey to a place where the lad can learn to control his magical skills as he learns that the Guardians of the Veil patrol the barrier that separates this realm from a hell; while being mentored by Aysha the shapeshifter.

This is an entertaining fantasy with several subplots, but mostly the trek, the school (especially the older woman younger man romance) and the search for answers by Ansel and Goran. The fast-paced but somewhat straightforward storyline will remind fans of E. Rose Sabin's "School For Sorcery" saga though the protagonist of Songs of the Earth is older. Readers will enjoy the opening Cooper mythos as a breach in the gate of hell gives a trainee a baptism of fire.

Blue Magic
A.M. Dellamonica
9780765319487, $14.99

In Indigo Springs, Oregon, Astrid Lethewood discovered an underground stream of blue liquid when she moved into the home of her late father. She learned that this Vitagua possesses magic, but she and her friends like Sahara Kanx become corrupted by the power possibilities of the blue liquid (see Indigo Springs). However, as Astrid begins doubting the positive effect of Vitagua, the world knows of its existence.

Sahara formed a cult focused on her being a goddess ruling the world while her former BFF turned enemy Astrid tries to heal the world. The would-be goddess loses and now she stands trial along with her minion for crimes against the state. Astrid somewhat helps Will Forest, who assisted her in ending Sahara's reign of terror, locate his children. However, Astrid is distracted by her efforts to prevent global annihilation that she fears she set in motion.

The return to Indigo Springs is an exciting and enthralling fantasy that once again looks at the consequences of "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." (Lord Acton). The Indigo Springs' subplots that follow up on the lives of the lead players from the first thriller (Will's kids, Sahara's trial and Astrid's concerns that have her followers arguing) supersedes the world apocalypse now plot as the small overwhelms the big; which feels wrong as the global pandemic could end Indigo Springs and the rest of earth. Still this is an entertaining tale that provides a close scrutiny of magic's corruption effect.

Arctic Rising
Tobias S. Buckell
9780765319210, $24.99

The Arctic Ice Cap has melted leading to an economic race between Arctic Tiger nations claiming the land and water as theirs with the argument between Russia, Greenland, Canada and America over the vast oil deposits now reachable with the opening of the Northwest passage. United Nations Polar Guard Glover Airship pilot Anika Duncan a Nigerian knows how global warming impacts the area as the always frozen Lancaster Sound is just frigid not iced.

The Gaia Corporation fears the earth is dying while the leaders stitch meaningless platitudes. The group deploys thousands of miniature mirrors into the atmosphere in order to deflect heat, which will cool the planet. However, good intentions turn hellish when their weapon is purloined. As a stolen nuclear weapon makes its way to the polar cap, a rogue ship shoots down the Glover. Anika survives but is thrust into a geo war.

This is an intriguing futuristic science fiction thriller that extrapolates global warming trends and the race to claim the Arctic into an exciting cautionary thriller. The storyline is fast-paced as, for the most part, Tobias S. Buckell balances the moral issues with the action this is especially true for the heroine. Anika who keeps the plot focused. Although the final confrontation seems out of a bloody pulp fiction that blows up many people and the profound economic-environmental debate, fans will appreciate entertaining Arctic Rising.

Brian Evenson
9780765330963, $24.99

Detective Josef Horkai was the best at dealing with lethal situations that other cops would fear involvement; his greatness was handling the worst, but executing with minimal collateral damage. However that was who he was before the -Kollaps.

Horkai awakens from a coma but suffers from amnesia although he recalls the Kollaps. He becomes aware that he is dying while people nearby assume he remains in a frozen animated state. His legs no longer work and his arms are as useless while he lost his teeth, hair and time nor any idea what is killing him or why he was kept on ice.

A stranger insists he is Horkai's friend and demands full thawing as he needs the former cop's investigative skills. His assignment is to retrieve a stolen cylinder before a catastrophic matching that of the Kollaps occurs. He distrusts his self-proclaimed buddy and the information is nebulous. While his body is a complete failure, if he decides he wants to live albeit frozen, he must accomplish the mission immediately as time has run out on Horkai even before he thawed.

This grim ultra-dark Kafka like thriller hooks the reader from the start as Horkai slowly awakens to his condition and the horror of what has passed while he was sleeping. The severe landscape establishes a hopeless backdrop as Horkai struggles to adapt to this horrific new world being an inexperienced paraplegic whose memories are fleeting at best. Fans will fully appreciate his descent into total darkness while pondering whether the protagonist suffers from an unending nightmare or is this really happening to him; to Horkai it does not matter whether it is a bad dream or not, as this is his realism.

Range of Ghosts
Elizabeth Bear
9780765327543, $25.99

The Khagan of Khagans is dead. His descendants went to war to replace the late Great Khagan as ruler of the Khaganate. Temur fought on the side of the losers as he followed his brother into combat in the fratricide civil war. He awakens in the bloody battlefield surrounded by corpses and knowing he is the rightful blood heir to his divided family's kingdom, but with no power to achieve what is his. Needing to escape, Temur joins a horde of refugees running from the war zone. While fleeing he meets fellow refugee Edene, but blood ghosts abduct her; he vows to rescue her somehow.

Once-Princess Samarkar was heir to the Rasan Empire until her half-brother was born. Her father exiled her as an expendable pawn in marriage to the Prince of Song, but there relationship ended in deadly combat. The royal widow wants nothing further to do with the blood of man so she climbed the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth to learn if she had magical skills. Now a wizard Samarkar and Hrahima the tiger-woman who rages at her people's god join Temur in his quest to rescue Edene and kill those who mass murdered a city; as war seems everywhere with no regard to casualties along the Celadon Highway

This is a great opening act as readers feel they live in the war riddled kingdoms. The cast is strong especially the lead protagonists whose point of view enhance the bloody conditions in the Bear where the sky over each kingdom reflects the respective ruler's gods and a magic practitioner pays a high cost to perform. However, the key is the diversity between the kingdoms interwoven inside an exhilarating fantasy that fans will appreciate.

Living Proof
Kira Peikoff
9780765329301, $24.99

By 2027, the United States outlaws the destruction of an embryo with the crime being first-degree murder. The Department of Embryo Preservation monitors all fertility clinics in the country. However a backlash towards DEP is growing in strength as people oppose the government getting involved in personal lives

In Manhattan, the Washington Square Center for Reproductive Medicine run by Arianna Drake is thriving. Former priest Gideon Dopp, who heads DEP, wants to expose Drake's clinic for breaking the law. Two agents found nothing, but that does not prevent Dopp from using Drake as a pawn; his rationale is she is the daughter of an anti-DEP fanatic. He sends former Newsweek investigative reporter Trent Rowe undercover to obtain the proof of ethical transgressions using any means necessary.

With the Personhood pledges and the push for constitutional amendments from ironically those who insist they want no government intrusion (after the birth), Living Proof is a timely hyperbolic extrapolation of the religious right winning the reproduction war. Though the storyline follows the path readers expect it to take, Kira Peikoff provides a thought provoking cautionary tale that if unchecked the battlefield currently being fought over the rights of embryos will go to the womb checkers.

The Seduction of Phaeton Black
Jillian Stone
Kensington Brava
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21
New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758268969, $14.00,

In 1889, Scotland Yard uses Phaeton Black to investigate those cases that defy logic as he is the best at solving the impossible. Known for his sex skills even in the brothel where he resides, Black uses opium and absinthe when the call of the paranormal overwhelms his brain.

A serial killer is stalking London. The predator drinks the blood of his or her victims leaving behind fang marks. Black thinks these murders are tied to the Ripper killings; but that the beast is an Egyptian goddess vampire. While investigating he meets America Jones several times. The daughter of a powerful Cajun witch, America is in London searching for the pirates who stole her sea merchant father's ships. They team up on both cases as they need each other if they are to survive the supernatural and the natural monsters.

The first Black-Jones late Victorian romantic investigative fantasy is a lighthearted fun thriller that combines a tongue in cheek steampunk venue with an exciting paranormal whodunit. With a nod to Sherlock Homes: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth", the Devil and Muss Jones make a wonderful pairing as they battle pirates, mummies, Ripper and the vampire, but their biggest adversary is the Scotland Yard brass.

Bear Meets Girl
Shelly Laurenston
Kensington Brava
9780758265203, $14.00

NYPD Detective Lou "Crush" Crushek the polar bear shifter wakes up after eating too many shots of Jell-O pieces made with alcohol only to find a she-tiger in the bed with him. Smith Wolf Pack (New York) Marcella "Bare-Knuckles" Malone is a hockey player known for her belligerent style. Whereas he turns red, she smirks.

Cella blackmails a mortified Crush to pretend to be her boyfriend so her family leaves her alone. He investigates a serial killer who is murdering the punks he planned to get locked away. She investigates the predator hunting her species. They team up in a bare knuckles relationship as the pride of New York, the bear and the tiger fall in love.

The latest amusing kick tail Smith Wolf Pack and Friends romantic urban fantasy (see Big Bad Beast) is an engaging police procedural starring two opposites in demeanor falling in love; though at first both would rather be dead. The storyline makes the shifter species seem genuine but also has too many subplots detracting from the main bare knuckles crush plot. Still fans will enjoy a visit to the world of the Laurenston mythos.

Master Of Sin
Maggie Robinson
Kensington Brava
9780758251053, $14.00

In 1820 on Duca Alessandro's yacht is the owner, his wife Giuletta, their baby Marc and Andrew Rossiter. Duca paid Andrew an exorbitant stud fee to sire a baby with his spouse. Alessandro's former heir Gianni and a thug invade the yacht killing Alessandro and Giuletta. Andrew is injured but kills the hired hand before escaping with his baby.

Andrew changes his name to Ross. Through the husband of a friend, Andrew buys a house in the Western Isles where everyone speaks Gaelic except him. He meets his son's governess Miss Peartree. Andrew fires her but instead she takes care of feverish Marc, which leaves Andrew jealous as she has hooked the toddler while he failed. A few days later, Andrew sees the skinny Peartree leaving a bath. Having been a prostitute to men and women, he is stunned by his reaction as he is hard with desire. He realizes his son's governess must leave. She wonders why her employer hides on this isolated small island. In love, she reveals her real name and sordid past while Andrew denies he feels the same way. Meanwhile Gianni continues his search for the child.

The entertaining Regency romance is wonderfully developed as the lead protagonists are refreshing characters with what each conceals though Andrew remains in denial too long. The suspense enhances the plot, but the villain's search seems inane even if he fears the baby showing up in two decades with a claim. Still readers will enjoy Maggie Robinson's delightful historical with ties to the "Mistress" Courtesan Court saga; as love brings hope to a pair who gave up on life.

Imperial Scandal
Teresa Grant
9780758254245, $15.00

In 1815, the excitement of Vienna pales when the news that Napoleon escaped sends chills amongst his enemies. Wellington prepares for the battle near Brussels that will shape the future of Europe. British attache Malcolm Rannoch and his wife Suzanne had enjoyed the galas, but he must return to work as a spy for the crown since the Emperor returns.

Malcolm meets with French agent La Fleur who is selling information when Colonel Harry Davenport, aide de camp to Wellington, arrives to warn them. Shots are fired killing La Fleur. In the garden, Malcolm finds the murdered corpse of Harry's sister-in-law highly regarded Lady Julia Ashton who should not have been there unless she was spying. As the city is gripped by the nearby hostilities, Malcolm and Suzanne, trusting no one as they fear an insider betrayal, investigate who murdered Julia and why.

The latest Rannoch Napoleonic Era amateur sleuth (see Vienna Waltz) is an entertaining whodunit that uses the real suspense of the pending battle at Waterloo to serve as a powerful backdrop to the investigation. The murder mystery is cleverly devised as super red herrings and terrific twists make for a fabulous early nineteenth century thriller.

T. Greenwood
9780758250926, $15.00

In Two Rivers, Vermont, the father points his rifle at his son. Not long before this confrontation, thirteen year old Trevor Kennedy finds comfort from his dysfunctional family with photography. His father Kurt struggles with a failing business. His mother Elsbeth is a serial ship lifter who only cares about her five year old daughter Gracy. Trevor's grandfather has become an obsessed hoarder.

At school, bullies taunt Trevor, but he is starting to push back. At home he feels increasing isolation except with his younger sister. Only teenager Crystal, who gave up her baby for adoption, understands the haunting suffered by Trevor through the photos he brings to be developed at the store where she works. As the schism widens, Kurt points his rifle at his son.

Grace is a powerful character driven tale of a family in trouble. The viewpoint rotates between the members of the Kennedy clan and Crystal as each deals poorly with demons eating away their innards. Fans will appreciate this deep look at despondent disturbed individuals while wondering whether the dad will kill his son and how it got to that moment.

Buried in Buttercream
G.A. McKevett
9780758238122, $24.00

In San Carmelita, California former police officer turned private investigator Savannah Reid vows to enjoy life and diminish her obsessiveness over the minutest things after her recent near death experience (see A Decadent Way to Die). The plus sized bride to be especially looks forward to her marriage to her former police partner, Detective Sergeant Dirk Coulter.

The engaged couple hires Hollywood A level wedding planner Madeline Aberson though Savannah recognizes how far the superstar has fallen if she takes on the gig of a cop and a former cop. The big woman also quickly finds a need to squelch the mouthy Madeline. However the bride manages to keep her desire to rough the diva in check. On the day of the wedding, an arsonist destroys the location and Savannah finds Madeline dead in a pool. Ready to say I do, Savannah needs to remove the killers before they crash her wedding. Delaying the ceremony, Savannah, her fiance, her brother Waycross and her associate at Moonlight Magnolia Detective Agency Tammy Hart investigate.

The latest Savannah Reid Mystery is an entertaining whodunit as someone takes the vow's challenge of "if any of you can show just cause why they may not be lawfully wed, speak now, or else forever hold your peace" to a deadly level. The storyline is fast-paced and contains the heroin's jocular quips and asides. Although the ending seems abrupt, fans will enjoy attending the wedding of Savannah and Dirk; if they can find a killer, location and planner.

Death Comes Silently
Carolyn Hart
Berkley Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780425245705, $24.95,

In Broward's Rock, South Carolina, Death on Demand bookstore owner has a scheduling conflict between an author signing and her volunteer work at Better Tomorrow charity shop. With business slow due to the wintry weather, she needs to be at her store so she enlists Gretchen Burkholt to take her place at Better Tomorrow.

Anxious Gretchen calls Annie several times claiming the charity's handyman Jeremiah Young is dangerous and that she found an enigmatic note inside the coat of deceased Everett Hathaway. Although concerned over Gretchen's anxiety, Annie assumes she is safe so she completes the signing before racing over to Better Tomorrow. However she feels guilty when she finds Gretchen dead from Jeremiah's ax. Police Chief Billy Cameron believes Jeremiah killed the woman as he is an ex con; the murder weapon belonged to him; and he fled the crime scene. Annie and her best customer Henny Brawley thinks otherwise.

The latest Death on Demand cozy (see Laughed 'Til He Died and Dead by Midnight) is a superb entry that keeps the series fresh by introducing new players and new books into the engaging January South Carolina barrier island setting. The whodunit is deftly handled as the amateur sleuth mystery aficionados think Gretchen's homicide ties back to Hathaway's drowning; while Cameron has no doubt who the killer is. Carolyn Hart has written another strong whodunit.

Fire Engine Dead
Sheila Connolly
9780425246702, $7.99

In Philadelphia, Nell Pratt is the president of the Pennsylvanian Antiquarian Society, a depository for documents and manuscripts of various people and groups. The fundraising climate sucks so the library like most not for profits lacks money. The city government plans to cut funding for the Fireman's Museum and donations are at their lowest; on the bright side, firefighters voluntarily are renovating the place.

An arsonist torched several warehouses with police and fire investigators clueless as to why and who. One of the fires killed a security guard and destroyed the storage facility where the Fireman's Museum documents and other items weres located while the renovation was occurring. Among the priceless objects ruined is an old fire truck picture. Nell recognizes something not right with the remains of the picture and shows it to her maybe boyfriend FBI Agent James Morrison explaining she believes a switch occurred and was covered up by the fire. He does not have the cooperation of the museum directors or the fundraising groups so he suggests she chat with them. Nell does that and more, which places her in the crosshairs of a killer.

The third Museum mystery (see Let's Play Dead and Fundraising The Dead) is an engaging amateur sleuth filled with fascinating characters, interesting museum information, plenty of action including a nice twist and a bit of romance. Readers learn what occurs behind the curtain at a library, but it is Nell's interrogation of the antiquities circle that makes the storyline fun as she grills people, but none of the responders realize she sliced and diced them with one lethal exception. Though by the sub-genre book with a civilian in a near death experience by risking her life to investigate, Sheila Connolly provides am entertaining whodunit.

Sketch A Falling Star
Sharon Pape
9780425246696, $7.99

Former police artist Rory McCain has become a private investigator with a very unusual partner, Zeke the ghost. He wants her to solve his cold case of who murdered him by stabbing him in the back as he was about to kill a deadly psychopathic murderer of five girls. She is in Arizona doing research into Zeke's case when her Aunt Helene calls and asks her to come to the hotel where she is staying with the Way Off Broadway Players.

A flash flood caught the troupe in its torrential grip; member Preston Wright died. The official ruling is accidental death, but the victim's mom hires Rory to determine whether her son was murdered. She further explains his real name was Brian Carpenter, a scam artist who destroyed many lives under different alias around the country; his enemy count being stratospheric. Ironically Brian's mother does not want her son's killer arrested as she understands what her offspring did, but needs closure. Rory is determined to solve this case without Zeke's help unlike their previous collaborations (see Sketch Me if You Can and To Sketch a Thief). However, as she learns each of the players and support cell had solid motives to murder Preston, Zeke insists he has her back.

