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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 6, Number 8 August 2007 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Dunford's Bookshelf Kaveny's Bookshelf
Klausner's Bookshelf Laurel's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf
Shirley's Bookshelf Taylor's Bookshelf Vicki's Bookshelf
Vogel's Bookshelf    

Cowper's Bookshelf

Mushrooms, Molds, and Miracles
Lucy Kavaler
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595436798, $22.95

First published in 1965, Mushrooms, Molds, and Miracles is a classic text exploring the true stories behind the fungi kingdom, from the potato blight that ravaged Ireland to the hallucinogenic properties of the LSD mushroom to the bread mold that produced penicillin and the truffle prized as a delicacy. Written in a conversational style accessible to readers of all backgrounds, Mushrooms, Molds, and Miracles in an amazing tour de force of the spore-filled wonders. Enthusiastically recommended for anyone even the least bit curious about these unobtrusive life forms.

He's Not Autistic But...
Tenna Merchent, M.H.
Joyous Messenger, Inc.
c/o Cate Cummings Publicity
7601 East 93rd St., Kansas City, MO 64138
9781933697000, $15.95

He's Not Autistic But... is the true-life story of mother Tenna Merchent and her struggles with recurring illnesses in her son Clay. Though seemingly born healthy, at six weeks old Clay cried for hours if not constantly nursed, he frequently became seriously ill, and at two years old he could only say a few words and was prone to bang his head for no apparent reason, among other symptoms. Some of his symptoms resembled those of autistic spectrum disorder; as a further complication, Merchent also became chronically ill. Frustration and failure in the search a cure for herself and her son drove her from traditional medicine to alternative care. At last she discovered a master herbalist who worked a virtual miracle by revealing that aluminum poisoning was a primary cause of ill health for her and her son. Common sources of aluminum in an American diet include aluminum cans, aluminum and non-stick cookware, anti-caking agent in table sugar and salt (sea salt is better), baking powder, antiperspirant, emulsifiers in some processed cheese, a bleaching agent used to whiten flour, vaccines, antacids, and others. By eliminating such products from her own and her son's daily diet and routine, Merchent prompted a remarkable change for the better. Other uncovered problems, such as numerous allergies to miscellaneous substances and parasitic infections, were also treated more effectively by changing diet and lifestyle patterns and homeopathic remedies. Though He's Not Autistic But... recognizes there is a time, a place, and a need for traditional medicine, and also acknowledges the need for some vaccines, chapters reveal how sometimes the best medicine of all is simply to take good care of oneself and be pinpoint cautious concerning which substances go into or on one's body - whether food, personal care items, or vaccinations. Highly recommended.

Take Time to See Through Children's Eyes
Harvest Resources
PO Box 22106, Seattle, WA 98122-0106
CD-Rom, $40.00

Take Time to See Through Children's Eyes is the computer software companion to the book "The Language of Art: Inquiry-Based Studio Practices in Early Childhood" and the DVD "To See Takes Time: Growing Curriculum form Children's Theories". Designed to educate young people, Take Time to See Through Children's eyes encourages viewers to explore the life of a leaf with a group of pre-school children, and listen to the children's theory-making about why leaves change color in the fall. Though there are occasional references to God reflecting spiritual traditions of the children, Take Time to See Through Children's Eyes is primarily about learning to keep an open mind and search for scientific truth. The children's explorations through discussion, debate, graphic and sculptural representations and their relationships with their families and one another are deftly narrated in a soothing female voice, to text and gorgeous color photographs as the CD-ROM plays. An excellent educational tool for teaching young people how to carefully think and learn.

Son of the Star
Janice Dietert
Lulu Press
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780615143415, $25.62

Writing and literature teacher Janice Dietert presents Son of the Star, an operatic science fiction novel set on Earth and the planet Quentas. Exiled extra-terrestrial Michael Stellan must confront the secrets of his past and his origin, supported by his guardian and mentor Will Shepherdson. and the earth woman he loves, Jan. His quest to find the crucial elements to return home and set his world on its proper path is beset by treachery, intrigue, and power-mongering. A sweeping, epic tale of a royal family's struggle to retake their rightful throne and rebuild society in the wake of enslavement, highly recommended.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

The Golf Gods
Robert Brown, author
Roger Schillerstrom, illustrator
Ann Arbor Media Group
2500 South State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
9781587264511, $24.95 1-877-722-2264

Avid golfer Robert Brown presents The Golf Gods: Who Are They, What They Want & How to Appease Them, an amusing book for golf players everywhere who are willing to acknowledge a bit of divine influence in the curve of their slice, the hunger of the sand trap, or the veer of a critical putt. Chapters cover a diverse, original pantheon of golf gods, from Sarah Winston, goddess of beginning women golfers, to Minerv, golf god of dishonor. Written with tongue-in-cheek humor, and illustrated with amusing drawings by award-winning editorial cartoonist for "GolfWeek Magazine" Roger Schillerstrom, The Golf Gods is an excellent giftbook for any avid golfer who appreciates quick wit.

Jade Phoenix
Syd Goldsmith
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
PO Box 46-195, Taipei, Taiwan 10499
9780595375493, $19.95

Diplomat and New Voices in Literature Award finalist Syd Goldsmith presents Jade Phoenix, a novel set in America and Taiwan during the turbulent 1970s. Taiwanese millionaire Ko-sa Ong and his best friend Nick Malter have a long history together, cemented by their mutual hatred of Chiang Kai-shek and the American Secretary of State who steadfastly denies to recognize Taiwan as a country. Yet their bond for each other becomes brittle in the presence of the beautiful woman Jade Phoenix. A passionate novel of culture in turmoil, loyalties put to the test, and love so strong it transcends the limits of life itself, Jade Phoenix entrances and compels the reader up to the final page.

The Vagabond Healer
James R. Olson
Publish America
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
1424169380, $19.95

The Vagabond Healer is a thoughtful novel about a young vagabond with a unique spiritual gift - the power to cure sickness through his touch. Yet when he taps into his power, he gains a momentary glimpse of the depths of his subject's soul, including their deepest secrets and fears. When he meets Lisa Bennet, he discovers a reason to stop running, yet her father Ernest Bennett has received Eddy's healing and is aware that Eddy knows of the darkness in his past. To protect his secrets, Ernest decides to eliminate Eddy, and anyone else who may know. At times contemplative of divine mystery, at times crushing in its exploration of human ruthlessness, The Vagabond Healer is an unforgettable read cover to cover.

D. A. McCall
Trafford Publishing
2333 Government Street, Suite 6E, Victoria, BC, Canada, V8T 4P4
9781425115364, $17.75 1-888-232-4444

Absolutely not to be confused with the children's picturebook series featuring a big red dog, Clifford is a gritty novel about teenage life without direction or guidance. When the unfettered Floyd and Marsha encounter the homeless Clifford on a road trip, they offer him a ride. Fortunately, they have not invited a psychotic murderer to join them; unfortunately, their own aimless bordering on self-destructive tendencies just might have a comparable effect of their lives. Clifford finds himself increasingly intrigued by Marsha and her utter lack of inhibition, and is gratified to be permitted to stay at her home... yet adjusting to a new way of life with a woman who isn't exactly stable has its own set of challenges, leading up to a potentially life-changing party. Clifford is not a novel that moralizes or preaches; rather, its themes provoke the reader to draw conclusions for himself or herself about whether those on the margins of society are capable of finding inroads back into their graces - or whether they should even want to.

Michael Dunford

Kaveny's Bookshelf

Hi folks. I am back with again this month with Kaveny's Bookshelf. It's about a guilty pleasure which I don't feel the least bit guilty about. To explain what I meant by a guilty pleasure, I turn to one of the greatest minds in the 20th Century, C.S. Lewis, as he presents the concept in the [ABRIDGED] [AUDIOBOOK] version of

The Screwtape Letters
C.S. Lewis, author
John Clese, narrator
Audio Literature
ISBN 094499315X $24.95

read by the wonderful English actor of Monty Python fame John Clese.

The Screwtape Letters was originally made as a series of World War II wartime radio broadcasts for the BBC. It was written and read by C.S Lewis sixty-five years ago, in 1942, when London, and to an extent Oxford, experienced the horror of the Nazi Blitz. The Screwtape Letters is a dramatized and fictionalized correspondence between the senior demon (uncle Screwtape), and his apprentice demon nephew (Wormwood). Wormwood is in the process of leaning how to snare souls for their father below. In the letters, Screwtape issues instructions, in the form of a series of letters, which Wormwood mostly fails to carry out. Yet under it all The Screwtape Letters address the deepest foundational questions of religious studies and modern and postmodern philosophy, two fields which I have devoted my lifetime to study.

The reason this is true is that great philosophical questions need the language of an artist to articulate them in human terms. Sadly much of what I study is written with an almost anti-human coldness, lacking Lewis' warmth, humanity and artistry.

Perhaps one of the best aspects of The Screwtape Letters is that Lewis encourages us to not feel so horrible about our little guiltily, modest, human pleasures. Further, we should not necessarily feel despair about what we are as opposed to what we think we should be. By extension despair itself is not ever a guilty pleasure but in fact kills the soul. Many years ago there was a French movie by that title, but I won't go there.

However, this month's Kaveny's Bookshelf is not about my lifetime of study. Rather it is about the confluence of a number of my guilty pleasures which led me to buy three brand new books at retail price. It all started with National and Wisconsin Public Radio, both of which I listen to while I go about my morning and afternoon business as a public sphere intellectual, hitting the coffee house circuit here in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, in our cream, air-conditioned, 2004 PT Cruiser -- of course with the air conditioner running.

Excuse me if I break out of character for a moment as a public sphere intellectual and mention for all you aging motor heads that our cream, air-conditioned, 2004 PT Cruiser can do 0 to 60 MPH in less than eleven seconds. This means it performs quite a bit like the small block 1955-1956 Chevy V8 265 and 283. If you don't know what I am talking about, here don't even ask. If you do, then you really miss your 1955 Chevy, and the America it symbolized.

As a result of three shows I listened to on Wisconsin or National Public Radio I have purchased three books for review brand new, directly from I would add that this is a really big deal for me. It is such a big deal that it has astounded my wife that I would buy anything retail – since I won't even buy socks that way. And the books are: Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War (Crown 2007); The World without Us (St. Martins, 2007) and IQ: A Smart History of a Failed Idea (Wiley, 2007), but more about those later.

I would add that over the last thirty years I have owned and operated a small and not very profitable book business. Throughout those three decades I have always held as an article of my faith that I never buy books retail. Rather, I get them wholesale from a distributor or as review copies from a publisher. However, I seem to have undergone some sort of religious conversion which allows me to go against my values and actually buy new books retail. I guess it is because these public radio, author interview, talk shows make some of them so interesting that I had to order them from Amazon and have them in two days so that I can be part of the conversation I was listening to, in our cream, air-conditioned, 2004 PT Cruiser -- with the air conditioner running.

The way that I am part of the conversation is that because I am retired I can drive to a number of different coffee house venues in Eau Claire and start reading the books I just bought. Since I am a semi-public figure up here in this neck of the woods other customers often engage me and ask me about what I am reading. As I explain to them about the book and why I parted with my hard earned retirement earnings, and even went against thirty years of business practice, their eyes sort of light up, if they are the right kind of people.

You might ask aren't you being a bit elitist by talking about the right kind of people? Yes I would answer if you think as I do that the right kind of person is one who would rather miss dinner than not buy a really interesting non-fiction book. Okay if you are a Harry Potter fan the same thing goes for you too. However, as my Journalist father Edward T. Kaveny 1898-1985 said, "There is no accounting for taste."

On the other hand I have rather well healed friends, who, if they wished, could almost fill their large houses with books. However they never do buy books. As a matter of fact they usually tell me almost angrily that the will wait and get the book I am reading for free from their library, but they don't. I know, remember, I am a bookseller—and yes I do feel superior to people who can but don't buy books, and I feel superior to myself not too many months ago.

But enough about me and on to the three books I ordered from Amazon after each of the Public Radio author interviews I listened to.

Let's start with the July16, 2007 Wisconsin Public Radio 8: 00 AM morning show with Joy Cardin interviewing: Joe Bageant, author of:

Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War
Joe Bageant
9780307339362 $25.00 288 pages

What was it about that interview which actually made me decide to give up two very nice lunches at The Grand Café here in Eau Claire for two days of "I will just have coffee and a bagel please?"

Well, to make it simple, Joe Bageant has written a book about the people from his home town, Winchester, Virginia. He writes about his people, the white working poor, who vote Republican even though the Republican's care nothing about them. It is about families where both partners work full time at horrible jobs and make less than $35,000, have no heath insurance and think they are middle class.

Further, Joe Bageant argues that these folks are his people and have almost a three hundred year history in this country. They are Scots-Irish "Border Scots," and they have been in this country since before the revolution. Their wives would be qualified to join the D.A.R (The Daughters of the American Revolution), if they were not working double shifts to hang onto their trailer homes, and avoid Medical Bankruptcy, and maybe a few extra hours picking up a shift washing dishes at the country club.

Joe Bageant is about sixty, and from the photo on the dust jacket of his book and his website, he looks like a horse that has been ridden hard and put away wet. He has worked as a journalist and he is one of them. They are the people who have been forgotten by the Democratic Party. These are the folks that are pro-gun, anti-choice, anti-immigration, and have lost what ever hope of decent manufacturing job as all the decent, manufacturing jobs have hemorrhaged offshore. These are the uneducated Americans, mostly white, who are doing the jobs, like working in a rendering plant, or slaughter house, right next to illegal immigrants. They are doing the jobs that a lot of liberals claim Americans won't do. They are working right next to illegal immigrants doing the same kind of work for the same money.

Joe Bageant points out that these are the people who do not choose between food and books, as I have so cavalierly done. They must choose between food, medicine, house payments and bankruptcy, eviction, and homelessness. That is to say they are white, small town, blue collar, red state, Republicans. He argues that the case for his home town Winchester, Virginia, is also they case for the rest of small town working class America. From my standpoint it also looks a lot more like Eau Claire than anybody who works in a profession or for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire would care to admit.

Joe Bageant stands out, as he would put it, because of the historical accident of L.B.J.'s "War on Poverty", and "The Great Society". Without those programs and the education they got him Joe Bageant would simply be one of them, working for $ 9.00 hour at the Rubber Maid plant. No, he is one of them but with a voice as subtle and articulate as Noam Chomsky. Joe Bageant speaks for those who have no voice. So what is to happen to his people? Read his book and find out. I would add one last thing. It is a very funny book and Joe Bageant is a very literate man who loves and is one of the people he writes about.

The second book I ordered was featured on the July16, 2007 Wisconsin Public Radio show "Here on Earth" hosted by twenty-five veteran of Wisconsin Public Radio, Jean Feraca, as she interviewed Alan Weisman, the author of:

The World Without Us
Alan Weisman
Thomas Dunne Books
St Martin Press
9780312347291 $24.95 320 pages

The show itself was one of the best produced radio shows I have listened to in my life. That's saying something because I am sixty-three years old and have been listening to Wisconsin Public Radio since before I could read, and long before it was Wisconsin Public Radio. Time and space do not permit to a very close reading of the book. I will leave that to the reader.

However, what Alan Weisman does is help us to envision what the world will look like after humans are no longer a part of it by taking the work of world-expert scientists and weaving it into his nineteen-chapter topical narrative. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of his book is his describing how things will break down as in Chapter Three "The City Without Us". Here he really shows us how much effort it takes for example to keep the New York subways from flooding, which would in fact lead, in not too many centuries, to the great buildings collapsing in on them like some kind of concrete forest.

What I liked best about the book is that it was human in its approach even when it is dealing with a world without humans. This is because Alan Weisman introduces us to the experts in the areas he is working on. For example in Chapter Six "The Lost Menagerie," he describes the background of Dr. Paul Martin who for the last half century has been working on the Blitzkrieg Theory of large mammal extinction. This theory (which I first read about in Scientific American thirty years ago), attributes the disappearance of all of the extremely large New World mammals of North and South America to systematic human hunting. This took place after humans came across the land bridge that existed at the end of the last ice age. What Alan Weisman does really is put a human face on the abstract science and ecology which is really one of the most coldly methodical of any of the life sciences. I will close by saying that I thought the book would have difficulty living up to the movie "An Inconvenient Truth," but it did and I am delighted. He does the kind of science writing which is both informed accessible, and articulate.

The last book I bought is

IQ: A Smart History of a Failed Idea
Stephen Murdoch
9780471699774 $24.95 288 pages

which I heard about on the June 21, 2007 edition of the NPR program "On Point" hosted by Tom Ashbrook

Upon finishing Murdoch's Smart History of a Failed Idea I was amazed at how much of our 20th century life was shaped by a kind of grim and at the same time almost irrational necessity. A grim and irrational necessity grounded in a kind of dark fear about the menace that some policy makers and people who hide behind a veil of cold hard enlightenment rationalism to exclude with IQs below a certain level from full participation in, and full responsibilities to, both American and European society. Stephen Murdoch is a journalist who has done his historical pick and shovel work which should make him the envy of any publication or instructional historian.

Stephen Murdoch is not against the concept of testing as an assessment tool, as a matter of fact he feels in some ways that it is the best of a number of very bad systems that preceded it. Perhaps the most compelling statement he made in A Smart History of a Failed Idea, both in the book and during the interview with Tom Ashbrook was something to this effect:

"It amazing to me how many lifetime, high-stakes outcomes are based on such faulty and archaic instruments as the IQ test."

Perhaps best thing about Stephen Murdoch is his tone which is highly interested, and at the same time laid back. He finds it just so interesting that so such many of today's IQ tests are still based on a number of decisions that a hand full of men made in a smoky little hotel room in New Jersey right before America entered WW I, in the spring of 1917. These decisions, in light of our 21st century understanding, seem ludicrous at best, and monstrously discriminating at worse.

Well folks that's all for this month's Kaveny's Bookshelf. I hope I a least encouraged you to be part of the conversation. A conversation which I will take up again tomorrow morning. I will be doing this after I drop my wife of at work, which is The University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. Jan is head of Library collections, a full professor teaching Women's Studies, and upper level English courses. When Jan has time she contributes to Midwest Book Review as its international editor.

One last thing. I just forked over thirty-eight bucks and some change to fill the twelve gallon gas tank in or cream, air-conditioned, 2004 PT Cruiser which it turns out gets about 13 miles per gallon in the city with the air-conditioner running. So it looks like for the rest of the month its going to be:

"Just coffee and a bagel please."

Guilty little pleasures may be harmless, but they are not free. They do have price tags. I wonder if I will get in trouble at the Acoustic Café here in Eau Clare if I bring in my own cream cheese, in order to stretch that retirement income which is now going up in smoke as it goes out our tailpipe. By the way, in 1956 a buck's worth of gas was three gallons and that took you a long way in a 1955 Chevy.

Philip Kaveny
Senior Reviewer

Klausner's Bookshelf

Life Blood
Penny Rudolph
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590583463 $24.95 1-800-421-3976

Rachel Chavez lives over the downtown Los Angeles parking garage she owns. Rachel becomes upset when she finds two young Mexican children locked inside a van parked in her garage.

Stunned, she gets the kids out of the vehicle and rushes them to Jefferson Hospital. However, she is informed one died while the other one who is badly dehydrated clings to life and will remain at the hospital. The next day, Rachel returns to Jefferson to see how the survivor is doing only to learn there is no record of either child. While the hospital administration wants Rachel to leave, the shocked woman ignores them and begins a search for the still living child who has vanished somewhere in the endless corridors of Jefferson.

The latest "blood" suspense thriller (see THICKER THAN BLOOD) is an entertaining tale as Rachel and two of her buds search the labyrinth known as Jefferson Hospital in search of the missing surviving child. The story line is fast-paced although somewhat seemingly implausible as the trio of females run across other nefarious secrets hidden by the hospital as if the quest itself is not enough to fill the story line. Still fans will care for Rachel and her cohorts to rescue the child, but they wonder form what.

Lisa Childs
Silhouette Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373617692 $5.25

She lives on the street using drugs and alcohol as substances to block out the voices of the sisters that she is not sure are real and the mother who was killed as a witch. She hides from the murderer who is looking for her who intends for her to die in order to absorb her power. These are not part of Irina's psychosis. She, Ariel, and Elena are witches who see the dead and witness the future.

Donovan Rourke searches for Irina because he wants her charm before he kills her. However, she does not recall where she left it. Ariel and Elena seek to reunite with her so that together they can hunt their stalking killer. Their friend suspended police officer Ty McIntyre finds Irina and guards her as she lacks her charm; he learns he does not have to be abusive like his father as Irina brings out his best qualities, which is good because a confrontation is coming and they need peace within themselves if they want to eliminate the enemy.

DAMNED is an exciting urban romantic fantasy that will appeal to readers of both genres. This bewitching tale centers on two downtrodden people who find each other at a time when each has a personal crisis although in Irina's case hers is deadly. There is plenty of action as Donovan tries to kill Irina while Ty tries to keep her safe. The changing relationship between Irina and Ty enhance an exhilarating thriller in which love might not prove strong enough to defeat evil.

Familiar Stranger
Michele Hauf
Silhouette Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373617685 $5.25

When he was a child, Jack Harris received a glass gazing ball filled with magic; next he saw a cat turn into a pregnant woman who was about to be killed by a demon. Finally he threw the ball at the demon saving the woman.

Twenty-four years later he works in M-15. Recently a demon murdered his partner; Jack stopped believing demons existed years ago; now he knows first hand the truth. He is recruited by P-Cell, a division of M-15, to kill demons. While on a hunt, he meets Mersey Banes, a demon hunter too. However, unlike Jack she incarcerates them instead of slaying them as her organization, the Cadre, wants to know what and why this species is crossing into the human plane. They agree about many things, but neither wants to admit how much they care about the other although Jack feels queasy when he learns Mercy is a familiar, a bridge that enables the demons to enter our world and can shapeshift into a cat. One demon has dark plans for Jack and Mercy; however, each of his chosen ones is willing to give up eternity for the other to live.

This superb romantic urban fantasy will remind readers of a paranormal modernization of the "Gift of the Magi" as the lead couple is ready to sacrifice what they hold dear so that the other lives. Michele Hauf has an inventive take on demons in which some are good and others are evil. There are many interesting characters who should have their own story, but FAMILIAR STRANGER is owned by the lead couple.

In Between
Jenny B. Jones
Think (Navpress)
PO Box 35001, Colorado Springs, CO 80935
9781600060984 $12.99 1-800-366-7788

Sixteen years old Katie understands that she is an orphan of sorts as she has never met her dead beat dad and now her mom is a guest of the State of Texas; for that matter Katie is also a guest of the Lone Star State as she is a ward of the Texas government living in the apropos named Sunny Haven Home for Girls until she was dumped on some foster parents in aptly named In Between, Texas.

Her foster parents James and Millie Scott treat her nicely, but Katie has an issue with them. She needs to know their motive for taking someone like her into their home especially since his full name is senior Pastor James of the In Between Community Church. However, she refuses to ask as she knows from the whispered warnings of her bunk mates at Sunny Haven that she will not stay here very long; the foster home system stores undesirables for short times. However, as Katie works on fulfilling the prophecy, the Scotts continue to nurture her as if she is an angel not a devil. Katie begins to accept the shocker that they genuinely care about her while the Scots realize that their ward is teaching them about life amongst the forgotten downtrodden.

This often amusing, but always poignant contemporary tale makes a strong case that it takes dedicated caring villagers to raise a child. The cast is strong as readers will empathize with Katie's understanding of her world as defined by her throwaway peers and the need for the Scotts to help her. The support characters enhance this fine story as the audience along with these secondary players and the Scotts learn how a foster child follows the money while doing the parenting shuffle.

True Light
Terri Blackstock
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310257691 $14.99 1-800-727-1309

In May a supernova started emitting electromagnetic pulses which reached earth and shorted out everything electrical. In one day, mankind was thrust back into a pre electrical age. Housing developments like OakHollow banded together trading goods and services in an effort to survive and eventually the federal government conscripted mechanics, electricians, and scientists to create by hand radiation hardened material.

Evil still exists as is evidenced by the shooting of Zach Emory. The people of OakHollow blame Mark Green because his father was a convicted murderer and his brothers were also involved with pornography, stolen goods and murder. Two teens testified that Mark was in the area where Zach was shot even though he claims he was closer to town in another hunting area. He is arrested but during a jail break guards are killed and the sheriff critically wounded. Mark doesn't go with the escapees but is released. He wants to prove his innocence and with the love of his life Deni Branning, a relentless reporter, they attempt to do just that although and the killers are closer than they know to them.

This is the third Restoration novel and this is the best book in the series to date. Each novel is built upon the previous one so the readers get to see the event, and the progress man makes in coping with it, but it also behooves the audience to read the previous thrillers (see LAST LIGHT and NIGHT LIGHT). Readers ascertain the practical necessity is the mother of invention treatise as how new ideas find practical uses in a society used to electricity and the luxuries that came with it. The great mystery enhances a fine tale as Terri Blackstock slowly reveals each clue so that readers feel they have a chance of finding out who the shooter is before the lead duo might identify the culprit.

Something Bad
Richard Satterlie
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
9781933836133 $6.99

In 1982 in Boyston, Tri County, preadolescent Gabe Petersen enjoys stopping at the Catholic Church to confess to Father Costello although the lad is Lutheran. However, this time he witnesses a strange little man pulling out dead animals from a bag and placing them at the alter while Father stands nearby in a daze. Thibideaux notices Gabe; his Organization will not allow him to directly kill an innocent especially a child so he insures the kid forgets everything he observes.

In 2007, Thibideaux returns to the Tri-county area with rumors he is investigating the region for a possible interstate connector. When weird accidental deaths of families begin to occur with one under five years old survivor in each incident, Gabe begins to think Thibideaux is behind this somehow and starts to remember what happened twenty-five years ago. To obtain the truth and defeat the little man, he must travel outside the tri-County to Chicago to see catatonic Father Costello but Gabe has never been able to leave the area as he suffers horrific panic attacks. When the threat turns towards pregnant Deena Lee, Gabe knows he must overcome all his "phobias" for he will not allow anyone to harm the woman he loves.

SOMETHING BAD has come back to Boyston is an enticing thriller that will have the audience pondering how Thibideaux accomplishes his deeds and just who is the Organization that does not allow direct murder, but accepts indirect homicides. The story line is fast-paced with fascinating subplots like Gabe's attraction to the married pregnant Deena Lee and the trio investigating Thibideaux. Although the Organization is not explained much beyond some field rules for its "recruiters", fans will appreciate Richard Satterlie's entertaining suspense filled tale.

Romancing the West
Beth Ciotta
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
9781932815924 $6.99

In 1878 in California, librarian Emily McBride lives a double life as a prim and proper preacher's daughter and as the author of somewhat heated romantic adventures. However, she is somewhat ashamed that she loves writing these tales. That is until someone apparently knows about her clandestine vocation and threatens to expose her. Emily worries how her parents, especially her father will react and even worse, her new friend, a literary poet, who would find her novels distasteful

President Hayes established his top secret pet project The Peacemaker Alliance (PMA) to bring law and order to the Wild West. PMA Acting Director Athens Garrett hires lawman Seth Wright to enforce the law by bringing outlaws to justice. However he is stunned and a bit chagrined when his boss assigns him to deliver his proposal to Emily in Napa Valley, and when she accepts bring her to him so he can marry her. Still Seth does the job only to find the bride thinks he is a poet and confesses to him that she is doing some illicit activity. Seth wants to escape this obvious staid lunatic until he finds suitors hounding her. He goes undercover as a dandy poet to insure Emily is safe but also to not ruin her reputation because he is falling in love with the book nut.

ROMANCING THE WEST is an entertaining late nineteenth century romance starring two likable seemingly opposites and an eccentric support cast. Emily is a terrific character whose "steamy" novels embarrass her yet she enjoys writing them; those books showcase how far society has changed with the modern day romance novels. Seth is a courageous soul who throughout wonders if becoming a PMA agent is his thing as first the bride escort assignment, then undercover as a poet, and finally falling in love with an author. Fans will enjoy his courtship.

Secrets 20
Amber Green, Dominique Sinclair, Leigh Wyndfield, Charlotte Featherstone
Red Sage
9781603100007 $12.99

"The Subject" by Amber Green. Game designer Tyler was on the verge of making millions, but instead she is on the run with someone wanting her dead. The mysterious shapeshifting Esau seems to show up every time she needs him, but can she trust him with her heart and her life?

"A Woman's Pleasure," by Charlotte Featherstone. Victorian Lady Isabelle has always done what society expects of someone of her station. Now that she given birth to the heir and the spare, she wants freedom. When she meets half-breed outcast Julian, Isabelle thinks he is too young for her and perhaps too exotic with his Turkish heritage, but on the other hand perhaps a taste of him would do no harm.

"Surrender" by Dominique Sinclair. Department of International Crime undercover Agent Madeline investigates Sebastian and the other Maioccos family members. However, she finds a need to go under the cover with Sebastian who makes her forget her mission with his kisses.

"Stasis" by Leigh Wyndfield. Morgan finds her commanding officer Osborn under the influence of the drug stasis that turns people into living statues for about ten days. Morgan plans to take care of her C.O. especially keeping him clean.

Usually this reviewer dislikes mixing of genres, but Secrets seems to do this successfully as evident by the range from paranormal shape shifting to sci fi to Victorian historical to suspense. All have in common strong protagonists and delightful story lines that are fun, exciting, and hot as the tradition of excellence continues with the twentieth edition.

Secrets Vol 19
Elisa Adams, Kathleen Scott, R. Ellen Ferare & Saskia Walker
Red Sage
978075451694 $12.99

"Affliction" by Elise Adams. Shane asks Holly what does his friend Andrew offer her that he does not. She says stability and safety; he says boredom as he begins to understand she fears the fantasies he brings out in her without revealing his most inner secret though the attacks on her make that difficult.

"Falling Stars" by Kathleen Scott. Primon Kingdom needs the alliance so they send Daria as a royal daughter to marry General Kristiano Raven. She does her duty but fears will never live up to his previous betrothal her late sister Lessia. He hides how much he desires Daria and even pretends indifference until a threat endangers both worlds.

"Toys in the Attic" by E. Ellen Ferare. Her friend Rachel asks Gabrielle to check out a vacation place in Santa Cruz for her. She does and asks for the special attic as Rachel told her to do. The place is dumpy and the rain makes it worse except for the naked statue that comes to life, Gavin the cursed hunk who gives her the best orgasm of her life.

These four speculative romances run the gamut from supernatural to fantasy to sci fi to time travel with each containing strong erotic story lines and powerful fully developed lead couples. Fans will appreciate the latest SECRETS anthology as these novellas make for an entertaining read.

Design Flaws of the Human Condition
Paul Schmidtberger
Broadway Books
1745 Broadway, New York, NY, 10036
9780767926751 $12.95 1-800-726-0600

During an overcrowded plane flight, an incident sends Iris Steegers into a berserker rage. She is ordered to attend an anger management seminar or face stronger consequences. Upset over her behavior especially how easily she fell apart though somewhat justified, Iris also thinks her boyfriend Jeremy Eberle is cheating on her.

Proofreader Ken Connelly is fired from his job at a law firm; he comes home early despondent only to find his lover Brett Manikin in bed with another man. Angry, he defaces library books with comments about Brett, but is caught. He must attend an anger management class.

Ken and Iris sit next to one another at the anger management class hosted at Manhattan's West Side Y. They become friends and agree to conduct undercover surveillance of their respective lovers as she expects he will affirm that Jeremy has a side squeeze and he anticipates that she will prove that Brett is depressed but still a cheat.

This illogical and slightly flawed but entertaining contemporary drama digs deep into what is happiness and friendship and how they are key elements in a relationship. The two prime protagonists and their lovers come across as genuine people even when they perform over the top espionage. Lighthearted with a touch of hyperbole, DESIGN FLAWS OF THE HUMAN CONDITION provides readers with an amusing look at how we get along.

Firefly Island
Daniel Arenson
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594146015 $25.95 1-800-223-1244

In Stonefort, King Sinther lives underground where he is using his magic to turn his skin to stone so knives and arrows can't harm him. Also living in Stonefort is six year old Aeolia, dearly loved by her eleven year old brother Joren. Both are horrified when their drunken father sells her to an ogre as a slave; she is taken to his home in the Beastlands. A decade passes and she is still a slave when Prince Lale of Stonefort comes to her because she is the Firechild who can not only link minds with someone but also link senses.

Sinther fears her which is why his son wants her dead because she is the only one who can kill his father. She escapes and meets Talin, who has a killing grudge against Lale but agrees to accompany her. She escapes to the Forestfolk where they meet Taya also a Firefly but can change into any shape she wishes. She and a group of warrior shifters agree to help them catch Lale but a cruel betrayal causes them to be captured. Aeolia and Talin escape and after much travel and adventuring learn the truth about her; she must fulfill her role if there is to be peace to the island and its fire kingdoms.

Readers who like a sword and sorcery fantasy will find FIREFLY ISLAND a fascinating and enthralling story. Several characters' stories run concurrently and the audience will understand what motivates all of them and yet it is easy to follow. Aeolia is the catalyst who makes thinks happen and others react to her and her power. Compared to her Talin is a gentle soul, who loves his 'Lia' and follows her wherever she must go.

Outlaw Hearts
Diane Amos
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594145704 $26.95 1-800-223-1244

In England Bekah Benson has possessed half of medallion that once belonged to her missionary parents who worked amidst the Abenaki tribe in Maine. In 1868, the now twenty-four years old Bekah believes that the entire medallion will lead to a treasure so she crosses the Atlantic seeking the other half.

In Londonderry, New Hampshire, Bekah meets the other half as the medallion resides around the neck of gambler Zachariah Thompson. However, there is a slight problem as Zachariah is sentenced to be hanged for killing a man. He swears to her he is innocent and will giver the medallion if she gets him out of jail. Bekah agrees and to his amazement succeeds albeit with some urchin assistance. Instead of just leaving her with his half as he promised, Zachariah joins Bekah on her quest, but the naive American and the cynical card player learn what the greatest treasure of all is, love.

Although most readers will have difficulty accepting any relationship between the lead couple as she is gentle and law abiding while he is a consummate con artist convicted of murder. Still fans will enjoy their teaming up as they search for a lost treasure that might not exist. Reconstruction Era romance readers will appreciate this fun tale filled with an interesting twist as Bekah and Zachariah learn what a treasure truly is.

The Landlord's Black-Eyed Daughter
Mary Ellen Dennis
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594145759 $26.95 1-800-223-1244

In 1787 "Knights of the Road" highwayman John Randolph "Rand" Remington and gothic romance writer Elizabeth Wyndham meet in London for what both believes is the first time, but each swears they met before, but not know where or when. Rand wonders if somehow they are fated for another, but fears he offers Elizabeth nothing but heartache even as he begins to think the when is in a previous lifetime back in the thirteenth century.

Elizabeth realizes that before she met Rand, the hero of her latest romance is a morphed version of him who was a genuine thirteenth century knight who died in combat. She has problems understanding how either came to her let alone how they consolidated.. Meanwhile, Lord Walter Stafford demands Elizabeth accept his suit; instead she picks Rand. Outraged by the affront an abashed Stafford insures the pair end up in Newgate awaiting the hanging of Rand to the humiliation of Elizabeth.

This entertaining Georgian romance stars a post American Revolution Robin Hood with an author who seems as if she time traveled from the twenty-first century, which she did not. Still the story line is fast-paced and filled with an interesting seemingly reincarnation twist that freshens up the tale. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this delightful tale as history appears ready to repeat itself for this star-crossed couple unless she writes the most passionate pleading words of her life to persuade King George to pardon her Rand.

Lucinda's Summer Vacation
Elizabeth Fackler
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594145506 $25.95 1-800-223-1244

Lucinda drives up to Salado, New Mexico to be with her lover Devon before her daughter Amy joins them. They live in separate homes because Devon is a fugitive, having committed murder and she doesn't feel that a lasting commitment between them is possible even though she loves him dearly. Often making love, Devon steps out of the house at 3:00 a.m. to see his neighbor widow Natalie Wieland; but when he gets there, he finds her dead body brutally slashed.

Lucinda wakes up and through her tears realize Devon and Natalie were lovers. She can't complain because neither promised the other exclusivity. When Amy hears what happened, she comes up to lend her support and discovers that the chief of police thinks that all of them could have committed the killing. Lucinda's motive was jealous; Amy's was protecting her mother; while Devon was afraid Natalie would tell Lucinda about their affair. Devon inserts herself into the murder investigation to clear his name and discovers that Natalie had to have other lovers including the sheriff and her brother in law, but struggles with a better motive than those pinned on him and his female guests.

This romantic suspense tale is full of action and interesting sub-plots that gives the reader other likely suspects, who had viable motives but the investigation centers on figuring out who had the incentive to kill. Lucinda is brave woman to love a fugitive knowing she will eventually lose him and her daughter is an amazing person who can accept what he did and love him. Readers will admire Elizabeth Fackler's ability to tell a credible sleuth story.

The Accidental Sleuth
Helen Macie Osterman
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594145810 $25.50 1-800-223-1244

Sixty year old Emma Winberry has been living in her town condominium for the last four months after selling her home and she has never been happier. Nate Sandler adores Emma even if he isn't quite sure he believes in her sixth sense and her Guardian Angel. When new neighbors move in next door, she meets Laura Evans a frightened woman and teenage anorexic looking Teresa who is devoted to her aunt. The husband is rarely seen but Emma gets the impression he is a brute who abuses the women in his life. She fears that something that will happen to Teresa and it does.

Something horrific happens to Emma when she is mistakenly snatched by two thugs who leave her tied up in an old apartment house to die. She breaks free of her bonds with the help of her Gardian Angel and a homeless man who is living in the abandoned building saves her. Jake persuades Minnie to come forward to give back what she took from a man that was killed. While helping Minnie and Jake, the homeless man who found and helped her get medical attention after she escaped from the kidnappers, she finds herself in danger from hoodlums seeking her neighbors; Emma vows to keep them safe even if it means carrying a gun.

Emma is strong, independent and willing to help others. This makes her the perfect role model for women to emulate. Although there is no blood and gore and the murder happens before the book begins, this is a delightful sometimes humorous cozy. The secondary characters of Minnie and Jake, two homeless but not helpless people are as important as the heroine because they enhance the plot with depth especially enabling the audience to better understand what motivates Emma.

Mercedes Lambert
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594145889 $25.95 1-800-223-1244

Los Angeles attorney Whitney Logan has allowed her need for alcohol to dull her constant depression and somewhat derail her professional career. Still she tries to do her best by her clients. However, her latest, court-appointed client for her to defend, Tony Red Wolf, is so churlish, Whitney would like to find him another attorney even if he is handsome.

She gets him out of jail on bail, but that same night he asks her to meet him. Reluctantly she does only to have Tony show her the battered bludgeoned corpse of a girlfriend of his; he swears he did not kill her. Although she has doubts about his plea of innocence and deeper trepidation whether she can handle a homicide defense, which in turns spirals her dark personal feelings to even greater levels, Logan begins making inquiries into the L.A. based Native American culture.

The depressing Whitney is a refreshing protagonist as her dark world is very vividly described yet interwoven throughout this exciting legal thriller. The story line is fast-paced, filled with twists and provides insight into the Native American community living in Los Angeles, but as with Logan's two previous tales (see SOULTOWN and DOGTOWN), the tale is owned by the tough yet vulnerable heroine. In an opening appreciation by Michael Connolly, readers learn that Mercedes Lambert was the pseudonym of Douglas Anne Munson who passed away in 2003; her urban noir legal thrillers pay homage to her skills and it is so fitting that the final sentence to this superb novel is "Farewell my lovely".

Death Under the Dryer
Simon Brett
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594146312 $25.95 1-800-223-1244

In Fethering, England Carole Seddon decides she needs a bit cut off from her hair so she enters Connie's Clip Joint in spite of her trepidations about allowing a local to come near her ears with a scissor. However, she takes a chance because Carole just wants a bit of a snip not a change in her style. To her regret, she finds the corpse of clip joint employee Kyra strangled by a garrote in the salon's back room with evidence that a sexual encounter occurred also.

Thus the Littlehampton police station major crime detectives assume Kyra's kept secret boyfriend (until now), Nathan killed her. Carole assumes that the cops she met are boobs so they need her London based Home office expert assistance on the investigation. She and her reluctant partner Jude make inquiries that annoy the local police as she keeps interfering with their inquiry.

The police procedural is well written and cleverly designed as is the private investigation by Carole and Jude. However, what makes Simon Brett's whodunit so much fun is the amusing dysfunctional relationship between the haughty know it all Carole and the Fethering locals. Twelve championship rounds later Carole has been snipped, nipped and dipped so that she has become localized. Fans will appreciate the latest Fethering caper (see THE BODY ON THE BEACH and THE STABBING IN THE STABLES).

A Shred of Truth
Eric Wilson
WaterBrook Press
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781578569120 $13.99 1-800-726-0600

In Nashville, Aramis Black has come a long way from his "Live By The Sword, Die By The World" lifestyle. He found God when divine intervention is the only reason he still lives. Now he runs and espresso shop and lives with his half-brother rising country singer Johnny Ray.

At a gala to celebrate Johnny Ray's hit single "Trying to Do the Right Thing", Aramis searches for his sibling; he finds him tied to the statue Musica in nearby Owen Bradley park with the initials AX carved into his back. Later Aramis receives an email from AX to meet in Cheekwood Gardens; thinking an eye for an eye he goes there only to find his former lover during the dark days of Portland Felicia Daly there. The case takes several spins with deaths and a return from the grave that keep reminding Aramis of his sins that he thought he had faced, but now knows he has more to confess.

The sequel to the exhilarating THE BEST OF EVIL is an exciting action-packed thriller that stars an atypical Christian antihero who turns to the Lord for solace, but his gun for protecting those he cherish as he follows the unbelievable clues seeking A SHRED OF TRUTH. The story line is fast-paced and beyond the plausibility zone, but no one will care as the various subplots come together in an entertaining no holds barred climax. Eric Wilson provides a unique Christian thriller due to the one of a kind star.

