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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 6, Number 12 December 2007 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

God, When Will You Answer My Prayers?
Patty Cakes, author
Sam Wallcom, illustrator
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd., 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781598002720, $17.95 1-888-672-6657

God, When Will You Answer My Prayers? is a Christian picturebook for children discussing one of life's most difficult issues - why does life sometimes seem to take a turn for the worse no matter how much one prays? Following a puppy named Samantha, who has a hard time at the beginning of her life and prays for help, God, When Will You Answer My Prayers? reveals that sometimes God's timing and ways of dealing with the world is simply different than ours. The first in a four-book series, God, When Will You Answer My Prayers? is a heartwarming tale meant to be read aloud and shared between parents and children as an affirmation of faith.

A Prairie Day with Annie
Michelle Fattig, author
Josh Fattig, illustrator
Flower by the Water Publishing
PO Box 579, Genoa, NE 68640
9780979580512, $14.99

Written by school psychologist Michelle Fattig, who herself lives a highly successful life even though she has ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome, A Prairie Day with Annie is novel for young readers featuring a pair of children, Michelle and John, who have Asperger's Syndrome and Attention Deficit Disorder. They apply their unique perspective and insight to combat crime and evil, and further world peace. Black-and-white illustrations and a large typeface gentle on the eyes distinguish this easy-to-read chapter book and its upbeat message life with ADD and Asperger's. A handful of black-and-white illustrations by Michelle's son Josh Fattig, who also has Asperger's Syndrome and ADD, round out this excellent novel for young readers ready to start on their first ever chapter books.

Senior Smart Puzzles
Lindy McClean, author
James Cloutier, illustrator
BookSurge Publishing
9781419646881, $10.99

Senior Smart Puzzles: Mazes, Hidden Objects, Same/Different Puzzles is a black-and-white, consumable activity book designed especially for seniors, ideal for stimulating thought, conversation, and memories. The mostly visual puzzles include mazes, hidden object finds, and uncovering the differences between seemingly identical pictures. All the puzzles are fairly simple and suitable for children as well, though the chosen imagery is especially designed to appeal to the elder population - adult individuals and families at work, at play, or doing routine things around the home. Visual solutions are listed in the back. Enthusiastically recommended as a stimulating tool for senior centers.

Have A Jesus Filled Day
Roy & Ann Chapman
Integrated Book Marketing
PO Box 321, King Park, NY 11754
9780977965700, $14.99

Non-denominational church pastors and founders of Chosen Ministries, Inc. Roy and Ann Chapman present Have A Jesus Filled Day, an uplifting self-help guide for Christians to filling one's days with blessings, satisfaction, peace, guidance, vision, abundance, and the many other benefits of inviting the Lord Jesus Christ into one's heart. Sample daily confessions for personal study and recitation pepper this spiritually uplifting text. "When the Lord is the main focus in your life, there is no reason to be afraid. There is no fear when you have the light of the Lord in your life. When you walk with Him, you will not stumble in the darkness. There is protection. When trials and temptations come, you will not fall because you have the promise of His presence to guide and shelter you."

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

The Rozabal Line
Shawn Haigins
Lulu Press
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9781430327547 $16.95

The Rozabal Line is a suspenseful novel about modern-day religious tensions. Father Vincent Morgan becomes immersed in a storm of controversy over the ancient tomb of Rozabal in Kashmir, which has contained the body of the saint Yuz Asaf since 112 A.D. Caught in the crossroads between extreme Islamic fundamentalists and the equally extreme fundamentalists of the Crux Decussata Permuta, Morgan must question whether the world-altering secret held within Rozabal should be revealed at all. Religious wrath, ruthless controversy spanning the globe, and the threat of nuclear destruction make for a gripping read from cover to cover.

Bones Of The Dead
Elle Newmark
Katherine Brandenburg
Marketing Department
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595417391, $16.95

Set in 15th Century Venice during the time of the Renaissance, "Bones Of The Dead" is a unique novel in which author Elle Newmark brilliantly unfolds a fascinating story about an underground network of chefs at the dawn of humanism who are teaching subversive 'new' ideas disguised as recipes. This was a time in which both Church and State were seeking to suppress humanist notions through torture, imprisonment, and even death. But the era of ideas would not be stopped no matter what the cost. One of those ideas was to use cookbooks a instruction manuals in philosophy. "Bones Of The Dead" is a gripping novel of political and papal intrigue that will grip the reader's total attention from first page to last. Enthusiastically recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections, he recipes embedded in this articulate and original work of masterfully crafted fiction are an added bonus!

The Philosophy Of Rich
Ted Courtemanche
Iterim Publishing
PO Box 39778, Greensboro, NC 27438
Gulotta Communications (publicity)
341 Lexington Street, Newton, MS 02466
9780979894299, $16.95

In "The Philosophy Of Rich: A True Story About Brothers And Resurrection", author Ted Courtemanche has deftly written a complex memoir that includes four distinctive themes or stories. The first one focuses upon the last two months of his brother Rich's life which ended in suicide. The second one recounts the two brothers growing up together, taking yearly family vacations, and coming of age. The third is about Rich as a millionaire futures investor. And finally, there is Ted's philosophic and scientific look at their families, the issues of illness and death, and such miscellaneous family matters as the building of go-karts and tree houses. A personal family history that is laced with ideas and information about bipolar disorders, and the coming to terms with sudden death and tragic loss, "The Philosophy Of Rich" is especially recommended reading for anyone having to deal with similar events and conditions in their own lives, families, and friends.

Chaco Astronomy
Anna Sofaer
Ocean Tree Books
PO Box 1295, Santa Fe, NM 87504
9780943734460, $24.95

During the summer solstice in 1977, researcher Anna Sofaer was high on a butte in New Mexico's western deserts when she observed a single shaft of light perfectly bisecting a rock art spiral. The spiral was created by the ancestors of the Native Americans known as the Pueblo people. Sofaer recognized the significance of this 'Sun Dagger' and commenced a thirty-year investigation and research into the meaning of it and numerous other astronomical expressions found throughout the architecture and art of the ancient Chaco culture. The results of this three decade study are what comprise "Chaco Astronomy: An Ancient American Cosmology". The result of Sofaer's own researches are augmented by other contributors to The Solstice Project. The informed and informative text is enhanced with the inclusion of numerous black-and-white photographs, drawings, and sketches. "Chaco Astronomy" is a work of seminal scholarship that is enthusiastically recommended for personal, professional, and academic library collections in American Archeology, Native American History, and Paleo Astronomy reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

No Stress Tech Guide to ACT! 2007
Indera E. Murphy
Tolana Publishing
PO Box 719, Teaneck, NJ 07666
9780977391257, $49.95

Specifically designed for introducing novice educators, school board members, and concerned parents to Act! 2007, this thoroughly 'user friendly' guide by author, educator, and IT professional Indera E. Murphy provides step-by-step instructions on installing and customizing ACT! Readers will learn how to create, edit, and duplicate contract, company, and group records of all kinds. "No Stress Tech Guide to ACT! 2007" shows how to use the 'Lookup' command, sort contract records, link company and contact records, how to run and customize reports, scheduling activities and create opportunities, modify report templates and menus, as well as import and export data. Of special note is the information relevant to performing database maintenance tasks. All this and more comprise "No Stress Tech Guide to ACT! 2007", making it an invaluable and very strongly recommended instruction manual and reference guide!

Rebellion of Thought
The Brothers Williamson
Exploration Films
PO Box 1069, Monument, Colorado 80132

Rebellion of Thought is a DVD assessment of the interplay between post-modern philosophy and religious belief. Post-modernism is the concept that there are quite literally no absolutes - what is "true" from one point of view is not necessarily true at all from another. The consequences of such thinking are far-reaching, both for organized religion and for society in general. How can believers in Jesus Christ express their faith in compelling ways, amid a modern generation that defies authority, code, and convention? What does it truly mean to love one's neighbor as oneself? Rebellion of Thought ultimately criticizes and deconstructs the flaws of post-modern thinking, while offering guidance and recommendations for parents and social leaders confronted by it. 75 minutes, color.

Gateways to the Otherworld
Philip Gardiner
Reality Films
PO Box 91, Foresthill, CA 95631

Continuing the fantastic metaphysical journey begun by "Quantum Mind of God", Gateways to the Otherworld confronts a question as old as humankind's primordial consciousness: is there life after death? Offering a technique through which we can travel to the "other realities" that exist within ourselves, and tapping into the power of quantum physics, documentary producer Philip Gardiner undergoes his own experiments to prove his points and reveals that ancient humankind is far more advanced than previously thought. In an amazing blend of science and mysticism, Gateways to the Otherworld tells of the universal frequency that allows the mind to travel to other realms; the "quantum entanglement" connection; the secrets of the Great Pyramids; methods of healing nearly lost to time that could benefit all of humanity; and much more. A welcome and highly recommended addition to metaphysical studies DVD shelves.

First Run Features
The Film Center Building, 630 Ninth Avenue, Suite 1213, New York, NY 10036

Feed is a raucous documentary-comedy about running for president of the United States with a twist - it's comprised of footage shot during the primaries and the intercepted satellite feeds of unwitting candidates. From the real Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail, to Jerry Brown's use of nose inhalers, Ross Perot's dirty talk, Pat Buchanan's temper tantrums, and Bill Clinton's doublespeak, Feed is proof that truth can be not only stranger than fiction, but funnier as well! Enthusiastically recommended for anyone in need of a good laugh at modern politics. 76 minutes, color. Independent film enthusiasts, movie buffs, and film school librarians would be well advised to visit the First Run Features website at for a complete listing of their extensive collection of independent and foreign films.

Able Greenspan

Klausner's Bookshelf

Racing the Dark
Alaya Dawn Johnson
9781932841282 $24.00

Teenage Lana lives on the island earning a living diving in fresh water to take jewels from mandagah fish. When Lana goes through the rite of adulthood ceremony, she finds a special blood-red jewel that she hides from her family and the village elders. She knows the gem means she is someone with power, but she does not want to become an elder as those who obtain special jewels become; elders have no independence as their life is filled with responsibilities for others.

Six months after she hid the jewel, the village cash crop, the mandagah fish are dying out caused by changes to their watery environs. Lana's family wants to relocate to another island, but have no means to pay neither the transportation nor settling. To do so Lana obtains an apprenticeship with a strange "exiled" witch the sorceress Akua, who uses blood sacrifice to fuel her spells. As Lana learns how to cast spells, she must sacrifice something of personal value to cast her incantations. When she is tricked into sacrificing her beloved mother, Lanai knows she cannot; she must find someway to save her mother's life, which means using even more ancient forbidden dark magic.

This is a terrific coming of age fantasy thriller starring a thirteen years old girl whose rite of passage into adulthood takes a dark turn when she finds the special blood gem. Readers will feel they have entered Johnson's Island (not the military base in the Pacific) realm as the geography and climate come across rather influentially and powerfully. However, the island culture beyond the gem economy and government never fully seems developed although in fairness the gems are the heart of society. Still filled with twists especially the key Twilight Zone spin, young adults will enjoy RACING THE DARK alongside of Lana, who would do anything for her beloved mother as witnessed by her sacrificing her soul to apprentice to the blood witch.

Chile Con Corpses
J.B. Stanley
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive,, Woodbury, MN, 55125-2989
9780738712598 $13.95

James, Bennett, Lindy, Lucy and Gillian are members of the Flab Five, a club who supports the members concerning proper diet and exercise so they can lose weight. It is a diverse group with Lindy trying to get up the courage to tell the high school principal she likes him. James and Lucy are an entry but the two are drifting apart and the relationship ends when he sees her with another man who is helping her pass her test to be a police officer.

James is drafted into being a chaperone at the Luray Caverns where art students can paint after hours. While everyone is in a different area, one of the students finds the body of Parker Willis who they later find out is an heiress who was in practice with veterinarian Collin Crabtree. Her twin sister Kinsley is distraught so the group members try to console her. They once again start sleuthing to find the killer while Kinsley lets her ex-boyfriend Gary console her.

CHILI CON CORPSES is as much a tale of friends with common interests as it is an amateur sleuth mystery. The five members of the support group know each other's strengths and faults, but like each other despite of their weaknesses. James is the glue that holds the story together as he takes care of his father, tries to remain friends with Lucy while pursuing another relationship and guiding the investigation so that nobody is in danger.

I Never Saw Paris
Harry I. Freund
Carroll & Graf
c/o Avalon Publishing Group
245 West 17th Street, 11th floor, New York, NY 10011-5300
9780786720545 $23.00 1-800-788-3123

In Manhattan, four people wait on the sidewalk for chance to cross Park Ave when a car jumps the curb killing each of them and the driver. The group of strangers consists of sexagenarian businessman Irving Caldman, fifty something personal shopper for the wealthy Clarissa Bowen; grandmother Essie Mae Rowder employed as a housemaid; twentyish interior decorator Brett Taylor; and the driver Mendel Perlow who survived the holocaust to own a New York candy store.

Malakh welcomes the group at a heavenly rest stop where he prepares the quintet for their upcoming worthiness before the Judge of the Universe. He orders each to share their life history with the others. At first none of the five are comfortable revealing their inner most fears and desires, but over the course of bickering and fighting, each opens up revealing good and bad memories as a camaraderie forms.

This is a fabulous parable with an interesting spin on how heaven works and what it takes to get there as deeds count. The story line focuses on all five recently deceased mortals with Irving as the prime player with his dry assertion that he never saw Paris nor will he at least in that lifetime. Readers will appreciate Harry I. Freund's insightful look at five strangers going through the stages of a group (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Terminating as Malakh moves them on) while also the stages of grief for those they left behind.

Winter in Madrid
C.J. Sansom
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780670018482 $25.95 1-800-847-5515

By 1940 the brutal Spanish Civil War has finally ended, but much of the country remains devastated with people worried about basic sustenance needs like food, clean water, and shelter. As neutral Spain struggles to recover, the Germans blitzkrieg continues its rapid conquest of Europe and their air force daily bombs the last foe Britain. The leader of the winning side General Francisco Franco and his Fascist party considers joining the Nazis like Mussolini and Italy did.

England sends reluctant Harry Brett to spy on his old peer Sandy Forsyth, a dishonest Madrid businessman, who has close toes to Franco. Brett has doubts he is the man for the job, but journeys to Madrid to win the confidence of Sandy and through him what Franco's plans re the war with Hitler are. However, he finds Madrid nothing like the energized vibrant city that it was just a few years ago under the short lived republic when he and his close friend Bernie Piper visited the city. Instead he finds distressed hopeless people starving and dying; he wants to go home where the Nazi bombings have only increased the fortitude of his fellow Brits to defeat the German monster.

WINTER IN MADRID is a terrific historical thriller that is part espionage and part political. The storyline provides an insightful look at the aftermath of Franco's victory in the Civil War especially the political turmoil of a divided Fascist Party debating whether to join its two allies or recuperate from the bloody internal fight. C.J. Sansom places a powerful spotlight on battered Spain as WW II has devastated much the rest of the continent while the Battle of Britain seems inevitable and would enable Franco to claim like Mussolini he was on the victorious side.

Forget About It
Caprice Crane
5 Spot Hachette
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446697552 $13.99

At work advertising expert Jordan Landau's boss bypasses her to promote a less talented squeaky wheel yet has no qualms about taking full credit for Jordan's brilliant ideas because she knows her star employee is a wuss. Her personal life stinks too as her boyfriend is a cheater and her mother and younger sister disdain her as a wimp.

Being despondent over not fighting back over all that seems to have gone wrong, Jordan wants to start anew. She gets her chance when she is in a bicycle accident; she pretends to suffer from amnesia. Jordan begins to open her mouth at work, with her family and with kicking the cheater to the curb. She receives a promotion and begins dating the driver of the car that hit her and her bike.

The metamorphosis of Jordan from doormat to assertive is cleverly yet realistically designed so that reader believes in the heroine's changes. The support cast enhances the alteration as they must change in their side of the relationship to keep up with the suddenly self-assured Jordan. Fans will enjoy her ripping skin from her boss, her mom, her sis, and booting her boyfriend out of her life. Though the romance with the driver is unnecessary, readers will appreciate this fine character study as Caprice Crane's novels are proving intelligent and contagious.

Dragon Harper
Anne McCaffrey & Todd McCaffrey
Del Rey
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345480309 $5.95 1-800-726-0600

Although apprentice Harper Kindan is disappointed not to impress one of the eggs containing baby dragons on the hatching grounds of High Reaches Weyr, he knows there will be other chances. He returns to Harper Hall and finds himself protecting a Harper young women from the senior apprentice Vaxoram. After getting some special training, Kindan and Vaxoram duel with the former winning. According to the terms of the duel Vaxoram is Kindan's servant and under his guidance. Vaxoram becomes a better person, genuinely glad when his friend impresses a fire lizard and worried what will happen when it is discovered that Kindan is in love with a Lord Holder's daughter

These worries are swept aside when a new danger threatens Pern. A super flu starts spreading from hold to hold and nobody knows how to cure it. The records show a plague like this hit once before and it took twenty turns to recover from the aftereffects. With thread coming in twelve turns, the weyrs have to quarantine themselves so they will have enough people and dragons to fight thread. It is up to the Holds and the information gathering of the Harpers to find a way to have the plague burn itself out before the population will not be able to produce goods and grow crops because there won't be enough people to do it. Kindan plays a big role in trying to stop the spread of the disease and caring for its victims.

Readers who have read any of the Pern books will find DRAGON HARPER just as exciting and enthralling as all the other books in the long running saga. The collaboration between Anne McCaffrey and her son Todd McCaffrey creates the same voice as if mom wrote this alone. There is plenty of action in DRAGON HARPER but the heart of the books lies in the characters who come together during the crisis.

Half the Blood of Brooklyn
Charlie Huston
Del Rey
9780345495877 $13.95

Vampyre P.I. Joe Pitt is no longer a Rogue but is an Enforcer for the Society, a clan that carved out a piece of Manhattan belonging to the Coalition. The two clans have an uneasy truce, one that can be broken by the smallest misdeed. Joe isn't interested in vampire politics but in his girlfriend Evie who is dying from AIDS. However, it is just a matter of time before war breaks out and the Manhattan clans are trying to get allies from the outer boroughs.

Terry, the leader of the Society is turned down by the Docks for an alliance and he retaliates even though he knows he will make an enemy of that clan. Joe is sent to look at a death caused by what looks like Van Helsing and the sad part is that the victim was not a vampire but a businessman who sold blood to the vamps. Another clan wants to negotiate but this time when Joe drives to Brooklyn, he is taking a hostage so that the negotiator will be brought back when talks are finished with Terry. It sounds like a simple plan but Joe becomes involved in a clan war and the end result is losing everything that matters to him.

This dark supernatural urban noir shows a brutal vampire society that is hidden amidst humans yet are predators who think of humans as prey. Manhattan is the perfect place for this storyline to take place because it is full of predators only in Charlie Huston's world they are of the supernatural kind.. Most are out for themselves and want power and territory. Joe is no choir boy but a predator who has one soft spot, his dying Evie. Clan warfare is comparable to the mafia wars.

Beloved Castaway
Kathleen Y'Barbo
Barbour Publishing
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781597895934 $9.97 1-800-852-8010

In 1834 in New Orleans, twenty years old female Quadroon slave Isabelle Gayarre has decided to run away before she is used by her current owner. She seeks refuge in Europe because there is no safe haven for a runaway in the States. Her only hope to cross the Atlantic rests with The Jude sailing shortly.

Ship's captain Josiah Carter does not want the trouble have the enticing Isabelle on board his vessel. Still he takes her when they leave New Orleans. On the journey, he begins to admire her courage and conviction; she his strength and caring. Soon they fall in love, but laws forbid a marriage between a Quadroon and a white. Will they defy the laws and public opinion for a chance at happiness together.

This inspirational historical romance entertains readers from the moment that Isabelle seeks freedom by pleading her case to come on board the Jude and never slows down until the final kiss. The action is extremely high at sea, but it is the timely deep look at racial marital taboo laws and a society that enforces them that provide insight into the historical sanctuary of marriage.

Metal Swarm
Kevin J. Anderson
Orbit( Hachette)
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316021746 $25.99

The Terran Hanseatic League known as Hansa, the Ildiran Empire and the recently formed Confederation of Hansa (former colonies of the failing Terran Hanseatic League) struggle to survive while fighting one another. The three groups know they need to forge an alliance as they have external threats to their respective security.

However none of the leaders want to be accused of taking the first step towards forging an alliance as no one trusts the others to adhere to any pact. Instead they each continue to go it alone with some military resources diverted to keep the other two empires in check. Separately they struggle against runaway robots, strange intelligent fire beings and worst an insectoid race that has pandemic plans to eradicate all humans on planets found in all three spheres that they consider theirs. Failure to unite means extinction in many sectors of the universe.

The latest intergalactic interspecies hostilities outer space thriller is fast-paced and exciting, but has too much going on making it difficult to keep up with the zillion subplots especially for newcomers. Still the exhilarating story line is filled with plenty of non-stop action. Though no character stands out (there are almost as many key players as there are insectoid), fans of the series will enjoy the METAL SWARM of killer robots, fire creatures and the bugs as humanity stands on the brink of extinction in some places due to species cleansing if they fail to forge an alliance between distrusting enemies.

Saint City Sinners
Lilith Saintcrow
9780316021432 $6.99

Her Lucifer assignment to capture four demons is on hold though she prays that the prince of Darkness is ignorant of being put aside even temporarily; Dante Valentine does not need another confrontation with a superpower who would not mind her being dead. However, the text message Gabrielle "Gabe" Spocarelli is succinct and to the point: "Danny, Mainthusez I need you. Now. Gabe". Only for her best friend in her Saint City childhood would Dante put of Lucifer.,

Dante returns home to learn Gabe's beloved Eddie was murdered ten days ago and Saint City is filled with danger. Dante seeks vengeance, but is irate with her demon lover Japhrimel, who seems to know who and why, but refuses to tell her anything. As Dante's frustration grows, Japh turns increasingly obstinate as he insists his prime objective is to keep his beloved safe including from her own reckless self at the cost of their relationship if need be. However once again he underestimates the necromancer who affirms hell hath no fury like a female seeking revenge even when it is against the wrong individual as she fails to see she is the victim of a Judas betrayal.

The latest Dante Valentine paranormal thriller is an exciting tale that showcases the talent of author Lilith Saintcrow as she combines angst and heart break with supernatural action. The story line is fast-paced, but the key elements to this superb fantasy are the plausible plot twists that send the heroine deeper into depression and anguish; she even seems suicidal ready for demons or Lucifer to kill her (kind of like having the cops shoot you). SAINT CITY SINNERS affirms that you can't go home even for a heavenly cause.

The Con Artist of Catalina Island
Jennifer Colt
Tessera Books
2461 Santa Monica Blvd #509 Santa Monica, CA.
9781604612677 $22.95

In Los Angeles, identical twins Kerry and Terry McAfee are tall red-heads who enjoy riding their respective pink bikes on the highways. The two professional sleuths own and operate Double Indemnity Investigations. However they are as dissimilar a pair of sisters one can find. Whereas Terry is a former cocaine user who has done time for possession Kerry is a college grad who appreciates men with a sense of humor.

The siblings look forward to vacationing with family members on Catalina Island for their Christmas holiday. However, upon checking in at the hotel, they learn their room was previous occupied by newlyweds, who were publicly arguing until the bride vanished along with her apparently valuable rare green diamond ring. Soon afterward the murdered corpse of diving instructor is found floating in nearby Avalon Bay. Unable to resist, the twins begin investigating only to find the sheriff angry with their intrusion into the official inquiry, a stalker turning up everywhere yet just out of reach, and a death threat for intruding in a situation that has its roots in an African diamond mine. That is when they are not hunting for a toothless poodle that ran away from the family.

This fourth McAfee investigative tale (see The Vampire of Venice Beach, The Butcher of Beverly Hills and The Mangler of Malibu Canyon; none read by this reviewer) is an amusing young adult combo whodunit family drama. The siblings are fabulous to follow as they seek romance in their own way while dealing with their relatives especially Aunt Reba's tryst haunting everyone, and finally a missing person and a homicide. Life is normal for Kerry and Terry as their vacation turns out the way their work time is, handling a difficult case that will most likely not help their bank accounts.

Dark Maiden
Norma Lehr
Juno Books
c/o Wildside Press
9710 Traville Gateway Drive, #234, Rockville, MD 20850
9780809557806 $12.95

Prime Books/Wildside Press,9710 Traville Gateway Dr., #234,Rockville, MD 20850
Everyone says that Sheila Miller's son Timmy died of SIDS but she knows an Asian woman sucked the soul out of her infant. Her husband Karl believes she hallucinated seeing an Asian woman as a means of projecting her feelings of guilt onto someone else; and had her hospitalized for three months. When she gets out they move to Auburn to be near her Aunt Iris. When she arrives there she meets Chad Olson and they both have immediate feelings for one another as if they knew one another in a previous life.

Sheila starts hallucinating about a Chinese massacre that happened near the mine on the property. Chad is obsessed about opening up the mine and digging for artifacts. Sheila begins to hear sound and seen Asian woman and she starts blacking out. She doesn't remember what she did but those around her got hurt or killed. Chad sees a giant fox following Sheila around but she thinks he is seeing things. Sheila's psychiatrist from the hospital contacts the Wus and shows them a drawing she made while in the hospital. The elder Wu has an identical amulet and tells the doctor that Sheila's condition is explained by a supernatural being and if it is not stopped, Sheila will cease to exist

DARK MAIDEN is an enthralling and entertaining dark fantasy that will bewitch readers with its hypnotic storyline. Readers will empathize with Sheila who has to cope with the loss of a child and supernatural attacks. Norma Lehr is a talented writer who somehow makes the events that take place in this tale as believable as her characters who behave in plausible manners. Once the audience learns what motivates each of them it is exciting reading about their encounter with and how they react to the supernatural.

Master of Shadows
Janet Lorimer
9780809557820 $12.95

After her father disappeared, Ariel McPherson learned that he was a gambler who left them in poverty except for a cottage in the village. Her fiance Michael broke up with her and his father Daniel Gilchrest is struggling to keep the business afloat because her father, who was his partner, embezzled finds to fund his addiction. In the village, Ariel goes to the stream in the woods to get water for her ailing mother who believes it contains medicinal qualities.

It is there she meet Louvel who is kind to her even though he doesn't let her see him. He offers her employment in the form of fixing up his library and she accepts. After a time, she tells him she loves him but he rejects her and sends her back to the cottage where Michael is waiting for her. He reminds her of their engagement and tells her that her father's body has been found; washed up from the sea. She and her mother return to the city where society accepts them. Her mother is happy but Ariel is uneasy in Michael's presence and misses Louvel, a man she never even saw. Eventually she learns the truth about Michael and Louvel and discovers the true meaning of love.

When Ariel is in the city, there is a modern day feel to the storyline; but when she is in the woods and at Louvel's castle readers feel as if the characters are in a fairy tale. The heroine is determined to learn the truth about both men in her life even if it means going against Louvel's decrees. Readers will enjoy this enchanting romantic fantasy as the audience will hope Ariel obtains her happily ever after.

Living, Breathing Lies
Gloria Mallette
9780967878928 $15.00

When her parents died eleven-year-old heiress Nadirah Lewis moved into the home of her paternal Aunt Stephanie Richards. Whereas Aunt Stephanie is cruel and abusive to everyone, her spouse firefighter Lester was very kind and loving to his niece as was her twin sibling older cousins Les and Lynn. A few years later, an accident leaves Stephanie physically crippled and Nadirah emotionally crippled as her guardian blames her ward for causing the trauma. Just under a decade after Nadirah joins the Richards family and long after the cousins moved out, Lester dies.

Stephanie uses guilt as a weapon to keep Nadirah home with her. However, the elementary schoolteacher is turning thirty in ten months and besides inheriting a four million dollar plus trust fund from her late parents, she begins to want out of jail, but is afraid to go it alone. Lynn, who left her acrimonious mother almost seventeen years ago, encourages Nadirah to make the break. However, it is her at risk eight years old student Bree, who desperately needs help and that leads Nadirah to believe she can do it especially if she wants to become the child's guardian. A desperate Stephanie fearing being left to die alone, does what she does best; spreading lies of a teacher-student affair that harms her niece especially when Bree's unstable family surface with demands of the teacher.

LIVING, BREATHING LIES is a powerful character study that focuses in on dysfunctional interrelationships built on fabrications. Each of the Richards are unique, but the most profound protagonist is Aunt Stephanie who is a household Machiavelli as she manipulated her husband to do what she wanted and likewise her niece; in the latter guilt is tight handcuffs. Nadirah is also fascinating as a willing victim filled with guilt that her aunt insures overflows. As the web of lies that go much wider than Nadirah knows begins to unravel one thread at a time, readers will demand more angst family dramas like this tense tale.

Splitting Harriet
Tamara Leigh
Multnomah Books
12265 Oracle Blvd., Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781590529287 $12.99 1-800-929-0910

As the daughter of a minister in Franklin, Tennessee, Harriet Bisset was expected to behave with utmost decorum. Instead as a teen she was the poster child for open rebellion.

Now twenty-seven years old, the former running wild as a child displays prim and proper behavior even working part-time as the women's ministry director at her father's church First Grace. She also earns money as a waitress at Gloria's Morning Cafe, which she hopes to one day own. Her church hires reformed bad boy Maddox McCray to help bring new members to the congregation. As he brings in innovative ideas like music and computers, Harriet worries about the impact his changes will make on her. Worse he pushes her buttons as he wants more of the bad girl persona that he senses underneath her "image". He is attracted to the woman who is addicted to jelly belly and detests the minister's daughter running from a jelly belly.

This interesting chick lit inspirational romance argues that the way to bring young people into the Church is through modern technology like computer access and music; this is not a new assertion, but makes a strong case that contemporary marketing is needed before more of the next generation seeks a different Word in the electronics. Harriet is terrific as she feels split between her rebellious youth that Maddox encourages and her prime and proper adult behavior that her dad supports. SPLITTING HARRIET between the men in her life leads to a humorous with a serious metaphoric geometric leap in her addiction to jelly beans. With a deep look at this young woman caught between traditionalism and modernization, Tamara Leigh provides an enjoyable tale; of course her first name doesn't hurt her rating.

What Lies Within
Karen Ball
9781590524152 $12.99

Kyla Justice's construction company has been a great success, but though she is making money she feels unfulfilled as she has not given anything back to society. However, an opportunity arises to do so when a church asks her to convert a dilapidated mess into a youth center. She readily agrees though she did not realize that even Job would be pressed to remain a believer.

The Blood Brotherhood gang does not want a youth center in their territory. The owner of the site does not want a youth center built on his property as he has other avaricious plans if the construction fails. Her boyfriend Mason does not want her building a youth center in the dangerous slums. The suppliers do not care one iota about a youth center as they want top dollar for shabby material. Three previous contractors were run off or paid to leave. Now Kyla faces sabotage and worse as she remains persistent in her mission though someone targets her for harm. Only former Army Staff Sergeant Rafael "Rafe" Murphy, a local coffee shop owner, supports her quest but he has an agenda to keep her safe; he is falling in love with Kyla.

The latest Family Honor tale (see SHATTERED JUSTICE) is a terrific inspirational thriller that subtly conveys the biblical message of good deeds are important but one must give oneself to God to be with the Lord. Kyla is a fabulous center holding the plot together as she is a combination of fortitude and despair. She makes the tale as Karen Ball brings her biblical theme to life in a modern day urban gangland setting.

Try Dying
James Scott Bell
Center Street (Hachette)
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9781599956848 $21.99

Los Angeles attorney Ty Buchanan prepares for a defamation of character defense in which he claims the plaintiff has NO LEGAL GROUNDS to sue his client. However, as he prepares for the case, he suddenly is hammered with a tragedy, the death of his fiancee Jacqueline Dwyer. What makes her demise even more difficult to cope with is the randomness of the event that killed her. Spousal killer Ernesto Bonilla committed suicide on an overpass and plunged off it landing on Jacqueline's passing vehicle, killing her.

At her funeral an unkempt out of place male demands Ty give him money in exchange for the truth behind Dwyer's death; the stranger insists she lived after the Bonilla dive. Perhaps looking for a different explanation, Ty needs to know the truth; but when he tells the cops, they assume he is a grieving person who has been conned. Although he understands he could harm his rising career, Ty investigates finding a conspiracy of the powerful concealing something, but what and how it ties to Jacqueline remains elusive.

Though there is a solid legal thriller subplot, TRY DYING is more an investigative tale as Ty works Los Angeles seeking whether his late fiancee was murdered by someone else after the Bonilla incident. The story line is action-packed, but in every sense of the word is owned by the mourning young lawyer who cannot understand how this could happen and recognizes he may be reaching for a less random incident even if it is homicide. Fans will appreciate Ty's efforts to learn the truth at the cost of his career.

To Catch a Cheat
Kelley St. John
Grand Central Forever (Hachette)
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446401227 $6.99 1-800-759-0190

Marissa Kincaid compared her history with males to her pals at AtlantaTellAll Poll and finds she ahs always managed to date cheaters. Frustrated with men she decides to open up an Internet site exposing these two-timers where women can anecdote these losers.

She starts with Trenton Jackson who canceled a date with then teen Marissa to go out with another girl. Trent learns of Melissa's web page and sees an opportunity to publicize his webzine so he responds. She sees a plus to his answering her charges and they form a He Said She Said debate over the net. The media enjoys the dispute and a radio arranges for the pair to share an apartment for a week. As they fall in love, she refuses to take a second chance on him as once a cheater always a cheater; he will do anything to convince her they belong together forever.

Readers obtain three fun contemporary romances (including a proposal in a dugout). The lead duo is fully developed characters so that Trent's desperation seems genuine and Marissa's mistrust as real. Although the premise that he sees a PR advantage to her site that insulted him seems inane, readers will not care as they will root for the heroine to finally catch her cheat.

Sex & the Immortal Bad Boy
Stephanie Rowe
Grand Central Forever
9780446619028 $6.99

Being one month old means little to Paige Darlington as a person matures rather fast when working for the boss from Hell, Satan, as an apprentice rivka. However, the rookie rivka wants what her former mentor has recently achieved although it took Becka Gibbs a few millenniums (see HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME HOT); she desires breaking free of Satan's hoofs.

However Satan has learned from his mistake with Becka so in creating Paige he added a diabolical touch; any living thing that touches her dies. Thus Paige who wants love like Becka found, feels lonely and ponders how she will survive eternity as a subservient to her master. That is until she meets shadow warrior Jed Buchanan, who has a Faustian deal with Satan Jr. to save his brother's soul. Jed does not seem to desire Paige who wonders if his shriveled soul can be saved by her before he completes his latest task killing her.

The latest trip to the Rowe pantheon is an amusing but darker thriller than the previous journeys to this weird but entertaining universe. Fans of the series will enjoy the devilish goings on as the demonic assassin and the rookie rivka begin to fall in love over the consternation of Satan father and son. Although lacking some of the freshness of the just as wild predecessors, fans will enjoy going to hell in a hand basket with Stephanie Rowe at the oars.

Stone Cold
David Baldacci
Grand Central
9780446577397 $26.99

With their recent escapades (see THE COLLECTORS and THE CAMEL CLUB), the DC based Camel Club members have gained some powerful friends who support the revealing of government official wrong doing and avarice; but also some equally powerful adversaries who prefer secrets remain that way. However, the club's associates are like the Three Musketeers when it comes to protecting one another. When honorary assistant Annabelle Conroy get in trouble after conning about forty million dollars from Atlantic City casino king Jerry Bagger (started in THE COLLECTORS), the Camel Club protects her from him; he plans to do to her what he did to her mother, kill her.

However, Camel Club leader Oliver Stone has a new greater threat to contend with. Homeland Security Agent Harry Finn, a loving father and spouse and highly regarded patriot, is methodically killing the survivors of a CIA Cold War cell Triple 6 out of retaliation for arranging the death of his father, an alleged traitor Raymond Solomon. Oliver when he was the late John Carr was part of that unit. The other club members (Reuben Rhodes, Caleb Shaw, Milton Farb and honorary member Secret service Agent Alex Ford) are divided over whom they need to protect as both threats are deadly serious.

The speed of this thriller is incredible as both subplots move out at an extraordinary pace yet the key players seem fully developed and plausible especially Harry and the Camel Club members. Both Oliver and Annabelle recognize the problems they respectively face as each knows they are in trouble, but in some ways welcome the confrontation. Underlying this strong thriller is a caution that government secrets are rarely security issues, but more likely the hiding of embarrassments usually caused by a lack of adequate checks and balances on arrogant imperial power.

A Week from Sunday
Dorothy Garlock
Grand Central
9780446695336 $12.99

Twenty-one year old heiress Adrianna Moore has no time to grieve the death of her father when she learns he placed the family fortune in a trust fund totally controlled by his former banking partner attorney Richard Pope. To make matters worse for the despondent Adrianna, Richard blithely informs her she will marry him next week.

Adrianna refuses to allow an odious lecher like Richard run her life. Instead while he is away on business, she flees her home only to lose control during inclement weather and crashes into a truck in Louisiana. The truck driver Quinn Baxter offers Adriana work while her automobile is repaired and to pay off the damage she caused to his vehicle; she will play the piano in his bar and to help him and his nasty Cajun housekeeper Lola Oxnard with his teenage handicapped brother. As Quinn notices how kind Adrianna is to his sibling, they fall in love. However, Lola tries to destroy their relationship as she intends to wed the bar owner sans his brother and Richard is coming for his "fiancee".

Dorothy Garlock fans will appreciate this entertaining romance in which extreme good battles against excessive evil. Adrianna is a wonderful person who refuses to be pushed into a marriage she does not want nor allow anyone to hurt Quinn's brother. Besides the bad duo having no redeeming qualities and deserve each other (not sure why Quinn employed Lola), the relationship between the lead couple is pleasant to follow as Adrianna brings a caring heart to the Baxter brothers. Readers will enjoy this Bayou battle.

House Infernal
Edward Lee
Cemetery Dance
9781587671692 $40.00

Venetia Barlow, a pious young woman, who is thinking about becoming a nun, is working the summer for extra credit to fix up St John's Prior House. After her arrival she learns that the builder of the house was an approved Vatican architect who was a closet Satanist. There are hidden names and message throughout the house as well an involution in the catacombs. She also finds out that two months ago two virgin nuns were murdered here. Unknown to Venetia a Pith leading to hell is in the catacombs of St John's Prior House

In Hell, High Lord Boniface, an anti-pope from the Middle Ages and one of Lucifer's most devoted servants, has a Pith the atrium of his fortress. For a hundred years he has tortured and raped captured angels who the demons made pregnant. The years of pain caused them to lose their purity making them ripe for Lucifer's purpose. Father Alex and Ruth, two Human Dead, have a mission that will enable him to ascend to heaven and her to purgatory in a thousand years if they are successful. Their assignment involves preventing Venetia from being used as a weapon that will impact life on earth.

Readers will be able to visualize the different areas of Hell thanks to Edward Lee's very graphic and colorful descriptions. Venetia is ignorant of the tug of war role between heaven and hell they want her to play, but she trusts her own instincts to do the right thing for God. At first when she hears Father Alexander's voice, she thinks she is going crazy but she perseveres with her beliefs and tries to convince herself that it was all a dream. This is a fantastic horror novel that readers will place on their keeper shelf.

Clear Blue Sky
F.P. Lione
c/o Baker Publishing Group
PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
9780800718862 $17.99

With the Labor Day weekend and its feasts over, the overworked NYPD police know they can catch a breath after tons of overtime mostly involving crowd control. Police officer Tony Cavalucci did his job, but crowd control is a part of his patrol work he hates as he dreams of getting "out of the bag" and into a plainclothes anti crime unit.

He and most of his peers fear the new mayor will return the streets to the perps as his aids are not impressive; still he does his job of patrolling the streets. Following a graveyard shift on the morning of 11 September 2001 on a warm clear day he stops for coffee and muses unhappily about the demands his family have placed on him. His brother wants him to host a wild last fling bachelor party to remind him what he is giving up by marrying. His extended Italian family especially his mother hates his fiancee Michelle as she is ethically and religiously incorrect and had a child Stevie out of wedlock. They insist he drop her or else. As he ponders whether he will have to give up one of the two families he loves, all that changes when he notices smoke coming from one of the Twin Towers.

CLEAR BLUE SKY continues the insightful look at the life of a New York City cop (see the previous three Midtown Blue novels: not read by me - THE DEUCE and THE CROSSROADS; read by me SKELLS). 9/11 is important to the plot, but comes towards the latter part of the novel as readers follow Tony's personal and professional life in the days just before the tragedy (much of the setting), during the rescue attempts, and immediately after. Fans of police procedurals will appreciate this series that focuses on the cop on the job and off the job as readers obtain a perceptive glimpse of the work pressures and family demands on a police officer.

Dark Lullaby
Mayra Calvani
Whiskey Creek
9781593749071 $12.95

Astrophysicist Gabriel Diaz enjoys an intellectual debate especially over beer, but recently he has had doubts he will ever find a passionate love as his relationship with Liz went from girlfriend to friend. Meanwhile the only person he loves, his pregnant Elena begs him to be there when she gives birth as she is frightened having lost a newborn three years ago. Gabriel would do anything for Elena so he promises to come to Belgium where she lives.

However, his sibling's need vanishes form his brain when he meets Kamilah. She challenges his intellect with debates on good and evil and what is justice. Instead of going to Belgium, he accompanies Kamilah to her home in the Turkish mountains overlooking the Black Sea. Once in Rize, Gabriel loses his cell phone and becomes very sick suffering from nightmares that make sleep horrendous and he suffers even worse hallucinations when awake. As an increasingly paranoid Gabriel fears for his mind and wonders if somehow Kamilah is behind his descent into insanity and overall ill health, a panic stricken Elena keeps wondering where he is as he never failed her unlike their parents and she cannot believe he will fail his soon to be born niece.

This is a terrific horror tale that hooks readers who in spite of knowing that Kamilah is malevolent from almost the first siren meeting with Gabriel wonder what her her motive is and who she is. Fans will assume due to Gabriel's descent into paranoia and Elena's increasing manic panic attacks and anxiety-depression that borders on bipolar that this is a psychological thriller; but the Turkish locale and Kamilah make it so much more. Maria Calvani will have fans hooked in a one sitting read as the author's appreciative attentive audience will want to know is it madness or something more paranormally chilling.

Garden of Darkness
Anne Frasier
9780451412478 $7.99

Too much happened in Tuonela, Wisconsin to allow her unborn baby to be born in a place filled with evil memories caused by supernatural malevolent beings (see PALE IMMORTAL), but especially of one betrayer, her once beloved Evan Stroud. Thus medical examiner Rachel Burton is leaving town to move past his nightmarish duplicity.

However, before she leaves town, a skinned corpse is found in the nearby woods. People also complain that they see spirits walking the streets as if the dead have come back to life. Everyone blames Evan, but no one not even Stroud understands yet that the prize display of the Tuonela Museum, THE PALE IMMORTAL alleged vampire corpse, is calling out to the deceased and the living dead. All are coming to town, especially to the Old Tuonela part of town, and no one not even a pregnant medical examiner can leave.

GARDEN OF DARKNESS, the second Tuonela thriller is a fabulous horror thriller that combines events from the past with a frightening present. The story line grips the audience from the moment a couple driving stop when the woman who just miscarried sees a girl and never slows down from her first scream to the last confrontation. Keep the lights on as Anne Frasier provides a powerfully scary supernatural tale.

Third Degree
Greg Iles
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9780743292504 $24.95 1-800-223-2336

In Athens Point, Mississippi, special education teacher Laurel Shields takes a home pregnancy test and is horrified to learn she is pregnant; for eleven months she was having an affair with Danny McDavitt, the father of one of her students. He ended it because if he couldn't file for divorce because his wife would gain custody of his beloved autistic son even though she finds their child is a burden.

aurel leaves the house for a parent-teacher conference, while her husband Dr. Warren Shields searching the books in the library. When she returns home, Warren points a gun at her. He found a love letter Danny wrote to her even though he didn't sign his name; Warren is furious demanding to know who her lover is. She doesn't tell him but he has an idea that will crack her password on the computer and she knows that there are emails with Danny's name on them. When the children come home, he frightens them by acting crazy but Laurel is able to get her son out of the house. He tells the neighbor who tells the sheriff and pretty soon the house is surrounded by police who know that there is a good chance that the good doctor will kill his wife if and when he discovers who the father of her children. In an ironic quirk the only person Warren trusts to talk to is Danny.

When one thinks of a great thriller writer Greg Iles naturally comes to mind. The tension begins on the very first page and just keeps on escalating as Warren becomes more and more out of control. There is no reasoning with him yet Laurel desperately tries to reach him. Readers will admire her as she deftly handles him but will also sorry for the couple who have lost so much and stand to lose even more. THIRD DEGREE is the appropriate title because that is what Warren does to Laurel throughout this terse domestic thriller.

The Bad Girl
Mario Vargas Llosa
9780374182434 $25.00

Extraordinary things happened in the summer of 1950 in the Barrio Alegre neighborhood of Lima, Peru. Whereas everyone seemed to be falling in and out and in of love, the premier event at least in the mind of resident Ricardo Somocurcio is the arrival of the two teenage sisters, fourteen or fifteen years old Lily and her slightly younger sibling Lucy. The pair claimed to have come from Chile and Ricardo quickly fell in love with Lily. However, when their claims of escaping their homeland prove false, they vanish leaving Ricardo heartbroken.

Several years later in Paris, Peruvian expatriate Ricardo meets exiled Cuban activist "Comrade Arlette" whom he knew as Lily though she denies it; once again he falls in love with her until she leaves him behind. As the years go by, he keeps meeting his Lily as she becomes Madame Robert Arnoux the wife of a UNESCO official and Kuriko the mistress of a Japanese businessman. Each time they meet she treats him with icy aloofness as he hopes she makes this encounter a wonderful thing because he cherishes his Lily even if he does not know who she really is.

THE BAD GIRL is a fascinating character study that affirms that as you grow older you can only go home to your youth in your memories. Lily and Ricardo are interesting protagonists as the audience never knows who either truly is as Lily remains an enigma throughout and Ricardo no longer has his Peruvian roots to ground him. Their relationship over the years never changes even as she denies each time that she was who he claims she was. Always providing an intelligent thought provoking read, Mario Vargas Llosa writes an odd entertaining tale of two people adrift in a sea of humanity that is also drifting along the ebb tide with memories as the only anchor.

A Dark Sacrifice
Madeline Howard
9780060575922 $14.95

Ouriana is the Divine Incarnation of the Devouring Moon, strong in magic due to the deity that resides in her. Like her, it feeds on blood and death and works only dark sorceries. She is impregnable and is served by the Furiadhim, mutated beings who were once men who wield black magic. The only thing that Ouriana fears is the prophecy that states one of her blood will overthrow her. Her niece Winloki is the child of the prophecy all grown up and living in Skyrana in the north adopted by King Ristil who is at war with the Eislanders.

Winloki, a healer accompanies Prince Kivlik and his relative Skerry to battle but they are overrun and find themselves trapped in the fortress at Tirfang. A small group who want Winloki to fulfill the prophecy are marching to the fortree including the powerful healer Sinderian, her dead father who takes the shapes of various birds and the half-Faey prince Ruan. The people are under siege from giants, shapechangers and Eislanders. When Winloki is kidnapped by the Furiadhim, the siege ends; her allies go out to find and rescue her. Both groups face danger from various creatures and supernatural beings.

A DARK SACRIFICE is a wonderful fantasy set in a world where magic is taken for granted and dwarves, the fae and other creatures of myth and legend are real and dangerous to humans. Readers will feel sorry for Winloki who has to adjust her conception of herself and admire Sinderian who is willing to do whatever it takes to defeat Ouriana. These strong willed independent women come to realize the power that resides within them and make difficult choices according to their nature. Madeline Howard is a first rate fantasist.

The Empath
Bonnie Vanak
Silhouette Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373617777 $5.25

The Morphs and the Draicon detest one another as they differ when it comes to the third sentient species on the planet. The Morphs are shapeshifters who believe humans are beneath them on the food chain whereas the Draicon werewolves believe all life is sacred.

Draicon werewolf Nicolas Keenan learns that the Morphs threaten his soulmate, a Draicon veterinarian Dr. Maggie Sinclair, who thinks she is human. He races to Florida to keep her safe, but she rejects him as being a lunatic. Her belief systems changes when the evil shapeshifting Morphs attack her and Nicolas saves her life. As she realizes who she is and who he is to her, they team up in love to fight for their lives.

The key to this paranormal romantic suspense fantasy is the belief that the Draicon and Morph are genuine species who are in a shapeshifters' civil war. Nicolas and Maggie are interesting lead characters whose relationship morphs (a bad action verb for this couple) from her assuming he is crazy to joining him in love and safety. Fans will appreciate Bonnie Vanak's engaging thriller as her world is a dangerous place to live let alone fall in love.

Holiday with a Vampire
Maureen Child and Caridad Pineiro
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373617760 $5.25

"Christmas Cravings" by Maureen Child. Tessa Franklin saves the undead life of Grayson Stone left to die in the sun. However, his life remains forfeit as vampires warn him to pick sides and die; stay neutral and die. This is multifaceted vampire romance starring two strong protagonists, but the resolution seems too easy following stratospheric problems and threats.

"Fate Calls" by Caridad Pineiro. Connie Morales tries to raise money for charity ringing her Christmas bell. Across the street from Connie is irritated vampire Hadrian Aurelius who finally decides the only way to stop the ringing is to kidnap the irritant ringer. He abducts Connie, but instead of peace on earth, he finds himself attracted to Connie. Caridad Pineiro writes a wonderful Christmas paranormal romance starring two appealing lead characters.

Sub-genre fans will appreciate spending the HOLIDAY WITH A VAMPIRE (or two).

Saving Destiny
Pat White
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373617746 $5.25

In England, the Cadre captures Kadenshar and to his shame forces the demon warrior to journey to the United States to bring to them American research scientist Destiny Rue. Kadenshar, who is afraid of nothing and is the best at tempting mortals to sin, fears this female; he believes she is the legendary healer Crystal Goddess, whose peacemaking activities will annihilate his species.

Destiny fears she is going insane like others of her family as she starts hearing voices. When she meets businessman Kade Sharpe she is attracted to the handsome hunk who surprises her by displaying interest in her work. He also tells her about the Crystal Goddess while suddenly needing to keep her safe by protecting her from his demonic brothers trying to kill her before she attains her destiny, which would, as an unintended consequence, eradicate their race.

This superb romantic fantasy works because of the believable metamorphosis of the male lead from cold blooded Kadenshar the demon to warm blooded in love Kade the protector. Destiny also changes due Kade's entry into her life as she finds she has someone to lean on and trust while coping with a fate that makes insanity seem welcome. Pat White delivers with the thrilling SAVING DESTINY.

The Beast Within
Lisa Renee Jones
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373617753 $5.25

When her brother-in-law Mike dies in a car accident, travel writer Karen Gibson leaves her Caribbean tour to run home to Brownsville, Texas to be there for her grieving sister Eva. However, instead of deep mourning, Karen finds her sibling suffering from some odd ailment. Knowing she is out of her league, Karen takes Eva to the neighboring ranch seeking help. There she meets Jag.

They are attracted to one another immediately, but besides not trusting one another, Jag fears for anyone he shows an interest in because of his enemies, the evil Darkland Beasts, who killed his wife years ago. Jag leads the Knights of White in the millennia old civil war for species control against the Darkland Beasts. Karen would be a pawn to these malevolent beings, but he cannot stop himself from falling in love for the second time in his long lifetime as he learns just who she truly is.

The fascination that the romantic fantasy crowd will have with Lisa Renee Jones delightful The Beast Within resides with the Knights of White who are no that different from their adversaries as heroes like Jag suppress the evil within them or join the other side. Readers will appreciate this engaging thriller as Jag and Karen battle love and much more.

Meredith Fletcher
Silhouette Athena Force
9780373389759 $5.50

The leaders of the Athena Force know how to best use the talents of their academy graduates. So when someone arranged the murder of Marion Gracelyn and the kidnapping of two Athena students, they turn to investigative writer Winter Archer to learn who; few people can obtain information better than she can.

Using the guise of writing the biography of the Athena Academy's late founder, Winter asks David if she can look at his mom's papers. However, David, the U.S. Attorney General, rejects allowing an author look at his late mom's papers. Winter persuades him that her interest lies in uncovering the real culprit behind the homicide. David grants her access, but soon finds himself working to keep her safe from a killer who wants to remain the anonymous star of a soon to be cold case.

More a suspense thriller than a romance as the latter takes a back seat to the former, the latest Athena Force tale continues the delightful saga with a past and present thriller. The story line is fast-paced in both periods so that readers are caught up with the non-stop action. The lead couple is fully developed although the romantic interest between them seems forced, as a requirement rather than a plot enhancer. Still fans will enjoy VENDETTA.

Girl in a Box
Sujata Massey
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780060765156 $13.95 1-800-242-7737

Underemployed Japanese-American sleuth Rei Shimura needs work so she accepts a job with some nebulous alphabet soup federal agency that is either a rival to the CIA and NSA or somehow connected to one of them. To know requires a top secret need to know clearance.

Her superior Michael Hendricks assigns Rei to go undercover as a clerk at a Tokyo department store whose profits are mind-boggling to learn how that can be. Besides struggling with why the Feds would care, she likes the assignment as she can purchase the latest in fashion using her employee discount. However, besides sexual harassment, Rei overhears the store's top manager make a death threat, which she reports to Michael. Worried about her as he is attracted to her, Michael rushes to Tokyo to allegedly protect her back. As Rei bungles with hiding her identity until she is exposed as either a CIA or espionage agent, Michael arrives in time to share a kiss.

This is a terrific espionage thriller as Rei changes occupations from sleuth to spy. Readers will enjoy her antics as she takes Tokyo like a typhoon hitting the city. Rei provides a strong anchor to the wild story line as an assimilated American struggling to adapt in her ancestors' homeland as a spy who to a degree is in the cold. The support cast is as good as they get whether it is store management harassing her naval, her agency boss kissing her, her store peers cursing her (and the customers) and the city as a whole. GIRL IN A BOX is a terrific fresh entry in this top rate Japanese American detective series.

Deneane Clark
Leisure Books
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843959970 $6.99 1-800-481-9191

As an earl, Trevor Caldwell knows he must marry in order to begat the heir and the spare, but has no interest in taking on the responsibility of a wife or children. Instead the wealthy aristocrat defers finding a spouse.

However, Trevor changes his mind about bachelorhood when he meets and falls in love with spunky Lady Grace Ackerly. The fiery woman likes the earl and even concedes she probably loves him, but prefers single status as she plans to remain a spinster. As he does everything in what seems to the increasingly frustrated Trevor futile power to persuade her they are perfect for one another, she thwarts his efforts until he is ready to cede that he has lost at love. Grace realizes what her obstinacy might cost her, but wonders if it too late to accept Trevor's proposal as he has apparently given up trying to make her his wife.

The cast especially the lead couple make for a fine Regency romance as Trevor chases after Grace, who seems immune to his charm and not care about his wealth. The secondary characters also feel fully developed as they enhance the enjoyable marriage go round story line.

The Salt Maiden
Colleen Thompson
9780843960174 $7.99

When her sister Angie disappears, veterinarian Dana Vanover leaves her practice to search for her sibling in her last known address, the desert town of Devil's Claw, Texas. No one in the isolated West Texas community wants her there, especially the politicians who fear their dirtysecrets will be exposed and Rimrock County Sheriff Jay Eversole who fears for her safety.

Jay insists Dana go home and let law enforcement deal with the missing person's case; but she refuses as this missing person shares her blood. As Dana forces Jay to work with her, their attraction makes the temperature of the desert look like that of a tundra. However, someone watches both Jay and Dana with the understanding if they get to close they will find a permanent rest spot underneath the sands of the desert.

The key to this romantic suspense thriller is the depth of the cast including the references to the modern mummified title character. Dana is obstinate as she refuses to walk way without the truth while Jay is dedicated and caring in a town without pity. Readers will appreciate Colleen Thompson's tense tale as the strong characterizations and their interplay make the tension that much more vigorous and potent.

To the Edge of the Stars
Joyce Henderson
9780843959963 $6.99

In 1870 in Texas, Kalen Barrett seeks work. She is terrific with animals having the hands of a healer. To only herself, she admits she stinks with humans having not felt tender loving care in what seems like a century. Her only chance as a single woman to obtain work is as a ranch-hand at the spread of half-breed Taylor Savage.

As an outcast who has felt the racism of Texans towards a partial Comanche, Taylor empathizes with Kalen's plight and hires her. She soon finds her yearning for someone to love her especially when she witnesses how kind and nurturing Taylor is towards his family especially his blind mom; they reciprocate his deep feelings. When her uncle dies, he shows her compassion, but now she wants more; she wants her employer's love.

The key to this fine Texas historical romance is the setting including the secondary characters who bring out the traits in the lead couple. Taylor is tough yet nurturing and vulnerable when it comes to his family, his animals, and his land; Kalen is as tough yet also as nurturing and vulnerable when it comes to his animals and, over time, his family. Joyce Henderson provides a warm nineteenth century Americana tale starring two protagonists who find love truly takes them TO THE EDGE OF THE STARS.

The Price of Pleasure
Connie Mason
9780843957457 $6.99

In 1798 Reed Harwood is incarcerated in the infamous French Devil's Chateau for espionage; Reed expects to die as no one locked inside this hellhole survives. However, British agent Fleur "the Black Widow" Fontaine buys his freedom.

Reed has heard rumors that the Black Widow uses her purchases as sex toys before discarding them. However, instead Fleur is kind to him and emits a sense of purity about her. She never tries to seduce him although he admits to himself he is seduced by her innocent lure. He returns to England where he learns he is now an earl, but the woman he loves remains in France. Risking his life, Reed goes back to France to bring Fleur home with him as his wife, but danger follows them across the Channel.

This exhilarating historical romance stars two terrific protagonists who risk their lives to save one another. Fleur is a fascinating character as her reputation is that of sexually devouring male prisoners that she bought for her entertainment, but Reed quickly realizes that is a sham used by her to help her buy freedom for the imprisoned. Although a late suspense seems unnecessary, readers will appreciate Connie Mason's strong late eighteenth century romantic tale of love in two cities.

Demon Eyes
L.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims
9780843959727 $6.99

She is being offered a chance of a lifetime, to be promoted to personal assistant to Alex Keltner, the managing director of Keltner Industries. The offer is so sudden that she needs time to think about it. When she gets home she tells her lover about it who finds it a two edged sword. On one hand they need the money but on the other hand Helen doesn't want Emma traveling for long periods of time. They agree she will try out the position and if it doesn't work out, she will leave.

While Emma is accepting the offer, Helen dies in what seems like a supernatural event. While grieving, Emma must act the hostess at her boss's country home where all the firm's most important clients are attending. Her former boss gives her a warning to get out while she can but shows fear when Alex watches them. Emma notice that later her ex-boss is nowhere to be found. Emma sees and feels things that make her believe she is dealing with people who only wear the mask of humanity. She's afraid that if she doesn't escape, she will end up being their puppet, doing what they want with no will of her own.

L.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims write a true horror story that will scare the heck out of readers. The heroine is forced to come to terms with what she sees and at first denies because it seems possible that the Keltners have a strange interest in her as if she is a key to their future. People who know the Keltners for what they are join forces to try to rescue Emma and if successful, though that is doubtful, might even save the human race.

Sword of Rome
Constance O'Banyon
9780843958225 $7.99

In 47 BC Lord Ramtat, leader of the nomadic western desert tribes sends his adult sister Adhania to the court of Queen Cleopatra so that she can be properly trained as a lady. Also at the ruler's castle is Marcellus, who fell in love with her when they met during a warrior's games in the desert.

The Queen pays Marcellus the Roman VIP a high honor when she assigns Adhania to live amidst Marcellus' household. He vows to keep his newcomer safe, but wonders how he will keep her from him as his desire for his guest remains obsessive. However, he may dream of Adhania being at his side forever butMarcellus knows the law does not allow them to marry. Although he struggles with his attraction, he does not neglect his duty; he has learned that someone has planned a devious scheme to kill Julius Caesar; his vows to uncover the identity of the wannabe assassin leader.

The sequel to the exhilarating ancient Egypt romance LORD OF THE NILE stars the sister of the hero of the first story. The sense of time and place through interwoven tidbits lead readers to believe they are in BC in the desert and in Cairo. Adhania and Marcellus are star-crossed lovers, who pray they can find away to become a couple, but besides the legal taboo the assassination scheme to kill Caesar must be prevented or all hell will break loose. Constance O'Banyon provides a strong historical romance that transports the audience to the time of Cleopatra and Caesar.

The Lady of Light and Shadows
C.L. Wilson
9780843959789 $7.99

Ellysetta Baristani was raised in a simple lifestyle by a woodcarver and his wife. Nothing in her childhood prepared her for her fairy tale destiny that her Prince Charming will come for her, but he did right out of the sky. Thus Ellysetta struggles with being the soul mate of the shapeshifting Fey King, Rain Tairen Soul. Adding to her doubts and making a happily ever after questionable is many Fey resent this outsider rejecting her as their king's soulmate.

However, the malevolent High Eld knows who Ellysetta is and begins a campaign to destroy her starting with turning her dreams into nightmares. Rain warns Celieria City that the High Eld is back, but decades of indifference leave them disbelieving his beseeching. He knows he must find a way to stop the deaths of both races, but begins to believe his beloved Ellie holds the secret although she remains ignorant of what that is

The sequel to the exhilarating romantic fantasy LORD OF THE FADING LANDS is an exciting tale starring two beleaguered and somewhat bewildered protagonists. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the trials and tribulations of Ellie and Rain as the High Eld has been reinvigorated to begin a new war of terror. Fans will appreciate C.L. Wilson's strong continuation of the destiny that awaits Ellysetta Baristani and Rain Tairen Soul.

The Morcai Battalion
Diana Palmer
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373802890 $24.95

Attempts for peace throughout the galaxy appear impossible and a deadly intergalactic war seems imminent. Most understand that billions will die and whole planets destroyed if the fragile treaty collapses. Yet the Rojok dictator Mangus Lo pushes hostilities with his brutal assaults on planets; his objective to be the lone ruler of the galaxy. In minutes he turned the trial peace planet Terramer with a colony from one hundred twenty federation planets into dust killing ten million.

After failing to prevent the latest Rojok war crime, on board the SSC Bellatrix, horrified Tri-Fleet Strategic Space Command officers Lieutenant Commander Madeline Ruszel, Dr. Strick Hahnson and Captain Holt Stern along with their crew are forced to flee their damaged spaceship. They manage to gain passage on the Holoconcom vessel Morcai, but the divergent groups clash. When a betrayal leaves members of both sides imprisoned and tortured by the Rojok, Holt knows he must unite the two sides if they are to escape to fight another day against an amoral enemy who wantonly kills innocent people in order to terrorize his foes.

THE MORCAI BATTALION is a rewriting modernization (seems odd to state modernizing a futuristic tale) of a 1980s Diana Palmer science fiction thriller. The story line is action-packed with the galaxy containing numerous populated planets at war. Readers will root for the good guys especially Holt, but though limited in appearance, Rojok steals the show with his mental forceless Darth Vader like contempt for everyone else. Not for fans of Ms. Palmer's western romances, fans of stark outer space military science fiction will appreciate this sobering at war thriller.

A Red Hot New Year
Cynthia Eden, Diana Mercury, Virginia Reede and Denise Rossetti
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061451478 $13.95

"New Year's Bites" by Cynthia Eden. On New Year's Eve, a wolfman bit Anna Summers changing her physically and mentally. Jon York saves her life and escorts her on her trek into becoming a "bad girl" with a bite.

"Night Resolutions" by Diana Mercury. Chantal attends a New Year's Eve party hoping to find the passion that has vanished between her and her boyfriend, but instead his best friend heats her bones to the melting point.

"Snow Blind" by Virginia Reede. Gerry and Maggie and Jules and Joe go on a New Year's weekend vacation at a remote mountainous cabin in Colorado. Although wintry, one of them brought shorts, but none of the foursome was prepared for the heat generated that keeps everyone toasted.

"Coming On Strong" by Denise Rossetti. Angst laden Gina McBride rarely goes anywhere because she fears excitement, which turns her into a dragon. Sam Jones knows that there are two sides to Gina, but plans to excite her in ways she has never felt before.

Although the tales range from fantasy to contemporary, A RED HOT NEW YEAR contains four delightful erotic romances that star solid characters who would be fun to read about even in not XXX settings.

Halfway to the Grave
Jeaniene Frost
9780061245084 $6.99

Half-breed Catherine "Cat" Crawford has always had an icy relationship with her mom because her mother has never moved past the fact that her daughter was the result of a vampire raping her. To try and gain her mother's approval, Cat hunts down and kills vampires; but in spite of her being good at her vocation and the danger she places herself in, Cat knows her mother still sees her as a rape byproduct who ruined her life.

When Cat attacks master vampire Bones, who is a professional vampire bounty hunter, he defeats her. He is attracted to this unique warrior and persuades her to join him in battling evil vampires. While that will not make her any popular with mom, she agrees especially when he explains he has chased after Hennessy for years, but the psychotic vampire successfully kidnaps and kills the unattached.

This dark vampire romance will grip fans from the moment that Cat and Bones meet and never slows down until the last bite occurs. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action even with a first person perspective because the grim world of Frost comes across as real. Fans will enjoy this fine thriller as Bones may convince Cat that since she can't please her mother not even if she died, she should try to please herself; if not that than please him as a worthy partner who admires and loves her.

Marianne Stillings
9780060850661 $5.99

KALM-TV manager Osgood Horton hires Paladin Private Investigations to keep their star Georgiana Mundy, the cooking queen of CaliforniYum, safe as he thinks someone wants to harm her. Former cop turned private investigator Ethan Darling is assigned to protect Georgie.

Ethan and Georgie already met on the building's elevator when she rushing to catch it accidentally attacked him and stomped on his foot. However, while he discusses the job with Osgood, she fakes a faint AROUSING SUSPICIONS in Ethan's mind that she is hiding something behind a sham; Ethan cannot fathom what that is. As he stays close, they fall in love, her secret implodes leaving her in danger, but Ethan, though he is not sure from what or who, will not allow anyone to harm his darling "Grasshopper" even if she drives him crazy with her moving his furniture feng shui style.

The Darlings may be the most dysfunctional detective family around, but few lead characters are as zany and weirdly functional as New Age Georgie is. The story line is fast-paced and filled with humor while the danger enhances a wild contemporary romance. Readers will enjoy this Darling drama, as Mr. Short-tempered turns into Mr. SATISFACTION when he falls in love with Ms. Strange temptation.

Anna Campbell
9780061234927 $6.99

In 1822 Grace Paget has no idea why the thugs came for her; all she knows is they kidnapped her from the family farm in Ripon and brought her to an isolated Somerset manor house. That is until her "hosts" offer her as a whore to the lunatic they hold prisoner Lord Sheene. Although he has needs, Sheene refuses to touch the gift they bestow on him.

However, Sheene realizes that like him Grace wants her freedom; Grace realizes that the alleged insane aristocrat is not crazy and by not taking her proves he is not abusive either. As they fall in love, Sheene knows he has a more compelling reason than ever to escape his jailers; as he wants to insure his Grace regains her liberty even if it means dying to achieve his revised goal.

This dark historical romance grips readers from the moment the lead couple meets. Sheene is a tortured soul who wants his freedom back, but Grace gives him the extra incentive he needs. Their changing relationship from fear to admiration and respect to love is beautifully rendered by Anna Campbell. Fans will appreciate this fine tale wanting to know why his jailers insist Sheene is crazy while also seeking the author's previous tale (see CLAIMING THE COURTESAN).

To Wed A Highland Bride
Sarah Gabriel
9780061234965 $5.99

In 1822 Scotland Viscount James MacCarran returns to his family home Straun House following the death of his crazy grandmother. Per her will to inherit the estate, he must complete her tome on fairy lore and marry a woman with fairy blood. A warrior more comfortable on the field of combat, he figures finishing the book will prove rather easy compared to finding a female fairy as he does not believe in the existence of the magical species.

Elspeth MacArthur sprains her ankle on the Straun estate during a nasty storm. James takes her into his home to get her out of the weather, but they are alone. After the torrent ends, he escorts her back to her home where he speaks to her grandfather about marrying her because she was compromised. Her grandfather refuses to make Elspeth marry the Viscount because he understands first hand the fairy curse that hurts his family. Elspeth agrees to marry him if they can find the hidden fairy treasure that will break the curse.

This is an interesting Regency romantic fantasy due to the lead couple as he finds love, but she finds a reason to reject his marital offer. The story line is entertaining, but the otherworldly elements never feel as if they belong unlike the previous magical MacCarran tale (see KEEPING KATE). Still fans will appreciate the Viscount's efforts TO WED A HIGHLAND BRIDE with fairy in her blood.

One Knight Only
Julia Latham
9780061235160 $5.99

In 1486 Yorkshire, Anne Kendall is proud to be a member of the secretive League of the Blade. So when she has a chance to go on an adventure to keep the king safe she volunteers. Her assignment is go undercover pretending to be seeking a husband while trying to uncover the identity of those plotting to assassinate His Highness.

Her ploy works perfectly until she meets Knight Sir Philip Clifford. They shared an evening of passion that left Anne wanting more, but as a Blade she knows the mission comes first. Still she needs a bodyguard and no one ever guarded her body like he did. As they fall in love, the assassins get closer to achieving their nefarious plan unless Anne and Phillip can stop them, but they still remain ignorant as to whom they are.

With her latest female masquerade thriller (see THRILL OF THE KNIGHT) Julia Latham provides an exciting historical. The sword and romance tale is owned by Anne who displays calmness, courage and cleverness even under hostile attack. Phillip proves her equal as he risks his life to keep his beloved out of harm's way. Fans will root for this couple as they go the extra kilometer to keep their monarch safe.

The Warrior
Kinley MacGregor
9780060796679 $6.99

In Scotland, from birth Laird Lochlan MacAllister was trained to lead his clan; thus he has never been away from home as responsibility to his people has always come before any personal desire.

