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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 7, Number 12 December 2008 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Dunford's Bookshelf Greenspan's Bookshelf
Klausner's Bookshelf Larsen's Bookshelf Laurel's Bookshelf
Micah's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf Shirley's Bookshelf
Taylor's Bookshelf Vicki's Bookshelf Vogel's Bookshelf

Cowper's Bookshelf

The Rock Star's Homecoming
Linda Gould
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595462834, $16.95,

Rock and Roll has never had a reputation of being completely respectful and kindly. "The Rock Star's Homecoming" is the story of a college town attempting to reclaim some of its own, who hit much fame after being expelled from their school so many years ago. Sara must convince her brother and their band to return, and her roommate wants to document it all. It doesn't help that her current significant other is one of her brother's band mates. A twisted swirl of conflict and rock and roll, "The Rock Star's Homecoming" is an utterly fascinating story.

Ashie: Lost In The Hurricane
Pamela June Cohen
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781604749618, $19.95,

In every hurricane or severe tropical storm, it is our canine companions, our feline friends, our pet fish, turtles, and other household pets that are among the most vulnerable. During a hurricane, the young dog Ashie is left alone in a bathtub. "Ashie: Lost In The Hurricane" by Pamela June Cohen is an account of the adventures and misadventures of Ashie; Maney, the manatee; and Peli, the pelican, who befriend him in his search for his family, home, and power and control over his own life. Nicely illustrated by Allison Lange, this charming and entertaining story has an added value for young readers in that its underlying message is one of inspiration for young readers about the values of friendship, mutual assistance, and striving against the adversities of life that are as inevitable as they are unexpected. "Ashie: Lost In The Hurricane" is highly recommended reading and an appropriate addition to family, school, and community library collections.

Robyn L. Shaw
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
160610196X, $19.95,

Kingdoms don't have unlimited funds; their treasury is as subject to depletion as anyone else's financial resources. "Lomork: The Way of a King" tells of just one such kingdom and its king coping with his own financial crisis. The knowledge of his troubles become known to his enemies, and he is faced with treachery on all sides to deal with. Fast paced and intriguing, "Lomork" brings a fresh twist to the many fantasy elements its fans love.

Shanghai Shadows
Joy Hart
International Plaza II, Suite 410, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513
9781436337946, $19.99,

Many Americans simply take the fact of knowing where their family is as something for granted. "Shanghai Shadows" is a story of a family torn apart across the globe. A Marine by the name of Alex is torn from Milla, his beloved. Internment camps drive a wedge between them, and it takes over sixty years for the family to finally have some sense of closure. A story of tragedy and keeping hope in sight, "Shanghai Shadows" is both depressing and optimistic at the same time.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

Lies, Bribes, Peril
Ron Cruse
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595406784, $17.95,

In a perfect world, everyone would take the same currency and be happily willing to help people. The world's not perfect. "Lies, Bribes, and Peril: Lessons for the Real Challenges of International Business" is a combination of memoir and business manual as he deals with the strange characters that anyone would encounter when dealing with the strange world of international business. Hoping to educate readers by relaying his experiences in his own time expanding his business, "Lies, Bribes, and Peril" is solid and highly recommended reading for businessmen of the world.

Clifford Lane Mark
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595462193, $19.95,

What's after Jesus? "Ecumensus: The Next Vision" is a fictional imagining of what lies next for the spiritual world in a hypothetical situation when the current era ends and the next begins. Asking many questions and coming up with many ideas about what's next, and how the spiritual world will be for the next two millennia for mankind, he presents many ideas that prove to be much food for thought. "Ecumensus" is a must for any spirituality thinker.

Ghosts of Sackett Lake
Phil Sills
International Plaza II, Suite 410, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513
9781436314862, $29.99,

Family vacations are suppose to be about togetherness, not running from the police. "Ghosts of Sackett Lake" tells the story of Max and his children. On a road trip through the Catskills, he finds a corpse in an abandoned care, accidentally incriminating himself. Now in order to keep his family together, he must piece together the mystery before he's locked away for the rest of his good years. "Ghosts of Sackett Lake" is entertaining and provides some nice twists on the mystery story.

Faust: Volumes 1 & 2
E. A. Bucchianeri
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161, 1-800-280-7715

The Faust myth of a man who makes a pact with the Devil has been an enduringly popular subject from the days of Christopher Marlowe's play down to the present time. Now a two-volume study has been created by E. A. Bucchianeri with "Faust: My Sould Be Damned For The World". Volume I (9781434390608, $55.00) provides new insights into the life and times of the historical Dr. Faustus, an occultist and medieval charlatan who is said to have announced that the Devil was his brother-in-law. Also provided is a detailed study of the first Faust books and popular Faustian folktales; original discussions on Christopher Marlowe's drama (including a unique and controversial analysis of the A and B texts of the play); the Faust puppet plays; and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's unfinished Faust drama. Volume II (9781434390615, $85.00) is composed of an in-depth account of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's literary masterpiece "Faust' parts one and two; a detailed examination of the early sketches of his classic drama, and informed and informative commentaries on Goethe's hidden symbolism in his texts, his interests in history and science, the occult, alchemy, Freemasonry, and his warnings to future generations. A seminal body of meticulous scholarship, research, and original commentary, "Faust: Volumes 1 & 2" is a critically significant and strongly recommended addition to personal and academic library Literary Studies reference collections in general, and Faustian Studies selected reading lists in particular.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Last Tango with Marlon
Fletcher Rhoden
Trafford Publishing
1425152651, $12.00,

What conversations does one of the most legendary Hollywood stars have with his best friend? "Last Tango with Marlon" is a novella version of Fletcher Rhoden's critically acclaimed two-act play following the relationship of an over-the-hill Marlon Brando and his best friend Wally Cox. A unique and entertaining story, "Last Trango with Marlon" is well worth the read.

There's Something About Cave Creek
Gene K. Garrison
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9781430309826, $18.00,

Metropolises are mega-cities which are commonly made by many smaller cities expanding. Cave Creek has resisted this movement. "There's Something About Cave Creek: It's the People" is the story of a small town in Arizona and the people who fill it. Telling the personal story of the people of this town, "There's Something About Cave Creek" is a look into a small American town that wants to stay that way. "There's Something About Cave Creek" is a solid choice for anyone looking to understand small town America.

Forty Years a Speculator
Fred Carach
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
Fred Carach & Associates (publicity)
112 Lake Emerald Drive, #207, Oakland Park, FL 33309
9781430316602, $18.48,

There's a form of legalized gambling in this country. It's called the stock market. "Forty Years a Speculator" tells Fred Carach's story of rising up and becoming a stock investor who lived on the edge, likening himself to the riverboat gamblers of old. After forty years as a safe investor, he describes his revelation, and in "Forty Years a Speculator" he invites readers to make the same revelations about their own investing.

The Family Tree
Sandra Lee Churchill
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780615204642, $12.99,

Pre-teen life is never simple, and it's not just the hormones. "The Family Tree" follows Cassidy Phillips and all of the hassles of her twelve year old life. Insane amounts of homework, her blooming interest in boys, friendship issues were enough, but her parents have news that isn't simply going to make her life any easier. "The Family Tree" is a vivid picture of pre-teen life, recommended.

Able Greenspan

Klausner's Bookshelf

Orphan's Alliance
Robert Buettner
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
0316001740, $7.99,

It has been over three decades since humans and Slugs (pseudocephalopods) have been at war while slowly earth is learning more about the universe and the blobs are located on the Outworlds; brought there many millennia ago by the slugs as slaves to mine Covite, which powers their C Drive ships. Mankind also has the technology, which has made the hostilities less one sided.

Lieutenant General Jason Wilder is on the Outworld Traessel where the two powers Traessens and Iridians exist and are the former is more advanced. The human militia gives them the weapons needed to defeat the Iridians. The Traessel want to use it to build up their Mouseport, a limp of rock that is only one jump point to any planet including earth. When Jason returns to Traesel, he finds the Iridians being treated like the Jews in Nazi Germany yet they build a Mouseport in hopes humanity will help them. Only the military miscalculated leaving Wilder fighting for his life in a scenario in which one mistake could destroy the Mouseport and kill all the humans inside.

Robert Buettner is a master writer of military science fiction in outer space as he demonstrates in ORPHAN'S ALLIANCE (and for that matter the entire Orphan saga). Jason is an orphan who has made the Army his family; he cares about the welfare of his troops and is less rigid and authoritarian than most officers. Readers will find his vulnerability and humanity in wartime fascinating as he fights for his world while knowing he sends some of his finest to their death.

Too Far Gone
Marliss Melton
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
0446509264, $6.99,

Ten months ago in Virginia Beach, Navy SEAL sniper Sean Harlan allowed single mother Ellie Stuart and her three preadolescent boys to move into one of his rental properties. Since then he has come around a lot playing with the boys and bringing them presents. He hides his attraction to their mother as he is unsure if he should pursue his feelings or not. Just as confused is Ellie who knows the kids come first, but fears she is falling in love with her SEAL.

While driving home on a deserted back road with her three boys, a van in front of her stops. Two men come out of the vehicle and yank Ellie from her car. They grab the three boys and leave. Ellie calls the police who assume she is responsible for their disappearance and probably killed them. Sean rejects that theory and with Ellie at his side and with the help of his connections begins to investigate. Neither are aware that the Savannah based Centurions led by powerfully connected Owen Dulay is behind the abductions; nor do they know that the FBI undercover agent Drake Donavon is investigating Dulay.

This is a terrific romantic suspense thriller in which the local police are influenced by headlines of mothers killing babies as much as by other evidence that conveniently supports Ellie killing the kids. Ellie quickly learns the hard way how ruthless and amoral her unknown adversary truly is. As a desperate mother, she with Sean leading the way tries to rescue her kids before she is indicted for murder.

Wish You Were Here
Lani Diane Rich
044661825X, $6.99

Her father Richard, owner of Daly developers, wants the Deer Creek, Idaho campground property owned by single father Nate Brody, who refuses to sell. He sends his daughter Freya Daly to obtain the land although she has no idea why her dad covets this dilapidated campground in the middle of hell. Cincinnati restaurateur Nate explains to Freya he cannot sell because he made a death bed pledge to his late dad. He also says he will sell once he completes his vow to find an heirloom.

Freya's dad demands she increase the pressure as he needs that land now. She is confused by his attitude and soon learns there is more to her father's deal than he told her. As she falls in love with the father and his preadolescent daughter Piper, Freya has family issues to confront while Nate and Piper want her to return to Ohio with them as part of their family.

The charming contemporary romance between the lead couple is enhanced by several fascinating subplots that tie back to the prime story line including a unique rare condition in which Freya cries for no apparent reason. The relationship between father and daughter is a model of honesty; quite the opposite of that between Freya and her dad. Except for her dad's mayoral name, WISH YOU WERE HERE is a terrific sequel to CRAZY IN LOVE.

To Seduce a Sinner
Elizabeth Hoyt
0446406929, $6.99

In 1765 London, still recovering from being jilted at the altar by Miss Mary Templeton; Lord Jasper Renshaw is shocked further when Lady Melisande Flemming proposes to him. However, he quickly recovers and agrees as he figures at least he will do his title duty with an heir and a spare and he knows he has always liked Melisande.

Melisande is euphoric because her daring deed worked. She has always loved the world traveler, but hid her feelings form him. She also is the only one to notice the sadness in his eyes that she vows to reverse. Jasper finds his bride to be a willing excited participant in the boudoir and there for him when he suffers his nightmares about what happened at Spinner's Fall. However, before he can tell her he loves her, he must uncover the identity of the traitor who caused so much destruction when he served in the military in the colonies.

The second Legend of the Four Soldiers historical romance (see TO TASTE TEMPTATION) is a strong tale starring a flawed hero who struggles with what happened in the colonies to him and his unit and the woman who loves him. Melisande shows her courage when she proposes and when she remains at Jasper's side whether he suffers a nightmare or confronts a potential traitor. Fans of Georgian romances will relish this fine tale in which love helps a distraught man rise above the horror of the past.

The Scorpion
Warren Stockholm
Pop Pulp Books
KHP Industries
PO Box 588, Effort, PA18330
9780979988158, $9.99,

In an alternate universe Nazi Germany defeated the Allies and occupied the losing nations including America for sixty years until the economy tanked causing a war in which America forced the oppressors to leave. Everything is being built up and growth is everywhere even in Steeltown. New rules allow crime to thrive with one dirty operation running a slave trade child porn ring. Women vanish with their abused bodies found in record numbers.

Watching over the city is The Scorpion who stalks and attacks evil men. He is a German super soldier created by the Third Reich but he escaped to the United States. He thinks of Steeltown as his town and plans to clean it up from criminals and predators. He uses his extraordinary skills to kill those malevolent humans harming others. Yet his past catches up to him when he realizes someone he once called brother is now a vile monster needing to be eradicated.

Readers who enjoy pulp fiction thrillers with an homage to Captain America will enjoy the entertaining THE SCORPION. The fast-paced story line vividly describes through a somewhat horrifying lens a small American town of the future five years after the Nazi occupiers have left. The hero is a tortured soul struggling to control his berserker tendency, a critical element of becoming a super soldier. No Bucky sidekick for him; he is alone even when surrounded by allies because he trusts no one, not even himself. Fans will appreciate the adventures of the Scorpion and look forward to more pulp escapades.

Keepers of the Dead
Bob Freeman
Black Death Books
KHP Industries
PO Box 588, Effort, PA18330
9780979988141, $12.99,

The Circle of Nine Skulls, founded by Garrick Ward, and made up of Immortals, battle the Dark waiting for the final the end of times battle. Garrick believes his warriors and allies are ready, but the insidious Dark is working on defeating those groups before they can come to his aid.

Cairnwood Manor, the home of the Ash Lawn werewolf pack, is allies of the light. Michael has recently taken over as the leader, but everyone is surprised when another werewolf pack attacks them; he is the first casualty falling into a coma. The enemy has come to find the magical artifacts to bring to their master; they will succeed for sure if Michael fails to awaken. Even if he does, his side remains precariously near defeat as he will have to venture to the realm of his long time enemy Malcolm MacGregor the vampire who holds his beloved hostage.

Meanwhile the evil forces gather at Avebury where they use eldritch powers to call up the Old Gods and to raise an army of zombies. Two malevolent vampire hordes vie for supremacy as everyone from the Dark side to Garrick and his allies' heads for a showdown perhaps the final one at Rosslyn Chapel.

Bob Freeman has written an electrifying horror thriller that in some ways is a throwback to the classic Castle horror moves albeit faster paced (some might say frenzied) and bloodier as vampires are villains and werewolves are heroes. Reminiscent also of Stephen King's early works, readers will enjoy the supernatural war. Although the cast of seemingly zillions can become a bit overwhelming, several control the story line bringing focus to the hyper-speeding novel. Michael is the key; as he comes into his own as a leader and warrior but must return to the living if he is to be there for the last battle; without him all is lost while with him all still probably is lost. Vividly described, KEEPERS OF THE DEAD would make an exciting horror movie.

The Vampire Apocalypse: Descent into Chaos
Derek Gunn
Black Death
KHP Industries
PO Box 588, Effort, PA18330
9780979988134, $12.99,

Two years ago with earth's nonrenewable energy sources all but depleted and civilizations declining, the vampire horde surfaced and attacked humans. The vampires won the war. As the lower species on the food chain, humans have become cattle; a serum given by the vamps to their food supply turns them docile.

Still there remain resistance groups including one warrior unit that killed Nero, the leader of the Cabal vampire territory. Peter Harris accomplished the impossible deed and pushes to go on the offensive since vampires are territorial creatures hiding inside their respective Cabal and the Master Vampires distrust one another. The Von Kruger Cabal in Indiana has great power but a low human population while the Wentworth Cabalp has no power but a large army. Using guerilla techniques and warfare, Peter manipulates the pride of each Master so that the Cabals go to war with one another. However a new danger surfaces as it is learned that the serum proves fatal to humans, thralls and vampires. Peter is determined to rescue the human cattle while the Von Kruger-Wentworth vampire civil war continues unabated.

Part two of The Vampire Apocalypse (see A WORLD TORN ASUNDER) gives readers insight into the thralls, humans who periodically exchange fluids with their master vampire, which turns them into super soldiers. Many volunteered to survive, but like the purebred humans they have schemes inside of plots to obtain more power. Derek Gunn is a master vampire writer who provides his fans with a graphic frightening world that hooks the audience as few military horror sagas do.

The Scorpion
Warren Stockholm
Pop Pulp Books
KHP Industries
PO Box 588, Effort, PA18330
9780979988158, $9.99,

In an alternate universe Nazi Germany defeated the Allies and occupied the losing nations including America for sixty years until the economy tanked causing a war in which America forced the oppressors to leave. Everything is being built up and growth is everywhere even in Steeltown. New rules allow crime to thrive with one dirty operation running a slave trade child porn ring. Women vanish with their abused bodies found in record numbers.

Watching over the city is The Scorpion who stalks and attacks evil men. He is a German super soldier created by the Third Reich but he escaped to the United States. He thinks of Steeltown as his town and plans to clean it up from criminals and predators. He uses his extraordinary skills to kill those malevolent humans harming others. Yet his past catches up to him when he realizes someone he once called brother is now a vile monster needing to be eradicated.

Readers who enjoy pulp fiction thrillers with an homage to Captain America will enjoy the entertaining THE SCORPION. The fast-paced story line vividly describes through a somewhat horrifying lens a small American town of the future five years after the Nazi occupiers have left. The hero is a tortured soul struggling to control his berserker tendency, a critical element of becoming a super soldier. No Bucky sidekick for him; he is alone even when surrounded by allies because he trusts no one, not even himself. Fans will appreciate the adventures of the Scorpion and look forward to more pulp escapades.

Everything but a Wedding
Holly Jacobs
Avalon Books
160 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0803499248, $23.95,

Elderly Hungarian matriarch Nana Vancy still regrets the "curse" she issued when she was young and in love with Bela Salo who failed to show up their wedding on time due to an accident. Now decades later her misgivings turn to fear as she worries about bad things happening at Salo family weddings since she angrily cursed big weddings, Bela and his relatives especially since she has proof with two of her grandchildren (see EVERYTHING BUT A BRIDE and EVERYTHING BUT A GROOM).

Her last hope to see the curse defeated in her lifetime resides with her last grandchild Pennsylvania developer Dori Salo. However, Dori shows no interest in men ever since her former boyfriend ended their relationship. Instead perhaps as a mental defense mechanism Dori puts all her energies on the Erie Hazard Hills housing development. Also on the project is architect Carter Hastings IV who pretends to be Bill the interior designer as he wants Dori to hire his cousin CeCe's firm to design the interior of the model homes. However as they fall in love he must admit his deception and she must challenge the curse.

Returning to Erie, site of her WLVH Radio Romance saga (see LAUGH LINES, NIGHT CALLS, LOVE HANDLES and PICKUP LINES) as well as the prime locale of the Everything But saga, Holly Jacobs provides a charming contemporary romance. The enjoyable story line is fun starting with the likable lead characters although he appears to have committed a professional ethics violation. They in turn are supported by a strong cast of returning characters and the "curse". Readers will enjoy Holly Jacobs' fine lighthearted tale that contains everything to warm the heart over the holidays.

Echoes in the Dark
Robin D. Owens
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373802937, $14.95,

The world of Lladrana is under siege by an alien Dark force who lives in a volcano where it has made its nest. The malevolence has created monsters who stalk the countryside killing the people and draining the planet. To save their realm, the Marshalls summoned four women who are necessary to defeat the Dark. The fifth female Raine was summoned on the cheap by the Seamsters. For her first six months she was abused and overall abused so her confidence remained steadily negative. Her job is to build the boat that will take them to the island. Her ally Faucon, once dumped by an Exotique who returned to Earth helps her but tries to keep his distance because he is drawn to her but doesn't want to get hurt again

The final Exotique to be called is Jikata, a world known pop singer destined to become a superstar. She was summoned by Mirror Magic to the Singer to fulfill the prophecy so is kept isolated to prepare her to save the world when it is time for her to face the Dark. Raine builds a boat to get there on time while Jikata and her significant other Luthan the Singer begins their quest with the other Exotiques and their mates.

Readers learn why the Dark came to Lladrana and other questions left from the previous five exciting tales are answered. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as are all of Robin D. Owens fantasies in this saga and her Heart novels. The characters are fully developed including the Dark while romantic subplots and a trek to an exotic dimension enhance the countdown prime theme of good trying to save a world from a seemingly more powerful evil.

Your Roots Are Showing
Elise Chidley
5 Spot
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
0446178144, $13.99,, 1-800-759-0190

Lizzie and James Buckley seem to have the perfect life as they raise their three year old twins in love and affluence. However, though Lizzie loves her stay at home mommy role on their country estate, she also can use some time out with a box of chocolates. She suffers from postpartum depression that has only grown worse as James remains unsympathetic while she mopes and gains weight.

In a frustrated rage, she types an e-mail ripping her dear husband for his lack of understanding. However instead of her sister, she accidentally forwards it to James. He is livid upon reading her diatribe and angrily tells her he is filing for divorce before walking out on her. Stunned Lizzie takes their kids and leaves. Although she misses her beloved James, but not Mill House, Lizzie realizes she suffers from depression and starts running as a means of releasing her stress with the motive that James will come back for her.

