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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 8 August 2014 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Donovan's Bookshelf Klausner's Bookshelf Lorraine's Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf Shirley's Bookshelf

Donovan's Bookshelf

A Search for Bible Truth
Bill Shuey
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478731535, $12.95 pbk / $6.99 Kindle,

It's unusual to find an examination of the Bible that comes from a doubter's perspective; but as Bill Shuey quotes up-front before you even read a word of A Search for Bible Truth: "By doubting we come to questioning and by questioning, we learn truth." Peter Abeland"

And thus readers expecting an interpretation based on faith and trust alone are in for a surprise: A Search for Bible Truth takes an analytical look at Biblical text, questioning Church doctrine as it relates to actual Bible words, considering methods of interpretation, and providing the reader willing to consider an open-ended dialogue with plenty of food for thought.

This is not to say that A Search for Bible Truth is based on the author's particular interpretation: the intent here is to provide the methodology and tools whereby readers can hone their own critical skills and analytical perceptions to arrive at greater truths and accuracy than traditional Bible teaching would encourage.

As such, subjects discussed in various chapters promote religious tolerance during the process, not dogmatic thinking; and they offer scholars and lay readers alike an opportunity to identify what elements differentiate the two analytical approaches.

Exactly what are some of the problems with traditional interpretations versus fundamentalist perceptions? Shuey doesn't provide generalities, but specifics: while this may challenge those used to blanket acceptance without closer reading, it will delight scholars who want clear, dispassionate and analytical approaches to Bible interpretation: "For the fundamentalist believer, God is the infallible author of the Bible and those who penned his thoughts were merely scribes. For the nonbeliever, and some more liberal Christian adherents, the true originators of the Bible were mere human writers - and therefore the real authors.

Certainly it is true that A Search for Bible Truth is not the first observation of textual problems contained within the Bible. In fact many of the issues raised in this book no doubt have been debated in seminaries and other institutions of Biblical study. The problem is that these difficulties are rarely revealed to, or discussed with, the lay people..."

And what, exactly, are the issues addressed here? Among them, many a startling insight: "... these Bible writers may have shared the same self-serving motivations as the later church scoundrels is a consideration." If you're a reader who considers the Bible to be the literal word of God, this may seem blasphemous and offensive but if you're interested in a closer inspection on that Word's origins, reinterpretations, and possibly a greater understanding of the real intentions and word of God, then A Search for Bible Truth is the item of choice.

It holds no favorites and pulls no punches in its identification of Biblical inconsistencies and possibilities, it takes particular, popular parables and stories and provides closer inspection on writer's intent ("Could the gospel writer of Mark have felt compelled to introduce the 40day wilderness trek to establish agreement with the dozens of uses of 40 days or years, and then did the writer of Matthew just plagiarize the storyline for continuity's sake?"), and it creates an atmosphere of inquiry and questioning, not blind acceptance, whereby a Christian reader can form a more realistic perception of the Bible and its meaning.

Sometimes this takes the form of adversarial interpretations, so be forewarned. Again, this is not for the fundamentalist who refrains from questioning the written 'word of God'. Anticipate many startling insights that basically 'nail' these inconsistencies: "The gospel of Mark, which is considered by most reliable Bible scholars to be the earliest of the synoptic gospels, makes no mention of the birth of Jesus. The writer merely has Jesus coming from Nazareth of Galilee (Mark 1:9) and appearing at the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist. This begs a question: if the earliest writer had no knowledge of Jesus' birth, how did later writers come by such detailed and sometimes dissimilar information?"

Readers who want an intellectual, critical, reasoned analysis that promote deeper thinking will find it here, in an enlightening read that could be deemed 'radical' in some circles and merely logical and sensible in others: "Christian people are often reticent with regard to questioning anything that is contained in the Bible. There often appears to be a not so subtle mindset that the mere act of critical thinking could at worst jeopardize one's eternal salvation and at best cause spiritual decline. That's why revealed religion provides us with a unique ability to unconditionally accept what has traditionally been taught and avoid even the slightest prospect of any other viewpoint or interpretation.

However, human beings are endowed with the power of reason."

However way you cut it, A Search for Bible Truth is recommended by this reviewer for any who would gain greater understanding of Biblical meaning through a wider-reaching, applied study and questioning process.

American Boys: The True Story of the Lost 74 of the Vietnam War
Louise Esola
Privately Published
9780996057400, $19.99,

American Boys: The True Story of the Lost 74 of the Vietnam War is recommended for military collections and any interested in Vietnam War events. Now, there are hundreds and hundreds of books on Vietnam events and the market's nearly saturated with every possible approach, from memoir to social and political analysis; so what sets American Boys apart from the ranks and makes it a recommended read?

For one thing, it focuses on a little-covered segment of the war: the sinking of the U.S.S. Frank E. Evans off the coast of Vietnam; a tragedy that killed 74 Americans. Plenty died in battle, mishaps, and all kinds of events during the siege: what makes this different is that the U.S. government then denied that they actually died in the war and, furthermore, kept their names off the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.


American Boys probes this event, its lasting impact on family and friends, and, especially, why the U.S. government chose to try to suppress the circumstances surrounding the Frank E. Evans' sinking by burying the truth and memories of those who lost their lives.

Chapters read with the drama and urgency of fiction as they cover people, events, and the creation, purpose, and politics behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In a way, American Boys is as much about the Memorial and its underlying meaning as it is about those who lost their lives and weren't acknowledged; and this is one of the reasons why the book is so important.

Where other books would cover the Memorial's objectives and success, this one documents one of its failures. Where others would gather information from historic record, Louise Esola probed declassified documents from a number of sources, from the National Archives, and Naval History and Heritage Command to The Nixon Library and beyond in an effort to set the record straight about whose names appeared on the Memorial and who were left out.

Where others might argue about those 74 lives and draftees who gave their lives under different conditions (and were commended for their service), American Boys pinpoints why omissions occur and the politics behind them. In particular, it focuses on the circumstances that dictated that the tragedy surrounding the Evans occurred in waters not designated by the U.S. Government as a "combat zone" of the Vietnam War and, therefore, made these men ineligible for the memorial tribute.

All of this history could too easily have taken the form of a dry tome, accessible only to the most passionate of military scholars. The fact that Esola employs a semi-fictional device to personalize the lives of those lost is commendable, making American Boys available to a far wider audience of non-military-history readers who will find it a lively, involving account: "Just two months into his first overseas deployment, Stever longed for home. He hoped Nixon could do something about the war he'd heard so much about as a student at California State in Los Angeles, this war he now watched from a distance, firing away with a combination of excitement and dread, past the flickering lights of the compartment and the shouting of coordinates over the noisy radios, at targets he couldn't see or hear."

It's a 'you are there' feel rare in nonfiction, and it's a device that succeeds in involving readers far more than sets of data could have achieved.

Louise Esola is self-publishing this account after years of struggle with publishers and agents to have it see the light of day. Because there is so much information surrounding Vietnam history and events, apparently it's a challenge to publish anything more on the subject; let alone in a format that reads like fiction but embraces the facts of nonfiction.

For readers born after the war and its immediate impact, American Boys provides a solid set of personal insights. There's a lot of important information on 'why the wall', and 'why names were included or omitted': "A decade drifted by; they woke to a new one. People were saying the war had been a waste, a mistake, a wrong turn in the fog. "Was there a point when the looming collision might have been averted?" one Vietnam War historian would ask. Rhetorically and with no answer. And now two women found themselves woven into the droves of mothers and sisters, brothers and wives, children and fathers, descending upon Washington in the fall of 1982. All of them longing for meaning, for a chapter that would close the book. Something that memorialized their loss in a war nobody wanted to remember. Something that said: This all really happened. There'd been nothing like that. Nothing. Nowhere. And then came the wall."

Those seeking just a set of dry facts and dates may argue with the passion here but there are plenty of books packed with dry history and too few that bring that history alive for readers; much less focus upon a handful of individuals who were never recognized for their sacrifices.

American Boys is that rare offering, and deserves its own commendation as a piece of powerful research into a segment of Vietnam history that many have tried to bury over the that deserves to not be forgotten.

Admit to Mayhem
D. J. Adamson
Horatio Press
978099307808, $TBA

Admit to Mayhem is a Lillian Dove mystery: and for those unfamiliar with this character, let it be said that Lillian is a recovering alcoholic (five years sober) and has a number of compulsions and issues; not the least of which is poor taste in men.

She also seems to be a storm attractor: a harbinger of emotional storms and attractions that range from dead-end to deadly and that's where Admit to Mayhem gets interesting.

Not everyone would call in the emergency of a burning building spied in the wee hours of dawn and then hike over to it to be sure no children were trapped inside. Not everyone would enter a burning room to rescue a stranger ... a stranger who then vanishes, leaving Lillian to face death in a burning house. And not everyone would then embark on a quest to solve a mystery revolving around a building that has had not one, but several arson attacks against it.

Is there a connection between a sixty-year-old arson fire that killed a family and this latest event? Lillian Dove slowly realizes that there is such a correlation, against all odds, and her personal, chance involvement becomes a storm of passion centering upon unsolved mysteries that ultimately come full circle to affect her own quest for recovery.

Admit to Mayhem's sequence of events has Lillian tense and on edge, but those who know her well believe her imagination is simply working overtime. Despite these challenges to her perceptions, Lillian persists, displaying a tenacity that unwillingly draws her into affairs involving mysterious intruders (who invade a windowless condo and disappear) and her increasingly dangerous role as a possible eyewitness (...but, to what?)

As Lillian realizes that her life is in jeopardy, she becomes increasingly involved in both a mystery and with a fellow investigator who just may be the one man she's (finally successfully) chosen for a healthy relationship: "If you continue to insist you saw someone, it could mean you're an eyewitness to first degree arson, a felony, Charles had warned. What if it wasn't a meth head? The whole town was talking about how I was an eyewitness."

Can her budding new relationship survive not only the storm of her idiosyncrasies and her tenacious quest for the truth, but a looming danger that threatens to engulf them all?

Admit to Mayhem does what any good mystery should do (but too few genre reads achieve): takes the time to create a feisty, believable protagonist with a myriad of concerns outside the mystery that draws her in, fills her life and the novel's progression with a series of unexpected encounters, and ties up the loose ends of family, friends and romance with a murder investigation that leads to personal and professional revelations.

In a nutshell, Admit to Mayhem is a well-rounded, engrossing read that creates a memorable, believable protagonist and uses her to immerse readers in a series of challenging probes that end not in court, but in the very human realm of motivation and twisted purposes.

Don't expect a neat ending, here: the story does conclude, but also leaves the door open for more and that's something to eagerly anticipate!

Jamie Le Fay
Jamie Le Fay, Publisher
9781633159327, $3.78,

Ordering Links:

It's difficult to neatly 'peg' Ange'el, because it doesn't fit easily into any genre. Define it as 'romance', 'young adult', or 'fantasy' as you will ... then break those defining walls; because Ange'el is so much more than any singular genre limitation.

Yes, it is a romantic story: but Ange'el will equally appeal to non-romance-novel readers because of its swift action and fantasy.

Yes, it also features fantasy and magic ... but that doesn't mean its audience need be your usual sci fi/fantasy genre fans, because the underlying setting and romance move beyond standard plot and definition to incorporate many other elements of intrigue and adventure.

And to limit its audience to mature young adult readers would be doing adults a disservice: Ange'el will appeal to all these groups!

Morgan's arrival in New York as a speaker for her beloved Hope Foundation brings her into contact with both a handsome control freak (Gabriel) and a series of events that lead her to believe her life is in danger.

Ah so it's a mystery/romance, right? Wrong; in that mystery is only one of the elements employed to lend strength and diversity to Ange'el, and the romance is a side dish to the story, not the main event.

So what is the main event? That's for Morgan (and the reader) to discover as a straightforward business trip turns into a mission involving her in a war between two ancient cultures and an impossible magic that she's believed in all of her life.

There are awakenings and revelations, there are warnings and dragons and heroes, and there are protagonist insights into the source of her strength and motivations and the wider connections involved: "Morgan felt sadness as she understood that Amalia's and Sky's powers came from anger, rage, hate, and disillusion. This was not the empowerment she sought for women and girls, and yet this story was not so different from many other stories in her own world. Is anger the only route for women's empowerment? she wondered."

It is these tidbits of insight that elevate Ange'el from a simple genre read, adding inspirational insights for readers and creating a quest whereby other entities challenge perception, history, and motivation: "What reform should I expect? Where and when is my voice going to be heard? Is Sky going to listen to my people? The people she hates and despises with every single cell in her body? Is the Ange'el prince ever going to fight for us when he could not be bothered to fight for his people at a time when Sathian's men and the dragons ravaged our land? What reform should I expect?"

The question revolves not around what kind of heroine Morgan will become; but where Morgan's place will be, in such a world. And Gabriel? Without spilling beans, suffice it to say that he, too, is much more than he initially appears and his evolution will also change not just her life, but the world.

So if it's cross-genre reading you seek, with vivid protagonists and unexpected involvements, then Ange'el is the item of choice, recommended for its fast-paced action, supercharged fantasy, and memorable protagonists.

Wheels Up
Captain Steve Taylor
Joggling Board Press
9780991491100 $22.95

Wheels Up: Sky Jinks in the Jet Age is an unexpected treat: unexpected because of its humor. But when you look at the cover art (which shows a pilot poking up through a little hole in his aircraft's roof to wave at the camera) and read the book's subtitle, these are definitely clues that the contents of Wheels Up holds more than just a story of flying big planes.

Oh, this piece is there, of course: but the purpose here isn't to provide a serious account of exploits and air encounters: it's to chronicle the true-life antics of a pilot who is an ex-boxer, an air force pilot, and more. So expect a blend of autobiography along with hearty accounts of mishaps, ironies, and close encounters with strange passengers that included his 23yearold daughter who, ironically, harbors an intense fear of flying.

Captain Taylor's exwife, as well as his daughter, experienced a condition the author calls 'FREUD' (Flying Represents Early Ugly Death). You'd think an experienced pilot could allay this fear. But no: to some, flying is a dangerous endeavor. And the difference between irrational fear and ordinary apprehension creates a fine line between astute worry and sheer panic.

In the course of exploring his family's fears, Captain Taylor provides much insight into phobias and the real dangers of airplane operations; so the story becomes more than a narrative about one woman's fear but documents the very real phenomenon of 'fear of flying' and the realities involved in adapting to plane flight.

Because this is an autobiography, there are digressions, so readers seeking JUST airplane-oriented tales will find some chapters document other aspects of Taylor's life, such as hunting with a big-egoed but inexperienced hunter, or shooting out the tires of a garbage-dumper who invades his property.

The sky jinks are only a part of a bigger picture which translates to life encounters that hold more than a touch of irony and lessons to be learned. It's a pleasure, however, to see an autobiography that pairs comic relief (as in the hilarious story of Captain French Bread and his flight attendant) with serious reflection, adding a dose of pilot's experiences to supplement other outrageous pranks and fun moments: "Bob Norris did not get his reputation by not finalizing his jokes. He had left the airplane soon after we arrived at the gate and went to operations to secure paper with an official letterhead. When Pidd arrived at the bulletin board there was the phony safety memo about the fire hazard from faulty coffee makers."

It's this attention to humor and lessons learned from flying and life that makes Wheels Up an uplifting, memorable and fun read recommended for airplane enthusiasts and general autobiography readers alike.

The Boys of Chattanooga
Clyde R. Hedges
Privately Published
9781477650394, $12.15 pbk. / $1.00 Kindle

It's military history fiction at its best, it's a novel about political entanglements and human interests, and it's the story of three common soldiers and how their decisions change the face of American history: all this wrapped in a cloak of action and strong characterization. That's the face of The Boys of Chattanooga, a novel that holds the ability to cross over from military fiction readers to general-interest audiences who initially might have little interest in either politics or American history.

For those who don't know their American (or military) history, the 1863 Battle of Chattanooga was not only one of the most pivotal of the Civil War; it was also the least understood. Controversy swirls around the battle that ultimately spelled the end of the Confederacy and the impossible situation that led soldiers of the Army of the Cumberland to take matters into their own hands and lead a charge under 'impossible' circumstances, without orders from superiors.

All this is personalized in a tale that involves readers in politics and military strategy as seen through the eyes of three common Union fighters initially in it for adventure. Friends Billy, Matt and Clarence can't wait to enlist and see action. Duty and adventure make for compelling motives luring three idealistic and enthusiastic young men who get more than their share of both in events that unfold with deadly precision.

The Boys of Chattanooga promises (and delivers) understanding through a series of encounters that test each boy and his courage. But also included are struggles with some of the lesser-revealed realities of war: the drudge work that holds none of the romance and action of battle: "The Rebs were as good as licked, and I was sick with dread that I'd never get to fight because the 89th was left behind to garrison Chattanooga."

And then there's Matt who, with some fighting experience under his belt, isn't at all enthusiastic about the prospect of fighting.

In the course of describing these three disparate personalities, Hedges immerses readers in not only the causes, challenges and processes of the Civil War, but the motivations and perceptions of those on the front lines; and that's just one of the strengths of The Boys of Chattanooga.

As the story evolves, readers absorb a combination of history and insights about who decides how a battle progresses, and how these decisions are formed: "If Rosecrans had followed his instructions, much of the fighting in Tennessee and the Mississippi Valley would have been concluded last year. The Rebels simply wouldn't have had another army to retake the field if Van Dorn's had been destroyed as it should have been. For a few brief days in 1862 the road to Alabama and Atlanta lay open, and then Rosecrans's delays closed it again. Grant knew that Rosecrans stopped because his men had fought for four solid days. They needed to eat and rest, and they had definitely earned the right to do so, but many times an army commander had to push when no push was left in his men, but you did so to save lives and to end a drawn out conflict."

Conflicts from within (as well as battles outside the ranks) are well outlined: "You might have got the best of me, and we'll leave now. But don't worry about the battle. Everybody knows we're going to do all the fighting, and you guys are just going to sit here in your fancy rifle pit. The one Rosecrans had you dig, so you could hide from the Rebs."

Add the fact that Hedges uses the first person to document the personal aspects of soldiers' experiences and blends in history so seamlessly that it reads like part of the action (rather than background facts) and you have an involving read that promises to truly entertain while educating at the same time. That's unusual in a military history novel, making The Boys of Chattanooga accessible and a rare recommendable to history buffs and general-interest readers alike.

An Intimate Murder
Stacy Verdick Case
Before the Fall Books
9780983713760, Paperback $14.95, Ebook $4.99

Catherine O'Brien is a detective on the St. Paul Police Force: a homicide detective who works with her partner, Louise, in what initially appears to be the open-and-shut case of a son's murder of his parents. But Catherine has formed her first opinion way too quickly, as further investigation shows; and what seems to be a too-simple case rapidly turns into a complex series of events that lead Catherine and Louise on a desperate chase.

Now, unlike many a mystery detective story where the P.I. or police investigator has a nose for intrigue, Catherine is a horse of another color. She actually 'fell into' the job she has; and while she's good at it, it probably wouldn't have been her first career choice: "Why did you become an investigator, Catherine? You never want to investigate." I sighed. "I have an overwhelming need for justice." She rolled her eyes heavenward. "I do. Most people don't know that about me. If killers would pick a better time to off someone, instead of waiting until I'm about to have a sweaty, freak fest with my husband for the first time in weeks, then you'd see a whole different Detective O'Brien."

The murders she's investigating are particularly vicious slayings, the husband and wife have been done in by different weapons, and they apparently knew their killer. This is deduced by the looks frozen on the deceased victim's faces, by the bodies themselves, and by clues Catherine and Louise pick up from the crime scene.

But the story's just beginning, and as readers absorb the methods and processes followed by an unusual crime-investigating duo, they will also appreciate the unexpected, underlying humor that pops up throughout an otherwise-serious murder mystery: "I was not at all qualified to negotiate with this woman. My favorite line from Born Yesterday (the Judy Holiday version not the sucky remake), "do what I'm telling you" kept running through my brain. I wanted to shout at Jane, just do what I'm telling you - a far from diplomatic response."

From retaliation to surveillance missions, Catherine is drawn into events that ultimately lead to her becoming a victim and possibly a murder candidate herself. And as for the tragedy surrounding the Luthor family ... it's not the first time for them, either.

Add romance to an investigation into revenge and greed and you have a spicy, fast-paced, first-person detective saga that produces winning characters and a satisfyingly-compelling mystery that will keep readers guessing to the end.

Who Says That's Art? A Commonsense View of the Visual Arts
Michelle Marder Kamhi
Pro Arte Books
Paperback: 9780990605706, $16.00, 336 pp.
Kindle edition: 9780990605713, $9.99
EPub: 9780990605720, $9.99

Many books written about art come from either art teachers or artists. Not so in this case: Michelle Marder Kamhi is a scholar and art critic, and her expertise lies in her ability to get directly to the point. The point provided here is an assessment of what qualifies a piece to be deemed 'fine art'; and in this, Kamhi's scrutiny is unerring.

Who Says That's Art? A Commonsense View of the Visual Arts deals with the radical transformation of visual art since the early 20th century: changes the author deems "deeply disturbing, even appalling." The exact nature of these changes, and their overall negative effect, is documented in chapters that excel in specifics: references, analysis, and critical insights on what does or does not deserve to be called 'art'.

Readers will find these insights supported by subjective perspectives as well as by thorough scholarship. Kamhi's enthusiasm for visual art often meets with disappointment at museum and gallery offerings: "Affixed to the roof's east parapet ... was a long curved slab of dark-grey bronze, entitled Horizontal Curve II - so undistinguished that it could easily be mistaken for part of the wall itself. Having found it, I thought 'This is it?' Wasn't visual art supposed to catch the eye and hold it? And wasn't it supposed to stir the heart and mind? How could the art of our time have come to so little?"

Central to the discussion is what separates an 'expert' viewpoint from a 'commonsense' perspective. In Kamhi's view, contemporary work that receives an 'expert' stamp of approval is more often a reflection of economic, social or political influences than it is of genuine quality : " Warhol is said to have declared: 'Art is whatever you can get away with.' Since the early years of the twentieth century, what reputed artists have gotten away with is astonishing indeed. It ranges from Black Square paintings by the Russian modernist Kazimir Malevich (1879 - 1935) to cans of excrement labeled Merda d'artista ("Artist's shit") by the Italian postmodernist Piero Manzoni (1933 - 1963) to a shark preserved in a tank of formaldehyde..."

Art lovers who sense that many public displays considered 'art' are, in fact, a travesty will find much to applaud in Who Says That's Art? With no holds barred, Kamhi hones in on the question of what should properly be considered 'art'. Now, don't expect a chatty personal viewpoint here: keep in mind that Kamhi is both a scholar and a critic. She includes extensive endnotes throughout and maintains an informed (yet accessible) approach as she probes what constitutes an art form, why the art world has migrated away from any reasonable standards, and how viewers can understand the difference between genuine work and the 'pseudo art' that fills museums and galleries of "contemporary art."

Kamhi raises points certain to incite controversy, as in her assessment of modern photographic 'art' forms often on display: "...nowadays scarcely anyone in the artworld questions the status of photographs, any photograph, as art. In fact, photography (both static and video imaging) has largely displaced painting in the contemporary artworld."

One chapter astutely focuses on matters related to the neuroscience of perception, including the relatively recent discovery of the "mirror neuron" system: "the same neural system that is involved when we engage in an action also activates when we observe the same or a similar action by another agent. . . . Of particular relevance for art is the fact that mirror neurons are normally activated not only by observing actual instances of emotional expression and action in others but also by seeing images of such phenomena. . . . such observation not only activates the brain's visual areas, it is also registered in the [relevant] motor areas. . . ."

Kamhi does not argue that 'real art' is dead: only that a greater measure of critical discretion needs to be applied to identifying it. And here's where she shines, providing nonspecialists with a scholarly yet accessible account that not only explains how to distinguish genuine art, but also promises to enhance its appreciation whenever such gems are to be found!

And for the neglected true artists faced with the overwhelming proliferation and promotion of 'pseudo art', there's even a radical concluding suggestion inviting them to band together for a greater purpose than promoting only their own work. It is the perfect icing on a cake packed with flavorful insights and reflections!

The Point
G. Nykanen
Privately Published
9780989878456 $15.99 pbk.
9780989878449 $4.99 ebook



Barnes & Noble:

What is The Point? It's quite simply a novel revolving around college student Nora, who drives away from school and a failed relationship to seek refuge in her small hometown; there to lick her wounds and recover. Her flight, however, turns out to be one not towards safety but en route to danger when she falls under the spell of Dane, a budding smalltime criminal who finds his increasingly-violent, newfound relationship with Nora provides exactly the kind of sexual excitement lacking in his life.

This is how a dangerous psychopath is born and innocent Nora's unwitting involvement will change both their lives through the darkness that winds its way around them both in The Point.

While billed as a 'thriller', this novel is so much more. It's psychological tension at its best, probing the motivations of violence and its birth and feeding. It shows how vulnerability can lead to danger and, in turn, how surviving danger can ultimately create newfound strength, determination, and vision. And it offers plenty of moments which readers can readily identify with, from Nora's initial disappointments in love ("She'd been hoping he'd confess his love. She was searching for any sign that he felt as connected to her as she did to him.") to how and why she comes to feel more connected to Dane.

Ultimately it's these connections that lie at the heart of the thriller package, inviting readers to consider the sources of dangerous attraction and its eventual results. As Nora's odyssey moves swiftly from initial magnetism to deeper discoveries, chapters present the rationales she employs to overlook warning signs that something's very wrong.

It takes a clever deputy who has long known of Dane's potential for violence to thwart the inevitable; but it also takes a series of revelations on Nora's part as she struggles with other romantic possibilities and recovery on different levels.

As Dane descends into a world of violent manipulation of women (and there are graphic scenes, be forewarned but G. Nykanen pulls back from outright shock, employing good taste to set the scenes of depravity without going over the top in describing sordid specifics), he comes closer and closer to moving from torture to outright murder.

What will stop him, and what will keep Nora safe? And will Nora rise to the call when her friend Lucy falls under Dane's spell? It's a series of escalating encounters for all involved, providing a solid story packed with psychological insights on motivation, action, and purpose; all wrapped up in a thriller that keeps its mystery right up to its unpredictable conclusion which offers a satisfying counter to the darkness that permeates much of the story.

Make Me
Rhiannon Holte
Exposure Productions
9780578144085, $7.70 pbk. / $2.99 eBook

Rhiannon Holte's novel Make Me is exciting on several levels. For one, it's a recommendation for mature young adult to adult readers and creates an unusual story based on the author's real-life best friend, a Hollywood wannabe who, like so many aspiring actresses, became prey for the sordid users that hover around the industry seeking to take advantage of fallen angels.

Another notable device employed here: a contemporary, believable scene that revolves around two teens who inadvertently create a website that goes viral, forcing upon them all the changes that fame brings: outsiders, special interests, paparazzi, and a suddenly-exploding fan base that threatens their friendship.

Finally, this entire process is cemented with its own website ( ) which pairs stunning visuals and vibrant blog discussions with the real-world events and people behind the novel in a move that brings everything to vivid life.

And now, for the book itself: even with website support aside, it's a winner: fresh, unusual, revealing, and dramatically unpredictable. Just what is needed for mature teens looking for something contemporary, web-supported, and thoroughly unpredictable and engrossing.

It revolves around Anya Allen, a Hollywood wannabe who "...knew that beauty is the fairy dust of fate. She also knew that if a girl wanted to be a star, she would need something more precious than beauty, something rarer than talent. She needed luck."

Make Me is about where her drive for success will bring her in life and it presents imbedded, website-supported photos and references throughout to add spice and reality to its written descriptions of all involved in Anya's life and quest for recognition: "Javier wasn't just good with a camera, he was also a major computer nerd. He made us an awesome website and created a free app that featured an avatar of Anya."

From California to New York, the pressures and pleasures of creating a persona and product that resonate and go viral are documented in lively chapters filled with contemporary sights, sounds, and lingo. Passages documenting the costs and process of such fame are particularly powerful testimonies to the stresses involved: "Some of the other passengers were looking at us and a few took pictures with their cells. I didn't want the psycho fringe spreading rumors about her being even more unstable, so I said yes. But I didn't feel good about it. The closer you get to someone the more it hurts when things go bad."

Anya's ability to break rules in more ways than one results in a series of conflicts, challenges, and encounters with self and public personas alike that ultimately test the boundaries of friendship and support systems.

When violence eventually catches up with them and affects their circle, it's narrated with a close eye to detail and a realistic voice that pulls readers into events and their consequences: "Tommy's leg was in pieces but at least he was alive. We later found out from the police that it was Haiku Girl. She had put one of those pressure cooker bombs in the bottom of the basket but was so nervous about activating it that she didn't even look to see whether a man or a woman had come out of the building to pick up the flowers. (Can you really learn to make a pressure cooker bomb on the internet? Seriously?)"