However, he also never had a reason to go away until now. His late brother's plaid is returned to him and his family implying his sibling lives. He vows to find his sibling and if alive rescue him. On his quest, Lochlan comes to the rescue of Catarina, the illegitimate daughter of King Phillip of France, from an attempted abduction by the monarch's men. Realizing she is safer with Lochlan than with some toad her sire wants her to marry, Catarina accompanies him as he searches for his sibling from tournament to tournament.

This Brotherhood of the Sword historical romance is an exciting tale due to the changing relationship between the lead couple as he investigates what happened to his brother. The duo initially distrusts one another, begin to admire one another, and finally fall in love with one another. Readers will appreciate Kinley MacGregor's fine tale that combines a bit of a mystery with adventure, romance and humor. Only this author can create such a spellbinding tale.

An Affair Before Christmas
Eloisa James
9780061245541 $7.99

1778 in Paris, Lady Perdita "Poppy" Selby and the Duke of Fletcher "Fletch" meet and fall in love. They marry and both expect their desire and attraction to last forever. Four years later, Poppy decides to live a separate life from her spouse; Fletch plans otherwise as he wants to woo back the woman he still loves into his arms and bed. His goal is to start anew with AN AFFAIR BEFORE CHRISTMAS that this time he intends as a "second once in a lifetime" (mindful of Peabo Bryson's song If Ever You're In My Arms Again).

Meanwhile the Duchess of Beaumont Jemma and her husband live for the most part apart except for the stimulating chess games; they may still love one another, but that's not enough apparently as each tries to checkmate the other. On top of that is the scandal and fear as Jemma's brother and the Duke of Villiers duel. However, Jemma and Poppy find some solace from their spousal relationship problems in the re-energizing of their friendship even as Villiers heals from the duel with Lady Caroline attending to his needs.

The latest DESPERATE DUCHESSES saga is a powerful character driven Georgian romance that grips the audience who will feel as if friends are facing marital and other woes. The three subplots are well written and intermingle cleverly like a DNA double (make that triple) helix. Fans will appreciate Eloisa James wonderfully complex historical as the cast provides the audience with a tremendous tale.

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen
Syrie James
9780061341427 $13.95

Historians and romance readers have always wondered whether Jane Austen, author of six novels and many letters, kept a dairy as none were found yet that was popular in early nineteenth century England. None were found until now. In Chawton Manor House, one of the homes owned by Ms. Austen's brother, a worker repairing a roof found a seaman's chest; inside are manuscripts of the previously LOST MEMOIRS OF JANE AUSTEN. The chest was probably left there and forgotten by Jane's beloved sister Cassandra who admitted to having destroyed much of the letters written by Jane to her. This particular publication is one manuscript whose condition is excellent but written when the great author was ill and dying sometime in 1815-1817, but relates to events from an earlier time.

With the death of her father Reverend George Austen in 1805, his suddenly impoverished daughter Jane gave up writing, a pastime she enjoyed since she had already expected to be a spinster having never met a man she considered her intellectual equal. That is until the summer of 1810 in Lime when she meets witty and intelligent Mr. Ashford; she is excited by this handsome charmer who inspires her to return to writing by revising a novel she had drafted years ago but never finished (Sense and Sensibility).

Every time this reviewer assumes there is no new way to dissect Jane Austen, I am proven clueless by an author with a new spin. Syrie James is the latest to pay homage (some might say chutzpah) as she uses the device of finding a long forgotten hidden journal written by the author to tell the tale of Ms. Austen's inspirational romance that led to her completing her great novels. Readers will believe Syrie James captures the voice of Ms. Austen with this fictionalized entertaining account by romantic literature's first author "in her words".

Big Boned
Meg Cabot
9780060525132 $13.95

Former teen pop star Heather Wells attends New York College. To pay for her tuition, Heather works as an assistant dormitory director at the Fischer Hall residence dorm better known by the residents as the "Death Dorm" following some recent murders there. Heather is also serendipitously dating her remedial math instructor Tad Tocco although she admits only to herself she still loves private investigator Cooper Cartwright.

Someone murders Fisher Hall's temporary manager Dr. Owen Veatch. The police immediately suspect graduate student Sebastian Blumenthal, a protest leader, who had public run-ins with the deceased. When Heather receives a tip that insists Ted is innocent, she begins to investigate, but ends up in trouble from a murderer who would not mind killing the somewhat slimmed down but still BIG BONED Heather.

The third Heather Wells' big is better amateur sleuth (see SIZE 14 IS NOT FAT EITHER and SIZE 12 IS NOT FAT) is an entreating New York murder mystery due to the antics of the precocious heroine. Heather is at her best as she squeezes into dangerous situations that are to tight for comfort yet continues to do so. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this big woman's escapades as she makes inquires that concern the two men in her life.

Everything Forbidden
Jess Michaels
9780061283949 $13.95

In 1814 Miranda Albright searches for her mom's runaway dog Oslo. Instead she sees her family's neighbor the Earl of Rothchild Ethan Hamen without a shirt and licking a female "down there". She becomes tingly.

Three years later, Miranda's dad died leaving her, her three younger sisters and her mom in massive debt. Miranda struggles to pay the bills, but only her sister Penelope understands the problem. Their spoiled mom and sister Beatrice think Miranda is a miser who does not want to have a good time. Their other sister Winfred is too young to understand their plight. Miranda feels guilty that she rejected wealthy suitors during her recent season; but Penelope points out, she had no idea how broke the family was..

Penelope is their only hope if she finds a wealthy match. However, for her to have a season they will need money. Miranda offers a deal to her "sex tutor" Ethan She explains they are destitute, her father's family rejects them and her mother's family has no money. Her father's friends have called in their debts, but are willing to forgo them if she gives herself over to them. Ethan is willing to finance her sisters' seasons; for every month that Miranda has sex with him, he will fund a sibling. She is to come to him once a week. They seal the deal with a kiss, but end up making love. As they fall in love, both will be hurt by their illicit affair, but not as much Penelope.

This is a refreshing erotic Regency romance starring a courageous heroine sacrificing herself by doing what she feels she must for her sisters especially her best friend sibling Penelope. Whereas Ethan is an interesting rake, Miranda's mom and Beatrice are spoiled and unlikable. Still sub-genre fans will enjoy this heated historical.

Taken by the Night
Kathryn Smith
9780061245022 $5.99

For six centuries, Saint has been a vampire who has seen loved ones die. Not willing to feel the pain of loss any longer, he refuses to fall in love ever again.

Over the past few years whenever he is in London on business, Saint stays at the Maison Rouge brothel when he is not home. In that time he has watched the madam's daughter Ivy Dearing grow into a beautiful intelligent woman that by 1899 he is attracted to; his first in hundreds of years. He helps Ivy with her amateur sleuth investigation into the murders of two Maison women. When more females are killed, Saint who wants to drink Ivy's blood and kiss her senseless, knows she could be a target of a dangerous serial killer who may prove more powerful than a vampire in love.

The latest Kathryn Smith historical vampire romance (see BE MINE TONIGHT and NIGHT OF THE HUNTRESS) tale is a fabulous paranormal Victorian whodunit. Readers will feel transferred back to the late nineteenth century as the atmosphere of London seems to take on a life of its own even in a backdrop role. The romance between Ivy and Saint is done in such a manner as to not overwhelm the serial killer subplot nor visa versa. However, the key that makes this tale take over a reader's night is Ms. Smith's ability to make her cast seem genuine, which in turn means vampires and paranormal killers feel real.

Deadly Sexy
Beverly Jenkins
9780061246395 $6.99

Successful Jessi Teresa "JT" Blake is wealthy, pretty and intelligent so even the toughest male athlete is intimidated by her; as no one messes with Lady Blake as she is referred to by her rivals. When her car breaks down on a California freeway in the Bay area, trucker Reese Anthony stops and offers the beautiful lady in distress a lift to Oakland, which she gladly accepts.

Reese initially hides from her that he is a former cop turned investigator looking into a murder in professional football. When someone threatens JT's life, he tells her who he is and offers to protect her. Although she feels confident that nothing will happen to her, she gladly accepts as much because she wants him as an undercover bodyguard protecting her as she wants him under the cover guarding her body close up.

DEADLY SEXY is an exhilarating sports romantic suspense with the emphasis on the romance. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing as they exchange barbed tongues throughout the humorous story line. Whereas the two mysteries provide supporting subplots and the sports milieu serves as a backdrop, the prime focus is on the feisty Lexus driver and the tough truck driver falling in love.

Not The Marrying Kind
Hailey North
9780060582470 $5.99

New York artist Harriet and her son Zach are going to Doolittle, Arkansas to visit his maternal grandmother for the Christmas vacation. In Doolittle Ted "Colonel" Porter plans to propose to the retired schoolteacher he met over the Internet. Finally Ted's son Los Angeles music producer Jake Porter is coming to town at the bequest of his dad to meet his fiancee.

At the local B & B Jake does not recognize Harriet as the nerd he met at Doolittle High School sixteen years ago and took to the prom. All he knows is that he is attracted to this sophisticated woman. However, she knows him as the boy she loved in high school, who vanished the morning after the dance. As Jake tries to make Harriet his, she remains aloof although deep in her gut she realizes she still loves the cad who broke her teenage heart.

The Doolittle B & B is host to a couple of second chance at love romances that fans will enjoy especially that of the younger set. Insisting he is "NOT THE MARRYING KIND", Jake cannot convince cynical Harriet that he needs her as she remembers the first rejection as if it was yesterday. Although relationships especially between Jake and Harriet feel a bit forced as she has no reason to trust him with her heart, readers will enjoy spending Christmas in Doolittle.

In My Wildest Fantasies
Julienne MacLean
9780060819491 $6.99

In 1870 heiress Rebecca Newland refuses to marry the man chosen by her family. She decides to find her dream lover Devon Sinclair, the heir to a dukedom as she has never forgotten him although she has not seen her hero in four years since he saved her life in a runaway coach.

Devon's father the duke is irate with his hedonistic ways; he demands his son marry by Christmas or lose everything. He searches for a biddable bride when Rebecca finds him. He knows she hero-worships him so figures he can bully her to do his bidding in bed and with her money. However, he soon admires her and falls in love with his new wife; she has loved him for four years but recognizes her hero has flaws.

The first Pembroke Palace Victorian romance is a warm charmer starring a likable lead couple although readers will need time to warm up to devious delectable Devon and realize that Rebecca is not a worshipping bonehead. The story line is simply fun with the hero beginning to understand the treasure he obtained when he married is not his wife's wealth, but is her. Julienne MacLean provides an enjoyable late nineteenth century romp.

Blackthorne's Bride
Shana Galen
9780061124976 $5.99

In 1801 London, the four preadolescent female cousins vowed to never marry. They form the Spinster's Club.

Ten years later, two of the members have had "Misadventures in Matrimony (see NO MAN'S BRIDE and GOOD GROOM'S HUNTING). A third one Madeleine, tired of insincere proposals, plans to run away with scholarly Conlon Dover, a father of two. However, the fourth member, still unmarried Ashley jumps into the coach with them. Dover tells Madeleine they need a chaperone anyway; she asks why since they are eloping.

At a cafe, Marques John Martingale quietly drinks coffee when his brother Nicholas arrives. Nick explains that he humiliated Duke Bleven by calling him a rapist at a party. Bleven sent thugs after Nick, who explains that he also quoted Jack as calling Bleven an asshole. A moment later Bleven and his armed thugs arrive. Jack and Nick flee. As Ashley, Madeleine and Dover are leaving, Jack with his nose bloodied and clothing stained by coffee dives into their coach. Nick replaces the coachman and drives. Jack is instantly attracted to Madeleine who demands he take them to Gretna Green; Jack says no. Madeleine is attracted to the roguish Jack, who steps out of the coach only to find Ashley's dad has caught them. Nick jumps her dad. Jack insists he must marry Ashley as they jump back into the coach and flee for Gretna Green with two dads, Bleven accompanied by his thugs, and who knows who else in pursuit.

This amusing Regency romance will have fans in stitches as the runaways land in one predicament after another. The lead couple is a nice pairing while her cousin and his brother provide strong support once the audience understands their bickering started from meeting one another prior to this romp. Although the villain is dispatched too easily; making the climax too fast and weak, readers will appreciate this hilarious historical.

Jay Bonansinga
9780786018772 $6.99

In Northern Virginia FBI profiler Ulysses Grove receives his latest major field assignment: stop the Mississippi Ripper, a serial killer, who murders in pairs before the culprit slices up his victims. His grotesque portrait of death is to have two people facing one another. Grove methodically follows the clues and believes he is unlocking his opponent's psychopathic mindset, yet the rampaging killer continues his vicious homicides seemingly ignoring the Fed trailing in the murderer's row.

However Grove and his FBI compatriots will underestimate their elusive vicious foe. Using his paranormal skill, he targets Ulysses' wife, Maura and their infant son Aaron as a pair to disembowel. Meanwhile Grove keeps on digging applying his mother's supernatural visions to guide him.

The third Grove FBI police procedural (see FROZEN and TWISTED) is an exciting thriller that cleverly balances the varying elements from the paranormal to profiling to old fashion sleuthing foot work. The key cast members seem genuine even when using special psychic like power as Grove does because he is a loving family man and the terrifying Mississippi Ripper feels like a Headlines News killer. SHATTERED is a taut cat and mouse tale with the hero's family as the cheese.

Black lace Quickies 6
Hannah Brophy, Kimberly Dean, Portia Da Costa, Alison Tyler, Mae Nixon and Cal Jago
Black Lace
c/o Virgin Books
65 Bleeker St.,New York, NY 10012
9780352341334 $4.99

"Learning Procedures" by Hannah Brophy. Since his secretary Liz quit a month ago, Kevin has gone through three temps. His latest is blue haired Katie who proves efficient at the office and effective into luring him into a bondage scene with a Xena mistress out for vengeance one whip at a time.

"Rocky Mountain Rendezvous" by Kimberly Dean. In the Rockies near Denver, Jenna waits for her lover Shane who is late. When he shows up they have the best sex ever until she listens to her voice mail that Shane will be late and his twin Shawn is coming.

"Are We There Yet?" by Portia Da Costa. Mr. Stone drives a blindfolded and handcuffed Ms. Lewis to a special place for their sex game. However this time she will soon realizes how clever her Bobby is.

"Coffee Break" by Alison Tyler. At the cafe, Danielle may be seeing Marlow, but it is the coffee delivery king Declan who heats her up.

"Private Performance" by Mae Nixon. At the video store Peter the pianist reintroduces himself to Tess who loves music. They play quite a duet together.

"Beautiful Things" by Cal Jago. She loves the thrill of a theft as much as she loves sex with Alex; he loves it even more as he knows when she steals he has his best sex.

Just like the title says these BLACK LACE QUICKIES are six fun heated tales; just leave your morality on the outside the bedroom door.

A Gentle Rain
Deborah Smith
Belle Books
P.O. Box 67, Smyrna GA 30081
9780976876076 $16.95

Although she has no doubts that her parents love and cherish her, Kara Whittenbrook has always felt inferior next to their achievements. However, when they tragically die in an accident, Kara learns how remarkable the Whittenbrooks were; they adopted her. She further finds out her biological mother and father Lily and Mac are mentally challenged individuals living at the Thocco Ranch in Florida.

The spread is run by Ben Thocco, who is the care-keeper of his Down syndrome brother Joey. His ranch has become home to a lot of people facing challenges in the outside world, but able to be productive and keep their self esteem here. When Kara arrives to meet Lily and Mac, she and Ben never expected the attraction between them. However, will both take a chance on love for the first time in their respective lives?

GENTLE RAIN is a fantastic character driven love story starring two caring but wary individuals and a host of matchmaking fully developed secondary players. The well written poignant storyline is beautiful and the first person accounts between Kara and Ben are astounding. They both face a new kind of love frightening in its intensity. Deborah Smith writes a deep touching tale as Ben and Kara find new strength when they found one another.

Flowers for Emily
T.L. Vanc
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595444991 $11.95

Scotland Yard Inspector Veronica (Roni) Donovan had given up ever finding the serial killer who murdered her sister; her obsession with bringing this animal down also killed her marriage. However, the culprit seemingly vanished as the murders suddenly stopped.

She remains frustrated until he "sends" her his deadly business card from Denver. Apparently, he has surfaced and she plans to help the local police bring this predator down. In Denver before she reports to the cops, she stops for a workout at a gym where she engages and knocks down Dean Colby in a kickboxing match. He is the FBI agent in charge of the serial killing investigation. As they team up, they are attracted to one another; ironically the culprit is also fascinated by Roni as the sister of a victim. She offers herself up as bait over the Fed's objection as he fears he will lose her to this lethal genius.

FLOWERS FOR EMILY is a fabulous romantic police procedural starring a tough ass female and an open minded male "matchmake" by a devious killer. The story line is fast-paced as the two law enforcement officials from separate sides of the pond work together to end the murderous reign. The instant attraction seems unnecessary, but does add to the triangle once the killer hones in on Roni. Readers will enjoy this strong thriller with a terrific final twist that should have been obvious, but most aficionados will not see it coming until Monday morning quarterbacking.

Hand of Evil
J.A. Jance
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416537533 $25.95 1-800-223-2336

Arabella Ashcroft was partially responsible for Ari Reynolds receiving a scholarship that allowed her to go to college. Arabella summons Ari to her home; she tells her that the nephew Billy she never met wants money or he will have her committed. She is afraid having been confined in a facility before. She gives a diary to Ari that states Billy's father sexually assaulted her. With Ari's help her plan is to blackmail the blackmailer into leaving her alone.

If that is not enough to disturb Ari's equilibrium, her friend Dave Holman has a daughter Crystal, a sexually abused teen, who runs away from her mother's home to be with her father. Ari has to take care of her since her father, a police officer, is working a case. Crystal lies at every opportunity and runs way in between fabrications. Crystal saw someone beaten almost to death and Ari finds and follows followed the criminal but lost him. He tracks Ali down at the hospital where plans to finish his victim off. Ali is taken hostage by this insane person who holds a gun on her. Help comes from people she barely knows risking their lives though the outcome remains in doubt. Later on Ali is taken hostage by someone she trusts.

Fans of the taut suspense of Mary Higgins Clark and P.J. Tracey will want to read HANDS OF EVIL, a tale that keeps the tension in the stratosphere. The story line never takes a respite as action occurs in every chapter. What the heroine goes through would put many people in an institution suffering from battle fatigue syndrome; yet Ali displays courage and tenacity as she handles a series of devastating mental blows while maintaining her sanity.

All Through the Night
Suzanne Brockmann
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345501097 $16.95 1-800-726-0600

Long distance lovers FBI agent Jules Cassidy and movie star Robin Chadwick have decided they love each other and want to marry. Since Robin is doing an HBO series in Boston, Jules obtains a transfer so that the pair can live together.

Their plan is for a small wedding attended by mostly family and their closest friends. However, the list of attendees grows enormously as many people want to attend the gay wedding of the year including Jules' Troubleshooter associates. As Jules works a dangerous assignment in Kandahar, Robin is frantic with worry that makes him wonder if he can live with his beloved working in the hottest spots. They also have problems with the media who want in because of who the engaged males are; a Hollywood star and an FBI agent. Finally a stalker will do anything to prevent the marriage from occurring as that person has plans for both Jules and Robin.

Fans of the Troubleshooter's romantic suspense have waited too long for this particular tale to be told, but Suzanne Brockmann does it justice with a terrific thriller. The story line contains several fascinating subplots including the special love story between two gay men. Filled danger from terrorists to stalkers to reporters to family members, readers will appreciate this high point in a superior series.

Murder on K Street
Margaret Truman
9780345498861 $24.95

U.S. Senator Lyle Simmons is considered by the pundits as one of the leading candidates for president. However, he soon has a different problem outside of politics to deal with when he comes home following a fundraiser. His wife Jeanette lies on the floor of their foyer; someone brutally murdered her. Capital Police Detective Charles Chang leads the official investigation with the media spotlight following every step he makes.

Clues send Chang in the direction of K Street where the senior senator from Illinois has close ties with lobbyists who provide him with plenty of campaign funding. However Chang also finds the street is close lipped to outsiders, even cops on official inquiries and corruption and lies are the norm. Under the press' persistent digging, the perfect Simmons's marriage suddenly has cracks and holes that make it look as if it was tied together by White House ambition only. Meanwhile Simmons's friend, retired detective Phil Rotondi wonders whether he should come clean with what he knows about the relationship between Lyle and Jeanette; although he admits to himself he still has sour grapes having lost her to him when they attended college together.

When the story line focuses on K Street, readers obtain an interesting look at how much influence is bought and sold as there is a lobbying stock market selling and buying specialized commodities. However, the constant flashbacks to college are a distraction that slows down the present murder mystery, which is too bad as this Capital Crimes entry had possibilities for an insightful relevant thriller if the plot concentrated on MURDER ON K STREET.

Amazing Grace
Danielle Steel
Delacorte Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385340236 $27.00 1-800-726-0600

On a warm San Franciscan night, Sarah Sloane the socialite wife of a financier hosts the black tie Littlest Angels Ball fund-raiser at the downtown Ritz-Carleton. The entertainment for this black-tie evening comes from award winning teenage rock star Melanie Free, who has problems with her martinet mom-agent. Covering the affair is Everett Carson, a former war correspondent who suffers from battle fatigue syndrome having seen too many atrocities. Attending as a rare outsider is Sister Maggie Kent whose flock is the homeless.

These four have nothing in common beyond the charity event until a deadly earthquake hammers the city. Sarah learns that her spouse has conducted nefarious illegal transactions that will cost the family more than just their reputation and place in high society as he may do time. Melanie has gained freedom from her mother and volunteers at the temporary shelter to help victims and makes non musical friends like Tom the archeology student. Maggie and Everett forge a friendship that both knows is love, but as they confide their feelings they must consider she is a nun.

AMAZING GRACE is an interesting look at the impact of a major disaster on the lives of various people especially the prime four described above. The story line provides a convincing description of people struggling with the calamity, but is nowhere near the depth of non-fiction accounts of Katrina or Burke's JESUS OUT TO SEA; nor does it use the World Series earthquake as a realistic anchor. Additionally, none of the main quartet seems fully developed with Everett and Maggie especially feeling one dimensional. Still Danielle Steel provides an entertaining look at the aftermath of a disaster.

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
9780385734363 $17.99

Being a half breed, Hai knows her blood lines are considered impure by her paternal serpentine family and by her aviary maternal kin. Neither side recognizes her beyond being a mongrel even with cobra blood flowing inside her. Even more painful proof of being a lowlife outsider is her broken falcon wings that occurred when she lived on Ahnmik Island and envisioned her beloved Nicias with a full blooded flacon female at his side. However, residing at the Wyvern's Court has not proved much better though albeit a bit safer as she is unaccepted by anyone and everyone fears her out of control magic causing havoc.

When Hai's half cousin Oliza Shardae Cobriana abdicates the Wyvern's Court throne, the kingdom is thrown into chaos. Hai has visions of the terrible destruction of her new home. It is ablaze and she also sees serpent King Salem dying while Nicias the Falcon guard is unable to save the children or himself. She knows she must do what she can to save the people especially the children, but she feats what it will cost her.

Volume five is a strong ending to the Kiesha'Ra young adult fantasy thrillers that has been a deep coming of age saga. Hai is terrific as she feels a responsibly to save the court especially the children although most of the adults have treated her with bias and disdain because of her mongrel status. Readers of all ages will enjoy the finish, but it behooves the audience to peruse the previous four tales as this is a fine series.

Lord John and the Hand of the Devils
Diana Gabaldon
9780385311397 $25.00

"Lord John and the Hellfire Club". Lord John Grey is asked by Robert Gerald, the junior setetary of the prime minister, for help with a problem. He agrees seeing how upset Gerald is but later that day Robert is killed. The last word he spoke is Dashwood. That night he attends a Hellfire club invitation, not knowing that he is to be the murderer's second victim.

"Lord John and the Succubus". Rumors move swiftly through the troops that a succubus is on the loose. Lord John is persuaded to use his white horse to find the grave where the succubus inhabits a dead body. The horse moves to the grave of the man's mother who made the accusation. They also find the body of a dead English solder in the cemetery. The allies are nervous about the rumors, but John believes that someone secular has spread them and he plans to expose them before the upcoming battle in the long drawn out world war (1756-1763).

"Lord John and the Haunted Soldier". After being injured by a cannon that blew up during battle, Lord John answers his superior's inquiry re the incident. John later learns eight more guns blew up that the military wants kept quiet and he would make a good scapegoat. He needs evidence to prove he wasn't negligent; help comes from an unexpected source.

These three novella give insight into the character of Lord John Grey, an honorable man who has to hide his homosexual preference from the world since it is a crime punishable by death. He always chooses the most ethical cause of action even when silence would better serve him. Diana Gabaldon has written an exciting anthology of an eighteenth century solder at war in which don't tell means avoiding "friendly" fire.

Holy Smokes
Katie MacAlister
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451222541 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

Guardian Aisling Grey and her wyvern lover Drake Vireo have decided on a simple wedding. However, unknown relatives are coming out of the woodwork from even unheard of paranormal places demanding an invitation to the wedding of the year. As the numbers grow, even imps want to be there though one must be cautious in allowing that species anywhere near a gala unless food fights are on the agenda.

As their wedding plans expand to the point they consider elopement, the hostilities between the green and the red dragons ignites into what looks like a heated war. Finally Fiat the blue dragon demands Drake back off as he has a prior claim on Aisling. Overwhelmed by it all, Aisling concludes she either remains single or she abducts Drake so that he can become her beloved spouse.

The fourth Aisling Grey romantic fantasy is a wonderfully amusing relationship drama with some YOU SLAY ME escapades. Fans of the series will enjoy the zany goings-on as the lead couple prepares for a wedding celebration that has completely gotten out of control especially on the supernatural plane. HOLY SMOKES, this is a laugh out loud tale that readers will appreciate while wondering elopement but to where, breaking up but they light each other's fire or I do while dragons war and Fiat heatedly objects.

In the Blood
Savannah Russe
9780451222619 $6.99

Ever since the Feds "blackmailed vampiress Daphne Urban into joining Team Darkwing (or face termination), she has spied for the government. Her current assignment accompanied by her two remaining teammates is to investigate and mount a rescue of ten kidnapped teenage girls, daughters of New York City's upper crust.

To accomplish the objective, Team Darkwing needs new members to replace those who left; not all voluntarily. They recruit former criminal Rogue and researcher Audrey to assist them on their mission. Time is running out as the government refuses to negotiate with terrorists so Daphne and Team Darkwing begins a search amidst the decadent Mew York vampiric underground before a deadly outcome occurs.

The Darkwing Chronicles stars a female who detests being a vampire, which adds a sense of gloomy chick lit realism to her escapades as she has been a bloodsucker for a couple of centuries and knows she is BEYOND REDEMPTION. In her fourth appearance (see BENEATH THE SKIN and BEYOND THE PALE), Daphne is at her best as she whines and dines the new recruits before hitting the bloodiest clubs of Manhattan in hope of saving the teens.

Into Thin Air
Cindy Miles
9780451222626 $6.99

After spending the last millennium on a not choosy assignment as an earth bound angel, Gawan is going to start a new as a mortal. That is if he successfully completes his final tasking. Having been successful for the most part over his thousand years as a guardian angel, Gawan expects little trouble although in recent years attaining the objective has become increasingly more difficult requiring creative solutions.

Gawan's last project is personal. Suffering from amnesia Ellie's spirit lies near death with no earthly idea what happened to cause her predicament or even where her body rests in a comatose state. Grimly Gawan knows if he intervenes with this almost ghost female and saves her mortal life, neither will remember the other once he returns to mortality in spite of them being soul mates. However, if he fails to save her life, they will switch localities and be separated anyway as he is about to become mortal and she would have passed to the beyond.

Readers will enjoy being SPIRITED AWAY into the wonderful creative world of Cindy Miles. Gawan is a terrific champion who knows his beloved's life forcee is fading INTO THIN AIR and will soon be gone if he fails to sacrifice their love. Ellie is fabulous as she struggles with her lost memory while her spirit aided by Gawan seeks clues to find her lost body. Fans will appreciate this strong romantic fantasy with an investigative mystery underpinning wondering whether heavenly intervention is the only prayer for this couple's salvation.

Highlander in Her Dreams
Allie Mackay
9780451222633 $6.99

Paranormal investigative journalist Kira Bedwell is on a tour of allegedly haunted Castle Wrath when she meets Aidan MacDonald, who claims he is a medieval era laird. She initially assumes the hunk is joking, but after that first encounter, she only sees him in her wet dreams; he shares those sexual nocturnal encounters when he sleeps.

Kira is investigating a paranormal incident in Scotland when the reporter becomes the story. Somehow she is sent back to Aidan's time. His clan is frightened by Kira's arrival as they assume she is a witch. Meanwhile as he tries to convince his people she is his soul mate, he also battles his evil cousin who has plans to abuse the clan for personal gain after killing Aidan. Kira knows who won that confrontation of blood so must change the near future even if it means giving up her beloved Highlander.

Although similar in theme with the person from the future knowing and there wanting to change the specific history, Allie Mackay provides an entreating time travel romance because of just that scenario. From the moment his clan wants to burn the witch until the final cousinly battle, readers will be enchanted rooting that Kira, who believes her beloved will die in the upcoming altercation, finds a way to change the near future; her encouragement is based on her arrival being an aberration making anything possible.

Blonde Faith
Walter Mosley
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316734592 $25.95 1-800-759-0190

In post Watts riot Los Angeles, Easy Rawlins knows he must be very careful working as a private investigator as that is against the law for a black man. However, when he comes home he finds eight years old E.D. Black waiting for him. The Vietnamese child says her daddy Christmas dropped her off. Easy fears that his close friend is either in deep trouble or dead.

Easy plans to find Christmas, but he meets black army Captain Miles and two MPs who also want to find Christmas. The Captain hires Easy on behalf of the military, but by their involvement the sleuth knows whatever is going on ties back to when Christmas served in Viet Nam. Easy follows clues that lead to BLONDE FAITH Laneer, who he believes is in the same trouble as Christmas is. He also cannot turn to friend insane Raymond "Mouse" Alexander for help as the police have a bounty to kill him. Already upset with his beloved Bonnie Shay planning to marry someone else and feeling all alone and ancient as he nears fifty he doubts his sleuthing skills while struggling to find a way to save Christmas in order for the detective to obtain some redemption and self esteem.

The latest Easy Rawlins historical mystery is an excellent tale that shows how complex a protagonist the hero is. He has major doubts that he can still do the job and feels guilty over his failed relationship with his soul mate. However, in spite of his anguish and angst, he still must do everything he can to help his buddy. Fans of the series already know how great these novels are; whereas newcomers will scramble for the backlist as few if any authors tell the American black saga during the pre, early and late Civil Rights era better than Walter Mosley consistently does.

Do You Believe In Magic?
Ann Macela
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
9781933836164 $7.99

When magic practitioners meet their lifemate, the legendary soulmate imperative arises immediately between them insuring love at first sight. No one can remember ever hearing of a case in which one of the soulmates reject the feelings and in turn the other.

Computer wizard Clay Morgan encounters his soulmate when he meets Francie Stevens. However, instead of jumping into his arms, she denies any feelings for him. He learns she was hurt by a man and so rejects romantic entanglements. Still she needs Clay to uncover the hacker causing havoc with her company's data systems. He plans to identify the culprit and persuade Francie they belong together; but first he must get her to believe in the magic of love.

The sequel to THE OLDEST KIND OF MAGIC, DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? is a fabulous romantic fantasy with the twist that the hero knows who his soulmate is, but she rejects his belief system and his love; two direct hits to his heart. Clay is a fine lead male mage as a frustrated wannabe lover; but the story line is owned bell, book, and candle by the disbelieving Francie; who disavows magic or love exist.

In Stereo Where Available
Becky Anderson
9781933836201 $15.95

In Silver Springs, Maryland twenty-nine years old first grade school teacher Phoebe Kassner remains a virgin, not by choice, but by circumstance. She thought her latest boyfriend Bill would be the one but he dumped her before they slept together.

Phoebe knows she is the complete opposite of her twin sister Grace "call me Madison", who hopes to make it in Hollywood. After begin tossed in the first round of Singing Sensation, Madison is on the Yank team of the Belle of Georgia reality show.

Meanwhile Phoebe gets a call from high school teacher Jerry Sullivan, who thinks she is Karen, a teacher eh met at a recent conference. Apparently Karen not only gave out the wrong number, but Phoebe's email address too. Feeling sorry for Jerry, Phoebe meets him and they start dating before falling in love even as Madison finds a southern gentleman to her liking.

Teenage stepsister Alexa, who is in Jerry's English class, sums up the plot quite well with the potential of her having three sibling-in-laws (there is an older stepbrother) if the twins get their acts together. The amusing story line is lighthearted fun as Phoebe and Jerry fall in love while in the background reality TV is satirized by the antics of Madison and her rivals. With a neat afterward involving Karen, readers will appreciate the double the fun misadventures of the twins IN STEREO WHERE AVAILABLE.

Shallow Grave
Lori G. Armstrong
9781933836188 $7.95

In Bear Butte County South Dakota private investigative partners Julie Collins and Kevin Wells freeze their butts off observing Langston Everett for Rushmore West Insurance who believes he is pulling an injury compensation scam. After feeling colder than a frozen popsicle, the surveillance team snaps into action when Lang leaves his home to ride an ATV; Julie and Kevin follow filming his activity until his vehicle suddenly flies into the air. He is dead and there is a big hole in the ground that Lang apparently drove partly in before flying over a nearby embankment. Kevin calls the sheriff's office.

As Sheriff Al Richards and his team check the crime scene, Lang's spouse June arrives to learn of her husband's death. She asks Julie to say nothing about the hole that was covered, but is back sans the bones of humans that were buried there. Al asks Julie to help on the case as he lacks manpower, but that leads to issues with the Standing Elk family. They hid information related to her brother Ben as Abita Kahlen arrives from Arizona accompanied by her three years old son Jericho who has a face that could only mean he is Julie's nephew.

The third Collins private investigative mystery (see HOLLOWED GROUND and BLOOD TIES) continues to provide insight into what happened to Ben with a few side shockers. The current case causes additional strain on Julie, but courageously she keeps digging in an effort to learn what was in the SHALLOW GRAVE that was re-dug leading to Lang's demise and much more as a simple insurance fraud case turns deadly and personal. Lori G. Armstrong lives up to the last syllable of her surname with this superb whodunit.

Phil Bowie
9781933836430 $7.95

In 1838, soldiers forced the Cherokees to leave the Great Smoky Mountains on the Trails of Tears to Oklahoma Territory. However, before they were forcibly removed form their homes, the shaman hid the gold mines. Almost one hundred and seventy years later, slow-witted prospector Mose Kyle discovers one of the hidden gold mines.

When Mose fails to attend church, his elderly friend Hattie becomes concerned as he always shows up. She asks local pilot John Hardin, who she thinks is her son and lives with her and her spouse Hank, to check on Mose. John goes to Mose's isolated cabin, as he would do anything for Hattie and Hank. He finds things not quite right, but assumes nothing of it as Mose is slow until he meets and shares notes with part Cherokee biker Kitty Birdsong. As they continue to search for Mose, the sheriff does nothing as Mose is strange and dimwitted while the deadly snake Preacher, the Cagle brood, and the rest of the flock keep an eye on the pilot and the biker in case they get too close to the truth.

DIAMONDBACK is an exciting suspense thriller with a touch of romance between the lead couple that for the most part remains in the background at the same level as the Hollywood western trivia questions that Hank asks John; each enhances the overall tale. The amateur sleuth investigation is cleverly devised so that John and Kitty slowly find clues of foul play, but the novel belongs to silent cold femme fatale Sis Cagle, the ultimate sadistic sexual torturer.

The Blooding of Jack Absolute
C.C. Humphreys
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312358235 $24.95 1-888-330-8477

With his parents away most of the time, as his mother the actress accompanies his father the soldier on his campaigns, his Uncle Duncan raises Jack Absolute. In an odd way Uncle Duncan cares for the boy especially when he is sober, but he spends much of his waking hours drunk. So Duncan's son abusive Craster plans to watch over the lad with an iron fist.

When Duncan suddenly dies, Jack joins his parents in London. However, Jack gets into deep trouble when Lord Melbury catches him sleeping with the aristocrat's mistress. Taking this as a worse insult than if the youngster slept with his wife, Melbury demands satisfaction with Jack's father. Melbury dies in the duel, but Jack knows he must leave town to avoid vengeance or recrimination. Thus he enlists joining General Burgoyne's Light Dragoons deploying to the New World in the war with the French. After the Battle of Quebec, Jack's escapades turn nastier as Indians allied to the French abduct him and leave him to die in the wintry wilderness. Jack struggles to survive with his goal to return to England.

Jack is at his swaggering best in this terrific prequel (see JACK ABSOLUTE). His escapades on both sides of the Anglo pond are entertaining as he blusters his way in and out of trouble like a youthful Errol Flynn. Historical thriller readers will appreciate his blooding entry into the world if action and adventure.

Salamander Cotton
Richard Kunzmann
9780312360344 $24.95

In Johannesburg Police Detective Inspector Jacob Tshabalala investigates the homicide of elderly former mining boss Bernard Klamm. The murder was extremely brutal and Jacob wonders if the violence ties back to the victim's extensive pornography collection. He also learns that the divorced Klamm was once married to a Henrietta Campbell and their daughter vanished without a trace three decades ago making the sleuth ponder if that is the key clue or just a coincidental red herring.

As the official investigation goes slowly, Henrietta hires private investigator Harry Mason based on Jacob's recommendation re his former partner, to dig deep especially in the Northern Cape where Klamm owned a remote farm. Mason checks into the three decade old disappearance of their daughter to see if the present killing is linked. He is unprepared for corporate cover-ups of asbestos mining effects on the workers and angry acrimonious people seeking vengeance to what has occurred to them due to avaricious irresponsibility.

This starts off as an exhilarating South African police procedural, but turns into an exciting private investigative tale that ties the 1960s with the 1990s. The whodunit is fast-paced and filled with twists and red herrings. The contrasts between the two eras are incredibly striking and enhance a strong murder mystery that like the first Tshabalala-Mason team-up (BLOODY HARVEST) will enthrall the audience with its insightful look at South Africa through the eyes of the two sleuths.

Down Into Darkness
David Lawrence
9780312347420 $24.95

In London, the naked body of a murdered female is left hanging from a tree with the words "DIRTY GIRL" engraved on her back. Police Detective Stella Mooney of the Area Major Investigation Pool is assigned to investigate this brutal killing.

However, she and her AMIP team make no progress as the motive remains unknown. Not long afterward, a naked male corpse of a researcher whose neck was sliced to near decapitation with another etched message "FILTHY COWARD" is found on a bench. Anxious that a serial killer is on the loose although the two homicides have not been linked, Mooney and her AMIP team desperately work to uncover the motives behind the crime before a third victim surfaces.

The forth Mooney English police procedural is a fabulous cat and mouse investigative thriller. The story line is action-packed from the moment the first message appears and never slows down as the cops struggle with solving a case that terrorizes the city (similar to what Son of Sam did to New Yorkers in 1977). Sub-genre fans will appreciate David Lawrence's latest masterful Mooney tale as this is a gripping winner; just like its predecessors (see COLD KILL, NOTHING LIKE THE NIGHT and THE DEAD SIT AROUND IN A RING).

The Last Striptease
Michael Wiley
9780312372507 $23.95

During a surveillance project, Chicago private investigator Joe Kozmarski sees a murder that he calls in over 911. His former police crony, Bill Gubman follows up on Joe's call, but is shot by the killer who escapes.

When his employee Bob Piedras is suspected of killing his girlfriend, Le Thi Hanh, former judge Peter Rifkin asks family friend Joe to investigate; the judge assumes Piedras is innocent although he and Le had a public argument. Joe does not like these types of cases in which a friend with a presumption hires him because the truth may not be what the person wants, but a $15K retainer supersedes any doubt. Besides Joe has a grudge with the Judge, who was forced to retire for behavior unbecoming a court official. As Joe makes inquiries, Le's angry violent brothers follow his every move because they plan their own form of justice including keeping a PI straight anyway necessary. However, the toughest project is his eleven year old nephew who has been dumped on him to straighten him out, but the lad insists on doing field work instead of schoolwork.

Joe is terrific in this bruising (to the characters that is) action-packed urban noir. The story line is fast-paced as it seems everywhere that Joe goes; a corpse either greets him or follows after him. Readers will appreciate his joy ride of Chicago even as his wise guy not precocious nephew insists on leading the investigation.

The Sword of Venice
Thomas Quinn
9780312319106 $25.95

In Venice the rivalry between the powerful Ziani and Soranzo clans seems over after generational feuding that hurt both families by enabling lesser adversaries to almost surpass each of them and came close to allowing the Turks to take the city. Instead the respective patriarchs Antonio Ziani and Giovanni Soranzo buried the hatchet and came together to defend Venice (see THE LION OF ST. MARK). They both believe the deadly feud is a thing of the past as the two families need each other to thwart the Turks, other city states, and new upstart Venetian clans wanting to claim the top rung from them by dividing these enemies who have become allies.

However, neither Antonio nor Giovanni understood the deep hatred they educated their offspring with. Soranzo's adopted son Enrico loathes Ziani's heir the war hero Constantine. When they compete for the affection of the daughter of a senator, Maria Mocenigo, the dispute regains momentum especially when she chooses Constantine. Outraged by her rejection and selection, Enrico hires an assassin to kill Constantine at a time that the league of Italian city states is angry with the Venetians over their peace treaty with the Turks. As the other city-states attack, the two families must come together at land and at sea or face destruction once again.

The second book of the Venetians is a fascinating Renaissance tale that provides the audience a deep look at one of the more powerful Italian city-states at a time when invaders from the Ottoman Turks and the rival city-states threaten Venice. The storyline is fast-paced and quite deep in a historical context; however, the key family rivals, Enrico and Constantine seem one dimensional especially when compared with the "greatest generation" of their fathers and for that matter Constantine in the first tale. Readers who enjoy traveling to a long ago setting will appreciate the rich historical texture of THE SWORD OF VENICE as the history comes before the cast.

Arnaldur Indridason
9780312358716 $23.95

The grand hotel is loaded with tourists vacationing in Iceland during Christmas. However, the management calls the Reykjavik police to inform them someone murdered their doorman who doubled as Santa Claus. Police inspector Erlendur and Detectives Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg arrive at the crime scene to find in the basement the bludgeoned corpse of Gudlaugur Egilsson; a used condom hangs from his penis.

As saliva is taken from all the guests and employees, the three cops interview everyone, but no one admits knowing the victim outside of the hotel. The hotel manager confesses that he had just fired Gudlaugur, but had no motive to kill him. Erlendur and his companions soon learn that Gudlaugur was a popular soprano as a young boy so the sleuths turn towards his family, whom he was estranged from after an incident with his father left the older Egilsson wheelchair bound. Erlendur personalizes the case as it reminds him of his own family, but diligently continues seeking the motive that will lead to the killer's identity if DNA testing fails to do so.

This terrific Icelander police procedural combines a strong murder investigation with Erlendur's personal crisis as the case is wearing him down. His daughter visits him though everyone assumes she is a hooker he hired, and he considers an affair with a crime scene technician. Readers will appreciate Arnaldur Indridason's fabulous whodunit due to predominately Erlendur (see his previous case SILENCE OF THE GRAVE).

Under Vesuvius
John Maddox Roberts
9780312370886 $23.95

After a grueling but productive year Decius is now a Praetor traveling through Rome and when the situations warrants he judges a case or two between foreigners who reside and work in the Empire. He and his wife Julia, the nice of Julius Caesar are having a year long vacation visiting the sits off Ancient Rome. When they arrive in Baiae in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius, he notices something that might spell trouble later.

He is welcomed to the city by the priest of Apollo, Diocles and his daughter Gorgo who is infatuated with Gelon the son of the wealthy Numidian slave trader Gaeto. Diocles would never a allow match between his daughter and a man whose father is a slave trader, an occupation that is anathema to the Romans even though they keep slaves. When Gorgo is murdered, the townsfolk believe Gelon is the killer and they demand the Praetor Decius to bring him to trial. Decius doesn't think he is guilty but keeps him under house arrest to buy time to prove he is not the killer of Diocles. On his way back to his home, Decius and his entourage is attacked by bandits who want him dead. Another murder is committed that of Charmian, a friend and slave of Gorgo. Decius believes that these deaths and the attack are linked but the people of Baiae want Gelon tried; leaving the Praetor only a few hours to find the real killer or an innocent man will be beheaded.

UNDER VESUVIUS is a great historical mystery that brings to life Ancient Rome just prior to when Caesar becomes the dictator. The descriptions of the time period and area are so vivid that readers know much historical research went into the writing of SPQR XI. The victims had many suspects who wanted them dead and the protagonist can't find the single motive that links the killings. He is not about to quit because he refuses to let an innocent man die. Armchair time travelers will find this exciting and entertaining as much as the ancient historical whodunit crowd.

Let Me In
John Ajvide Lindquist
9780312355289 $25.95

In the autumn of 1981 in Blackeberg, Sweden, his family, his schoolmates, and his teachers pick on twelve years old Oskar, an obese genius. Oskar is angry with being the victim of all these bullies especially those who call him "pig-gy" or "piggy" and dreams of one day avenging all the affronts he has to eat.

Moving next door to Oskar's family is beautiful Eli and her "father" Hakan who seems to be fascinated with the overweight preadolescent. In fact Hakan is a mortal who abducts boys using anesthesia and drains them of their blood before presenting his chosen ones to his master, Eli a two century plus vampire. However, this time Hakan errs and a corpse drained of blood is found on the street even as Oskar believes Eli is his mechanism for revenge if he can rid her of her faithful servant.

This is an interesting Swedish vampire thriller starring three lost souls, who make up a relationship triangle from hell. Hakan lives to worship Eli; she is depressed and alone in spite of her submissive sycophant's loyalties, but her species also requires survival as the most basic hierarchal need; Oskar is the poster child for bully victim as those who should be helping him heap more abuse on him; his anger at the world has broken the dam. Vampire fans will enjoy this strong nail biter at the edge of the Arctic Circle.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice
Laurie R. King
Picador USA
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1800, New York, NY 10010
9780312427368 $14.00 1-888-330-8477

In 1915 fifteen year old expatriate American orphan Mary Russell meets retired detective Sherlock Holmes in Sussex Downs. The sleuth finds the feisty intelligent heiress much more refreshing than the bees he normally communicates with. He decides to make her his apprentice in the science of detecting on the condition she keeps her studies at Oxford up. When she is at her new home, her aunt's house, and he on a case, he will train her.

She works a few minor cases for Holmes when they are asked to investigate the kidnapping of American senator Simpson in Wales. They quickly conclude that a genius is behind the abduction of Jessica. After Russell proves her worth by rescuing Jessica, someone tries to kill her, Holmes and Dr. Watson. The sleuths believe the same criminal behind the kidnapping wants to destroy Holmes.

This is a reprint of the first Russell-Holmes collaboration and though over a decade old with several subsequent sequels since, THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE retains a freshness. The story line grips the audience from the moment the precocious teen meets the beekeeper partly because of the terrific rendition of the lead characters as Homes seems Doyle like and more and partly because England in WW I comes alive. The mystery is clever, but it is the meeting of the minds that makes Laurie R. King's tale more than just a well done homage.

Hex Marks the Spot
Madelyn Alt
The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425218709 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

Six months ago Maggie O'Neil saw the world as everyone else does. Magic with a brush of the supernatural opened a path turning her into a sensitive empath. Her boss Felicity Dow, owner of Enchantments, encourages Maggie to open herself up to the magick around her. She is a practicing Wiccan who like Maggie sees ghosts and other entities that most people are blind to. Although Maggie tries to close herself off from the supernatural, it keeps leaking into her psyche and like other sensitives in the area she feels a miasma around the town.

At a craft bazaar Maggie meets Amish craftsman Luc Metzger, who looks like a Greek god; he created the carvings on a dresser that Felicity wanted but went to Louise. Shortly after that, Luc was murdered and Louise agrees to sell the dresser to Felicity. In the small town of Stony Mill with little crime, that makes three murders in six months. It is a hex sign that gives Maggie a clue to the identity of the murderer and what she sees impresses on her that there is real magick in the world.

HEX MARKS THE SPOT centers the tale on Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs that are used to ward off evil and create a happy atmosphere. The heroine is a special person who though she would like to avoid it, comes to believe in magick because of what she sees and experience. The who-done-it is cleverly constructed and readers will never guess who the killer is or what the motive is for bludgeoning someone to death. Madelyn Alt writes an entertaining mystery.

The Fortune Hunter
Jasmine Haynes
9780425219171 $14.00

Wealthy Faith Castle hates the trappings of being an heiress. Instead she finds great satisfaction as a kindergarten teacher, as she loves her students. However although she has dreamed seemingly forever to have a husband who cherishes and moves her and have children with him, she has no male in her life. The men she meets see dollar signs not Faith.

Faith meets handsome Connor Kingston, who having grown up in a series of foster care homes, wants a family of his own to finally belong to. He offers her marriage and offspring in return for a no emotional attachment relationship. Although that only gives her part of her fantasy, she accepts his terms as she knows the sex is great and the kids will be greater. However, neither expected to fall in love with the other, but both fear admitting their feelings as love means vulnerability.

THE FORTUNE HUNTER is a heated contemporary romance starring two likable but wary protagonists, who are great in bed together, but have doubts outside the boudoir. Her father is a classic A-hole who makes his daughter feel worthless; Connor gives her confidence in her self. Readers will enjoy this delightful tale in which the whole is greater than the parts. Jasmine Haynes needs to follow up quickly with the romance of Faith's best friend.

Skate Crimes
Alina Adams
9780425218037 $6.99

Bex Levy is a figure skating researcher for 24/7 Television Network. What she really wants to do is produce a show and she gets her chance when her boss assigns her the Lucian Pryce special, a tribute to a great figure skater and coach who still practices with champions at the age sixty five. At the skating rink, they watch Lucian on the ice when he suddenly trips and falls, which proves to be a DEATH DROP as he is dead almost immediately; Bex thinks he is murdered.

His blades on his skates are in bad shape something Lucian would never let happen. Bex makes her belief known to everyone close to Lucian and find they all have a motive. His daughter Sabrina blames him for the death of his first wife. His present wife holds him accountable for ending her promising career. His star pupil made the moves another pupil of Lucian's so she wouldn't be nervous before a performance but he dumps her. Dr. Gabriel Cassidy a former student tried to commit suicide because Lucian pushed her too hard. Even though nobody believes Bex's theory, she is determined to investigate until she is proven right.

The point of changes form chapter to chapter, each one dedicated to a specific character as they relate their feelings and relationships to the victim. It is a good technique in Alina Adams' capable hands as the audience sees why there are so many suspects with so many different motives. Readers will enjoy Bex stubbornly question the suspects while deciding whether to accept her boyfriend's proposal of marriage.

Preaching to the Corpse
Roberta Isleib
9780425218372 $6.99

Psychologist Dr. Rebecca Butterman is woken up in the middle of the night by her minister of the Shoreline Congregational Church. He asks her to come over to the emergency medical clinic off exit 59. Dr. Meigs takes the phone from him and explains that the minister was with parishioner Lacy Bailes when she died. He refuses to talk to the detective unless Rebecca is with him. When she arrives at the clinic, the minister is more interested in having Rebecca on the committee to find a new pastor than he is of being a murder suspect because he doesn't believes the victim who was a good person was poisoned like the doctor suspects..

Rebecca agrees to serve on the committee, but finds the group is not even close to a selection. There are two candidates: a woman from out of town and Reverend Wesley's choice Paul a divinity student graduate who the pastor demands they choose immediately. Paul and Rebecca fall down a flight of stairs that have been greased by Crisco. This adds credence to the theory that Lacy was poisoned. That conclusion is solidified when someone fires a bullet that whizzes past Rebecca when she is near her front door. She believes someone fears that her questions are leading her to identifying the killer of Lacy, but instead of taking the safe "smart" road, she intensifies her investigation.

Rebecca Isleib has written a fantastic amateur sleuth tale in which it seems everyone except the detective and the heroine's sister and niece have something to conceal and thus push personal agendas to guard against revealing their secrets. Although some will question why a psychologist would turn to sleuthing especially of a homicide (besides needing it for the plot), the protagonist is ideal for the job as she is an expert on human nature and will need her reading of people skills to determine who are the most likely suspects. Sub-genre fans will enjoy accompanying Dr. Butterman has she makes her inquires.

Beyond Fearless
Rebecca York
9780425218662 $7.99

Palm Beach millionaire Terrence Sanford hires Zachary Robinson, known for locating lost treasures, to find his sixty years old missing brother William who vanished with his yacht Blue Heron off Grand Ferandino in the Caribbean. Zach prefers to use his regular crew as he is uncomfortable with strangers, but has managed to hire two experienced sailors from the local Florida area. However, the diver Jose panics when they enter the sunken Blue heron; later he claims he saw Pagor the war god of the island's Vadiana deities.

Not long after that Zach meets a magician-psychic Anna Ridgeway, who has fled Denver for Grand Fernandino to perform for enigmatic Etienne Bertrand at the Sugar Cane Club and to escape a dangerous situation in the States, but fears the danger followed her. When she and Zach meet, they share an impossible inexplicable telepathic and emotional link that neither can resist. However, Anna's hunch that danger followed her proves true as local shopkeeper and black magic practitioner Raoul San Donato has plans to make Anna his and remove Zach from the triangle.

The second "Beyond" tale (see BEYOND CONTROL) is an entertaining romantic suspense fantasy with plenty of action in and out of the boudoir. The cast makes the story line fun as Zach is a bit of a hermit, Anna is in hiding so she is limiting personal contacts, Bertrand is strangely "off" kilter, and Raoul is a dark magician. Much more romance than fantasy or suspense, sub-genre fans will enjoy this tale from Beyond.

Lord Deverill's Secret
Amanda Grange
9780425217726 $14.00

Her brother Rupert died in an accident last year, but Miss Cassandra Paxton could not go through his personal things until recently. She found a letter in which Rupert lamented feeling haunted by leaving a young woman seduced without any support. Not sure what it means, Cassandra visits Rupert's friend Lord Deverill who says to forget it as there is no young woman. She still plans to follow up just in case someone needs her help even as she places the family summer house in Brighton for sale; as the family is broke.

Cassandra follows up on her inquiries with other friends of Rupert while Deverill has her followed for her safety as much as not wanting the truth revealed. However, someone is more sensitive than Deverill with concealing what happened to Rupert and much more; that individual arranges for deadly accidents to occur to Cassandra with Deverill saving her life. As they fall in love, she begins to uncover the truth about her wastrel brother even as she and Deverill seek to uncover the identity of the culprit trying to silence her

This is an exciting Regency romantic suspense thriller in which the obstinate courageous heroine refuses to halt her inquiries into the truth about her late sibling. Deverill admires her, but also fears for her life more so than a possible future together that he knows is doubtful especially if she learns what he and other "conspirators" hide her. Although she forgives him too easily, fans will want to know just what LORD DEVERILL'S SECRET is.

Hot Mama
Jennifer Estep
9780425218662 $14.00

In Bigtime, New York, fashion designer Fiona Fine lives a precarious double life as superhero Fiera fighting crime especially the Fearless Five. She would not give up either her day job or her alterego work although unable to grieve in public her recent loss makes being a superhero not quite as glamorous as it may seem. Fiera struggles to hide her despondency over the death of her fiance superhero Travis.

After a period mourning, Fiona knows she must move on so plans to begin dating again. As she works up the courage, she is attracted to newcomer wealthy playboy Johnny Bulluci. Meanwhile superhero work never stops as two new nasty supervillains have caused Bigtime trouble and the latest reincarnation of Johnny Angel seeks vengeance from those who murdered his previous body. With all the men in her life, Fiona does not have to look hard to find a date though some of them play dangerously.

The latest satirical superhero romantic fantasy is a fun tale starring Fiona-Fiera, a young woman with a temper that burns. The story line is told by her so that readers see her vulnerability, confusion, and courage as a caring person with responsibilities. HOT MAMA is an enjoyable lighthearted thriller.

The Black Dragon
Allyson James
9780425218440 $6.99

Although she is a very powerful witch and eight months have passed since her harrowing experience with dark witches and dragons, Saba Watanabe struggles mentally to recover. To her chagrin the most difficult memories to deal with from her trauma was her time of enslavement to black dragon Malcolm, as she misses his arrogance as he has returned to his Dragonspace while she remains in San Francisco.

On the streets of San Francisco a white dragon attacks Saba. She magically contacts Malcolm for help; he returns to keep her safe and destroy the stalker. Meanwhile they both fear that the actual target is their mutual friend Lisa the rare silver dragon who is about to give birth. However, Malcolm is in trouble from a debilitating spell; his only hope to survive is Saba, but the means for her to keep him and Lisa safe remains in Dragonspace.

Readers will appreciate the romantic fantasy writing skills of Allyson James as she converts Malcolm a bad dragon (at least to humans) in DRAGON HEAT into a heroic champion as befitting the male romantic lead. While trying to save one another, Lisa and two worlds, the witch and the dragon acknowledge their love for one another although the odds are their coupling will be short-lived as the enemy has the advantage. The audience will relish this compelling entry.

Eternal Love
Maggie Shayne
9780425217399 $15.00

"Eternity". In England Witchfinder Priest Nathaniel Dearborne condemns mother and daughter Lily and Raven St. James to death for being witches. His apprentice Duncan Wallace tries to save their lives but he fails. Sometime afterward, Raven awakens and learns from her mother's notes that she earned her immortality in a previous life. Raven flees to America where she meets witch Arianna Sinclair who becomes her mentor. Duncan Wallace learns Raven lives in the New World and vows to join her there Nathaniel also knows she is there and as a dark immortal steals the hearts of his peers to remain what he is. A reckoning is coming to the Americas.

"Infinity". For five centuries, Immortal High Witch Nicodimus Lachan has been in a comatose death-like sleep interred in the Scottish Highlands as his heart was stolen by a mortal. Before his tragedy, Nicodimus figuratively lost his heart to his wife Arianna, also an Immortal High Witch. Nathaniel and Nicodimus' mortal betrayer Marten team up to con kind hearted Arianna, which leads to her husband losing his heart. She has vowed to risk her life no matter how long it takes to return his heart to him.

ETERNAL LOVE is a reprint of two superb Maggie Shayne romantic fantasies from the late 1990s. Both are superb tales of the heart with "Infinity" being a both a prequel and sequel to "Eternity". Ms. Shayne shows she was a force back and then and remains one of the top guns today.

Dark Aura
Diana O'Hehir
9780425217535 $23.95

In Stanton's Mill, California many of the New Age residents believe in the prophecies foretold by the Indigo child, fifteen years old Tamina Kerry. Whenever Tamina spoke in her Oracle like metaphors, people heeded what she said. So everyone waited breathlessly for she has told them she has something significant to say.

However, before she can relay her message, Tamina falls off a nearby cliff to her death. In her last moment she mentions a missing Indigo child. Still no one thinks about it as the Indigo are strange and others like her have died young or vanished abruptly to never be seen again. Encouraged by her boss sly blonde bombshell Sheriff Cherie Ghent, part-time deputy sheriff Carla Day investigates whether Tamina's death was an accident, a suicide or a murder. She uses her skills honed from obtaining information from her Alzheimer's suffering father to inquire of the eccentrics who live there. When a man is found dead with his throat cut, Carla believes there is a link to the Tamina death and fears more will follow.

The key to this entertaining whodunit is the fullness of the prime characters especially the heroine, who works the case amidst an eccentric crowd that orates in riddles when asked a straight question. Her caring for her father, a professor losing his memory except when it comes to Egyptology, enables her to work through the odd responses she receives. Cherie is terrific as her boss as she plays the police version of Reese Witherspoon's Legally Blonde but more as a ploy to fool the rubes into giving her whatever she needs. Fans will appreciate Diana O'Hehir's enjoyable third mystery as no clues are straightforward. They require New Age translation into police English (see ERASED FROM MEMORY and MURDER NEVER FORGETS).

Lady Betrayed
Nicole Byrd
9780425218433 $6.99

The Viscount saw the nearby gazebo as the place to stay out of the heavy rain. However when he steps inside its shelter, Adrian Carter immediately sees he is not alone, lying unconscious on the floor is Madeline Applegate. Through the freezing wet night, he keeps her warm the only way he can by holding her close. In the morning they are caught in this compromising position that saved her life, but irregardless of his good intentions, he does the honorable thing especially since they are caught hugging one another.

To his shock, she rejects his proposal. He warms her through the night, and when they're found the next morning, Adrian honorably proposes marriage. Madeline knows her lot in life is to take care of her invalid father rather than marry the caring hunk. When they make love, she knows she cannot let him go. Adrian admits to her that he is no prize since a duel went bad; as his ruthless cousin wants him dead. When Madeline and her friends begin suffering from suspicious accidents, Adrian believes his time of reckoning has past.

LADY BETRAYED is an enjoyable historical romantic suspense starring two nurturing individuals with issues to contend with if they are to marry. Although both loves one another, neither one believes they are worthy of their beloved as each carries baggage. Fans will appreciate Nicole Byrd's tense thriller even if his cousin is too deviously cartoon evil.

Elemental Magic
Sharon Shinn, Rebecca York, Carol Berg & Jean Johnson
9780425217863 $15.00

"Bargain With the Wind" by Sharon Shinn. At Grey Moraine Lord Baler meets Lady Charis, who is in trouble. As they elope he is remains ignorant of the air that surrounds him, but could kill him.

"Birthright" by Jean Johnson. Elrik the mage escorts Arasa on a quest to learn who will inherit the fire.

"Unmasking" by Carol Berg. Joelle is a searcher, who has failed at passing the final exam that would allow her to fight demons; yet whether it is in water or land, she will use her skill anyway to save those she can like Gareth the vegetable farmer.

"Huntress Moon" by Rebecca York. Although she feels as if she is on hell on earth, to save her mother from a terrible fate, Zarah accepts being sold as a slave, who must spy on Griffin to regain her freedom.

These four entertaining elemental romantic fantasies are fun quest tales that sub-genre readers will want to read.

Real Murders
Charlaine Harris
9780425218716 $7.99

Lawrenceton, Georgia is a suburb of Atlanta but has a small town atmosphere in which everyone knows their neighbors and doors are rarely locked. One night librarian Aurora "Roe" Teagarden is going to Real Murders, a club where folks analyze true crime cases. When she arrives she looks in the parking lot for friends Mamie Wright and Sally Allison when the phone rings and the caller asks for Julia Wallace, the murdered wife of the man the group is supposed to talk about.

When she gets over the shock she sees Sally but not Mamie; feeling uneasy over the phone call she continues to seek out her friend until she finds her body butchered beyond recognition and posed to look like the real Julia Wallace was. She was supposedly murdered by her husband William Wallace. Other murders occur involving the members of Real Murders and they are patterned on past killings like that of Lizzie Border. In a macabre sort of way the killer is having fun but Roe is scared to death when poison is delivered to her and her brother Phillip disappears.

This is the reprint of the first Aurora Teagarden mystery and it affirms why this series is so popular and successful; the other books will follow every two months. REAL MURDERS is an exciting who-done-it because nobody will ever guess who committed the crimes because the murderer acts and looks so normal and interacts with people in a sane manner. Aurora Teagarden is a special one of a kind heroine who amateur sleuth fans adore.

Knitting Bones
Monica Ferris
9780425217528 $23.95

The Embroiderers Guild of America (EGA) local chapter members feel great that their stitching efforts earned $24,000 for the Heart Coalition charity fund raiser. However, after handing over the check to a man sent by the coalition to the EGA banquet, they since learn he vanished without turning in the money.

Betsy Devonshire, owner of Crewel World, is apartment-bound, after breaking her leg from falling off a horse while riding with friend and customer Jill Cross Larson. The store manager make that Vice President of Operations Godwin still believes she should investigate what happened to the check raised by their clients the EGA, but Betsy insists she is immobile and drugged so cannot follow clues nor think of solutions. Still he makes the case that she can run the case from her home while he follows her orders with the street work. As they work in tandem to learn what happened to the check; Tony Milan laid up also with a broken leg caused by a drunken driver running a light wonders about the same check.

Having Betsy lead a distant investigation makes for a refreshing amateur sleuth as the heroine has to go over every step one stitch at a time. Series fans will enjoy the inquiry as Godwin fumbles to be Betsy's field operative while she is his handler. The missing person mystery is cleverly designed, but it is the Betsy-Godwin sleuthing combo that makes KNITTING BONES a terrific tale.

Dead Men Don't Get the Munchies
Miranda Bliss
9780425218396 $6.99

In Washington DC nobody could accuse Annie of being a slacker. During the day she is a bank teller; while at night she runs the business and helps outdoing everything but cooking since she can't even boil water.

Jim, the owner and Annie's boyfriend is sponsoring a six week bar food cooking class. When Annie's best friend Eve sees one of the students is Brad Peterson, she runs off crying, but not before everyone in the class heard her say she wants to kill him. Later Eve tells Annie that Brad is a weasel, who enjoys hurting others; because of him she belongs to a support group helping people like her cope with these weasels. Not long afterward Eve's wish comes true as someone kills Brad. Because of her loud angry comment at Bellywasher's, Eve is the prime suspect as she apparently had the motive. Annie does not believe for a moment that distressed as Eve was, she could kill anyone even someone she loathes. She plans to affirm her belief in Eve by uncovering the identity of the culprit.

While investigating, a cooking student Kegan assists Annie so that the audience follows the quirky escapades of Batwoman and Robin (a modern day gender bending version of the 1960s spoof TV show that is). Whereas the eccentric cast adds humor to the amateur sleuth; the victim receives no empathy as he was a harassing predator who used his power position to force sexual favors from females whose other choice was being fired with a campaign to paint the woman as a deviant. Readers will appreciate this amusing whodunit with its serious workplace undertone.

Texas Princess
Jodi Thomas
9780425218259 $7.99

In 1855 although he would have preferred not to accept the job, Whispering Mountain Ranch horse breeder Tobin McMurray knows the fee is too good to pass up; so he agrees to deliver a horse to Liberty Mayfield, daughter of a senator. He also to his chagrin accepted the stipulation that he teach Liberty to ride the steed.

Upon arriving at the Mayfield spread, Tobin is shocked to find his student avoiding her cold-blooded demanding fiance Captain Samuel Buchanan in the barn from her. As he teaches her to ride, he also in his quiet way shows her how to be strong. When someone tries to assassinate her father, Tobin helps Liberty escape. As the reticent rancher and the fearful female head to the safety of his grandfather's Apache tribe, they fall in love. However, Buchanan is coming for her with help because he wants to control the Mayfield fortune.

Texas historical romance readers will cherish the latest winner from Jodi Thomas due to the lead couple; as each has people issues. The fast-paced story line never misses a beat once Tobin and Liberty meet. Although Buchanan is too brutal to be in the running for the caring Liberty, this is a terrific Thomas Texas tale.

A Rose from the Dead
Kate Collins
Obsidian (Berkley)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451222411 $6.99 1-800-847-5515

In New Chapel, Indiana, flower shop owner Abby Knight worries about her business failing. She needs new customers and knows that flowers and funerals go together like bacon and eggs. Thus she decides to open up a "tasteful" floral booth at the Funeral Director Society's annual convention.

On the down side Abby will deal with some creepy souls who appreciate the DEARLY DEPOTTED as no one else can dig them. For instance the Colonel who is president of the FDS is the self anointed Master Mortician who insists he knows everything there is in converting a corpse into a living tribute and is willing to tell anyone who is not afraid to ask him for a consultation. Then there is the environmental ground hugger Eli "Green Guy" Cotton who believes Kermit is right that grieving relatives should send their loved ones off in green. The lively gala turns morbid when cosmetician to the dead Sybil "the Diva of Death Masks" Blount is killed. Unable to resist, Abby investigates who was drumming up business.

The latest Flower Shop mystery (see MUM'S THE WORD and ACTS OF VIOLET) is an amusing graveyard amateur sleuth that will have the audience laughing at the antics of the conventioneers and Abby's matchmaking mom. The story line is humorous as Abby knows she should have snipped her curiosity in the bud, but instead digs up clues.

The Remains of the Dead
Wendy Roberts
9780451222688 $6.99

When her brother committed suicide five years ago, Sadie Novak was the one who cleaned out his house in order to spare her parents the pain. Immediately afterward, she quit her teaching position to open up Scene-2-Clean, a firm that performs crime scene cleanups in the Seattle area. She gains immense satisfaction from her work because she saves the victim's family from the trauma of performing the difficult deed, which can include blood splattered seemingly everywhere. Sadie also has another ability that gives her in some ways even greater satisfaction. She meets the ghosts who were killed in the house and helps them pass on.

Her current assignment is the Toth residence where a murder suicide occurred. There she meets Kent Lasko who she assumes is a ghost. Instead she learns he was a friend of the couple and then she wants to know why he was in the house. He explains that he came to retrieve a piece of jewelry that belonged to his mother that he gave to the victim; he also says he was having an affair with Trudy Toth. Not long afterward, Grant Toth's mother claims a piece of jewelry is missing and the police find it on Sadie. She believes Kent planted it and this makes her wonder why as she postulates whether he was involved in the two deaths. She begins an investigation that leads to her being shot at twice which makes her dig all the deeper.

This is a breezy paranormal mystery filled with witty at times graveyard dry dialog inside a fascinating yet foreboding plot. Sadie is an amateur sleuth who never quits whether it is cleaning a place or investigating a crime. Her associate Zack Bowman is a disgraced ex-cop; although they have never kissed there is a strong attraction between them. The whodunit is cleverly executed with the heroine obtaining help from Zack and Trudy's ghost who want the truth known by identifying their killer.

The Down Home Zombie Blues
Linnea Sinclair
Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780553589641 $6.99 1-800-726-0600

Bahia Vista, Florida Homicide Detective Sergeant Theophilus "Theo" Petrakos is stunned to find a mummified corpse near a strange looking laptop. Not long after he leaves the crime scene, what seems like a zombie attacks him, Commander Jorie Mikkalah of the Guardian Force saves his life.

Jorie and her squad came to earth when they lost contact with a hunter agent stationed here. Apparently a zombie killed their agent. Her government created these monsters two centuries ago to control space traffic until a flaw in the programming turned them from HERO into killing mechs. The Guardians hunt them down, but here on Earth is the largest herd of zombies that has ever been reported; worse they are also the most intelligent found so far. Jorie must perform Intel to learn how before destroying the Three Hundred without the local humans nils learning of either of them. Still since Theo does Jorie drafts him to help on their mission before taking him back with her as he cannot be allowed to tell his people about them. Neither the cop nor the commander expected to fall in love while fighting THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES.