Lizzie makes this deep English character study work as she struggles with being a mommy only. The support cast from her spouse to their "martinet" kids to the neighbors at Back Lane Cottage enhances the deep look at a woman suffering from postpartum depression that has gotten worse over the three plus years since she gave birth. Although limited action and a bit too tidy of a wrap-up, contemporary fiction fans will appreciate this fine tale of an individual whose self esteem went with the afterbirth.

At Close Range
Tara Taylor Quinn
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778925529, $6.99,

Judge Hannah Montgomery presides over the murder trial of white supremacist Kenny Hill, a member of the Ivory Nation. However, she and her friends and family become victims of a rash of incidents including vandalism. She assumes allies of Hill probably belonging to Ivory nation, are trying to frighten her.

At the same Hannah worries about her safety and that of those close to her, the police investigate her friend Dr. Brian Hampton. Several babies under his care have recently died with the assumption being tragically SIDS. Although her adopted infant is one of the deceased, Hannah refuses to believe Brian is a murderer until shockingly a connection to Ivory Nation surfaces that makes her reconsider her opinion perhaps as previously being rose colored.

With strong believable twists enhancing a powerful thriller, romantic suspense fans will relish AT CLOSE RANGE. The story line is fast-paced from the opening courtroom scene and never slows down as increasingly the evidence condemns Brian and even Hannah, who believed in his innocence when everyone else was ready to lynch him, begins to judge him as a dangerous felon allied with the group threatening her life. Tara Taylor Quinn provides an exhilarating tale.

The Memorist
M.J. Rose
Mira Books
0778325849, $24.95

As a youngster, Meer Logan only drew pictures of what looked like a treasure chest. Her family obviously noticing the pattern asked her why she insisted on drawing only this object. Meer explained that she had seen it before although no one including her could figure out when; her parents assumed it was youthful imagination though they were somewhat concerned with her seemingly compulsive behavior disorder.

Now an adult, Meer's sixty-five year old dad Jeremy, known as the "Jewish Indiana Jones" and who works in a Vienna auction house found the box listed in an auction catalogue. Inside the box is a letter that leads Jeremy to conclude that the artifact once was owned by Beethoven's beloved. Meer heads to Austria where memories flood her mind starting with the same flute tune that makes her wonder if she was Beethoven's lover in a previous life. As father and daughter seek a mystical flute, a murder and the stealing of the box and its letter makers both of them fear someone has a different fate in store for them.

THE MEMORIST is much more complex than the exhilarating THE REINCARNATIONIST, as M.J. Rose provides a superb thriller. There are several subplots that converge on Meer who like her dad begins to believe in her previous life. Meer, her dad and several other support players are fully developed so that the audience believes in all the seemingly paranormal nuances. Set aside plenty of time as this is not a fast read, but worth the time as THE MEMORIST is memorable.

Drifting South
Charles Davis
Mira Books
9780778325420, $13.95

He spent two decades and one year behind bars for a crime he did not commit. Now finally in 1980 Ben Purdue leaves the Harrisburg Federal Penitentiary where he spent much of his time in protective custody after two inmates tried to kill him. He knows someone wants him dead; most likely tied back to the felony that led to his incarceration. Still in spite of the danger of going home where the source of his assassin probably resides, he needs to learn the fate of his mom and brothers following the shooting that led to his incarceration; which means going to the place he loathes more than prison, his hometown Shady Hollow, Virginia.

In Shady, Ben learns his family is all buried. Used to being alone due to his imprisonment, Ben mourns their death but easily deals with the solitude. He seeks to learn the truth about that fateful September day in 1959 that changed his world from a teen with hope to a bitter felon. Even more so he needs to know why his family resides in graves. The Shady "Keepers", people who he should have been able to trust from the girl he loved to the preacher to the law were involved, but someone wants him to join his family before the truth surfaces.

This is a terrific character driven suspense thriller that grips the audience from the moment Prison Officer Dollinger explains to Henry (Ben) that he is being released a few days early so whoever wants him dead will not kill him in the penitentiary. The story line never loses that level of intensity as Ben affirms that you can never go home as the memory never existed and besides what is accurate no longer lives at least in his case. The tension mounts with each revelation as an obsessed Ben needs to know as does fans who will relish Charles Davis's strong thriller in one concentrated sitting.

Deadly Gift
Heather Graham
Mira Books
9780778325277, $7.99

While visiting Ireland with his second wife, millionaire Sean O'Riley becomes ill. He recuperates enough to go home, but hires local Nurse Caer Cavannaugh to help him as he returns to States and heals at home.

Sean's alarmed daughter Kat believes the trophy wife wants her dad dead so she can insure her inheritance before Sean wisely cuts her off, but she lacks hard core proof. When Sean's partner Eddie Ray disappears, Kat asks her friend private investigator Zach Flynn to make inquiries. Zach finds no motives for either killing one partner or for the vanishing of the other. Caer assists him on his investigation, but as they fall in love, she hides from him a secret that impacts the case and will end their relationship.

The concluding Flynn brothers' "deadly" romantic suspense (see DEADLY NIGHT and DEADLY HARVEST) is a terrific finish to a strong trilogy. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Sean arrives in Ireland and never slows down as Zach with Caer's aid investigates the business partners' sudden problems. However, what makes the story line is the secret that puts quite a twist to a tense private investigative romance.

Die Before I Wake
Laurie Breton
Mira Books
9780778325901, $6.99

Julie Hanrahan goes on a cruise as a means of relaxing. On board she meets and falls in love with widower Dr. Thomas Larkin, father of two young children. He feels the same way and after a five day whirlwind courtship they marry.

Julie leaves California to live with her spouse in Maine where she struggles to adjust to the environs. However, the biggest shock is to learn that Tom's first wife Beth committed suicide and her two kids still grieve big time as they do not understand why their mommy died. Tom's mother, who lives with the, is outright nasty to Julie, who wonders if she should go home. As she considers fleeing to the West Coast, Beth's sister believes her sister was murdered probably by Tom, who displays a temper that he hid when they were in the Caribbean. Julie ponders whether her husband is a killer as accidents begin to befall on her.

Though the theme has been used before (for instance the classic Grant-Bergman movie Notorious) DIE BEFORE I WAKE is a tense contemporary gothic thriller with excellent spins. Laurie Breton keeps the reader off kilter guessing whether Tom is a dangerous menace ready to kill his second wife or a brooding hero unsure what to do to keep his beloved safe. The story line is fast-paced but it is Julie's account of the goings-on that makes the tale exciting and frightening as the audience knows the bumps in the night are real; at least in her mind. Ms. Breton provides a one sitting taut tale that keeps fans off balance with doubts between straight deadly suspense and romantic suspense.

Welcome to Serenity
Sherryl Woods
Mira Books
9780778325895, $7.99

In Serenity, South Carolina, Jeanette Brioche has mixed feelings about her new friends. On the one hand, she welcomes for the first time in her lonely life people who care for her. However, on the other hand although she feels good for her new friends, she envies the loving marriages of Maddie, Helen and Dana Sue as she has no man in her life, never has had one, and never will.

Town manager, Tom McDonald meets Jeannette and does not hide is interest in her. Maddie realizes this and signs up Jeannette as a volunteer on the Serenity's annual Christmas festival committee. Jeanette and Tom are teamed up with each attracted to one another. However, both have had losses in their lives; whereas Tom has moved on and wants to start again with Jeannette, she has not and fears relationships mean loss.

The return to Serenity for another Sweet magnolia contemporary romance FEELS LIKE FAMILY visiting as the audience finds out what is happening to the stars of previous tales (see STEALING HOME). The lead couple is a fine matching as Tom is a nice person and Jeannette is the last one standing alone although Sherryl Woods hopefully has a few more singles in Serenity. Although there is little action, fans will feel the warn holiday WELCOME TO SERENITY.

Eye to Eye
Grace Carol
Red Dress Ink
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373895823, $13.95,

Ronnie and Doris are best friends who live on opposite sides of the continent. Ronnie, after a graduate school stint in Indiana, lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend Earl and no money. Doris resides in Atlanta, but just ended a relationship.

Ronnie tutors sixteen years old Ian who runs his wealthy family like a dictator. Doris is under siege at the college she works by a royal academic pain in the butt. They remain best friends picking each other up mentally as their career paths collapse and their romances seem to crumble.

This is an intriguing tale starring two women who once shared their feelings in person, but geography has somewhat limited that support although they remain steadfast for one another. There is little action and much of that comes across as musings and doubts although the audience get inside the respective heads of the best friends to the point of understanding their wants and fears. These internal asides are all over the place making them realistic but difficult to follow. Still this is a fascinating lock at two people reflecting on their choices, past present and future.

The Melanin Apocalypse
Darrell Bain
Twilight Times Books
PO Box 3340, Kingsport, TN 37664
9781933353708, $16.95, 1-423-323-0183

The genetically altered virus surfaced in Africa killing anyone whose body cells contained a certain level of melanin. Dark skinned people were dying in biblical numbers. As Africa descends into deadly anarchy, the virus leaves the continent for other nations around the world. Globalization collapses drowning the global economy in its tsunami. In the United States, mob chaos begins to reign so Martial Law is invoked.

While everyone is reeling and rioting and looting is everywhere, and CDC scientists work around the clock for a cure, a second virus explodes on the world. This time the customized killer is Middle Eastern people. At about the same time, Church of Blacks militant members lay siege to the CDC. Former soldier Doug Craddock, a Caucasian, providing security to the scientists, tries to persuade the angry militants that this is their best bet for a cure; but no one seems interested in anything except stringing up a white man

The exciting THE MELANIN APOCALYPSE is perfect timing with the economy crashing and the Powell endorsement properly targeting the hate towards specific groups as the real anti-Americanism. The premise is built on genome research allows customizing medical cures can also do the opposite causing specified global holocausts. However, the key to this superb cautionary science fiction thriller is how people act and react to the customized deadly viruses.

The Focus Factory
Darrell Bain and Gerald Mills
Twilight Times
9781931201964, $18.95

Murray Blake is stunned as he feels his life has collapsed. First, his firm shuts down his project, ending his research into helping autistic idiot-savants when his work showed promise and is at a critical stage. Second illegal immigrants killed his family. Although he considers Alice's Red Queen is an optimist with her philosophy of perpetual running to remain in one place, he feels he fell down the rabbit hole. Still grieving, Murray ponders how pathetic the government is as it fumbles its reason for existing, deal with man-made or natural disasters.

With time on his hands, Murray decides to use his research to solve the illegal immigration issue that has caused him so much personal anguish. He tests his findings on himself. Soon afterward, the scientist becomes a key cog in a scheme to solve all of America's most vexing problems starting with illegal immigration.

THE FOCUS FACTORY is an engaging political satire that has science fiction roots. The story line lampoons the foibles of the industrial-government complex that share the common goal that the bottom line supersedes any real solutions to issues unless it feeds the bottom line. Extrapolating failures like Katrina and the Illegal Immigration responses (what happened to those two problems as they seem to have faded away during the current campaign); Darrell Bain and Gerald Mills provide a strong saga. Murray makes the tale work as a beaten down man refusing to allow the Queen of Hearts to direct her minion with "off with his head" without fighting back.

An Irish Country Christmas
Patrick Taylor
c/o Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765320703, $24.95,

In the quaint Irish village of Ballybucklebo, Dr. Fingal O'Reilly and his partner Dr. Barry Laverty deal as always with the vast ailments of the townsfolk while also dealing with respective attractions to the opposite sex. Fingal has doubts about courting effervescent Kitty O'Halloran except when he is near her; than he has no rational thought. Barry is upset because his girlfriend Patricia Spence at Girton College informs him she may not make it in time for his first Christmas in the small Irish village.

However, all that pales compared to a new doctor in town who steals their patients with remedies that should have the man barred. To country doctors O'Reilly and Laverty, Dr. Fitzpatrick should be called Dr. Quack, but as ridiculous as his prescriptions are, he is gaining patients.

The third Irish County medical cozy (see AN IRISH COUNTRY DOCTOR and AN IRISH COUNTRY VILLAGE) is a fun tale as O'Reilly and Laverty continues to take care of the villagers by combining modern medical practices with homespun "cures" like dressing up as Santa. The story line is warm and uplifting even when Patricia looks like she will not make for the holidays and Fitzpatrick causes harm to the patients he steals. Readers who enjoyed the previous entries will especially want to read this one as the two physicians spend their first holiday season with fans.

Guinevere's Truth
Jennifer Roberson
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594141508, $25.95, 1-800-223-1244

These are twenty well written feminist fantasy tales from an author renowned as one of best authors of the sub-genre. The entries contain six from the 1980s; nine from the 1990s (including the title story), and the remaining five from this decade. Most of the early contributions were published in Sword and Sorceress. The compilation runs much of the gamut of the genre with the emphasis obviously on heroines. Two of them "A Lesser Working" and "Guinevere's Truth" are intriguing Arthurian shorts and two others ("Of Honor and the Lion" and "Blood of Sorcery" have ties in the Chronicles of the Cheysuli realm. Although the tone is vast from humor to subtle irony to conflicting cultures; and the perspective can be from the heroine or a relative (female of course), fans of Jennifer Roberson will appreciate her short story compilation in which one overarching theme whether I be modern America, Cheysuli , or another realm is kick butt females.

Scent of Danger
Doranna Durgin
Five Star Books
9781594146756, $25.95

Former Buckeye, Dr. Dale Kinsall is still adjusting to life in West Winoza, just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. He finds his staff at the Foothills Veterinary Clinic professional but eccentrically amusing except when they wear animal scrotums as earrings; that sort of feels painful. He also is half in love with another veterinarian Laura Nakai who he hoped would join his practice, but did not.

As the clinic is being renovated and Dale semi exiled due to asthma, he begins receiving weird warning notes written in rhyme, but placed in such away that someone with full clinic access was dropping them off. Laura becomes concerned when her young second cousin becomes deathly ill from hanta fever. As the notes keep coming, Dale and his sidekick Sully the mouse eating Beagle work on the case of the notes even as he saves Laura's life when she comes down with hanta fever.

Although the mystery is thin and comes late, fans will enjoy this fun Arizona cozy due to the eccentric cast. Fans will be fascinated that Dale is in the local police dog house for solving a recent case (see NOSE FOR TROUBLE) instead of them. The support cast adds to the character driven plot as Dale with Sully follow the SCENT OF DANGER.

When Danger Calls
Terry O'Dell
Five Star Books
159414723X, $25.95

Following his second failed black ops mission in which people died and he is injured, Blackthorne agent Ryan Harper is put on medical leave. He knows that everyone at the private security firm assumes he turned rogue, but he believes someone inside caused the two failures; they were set up and he plans to bring that person down as a little girl who died in the first fiasco haunts him. Thus Ryan retrieved the container he was sent to obtain, but tells his boss otherwise so he can learn why something allegedly minor caused deaths.

Ryan returns to his hometown of Broken Bow, Montana to stay with his Pop on the ranch. He meets Gladys a waitress at the Three Elks and is attracted to her. Ryan later learns she is an elementary school art teacher Frankie Castor, a single mom to precocious six year old Molly. Frankie worries about her mom who has suffered two injuries since starting a relationship with Bob Dwyer. As Ryan and Frankie fall in love, he comes to the rescue of her, Molly, and Molly's "friend" Mr. Snuggles even as someone wants what he possesses from his last mission; that person is willing to harm his loved ones something that is unacceptable to Ryan.

This is an exciting romantic suspense that grips readers from the onset when Ryan's cakewalk mission turns ugly and never slows down as his work arrives at Big Sky Country. The cast is very strong especially the lead couple and their immediate family. Although major coincidence twice involving land takes somewhat away from this fine thriller, fans will appreciate Ryan's reactions WHEN DANGER CALLS.

A Dead Bore
Sheri Cobb South
Five Star Books
9781594147111, $25.95

In London with the Ton titillating over the murder of her husband, widow Lady Julia Fieldhurst decides it is time to rusticate so she does not have to see the gleeful looks of her peers and hear their gossipy whispered innuendos. Thus to ignore the scandal of her spouse's homicide, Lady Julia travels to Yorkshire to stay with Sir Gerald and Lady Anne Hollingshead.

Her hosts at Hollingshead Place celebrate her arrival with a small dinner party in which guest Vicar Danvers provides the other diners with verbal extracts from a local history book he is almost finished writing. Soon after dinner, a fire at the vicarage kills Mr. Danvers. Julia sends a message to her London associate Bow Street runner John Pickett pleading with him to come to Yorkshire investigate what she believes was an arson murder related to the history book. Pickett, who because he is attracted to the out of his reach Lady, quickly arrives and masquerades as Julia's footman so that he can serendipitously investigate.

A DEAD BORE is a superb Regency mystery (see IN MILADY'S CHAMBER) that brings to life the aristocracy as well as the servants who reside under the stairs. The whodunit is cleverly set up so that the motive in general terms is obvious but specifically which passage is not; opportunity abound for many people who could have set the inferno. The subtle attraction between the lady and the runner enhances a strong early nineteenth century investigative tale.

Royal Escape
Susan Froetschel
Five Star Books
9781594147173, $25.95

The Princess of Wales Elena dreams of a different future far from her so-called fairy tale marriage to Edward that has turned into a choking nightmare. She wants to be free to help the less fortunate and she desires fun time for their two children the heir thirteen years old Richard and the spare ten years old Lawrence. Her divorce proceedings has stirred the media and the Royal family as that is unprecedented, but Edward's blatant cheating with his long time girlfriend finally pushed her to go the final mile with the help of kind solicitor Derrick Wilson.

After a royal gala, an angry upset Elena, who was supposed to have her kids for the weekend, but due to royal chicanery does not, leaves in a Rolls Royce. When she sees Lawrence running she has her driver Henry stop the car. She goes to her son just when the car explodes killing Henry and knocking her out. Lawrence tells the press his mom was a hero. At about the same time two thugs murder Derrick and steal Elena's journal. Other die as Elena with the help of American journalist Michael McLarrity tries to escape anti royalist terrorists, royal imprisonment under the guise of security and still spend quality time with her two offspring.

This obvious parallel to Princess Diana is an intriguing royal suspense thriller although Elena comes across as too perfect while the royals as so tight ass that a five pence coin could not slide out of their butts. Still the story line is exciting especially once the terrorists begin their campaign and provides insight into what it is like to be a Windsor abiding by choking nightmarish rules under the British media microscope.

The Parlor House Daughter
Joanne Sundell
Five Star Books
1594147221, $25.95

In 1863 in Nevada City, Colorado Territory, an assailant murders prostitute Ruby Rose. Her five years old daughter Rebecca moves into a brothel, Jenny Clayton's Palace, where she is raised by the ladies with tenderness and kindness. Madame Jenny even offers to send her east for schooling when she became a teen, but Becca is obsessed with one day finding out who killed her mom and why.

When Becca turns seventeen, customer Morgan Larkspur notices her and is willing to pay top dollar to have her; none of Madam Jenny's other girls would do. Becca accepts being Morgan's mistress as she feels that arrangement might help her make progress on her cold case investigation. However, as she begins to fall in love, a crisis threatens to overwhelm them. He must deal with a miner's strike and she with the unknown culprit trying to kill her. Besides which, Morgan is engaged to another woman.

This Reconstruction Era romance stars two solid lead characters and a strong cast, especially the prostitutes as the story line contains a deep look the plight of females. The plot is fast-paced even the opening scene in which Ruby is bleeding to death and never slows down as Becca forces her mother's killer to confront her and propels Morgan to confront his feelings and desires. Historical fans will enjoy this fine 1870s Americana tale.

Jury Rigged
Laurie Moore
Five Star Books
9781594147104, $25.95

In Fort Worth, Cezanne Martin left the police department to practice law. One morning, she wakes up to find Darlene Driskoll holding a gun to her face. Driskoll forces Martin into her car, but the attorney manages to escape. Knowing this is not over, Martin turns to FWPD star detective, Wolfgang "Slash" Vaughn for help from the crazed killer who escaped from her incarceration.

Soon after her traumatic experience, Martin learns her long missing dad Bob died and that her elderly Aunt Velda lives in poverty inside a mansion. Finally her brother, Henri Matisse Martin, arrives demanding his share of the estate. Between family to include her teenage ward Deuteronomy "Duty" Devilrow and a killer, Martin decides the latter is safer.

The third humorous Martin investigative thriller (see LADY GODIVA MURDER and THE WILD ORCHID SOCIETY) is a hoot from the hood as Duty provides enlightening commentary on the big show. The story line is fast-paced especially with deadly deranged Driskoll stalking. Between Duty's asides and in your face comments and Cezanne's struggles to survive her family, Slash, Duty and Driskoll, Fort Worth will never be the same.

Brian Herbert
Five Star Books
15941542181, $25.95

The Timeweb that links time and space in the galaxy is rapidly deteriorating. If this cosmic transportation infrastructure should disintegrate as the trends currently seem, the galaxy could collapse into something not much removed from the Stone Age; that is if it survives as nobody knows what the devastation will be.