The third A Portrait of Crime Mystery is a delightful paranormal mystery due to the charming abnormal relationship between the ghost and the sleuth. While the focus is on Rory's investigation, Zeke's past story is sprinkled deftly throughout the enjoyable storyline; providing a somewhat comparison between past and present. Readers will sketch a portrait of a writer with a hit series on her hands.

The Probability Of Murder
Ada Madison
9780425246672, $7.99

In Massachusetts, Henley College Math Department hosts this week's soiree by celebrating the birthday of August Ferdinand Moebius. Statistics Professor Dr. Sophie Knowles thinks only mathematicians would commemorate a centuries-dead colleague, but that is safer than the olfactory senses abused by the chemistry department.

The event becomes marred when she learns her friend Charlotte Crocker the popular librarian was murdered in the Emily Dickson Library. Sophie's significant other Shock, Trauma & Air Rescue MEDVAC pilot Bruce Granville provides her with some comfort. Charlotte's student aid Hannah Stephens found the corpse Homicide Detective Virgil Mitchell leads the investigation which includes questioning the members of the club at A Hill Of Beads; which includes the victim and Sophie. Understanding The Square Root of Murder, Sophie investigates before a second homicide occurs.

This is enjoyable academic amateur sleuth filled with puzzlers, brain teasers and mathematician quotations. The cozy storyline is entertaining as the heroine conducts her inquiry following the Socratic method, which leads to her being a potential subtrahend. Although her motive for her probing is overly used by the sub-genre, fans will appreciate Sophie's inquiry as she adds the clues and subtracts the red herrings to try to extrapolate the identity of the killer before she becomes a cold statistic.

A Killer Read
Erika Chase
9780425247037, $7.99

The Ashton Corners' school board wants their student dropouts to pass the GED exam. To achieve this goal; the members know they must find a way to motivate the former students to read. They hire reading specialist Lizzie Turner to accomplish their objective. Lizzie loves to read and wants her class to share her fervor.

The Ashton Corners Mystery Readers and Cheese Straws Society host their initial session at Molly Matthews's Southern mansion. A stranger arrives saying his car broke down nearby and asks to make a phone call. She escorts him to her phone; once there he tells the group he needs privacy. Later that evening, a club member finds him dead in his car from a bullet fired from Molly's antique gun. A few days later, someone calls Lizzie and asks if she knows what story her father worked on when he died. Every few days, she receives chapters of a manuscript dealing with a person suffering from depression and suicidal tendencies due to feeling he was cheated on an investment deal. Molly and Lizzie believe there is a connection between the dead man and the manuscript, but cannot fathom what it is. They dig for information in order to find that missing link because they believe someone else will soon die.

This is an enjoyable amateur sleuth tale starring a wonderful overwhelmed protagonist dealing with her widow mom's advanced Alzheimer, her work for the school board and her need to find the culprit before the police arrest Molly. Strong willed and brave, she also is attracted to her investigative "rival" police chief Mark Dreyfus. Although by the amateur sleuth book, fans will enjoy the opening chapter of the Ashton Corners Book Club.

Waltz This Way
Dakota Cassidy
9780425245507, $15.00

With TV cameras filming, the sleaze reporter from Hollywood Scoop and other paparazzi invade ballroom dance instructor Melina Cherkasov's studio to obtain the woman's unfiltered reaction to photos of her famous choreographer husband Stan with Yelina from the show Dude, You Can Dance. Twelve year old Tito helps her escape from the vicious rat pack. Their prenuptial leaves Mel with the canine. Refusing to act like her douche husband, Mel retreats from Hollywood to her dad Joe's retirement community Leisure Village in New Jersey.

Six months later she begins to teach dance at the retirement center and from there at Westmeyer private school for boys. She also meets septuagenarian resident Myriam Hernandez's nephew Drew McPhee. They are attracted to each other but when she has a chance to go Hollywood he says if she leaves they are finished.

Although the theme is identical to Burning Down the Spouse, readers will enjoy the latest amusing ex-wife contemporary romance (see You Dropped a Blonde on Me). The story line is breezy from the moment the paparazzi like a horde of locust assault the beleaguered heroine who tells one of them to change her peroxide. Although Mel's character is identical to that of Frankie from Burning Down the Spouse, fans will appreciate her "Gotta dance" (from Broadway Rhythm Ballet) with a crappy dancer.

Passion and Pretense
Susan Gee Heino
9780425246986, $7.99

In 1820 England, Anthony, Lord Rastmoor spares no expense in his desperation to marry off his fickle sister Lady Penelope. To his chagrin, she has been engaged four times; yet remains single and heading to a permanent stay on the shelf.

Penelope does not want to marry, but instead wants to go to Egypt as a student of Professor Oldham. To end her sibling's latest marital push, Penelope realizes she needs a fake fiance who her brother will loathe as unsuitable. She selects Harris "Lord Harry" Chesterson, as the perfect ruse to get her sibling to send her to Egypt instead of the altar. Harry notices the scarab necklace the brazen lady wears and knows he is that much closer to finding the crook stealing antiquities. He agrees to be her intended as a means to go undercover in order to catch a thief. Neither expected love to intrude on their respective personal agenda.

Passion and Pretense is an amusing Regency romantic thriller starring two wonderful protagonists who each has a strong reason for a fake engagement, which in turn leads to a comedy of errors involving family and suspense. With ties to Susan Gee Heino's previous historical tales (see Temptress In Training, Damsel in Disguise and Mistress by Mistake), fans will enjoy the antics of the scandalous rogue and the obstinate lady.

Passion Wears Pearls
Renee Bernard
9780425247945, $7.99

In 1860 London, Wealthy businessman Edmond Perring makes a shocking offer to seamstress Miss Eleanor Beckett; she rejects his scandalous deal. Later Perring assaults Eleanor, but Josiah Hastings intervenes.

Josiah has been depressed from over a year in a dungeon in India as much as his eyes weakening; something not good for an artist. However, he has a surge of optimistic energy as he believes Miss Eleanor is his masterpiece. She reluctantly agrees to serve as his model even though that is inappropriate; but she has no choice as she is held culpable at work and at the boarding house for Perring's attack. As Eleanor lives in Josiah's home, she falls in love with her kind hearted host, who has vowed to free the woman he cherishes once he completes his portrait.

This is a warm Victorian romance that uses social class as a key impetus to the relationship between the artist and the model. Passion Wears Pearls is a well written tender historical starring two superb protagonists, who may learn too late that love may be blind to the knowledge of what the other cherishes.

Cat's Claw
Susan Wittig Albert
9780425245279, $25.95

Recently married to former Adams County sheriff Blackie Blackwell, Pecan Springs, Texas Police Chief Sheila Dawson initially assumes computer expert Larry Kirk committed suicide; most likely caused by his recent divorce. Being a good female cop in a testosterone department that acts catty towards her, Sheila analyzes the crime scene and soon concludes a homicide occurred. Her friend, herbalist entrepreneur China Bayles informs the chief that Larry recently asked her, as a former attorney, for legal advice as he claimed he was being stalked.

Sheila arrests George Timms for breaking and entering Kirk's computer store. He insists he was only taking back his computer, which contains personal information that he does not want leaked. Some Town Council members attack her competency, but though aware of their pettiness, she continues her investigation as she thinks Timms' B&E is related directly to the murder. Adding to the mess is Timms fails to turn himself in; instead he has vanished.

The key to this super Pecan Springs Mystery (see Mourning Gloria) is that Dawson is the chief protagonist while Bayles plays a support role. This brings freshness as the police chief knows that no matter how well she has performed, she can never coast on her laurels as her constant male critics require her to prove herself over and over again. The investigation is superb as Dawson shows she can handle the lead spotlight.

Agony of the Leaves
Laura Childs
9780425245538, $25.95

In Charleston, South Carolina, Theodosia Browning Theodosia Browning is euphoric that her Indigo Tea Shop is a success though that means working even harder with keeping her proprietary blends current. The Charleston's Neptune Aquarium manager hires Theo cater the private party honoring those who made the attraction happen.

At the gala, Theo takes a breather only to notice a man's corpse trapped in a net in one of the tanks. On the surface, the death of Theo's former boyfriend Parker Scully looks like an accident, but the tea guru notices his hands has wounds as if he was defending himself. She offers her theory to the cops who blow her away as a "grieving" ex. Unable to walk away as she knows she should, in between catering Theo investigates only to learn Parker had some nasty partners in questionable deals; some of whom want her inquiry ended immediately anyway possible.

The latest Tea Shop Mystery (see Scones & Bones, Oolong Tea and The Teaberry Strangler) is an entertaining amateur sleuth that as always showcases the charm of Charleston with a cup of tea. Putting aside why the heroine investigates especially when her plate has too many scones on it already, fans will enjoy this fun regional cozy starring a heroine who needs 72 hours in a day

50% Off Murder
Josie Belle
9780425247020, $7.99

St. Stanley, Virginia is a quaint village in which crime is virtually nonexistent probably due to the fact everyone knows each other on a first name basis. Maggie Gerber and her Good Buy Girls friends shop with a military precision that the pentagon ought to study as they use every legal technique known to the American economy to reduce costs to as close to ground zero as possible.

Maggie visits the newest Girl, librarian Claire Freemont at the town library. Both are shocked to find the corpse of a man with a knife protruding from his heart. A frazzled Claire explains she knew the deceased and begs Maggie not to tell the new sheriff Sam Collins. Maggie has no problem with promising Claire as Sam broke her heart fourteen years ago. The librarian further informs Maggie that she saw the victim carrying a dead person in Richmond, which is why she fled the big city for the small town. However, Collins learns of her connection to the body and has enough circumstantial evidence to arrest Claire. Believing Claire is innocent, Maggie and the GBG sisterhood investigate.

The first Good Buy Girls amateur sleuth is an entertaining cozy starring interesting characters that endear themselves to readers as do their picturesque town. Maggie is the stereotypical sub-genre heroine who runs the extra kilometer to help her new friend out of a jam while landing in a perilous situation. Still readers will admire her risk taking spunk (to include the dangerous competitive sport of thrifty shopping) and enjoy the sparks between her and the sheriff as both prefer the attraction just go away. Fans will enjoy 50%; Off Murder as there is no thrifty top to deal with a killer.

American Rose
Ken Abbott
Random House
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780812978513, $17.00,

Mama Rose took her two daughters on the Vaudeville circuit. However, her focus was on the younger cuter breadwinner, June. Her older offspring Louise lacked talent and was built boyish. While June struggled with the demands, Louise grew emotionally and intellectually, while also developing a wicked sense of humor. When June finally mentally collapsed, Mama Rose turned to her older child, who proved harder to control. Louise used her intelligence and incredible instincts to become legendary Gypsy Rose Lee, the star performer at the Minsky Brothers' New York burlesque house and eventually the centerfold of burlesque. She wrote novels and a haunting memoir (became Broadway's Gypsy) and started in films.

American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee is an excellent fresh biography with insight from nonagenarian June who only recently died. Besides a deep look at Rose, readers also obtain a powerful glimpse of the world she lived from 1911 until her death in 1970. Ironically, the ultimate horrible stage Mama Rose is more fascinating than her famous daughter as she relished dominating her children with a sinister frightening gleefulness; besides being a thief con artist, and maybe worse. This is a wonderful look at a "Nation Laid Bare" by a legendary American Rose.

Kathryn Harrison
Random House
9781400063475, $27.00

In 1917 hemophiliac Rasputin is found dead in the Neva River. Tsarina Alexandra worries about the health of her son Alexei Nikolaevich Romanov as the late Mad Monk was his healer in the lad's on-going battle with hemophilia at a time when pressure mounts for her husband Tsar Nikoly to abdicate. Rasputin names the Tsar as guardian to his two teenage daughters. However, the Tsarina has a different reason to send for Rasputin's oldest child, eighteen years old Masha, as she hopes the child inherited her father's power so she can tend to her offspring.

Masha and her sister Varya take the train from St. Petersburg to Tsarskie Selo as they journey to The Alexander palace where the former Russian royal family resides. Masha lacks the legendary skills of her infamous sire, but she and Alyosha as she calls Alex become friends. Two months after the sisters arrive, the Tsar and his family is placed under house arrest. The pair shares tales to pass time, alleviate their fears, and not dwell on what is lost.

This is an interesting work of historical fiction that focuses on the last months of the Romanovs through the eyes of Rasputin's daughter. The tidbits of Tsarist life in the early twentieth century is vivid and insightful as the audience get to know a lot about the family of the last Russian ruler and Rasputin. However, neither Masha nor Alyosha seem fully developed beyond their stories and friendship. Still this is an engaging look at the final days of the Romanov dynasty.

House Of The Hunted
Mark Mills
Random House
9781400068197, $26.00

In 1919 in Petrograd, young British SIS intelligence agent Tom Nash is frantic when his beloved Irina Bibikov is arrested. He needs to get her and his unborn out of Russia, but his comrade Zaharov betrays him and other operatives. He soon learns his Irina was executed, but before he does his final act of defiance towards the brutal regime he warns other agents that their lives are in jeopardy due to Zaharov.

In 1935, Tom lives a serene life as a popular travel writer in Toulon, France. He knows war is coming to the continent, but he is indifferent as he enjoys the French Riviera amongst expatriates from Britain, the States and Russia, retired and active spies, and artists. Tom is awakened when an assassin tries to murders him. He kills the intruder who murdered his beloved dog Hector. Tom disposes the body of the killer at sea and begins an inquiry as he knows this is only the first attempt from someone in the shadows who knows his past and also knows his villa.

This is an engaging espionage investigative noir as Tom knows when his illusion is shattered that you never fully get in from the cold. Tom is an excellent protagonist who keeps the entertaining storyline focused as he and his friend Leonard move smoothly between the affluent Cote d'Azur social circle and the deadly spy game. The stretches into the lifestyle of the rich slows down the suspense; though that also serves as a profound counterpoint to the beginning of Hitler's atrocities. Fans will enjoy the hero's exploits in Russia just after WWI and on the French Riviera just before WWII.

The Tragedy of Arthur
Arthur Phillips
Random House
9780812977929, $15.00

Twin siblings Arthur and Diana Phillips grew up in Glasgow. They were best friends as children enjoying the antics of their extroverted impish father whose passion was the Bard and not Nancy Drew. They enjoyed their time with him; that is when he was not in prison where he spent much of his life; as dad was also an expert forger. Dana was more a chop off the paternal block as she became an actress and a Shakespearean expert. Arthur became a writer but unlike his dad or sister he thinks the Bard stinks.

Now elderly with his lust for life dimmed after a long time in jail, dad is being released. He asks Arthur for one favor; secure his copy of "The Tragedy of Arthur" written by William Shakespeare. Arthur assumes this is his father's final scam though his dad insists he stole it from a British estate in between prison time. Meanwhile Arthur looks back at his life, career and relationship including with Dana as a tragedy. Then there is the play.

This is a clever satirical frolic that combines a "memoir" with a "classic" lost play while lampooning both genres and reviewers alike. Told in two parts (an "autobiographic" Introduction and an alleged Shakespearean play "The Tragedy of Arthur", fans will relish both entries; however, the biggest difficulty is not skipping the super pseudo memoir to read the play. Arthur Phillips proves a fabulous tragedy of two Arthurs.

The Technologists
Matthew Pearl
Random House
9781400066575, $26.00

In 1868 Boston, recently established Massachusetts Institute of Technology sets its missions as using science to benefit mankind and accept any student who meets the difficult entrance criteria. As the first class of fifteen will soon graduate, in the harbor, ships collide when their instruments spin out of control while an unusual deep fog blankets the area. In the city center, glass liquefies leaving mass deaths and horrific injuries to those working in the business district.

The city police are baffled with the events, which may not even be criminal as it could be Mother Nature reacting to technology. They ask Harvard for help. Meanwhile MIT charity scholar student Marcus Mansfield and his friends (Beacon Hill Brahmin Robert Richards, genius Edwin Hoyt, and lone female Ellen Swallow) form a secret club to investigate the seemingly inexplicable tragedies using the scientific method.

Using real history anchored by the upstart insane MIT Today and an anti-technology fervor; fans obtain a strong Post Civil War alternate history thriller. The storyline showcases the beginning of the age of science and technology in which many groups prefer the status quo and oppose such concepts as Darwinism, chemistry teaching, and other innovations that we take for granted (or do we with challenges to Darwinism by supporters of Creationism as a science instead of a belief). Although perspective changes too frequently even if that adds depth to looking at 1868, the heroes are brave and amusing with Swallow being a real MIT student (and environmental scientist) as they set out to save Boston from natural or man-made disasters.

The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case: A Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Book for Young Readers
Alexander McCall Smith; Iain McIntosh (illustrator)
Anchor Books/Random House
9780307743893, $6.99

In Botswana, Obed Ramotswe tells his young daughter Precious she has an innate knack of knowing when someone makes something up. He further says maybe when she grows up she will become a detective. Precious likes the idea of sleuthing, but expects her first case is more than a decade away.

At the school she attends, someone breaks the first rule by stealing other people's sweet food. Two victimized students Tapiwah and Sepo accuse another pupil Poloki because he is very round and has sticky fingers. Precious rejects the accusation as false while the rest of the students believe Poloki is the thief. Deciding to prove his innocence, Precious sets a trap to catch a thief.

Precious' first case is a great young adult amateur sleuth tale due a strong cast, a wonderful heroine and superb drawings (including dynamic name pronunciation lettering) that enhance the African village location. Readers sees the adult in the child through Precious' sense of right and wrong as she works the case in which the other students goes along with the two accusers in a classic "J'accuse" scenario. This is a winner as we even learn who came up with the name of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

Harbor Nocturne
Joseph Wambaugh
Mysterious Press
c/o Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
841 Broadway, 4th floor, New York, NY 10003
9780802126108, $27.00,

Suspended for marijuana use on the job, longshoreman Dinko Babich is in the San Pedro section of Los Angeles when he stops at a bar. There he runs into his elementary school chum Hector Cozzo who says he bought the tall Mexican female dancer stripping on the stage and needs her taken to a Hollywood nightclub owned by Russians. When Dinko and nineteen year old Lita Medina Flores meet off-stage for the first time a shocking attraction occurs.