Donita K. Paul
WaterBrook Press
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781400072514 $13.99 1-800-726-0600

Married couple Kale Allerion and Sir Bardon resides in the Bogs where they know first hand how difficult it is to keep cretins out. However, they are euphoric because they think they have found a cure for their meech dragon friend, Gilda. Both assume a short jaunt is all it will take on their part although that means going outside the Bogs into the Amara countryside.

When they do they find the easy trek to be a nightmare. In Amara, wizards are at war with one another with the greater Amaran populace being collateral damage. Kale and Bardon try to rouse the people and hatch dragons for a counter attack, but the will to fight back is lacking especially with their leader Paladin ailing and incapable of leading the armies. Worse the pair realizes that the evil Pretender probably realizes the time for a coup is now.

Fans of Donita K. Paul's DragonKeeper series (see DRAGONSPELL, DRAGONQUEST, and DRAGONKNIGHT) will enjoy the latest entry as old friends return during a crisis that threatens their world. The story line is action-packed, but refreshingly different as perspectives rotate between the lead now married couple; thus differing capers occur or at times when Kale and Bardon are together the same event surfaces but seems somewhat dissimilar. Kale especially grows in this tale as she plays a predominant role. Complex with many supporting characters enhancing the plot, Ms. Paul's audience will appreciate her latest tale in what is proving to be one of the better enduring sagas.

Notes From a Spinning Planet: Mexico
Melody Carlson
WaterBrook Press
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781400071463 $12.99 1-800-726-0600

Aunt Sid decides that Washington is too cold in the winter so she and her teenage niece Maddie Chase leave for fun in the sun of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. However, both women are a bit disappointed with timeshare lodging, but agree not to let that spoil their vacation.

The two females turn euphoric when Sid's friend Ian and Maddie's unrequited love Ryan McIntire arrive from Ireland to join them. However also in town is Ryan's high school girlfriend Shelby Wagner, who may be an alcoholic, but he seems attracted to her; disappointing Maddie.

This is a different emotional spin from the previous two tales (see Papua New Guinea and Ireland), but still emphasizes a world filled with crisis. This time around the traveling female relatives run into the ugly side of excess middle class teen drinking that compares unfavorably against an impoverished soul trying to make it to what others take for granted. Although Melody Carlson hammers her message re the sins of drinking, young adult readers will appreciate the efforts of Maddie's new Mexican friend Francesca Tarrago struggling to leave poverty behind.

Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand
Fred Vargas
The Penguin Press
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780143112167 $14.00 1-800-847-5515

Police Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg and several of his Paris Serious Crime Squad members are going to frozen Quebec for a course on using DNA technology. However Adamsberg is preoccupied with a recent newspaper account reporting the stabbing death of a woman with three cuts; the case reminds him of eight previous homicides spread across France between 1949 and 1983; all solved with eight culprits including Adamsburg's brother caught. Still the prime suspect in the mind of Adamsberg's gut for all eight remains his childhood crony Judge Fulgence, who died a few years ago. However he ponders how the serial killer returned from the grave to commit the latest homicide. Adamsberg discuses the murders with other cops, but all point out the obvious to him that Fulgence is dead.

The trainees arrive in Quebec where, in spite of the cold weather, Adamsberg walks and talks to himself for miles; on his trek he meets an eccentric French woman with whom he shares a tryst. Soon afterward, he learns the woman was stabbed to death and he is the prime suspect. He knows the late Judge followed him to Canada and killed her, but how to prove a dead man committed murder while the DNA affirms Adamsberg was with the victim.

Readers and some police cronies will wonder if Adamsberg has finally gone over the edge as he feels some guilt over the woman's death, but also wonders if he did the crime because he blacked out just like others before him when they were accused of murders dating back to 1949. His peers want to believe in him, but blaming a dead man is hard to accept as rationale thinking especially with family connection. Readers will enjoy Adamsburg's later caper as he assumes that his arch enemy the devilish Fulgence somehow always escapes, but this time has set up the Commissaire as the latest culprit.

By the Rivers of Babylon
Cindy Brown Austin
Strebor (Atria)
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781593091170 $15.00

With a long term strategy to control drug trafficking in the slum Wards that the major Japanese firms would admire, Lincoln "Linc" Duvall began his ascent up the street corporate company as a runner. Over time he proved effective and efficient even at murder; his superiors kept promoting him. His understanding of supply and demand ultimately led to his becoming his own boss of the Third Ward trafficking with people running and selling under his direction.

The Heartford Chronicle assigns Christian reporter Gabriella "Gabby" Sinclaire to write the story about evil Linc. Although Gabby is engaged to church-attending overly protective Trevis "Trev" Cooper, she and Linc fall in love. However Linc abandoned God for the devil's trade while she remains strong in her belief that all sinners, even killers like him, can find redemption. Will he turn her away from the Lord; will she escort him back to the Lord; or as most likely will occur their relationship die when each rejects the other's opposite pole.

Though conceptually (and legally) difficult to accept the premise that a formerly cold blooded killer can be redeemed if he or she finds God, BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON is a deep contemporary fiction driven by the lead protagonists. To a degree the strong support cast augments the contrast between Linc and Gabriella as opposite vortexes of the religious diameter. The urban setting adds to this deep modern day inspirational thriller as the audience wonders the final outcome between the drug king and the religious reporter.

A Dangerous Return
Rique Johnson
Strebor (Atria)
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781593090432 $14.00

His beloved Sasha (see LOVE AND JUSTICE) won the lotto enabling Virginia City, Nevada Police Detective Jason Jerrard to retire young and at a time the department leadership and the mayor is irate with their top sleuth. He feels even more fortunate that he re-fell in love with Monique (see WHISPERS FROM A TROUBLED HEART) since Sasha died. They go on a Caribbean vacation leisurely stopping in Aruba, Barbados, Saint Thomas, Bermuda and Puerto Rico.

When they come home to Virginia City, an enigmatic threatening note awaits them. Someone informs Jason that this is "Act 1- The Introduction- we're coming for you"; he knows he must wait for the rest of the play to unfold as he as nothing to act on.

Widower Captain Frank North meets Daiquiri Drinks and for the first time since his wife died, he goes off with a woman. However, she drugs him and with the help of her lover Poncho, places him in his car. When he awakens he turns on the ignition and his vehicle explodes. Frank is dead. Unable to stay out as Frank was his friend as well as his boss, Jason comes out of retirement retuning to the force so that he can officially investigate over the objection of Monique. As their relationship is in danger of ending, Jason begins to uncover ties to the highest state offices not yet realizing the peril he places Monique in.

This is an exciting police procedural in which Jason feels compelled to make A DANGEROUS RETURN to the force although that most likely this will end his loving relationship with Monique. The story line is fast-paced once Jason opens the first act letter and never slows down until the five act tragedy is played out. Although the hero's relationships with women will remind readers of Virginia City's Ben Cartwright, Rique Johnson provides the sub-genre audience with an absorbing whodunit.

Robert K. Tanenbaum
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780743271196 $26.95

At Beth Israel Hospital, New York District Attorney Butch Karp recovers from a gun shot wound inflicted by rival prosecutor Rachel Rachman. His wife Marlene Ciampi saved his life when she killed the assassin.

While Karp heals, he has too much time to think. He is proud of his sundry family members who thwarted a plot by late mayoral candidate Andrew Kane and al Qaeda operatives (see COUNTERPLAY). He knows Kane is dead and that scheme stopped, but someone had to provide information to the terrorist. That person would have to be at the highest levels of American government physical security circle, but who betrayed his country remains just outside Karp's radar scope. Once released he plans to continue his investigation into the leak while Ciampi is in Idaho doing her part to tie up loose ends with an apparent related disappearance of a college student.

COUNTERPLAY was way over the top, but MALICE is over Mt. Everest as plausibility vanishes on page one and never returns. Even Ciampi recognizes how far over the edge the story line soars commenting about killing cartel machines to hide secrets. Although best to read COUNTERPLAY first as references to that tale abound in this directly related sequel, series fans will enjoy the escapades of Karp, Ciampi and daughter Lucy as they complete the anti-terrorist sweep started in their previous adventure.

The First Commandment
Brad Thor
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416543794 $25.95

President Jack Rutledge authorizes a deal with terrorists. Although the American government leaders always insist they will never negotiate with terrorists even for the release of hostages, he secretly releases five hardcore known terrorists locked away at Guantomino as part of a deal to protect at risk children. In fairness his advisors told them they can keep this quintet under control with monitoring of the isotope they put in the blood of these killers.

The President's advisors missed another slammed dunk when they lose sight of the fearsome five. Just under six months later, an assassin shoots Homeland Security agent Scot Harvath's girlfriend Tracy Hastings (see TAKEDOWN), leaving her comatose and he furious as isotopic blood is found at the crime scene. Soon afterward, his mother is attacked by locusts and some friends of Harvath murdered. He knows someone is coming for him, through his loved ones. Harvath begins to make inquiries, but is told to stay out of it. Even before these incidents he knew the leadership saw him as an expendable renegade so he ignores the order to take no action against the person methodically destroying his loved ones.

TAKEDOWN is an exciting action-packed frightening thriller; THE FIRST COMMANDMENT is as exhilarating and action-packed, but even more frightening as the plausibility of the plot will not be questioned. Harvath is at his anguished best in this often violent tale as he is ordered to do nothing although his counter terrorist instincts are screaming to go on the offense. The return of several characters from previous books enhances the feel of the long term concept of the war against terrorism as Brad Thor raises the adrenalin with this terrific thriller.

Someone to Love
Jude Deveraux
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780743437165 $25.95

In 2002 Jace Montgomery traveled to England on business; his fiancee, Stacy Evans joined him. However, they got into an argument and she walked out on him. He completed his work expecting both will cool down. Instead he learns that she committed suicide; her family insisted he caused it as she feared breaking off from him, a martinet.

Three years later, a still distraught Jace finds a note asking for a rendezvous the day before she died with a photo of Priory House in Margate, England. Jace needs the truth so he persuades his wealthy uncle to lend him the money to buy the ugly looking Priory House as Stacy killed herself in Margate. He keeps calm when he meets the ghost of Ann Stuart, who lived at Priory House there in the 1870s and committed suicide just before her wedding. He does not stay calm when he meets local reporter Nightingale "Nigh" Smythe, who joins him in his quest to find out what happened to Stacy and Ann, whom thinks was murdered just like he believes his fiancee was too.

Two romances enhance this delightful paranormal romantic suspense. The fast-paced story line grips the reader from the moment Jace encounters Ann and never slows down until the final explosive climax. Jude Deveraux provides sub-genre fans with a fabulous tale due to a strong cast of characters, living and dead.

The Lost
Michelle Hancock
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2989
9780738710365 $13.95 1-800-843-6666

In December 2004, ninety-five years old Aldo Cecilio dies from cancer; his daughter Pia inherits his vast estate including his Cecilio Museum of Art and Antiquities in New Paltz, New York. Among his papers is an ancient document written in a language that Pia has no idea what it might be. She visits Columbia University where she seeks to meet brilliant ancient language graduate student Guy Coffee Daniels. She asks him to translate her father's apparent Dead Sea scroll.

What Coffee translates crushes his spirit as the document is the gospel by Jesus. In it the Son of God claims to be actually the Devil's disciple. Unable to cope, Coffee becomes a homeless street person carrying a sign John 13.16 instead of the usual 3.16 as this fallen student knows now "the population wants to be deceived, so let them be deceived" for deception is the root of evil. Pia searches for the lost Coffee and her scroll not realizing that he fears revealing the truth because devout believers like her would handle the great con worse than a cynic like him who became a street person once he learned the meaning of the word.

Readers will be hooked by the underlying premise of THE LOST and wonder how Pia will react if she catches up to Coffee and gets him to reveal what he learned that sent him into a mental tailspin. The story line is fast-paced although it contains some well written "required" action scenes that add suspense but also takes the audience away from the powerful thought provoking philosophical issues. Michelle Hancock's tale is stupendous when the plot coaxes the audience to a paradigm switching pondering of the plausibility whether Jesus and company pulled off the greatest hoax in history and if true how the faithful and the non-believers would react.

Thomas Perry
Harcourt Books
15 East 26th Street, 15th floor, New York, NY 10010
9780151012893 $25.00 1-800-543-1918

Six years ago, when he was still a detective working for LAPD, Jack Till mentored restaurateur Wendy Harper in the art of disappearing with a new identity before adversaries could kill her. Everyone who knew Wendy assumed she was murdered; most believed her boyfriend and Banque Restaurant business partner at the time Eric Fuller killed her as he gained the most with her death. No evidence could prove he committed a homicide until now. Someone has set up an elaborate scheme to frame Eric with Wendy's murder.

Jack is hired to track down Wendy and to persuade her to make an appearance that would exonerate her former boyfriend. At the same time, Jack knows that there remain people who want her dead; he thinks they framed Eric to force Wendy to surface. He especially is concerned with tango-dancing couple Paul and Sylvie Turner, professional hit persons hired to kill Wendy, but they have an ax to grind with their client for exposing them as assassins rather than dancers.

Most mystery readers will agree that the latest work from award winning Thomas Perry will be on the short list of the genre's best novels of 2007. Jack is terrific as he must follow a trail left by his "student" while also not leading the killers to her. Exciting and never slowing down until the final dance step, fans will read this terrific gourmet tale in one delightful sitting.

The Indian Bride
Karin Fossum
9780151011827 $23.00

The corpse of a battered woman is found near the town of Elvestad, Norway. Police Inspector Konrad Sejer is assigned to lead the investigation. The body is identified as Poona Jomann of India, the wife of tractor salesman Gunder, who just married the victim. Coincidently, an auto accident involving Gunder's sister kept him from meeting his new bride at the airport; thus Poona was traveling by herself to their home.

Because of the degree of the battering, Sejer assumes a crime of passion of some sort happened so he concentrates on the townsfolk seeking a motive. He quickly learns that everyone who knows the fiftyish Gunder was stunned when he suddenly married as he was considered a lifetime bachelor by one and all. Still none of the residents accept that one of them is the killer as they prefer a random incident. However, Sejer begins to uncover potential suspects amongst the 2347 residents; a few who might have a motive to commit such a horrific deed.

THE INDIAN BRIDE is an excellent Norwegian police procedural that combines a great investigation with a vivid look at a small somewhat insular Norwegian village. The story line is fast-paced, but also enables the audience to understand life in Elvestad and how much an outsider the former Mumbai, India resident would have been if she lived. Karin Fossin provides a great whodunit that will lead readers to seek other translations of Inspector Sejer mysteries (see WHEN THE DEVIL HOLDS THE CANDLE).

The Potluck Club Takes the Cake
Linda Evans Shepherd, Eva Marie Everson
9780800730741 $12.99

In Summitt View, Colorado, the Potluck Club members continue to share their friendship with food. However, change is in the Rocky Mountain air. Evangeline is getting married soon. Lisa continues with her "Tea for Two" matchmaking tricks. Deputy Sheriff Donna seems to have a possible suspect, make that beau (could a kiss be in the works?). Vonnie has family woes, but so does Lizzie. Finally Goldie and her spouse Jack have an avalanche of trouble to deal with. As relationships falter due to secrets finally revealed that test each Potluck member, yet love is everywhere.

More a series of vignettes that rotate perspective amongst the prime sextet, the third Potluck Club tale is a fun story that ties up many of the loose threads from the previous works. The cast once again in spite of its size comes across as next door neighbors. Each of their woes seems genuine though that makes it a bit difficult to follow even as the separate strands ultimately tie back together like a six layered DNA helix. Fans of the Potluck Club saga will enjoy appreciate Linda Evans Shepherd & Eva Marie Everson's fine character driven drama while newcomers will be better suited first reading the back list.

Slummy Mummy
Fiona Neill
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781594489440 $24.95 1-800-847-5515

After giving birth, Lucy Sweeney quits her job as a TV news producer to stay home to raise their child Sam. Her anally oriented "Husband on a Short Fuse" Tom supports her decision to be a stay at home mommy.

When Lucy made that decision nine years ago with the support of Tom, she did not have all the facts as the family oriented crowd glamorize raising a kid with a stay at home mummy make that mommy. She was unprepared for the chaos and the mess as no process she undertakes meets the mommy standard operating procedure metrics when it comes to her infant timing or when it comes to her infant eating and excrement tendencies. Once Sam was in school she thought she could regain part of her lost life, but his timing and his eating and excrement habits are still atrocious and she remains the centerfold for chaos theory. Now she also wonders about her two best friends; one is seeing a married man with four children while the other is balancing two hunks. Meanwhile as her spouse avoids domestic non-tranquility, she considers respites with the domesticated dad next door.

SLUMMY MUMMY is a funny anecdotal look at motherhood starring a beleaguered person who believes she is a prisoner of war. Lucy's humorous observations will have readers agreeing with her. However, at times she flashes back to those first volunteer days of yore when she gave up being Lucy Sweeney to become a mummy mommy held hostage by a preadolescent; this can prove disjointing yet the audience will appreciate this zany look at Dads and Moms.

Heaven's Net Is Wide
Lian Hearn
9781594489532 $26.95

Otori Shigeru is the young heir to the powerful ruthless Otori clan. Yet in spite of growing up in an authoritarian pyramidal hierarchy, he understands that greater Japanese society and especially his clan venerate loyalty.

However, his lessons were also tempered as an adolescent when he observed how dishonorable some behaved; seditious backstabbing by his uncles and an assault from the Iida family to gain power. The culmination occurs when his uncles' perfidy and the Iida betrayal lead to the deaths of thousands of Otori warriors at Yaeahara and the eradication of his family. He lives, but is heir to nothing as the Otori clan was exterminated. Although those who murdered his family want him dead so he symbolizes nothing, Shigeru survives with an inner fortitude made stronger with what he saw enhanced by a desire for retribution. He turns to his former mentor warrior-monk Matsuda Shingen for guidance and patience, and meets Lady Maruyama who keeps him human and more as she knows what he is going through as the Tohan destroyed much of what she held sacred. However, the hope for retribution might begin in a mountainous village …

The fifth Tales of the Otori is a brilliant novel that brings the beginning and the end to this great saga of Medieval Japan. The story line is a superb historical fantasy as the audience learns much of how Otori got to where he ends. Fans of the series will fully appreciate this great finish that is also the beginning as HEAVEN'S NET IS WIDE completes this non-linear epic saga with a sweeping winner.

One Step Over The Border
Stephen Bly
Center, Street (Hatchette)
9781599956893 $12.99

In 1996 in Wyoming, Laramie Majors follows directions provided to him by his roping mentor Dwight Purley to meet another student Hap Bowman so they can team up as cowboys. Instead of a quiet discussion, Laramie arrives only to have Hap running from a cabin; inside is which a woman throwing things at him. She switches her target to the innocent Laramie. He later learns that when Hap was twelve he fell in love with the daughter of a one time customer of his father. Since that time he has dedicated his life over the last decade seeking out his Juanita with the "silhouette of a petite horse's head under the right ear".

Ten years later, Hap and Laramie remain partners still searching for the right Juanita. They cause an international border incident in Mexico and face other troubles in which they accidentally perform heroic deeds with good intentions but not always good results. Laramie falls in love with widow Anamarie Buchet while Hap falls for Rosa Rodriguez Tryor. Whereas Laramie knows who he wants, Hap still obsesses that Rosa is not Juanita so is not for him.

Stephen Bly provides a wonderful amusing modern day western sidekick romance starring two likable cowboys on a romantic quest, but whose code of ethics (especially Laramie's) leads to one problem after another. The story line is character driven from the insane opening gamut until the final twisted climax. Readers will never look at the Rio Grande the same way as the buddies learn rustling on either side of the border is unhealthy. In summary, a rose is a rose is a rose except she's not Juanita.

A Deeper Blue
John Ringo
Baen Books
PO Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9781416521280 $26.00 1-800-223-2336

In the Caucasian Mountains, the Keldara Kildar Mike Harmon mourns the deaths of so many of his warriors, but it is the demise of his lover Gretchen Mahona, a warrior as good as any under his command, that huts the most. The Keldara war lord and former US Navy SEAL decides no more for his adopted people who have been very helpful in the war on terrorism.

Mike refuses to risk one more of his warriors even when the American president begs him track down nerve gas heading to Florida. However, he allows some of his subordinates to volunteer. When they are ambushed including a close friend, Mike decides he has had enough with the terrorists who care nothing about innocent lives. He vows to kill every jihad member and anyone supporting tem. His Keldara warriors will follow their Kildar leader into hell if need be, but they hope instead they can pull him back before he goes over the edge of insanity, destroying what is left of his humanity.

The key to the latest Keldara thriller (see GHOST, KILDAR, CHOOSERS OF THE SLAIN and UNTO THE BREACH) is the anguish and grief suffered by Mike. As the Ghost Kildar war lord he struggles with the deaths of his loyal courageous warriors especially the woman he loved and begins to question their role in the Global war on Terrorism. Readers will feel the hero's anguish, pain and doubts as John Ringo provides his strongest tale to date with his champion suffering from A DEEPER BLUE depression yet begins to swing from withdrawal to the suicidal manic need for vengeance. This is a great saga from a master.

Miles, Mutants, and Microbes
Lois McMaster Bujold
9781416521419 $18.00

"Falling Free". Engineer Leo Graf is sent to Cay Habitat, where bio-engineering led to "Quaddie" children having four arms and no legs to perform in a zero gravity environment. His job is to train these Quaddies in welding in space. However, new technology and a bottom line mentality leave the Quaddies expendable unless Leo intervenes.

"Labyrinth". Over two centuries after Leo's mission, Miles Vorkosigan goes undercover as Dendarii Mercenary Admiral Naismith to escort a genetic research scientist defecting from his current employer on the lawless planet Jackson's Whole. However, instead of completing his secret mission successfully, his pick up refuses to leave without taking his experimental samples with him. However, to obtain them Miles must kill an eight-foot tall bio-engineered killing machine that has the other "species" buried inside his calf. The new corporate owner of the giant learns of Miles' quest leaving the outsider needing help that he receives from enigmatic Bel Thorne and Quaddie musician Nicol.

"Diplomatic Immunity". Imperial auditor Miles Vorkosigan and his wife Ekaterin enjoy their belated intergalactic honeymoon until the ship's Tau Cetan captain informs them that a Barrayaran Imperial Courier has an official sealed data disc for him. Emperor Gregor Vorbarra wants Miles to investigate a murder involving an impoundment of a Komarran trader ship on Graf Station in remote "Quaddiespace".

These well written reprints of three Quaddie tales provide readers with exciting cautionary science fiction thrillers in which Lois McMaster Bujold warns her audience to insure sconce does not cross an ethical line with bioengineering throwaway people. Exciting especially the Miles' saga, Quaddie fans will enjoy this omnibus edition.

North River
Pete Hamill
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316340588 $25.00 1-800-759-0190

In the 1930s Dr. James Delaney lives in Greenwich Village still suffering from battle fatigue syndrome as a medico during WWI. His life has recently been further shattered by the disappearance of his wife and their daughter Grace leaving for Mexico. Grace left behind her toddler Carlito so he hires illegal alien Sicilian Rose to care for his grandson.

Meanwhile he provides medical treatment to his indigent neighbors; many of whom cannot pay him in cash so he accepts whatever they can remit including meals or in some cases just a thank you. When he saves the life of gangster friend Eddie Corso, another hood Frankie Botts makes it clear that the general practitioner made a big error. Delaney knows Botts cannot threaten him directly, but can hurt him through Carlito and Rose, the two people who have made him feel human again. On top of that the FBI demands he hand over Grace, who he has not been seen or heard from since she dumped her son on him. Soon life will become even more complex for James with a family reunion.

NORTH RIVER is a terrific historical fiction that brings to life the Great Depression through predominantly the flawed James, who eighteen years after the Great war ended still suffers from the conflict. The story line is fast-paced and quite vivid as the audience can picture the impoverish masses living near the NORTH RIVER (New Yorkers' nickname for the Hudson). Pete Hamill is at his best with the deep look back at a bygone era starring a protagonist who learns to live again through the love of his grandson and the child's caretaker.

The Blood of Flowers
Anita Amirrezvani
Little, Brown
9780316065764 $23.99

Centuries ago in Persia, the fourteen year old girl enjoyed her life; raised by caring parents she knows she will marry within a year. However, when the comet crossed the sky the villagers knew misfortune was coming soon as that is an omen of bad things. The teenage girl learns first hand when her beloved father Isma'il dies in a thresher accident. Her doting mother Maheen grieves her loss. She and her daughter leave the village to move into the home as servants to male relative, Gostaham, a master carpet-maker weaving for the Shah.

Her Uncle Gostaham allows her entry into his workshop where he lets her learn the trade from him, but warns her that females are not allowed to weave outside the home. Wealthy Fereydoon wants her, but cannot make her his wife as she is beneath him so they agree to a three-month, renewable contract. However, when Fereydoon marries her best friend, she angrily ends their relationship, which leads to her and her mom becoming homeless. Over time Gostaham takes her back in and soon afterward she opens up an all female carpet-making workshop catering to the Shah's harem.

This is an incredible work of historical fiction that brings to life Persia from the eyes of a young female (told mostly in the first person by her) struggling to survive in a male owned world. The unnamed woman is a terrific protagonist, who through trials and tribulations dreams of becoming a carpet-maker for the Shah although she knows that can never happen. Anecdotes and stories within stories add depth that will elate an exuberant audience who will feel they rode a magic caret ride back several centuries ago to Persia.

Elin Hilderbrand
Little, Brown
9780316018586 $24.99

Home for the summer, Middlebury College student Josh Flynn meets the two siblings (Brenda and Vicki) and their friend (Melanie) at the Nantucket Airport where he works. The three females and Vicki's two young children will share the small cottage owned by their late aunt while escaping their woes and hoping to regain some equilibrium in their respective lives.

Vicki suffers from lung cancer and will undergo chemotherapy. Brenda recently was fired for breaking the prime directive of college professors when she had an affair with a student; albeit older than her. Finally, Melanie who spent years and tons of money seeking to become pregnant finally succeeded only to ironically learn her spouse is cheating on her. These BAREFOOT females spend the summer of self recrimination with Josh at their side wondering what fall will bring.

This deep character study will hook the audience who will want to know what is happening to each of the women. However, at the same time that contemporary fiction fans will appreciate the drama, only Vicki elicits empathy as she philosophizes about what used to be significant to her but those "Things That No Longer Mattered" once she received the medical verdict; Melanie seems more like a whiner who drove her spouse elsewhere and though realistic Brenda comes across as a hard butt with a chip on her shoulder. Still genre fans will enjoy spending a Nantucket summertime with Elin Hilderbrand's three females.

Capitol Offense
Mike Doogan
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399154317 $25.95 1-800-847-5515

Just under a decade ago in Juneau, he was considered one of Anchorage's best police detectives; than a night of off duty drinking led to his shooting a twelve year old boy, who a witness claimed was unarmed. Convicted he spent seven years in prison with the end of his reputation. Freed early because the witness admitted he lied as the kid carried, he recently was exonerated, but his wife who stood by him during the trial and incarceration is divorcing him and the APD refuses to take him back. Fiftyish Nik Kane has become a private investigator.

His former boss Police Chief Jeffords hires him to find proof that Native Alaskan state legislator Matthew Hope did not kill the beautiful young assistant. All the circumstantial evidence points in his direction. As he begins to dig around the capital, his estranged son, working as a summer intern there, rejects any contact with him. Meanwhile someone wants Nik to stop his inquiry and that someone has arranged beatings of the sleuth and threatens more than just bodily harm. Nik knows he has frightened the person he assumes is the real culprit.

Juneau is a refreshing change as most Alaskan mysteries showcase the stark beauty of the state's vast wilderness. The story line is fast-paced although the plot has been done many times before albeit in the Lower Forty-eight. Nik is an interesting acrimonious individual as he knows he needs to move past his bitterness but finds it impossible not to react with sarcasm and childish anger. Fans of Alaskan mysteries will enjoy his second escapade (see LOST ANGEL) even if he follows his gut more than the clues.

Robin Cook
9780399154232 $25.95

As required the recent infectious disease deaths are brought to the attention of the New York City Office of the Medical Examiner. Dr. Laurie Montgomery cannot help but notice that the abrupt significant jump in these types of deaths are limited to three Manhattan hospitals, all owned by Angels Healthcare. However, when her husband, ME colleague Dr. Jack Stapleton informs her he is undergoing knee surgery at one of the Angels Healthcare hospitals, Laurie becomes alarmed as the number of post procedural deaths by virulent staph infection becomes personal.

Meanwhile Angels Healthcare CEO Angela Dawson struggles with the same deadly issue that makes no sense unless a new pathogen somehow delivered by her staff between the three hospitals is the cause. She desperately seeks to resolve the issue as her firm is going Wall St. public to avoid bankruptcy; bad PR will kill the company even as her prime backer the Mafia will kill anyone who harms the health of their investment.

CRITICAL is the usual Robin Cook medical thriller filled with plenty of non-stop action and cleverly intermingled with health information especially about infectious disease in hospitals. . Fans of Mr. Cook will appreciate the return of Laurie and Jack stars of the entertaining CRISIS and MARKER. Although the mob link is an unneeded sidebar that adds to the body count, the medical master has cooked up another magnificent suspense thriller that will have the audience wondering about hospital stays.

Catch a Rising Star
Tracey Bateman
Faith Words
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446698931 $12.99

Tabby Brockman worked for five years as a star of the number one soap opera Legacy of Life. She has an affair with her on-screen husband actor Trey O'Dell whom she thinks might be her Mr. Right until she learns he lied about his marital status as he is married to the soap's head writer Julie Foster. Julie has Tabby's character killed off. Now she spends time as Peter Cottontail being abused by children.

Following emergency appendicitis in which she thanks God for saving her life, her friend Freddie arranges for her return to the soap. She leaps at the opportunity although she fears the tension. However when she meets widower stage dad David Gray, the father of her preadolescent soap opera twins children, she finds herself attracted though wary of the kids. Still since she found the Lord, Tabby feels he will guide her to do the right thing with the three Greys.

The first Drama Queens tale is an amusing inspirational chick lit romance starring a likable though non-assertive lead female and a strong support cast. The story line is fun to follow as Tabby struggles with being "killed", an appendicitis, and much more until she turns to religion for solace. Fans will root for her as she brings her beliefs to the soaps even while the audience hopes she miraculously grows a spinal column.

The Penny
Joyce Meyer, Deborah Bedford
Faith Works
9780446578110 $21.99

In 1955 St. Louis their father has abused mama, fourteen year old Jenny Blake and her older sister almost eighteen Jean for years. However, all that time, the siblings had each other for comfort, but now Jean is moving out and Jenny not only knows she will miss her, but fears she will not be able to cope as the solo target of their violent dad.

While walking to the movie theater, Jenny sees a penny buried in the ground. Although she knows a penny buys little more than gum or candy at Woolworth's and to remove it from the asphalt will not be easy, Jenny stops to retrieve it anyway. This seemingly innocuous action starting with the Pevery Diary truck driver abruptly hitting his brakes not to run over Jenny, which lead to bottles flying everywhere, which leads to the "Attack of the Killer Shards", which with a few sidebars ultimately led to the mysterious Miss Shaw, owner of Shaw Jewelry, mentoring the owner of the lucky penny.

Known for her inspirational non fiction, Joyce Meyer and popular fiction writer Deborah Bedford provide readers with an entertaining historical that emphasizes the idea little things matter in a big way. That penny incident leads to a friendship between the two females as each has secrets that shame them. Although the obvious dark journey to redemption to include forgiveness seems genuine, the attainment appears abrupt and forced especially as so much has gone on before. Still, with a nod to the butterfly effect of chaos theory, THE PENNY is an interesting character study that focuses on little things mean a lot when it comes to people.

And If I Die
John Aubrey Anderson
FaithWords (Hachette)
9780446579520 $19.99

None know better the eternal war between good and evil than Missy Patterson. In 1945, Missy and a group of people were in Cat Lake when they were attacked by demonic possessed snakes. The only reason she lived was because an angel told Mason, a believer and a warrior, to be on guard. Mose Washington's son AJ died saving her life and shortly after she gave her life to Christ. Two more times she was attacked and through God's intervention she was saved.

When two demon possessed men beat Bill's mother to death, Mose killed them and now Mose and the lad Buill are on the run. Now Missy, Bill, Mose, and Missy's husband Pat are all in Denton and all are believers except for bull riding Bill. Congresswoman Estelle Bainbridge has hired a hit man to kill them because in her mind they all had a hand in killing her son. All believe that another confrontation with demonic forces is coming. Missy has an important role to play. Although she is scared she is willing to perform what God requires her to do.

The War between good and evil is played out between mortals and angels and demons. Believers will enjoy this tale as will non believer who will read it as a fantastic fantasy story. In some ways the story line warns the audience what is coming, but the solid characters make this a thoroughly fabulous tale.

All In One Place
Carolyne Aarsen
9780446696821 $12.99

In Seattle Terra Froese decides ending another bad relationship is not enough. To distance herself, she leaves the West Coast for Montana to live with her sister Leslie VandeKeer, whom she has not spoken with for quite some time. As she regains her equilibrium, Terra assumes she will need to rescue her sibling from tedious rural family life.

However, she finds Leslie seems shockingly contented and the small town residents wonder about the big city intruder as she lands in some trouble almost from her first step there. Police officer Jack DeWindt thinks Terra will not survive Big Sky Country although he is very attracted to her and her to him. However, Terra wonders if that is enough for her to finally put down permanent roots.

This interesting character study focuses on Terra's conversion (for the most part from her viewpoint only) from a life of wandering disentanglement to one of belief in God and truly caring about others, but does so in a reasonably realistic manner. Although the lack of other perspectives especially that of her sister reduces the impact of Terra's journey, fans who appreciate a simple well written contemporary tale starring a complex woman will enjoy Terra finding her way and self.

Cast In Secret
Michelle Sagara
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373802807 $14.95

One person in Elantra who made it out of the fiefs, the outposts of poverty and hideouts for criminals, is Private Kaylin Neya. She works as a police officer in the division of the Hawks. Her boss is a Leontine; she wears the mark of Lord Nightshade, an immortal outcast Barrani. She is tutored by a dragon in human form because she has a magic nobody understands, one that can withstand a dragon's breath or heal a dying patient.

While visiting the Keeper in his store because he reported a theft, he takes her to his garden at the center of his shop. There she sees the face of a bruised child in a pool of water and needs to find her as well as the missing artifact. However, first she must visit enclave of the Tha'alanii, telepathic and empathic mind readers who communicate among themselves with the antennae on their foreheads. A girl was kidnapped by a man who is telepathically deaf and she visits Lord Nightshade who gives her the identity of the person involved with the girl and the kidnapper. While she is working the three cases, she learns if she can't retrieve the artifact, Elantra will be destroyed.

Elements of a police procedural and a fantasy tale are combined to create the electrifying and wondrous CAST IN SECRET. It is a magical tale where different sentient races live in the same area ruled by an imperial emperor who is an immortal dragon. The heroine learns and grows while seemingly (the reader's delight) always in the midst of trouble and goes the long way in getting out of it. Fans will enjoy her spunk and elan as Kaylin keeps on ticking.

Beyond Reach
Karin Slaughter
Delacorte Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385339476 $25.00 1-800-726-0600

In Grant County, Georgia, pediatrician Dr. Sara Linton is despondent over the death of her young patient Jimmy Powell, but further stunned when his parents, her friends, sue her for malpractice wrongful death suit. Sadly, the reasons held against her were things she did out of friendship because the prognosis was Jimmy was dying with no chance to be saved.

Three days before Sara's life was opened up for the vultures to pick at, her spouse Police Chief Jeffrey Tolliver learns one of his detectives Lena Adams was involved in an explosion that killed a woman in Reese, Georgia. However, Lena left the hospital without telling anyone she was leaving. Jeffrey and Sara head to Reese to peel away the layers and soon connect a thriving methamphetamine business with a local white supremacy group, but that knowledge leaves both their lives in danger.

BEYOND REACH opens with the devastating malpractice suit that grips the audience, but quickly switches gear to the Reese scenario where a detective has gone missing and meth is a way of life. The insight into how meth addiction is destroying rural families is stunning. The incredible ending ties everything back together, as this may be Karin Slaughter's best medical-police procedural crime thriller to date.
How to Talk to a Widower
Jonathan Tropper
9780385338905 $20.00

Twenty-nine years old Doug Parker cannot believe how fast life can change when his spouse Hailey dies in a plane crash. However, his grief is so great he struggles to leave their home and he writes about it in his magazine column so that many feel for him as a young widower raising a teenage stepson, Russ with big issues since his mom died. He wants to hide in his grief cocoon, but instead he becomes a media darling as everyone wants Doug on their show.

However, his woes turn uglier when his pregnant twin sister Claire leaves her husband and moves in with Doug and Russ. Her plan is to force her brother to move on with his life. Local females sympathize with Doug while a few want to be the one who take him out of his depression starting with the wife of his best friend, the strippers he meets, and the guidance counselor who worries about both males residing in the Parker home.

This is a well written character study of a young man grieving the unexpected death of his wife after just a couple years together. Doug is an interesting protagonist as he deals with issues ranging from guilt to loneliness to failing Russ, who has his own problems. The outside world wants in to his fishbowl adding more troubles to a troubled soul. Jonathan Tropper provides a strong tale that looks at the grief process from the differing perspective of a man under thirty unable to cope.

Bungalow 2
Danielle Steele
9780385338318 $27.00

Forty-two years old Tanya Harris loves her life in Marin County. She adores her spouse, a San Francisco based lawyer and cherishes their three teenage offspring. She enjoys writing scripts for the soaps and short stories. Her only unanswered dream from her youth is she always wanted to author a screenplay, but does not regret she has not.

However, suddenly her agent calls informing Tanya that Oscar winning producer Douglas Wayne wants her to write the screenplay for his next movie. She wants to fulfill her last fantasy, but worries about the impact on her family if she stays for several months in a posh Beverly Hills hotel; especially with her twin daughters starting their senior year in high school and her son his freshman year at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Her husband and children send her off to the Beverly Hills Hotel where she adapts like she has been part of the Hollywood Rat pack all her life. However, weekends back in Marin County remind her that she is a wife and mother whose husband cheated on her and children who seem not to need her anymore.

Tanya is an interesting protagonist as she worries over worrying; spending much of the novel concerned with what her decision to go Hollywood is doing to her family. The cast in Marin County and Beverly Hills are supportive characters employed so that the reader can see how bone marrow deep Tanya's concerns for her spouse and children go. Although the action is limited, fans of family dramas will enjoy Danielle Steel's the apprehensive mom who took Hollywood but may be at the cost of Marin County.

The Seventh Sacrament
David Hewson
9780385339568 $22.00

Fourteen years ago seven-year-old Alessio Bramante vanished in the tunnels beneath Rome's ancient Circus Maximus. His father, renowned archeology professor Giorgio Bramante had left his son by the underground labyrinth and his students were drunk and with the child when they performed a ritual at the altar of an Ancient Roman God. The kid was not found, but the police further bungled the case when they left their prime suspect, student Ludo Torchia, alone with an outraged Giorgio. He went to prison for murdering the suspect, but is now free.

However, almost from the moment the bitter Giorgio left prison, those associated with the disappearance begin to die and someone assaults Italian Police Inspector Leo Falcone, who worked on the unsolved case. He and his partner Detective Nic Costa begin making inquiries into the original vanishing as well as Giorgio's recent activity as he has the motive for serial killing vengeance plus he knows the underground like no one else does; Costa and Falcone believe the answer lies there.

Costa's last outing (see The Lizard's Bite) was one of the top police procedurals of 2006; THE SEVENTH SACRAMENT will prove likewise in 2007. The story line is fast-paced while it smoothly moves back and forth between the present and the past. The investigation is top rate filled with twists and turns while Leo brings a human element with his feelings of inadequacy and guilt. Fans will appreciate David Hewson's superior Roman adventure.

Tamara Alexander
Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55438
9780764201103 $13.99 1-800-328-6109

In 1870 France, Veronique Girard leaves the flower on the coffin containing her beloved mother Ariane while reflecting that she would prefer to ignore her deathbed promise to mamam. However, Veronique swore she would go to the Colorado Territory to find her father Pierre, who left them over a quarter of a century ago with a vow he would send for them; he never did.

Veronique adapts to the wildness of Colorado while hiring Jack Brennan to escort her from one Rocky Mountain mining town to another in her quest to find her papa. Jack wanted to refuse driving Veronique as the towns are dangerous, but the widowed supply hauler cannot leave her to her own devices. As they fall in love, he fears that emotion having grieved the deaths of his wife and child while she remains obsessed with finding Pierre and she has a childhood ami Christophe back in Paris.

The third Fountains Creek Chronicles (see REVEALED and REKINDLED) is a wonderful western romance starring two individuals from different lifestyles falling in love; feelings that neither desire the other. The story line brings out the rugged Reconstruction Era Colorado Territory especially when contrasted with Veronique's Paris upbringing. Veronique is a wonderful protagonist although she adjusts perhaps too easily to the Wild West while Jack struggles with survivor guilt compounded by having a second chance at love if he goes for it. Readers will remember Tamara Alexander's' fine tale of loss and redemption.

Jacob's List
Stephanie Grace Whitson
Bethany House
9780764203268 $12.99

Twenty years old Jacob "Jake" Nolan has drawn up a personal list of ten items he wants to do before he settles down. However, when he dies in an accident, his wealthy parents Pamela and Michael are shattered as they doted on him and he was the prime reason they remained together.

Both grieve differently and separately even when they go on a Hawaiian vacation. Still they have Jake's list and Pamela and Michael would like to complete his quest. Friends try to be there for them and they attend a workshop "How to Help a Grieving Friend" (actually al self-help book written by Ms. Whitson) together. However, as their marriage appears to be on the brink of imploding both knows bad things happen to good people is part of the mystery of God's master plan.

This is an interesting look at grief from the perspective of two parents who cannot turn to one another for solace when a bad thing happens to a loved one. The three prime characters come across as fully developed although Jake is actually seen through the eyes of his parents so the audience extrapolates what the grieving pair hold in common about their son as the most likely truth. Stephanie Grace Whitson provides a well written primer on HOW TO HELP A GRIEVING FRIEND cope through the barely surviving Nolans.