While galactic ecologist Noah Watanabe tries to prevent the cosmic eco disaster, his interactions with the Timeweb has changed him from human to something else. At the same time Noah heroically works on saving the Timeweb, war is imminent between the Hib-Adu Coalition and the newly formed allies the Merchant Prince Alliance humans and the Mutati Kingdom shape-shifters, who were enemies before their mutual cooperation to stop their common foe. Time is running out on all fronts as Noah struggles to keep the web from destruction which would release unknown energy forces across the galaxy leaving behind nothing but dust.

The third and final Timeweb Chronicles outer space adventure (see TIMEWEB and THE WEB AND THE STARS) is an exciting tale that never slows down as the two major subplots begin to merge into what looks like a cataclysmic end to the galaxy. The fast-paced story line is diminished somewhat by having two significant threats in which either could turn the galaxy into dust; the parts overwhelm the sum so that neither comes across as cosmic as intended. Still Brian Herbert finishes the Timeweb Chronicles with a doomsday scenario with the only hope to avoid the Big Crunch being Noah.

Running from the Puppet Master
D-L Nelson
Five Star Books
9781594147081, $25.95

In 1962 in affluent Stonebridge, Massachusetts, her wealthy New England family demands Leah Stockbridge attend one of the prominent liberal art colleges for wealthy females aligned with the Ivy League or Tufts in or order to meet a proper husband. Leah refuses as she finds those courses boring and rejects her mom's objective . Instead she registers at the Massachusetts College of Art with dreams of painting on the Left Banke in the City of Lights..

A few years later Leah plans to marry Michael, cosidered an unacceptable "foreigner" by her parents. He ends up being killed by a streetcar. Following the horrific tragedy, Leah leaves the States for Paris where she plans to become a painter. She meets Swiss banker Jean-Luc Perroset, who charms her and soon they marry. Leah no longer paints as her time is spent as a wife and mother running Jean-Luc's vast estate. She thought they were happy together, but suddenly strange dangerous things begin to happen to Leah while Jean-Luc is non-supportive.

This exciting suspense thriller anchors in 1994, but uses numerous flashbacks to mostly the 1960s, but also the other decades all the way back to 1945. The story line starts off more as a character study of a young woman seeking her independence but once the tragedy sends her to Europe followed by her marriage, the plot veers into a woman in trouble tale. Although the moving around through the second half of the twentieth century can become confusing, it also adds depth to what is happening and why to the heroine. Fans will enjoy this tense tale of an American expatriate RUNNING FROM THE PUPPET MASTER.

Dead Ringer
Michael A. Black and Julie Hyzy
Five Star Books
9781594147135, $25.95

In Chicago World's Heavyweight Kickboxing champion and private investigator Ron Shade accepts an assignment from "Big" Dick Mackenzie of Midwestern Olympia Insurance company. Dick claims they paid out, $12 million to the widow of deceased Robert Bayless and the dead man's company when he died in a downstate car accident; however, based on Robert's distinctive laugh, Dick insists he is alive in Vegas.

At the same time her boss assigns TV investigative reporter Alex St. James to go undercover amidst the homeless. The case is dangerous so she conceals an illegal Taser. However, her inquiry spins into insurance fraud and murder as Alex's investigation ties in with that of Ron.

These two Chicago based mystery series are strong sagas in their own right, but merging them proves a winner as for the most part the two sleuths rotate leads. The subplots are exciting until they merge proving the whole is greater than the sum of the parts even when the parts work quite well as separate subplots. With a hint of an attraction between the two stars, fans will insist Michael A. Black and Julie Hyzy provide more collaborative novels like this one.

High Spirits
Alice Duncan
Five Star Books
9781594146954 , $25.95

In February 1921 in Pasadena, California Daisy Gumm Majesty makes a living for her and her disabled WWI veteran husband Billy by pretending to be a spiritualist. Her otherworldly control Rolly, who she invented when she was ten years old, enables her to put bread on the table as Billy is unable to work though he despises how she makes money.

Her best client Mrs. Kincaid begs Daisy to do a reading at a speakeasy; she says no hiding behind Rolly not stepping inside a den of iniquity. However, eventually she reluctantly agrees though not for her client's daughter Stacy who calls herself Flossie Mosser who frequents the joint run by mobster Vicenzo Maggiori. With Mrs. Kincaid's kind son Harold escorting her Daisy enters the speakeasy while Billy's best friend homicide detective Sam Rotondo worries about her especially when the cops raid the joint.

More a satirical historical lampooning the Prohibition stereotypes than a mystery, fans of Alice Duncan's spirited post WWI thriller will relish this fine entry as Daisy gets into one troubling incident after another. Although the plot is thin, the insight into 1920s California is deep and vivid while the cast is strong especially Billy struggling mentally due to his war related physical disabilities. Fans will enjoy Mrs. Majesty's latest reading.

A Murder Too Close
Penny Mickelbury
Five Star Books
9781594147128, $25.95

Once the melting pot that welcomed new immigrants, many residents of New York City East Side neighborhoods near the Ground Zero crater distrust newcomers especially those with Asian garb since the Twin Towers disaster. Hearing rumors of private investigator Phil Rodriquez's gutting someone's male anatomy, former school mate chum Sam Epstein, co-owner of a cleaning store, asks him to rough Hindu teenage Frankie who he wants to stay away from his fourteen years old niece Sasha Heller whose mom died in the WTC on 9/11, Phil refuses.

Phil decides to eat at the Indian restaurant owned by Frankie's parents to insure the teen is not a punk. However, by the time he arrives the restaurant is an inferno; Phil assumes Uncle Sammy committed the hate crime. He later learns a delivery man died in the blaze. Homeland Security agents go after the victims of the fire because of their heritage though they are legal and the insurance company refuses to pay insisting an investigation is underway to insure this was not self inflicted arson. Other "Thems" are hurt too either by assaults or by complaints to HSD about their behavior that sends agents on these Thems. Phil and his business partner Yolanda Aguierre get involved as the feds and the cops seem to target the legal immigrants only, not the arsonist or the xenophobic stalkers.

Phil's investigation is exciting as he runs through roadblocks from HSD, local hate advocates, and perhaps the Russian Mafia. However, what makes A MURDER TO CLOSE excellent is Penny Mickelbury who provides a strong case that helpless outrage has led to the loss of liberty for some; which extrapolates to all. The story line looks closely at people who lost loved ones on 9/11 and how they have reacted since while also providing a deep glimpse into the lives of Muslims, Hindu and Sikh residents trying to make it in an atmosphere of hate. Phil, Yolanda, Sasha's grandfather, and others welcome the newcomers while HSD, insurance firms, and some locals harass the Thems.

Deadly Bones
Boris Riskin
Five Star Books
9781594147159, $25.95

Former Shakespearean teacher Jake Wanderman knows he is lucky to have survived his recent encounter with the Russian Mafia (see SCRAMBLED EGGS). However, when his beloved late wife's friend TV star Toby Welch, asks Jake to investigate the brutal murder of her father, art dealer Cormac Blather, Jake agrees.

Homicide Detective Sienna Nolan does not want Jake on the case, but knows she cannot prevent him from sleuthing. Thus she teams up with him finding clues that tie Cormac's homicide and that of an art forger Chase McCleod to billionaire art collector Bryson Mergenthaler. Hints of fraud involving a missing biblical ossuary emulate from Jerusalem. Sienna is unable to go so encouraged by his rabbi Jake travels to Israel not quite prepared that some people want to send him home in a coffin while Israeli police detective Liat strongly suggests he return to the states.

DEADLY BONES is an interesting investigative tale starring a depressed hero still grieving his wife's death although the two female cops who enter his life give him an emotional lift. The story line is fast-paced with a lot of knife play from an unknown adversary leaving a growing death toll behind. Jake is at his best in Jerusalem where he does what all former Shakespearean teachers do alienate the cops (same as he does in the States). Although overwhelmed at times by the Bard, fans will enjoy this fine mostly amateur sleuth with the additional insight into the Jewish mitzvah of davening with Tefillin.

One of the Wicked
Harry Shannon
Five Star Books
1594147035, $25.95

In Los Angeles Bud "Bone" Stone visits his friend psychologist and radio talk-show host Mick Callahan to ask a big favor though they have not seen one another in years. Bone explains he owes money to a Vegas mobster who might harm his former girlfriend due to failed payments. He wants Mick to keep Brandi DeLillo safe while he finds a few hundred thousand to pay off dangerous Big Paul Pesci. Although he knows he needs to avoid trouble and is losing his radio spot to a right wing extremist with an IQ in negative numbers, Mick agrees because he owes Bone for saving his life during their Navy SEAL days.

Mick gets some of his friends to help him watch the woman. However, the case takes two nasty spins. Big Paul summons Mick to a chit chat in his casino in the Valley of Fire where he is told what to do or else he and compatriots will lose joints, limbs, and lives to his henchman Nikolaou Argetoianu. Also apparently Stone also stole money from a neighborhood dealer and Big Paul needs to send a loud message to wannabes even if that means killing Mick if he cannot immediately find Stone.

The third Callahan thriller (see EYE OF THE BURNING MAN and MEMORIAL DAY) ONE OF THE WICKED is an exhilarating tale that grips readers from the moment that Stone visits Mick and never slows down as the hero and his team try to protect Brandi and find Stone. The story line is fast-paced as a sober Mick begins to learn how deep in sh*t his friend really is. Even though the key cast (except somewhat AA alumni Mick) is never fully developed beyond one superficial trait each, the action is everything in this one sitting thriller.

Phenomenal Girl 5
A.J. Menden
Dorchester Shomi
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0505527863, $6.99,, 1-800-481-9191

Lainey Livingston is a do-gooder superhero who cares more about doing the right thing than about her image. She is particularly excited about being accepted by the Elite Hands of Justice (EHJ), the top guns of superherodom. However, before she is deployed by the EHJ, Lainey must serve a two year apprenticeship under the guidance of reincarnist Robert Elliot.

Lainey figures two years will go fast and besides she figures she will learn about super tactics from the world's smartest person. However, she also knows he is the toughest task master of pupils; having kicked out those he felt were not up to the job. However, as Laney accepts all that Robert hand grenades at her, she falls in love with her teacher. She tries to hide her feelings as superheroes don't do love and besides he will outlive her by a zillion new lives.

This is a lighthearted fun superhero action-packed romance starring three (read the novel for an explanation) "individuals" struggling with love. The story line is faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive as Lainey's heart leaps over tall buildings in a single beat. Fans who relish something different will want to read this engaging science fiction romance as the teacher and the pupil must first save Megolopolis before their hearts.

Blood Island
Terrell H. Griffin
Oceanview Publishing
2817 West End Ave, Suite 126-274, Nashville, TN 327203
193351521X, $24.95,

In Longboat Key, Florida retired lawyer Matt Royal does pro bono only with his prime stipulations being shorts and no tie. Matt is taken aback when his ex-wife, Laura arrives at the Key pleading with him to help her. Her stepdaughter Peggy went to Sarasota on spring break, but she never came back; instead she just vanished last seen in Longboat Key.

Matt agrees to investigate her disappearance. He follows several leads only to have Laura vanish too. Since her trail is fresher, Matt begins to track Laura, which leads him the Heaven Can't Wait Spa in Key West. From there he begins to find a connection to lunatic Reverend Robert William Simmermon who holds religious court on nearby BLOOD ISLAND. This is a place Matt knows he will not just be unwelcome; he will be shark food.

This fast-paced Florida Keys mystery is filled with suspense and a great hero whose sardonic (including self flagellation) humor, makes for an entertaining suspenseful tale and has him fit in the zany Sunshine State investigators' pantheon. Matt is terrific as he hops the Keys but with each leap he gets into deeper trouble. Fans will relish his third retirement escapade (see LONGBOAT BLUES and MURDER KEY; neither read by me) as nothing seems to go right.

Running Hot
Jayne Ann Krentz
G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399155215, $24.95,, 1-800-847-5515

The psychic investigative firm Jones & Jones sends Arcane Society member Grace Renquist, who can envision the evil in a person's aura to Hawaii to uncover the identity of a serial killer. To protect the librarian who will be out in the cold for the first time, they hire former cop currently tending bar Luther Malone as her bodyguard, who can abort a person's evil thoughts before they can perform an odious deed.

Luther and Grace are attracted to one another from their first meeting. However, in Hawaii they know to table their passion and focus on the killer. They quickly learn that others seek the psychopath too; from the drug stimulated malevolent Nightshades to psychic hunter opera diva La Sirene, whose voice kills.

Although obviously over the top of Mauna Kea, RUNNING HOT is a fast-paced exhilarating romantic suspense that grips the audience from the moment the lead couple meets and never takes a breather until the concluding implication that sequels will follow. Ms. Krentz's fans will enjoy this serial murder mystery investigation that turns into much more dangerous and evil than a psychopath on the loose.

Dead or Alive
Michael McGarrity
c/o Penguin Putnam
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780525950813, $25.95, 1-800-847-5515

Escaped psychopathic convict Craig Larson goes on a killing rampage murdering everyone it seems in his path. Among the victims is Riley Burke, business partner to former Santa Fe police chief Kevin Kerney.

Outraged by the Burke death and just back from London where his spouse works in the American embassy, Kerney vows to bring the maniac to justice. However that pledge is easier said than done, as Larson leaves corpses in several southwest states. Working as a temporary New Mexico State Police special investigator, Kerney and his son Lincoln County Sheriff's Department Lieutenant Clayton Istee lead a state wide manhunt.

The keys to this wild manhunt are the relationship between the father and son law enforcement pair who only recently learned of their DNA connection and the deep look at multi-jurisdiction police investigations. The story line is fast-paced and filled with much more blood than the usual Kerney whodunit (see NOTHING BUT TROUBLE) and a strong sense of locale that would have pleased the late Tony Hillerman. In some macabre ways Larson steals the show as he makes the plot with his murderous spree that turns what looks like a blue state red.

Daniel Suarez
9780525951117, $25.95

At thirty four years of age, Matthew Sobol, the genius behind successful CyberStorm Entertainment dies from brain cancer. However, the brilliant game maestro would not allow something as petty as death preventing him from causing global havoc from the grave. He somehow kicked off a war from cyberpsace against mankind.

Concerned authorities enter Sobol's mansion in Thousand Oaks, California only to find themselves under attack in spite of the fact that no human is inside or on the grounds; the police suffer several deaths as they retreat. Sobol has left behind the greatest weapon of mass destruction ever created; his daemon computer processor has taken control of most of the world's major computer systems and has signed up brilliant quisling humans as foot soldiers to carry out the plan for world domination.

DAEMON is a fabulous futuristic AI technology thriller as the twisted but brilliant late computer game creator Sobol sets in motion a doomsday machine after he dies. The story line is fast-paced from the onset even with complex vernacular as Daniel Suarez assumes his audience can do more than breath and chew gum refusing to dumb down his tale. Readers will relish this superb science fiction book with a great finish that sets up AI part two.

Paper Towns
John Green
9780525478188, $17.99

In Orlando they have been next door neighbors for a decade and even saw a corpse together when they were nine years old. However, as they get ready to graduate from high school, Quentin Jacobsen still loves his childhood best friend, Margo Roth Spiegelman, but she moved on to spend time with the cool dudes and he settled for other girls. She became the centerfold for the bad girl and him the nerdy smart guy.

One night she suddenly appears at his bedroom window like she used to do when they were preadolescents. He sneaks out so he does not have to explain to his therapist parents what he is doing and they spend the night on her capers.

The next day Q learns Margo vanished from his life again, but this time she is not even in the neighborhood. Fearing for her going so far as considering she committed suicide, he needs to know if she is okay. With his best friend Radar as his sidekick they follow the clues starting with Margo's copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass.

This is a deep teenage relationship drama with several incredible twists to the connection between the lead couple. Q and Radar's inquiry is fun to follow as the hero begins to understand the murkiness of love which ironically means not to understand. Along with their sidekick Ben of bleeding masturbation infamy, they make an awesome geek trio while Margo is the fascinating polar opposite as the glamorous bad girl. Fans will enjoy this fine teen mystery as any moment this reviewer expected Alvy Singer to crash across the fourth wall from Annie Hall bringing Marshall McLuhan with him to resolve the amusing psychobabble.

Ted Dekker
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
97815955540089, $24.95, 1-800-251-4000

In 2034 in most of the world, tolerance is the byword in regard to religion. It is frowned up to discuss sectarianism, ethno slurs, or public preaching. Billy Rediger, the product of the failed Project Showdown, is a lawyer who has never forgotten that what he wrote in The Books of History is made flesh in the real world.

Marsuvees Black is the personification of evil still out in the world causing trouble. He is behind the lynching and race riots that are polarizing America. Billy connects with Darcy Lange who also let evil into her life when she abetted Billy in writing that infamous tome. They discover Billy can hear the thoughts of everyone as long as he looks into their eyes and her voice can compel people to do what she asks. When a cabal of Washington powerbrokers brings them out from the cold, they agree to make the undecided power brokers pass a constitutional amendment that would make racial bigotry and religious freedom crimes. The amendment passes but in Paradise, Colorado Johnny Drake who fought against evil and won refuses to deny his religious beliefs.

Ted Dekker has written a fabulous supernatural thriller that brings to a close his terrific Paradise trilogy (see SHOWDOWN and SAINT). There is a lot of symbolism in this saga. Black can be considered Lucifer and Johnny is John the Baptist risking his life for his belief. There is plenty of action as the future United States is a place of no freedom as the Bill of Rights has been burned at the stakes. Readers will enjoy SINNER as it is a crime to openly worship God.

O Little Town
Don Reid
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781434799302, $16.99,

In 1958 in Mt Jefferson, Macalbee's Five & Dime manager Milton Sandridge is informed that fifteen year old Millie Franklin has been caught shoplifting. Milton would prefer to ignore the crime as the culprit is the daughter of Reverend Paul Franklin, pastor of the Methodist Church, but there are too many witnesses. He calls Police Lieutenant Buddy Briggs who comes over to talk with Millie before taking her home. Millie is upset and angry, but refuses to say anything further. Her father and her mother Dove ask her why.

Widower Walter Selmon, Milton's father-in-law, is rushed to the hospital where his other son-in-law Camp Sterrett is a doctor. The medical tests conclude he is dying, upsetting his two adult daughters, Milton's wife Colleen and Camp's spouse Doris. Doris' oldest of two sons, seventeen years old Louis informs his parents he impregnated sixteen year old Shirley Ann Briggs; who informs her dad the sheriff and her mom Amanda.

The key to this engaging historical fiction is the fully developed small-town cast who each has flaws, makes mistakes, and has issues. The subplot involving a teenage Walter and an actress in 1904 is well written but can distract from the prime 1958 drama. Still O LITTLE TOWN is a delightful inspirational tale with the theme of forgiveness running through both tracks accentuated years later with the tradition of the roses emphasizing all is forgiven.

Life After Genius
M. Ann Jacoby
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
0446199710, $24.99,, 1-800-759-0190

Theodore Mead Fegley grew up in High Grove, Illinois under the thumb of a martinet mom and an indifferent dad who was too busy running a funeral parlor and furniture store. Being a genius, Mead faced bullies and unfair physical comparisons to his older athletically gifted cousin as if brawn supersedes brain every time although Perry is his only friend. At fifteen he accepts a scholarship to attend Chicago University on a three year track.

At school, he focuses on solving Riemann Hypothesis while flourishing under the mentoring of Dr. Alexander. However, as he succeeds at math, he fails at personal relationships. Now on the verge of graduating at eighteen, Mead must give his presentation even as his long time college rival and enemy math major Herman Weinstein tries to destroy his research; instead feeling emotionally deceased he flees for home.

Though the key characters seem to come out of typecasting 101 boy genius, contemporary readers will enjoy this well written character study that looks at the down side of being the brain. Mead is an interesting protagonist whose intelligence without an emotional anchor leads to his shutting down his brain. Readers will appreciate his struggles to belong as LIFE AFTER GENIUS can prove disconcerting.

Divine Justice
David Baldacci
Grand Central Publishing
0446195502, $27.99

Joe Knox scans two homicide scenes in which he concludes a professional sniper took out DC super VIPs, Intel Chief Carter Gray and US Senator from Alabama Roger Simpson. At the same time Joe concludes the same sniper did both murders and that the Intel community was hiding something, former CIA assassin Oliver Stone takes the Amtrak train from Union Station heading to New Orleans after killing the two government superheavyweights who murdered his wife and for all intent and purposes buried his real identity John Carr with her.

Unable to mind his business, Stone intercedes in a fight on the train, but when the Amtrak conductor asks for a picture identification, he knows he must disembark ASAP because he will be exposed as a fake with minimal examination. He ends up in the mining town of Divine, Virginia where once again his tendency to get involved in a David vs. Goliath good cause gets him in trouble with high level corruption and a widow in peril.

The latest Camel Club thriller (see THE COLLECTORS , STONE COLD and THE CAMEL CLUB) is an exciting tale that fans of the series will relish as Stone's code of justice makes him act when he should remain passively in the background. He cannot help himself when he took out the VIPS, on the train or in Divine. Although somewhat formulaic in the mining town reminiscent of Spencer Tracey in Bad Day At Black Rock and Steven Seagal in Fire Down Below, readers will enjoy Stone's latest escapades.