At around the same time Dinko and Lita set off caring sparks, thirteen dead Asians are found inside a shipping container. Two illegal females learning of the horrible demises flee for their lives while the traffickers pursue them. The Hollywood Hills Police Station works the case and a related illegal elective amputations investigation. Soon the longshoreman and the exotic dancer are caught in the crosshairs of the Russians, the local gangs, the human traffickers and LAPD including the usual Hollywood Hills Station regulars (Flotsam, Jetsam, Hollywood Nate and the real Britney, etc.).

This is a superb seemingly convoluted police procedural but the Grand Master Joseph Wambaugh deftly interweaves his dark thriller into a powerful cohesive story. Readers will enjoy visiting another section of Los Angeles while rooting for Dinko and Lita to make it against the impossible odds. The Hollywood Hills Station regulars are their zany selves as each combines vigil and dedication to eccentricity as Mr. Wambaugh once again provides a great wacky graveyard humorous look at the seediest side of America.

Magnificent Obsession
Helen Rappaport
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312621056, $26.99,

Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death That Changed the Monarchy is a fascinating biography focusing on a pivotal event "that changed the monarchy"; the death of Prince Consort Albert and its subsequent impact on his grieving widow, which in turn affected the Empire. Helen Rappaport makes the case that Queen Victoria not only loved her spouse, she needed him as a mentor and friend. Detested by her subjects, the country mourned alongside their queen his death. The Queen had replacement advisors but none came close to Prince Albert as her partner over the last four decades of her reign. Whereas Victoria concluded that Albert's trepidation over their son "poor Bertie" led to his death; Ms. Rappaport offers alternative possibilities. Queen Victoria never came out of mourning nor did she allow the country to move through the phases of grief as the nation lingered along with their monarch in a forty years mass depression.

This is an excellent refreshing biography with the focus on the impact of the death of Prince Albert in 1861 on his wife and their Empire. Ms. Rapport makes a strong case that Prince Albert's death is one of the key moments in British history. The tone reminds me of The Taylor File: The Mysterious Death of a President by Clara Rising, who makes a case that the one person who may have prevented the Civil War died mysteriously; though her theory arsenic poisoning proved false. Readers will appreciate this profound look at why the Queen needed her mate and a strong argument that his death was the first major step for the sun beginning to set on the British Empire.

Taken At Dusk
C.C. Hunter
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312624699, $9.99

Sixteen years old orphan Kylie Galen desperately seeks understanding about her essence, which can only come from knowledge at a time when her adopted parents are divorcing. She needs to know her biological roots as she was adopted and learns more about her recently activated dormant powers in which she has a new one every few days or so. Even with the spirit of her biological dad Daniel cautioning her, euphoric because a source surfaced, her paternal grandparents, the Brightens thinks she is a troubled youth sight unseen.

Attending the Shadow Falls camp for teens with supernatural powers, she also likes the two campers, hunks Lucas and Derek. While she can't make up her mind about the boys, Lucas' werewolf pack makes it for them as she is declared taboo. Additionally an ancient vampire stalks her and her new ghost, suffering from amnesia, haunts her with warnings that death is coming.

The third Shadow Falls young adult urban fantasy (see Awake At Dawn and Born At Midnight) is an engaging thriller Kylie (and readers) begins to learn the shocking truth about her genealogy. The protagonist also finds out that true friendship as she has with her roommates Miranda the witch and Della the vampire enhances ones power by strengthening confidence and self-esteem. Paraphrasing Robin Ward's song, this is the most wonderful (and frightening) summer of her life.

Come Home
Lisa Scottoline
St. Martin's
9780312380823, $27.99

Philadelphia suburban pediatrician Jill Farrow feels her life and that of her thirteen years old daughter Megan has finally moved on passed the crippling divorce from William Skyler. She and Jill live with her fiance serene Sam Becker.

Jill's former stepdaughter nineteen years old Abby arrives to inform her that William died from an apparent overdose. Though she knows her reaction is not comforting, Jill does not care what killed amoral William. However, a despondent Abby claims her dad was murdered and she needs Jill's help to find his killer; as the police closed the case as a drug death. Unable to say no to a daughter she still loves (as she does her other stepchild Victoria) although they have been estranged since just before the divorce, Jill reluctantly agrees to investigate, but her kindness upsets Megan and Sam and threatens her life while interfering with a related inquiry.

Come Home is an entertaining extended family drama in which the relationship dynamics supersedes the dueling investigative suspense subplots. Filled with too much relational angst, still fans will appreciate Lisa Scottoline's enjoyable tale.

Bound By Desire
Jaymie Holland
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312386658, $14.99

University professor Annie Travis wonders what has happened to her vanished twin cousins (Alice in Taken by Passion and Alexei in Claimed by Pleasure) as the anniversary date one year apart comes. Aunt Awai arrives with food and tells her about being a Domme at a BDSM club. Auntie takes her niece there. The shapeshifting King of Diamonds Karn escorts Annie into his realm; just like his brothers did before him with her cousins.

However, as she falls in love with her mentor, he conceals his feelings due to his past deeds that make him feel unworthy of this intellectual passionate woman who owns his heart. The Diamond King tells his captive to go home; expecting the reaction of a mouse fleeing for her hole. Instead Annie proves a lioness when it comes to her man as she refuses to let him run from what she believes they share unless he looks her in the eyes and says he does not love her.

The third Wonderland erotic romance is an enjoyable tale starring a shy big babe academia with a southern upbringing and the outgoing King of Diamonds with a beastly demeanor. The storyline is fast-paced as Annie learns why Awai says the sub has the true power over the dom as the mentor gets mentored in love.

Amanda Hocking
St. Martin's
9781250006325, $8.99

Seventeen year old Wendy Everly flees her Trylle princess obligations in Forening, Minnesota as their chosen one heir (see Switched) to return home with Rhys Dahl. Grateful her legal guardian Aunt Maggie is away searching for her in Oregon, she somewhat explains to her older "brother" Matt that Rhys is his biological sibling, instead of her.

Finn Holmes the tracker, who collected her a month ago, arrives to take Wendy back to her biological mom Queen Elora. The monarch sends tracker Duncan Janssen to retrieve the runaway princess. Finn and Duncan leave without Wendy. Matt and Rhys scream just before Kyra and Loki of the Vittra kidnap her. She, Matt and Rhys are transported to Ondarike the Vittra stronghold. She soon learns why the Vittra interest in her rivals that of the Trylle.

The second Trylle fantasy (see Switched) is a superb young adult thriller starring a wonderful confused teenager with parental issues that makes Oedipus appear normal. Filled with spins and one great twist, fans will relish the further misadventures of the royal troll changeling as she begins to understand her "mother" was right calling her a monster as she knows you can't go home when you don't know which home is yours.

Children of Wrath
Paul Grossman
St. Martin's
9780312601911, $25.99

In 1929 as the world economies collapse due to the failures of the finance system, Berlin police Detective Willi Kraus struggles with the anti-Semitism of his Aryan peers and superiors. Ebbing of flood water leaves a burlap sack behind. Kraus looks inside and sees boiled human bones macabrely sewed together bound together by thread made from muscle tissue and a bible extract circling the phrase "children of wrath". However, his being Jewish has his boss assign him an inquiry into tainted sausages that has poisoned hundreds.

Though he knows his heritage and religion has left him in precarious danger of being fired, Kraus works the human bones case without official sanctioning and over the objection of his wife who fears his actions will harm their children as the Nazis meteoric rise to power uses the Jews as their fuel. Kraus soon concludes this Kinderfesser Child Eater cannot do it alone

Fans who read The Sleepwalkers, which occurs in 1932, know the outcome of the horrific Kinderfresser serial killings, but that will not matter as this is a great historical mystery. The storyline brings to life the Weimer Republic at a time when the Great Depression has devastated global economics even more so in Germany and the Nazis are beginning to rise to power. With a Jeffrey Dahmer type killer based on a statue in Bern, readers will relish the actions of the diligent Jewish police detective working a particularly nasty case in a hostile prejudicial environment that threatens his family as much as himself.

Yours, Mine, And Ours
MaryJanice Davidson
St. Martin's
9780312531188, $24.99

Christmas can be hectic and overwhelming, but Special Agent Cadence Jones feels that way all year round, having to share her body with her two pain in butt sisters (Shiro and Adrienne), who when either takes control can make the enjoyable holiday season miserable; as the host must clean up the aftermath mess. She seems to have a real boyfriend Patrick if her siblings would butt out. On the negative side she must shop for Patrick and her Secret Santa. Her new partner George Pinkman seems okay though he cherishes stirring up Cadence's eccentricities; while the new office superstar Dr. Emma Jan Thyme makes her nervous.
However, Cadence and her sisters go wacko battling for the lead role when they meet gorgeous Dr. Max Gallo. Desire must wait over the objections of her internal pests as Cadence and George work to prevent another serial killing by a predator who murders a fourteen years old boy every year.

The second Jones's sisters police procedural (see Me, Myself and Why) is a fabulous thriller that starts off crazy with Shiro shaving poodles and Adrienne handcuffing George while Cadence has to clean up after them. The key element is that the three siblings possess dramatically different personalities that MaryJanice Davidson deftly maintains. The murder investigation is the only serious element as the Jones trio battle for control of Cadence's body.

I Want Candy
Susan Donovan
St. Martin's
9780312536220, $7.99

Several years ago BFFs Cherise Newberry and Candace Carmichael left Bigler, North Carolina for Tampa. They had early success, but recently everything has fallen apart for both of them. Cheri went home (see Cheri On Top) and suggested to her realtor friend whose business collapsed with the market implosion to do likewise.

Candy returns to Bigler without a job, a prospect, or ironically a place to live except illegally rooming with her mother at a luxurious retirement home. Widower Sheriff Turner stops her for a moving violation. Candy kisses him, but becomes upset when she sees he wears his wedding ring though his spouse died four years ago. Turner still grieves his wife's death, but also knows the female who raised his pulse level to stratospheric levels in high school now turns his heart beat to tropospheric. However, someone else targets Candy too.

The second return to Bigler contemporary romance is a fun tale with an overall lighthearted feel to the storyline yet also provides a look at the impact of the housing depression. Breezy with eccentric lunatics running wild in the streets; I Love Candy is a sort of modern day Carolina King Of Hearts. Readers will enjoy Candy's coming home.

Opal Carew
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312674618, $14.99

Crystal and Brent are about to marry when the best man Evan, having spent a restless night overthinking what he should do, confronts the bride with his confession that he loves her. Stunned by his revelation, Crystal is further shocked when Brent vanishes just before the ceremony.

The marriage is off so Evan persuades Crystal to go on her honeymoon with him. They arrive at the tropical getaway only to their amazement Brent shows up too. He wants his fiancee back as he insists he loves her but he panicked and fled. The two best friends compete for Crystal who knows she must choose one and leave the other behind or none when the two weeks in the tropics end; as the days of ecstasy pass, she considers keeping both of her lovers.

This is a heated erotic romance with plenty sex between W-M, M-M and F-F. While the heat is on, the story line is thin and none of the characters are full blooded except for the males' lower heads. Still sub-genre fans will enjoy a sexual fantasy stay in the tropics.

What Doesn't Kill You
Iris Johansen
St. Martin's
9780312651237, $27.99

CIA Agent Catherine Ling was abandoned as a toddler on the streets of Hong Kong. She became adept as a commodity trader selling information, which enabled her to survive. As a teen, apothecary poisoner/healer Hu Chang saved her life from the thugs who owned much of the streets. The assassin became her mentor. As an adult, Catherine joined the CIA where she has become one of their best field operatives.

Chang creates a new drug so powerful it quickly kills with no trace. Weapons trafficker Hugh Nardik hears rumors of the legendary Chang's latest elixir and wants it as he has plans for this deadly toxin. Nard needs to control Chang's Achilles' heel Catherine to steal the drug for him. The way to make her cooperate is through her son.

Over the top of the "Peak" with superheroes and supervillains; fans will enjoy Catherine Ling's first lead role after supporting Eve Duncan in previous thrillers (see The Bonnie trilogy and Chasing the Night). The fast-paced storyline grips the audience from the onset and never let's go until the final confrontation as evil and not quite good battle globally. The author once again has a super bestseller that readers will finish the book in one setting as they will be unable to put the book down because it is so absorbing.

Lessons In Loving A Laird
Michelle Marcos
St. Martin's
9780312381790, $7.99

After spending much of his life in London, Scottish Laird Conall MacEwan returns home to manage the estate he inherited. Part of what he has been paid by a renter is ownership of indentured servants, Shona and Willow Slayter. The twins and their mercenary brother Malcolm (see Secrets To Seducing A Scot) watched their family massacred two decades ago when their father was accused of desertion; they grew up without a clan.

Conall intelligently knows he knows nothing about estate management but also realizes Shona does. He pays her to work and Shona begins to turn around the estate from debt to profit. As he falls in love with his employee, she fears telling him how she feels about him. He enjoys her company and has come to respect and love her. She is afraid to reveal her feelings for him though she plans to seduce him into freeing her. However, his brother Stewart places Conall in a situation he loathes, to avoid a scandal Conal has to marry a lady his sibling ruined.

The latest Slayter children as adults regency romance is a terrific humorous tale of love conquers all. Shona with her fierceness, a wicked sense of humor and her business acumen brings freshness to the entertaining storyline; while Conall proves he is no chauvinist pig when it comes to economics. Fans will enjoy the education of Shona and Conall as each learns Lessons In Loving A Laird and a defrocked lady.

With Just One Kiss
Francis Ray
St. Martin's
9780312536480, $7.99

Fashion magazine writer Cicely St. John wrote a tepid blog entry re the New York bar owned by C.J. Callahan. He is outraged by what he believes is an insult at a time when he is already unhappy with having to take over his family's software business taking him away from his beloved bar. C.J. wants to give Cicely a piece of his mind even if she is a close friend of Dianne, the wife of his BFF Alex Stewart (see A Seductive Kiss).

However, he also recalls how she felt in his arms when they danced at the Harington-Stewart wedding; she too has not forgotten that moment in which every cell tingled and her heart pounded. However, he is New York and she seems destined for Paris until each agrees to a truce that leads to their attraction exploding out into the open.

The latest tender Grayson Friends (see It Had To Be You) is an engaging entry starring two people who ignore their attraction for each other as both focuses on their career goals. Character driven, fans will enjoy the romance between the C & C as falling in love appears to be not strong enough to supersede their respective needs to succeed in business.

Lucky Bastard
S. G. Browne
Gallery Books
c/o Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl.
New York, NY 10020
9781451657197, $23.00,

In San Francisco, no one understands luck like private investigator Nick Monday does first hand as he makes his living by stealing, with a touch, luck from a victim and selling it on the black market commodity exchange. He has no interest as to who his clients are or why they purchase purloined luck, but he knows luck is fickle like a lady as it runs out at the most inopportune moments. Still swiping and selling luck keeps Nick rolling in Lucky Charms and gourmet mocha coffee though he understands the karma of stealing luck as someone is fated to pay the price.

The daughter of the city's mayor, Tuesday Knight arrives at Nick's shabby office with an offer he can't refuse as she will pay him $100,000 to recover her father's stolen luck. Before he can begin the recovery, Chinese crime boss Tommy Wong makes an offer that Nick better not refuse as he wants the sleazy poacher to steal the rare pure luck. Additionally, Nick notices Feds and Scooter Girl are following his latest adventures into the world of the avaricious and if his luck turns good he will have plenty of mocha coffee to wash down his Lucky Charms and apple fritters.

This is a superb satirical Noir fantasy starring a charming rogue who finds his luck turned bad since the femme fatale entered his office as the cosmos demands karmic equilibrium with his debt in the stratosphere. Fast-paced and filled with all types of biting humor, readers will appreciate the antics of the Lucky Bastard as he deals with Greedy Bastards that would make even Dylan Ratigan's head spin in disbelief.

Slightly Irregular
Rhonda Pollero
9781416590736, $15.00

West Palm Beach, Florida Dane, Lieberman and Zarnowski paralegal Finley Anderson Tanner loves to shop for designer outfits at discount rates. However, though it bothers her inner karma, she breaks her prime rule of life when she horribly pays full price for the gorgeous dress she purchased to wear on a date to attend the performance of The Magic Flute with the firm's new partner and her current boss Tony Caprelli. She feels fickle as she also likes Mr. Uncouth Testosterone private investigator Liam McGarrity.

Meanwhile her mom demands she bring a date to her sister's marriage at about the same time as her former boss Ellen Lieberman abruptly quits; leaving Finley with clothing and jewelry as remittance for a favor. Finley sell the stuff on eBay with the help of her BFF Becky Jamison, a lawyer at the firm. When Ellen and then Becky vanish, Finley panics and begins to make inquiries only to learn her former boss is not who she thought she was and the jewelry leaves several people including her in danger.

The fourth fun F.A.T. frolic (see Fat Chance, Knick Off and Knock 'Em Dead) frolic is a lighthearted, brisk and breezy tales as the heroine lands in mostly amusing but some dangerous scenarios. Fans who prefer their mysteries light (with late suspense) and their couture deep will enjoy the heroine's escapades; especially her chick lit asides even facing a knife as Finley has a case to solve and two maybe hunks in her personal life, but maybe no one to attend the wedding in order for her to shut up her mom's mouth. This is a delightfully charming tale.