Sophie's Dilemma
Lauraine Snelling
Bethany House
9780764228100 $13.99

For two years, Sophie Knutson waited in her hometown of Red River Valley for Hamre Bjorklund to come home and make her his bride. As the letters dwindle, Sophie begins to believe he will never take that first step until he suddenly comes home and proposes. Excited, she accepts as she finally can escape the over-protection of her father. Her dad demands and then pleads with Sophie to delay the wedding until after she graduates from school, but she and Hamre elope.

They move to Ballad, Washington near Seattle where she finds herself alone as he is a fisherman always at sea. She misses her friends and family, feeling out of place in Washington state. When his vessel is lost, she is informed he died. Pregnant, Sophie heads home praying her family will take her back.

The second Daughters of Blessing novel (see A PROMISE FOR ELLIE) is a wonderful character driven tale of seeking forgiveness, redemption and second chances. Sophie is the fabulous center that holds the strong story line together as her actions from eloping to returning home miserable and alone seems genuine. Lauraine Snelling provides a strong entry that insists that no matter what you might have done with the love of family you can go home.

Baby Crimes
Randall Hicks
9921 Carmel Mountain Road, Suite3335, San Diego, CA. 9129
9780979443008 $13.95

In San Diego County, thirty-three years old Toby Dillon enjoys being the assistant tennis pro at the affluent Coral Canyon Country Club where he also practices as an adoption lawyer, but his two professions never merged until now. Nevin and Catherine Handley, parents of his teenage tennis sensation Lynn, hire him to "clean" up a mess when his Human Minds Software was just taking off during the beginnings of the dot com boom. They arranged with their pregnant uninsured office assistant Melanie Dubravado to fake her name as if Catherine was carrying the child; after the birth they would take home their "natural" daughter and raise her. Someone is sending them letters warning them to tell the truth or else.

Toby figures that the couple defrauded the insurance company, falsified a birth certificate, abducted a child, and who knows what other crimes were involved. He agrees to work on legalizing the adoption sixteen years after the switch. However, the case takes a dangerous twist when someone murders Nevin while Toby's investigator Gil the gardener traces a money trail to the Cayman islands and Toscanaro the garbage king who is subsequently murdered too.

Filled with several other stunning but plausible spins beyond that described above, the second adoption legal thriller is an exciting tale that climaxes with a triple play twisters. Toby is terrific as he enjoys his two professions although that has alienated him with his parents especially his father. The whodunit is cleverly devised especially the second homicide while the audience will commiserate with the hero as he aces his way through a strange adoption case although a short "visit" with his late grandfather seems too metaphysical of a backhand for this fine thriller.

The Chardonnay Charade
Ellen Crosby
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9780743289924 $24.00 1-800-223-2336

The late seasonal frost endangers the vines in Lucie Montgomery's Virginia based winery. Lucie spends the night freezing as she and her crew tries to keep the vines from freezing. However, upon daylight, to her chagrin, Lucie finds the corpse of politician Georgia Greenwood.

The police investigate the murder with the victim's husband Ross as the prime (and only) suspect. Meanwhile since Georgia's body was contaminated by pesticide, EPA officials consider fining Lucie for misuse. She plans to stay out of the inquiry as she has enough to do with her winery, her alcoholic sister, and her jealous ire at her winemaker. An outraged Lucie decides to investigate the homicide as she does not trust the nouveau officialdom to seek the truth when she and Ross are convenient.

The latest A Wine Country Mystery (see THE MERLOT MURDERS) goes down smooth from start to finish due to Lucie's actions as she adapts from saving her vines to saving her friend and her reputation. The contrast between old money and the invading newcomers add regional depth to this fine tale. However, it is the cast from the bristly heroine to her winemaker to her sister to her friend and finally the cops who turn THE CHARDONNAY CHARADE into a palate pleasing tasty tale.

Night's Touch
Amanda Ashley
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780821778357 $6.99 1-800-345-2665

Twenty-two year old Cara was reflecting on being adopted when she realizes she knows nothing about the parents who raised her Roshan and Brenna DeLongpre, which disturbs her. Upset, she somewhat rebels, which leads to meeting Anton, but though attracted to him decides he is not right for her.

Soon afterward, Cara meets lonely Vince Cordoba; whom she believes is her soul-mate; he agrees as the loneliness that has haunted him since his first encounter contact with vampires has vanished. However, her rejection of Anton angers Serafina, who blames the DeLongpres for killing her beloved; a man she plans to bring back from the dead. As Cara learns the truth about whom her parents are and who Vince is, she has to decide whether vampires can love and be loved before Serafina uses her as a pawn to destroy all of them.

This delightful vampire romantic next generation to NIGHT'S KISS (the saga of Roshan and Brenna) can stand alone as the back story is cleverly interwoven into this fine thriller. The story line is action packed and the support cast is solid whether they are friend or foe. Vince has become more accepting of his fate since he learned the truth about vampires. Although Cara seems too innocent and adolescent for a twenty-two years old woman, fans will appreciate Amanda Ashley entertaining family saga; albeit a family of vampires.

In Her Bed
Deborah MacGillivray
9780821780374 $4.99

In 1296 in Coinnleir Wood in the Scotland Highlands, Clan Ogilvie heiress Aithinne Ogilvie knows that the charter signed two centuries ago between the Picts and the Norman monarchy gave them protected rights. However, with the death of her guardian Lord Gilchrist Fraser, she knows that King Edward could do what he just did to her cousin Tamlyn by sending her a loyal knight the Dragon of Challon as her betrothed to allegedly protect her rights (see A RESTLESS KNIGHT) and there is not much she can do about it.

Aithinne knows that once her odious neighboring lords learn of Gilchrest's death, they will want to annex her estate even before King Edward has acted. Desperate, Aithinne needs to be carrying a child and hide the death of her kindhearted Gilchrist until she insures an heir is born. She sends her most trusted knights to abduct someone handsome so that she will take him as he lies chained and naked. Afterward a potion will ensure he forgets he has been used to sire a child. They pick Lord Damian St. Giles, whose cousin Challon married his beloved Tamlyn. The plan works perfectly as a bewildered Damian cannot account for lost time as he explains to his cousin. However, to her shock, she learns Damian is Gilchrest's heir.

IN HER BED is a wonderful medieval romance due to the strength of the heroine and the ironic twist of fate as the missing week just before the wedding of A RESTLESS KNIGHT is explained in detail to readers but not to him. Fans will enjoy this fine historical and although it stands alone is embellished by reading the previous tale first.

Almost Dead
Lisa Jackson
9780821775790 $7.99

Although Jack admits spending the night at Larissa's house he denies sleeping with her but his wife Cissy Cahill refuses to believe him. She tossed him out and filed for divorce; he tries to believe she doesn't love him any more. When she takes her son to visit his grandmother Eugenia she discovers the woman lying at the top of the steps in her own blood. Both Cissy and the police believe the killer was her mother Marla who was in prison for murder, but escaped.

Cissy falls under siege when someone, assumed to be Marla, killed her uncle who lived in a home for the mentally challenged. The next victim is Cherisse, Cissy's second cousin. At this point, Jack moves back home, fearing for the life of his wife and son but when the killer strikes again, she forces the pair to act because she is keeping alive someone they cherish dearly.

Lisa Jackson has written another fantastic crime thriller with enough romance to appeal to fans of both genres. Nothing is as it seems in the plot as the author takes the reader constantly down the wrong paths until she is ready to reveal who the killer is. The key characters seem real especially Detective Paterno and the lead couple while several plausible solid twists add tension to a terrific thriller.

Scandal Becomes Her
Shirlee Busbee
9780821780244 $14.00

Following the accident, Eleanor "Nell" Anslowe is haunted by nightmares of torture and murder in a dungeon with a shadowy figure nearby. Almost thirty, but sill on the shelf, she flees a libertine after her wealth and inadvertently meets an earl Julian Weston, who is chasing after his inane stepsister. Neither has plans to marry, but caught together, they do and surprisingly fall in love.

In 1804, the bliss ends when the nightmares return with one frightening change; the shadowy man seems to be staring at her. She tells Julian about her bad dreams and he believes that what she sees is real and that a vicious serial killer knows Nell is coming closer to identifying him; making her the next target by they both assume someone they know and probably trust with their lives.

This is a terrific psychological Regency romantic suspense that grips the audience from the first nightmare to the last dream. The story line is fast-paced as Nell and Julian use their love for one another to help them face an unknown killer haunting her sleep. Shirlee Busbee provides a great tale that will have cross genre appeal to historical mystery and Regency romance readers.

'Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy
Leslie Langtry
Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843959338 $6.99 1-800-481-9191

Widow Gin Bombay is a single mom, who serves as a daisy troop leader; that is when she is not performing her family vocation, assassin. She knows she must start her daughter's training with knitting needles as her mother did her and so forth for centuries when her offspring turns five.

While browsing in a Border's bookstore, she meets Australian bodyguard Diego. To her surprise she loses track of time as they chat amiably for hours before finally leaving; each feels the attraction gor the other. They begin to see one another.

Meanwhile Gin is assigned to assassinate someone selling top secrets to a foreign country. However, this traitor is Diego's client so she ponders how to not harm him when she performs her task. She succeeds when he stupidly shows up at her home without his bodyguard stating he knows she is a professional killer assigned to take him out. Diego arrives while his client lies dead on her floor. As her family helps her dispose of the corpse, she wonders which relative informed on her.

Tongue in cheek as the family occupation is female assassins, readers will enjoy the humorous adventures of Gin as she begins training her offspring to be a killing chip off the old block and falls in love with her target's bodyguard. The fast-paced romantic suspense chick lit thriller is over the top, but fans will want follow suit as Leslie Langtry provides a satirical family drama.

Dead Sea
Brian Keene
9780843958607 $6.99

In East Baltimore Lamar Reed is a gay loner who lost his job when the Ford plant closed. He sees on the news a horrid event of rats coming out of the sewers attacking people; the rodents were dead. Soon after those bitten die, they come back as zombies feasting on live human flesh. Dogs and cats also return as zombies.

The plague spreads around the world leaving Lamar stranded in his apartment until a fire makes him flee his sanctuary. He meets two children, eleven years old Tasha and eight years old Malik who save his life. They flee towards the harbor where they meet Mitch Bollinger who saves their lives. The foursome mange to scramble onto museum ship USCGC Spratling just before it sails on Chesapeake Bay. Feeling safe, but needing supplies, they will soon learn land, air and water are unsafe as the disease crosses species.

Paying homage to Joseph Campbell mythologist theory with overt references, DEAD SEA is an exhilarating end of the world thriller that grips the audience from the moment the TV news shows the dead rat invasion in New York. The story line never slows down as the "hero" and the "warrior" try their best to protect the two children. Fans will appreciate the RISING of the dead tale although the original cause is not known; survival is a human instinct even if as Lamar knows it is a "mother******".

The Concrete Maze
Steven Torres
9780843959697 $7.99

You can make it there, but many don't as New York City can eat you up and spit you out if you're not careful. Predators are waiting everywhere waiting for a nice girl to lure into prostitution and drugs. Luis Ramos went to pick up his beautiful thirteen year old daughter Jasmine only she wasn't there. Luis and his nephew Marc look for her and by talking to people they learn she is with Carlos Valle, a drug dealer and pimp. Her loving relatives fear the worst for her.

The police seem very disinterested so it is up to her father to try and find her. They do everything they can, trying to rescue Jasmine from Carlos. They don't stop searching until told Jasmine is dead, her head found first before other body parts were located all around the city. Luis, with the help of Marc are not about to stop looking for the killer(s) and when (not if in their minds) they do, the culprit will learn how feels to sever body parts.

Readers get a look at the underbelly of the city, a place tourists know nothing about as they scurry from one place to another. The residents know what can happen to the young even if they are properly brought up because even a good person can go astray and make a mistake. Readers may have problems with the methods Luis uses to get information but he is not a police officer and a criminal will hardly lodge a complaint against him. Steven Torres has written an urban noir that defies the term, a powerhouse tale of immense strength that shows the author has insight and yes, compassion for what he is writing about.

Mr. Hands
Gary A. Braunbeck
9780843956100 $6.99

Most people thought Ronald J. Williamson (not that he was known by that name) aka Uncle Ronnie was a serial killer with seven kills attributed him in one year. Ronnie was a child when he discovered he had the ability to know if a child would suffer as a grown up or inflict agony or others. Those like that he killed until he realized decades later that he made a mistake when he destroys the fetus of a pregnant woman.

This killing caused Sarah to be kidnapped and never found because the big brother she was supposed to have was never born thanks to Ronnie. In his grief, he killed himself, his essence seeping into the ground. Lucy, the bereaved mother of Sarah, happens upon the spot during a storm carrying Mr. Hands, a figure that was Sarah's favorite toy. An alchemical mix of rain lightening, blood, and spirit caused Mr. Hands to come alive under Lucy's command. She had him kill, in horrific ways, the monsters that killed innocent children until the day she made a mistake and condemned an innocent to death. She vows to find a way to stop Mr. Hands from completing his last command because she can't handle the responsibility of an child's death who doesn't deserve it..

Want to get creeped out? Read MR. HANDS, a horror story of the supernatural and human kind. Gary A. Braunbeck is one of the new breed of horror writers, writing dark noir that will have readers back with the lights on and jumping out of their skin. Both Ronnie and Lucy are typical villains in many ways yet have a conscience that disturbs them as to err may be human, but deadly. Their methods are unlawful and ugly but they somehow reach an understanding audience. "Kiss of the Madman, the author's international horror guild Award-winning novella, is included in this book as a fabulous bonus.

A Sister's Secret
Wanda Brunstetter
9781597892261 $9.97

In Holmes County, Ohio Grace Hostettler hides from her family and her fiance Cleon Shrock a major secret of what she did while away from the community living amidst the English for two years. If revealed her Amish kin and neighbors would probably shun her although she has been a model citizen since her return four years ago.

However, her plan to conceal her shame is put to the test when Gary Walker arrives in town. Gary threatens to tell those she loves that they were married if she does not cooperate. Despondent and unsure what to do Grace meekly obeys his orders until she realizes Gary is harming her family. She knows to thwart him she must reveal the truth although she assumes that means leaving permanently.

Second chances and redemption after betrayals and lies of omission make for a fine first tale in the Sisters of Holmes County. The story line is fun to follow as the Amish struggle to keep their lifestyle while the intrusive English want to develop the land. Although Grace is tentatively the starring 'sister of this tale, she never provides much action as she is more a marvel watcher while others like Gary propel the plot forward. Still fans of Wanda Brunstetter will enjoy her opening tale in her latest Amish saga.

The Restitution
M.L. Tyndale
9781597893619 $9.97

Notorious pirate Kent Carlton seduced and ruined Isabel Ashton. Without a second look back to see how she was doing, he left her unaware she is pregnant. Her parents treated her like a pariah and totally ignored their grandson Frederick as if he was the devil instead of an innocent child.

In 1669 when Frederick is kidnapped, Isabel, in Port Royal, Jamaica, has no choice except turn to Kent, a man she loathes. Whereas she also turns to God praying for her son's safe return, Kent scoffs at her as he prefers mortal intervention rather than unreliable miracles to save their offspring. Meanwhile Isabel realizes that her hatred of Kent is a means of coping as she loves him and prays for his soul.

The third Legacy of the King's Pirates (see RELIANCE and REDEMPTION) will grab reader's attention from the moment that Frederick is abducted and not let go until the climax. The story line is fast-paced yet contains incredible levels of detail so much so fans will feel they are in seventeenth century Port Royal. Throughout the exciting tale, M.L. Tyndale showcases without preaching or intruding how much Isabel believes in the Lord even as she feels her faith is being tested; she compares quite fascinatingly to her beloved cynical pirate who believes in the sword not the word. Fans will enjoy this terrific inspirational historical romance while also wondering just like Kent does how strong the heroine's faith is if they fail to rescue Frederick.

Me and Mr. Darcy
Alexandra Potter
Ballantine Trade Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780345502544 $12.95 1-800-726-0600

Twenty-nine years old New York bookstore manager Emily Albright holds Jane Austen culpable for her miserable personal life. She wants a modern day Fitzwilliam Darcy to cherish and love her, but all she meets are toads who fail to reach his level of excellence. Tired of Manhattan losers and rejecting Mexico with Stella, she joins a New Year's tour celebrating her heroine Jane Austen.

Although the Darcy admirers touring with Emily are all old enough to be her grandmother, she is having fun paying homage to her hero until a reporter going by the moniker Spike Hargreaves insults her for her inane fascination with a literary character. When she meets a real breathing Fitzwilliam Darcy, Emily finds he fails to reach her level of excellence now measured against Spike.

This fun chick lit look at Jane Austen through the adulation readers provide to Darcy makes for a delightful time for sub-genre fans although it is obvious who gets the "heroine". Ms. Austen fans will appreciate this lighthearted homage to Pride and Prejudice even if it is "real" men like Spike who end up with modern day women instead of the romantic ideal Darcy because love supersedes romanticism.

Last Words
Mariah Stewart
9780345492234 $6.99

On Maryland's Eastern Shore, St. Dennis chief of police Gabriel Beck goes to his car only to find someone has left him with a horrific present. A naked Jane Doe mummified in plastic wrap lies in his backseat; inside the wrapping is a tape recording of the victim's last words.

When more corpses are found cocooned in the same way in the area, the FBI sends agent Mia Shields, who is loaded down with guilt having failed to recognize a close to home killer, to help investigate. Gabriel reluctantly agrees with Mia's plan for her to be the bait to catch a serial killer.

The second Shields FBI tale (see LAST LOOK) is an exhilarating police procedural that grips the audience with the first murder and never slows down until the final confrontation. Gabriel and Mia are a strong combination as both believes the serial killer is a local; their investigation enables the audience to see closely into the lives of a small Maryland eastern Shore community, but cannot find a viable motive, which leads to Mia becoming bait. Although the motive seems weak, fans of Mariah Stewart's delightful romantic suspense thrillers will look forward to the LAST WORD in her Shields trilogy, LAST BREATH.

Chloe Zhivago's Recipe for Marriage and Mischief
Olivia Lichtenstein
9780345495754 $23.95

In London, forty-three years old psychotherapist Chloe Zhivago seems to be living the perfect life. She loves her spouse Dr. Greg and cherishes her two teenage children who seem abnormal because they cause no trouble and adore their parents. Perhaps the only downside in her life is Greg's phobic reaction to his uncle having Alzheimer's; and to be honest she finds it cute when he hides household items so that he can recall where he put them; that is except the teakettle. Chloe knows life is good so why is she going through a crisis of is that all there is.

Greg seems to have one Alzheimer's' trait that annoys Chloe; he has forgotten the erotic weekends when they first married seventeen years ago. She and her best friend corporate climber and mommy Ruth Zimmer discuss the lack of spontaneity especially sex in their lives. Seeking passion (and sex) Chloe wonders if the new hunk on the block, married Ivan the Russian can light her fire. His notes of love (in Russian) entice Chloe to consider a tryst; that is after she has it converted into the Queen's English, which loses something in the translation.

Tongue in cheek, this is an amusing look at the middle age crisis starring a woman whose recipes add to the fun of the tale. The support cast is a zany eccentric bunch whether they are family, friend, potential lover, or patient. However, this is clearly Chloe's fling as she ponders the critical issue facing a forty something person: to cheat or not to cheat that is the titillating question.

Up Close and Dangerous
Linda Howard
9780345486523 $25.95

Bailey Wingate was left in charge of her stepchildren's funds when her husband died of cancer. She dreads the day each month she give them their stipend because Seth and Tamzin hate that she lives in their family house while they do not, and she is younger than them. Bailey is looking forward to her vacation, but unknown to her Seth called J&L Executive Air Limo to confirm when she is flying with them.

When Bret comes in sick, Cam refuses to let her pilot Bailey so he takes the charter even though he doesn't like his passenger believing she was a trophy wife. When their plane crashes, both are injured but Bailey who is in better condition saves Cam's life. They realize they are falling in love with one another but first they have to get to civilization because it doesn't look like they are being rescued. Then they need to find proof that the plane was sabotaged as they both believe.

Linda Howard is one of the best romantic suspense authors writing today. The changing relationship between the protagonists is fascinating as they struggle for dominance in their self-rescue. Filled with non-stop action that enhances the lead couples' shifting attitudes towards one another, readers will like both characters and despise the parasitic siblings who hate "begging" for what they consider their money.

White Heat
Cherry Adair
9780345476449 $21.95

Art restorer Emily Greene is stunned with the death of her beloved mentor, Daniel Aries. When it is officially declared a suicide, she feels guilty that she was not there for her beloved Daniel, who was sort of like a kindhearted father to her and she cared for him as "daughter" should be for her "father".;She blames herself for not knowing he was despondent.

Daniel's estranged son, T-FLAC (Terrorist Force Logistic Assault Command) agent Max Aries visits Emily, who hates him for running away from her love. Based on a pencil sketch he found in his father's studio he insists someone, most likely from the Black Rose terrorist cell, murdered his dad because of some nefarious renaissance art restoration activity. She fears being near Max, as she is not sure she can recover when he breaks her heart again as Daniel is no longer there to help her. However, more related murders occur along with bombings leaving Max and Emily knowing they can trust no one except each other.

Although the WHITE HEAT romance ignites the pages, the story line focuses on the investigation that turns into counterterrorism efforts. Surprisingly, with kudos to Cherry Adair's talent, the torrid love scenes do not intrude, but enhance the suspense elements. Fans of fast-paced romantic suspense thrillers will want to read the second T-FLAC tale (see HOT ICE) because the action keeps on coming.

The Bright Side of Disaster
Katherine Center
9781400066377 $23.95

In Houston pregnant Jenny Harris and her fiance Dean decide to marry after their child is born. However, one week past Jenny's due date Dean goes out to buy cigarettes, he never returns home. Soon after Dean vanished, Jenny gives birth to a girl.

Her mother Claudia, her best friend Meredith, and Dr. Blandon the live in cat help Jenny raise Elizabeth Maxine "Maxie" Harris. However even with that loving assistance, life has changed for Jenny between midnight cleanings and breastfeeding; she never sleeps, but believes it is worth it as she cherishes her baby. When Jenny and her neighbor John Gardner becomes friends, both feel the attraction, but though he wants her and someone else's child, he is running scared that when Dean decides to come home she will choose Maxie's biological father over the man who has been a real father to the other guy's child.

THE BRIGHT SIDE OF DISASTER is a terrific tale that showcases how a newborn nukes the lifestyles of his or her parents. The storyline is filled with single sassy lasses who prove a woman does not necessarily need a permanent man in their life. John is a solid character who compares favorably against Dean so no one should be shocked with the obvious ending (Roy Orbison predicted it forty plus years ago) as Katherine Center provides a wonderful look at a single mom who knows exactly who is THE BRIGHT SIDE OF DISASTER.

Agnes and the Hitman
Jennifer Cruise & Bob Mover
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312363048 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

Agnes Crandall is comfortable ensconced in her new home which she and her fiancee bought from her friend Brenda when a male teenager with a gun comes barreling in wanting her dog Rhet. She hits him on the head with a frying pan. He is knocked through a door hidden by wall paper and falls to the basement and breaks his neck. Its clearly self-defense but Agnes has knocked out other men who hurt her with a skilled even though none pressed charges.

Shane (like in the western hero – one name only) is sent to Agnes's hometown to kill a hit man who was hired to kill somebody at the wedding Agnes is catering at her home for the daughter whose mother is her best friend. Shane's uncle and Agnes's friend knows something about the hidden room that hides a bunker that supposedly contains five million dollars from a robbery is locked behind the stainless steal locked door of the bunker. Shane and Agnes are instantly attracted to one another as they deal with a homicidal Brenda who wants her house back, an ex-fiance who is trying to drive Agnes out of her home, a missing mobster, a monster that doesn't want the money, the bride and groom and an assassination attempt that has to be stopped.

Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer make an excellent writing team because only they could write a jocular tale about a killer for hire. Readers will enjoy Agnes' antics although they probably should not although Shane as a hit man falling in love steals the show. Together he and Agnes make a perfect team in this amusing graveyard action filled plot loaded with shocking surprises that the audience never sees coming.

Devil May Cry
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin's
9780312369507 $19.95

Centuries ago, the Goddess Artemis betrayed the Sumerian God Sin; ultimately she stole his power. The former deity has patiently waited for an opportunity to regain what he lost and more by stripping his enemy of her strength. Sin apparently steals an artifact that alerts Artemis that he is pursuing her. She assigns her most trusted servant Katra to kill Sin.

Although she works for Artemis, Kat does not trust the goddess who is known for her perfidious activities. Instead of assassinating Sin, she decides to find out what he is doing. She learns he has no time to fool with vengeance as an ancient vampiric Sumerian race plans to release the lethal Dimme super-demons to destroy the world; only a Sumerian God can prevent them from success, but Sin has not had deity level power since Artemis betrayed him. Kat offers her help even as the two wary warriors fight their attraction for one another.

The latest Dark Hunter tale affirms how tremendous this series truly is because it takes classical mythology, but places it in a modern day setting. The strong story line contains a powerful lead couple needing to ally themselves to one another to save humanity but they are reluctant to trust one another with their heart and soul. Although difficult for newcomers to follow as the Kenyon mythos is delightfully (for fans) much more complicated than the genome mapping, DEVIL MAY CRY adds much to the saga.

Hidden Moon
Lori Handeland
St. Martin's
9780312949174 $6.99

Claire Kennedy suffers two traumatic experiences. Her father, mayor of Lake Bluff, Georgia, passes away and she is date raped. She goes home to finish her dad's term in office as the Full Moon Festival is about to begin.

She and Sheriff Grace McDaniel know that besides the revelers, some crazies come out during the gala. Both females are even more concerned because a troupe of gypsies has parked nearby, which could mean more problems for them. Grace and Claire meet the lead gypsy Malachi and to the mayor's shock, as she a bit wary of men at the moment, she is attracted to him. However, Claire has no time to analyze her feelings as a wolf assaults a hiker and a sinister storm hammers Lake Bluff with Claire caught in the eye.

The seventh Moon paranormal romantic suspense is a terrific entry as much for the female friendship between Claire and Grace as it is for the romance between the former and Mal. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as the hunt for a rogue wolf begins just before the storm is to hit the area. Although hurricanes have become an overused device since Katrina, fans of werewolf tales will appreciate Lori Handeland's HIDDEN MOON, as once gain she provides a howling good read.

The Widow's Mate
Ralph McInerny
St. Martin's
9780312364557 $24.95

Following his father's gift to him of a sizable amount of money, Wallace Flanagan vanished. His friends and family including his wife Melissa assumed he dumped his spouse to run off with his latest lover.

However years later, Wally's body is found, mashed by a cement mixer. His father and his former lover want to know where he was when he vanished, why he suddenly reappeared dead in equipment owned by his family's firm, and who killed him. However, Melissa instead turns to Father Dowling of St. Hilary's in Fox River to pray for Wally's eternal soul. Unable to ignore the mortal concerns of an apparent homicide, Father Dowling begins investigating only to learn a friend of Wally, Greg Packer, has been killed too.

THE WIDOW'S MATE is a terrific whodunit as Father Dowling prays for Wally's soul, tries to provide solace to the widow and also seeks the truth as to what happened. The story line is filled with twists and red herrings so that the audience is never sure what to expect next as Ralph McInerney keeps fans guessing (and reading). Father Dowling is at his best in this delightful parish cozy.

The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fourth Annual Collection
Gardner Dozois (editor)
St Martins
9780312363345 $35.00

As always this is a fascinating anthology as much for those stories selected as the best in 2006 as for the essays starting with the Summation, which though Mr. Dozois opens with a "relatively uneventful year" he quickly affirms otherwise as the publishing world had radical changes. The stories come from a wide variety of sources that prove how vast the options in the field have become. Some tales by famous authors were originally electronic such as "I, Row-Boat by Docterow was an on line entry in Flurb I and "The Ile of Dogges" by Bear and Monette was on Aeon Seven. Others were typically included in magazines such as "Tin Marsh" by Swanwick and "The Djinn's Wife' by McDonald both in Asimov's Sconce Fiction, and "Damascus" by Gregory and" Okanoggin Falls" by Gilman in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Finally, a few were part of what seem like somewhat a dinosaur at least in this anthology: printed books such as "Nightingale" by Reynolds (see Galactic North). The twenty-eight short stories are solid tales with fan favorites and newcomers included. Each entry is well written and fun to read as the collection covers the gamut of the genre. However, it is Mr. Dozois' fabulous "Summation" that brings together the year in which source diversity keeps expanding making it impossible even for an insomniac lunatic book reviewer to even have heard of some of the tales; don't even try to ponder how Mr. Dozois finds some of them; though all are worthy of inclusion.

Meet Me In Venice
Elizabeth Adler
St, Martin's
9780312364472 $24.95

Thirty-eight years old American expatriate Precious "Preshy" Rafferty loves living in Paris. She especially enjoys owning and running an antique shop, but also frets that she has never met the right one though she has had her lovers. That is until now when she meets American businessman Bennett James at a cafe; he is visiting the city but is based six thousand miles away in Shanghai.

At about the same time in Shanghai, Preshy's cousin antique dealer Lily Song possesses a valuable necklace that others covet. Especially wanting to steal and sell the jewelry is Mary-Lou Chen. Her lover, American businessman Bennett Yuan, is halfway around the world seeking a buyer. Lily warns Preshy that a schemer seeks the latter's necklace and the former's inheritance. The cousins who never met before agree to meet in Venice where they hope to expose the thieves even as Preshy wonders who to trust, her cousin or her lover.

Suspense readers will want to meet Elizabeth Adler in Venice as this fast-paced thriller is loaded with fascinating characters who have no qualms about underworld trafficking except apparently the naive heroine. Preshy is precious as she finally finds love, but her cousin raises issues of trust and betrayal. Fans will be hooked from the first encounter in the Happy Bird Teahouse in Shanghais and remain entranced wondering along with the heroine who to trust until the Venice climax.

Hidden Agendas
Lora Leigh
St. Martin's
9780312939939 $6.99

The deadly Fuentes cartel has a reputation for ruthlessness to maintain. Thus Diego Fuentes knows he must not look soft as the daughter of a US senator, Emily Stanton, escaped from his compound with the help of Navy SEALs especially Kell Kreiger. He needs to find an insider he can either blackmail or buy.

Kell and his team know the current mission is to bring down Diego. However, babysitting is a difficult assignment when the person is spirited Emily, who he is attracted to just like she is to him. Emily refuses to allow A-holes like Diego to destroy her life so goes about as if no one is after her although she gladly accepts the protection of Kell as she knows her feelings for him is much deeper than gratitude for saving her life.

Readers will appreciate this strong romantic suspense that continues Lora Leigh's homage to the military (see NAUGHTI BOY) especially the Tempting SEALs (see DANGEROUS GAMES). The story line is action-packed as Kell concludes that to keep Emily safe he must trust no one since someone betrayed them. Readers will enjoy the exploits of the lead couple who struggle to survive treachery of a friend, but cannot worry about who as Diego is coming.

Until the Day You Die
Tina Wainscott
St. Martin's
9780312941635 $6.99

Maggie Fletcher finds her sister, Dana battered, raped and dying. She believes Colin Masters killed her sibling as he was stalking her from the moment he saw her working at the Mystic Cafe. Maggie's testimony convicted Masters, but she perjured herself as she had no hard evidence that he committed the homicide. Masters goes to prison, but the harassment of Maggie begins.

Six months later worried about her nine years old son Luke, Maggie moves them to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. However, three years pass, but Masters is free seeking to destroy the woman who lied on the witness stand. She knows he will target anyone she loves before he comes for her.

UNTIL THE DAY YOU DIE is an exciting dark thriller that grips the audience from the onset when a terrorized Dana tells her sister that he sees her when she is sleeping, he sees her when she is working, and he sees her whenever he desires. The tale is at its best when the heroine is front and center as she provides a first person account of her actions, motives, and fears especially a sort of deja vu feeling that she is repeating the last days of her sister. When other players especially the villain take center stage, the third person usage seems contrastingly off kilter as the audience never gets inside the head of the killer. Filled with twists and starring a devious malevolent villain, Tina Wainscott provides an exhilarating character driven suspense.

The Cairo Diary
Maxim Chatham
St. Martin's
9780312360993 $24.95

In 2005 the French DST (secret police) move Marian from Paris to Mont-Saint-Michel on the west coast in order to keep her safe. To somewhat ease the ennui, she visits the library at Avranches. There she finds a journal written by Cairo Police Detective Jeremy Matheson in 1928.

Cairo 1928: Several young children vanished in thin air; they were later found dead at the tombs; all were horrifically mutilated. The head investigator Egyptian Inspector Azim el-Dayim believes the killer is a ghoul, a mythical inhuman monster. British expatriate Jeremy believes the wealthy husband of his former lover is the culprit. As the city panics over this giant serial killer, Marian believes the diary is real and that someone objects to her having it; she receives threatening notes to return what is not hers as she tries to solve the mystery of an almost eight decade old Egyptian serial killer.

Though Marian is looking back via the diary, readers will feel the atmosphere filled with tension of 1928 Cairo when Egypt was an English protectorate. The story line moves effortlessly between the two eras as Marian who has caused some sort of highest level scandal in Paris finds she is caught up in the intrigue of the historical murder investigation and pondering who in the present wants her to return what she assumes is the diary. With a slick touch of having the diary inside a Poe tale, mystery fans will appreciate THE CAIRO DIARY as the audience like the heroine will ponder the maxim truth is in the eye of the beholder as "what is truth at the end of the day" or tale.

Category 7
Bill Evans and Mariana Jameson
St. Martin's Press
9780765317353 $24.95

Meteorologists especially those working The National Hurricane Center of NOAA are fascinated and frightened by the most powerful storm ever recorded, Hurricane Simone, much more powerful than anything before. The weather experts extrapolate its force as being equivalent to Category 7 when 5 and 4 are compared. The coastal cities are being evacuated by panicking people caught in traffic jams that are endless. New York City is a microcosm of what is anticipated as it lies in a direct path which will leave Manhattan devastated especially the southern tip and Long Island totally under water.

US President Winslow Benson feels helpless as there is little he can do except help get people out of the anticipated flood zone. He knows Simone was created by former wealthy idealist Carter Thompson, who once dreamed of feeding the world, but now feels he owes Benson and those who ridiculed him a taste of what wind and rain can wrought. Former Thompson team member meteorologist scientist Kate Sherman and CIA meteorologist Jake Baxter are the only hope to save the East Coast, but their Hail Mary must occur inside the eye of the hurricane.

This exciting thriller hooks the audience although the cast of thousands slows down the superstar Simone. The scientific premise behind the story line seems plausible and is easy to understand as Bill Evans and Mariana Jameson incorporate what caused Simone within the story line. Weather Channel fanatics will full appreciate CATEGORY 7 as the two meteorologists struggle to prevent the ultimate act of terrorism, controlling the weather.

A Few Good Murders
Cady Kalian
Forge Books
1403 Flatiron Building
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765313652 $13.95 1-888-330-8477

Maggie Mars is the writer for Murder Becomes Her and she is ecstatic to obtain such a good break. The only fly in the ointment is the leading lady, the famous Allegra Cort who wants Maggie to rewrite every little scene and change all the dialogue so that it becomes her script more than it is Maggie's work. Matters come is a head when Allegra demands Maggie cut out the only scene in which Sheri Davis speaks.

Lew, the head of Griffin Studios, forces Maggie to talk to Allegra but when she goes to see her in her luxurious trailer the star says she wants Sheri scene cut out entirely. Maggie refuses and the women get into a fight that is stopped by Allegra's assistant Lisa. The next morning Allegra's body is found with her head bashed in. Maggie becomes a person of interest for the police so she starts investigating Allegra's murder hoping to find the killer so she doesn't end up in jail.

A Few Good Murders is a light-hearted chick lit mystery that focuses on the demanding out of control side of Hollywood stars. The heroine is determined, some might call her pigheaded. He does not rely on anyone except herself to get her out of another mess like what happened to her in AS DEEP AS IT GETS. The who done it has plenty of suspects because there is nobody who liked or cared about the victim which makes the protagonist's job harder and the reader's interest more intense because Maggie is the perfect fall gal.

The Genesis Code
Christopher Forrest
9780765316035 $23.95

At Triad Genomics Biotech Company, Nobel Prize winner research geneticist Joshua Ambergris has discovered a coded text hidden in human DNA. He is euphoric with his find, but is a bit confused as to whom, why, and how they planted this as there had to be a previous more advanced race than humans of today. However, before he can announce to his peers what he has found, members of the ancient Order kill him as they want the DNA code kept secret.

Ambergris's two assistants, Christian Madison and Grace Nguyen, are stunned by his death; they vow to complete his last work as homage to the late great geneticist. However, the Order is taking no chances that Ambergris's lab rats will learn the truth so plan to kill them too.

The segments that focus on the math and science of coding and genetics are superb fascinating looks at DNA and a host of cryptic mythos. When the story line turns action thriller the tale feels too commonplace as this has been frequently done before. Likewise when the two heroes work on coding they seem human; when they dodge bombs and assassins they seem more like James Bond than scientists. Still overall THE GENESIS CODE is an interesting combining of the DNA code with a who's who of mystical coding.

The Suicide Club
Gayle Wilson
Mira Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778324690 $6.99

Gifted Coordinator teacher Lindsay Sloan rejects as ludicrous Sheriff's Department Detective Jace Nolan's theory that at least one if not more of her students is involved in serial church arsons even though he claims he is working with FBI profilers. However, her students notice the cop and the teacher talking; they wonder if she is ratting on them. Soon afterward, someone tries to kill her in a fire.

Still she rejects his supposition until a series of student suicides occur that make her reconsider what is happening to her gifted pupils. She vows to help Jace learn the truth in order to insure her students are safe. The cop and the teacher are willing to risk their lives to prevent more appalling consequences from occurring.

The recent Virginia Tech tragedy reminds the audience how plausible the story line of THE SUICIDE CLUB is. Readers join Lindsay praying that it is not the students committing arson and wondering what has happened to these geniuses who are suddenly killing themselves. Although the romance between Jace and Lindsay is well written, it seems more like a superficial sidebar requirement (even with the life threatening final confrontation) to a strong suspense thriller as the superb mystery takes center stage.

Dead Right
Brenda Novak
9780778324393 $6.99

Two decades ago in Stillwater, Mississippi, Madeline Barker's father, highly regarded Reverend Lee Barker disappeared. Most townsfolk believe her step-family killer her dad, but Madeline thinks otherwise. However, his car was recently found proving he did not just walk away as the other prevalent theory went. Inside the trunk is proof there is the motive for murder and much more.

Over the objections of her family and the local law enforcement, Madeline hires Los Angeles based private investigator Hunter Solozano to uncover the truth of what happened to her beloved dad. He begins to find evidence that shakes the core of Madeline's soul. However, someone wants the truth to remain interred even if that means burying Madeline and her outside muscle along side her.

From start to finish this romantic suspense thriller will grab the audience and never let go as the plausible twists keep coming until the final shocker. With the emphasis on the mystery elements, readers will be stunned when they suddenly realize how absorbed they are with this fast-paced story line. Fans of the series (see DEAD SILENCE and DEAD GIVEAWAY) will need to know who did what to whom as Brenda Novak delivers a terrific finish.

Susan Wiggs
9780778324751 $7.99

Former mayor of Avalon, New York, single mom Nina Romano realizes her dream is close to being fulfilled. She needs to obtain a bank loan to restore and convert the historical Inn at Willow Lake into an upscale retreat.

However, to her chagrin, she learns her long time rival Greg Bellamy has decided to do just that to his family owned historical Inn; he begins the restoration. Divorced, Greg, the father of two including a pregnant teen, wants to hire Nina to manage the facility, but she refuses. As they continue an argument that they started twenty years ago when they were teens, the two continue to ignore the attraction they always felt, but feared pursuing. However, this time around they have teenage children and the inn to contend with besides their not so secret anymore feelings of love.

Returning to the Lakeshore Chronicles (see SUMMER AT WILLOW LAKE and THE WINTER LODGE), Susan Wiggs writes an entertaining contemporary romance. The lead combatants battle their inner attraction that they hide from the other out of fear of ridicule and they assume from their offspring. The story line focuses on their second chance at a permanent relationship if either would take that gigantic fearful first step.

13 Bullets
David Wellington
Three Rivers Press
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307381439 $13.95 1-888-523-9292

In 1983 US Marshall Special Deputy Jameson Arkeley ended the vampire feeding frenzy killing all but one and almost dying in the war; most people feel safe as officially all of the once thought of as supernatural beasts are reported dead. However, because of laws intended to provide justice to mortals, the sole surviving blood sucker Justinia Malvern resides on life support as a guinea pig for scientific investigation in a remote Pennsylvania asylum.

Now two decades later, Pennsylvania state trooper Laura Caxton reports some weird homicides that bring Arkeley back on the scene. He knows vampires killed the victims and assumes somehow Justinia has "offspring" planning to free their queen once they are powerful enough to do so. He takes over the investigation with Laura assigned to assist him. They must follow the blood trail to the lair of Justinia's minion to exterminate them before they can bring blood to resuscitate their leader.

This ultra-gory vampire police procedural is pure action on action as David Wellington never slows down even to bite a victim. The story line is filled with twists that at times seem too jarring especially a final spin that sets up the next encounter, but also keeps the audience alert. However, the key to this refreshing thriller is the relationship between the vampire hunter and the state trooper as no romance, no best pals, nor any Gandalf-Frodo affinity occur; instead he is an abusive arrogant ahole and she hates having to take orders from this know it all bully. With a nod to his zombie Monster Island trilogy, Mr. Wellington returns the vampire legend to its bloodiest veins.

Heartbreak Town
Marsha Moyer
Three Rivers (Crown)
9780307351548 $13.95

Lucy Hatch and Ash Farrell fell in love and married. They left East Texas for his career as a country singer in Nashville. However, she hated the big city and finally Ash's "Juicy Lucy" left him behind in Tennessee to return to her hometown of Mooney. There she works at Faye's Flower Shop and raises their young son Jude although her family and neighbors help her.