This is a terrific science fiction with the zombies nothing like those in the Romero universe; instead they are the result of bad technology and work as a cohesive unit. The story line is action-packed from the moment that the Floridian detective finds the corpse and the weird computer and never slows down until the final moment; yet there is much humor especially as the Guardian Force troops struggle to adapt to Florida's way of life so that the locals do not know they are not of this world. Enhancing the superb thriller is that the romance between the nils and the alien is low-key as both know their priorities. Perhaps the only item left for Linnea Sinclair to answer is whether the zombies voted Republican in 2000.

Blood Dreams
Kay Hooper
9780553804843 $25.00

A serial killer has tortured and brutalized at least twelve women in Boston and the police don't have any evidence that would lead to his identity. The last woman he killed was a senator's daughter and the notoriety he brought upon himself gets him to move to Ventura, Georgia in Prophet County. Meanwhile the new director of the FBI orders Agent in Charge Noah Bishop and his team to keep hunting in Boston because he doesn't believe in psychic powers especially those that point to the serial killer leaving the area.

Bishop is forced to work with Haven, the civilian group of psychics that were organized by a wealthy businessman married to an empath. Dani Justice returns to Ventura to help law enforcement since she is a psychic and part of Haven. She has the ability to dream walk and pull others into her dreams. The sheriff believes in her powers because he has seen them demonstrated and because he loves her even though she ran away from the town and him. Now she is connected to the danger from a monster who relishes tearing his victims apart.

The latest Bishop/Special Crimes Unit thriller is a powerful, energizing and enthralling police procedural that fans will be unable to put down. Both Bishop and his wife Miranda make appearances and Hollis who appeared in several previous books in this series plays a pivotal role as she grows as a medium. The heroine is a strong independent woman who is determined to catch the killer through her way while also deciding whether she wants to be part of Haven.

The Book of Old Houses
Sarah Graves
9780553804300 $22.00

Jacobia "Jake" Tiptree seems to always be fixing up something in her 1823 Eastport, Maine home yet finds the time to solve a murder or two. However, this time she gets spooked when she finds a book in the foundation of her basement. It seems written in blood and contains names of people who have lived in the house through the almost two centuries including the current spooked occupant. She sends the book to rare book expert Horace Robotham for authentication.

Horace is murdered and the book vanished. His friend David DiMaio arrives at Jake's house introducing himself as the late Horace's friend. He also insists he drove to Eastport because someone he went to school with Bert Merkle had a motive to kill Horace. Dave asks questions of the household and the townsfolk. Horace's lonely friend Jason Riverton is killed and in a separate incident so is wannabe author Ann Talbert. The police claim the latter two deaths were coincidental misfortunate accidents; Jake refuses to believe the probability of so much coincidence as winning the lottery has better odds. She risks her life to prove a killer is working the book beat.

Jake is a strong independent woman, who does most of the repairs and renovations to her fixer-upper; she also worries about her son Sam who just got out of jail while planning a poster for the town patriarch. Dave is the catalyst who sets much of the events in motion, but Jake is the tough broad trying to fix the problem. Sarah Graves latest "home repair" cozy is a grand regional amateur sleuth.

Dead of Night
J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan and Mary Kay McComas
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780515143676 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

"Eternity in Death" by J.D. Robb. In the middle of the twenty-first century, NYPD Lieutenant Eve Dallas struggles with a murder that implies the culprit is a vampire. While she scoffs tat that theory, her husband Roarke and Peabody believe a bloodsucker did the crime.

"Amy and the Earl's Amazing Adventure" by Mary Blayney. They will find the answer to their enigma first hand when Amy Stevens and Simon West wonder how a coin minted in 1808 appears in an 1805 painting.

"Timeless" by Ruth Ryan Langan. Modern day urbanite Laurel Douglas explores an ancient Scottish castle when somehow she is transported into the past; everyone including laird Conal MacLennan assumes Laurel is his missing wife.

"On the Fringe" by Mary Kay McComas. Bonnie knows her marriage is collapsing, but a magical carpet takes her to the world of what could have been where the grass no longer seems as green to the lass.

Although the Eve Dallas futuristic vampiric police procedural seems out of place with three time travel romances, DEAD OF NIGHT is an entertaining paranormal anthology containing four well written novellas. Readers will enjoy this collection as good as the previous compilation by this Jovian quartet (see BUMP INTO THE NIGHT).

Blood Brothers
Nora Roberts
9780515143805 $7.99

In 1987, three ten year old boys celebrate their birthdays by camping near Pagan Stone; an object many believe is from a supernatural realm. When they cut their hands to make a blood oath between them, some of it spills near the stone. An explosion occurs and when it is over Caleb, Fox and Gage are healed of all previous wounds, never get sick and they immediately recover from injuries. They are also sensitive noticing things that the other townsfolk don't see.

During the seventh month on the seventh day every seven years, the locals go crazy, committing heinous crimes that they don't remember when the week is up. Quinn comes to town to write a book of supernatural happenings and meets Caleb; she tells him what she sees and hears which is the same as what he and his blood brothers sense. For no reason she can understand Layla Darnel come to town, sees what Quinn sees and is unable to leave. Quinn calls Cybil to help her in researching what is going on in the town. Somehow these six men and the women are linked which gives them a fighting chance in the last battle between good and evil and to save the town and its inhabitants.

This is the first book in an urban fantasy trilogy and like any book Nora Roberts writes it is fantastic. The romance between Caleb and Quinn is starting to sizzle even though they have to put exploring the relationship on hold at times while they try to figure how the women fit into the equation to give them an edge in the upcoming war as told to them by a benign ghost. BLOOD BROTHERS makes the audience believe what they are reading is true as Ms. Roberts paints a dark picturesque landscape.

Finding Father Christmas
Robin Jones Gunn
Faith Words
c/o Hatchette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446526296 $13.99 1-800-759-0190

In San Francisco raised by her single mother, Miranda Carson feels profoundly lonely and finds a deep need to meet her biological father, a man she has never met. Her clues as to who he is are somewhat meager. She has an old photograph that she assumes is her father while on its back is stamped a studio in Carlton Heath, England; a birth certificate; and a playbill for The Tempest starring her mother in a Michigan theatre.

With nothing to keep her in the states, Miranda decides to spend Christmas in England in search of her father. From London she goes to Bexley Lane, the address in the photo. There she is treated with warmth and friendship starting with a cup of tea and ending at the community production of A Christmas Carol and the party afterward. Although she feels some guilty for not revealing who she or her mission especially when she realizes her dad is hero to these kind people, Miranda feels at home for the first time in a long time.

The deep characterizations make this Christmas tale a winner. The English family and Miranda seem real as she debates telling these loving people the truth, which mean hurting an image they have of her father. Mindful of While You Were Sleeping, FINDING FATHER CHRISTMAS is a wonderful uplifting Yuletide tale that emphasizes everyone needs to feel welcomed and loved.

One G-String Short of Crazy
Desiree Day
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416543169 $14.00 1-800-223-2336

Not identical twins Aisha and Felicia Goodman have always done everything together as they have always been best friends. They live together in Atlanta and run an accounting business together. However, recently Felecia has had second thoughts although she loves her sibling. She detests Aisha's promiscuous lifestyle. Aisha has also had second thoughts; she hates her sister's prudish lifestyle. However, both fears stepping out by themselves.

A close friend of the twins Tarik offers them a solution to their dilemma with the apartment building he owns on Peachtree. He rents one apartment each on the same floor to the girls. Meanwhile his childhood friend attorney Derrick has relocated from Chicago for two reasons: first he has a great career opportunity and second he was fleeing his former drama queen girlfriend Darla. Meanwhile, Felicia realizes she loves Tarik and Aisha is falling in love with Derrick, but both have other females in their lives; Tarik considers marrying his current girlfriend Tara and Darla arrives claiming she is carrying Derrick's child.

The title is apropos as this is a zany and erotic look at the swinging singles. Each of the prime six characters is fully developed especially the twins so that the explicitly described sex scenes and the turmoil of the convoluted relationships make for a zany time on Peachtree.

Highland Guardian
Melissa Mayhue
978146532872 $6.99

Half faerie - half human Ian McCullough is a guardian who has vigilantly watched the portal to the Fountain of Souls for six hundred years to insure mortals remain safe from malevolent soulless beings. However lately he and his guardian peers fear the evil Nuadians are planning an assault on the mortal plane. He willingly would risk his life to perform his protector duty.

Popular romance author Sarah Douglas moves into the cottage next door to Ian's abode; she hopes Scotland inspires her to create her next novel as she struggles with writing it. She contains faerie blood that if she allowed it would enable her to be a "sensor", a rare person who can judge people's emotions. Ian wants to keep Sarah, but to do so he must keep her in the dark re her skill; but without her ability, the Nuadians might just succeed.

The key to this excellent romantic fantasy is the belief that the various species and their innate skills seem genuine. Ian and Sarah are strong protagonists as they fall in love he must make the most difficult decision of his life to keep her out of harm's way vs. risking danger to many. Subgenre fans will enjoy Melissa Mayhue's marvelous magic as the hero must decide between love and duty.

The Dangers of Deceiving a Viscount
Julia London
9781416516170 $6.99

In 1822, the three Fairchild debutantes (Ava, Phoebe and Greer) became desperate to keep up their social lifestyle amidst the Ton although they are penniless ever since their stepfather stole their fortune. Ava learns THE HAZARDS OF HUNTING A DUKE and Greer THE PERILS OF PURSUING A PRINCE so with her siblings married Phoebe decides to turn to trade, a taboo amidst her peers. She hides behind the persona of Madame Dupree, the creator of gowns that the female aristocracy craves wearing.

Viscount Will Darby hires Madame Dupree to make gowns for his sisters. However, his family treats Phoebe as a lowlife servant; a position she struggles to accept as she is unused to being mistreated. Worse she is attracted to her host and Will reciprocates. As they fall in love, Madame Dupree knows that if Phoebe is exposed the scandal will harm more than just the last Desperate Debutante as her sisters will feel the scorn.

This Regency and its predecessors are terrific historical romances starring likable lead characters. Fans will enjoy the antics of Madame Dupree and the return as support to Phoebe of her sisters. The story line is amusing while once again emphasizing the importance of family. With 1824 being the year of Desperate Debutantes' babies, perhaps the talented Julia London can provide the audience with early Victorian the next generation saga.

Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night
Kresley Cole
9781416547037 $6.99

In 1827 Mariah of the Three Bridges is murdered in the shadow of the full moon. Her last sight is watching her beloved Bowen MacRieve of the Lykae Clan howl at the full moon in rage.

In 2007 Bowen remains angry, frustrated and acrimonious as he has over the past nine score; and he has become a bit of a hermit. When offered a chance to participate in the treacherous and grueling Talisman's Hie, he immediately accepts. Bowen believes the risk is nothing only his life; but the prize is everything as winning enables him to go back to 1827 and correct the pivotal tragedy that has shaped his life since

Mariketa the Awaited leader of the House of Witches has strong reasons to win the contest hosted every two and a half centuries by the Goddess of Impossibilities Riora. Though the Witch is prepared for any contingency, the revolting acrid Lykae fools her and ensnares Mari in a deadly cave; Mari in turn casts a death spell on Bowen. He realizes he must save her to save himself if he is save Mariah. However, he is confused as he reacts to Riora as if she is his soulmate, not Mariah.

When Kresley Cole writes a romantic fantasy, there is NO REST FOR THE WICKED or readers as fans finish her exhilarating complex tales in one wonderful sitting. WICKED DEEDS ON A WINTER'S NIGHT may be the best entry in the Cole Lore as the lead couple is deadly rivals who over the course of the competition turn from enemy combatants into beloved enemies. Readers will relish this powerful entry as the mythos of the sentient races not human entertainingly expands leaving the audience with a HUNGER LIKE NO OTHER for the next saga.

On the Loose
Tara Janzen
Dell Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440243847 $6.99 1-800-726-0600

The CIA assigns Special Defense Forces Agent C. Smith Rydell to deal with a bad situation in South America. A CIA plane carrying secrets crashed; Smith is to do whatever it takes to retrieve the data. He also, to his chagrin, is to escort "spoiled" socialite Honey York to the same locale where she is to give money to guerrilla leader Diego Garcia in order to free kidnapped nuns the thug snatched; including her sister Julia. Garcia also holds the valuable plane.

Smith and Honey meet their escort to the guerilla camp drug smuggler Alejandro Campos as the SDF agent revises his opinion of his partner from pampered to spunky. Meanwhile also in South America is once believed dead lethal femme fatale Irena Polchenko. She stalks the couple as she plans to kill the only person who thwarted one of her schemes and left her for dead.

Returning to the "Crazy" dangerous world of the Special Defense Forces, Tara Janzen weaves a complex exciting romantic suspense thriller. Smith is a strong person who finds he suddenly has female problems as he falls in love for the first time in his life; however Honey initially does not live up to her name as she knows he does not want her tagging along on this dangerous mission; he has no time for babysitting. They make a perfect combo as they battle each other while trying to stay alive during a perilous rescue mission.

Midnight Awakening
Lara Adrian
9780553589399 $6.99

Vampires who find their Breedmate, recognizable by a certain mark somewhere on their body, can have children. Their bond is a lifelong commitment and the woman doesn't age as long as her mate is still alive. The Breed are a peaceable society and most of them live in the Darkhavens, which are underground and surrounded by the best security systems in existence. The Rogues have given in to their blood lust and have no care for human life because their craving is too strong.

The Rogues and the minions (Renfields) are controlled by Merek, the brother of Lucan who is in charge of the Order. Its mission is to kill the rogues while its counterpoint the Enforcement Agency believes in rehabilitation and looks upon the order as barbarous.

Elise lost her husband in the war against the Rogues and her son to the Bloodlust that made him go Rogue. She lives to kill them and nobody interferes with her until Tegan, a powerful agent in the Order, discovers what she is doing. Centuries of staying apart from his brethren are gone when he realizes how courageous Elise is. Though he tries to stop her, she puts herself in the middle of a war zone and he ends up giving her his blood to strengthen her. He avoids thinking about his feelings for her as they both concentrate on figuring out what plan Merek is working on. He finds Elise is a valuable helper and as the danger mounts he finds he cannot hide his feelings from her and himself any longer.

Lara Adrian has created a whole vampire culture that is separate from humanity and makes it feel vulnerable. Her latest and most exciting work will appeal to fans of Laurell K. Hamilton as her vampires have heart and care about each other and the humans who they could easily dominate as the Rogues want to do. Both Elise and Tegan have suffered great losses so when love comes knocking on their door, she is eager to embrace it while he fears getting hurt again. Both protagonists are complex likeable characters who endear themselves to the reader.

Devil Inside
Jenna Black
9780553590449 $6.99

In Topeka on a job, kick demon butt professional exorcist Morgan Kingsley is embarrassed to find Lugh heir to the demon kingdom residing inside her. She wants to get rid of him, but has no earthly idea how to do it safely as the two options are between death and lobotomy.

Lugh is also unsure how he entered his hostess, but knows she has a strong human aura that keeps him somewhat under control. He only communicates with her when she is sleeping. However, after Morgan's denial and fooling her expert peers re possession, Lugh through her dreams persuades Morgan they need to work together. He explains they must learn how his opponents transplanted him inside of her without either aware of it happening and how to get him out without harming her; although in his mind if he escapes her, she is expendable. As his demonic adversaries want him dead due to his radical position on human possession, the easy way to accomplish this is killing Morgan.

This is a fabulous urban fantasy in which the Black world filled with demons, possessions, laws, and special prisons make for an exhilarating thriller. Morgan will entertain the troops although somewhat a comic book heroine similar to Lara Craft; she is especially at her best when she rages at the humiliation of an exorcist being possessed. Fans of an offbeat but wildly enjoyable tale starring a take no prisoners heroine will want to read the DEVIL INSIDE, as the title is literally apropos.

Comfort and Joy
Fern Michaels, Marie Bostwick, Cathy Lamb & Deborah J. Wolf
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780821780480 $7.99 1-800-345-2665

"Comfort and Joy" by Fern Michaels. Angie and Josh disagree on everything until they face the truth, encouraged by the loving relationship between his father and her mother who have found each other; that they need to look deeper inside each other's heart.

"A High-Kicking Christmas" by Marie Bostwick. Because she broke her foot, Rockettes dancer Kendra agrees to direct a Yuletides play in Maple Grove, Vermont; she never expected to co-star in a personal production with Pastor Andy and his daughter Thea.

"Suzanna's Stockings" by Cathy Lamb. As she lies in a coma, Suzanna's spirit overhears learning things about her family and friends that make her understand what caring truly is.

"Family Blessings" by Deborah J. Wolf. With her mother's mental state rapidly deteriorating from Alzheimer's, Kacey and her family struggle with celebrating Christmas.

Although not entirely upbeat (especially Ms. Wolf's insightful tale) these are four very different yet well written refreshing and inspiring novellas that will have readers thinking what the holiday season means.

The Nightwalkers: Elijah
Jacquelyn Frank
9780821780671 $6.99

There are many Nightwalker races, who can pass themselves off as humans; including Demons, Lycanthropes, vampires, & nightwalkers. Demons only look like the monsters portrayed in books and movies. It is when they are summoned by a necromancer into a pentagram they look like the evil creatures of legend and are no longer capable of reasoning. For centuries the Demon and Lycanthrope races have been at war but after her father died, Siena, the Lycanthrope Queen has made peace with the demons and hopes one day lingering hatred will fade away.

Elijah, the captain of the demon warriors is in lycanthrope territory when he is attacked by hunters and necromancers led by two rogue demon women Ruth an her daughter Mary who want to destroy the demon race. He is near death when Siena finds him and brings him into a nearby cave where she saves his life. During their time alone they Imprint, mated for life though Siena tries to fight it as she doesn't want a king to rule with her. The problem is easily resolved when he agrees to be prince consort and they are happy together until Ruth once again attacks the demon she hates the most, Elijah. The demon king brings the war to her not realizing it will change demon-lycanthrope relations forever.

The latest book in the Nightwalkers series is entertaining and action oriented with just enough romance to keep fans of the genre very happy. Jacquelyn Frank does for Demons what Anne Rice did for vampires and witches and what Tolkien did for Hobbits. The pairing of an alpha male demon and an alpha female lycanthrope makes for an interesting battle of the sexes as each tries to dominate. The other characters from previous Nightwalker books make appearances and play pivotal roles that give the audience a sense of continuity.

The Road to Hell
Jackie Kessler
9780821781036 $15.00

Having finally been freed from an eternity as the centerfold of HELL'S BELLES, Jezebel starts life anew in New York City. Changing her name to Jesse Harris, the former succubus no longer uses sex as a weapon to steal souls or shoot fire and brimstone and she stopped torturing humans. Of course she still teases and titillates the males as Jesse uses sex to earn a living as a mortal exotic dancer. She also lives with New York cop Pete Hamilton, whom she loves with all her new soul.

However, back in her hometown of Hell (not the one in Michigan), Jesse's former demonic compatriots are outraged by her conversion and the drop in soul harvesting productivity since she became a born again mortal; there is also envy in their rage. These demons want her back in hell enticing humans to cede their souls for a taste of her instead of this inane monogamous relationship with a cop. The scheme to bring her back is simple; abduct the expendable pawn Pete so that Jezebel follows on THE ROAD TO HELL with the good intention of rescuing her beloved; if they cannot re-convert her to soulless state, they will steal her soul anyway.

The second Jezebel saga is a fabulous amusing fantasy as the heroine provides a laugh out loud account of her new life in the Big Apple (where else would a succubus formerly from hell live but in a city nicknamed for Satan's favorite fruit) and her rescue attempt of her lover. THE ROAD TO HELL may be paved with good intentions, but when Jezebel traverses it, all hell breaks loose on earth, the road and back in her hometown. Fans will appreciate this well written tale starring a beautiful female who rips skin off opponents with her acid tongue that goes quite well with her shimmering body.

Howl at the Moon
Christine Warren
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312947903 $6.99 1-888-330-8477

Werewolf Samantha Carstairs wants to tell her best friend Dr. Annie Cryer no when it comes to keeping secrets from her Silverback clan alpha. Reluctantly she agrees to give the brilliant lupine research scientist a few more days to affirm her findings on lupine sensory perception before seeing her superior. Sam feels her sudden softness is caused by her reaction to human Noah Baker, who unbeknownst to the female werewolf, works for the army of werewolf Others and is currently performing "industrial" espionage by using her to get at Dr. Cryer and her research.

Noah is attracted to Sam and wonders if those feelings are why like he believes he is on the wrong side of an upcoming battle. He hides his concerns from his friends that the mission is inappropriate while trying to obtain more data. However, Noah knows he would rather die than bring harm to Sam and the task as currently structured places them in opposing camps.

The fun in this wonderful werewolf romance is the human hero who finds himself divided between love and duty with the readers wondering along with Noah which way he will go. The fast-paced story line grips readers from the moment Sam and Noah meet and never slows down until the final howl is sounded. Fans of paranormal military romances will appreciate this entertaining tale as Sam ponders what the right thing to do is.

The Year's Best Science Fiction Twenty-Fourth Annual Collection
Edited by Gardner Dozois
St. Martin's
9780312363352 $21.95

As always this annual collection is the best science fiction anthology of the year. Besides the strong selection of twenty-eight stories, the Summation 2006 is an interesting article that concludes that 2006 was "overall a relatively uneventful year". Still in this quiet year, Mr. Dozois references Locus magazine stating that "there were 2495 books of interest to the SF field" excluding a myriad of Internet options and other tie-ins that would dramatically increase the total. All of the chosen twenty-eight are well written with many of the authors highly regarded like Cory Docterow, Robert Charles Wilson, Kage Baker, Alastair Reynolds, Robert Reed, Greg Egan, Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette and Stephen Baxter, etc. The best of the best (at least in my opinion) are "Riding the Crocodile" by Greg Egan in which two immortals consider boldly conspicuously suicide together; Robert Charles Wilson's Julian: A Christmas Story as two men meet and struggle to survive a wintry night before traveling different life paths; and a tour of Venus in Tin Marsh by Michael Stanwick, who according to Mr. Dozois has been writing for over two decades, but I confess I only read any of his works for the first time recently (see THE DRAGONS OF BABEL). Once gain this is a superb compilation as none of the entries are losers and most are excellent exploring the genre from quantum physics communicating with the dead to outer space and beyond; 2006 may have been lacking in innovation, but still with quality tales abound prove to be a great year affirmed by Mr. Dozois' latest anthology.

The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam
Chris Ewan
St. Martin's
9780312376338 $23.95

Charles Howard is the successful author of a suspense series starring a suave courageous cat burglar detective, Faulks. However, fiction imitates real life as Charles supplements his income and creative juices by being a successful burglar just like his Faulks is.

Howard is currently completing his latest Faulks thriller in Amsterdam when on his web site he receives an enigmatic summons that peaks his interest. He meets with an American who knows the truth about Howard's moonlighting extravaganza; the American offers him 20,000 Euros to steal two monkey figurines. Reluctantly, as he wonders how his client knows the truth about his nocturnal activities, he carries out the assignment. However, when he returns to deliver the items, he finds his client almost dead from a vicious assault and the matching third figurine missing. As the Dutch police investigate the beating with Howard as a suspect, he makes inquiries that link back to a diamond robbery over ten years ago while his London based editor suggests plot changes, not realizing her recommendations might be tested in real life not a novel.

THE GOOD THIEF'S GUIDE TO AMSTERDAM is a humorous crime caper that pays homage to the classic To Catch a Thief, but does so in a lighthearted satirical tongue in cheek way. Charles is a unique impish rogue who finds himself in a dangerous encounter with a killer. The subplot involving his editor is creative and amusing as she offers advice to make his latest story line seem plausible and genuine, but not understanding that the escapade is real. Readers will enjoy this fine look at Amsterdam through the eyes of a cat burglarizing author struggling to keep his nine lives in tact.

The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007: Twentieth Annual Collection
Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant (editors)
St. Martin's
9780312369422 $21.95

As has been the case (at least since this reviewer began reading this annual collection several years ago), this anthology provides some of the best horror and fantasy short stories, poems and other media from 2006. The forty entries are always fun even for those who may have read most of them in other collections. The tales range the gamut from wishfully whimsical to fundamentally frightening to awesomely amusing. However, once again it is the deep articles that provide "Summation 2006: Fantasy", "Summation 2006: Horror", "The Year in Media of the Fantastic: 2006", "Fantasy in Comics and Graphic Novels 2006", "Music of the Fantastic: 2006", and "Obituaries: 2006" that bring an extra edge to this always strong collection; even the obits enhance the book with its short homage to the famous like the Jims Baen and Williamson and the not so famous (to me) such as "Retro Hugo" winner Wilson Tucker. This reviewer especially enjoys comparing this year's trends as described in the Summations to the last few years. Readers will enjoy meeting new authors (at least to me) like Ira Sher and Margo Lanagan and long time favorites like Gene Wolfe and Terry Dowling. Besides the articles, perhaps the best entry is the realistic futuristic "Another Word for Map Is Faith" by Christopher Rowe (right surname for the author of this tale), who extrapolates the religious right teaming with the Neocons into a scary vision of a Taliban-like control of America. The Twentieth Annual Collection is a terrific compilation.

Blue Heaven
C.J. Box
St. Martin's
9780312365707 $24.95

In Kootenai Bay, Idaho, the Tyler siblings, twelve years old Annie and ten years old William Taylor, are playing in the nearby woods when they witness a hideous homicide. The duo flees, but not before the killers spot them. The culprits are retired LAPD officers who left the force eight years ago after getting away with a local heist; they will not allow witnesses to live as happened back in Southern California.

The preadolescent pair knows their lives are in danger from the retired dirty cops. The kids take refuge in the barn of rancher Jess Rawlins. He sees them hiding there and believes their tale even as the dirty former cops volunteer to help the sheriff's department search for the two missing children.

Although no Joe Pickett, this is an engaging crime thriller as Jess plays cat and mouse with the killers while the children are the cheese. The action is at its best when the story line focuses on the current situation but a sidebar involving an investigation into a Southern California robbery murder takes away from the prime tale of two kids in trouble with their murderous pursuer's part of the rescue team.

Deadly Shoals
Joan Druett
St. Martin's
9780312353377 $24.95

In 1839 U.S. Exploring Expedition ship Swallow reaches Patagonia. However, in Patagonia, an outraged whaler Captain Stackpole demands the Shallow's sheriff's representative, navigator and "linguister" Wiki Coffin arrest trader Caleb Adams. Stackpole claims he bought a schooner from Adams, but the scoundrel vanished with his money without handing over the vessel or a bill of sale.

Wiki makes inquiries into where Adams may have gone. However, when he catches up to the trader, he meets a dead man. Someone murdered Adams and a clerk working at the trader's store. The bill of sale remains missing. As Wiki continues his expanded investigation into what happened to the receipt and who killed Adams and the clerk, he remains ignorant to the fact that the killer is observing his every move in case he gets too close to the truth.

This is a terrific nineteenth century mystery that brings to life Patagonia through the various people the half Maori hero meets on his navigating work but especially his investigation. Wiki in his fourth appearance remains a strong fascinating protagonist who is amazed to learn how diverse the world is. Although the historical aspects at times supersede the whodunit forcing an abrupt climax, fans will enjoy sailing with Wiki as he RUNS AFOUL of his employer, Gauchos, and Indians.

Derek Nikitas
St. Martin's
9780312363970 $24.95

Fifteen years old Lucia Moberg gets her dad to take her to the nearby mall. Once there Lucia steals a CD from a store for her friend, but almost was caught. In a bit of a panic, she convinces her dad that it is time to leave so they go to the car. However, a man with a gun demands her dad turn over his wallet and the car keys. As she horribly watches her dad refuse to cooperate, the man shoots her father in the head splattering his brains all over the windshield and elsewhere.

Rochester PD Detective Greta Hurd interrogates the teen and quickly rejects the carjacking scenario as a lie. Instead she widens the investigation to Lucia's frightened mother, the neighbor, and the Skeleton Crew gang. As Lucia struggles with her guilt, Great keeps prodding at her to tell the truth as she assumes this was crime of passion caused by a dysfunctional family; sort of like her own.

This is a dark character study that grips the audience as the two lead protagonists, the cop and the teen, struggle with person demons that intrude on the case. Lucia is overloaded with guilt as she goes through one what if drill after another, but always comes back to same reality that she can depend on no one especially not her mom as she accepts culpability and tries to move on although the cop won't let. Greta sees the case through the myopic lens of her own dysfunction family so assumes either the teen or the mom killed the dad. PYRES is a well written depressing atmospheric psychological crime thriller.

Slow Burn
Brenda Jackson
St. Martin's
9780312940492 $6.99

Slade Maderis was visiting his cousin Dr. Justin Maderis and his wife Lorren when he meets Skye Barclay. They are immediately attracted to one another, but she is on a mission that takes precedence. Skye, from Augusta, Maine, recently learned that she was given up at birth for adoption and that she is the half-sister of Justin's son Vincent, who was also adopted when his parents died in a car crash. After telling them her bombshell, she explains she overheard her aunt pleading with her parents to tell her the truth as she was marrying Wayne Bigelow until he called off their engagement when he told her choose between him and Vincent; thus her being in Texas brings joy to Slade's mind.

Whereas Skye wants to be in Vincent's life like the big sister she should have been, Slade knows she is his beloved life mate. He plans to marry her, but goes slow as to not spook her; he even provides her a job while she becomes acquainted with Vincent. What he failed to calculate was her New England former fiance coming to Texas to claim her or else cause problems like threatening Vincent. There is quite a lot of money at stake and the identity of the biological father remains an enigma.

The latest Maderis family saga is a fantastic romantic suspense tale that grips the audience from the moment Skye informs Justin and Lorren who she is and never slows down until the final confrontation occurs. Readers will need to set aside time for a one sitting experience as Brenda Jackson enticingly reveals secrets that make for quite a thriller. The romance between the lead couple enhances the excellent SLOW BURN.

Not Quite Dead
John MacLachlan Gray
St. Martin's
9780312374716 $24.95

In 1848 on a cargo ship sailing from Liverpool to the United States, Irish stowaway Finn Devlin steals a package containing worthless papers "David Copperfield, Final Four Numbers, by Charles Dickens." Although the Irishman sees no profit, he plans to visit Dickens's American publisher to see if they might pay him anyway. Angry with his treatment Devlin kills the publisher.

In 1849 in Baltimore, infamous author, journalist and critic Edger Allen Poe collapses and is rushed to a hospital where he insists he has proof of a mob hit. Allegedly dying, he arranges with his childhood friend Dr. William Chivers to fake his death so that he can elude the Irish mob that wants him silent. Charles Dickens begins an America tour by having as a roommate in a dive, the maniacal Poe, who hides from the Irish mob. Soon all the players on this stage will collide in a final chapter worthy of both writers.

Although well written and very insightful into mid nineteenth century Baltimore and Philadelphia, NOT QUITE DEAD loses some speed by rotating perspective from the first person accounts of harassed Chivers and a third person viewpoint of Devlin's crossing and lethal time in the States where he seems more like a character from a Corman movie version of a Poe novel. Poe and Dickens play key roles, but are secondary to the prime duet.

When a Lady Misbehaves
Michelle Marcos
St. Martin's
0312948492 $6.99

In London April Jardine works as the "Dustbin Duchess" maid at the infamous Pleasure Emporium. While doing her duties that range from cleaning vomit from rugs to cleaning used sheets, she finds an interesting diary belonging to Madame. Included inside are the names of her powerful lovers and the fascinating fact that one sired a child with Madame.

April sees a chance to extort money by claiming to be the offspring of Madame and each of her bed mates. The men are like cattle willing to pay almost anything to keep their indiscretion from going scandalously public. That is until she meets Lord Blackheath, whose father is on her hit list. He plans to expose her blackmailing ploy before his father believes she is his offspring from the wrong side of the sheets. However, he keeps delaying his uncovering her deed because he is falling in love with the feisty thief.

The opening Regency gamut of the Pleasure Emporium brothel series stars a charming "bad girl" whose wickedness is to blackmail the Ton. Her antithesis is an outraged aristocrat who is confused between wanting to kiss her vs. jail her. Sub-genre readers will appreciate this entertaining first tale due to the gender war.

Home School
Charles Webb
St. Martin's
9780312376307 $22.95

In Hastings, New York Ben and Elaine Braddock home teach their two sons only to have the Westchester County School Board and local principal Ralph Claymore inform them that Matt and Jason must return to school. Claymore insists he has received anonymous complaints from parents, but refuses to name anyone. They consider relocating to Vermont where their friends Garth and Goya Lewis home school their two kids, but besides being too rustic for them, Elaine has a problem with nine years old Aaron still being nursed by his mom.

A family discussion resolves nothing so a desperate Ben calls California for help. He tells Elaine he called her mom Nan who will be staying at the nearby Ardsley Motel to help them. Ben also buys tape recorders. The four Braddocks attend the annual high schools faculty baseball game when Nan arrives. She talks with Claymore and they leave together. Not long afterward Nan gives a tape to Ben. He takes it to married Ralph who realizes his sexual tryst with Nan has been recorded. The kids remain home schooled. Now the problem is to send Nan to the other coast so Ben asks the Lewis family to stay with them. However the problems evolve into sending Nan back to California and the Lewis quartet to Vermont or have Elaine, Matt and Jason move elsewhere.

This tale tells what happened to Ben and Elaine a decade after he rescued her from a bad marriage (see The Graduate). The support cast including their sons, her over the top mom, and their other eccentric guests bring out the best and worst in Ben and Elaine while each of Ben's solutions to problems leads to bigger problems. The amusing story line is fun but thin. Still fans of the movie and book The Graduate will enjoy HOME SCHOOL as the lead couple's personalities especially idealistic Ben remains true.

Three Sisters
James D. Doss
St. Martin's
9780312364595 $24.95

Colorado TV psychic Cassandra Spencer watches her fame go stratospheric as she calmly describes a murder truck-stop as the homicide is occurring. However, Cassandra feels her gift failed her as she was unable to predict or warn her recently married older sister Astrid; her sibling was killed by a wild animal.

Ute tribal investigator rancher Charlie Moon has some doubts that a natural predator killed Astrid especially after a visit to acrimonious Aunt Daisy who in between biting his head off believes a creature from beyond committed the crime. As Cassandra and her other sister Beatrice compete for the hand of the late Astrid's husband, Charlie, knowing not to ignore his aunt, and his best friend Granite Creek police chief Scott Parris search for a killer on the earthy plane. Aunt Daisy assists them with a search for clues on the spirit plane where she believes the culprit comes from.

The twelfth Charlie Moon paranormal police procedure is a fabulous whodunit filled with twists and turns, plenty of red herrings, and an incredible final spin. Aunt Daisy is at her caustic best, which means Charlie pays quite a price for her help that he knows he needs. Readers will appreciate James D. Doss' stupendous Native American mystery that is as sharp as Aunt Daisy's tongue.

My Lady Judge
Cora Harrison
St. Martin's
9780312368364 $24.95

In 1509 in the Burren region of Ireland, King Tirlough Donn O'Brien and the clan chieftains in this rocky coastal area think highly of the Brehon Mara. She courageously settles disputes and passes judgment on violators of the ancient Brehon law sentencing those convicted of crimes.

Everyone celebrates the May Day festival on Mullaghmore Mountain. Afterward all the revelers return home. However the female judge realizes her assistant Coleman is missing. She organizes a search party that ultimately finds his ravaged by animals corpse on the mountain side with a dagger in his neck. Partly because it is her job as a judge and partly out of loyalty to the murdered Coleman, Mara investigates, but finds no one wants to discuss their dealings with the victim especially with his boss. She soon realizes her assistant was involved in many nefarious activities committing all types of crimes and making enemies who would want him dead. Stunned that she failed to see Coleman's criminal behavior, Mara also remains blind that if she keeps digging she will be a victim too as the culprit has plenty beyond a single homicide to hide.

MY LADY JUDGE is an interesting early sixteenth century Irish legal thriller. The story line focuses on Mara's investigation, which in turn enables the audience to obtain a vivid picture of Brehon legal interpretations and applications in Western Ireland as the heroine is a sort of investigator, judge and jury. The May Day celebration augments the fine plot as the gala and its aftermath provide a sense of time and place. Cora Harrison writes an enjoyable historical whodunit starring a wonderful protagonist who understands no one is above Brehon law.

To Love a Knight
Wayne Jordan
Harlequin Kimani
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373860432 $5.99

Veterinarian Tamara Knight knew as a child what her calling in life would be; she always nurtured injured animals. However, when it comes to the male of her species that is a different story all together as she is a failure though she dreams of a relationship like her brother Shayne has with Carla. As a teen she was in love with Kyle Austin, but he failed to feel the same way.

Five years ago, West Indies cricket superstar Kyle Austin was in a car accident that forced his retirement from the game he loves. However, emotionally the scars prove devastating as they on top of his already childhood abandonment have turned him into a hermit. He does not believe in love; for that matter he loathes the month of December as his Yuletide philosophy is "bah humbug" to the holiday and his tenth of December birthday. However, Tamara besides seeing him as a wounded beast, she realizes he is her forever love and this time refuses to accept his rejection. She bullies him into accepting his disability, his loathing for the holiday season, and his love of her.

Wayne Jordan provides a beautiful Barbados contemporary romance starring two wonderful lead protagonists. Besides the delightful Caribbean setting, the cast makes for a warm tale. Readers will enjoy Tamara on a mission of mercy that disguises her hidden agenda to reach the heart of her soul mate s in order for him TO LOVE A KNIGHT. Fans, who have not discovered Mr. Jordan, is missing out on a fresh author whose characters interactions lead to wonderful story lines (see EMBRACING THE MOONLIGHT and ONE GENTLE KNIGHT).

Miles Apart
Ken Casper
9780373217816 $5.99

NASCAR superstar Jack Dolman has mixed feelings when he learns about the death of his former wife. He wouldn't have wanted her to die, but when he goes to the funeral he also sees this as a chance to perhaps reconcile with their strange son Johnny. However, Jack knows the track will be hazardous as his former late wife's second husband has told many fabrications about him over the years including that Jack had abandoned him when eh was four years old. In fact Johnny became a chip off the old stepfather's block when he turned to famous Formula One driving.

Johnny hates his father and decides to join NASCAR to punish his biological dad. Meanwhile Jack and his former love Meg Truesdale rekindle what both thought died. She also tries to bring father and son together although she has daughter troubles of her own.

This is a fun NASCAR romance that combines a second chance at love with a family reconciliation drama. Jack is a fabulous protagonist as he struggles with being part of Johnny's life, but his offspring has spent a quarter of a century hating him. Although a subplot involving Meg's daughter is unnecessary crowding on the oval, readers will enjoy Ken Casper's fine tale of a champion driver trying to overcome life's worst SPEED BUMPS.

Hart's Victory
Michele Dunaway
Harlequin NASCAR
9780373217823 $5.99

Single mom Kellie Thompson's beloved son Charlie is battling for his life against cancer. Charlie is a rabid NASCAR fan; so when a NASCAR camp for terminally ill children is arranged, Kellie insures her child attends.

Charlie's hero NASCAR driver Hart Hampton has been in a slump so is relegated to the charity event for the terminally ill. After meeting mother and son, Hart agrees with Charlie that he and Kellie are perfect for one another. However, she rejects his attention although she is attracted to him; her focus is Charlie. Hart wants both in his life, but though he won the kid over and the mom recognizes he is a caring soul, she still refuses his overtures; Charlie comes in first, second and third.

The romance places second and NASCAR shows up third as the star of this heart-wrenching tale is Charlie as he fights for his life yet wants the best for his mom whom he believes is his hero Hart. The three prime players are fully developed leading to readers feeling deep emotions almost as if they know the ailing child and care for him as much as Hart does. Michele Dunaway provides an angst-laden five tissue box character driven tale.

The Perfect Match
Kimberly Cates
Harlequin HQN
9780373772650 $6.99

Her nonagenarian Irish "fairy godmother" Great Auntie Maeve MacKinnon tells twenty-seven years old Rowena Brown to open her animal rescue pet store in Whitewater, Illinois because in this tiny town she will find her soulmate. Rowena heeds the advice of her godmother although she has mixed feelings about finding the love of her life.

Using her magical Cuchullain pipe, Rowena is able to perfectly match people with the animals she heals; so her rescue store proves very successful. She matches nine year old sad faced Charlie with the hundred plus pound and growing juvenile delinquent Newfoundland dog her father Deputy Cash Lawless calls Destroyer and Rowena calls Clancy because the child and the canine are soul mates. Cash is initially irate until he sees how good Charlie is with the dog. As Rowena becomes involved with Cash, Charlie and his other younger daughter Mac, she realizes her fairy godmother is right that she will find her soulmate here as the Lawless father and two daughters stole her heart.

Male names aside, THE PERFECT MATCH is a delightful whimsical romantic fantasy starring three wonderful humans and a canine who steals many of the scenes. Rowena and Cash are fully developed and readers will feel for Charlie as much as her father does. The secondary players, mostly regally commanding "Princess" Mac the townsfolk, other rescued animals, and of course Clancy, enhance a warm tale of love.

Heart of the Storm
Lindsay McKenna
Harlequin HQN
9780373772254 $6.99

Rogan Fast Horse stole a sacred ceremonial pipe, killing the female guardian on the Rosebud Reservation. The thief next used the special pipe to magically kill the vice president of the United States. The FBI conducts a massive manhunt, but the few clues they find make little sense.

The daughter of the murdered guardian Dana Thunder Eagle was to have inherited the pipe from her mother, but following the homicide she fled her home on the reservation. Although feeling unprepared, she accepts the responsibly of retrieving the pipe and preventing Rogan from using it to kill again. She has five weeks left to before Rogan can regenerate the power to reuse the pipe to magically murder someone. Former Delta Force soldier and psychic warrior Chase Iron Hand trains Dana to become a special kind of fighter able to defeat Rogan.

This is an exciting tale in which the perpetual action is built around Native American mythos. The lead couple is an interesting pairing as they have no time for much more than training; to a degree that leaves Chase and Dana somewhat enigmas to readers, which in turn adds to the tension. HEART OF THE STORM is an enjoyable cat and mouse as Chase knows Dana must recover the pipe as its power is gender specific, but she is not ready even as he expects the stakes to be higher than the second homicide.

A Time to Die
Beverly Barton
Harlequin HQN
9780373772490 $6.99

A decade ago, journalist Lexie Murrough was covering a story overseas when Deke Bronson led his special-ops team on an assassination of the dictator mission. She was severely hurt in the confusion. Several years past before she physically recovered; mentally Lexie knows she has not as she no longer is a reporter. Instead she is president of Helping Hands, a charity based in Chattanooga.

When someone threatens her harm, the Dundee Agency assigns private security expert Deke as her bodyguard. Although he knows he can never mitigate what he did to her, he sees this as an opportunity to somewhat make up for what happened to her on his mission even though she does know his involvement in that fiasco; his bullet paralyzed her leading to years of physical therapy. Deke muses that guilt and love are two powerful emotions and he knows he willingly would die to keep Lexie safe, but fears his feelings may fog his judgment.

The latest Protectors' tale (see MOST LIKELY TO DIE and DANGEROUS DECEPTION) is an action-packed romantic suspense thriller that never stops to let the audience catch our breath whether the lead couple is kissing, trying to stay alive, and much more. Lexie is stronger than she realizes as she struggles to cope with the return of the nightmare; Deke is the more interesting protagonist as Lexie tears his insides apart. The twists especially at the end will have readers thankful that they took the time to read Beverly Barton's taut thriller in one sitting.

The Christmas Baby
Eve Gaddy
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373714575 $5.50

International globetrotter Brian Kincaid enjoys his job that enables him to meet so many different women. However, Brian's carefree existence is nuked when he learns he is the father of a ten month old child and that the mother is dead. To care for his son Will and continue his womanizing lifestyle, he hires a live-in nanny, single mother Faith McClain

Brian is further stunned when he finds he is attracted to the nanny. Faith reciprocates, but will do nothing to harm their children or jeopardize the job she desperately needs. As their attraction turns into love, Faith must persuade Brian that he is good for her and their kids as he believes he is not worthy of her love.

THE CHRISTMAS BABY is a warm holiday romance in which the lead couple and their offspring make for an interesting extended family. Brian is the key to the story line as he loves his baby and his nanny, but fears he is not good for either of them. Readers will appreciate Eve Gaddy's fine contemporary as the heroine has faith in her man that he will be there for all of them.

A Christmas to Remember
Kay Stockham
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373714537 $5.50

Following an explosion that left him in a comatose state, US Marine Beau Buchanan finally wakes up in a hospital room. However, besides not being sure how he got there, Beau realizes he suffers from amnesia. Once the doctor okays him to leave, his father brings Beau home to Kentucky with him to help him further recover.

While recuperating Beau meets landscaper Marley Pierce, who claims he deserted her after making her pregnant when they were eighteen years old. He is shocked by her accusatory revelation as Beau feels that is out of character for a person like him, who he feels would never run from responsibility. As he falls in love with her, which feels right to him, and she realizes she never stopped loving him, he regains his memories; Beau is in for an even greater shock.

This interesting second chance at love contains a fascinating confused hero, the woman who loves and hates him, and a strong secondary cast who enhance the plot with modern day issues and family bickering. Readers will enjoy this fine tale as Beau begins to recall his past especially what happened when he "deserted" Marley several years ago.

Betting on Santa
Debra Salonen
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373781973 $5.50

With her sister's critical injury, Tessa Jamison is left with her two year old nephew Joey. However, although she loves the child, she feels the father should be made aware of what happened; but she has no idea who sired Joey.

Her sister's diary mentions the kindness of and much more about Cole Lawry of River Bluff, Texas. Deciding he is the prime suspect, Tessa and Joey travel to the small town. She explains why she came to see him, but he persuades her that though he knew her sister and cared for her when she was in town, he is not Joey's dad. Cole joins Tessa in her search to find Joey's biological father even as she falls in love with her host, who denies he feels the same way as she does.

The lead couple makes BETTING ON SANTA a wonderful holiday romance enhanced by a fine mystery. Tessa knows how she feels about Cole and refuses to accept his insistence that he's not in love. The amateur sleuth investigation adds to the fun as neither knows what they are doing. This contemporary is an entertaining sure bet.

Sex Bomb
Jamie Sobrato
Harlequin Blaze
9780373793617 $4.99

Makeup artist Ellie Jameson studied self defense and took up all sorts of weapon training; not surprising when your father is a leader of a violet radical group. However, Ellie has nothing to do with her dad, whom she assumes is deranged.

When Enforcer crime-fighter Christian Navarro enters her bedroom via the window, he offers her a deal she cannot refuse. He wants her help in his plan to destroy her father and his group's terrorist plan. He also dangles the carrot of her joining his team. With two sweeteners in the pot, she quickly accepts. The plan is for them to pretend to be lovers so he can use her to infiltrate her dad's compound even if father and daughter are currently estranged. However, Christian never expected to fall in love with the woman he lied to as he has no plans to get her onto his team and as to her father he is a trained assassin out to get him.

SEX BOMB is a wild over the top romantic suspense starring a unique lead couple. Whereas he is the debonair spy, she is the kick butt heroine wanting an opportunity to prove that in spite of her gender she can mix it up with any male. The story line is action-packed as Ellie and Christian join forces to bring down her father. Both were prepared for any contingency except love. Jamie Sobrato writes a zany heated thriller.

Tori Carrington
Harlequin Blaze
9780373793631 $4.99

Dress designer Gia Trainella escaped the criminal world of her family for the fashion realm with a vow to never look back. However, she feels she has no choice but to return to the Hood when her father and brother are gunned down gangland style. Those double murders are personal as she vows to take down those who killed her family members.

Lucas Paretti lived in the same neighborhood as the Trainella gang and was considering joining them until his brother was killed. He vowed to stay away from gangs, but with the return of his former girlfriend Tia, who to his chagrin has come home to run the family business, he cannot stay away. He revises his pledge to keeping his beloved safe even though she risks her life with her vendetta.

This terrific dark romantic suspense thriller grips the audience with its deep look at crime mobs and the mean streets they own. The lead couple is a delightful paring as he wants a second chance at love while she thirsts for vengeance. Although the ending does not fit this sinister tale, fans will enjoy getting there as Tori Carrington spins a powerful gloomy crime thriller.

Diana Palmer
9780373772261 $14.95

In 1910 Miss Trilby Lang left her Louisiana home to move on a ranch she recently inherited in the Arizona Territory. For Trilby the move meant leaving behind her beloved Richard Bates and her proper lady-like lifestyle to start anew near the Mexican border.

Rumors about the newcomer spread like wildfire as everyone assumes a single female stranger must be loose. Her neighbor rancher Thornton Vance likes what he sees and makes an indiscreet proposition that angers Miss Trilby. She rips his skin off as only a Louisiana bred woman could do. Feeling remorseful for his heeding spiteful gossip and still wanting her, Thornton tries to court Miss Trilby although he struggles not to touch and kiss her senseless. They ultimately marry even as Richard arrives to claim Miss Trilby as his.

TRILBY is a reprint of an interesting early twentieth century Americana ranch romance starring a courageous heroine and a repentant neighbor who fall in love, but have doubts all the way especially when Richard arrives. Except for a fabulous secondary romance between two seemingly star-crossed lovers (Richard's educated sister and a classy Apache), the other subplots feel unnecessary padding or underdeveloped. Still fans of Diana Palmer will enjoy her latest tale although it is not up to her usual bar of excellence in spite an entertaining prime love story.

I'm Your Man
Susan Crosby
Harlequin Next
9780373881451 $5.50

In San Francisco thirty-nine year old single mom Maureen Hart feels she has come a long way since she was an unwed teen mother as she is seeing a good man and doing well at work although she is a workaholic and has little time for fun. She especially misses her estranged daughter Jess and barely knows her six years old grandchild Riley. Everything changes abruptly when single mom Jess arrives at Maureen's home to leave Riley with his maternal grandmother for a few months instead of his paternal grandfather, who they were living with.

Riley's grandfather Daniel Clegg leaves Seattle to follow his grandson. He arrives in San Francisco insisting he is there for Riley. Already resenting him for "stealing" her daughter from her following the death of his son (Riley's father), Maureen is angry with herself because she is attracted to Daniel when she is seeing someone else and considers him the enemy.

Although the ending is tied up too perfectly, readers will appreciate this enjoyable family drama starring two grandparents fighting and fussing over their grandchild and their attraction to one another. Maureen is a fascinating protagonist as she learned from her one mistake turning into an all work no fun responsible person; her daughter went the other way with her "loving" error. Daniel is a little of both as he feels work is important, but frolicking with Riley is even more important; ergo that is why he is in San Francisco. Susan Crosby provides a warm entertaining tale.

The Secret Goddess Code
Peggy Webb
Harlequin Next
9780373881468 $5.50

Forty-five year old soap opera star Gloria Hart is stunned when her character is killed off and she is fired from the show Love in the Fast Lane because some sexier younger upstart stole her role as the TV Goddess. Struggling to comprehend what happened as she heads to her childhood home in Jackson, she closes her eyes for a moment while driving her Ferrari Spider in Mooreville, Mississippi; the subsequent crash destroys her car and leaves her injured.

Log cabin restaurateur Rick Miller invites Gloria to stay at his house while she recovers from her injuries; though slight she accepts his kind southern hospitality. Gloria and her host's wife Jenny get on like old friends especially when the actress mentors the pie-maker on applying THE SECRET GODDESS CODE to waken the passion in her marriage. As Jenny tries to bring life into her relationship with Rick and their teenage daughter has romance troubles, Gloria meets rancher Matt Tucker, who kisses her as if he means since there is no camera around to film their lips locking.

This is an entertaining look at the impact on a small southern town when a Hollywood superstar arrives. The story line contains two mature romances with the Millers reclaiming their relationship and that of the actress and the rancher; the subplot with the daughter adds a teen romance to the spin. However, predominantly rotating the first person perspective between the characters provides more insight into what disturbs these individuals, yet also proves somewhat jarring to follow as the audience ironically never gets close to anyone. Still readers will enjoy the Hollywood diva's return to her Mississippi roots.

The Soldier and the Rose
Linda Barrett
Harlequin Everlasting
9780373654215 $5.25

During World War II, Rose Kaufman's beloved spouse Joe died in combat without once seeing his daughter, born after he left to go overseas. His friend Charlie Shapiro survived war physically, but struggles emotionally. He had vowed to his brother in arms that if Joe died and he lived, he would visit Rose when he returned to Brooklyn to tell her he loved her. However, Charlie soon knows he loves Rose and Joe's daughter; although he assumes she does not return his feelings, Charlie persuades Rose to marry him, which she does.

In the present history repeats itself as their granddaughter Liz is expecting a child while her spouse Matt is in Iraq. This, as they celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of their marriage, leads Rose and Charlie to reflect on their life together. He believes his cherished wife never loved him as he could never compete with the ghost of Joe although in truth he never wanted to as Joe was his buddy.

This engaging relationship drama contains two strong lead characters and an incredibly developed support cast, mostly family members. Charlie's muse of loving his wife for sixty years through not believing she returned his feelings and Rose's thoughts on how she feels about her caring second husband and her first A Guy Named Joe make for a deep character study. Although the action is limited, fans who appreciate a deep introspective tale will enjoy the SOLDIER AND THE ROSE.

A Rendezvous to Remember
Geri Krotow
Harlequin Everlasting
9780373654222 $5.25

Speechwriter Melinda Busher-Thompson visits her grieving grandfather Jack Busher following the death of her beloved grandmother Esmee. She too mourns her loss, but she has issues of her own as her divorce is coming soon. Grandpa Jack gives Melinda a package from his late wife.

The cover note tells her to reconsider tossing away the love of her life. Inside is a journal from the 1940s in which her grandparents documented their activities. They both worked for the Belgium Resistance during World War II when one mistake would leave your compatriots dead. As she continues to read the harrowing experiences, Melinda realizes her grandparents shared courage that kept them together as much as respect and love for one another. She also turns introspective as she wonders if she should give her marriage a second chance as granny is right; she still loves her husband.

World War II and its aftermath in Belgium comes alive through the diary of Esmee and Jack Busher, resistance fighters, who enable Melinda and the audience to understand how much freedom lovers were willing to sacrifice. Thus Melinda begins to consider whether recently she never gave her marriage a chance. Geri Krotow uses a historical backdrop to remind readers it takes work for any relationship to flourish.

Below Deck
Dorien Kelly
Harlequin Mediterranean Nights
9780373389650 $5.50

Apparently agents of the Chinese government assassinated human rights activist Wei Chan leaving his wife of three years Mei Lin Wang as a single parent raising their baby boy alone. To escape the fate of her spouse, Mei Lin obtains work as a massage therapist on board the Alexandra's Dream luxury liner that is cruising the Mediterranean. Although she wants to continue her husband's work, she knows her priority is their son who she sneaks on board planning to depart once she reaches France.

Months pass with her hiding her child from on leave Mossad agent Gideon Dayan, who is the ship's security officer as he recovers from injuries suffered in the line of duty; his lover died in that same terrorist bombing. He knows Mei Lin is hiding something, but not sure what. He plans to learn the truth even as they fall in love. However, she has a child to raise, a mission to continue, and ultimately vengeance for her husband's murder; Gideon does not seem to make her list; neither knows that those who killed her spouse plan to complete the job.

The key to this terrific romantic suspense is the lead couple playing cat and mouse while a serene cruise occurs; Mei Lin tries to remain one step ahead of Gideon who knows she is pulling some sort of stunt, but not sure what it is. Both are survivors of terrorism that took away a loved one from each so each is wary. Fans will wonder if they have healed enough to take another chance on love with one another.

Another Side of Midnight
Mia Zachary
Harlequin Special Releases
9780373198931 $5.99

In Las Vegas, Estella "Steele" Mezzanotte and Cameron Stone meet while she is on a stake out for a client. They end up making love in a downtown hotel. That morning he is gone and Steele is angry and disappointed.

Mrs. Gray Cavanaugh hires Steele to investigate whether her husband is cheating on her. Steel know her as Maria DiMarco, daughter of family friend Frank "Demon" DiMarco. Before she can get started Stone walks into her office as if two months two weeks and four days had not elapsed from when he left her in the hotel. Although angry with him, she is attracted to the Scotsman who says Frank hired him to determine who is embezzling from the firm; his son-in-law Gray is the prime suspect. As they join forces, they fall in love, while finding proof that gray is cheating on Maria and embezzling funds with his girlfriend.

This is an interesting amusing romantic suspense starring a likable pairing as he has a lot to explain, but because of the nature of his work he cannot. The story line is fast paced especially when the lead couple banter and a late twist seems plausible but will stun readers. Although the support cast is stereotypical whether they are family, worker or friend, readers will enjoy ANOTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT.

Beckett's Last Stand
Kasey Michaels
Harlequin HQN
9780373772810 $6.99

In 1815, the Beckets of Romney Marsh know the final confrontation with their adversary is coming shortly. As the odd family anxiously waits for the altercation to occur, they stand together as one in spite of their various bloodlines. This family will stand with their beloved patriarch regardless of the personnel danger as they know Edmund Beales is coming for their beloved Papa.

Becket's adopted son Courtland continues to protect his father's only natural offspring Cassandra as he has since her mother was murdered. Their peers and spouses know these two love one another, but whereas Cass pursues Court; he hesitates as he feels she deserves better and that he is more an older brother to her. Still, love flourishes even in the darkest moments when betrayal threatens to harm all of them even as the next generation arrives at a dangerous moment.

This is a strong finish to a delightful Regency romantic suspense mini-series. Unlike the previous tales that stand alone, the audience will be better off reading the other Becket books first because this one answers questions surfaced in them. Still fans of the saga will enjoy the climax as Kasey Michaels provides a wonderful tale of family love and loyalty.

A NASCAR Holiday 2
Pamela Britton, Gina Wilkins, Ken Casper and Abby Gaines
Harlequin HQN
9780373773329 $6.99

"Miracle Season" by Pamela Britton. Single mom Maggie has easily hidden her attraction to former NASCAR driver Mike Morgan by keeping her distance, but now they will work closely on a charity fundraiser.

"Season of Dreams" by Gina Wilkins. Once a NASCAR champion Tom has been in a three year slump much of it during the time he has dated Melissa. He wonders if she is a distraction as he finished seventeenth this year or as he is in his thirties his life mate.

"Taking Control" by Ken Casper. Ellie inherits a part-ownership of Satterfield Racing, but having no interest in the sport plans to sell; that is until she finds an interest when she meets her partner, driver Aiden.

"The Natural" by Abby Gaines. After NASCAR driver Danny runs over a dog, he takes the injured canine to veterinarian Madison.

These four superb yuletide contemporary romances are driven by NASCAR hunks and the women who take them for a spin around the track of love.

No Holding Back
Liz Allison & Wendy Etherington
Harlequin HQN
9780373772636 $6.99

Racing car driver Cade Garrison has spent his entire life feeling like an under-achieving loser as he believes that he always failed to reach the bar of excellence set by his racing car family. He especially detests the glowing accolades about hi successful older brother even as he knows deep down inside his gut he also loathes the comparisons to his grandfather and father.

When he meets senior public relations specialist Isabel Turner, they are immediately attracted to one another and spend a glorious night together. However, she works for a rival team and feels it is inappropriate to sleep with the enemy. Besides if caught she would be fired, which would bring shame to her PR family. Cade disagrees as he decides to be himself rather than try to live up to the family expectations for he plans to win the race for her heart.

NO HOLDING BACK is an interesting NASCAR romance in which insight into the racing world from an insider perspective serves as the prime story line. Fans will get inside the heads of a female PR guru, a third generation participant, and several drivers. The romance in some ways takes a back seat to the thrills of the race, as Liz Allison & Wendy Etherington drives readers around the track.

Rogue's Lady
Julia Justiss
Harlequin HQN
9780373772230 $6.99

Lord William Tavener knows he must give up his womanizing ways to find a wealthy wife as his estates are impoverished and sinking deeper into debt. At the same time he gives up on hedonism for money and an heir and spare, Allegra Antinori, daughter of a broke musician, is having a season due to the kindness of caring relatives who hope she makes an affluent match.

When Allegra and Will first meet, he feels an attraction like nothing he ever felt before; she likes him, but apparently her affection goes to Rob Lynton, who she has secretly adored forever. Still although Will knows he cannot afford a relationship with Allegra, as neither brings any money to the table, he proposes marriage anyway. However, as she considers taking him up on his offer as Rob is an impossible dream, fate seems to want to keep them apart although she is beginning to fall in love with her persistent roguish suitor.

Although a late twist makes it easier on the lead couple, readers will enjoy this superb historical romance because of the witty exchanges between Allegra and Will. The captivating tale hooks sub-genre fans as the hero proves where there's a Will there's a way as he wants nothing but his beloved Allegra as his wife.

Caine's Reckoning
Sarah McCarty
Harlequin Spice
9780373605187 $13.95

Texas Ranger Caine Allen and his friends have little hope that the three abducted females will survive their kidnappers. Still he is hired to mount a rescue so he follows the trail. However, Caine did not calculate the strength of one of the victims, Desdemona Blake. Desi is grateful to her rescuer, but begs him not to return her to her guardian, James Haddock. He was going to ignore her plea until he meets the odious Haddock. Instead he marries Desi to keep her safe from this bully.

Caine finds Desi to be a caring hard working person, who his friends adore. He also enjoys making love with her as her enthusiasm is igniting. However, she hides something from him that makes Caine wonders if she can trust any man even one who loves her. However, when he learns of her missing twin sister, lost almost a year ago to marauders, Caine decides to mount a rescue as a means to prove to Desi she is everything.

CAINE'S RECKONING is a fresh spicy historical romance mostly because of the ultra-graphic descriptions of what happened to Desi pre Caine days. Readers will empathize with the heroine who expects her marriage will not last and worries about her sibling. Caine is a strong champion trying to do what is right for his beloved while controlling his frustration with her. Character driven readers will appreciate this powerful nineteenth century tale.

The Queen's Lady
Shannon Drake
Harlequin HQN
9780373772315 $7.99

As a child she left Scotland for France accompanied by the four Mary Ladies in Waiting. Finally in 1561 recently widowed nineteen years old Queen Mary, no long the Queen of France, has returned to Scotland to sit on the throne. Accompanying the young Queen is her close friend Lady Gwyneth MacLeod. Gwyneth listens closely to Mary's desires and offers sage advice to go carefully with her heart as there are many who resent losing power with the monarch's return. However, as she warns her regal friend, Gwyneth ironically struggles to heed her own advice. Instead she is attracted to Lord Rowan Graham, whom she is not sure she should trust.

Mary sends Gwyneth and Rowan on a mission together in which their allure for one another openly ignites as desire tugs at both of them. However, treachery places the pair in danger with Gwyneth forced to choose between the love of her heart and the love of her friend; either choice may lead to execution.

THE QUEEN'S LADY is a strong historical fiction enhanced by a wonderful romantic subplot. The story line hones in on the political instability and overall country-wide chaos caused by Mary's return to Scotland. The difficult relationship between the lead couple augments Shannon Drake's entreatingly profound look at the fifteenth century furor caused by Mary Queen of Scots homecoming.

T Is for Trespass
Sue Grafton
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399154485 $26.95 1-800-847-5515

In 1987 in Santa Teresa, California abrasive octogenarian Gus Vronsky suffers a shoulder separation from a fall that he cannot get up from. His next door neighbor private investigator Kinsey Millhone and her eighty-seven years old landlord Henry hear a wail. They investigate, find Gus debilitated, call 911 and care for him until his great-niece hires nursing home aide, Solana Rojas.

However, Millhone becomes concerned that the care-giver is mistreating her patient. She plans to intervene if she can find proof. Unbeknownst to Millhone (ironically the reader knows on page one) is that a diabolical thug has stolen the real Rojas' identity and knows who she must remain vigilant against with if she is to continue with her masquerade.

Although the ending violently rights things, this Millhone tale is T for terrific. The story line is action-packed as Millhone wants to do the right thing for her neighbor, but finds her interference not welcomed. The fake Rojas proves a clever adversary at they play a deadly game of chess in which Gus could prove the victim. Fans of the long running series will enjoy this entry as the normally confident heroine struggles with how much involvement is acceptable.

Sizzle and Burn
Jayne Ann Krentz
9780399154454 $24.95

After her aunt died, Raine Tallentyre returned to Shelbyville, Washington to arrange to have Vella's house sold. Raine is a psychic, a clairvoyant who hears the voices of evil people who have touched something she has touched. That is how Raine knows that a young woman is locked in a padlocked closet in her aunt's basement. When the police arrive and open the door she is still alive. The victim tells the authorities the man thought she was a witch and all witches had to die.

Parapsychic Zack Jones is a private investigator for the Arcane Society, an organization dedicated to doing research on psychic powers; he is not repulsed by Raine's powers because he has visions too. The Arcane Society is in a fight with Nightshade, an organization of criminal psychics, who stole the original formula of the founder of the Arcane Society to enhance paranormal abilities. The drawback is that every dose the person takes leads to insanity and finally suicide. Zack wants Raine to help him locate missing scientist Dr. Lawrence Quinn who was working on the formula to enhance para powers without going insane. The missing scientist was last scene in Oriana near the home of Raine's late aunt. Zack wants to rescue the researcher or deal with him if he is a traitor and she wants to find out if her aunt was murdered. Together they make a great team in and out of the bedroom.

Jayne Anne Krentz has written another best seller that is going to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. This latest Arcane Society novel is full of action, intrigue, romance and double agents who keep the protagonists busy trying to figure out who they are. The support cast is quirky, a Krentz trademark and add a degree of beauty to a fast paced thriller. Readers get a fascinating inside look at the Arcane Society.

Mark's Story
Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins
9780399154478 $24.95

Mark was not one of the twelve disciples but he was a friend of Peter and it was at his home that the Last Supper was served. He isn't sure that Jesus is the Messiah at first but senses there is something special about Jesus. He hears the prophecies Christ predicts before his death and sees them all come true. After the Crucifixion, he learns that many have seen Jesus and when he sees him as well he is convinced that he is looking at the Son of God.

He wants to preach and be part of the ministry but he is still too young and has much to learn. The twelve disciples were given powers to heal and they start preaching the ministry begins to grow. One of his most bitter enemies Saul of Taurus claims he heard Christ speak from heaven. A schism arose in the ministry when gentiles become Christ followers and did not have to adhere to law. Mark finally accompanied Peter to Rome where the believers were growing at an amazing rate. The more Nero tried to snuff it out, the more believers listened to the preaching of Mark and Peter. Mark writes the stories that Peter told him of Christ and it becomes one of the gospels. After Peter, his wife and Paul were executed, God sends Mark to Alexandra to start up a new church.

Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins writes so that readers can understand the preaching of Christ, how the church spread and the terrors believers had to endure because they were considered enemies of the state. These talented writers chronicle Mark's belief as he and others perform heroic deeds in a dangerous atmosphere that in many ways will remind the audience of what is happening to day in Myramer. Readers well feel love, heartache and hope as they read this special tale based on the Word.

Standard of Honor
Jack Whyte
9780399154294 $25.95

Led by Richard the Lionhearted, 50,000 soldiers are ready to do battle to regain the Holy Land from the Saracen chieftain Saladin and his forces. Amongst Richard's army is Knight of the Templar Alexander Sinclair, who is willing to die to see the Christians succeed in this Crusade against the unfaithful. He and the rest of the force believe victory is theirs because God is on their side.

However, to the shock and consternation of the Christian Crusaders, the battle by Galilee turns into a defeat. Richard refuses to quit on his dream of the Holy Land controlled by Christians; he plans to raise another but bigger army. To do so he sails home accompanied by his loyal master-at-arms Henry St. Clair and the armorer's son, Andre, a Templar belonging to the top secret Brotherhood of Sion, a group with their own agenda.

The second Templar tale (see KNIGHTS OF THE BLACK AND WHITE) is a fabulous historical fiction tale that brings alive the Lionhearted Crusade in the Holy Land and the king's efforts to raise money and men. The story line plays out on two levels. First there is throughout all sorts of political shenanigans occurring as everyone has a secret agenda; second there are the battles between the Christian Defenders of the Faith and the Saracens defending their Holy Land. Jack Whyte provides a strong vivid middle tale so picturesque readers will taste the desert dust.

Jana DeLeon
Love Spell
9780505527295 $6.99

Her gambler Uncle Reginald St. Claire needs his niece Mallory Devereaux to hang around for lady luck; that is good for him and bad for others, as he hosts a poker tournament and she is his ace card cooler. Mallory is jinxed as a walking disaster who somehow causes calamities. Uncle has the uncanny ability to insure people lose at cards so she is a fixture at her uncle's casino boat docked in Royal Flush, Louisiana. Currently, Mal is insuring poker playing thugs lose their money; he promises her a cut of whatever they make from dealing an ice cold deck.

Undercover agent Jake Randoll obtains a job as the lead torunament dealer. His assignment is to bluff money laundering player Silas Hebert into revealing information on the sleuth's missing partner Mark. However, he cannot concentrate on the cards or his mission whenever Mal is nearby; she cannot think about jinxing the players with poor hands when Jake deals. As they fall in love, he believes lady luck is definitely on his side.

With a terrific eccentric support cast especially those involved in the deep look at casino boat poker and a strong lead couple, fans will feel lucky to read Jana DeLeon's royal flush romance. The story line deals readers a straight hand except for a bluff of the whimsical paranormal and a full house of intrigue. Readers will enjoy this humorous romantic caper starring a pair of winners.

Divorced, Desperate and Delicious
Christie Craig
Love Spell
9780505527301 $6.99

In Houston his partner of two months Zeke Duncan points the gun at detective Chase Kelly's head. He informs him that he is already considered a dirty cop as he has been set up with cocaine planted under his bed and now will be accused of killing police officer Stokes, a father of two. Of course Chase will not be ably to defend himself in court, with his peers or the media as he will be dead and Zeke a hero.

Chase manages to escape, but not before Zeke's ally drug dealer Bruno shoots him in the shoulder. Fabio the dog with reindeer ears takes Chase home. The canine's owner photographer Lacy Maguire wants nothing to do with men due to a cheating ex, but she has no choice as Chase holds her hostage while Fabio turns traitor and likes the hunk. Soon Chase convinces Lacy he is innocent and as they fall in love, she decides to abet his efforts to prove he is clean and Zeke is a dirty homicidal cop.