The Vault
Boyd Morrison
9781439181843, $7.99

Gordian Engineering Special Operations Chief Dr. Tyler Locke was ten minutes into his commute on a ferry from Seattle to Bremerton when his cell phone receives a text message from an unknown caller whose words are answer his phone or die in twenty eight minutes. Locke responds to the person's next call when he says he planted binary explosives on the ferry and wants Locke to defuse it as a test to prove whether he can handle a special job; failure means death for him and the rest on board.

He heads to a truck where he finds waiting for him is Chasing the Past TV host and classical languages expert Stacy Benedict who interprets the Greek instructions so he can defuse the bomb that he created from Archimedes' geolabe for Jordan Orr and save her kidnapped sister Carol and those on the ferry. Solving the puzzle with seconds to spare, they learn this pretest is to prove they have a reasonable chance to find King Midas's lost treasure. To do so the pair will need to interpret the arcane Antikythera Mechanism's cryptic clues; another puzzling deadly device created by Archimedes over two millennia ago. Failure to find the loot in five days will result in loved ones like Carol being brutally murdered; success will save Carol, but cause mass destruction to others.

The above is just the opening act of an exhilarating action-packed thriller that hooks the audience from the first text message to the confrontations in New York and elsewhere. Readers will never look at the Hudson sediment in the same way as Boyd Morrison provides a taut thriller that never allows the heroes or fans to take a respite.

Assassin's Code
Jonathan Maberry
9780312552206, $14.99

Stealthily entering a top security Iranian prison, U.S. Department of Military Sciences Captain Joe Ledger and his Echo Team liberated three young Americans hikers taken by an Iranian patrol that crossed the border into Iraq last year. The mission is not finished as his team still must take the trio from Teheran through deadly terrain to Kuwait City. Joe waits in the Islamic Republic of Iran capital for further orders.

At the Starbox Coffee, Joe receives a call from a woman while two red dots appear on his chest. While she gives the hook as a stand-up comic, she gives him instructions to follow. Once done, he drinks coffee at Starbox waiting until Jalil Rasoli of the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of Islamic Republic of Iran arrives. Jalil explains he needs the help of Joe and his team to prevent mass destruction devastating the Middle East. The Iranian assigns assassin Violin is to accompany Joe and Echo Team as they hunt for six stolen nuclear bombs planted in various regional oil fields by traitorous genius Hugo Vox and his super team.

This is an exhilarating over the top of the Burj Khalifa building paranormal thriller with Joe quips while facing danger against genetically-engineered mass murderers and that adds a noir feel to the mix. The storyline is fast-paced and loaded with action from the fist coffee cup to the last and contains a stunning twist involving Joe and the Book of Shadows. Fans will enjoy the Ledger horror thriller (see The King of Plagues, The Dragon Factory and Patient Zero) as John Maberry keeps the caffeine-adrenalin tropospheric.

J.F. Lewis
9781451651867, $7.99

Eric Courtney the vampire wonders how killing one evil vampire ruler could cause such sh*tty chaos in Void City. His Mouser Talbot explained many time over the past year that it is easier to criticize the opposition than to rule. Still Eric in spite of his tumultuous tsuris as the city's leader, would kill again; as Lord Phillip, the twisted late city ruler, deserved to die for his assault on Courtney's adopted lunatic daughter Greta. Now by default he is the ruler of a lunacy ridden Void City as the riffraff has risen to the surface with Phil's demise.

Responsibility sucks, but it is time for to begin the Big Plan. First is to kill immortal VCPD Captain Stacey the crooked Mouser running unlawful enforcement due to a deal with the Mages Guild. That is if Eric can remember not to step out of the squad car into the sun as his Alzheimer's syndrome can make him forget to stay out of the sun.. He orders Stacey to leave his hole and meet him at a scene where many cops lay comatose thanks to his Eric's mage Magbidion. Step two is to place Greta as sheriff; her crazed credo is to kill first and ask questions afterward. The final transformation is hell breaks loose in Void City as Lord Eric demands loyalty or else. That's just the job; his personal life is even more screwed up with family curses and cursed females.

The latest Void City fantasy (see Crossed, Revamped and Staked) is a fabulous satirical noir starring an antihero whose attitude switches from bad ass leave me alone to bad ass I'm in charge. Fans will enjoy his "transformation" while he deals with myriad of paranormal species with demons always lurking in the gut.

T.C. McCarthy
Orbit Books
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316128155, $7.99,

As the war between Russia and America continues unabated, both sides use genetic warrior exogenes. Imprinted in these lab-created teen killers is strict adherence to "faith and death". These soldiers know deep in their DNA that death is their only path to honor and salvation.

Sixteen and half years old Catherine is a killing machine; the greatest lab produced soldier made in America. However, Catherine begins to doubt her suicidal mission as she wants to live. Her phobic fear of dying appears to be early ramifications of the "spoiling" that exogenes suffer when they reach their eighteenth birthday. Catherine flees her sisters in arms and takes a chance she will survive the spoiling though her creators insist that is impossible. She encounters Russian male genetically created soldiers, learns of the Russian Exogenic Enhancement and observes firsthand the folly of armchair warriors when she looks at the North Korean nuclear wasteland. As she struggles to control flashbacks of her violent past that leaves her vulnerable, Catherine wonders if her only choices are death, the Americans or the Russians; she loathes all three options.

Though filled with plenty action especially combat, the superb second Subterrene War military science fiction (see Germline) is a great character study as readers get inside the mind of a former zealot born again as a doubter. Ironically Catherine's doubts are not about killing as that is wired into her brain; but instead she questions killing as a weapon of mass destruction deployed by fat cats rather than her selecting who her enemy is. With a profound look at organized governments and religions tenet to kill in God's name as a stairway to heaven for expendable soldiers, readers will relish learning who Catherine is.

Gail Carriger
9780316127189, $7.99

In London, the parents, friends, clan and servants of Prudence suffer from the wrath of the terrible two's. Making matters more difficult for others the toddler can "borrow" the supernatural powers of people by touching them until her soulless mom releases the stolen skills. That is why her parents, Alpha of the Woolsey werewolf clan Lord Conall and Lady Alexia, use mostly drones as servants as well as their friend vampire Lord Akeldama, who actually adopted the baby to help. Still the doting mama and papa relish their domestic lunacy.

The Queen of the Alexandria Hive orders Alexia to come to her city. Knowing you never refuse a royal summons, Alexia, Conall, Prudence and actress Ivy Tunstell head to Egypt by steamer. However, in Egypt the God-Breaker Plague has erupted. The mysteries of the summons and the plague pale compared to how the world's worst actress Ivy is an overnight sensation as the most popular actress in the British Empire.

The Parasol Protectorate Victorian fantasy ends with a great globetrotting fast-paced thriller. Once again, Gail Carriger combines humor with tense action while tying up the major threads from the previous entries in the series (see Soulless, Changeless, Blameless and Heartless). The females are superb while Conall looks foolish as he remains doubting Thomas (after all that has occurred including three years of marital bliss, you would think he would trust his wife). Still Alexia and her troupe provide a strong final curtain performance.

The Kingdoms Of Dust
Amanda Downum
9780316068987, $7.99

The recent disastrous events evolved from her investigation into a dead whore wearing the ring of the deceased queen of Selafai to Isyllt Iskaldur's master dying and assassins stalking her. Not only has she lost her position as the necromancer Agent of the Crown, she is exiled from the royal city of Erisin (see The Bone Palace). She and her mercenary friend Adam travel across the Caelurean Sea receiving sanctuary at the court of the Assari.

Dormant ancient spirits of entropy begin to awaken. If they break out of the imprisonment of dedicated mages, these spirits will destroy Assar and its neighbors. Isyllt and Asheris al Seth the jinn bound to a human body travel into the deadly burning desert in search of the lost ancient city of Qais. There they seek the vortex where the lethal ghost winds emanate from. If they find the city, they still have to figure out how to shut down the terrorizing ghost winds.

The latest Necromancer Chronicles fantasy series (see The Drowning City) is a great tale as Amanda Downum once again combines morality on an individual scale against the ethics of the greater good. Isyllt is the focus of the dilemma as she wonders whose needs belong on top of the food chain at the cost to others. She feels for her partner who fumes against his binding but she needs him to save humanity; she empathizes with the bound spirits trying to break out but also knows if freed they will destroy their mage guards (who she admires for their self-sacrificing vigil) and humanity. Filled with plenty of fast-paced action, The Kingdoms of Dust is fantasy at its most exciting morally thought provoking best.

The Fourth Wall
Walter Jon Williams
9780316133395, $13.99

Former child star Sean Makin cannot believe how humiliatingly he has fallen since he peaked at thirteen as he nears his thirtieth birthday. His parents spent all he earned as a kid rather than put money in a trust fund. Mortifying his only source of income is making a fool of himself by getting his head knocked in on reality TV Celebrity Pitfighter against other has-beens.

Pregnant Dagmar Shaw offers Sean some meaningful work on Escape to Earth, a plan to combine a movie with an interactive game about the life of Roheen an anthropologist from another dimension stranded on Earth. She believes Sean is perfect to play Roheen due to his pedomorphic physical state that leaves him with an enormously overlarge babyish head, and limbs belonging to someone a foot taller than him. Joey da Nova, who once worked with Sean, directs the project. All is well until an unknown adversary tries to murder Sean. He has no idea why while others on the production are murdered. Sean fears secretive Dagmar and her enigmatic Asian backer are behind the homicides, but the motive remains elusive.

This is an exciting near-futuristic suspense as the mysterious gamester Dagmar returns (see This Is Not a Game and Deep State), which means those in her circle tend to die. Sean is terrific as a self-pitying alcoholic who knows his Hollywood especially the bad and the ugly. Dagmar plays a support role to the fallen idol and the serial murder resolution a bit weak, fans of the Shaw taut thrillers will enjoy this fun ultra-dark tale filled with information on movies, games, electronic monitoring and homicide.

The Dread
Gail Z. Martin
9780316093613, $7.99

Weary of war but knowing hostilities are heating up; tired King Donelan of Isencroft goes to lie down in his bed. However, an assassin rigged a bow contraption underneath, which is activated when the monarch's weight hit the bed. The ruler is dead and the kingdom is on the verge of civil war. Donelan's daughter Queen Kiara Sharsequin Drayke leaves her husband and child behind in Margolan to go home as the monarch and prevent the civil war at a time when external crisis threatens the country.

Elsewhere in the Winter Kingdoms, trouble has returned with the bellicose rise of normally isolated Temnotta. At the same time, Kiara's mate Summoner-King Martris Drayke (see Chronicles of the Necromancer) struggles with sorcery and steel combat coming to his nation at a time Tris fears for the soul of his infant child while he must use forbidden magic to deal the rise of the Dread.

The latest Fallen King's Cycle political-military fantasy (see The Sworn) starts off with the shocking assassination, but slows down immediately afterward while the numerous subplots are established. Once done, the storyline accelerates into a rousing thriller as war has returned to the Winter Kingdoms. Filled with minute details, fans will believe they traverse the dangerous
realms of the Martin mythos.

The Stolen Bride
Tony Hays
c/o Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765326294, $25.99,

In the Eighty-second Year from the Adventus Saxonum, King Arthur assigns his angry adviser Malgwyn ap Cuneglas to investigate a village massacre on the lands of Lord Doged. Though over three years have passed, Malgwyn thinks back to when he found his wife dead along with others. Raging at Arthur Malgwyn left his surviving infant with his brother as he turned from farmer to violent warrior.

At the eerie sight, Malgwyn pulls a Saxon arrow out of the body of a woman; he recognizes the arrow as identical to that which killed his beloved spouse. Malgwyn informs his liege it looks like the Saxons, but insists something is not quite right. When Doged is murdered with no heir, the High King of All Britannia claims he needs swift justice for the victim's family and survivors of the massacre as he knows his throne is shaky. He directs Malgwyn to investigate the homicide first as that has greater potential trouble for Arthur before he looks into the mass murders.

The latest Arthurian Mystery (see The Divine Sacrifice and The Beloved Dead) is a great whodunit tarring a bitter counselor who does not try to conceal his ire at the monarch. Arthur is not the romantic Camelot figure, but instead a pragmatic ruler trying to keep his throne; Malgwyn understands this and plans to find out why the king seems obsessed with this minor land. Fast-paced even with the protagonist's haunting brief flashbacks, medieval mystery fans will relish this strong entry in one of the best period pieces as the political, military and economics of the era comes alive while Malgwyn investigates the homicide of the lord and the seemingly senseless slaughter of the villagers.

Boca Daze
Steven M. Forman
9780765328762, $25.99

In 2006 in Boca Raton, Florida, retired Boston cop Eddie "the Boca Knight" Perlmutter knows firsthand that sexagenarian is a misleading word. Eddie is working a few cases. First he makes inquiries into the assault of homeless Weary Willie. Second his partner Lou Dewey conducts research into the financial activities of B.I. Grover who Eddie believes runs a Ponzi scheme. Finally he pursues the pill mills selling prescription drugs on the street.

Street hoods with guns kill innocent people leading to gangbanger leader Mad Dog Walken helping Eddie. Meanwhile homeless Three Bag Bailey demands he live up to his nickname. Eddie knows he walks into the ugly as his knees ache; which he admits is chronically all the time.

The latest jocular Boca Knight South Florida private investigative tale (see Boca Mournings) stars a likable hero and a strong eccentric cast. The tone is set when Lou mentions some financier dude named Madoff appears to be pulling a Ponzi, but Eddie tells him to forget the sidebar and focus on Grover. Fast-paced and fill with action and humor, readers will appreciate the witty battling Boca Knight as he seeks justice for the disenfranchised on bad wheels.

Sacre Bleu
Christopher Moore
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061779749, $26.99,

Lucien Lessard grew up in the home of a master French baker who taught him to appreciate good food and great art as his Père fed the impoverished and displayed their work. He became best friends with Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and associated with the impressionist and post-impressionist greats like Manet, Renoir, Pissarro, and others; though his efforts as a painter were at best frustratingly inept.

In 1890, troubled Vincent Van Gogh sends an enigmatic note to Toulouse-Lautrec. A few days later Van Gogh is dead. Propelled by the letter and death, Lessard and Toulouse-Lautrec investigate the mysterious Colorman, who has sold for three decades the paint especially a special blue to a virtual who's who of late nineteenth century French artists. The two sleuths notice weird patterns of love affairs, forgettable periods, and immense production, but struggle to understand what this means as clues seem to go back many millennia.

This is a terrific late nineteenth century "comedy of art" mystery that provides interesting insight into Western art and not just the prime period as creative Christopher Moore also looks at the Renaissance Italy and ancient Rome, etc. The mystery of Colorman is cleverly done so that readers will enjoy the amateur sleuthing especially the author's trademark slapstick humor; but it is the masters who make Mr. Moore's wonderful work into a masterful journey that began in a remote cornfield.

Being Lara
Lola Jaye
9780062069344, $14.99

In fifth grade in Essex, England, jealous Connie Jones, who wants her Mum to be a pop star like the Little Girl's Mum was, nastily informs the Little Girl she was an alien. Another classmate Ryan insists the Little Girl's parents found her in the streets. The Little Girl Lara Reid believes them as she was dark skinned with kinky curls while her parents were much lighter skinned. Only eight years old, she learned the true meaning of adopted is Lara as her Mum kindly says they are a unique family.

Over two decades later, just before her next birthday, Tyler the American tells Lara he loves her, but she cuts him off before he says anything else as she feels a mental urge to run away from him. Feeling happy but incomplete, Lara celebrates her thirtieth birthday with her family and friends. As she blows out the candles, Lara notices a stranger, who should not be there, among those attending her party. Yomi Komolafe from Nigeria has come with a purpose to England to meet Lara.

This is a fascinating look at identity as Lara has wondered since she was the Little Girl who she is. Her sense of incompleteness makes her feel guilty because her parents love and adore her, but something feels missing; that element keeps her running from loving relationships. Although the skipping around between various years is difficult to follow, fans will appreciate this in depth character study of an adult still inside the alien Little Girl.

Losing Clementine
Ashley Ream
9780062093639, $14.99

Extremely depressed and off her meds artist Clementine Pritchard decided to commit suicide. She has given herself thirty days to determine her exit strategy. To begin with Clementine fires her shrink as she figures death means she does not need to see any doctor. Then she lets go of her assistant Jenny Pritchard who barely holds back the tears with the news. That done she tosses her tea set out the window nearly braining odious Mrs. Epstein. The countdown has begun in earnest as Clementine knows the only individual who will truly miss her is Chuckles the cat; yet she also refuses to leave a mess behind for whoever has to clean up her death.

The key to this dark often graveyard amusing character study is the profound complex look at depression but does so without using the mental illness as an alibi to justify Clementine's erratic behavior. Ironically as she plans to kill herself, she does so in an orderly manner; mindful of a leaper taking off their watch so it does not break. Readers will wonder throughout whether Clementine will take the poison she bought in Tijuana or become saved like in It's A Wonderful Life. With a nod to Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why I Killed Myself, Ashley Ream provides a powerful tale as Chuckles becomes the barometer of Clementine's "To be or not to be" life altering decision.

We're With Nobody
Alan Huffman & Michael Rejebian
9780062015778, $15.99

We're With Nobody: Two Insiders Reveal the Dark Side of American Politics The authors believe in truth which makes them relics with the next generation of instant information age misinformation, disinformation and blatant lies (for instance, the President is Muslim and a member of a radical Christian Church) abound about a candidate's background as death squads leave many dead; some unfairly. Anecdotal as the pair works all levels of government around the country, readers will learn the inside to legal intelligence that can Swifted exaggerated out of context with most opponents (and those hiring the Oppos) having something to hide from the public in a time when news is customized to personal value systems. Intriguing and timely with the recent carpet bombing, readers will enjoy running around the country escorted into the darkest records by Alan Huffman & Michael Rejebian whether it is the New Jersey docks or Texas. However, the only flaw in a well written expose is the insistence by the authors that oppo research is critical to keeping the people informed with the truth; but ignores the downside of the end justifies the mean as any cost means destroying families and keeping potentially good individuals from actively participating in a political realm in which hyperbole, exclusion and negativity rule.