The real question is: who would sell their soul for a piece of the spotlight? And which protagonist really needs the makeover that is one of the constant themes permeating this novel? You'll just have to read Make Me for some answers: it's a gripping, involving real-life story with a contemporary voice that just won't quit.

My Guide: Manage Chronic Pain
Rebecca Richmond
Richmond Pickering Ltd.
9780957237254, $26.00 (17 Brit. pounds), Kindle for $10.50 (6.17 Brit. pounds)

As the population ages, surely My Guide: Manage Chronic Pain will prove of steady, increasing interest; because with that aging process too often comes chronic pain from one condition or another.

Surprisingly, while there's a host of books on the market about pain, too few offer a variety of real, effective management solutions.

Now, My Guide: Manage Chronic Pain isn't designed to replace a doctor's advice. It's intended to supplement that advice with specific strategies that worked for author Rebecca Richmond, who suffered some seven years of constant pain and who employed the devices herein to achieve not just pain reduction, but a return to an active and busy lifestyle.

Any who have suffered from lasting pain know what an achievement this is, lending credibility to the book's varied approaches and its promise that these different pain management strategies will actually work together to significantly change a sufferer's life.

And if this sounds miraculous, keep in mind that Rebecca Richmond is not talking 'cure', but 'management'. There IS a difference.

Chapters focus on this process by building a management profile of strategies that include meditation and other mind-body techniques. Right off the bat, Rebecca Richmond advises readers that the process is intended for the open-minded reader (and, having gone through any traditional management process, you'd think any struggling with chronic pain would harbor this willingness to try anything for relief): "This book is for people who understand or who are open to the idea that our minds can have an effect on our well-being, and how we cope with and manage pain. That doesn't mean that the pain you are feeling is imagined, but it is important to accept that there are ways you can reduce the intensity in which you feel it."

The program is presented in a step-by-step series of chapters that build upon one another, creating stepping stones of techniques and explanations of the physical and mental challenges of chronic pain.

Differences in pain tolerance levels and perception, ways to thwart pain through routines by building endorphins, and understanding how the conscious and unconscious mind are affected by pain make for enlightening discussions that prepare readers for the next step: taking control of mental processes to short-circuit the common pathways of pain.

Sleep switches, how to live more effectively in the "eye of the storm of everyday events", incorporating flexibility and calmness into one's lifestyle to (most importantly) change reactions to life's daily events may seem like small things; but in the bigger picture of pain management, these attitude adjustments can ultimately play big roles.

Even more importantly, My Guide: Manage Chronic Pain points out that there is no single pathway to effective chronic pain management. Together, all these tools work as Rebecca Richmond has proved with her own life experience. Individually, they are simply pieces and small tools contributing to the larger picture.

And that's why My Guide: Manage Chronic Pain needs to be read and absorbed in its entirety. From living 'in the moment' and recognizing physical (and mental) signs of well-being and symptoms of stress to fostering life-enhancing relationships and tackling fear, all the tools are here for lasting, positive change. More importantly, as Rebecca Richmond demonstrates through her own life adjustments, they work. All that's required is a willingness to foster flexibility, try new things, and use the many approaches contained in My Guide: Manage Chronic Pain, a workbook of hope and positive results.

Charles L. Carson
KaleBoy Publishing
No ISBN, $2.99 Kindle

How could the media not jump on the story of vanished Syrians found halfway around the world in China, eviscerated and discarded? And how could widowed Harvard lawyer and disgraced prosecutor Jack McManus, barely recovered from his last struggle with personal and professional trials, not be drawn to investigate?

The answer is that both are inevitable, with illegal and immoral organ harvesting emerging from Jack's probe of such disparate elements as the reason for a string of airplane crashes, a powerful Oligarch, a Buddhist enclave.

So what role does Russia play in this already-complex mix? The prologue opens with yet another mystery to add to the pile, deftly setting a scene of treachery, subterfuge, and political manipulations at the highest levels of Russian society.

It's quite a jump from Russia to San Francisco, where a jury verdict has rendered Jack through with being a defense lawyer Having just wrapped up his last case, he flies cross-country to Washington, upon special request, to rejoin the Department of Justice (despite their stormy relationship of the past) as Director of International Operations.

He's just beginning to relax into a life much changed when he's called to investigate the source of the previous year's string of still-unresolved airplane crashes: a task that in due course reveals a far greater danger and another worldwide threat that takes him away from his family and into the embrace of high-stakes risks.

The next thing you know, Jack is flying around the world in hot pursuit of the truth and getting dangerously close to a fact that will change not just the world, but his own life; ultimately threatening everything he holds closest to his heart.

Widowmaker is thriller writing at its best. There's just enough character depth to compel readers to care about the protagonist and his life, just enough information given to clarify events of the past and their meaning to present-day affairs, and just enough intrigue to spice an ever-changing story line: all this achieved without getting lost in a maze of details, or weighted down by loose strings, unlike so many thrillers these days.

Jack McManus provides his logic in a series of first-person reflections, insights, experiences and encounters that juxtapose nicely with chapters related in the third person, chronicling events and discoveries. The result is a satisfying progression of incidents that lead Jack increasingly into the tenuous world of terrorism and its justifications.

And there you have it: a Jack McManus thriller that excels in the unexpected, provides a worldwide case that eventually hits too close to home, and which involves thriller readers in nonstop action and intrigue from its very first page.

How could even the most seasoned thriller reader not jump on this story?

At the End of Meadow Street
Michael Paul
Damianos Publishing
9780988229587, $TBA pbk.
9780988229594 $5.99 Kindle,

At the End of Meadow Street isn't about the end of the block; it's about the last summer of childhood, a cocky sixth grader who seeks to make his mark on his world ("It was the last day of sixth grade and I was penciling in the word shithead on the corner of the desk behind my notebook. I had thought about writing my initials, but figured shithead was a better way to mark my legacy..."), and coming of age.

In this respect At the End of Meadow Street joins so many other similar accounts, chronicling the last sweet days of youth and the evolution of adult perceptions and fears that accompany growth: "Middle School was approaching in the fall and aside from everything changing ... I didn't feel ready for a big new world, or leaving the one I was used to so I tried not to think about it."

From risky adventures that could lead to tragedy ("They kneeled and grabbed my legs as I held onto the back tire with both hands. My cheek was lying flat on the mud and I shivered from both the cold earth and the fear of losing my friend.") to an embarrassing father's quirks (riding an old bicycle to a grocery store) and handling crushes with those mysterious creatures, girls, the protagonist's concerns epitomize the transition from childhood to young adulthood.

Secrets kept from parents, hidden lives and plots, and the formulation of adventures that promise spirited memories and discoveries: this is the essence of a progressive story of adolescence, spiced with some degree of cursing and a very real brotherhood of friends on the cusp of change.

It's Americana at its best, it's a lazy, slow summer's last gasp, and it's all about growing into one's persona and life. The protagonist stands ready to leave his childhood behind, and At the End of Meadow Street invites readers to follow this process, presenting a novel that perfectly captures modern culture and preteen pursuits with deft precision and compelling imagery and events.

Recommended for any who enjoy solid, believable and compelling coming-of-age reads, At the End of Meadow Street does not disappoint in its focus on the dual drives towards comfortable familiarity and a more adventurous (but unpredictable) future.

The Day She Died
Bill Garrison
Castle Gate Press
9780990439905, $TBA print
9780990439912, $TBA ebook

Now, here's a genre mystery with a twist: it's also a time travel story. And if, by this, you're anticipating a theme similar to Somewhere in Time, think again: it's not a romance but a mystery plain and simple, and therefore carries with it all the intrigue and suspense applied to a tense thriller; but with the time travel factor adding more than a feel of divergence.

Yes, there's romance but there's also a twenty-year-old unsolved crime and the rare opportunity to go back in time for clues to make things right on many levels.

And this is where The Day She Died gets delightfully complex and unique: as protagonist John comes to unearth these clues of the past, the fine line between dreams and reality begins to fade and with them, important keys to resolution. New opportunities emerge under new realities and different rules of conduct when John finds himself in his old apartment reliving the worst day of his life: the day when Kim disappeared twenty years ago.

The past is now 'today' yet, John holds memories of this strange old world, and with his encounter comes the unexpected hope that most time travelers harbor: an opportunity to change and correct past errors. But, at what cost?

As readers follow this unusual, winding plot of investigation and hope they become immersed in John's thought processes as he investigates Kim's circle further, probing clues he'd originally passed by: "Who was Ray Pope? Okay, this was 1985. What kind of man was he in 1992 when Kim disappeared? What kind of man would this lanky assistant coach become? How would he know Kim?"

And as his investigation continues, John finds himself mired in a deadly game that moves beyond Kim's disappearance and is spiced by time travel's enticing possibilities, which even include a wedding to the girl of his dreams: "Kim had vanished, and John's life had changed forever. But in these pictures, Kim lived, and John continued to date her. It was a future John never had."

Even when he finds what he's looking for, the story doesn't end there: the overall mystery still drives events and John feels compelled to see it through to the end even if what he's newly regained might once again vanish.

If it sounds like this description is tiptoeing, it's only because The Day She Died is delightfully sinuous, packed with revelations and the unexpected. Although the time-travel piece may sound confusing, it's not: Bill Garrison paints a believable, easily-followed story line that will immerse even the most seasoned of mystery readers and time travel enthusiasts, to surprise and delight right up to the end.

And in the mystery and time travel worlds, that's no mean feat!

Mystery readers tired of predictable plots and singular dimensions will find The Day She Died offers a different tale designed to challenge and delight!

Don't Die With Regrets
John A. Brennan
Escribe Publishing Inc.
0615975860, $19.95,

Don't Die With Regrets: Ireland and the Lessons My Father Taught Me comes from an Irish writer whose saga begins in ancient Ireland but quickly moves to the present day as he travels the world on a journey of self-discovery and revelations.

The basic focus is upon what it means to live life to the fullest so that time is not wasted and at life's end there are few regrets for 'what could have been'. The course of Brennan's life not only holds true to his pursuit, but offers readers food for thought during similar searches for meaning.

This takes the form of stories depicting lessons learned from both a childhood in Ireland and a coming of age in America. His personal journey is backed by a long family history and spiced with illustrations that document the Brennan family and its experiences.

Anticipate first-person stories that offer vignettes of wisdom stemming from everything from a fishing incident to a garden's lessons on hard work and which teaches basics on handling people both nasty and positive and using one's talents to understand the world at large.

At each stage Brennan offers his own perspective on growth, evolution, and how even routine habits lead to a better understanding of the world: "I can always judge my performance by counting the number of times during the day that I have bitten my tongue...This simple act sets the tone for the rest of the day and serves as an important reminder. I have discovered that aggressive people feel justified only if they receive negative feedback."

And so Don't Die With Regrets is not only about making the most of one's time, but doing so with a focus that attracts good people and insights and neatly deflects negativity and soul-consuming strife.

There are spiritual insights, social insights, and travel encounters as well as family history; all woven into a blend of autobiography and inspirational writing designed to simultaneously entertain and educate.

Any reader looking for such a blend will find Don't Die With Regrets to be a delightful, thought-provoking read.

Our Journey with Prostate Cancer: Empowering Strategies for Patients and Families
Judith Anne Desjardins, LCSW, BCD, MSWAC
Spirit House Publishing
9780990499404, $19.95

Readers who anticipate that Judith Anne Desjardins' Our Journey with Prostate Cancer: Empowering Strategies for Patients and Families will be an autobiography of experience would be missing the point, here: it's not just another experiential story, but is intended as a Guided Meditation for inspiration and empowerment, and as such is an important tool in one's cancer-fighting artillery.

From the initial shock of diagnosis and handling the emotions that affect individuals, families, and circles of friends to weighing prostate cancer treatment options and results, Our Journey with Prostate Cancer provides plenty of medical and spiritual insights and considers the entire process of recovery to include spiritual development; not just those surrounding treatment options and alternative therapies.

In this, Our Journey with Prostate Cancer digresses from other cancer stories: it takes the doctor-centric focus of diagnosis and gives a dose of power back to the patient, who actually faces many choices and options, from reactions to treatment to overall life changes.

Patients are often isolated in their pain and concerns, doctors adopt professional detachment, and in such a milieu, spiritual and psychological concerns may be pushed aside. Our Journey adopts a cooperative attitude about the experience (thus, the 'our', which includes readers as well as patients) and considers quality-of-life choices for patients, family members, medical professionals and any on the front lines of cancer treatment and research.

Chapters are packed with recommendations on handling everything from anxiety attacks to fear, whether it surrounds cancer, money concerns, or personal relationships. They include journal excerpts, visualization exercises, and discussions with God, family and self.

Judith Anne Desjardins has created a unique chronicle in the annals of cancer experience and research by incorporating a range of multifaceted approaches to handling cancer and its challenges, juxtaposing perspectives from journal entries (by not only herself but others), and creating an atmosphere of positive honesty: one which provides concrete images, approaches, and insights.

Any reader interested in choosing empowerment over illness will find Our Journey with Prostate Cancer an inviting, easy and thought-provoking read, filled with a variety of reflections, strategies and options!

State-Sponsored Sex and Other Tales of International Misadventure
Claire Noble
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781494703158, $8.99,

State-Sponsored Sex and Other Tales of International Misadventure is travel memoir writing at its best, packed with vignettes from the outer limits of world experience designed to delight, entertain and educate any armchair reader who appreciates humor injected into eye-popping action.

The chapter headings alone should tell you that you're in for something different from the usual travelogue. You won't find such descriptions as 'Axe-Murdering Troll Seeks Same', 'Up the Yin Yang' or 'The Bitch in the Kitchen' in every travel book, for example! And what stories they are: the chapters are only a leadin for the zany, wild ride readers can expect from this carousel of wonder.

There's no lazy leadin to these sagas: action begins with a bang and shoots through descriptions that are peppered with autobiography. Claire Noble admits that a childhood in a typical West Texas town didn't begin to prepare her for encounters on the road of life, despite an all-American focus and despite the fact international influence was everywhere: "I may have craved adventure, but I had no idea what to expect. Much like 1950s predictions of life in the twenty-first century, my concept of life beyond the El Paso city limits was not entirely fact based. For instance, my initial insights into the venerable and ancient culture of the Orient came courtesy of the Peking Palace restaurant in El Paso, Texas."

So she was especially vulnerable and wide-eyed when she journeyed beyond Texas's border and even beyond the U.S.'s border. That she was able to openly embark on such a trip can be blamed in part on neighborhood street names that hinted at different environments likely not brown, parched, or dull.

Don't expect travel encounters alone, here: Noble includes a healthy dose of autobiographical reflection as she considers the impact of pregnancy on body and soul, muses on places visited and revisited over the decades, and cultural and political influences on places around the world:

"Two years after opening, Krispy Kreme Hong Kong closed its doors forever. It was not consumer dietary conscientiousness that killed it, but Hong Kong's brutal retail rental environment. Selling donuts did not pay, not enough to rent in Causeway Bay. The problem with optimism was that the line between it and naivete was not clearly delineated. Like the proprietors of Krispy Kreme, we also arrived in

Hong Kong betting on success. Arriving in Hong Kong in 2000, I was on an adventure, but returning to Hong Kong in 2006, I was on a mission."

As she faces down such unlikely scenarios as her daughter's diagnosis of scarlet fever in Hong Kong and its impact on those around her, family life and cultural differences continue to be the highlight: "...even though Hong Kong no longer maintained vestiges of Dickens' days like debtors' prisons and child labor, it did quarantine people in its holiday parks in the event of disease outbreaks. Holiday parks were Hong Kong's version of a KOA campground. In the event of quarantine I knew Brigitte would not be going alone. We would both be shipped off to some remote New Territories location."

Hers is not just a journey through different cultures (as so many travelogues portray): it's a journey exploring Noble's place in those worlds and their impact on her life.

In this, State-Sponsored Sex truly shines, carving out a unique spot for itself in the plethora that makes up the travelogue genre and providing readers with a constantly-changing combination of international encounters, cultural ironies, and their overall affects on the lives of all concerned.

Debut memoirs aren't usually this vivid or this varied. State-Sponsored Sex is fast, it's furious, it's down-to-earth, and it's inviting: what more could one ask for from a travel adventure that entertains even as it educates?

P.R.A.C.T.I.C.E. Coloring and Activity Book
Andrea J. HillSanders,
9781610054751, $9.95,

P.R.A.C.T.I.C.E. Coloring and Activity Book pairs large-sized black and white illustrations with keys to practicing love and responsible displays of emotion, and couples these line drawings, ready for coloring, with easy language analyzing the foundations of love and its meaning in children's and adult's lives.

It may sound weighty and demanding, but it's not. One of the glories of P.R.A.C.T.I.C.E. Coloring and Activity Book lies in a format that takes ordinarily-complex topics and transforms them into easily-digestible nuggets of wisdom accessible by an age group that otherwise might not absorb these kernels of wisdom until much later in life.

The young protagonist, Max, learns not just about his own emotions and reactions, but the effects his actions have on others: " he got older, there were some mornings that Max would forget to tell his mother how he felt about her....On the days that he forgot, Max didn't feel as happy inside. He wondered if his mother felt the same way. And that made him feel awful."

Lessons in perception boil down to the idea of "practicing love"... but how is this done, exactly? This basic idea and its implementation form the foundation of a lively, thought-provoking theme offered up to young picturebook readers who still enjoy coloring, yet are approaching the maturity level of being capable of reading and absorbing simple messages about understanding love.

Max isn't the only protagonist featured here: there's his friend Riley, a host of wise adults, and other lessons that range from learning from one's mistakes and solving problems to understanding the importance of practice in "making perfect".

Each example is illustrated with line drawings ideal for coloring, and each is presented using large print and simple explanations geared to young hearts and minds.

In addition to the coloring, youngsters are invited to use a more complicated "word find" grid to find words such as "love", '"trust" and "forgive", and are encouraged to incorporate the basic concepts of practice and thoughtfulness into a fundamental understanding of how emotions operate in the world.

It's a fine, positive, and reinforcing introduction to kids just beginning to understand the world outside themselves: the coloring and activity format is the perfect fortification for these basics!

Terms of Engagement
Lorrie Farrelly
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B006NFFKWO $19.95

Book Two of Terms of Engagement (a story that began with Terms of Surrender) may be set in 1885 Wyoming Territory; but to call this a 'historical novel' might be doing it a disservice. Anticipate romance, action, and the gripping saga of a woman trapped in a brutal marriage, who inadvertently falls in love with good doctor and widower Robert Delvin and that's only the beginning of a story that will quickly prove a fatal attraction to readers...fatal only because once you pick it up, it's nearly impossible to put down.

Second books in trilogies usually demand at least a cursory familiarity with the first novel, to make sense. While obtaining and reading Terms of Surrender will quickly become of interest, it's by no means a requirement for appreciating Terms of Engagement.

There's romance, history, intrigue, and more than a healthy dose of action; all bound within a plot that both supports Book One and stands well on its own.

The first thing to note is that past events are deftly summed up in a prologue that sets the stage for the adventures of physician Robert and his five-year-old daughter. Robert's newfound, growing passion for his new patient is only equaled by his commitment to a young daughter whom he protects against all evils after his initial distance from her life.

Terms of Engagement is all about Rob's evolving relationship with Tess (not the continuing saga of Michael and Annie that was presented in Terms of Surrender although they do make cameo appearances).

And in comparison with the high drama Book One, the opening 'acts' could be said to be milder. It's evident that Lorrie Farrelly has refined her approach to focus on a slower buildup of tension without sacrificing her ability to grab and involve readers as she develops emotional connections between two very different protagonists. This slightly different development approach incorporates the same tension-building strengths, but with even more depth than in Terms of Surrender.

And for those who appreciate genre-crossing reads, there's also a touch of the supernatural, as Rob's guardian angel Gavin has informed him he still has much to do in the world, and changes to make. Will Tess be one of those changes, or will a vengeful husband and an assassin stop their love?

You could say 'of course not'; but Terms of Engagement is anything but cut-and-dry reading and draws readers into the choices and predicaments of Tess and Rob both as individuals and as a possible couple: "I've made so many missteps," she said, looking down at her hand in his. "So many wrong choices. For Scottie's sake, I can't afford to make any more."

That Michael and Annie's relationship swirls between and around them links the two plots and lends a continuity and familiarity to this separate (yet subtly interconnected) story of their evolving love.

It's romance reading at its best; and while readers of Terms of Surrender may at first find startling the slower buildup in Terms of Engagement, the final result is an even more intricate development of characters, setting, and plot; adding political scenarios and involving readers in a tense story that's based on real-world Western history and events.

Terms of Temptation
Lorrie Farrelly
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00BP2UTO4 $12.99

Terms of Temptation is Book Three of the trilogy begun in Terms of Surrender; and it's here that newcomers should be advised to at least be familiar with its predecessors. Temptation continues the lives and loves of the Cantrell and Devlin families but takes another turn in introducing the romance between Deputy Game Warden Bram Killoran and feisty Kinley Cantrell, who is more than capable of taking care of herself and defending the animals she so loves...

So much so that it seems unlikely that Bram has any chance with her, as he is equally headstrong in a different direction.

All this changes when life's circumstances throw them a curve ball of love and adventure, prompting each to reconsider their choices, lives, and objectives.

Another satisfying device: their love is anything but soft and evolving. At first it's actually a spirited clash of personalities that slowly builds mutual, grudging respect between the two disparate forces. Like an antimatter collision, what would seem to cancel each other out instead merges to build something greater.

But wait, there's more... more than romance alone. There's a familiarity about Kinley (previously introduced as the toddler in Terms of Engagement) who now uses the troublesome events of her childhood to hone a forceful personality larger than life's trials themselves.

And supernatural beneficial angel Gavin is back, too even though it's only the second time he's appeared to help out a non-blood relative. In fact, expect a host of family members and protagonists throughout who lend both depth and a satisfying complexity and familiarity to the story of an unusual love.

Terms of Temptation ties all three books together (as well they should, in a trilogy), with prior characters interacting with new ones, and previous connections presenting different angles.

Taken individually, the three books in this trilogy read like separate adventures with light connections; but in Terms of Temptation everything is joined together, loose ends are tied up, and family connections are made and strengthened.

It's about abandonment and recovery, tension and release, and the problems created by a man just trying to do his job and a girl who loves animals above all else in life.

You'll just have to read all three books to discover for yourself how different they are and how their final linked exploration proves satisfying. Highly recommended for any who want interconnected yet separate plots, passions, and interests; especially those who want their trilogies to stand strongly both singly and as a unit.

Evergreen: The Story of a Forbidden Love that was so Beautiful and Right
Clyde R. Hedges
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781500232115, $16.00

Evergreen: The Story of a Forbidden Love that was so Beautiful and Right offers the perspective of a college professor and is romance writing at its best, but don't expect your candy-coated, one-dimensional portrait of a couple 'made for each other'. This gritty, realistic story that follows their growth both as individuals and in a relationship. And by providing such depth, Evergreen goes where few romances dare as it probes the life of Craig, who nurtures his evergreens in much the manner he does his life: with close, personal inspection and attention to detail.

In the opening chapters of this drama, readers find Craig is married to Karen, a fellow teacher but this isn't about their safe, comfortable relationship. It's about a romance of the past: a romance brought to renewed inspection by a letter from a former student of his previous love, Ellen.

The floodgates of memory are thus opened and Craig walks through them as he recalls that Ellen was not only the most beautiful woman he'd ever met, but the force that changed his life forever.

Chapter Two is the beginning of Craig's flashback to his high school years, and its here that the romance really begins not with his present-day relationship with wife Karen, but with his adolescence and relationship with teacher Ellen, reminiscent of elements of The Graduate and other coming-of-age stories but with more emphasis on the romance part.

This is one of the appeals of Evergreen, and one of the facets which sets it apart from either typical coming-of-age stories or genre romances: the fact that it provides more depth and emotional exploration than either approach tends to offer.

Yes, there's a new English teacher, and romance between them has already been built into the first chapter. But beyond that setup, there's much to say, starting with Craig's initial impression ("Standing with Mr. Norman and Miss Amerest and Mr. Alms was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life. She would be our English Lit teacher first semester, and American Lit the second. As soon as I saw her, I knew that I and every other boy assigned to her classes had been blessed.") and moving into the blossoming love between them. All this takes place in a small town in Kansas: a setting that offers much familiarity, routine, and few surprises ... thus, the new teacher has much to offer in more ways than one.

At this point it would have been easy to take a predictable path; yet Clyde R. Hedges doesn't just focus on two people, but the politics and psychology of an entire town. His attention to detail throughout the story's progression is simply delightful, with realistic and fun twists along the way ranging from a smart, savvy woman's intervention on behalf of her students to insights into the motivations and perceptions of very different characters who occasionally clash: "Hank had begun to falter when Miss Wisely mentioned arresting the Redfields. That would mean a full house, and he might have to spend the night guarding them."

In fact, it's because of his teacher that Craig is now married to Karen and it's due to her teaching that he knows as much about love as he does. This psychology and focus on understanding permeates every section of Evergreen and spices interpersonal relationships with a depth that avoids shallow surface perceptions: "...the Karen I've observed likes you very much, so much it scares her. Yes, she was planning on dumping you, or turning you over, to make it sound a little better, but only because she doesn't want to get deeply involved with you." "Why would that scare her?" I asked her. "Because she has plans. She wants to go away to college, and she wants to please her father and mother, and because she wants to be single and free when she gets to her new campus."

Graduation is not only just around the corner for Craig: so are decisions that only he can make; that center around love and how to recognize and pursue it: "This is why you have to leave now," she whispered. "Karen isn't the only one who has to make good decisions." "I don't want to go," I told her. "I don't want you to," she admitted. "But that's a bad decision. We have to make good ones."

As Craig considers his peers and the adults around him and how love grows or is thwarted by life's events, his teacher is there to help him. Her wisdom is the beacon that ultimately guides his life and choices, even while they indulge in a relationship that can't continue: "I'm also old enough and wise enough to know that we can't go on forever. You mean far too much to me to burden you with a woman who is twenty-two years your senior. The day will

come when you need to be with a younger woman who can give you life time companionship and love, and the children you deserve so much."

All this is why Evergreen should not be marketed as a 'romance' alone, but as a 'literary, coming-of-age romance'. It's so much more than a singular genre effort, and will reach well beyond the usual romance novel enthusiast to captivate readers with questions of right and wrong, choices and consequences, and decisions that hold a lifetime of impact.

Why NOT Women Priests?
Lawrence J. O'Brien
Privately Published

Why NOT Women Priests? A Way to Atone for 17 Centuries of Official Discrimination against Females is an in-depth history of the patterns and paths of the Catholic Church, and charts its relationship to women over the centuries and how practices begun in early Roman times have spilled over into modern times, much to the detriment of the Church.

One might expect such an analysis would come from a priest, historian, scholar, or expert in religious studies; so it's surprising to note that Lawrence J. O'Brien is a former altar boy (turned skeptic) who began his critical inquiry of Church matters even while attending a preparatory seminary. His encounters with priests, his studies of Jesus, and his studies of papacy history only reinforced his increasing skepticism of some of the Church's perceptions, rituals and underlying beliefs.

All this ties in perfectly with current trends analyzing the future of the Catholic Church and creates a strong foundation for analytical thinking in Why NOT Women Priests? O'Brien's decision to write this book in order to dispel myths and more finely tune questions about the past, present, and future of the Catholic Church results in a critical observational piece that focuses on how (and why) the Church should empower women to foster its own growth and health in the 21st century.

An introduction considers, first of all, how such empowerment will benefit the Catholic Church, charting the histories of organizations that fail to achieve such goals and why they subsequently stop working. This sets the tone for an exploration of the Church's evolution, how its basic tenets are rooted in Roman traditions, and how Biblical fiction has been perpetuated by various members of the Church: "It is remarkable to note that the distortion of reality that has produced the false and scurrilous picture of Mary of Magdala did not take root until more than five centuries after Jesus was crucified, when a Pope - inconceivably referred to as "Gregory the Great" and later canonized by the Roman church - quite consciously and deliberately fictionalized the story of Mary Magdalene to suit his needs of the moment."

But this is no ordinary review of historical (or even Biblical) fact alone: one of the delights of O'Brien's analysis is his attention to giving a different 'spin' to history: one more reasoned and analytical than most: "Gregory I had benefitted from the "Invasioni Barbariche." While the word "barbarian" has had the fairly neutral meaning of "foreigner" in many European languages, it also includes such clearly pejorative descriptives as uncivilized, cruel, rude, uncouth, unmannerly and brutal. During nearly two centuries, wave after wave of mostly young and virile people emerging chiefly from Germanic lands had been on the move across Europe in what historians refer to as the "migration of nations." Moving down from the North, up from the South and across from the East, their only unifying plan seemed to be to storm the gates of Rome. Despite the negative terms commonly used to describe these migrating populations, it should not be surprising that they embodied the good and the evil, the gentle as well as the rapacious. It turned out that the behavior of these "barbarians" was often distinguished by a decency more pronounced than could usually be found among the Roman people. Their respect for and treatment of women, despite rough manners and coarse living, greatly improved upon prevailing Roman patterns of behavior toward females."