Romantic suspense fans will appreciate the fast-paced DIVORCED, DESPERATE AND DELICIOUS in which the story line effortlessly switches back and forth between a tense drama and lighthearted sexual banter. The lead couple is a likable pair as they go from a hostage hostile relationship to love with several steps in between. Her pets and her matchmaking mom along with several other secondary players add fun while Zeke is a cold hearted SOB who will have no compunction killing Lacy or Fabio. Readers will enjoy Christie Craig's pleasant tale.

Jane Tara
Love Spell
0505527448 $6.99

In Greenwich Village, everyone knows to visit the Shakespeare females if they wanted accurate predictions of their future. If you need to know the weather or find a lost child or object, most know to stop at the Shakespeare Second Site new age store. Rowie Shakespeare loves her grandmother who manages the store and her mother the mystic, but would like to move past the mysticism starting with a boyfriend, who with a first kiss she does not know his future with some other bimbo.

TV weather man Drew Henderson is the in meteorologist because he goes where the action is and explains complex science so that his viewers understand it without dumbing it down; it helps that he is a hunk. Covering a hurricane he is injured, but his studio chooses a psychic weatherwoman rather than a professional to temporarily replace him. As he has cardiac arrest, Rowie becomes a celebrity with her uncanny 100 per cent accuracy. When they kiss for the firs time, she cannot read his lips except for their wanting to kiss her again.

This is an amusing New Age romance with whimsical fantasy elements to enhance the tale. In many ways FORECAST is an updated version of Bell, Book, and Candle, but has a freshness of its own due to the weather predicting "rivalry" between the psychic and the scientist. Jane Tara provides a charming entertaining tale of love amidst TV meteorology ratings that this reviewer predicts will gain the author many appreciative fans.

Star Shadows
Colby Hodge
Love Spell
9780505526298 $6.99

The house of Phoenix, who rule Oasis, know the danger to their kingdom from the evil Circe witches is real, but the king and queen decided to spare their children Arielle and Alexander from how deadly this menace is. As Elle and Zander remain ignorant, their best friend Boone knows the malevolence could strike at any moment. Against his better judgment as he believes his two buddies would be better off knowing the truth of this evil threat, he swore to his liege not to tell them.

However, living a protected life in a cage proves false when the Circe witches apparently abduct Zander. His family grieves for him as they assume he was slaughtered by these abominations and his sister angrily holds Boone culpable for concealing what he knew. Feeling guilty, Boone vows to learn whether Zander still lives and if so plans to rescue him. However, he vanishes leaving it up to a now contrite Elle mount a rescue.

Colby Hodge's latest "Star" romantic science fiction (see STARGAZER and SHOOTING STAR) is an exhilarating action-packed thriller that stars the younger generation of Oasis heroes. The story line is filled with adventure as first Boone and then Elle set off to learn the truth. Although Elle's obstinacy helps her on her escapade, fans will be somewhat annoyed at her narrow-mindedness. Still, she makes a fine heroine as STAR SHADOWS soars closer to the final confrontation between the witches and the House of Phoenix.

The Christmas Pearl
Dorothea Benton Frank
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061438448 $14.95 1-800-242-7737

Ninety-three years old Theodora still lives in her family home in Charleston just like her mother and grandmother did before her. Although the bones ache and the memory is not quite as keen as it once was, she still her faculties and wants to throw a Christmas gala for her family like the ones her mom used to host back in the 1920s. No one wants to attend, but none disappoint Theodora as the nonagenarian is the recognized family matriarch.

Thus the disgruntled family invades Theodora's Charleston home, but the gala is not anything like what she remembers as the stores do the baking (pre-packaged fruitcake is heresy) and the decorations come in packages instead of the family making them. Even more significant is where is Pearl, her grandmother's long deceased housekeeper, to serve as a drill sergeant making the truculent attendees behave and sing carols while the servant sang gospels? This is Christmas so sometimes a bit of magic is needed, this time Gullah magic, occurs. The ghost of Pearl arrives to bring order to the chaotic troops and Theodora takes out family Yuletide heirlooms hoping to bring good cheer to this distempered group.

THE CHRISTMAS PEARL is a lighthearted whimsical holiday family drama that fans of Dorothea Benton Frank's Lowcountry tales will appreciate. The novella stars an interesting elderly person who believes her family fails to understand what Christmas means and also wants nostalgically to catch a little of her past. With mouth watering recipes to round out the tale, readers will enjoy this fun holiday tale.

Friend of the Devil
Peter Robinson
9780060544379 $24.95

Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot is on work loan to another precinct struggling with a brutal serial killer. The latest victim is a paraplegic woman whose throat was sliced by a nearby but remote cliff. Cabbot is frustrated as she wants to bring the animal to justice, but her investigation seems to be going nowhere.

At the same time that Cabbot struggles with the brutal atrocities of a psychopath, at home in North Yorkshire, her sometimes lover Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks and his unit work a vicious rape and murder case too in the sleazy Maze where no one cooperates with coppers. When Cabbot learns the identity of the paraplegic victim, she connects her investigation to that of Banks; as both realize they are dealing once again with the cruel AFTERMATH of Terry and Lucy Payne.

Peter Robinson is at his best with this incredibly exciting English police procedural. The lead pair struggles with their relationship and where it is going while also seemingly going nowhere on their two seemingly separate cases. Readers will want to know what happens professionally and personally as Banks and Cabbot finally realize they are dealing with two perverted demons in human clothes.

Cat Deck the Halls
Shirley Rousseau Murphy
9780061123955 $16.95

In the garden of a plaza in Molena Point, California, the assailant kills the man by the Christmas tree while a little girl clings to the victim. After the culprit fled the crime scene, Kit prowling the rooftop of one of the buildings in the plaza smells the blood and cordite. She traces the odor to the dead human and sees the frightened five or six year old (hard to judge specific age in humans as they all look the same) clinging to the dead man.

By the time the cops arrive, the killer hid the corpse and Kit and her feline pals concealed the child to insure that the culprit did not come after the only witness. While his cat pals hide the little girl, ace detective Joe Grey investigates. Meanwhile the killer and perhaps some allies seek the child so they break into Kit's home and the studio of a famous artist at the Home for Orphan Children. However, these dangerous humans have never dealt with felines as clever as Joe Grey, Kit and the rest of their meowing carol singers.

Shirley Rousseau Murphy proves that cats have at least fourteen lives as Joe Grey works his later caper while his partners keep the human girl safe. The whodunit is cleverly designed to keep the audience, the cops and the cats off balance until the final paw step. Fans of the series will appreciate this fun personification holiday mystery as the felines of Molena Point deck the halls with an entertaining mystery

Cut Throat
Sharon Sala
Mira Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778325079 $7.99

Solomon Tutuola killed her father before he sliced her throat; he left her expecting she will die, but the then thirteen years old Cat Dupree survived. Although a teen she pledged to herself one day she will kill her wannabe murderer Tutuola. Thus to insure she is ready to act when her moment occurs, Cat became a bounty hunter waiting for her moment.

Now the opportunity has finally occurred due to an incident in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico and ignoring everyone who cares about her even her lover Wilson McKay she goes after Tutuola. Irate with Cat when she sneaks out of Dallas to follow a moving GPS signal in Mexico that she knows will lead her to the villain who haunts her nightmares, Wilson pursues her. He vows to keep her safe although he refuses to invest anymore emotional capital in their dysfunctional relationship.

CUT THROAT is an exhilarating romantic suspense with the emphasis on the action. The fascinatingly flawed kick butt heroine has used her job to train her for her life's work, but her goal also never allows her to get to close to anyone such as Wilson, who loves her and knows first hand. Sharon Sala fans will appreciate this tense thriller as the anticipation of the High Noon showdown leads to a one sitting tale.

Demon's Kiss
Maggie Shayne
9780778324973 $7.99

When he worked as a cover operator for the CIA he was human though he preferred being a lone wolf as he felt safer depending on himself rather than the screw-ups of a teammate. Since those days, Raphael "Reaper" Rivera has become a vampire, but he remains dedicated to being a lone wolf as he plans to live a long time.

Rhiannon hires Reaper to kill rogue vampire Gregor and his pack that are spread all over the southeast United States causing havoc, but figures he is the right person for the job because he is a lone assassin with no emotional ties. Rhiannon says he lies about his feelings as he cares about the Chosen Seth Connor, who he protects. However, he suddenly has an apprentice, just turned undead Seth, who admires Reaper and wants him to mentor him. Not happy to have to protect a sidekick, he soon finds himself with an unwanted pack as Roxy the human healer, Topaz the rich vampiress and Vixen the shapeshifter join his newly formed squad after he rescues the two females from Gregor's growing zombie vampires

This is a much more complex tale than described above, as Reaper's team pairs off romantically. Although no one stands out amongst the players, each person on Reaper's team contains a different personality that the individual maintains throughout whether in danger or love. Fans of romantic fantasy will appreciate Maggie Shayne's entertaining thriller, just keep a scorecard handy.

The Murderers' Club
P.D. Martin
9780778324416 $24.95

Although six months have past since Australian expatriate FBI profiler Sophie Anderson nearly died while working on the D.C. slasher serial killer case (see BODY COUNT), she still remains shook up. Part of it is because she has psychic skills that come in the form of disconcerting often ugly nightmares. Although at the time considered the top profiler, Sophie has not been able to do any field work.

Sophie looks forward to her vacation in Tucson where she will spend time with Detective Darren Carter. However, when he goes to a murder scene, Sophie comes with him. Upon seeing the corpse, Sophie has a vision. Soon more bodies and visions follow. However, what Sophie sees is not lucid as each killing seems slightly different as if more than one culprit is at work. The FBI assigns Sophie to the investigation, but as she suffers nightmares she begins to uncover the truth that will shake her more than the Slasher's case did.

THE MURDERERS' CLUB is a chilling police procedural that has the beleaguered and bewildered heroine wondering how many culprits are out there. The villains will chill the readers' bones as few can. As with BODY COUNT, P.D. Martin provides an excellent thriller that has her audience on the edge of their seats with what happens next.

Killer Focus
Fiona Brand
9780778325635 $6.99

DC based FBI Agent Taylor Jones knows how close she came to being another death statistic of Alex Lopez, but instead of cowering she is invigorated with energy to take the SOB down. However, when a fresh attempt to kill her occurs; her superiors take her off the case and place her in the protected witness program in Vermont.

Taylor becomes a personal trainer and soon meets Steve Fischer. They are attracted to one another, but a wary distrusting Taylor refuses to follow up on her feelings. When someone murders her elderly neighbor, Fischer informs Taylor that he is a former SEAL working as a personal security agent. When another attempt to kill Taylor occurs, Fischer stands by her to protect her, but fails to inform her that he needs to take down Lopez for personal reasons.

KILLER FOCUS clearly has the unique brand of romantic suspense that make up a Fiona Brand tale. The lead couple is a strong caring pair with secrets and doubts. However, as with DOUBLE VISION it is the villain Alex Lopez who steals the show again; few characters are as cold efficient and deadly as he is.

The House of Lanyon
Valerie Anand
9780778325024 $24.95

In Exmoor, England Richard Lanyon always resented the fact that his father was a tenant farmer working for aristocratic affluent Sweetwater clan. Richard wants to be free by owning his land not slaving for someone else to gain the profits of his toil; as the case with his recently deceased dad. Ambitious, he will shape the future through his son.

His goal seems achieved when he arranges for his offspring Peter to marry wealthy Liza Weaver. However, Peter loves Marion Locke and his fiancee loves someone else. Neither are pleased with the arrangement, but both accept the inevitably of their marriage as they understand their duty to family. Meanwhile the widow Richard is attracted to Marion. While his brokenhearted son and equally despondent daughter-in-law struggle together, Richard has a dark secret that fosters a deep guilt that haunts his gut and a fear that if revealed THE HOUSE OF LANYON will topple like a deck of cards.

This is an interesting family drama that sprawls across the late fifteenth century. The story line provides a fascinating look at the dysfunctional relationship between social classes especially outside of London. However, the historical tale targets those readers who enjoy a Barbara Taylor Bradford like saga occurring prior to and during the War of the Roses era.

All the Pretty Girls
J.T. Ellison
9780778324430 $6.99

The serial killer kidnaps young women and takes them to the next state before killing them. After having his fun with his chosen pretty ones, he slices off their hand to take with him and leaves behind the previous victim's hand with the fresh corpse. When a female is found by a Nashville highway with the trademark hand of the "Southern Strangler", homicide detective Taylor Jackson is assigned the case.

However, she and her team go nowhere as there are neither witnesses nor have any useful evidence beyond the hand. Taylor turns to her lover, FBI profiler John Baldwin but he fails to help her solve the case. When a local TV reporter dies in what seems an accident, Taylor is assigned that case, leaving John to deal with the Southern Strangler.

ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS is an interesting police procedural romance in which the serial killer steals the show from the two cops pursuing him. The story line is at its best when the Southern Strangler performs his deadly deeds and when the police investigate; when the subplot turns to romance, it seems forced as the heroine is obviously not ready for dangling alliances. Still sub-genre fans will enjoy this exciting cat and mouse game in which the culprit makes the rules that the vulnerable mouse must play by.

Chris Jordan
9780778324713 $6.99

In Valley Stream, Long Island single mom Jane "The Wedding Lady" Garner and her sixteen year old daughter Kelly share a strong bond forged from when the younger almost died from leukemia. When Jane wakes up one morning, she is stunned to find her daughter not home. She calls the police, but they do nothing as they assume Kelly ran off with her boyfriend Seth, whom Jane has never met; even an AMBER Alert is considered inappropriate as the teen left on her own accord instead of abduction.

Jane learns that Seth is not a teen, but instead is an adult her daughter met on She also finds out that her offspring has been trying daring stunts of late so riding a motorcycle with Seth is no longer a shocker. When the call of help from Kelly is cut off, Jane panics, but hires ex-FBI agent Randall Shane to find her daughter.

This is a fabulous suspense thriller that changes viewpoints from third person filled with action to first person so that the reader can see how deep her fear is gutting Jane's insides and how much she blames herself. The story line is loaded with fabulous twists from the moment that Jane knows her daughter is in trouble and never slows down as Russell works diligently to save her life while trying to help Jane cope. By not having a romance interfere, Chris Jordan makes the desperation seem even more harrowing in this superb drama.

Jasmine Cresswell
9780778324874 $7.99

After being a media sensation (for two books - SUSPECT and MISSING), the late wealthy bigamist Ron Raven is no longer headlines news and his two families are finally moving on past his transgressions. Everything changes when Chef Luke Savarini sees Ron dining in a Chicago restaurant. He calls Ron's "second" wife who informs her daughter, Chef Kate Fairfax, what her former lover claims.

Kate reluctantly agrees to talk with Luke, but believes he is either an idiot or for some reason cruel. However, once her rage cools down to a slow burn, she begins to accept the possibility that her father pulled off an even wilder stunt than anyone imagined. She plans to learn the truth, but someone wants Ron to remain "dead" so if his daughter and her ex need to die so be it.

This is an exciting ending to the Ravens and Fairfax trilogy although the police come across as more incompetent than the Keystone cops. The story line is fast-paced as the lead couple investigates what happened to Ron but their attraction reigniting in a second chance subplot seems unnecessary as the hunt for Raven, if he lives, is more than poetic justice to sustain the PAYBACK.

A Cold Day in Hell
Stella Cameron
9780778324959 $6.99

When her son Aaron is shot on the bayou just outside Point Judah, Louisiana, Eileen Moggeridge rushes to the hospital. Accompanying her is her friend Christian "Angel" DeAngelo, whose nephew Sonny was with Aaron. Angel, a former CIA and ATF agent, wonders if Sonny was the intended target as the teen has been hidden by the Feds under the witness protection program.

Back in Point Judah to Eileen's disgust is her abusive former husband, Chuck, who insists he wants to make amends with his wife and former a father-son relationship with his child. Eileen does not trust Chuck as he was always a bully towards her and uncaring about having a son who he had nothing to with before. She even wonders if he was the sniper who shot Aaron; besides which she prefers Angel even as more incidents happen to her.

This is a strange entertaining romantic suspense thriller starring a horde of eccentric characters; none more odd than the "root doctor". The mystery is cleverly designed, but Stella Cameron used voodoo so that the villain is in plain sight yet not easy to identify. Although too many sidebars add unneeded mumbo jumbo, sub-genre readers will enjoy spending A COLD DAY IN HELL out on the bayou.

Ice Storm
Anne Stuart
9780778325000 $6.99

The ice cool enigmatic Isobel Lambert heads the covert The Committee; as such she exclusively works behind a desk, her field days in the cold long past. Behind her cool intelligent façade she still hauntingly remembers when as Mary Isobel Curwen she killed Thomas Killian seventeen years ago; her first kill but she rationalized that his death was needed because as a terrorist he posed a threat to her clients.

As she looks into the Josef Serafin affair, she stunningly realizes he is Thomas, whom she left for dead. She does not know how he survived, but she believes this terrorist who has killed thousands for the highest bidder is coming for her. His plan is ingenious as he tries to bait her to come back out in the cold with a deal he offers the Committee that they both know they cannot refuse. He will tell all if she escorts him safely from Morocco to London.

ICE STORM is the appropriate name for this superb espionage thriller as the audience wonders when Josef will make his move on Isobel and how she counters it. Josef and Isobel display ice in their veins as they play cat and mouse with each playing both roles in a fascinating relationship. Set aside plenty of time because this is a one sitter.

The Last Noel
Heather Graham
9780778325253 $16.95

On Christmas Eve, Skyler and David O'Boyle, their youngest child sixteen years old son Jamie, their twenty-two years old twins Kat and Frazier, and their Uncle Paddy come together for the holiday. The six have a good time teasing one another and arguing as they imbibe with good cheer.

That night a blizzard isolates the O'Boyle party in their cozy home. However, much more than snow arrives when three desperate thugs (Quintin Lark, Scooter Blane and, Craig Devon) who just killed an octogenarian shopkeeper Lionel Hudson hold the O'Boyle family hostage. Only Kat escapes, but she is stunned as Craig is her college boyfriend. As the nor'easter gets worse, Quintin and Scooter act increasingly psychotic and obviously are no strangers to violence. Fearing for her family, Kat prays for a Christmas miracle that her text message makes it to the police and that they can arrive in a timely manner when road conditions are treacherous and visibility is zero.

Heather Graham provides a powerful suspense thriller that uses dark humor to somewhat lesson the overwhelming tension of the strong house invasion plot. Readers will realize how in an instant the Yuletide bantering changes into a fear for their lives as the criminals make no pretension of how dangerous they are (mindful of the classic movie The Petrified Forest). THE LAST NOEL is a tremendous drama with a neat late twist as the chances of the O'Boyle clan surviving is extremely slight at the same time the pastoral snow keeps falling.

Killer Knots
Nancy J. Cohen
Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780758212252 $22.00 1-800-345-2665

As part of meeting her future in-laws for the first time, hairdresser and part-time detective Marla Shore joins her fiance police detective Dalton Vail, his parents Kate and John and his teenage daughter on a Caribbean cruise. Not long after they go on board the Tropical Sun, a crew member delivers a message to Marla that is a threat, but is actually addressed to Martha Shore.

At dinner, Marla and Dalton sit with tense employees and associates of a Tampa art museum. Apparently an unknown benefactor paid for them to attend the cruise and each of them received a note similar to that "Martha" got. When the cruise hosts an art auction to include the work of an artist Alden Tusk who died mysteriously from a fall, Marla decides enough as she not one to let her hair knot. Instead, she begins to investigate who is behind the threatening notes; who, if a different person, is the secret patron paying for the museum staff to come on the cruise; and how did the artist die and if it was murder who is the killer? She investigates this while trying to get on with her fiance's family.

This laid-back cruise cozy is a fun Bad Hair Day Mystery as Marla struggles with balancing her investigation with meeting the folks. In many ways her sleuthing takes a back seat to her insecurities as she wonders if the parents and the teen will accept her. Fans who appreciate an amiable often amusing tale will enjoy Marla's seaworthy antics dealing with KILLER KNOTS that rival her previous PERISH BY PEDICURE pedigree.

Remain Silent
Jamie Denton
Kensington Brava
9780758210142 $14.00

In Los Angeles the police arrest art restorer Laurel Jennings and charge her with the murder of her business partner Jonathan Linton. The evidence against Laurel is overwhelming as she had the motive, means and opportunity and her fingerprints are on the murder weapon.

Ex Los Angeles County District Attorney Damon Metcalf returns home to represent his former lover at the bail hearing and subsequently at the trial when no defense lawyer would agree to handle the case. Damon realizes that the powerful Linton family is pushing for her conviction and made it clear to the legal profession to stay out or face the consequences. When someone breaks into Laurel's business facility, Damon fears for her life especially as they begin to uncover an apparent deal Jonathan had arranged that appears nebulous especially with the amount of money exchanged. Soon more homicides follow with Laurel as the prime suspect although she has an alibi, Jonathan and the danger to both of them mounting.

Jamie Denton provides readers with a terrific romantic legal thriller filled with plenty of suspense. The lead couple is a nice pairing as they still love one another and though both agreed to professional and platonic, can't help but jump each other's bones. The whodunit is cleverly devised so that the audience will wonder who and why. Sub-genre fans will not REMAIN SILENT as to how entertaining this tale is.

Made for Sex
Joan Elizabeth Lloyd
9780758212771 $15.00

"Sex For Sale". Carla Barrett, a single mother of three, knows their ennui safe suburban lifestyle is great for her kids, but boring for her. However, following a sexual fantasy dream with a student leading to a Manhattan fender bender, her college roommate at Michigan State over fifteen years ago Ronnie Talmidge offers Carla a chance to have suburbia and the thrill of the big city as a high-priced prostitute. Initially hesitant Carla takes to the job a like fish to sea as she deals with different men and their sexual fantasies.

"Sex To Savor". Under the pseudonym Nichole St. Michelle, Fran writes erotic tales that she herself has never tasted. However, she haw won a prestigious prize that will be awarded in Manhattan. Prim and proper Fran tours the city during the day while at night Nicki takes a sexual bite out of the apple.

These two well written erotic novellas star lead females in which each has an alterego sex machine with quite an appetite. Although some will question Carla disciplining her "students" in a teacher-student role play and her sexual dream causing a car accident, fans of XXX trysts will enjoy the antics of the two female's attractions taking New York by the penis.

V.K. Forrest
97807582131168 $15.00

During the fifth century when Christianity was on the rise, the Kahill sept of vampires rejected Him and developed a taste for power and blood. God damned them with eternal life; each vampire dying and being reborn and with the onset of puberty, the memories of all their lives returned to them. The only way to kill them is to decapitate the head so the body can not regenerate and the soul can't return to the body. Fia led some slayers to her village and the sept was forced to leave their country and ended up in Clare's Point on theDelaware peninsular.

In the present, Mia is an FBI agent and she is assigned by someone in the Senate to investigate the death of one of their own in Clare's point something that has never happened. She is forced to work with FBI agent Glen Duncan, the spitting image of her lover and the slayer who betrayed her three centuries ago. They have no evidence for the first death and the townsfolk are frightened that the slayers have found them again. Two more vampires are killed and like the rest of the sept, Fia is beginning to wonder if one of their own is the killer. In trying to rescue the fourth victim, Fia is captured; Glen prays that he is not too late to rescue the woman he loves.

God has given the sept a second chance and they have become protectors of humanity, hunting the predators that prey on the innocent; drinking human blood and having a relationship with a human is strongly discouraged. They want to be redeemed and Fia feels the need more than the others because of the guilt she feels because she was the one who escorted her lover and the other vampire hunters to their small Irish village. The vampire mythos that V,K. Forrest invented is original and makes the reader empathize with the bloodsuckers. Fia is a strong willed beautiful vamp with a lot of hang ups but she is willing to fight for what she believes in and protect humanity from beings like herself. This is a fantastic vampire paranormal romantic suspense.

On Wings of Morning
Marie Bostwick
9780758222565 $14.00

On Christmas day 1941, Morgan Glennon informs his mother that he has enlisted. Having flown planes before the war, Morgan knows he will serve as an army air force pilot, but hides from his mom that he expects he will be assigned some of the most dangerous combat missions.

Before the war in Waukegan, Illinois, Georgia Carter and flight school owner Roger Welles marry. He taught her how to fly as his wedding gift to his bride. However, the war intruded on their life together with Roger dying during a mission. Georgia joins the Women's Air Service Pilot (WASP), which flies planes from the factories to the bases across the country and possibly run flight tests on new planes. When Georgia and Morgan meet, they are attracted to one another but neither is ready to pursue more than friendship at this time.

ON WINGS OF MORNING, the sequel to FIELDS OF GOLD, is a fabulous World War II historical drama starring two likable protagonists who bring to life a bygone era when the country mobilized to fight. Georgia is a terrific protagonist who has joined the WASP so that she can transport planes from the assembly lines to the air bases across the country. Roger and Morgan also volunteered even though both understood their flying experience will place them in hazardous scenarios. Marie Bostwick reminds the audience what made the Greatest generation great is almost everyone understood the need to sacrifice for the war; something most of the country today has not done including this reviewer as the President uses a credit card instead of a war tax so that the bills are deferred for a future generation to cope with.

Take Me There
P.F. Kozak
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758222718 $12.95

ER Dr. Daniel Hanson saves the life of car accident victim Presley Knowles. After healing from her near fatal crash, Presley connects with Vadim, her lover from a previous lifetime, but presently a spirit who has spent seemingly forever grieving for his Ninotchka (Presley's name in a previous life that they spent together). She also is attracted to her medical savior. Daniel is pulled in her direction and that of Vadim's otherworldly friend and confident Ezra, who wants the physician.

There is much more to this interesting paranormal erotic romance, using a successful children's technique in which the reader chooses the subplots that each of the four prime players star in. Surprisingly, each member of the strange quartet seems genuine as spirit or human they carry baggage. Fans who appreciate something different in their literature will enjoy selecting the eight options as TAKE ME THERE is one the reader will reread to see answers to what if we choose their adventures.

Bound to Ecstasy
Vonna Harper, P.F. Kozak & Lisa G. Riley
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758222220 $12.95

"Restraint" by Vonna Harper. While working on inventory, Eve enters an adult movie dungeon set where she tries on some of the submissive devices only to find her fantasy Viking appear ready to dominate her.

"Mirrors Within Mirrors" by P.F. Kozak. At work executive Patricia is a shark who would sell her grandmother for the bottom line. However, outside of work she dreams of being a submissive; her therapist Marc plans to be her master.

"Fit To Be Tied" by Lisa G. Riley. Prim and proper Chloe tells her husband Logan her fantasy is to be tied up and aroused until she begs her tormentor to make her come; Logan abides by his wife's wishes.

The issue of the therapist and his patient might upset some readers; fans of erotic tales starring women confident in the love of their mate enables each of them to star as sexually submissive sirens. Readers will relish these three heated novellas.

Extremely Hot
Jennifer Apodaca
Kensington Brava
9780758214515 $14.00

In Claremont, California, Ivy York hosts the popular Economic Sex Hex radio show that entreats women to take care of their money and not depend on men. She catches her interior designer mother Mallory in the station's kitchen having sex with a temporary worker Trip Vaughn. She warns her mom that the owner Leah Allen will fire both of them if mom fails to show decorum while redesigning the station. Ivy knows she has always been the adult while mom has been more like the teen in heat.

Leah hires Luke Sterling as a temporary assistant to Ivy for two weeks when a man with a knife arrives threatening his new boss. Luke "slips", disarms the man, and breaks his arm in what looks like a clumsy accident. The police take Ed Bailey away; Ivy admits she used her forensic accounting skills to help the man's wife find hidden assets. Luke, known as the "Urban Legend", is undercover hired by Professor Regina Parker whose valuable Jade Goddess of Fertility and Virility was stolen. He thinks Ivy is the brains behind the theft; her ditzy mom and Trip, who worked for Regina, took the statue. He believes Ivy scammed her previous boss out of $3 million; she blamed her vanished boyfriend Dirk Campbell. Still Ivy and Luke are attracted to one another so when the case spins into homicide with Mallory as the prime suspect and Dirk somehow involved, they investigate together.

This is an entertaining romantic suspense starring fascinating lead characters who each has problems with commitment. The support cast is strong with their own personalities and flaws and the mystery is cleverly designed to keep the audience attention wondering who has the missing statues. Although Mallory's lack of self esteem is never explained, fans will enjoy the adventures of the Economic Sex Hex host and the Urban Legend.

New Year's Quilt
Jennifer Chiaverini
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416547556 $19.95 1-800-223-2336

Over Christmas elderly couple Sylvia Compson and Andrew Cooper marry in front of friends at the Elm Creek Manor. His two children and grandchildren do not attend because they were to busy to spend the holidays with him though they did not know about the wedding. Andrew believes they did not come because his son Bob and his daughter Amy objected to his engagement to Sylvia. Their mom died several years ago from cancer. The couple decides to drive from Pennsylvania, stop in New York, and finally visit Amy, her spouse and their three children in Connecticut where they will inform her that they married.

Sylvia is working on a special quilt, a New Year's Reflection that she plans to give Amy. She hopes her spouse and his daughter reconcile as she failed to with her older sister Claudia when she left Elm Creek angrily fifty years ago. Now it is too late as Claudia is dead. She prays that Amy is smarter than she was. On the journey Sylvia continues to reflect on her past and her mistakes knowing New York is a brief interlude with Hartford being either a battlefield or a reconciliation.

The heroine is an interesting character who uses lessons learned from mistakes she made in life to reach out to the adult daughter of her new husband. Thus answers are provided to most of the threads from the previous tales. Although the anticipated antagonism from his daughter is minor and anticlimactic, fans of the Elm Creek Quilt series will appreciate the latest quilt patches (past and present).

The 6 Sacred Stones
Matthew Reilly
Simon & Schuster
9780743270540 $25.00

After spending a decade on a quest to obtain the Golden Capstone of the Great Pyramid from the ancient wonders (see 7 DEADLY WONDERS), Jack West Jr. retires vowing no more adventures as that is a young man's game. He and his adopted daughter, Lily move to the Australian outback.

However, Jack's idle idyllic time raising Lily is disrupted when his friend Professor Max "Wizard" Epper arrives in the Outback claiming the world needs Jack's help. Max insists that a strange object he dubs the Dark Sun will arrive in nine days leading to the Apocalypse. To prevent the end of days, someone of Jack's proven caliber must find the six legendary Pillars, clean them using the Philosopher's Stone and insert the pillars in the 6 Vertices. This would turn on the Great Machine that would void the Dark Sun's terminal discharge.

As with the prequel, THE 6 SACRED STONES is a wild over the top fast-paced tale that never slows down from the moment the Wizard drafts Jack. In some ways the story line lampoons the larger than life hero saving the world against all sorts of odds. You don't know Jack about fun action thrillers if you miss Matthew Reilly's entertaining modern day swashbuckling epic adventure.

The Blue-Haired Bombshell
John Zakour
DAW Books, Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756404550 $7.99 1-800-847-5515

As in the previous century, being an earthbound politician in 2057 (CHECK date) has always had plenty of rewards with very few negatives. Politicians live on pork refusing to even throw away leftovers. That is until now. Someone obviously has decided to vote politicians out of office using bullets instead of a ballet box.

Private investigator Zachary Johnson believes the killer's motive is tied to a failed movement for independence by the citizens of the moon. Thus he believes the leader of the Moon and the strongest supporter of the free moon scenario Boris Sputnik is behind the killings as he has plenty to gain politically and financially (oxymoron – ever hear of a poverty stricken politician in Congress or the White House) if the earth leaders change their mind. As he probes Sputnik's revolutionary activity, the last private investigator on earth finds his efforts to uncover the identity of the assassin vetoed by bioengineered gorillas and distracted by a sexy Blue-Haired Bombshell.

Zach is back with this amusing satire of Noir fantasy science fiction. As always when Zach works a case, he has a beautiful bombshell with different colored hair to interrupt his whodunit musings with more important matters of a sexual nature. The mystery is fun to follow as Zach deals with elves, goons, Sputnik, politicians, and of course THE BLUE HAIRED BOMBSHELL. John Zakour spoofs the DC insiders with this entertaining outsider futuristic murder mystery.

The High King's Tomb
Kristen Britain
9780756402662 $25.95

Over a millennium ago, the First Rider and the forces of Sacordia defeated the black magic of Mornhavon the Black and his invading Arcosian Empire army. Mornhavon's spirit was incarcerated in Blackveil Forest surrounded by the magical D'Yer Wall and further guarded by Sacordia sorcerers. However, as the centuries past, the practical magic became less known as the fear of dark magic has been passed down through the generations since.

However, a rogue practitioner cracked the protective wall allowing the essence of the malevolent one to leak into the kingdom. With the Green Rider hurting and depleted, and needing time to rediscover the ancient containment spells, the King's messenger and Karigan G'ladheon with the help of the First Rider sends Mornhavon into the future. However, as the Green Rider corps seek the document that will provide the spell to fix the hole in the wall, Karigan wonders how much time they bought as she anticipates a war of mages; unaware and unprepared that the first battle to come will be with the invigorated Arcosians, who have waited for a thousand generations for their leader to return to finish the conquering that ended in a temporary defeat.

The third Karigan tale (see GREEN RIDER and FIRST RIDERS' CALL) is an entertaining fantasy that is somewhat similar in tone to other epic wars between good and evil; for instance over time the secrets behind the wall spell has been lost. However, the use of time travel magic refreshes the concept as Karigan buys time by dumping Mornhavon's essence on a future generation without the knowledge of where the malevolence landed. The story line focuses on finding the spell and the mundane second war with the Arcosions. Although well written and very entertaining with the heroine continuing her growth into using her magical powers, the disappointment is that THE HIGH KING'S TOMB fails to move forward (except in time) to the key confrontation fans want between Karigan and Mornhavon.

Star Flight
Andre Norton
Baen Books
PO Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9781416555063 $24.00 1-800-223-2336

The Stars Are Ours. Humanity established space stations so that interplanetary flight could occur cheaper. However, terrorists took control of a station and attacked earth from it devastating the planet. Survivor Arturo Renzi saw his loved ones die so he preached an anti-science message that led to his assassination. Outraged, his followers attacked the opposition with a vengeance forming the dictatorial Company of Pax. Brothers Dard and Lars Nordis and the latter's pregnant wife Kathia fled the purge; however Lars was crippled and Kathia suffered a brain injury and after giving birth to Dessie she died. The siblings and Dessie hide at a remote farm for a decade until the Pax Peacemen arrive. They try to escape, but Lars dies leaving Dard and Dessie running from the Peacemen.

Star Born. The Pax ended space exploration as part of their anti-scientific campaign as they blame the pandemic devastation on scientists. However, some rebels managed to steal a few spaceships and flee to form colonies that had no ties to earth. A century passes with the Federation of Free Men having disposed of the Pax and space exploration redeployed with faster than light engines. The RS-10 ship reaches Astra where an earth colony was established. However, it is the fiendish natives that greet the terrans who they have plans to eradicate with their strange science.

This omnibus reprint of Andre Norton past-apocalyptic "Star" saga showcases how talented the author truly is especially in "The Stars Are Ours"; in which a terrorist act leads to security superseding freedom (the Neocons must have wolfed this one down). "Star Born" is also well written, but pales compared to its predecessor as the evil species that plan to wipe out humanity on RS-10 display no redeeming quality not even rationalizing saving a way of life from outsiders. Still these are two entertaining science fiction tales sets one hundred years apart in different galaxy locations. Ms. Norton's fans will soar with STAR FLIGHT.

Cries & Whiskers
Clea Simon
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590584644 $24.95 1-800-421-3976

Theda Krakow covers the Cambridge-Boston music scene. The freelance Boston based journalist has noticed at her favorite club, a new designer drug has become popular.

At the same time she begins her inquiry into the latest music drug helix, over the top animal rights activist Gail Womynfriend, who championed wild animals and detested pets, is killed in a hit and run that the cops believe was no accident. An autopsy revealed that the victim had dangerous toxic levels of strychnine in her blood. Theda's pregnant friend who is careful about taking anything is drugged at the club that they frequent. When her beloved cat Musetta vanishes an upset Theda goes berserk searching for her feline only to receive a threatening call. None of these incidents seem linked except in Theda's mind although she has not found the connection between any two let alone all of them. On top of all this, her friends are acting strange as if they are involved with one or all of strange happenings and her boyfriend Bill the homicide cop wants her to drop out of the music scene.

The third Theda Krakow investigative tale (see MEW IS FOR MURDER and CATTERY ROW) is an entertaining mystery as the heroine's seemingly unrelated incidents are for the most part personal in nature. Theda's mind is full of anxiety over finding Musetta safe and sound, and her concern for her friends especially Tess who are acting strange. Although Bill's demands seem unreasonable as music reporting is what Theda does, animal lovers will appreciate this fine thriller as Theda looks for the string that ties everything together with the only nebulous link being animal rights extremism.

Fiddle Game
Richard A. Thompson
Poisoned Pen
9781590584552 $24.95

Amy Cox visits bail bondsman Herman Jackson to arrange bail for her brother. She offers her violin that she claims is an original Amati valued at $60,000 as collateral. Although he normally would reject such an offer as he runs a cash-only business, he accepts the instrument in lieu of money even as he is not sure why he does.

Upon leaving his office, Amy visits a pawn shop to buy a replacement violin. Soon afterwards, someone kills Amy and the violin Herman held is stolen. Nothing adds up to Herman who wonders what is going on as he consults with waitress Rosie while worrying if the "brother" he bailed out will split and the violin he had is genuine; the truth lies in the past before either he or the late Amy was born.

Although too many twists make it difficult to accept the plausibility of the story line, readers will enjoy this fine bail bondsman mystery. The Herman-Rosie duo are a fabulous pairing as she pulls no punches when she advises him on the case. However, what is fascinating with this fine crime caper lies with the deep look at this particular segment of the private side of the government incarceration warehousing industry.

Justin Scott
Poisoned Pen
9781590584682 $24.95

Newbury, Connecticut celebrates the tercentennial by wearing historical costumes. The villagers wander around the cemetery looking at stones of deceased residents. Suddenly classical music explodes from the recently constructed pretentious mausoleum "McTomb".

Everyone rushes over to McTomb to see what is going on. When it is opened, the corpse of developer Brian Grose, who created the gaudy crypt, is found. The Newbury Cemetery Association hires realtor and private investigator Ben Abbott to investigate the murder of Grose. The police believe an Ecuadorian immigrant killed the obnoxious Grose, but Ben thinks otherwise as that seems too simple with so many other people having stronger motives to commit this particular homicide.

As with the insightful MCMANSION, MAUSOLEUM plays out on two levels. First there is the obvious whodunit with Ben Abbott conduction a private investigation that not surprisingly goes contrary to the official police position. Supporting Ben's sleuthing is the theme of national (and even global) modernization and how it impacts on a small regional town. The story line is fast-paced as Ben conducts his inquiry. However, it is the various reactions by the townsfolk to changes in their quaint village that justifies reading this superb tale.

Erynn Mangum
Navpress Think
PO Box 35001, Colorado Springs, CO 80935
97816000060960 $12.99 1-800-366-7788

Lauren Holbrook feels as if God must be punishing her as the truck accident has left her favorite haunt Shawn's Cafe without coffee beans and consequently her without her caffeine chocolate fix. At work at the Brandon Knox Photography Studio, Lauren believes she is doing God's work by matchmaking (see MATCH) couples that she knows belong together. Her current pairing is her boss Brandon and the office receptionist Hannah.

However, in spite of helping love succeed, Lauren is taken aback when her late forties dad informs her he is going to a weekend singles' retreat that makes her panic about a potential future stepmom; everyone knows that even single dads don't date. Then there is the Ryan question; Lauren is not sure whether she wants more than just a friendship or sharing a mocha or two (make that a few thousand) with him.

The latest Lauren Holbrook matchmaking romance is a fun tale as this time Lauren has to deal with much more personal matters: how she feels about her father dating and how she feels about Ryan. The matchmaking of her boss and their receptionist is handled with Lauren's usual aplomb (that fans of the previous tales will understand) as nothing goes right yet everything goes perfect. Although some of the key secondary characters behave oddly at times, readers will enjoy Lauren's deep commitment to helping people find loving mates.

The Web and the Stars
Brian Herbert
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594142178 $25.95 1-800-223-1244

The discovery of the cosmic web and how to use this faster than light transportation link between the stars of the galaxy led to an economic boom for the newly formed Merchant Princes Human Empire. However legendary researcher Noah Watanbe has noticed the web is showing signs of deterioration that could lead to a pandemic depression if the solar shortcut connector begins failing.

At the same the Human Empire is at war with the shape-shifting Mutati Kingdom; who plan to activate doomsday weapons to destroy the human worlds. Noah knows he must shift his research to prevent such a calamity from occurring, but he has enemies like powerful Doge Lorenzo, who just want him and his influence removed from the Human Empire anyway possible. Finally the HibAdu Coaltion consisting of neutrals from both sides of the hostilities try to broker a peace while the alien Parvii to keep the warring parties apart; only the HibAdu plan to supersede the Human Empire and the Mutati Kingdom by taking over the galaxy through stealth while no one knows what the Parvii want.

The second Timeweb Chronicles science fiction thriller (see TIMEWEB) is an interesting space opera focusing on an a galactic war between two economic giants while the environment that enables interstellar travel is disintegrating. Instead of war for oil; it is war for the cosmic web. The third neutral party brokering a peace while pursuing a hidden agenda is a clever concept, but to be honest this reviewer is not sure how secret that would remain based on how the Neocons early obsessions with Iraq has surfaced though they did the war they craved. Still this is an entertaining tale, especially the action-packed latter half in which readers get past the long introspections of the hero and his rival.

The Crows
Maris Soule
Five Star
9781594146053 $25.95

CPA P.J. Benson moves away from Kalamazoo into a small house she inherited from her paternal grandfather in Zenith Michigan, a farming community where nobody locks their doors. This proves to be a mistake as P.J. discovers when she is taking a walk in the woods and she hears shots ring out. She rushes home finding a blood trail that leads to her kitchen until she reaches a dead man.

Detective Wade Kingsley is put in charge of the case and feels that P.J. is a possible suspect even though she doesn't know the man. Her closest neighbors John and Julia think they know who the victim was and they believe he stole bioengineered lady bugs from a lab. They can't tell the police because John brought them home from work without permission. Several times P.J. feels someone has been in her home but the police think she is crazy (a sore spot for her because her mother is a schizophrenic) but she knows where each pf her belongings are supposed to be. When certain evidence comes to light, Wade believes her and wants her to stay at his sister's house until they can figure out what is going on. P.J. refuses and almost gets them both killed from a ghost out of her past.

Since mental illness runs in her family, P.J. ponders if the things that are happening to her are hallucinations like a jealous lesbian poisoning her food or her hearing the voice of someone dead for eighteen years over the phone. She comes to realize she is as sane as anyone else and somebody is playing mind games with her. The mystery is well constructed with different neighbors at different times coming under suspicion. THE CROWS is a creative well written psychological suspense thriller.

Murder by Serpents
Barbara Graham
Five Star
9781594145902 $25.95

Sheriff Tony Abernathy left the big city to move to a small Eastern Tennessee town in Park County, a place where serious crime just never takes place. That is until now. Tony is called to the parking lot of Ruby's Cafe where he finds the bloated body of a man handcuffed to the steering wheel with a rattlesnake and a copperhead loose inside the vehicle. A driver's license identifies the victim as John Mize, who is a shirttail relation to local Quentin Mize, a part-time resident of Tony's jail.

The victim turns out not to be a choir boy having a record as long as the nearby mountains. John also preached at an abandoned motel; insisting he found Jesus in prison. He used snakes to affirm his faith in the Lord. However, Tony finds the cages contain false bottoms filled with Oxycontin and plenty of money. He also believes that the deceased is really Harold Usher Brown, John's cellmate in prison, who had a connection with Ruby; now that he is dead she believes she will never know the location of what he took from her. This not the only homicide Tony investigates; body parts have been all over town making identification extremely difficult. Tony knows the eccentric townsfolk break the law all the time, but their crimes are so minor law enforcement doesn't even blink, just ignores them for the most part. However, someone has turned to MURDER BY SERPENT and more but who remains a mystery.

Anyone who enjoys reading a different kind of police procedural will appreciate this fine regional murder mystery filled with quirky characters like a man in love with a vending machine and the mom and aunt of the protagonist driving him crazy with their secrets. The cast makes MURDER BY SERPENT entertaining besides those already mentioned; there is the hero's wife ready to help him because she worries about him getting hurt; her quilters ready to stitch the clues together at her command, and the deputy who compromises crime scenes by puking. Barbara Graham provides an entertaining Tennessee tale with one question not answered – any ties to Johnny "the Big Cat" Mize?

Fifty-Seven Heaven
Lonnie Cruse
Five Star
9781594146008 $25.95

In Metropolis, Illinois, grandparents Kitty and Jack Bloodworth enjoy living in the city with the only negative being her odious cousin Will Ann Lloyd. As Jack points out when Kitty feels guilty about ill thoughts towards her blood everyone feels that way about the most loathed person in town. Will Ann went so far as telling the world that Kitty's daughter Sunny is a tramp.

However though she wanted the worst for her cuz, Kitty is stunned to learn that someone carried out her wishes and strangled Will Ann before stuffing the corpse in the trunk of Kitty's '57 Chevy. The police believe the animosity between the relatives was so strong that Kitty, Jack and Sunny as well as Will Ann's son Craig are the prime suspects; in fact they do not look at any possibility but a family homicide. Kitty begins the clean up of Will Ann's possessions and finds a promising clue, but is run off the road; the not-accident leaves her with amnesia.

This is a fun cozy that looks closely at family relationships especially as people grow old. Although the culprit is obvious, readers will enjoy cruising along with Kitty in her 57 Chevy as she refuses to allow amnesia, old age, a killer, or cops from stopping her amateur sleuth investigation. Fans will enjoy this spin and want to read Lonnie Cruse's sister series Metropolis mystery (not reviewed by me).

The Medium
Noelle Sickels
Five Star
9781594146183 $25.95

Helen Schneider has a gift that frightened her when it first surfaced. She can envision disasters. Although her parents feared for her and preferred their child not be a freak, her grandmother nurtured her and taught Helen to learn to use her skill to benefit people. She does, but years later still resents being different and in her way worries about failing.

When an Angel first visited Helen to help her adjust and cope, she rejected the heavenly being out of anger of being different. However, the angel kept trying to help her until Helen accepted her gift as divine since she became a medium channeling thoughts between the dead and their living loved ones. When WWII broke out, Helen uses her ability to help soldiers and civilian who know first hand the horrors of war although each time she does this she feels as if part of her has been ripped out even as the American government begins to think she is a Nazi agent.

This is a strange but exhilarating paranormal historical thriller starring a fascinating lead character who as THE MEDIUM holds the story line together. Although she hates her talent as she just wants to be normal, readers will admire her as she tries to help victims of the war. In fact Helen's accounts are so accurate she is considered a spy placing her in further trouble. Noelle Sickels provides a strong unique twentieth century tale that readers will fully appreciate her talent.

Curse of Al Capone's Gold
Mike Thompson
Five Star
9781594146343 $25.95

In North Dakota rogue cop Andy Larson supplements his income by stealing from criminals especially bootleggers. He and four of his friends plan to hijack a truckload filled with illegal booze, but to his dismay everything turns ugly as bullets fly. The four bootleggers and one of Larson's allies are dead. When the dust settles, the four survivors look inside the truck to find a cache of gold coins.

Andy knows he needs to cover up the disaster from his work peers and elude the owner of the coins, mobster Al Capone. As he struggles with both, Andy tries to figure out how to dispose of bodies, alcohol, and coins without the cops or the Chicago mob knowing it was him.

Except for the illegal booze and names like Capone, this prohibition crime caper could take place in any twentieth century era as the action-packed story line lacks a distinct 1920s flavor to it. The story line is fast-paced and filled with gunfights that make the Valentine's Day massacre look like a cozy. With the blood flowing and the audience wanting Andy to get his comeuppance as a bad cop, readers will be reminded of marihuana busts in the south and southwest in the 1960s as Mike Thompson provides a graphic shoot out.

Houston Homicide
Bill Crider and Clyde Wilson
Five Star
9781594146039 $25.95

In 1969, Houston Police Detective Sergeant Ted "Steve" Stephens has had wild mood swings since his wife walked out on him; at times he rages at her while at other moments he wallows in self pity. He fears he will never move on and prays his humiliation is not impacting his work or locker room talk.

Steve finally receives a welcome distraction from his personal depression. A professional hitman executed prominent Houston attorney Ralph Parker, his wife Dorothy and his mob-connected mother. Rival detective Wetsel, who detests Steve, insists that the victim's hippie son killed his parents and grandmother after they removed him from their respective wills. However, Steve thinks otherwise and with the help of Clive, a private investigator, seeks the truth that the brass prefers closed.

This is an interesting historical police procedural starring a cop who is at his best when he goes through a diatribe about his wife that runs the gamut from self incrimination to holding her culpable to a macho fear that his peers will think he is a wimp. The rest of the cast especially the cops are two dimensional stereotypes. Although an improbable and out of nowhere late spin resolves the case, sub-genre fans will enjoy Houston as Armstrong is about to take a giant step.

The Kind One
Tom Epperson
Five Star
9781594146176 $25.95

In 1930s Los Angeles, Danny Landon struggles to recall his recent history having suffered an injury. He has been told by cohorts that he is a hired gun working for malicious gangster Bub "The Kind One" Seitz and that he has a bloody no nonsense past. In fact he is respectfully called "Two Gun Danny" for his homicidal skills.

However, Danny struggles with the descriptions of his violent nature as he finds it difficult to harm anyone. His boss assigns Landon to watch Darla to make sure she is not cheating on him. Landon finds the task despicable as he likes Darla and believes she deserves better than someone spying on her, but challenging Seitz would be suicidal.

Although the plot is a bit thin, readers will enjoy this Depression Era urban noir due to Two Gun Danny; who is a believable protagonist struggling between the description others have of him and what his gut says he is. Tom Epperson also provides a wonderful sense of time and place as 1930s L.A. comes vividly alive. Americana historical mystery fans will enjoy this fine tale wondering which Danny will surface.

I Only Want to Be With You
Lisa Norato
Five Star
9781594146114 $26.95

In Manhattan Gracious Living magazine associate Marcella Tartaglia dreams of running the publication sometime in the near future. In the meantime, the assiduously hard working Marcella does whatever is assigned to her and more. Her current project is to report on the wedding of the magazine's departing senior editor; a job that Marcella wants with every ambitious cell in her body.

In England for the nuptials, Marcella meets gorgeous biker "bad boy" William Stafford, the son of an aristocrat. However her initial impression proves false as William is a vicar. They are immediately attracted to one another, but he rejects the notion of a weekender. Instead he knows he loves her and proposes marriage under the condition that she joins his world as a vicar's wife. Having doubts that she can perform as expected of the spouse of a minister and unable to give up on her plans to run the magazine, she flees back across planning to bury herself at work.

This cross Atlantic contemporary romance is a sweet tale starring two fully developed likable individuals who believe their choices are all or nothing. The lead couple drives the story line as love does not seem enough for them to make it. Readers will wonder whether Marcella will give up her dream to be to with the man she dreams of, find a compromise solution with her beloved, or give up on their relationship as being impossible.

London Frog
Joseph Pittman
Five Star
9781594145896 $25.95

After pulling off a sting of lottery winner Donald Birdie in upstate New York, Todd Gleason returns to his Manhattan home base to work on his next scam; also involving a lottery winner, the Procopio couple. Married ten years, Henri is the CEO of Looking Great Cosmetics while his wife Elise has just won the big prize. They are off on a honeymoon in London to celebrate her winnings.

Over the Internet Todd rents a flat in South Kensington from realtor Vance Timberlake. When he arrives at his temporary lodging, Todd finds the murdered corpse of Vance. He flees the scene only to be picked up in a taxi by Dobo and Larry, who were conducting surveillance of Vance for their boss hitman and speed slapper Clive Remington. After Clive slaps him around, Todd stays at the home of American expatriate Beth Simon, sister of his "partner" who is taking care of Todd's pet Toad. As he begins the latest sting, Clive demands a piece of the action, Birdie is coming and soon everything seems to spin out of control with police, his new partner, the thug's girlfriend and an American heiress tugging at Todd, whose latest name does not matter.

LONDON FROG is a wild crime caper starring a rogue who finds his latest caper totally out of control from the moment he steps inside his temporary lodging and spins further into chaos. The support cast enhances the zaniness as they take Todd on quite a rowdy ride. Fans who appreciate something offbeat in their thrillers will enjoy Todd's tale as he struggles with who is conning whom.

The Man Who Killed Shakespeare
Ken Hodgson
Five Star
9781594145988 $25.95

Thirty nine years old con artist Sam Ransom leaves California in a hurry before he is locked away or beaten to death by a hitman hired by a swindled investor. Besides he has his next scheme set in depression dying Shakespeare, New Mexico where the silver mines no longer work. The townsfolk look at Sam as a savior.

Also new to town is widow Lett Halsy, a former minor, who inherited the Roxy Jay bar and brothel and Wesley the dog from his late brother Howard. The bartender Jason has allowed locals to run up a tab while the brothel has one woman left fortyish Delight Jones. Sam hires Lett to run the mining operation. However, as Lett falls in love with Delight and takes two kids under his wings, he begins to have doubts about Sam's operation even when they find a rich vein of gold and silver.

This is an enjoyable Depression Era romantic crime caper. Lett is a likable person who struggles to tell Delight how he feels about her; she shares his love, but also feels unworthy of such a kind soul. The support cast is strong as they provide refreshing insight into how desperate people became during the Depression in a small out of the way place as normally big cities have been featured in most books and movies. Although Sam is rotten to the core, fans will enjoy his operation as THE MAN WHO KILLED SHAKESPEARE with his Hoover prosperity is around the corner mining ruse.

Goodbye, She Lied
Russ Hall
Five Star
9781594146022 $25.95

In Fearing, Texas Boose Hargate asks septuagenarian Esbeth Walters to uncover the identity of the con artists who bilked his elderly momma; she was tossed out of the posh retirement home due to a lack of funds.

Adele Kilgore does not need the insurance money nor cares about it, but has a need to know who killed her husband Vance. The police said it was suicide, but he was obviously bound and tortured before driving himself to his death. She turns to Esbeth to uncover the truth. Esbeth receives help from retired forensic pathologist Gardner Burke even as two hitmen search for the same con artists that Esbeth seeks. As everyone converges at Boose's booby trapped isolated cabin, law enforcement remains several steps behind Esbeth and her adversaries.

Although everything ties together too perfectly like a mathematical equation, fans will enjoy the senior citizenry amateur sleuth as Gardner the retired pro assists former math teacher Esbeth on her investigations. Her work on both cases is fun to follow as she finds the sum of the parts (her two cases, a tie in serial killing, and a previous con) equals the whole mystery.

The Love of His Brother
Jennifer AlLee
Five Star
9781594146091 $26.95

She liked both Poulten brothers when she was in high school, but Whitney married the younger one Cliff rather than the quarterback Doug. Now a photographer, Whitney is a widow ever since her husband died in a small plane crash. She misses his inane what if questions, but refuses not to get on with her life with the support of his parents and her faith that God has taken her beloved to a better place.

However, this time when she and her dog Digger go to visit the Poultens, she is shocked as the black sheep Doug has come home after being away for eight years; he left without a goodbye following a football injury that ended his promising career in his senior year at high school. Doug is stunned to learn that his sibling died and that Whitney is pregnant. As they fall in love, he fears he will never replace his brother nor does he want to; and she is afraid to fall in love again because it hurts and she does not want to harm her memory of Cliff.

Although in some ways a four tissue box tear jerker, THE LOVE OF HIS BROTHER is an interesting romantic family drama. Though often used in literature, the fascinating triangle will hook readers from the onset in high school and never let go until the final confrontation after Katie is born. Readers will enjoy this fine contemporary romance starring a strong lead couple and a solid support cast especially the memory of Cliff.

Thrill Of The Chase
Christina Crooks
Five Star
9781594146701 $26.95

Sarah Matell grew up on racing car fumes as her father owns an automotive speed shop. She is talented in turning a wrench and in defeating males at the track. However, her professional success also causes her personal failure. She has loved dragster Craig Keller seemingly forever, but he rejects her as he only goes out with feminine beauties who are fast to his bed not the oval.

Her father hires a business suit Gordon Devine to run the shop; upsetting Sarah. He believes she is a spoiled brat while she thinks he is a know it all upstart. Shockingly they both match each other for obstinacy and he knows his way under the hood. As they begin to fall in love, Craig takes a second look at the woman he rejected, forming a relationship triangle that is at odds with the oval.

THRILL OF THE CHASE is an interesting contemporary romance that uses drag racing to refreshes the classic triangle story line. Readers will appreciate the unique heroine who beats the men at the track, but struggles with connecting with them off the track until the two men in her life become rivals for her affection. Who gets the checkered flag requires reading a fine character driven tale.

Breath and Bone
Carol Berg
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451461865 $15.00 1-800-847-5515

Valen the sorcerer does not want the role he finds himself in as he fears for the realms of the mortals and the Danae; the beleaguered mage is convinced a new evil era is coming to both spheres.

Adding to his discomfort and uncertainty is his feeling that he is the midpoint foci of a dangerous pair of villains pulling at him. He knows he must choose to ally with Osriel the bastard prince of Evanore or priestess Sila Diaglou; both believe that the end is now. His selection between the lesser of two evils even if he chooses the right one still could prove too late as doom appears the most likely outcome for humanity and or the Danae regardless of what he does.

This sequel to FLESH AND SPIRIT is an entertaining character study as much of the fantasy saga is an introspective of Valen seeking to save the worlds while also redeeming himself for his past transgressions. Readers who prefer fast-paced action should look elsewhere. However, those in the audience who enjoy a doubting hero struggling to be a champion while hesitating at every step he takes will appreciate Carol Berg's intriguing BREATH AND BONE.

Opening Atlantis
Harry Turtledove
9780451461742 $24.95

In 1452, English fisherman Edward Radcliffe steers his vessel St. George to Le Croisic in Breton to buy salt before he and his crew including two of his sons Henry and Richard sail into the Atlantic seeking cod; the salt will keep their catch from spoiling. After purchasing quality salt from salt merchant master Abrgall, the Radcliffes stop at a tavern for a drink. They listen to Bretons and Basque argue over what year it is, which leads to them meeting Breton Francois Kersauzon. He tells them a tale about a new continent way past the western most sailing lines in the Atlantic.

The English assumes he is talking about legendary Atlantis, a place so isolated without human contamination that strange unique species developed like the Honkers and the giant eagles that hunt them. When Edward returns to England after a successful fishing venture, he decides Atlantis is his utopia where he and his family can safely live free of the royal wars. However, as rumors spread that Edward plans to colonize Atlantis, many people demand passage with them. Edward and his sons create a colony on Atlantis not aware that future immigrants will demand more of the land while war, as with Europe, seems the norm throughout the decades.

The above paragraphs are the OPENING ATLANTIS New Hastings act of a three era tale that showcases Harry Turtledove's ability to write a believable alternate historical thriller (the first of an Atlantis based trilogy). Readers need to understand that this is not the New World of Columbus fame, but instead a giant land mass somewhat in between Europe and the Americas; nor is this the advanced technological society of fable. Thus all sorts of differences from climate to international trade to hostilities develop. Although not as deep as some of Mr. Turtledove's alternate historical sagas, genre fans will appreciate a different take on the legend of Atlantis and its impact on Europe.

The Sorcerers' Plague
David B. Coe
Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765316387 $25.95 1-888-330-8477

The Southlands are populated by three groups who distrust one another. The Oirsi practice a life stealing magic; the Mettai use blood mixed with the earth to cast spells; and the Eandi do not use any form of magic. Over six decades ago a deadly enigmatic plague destroyed the Mettai village of Sentaya killing everyone except a child Lici. No one seemed to know the cause, but because the disease was mysterious and life stealing the Mettai assume the Oirsi wielded a magical epidemic.

Sixty-four years later the same plague strikes again at Kirayde, the village where Lici resides. Meanwhile Lici vows vengeance against those who caused the endemic disaster years before using blood earth magic to attack the Oirsi even as she vanishes. However, elder Besh from her adopted village begins to fathom a pattern that every place Lici visits the disease follows. He fears she is abusing blood earth magic, but wonders who she is to be able to do this.

Book one of the Blood of the Southlands trilogy is set in the same captivating world as the Winds of the Forelands saga takes place. In fact some characters from the latter appear in the former. Readers will enjoy the cast as David B. Coe examines racism caused by ignorance of the other tribes as much as by the acceptable form and use of magic. Fans of the author will rejoice at this strong return to the Coe realm.

A Sword from Red Ice
J.V. Jones
9780765306340 $27.95

In the Great Want, Raif Sevrance knows he is in deep trouble as he is lost and running out of supplies, but rescued by the enigmatic Lamb Brothers, who seek the dead to bring solace to restless souls. When a wrall kills one of the brothers, Raif teaches them how to send his soul on before he turns into a Shadowflesh.

At the same time Raif struggles to survive, Ash March, still shook from the battle with the Blind creatures, has been separated from her Sull guardian Mal Naysayer, but meets Sull Far Rider Lan Fallstar; she is enthralled with his nasty kick butt attitude while he escorts her through the Racklands. Bram Cormac has been sold while the Cursed Clan abducts Effie Sevrance. Raina Blackhail's plan to replace Mace Blackhail as chief fails as he prepared for such a contingency. The death of Surlord Penthero Iss reaches the battlefield where his chosen heir Marafice Eye sees victory stolen when his allies the Grangelords desert him to claim the surlord as their leader's right not his. With war seemingly widening, the greatest threat comes from the Endlords and their army of the Unmade

There are a lot more subplots with incredible layers of complexity than the brief simplistic descriptions above as A SWORD FROM RED ICE is a well written transitional tale that implies many more books in the Sword of Shadows chronicles to come. The ensemble cast remains strong especially Raif, who has the dubious distinction of explaining to his saviors the Lamb Brothers that they must choose between what they consider the lesser of two evil choices. Although progress seems slower on most fronts than what is occurring in Iraq; fans of the series will enjoy this apparently getting much deeper, wider and apparently longer fantasy saga.

Air Apparent
Piers Anthony
9780765304100 $24.95

The son of the Gorgon and Good Magician Humphrey, Hugo disappears without a trace from the cellar of his home. His blind wife of seventeen Wira, panics as her spouse is always prompt and not subject to vanishing. At the same time that Hugo went poof into thin air or somewhere else, the corpse of a murder victim arrives in the cellar.

Meanwhile something happens to Humphrey's book of answers so that he cannot provide any help; besides the cost is very high when you are already paying him like everyone else in Xanth seems to be doing. Instead, a bewildered Wira gets a break when thirteen year old Debra arrives from Mundania. However, Debra, "De-bra" to males has crossed over in hope that Humphrey can provide her the cure to her curse of the accent of her name by men; Humphrey cannot help her since his book of answers remains out of commission. The Gorgon converts Debra into a naturally bra-less flying centaur in exchange for her helping find Hugo and uncover the identity of the killer. Debra accompanied by Wira pun their way across Xanth on their quest.

AIR APPARENT is simply Xanth filled with horrendous puns that readers either make readers groan or laugh at the wild cast. The story line is a typical Xanth quest that roams anywhere and everywhere a pun or bad word joke can be found. Piers Anthony thanks his fans for providing some of the worst jokes that even Milton Berle would not have borrowed. Yet even at 31, the escapades in Xanth remain fun and humorous with the loyal audience casting a spell for Mr. Anthony to continue rewriting Humphrey's book of answers.

The Ivory and the Horn
Charles de Lint
Tor Orb
9780765316790 $14.95

These fifteen Newford tales are a fun interrelated collection as the characters find solace from the everyday pain of living, but every action leads to a related reaction. For instance Jilly's artist pal Sophie enters "Mr. Truepenny's Book Emporium and Gallery" as a child only to find herself years later isolated in a Native American dream world in "Where Desert Spirits Crowd the Night"; while her parents first meet "In Dream Harder". Thus the audience obtains deep fantasy tales that contain characters in several entries, which in turn leads to even more profound sagas. Although all except for "Bird Bones and Wood Ash" have been printed in other publications, fans of the series will enjoy reading them in one anthology that makes for easy mix and match as Newford character linkage between sets of stories showcases Charles de Lint's abilities to intelligently entertain his fans.

Not Flesh Nor Feathers
Cherie Priest
9780765313102 $14.05

The unrelenting torrential storm sends the Tennessee River over a dam flooding Chattanooga. The rising waters sweep away many homeless while Eden Moore worries about her scheduled move into a new riverside apartment. However, suddenly rising like phoenixes out of the flood is twenty-nine long dead corpses.

The nine-decade old deceased were stuck in the river mud until the storm freed them. They demand justice, but no one knows who they are, who killed them, or how they were buried there. Like an invading zombie militia they march on the already horrified city. A psychic Eden realizes they are heading to historical Read House, residence of ghostly Caroline Read who was involved in a massacre almost one century ago.

The third Eden Moore medium sleuth tale (see WINGS TO THE KINGDOM and FOUR AND TWENTY BLACKBIRDS) is an entertaining supernatural thriller that grips readers once the zombies begin their quest that changes from justice to vengeance. Eden is terrific as she tries to find a resolution that will meet the demands of the paranormal invaders who find the city different and the sources they seek dead. Although the ending seems abrupt with a last second frenzy, Cherie Priest provides a satisfying mystical tale.

Borne In Blood
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
9780765317131 $27.95

In 1817 the vampire Comte Franciscus Saint-Germain Ragoczy is living in peace in his chateau in Switzerland with his paramour widow Hero and both of them are very happy in their relationship. She accepts him for the four millennia year old being he is; recognizing that he is more humane than most of the humans who are living in the time when poverty is rampant thanks to Napoleon's wars and defeat. He understands that there is a perpetual sadness about her because her father-in-law has custody of her children.

Saint- Germain plans to visit one of the authors of his Eclipse Publish Company who is studying the nature of blood. Graf Van Rasenberg welcomes a man of his stature to see his work and it is the court's hope that her father-in-law will let her see children. At a party celebrating her engagement to an older man, Hyacinthine plans a surprise that will destroy several lives yet bring her a peace that has eluded her for years.

The twentieth Saint-Germain book takes place just after the Napoleonic Wars when French soldiers are turning to banditry and becomes outlaws because of the sudden poverty in a power vacuum that is not being filled to for these veterans and their families. Saint-Germain does what he can to help feed the starving masses as crops have failed for two years due to terrible weather but comes under suspicion when bandits steal it. In spite of all he undergoes, he retains his humanity in a world that looks at a foreigner and exile with suspicion. Ms Yarbro's vampire novels are some of the best historicals on the book shelves.

Old Friends
Constance O'Day-Flannery
9780765354051 $6.99

Although she feels good for her close friend who just announced her engagement, forty three year old Claire Hutchinson feels depressed. Her clock ticking away and still she has not found a forever love and is not sure she wants too. In front of her buddies the Yellow Brick Road Gang, Claire hides her growing belief she will always be alone, but also ponders if that isn't bad because she remains independent and, in spite of close caring friends, hides her darkest secrets.

At a video store, Claire meets Michael. Although she is taken aback that he knows a lot about her, she is also attracted to him. However, a death in her family propels Claire to her estranged relatives, which in turn forces her to look back at the incident that caused the painful split. However, she also learns why Michael seems to know her so well, which adds the twin pains of betrayal and being used to her already emotional mess even as he tries to persuade her otherwise of his intentions.

The third Yellow Brick Road Gang is an entertaining paranormal romance although it lacks the sharp suspense spins of the previous tales (TWICE IN A LIFETIME and BEST LAID PLANS). Claire is an interesting lead character as she has mixed feelings about falling in love; on the one hand she wants what her friends have just obtained, but on the other hand fears the cost to her independence may prove too great. Michael is the mystery as to just who he is. Fans of the miniseries will enjoy the latest member's Metaphysical Misadventures.

The Dragons of Babel
Michael Swanwick
9780765319500 $25.95

In a tiny village east of Avalon and on the edge of the Old Forest, young orphan Will le Fey and others saw the war dragons with their riders soaring in the sky. Whereas the others fled to the safety of their village from either side of the war as the basilisk are as nasty to the innocent civilians as the dragons and their half mortal riders; Will stayed to watch although an explosion warped time.

Not long afterward, a wingless crippled dragon with holes in his fuselage crawled out of the Old Forest and collapsed in the village. The villagers assume he belongs to Will, instead this feral beast made of flesh and metal owns the lad and declares he is the king of this area From that point forward, every evening, the somewhat healing dragon uses the boy to learn of any insurrections until the locals exile Will. The patrol capture him as no wanders the land and take him to a refugee camp run more like a prison. However, conmander Nat Whilk frees Will whose odyssey continues below the food chain at the sewerage and stinking tunnels beneath the Dread Tower of Babel as he learns the key lesson of the politically powerful to get what they want regardless of the costs to others such as the use of war as a mechanism to stay in power.

This hardcore fantasy uses mythological characters to tell a coming of age saga of a young man who learns that Lord Acton was right as power corrupts. Politicians including are skewed by Michael Swanwick through the lessons learned by the hero as he climbs the stairwell up the Tower Of Babel until he can achieve his objective winning the hand of the Elven woman he loves, but was too far above him in social class. Readers who appreciate a hardcore fantasy satire will enjoy Mr. Swanwick's version of New York City as THE DRAGONS OF BABEL will never give up power willingly risking the lives of patriots who are someone else's offspring.

The Curse of the Campfire Weenies: And Other Warped and Creepy Tales
David Lubar
Starscape (Tor)
9780765318077 $15.95

As with the two previous "Weenie …" Tales (see LAND OF THE LAWN WEENIES and INVASION OF THE ROAD WEENIES), this collection consists of thirty-five extremely short stories (average size is approximately five pages) that target children as the prime audience. The tales are fun to read and usually contain a subtle morality message or a question to ponder that is interwoven into the story. For instance in "Mr. HooHaa", Mr. Lubar asks a key metaphysical question of are clowns more frightening without the make-up or a profound look into the universally accepted tenet that "You Are What You Eat". In "The Tunnel of Terror", Rachel learns the hard way that avoidance or even closing your eyes does not make the issue vanish (sounds like Rachel will grow up to be a politician). So like Ben get yourself a drink at "The Soda Fountain" and enjoy reading the warped and creepy tales of an expert as Mr. Lubar's latest shows how the grass is not necessarily greener when you escape from "The Curse of the Campfire Weenies" to end up with the Girl Scouts singing campfire weenies.