However, she wakes up to a trailer parked in her yard with cowboy boots on the window sill. Lucy knows that Ash is parked outside, but is unsure of why he is here in Mooney. Ash swears he has changed as he has missed her and his Hey Jude, but in reality he is fleeing from himself as his dreams have been nuked by her leaving him and his use of drugs. He vows to stay parked in his wife's yard forever if need be because he wants a second chance; she wants to say yes, but has doubts that the charmer has changed.

The key to this second chance at love tale is the red dirt that middle age Lucy and Ash seem to wallow in as their relationship is filled with difficult issues that do not magically vanish with a kiss. The eccentric cast augments the entertaining story line as they either matchmake or intrude on Ash's efforts to win back the love of his life. Contemporary fans will enjoy this fine tale as "the yellow rose of Texas beats the belles of Tennessee".

Dead Drop
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek
9781593747534 $13.95

FBI agent Parris "Perry" L'Engle has always had doubts about the automobile accident that took the life of Daniel Sands over two decades ago as some of the "facts" made no sense. Still there was noting she could prove otherwise. Now she overhears a voice she has never forgotten; the covert agent who tried to recruit Daniel the day before he died. In fact it seems like deja vu as he is now trying to recruit her son, Danny, Daniel's offspring.

Perry vows not this time. She follows this agent's trail to Chicago where she runs into Network undercover operative Roan Emory, whom she knows as Daniel. She assumes he gave up on her and their love. Roan realizes he can "breath" for the first in a quarter of a century, but also knows that the Network that snatched him will only free him in death; their threat to keep him in line is his beloved Perry and the adult child he did not know he sired.

The fourth Incognito thriller, DROP DEAD, is an exhilarating tale that grips the audience from the opening deja vu sequence until the final confrontation. The lead couple makes the tale as this is no second chance at love since the network stopped the first time and prepares to intervene again. Although Karen Wiesner's latest book can stand alone as a terrific character driven action thriller, newcomers will want to read the previous saga (see NO ORDINARY LOVE, UNTIL DEATH DO US PART, and BOUNTY ON THE REBEL'S HEART) as these are some of the best novels around.

Prime Time
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Harlequin Next
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373881352 $5.50

In most professions being forty-six years old means prime time, but as an on screen TV reporter Charlotte "Charlie" McNally is considered old. She as much as the brass compares herself unfavorably to the sleek new face of the young news anchorwoman, Ellen Cavanagh. Still Charlie hopes to put off father time a bit longer although she is insulted when news director Kevin O'Bannon assigns her to interview the widow of Aztratek Pharmaceuticals employee Bradley Foreman, who died in a recent car accident.

However, Charlie soon learns that the deceased sent her whistle-blowing e-mails regarding some papers that expose his firm's dangerous dealings. Charlie investigates the allegations, which leads her to Professor Joshua Gelston. She is attracted to him, but fears he may prove to be an educated thug.

Charlie makes PRIME TIME into an enjoyable romantic suspense thriller as she tells the tale with wit, humor, and fear for her heart if her potential knight in shining armor proves to be the enemy as she (and readers) suspects he is. Fans will appreciate her escapades as she wonders: to trust or not to trust (her heart) that is the question.

Madam of the House
Donna Birdsell
Harlequin Next
9780373881369 $5.50

In Pennsylvania, realtor Cecilia "Madame of the Million-Dollar Deal" Katz cannot believe her husband wasted their savings needed to care for their special needs son to attend boarding school. She plans to divorce the idiot, but still needs money for her child's education. During a game of truth or dare with high school friends, she comes up with a matchmaking concept to pair wealthy older women with younger men.

Her real estate assistant Jake Eamon helps her put together the strategic plan and the launching of the business. It proves so successful the police think Cecilia is a madam and Jake is her pimp running a prostitution ring. Soon, strange packages arrive and a nasty thug wants a piece of the action even as Cecilia and Jake begin to fall in love.

Readers will laugh out loud with the amusing comedy of errors as the police believe they have strong circumstantial evidence that Celilia is the MADAM OF THE HOUSE and plans to bust her as soon as they complete a sting operation. The romance is refreshing between the older woman and her younger assistant. However, it is the misconceptions that make Donna Birdsell a fun humorous contemporary tale.

Storm Season
Charlotte Douglas
Harlequin Next
9780373881376 $5.50

In Pelican Bay, Florida, former cop turned private investigator Margaret Skerritt and her partner fiance, Bill Malcolm are working two cases. First they are trying to identity the J.D. (John Doe) amnesiac living in the garden shed of their neighbors, the elderly Lassiter sisters. Even more pressing is uncovering the culprit who has tried to kill advice columnist Kimberly Ross.

However, for Maggie and Bill these are normal cases. More upsetting is Bill's former wife, Trish, who dumped him over twenty-three years ago when she could not deal with his profession, is back in town seeking a place to stay since her second spouse left her and her adult child Melanie refused to take her in. Maggie assumes Trish expects a reconciliation although she never looked back to contact Bill over the years and ultimately their daughter followed her lead. Now as a Type 5 hurricane is heading towards the state, Maggie thinks her rival, living in the house she and Bill own, is the bigger storm, a hurricane type 6.

The latest Skerritt-Malcolm private investigative tale (see PELICAN BAY, WEDDING BELL BLUES and HOLIDAYS ARE MURDER) is an entertaining cozy as the two cases are cleverly intermingled with the heroine's doubts re her relationship with Bill. The story line is fun to follow although no one will believe the chutzpah of Trish or the selfishness of Melanie.

Summer Dreams
Stevi Mittman, Kate Austin, Jennifer Greene
Harlequin Next
9780373881383 $5.50

"Who's That in the Itsy-Bitsy, Anyway?" by Stevi Mittman. Home decorator Teddi Bayer is working on the cottage of Carmine De'Guiseppe in the Hamptons when she finds her mother's love letters to the Mafioso.

"Summertime Blues" by Kate Austin. She gave up her career dreams two decades ago, but forty years old Ardella is finally doing what she wanted to do when she was twenty. She is working at the Vancouver Aquarium.

"Kokomo" by Jennifer Greene. Lawyer Jane Whitcomb has always loved the Beach Boys' hit song so she decides to visit the Caribbean paradise on her vacation. However, to her chagrin her assistant books her for a stay in Kokomo, Indiana where a former boyfriend wants to ride the wild surf with her.

These three fun summer dreams novellas live up to their title as entertaining tales of women seeking their aspirations.

Heat Wave
Stephanie Bond, Leslie Kelly, Heidi Betts
9780373837144 $5.99

"Rex on the Beach" by Stephanie Bond. Private investigator Lucinda Belvedere is hired to find a runaway groom, but instead locates the best man Rex McCormick.

"Getting Into Trouble" by Leslie Kelly. Counselor Damon Cole decides to take the summer off at his family's carnival. However his goal of no stress ends when single mom Allie Cavanaugh mesmerizes the mesmerist.

"Shaken and Stirred" by Heidi Betts. After the end of a rather disappointing relationship Abby Weaver plans for a beach getaway with a female friend. Her pal cannot make it, but Abby goes anyway where she meets Marine Mike Mastriani, who occupies her time even when he is not with her.

These three heated tales star genuine protagonists whose respective romances are fun, hot, and plausible. Contemporary fans will enjoy this summer HEAT WAVE emitted by this anthology.

Sara's Son
Tara Taylor Quinn
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373714285 $5.50

Over two decades ago in Maricopa, Ohio unmarried teenager Sara Lindsay got drunk at a party. While intoxicated, she apparently participated in group sex. Nine months later she gave birth to a boy whom she gave up for adoption.

Now that child, Westerville police officer Ryan Mercedes, visits married Sara Calhoun with the claim that he believes the incident covered up a murder. They look up registered sex offender Mark Dalton, who went to prison along with two other men for statutory rape, a crime he does not remember doing as he too was drunk at the time. Over the objection of her cheating spouse, the trio decides the time is right to learn what really happened at that notorious party over twenty-one years ago.

The cast including adoptive parents Glen and Harriet who help makes this a fascinating tale from the opening scene when Ryan visits Sara and tells her he is her son and never slows down until the DNA test proves who sired the child. Although the murder suspicion and subsequent investigation seems a stretch at first as a way to exonerate Mark, fans will appreciate how Tara Taylor Quinn makes it seem plausible. Filled with angst, a strong cast, suspense and second chances, SARA'S SON is a delightful contemporary.

The Other Woman's Son
Darlene Gardner
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373714315 $5.50

As a favor to a friend Corrine Sweetland, accountant Jenna Wright sings in public at the Blue Mockingbird Saloon in Little Rock. Clay Dillon hearing her perform and offers her work as a performer at his Memphis bar; she accepts.

Clay hides his hidden agenda when he offered the singing gig to Jenna. His sister Darcy needs a kidney with Jenna being the last hope of a match. Jenna and Darcy are half-sisters having the same father Donald; the man who deserted Jenna, her sister and brother, and her mother to start a new family. However, as Jenna and Clay begin to fall in love, he knows once he reveals his motive she will dump him although he prays she will be there for Darcy.

The Other Woman's Son is an entertaining contemporary romance starring likable characters. Jenna is a terrific protagonist who is caught between loyalty to her still hurting mom, her love for the deceiver with a noble cause, and caring for her nice frail half-sister. If she agrees, her mom may never forgive her; if she does not agree, she would never forgive herself. Fans will enjoy the angst filled tale that makes a subtle plea for everyone to be tested as potential donors of life.

Father Material
Kimberly Van Meter
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373714339 $5.50

Though the idea frightens her Natalie Simmons agrees to go rafting with her former boyfriend Dan Gorlan to prove she can be a daredevil too. They agreed to meet at the rafting sight Wild River Expeditions, but Dan fails to show up. In fact he and a Jessica Chambers canceled. She is ready to bail out too but guide Evan Murphy persuades her otherwise. They have a great time together including the best sex of her life.

Not too long after her watery humiliation that cost half her savings, Natalie learns she is pregnant carrying river guide Evan's child. She plans to tell Evan that he will be a father, but that she will raise the child by herself; Evan has other ideas.

The key to FATHER MATERIAL is the all over the place reactions of Natalie as she is euphoric and fearful especially with how her teddy bear loving yet gruff dad will respond. Interestingly she is less concerned about how Evan will take the news as she assumes he will opt out because daredevil freaks do not raise children. Thus Evan has his work cut out as he plans to be there for his son and soon wants to be there for the love of his life Natalie. Contemporary romance fans will enjoy Natalie's delicate condition.

Pamela Browning
Harlequin Everlasting
9780373654147 $5.25

In South Carolina's Low Country Rick McCullough and twin sisters Martine and Trista Barrineau were best friends growing up. However, although he wanted Trista he married Martine. Over the next decade he regretted picking the wrong sister at least for him. Now Martine is having an affair and wanting out of her marriage.

When convicted sex offender Jorge Padran was released from prison he came after Rick, who put him away. However, instead of attacking Rick, he abducts Martine. He follows them only to see their vehicle crash at high speed. Rick calls Trista in Columbia who is always is cool under fire. He and Trista, who is raising their daughter alone, meet at the hospital praying for the third member of their triangle to survive although that means staying apart.

This exciting tale contains a wonderful wholesome good twin, a not so good twin, and an inane man pulled by both of them. The story line is character driven, but the "bad seed" stealing the "good seed's" beloved just does not seem right. Still SNAPSHOTS is an entertaining family drama of twins and the boy-man who inadvertently came between them with his friendship and love.

The Letter
Elizabeth Blackwell
Harlequin Everlasting
9780373654130 $5.25

As a kid growing up in the home of her grandparents, Cassie Armstrong was embarrassed by Grammy's quilting so she never touched the supply box that she passed a zillion times until now. As she plans to move to a Chicago condo over looking Lake Michigan, she visits her Grammy's home. However inside the box she never stopped to look at is a mystifying desperate letter of love from an unknown (to her) F.B. to her Grammy; obviously this was not her grandfather Henry who felt action spoke louder than words.

The passionate letter has Cassie thinking that her conservative grandmother apparently had a secret lover, whom she wants to know who he is and wondering whether Henry or F.B. was the love of Grammy's life. Cassie also begins to reconsider her relationship with her fiance Cooper Lynch, more a trusted friend than a passionate lover.

THE LETTER is an interesting romance that uses an old theme yet is made vividly fresh by Cassie's reactions as she slowly begins to understand Grammy's decisions to choose reliability over passion and learns just who F.B. is. Cassie makes this a delightful family drama as she finally comprehends what love is. A final twist wraps up a fine tale as Elizabeth Blackwell reminds her readers that even when they drive you crazy remember the reasons why you married them for its is the entire relationship that matters.

The Ultimate Bite
Crystal Green
Harlequin Blaze
9780373793389 $4.99

In Las Vegas, Kimberly Wright belongs to the van Helsing League, but unlike the other members, she knows that the undead lives. Last year she met Stephen who brought her to levels of ecstasy she has never tasted before or since, the culmination being THE ULTIMATE BITE.

Kim wants more of the same so she has searched for Stephen. When she finally finds him, she begs him for more. However, he has no time for this mortal or any other although he finds himself attracted to her. Instead he must stop a rogue vampire from causing destruction that will reveal the species exists. However, Kim refuses to let him escape with his teeth and to his shock he loves nipping her; neither realizes that their nip and tuck relationship leaves her vulnerable to the attack of the rogue vampire.

Although the investigation takes back bite to the relationship between the bitten and the nibbler, vampire romantic suspense fans will appreciate this well written novel. The lead couple is an interesting pairing as they are attracted to one another, but while she craves more bites, which he desires to provide; he knows his mission and his family craziness must come before his need. However, Stephen soon learns what he wrought last year as Kim demands more of the bite that changed her and he feels mesmerized into accommodating her. This is a fun tale that sub-genre readers will appreciate.

Scent of a Woman
Joanne Rock
Harlequin Mediterranean Nights
9780373389612 $5.50

Joe Burns calls his brother Adam to tell him he is all busted up from a Jet Ski accident in which he was doing his sibling a favor so one good turn deserves another. He orders Adam to go on the Mediterranean cruise ship to secure the Dubai company contract for the family run firm, Prestige Scents. He would prefer castration, but Adam does his duty.

On board the luxurious vessel is Les Reves' agent Danielle Chevalier, who is after the same account. When they meet sparks fly. As they spend time together, their initial attraction grows deeper. However, besides the contract rivalry, Adam likes being a swinging single, but Danielle makes him reconsider his bachelorhood. However, both are pros so there remains the competition to obtain the contract for their respective firm.

Cruising on the Mediterranean as the background, these two fully developed lead characters provide the audience with an entertaining contemporary romance. The key is that there is much more to Adam than being a womanizing jet setter and an equal deepness to Danielle as she is not just a pretty face but really understands the business. Readers will enjoy this lighthearted frolic as two entrepreneurs fall in love.

Temporary Texan
Victoria Chancellor
Harlequin American
9780373751761 $4.99

The Society for the Preservation of Heritage Gardens sends New Hampshire resident Raven York to save a place in Brody's Crossing, Texas at the request of the owner's brother. However, the New England Yankee is stunned when instead of finding a garden to help the locals preserve she finds a run down cattle ranch.

To save his family's spread Rocking C from bankruptcy; Troy Crawford requested the help of an experienced rancher. What he gets is a garden expert from Yankee country (or to be precise Red Sox nation). Worse in his mind than her being north of New York City is she is also a vegetarian; in Texas that means a fish out of water. Two opposites in every sense of the word, yet Raven and Troy are falling in love.

This amusing contemporary romance stars two likable opposite attract protagonists. The lead couple is a fun duet as their capers will keep readers laughing as she wants to save the calves and he wants to fatten them for sale. Fans will enjoy the battle between the Texas rancher and the New England Yankee who disagree on everything except love.

The Rancher Next Door
Cathy Gillen
Harlequin American
9780373751730 $4.99

In Texas cattle country Rebecca Carrigan opens up an alpaca ranch. Her next door neighbor Trevor McCabe is appalled with what he considers a waste of good land and offers to buy her spread. Rebecca refuses.

Upsetting Trevor more than her alpaca nonsense is his detestable rival Vince Owen knows Rebecca and is spending an exorbitant amount of time with her. Trevor rejects jealousy as his motive although he is attracted to his new neighbor with a fierceness that frightens him; instead he fears Vince has plans for her and her ranch as expendable pawns to get back at him for some alleged disagreement. Making him even less successful with persuading her he needs her is her matchmaking family who just drive her to Vince by choosing Trevor for her.

Although Rebecca's obstinacy can prove frustrating to Trevor and the audience, fans of contemporary Texas romances will enjoy the battles between the alpaca and cattle ranchers. Trevor is a fabulous hunk who has fallen in love, but the object of his regard thinks he is a bully out to steal her spread. Whereas villainous Vince wants vindication by harming Trevor through using Rebecca; readers will root for the ranchers next door to one another to merge their properties into one happy family spread.

Tori Carrington
Harlequin Blaze
9780373793396 $4.99

Two months ago Seline Sanborn steals the identity of a Seattle senior accountant executive Carol Lambert. She quickly obtains work in New York City eventually obtaining the respect of the confidence of Blackwell & Blackwell Industries top management. CEO Ryder Blackwell is stunned when he sees a beautiful Carol in a convertible because over the two months he has known her she has been the poster child of a conservative financier. They have quite a night together.

The next day Carol is gone from the Big Apple along with just under a million dollars. Stunned, Ryder taking it personally and begins a quest to find her. When he succeeds he has no time to boast because someone from her past wants her dead and collateral damage especially to witnesses is acceptable.

Readers will be TAKEN by this exhilarating romantic suspense thriller starring a unique female protagonist. Seline is a wonderful character as she methodically pulls off the con perfectly until she lets her hair down and is seen by Ryder. The fast-paced story line never slows down from the moment the audience realizes this is no normal lead female in a contemporary romance as the antics of Seline and ultimately Ryder provide fans with a fresh Carrington caper.

She's No Angel
Leslie Kelly
Harlequin HQN
9780373772155 $6.99

Trouble, Pennsylvania town owner wealthy octogenarian Mortimer Potts loves his grandsons, but is particularly concerned that Michael is becoming cold due to his work as a New York City police officer. He thinks Mike needs a woman who will warm him up when the job turns unbearable. He selects author Jennifer Feeney in spite of her damaged ancestry; her aunts are the eccentrically crazy Ida Mae and Ivy.

When Mike comes to see his grandfather, he "accidentally" meets Jennifer, who is in town from New York visiting family. Sparks fly between them and continues to ignite even when they return to the city. As a stalker harasses Jen, Mike tries to keep her safe even as they become lovers. However, although she loves her protective cop, she wonders how a relationship can last between a macho take charge cop and an unfettered writer.

From the moment they meet when she tries to hit him with a tire iron and he knew he found trouble in Trouble, readers are hooked. The story line is fast-paced as Mike falls in love while rescuing his beloved several times and becoming embroiled in her lunatic aunts' "ancient history" homicide mystery. As with HERE COMES TROUBLE, the cast is eccentric, the romance is fun and the whodunit is delightful as Leslie Kelly provides an entertaining contemporary romantic suspense.

Susan Mallery
Harlequin HQN
9780373772100 $6.99

On top of three failed romances in a year, her pompous grandmother Gloria Buchanan informs Dani that she is not genetically related to her. Stunned she has a need to know who her biological father is. To Dani's shock, she learns her dad is presidential candidate Senator Mark Canfield.

Dani tries to meet Mark, but one of his eight adopted children (with wife Katherine) Alex refuses to allow her access. However, Dani becomes part of the media frenzy as someone leaks her connection to Mark. As she tries to hide from making the headlines, she and Alex begin to fall in love. He being the adopted son and she the biological daughter of the candidate complicates their relationship, which if they take a chance may torpedo Mark's run for the White House.

The Buchanan family saga is an IRRESISTIBLE miniseries as the SIZZLING key players mature and change in a reasonable manner while keeping their DELICIOUS basic essence. Dani is a delight as she tries to meet her father while his stepson Alex intercedes. To their chagrin, the couple falls in love complicating the complex. Fans will enjoy Susan Mallery's fine finish starring two people who have always felt like outsiders inside the respective families that raised them.

On Target
Catherine Mann
Harlequin HQN
9780373772124 $6.99

Although they still love one another, neither can compromise as she wants to ride the globe teaching impoverished children while he wants a picket fence. Thus US Air Force Sergeant Shane "Vegas" O'Riley is delivering the divorce papers to his wife Sherry on a tiny Caribbean island that he finds to his shock is under a terrorist attack, which is repelled. He vows to keep his soon to be ex-wife and her two preadolescent adopted daughters Cara and Mally safe especially upon learning of a terrorist cell operating from a nearby unknown island.

Instinctively Shane feels he needs to linger nearby to insure his family remains safe. Joint Chiefs of Staff Director of Operations General Renshaw assigns him duty that enables him to do so. He soon proves to be a prophet as the terrorists are close by and his family is a prime target.

ON TARGET is an exhilarating military romantic suspense thriller that never slows down yet contains a second chance at love and a secondary first chance at love (starring his friend Derek and her friend, Keisha) subplots. Although the O'Riley pair too often whines over the failure of their marriage, Catherine Mann provides an exciting tale in which terrorism comes home to roost.

The Notorious Knight
Margaret Moore
Harlequin HQN
9780373772407 $6.99

In 1204 at D'Averette Castle, Gillian d'Averette vows to adhere to the pledge she and her sisters Adelaide and Lizette made to never marry; she has never forgotten what an SOB her sire was. However, she is stunned when Sir Bayard de Boisbaston arrives with the news that Adelaide married his half brother Lord Armand (see MY LORD'S DESIRE). Besides feeling a bit betrayed by her sibling, Gillian cannot rid herself of the handsome pest, who intercedes in her running the castle.

Bayard detests his nickname as the "Gypsy Lover", which he knows is false. He tries to persuade Gillian that his notoriety is not only a lie, but that it is implausible. He struggles to convince her that she is the only woman for him even as Gillian admits to herself she loves her brother-in-law.

THE NOTORIOUS KNIGHT is a fabulous medieval romance starring two obstinate lead characters that in some ways are like the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. Bayard knows he wants Gillian as his wife while Gillian knows she wants no one especially an arrogant knight who reminds her of her father to be her husband. The sub-genre audience will enjoy their gender war compounded by law that disallows family members from marrying; since their siblings are wedded they are by law family.

Settling Accounts: In At the Death
Harry Turtledove
Del Rey
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345492470 $26.95

Confederates States of America Brigadier General Potter knows the war they began is over with their defeat although his superior George Patton thinks they can still turn it around; Patton's last thrust fails to stem the invading tide. Atlanta, which survived the War of Succession, the Second Mexican War, and the Great War, is not much more than rubble as their "neighbors" to the north continually bombs the key southern cities while their armies advance with brutal efficiency. Potter sadly realizes he will soon see the death of the CSA.

The United States of America with the help of their German allies has won WWII. Eight decades ago the CSA forefathers set forth to create a new great nation after winning their independence from the Union; now the CSA is no more unless President Featherstone, who egoistically started the war, uses his last weapon of mass destruction, the uranium bomb. As Featherstone ponders his legacy to bomb or not to bomb, the winners claim the spoils with the beginnings of an abusive brutal occupation while local insurgents turn to suicidal car bombings to kill the outsiders; that in turn lead to even more atrocities. The Northern Army of occupation punishes anyone southern as the victors claim that God is on their side. There is a rationalized retaliation for the mistreatment of Negroes (even as blacks up north are treated as secondary citizens).

The tenth and apparently final book in the Settling Accounts alternate history saga is a fabulous conclusion to a great series. The story line is fast-paced throughout even with the various perspectives (a trademark of Harry Turtledove), but which ending will occur as Featherstone debates using the bomb. Fans of the series will marvel at the creative exciting conclusion, but also plead with Mr. Turtledove not to stop in the 1940s; as Occupied Canada, CSA, and Utah remain fervent hotbeds for another round into the Cold War era.

King's Property
Morgan Howell
Del Rey
9780345496508 $6.99

Dar is not happy living at home with her hateful stepmother or her sexually abusive father. They give her the creeps but she doesn't expect to be given to the king's army when they need the women from her village. The soldiers tell her she is going to be a cook up until the time they brand her so that if she runs away, bounty hunters will return the slave for a fee. When they arrive at the place where the army groups she learns that she will have to help serve the orcs food.

She has heard the stories about these monsters that eat humans but she finds them quite civilized beings with a rich matriarchal culture that fight for the king only because their queen orders them to. When Murdant-kol tries to have sex with her, she turns to the Orc she befriended Kovok-mah for protection and for a place to sleep. Once she does this the female slaves and the solders treat her like a pariah but she will do whatever is necessary to watch out for her orcs who are more humane than humans.

KING'S PROPERTY is about one woman's struggle to survive as she learns about orcan culture and language. She also learns the rule to survive in the human only camp and thinks it is the height of hypocrisy that women have to sell themselves to get what they need from their partners to survive. Dar finds she loves the orcs and turns on most of humanity because she finds so many of them bullies. Morgan Howell is a bright new fantasy author whose tale holds up against the genre's writing wizards.

Time Of The Eagle
Sherryl Jordan
9780060595548 $17.99

The Shinali survivors are on the run from the Navoran Empire who annexed their neighbors in a brutal campaign. The Navoran Emperor Jaganath orders his soldiers to finish the mission by exterminating the few remaining surviving Shinali. Those remaining Shinali flee through treacherous mountains and even the deadlier Desert seeking safety, but the enemy keeps hunting them. Shinali healer Ashila gives birth to the first child born since they took flight. Over the years, Avala remembers hunger and thirst, but vividly recalls her mother carrying her through hostile environs.

When Ayala is old enough to understand Ashila tells her about her deceased father, Gabriel (see SECRET SACRAMENT) of Navoran, which provides some solace to the child, as times at best were tough. Avala dreamed of following her mother's footsteps by becoming a healer, but tribal seer Zalidas thinks otherwise. He believes Ayala will herald the TIME OF THE EAGLE that will prove the salvation of the Shinali, but the chosen one has doubts as she fears she lacks the courage of the warrior hunter as she is just a novice healer who detests hurting anything living.

Although reading SECRET SACRAMENT will enhance this tale because it provides more detailed background that led to the predicament that the Shinali face, TIME OF THE EAGLE can stand alone as a terrific coming of age young adult fantasy. The story line is told predominantly from Ayala's perspective as she turns from frightened healer apprentice to even more frightened destiny's savior. She keeps the tale focused as she relates the events that must turn a hunted healer's heart into a hunting warrior with a healer's heart if the Shinali are to survive their ordeal. Fans of all ages will appreciate Sherryl Jordan's next generation sequel.
Third Watch: Acorna's Children
Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
Eos Books
c/o Morrow & Company
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780060525415 $24.95 1-800-242-7737

The plague has decimated many planets and the federation has collapsed due to loss of personal. Khorii, the daughter of the revered Acorna, has stopped the plague but it now has mutated into organisms that eat up inorganic matter. Planets and populations lie in ruins and Acorna is helpless to assist her daughter because she has symptoms of the plague and is in quarantine with her husband.

It is up to Khorii and her twin Arriin to find the cause of the plague and figure out a way to stop it. The sisters travel back in time to the homeworld of the Ancestral Friends, a self-absorbed, long lived shape changing and space faring race that used the unicorns from earth to create the Linyaari race. There they find mutable homes that change shape and resemble of the symptoms of the plague. The key to saving the galaxy turns out to be figuring out why the material from another planet turned deadly and analyze it to find a means to eradicate it.

This is the third and final book in the "Acorna's Children" saga and its space opera at its most entertaining. Typical of an Anne McCaffrey plot is the arrival of surprising twists that readers will enjoy and know there is never a dull scene in this enthralling tale. All the loose ends are tied up and all the questions are answered. Although part of a trilogy, THIRD WATCH is a stand alone thriller.

Murder in LaMut
Raymond E. Feist & Joel Rosenberg
9780060792855 $14.95

There are plenty of enemies for mercenaries to fight including the goblins, Bugs and the Tsurani who came from their homeworld to Midkemia through a rift in space. The Tsurani prefer not to fight in winter so Kethol, Durine and Pirojil, mercenaries who are brothers in arms are on the city watch in LaMut until the swordmaster Steven Argent takes them off their regular duty and reassigns them to protect the Military Bursar Baron Morray who has had one too many accidents.

They do an excellent job protecting him from a Tsurani attack and escorting him and the wife to Lord Mangreen to Mangreen's home and then ushering them both safely back to LaMut. Drawn in against their wills into the lord's affairs, they are offered permanent jobs as captains to keep the peace. When a winter storm leads to anger and flared tempers, a double tragedy occurs; the trio are determined to find the killer and avenge the deaths of the victims.

The three protagonists are loyal to each other and others want to use their strength of joint purpose for their own ends. It is fun watching them try to avoid assignments that the powers demand they do. Readers get to see a world in a medieval stage of development but magic works and other races such as dwarves and goblins exist. They also see the political intrigue that was common in medieval England. MURDER IN LAMUT is one sitting reading experience that once finished readers will place on their keeper shelves.

The Sharing Knife: Legacy
Lois McMaster Bujold
9780061139055 $25.95

Pregnant farmer's daughter Fawn Bluefield met one-handed Lakewalker patrol veteran Dag Redwing Hickory when they saved each other from an evil malice (see THE SHARING KNIFE: BEGUILEMENT); she actually did the kill. He takes her back to her family's farm. Although they know the prejudice they will receive from kin, since their bond is woven in the blood of the knives they recently shared to kill the malice, they marry obtaining tepid tolerance from her people.

Two hours later, the newlyweds enter Dag's home Hickory Lake Camp where his mother and brother lead the outraged opposition to their union in spite of the blood bond because Lakewalkers only wed Lakewalkers. His kindred consider exiling Dag, but before a final decision is made, he must perform his duty as a soldier. An apparently vicious malice attack has left some dead and threatens her people and his. He knows the risk he must take to destroy this evil, but Dag also wonders why so ferocious an assault. It is almost as if someone who controls magic like a Lakewalker sorcerer does is involved.

The second Sharing Knife romantic fantasy continues the BEGUILEMENT of readers as Fawn and Dag meet their in-laws before they go out on a mission together. The audience will root for the couple as her family covertly hates the marriage but accepts it as there is nothing they can do about it; while his family threatens exiles and worse. Interestingly the malice comes from the earth while the Lakewalkers use energies from the earth to perform "magic". Readers of all ages will appreciate LEGACY as the honeymoon of these newlyweds is fighting to the death malice.

Acts of Nature
Jonathan King
c/o Penguin Putnam
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780525950080 $24.95 1-800-847-5515

Max Freeman persuades his significant other, Broward County Sheriff Detective Sherry Richards for some quality time alone in the Everglades. She agrees to no electrons as he explains the nearest neighbors are alligators.

However, nature and people intrude on their getaway. Three break and enter thieves Wayne, Marcus and Buck are heading there seeking a stash of guns and other treasures they can steal and sell to a fence; Martindale Security's only "client" Martin Crandall sends the two international oil operatives Harmon and Squires into the Glades on an assignment. These two groups will collide with the lovers in the middle as a hurricane hammers the guts of the Everglades placing the seven humans at the mercy of ACTS OF NATURE as they are all caught in the EYE OF VENGEANCE.

This action-packed thriller never slows down from the moment that the three groups are introduced to the reader and converge as a hurricane sweeps the Glades. The story line is fast-paced yet the not so magnificent seven are for the most part unique protagonists although only Max and Sherry are fully developed beyond one trait tricks. The beauty of Jonathan King's exhilarating thriller is the stark isolation of the Everglades accentuated when Sherry is hurt and needs professional medical attention, but first they must survive the nature and human storms while trekking for miles to reach civilization. Jonathan King provides a terrific suspense thriller starring several hardboiled and a few middle boiled antagonists.

The Sanctuary
Raymond Khoury
9780525950295 $25.95

In 1749 Naples at the height of the inquisition, the Prince of San Severo wants the knowledge that his prisoner has. During the fight, the prisoner escapes with the irate Prince in pursuit searching in various countries under various names for something that will change the world.

In 2003, in Al-Hillah in Iraq archeologist Evelyn Bishop finds a series of underground tunnel chambers and in one of them an ancient codex. On one cell wall is the Ouroboros, the snake that eats it self. She met and fell in love with Tom Webster and together they discovered it was a sanctuary for the Brethren of Purity. In 2006 in Lebanon, Farouk who worked with Evelyn in 2003 has the codex and wants to sell it to her so he can leave the country. Evelyn is kidnapped by someone who wants the codex; her daughter Mia with CIA agent Jim Corbrn tries to rescue her mother. The kidnapper wants the book at any price and the seller has them in a secure place. This mission is personnel because the sadistic scientist experimented with Hussein's approval on men, women, and children in a horrible way to find something everyone wants to get their hands on, something that if let loose could change the world forever.

Raymond Khoury follows up his best seller THE LAST TEMPLAR with another exciting and exhilarating thriller THE SANCTUARY. There are several groups and individuals who want the formulae found in the codex and what makes this tale so fascinating is that readers are never sure, with the exception of Evelyn and Mia who the heroes and the villains are. This is an action oriented story but Mr. Khoury develops his characters so readers can either empathize with them or despise them.

Grave Apparel
Ellen Byerrum
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451221780 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

At the capital based Eye Street Observer, editorial columnist Cassandra Wentworth and food editor Felicity Pickles get into an argument over Christmas sweaters; fashion editor Lacey Smithsonian tries to stay out of the dispute as she dislikes both of them and is loathed in turn. An irate Cassandra writes a nasty editorial condemning the colorful holiday garb, but everyone naturally blames Lacey as the fashion writer for the blistering commentary since no name is attached to the article.

Not long afterward someone wearing a Santa cap attacks Cassandra with a candy cane just outside the office. A child uses Cassandra's cell phone to call the last person the editor spoke to which was Lacey. She runs outside to find an unconscious Cassandra wearing a Pickles' Christmas sweater and a boy in shepherd's costume blaming Santa. The child flees as the medics and cops arrive. Lacey vows not to investigate, but somehow she is pushed by her boss who worries about the child, an ungrateful Cassandra who wants justice, and Felicity who is the prime suspect.

The fun in this fashion mystery is Lacey's efforts to stay out of the investigation leads to everyone not believing her as her lover and her work peers assume it is in her blood. The "sweatergate" scandal is cleverly designed while the Santa-dude assault makes for a fine whodunit. Although overall a humorous cozy, there is a subplot involving homeless children living near the seat of American power (K Street) while her boss Mac proves quite the softy.

Touch of Darkness
Christina Dodd
9780451221841 $7.99

Archeologist Rurik Wilder left the Air Force on a quest to save his family from eternal damnation. He has succeeded on his first endeavor and feels close to finding the second segment of the ancient icon that is their only hope.

In the Orkney Islands, Rurik reaches a cave at about the same time reporter Tasya Hunnicutt arrives there. She has an agenda she hides from the serious hunk that she is attracted to. Tasya holds the malevolent Varinskis assassins accountable for the deaths of her family; she plans to make them pay for this. Unknown to her Rurik has Varinskis blood flowing inside him.

The second Darkness Chosen (see SCENT OF DARKNESS) paranormal romantic suspense thriller is filled with action and adventure, but it is the conflict between the compelling lead couple that makes this a must read for sub-genre fans. Rurik and Tasya may be attracted to one another, but both feels that is irrelevant as each is on a personal quest that will not allow anything even love to intrude. They interpret events differently and try to trump the other. Christine Dodd writes a delightful dark entry as not even love seems strong enough to shine lights on this pair.
Mystic Guardian
Patricia Rice
9780451221698 $7.99

In 1789 Pouchay, Brittany, although the villagers are starving to death including her sister Francine, Mariel St. Just has one hope to save all. Before her mama died, she dreamed of a golden god saving her people. When Mariel sees Trystan l'Enforcer at sea, she follows him. To his shock, the protector of the Isle of Aelynn watches her come ashore; an impossible event due to the force field preventing outsiders from coming onto the isle.

Even more mystifying than Mariel reaching the beach is his immediate attraction to the Frenchwoman. He soon realizes the God chose her as his soulmate and that she must be a hybrid, more mermaid than purebred human. Still in spite of his desire for her Trystan refuses to intervene on behalf of the villagers. Mariel steals the battered chalice that she plans to sell for food before swimming to France. Trystan follows to bring her and the sacred Chalice of Plenty back to Aelynn where it belongs.

Despite rumblings of discontent among the people and the danger she and Trystan face in retrieving the chalice, Mariel cannot deny the sensual charge sizzling between them. But what do the Oracle of Aelynn's predictions portend for this golden god and his siren of the sea?

This is a terrific historical romantic fantasy that uses the events leading up to the French Revolution as a realistic anchor for the mystical elements. The lead couple is a strong pairing as both are in love with the other, but also feel that loyalty to their respective people must come before personal desires. Sub-genre fans will want to read the first Mystic Isle thriller as Patricia Rice provides a charming magical tale of two worlds.

Shadow Bear
Cassie Edwards
9780451221742 $6.99

In 1850 South Dakota, Lakota chief Shadow Bear grieves the deaths of his grandpa and parents killed two moons ago by buffalo hunters. Now his grandmother Dancing Breeze informs him of a vision she just had in which a fire will destroy much of the area; he has the tribe build trenches to save their village while he searches for his missing younger brother Silent Arrow.

With the death of their father by an arrow with special feathers, Shiona Bramlett, her younger brother Seth and their mom head east. The siblings leave the stagecoach to go to a cave where their father hid gold. However, they hear shots and return to the coach to find everyone dead with the same type of arrow that killed their father. Seth and Shiona reach the cave where she drinks water that seems okay. Seth looks around only to return with that arrow in his chest; he dies. A fire from lightning saves Shiona's life. Shiona wakes up feeling ill from the water she drank when an Indian arrives with that designer arrow in his shoulder. He directs her in removing it and gives her medicine for her fever before leaving. With the fire out, Shadow Bear finds Shiona and takes her to his village. As Shiona and Shadow Dancer fall in love, she fears the killer is lurking nearby.

Though this is the typical Cassie Edwards' tale starring a noble Indian leader and a pure of heart white female as the lead couple, this is a delightful pairing. Shadow Bear's grandmother adds mysticism to the mix and the rest of the tribe especially his brother and his sister-in-law provide depth. Although the use of Lakota words with English translations is distracting and the villain severely burned in the fire rides a horse, kills people, and abducts the heroine which seems implausible, Ms. Edwards' fans will enjoy her latest Indian romance.

Scent of Darkness
Christina Dodd
9780451221735 $7.99

Office assistant Ann Smith knows she loves her boss, Jasha Wilder, although he only behaves professionally with her. She assumes her feelings will remain unrequited as a handsome hunk would never look twice at a plain Jane. Still one evening when Ann drops off papers at Jasha's home, she decides to tell him the truth. However, her confession is short circuited when she observes her employer change into a werewolf.

One millennium ago, Jasha's ancestor Konstantine Varinski made a Faustian deal with the devil, which his descendants suffer from ever since. Jasha's parents ignored the devilish contract to marry and raise children. However, their act of defiance has left the Wilder family in jeopardy of eternity as permanent guests of the devil if they fail to restore the missing pieces of a religious icon. Shockingly Ann has become part of the solution or perhaps more likely a resident of the hell.

The opening gamut in Christina Dodd's Darkness Chosen paranormal romantic suspense story line is a fantastic thriller due to a strong fully developed cast. The contrast between the lead couple is wonderfully interwoven into the fast-paced story line so that the reader compares her Americanism to his millennium shift shaping heritage. SCENT OF DARKNESS is must reading for sub-genre fans as Ms. Dodd serves up a fabulous first entry and if this is any indication of the quality of the future entries, the audience will receive immense pleasure with this saga.

The Vanishing
Bentley Little
9780451221858 $7.99

Brian Howells has left the Register to work for the Los Angeles Times and he quickly finds himself in the middle of the biggest story of his career. It begins when his mother shows him a postcard with strange writing on it that she insists came from his father who walked out on the family twenty years ago. That same writing is found in a video made by Tom Lowry who has wormy skin on his stomach and fur on the sides of abdomen. Instead of testicles he has a big horn.

Tom mutilated his wife and her Pomeranians and then butchered his son Victor. Arlene is afraid of her husband Stephen who has the same rare abnormalities as Lowry and her fear proves valid when he kills her and puts his son in a coma. Other wealthy Fortune 500 businessmen go on a killing spree with the same genetic defects and of these beings have impregnated women and their offspring have the faces of a rhino and a porcupine and a llama. Social worker Carrie Daniels figures out why the children are so disfigured and she teams up with Brian to figure who will next become a killer and put an end to their reign of terror.

Bentley Little is at the top of his game with his latest work which takes supposedly every day people and turns them into monsters because of the sins of their ancestors against beings who were here before the Indians arrived. There is plenty of action and the victims are both the ones who kill and are killed; but neither elicit much sympathy from readers because the characters believe because of their wealth and power they are better than the average person and are above the law.

Don't Talk Back to the Vampire
Michele Bardsley
9780451221858 $6.99

In Broken Heart, Oklahoma, Lorcan the vampire catches the dreaded werewolf syndrome. He loses all control and goes on a killing rampage. Eleven innocent humans are slaughtered during the carnage. The vampire board of directors converts the victims into vampires.

Lorcan recovers from his affliction, but mentally feels guilt for what he wrought even if the disease controlled him. When he meets one of the Lorcan eleven, single mother of the most dangerous species on the planet (a female human teen) librarian Eva LeRoy guilt explodes as much as desire for her. She, in turn, finds she would not mind necking with him. As they begin to fall in love, evil wraiths want to infect Eva, her child, and her friends with Lorcan her only protector as her daughter's boyfriend hunts vampires.

Vampire romance readers will enjoy the return to Broken Heart, Oklahoma (see I'M THE VAMPIRE, THAT'S WHY), the capital of single moms and the vampires who lust after them, for an amusing tale of redemption and love. The story line is fast-paced, but as with the first tale remains undecided between biting satire and humorous PTA and teen dating bits and bites. Michele Bardsley provides a fun paranormal romance with an interesting undead pairing, but to satirically bite or not to bite the soccer mom turned supernatural vamp that is the question.