It's passages (and approaches) such as this that makes Why NOT Women Priests? an exceptional piece, moving beyond simple history, analysis or dogma to consider why the Catholic Church perpetuated a policy of keeping women from the highest echelons of Church power.

From early Roman times to the founding of America and its interactions with Native Americans, women's leadership roles and gender relationships are analyzed in perspective of partnership, domination, and the evolution of Christian traditions and thought.

From Pioneer reading matter (which always included the Bible) to a survey of canon law and the Vatican's stand on abortion, women's liberation movements, and the Church's evolution since Jesus, Why NOT Women Priests? provides a powerful survey supported by footnoted research, quotes from source materials, and inspections of how different priests, popes, and Catholic entities formed and affected the Church.

What will it take to form a priesthood more in keeping with the color and gender-blind sentiments of Jesus? For one thing: a radical restructuring which begins with the ordainment and acceptance of women in higher leadership roles: just one of the key facets that, O'Brien maintains, can lead to a much more powerful, effective Church structure.

Any with an interest in keeping Catholicism alive and growing well into the next century should consider the historical, social and spiritual analysis and arguments that form Why NOT Women Priests?

When Love Speaks
Maha Khalid
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781500122072, $8.65,

An ebook on Amazon is available at $4.99 or free with the paperback version.

When Love Speaks An Unusual Conversation with Love is about Maha Khalid's difficulties with love, her spirit-crushing encounters with love's challenges, and why love remained so elusive for her. It's also about acceptance, the ideal (versus the reality) of love, patterns of love and rejection, and how Khalid came to realize that needing, wanting, and loving were often very different things.

Through her friendship with an unusual individual who introduces her to elements of Sufism and divine connections, Khalid came to understand higher principles of what love is (and is not), and imparts her newfound wisdom here, in When Love Speaks.

It's difficult to neatly categorize When Love Speaks: perhaps this is because it's not a singular creation. It incorporates elements of autobiography, but primarily in the context of the author's search for love's definition. It considers psychology and spirituality but in the process of explaining and exploring higher levels of love's opportunities for transformation and change. And it reaches even higher and further in offering a consideration of the process of 'growing into love', with all of its depth and meaning.

Thus, readers of autobiography, psychology, spirituality and self-help will all be likely audiences for When Love Speaks.

Messages range from the potential of different kinds of friendships to hold love, to allowing time and space within one's self to reach out to another, question the presence (or absence) of mutual love, and nurture the seeds of affection in an unhurried manner: a slow progression often lacking in modern, fast-paced connections.

From how transformation works to connect newfound values and love to finding joy in something other than accumulating worldly possessions, When Love Speaks is all about finding, recognizing, and using the joys and opportunities inherent in daily life experiences and perhaps this is the book's greatest strength.

Any who would consider a set of reflections well grounded in not just the ideal of love but which identify lasting, satisfying work, people and perspectives will find When Love Speaks to be a powerful set of admonitions that hold the opportunity for reader self-inspection (and, ultimately, successful living).

Once Upon a Wager
Julie LeMense
Crimson Romance
9781440581588, $14.99 pbk.
9781440581595, $4.99 ebook

First off, it should be said that an affinity for Regency-style romances is recommended for any who happen upon Once Upon a Wager, which adopts the style as it presents the saga of a 1800s romance between an earl and a member of a slightly lower class.

The setting is England, the politics, society and concerns of the upperclass of the Regency period swirl around a story steeped in conflicted romance, and Julie LeMense succeeds in upping the ante by providing not only the anticipated Regency-style devices of dialogue and 1800s history, but moral and ethical issues that accompany the affairs and romances of the times.

LeMense's approach combines the best of both traditional and historical Regency writings; and that's just one of its strengths.

Readers of Georgette Heyer, Amanda Quick and other history-oriented Regency writers can anticipate a focus on historical setting that successfully builds a believable setting, while those anticipating the sensual focus of more recent Regency authors won't be disappointed by the steamy passages between the charming earl Alec Carstairs and the beguiling commoner Annabelle.

Alec has betrayed his honor and his standing by associating with Annabelle and in the wake of their breakup, it's up to him to move on. But this is easier said than done, and the story of their evolving relationship is vivid and provocative, dancing delicate steps between sexuality and social insight: "Annabelle was free in a way he'd never been, full of life and laughter. She was warm, vital, and sparkling, like flames in the night. But never had someone been more unsuited to the path that he must follow. His happiness was not his own. It did not matter that he wanted her, that he could no longer deny his desire. How shocked she'd be to know that while he had been untangling her hair, he'd been imagining it wound around him, her body naked beneath his own."

Another satisfying distinction between this and other Regency styles: Once Upon a Wager seeks (and achieves) a balanced representation of the perspectives of male and female protagonists. This lends a depth and understanding to each character's social, political and emotional reactions that is simply not evident in competing romances that tend to focus primarily on female observations and only add in male concerns as a (one-dimensional) afterthought.

Indeed, Once Upon a Wager is anything but singular: its characters are well and fully developed, the romance is firmly rooted in believable, compelling historical details, and the death of a beloved son that rocks everyone's world is woven so finely into the story line that readers will find compelling the added drama surrounding an innocent bet that goes terribly wrong and tears Alec and Annabelle apart.

It's about honor as much as it's about love; about sacrifice as much as about selfish abandon, and it's about political and social alliances in the aftermath of a love that faces strife not only from family members but from social positioning and obligation: "Miss Fitzsimmons is a fine woman from a respected family, and she has a pristine reputation," he replied. He had been over her qualifications any number of times. "She's a skilled hostess, which will be an asset as I move forward in Parliament. She will value our family's name and its legacy." "I recognize that logic." His mother sighed. "Those are the same assets your father sought to gain when he married me." "Which validates their worth, don't you think?" he asked..."

They say time heals all wounds and certainly time winds inexorably onward for Alec and Annabelle, who lead separate, different lives only find themselves unexpectedly connected once more, against all odds. But will the scars of war and tragedy mar not only body, but mind?

Part of the outcome of Once Upon a Wager is predictable and part is startling. Suffice it to say that a combination of exquisite tension, attention to historical setting and detail, and the more unusual approach of developing both male and female romantic perceptions makes Once Upon a Wager a satisfying read for romance fans in general and Regency readers in particular.

Rule of Law
Dustin D. Romney
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781499159783, $6.99,

Rule of Law: Why and How We Must Amend the Constitution makes a solid case for revising and revamping not just government, but the Constitution itself: so one might initially anticipate that such a call to action would be filled with personal opinion. Such an assumption would be wrong, however: Rule of Law supports its case through a combination of historical precedent and analysis and reasoned arguments that incorporate legal, social, economic and political concerns. As such, it's a recommendation for any who would consider the 'pro' arguments involved in a Constitutional overhaul.

Chapters point out the obvious (that current political process just isn't working) and also consider reasons for this failure; but the 'meat' of Rule of Law doesn't lie in statements of fact, but in proposed solutions.

This may sound complicated; but it's not: the 'rule of law' is actually quite simple and is very clearly spelled out from the beginning: "There is an inherent understanding in all of us that rules should be enforced, and if they are unenforceable

or otherwise unsound, they should be changed. That serves as a solid definition of the rule of law, and it captures a central premise of this book. The rules of government are spelled out in the Constitution. Yet we have strayed so far from it that much of it is now unenforceable. How did we get here? How does this affect our political processes? What can we do to fix it? These are some the questions addressed in this book."

And, to be clear, the 'rule of law' wasn't created by Dustin D. Romney, but is a basic political and legal concept that sounds good on paper, but is too seldom applied to the real world.

This is where Rule of Law comes into play: it's about the 'how' of applying this basic idea to the highest levels of governmental structure, offering specifics and not the generalities one might anticipate from a suggestion to revise the Constitution itself.

Chapters take different clauses and closely examine them for 'true meaning'. They study controversial viewpoints of Congressional process, consider points for revision, and reference legal and political analysis and precedent in the course of suggesting alternatives based not on ideals, but upon reality of how laws are interpreted and applied.

No sacred cow is left to graze in its field of uncertainty: Romney tackles government debt and dubious economic policies, why regulation efforts only further problems, and provides damning evidence of the incongruities of current governmental process: "The Constitution was crafted to limit the scope of Federal programs. If Federal money should be spent on any project that has a worthy goal then where is the end of Federal spending? Apparently, according to Congress and the Courts, there is none, at least none other than what is politically unwise."

Don't expect this analysis to be without controversy: Romney makes some pointed observations that are certain to ruffle some feathers: "If voters place upon government the responsibility to offer charity and fairness, in terms of wealth distribution, with no limit, then there will be no end to using other people's money to achieve these ends. This is why charity and fairness belong in the private sector where wealth goes to the people who earn it and random luck falls on everyone with no bias or political agenda; and where free people are likely to be charitable. A social safety net should not exist to right the supposed wrongs of the free market. It should be there to simply help struggling people; which will inevitably exist in any system; get back on their feet, and that implies a strict limit on its use."

From wealth disparities and regulatory inconsistencies to observations of reality, Rule of Law pulls no punches and offers many solid insights: "Some say the poor in other developed nations are much better off than in the U.S., but no other developed nation has such a large and steady influx of low-skilled workers. It is also worthy of note that this influx of immigrants indicates that they see something promising in the United States which the detractors of income inequality do not."

So if it's a status quo read that is desired, don't go here. Rule of Law is all about creating a new set of conventions, supporting them with a combination of historical and legal precedent and analysis, and proposing solutions for many current political stalemates.

It will take an open-minded reader (specifically, one open to the idea of Constitutional amendment) to fully appreciate the contentions of Rule of Law and to critically consider the government's role in all facets of society, from privacy issues and due process to economic structures.

The contrast between 'what is' and 'what should be' is fairly irrefutable: the question is, how to we get to where we should be? Rule of Law takes a major step towards answering this question, and is a recommendation for any concerned with political process and civil liberties.

The Honeyeater
Yolanda A. Reid
Eleaf Press
9780983744009, $5.99,

Eulalia marries a young, brilliant doctoral candidate and so the stage seems set for a perfect life to evolve; but life is never that easy and when her childhood sweetheart and new husband Fabio has an affair with her sister, things quickly get messy.

In any other romance the rest of the story would center around these two characters, but here comes the twist: Eulaia gets on with her life with a new love before Fabio reenters the picture and now she faces a real conundrum: to forgive, forget, and return to a beloved figure from her past, or move on.

And that's where The Honeyeater gets sticky: their marriage wasn't just a romance, but an affair that involved reconciliation between two adversarial families. And much as the protagonists face their own personal conflicts, they also reflect a history of male infidelity and patterns of culture clashes.

The Honeyeater is rich and multifaceted in many ways; so if you're expecting a quick or predictable read, you're out of luck. It's a complex read steeped in the culture and traditions of Panama from the nation's religion to its colorful culture, and descriptions capture all these facets to build not just plot and character, but an equally compelling atmosphere: "One dish she liked to cook, she had invented the recipe, I think, - was Papa's favorite meal: stewed iguana in a mango, pepper, and onion sauce, served with white rice. Guavas and mangoes for dessert and ginger ale to "liquefy the hotness."

Eulalia's observations of her family's interactions in affairs of love and marriage, her coming of age and associations with Fabio, and her own evolution are all delicately woven into the story of two Panamanian families who don't get along, and who find that a forbidden love threatens to tear apart all the carefully-constructed, fragile bridges of understanding that have reluctantly been built in the wake of Eulalia and Fabio's romance.

Yes, it's a love story; but, it's so much more. It's also a story of eternal life, full circles, and transition points with the color and atmosphere of Panama encircling all and adding a richness and depth most novels lack.

What begins as a singular story of one woman's family connections and struggles with romance thus evolves into a cast of characters with different cultural observations and interactions, and what seems to be a set course of events rapidly changes to embrace a far bigger picture.

Without spoiling any surprises, suffice it to say that The Honeyeater is about far more than Eulalia and Fabio; but presents a history of events that intertwine and ultimately tell of women transformed.

Nanostructure Physics and Microelectronics
Dr. Sujaul Chowdhury
Narosa Publishing House
c/o Alpha Science International Limited
9781842659052, $98.95,

Textbooks on physics and textbooks covering electrical engineering are relatively commonplace, with more appearing yearly to attract the budgets, minds and curriculum of college professors interested in the latest, rapidly-changing research in these fields.

What aren't as common are books which combine the two, directing details to those pursuing a MS in physics and pairing physics with microelectronic processing details: that's why any professor teaching courses in either subject needs to consider the adoption and assignment of Dr. Sujaul Chowdhury's Nanostructure Physics and Microelectronics.

It stands apart from its competitors in several important ways; not the least of which is by its ability to simultaneously serve as both a student textbook and a professor's lecture agenda. This is no light accomplishment: straddling the line between the two necessarily means the book's structure must be accessible by both for somewhat different purposes.

Thus, Nanostructure Physics and Microelectronics is written in the form of lecture notes (indeed, it's based on the 10th version of the author's own lecture notes for the two-semester classes he's been teaching for decades), but provides a basic, progressive approach beginning with semiconductor theory with all the math, charts, graphs, and visuals a lecturer would ordinarily present in the course of his discussion.

One would think that this material would be covered elsewhere, and it is: the beauty of Nanostructure Physics and Microelectronics lays not so much in original research as in an original structure that pulls together a compendium of science and research studies under one cover: information that would ordinarily appear widely scattered and diffused across a number of physics and microelectronics references.

With this approach in mind, grad students receive a solid series of discussions that begin with a foundation in Fermi energy processes, semiconductor modeling, and elemental semiconductor physics and applications and progresses to atomic structure analysis, binary compound properties, crystal growth, and energy bands and gaps.

Adding in-depth physics as an intrinsic part of a discussion of microelectronics offers a rare opportunity for thorough grounding in both; all this supported by a wealth of formulas and graphics that explain major points and build a progressive knowledge base.

Drift velocity, saturation points, low and high magnetic field filling factors: all these are well illustrated both by discussion and through visual examples and formulas.

Part I holds a solid foundation introduction while Part II delves deeper into the physics of semiconductor nanostructures: all arranged so that even students who know little about the topic (but who study at the grad level) will find it accessible.

It's rare that a textbook can be recommended for either self-study or classroom assignment, but Nanostructure Physics and Microelectronics achieves both and provides the knowledge base that students need without requiring consultation of numerous references to glean bits and pieces of the bigger picture.

Quantum Mechanics
Dr. Sujaul Chowdhury
Narosa Publishing House
c/o Alpha Science International Limited
9781842658864, $84.95

That Dr. Sujaul Chowdhury can write for grad-level students has already been proven with Nanostructure Physics and Microelectronics; but the publication of Quantum Mechanics also proves he can write just as easily for students pursing BS degrees in physics.

Here undergraduate students receive a detailed textbook written with the idea that a wave is associated with a material particle (i.e. wave and particle coexist): everything is defined and based on this premise, with mathematical structures supporting quantum mechanics theory discussions.

Now, there are plenty of texts covering quantum mechanics: what differentiates Chowdhury's from competitors is his attention to creating a standalone course-in-a-book that combines calculations and mathematical formulae with physics theory and real-world applications.

It's intended for use as a two-semester course of study, can be used either by professors as a sourcebook for lecture materials or by students pursuing courses in quantum mechanics, and it discusses different approaches to calculation from Born series and approximations to what happens in the case of degenerate unperturbed eigenfunctions.

The basic difference (and strength) of this text lies in its ability to equally appeal to professors seeking ready-to-go lecture notes and students who want a calculation-supported discussion of quantum mechanics.

Rich in math and science, Quantum Mechanics is highly recommended for any college, professor or student pursuing an undergraduate course of study in quantum mechanics. Its organization is superb and its content is logically arranged and quite accessible.

The Bed
Nikos Vlachos
ASIN: B00KZ2DI84, $1.99

The Bed is a great read: it promises (and delivers) an involving story that moves deftly, logically and seamlessly through different time periods and brings the reader along for a ride, where events are linked by a bed and human dramas that evolve over a lifetime of experience. It's also presented as a play; but don't expect that the format will either get in the way or limit its audience to actors alone.

Reading a play from a book is different from reading a short story or a novel: scenes are set, characters explained, and emotions are dictated not by building a plot, but by directing the actor/reader.

The Bed also contains set notes, details for stage directions, and everything directors and actors need to produce the 2act romance, from props to background music (and yes, it has seen stage production; so it's intended for such production).

So keep this in mind before pursuing The Bed: A Two-Act Romantic Comedy then let all preconceived notions of 'what makes a play' soar out the window; because you'll find many of them don't fly, here.

The story begins in 1983 Chicago with a young couple's wedding day and moves quickly through the decades well into the future, to the year 2045. And if you're anticipating confusion from this time-traveling setting, think again: one of the attributes of The Bed is its uncommon ability to wheel through scenes of time changes with little interruption of plot, character, or setting.

All scenes take place in the bedroom (thus its title, The Bed), which will please play directors seeking simple settings with minimum changes; while readers normally skeptical of picking up and reading a play format (versus a short story or a novel) will find the tale of a struggling painter and a registered nurse to be delightfully accessible and engrossing.

The true power of a play is to fully immerse viewers (or, in this case, readers) in its story: in this, The Bed more than succeeds. The second ideal power of the play format lies in a steady progression that reflects changes in time, characters, and the movement of life's ups and downs: here, also, The Bed succeeds an especially notable point given the vast changes in time frames (from 30 hours later to years and then many decades down the line) which (under a lesser hand) could all too easily have proved confusing.

It's not easy to create a play that virtually sweeps readers along the time stream, following characters who logically progress and mature and who face newfound relationship challenges because of this evolutionary process.

That Nikos Vlachos is able to add more than a dose of humor, depth, and understanding to his romance (and make it more than accessible to readers who would not normally pick up the play format to read in lieu of a story format) is a tribute to his ability to quickly weave together vivid, real-life accounts that move from a couple's initial infatuation to a growing distance brought about by children and change.

And the bed's place in all this? It's there from the start, from its presence as an unexpected (and not entirely wanted) wedding gift to Sara's ultimate evolution.

Take this as a hint: The Bed moves in unexpected ways from realistic moments to a futuristic world which still holds a place for romance. How? Read it and find out for yourself!

The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment
Chris Niebauer, Ph.D.
Outskirts Press Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478700432, $16.95 pbk. / $8.88 Kindle,

The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment: How the Left-brain Plays Unending Games of Self-improvement asks one basic question: do self-improvement efforts really work? From this query one might think that the rest of the book would be about such efforts and their pros and cons; but this is actually a science discussion and uses the latest brain research to discern the physical and psychological results of self-improvement efforts.

It may surprise some readers to note that the left brain is capable not only of making up stories and explanations, but of creating its own perception of ego and self. Under such circumstances, which result in creating games the brain pretends not to be playing, is it even possible to aim for real self-improvement? Does this mean that the self-improvement industry perpetuates myths of one's true ability to change?

Expect an unusual discussion here that takes the foundations of neuroscience and psychology and considers them ala Alan Watts and Eckhart Tolle, often blending seemingly-disparate approaches to the topic of enlightenment and self-improvement to arrive at a different conclusion synthesizing the research and perspectives that lie at the boundaries of spirituality and science.

The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment provides no pat answers and while it's accessible to any general-interest reader, it offers no single path to its conclusions. In a nutshell, this means that it throws in a range of studies and considerations that, when taken as a whole, contribute to a bigger picture less limited in scope than either spirituality or science books offer on the subject.

Chapters operate like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle as they consider the inherent paradox of the self-improvement concept and how myths and reality are juxtaposed in the process of understanding.

And lest you think this comes from a typical New Age or spirituality writer, it should be emphasized that author/college professor Chris Niebauer's degree is in cognitive neuropsychology. As such, he has a grounding in solid science; but for this effort he focuses on an 'experience first' approach to provide a multifaceted consideration of his subject. And (lest you think 'professor' equals 'lecture') one of his book's strengths is its interactive nature. Exercises and places for self-reflection center upon decreasing the ego's hold and refocusing consciousness from fictions created by the mind. Only then, Niebauer maintains, can real advancement proceed.

Forms of consciousness and scientific engagement in the process of self-exploration are not the same as 'enlightenment' which isn't touted as a goal here, by the way. Niebauer's goals are much more modest and, by his own definition, much more achievable: "Rather than "going for nirvana" this book is about experiencing a slight shift in perspective one might call the neurotic's alternative to enlightenment, but this slight shift may be enough. You recognize that no situation can make you feel anything; it is the interpretation of the situation that defines the experience."

The result draws important connections between left-brain and right-brain thinking and posits a different form of perception of self and the world than most would provide. The many examples of how we trick ourselves (even in the process of self-exploration) are supported by solid scientific reference while psychological and spiritual explorations are accessible even by readers with little background in either discipline.

The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment succeeds in its goal of providing a reasoned assessment of reality, illusion, ego and self; probing the process behind the psyche's development and perceptions and offering readers much food for thought and illumination.

John R. Spencer
New Generation Publishing
9781909593312, $14.99 print
ASIN: B00C781Q56, $7.99 ebook

Solarium-3 is Book One of a trilogy and is lightly based upon real-world events as scientists seal themselves in a self-contained domed environment only to find their manmade habitat is flawed. Up to this point, all sounds familiar: the departure begins when they beg Project Control to release them and stop the experiment, only to find Control refuses them freedom.

What happens thereafter creates a complex, engrossing sci-fi read made all the more captivating and realistic by its grounding in an actual experiment (Biosphere 2) where the scientists stayed in their self-contained, sealed environment for two years. That experiment became more of a lesson in psychology and interpersonal conflict than habitat maintenance: Solarium-3 is where the similarities between Solarium-3 and Biosphere 2 diverge.

Here the scientists (who live in a series of interconnected 'pods') are committed to four years but they become as devoted to getting out as they were to getting in when their environment becomes toxic and threatens their lives. So why is there any question about halting the experiment under these life-threatening conditions?

The truth may at first seem a bit predictable (either that the true experiment is something different, or that something has happened outside their sealed world), but Control hasn't actually vanished: it's just not talking. And so what seems a conventional progression of events turns into something satisfyingly different.

And when it does, all their lives will be changed forever.

Solarium-3 begins as any good science fiction read should: with a believable scientific premise and scenario and realistic characters whose personalities and concerns involve readers in the story. All this serves to create a solid foundation of logical events and actions that test characters and readers alike with unexpected twists and puzzles that range from a mysterious power-killing light show in the skies to what becomes a lesson in not just personal survival, but perhaps of the human race as a whole.

Chapters are filled with psychological and social insights throughout and include passages that reflect not just the characters' experiences and interactions, but their feelings: "What had started out as a complex, highly controlled scientific excursion into a well-planned future had been twisted into a radically unpredictable venture into the unknown. He had arrived here almost a year ago as a scientific researcher and a confident team leader. Now he felt like a befuddled comic trying to come up with one-liners to explain life."

It's this attention to psychological depth and detail that makes Solarium-3 such a wonderful, believable read: that, and a sense of urgency as inhabitants both inside and outside of the dome seek a sense of normalcy from an increasingly chaotic environment.

Any reader of survivalist sci-fi knows the typical progression of such a story line as characters struggle to build a new world and face off in power struggles. It's all about taking control of environmental challenges, new situations, and even of each other.

Who will 'win' under such circumstances depends not so much upon survival of the fittest as it does the ability of everyone to move outside social convention to place greater good over individual gain.

One thing is for sure: readers will avidly follow the adventures and interactions of this band of survivors as they build their strange new world, and will be sorry when the story ends.

But not too sorry: remember; this is Book One and segues neatly into the next offering, Haeven.

John R. Spencer
New Generation Publishing
9781910162873 $14.99 print
ASIN: B00J8WED04 $7.99 ebook

Any who have appreciated the unique strengths of Solarium-3 are in for a treat: Haeven is published and ready to go, and embraces the same strengths of Solarium-3 without some of the usual detriments of trilogy titles.

It's time to take a stand on trilogies (starting with this book) and to point out that what is clearly stated as 'Book One of a trilogy' should be viewed as just that, and not as a standalone feature to be read independently (or instead) of the other books.

Haeven requires familiarity with its predecessor Solarium-3 on many levels, and while, yes, you could read it as a standalone story... why would you?

The groundwork has been wonderfully cemented in Solarium-3 and it's time to move on with the saga rather than wasting chapters recreating the wheel of events: that Haeven does so will delight fans who have returned for 'more, please'.

Here the fragile safety that has built a sustainable environment is being threatened by a crack in both dome and psyches, requiring Solarium-3's inhabitants to consider going outside into a much-changed world. Is there more of a risk outside than inside? That's the lingering question in a story that, once again, builds a seemingly-predictable scenario only to break all the rules with a series of events that keep readers on their toes and thinking.

Children (here, the only hope of the future) threatened by illness and contamination become one of the focal points in a gripping saga that once again gains its strength from psychological insights: "His mind was working, but painfully. Mai Ker had kids now. It was different than before. And he had kids. Everything was more complicated. It was not just fears, or feelings. Now it was practicalities, and far-reaching implications. Things that were too confusing for him to contemplate right now."

Any who have studied the dynamics of social interaction will realize that this technique is one of the strengths of Spencer's trilogy, elevating it from your usual survivalist focus.

As the struggling Solarians make headway in exploring their changed boundaries, they also make new inroads in exploring each others' place in the world. The characters achieve much more depth here; which is as it should be in the second book of a series.

And there's plenty of mystery and surprises; which is saying a lot for a premise that at first seems too entirely predictable.

It's rare to find a story that truly departs from an anticipated conclusion and wraps the element of surprise into its progression. It takes a real artist to create a logical path supported by innuendo and facts and then offer a twist that leads in an entirely different direction.

Solarium-3 was good; but Haeven is great and will lead readers to hunger for the final book, ReGeneration especially as Haeven ends with a cliffhanger.

That John R. Spencer has succeeded in this effort in both Solarium-3 and Haeven lends to a compelling odyssey even veteran sci-fi readers will find hard to put down.

Through the Woods
Margie Mack
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781496067210, $14.95, ($5.99 Kindle),

Through the Woods is memoir writing at its best; which is saying a lot considering the form is widely used and just as widely abused.

A good memoir ideally should be written by and about a public personality already established in the public eye... but then, there's the other memoir writer, who is less famous but no less talented.

Author Margie Mack began a new life in rural Illinois at an early age, living with her grandparents after her parents' divorce when her mother (an aspiring pianist) wanted her to have a more stable home than she could offer.

It was here that she discovered refuge in and connections to the wildlife and beauty that was Fox River, right outside her door and here that she also absorbed the values and insights of senior relatives and neighbors who influenced her childhood years.

All this is reflected in a balanced memoir of those golden years, with her delights in newfound rural nature tempered by her grandparents' uncertain health. Mack's ability to bring readers into her early life and see the world through childhood eyes captures the wonder, magic, and small pleasures that youth brings, all wrapped up in passages that are poignant and moving portraits of yesteryear: "There were only twelve homes on our little dirt road up to the fork. But only seven of these homes, not including ours, were occupied in the winter months. It's funny how a small thing like a fork in the road can define who you know and who you don't."

Small kindnesses to strangers, holiday traditions and expectations, faith and love: all these are wound into Mack's memoir and draw readers into her life through vignettes laced with compelling images and perceptions.

Now, don't expect a memoir filled with epic struggles and high drama: Through the Woods isn't that kind of read.

DO anticipate a series of personal reflections on how ideals, experiences, and even spirituality and morals are absorbed from family interactions. It's a lesson (and a reminder) in giving. And in our high-octane, adrenalin-addicted, high-drama culture, this relative simplicity is an uplifting breath of fresh air.

The Game Plan
Foley Western
Privately Published

The Game Plan opens with a heated business meeting between UK executives at Ambratat, Ltd. about updating surveillance equipment (sparked by hate mail and threats) and moves quickly outside business circles to the crux of the matter: threats that move into bona fide murder attempts.

Dan owns a computer software company and it's questionable whether the threats stem from his personal playboy behaviors or from something deeper; but all this is about to become clear as chapters explore both corporate and personal connections to violence.

There is a game plan; but it's operating on all sides and much like a good game of chess, strategy is both key to success and obscure to its players. In order to have a game plan, one must know the game; and the elements of this particular game unfold in a tense thriller that will keep not only its players guessing, but its audience.

As chapters reveal friendships, international business connections, complex love and sex arrangements, and a ghostly killer that keeps vanishing and reappearing, Dan finds his life consumed by a nightmare that becomes increasingly complex and ominous.