The Third Lynx
Timothy Zahn
9780765317322 $24.95

In some future time, the different civilizations are connected by the transportation system known as the quadrail. People and objects are able to get from one place to another, along great distances using this transportation system run by the mysterious Spiders and their ever more mysterious masters the Chahwyn. Both groups are pacifist so they must recruit warriors in the invisible war against the Modhri one mind with many intelligent arms under its control. One of the agents it has co-opted is Frank Compton a former government agent who uses his skills to chip away pieces of the Modhri.

Compton's enemy is collecting sculpture known as the lynx, viper and hawk and is killing anyone who gets in his way. An agent who believes Compton is a killer constantly dogs his footsteps making it harder to do his job and keep the lynx out of the Modhri clutches. Compton races around the galaxy trying to figure out what the Modhri has planned for its enemies. Agent Morse of the security service is trying to figure out what both sides are keeping from him and what is really going on.

THE THIRD LYNX is space opera at its finest due in large part to a larger than life hero and an antagonist that seems undefeatable. There are plenty of realistic chase scenes and misdirection as to who the enemy is and who is an ally. The Spiders and their masters are as enigmatic as Dr. Spock although they are part of the group that indirectly fights the Modhri since they weren't engineered to be actual fighters. Readers will eagerly await the next book in the series.

Mademoiselle Boleyn
Robin Maxwell
9780451222091 $14.00

At eight years old Anne Boleyn accompanies her family to the Netherlands where she is deserted at the court of Archduchess Margaret of Burgundy. Feeling all alone she learns to cope as the foreigner in a strange place; even teaching herself to understand French. A year later, after a brief respite back home, she is sent to live at the French King Louis XII's court as part of Princess Mary's retinue when she wed the French monarch. Unlike her previous regal stay, Anne learns to fit in even as her homeland is at war with her current country. The most valuable lesson a young female can have is to gain knowledge that can be used to counterbalance the power of men have over women; to do that she learns the lesson of being in plain sight yet remain indistinguishable from the rest of the retinue. She observes how women are nothing except chattel as her father "sells" her then eleven year old sister Mary to serve as mistress to the French King and she is expected to spy on the French rulers who treat her with care and respect unlike her own family. Over the next eight years she stayed on the continent where Anne concludes that unless a woman marries into power as Princess Mary Tudor did when she wed her ancient French monarch, she is subject to abuse by all males; not just her spouse, father, or brother. Anne learns her lessons well when King Henry comes for her.

MADEMOISELLE BOLEYN is one of the best biographical fiction works of the year. The insight into how Anne learned survival techniques in a male dominant world will shock the audience as females are sexual pawns even when they are as young as eleven years old and expendable as eight years old. Robin Maxwell further supports her premise with a deep look at the royal support cast and the Boleyn family. Sub-genre readers especially those who appreciate the Henry the Eighth era will want to read this powerful look at the fifteenth century and know "we've come a long way baby", but not far enough.

High Deryni
Katherine Kurtz
Ace Books
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780441015269 $24.95 1-800-847-5515

Although only fourteen years old and of Deryni background, Kelson Haldane has become the king of Gwynedd. Already having faced a difficult struggle to gain the throne, he has an even thornier time to keep his crown. The wary Church loathes anyone with the Dernyi magic flowing in their blood; let alone one wearing the crown. Kelson's nobles resent him on two counts; being a teen and his Deryni blood.

His rival monarchs also detests the upstart youth. Especially opposed to him is the ambitious King Wencit of Torenth, a sorcerer who plans to be the one sovereign ruling the eleven Kingdoms; he recognizes in the teen a potentially dangerous opponent. On the plus side Kelson has the support of powerful Duke Alaric Morgan and Father Duncan McLain, although both have been excommunicated by the Church for using magic.

The revision of the original Dernyi trilogy is a solid ending to a fine rewrite. The story line focuses on mostly political manipulations to either keep or dethrone Kelson. Although it behooves the audience to read the previous two tales (see DERYNI RISING and DERYNI CHECKMATE) as this is not a stand alone book, fans of the series will enjoy this more complex and in fairness convoluted version filled with new twists.

Captain's Fury
Jim Butcher
9780441015276 $24.95

The war between the Alera and its vicious neighbor the Canim has mostly been fought on the former's lands. However, recently a not so subtle change has occurred as the invaders are no longer sending powerful armies into Alera, but instead frightened refuges are fleeing Canim for temporary shelter in Alera.

First Aleran Legion Captain Tavi concludes a third foe has arisen and devastated the Canim, whose military for the most part were at war in Alera. As the torrent of desperate newcomers crossing the border remains unabated, the Aleran resent the immigrants who they have been at war with for two years and do not trust them as the locals assume their enemy is subversive terrorists. However, Tavi recognizes that the Cane and the Aleran must forge an alliance to have any hope of defeating the Vord, who has easily conquered Canim and has begun the invasion of Alera. Military Commander Senator Amos ignores the outside threat. Instead he marshals the troops to destroy the Cane, former Aleran slaves who seek an alliance with the foreigners, and any citizen including Proletarian who does likewise. Tavi knows that course means the end of his country so he disobeys orders to lead his First Aleran Legion against the Vord.

The fourth Codex Alera fantasy is an exciting military thriller in which the star attraction is the convoluted nature of war which is explored and not just on the battlefields (although that are some of the most intense scenes). The Senatorial debate mirrors much of the argument over the Iraq war and the immigration "crisis" in DC. Readers will ponder when war is the answer while a truism is emphasized that yesterday's enemy is today's ally when a new foe surfaces. Perhaps the only negative is this insightful and serious tale is it is not Dresden; a fate that Jim Butcher obviously understands as he is like the actor associated forever with a particular popular role.

The Pearls
Deborah Chester
9780441015481 $7.99

Few men took the kiss of Eternity and survived, but Shadrael tu Natalloh did and he became one of the fiercest and ruthless legionaries in Emperor Kostinon's service even though the cost was very high. He lost his soul and casts no shadow, but was able to draw on part of the magic from the shadow gods. When ex-slave Caelan fought and defeated Kostinon and the Shadow War God Beloth, a new day dawned in the empire. With the shadow gods destroyed, the men in the legion were to renounce their allegiance to the old gods and wear fealty to Light.

Shadrael refused and his legion was destroyed, stripped of their rank and exiled. Now he hires himself and his men out to the highest bidder as mercenaries. His brother the Warlord of Ulinia plans to have his province succeed from the empire. He wants Shadrael to kidnap the emperor's sister Lady Lea, who he will use as a pawn to obtain independence for Ulinia. Reluctantly Shadrael accepts the assignment, but when he and Lea meet, her goodness changes him in subtle ways.

Although Caelan the Light Bringer sits on the throne, the empire heads towards civil war because many that were loyal to the shadow gods remain filled with rage and are waiting for the right moment to retaliate (mindful of some Sunni in Iraq). The choices Shadrael and Lea make will determine the path the empire follows in what on the surface appears to be a battle between good and evil. Lea senses there is much more depth to her captor then the darkness he displays. Deborah Chester writes an enchanting fantasy filled with magical and mundane intrigue, enhanced by a hint of romance.

The Unnatural Inquirer
Simon R. Green
9780441015580 $21.95

In Nightside, Pen Donavon insists he owns a DVD that contains a recording of the afterlife. He obviously is convincing that he has such proof because THE UNNATURAL INQUIRER signs a deal with him; then again many of Nightside's shadowy residents would point out that the publication is a tabloid so proof is too strong an assertion.

However, not long after Donavon pens his deal with the scandal rag, he vanishes. With civil war possible over who governs the Nightside, the competing powers search for Donavon and his DVD as the latter might give an edge to the group possessing it. Assassinations become the norm as each of the rivals murders their opponents. Private investigator John Taylor, accompanied by half-demon reporter Bettie Divine, search for Donavon a bit differently than anyone else as he figures the best way to find the missing individual is to focus on who abducted him, which means why and not necessarily to own the DVD, but perhaps destroy the DVD to eliminate incriminating evidence.

The eighth Nightside paranormal private investigator mystery is a fabulous often amusing tale as once again Taylor is working a difficult case because of the homicidal amateurs fogging up the already murky atmosphere. However, with his usual aplomb and the beautiful Halfbreed humanized she-demon with him every step of the killing fields, Taylor navigates the eerie otherworld center of London in which one mistakes means HELL TO PAY for the hero. Simon R. Green continues to provide novel mysteries in a strange otherworld.

Air and Graces
Toby Bishop
9780441015566 $7.99

The most important commodity in the Duchy of Oc is flying horses. These marvelous winged creatures only let females ride them, refusing to allow a man near them let alone touching them. Duke William is obsessed with riding a winged horse and is developing a new breeding line that will allow men to ride them. He is so intent on bonding with a winged horse that he neglects his duty to his people.

The village of Onmarin is attacked by the barbarous Aesklanders and two of the students of the Academy Of Air witnessed the event. The duke won't avenge his people's death or try to find the two children that were taken. Horsemaster Philippa of the academy works behind the scenes to get the students back without Duke William, her sworn enemy, knowing of her plans. An academy student Larkyn finds out what William is doing and reports to Phillipa; but William brings charges against Philippa. William is growing increasingly insane and dangerous as he takes an elixir that turns his body into a female so that his first flying horse Diamond will accept him. His brother Francis is the only one who can limit his older brother's actions but his power is restricted and the duke is cunning using stealth and trickery to get his way.

Readers who read the prequel to the novel AIR BENEATH THE MOON will thoroughly enjoy reading how much Lark has matured as she learns patience and caution. The duke hates her because he believes she stole his first flying horse of his new bloodline away from him. Her concern for her mentor Horsemistress Philippa endears her to the audience who can see she cares more about her mentor and her horse than she does herself.

The Watcher
Jeanne C Stein
9780441015467 $7.99

Bounty hunter Anna Strong never knew vampires existed until she was bitten by one and was turned. Now she is taken under the wings of two different kinds of men. The San Diego Chief of Police is a century old vampire who formed the Watchers; vampires who police the supernatural community keeping humans safe from the ones that are evil. She gets her human drug supply in a small desert Mexican town when the local bar is run by Culebra. It is the meeting place for vampires who need to drink human blood and humans who want to donate it.

She sees her lover Max there but he looks frazzled because of the bounty on his head by a Mexican drug lord. When she returns to San Diego, a FBI agent tells her that Max, a DEA agent, has gone rogue. She believes the agent is lying; and assumes the agent has a personal and evil vendetta. She intends to find Max but when she returns to Beso dela Muerte she discovers the witch Ms. Burke and her coven are going to summon a demon in the one minute window of opportunity on Halloween. She has to stop her not only because the demon will kill all the good supernaturals and because she intends to sacrifice Culebra. While she is battling the forces of darkness the drug lord kidnaps Max and intends to abduct Anna in order to torture her in front of him.

Everyone has plans for Anna but she has her own ideas of what she wants to do with her life and she is strong enough and independent enough to choose her own destiny. No human, including Max, knows Anna is a vampire and she fears if Max finds out he will leave her. This action paranormal thriller is full of unexpected twists, red herrings and the occasional wild goose chase. Jeanne C. Stein writes an enthralling vampiric mystery that has a lot of suspense, a touch of magic and a bit of romance so that readers of multiple genres are satisfied.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Washing the Stones
Poetry by Linda Larson
Ibbetson Street Press
25 School Street, Somerville MA 02143
9780979531316 $10.00

Linda Larson has worn many hats in life: feature writer for newspapers; editor and contributor for Spare Change, a homeless newspaper; advocate for people with mental illness; teaching fellow in the creative writing doctoral program the University of Southern Mississippi. She's struggled through dark times of mental illness, homelessness, and addiction and managed to retain her compassion and empathy. The good and bad times in life have made her what she is as a human and placed a shine on this fine book of poetry.

Ms. Larson lays a telling groundwork for her future life in the poem about her difficult birth and her mother's memory of it. "The Birthday Girl" is a powerful, spare, haunting poem. I quote one excerpt here:

Mother would tell me the story
Over and over again when she was woozy
Bourbon and water calling the shots.

Her father's legacy is a gift the poet holds close to her heart. Every word of "Dad Revisited" is crafted to express his effect on Larson's life:

This love is a stillness
And a light behind the eyes,
This breath, a journey.

Her compassion for humanity is clear in "Aquarius" and foretells her advocacy for the homeless and unfortunate in our midst. In this exceptional poem, rich with metaphors, she watches over and worries about an old man with ice freezing in his beard:

When winter dies I will weep for him
One blonde diamond.
I study him from the window; I am his protegee.
Unbeknownst to me,
In training for a part in his play.

I will be cast finally as the bag lady of hearts.
Hearts will become my stock and trade,
My baggage.

"Schizophrenia With Features of Unrequited Love" is the raw, beautiful recollection of madness, survival, abandonment, isolation and loss. Caged in a state mental hospital, numbed by grief and electric shock therapy, Larson fights to maintain her memories and dignity. One excerpt cannot do justice to this amazing poem but I chose a verse that best reflects the writer's spirit:

When I would wake up beside you
My shattered self,
Your gentleness would calm me.
I would peep out at your cotton-soft eyes
From the cave of my hungry, incipient madness.
Where I am now without your compass,
Refusing, straightjacket or not,
To love the one I'm with.

Washing the Stones exorcises Larson's demons through words torn from the very marrow of her being. Despite the losses and troubles that might have broken a lesser spirit, she holds onto love and friendship and sees with clear eyes the beauty around her. My congratulations to Linda Larson for this stunning book and to Ibbetson Street Press for publishing it. Highly recommended.

Of All the Meals I Had Before; Poems About Food and Eating
Doug Holder
Eervena Barva Press
P.O. Box 440357, W. Somerville MA 02144-3222
No ISBN $7.00

This chapbook of poetry is savory fare from a serious poet, with a side order of whimsy and social commentary. An eclectic range of topics delight and intrigue here, everything from the fears of an anorexic woman to cannibalism to the guilty pleasure of Milk Duds and the pornographic rotation of rotisserie chickens. Whatever the topic, Doug Holder reveals through words the joy, loneliness, and sensuality of eating.

"Eating Out" is aesthetically pleasing to the senses. Readers can see and anticipate the meal:

My fork
its silver set off
by the muted light
the tender white flesh
the brittle ribs
that preen
with their offerings.

Holder considers his mother eating alone in "Portrait of My Mother During Her Solitary Meal." The days of arguing with her late husband are over. Now, all she has left is food, and silence:

And the photos of him
held tenuously by a cheap magnet
on the refrigerator door
an inanimate taunt
a ridiculous happy, frozen
moment of time --
She is now
a prisoner of
deadened silence…

"At Benson's Deli" is Holder's powerful reminiscence of the days his undemonstrative father took his sons to the deli for lunch. Relationships thrived there, over hot dogs, knishes, and Doctor Brown's fizzing vanilla creams:

And for me
those afternoons
that warm, nostalgic
ancient hue
is all that
rings true.

"Fat Ladies of the Matinee" is a fine mix of humorous and sad, a brilliant word picture of what it means to be fat in a world that values only the lean and beautiful among us:

Floating toward corners
graceful only in the dark
like the slow
clandestine drift of clouds
Lofting their billowing
dresses like pitch tents
on cushioned seats.
Positioning themselves
to the side of
flickering projector light.
Corpulent, spectral figures
munching in their hungry seclusion
savoring the buttery kernels
shrouded from the thinly
veiled looks of disgust.

These examples of Holder's work reveal a poet who crafts each poem carefully. He says exactly what he means in few words, but each word and line communicates, reveals, speaks clearly to readers. If you haven't discovered Doug Holder's poetry yet, I recommend you start with this chapbook.

Passing Over
Norman Finkelstein
Marsh Hawk Press
P.O. Box 206, East Rockaway NY 11518-0206
9780979241604 $15.00

Norman Finkelstein is a poet, literary critic, and Professor of English at Xavier University in Cincinnati OH. His body of work is impressive and includes critiques of modern and post modern poetry, scholarly studies on international relations, and several books of his own poetry. Critics have described his books as beautiful and beguiling, brilliant and audacious, lyrical and probing. In Passing Over he physically and metaphysically explores the Jewish-American identity within the history of the Passover.

In "Aliyah" he contemplates the Word and the Book, those constants that anchor Jewish people no matter where they live on Earth:

Even here in the promised place,
where the light sears every wound,
the figures are fruitful and multiply
as if it has been ordained.

Finkelstein dissects his creative process with clarity, exposing each serration honestly. Readers know exactly where his ancestors have been because he dissolves all boundaries. Consider this passage from "A Tomb for Gershom Scholem" for example:

The Blessing glimmers on the border of nihilism,
a no-man's-land between Berlin and Jerusalem,
a haunted line between France and Spain.
The ghosts from Paris, from Prague, from Vienna,
circle warily around the merkabah.
You cannot fend them off; they are parts of you.
They are the sparks returning, completing a movement
which you thought could never come to rest.

"Mara: The Shape of an Absence" is a long poem, haunting and tender. I cannot adequately convey the impact of this poem in a review, but quote two small excerpts here because they describe Finkelstein's poetry to perfection:

Syllables accumulated
in a psychic

As if held in account
against the unspeakable

And in a second excerpt from the same poem:

Mara, beyond my hatreds and desires
and the hatreds and desires of those I see
lies the void we have misnamed history,
as dark and capacious as the leafy Absolute,
alone in its gloomy park.
You fell into the one to fall out of the other,
if only for a few moments
on a summer day.

These poems carry fragments of death and miracles. Through his words, Norman Finkelstein eats the bread of affliction, mourns the losses of history, and drinks the wine of bitterness while holding watch in a night gone dark with ancient powers. His poetry, indeed, is beautiful and beguiling. Highly recommended.

A Voice for My Grandmother -- Second Printing
Ron Singer
A Bardpress Chapbook / Ten Penny Players, Inc.
393 St. Pauls Ave., Staten Island NY 10304
9780934830720 $12.00

Ron Singer is a literary renaissance man: writer of poetry and prose, essays and satires; creator of librettos. His work has been featured in journals and e-zines too numerous to mention here. This second edition of A Voice for My Grandmother is a tender, humorous, poignant homage to his Russian-Jewish immigrant grandmother. Could his old country grandma read? Singer isn't certain about that. Why didn't she talk more? Perhaps the English language baffled her. It's clear in Singer's retrospective that this family matriarch had grit, wisdom, and culinary skills beyond the ordinary.

"Two Wicked Sons-in-Law" is a tongue-in-cheek memory of two men who resented their part in having to house or support their mother-in-law and made jokes about her -- until she began meal preparation:

"When they thought it was time for Grandma to leave, both my father and uncle would make jocular, throat-clearing noises, then drop rude, obvious hints. My uncle even did this in front of me once. Har har! The latitude of these scenes was about two degrees south of a sit-com. The boorish sons-in-law did, however, like Grandma's cooking. Is there no one to forgive these men?"

"Ranu, M'zooka" is a delightful story gleaned from Singer's childhood memories. In it, Grandma's Russian pronunciations of his name -- Ranu instead of Ronald -- and her favorite bubble gum are priceless. This story says much in few words about the woman and their relationship:

"Ranu, M'zooka," she would say, as she came through the door.

She would rummage through her huge, patent-leather pocketbook and bring out a very large packet of bubble gum: Bazooka, a segmented log, pink and speckled with sugar. One by one, I would stuff as many segments as I could into my mouth -- four? five? -- and when the bubble gum broke, it would cover my whole face.

"Ranu!" she would laugh, trying to look strict."

I enjoyed this small chapbook of memories. Ron Singer's vibrant, personable grandma came to life as did her children and husband, the failed chicken farmer who transformed their world by marketing eggs. Singer's writing style is appealing, his memories shared with loving humor. My only complaint is that the book isn't longer. I wanted to know more about Singer's family, for which he is the last "surviving earthly accountant." To learn more about this exceptional writer, go to

The F--k Generation
Alexander Shaumyan
135 Fountain Street, Apt. A4, New Haven CT 06515
9781599163741 $12.00

Alexander Shaumyan immigrated to the U.S. from Russia with his family
in 1975. His personal poetry and Russian translations are well known
internationally. This is his tenth full length book of poetry. In
it, he's no longer the sheltered innocent dreaming of unconditional
love. His eyes are wide open; he sees the world around him for what
it is. Humans have become a generation of selfish, perverted, spoiled
technocrats, living in a dangerous world where no one is safe anymore.
This excerpt from the title poem sets the tone:

And we knew somehow
That there was no one to save us
From ourselves --
No gods, no karma, no military,
No peace corps, nor futile protest
Marches on Washington.

In Shaumyan's view, we have become "second hand people living off
recycled / words that offer neither substance / nor meaning." This is
true in poetry as well as politics. His growing cynicism is clear in
"I Don't Want to be a Poet:"

I don't want to be a poet
Just to be heard by other
Poets or would be poets
At some phony
Open mike poetry
Readings or poetry
Slams with everyone
Desperate for attention --

As humans, our place in the Universe is not destined for memorable
greatness. Consider the last verse of "Old Dudes in Metaphysical

But the circus goes on undetected even now --
With all the claims of omnipotence
And omniscience, we are still too damn small
For this universe.

"Another Uplifting Poem" demonstrates this poet's use of brilliant
sarcasm in the face of reality, where only a poem stands between life
and a man with a gun to his head:

It was another uplifting poem,
Masquerading as the meaning of life,
And those who took little sips from it
Felt a little better during the day
Because the poem was their friend
Like a get-well card or a call from
That special someone with its
Huggy-poo and lovey-doo
Type of fuzzy nonsense….

Shaumyan's world is awash with "posers, losers, junkies, and
self-important thugs." His brilliant mind cannot absorb the awful
truths. He searches for solace in the beauty of nature or love, but
visions of bombed buildings, scorched earth, and helpless victims of
greed and war haunt him:

I've seen pompous old men
Profess higher truths,
And children mangled,
Murdered and starved,
Or sold to the highest
Bidder --

Readers will find no huggy-poo or lovey-poo types of fuzzy nonsense
here. These poems are Shaumyan's unflinching view of our modern
world. His words are scalpels that dissect pretenses, hypocrisy,
greed, politics, and war. If you haven't read Shaumyan's work, I
recommend you start with this book.

Old Age is Not for Sissies
Ed Galing
Peerless Press
3435 Mill Rd., Hatboro PA 19040
No ISBN $5.00 50 pages

The venerable Poet Laureate of Hatboro PA is still plugging away creating chapbooks, submitting poetry to journals, and grabbing life by the lapels. From the retrospective of nine decades, Galing's poetry cuts to the heart of life and living. In this chapbook he addresses the vicissitudes of aging and fondly turns the pages of his life with an occasional bit of help from his cartoon friend, Sadie the Psychic. Always, Ed Galing looks at life with humor and acceptance.

"Longevity" commemorates centenarians introduced by Willard Scott on TV. Galing enjoys the show, and wonders if he'll make it to age 100:

…then my knee starts
to hurt

as I head into the
kitchen for a cup
of coffee and an

In "A Bit of Philosophy" Galing contemplates life, love, happiness, sorrow, and wonders if his poetry makes any kind of impression on anyone. Before poem's end, he gives himself and his readers a mental shaking:

Hell, it ain't easy getting old…
it ain't for sissies…

now stop your sniveling, and wipe your nose!
and eat your farina!

"So, Where are We, Anyway?" is an amazing poem, simple and powerful and typical Galing:

growing old
might grey your hair
and bend your back

but need not erase
a bright smile on your

and the gentle fond
remembrance of the days
when your life was full
of sunshine, beaches, parties,
love, laughter and adventures.

growing old
only makes you
stop wasting your days.

I'm always delighted to find a new Ed Galing chapbook in my mailbox. I read his work and hope with each new book, hope some publisher will see the lifetime of grit and joy on every page, as I do. If it were in my power, a publishing contract would be Ed Galing's Christmas miracle this year.

Christmas At Our House
Phyllis A. Collmann
Collmann Publishing Company
22698 C-12, Ireton, IA 51027
1575793237 $5.00

Phyllis Collmann is a retired nurse who's finally found the time to write. Her stories are gifts that reflect a loving, nurturing spirit. This lovely, heart warming book would make the ideal Christmas present for just about anyone you know.

Four-year-old Laura narrates the story. In 1930, on Christmas Eve, child number eleven is born into Laura's family. Times are hard on the farm and every family member must contribute within his or her ability. Shared work equals shared bounty during the long winter months. Laura's twelve-year-old brother, for example, takes responsibility for planting and harvesting the family's large garden with the help of his younger brothers. When the new baby brother arrives, Laura becomes his caretaker.

Laura's mother tells her baby Herman is a "special child of God." Laura doesn't fully understand what makes him so "special." Herman cries a lot, and only Laura's singing seems to soothe him. She doesn't like her baby brother much but sings to him anyway and soon learns to hug and kiss him just to see his sweet smile. The entire family follows Laura's example, and Herman begins to cry less and smile more. He's slow to walk, talk or feed himself, but he's a happy, loving child, a true gift from God and a blessing to his large family.

This is a beautiful object lesson in the power of acceptance and love. Herman's mongolism becomes a blessing instead of a stumbling block. This is a lesson anyone of any age can understand and Ms. Collmann's book is highly recommended.

Rose's Betrayal and Survival: Book One
Phyllis A. Collmann
Collmann Publishing Company
22698 C-12 Ireton, IA 51027
157579313X $5.00

This first book in a series introduces us to Rose Donlin. The year is 1880 and Rose is seventeen. She loves the family farm in Missouri, enjoys her walks in the woods along the river. Since her mother's death, she's worked alongside her father, cooked and cleaned house just like her mother taught her. All that changes when her father sells Rose for fifty dollars to a stranger in Oklahoma. Why would a loving father sell his child and send her away?

Rose dutifully does as her father asks, bottling her anger until some future time when she can better understand it. She packs her few worn articles of clothing, a quilt and rag doll her mother made, and her treasured books. A frightened, bewildered young girl rides the train to Oklahoma to meet the man who bought her. Joseph Higgins is a sickly old man who owns 3,000 acres of land, lives in a filthy, neglected cabin, and struggles to care for a few farm animals. His purchase of Rose is a strictly business transaction. He needs a strong young woman to clean his house, cook his meals, and care for him in his old age.

Rose fulfills her part of the bargain admirably. She cleans and repairs Joseph's cabin and provides the care and nourishment needed to make him stronger. At first all she thinks about is running away, going home to Missouri. Rose knows how to shoot a gun, skin game, and stretch hides so collects hides through the winter to sell come spring. She has the fortitude to survive Oklahoma's violent weather and to battle human and animal predators. Over five year's time, Rose learns to be content with hard work and Joseph's kindness. Just as her world changed suddenly at age seventeen, it shatters again when Joseph dies. But Rose Donlin is no longer a frightened young girl. Life with Joseph Higgins has shaped her into a confident, capable woman.

Phyllis Collmann tells an intriguing story with a simple, eloquent writing style. All books in this series are ideal reading material for children and adults.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

Miyuki Miyabe
Kodansha America, Inc.
575 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10022
9784770030689 $11.95

Miyuki Miyabe began her professional career in a law office, but soon turned to full-time writing. She has published three prior novels to CROSSFIRE and has been awarded numerous literary accolades. She is considered to be Japan's number one mystery writer.

CROSSFIRE merges the mystery world and more than a bit of the supernatural. Miyabe's heroine, Chikako Ishizu, a veteran police woman who has to constantly fight male attitudes, is pushed into a series of arson/murders. No one can figure out who, or even what, started the fires. Chikako meets the talented and morose Detective Makihara, a man who has devoted his life to the idea of pyrokinesis after he sees his younger step-brother go up in flames before his very eyes many years before. Makihara introduces the idea of a human born with the ability to consciously start fires to Chikako's skeptical reaction:

"'The ability to start fires using willpower,' Makihara said, his light-colored eyes fixed on Chikako. 'That is the theory I gave the investigation team for the Arakawa incident. I told them they should deepen their knowledge of pyrokinesis in order to proceed with their investigation.' He laughed again in a mischievous way. 'That must make me sound pretty eccentric to you, doesn't it?'"

What makes Miyuki Miyabe's writing so profoundly intoxicating is not just her excellent plotting and characterizations (which are compelling). It is the ideas that she presents in her writing. She forces the reader to face some very tough questions about personal ethics; love; and what loneliness contributes to the human condition. The very lovely Junko Aoki is one of two haunted characters born with the unfortunately ability to start fires. What does a person do with that kind of ability? Can she use it for the good of mankind? How does she deal with people who would use her and her powers for their own ends? How will mankind react?

CROSSFIRE is a tragic story of love; a constant reminder of how making decisions about right and wrong can tear people apart; and is just a wonderful read. It's a "can't put it down once you start reading" book, and immediately the reader wants more of what this author has to offer. A spectacular read from a young sensation from Japan and one that American readers will love.

Tremolo: Cry of the Loon
Aaron Paul Lazar
Twilight Times Books
PO Box 3340, Kingsport, TN 37664
9781933353081 $18.95

Aaron Paul Lazar is a Kodak electrophotographic engineer by day, where he commutes to Rochester, New York, and a passionate writer in the wee hours of the morning. He lives in East Groveland, NY with his wife, three daughters, two grandsons, four cats, a dog (probably a beagle), and a mother-in-law. He loves gardening; the arts; cross-country skiing; and being with his two "buddies," that is, his grandsons.

Young Gus LeGarde is an eleven year old staying at his grandparents' resort in the Belgrade lakes of Maine. He is an only child, but he has "blood bonding" with his friends, Elsbeth and Siegfried Marggrander, German-reared children a little younger than Gus. Together they get themselves into the usual scrapes of intelligent and curious children, but they are unwitting witnesses to a murder/thieving ring. They see a terrified little girl running from a man who clearly intends harm to her, and even though their families are loving and attentive, it takes a while for them to convince their parents and the local police that what they saw is crucial to the investigation of the little girl's disappearance:

"A flash of white whisked through the trees in the distance. It moved across the forest floor, flickering beneath the dense branches. I couldn't make out the shape, but it moved as a human would move. Galvanized into action, I clambered down the tree, yelling to my father and Officer Lawson. I fell from the last branch onto a clump of ferns.

'Dad! I saw her. She's over there,' I screamed. I began to run toward Sharon. Officer Lawson grabbed me by the shoulders and peered into my face.

'What did you see?' he asked firmly."

It is easy to see that Aaron Paul Lazar loves to write, as his style is lilting and beautiful. He weaves childhood memories of the lakes of Maine into a stylized whodunit that is original and breathtaking. His characters are children living in a fishing resort with a very special visitor whose presence lends an air of melancholy to an otherwise carefree environment. Lazar gives the reader an idea of what real pirates can be like as the villains, making the tale even more tempting. There is no code of honor among these thieves. A great read!

Intention Take
Robert Roberge Jr.
RJT Press
101 Middlesex Tpke, Ste. 6, PMB 301, Burlington, MA 01803-4914
9781934632437 $14.00

Robert Roberge Jr. Is a Massachusetts resident. INTENTIONAL TAKE is his first Jeff Tribe mystery, and it looks like RJR Press is also a new publisher.

Jeff Tribe is an educated and savvy man who found himself in prison for three years for a crime he didn't commit...the murder of his fiance. Using his innate detective skills, Jeff tracks down the real killer and garners enough press to convince his estranged aunt to come to him for help when tragedy once again strikes at his fractured family. His cousin, Charlene, has been taken off the street by bikers, and the police don't seem up to the task of either finding or freeing her. Tribe enlists the aid of his boyhood friend, Esai Morales, who is both the leader of a gang called the Kings and is a former boyfriend of Charlene's. It doesn't take the duo long to locate Charlene, but the biker gang is a vicious cult who have brainwashed her and kept her on drugs. Charlene is now convinced that her name is "Rainbow," and the task to saving her seems daunting:

"She was crying before Tribe even spoke. Esai stopped near the edge of the pumps, not sure if he should move closer.

Tribe said, 'Hi Charlene, it's me Jeff. You remember, from the other day?'

'Charlene is dead,' she said, tears running down her face. 'Don't you get it?'

'I don't believe that.'

'You don't KNOW. Just leave me alone.'"

White slavery is a topic that has received little attention in the press, but it is something that has gone on as long as other forms of slavery. Roberge takes it on in all of its horrific drama in INTENTIONAL TAKE. The idea that the police would so easily give up on a case where a modern woman is minding her own business and is taken by a gang of cutthroats is presented in graphic detail. Roberge's plot is intricate and detailed, pulling the reader into this excellent mystery from page one and not letting go until its somber conclusion. Roberge has written a refreshing and original tale that pulls at the reader's heartstrings even as its almost constant action thrills and enrages. INTENTIONAL TAKE is a great first effort by a talented and creative author. Well done!

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

The Automatic 2nd Date
Victorya Michaels Rogers
Howard Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416543824 $14.95

As a reviewer I have read countless books on just about every subject known, and that includes books on dating.

I wondered what could be new in this genre that I have not already seen. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I read Ms. Rogers' work, "The Automatic 2nd Date." Ms. Rogers definitely brings a new approach to the table.

Inside of this book you will be awakened within as the author reveals secrets that she herself has put into practice, and emerged a winner in the dating game. No one likes to feel rejected, but often this occurs because of what we ourselves portray to others. In this work you will learn how to unleash the true you, with confidence, pose, dignity and charm. Understand, this book is not about changing you into someone else, only letting the excellence that is already within you come forth, the hidden treasures that Mr. Right is looking for. How exciting is that? Topics are covered such as, The First Impression, Help with make-up, and Conversation Tips, just to name a very few. Very interesting and very helpful.

I have one questions that keeps rolling around in my mind when I think of this book by Victorya Michaels Rogers; just where was this book when I needed it? No matter your age ladies, if you are walking the dating road, this book is for you. Very well written, fresh, personal, alive. Truly a real winner.

This Book Is A Joke
Holly Kowitt
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
9780439671712 $5.99

The other day my granddaughter burst into the house spouting out one joke after another. Ah! I knew a new joke book was in her possession, and I was right. Sitting me down she continues to tell me one down-right funny joke after another, from knock-knock to Animal Personal Ads, and so much more; they really were funny. When I finally got her to show me the book I was impressed with what I saw.

"This Book Is A Joke," is packed full of jokes, funny drawings, that bring a giggle on their own, Top 10, and even a section to make up your own jokes. I mention here only a fraction of what you will find in this book. It is really cute, well worth its price, and one that I know you and your children will have hours of giggles with. Great to read at home, share with friends and family, and take along on those long rides in the car. Get this book! Have a giggle.

Never Shoot Short
Kent F. Frates
Bridgeway Books
PO Box 80107, Austin, Texas 78758
9781933538891 $14.95

We meet Deputy Sheriff Ken Frasier, or Snake, to his friends, from Cordell, Oklahoma in this fast paced modern Western, "Don't Never Shoot Short". Snake, after tasting of life elsewhere for a season, finds his way back to his hometown and settles in familiar territory working as a Deputy Sheriff. His life and living conditions suit him just fine, not lonely as some would think. He is comfortable with his home, the work he does and the people he interacts with until he is thrown into a battle, concerning bank foreclosures, a militia group, and a murder that will rock his world and those around him. We find ourselves on quite a horse ride as we skirt in-between the good and the bad guys in this read.

I have to tell you, I found this story quite lively. The characters were real, and interesting and the author weaved them together well to bring the story into play, and the locals were described to bring a good visual. I enjoyed the scene where Snake traveled up the mountain with Ron and Grindle to capture the 'bad guys." I felt as if I were climbing with them, and I loved the interaction between the characters. It was both intense and humorous. Good job!

All in all a real modern Western, wrapped in mystery, danger and excitement, and one you will enjoy reading.

The Ancient Path
Joshua M. Jost
Destiny Image Europe
Via Acquacorrente 6, 65123 Pescara, Italy
9788889127285 $13.99

I always enjoy opening my heart to a Christian author; stopping and reading the words that spring forth from their Spirit concerning the Lord. In this book by author Joshua M. Jost, I found tenderness, passion, rolling depths of love for the Master and His Word. I feasted on intense revelation of who He is and a true showing of His deep compassion and love in a way that both surprised and delighted me, as Bible stories opened before my eyes.

In this work you will see how God's love is present in all the decisions He has made from the beginning. Although at times our mortal minds may not understand these actions, the words in this book will calm your Spirit, and leave you with the knowledge that indeed God does have man's best interest at heart. From Genesis, to the Resurrection of our Savior, we are taken on a journey into the heart of the One who made us and saved us. Yes, at times we will see a hard look at the rebellion of man and the judgment that follows, but know always it is laced with the underlining knowledge that God indeed is love, and no matter how hard at times His love is to understand, His is the only true love we will ever need.

The Ancient Path is a book that will warn you, encourage you, refresh you, and lift your eyes towards the Lord. Surely, this book will give you more understanding of His ways. Beautiful book written from the depths of a man with a beautiful Spirit, whose entire purpose in his writing is to bring you to a better understand of Whom the Lord is. Highly Recommended!

Fifty-Seven Heaven: A Kitty Bloodworth, '57 Mystery
Lonnie Cruse
Five Star
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, Maine 04901
1594146004 $25.95

Author, Lonnie Cruse, never ceases to amaze me. I have had the privilege to read and review several of her previous published works of mystery with the beloved character Sheriff Joe Dalton, and devoured every word of them. Exceptional in all ways. Needless to say, I was thrilled to be asked to review her new work, "Fifty-Seven Heaven," excited to see what I would find in the pages of this book, and the new characters I would meet. I was not disappointed.

Introduced to Kitty and Jack Bloodworth, a middle-aged couple living in the town of Metropolis, home of superman, we are taken into a murder investigation where Kitty and Jack, and members of their family, may be prime suspects. The victim, Kitty's annoying cousin, Will Ann Lloyd. Many have felt like killing this troublesome woman, but who actually did? Questions arise and are unanswered; such as, why did Will Ann verbally attack Kitty's daughter in front of many witnesses the night of her murder? Could Kitty's own daughter be involved in this? Ah! Talk about a drawing card to capture your reading attention.

Ms. Cruse, as always, does an exceptional job of character development, taking you into the very heart of her characters and bringing them alive in the read. She also gives us well-rounded descriptions of locals as the story moves from place to place. Our author takes you down some unexpected lanes and builds upon suspicions, adding adventure and suspense. These little side roads add depth to the read and confusion as to just who did kill Will Ann. Good job. Top all of this off with a wrap-around mystery that digs into the very depths of family emotions of suspicions and loyalty, and you have a winner. Now, the hard part; waiting for the next adventure to begin.

Highly recommended.

What's The Big Deal About Jesus?
John Ankerberg & Dillon Burroughs
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR. 97402-9173
0736921206 $12.99

I was not quite sure what I would find between the pages of this book and I have to tell you I was pleasantly surprised. Our authors ask some no-nonsense questions about Jesus and give back answers that are clear, concise and understandable. I know that often as a Christian I am asked some questions that can be uncomfortable because of the difficulty of giving an answer that the asker will fully understand or accept. Many of these questions are covered in this book, such as How Reliable Are The Manuscripts We Have Today?, Where Did His Body Go?, What Did Others Say About Him? and Did He Really Believe He Was The Son of God? to name just a few. The answers are not just halfway covered, but are fully examined. This book is of great value for groups and their study of Scripture, but certainly can stand alone for any Christian wanting to sharpen their Spiritual learning. You will also find a discussion guide at the end which is a great asset to reinforce your knowledge and use with others.

All in all a work that will enrich your own walk with the Lord and be of an insurmountable help in reaching out to others and being far more comfortable that you will be equipped with answers to some of the questions thrown your way.

Recommended, very impressive work.

Green Stone of Healing Series Fallout Book Two
C.L. Talmadge
Healing Stone Books
907 Sycamore Lane, Lancaster, Texas 75146
0980053715 Ebook $6.95

I have to tell you right off, I usually do not review books in this genre, but author C.L. Talmadge has written a read that has kept my attention and drawn me into her series.
I would like to quote, if I may, her own words concerning it:

"Over several generations of strong female protagonists, the series explores how state sanction for exclusionary religious practices leads to the complete destruction of an island nation called Azgard. Throughout, the heroines and their mysterious green gem attempt to offer a healing, inclusive alternative to a government that persecutes those who do not look like or share the religious beliefs of its top leaders."

Our author describes her series as, "a blue-state version of 'end-of-the world' faction without a traditional religious viewpoint. Instead, it examines alternative spiritual themes and sets forth a different interpretation of free will and good and evil."

In the first book of this series, " The Vision," I met Lt. Helen Andros, who is a physician with a gift for healing. Helen wears a green gemstone necklace from her mother with healing powers. Helen, however is a half-breed, and is treated with contempt in her land . She finds out she is the illegitimate daughter of Lord James, a powerful man in leadership.

In this second installment of this series, Helen and her father begin a battle of wits, each pulling against the other, in their ignorance of relationships. Their battle is long and fierce as they seek from each other, loyalty, compassion and finally love. It is not an easy road, and is filled with disturbing incidents as it is traveled. Many of the unfair acts done to Helen left me filled with rage, but her fortitude was amazing as she survived one obstacle after another. I enjoyed this installment in the series.

The author takes you deep into the life of Helen, both past and present, giving much more insight into her position and importance. The fierce struggle for power continues, those who were evil, becoming more so as the battle for complete dominion is paramount. It appears none are safe from the cruelty that reigns.

The story was both repulsive in the acts of the characters therein, but also heartfelt in devotion and love to those struggling for the good. The ending definitely left you wanting, and that is a good thing.

Exceptional job of writing, and keeping this story tightly together in a genre that is certainly difficult to do such, our author is top-notch. If you love an intense read, packed with sinister power seekers, grueling heartless characters, yet laced with mystical moments, the lure of peace and healing, and the hope that goodness will prevail, this read is for you. Excellent Job.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Bicycle Book
Jim Joyce
Satya House Publications
PO Box 122, Hardwick, MA 01037
9780972919159, $14.95

Compiled and edited by bicycling enthusiast Jim Joyce (founder of The Bicycle Exchange), "The Bicycle Book: Wit, Wisdom & Wanderings" is a collection of original stories, narratives, and cartoons with the theme of bicycle riding. The contributors range from Pulitzer Prize-winning author and newspaper columnist Thomas Hylton (who initiates this anthology with his piece on 'Bicycling and Walking'; to Scott Robert's 'Keeping Up With Lance' based on a one-on-one interview with Chris Carmichale who is Lance Armstrong's long time coach and friend; to New York City-based Gianna Bellofatto, the author of the 'Life Is a Bike' series and contributor of six terrific essays; and so many other informed and informative men and women sharing a passion for bike riding. A 'must read' for any and all bicyclists, "The Bicycle Book" is a unique and very highly recommended addition to personal and community library Outdoor Recreation collections.

Compendium Of Scottish Silver II
Rodney Dietert & Janice Dietert
Dietert Publications
3006 North Triphammer Road, Lansing, NY 14882
9780615163048, $49.95

The collaborative effort of Rodney and Janice Dietert, "Compendium Of Scottish Silver II" is a 629-page compendium comprised of more than 6000 listings of Scottish gold and silver. Embellished with 54 plates illustrating Scottish silver, a timeline of First Appearances, and a glossary of decorative arts terms, "Compendium Of Scottish Silver II" is also an invaluable aid for dealers and collectors in reading Scottish hallmarks and evaluating Scottish silver. Also available in an eBook format ($17.99), "Compendium Of Scottish Silver II" is a thoroughly 'user friendly', core addition to personal, professional, and academic library Antiques/Collectibles reference collections. Also very highly recommended as a critically important reference title by Rodney and Janice Dietert is "The Edinburgh Goldsmiths I: Training, Marks, Output and Demographics".

Stuff To Die For
Don Bruns
Oceanview Publishing
c/o MM Book Publicity
2817 West End Avenue, Suite 126-274, Nashville, TN 37203
9781933515106, $24.95

Set in Miami, "Stuff To Die For" is the story of Skip Moore and James Lessor, two guys who grew up in poverty watching other people travel in their the luxury cars, going to fancy clubs and elegant restaurants, and enjoying their money. Now in their twenties the two decide on a new get-rich-scheme (they've had a lot of them in the past). But things start going strange when they discover a severed finger in an envelope along with a ransom note. As they involve themselves into solving a kidnap caper, the two become enmeshed a world of family secrets, Cuban thugs, a gun-toting philosopher, a CIA agent, and a group of shadowy people plotting the overthrow of the Cuban government. Highly entertaining and enthusiastically recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections, "Stuff To Die For" is a superbly crafted, action-packed story of mysteries, explosions, car chases, gun battles, a quick eye for a buck, and two somewhat flawed heroes trying to figure things out and not get killed in the process!

Snow Books
120 Pentonville Road, London, N1 9Jn
Consortium Books Sales & Distribution
34 Thirteenth Avenue NE, Suite 101, Minneapolis, MN 55413-1007 (distributor) 1-800-283-3572

Snow Books is a British publisher of history, craft, fitness, and fiction titles that are now available to an American readership through Consortium, their American distributor. Four of their titles are especially representative of their publishing list and highly recommended reading. "God's End: The Fall" (9781905005611, $14.95) again documents science fiction and fantasy novelist Michael McBride as a master storyteller in his chosen genre. In "The Other Eden" (9781905005116, $14.95), Sarah Bryant has written a riveting romantic adventure of a young woman's love for an enigmatic Russian musician and the forgotten mystery of a Louisiana estate called Eden's Meadow. Robert Finn's "Adept" (9781905005574, $14.95) is a superbly crafted mystery in the British tradition of articulate suspense that will leave its readers looking eagerly toward the forthcoming sequel "Ex Machina". "The Needle In The Blood" (9781905005390, $14.95) is an impressively detailed historical novel set in 1067. Odo of Bayeus is a charismatic bishop and commissions a massive tapestry to celebrate his role in the conquest of Britain by his brother William, Due of Normandy. The roster of characters is truly a memorable one and includes Gytha who is handmaid to the mistress of the fallen Saxon king (and Odo's sworn enemy) as the story unfolds with friends and family becoming enemies, enemies evolving into lovers, and the unexpected happening with every unanticipated twist of a fascinating plot that holds the reader's complete attention from first page to last. For those who appreciate beautifully crafted storytelling from gifted authors working in a variety of genres, visit the Snow Books website at for a complete listing of available and forthcoming titles!

John Taylor

Vicki's Bookshelf

The Dark is Rising Sequence
Susan Cooper
Aladdin / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416949961 $29.99

On the Midwinter Day that is his 11th birthday, Will Stanton discovers a special gift -- that he is the last of the Old Ones, immortals dedicated to keeping the world from domination by the forces of evil, the Dark. At once, he is plunged into a quest for the six magical Signs that will one day aid the Old Ones in the final battle between the Dark and the Light. And for the twelve days of Christmas, while the Dark is rising, life for Will is full of wonder, terror, and delight. Susan Cooper's five-book "Dark Is Rising" series – including Newbery Honor Book and a Carnegie Medal Honor Books -- is housed in this paper-back boxed set.

At Ellis Island
Louise Peacock, illustrated by Walter Lyon Krudop
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9780689830266 $18.99

Ellis Island was the gateway to America and the promise of freedom for thousands. Its walls are rich with stories. Its walls are rich with stories. In this book we hear myriad of those voices. First we follow a young person today. Her great-great-grandmother entered America through Ellis Island. As this young girl walks the halls of the famous site, she wonders about the past, the people, and their hopes, dreams and challenges. Here, too, is the voice of Sera, an Armenian girl from the early 1900s. Fleeing the unthinkable in her home country, she longs to join her father in America. As Sera enters the halls of Ellis Island, she lives those same hopes, dreams, and challenges. The voices of real immigrants -- their suffering in steerage, their first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, and their journey through the Great Hall -- complete this touching look into an important part of America's history. A pivotal time and place is brought to life through a combination of many voices speaking in harmony.

Edward's Eyes
Patricia MacLachlan
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
978141692743-3 $15.99

Jake is a part of an extraordinary family. He has a life filled with art, music, and long summer nights on the Cape. He has hours and days and months of baseball. But, more than anything in this world, Jake knows he has Edward. From the moment he was born, Jake knew Edward was destined for something. Edward could make anyone laugh and everyone think. During one special year, he became the only one in the neighborhood who could throw a perfect knuckleball. It was a pitch you could not hit. That same year, Jake learned there are also some things you cannot hold. Patricia MacLachlan, one of the most beloved children's book authors writing today, has painted a deeply stirring, delicately lyrical portrait of a child, a son, a family, and a brother. Through Edward's eyes, we see what gifts all of these things truly are to those around them, and how those gifts live on and grow.

Middle School is Worst Than Meatloaf
Jennifer Holm, illustrated by Elicia Castaldi
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9760689852817 $12.99

Ginny has ten items on her big to-do list for seventh grade. None of them, however, include accidentally turning her hair pink. Or getting sent to detention for throwing frogs in class. Or losing the lead role in the ballet recital to her ex-best friend. Or the thousand other things that can go wrong between September and June. But it looks like it's shaping up to be that kind of a year! Here's the story of one girl's worst school year ever -- told completely through her stuff.

The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World
E.L. Konigsburg
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416949725 $16.99

Amedeo Kaplan seems just like any other new kid who has moved into the town of St. Malo, Florida, a navy town where new faces are the norm. But Amedeo has a secret, a dream: More than anything in the world, he wants to discover something -- a place, a process, even a fossil -- some treasure that no one realizes is there until he finds it. And he would also like to discover a true friend to share these things with. William Wilcox seems like an unlikely candidate for friendship: an aloof boy who is all edges and who owns silence the way other people own words. When Amedeo and William find themselves working together on a house sale for Amedeo's eccentric neighbor, Mrs. Zender, Amedeo has an inkling that both his wishes may come true. For Mrs. Zender's mansion is crammed with memorabilia of her long life, and there is a story to go with every piece. Soon the boys find themselves caught up in one particular story -- a story that links a sketch, a young boy's life, an old man's reminiscence, and a painful secret dating back to the outrages of Nazi Germany. It's a story that will take them to the edge of what they know about heroism and the mystery of the human heart. Two-time Newbery winner E. L. Konigsburg spins a magnificent tale of art, discovery, friendship, history, and truth.

Freckleface Strawberry
Julianne Moore, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781599901077 $16.95

From actress Julianne Moore and award-winning illustrator LeUyen Pham comes "Freckleface Strawberry," a delightful story of a little girl who's different ... just like everybody else. But, of course, she finds this out the hard way after trying just about everything to get rid of her freckles, including: scrubbing, using markers to cover them up, hiding, and willing them away. None of which work. The moral, predictably, is to learn to love them because after all, the things that make you different make you, well, you. A reassuring picture book message for girls 4-6.

Let's Take Over the Kindergarten
Richard Hamilton, illustrated by Sue Heap
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781582347073 $15.95

What happens when the students take over the school after their teacher gets caught in the jungle gym? They have a great time! They paint the walls and play with all of their favorite toys, but things take a turn for the worse without the teacher to help them maintain order. Now, if only the kids can find a way to get Miss Tuck unstuck… With colorful, graphic illustrations and a punchy rhyming text, "Let's Take Over the Kindergarten" is a fun read-aloud for kindergartners excited about starting school.

Different Like Coco
Elizabeth Matthews
Candlewick Press
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140
9780763625481 $16.99

The rags-to-riches story of Coco Chanel plays out in a wonderful picture-book biography as full of style and spirit as its heroine. Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel was always different. And she vowed to prove that being different was an advantage! Poor, skinny, and orphaned, Coco stubbornly believed that she was as good as the wealthier girls of Paris. Tapping into her creativity and her sewing skills, she began making clothes that suited her (and her pocketbook) -- and soon a new generation of independent working women craved her sleek, comfortable, and practical designs. Now an icon of fashion and culture, Coco Chanel continues to inspire young readers, showing just how far a person can come with spunk, determination, and flair.

The Pullman Strike of 1894
Michael Burgan
Compass Point Books
7825 Telegraph Road, Bloomington, MN 55438
9780756533489 $27.95

In the summer of 1894, employees of Pullman Palace Car Company near Chicago decided they were fed up with their work conditions, including reduced wages. The laborers went on strike, refusing to go to work. Railroad workers from across the country joined the strike to show their support. This action shut down the railroads across the Midwest and beyond. The Pullman strike helped some business and government leaders see that worker's concerns were important and deserved to be addressed. "The Pullman Strike of 1894" is just one library title in the "We the People" series exploring every era of U.S. history – from pre-colonial to modern times.\

Write Your Own Myth
Natalie M. Rosinsky
Compass Point Books
7825 Telegraph Road, Bloomington, MN 55438
9780756533724 $31.93

Compass Point Books' "The Write Your Own" series is designed to teach children how to craft believable characters and intense plots, along with satisfying beginnings, middles, and endings. Examples from numerous books appear throughout the text, along with tips from published authors to help them along. Kudos to the author and editor for an unusually creative book line from this publisher, but one can't help but be taken aback by the unusually high $32 price-point, putting it well beyond the reach of the libraries and schools that would benefit most. This 4-color, reinforced library binding edition is more costly to produce than standard hardbacks, but $32 per title seems exorbitant, even by Compass Point and Capstone Press' standards.

How to Steal a Dog
Barbara O'Connor
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
19 Union Square West, NY, NY 10003
9780374334970 $16.00

"Half of me was thinking, Georgina, don't do this. Stealing a dog is just plain wrong. The other half of me was thinking, Georgina, you're in a bad fix and you got to do whatever it takes to get yourself out of it." Georgina Hayes is desperate. Ever since her father left and they were evicted from their apartment, her family has been living in their car. With her mama juggling two jobs and trying to make enough money to find a place to live, Georgina is stuck looking after her younger brother, Toby. And she has her heart set on improving their situation. When Georgina spots a missing-dog poster with a reward of five hundred dollars, the solution to all her problems suddenly seems within reach. All she has to do is "borrow" the right dog and its owners are sure to offer a reward. What happens next is the last thing she expected. With unmistakable sympathy, author Barbara O'Connor tells the story of a young girl struggling to see what's right when everything else seems wrong.

Magic In The Margins
W. Nikola-Lisa, illustrated by Bonnie Christensen
Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780618496426 $17.00

Simon was an orphan, the son of peasants. He was keen-minded and quick and soon learned the ways of the scriptorium, of the illuminated manuscripts. In fact, he was such a fast learner, he felt ready to draw pictures of his own in his teachers books. But first, the monastery's father tells him, he must learn how to capture mice. Prolific author W. Nikola-Lisa and acclaimed illustrator Bonnie Christensen combine talents to create their own illuminated story about patience, talent, and the imagination.

Tsunami Warning
Taylor Morrison
Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780618734634 $17.00

In 2004, tsunamis in the Indian Ocean swept over entire islands, wiping some of them completely off the map and killing more than 230,000 people. Unfortunately, tsunamis like these cannot be stopped, but they can be better understood. What causes these huge waves to form? How can they be detected? And what can be done to alert people that these fast-moving waves are approaching? As author and illustrator Taylor Morrison explains, ever since a deadly tsunami hit Hawaii in 1946, scientists have been hard at work, developing the first Seismic Sea Wave Warning System and studying these powerful waves in hopes of saving lives by decreasing false alarms and by reacting with greater speed and accuracy to real threats.

Iron Thunder
114 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10011-5690
9781423104469 $15.99

When his father is killed fighting for the Union in the War Between the States, 13-year-old Tom Carroll must take a job to help support his family. He manages to find work at a bustling ironworks in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York, where dozens of men are frantically pounding together the strangest ship Tom has ever seen. A ship made of iron. Tom becomes assistant to the ship's inventor, a gruff, boastful man named Captain John Ericsson. He soon learns that the Union army has very important plans for this iron ship called The Monitor. It is supposed to fight the Confederate "sea monster" – another ironclad – the Merrimac. But Ericsson is practically the only person who believes the Monitor will float. Everyone else calls it "Ericsson's Folly" or "the iron coffin." In these strange and uncertain times, Tom finds himself caught between two certain dangers: an encounter with murderous spies and a battle at sea in an iron coffin. Avi's incredibly rich-storytelling skill is again at work in "Iron Thunder," his latest historical novel for readers ages 8 through 12.

Gordon Korman
114 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10011-5690
9780786856923 $15.99

Capricorn "Cap" Anderson has never watched television. He's never tasted a pizza. Never even heard of a wedgie. Since he was little, his only experience has been living on a farm commune and being home-schooled by his hippie grandmother, Rain. But when Rain falls out of a tree while picking plums and has to stay in the hospital, Cap is forced to move in with a guidance counselor and her cranky teen daughter, and to attend the local middle school. While Cap knows a lot about tye-dying and Zen Buddhism, no education could prepare him for the politics of public school. Right from the start, Cap's weirdness makes him a moving target. Once Zach Powers spots Cap, he can't wait to introduce him to the school's age-old tradition: the biggest nerd gets nominated to run for class president…and wins. Will Cap turn out to be the greatest president in the history of the school? Or the biggest punch line?

Summerhouse Time
Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Knopf / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375840616 $12.99

Every year a rented pink cottage full of family, swapping stories, and riding waves mean Summerhouse Time for Sophie. Best of all is sharing a room with her favorite cousin and laughing and trading secrets like two happy peas in a cousin pod. Sophie can't wait! But when she asks the now-a-teenager Colleen if she's looking forward to their time together, Colleen just says "I guess so." What? It's the best time of the year, the time they both love. In just a little bit, they will all be together in the cottage on the beach. Will this year be just as wonderful, just like always? Accompanied by charming black-and-white illustrations, classic growing up experiences radiate throughout the pages of this sunny, anytime story. Gentle fiction for girls ages 8-12.

The Complete Set of Fudge Books
Judy Blume
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
09780142409060 $29.95

Nothing is easy for 12-year-old Peter Hatcher. His younger brother, Fudge, is bad enough, but with a new baby coming, a move to Princeton and other major change issues for minors, he has it rough. Fans young and old will laugh out loud at the irrepressible wit of Peter Hatcher, the hilarious antics of mischievous Fudge, and the unbreakable confidence of know-it-all Sheila Tubman in Judy Blume's five Fudge books: "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing," "Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great," "Superfudge," "Fudge-a-Mania" and "Double Fudge." New covers adorn paperback editions these perennial favorites, and are packaged together in a nifty box set, just right for gift giving to a whole new generation of Fudge and Judy Blume fans.

The Road to Paris
Nikki Grimes
Putnam / Penguin
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
0399245375 $15.99

Paris has just moved in with the Lincoln family, and isn't thrilled to be in yet another foster home. She has a tough time trusting people, and she misses her brother, who's been sent to a boys' home. Over time, the Lincolns grow on Paris. But no matter how hard she tries to fit in, she can't ignore the feeling that she never will, especially in a town that's mostly white while she is half black. It isn't long before Paris has a big decision to make about where she truly belongs. Nikki Grimes has created a portrait of a young girl who, in the midst of being shuffled back and forth between homes and realizing things about other people and the world around her, gradually embarks on the road to discovering herself. Nikki Grimes's numerous books include Coretta Scott King Award winner "Bronx Masquerade" and Coretta Scott King Honor winner "Jazmin's Notebook."

Harry and the Dinosaurs Go to School
Ian Whybrow, Adrian Reynolds
Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375841804 $15.99

It's the first day of school and Harry is nervous because he isn't sure what to expect. His Triceratops pal is even more nervous, especially when Harry must leave the dinosaurs in the coatroom. But soon Harry sees another boy who is the most nervous of all. He clings to his toy bulldozer and won't talk to anyone in the class. Harry wonders what he can do. Perhaps the new boy will talk to dinosaurs… A cute picture book story to chase away first-day jitters.

Raleigh's Page
Alan Armstrong
Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375833199 $16.99

Andrew has grown up near the Plymouth docks hearing the sailors talk about America. Knowing that Andrew's heart is set on going to the new world, his father sends him up to London to serve as page in the house of Walter Raleigh. In Queen Elizabeth's court, Raleigh's the strongest voice in favor of fighting with Spain for a position in the New World, and everyone knows that it's just a matter of time before Her Majesty agrees to an expedition. Can Andrew prove himself fit to go on an expedition to the New World? Meticulously researched, and combining fictional characters with historical, Andrew's tale offers up a vivid look at the cloak and -- dagger politics of the time and a genuine feel for what it must have been like for the first Europeans to set foot on the beautiful, bountiful, savage shores of America.

John Van de Ruit
Razorbill / Penguin
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9781595141705 $16.99

It's 1990. Apartheid is crumbling. Nelson Mandela has just been released from prison. And Spud Milton -- 13-year-old, prepubescent choirboy extraordinaire -- is about to start his first year at an elite boys-only boarding school in South Africa. Cursed with embarrassingly dysfunctional parents, a senile granny named Wombat, and a wild obsession for Julia Roberts, Spud has his hands full trying to adapt to his new home. Armed with only his wits and his diary, Spud takes readers of all ages on a rowdy boarding school romp full of illegal midnight swims, raging hormones, and catastrophic holidays that will leave readers in total hysterics and thirsty for more. Winner of South Africa's Booksellers' Choice Award 2006 – for good reason.

Into the Mist
Patrick Carman
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780439899529 $11.99

Before the walls went up, before the battle between Abaddon and Elyon, before Alexa Daley was born, there were two young brothers, Thomas and Roland Warvold, whose pasts were as mysterious as their futures. Raised in a horrible orphanage and forced to escape into a strange, unknown world, Thomas and Roland found adventure – and danger -- wherever they turned. Their story is one of magic, exploration, fellowship, and secrets, all of which are revealed as the chronicles of Elyon unfold in author Patrick Carman's "The land of Elyon" fantasy series for middle grade readers.

Young Pele Soccer's First Star
Lesa Cline-Ransome, James E. Ransome
Schwartz & Wade Books / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375835995 $16.99, 32 pages,

How did a poor boy named Edson -- who kicked rocks down roads and dribbled balls made from rags -- go on to become the greatest soccer player of all time? While other kids memorized letters, Edson memorized the scores of soccer matches. And when Edson finally played in a youth soccer tournament in the town of Bauru, Brazil, he focused on only one thing from the moment the whistle blew: the goal. Here is the picture book story of the boy who overcame tremendous odds to become the world champion soccer star Pele.

Horrible Harry and the Triple Revenge
Suzy Kline
Viking / Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
0670060771 $13.99

Horrible Harry has caused a lot of trouble at school before, but he's never caused trouble like this. When Sid ruins an origami animal Song Lee made, Harry defends her by declaring triple revenge! No one knows when, where, or how, but Harry is going to get Sid back. Will it be on pajama day, when the kids wear their nightclothes to school? Will it happen in Room 3B? Or will Harry's ultimate revenge mean Sid is the only one not invited to Harry's ninth birthday party?

Cowboy and Octopus
Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
Viking / Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670910588 $16.99

Peanut butter and jelly. George and Martha. Frog and Toad. Cowboy and…Octopus? Yes, that's right. Young readers are introduced to Cowboy and Octopus -- the next great pairing in silly picture book fiction. Cowboy likes beans 'n' bacon and bacon 'n' beans. Octopus eats raw seafood. Octopus prefers knock-knock jokes, but Cowboy doesn't get them. How will these two ever be friends? Illustrated in funky, vintage-style cut-outs and told in several humorous mini-stories, the famous "Stinky Cheese Man" duo of John Scieszka and Lane Smith have created sweet -- and of course hilarious -- super-short tales of an unlikely friendship.

Birmingham, 1963
Carole Boston Weatherford
Wordsong / Boyds Mills Press
815 Church St., Honesdale, Penn. 18431
9781590784402 $17.95

In 1961, Birmingham, Alabama was one of the most segregated cities in the United States. Civil rights demonstrators were met with police dogs and water cannons. The eyes of the world were on Birmingham, a flashpoint for the civil rights movement. On Sunday, September 15, 1963, members of the Ku Klux Klan planted 19 sticks of dynamite under the back steps of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, which served as a meeting place for civil rights organizers. The explosion claimed the lives of four girls. Their murders shocked the nation and turned the tide in the struggle for equality. "Birmingham, 1963" captures the heartbreak of that tragic day as seen through the eyes of a fictional witness to the bombing. Pairing archival photographs with poignant text written in free verse, Carole Boston Weatherford offers a powerful tribute to the young victims.

Vicki Arkoff
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Outdoors Online
Erika Dillman
The Mountaineers Books
1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134-1161
9781594850684, $14.95 1-800-553-4453

"Outdoors Online: An internet Guide To Everything Wild & Green" is a pocket-sized compendium of internet accessible websites with information on everything from outdoor sports, to travel locales, to wildlife, to sustainable living, to gear questions. Cross-indexed, this is a guide that separates worthwhile websites from those that are essential a waste of time and effort. An invaluable resource for places to go and things to do, as well as surviving in the wild, hiking and camping outdoors, and 'living green', "Outdoors Online" is very highly recommended as the perfect and thoroughly 'user friendly' internet guide and resource.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Ashley Gilbertson
University of Chicago Press
1427 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
Goldberg McDuffie Communications (publicity)
444 Madison Avenue, Suite 3300, New York, NY 10022
9780226293257, $35.00 1-800-621-2736

"Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer's Chronicle Of The Iraq War" is a compilation of photojournalist Ashley Gilbertson's photographic record of the occupation of Iraq with special emphasis on the battle of Falluja in 2004. Providing the reader with a photographic album chronicling America's early battles in Iraq, the initial occupation of Baghdad, the insurgency that subsequently erupted, Falluja, and the first national elections following the fall of Saddam, "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" provides captioned snapshots of conflict, celebration, grief, and other iconic moments. As a war-time photo documented history of special interest to anyone interested in America's involvement in the Iraq war, "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" is an impressive body of work and a recommended addition to personal, professional, academic, and community library Photography collections.

David C. Driskell
Pomegranate Communications, Inc.
PO Box 808022, Petaluma, CA 94975-8022
9780764942044, $30.00 1-800-227-1428

David C. Driskell is an accomplished artist, a respected educator, a noted historian, an able curator, and a distinguished diplomat. For more than fifty years he has worked and created in a variety of mediums including painting, drawing, collage, and printmaking. It is his printmaking that is celebrated and showcased in "Evolution: Five Decades Of Printmaking By David C. Driskell", a compendium that includes his woodcuts, linoleum cuts, lithographs, etchings, and screenprints. Enhanced with more than 100 perfectly reproduced images of his works, the illustrations range from black-and-white figures and portraits, brightly colored landscapes, still lifes, and abstracts. It should be noted that "Evolution" is the accompanying catalog to an exhibition of his work currently on display at The David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora at the University of Maryland. Featuring three informed and informative essays by three scholars in the field of African American art offering insights into Driskell's techniques, subject matter, inspirations and influences, "Evolution" also provides a comprehensive checklist of prints crated by Driskell in the course of his career, a David C. Driskell Chronology (by Julie McGee), and an index, making this seminal work of scholarship a significant and timely contribution to personal and academic library African-American Art History reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

My Name is Funky ...and I'm an Alcoholic
Tom Batiuk
Hazelden Foundation
PO Box 11, Center City, MN 55012-0011
9781592853779, $13.95 1-800-328-9000

My Name is Funky ...and I'm an Alcoholic: A Story about Alcoholism and Recovery is not a typical newspaper comic strip collection. Instead of the usual gaggle of lighthearted laughs, My Name is Funky collects a series of strips in which the title character confronts some literally life-changing obstacles - troubles in his marriage to Cindy Summers, and a drinking problem that gets worse and worse, exacerbated by his tendency to drive while drunk, until it threatens to completely destroy him. With the help of friends and professionals, he finally has to confront his addiction to alcohol. Even after months of sobriety, he learns the hard way that staying on the wagon is no small feat. "'Why didn't you call when you wanted to have that first drink?' 'I dunno... I guess I thought I could deal with it. I thought that by now I was tough enough.' 'Tough guy, huh? We tend to bury a lot of those.'" My Name is Funky also touches upon other serious matters, such as the soul-searching, and the question of what higher power one can believe in. Yet despite the profound subject matter, My Name is Funky spins everything with humorous edge that makes reading every panel enjoyable, even poignantly bittersweet. A postscript teaches readers about the basics of alcohol addiction and offers real-world references one can contact if one needs help. Highly recommended.

Paul T. Vogel

The Reader Views Bookshelf

Irene Watson, Editor

Bones of the Dead: A Novel
Elle Newmark
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
Toll-free: 1-800-AUTHORS (288-4677),
9780595417391, $16.95 paperback, 2007

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

"Bones of the Dead" is set in Venice during the Renaissance Period. Luciano is an orphaned street urchin who has been rescued from the streets by a chef, Amato Ferrero. Luciano is to be apprenticed to him. Amato sees something special in Luciano and plans on teaching him more than just culinary skills. Luciano senses a mystery about his background and why Amato took him in. He also wonders about the doge that he works for. Early on in his apprenticeship, Luciano witnesses the doge killing a peasant and then pouring an elixir down his throat. He doesn't understand why he would do that to a corpse, but sets out to find out. Along the way, he learns that the doge is seeking a mysterious book that some believe has the recipe for the elixir of immortality, others believe it reveals the alchemy behind how to turn objects into gold.

The chef Amato knows of the mysteries in this book. He is more than a chef, he is also a guardian. Guardians hide secrets in their recipes. They also create concoctions with their recipes that can affect the outcome of decisions that are made in politics. The food sets the mood for how the guardian feels the outcome of a meeting should be. The chef Amato says, "…the prep of food was a tool to illuminate the mysteries of life." In Luciano's haste to find the answers to secrets, he reveals information to untrustworthy sources, this puts himself and Amato in danger. The answers are revealed to him, but at a great cost.

"Bones of the Dead" is an incredibly written novel. I found myself hooked immediately. The author traveled to Venice to create this story. She has a gift for describing the sights, sounds and smells of Venice exactly how you would imagine at that time. She also draws upon the political intrigue and drama that involved The Church. I really liked that the Chef had a great deal of integrity within himself. Under his guidance Luciano was destined to become a great man with integrity, however, because of his background and human nature, it was a struggle. I cannot imagine anyone not enjoying this novel; however, I highly recommend it to people that enjoy historical intrigues. If you like books like "The Da Vinci Code," you will be thrilled to discover "Bones of the Dead." I look forward to reading other novels by Elle Newmark.