Playing With Fire
Melody Carlson
Multnomah Books
12265 Oracle Blvd., Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781590526941 $12.99 1-800-929-0910

Although Zach completed his time in rehab for his meth habit, his sister Samantha worries he has no positive beliefs such as in the Lord being there for him. Instead she fears he will just step back into the same situation that led to his addiction. However, she has no idea what to do so she does nothing until she dreams about a meth lab explosion that she thinks might be a warning from God to intervene.

Out of fear that her brother might go to jail, Sam decides not to offer her services to her mentor Detective Ebony Hamilton, but goes undercover at the high school as an informant to the police meth task force. She looks for the link between meth and other illegal drug sales and her high school as she hopes to help her brother and her friends before they say yes to drugs but is unaware of the danger she places herself in.

The third Secret Life Samantha McGregor tale contains plenty of action and a deep look at what is spiritual understanding as Sam struggles to interpret her visions that she assumes come from God while having mortal issues especially involving Zach. Sam, as she did with BAD CONNECTION and BEYOND REACH, makes the tale with her caring about others. Young adults will appreciate PLAYING WITH FIRE as its relevant theme; drug use amongst teens makes for a fascinating spin to a Christian police procedural.

Karen Kingsbury
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9780842387484 $13.99 1-800-323-9400

Newlyweds Dayne and Katy Matthews are enjoying their new status as much as they are teaming on a movie as he stars her with him in his next film so he can feel right about the love scenes. However, once they begin filming, the couple finds their euphoric Bloomington, Indiana existence exposed under the bright lights of Hollywood.

Ashley Baxter Blake was already in heaven when she learned she was pregnant; however she is even more elated that her best friend her sister Kari is also carrying. She dreams of their two children bonding beyond just being first cousins; she wants them to become buddies like she and Kari have been. However, Ashley's doctor provides her distressing information about the fetus she carries that makes her reconsider everything she once believed in including God.

The latest Sunrise family drama tale continues the Baxter saga although a third subplot starring their neighbors the Flanagans somewhat progresses also. The subplots rotate lead, but each is character driven. Dayne and Katy find their marriage too exposed to the demands of the media who cannot let go of the small town Midwest girl finding love with the prince of Hollywood. Ashley and Kari struggle with pregnancies especially the joys and setback that occur. Finally Bailey Flanagan and her family's border Cody Coleman begin to widen their friendship. As always in this fine series, it is the characters that matter.
The Scribe
Francine Rivers
9780842382694 $14.99

Silas has been the Scribe to Paul and Peter, but now warns the latter he and his wife must flee the city as the former has been arrested and the soldiers seek out his associate apostles. Like his peers, he struggles with why, but still bravely goes about risking his life to continue his work of writing down on parchment the words that one day will form a major religion. However, today his chore is to save the parchments.

The fifth Sons of Encouragement tale (see Aaron The Priest, Caleb The Warrior, Jonathan The Prince, Amos The Prophet) focuses on the scribe whose work kept alive the words of Paul and Peter long after they died. The key to this fine tale of a biblical sidekick is that the audience obtains a deep look at early days of Christianity and an insightful glimpse at Paul and to a lesser degree Peter, especially how each reflect on Jesus. Readers will appreciate this biblical biographical fiction that brings to life a person who sacrifices much behind the scenes so that the Kingdom of God on earth can open its tent to everyone. This is a great finish to a powerful series.

In Everything Give Thanks
Terry Barnes
9781414313016 $12.99

Fifteen years old Matt Collins loved his dad Tommy, who was wounded at Iwo Jima where he found Jesus. His dad loved watching Matt run cross country and attending the Bethel Baptist Church service with his family. So Matt questions why God failed a man like his father, who loved the Lord deep in his soul; why allow a drunk to kill him in that horrible car accident. The grieving teen vows God will no longer be in his life.

Cerebral palsy sufferer Wade Hampton and his family move next door to Matt. Wade wants to become best friends with Matt, who wants nothing to do with the stuttering dork especially since the newcomer wants to become a preacher. As school bullies pick on Wade, Matt begins to wonder how his handicapped neighbor, who was dealt a bad hand by the Lord, can believe like his dad did so strongly in God.

Matt is the key to this superb inspirational tale as his first person account of how he feels seems raw and real especially when he questions God with the whys. Readers will hope he finds solace as his grief is hurting him. Wade is also a wonderful character who will have the audience marvel at the strength of his conviction in the Lord including overcoming his so called handicap. Terry Barnes provides a thought provoking tale that will lead fans to understand how much greatness we all have and thereby IN EVERYTHING GIVE THANKS.

Fuse of Armageddon
Sigmund Brouwer and Hank Hanegraaff
9781414310251 $19.99

Las Vegas Homicide Detective Kate Penner investigates a murder by Hoover Dam; the evidence points towards hostage negotiator Mulvaney Quinn, who normally works Israeli-Palestinian issues. Kate travels to Israel to extradite Mulvaney back to Nevada.

However, once in country, Israeli intelligence requests Kate to allow Mulvaney to complete a critical but difficult hostage deal. She agrees to let him work out the release of an American evangelical pastor and twenty-nine loyal practitioners from a Palestinian group that threatens to kill all of them if their demands are not met. However, she insists that she accompany him so that he cannot use the negotiation to escape his return to the states. Neither is aware at this time of a more insidious plot that could fuse a holy war of Armageddon proportions throughout the entire Middle East and retaliations beyond.

FUSE OF ARMAGEDDON is an exhilarating suspense thriller that stars two likable heroes whose attraction is open, but controlled as to not intrude on the missions. The story line is action-packed while also tearing into the modern American evangelical movement that, like the Crusades, insists biblical Israel needs to belong to the Jews. Readers will appreciate this strong thriller and seek out the previous work of this fine writing team (see THE LAST DISCIPLE).

Never Lie to a Lady
Liz Carlyle
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416527145 $7.50 1-800-223-2336

In 1828 London, the Ton considers thirty years old Xanthia Neville as an eccentric for females do not run a shipping company, work undercover for the Home Office, nor chooses to remain unmarried. Yet Xanthia does both quite successfully.

Lord Stefan Nash has a reputation for hurting men financially and loving and leaving females with broken hearts. He and his brother are new aristocratic converts who many believe in spite of his sophistication does not belong with polite company.

Under the moonlight, Xanthia and Stefan meet and share an incredible night of passion. Nash needs to know this mystery woman who has stolen his heart by making her his desire. Xanthia rejects his efforts to form a relationship until the Home Office directs her to investigate Nash's involvement with arms-smuggling. As they fall in love, each begins to think the other is dangerous to their heart and to their life, but neither can walk away.

This terrific late Regency espionage romance grips the audience from the first shared look between the lead couple and never slows down until the final confrontation. The fast-paced story line turns into a one sitting read as sub-genre fans want to know more about the unique stars as Xanthia and Stefan are atypical of the Regency mold. Liz Carlyle is at her excellent best with this superior historical.

Something Wicked
Catherine Mulvany
9781416525578 $6.99

Investigative reporter Regan Cluny has unsuccessfully tried to obtain an interview with wealthy philanthropist Charles Cunningham Nash, but he dodges her efforts. She decides politeness has proven futile; instead she plans to intrude at his remote archeological dig site where she will make the recluse say no to her face; then obstinately reject his refusal.

However, on the way to see Nash, a biker gang led by Harper, who loathes the philanthropist, assaults the journalist. Nash manages to free the near dead Regan. As he struggles to keep her alive, Nash knows that his war with Harper is coming to a head, a blood feud dating back to the Civil War with the rivals neck and neck as to who will survive the last bite.

The lead trio makes for a strong vampire romantic suspense thriller as the two vampiric adversaries see the reporter quite differently; Nash is in love with her while Harper plans to use her as disposable bait. The action never slows down until the climatic lava pool confrontation that will either kill or cure Regan and Nash. Sub-genre fans will enjoy the one sitting SOMETHING WICKED this way comes.

The Lure of the Wolf
Jennifer St. Giles
9781416513339 $6.99

Aragon made some horrendous mistakes when he led the Shadowmen; errors caused because he trusted his mentor Pathos. Aragon knows he will suffer deservedly for eternity for his transgressions regardless of the cause, but he feels he must do one last deed; he must kill the malevolent Pathos.

Dr. Annette Batista suffers two traumatic shockers. First her sister vanishes without a trace and then she learns that Dr. Cinatas is providing sustenance to vampires. She plans to stop Cinatas and find her sibling. She finds and touches Aragon's tossed away amulet only to connects with the anguished shapeshifting former Shadowmen. They quickly realize that they share the same quest, but neither expected love to enter their shaky relationship nor that duty might tear them apart.

The second Shadowmen romantic fantasy suspense thriller (see TOUCH A DARK WOLF) is an entertaining tale mostly because of Aragon's obsessive quest. His debt of honor means more to him than his eternal soul; yet the love of Annette makes him reconsider what he perceives is his damning responsibility as he holds himself accountable. Although Annette is out the female heroic handbook and likewise Dr. C is from the supervillain guide, sub-genre readers will appreciate the lure of Jennifer St. Giles exciting tale.

The Shoe Queen
Anna Davis
9781416537359 $14.00

In 1925 Paris, newly married to Robert of Boston, Genevieve Shelby King knows the importance of chic shoes. She aspires to always have the best looking pair on her feet. Her biggest rival in the shoe competition is Violet de Fremont as the pair are the superpower adversaries in the shoe war.

At a literary gathering, wannabe poetess Genevieve and her best friend Lulu spot Violet's latest and though the current shoe queen critiques her opponent's latest as being ancient history, she knows she has fell a shoe size behind her enemy. Desperate, she turns to the immortal designer Paolo Zachari to make her a special pair; he refuses telling her he is not interested in the crass money of her Brahmin Bostonian boogieman spouse. As Genevieve tries to persuade the king of shoe designing to help her keep her mantle, Robert knows his wife hides something critical from him and he vows to learn what that is.

THE SHOE QUEEN is a discerning keen satirical look at 1920s Bohemia Paris mostly through the eyes (and feet) of Genevieve. The story line lampoons the post WWI life of the Left Banke artistic community that uses the inane to forget the recent atrocities of the war to end all wars. Anna Davis provides an insightful glimpse as this tale is much more than just an aspiring poetess trying to keep her crown as THE SHOE QUEEN; Anna Davis opens the window to the since romanticized 1920s bohemian subculture.

Unholy Birth
Andrew Neiderman
9781416516842 $7.99

In Palm Springs, California, lovers "femme" Kate Dobson and "butch" Wilma "Willy" Radcliff are a happy couple whose catering business is booming. The only negative in their relationship is Kate's obsession with giving birth and raising that child. Adoption and heterosexual endeavor are out of the question so artificial insemination is the answer. Her nocturnal dreams are vivid and somewhat frightening.

While persuading Willy to have a child to raise, Kate researches the net when instantly she receives an email from Gentior vitro fertilization firm out of Irvine. Not long afterward they meet Dr. Lois Matthews, head of Genitor and soon the two ladies agree to go with this firm. However, though Willy is sold, Kate becomes paranoid with things that seem too coincidental. Still she goes through the process, but before testing whether she conceived she feels the baby growing inside and a deep feeling something is not right. Willy warns her to stop being paranoid, but she begins to wonder what is growing inside her and just who is the father.

The story line takes its time slowly setting the stage in the first half of the novel so that Kate seems increasingly unhinged and paranoid as everyone around her including cynical Willy appears normal. The latter part of the book focuses on her rapid descent into apparent insanity as she fears what is growing inside her. Fans will wonder whether she went over the edge or is there more, but will have to wait until the climax with the UNHOLY BIRTH of her child to decide between a tense psychological thriller or a modernized Rosemary's Baby enhanced by science and the acceptance of gay couples.

Thirty Nights with a Highland Husband
Melissa Mayhue
9781416532866 $6.00

In 1272 Scotland Connor MacKiernan needs a wife to help care for his sister. He invokes the Legend of the Glen to enable him to find a suitable "spouse". He thinks he has succeeded, but must persuade Caitlyn Coryell to leave 2007 and its incredible conveniences behind.

In Denver, Colorado Caitlyn is heartbroken after she caught her fiance cheating. Despondent she asks an antique pendant (with a reputation for magic) to find her true love before putting it on. Connor appears and asks for her help with his sibling; she takes a chance on him and the thirteenth century for a one month trial. As they fall in love, some of his family members try break them apart, using any means possible to achieve their goal of returning Caitlyn to the future.

Although Caitlyn adapts to the thirteenth century easier than a New Yorker relocating to Macon or visa versa, this is an amusing time travel romance due to a strong cast including the lead duo. The story line is fast-paced as readers root for Caitlyn and Connor to find a way together as they fall in love. THIRTY NIGHTS WITH A HIGHLAND HUSBAND is a fun historical as the twenty-first century Rocky Mountain lass meets the thirteenth century Highlander laird.

Love, Suburban Style
Wendy Markham
Warner Books, Inc.
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446618434 $6.99 1-800-759-0190

Meg Adams knows that she is yesterday's news when it comes to her acting career as the former Tony Award winner Aster Hudson is considered a has been at thirty-four. However, her hopes for a major juicy Broadway role take a back seat to when her fifteen years old daughter Cosette gets kicked out of school for carrying a gun in her backpack. She decides to take her offspring to her hometown of Glenhaven Park to live.

She buys the allegedly haunted Duckworth house, which is next door to single father of two her former high school crush Sam Rooney. Soccer coach Sam is concerned with his attraction to Meg and that his daughter is very fond of her; he fears he and his daughter will be hurt once Meg leaves for the bright city lights especially with an apparent resident ghost wanting her gone from the premises.

The kids make this second chance at love into an interesting tale as their issues are realistic bringing freshness to the up and down romantic relationship of the adults. Readers will enjoy Cosette's antics on and off the soccer field and feel for the angst of Sam's children. Meg already knows you can't go home and the WC Field's adage of not co-starring with children as they make LOVE, SUBURBAN STYLE into a fine fun family frolic.

Still Summer
Jacquelyn Mitchard
9780446578769 $24.99

The fab four have been close friends since they met in high school twenty years ago. Thus when wealthy widow Olivia invites Holly, Tracy and Janis to join her on a luxurious Caribbean cruise at her expense, they jump at the chance to get together.

However, Janis has to drop out when her husband becomes ill; taking her place since it is already paid for is Tracy's nineteen year old daughter Cammie. The four females are having a great time until a storm hammers their vessel with their only two crewmembers vanishing and their ship drifting. They soon appear rescued when another ship arrives, but the four females quickly realize that instead they are fighting for their lives from the sea, from their "rescuers", and Bone Island.

Although an exciting at sea tale, it is the bonds of friendship between the four "sisters" automatically bestowed on the next generation that makes STILL SUMMER a fabulous quite different type of thriller. Each of the three friends and the one daughter who go on the ill fated tour are unique personalities; even Janis who stays home and thus not quite as developed as the others is inimitably different. Jacquelyn Mitchard provides a strong female buddy tale as these comrades in arms battle adversaries for survival.

Hard Row
Margaret Maron
9780446582438 $24.95

Judge Deborah Knott of Colleton County, North Carolina is settling in quite nicely to married life with Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant who has loved her for a long time. When Dwight's ex-wife dies, his eight year old son Cal comes to live them and they are in the process of becoming a family. Deborah and Dwight try not to discuss their work at home but sometimes that is not possible when she has information he needs.

Body parts are found all around the county and nobody has a clue whose remains these are because nobody has filed a missing person's report. Flame Smith comes to town looking for her lover Buzz Harris who she intends to marry once his divorce is finalized. She can't find him so she goes to the sheriff; she identifies marks on the corpse that Buzz had. Finger prints prove he is the victim but nobody knows who could have hated him so much as to do such a horrific thing. The answers lies in a case Deborah heard in court but she is not yet aware of its significance. If she does and provide the information to her husband, with what he has they will be able to identify the killer?.

Every Deborah Knott mystery is unique, original and entertaining with red herrings and unexpected twists to keep the reader guessing who the killer is. In HARD ROW, the audience get an inside look at the judge's personal life as Dwight plays a major role in the storyline. Fans can't help but adore him because he loves his wife and is thankful she loves him enough to marry him and be a mother to his son. Margaret Maron writes bloodless regional police procedurals that are always quite good

Fanged and Fabulous
Michelle Rowen
9780446618625 $6.99

In Toronto Sarah Dearly still struggles with what that late dirt bag Gordon Richards did to her when he bit her neck (see BITTEN AND SMITTEN). However, she figures that if she stays low she can learn this vampire stuff and having six century old Master Vampire Thierry de Bennicoeur to teach her the nip and tuck seems quite right.

While Sarah jogs with the sun up, Chad the vampire hunter tries to keep up with her; as he insists she is the Slayer of Slayers. Sarah says no way, but soon finds bodyguards coming out of every corner and coffin to protect her from vampires and slayers wanting her dead. While Quinn teaches her self defense in between his attempts to make out with her and Thierry ignores her, she wants to share a bite or two, but not sure which of these sexy vampires she wants as monogamous Sarah desires both.

FANGED AND FABULOUS is an entertaining lighthearted vampire thriller starring a heroine who wants nothing to do with her untrue notoriety that she is the Slayer of Slayers. Thus the plot is a sort of combination of the classic fairy tale The Tailor Who Slew Seven and the movie The Fastest Gun in the West as her unwelcome reputation has turns her into a "gunslinger" challenged by those who want to prove themselves. Sarah makes the story line work from her first discussion with Chad until her final vamp bite. Readers will enjoy Michelle Rowen atypical Canadian paranormal tale as the life of a rookie vampire in Toronto is quite complex and dangerous.

Pearl Jinx
Sandra Hill
9780446616515 $6.99

Abbie Franklin and her grandson Mark send the Jinx crew to investigate a Pennsylvania cave that might contain pearls and rumored to have a hidden treasure. One of the crew members is former Navy SEAL Caleb Peachy, who grew up Amish in nearby Spruce Creek.

The National Park Service assigns archaeologist Claire "Crazy" Cassidy to the treasure hunt to insure no historical artifacts are destroyed. As Caleb struggles with still being shunned by his family and former neighbors, he and Claire are attracted to one another. Insane Tante Lulu senses the human magnetism in the Keystone State from her bayou roots so she joins the hunt as a matchmaker

The queen of humorous contemporary romance Sandra Hill brings back the lunatic fringe that make up Jinx, Inc as this time Crazy and insane collude with the treasure being Caleb. As always the story line is over the top, but no one cares as the laughs keep coming yet as typical in a Ms. Hill tale, there is a serious undertone this time involving the proper reverence in handling precious artifacts. The audience will appreciate this zany Keystone State caper as nothing is sacred except the treasure and the heart although some might say the heart is the treasure when it comes to Jinx, Inc.

Hot Wheels and High Heels
Jane Graves
9780446617864 $6.99

Following a vacation in Cancun with her best friend, Darcy McDaniel comes home to Plano, Texas to learn her home and her possessions have been sold; her bank are accounts read negative; her charge cards are maxed to the ceiling; and her husband Warren has disappeared. Besides her esteem flushed down the toilet she learns from the family living in what was their home that Warren reported her dead. When former cop John Stark arrives to repossess her last asset her car, she realizes she needs employment but has no marketable skills.

She obtains a job as file clerk at John's repo business although he believes she will fail as she was obviously a pampered trophy wife. Darcy knows what her new boss' smug expression means so she is determined to prove she can perform this job in an exemplary manner and sets a goal to eventually become a repo woman. Of course intent and performance do not always meet, but love between two opposites make the office quite a home.

This fast-paced tale starts with quite a rush for the lead female (and the audience) when she finds out Warren said she died in a Mexican car accident and from that sixth sense start never slows down until the final kiss as she picks love not money. Fans will enjoy the antics of the high heeled Darcy as she sasses her way into the heart of stark loner John who though he knows she is not his style loves her spunk; so will readers.

The Ex Files
Victoria Christopher Murray
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416535515 $14.00 1-800-223-2336

Sheridan Hart's thirteen years old daughter Tori blithely announces her father (and Sheridan's ex) has a new lover. Their marriage ended three years ago when Quentin informed her he loved a man. Sheridan has moved on somewhat having found the younger Block, but he wants more of a commitment while she has doubts.

Kendall Stewart ended her marriage with Anthony when she caught him in bed with her sister Sabrina. The double betrayal has left her acrimonious, but now Sabrina needs her sibling's help with her life on the line.

Asia Ingram is angry that her lover Bobby has decided to end their relationship and be faithful to his marital vows. Her bitterness leads to a need to hurt Bobby, but could also harm their five year old daughter Angel if he retaliates with a custody suit.

Vanessa Martin feels guilt and loneliness because she did not see how distraught her late spouse Reed was until he committed suicide. Depressed she thinks of joining him.

Pastor Ford knows these four females are hurting so as he prays for them, he brings them together for a weekly prayer session of the EX FILES.

This is a deep character study of the aftermath of divorce on the female partner. The story line rotates perspective between the four women so that the audience sees each up close, flaws and all. Although everything ties up to neatly fans will enjoy this insightful look at a prayer group who turn into a support group of friends.

The Jaguar Legacy
Maureen Fisher
Lachesis Publishing
1787 Cartier Court, RR1, Kingston, Nova Scotia, BOP1RO
1897370040 $17.50

Journalist Charley Underhill's career looked promising until the panic attacks began that devastated her and destroyed her reputation as a serious investigative reporter. Seeing an opportunity to rebound and restore her name, Charley "joins Dr. Alistair Kincaid's Olmec archeological dig in Mexico. There she is "greeted by the Ice Queen who warns her to beware of jaguars as reported by the New York Times, who never prints anything not fit to print.

Alistair also wants to save his reputation with this dig so he is unhappy with a snoop arriving at the remote locale although he admits to himself he is attracted to her. However, he has bigger problems than some nuisance reporter he desires, as problems from unknown adversaries impact the methodical work to uncover Olmec artifacts. As they fall in love, Charley begins to believe her panic attacks are memories of a past life warning her that she and Alistair are in danger just like they were in a previous lifetime.

THE JAGUAR LEGACY is a terrific paranormal romantic suspense thriller starring two likable lead protagonists. Charley and Alistair share in common a deep attraction from the first moment they see each other, a gut suspicion of one another, an apparent past, and a need to prove worthy initially to their respective peers, but soon to each other. Sub-genre fans will gain immense delight from this tale as the audience will wonder reincarnation, native occult mysticism, or human enemies.

Hurricane Moon
Alexis Glynn Latner
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781591025450 $15.00 1-800-421-0351

Near the end of the twenty-first century man's reign is through as "judgment day" has come to the dying earth after two horrendous centuries of abuse and neglect. Realizing that government had its chance but chose to ignore the problems for short term economic gain, the far thinking Aeon Foundation has been planning for escape velocity for quite some time; their objective is to find a hospitable planet to colonize. Thus interstellar spaceship Aeon is filled with people of vision and hope seek a brave new world leaving the Earth to its final death.

However, the planners envisioned a relatively short trek, but instead over a millennium passed while everyone for the most part remained in a stasis state. When the Aeon finds two acceptable orbs near a moon; Planet Green abundant with plants but few animals and Planet Blue an oceanic stormy world, lead medical practitioner Catharin Gault realizes problems limit their choice; over time cocooning in stasis has altered the molecular structure of the colonists making the Planet Green unusable. The only hope resides with the last addition to the journey, a person she dislikes and distrusts molecular biologist Joseph Devreze, but chances of fulfilling the vision of the Aeon Foundations seems impossible.

The incredible layers of science are easily understood without dumbing down which makes this a great outer space thriller. Catharin and Joe are a fine pairing of two enemies who must find a way to save humanity while also fighting their attraction to one another. Readers will appreciate the escapades of the Aeon, but once again it is the science that will have fans soaring through the stars trekking with Alexis Glynn Latner's excellent futuristic adventure.

Guardians of the Veil
Gregory Spencer
Howard (Simon & Schuster)
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416543411 1-800-223-2336

In Skinner, Oregon live four teenagers Angie, Lizbeth, Bennu, and Len; they don't fit in and are proud of the fact. In their neighborhood the veil between their world and Welken is so thin that they are able to travel there when summoned. Became part of Welken when they willimng helped defeat the evil one Morphane. While there they are able to change into animal shapes, Lizbeth an ox, Angie an angel, Len a falcon and Bennu a falcon Their work there was given the blessing of Solion the being who is everything.

Now they are called back again but they don't know what there mission is and they can only transform partially into animal shapes. The young ladies get separated from their male peers leading to separate adventures. The females learn that Mary and her Cutters want to take over Deedy Swamp and surrounding areas; while Len and Bennu learn that Fetagar and Tremlings want to do the same thing. Now the Misfits have to figure out how to stop them and to do that they have to figure out four cryptic lines that are spoken to them over a period of time.

The characters make GUARDIAN OF THE VEIL very special. The teens are youths with problems like a grandmother who has Alzheimer's and a mother who is an alcoholic but they succeed in not allowing their personal issues to affect their responsibilities. In fact, the problems help make them stronger warriors and the battles help them deal better with their family issues. Readers will care about them and hope they succeed in all their endeavors.

The Society of S
Susan Hubbard
Simon & Schuster
9781416534570 $25.00

In Saratoga Falls, New York Ariella Montero lives with her father, a scientist who limits her time to near zero with outsiders. The only people she encounters besides her dad are his research assistant Dennis, housekeeper Mrs. McGarritt and at times her thirteen year old daughter Kathleen.

However, now turning thirteen, Ari learns the truth behind her home schooling and her mother Sara who vanishes after the afterbirth. Her dad explains that he became a vampire just prior to marrying her mother. The teen learns that she has been kept on a unique diet and home away from her peers to keep her safe until the moment of reckoning for her, which is now. She must choose between the life of a vampire like her dad and that of a mortal like her mom. Ari cannot decide until she learns more about her mother so she begins a quest to find the elusive S.

Though growing up with a single dad, Ari's vampire heritage plays a secondary role in this wonderful coming of age tale of a girl's struggles with the end of the innocence while dealing with adolescence and being a mixed breed offspring. Much of the tale is Ari searching for her mom as she tussles with the seeming estrangement between her parents and the apparent abandonment of her mom. The poignant Ari makes this a strong character study with obvious societal connotations.

Play Dirty
Sandra Brown
Simon and Schuster
9780743289351 $26.95

He was the starting quarterback star for the Dallas Cowboys until he was caught gambling, throwing a game and being involved with criminals. Griff Burkett was sent away for five years at a federal minimum security prison and when he got out he had nothing. Everything was sold to pay off the lawyers, fines and court costs and he had to take a junky apartment in a lousy neighborhood and accept handouts.

He is shocked when wealthy paraplegic Foster Speckman, who brought SunSouth Airline out of bankruptcy, offers to pay Griff $100,000 if he agrees to impregnate his wife Laura because he is sterile; $ 500,000 more when she becomes pregnant. A desperate Griff takes the job all the while knowing his archenemy Rodarte, who wants an in with the syndicate, is trying to take him down. When tragedy strikes, Griff is on the run only this time he has to find the one person who can prove his innocence otherwise he will be sent away for life.

Sandra Brown has written another exciting thriller, full of action and angst. The feelings that spring up between the two protagonists are always muted even when they have sex yet the audience feels the heat they generate even though neither wants to admit how they feel for one another. Griff is not the typical hero as he did commit some very serious crimes yet readers will have a soft spot for him because what happened to him could happen to anyone who was tempted like he was. Rodartee is a great villain who threatens or hurts anyone connected to the hero just because he wants to make lots of illegal money. PLAY DIRTY deservedly is going straight to the top of the best seller lists.

Last Breath
George D. Shuman
Simon & Schuster
9781416534907 $24.00

In Cumberland Gap, Maryland, the State attorney general Glenn Schiff never forgot when he met blind psychic Sherry Moore in Philadelphia in 1992 as she explained how the victim grabbed her hand as he died; she was able to "see" the way his witness died. Now he wants her help on the mass murders of three kidnapped women found inside an abandoned Maryland meat processing plant.

Sherry agrees and provides information that helps on the investigation. However, the FBI takes over the case and soon another victim found near Pittsburgh brings in the Pennsylvania state police. While the groups argue jurisdiction, Sherry suffers nightmares as she knows the serial killer is preparing to strike again.

The key to the second Moore psychic mystery is the crime scene descriptions are so vivid they make the tale and the premise of the heroine's skill seem genuine especially when Sherry decries the deaths. The audience will find the courageous heroine fascinating as she refuses to allow her lack of sight from stopping her from living; for instance she is studying the marital arts. Although the serial killer theme is overwhelming the market and government agencies arguing over whose in charge is ancient history, Sherry's description of the victims' last 18 SECONDS or so of life freshen this delightful unique paranormal police procedural.

Night Hunter
Cathy McDavid
Love Spell
9780505527226 $6.99

Every quarter of a century Cadamus arises from his sleep to feed on mankind and to produce offspring. As a child Gillian saw the creature leaving her home after killing her mother; in spite of her testimony her father was convicted of the murder of her mother.

Gillian has dedicated her life to killing Cadamus when the beast returns. She meets the Huntsmen Nick whose job is to destroy the creature. He, as the legend goes, is the only person who can kill the malevolent beast. Used to going it alone, Nick reluctantly agrees to team up with Gillian more out of keeping her safe as he knows she will continue her hunt without him then for what she brings to the quest as she is a detractor. Together they work to stop Cadamus from another killing spree and breeding more children. However Cadamus survives like no other animal and knows its enemy by instinct is the Huntsman.

Cadamus is sort of like an evil Jaws (the shark that is) who the lead couple want to kill, but the quest seems invincible. Paranormal romantic suspense fans will enjoy the efforts of the lead couple to battle this supervillain and to avoid falling in love as his occupation is not known for its retirement plan. Although several subplots are left untied and a twist apparently sets up a sequel, sub-genre readers will enjoy this solid thriller.

The Reinvented Miss Bluebeard
Minda Webber
Love Spell
9780505527066 $6.99

Eve Bluebeard wants no contact what so ever with her notorious father, Captain Bluebeard the pirate. As it is her bloodline means no husband as who would marry the offspring of an infamous man whose six wives vanished without a trace. Instead to somewhat avoid her blood, she opens up the Towers asylum for the paranormally disturbed and invents a spouse because a single woman cannot run a business without a man.

However, her hope for peace ends when two men arrive at her facility. The first is her estranged father; however the second is worse. Her make believe husband Adam has arrived at her door looking exactly how she described him to others. Confused Eve is attracted to this Adam replica, but has bigger issues than how is he possible as he was a figment of her imagination. A leprechaun keeps ruining the gardens digging for his lost pot of gold, a monster is running loose frightening everyone, and contemporaries are inspecting her asylum even as she thinks of becoming a patient.

Minda Webber's latest satirical literary historical romance is an amusing caper starring a likable reluctant heroine and the hunk who came from her imagination. The story line is fast-paced with witty literary asides and the return of the cast from the previous adventures (see HE REMARKABLE DR. FRANKENSTEIN and THE RELUCTANT MISS VAN HELSING). Although at times the persistent lampooning seems forced overkill, fans will appreciate Ms. Webber's zany saga Eve.

Second Chance
Jane Green
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780505527226 $24.95 1-800-847-5515

Terrorists attack the Amtrak train killing thirty-nine year old father and husband Tom Fitzgerald, a British expatriate living with his family in the states. Back in his hometown, stunned by the news of his death, four of his friends from his schooldays back home meet to pay their respects to Tom at his memorial service.

Holly lives the perfect American dream but hates her suburban lifestyle married to a "perfect" spouse who will do anything to foster his image including sell her to gain a promotion; her discontent is exasperated now that she has re-met with Tom's younger brother. Olivia runs an animal shelter, but except for her guests is all alone until just before Tom died he arranged a blind date for her. Writer Paul is happily married to Anna, but he and his wife are hurting by their inability to have a child. Actress Saffron is a recovering alcoholic having an affair with a married Hollywood legend. Tom's sudden death has each of the foursome wondering if that is all there is in life as each wants more.

SECOND CHANCE is an interesting contemporary character study in which author Jane Green purposely uses the prime disturbance of each of the key protagonists as their dominant trait; each wears their emotional baggage on their sleeves. The story line focuses on the quartet and to a lesser degree on the late Tom and his family. Although the wrap up seems too simple, fans of Ms. Green will enjoy her fine tale as Tom's college mates consider taking a SECOND CHANCE by swapping their lives for something helpfully emotionally much better.

Marion Zimmer Bradley's Ravens of Avalon
Diana L. Paxson
9780670038701 $25.95

In 60 A.D. the Romans have arrived in full force. After some brutal fighting, a ceasefire is agreed upon, but neither side expects the hostilities to end. Meanwhile Druid priestess Lhiannon has a second reason of concern as her student's Celtic princess Boudica marries Iceni High King Prasutagos. He sues for peace while his wife and her mentor demand war to drive the invaders from their shore.

When Prasutagos dies, the Roman legion rejects Queen Boudica as the island ruler. Instead they torture her and rape her daughters. Outraged by the vicious affront, Boudica vows to avenge the Roman atrocities. With the help of Lhiannon and other Druids bringing the power of the battle goddess to her side, Boudica forges a powerful army to assault the Roman legions.

The late great Marian Zimmer Bradley would be proud of this prequel to THE FOREST HOUSE, the first time she and Diana L. Paxson teamed up. The story line smoothly combines ancient history with fantasy elements to please fans of both authors. Readers of the delightful Avalon series will appreciate learning what occurred that led to the formation of the Society of the Ravens.

Red Rover
Deirdre McNamer
9780670063505 $24.95

Brothers Aiden and Neil Tierney grew up as best friends riding horses in Big Sky Country. After Pearl Harbor brought the United States in to the war, they both left Montana to volunteer to help their country. Aiden became an undercover FBI agent working to out Nazis setting up a beachhead in Argentina; while Neil joins the Air Force. Both survived their WWII endeavors.

Aiden and Neil return to Montana following the V-J Day armistice that ended the hostilities. However, instead of rejoicing in their safe return, Aiden is extremely ill and unable to even mount a horse. During Christmas 1946, the local coroner determines he committed suicide. Neil rejects the official ruling as he knows his sibling was a fighter and was battling the crippling disease. After the funeral, Aiden's friend FBI agent Roland Taliaferro insists Hoover will soon tell them the truth. However, the letter from the "the Old Man" director never comes and Taliaferro is retired. Over the six decades, Neil longs to know what happened to Aiden, but it takes cataract surgery to provide him the truth.

One of the best historical tales of the year, RED ROVER starts with Lindbergh in 1927, goes through WW II and its immediate aftermath, and finally winds down in the twenty-first century. The story line easily makes the quantum leaps seem natural mostly because the two siblings seem real in every era they appear. Readers will appreciate this strong vivid look at much of the American century (and a bit more) while wondering like Neil what truly happened to Aiden as every conspiratorial theory will cross your mind until the closure provided with an incredible climax.

First Among Sequels
Jasper Fforde
9780670038718 $24.95

Acme Carpets undercover Special Operations investigator Thursday Next's son Friday is a sixteen year old pain in the butt, who prefers sleeping in rather than following a plot. His literary agent mom fails to persuade her sequel that ChronoGuard needs him to prevent the Stupidity Surplus reaching danger zones. After being rejected by her offspring, Next has to switch chapters as a lethal plot has surfaced. Apparently Moriarty murdered Sherlock Holmes at the Rheinback Falls; his sequels died with him. Soon afterward, Miss Marple dies in a car crash; her series dies with her too.

When Thursday receives a death threat, she realizes that a serial killer is killing sleuths and other characters in Bookworld. Additionally, as she struggles with preventing more protagonists from having their story lines ended prematurely, the Goliath Corporation is pushing heavily to deregulate book travel, claiming it is a right of all characters to visit other tales. Thursday knows this crisis means stepping outside genre guidelines beyond the temporal acceptance even as another twist filled with realistic red herring occurs as the classics are being converted into reality books for the masses. Finally the Cheese Enforcement Agency arrests Next for smuggling banned cheesy products into Bookworld. This is just another day for the savior of literature.

As always the fate of classic and cheesy literature is at stake as Thursday once again tries to correct all that is wrong in literature starting with her teenage slacker. The satire rips into sequels, the inane customs laws, adults telling teens grow up, and deregulation with no consequences based on the customer (reader) is always wrong. Fans will enjoy lampooning the genres and much more as Thursday saves the world one pun at a time.

Pandora's Closet
Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg (editors)
DAW Books, Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756404376 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

The underling connective thread between these nineteen new tales is items worn like garments and jewelry found in fantasy realms. Think of classic accouchements like Superman's cape, Green Lantern's ring, and Dorothy's slippers. Thus the tales focus on the garb mostly with a humorous vent. The stories are well written, but there is only so many ways that one can find magic in rings, hats, and slippers oh my. Thus the audience will enjoy the contributions but should spread out reading the anthology over a few weeks to avoid ennui caused by a somewhat repetitive narrow theme as the enchantment can only go so far even with trips to historical Japan, WW II, and Oz changing the locale.

The Fox
Sherwood Smith,
9780756404215 $25.95

Exiled unfairly from home, Indevan makes a life for himself at sea eventually becoming the leader of a mercenary company that guards ships with valuable cargo from pirates. One day his luck runs out and he is captured by the pirate Gaffer Walic. He pretends to be Stupid until the time is right for him to lead a mutiny. He is a natural born leader and commander and most of pirates in Gaffer's mini armada agree to follow him although he trusts only the people who were captured with him.

He decides to be a pirate who hunts other pirates something his former clients are thrilled to hear. He goes after the most brutal pirate leaders and then takes on the Brotherhood as a whole. His homeland is at war with the Venn who want their land to feed their ever growing population so he goes hunting Venn and eventually goes into the Venn empire as a spy to learn what their invasion plans are. Back at home, his older brother is murdered and he is the next heir to the principality of Choread Elgaer. The royals and his friends from home find it impossible to find him as Inde doesn't have a clue about all the changes that have happened and the different players in power since he left the kingdom.

THE FOX takes up exactly where INDA left off and readers will be thoroughly transfixed by Inda's adventures. Although young he leads a group of sailors into fighting using military strategies people decades older than him would not think to employ. Sherwood Smith is a great world builder who makes the kingdom, the Venn Empire and the other places Inda travels seem very real. There is plenty of action but not at the expense of creating believable characters who make for stirring high seas adventures.

The Sleeping God
Violette Malan
9780756404468 $15.00

The two Mercenary Brotherhood members, psychic Dhulyn Wolfshead and former noble Parno Lionsmane, are assigned a relatively simple task. They need to escort orphaned Mar-eMar to her royal relatives at Tenebro House in Gotterang, Imrion.

The pair expects a quick trip with no issues. Instead the supernatural magical Marked have reasons known only to them to prevent them from succeeding. Meanwhile the zealous New Believers think that the Marked are conjuring a way to awaken the Sleeping God and consequently destroy the world. They too want Parno and Dhulyn stopped. None of these two groups of adversaries or the Mercenary Brotherhood is aware that the diabolical Green Shadow is playing everyone for a fool; regardless Parno and Dhulyn know their mission could prove lethal, but they will continue to press forward in order to keep Mar safe until they can drop her off with her kin.

This exciting sword and sorcery fantasy is fun to follow because of the camaraderie of the Mercenary Brotherhood tandem, who each knows to trust one another and no one else. Although somewhat typical of the sub-genre, the lead heroes and the diabolical Machiavellian Green Shadow bring freshness to a simple escort task that turns into a series of potentially deadly escapades as Violette Malan disproves that your enemy's enemy is your friend; Dhulyn and Parno know first hand that their enemy's enemy is also their enemy.

Man vs. Machine
Martin H. Greenberg (Editor), John Helfers (Editor)
9780756404369 $7.99

The premise hooked this reviewer who has always been fascinated by technology especially artificial intelligence since reading an early Fantastic 4 comic book involving Galactus first coming to dine on planet earth; enhanced by the real first Star Wars; and as John Helfers mentions in the Introduction the Terminator thrillers. Thus my bias is evident. To the credit of the contributors each of the tales is well written using varying approaches to the underlying theme of MAN VS. MACHINE. For instance "The Historian's Apprentice" by S. Andrew Swann looks back to how we got into the mess we are in today while the "Last of the Fourth" by Bill Fawcett focuses on military sci fi as machine and man battle for supremacy. Each of the fifteen new short stories are fun to read as we have come a long way baby since "Sarah Connor versus a killer robot from the future" as affirmed by this strong anthology.

Lee Vance
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307266323 $23.95 1-800-726-0600

Peter Tyler works on Wall St. at prestigious financial giant Klein and Klein. He lives with his beautiful wife Jenna, a pro bono lawyer, in the suburbs and seems to have the perfect lifestyle. However, Peter knows he and Jenna are drifting apart although they still love one another as she wants a family and he fears a repetition of his unhappy childhood. Everything shatters when Detectives Rommy and Tilling inform him that Jenna was brutally murdered in their home. With their questioning focused on whether he had marital woes, Peter knows he is the prime suspect.

The police learn that the only item stolen from the victim's house is a package belonging to Peter's best friend, Moscow based businessman Andrei Zhilina, who mysteriously is incommunicado. Rommy and Tilling also learn Peter had an affair that he insists was a one night mistake, but refuses to name the woman. Knowing he will soon be arrested and believing there is a link between his wife's death and his friend's disappearance, Peter begins an international quest to uncover the identity of who killed Jenna.

The quest especially in Moscow seems plausible and in turn takes this otherwise overly used plot device into a fresh thriller. Peter is filled with guilt over his behavior towards his wife just prior to her murder so besides not wanting to go to prison, he feels strongly that he owes Jenna. Thus the flawed hero starts his quest for salvation, but stumbles all the way as he is a financier who plays Nerf basketball not a detective working a homicide case amidst Russian mobsters, money laundering and stolen masterpieces. His efforts to make RESTITUTION to the memory of Jenna turn this novel into fast-paced exciting human drama.

Death of a Murderer
Rupert Thomson
9780307265845 $23.00

After decades in prison as the worst female serial killer in England's history, the murderess has died but not to satisfaction of the families of her victims; many believe justice failed as this deadly femme fatale, "Britain's most hated woman", died from natural causes. Police officer Billy Tyler volunteers to watch over the corpse because he assumes this is an easy assignment although he is told by his superiors to remain vigilant as many would like to mutilate the body. Twelve hours baby sitting a dead female in a hospital morgue before she is cremated seems a perfect way to earn easy money to the lazy Billy even after his spouse Sue begged him to not take this assignment.