Kidnappings and attacks move from business circles to international political realms, investigative agents are lured into a dragnet of danger as Holly and Dan find their lives not just threatened but changed forever, and Jack's struggle against time involves a host of perps and some unlikely forces, from a captured kidnapper to a dying man.

As the focal point shifts to the Middle East, with Holly barely escaping disaster and Dan being held prisoner by converted Muslim Abdullah Hamza, readers are enveloped by a myriad of encounters, from business and political special interests to well-drawn protagonist concerns.

What's needed is a foolproof game plan that ultimately demands action and interaction at a level some of the protagonists have never experienced before. Their ability to pull off this final game will change not only their lives, but possibly the face of international alliances.

The Game Plan is a well-drawn thriller that has its roots in business circles but rapidly expands to include elements of a solid investigative mystery filled with international intrigue and a dash of romance. One of its threads is the blossoming relationship between Holly and Dan, tested mightily by events that haunt them and threaten their lives.

The protagonist of Holly is feisty yet attracts the protective impulses of Dan and her cousin Jack, sometimes against her own wishes and abilities.

Bombs, terrorism, and international politics all intersect in chapters that hold plenty of dialogues, set scenes well, yet retain an element of surprise about unfolding events.

As with a good juggling show (and a good thriller) there are a lot of balls in the air midway through; but The Game Plan succeeds in keeping all of them logical and progressively involving and though some things (such as Holly and Dan's evolving love against all odds) are predictable, the outcome of events is by no means set in stone.

And those are the basic elements that separate a good suspenseful story read from the mundane: a good thriller (such as The Game Plan) will grab readers from its first chapter. The Game Plan moves quickly from what seems a business-oriented read to one that dances on international grounds of high-octane action, reactions and interactions.

What If It's Love?
Alix Nichols
Amazon US link:
Author blog:
9781500467876, $7.99 pbk. / $3.99 ebook

Romances should ideally include a sexy cover (to lure potential readers) and should hold captivating opening lines and settings that invite newcomers to read on. If you like romances that provide unexpected twists right from the start, you'll love What If It's Love?

The very first sentence gives forewarning of this approach: "I'm moving to Paris," Lena said. Gerhard's eyebrows went up. "Oh." Oh? That's all you can say when your girlfriend tells you she's going away? She gave him a long stare, then turned away and shifted to sit on her heels."

Lena knows it's unreasonable of her to expect an emotional outburst from one who excels at hiding his feelings, so her journey to the city of romance really represents a fresh start on so many levels. It's presumably about finishing her college thesis in a different environment; but (inevitably) it's actually more about pragmatic change as Lena very quickly adapts to leaving her partner and life in search of a better fit.

Of course, the inevitable happens in the form of a chance encounter with a charismatic Frenchman who embodies everything her neglectful boyfriend was not, and they fall in love.

If you think this is the end of What If It's Love?, think again: it's not. A dirty little secret is unearthed that ends their relationship, and passion seems to be extinguished by betrayal and disappointment as quickly as it was fueled by shared emotional connections.

Surprises embedded within the story line include an heiress protagonist who is anything but spoiled and entitled, a pragmatic portrait of the twists and turns of romance and its intersection with reality, and a lovely Parisian setting in the form of the quirky little La Boheme cafe and its circle of patrons.

The mark of a superior romance lies in a combination of solid characterization and setting with a believable story line that's grounded in romance but embraces wider circles of psychological interactions.

What If It's Love? achieves all this; and though it's based on the author's short story 'You're The One', no prior familiarity is needed to become immersed in this account. Another bonus: each chapter is introduced by a vivid poem by Marina Tsvetaeva, described as "one of the greatest Russian lyrical poets of the twentieth Century", whose verses set the tone for each new development, as in Chapter 8: "After this sleepless night, I'm awash in lightness,/Poised and serene - a star in the Milky Way./Rainbows fill every sound, erupting brightly,/Icycold streets smell like Florence in early May."

Another winning development: Lena's new boyfriend (after Rob) is not the neglectful soul she started out with, but an alluring individual in his own right: "Dmitry was also always supportive, even protective of her, but without a trace of machismo. ...He wouldn't have let her fend for herself. He was perfect." So will she choose perfection over something obviously flawed?

What qualities are involved in romance, and how is a 'tipping point' arrived at that either furthers or kills love? That's the crux of Lena's journey as she sorts out the kind of man she really wants, based on a combination of attraction and character.

Romance readers (even the most seasoned) should expect all the hallmarks of a good romance: reflection, breakup, reunions and ideals all woven into the story of characters discovering their true intentions both to themselves and with each other.

There's an App for That
Ed Toolis
Privately Published
9781483522234, $2.99

With the equivalent of the Library of Alexandria at our fingertips in the form of smartphones and apps for just about everything, it's logical to assume that there could be an app for deciphering the puzzles of human nature and life itself. Possibly this app would hold its own ironies, inconsistencies, and even comedy and that's where There's an App for That comes in.

The opening act introduces 'everywoman' character Cynthia, who runs, late, into a suburban Chicago train terminal only to find there's no change machine in sight. She's used to driving into work but when her car won't start, she rushes to take the train only to find that everyone around her is absorbed with their tablet or smartphone.

Each bystander is involved in a different online pursuit, from a divorced man connecting with his kids ("...with our busy lives, this is the only time I get to have any Facetime with my kids.") to a teen interested in online, on-the-go spiritual consultations: "...just as Cynthia was about to say something to a teenage girl, the girl slumped her shoulders and moaned, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It's been six months since my last online confession."

There's an App for That cultivates a tongue-in-cheek style of comedy which blends real-world observation with embellishment and wry social commentary, using vignettes with different settings that always come full-circle to point out the fallacies and ironies inherent in thinking everything in modern life comes with (or is improved by) an 'app'.

There's an App for That is written for the generation which believes in the concept that there's an 'app for everything important' even interpersonal connections in a non-cyber world and which distrusts anything not presented via a screen and an online connection.

From public transit woes to the courtroom antics of a trial revolving around the nonprofit 'Smartphones for the Homeless' and its nine-year-old originator (named by some as a dangerous criminal and heralded by the homeless as a savior), you simply never know what app-oriented scene Ed Toolis will present next.

Comments on legal and political processes are woven into scenarios where apps dictate the psyche and progress of interpersonal interactions and social institutions alike, as in 'Public Education' with its wry observations of political process: "...welcome to School District 127's public hearing on next year's proposed budget. We especially want to welcome those who have downloaded the Public Hearing App, made possible by the new transparency law. In the past, only twelve people on average have attended these meetings."

The reality is that "There are now 1724 "Top 100 'Must Have' Apps" articles out there on the Web." And one collection of short stories that points out their inherent limitations, making There's an App for That a rare comedic social commentary surfing the sea of too-serious, app-obsessed cyberspace.

Domestic Violence: My Freedom from Abuse
Beth Praed
Privately Published
9780615607856, $0.99

There are a number of titles on domestic violence on the market, but no other book is as clear (or as direct) about what abuse means and what possibilities (and responsibilities!) lie in real freedom. Those ready to listen and understand will find Domestic Violence: My Freedom from Abuse a powerful tool for recovery and change, providing the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Readers who haven't experienced domestic violence might have no idea that even choosing and reading a book on the topic could feel (or prove) dangerous to an abused woman: that's one reason why Domestic Violence: My Freedom from Abuse is a short, easy read.

It's designed to be picked up and put down quickly, presents its information in easily-digestible ideas (backed by an award-winning blog site for those who would read further), and will appeal both to those struggling with domestic violence and others who would help them.

First of all, it defines 'abused' and recounts experiences of women who have shared their stories of abuse. Don't expect a comfort-oriented discussion, here: these stories are blunt, honest, and often painful and may require time to absorb (thus furthering the intention of this book to be picked up and put down repeatedly as the need arises).

Beth Praed spent much time in abuse support groups listening to others' stories and came to realize that many facets of abuse are similar, even though the circumstances can differ. "A List of Possible Abusive Behaviors" thus provides invaluable identifiers to help readers understand what constitutes 'abuse'.

The focus here is on identifying abuse, understanding options and paths that lead to healing and resolution, and determining a course of action.

Although much of this information is scattered in other discussions on the topic, the value of Domestic Violence: My Freedom from Abuse's approach lies in its ability to provide a succinct synthesis of facts in a form that's easy to understand.

There are also specific chapters packed with details that aren't readily found elsewhere, such as 'Protecting Your Children', 'Going to Court' and 'A Note About Child Protective Services'. These, in particular, are often sticking points that survivors need to understand in order to make the best possible decisions about their future.

Abuse is all about control, lack of control, and choice. It frequently isn't consistent ("Her abuser did give her some things, but he would decide what she was allowed to have."), which often makes identification and action such a challenge for victims.

From watching out for signs of abuse so that the same mistakes aren't made ("If your new boyfriend showers you with gifts and declarations of love, be wary.") to what is truly involved in the idea of 'freedom from abuse', this hardhitting handbook offers tough questions, inspiring possibilities, and plenty of concrete insights on the entire process, from recognizing abuse to dealing with the aftermath of freedom.

The Perfect Coed
Judy Alter
Alter Ego Publishing
9780996013116 $3.99 ebook
9780996013109 $12.99 pbk.

Few mysteries open with a single paragraph of eye-popping intrigue, but The Perfect Coed is full of such moments and its introduction is apt warning that readers will rapidly become involved in something far from mundane or predictable: "Susan Hogan drove around Oak Grove, Texas, for two days before she realized there was a dead body in the trunk of her car. And it was another three days before she knew that someone was trying to kill her."

True, The Perfect Coed's title sounds more like chic lit than a mystery; plus, it tends to not follow the standard formula writing of the mystery genre. And that's where it gets interesting.

Protagonist Susan is both intelligent and combative. She's abrasive with those who love her, let alone when a coed's body is discovered in the trunk of her car, effectively placing her under suspicion of murder.

There's only one solution to this dilemma: become a self-made investigator. And so the process of Susan's name-clearing begins: a move which eventually invites the inevitable when someone on campus begins to stalk her.

The stalker obviously doesn't know who he's dealing with, however, and Susan's feisty personality serves her well as she finds herself struggling not only to solve a murder, but to prevent her own demise.

Up till now, The Perfect Coed sounds somewhat predictable. After all, a plethora of murder mysteries center on protagonists who are not professionals and who take on the task of investigation only because they (or loved ones) are threatened.

But a big 'plus' of Judy Alter's approach lies in its ability to gently lead readers up the garden path of predictability, then take a sudden turn. Ergo, what begins as a murder investigation turns into something much more complex as readers discover that Susan's singular purpose has turned into an unbelievably complex series of events that threatens more than her own life.

It's the hallmark of a good murder mystery that the stage is properly set, the personalities of all the players are well-developed, and the plot evolves into something much more than a standard read.

Susan's discoveries on what was a quiet Texas college campus hold far greater ramifications than a single sociopath's intentions, and will involve readers in a growing web of terror and tension that's delightfully well-wrought.

The Narrow Path to War
DL Frizzell
9781610054997, $14.95,

The Narrow Path to War is Book One in the 'Marshals of Arion' series, a fine space saga revolving around mankind's only interstellar colony which faces threats not only from asteroids, but war. It's the focus on this war that makes for solid military sci fi reading spiced by protagonist Alex, who likes to place himself in challenging positions whether it be during storms or in conflicts.

Now, most military sci fi reads are sorely lacking in 'hard science fiction': the science is often just not there. Not so in The Narrow Path to War, which opens with the bang of a 'guster storm' (composed of an electromagnetic conduit with supercharged particle funnels) and introduces readers to the possible foolhardiness and bravery of Alex, who wants to be on the wall (the most dangerous place to be in such a storm) and in the center of danger.

Magnetic shock waves, lightning storms, and explosions contribute to high voltage, high-octane and nonstop action in The Narrow Path to War; and that's another successful device that sets the story apart from your typical military sci fi read. By focusing on science, action and interaction, and political and social confrontations in the midst of this swirl of activity, Frizzell succeeds in placing the drama and interest right where it should be: with powerful protagonists and the intersection of their special interests.

There are possible traitors, accusations of electronic weapons, and a trail that leads through a 'labyrinth of hazards' that only a professional tracker and frontiersman can conquer. There's an intriguing interplay between raw frontier justice, survival, and the challenges of a fragile space colony facing threats both from nature and from their own kind, and there are mysteries revolving around spies and uncertain alliances.

There's even a quasi-romance amidst this evolving insanity: one which ultimately places Alex in a dangerous position. And in a world where everyone keeps secrets and alliances are always fluid, Alex comes to believe that Kate may well be the only person he can truly trust.

Anticipate twists and turns of plot, an unusual and satisfying attention to hard science throughout, and a focus on character development that differentiates The Narrow Path to War from the usual approach of a 'military science fiction' novel. Readers who enjoy the genre but find the 'military' focus often too overbearing will welcome the differences The Narrow Path to War introduces, and will find it a far superior read to most genre offerings.

Bridging to Joy
Mary Taylor Carr
9781610054966, $12.95,

There's one prerequisite for successfully reading Bridging to Joy: Achieve Your Greatest Path to Success and Fulfillment; and that's a strong interest in developing new avenues that lead to transformation and self-awareness. Without this goal in mind, Bridging to Joy won't resonate and without resonating, its message is futile.

That said, Bridging to Joy asks some hard questions, prompting readers to consider why things have to change, the realities that lie with different choices, and why understanding cyclic transformations is key to personal empowerment and self-awareness.

While actual self-worth seldom changes, perceptions do: both internal perceptions of self and external influences the world brings to that self. There are healthy choices and unhealthy choices at each step of the way, and patterns of familiar movements versus the unknown: all of which contribute to either joy and achievement or ennui and despair.

Don't expect Bridging to Joy to be a set of admonitions: it's a workbook intended for readers already serious about adopting the process of empowerment and change; and in order for it to be a true self-help book, the first prerequisites are an open mind and a desire to change.

The purpose is to provide skills and strategies for honing goals and achieving them, negating barriers to success that often stem as much from negative internal messages as life's challenges.

Chapters from a business consultant and transformation coach incorporate many elements of both worlds. Business and new age pursuits often seem in direct conflict, so it's unusual to have a co-mingling of seemingly disparate purposes. Bridging to Joy represents a rare alliance between these two powerful forces and comes from an author who chose to leave a successful corporate position to form her own coaching business.

There are admonitions, to be sure, such as "You have the power to accomplish whatever you commit to becoming." But what differentiates Bridging to Joy from similar-sounding approaches is its commitment to outlining the exact steps to 'getting there' and that's what makes it a standout in both the self-help and business genres.

Chapters explain how to identify mood changes as opportunities for real change, how to identify negative emotions and recognize how they control perceptions and actions, and how to begin the process of 'who I am today' through a series of exercises and explanations of their results.

At some point readers might wonder what all this self-realization has to do with joy: in fact, it has everything to do with finding joy. Living a joyful life involves self-inspection, attitude changes, the careful cultivation of gratitude, and more. Awareness here is equated with both joy and understanding the basic premise that "All the circumstances of our lives are opportunities to make a choice." And this involves documenting the costs and promises of such options.

Bridging to Joy is all about the 'how' of this process. From building patterns of discipline to replicate successful approaches and differentiate them from repeated negative choices to understanding how one's belief system "determines how you define success or nonsuccess", Bridging to Joy is for any who would take the next big steps in life and understand the kinds of changes intrinsic to a life of happiness.

It provides a foundation for understanding, points the way to a path of better options, and blends elements of psychology, self-help, spirituality and business savvy into a compelling account highly recommended for readers interested in making positive changes in their lives.

Diane Donovan
Senior Reviewer

Klausner's Bookshelf

First Comes Love
Karen Wiesner
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781304898197, $14.99,

In Peaceful, Wisconsin, young teens Chad Feldmann and Winnie McBride have sex. She becomes pregnant and gives birth to a baby girl. To avoid the errors that most kids having kids do, Chad insists they remain celibate until they graduate and marry. Three years later, after the couple completes high school, they wed and raise their child Kally.

Winnie feels resentment towards her husband and daughter as she sacrificed much for them to become a family. As she works two jobs and takes care of little Kally, her disappointment is further fueled when Chad uses his college fund that his family banked for him to pursue his dreams. Chad knows he made foolish mistakes out of love and his constant fear his soulmate would leave him; but his recent actions to insure he can care for his two beloved females instead may fulfill his nightmarish prophecy.

The fourth fabulous Friendship Heirlooms series (see Forever And All That Jazz) star two wonderful protagonists as Chad and Winnie have love, a baby and marriage in that order, but apparently also a dying relationship. With a strong support cast (a trademark of Ms. Weisner as for instance this lead couple were in the Family Heirlooms Series drama Glass Angels), fans will relish the return to Peaceful although what appears to be the end of a marriage.

The Leopard
K.V. Johansen
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616149031, $18.00,

Though none except one has seen or heard the God The Lady of the Deep Well, Lady of Marakand, she is the most worshipped of the deity triad. Her followers believe she speaks to them through the Voice of the Lady of Marakand, also cloaked in dark secrecy. Claiming their God ordered them, the Voice of the Lady of Marakand commands the Red Masks to violently attack their neighbors; anyone who resists is to be slaughtered brutally except for the chosen ones who will serve as mockeries bowing to the Lady.

Heir to Queen Catigga of Suina Catarina and sister of High King Durandu of Duina Andara, Deyandara has felt the wrath of the Red Masks as her royal aunt failed the Goddess Catairanach and paid the price along with most of her subjects. Deyandara knows she is fortunate to have survived the carnage, but thirsts for revenge knowing only one being might be able to succeed. Deyandara travels to Sand Cove in the Tributary Lands to plead with the multi-cursed assassin Ahjvar the Leopard to eliminate the Voice. In return to murdering the abomination, Catairanach will grant Ahjvar his one wish: death.

The Leopard introduces readers to a fascinating fierce fantasy world filled with an intriguing cast especially the mysterious vile villain. Several threads are begun, but none completed as this opening act comes across as an interesting prequel to a good and evil saga.

Tequila Sunset
Sam Hawken
Serpent's Tail
3A Exmouth House, Pine Street, London, England, EC1R 0JH
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 West 108th Street, Suite 901, New York, NY 10025
9781846688546, $14.95,

Felipe "Flip" Morales returns to El Paso, Texas after spending four years behind bars for armed robbery. He vows to stay out of trouble because he does not want to return to prison. However while incarcerated, the Aztecas' Latino gang kept Flip safe. He soon has a second and third reason to remain clean; as he wants to marry his beloved pregnant Graciela. However, Flip also knows he owes the Aztecas big time and if chieftain Jose Martinez asks for remittance, Flip will pay his debt.

A cross border police task force aims at destroying the Aztecas. Single mother of an autistic child, police officer Cristina Salas leads the American unit; while in Ciudad Juarez, Matias Segura is in charge of the Mexican team. Caught in the middle, Flip becomes an informant against Martinez with little hope of surviving the onslaught.

Tequila Sunset is a strong exciting border crime thriller that catches the pulse of the twin cities separated by a fence. Fast-paced yet character driven by the lead trio caught up in the operation to take down a violent gang, readers will enjoy Sam Hawken's second taut Texas-Mexico suspense drama (see The Dead Women of Juarez).

The People In The Photo
Helene Gestern, author
Emily Boyce & Ros Schwartz, translators
Gallic Books
59 Ebury Street, London, England, SW1W ONZ
9781908313546, $14.95,

Helene Hivert knows next to nothing about her mom who died when she was three. Over the years, her father refuses to speak about her mom. She becomes excited when she finds a photo of her mom taken with two men after she had won the 1971 Interlaken Amateur Tennis Tournament Ladies' Single. One of the men in the picture is listed as P. Crusten winner of the Men's Single.

Helene takes out a newspaper ad seeking info re the people in the photo. Swiss biologist Stephane Crusten responds to her ad by sending her a copy of his dad's Geneva Tennis Club membership card that also contains a photo. Excited Helene responds and soon the pair exchange correspondences and find more photos of their respective parents. However, the truth may not set them free as the picture begins to focus with each wondering if they were better off not knowing.

The People In The Photo is an entertaining family drama told mostly through snail mail and email. Helene and Stephane are a delight to follow as their moods change throughout the engaging storyline. Though somewhat passive, fans who appreciate something different will enjoy Helene Gestern's refreshing family drama.

Wolf Hunt
Armand Cabasson, author
Isabel Reid, translator
Gallic Books
59 Ebury Street, London, England, SW1W ONZ
9781906040833, $15.95,

In 1809, the French and Austrian armies battle near the Danube with both sides suffering heavy losses. Austrian Luise Mitterberg asks French Captain Quentin Margont to search for missing sixteen year old orphan Wilhelm Gurtz. He searches for the teen until his corpse is found; someone murdered the lad and mutilated his face to make it look like a smile.

Lieutenant Lukas Relmyer already struggles with returning to a place where he and another orphan Franz were kidnapped four years ago; he escaped but his friend was murdered. Now the Gurtz killing is identical to the Franz homicide. Though he accepts solving these brutal murders will prove near impossible with so many deaths nearby, Margont teams up with Mitterberg, and Relmyer in a quest to end a serial killer's reign of terror.

The second Grande Armee Napoleonic Murders (see The Officer's Prey) is an excellent historical mystery as Armand Cabasson cleverly uses the fog of Napoleonic Era war to conceal a predator's beastly murders. The exciting investigation is made stronger by the backdrop as the hero and his two teams hunt a deadly wolf probably in soldier's clothing.

Dark Angel
Mari Jungstedt; Tiina Nunnally (translator)
Stockholm Text
19820 82nd Place NE, Kenmore, Seattle, WA 98028
9789175470221, $14.95,

In Visby on Gotland Island, Sweden, successful fiftyish event planner Viktor Algård files for divorce from his weak wife Elisabeth and abandons their children to spend more time with his lover. When he hosts the gala opening of a new center in Visby, Viktor knows he is the toast of the entire island except his family.

Detective Superintendent Anders Knutas struggles with his own children, but must put aside his personal concerns to focus on the homicide by poison of renowned Algård at the event in which the deceased received accolades from almost everyone. He focuses entirely on the dumped spouse with a powerful motive until an arson that destroyed three cottages relates back to his murder investigation causing him to look for other possible causes.

The sixth Gotland Swedish police procedural (see The Dead of Summer, Killer's Art, Unspoken, Unseen and The Inner Circle) is an enjoyable whodunit in which Knutas sees parallels in his relationships with his family to that of the victim. The whodunit is strong as twists and red herrings widen the inquiry while family secrets especially one the protagonist prefers not to have learned hammer his gut.

The Search For Sunlei
H.L. Grandin
Acorn Book Services
9780991583003, $14.99,

Five years ago, understanding the Promise of two potential outcomes, Tyoga Weathersby sent his beloved Sunlei away to keep her safe from the South Fork Shawnee. While Sunlei lived in the Iroquois village of Kanaitaro, Ty became respected in English and Cherokee circles, and with Trinity Jane has two young kids residing at Twin Oaks in Virginia.

The Promise whispers to Ty that his Sunlei needs rescuing from vicious Iroquois Chief Quisquis, who with French support reigns supreme in Ohio. Over the objection of his pregnant mate, Ty, his brother Tes Qua and his plantation overseer Brister head to Tuskareegee to drop off supplies. Afterward, Brister returns to the plantation. Ty and Tes Qua meet dying Standing Bird who tells them that the French and Iroquois are aware of the British army coming to attack them. Ty continues with the rescue while Tes Qua goes to Albany to warn the British. As he heads towards Kanaitaro, Ty visits his mother for the first time in five years. She berates him for not coming home with his family of whom she never met, and tells him he misused the Promise when he slaughtered several Indians. Sad Ty knows she is right as he struggles to contain his demons, but treks on with his quest.

The second The Legend of Tyoga Weathersby is an exciting Pre Revolutionary War drama. The leisurely-pace vivid storyline provides a deeper look at the Promise and enables the reader to feel they are on the journey; while his mate and mother rip skin from the hero that keeps him humanly grounded. The Search For Sunlei is a strong mid eighteenth century Colonial America historical.

1636 Commander Cantrell in the West Indies
Eric Flint and Charles E. Gannon
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476736785, $25.00,

Knowing his nation needs petroleum for their up-time machines USE Navy Lieutenant Commander Eddie Cantrell proposes to his superior officer Admiral Tom Simpson that they sail to Trinidad, a place where the oil can be relatively easy to extract. Simpson approves the ocean voyage. Eddie, accompanied by his wife Denmark King Christian IV's non-princess daughter Anne Catherine whose diplomacy skills are needed, sail to the Caribbean on the Intrepid cruiser. The Resolve cruiser and the Courser destroyer complete the naval entourage that will require evasive maneuvers to avoid the Spanish and French who own the Caribbean.

The Earl of Tyrconnell and Colonel of the Wild Geese grieving with guilt Hugh Albert O'Donnell stays with retired ailing miner Mike McCarthy, Sr. and the latter's family in Grantville while learning more about his wife's recent death. Hugh rescues his host's son technical instructor Mike, Jr. from an assault. Afterward Hugh and Mike, Jr. travel to French General Henri de la Tour d'Auverge Turenne's testing facility in Amiens, France with a proposal to extract petroleum in Trinidad.

The fourteenth Ring of Fire alternate historical (see 1636: The Kremlin Games) is an enjoyable thriller that provides readers with plenty of operational military maneuvers at sea and in Trinidad, and understanding of strategic concerns though the latter sometimes turns boring due TMI detail. Still fans of the saga will relish this entry as empires collide in the New World.

Night Shifters
Sarah A. Hoyt
9781476736518, $14.99

"Draw One in the Dark." In Goldport, Colorado, the George waitress Kyrie the panther-shifter hears a scream so she steps outside and follows the odor of blood to a corpse. Near the body is Tom the Nordic dragon with blood on him. They shift to human form and she takes him home to his devastated apartment where three Oriental dragons attack them. The panther fights back until Tom takes them out of harm's way. At her place, Rafiel the lion shifter tells her that the ancient great sky dragon apparently is breaking shifter canon by massacring their kind with Tom as the focus of a hunt for the Pearl of Heaven.

"Gentleman Takes a Chance." While a blizzard paralyzes Goldport, GPD officer Rafiel investigates homicides at the Aquarium in which his lion essence smells a shifter. At the same time, while Tom showers the great sky dragon telepathically communicates with him; terrorized he loses control and shifts destroying the room. He and Kyrie head to the George for shelter. Conan the red dragon explains to Kyrie that the great sky dragon ordered him to keep Tom safe.

This omnibus contains the first two enjoyable Shifter urban fantasies. Draw One in the Dark is slower than Gentleman Takes a Chance as much of the opening act introduces readers to the civilian lives of former foster child Kyrie and kicked out of his family home as a teen (for shifting) Tom. With an engaging overarching theme involving dragons and a myriad of other shifter-types, the twisting exciting fun comes from the downside of shifting; i.e.; the bathroom.

Rescue Mode
Ben Bova and Les Johnson
9781476736471, $25.00

A Chinese unmanned vessel shakes up the world when it finds organic material on Mars. Scientists from several nations persuade their leaders to support a manned mission to Mars in which the Americans fund the Russians to build a nuclear powered ship. As one of a seemingly zillion political compromises Canadian Benson Benson is named Commander of the Arrow. The rest of the flying team consists of American mission pilot Ted Connover, Japanese psychologist Dr. Taki Nomura, French geologist Catherine Clermont, American geologist Hiram McPherson, American communications specialist Virginia Gonzalez, American biologist Amanda Lynn and Russian meteorologist Mikhail Prokhorov. Also "flying" virtually is American reporter Steven Treadway who will interview the crew during the trip.

Problems occur in the final days before liftoff, but NASA scientists with cooperation from their participating peers manage to correct all of the equipment issues. The astronauts have problems also, but the octet accept mission first. However, far from earth, a tiny meteorite slams into the ship with such velocity as to cause terrible damage. While the crippled Arrow continues to Mars as the team agrees that is their best chance to survive, politicians back home insist this proves the danger and cost of space is too great.

Taking place twenty years into the future, Rescue Mode is a super timely science fiction thriller that will remind readers of Apollo 13, but with a deep focus on the science to get to Mars and political decisions on earth that impact the mission before and during flight. Filled with action especially after the rock hammers the Arrow, fans will appreciate this strong entry as the naysayers back on earth use the accident as a reason to end space travel.

The Sea Of Time
P.C. Hodgell
9781476736495, $15.00

Highborn Jamethiel heads to Overcliff to visit Kothifir King Krothen in the Rose Tower. While Jame strolls through the village, she prevents Byrne from pickpocketing her. The lad and his grandfather Gaudaric inform her of the Karnids infestation and mention the Change before she leaves them.