Cruising Attitude
Heather Poole
978006198648, $14.99

Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet is an entertaining memoir as Heather Poole tells readers about her life in and out of the sky. Her mom persuaded Ms. Poole to become a flight attendant; she obtains the job though in her mind this was just a short term position; years later this has become her vocation. The jocular insight into the "crash pads" mostly in Queens (ease to and from airport access) is fascinating as roommates change, landlords seem interchangeable and overcrowding is the norm. The narrative overly leaps about between the personal and observer. This makes it a bit difficult to follow between flying incidents, crash pad events and personal insight. Still the on board hi-jinx of people seemingly willing to do anything including joining the Mile High Club in the bathroom of a crowded plane or watching police escorts and the craziness of the crash pads engage the audience as Ms. Poole writes a rounded memoir as she limits the crazy escapades by making them part of an overall rounded witty memoir of "Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet" and at ground level.

Meg Cabot
9780061735110, $14.99

Soap opera star Meena Harper had not believed in vampires until she was caught in the crosshairs of an Undead civil war (see Insatiable). Since she proved to have a special otherworldly skill to predict how someone will die the Vatican's Palatine Guard, whose mission is to eliminate demons, hire her. Her home station is Manhattan.

Meena believes that soulless vampires can love humans, but her vampiric boyfriend Lucien Antonescu died in an inferno. Her partner demon hunter Alaric Wulf disagrees with the redemption of vampires. However, the nasty Lamir vampire clan is taking a bit out of the Big Apple. Meena and Alaric hunt for the predators. Also with the teammates is charismatic priest Father "Padre Caliente" Henrique, who nether Meena or Alaric trust.

This is an engaging amusing urban fantasy starring a solid cast. Meena is the star as she has a tendency to see the good in everyone which can be a weakness when fighting evil demons or the Lamir clan. Alaric is a strong partner who believes in staking first and asking questions later as he sees the ugliness in everyone. With plenty of action intermingled with jocularity, sub-genre fans who enjoy a lighthearted frolic will want to trek Manhattan with Meena and Alaric as the guides.

Agorafabulous!: Dispatches from My Bedroom
Sara Benincasa
9780062024411, $24.99

Sara Benincasa says her first recognized panic attack occurred when she was eleven. As a teen, she became the centerfold for antidepressants and anti-anxiety drug usage. Still she matriculates at Emerson College until she cannot journey from her bedroom to the bathroom to pee. Her parents welcome her back to their New Jersey nest. She sees a psychiatrist and obtains new drugs. Sara slowly readapts to the world with stops in Asheville, Texas and finally New York; a place in which the majority of the population are crazier than she is.

This is profound yet jocular memoir that pulls no punches when Ms. Benincasa provides her avoidance techniques to never leave a safe bedroom such as pissing into a breakfast bowl. With help from her family and friends, she found some healing knowing they cared for her and tried the myriad of self-help guru books that never quite got her off the ledge. However, she found her muse in stand-up comedy in which she uses her agoraphobia incidents as a humorous healer. Mindful of "Make 'em Laugh" from Singin' In The rain, her credo is "that if you can laugh at the shittiest moments in your life, you can transcend them" and do almost anything. This includes using a bathroom and walking on a stage to get the audience to "laugh at your awful shit..., you can officially call yourself a comedian" and a super self-help author.

Beth Gutcheon
9780061931420, $25.99

On the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Loviah "Lovie" French operates a high-end dress shop known for its exquisite taste and its proprietor's discretion; Lovie overhears all sorts of gossip from a virtual who's who of New York. Lovie's two best friends Dinah Wainwright and Avis Metcalf, who she met at boarding school, despise each other over some long ago and minor (in Lovie's mind) incident. Dinah has become a gossip columnist covering New York's upper class while Avis has become an art guru.

Fate has a way of treating people with fickleness. Dinah's son Nick and Avis' daughter Grace fall in love and marry. They seem like the perfect couple, but beneath the pubic veneer lay resentment and anger as misinformation threatens their relationship. Lovie guards everyone's secrets that she knows, but her loyalty may prove misplaced as a tragic tsunami floods the lives of people she cherishes. Filled with regret, Lovie ponders if keeping confidences was a mistake.

With the misinformation and disinformation in the Republican primary impacting the results, Beth Gutcheon provides a timely family drama that focuses on the impact of unchallenged false information built from seemingly creditable data on people. Character driven by a strong ensemble cast, readers will appreciate Lovie's loyalty though it proves misplaced.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf


Josh Monkarsh is a young, award winning writer, director, and producer, a true Hollywood innovator. He attended Beverly Hills High School, American Intercontinental University, and the New York Film Academy at Universal Studios. In 2002 he founded Traffic City Productions, following his dream of telling stories on film that will enlighten and entertain his audience. Among his successes are a REMI award for the coming-of-age drama, "The Highlife": and acceptance of his sci fi drama, "The Evolution of Ethan Baskin", into the 62nd annual Cannes Film Festival. MBR readers enjoy discovering new and fascinating talent so I'm pleased to introduce Josh Monkarsh.

MBR: You grew up in the most famous zip code in America -- 90210. What was it like growing up in Beverly Hills and attending Beverly Hills High School?

J.M.: Quite interesting to say the least. It was actually my experiences growing up in BH that inspired me to write my first feature length script: "The Highlife", which I later produced independently. 90210; a way of life had its challenges - with the constant barrage of news vans staking out in front of my high school, asking for interviews about the "real" 90210. Keep in mind; I was a freshman at Beverly High in 1993, when the series was at the height of its popularity.

MBR: You've had some impressive successes so far. How did you get to become a film producer?

J.M.: I started as an intern for Jersey Films; they produced classics like "Pulp Fiction" and "Gattaca". My day-to-day regime consisted of covering scripts; meaning I would read dozens of scripts and provide pages of feedback. It was soon after my 1000th paper cut, when I realized coverage wasn't for me, so I enrolled at the New York Film Academy. On the first day, my instructor said something I'll never forget: "you're either a film-lover or a filmmaker, and you're time here will determine that". He was right. Soon after, I was in pre-production for "The Highlife", which bagged me a REMI award.

MBR: Can you tell us about any inspiring individuals you met while pursuing your film-making career?

J.M.: Meeting Sidney Poitier at a local Rite-Aid is at the top of my list. I was very nervous when approaching him, but I gathered myself, shook his hand and told him how much of an inspiration he's been. It was actually Poitier's mind-blowing performance in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" that served as one of many motivating factors leading me to pursue film. You can't get much better than that.

MBR: What was your original reaction when reading Soldier of the Legion?

J.M.: Growing up idolizing films like "Star Wars" and "Blade Runner", I told myself when I grew up, I wanted to explore similar worlds. What I didn't realize, was that it was physically impossible to travel at light speed and I'd have to become a producer in order to do so. Fast forward to last year, when I came across "Soldier of the Legion". I couldn't believe the potential right in front of my eyes, and the tons of possibilities. It's a very well told story, with a gravitating backdrop.

MBR: How do you go about finding a good screenwriter and approaching potential talent (actors)?

J.M.: This is by far the most important process and must be handled delicately. If rushed when shopping for screenwriters, you could end up with a half-baked product. It's all about synergy - if the writer has an emotional connection to the novel prior to the adaptation, this will determine the fate of the script. This is why I will only entertain screenwriters who are just as crazy, (if not more) about the material than me. With an amazing screenplay, it's a lot less tricky to attach noteworthy talent.

MBR: What are your future goals for the project?

J.M.: "Soldier of the Legion" has the potential to become a household name. That said, I'm very superstitious, so I'll just leave it at that.

Ten years ago I was asked to review for Midwest Book Review a futuristic sci fi book by Marshall Thomas. I was not a sci fi fan at the time, but Soldier of the Legion transformed me from reluctant reader to enthusiastic fan. Thomas's first in a six-book series was an exceptionally well-written adrenalin rush of a story, with an exciting plot and characters who stayed with me long after the review had been written. Marshall Thomas is a retired U.S. Government official with a second career as writer. I'm delighted to learn that Soldier of the Legion might be made into a movie, so wanted to share with MBR readers his thoughts on this new development.


MBR: What was your reaction when a Hollywood producer proposed a movie project based on your book, Soldier of the Legion?

M.T.: I was surprised and delighted. Having a movie based on your book is probably high on every author's list of 'unlikely things that I'd love to have happen to me.' Josh's e-mail was right out of the blue. He said the book "blew me away." All six books in the Soldier series were on the Amazon Kindle best-seller lists last summer and now having a movie proposal is like a dream come true.

MBR: Personally, I thought this book had "movie" written all over it. Do you think the subject matter of this book will go well on the screen?

M.T.: I think it will be perfect for the big screen. Action, adventure, romance, exotic new worlds, perilous situations and difficult choices for the protagonists. Although plenty of digital special effects will be in order because of the science fiction theme, that is not what makes a successful movie. Interesting stories are about people, and the characters will trump special effects every time. My hope is that my characters will make it to the screen.

MBR: What are some of the major concerns you have about the movie project?

M.T.: My primary concern is that the characters of the book series will make it unscathed to the big screen without significant changes. Josh has told me he likes my characters and I am hoping this means that they will survive the process. A second worry will probably be Josh's primary worry. A story of this scope will require major funding which may mean Josh will have to go to a big studio to get the funding. I'm sure he knows exactly how to do that. I just hope that the studio will be faithful to the characters and to the story.

MBR: If the movie is made and is a success, what do you expect?

M.T.: I expect to be very happy. When my series took off like a rocket on the sales and best seller lists on Amazon Kindle last summer, I viewed it as affirmation for the series and for my writing efforts. Getting published is the first big affirmation for an author, and selling lots of books is the second. But having a movie made from your book is final confirmation of your literary endeavors and credentials. I am gratified and humbled that it is happening to me.

MBR: The book's main character, Thinker, is so charismatic and courageous, such an exceptional person. If you could hand pick an actor to play Thinker, who would it be?

M.T.: I'm glad you like this character. I would not pick any established actor. I would prefer a young unknown - and the other members of the squad would also be young unknowns. I am a great believer in new faces, and what they can do. Take the Harry Potter series, for example. Of course I'll not be picking anyone. That will be up to Josh. I've pledged not to interfere with his movie-making, but to remain available at all times if he needs my help or advice.

MBR: I've reviewed each book in your series and each has a distinct plot. If Soldier of the Legion becomes a successful movie, would you like to see sequels from the other five books in the series?

M.T.: You betcha! However, again, that will not be up to me. My understanding is that, if Book One of a book series is a big success as a movie, the movie makers get to choose if they will do a second movie based on Book Two, or if they will have one of their screenwriters write up a second screenplay without input from Book Two. I sure hope we are able to continue the series, because there are a lot of fans out there who like the books. But I trust Josh to do the right thing.

Thanks for the interview!

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

This Sweater Is For You!
Sheldon Cohen, author
ECW Press
2120 Queen St. East, Suite 200
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4E 1E2
978155029608, $29.95,

Canadian school children everywhere know and love "The Sweater," a memorable animated film based on the autobiographical short story by Roch Carrier. "This Sweater Is For You! Celebrating the Creative Process in Film and Art With the Animator and Illustrator of "The Hockey Sweater"" is an exploration and a celebration of the creative process that went into the animation and illustration of "The Hockey Sweater," a film and story that is both iconic and emblematic of what it means to be Canadian. In partial homage to the amazing world-wide appeal of Sheldon Cohen, animator and illustrator of "The Hockey Sweater" has delved into his beginnings and background as a creative artist to arrive at the package that is "This Sweater Is For You!" Part personal history, part source analysis of a collage of astounding images, "This Sweater Is For You!" is sure to appeal to the vast, varied audience of fans and devotees of "The Sweater." Chronologically organized into Pre-Sweater Years, Animating the Sweater 1978-80, Post Sweater Years, Illustrating the Hockey Sweater, Artist's gallery, Epilogue, and Breakaway!, "This Sweater Is For You" is a fantastic artistic odyssey that covers a life spent drafting the best visual expression of incredibly complex dualities of culture that are integral to being Canadian. A moving afterword by Roch Carrier contains the following statement about Sheldon Cohen's art: "The extent of his pictorial vocabulary and syntax is wide and rich. He accepts the story, he respects the story; the story, in his view does not impose limitations for him but he uses it as a springboard to jump higher, bringing the story with him. Doing so, Sheldon created his art and the writer thinks: this is my story, but better....His drawings are complex but everyone is seduced by their simplicity...With his illustrations in books and films Sheldon brought to reading hundreds of thousands of kids. On top of that, he probably inspired as many kids to take pencils and draw." For an authentic slice of the life of an award winning artist, read "This Sweater Is For You!" It will make you glad to be alive.

Bluegrass Jamming on Fiddle, Tips, Tunes & Techniques
Wayne Erbson
Native Ground Books & Music
109 Bell Rd., Asheville, NC 28805
9781883206635, $22.95,

"Bluegrass Jamming on Fiddle" is a handy self instruction manual that also includes an audio CD with 98 cuts of slow tempo examples of bluegrass fiddle licks and tunes. In addition, if the CD is opened up on a computer, it contains a Word folder named "Lyrics" which contains all the words or verses to the 30+ songs in the book. "Bluegrass Jamming on Fiddle" is written for intermediate bluegrass fiddle players who seek to learn more skills to enjoy jamming with other bluegrass musicians. However, the beginning fiddle player can also learn a lot from this practical self instruction manual. Witty and informative pages in a homey, black and white photo illustrated format cover basic material on bluegrass repertoire, different styles of bluegrass jamming, suggested jamming manners and annoying jamming behavior, the structure of a bluegrass song, the art of improvising, harmony, making up your own licks and much more. The 30+ tunes are organized by their major keys, including G, A, C, and D. Also included are the major scales for all 4 keys plus chords and diagrams of chord positions for popular bluegrass fiddle tunes. Completing the book are a Glossary and song index, plus a list of resource web sites and addresses for popular established bluegrass jamming camps. The author, a well-known master performer himself, strongly recommends a listening study of the bluegrass masters. He has included his favored list of songs by such artists as Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, the Stanley brothers, Reno and Smiley, and Jimmy Martin. "Bluegrass Jamming on Fiddle" is the second book in a bluegrass instructional series. The beginner's book is "Old-Time Fiddle for the Complete Ignoramus."

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

The Home Handyman
Jerry Hibbs
Privately Published
9781468057928, $11.95,

Knowing a bit of everything leads one having to do a bit of everything. "The Hilarious Adventures of the Home Handyman" is a humorous novel crafted by Jerry Hibbs, telling of a neighborhood and the endless assault of problems that are thrown at us all. "The Hilarious Adventures of the Home Handyman" is sure to entertain with problems that we are all to encounter in our lives, much recommended.

Rebooting my Brain
Maria Ross
Red Slice Press
9780984893904, $14.95,

Tragedy can quickly turn to opportunity. "Rebooting my Brain: How a Freak Aneurysm Reframed My Life" is a memoir from Maria Ross, as she reflects on how a sudden aneurysm gave her time to put her life together and realize what she really should be working towards, facing temporary blindness, the quirky ways she recovered. With a positive message that speaks loudly, "Rebooting my Brain" is a fine read that shouldn't be overlooked by anyone seeking recovery-oriented memoirs.

Touched by a Child
George Towery
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432779054, $15.95,

Education is a career that's never easy. "Touched by a Child" is the memoir from George Towery, a principal in public schools for over thirty years, reflecting on his efforts to make the two schools he presided over go above and beyond their call of duty, despite the schools struggles. Discussing the efforts of promoting harmony between principal, student, parent, and teacher, "Touched by a Child" is a strongly recommended pick for memoir and education collections.

A Hidden Madness
James T. R. Jones
Privately Published
9780615571646, $15.95,

The seeds of a rough life often get continually sowed. "A Hidden Madness" is a memoir from James T. R. Jones who writes of his long road to overcoming his own bipolar disorder, the taunts of other children in school, and how he overcame it all with a positive family and much more. "A Hidden Madness" is a powerful read that will serve to be encouraging to others with Bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses.

Lessons on the Road to Financial Independence
H. Michael Finkle
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o AuthorHouse
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300
Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462083565, $13.95,

Financial independence seems like more and more of myth in today's world. "Lessons on the Road to Financial Independence" is a personal finance advisory guide from H. Michael Finkle who presents ideals on how to become financially independent in today's world, using investment, wise money management, and other ways to build a personal safety net. "Lessons on the Road to Financial Independence" is a strong addition to any financial or self-improvement collection.

Much Ado About Russian
Kerry Rockwood White
KRW Designs Publishing
PO Box 850731, Braintree, MA 02185
9780983592303, $11.99,

A name's just suppose to be a name, but it just can't be the case for Hero. "Much Ado About Russian" is the first book in Kerry Rockwood White's Fair Hero series, following Hero Fetcher as she celebrates her thirtieth birthday and finds her life being tangled up in things she never knew were true and soon finds what she doesn't know will kill her. "Much Ago About Russian" is a fun blend of urban fantasy for those looking for something off the beaten path.

Twice Upon a Prequel
Derald W. Hamilton
Privately Published
9780984619214, $7.95,

The story before the story can be as intriguing as the story itself. "Twice Upon a Prequel" is a collection of short stories from Derald W. Hamilton as he explores the nature of stories, presenting two prequels to his earlier work 'The Call' as well as other assorted short stories. From people copping with the plight of war, age, and privilege, "Twice Upon a Prequel" is a fine read for community library general fiction collections.