As the clock slowly ticked away during the long night, Billy begins to self reflect on his life. He has marital troubles and thinks of Emma, a Down syndrome child. Soon Billy and the ghost of this dead killer debate evil as she insists it is part of humanity's internal makeup with civilization trying to control it. She admits most of her victims probably did not deserve death but she lured and killed them nyway. As the clock moves on, Billy believes he lost the argument as this easy over night jaunt proves disturbing as he reflects on keeping loved ones safe from predators when we are the monsters.

Apparently based on a real murderess, DEATH OF A MURDERER is a haunting character study that will have the audience reflect on the same questions that begin to disturb Billy. How does one keep loved ones safe from random act killing fields caused by psychopaths? Just who is the monster and how did they become so malevolent that drive by shootings of innocent people including babies is a competitive game. Rupert Thompson provides one of the most insightful thrillers of the last few years with this cerebral look at society breeding the monsters that lie amongst us as we just as easily could have been them.

The Chicago Way
Michael Harvey
9780307266866 $23.95

Business was obviously booming for former cop turned private investigator as Michael Kelly was working on a critical list of the ten greatest moments in Chicago Cub history. However after a half hour he was still at numero uno as the greatest events in the history of his beloved team are in the future. Michael is saved from wasting anymore brain matter on the most cursed team in professional sports when his former partner, John Gibbons, arrives at his office.

Retired from the force for five years, John wants Michael to help him solve a South Chicago cold case from 1997 when he saw a man stabbing a woman. He handcuffed the silent man and opened the trunk of the culprit's vehicle where he found evidence that he killed others. The next day John learned the man is gone and Chief Belmont tells him to forget what he saw; he did and received a promotion.

Now that female victim from eight years ago is begging him for help. At 3:30 the next morning, TV news reporter Judy Bange wakes up Michael asking for a comment about John being murdered underneath the Navy Pier. The case has turned personal as Michael brings together a magnificent team; however a betrayal from within, danger from the local mob and an apparent serial killer with a streak of deaths to match the Cubs' years without a championship try to stop him.

This entertaining urban noir stars an interesting sleuth who follows the Cubs, philosophizes on the nature of an individual and reads Cicero. The investigation is cleverly devised so that the audience and Michael wonder what connects the rape and near murder that gave John his career boost to his death although at times has too many sidebar players appear ready to beat the crap out of the hero (then again it is a noir). Fans will enjoy this romp down the mean streets surrounding Wrigley Field.

Secret Asset
Stella Rimington
9781400043958 $24.95

Runner Sohail "code name Marzipan" Din meets his former handler M15 Intelligence Officer Liz Carlyle to inform her that there is odd meetings going on at a London Islamic bookstore especially the visits from a VIP Pakistani Imam. Not only is the lad, who plans to go to university shortly a reliable source, he gives "Jane" a tape left behind by the Imam.

Although Jane knows this could be innocent meetings, her gut tells her otherwise. She reports to her superior M 15 Director of Counterterrorism Charles Wetherby, who trusts her instincts; besides which he takes no chances. He assigns an A-4 surveillance team to watch the bookstore. However, at the last moment, Charles removes a stunned Liz from the case. Instead he directs her to work a more insidious scenario that in the long run could cause even more immense problems for the country. Evidence has surfaced that a terrorist SECRET ASSET has infiltrated British Intelligence; Liz is assigned to uncover the mole before further damage is done to M 15 and terrorists repeat the transportation calamities. She calculates what is AT RISK if she fails.

Having a mole inside an espionage agency is not a knew theme and has had real world counterpoints, but former M15 Director Stella Rimington keeps it fresh by finding who the perfect fit at the conference table (think Ames) is before terrorists strike. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the underlying belief that future hits will occur regardless of M15 efforts and attempts to include alienated minorities into society that make the tale way above the usual espionage thriller. Fans will appreciate this strong story of determining just which one of your colleagues is betraying your country and causing people to die.

Innocent as Sin
Elizabeth Lowell
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780060829827 $24.95 1-800-242-7737

Banker Kayla Shaw has a simple normal career until she is assigned Andre Bertone as her client. Looking over his account, a stunned Kayla concludes that this VIP customer is a dangerous criminal not to mess with. When she is ordered to make illegal transfers of millions of dollars, Kayla realizes she is caught between a rock and a hard place. If she fails to do so she is dead; if she does so and is caught she goes to jail.

St. Kilda Consulting persuades former field operative Rand McCree to handle a special case involving the mystery Siberian, whom he wants to stop before others are harmed by this vicious brilliant thug. He learns that the Siberian is now using the identity of Andre Bertone, so he agrees to attend undercover an art exhibition hosted by this vicious killer. Kayla realizes her only Hail Mary escape is to bet her heart is right and that Rand can expedite her safely while initiating the risky strategy that St. Kilda is employing to bring down Bertone the Siberian.

This is an action-packed suspense thriller that never slows down once Kayla realizes what she is involved in. The lead couple is a super pairing as she is a woman in deep trouble that sees the tainted hero as her only knight in not so shiny dented armor; he has his own ghosts to deal with starting with witnessing the assassination of his twin brother. Readers will root for this couple to survive and make it, but the wintry Siberian steals the tale as few villains are as bad as this killer is with a heart that's cold as he seems to have the golden touch.

Stormy Weather
Paulette Jiles
9780060537326 $24.95

In the late 1920s in Texas, Elizabeth and Jack Stoddard raise three daughters; beautiful Mayme, tomboy Jeanine and scholarly Bea. Her two siblings detest the fact that their dad makes no effort to hide that Jeanine is his favorite as she is his sidekick at the races.

When the drinking gambling Jack dies in 1937, he leaves behind four females needing to survive. They, accompanied by an aging capricious yet still fast racing horse Smoky Joe, move onto a run down neglected homestead overlooking the Brazos River. However, life proves hard as an extended drought has turned Central Texas into a dust bowl while the younger females begin seeing men.

This deep family historical drama brings to life the Depression in Texas oil country through the lives of the four female Stoddards. Each member of the Stoddard quartet is a unique protagonist so that the women bring differing points of view to what is happening to them especially when they return to the dilapidated ranch once Jack dies. Fans of dust bowl character driven tales will want to read STORMY WEATHER, a keenly vivid look at life in 1930s Texas.

A Nail Through the Heart
Timothy Hallinan
9780061255809 $24.95

Poke Rafferty is a unique travel writer whose Looking for Trouble series is popular amongst those who enjoy the offbeat flaunting of the law in their tourism. However, in Bangkok Poke recently met and feel in love with former b-girl prostitute Rose and wants to make her his wife. He plans to settle in the city and to prove to Rose he is earnest, he brings eight years old street kid Miaow into his home; he did not know that bringing the little girl he soon cherishes means also having "Superman" enter his life.

Needing money for his new family especially the legal and under the table cost of adopting Miaow, Poke accepts investigative assignments thinking his work as a travel writer would help him adapt. He is hired to find the missing Australian Claus Ulrich who frequents BDSM locales. Poke is an expert on how to find them, visit them, and get out with most of your skin. Soon afterward wealthy Madame Wing gives him a $30,000 fee to recover an envelope from a Cambodian who stole it; she warns him that he is not to open the envelope because if is he does she must kill him. Soon his two cases and his personal life intertwine as nothing goes right for Poke the foreigner on the seediest side of Bangkok.

This is an exhilarating Thailand private investigative thriller starring a protagonist who believes laws are to be broken just don't get caught. The cases are fun to follow as Poke fumbles about the city in spite of his travel knowledge as he is an amateur sleuth in every sense of the word except he is being paid. Fans will enjoy his endeavors as he takes readers on quite a tour that few will ever want to see except from their armchair.

Richard Bachman
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416554844 $25.00 1-800-223-2336

The physical and mental abuse suffered by Clayton "Blaze" Blaisdell at the hands of his father has taken its toll on the lad. The beatings left Blaze with reduced cognitive skills. His time spent in an orphanage led to more thumping, further reduction in his mental capacity, and petty crimes.

In the present Blaze and his partner in crime, George Rackley, plan a kidnapping with the latter providing the brains. However, before they can execute the abduction, George is murdered. Blaze "consults" with George as if his partner is still at his side and decides to go ahead with the snatch.

Written in 1973 before Mr. Bachman died from "cancer of the pseudonym", Stephen King has somewhat revised this character study. The story line focuses on Blaze rotating between his abusive childhood and the present when he turns to his dead partner for leadership. Fascinatingly readers will empathize with the title character while detest the males in his life, from his father to his peers and teachers at the orphanage to nasty George; all share in common abusing Blaze at least in what is left of his mind. Although there are no surprises coming out of the grave, this is a fine tale. Note that a recently released short story, "Memory," is also included, but though entertaining not sure why as that feels like padding and advertising Mr. King's future novel Duma Key that apparently comes from it.

Red Seas Under Red Skies
Scott Lynch
Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780553804683 $23.00 1-800-726-0600

Con artists Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen plan to swindle the renowned gambling house, Sinspire. Tight security makes any attempt futile and cheating breaks the first commandment, which if caught also means break the felon's bones as death is the response to the worst crime anyone can commit.

However, Locke and Jean feel they have a perfect scheme so they are in the city state of Tal Verra completing their final preparations. However, someone knows what the two thieves plot to do and is determined to insure they not fail but are caught. Let the games begin because Locke and Jean will not allow an unknown adversary prevent their latest caper from succeeding.

Locke and Jean are quite the pair as these bold con artists work on a scheme that seems impossible and made even more difficult by their enemy. The fast-paced story line is at its best when the two thieves, their opponent, and the casino staff work towards a final altercation even as the audience expects the antiheroes to succeed (need to read to see if they actually do), but not know how they can pull off the ploy. Although there are well written epic sea battles with pirates, that sidebar feels like an intruder as this fantasy belongs to the scam.

Elizabeth Bear
9780553589054 $6.99

On the backwater colony and mining planet Greene's world, a mostly oceanic orb, the Charter Trade Company mines petroleum and omelite, a valuable substance controlled by the firm's upper management. Native ranids who are civilized water species are used as forced coolie labor. They live mostly in water so they play a big role in the underwater mining.

Sometimes a secret gets out and the company has to deal with it. Andre Deschenes is an assassin who wants to be a conjurer man so he can scientifically change his world and control to a degree the probable outcome of events. The company assigns him to kill Lucienne, his girlfriend Cricket's friend. Some ranids with humans backing them are calling for a revolution and Cricket has a data dump in her head from Lucienne, given moments before she died that may be the key to getting the company off Greene's World. The ranids know more than humans believe possible and are prepared to do what is necessary to keep their world whole healthy and clean.

The ranids are intelligent amphibians but most humans don't see it because verbal communication between the species is impossible. UNDERTOW would make a great movie as human corporate conspiracies place everyone on or near the planet in danger; human and ranids try to save their destabilizing planet. Fans will appreciate this watery science fiction thriller

Rebel Island
Rick Riordan
9780553804232 $25.00

San Antonio based private investigator Tres Navarre radically changes his life as he retires and marries his eight month pregnant girlfriend Maia. Tres' older brother wheelchair-bound Garret persuades the newlyweds to go to Rebel Island on their honeymoon; Garret and some long time pals will be at the Texas Gulf Island where the two siblings spent family vacations.

At the Rebel island dock, Tres meets rumored cold blooded killer U.S. Marshal Jesse Longoria, who believes the sleuth is on a case. They last met at the grave site of the former sleuth's best friend when Jesse wanted to insure Ralph Arguello was dead. While Tres and Maia settle into their suite at Rebel House Inn, a shot is fired. They along with Garret and the manager investigate only to find someone killed Longoria. Tres makes inquires and follows clues even as others are murdered and a hurricane heads towards the island.

Although hurricanes attacking the Gulf have flooded the mystery genre since Katrina, the latest Navarre thriller is an exhilarating tale as the audience learns about the lead protagonist's salad days and his current relationships. As he digs for clues and finds hidden tunnels and passageways, the killer steals the show as the villain seems always one step ahead of Tres. Readers will enjoy Rick Riordan's terrific murder caper, Texas style.

The Sea Change
Patricia Bray
9780553588774 $6.99

Brother Nikos, chief advisor to the Empress Nerissa, had performed forbidden magic placing the soul of the dying monk Josan into the body of Prince Luscius hoping to make the recalcitrant royal more compliant. He hoped to gain influence over the man who led an uprising to topple the empress and put himself on the throne. Now he is a royal prisoner confined to his rooms unable to see anyone until the day the empress and her two sons were assassinated.

Proconsul Zuberi believes Lucius /Josan was behind the killings and gives him to the royal torturer who can't break his protests of innocence. When the real traitor is revealed, the council led by Zuberi name him emperor but he is a puppet and the Proconsul is the real power in Ikaria. Lucius and Josan work together to gain allies and their chance comes when Sendat the rival empire seizes some Ikarian colonies and tries to blockade the empire with its superior naval power.

This is a fascinating fantasy in which the Ikarian Empire is based on the ancient Rome and Sendat is based on Ancient Japan. Ikaria is descending into civil war following the death of the strong willed empress and readers see how the once innocent monk makes Machiavellian political decisions to stop the Sendatians from taking advantage of the internal unrest. It is fun watching Josan maneuver his enemies, gain allies and use the information he had as a monk to further consolidate his position. It remains to be seen how Lucius and Josan will deal with having to share one body with two minds and souls. Patricia Bray has written another exciting fantasy filled with complex, interesting, and believable characters.

Killing The Rabbit
Alison Goodman
9780553590111 $6.99

Hannie Reynard is embarrassed and a bit frightened as she wasted her Independent Filmmakers Fund grant on a weekend in Paris. Now, the acting finance director Mosson J. Ferret is auditing her books. She remembers him from film school before he dropped out. However, Hannie is unaware that Mosson is bored and wants to get behind the camera; he plans to "blackmail" her into letting him film her documentary, Freaks or Frauds on women containing a gene mutation that enables them to naturally kill their fetus by reabsorbing it; she would direct.

At the same time, the Forecaster drew up a two hundred year strategic plan for his Company Osaga-Fowler Pharmaceutical, but knows that the firm could be in trouble due to the "RabbitWoman Mutation" that enables some human females to self absorb a fetus; thus if this internal abortion mutation spreads as the Forecaster expects based on Darwinism, the Company's best selling contraceptive line would sink and consequently so will the firm though generations into the future. His job is to insure all females who contain the mutation die. Soon the filmmakers and the Company's subcontracted help will meet as the Freaks are being eliminated.

This is a dark tale that extrapolates Japanese long term planning and a woman's reproductive rights to extremes that will leave the audience wondering how business firms and right to life groups would behave if a long term natural challenge to their respective positions occur. In this case, murder is the obvious weapon of the Company, but the right to life groups' reaction was never explored. Thus the audience obtains a tense thriller based on a fascinating premise that focuses too much on the hits rather than on how society reacts to the RabbitWoman mutation. This tale is entertaining and exciting; on the other hand KILLING THE RABBIT is of those that could have been a classic thought provoker.

End Games
Michael Dibdin
9780375425219 $23.95

When the new chief of police of Calabria in southern Italy shoots himself in the foot, Aurelio Zen, a Venetian in his heart and soul is temporarily transferred there. He is given indirect instructions to be a policeman and not make any real decisions. It is so quiet he is bored until an America lawyer working for a movie company is kidnapped. Instead of the usual cash ransom to win the victim's freedom, the kidnapper kills Mr. Newman.

While Zen is investigating the homicide, a rich American is using the movie company and the director who is supposed to film Apocalypse, based on Revelations, as a cover to find the tomb of the Goth Alaric. The kidnapper knows that the American wants a priceless artifact that was stolen from the temple; he finds a way to get a piece of the action. Zen learns about both stings and instead of ignoring it like he is supposed to do, he organizes a big operation to take out most of the criminal element in the area.

This is the eleventh but sadly last Aurelio Zen mystery, fittingly titled, as Michael Dibdin recently died. This final book, published posthumously, is a perfect example of what the entire series is like. The protagonist is intelligent and likes to be in on the action but he is politically incorrect, which means he will not be up for promotion anytime soon. Instead the hero is like an old west good guy gunslinger fighting a range war, which would explain his appeal to Americans.

What Matters Most
Luanne Rice
9780553805338 $24.00

Over two decades Bernadette Ignatius and Tom Kelly were lovers. She became pregnant and gave birth to his son. However, Bernadette decided to join the church to become a nun. Unable to raise the lad by himself, Tom agreed to place the newborn in a Dublin orphanage. To be near her, he became the caretaker at the convent where she took her vows.

Now twenty-three years later, Tom and Sister Bernie search for their offspring angry Seamus Sullivan, who loathes his biological parents for deserting him. When Tom learns that Seamus loves a former orphanage resident Kathleen, whose parents came for her a decade ago, he encourages him to go out and get her. However, to find love, Seamus must move past his hate to forgive his parents while Kathleen is across the ocean in Newport knowing the only boy she loves will one day come for her.

WHAT MATTERS MOST is filled with memorable characters whose faith is tested as each of the prime four players struggle to do what they feel is right; they each learn a Plato-like lesson that to have a miracle first one must suffer in their cases heartbreak. The story line is enhanced by visions and ghosts, but uses to many expedient scenarios that enable the prime cast to run into each other at critical times though some might insist serendipitously miracles are in their corner. Still the lead four protagonists make for a powerful inspirational tale as they learn WHAT MATTERS MOST in life.

Embraced By Darkness
Keri Arthur
9780553589610 $6.99

Half werewolf, half vampire Riley Jenson is now a full fledged guardian in the Directorate of Other Races. She has no choice because her powers are growing and changing thanks to a drug she was forced to take. If she wasn't in the directorate she would be involved with the military like others were forced do. Right now Riley is taking a well deserved rest on Monitor Island when her alpha leader Blake tells her that she is to find out what happened to his granddaughter Adrienne who disappeared just like other young women before her.

All disappeared within weeks of leaving home and all knew bartender Jon D; Riley is forced to help because if she doesn't Blake will kill her mother. When she arrives home she is given another assignment. Females are being torn apart by something evil and preternatural although nobody knows what is actual doing the killing. Once Riley puts a stop to the murders she swings her attention to the club Mirror Image where shifter and humans are allowed to dance with the end game beings sex. Women connected to the club have disappeared and Riley believes that was the story Adrienne was working on. Now she has to retrace her footsteps and hope she and her twin brother Rhoan don't get killed by two human with supernatural powers.

The latest Riley Jenson Guardian novel is a fantastic enthralling supernatural thriller that focuses on the need to solve the case quickly before more people die. In Riley's world, vampires, were-shifters, and other supernatural entities are taken for granted and co-exist with humans. Riley's new powers are a shocker to her and she knows she will have to stay with the directorate so they can help her and so she can stay out of the military clutches. Keri Arthur is one of my top favorite supernatural writers with this strong work validating why.

The New World
Michael A. Stackpole
9780553382396 $15.00

War is coming to Nalenyr and its ruler Prince Cyron; Prince Pyrust of Deseirion is just about to kill him but the courtesan the Lady of and Jade stops them as she reveals she is the Empress Cyrsa who 737 years ago defeated the Turasynd horde. However an abundance of wild magic was released causing her and her warriors to sleep as the magic slowly ebbed from their bodies. They are needed now because Prince Nelesquin who has also awakened intends to defeat the empress and restore the empire to its previous glory with him in charge.

Aiding him is the Royal Cartographer Qiro Anturasi who created, with his magic, a new continent so that his granddaughter Nirati has a place where she cheats death. He is creating an army of monsters to help Nelesquin defeat the empress. His grandsons Jorim and Keles are fighting the presence, Nelesquin is in different way. Keles is very powerful in the ways of magic and he is the only one capable of stopping his grandfather. Jorim marches into hell to stop a god from destroying the world. All the heroes know that this is a cause that will probably kill them if they win; they do not think what will happen to them if they lose.

THE NEW WORLD is the best work in the trilogy that contains the powerful novels A SECRET ATLAS and CARTOMANCY. It is more action oriented and the characters are more three dimensional. There are interesting and surprising plot developments including two mortal enemies who band together to defeat a common foe who wants to destroy Nalenyr. Storyline twists and a strong cast make this novel a totally enthralling and fulfilling fantasy.

Simon Says
Lori Foster
The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425216583 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

Simon Evans retired from the ring with his faculties still working and his body in great shape. However, he returns to the ring to take out his anger on his opponents when he catches his girlfriend cheating.

His biological father, who deserted Simon and his mom years ago, sends his stepdaughter Dakota Dream to find his son and to ascertain if forgiveness and reconciliation is possible though he hides from her his ulterior motive. Simon wants nothing to do with his dad although he admires and is attracted to the courageous Dakota. She finds she wants him too. When an unknown adversary tries to kill her, Simon risks his life and his heart to protect his stepsister, the woman he loves.

Lori. Foster's latest Supreme Battle Championship tale is an exhilarating story starring a hero who knows first hand love hurts and thus trusts no one as people cheat and lie. His reaction to his attraction is precious as he wants to kick his own butt for desiring his dad's "agent". Dakota is a fiery feisty female who CAUSES HAVOC in the solar plexus of Simon. Although the "assassin's" subplot seems outside the ring of the core story line and the chutzpah of his biological dad is incredulous as they never met before, readers will enjoy going the distance with this fine pairing of two champions.

Sex and the Psychic Witch
Annette Blair
9780425216637 $6.99

Like her older half sister Vickie and her triplet siblings (Destiny and Storm) Harmony Cartwright has paranormal skills. She can touch an ancient artifact and learns its past, a skill that is handy where she works at her older sister's Salem, Massachusetts antique store The Immortal Classic.

When she touches a ring found inside a dress, Harmony learns of its past at Paxton Castle on nearby coastal Massachusetts. She travels there to remove Gussie the angry spirit haunting the castle. To her shock she finds a psychic connection to the new owner King; and even more stunning an attraction to him. However, Harmony knows she is in over her head with the acrimonious Gussie so she calls for her siblings to help her remove the ghost haunting Paxton Castle, but plans to act alone when it comes to King.

The first of the triplet sequels to the big sister's tale (see SCOT, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE) is an exhilarating romantic fantasy starring an interesting heroine and the man who employs her to control the rancorous unwanted spirit bewitching his castle. Readers will appreciate the antics of the triplets as they struggle to send Gussie on to the next plane while laughing with joy at King's caresses of the seductress who owns his heart.

Tanner's Scheme
Lora Leigh
9780425216613 $7.99

Scheme serves as a special aid to her father General Cyrus Tallant, but also spies for the Feline Breeds. The Breed community unaware of her espionage efforts on their behalf loath Scheme because they assume she is just like her lethal father. Her handler Jonas Wyatt is the only person aware that she risks her life trying to save the Breeds.

Cyrus believes his daughter is tainted and working for his enemy. He orders her assassination, but Breed Tanner Reynolds saves her life by abducting her. Although attracted to her rescuer, Scheme does not trust him as Jonas has moles working inside the Breed community. Though she feels Tanner is her mate, she will only provide information to Jonas.

This is an ultra heated romantic fantasy thriller that continues the Breeds saga (see MEGAN'S MARK and HARMONY'S WAY) with a lead couple who does not trust one another, but cannot prevent the attraction from overwhelming their good sense of safety. Scheme is a wonderful protagonist caught in a sort of no person's land as each side represented by the men in her life, her father and Tanner, assumes she is betraying them. Her efforts make the tale as she is all alone even when love arrives.

Lucinda, Darkly
9780425214640 $14.00

Lucinda was a Monere queen before she died, strong enough to make the transition to become a demon dead, who travels between hell and earth looking to return wayward demons to hell. Her mission is interrupted when she saves Stefan, a rogue Monere warrior who ran away from his queen. They share violence and pleasure while she drinks his blood.

Lucinda returns to Hell; where the de facto ruler her brother Halcyon tells her to find Nico the rogue Monere warrior and return him to his queen. When she catches up with Nico he puts up a good fight refusing to be killed by her or returned to his queen who kills her warriors when they become too strong, but he loses to her. She returns him to Mona Si Guiri who annoys Lucinda with her attitude. Nico is placed in silver chains making his powers useless and Lucinda is held in black chains. However the demon side of Lucinda rises and she defeats the queens and her warriors. She must return to Hell or fade into nothingness. Derek a former guardian tries to prevent her return to Hell even as she begins to build a male warrior following in Arizona.

This superb fast-paced urban fantasy in the tradition of Laurel K. Hamilton contains strong characterization that makes the Monere universe seems genuine. There is also plenty of sex and violence, at times together, but it is necessary elements interwoven into the story line. Although this is a stand alone side thriller, reading the previous Mona Lisa tales (see MONA LISA BLOSSOMING and MONA LISA AWAKENING) will make it easier to understand Sunny's complex realm.

Heart's Delight
Ruth Ryan Langan
9780425216330 $6.99

In 1890 Wisconsin, U.S. Marshal Hogan Egan looks forward to capturing killer Eli Otto so that he can claim the reward and quit his dangerous occupation. Thirty year old spinster Molly O'Brien runs the family farm while raising four orphans, her nieces and family friend Flora.

However, Molly and her young female horde are stunned when they find two near dead males on their land. She knows one is a Marshall and the other a cold killer, but she has no idea who is who. Each claims to be the lawman, but Molly's heart reaches out to the man she believes would never harm the children or her. She is proved correct when Otto kidnaps her niece to use as a hostage pawn to escape.

This is an entertaining late nineteenth century Americana romance starring likable lead protagonists who know their responsibilities must come before their attraction. Interestingly when Molly faces the Hobson's Choice between the "Lady and the Tiger", she lets her heart decide for her as she believes that the tender and caring he gives towards the young ones is the real Hogan. With a nod to What's My Line, fans will know that Hogan and Molly make this western romantic suspense a HEART'S DELIGHT.

Revenge of the Homecoming Queen
Stephanie Hale
9780425216156 $9.99

Aspen Brooks thought it was her divine right to become named the homecoming queen. Thus when high school Principal Miss Hott places the tiara on the head of her rival Angel Ives instead of her, Aspen goes berserk.

The king of Dorks Rand Bachrach is named homecoming king. Angel assumes her archenemy Aspen arranged the anointment of this loser. Meanwhile Aspen continues to rage about the injustice while someone trashes her school locker and slashes her tires. Aspen assumes her archenemy Angel is behind the assault; she plans to retaliate as their cold war heats up and any student, faculty, or staff hurt is collateral damage.

Targeting the young adult audience, this is an interesting look at a selfish shallow teen who believes her s**t does not smell and that everyone else is on the planet to serve as part of her retinue. Angel is not much better. The story line is fast-paced and has surprising twists and several red herrings, but neither of the enemy combatants are likable souls.

Real Vampires Live Large
Gerry Bartlett
9780425215340 $14.00

Someone firebombs the clothing boutique owned by Glory St. Clair; she assumes the arson was a hate crime against Vampires like her. Her part-time lover, who had converted her (see REAL VAMPIRES HAVE CURVES) Angus Jeremiah Campbell III, and is currently known as Jeremy Blade arranges for extra protection beyond Glory's bodyguard friend, the shape-shifting dog Valdez. However outraged beyond a berserker Scottish warrior, he also wants to go to the source to prevent a repeat. Prevalent theory is Brent Westwood, a fanatical wealthy vampire hunter, is the arsonist.

However, Blade and Glory have to reconsider the initial assessment when more attempts to harm Glory occur. He realizes that it is her attitude not to accept her vampirism that brings the nasties: drug dealing energy-vampires wanting to sell her to the highest bidder. Still Blade vows to keep Glory safe even though that proves difficult when mobs of mortal, undead, and other ilk arrive to see a mural she is displaying at her shop

The return of ancient vampiress Glory surviving in a modern world is fun to follow as she struggles with her lover, a wannabe lover, vampire killers, and energy-vampires; all want a piece of her in differing ways. Fans of lighthearted paranormal romps will enjoy Gerry Bartlett's fun tale starring a heroine who has never forgiven Blade for biting her when she was bloated.

First Comes Love
Whitney Lyles
9780425215357 $14.00

Married five months, Cate and Ethan Blakely begin to discuss having children as everyone they know especially family asks when they plan to have kids. Neither has thought that far ahead, but each has questions and doubts especially as Ethan has just started a relatively new catering business.

Still the pressure increases on them to produce the next generation Blakely as friends begin to have children. While visiting his family in Scottsdale, Arizona, Cate's period is late leading her to wonder whether she conceived even as relatives encourage them to bring forth the next generation. For now she and Ethan ponder to procreate or not to procreate that is the question as the couple investigates the nuclear impact on their lifestyle of raising children.

This sequel to HERE COMES THE BRIDE is a fun and amusing tale that focuses on the lead couple as they look around to see their friends having children and in turn pressure exponentially mounts for them to do likewise. Cate makes the tale as she muses back to her bridesmaid days as a Padgett envying her marrying pals and to those warm passionate times when she and Ethan became a couple. Whereas friends and family insist they no longer should remain a DINK (double income no kids), both have doubts that the time is right; the hesitation to push a baby carriage seems genuine and turns Whitney Lyles' tale into a deep character study.

Tag, You're It
Penny McCall
9780425216453 $14.00

In Colorado, Dr. Alexandra Scott is studying mountain lions in their natural habitat when her mom Cassandra calls to lecture her about the lack of a man in her life with no prospect of one dropping in on her where she is at. Alex agrees as a low flying plane dumps a body into the snow about a half a mile from her cabin. She rushes over to see if she can help the man. FBI Agent Tag Donovan explains he dived on purpose so that he can begin his assignment to find lost Spanish treasure.

Tag persuades a reluctant Alexandra, who knows the area, to help him on his quest as he assumes this is a throwaway project in order to keep him from killing the SOB who murdered his partner. However, the soft tasking proves anything but as adversaries come out of every nook and cranny. As they fall in love, Tag fears she will dump him before he can come clean; everything except his attraction has been a lie.

TAG YOU'RE IT is a humorous exciting romantic suspense thriller starring two likeable protagonists and a horde of eccentric treasure hunters. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Tag drops in on Alex and never slows down until he confesses everything including his love. Readers will appreciate this lighthearted romp as Alex knows with Tag comes killers and love.

The Vampire Queen's Servant
Joey W. Hill
Berkley Heat
9780425215906 $14.00

Vampire Lady Elyssa Yamato Amaterasu Wentworth changed over a millennium ago. In Atlanta, she is upset because her loyal human servant Thomas has died. However, before his death, Thomas arranged for Jacob Green to take over his duties. Jacob informs his mistress that Thomas died peacefully with great affection for her.

Jacob is no Thomas as he is 200 proof alpha male, who has never been submissive in his entire life. He is unused to taking orders especially from a female while Lyssa has grown accustomed to giving direction after centuries of men bowing to her wishes. They are attracted to one another, but that passion for one another seems deeper than life. They begin to understand that they have shared pasts filled with love, but their destiny each time has been loneliness and death. Each prays that this time proves differently.

This vampire romance is hot, exciting, and grip the audience who will wonder which of the two alphas will be on top by the climax, if that is he survives that long. The story line is fast-paced as readers follow the antics of Lyssa and Jacob, who have been together twice before; a third time will prove the charm or his demise. Readers who appreciate a sensual fresh romantic fantasy will want to follow the relationship between THE VAMPIRE QUEEN'S SERVANT and his mistress.

Wine, Tarts, & Sex
Susan Johnson
9780425215401 $14.00

Successful west coast chef Jake Chambers needs a breather from the hectic Southern California cuisine scene so he buys Chaz Burnett's Minnesota restaurant with plans of bringing a class establishment to an area where he spent summers visiting his aunt. He decides to give himself six months for this labor of love.

Olivia "Liz" Bell quit modeling once she had enough money to live her life in comfort and to open up a local Minnesota winery. When she comes to deliver an order to Chaz, she meets Jake instead. They immediately are attracted to one another, which surprises both of them. Jake asks to stay for dinner and talk, but quickly realizes he cannot stop himself from kissing her. They rush upstairs to the apartment above the restaurant where they make love all night.

Soap opera star Janie Tabor calls Liz to tell her she is coming from New York with her three years old son Matt as her wealthy husband Leo Rolf plans to file for divorce to include custody of their offspring. Jake used to live with Janie until she abruptly left for the soaps in New York. Leo orders private investigator Roman Novak to bring back his son. As Liz and Jake fall in love, she learns he looks down at her wine.

This entertaining romantic suspense will have readers believe falling in lust at first sight by the likable lead couple is normal as the sex is well handled (no pun intended) and only graphically described; whereas Roman and Janie have their trysts off-page. Although suspense is unneeded as the lead pair only become involved because they mutually know Janie and the focus of the danger and their relationship would have gone down the same course regardless, fans will toast Susan Johnson with wine served with tarts and sex.

Heart Dance
Robin D. Owens
9780425216354 $14.00

On Planet Celta Dufleur Thyme survived a kidnapping and attempted murder, but her ending is not happy as she found her father lost in a time experiment. She vows to rescue him and restore the family name. However, she must hide her research for fear she would be shut down; her sole witness remains her faithful Famcat Fairyfoot.

With his malevolent grandmother D'Willow locked away in a cryogenic tube in Nuada's Sword waiting for a cure to her disease, GreatLord Saille T'Willow manages the Matchmaking Family House. His HeartGift leads him to know his HeartMate is Dufleur, but his grandmother's evil prevented them from being an entry with her wicked interference that also destroyed the Thyme family reputation. He vows to make it up to his beloved, but she refuses to have anything to do with him even though she acknowledges who he is; his only hope resides with Fairyfoot who wants the best for her house mate.

The latest Heart fantasy is one of the best of this superior series as threads from previous tales are tied up yet newcomers do not need to read the previous thrillers to enjoy HEART DANCE and fully appreciate Robin D. Owens' talent. The lead couple is HeartMates and each knows it. However, because of what his grandmother did to her father (and family), he has quite an obstacle to overcome to persuade her they belong together. The sixth saga retains the freshness of its heartfelt predecessors due to the entangled lead pair a sort of Romeo and Juliet cross-starred duet.

A Secret Rage
Charlaine Harris
9780425214534 $7.99

She has made plenty of money being a model based in New York City but now Nickie Callahan has to deal with the fact that at twenty seven she is over the hill and her career is finished. Her best friend Mimi invites her to share her home in Knolls, Tennessee and to attend college to finish her English degree. She jumps at the chance. After settling in the she is surprised to hear that one of the students was raped because Knolls is a low crime area.

The rapist strikes again and closer to home when he attacks Barbara Tucker, a teacher at the college. Mimi's psychologist brother Cully hints there have been more rapes that have gone unreported and the two women should be extra careful. Nickie wakes up one night to find out she is being raped. She lies still as she doesn't fight him but the trauma affects her in a different way. She is determined to find out who this monster is so the police can arrest him and she has Barbara helping her. They make a list of who they know who fits the physical description and by elimination only five people remain on it. They are thinking of giving up but when Nickie's neighbor is raped and killed, they decide to keep digging knowing they are putting themselves in danger.

Long before Charlaine Harris wrote the Aurora Teagarden mysteries, she wrote stand alone mysteries in the 1980's. This is a reprint of one of those books and readers can see the author's trademark quirky characters and red herrings in A SECRET RAGE. Although the heroine doesn't act like the typical rape victim, her actions seem plausible including her having a sexual relationship with Cully and her need to take down the monster that harmed her and others.

Hunter's Salvation
Shiloh Walker
9780425216323 $6.99

Bone weary, Vax has left the hero protection game of a Hunter to become a rancher. However, the former "defender of the innocent and helpless" is forced back into his previous occupation when he saves the life of obsessed reporter Jess. Feeling guilt for not protecting her much younger sister Randi, as she had vowed to do when they buried their parents eight years ago in Indiana, the intrepid Jess seeks the killer of her sibling; but if not for Vax's quick actions, Jess would have joined her sister.

Vax agrees to help Jess uncover the identity of her sibling's murderer as she recognizes through her psychic ability the paranormal skills he possesses. Attracted to one another, the former paranormal law enforcement official and the journalist follow the clues not realizing the horror they will meet when an evil individual is creating a new type of monster that could destroy everyone in its path.

The latest Hunter paranormal romantic suspense is one of the best tales in a series that always achieves high marks. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the lead couple as a reluctant Vax helps a fixated Jess by keeping her relatively safe (a near impossible chore) and assisting her with the investigation even as they fall in love. Shiloh Walker provides an excellent thriller that sub-genre fans will appreciate.

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever
Julia Quinn
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061230837 $7.99

In 2 Mar 1810 Miranda Cheever writes her first entry in her journal "Today, I fell in love" after Lord Nigel "Turner" Bevelstoke told her to keep a diary so that one day when she is a beauty she will know how inane people especially children can be. He kisses her hand as if she was a beautiful lady before he bids adieu. The ten year old believes the viscount, but also knows he is one day destined to be her soul mate.

Almost a decade later, Miranda is as beautiful as Nigel had predicted. She has never forgotten the nice viscount and is excited when they meet for the first time since he boosted her confidence with his kind words. However, Nigel is not the same amiable caring person she remembers; instead he is an acrimonious grump grieving a tragic loss. When they make love, she thinks forever while he thinks an error. However, when she becomes pregnant they marry, but Miranda knows that unless she can heal him with her love, they are doomed to an unhappy existence.

Miranda steals the show in this wonderful regency romance with her diary entries over the years as she continued her dream that one day her prince Nigel will come for her. When he does, he is a broken person; no longer the kind hero who took some time with a distraught little girl. Readers will enjoy this fine historical as Miranda's preadolescent fantasy turns into an adult reality if her love can heal Nigel's soul.

These Are My Confessions
Joy King, Electa Rome Parks, Cheryl Robinson and Meta Smith
9780061193118 $13.95

"Love B-Ball Style" by Joy King. Basketball superstar Glen hires Bianca as his personal assistant to replace sexagenarian retiree Ms. Pearl. Although she makes it clear that his ego needs sandblasting, she hides from her employer her attraction to him.

"These Are My Confessions" by Electa Rome Parks. Kennedy remains frustrated and ashamed over her relationship with Drake, but hides her feelings from everyone; only her diary contains her true confessions.

"Strapped" by Cheryl Robinson. After the end of a promising relationship, the Detroit school teacher Alexis travels to Texas where she meets a strapped to the max Dallas cop, who is working a black widow sex case.

"Divas Need Love Too" by Meta Smith. Lucky became a superstar singer with a Miami mansion and all sorts of boyfriends; yet remains lonely until she returns to her Chicago waitress roots where an ex reminds her what love-making is all about.

Not for everyone, these heated contemporary romances contain realistic scenarios that cross the sexual spectrum.

The Ultimatum
Dan Graziano
9780060847975 $13.95

In New Jersey, Henry feels he is living a great life. He loves his girlfriend associate lawyer Layla and believes she feels the same way about him. He is making decent money and he has had some success as a novelist.

His world crashes when Layla gives him until the bride at a wedding they will attend in Maine tosses her bouquet to propose or she is moving out. Stunned Henry cannot comprehend why she wants to change their relationship. As Layla expects her beloved to fail her, she flirts with attorney Ben. He turns to his buds like Big John the golf junkie, Pete the model for Peter Pan on adult childhood, and his brother Jake the divorcee for advice; Layla discusses THE ULTIMATUM with cut out his heart Gloria and Mother Theresa reincarnation Susan, whose respective advice pulls her in opposite directions. What will he choose as the one week ultimatum ticks away?

The premise behind THE ULTIMATUM makes for a delightful relationship drama as the audience will know from the onset that the lead couple are in love. Henry has commitment issues somewhat caused by his being in a comfort zone that he does not want to alter while Layla believes it is time to move on either as a couple or separately. Although there is no action, fans of modern day contemporary tales will appreciate this character driven tale starring two likable protagonists supported by purposely hyperbolic stereotypical secondary players who bring out the best and worst in THE ULTIMATUM.

A Warrior's Taking
Margo Maguire
9780061256264 $5.99

In 981 in the Isle of Coruain, Druzai warrior Brogan MacLochlainn learns his father High Chief Kieran was killed by the evil sorceress Eilinora who also stole his scepter of power. Neither he nor his brother Merrick has time to grieve their loss as their people's enemies will not allow that luxury. Instead, while Merrick placates the elders to buy them time, he must travel to the future seeking an ancient blood stone that is critical if he and his people are to survive their more powerful adversaries.

In 1813 in North Cumbria, an impoverish Tuath, Sarah Granger worries about her future and more so those of her preadolescent wards Margaret and Jane Barstow since her employer died and his heir seems only interested in ancient ruins. The three females met Brogan when he lies near dead and near naked on the beach they collect cockles on. Although Brogan wants Sarah, Druzai law forbids warriors from making it with Tuath women. He decides he must find her a mate who will worship her like he does; not realizing she chose him.

This is the opening act of what looks like will be a strong romantic fantasy trilogy. The story line is fast-paced but also filled with full dimensional characters. The two young children add depth to the audience understanding of Sarah while Brogan struggles with love vs. the law and with completing his mission without using magic. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this fine tale as love proves the most powerful magic in the Margo Maguire mythos.
How to Engage An Earl
Kathryn Caskie
9780061124846 $6.99

In 1815, reticent and clearly "invisible" next to her vibrant siblings, Anne Royle sneaks into the bedroom of the Earl of MacLaren Laird Allan in search of letters that will prove she and her sisters have royal connections. MacLaren awakens and immediately assumes the beauty is here for a tryst. As he takes advantage of her seduction, his family charges into the room as if the devil is chasing them. They demand an explanation; Anne immediately says they are betrothed as MacLaren begins choking on the felicitations.

His family dives into preparing for a wedding while MacLaren tries to figure a way out of this mess and Anne wonders if marriage is the answer to her woes although she plans to break the engagement for his sake. Still MacLaren realizes she was not in his room for a sexual encounter, but remains in the dark what she sought as she refuses to tell him. As he falls in love with her, he wants to marry his enchanting Anne, but she still feels she must free him from his obligation.