Inside the Rose Tower, Jame watches the obese monarch warn the Gemma to stop the raids or else. Afterward Jame sends greetings from her twin High Lord Torison but Krothen's Aunt Amantine intrudes scathing her nephew for the lack of an heir. Forced to leave, Jame mentally seeks her servant-spy Graykin throughout the towers, but when she reaches Intelligencer Hall, someone shoves her down an opening that lands her in the Undercliff caverns underneath the city. There she catches up with Graykin, and meets Kroaky the Undercliff Master and the Old Gods while learning more about the Change and what happened when Tori was here fifteen years ago.

The latest Chronicles of the Kencyrath (see Honor's Paradox and Bound In Blood) is an engaging still coming of age fantasy mostly because of the heroine's visit to fascinating Kothifir though the overarching theme barely moves. Jame remains a resolute banished protagonist keeping the storyline focused as she tries to do what she believes is right while bewildered with what she observes and learns. Series fans will want to accompany her on her quest to save her world where her being female with power makes her a pariah.

The Fire Rose
Mercedes Lackey
9781476736501, $18.00

In 1905, Chicago heiress and medieval scholar Rosalind Hawkins has no time to grieve the death of her father as she finds herself in financial straits. With no choices she accepts a position as a governess of Jason Cameron's children in San Francisco.

However, her new job proves strange since her enigmatic employer has no children or for that matter apparently any family either. Instead Jason hired her due to her medieval language translation skills. She translates ancient French texts through a tubular gizmo to him but never sees Jason, who explains to the scholar that he suffered a horrific disfigurement. Jason conceals from his employee that a spell he cast contained a fatal flaw that leaves this Fire Elemental Master in a werewolf-human abominable convergence. She is his only hope, but neither expected to fall in love before she saw his visage.

This reprint of the wonderful first Elemental Masters fantasy is a delightful rendition of Beauty and the Beast in early twentieth century California. The enchanting storyline retains its magic due a terrific cast; starting with the changing relationship between the protagonists enhanced by strong support characters and a natural disaster about to shake the City On The Bay.

Vertigo 42: A Richard Jury Mystery
Martha Grimes
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476724027, $26.00,

In Devon, England seventeen years ago, heiress Tess Williamson fell down her home's terrace steps to her death. The inquest ruled this tragedy an accident as the deceased suffered from vertigo and there was no evidence of foul play.

However her still grieving widower Tom remains persistent that his wife was murdered. At the Vertigo 42 bar, he makes a case for New Scotland Yard Superintendent Richard Jury to reopen his wife's death claiming the motive tied back to five years before his spouse's fatal plunge when then nine year old Hilda Palmer died after falling into a dry swimming pool at a gala hosted by Tess at her Devon home. Jury interviews the surviving guests who as children witnessed Hilda's death over two decades ago, but soon he also investigates the deaths of a woman who fell from a tower and her estrange husband.

Paying homage to Hitchcock, the latest Richard Jury British police procedural (see The Black Cat) is a thrilling entry in which the past and present are tied together by deaths due to perfidy. Although the climax is over the top of Big Ben, series fans will relish Jury's investigation into four deaths from falls.

Reckless Disregard
Robert Rotstein
Seventh Street Books
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228
9781616148812, $15.95,

Hollywood power broker William "the Conqueror" Bishop sues video game maker Poniard for libel; He claims the latter's latest hit "Abduction!" based on the disappearance of actress Felicity McGrath in 1987, accuses the Conqueror's hired hands of abducting the bipolar performer.

Choosing to remain unrecognizable, Poniard hires Judicial Alternative Dispute Solutions attorney Parker Stern to represent him in the defamation case, but insists the matter go to court not arbitration without his appearance. To insure a hesitant Stern's cooperation Poniard blackmails the lawyer with the threat of revealing Parker's past stint as a child movie star. However what sells Stern to represent a client he never met in person is Bishop's attorney turns out to be his former girlfriend ex-porn star Lovely Diamond. Stern's defense is simply that it can't be libel when the Conqueror's Reckless Disregard of others included abduction and murder that really happened.

The second Stern legal thriller (see Corrupt Practices) is an entertaining Hollywood drama that contains a fascinating enigmatic client and several other eccentric characters. Although Reckless Disregard contains too many improbable coincidences, this is a fun entry due to a dynamic weird cast.

No Stone Unturned: An Ellie Stone Mystery
James W. Ziskin
Seventh Street
9781616148836, $15.95

In 1960 popular and beautiful twenty-one years old Jordan Shaw attends Tufts University in Massachusetts. However, just after Thanksgiving, Fast Jack Donovan tripped while hunting a rabbit in the woods only to find Jordan's naked corpse half buried next to him.

Her hometown New Holland, New York residents are shocked that the high school homecoming queen and daughter of a judge died so ignominiously while in denial that the paragon proved not to be the perfect daughter. The New Holland Republic sends twentyish reporter Ellie Stone to take pictures to accompany stories written by reporter George Walsh. Still grieving her father's death earlier in the year, Ellie investigates the homicide starting with locating the victim's car at the Mohawk Motel and learning from the ME that Jordan had an intrauterine device installed in her. Ellie wonders if one of the fallen from grace female's classmates or professors especially in the French Department include a killer; but who remains out of reach as the deceased's horde of admirers take out their rage on the intruding journalist.

The latest Ellie Stone journalist investigation (see Styx & Stone) is a great whodunit as the ambitious reporter leaves No Stone Unturned to learn the truth; while an angry Jordan fan club assaults her for daring to taint the image of their ideal woman. This is a strong entry with a deep cast as the intrepid reporter deals with those who reject the aftermath of "When the statue on the pedestal comes crumbling to the ground ..." (Brooklyn Bridge's Blessed Is The Rain).

Wicked Temptation
Zoe Archer
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250015617, $7.99,

In 1887, Bronwyn and Hugh Parrish were the toast of London high society until his death eight months ago. However, Bronwyn remains stunned not so much from her grief for her husband; but from learning that that her late spouse's business manager Devere stole their funds, leaving her a penniless widow paying off their debts and no longer acceptable amongst the Ton's in-crowd.

Former Crown espionage agent Marco Black of Nemesis, Unlimited arrives at Bronwyn's home to obtain information on Devere. Instead, though he cannot explain to himself why, Marco asks the aristocrat for her help in finding the scoundrel; she readily agrees to assist him in bringing Devere to justice. Clues lead them to France and the ruthless Les Grillons crime syndicate. Surviving the French danger while also falling in love, the lead pair heads to Italy seeking the thief.

The latest Nemesis, Unlimited Victorian romantic suspense (see Sweet Revenge) is a terrific thriller with the protagonists facing lethal enemies in England and especially on the continent. Although the relationship between the lead couple seems too similar to the stars of Dangerous Seduction, fans will root for this courageous pair as each struggles to survive their class taboo attraction almost as much as their deadly foes.

Fire Rising
Donna Grant
St. Martin's Press
9781250041371, $7.99

In Oban, Scotland, Daniel arrives at the Rose and Crown Pub to warn his partner and former lover Sammi they must leave immediately. He explains to her shock that he laundered mob money through the pub while skimming some of it. Before they escape, angry enforcers enter the pub accosting Daniel while demanding to know how much he took and where Sammi is. Stunned and scared Sammi escapes but not before she takes a bullet to the shoulder while watching her pub as it explodes.

With little cash at hand, a need to stay off the grid and very limited options, Sammi travels to Dreagan, home of her half-sister Jane (see Dawn's Desire in Dark Heat anthology). Jane and her mate King Banon welcome her. Sammi and newest Dragon King Tristan meet and are attracted to each other. However, she believes she must leave before her adversaries blow up Dreagan as they always seem to have found her over the last month on the lam. Vowing to keep her safe, Tristan and Banon know her wound comes from a dragon bullet, which means an exiled king, probably Ulrich is involved. As Tristan begins to recover lost memories, he and the woman in distress fall in love.

The latest Dark Kings romantic urban fantasy (see Darkest Flame) is an exciting thriller with another cliffhanger climax even as the lead relationship takes a needed back seat to the threat. Although not including Sammi's plight (except for her comments) for that month she runs alone detracts from an overall fine entry as readers never obtain the full taste of her damsel in distress peril.

Deeper Than Need
Shiloh Walker
St. Martin's Press
9781250032409, $7.99

Trinity Ewing and her son Micah move to Madison, Indiana where she got a great price on the fixer-upper Frampton house. She hires contractor Noah Benningfield to make repairs. He knows why the price was low as he spent the last two decades avoiding the home where his beloved Lana lived before she vanished. Noah believes David Sutter killed Lana though her body was never found and he lacks enough proof.

Calling his client the mistress of Temptation City while she realizes she should have hired the sexagenarian contractor, both struggle to ignore their attraction as he has not moved past Lana and she has trust issues. When he rips up the rotted floor, Noah finds human female remains.

The fourth Secrets & Shadows romantic suspense (see eBook novellas (not read by me): Long For Me, Break For Me and Burn For Me) is an entertaining tale made fresh by motor mouth anti-precocious Micah. There are too many tertiary first-hand commentary that enable the readers to meet the townsfolk but at the cost of slowing down the investigation. Still fans will enjoy the mom and the contractor falling in love while the case of the long buried Jane Doe haunts Madison residents for different reasons.

eHuman Dawn
Nicole Sallak Anderson
Story Merchant
9601 Wilshire Blvd. #1202, Beverly Hills CA 90210
9780989715485, $14.95,

By 2242, mankind conquered life and death due to the great Neuro global network in which humans reside as part of a complex network. However, increase Global Resistance activity leads World Leader Rosario Donahi, with support from Guardian Enterprises and more important from her boss "King" Edgar Prince, to begin a campaign to silence the opposition by using the Energy Grid against them.

For two centuries since the Great Shift, Newsreel host Adam Winter, like all humanity, has lived as an eHuman. For the past five decades he lived with Miranda Valentine in New Omaha, North American Province, but she has left him. Distraught Adam soon learns that the World Government has begun a vicious assault on cities beginning with unplugging Chengdu and New Chelyabinsk with New Omaha on the list for annihilation. He joins the Global Resistance led by first eHuman Dawn and Origen who shock him with their revelations of who he is and what he means to their saving mankind.

With a nod to the Zager And Evans' In The Year 2525, the allegorical eHuman Dawn looks deeply into what defines a human; what life is and what living means. Although the action starts slow with mass murdering occurring off page, readers will relish this character driven science fiction morality tale; as the good, the bad and the ugly compete with different visions re the future of mankind.

The Shield
Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore
Stone Creek Books
9780692223116, $15.95

Though retired, former OSI special agent Maxine Decker keeps a vigil in case her past returns. Thus when Beowulf Top Secret security chief Peter Kepner arrives at her remote Colorado cabin, Decker remains suspicious especially when she never head of his agency until President LeClair asks for her help. Acting secretively, Kepner escorts her to his organization's only location in an isolated part of the Grand Canyon.

There she meets Beowulf Director Chaucer who gives Decker a tour of artifacts and a quantum computer that stuns her as he explains what happened (and did not) at Roswell in 1947 and in Siberia in 1908. He further explains why her government needs her to retrieve three stolen artifacts that contain data to develop The Shield, which would radically change the balance of power. Russians assault the compound; only Decker escapes but not before a dying Chaucer tells her to find The Monk's Tale. As the enemy pursues her, law enforcement also hunts her. Not one to wait to be killed, Decker uncovers clues that lead her to the Sudan.

The latest Maxine Decker thriller (see The Blade) is an excellent action-packed tale in which Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore make ET deniers like this reviewer into believers as their plausible Roswell explanations seem reasonable. Fast-paced, Decker is at her best as she goes on the run to buy time while following leads to the stolen artifacts before taking the fight to her adversaries.

The Kafka Society
Ron Felber
Barricade Books
2037 Lemoine Ave., Suite 362, Fort Lee, NJ 07024
9781569805107, $16.95,

Jack Madson's resume contains several different professions from professional boxer to Wall Street to many other short time pursuits. Currently the rolling stone works as a private investigator; though he never bothered to obtain a state license. Nor on his employment listings are his drinking and drug abuse.

After a night enjoying his addictions, Jack wakes up in shock to find stripper Amber Starr shared his bed; he fails to recall how they got there together though he knows the sex must have been incredible. When he goes to his car, Madson is greeted by his second shocker when he cannot explain why a head resides in his trunk.

FBI East Coast Operations Chief Tom Dougherty asks his school classmate Madson to help him deal with former lover porn star Havana Spice who is blackmailing the Fed. Though Dougherty was far from a friend when they were teens, Madson agrees. However, what he learns about Dougherty is the third shocker. Instead of a good cop, Dougherty runs the brilliant depraved Kafka Society who internationally traffick with human commodities from their New York underground base.

The second Madson thriller (see A Man of Indeterminate Values) is an exciting dark tale as the antihero goes from one disaster to another. Although plausibility is over the top of the Empire State Building, The Kafka Society is an action-packed entry with a strong timely existential message proclaiming extremes harm the innocent; Madson would insist that relativity theory means there are no innocent, only victims in the wrong place at the wrong time. Readers will enjoy his latest addicted fueled escapades in the vast New York underground.

Eyes On You
Kate White
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061576638, $25.99,

Recently life has been a major seesaw for Robin Trainer, but currently has been on the upswing as she anchors with Carter Brooks the TV show The Pulse and the book she wrote The 7 Secrets Women Keep is selling quite nicely. However, as she prepares to do a show in an apartment overlooking the Hudson from the Manhattan side, Robin looks at her notecard only to find someone scribbled a threat on it.

That horrid comment is followed up by the deliberate tearing up of book jackets several The 7 Secrets Women Keep copies, and a roach placed in her coffee. Other incidents occur to her leading Robin to believe someone at the station has a grudge towards her. However, an investigation leads to the conclusion that the prime saboteur suspect is Robin.

Eyes On You is a sensational psychological suspense as readers will wonder whether the assault is self-induced (like in the Dustin Hoffman movie Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?) or an insider with a raging rancor. Although the support cast is stereotypes of Manhattan glamour and glitz, Robin is terrific as she struggles to learn who is doing these terrible things to her and why.

The Long Mars
Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
9780062297297, $25.99

Three decades have passed since Step Day occurred. Five years ago Yellowstone began the cataclysmic destruction of Datum Earth. Yet by 2045, there remain seemingly infinite planets making up The Long Earth for US Navy Commander Kauffman and her crew of the USS Benjamin Franklin to visit. Many of these orbs have proven hostile so they proceed with extreme caution.

Stepper inventor Willis Linsay contacts his daughter Sally for the first time in years. He wants Sally to help him search the recently discovered planets of the Long Mars. His stated objective is to find sentient life though Sally wonders if her dad has a hidden agenda.

Joshua Valiente fears hostilities between his people and the Next humans he met in the Long Earth. This brilliant group thinks radically different than Joshua and his peers. They don't hide their disdain of Valiente and his kin as intellectually inferior, which fills his side with rage towards the Next.

The third Long Earth science fiction (see The Long War) is a fascinating entry that thrillingly widens the Long universe with a wonderful step into parallel Mars. Though the tale comes across as similar to that of The Long Earth, this is an exciting saga.

All Day And A Night
Alafair Burke
9780062208385, $26.99

In New York, someone murders prominent psychotherapist Helen Brunswick in her own office. The M.O. matches the serial killings of six women slain over eighteen years ago in Utica. The obvious suspect in the Brunswick slaying has the perfect alibi as Anthony Amaro was convicted for one of the earlier homicide and still resides in Five Points Correctional Facility.

ADA Max Donovan announces the establishment of a Fresh Look team. He arranges for NYPD partners J.J. Rogan and Ellie Hatcher to be a part of this unit and assigns them to investigate the Amaro conviction that will anger Utica PD. Ellie is annoyed at her live-in in lover Max for placing her on this loser team as she heads to Utica where she expects no cooperation. At the same time a judge releases Amaro partly due to the sister of one of the original victims who believes the wrong person was convicted.

The latest Ellie Hatcher police procedural (see Never Tell) is an entertaining investigation as the protagonist wants nothing to do with an inquiry that can only cause her trouble; Utica is hostile towards her partly because of her behavior leading to her self-fulfilling prophecy. Readers will enjoy this engaging thriller even with knowing relatively early on the path the tale takes.

The Abduction
Jonathan Holt
9780062267047, $26.99

At construction of the Dal Molin Air Force Base near Venice, human remains are found. At about the same, Major Elston's sixteen year old daughter Mia vanished two days ago. Not long afterward, Mia appears on Daniele Barbo's cyber version of Venice in which her kidnappers deploy Cheney non-torture techniques on the teen. On social media, the abductors insist they will stop when construction halts.

Carabinieri Colonel Aldo Piola works the base case in which the skeleton has been buried for seventy years old and two more dead from the 1940s are found. At the same time Carabinieri Captain Kat Tapo and U.S. Army Second Lieutenant Holly Boland obtain Barbo's help as they attempt to rescue the girl.

The second Carnivia thriller (see The Abomination) is a fabulous Venetian investigative tale starring four diligent but somewhat laid-back individuals, a teen in trouble, and virtual and real Venice. However, the key to this insightful saga is the deep look at American foreign policy since 1941 as we historically react to the crisis of the moment while ignoring the long term strategic effect of our actions; especially when we set precedent that enemies deploy as made by America sanctioned.

Memory Of Water
Emmi Itaranta
Harper Voyager
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062326157, $14.99,

The period now known as the Past World ended with dramatic climate change that started with fights over oil, but ended with battles over water as the global ice totally melted. When the Past World died, humanity adapted to a new earth without oil. After this Twilight Century of adjustment ended, the present New Qian era began with China using an iron fist controlling much of Eurasia.

New Qian oversees the Scandinavian Union; where seventeen years old Noria Kaitio apprentices as a highly respected tea master. Understanding the importance of her vocation because tea masters know the secret water holes, she hopes to be as admired one day as her father by her villagers. However, when her dad dies, the military seeks his special spring that provided water to the locals. Noria feels unready as she must choose between personal safety and challenging the army, government and some villagers.

This is a bleak future as Emmi Itaranta extrapolates the long term impact of climate change on what remains of Scandinavia in which water is the prime commodity. The cautionary speculative fiction storyline starts slow as the background is established, but once that is done, the Memory of Water flows at a very fast pace. Teen readers and adults (except deniers) will appreciate this strong dystopian saga that warns mankind that unless we act now the world we know will die.

Thorn Jack
Katherine Harbour
Harper Voyager
9780062286727, $25.99

In San Francisco Serafina "Finn" Sullivan was seventeen when she and her eighteen years old sister Lily Rose argued one evening. The words they exchanged in heat proved to be their final discussion; as that night Lily Rose committed suicide. The siblings' father sees the haunting memory of his late daughter everywhere so he moves the family to Upstate New York.

In Fair Hollow,a grieving Finn meets Jack Fata. They are attracted to each other, but his affluent family objects; especially irate is Reiko Fata. As they begin a romance, Finn and Jack try to help her friends. However, Finn has new concerns when an omen proclaims she will unite with her sister on Halloween.

The first Night and Nothing Novel is an enjoyable atmospheric romantic ghost story while containing a strong fascinating cast. The delightful storyline is filled with twists and sudden 180 degree spins as nothing appears as it first seems. Although the finish disruptively whirls from much of what previously occurred, subgenre fans will appreciate Finn's fight for love and friendship against a mysterious malevolence.

The Murder Farm
Andrea Maria Schenkel, author
Anthea Bell, translator
31, West 57th Street, New York, NY10019
9781623651671, $22.99,

Several years after WWII ended, a mass murder in a German village left the Danner farm family and others dead. In a rage this unknown adversary used an axe to slaughter the farmer, his wife, their daughter, their eight years old granddaughter, their two years old grandson, and their servant; an itinerant Michael Baumgartner in the wrong place at the wrong time stumbles over the bodies in an attempt to escape.

Ludwig Eibl the postman and Kurt Huber the mechanic reported no one greeted them when they arrived at Tannöd. His baby stepbrother has Danner blood so teenager Hansl Hauer visited the spread and found the place eerily empty with no one around except the dog. He gets his widower dad and farmer Johann Sterzer to look around. They find corpses in the barn and the house.

The Murder Farm is a fascinating whodunit that combines sanctimonious testimony from the cops, people who knew at least one of the deceased and the student narrator as each tries to determine who and why; while readers know the answers. Not for everyone as the storyline feels more like a police report anecdotes of a horrible massacre than a typical investigation. Still fans who appreciate something different will want to read Andrea Maria Schenkel's engaging 1950s German murder mystery.

Forever an Ex
Victoria Christopher Murray
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781476748856, $15.00,

Seven years ago in Los Angeles, Sheridan Goodman, Kendall Stewart, and Asia Ingram met at a prayer group and became friends. With the help of prayer and having each other's back, they weathered the break-up of their marriages (see The Ex Files). Now the exes are back so each turns to prayer and their BFFs to weather the new storm.

Basketball player Bobby tries to persuade Asia to permit their daughter Angel to attend the School of the Performing Arts in NYC. Bobby and Asia begin a tryst that leads to his wife Caroline warning her to stay away from her husband. When Asia ignores the cuckooed spouse's admonition, the spiteful woman retaliates via Angel.

With her children grown and away, Sheridan and Brock love the empty nest. Her ex-husband's fiancee Harmony meets with her to ask her questions about Quentin's cheating. Sheridan informs the worried woman that she believes Quentin will be faithful to her. Not long after that, Sheridan observes Quentin with Jeff, his lover when he was married to her.

Kendall returns to Malibu, sight of where her former husband Anthony and her sister Sabrina betrayed her. She remains estranged from both of them and wants nothing to do with their child. Anthony's brother, D'Angelo, proves helpful, but hides his attraction to his one-time sister-in-law. However when Sabrina becomes critically ill, Kendall has to decide whether to forgive their transgression.

Forever an Ex is an engaging inspirational extended family drama as the three BFFs deal with different troubles caused by the returns of the exes. Fans will enjoy the prayers, fears and tears as Victoria Christopher Murray provides an engaging tale.

Target America: A Sniper Elite Novel
Scott McEwen, with Thomas Koloniar
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781476747194, $19.99,

Chechen prisoner Alik Zakayev is released from in Guantanamo after being falsely accused by the Russians as participating in the Boston marathon bombings. Sent home, the Salafi Muslim realizes he is a dead man if he stays in Grozny so he joins the Riyad us-Saliheyn Martyrs' Brigade. A few weeks later in a tunnel between Chihuahua State and New Mexico, Zakayev smuggles a Russian RA-115 suitcase nuke when American law enforcement intervenes. He triggers the bomb believing Allah will welcome him and knowing compatriot Kashkin made it to the States with his RA-115.

CIA's Special Activities Division Bob Pope also is aware of another loose nuke inside America. He assigns reactivated Navy SEAL Gil Shannon to find and eliminate the threat. Gil brings back SEAL Team Six Black to prevent a disaster worse than 9/11. At the same time in Montana, a terrorist targets Gil's wife and mother-in-law.

The second Sniper Elite military thriller (see: One-Way Trip) is an exciting action-packed tale from the opening suicide scene in Guantanamo and never slowing down until the final confrontation. The DC crowd comes across as wussy political caricatures ready to send someone else to die while soiling their underwear far from the combat. Still filled with realistic blood and gore, readers will feel a constant adrenalin rush as Shannon and his unit try to prevent the second nuke from being deployed.

The Rosie Project
Graeme Simsion
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781476729091, $15.99,

Genetics Professor Don Tillman knows that that having Asperger's syndrome causes him to think differently than the neurotypical masses; especially most of the duds in his classes who prefer astrology over DNA. He also thinks his genetic variant provides him with advantages but also leaves him without a woman in his life; as he never gets a second date.

Turning forty, Don applies his need for nano detail and his superior organization and focus skills to create the Wife Project. His questionnaire is designed to eliminate those unacceptable due to an annoying trait like smoking or the wrong ice cream. When Don and Rosie Jarman the bartender-student meet; his reaction to her is that she is pretty but way too fiery and chaotic for an Aspie like him who bone marrow deep needs repetitive order. Rosie pleads with the professor to help her learn who her biological father is. As the Aspie and the NT work the Father Project, he revises the Wife Project into The Rosie Project.

This is a terrific look at how wide the human tent can be with the acceptance of neurodiversity of people wired differently; as Dashiell Hamett says in The Thin Man: "The problem with putting two and two together is that sometimes you get four, and sometimes you get twenty-two." Having raised an Aspie son, I believe Graeme Simsion captures the essence of those with the syndrome who can drive you insane and leave you laughing in nanoseconds, but especially as they become a teen and an adult the desperate need for a significant other. Although readers know what will happen, the journey from the mind to the heart is superb.

Somebody Like You
Beth K. Vogt
Howard Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781476737584, $14.99,

In 2012 in Breckenridge, Colorado, architect Stephen Ames proposes to Elissa who says no. A few days later in Fort Collins, his boss informs Stephen they must let go Jenkins; Stephen volunteers to quit so that the man and his family does not starve. Bad luck comes in threes as his hysterical mom Miriam calls Stephen with news his estranged brother Sam died in Afghanistan.

At the shooting range where she teaches, Sam's widow Hal explains to her boss she is quiting because a client complained of her pregnancy being inappropriate for this place. When Hal gets home, she sees Sam standing on her porch. She jumps into his arms, but he says to Haley he is Sam's twin. A stunned Haley never knew he existed; as neither her husband nor her mother-in-law mentioned Stephen. She points a gun at him so he leaves. Miriam explains to Haley that the brothers had a falling out when they were eighteen and had not talked to each other since in spite of her prayers they would reconcile. Remaining persistent, Stephen continues to pray to God for help while he keeps visiting and doing things for Haley. When they fall in love each feels they betray Sam.

Somebody Like You is an intriguing inspirational romance starring two flawed individuals linked by grief and guilt (for her husband his twin) as much as their love. The support cast (especially his divorced parents, Sam and her BFF) adds depth in understanding the lead couple. Beth K. Vogt writes a wonderful second chance drama.

Hell with the Lid Blown Off: An Alafair Tucker Mystery
Donis Casey
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464203008, $24.95,

In 1916 in Boynton, Oklahoma cantankerous bully Jubal Beldon and his abusive brothers harass teenager Ruth Tucker. When Deputy Sheriff Trenton Calder learns of these miscreants bothering Ruth, he becomes irate as he likes her. Ruth receives piano lessons from widow music teacher Beckie MacKenzie; who has her Vanderbilt University grandson Wallace Mackenzie III and his school friend Randal Wakefield visiting her. Jubal accuses the two students of being lovers; neither denies his assertion.

A major tornado hammers town. Found dead afterward is Jubal, but; no one including his mom, brothers and sister, grieve his death. However, the undertaker claims he probably did not die from the twister; but instead someone murdered the nasty brute. His brothers plan to dole out justice Beldon style even as Ruth's dad Sheriff Scott Tucker and Trenton investigate the homicide in which Beckie is the prime suspect. Scott's wife Alafair works on the after twister cleanup while Ruth looks into the murder.

The latest Alafair Tucker historical mystery (see The Wrong Hill to Die On) is a super whodunit with a next generation approach as Ruth and Trenton lead the inquiry while her parents are involved more with the storm aftermath. A strong yet relevant today period piece, readers will relish the return of the Boynton brood.

Face Value: A Rachel Gold Mystery
Michael Kahn
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464202803, $24.95

In St. Louis, retired cop turned security guard Tommy Flynn finds the corpse of Sari Bashir in an alley while on a smoke break. The police conclude the Warner & Olsen law firm attorney committed suicide by jumping from a garage. However, Warner & Olsen mail room employee Stanley Plotkin believes the cops erred as he knows someone murdered Sari from his in depth knowledge of the Facial Action Coding System; he applies to people to help him compensate for his inability to innately empathize with people or understand their emotions due to his being an Asperger's syndrome sufferer.

Having used FACS when he saw Sari just before she died, the Aspie read she was very upset as most young lawyers are but not remotely suicidal. He explains his contention to attorney Rachel Gold who was a friend of the deceased. When Sari's grieving father pleads with Rachel to read the police report, she does and finds some questionable items that provide credence to Stanley's conclusion of a homicide.

The ninth Rachel Gold Mystery (see Trophy Widow and The Flinch Factor) is a fabulous investigative thriller made fresh by the brilliant Aspie who lacks acceptable social graces and speaks neurotypical English as if it is a second language. The use of FACS enhances an enjoyable whodunit in which Rachel uncovers improprieties inside the law firm.

Final Curtain: An Edna Ferber Mystery
Ed Ifkovic
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464202926, $24.95

In 1927, Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman wrote the hit Broadway play The Royal Family which was turned into a movie three years later. Now in 1940, a nervous Edna will star in her first acting role as the grumpy elegant matriarch of The Royal Family of Broadway Fanny Cavendish in a summer stock production in Maplewood, New Jersey. Already filled with fear over flopping on stage, Edna turns even more anxious when producer Cheryl Crawford tells her that George agreed to replace ailing Lawrence Burton as director.