A Dead Man in Barcelona
Michael Pearce
Soho Press
853 Broadway , New York, NY 10003
9781569475379, $25.00,

In 1910 riots broke out in Barcelona when reservist units refused to be deployed in Spanish Morocco. During the deadly confrontation that left many dead and more in jail, someone murders English businessman Sam Lockhart while he was locked in a prison.

Two years later Scotland Yard sends Special Branch Detective Sandor Seymour to Spain to investigate the homicide of the English citizen during "Tragic Week". The background information is sketchy at best starting with why the Gibraltar based business man was in Barcelona and the lack of a motive makes it even more difficult. Still not understanding the terrain especially the local populace who have deep qualms about strangers and police, and needing to move around freely, Seymour hooks up with his girlfriend Chantale de Lissac, who is half-Arab and half-French. As they investigate, the case takes strange twists through a city still living in fear.

The latest "Dead Man in" pre-WWI thriller (see A DEAD MAN IN ISTANBUL, A DEAD MAN IN ATHENS and A DEAD MAN IN TANGIER) once again provides the audience a deep look at a new location, this time Barcelona just after riots devastated the city. The story line is action-packed and never slows down as Sandor conducts his investigation into the cold case homicide of the English citizen. Although the whodunit is clever and well written, as is the case in all of Michael Pearce's tales (see also the Mamur Zapt Egyptian historical saga), the sense of time and place is outstanding.

Deep Night
Caroline Petit
Soho Press
9781569475300, $24.00

In 1937 in Hong Kong Jonathan Hawatyne and his fiancee antiques dealer Leah Kolbe attend a movie when the second Sino-Japanese War begins. They are separated as the Japanese easily take the city. However, Leah flees the dangerous occupation by boat to Macau where she fortunately finds work and some safety at the British Consulate.

She is worried about Jonathan who seems to have disappeared, but she is happy to be alive. Benjamin Eldersen meets Leah and tries to persuade her to help him in his quest to abduct the son of a key Japanese ammunition and steel manufacturer. She agrees to assist him as a successful snatch could disrupt Japanese war plans.

This enjoyable 1930s romantic espionage thriller provides readers with a fascinating tour of Hong Kong and Macau as the Japanese invade China. The story line focuses on survival in an occupation zone that will hook readers. Although Leah's torment for her lost lover is right, she never pulls off the deep poignancy as she comes across shallow and hollow. Still Caroline Petit provides a deep look at two Chinese cities during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Year of the Dog
Henry Chang
Soho Press
1569475156, $24.00

In Lower Manhattan in a condominium in a luxurious high rise, four Chinese-Americans are dead due to eight times the normal level of CO in the apartment; two of the deceased are young elementary school age children. NYPD Detective Jack Yu is shook though he hides it as a family wiped out. He concludes a triple murder-suicide occurred with the motive being saving face; something he understands as being an extremely powerful driver amidst the Chinese even third generation American.

Jack is concerned with his friends' connections to Hong King mobsters. He understands no good can come of that in the long run, but he vows to be there for them as best he can. His childhood pal Tat "Lucky" Louie now runs the local mob while a rookie Koo Jai tries to foolishly pull a stunt on the gang leader. Bookie Sai Go knows he is dying, but his only request is to die with self-respect and not with someone else changing his diapers. To Jack this is his Chinatown.

Not really a police procedural although there are some elements of that sub-genre in the plot, YEAR OF THE DOG is more a culture study of the Manhattan Chinese-American lifestyle. The story line goes extremely deep into the "DNA: of the NYC Chinese-American especially the "save face" driver that has led to murder and suicide. Although the ending is a let down, fans will enjoy Jack's CHINATOWN BEAT as Henry Chang provides an appealing tale.

Brimstone Kiss
Carole Nelson Douglas
Juno Books
c/o Wildside Press
9710 Traville Gateway Drive, #234, Rockville, MD 20850
9780809573042, $7.99,

Abandoned as a baby, Delilah Street grew up in a group home that became her surrogate family. As an adult she saw a TV show in which a doctor performed an autopsy on a live woman who looked exactly like her.. Needing to know if it is a real person, a doppelganger or a clone, Delilah goes to Las Vegas where the show was filmed. Of course being it 2013 Post Millennium Revelation she meets the species of myths and legends wile humans are coping with a brand new world.

Now a paranormal investigator seeking her twin Lilith, she takes on other jobs in order to eat. Her lover and partner former -FBI agent Ric Montoya a dowser of the dead found two dead bodies never meant to see the light of day. The female is the daughter of the werewolf mob boss who owns Vegas, Mr. Cicereau. Nobody knows who her vampire lover is. Several people ask Delilah to find out who the dead vampire is including vampire Howard Hughes and Snow a supernatural being no one can classify. Her investigation leads Delilah to the conclusion that the vampires on planning a comeback which must be prevented at all costs because these vampires are imported evil. She takes Snow's BRIMSTONE KISS, which leads to a life and death choice re Ric.

Carole Nelson Douglas has written a wonderful second Street urban fantasy (see DANCING WITH WEREWOLVES) in which readers know the players and their roles. Delilah discovers a new power which enables her to walk through mirrors into other realms where she interacts with the inhabitants. Readers will remain drawn to her even as she still is an enigma. Fans will hope she and her cronies to include normal vampires (duh- I cannot believe I used the word normal) can defeat the enemy. BRIMSTONE KISS is a magical mystery fantasy tour.

Nights of Sin
Matthew Cook
Juno Books
9780809572823, $6.99

Kirin and Lia are traveling to the Imperial City, which is protected by the thick wall known as the Armitage. They risk their lives to get there because they are needed to fight the Mor, who have the city under siege. The Mor are monsters who live underground; they loathe the people who crossed the sea to settle in this pleasant land. Lia is an aeromancer who can summons lightning; Kirin is a necromancer who can "create" something from the bodies of the dead. However Kirin vows to never use her blood magic again as it cost the life of her unborn son while her creations are mindless atrocities that obey only her will.

Everyone fears necromancers; even her captain whose life she saves shows no gratitude towards Kirin. Instead he expels her from the Imperial Army. Although Kirin refuses to use her talent, someone is applying necromancy to eradicate the Mor. The problem with that approach is that a person would have to die to make an undead army and this necromancer has no restraints unlike Kirin.

NIGHTS OF SIN, the sequel to THE BLOOD MAGIC, is a fantastic fantasy that will appeal to sword and sorcery lovers. Matthew Cook is a talented author who creates complex flawed characters like Kirin, who struggle with doing the right thing which is not always obvious. She is especially tormented over using her blood magic that could provide the greater good but at what cost to whom; as someone pays the piper; Kirin no longer wants to decide who. Besides the syllable connection, the Mor will remind readers of the Morlock as they dwell underground and communicate in a weird way; their goal is to eradicate the humans. There are great characterizations and a strong sense of "realism" which makes for a fascinating tale as Lia fears Kirin is turning to the dark side of the magical force.

Blood Bargain
Maria Lima
Juno Books
9780809573059, $7.99

Rio Seco, Texas is a small town that is becoming yuppie-fied, but Keira Kelly still calls it home. Even though she keeps an apartment in town, Keira lives with the vampire tribal head Adam Walker on his Wild Moon ranch. She is also a supernatural being and is beginning the Change that will eventually turn her into a shapeshifter like her six half brothers, a healer or a necromancer witch. Watching over her as she Changes is her twelve century old sibling Tucker who is the lover of Adam's second in command Niko.

Things are not going well in town. Four teens have vanished and an illegal alien working on a nearby ranch also disappeared a few months ago. Keira hears whispers and her visions are becoming stronger. Her troubles don't end there because something is wrong with Adam as he sleeps from dawn to dusk. After a six hour nap he rejects sex with her. He lapses into a coma from not drinking blood. Keira is determined to find out what happened to the missing people and help Adam return to his senses even at the forfeit of her life as she would rather die than be without him.

Urban fantasy fans are going to love this romantic fantasy especially the Kelly clan, an extended family of supernaturals living within human society. Each of the major characters is fascinating and readers will particularly appreciate Tucker who was a Viking warrior who can shift into wolf. The mysteries and the town enhance BLOOD BARGAIN, a strong tale that fans of Kelly Armstrong and Kim Harrison will want to read.

The Love Song of Monkey
Michael S.A. Graziano
Leapfrog Press
PO Box 2110, Teaticket, MA 02536
978098154802, $13.95

Twentyish Jonathan is dying from AIDS. He has given up on life, but heeds his wife Kitty's pleading to try one last desperate gambit. He agrees to see Dr. Kack inventor of the top secret Kwark King cure to see if his life can be saved.

Dr. Kack admits his device is still experimental as the intense pain on human subjects has led them to give up and the tests on animals have all ended in their death. Jonathan is willing to try and becomes the first subject to make it through all the stages of the radical molecular modification that makes his body "unbreakable" in accordance with Kack. However, he never fully comes awake and acts like he is some sort of living dead. As such Kack and Kitty dump his semi comatose body into the ocean where Jonathan's love for Kitty sustains him while he begins the trek back to human civilization starting with his soul.

Mindful of Spielberg's A.I., this is a fascinating dreamlike character study that insists the power of love enable people to do extraordinary deeds; as Jonathan did. His goal throughout is to return to his beloved Kitty that sustains him through the medical procedure and his incredible travel to the beyond and back. A whimsical parable that focuses on the strengths and weakens of humanity with the message of "To err is human; to forgive is divine." by Alexander Pope running throughout the deep story line.

The Messenger
Jan Burke
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9780743273879, $25.00, 1-800-223-2336

At the Battle of Waterloo, twenty something British officer Tyler Hawthorne is severely wounded. While still on the battlefield, Lord Lucien Adrian deVille gives his probably dying brother in arms a ring with stipulations. The ring brings immortality to the bearer but the individual must spend eternity comforting those near death. He also is given a companion to protect him, Shade the cemetery dog.

Almost two centuries later, a Caribbean salvage diver working a vessel sunk in 1815 finds Adrian's remains. Upon returning to the surface Adrian revives and propels his rescuer to help him find Tyler. He succeeds and Adrian travels to Los Angeles to see how his crony is doing. Tyler still tends to his work this time assisting a leukemia patient. However, the still twentyish looking Tyler is in love for the first time in his over two hundred year existence. His cares for heiress Amanda Clarke, who survived a horrific accident that wiped out her family but enabled her to see ghosts; she struggles with survivor guilt, but is attracted to Tyler. Adrian a "messenger" of evil is coming to cause problems for the couple and his dog Shade.

This is a terrific paranormal thriller that grips the audience from the moment that Adrian arrives at Tyler's side on the battlefield and never slows down once the time and place switch from the Napoleonic Wars through the deep sea rescue to modern day America. The story line is fast-paced with the key trio plus the canine seeming genuine even with their supernatural abilities. Jan Burke provides a strong horror tale that fans will appreciate.

One Silent Night
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312947062, $6.99,

Daimon Stryker, leader of the vile army of demons and vampires, is obsessed with one thing; destroying Acheron and Nick Gautier and the Dark-Hunters for their killing his sister. He loathes his two enemies so much Stryker vows to do whatever it takes to kill them. However, even his supporters fear the deranged Stryker has gone too far when he makes a Faustian deal with the Titan god War. He will free the imprisoned War in exchange for the God killing Acheron and Nick.

Artemis, realizing the potential danger to Ash, "frees" Stryker's supposedly dead ex-wife, Zephyra, who has an agenda of vengeance also against her former husband who deserted her and their daughter Medea. Stryker is stunned to learn he has a warrior daughter while War begins the assault on Ash and Nick. The stake is a world as strange bedfellows line up on both sides for what appears to be the final battle.

Throughout the Dark-Hunters saga, vile villain Stryker has been in some ways the most interesting character; sort of like a Darth Vader who mostly displays evil but once in a while shockingly seems to care. This is his tale, which means 98% fantasy thriller. Fans of the great mythos will not be disappointed as Stryker gets a taste of vengeance from the untamable shrew. He celebrated her death when he thought she was out of his life. This is a great entry in one of the best epic fantasies of the past decade.

A Deadly Silver Sea
Bob Morris
St. Martin's Press
9780312377250, $24.95

In Florida, former NFL player and ex con Zack Chasteen is contented to run a palm tree nursery, as long as his beloved travel magazine owner Barbara Pickering is with him. He especially looks forward to the birth of their first child in about a month.

Zack, Barbara and many affluent people are sailing on the luxurious cruise ship Royal Star on its maiden voyage; his invitation comes from being classy Barbara's escort, which serves a reminder of how far he has come. Soon after the Royal Star embarks from Miami, gunmen kill most of the crew and take control of the vessel. After the passengers are separated by gender, Zack tries to get the men to join him on a blitzkrieg, but he end up in the drink while Barbara goes into premature labor.

The latest Zack Casteen thriller (see BERMUDA SCHWARTZ, BAHAMARAMA and JAMAICA ME DEAD) is as fast-paced as its predecessors, but lacks the originality of the previous tales with Cussler's Pitt novels and movies like Under Siege. Zack's usual amusing cynical asides also seem out of place in a scenario in which his about to give birth beloved is in deep peril. Still he is an interesting mix as a sarcastic moralistic antihero struggling to rally the civilians at sea against deadly pirates making his current under siege escapade fun for his fans.

Quick Study
Maggie Barbieri
St. Martin's Press
0312376758, $24.95

When St. Thomas University English Lit Professor Alison Bergeron is not teaching, dating her NYPD boyfriend Bobby Crawford, or going to Manhattan to visit Rangerland in MSG wearing a Messier sweatshirt, she performs sixty hours of community service. It is at a soup kitchen that she met illegal Ecuadorian immigrant Hernan Escalante and his extended family. She hires Hernan to paint her dining room. Hernan and his nephew Jose Tomasso arrive while Alison still recuperates from two large beers last night watching hockey at the Garden.

Soon afterward Hose vanishes only to be found floating in the Hudson, near the Bronx's luxurious Riviera Pointe condominiums. Although she knows better after her last whodunit got her in trouble with State Troopers, Alison, believing the death of an illegal will be swept into the river, investigates the homicide. A second murder occurs at Riviera Pointe while Hernan vanishes. Fearing for her new friend's life though rationally she assumes he ran because of his status or lack thereof, Alison and her friends with the help of former sweetheart Jack McManus, whose other plus is he works for the New York Rangers, continue their inquiry even as her current boyfriend Bobby insists she cease and desist.

The hat trick Murder 101 cozy (see EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES and MURDER 101) is an enjoyable whodunit starring a wonderful lead activist who knows she shouldn't but can't help but getting involved. Maggie makes the tale with her amusing asides for example her observation that she is tall but not big yet Bobby must see her as gigantic because he always buys her extra large clothing like the Messier t-shirt. The mystery is fun to follow as amateur sleuthing spins out of control. Except for Boston Bruins fans, readers will enjoy the antics of the number one New York Ranger fan.

Snake Dreams
James D. Doss
St. Martin's Press
9780312364601, $24.95

Ute Shaman Daisy Perika is shopping at the supermarket when someone taps her shoulder to get her attention. Unperturbed by the interruption Daisy greets Chiquita Yazzi, who tells her she is very worried about her sixteen years old daughter, Nancy because the teen is left alone with her abusive stepfather, Hermann Wetzel ever since Chiquita was murdered. Daisy tells the spirit she will do something to try to keep the girl safe.

At the same time, Nancy and her boyfriend plan to rob her house and run away. However, instead someone murders Hermann and the missing boyfriend is the suspect. While this is going on Daisy's nephew Charlie Moon plans to propose to FBI agent Lila Mae McTeague and sets up a sweet sixteen birthday bash for his Aunt's ward Sarah Frank. His musings and the party are disturbed when a distraught Nancy arrives at the ranch where she steals Sarah's gift and goes on a berserker attack while Granite Creek, Colorado police investigate the Hermann homicide one step behind Daisy and her elderly sidekick.

Loaded with humor, satire, and amusing commentary, the thirteenth Moon investigation is one of the best in a consistently strong series. The cast is zany yet realistic even when Daisy and the late Chiquita have a heart to heart while Charlie is ready to open his heart. Fans of the Moon mysteries and anyone who enjoys an entertaining investigative thriller that effortlessly blends paranormal, amateur sleuth and professional elements will want to read James D. Doss' exciting story.

Jan Brogan
St. Martin's Press
9780312359980, $24.95

Providence Chronicle reporter Hallie Ahern surfs the chat rooms when she comes across a teaser video clip of two teenage girls sexually posing. Excited by the prospects of a story though she is concerned and disgusted by what she saw, Hallie persuades her editors at the newspaper to support an expose story on the social chat rooms, "Online Dangers: Your teenager is prey".

As Hallie begins to investigate finding high school age girls who explain the chat rooms and the web-camcorders, one of her contacts suddenly dies. Her boyfriend Rhode Island Assistant Attorney General Matt Cavanaugh demands she ends her inquiry as that interferes with the official one and her newspaper bosses abruptly tell her to cease. Refusing to do so as she feels some guilt over the girl's death and knows first hand one moves on if they lose a newspaper job due to your convictions (see A CONFIDENTIAL SOURCE), Allie continues her inqury though it may cost her job, boyfriend and life not in that order.

This terrific Rhode Island journalistic investigation (see YESTERDAY'S FATAL) is a superb cautionary tale; although the warning has been sounded many times, it never hurts to hear it again as Jan Brogan counsels parents about predators on the net inside a strong tale. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the courageous Hallie who rejects the notion of quitting even as she is the recipient of incredible pressure to do so. Instead she turns the novel into a strong whodunit that hooks readers from the moment she receives the TEASER.

Veil of Lies
Jeri Westerson
St. Martin's Press
0312379773, $24.95

In 1384 disgraced former knight Crispin Guest lost his rank after evidence arose that he was part of a plot to dethrone King Richard II. Guest makes a living as a tracker of lost items or people.

In London, believing his spouse is cuckolding him, affluent cloth merchant Nicholas Walcote hires Guest to look into the affairs of his much younger beautiful wife, Philippa. Guest begins his inquiries only to learn he no longer has a client; someone stabbed Walcote leaving him dead in a locked room. However to his shock, the widow hires Guest to investigate her husband's murder. She believes a magical artifact her spouse owned that propelled people to always tell the truth was the reason for the homicide. As Guest gets closer to the truth, someone wants him stopped by any mean necessary.

VEIL OF LIES is an intriguing medieval Noir starring a disgraced former knight who has become a private investigator. The story line is fast-paced but totally owned by Guest who as a warrior is used to hand to hand combat; he takes that in your face methodology to his new occupation. The whodunit is fun to follow, but it is the kick butt Guest who brings late fourteenth century London to life.

Dark Magic
Cheyenne McCray
St. Martin's Press
0312949596, $6.99

Although accepted as an equal by the D'Anu witches and treated as a sister, Cassia has hidden her royal Elvin blood from everyone. However, her time of hiding is over as she must return to her elf realm as the daughter of the Great Guardian must become a Guardian. She understands her duty, but feels strongly she must help her friends in their upcoming battle against the new "God" warlock Darkwolf and knows she will miss the human MacGregor with all her heart.

San Francisco Police Department chief of Paranormal Special Forces Jake Macgregor is a bit taken aback that Cassia, whom he is attracted to, is not human, but he does not care though he knows anything between them is short lived. If his dice wins against the overwhelming odds, she must leave to fulfill her regal role as a Guardian; if they lose he does not want to think of the hell they will all be in. Still Darkwolf comes before their hearts.

This is excellent on two levels. Besides a fabulous finish to a great urban fantasy that sub-genre fans will relish as one of the best series over the past few years; the romance is the one, readers have been waiting to see how it plays out since almost the beginning. Master magician Cheyenne McCray brings it all together in a superb ending to her stupendous saga.

Anchors Aweigh
Kathleen Bacus
Love Spell
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
978050527660, $6.99,

Grandville Iowa Tressa "Calamity" Jayne Turner still remains in shell shock with the marriage of her grandmother (see CALAMITY JAYNE HEADS WEST). She can handle the geriatrics saying I do, but she has problems picturing mom in the boudoir so grandma is a vivid nightmare. Still Tressa looks forward to the week long post wedding gala as the family will celebrate granny's nuptials on a cruise ship. Tressa, who believes in show me the beef so she can dine on it, expects great food and perhaps a bit of romance on board and at the port call beach stops.

Except for hunk Ranger Rick Townsend nothing goes right. First this is a health food cruise; pass the broccoli with no butter or salt. Second, her cheating fiance and his aunt are on board making more waves than the Bermuda Triangle makes. Finally someone is plotting a murder. All this occurs inside of the Bermuda love triangle, in which Tressa understands the meaning of calamity.

The latest Calamity Jane tale is an amusing ocean voyage in which the heroine seems to find trouble everywhere she goes, as usual. The story line is a lighthearted frolic in which Jayne deals with two beaus, a potential murder, and her family while trying to find something worth eating. Although the heroine's antics have not changed starting with her self-deprecating asides and her ability to land in trouble, series fans will enjoy her latest escapades.