The New Name of God Rules
Monika Wilbanks
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432777968 $14.95

The New Name of God Rules is a passionate Christian book about preparing oneself for the coming Rapture. Quotes from scripture and other sources intersperse the author's visionary exhortations of the importance of God and giving of oneself to serve Him. "I thank the Holy Father for revealing all secrets at this time. He is putting the puzzle together in complete order. His plan for the human race is laid out perfectly. What He told His servants, the prophets, He has also told this generation. His glory manifests in His people. His new name will be praised into all eternity." The New Name of God Rules is a testimony of undeniable faith, and absolute devotion to the glory of God, and recommended to any seeking to spiritually prepare themselves for the End Times.

Micah Andrew

Shirley's Bookshelf

Ancient Roots Translinear Bible New Testament
A Frances Werner
ARTB Publishing
PO Box 270002, St. Louis MO 63127
9780978976323, $10.95,

I love reading my Bible and have an entire bookshelf filled with different ones. To me it is interesting to see how each translation brings forth a particular Scripture. It can be very eye opening, to say the least. I have the Ancient Roots Old Testament and I have loved using it for several years now. I was excited when I heard the news that the New Testament was available, I bought it as soon as I could.

How do I feel about it? I love it. First it is in paperback which makes it easier to tote around, which I often do. The print is of good size and I don't have to squint, even with my glasses on to read it, so that is a plus. The cover is bold, yet very tasteful. I like it. Now onto the Word. The very first page gives you information that I'm sure most of us do not know. Did you know that Jesus (Yeshua) is a repairman, not a carpenter? Wow! There are several things to learn just in the Preface. After this, we have the Introduction, which is several pages explaining what you are about to read. All of that content was interesting and helpful.

Now onto the meat. Let me say right off that I love this book. I have to say I was somewhat shocked because I definitely did not recognize some of the Scriptures that I thought I knew so well. I keep my old Bible with me when I am reading Ancient Roots because at times I have to go back and forth so I know where I am in the text. This is not a bad thing, actually I'm excited to see exactly what should have been written in the first place . It is often surprising, and I find, I have finally come to understand so much more than I did before. Certain Scripture take on total different meanings than I had come to know. I can't believe all that I have been missing, this book is definitely enriching my walk with the Lord ! Let me say for all of you that love the Word of God, this is a must have. If you want to know what was really spoken you have to get this translation. I have already purchased copies for my family and I intend to get as many as possible to give to friends. Exceptional work and a must have for all those who love the Word of God. Very highly recommended.

Jefferson's Dream
John Perrault
Hobblebush Books
17-A Old Milford Road, Brookline, NH, 03033
9780980167276, $16.95,

I have to be honest when I first received this book I thought, oh my another history lesson, but I was amazed at what I found. Our author, John Perrault, takes the lives of eight historical icons, Thomas Jefferson, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Cady Stranton, Henry David Thoreau, Ida B Wells and Eleanor Roosevelt, and brings them to life. I don't say that lightly, his words really do bring these great people to life. I learned things I know I didn't learn in History class and I enjoyed reading every word.

Mr. Perrault ways of sharing their stories grabbed me and kept me glued to the pages of this book. It is almost as if he has touched the very core of their existence, and shared it with you. Great job. An added bonus is the CD that comes with the book. On this CD are Ballads singing of each of the great ones that are in the book. I loved these songs, the music and words are great, as is the singing. This CD should be in every classroom where the children can learn the songs and sing along. It is a known fact that singing something helps our minds to remember it. The music is included in the book as are the words. What an inspirational idea and should not be ignored. If you have a child at the age where this is being taught you really need to buy this book and show it to their teachers. It would truly help them to become more interested in the history of our country and these great people, and they would enjoy learning.

All in all this is a wonderful work and I highly recommend it. Excellent job, Mr. Perrault, thank you so much.

Incredible AH-HA Moments
Alexander Nestoiter
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781468010213, $12.95,

If I could sum this book up in two words I would say it is definitely, interesting and different. I really enjoyed reading this book and here is the only problem I have encountered. I have to keep going back and reading more. This is a book that has a lot of this and a lot of that in so many areas. The topics are wide and changeable. You might want to read about TV programs, but let me note, this will not be an regular read, believe me. I've learned some on how to change my mood, and have more confidence. That's always a good thing. There is a section titled, "Reason vs. Emotion that I found very interesting. You will definitely go away with a different outlook and more knowledge than you thought you would. How about a section that is titled, "Our Humanity Began When We learned to Kill Without Getting Our Hands Bloodied." I did say different, did I not. Now my favorite out of the entire book is the section on feet. I have marked it so that I can share the information with others and use it myself. I also plan to look into some of the items being offered. I really liked the foot pages. I did enjoy this book, it has many a twist that I never knew were coming in just about every topic, and I enjoyed each one . It's interesting and definitely will give you a lot to share and a lot to think about. Good job.

Sofia's Rainbow
Lina Simoni
Illustrated by Laura Furlan
Moonleaf Publishing
PO Box 4909, Palm Springs, CA 92264
9781937700003, $14.95,

Inside this little tale we meet a girl named, Sofia. Sofia lives in Istanbul with her dad. Sofia loved to stand on her terrace and watch the water change colors with the weather and the time of day. Sofia also loved the rainbows that would come and go. She wanted one day to climb the rainbow to the very top. Truly, Sofia, had big dreams. One day while walking through town with her dad, they find a mother cat with many kittens. Sofia asked if she could take one home and dad said yes. Sofia named her cat, Incir. He was a different cat, one who loved to eat figs and sleep on his back with his feet up. As time went on and her kitten grew it began to do things that Sofia did not like and would not do things with her that she wanted him to do. Sofia gets upset and ignores her pet until one day it is Incir that saves her life.

This is a book that is filled with childhood imagination. The author takes the heart of a young girl who dreams dreams and wants to experience a slice of the unknown. What is at the top of a rainbow? The turmoil between young Sofia and her cat, Incir at first is troubling, however, our author turns all around and brings home an important lesson for children about friendship. Good job. The illustrations definitely bring to life the story. They are bold and colorful and I loved the expressions on both Sofia and Incir. All in all this is a delightful tale.

The Job
Cramer Louis Jackson
Outskirt Press
10940 Parker Rd, Parker, Colorado 80134
9781432784584, $8.95,

It is often said that good things come in small packages and this certainly is the case with this read. In the beginning we meet, Joe, a man on a mission. Joe is out of work, and despite all his attempts to find a job he keeps failing. However, good fortune is about to smile upon him as he receives a mysterious email offering him an opportunity for work, but it is cloaked with mystery. Joe is hesitant at first, but his desperate situation pushes him to respond and from that moment on his life will never be the same. Joe is thrust into a world he never dreamed truly existed and the job that he must undertake will bring him into a realm that even Science Fiction Writers could never pen, but for Joe it is real. Here he finds adventure, and true love, for Joe his journey is just beginning.

I really enjoyed this read, it definitely was not a storyline that I had encountered before. the character, Joe, can easily be identified with in our world today, and you will find yourself smiling at the good fortune that has come his way. It is 'out of this world' adventure, well packaged in a warm storyline that draws you right in and keeps you reading until the end. Very well done, and I am pleased to recommend it.

Ten Healthy Teas
Valerie B. Lull
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd, Colorado 80134
9781432784935, $8.95,

I don't know about you, but I do enjoy sitting down every once in a while with a nice hot cup of tea. It can be quite a nice change from my usual coffee routine, so I was interested to see what this book had to say. Inside the pages of this work you will find page after page of information on different teas, ten in all. You will learn how to make them and what they are good for.
Here is a listing of some: Ginger Tea - Green/Black Tea - Peppermint Tea. Now you probably know about those teas, but how about these: Garlic Tea -Surprised? I was, I did not know that there was such a thing, nor the benefits available by drinking it.

That was very interesting. Take another one, how about Cranberry Tea. Now I love Cranberries so to find out I could make a tea out of them was definitely of interest to me, and the health benefits are great.

All in all this is a very good book. The information on each tea is well presented, with the tea recipes and the benefits. I enjoyed reading it and definitely learned along the way. I intend to try some of the teas I have never used before and share them with others. I recommend this book for any tea lover or just for those who want to try something new. Good job!

The Angels In Heaven Rejoice
David Cerullo
The Inspiration
P.O. Box 7759, Charlotte, NC 28241
9781887600712, $12.95,

Being a Pastor and having led many to the Lord, I know first hand that they have many, many questions. These often cannot be answered fully in a few hours, and often they need to pray and meditate on the adventure ahead of them. Pastors and other Christians are always there to answer and help but they really need more. I have found in this read a perfect help for young and old Christians alike. The Angels In Heaven Rejoice is a wonderful book. Inside you will find everything that is needed to explain to a new Christian what their life is now about. Their Salvation through the Blood of Jesus is explained, their benefits for being a child of God is explained, and they are filled with the excitement of what is ahead for them. Not only that but as I read it I myself felt a refreshing that I needed, even though I didn't think I did. Written in a comfortable, warm manner, this book will help to quench doubts and release a wonderful peace to the reader. Very well done.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Building a Successful Business
Jay Goldberg
DTR, Inc.
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781470000639, $29.95,

Too many businesses are started without the experience needed to keep it alive and going. "Building a Successful Business" is Jay Golbderg's advice manual for those embarking on the entrepreneurial path, with tips on how to avoid the common pitfalls that strike many first time business owners. With advice on strategically planning your business, cautious advertising, business writing, managing the funds and more, "Building a Successful Business" is a strongly recommended pick for any first time business person.

Gods, Gangsters, & Honour
Steven Machat
Beautiful Books
c/o Big Machine Media WorldWide (publicity)
9781905646839, $15.95,

Music knows no shame when it comes to anything, be it faith or greed. "God, Gangsters, & Honour: A Rock 'n' Roll Odyssey" is a blend of memoir and music history, as Steven Machat brings readers into a walk through the past five decades and his encounters with countless stars of music, politics, and otherwise. No holds barred, he embraces expose as the story goes on, offering a candid look at the naked world of industry and politics. "God, Gangsters, & Honour" is a solid addition to general memoir and music collections.

My Brother's Keeper
A. J. Farris
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432784287, $18.95,

As we face our demise, we wonder what lead up to this point. "My Brother's Keeper" follows Morgan Sheldon, as he faces accusations of a murder he holds was in self-defense, but no one will believe his claims. As his world collapses around him, he looks for anything to prove his innocence, as time runs shorter and shorter. "My Brother's Keeper" is a strong pick for general fiction collections, very much recommended.

Let's Meet Our Match
Christopher T. Smith
Privately Published
9781466338258, $18.95,

The internet is full of people looking for love, but not knowing how to find it. "Let's Meet Our Match: Your Complete Guide to Success in the World of Internet Dating" is an introductory into the online dating world, as Christopher T. Smith uses his longstanding experience to help readers break into social networking sites and perhaps find something that lasts a lifetime. "Let's Meet Our Match" is a strong pick for anyone who yearns for love but has ended up with nothing.

Tough Care
Bernard Mooney
Privately Published
9781466391376, $15.95,

As people live longer, more and more people face themselves surrounded by their parents and their own kids. "Tough Care" is Bernard Mooney's own discussion of the pressures that many face with the care of others under their guidance, and the pressures that are often visited upon a primary caregiver. With wisdom to those who feel they will find themselves in these situations, "Tough Care" is a read very much worth considering.

Shadows and Ghosts
Wayne Jackson
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
97805333164554, $12.95,

As we try to piece together our lives, we face constant upheavals, changing lives forever. "Shadows and Ghosts" is a collection of poetry from Wayne Jackson as he reflects on his life in Detroit and seeing life move on past him, continually changing and adapting. "Shadows and Ghosts" is a thoughtful assortment of poetry, very much recommended reading. "John Coltraine's Music": Clusters of sounds, layers of rhythms./Like junk being collected by James Hampton, at one time/in Washington D. C., building upon his Throne of Celestial Spirits,/reaching for the skies, trying to approach the gods./Like a blackboard full of pure calculus equations,/written by a mathematical genius, trying to understand better physics./All turning into what Salinger called "a beautiful/reciprocal arrangement."

Coming To
Caren Umbarger
Privately Published
9781463786021, $14.99,

To go against the will of the man is something common today, but a serious taboo just under a hundred years ago. "Coming To: A Midwestern Tale" is a novel set in the twilight of an America before the Great Depression of 1929. Lillian, a college educated woman finds her husband Morris wanting to crash down on her independence. Willing to take any gambit for her own will, "Coming To: A Midwestern Tale" is a driven tale of feminism before there was such a term.

John Taylor

Vicki's Bookshelf

Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder: Bubble in the Bathtub
Jo Nesbo
c/o Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Ave. of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
1416979751, $15.99,

The Fart Powder was such a successful invention that Doctor Proctor, Nilly, and Lisa couldn't stop there. Next up - in the third book in the silly "Doctor Proctor's Fart Power" children's book series - is a time-travelling bathtub. You just hop in, lather up the Time Soap, and wish for where you'd like to go. Doctor Proctor has plans for this new invention. You see, he lost his true love years ago, when Juliette Margarine married an evil count. The good Doctor has never quite gotten over this, and he's going back to change it. But when things go wrong, it's up to Nilly and Lisa to travel back in time to right all wrongs and reunite the two lovebirds. Naturally, nothing is quite so simple. Enter a herd of hippos, a scheming assistant, and Time Soap that keeps going awry, sending Nilly and Lisa to the storming of the Bastille. Fortunately, as in every Jo Nesbo book, the Fart Powder solves everything. Good, clean, bubbly fun for young readers ready to move up from illustrated chapter books like "Captain Underpants."

Dearly Departed
Lia Habel
Ballantine Books
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345523310, $16.99,

Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid's arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead -- or the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie? In "Dearly, Departed, romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that redefines the concept of undying love. The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria -- a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country's political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible -- until she's nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she's suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting "The Laz," a fatal virus that raises the dead -- and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there's no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.

Mary Hoffman
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781599907000, $17.99,

Michelangelo's statue, David, is famous around the world. Millions flock to Italy every year to admire the physical perfection of the young man captured within the marble. But the identity of the model has never been known . . . until now. In this epic tale, acclaimed author Mary Hoffman imagines the story of Gabriele, a naive but incredibly handsome young man who is hired as Michelangelo's model, only to find himself drawn into a world of spies, political treachery, and murder. Set against the vibrant backdrop of Florence in its most turbulent times, this rich, colorful, thrilling tale gives life to one of the world's greatest masterpieces.

Planet Middle School
Nikki Grimes
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781599902845, $15.99,

For twelve years, Joylin Johnson's life has been just fine, thank you very much. A game of basketball with the boys -- especially her friend Jake -- was all it took to put a smile on her face. Baggy jeans, T-shirt, and hair in a ponytail were easy choices. Then suddenly the world seemed to turn upside down, and everything changed at once. Her best girl friend is now flirting with her best guy friend. Her clothes seem all wrong. Jake is acting weird, and basketball isn't the same. And worst of all, there is this guy, Santiago, who appears from . . . where? What lengths will Joy go to-and whom will she become-to attract his attention? In short poems that capture the crazy feelings of adolescence and first crushes, award-winning author Nikki Grimes has crafted a delightful, often hilarious, heart-tugging story.

Feeding Friendsies
Suzanne Bloom
Boyds Mills Press
815 Church St., Honesdale, Penn. 18431
9781590785294, $16.95,

Baby and friends are busy in the garden, making lunch, in this punny picture book "Feeding Friendsies." Today's menu includes puddle-water soup, mud pie and dandelion-and-dirt dessert. Not tempted to dig in with the chefs? That's fine because the children aren't making lunch for themselves. The goodies are for their special guests who happen to chirp, wiggle and hop. With its charming illustrations and playful words, author-illustrator Suzanne Bloom's sweet picture book contains the ingredients even the pickiest young eaters can't resist.

The Really Awful Musicians
John Manders
Clarion Books
251 Park Avenue South, NY, NY 10003
9780547328201, $16.99,

"The Really Awful Musicians," with story and pictures by John Manders, is a wacky tall tale about how musicians first learned to play together. All the musicians in the kingdom are so awful that the king sends his men-at-arms to round up musicians and feed them to the royal crocodiles. Pipe and drum player Piffaro heads for the border, collecting other refugee musicians on the way. Their jam session on the road is so bad that the horse pulling the wagon figures out a way to make them all play the same music at the same time -- a system of lines and hoof prints. In fact, there was a time before musical notation was devised, but that's the only part of this silly story that is true (or particularly memorable).

When Blue Met Egg
Lindsay Ward
Dial Books for Young Readers
c/o Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014-3657
9780803737181, $16.99,

One cold winter day, Blue returns to her nest to find something wonderful: Egg! Or, rather, a snowball she mistakes for an egg. Blue puts Egg in a pail and sets off to look for Egg's mother. But as the winter winds down and the temperature goes up, Blue is in for a sad surprise. Not to worry, though. In this sweet story of friendship, even snowmelt grows into something beautiful. With her intricate cut-paper illustrations and pastel palette, Lindsay Ward skillfully captures her lovable characters and their world in this heartwarming tale.

As I Wake
Elizabeth Scott
Dutton Children's Books
c/o Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
9780525422099, $16.99, 272 pages,

Like romance, supernatural, and steampunk, amnesia might as well become its own genre, given the number of young adult novels that rely on that soap-opera premise. At least "As I Wake" is in the capable hands of VOYA winning author Elizabeth Scott. In her newest emotional work Ava is welcomed home from the hospital by a doting mother, lively friends, and a crush finally beginning to show interest. There's only one problem: Ava can't remember any of them -- and can't shake the eerie feeling that she's not who they say she is. Ava struggles to break through her amnesiac haze as she goes through the motions of high-school life, but the memories that surface take place in a very different world, where Ava and familiar-faced friends are under constant scrutiny and no one can be trusted. Ava doesn't know what to make of these visions, or of the boy who is at the center of them all, until he reappears in her life and offers answers -- but only in exchange for her trust.