Elfhunter: A Tale of Alterra, The World That Is
C.S. Marks
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IL 47403
9781420894608, $20.49, 1-800-839-8640

Reviewed by Cherie Fisher

When I first picked up the "Elfhunter" I had mixed feelings as I am a huge fan of the J.R. Tolkien series. Would this be a knock-off of J.R. Tolkien's trilogy as most books that followed it have been? I will be the first to admit that this brilliantly written book is absolutely not a knock-off. The author does an amazing job with character development and I was also very pleased to see that the main characters were heroines. "Elfhunter" is the first book in the trilogy and I am very much looking forward to reading the other two books in the series.

Gaelen and her cousin, Nelwyn are on a mission for the Elf King when they come across the hideous murders of their fellow elf friends. Determined to catch whoever committed this atrocity they follow the clues left behind. This leads them into danger as they take on Gorgon, the Elfhunter. Gorgon, who is in league with the dark forces, is determined to rid the world of elves and anybody else who gets in his way. As they pursue this formidable opponent, they meet up with the elf Galador and his human friend Orogond who join them on the hunt. Even though they doubt Orogond's usefulness on this journey as a mortal man he is able to prove himself when the time is right.

C.S. Marks also does an excellent job in describing the terrain that the elves travel over as they visit mortal dwellings, dwarf trails under the mountains, and live in enlightened elven dwellings. I also really enjoyed the author's character development of Galador and Orogond's horses.

The author also does an excellent job with the appendices in the book. She includes a glossary of terms that I found myself referring to throughout the book when I was unsure of a term. The other appendix includes background information on Alterra that is also very helpful.

I would highly recommend it to people who enjoy a good fantasy. Be forewarned to not pick it up to read if you are planning to get anything else accomplished in the near future. I had a really hard time putting "Elfhunter" down once I started reading it.

Specific Gravity
J. Matthew Neal
Dunn Avenue Press
9780615141374, $19.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Cherie Fisher

The author J. Matthew Neal has a winner with his first book. This thriller has it all: murder, espionage and romance, all in a high-technology setting. I was almost instantly engaged by the book and did not want to put it down until the very end. Neal's experience as a physician gives him the insight that leads to this first-class thriller.

Dr. Alex Darkkin, a brilliant oncology radiologist, is very unsatisfied with his life. To make a change he decides to take a temporary position at a hospital in San Diego where his sister Wendy is a pediatrician. He quickly gets more than he bargained for. As he is reviewing past cases, he decides to take a look at test results from the recently deceased pharmaceutical executive John Markham. What he finds is very disturbing – the test results have been altered to cover something up. Alex joins forces with his sister's best friend, Bonnie Mendoza, who is very gifted even though she is hearing impaired. She has won international physical competitions, is renowned as a forensic scientist, an accomplished escapist to raise funds for charity. Whew! That's a lot to put into one character.

The story is one of the most bizarre murder plots that I have ever read. I won't ruin the story by telling you what the murder weapon was, but the cast of characters involved were very colorful to say the least. The only shortfall I found in the story was that sometimes the terminology was a little over my head. The author could probably have explained a little less and the story would still have been just as engaging. I was able to quickly go through these parts and still find the story very engaging.

Overall, I found this to be a very well-written book for the first time author. I really hope he plans to expand on these characters and that we will see them again in another thriller. I would highly recommend this people who enjoy thrillers, especially techno thrillers. If "Specific Gravity" is an example of the author's talent, I think that this will be the beginning of a long successful career.

Finding Father Christmas: A Novella
Robin Jones Gunn
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446526296, $13.99, 2007

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

"Finding Father Christmas" is written with an undercurrent of suspense, is rich in drama, and is lyrical in beauty. Robin Jones Gunn has masterfully developed a character, so real and believable that her story takes on the authenticity of autobiographical writing. Although the timetable of the story covers a timeframe of only two days, Miranda Carson's lifetime of events, emotions, and reactions are dramatically relived in this dramatic novella.

Miranda Carson experienced emptiness in her life. She knew nothing of her father. Her only clues to his existence were a photograph, a birth certificate, and a playbill for a theatre in Michigan featuring her mother as Miranda in the play "The Tempest."

Almost on impulse, Miranda booked a flight to London, for a few days over the Christmas holidays to pursue a search for her father. She had the location of a photo studio stamped on the back of a photo presumed to be her father, with an address on Bexley Lane in Carlton Heath, near London.
As a result of a cup of tea, a warm conversation, an evening at the theatre, a community party, and a late evening snowstorm Miranda found herself on an unexpected course that would forever change her life's direction.

A reenactment of the play "The Christmas Carol," the warmth and acceptance of family, and a Christmas morning service at the local church all play a part in Miranda's willingness to open herself to change.

Gunn's introduction of a background of classical writing and theatre add a unique depth to the narrative. Her vivid word pictures are picturesque and rich in beauty. The warmth of her characters exudes love, concern, and acceptance.

Poignant and heartwarming, "Finding Father Christmas" will resonate with anyone who has gone through childhood without one or both of their birth parents, or for anyone who has longed to know more of their heritage. This is a story that will become a classical family Christmas reading favorite.

The Case for Christmas
Les Strobel
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310266297, $9.99, 1-800-727-1309, 2005

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views

Lee Strobel, award-winning author, journalist and investigative reporter, has written "The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger." Stroble presents a logical case to help the reader determine for themselves if the babe in the manger, Jesus, was the person He claimed to be, Son of Man, Son of God, and very God Himself.

From the first paragraph of the introduction to the last paragraph of the conclusion, Strobel's writing is compelling, intellectually challenging, thought-provoking, and convincing. Using eyewitness accounts, archaeological confirmation, and profile evidence Strobel helps the reader to arrive at a conclusion, their own personal verdict.

Stroble's own journey to discover the reality of Christmas led him to seek counsel. He used his experience as an investigative reporter and the tools of his trade in his to find answers. Strobel presents the results of interviews with leading scholars in areas of biographical evidence, and scientific evidence.

In presenting his case Stroble presented fingerprint evidence to answer the hard question, "Did Jesus, Jesus alone, match the identity of the promised Messiah." I personally found this chapter on fingerprint evidence insightful. The fulfilling of Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah gave authenticity to Gospel accounts of Jesus as the Messiah.

Strobel also presented profile evidence to see if Jesus fulfilled the attributes of God. The incarnation, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, eternality, and immutability all fit in the sketch and are found in the Christmas child. Reflecting on these attributes as a devotional reading offers a rich and rewarding experience.

The book is designed especially for the Christmas and Advent Season. Strobel gives a strong presentation of the Christmas message for anyone seeking understanding of the tenets of the Christian faith, and for thought provoking reflection and mediation for the Christian.

The format and design of this compact, attractive, book – "The Case for Christmas" -- make it an excellent gift for those family members, friends, agnostics, or atheists, who are seeking answers to finding answers in their pursuit for finding personal meaning to the reality of the Christian message of Christmas.

YUM! Tasty Recipes from Culinary Greats
Compiled by Jeffery Spear and Dara Bunjon
Cumberland House Publishing, Inc.
431 Harding Industrial Park Drive, Nashville, TN 37211
9781581826166, $20.95,, 1-888-439-26652007

Reviewed by Irene Watson

First of all, 100% of the profits from the sale of "YUM!" by Microplane®, a company that sells zesters, graters, and slicers, go to the National Kidney foundation.

The beginning of the recipe book explains the various graters that are available and the purpose of each one. It also includes a "special ingredients" list to assist the users with ingredients that they may not be familiar with. Looking at the list I learned that Benimousu is purple sweet potato vinegar and that there is such a thing as Pomegranate Molasses. Thinking it was the same as Grenadine, I found out that this is actually a brown, concentrated substance that is tart, rather than sweet and syrupy. There are also conversion tables to help those using the metric system.

There are recipes from over 60 renowned chefs varying from appetizers to soups and salads, to main courses, and, of course, desserts. There is even a section for vegetarians. Furthermore, the book has wonderfully-appetizing photos of the final product, and photos and biographies of the chefs.

I tried several of the recipes, and will certainly be using the recipes in "YUM!" for dinner parties. The "Roasted Balsamic –Glazed Chicken" is wonderful! I've never brined a whole chicken before and was amazed how moist the end result was. Be careful with this one and make a tin foil tent early in the roasting otherwise the chicken has a tendency to burn. I served this with "Crunchy Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts." The dressing was light, yet very flavorful. The "Olive Oil Cake" was very rich and had a fruity flavor. A note said it would be if using extra virgin olive oil. I felt the cake was a little too sweet and would attempt to cut back on the sugar next time I make it.

"YUM!" is a must-have recipe book for all culinary lovers and collectors. It's not often we get a concise book with so many easy recipes from the greats. And, I have to stress the fact the recipes are "easy" and all the ingredients are available locally.

Gringos in Paradise: Our Honduras Odyssey
Malana Ashlie
BookSurge Publishing
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419657528, $16.95, 2007

Reviewed by Cherie Fisher

The author Malana Ashlie has written a wonderful book about her adventures with her husband Ordin, or O, as she calls him. The book is so well written that I often felt like I was with the author on her travels.

The author spent her life looking for roots before finally realizing that moving to new places is part of her make-up and a positive. Malana and Ordin begin their adventure by leaving Florida and first moving to Hawaii for several years and then to Honduras. As a person who moved to the islands of Hawaii in the 1990s, I completely related to adjusting to a new culture and being so far from home. However, when the islands got too expensive and commercial, Ordin and Malana made the tough decision to move to a foreign country where they did not speak the language or really know the culture. The decision was made after O visited Honduras and found that it had what they were looking for. He sold their home in Hawaii, packed up their things and made the move with their cat Pueo in a matter of months.

Life in Honduras proved to be more difficult than either of them expected. They had problems with communication, water and so many other things that we in the United States take for granted everyday. Not speaking the language fluently and adjusting to a completely different culture made getting everyday things accomplished so much harder. Her overwhelming feelings of isolation sometimes led her to stay in her house for weeks and even to close up in their air-conditioned bedroom watching English DVDs.

On the positive side, they were able to purchase a beautiful home and hire a gardener and housekeeper. As Malana becomes more comfortable with the culture she emerges from her home more and explores the area. Her descriptions of Honduras are beautiful and really make is sound like an undiscovered paradise.

I would highly recommend this anyone who is thinking about living in a foreign country. Malana Ashlie's very candid accounts of her experiences and feelings give incredible insight into the experience. "Gringos in Paradise: Our Honduras Odyssey" would also be very enjoyable for anyone who enjoys traveling to foreign countries.

Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?
Jamie S. Rich
ONI Press, Inc.
1305 SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Suite A, Portland, OR 97214
1932664737, $19.95,, August 2007

Reviewed by AJ Cooper

This is a dark novel that has a main vein of suicide with some hope of romance and the future. Percy, a world-renowned author, mysteriously disappears after his wife Iris can no longer live with the attentions Percy receives from all of his admirers. Iris waits until they are out at a party and leaves prior to Percy's departure so that she can commit the act of suicide and be dead before his arrival at home. This discovery sends Percy over the edge and he disappears with his assistant in the hopes of never being found.

Val, his servant and assistant, has gone to great lengths to dissuade and trick Percy's fans from locating his true location. Julia, a meandering college student and fan of Percy's, has traveled far to discover Percy's hiding place in China . She is able to persuade her way into the home in China and has promised Val if she leaves she will not be able to return. Julia works her way into Percy's heart and attention by simple acts of just being with him and his numerous cats in his garden. Julia has come with only the clothes on her back. She has to persuade Val to buy her personal items, but never any clothing. Julia lives for months in the same clothes and takes opportunities to wash them when Val has left the house and Percy is secluded in his room listening to music and reading books.

I was somewhat interested in "Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?," but found it hard to follow because each chapter jumped to a different time period for Percy or Julia. The depression and talk of suicide throughout the entire book was not interesting and many times very cumbersome to read. The novel included excerpts from the characters writings and from interviews with the characters. I found no interest in these portions and skimmed through them.

Seniorwriting: A Brief Guide for Seniors Who Want to Write
Marlys Marshall Styne
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741442965, $9.95, (610) 941-9999,

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

In "Seniorwriting" Marlys Marshall Styne writes, in non-technical terms, guidelines for stimulating ways to transform memories from the mind to words on paper or to your computer. This compact, user-friendly book is divided into three parts.

Styne begins by sharing the results of writing, answering the question, "Why write." Discovery, healing, rejuvenation and enjoyment top the list. Her chapter titled: "Your Training Camp: Your Journal" offers ten suggestions for getting started. Another nine suggestions are offered that help answer the question, "Who am I?"

Some health benefits are offered in chapter four with pointers how to get started with six positive suggestions for thoughts to include in a "Healing Journal."

In an earlier book "Reinventing Myself: Memoirs of a Retired Professor," Marlys related how, when facing the challenge of retirement, widowhood, and depression, she set out on a quest to find contentment through reflection and writing. She writes now to encourage people of every age, especially seniors to follow her example in their quest for meaning and purpose.

Part two of the book offers ten examples of recreating experiences and memories. Marlys has taken actual journal assignments from writing classes and provided examples from her essays to illustrate how the assignments might be approached. Personal observations, family tales, imagining a windfall, holiday memories, and favorite things are only a few of the topics developed.

Part three helps the reader (the writer) put the finishing touches on their project. Organizing the material, planning, revising, editing, proofreading, printing, and publishing are all covered in this important section.

"Seniorwriting: A Brief Guide for Seniors Who Want to Write" is actually a book for every generation. For the senior it is important to realize that the time is now. Leave a legacy of family memories with your treasured heirlooms in the form of a written record of your values, dreams, and accomplishments. This important guidebook will get you started, move you beyond writer's block, and amaze you with the results. "Seniorwriting" is an important addition to any writer's library.

Sylvia, Rachel, Meredith, Anna
Robert Slentz-Kesler
Thatcher Forest Publishing
Durham, NC
9780967050485, $14.95, 2007,

Reviewed by April Sullivan

"Sylvia, Rachel, Meredith, Anna" is a great book and not at all what I expected. With a title that lists four female names, I was assuming that the story was about women friends or a story about a man with lots of girlfriends. The author cleverly addresses this issue with the statement "…and with the title 'Sylvia, Rachel, Meredith, Anna' you might be suckered into thinking that much of the action doesn't take place in an army infantry training unit in Georgia." And I was suckered! Even though this statement is part of a rambling narrative about the book that is on the front and back cover totally replacing any cover art or traditional book cover text.

The main character, Gerard Kelderman is graduating from college with a major in music and a minor in religious studies. He is an outstanding cello player and has learned the art of diamond cutting from his father who is a Master in the field. He is engaged to Sylvia and they plan to move to Colorado after college so that she can go to graduate school. Yet as the book opens, we find Gerard's life in turmoil over the fact that he has found out Sylvia had an affair with another man. In his emotional state, Gerard makes a rash decision to enlist in the army.

The story follows Gerard's life in basic training and his thoughts back to his previous life and his childhood. He finds standing at attention gives him plenty of time to think and he brings up repressed memories from his childhood, specifically memories surrounding the death of his sister.

I would not normally pick up a book about army cadets and their experiences in basic training. I am not interested in reading about gun parts, bivouacs, macho talk, and the verbal abuse given by Drill Sergeants. But this book surprised me. Although all the above topics were included, the book was more about the relationships between the cadets. Author, Robert Slentz-Kesler was able to create characters that I enjoyed getting to know. And he was able to weave the storylines of the present and the past together into a seamless novel.

I am so glad I read this book! I feel like I have a better understanding now of the teamwork that is necessary in the army, and why the Drill Sergeants yell so much. I recommend "Sylvia, Rachel, Meredith, Anna" to anyone who loves to read. No matter what genre you like, this book is a delight. Find out for yourself who Sylvia, Rachel, Meredith, and Anna are, and how they fit into a story about a group of male soldiers.

The Blockage: Rethinking Organizational Principles for the 21st Century
Eva Kras
American Literary Press, Five-Star Special Edition
8019 Belair Road, Suite 10, Baltimore, MD 21236
(410) 882-7700; URL:
9781561679812; List $19.95 US, $24.95 CAN; 2007

Reviewed by Anita D. McClellan

Eva Kras, transcultural management specialist and author of the acclaimed "Management in Two Cultures: Bridging the Gap between US and Mexican Managers," among other books, turns her expertise to "business as usual" commonalities in play today at multi-national organizations around the world. Present-day management values and principles upon which decision-makers are dependent fail to lead them to viable solutions in the global marketplace. There is a blockage within huge corporations that generates negative outcomes in an organization's efforts to produce sustainable management results. The importance of human and ecological values has not penetrated to the roots of these international organizations, which are, as a result, unstable systems. In a survey of young professionals in both Americas, the author reports wide dissatisfaction with life/family/work balance and with ecological issues that impact global distribution of water, oil, and food.

Kras identifies the blockage as a mismatch between organizational mission and marketing statements, which she terms "traditional economic-based values," and practices and policies that would prioritize human and ecological concerns alongside economic ones. Her author's ambition is to "provide much food for thought…a process of genuine reflection" through which readers identify their personal, deeply-held values and so pave their ways to "a fulfilling and happy life. …these newly discovered values will begin to form a new view of life, and new universal 'working values' in organizations at all levels." Superficial changes can be achieved at a person's conscious and subconscious thought levels. However, Kras hones in on inner-core thinking, which visionaries term "deep human consciousness." Only from that root level can a person or an organization identify universal values that will prevail as common ground for formulating sustainable working relationships.

To recast global, for-profit organizations from their roots up in order to locate a solid foundation for principles, policies, and practices based on deep-seated human values, Kras invokes Adam Smith, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, E. F. Schumacher, Willis Harman, Ervin Laszlo, Herman Daly, Erich Fromm, Marilyn Ferguson, among many others. Her goal in "The Blockage" is to "assist readers firstly in their personal search process, to identify those desirable values that we all strive for but sometimes are hidden or forgotten for a long period of time." The next step in deblocking established mindsets is "to gain insight into how these [desirable values] can be applied to our personal life, our community, and finally to our work and organizations in general." From there, the values extend into our small planet and the cosmos itself.

Casteneda's Don Juan takes on Bank of America, Royal Dutch Shell, Mobil Exxon, and WalMart? Yes, and Former United States Vice President Albert Gore shares the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It's a brave, new world. As Gore remarked on learning of the award, "We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue; it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level."

It is exciting to this Baby Boomer, and former corporate executive, that Eva Kras even raises these questions. Any reader will benefit from the "Search for Sustainable Values" section, the core of the book. Those interested in systems philosophy, economics philosophy, and ecological economics will find inspiration in the social and political principles that can emerge in organizations with decision-makers willing to forego control in order to search their souls. Along with governments and individuals taking Mr. Gore's worldwide challenge in respect to climate change, Kras challenges corporate executives, as Gary Zukav in his book "Evolution and Business" put it, " recognize themselves as immortal souls, and experience within themselves the shift from pursuit of external power--the ability to manipulate and control--to the pursuit of authentic power--alignment of the personality with the soul (higher consciousness)." Forty years after The Age of Aquarius, perhaps a New Age dawn lays in our planet's future and, this time, will prove sustainable. Let the sunshine in.

Damselflies: An Ancient Mirrors Tale
Jayel Gibson
Synergy Books
2100 Kramer Lane, Suite 300, Austin, Texas 78758
9781933538648, $14.95, 2007, 512-478-2028,
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

Set during a time of magic, "Damselfies" begins with the story of Arcinae and her mate Ilerion. Arcinae is the last of the Damselflies. Her race was destroyed by a warlord who feared them and their magic. Barely surviving herself, she is aided by others who want to save her magic. Ilerion rescues her and teaches her to defend herself. This totally goes against her nature, but she must be willing to be violent to survive. In time, they fall in love and have two daughters. The second part of the book tells the story of the two Halfling daughters.

J'yorie is the strong one. She is a warrior like her father. She has been born without wings and therefore is able to hide her Damselfly blood. Her sister A'Janae has the wings of a damselfly. She is the gentler of the two. When she is kidnapped, J'yorie goes in search of her. She goes with trusted friends, but along the way she encounters others that are willing to help. She has to decide whom to trust. Not everyone is what they appear to be.

Jayel Gibson has written an incredible, timeless fantasy novel. I had such a hard time putting this book down. I was disappointed when it ended and it is over four-hundred pages! Since the story is written in a different place, she supplies maps that help the reader understand the lay of the land. Ms. Gibson also includes an extensive glossary that makes it easier to understand some of the terms and the names of the people being discussed.

In spite of this being a fantasy tale, there are undercurrents of prejudice, suspicion, and distrust that we see among different cultures in our mundane world. As in the novel, what is not understood by one race tends to be feared and hated by another. The people in this novel, who were not prejudiced, greatly benefited from their relationships with those of the other races. Except for the trolls and a few other creatures, the supernatural races all seemed to be able to work together; they did not fear each others gifts such as man did.

I highly recommend "Damselfies" to people who enjoy fantasy fiction. This is a well-written, quality novel. I look forward to other books that will be a part of "The Ancient Mirrors Tale" series.

Zone Mind, Zone Body
Roy Palmer
Ecademy Press
6, Woodland Rise, Penryn, Cornwall, UK TR10 8QD
9781905823062, $18.99, 2006,

Reviewed by Vicki Landes

Ever heard the saying 'it's all in your head?' Author Roy Palmer has taken that phrase and is literally running with it. As a teacher of the Alexander Technique, he explains why and how in his book, "Zone Mind, Zone Body: How to break through to new levels of fitness and performance – by doing less!"

As an athlete, Palmer understands the need for continual improvement; but what happens when your skill plateaus? He insists that this peak can be overcome but not by training harder. Instead, "Zone Mind, Zone Body" explains how to train smarter – by paying closer attention to one's own movements and staying in 'the moment.' He calls achieving this elevated state 'The Zone' and explains that many athletes have experienced it, but it's only to their surprise. "Athletes will suddenly find themselves in it. Then as soon as they acknowledge it, they lose it." Palmer strives to teach focus and awareness of the body and surroundings, making this physical nirvana more attainable on purpose, and with purpose.

Although written with the serious sports participant in mind, "Zone Mind, Zone Body" can be applied by the casual player and the non-athlete as well. Palmer's small adjustments to normal or unconscious movements alleviate unnecessary stress to the body and minimize energy wasted on avoidable tension. Further, he notes that these techniques can even be used during everyday repetitive tasks such as mowing the lawn!

"Zone Mind, Zone Body" is an enlightening read that will inspire the frustrated athlete, better train the novice enthusiast, and teach anyone to live in this open-minded 'moment.' Palmer's strategy, although seemingly beyond one's reach at first, is vividly described with plenty of practice exercises and pictures for the reader to really feel what he's getting at. His style is one of encouraging enthusiasm – the testimony of a tried-and-true believer - keeping the reader interested in delving deeper into these 'mind over matter' principles.

Author Roy Palmer isn't your typical sports fanatic. He's a transcended athlete – finding that indescribable place where time, ego, and fear become hushed as a synergy of mind and body take over. Where the moment is only about the athlete and his game and where sport is not just about physical endurance but about using the intellect and muscular mechanics to push ourselves further than we ever thought possible. "Zone Mind, Zone Body" is simply brains and brawn in one.

No Experts Needed: The Meaning of Life According to You!
Louise Lewis
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road Suite 100 Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595429714, $18.95, 2007, 1-800-288-4677

Reviewed by Lori Plach for Reader Views (10/07)

Losing a job has probably happened to everyone at least once in their lifetime. Do you see losing your job as devastating or an opportunity to discover something different in your life? It all depends on how you look at it. Louise Lewis had lost her job of eleven years. There were all the emotional and financial concerns to get through. She had a mortgage which required payment and needed to get back on her feet again. Where do you go for comfort when a blow likes one gets delivered to you?

Louise decides to embrace life and find out just what life means. Through many interviews with people and getting their definitions of life, a book is born. Sometimes people are brought into our life for just a time and for a specific purpose. There is comfort in the scriptures as noted many times throughout the text of this book.

"No Experts Needed" is more than just a book in dealing with job loss. It is a book of self-discovery, insights into what life is, and how to make the most of every opportunity as it is presented. The book doesn't bring out the expert's advice, but rather everyday people who share what they believe, and how they face the bumps along the road of life. If you catch yourself wondering just what life means, you can come to your own decisions. There are truly "no experts needed" when making life what you want it to be.

Aging Parents, Aging Children: How to Stay Sane and Survive
Miriam K. Aronson and Marcella Bakur Weiner
Rowan & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706
9780742547469, $16.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

Drs. Miriam K. Aronoson and Marcella Bakur Weiner have written "Aging Parents, Aging Children" for the average person faced with a care-giving challenge. The book is filled with practical examples and dramatic scenarios to help the reader identify with others who have, or are experiencing, similar problems or challenges.

Early chapters include helpful information pointing out diversity among families, differences in philosophy, beliefs, personality traits, and family dynamics. These all play a part in the approach chosen to provide the best possible care.

As changes in physical health, emotional stability, or mental faculties, take their toll, it is important to begin an assessment process. This will help the family or caregiver size up the current condition through diagnosis, prognosis, treatment and aftercare needs. Excellent charts and tables provide an overview and checklist for this assessment and setting up a plan of care. Once this has been done immediate concerns, logistics, legal issues, and finances all come into play.

I especially appreciated the chapter dedicated to discussing dementia and Alzheimer's disease and the suggestions for placement versus home care. Symptoms, causes, and treatments are all considered in this informational and helpful presentation.

A concern often overlooked is the care and welfare of the caregiver. This chapter is of particular importance to everyone reading the book. Self-care is an important part of the process of renewal, nurture, and balance. The final chapter titled "Demystifying the Maze" is a helpful glossary of important elder care language.

Internationally acclaimed as experts in the area of elder care, Aronson and Weiner, collaborate to bring the reader insight, confidence, compassion and hope in caring for their loved one. The authors assist the reader faced with navigating the maze of systems and services, the challenge of relationships, resource limitations, and expectations of family and the importance of self help.

Thorough in presentation, written in an easy-to-understand style, "Aging Parents, Aging Children" is a practical prescription for an escalating pandemic of eldercare challenges.

The Christmas Train
David Baldacci
Warner Books
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY, 10020
9780446615754, $5.99 US, October 2007,

Reviewed by AJ Cooper

This is a magical story of intrigue and romance. Tom Langdon wandered the world for years reporting on the next current event. Tom finally became tired of the traveling and of the unknown dangers that could be around the next corner; he started writing for women's magazines. Tom finally decided to fulfill his father's dream and ride the train like Mark Twain during the Christmas Holidays. He planned on writing a story on the people he would meet and the things he would see. His decision was also helped along by the fact he was blacklisted from flying. His adventure starts in Washington D.C. on the Capitol Limited where he would travel to Chicago to connect to the Southwest Chief with a final destination in L.A. to meet up with his girlfriend Lelia.

There is a big buzz around the train -- who was the celebrity that was boarding? The trains had a special car set aside that stayed stationary and allowed for important people to board the train at their pace without media attention. No one working on the train would disclose the identity of the mystery passengers to Tom no matter how hard he tried. He came across people from all walks of life and had special conversations with the employees on the trains that gave him insight on stories of past travels and tips for the trip ahead.

A long time ago, in a faraway country when Tom reported on the news of the day, he had fallen in love and traveled with Eleanor. One day they parted ways never to meet again until this train trip. Eleanor's boss Max Powers decided he wanted to travel on a train and have Eleanor write a screenplay on it. Max ran into Tom and discovered he was also a writer and wanted him to work with his writer on this project. Tom was thrilled, then stunned, when he saw Eleanor. Eleanor did not want to work with Tom because of their past history and lost love.

So the tale begins with many twists and turns. All of the train passengers become involved in a young couple getting married against their parent's wishes and things start disappearing from rooms.

Everything is wonderful and everyone is happy until a severe snowstorm traps the train and its occupant on a snowy dangerous pass. Who will come to their rescue and will they survive long enough until the rescuers can arrive?

David Baldacci weaves the tale so well that you get so caught up in the story before you can figure out was has really happened. I absolutely loved this book. It is everything I would expect and so much more. It is a heartwarming book that allows you to get into the lives of the passengers for even a brief moment. I look forward to sharing "The Christmas Train" with my friends and families.

Watch Your Words: The Rowman & Littlefield Language-Skills Handbook for Journalists
Marda Dunsky
Rowman & Littlefield Publisher, Inc.
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706
9780742553910, $13.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

"Watch Your Words" is a language-skills guidebook designed specifically for the journalist. Marda Dunsky provides a manual that serves as a baseline for language skills knowledge for the journalist. The handbook is also a compact, quick and accessible resource for the classroom or the newsroom. It is consistent with "The Associated Press Stylebook."

Dunsky includes rules and guidelines for punctuation, and basic terms and concepts of grammar. She also introduces rules, guidelines, and tips for detecting common errors in word usage. I found the exercises stimulating, helpful and entertaining. I received great satisfaction when I recognized terms, concepts and styles, and when I chose the right selection or answer on the self-test. The exercises are designed to help the journalist to insure the words chosen, the grammar used and the punctuation are accurate, clear and consistent.

The "Associated Press Stylebook" study guide and self tests were especially helpful and add to the importance of the book as a resource for frequent future reference. The spelling helps with common homonyms and spelltraps are invaluable as an additional ready reference guide.

Marda Dunsky is well qualified to author this handbook. She has been teaching editing and international journalism courses at Northwestern University for over ten years. Marda conducts editing seminars and presentations, has served as an editor at the Chicago Tribune, and as an Arab-affairs reporter for the Jerusalem Post.

"Watch Your Words" is a masterful language-skills handbook for the journalist. This is a book that should be on the on the reference shelf of every serious journalist. It should be included on the reading list of English, speech and communications classes at the college and university level -- an important resource tool.

A New Promise
Julie Eller
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 E Trade Center Terrace Mustang, OK 73064
9781602474826, $21.99, 2007, 1-888-361-9473,

Reviewed by Lori Plach

Promises, promises. Everybody knows what a promise is and has probably made hundreds of them throughout their lifetime. When you get married, in a Christian ceremony, you are promising your spouse a lifetime commitment. The notorious words "till death do us part" are a part of this oath taken at the wedding. Scott Parnell has made his wife, Rachel, a lifelong commitment. They had fallen in love when in high school. They have been blessed with 2 children, teenage Tyler and 12 year old daughter Tawnya. How were they to know that Rachel would be stricken with Huntington's disease? Would Scott be able to remember his promise of "no tubes or wires to sustain life" they had talked about years ago? Would he be able to let go when the time came?

Letting go is never easy. It's not an easy thing for Rachel's mother to let go of her daughter. She is a well meaning grandmother who tries to help Scott with the kids but is out of touch in raising children in these troubled times in the 21st century. Tyler is in a rebellious state. He doesn't want to lose his mother but doesn't want to show that her health condition bothers him. His best friend, Dwight, is dealing with some family problems of his own. But, will Tyler go as far as Dwight's actions to escape from reality? Tawnya is at a difficult time in her life. She is dealing with her adolescent problems and a grandmother who insists that she is too fat. She turns to a destructive lifestyle. Celeste is Rachel's younger sister who always wanted to trail along with Rachel and Scott during their courtship. Celeste has a successful career in Seattle and agrees to give Tawnya a female role model, yet, she has never been a parent much less in a serious relationship. As Tawnya and Celeste become closer, will Scott be able to keep from growing closer to Celeste too? They have both made promises to Rachel, but will those promises be broken even as Rachel's life is deteriorating? Just how far will these promises keep the Parnell family from telling all the issues of their life?

"A New Promise" is an excellent book by a very talented new author Julie Eller. "A New Promise" encompasses many issues of the 21st century. The book is a must read for anyone who enjoys a great storyline and seeing how God works in people's lives for His purpose. Sometimes when faced with adversity, it's easiest to blame God rather than see His blessings throughout your trials. Julie Eller has certainly used her God-given talents in order to show Christ's providence. I hope she writes more books in the near future. Pick up "A New Promise" soon, you certainly will enjoy it.

Stewards of the Flame
Sylvia Engdahl
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419675065, $19.99, 2007

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

What if our government took full control over monitoring our physical and mental well-being? What if we were forced to submit to health screenings to see if we had any problems? What if we were forced into treatment we did not want? What if we were no longer allowed to die, but had to be put into stasis in vaults to continue our heartbeat, so that the government could continue to profit from our investments?

Starship Captain Jesse Sanders finds himself in such a predicament after passing out in a bar on planet Undine. Even though Jesse limits his drinking to when he is off duty, he is targeted as an alcoholic and locked up for treatment. The treatment is quite painful and invasive. He loses his rights as a Starship Fleet Officer. Now he has nothing. Jesse encounters some people who work in the medical system who do not want to live this way. They believe that people have a right to die and should not be kept alive after their brain is dead. However, against their belief, if you intentionally allow a person to die, you are considered to have committed a crime. To dispose of a body without putting it in stasis is another crime. There are people on the planet who are elderly and ill who just want to be allowed the dignity of death.

The group that Jesse encounters calls themselves, "The Stewards of the Flame." They say, "We are stewards of a flame that will illuminate future generations." To them, the symbol of the mind's power is fire. They help Jesse escape from the hospital and take him to an island retreat where they teach him how to develop his mental powers. He learns to mentally overcome pain, and to communicate by ESP. The leader of this group recognizes Jesse from a precognitive dream and knows that he holds the key to helping them escape from this tyranny.

"Stewards of the Flame" is an excellent fictional novel, however, it inspires a lot of thought provoking "what if" kinds of questions. The author points out that our own society has moved in a direction where our government and technology have accessed more control over our lives. Such as on the planet Undine, some people find this reassuring, however, others would prefer to limit the governments control over their bodies. This is an excellent novel to read, just for pure enjoyment, however, I would highly recommend "Stewards of the Flame" to bio-ethics classes. It will certainly lead to some stimulating conversations.

A Big Apple Christmas
Vashti Reyes Acosta, Gail Sattler, Lynette Sowell, Carrie Turansky
Barbour Publishing
P.O Box 719, Ulrichsville, OH 44683
9781597898195, $10.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Lori Plach

Every year about a million people cram into Times Square in New York City on New Years' Eve, while another billion TV viewers tune in to watch the ball drop and a new year to begin. There are bound to be plenty of stories of people who venture to New York City to take in all the lights, sounds and activities of the holiday season. "A Big Apple Christmas: Moonlight and Mistletoe/Shopping for Love/Where the Love Light Gleams/Gifts from the Magi" gives you four stories of people who ventured to New York, not for love, but find themselves enjoying being in one of the United States' busiest cities.

In "Moonlight and Mistletoe" Sarah Montgomery has made friends with her neighbor in her apartment building. Lillian is an elderly lady with a big heart and way too much stuff. After Lillian's accident, Justin comes to help with Grandma's things. He hires Sarah to organize Grandma's belongings. How can he take this much time off in order to help Grandma, doesn't he even work? Why is he offended when Sarah tries to rid Grandma's home from children's poetry books?

In "Shopping for Love," Emily Jones just wants to forget Brian. She has been burned in a relationship and just needs some rest and relaxation, so she takes off to New York City. The farthest thing from her mind is literally falling into the arms of another Bryan. Why won't this Bryan just leave her be? Every chance he gets he invites her to go shopping and seeing the sights.

"Where the Love Light Gleams" is a heartwarming story of Gwynn Michaud's trip to New York to see a tree from her land be the centerpiece of Rockefeller Center. As chance would have it, her daughter's roommate Maline is from New York and offers to house Gwynn during her stay in the Big Apple. Theophilius Stellaki is Maline's father and is a cranky professor, but being a proper gentleman, offers to accompany Gwynn to the lighting ceremony. Will he end up escorting her to more than just a tree-lighting?

"Gifts from the Magi" is by far one of the most romantic stories I have ever read. Elias Perez is youth pastor at the church where he grew up. Cecilla was one of the few girls who didn't make fun of Elias and his being sickly when they were kids. Throughout the Christmas season, the two work together on many projects. He's a friend to her so she asks who would possibly be giving her all these anonymous gifts like two dove candy bars and four cell phone pictures of pigeons.

After reading "A Big Apple Christmas," you won't be watching the ball drop on New Years quite the same way. Maybe there are stories like this one developing out there on Times Square. Even if you can't make it to New York to celebrate Christmas this year, you still can enjoy "A Big Apple Christmas!"

Egrets to the Flames
Barbara Anton
Oceanview Publishing
61 Paradise Road, Ipswich, Massachusetts 01938
9781933515113, $23.95, 2007,

Reviewed by April Sullivan

The large beautiful egrets dive and dip into the flames of the burning sugarcane fields of South Florida. Some singe their wings. Others blacken their white feathers. Even a few die. Yet, they are drawn to the flames and keep coming back for more.

"Egrets to the Flames" is the title of this novel and symbolizes the actions of the main characters in the story. Set in the late-twentieth century in Belle Glade, Florida, sugarcane grower James Henry Hampton is facing some of the toughest challenges of his life. The environmentalists and the union are pressuring him to ease up on some of his practices in the field and with his cutters, who are mostly Jamaican immigrant laborers. At home, things are even worse.

Although James Henry is the main character, we see life in the sugarcane business through the eyes of many. Jazzman is a Jamaican cutter who wants to start a reggae band. Grace is James Henry's wife. She worries constantly about her son Henny. Henny is supposed to take over the family business, but is caught up in drugs and alcohol, and fighting with his father over wanting to marry his pregnant girlfriend Beth, a field hand's daughter. Of their other children, Jeff is married to a Jap, and Mel is marrying a prince that she does not love. Then there is Vonda, Chip, and Steve. A family mixed up with the Hampton's in more ways than one.

Author Barbara Anton's writing invokes the feverish passion of a soap opera. One desperate act leads to another in this family and the action never stops. From confrontations about illegitimate children to drugs and alcohol and several deaths, the story always keeps you on your toes. Most chapters end in catastrophe and foreshadow something even worse coming around the corner.

I recommend "Egrets to the Flames" to those who like a fast-paced read with lots of drama. Every twist and turn kept my interest as I followed the Hampton family through their saga. With a happy ending for some, and a sad ending for others, the characters dip in and out of the flames in this exciting novel.

For the Love of Rachel: A Father's Story
David Loewenstein, PhD
Enalan Communications, Inc.
804 SE 14th Street, Fort Lauderdale FL 33316
9780979194344, $16.95,

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

Rachel's story is compelling. "For the Love of Rachel" is written by Rachel's father, David Loewenstein, PhD, successful in the field of Neuropsychology. David writes with warmth and passion. I found the book compelling and poignant. Rachel came into the world the 23rd week of the gestation, 40 weeks early. Weighing only 18 ounces, David relates how she was so tiny she could have fit in his hand. Feelings of anguish and disbelief added to the helplessness David experienced as he watched his new daughter through the enclosed incubator.

Connected to countless machines by a myriad of wires tubes and needles Rachel fought for life. The minutes moved to hours, the hours to days, as the team of medical professionals applied the tools of modern medicine to keep Rachel alive.

David masterfully recounts the incidents of the following weeks and months. He tells of numerous surgeries, infections, encouraging progress, and life-threatening setbacks. An underlying theme of David and Susan's growing love for each other, and their love for Rachel, resonates throughout the book.

Although Rachel is the heroine in this dramatic story, David acknowledges other courageous heroes who valiantly joined in the journey of Rachel's miracle. The extended family was a source of support and strength. Respected friends provided inspiration. The dedication and expertise of the professionals on the medical team was a phenomenal factor in the Miracle, Baby Rachel. The other babies, born too soon, who fought alongside Rachel for their lives, are also heroes. Their parents became a support group, providing encouragement, solace, and comfort.

The book is written to give encouragement to those facing similar experiences. David gives background information on the history of and the progress being made in the care of premature infants. He speaks out to make the public aware of the value of the lives of these children, the cost of initial and ongoing care, in education, socialization, and family adjustments. He gives the reader insight into the research being done and offers hope for the future.

Rachel's is an amazing story of inspiration, demonstrating the miraculous power of parental and family love. Powerfully written, "For the Love of Rachel" is a gripping narrative that offers hope and inspiration in times of crisis.

God Is in the Small Stuff at Christmas
Bruce Bickel & Stan Jantz
Barbour Publishing
PO Box 719 Uhlrichsville, OH 44683
9781597896719, $12.97, 2007,

Reviewed by Lori Plach

Do you feel that there is no more Christ in the celebration of Christmas? People already have Christmas lights lit around their house the night after Halloween. The stores are already pushing Christmas materialism in late summer. It seems like the big push for Christmas comes earlier each year. Many houses do not even have a nativity set outside with all their other outdoor decorations.

There are 41 different sections in "God is in the Small Stuff at Christmas." Such topics as Advent, Prepare Him Room, Christmas Carols, Lights and Peace and many more are explored. Each chapter is only a few pages long which make it ideal to keep handy during the hustle and bustle of the season. At the end of each chapter are about five statements or suggestions for keeping Christ in Christmas. Just taking a break and reading a chapter will certainly lift your sprits and remind you that Jesus is the Reason for the Season.

"God Is in the Small Stuff at Christmas" would make an excellent gift for a close friend, loved one or someone who needs to reflect on what is truly important in a non- threatening way. Portions of this book could easily be shared at Christmas parties and church get-togethers. God is truly in the small stuff at Christmas -- may your celebration of Christmas center around the baby in the manger this year and always.

The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies: A John McIntire Mystery
Kathleen Hills
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 East First Avenue, Suite 103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590584767, $24.95, 2007, 1-800-421-3976

Reviewed by Tara Hammack

This book was very interesting; in a way, you can't put the book down. It started out with this young girl named Claire up in a tree just trying to have a minute of peace. While she was in that tree, she heard a loud boom of a gunshot. "People were always shooting at something around here…" she had thought. She didn't even think of the possibility of her father sitting on his tractor with a bullet through his head. The story is all about finding Reuben Hofer's killer. We find so much about Mr. Hofer like the way he treated his family, what "friends" he had, and the people who hated him which is a lot of people. Ms. Hofer is a very sick person who weighs over three-hundred pounds and when you're overweight you have heart problems. She has four kids, three sons named Jake, Sam, Joey, and a daughter Claire. They all were also Reuben's kids. He was really strict on all of them. He was mean all the time and made all the kids do chores from sunup to sundown. If Ms. Hofer needed something, she would call for Claire.

McIntire is one of the people who are trying to find out and understand what happened to Mr. Hofer. He would go back and forth between suspects. Of course the family members are suspects; at least, the two older boys are. Also two people Hofer was "friends" with when he was at the CPS camps are suspects. Their names are Wanda Greely and Bruno Nickerson. They had a deal with Reuben Hofer, but Reuben betrayed both of them and ran away; then he moved back in that area with his family. Hofer came from a real protective, religious community and he left because he hated it there, but he treated his family the way he was treated in the community.

Well, "The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies" was a little confusing. At times I didn't know who was talking so I would have to read it again. Also, I didn't know where the character was in parts of the book. There are a lot of things to keep track of like names and who they were. The storyline was good. I liked the part when Claire was up in the tree and talking to herself about her father. "When she got high enough she'd be able to see it, too; then she could keep an eye on the old bastard." I like that part because it was the third sentence of the book and it showed how much she hated her father. I would recommend this book to ages over 18 because I'm 16 and I couldn't really relate to anything in the book. Though I couldn't always follow the book and had to reread parts, I really liked it.

Hanukkah Moon
Deborah Da Costa
Kar-Ben Publishing
241 First Avenue North Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781580132459, $7.95, 2007, 1-800-4KARBEN,

Reviewed by Brianne Plach

Have you ever heard of a Hanukkah Moon? You probably have heard of Hanukkah, but are you aware that there is a moon by the same name? Well, of course, the moon is just a plain moon. But what makes it special is that it comes at the same time as Hanukkah.

Deborah Da Costa has created a beautiful picture book for children with a lot of details about this Jewish holiday. The illustrations by Gosia Mosz add to the delight of the storyline about a visit to Aunt Luisa's house. Aunt Luisa has just moved from Mexico. The explanation of Rosh Hodesh, and its meaning for women, is explored. This is an excellent way to explain some of the traditions and origin (how it started) in an easy-to-understand manner.

The next time you look at the moon around Hanukkah, think that you are looking at "Hanukkah Moon."

Let's Get Ready for Kindergarten
Linda Desimowich and Stacey Kannenberg
Cedar Valley Publishing
N6854 Cedar Valley Road, Fredonia, WI 53021
9781933476001, $19.00,

Reviewed by Reina Santana & Samuel Peralta

"Let's Get Ready for Kindergarten" is for parents, kids, and teachers. Written in a friendly and colorful format, this book introduces early-childhood skills. The first few pages introduce the reader to their guides - Mrs. Good and the Cedar Valley kids. The authors cover a wide range of topics from the alphabet to shapes, colors, numbers, seasons, and much more. My six-year-old son enjoyed the colorful illustrations, and eagerly reviewed the subjects he had learned in kindergarten. The sturdy, laminated pages allowed him to practice his answers with a dry-eraser marker without damaging the pages. The encouraging tips and comments on each page encourage children to ask questions and remind parents to be patient.

This well-illustrated and colorful teaching aid is great for homeschoolers, teachers, and parents looking for a fun and educational tool for their children. My son immediately began working on "Let's Get Ready for First Grade" an equally engaging and wonderful resource. I have passed "Let's Get Ready for Kindergarten" on to my sister who is using it with her three-year-old son.

Once Upon a Blue Moon (The Chronicles of the Blue Moon)
S.E. Blakeslee
Blaumond Press
740 SE Greenville Blvd Suite 400, Greenville, NC 27858
9780978903107, $17.95, 2006,

Reviewed by Brianne Plach

Is the moon really full of cheese? What color is the moon? Well, the moon isn't blue. A young boy is looking out of his window at the moon so far up in the sky. He makes a wish for his friend to get better from her illness. An imaginary spirit, Mr. Moon, enters his room and turns his ordinary night into something truly spectacular.

"Once Upon a Blue Moon" is a book all set in blue hues. The pictures add to the delight in this story about a boy and his wish. This book teaches about love, friendship, hopes, dreams and wishes. This story could easily be a new night-time tradition. Children will be entertained, but also learn some valuable lessons along the way.

Sometimes we just like to wish for fun. But be careful what you wish for as it might just come true.

Romeo and Juliet: Manga Shakespeare
William Shakespeare and Richard Appignanesi
Abrams Books for Young Readers
115 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9780810993259, $9.95, 2007, 1-800-759-0190

Reviewed by Erin Keith (age 17)

In this Manga version of one of Shakespeare's greatest plays, the characters are held to be very true. The setting of the story is present-time Tokyo, versus the past setting of the original. Readers who have actually read the play may enjoy this Manga because it holds very true to the original story, whereas some series like to "update" and totally change from the original roots. This story begins with a brief description of the characters, showing pictures so readers will know who's who in the story, and then they launch into a swordfight, which is uncommon in Tokyo, but again, this story does hold true to the original. The storyline is very captivating and intriguing. The storyline itself is obviously not the same as the tragedy itself by Shakespeare, but it does show the love-hate relationship between the Capulets and the Montagues. This story's ending is just as sad as the story before it.

This story is a good, fairly quick read that will keep readers hanging on to the ending of one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies and love stories. This book is recommended for ages 13 and up. "Romeo and Juliet: Manga Shakespeare" is a good read for reluctant readers.

My Journey to Peace with PTSD
Lady Cerelli
Peace Publishers
PO Box 668, Hot Springs, NC 28743
9780979888304, $17.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

In "My Journey to Peace with PTSD" Lady Cerelli tells her life story. She experienced a great deal of abuse in her life. It began with her stepfather raping her as a child, and her mother's refusal to acknowledge that it really happened. It continues on through her life where she continues to encounter men who brutally victimize her. Along the way, Lady tries to have a "normal" life, but finds herself drawn into inappropriate, self-defeating behavior. It seems like she was acting out so that the wounded child within her could be heard. Instead she encounters more abusive types of people and continues a downward spiral.

Her behavior follows a pattern that is common for people with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). As an adult, Lady is finally diagnosed with this after she has some seriously traumatic memories surface. While getting help, she discovers how her behaviors have been caused by traumas that she has experienced. On the difficult road to recovery she begins making positive changes in her life. Her relationship with her husband also deepens. She learns about real love.

In many ways, it was difficult for me to read "My Journey to Peace with PTSD." It is always hard to read about a child experiencing abuse and not being helped. Lady did have a special older lady touch her life. This made me think about being more careful with the emotionally fragile students that I work with. If I can touch someone's life like she did, I can really make a difference. It was also hard for me to read because it drug up some painful personal memories of my own childhood. These were memories that I buried. Lady helped me to understand a lot of my past and why I react like I do. She also provides information about exactly what PTSD is, and will help others determine if they have it and need help. She also answered a question that I had about why people who have been abused seem to attract abusers. This was really informative and thought-provoking.

"My Journey to Peace with PTSD" came into my life at the perfect time. Not the easiest time, but the perfect time. I am very grateful to Lady Cerelli for telling her story. I know that it couldn't have been easy. By doing so, she brings something good into something that was bad. In the six hours that her book has sat on my desk, she has touched three additional lives including my own because people have asked me about it and we start talking. I went to her website and discovered more useful information. This is a book for people who have abusive pasts and those that work with them. It will really open your eyes and help you understand who you are and what you can do to make a difference, either in your life or someone else's.

Damselflies: An Ancient Mirrors Tale
Jayel Gibson
Synergy Books
2100 Kramer Lane, Suite 300, Austin, Texas 78758
9781933538648, $14.95, 2007, 512.478.2028,

Reviewed by Ian McCurley (age 13)

"Damselflies" begins when Ilerion and his servant, Nilus, are traveling through the country of Aelarggessae. They come upon the ruins of what was the last settlement of the Damselflies. The Damselflies were a winged pacifistic race of the enchanted. Finding only one alive, they take her to a healer. With both her wings and her pacifistic nature gone, the Damselfly wants revenge on those who brutalized and butchered her and murdered her people. Ilerion vows to help her. He discovers that Lord Lazaro, due to fear of a prophecy, has been ordering the murder of all enchanted races in Grimmoire. During their quest for revenge, Ilerion and Nilus train the Damselfly whose name is Arcinae to fight. After her training, Ilerion sends Arcinae to Revere in Aedracmorae. She travels there through the Ancient Mirrors to meet with the Dragon Queen, Yavie. The Dragon Queen uses her influence over the winged council to convince the Feie to rekindle the Light of Grimmoire. During her stay with the Dragon Queen, Qwen, the estranged daughter of Yavie's guardian Nall, helps Arcinae find the Sylph who give Arcinae her wings back in exchange for her immortality. For her help, Qwen asks Arcinae to help the wizard Lohgaen to recover his birthright, the House of Lochlaen. Meanwhile, Ilerion is gathering forces to defeat Lord Lazaro before he and his allies can take over Aelarggessae.

The book "Damselflies" hooks the reader from the start, and the story flows well. Jayel Gibson's writing style is, as always, unique. The characters are deep and dynamic with little unknown about them. The mood of the book changes throughout its entirety. The book is divided into two parts; I have only summarized the first. I will not hint at the plot of the second part because it would give too much away, though the book does span two generations.

This book is for ages 15 and up who enjoy reading fantastic tales of adventure. "Damselflies" is the third in the Ancient Mirrors series.

Coinage of Commitment
R. Costelloe
Saga Books
Box 190, Carmangay, Alberta, Canada T0L 0N0
9781894936835, $15.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson

When I received the "Coinage of Commitment" by R. Costelloe, I first read the media release accompanying it. The book was described as a rare love story, written by a man to explore the zenith of true love. Needless to say, I was really excited -- good love stories are few and far-between and preciously few of them have been written by male authors.

"Coinage of Commitment" is a story of two young people, Wayne and Nancy, who met and fell in love in spite of all of the nearly insurmountable obstacles of their class, upbringing and finances. The book follows a well-established pattern: boy sees girl, boy falls for the girl; boy thinks girl is out of his league, girl falls for the boy and a passionate, supposedly romantic relationship follows. This particular book takes it a step further. Boy loses girl, boy marries the other girl, boy meets the first girl again and is torn between her and his wife. Will he make the right choice? What is the right choice?

As much as I tried to like this book, I couldn't warm up to it at all. What the author obviously perceives as romantic lovers' talk sounds like interrogation to me. My ideas of exalted love do not include jumping into bed on the first or second date. Being a kept man would not make any of the men I've ever met happy, and if somebody who meant the world to me was supposedly dead and reappeared in my life decades later, you can bet I would not entertain any ideas of leaving my husband for that person. The only torn feelings I could imagine having would be between scratching his eyes out for putting me through so much mental anguish or simply turning and walking away. If the plot itself was enough to make me feel quite lukewarm towards the book, it was several of the scenes and the stiff, overly wordy writing that confirmed my opinion of the book. Take for instance this paragraph, describing a scene at a party and starring Wayne and his nearly saintly wife Ingrid:

"Ingrid was particularly beautiful that night, elaborately made up and glowing with a new hairdo that she had – for once – let a beauty parlor prepare. After they arrived at the party – it was a large and crowded affair – they had become separated, a not unusual occurrence. He had gone to one of the bathrooms, reaching it down a narrow hall that also led to the downstairs bedrooms. When he came out and turned to the right, Ingrid was coming down the hall, sashaying toward him, not twenty feet away. Her eyes were wide and intent, twinkling in undefined excitement, as though anticipating what had not yet occurred to him. But then the idea did come to him, and the audacity of it shivered through him delectably, as did the certainty of her perfect if restrained willingness. She took the hand he extended and he drew her into the bathroom. Later he would remember her eyes, never leaving his, so wide and luminous; the chief expression between them during the entire, silent
transaction. Had he really conjured that remarkable image of her perched on the toilet seat lid, her dress bunched up to her waist, her legs wrapped around him? Or had it actually been her idea, reflected in her eyes, broadcast by her stride, handed directly to him by her amazingly timed arrival?"

So much telling, so little showing; such cliches, stiff writing and unnecessary information (what difference does it make if he turned left or right, and why mention the downstairs bedroom if he did not have the common sense to take his wife there anyhow?), characters that I could not relate to or feel sympathetic with; unnecessary time shifts, particularly in the first third of the book… this was a story that just could not draw me in.

The press release also stated that the "Coinage of Commitment" was written as a result of Mr. Costelloe reading a single paragraph at the end of an Anita Shreve's novel that enraged him on behalf of American women who, according to him, deserved better.

My response to that? Give me Anita Shreve any day.

Coping With Crisis: A Counselor's Guide to the Restabilization Process
Jim Burtles
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI, 48105
9781932690415, $19.95, 2007, www.LovingHealing.Com

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

"Coping with Crisis" is the fifth book in the "Explorations in Metapsychology" series. The author, Jim Burtles, wrote this book to aid counselors in reducing the traumatic aftereffects for others that are caused by crisis situations. Mr. Burtles has a background in training others with how to deal with a range of crisis situations. He worked as a consultant in the field if disaster recovery and emergency management.

Mr. Burtles came up with a four-stage restabilization process for recovery from a traumatic event. He found that the techniques he utilizes can be useful for any major personal crisis; however, they are most effective when offered immediately after the crisis event. He discusses when and where to offer this form of counseling.

Prior to going into the discussion of the restabilization process, he discusses "The Five Discoveries of Stress." Next he lists the four basic recovery stages of the restabilization process which are: Recap; Review; Repair, and Reinforce. The second and third stages involve using cognitive behavioral analysis. Mr. Burtles puts a positive spin on the crisis event by stating that, "A crisis can be an opportunity for self-discovery, which may lead to self improvement." The person in crisis can benefit from the insight gained from dealing with the situation.

Part of the process involves assisting the client with recognizing that his current way of dealing with the stressful situations is not working well for him. Once he recognizes this, the counselor is able to teach the client a healthier way. Very interesting, illuminating examples are used to illustrate the key points. A very useful glossary is also included. Session models are included for both one-on-one sessions and group sessions. A Code for Counselors that will benefit all in the counseling profession is also included.

I really feel that all counselors should have this book on hand. It is well written and interesting. By reading this, the counselor will better prepare himself for a catastrophic situation should it occur. Considering the climate in many schools today, I think it is especially important for school counselors to be trained in this method. As a counselor living nearby the fires currently happening in southern California, I really think that this guide would be beneficial in dealing with the thousands of people in crisis. The sooner they are helped, the less likely the chance of serious permanent emotional damage. I highly recommend "Coping with Crisis."

Christmas Memories: A Keepsake Book from the Heart of the Home
Susan Branch
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316106481, $19.95, 2001, 1-800-759-0190

Reviewed by Lori Plach

"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19NIV)
What a marvelous event she had to ponder in her heart. What are your favorite Christmas memories? Do you remember all the particular details of that special time? Don't you wish you would have a book where you could write down special memories so that just by reading them later on, all those wonderful memories could come back, without having to rely on your memory? Imagine the fascination of the children when they read about when Mom and Dad were young or they were just youngsters.

Susan Branch has created just the keepsake book for your favorite five Christmases. Remembering your last Christmas or New Years with a special family member or special friend are just a couple of ideas she presents. Preserving memories for years to come is just what this book is terrific for. There is a place for traditions, movies of that year, moments, humorous happenings and a picture of the tree which adorned your house could be kept.

There are very beautiful illustrations throughout this spiral-bound album for you to enjoy as you prepare it from year to year. Even if you aren't a scrapbooker, you too can become a 'preserver of memories.' We don't have all the special times and the miracle of the first Christmas like Mary did, but we all have our own special "Christmas Memories."

Desert Cut: A Lena Jones Mystery
Betty Webb
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 East First Avenue, #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
480-945-3375; URL:
9781590584910; List $24.95/$29.95 US/CAN; CL & Lg Print; 2008

Reviewed by Anita D. McClellan

The fifth Lena Jones Mystery finds ex-cop and PI Lena scouting Arizona's Mexican border for Geronimo's 19th-century battle sites with LA-LA-Land film director Warren Quinn, her problematic and erstwhile lover, and leads Lena to discovery of the mutilated corpse of an unidentified girl between ages 5 and 7, nicknamed Precious Doe by the Cochise County medical examiner. Lena, who takes all instances of abused children personally, stumbles right into the local population of H-visa'ed, upper-middle class, foreign-born parents and their US-born and -raised daughters with a foot in two cultures.

A teen runaway's sheltering of a youngster from Old World and New World sect-driven practices helps to drive a deadly social, hierarchal rite deeply underground, pits daughters against parents, descendents of pioneers who fought the Apache Wars against immigrant plant managers, and makes strange bedfellows of an Anglo Christian women's sect and Middle Eastern and African parents determined to manage "their" women and girls as they see fit. The bodies of children pile up in Los Perdidos while Lena becomes obsessed with finding out what is going on in the wilderness desert country in spite of vigilante justice and the local sheriff, who has no clue what he and the community are dealing with but knows all about what makes Lena so determined to learn the truth. The Author's Note and Appendixes of "Desert Cut" make this novel's subject something no reader will forget and on which none can claim ignorance.

As the product of nine abusive foster homes who was found amnesic at age four on a Phoenix street severely disfigured from a shooting, Lena Jones is perennially seeking information about her parents and her abandonment's circumstances. Her Pima Indian, computer-geek partner, Jimmy Sisiwan, also orphaned as a child but adopted and raised by white parents, has his own obsessions and vulnerabilities, which make them ideal business partners and confidantes. Pieces of Lena's past emerge as the series unfolds. In the second book, she learns something about her mother; in the third, she learns about her father; in the fourth, she figures out why she is so drawn to certain kinds of cases.

"Desert Noir" (2001) launched the Lena Jones series, juxtaposing Scottsdale's up-market art scene with barrios, Indian lands and casinos, tourist traps. That heady brew of damaged and courageous PI, the Southwest's multi-tiered cultures, and breath-taking desert backdrop took a seat right away next to Nevada Barr's and Tony Hillerman's series. Ten percent of Webb's debut novel proceeds were donated to Lura Turner Homes, a Phoenix residence for brain-damaged adults and children and teens with Down's Syndrome which signaled exactly what sets Betty Webb's novels apart: crime fiction with a social conscience. Lena Jones Mysteries are based on stories the author covered as a journalist and are set against the backdrop of Arizona's landmark-strewn "Grand Canyon State" and its social underbelly. Today Webb writes the Independent Press book-review column for Mystery Scene, teaches writing at Phoenix College, and lives in Scottsdale, AZ.

"Desert Wives" (2003), exhaustingly researched by the author and vetted for accuracy by now-Governor Janet Napolitano, hones in on modern-day polygamy in the Arizona Strip wilderness bordering Utah and AZ. Reader beware: Nothing to do with the starry-eyed depiction of polygamy in the HBO series "Big Love." Publication of "Desert Noir" coincided with media awareness of polygamist Tom Green's trial during the 2002 Utah Winter Olympics. The novel has since become a course adoption title for Women's Studies classes, played a role in the FBI pursuit of recently convicted polygamist sect leader and Most Wanted Warren Jeffs of St. George, Utah, and helped change Arizona's laws on polygamy. "Desert Shadows" (2004) focuses on foster children, hate groups, the book-publishing industry and Lena's anger management therapy. "Desert Run" (2006), centers on the fictional murder of a real-life escapee survivor of a 1944 German POW camp in Arizona. This book introduces LA filmmaker Warren Quinn as a love interest and the volatile mixture of native and foreign cultures and races alongside a little-known World War II footnote set in Arizona's Superstition Mountains.

The imaginative mixture of history, geography, demographics, topical themes, solid research, Lena's efforts to achieve intimacy, and plot twists make all Lena Jones mysteries memorable in more ways than one.

Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road
Paul-Gordon Chandler
Cowley Publications
4 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
9781561013173, $19.95, 2007, 1-800-225-1534

Reviewed by Linda Benninghoff

In "Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road: Exploring a New Path between Two Faiths," Paul Gordon Chandler is writing a book that may help bridge the gap between Eastern and Western faiths--using the life-story of Mazhar Mahlhoui, a novelist who grew up a Sufi in Syria, but who became a follower of Christ, whose novels interpret Christianity in a way to make it understandable and acceptable to Muslims. Gordon heightens the difference between true and false Christianity, and outlines the difficulties of Muslims who embrace the way of Christ.

When Mazhar first comes to believe in Christ, his family rejects him. His uncle tries to kill him. What Mazhar has done seems unthinkable, a rejection of their way of life. Christianity has become associated with the west for Arabs, and the West's attempts to achieve hegemony. Western Christianity is not the same as the way of life practiced by Christ--and too often is accompanied by materialism and violence toward Arabs. Mazhar feels that the Bible is a book of Eastern culture, and can be better understood from that point of view.

After Mazhar leaves Syria he makes a long pilgrimage through various countries, including Morocco, Tunisia, the U.S. (where he is educated and marries) and eventually settles in Beirut. When he attempts to return to Syria he is put in jail and deported. He does see his family, and they accept him. His attitude toward the Muslim faith is by now less hostile and his family welcomes him.

The book clearly demonstrates the hostility of Arabs toward Christians, although Christ is recognized as a prophet by Mohammedans. Western violence and dominance in the Middle East seems to have turned Arabs completely against Christianity. The book suggests Ghandi was a true Christian, although he did not convert, but was a follower of the life of Christ. Mazhar, who attempts to share his Christianity with the Muslim world, also figures as a true Christian facing many life-threatening situations in the pursuit of his faith.

While Mazhar and his community retain their Muslim culture but follow the life of Christ, this will not be easy for all Muslims. Yet it is up to the west to reexamine its attitudes toward Muslims and to rethink its own Christianity. What is the true Christianity? "Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road" helps answer that question. Innovative, readable and timely, it also suggests a way that East and West can be bridged.

Stories Behind Christmas
Ace Collins
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310281122, $24.99, 2006, 1-800-727-1309

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson

One of the toughest challenges for me after moving to the South was – and still is – getting in the mood for Christmas. When one grew up with snow on the ground and chestnuts roasting, it just isn't easy to get used to palm trees and temperatures in the 80s when Christmas comes around. That said, the challenge has gotten bigger in the past years and all of a sudden I stopped looking forward to the holidays. Nothing seemed right any longer, until I discovered the wonderful boxed set of "Stories Behind Christmas," written by Ace Collins.

The set consists of three wonderful collections of stories, two of which deal with the songs of Christmas and one which deals with the traditions of Christmas. Written in a fluid, easy to follow style, the stories touch on 26 traditions and a total of 62 songs, connected to Christmas. The attention to detail, as well as the obviously huge amount of research that went into them, make for pleasant, uplifting reading. With selections as diverse as Silent Night, Ave Maria, Auld Lang Syne, The Little Drummer Boy, I'll Be Home for Christmas, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, White Christmas and more you'll be able to find many of your favorites and learn a lot of surprising facts about them. The majority of the chapters also include the words of the songs, and if you are anything like me, they will be a useful tool to finally decipher some of the more difficult lines.

While I found both Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas and More Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas utterly delightful and charming, it was the Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas that stole my heart. Ace Collins managed to include all of my favorites, from holly and mistletoe to nativity scenes and Nutcracker ballet, and definitely not forgetting candy canes, ornaments, stockings, gifts and lights. Any and every question about the symbols and traditions of Christmas that you've ever had – and maybe didn't even realize you had it – is answered in this book. Reading the wonderful vignettes behind each of them put me in the Christmas mood early this year and I have no doubt the spirit will stay around.

This set would make a wonderful Christmas gift, especially for people with children or anybody with a curious mind. Those books are appropriate for most any age and should find their way to the bookshelves of all who celebrate Christmas. And if you are one of those, who – like me – misses a White Christmas, read a couple of stories in "Stories Behind Christmas" and I bet you will see a million tiny crystals sparkling all around you.

The Civil War Paintings of Mort Kunstler, Vol Three: The Gettysburg Campaign
Mort Kunstler
Cumberland House Publishing
431 Harding Industrial Drive, Nashville, TN 37211
9781581825572, $18.95, 2007, 1-888-439-2665

Reviewed by Irene Watson

Mort Kunstler's talents are impeccable as he portrays life during the Civil War in his paintings. Well-known individuals such as Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, and Winfield Scott Hancock stand out while their story is represented through visual intrigue.

Being a family history buff myself, I chose this book to review so I could get a better insight of the perils my husband's ancestors experienced during the Civil War. Seeing the pictures, and reading the narrative, gave me an understanding of not only their experience but also the understanding of the first three days of July 1863, when the two armies merged at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Kunstler's paintings are dramatic and spectacular. Every one tells a story, not only as a whole but in the expressions of the faces of the soldiers. One can't help but get drawn in, deeply experiencing the emotions of each individual as they battle for what they stood for. "The Civil War Paintings of Mort Kunstler, Vol Three: The Gettysburg Campaign" is a keeper!

Adopted Paws
Retz Reeves
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781424169412, $19.95, May 2007, (301) 695-1707,

Reviewed by William Phenn

Retz Reeves was a native of Oakdale, Pennsylvania till she accepted a job in Florida with an investment firm. Living in Miami, Florida, Retz pursued her investment career during the day and studied Microbiology and Business at night. After almost a decade Retz graduated from Florida International University, after which she obtained her MBA from Nova Southeastern University, married Randy Reeves and started adopting stray animals.

"Adopted Paws" was a humorous read and I immediately fell in love with it when I read how Retz met her husband's dog. It was such a common response with most hounds and I could picture the dog making her acquaintance. Retz does a very good job in telling her story of learning to live with a new husband and his dog...then, some additional cats, and more dogs, and more cats. The hilariously funny story continues when they decide to look for a place close to the ocean. Retz and her husband Randy had wanted a place to get away and decided to look for a place in the Florida Keys. Their struggle to find the perfect place is hampered for a while but finally comes to an end. They find their sanctuary on a canal in the Florida Keys.

While at the vets one day with her cat Molly, Retz was informed that Molly had Feline Aids. This was not contagious to humans but could be to other cats. The diagnosis was devastating to Retz. There was nothing that could be done for the animal and Retz and Randy had to cope with the thought that Molly's time was limited.

When Mom and Dad wanted to go to the house in the Keys they naturally had to take the family with them. Not an easy task when you have to load cats into cages and a couple of hounds. Retz relates a few of these incidents in the book and I could just picture the funny scene as she described the pitfalls of traveling with pets. Cats getting carsick and vomiting on the seat, big dogs needing to go number two and when you're on the highway there is nothing you can do.

"Adopted Paws was one of the funniest and most interesting animal books I have read in a long time. The book was well written, PublishAmerica did a nice job with its publishing and it was a great read. I give it an A and recommend it to all animal lovers.

Cha-Cha and Zee Explore San Antonio
Indigo Tyler
TK Publishing
1820 S Boulder Avenue, # 400, Tulsa, OK 74119-5025
9780976510031, $16.95, 2007

Reviewed by Brianne Plach

Would you like visit the Alamo with the two of the most adorable tour guides? Cha-Cha and Zee are two sightseeing penguins who travel from their home in Washington, DC to the historic city of San Antonio. They are going on this trip to visit their cousin Frobby. Frobby speaks Spanish which is very practical since San Antonio is so close to Mexico.

Some of the places that they visit are the River Walk, the Alamo and the Tower of the Americas. They go on a river cruise and to the little village known as La Villita. The pictures are colorful and beautiful with the penguins being implanted onto them.

Just by reading "Cha-Cha and Zee Explore San Antonio," I would definitely want to visit San Antonio. This is a great book for anyone who has been, or will be going, to San Antonio. I hope that Cha-Cha and Zee go on many more adventure trips and Indigo Tyler writes many more books like this one.

Roni Schotter
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316776233, $6.99, 2003, 1-800-759-0190

Reviewed by Brianne Plach

Are you looking for a small picture book which describes Hanukkah? If you are, Roni Schotter has created just the one for you. Inside the front cover is a description of four specific things associated with Hanukkah. The pictures throughout the book show you just how the traditions of Hanukkah are celebrated. There are little ones that small kids will be able to relate to for celebrating the holiday, including being tempted to steal food before mealtime.

With thick pages, "Hanukkah!" is a terrific book for the youngest reader. Lots of families celebrating together are a big part of this book. Isn't that what this special time of year is great for, celebrating with friends and families getting together? I love this book!