Divorced, Desperate and Dating
Christie Craig
Love Spell
9780505527325, $6.99

The kiss was everything but proved to be nothing. Houston Detective Jason Dodd kissed writer Sue Finley leaving her wanting more from him and wasted for anyone else. Thus when he fails to follow up, Sue is heartbroken calling him a jerk for never calling her and plotting murder with poison.

Jason grew up as a foster child so does not trust relationships even if his heart pleads with him to take a chance on Sue. He feels safer to keep his distance. However, when he learns someone is stalking Sue, he can no longer run from his feelings. Still in spite of protecting her Jason keeps his heart hidden even as Sue wants to know why because she can see by his looks he wants her too.

This is an entertaining character driven romantic suspense sequel to DIVORCED, DESPERATE AND DELICIOUS. The stalking subplot serves as a matchmaker of sorts as Sue does not hide her desire from Jason whom obviously wants her too, but flees even when next to her somewhere inside his mind. Jason makes the tale with his fear that relationships end rapidly and poorly so as a psychological defense mechanism he avoids them as if they are the plague. Fans will enjoy Christie Craig's charming lighthearted frolic as the author refuses to accept no thanks even if their relationship proves to be a bridge to nowhere.

Slippery When Wet
Kimberly Raye
Love Spell
9780505527738, $7.99

Race Chicks Inc. driver Jaycee Anderson has stunned the previously all male dominated NASCAR Sprint Cup by finishing fourth in the final standings. Her objective for the new season is to move up at least one notch with her bodacious goal being cup champion. To obtain third place means holding off all that testosterone that placed behind her and move past Rory Canyon, whom she has known much of her twenty six years of life.

Rory has never forgotten when the teen tomboy kissed him as he ran from her and still is running. However, he knows in his soul how much he wants her even when she hides her curves with driving garb. She never forgave him for ending their friendship a decade ago, but also knows her impetuous kiss affirmed how much she needed him. Each use their rivalry on the track to keep them apart off the track as Daytona looms.

Readers will enjoy this "NASCAR Holiday" while rooting for the heroine to beat the pants off her rival on the track and elsewhere as Kimberly Raye leaves the "dead" romantic fantasy crowd for a spin on the NASCAR circuit. The story line is fast-paced especially when the lead couple competes with each other; the support cast seems two dimensional at times causing a detour to the pleasant prime plot of lady start your engine.

Between Light and Dark
Elissa Wilds
Love Spell
9780505527912, $6.99

The Gray God Axiom desperately wants to join the Divine Council of the Light Realm. To achieve his ambition, he readily accepts the Council's terms; he must impregnate Laurell Pittman, who is oblivious to her heritage or that she is a witch. The Council knows their offspring will become the Earth Balancer god.

Axiom arrives on earth and immediately uses his most powerful weapon in his arsenal, "the yearning". Laurell is outraged with what the outsider has tried to do to her especially since she is attracted to him without his using his godly power. However in spite of her desire she does not trust the male claiming they are destined to mate in order to conceive a special child.

This is a fascinating romantic fantasy in which the paranormal elements supersede the love subplot. The story line is at its best when it focuses on the fantasy subplots even with a pantheon of characters. The romance never quite comes together as fans will find it difficult to accept the ambitious Gray God falling in love. Still this is an entertaining tale as sub-genre fans will enjoy stepping into Wilds' world where a basic axiom of the Gods is to be a member of the Divine Council of the Light Realm; in the hero's case at all cost to others.

Immortals: The Haunting
Robin T. Popp
Love Spell
0505527669, $7.99

Wood nymph reporter Mai Groves suffers from PTSD following her participation in a battle against a demon. However, the mental scars will heal as she well knows. What disturbs her more is the man she has fallen in love with whom she met on the spirit plane; the problem is she assumes he does not exist and just her imagination running wild with a dream lover.

Spirit walker Nick Blackhawk wonders who his lover he met on the spirit plane is on the mortal realm as he needs her in all aspects of his life. He is unaware that a reporter who insistently demands an interview is his beloved. Her editor warns her to watch herself when her therapist Dr. Barbour is murdered; she, as one of his thirty patients, is a suspect. When trouble arises in her apartment building with the disappearance of another tenant, Nick, aware now of who Mai is, vows to keep his soul mate safe.

This is a superb entry in the excellent Immortals romantic urban fantasy saga written by three authors (Robin T. Popp, Joy Nash and Jennifer Ashley). Mai is fabulous as an intrepid journalist still mentally healing while her world continues to collapse until her dream lover proves real on the mortal plane. The threat to her from unknown seemingly paranormal forces seems real as Ms. Popp returns to the Immortals (see IMMORTALS: THE DARKENING) with a wonderful addition.

Devil May Ride
Wendy Roberts
Obsidian Mystery
c/o The Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451225651, $6.99,

Sadie Novak has a very special gift as she sees and is seen by the dead who can't move on; she helps them make the transition to a higher plane. She owns Scene-2-Clean, a service that cleans locations where death occurred. Her co-worker Zach helps her and is even used to her seeing the dead.

The pair go on a job at a place where a meth lab used to be. Sadie hears a noise like a baby crying. They enter the shed and find a dead eviscerated goat with a baby sticking between it and the wall. An evil female ghost says she was a willing victim who died for her Master who needs her unborn child.

They have another job at the clubhouse where a fierce drug using biker gang used to reside. When they get there, Sadie talks with the dead biker who tells her enough for her to conclude that the woman' ghost, and her now born child, were his child and significant other. As they clean Sadie finds packed into the wall hundreds of thousands dollars. The bikers assume she took the loot and make plans to regain it after they kill her. Instead of waiting for them to kill her and since she does not have the blood money to return to them, Sadie goes on the offensive while also insuring her pregnant sister remains safe.

This delightful supernatural mystery has an edgy feel to the story line that gives it a sense of being different from the usual whimsical paranormal cozy. Sadie is a strong individual who copes with her paranormal skills while believing her mission is to help the ghosts she meets move on. It is the living evil that she fears more though she will not back down or walk away when they threaten her. Wendy Roberts has a unique writing style as her heroine is hardboiled in her way when it comes to the breathing creeps, but soft boiled when it comes to the ghosts still left behind.

Mr. Monk Is Miserable
Lee Goldberg
Obsidian Mystery
0451225155, $21.95

Mr. Monk stalks his psychiatrist by following him to Germany so they can continue their sessions; he also solves homicide cases that almost killed him and his assistant Natalie. Both Natalie and his shrink are unhappy with Monk for ruining their vacations. Using the guilt card, Natalie blackmails Monk into spending a few days in France on a real vacation. On the plane from Germany, a passenger dies; Monk determines who the killer is in a few minutes.

In France, Monk feels traumatized as he is out of his environment, but Natalie has no sympathy as she plans to enjoy her vacation. Monk decides to visit the famous Paris sewerage system because he wants to pay homage to the cleanliness of the city. In the catacombs below the streets, he finds a tomb filled with old skulls except one that looks quite recent. DNA testing proves this is San Francisco con artist Nathan Chalmers assumed dead for a decade. In a darkened restaurant a woman tells Monk she knows something about the deceased, but before she can explain further she is killed. The compulsive Monk is cleaning the Paris streets while putting the puzzle pieces in order.

No one does novelizations of TV shows better than Lee Goldberg consistently does. The author is able to catch the essence of Monk's personality while also providing an entertaining whodunit. Readers see a different side of Paris with its underground catacombs and sewers (unless you happen to be the Honeymooners' Ed Norton) where people live. Natalie will have to wait for her needed foreign vacation while series fans will relish following the idiosyncrasies of the hero as he cleans the streets of Paris.

Prisoner of the Flames
Dawn MacTavish
Leisure Books
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843959826, $6.99,

When he was a baby, Robert Mack survived a fire though he would take exception with the word survive. The left side of his face was left scarred from the flames. Anyone who sees his visage either shows pity or horror. Robert loathes both so he wears a helm to hide his severely marked face.

Unable to cope any longer with the reactions, in 1562 as the Laird of Berwickshire, Robert travels to Paris to persuade renowned healer Nostradamus to mend his face so he can go out in public or even in his home without wearing a mask. However France is a divided country on the verge of a religious civil war in which the teenage King Francis II seems to weak to prevent. In that milieu, Robert saves the life of blind flower girl Violette Cherier, which leaves him with powerful enemies who want the foreign Good Samaritan dead.

This is a superb historical romance starring two wonderful protagonist who have physical problems that threaten as much as the French Religious War to keep them apart. The action-packed story line uses real persona and a period of dangerous unrest as a backdrop to the excellent love story. Robert and Violette are fully developed with each used to coping with their handicap, but neither knows what to do about their attraction. However, even with a top rate romance that moves the Phantom of the Opera to the sixteenth century, it is the history and the protagonists who make PRISONER OF THE FLAME one of the sub-genres top novels of the year.

The Magic Bullet
Andrew Neiderman
Leisure Books
9780843961898, $7.99

In Palm Springs, California eight years old Jodi Walker is dying from leukemia. Dr. Carver knows the child has only a few weeks at best and wants to at least rid her of infections that add pain. Jodie's first cousin fifteen years old Taylor Peterson donates his O negative platelets and white blood cells. A few hours later, Jodi is cured, hungry and wanting to go home as a miracle has occurred.

An elated stunned Carver calls his friend Dr. Allan Parker with the news. Since his mom died from cancer, Allan has been obsessed with finding THE MAGIC BULLET that cures all cancer. He drives to Palm Springs to obtain the most likely reason for the cure, Taylor's blood that apparently duplicated experiments he conducted with mice. Taylor refuses to donate blood and his mom widow Demi supports his decision while her live in lover Warren wants the cash. Allan hangs around praying he can persuade mother and son while Warren seeks to make money. Soon fifty years old gangster Frankie Vico, dying from cancer, learns of the teen and offers cash to Warren.

This is an exhilarating thriller that grips the audience with the concept of THE MAGIC BULLET elixir. Even when the story line turns from a medical thriller into a more conventional thriller the pace remains hyper. The key cast members are fully developed except for Warren; whose nasty behavior makes one wonder why an intelligent lovely woman would stay with this Joe twelve pack (by half time) especially since her son disdains him. Starting with Jodi's parents making their death row walk in the hospital, Andrew Neiderman provides a terrific thriller.

Viking Warrior
Connie Mason
Leisure Books
9780843957464, $7.99

In the ninth century, Wulfric the Ruthless has no time to grieve the loss of his wife and their unborn child; killed during a Danish raid on his farm. His heart and head are filled with one thought, revenge.

The Norsemen abduct beautiful Reyna, who vows vengeance on the Viking Warrior who kidnapped her. She is beyond anger when she is dumped as a slave to Wulfric, whom initially she thought was the ruthless man who stole her from her home, but quickly realized she was wrong though the Viking she hates looks similar to her master. Wulfric does not want her on his farm. However, as they begin to know one another, they begin to fall in love. He must open his heart to love while she must trust her heart to love if they are to overcome their respective pasts.

VIKING WARRIOR is an enjoyable Dark Ages Northern European romance. The lead couple is an intriguing pairing as both have strong issues with the kin of the other so that their desire, need, and ultimately love seems doomed to failure. Sub-genre fans will enjoy the historical romance between the Dane healer and the Viking Warrior.

Pale Moon Stalker
Shirl Henke
Leisure Books
0843961120, $7.99

In 1884 before he died her spouse made Sky Eyes Brewster promised him she would not kill his murderer. Instead, she works around her pledge by hiring bounty hunter Max "The Limey" Stanhope to kill him.

Max needs a wife to insure his odious cousin does not inherit the estate he left behind in England. He believes his potential new employer would be perfect as his spouse although convincing her might prove impossible. The Limey offers her a deal; he will kill her spouse's murderer in exchange for her marrying him. Reluctantly she accepts. As they travel together in search of her late husband's killer, her adversary and another unknown enemy want them dead.

Shirl Henke's latest cross-Atlantic historical romance is a terrific tale filled with plenty of action from the onset and never slows down as the lead couple lands in one predicament after another. Whereas the Limey and the Indian widow insist they're not in love, ironically Cheyenne medicine man True Dreamer and the audience amusingly know otherwise. Readers will enjoy this fine western romance as the coupling makes it less safe for both of them with each bringing a deadly foe into their relationship.

The Reach
Nate Kenyon
Leisure Books
9780843960211, $7.99

She was born with an out of control psychokinetic skill of a fire bringer who burned down the hospital when she left the womb. Her grandparents raised Sarah Voorsanger until their fear of her ability following a few haunting incidents made them dump her on the state. They believe she is the Antichrist.

In Boston the state has locked away the ten years old Sarah so she can harm no one. Helix Pharmaceuticals conduct experiments on her using drugs that stimulate psychic skills. Psychology graduate student Jess Chambers is shocked by the treatment the preadolescent child receives. She vows to somehow rescue Sarah, especially when she realizes the lack of restraint the child has in keeping her talent in check while Helix is trying to amplify what is already dangerous.

This nod to King's Firestarter, THE REACH is a superb thriller as the "evil" private sector gigantic pharmaceutical wants to use the girl (instead of the government). The story line is simple and kept that way throughout, which just enhances the tension of a twenty something heroine all alone battling a Goliath in order to save a child that in the belief of the would be rescuer subsequently many more people too if Sarah is pushed beyond what her mind can accept as rational.

Pawsitively Guilty
Cindy Keen Reynders
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
9781933836607, $7.95,

Owners of the Saucy Lucy Cafe, Lexie Lightfoot and her sister Lucy, who is married to the county sheriff, live in Moose Creek Junction, Wyoming. Crime, especially violent crime, is rare in the small-town. However, when the occasional murder occurs, somehow Lexie is in the middle. Of everything; Lucy goes along with her in order to keep her sibling out of trouble - an impossible task.

At the cafe, wealthy reclusive Eleni Andros uses the Heimlich Maneuver to save the life of Lexie choking on a carrot. Lexie is grateful to the heroine and Eleni begins to work at the cafe. However, one day dependable Eleni fails to show up or answer her phone. This is out of character for the reliable woman so the sisters go over to insure she is okay. No one greets them but Lexie's dog leads them to a body buried in the rose garden. With the best detective on vacation and the cop assigned to investigate vanishing, Lexie takes over inquiring into who would kill a friend of hers.

The second Lexie-Lucy amateur sleuth (see THE SAUCY LUCY MURDERS) is a charming regional whodunit with plenty of humors and winks. Since Eleni was rich, Lexie begins with the greedy inheritance motive, but the horde of family members prove overwhelming to sort through while Lucy tries to persuade her to let the cops do their job. Lurch the dog provides comic relief with his flatulence emissions as Cindy Keen Reynders provides an enjoyable down home mystery inside a warm family drama.

A Lost Touch of Magic
Amy Tolnitch
Medallion Press
9781934755518, $7.95

Padruig MacCoinneach left his heritage and his Highland home vowing never to come back to Castle MacCoinneach. However, when his late sister's ghost demands he go home to protect their sibling and their clan, he does so by becoming the chieftain a role he disdained. Padruig also learns that he must marry Aimili de Grantham, who has placed him on a pedestal since childhood, if he wants an ally; she is the price.

Aimili prefers horses to people as she can communicate better with steeds using her psychic skills. Sad that he crumbled from his place of adulation in her heart, Aimili still loves the brute, who shows not one iota of interest in her. She plans to seduce her spouse even as they must team up to prevent evil creeping through the walls of Castle MacCoinneach.

Medieval paranormal romance fans will appreciate the fourth "Touch of …" thriller due to the behavior of the prime player Padruig who rightfully feels overwhelmed and should be as he stars in two co-equal plots involving women he loves in peril. In some ways the audience will feel as overwhelmed as the hero as the story line constantly switches back and forth between Padruig's concerns for his sister and his concerns for his wife. Neither truly takes charge nor do they fully merge into one cohesive main plot. Still fans will enjoy Amy Tolnitch's intriguing historical due to Padruig's travails.

Angel Unaware
Elizabeth Sinclair
Medallion Press
9781933836317, $7.95

Dora de Angelo struggles to fit in amidst the angels. She knows she came here differently than most everyone else as her soul went straight to heaven rather than a stop as a mortal. Perhaps that explains her lack of angelic skills.

After some more bungling, her boss grants her wish to become a mortal with the stipulation she returns to heaven once Christmas occurs, three weeks form now. Dora poses as a nanny to six-year-old orphan Penny while showing the child how to be a kid again, and to help Penny's cynical guardian Uncle Tony to learn the meaning of love, which he has forgotten.

This amusing lighthearted angelic romance is fun to read as the nanny from the Celestial Maintenance Department learns human housekeeping chores while helping young Penny regain her smile and Uncle Tony find his heart. The breezy story line is ideal for the Christmas holidays with its uplifting message and with a great final twist reminiscent of the classic Gift of the Magi spin. Fans will enjoy Elizabeth Sinclair's fine version of Tavares' "Heaven Must be Missing an Angel".

Broken Wing
Judith James
Medallion Press
9781933836447, $7.95

Lady Sarah "The Gypsy Countess" Munroe accompanied by her half brother Ross an Earl cross the Channel to Paris hoping to find their missing much younger brother Jamie and bring him home. Both fear that Jamie was severely injured perhaps killed during the excesses of the recent Revolution though Ross' hired agents claim the lad is well living at Madame Etienne's Brothel.

The agents prove correct when the siblings find Jamie in excellent mental and physical health. His benefactor male prostitute Gabriel St. Croix kept Jamie safe inside Maison de Joie for five years. Jamie persuades his friend a catamite to accompany them back to England and Sarah, grateful to the brothel owner's tender caring of her sibling, agrees. On the journey, Gabriel and Sarah share a strong fondness for astronomy that evolves into a friendship and then deeper into love. However, Gabriel feels his sleazy history starting with being born and raised in a brothel makes him unworthy of the caring innocent Lady Sarah.

This is a unique well written Regency romance with a refreshing spin involving the lead male. Even Sarah is an invigorating character with her atypical actions and reactions as well as her planning skills that Ross realizes would make her a superb general if she was a man. The support cast is solid throughout from Madame Etienne to the brothers to the Ton as sub-genre fans will appreciate Judith James' jaunty Napoleonic tale of forbidden love.

Jasper Mountain
Kathy Steffen
Medallion Press
9781933836584, $15.95

In 1873 Texas, in spite of gallant efforts to control the blaze, the fire marched on threatening to destroy Tumbling Creek Ranch. Owner Jack "Buck" Buchanan, Se. refuses to tell everyone to flee although his son Jack, Jr. pleads with him to do so before the inferno kills these loyal workers and family. When the house goes up in flames, Jack, Jr. takes responsibility for acquiescing to his dad, which led to his sister's death

Buck's best friend and his son's godfather Victor Creely arrives with a proposition. He takes Jack to his mining operation at JASPER MOUNTAIN in Nebraska. There he finds incredibly unsafe working conditions enforced by Creely's henchmen. He also meets Romani Milena Shabanov, whose paranormal skills enable her to know that Creely is a demon in human garb. As she and Jack fall in love, Milena cautions him to be careful. Her warning proves too late when Creely's thugs kill people followed by a cave-in trapping minors.

This is a superb Reconstruction Era romance in which the audience will feel they initially were battling the blaze and afterward living in a tent city on the ranch before going to the mines. The story line is action-packed, but extremely descriptive especially of the inferno aftermath and even more so the Dickensian looks at mining. The romance enhances the post Civil War glimpse of America through a strong characterizations though Creely is a pure evil villain with no redeeming qualities.

Greasing The Pinata
Tim Maleeny
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590585672, $24.95,

On a father and son trip to Mexico, retired California state senator Jim Dobbins and drug-addict Danny disappear without a trace. Jim's other adult child, his estranged daughter Rebecca, hires San Francisco private investigator Cape Weathers to bring them home.

Although he does not want the case as he is realistically uncomfortable because he does not know Mexico, Weathers heads south. In Mexico he learns quickly that the mutilated bodies of both were found in an alligator pond of a Puerto Vallarte golf course. With his associate Triad trained assassin Sally Mei helping him, Weathers starts to connect the dots between California and Mexico politicians, rival drug cartels, and a financial system that Wall St. and DC would envy; getting out alive is a different story.

The third Cape Weathers private investigative mystery (see STEALING THE DRAGON and BEATING THE BABUSHKA) is a fast-paced tale starring a terrific lead detective supported by a kick butt Asian partner battling against realistic killers. The political-drug dealing complex is brilliantly designed with violence being their cherry pie. However, the tale belongs to the two sleuths whose amusing war of words equalizes the inordinate death count.

The Anteater of Death
Betty Webb
Poisoned Pen Press
9781590585603, $24.95

In San Sebastian County, California, the Gunn Landing zookeeper Theodora "Teddy" Bentley is stunned to find a mangled human corpse in the anteater enclosure. Pregnant Lucy apparently ripped the skin off the bones of wealthy patron Grayson Harrill.

However the county police determine that Harrill was shot before being dumped in Lucy's enclosure. Outraged that someone tried to disguise the homicide by using her purple tongued beloved Lucy as a killer, Teddy investigates knowing whoever murdered the victim knew his or her anteater.