Edna meets the cast including handsome Evan Street; who may be an understudy, but acts like an A-list Hollywood superstar even having the nerve to argue with others involved in the production. When someone murders Evan, Edna investigates.

This Edna Ferber mystery (see Downtown Strut, Escape Artist and Make Believe) is a delightful historical amateur sleuth that takes readers to both sides of the Hudson at a time America still remains out of the war. The whodunit is fun and well-written, but what makes this entry and series work is the deep look at the theatre in a bygone era.

Love With A Perfect Cowboy
Lori Wilde
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062219008, $7.99,

Twelve years ago, Melody Spencer left Cupid, Texas on a full scholarship to NYU and has stayed in Queens until recently ever since. She also left behind the love of her life Luke Spencer and the feud between their families. She anticipates a promotion to creative director at the ad agency where she works, but instead Melody's Tribalgate boss fires her due to her inability to ignore her ethics; as he insists the customer is always right regardless. After a respite at St. Pat's, Melody returns to her lover Jean Claude Laurent's apartment only the doorman Parker refuses her access and tells her to remove her things or face the cops.

In Manhattan, Luke as the mayor of their small-town needs Melody's skills to save drought-ridden Cupid. She agrees to go home to mount a campaign to save Cupid, but makes it clear no sex. Back in Texas, as their families still feud, Melody and Luke make love not war.

The latest Cupid romance (see All Out Of Love, Love at First Sight and Somebody To Love) is an amusing lighthearted second chance at love contemporary. Although the jocular storyline goes as expected; the lead couple and their lunatic family make for a fun time "Deep in the Heart of Texas."

Sky Zone
Creston Mapes
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781408172, $14.99,

Having lost his position as a Trenton City Dispatch reporter, Jack Crittendon has become a mostly stay at home dad raising his two young daughters (Rebecca and Faye). When he works part-time as an Event Pros security at places like the Festival Arena, his live-in mother-in-law watches the children. To his chagrin, his eight-month pregnant wife Pam has become the family breadwinner instead of resting before she gives birth.

Presidential candidate Martin Sterling arrives at the Festival Arena to rally his supporters. Jack and his friend Brian Shakespeare are part of the security force; both expect the biggest threat being ennui. However, Homeland Security agents believe terrorists target the Festival Arena threatening thousands including Jack and Brian. Knowing sh*t happens after what Meade did to his wife and children (see Fear Has a Name) and what the toxic industrial-government complex did to his town (see Poison Town), the former journalist and his survivalist buddy take action to thwart a horrible tragedy.

The third Crittendon Files is a taut twisting Christian suspense thriller that grips the reader from the moment the threat to the people in the arena begins. Although the climax feels improbable, fans who know Jack will battle against the odds to prevent a 9/11-like murder of thousands of innocent people.

Forever Amish
Kate Lloyd
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781408745, $14.99,

Ignoring the stern warning of Bishop Troyer, Lizzy Zook exchanges emails with Sally Bingham; subject purebred dogs. When Lizzy invites Sally to visit her at her B&B in Bird-in Hand in Lancaster County, the latter accepts over the vehement objection of her ailing single dad Ed, owner of Honest Ed's Used Cars, who raised her by himself in Connecticut. Ed says his "Mustang Sally" should forget about finding her mom; as her mother could find them if she wanted to meet her. Sally's fiance Donald also thinks Amish country is a waste of time.

After a near "fender bender" with Bishop Troyer, Sally meets Lizzie, who takes her into her home. Farmhand Armin King and Lizzie are attracted to one another but both know a relationship is nearly impossible even though he spent years as English. Meanwhile Sally begins to learn the truth about her roots.

The third Legacy of Lancaster Amish family drama (see Pennsylvania Patchwork and Leaving Lancaster) is an engaging tale in which the women take action that the men vehemently oppose. Though Donald proves no competition with his strong-arm tactics including an assault, series fans will enjoy this entry due to a strong cast who bring to life a young woman's awakening to a missing major part of her heritage.

Rebels: City Of Indra: The Story of Lex and Livia
Kendall and Kylie Jenner
Gallery Books/Karen Hunter Publishing
Karen Hunter Publishing
P.O. Box 632, South Orange, NJ 07079
Gallery Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781451694420, $17.99,

In Indra, Lex the orphan lives just above the rock bottom layer where the rejected mutants live. She prepares for the day she persuades authorities that she is useful to society rather than being banished to reside with the dregs beneath her. Her chance to prove her worth occurs when she is selected to train as a Population Control Force cadet.

At the other end of the spectrum, Livia lives at the top in a lofty home on a floating island above the city. Though she seems to have everything, Livia feels imprisoned with no freedom when all she wants is to run around with her horse.

At basic, Lex the loner makes one friend Kane. When her only buddy is in trouble at the top of the world, Lex deserts her special ops post to protect his back. However, standing in her way is affluent Livia who proves flexible and intelligent as she forces Lex to allow her to join her on the rescue mission. Neither realize they share the same mark that if discovered places both in danger as they share much more than this and the need to save Kane.

This tale focuses on the coming of age of two young women with polar opposite backgrounds who sacrifice all initially to rescue a friend but soon learn TMI. The storyline is light fun but the key title character city never feels developed especially the zones where the lead pair grew up and The Prince(ss) and The Pauper prove interchangeable.

Knight Of Love
Catherine LaRoche
Pocket Star
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476710136, $1.99, (ebook)

In 1848 in the German Confederation, ruthless Prince Kurt von Rotenburg brutalizes his English fiancee Lady Lenora Trevelayan. He smacks her whenever he believes she behaved inappropriately. Unwilling to accept his abuse, Lenora becomes determined to go home, but no one will help her out of fear of violent retribution to themselves and their family. The vicious prince flogs his intended over twenty times in a public square, but Lenora refuses to scream though she cannot walk once the torture ends.

No one dare assist her except the gentle giant Wolfram von Wolfsbach und Ravensworth the half-English aristocratic blacksmith who realizes the brave English lady is his soul mate. When Lenora escapes from her prison, she fails to get very far as rebels catch her. She vows to use her knife to flee or die, but instead their leader Wolfram welcomes his beloved to their camp.

Knight of Love is an entertaining mid nineteenth historical romance made fresh by the location of two English in Germany during the revolution. Ironically she rejects his love at first sight while testing his gentleness. Although her second escape engages the audience, it also feels unnecessary as she could just say no to her kind second suitor. Still subgenre fans will enjoy this exciting drama.

Basil Instinct
Shelley Costa
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476709369, $7.99,

In Quaker Hills, Pennsylvania Miracolo Italian Restaurant owner Chef Maria Pia Angelotta turns ecstatic when she reads Belfiere's invitation for her to become a member. None of her grandchildren heard of this foodie society that apparently is a two-century old female-only Italian culinary group. Ecstatic the septuagenarian plans immediately to obtain the membership tattoo and follow the rules especially the omerta vow of silence.

Eve and her cousins fear for Nonna; as internet research reveals almost nothing about an organization claiming a two hundred-year existence. They do learn of a warning to beware of infamous women poisoners. Soon afterward Eve trips over the corpse of sous chef Georgia Payne inside the restaurant when she opens Miracolo to teach a class. The cousins also find out that their deceased employee had ties to Belfiere, so Eve and the posse investigate before Nonna joins a society in which the only way out is death.

The second Miracolo Mystery (see You Cannoli Die Once) is an enjoyable culinary cozy as the Basil Instincts of Eve and crew are that Belfiere is a dangerous version of the Eagles' Hotel California. The secret society steals the show from the extended Angelotta family, employees and friends as readers will wonder how dark and deadly this association is.

Banishing The Dark
Jenn Bennett
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781451695090, $7.99,

Arcadia Bell has no time to heal from her severe wounds or celebrate her triumph over the now dead Hellfire Club Chief Ambrose Dare (see Summoning The Night) as she still has to challenge her murderous mom Enola Duval before time runs out on her. With her recently activated power growing exponentially, Cady continues to search for pertinent information on the Moonchild ritual performed by her malevolent mage parents when she was conceived; enabling Enola's soul to steal her offspring's body.

As she prepares for her confrontation, her only allies are Hellfire member and her lover Earthbound demon Lon Butler and his teenage son Jupe. To insure evil Enola does not learn from his beloved Cady that she carries his child, Lon erases her memory of being pregnant, but also accidentally deletes her knowledge of their love.

The latest Arcadia Bell urban fantasy (see Kindling the Moon) is an action-packed exciting thriller that will please series fans. Fast-paced yet character-driven especially by the heroine whose coming of age with her new growing powers, increasing confidence and self-esteem, and love with those who have her back; while preparing to commit justifiable matricide before "Mommy Dearest" sacrifices her.

Joseph Finder
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780525954606, $27.95,

In Boston, teenage BFFs Abby Goodman and Jenna Galvin attend the elite Lyman Academy. However, Abby's dad Danny struggles with meeting the exorbitant tuition. Though it breaks his heart the financially strapped author knows he must take his daughter out of the school she loves.

Jenna's affluent dad Thomas learns of the Goodman plight and does not want the only friend of his loner daughter leaving their school; thus he provides a no-string $50,000 to Danny. His euphoria ends when the Feds visit Danny claiming Thomas Galvin makes his money as an agent of Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel. The Feds give Danny a choice between jail and a hefty fine for accepting illegal drug money and abetting a cartel, or being their undercover operative to bring down Thomas.

This is a powerhouse suspenseful thriller with major plausible twists and a deep cast regardless of age, ethnicity or vocation held together by the two fathers especially Danny. Readers will root for the beleaguered everyman Danny; as he struggles between the vicious take no prisoners Feds, the violent leave no survivors cartel, a killing at any cost psychopathic Mexican and the kindness of Thomas; while forced to hide what is going on from his loved ones as he tries to do the right thing for his family though has no idea how to survive this trauma.

The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair
Joel Dicker
Penguin Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780143126683, $18.00,

In 1975 in Somerset, New Hampshire, Deborah Cooper calls the police believing she saw a man chase a woman into the nearby woods. Soon after her frantic call, the town learns that the Pastor Kellergan's fifteen year old daughter Nola vanished. Though no evidence proved novelist Harry Quebert killed her; most locals believe he murdered his underage girlfriend.

In 2008, Manhattan-based writer Marcus Goldman struggles with authoring his second book after a successful debut. Needing help to move passed his writer's block, Marcus travels to Somerset to consult with his former coach Harry Quebert who welcomes his bright student while reminding him of the 31 rules of writing.

Soon after Marcus' arrival in New Hampshire, gardeners find Nola's murdered body. The police arrest Harry as his manuscript was interred with her. Marcus, believing his friend is innocent, investigates the thawed cold case with plans to write a book on what he learns.

The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair is an enjoyable twisting metafiction thriller. Although the support cast is two-dimensional stereotyped (past and present), readers will enjoy Marcus' quest for what happened in 1975 and why.

Confessions of a Murder Suspect
James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10017
9781455547746, $8.00,

On Central Park West, Angel Pharmaceuticals CEO wealthy Malcolm and Maud Angel are found murdered in their bed. Someone notifies the cops leading to NYPD Sergeant Caputo and Detective Hayes arriving at their condo. The police suspect that one or more of the late power couple's four children (Matthew, Robert, Harry and Tandy) killed their parents.

Brilliant teenager, Tandy analyzes the situation and agrees with the official assertion that the killer has to be one of them. She considers the personalities of her brothers: the fiery raging oldest Matthew; her twin Robert the artist and bellicose tweener Harry. At the same time she investigates, the police look at Tandy as the likely killer.

The latest Confessions mystery (see The Private School Murders) is an entertaining fast-paced whodunit. Although none of the six Angels come across even slightly affable and the climax is very disappointing, the authors' younger teenage fans will enjoy Tandy's amateur sleuthing as she distrusts her entire extended family including her dead parents and even herself.

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane
Neil Gaiman
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062255662, $14.99,

Obsessed, he heads back to the house in rustic Sussex that he has not seen since his parents sold it three decades ago. The artist thinks back to when his family moved into their new home at five year old and left seven years later.

When he was a loner at seven, the child met tweener Lettie Hempstock the Daughter, the Mother and the Grandmother who lived near the pond that turned out to be The Ocean At The End Of The Lane. A suicide enabled evil to take residence in their home in the form of the housekeeper. She easily charmed his mother and siblings, and seduced his father; only he was immune because he believed whom his only friend was and her family still is. In the present he meets Mother and Grandmother, but he blames himself that the Daughter apparently remains lost.

This is a super horror-fantasy that grips readers from the moment the nameless protagonist returns to the site of his greatest triumph and loss. Character driven, readers will relish the tale of the artist remembering when he as the child and the Daughter fought the malevolence.

The Hurricane Sisters
Dorothea Benton Frank
9780062132529, $26.99

In Charleston, South Carolina, sandwiched generation Liz struggles with her family. Her recently turned eighty mom Maisie remains the opinionated family matriarch while always disapproving of her and encouraging her grandchildren. Liz's apparently philandering husband Clayton prefers to stay in New York more than in Lowcountry. Finally the lifestyles of her adult children bother her; as her oldest Ivy resides in San Francisco with his beloved mate James and her recent college grad daughter Ashley remains wistful in a cloud state of mind. Her only satisfaction is her work at a preventing domestic violence at a not for profit.

Liz worries most about Ashley who works at a gallery while painting. Ashley and her BFF Mary Beth have a scheme to make money that seems doomed to fail and most likely illegal. Her affair with State Senator Porter Galloway appears ready to implode even as the dreamer ignores her friend and her gut preferring to believe one day she will be First Lady to her lover's POTUS.

Though somewhat disjointed while rotating perspective between the four fully-developed family members living in Lowcountry, readers obtain diverse views on the same incident as the theory of relativity filters each person's perception. The dysfunctional family dynamics storyline engages the audience especially the realistic older three; while Ashley acts more like a young teenybopper than a college graduate even when she emulates her mom's acceptance of crap from the man in her life.

Small Plates
Katherine Hall Page
9780062310798, $24.99

This enjoyable nine-story anthology includes six entertaining entries starring caterer Faith Fairchild. Series fans will appreciate these terrific tales including those lacking Faith as we Have Faith in Katherine Hall Page's to create enticing stories.

The fabulous Faith Fairchild: In "The Ghost of Winthrop" Faith seeks a missing will. An escape to the Cape ends for Faith and Thomas when a terrified woman asks the couple to protect her from her husband in "Death in the Dunes." Faith and her sister fear for the accident-prone bride in "Across the Pond." Musing that "The Proof is Always in the Pudding," Faith looks into her husband's long held family "beliefs". Sliced" takes place in a TV reality cook-off as Faith participates but not in the way she planned. The past may be haunting but to Faith the present feels uplifting in "The Two Marys".

The terrific tales lacking Faith: "The Would-Be Widower" plans to eliminate his wife so he can be the choice of the widow brigade. It is "A Perfect Maine Day" for drowning victim Myra's funeral. Finally in "Hiding Places," the newlywed wife begins to wonder who she married.

Yankee In Atlanta
Jocelyn Green
River North
c/o Moody Publishers
820 N. LaSalle Blvd., Chicago, IL 60610
9780802405784, $14.99,

After being injured in battle while fighting for the North in Virginia, Caitlin McKae awakens to find herself in an Atlanta hospital. The doctor obviously knows she is a female pretending to be a man but assumes she fought for the Confederacy. Caitlin conceals her roots to avoid being incarcerated as a Northern spy. She becomes governess to German immigrant Noah Becker's daughter Analiese. While he reluctantly joins the fight of his new country though he loathes slavery, Noah depends on Caitlin to keep his beloved child safe. Caitlin and Ana pray their beloved Noah returns safe to them at a time when Sherman begins his march through the South.

In New York City, Ruby O'Flannery struggles with the assault that tortures her soul though she tries to hide her torment from her son Aiden. She works as a maid while belonging to a bible study group led by Chaplain Edward Goodrich. Respect for one another soon turns to love for Ruby and Edward, but others try to keep them apart.

The third Heroines Behind The Lines Civil War drama (see Wedded to War and Widow of Gettysburg) is a deep historical that rotates focus on two women in opposite sides of the divided nation struggling to survive the horrors of war. Each subplot is entertaining while enabling the audience to compare living in New York and Atlanta in 1864. Although the war keeps Caitlin and Noah apart so that their relationship feels lacking in substance, readers will enjoy a Yankee In Atlanta (and New York) as Jocelyn Green once again provides her fans with a profound look at the impact of combat on beleaguered civilians.

Death's Redemption
Marie Hall
Forever Romance
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9781455549917, $17.00,

Mila O'Fallen is the last known human seer whose visions enable her to see other people's past and future fate. As for herself, she knows her life is harsh if anyone, especially the paranormal, learn of her ability; as they will pursue her. However to save a girl's life, Mila exposes herself.

Following her Good Samaritan deed that awakens others to her skills, vampires trap Mila when a big person arrives at the scene. Frenzy the Grim Reaper plans to harvest another pathetic human soul but is stunned as this mortal has the eyes of his late beloved who perished centuries ago. Though Mila pleads with him to leave her to die, Frenzy refuses as he feels an attraction like no other since his soul mate left him bereaving. As they flee together, evil pursues her with a diligence because she is the tool to destroy multiple species.

The second Eternal Lovers romantic urban fantasy (see Death's Lover) is a fabulous grim (no pun intended) paranormal thriller. Readers will appreciate the supernatural species (fae, vampires, and werewolves; oh, my) as each of them as well as the skills of the lead power couple come across as genuine. However, the key to this entertaining tale is the relationship between the good seer and the bad reaper because to our delight love melts his tundra frozen heart.

Tenth Degree Of The Paranormal
Brenda Stinnett
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781495390807, $14.98,

Barbara Stevens knows how difficult it is to deal with powers that the normal like her former husband Russell would say do not exist or if they believe label as paranormal. Though she conceals her abnormal ability by refusing to use it, Barbara's concern is not for herself but for her tweener daughter Tiffany; as like she genetically inherited her talent from her recently deceased mom Katherine so has her child from her. Before her death Katharine warned Barbara that Tiffany appears to have the rare tenth degree of psychic Power that others will covet for their personal avarice.

Over the objection of Russell who insists Tiffany is normal, Barbara takes their offspring to Dr. Karlovsky for testing. Not long afterward, Barbara and Tiffany are abducted by fanatics seeking to create a super master race. While the pair remains incarcerated near Russia, Tiffany begins to display abilities in all ten paranormal disciplines in which the few with talent rarely can perform two skills. If true and not controlled, she inadvertently will open the abyss and bring hell to earth.

With a nod to the three-generation female relationships of the Ghost Whisperer, Tenth Degree Of The Paranormal is a great paranormal thriller; as a mother who spent decades running from her talent will do anything including embrace her skills to keep her cub safe. Sub-genre fans will appreciate Brenda Stinnett's exciting good and evil tale as the Momma Grizzly risks her life to protect her beloved daughter.

R.L Hayden
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781496105370, $16.00,

Elderly Howard and Marge Masting search for their Uncle James's mine. They stop for cold drinks at a frontier town before returning to their hotel in nearby Kingman, Arizona. To their shock the couple thought they were gone for hours only to learn days passed. Kingman Police Officer Billy Gomez accompanies the couple to the location of the town, but nothing is there except their drinking glasses. Looking back as they leave, the couple sees a shimmer and a 1940s village that quickly vanishes.

Rick Prescott learns what the Masting couple claims they saw and that they disappeared one year ago, three months after their encounter. He buys from their distraught daughter a detailed diary of their find and visits Sarina Lake who has kept her distance from Rick after the flying saucer violent mishmash (see Cover-Up). They travel to the site accompanied by Gomez and repeat the Masting phenomena of shimmering in and out towns. This leads them to a saucer and its survivor "Wilma". Soon the couple heads to Yellowknife, Canada where a retired and an active Mounties help them with an underwater find while the American military stealthily and Reverend Franklin's Church of Blinding Light clumsily threaten their lives.

The second Rick Prescott and Sarina Lake paranormal thriller is an action-packed investigative tale in which the Masting couple takes the opening sprint before handing the baton off to the lead couple as two is the magic number in this fast-paced story. Readers will appreciate this exciting entry with the major alien threads tied up intelligently and the American military behaving as expected when conducting an illegal action in Canada; only the Rev's team comes across as stereotypes.

R. L. Hayden
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781495326110, $16.00,

While waiting for an alien autopsy film to arrive for them to authenticate or more likely debunk, Real Saucer magazine reporters Rick Prescott and Beth Ringold, accompanied by psychic Sarina Lake, are in Roswell visiting the alleged crash site. While Beth is bitchy skeptical, Rick encourages Sarina to use her special skills. The trio meets Roswell Space Museum curator and college professor Layne Gunther who joins their team. The quartet finds a Prince Albert tobacco tin with a piece of paper dated 1947 inside, and also notices pillars that hint at a crash site. When armed commo dudes arrive, they flee Roswell for Albuquerque where Rick's eccentric longtime friend Lawrence Harvey provides them assistance.

When they prove the autopsy film false; the team splits into pairs (Beth with Layne, and Sarina with Rick) in search of the person responsible for the super movie hoax while Lawrence serves as command central. Sarina and Rick find the filmmaker in New Mexico, but he refuses to speak to them; instead he needs to flee for his life from government sanctioned hit squads. In spite of the peril, Rick and Sarina fall in love while struggling to understand Roswell and two other less publicized Land of Enchantment locations.

The first Rick Prescott Paranormal Thriller is an exhilarating investigation that offers a delightful theory as to a Federal Cover-Up still enforced over six decades later with deadly force. Although the action-packed storyline feels too long with two climaxes, this also enables R. L. Hayden to develop a fascinating brilliant sleight of hand twist to Roswell. Fans will appreciate this super look at what occurred and as important what did not in 1947 New Mexico.

Ill Conceived
L. C. Hayden
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781491215760, $15.00,

In South Lake Tahoe, California, the police list missing teenager Lauri Evans as a runaway. However, Lauri's seemingly demented Grandma Louise Dietz insists to North Shore Carrier editor Rich, and reporters Aimee Brent and Dolphine Birescik she heard Lauri scream twice in the nearby woods. Later Aimee chats with Lauri's boyfriend Gary Heely who insists she did not run away, the missing girl's mother and other acquaintances.

Police Detective Tom O'Day informs Aimee that they found the teen's corpse in the nearby woods. Tom's sort of partner Marie O'Day tells Aimee and Dolphine that the victim was stabbed twice in the back and once in the abdomen. Tom arrests drugged-out Gary, but Aimee feels the boyfriend did not kill a girl he cared about; so she and Dolphine investigate only to find several suspects.

With Harry Bronson taking a breather (see When Death Intervenes and When the Past Haunts You), L. C. Hayden provides her fans with a fabulous journalist investigative thriller. The engaging whodunit contains red herrings and a wonderful twist leading to a second inquiry. Readers will appreciate the antics of the BFFs reporters as they land in one superbly suspenseful situation after another.

Nantucket Sisters
Nancy Thayer
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345545480, $26.00,

Emily Porter and Maggie McIntyre met on the beaches of Nantucket when they were five years old. They became BFFs in spite of their financial differences and their residency diversity; as the former resides with her wealthy family mostly in Manhattan while Maggie and her comparatively poor kin live year round on Nantucket. Over the years as tweeners, teens and adults they remain best friends though there have been relationship issues when each discovers boys and eventually men starting with college as Emily is attracted to Maggie's brother Ben and Maggie breaks off with her boyfriend Shane. After graduating from college, each wants handsome Wall Street trader Cameron Chadwick, but eventually Emily marries him. The women enter their thirties with each raising a child as a single mom and having a persistent suitor; steadfast Tyler wants to always be there for Maggie and her daughter and Ben still desires Emily and being a caring stepfather to her kid.

This is an enjoyable lighthearted epic that follows the lives of two close friends over two decades. Although, the storyline never goes very deep, fans will enjoy Nancy Thayer's breezy return to Nantucket (see Island Girls and A Nantucket Christmas).

Cop Town
Karin Slaughter
Delacorte Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345547491, $27.00,

In 1974 Vietnam War Widow Kate Murphy joins the Atlanta police force though she knows she has no chance to be more than a beat or desk cop; as all detectives are male. She also is aware that as a white female she is not at the bottom of the hierarchy as for instance black women cannot enter the locker rooms until their Caucasian counterparts leave.

Maggie Lawson has been an APD police officer for a few years just like her brother Jimmy and their uncle Terry who both scorn her for being a female cop. The "Shooter" hits Don Wesley; the wounded cop's partner Jimmy survives because the cop killer's Raven MP-25 jams. Tires slashed, Jimmy carries Don to Grady where he becomes the latest officer murdered by this elusive predator. Though Terry tells his niece to leave the inquiry to the pros, Maggie feels obligated to investigate. She and Kate team up in search of the Shooter who considers the Widow as his next target.

This is a timely bloody Nixon Era police procedural that looks deep into the 1970s APD in which racism and sexism are the overt hierarchal norm, and religious and homosexual prejudice are also set in stone as acceptable occurrences (we have come a long way though much is left unfinished). The males purposely are two-dimensional stereotypes to emphasize the severe intolerance of the times (in spite of the first black Mayor Maynard Jackson) in which no one dares to come out of the closet to announce their Jewish or gay especially in a macho testosterone police force. Rotating perspective between the two lead females and the serial killer, readers will appreciate this engaging glimpse at the low level glass ceiling.

The Good Suicides
Antonio Hill
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780770435905, $26.00,

Barcelona PD detective Hector Salgado remains on suspension for his savage beating of human-trafficking ringleader Dr. Omar (see The Summer of Dead Toys). He also struggles with dealing with his teenage son Guillermo as a single dad following the disappearance of his separated wife Ruth Valldaura; his superiors admonish him to stay out of their inquiry into his estranged mate's vanishing.

However being the department's top investigator, once again Hector returns to work when Alemany Cosmetics employees begin mass suicides following a team-building event and a subsequent message "Never Forget". At the same time his pregnant police partner Leire Castro, on boring maternity leave, unofficially investigates Ruth's vanishing; she finds shocking connections to Omar and the "stolen babies." Hector and his former lover reporter Lola Martinez Rueda team up on his case.

The second Salgado Spanish police procedural is another strong investigative thriller containing two fascinating inquiries enhanced by insight into the personal lives of the protagonist and his partner. Each case is well done with a sense of societal failure cutting through both of them. Readers will appreciate Antonio Hill's excellent series.

The Summer Of Dead Toys
Antonio Hill
Broadway Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780770435899, $15.00,

Argentine emigre Hector Salgado knows first-hand the prejudice Spaniards have against South Americans and how that bias can destroy his career, but the excellent Barcelona Police Inspector cannot control his quick temper that could give his superiors a reason to fire him. After battering human-trafficking ringleader Dr. Omar, he receives a severe admonition and suspension.

Back at work, Salgado, to his chagrin, investigates the seemingly accidental death of teenage college student Marc Castells who fell from a balcony. Salgado believes the assignment is to warn him to keep his rage in check while mollifying the deceased's influential wealthy dad who has high level political connections. Salgado's partner Leire Castro finds evidence that this was not an accident. As the pair conducts a homicide inquiry into Castells' murder in which his friends refuse to cooperate and illegal drugs are involved; a fully healed Omar leaves behind a pig's head before vanishing.

The first Salgado Spanish police procedural provides readers with a fabulous investigative thriller starring a strong flawed protagonist and a solid support cast in a wonderful setting. The official inquiry engages the audience while the feud with the vile trafficker enhances the tale with Salgado's terrific tour of Barcelona adding depth to a super read.

A Catered Fourth Of July
Isis Crawford
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758274915, $24.00,

Residents of Longley, New York look forward to the Fourth of July shindig in spite of the summer Westchester heat; with many looking forward to the Revolutionary War reenactment of the Battle of Meadow Creek. However, at the gala in Highland Park, performer Jack Devlin fires his musket; only it explodes and kills him. Rick Evans accuses Marvin, who was responsible for checking all equipment including the weapons as Jack's flintlock was obviously tampered by someone.

At the lethal enactment, owners of A Little Taste of Heaven Bernie and Libby Simmons fear that Police Chief Lucas will arrest the latter's boyfriend Marvin for the murder. When someone shoots at Marvin's car, the cops ignore the attempted murder as their focus remains on him being the only suspect; leaving it to the Simmons sisters, their dad the retired police chief and Bernie's boyfriend Brandon to investigate.

The latest Simmons sleuth sisters' holiday mystery (see A Catered Christmas Cookie Exchange, A Catered Birthday Party and A Catered Halloween) is a wonderful lighthearted culinary cozy with numerous people having a motive to kill the philandering victim. Subgenre readers will appreciate this fun July 4th whodunit as the bickering siblings compete with reenactors, cops, Hilda, Wiccan and a horde who know Jack too well.