The second "How to …" Regency romance is a fabulous amusing tale starring two interesting protagonists as Anne makes the attempt to find royal paternal proof while Laird tries to demonstrate the proof that he loves his "invisible Royle. His family provides humor as they seem to always get under foot whenever he tries to steal a kiss. Fans will immensely enjoy this fun historical, seek out the previous triplet's story (see HOW TO SEDUCE A DUKE) and look forward to the final sister's saga (see HOW TO PROPOSE TO A PRINCE).

The Highlander's Bride
Donna Fletcher
9780061136269 $5.99

Cullen Longton has no time to grieve the death of his beloved Alaina; with her last breath while lying in his arms she whispered he sired a son that he never knew existed. He heads to a convent in the Scottish Highlands to learn more about his offspring especially where the child is from resident Sara McHern, whose father has incarcerated her there until she obeys his order to marry some odious oaf.

Sara sees Cullen as the answer to her prayers as she prayed to the Lord to send her a husband. She will help him find his child if he agrees to marry her. Though attracted to the fiery Sara, he has doubts, but reluctantly agrees to her terms. He helps her escape and they begin a trek to rescue his son from a ruthless enemy. As they fall in love, the Earl of Balford has plans to destroy Cullen; Sara makes a perfect pawn in his nefarious scheme. Additionally her irate father adds to their woes

THE HIGHLANDER'S BRIDE is an enjoyable Scottish historical romance starring two desperate individuals. Cullen is obsessed with finding his son while Sara figures although he loves a ghost, he is better for her than what her father will bring forth. Readers will appreciate their Highlands adventure as they fall in love (though he has quite a task to persuade her) while trying to mount a rescue and stay alive as enemies seem everywhere so that they can only trust one another.

Tempt Me Tonight
Toni Blake
9780061136092 $13.95

When her high school sweetheart Joe Ramsey betrayed her breaking her heart, Trish Henderson left Eden, Indiana the first chance she had. Over the subsequent years Trish became a successful Chicago attorney, but her heart never fully mended.

Trish comes home temporarily to help her parents with their restaurant. She decides as a scorned woman to obtain revenge by seducing Joe and dumping him after she has her way with him. Her theory is that by using and abusing him she will flush him out of her system and finally move on; no longer comparing men to the teen imprinted on her soul. However, her plan works to perfection except for one minor problem; she still loves Joe.

Although the underlying theme of this second chance at love romance has been used frequently, Toni Blake refreshes her contemporary tale with torrid scenes that seem plausible considering the lead couple's attitudes towards one another. Readers will understand how come the relationship between Joe the hunk and Trish the still salivating female evolves from the scorned woman with a thirst for vengeance into a thirst for the man who was once the boy she loved as a teen.

Dark Places
Linda Ladd
9780786017188 $6.99

After recovering from injuries sustained in the line of duty (See Head to Head) Cranton County detective Claire Morgan of Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri is ready for a stimulating case. It begins when she is called to investigate a missing person Simon Classon. She finds him up in a tree his mouth and hands taped together dying from the bites of recluse spiders. The police think he was hanging there for three days where he could see the school The Dome of the Cave Academy for the gifted where he taught.

When Claire starts interviewing at the school she finds out Simon was universally hated with just about every staffer and students having a reason to kill him. Another body is found that of secretary to the director Christie Foxworthy, in teacher Stewart Rowland's home. Claire was directed there by psychic Joe McKay on her boss's orders but he thought Stewart was the one dead from twelve snake bites. The body was in a box and taped in the same manner as Simon's body except Christie wore a red devil's mask. Claire's lover, wealthy psychiatrist Nicholas Black believes that they have a serial killer working the area one who has been murdering a long time. Claire is determined to hunt him down but before she can he strikes again.

DARK PLACES is an exciting thrill a minute police procedural that spends at least a third of the time showing how the killer was created, honed his craft and found his victims. The protagonist is a determined woman who is resolute to get her man. There are some light moments in this dark thriller mostly dealing with romantic scenes between the millionaire and his cop. They have a great relationship as both understand it is all business when it comes to the killer.

Hands On
Amie Stuart
Kensington Aphrodisia
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780758218926 $12.95 1-800-345-2665

"Lexi". In Houston thirty-four year old Lexi "Alex" Kimball works construction as an assistant job supervisor and safety supervisor. On weekends she enjoys clubbing with her friends. However, the new foreman Wade Watkins has been occupying her mind lately with thoughts of him occupying her body. He wants to meet her desires, but she rejects his advances as co-mingling leads to unemployment.

"Lanie". Bi-sexual auto mechanic Lanie runs and owns Chick's Garage. When she meets and is attracted to white collar Jeff, she initially rejects him because her estranged family introduced him to her. Jeff persists as he thinks his white collar and her blue collar match quite well together.

"Carlotta". Electrician Carlotta gets a charge out of clubbing on weekends with her pals. When she meets computer geek Devon she writes him off because she figures she would be the dominant one when she prefers being submissively girly off the job. However, when she meets Devon again at night, he has changed from Clark Kent to Super-dude. Now if he can gain her trust, they will have a loving relationship that will last much longer than the agreed upon two week trial.

These three torrid novellas star female friends who work in predominantly male jobs and the men who want them. Although the tales are somewhat interrelated, they stand alone with each focusing on a different type of sexual relationship. Erotic romance readers who prefer variety in their palate will appreciate Amie Stuart's HANDS ON.

Fingerprints and Facelifts
Rick Copp
9780758209627 $23.00

Back in the 1980s, the three L.A. Dolls were the best female private investigators around. However after a while they broke up the team as each had a different direction in mind and moved on with their lives. Tougher than tungsten Dani Mendez has become San Francisco's assistant chief of police but "mom" has constantly been ignored for the top job she deserves; soft nurturing Claire Walker-Corley has become a wife and mom burying her superhero days in the basement; and elegant Tess Monahan-Cardoza is a wealthy widow with a string of boy-toys

Everything changes for the trio when drug lord Benito Coronel is released from prison with a thirst for vengeance against the Charlie's Angels who sent him up the river. The first assault is on Claire's son Zak followed by someone firing a bullet at Dani's offspring Bowie; and soon afterward an attempted abduction of Tess' stepdaughter Bianca. The former L.A. Dolls know they must reunite to keep their children safe by burying their differences to return Coronel to jail.

FINGERPRINTS AND FACELIFTS is a terrific private investigative thriller in which readers have an idea of what could have happened to Charlie's Angels two decades after the highlight films stopped running. The story line is driven by the unique threesome, who are so different from one another, has squabbles between them to contend with, and yet are there for each other and their offspring. Los Angeles has not looked any better as fans will enjoy the frenzied resurrected L.A. Dolls kicking butt.

Roped Heat
Vonna Harper
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758215277 $12.95

"Captured". The Baasta, almost 200 strong, live free on the side of the mountain. Everything changes when the Centrois conquerors led by silver haired Tarek attack the village. He has come seeking vengeance for the death of his father, but admires the female shouting "free" or die attacking him. He easily defeats Nari, making her his captured slave.

"Bound". Tarek trains the bound Nari in the art of passion as he teases her with his sexual prowess, but always tops short of giving her an orgasm. Nari is dying for sexual release, but he heartlessly ignores her pleas. He wants to totally own his slave before he releases her most inner desires in a fitting climax. Nari incredibly resists until he apparently breaks down her needs.

"Enraptured". Although he loathes the Baasta, Tarek admires the courageous Nari. He wonders just who is master and who is slave as she has him enraptured with his need for her. A great warrior Tarek is stunned when he realizes he desperately wants to submit to her though that would betray his vow to his late father killed by her sire. He knows his slave has conquered him, but he is unaware that he has conquered her too.

ROPED HEAT is a torrid erotic romance with a BDSM tie between the lead couple. Initially the audience will detest the brutish Tarek and respect the brave Nari; however, by the third continuity tale readers will root for this CAPTIVE WARRIOR pair to surrender to a love BOUND BY ECSTASY.

Your Mouth Drives Me Crazy
HelenKay Dimon
Kensington Brava
9780758215857 $14.00

Kauai Internal Affairs informed workaholic Police Chief Kane Travers that he will take a three day involuntary vacation. Unhappy, Kane figures he has two days of fixing the house up and one day of total boredom and considers cleaning the beach as ten minutes less of idle time. Thus unsurprisingly he is not relaxing on a beach when Annie Parks comes ashore looking like a beautiful redheaded driftwood.

Annie is on a mission in Hawaii to avenge an affront. However, she finds the local hunk distracting. As they share their desire, his cop instincts warn him whoever tried to drown her retains a vigil to insure she is dead. In spite of her amnesia claim that he knows is a sham, he thinks if he can only kiss the truth out of her, he might keep her safe from everyone except his desire for her.

Readers will appreciate this well written heated romantic suspense with numerous twists, red herrings, kisses and a shocker of a finish. The story line is driven by Kane and Annie supported by beastly chickens, as he tries to get her to confess why she came to Hawaii and how his lips seduce her. Readers will appreciate this deep thriller as the lead pair turns the tropics even hotter one clue at a time.

Perfect Kisses
Susan Johnson, Sylvia Day & Noelle Mack
Kensington Brava
9780758209412 $5.00

"School for Scandal" by Susan Johnson. In 1829 Viscount James Bell is well known amongst the Ton as a rake so when he targets her sister, Claire Russell decides to intervene; James just switches his seduction target.

"Mischief and the Marquess" by Sylvia Day. In 1817, their respective mothers strongly believe that Justin and Sophie are a perfect match; they disagree. The couple decides to prove they are right, but the more they affirm their theory that they are total opposites, the more they want to continue to demonstrate with kisses how wrong their mamas are.

"Ruby Kiss" by Noelle Mack. In 1856 Carlyle Jameson knows that Susannah Fowler has hidden the stolen jewels in her corset. He assumes one kiss will lead to removing the corset from her body and subsequently the jewels. However, one kiss leads to another and another, etc.

The two Regency and one Victorian novellas are fun tales of seduction, but just who is seducing whom makes for an entertaining well written collection of historical romances.

My Sister is a Werewolf
Kathy Love
Kensington Brava
9780758218551 $14.00

Elizabeth Young knows her condition means a permanent bad hair day all over her body everyday. She wants to stop having to shave and using tweezers, but alas what else can a werewolf do. Desperate, she experiments but her vaccine fails. Her only solace is having no hold barred sex with a mortal as she is in heat and every werewolf male wants to cool her heels.

Having just returned to West Pines after being away for three years, veterinarian Jensen Adler stops for a drink with his friends including the one who got away. When he leaves, leather clad biker Elizabeth asks him for a ride that that no heterosexual male could refuse. Soon they are seeing one another except when the moon is full. However, he is unprepared for her pack to demand he convert or die.

Easily switching from vampires (see FANGS FOR THE MEMORIES, FANGS BUT NO FANGS, and I ONLY HAVE FANGS FOR YOU) to werewolves, Kathy Love continues her paranormal romance starring the Young siblings. Elizabeth's escapades and dilemma make for an entertaining story line as her love has placed her Jensen in trouble. He must choose between death and becoming a werewolf, which can also mean death. Readers will root for these star-crossed soulmates struggling with their forbidden love unless he takes the next dangerous step.

Kilt Dead
Kaitlyn Dunnett
9780758216397 $22.00

Liss MacCrimmon is one of the few people who are ecstatically happy with her career. She is a professional dancer in the touring how Strathsprey and she knows every Scottish dance and each number in the show to perfection. Tragedy strikes when she injures a leg and the doctor tells her she can never dance again. She is depressed because her leg will work normally only as long she puts no extraordinary stress like dancing on it.

She returns to her child home of Moosetookalook, Maine where her aunt owns a store selling Scottish products. On the day she arrives, her aunt leaves for Scotland and Liss in charge during the Maine Highland Games. When Liss returns home from the fair, she finds the dead body of her third grade teacher, Amanda Norris in the stock room. The autopsy shows she was killed and state police officer LaVerdiere thinks Liss is the only suspect. Refusing to wait around to be arrested, Liss looks for other possible suspects, not knowing her actions could get her killed.

KILT DEAD is a delightful cozy, the first in what this reviewer hopes is a long running series. The heroine is feisty, determined, and strong-willed; when she believes she is right, she obstinately goes her own way and doesn't listen to the advice of others. The setting is a small quaint town in Maine (capital of American cozies) with a support cost of wonderful quaint characters. Mystery readers will welcome Kaitlyn Dunnett as a fresh author whose protagonist provides the audience with a delightful opening act.
Skin On Skin
Jami Alden, Valerie Martinez and Sunny
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758215901 $13.95

"China Doll" by Sunny. In Indonesia, Rand and Anna meet for the first time with both sharing in common a need to get past their respective pasts. Both desires a one night stand that they each believe will allow them to move on. Neither anticipated the desire for much more.

"Tempted" by Jami Alden. Coworkers Lauren and Tony have been best friends for years, but both hide their desire for much more from the other out of fear the relationship would die. However, an out of town weekend gala leaves them sharing a room in which the temptation proves stronger than the trepidation.

"Hot Wired" by Valerie Martinez. Lola visits San Francisco for a last summer fling before starting her career. However, she was unprepared for the hunk owner of a fiery red pickup that is his truck as much as his body. This is turning out to be the most wonderful summer of her life.

These three well written erotic romantic novellas star interesting protagonists who though they spend a preponderance of the story line (defined as pages) in bed have enough down time to make them seem genuine and their relationships real. SKIN ON SKIN is hot fun in the summertime.

Nights in Black Satin
Noelle Mack
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758215697 $12.95

Sarah Ryan is in Venice enjoying the Carnivale when she meets Marco at an exclusive party. They are attracted to one another and he invites her to be his guest at a midnight masquerade ball. She knows better than to run off with a stranger, but she cannot help but accept his sensual invitation to come with him.

Marco takes her to a realm where dark fantasies can occur. He begins to awaken desires she always craved but feared attaining and soon he rouses her essence to yearnings she consciously never knew she craved. As the night of pleasure continues in the pleasure realm, Marco makes Sarah hunger for even more than one evening of her sexual fantasies being fulfilled. She yearns for more exquisite time with him in the pleasure realm.

This enticing erotic romance will hook you from the onset when the mysterious Marco (no surname) whispers to an enthralled Sarah, "Come with me". Readers will think of mom's adage to never talk to strangers let alone leave for an evening of sexual fantasy with them, but also realize how impossible to refuse his sexual lure. The lead couple (and Venice as the setting) makes for quite a Carnivale tryst.

David Lynn Golemon
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312352639 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

Worried over the recently rediscovered Padilla site in the Amazon, Pentagon and White House leaders discuss Treason with a T vs. preventing the knowledge reaching the media and their boss the President. As such, they agree to dispatch the best allegedly to search for the legendary El Dorado and its vast treasure.

Since the inquiry deals with a mystery of the past Major Jack Collins leads the top secret Event Group to investigate whether the legend is real, hidden amidst the rainforest abundance. Not receiving the entire truth of the mission from his superiors leads to deadly encounters of a human kind. However, as they continue their quest, the Event Group soon finds a different LEGEND lurking in the Amazon; a humanoid beast that rises like a phoenix except out of the water to kill anyone threatening the secrets of the Incas who have been gone form here for centuries.

The Event Group is a sort of military take on the X-Files. The current tale is lighthearted action adventure fun especially when the team uses near futuristic gizmos to battle an invincible foe (read the tale if you want to know what this similar to the Creature from the Black Lagoon truly is). Although none of the players seem to be more than just 1950s comic book heroes, fans of 200 proof non-stop action will want to accompany Major Collins and his squad into the Amazon.

Invisible Armies
Jon Evans
9780312368678 $24.95

In Bangalore, India, renowned hacker Kieran Kell asks his former girlfriend Danielle Leaf to deliver a package to Jaylitha. She agrees, but on her way, kidnappers from the international giant corporation Kishkinda abduct her.

Not long after her incarceration begins, another prisoner French expatriate Laurent joins Danielle in lock up. They exchange their tales of woe. He says he is a former Legionnaire who jointed the INVISIBLE ARMIES protesting globalization polluting of the earth; she explains she was delivering a package when she was kidnapped. Laurent informs her that Jaylitha is dead; killed by Kishkinda subcontractors to prevent his proof that they are turning Bangalore into a toxic industrial wasteland. He enables them to escape and she joins him on a series of adventures that make Danielle wonder if Laurent is a double agent.

This tense suspense thriller focuses on the war between international corporations and local environmentalists. Whereas Laurent is a plausible hero in spite of martial arts skills that should have him competing in the UFC, Danielle does not come across as a viable superhero sidekick. Still genre fans will appreciate the battles in DARK PLACES between adversaries who share the same belief of no surrender, no compromise.

Death in the Truffle Wood
Pierre Magnan
9780312366667 $23.95

In Provence, France, Roseline the truffle-finding pig escapes from her owner, Alyre Morelon. She follows her "pet" into the nearby woods. When Alyre catches up to Roseline, she finds someone hurt her sow, but that human beast vanished even deeper into the woods.

Marseille-based Commissaire Laviolette comes to Provence to lead the investigation into the vanishing of five young people. However, Alyre, learning that a professional detective is in town, demands Laviolette work her case; identify Roseline's mugger. She insists the criminal has cost her money as Roseline's nasal inclination is how she makes a living and besides the animal was cruelly injured . Other villagers place demands on the Commissaire, who wants rapid resolution to the disappearances so he can quickly return home to the safety of Marseilles and be away from village politicians.

Although containing a humorous undercurrent mostly caused by the urban cop out of his element in the rural village filled with eccentric townsfolk, DEATH IN THE TRUFFLE WOOD is a strong police procedural with contrasting darker elements. The local "wars" are cleverly designed to provide amusement and insight as Laviolette struggles with tugs on his efforts to locate the missing people and a killer who sliced a throat and left a corpse in deep freeze. Written in the late 1970s, but just translated, Pierre Magnan provides a fabulous French police procedural that will have American readers seek other translations of his works by Patricia Clancy (see BEYOND THE GRAVE; not yet read by this reviewer).

Death at the Old Hotel
Con Lehane
9780312323004 $23.95

In the early 90s, New York bartender Brian McNulty is exiled to work at the dilapidated Savoy Hotel, west of eighth on forty-eighth. The run down establishment is filled because the city is jammed with the Christmas visitors. Brian's peer union organizer Barney Saunders believes the hotel's manager James MacAlister is on the take most likely from the connection between big union and the mob. MacAlister's actions outrage his staff, which leads to a protest strike that turns violent. On the picket lines married waitress Betsy Tierney offers solace to an already injured Barney; her irate spouse Dennis, one of New York's finest attacks him for encouraging his wife to picket, but Brian intercedes.

That same night someone murders MacAlister and Tierney. The police believe Barney killed the pair with Betsy being his femme fatale. Brian knows his friend would not commit cold blooded murder so he investigates working the mean streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn where unions and organized crime meet.

Con Lehane provides a fabulous look at criminal side of the city in which big union, nig management, big government and big mob understand the rules of engagement is WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND. Brian is at his best as he struggles to prove a union mid level official is the culprit while the Men in Blue refuse to look anywhere except at Barney as a cop killer. Readers will enjoy his somewhat cynical yet optimistic efforts as his personal philosophy is anything goes just BEWARE THE SOLITARY DRINKER.

Wicked Lovely
Melissa Marr
Harper Teen
9780061214653 $16.99

Aislinn like her grandmother has the "Sight" that enables them to see the fairy realm. However, wanting to be accepted by her peers and fearing their cruelty, she pretends that nothing is amiss. She lives by three simple rules. ": Don't ever attract their attention"; "Don't speak to invisible faeries"; and "Don't stare at invisible faeries". For much of her young life adhering to ignore them at the all costs doctrine has worked very well so that she can shoot pool with her friends without the fairies knowing she knows they are nearby.

However, somehow Keenan the Summer King fairy has found out her secret. He demands she answer his interrogation for he believes she is the Winter Queen he has sought for nine hundred mortal years. His minion and his enemies stalk Aislinn as they threaten her friends and family. She is no longer safe pretending ignorance, but her biggest trepidation is what the Summer King will do to her best friend Seth on the solstice.

WICKED LOVELY is a strong teen fantasy that young adults will fully enjoy as Aislinn can no longer hide from her gift. The story line is character driven by Keenan's actions as he does whatever it takes to force Aislinn to become his queen. Her efforts to resist are tampered by her need to keep Seth and her other friends safe. Readers will enjoy Melissa Marr's teen fairy tale starring a high school student who just wants to be part of the crowd suddenly the focus of intense fairy pursuit.

Vivaldi's Virgins
Barbara Quick
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780060890520 $24.95 1-800-242-7737

In 18th century Venice, when orphaned Anna Maria dal Violin was very young she displayed talent at playing the violin. Thus she is one of the fortunate selected to practice at Ospedale della Pieta under the tutelage of maestro Vivaldi.

Although she and her female peers are forbidden to leave the orphanage, they sneak out whenever they can to tour the city. Anna Marie especially wants to know more about her parents beyond what she has been told that they are dead. Still in spite of her restrictive life, Anna Marie loves playing the violin, but Sister Laura worries about her soul. She orders Anna Maria to begin writing things down hoping that will cool off the fervor that her charge seems to emit. Anna Maria takes to writing with a passion as she pens notes to her mother staring in 1709; knowing obviously that her dead mom, whomever she is, will never read them.

This is an interesting historical drama that focuses on Vivaldi and Venice through Anna Marie who tells the tale in a first hand account or through her letters to her mom. It is the letters that give the credence to the early eighteenth century setting even as the notes show how much the heroine needs her mom, whom she never met. Genre readers will be enthralled by Anna Marie's quest to just know who her mom was, but Venetians hide behind masks making her efforts impossible. With a delightful final twisting coda, Barbara Quick provides a superb biographical fiction story as Vivaldi is showcased through the life of a real student of the Four Seasons composer.

Mark Billingham
9780061255694 $24.95

In London, retired Detective Chief Superintendent Anthony Mullen and his wife Maggie report their sixteen years old son Luke kidnapped from his exclusive school by a sexy older woman. Anthony calls in favors from his former subordinate current Chief Superintendent Jesmond so that the Metropolitan Police Kidnap Unit is supplemented by cops from other departments. Thus Detective Inspector Tom Thorne, who normally works homicide, joins the kidnap task force.

He and Kidnap Unit DI Louise Porter interview the Mullens and their daughter fourteen year old Juliet. The cops find major discrepancies as they do not understand why it took twos days for the Mullens to report Luke never came home or why no ransom has surfaced. Louise and Tom believe someone who has it out for Anthony is the culprit, but in spite of his previous job the retired cop gives them very few suspects to consider. As Tom keeps digging he believes the teen is dead, but refuses to quit on the chance the lad still lives and besides if a homicide occurred, he has culprit(s) to catch.

This exhilarating English police procedural starts a bit slow as the audience meets a bored Tom (and his sore back), who has spent the last six months in an office as a paper monitor shuffling documents after his last undercover assignment. Thus he looks forward to working the kidnap investigation although that is not his expertise. Although the rotating perspective can prove a bit confusing, the twisting case is cleverly devised so that the audience will enjoy the inquiries of Tom and Louise as each is reminded that resolution does not mean a happy ending for anyone.

Remind Me Again Why I Need A Man
Claudia Carroll
Harper Collins
9780061140532 $24.95

Closer to forty than thirty Amelia Lockwood works as a deputy producer on a soap opera; the job is great except for the actors as she hates all actors except for Jamie, an honorary member of the Lovely Girls Club. Single, but never lacking a male if she chooses, Amelia lives in a terrific apartment and knows she has four dependable friends. Everything is perfect except she wonders why she has never met her soulmate. This is the year she vows that she will select a husband.

Amelia feels it is fate when she sees an ad for a class, How to Find a Husband over the Age of Thirty-five so she signs up for the seminar as she has failed on her own attempts to marry Mr. Right. "Professor" Ira Vandergelder mentors Amelia to drop the romance novel outlook and instead apply Harvard Business rules (without the ethics) to achieve her objective. She returns to previous but failed romances while the fearsome foursome encourage her albeit sarcastically. As Amelia fumbles and stumbles, she asks her buds every step of the way "Remind Me Again Why I Need a Man".

This is an amusing satirical character study of a wonderful female who seems to have everything going for her yet feels she has failed in her personal life because she lacks a spouse. The cast is delightful especially the four frantic friends (who would cause Osama bin Laden to turn himself into Guantomino to escape their tongue), and Ira (whose bone marrow reeks of New York cynicism). Readers will appreciate Amelia's gong show attempts to find a husband.

Patricia Clapp
9780061245015 $12.95

"Jane Emily". In the summer of 1912 in Lynn, Massachusetts, Louisa Emory accompanies her niece Jane to visit her father's mother. Twenty years ago another young child died there; a girl who was willful, selfish, and determined to get her own way. Jane is obsessed with Emily, seeing her face in the reflections ball in the garden, reciting a poem that Emily wrote and seeing the reflections that light up on a moonless night in Jane's room. The one thing Emily wanted most was to grow up and marry Dr. Frost but now he is falling for Laura. That makes Emily very angry and she is determined to haunt Jess through someone he cares about.

"Witches' Children". It began in January of 1692 in Salem village when a group of girls, cooped up for the winter, begged the slave Tituba to read the cards and tell the future from reading palms. They know the slave goes into a trance and they teach themselves how to do it. As they emulate the slave, the villagers see them having fits and when they come out of it they accuse villagers of being witches. The more attention people pay to them, the more power they gain and the more people are named witches and wizards; arrests are made until one of the girls Mary Warren begins to believe they are suffering from group hysteria and begins to doubt what she has "seen" is real. All the people named witches are found guilty and some are executed until the tide of public opinion turns against them.

"Jane-Emily" was first published twenty years ago and it is a brooding gothic ghost story in the tradition of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Slowly readers come to believe that the essence of Emily is lingering even after she died, as malevolent after death as she was in life. "Witches' Children" is a tale of mass hysteria in which the power of the mind is mistaken for the power of witches living in the village. Both novellas are well written, with interesting characters and a dark foreboding atmosphere.

A Thousand Voices
Lisa Wingate
New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451221292 $13.95 1-800-847-5515

In Kansas, Dell Jordan was adopted by loving mentoring parents when she was thirteen years old. Her new family encouraged her to study music and she proved to be very talented. After high school Dell toured Europe playing with an orchestra and performed humanitarian volunteer work in the Ukraine. Coming home to Kansas after over a year abroad, a scholarship to Juilliard awaits the nineteen year old.

However, Dell has issues that her work at the Ukrainian orphanage has her pondering. She needs to know why her biological mother deserted her and who sired her. She travels to Oklahoma as she knows her father is a member of the Choctaw Nation. In the Sooner State, Dell meets the Reids and is especially attracted to widower Jace Reid, a history teacher raising two young children.

Dell's quest keeps the tale focused as she (and readers) learns much about the modern day Choctaw Nation. Her attraction to Jace and his kids enhance her quest to know who she comes from as she admires the teacher for being a single parent raising his children with love. Lisa Wingate provides a warm character study of a fully developed individual seeking her roots.

You Had Me at Halo
Amanda Ashley
9780451221353 $12.95

Holly Evans is unhappy to be dead at twenty-two years old and mortified having attended her own funeral. Her heavenly shrink grants her a forty-eight hour reprieve with two stipulations. First she must make a heavenly effort to clear up the tiffs she had with friends and family, etc; second she must use someone else's body whose soul has just vacated the premises.

Holly enters the corpse of recently deceased computer nerd Vince Murphy; only there is a minor problem. Vince still lives so she shares his body, which irritates him no end. However he agrees to help her with her cause. Meanwhile Holly realizes that the biggest mistake of her life when she was living was not realizing how nice yet strong Vince is.

This delightful after life fantasy is entertaining and amusing as Holly and Vince will remind readers of the terrific 1980s Tomlin-Martin film All of Me. Readers will laugh out loud as the geek and the dead chic chick battle for control of his body and their relationship even as an odd attraction forms. Amanda Ashley provides a charming offbeat tale.

One Dance in Paris
Julia Holden
9780451220806 $14.00

Her self esteem has always been low because she always towered over her classmates, who assumed she played basketball. At thirteen she was exiled from ballet class for being too tall. Now an adult Linda Stone still has problems with being a six foot plus skinny female with men's size 11 shoes as her reticence has left her friendless. Adding to her feelings of towering inadequacy is she barely remembers anything about her mother having been raised by a loving caring father Jack.

However, everything changes when the package arrives with information about her mother, Mimi Archer. Linda learns who her mother is, an internationally famous Paris showgirl; as the star of Follies Bergere, she wore high heels and a gigantic headdress to further accentuate her height that in bare feet made her taller than most men. Linda wonders if her mother can flaunt her six foot body with a sexual teasing come on, why not she too, starting with her mother's showgirl gown as a first giant step. She figures ONE DANCE IN PARIS will give her a lifetime of memories although it is Eddie Atkinson the artist who makes her feel like a lovely swan.

This adult version of the Ugly Duckling is a fabulous character study of a young woman who has always felt like a misfit until she learns about her maternal heritage and decides to take a plunge into her mom's lifestyle. Linda is a terrific protagonist as all her life she has struggled with towering over men let alone every female she met. Her dad is a nice person, which adds to the evolution of Linda as she decides whether following the steps of mom will hurt her dad. Readers will appreciate this entertaining transformation of a clumsy shy giantess into a lovely gazelle.

Sandworms of Dune
Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson
Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765312938 $27.95 1-888-330-8477

The wandering no-ship Ithaca contains the expatriates fleeing for their lives across the unknown galaxy (see Frank Herbert's CHAPTERHOUSE: DUNE). They have little hope as they know the enemy will hunt them for eternity; their last desperate ploy is to bring back the ghola of long dead heroes like Duncan Idaho, Paul Muad'Dib, Lady Jessica and others to save their race. Even with genetic engineering medical expertise on board to bring these champions back to life, the exiles know their chances remain slim as the Machines will always pursue them.

However, the Machines keep evolving so that humanity appears on the verge of extinction. War continues everywhere with human reflexes especially the ability to adapt seemingly no longer able to match up against the Machines, who incorporate every nuance into their collective programming. Now as the reanimated champions prepare for a decisive battle against the increasing cunning Machines, who are programming human flexibility into their battle plans, plague and related illnesses devastate mankind, leaving human's reign apparently at an end.

Apparently the late Frank Herbert left behind a detailed outline to follow up on his last work CHAPTERHOUSE: DUNE, his son Brian and Kevin J. Anderson use that document to tie up many major loose ends. Thus Dune fans should read Mr. Herbert's final work and HUNTERS OF DUNE by Brian Herbert and Mr. Anderson to refresh themselves on the storyline before diving into this solid saga that indeed answers major questions left dangling. Although not quite on a par with the Dune creator as this and the previous collaborations fail to dig deep into the issues between man and machine and between man and man, this is an interesting action-packed must read for the Dune crowd.

The Aftermath
Ben Bova
Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765304148 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

The Asteroid Wars (see THE PRECIPICE, THE ROCK RATS, and THE SILENT WAR) are for now over as a fragile cessation of hostility has occurred. In this tentative solar system peace, Victor Zacharius ekes out a living by carrying ore between planets on his vessel the Syracuse. His family travels with him.

However, misfortune hammers at the Zacharis brood when he inadvertently steers the Syracuse towards Chrysalis during a military assault led by former merciless commander Dorik Harbin now a ruthless cyborg Dorn; who is tied by the ancient artifact to sculptor great Elverda Apacheta. They search for the dead to bury them while the Viking with Martin Humphries, also under the artifact's power, seeks to destroy them. Meanwhile Cheena Madagascar rescues Victor, but at what cost as the various ships converge with the ancient artifact seemingly in control of everyone.

The fourth Asteroid War tale continues the saga although a tentative peace has ended the hostilities. The story line is fast-paced as the ships begin an encounter that will change much more than just those on board. Although the ending seems off kilter for this action-packed outer space thriller, fans will appreciate Ben Bova's Grand Tour of the solar system.

The Mirror of Worlds
David Drake
9780765312600 $25.95

Due to the magic of wizards, the Isle has become a hodgepodge continent of past and present people and places. If that calamity is not enough, different species of past and future are converging on the present that, if unchecked, humanity will cease to exist. The Coerli cat people are a special breed who Ilna the witchweaver wants eradicated although most humans see them as mindless slaves.

The Lost from the future seeks control of the world and destruction of all life forms. Prince Garric and his sister Sharina believe the Coerli can be brought into the empire as equals. They work separately to kill off the Lost in their world and close the gate so they cannot come back into the prince's realm. Two wizards, human and Coerli, work together to save the world from their mutual enemies, proving the two species can toil in peace as partners.

Readers who enjoy the other worldly works of Simon Brown, Holly Lisle, and Jim Butcher will thoroughly appreciate THE MIRROR OF WORLDS, the exciting sequel that begins where THE FORTRESS OF GLASS ended. David Drake provides a great epic saga filled with strong fully developed characters (human and otherwise); especially feeling plausible is the Coerli. The use of magic is subtle so that the stirring plot focuses more on people than on the power of wizardry. Though what motivates the Lost is unclear, genre fans will want to journey into the world of Drake where the action is non stop and the fantasy realm seems real.

Jay Lake
9780765317087 $24.95

God created the heavens so that those humans living on earth can witness the clockwork precision of the planets orbiting the sun. In the late nineteenth century in New Haven, Connecticut, clockmaker apprentice Hethor Jacques dreams of one day becoming a master clockmaker mentoring a young hopeful. However, his dreams change when the Archangel Gabriel visits him with a heavenly quest to find the Key Perilous and use it to rewind the Mainspring of the earth. To bond them, Gabriel gives Hethor a wing-feather which turns to silver and burns a key-shaped scar into the lad's palm.

Feeling out of his league, Hethor turns to his teacher, Franklin Bodean for advice, but his mentor's sons steal the feather from him and cause the youngster to be fired for lying. Distraught Hethor travels to Boston where he prays he can meet with His Majesty's Viceroy's associate the sorcerer William of Ghent. However the Viceroy and the sorcerer assume he is a lunatic or opportunist. Before he can recover from their scorn, Hethor is abducted into serving on the Royal Navy airship Bassett searching for a lost expeditionary force at the Equatorial Wall where the gears keep the earth on its path. Hethor continues his quest, but now realizes there are groups against rewinding the heavenly clock.

Combining an alternate historical setting with religious elements, MAINSPRING is a unique exciting thriller that grips readers from Gabriel's initial visit and never slows down as the hero climbs the gears to enter the "mythical" (in New England that is) southern earth realm. Hether is a terrific lead character as he combines naive innocence with a deep belief. However, though well written and creative, Jay Lake's fine tale is somewhat restricted by the underlying concept that everything is part of a God created precision with any mystery simply a lack of knowledge by humanity. Still Hethor's quest makes for a fascinating fantasy.

Jennifer Fallon
9780765309914 $26.95

Having learned the "the Rules of Gaining and Wielding Power" from the dwarf Elezaar the Fool, Marla Wolfblade runs Hythria although her brother Lernen is the High Prince. She mourns the recent loss of her mentor and plots vengeance for his death.

Meanwhile her oldest son and heir to the High Prince throne Damin is in a struggle. As the war lord ruling Krakandar Province, he learns his neighbor to the west Fardohyna has mounted an invading force. As Damin leads his army, he finds the policies of Lernen hampering his ability to counter the invasion. Worse Mahkas Damaran has sealed off the capital city with an abusive tyranny that leaves the residents starving to death; his plan is to be the only winner after the battle between the undersized Krakandar force and the overwhelming invaders.

As the Wolfblade Trilogy segment of the Hythrun Chronicles comes to an end (see WOLFBLADE and WARRIOR), readers will learn whether Damin lives up to his mother's skill or proves to be as fatuous as his uncle. The story line is fast-paced yet quite vivid especially the torture scenes that would serve as quite a guidebook for the Bush Administration. Damin is a fascinating protagonist as he struggles against a superior force from without and mad treachery from within. Jennifer Fallon provides a strong conclusion to her epic fantasy.

A Betrayal In Winter
Daniel Abraham
9780765313416 $24.95

In Machi the realm is ruled by the Khai and when a new leader is needed the ruler's sons fight to the death to win the throne. The last one standing is the new Khai. The khai has more than three sons; he is given them to the poets who keep the cities at peace and bring in wealth from other countries. Otah Machi, the sixth son, refused to take the brand, rejected the post, and has made a life for himself as Itani Naygu a courier loved by inn keeper Kiyan.

When the eldest son is murdered, the two younger sons go into hiding while the people (commoner and noble) believe Otah was behind the assassination. In their culture, nobody would think that the daughter Idaan craves power and with her lover from a high house is behind the assignation. Otah is captured but luckily he has friends who believe in his innocence and spirit him away. His friends desperately try to find the traitors who have hidden themselves well and are backed by a foreign country who wants more influence in Machi.

This tale takes place fifteen years after the events in A SUMMER IN SHADOW and can be read as a stand alone book. This is a grand fantasy filled with subtle magic but is character driven. Surprisingly, Idaan doesn't come across as a villain because if she was a male heir, she would be applauded for her Machiavellian actions. Otah never sought to be Khai but circumstances conspire to pull him in that direction or be killed. He is the opposite of his siblings honest, caring and doesn't seek power. Readers will care about him and hope he triumphs against overwhelming odds.

An Unexpected Apprentice
Jody Lynn Nye
9780765314338 $25.95

On Daybreak Bank Farm, halfling Tildi Summerbee takes care of the household while her brothers tended the field. However, this day she knows something is not right when she fails to hear Marco play his flute and Teldo, Pierin and Gosto accompany him by singing. She looks out the window to see to horror of the flock of thraik attack the people of the Quarters for the fifth time in her seventeen years; she thinks back to her parents dead from these beasts and now her siblings too.

Afterward, the villagers knowing a female halfling cannot live without male protection and arrange for Tildi to marry; Tildi disagrees, but knows she will convince no one. Irate An angry Tildi decides to leave the community she has known all her life. Disguised as her late sibling Teldo, and using her few magical powers that make her unique as a female halfling, Tildi takes over her brother's new position as AN UNEXPECTED APPRENTICE.

This is a coming of age fantasy that focuses on Tildi's growth as a person as she confronts racial and gender bias that interfere with her making it as a solo female without male protection. The story line focuses more on her improving skills from apprentice to wizard rather than the prejudice she faces as a halfling compounded by being a female (except for the opening decision of what is good for her without her input by her male neighbors); minority females with no man to protect them are the lowest on the food chain. No epic fantasized Battles of the Bulge, high school students will enjoy Tildi's escapades to live her life her way.

The Bestiary
Nicholas Christopher
Dial (Dell)
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385337366 $25.00 1-800-726-0600

In the Bronx, his mother died when Xeno Atlas was very young and his disciplinarian nomadic father was always grieving at sea. Thus he was raised by his shapeshifting Sicilian grandmother, who told him stories of animal spirits that excited him. At fifteen at boarding school, Xeno learns of the legendary CARAVAN BESTIARY, a medieval tome that described animals not allowed on Noah's Ark; the book vanished without a trace eight centuries ago so that today most scholars doubt it ever existed.

Xeno believes this ancient text that describes extinct or mythological beasts depending one one's perspective exists. Now an adult he begins a quest to find the CARAVAN BESTIARY that describes the pre-flood lost world of griffins, basilisks, Catoblepas, and much more as he journeys to Vietnam, Europe and other places, but Xeno begins to realize his family's secrets that he is uncovering hold the answer he seeks.

The BESTIARY is a terrific coming of age fantasy starring a troubled young man on a quest allegedly to find the missing tome, but in many ways his mission is to find himself. His trek takes him around the world in search of the lost text, but he also learns to love and be loved. Readers will adopt the sympathetic hero as he uncovers his heritage and much more in his most wonderful adventure.

Web Of Love
Mary Balogh
Dell Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440243052 $6.99 1-800-726-0600

During the Napoleonic Wars, Lieutenant Lord Eden served with Charlie, the husband of Ellen Simpson. Dominic hid his attraction to Ellen because that was the honorable thing to do. While Ellen resides temporarily in nearby Brussels with her teenage stepdaughter Jennifer, Charlie is participating at the battle of Waterloo. Soon after she learns that like her mother, she has become a war widow.

Dominic begins his pursuit of the widow by being her friend while she grieves her loss. However, she is stunned because finds she desires Dominic much more than her feelings for her late spouse. Although she is falling in love, she has one secret that prevents her from telling him she wants him; Dominic decides proper time has passed so he intends to make this woman his.

This solid Regency romance is a reprint from 1990. The story line is filled with action but somewhat bogged down by too many subplots that either exclude the lead couple or slightly touch them. Not the magnificent Mary Balogh's best work, fans of the author will still enjoy this historical that shows flashes of the greatness to come.

Rachel Butler
9780440243373 $6.99

In Tulsa, devoted lovers, police officer Tony Ceola and artist Selena McCaffrey, return to their small cul de sac street after spending time with his extended family. They stop by her house, one of four on the block, because a package is outside her door. The package is put inside when "kitty' arrived at her place. A moment later an explosion occurs; kitty saved their lives. Inside his home is assassin Charlize Pawley, who though a respectable Savannah restaurateur, warns Selena that psychopath Damon Long has put a $500,000 hit on her; two pros have accepted the job. Tony believes Charlize is one of them.

They flee to Atlanta where they learn one of the killers is dangerous Luke Morgan. Damon becomes impatient so through Charlize informs Selena that he is visiting Greenhill, Alabama, home of her biological father Grant Hamilton. He knows she will come to protect her dad, who had thought her dead when her mom vanished just under three decades ago.

Selena and series fans learn what happened to her mother Amelia as Selena, Tony, and Charlize head to Alabama for a High Noon showdown; unaware of Damon's local ally. The story line is fast-paced with Tony worried that Charlize will double cross them as her motive to keep Selena safe is unclear and that his beloved will get hurt though he willingly will risk his life to insure she does not. Although Damon's obsessive need for vengeance seems out of character for this cold blooded yet logical in a macabre insane way killer, readers will enjoy being SCORCHED as Rachel Butler provides many of the answers to THE ASSASSIN and DEEP COVER.