This engaging amateur sleuth combines zoo insight with an eccentric support cast to include Lucy and a dedicated heroine. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Teddy finds the body and never slows down. Although Lucy's thoughts seem to cutesy even when she considers clawing someone, fans of Betty Webb will enjoy this fine whodunit as the zookeeper tries to uncover who framed her anteater.

Afro Samuri 1
Taashi Okazaki
The Seven Seas
c/o Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765321237, $10.99,

The young child was with his father, the world's top swordsman when No. 2 challenged him for his No. 1 headband. In front of the son, No.2 Justice and his cohorts The Empty Brothers illegally slay No. 1. In spite of his dishonoring the Swordsman tradition with his dastardly deed, Justice becomes No. 1.

Although very young at the time he witnessed the murder of his dad, the son vows vengeance. Over the years he learned the swordsman skill and began his way up the hierarchy until he becomes No. 2. Nicknamed Afro for his hairstyle, he prepares for the final act while eluding assassins sent by the Empty Brothers supporters of No. 1.

Though the plot is a bit thin, this engaging manga graphic book is entertaining especially the art. The story line never fleshes out either Justice or the son beyond their swordplay although the son has the additional motive of revenge making him a bit more complete than his adversary. With plenty of blood flowing in this feudal-modern tech world, fans who relish vivid action over characterization will appreciate AFRO SAMURAI 1.

The Fire
Katherine Neville
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345500670, $26.00,

In Washington DC once a child chess prodigy who quit playing years ago, Alexandra Solarin lives a quiet lifestyle as a sous chef. However, her missing mom, Catherine Velis (star of THE EIGHT, a Brownian like thriller published before the Da Vinci Code) has left her some esoteric clues that will find her.

Unable to not make an attempt to rescue her mother, Alex enters the Game" in which she is to seek the mythical Montglane Service chess set that allegedly contains the code for immortality. The Game is life and death across centuries and counties as time and boundaries do not exist in this "realm"; whereas danger is behind each clue as death is the norm.

This direct sequel to the classic late 1980s thriller THE EIGHT is as good as the original and can stand alone. The amazement re Katherine Neville's talent is how she keeps an incredibly fast-paced story line which includes tons of deep historical references and persona. Fans of the original saga will obviously welcome the daughter's gambit, but newcomers will agree THE FIRE is one of the best puzzler thrillers of the year.

The Vampire's Revenge
Raven Hart
9780345498588, $6.99

It has been only two weeks but Jack McShea does not have the time to mourn his sire William, the vampire who created him over a hundred and fifty years ago. The woman he loves Connie Jones has been magically transformed into a vampire slayer; in her trance she is no longer able to delineate between good and evil vamps. Connie is unaware that she is carrying Jack's child and that he loves her enough to allow her to be with a shapeshifter who also loves her.

When Connie awakens from the trance, her feelings for Jack remains strong but so does her commitment to Seth. She and Jack reunite to send the double dead vampires back to the hell they escaped from Jack must deal with Diana, and prevent William's grandfather and his father from destroying Savannah. He must also make long turn plans to save the New World from the Old World vamps who see the human race as bugs

Beleaguered and bewildered while coping with traumas and grief, Jack realizes how much he depended on William, but with no time to spare must learn to rely on himself for the first time in his undead life or lose everyone he loves like he did his mentor. The fabulous fast-paced story line is sort of a coming of age tale if a century and half plus individual can be such. Raven Hart is a fabulous horror writer on a par with Karen Koehler as fans who have read her exhilarating Vampire sag already know. THE VAMPIRE'S REVENGE is an excellent and brilliantly executed horror thriller.

The Fortune Teller's Daughter
Lila Shaara
9780345485670, $25.00

University teacher and writer Harry Sterling fears he might have writer's block as he cannot even fathom a topic. Harry uses alcohol to hide from what he assumes will be his next failure. However he becomes animated when he hears a student comment that local psychic Josie Dupree implied that renowned physicist Charles Ziegart did not discover what he is famous for.

A former investigative reporter Harry visits Madame Dupree where he meets her niece, Maggie Roth. He is attracted to her, but she rejects his advances. As he digs deeper into the Ziegart mystery, he continues to try to persuade Maggie to give him a chance. She distrusts him because he is investigating ostensibly Ziegart, but doing so through inquiries into her family.

This is an engaging romantic suspense that is built on the premise of Harry investigating the fortune teller while falling in love with her relative. The characters seem full blooded with flaws such as Harry's sleuthing incompetence affirms why he is a former investigative reporter. Although a vengeance subplot adds tension, that track fails to connect with the prime story line. Still overall this is a solid romantic mystery.

Jonathan Kellerman
9780345495136, $27.00

High school troublemaker Chance Brandt is doing community service at the Bird Marsh nature conservatory near Marina Del Rey, California when he receives a weird anonymous phone call that he assumes is a silly prank. The caller insists there are corpses buried in the marsh. Soon after the eerie call, the body of a woman is found and Chance mentions the message he received.

LAPD Special case Investigator Police Lieutenant Milo Sturgis leads the investigation. They quickly find four female bodies with the right hand removed in the marsh. Realizing there is a serial killer on the loose murdering prostitutes though the last homicide does not fit the victims' pattern as the victim is musician Selena Bass. Milo asks police psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware to help. The focus is on the Bass murder as she was teaching piano to the wealthy offspring of the Vander family with the estate manager the prime suspect due to a criminal history.

Although somewhat similar to most of the Delaware police procedurals, BONES is refreshed by the psychologist playing third fiddle on the investigation with Sturgis being the star; he provides limited assistance on the investigation. The serial killer inquiry is clever and fun to follow with a couple of strong twists. In spite of the hero playing a tertiary role in the case (although Delaware has other goings-on), fans will enjoy Jonathan Kellerman entertaining whodunit.

Echoes From The Dead
Johan Theorin
Delacorte Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780553385342216, $22.00, 1-800-726-0600

In September 1972 on the Swedish island of Oland, not quite six years old Jens Davidsson vanishes. The assumption everyone makes is that the child tragically drowned in the Baltic Sea.

Twenty years later the lad's grandfather Gerlof receives a package in the mail; inside is a well worn little child's sandal that could have been Jens. Needing to know the truth, the retired sea captain persuades his reluctant alcoholic daughter Julia, Jens' mother to help him investigate what was considered an obvious accident two decades ago. Father and daughter begin to find evidence that notorious alleged killer Nils Kant, was involved with Jens disappearance; the only counter argument is momentous as Kant died before that unfortunate day in 1972.

This engaging Swedish amateur sleuth tale with whispers of the paranormal of a killer ghost wandering the island is a terrific tale that hooks the audience the moment the sandal arrives and never slows down until the final confrontation. Readers obtain a strong cold case mystery investigated by two people with a deep emotional investment in the lost child. Fans also receive a fascinating look at Sweden's second largest island. However, what makes ECHOES FROM THE DEAD exciting and interesting is desperate a father and daughter sleuthing duo needing closure.

Belva Plain
Delacorte Books
0385336845, $26.00

In Wrightstown, New England, twice widowed Mrs. Cassandra Wright (Ms. Is too trendy though using her maiden name is not) is the CEO of Wright Glassworks. A family tragedy forces Cassie to take in her relative, one years old Gwen. She raises Gwen as if she is her own daughter and the child thrives in the affluence of her surroundings.

Jewel Fairchild works as a receptionist at the Glassworks with ambition to marry wealth. Whereas the adult Gwen is at best plain looking; Jewel is vivaciously beautiful. Envious of Gwen, Jewel achieves her goal by marrying affluent businessman Jeff while Gwen settles on steady middle class worker Stan while coveting Jeff. When Stan uncovers questionable practices at his place of work owned by Jeff, they and their wives will be forced to confront their inner demons.

This contemporary comparative character study is fun to follow as readers will contrast Jewel with Gwen, and Stan with Jeff. Although Jewel is more of a caricature of the scheming gold-digger, Gwen a bit too introverted to carry the story line and the husbands two and half dimensional, the dynamic CROSSROADS relationships between the lead quartet make for an interesting drama for fans of Belva Plain.

A Good Woman
Danielle Steel
Delacorte Books
0385340265, $27.00

The Worthington family is at the top of Fifth Ave and Newport society. The patriarch is an affluent banker; his wife is a leader of the upper crust; and their two children are highly regarded. Everything changes when the Titanic goes down in 1912 as the patriarch and the son die in the tragedy leaving behind nineteen years old Annabelle and her mom to grieve their loss.

A banking colleague of her late dad Josiah Millbank kindly offers marriage to Annabelle; she accepts. Two years later having never made love, Josiah informs his young wife that he has syphilis and demands a divorce because he wants to be with his male lover. Annabelle says no so Josiah files for a divorce on the grounds of adultery. Everyone assumes the kind banker is the victim leaving Annabelle a pariah. She goes to Paris to start over hoping to become a doctor based on her volunteer work at Ellis Island.

Annabelle makes the historical tale fun to read as her strength shines through even when her reputation is unfairly destroyed. The plight of women in high society just prior to WW I comes into deep focus by the way Annabelle's peers react to first the Titanic tragedy, then her marriage, and finally the accusations. Fans will enjoy Danielle Steele's fine early twentieth century saga of a woman who could quote Sinatra's That's Life because Annabelle knows that "Some people get their kicks, Stompin' on a dream" but she also would sing "Each time I find myself, flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race".

Oliver Pauvert
Counterpoint Press
2117 Fourth Street, Suite D, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781582434476, $14.95, 1-800-788-3123

In 2019 France, he is arrested when he is found by the body of a murder victim. The transport crashes leaving him dazed and frightened to wander the streets of Paris wondering who he is and did he do what the only seeming memory he has. Could he be a murderer as his only vision is that of a brutalized woman's corpse?

He manages to get home, but his wife fears him and worse when he looks in a mirror he fails to recognize the image looking back. No one seems to want to help him; in fact they prefer to turn him over to the cops. The secret police of the ruling French National party search for him even as he learns he has a dark power to stare into someone's eyes until they die. African immigrants take him to the outlawed Noir who help him obtain the truth behind the woman's murder and give him a reason to live: kill the leader of the French National Party.

This grim dark near futuristic thriller modernizes melds and extrapolates 1984 with THE STRANGER into a dystopian 2019. The nameless lead character struggles for understanding in a society totally owned by the party through the use of electronic gizmos and drug control of its citizens. Readers who appreciate a forboding gloomy suspense saga will appreciate the cat and mouse French morality tale in which fascism rules.

The Prophet Murders
Mehmet Murat Somer
Serpent's Tail
3A Exmouth House, Pine Street, London, England, EC1R 0JH
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 West 108th Street, Suite 901, New York, NY 10025
9781846686337, $14.95,

In Istanbul, the nightclub owner is depressed to learn of the murder of a transvestite and of the stance of police commissioner Selcuk Tanyer who admits his detective team has no lead and appears to be conducting a limited investigation at best. The nameless club owner being part of the small underground transvestite community is appalled and makes a few inquiries amongst his peers.

He quickly learns that a serial killer is murdering transvestites who use the names of the Prophets. The amateur sleuth also finds out that the homicides are rituals in honor of the Prophet. With the help of an insider in the police force and chatroom member Jihad2000, the club owner prepares to catch the serial killer.

The graphic murders and the solid amateur sleuthing are well written and entertaining in this translation from Turkish of the Mehmet Murat Somer's Hop-Ciki-Yaya saga. However, the Istanbul underground lifestyle steals the show starting with the nameless nightclub owner and his guided tour of a rarely seen side of Turkey. Fans who appreciate something different and have strong stomachs will enjoy this engaging fresh look at the streets of Istanbul.

Time of My Life
Allison Winn Scotch
Shaye Areheart
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, #B1, New York, NY 10019-4305
9780307408570, $23.00,

In Westchester County, New York, anyone who knows Jillian Westfield will believe she lives the perfect life in her lovely upscale family home. Her husband Henry adores her and their infant daughter has a vocabulary of sixteen words. She seems to be the model of lifestyles described in the upbeat family living magazines she reads. However, Jillian is unhappy as she is already tired of cleaning up their daughter while her lawyer husband hides behind long office hours. Adding to her despondency is learning that her post graduate college lover, Jackson is getting married.

Following a deep, chi-clearing massage, Jill awakens not to her daughter's cries, but somehow seven years ago when she worked in Manhattan advertising and dated Jack yet remembering her future. Each time she reaches a major decision point, she considers selecting the other opportunity she rejected the first time. As she redoes pivotal points even Jill wonders where her selections will leave her.

With nods to It's A Wonderful Life and Peggy Sue Got Married, TIME OF MY LIFE is a poignant character driven drama as the heroine gets the chance to answer the what if fantasies people make about their past. Jillian carries the wonderful story line as she debates herself on whether to select the alternatives or follow the same path she already knows where it is going. Allison Winn Scotch provides a deep tale of second chances.

Kissing Games of the World
Sandi Kahn Shelton
Shaye Areheart
0307393658, $23.00

In Chester, Connecticut no one who knows sexagenarian Harris Goddard is shocked when much younger single mom Jamie McClintock accompanied by her asthmatic five-year-old son Arley moves in with him and his five-year-old grandson Christopher. Everyone ignores the kids being the same age and perhaps the mom might be there to care for Christopher; the assumption is womanizing Harris has his latest woman move in with him.

However, rumors and scandal explodes when a naked Harris is found dead in Jamie's bed. Everyone assumes the worst about her and some suspect she killed her paramour. Harris' son Nate believes Jamie is wrong for his son Christopher so he comes to his late dad's house determined to take his child with him, sell the home, and kick mother and son to the curb. However shocking both of them, Jamie and Nate are attracted to one another, but both has demons even before his dad was found in her bed.

This is a terrific character driven contemporary romance filled with twists and misconceptions. Nate and Jamie do not want their attraction for several reasons, but nether can prevent it from happening. Their respective kids act like children so they enhance the relationship by both driving the adults together and part. Sandi Kahn Shelton provides a wonderful tale of love using a common theme mad fresh by a strong cast.

The Witch's Trinity
Erika Mailman
Three Rivers Press
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307351531, $13.95,

In 1507, the villagers of Tierkinddorf are hungry and angry as this is the "second year of no harvest" that follows several poor harvests. They begin to believe a witch has cast an evil satanic curse on them causing nasty weather that led to poor harvests and now just about no crops.

A Dominican friar traveling from town to town to expose witches arrives to the rejoicing of most of the villagers who believe he will uncover the identity of the culprit. He points the finger at Kunne the healer who swears to God she is innocent. Her dismayed best friend elderly Gude feels helpless as she watches Kunne burned at the stake. She also is concerned with her nightmares about witches, the devil and her late husband. Thinking one less mouth to feed, Gude's resentful daughter-in-law Irmeltrud begins a campaign when her spouse is away desperately hunting that accuses her widowed mother-in-law of witchcraft.

The atmosphere that leads to cynicism, paranoia and witch hunts is incredibly thick as Erika Mailman provides a deep look at a small early sixteenth century German village blaming famine on witches cursing the villagers. The Friar's presence quickly leads to neighbors pointing the fingers at one another. Although Gude as the narrator at times is hard to understand because of her mental instability that adds to the feel of the era in which a bit of craziness means witch. Fans will enjoy this engaging look while wondering whether Gude's "visions are supernatural or deranged in origin.

Vampire Zero
David Wellington
Three Rivers Press
9780307381729, $13.95

The second battle of Gettysburg (see 99 COFFINS) was won by the humans but at quite a cost. The victory came because the paranormal expert U.S. Marshal Jameson Arkeley gave his life to insure his side won. His apprentice police investigator and vampire fighter Laura Caxton fears the end is not in sight in site of finding the Civil War journal that tells her what happened and the sacrifice of her heroic mentor; she just does not know what comes next.

She is proven right as the worst case scenario comes alive. The world's greatest authority on vampires Arkeley was bitten and is now an undead. He knows every move his former student knows because he taught her. Stunned and preferring to hide as she did following her first encounter (see 13 BULLETS), Caxton hates what she must do; she must kill her teacher before he becomes too powerful for anyone to stop, which she believes in her gut is already true.

This exciting bloody vampire tale is fast-paced, action-packed, and an incredible in your face (make that neck) twist that will fascinate and stun anyone who read the first two books. The hero (along with Caxton) of 13 BULLETS AND 99 COFFINS is now the most dangerous lethal villain of all, VAMPIRE ZERO. Newcomers may not fully grasp the monumental spin as Caxton hunts her former teacher, the world's foremost authority on the vampire insurgency. Well written in that gruesome monster style, David Wellington provides a strong vampire thriller.

The Pagan Stone
Nora Roberts
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780515144666, $7.99,

Hawkins Hollow looks like an ordinary small Maryland town, but every seven years during the seventh month, the villagers go crazy; killing one another, defacing and destroying property, and creating general mayhem. This happens because twenty years ago ten years old Gabe, Caleb and Fox spilled their blood near THE PAGAN STONE, and that liberated the demon incarcerated there.

The men know this time either they or the demon will die. They learn that their women are descendents of the female the demon raped three centuries ago before his binding. Quinn , Layla and Cybil are fated to be in the town during this critical period because their men need their help. If they don't destroy the demon this time, it will be free to walk the earth spreading its evil wherever it goes. However, none of them has any earthy idea how to perform the deed. With the date coming soon they better figure it out fast or else.

This paranormal romantic suspense is fantastic with the focus being on Gabe and Cybil who both can envision multiple possible futures. Gage, a free spirit, avoids Cybil because he shuns serious relationships and his gut warns him this would be one. However, his heart makes him reconsider as they each have deep feelings for the other. They are also determined to defeat the demon. Nora Roberts is at her best with her final tale of the Sign of the Seven (see BLOOD BROTHERS and THE HOLLOW).

Tall Dark and Texan
Jodi Thomas
9780515145434, $7.99

In 1856 Hill Country Texas Teagen McMurray feels lonely as he runs Whispering Mountain Ranch. His brothers are married (see TEXAS PRINCESS and TEXAS RAIN) and his sister is away at school. However while he wants the love of a good woman, he also admits he enjoys the quietness of the spread.

With the death of her rescuer and jailer husband Eli, Widow Jessica Barton flees Chicago with her three preadolescent daughters to escape the "incarceration" her in-laws plan for their late son's daughters. Leaving behind Barton Bookstore to Eli's avaricious family, she heads to Whispering Ranch and Eli's friend Teagan. The four females make it to the ranch where Teagan takes them in. He persuades his guest to marry for the sake of her kids. She agrees but both hide from the other they want more than a marriage of convenience as each is in love; her from the time she read his letters to Eli back in Chicago and him from the moment the fearsome horde invaded his life and heart.

Though the theme has been used quite often, this is an enjoyable pre Civil War Texas romance as the lonely rancher and the frightened widow find love. Filled with passion and courage (trademarks of Ms. Thomas Texas tales), TALL DARK AND TEXAN is a warm historical.

Daylight Runner
Oisin McGann
Eos Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061340581, $16.99,

Over the centuries the latest Ice Age has creeped to the point that humanity is doomed as earth is almost totally an "Arctic Desert". The last known center of humans is domed Ash Harbor, which is dying as the ice encroaches although the residents try continue as much as possible a normal lifestyle.

Students on a school trip to the Schaeffer Corporation witness a horrible accident in which a carriage crashes killing two men. Soon afterward the father of one of the pupils Gregor Wheat vanishes as the police search for Gregor, who they believe murdered, the two people who died in the crash. The cops seek sixteen years old Sol for questioning but he flees as he seeks his dad who left him a cryptic message. With the help of his teacher Ana Kiroa he eludes the police and others who want to prevent the teen from uncovering the truth.

DAYLIGHT RUNNER is a terrific young adult science fiction thriller that is loaded with action while providing an icy vivid future. The fascination besides the dying earth is with Sol's coming of age and his understanding of power and its abuse. Readers will relish this deep look at life inside a domed oasis as hiding seems futile.

The Lost Queen
Prewin Jones
9780060871079, $8.99

Anita Palmer was a typical London teenager until she learned who she really is. In the Realm of Faerie, she is Tania, the seventh daughter of the Royal House, who vanished five centuries ago just prior to her wedding to Lord Gabriel Drake. She crossed THE FAERIE PATH to meet her biological family and save the realm from her evil former fiance Lord Drake.

Asked by her father King Oberon, Tania knows she must return to the earth she just left a few days ago to find her biological mom, Queen Titania, who disappeared when she did. However, her human parents are irate as they worried about Tania who had not come home for three days. Angry and relieved they ground her and forbid her from seeing her boyfriend Evan Thomas, who on the fairy plane is Edric Chanticleer. However, Tania understands Drake is crossing from THE FAERIE PATH to the mortal plane and must be stopped and Titania must be found; while Anita is expected to remain in her room under punishment.

This action-packed teen fantasy contains strong characterizing and realistic relationships especially those intruding on the princess. The story line is relatively simplistic as the young lead couple mounts a rescue of her biological mom while battling with Drake in an effort to save two realms. Although the ending sets up the third novel without fully closing the prime plot of this tale, Prewin Jones provides an intriguing entry as the daughter and her boyfriend try to stay alive while seeking THE LOST QUEEN.