Just for Kids Cookbook (Christmas at Home)
Brittany and Erica Sindeldecker
Barbour Publishing
PO Box 719, Uhlrichsville, OH 44683
9781597898027, $5.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Brianne Plach

Do you like to cook and bake at Christmas? I always enjoy cooking and baking with my mother at Christmas. But sometimes those cookbooks have directions that make it so much harder. If only, the recipes were easier for us kids to follow. Brittany and Erica Sindeldecker have done it. They have created a Christmas cookbook just for us kids.

After reading these recipes, I am more anxious to try cooking and baking some of these great recipes. There is everything from appetizers, beverages, main dishes, side dishes, cookies, candies and desserts included. As each section is introduced, another tidbit about Christmas and its many Scripture verses, like the story of Christ's birth, are included.

Hopefully around Christmastime, a whole meal will be planned and prepared by a kid thanks to Brittany and Erica's help in "Just for Kids Cookbook." Hopefully the meal will be topped off with peanut butter and jelly cookies or another one of these taste tempting treats! Happy Cooking and Baking, all you children!

The Night Before Christmas
Clement Clarke Moore
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316832717, $6.99, 2002, 1-800-759-0190

Reviewed by Brianne Plach

Have you ever heard of the hoofs of eight reindeer on your roof the night before Christmas? What a sight that would be of a jolly old man in a sleigh filled with toys for all the good little girls and boys.

You have probably heard the "Twas the Night Before Christmas" story. Maybe you even heard it while you were cozy in your bed. With watercolor illustrations, Clement Clarke Moore's text comes to life in a most beautiful way. All the Christmas joy and wonder come to life through the pages of this book. "The Night Before Christmas" would make a wonderful addition to every family's celebration of the holiday.

The Ziz and the Hanukkah Miracle
Jacqueline Jules
Kar-Ben Publishing
241 First Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781580131643, $7.95, 2006, 1-800-4KARBEN

Reviewed by Brianne Plach

Do you get tired of the long nights during the last months of the year? It seems like the nights are so long. It's so depressing when there is so much darkness and very little light. It's not just the humans who miss the light.

Ziz is a big, yellow bird with purple feathers sticking out of his head in all directions and big green eyes. It's not just his appearance that is funny, but his attempts at solving his problem are too. He can't even see to make his own dinner. Rather than asking God to help first, he tries to come up with a solution. His ideas of fireflies and lantern fish have funny results.

God gives him an idea but he doesn't like it. Sometimes sharing with others isn't the easiest thing to do in the world. Through the help of some unlikely small friends, a solution to the light problem is found. By sharing, his problem is solved and so is someone else's problem. "The Ziz and the Hanukkah Miracle" is a very good book for children ages 4-8. It highlights the menorah which is a big part of the Hanukkah holiday. I really thought Ziz was hilarious and I know other kids will too.

Eight Wild Nights: A Family Hanukkah Tale
Brian P. Cleary
Kar-Ben Publishing, Inc.
241 First Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781580132299, $7.95, 2006, 1-800-4KARBEN,

Reviewed by Leslie Granier & Nicholas Lopez

"Eight Wild Nights" is a story about Hanukkah as told from a child's point of view. It follows the hectic activities of spending time with a large family and following the traditions of Hanukkah, such as lighting a different candle each day, exchanging gifts, and eating special foods.

Nicholas thoroughly enjoyed this book (even though we do not celebrate Hanukkah). He liked how it rhymed and thought "it was really funny." He also loved the pictures, especially the one in which the kid and the grandma had the same pajamas. Grandpa Dave was "cool and funny and made me laugh." He thinks the book should have been longer because it is so good.

In the front of "Eight Wild Nights," there was an overview of what Hanukkah celebrates and how the traditions were formed. I normally would not have chosen to read a Hanukkah book but I am glad I was exposed to this one. It has provided me not only with insight into other cultures/religions, but it also provided me a chuckle or two along the way.

My First Pirate Book & Treasure Chest (Everything... Pirates!)
Sea Lass Lou, Alex Toys
Little Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316113465, $14.99, 2007, 1-800-759-0190

Reviewed by Eric Zeda

This book is awesome. It shows you how to be a pirate. It has adventures and activities you can do. The kit came with face painting crayons, tattoos, a striped bandana, an eye patch, a pirate hat, rings, cuffs, and other cool pirate stuff. I used the face-painting crayons to draw tattoos on my brothers and myself. You can create your own pirate nickname, build a telescope, and act like a pirate. It also comes with a certificate that tells everyone you are a pirate. My favorite part was when I dressed-up like a pirate. I would recommend "My First Pirate Book & Treasure Chest" to all children who like pirates.

Night of the Living Eggnog (Wiley and Grampa #7)
Kirk Scroggs
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316006589, $3.99, 2007, 1-800-759-0190

Review by Anneliese B.

"Night of the Living Eggnog" is about a boy named Wiley and his Grandpa. This book is the seventh book in a series. In this book, Wiley finds a carton of eggnog with an expiration date of 1983. It is so rotten that it has come alive! When the lunch lady traps it with a container full of a toxic formula, the eggnog can suddenly transform into anything. It even attacks the city! That's all I'm going to tell you but "Night of the Living Eggnog" is a good story worth reading. It's a great book for 2nd – 4th graders.

To Catch a Mermaid
Suzanne Selfors
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316018166, $14.99, 2007, 1-800-759-0190

Review by Anneliese B.

"To Catch a Mermaid" is about a boy named Boom and his sister Mertyle. They live on Fairweather Island. Boom had his mom taken away from him by a twister and since then, Mertyle and Boom's father have never stepped farther than the porch. One day, Havlor (the butler in the house) told Boom to get some fish from the dock and only gave him $3.00. Boom couldn't find anything for $3.00 so a fisherman told him to look in the reject seafood box. He found the only fish in the box and it looked really weird. When he took it home he found out that it was a merbaby. Boom let his sister keep the merbaby. The title of the book comes from an exciting ending and I don't want to spoil it for you. I love this book and I hope you will too. I recommend "To Catch a Mermaid" for kids ages 9 and up who like reading fantasy books.

Toot & Puddle: I'll Be Home for Christmas
Holly Hobbie
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316366236, $15.95, 2001, 1-800-759-0190

Reviewed by Leslie Granier & Nicholas Lopez

Toot and Puddle are two pigs who are very good friends. Toot left to attend his Great-Great-Aunt's birthday party, but he promised he would return before Christmas Eve and asked Puddle not to decorate the Christmas tree without him. A terrible storm delays Toot's return trip and Puddle worries that Toot will miss Christmas. While Toot does everything possible to get back home, Puddle is shown getting ready for Christmas by doing such things as writing Christmas cards and cutting down the tree. When it appears Toot will not make it back in time, he remembers a lucky nut his aunt gave him and he wishes that he was home. Suddenly, a surprise visitor arrives and gives him a sleigh ride home, just in time for Christmas.

Nicholas liked the story and was happy that Toot made it back in time to spend Christmas with his friend. As the story kept switching between Toot's adventure and Puddle's activities, he found it confusing to follow because both pigs looked alike. He thought the pigs should "look different from each other" by either "size or color or something." He also could not understand how the pigs did not realize the one who brought Toot home was Santa Claus because even he could figure that out. Finally, he wants to know where he can get a lucky nut so he can make a "really cool wish."

From an adult point of view, I thought it was a nice story that focuses on togetherness and tradition instead of material things. It provides hope that the seemingly impossible can occur if we actively seek to find a solution to difficulties in our lives. "Toot & Puddle: I'll Be Home for Christmas" is a good example of the magic of the Christmas season.

101 Family Vacation Games: Have Fun While Traveling, Camping, or Celebrating at Home
Shando Varda
Hunter House, Inc.
PO Box 2914, Alameda, CA 94501-0914
9780897934626, $14.95, 2007, (510) 865-5282,

Reviewed by Leslie Granier

"101 Family Vacation Games" is a compilation of activities that can help entertain both children and adults. The games are divided into six main categories - travel, vacation, beach, outdoor, home, and birthday party games. The book title is somewhat misleading because the games, with the exception of some of the beach games, can be easily adapted to be played anywhere. There is also a special section at the end with games parents can use to interact with babies and young children.
The layout of the book is excellent. Listed at the beginning of each game is the number of participants required, the level of difficulty, and whether any props will be needed (i.e. music or a deck of cards). Most of the games are fairly simple and can be completed quickly. Also provided are ways to modify the games so that younger children can also be included. Several of the games are old favorites, such as Charades, I Spy, and Rock, Paper, Scissors, but there are many with which I had not been previously familiar.

The author stresses the importance of making sure everyone understands and agrees to the rules before the game begins. He also states the importance of parents taking part in the games so they can share similar experiences with the child and create memories as a family. Playing provides many benefits including: exercise, learning ways to relate to others socially, releasing stress, and acting as a diversion to forget about one's problems for a short time. Some games help to develop reflexes and concentration skills. Others involve exploring the world around us. The next time you see children playing don't be surprised if they are actually learning something.

I recommend "101 Family Vacation Games" for all parents and children. It will not only help to develop a closer relationship between the two but also allow them to learn more about the other's thoughts and dreams. Playing together develops lifetime memories that become more precious as the years pass. It is important to set aside a few minutes each day to play, whether it is to remove oneself from life's daily stresses or simply to spend time with those you love.

Cloaked in Darkness
Bernard G. Lord
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741437554, $17.95, 2007, 610- 941-9999,

Reviewed by Lisa Kisner

Annette Renard leads a double life in Nazi-occupied France as the town's teacher and also a new member of the French resistance movement. Brought into the resistance group by a childhood friend, Annette takes part in missions that include sabotaging Nazi trains and helping crews from downed airplanes escape to England. As their successful missions accumulate, the group is given a more challenging mission, which involves enlisted men as well as the resistance fighters. As readers follow the dangerous lives of the resistance and servicemen, the danger escalates. It becomes obvious there is a traitor in their midst--but who?

While reading this book I felt that I was actually there taking part in the action. I could feel the cold while waiting for the train to derail and also the tension and fear in the air when Annette comes face to face with the enemy. This book is well-researched and the reader will feel that many of the events may well have actually happened during the war. The author developed characters that accurately represent some of the many people from all walks of life involved in World War II. Once I started reading "Cloaked in Darkness," I found it hard to put down. This well-written, tension-packed book will thrill readers of historical fiction, World War II or general espionage novels.

Daisy Dooley Does Divorce
Anna Pasternak
5 Spot
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY, 10020
9780446177948, $13.99, 2007,

Reviewed by Leslie Granier

Daisy Dooley has recently divorced after waiting for so long to get married. Now she must deal with PDD - post divorce dating. She longs to find the right man and to have a family, but all she keeps finding are losers and jerks. She has neither a home of her own nor a job and keeps repeating the same mistakes. Her two closest friends, Lucy and Jess, are no help either because they have completely different ideas of how relationships should work and each tries to advise her as to what to do to achieve happiness. Daisy pines for Julius, a successful businessman whom she has loved since she was a teenager, and will not give up her desire to be with him even though he is with someone else. Eventually, Daisy learns to step up and take charge of her own life instead of sitting back letting others tell her what she should do.

This book is about different kinds of relationships - friendships, romantic, and parent-child. Daisy's envy of Lucy's seemingly perfect marriage led her to believe she was a failure since she had not obtained the same thing. Daisy's parents divorced when she was young so her outlook on relationships was somewhat jaded. I was a little confused by the ending. Did Julius return to be with Daisy or was he merely there to give her a gift for Christmas?

Knowing that this book is based on the author's life made it even more interesting to me. It is what some may call "chick lit." Readers will love the cat fights but will be touched by the support and friendship shared between the characters. From her obsession with self-help books to her insecurities about dating, the humor shines through magnificently. My favorite scene was when Daisy and Lucy wrote letters about what qualities their perfect mate should have. It really touched my heart to see what they considered important in their lives.

The message to obtain from "Daisy Dooley Does Divorce" is to take charge of your own life and take the steps necessary to reach your goals. Figure out what you want and go for it because anything that is important will require hard work to achieve.

Just Family Favorites (Christmas at Home)
Darcie Anzalone
Barbour Publishing
PO Box 719 Uhlrichsville, OH 44683
9781597898034, $5.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Lori Plach

Gather around the table! It's that time of year that is simply wonderful -- getting together with your friends and family for fun, togetherness and of course, food. Before you know it, someone is asking for the recipe for them to try it at home. Do you feel like you always have the same thing at all your get-togethers? There is good reason for that, the familiar recipes are family favorites.

Darcie Anzalone has compiled many of her family favorites into a little recipe book which will give you more ideas for tasty beverages, breads, candies, cookies, main dishes, soups, salads and snacks plus much more. Many of these recipes are very easy to make and provide delicious results. My own favorites are Pumpkin Cake and Baked French Toast.

With the help of "Just Family Favorites," I can't wait to have guests over the holidays. Even if some of the recipes are found in a Christmas recipe book, there should be no reason why some of them can't be family favorites throughout the year. With Darcie's help, I'm sure my guests will be asking me for recipes. Should I give out my secrets or make them think I've suddenly become a kitchen magician?

It's Hanukkah Time!
Latifa Berry Kropf
Kar-Ben Publishing, Inc.
241 First Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781580131209, $12.95, 2004, 800-4-KARBEN,

Reviewed by Leslie Granier & Nicholas Lopez

"It's Hanukkah Time" is a book that follows the preparations of a group of preschoolers who are getting ready for a Hanukkah party with their grandparents. It features numerous photographs of the children making invitations and gifts. It shows them hanging decorations and preparing traditional donuts (sufganiyot). The activities they participated in with their grandparents, such as dancing and reading stories, are also shown.

Nicholas liked looking at the pictures of the children and expressed that "they look like they are having fun." He really wants to make "some of those donuts." (The recipe is included in the book.) He now wants to make decorations for his house this Christmas and have a big party so people can take a lot of pictures and make a book.

"It's Hanukkah Time" is laid out more like a photo album instead of a storybook. I was unsure how children would react to it since they are used to illustrations instead of real photographs. However, I now think it helped to bring out his creative side since he saw that other children accomplished these tasks.

Sammy Salami
Jerry Smath
Abrams Books for Young Readers
115 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9780810993501, $15.95, 2007, 1-800-759-0190

Reviewed by Samuel Peralta

I loved this book. One day a man named Pete finds a skinny cat behind his diner looking for food. Pete names the cat Sammy and brings him into the diner. Pete and the customers feed Sammy a lot of salami and he gets fat. They change his name to Sammy Salami. One day Pete goes on vacation, and Sammy thinks Pete is never coming back. While Pete is away, Sammy gets lost and has to try to find Pete. It is fun to follow him while he looks for his owner. You do not know if he will find him until the end.

I love this story because it is funny and exciting. I liked the pictures. My favorite part of "Sammy Salami" is the title because it has my name in it. I told my parents to call me Sammy Salami from now on. I would recommend this book to all my friends.

Parent's Note: I really liked this story. Sammy read it on his own; then I read it to all the boys at the barbershop while they were waiting for a haircut. The illustrations are wonderful and story is amusing. I can see this book becoming a classic. Sammy now wants to be called Sammy Salami. Sammy Salami makes a great bedtime story if you have kids of various ages. All of my boys enjoyed it (age range 6-12).

Silly Stories (A Play It Again Book)
Cranium, Inc.
Little, Brown Kids
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10169
9780316012065, $9.99, 2007, 1-800-759-0190

Reviewed by Eric Zeda

This book is about making silly stories. They ask you questions on one page and you fill-in-the-blanks in a box, then you turn the page and you have your silly story. It has stories with titles like Coming Soon, Wacky Weather Report, Wild Water Park, and many more. The book includes a dry eraser marker that allows you to change your stories. I like this book a lot. My favorite story is "Mystery Meal," because they put disgusting ingredients in the story. Some stories are about impossible things. I would recommend the book to everyone.

Parent's Note: The book "Silly Stories" is wonderful. It is a great activity for kids who are interested in creative writing, as well as, for kids who do not like to read but would get a kick out of reading a story they helped create. The publisher sent this book for Eric, but all four of my boys played with it and had fun filling-in-the-blanks - ages 6-12. Sammy, my six-year-old son, is now writing his own stories. I must admit, that I sat down and created my own stories, so you can say that this book is for people of all ages who love to be silly and have fun. Congratulations to the publisher for creating a fun, educational, funky, silly book that everyone can enjoy - even 36-year-old moms!

The House With Dirt Walls
Elaine Newkirk
BookSurge Publishing
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419670633, $12.99, 2007

Reviewed by Mary Johnson

"The House With Dirt Walls" is about a girl named Charlie who was physically and sexually abused from a young age and how she overcame her life of abuse and tragedy to become a healthy role model for other girls in abusive situations.

"The House With Dirt Walls" is the most heart wrenching book I have ever read. Elaine Newkirk is a wonderful author. She got straight to the point and stayed there, she never got off track and she kept my attention through the whole book. Literally, I didn't want to put this book down. I think this book is a wonderful book and everything is in sequence. It is important to me that the Author Elaine Newkirk did not backtrack and that she introduced everyone in the book.

I think "The House With Dirt Walls" is a great book for young adults to read or even for schools to have kids read to let them know these things really happen and people actually live with these problems in their homes and don't speak up about them because they are afraid society will reject them. This book is definitely for a young adult/adult, or to use as a reference guide at a sexual-abuse orientation. I think Elaine Newkirk's book might open people up to discussing their own abuse and maybe help them to get the help they need to become healthy. I think both boys and girls could benefit from reading "The House With Dirt Walls," as everyone knows someone who has been abused and it might help people understand how a person feels and why they do the things they do.

The best part is that Charlie (who is the main girl in this book) comes out of that life and becomes a very successful woman and knows who her real family is. They are the people who have been there through hard times and good times. Also she knows that God put her on this earth with a purpose.

However, I would like to see the grammar and spelling mistakes fixed.

"The House With Dirt Walls" is definitely one of the most well- written books I have ever read and I hope the next book written by Elaine Newkirk will be just as good.

The Legend of the Candy Cane
Lori Walburg
c/o Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310212478, $15.99, 1997,

Reviewed by Brianne Plach

There is excitement in the air! A new store will be opening! The anticipation is almost too much for young Lucy. Everyone thinks they know what type of store it will be. Lucy is a very curious girl. She has been watching the store be created by its new owner. She is very excited when she gets asked if she would like to help him.

John Sonnemann is a candy man. He has decided to open his candy store on a very special night, Christmas Eve. John does more than just sell candy; he explains the story of why candy canes are being made as a symbol of Christmas. They have a definite reason why a cane is shaped like a J.

With very beautiful pictures in, this sweet and heartwarming story unfolds in "The Legend of the Candy Cane." Every candy cane you see during the season of Christmas should remind you of Jesus Christ's reason for coming to Earth. Remember Jesus when it comes to Christmas, He truly is the reason for the season.

Vinny the Bug Man: The Journey Begins
Chet Spiewak
CWS Studios, Inc.
9780978582715, $9.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Ian McCurley

The story begins when Vinny Mazola gets a job with his exterminator uncle, Guy. While exterminating at a government research lab, Vinny accidently shrinks himself down to the size of a bug while using his Bug Whacker 3000. After being thrown out the window, captured by ants and brought before the queen, Vinny is thrown in jail for bad humor. Vinny escapes to team up with an aphid, Lester, and they set out together on a journey to recover the Magical Seed from the tarantulas.

This is Chet Spiewak's first book in the "Vinny the Bug Man" graphic novel series. The book is full of quirky humor and colorful characters such as the oblivious main character, Vinny. The characters are somewhat undeveloped, and the story line is vague and unmotivated. It is perfect for the target age group.

"Vinny The Bug Man" is for children ages 6 to 10 who enjoy reading about bugs and have an atrocious sense of humor.

Phillip W. Stewart
PMS Publishers
P.O. Box 1496, Crestview, FL 32536
9780979324321, $24.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

Philip W. Stewart has researched, compiled and edited this listing or catalog of historic films of action taken during World War I. The U.S. Army Signal Corps were given the assignment of obtaining photographic coverage of American participation in the War. In the introduction, Stewart reiterates the earlier statement of purpose for the filming made by K. Jack Bauer in 1957. The photographic coverage was ordered for propaganda, scientific, identification, and military reconnaissance purposes, but primarily for the production of a pictorial history of the war.

"Battlefilm: US Army Signal Corps Motion Pictures of the Great War" is divided into two sections. Part One covers U.S. military operations from the years prior to the war beginning in 19l4 and through to the returning of the troops in 1918-1919. Included in this section are films related to post-Armistice training, films relating to Allied and enemy activities, and the parades and events celebrating liberty. There are films from Washington D.C., Paris, London, and Brussels featured in these festivities filmed in 1918 and 1919.

As a U S. Navy veteran I took special note of the films related to Naval Operations. There are films featuring submarines, U-boats, destroyers, battleships, our convoy activities, and the return of the fleet in 1918.

Part two is made up of a listing of films featuring civilian activities. Several films cover the years of Woodrow Wilson's administration, his cabinet, the decisions he faced and the treaties he signed. A number of films were made of his trip to Europe in 1918 on the ocean-liner George Washington. He visited France, England and Italy. Additional trips to Europe were made in the following year. Many of the events and receptions attended during these visits were captured on film and are included in the listings.

Films featuring industry as it related to the war effort are also included in this section. The manufacturing of ordnance material, military aeroplanes, gas masks, and shipbuilding are all included.

Other patriotic activities, holiday celebrations and liberty loan drives are featured. I found the films covering the memorial services at Arlington National Cemetery, and the Burial of an Unknown Solider of particular interest.

"Battlefilm: US Army Signal Corps Motion Pictures of the Great War" is one of a kind. It is destined to become an important resource for historians, media researchers, documentary producers, and students of films. There are 957 reels of footage shot during the years 1914-1918. These include the WWI era documentary films, in record group 111, held in the U.S. National Archives. Philip W. Stewart has produced an important work in his book "Battlefilm."

Cut Cords of Attachment: Heal Yourself and Others with Spiritual Energy
Rose Rosetree
Women's Intuition Worldwide
116 Hillsdale Drive, Sterling, VA 20164
9780975253823, $18.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Irene Watson

Rose Rosetree created a "manual" for all energy workers to study and use. First of all, it gives concise explanations, as well as theories, of cutting energetic cords that would be most useful for those just entering the field. For those that are already cutting cords, this book would a wonderful addition to the library of resources.

Cutting energetic cords has been a practice for centuries. Through life's experiences we acquire cords, on the etheric level, between ourselves and other people. If the person our cord is attached to is on a lower vibrational level, we succumb to their energy level and may get drained or take on their emotional structure.

By cutting the energetic cords we have emotional relief, release tension, and there is a sense of renewal and freedom. We also could feel empowered and have increased energetic or psychic abilities to carry on our purpose in life.

Cutting cords is not new; however, Rosetree's book is new. I am not aware of any other book on the market that gives theories on cutting cords, as well as how-to. Personally, I practiced and trained others on cutting cords for over 20 years. Because of my background and experiences I had with my clients, I feel Rosetree's book is precise and accurate. "Cut Cords of Attachment" would certainly have been part of the curriculum if it was available while I was teaching classes.

The Vagabond Virgins: A Hickey Family Mystery
Ken Kuhlken
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590584613, $24.95, 2008, 1-800-421-3976

Reviewed by Tara Hammack

"The Vagabond Virgins" is about two women--Lourdes Garcia trying to find her sister Lupe Garcia. The Garcia sisters live in Mexico. Well, Lourdes need to find Lupe because she is going around pretending to be a virgin angel and telling children to tell people to vote against the political party that is currently in control of the Mexican government. "She had counseled the children to warn the campesinos that all who voted for the PRI risked linking their eternal destinies to the fate of their wicked governors. Then she recited Psalm 52."

Lourdes was afraid her sister would be killed by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). She needs a detective or a private investigator to help her. She was told about this one guy, Alvaro Hickey, a law student working with his father as a private investigator until he becomes a lawyer. He wouldn't be scared to bend the rules. Alvaro lives in southern California. Lupe was driven away from the family by her father at age eighteen because she was dating a guy her father disapproved of; at the time Lourdes was several years younger. So now Alvaro and Lourdes are trying to find Lupe and save her. The book is just one long hunt. They have to run from the PRI because Lourdes was one of the people the PRI suspected for killing her father. When her father was killed, Lourdes took bricks of gold that was worth around one million dollars. Well, on the journey Alvaro thought Lourdes was crazy and she was the one going around pretending to be a virgin angel, until they heard that the PRI had Lupe, which brings me to my favorite part--when Lourdes dresses up as her sister pretending to be a virgin angel so that the PRI would let Lupe go thinking they had the wrong women.

This is a well-written story that overcomes conflict as well as brutality and corruption of border areas in Mexico. "The Vagabond Virgins" is insightful and sensitive and will keep you turning the pages.

What To Do When People Get on Your Nerves!
MoriEl Randolph
FreshView Publishing
9781604027242, $14.75, 2007, (301) 856-8051

Reviewed by Tyler R. Tichelaar

MoriEl Randolph's "What To Do When People Get on Your Nerves!" has a title that grabbed my attention right away. I wanted practical advice and examples of how to handle difficult and annoying people. While the book did present a few good pieces of advice, I think at best it would serve as a book to begin with if you want to take back control of your life from demanding and annoying people. Better books are out there, but this one wouldn't be a bad place to start.

I thought the book should include multiple scenarios of what to do in specific situations to deal with annoying people, such as a nosey neighbor, a nagging mother-in-law, an acquaintance that is turning into your personal stalker etc. These kinds of details are completely absent from the book.

The book's strength is it begins by asking us to look into ourselves about why people get on our nerves. It also asks us to react to annoying people not from a place of anger, but from caring concern. We should try to understand where such people are coming from rather than simply understanding the situation from our own viewpoint. This changing of viewpoint can be effective in many situations, along with straightforward talk presented in a tone of caring concern for the person who is giving us the trouble. I advocate Randolph's advice here, but caution that a person does not want to care so much that they become co-dependent toward the annoying person, thus letting that person only take control and get on our nerves more. Randolph does have a section about how to "put out" people from our lives. More details need to be included on how to accomplish this. For people with these kinds of issues in their lives, whether they are caretakers, or just so nice they let people walk all over them, I would recommend they go read the many wonderful books by Melody Beattie about overcoming one's co-dependency.

Randolph also considers that we should look into our own childhoods to understand what happened in our past that makes certain people irritate us in our present - is the difficult person's behavior similar to that of an annoying aunt or sibling's behavior in the past. We should also try to see the other person's behavior as that person's reaction to a troubled event in his or her past. Again, this is a great idea, but not a new one. Randolph does not use the term but she is advocating inner-child therapy, a subject covered much more thoroughly in John Bradshaw's wonderful book "Homecoming." Both co-dependency and inner child therapy are terms Randolph never uses - I wonder if she's even aware of them. I felt throughout she was sharing ideas but had failed to do research on her topic so that she could really expand and say what needed to be said.

One of Randolph's strongest points is that we must avoid being a slave to sentiment. Do not put up with behavior from your mother you would not put up with from a neighbor, just because that person is your mother. Use logic rather than emotion in dealing with difficult people. Randolph could expand here on what are feelings and emotions and how they can control us rather than being guides to how we should behave. I recommend the reader look for more information here by reading "The Astonishing Power of Emotions" by Esther and Jerry Hicks.

Finally, Christian readers may find the book supports their own viewpoints, but I found the constant embellished comments about God to be a distraction from the message of the book. Randolph spends three paragraphs about why she has to keep referring to God by names like THE ALMIGHTY, THE ALMIGHTY SOVEREIGN, and HIS SOVEREIGN MAJESTY. For me, "God" is sufficient. While I am a spiritual person and believer in God, I think the book relies too much on God and not enough on knowing ourselves. A little more about how to be selfish, in the Ayn Rand sense of the word - taking care of oneself rather than letting an annoying person control you - would have been more effective than the unnecessary and distracting sections about the power of God. Randolph could have found a good editor who could have toned this barrage of religion down while still expressing a Christian viewpoint that would not alienate readers. And she could have used her quotes and examples from scripture more
effectively to highlight the book's message.

"What To Do When People Get on Your Nerves" has some practical advice to begin with, but if you really want to solve the problem of difficult people in your life, keep reading.

Winter Blossoms: And Other Poems
Mamata Misra
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595443727, $11.95, 2007, 1-800-288-4677,

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

"Winter Blossoms" is a collection of poems depicting the inequity faced by women who are caught in a cross-cultural journey. These women are destined by society to experience the complexities of indignity, hostility, and domination. Mamata Misra has captured a yearning for change, and a call for understanding. In a courageous bold voice she uses her poetry to speak loudly with a message of hope to these courageous women.

The illustrations by Indira Chakravorty vividly reinforce the message of the poetry. These poignant words and pictures tell the story of the restlessness of communal violence, offer a prayer for peace, describe the loving presence of a mother, and relate the bravery of Seetha walking into fire to prove her chastity to prove her worthiness to be queen.

The book is arranged in a topical format. Pen and ink drawings coinciding with the words of the poem impact and enhance the message conveyed through the written word.

The topics include "Mother and Child," "War and Peace," "Questions and Answers," "Hope and Despair," and "Sound and Silence." The final chapter entitled "Poems and People," includes a brief background on each of the poems, the time and circumstances of its origin, and a brief comment or two regarding the message being conveyed. A biographical sketch of the author and the illustrator are also included.

The poems in "Winter Blossoms" reveal the amazing insight, of the author, into the nature of the struggles faced by South Asian women. Mamata Misra brings to the forefront the need to speak out against the reality of family violence, and abuse. She faces squarely the incongruity of the power struggle of war in the guise of establishing peace. I was deeply moved by the poem, "Despair."

You've Gotta Fight Back!
Dirk Chase Eldredge
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690347, $21.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson

When confronted with truly life-changing circumstances, such as serious illness, injury or disability, most people find the situation extremely overwhelming and horrifying. Most of us think that something of the kind will never happen to us or our nearest and dearest, and when it does we do not know where to turn to and how to react.

Mr. Eldredge's "You've Gotta Fight Back!: Winning with Serious Illness, Injury or Disability" is an inspiring and very much no-nonsense book about fighting back when confronted with such adversity in life. Through more than a dozen touching and encouraging true life stories of people afflicted by different diseases, conditions or accidents we learn about their way of dealing with their conditions. We learn about different approaches to life-changing events and how different people learned to accept the changes and/or learned how to fight back. One of the simple, yet very profound insights in fighting back and being happy again is the so-called triumvirate of happiness: someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to. Even if we are not in a perilous situation at the moment, we would do well to remember those three simple rules.

Some of the most valuable advice I found in this book dealt with coping with the situation and how to make the best out of it. While the book is never mindlessly cheerful and it never promises any miracles, it clearly illustrates how it is possible to find happiness and fulfillment even under such extremely adverse conditions. It underlines the importance of working together with the doctors and other medical professionals; of having a positive outlook and attitude, of finding ways and means to still live life to the fullest, of finding humor even in the worst situations and more. Another segment of the book that I found very valuable was all the parts dealing with the role of caregivers, who are oftentimes forgotten or at least overlooked in the struggle.

My favorite part of the book is the author's affirmations which I've copied on a card to carry with me. I do not know anybody who could not benefit from this: "I'm going to be a happy person. I will think happy, positive, enthusiastic thoughts and push out anxiety, fear, hatred, depression, and feelings of inadequacy. I'm going to enjoy life. I will try to make somebody else happy each day. I'm going to love my family and friends and know that they love me. I'm going to be a very confident person. I have a lot of successful experience, so I have every reason to be confident of myself and my ideas. I'm going to remember always that happiness is a state of mind, not a set of circumstances. I make my own happiness in my own mind and my own unhappiness in my own mind. I choose to be a happy person."

"You've Gotta Fight Back!" is an extremely valuable book for anybody needing encouragement and guidance while in a difficult situation. Written in a fluid, easy-to-read style, it should find a permanent home on your bookshelf – to help you, your family or your friends if help should be needed.

Celebrating the Spirit of Christmas
Tim Coffey
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736921039, $10.99, 2007, 1-800-547-8979

Reviewed by Regan Windsor

"Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas."
Dale Evans Rogers

"Celebrating the Spirit of Christmas" is everything we love and cherish about Christmas, all wrapped up in a wonderful little gift book. Beautifully illustrated and full of many Christmas treasures, from recipes and hymns to the history of all that is Christmas, this book will be a treasure for many Christmases to come.

Broken into four parts, the book starts out with 'The Spirit of Giving,' a chapter devoted to ideas for homemade gifts (with a wonderful recipe for Friendship Tea), ways to give to those less fortunate, as well as stories and poems about the true meaning of giving. This chapter also includes the history of the tradition of Christmas cards.

The second chapter, 'Food for Thought,' focuses on the tradition of food at Christmas. Full of recipes (including Classic Sugar Cookies, Cranberry Jelly, and Holiday Fruitcake), the history of the yule cake, and the legend of the Candy Cane, this chapter will have you humming around the kitchen preparing for holiday feasting and festivities. This chapter also includes great ideas around holiday foods, including ideas for gifts, cookie exchanges, and volunteering to feed the homeless.

In 'Wonders of Christmas' readers are treated to the history of how Santa Claus came to be, why we kiss under the mistletoe, Christmas around the world, and ideas for discovering your own families Christmas history and ways to celebrate and cherish it.

The book ends with 'The True Nature of Christmas' where readers are reminded of the Christmas story, and the reason we celebrate Christmas each year – the birth of Jesus.

Every once in a while we are lucky enough to pick up a book that we instantly cherish and continue to read over and over again. "Celebrating the Spirit of Christmas" is one of those books. From the beautiful illustrations, to the heartwarming stories, poetry, and excerpts, it is truly a gift to be cherished and shared.

The Choice
Nicholas Sparks
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446579926, $24.99, 2007, 1-800-759-0190

Reviewed by Tammy Petty Conrad

I knew what I was getting into picking up a Nicholas Sparks' novel. Romance and tears! But I didn't think there would be ethical dilemmas to debate with anyone that would listen. This story takes place in a small town in North Carolina and our two main characters do the expected: meet, clash and fall head-over-heels in love. But there's so much more!

Travis is the man every woman would love to live next door to, whether she's already in a relationship or not. He's just a great guy. But Gabby takes an instant dislike to him, or at least what she thinks she knows about him from the distance she's kept. It takes Travis' help during the delivery of her dog's puppies to open Gabby's eyes to the man she is lucky enough to be neighbors with. Of course she already has a boyfriend, but he becomes a bit player as Gabby promptly falls under Travis' spell.

Gabby knows something is missing in her current relationship, but has been willing to hang on, hoping it will be worth it in the end. Travis opens her eyes to another world that she quickly finds attractive. At the same time, he comes to realize why all his previous relationships ended and how Gabby is the woman he is meant to be with. After spending a day with her, he ponders that their interactions are like "…a tantalizing dance, in which each of them had taken turns leading, one pushing, the other pulling, and vice versa. He wondered if a dance like that could go on forever." Being in a new relationship myself, I wonder the same thing!

Mostly this is a predictable, although enjoyable story. But occasionally the author slips in an idea worth contemplating. "Finding a woman with a sense of humor had been the one piece of advice his father had given him…If conversation was the lyrics, laughter was the music, making time spent together a melody that could be replayed over and over without getting stale." I can't agree more. If you can't share laughter with your partner, you are missing great joy that deepens a relationship beyond measure.

In Part Two, the story totally switches gears and I felt off balance for a few pages until I could figure out what was going on. Suddenly it wasn't as predictable as I anticipated which I liked. The perfect world of Travis and Gabby no longer existed -- hence the tears. Without giving the story away, I can tell you that I had a glimpse of the range of emotions of those involved when there is a family tragedy. This is where the idea of choice comes in and the possible consequences that might have to be endured. As the author asks, "How far should a person go in the name of love?"

I liked the concept the author used of introducing another couple, Eleanor and Kenneth, and their story to further explain Travis' and Gabby's new situation and why things happened the way they did. A fun character is Travis' sister, Stephanie. She says what she thinks and does what she wants, which most of probably wish we could do more often.

I wasn't looking for a happy ending because I'm old enough to know better. Things don't always turn out the way we plan. But in this case, I could accept the more realistic ending. Then the Epilogue came and turned it all around again. Despite my slight disappointment, the tears flowed, again, and I imagine most readers will be happy with the outcome.

I wish I had read "The Choice" with a book club so I could discuss it. What would you do? Did Travis do the right thing? In the end Nicholas Sparks reminds us with his characters that true love really does exist and can endure anything. In a cynical world overflowing with divorces, I'd like to think this is true in real life, not just novels.

Thinking Organized for Parents and Children
Rhona M. Gordon
Thinking Organized Press
8639-B Sixteenth St., Suite 290, Silver Spring, MD 20910
9780979003417, $14.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Tammy Petty Conrad

Every time I see the same children coming to school late, I feel like handing them "Thinking Organized for Parents and Children: Helping Kids Get Organized for Home, School & Play". Or at least sharing it with their parents! The author had the disorganized student in mind as she developed a program to help children be successful in school. She is a speech and language pathologist, as well as an organizational specialist. Rhona has worked with a variety of organizations and students during her thirty years in these fields. While primarily designed for 5th - 12th graders, she does discuss ways to modify the information for younger students.

She starts by defining executive functions, which are a group of skills used to set and meet goals. Gordon says these are the "…underlying basis for successful academic achievement." There are six aspects covered: material organization, time management, studying strategies, memory techniques, note taking for reading comprehension and written language. As she states, ultimately the goal is for independence for the child, but until that happens, habits and routines most be formed.

The book is formatted so you don't have to read the whole thing to work on a specific area. There is also a web site with more information, including worksheets and handouts ( The style is straightforward and accepting of all students and their families. I appreciate the checklists in each chapter which serve as a review of the key elements discussed. The author also includes "homework" to reinforce new skills and fun activities to do with the family. Learning styles, which are taught to teachers, are addressed as well. It is a great idea to let students know their styles so they know how they need to take in information for it to be meaningful to them.

This is definitely something that students will need support with. Anyone who works with students can use the processes outlined to help make students more effective. Pointing out the benefits of the strategies always motivates students to continue striving for improvement. Short vignettes about previous students are included to illustrate the points and a complete list of resources is included at the end for readers interested in doing more research.

Instead of blaming children for their failures, "Thinking Organized for Parents and Children" addresses the problems and offer solutions and success stories. I would buy this one in bulk to share with fellow teachers, parents and anyone else who deals with children. As the saying goes, when you know better, you do better!

When Did Jesus Become Republican?
Mark Ellingsen
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland, 20706
9780742552241, $22.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Leslie Granier

"When Did Jesus Become Republican?: Rescuing Our Country and Our Values from the Right-- Strategies for a Post-Bush America" chronicles the trends of different religions as their constituents tend to move more toward the right politically. Ellingsen provides reasons for this shift as well as offers ways for the Democratic Party to reverse the trend and regain prominence among religious and political groups. Historically, it is the Democratic Party that favors the poor, while the Republicans favor big business. Ellingsen argues that "by presenting a conservative Jesus and a Gospel that supports the Republican agenda, Bush, his cohorts, and their post-Reagan predecessors have been able to convince the large segments of the American middle class to vote against their own economic interests."

Many of the groups who have changed from Democrats to Republicans have done so because of Americanization. When they entered the country as immigrants, they initially supported the Democrats because of the financial aid they provided to the poor and minorities. As new generations of these immigrant groups appeared, they had better educational opportunities and therefore were less dependent on federal assistance. Instead, they focused on business and the economy which they more closely associated with the Republicans.

However, there are still some segments of the population who have resisted the trend towards voting Republican, including African-Americans, Hispanics, and some Asian-American communities. This is thought to be because the groups have "not fully Americanized, not adopted or been allowed to integrate fully into American ways of life, achieved at least a middle-class lifestyle, and/or do not practice a religion that fits with the Puritan Paradigm.: Ellingsen offers ways for the Democratic Party to retain the support of these groups as well as ways to introduce religion back into its platform to appeal to a broader segment of the population.

"When Did Jesus Become Republican?" provides an extensive review of how the followers of several religions have changed their thinking when it comes to politics. Mark Ellingsen presents the facts fairly without trying to persuade the reader as to which party he or she should support. He gives an unbiased account of the past and offers strategies that the parties can adopt if they wish to counteract or retain the recent voting trends

Butterfly Kisses
Sandra Magsamen
Little, Brown Kids
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316065955, $7.99, 2007, 1-800-759-0190

Reviewed by Conner (age 3) and Mom

"Bees buzz along.
Birds sing a love song.
Turtles play peek-a-boo.
Babies laugh and say goo, goo..."

"Butterfly Kisses" is a rhyming board book that includes a soft butterfly finger puppet to entertain young readers as they go through the story. The pages reveal what the animals do with the words set to a gently rhyme.

"What did you think of the Butterfly?"
"Mom, it can't fit on my hand!"
"It's for your finger dear."
"I'd like to have a real finger butterfly"

"Did you like the story?"
"Yes, but I don't think it's very scary."

"I don't like any of the pictures. Why are there so many hearts on the butterfly?"

"Mom, stop tickling me with the butterfly!"

Parent's Comment:

Though the rhyme and pictures were very charming, the title, "Butterfly Kisses," led me to a different expectation for the book. I thought I would follow a storyline about different kisses or at least about what a butterfly would be doing instead of random animal activities. It should have been titled, "Look and Listen So You Won't Miss."

The finger puppet was cute, despite what my son says. Just be careful not to cut the rubber band that holds it in place, like my son did. It is also used to store the finger puppet again with the book.

Love Bug (Snuggle-Me Stories)
Sandra Magsamen
Little, Brown Kids
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316065962, $7.99, 2007, 1-800-759-0190

Reviewed by Conner (age 3) and Mom

"Love Bug" is a rhyming board book that includes a love bug finger puppet to entertain young readers as they go through the story. The pages describe what a love bug is with the words set to a gently rhyme.

"Love bugs are snuggable,
and lovable that's true.
They're huggable,
and kissable, too!"

"What I liked best is the love bug's heart. Is that her mouth? (pointing to the picture in the book)"
"It doesn't look like a mouth. Why is it not like ours?"
"This book is not good because there is no fighting."

Parent's Comment:
The pictures in "Love Bug" are charming. I also liked the progression of the verse. It made it easy for me to act out the actions with my finger puppet with my son, which indeed did have us giggling at the end.

The finger puppet was cute, despite what my son says. Just be careful not to cut the rubber band that holds it in place, like my son did. It is also used to store the finger puppet again with the book.

Silly Sentences ABC
Xlibris Corporation
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113
9781599265766, $21.99,

Reviewed by Conner (age 3) and Mom

"Silly Sentences ABC" is not your ordinary alphabet letter book. Each letter is accompanied by a fun and sometimes quirky alliteration, illustrated with creative and colorful artwork to match.

"That's silly!" says Conner.

"Why don't the bears look happy?"
"Maybe it's because they are being bathed by bugs," replies Mom.

"Look the elephants have wings and the dragon is breathing hot lava!"

"Mom, what's a fig?"

"What are the gorillas doing? There are no BIG gorillas."

"What's an icicle? Is she trying to blow it up?" asks Conner
"Do you think she's going to be able to do it?"
"Naah," replies Conner

"Mom, how do you think Nora put that on her neck? How about she pulls it and it comes apart and then it can be put back together again."

Parent Comment:

"Silly Sentences ABC," a letter book, lives up to its title. My three-year-old and I couldn't help but say each sentence or drawing was "silly." This young author/artist has a creative imagination and illustration skills that make smile, giggle, or laugh out loud. It is amazing to read that this book was written/drawn when she was ten and published when she was twelve. I really appreciated her use of words that encouraged my son to ask what they mean. Not only great for letter recognition, but also for vocabulary building, and alliteration skills.

Mother Goose Rhymes (Finger Puppet Storybooks)
Alex Toys; Illustrated by Jill McDonald
Little, Brown Kids
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316065245, $11.99, 2007, 1-800-759-0190

Reviewed by Conner (age 3) and Mom

You can bring these classic Mother Goose rhymes to life with felt puppets that Velcro to a storyboard glove. Rhymes illustrated in the book include:

Mary had a little lamb;
Pop goes the weasel;
Little Miss Muffet;
The cat and the fiddle;
Hickory, dickory, dock; and
Humpty Dumpty.

My son liked putting the story characters on the glove. He also liked talking about some of the details in the illustrations, such as "Is that horse going to save Humpty?" The last two pages were a story scene made of felt, so the story characters could also stick on these pages. This made it easier to play out the stories then using the glove, as well as make up new stories.

Parent's Comment:

It is a shame that this book, "Mother Goose Rhymes," only provided characters from four of the six rhymes. My son wondered where the characters were for "Pop Goes the Weasel" and "Hickory, Dickory, Dock."

Heirloom Cookbook
Miriam Lerner Satz
Kar-Ben Publishing
241 First Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781580130950, $16.95, 2003, 800-4KARBEN,

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson

I vividly remember my first encounter with Jewish cuisine some 15 years ago. We were in Krakow, Poland, and everybody wanted to eat at the famous Ariel, where the crew of Schindler's List ate often while filming the movie. They offered a set menu, featuring Gefilte Fish, which I figured would be some kind of stuffed fish, so I was really looking forward to it. Well, for those of you familiar with the famous dish I certainly do not have to explain how very wrong I was. For those of you who are not – let's just say I did not finish it. I also did not finish the following two courses, but I did have some cottage-cheese based dessert. For many years after that ill-fated meal, I did not venture into the exploration of Jewish culinary delights, until I had the good luck to try some dishes cooked by my friends and served in a home setting. That was enough to wake me up to the fact that Jewish cuisine can be and actually is delectable when done right.

The "Heirloom Cookbook: Recipes Handed Down by Jewish Mothers and Modern Recipes from Daughters and Friends", compiled and edited by Miriam Lerner Satz, presents over 450 recipes which, as the author puts it, are 'recipes handed down by Jewish mothers and modern recipes from daughters and friends.' While quite a few are quite expected (the fateful Gefilte Fish, different kinds of Borscht, Chopped Liver, Matzo Balls, Blinis and more…), so many of them make one realize how diverse the Jewish cuisine really is and how many other cuisines have influenced it in the past. While Spanish, German, Russian and Polish influences were quite expected, I was amazed to find traces of Amish, Chinese, Danish, Greek, Italian, Mexican and other influences as well.

The recipes are diverse and cover every course of a regular or festive meal. There are even a dozen beverage recipes included. The directions to prepare are simple and easy-to-follow and the couple that I tried turned out absolutely yummy. While I enjoyed the family background part, the division of recipes in five sections (Lerner and Satz Family Recipes, Recipes from Miriam Lerner Satz, Passover Recipes, Sephardic [Spanish Jewish] Cooking and Favorite Recipes from Friends) made it slightly difficult to find appropriate recipes for each course. That was partially offset by an absolutely wonderful Index section, which listed the recipes in alphabetical order as well as by category and by author.

I've greatly enjoyed the family photos in the book, but missed photographs of the finished dishes. With the exception of three unidentified dishes on the front cover, there were no other photos of the food in the book. I have always found good pictorial material invaluable in a cookbook and great help in making the dishes look authentic. That was also my only semi-serious complaint about the "Heirloom Cookbook." I would highly recommend this book to anybody – Jewish or not – who enjoys good food and values family ties.

New England Summertime Cooking
Sherri Eldridge
Harvest Hill Press
P.O. Box 55, Salisbury Cove, Maine 04672
9781886862524, $19.95, July 2007, 207-288-8900,

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson

Imagine my delight when I opened the envelope the "New England Summertime Cooking" came in and encountered the wonderfully colorful front cover, depicting quite a few of my all-time favorites There were scallops and lobster and blueberries, as well as tomato with mozzarella and fresh basil, a slice of peach pie, blueberry muffins loaded with those wonderful fruity gems, a lemon cheesecake with blueberry topping, ears of fresh corn, lupins, a lighthouse and a loon. This visual delight would have been plenty enough to make me smile, and then I noticed the subtitle, stating "Following the guidelines of The American Heart Association." Yummy and healthy – that is an unbeatable combo in my opinion.

Sherri Eldridge compiled an amazing cookbook celebrating the bounty of summer harvest, with a number of inventive recipes featuring the seasonal fruits, vegetables and seafood of New England. All of the recipes follow the guidelines for a heart-healthy diet, although I am pretty certain that after seeing the 'yummy factor' of the dishes you will have to agree it is not as much a diet as it is a treat.

The book is divided into twelve sections (Breakfast and Fruit; Baked Goods; Appetizers and Finger Food; Fresh Greens and Salads; Soups, Stews and Chowders; Main Meal Dishes; Pasta, Beans and Grains; Vegetables and Sauces; Desserts; Seasonal Preserves and Jams; Resources and References and Index). I would be very hard pressed to pick one as my favorite – absolutely every section has some unbelievably tempting offerings.

I also loved the layout of the recipes: a list of ingredients on one side, directions on the other, nutritional analyses underneath (serving size, calories, protein, fat calories, total fat, dietary fiber, saturated fat, carbs, sodium, fat component, cholesterol and calcium) and in most cases, a wonderful color photograph of the finished dish. The nutritional analyses were considerably more detailed than in most other cookbooks I've seen recently and they should be an excellent tool in deciding which dishes to serve at a meal to make it well-balanced.

In addition to the culinary delights, this wonderful book also showcased the flora and fauna as well as provided tantalizing tidbits of information that should make everybody want to visit New England as soon as possible. And if you've never eaten a lobster, fear not – there is a whole page dedicated to the art of eating lobster, accompanied with absolutely great photos to illustrate the oftentimes feared process. The author's great sense of humor should be able to help everybody overcome any obstacles on the path to utter bliss of eating a freshly boiled whole lobster.

I found "New England Summertime Cooking" a delightful book, filled with delectable recipes and absolutely stunning photographs. I challenge even the biggest grouch to spend more than five minutes leafing through it before cracking a smile or even chuckling aloud. This is a book that will bring sunshine into your kitchen and into your soul, and as such it should find a permanent home on everybody's bookshelf.

Olive Oil Baking
Lisa A. Sheldon
Cumberland House Publishing
431 Harding Industrial Park Drive, Nashville, TN 37211
9781581825862, $19.95, 2007, 1-888-439-2665

Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views (11/07)

Being an olive oil fan I was thrilled to review "Olive Oil Baking: Healthy Recipes That Increase Good Cholesterol and Reduce Saturated Fats". I've tried substituting olive oil in various recipes with not much success. This book is a godsend because it has a lot of my favorite recipes in it and I don't have to substitute!

First of all, I tried the Pumpkin Muffins. Delicious! Moist! And, the sweetness is just right. My second attempt was Almond and Hazelnut Biscotti, and again, not disappointed at all. The Biscotti was tasty and crisp. My third attempt, and most successful, was the Apple Crisp. I've attempted to make Apple Crisp before substituting oil for butter but came up with a disaster that tasted oily. There was no oil taste in this recipe and was a hit with my husband.

My commendations go to Lisa Sheldon for creating "Olive Oil Baking" and giving us the alternative to healthier eating, not only by using olive oil, but also using unprocessed ingredients. The recipes are simple and all the ingredients may be purchased at any local grocery store if they aren't already in your pantry. Thank you Ms. Sheldon. I'm grateful for your recipe book.

The Wonder of Boys: The World Through a Boy's Eyes
Karen Henrich
Cumberland House Publishing
431 Harding Industrial Park Drive, Nashville, TN 37211
9781581826128, $14.95, 2007, 1-888-439-2665

Reviewed by Irene Watson

"Snips and snails and puppy dog tails, that's what little boys are made of." That's what photographer Karen Henrich brings to life in this wonderful little book. Each page depicts a part of a boy's life – be it with a dog, hiding under a hat, sitting on a step contemplating life, or getting ready to hit a ball.

Each picture is so full of character; you can just feel the mischievous thoughts or know the fun each of the kids had while having their picture taken. Henrich has a gift to pull you right into the photo, making it so real. Opposite each page is a quote, and how appropriate they are. My favorite? "boy n. A noise with dirt on it."

"The Wonder of Boys" is a lovely little book as a gift, or just to have by your contemplation chair. It would certainly stir up some memories!

The Wonder of Girls: The World Through a Girl's Eyes
Karen Henrich
Cumberland House
431 Harding Industrial Park Drive, Nashville, TN 37211
9781581826111, $14.95, 2007, 1-888-439-2665

Reviewed by Irene Watson

This book is just another magnificent compilation of photos of children by Karen Henrich. What a gift this photographer has! I love the photo on the cover – it reminds me of when our daughter was this age (about 5 or 6), sitting prim and proper, smiling, shy…yet, mischievous and wondering what she could disrupt next.

Studying each photograph it was easy to resonate with every little girl, the characters came out in full bloom. From innocence to mischievous, from love to laugher, Henrich captures all the emotions in true form.

"The Wonder of Girls" is a wonderful gift book in a series of three ("The Wonder of Boys," and "The Wonder of Babies") with half of the net proceeds from the sale of each book going to Moment by Moment Foundation, a nonprofit organization of photographers who provide free portraits of children with life-limiting illnesses. Not only will the receiver of this book have joy, so will the families receiving the portrait.

A Grave Breach
James Macomber
Oceanview Publishing
61 Paradise Rd, Ipswich, MA 01938
9781933515076, $24.95, 2007, (978) 356-1897,

Reviewed by AJ Cooper

John Cann, a senior associate for the law office of Loring, Matsen, and Gould, has just witnessed a horrific video of humiliation, torture and finally execution. His good friend, mentor and boss has asked him defend a man who was possibly responsible for the torture and killing of these Muslim people from the Balkans. The hearing for extradition will be held at an international tribunal in Germany. Other countries also have an interest in this man and they want him extradited to their country to stand before a court and answer for his crimes.

Of course John will follow the instructions of his boss and head to Germany to defend Dubran Mribic. His only request is to visit his friend Janie at her rehabilitation center in Georgia. Janie is recovering from almost life-threatening torture that she had received a couple of years ago because of her relationship with Cann. Cann and Matsen took it upon themselves to ensure Janie had the best care and also had themselves assigned as co-guardians with the approval of her family. Janie had come far as had been recovering fairly well considering she had been left for dead. The torture affected every aspect of her life and being able to function.

John hesitantly flies to Germany to defend someone he may not even be able to tolerate. When he arrives and starts to deal with the tribunal and Mribic, everything is not as it seems. Numerous attempts are made on John's life, yet there is another group that follows him and protects him. He discovers the nature of crimes committed by his defendant as well as crimes that had been committed against Mribic's people. No one seems innocent and nothing rings true. Then the unthinkable happens and Mribic is allowed to escape.

Back at home things go from good to bad for Janie at the rehabilitation center. She has a new doctor that has some unique and unusual forms of treatment. Matsen does not want to let on to John what has happened with Janie. He has his firm investigate the doctor and what they find is very disturbing. The law firm must now try and get Janie out of the rehabilitation center. Their only means is to kidnap her from the center and then fight the doctor through the courts. This takes all of Matsen's resolve and determination. Before Matsen is able to tell John about the troubles he has been facing with Janie, John is kidnapped.

Everything comes to a head in Europe and Matsen is forced to travel to Germany to rescue John. Old memories and horrors are brought to the forefront when Matsen returns to Europe. He served as an intelligence officer and became involved in the Balkans. Mribic really wanted Matsen, and not John, so he had to find a way to trick Matsen into returning to Europe.

I truly enjoyed the intertwining of both stories. I did not expect or figure out what could possibly happen next. I could not put the book down. This is a true thriller from the start that keeps you on the edge of your seat. This brief view into the atrocities of war and the hope for justice for the victims was very interesting. The good side of people can really shine through even in the direst of situations. I would recommend "A Grave Breach" to anyone.

A Carol for Christmas
Robin Lee Hatcher
Zondervan Publishing House
5300 Patterson Avenue, S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49530
9780310257769, $12.99, 2007, 1-800-727-1309

Reviewed by Regan Windsor

Carol and Jonathon dropped out of college to marry, too eager in their newfound love to wait through the endless years of study. Jonathon had been attending business school in preparation for a partnership in his father's retail store; a store that was started and built to success by his grandfather. Unhappy with his son's hasty decision, Jonathon's father offered him no further financial assistance and the same opportunity as anyone else – he would have to work his way up the ranks.

Carol's passion was music. If she wasn't going to Nashville, it would be to a school of music in preparation for Nashville. At least until she met Jonathon Burke. Not only had she left her dreams of a life of music behind, she also left her family.

The realities of life very quickly set in for Carol and Jonathon. Jonathon finds himself putting in many long hours at the store to prove his commitment and his ability to take on more responsibility. Carol begins to spend more and more time by herself and when Jonathon accidentally runs over Carol's guitar she was left without even her own music to comfort her. With very little money left over after the rent and groceries is paid she can only dream of a replacement at the music shop window.

With Christmas around the corner and Jonathon putting in longer hours at the store, Carol begins to feel more and more alone. She begins to question her decision to leave her family and dreams of Nashville behind. Sensing her daughter-in-law's loneliness, Ruth drops by to ask her if she would be interested in being involved in a big Christmas benefit that is being planned. A singer from Nashville will be coming and he will need a couple of backup singers. Would she be interested in not only singing with him, but coordinate the rest of the singers?

Carol quickly becomes wrapped up in the excitement of the benefit planning, rehearsals, and preparation for opening night. When Travis Thompson, the infamous Nashville singer, begins to talk to her of coming to Nashville and working with his agent, Carol is both excited and torn. She has had much excitement over the weeks leading up to the benefit, and a husband that has been unavailable to share it with. Is this what she wants for her life? As an opportunity that was once her sole dream stares her in the face she turns to God for answers.

"A Carol for Christmas" is a heartwarming look at the struggles of finding ones place in life, keeping the faith when the road gets rough, and having the strength to stand up for what you truly believe in. Robin Lee Hatcher has packed amazing depth into this heartfelt novella. Truly a gift for the holidays.

The Author's Guide to Planning Book Events: Tips and Tools for Bookselling Success
Carol Hoenig
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9781583484760, $13.95, 2007, 1-800-AUTHORS,

Reviewed by Tyler R. Tichelaar

Carol Hoenig's "The Author's Guide to Planning Book Events" is an excellent guide to the author about to be published, and seasoned authors may also find some good ideas for their own book events.

Hoenig makes it very clear in the book that an author cannot sell books unless the author is willing to promote the books. She cites many authors who are willing to sit behind a desk and quietly sign books, but she makes it clear that book signings are often not effective. Authors must entertain their audiences by having book events. As an author myself, I have found that even a book signing is going to require some public speaking skill. People will approach you and ask what your book is about, and you must be able to describe your book in a couple of sentences that grab their attention or they will walk off without buying. Hoenig tells authors not to sit behind the table but stand and talk to passers-by. She also suggests doing creative activities like bringing holiday paper and wrapping books for customers at the holiday season.

Hoenig is an excellent source for information about book events, not only because she is an author and can tell us what worked and did not work for her, but more importantly, she is the former owner of a bookstore where she had many authors come to sign books and give presentations. She has worked with everyone from bestselling authors and publishers to unknown and up-and-coming authors, and she provides many examples of what works and does not work.

The real strength of Hoenig's book is she makes it clear YOU MUST DO EVENTS if you want to sell books. She understands many writers are shy, so she makes suggestions to help them, such as finding other writer friends to interview you before an audience, or doing events with other authors, so you are not by yourself. She also suggests linking up with artists or musicians to cross promote the arts and provide your self with a new audience.

The only aspect where I wish Hoenig suggested more was in addressing authors' shyness. She provided many suggestions for book events, but I felt she needed to spend more time helping authors improve their public-speaking skills, such as providing more examples of successful speeches and ways to describe your book to make it interesting and ways to overcome shyness. She needed to address how authors can overcome shyness and improve their public persona and public-speaking skills. I am surprised she did not recommend authors go to Toastmasters or similar groups for public speaking.

Overall, I would recommend "The Author's Guide to Planning Book Events" to other authors, especially new authors. Then I would suggest they find a way to practice the activities Hoenig suggests and to get friends to come to their events and give them feedback on what was and was not successful. The bottom line: to sell books, YOU MUST DO BOOK EVENTS! And you must also figure out how to do them well.

What's the Big Deal About Jesus?
John Ankerberg & Dillon Burroughs
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736921206, $12.99, 2007, 1-800-547-8979

Reviewed by Lori Plach

Have you ever seen the blockbuster hit "Passion of Christ?" Did you want to get a glimpse into what Christ endured for all of us? Did you want to build your faith or was it just Mel Gibson that made you interested in seeing the film? Perhaps you have seen "The Nativity Story." In recent years, Hollywood has certainly been bringing the name of Jesus to the silver screen. Why the sudden interest? For many years the stories of the Bible have been made into movies. Who hasn't heard about Charlton Heston's portrayal of Moses in the classic "The Ten Commandments?"

"Jesus was just an ordinary man, wasn't he? Jesus was a magician because he healed people." Maybe you have had someone make comments like these about Jesus. How do you answer comments like this? Maybe you have a few questions of your own about this incredible man. There were hundreds of prophecies about the Messiah. Only one man could fulfill them all. Jesus is more than just a man. He was both true God and true man.

If you are constantly being asked questions about Jesus, or are looking for answers to your many questions, look no farther than "What's the Big Deal About Jesus?: *Why All the Controversy? *Is He Relevant? *Does It Matter to Me?" John Ankerberg and Dillon Burroughs have created an amazing resource for those who thirst for the knowledge of the truth. With Scriptural references to back up their statements, your answers are here. Some of the questions answered within the pages of this book are: "Did he really believe He was God's Son?, Did His life really fulfill the predictions?, What does the Medical Evidence Suggest?, and Did People Really See Him Alive after His Death?"

Is this Jesus just a story told over and over again through the generations? This is truth backed with Holy Scripture. This is a terrific book which could be used for personal Bible study and Bible study groups. This is a priceless book for all people to read and understand the man who changed our destinies on Earth and beyond. This is a MUST read for Christians and those who have many questions about Jesus. After reading "What's the Big Deal About Jesus," you will not have questions in your mind, only confidence in Christ Jesus.

Woodstock History and Hearsay, 2nd ed.
Anita M. Smith
Woodstock Arts
PO Box 1342, Woodstock, NY 12498
9780967926841, $37.50, 2006

Reviewed by Irene Watson

Anita M. Smith (1893-1968) is not only portrayed as an accomplished writer, but also as an accomplished artist as she reveals Woodstock in this wonderful second edition "art book." What a breathtaking way to create a visual tribute to 20th century artists such as Konrad Cramer, Doris Lee, Andrew Dasburg, and of course herself, Anita M. Smith.

But there is more. Smith includes history and daily life. There is an extensive chapter on the Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts colony as well a section emphasizing the Maverick music and arts festivals, the predecessor to Woodstock. This coffee table book also features nearly 200 photos accentuating local individuals and attractions.

Those of us that grew up in the era of the 1969 Woodstock Festival, even if we didn't attend it, will always relate to it. But, most of us, unless we live in the area, do not know the history of Woodstock. Smith gives the opportunity for us to visit Woodstock in a way we couldn't have in 1969.

"Woodstock History and Hearsay" is captivating to say the least. The local tradition and myths, along with the researched narrative and paintings captures the splendor and magic of one of America's oldest arts communities.

Angel In A Bubble
Melisa Eyuboglu
Guardian Angel Publishing
12430 Tesson Ferry Road #186 St Louis, MO 63128
9781933090481, $10.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Brianne Plach

Alison has made a very special friend. She has gotten the chance to meet her own personal angel. Her dog Amigo has also gotten to meet his. Alison's mother doesn't believe that Alison has ever met her angel, until she meets her herself. Her angel has a problem and only Alison can fix it.

She must meet the creator of the angel and request something very special. Her angel is in a bubble and there is only one way to correct that. She, Amigo and two other friends travel up a high mountain to get closer to God. They also have to climb upon a rainbow.

With "Angel In a Bubble," Melisa Eyuboglu has written and illustrated a beautiful book for kids. This book makes children use their imagination and wonder what they would ask God for if they ever got to meet him face to face. The illustrations are pencil-like drawings with watercolors. Without the fancy drawings in some books, these will have children really understand the story.

I hope Melisa writes more books about the adventures of her and Amigo.

Personal Best (Sports Stories)
Sylvia Gunnery
James Lorimer & Company
317 Adelaide Street West, Suite 1002, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 1P9
9781550288964, $8.95, 2006,

Reviewed by Brianne Plach

What could be more exciting than to be a part of a basketball camp with a bunch of other boys who love the same sport? This is a bright spot too, since Jay, and his family, is forced to live with his grandfather since his family lost their house in a fire. Jay is all excited to be a part of the Acadia University Basketball Camp in Nova Scotia. He gets to stay in an actual college dorm and be away from home for a whole week. What makes it even better is the fact that his best friend Mike is going to the same camp.

What starts out as being probably the most thrilling thing that has ever happened in Jay's life, takes a horrible turn. Mike's older brother, Chad, who is supposed to be the boy's coach and mentor, is not at all what a mentor should be. It will take some work on the part of the boys to make it through a tough week. Sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Chad used to seem like such a great guy. It takes the boys to make a difference in Chad's life.

"Personal Best" is an exciting continuation of the story which was first introduced in Sylvia Gunnery's book "Out of Bounds." I am anxiously waiting to see if Ms. Gunnery decides to continue Jay's story in another book.

The Success of Robert Fitzgibbons
Eric Blank
Clarke Morgan Press
710 South 4th Street, Las Vegas NV 89101
9780977264308, $19.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Ben Weldon

"The Success of Robert Fitzgibbons" is the fictional tale of a very good kid who follows the wishes of his parents and people around him and later comes to regret not following his own dreams. Robert was good at sports, won spelling bees, got all A's in school, and always obeyed his parents. One thing Robert really loved was playing his guitar, but he quit when someone told him it would not take him far. He went to college and studied hard because his parents wanted him to. All the while he was wishing he could be playing the guitar in his buddy Ernie's band. As he grew older he began to wish that he had followed his dreams instead of doing what other people said he should do.

This picture book is very pleasing to read because of the rhythm and the rhyme. It is silly and the full-page illustrations are lively, too. I liked how he expressed Robert's feelings of being trapped when he wrote, "I want to jump in a lake or climb up a tree, not spend all day doing geometry." I think most kids can relate to this feeling!

While the purpose of this book is to get the reader to follow his or her dreams, some readers might think that following a dream means doing exactly what you want, whenever you want, ignoring good advice. I think that Robert Fitzgibbons could have followed his dream to play his guitar in a band and gone to college, too. The author does well to encourage the reader to not "march to the beat of someone else's drummer, because not doing what you want makes life a real bummer." I'm not sure if "The Success of Robert Fitzgibbons" is more likely to get kids to follow their dreams or to tell their moms that they aren't going to do any more schoolwork.

The Holmes and Watson Mysterious Events and Objects Consortium
Elmore Hammes
Kannapolis Fog Publishing Emporium
9780615139494, $14.49, 2007

Reviewed by Anneliese Buenker

"The Holmes and Watson Mysterious Events and Objects Consortium: The Case of the Witch's Talisman" is about a girl named Ginny and her best friend, Kevin. One day, they find three mysterious metal rings melted together. Then they find two different dead animals, one a squirrel and the other a bunny. When Ginny and Kevin try to bury the dead animals, the carcasses disappear. Later, Ginny's cat goes missing and Ginny and Kevin wonder "why are the animals disappearing?" They know an old gypsy lady named Ms. Crabapple. She turns out to be in contact with a wizard, and she helps them in their search.

As she tries to solve the mystery, Ginny gains a connection with the talisman (the 3 mysterious metal rings) and battles an evil witch from another dimension. During their adventure, Ginny and Kevin use a mysterious book to learn about talismans and how to destroy them.

It's very exciting –a good book.

I think that Mr. Hammes is a great writer and hope that he writes more of these books. I enjoyed the book because it is about kids my age and because it is fantasy and I like fantasy books. I recommend "The Holmes and Watson Mysterious Events and Objects Consortium: The Case of the Witch's Talisman" to 8, 9 and 10 year olds though that doesn't mean that 12 and 7 year olds can't read it too!

Colonial Christmas Brides
Lauralee Bliss & Irene B. Brand
Barbour Publishing
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781597898171, $6.97, 2007, 1-800-852-8010

Reviewed by Regan Windsor

"Colonial Christmas Brides: Jamestown's Bride Ship/Angel of Jamestown/Raven's Christmas/Broken Hearts" contains a collection of four historical romance novellas set in early colonial times. Each novella tells of hardship and loss in the wilderness of the new land, reliance on faith in God to provide direction and hope, and the joy that comes with celebration.

'Jamestown's Bride Ship' carries the reader aboard a ship of brides meant for the early settlers, sent to build and sustain community in Jamestown, Virginia Colony, during the 1620s. Susanna, not one of the intended brides, has been sent to America by her Grandmother to live with her aunt. Determined to reboard the ship back to England, Susanna seeks only to regain her strength after the long journey. That is until she finds herself in the arms of Joshua Deane. Joshua, having lost a wife and child in a native uprising while he was away overnight, has no intention of sacrificing another family to the rigors of colonial life. Drawn to Susanna, Joshua turns to God for guidance. Will he find his answer in time? Without Joshua, Susanna has little to stay for in Jamestown.

'Angel of Jamestown' opens in Jamestown, Virginia Colony, 1676 with Paul Dodson reliving the fire that consumed his home and livelihood as a blacksmith. Angry at being left with nothing and no means to rebuild, Paul is ready to fight for the Governor's attention, even at the price of death. "What else have I to live for anyway? You might as well have my life, too, for I have nothing else." It is then that a beautiful woman comes and saves him, leading him away from his battle, and reminding him to have faith in God. This "angel" continues to help him rebuild his life, through tools, clothes, and kindness. Determined to identify the woman and seek her reason for rescuing him, he begins to unravel the mystery of her identity. When he finally finds her and begins to spend time with her he finds himself falling in love. While her status is far above his, could she love him for whom he is, and is he brave enough to find out?

'Raven's Christmas' takes the reader to Williamsburg, Virginia Colony, in 1757 where Raven, aged twenty, finds herself with the horrible decision of marrying a man she doesn't love, and is fifty-years her senior, or risk losing her cherished family home to her wretched uncle. It is not until Andrew Faulkner, a musician and actor, comes to Williamsburg that Raven begins to pray for the ability to marry the man she loves. The only way that can happen is through the return of her Uncle William, a man that has been missing for several months and presumed dead.