Everybody Gets the Blues
Leslie Staub, R.G. Roth
Harcourt Inc.
215 Park Ave. South, NY, NY 10003
978-0152063009, $16.99,

"Everybody Gets the Blues" is just the picture book to chase those dreary blues away. Everybody gets the blues sometimes -- dogs and cats, moms and dads, even tiny babies. Just take a look around. If you help someone else who's feeling sad, you might find that your blues are gone too. Or maybe the Blues Guy will come along, to listen or sing the blues with you and sit by your side. A native of New Orleans, Leslie Staub wrote this story after experiencing Hurricane Katrina first hand. Yet this book's rhythmic, bluesy text and hip, eye-catching illustrations are just right for anyone who's ever felt those mysterious feelings of sadness -- then found that hope and sunnier skies are close at hand.

Gifts from the Gods
Lise Lunge-Larsen, Gareth Hinds
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780547152295, $18.99,

Ancient names come to rich and fascinating life in in "Gifts from the Gods: Ancient Words and Wisdom from Greek and Roman Mythology", a lavishly illustrated gift book for mythology fans and word lovers. Did you know that "museums" were initially temples built to worship the nine muses, the goddesses of the arts? That "Janus" was the god of the doorways and hallways, and we have named our janitors after him? Where did these words -- and other words, such as chaos, genius, nemesis, panic, echo, and narcissus -- come from? From the ancient stories of the Greeks -- stories that rang so true and wise that the names of the characters have survived for centuries as words we use every day. The brief stories here not only impart the subtle wisdom of these ancient tales, but make us understand the words, and our own world, more deeply.

His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg
Louise W. Borden
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780618507559, $18.99,

"His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg" is an amazing and inspirational World War II story about how one man saved the lives of many. Raoul Wallenberg's name may not be a universally familiar one, but the impact he had is immeasurable. Wallenberg was a Swedish humanitarian who worked in Budapest during World War II to rescue Jews from the Holocaust. He did this by issuing protective passports and housing Jews in buildings established as Swedish territory, saving tens of thousands of lives. Louise Borden researched Wallenberg's life for many years, visiting with his family and the site of his childhood home, and learned his story from beginning to end. Wallenberg himself has not been heard from since 1945. It is suspected he died while in Russian custody, though this has never been proven. Thanks to "His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg," Raoul Wallenberg is a name you may not have known, but you'll never forget his story.

I. C. Springman, Brian Lies
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780547610832, $16.95,

This innovative and spare picture book asks the question: When is "more" more than enough? Examining that point is a team of well-intentioned mice who attempt save their friend from hoarding too much stuff. With beautiful illustrations created by the award-winning Brian Lies ("Bats at the Beach," "Bats at the Library" and "Bats at the Ballgame"), "More" is book about friendship and conservation wraps an important message in a beautiful package. One magpie, lots of stuff, and a few friendly mice show readers that less is indeed more. "More" is author I.C. Springman's first book.

Make Your Own Princess Tiaras
450 Lambert Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94306
9780545396578, $16.99, 20 pages,

With "Make Your Own Disney Princess Tiaras," preschool-age girls can create one-of-a-kind, Disney Princess crowns in their own regal style. The tiaras themselves have adjustable Velcro closures for a custom fit and come in sparkling Belle Yellow, Cinderella Blue, and Ariel Pink. To decorate them, budding princesses select from the array of jewels, sequins, pom-poms, and stickers, including unique Disney Princess portrait cameos. The enchanting gift book kit comes with: three adjustable tiaras, sequins, stick-on jewels, pom-poms, Disney Princess cameo stickers, glue, punch-outs for bracelets, rings, magic wands, mini tiaras and a tiara stencil for creative play fit for young royalty.

Star Wars Folded Flyers
Benjamin Harper
450 Lambert Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94306
9780545396349, $19.99, 60 pages,

For the first time, Han Solo wannabes can fold Star Wars paper flying machines that fly with the force. The 30 air ships included in the pages of "Star Wars Folded Flyers" will speed through the living room even better than in outer space. The laws of physics prevents them from actual space launch, but each of the six-starfighter designs has been rigorously tested by the Klutz Aerodynamics Team for optimum short-range performance. Thanks to an official Star Wars license, they look as great as they fly, because they're made from full-color, custom-designed papers - representing galactic vehicle exteriors, authentic to the last bolt. With five copies of each design, kids can have a fleet of Y-wings, X-wings, Naboo and Jedi Starfighters, Tie Fighters, and Millennium Falcons at their command. Star Wars Folded Flyers" comes with 36 sheets of paper and six foldable display stands. No batteries or pilot licenses required.

Jump Start the World
Catherine Ryan Hyde
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780375866265, $7.99,

Tender, honest, and compassionate, this paperback edition of "Jump Start the World" by the author of "Pay It Forward" is a story designed to make you laugh, cry, and honor the power of love. Elle is a loner. She doesn't need people. Which is a good thing, because she's on her own: she had to move into her own apartment so her mother's boyfriend won't have to deal with her. Then she meets Frank, the guy who lives next door. He's older and has a girlfriend, but Elle can't stop thinking about him. Frank isn't like anyone Elle has ever met. He listens to her. He's gentle. And Elle is falling for him, hard. But Frank is different in a way that Elle was never prepared for: he's transgender. And when Elle learns the truth, her world is turned upside down. Now she'll have to search inside herself to find not only the true meaning of friendship but her own role in jumpstarting the world.

I Am Tama, Lucky Cat: A Japanese Legend
Wendy Henrichs, Yoshiko Jaeggi
Peachtree Publishers
1700 Chattahoochee Ave., Atlanta, GA 30318-2112
9781561455898, $16.95,

Based on the Japanese beckoning-cat legend, "I Am Tama, Lucky Cat" is a story of friendship, generosity and kindness. Under the shadow of the white-capped mountains of Japan, a white cat with unusual marking arrives at the door of a rundown temple, With little more than a few grains of rice to share, a kind and gentle monk takes him in and names him Tama after the river of the monk's boyhood memories. As Tama gets accustomed to life in the temple, he promised he will bring good fortune to his new master and the worshippers who come to pray. One spring afternoon, a mighty storm gives Tama the chance to do just that, and he earns the nickname "Lucky Cat." "I Am Tama" is comprised of graceful text from debut author Wendy Henrichs, and breathtaking watercolor illustrations from award-winning illustrator Yoshikio Jaeggie.

Dear America: Voyage on the Great Titanic
Ellen Emerson White
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545415019, $12.99,

One of the most popular "Dear America" diaries in the popular series, Ellen Emerson White's bestselling "Voyage on the Great Titanic" is now back in print with new cover art and design. In the historical fiction story, Margaret Ann Brady's older brother left her in the care of an orphanage and immigrated to America. Five years later the orphanage receives an unusual request from an American woman looking for a traveling companion, so Margaret's teachers agree that she is the perfect candidate to accompany Mrs. Carstairs on the Titanic's maiden voyage, so that once Margaret arrives in New York she will be free to join her brother in Boston. But, of course, the Titanic is destined for tragedy, and Margaret's journey is thrown into a frozen nightmare when the ship collides with an iceberg.

Sarah Weeks
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545270113, $16.99,

From children's author Sarah Weeks, the award-winning author of "SO B. IT" comes this chapter book story about family, friendship, and pie. When Alice's Aunt Polly passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world-famous pie-crust recipe. Or does she? In her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her extraordinarily surly cat Lardo and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice. Suddenly Alice is thrust into the center of a piestorm, with everyone in town trying to be the next pie-contest winner, including Alice's mother and some of Alice's friends. The whole community is going pie-crazy and it's up to Alice to discover the ingredients that really matter. Like family. And friendship. And enjoying what you do.

Smile for the Camera
Kelle James
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781442406247, $16.99,

Many of the best memoirs read like engrossing fiction, and that is certainly the case for "Smile for the Camera" by Kelle James. James ran away from an abusive home at the age of fifteen to the best place she could think of: New York City. She was going to be a model, rich, famous, and she was going to find people who treated her right. She had no idea what was in store for her and within three days she was homeless and broke. What follows is her exceptional story of trying to make it on her own with nothing to her name and no one to trust. She endures a string of people, mostly men, who take advantage of her youth and beauty, many disappointments and rejections, and the most famous murder trial of the 1970s. "Smile for the Camera" is the story of a girl losing herself before finding her way in the city that never sleeps.

Curtis Jobling
c/o Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670013302, $16.99,

Imagine a world ruled by Werelords -- men and women who can shift at will into bears, lions, and serpents. When Drew suddenly discovers he's not only a werewolf but the long-lost heir to the murdered Wolf King's throne, he must use his wits and newfound powers to survive in a land suddenly full of enemies. Drew's the only one who can unite the kingdom in a massive uprising against its tyrant ruler, Leopold the Lion. But the king is hot on Drew's tail and won't rest until he's got the rebel Wolf's head. This middle grade fantasy is blood-thirsty for fans of the "Rangers Apprentice" and "Twilight" series, but is there really still room in a crowded supernatural market for yet another werewolf pack?

The Best Kind of Kiss
Margaret Allum, Jonathan Bentley
Walker & Company
104 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10011
9780802722744, $14.99,

Kisses come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, according to the new picture book "The Best Kind of Kiss" written by Margaret Allum and Jonathan Bentley. They can be big or small, snuggly or tickly. Some say hello, some say goodbye. That's what a little girl discovers, a girl who likes all kinds of kisses, including a fluffy kiss from a cat and a fluttery kiss from a butterfly. And even (sort of) a smelly-yelly brother kiss. But her favorite kiss of all is a bristly, growly, daddy kiss. Kisses are for the people you love most, of course, but with so many kisses to choose from, which kiss is the best kind of all? Full of whimsy and charm, this is a nice lap-book, perfect for bedtime snuggles.

So You Want to Be a Rock Star
Audrey Vernick, Kirstie Edmunds
Walker & Company
104 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10011
9780802723253, $16.99,

Want to learn to play air guitar? Wear the coolest rock-star clothes? Sign your autograph for tons of fans? Then this is the picture book for you (or at least your kids under age 7). Designed for young fans of Rock Band or the Disney pop stars, the new picture book "So You Want to Be a Rock Star" is a basic primer on everything rock 'n' roll. With fun, interactive text by Audrey Vernick that encourages young readers to get up and move, and retro-cool illustrations by Kirstie Edmunds that balance fantasies of stardom with real-world rocking out, this book has something for everyone -- budding singers, musicians, and their still-somewhat-cool parents.

Among the Ghosts
Amber Benson
c/o Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Ave. of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416994053, $15.99,

The New Newbridge Academy has a strange, storied history and a Gothic atmosphere, and since Noh's aunt is a teacher there, it's where Noh will be spending the summer while her father travels. Slightly eccentric Noh enjoys exploring the campus, but things get spooky when she meets several other children near an old burned-out dormitory: She's been told no students reside at the school during the summer. The kids turn out to be ghosts, and they need Noh's help. She is the only "realie" who can see them -- and, now that the ghosts have started to disappear, she's the only one who can save them. An enjoyable middle grade mystery with just the right touch of gentle scares.

Dancing on Grapes
Graziella Pacini Buonanno
Boyds Mills Press
815 Church St., Honesdale, Penn. 18431
9781590788332, $16.95,

It's September, time for the annual grape harvest, one of the happiest times in Tuscany. On the first day of the harvest, Claudia's aunts, uncles and cousins have come to her home to gather the grapes from the vineyard. Harvesting grapes is hard work, but Claudia knows it can be fun, too. At the end of the day, her family will celebrate with pizzas filled with ricotta cheese and sausages and olives. But the most fun of all will be what Claudia has been dreaming about all year: crushing grapes in the big tub. But the tub is on top of the cantina, and Claudia is afraid of heights. Will she muster the courage to climb the ladder to the top? "Dancing on Grapes" is a heartwarming, evocative depiction of life in rural Tuscany, based on the author's own childhood.

Little Women and Me
Lauren Baratz-Logsted
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781599905143, $16.99,

Emily is sick and tired of being a middle sister. So when she gets an assignment to describe what she'd change about a classic novel, Emily pounces on Little Women. After all, if she can't change things in her own family, maybe she can bring a little justice to the March sisters. (Kill off Beth? Have cute Laurie wind up with Amy instead of Jo? What was Louisa May Alcott thinking?!) But when Emily gets mysteriously transported into the 1860s world of the book, she discovers that righting fictional wrongs won't be easy. And after being immersed in a time and place so different from her own, it may be Emily -- not the four March sisters -- who undergoes the most surprising change of all. Lauren Baratz-Logsted's winning confection will appeal to fans of "Little Women" as well as anyone who enjoys a modern twist on an old favorite.

For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson
Peggy Thomas, Laura Jacques
Calkins Creek
815 Church St., Honesdale, PA 18431
9781590787649, $16.95,

"For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson," by author Peggy Thomas and illustrator Laura Jacques, is the first children's biography of Roger Tory Peterson, the naturalist whose work inspired the Peterson Field Guides, the definitive resources for bird lovers everywhere. The Peterson Identification System has been called the greatest invention since binoculars, and Peterson received numerous awards for science, ornithology, conservation, and even the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Thomas's biography captures Peterson from his early days as a bird-crazy boy, and brings his passion to life for budding naturalists.

The Crowfield Curse
Pat Walsh
Chicken House
c/o Scholastic
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545229227, $16.99,

If the deepest secret has been spoken, can the deadliest curse be broken? Sent into the forest to gather firewood for the medieval abbey where he's an apprentice, Will hears a cry for help, and comes upon a creature no bigger than a cat. Trapped and wounded, it's a hobgoblin, who confesses a horrible secret: Something is buried deep in the snow, just beyond the graveyard. A mythical being, doomed by an ancient curse...What does this mystery have to do with the cryptic brotherhood of monks Will serves? What does it have to do with the boy himself? When two cloaked figures darken the church's doorway and start demanding answers, Will is drawn into a dangerous world of Old Magic. "The Crowfield Curse" - one of the New York Public Library's "100 Best Books for Reading and Sharing" -- includes a timetable of daily life in the abbey, a glossary of monastic terms, and a sneak peek at the sequel "The Crowfield Demon."

The President's Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems About the Presidents
Susan Katz, Robert Neubecker
Clarion Books
251 Park Avenue South, NY, NY 10003
9780547182216, $17.99,

Playful political poems about the penchants and peccadilloes of the presidents! Sure, William Taft got stuck in his tub, but did you know that John Quincy Adams used to skinny-dip in the Potomac? Herbert Hoover spoke Chinese with his wife, and Gerald Ford had his name changed from Leslie Lynch King. It's true! In "The President's Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems About the Presidents," the blooper-filled lives of the presidents are served up as fact-filled and fanciful poems that will make you laugh, cringe, and gasp with amazement at the colorful cast of men and women who have lived in the White House. With footnotes relating the facts behind the inspiration for each poem, and a section called "Presidential Notes and Quotes" in the back, this is one hilarious history lesson that kids will elect to read over and over.

The Catastrophic History of You and Me
Jess Rothenberg
Dial Books for Young Readers
c/o Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014-3657
9780803737204, $17.99,

Brie's life ends at sixteen: Her boyfriend tells her he doesn't love her, and the news breaks her heart -- literally. But now that she's D&G (dead and gone), Brie is about to discover that love is way more complicated than she ever imagined. Back in Half Moon Bay, her family has begun to unravel. Her best friend has been keeping a secret about Jacob, the boy Brie loved and lost -- and the truth behind his shattering betrayal. And then there's Patrick, Brie's mysterious new guide and resident Lost Soul...who just might hold the key to her forever after. With Patrick's help, Brie will have to pass through the five stages of grief before she's ready to move on. But how do you begin again, when your heart is still in pieces?

Around the World in 100 Days
Gary Blackwood
Dutton Children's Books
c/o Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
9780142419632, $7.99,

Picking up where "Around the World in Eighty Days" left off, Harry Fogg, the son of Phileas Fogg, has just made a wager of his own. Harry bets that he can drive a steam-powered motorcar all the way around the world in only 100 days. Racing off with three companions, Harry undertakes a grueling journey that will pit him against flash fires, marauders, and even sabotage from within. In the tradition of the Jules Verne classic, this is historical adventure that will have young readers racing to the finish.

My Brother's Shadow
Monika Schroder
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
19 Union Square West, NY, NY 10003
9780374351229, $17.99,

As World War I draws to a close in 1918, German citizens are starving and suffering under a repressive regime. Sixteen-year-old Moritz is torn. His father died in the war and his older brother still risks his life in the trenches, but his mother does not support the patriotic cause and attends subversive socialist meetings. While his mother participates in the revolution to sweep away the monarchy, Moritz falls in love with a Jewish girl who also is a socialist. When Moritz's brother returns home a bitter, maimed war veteran, ready to blame Germany's defeat on everything but the old order, Moritz must choose between his allegiance to his dangerously radicalized brother and those who usher in the new democracy.

Killer Koalas From Outer Space
Andy Griffiths, Terry Denton
Feiwel & Friends
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312367893, $12.99,

Surprise, absurdity, and laugh-out-loud humor are the hallmarks of this New York Times-bestselling author, and in "Killer Koalas from Outer Space," Andy Griffiths offers up a collection of ridiculous stories featuring zombie kittens, rocket stealing ants, and of course, killer koalas from outer space. The book is subtitled "And Lots of Other Very Bad Stuff That Will Make Your Brain Explode!" and it's only half kidding. Gory violence? Check. Dead critters? Check. Plenty of poo jokes? Check. Dismemberment isn't normally found in young chapter books but it's just the sort of thing to get reluctant readers to step away from their video games and pick up a book. Crankypants complainers can whine all they want about it being inappropriate and lowest-common-denominator stuff, but they're missing the point. It's a cartoon that kids need to learn to read to enjoy. If they can pry it from a guffawing adult -- it's very, very funny. And that's the point.