Rogue's Home
Hilari Bell
9780060825065, $17.99

Chivalrous teenager Sir Michael Sevenson, THE LAST KNIGHT, accompanied by his squire roguish reformed burglar Fisk, disobeys his father who ordered him to arrest a woman accused of murder. He refused because he felt she was innocent and honor and justice prevailed. However, his irate dad declares him "unredeemed" and tattooed as such on his wrists for all to see and spurn, which means he is shunned by society. Fisk makes it clear he believes his master is an idiot for choosing honor over a warm bed and a hot meal.

Fisk receives a letter from his sister asking him to return home to deal with a family crisis. Away for about five years, he reluctantly heads to his birth village Ruesport with Michael accompanying him to investigate arson and bribery; the suspect is Fisk's brother-in-law who the squire would prefer gets hung rather than solve the case and prove his innocence.

The second teenage quixotic medieval tale is a fun mystery in which the two amateur sleuths find their investigation constantly gets them in trouble and danger. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Fisk receives the missive and never slows down as the pair battle Hilari Bell's equivalent to windmills, but do so with honor. Rotating perspective between the knight and the squire, teen readers will enjoy their squabbles, disagreements and antics in the second amusing adventures of the Last Knight

Queen of Oblivion
Giles Carwyn and Todd Fahnestock
9780060829797, $25.95

The minions of sorceress Issefyn threatens to destroy the Ohndarien Empire. Using her dark magic ability, the sorceress has infected many of her opponents with the magical "black emmeria" that turns them into her slaves.

Zelani priestess Shara wants to join with her soulmate, the Heir of Autumn, former "Sleeping Warden" Brophy, but the evil sorceress has infected him with her black emmeria poison. Brophy feels he is being pulled into two opposite directions. The love for his beloved Shara battles with Issefyn's droning voice inside his brain to join her side. As he struggles to hold back the overwhelming dark sorcery, he needs to obtain the mythical Heartstone gem that allegedly counters psychic maladies; that he believes is the only hope to save the freedom loving empire.

The final Heartstone epic fantasy (see MISTRESS OF WINTER and HEIR OF AUTUMN) is an enjoyable conclusion as Shara learns you can't come home since home is not the same as your memory; in this case home is radically changed with the black emmeria turning everyone into slaves. The story line is action-packed from the onset and never slows down even when a detour twist occurs. Newcomers will be lost in spite of Giles Carwyn and Todd Fahnestock providing two backdrop prologues (One half way into the book) as the QUEEN OF OBLIVION is a well written complex ending.

The Drowned Life
Jeffrey Ford
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061435065, $13.95,

This is an excellent sixteen story collection that runs the gamut from sci fi to surreal to realism while following the travails of everyday people forced (sometimes by their choices and sin some instances by those of others) down dark paths. All are well written with several sensationally poignant and haunting as drowning (not necessarily in water) serves as a metaphor of life. The opening tale The Drowned Life (same as book title) sets the quality bar of excellence as it seems so allegorically apropos with people unable to financially float when sharks chase them until they start drowning but end up in an underwater city that no one escapes. Another example of a life drowning is "Night Whiskey"; following an annual gala, two men wake up peers sleeping off a magical brew in trees. Others are just as weird yet each provides a symbolic look at people drowning in spite of seemingly doing everything allegedly right.

The Paris Enigma
Pablo de Santis
9780061479670, $24.95

In 1889 Paris hosts the World's Fair. There twelve of the greatest detectives from around the globe meet for the first time. Make that eleven as the twelfth Sigmundo Salvatrio is representing his employer Renaldo Craig who is ill and unable to attend besides being tied up with two murders back home. Two of the investigators Louis Darbon and Polish immigrant Viktor Arkazy claim to be the Detective of Paris. However, their heated rivalry for the honor of top Paris sleuth ends when Darbon falls from the Eiffel Tower just before the gala begins.

Arkazy agrees to train Argentine Sigmundo Salvatrio on detecting although his student is Craig's assistant. They work on solving Darbon's homicide, as the Polish expatriate fears more of the international alliance of Twelve Detectives will be targeted by an unknown adversary especially when a preserved corpse is burned.

Told by the intelligent yet lacking confidence Sigmundo Salvatrio, THE PARIS ENIGMA is a superb historical mystery that uses late nineteenth century Paris (starting with the still not quite finished Eiffel Tower) as the backdrop to an entertaining whodunit. The story line is driven by The Twelve Detectives, whose competition for top gun turns nasty as superegos explode. Fans will enjoy the dysfunctional exploits of the world's greatest detectives struggling to solve THE PARIS ENIGMA with each wanting to be the one acclaimed as the best.

The King of Swords
Nick Stone
9780060897314, $24.95

In 1980 Primate Park security guard Larry Gibson notices a dead ape at 5:21 AM just when his shift is to end; he calls graveyard vet Dr. Jenny Gold who comes to take a look only to scream as the corpse is human.

Miami Task Force homicide detectives Max Mingus and Joe Liston take the case since they were driving past Primate Park. To the cynical cops the case is the usual finding a murdered corpse being the norm in town although a tarot card in the mouth of the victim is odd. However, the inquiry takes an eerie spin into Haitian voodoo as practiced by crime lord Solomon Boukman, abusive pimp Carmine Desamours and his mother Eva, more than just a tarot card reader, as she is a firm believer in using paranormal dark entities and deadly drugs to obtain what she wants.

The key to this excellent Miami police procedural is the refreshing Haitian voodoo that flows throughout the investigation. Mingus is an intriguing character who is a dedicated tough cop with a few vices; Liston brings out the best and worst in him. As good as he and Joe are, the imaginative story line belongs to the voodoo spin.

Salem Witch Judge
Eve LaPlante
9780060859602, $14.95

In 1692, magistrate Samuel Sewall sat on the Massachusetts Court along with other zealous judges hosting the trials of hundreds accused of witchcraft by their neighbors. He convicted over thirty people of the crime and oversaw the execution of twenty by hanging and one by large stones pressing down on him. Some of the executed were friends of the presiding judge. Five years later, removed from the frenzy and reflecting what he and others wrought, Samuel repented taking responsibly for the "shame and blame" and grief he caused. No other judge showed even the slightest remorse.

Eve LaPlante provides a great biography of Judge Swell, who like her previous nonfiction (see AMERICAN JEZEBEL: THE UNCOMMON LIFE OF ANNE HUTCHINSON, THE WOMAN WHO DEFIED THE PURITANS) is apparently an ancestor of the author. Combining diaries by Judge Sewell with anecdotes by her Aunt Charlotte, Ms. LaPlante provides a deep gripping description of a deeply religious Puritan who realized looking back at the atrocities that fundamental extremism led to unnecessary deaths; basically governmental theocracy sanctioned murder. A doting father and husband, he spent the rest of his life following his public confession atoning for what he felt were sins he committed as he wrote papers demanding equality, justice and freedom for everyone even Indians, women, and slaves. This is a timely well written look at the one SALEM WITCH JUDGE who regretted his role in the Salem witch-hunt.

Born to Run
James Grippando
9780061556111, $25.95

In his fifties, Vice President Phil Grayson loved hunting so he went to a private land to shoot alligators while officially looking into the reported threat of pythons destroying the adjacent Everglades. Instead he dies when a humongous gator tips the boat and he falls into water filled with alligators and pythons.

President Keys informs former Florida Governor Harry Swyteck that he is on the final list to replace Grayson if he is interested. Harry says yes and asks his son Jack to serve as his chief lawyer; Jack reluctantly agrees as he prefers to remain in Florida but will go to DC. However, Jack hears rumors that Grayson's death was not a freak accident, but a homicide. He investigates finding ties back to an incident in 1960 Cypress and a cover-up in 2008 Florida and Washington.

This is an exciting action-packed legal thriller that grips the audience once the Veep dies and never slows down as Jack begins to unravel a murder conspiracy. The story line is action, action, and more action that has readers caught up with all that is happening. Fans will relish Jack's latest tale that also strains his improved relationship with his dad and his significant other.

Extreme Measures
Vince Flynn
Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780743270427, $27.95,

The CIA Director sends counterterrorism expert Mike Nash to Afghanistan to interrogate two prisoners, Taliban Commander of Suicide Operations Abu Haggani and Taliban Liaison Officer to al-Qaeda Mohammed al-Haq. However as he is performing his duty, Justice Department lawyers deployed in DC called insisting he crossed the legal line. Nash calls in the cavalry counterterrorism operative Mitch Rapp.

They learn of two cells that are easily destroyed and hints of a third group led by an ambitious fanatic mastermind Karim Nour-al-Din, who is to become chief of al-Qaeda. To even be considered as heir to Bin Laden, Karim needs a new 9/11; his target DC where Congress and the Justice Department tie the hands of field agents Nash and Rapp.

EXTREME MEASURES is an exhilarating fast-paced thriller, which asks whether the means justifies the end; if violating the Geneva Convention and other anti torture laws could have prevented 9/11 would that make it acceptable especially since the enemy can claim likewise. The story line is fast-paced as Nash and Rapp are restricted from doing their full duty while Karim is free to do what he wants. Although extreme on one side of the debate, Vince Flynn insures the opposition is heard inside a tense thriller.

Dangerous Heart
Tracey Bateman
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061246357, $12.95,

For seven years Ginger Freeman, daughter of an outlaw, blames Dr. Grant Kelley for the death of her brother Clem. Now in 1850 her search for this miscreant has ended; she has found him on a wagon train heading west.

She joins the train with plans to kill Grant. Instead she is welcomed by everyone especially Miss Sadie and soon feels like she is part of a family for the first time in her life. Worse Ginger finds Grant to be a caring person trying to help others; nothing like the image she kept in her nightmares for these long seven years. As she finds God, friends and love (with Grant), Ginger feels torn in several directions when her Pa and his cohorts arrive.

The third Westward Hearts Americana inspirational romance (see DANGEROUS HEART and DEFIANT HEART) is a fabulous historical totally owned by Ginger although the rest of the cast is fully developed. Readers will feel they are on the wagon train as the closeness is both endearing and phobic; privacy is impossible. The transformation of Ginger is deftly done by Tracey Bateman to the delight of historical inspiration fans.

Never Dare a Duke
Gayle Callen
9780061235061, $6.99

Abigail Shaw realistically looks at her father's failing newspaper and knows only one thing can save the family's journalistic enterprise, a meaty scandal. Titillating sensationalism sells papers as the Ton loves to read about a scandal hammering at a peer. She selects the cleanest reputation she knows of because if she can find dirt on Lord Christopher Cabot, the sales will be through the roof.

Going undercover Abigail obtains an invitation to a party hosted by her targeted duke in which he plans to select one of the attendees as his bride. However, Christopher is attracted to Abigail, who to her chagrin, reciprocates. She offers to help him find his spouse by them pretending a dalliance. The only problems are it is not pretending and the scandal she has uncovered on Christopher has her included in the crosshairs.

This is a fun lighthearted historical romance starring two interesting individuals especially the undercover investigative reporter. Using Rovian logic to go after the strengths of your opponent, Abby picks Christopher, which leads to a series of amusing encounters and love as the heroine learns to NEVER DARE A DUKE; they will accept the challenge and double dare you back.

To Sin with a Stranger
Kathryn Caskie
9780061491009, $6.99

Their father disgusted with their scandals that has earned them the reputation as the "Seven Deadly Sins" has exiled his offspring and warned them if they do not shape up they will inherit nothing beyond what the law allows. None of the unholy seven Sinclair children take him seriously as he has threatened them before, but they do feel the loss of income since he has cut off the purse.

His heir Sterling keeps himself and his brothers and sisters at a reasonable level of respectability and less significant from starving by prizefighting at Gentleman Jackson's London gym. Miss Isobel Carrington enters the establishment to ask the wealthy male patrons to donate to her charity. Isobel is attracted to Sterling, but rejects him as being too avaricious to care one iota about the less fortunate. At White's betting ignites that Sterling who is pursuing her will marry her. She reconsiders her opinion of his being a greedy aristocrat when she realizes he is boxing to support his siblings, but still fears letting her heart go to a man who placed a bet on him winning her.

The gender battle between Isobel and Sterling is an entertaining Regency romance as each is intelligent, knows whet they want, and what they will do to achieve their desires. Although Sterling's sin is greed, his willingness to take hits for his siblings proves otherwise and has Isobel reconsidering his worth. Fans will enjoy this lighthearted historical while looking forward to more tales starring other Seven Deadly Sins' siblings.

Alluring Tales
Cathryn Fox, et al.
9780061463174, $13.95

"Peaches and Cream" by Cathryn Fox. Jennifer is a bartender at Risque pretending to be Peaches the exotic dancer when she meets Jack the research scientist in order to explore her fantasies.

"Indecent Exposure" by Delilah Devlin. Harmony returns home to seduce Sheriff Dalton; her fantasy since high school.

"Forbidden Fruit" by Lisa Renee Jones. Ryan has always been hard whenever he saw his best friend's sister Kelli who has always been wet and hot when she saw him; now she plans to take him her style.

"Billboard Babe" by Myla Jackson. Prim and proper Angie starts an erotic ad campaign to win a sexual evening or three with co-worker Daniel.

"Wish Upon a Star" by Sasha White. Professional dominatrix Miss Sarah wishes upon a star for someone to truly love; Nealon bikes in from out of this world.

"That Old Black Magic" by Sylvia Day. Warlock Max is despondent with grief when his beloved mate Victoria apparently died and he tries all sorts of magic to bring her back to him; however he begins to obsess instead over the feline-female familiar who recently entered his life.

"Silver Waters" by Vivi Anna. On the run, Sangria and Vance take a heated break in the Caribbean.

These seven fun erotic tales are mostly spice with a sprinkle in spite of being very short for any happenings beyond the sexual encounters that run the gamut from menage a trois, S&M bondage, and anal.

The Witch's Grave
Shirley Damsgaard
9780061493430, $6.99

Librarian Ophelia Jensen and her beloved grandmother Abby live in a small Iowa town. People who meet the pair assume they are ordinary Midwesterners. A few locals know that they are witches and psychics just like their ancestors. Ophelia has not always felt comfortable with her gifts although they have helped her solve several homicides (see WITCH WAY TO MURDER and THE WITCH IS DEAD). Currently she is in a happy mood because of her dreams of a new man entering her life.

At a library fundraiser, Ophelia meets former horror writer Stephen Larsen and they are attracted to one another. When they go for a walk near the woods, a shot is fired and he begins to bleed from his chest. He is stabilized at the hospital, but later someone shoots at Ophelia, but misses. The psychic begins to dream of a French Resistance fighter Madeleine and her lover Henrick, who loves her back but refuses to marry her. Abby believes Stephen and Ophelia were once Madeleine and Henrick; her inquiries into the past lead to a present illegal immigrant ring who wants the trio silenced.

In their sixth appearance, Ophelia is accepting her powers that are getting stronger as she understands her desire to find out who the sniper is requires full use of her talents. Matters turn even more corrupted when a politician running for office is shot at and his aide killed. Thus THE WITCH'S GRAVE is a multilayered paranormal whodunit in which the WW II European past and the twenty-first century Hawkeye State converge through Ophelia and Stephen inside a fascinating supernatural amateur sleuth mystery.

A Bride for His Convenience
Edith Layton
9780061253676, $5.99

When his father died, Ian Sutcombe became a Marquis only to learn that his dad thought with his wrong head; apparently his sire's second wife left the estate broke. Sutcombe feels the weight of the world on his shoulders once he learns of his obligations and explores his options with businessman Mr. Foster. He has one, marry for money quickly.

He selects the daughter of an affluent merchant as his spouse. Miss Hannah Leeds has no say in the negotiations between her dad who dances to the idea of a title in the family and her future husband, who makes it clear their relationship will be one of convenience only. Hannah accepts the marriage of convenience arrangement as she disdains love having given her heart away once before Timothy Atkins trampled it. Still she begins to care for and ultimately falls in love with her husband although he behaves at all times as a rigid patrician. When Timothy confesses to Hannah he made a mistake and wants a second chance, she considers her options while Ian wants to inform his wife he loves her and needs a real passionate marriage but fears rejection.

The theme has been used a zillion times in historical romance novels, but master magician Edith Layton refreshes the marriage of convenience premise with excellent characterizations. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing whose relationship changes seem genuine while the support cast enhances the era or in the case of Timothy causes a wedge between Ian and Hannah. A BRIDE FOR CONVENIENCE is an entertaining historical.

Bedtime for Bonsai
Elaine Fox
9780061474644, $6.99

In Baltimore divorcee Penelope Porter has vowed off men ever since philandering Glenn dumped her and she acted foolishly afterward feeling like a deranged stalker trying to get him back in spite of his cheating. She turns for affection to Mr. Darcy, her mischievous pup, who keeps running across street to the business owned by Dylan Mersey.

He proves kind as he brings Mr. Darcy back to her. She is stunned that she is attracted to him and when Penny learns he is an ex-con she realizes that does not matter. Dylan seeks a fresh start, but owes a favor that could destroy his hopes for the future. He is attracted to the canine and the cute dog's pet Penny, but he refuses to act on his feelings as his past makes him feel he is an undesirable for someone at Penny's social level.

Elaine Fox's latest canine matchmaking romance (see BEWARE OF DOUG and HELLO DOGGY) is an engaging contemporary romance with the twist that Penny is the pursuer and Dylan the reluctant target. The characters are fully developed as Penny is confused about her feelings and Dylan is not. Mr. Darcy adds matchmaking and humor to the kibble mix while characters from the previous canine capers add a sense of homecoming.

With Violets
Elizabeth Robards
9780061579122, $13.95

In 1868 Paris, they have seen one another at the Louvre; they have nodded hello in passing, but not talk. She knows who he is as he is perhaps the most famous painter in the world while she is a novice in comparison. Finally a few weeks later his friend Monsieur Fantin introduces artist Rosalie Reisener and impressionist painter Berthe Morisot to the great artist Edouard Manet, who invites the latter back to his studio.

Over the next few years he paints several portraits of her including her in a black hat WITH VIOLETS. They become friends and lovers although he is married. Their affair is risky until it is finally exposed.

This is an engaging historical biographical fiction of Berthe Morisot whose contemporaries thought nothing of her work and more of her modeling for Manet; her work is now considered some of the best of the French impressionists. However, WITH VIOLETS focuses on her relationship with Manet and not much on her art. Still this is a well written enjoyable fictionalized account of Berthe Morisot starting from the moment she first saw Manet.

All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire
Kerrelyn Sparks
9780061118463, $6.99

Vampires age the equivalent of one day to every human year. So when Ian McPhie was changed at fifteen, he looked like a boy. It took him a few centuries to become a man looking forward to finally enjoying female vamps while seeking his one true love. He left the Highlands for Manhattan to find both.

Toni Davis obtains work as a day guard to an Upper East Side vampire nest in which Ian is staying. She is actually undercover seeking proof that vampires exist after being attacked by three Malcontents in Central park and having her best friend locked away in a nut house for claiming the bloodsuckers exist. However, she and Ian are stunned by their cross species attraction that sparks their respective hearts with a first kiss under the mistletoe.

Ian who has made appearances in the Sparks urban fantasy romances is the co-star along with Toni as neither welcome love between them, but that fickle emotion ignores the warning from their respective brains. Both struggles with caring for someone from another species especially Toni who believes she must choose between her pal and her beloved while the Malcontents want to finish their blood killing of the heroine. Fans will want for Christmas this terrific tale and for the New Year another sparkling story from an author who makes vampires in New York seem real.

A Seduction at Christmas
Cathy Maxwell
9780061350986, $7.99

In 1809 an angry Hester Bowen tells the woman she is two minutes late before realizing that the person she hired Annie Jenkins did not arrive. Fiona Lachlan explains Annie could not make it as she ran off with a soldier so she came instead. Hester wants Fiona to slip a potion into the drink of Lord Belkin. However, instead of meeting Belkin at the inn, she is escorted to the room occupied by Duke Dominic Lynsted who is expecting Andres Ramigio. His first reaction at seeing the beautiful woman who entered his room is that of a vision he had almost a decade ago that warned him to "beware innocence".

However all hell breaks out soon after she entered his room when assassins arrive to kill him. Fiona and Dominic escape through the window heading to his family estate. Pretending to be his ward, Fiona assists Dominic on his quest to find a stolen ring and locate a Spaniard expatriate who vanished without a trace while eluding paid killers. As they fall in love, she wonders how an innocent like her became embroiled in "Scandals and Seductions".

A SEDUCTION AT CHRISTMAS is an excellent Regency romantic amateur sleuth thriller that never slows down from the moment half of England enters Dominic's room at the inn. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action especially when the guardian and the ward investigate. Cathy Maxwell provides a great historical romantic mystery that will keep her fans up late with a one sitting read.

Her Secret Lover
Sarah Bennett
9780061336898, $5.99

In 1851 her odious guardian Lord Rudyard Appleby exiled Antoinette Dupree to his Devon estate Wexmoor Manor where he has plans for her and her wealth. As she rides the coach towards his house she hides in her bosom the letter that will free her and her younger sister Cecilia from their loathsome legal jailer. However, a highwayman stops the coach demanding she give him the letter; she refuses even though he knows her name. He searches her touching her breasts and her unmentionables. They are both stunned and aroused as he tells the little sparrow she is wasted on a rogue like Appleby.