'Broken Hearts' finds a heartbroken Mary Farthington, recently widowed when her husband was murdered in Williamsburg (1775), mistaken for one who summoned the militia to fight the governor. Left with a fatherless little girl, Mary is determined to have a doll made from the doll head that survived her husband's death. She brings the doll to a local craftsman who agrees to fashion a wooden body for the doll. Mary finds herself drawn back to the shop, and soon their friendship begins to grow. Just as thoughts of marriage begin to materialize she hears news that she is in danger and that John, the craftsman's, has ties to her husband's death. Mary, feeling heartbroken and betrayed begins to pack up her daughter and flee the plantation. Suddenly remembering the precious doll, she realizes she must face John and arms herself for the confrontation.

"Colonial Christmas Brides" provides four heartwarming historical romance novellas to set your heart and soul in the mood for the holidays. Lauralee Bliss and Irene B. Brand have mastered the task of developing heartfelt characters, stories of deep faith, and the magic of Christmas festivities.

Friends Unlikely
Susan Smith Alvis
Amira Press
2721 N. Rosedale Street, Baltimore, MD 21216
9781934475126, $10.99, 2007,

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

Abbie Davis is a 16-year-old young woman growing up in Sevierville, TN. Her father is an alcoholic. Her mother is lost in her codependency to her father. Abbie has four best friends whom she considers her real family. They come from different racial and religious backgrounds, yet they seem to blend well together. Juan is her best friend from third grade. His cousin Carlos, also one of her friends, has developed a severe addiction to meth. He appears to be in love with Davina. Davina is a spoiled daughter of a doctor. Abbie keeps her grounded and real. These childhood friends invite Raj into their circle when he moves to the area. They see themselves as misfits that somehow fit together.

When one of them develops a sickness after having his first sexual encounter with a promiscuous girl, they start to worry about him. Coupled with that is Carlos's addiction to meth. At first, everyone thinks he is a pothead, but as his behavior worsens, they realize that he has deeper problems. Both friends need help badly. When Raj is diagnosed as HIV positive, their worlds are rocked. He ends up in the hospital and after an intervention, Carlos ends up in rehab.

The second part of the story begins two years later. Raj is declining in health and Carlos seems to have resumed his addictive behavior. The friends all still stand by each other. Secrets are revealed and painful consequences have to be dealt with. As truths emerge, each person has to deal with the effects in their own way. In addition to this, Abbie still has to deal with the pain of being a child of an alcoholic. No matter what, the friends still stand by each other.

"Friends Unlikely" is a great story that is a must read for all teenagers. It covers a variety of issues that teens will experience and need to be aware of. These issues include: addiction; consequences of unsafe sex; homosexuality; and the effects of being a child of an alcoholic parent. Susan Smith Alvis handles these topics with sensitivity and understanding. I feel that teens need to read this story, and reflect on the issues covered. I think that it might help them gain a better understanding of themselves and think more carefully about the potential consequences of dangerous behavior.

Infamous Eve
May Sinclair, PhD
610 East Delano Street, Suite 104, Tucson, AZ, 85705
9781587367151, $24.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

I was so overwhelmed with the amount of knowledge passed on to me in "Infamous Eve" that I am not even sure where to begin writing about it. Dr. Sinclair wrote Eve's story to set the record straight about women's roles in history and in doing so she offers a positive version of Eve's story. If you really think about it, it isn't very positive to be raised with the idea that your gender took mankind out of paradise! Dr. Sinclair tells us, "The crucial problem is that the basis of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths are all underpinned by Eve's temptation and humanity's fall, making women's degradation and subordinations necessary." By accepting that the Bible is written infallibly, we are forced to accept these beliefs. However, if you look at history and where and when certain chapters of the Bible were written, you can see underlying political issues that encourage those beliefs for what could have been personal gain. There is also a discussion about chapters that were removed for political reasons.

The book definitely covers more than Eve's story. I found the discussion about the Goddess's role in creating civilization to be very thought-provoking. Dr. Sinclair tells us that after the 4th millennium BCE the world began to be viewed as having been created by a male god. This represented more "fear, power and war instead of sustained love." Women's roles are discussed through out time. Most of those times have been difficult for women because of the lack of respect their roles have carried.

Dr. Sinclair extensively researched the information included in "Infamous Eve." This is really demonstrated in her extensive list of footnotes and references. This aspect of her book really increased my respect for the wealth of information that she presents. I was amazed at the range of topics and eras that were covered. I do not believe that she left any stone unturned. I was fascinated by all of topics that were covered. She also answered a question that I have carried with me for most of my life: "If Adam and Eve were the only people on the planet, then who did Cain and Abel marry?" Now I know, but you will have to read it to find out!

Love Dance: Awakening the Divine Daughter
Deborah Maragopoulos
American Book Publishing
5442 South 900 East, #146, Salt Lake City, UT 84117-7204
9781589824119, $24.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

"Love Dance: Awakening the Divine Daughter" is the first book in the Love Dance series which chronicles the author's version of Mary Magdalene's story. It begins with her finding out that she is betrothed to Yeshua, her childhood friend, whom she has always loved. She is surprised that her wealthy parents agreed to an alliance with him because he is just a carpenter's son. After their union, Yeshua is committed to keeping her at his side as an equal. She helps him to stay grounded and connected.

This is a beautifully told story. It begins with their engagement and takes them through the trials that Yeshua experienced early on in his life. His goal is to unify the tribes of Yisrael. He feels this is his calling. But in doing so, he has to deal with opposing factions. Along the way, the couple also has their own issues in their relationship. They have the births of their children and Mary's attraction to Yeshua's best friend and another woman. Yeshua deals with this the best that he can.

Unlike the stories commonly told of Mary Magdalene being a whore, in this story she comes from a respected family and plays a critical role in Yeshua's life. She carries a tremendous amount of sensuality which seems to draw others to her. She has to find a place for these feelings so that they do not hurt her marriage. She is honest with Yeshua about them. Her sensuality and feminine energy unite with Yeshua's male energy to make them whole as one. Readers with open minds will love this story. Traditional fundamental Christians will probably not be comfortable with it.

"Love Dance" takes the story of Mary Magdalene and Christ to another level. Instead of it seeming like a dryly-written story, it is rich with description that goes beyond the mundane. Everything that the characters are experiencing is described so that the reader can feel it, see it, and smell it. This also works on the spiritual level. Colors of auras are described. Mary and Yeshua are able to leave their bodies to have experiences on purely spiritual levels. Mary also learns about the power of manifesting from thoughts. Being that Christ had so many special gifts, it seems to me like this might be more like how his life really was. Read "Love Dance" and decide for yourself.

Secrets from the Sofa
Dr. Kenneth Herman
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE, 68512
9780595414321, $16.95, 2007, 1-800-288-4677,

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

"Secrets from the Sofa: A Psychologist's Guide to Achieving Personal Peace" is a step-by-step guide that provides you with the tools for achieving peace. Dr. Herman, a clinical psychologist, uses the cognitive-behavioral approach because he sees it as being effective for making long-term changes. This approach teaches you to overcome negative self-talk. In his book, he provides you with the steps to develop a plan to help you overcome your difficulties and obstacles at achieving happiness. He helps you to identify the connection between past issues and current problems.

Often we become dissatisfied with our lives because we are too busy focusing on the future and what we don't know, and we are stuck in the conditioning of our past. Unhappy people tend to repeatedly put themselves in the same negative environments that they had as children. These people suffer from repetition compulsion. Dr. Herman writes, "We can never change what happened to us in the past. However, we can change how our past affects us today." Throughout the book he offers a variety of exercises to help us. These include thought-provoking questions. He also offers interesting case histories as examples to illustrate his points.

"Secrets from the Sofa" is concisely written and easy-to-follow. The difficulties that will arise are more likely to come from resistance and fear to confronting the issues that we have been allowing ourselves to hold us back from really being happy. Dr. Herman tells us, "Don't let anger and frustration rule your life. Do not let an unhealthy situation go on and on, day after day…" This is so true. When doing the exercises I did discover how a great deal of my thoughts, actions and self-perceptions were based upon incidents from my childhood. I really don't want to continue to be stuck back there. Addressing my need to overcome my fear of change, allowed me to fill the void left behind with hope for a great, healthy future. Dr. Herman writes, "As you make the changes you desire, you will undoubtedly also experience joy, relief, laughter, excitement, elation, satisfaction, contentment, and, finally peace." So what are you waiting for?

Lacey's Day
Jack Eadon
Eloquence Press
2092 Burnt Mill Road, Tustin, CA 92782
9780975330050, $15.95, 2004

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

Ted Hewitt finds himself a bit depressed when he gets stood up at the altar. Looking to meet someone new, he explores the personals on the Internet. He comes across a name that intrigues him and writes to her. Lacey initially rebuffs Ted's overtures at friendship because she is too busy with work. Feeling kind of bad about her rudeness, she writes to him. As they continue writing back and forth to each other, their feelings begin to go beyond friendship.

Lacey's situation is very complicated; she is married to a bisexual man who is unwilling or unable to meet her needs. She seems to think that he is a good friend; however, to the reader and to Ted, he is a controlling jerk. Lacey still feels loyal to him; after all, he is the father of her child. Ted continues to be drawn in. They progress from email to instant messaging and then to phone calls. Lacey is from China and her English skills and understanding of the American culture are not good. Through their communications Ted teaches her about the American way.

Ted and Lacey make plans to meet in Chicago on 6/13. Anticipation builds as that day approaches. Ted is worried that she will stand him up, like his bride did at the altar. Because of these fears and issues with Lacey's husband, both Ted and Lacey still have a lot to work through. They both have to decide how much they are willing to commit to.

I enjoyed this story. It is a sweet romance, with some serious underlying issues, like the fact that Lacey is married. The author makes her husband impossible to like, and being that he is gay, you know that there is no hope for their relationship. Ted seems like a really nice guy who deserves a chance to be happy. Stepping into this relationship he has to learn to take some risks, especially with his insecurities.

I found it really interesting that the picture of Lacey on the cover of the novel matches her written description perfectly. This is the closest match that I have ever seen between the description of a character and the representation of them on a cover. Being that it is a real photograph, it brought the story to life even more. One thing that I found distracting was Lacey's broken English. I understand that it helps describe who the character is, but when all of her numerous communications are filled with a large number of errors, there were times when I wondered why she wasn't using a spellchecker. Other than that, it is a fun, different kind of story to read. I recommend "Lacey's Day" to readers who enjoy cross-cultural romances.

Golden Apples
Dr. Ketch (Armen Ketchedjian)
Parental Interventional Tools, Inc.
9780977827404, $12.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Ben Weldon

In "Golden Apples," all is not well in the Kingdom of Avanta when Queen Zabora falls ill with a mysterious and grave illness. Her survival depends upon one of her three children retrieving a golden apple from the Garden of Knowledge. Boris, the conceited eldest son, jumped upon his horse and headed at once for the Garden of Knowledge. On his way, he came upon a group of people and asked directions to the Garden. The leader of the group told him that he would need to eat some special colorful crystals in order to have the power to safely enter the Garden. In exchange for the crystals, he was forced to give his valuable golden sword. He felt stronger after eating the crystals, and he went on his way. When he ran out of crystals, he started to feel weak and sick and had to turn his horse around and return home. When he returned home, his sister Princess Viana attempted the quest. She, too, met the group of people, took the magic crystals but then fell terribly ill when the crystals ran out. Will the courageous youngest brother Garth succeed in saving his mother and now his ailing siblings, too?

Although this story is a classic fairytale, "Golden Apples" delivers the present-day message of how important it is to stay away from illegal drugs. A must-read statement at the beginning of the book describes the author's experience as a doctor treating drug-addicted children and how that motivated him to write a book about the dangerous consequences of using drugs. This book makes me aware of how dangerous drugs can be. I think this book would be a useful tool to parents who want to talk to their children about the dangers of drug use. Kids will also find this an appealing fairytale with brightly colored pictures to go along with the story. See how many times you can find wise man's gray wolf hiding in the background of the illustrations.

Kendra Kandlestar and the Door to Unger
Lee Edward Fodi
Brown Books Publishing Group
16200 North Dallas Parkway, Suite 170, Dallas, TX 75248
9781933285832, $16.95, 2007, 1-972-381-009,

Reviewed by Brianne Plach

Do you think going to a fantasy world with fauns and dwarves would be fun? You know like Lucy did in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." This is not a trip to Narnia, but instead a trip to a different fantasy world. It's not Lucy that is visiting this strange land but the main girl character, named Kendra Kandlestar.

She is drawn into this mysterious land when she receives a cryptic message. The meaning of the message makes her so curious. She goes to Unger to discover the answer to a question that she has been wondering about her whole life. There is a secret about her family; will going through the door of Unger bring her the answer she wants? Or is she better off staying on one side of the door? But if she doesn't go through the door, she wouldn't get to meet a bunch of interesting characters and the book wouldn't be nearly as exciting.

Around every corner, it seems like Kendra is meeting someone different. The characters are interesting but also sometimes very funny. A lot of kids need to have something funny happening in books to keep them reading. Funny things happen every few pages in this book. "Kendra Kandlestar and the Door to Unger" is a surefire hit to attract young readers. This is a second book in a series, but there is no reason why you wouldn't be able to read this one first and then the other one. The door to Unger opens when you open the pages of this book. You will certainly have a trip you won't soon forget!

Sole Shoes: Nate the Skate In Search of His Mate
Judy Jewel
Dunamis Development
3972 Barranca Pky Suite J-115, Irvine, CA 92606
9780976706601, $19.95, 2006,

Reviewed by Brianne Plach

Have you ever lost a toy which you really loved? That is what Nate felt like. He was mad because he lost his mate. What good is it to be alone especially if you are a roller skate or a shoe? What kind of a future would you have? You would probably be facing going out in the trash and becoming a resident of the landfill.

Nate was a special skate. He was made by Joey's grandpa with a very special sole which was very giving and friendly. Nate looks for help among the other shoes, but most of them aren't very friendly; some are even snobby. Nate searched high and low for his mate. But he and the other discards are feeling very low and useless. Through the text of the story you begin cheering for Nate that he will find his mate. There are cool places where Nate ends up searching like Recycle City and Mentry Shoes.

The pages in this book are glossy and very expressive. The expressions on the faces of the other shoes or characters really add to the delight of this book. Even the garbage can and fire hydrant have facial expressions. I think this is a fantastic book for kids who ever have felt like they are useless and have ever lost a shoe or a toy. If you like a good story about a little guy coming out on top, you will love it. "Sole Shoes: Nate the Skate In Search of His Mate" is a great book with a lot of soul, humor and rock and roll!

Gert Garibaldi's Rants and Raves: One Butt Cheek at a Time
Amber Kizer
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385734301, $15.99, 2007, 1-800-726-0600

Reviewed by Tabytha Joy

"One Butt Cheek at a Time" is a book referring to the phrase "Take it one step at a time." The philosophy is that not everyone has feet, and even those that do, some cannot use them. But everyone has a butt. Therefore, saying "Take it one butt cheek at a time" would apply to everyone.

"One Butt Cheek at a Time" is about a girl who goes through life learning new things. Gert hates her name, but learns to live with it. Her best friend, Adam, is gay. They have been friends for many years. Well, Adam ends up with a boyfriend, and soon starts to neglect his friendship with Gert. Gert soon has to find a way to win her best friend back. She tries talking to Adam, but he doesn't seem to understand. Gert ends up meeting new friends when she gets assigned to a group project with her worst enemy, Jenny.

Throughout the story, Gert learns new things about her body. As a class homework assignment, Gert has to look at her private parts, using a mirror. This is so that the female can recognize if something has changed. Well, Gert decides to name hers...

Overall, I would say that this book was very interesting--in a good way, of course. I say this because I've learned some new things by reading "Gert Garibaldi's Rants and Raves: One Butt Cheek at a Time." I really liked how the author chose to use phrases like "Holy-Mother-Of-Fake-Butter" instead of curse words. This book would be best for females fourteen and older.

Sammy Spider's First Hanukkah
Sylvia A. Rouss
Kar-Ben Publishing, Inc.
241 First Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9780929371467, $7.95, 1993, 1-800-4KARBEN,

Reviewed by Leslie Granier and Nicholas Lopez

Sammy Spider and his mother live on the ceiling of the Shapiro family's house. On the first night of Hanukkah, the Shapiros light one candle in the menorah and their son Josh is given a dreidel to spin. Sammy likes to warm his cold feet by the candles. He also enjoys watching the dreidel spin and asks his mother for one of his own. His mother tells him that spiders spin webs, not dreidels. Each consecutive night an additional candle is lit and Josh is given a different colored dreidel. Sammy keeps asking his mother for a dreidel but gets the same response. At the end of Hanukkah, Sammy is sad because he still has no dreidel of his own. His mother presents him with a clever gift - eight different colored socks (the same colors as the dreidels Josh received) each with a little dreidel spun on the end.

Nicholas had no trouble recognizing the colors (except rose because it appeared to be the same color as brown) and liked seeing the names of the colors so he could learn how to spell them. He thought it was funny that Sammy could wear eight socks that were all different colors and was happy his feet would not be cold anymore. He was also happy that Sammy finally got the dreidel that he wanted. He was not thrilled with the illustrations of the Shapiro family's faces. (They were a little abstract).

"Sammy Spider's First Hanukkah" is a good source for teaching young children about colors and numbers and at the same time explaining certain Jewish traditions.

Landmark Status
Alan H. Rolnick
2021 Pine Lake Rd. Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595681426, $21.95, 2007

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

Walter Marsh, owner of the historic and legendary Century Club found himself in a dilemma. His deposit from an out-of-state investor's group on their option for the club property was nearly all spent. The option was ready to expire. Business was at its lowest ebb. A major convention center complex was in the planning stages. Local political forces were in a battle for control and needed Walter's property.

Rolnick has fully developed a cast of colorful characters to keep a fast-paced plot moving forward. Walter Marsh calls on lawyer Benjy Bluestone for advice. Smart and stunning, Delia Torres represents a local developer.

Add a few high rollers in Miami real estate and political circles, a mentally-challenged bodyguard chauffer, a novice newspaper reporter, a Bahamian-American politician, and a Cuban cigar importer, and you get the idea of the complex direction and zany antics that follow. Greed, political power, legal maneuvers, and romantic trysts are interwoven into an engrossing plot that replicates the TV series "Miami Vice," with an on going comedic, satire and tongue in cheek humor.

The setting is Miami with Ponzi schemes; investment fraud and real estate deals draw people from the Midwest, the Northeast, and the state of Texas to get into the action and to own their bit of Florida's paradise. The plot is powered by quick-witted dialog which reveal the character of the protagonist. Benjy is laid back, with a basic inner sense of doing the right thing. He is loyal and stubborn in addition to laid back but has a fear of failing by following in his father's footsteps.

Alan Rolnick is a practicing attorney, influenced and motivated by the writing of Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard, and Dave Barry. Alan feels that the legal profession produces natural storytellers, and felt compelled to write a novel. "Landmark Status" is the result.

Alan's writing is entertaining, and witty. Transitions flow naturally, his characters are easily recognizable and memorable. I was pleasantly surprised at the insight I gained into the land development and real estate industry in South Florida. Another aspect I enjoyed was a glimpse into the historical origins of Miami, and the ethnic influence in the politics of Miami.

I was hooked from the opening wrecking ball to the final explosion.

I am sure that in the near future, attorney Alan H. Rolnick, will be reviewing contracts for the movie rights to "Landmark Status" and will be moving on to write a series of stories based on the legal shenanigans of lawyer Benjy Bluestone. I am looking forward to the sequel.

Remember the Aloe, Moe: Book Two in the Out of Texas Series
James Hold
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595441242, $13.95, 2007, 1-800-288-4677

Reviewed by Cherie Fisher

James Hold second installment in the "Out of Texas Series," "Remember the Aloe, Moe," is one of the strangest books that I have ever read, but surprisingly entertaining. The back cover describes the book as a modern day retelling of the Old Testament story about Jacob, Rachel and Leah. The story was so far out there that I had a hard time making that connection. The author obviously has a funny and quirky sense of humor. He begins the book with a note that encourages readers to seek out the story as it will mean more money for the author.

The adventures in this story are about J, a radioactive cat turned human living in the great state of Texas. J becomes J-Man, a professional wrestler who finds himself in one absurd circumstance after another. The novel opens when a college professor gives J an injection to remember his past. He recalls meeting his love, the beautiful Princess Sibelle who is trapped in a Rapunzel's tower by Merlin. Of course it turns out that she could have left by the back entrance but that would have meant she would have had to use the servant's entrance.

In today's time, J is competing in a wrestling match when he rescues Josie (who he feels strangely itchy around – she turns out to be a mosquito) and is transported out of town. From there it takes many bizarre twists in his quest to win acceptance in the wrestling world.

You have to wonder what kind of person writes this kind of book. He writes that he is a lifelong fan of Godzilla and lucha libre wrestling. I am not sure but I do know that James Hold would be the person I would want to be seated next to at a dinner party or charity event, but I am guessing he probably does not spend much time at those events. "Remember the Aloe, Moe" is definitely for the quirky reader with a good sense of humor. But you have been warned – you will probably be left with the feeling that you just read something very good, but you are just not sure what it was.

And Nobody Got Hurt 2!
Len Berman
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10169
9780316067065, $16.99, 2007

Reviewed by Dylan James

"And Nobody Got Hurt 2!: The World's Weirdest, Wackiest Most Amazing True Sports Stories" gathers short, true, and funny stories from baseball, basketball, football, soccer, golf, tennis, Olympics, and random sports like boxing and scuba diving. My favorite part of the book was when a tennis player scored 1 point and then walked off the field thinking that the game was over. How crazy is that?

I would recommend this book for girls and boys ages 10 and up, simply because some kids are not familiar with the object and rules of all the sports in the stories. Readers will relate to the book better if they have watched or played these sports and will have a better opinion of how funny the story is. For example, the reader might not understand how funny it is for a baseball player to run the bases backward if they do not know that much about baseball. Otherwise, this book was delightfully funny and has numerous funny stories that kids can share with their friends (and make them laugh!).

Because someone might not understand some of the sports, the book might be better if it contained some sort of guide that tells about the rules in each of the sports. A small number of the stories were not that funny and some of them seemed like the same story (i.e. multiple baseball bats falling on heads). If all the stories were funny and different and if the book contained a small sports guide, I would have rated it five stars.

Overall, the writing really makes it hard to put the book down, and is very good at drawing you in and making you want to read more. I read it in one sitting! The author was trying to make his readers laugh and I think he was very successful. This book, "And Nobody got Hurt 2!,"made me laugh countless times.

Death on Sacred Ground
Harriet K. Feder
Lerner Publications Company
241 First Avenue North Minneapolis, MN 55401 U.S.A.
9780822507413, $14.95 U.S./$22.50 Canada, 2001, 1-800-328-4929

Reviewed by Karma Barry

Harriet K. Feder has the logical creativity that is required for the writing of a superb mystery story, which is also reflected in her writing and kept me guessing through the entire book. However, I do believe that there should be more description on places and persons, whether they are of major importance or not, both to bring you farther into the character's world and bring more suspicion or curiosity about the final page and ending.

There were only very minor mistakes in grammar, such as placing a period where a comma should be, but the mistakes were simple enough to understand what the author was saying and, in my opinion, not big enough to worry over. I also liked the use of vocabulary with words such as 'autonomy.'

I would suggest this book to children between the ages of 12 and 15 who enjoy attempting to solve the murder before the truth is revealed or those who just like to read for their pleasure; those whose parents are divorced, like my self, may be more likely to relate to the characters than those whose parents are still married.

"Death on Sacred Ground" also provided a learning experience about different religions and new cultures, in a finer detail than I knew of, while at the same time teaching me how to use deductive reasoning. And though I am not one to normally read murders or mysteries I enjoyed the book all the same, and I may be missing a couple pages from how quickly and desperately I wanted to know the truth.

It Takes a Lot of Love
Michael Ambrosio
LionX Publishing, Inc.
24988 Blue Ravine Road, #108-113, Folsom, CA 95630
9780971608542, $4.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Leslie Granier, Nicholas Lopez (age 5), Marissa Lopez (age 2)

"It Takes a Lot of Love" is the story of a young bear that has so much fun playing that he does not want to go to sleep. He tries several stalling tactics but his mother keeps putting him back in bed. Through patience, determination, and a lot of love he finally falls asleep for the winter.

This book emphasizes the frustrations parents face regardless of how much they love their children. I thought it was cute when the mother was trying not to laugh when the baby got tangled in his blanket, even though she was quickly losing patience. The use of rhymes will appeal to children and make them want to read this book over and over (probably right around their bedtime). Some of the words (persist and resist) used in the story are unfamiliar to young children but they should be able to follow what is happening.

Marissa giggled throughout most of the book and asked to read it three times before we could move on to other activities. She loved when Baby Bear sneezed so hard he fell out of bed.

Nicholas enjoyed the story in "It Takes a Lot of Love" and thought "it was so funny I laughed my head off." He really liked the picture with the bear carrying the fish in his hands. He wanted to know why the Mama Bear wears slippers but not clothes. He thought it was nice when the Mommy, Daddy, and Baby Bears were all hugging at the end.

Beaser the Bear's Rocky Mountain Christmas
Patricia Derrick
Animalations Publishing
4186 Melodia Songo Court, Las Vegas, Nevada 89135
9781933818092, $12.89, 2007

Reviewed by Regan Windsor

"Beaser's cubs, Rickity and Snickity
Know that Santa brings them toys,
But Beaser wants his cubs to learn,
How to feel Christmas Joy."

"Beaser the Bear's Rocky Mountain Christmas" shares a powerful message with kids – the joy of giving, especially to those less fortunate than themselves. Most importantly, it does it subtly through a fun story, with fabulous illustrations, and song on CD. Following the Three R's Before Reading (Rhythm, Rhyme, and Repetition) "Beaser the Bear's Rocky Mountain Christmas" stimulates young listeners on many levels; especially when they get up and dance to the 'Beaser the Bear' song!

As Beaser makes his way to his "tinsel covered den" he notices some bear cubs "down the way" without a family, food, or a home to stay. As Beaser reflects on his Christmases as a child he remembers the big pile of stuff he got, but also that "it's about sharing with others that will bring Christmas joys."

He begins to think about what his own Papa told him. "Grow your heart by sharing. If you give to others, you'll be filled with Christmas caring." With this thought Beaser passes the story on to his cubs of how he ended up with so much stuff at Christmas he really didn't know what to do with it all. Then the answer came to him, he would "give his extra stuff to other cubs and make their dreams come true."

As he continues his story he tells them "of the cubs down the way, who didn't have food or a family or a bear den where they could stay." As his bear cubs listen to the story they excitedly chime "Papa, let's not wait 'til Christmas. Let's grow our hearts today!"

Rickity and Snickity then begin to go through all their cupboards "finding treasures to give away." Finally they surprise Beaser when they suggest the cubs come there to stay. A proud Beaser sheds tear as he welcomes the additional family into his den with big bear hugs.

Filled with big, colorful illustrations and a rhyming, repetitive story, "Beaser the Bear's Rocky Mountain Christmas" provides plenty of opportunity for discussion.

"They give away their stuff?!" says Carter pointing to a picture of the cubs.

"Yes, they have things they no longer use or need that other cubs would really love to have. Cubs that don't have lots of stuff like these cubs do."

Jumping off my lap, Carter runs to his stuff. "My stuff!" At two he is still struggling with sharing, so giving his stuff away seems a bit scary. He continues to get comfortable with the concept, however, as he runs over yelling "I want the Bears!" while pointing to the book. Rather than listening to Mom's voice though, he prefers the narration and music provided on the CD, with the cute little bell to let him know when to turn the page. The best part of all for him, however, is the song at the end that he jumps up and dances to! The song has a simple but powerful message. "If you learn to give to others, you can make their dreams come true. You can grow your heart in a very simple way. Give away your extra stuff and start it today."

"Beasar the Bear's Rocky Mountain Christmas" is a great opportunity to introduce the concept of sharing our stuff, embracing the idea of giving it away, and learning about the joy that it brings to the one who gives. What makes this book work so well, however, is the fabulous story, complemented by beautiful illustrations, making it so appealing to kids again and again.

Rathbone the Rat
Patricia Derrick
Animalations Publishing
4186 Melodia Songo Court, Las Vegas, Nevada 89135
9781933818177, $18.95, 2007

Reviewed by Leslie Granier, Nicholas Lopez (age 5); Marissa Lopez (age 2)

Rathbone is a rat who lives in Paris. He goes around town trying to find good things to eat. One day he goes into a grocery store and eats all the food that was to be served at a special occasion. He feels badly about what he has done so he and his friends gather food to bring to the party, thus saving the day.

This book is set to music and contains a CD that kids can use to follow along with the words in the book. Children between the ages of 2 and 6 will be entertained by the song and the illustrations. (Even I thought it was a catchy tune.) Marissa loved the song and tried her best to sing along, over and over again. However, Rathbone's voice scared her a little because she thought it sounded spooky like a witch. Nicholas liked following along with the words in the book so he could learn how to read better, but after awhile the song started "getting on my nerves." Both of them liked the pictures and the rhymes.

At the end of "Rathbone the Rat" we're not quite sure if Rathbone will change his mischievous ways, but he promises to try to think about what might result from his actions in the future. It is never too early to try to teach children how to predict the consequences of their actions. I liked the inclusion of the CD for the kids to learn to "read" the story by themselves. However, you may want to consider getting them some earphones because they are sure to play it again and again.

The Azura Stones
Helen D. Bailie
Bedside Books
P.O. Box 65624, Salt Lake City, UT
9781589823747, $18.00, 2007,

Reviewed by Brianne Plach

Have you ever had a really exciting and scary experience all at the same time? Hayley is having a stranger school vacation than she ever has before. Her grandpa left a map showing the location of some very special stones. The Azura stones were very special for many reasons. It is exciting for Hayley and her friends to follow the map, but the fact that they are being followed is very scary. There are many twists and turns in the pursuit of these stones. You never know where the next danger lurks. Just what makes these stones so valuable and so wanted by so many people? What power will you get when you get these?

"The Azura Stones" is a fantastic book for kids who love a suspense or mystery story. It keeps you on the edge of your seat. You won't want to wait to the end to see what will happen. Yet when the book is over, you're sad that the book is over because it's just so good. Helen D Bailie is a new author. She is very talented. I hope she writes more stories like this one. I think its target market is kids ages 11-14. It's a fantastic read!

Chew on Things Workbook for Fellow Worriers
Iris Bell
Creative Bookworm Press
9121 East Tanque Verde Road, Suite 105, Tucson, AZ 85749
9780979165344, $14.95, 2007, 520-906-6767,

Reviewed by April Sullivan

"Chew on Things Workbook for Fellow Worriers" is the follow-up to Iris Bell's photo and quote book "Chew on Things-It Helps You Think," inspired by her dog Casey B. Worrywart, Dogtor of Philosophy. Iris Bell capitalizes on two big audiences with this book: dog lovers and worriers. There are a lot of both out there.

The workbook is structured in a journal style with lined pages for the worrier to fill in Date, Worry, Woe-Is-Me Rating, and Next Ball. Opposite of this page is a quote and a blank spot for an image. The concept is that the worrier will draw, collage, or somehow visually represent their worry on this page to accompany the written expression.

The Woe-Is-Me Rating is listed in the back of the book and is a cute system devised by the dog with a rating from Hyperventilate to Bark Like a Doberman and Run Like a Rabbit. After rating your worry, you write down your Next Ball. This means what will you do next or move on to instead of getting stuck in your current worry. Iris tells a story in the Acknowledgments about Casey never catching and returning a ball, but always dropping it and moving on to the next ball. This is the analogy she uses for dropping worry and moving on.

I really liked the quotes in this book. There are over 100 quotes and they all relate to worry. The author really did some research to come up with some of these. It shows her dedication to the subject matter. She put a lot of thought into this workbook as a practical hands-on tool for a daily worrywart. While I think it is too simplistic of an approach for someone with an Anxiety Disorder, it is a great idea for those who worry consistently for no good reason. Writing and drawing the worry is a good way to give the worry the attention it wants, and then no more.

I recommend readers get both "Chew on Things" and the "Chew on Things Workbook for Fellow Worriers" for a complete collection of fun quotes and readings about a dog, his owner, and his worries. Maybe it will inspire you to look to your own dog for some pet therapy and words of wisdom.

Chew on Things – It Helps You Think
Iris Bell
Creative Bookworm Press
9121 East Tanque Verde Road, Suite 105, Tucson, AZ 85749
9780979165320, $12.95, 2007, 800-214-8110,

Reviewed by April Sullivan

"Chew on Things – It Helps You Think" was written by Iris Bell, but only as told to her by Casey B. Worrywart, Dogtor of Philosophy. Casey was Iris' Wheaten Terrier and a chronic worrier. Iris is a psychiatrist who has crafted this fun picture and quote book about the wisdom she has learned from her dog.

This book is a quick read and is inviting enough to make you want to pick it up again and again. As the subtitle says, Casey provides "Words of Wisdom from a Worried Canine." Each page includes a short quote, story, or fable from Casey as well as a relating quote from other famous philosophers such as Winston Churchill, John Lennon, or Lily Tomlin. These quotes are refreshingly not the same old quotes you see over and over. Across from the text is a photo of Casey, illustrating the narrative or quote.

For example, Casey says, "As you get older, let the young ones follow you around. They might learn something." Following this quote is one by M. Russell Ballard; "I believe that every human soul is teaching something to someone nearly every minute here in mortality." The corresponding picture is of a mature Wheaten Terrier playing with a puppy terrier.

There are a lot of quote books on the market. What makes this one unique is that it is from the point of view of a dog. This makes the book perfect for that dog lover who enjoys quote books. I bet there are many readers out there who fit that description, and no one has thought to market to them before!

I enjoyed the humor in "Chew on Things – It Helps You Think." What attracted me to it is the idea of a worrywart dog. I thought mine was the only one. So if you are a worrywart dog owner, a worrywart yourself, or know one, this is a cute book that will bring smiles and good thoughts. Who could worry when looking at photos of this cute dog? Casey says it best with this quote, "Read a lot. I do. And keep reading. You learn things. You never know what. The meaning gets deeper and deeper the longer you look at the words."

Dear John
Nicholas Sparks
Warner Books
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446528054, $13.99, 2006,

Reviewed by Lori Plach

Have you ever heard the saying "if you love something, set it free, if it comes back to you it is meant to be?" Just what is true love? Love is not always that warm and fuzzy feeling; love takes on many different forms and appearances. John Tyree knows about love. He feels love towards Savannah but he also loves his country. While on leave from the service, he returns home and meets Savannah, a college co-ed who is working on a Habitat for Humanity project with a bunch of other college students. John is captivated by Savannah and wants to have a future with her. He makes plans to make his dream of a future with her a reality; however, September 11, 2001 happens and life as he knows it will never be the same.

As his discharge date keeps getting put off so does his relationship with Savannah. Does absence really make the heart grow fonder or is does it grow fonder of another? John has been hoping to make a real difference in Savannah's life. He achieves his goal but it is not in the way either himself or Savannah ever dreamed. John's love for Savannah shows true despite the challenges and obstacles in their way. He has a fractured relationship with his father and even that needs mending along the way. Will he and his father work out their differences?

This is not your ordinary romantic story. Nicholas Sparks captures your interest and has created another page-turner. Parts of "Dear John" will have you laughing and parts will have your eyes watering. Nicholas Sparks is such a talented writer; it is no surprise that he is a best-selling author. Once starting to read this book, you won't be able to lay it down until the very end. You won't ever look at a "Dear John" letter the same way again.

"Dear John" is a 5-star book and one that you will truly enjoy!

The Almost Moon
Alice Sebold
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10169
9780316677462, $14.99, 2007,

Reviewed by Cherie Fisher

I was excited to read the new novel by the acclaimed author of "Lovely Bones," but quickly realized that this was going to be a completely different experience. "The Almost Moon" is a story about a middle-aged woman whose life completely spirals out of control in a very short period of time. While it is very well written, the story itself is so disturbing that I would recommend it only to people who enjoy dark stories. I found myself having a hard time getting through the book at times because I was torn between wanting to smack some sense into the main character and feeling horrified at the things she did.

Helen Knightly is a middle-aged woman who has devoted her life to marriage, children and family. Now divorced with grown children she is frustrated by her mother's frailties. Helen knows that it is time for her mother to go into assisted living and while she is helping her get ready for the move, her mother does not make it to the bathroom in time. Helen completely loses it while trying to clean her mother up and kills her mother. This leads to one bad decision after another. Helen spends the next twenty-four hours doing many irrational things including having sex with her best friend's son.

As she faces the consequences of what she has done and tries to decide what to do about it, Helen also takes a look at her past and the impact that her parents had on her life. As Helen's life spirals she also feels a strange sense of liberation at stepping outside the box of what her life had become.

"The Almost Moon" is definitely for readers who enjoy stories about the mental illness, depravity and weaknesses of the human condition. As a middle-aged divorcee with aging parents I found it way too disturbing to enjoy.

Touchdown Alexander: My Story of Faith, Football, and Pursuing the Dream
Shaun Alexander with Cecil Murphey
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, Oregon 97402-9173
9780736920025, $13.99, 2007, 1-800-547-8979

Reviewed by Lori Plach for Reader Views (11/07)

"And the 2005 Most Valuable Player in the National Football League is Shaun Alexander." With those words, Shaun Alexander is even more revered than he was before. Football players are looked up to as stars and role models. Young boys dream of becoming big football stars like their favorites. Fame and fortune are two big motivators for kids. Wouldn't it be great to meet a football star who had his heart in the right place and had his life on the right track? Wouldn't it be great to have a football star who would be an excellent role model for this life and for what comes after this world? Meet Shaun Alexander, the star running back of the Seattle Seahawks.

Shaun Alexander has written his autobiography. Throughout the pages of his book "Touchdown Alexander" he shows that his faith is of utmost importance to him. It's more than just playing football and making a fortune. He talks about his relationship with his brother Durran and his humble beginnings and his years at the University of Alabama. He talks about the impact others have made on his life. He takes his role of role model to a new level for youngsters. He talks about how blessed he feels to be a success both in college and the National Football League. With his humble style, he puts the glory on the one who created him rather than himself. He takes his role of role model to a new level for football fans of all ages. Most notable is how he waited for his wife rather than any of the other women who were not seeking the same type of commitment to his Savior as he was.

Shaun Alexander doesn't paint a picture of it being easy to be a successful football player. He doesn't sugarcoat his story, but he tells of how his faith has helped him through the difficult times. He talks in easy-to-understand language and something could be gleaned from the pages of this book by football fans and non- fans alike. He does more than just score on the field to make himself a name, he scores in life. His life is an encouragement and working towards a goal of a Christian life.

"Touchdown Alexander" is a 5-star book! This awesome book would surely be appreciated by football fans of all ages. "Shaun Alexander is running towards the end zone...he's not just looking for another touchdown but instead achieving the goal of eternal life when his time on earth runs out."

Beyond Adam & Eve: 50 Things You Need to Know Before You Get to Heaven
Marion H. Williams
Recamier Publishing
P O Box 420355, Atlanta, Georgia 30342
9780979784507, $12.95, 2007

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

In "Beyond Adam & Eve" Marion H. Williams has compiled a remarkable combination of Bible trivia, solid, thought-provoking questions, inspirational verses, important facts, and background material on the Old and New Testaments, the Deuterocanonical books, and the Apocrypha.

Williams writes in concise, easy-to-understand style. The book, as the subtitle suggests, includes: "50 Things You Need To Know Before You Get to Heaven." The format includes 50 questions, followed by suggested summary answers. The material covers the Old Testament timeline from Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David, and traces the history of the nation Israel through Old Testament times.

The book is packed with practical, helpful information for personal or group use and is ideal for family times. The book includes important, often-quoted and well-loved scriptures verses that provide impetus for self-reflection, repentance, and inspiration to live according to God's will and instruction.

The fun facts section is both entertaining and informational. I learned some valuable information about the Tanakh, and the Torah, the Jesus Tree, the Holy Grail, and the Twelve Days of Christmas.

I enjoyed Marion's concept of a "Remedial Heaven School" which prepares the Christian for a quiz at the gates of heaven. A Bible study curriculum is available to supplement the book itself. Participants are referred back to the book for important discoveries on the Apostle's Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Gospels, Epiphany and a myriad of other interesting and important Bible-related subjects This guide can be used to assist the leader in a classroom discussion of the book to encourage further study and review of the material covered. The book is designed for class use for students from 5th grade to adult. The material is designed for an eight-week period and includes suggestions from the book for an opening hymn, a suggested prayer, Bible Search, verses for memorization, and a quiz time, and other Bible learning games.

"Beyond Adam & Eve" is an excellent primer to expand your Bible knowledge and to master the basics of the teaching of Jesus, the parables, the beatitudes, His miracles, and the ministry of the Apostles.

I was amazed at the simplicity and enjoyment I received from Marion's book. It is far more than just Bible trivia. It is a book that should be in every Christian's family library for frequent review and a reaffirmation of commitment to personal faith. I found the book enjoyable, informational, and inspirational. "Beyond Adam & Eve: 50 Things You Need to Know Before You Get to Heaven" is an amazing accomplishment of developing a combination of religion, theology, and history.

Tara Bray Smith
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316060332, $16.99 ($21.50 in Canada), 2007, 1-800-759-0190

Reviewed by Mary Johnson

If you like teenage Sci-fi, "Betwixt" is definitely for you. "Betwixt" is a book about three main characters. Nix, a young man who is down on his luck, Morgan who is a control freak with an attitude problem, and Ondine, who pretty much has herself a little identity crisis halfway through the book. But they all find out about where they came from, who they are, and that they have mystical powers in a kind of cult-gathering.

Tara Bray Smith, the author of "Betwixt," was doing great with her sequences and telling what was going on halfway through the book. "Betwixt" is a 487-page book, so imagine what happens when you (the reader) get confused. I had to keep thinking about which of the characters was now being used and who was talking. But the end is what baffled me the most; I mean what happened? Did they win or lose? Did one them die? Did Ondine help? How did she get in the ambulance? These are all questions that have yet to be answered in "Betwixt." I understand the whole thing of keeping people interested, hoping for a sequel, and keeping them wondering. But, this just shows sloppiness and lack of creativity.

"Betwixt" is definitely for genre interest, but, also not for young kids, especially under the age of 15. The purpose of this is because the language, drug use, and alcohol use (which is underage). Also, that the cops didn't do anything puts into kids' minds that it is all right to do all these illegal dealings and provocative behavior, leads me to this conclusion. Although most of the words used aren't new to young adults these days. I mean you have these in practically all books and movies now, but putting in that law enforcement puts up with this is really odd. I mean reading "Betwixt" makes a person think, O.K, all you got to do is get a Drug Dealing cult leader to hypnotize them and you're "All Good." But I guess "Betwixt" is entertaining if you like that kind of stuff.

Generally, all things aside, "Betwixt" is a good book that's entertaining but, as I have said before it is confusing and the sequences are poorly-written. Some books should just have an ending.

grl2grl: Short fictions
Julie Ann Peters
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316013437, $11.99, 2007, 1-800-759-0190

Reviewed by Casey Holt

"grl2grl" is about girls and their sexualities; some of them are confused, others are curious, and there are a couple of heartbroken ones. I think this is a great book for all girls, but I think it would be really good for a girl who was struggling with some of the same troubles that the girls in this book are.

My favorite story was "After Alex." This story really made me feel like I was actually there, experiencing this girl's pain. She's just been dumped by her girlfriend, Alex. She has separated her life into three categories, before Alex, during Alex, and after Alex. This is the story of her life after Alex.

"Boi" is a story about a transgender girl who has changed her name to Vince. She has wanted a "P" since she was four-years old, but she's not old enough to go to the store to buy it, so she earns all the money, and then begs her brother to get it for her. He finally does, and it's her prized possession, she feels incomplete and naked without it. This story really touched me deeply, because I can't even imagine what a transgender person goes through. It seems so horrible to have been born into the wrong sex.

The story "TIAD" was really difficult for me to understand, but I still think it was pretty good. A girl is heartbroken and planning to commit suicide, but through an online chat room she meets another girl and falls in love.

"Stone Cold Butch" was also difficult for me to understand. It was about a girl who was sexually abused by her father every day, and so she just becomes cold as stone, not even realizing that someone could, would, love her. But she couldn't see it. I didn't like this story as well as the others.

The only thing I didn't like about "grl2grl" was that I felt like the stories were kind of incomplete, too short. I felt like some of them were not finished. All in all, I'd say this is an awesomely good book!!! Every girl over thirteen should read it!

Iggy Peck, Architect
Andrea Beaty
Abrams Books for Young Readers
115 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9780810911062, $15.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Leslie Granier & Nicholas Lopez

Iggy Peck is a boy who has been building things since he was two-years old. His first creation was a tower made out of diapers and glue. He also made replicas of famous landmarks out of some interesting materials. However Iggy's passion for architecture is squashed by his second-grade teacher because she had a bad experience in a building when she was a child. On a class picnic, a bridge collapses and Iggy and his classmates save the day by using their ingenuity to build a new bridge out of common items.

When asked what his favorite things in the book were, Nicholas said it was definitely the pictures. He thought the "giant cat" was funny (it was really a sculpture of the Sphinx). He laughed at young Iggy when he went around without wearing a diaper. But his favorite was the one when the teacher was stuck in the elevator with the French circus. He also thought it was "awesome" that a little kid could build "really cool stuff."

I also enjoyed the illustrations. The rhyme scheme used in this book kept it fast-paced and interesting. I thought focusing on the ingenuity of kids was an important part of this book because it teaches that with enough effort and passion kids can accomplish some incredible things. "Iggy Peck, Architect" encourages creativity in children by allowing them to use their imaginations for coming up with their own creations.

Puwaii Adventures with Joliea & Friends
Jolie Vanier
Puwaii International, LLC
9780978794910, $16.95, 2006,

Reviewed by Gabriel Peralta

This book is written by an eight-year-old girl named Jolie Vanier. In the story, Joliea has a magical submarine that takes her anywhere she wants to go. She visits places like Italy, Honolulu, and Costa Rica. Joliea visits these places with her friends and has many adventures. I enjoyed the pictures and reading about the adventures Joliea has with her friends. I think it would be great to have a magical submarine. It was nice imagining along with Jolie. I would recommend "Puwaii Adventures with Joliea & Friends" to my friends. It has great drawings, adventures, and is a lot of fun.

The Shadow Mouse of Everjade
E. A.Machado
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P.O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781931741903, $24.95, 2008, (541-347-9882)

Reviewed by Dylan James

"The Shadow Mouse of Everjade" is about a powerful wizard with no beard (Armas), a wandering elf (Jep), Armas's cousin who is a traveling herbalist (Winston), and a shy 15-year-old kitchen helper with a pure heart (Ethan). After Armas finds Ethan and Winston, he thinks Ethan is destined for something better than a kitchen hand. The three of them travel to a dwarf city to train Ethan in the art of the swords. Then Armas gets a troublesome letter from his sister, a witch who lives in a nearby kingdom called Sarvia. The letter was asking for him to help the king of Sarvia defeat an evil witch and her army. Immediately they set off for Sarvia. When the four get to the kingdom, they find the king and his army in an all-out war against the witch to rescue the king's beloved daughter.

My favorite part of the book was the final dual at the end of the book between the evil witch and Ethan, because there was so much action.

I think because there was a lot of flirting and kissing, multiple references of sensuality, one reference of a brothel, and even a birth page, some parents will not want their kids reading this book. Because of all of this, a couple of gory pages, and a sad ending, I think this is a book that only teenage boys and girls who like adventure books will enjoy.

If sensuality would have been less and there was a little bit more action, I would have rated it 5 stars. The storyline in the beginning of the book was slow, saved by some of the best characters I have ever read about. There was little storyline until almost the end of the book. Though the storyline at the beginning was not the best, the end was really good, combining just the right amount of action and suspense. The only thing for the writer to improve on is less flirting (etc…), more action, and a better story line in the beginning of the book.

Overall, though, "The Shadow Mouse of Everjade" is one of the top magical action adventure books that I have ever read.

A Geometric Analysis of the Platonic Solids and Other Semi-Regular Polyhedra
Kenneth J. M. MacLean
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI, 48105
9781932690996, $49.95, 2007, www.LovingHealing.Com

Reviewed by Cherie Fisher

I was a little worried when I first agreed to review this book because, even though I loved Geometry in school, it has been several years since I took the class. But I found "A Geometric Analysis of the Platonic Solids and Other Semi-Regular Polyhedra" to be very reader-friendly. The author's enthusiastic approach to geometry immediately drew me in. The definitions and the clearly-defined illustrations (over 140 throughout the book) also brought me up-to-speed very quickly. This book is an excellent resource for those studying geometry and I wish that something like this had been available to me when I was in school.

The author introduces a geometric explanation of Phi Ratio, the Fibonacci Series and the Pentagon. I was particularly fascinated with the Fibonacci Series and its relationship to nature. Once you really start understanding the sequence of the Fibonacci Series it becomes really obvious in many life forms from plants to shells to the human body. It repeatedly shows the incredible intelligence behind every form of life on this planet and that nothing is created randomly. The book also includes an investigation of the five Platonic Solids and other prominent polyhedra. Each theory includes very detailed reference charts and diagrams.

The author states that "A Geometric Analysis of the Platonic Solids and Other Semi-Regular Polyhedra" is for teachers, researchers and the Generally Curious. As one of the Generally Curious I found this to be an excellent book and would recommend it to anyone who is studying Geometry or has an interest in Math. The Prerequisites listed are: knowledge of simple algebra and elementary trigonometry. No brainiac math skills required! You only need the ability to appreciate nature's own logic. I applaud the author's fascinating approach to this topic.

Stress Down & Lift Up
Renee Wiggins
Xlibris Corporation
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113
9781425752309, $22.99, 2007, 1-888-795-4274

Reviewed by Cherie Fisher

I knew this was going to be an excellent book when I turned the page and read this: "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you will get. Chocolate candy filled with gooey insides reflects a fragile person. Chocolate candy filled with nuts reflects a person hardened by the stressors in life. Chocolate candy filled with cherries reflects a person always cheerful. Which one are you?" This book is like a box of chocolates because once I started reading it I did not stop until I finished the whole thing!!!

As a person who has gone through a divorce, turned around a struggling not-for-profit, started a business and herniated a disc (I am sure Renee Wiggins would have a lot of insight into that injury!), all in the last year, I am the perfect candidate for this book. The author looks at the things that stress a person out, and talks about what you can do to begin to heal. She has created a 30-day plan that includes one stress-free activity everyday. This way you can try them all, use variety in dealing with the stress in your life and see what resonates with you. The reader does not have to be familiar with the types of relaxation techniques as she explains them (i.e., Day 14: What is Yoga?)

"Day 26: This too shall pass" was my favorite day as Renee discusses dealing with the past. She writes: "A minute, an hour, a day, is a missed opportunity, when you are busy focusing on the past. The past, I cannot change, the present, I can change. The future is the potential of what I can change. Stress Down and Lift Up the past is only temporary, if you let it go." I plan to post this on my bathroom mirror to remind myself to stop obsessing about the past. I am going to start my thirty days tomorrow and am really looking forward to giving myself this treat for the month.

I highly recommend "Stress Down & Lift Up" to anyone who is struggling with their lives. I plan to add it to my Christmas gift list for most of my friends who are all very stressed out. The book is beautifully written and very uplifting.

Blue Schwartz and Nefertiti's Necklace: A Mystery with Recipes
Betty Jacobson Hechtman
Brown Barn Books
119 Kettle Creek Road, Weston, CT 06883
9780976812630, $8.95, 2006, 203-227-3387,

Reviewed by Regan Zaborowski

"Blue Schwartz and Nefertiti's Necklace" is a story about a girl named Blue Schwartz who babysits a lot for Professor Albany's two children when he goes out with his wife, Mrs. Albany. Professor Albany is a teacher who likes to study about old times and things. Other main characters in the story are Yvonne, who is Blue's best friend; Zach, who is Professor Albany's assistant, and Mrs. Bliss, who is Blue's neighbor and where Blue likes to go to watch cooking shows on television. Blue likes to make up her own recipes, and they are in the back part of the book.

The big problem in this story is that Nefertiti's necklace was missing from the glass case in Professor Albany's house. There was a big party at Professor Albany's house, and a lot of people saw the necklace. Professor Albany thinks that Blue took the necklace, and wants to call the police if she does not return it. Blue has many adventures when she tries to find out who the real thief of the necklace was. The ending surprised me.

I loved this book, because it was interesting how Blue made plans to find the necklace and how she finally succeeded in her plans. I was surprised by the ending, when Blue found out who the real thief was. I was very glad that she didn't take it. The recipes in the back of the book were fun to try. Blue likes to cook and learn about cooking and new recipes, just like I do. My mom and I tried all the recipes, and my favorite was the French toast.

I would recommend "Blue Schwartz and Nefertiti's Necklace" for both boys and girls my age to read because I think they would like the surprise ending and also the cooking recipes.

Children of the Slaughter: Young People of the Holocaust
Ted Gottfried
Twenty-First Century Books
c/o The Millbrook Press, Inc.
2 Old New Milford Road, Brookfield, CT 06804
9780761317166, $29.90, 2001,

Reviewed by Spencer Zaborowski

What do you think it was like in World War II? In Ted Gottfried's "Children of the Slaughter: Young People of the Holocaust," readers get a look at what the holocaust was like during World War II. This eye-opening collection includes personal stories that the Jews, Gypsies, etc. tell about their experiences, such as when little Jewish children were made into experiments, and then later hanged.

The events are well-organized and easy-to-follow. There is a moment of sadness at the end because it tells how most of the survivors were left homeless, without families and with no place to belong. It also tells in the middle of the book how most of the Jews that died were children. It made me very sad to think that there were such cruel people that did horrible things to other humans, especially children.

"Children of the Slaughter: Young People of the Holocaust" is an amazing, interesting book for teens and young adult readers. It is written in an easy-to-read manner, and the vocabulary is not difficult to understand. It tells about different children all over the world and how the holocaust affected them. Teen readers can try to imagine the problems the kids had when they watched their families and friends die. One story in this book is very touching - when a fourteen-year-old girl and her family saw a four-year-old girl separated from her father. "My mother... took this child by the hand and she kept her, wouldn't let go of her... When the Nazi official asked my mother if this was her child and she nodded yes, he sent her to the left. My brother, being only twelve at the time, he sent to the left, and me he motioned to the right." I don't want to go into the details, or give away what happened, so you have to read the story to find out!

Everyone who likes reading about history will definitely enjoy this wonderful, factual and entertaining book. Even though many parts were sad, I learned a lot about what the children in World War II went through. It is amazing to me how any of them survived and started brand new lives afterwards. Best of all, teens will find "Children of the Slaughter: Young People of the Holocaust" is written in a style just for them.

Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall
Wendy Mass
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group, USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316058513, $16.99, 2007,

Reviewed by Kirby Jo Franze

Stepping inside the reality of almost every teenage girl's life, Wendy Mass hits the nail right on the head with this witty, realistic tale that will appeal to everyone from daughters to their moms. We follow sixteen-year-old Tessa, "the mall brat," on her epic journey through life up to junior year, when slow reflexes in a dodge ball game suddenly land her at heaven's doors. But, wait, is that Abercrombie & Fitch?!? It would seem that heaven looks a lot like, yup, you guessed it, the mall! Questioning her entire purpose for living, we follow as Tessa reviews her life as a young girl with tough choices, to a young adult with real life decisions in front of her. I believe most girls can relate to Tessa's journey. It travels through everything from cute boys, to temptations, to hard-to-get-along-with siblings and parents.

This book is a good reminder to the average teenage girl to listen to her parents; it helps her realize which decisions are the right ones, and is a fabulous warning of the consequences of making the wrong ones. Ms. Mass was quite successful in making us all feel as though we were experiencing the psychotic, crazy days of high school. As a teenager myself, I could relate to the pressures of staying in shape, keeping the right friends and trying to be compatible with the world and everything in it. Though there were times I felt that Ms. Mass underestimated the vocabulary of teenagers by using the word "and" more than a few times, I still felt it was well-written and sometimes quite humorous. I personally learned to be thankful for the life I have and that we can all learn from our mistakes if we let ourselves.

Tessa did give in to temptation more than a couple of times, unable to resist defending the underdog and delivering a little payback to someone that really had it coming. Regardless, she stayed pure and stood her ground in some awfully tight spots, which left me with a desire to do the same. I hope all of the readers of "Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall" will walk away with that same desire. This book makes for a delightful read for all of the hard-headed, not quite sure what their purpose is, and slightly crazy, self-conscious, silly girls out me!

Meg Burden
Brown Barn Books
119 Kettle Creek Road, Weston, CT 06883
9780976812685, $8.95, 2007

Reviewed by Emily Judah

When I first received "Northlander" I thought that it would be a history book about some place called Northland. But boy was I wrong. "Northlander" is an exciting book full of adventure and uncertainty. Ms. Burden is skilled at making you feel like you are actually "in" the book. I immediately fell in love with the characters and felt like I was with them during their good and bad times.

"Northlander" is about Ellin, the sixteen-year-old daughter of one of the best healers in Southland. Northland, the hated neighbor of Southland, is grieving over their soon-to-die king, King Allard the Prudent. The Northland physicians know nothing whatsoever of how to help their beloved King. In fact they are only making things worse for him by making him swallow horrible brews made of the most disgusting ingredients. Finally one of the king's physicians decides that the King's only chance at life is the skilled healers of Southland. If they can find a healer willing to come secretly to Northland and teach them how to make their brews full of fresh herbs and flowers, their King might have a chance. So he invites Master healer Rowan Fisher to come and teach the Northlanders how to treat their King. Healer Rowan agrees and travels with Ellin his daughter to move temporarily to Northland and heal the king.

Ellin is extremely unhappy in Northland. She has no friends to talk to, no familiar faces. She and her father must carry papers around and show them to the guards every time they go in and out of the city gates. They are treated like animals by the locals and are always given nasty looks on the street. One night she loses track of time while picking herbs for her father and the gates to the city close. She is left pleading to the guard to let her in; he refuses and she is left to face the bitter cold and wild animals of Northland alone. The guard then has pity on her and lets her stay in the abandoned guard house outside the city gates. While huddled in the corner trying to stay warm, a young blonde-haired guard rushes in without noticing her and sobs uncontrollably at the table. She decides that he is probably hurt, so she stands up to see what she can do. She learns that he is not hurt but he is the youngest son of the King and that if her father doesn't help the
King now it will be too late.

I'm not going to go on with the story because I don't want to spoil it for you but I have to say that "Northlander" is a great book that I will put on my favorite list for sure. Ms. Burden is an awesome author that knows how to "pull" you into the story with the first paragraph of the book.

Rooke's Island: The Prophesy of the Staring Eyes
S.K. Whalen
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, #100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595445455, $13.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Anneliese Buenker

"Rooke's Island: The Prophesy of the Staring Eyes" is a book about a lady named Adelaine Margery Josephine Ida Hilda-Ann Mutters. She has just gotten a letter and the letter says that her uncle just died and left everything he owned to her. The letter says that she should go to Alwyns Village. There she meets the owner of the local inn, named Gabriella Mooleys. In Alwyns Village Margery meets her uncle's lawyer Sidney Snog and goes with her cousin Mike to Rooke's Island. Once they get there, they find out about lower Earth, a series of tunnels beneath the ground and inner Earth, the center of the world. They find themselves in the middle of a prophesy.

Full of suspense. A mystery. . .

I enjoyed "Rooke's Island: The Prophesy of the Staring Eyes" very much and think it is appropriate for ages 8 and up.

The Day I Hit a Home Run at Great American Ball Park
Paul Mullen
Orange Frazer Press
P.O. Box 214 Wilmington, OH 45177
9781933197302, $12.95, 2007, 1-800-852-9332,

Reviewed by Karma Barry

"The Day I Hit a Home Run at Great American Ball Park" is an inspirational read that tells the story of a young boy who is trying to reach his goals and commands you to never give up. A magnificent author, Paul Mullen can give an everyday pass time flavor in a story by using genius comedy and the life of being the youngest in a line of brothers. "Everybody line up, and Bill and I will choose sides." "Did I hear an echo?" Lovers of baseball and coming-of-age stories will reread this book, no matter what the age, and will keep an eye open for more of Paul Mullen's works, though I am not sure if there are anymore.

I have never played baseball on an official team but I have played for a volleyball team, and the pressure of some of the games was brought back as I continued to read and was intensified the further I was through the book. I also relearned some things I already knew from another perspective: Never give up on your dreams, Nothing is impossible, and Never stop believing.
I will be looking for more of Paul Mullen's works in search of more inspirational stories. The story in "The Day I Hit a Home Run at Great American Ball Park" is one that I will be keeping in my heart for a long time and I hope that others who read it will feel the same way.

Fixing American Healthcare
Richard N. Fogoros, MD
Publish or Perish DBS
Box 13251, Pittsburg, PA 15243
9780979697906, $19.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

In "Fixing American Healthcare: Wonkonians, Gekkonians, and the Grand Unification Theory of Healthcare" Dr. Richard N. Fogoros provides important insight into the truth about American healthcare. Part I of the book provides a quick overview of grand unification theory of health care (GUTH), a conceptual model that describes the universe of possible healthcare systems. Part II applies the GUTH in an analysis of the current American healthcare system. Part III uses GUTH to develop a solution to the American healthcare crisis.

I found the graphics and the highlighted sidebars, consistent throughout the book, to be extremely helpful to my understanding of the quadrants of the decision-making process in healthcare today.

I was shocked and concerned when I read rationing in healthcare, the fairness argument, the cost of healthcare, fraud, and the demographics of an aging population. The chapter on "Covert Rationing and Managed Care" is alarming and should be a wakeup call to every American to the state of our healthcare system. Dr. Fogoros reveals how some health care plans have corrupted the ethical standards of the medical profession, and the introduction of antifraud measures have been instituted through government intervention. Dr. Rich, often thought to be a radical, speaks out about the impact covert rationing has had on medical science through the use of randomized trials, and end of life medicine.

On a positive note Dr. Fogoros offers a plan that moves toward the upper quadrant of healthcare system. His plan incorporates: individual autonomy and empowerment, open competition, and universal coverage. He maintains rationing must be decided in an open forum, and healthcare services must be prioritized according to clear ethical standards.

I personally found the chapter summaries helpful in reviewing and assimilating the wealth of information presented. The magnitude of information is daunting, however Dr. Rich has a unique communication approach that reaches down to the layman, while addressing the professionals directly involved in the process evolving in American healthcare today.

"Fixing American Healthcare" is a book that should be read by everyone enrolled in an HMO, or other healthcare plan, as well as every plan provider or professional involved in healthcare. Dr. Fogoros, M.D., has come up with priorities that every citizen needs to take to heart, to protect themselves and their loved ones in a time when they will need healthcare.

How to Cook for Crohn's and Colitis
Brenda Roscher
Cumberland House Publishing
431 Harding Industrial Drive, Nashville, TN 37211
9781581825923, $16.95, 2007, 1-888-439-2665

Reviewed by Irene Watson

Brenda Roscher's " How to Cook for Crohn's and Colitis: More than 200 Healthy, Delicious Recipes the Whole Family Will Love" is certainly one of the best on the market for anyone with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and their families. We often think anyone with IBD can't eat "normal" food and separate cooking for them is essential. This is not the case, and Roscher certainly proves it.

The beginning of the book gives a brief outline of the diseases as well as causes, diagnosis and nutritional facts. The sidebars contain informative tips. The remainder of the book delves into delicious and healthy recipes anyone can enjoy.

Being a muffin fan, the first recipe I tried was Blueberry Muffins. The recipe calls for ¼ cup 2% milk or soy milk. I used almond milk as a substitute and it worked great. The muffins are very moist and I would assume it's because of the apple sauce.

I was pleased to see a recipe for Homemade Sausage. Store purchased sausage, whether Farmers, Italian, or Breakfast is extremely high in fat, and often with preservatives. Roscher provides recipes for all three types of sausage. I tried the Breakfast Sausage and we loved it. Roscher suggests ground pork loin which is very low in fat and the seasonings were perfect.

There are many other recipes that I will be trying from "How to Cook for Crohn's and Colitis." Roscher's exceptional book is concise, easy to read, and fitting for anyone with a busy life. Skimming through the recipes it looks like the ingredients would be found in anyone's pantry and certainly at any local grocery store.

The Last Boat
Michael Hite
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595420339, $16.95, 2007, 1-800-288-4677,

Reviewed by Andrea Barry

"The Last Boat," by Michael Hite, was a surprisingly enjoyable read. While I enjoy historical fiction, I sometimes have difficulty reading it all the way through as I am a big fan of murder-mystery and suspense novels.

A story told from the perspective of a centenarian on her 100th birthday, "The Last Boat" does not miss the boat. When I began this book, I felt that it jumped into the "thick" of the story too fast. As I continued to read, I understood that the book began with the climax of the story. It is not a thriller, but the tantalizing story of Amelia Moorland's life and loss, and it left me turning pages almost faster than I could read them and aching to pick up the book every time I set it down.

Set primarily in Nantucket, Massachusetts, "The Last Boat" is a story of one woman's life told from the first-person perspective. The main character, Amelia Moorland, wants nothing more than for someone to hear and believe her tale of what happened on one chilly October evening in 1921. A young woman at the time, Amelia Moorland witnessed the drowning suicide of her best friend. Afterward however, no one else could recall that Amelia's best friend had been on the boat and no one witnessed her jumping off the boat, except for Amelia.

Amelia lives a colorful life from the beginning and Michael Hite reels us into it from page one. The telling of the story lets us feel like we are along for the ride of Amelia Moorland's life; from her not-quite-on-Nantucket birth to her last peaceful day. With Uncle Jim and Amelia Moorland, the author takes us on one heck of a ride.

The only criticism I have for this book is not for the story at all, but for the publishing. The inside margins are set too far into the binding and I had to bend the book out of shape to read it. It was certainly worth it though, and the binding lives to see another day.

A masterfully woven tale of a centenarian's life, "The Last Boat" is a must- read for any book lover.

The Lovely Bones: Deluxe Edition
Alice Sebold
Back Bay Books
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316001823, $16.99, 2007

Reviewed by Tammy Petty Conrad

This is one of those books I knew I should have already read. Everyone had been talking about it. I knew it would be a good read and worth the time, but somehow it hadn't made it to the top of my pile on the nightstand. Besides, who wants to read about a fourteen-year-old girl being raped and murdered? As a mother of a teenager, it was a topic I wanted to avoid.

But from the beginning of the story I was mesmerized. The victim, Susie Salmon, like the fish, as the author says, tells the story beginning with her brutal demise and carries on throughout the years watching her family, friends and strangers from her version of heaven. She becomes the proverbial "fly on the wall" and shares all that she sees. In the beginning we eavesdrop on the mind of a child as she becomes aware of the danger she is in and that she won't be surviving. As a parent, it is not easy to read, but the scene is so well written that you will continue to turn the pages even as your stomach turns.

Sebold creates a new version of heaven with roommates and different sections to live in. We learn that it is not a perfect place giving us all that we desire. It really made me think about what it might be like and whether members of my own family were above watching me as I stroll through my own story.

The villain, Mr. Harvey, is known from the beginning of the story. Susie not only follows her family from above, but she follows her killer's movements. It felt like being in the mind of a pedophile watching the deliberateness of his actions and the incredible patience he displayed as he waited, sometimes for years, for his next victim. He was truly the man down the street that nobody suspected expect the father overwhelmed with grief. Shivers raced up my spine when I read "He had killed animals, taking lesser lives to keep from killing a child."

As we might expect, the family takes Susie's death very hard. The gift of this novel is that it shares how each member of the family reacts and internalizes this horrible event. No one is the same and as we might imagine, the death of a child is not the end of tragedy for the Salmons.

Even school friends and their reactions are woven into the plot line. Ruth, a mere acquaintance takes on a major role as the story develops. There is the Indian boy, Ray, who is at first accused of the crime and his mother, Runa Singh, whose lives become intermingled in the Salmon's as the book develops. She is almost as interesting as the saucy, often soused, grandma who becomes the glue of the family.

The writer's style is simple and yet eloquent. She delves into Susie's desire and attainment of her first kiss. Prior to her death, that was the only sexual experience Susie had had. She goes on to watch the interactions between those left behind and even in death she is able to blossom into a woman in an amazing scene that I won't reveal. The author explains the urges of one character as "…a desire beyond the sweetness and attention, it fed a longing, beginning to flower green and yellow into a crocus-like lust, the soft petals opening into her awkward adolescence."

Not only do we learn how interdependent people are, but we also learn that usually people can overcome most anything. It doesn't happen easily or even the way we might expect. But it happens, over time. And just as Susie learns in "The Lovely Bones," we too understand that connections with others can be miraculous.

Wolf Dawson
Charlsie Russell
Loblolly Writer's House
P.O. Box 7438, Gulfport, MS 39506
9780976982418, $14.95, 2007,

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt

Mistakenly reported to have been killed during the Civil War, Jeff Dawson surprises everybody when he returns home to Natchez, Mississippi. Having achieved success while he was away, he is able to purchase White Oak Glen which was the home of the Seaton family. This family was responsible for the rape and death of Jeff's sister. They have been feuding ever since. Still, despite the animosity, Jeff finds himself drawn to Juliet Seaton. Matters get further complicated when he tricks her into marriage.

When a large wolf begins attacking livestock and prostitutes are found murdered out in the woods, a werewolf legend is revived. Descending from a grandfather whom people believed to be a werewolf, the suspicions are now passed on to Jeff. They build up even more when Jeff's enemies are targeted. The couple has enough of their own difficulties to overcome due to the misunderstandings perpetuated early on in their relationship. Now they have to deal with their own personal safety being questioned. Juliet gets to see the wolf and feels that he is a protector. The question is, "Is he Jeff in werewolf form?" While she wonders this, she doubts that he is responsible for the murders of the prostitutes.

I enjoyed this romance. Charlsie Russell really does a great job at building suspense. She kept me on the edge of my seat while I worried about the couple's safety and wondered who the murderer was. I love the paranormal elements surrounding the mystery of the wolf. It was refreshing to be surprised at the end as the drama played its self out. The author also does an excellent job of character development. She draws you into the psyche of some twisted, selfish individuals. She also does a great job of bringing out the best in the good characters.

I highly recommend this novel. Fans of the Civil War era and fans of paranormal romances will really like it. I think that "Wolf Dawson" would stimulate some interesting discussions in reader's groups.

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