Murder on the Mediterranean
Alexander Campion
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758268839, $24.00

Police Judicaire Commissaire Capucine Le Tellier, her husband restaurant critic Alexandre, Juge d'Instruction Ines Maistre and six others sail the Mediterranean on the Diomede charter. Inez explains to Capucine that she feels close to finally resolving her obsession to bring down financial miscreant Andre Tottingeur and his well-placed family, owners of a highly regarded Paris bank.

However, the pleasure trip turns ugly when the hired hand pampering to the guests Nathalie Martin falls overboard and is apparently dead in the Mediterranean; her body is not found. The prime suspect in what appears to be a homicide is Capucine. She and Alexandre rusticate at a friend's estate even as Capucine investigates the murder far from the watery crime scene.

The latest captivating Capucine Culinary Mystery (see Death of a Chef, Grave Gourmet, Killer Critique and Crime Fraiche) is an enjoyable leisurely-paced whodunit with a nod to the classic The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant. While her spouse cooks up incredible meals; the heroine tries to identify the killer though many kilometers from where the victim drowned to indirectly prove her innocence; but as Victor Hugo showed justice is not always served.

'Til Dirt Do Us Part
Edith Maxwell
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758284648, $24.00

In Millsbury, Massachusetts, Cameron Flaherty caters her first organic dinner party on her farm where she grows the products being served. The kitchen is in her barn and the dining facility placed outdoors under a tent. Her eighty guests enjoy the meal.

Cam feels euphoric over her successful venture until the next morning when the body of irritable diner Irene Burr is found in a sty on her neighbor's pig farm. The evidence proves the deceased was a murder victim and the police suspects Irene's stepson Bobby. Fearing the impact on her business and also believing Bobby, who she knows from his work on her barn, did not kill his cranky stepmom, Cam and the suspect's friend Simone Koyama the mechanic investigate.

The second Local Foods whodunit (see A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die) is an enjoyable amateur sleuth anchored by a strong look at the organic and local foods farm industry. Although Cam's rationalizations for sleuthing seem unlikely, readers will appreciate this fun cozy (including the recipes especially tasty is the Sweet Potatoes Empanadas).

Death In Saratoga Springs
Charles O'Brien
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758286383, $15.00

In 1894, the affluent Crawford family butler Virgil Crawford hires Prescott and Associates to investigate the disappearance of their housekeeper Martha Colt's teenaged niece Ruth who vanished a month ago. Mr., Crawford explains to investigator Pamela Thompson that the New York City police refuse to search for the missing girl because there is no evidence of a crime though the butler believes more likely due to her being black.

Pamela and fired police detective (and falsely accused convict) Harry Miller follow clues that lead them to decorated Union Army Captain Jed Crake, who has an abusive history with women. Soon the sleuths believe Ruth is dead, but efforts to prove by whom lead them taken off the case by a killer who threatens to harm sixteen year old Francesca Ricci.

A few months later, the wealthy but ailing from kidney failure Crake, accompanied by his once a hooker wife Rachel, heads to the Grand Hotel in Saratoga Springs. Crake is not long a guest at the affluent hotel before someone murders him. The local police arrest chambermaid Francesca, who was found with the victim's jewelry and has a history with Crake. Pamela and Harry head to Saratoga Springs to help Francesca by seeking his killer amidst many people loathing Crake including the Crawford family.

The second Gilded Age Mysteries (see Death of a Robber Baron) is an entertaining timely historical that looks closely into the "affluenza" syndrome as the rich get away with murder and rape though the 1890s purchasing power differs from today (cops and thugs vs. lawyers). The whodunit seems more of a support motif to enable readers to visit Manhattan and Saratoga Springs during the decadent "Gay Nineties."

Scene of the Climb
Kate Dyer-Seeley
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758295316, $7.99

Unemployed reporter Meg Reed lives on the couch of her bestie since second grade Jill Pettygrove in the upscale Pearl neighborhood of wet Portland, Oregon. Desperate for a job, she knows the Pulitzer Prize winning The O will not call in spite of or due to her late beloved Pops Charlie having been a lead reporter but on unfriendly terms with the editor-in-chief; especially at a time of layoffs. However, due to Pops' lofty investigative reputation and a pink umbrella, Meg meets Greg Dixon, Editor in Chief of Northwest Extreme, who hires her after she exaggerates her accomplishments.

When the magazine's top gun Mitch falls off Smith Rock, Greg assigns Meg to cover his Race the States on a reality TV adventure show. Her climbing experience being nada, Meg struggles to reach the summit of Angel's Rest when competitor Lenny goes flying the other way just passed her ascent. With Pop's gene pool encouraging her, Meg investigates the apparent accident while an unknown adversary warns her to end her inquiry or she dives next.

The first Pacific Northwest Mystery is a humorous yet taut journalistic mystery held together by a spunky seemingly out of her league heroine working the wonderfully described scenic Portland area. Not for the hard-boiled, the rookie reporter, with her amusing self-deprecating chick lit asides, works her initial investigation while she prays she contains her Pops' Mojo.

Deadly Decor
Karen Rose Smith
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758284860, $7.99

In Kismet, Pennsylvania, thirtyish home stager Caprice De Luca feels her life is good as her business is thriving and she even is dating. However, as Caprice works with Eliza Cornwell on her mansion, she is concerned with her sister Bella Santini whose marriage to Joe appears dead due to a nasty squabble over an unwanted pregnancy. Distraught Bella accepts an invitation for coffee from her former boyfriend Bob Preston, who Caprice employs to paint her staged homes.

Not long after Bella steps out with Bob, someone adds blood red to his light green paint by murdering him. Police Detective Jones suspects an angry jealous Joe killed his wife's lover or Bella who was found by the corpse killed her lover. Disagreeing with the cops, Caprice investigates as she believes Joe would not murder anyone even if he is angry with his spouse and that her sister would not cheat or kill her alleged paramour even if she is angry with her spouse as her hormones run wild.

The second Caprice De Luca Pennsylvania cozy (see Staged to Death) is an enjoyable amateur sleuth as the queen of family dramas, Karen Rose Smith, once again brings her upbeat uniqueness to the mystery genre. Character-driven with two suspects who are the heroine's relatives, fans will appreciate Caprice's investigation to prove their innocence and find the killer.

What Lies Beneath
Sarah Rayne
Felony & Mayhem
174 W 4th St., Suite #261, New York, NY 10014
9781937384678, $14.95,

While at the deli in Bramley, Ella Haywood learns that the government considers the "Poisoned Village" safe for humans to enter for the first time in decades. Fifty years ago during the heat of the Cold War, the government evacuated nearby Priors Bramley; turning the tiny village into a chemical warfare test site.

Shocked and fearing exposure for the crime they committed in Priors Bramley, Ella reflects back to when she and her childhood friends Clementine Poulter and Veronica Campion snuck into the forbidden zone just before a plane was schedule to dump Geranos compound on the village. Wandering around the empty streets, the three young girls were frightened to meet a mutilated person. Panicking the trio kills him unaware that prior to WWI, this village had another haunting experience at Cadence Manor.

What Lies Beneath is an exhilarating thriller in which three decades come together in an eerie drama as what happened in 1912 and the scary real concept of deliberate destruction of a village as part of weapons testing tie together with the reopening. Readers will hear the music playing in the background as Sarah Rayne provides her audience with a super haunting tale.

Vicky Peterwald: Target
Mike Shepherd
Ace Books
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780425266571, $7.99,

The emperor loathes the Longknife family and prefers every one of them dead. He told his worthless daughter, (whose only use is as a marital commodity) Her Imperial Grace the Grand Duchess Victoria Maria Teresa Inez Smythe- Peterwald, that the family feud was over a century old, but personal since Lieutenant Kris Longknife killed his heir in battle as the latest affront by these upstarts.

When his unwanted daughter failed to assassinate his enemy, the irate Emperor assigns her to serve in the military to learn to be a ruthless killer or die. She developed skills and confidence to be more than a male magnet by observing her adversary and others. Yet ironically Vicky feels safer serving on Longknife's ship the Wasp than at home especially since the young empress Annah wants her dead.

The first Vicky Peterwald science fiction is an engaging hyper-speed thriller obviously located in the Longknife galaxy. The entertaining coming of age storyline focuses on Vicky's growing awareness that she can be much more than her father's pretty pawn if she survives her vicious stepmother's attacks. Although more a set-up opening act, Longknife fans will welcome this female rival who sees her enemy as a role model. Increasingly Vicky believes she and her gender can be much more than society allows; but also frequently reverts back to her seductive charm persona hammered into her brain all her life (until her sibling died) that is all she is good for.

A Cut-Like Wound
Anita Nair
Bitter Lemon Press
37 Arundel Gardens, London, W11 2LW, United Kingdom
9781908524362, $14.95,

As the month of Ramzan begins around the world, in Bangalore, India a young male heeds the words of the Goddess to cross-dress as a female. He admires his transformation into beautiful Bhuvana before leaving his home to visit the bazaars where he expects to meet true love. A man flirts with Bhuvana until an interloper warns him that the woman he admires is a male in female clothing. Angry as lust turns to disgust he insults the transgender and the interloper. When he recognizes who the transgender is, he panics just before his throat is sliced. Before leaving the killer arranges for a cleanup.

Inspector Borei Gowda struggles with his relationships with his wife, son and his former college lover; as well as those on the job including his superior, his peers and his informants, but especially his eager assistant Santosh. Meanwhile Gowda investigates a series of homicides that make no sense to him as they seem like angry crimes of passion yet cleansed by an apparent cool head.

This is an intriguing Indian police procedural in which the official serial killing inquiry takes a back seat to the deep look inside the souls of the fully developed lead characters Gowda and Bhuvana; with the latter owning the storyline. Although the tension dramatically lessons as the plot turns inward after a taut suspenseful opening, A Cut-Like Wound is a fresh mystery.

Darkness Bound
J.T. Geissinger
Montlake Romance
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781477820100, $12.95,

Though she never met an Ikati and based solely on events in Rome, New York Times senior war correspondence Jack Dolan's column on the "Enemy Among Us" puts fear and anger in the minds of this shapeshifting race. She exposes them as being a deadly threat to mankind. Her muckraking demand for extinction has the shapeshifters going deeper into concealment because they know the humans will stalk them mercilessly. The Ikati also deploy a two-step counterplan to bring a death and destruction offensive to their adversaries who are led by ambitious cold politicians and religious fanatics, and abetted by quislings.

While his species gathers deep inside the Brazilian rainforest, illegitimate outsider Hawk Luna launches step one: the seduction of Jacqueline Dolan in order to blackmail her into writing a friendly retraction article. However he realizes he don't know Jack when they meet; as she turns out to be a complex flawed individual who touches his heart. Jack feels the same way re Hawk unaware he is one of the dreaded species that her yellow journalism claims needs ethnic cleansing. Soon the pair teams up to prevent a cross species war but betrayals leave both in peril and the world teetering.

The fifth Night Prowler romantic urban (and jungle) fantasy (see Edge of Darkness, Rapture's Edge, Shadows Edge and Edge of Oblivion) is an exciting action-packed thriller that grips the audience from the onset and never loosens that hold; as danger mounts, and relationships and loyalties change. Series fans will relish this taut drama; while newcomers should start at the beginning as each entry builds up on the previous international events.

How the White Trash Zombie Got Her Groove Back
Diana Rowland
Daw Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756408220, $7.99,

Angel Crawford muses that human life was ugly for a white trash junkie like her. However, as a zombie dead head she is clean; earned her GED; raises her baby Philip; and even earns a legitimate living as a coroner's morgue assistant and as a lab rat working for Dr. Nikas. She has come so far Angel considers attending college, a word she thought was a profanity not too long ago.

As she congratulates herself on how far she has come, Angel worries about Philip especially when Dr. Zikas' untested but needed medical procedure fails to fix an imbalance. Not long afterward Saberton deploys a new assault, which leads to the kidnapping of zombie Tribe leader Pietro Ivanov, Dr. Nikas and others. Angel escapes assassination, but knows more killers will pursue her and other still free zombies. At the same time Saberton uses Ivanov as a pawn to insure his girlfriend Congresswoman Jane Pennington supports certain legislation. One thing that remained with Angel from her human days is distrust as she wonders who inside her community are quislings selling out zombies and their supporters for blood money.

The latest White Trash Zombie urban fantasy (see White Trash Zombie Apocalypse, My Life As A White Trash Zombie and Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues) is a superb entry as ethical questions re loyalty vs. perfidy merge with science and gory humor. Filled with blood, guts (literally and metaphorically) and deep moral existential dilemmas in the bayou, readers will root for Angel as she tries to do the right thing while unsure what that is since personal conflicting needs clash between each person and zombie.

Blood Red
Mercedes Lackey
Daw Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756408978, $25.95

In the primeval Black Forest, werewolves murder an elderly Earth Master. The dead woman's ten years old student Rosamund escapes the carnage, but also suffers from what she witnessed happened to her adopted grandmother. Not long afterward, the Schwarzwald Foresters Hunt Master rescues the in shock child. Seeing potential in little Rosa, her "Papa" Earth Magician tutors her to be more than a healer.

Years later, Rosa has become the first female Earth Master. However, gender groundbreaking means nothing to obsessed Rosa as she never has forgotten the brutality that occurred to her grandmother. Thus her fixated mission in life is to eradicate the malevolent especially werewolves who assault the innocent. As she becomes a super slayer, Rosa struggles with etiquette when forced to join society.

The ninth Elemental Masters fairy tale (see Steadfast) is a delightful twisting rendition of Little Red Riding Hood after the wolf swallowed grandma. Rosa is a terrific protagonist who keeps the engaging nineteenth century storyline with its rich Central European background focused as she is great at killing evil but horrible at a gala decorum.

The Heir of Khored: Book Three of The Seven-Petaled Shield
Deborah J. Ross
Daw Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756409210, $7.99

Nomadic warrior Shannivar of the Azkhantia Steppe joined exiled Prince Zevaron of Meklavar, as each shared in common a loathing of Cinath and the Gelon Empire after this vile ruler led his forces in the violent destruction and brutal annexation of their respective nations. On their quest to defeat the seemingly invincible Gelon Empire, they fell in love (see Shannivar: The Seven-Petaled Shield).

Although Shannivar prefers to focus (with her beloved at her side) on destroying the Gelon Empire, she must go it alone ever since Fire and Ice liberated from a Far North incarceration turned Zevaron into a minion. Thus while Zevaron loses focus of the bigger menace by "passionately" concentrating on killing Cinath for murdering his mother and their people, Shannivar confronts Fire and Ice before this malevolence devastates the world in its image.

The third Seven-Petaled Shield fantasy is an exciting fast-paced thriller as the loving partnership appears dead at a critical time when the protagonists need each other. Fast-paced, series fans will relish this apparent final Good and Evil entry that engagingly ties up the major subplots.

The Big Hello
Michael Lister
Pulpwood Press
P.O. Box 35038, Panama City, FL 32412
9781888146417, $26.99,

During WWII in Panama City, Florida, following the taunts from the banker husband of Jimmy "Soldier" Riley's beloved Lauren Lewis, the private investigator slices the SOB's throat. In shock from a revelation he does not believe can be true, Jimmy and police officer Henry Folsom dig up the grave site of Lauren only to find the coffin empty.

With his friend former combat pilot one-eyed Clipper Jones, who saved his penis from electrocution (see The Big Beyond) at his side, Jimmy seeks clues to the whereabouts of Lauren. Everything leads to serial sex killer Flaxon De Grasse known for bisecting before draining his victims. In a seemingly futile attempt to rescue his girlfriend Lauren from this lunatic, Jimmy and Clip visit seemingly all the dives in the Panhandle while the police pursue the duo as the body count turns stratospheric.

The third 1940s Soldier hard-boiled noir (see The Big Goodbye) is an exciting violent thriller that grips audience from the opening on the road scene until the final anticipated confrontation. Fast-paced readers will root for the knight and his squire (don't call Clip that to his face) in a daring rescue the damsel in distress attempt before she becomes body parts.

No River Too Wide
Emilie Richards
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778316343, $14.95,

In Topeka, Kansas, Janine Stoddard flees from her long-time abusive husband Rex while their house burns. Although it breaks her heart, Janine knows she must not visit her daughter Harmony or her grandchild Lottie for fear of Rex pursuing her and harming them. Still the need to see her child once more and her nine-month old granddaughter for the first time grips Janine who ignores her brain telling her not to go to Asheville, North Carolina.

Advocacy group member Taylor Martin helps Janine settle safely while also praying that the three generations of females connect as she understands their estrangement caused by a battering man. Also new in town is Alex, who has opened up a fitness salon. He provides self-defense training for women, which is where he meets Taylor and Janine. However, Alex accepts that once his secret becomes known, his growing relationship with Taylor will abruptly die; while Rex and the law threaten Janine's renaissance.

This Goddesses Anonymous broken family drama (see One Mountain Away) is an engaging contemporary due to a strong cast (especially the three lead females) who enables the audience to look deeply at the extended impact of domestic abuse. Character driven, fans will appreciate this warm second chance at family.

The Saint
Tiffany Reisz
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778316145, $14.95

When Manhattan's renowned dominatrix Nora Sutherlin was teenager Eleanor Schreiber, her life was radically different. Her single mom worked two jobs to feed and shelter them, but also was deeply religious and demanded her daughter obey the Lord. On the other side of the spectrum, her felonious dad ran a car theft ring and chop shop. Elle preferred her father's flamboyant lifestyle over her mom's pious poverty.

When the cops catch Elle breaking the law while helping her dad pay back a large sum of money he owes, the judge chooses probation leniency rather than juvenile detention. Thus she must perform community service under the direction of Father Marcus "Søren" Stearns. The motorcycle-riding Jesuit priest promises young Elle much more than just working off her sentencing.

The first Original Sinners: White Years tells the enjoyable back story of how Elle became Nora under the mentoring of Father Søren. Well-written, series fans will enjoy the teen years though no revelations are added to what we know about The Big Apple's top dominatrix and her well-endowed priest-teacher from Original Sinners: The Red Years dark BDSM erotica (see The Mistress, The Angel, The Prince and The Siren).

Little Mercies
Heather Gudenkauf
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778316336, $15.95

In Cedar City, Iowa, Ellen Moore struggles to be a superwoman as she and her husband Adam the teacher raise their three young kids; while as a social worker she deals with harrowing cases involving children. On a hot summer morning, Adam says goodbye while a distracted Ellen handles a nasty case. Several hours later, the police visit her at a restaurant when she realizes Adam told her he left their infant daughter Avery inside their van for Ellen to take the child to daycare. Rushed to the hospital Avery is placed in ICU suffering from deadly heatstroke. Instead of being the investigator, Ellen is charged with child endangerment. Freed on bail, but banned from seeing her baby, Ellen hides at her widowed mother Maudene's house.

While Ellen prays for her child's recovery, ten year old Jenny Briard runs away from her Nebraska home following the arrest of her alcoholic father. Maudene finds her in Cedar City and brings the tweener to her home. Ellen soon realizes that her case files contain information on the runaway.

This is an entertaining tense family drama in which Heather Gudenkauf once again looks at the vulnerability of children (see One Breath Away). Ironically the social worker finds herself under the microscope that she used disdainfully so many times at neglectful and abusive parents and guardians. Both subplots are well written, but Ellen's plight much deeper though each ends unsatisfyingly abrupt.

The Tea Shop On Lavender Lane
Sheila Roberts
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778316183, $7.99

In West Hollywood, Bailey Sterling caters actress Samba Barrett's party. Everything goes perfect until Samba falls to the floor and her actor boyfriend Rory Rourke says to call 911. Samba insists they call the Star Reporter as she claims she ate something bad. Her dream of being caterer to the stars is nuked by this phony food poisoning claim in which the Star Reporter claims Bailey tried to kill her rival for Rory's love.

In shellshock, Bailey heeds the advice of her older sister Cecily's insistence she leave Los Angeles to return home to Icicle Falls, Washington where the townsfolk started a legal fund collection. Cecily likes marrying-kind single father Luke Goodman and sleeping with-kind tavern owner Todd Black. However, when Todd and Bailey meet, they are attracted to each other. Sibling rivalry seems ready to boil over before Bailey and Todd announce plans for The Tea Shop On Lavender Lane.

The latest Life in Icicle Falls contemporary (see The Cottage On Juniper Ridge, Better Than Chocolate, What She Wants and Merry Ex-Mas) is an engaging lighthearted Sterling family drama. Series fans will enjoy the antics of the fully-developed cast as love proves complicated in the Pacific Northwest.

The Beekeeper's Ball
Susan Wiggs
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778314486, $24.95

Thirtyish orphan Isabel Johansen returned home to Bella Vista, California to open up a cooking school at the family estate in Sonoma using honey from local beehives including her own as a key ingredient. As she helps plan for her recently met half-sister Tess' wedding (see The Apple Orchard) Isabel also hopes by coming to her hometown she can move past her history especially with an abusive former lover who has made her wary of men.

Cormac O'Neill comes to Bella Vista to write a biography of Isabel's apple orchard owning grandfather Magnus Johansen. The author too hopes his work in this town will help him move past his recent history. As Cormac and his subject's family become aware of courageous Magnus risking his life to protect Jews including his wife from the Nazis in Denmark, the biographer and the cooking teacher fall in love; but her recent relationship leaves her doubting a relationship.

The romance is a solid contemporary, but the WII Danish resistance owns the storyline and also serves as the impetus for the heroine to take a chance on love. Readers will appreciate the powerful historical dramatic subplot of brave people defying the Nazis in 1940s Copenhagen (mindful of Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally and the Steven Spielberg film, and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl).

Shaman Rises
C.E. Murphy
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778316916, $14.95

Cabbie Gary Muldoon calls his friend Joanne Walker the Shaman with the news that his wife Annie Marie is alive in a Seattle hospital. The Urban Shaman is shocked as Annie died long before she and Gary met. She assumes her evil enemy the Master has resurrected her friend's wife for some nefarious purpose; as her vile adversary probably observed Gary rode with Cernunnos the God of the Wild Hunt.

Thus Joanne and her former boss at Seattle PD and current love interest Captain Mike Morrison head back home to Seattle where their adventures began. Her assumption proves correct as the Master abetted by the Raven Mocker and other malevolencies have begun the final confrontation. Risking her soul, Joanne applies her Shaman skills to attempt to defeat her near invincible foe and his minion in order to save the world.

The final Walker Papers epic (see Mountain Echoes and Raven Calls) is a great good and evil fantasy thriller that enthralled fans who journeyed with the coming of age heroine will appreciate. Going full circle, Joanne prays she proves her worth as her destiny reaches a climatic finish.

Never Surrender
Lindsay McKenna
Harlequin HQN
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373778829, $7.99,

Navy SEAL Team 3 Chief Gabe Griffin is proud of his fiancee Navy Petty Officer First Class Baylee-Ann Thorn as she was one of the first female Shadow Warriors and became the first military female 18 Medic. They have missed each other, but immediately make up for lost time now that she returned to California after serving in Afghanistan providing medical support.

Bay has six months left in the service but is assigned to Special Forces instead of the SEALs. Deployed in Afghanistan again, the Taliban capture her. Gabe goes crazy as he risks his life to save his beloved. When Bay is rescued, she is not the same having suffered a brain injury, rape and unrelenting torture. He refuses to walk away from his Bay even if she is not his same confident lover.

The sequel to Breaking Point is a terrific military romantic thriller starring two wonderful protagonists. Readers will marvel at Gabe's impatience when it comes to finding his woman and patience when it comes to being there for her. However, Bay makes the storyline military strong as her struggles with PTSD grips the audience with harrowing realism.

Abandon The Dark
Marta Perry
Harlequin HQN
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373778843, $7.99

Two decades ago when she stayed with her great-Aunt Rebecca in Deer Run, Pennsylvania, Lainey Colton spent the most wonderful summer of her life becoming BFFs with Rachel (see Home by Dark) and Meredith (see Search The Dark); that is until Aaron Mast died. When Rebecca becomes very ill, the graphic designer returns to Deer Run to care of her beloved relative.

Lawyer Jake Evans left the rat race to settle in the serene Amish town. He is unhappy with Lainey's arrival as he fears the outsider will inadvertently misuse her power of attorney re Rachel since this great-niece knows nothing about the Amish. As Lainey and her two BFFs look into deaths past and recent, the attorney and the client's relative fall in love; but someone wants her and her buddies to end their investigation or else.

The third sensational Watcher in the Dark romantic suspense continues to use family and romance as support to the tense twisting overarching plot; ergo newcomers should begin with the earlier entries. Fast-paced, series readers will enjoy the three brave amigas perilous search for the truth.

Until We Touch
Susan Mallery
Harlequin HQN
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373778935, $8.99

Retired NFL player Jack McGarry co-owns Score public relations firm. He and his partners left Los Angeles to set up shop in Fool's Gold, California. His assistant Larissa Owens loves her job, which also enables her to work on her passion of rescuing animals. Though attracted to Jack, Larissa has no time or interest in pursuing any relationship with him except work as she accepts her feelings for him are one sided.

Larissa's mother Nancy arrives in Fool's Gold to demand Jack fire his assistant so that her daughter can return to L.A. to find a man. However, she also proclaims to Jack that Larissa loves him; but is too stupid to act on it. Finally Nancy also insists Jack must have taken one too many blows to the head as a football player to realize how he feels about Larissa; though he knows otherwise as a tragedy closed his heart from emotional pain. Both Jack and Larissa remain in denial, but their relationship subtly begins to change.

The third Score Fool's Gold romance (see Before We Kiss and When We Met) is an amusing contemporary as two people sing the refrain from I'm Not In Love (10 Cc). Outrageous Nancy steals the storyline from the protagonists to the delight of fans who will enjoy the latest ex-gridiron performer sacked by love.

Double Exposure
Erin McCarthy
Harlequin Blaze
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373798087, $5.50

To obtain an interview of renowned photographer Ian Bainbridge, Daily Journal reporters Emma Gideon and Kyle Hadley agree to pose nude except for green paint on their bodies. Whereas Kyle enjoys the event; Emma feels self-conscious and wonders if journalism is worth the cost of debasing herself though she appreciates watching the Jolly Green Giant grow. Things turn worse when some nut steals bags of clothing that the models including the journalists took off before posing.

Naked, the reporters make it to his home where they end up showering together. As they begin a tryst, Emma and Kyle fall in love. Holding them back from a total commitment is each fears their relationship must end soonest; not because of the paper's "no hanky-panky" rule but due to them being rivals at work.

The first From Every Angle contemporary romance is a wonderful lighthearted tale that effortlessly combines humor and heat. The lead couple seems like opposites, but that proves skin deep to the delight of engaged readers.

Riding Hard
Vicki Lewis Thompson
Harlequin Blaze
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373798070, $5.50

Six months ago in Virginia, veterinarian Drake Brewster betrayed his best friend Regan O'Conelli when he slept with his buddy's fiancee. Regan ended their partnership and friendship, and his engagement before moving to Shoshone, Wyoming (see Riding High).

Knowing he did wrong, Drake follows Regan to Wyoming to apologize. Thanks to Regan's new fiancee, Drake is forgiven by his former veterinary partner, but not by the townsfolk who adore the O'Conelli brood (see Ambushed). At Spirits and Spur, bartender Tracy Gibbons overtly displays her scorn of Drake as she possesses a strong moral fiber. However, when she needs his help at a horse sanctuary especially with a pregnant mare, Tracy asks Drake. As she works with him, Tracy observes how gentle yet firm and diligent he is with the horses. Soon afterward, they begin a heated relationship that turns to love.

The latest engaging Sons of Chance Wyoming ranch romance (see Riding Home) is an entertaining contemporary starring two intriguing protagonists as he wonders if his terrible transgression will destroy his chance for happiness while she acts capable of tossing that biblical first stone at him. Although the Chance saga feels overly stretched to include these outsiders; series fans still will enjoy the changing relationship between the contrite and the moralist.

Sanctuary In Chef Voleur
Mallory Kane
Harlequin Intrigue
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373697755, $5.50

In Dowdie, Texas Stephanie Clemens needs a liver transplant or very soon she will die from cirrhosis. Her daughter Hannah Martin overhears her mom's boyfriend Billy Joe Campbell arranging an illegal deal. Hannah confronts Billy Joe who kidnaps her mom placing her in peril as she must have dialysis. Not long afterward, gang chieftain Sal Ficone's enforcer with the red tattoo demands Billy Joe give him the missing money and drugs or else. When Billy Joe blames Hannah and admits abducting Stephanie, the man kills him. Frightened, Hannah drives until she reaches Chef Voleur off of Lake Pontchartrain where her mom's friend Kathleen lives.

Instead of the BFF, Mackellis Griffin answers her knock. She asks for Kathleen who died twenty years ago. D&D Security P.I. Mack thinks the visitor is trouble and lets her leave, but feels guilty so does some research into her and her mom. Meanwhile Hannah realizes that Billy Joe's car she drove to escape is where he hid the drugs; so the man with the red tattoo will come for her. Instead Metairie PD arrests Hannah for possession of a stolen vehicle and illegal narcotics. Mack arrives as her attorney and asks the judge to release her into his recognizance. While the pair dodges the red tattoo killer breaking the conditions of her bail, D&D Security search for her mom.