Breaking Stalin's Nose
Eugene Yelchin
Henry Holt & Co.
115 W. 18th St., NY, NY 10011
9780805092165, $15.99,

In "Breaking Stalin's Nose," one of Horn Book Best Fiction Books of 2011, Sasha Zaichik has known the laws of the Soviet Young Pioneers since the age of six: The Young Pioneer is devoted to Comrade Stalin, the Communist Party, and Communism; a Young Pioneer is a reliable comrade and always acts according to conscience; and a Young Pioneer has a right to criticize shortcomings. But now that it is finally time to join the Young Pioneers, the day Sasha has awaited for so long, everything seems to go awry. He breaks a classmate's glasses with a snowball. He accidentally damages a bust of Stalin in the school hallway. And worst of all, his father, the best Communist he knows, was arrested just last night. This moving story of a ten-year-old boy's world shattering is masterful in its simplicity, powerful in its message, and heartbreaking in its plausibility.

The Star Shard
Frederic S. Durbin
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780547370255, $16.99,

This beautifully written fantasy tackles the issues of slavery and freedom. Twelve-year-old Cymbril is a slave on Thunder Rake, a gigantic wagon city that rolls from town to town carrying goods to be sold by its resident merchants. The Rake's master purchases a new slave, a mysterious boy named Loric who is one of the magical Fey. Because he can see in the dark, Loric's duty is to guide the Rake through the treacherous wilderness at night. Cymbril and Loric secretly join forces to plan their escape -- soon the two friends thread their way through a series of increasing dangers, encountering an enchanted market and deadly monsters as their one chance for freedom draws nearer.

The Beautiful Between
Alyssa B. Sheinmel
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
978037585473, $16.99,

If high school were a fairy-tale kingdom, Connelly Sternin would be Rapunzel, locked not in a tower by a wicked witch but in a high-rise apartment building by the SATs and college applications -- and by the secrets she keeps. Connelly's few friends think that her parents are divorced -- but they're not. Connelly's father died when she was two, and she doesn't know how. If Connelly is the Rapunzel of her school, Jeremy Cole is the crown prince, son of a great and rich New York City family. So when he sits down next to her at lunch one day, Connelly couldn't be more surprised. But Jeremy has a tragic secret of his own, and Connelly is the only one he can turn to for help. Together they form a council of two, helping each other with their homework and sharing secrets. As the pair's friendship grows, Connelly learns that it's the truth, not the secrets, that one must guard and protect. And that between friends, the truth, however harsh, is also beautiful. This lovely and memorable debut by Alyssa B. Sheinmel contains many of the hallmark themes found in young adult literature: friendship, coming of age, finding a place to belong, and overcoming the death of a loved one. Moving from start to finish, "The Beautiful Between" introduces a strong new voice to the genre.

Dark Water
Laura McNeal
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780375843303, $16.99,

Fifteen-year-old Pearl DeWitt and her mother live in Fallbrook, California, where it's sunny 340 days of the year, and where her uncle owns a grove of 900 avocado trees. Uncle Hoyt hires migrant workers regularly, but Pearl doesn't pay much attention to them . . . until Amiel. From the moment she sees him, Pearl is drawn to this boy who keeps to himself, fears being caught by la migra, and is mysteriously unable to talk. And after coming across Amiel's makeshift hut near Agua Prieta Creek, Pearl falls into a precarious friendship -- and a forbidden romance. Then the wildfires strike. Fallbrook-the town of marigolds and palms, blood oranges and sweet limes -- is threatened by the Agua Prieta fire, and a mandatory evacuation order is issued. But Pearl knows that Amiel is in the direct path of the fire, with no one to warn him, no way to get out. Slipping away from safety and her family, Pearl moves toward the dark creek, where the smoke has become air, the air smoke. Laura McNeal has crafted a beautiful and haunting novel full of peril, desperation, and love. "Dark Water" is a National Book Award finalist.

The Hunt of the Unicorn
C.C. Humpreys
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780375858727, $16.99,

Elayne thinks the old family story that one of her ancestors stepped through a tapestry into a world of mythical beasts makes a great fireside tale. But she lives in the real world -- in New York City -- and she's outgrown that kind of fantasy. Until she finds herself in front of a unicorn tapestry at the Cloisters museum and sees her initials woven into the fabric. And hears a unicorn calling to her. And slips and falls -- into that other world. Suddenly the line between fantasy and reality isn't so clear, but the danger is real enough. Almost before she can think, Elayne is attacked by a ferocious beast, rescued by a unicorn, and taken prisoner by a tyrant king. Each of them seems to have an idea about her -- that she's a hero, a villain, or dinner. But Elayne has a few ideas of her own. She wants to overthrow the king, she wants to tame the unicorn, and she wants to go home. And she's willing to become both hero and villain to do it.

Color Play: An Interactive Pop Art Book
Romero Britto
Little Simon
c/o Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Ave. of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416996224, $10.99,

Romero Britto brings the farm to life in an engaging and highly interactive new format! Children will love "coloring in" the unfinished scenes with vibrantly patterned pieces featuring Britto's bright palette. This bold, beautiful pop art book allows the reader to interact with each vibrant scene by completing Britto's art with their own choice of patterned piece. The 12 double-sided pieces are safely housed in the book's back cover and covered with a sturdy paper bellyband.

The House on Dirty-Third Street
Jo S. Kittinger
Peachtree Publishers
1700 Chattahoochee Ave., Atlanta, GA 30318-2112
9781561456192, $16.95,

When a mother and daughter find themselves starting over in a new town, the run-down house they planned to fix up doesn't feel like home. Soon, they are overwhelmed with projects and long for the old neighborhood they left behind. They realize they can't do it all on their own, so they reach out to the new community and find that they aren't as alone as they feel. As new friendships are formed and the house gets rebuilt, so does their sense of hope and belonging. Jo S. Kittinger's powerful story of revitalizing a community and believing in a dream will touch the heart of anyone who has faced starting over in difficult circumstances.

Mooshka, A Quilt Story
Julie Paschkis
Peachtree Publishers
1700 Chattahoochee Ave., Atlanta, GA 30318-2112
9781561456208, $16.95,

Karla loves Mooshka, a quilt composed of scraps of fabric from many members of Karla's family. But Mooshka is more than a quilt -- it can talk, comforting Karla at bedtime. Each square or "schnitz," tells her stories of her ancestors and their lives. When new baby sister Hannah arrives, Karla's routine is upset and Mooshka falls silent. Only when Karla shares Mooshka with her sister does the quilt begin to speak again and tell Hannah stories of Karla's early life. Author-illustrator Julie Paschkis's distinctive and beautiful artwork brings this intergenerational story to life using the bright colors of the cozy and comforting quilt.

Richelle Mead
c/o Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9781595143174, $18.99,

When Sydney is torn from her bed in the middle of the night, at first she things she's still being punished for her complicated alliance with dhampir Rose Hathaway. But what unfolds is far worse. Jill Dragomir - the sister of Moroi Queen Lissa Dragomir - is in mortal danger, and the Moroi must send her into hiding. To avoid a civil war, Sydney is called upon to act as Jill's guardian and protector, posing as her roommate in the unlikeliest of places: a human boarding school in Palm Springs, California. The last thing Sydney wants is to be accused of sympathizing with vampires. And now she has to live with one. "Twilight" fans have no shortage of suitable genre books to satisfy their bloodlust, but "Bloodlines" is worthy of their devotion.

Caragh M. O'Brien
Roaring Brook Press
c/o Millbrook Press
2 Old New Milford Rd., Brookfield, CT 06804
9781596435704, $16.99,

Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives -- only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them and a kiss is a crime. In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code. But how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole? "Prized" is the second book in the "Birthmarked" trilogy by Caragh M. O'Brien, whose book "Birthmarked" was listed on the 2011 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults List.

The Deadlies: Spiders on the Case
Kathryn Lasky
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545117319, $15.99,

Can Jo Bell spin a web big enough to catch . . . a criminal? In the latest "The Deadlies" chapter book from bestseller Kathryn Lasky, the world's friendliest spiders return to take center stage. They're sweet and friendly . . . but they just happen to be super toxic. The Deadlies are the world's most misunderstood family of spiders. Kicked out of home after home, all the Deadlies want is to settle down in a cozy web with no exterminators around. Now they've found the perfect place -- the Rare Books room at the Boston Library. The librarian isn't afraid of the Deadlies, so they can peacefully explore lots of lovely books. But their peace is threatened when a thief targets the library. Can the Deadlies spin a web big enough to catch a crook -- or is it back on the road once more?

The Haunted
Jessica Verday
Simon Pulse
c/o Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416978954, $17.99,

"The Haunted" is the dark sequel to "The Hollow." After a summer spent reclaiming her sanity and trying to forget the boy she fell in love with -- the boy who must not exist, cannot exist, because she knows that he is dead -- Abbey returns to Sleepy Hollow, ready to leave the ghosts of her past behind. She throws herself into her schoolwork, her perfume-making, and her friendship with Ben, her cute and funny lab partner, who just might be her ticket to getting over Caspian once and for all. But Abbey can never get over Caspian, and Caspian has no choice but to return to her side, for Caspian is a Shade, and Abbey is his destiny. They are tied not only to each other, but also to the town of Sleepy Hollow, and to the famous legend that binds their fates -- a legend whose dark truths they are only beginning to guess.

Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am
Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416938958, $15.99,

A soldier returns home from Iraq forever changed in this poignant and pivotal novel from award-winning authors, one a veteran; as an underage soldier in WWII, co-author Henry Mazer has firsthand experience of what it means to be a young man in the military. In "Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am," the main character lives a charmed life, effortlessly landing the lead in the high school musical, dating the prettiest girl in school. When Ben decides to enlist in the army, no one thinks he'll be in real danger. But his decision has devastating consequences: His convoy gets caught in an explosion, and Ben ends up in a coma for two months. When he wakes up, he doesn't know where he is -- or remember anything about his old life. His family and friends mourn what they see as a loss, but Ben perseveres. And as he triumphs, readers will relate to this timely novel that pairs the action and adventure of the best war stories with the emotional elements of struggle and transformation.

Pop-Out-and-Paint Horse Breeds
Cindy A. Littlefield
Storey Publishing
210 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, MA 01247
9781603429634, $12.95,

Young horse lovers can create their own herd of model paper horses with "Pop-Out-and-Paint Horse Breeds." Using a few basic craft supplies -- acrylic paints, craft glue, embroidery floss, and yarn -- kids ages 8 to 12 will spend hours applying authentic paint markings and mane and tail features to pop-out breed templates. The step-by-step photographic instructions are easy to follow. When complete, each durable model is painted on both sides, and the completed horses can stand up for play or display. From the black sheen of the majestic Friesian to the distinctive spots of the Appaloosa, horse-crazy crafters will find exciting challenges and satisfaction in creating models of their favorite horse breeds.

The Difference Between You and Me
Madeleine George
c/o Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670011285, $16.99,

Jesse cuts her own hair with a Swiss Army knife. She wears big green fisherman's boots. She's the founding (and only) member of NOLAW, the National Organization to Liberate All Weirdos. Emily wears sweaters with faux pearl buttons. She's vice president of the student council. She has a boyfriend. These two girls have nothing in common, except the passionate "private time" they share every Tuesday afternoon. Jesse wishes their relationship could be out in the open, but Emily feels she has too much to lose. When they find themselves on opposite sides of a heated school conflict, they each have to decide what's more important: what you believe in, or the one you love?

Big Turtle
David McLimans
Walker & Company
104 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10011
9780802722829, $17.99,

Breathing new life into traditional storytelling, David McLimans takes an exciting step into the world of folktales with another stunning visual feast, the followup to "Gone Wild." At the start of "Big Turtle," the world only had two parts: the animals in the lower Water World and the people above in the Sky World. When Sky Girl falls to the sea, she is saved by two beautiful swans but is unable to return to her sky home. Big Turtle suggests building a new home for Sky Girl on his great shell using earth from the bottom of the sea, so Otter, Muskrat, and Beaver each attempt to reach the ocean's bottom. Only little Toad is able to bring enough earth to the surface to place on Big Turtle's back-creating a new world between the sea and sky for Sky Girl, who becomes the Earth's first person.

Vicki Arkoff
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

The Holistic Operational Readiness Security Evaluation: Horse Project Series V1
Michael D. Peters
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781468063875 $64.95

The Holistic Operational Readiness Security Evaluation: Horse Project Series V1 is a professional tool designed to accompany the practical-minded HORSE Project Wiki online. The purpose of the HORSE Project is to provide businesses with an adaptable plan to ensure information security, particularly in the modern day and age when information technology renders corporations more susceptible to espionage than ever. From setting standards for information access (whether remote or physical), encryption, anti-virus protection, auditing, and more; to guidelines for acceptable use of email, telecomm, software, social computing and the internet; to appropriate security awareness with new hires, ongoing employees, and third parties; to meeting regulatory requirements, and much more, The Holistic Operational Readiness Security Evaluation is a user-friendly, step-by-step outline of what is needed to keep a business' most sensitive information secure. Any business with potentially valuable trade secrets or a need for privacy in its dealings should investigate The Holistic Operational Readiness Security Evaluation and its associated online wiki.

The Queen and the Handyman
Maria Tatham
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 East Trade Center Terrace
Mustang, OK 73064
9781617399725, $20.99,

The truth is a commodity that often comes with a very high price. "The Queen and the Handyman" follows Marta Happstein, who finds that the fate of her father has been a lie to her all this time, and struggles with the fact that what she knows is a lie. Setting out north, she has the pressures of royalty and cruel world of fantasy and mystery ahead her. "The Queen and the Handyman" is a read that should prove hard to put down for fantasy fans.

Baseball Between Us
Mike Luery
Privately Published
9780983274407, $17.95,

Father and son bonding can be something quite magical. "Baseball Between Us: 16 Years. #2 Ballparks. 43,000 Miles" is a memoir from Mike Luery and his son Matt, as they embark on a baseball pilgrimage to the dozens of ballparks in America, and the bond they formed over the years through a love of baseball. A moving read that with advice on forming a really strong parental bond, "Baseball Between Us" is a fine exploration of the sport and a powerful relationship, very much recommended reading.

French Hats in Iran
Heydar Radjavi
Mage Publishers
9781933823454, $30.00,

Iran is a one of a kind country, always wedged between tradition and modernity. "French Hats in Iran" is a memoir from Heydar Radjavi, an Iranian with patriotism to his people, even as he lives in Canada. He reflects on growing up in the nation in the 1940s and 50s as western influences in World War II led for a tumultuous society. Offering a rare personal view of the country and its history, "French Hats in Iran" is a core addition to any international memoir collection, enthusiastically recommended.

The Knight & The Serpent
John R. Gabourel
Privately Published
9780984134427, $12.99,

Romance can break the strongest of friendships. "The Knight & The Serpent: A Legend of Medieval Normandy" is a story following young squire Gaspard, comes to conflict over a woman with his lord, Fulk. Having to step aside due to birth, he soon finds that giving it up isn't so easy, and there is no limit to what he would do for the woman of his dreams, and the castle of the man who took her from him. "The Knight & The Serpent" is quite the spin of betrayal and romance, very much recommended reading.

Flash Bangs
Andy Underwood
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515
Parker, CO 80134
9781432783488, $15.95,

Length is not a required ingredient for a good story. "Flash Bangs: A Sparkling Array of Hundred-Word Short Stories" is a collection of short fiction from Andy Underwood who takes people into the throws tales of episodic drama at readers, charging them with all too common problems like addiction, as well as stories off the beaten path, ghosts stories, pets, and much more. "Flash Bangs" is a choice pick for fans of flash fiction, recommended.

Pals Forever
Richard L. Hamilton
Privately Published
9781467919647, $15.95,

The memories of a dear pet are like nothing else. "Pals Forever: Memoirs of a Labrador in His Own Words" is a memoir from Richard L. Hamilton who writes the memories of his beloved Labrador retriever, Spade. Written from his perspective with illustrations from Sean L. Hamilton throughout, "Pals Forever" is a choice read for those who love their pets and want to embrace the love others have had for theirs as well.

Crie de Coeur
E. Hector Garcia
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533164530, $11.95,

As we see the world and its harsh realities, it takes courage to look it in the eye and tell it what's wrong. "Crie de Coeur " is a collection of poetry from E. Hector Garcia as he reflects on the people of the world who are struggling to get by and what he has seen in his journey to try to understand it all. With poignancy and ideal, "Crie de Coeur" is well worth considering. "Pensamientos de Ultramar": The earth, the sea, the sun, the sky,/All make of my abode a lonely place./The wind encircles, the wind possesses./Then prowls and howls itself into a small crevasse./Oh, Death! Oh, Life! Oh, Joy! Oh, Sadness!/Come hold me in your claws intensely./Envelop me and take me to that clime/Where land, and sea and sky and sun/Make of each being a living soul./A soul possessed of fire, of love, of lust./A soul possessed of freedom and eternity.

Rain of Ruin
Mark Kelley
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781466470149, $15.00,

The most destructive force in the twentieth century still had paper work. "Rain of Ruin: The Stirring Account of a Young Woman's Life as a Clark for the Top Secret Manhattan Project" is a novel from Mark Kelley, telling the tale of Agnes Jenkins Flaherty, an 18 year old girl brought in for secretary work close to the Manhattan Project, seeing bits and pieces of a secret no one intends for her to see. A unique personal story with a creative backdrop, "Rain of Ruin" is a strong addition to any historical fiction collection.

Paul T. Vogel

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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