The Accidental Time Machine
Joe Haldeman
Publicity Department
Ace Books
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780441014996 $23.95 1-800-847-5515

MIT laboratory assistant Matthew invents the calibrator, a gizmo that enables a person to travel forward in time; however, there is no going back as his machine only works one way. He tests it for a twenty minute jaunt. However, having lost his girlfriend Kara and his job, a distraught Matthew decides to test his machine after calculating the exponential increasing jumps in time. He leaps forward two weeks into the future only to learn he is a person of interest by the police in a homicide that occurred when he stole a car just before he jumped; apparently the vehicle owner dropped dead when Matt and his auto vanished into thin air.

Knowing he needs to escape, he leaps forward in time, but he learns that each leap is that much longer than the previous one. This time he jumps forward two decades where he learns his device has been found and everyone is waiting for him to reappear when he does. Matthew is a hero and joins MIT. Although the world has dramatically changed while he leaped and his knowledge of physics obsolete, no one has been able to copy his time machine. Now pressure is on him by those who want to use his device so he leaps again two centuries into the future where he seeks a respite knowing that if this fails him the next jump gets into the millennium and there is no reverse.

This terrific science fiction time travel tale feels like a throw back thriller starring a disingenuous antihero struggling with fame as his gizmo works but no one including Matt has been able to replicate what he wrought. Every time the pressure mounts on Matt he leaps, but with the time interval expanding, he knows each subsequent jump is into an unknown future. He learns that with the twenty year leap that prevalent acceptable physics theory were devastated in the interim. Joe Haldeman shows why he is a national treasure with this tremendous thought provoking thriller.

The Mirador
Sarah Monette
9780441015009 $24.95

At the court of Melusine, master wizard Felix Harrowgate knows he has plenty of peers wanting him dead, but does not care one iota that so many want his demise as he knows how far he has come back from the insane abuse of his former master to reclaim his seat in the ruling Mirador. His half brother Mildmay the Fox, a former thief and assassin, has perhaps even more enemies with only his mystical and blood links to his sibling mage keeping him alive; ergo where Felix goes, Mildmay follows.

The Cabaline wizards are part of The Mirador, but as they meet, the Bastion wizards, just as adept with magic, have plans to destroy their rivals and if Melusine is devastated too so be it. Within the Mirador, the impossible has occurred. The enemy has a mole, Mehitabel Parr, who collects and reports information to her Bastion masters. She learns from Mildmay who courts her that Felix is the source to defeat the Cabaline from within. If she reports this to her masters, she will betray friends; if she fails to report to her masters, she betrays loved ones.

The third Melusine fantasy (see MELUSINE and THE VIRTU) is an exciting character driven fantasy that has the audience wondering who Mehitabel will choose to save as she accepts that she is expendable and cannot save herself. The complex cast, especially the slightly crazy Felix, the eccentric oddly moral Mildmay and the beleaguered Mehitabel make the tale fun as fans of the series will believe Mehitabel is caught between a rock and a hard place. Although nothing earth-shatteringly new in the Monette universe occurs, fans will enjoy reading the further adventures of the half-siblings as this escapade is more personal than epic even if a way of life is at stake.

Plague Year
Jeff Carlson
9780441015146 $7.99

They were created with good intention as a cancer cure. They proved quite successful at curing cancer although the host died in the saving since the horde of nanotech machines use carbon based living species to procreate. Like a blitzkrieg that is faster than any disease ever spread, humans or animal die unless they attain altitudes above 10,000 feet as the nanotech machines fail to function; 5,000,000,000 humans are dead in the first wave.

High in the Sierra Mountains of California, Cam and a few people have established a small camp. However to survive they make dangerous excursions to where the nanotech machines operate seeking carbon life forms. When those dangerous expeditions fail, they turn cannibal. Over time the survivors make contact with another group and soon learn that the orbiting International Space Station might contain mankind's last salvation against the plague of the nanotech machines.

The fascination with PLAGUE YEAR is how fast humanity becomes beasts with survival all that matters; as Cam and others recognize that they are monsters just like the nanotech machine. Murder and cannibalism is a way of life as civilization is yesterday's news. Interestingly most of the conflict thus is mano vs. mano as much of the exciting story line focuses on the survival efforts of Cam and his mates willing to kill (and eat) one another as needed. Thus no one is truly a hero, but no reader will care as Jeff Carlson provides a terrific cautionary tale of science paving the road to hell.

Kat Richardson
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
0451461509 $14.00 1-800-847-5515

She was clinically dead for two minutes, but when private investigator Harper Blaine was revived, she discovered she was a Greywalker; someone who can cross over from the mortal plane to the paranormal realm of the Grey. There reside magical entities and energies that can cross over to the human realm when the connections are right. Harper is a rarity who can see these energies.

Dr. Tuckman, a megalomaniac professor, has gathered eight people to help him create an artificial poltergeist with their mental energies assisting him. He succeeds when Celia Falwell comes into existence with empirical evidence to prove the phenomena exists. Dr. Tuckman hires Harper to find out who is creating tricks he did not authorize as Celia is becoming increasingly dangerous until she kills one of the team members and injures others. Harper assumes another member is controlling Celia and that psychotic is feeling euphoric over the first murder and has gone completely over the edge. Harper, a vampire and a detective work to dissipate the energy of the entity and to neutralize what they assume is a human killer.

Urban fantasy fans will take immense delight in the latest Greywalker thriller as the heroine is at her best combining Dresden with Millhone. The story line is fast-paced hooking the audience from the onset when Tuckman explains Celia to Harper and never let's go until the final altercation as readers will wonder just what Celia is and could she have committed a homicide. POLTERGEIST is a terrific tale that sub-genre fans will appreciate as Kat Richardson combines the fascinating paranormal inside a well constructed whodunit.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

The Direction of Longing
Frances Ruhlen McConnel
Bellowing Ark Press
P.O. Box 55564, Shoreline WA 98155
9780944920589 $12.00

With certainty, I can say Bellowing Ark Press publishes the best collections of poetry by poets who view the world clearly, with hope. This collection by Frances Ruhlen McConnel speaks frankly and eloquently of the world she's known since earliest memory. Her introductory poem, "What the Bear Ate," is the story of a home's transitions over decades. She shares her memories with humor, regret, forgiveness, and a delightful vision through words. I share one verse in excerpt:

I remembered how, after a long snow
when school got out and already the sky
was a dome of blackness prickled with stars,
and, near the Big Dipper, the Northern Lights
twisted their violets and greens,
like the veils of a demonic dancer,
my father would call home from work to send us,
my brothers and me, out to clear off the roof.

"Letter to My Father, After a Long Silence" is a long poem. These thoughts and memories of her father are exceptional. Sometimes a poet's work stuns me to silence. This poem is the perfect example:

Can you think of me now? I think of you often,
like a wind worries a tumbleweed. Today,
something comes loose inside -- a tarp
off a load -- revealing a touch that loved me,
a kindness I've buried, preferring anger,
its sharp, clean bite.

"When You Walk the Curtis Tungsten Mine Road" is a word picture skillfully drawn to bring readers into the experience. The results are personal, intimate, and satisfying:

And when you're high above the silence
of pine valleys and it's almost afternoon,
your own smell will begin to rise
to your own nostrils as if, for days before,
you'd been walking a ghost walk,
breathing a ghost breath.

The poet contemplates her daughter in "Aerials." One beautiful excerpt shares a mother's heart and pride perfectly:

Daughter, in those muscles, balance, and bone,
you are more your father's child than my own,
and, in you, our promise is by flesh made certain.

Ms. McConnel's work is reminiscent of a natural world and a simpler time few of us enjoy today. She sees with clear vision those small gestures of love, human strengths and foibles, wild landscapes and feral creatures and shares them joyfully through poetry. The flight of a red-tailed hawk becomes a psalm. Her favorite birch is " white as the body of a young girl / rain running down her arms and her pale cheeks." Her words are soothing, blending into the background but definitely part of life, like "water crooning to stones." She has allowed the cry of wolves and the roar of wind to sing to what's wild in her. You'll find her heart and spirit in this book. Highly recommended.

She Came From Away
Edward Bradley
Tarbutton Press
1017 7th Street, Three Rivers MI 49093
1933094109 $14.95

I was privileged to review Bradley's Harry's War trilogy and am delighted to report that this exceptional story teller has not lost his touch with She Came from Away. Once again, Bradley takes his readers on an exciting literary adventure, written with style and imagination.

Riley Barnett is doing well on her own in Toronto. She's in her second year at University and shares an apartment with a friend. Riley is a frugal, sensible girl whose life is mapped out through careful planning when an unexpected letter delivers action, adventure, and romance into her predictable life. An uncle she did not know has died in Newfoundland, leaving his property to Riley. The comfortable bungalow on Conception Bay is a dream home set in a beautiful, natural acreage. Before a week has passed while visiting her inherited home, Riley can't imagine living anywhere else. Doris Fudge, owner of a small country store, and her brother Charlie, a first class mechanic, are friendly and helpful. Jean Collins, a nearby neighbor, soon forges a fast friendship with Riley. And Paul Sutherland, who works for the local weather office, soon becomes much more than a friend. Friendship, passion, and natural wonders. Sounds idyllic, right?

Life on Conception Bay takes a dark turn soon after Riley settles into her new home. First, someone tries to shoot her. Then, intruders prowl her basement in the middle of the night. An anonymous person offers a huge amount of money for her property through a suspicious realtor. Riley is not easily intimidated, but before summer's end she's tempted to return to the relative safety of Toronto.

Several mysteries unravel before book's end. These revelations are not without surprises as Riley and Paul discover who really caused her uncle's death and what he was hiding on his property to inspire such greed and violence. Readers who love mystery, action, and adventure should relish this book. As with all Bradley's novels, the characters are deliciously defined and the narrative well-written. I consider the works of D. Edward Bradley to be gems, well worth discovering.

Rabbis of the Air
Philip Terman
Autumn House Press
87 1/2 Westwood Street, Pittsburgh PA 15211
9781932870152 $14.95

Just when I'm convinced I've read all the best poets, another treasure appears. This time the gem is Rabbis of the Air by Philip Terman, whose work has been widely published in well-known journals so he's no stranger to the world of poetry. He writes his experiences so skillfully, reflections from the heart that cannot help but touch his readers.

In "Wintering the Birds" a simple thing like a bird feeder in winter becomes beauty beyond expression, if not for the poet's stunning vision:

We look out of dusty windows at arctic winds circling like small cyclones and
want the flashing reds and spring-sky blues, wings the color of light.

….In all this beauty, what sustenance? Seek out these
petty grains we purchased. For your music. For our survival.

"Days of Longing" is a contemplative poem. Terman looks inward, outward, searching for meaning in life's inconsistencies:

Can the dormant branches
know what has been made
of their fruit? And will we,

emptied and exposed, bear
witness to whatever
becomes of our ripening?

That contemplative tone is repeated in "The Betrayal" where the poet is distracted, searching for irretrievable fragments of reassurance in small moments:

If the hydrangeas could sing,
they'd sweeten the foxgloves' ears.

Such tending,
each moment a recently hatched light blue egg.

Such reassuring assertions.

And, consider this small excerpt from the title poem:

Are the hummingbirds in the columbines
one consolation? Rabbis of the air,

whose lives are you trying to save?

As he seeks consolation in memories of lost friends, lost history, and the world around him, Terman consoles us with the rich tones of a cantor. Whether his poems are soothing or jarring, humorous or sorrowful, each word resonates with perfect pitch. This book is exceptional and highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

Trouble in Paradise
Cathy Pearson
White Dog Books
9539 Bridlewood Trail, Centerville, OH 45458
9780978846312 $14.95 (paper); $27.95 (hardbound)

Cathy Pearson lives the total creative life of an entrepreneur, painter, and author. She currently resides in Centerville, Ohio with her husband and dogs. Her paintings have garnered raves and she has been named one of the "The Best in America-2006."

Cassie Grimes and her husband have reached a financial impasse, thanks to corporate downsizing and irregular revenue from Cassie's business. They own a condo in Ft. Myers, Florida, where Cassie also has a best friend named Sherrie Morgan. Sherrie is married to a much older "goat," and years of moral compromise have caused a suicidal depression. Cassie jumps into her car with her two playful Bichons to come to the rescue. She meets her husband, Gene, at the condo. A dinner date with Sherrie and her husband Dave produces Sherrie, but no Dave. When he turns out to be missing, police assume the worst and arrest Sherrie. Enter Cassie, private eye. One dead body and several near misses convince Cassie to enlist the aid of her former beau, Jim Stillman; two elderly neighbors, Gladys and Madeline, and Sherrie's sedate lawyer, Arthur. Let the games begin as Cassie begins to uncover the mystery:

"Tom Walters roared as he grabbed one of the guest chairs and raised it over his head. He charged toward the door where Stillman was still slouched as I screamed, 'Noo! Jim!' I saw Stillman lift an eyebrow before he dived into a forward roll beneath the chairs' descent and kicked upward into Walters' outstretched body. The chair fell harmlessly to the floor and Walters collapsed, gasping for breath. As he rose, Stillman grabbed Tom's right arm, twisting it behind his back. He pulled him from the floor and shoved him into the wall with enough force to dislodge a large Impressionist print framed in gold."

Cassie is a wise-cracking but good-hearted woman who is trying to help a friend. For her part, Sherrie is a gold-digging, foul-mouthed bimbo who probably deserved what she got. Cassie's husband, Gene, serves as her protector and sounding board. The interplay between him and Jim Stillman becomes a "guys club" as they constantly pull Cassie out of the scrapes she gets into. Still, TROUBLE IN PARADISE is a rollicking good time with the backdrop of the beauty that Florida has to offer to the reader. Pearson strikes just the right balance with this fun read.

Slanderous Tongue
Jill Culiner
Sumach Press, 1415 Bathurst St., #202,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5R 3H8
1894549643 $16.95

Jill Culiner is a photographer and published author of FINDING HOME: IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE JEWISH FUSGEYERS, which was published by Sumach Press in 2004. She lives both in Canada and France.

This character driven mystery takes place in the village of Epineux-le-Rainsouin, France. A Canadian woman lives in the village and the tale takes place through her point-of-view. The village isn't particularly interesting or noteworthy, but the undercurrents represent a microcosm of the world. The town begins to take on a life of its own when Didier Blot, the "garde champetre" is found dead in his bathtub. The local vet, who is carrying on an affair with our Canadian ethnologist, asks her to "ask around," as he is worried that he might be a suspect in the murder:

"'No,' I say calmly. 'But you told me you were worried that they'd find Chantal's letters, so I was just wondering. I mean, Didier really did do a lot of sleeping around. Chantal was just one of a lot.' Jean-Paul's mouth twists bitterly. He reaches up, rubs his jaw with his right hand. As if he's got a bad toothache, suddenly. 'Which other women did he sleep with?'"

Jill Culiner has fabricated a world where everyone has something to hide, where no one really tells the truth to anyone else. Yet every inhabitant of this small village knows the deep dark secrets, even the older women who spend their days watching the activity within the village. But the world that Culiner presents is mostly dark…there doesn't seem to be any real good, and the intensive farms surrounding the village hide hideous secrets of horrendous torture to animals. It represents something that is hidden to the world at large by the rich and greedy.

SLANDEROUS TONGUE is a peek at what is happening to change the world we know into an evil place. As people toss the "old ways" to the wind and embrace the change without questioning the results, we find our world diminishing. Culiner doesn't make us happy, but she certainly is a wizard at making us think. A stunning tale.

The Doctor's Dog
Richard F. Venti
610 E. Delano St., Suite 104, Tucson, AZ 85705
9781587368264 $17.95

Richard Venti embarks on his third novel with THE DOCTOR'S DOG. His first two novels are HENRY'S WIFE and THE PURGATORY FUGITIVE. Venti hails from the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts. He is married and has a dog named Higgins.

After a few years of teaching "the hardest job in the world," Dean Cello has spent the past two years as a small time private eye, chasing errant spouses and deadbeat fathers. He is called upon by a doctor to find his missing dog, which seems a trivial pursuit. But when both the good doctor and his nephew disappear, Dean finds himself in the company of a championship Airedale named Cedric of Winchester and one heck of a whodunit. The pristine doctor's family is full of intrigue, and it is up to Dean to figure out who is lying:

"He started a little more friendly-like. 'Look, Cello, I just lost my father. That's bad enough under any circumstances…but when the guy dies in a pool he's been swimming in for years…and then the State Police are all over the family when things are bad enough already…' He turned both palms upward. 'I don't know where the kid is. I think he might have somehow…Maybe somehow he was responsible for my father. Like I said, he was always a little weird. To tell you the truth, I don't miss him. The only reason I'd want him found is so he could spend the rest of his miserable pathetic life in prison being somebody's girlfriend.'"

There is nothing like sibling rivalry in a family with money, and Venti shows his thorough understanding of the human condition to best advantage with this light murder mystery. Cello's relationship with his special girl and Cedric the dog remains in the forefront throughout the story, as Cello makes the rounds of the family again and again to peel back the layers of hate, lust and resentment.

Cello's characters are engaging; the plot is well thought out; and Cello's movements as a private eye keep the reader in the dark until the very end. Mysteries with dogs just seem to add a certain amount of cool; and, of course, Cello's lifestyle is worth a good drool.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

John L. Herman Jr
HBS Press
11615 Greenspring Avenue, Lutherville, MD 21093
9780979020414 $14.95

Author John L Herman knows a lot about starting a business and failing, and starting a business and winning. Here we have a man who gives us a book chock full of first hand, in your face knowledge of what he is talking about because he has lived it. I don't know our author personally, but I definitely can tell by his book that he is not going to smooze you, as my dad use to say. No, he will tell you exactly what you are up against and sharply bring to your attention many issues that you probably will face in starting any business. Like it or not!

Why is this important and why should you care? Because these are the very things that can make you or break you and Mr. Herman should know because he has been in both places. His work is broken down in short chapters in which he uses 77 of his sayings, such as, " It Was Only Failure If You Failed To Learn, Otherwise, It Was Experience," (chapter 37).In each of these he explains to you what he is talking about in a crisp, no nonsense way. You may not like what you read, especially if you don't want to think there may be many obstacles and hurdles that you will have to cross, but it sure would be worth your while to know them before hand. As I read this book I truly knew this man wanted to help people understand the pitfalls, realize the inevitables, and use this knowledge to help themselves come out a winner. This book is full of help for the entrepreneurs if they are only willing to use it. If I were thinking of starting any venture, this is the book I would want by my side. Honest and open advice that gets right to the core of the matter.

Dark Prince
Eve Silver
Zebra Books
Kensington Publishing Corp
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022
97880812781289 $5.99

Jane Heartherington is a woman whose strength and integrity shine from the start of this work until the finish. My heart joined with this woman as she struggled with the hand that life had dealt to her. Haunted by the past and the death of her beloved mother, she is thrust into the center of a well-thought out plan of revenge against her father and soon Jane belongs to Aidan Warrich, as her father betrays her love and cast her away as payment for a debt of long ago. Her life is no longer her own as she struggles to learn the truth behind the debt she is paying, the truth of the man who now claims her as his own, and who her father really is and what is the secret of his past; now she is plunged into a life plagued with mystery and danger. Jane never figured into the equation that she would fall in love with her captor, nor the fact that she would eventually have to face the entire truth of her father, no matter how terrible it might be. What a ride of a read this one is.

Our author, Eve Silver has taken in my opinion a giant leap in her writing. This work is laced with mystery, love,and twisted half truths that leave you baffled trying to figure them out. Good job! I was glued to this book from beginning to end. It is one filled with heated emotions, unquenched anger and deep seeded obsessions that desperately need closure, yet laced within and brought to the surface is a love deeper than the sea that will leave you breathless at the conclusion. This is an outstanding read and one I am proud to give my recommendation to.

Immortal Laws
Jim M. Hansen
Dark Sky Publishing Inc.
121 Bradley Street, Golden, Co. 80401
0976924358 $13.95

As I began reading the sixth book. Immortal Laws, in author Jim Hansen's series Laws I truly wondered what would await me, what devious work, and evil players would I find; I have to say Mr. Hansen definitely surprised me. I would never have imagined I would be confronted by Vampires and wooden stakes, but that is how our brilliant author works, always keeping his work fresh and alive, even though all of her characters aren't. Denver's homicide detective Bryson Coventry. one of the main players in the Law series, is called to investigate a young woman's death, murdered with a wooden stake driven in her heart, the scene is not a pretty one. As Coventry begins to investigate he finds out there are more deaths around the world done in the same fashion.

The stakes begin to get high as Coventry's friend, TV personality Jena Vernon is kidnaped and the race is on to save her life and the life of others. That is if Coventry can figure out the connection between them all; time is running out.

We meet Heather Vaughn who has something in common with the dead women. It seems Heather is a descendent of the vampire bloodline and someone is making it their business to hunt down these descendants and kill them, but why? However Heather is luckier than the other bloodline descendants as she has two body guards who seek her out, telling her the story of her heritage, the danger she is in, and offering their help as protectors. However, people and events are not always what they seem to be as you will find in this top-notch read. Try as you may you will definitely not be able see the end coming nor will you put your finger on who is behind all of these murders and why. As always, this novel is creepy, adventurous, mysterious and has all the ghoulish goodies you expect Mr. Hansen to feed you with; you won't be left hungry.

I like the way our author brought in other parts of the world, in the USA and outside in the storyline, broaden the scope if you will, of the far reaches of evil that our modern means of travel allows. I also liked the personal touch he gave in this read of Coventry's concern for his friend Jena. Whether you are a die-hard Hansen fan, as I am, or just beginning to read his outstanding novels you won't be disappointed. Par for the course, this one will take you down some dark allies, around some winding bends, into some devious, sick minds and bring you out totally exhausted with the journey only to realize where you knew for sure the read would end up wasn't even close. Great read! Recommended to the highest! Well done Mr. Hansen!

Texas Judicial Cook Book
Dennis R. Mott
Ovation Books
PO Box 89197, Austin, TX. 78758
9780979027529 $19.95

I absolutely love cookbooks and am always thrilled to be asked to review one, but this one went beyond excellence.

The minute I laid eyes on this book I was impressed by the cover and the entire make-up of the book. The cover is bright, yet warm and inviting with a drawing appeal. The book is spiral and easy to open and lay out to follow the recipes inside and what a treat awaits you there.

Texas Judicial Cookbook has recipes, 59, from residing and former judges and other state and county officials. I really enjoyed looking at the pictures of the different judges and officials and seeing their favorite recipe. It was fun and interesting. However, this cookbook doesn't stop there.
Along with wonderful meal ideas you also learn about the restoration of many different courthouses across the state and see pictures of them both outside and inside. The photographs are beautifully done; put this all together and you have one top-notch cookbook that you do not want to pass by.

I highly recommend this cookbook for yourself or as a gift for someone you love. It truly has it all. I intend to sample many of the recipes that are inside and I am sure they will be a true treat for myself and my family. Very well done, exceptional work.

Ordinary Miracles
S. David Nathanson, M.D.
Praeger Publishers
88 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06881
0275994694 $49.95

As I began this read I immediately knew this book would show the courage and fortitude of numerous women and men who looked death in the face, in the form of breast cancer, and won the battle. However this war was not like the ones we follow with our soldiers but this war is fought within the very souls of these brave warriors. It is a fight with an enemy they cannot look in the eye, but one that hides within their very being, lurking and devouring not only their flesh but attacks the core of their existence.

Doctor Nathanson, a surgeon who treats these women medically, saw the potential to help others as he often saw the miraculous happen as many of his patients rose up and triumphed over this enemy. Their stories, told in their words, reveal their fears, victories, defeats and hopes for the future. To me, it was an emotional read, one that caused me to stop and the be thankful I am not fighting this battle and one that will certainly strengthen those who are and give them the courage to press on. Very well written, thought provoking and tender read from the hearts of those in the know.

The Truth War
John MacArthur
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 1914, Nashville, TN
0785262636 $22.99

Our author, John MacArthur is a man on a mission, one to preserve the truth of God's Word and its integrity. In this work he sounds the alarm that the time has come for true believers to stand up and declare that God and His Word alone are true. He shows past problems and how they have emerged in church life today and gives some serious warnings to the Body of Christ. He points out that our warfare is not with swords or modern weapons but is spiritual and must be fought spiritually. If indeed we are in the final days, it would do all Christians well to understand what truth is concerning the doctrine they are living.

Very well written, Biblically sound and will certainly step on a few toes; I am sure, but also will cause many believers to think and re-think what is being told them, and I hope will cause them to go to God's Word and let that final authority speak to their hearts.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Doing Time In The Garden
James Jiler
New Village Press
PO Box 3049, Oakland, CA 94609
9780976605423, $24.95

James Jiler has directed prison horticulture programs since their inception in 1997. That is why he brings to bear a very special expertise when writing "Doing Time In The Garden: Life Lessons Through Prison Horticulture". This is an deftly written, informed and informative account of the country's most successful jail-to-street horticultural training programs, specifically, the GreenHouse and GreenTeam programs run by the Horticultural Society of new York for inmates and former inmates of Rikers Island, the largest jail complex in the United States. Jiler presents a candid and engaging personal account of his daily life with male and female inmate students who under went life-changing vocational training. "Doing Time In The Garden" is also a practical guide and template for anyone wanting to start and manage an in-prison and re-entry agricultural or horticultural program whether it be a city jail, a county lock-up, or a state penitentiary. Wonderfully illustrated throughout with color photographs and line drawings of the flora and fauna of Rikers Island, "Doing Time In The Garden" is strongly recommended reading for sociology students, social service professionals, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in penology, prison reform, felon rehabilitation, or gardening.

The House That Faux Built
Adrienne van Dooren
East Cambridge Press
249 North Larch Street, Anaheim, CA 92805
Communication Creativity (publicity)
209 Church Street, Buena Vista, CO 81211-0909
9780977896707, $34.95

Knowledgeably written by Adrienne van Dooren and illustrated with the photography of David Galen and Omar Salinas, "The House That Faux Built: Transform Your Home Using Paints, Plasters & Creativity!" is an elegant and highly recommended addition to personal, professional, and community library Interior Design, Home Remodeling, and Home Decorating reference collections. This beautifully organized and presented compendium of ideas and concepts draws from more than one hundred top artists who contributed their inspirations and examples in support of the New Orleans Habitat House and Hurricane Katrina Animal Rescue programs. More than just another coffee table interior designer art books, "The House That Faux Built" is fairly brimming with practical, do-it-yourself, illustrated suggestions for making small changes in any home decor that will have dramatic results for any household renovation project. Drawing upon more than three hundred full-color before-and-after photographs of the New Orleans house project (and its sister project -- a Chicago church), "The House That Faux Built" showcases hundreds of 'tips, tricks and techniques' employed by renowned artists and professional interior designers. Especially commended to non-specialist general readers with an interest in transforming their own small rooms into something bigger and better on a limited budget, "The House That Faux Built" is thoroughly 'user friendly' and confidently recommended.

Command And Communication Frictions In The Gettysburg Campaign
Phillip M. Cole
Colecraft Industries
970 Mt. Carmel Road, Orrtanna, PA 17353
0977712516, $9.95 1-717-642-5444

Living near Gettysburg, the direct descendent of men who fought at Gettysburg, and working as a licensed battlefield guide at the Gettysburg National Military Park, Phillip M. Cole writes with a particular expertise in "Command And Communication Frictions In The Gettysburg Campaign", a specialized history focusing specifically on the protocols of the command structure and of the functions of battlefield communications. Cole includes everything from changes in the Chain of Command, the arrival of lesser commands, communication styles, insufficient instructions, discretionary orders, the disregarding of orders, failed notifications, communication cutoffs, and so much more. Enhanced with the inclusion of a Bibliography, extensive Notes, and an Index, "Command And Communication Frictions In The Gettysburg Campaign" is a unique and highly recommended addition to academic library Civil War Studies reference collections and the supplemental reading lists of Civil War buffs and Battle of Gettysburg reenactions.

The Alaska Wilderness Guide, 9th edition
The Editors of MILEPOST
Morris Communications Corporation
301 Arctic Slope Avenue, Suite 300, Anchorage, AK 99518
KSB Promotions
55 Honey Creek NE, Ada, MI 49301-9768
9781892154200, $19.95

The editors of "The Milepost" present The Alaska Wilderness Guide: Where to Go Camping, Sportfishing, Sea Kayaking, River Running and Hiking in Alaska's Backcountry, now in a newly updated ninth edition. Featuring detailed information on public-use cabins, lighthouses, hot springs, ghost towns, and marine parks, as well as descriptions of over 85 navigable rivers, 100 parks, a wide assortment of refuges and monuments, and much more, The Alaska Wilderness Guide is ideal for hikers, outdoorsmen, skiers, sport fishermen, kayakers, bird and wildlife enthusiasts, and just about anyone eager to see Alaska's natural wonders for themselves. A gigantic fold-out color map of the entire state of Alaska and an index round out this extensive, one-of-a-kind guide to Alaska's glorious backcountry.

John Taylor

Vicki's Bookshelf

A Dog For Life
L.S. Matthews
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385733663 $14.95

The first book from L.S. Matthews since "Fish," "A Dog for Life" is a remarkable story that demonstrates the power of love and perseverance when the world feels out of control. John and his brother Tom got Mouse when she was a puppy and quickly discovered that there was something special about their relationship with the small dog. They could telepathically understand everything she said, and she could do the same. After all, she's not that different than a human. She just walks on four legs instead of two, and is perhaps a big more clever than most. But when Tom becomes seriously ill, the doctors say they have to send Mouse away for fear of infection. John and Tom fear that mouse will die if they send her to the pound, and without Mouse, Tom will never recover. So John sets out on a journey to find a temporary home for the dog. But, like most plans, things turn differently in this touching, unforgettable story about saving a life

Richard Walker
375 Hudson St., NY, NY, 10014
9780756625368 $16.99

"OUCH!" is a stunning virtual tour of the internal workings of the human body throughout a very bad day. It guides readers through a terrible day in the life of an ordinary kid -- all from the inside out! Everything from the body's reactions to knee scraps, sneezes, bee stings, and burns is covered through sophisticated computer-generated artwork. Author Richard Walker brings young readers along on an up-close journey with his entertaining narrative, full of fresh and memorable facts. He painstakingly (pun intended) reinvents human body reference one amazing three-dimensional panorama at a time. For ages 8 and up.

A Crooked Kind of Perfect
Linda Urban
525 B Street, San Diego, CA 92101
15 E. 26th St., NY, NY 10010
9780152060077 $16.00

Zoe Elias has big piano dreams. She can feel the cool ivories under her flying fingers. She can hear the thundering applause. All Zoe needs is a gleaming baby grand so she can start her lessons, and she'll be on her way. Carnegie Hall, look out! Then Dad buys a wheezy, wood-grain Perfectone D-60…organ. How is Zoe supposed to become a piano prodigy when all she does is play the "Green Acres" theme song with a cha-cha beat? And her doomed piano dreams aren't her only problem, what with Mom constantly at work, Dad too jittery to leave the house, and that odd boy, Wheeler Diggs, following her home from school every day. Yet when Zoe enters the annual Perform-O-Rama competition, she finds that life – even when it's a little off-kilter – is full of surprises. In a good way, that is. A lovely first-time sonata from a former bookseller who clearly knows her stuff.

Ursula K. Le Guin
Harcourt Inc.
525 B Street, San Diego, CA 92101
15 E. 26th St., New York, NY 10010
9780152057701 $17.00

Young Gavir, brought up in comfort as a house slave for a great family, sometimes sees into the future – a power he cannot explain or control, and one that his beloved older sister wisely advises him to keep secret. But when tragedy destroys his trust in all he has ever known, he flees in blind grief. He finds himself on a dangerous journey towards a goal he does not understand: Is he seeking freedom? Or his own people? Or the true use of his strange powers? This third book of the Annals of the Western Shore is an epic story of survival and self-discovery that brings its hero home at last to a place where he has never been before.

In Search of Mockingbird
Loretta Ellsworth
Henry Holt & Co.
115 W. 18th St., NY, NY 10011
9780805072365 $16.95

A book is the one connection Erin has to her dead mother. But how much can Erin really learn about her mother from a tattered copy of "To Kill A Mockingbird?" It's time she hits the road to find out in this gentle gem of a book for middle grade readers. "In Search of Mockingbird" portrays a young girls unique journey across the country, her unconventional encounters and profound self-discovery. Erin's affinity to Harper Lee's "Mockingbird" creates a tender and evocative piece of writing with heart-felt insight on the enduring bond of family. For ages 10-14.

Just Grace
Charise Mericle Harper
Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780618646425 $15

This charming book is the first in a new chapter book series featuring cat-loving third-grader Grace, who is well-intentioned but always finds herself in a spot of trouble. Written in an authentic young voice, with plenty of silly lists and marginal drawings, "Just Grace" is just delightful fun for all those Judy Moody, Clementine and Emma fans out there. Very appealing chick lit lite for young elementary school readers.

Bobbie Dazzler
Margaret Wild and Janine Dawson
Kane/Miller Book Publishers
P.O. Box 8515, La Jolla, CA 92038
97819330605463 $15.95

Bobbie is an energetic Red-necked Wallaby who can jump, bounce and skip. She can even hop on one leg. Her friends Koala, Wombat and Possum are very impressed. But there is one thing Bobbie cannon do that she wants to do very badly: the splits. After much practice, one minor problem, and a helping paw from her friends, Bobbie finally reaches her goal. She can do it! Margaret's text is simple and joyful, celebrating children's small achievements and the value of friendship. Dawson's delightful illustrations feature the Australian landscape, with images of native vegetation such as bottlebrushes, eucalyptus, banksias and kangaroo paw. A sweet picture book import.

The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley
Colin Thompson and Amy Lissiat
Kane/Miller Book Publishers
P.O. Box 8515, La Jolla, CA 92038
97819330605500 $15.95

This laugh-out-loud picture book will appeal to people (and rats) of all ages. Riley the rodent is born happy, and, in his short life, is never anything else. Human beings on the other hand, are never happy. They want to be someone else, somewhere else, looking like something else (while eating something completely different). This truly unique picture book presents the author and illustrator's life lessons with gentle humor and satire to help readers release their inner Riley! The Children's Book Council of Australia's Picture Book of the Year.

The Amazing Book-a-ma-Thing for the Backseat
Klutz / Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
1570541698 $16.95

A hands-on book of travel games and activities, including a sliding block puzzle, pinball baseball game and lift-the-acetate Magic Writer. Thirty-three activities in all to repeat as needed on boring commutes and long road trips. For ages six and up.

Made You Look
Klutz / Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
1570548943 $16.95

"Made You Look" is an activity book that deserves a whole bunch of looks. This eye-catching compendium of picture puzzles is packed with a huge variety of visual amusements: picture puzzles, matching games, needle-in-a-haystack searches, super close-up mystery photos, visual puns, and more. Illustrated by 41 different artists, this busy-book has an unusually sophisticated and lively look to keep readers ages 8 -11 looking.

Road Trip Trivia: A Book of Backseat Brainteasers
Klutz / Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
1570548250 $12.95

This book is packed to the gills with more than 300 intguing questions and answers. Does pondering funny but factual questions make the miles fly? Do bedbugs bark? (Answers: Yes, and, believe it or not, Yes.) No wonder this spiral-bound activity book with pegged score-keeper received the Dr. Toy Award and Parent's Choice Award.

Deborah Freedman
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780375839665 $15.99

In this adorable picture book story about two sister and their scribbling rivalry, Emma likes to draw princesses, while her little sis Lucie prefers kitties. After drawing a "scribble cat" on Emma's picture of Princess Aurora, young Lucie follows scribble into the picture and tries to set things right. Emma and Lucie might not always get along, but can their drawings? Deborah Freedman proves once and for all whether kitties and princesses can live happily ever after in her charmingly original picture book debut.

Glastonbury Tor
LeAnne Hardy
Kregel Publications
733 Wealthy Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49501-2607
0825427894 $10.99

After his mother's tragic death, 17-year-old Colin Hay is so consumed with anger that he tries to kill his cruel father. Running from these tormenting desires and his home, he seeks the protection and cleansing of the Glastonbury monastery, at a time when King Henry VIII is closing monasteries all over England. But Colin's past has followed him to Glastonbury. As he now pursues forgiveness and salvation, Colin is conflicted by the doctrines he learns at the monastery and the grave he receives from a local family with a forbidden English Bible. And then there is a quick-tempered priest whose lust for power threatens to compromise Glastonbury Abbey, and to destroy the astonishing treasure it holds: the Holy Grail. High drama and rich detail makes this a page-turner for fantasy an historical fiction fans.

Bye-Bye, Big Bad Bullybug!
Ed Emberley
LB Kids / Little, Brown and Company
1271 Ave. of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
0316017620 $10.99

Here comes Big Bad Bullybug. He's big, mean and scary, and he loves to pick on little itty-bitty baby bugs! With the turn of each die-cut page, Bullybug gets bigger, meaner, and scarier! But it's the itty-bitty baby bugs who get the last laugh in this new, frighteningly fun adventure for tots. Caldecott Medal-winning author-artist Ed Emberley provides readers with another ingeniously crafted story that helps children face, and then chase away, their fears. His fabulously creative graphic style and die-cut pages are irresistible, and his humor wickedly funny.

Encyclopedia Horrifica: The Terrifying Truth About Vampires, Ghosts, Monsters and More
Joshua Gee
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
0439922550 $14.99

This deluxe-paper-over-board, fact and photo-filled compendium features the true stories behind real-life nightmares – vampires, aliens, werewolves, ghosts, and more. With exclusive horrific content such as original interviews, obscure photographic evidence, and chilling eyewitness accounts, here's proof that truth is not just stranger than fiction – it's also scarier. For ages 9-12.

666: The Number of the Beast
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
0545021170 $14.99

Will you dare to be scared? This chilling new collection of terrifying stories from today's top horror writers is sure to keep young readers up at night. This anthology brings together the best of today's horror writers in one spine-tingling collection of stories guaranteed to terrify. For ages 13 and up.

No Talking
Andrew Clements
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416909835 $15.99

The fifth-grade girls and the fifth-grade boys Laketon Elementary don't get along very well. But the real problem is that these kids are loud and disorderly. That's why the principal uses her red plastic bullhorn. A lot. Then one day Dave Packer. A certified loudmouth, bumps into an idea – a big one that makes him try to keep quiet for a whole day. But what does Dave hear during lunch? A girl, Lunsey Burgess, jabbering away. So Dave breaks his silence and lobs an insult. And those words spark a contest between the boys and the girls: Which team can say the fewest words during two whole days? How do the teachers react to the silence? What happens when the principal feels she's losing control? And will Dave and Lunsey plunge the whole school into chaos? It's author Andrew Clements at his best. Thought-provoking, true-to-life, and very entertaining.

Vicki Arkoff
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Joe Redden Tigan
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595416196, $14.95

Waggle is a novel written by golf lover Joe Redden Tigan, for fellow golf lovers and suburbanites everywhere. One ordinary day in the summer of 2003, real estate appraiser Conny Bromenn decides to inject some change and meaning into the self-absorbed life he shares with his community. He decides to motivate his Saturday morning golf foursome by replacing their usual wager per hole with certain "pacts" that the loser pledges to adhere to. Hole by hole, the group of 40-year-olds is forced to reexamine their place in the world, and what they need to do. An involving novel about an awakening sense of social responsibility, highly recommended.

David C. Carson
Outskirts Press
9781432701659, $14.95

Written by former international mission worker David C. Carson, Maccabee is a historical novelization of mid-2nd century, when a Syrian king called Antiochus Epiphanes sought to exterminate the Jewish nation. One elderly priest and his five sons dared to resist; and one of those sons would become known to future generations as Maccabee. Told in first-person perspective, Maccabee is as dark as is to be expected of a chronicle of genocide and resistance, and brings events of history to vivid life. "They came to our town and set up an altar to their pagan god. They wanted my great-grandfather to offer a sacrifice they had brought with them - a swine... My great-grandfather refused... He said God had given him ninety years on this earth and that he would not dishonor God now. Because he refused, the Syrians tied him to a post and beat him with a whip until his insides fell out. They made us all watch. I saw it all, and I heard his last words as they were beating him to death. He looked at all of us and said, 'I have great pain in the body, but I have joy in my soul because I have stayed true to God.'" Highly recommended.

Are Christians Free Indeed or Enslaved by Religion?
Shean A. Smith
Booksurge LLC
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29428
9781419652868, $13.99

Written by Shean A. Smith, former pastor and graduate of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Are Christians Free Indeed or Enslaved by Religion? is an open questioning of modern Christian churches and their unfortunate failings. Smith argues that true Christians do not need a church or a clergy; instead, claims Smith, Christ's sacrifice, the Good News, and living in holy and humble life are all one needs to spread the Gospel. Chapters attack the flaws in various aspects of churchgoing, from tithes to the misuse of guilt to "sacred cows" of church culture such as Sunday School, midweek services and church programs. Are Christians Free Indeed or Enslaved by Religion? is emphatically not anti-Christianity, nor is it anti-spirituality; it specifically denounces harm done by the institution of Christianity (especially Christian Churches) while lauding the holy message of Jesus Christ himself and encouraging the reader to personally follow Christ's example. A thoughtful perspective upon reinventing how one experiences and expresses one's faith.

One Boy of Ten
Lazarus Leslie Weinreb
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Avenue South, 18th floor, New York, NY 10016
9780533154784, $10.95 1-212-736-1767

One Boy of Ten: The Life of Lazarus Leslie Weinreb is the true-life autobiography of Lazarus Leslie Weinreb, born to devoutly religious Jews in Germany in 1927. When Hitler declared himself Chancellor of Germany, everything in the nation changed - life for Jews went from bad to worse, as Jugend (Hitler Youth) harassed and bullied Jewish children, and Jews were stripped of their rights as citizens and human beings. When Lazarus' brothers and father were taken away by the Gestapo, Lazarus' mother resolved to get him out of Germany at all costs; she managed to ensure that he was sent to England. One Boy of Ten is a story of surviving persecution, and daily life during war years, followed by adjustment to normal life and the new beginning of marriage and raising a family. Black-and-white photographs illustrate this powerful, vivid, and evocative tale of a young man's coming of age in dark times, and the few members of his family who survived the Holocaust.

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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