The latest Delancey Dynasty romantic suspense (see Gone and Dirty Little Secrets) is a terrific woman in peril from both sides of the law thriller that never slows down until the epilogue. Mack is a born protector mostly because of what happened to his mom years ago that still haunts him, and Hannah needs his protection.

Undercover Warrior
Aimee Thurlo
Harlequin Intrigue
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373697724, $5.50

In Hartley, New Mexico, NCIS undercover operative Kyle Goodluck poses as an IRS agent while he conducts surveillance on Lieutenant Henry Leland who just came back from a naval base in Spain. When Leland calls NCIS claiming terrorists are blackmailing him; Kyle heads to Secure Construction to talk with him. The agent arrives as thugs grab Leland and office manager Erin Barrett. A shootout occurs leaving Hank critically wounded, Erin rescued and the kidnappers escaping. After HPD Detective Preston Bowman and his foster brother Kyle discuss how to handle the case, Goodluck is assigned to keep the witness safe.

On the way to the hospital, the thugs attack the EMT vehicle; Hank dies while Kyle shoots one of the attackers; he commits suicide rather than be captured. As Kyle and Preston work the case to learn what the alleged terrorists wanted and keep their witness safe, the NCIS Undercover Warrior and the courageous office manager fall in love. However, first they must take down the cold hardened killers before considering their future as anyone associated with the late Hank is walking dead.

This Copper Canyon romantic suspense (see Power of the Raven, Winter Hawk's Legend, Falcon's Run and Secrets of the Lynx) is an action-packed entry starring two intrepid protagonists and a solid support cast in an enchanting location. Fans will appreciate the late great Aimee Thurlo's usual superb storytelling as she showcases her talent by providing her readers with another strong thriller.

A Bride By Summer
Sandra Steffen
Harlequin Special Edition
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373658275, $5.50

In Orchard Hill, Michigan someone abandoned Joey; leaving the baby with the Sullivan brothers; Reed, Marsh and Noah (see A Bride Before Dawn). The three bachelors struggle with caring for the infant while they wonder who the mom is and which one of them she believes is the dad.

Reed and tavern owner Ruby O'Toole (see The Wedding Gift) meet when both were almost hurt by a maniac in a Corvette. They are attracted to each other, but he feels Joey and bodily excretions come before a firebrand female; and she recently vowed no more men even a nice keeper. As Reed and Ruby forge a friendship, platonic seems impossible.

The latest Round-the-Clock Brides (see A Bride Until Midnight) is an amusing contemporary as love proves bothersome when two people can't agree on what flavor ice cream to share. Readers will adore Ruby for her outlook (just ask Nanny McPhee), and appreciate Reed for his persistence with her but especially with his little pal Joey.

Lone Star Redemption
Colleen Thompson
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373278763, $5.50

In Rusted Spur, Texas sexagenarian widow Nancy Rayford nears total collapse as she tries to keep the family ranch afloat until her son Zach returns from his marine tour in Afghanistan. When he comes home, Zach is shocked to find his Mama in ill health caring for the spread and for his four year old niece Eden that his late brother never mentioned.

Dallas TV reporter Jessie Layton reluctantly arrives at the Rayford ranch searching for her twin sister Haley who she hopes to persuade to visit their dying mom. Nancy lies to her son re Jessie's visit, but he intercedes when the stranger and a cameraman Henry upset his Mama. The older woman explains she allowed Frank McFarland and his girlfriend Haley to live in a bunkhouse, but they vanished six months ago. In town, Danny's brother Hellfire makes it clear he hates Haley and Jessie due to her DNA, and Sheriff Canter wants to lock up Jessie though he knows she is the sister. As the obstinate journalist refuses to leave town, she and Zach realize they share in common fixing estranged families and an attraction. However, when someone murders Henry and injures Jessie, Zach vows to find the killer before he permanently harms the woman he loves.

This super romantic suspense is anchored by a strong family drama. The support cast is solid even the missing sister while the lead couple goes from a gender war to a loving partnership. Readers will relish this thriller with it deep characterization and a terrific mystery.

Protecting Her Royal Baby
Beth Cornelison
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373278756, $5.50

Bud explains to his pregnant lover who he is and warns her to flee as assassins have arrived to kill him, her and their unborn. Brianna Coleman runs for her life and that of her child. While jogging Hunter Mansfield avoids an out of control car that ends in a ditch. He helps the pregnant driver, who is in labor and suffers from amnesia.

Her vehicle has bullet holes so he believes her contention that an unknown adversary stalks her and her child. Hunter takes her to safety. As she slowly recalls events, Brianna and Hunter fall in love, but he fears for her life and that of her baby when she insists she needs to go to Cape Cod where the truth and danger await.

The second Mansfield Brothers romantic suspense (see The Return of Connor Mansfield) is a thrilling drama as the beleaguered heroine does not know who to trust except her Good Samaritan rescuer to help her in Protecting Her Royal Baby. Although the amnesia segue is an overused technique, readers will root for the brave couple (Hunter's only fear is losing Brianna to her lover and her only fear is losing baby Ben) as they struggle to stay alive and keep her child safe.

Small-Town Redemption
Beth Andrews
Harlequin SuperRomance
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373608508, $6.75

In Shady Grove, ER nurse Charlotte Ellison still feels foolish though several weeks have passed since she inanely kissed the man she loves and considered to be the future father of her children O'Riley's bar owner Kane Bartasavich. He reacted by patting her on the head and rejected her out of character advance.

Kane suffers a bad motorcycle accident. Although Charlotte knows she should keep her distance, she helps Kane recover. As they spend time together, Charlotte realizes her Kane is attracted to her and she believes he hid his feelings in order not to hurt her when he leaves town as the rolling stone he is always goes away. When his teenage daughter Estelle comes to town, Charlotte concludes her Kane is nothing like her fantasy image of him; the real man is much better but how to persuade him they belong together remains elusive.

This Shady Grove enjoyable contemporary romance (see Caught Up In You and Talk Of The Town) will remind readers of the Gigi and Alex segue from the movie He's Just Not That Into You. The cast is solid and the arrival of Estelle radically changes readers' first impressions of the bad dude from his secondary role in What Happens Between Friends and the opening scenes in this story. The course of love is fun to follow even if it goes as expected; summed up by Estelle: "Daddy, I Love You, but sometimes you're a real idiot."

A Perfect Homecoming
Lisa Dyson
Harlequin SuperRomance
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373608553, $6.75

Aunt Viv calls her niece Dr. Ashleigh Wilson with news that the latter's sister Paula is having a rough pregnancy with no family member including her husband Scott available to help her for various legitimate reasons. Paula's pediatrician wants her to remain in bed, but that is impossible with two young sons running wild. Only Ashleigh's ex, ER Dr. Kyle Jennings is there as much as he can for his former sister-in-law.

Though she has not spoken to her sibling in two years, Ashleigh returns home to Grand Oaks, Virginia to help Paula and face her ex-husband who she fled from after several miscarriages made her feel he deserved a better complete wife. Even before they meet, Ashleigh knows she never stopped loving him. As the sisters reconcile, Kyle remains in love with his ex-wife.

This is an entertaining second chance at love between Ashleigh and people she still cherishes even after she ran away from them. The support cast enhances the family drama but it is Ashleigh's awakening that makes this a fine contemporary.

Possessed By An Immortal
Sharon Ashwood
Harlequin Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780263913972, $5.75

The killers target the witness Brianna Meadows who fears her luck may run out as she feels fortunate to have escaped her adversaries in Chicago and the Twin Cities, but prays she can take her ailing four year old son Jonathan to safety. Bob the fishing guide dumps mother and child in a remote wilderness during a storm before cowardly running from his passengers. A desperate Bree notices a cabin with a light on and carrying Jonathan she heads there.

Dr. Mark Winspear's vampire senses realize a human female is nearby. He reluctantly welcomes her and her child into his abode. Though attracted to each other, he wants nothing to do with her conflict and Bree prefers he stay out of it. When he learns who chases her, Mark has a powerful motive for involvement after what happened to his La Compagnie des Mortes leader Jack Anderson (see Possessed By A Warrior). Still both adults agree saving dying Jonathan's life from his strange illness and taking the fight to kill their mutual enemy come before their needs to become better acquainted.

The second La Compagnie des Mortes romantic urban fantasy is an engaging thriller in which much of the focus is on the threat. Fast-paced, readers will appreciate Possessed By An Immortal; as the vampire and the mom in distress fall in love, but know their priorities.

A Rancher's Honor
Ann Roth
Harlequin American Romance
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373755257, $5.50

In Prosperity, Montana, thirty-something day care provider Lana Carpenter reels from the news that her ex Brent and his second wife Julia are expecting. Her BFF Kate commiserates with Lana by taking her to Bitter & Sweet Bar and Grill where she has too much to drink and leaves with a cowboy. The next morning Lana awakens with a hangover as her only company at the Prosperity Inn. In the bathroom the cowboy left her aspirins, bottled water and a thank you note for a great time.

Rancher Sly Pettit and neighbor Tim Carpenter of the Lazy C Ranch are enemies ever since someone poisoned several of the former's cattle. Sly tried to get information from Tim, but only received a rifle pointed at his chest; so now he is suing. Sly and Lana begin a no-strings tryst after that wonderful night; only the main problem is she is Tim's cousin. However, a new complication surfaces when Lana becomes pregnant and he does not want children after a painful childhood filled with what he regards as personal failure.

This Prosperity, Montana ranch romance is an engaging contemporary with fully developed flawed lead characters and a solid cast consisting of mostly family members. Sly's traumas affirm the adult is the child. While Lana's belief in family divides her between a need to begin a new one and her loyalty to kin; as ironically she handles his family issues with courage and her family issues with cowardice.

Baby For Keeps
Janice Maynard
Harlequin Desire
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373733200, $5.25

Single mother Mia Larin returns to her hometown of Silver Glen, North Carolina after years away. She comes back with no money, family, home or prospects; and a newborn baby Cora. Silver Dollar owner Dylan Kavanagh fails to initially recognize his brilliant misfit high school tutor Mia when she entered his bar until she mentions her name.

His gut warns him to stay away from these in trouble females, but his heart tells him to help these damsels in distress. He hires Mia, and gives mother and daughter a room above the bar though he also resides upstairs. As he falls in love with his female guests, they fall in love with him; but both adults hesitate to act on their reciprocal feelings.

The latest Billionaires and Babies romance (see His Lover's Little Secret by Andrea Laurence) is an enjoyable contemporary starring two nice characters whose relationship lacks fire. Still fans will enjoy the bonding of the billionaire, the baby and the brain.

Becoming The Prince's Wife
Rebecca Winters
Harlequin Romance
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373742929, $5.99

Attorney Carolena Baretti joins her friend Abby formerly Loretto (see Expecting the Prince's Baby) on the latter's royal jet as they fly to the Riviera Principality of Gemelli. Also on board with them is Abby's eight month old son Prince Maximiliano. Waiting for them is Abby's husband Crown Prince Vincenzo Di Laurentis of the Principality of Arancia, his mother Queen Bianca and his grieving brother-in-law Prince Valentino Cavelli.

Carolena and Valentino are attracted to each other. However, he still mourns the death of his sister who was Vincenzo's first wife, has a pledge to marry a royal and besides refuses to emulate his ex-brother-in-law by carousing with a taboo commoner. Still in spite of his efforts, they fall in love.

The second Princes of Europe contemporary is an entertaining romance starring two individuals not seeking love, but that certain feeling pairs them anyway. Although the overarching premise is similar to Expecting The Prince's Baby sans the pregnancy, fans will enjoy the Riviera while appreciating the changing relationship between the royal and the commoner.

Demon Wolf
Bonnie Vanak
Harlequin Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780263913965, $5.75

Navy SEAL Lieutenant Commander Dale Curtis and his subordinates know he still suffers from PTSD as well as physical injuries that have impacted his Primary Elemental Mage skills after being tortured by demons. The worst tormenter was a female though he cannot remember who she is.

Shapeshifter Keira Solomon prays that the SEAL she met when demons captured him will be able to free her from these evil essences and that he never realizes she was the one who, though forced by their mutual adversarial malevolence, hurt him. When they meet, Dale feels deja vu but cannot explain why he believes he knows her. As she helps him recuperate and they fall in love, Keira needs a healthy Dale to defeat the demons, but either way she accepts she loses him.

The latest Phoenix Force romantic urban fantasy (see The Covert Wolf and Phantom Wolf) is a fabulous thriller due the strong pairing of the lead couple who have an ugly history though the hero remains ignorant as to what she did to him while his lower head and heart recognize her. Readers will relish this exciting suspense as the Elemental SEAL and the beleaguered Shapeshifter must overcome the enemy and their shared past.

The Best Man For The Job
Lucy King
Harlequin Kiss
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373179008, $5.99

Celia Forrester feels good about her brother Dan's wedding to Zoe but dreads walking down the aisle afterward arm in arm with the best man Marcus Black. Fifteen years ago, teenage Cecilia loved Marcus, but he rejected her advances.

However, this time Marcus has no compunctions and openly flirts with Celia. Although she still remains mortified over what almost happened, she also realizes she still wants her brother's best friend. Celia concludes a brief fling will rid her of her craving for Marcus. They make love, but she becomes pregnant. Both wonder what to do about their relationship with a baby soon to be in the picture.

The Best Man For The Job is an entertaining contemporary in which a pregnancy radically alters the dynamics between the protagonists. Although the relationship feels emotionally underdeveloped and the storyline goes the expected path, Lucy King writes an overall enjoyable second (and third) chance romance.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
Virginia Helen Richards, FSP, author
D. Thomas Halpin, FSP, author and illustrator
Louise Hunt, special assistant of the Penobscot nation
Pauline Books & Media
50 Saint Pauls Avenue, Boston, MA 02130
9780819890170, $4.95,

"Saint Kateri Tekakwitha" is a comic book biography of the life of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Mohawk Christian convert and saint, who died April 17, 1680, at the age of 24. Saint Kateri was the only survivor of smallpox in her village, after which she was scarred badly and suffered great loss of vision. A child of seven, Kateri was taken to be raised by her uncle and aunts, Iowerano and Arosen and Karitha. They renamed her Tekakwitha because of her survival of great suffering. Later she met blackrobe priests in her uncle's longhouse, and found herself drawn to their messages of Rawanniio, the one true god. Her uncle and aunts were against her interest in Christianity and the Western religion, desiring her to grow, learn skills, and marry within the clan circles of the Mohawk Nation. However, Tekakwitha later met Father de Lamberville, studied Christianity covertly with him and was baptized on Easter, 1676, when she was 20 years old. Her family were going to force her to marry against her wishes, and to end her pursuit of Christianity, so Kateri was assisted by others to make a dangerous escape, traveling 200 miles to the St. Frances Xavier Mission. Many other details of Saint Kateri's life are explained, along with her heartfelt faith and vision of peace through loving Jesus and God. This inspiring, expressively illustrated comic biography will appeal to young readers ages 10 and up.

If I Wrote a Book About You
Stephany Aulenback, author
Denise Holmes, illustrator
Simply Read Books
501-5525 West Boulevard
Vancouver, BC Canada V6M 3W6
9781927018460, $16.95,

"If I Wrote a Book About You" is a tender, poignant, "multi-media" book about the wonder of a mother's love for her child. The "multi-media" refers to a mother's choice of message materials - dominoes, tree branches, sand, cracker crumbs, flowers, vegetables, even noodles in the soup! This mom would tell her daughter of her love using the stars in the sky, the freckles on her face, and the wrinkles on her mom's face. Matching the sweet intensity of the narrative, the charming, limited palette of aqua and shades of soft peach illustrations convey a sense of peace, wonder, and security within limitless love. "If I Wrote a Book About You" conveys the amazing certainty of a mother's love, a never ending miracle.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Richard's Bookshelf

Wisdom for Winners: A Millionaire Mindset
Jim Stovall
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768405088, $19.99 print / $9.99 Kindle, 250 pages

Astute Wisdom for the 21st Century

In his book "Wisdom for Winners" Jim Stovall captures the wisdom of the sages throughout history and adapts them for a generation with a 21st Century mindset. Stovall integrates ethics, attitude, faith, and perspective as keys to achievement and success in today's competitive work environment.

The book is a compilation of Stovall's previously published columns. They are organized in four categories: Wisdom for the Spirit, Community Focus and Winning Relationships, Focus on Business and Finance, and Success in Action.

I began my adventure in reading "Wisdom for Winners" by scanning the topical titles and headings. I was soon drawn into examining the quotes, bold print concepts, and short itemized listings of ideas and principles. Before long I found myself poring over the pages realizing the material is worthy of reflection, contemplation, and commitment to action.

I was especially challenged to focus on my goals and objectives, to pursue my passion and maximize my talent, to maintain a higher level of professionalism, to keep on course by maintaining my faith, and to "dedicate myself to making each day and investment" in my future.

Stovall's writing sets a new standard for inspirational and motivational writing to take on a deeper dimension of positive life change and redirected goals in the quest for fulfilling a sense of personal destiny. Highly recommended.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Richard R. Blake, Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

Little Oslo
William R. White
Huff Publishing Associates
4214 Alden Drive, Edina, MN 55416
9780989527743 $15.00, 282 pp,

Bill White served as a pastor for forty-six years, including twenty as Senior Pastor of beautiful Bethel Lutheran Church, located in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. He graduated from UW-Eau Claire, married and had two children. He led the "Worship at Bethel" weekly program aired on six stations. In retirement he is a writer, speaker, and oversees a program matching Puerto Rican and U.S. churches.

Set in 1952 in Little Oslo, Wisconsin, LITTLE OSLO harkens back to a time when small town America was the norm and many little towns revolved around their baseball teams. Jake is seventeen and is a star player on the local team. His girlfriend is Candy, daughter of the local sheriff. Life is idyllic until people are found badly beaten by a perpetrator dubbed "Superman," and the police are stumped:

"He broke the silence saying, 'His face was a bloody mess. One of his arms was broken and all five fingers on his right hand hung dangling. It was as if a machine crushed them.' He shook his head several times, 'Cept it wasn't a machine. It was a man. A very powerful man. Somebody beat the snot out of Lloyd Swenson, and we ain't got a clue.'"

White's book is constructed in layers. On top is a running account of the summer of 1952 and Jake's position on the baseball team. Underneath lie the sinister beatings that occupy talk at the local restaurant, because these things are unthinkable in small town America. Naturally Jake and his girl, Candy, set out to solve the mystery that has all the local law enforcement stymied. Jake's family form a loving tableau in the background, and maturity, redemption, and values eventually triumph for Jake.

White takes us back to a time when spiritual development went hand-in-hand with a solid family support system and how it made all the difference for Jake. It's an everyman lesson for the rest of us in a well told story.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Married To The Military
Terry L. Rollins
Tate Publishing
127E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, Oklahoma 73064
9781606968932, $13.99, 212pgs,

I have to say when I was first asked to review this book, I was excited. Having lived the Military life with three children I knew this was going to be a great read, and I was not disappointed. Our author take us into the lives of ten military wives, each with their own challenges as they suite up and buckle down for the good, the bad and definitely the unexpected. Unless you have been one of these woman, you truly could never understand the sacrifices that they give each day, but this read will open your eyes, and your hearts as they share intimate moments of joy, fear, betrayal, and even death. Yet, just as the men they follow, these woman stand tall in courage. I highly recommend this read. Not only will it open your eyes to the sacrifices of these woman, but it will remind you that our Freedom as a Country certainly would never be ours without the sacrifices of our Soldiers and the woman who keep the fire light burning. Great read. Highly recommended. I received a free copy of this book for an honest review which I have given to you.

Beyond The Clearing
Robin Mahle
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781496129314, $10.00, 238pgs,

In this read we enter the lives of three young ladies who recently lost a very dear friend. They decide, in her memory to take a trip to a Spiritual place, the Serenity Resort. They did not realize what was ahead of them on this trip, nor how important for all of them that it really was. As the ladies begin to confront issues in their own lives; they are taken into a world they did not know existed. A supernatural world that will open their eyes to things they had hidden away. What will be the outcome for these ladies? Life or Death? The decision is theirs. I enjoyed this read, it was different, and that was a good thing. The character development was very good and the story flowed smoothly. I loved the mystery and the supernatural aspect of the read. Recommended.

The Secret Kingdom
Michele Bledsoe & Richard Bledsoe, authors
Michele Bledsoe, illustrator
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478703624, $20.95, 36pgs,

I have to say that I was a little surprised when I received this book and started to read it. I have read hundreds of children's books, but never saw one quite like this one. Michele certainly is a great artist but I am not sure young children would appreciate these pictures. I think the best way I can describe them is perhaps what you have seen in some Alice in Wonderland movies. Not exactly but close. The poetry, written by her husband, Richard definitely goes with each picture., but again, I am not sure young children would understand what he is trying to say. Also, let me say I do not know the age group they were hoping to reach.

I think this book would not be good to read to a young child, it may scare them. However, I think a child who is older, who can read the words without visualizing a monster behind the door, and who can relate to the pictures with the words written, this might be a really fun book for them. Definitely Ms. Bledsoe is a very good artist, and Mr. Bledsoe can write poetry. Perhaps before giving this to your child, you just need to make sure they understand what imagination is.

If You Were Me And Lived In Russia
Carole P. Roman
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781493781980, $10.00, 32 pgs,

I am always honored to receive a book by author, Carole Roman. This one also had the help of her precious grandchild, Alexander Luke. I knew it would be great, and I was not disappointed.

I have to admit I knew very little about Russia. the only thoughts I really had in my head was that of years ago when America had so many problems with her. I certainly learned a lot by reading this outstanding book. There definitely is so much more to this outstanding country than I ever imagined.

To tell you just a little information, I saw where Russia was located on the world map, learned of some very popular cities within her, and a big one was seeing that they had nine different time zones, and we are just beginning to learn.

This book is part of a series and each book introduces another Country, giving many facts and fun details about it. This book on Russia was outstanding, as are all of Ms. Roman's books. Your child, and perhaps yourself as well, will read with enjoyment, not even realizing how much you are learning about the world we live in. Another great read. Recommended.

Barney and Barry The Hitchhikers
Sharon Powers
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781499133912, $10.00 63pgs,

In this delightful tale we meet Fletcher, a sea turtle who is just beginning his life. Fletcher has always been bullied by his brothers and sisters, but his future is going to
show just how much Fletcher can accomplish. As he sets out to live his life, he wakes up to a surprise one day. He wakes up to having two barnacles attached to his back, Barney and Barry. At first Fletcher is very upset and wants them off, but as the story moves on, Fletcher soon learns that helping others also helps himself.

I really enjoyed this read, which I received for an honest review. I liked the way the author takes the characters and shows how sometimes something that appears to not be good, turns out for our best interest. Other characters are also introduced in the story, like Babs the Dodo, and Sasha, the Sea Urchin, to name a few. Ms. Powers brings her characters to life, each one with their own personality bring a lot to the story. She takes the reader on a water adventure into the lives of the creatures that live there, as they face different situations and overcome them together. The illustrations shown are excellent and definitely help to bring the story to life. It is a fun, interesting and also educational read that I believe young and old will enjoy.

The Crew Goes Coconuts
Carole P. Roman
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781492162698, $11.99, 48pgs,

In this new adventure of Captain No Beard and his crew, which I received a copy for an honest review, we meet, Matie the goat. Unfortunately, Matie is undergoing some ridicule by the crew over her name, and other things, and they decide they do not like her. Poor Matie. Fear not! Captain No Beard in his wisdom comes up with a solution that saves the day. Soon the crew finds out just how important Matie is to them all. They learn, as the reader will too, that we should not be so quick to judge others, and how quickly someone can be the most important person in your life.

If you have read my other reviews you will know that I am a big fan of Captain No Beard. Every book that author, Carole P. Roman produces gives the reader pure entertainment and life lessons. Children and adults will quickly fall in love with the wonderful characters and learn lessons from the story without even knowing they are doing so. The illustrations always bring to life the storyline. Everything about this book, and this series is a winner. I highly recommend it

A Counterfeit Priest
Paul Cross
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781490547909, $14.00, 370pgs,

In this read, our author, Paul Cross, takes us into the world of Vatican City, and introduces us to Henry Hawkins. Henry is a film maker, whose wife recently died and who is on a quest to document happenings in the Vatican that somehow ties in with his wife's death. How, you do not know, and this becomes part of the mystery. He has had a promise from a Cardinal to meet with Henry upon his arrival concerning his film. Unfortunately, he reneges, which than takes Henry down a mysterious and dangerous road to achieve his goal, or does he?

I have to say this is a very well written book. The author really brings alive the twists and turns that go on at the Vatican. Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing?

Will the Catholic church beliefs be compromised? Secrets are revealed, as danger lurks at every corner. Who will win this battle? Well done, and worth your consideration.

If You Were Me And Lived In Portugal
Carole P Roman
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
1495379930, $9.99, 28pgs,

I was happy to receive a free copy and review this wonderful book, "If You Were Me And Lived in Portugal" by Carole P Roman. Ms. Roman is certainly well know by her series that takes children, and adults as well, into the world of different countries.

In this read you learn about Portugal, in so many ways. What is their favorite food? What do they do for entertainment? What are their Holidays and how do they celebrate them? You will even learn some words in their language. The illustrations definitely help to bring the story alive. This is a great learning read topped with pure fun and enjoyment. We are also graced with a few fun things, such as a Passport, and the flag of that country. Truly another recommendation. Don't miss this series, you will love it.

Patches and Buttons
Jennifer Link
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478730736, $18.95, 38pgs,

In this very comforting read we meet, Buttons. Poor Buttons is a rabbit who is afraid of loud noises and seems to always be hiding, until he meets a friend, a dog named, Patches who helps Button overcome his fears.

This is a very sweet, tender book that will help children who battle fears of different things, and in different ways. Although this story is about being afraid of loud noises, the concept of overcoming with the help and love of a friend could be applied to any fear. The story shows how another, in this case Patches the dog, can reach out to help. It is a story that teaches compassion and understanding. Illustrations are bold and colorful, and definitely help bring the story to life. Good read, for young and old.

Monster Realm
Nara Duffie
Roam & Ramble Publishers
9780984934652, $14.95, 272 pages,

As I read this book I became one with young Nara's world. The story takes us on a journey into a place that we do not know exists, in search of our main character, Lillian's, lost sister, BlueBell. Beware, for this is not the world that one would expect, but it is the Monster Realm, brimming with hostile and loveable creatures, quite a culture shock. You soon become intertwined in a journey of imagination that will lock you in. A secret begins to be revealed in this first book that only adds more questions than answers and bubbles with mysteries. Good job.

I really loved this read, and I am very impressed with this young authors writing ability. Her character development is top-notch, in both Monster and people. I love the different personalities that she gave the Monsters. It really helped to bring them alive. Her ability to move the story along at just the right pace is excellent, and she gives enough in this first book to leave you with, 'I just have to know what's next.' This author maybe young, but her talent is already shining through. I highly recommend this book and look forward to the next. Well done!


Q: What made you want to write this type of story, how did you come up with the idea?

A: It started with Ray Harryhausen's "Clash of the Titans." I was inspired by all his amazing creatures. His monsters aren't just bad guys. They have personality. You feel for them. I wanted to write a fantasy like that.

Q: Did you base your characters on people in your own life?

A: No. Though a lot of people say Maisy reminds them of my older sister.

Q: Your visuals of the monsters is outstanding, how did you come up with that?

A: I drew the monsters first. Then I described what I drew. Also, I did a lot of rewriting. "See it, feel it, write it," was one of our mottos.

Q: What did you find was the hardest part of writing this book?

A: The first draft - because there was nothing there! I didn't have anything to go off of. I wrote the first draft during National Novel Writing Month. I wrote 1,000 words a day for 30 days. By the time the novel was done, it was over 50,000 words.

Q: Do you feel your book has been received well?

A: Yes! People have been very supportive. I was at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and also Wonder-Con and met a lot of people. I talked to a lot of kids who are also working on novels. It was great. Now I'm going to be at Comic-Con in San Diego, so I'll get a lot more feedback from people.

Q: Has writing this book and seeing it published changed you in anyway, if so would you share how, and has it given you encouragement to keep writing?

A: It showed me I can do anything if I put my mind to it. Even if something takes a long time, it's possible if you just stick to it.

Q: Do you have other books written or perhaps stirring in your mind? If so are they also of this genre or another.

A: I have two more novels in mind for this series, and may write more after that. I'm working on my first draft now, and I'll participate in National Novel Writing Month again in November. It's been a great experience. I'd encourage any kid interested in writing to participate.

Q: I thank Nara for sharing with us and wish her the best. I believe young and old would enjoy her book. She truly is talented.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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