Gabriel Langley is frustrated over his failure to find the letter that will allow him to regain his family home and his desire for the sparrow. He obtains work at Wexmoor Manor with plans to become HER SECRET LOVER until he seduces her into giving him the letter. Love was not part of his plan, but soon his goal changes from regaining his estate to protecting his beloved sparrow from her contemptible guardian.

This is an entertaining Victorian romance starring two likable individuals who share many traits including stubbornness, determination and courage. The story line is fast-paced as a masked Gabriel slips into Antoinette's bed , but his wants quickly change. Although Rudyard is reprehensible beyond any redemption, readers will appreciate this fun mid nineteenth century historical.

Like No Other Lover
Julie Anne Long
9780061341595, $6.99

Cynthia Brightly has become desperate as poverty seems a sure shot just around the corner and a brewing scandal will exacerbate her financial problems. She decides her only avenue of survival is to nail a rich spouse while attending the Redmond family's house party; there may be no more galas after that if she fails.

Field Naturalist Miles Redmond knows his duty to marry his family's anointed one though he is attracted to scandalous Cynthia. She meanwhile finds three prospects, but the one she cannot obtain Miles is the one she actually covets not just to get her out of a jam. Realistically he must select family over a disgraced woman as that is the right thing to do even if his heart says otherwise.

The lead couple, the last pairing anyone amongst the Ton and regency readers would match up; make for an amusing yet at times poignant historical romance. Cynthia is a charming witch who would never accept an intellectual especially a spare, but behind his glasses he is a hunk and now the heir; the scientist would never go after a shallow beauty who proves to have deep emotional depths. Fans will gain immense pleasure from Julie Anne Long's entertaining historical romance.

The Bride Price
Anne Mallory
9780061579134, $5.99

In 1822 seven bored English aristocrats decide a game using third and illegitimate sons will spice up the season. The winner of the contest will gain a title, an estate and a wealthy bride. Each agrees to let the games begin.

Sebastian Deville meets the criteria and decides to enter the competition for two competing reasons; first to gain affluence and influence to help the poor and second he also sees this as his only chance to inherit his mom's estates, which would enable him to avenge the affront of a lifetime. Lord Cheevers' daughter Sarah Pim is the icing on the cake to the winner as THE BRIDE PRICE, but Sebastian prefers the companion Caroline Martin. As he falls in love with Caroline, Sebastian must choose between his long term dream of acceptance by the Ton and his acceptance of being in love with the wrong female.

This fabulous late Regency romance focuses on the aristocratic status of unmarried women and illegitimate men. The story line is fast-paced from the moment "His Grace" never his father informs Sebastian of THE BRIDE PRICE contest and never slows down as the lead male falls in love with the wrong woman. Ann Mallory provides a well written historical.

A Silent Ocean Away
DeVa Gantt
9780061578236, $13.95

In 1836 eighteen years old Charmaine Ryan is euphoric to leave behind her hateful father, the Harrington family who she worked for three years, and her impoverished life in Richmond, Virginia to start over as a governess to the wealthy Duvoisin family. Thus she sails on the Raven heading to the three West Indies islands Les Charmantes. She meets on the ship, Paul Duvoisin, the illegitimate son of family patriarch Frederic.

On the isles she meets the rest of the family to include the reclusive Frederic, his young breeder trophy wife Colette, his heir John (born of his first late wife) and his three young children from his second marriage whom Charmaine is in charge of. She thinks she has found paradise but soon realizes each has dark secrets and enemies. Charmaine begins to help the entire Duvoisin dynasty not just her charges cope especially when Machiavellian schemer Agatha Ward plans to replace Colette as the spouse, but with no brats.

More a historical epic than a romance, A SILENT OCEAN AWAY is an engaging family drama starring a heroine whose coming of age takes her from naive admirer to pragmatic defender. The vast cast is strong so that key players are fully developed and secondary characters add depth to the plot. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this fine West Indies early nineteenth century saga.

Better off Undead
Martin H. Greenberg and Daniel M. Hoyt
DAW Books, Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756405120, $7.99,

This eighteen new story anthology focuses on a variety of different "Undead" species and not just vampires as mummies, fossils, ghosts, and other supernatural creatures. The collection is divided into four major categories: Afterlife, Spirit, Flesh and Undead. Each section contains at least four entries. All the contributions are well written even as they run the gamut from humorous satire to ironic frightening lampoon. This reviewer's overall favorite section is the Afterlife as Sarah A. Hoyt, Dave Freer, Laura Resnick, and Esther M. Friesner provide revenant and irreverent glimpses of life in the beyond. As amusing is Jay Lake's ode to diets "Two All Beef Patties" (just avoid meat for a while). Readers will enjoy the look into whether one is BETTER OFF UNDEAD or not depends on what form you take (and the paranormal the reader likes best) as the rotting flesh of zombies leaves a lot to be desired especially if you are the clean up crew. This is lighthearted gallows humor with a tongue in cheek (that is if it has not rotted away) in which none of the authors take being undead graveyard seriously as even the Mummy is a con artist.

The Flaxen Femme Fatale
John Zakour
9780756405199, $7.99

It is after 2070 on Earth and the only remaining independent private investigator is Zachary Nixon Johnson, a modern day Marlowe who has been shot many times, tangled with psychos containing psychic powers, and defied the political military power structure. Nothing surprises him so when he wakes up to the vision of a beautiful bimbo Natasha lying in his bed next to him he listens when she warns him "they" will want him to find her; she says "don't".

She appears at his office and repeats the same lines. Six androids grab Zach and take him to General Sandy who wants to hire him find and bring in Natasha. Natasha is a cyborg created by the military with super powers including the ability to kill thousands with her mind. Zach follows her trail across the United States and concludes she is not evil, but others want to use her mind as a weapon of mass destruction. Regardless of his beliefs and feelings, his task is to bring her back to the authorities.

John Zakour has written a serio-comic noir set six plus decades in the future and starring figuratively a Marlowe clone with the addition of HARV the computer in his head and a power weapon up his sleeve. HARV brings humor in a Jack Benny kind of way with his observations on the human condition while also insuring his host does not get them killed. The carrying out of the assignment is fun to follow as readers will enjoy the latest misadventures of the last private sleuth.

Moving Targets and Other Tales of Valdemar
Mercedes Lackey, editor
9780756405281, $7.99

Obviously for fans of the classic fantasy saga, the latest Valdemar anthology written by the mythos creator Mercedes Lackey and fourteen other authors ("Heart, Home and Hearth" is collaboration between Sarah Hoyt and Kate Paulk) is once again a great collection. Each tale is well written and brings a personal view to Valdemar yet the contributions remain inside the Lackey sphere; though some push the limitations. The Companions select the Chosen and that is where the fun lies whether it is Falnac a child in his first duel ("The Cheat" by Richard Lee Byers), Mickey Zucker Reichert's Herald "Dreams of Mountain Clover" or Tamar learning "What Fire Is" by Janni Lee Simmer. As always this is an excellent tribute to Mercedes Lackey as Tanya Huff, Brenda Cooper, Kristin Schwegel, Michael Z. Williamson, Stephanie Shaver, Fiona Patton, Judith Tarr, and Rosemary Edghill escort readers back to the realm of "Other Tales of Valdemar". See SWORD OF ICE AND OTHER TALES OF VALDEMAR, SUN IN GLORY AND OTHER TALES OF VALDEMAR and CROSSROADS AND OTHER TALES OF VALDEMAR for previous tours.

Witch High
Denise Little, editor
9780756405137, $7.99

The premise of this well written fantasy anthology is looking into the lives of the students attending a very special school: Salem Township Public High School #4, better known by those familiar with the curriculum as Witch High. The back cover says it all as "Harry Potter and his friends would feel at home" at Witch High. The authors seem to have fun in spite of the somewhat limitations of topic, age and "locale". The fourteen contributions are all well written with the student talent being magic rather than science or math. Whether it is the cheerleaders using magic to prevent their pyramid from tumbling ("A Perfect Ten" by Christina F. York), the irony of the "Late Bloomer" by Karen Fox who would rather die than attend the school or Josie supervising the school cafeteria ("You Got Served" by Esther M. Friesner), the compilation is a fun lighthearted look at high school through a magical Potter like lens.

Casting Spells
Barbara Bretton
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425223642, $4.00,

In Sugar Maple, Vermont, being the daughter of a sorcerer, Chloe Hobbs knows the rules that to inherit her magical power she must fall in love. However, half-breed Chloe, owner of Sticks and Strings knit shop in the northern side of the New England state, has vowed to never repeat her mom's error of tragically falling in love with a mortal; only the paranormal hunks will do for her.

Boston Homicide Detective Luke MacKenzie is loaned to Vermont to investigate a murder in Sugar Maple when he and Chloe meet. They are attracted to one another, but he is a dreaded human. Still Chloe begins to fall in love, which means she needs to learn how to use her powers even as she must choose between Luke and her town.

Whimsical and satirical, CASTING SPELLS lives up to its title as Barbara Bretton casts a spell on readers with a charming urban fantasy romantic police procedural. The lead couple is a delightful pairing as Chloe's brains says no, her heart says yes; Luke is confused with what he sees being done by the weird (to him) townsfolk, but is more bewildered by his feelings for the knit store owner. The whodunit is cleverly designed so that the audience will relish visiting northern Vermont in November while wanting sequels starring residents of the small New England town whose ancestors fled Salem.

Night of the Loving Dead
Casey Daniels
9780425225554, $6.99

Cemetery tour guide Pepper Martin was in the Garden View Cemetery when she knocked her head accidentally on a tombstone. When she regained consciousnesses, she was able to see ghosts; spirits of those who were murdered and unable to move on. They demand Pepper find their killers and bring them to justice so they can pass peacefully to the next level. She reluctantly investigates the claims because when she refuses they haunt her every living moment.

When Pepper goes to Chicago on business, she stops at the Greenland Cemetery where she meets the spirit of lab coated Madeline Tremayne, who pleads with her that their mutual friend Dr. Dan Callahan is in danger from his boss Dr. Hilton Gerard who is using him as the fall guy for the Feds to devour for their inquiry into misappropriation of funds. Knowing Dan once saved her life and how painfully persistent ghosts are, Pepper investigates learning that Dr. Dan is working on a new program in which the disenfranchised enter but never leave. As she obtains proof of the goings-on, a malevolent spirit turns Pepper into one of the disembodied unable to help anyone even herself.

Anyone who believes communicating with ghosts would be fun, need to ask the heroine whose experience with the "gift" leaves her traumatic and seemingly always in danger; this is not sharing tea or lattes. Still her courage and desire, albeit reluctant, to help others endears Pepper to the reader. Her latest investigation is fast-paced, dangerous and somewhat personal; as NIGHT OF THE LOVING DEAD is a charming amusing paranormal amateur sleuth.

A Veiled Deception
Annette Blair
9780425226407, $6.99

Madeira "Maddie" Cutler, a vintage clothing designer for a famous fashion house, is on her way to her hometown of Mystick Falls, Connecticut where she hopes to create the gown for her baby sister she raised. Maddie arrives in time for pandemonium; an angry Sherry watches her fiance Justin's former girlfriend Jasmine hang all over him as if she is the bride. Upset Sherry makes a rash statement that she will kill Jasmine in front of witnesses.

Maddie goes to see the wedding dress Sherry's mother-in-law expects her to wear only to find Jasmine choked to death by a veil. Sherry is the number one and only suspect; she does not help herself as she refuses to provide an alibi. Maddie has visions of another woman wearing the same dress and concludes her visions are related to the Jasmine homicide, but has no idea how. She investigates Sherry's in-laws especially their past since the dress belonged to Justin's mother to understand what she saw and hopes to apply it to identify the killer.

Annette Blair, renowned for her sensational bewitching romantic fantasies provides a new series filled with humor, the paranormal, two related mysteries, and of course romance. The protagonist is a beguiling intelligent free spirit who prefers a laughter and lay back lifestyle, but knows when the situation calls for a serious spin. She is glue that not only holds A VEILED DECEPTION together but turns the tale into an outstanding read.

22 Nights
Linda Winstead Jones
9780425224915, $7.99

Six years ago in an act of desperation to keep her freedom Princess Bela Haythorne of Turis drugged General Merin who was leading a local military force; while he was not fully aware of his situation she bedded and wedded him. He left going off to fight for the newly crowned Columbyanan Emperor Jahn moving up the ranks through blood and sweat to the point where he is the next in line as Minister of Defense while she hid in her Turis village in the Eastern Province.

Now Emperor Jahn is choosing a bride from candidates being brought from the corners of the empire. Merin volunteers to his superior General Hydd to escort Bela to the court in Arthes as almost anyone else would end up losing their head; he admits he might too. In Turis he is greeted by Bela ready to slice off his head. Her brothers and papa want his head too as they know what he did to her. Bela admits the truth including that they are married; stunning her family and her husband. They agree to divorce, which in Turis custom means bound together for 22 days and nights. Her mother believes they will either kill each other or realize they are in love.

The sequel to UNTOUCHABLE is a terrific Emperor's Bride romantic fantasy with a superb premise of having two enemy combatants bound together while fighting enemies who want one or the other dead. Her mystical "talking" sword Kitty adds uniqueness to the caper as the couple follows her sword into the Forbidden Mountain. Subplots involving other key characters enhance the saga as mom is right with her immediate assessment that the General and the barbaric princess will either die or love in a wonderful sword and sorcery romance.

Speed Demon
Erin Lynn
9780425223666, $9.99

In Ohio, West Shore High School Teen Kenzie Sutcliffe was taking a shower when she accidentally spilled her expensive acne cream down the drain releasing demon Levi from a demon hole (see DEMON ENVY). Kenzie is the only one who sees him for what he really is; others think he is an amiable good looking teen. She struggled to clog the hole before other more dangerous demons cross over form their realm.

Succeeding by destroying her family's minivan and kitchen, her reward is a life sentence of permanent grounding. Adding insult to her Good Samaritan success, Levi is her driver as she is banned from driving. He explains that his time on earth is numbered as other demons will come forth from another hole to drag him home. Not if Kenzie the kitchen killer has her way even as she wonders what the cost will be this time as she is already grounded for several lives.

This lighthearted teen urban fantasy is a fun tale starring a real American heroine and the illegal alien who demonically has turned her life upside down. The story line is fast-paced and breezy with plenty of humor and some suspense. Although the plot is thin, fans will enjoy Erin Lynn's amusing tale of a demon haunting a sweet sixteen-Buckeye.

Defending Angels
Mary Stanton
0425224988, $7.00

In Savannah, Georgia, Bree Winston-Beaufort takes over her late Uncle Franklin's law practice. While renovating his office, she temporarily rents space walking distance from her town house from weird elderly Mrs. Lavinia Mather who mentions the cemetery turns people off from the historical early eighteenth century edifice.

However, before she can settle into her practice, Bree receives a call from despised billionaire Benjamin Skinner, who pleads with her to defend him. However, as she considers taking on the case, Bree knows there is a minor problem with this client; he is dead. Benjamin desperately needs an attorney to defend him in the Celestial Court for violating the Celestial Law code on avarice. To make a case in his defense, she needs willing witnesses ready to testify that Skinner had altruistic moments. Private investigator Gabriel Striker accompanies Bree as their search for a character witness feels increasingly like finding a needle in a haystack.

The stunned Bree makes this superb paranormal cozy into a great tale as she adapts to the wonder yet perplexing celestial realm, celestial law, and celestial courtroom procedures. Readers will enjoy her journey into the supernatural side of Savannah along side the hunk of a sleuth. Fans who relish something different will want to accompany Bree as she mounts a defense for a client whose middle name is greed in an angelic court not of his peers.

A Mermaid's Kiss
Joey W. Hill
9780425223802, $15.00

Half-breed Anna knows her life will be short and loveless; her destiny to die alone. As the daughter of the legendary Ariel, she feels unwelcome in the human surface world and as an undesirable in the oceanic realm of her mom's race, the mermaids.

After several millennia of war against The Dark Ones, Prime Legion Commander for the Goddess, Jonah the Angel is burned out, suffering from battle fatigue syndrome caused by sending so many of his friends to die in mortal combat. He no longer cares about victory or the cause, as he just wants to join his fallen comrades.

During a particularly brutal fight, the enemy severs Jonah's wing. In pain, he crashes to the earth looking forward to his end as the Dark Ones pursue him to finish the job. Instead Anna finds him, rescues him, and heals him; and not just his wounded wing. Jonah finds a new reason to live and win as he has found love; Anna reciprocates as she knows the pain of loneliness is over as she has own angel.

Moving from vampires to mermaids and angels, Joey W. Hill provides another powerful romantic fantasy that will grip the audience from the opening sequence when Jonah fell from grace to the sea and never slows down as Anna risks her life to save her angel. Anna and Jonah make their respective species seem genuine while the Dark Ones are a bit over the top (but then again millenniums of getting your butt kicked will tend to do that), but no one will care as the eternal war has come to the Mer oceanic abode.

Hail to the Chef
Julie Hyzy
9780425224991, $7.99

Olivia "Ollie" Paras believes she has the best job in America as the executive chef at the White House. She is on very good terms with the First lady Mrs. Campbell, who wants to match her up with her nephew Sean; he has expressed an interest in her. When he comes into the kitchen, she allows him to use the computer after he peels some shrimp. He tells her he is busy right now and does not want to give her false hope. She later learns he committed suicide but based on the note he left behind he was anything bur depressed.

An inert incendiary device is found on the premises of the White House; forcing everyone to attend a class on security. After getting something from a storage closet, Ollie returns it only to notice a package that was not there on her first trip. When she opens it she realizes it is a bomb, which leads to the evacuation of the White House. Before the holiday season is over, Ollie will find herself choosing between her instincts and being dubbed a fool as she begins to put together the puzzle of what is going on inside the White House.

HAIL TO THE CHEF is aptly titled as Ollie saves lives with her keen instincts and sharp eyes. However what makes this amateur sleuth a gourmand's delight is the deep look at those employed at the White House who are not elected officials or political hacks. There are several mysteries in this fine seven course meal including Ollie's belief that Sean was murdered. Fans will enjoy Ollie in the middle of the investigations yet making delicious repasts for events and daily living of the occupants. Jule Hyzy balances her meal ticket quite nicely between the glimpses at the working class inside the White House with an engaging chef's cozy.

Eggs in Purgatory
Laura Childs
9780425224953, $6.99

Kindred, Tennessee is a small peaceful town, a place where Suzanne, Toni and Petra enjoy their freedom although each lost their spouse; one to death, another to Alzheimer's and the third to another woman. They bond over their respective loss and the friends open the Cackleberry Club cafe.

Suzanne's lawyer Brian has some papers for her to sign regarding her late husband's estate. When she steps out into the cafe's parking lot she finds him murdered in his car. Not long afterward, she sees a pickup truck being followed by a SUV; she follows them observing the truck tip over while the SUV drives away. Resident Teddy Harlingen, who first noticed Brian dead in the car, is found dead too. Suzanne believes the deaths are linked and soon learns of a million dollar kickback deal in which late husband's firm is being blamed. Refusing to accept the seemingly irrefutable evidence that her spouse committed a felonious deed, Suzanne investigates seeking the ties between three dead men while a fourth watches her every move.

Author of the Scrapbook and Tea Shop amateur sleuth series, Laura Childs launches a new "detective" series that her fans will relish. The first Cackleberry Club whodunit is filled with action, humor, intrigue, and recipes, but the heart and soul of the cafe mystery is the characters. The three female friends are there for one another like the Musketeers especially in time of crisis. The investigation is multilayered as the tie between the two homicides, Suzanne's husband, and a church fire remains nebulous but intrepid Suzanne keeps peeling the onion.

Flat-Out Sexy
Erin McCarthy
9780425224076, $14.00

Widow Professor Tamara Briggs raises her two children in quiet safe environs. After her husband died in a fiery NASCAR accident, she vowed to keep her kids safe and her heart too.

Driver Elec Monroe has had his fill of groupies. Instead he wants Tamara even if she is a few years older than him and he even likes her two kids. He scores with her in the tryst of a lifetime, but she obstinately refuses his efforts to shift their relationship beyond a one night stand into first gear as he is a dreaded driver like her children's late dad. He begins a campaign that NASCAR would love as a victory to him is winning Tamara's heart permanently.

The opening line by Tamara's friend Suzanne sets the stage of an engaging often humorous contemporary romance when she says Tamara's boyfriend anthropology Professor Geoffrey Ayers has less testosterone than a teenage girl. The story line accelerates from that terrific observation and never slows down as Elec tries to keep up with his racing heart to win the greatest prize of all, the love of a lifetime while his checkered flag in this race is an obstinate single mom.

Be With Me
Maya Banks
042522404X, $15.00

Police officer Regina Fallon is the daughter of an affluent politician, who cared more about his political career than his daughter. At home she was all alone growing up; but outside Regina became friends with three orphaned street urchins (Hutch, Cam and Sawyer) taken in by kind caring Birdie who showered them with love; an emotion she never received at home. The trio and their "mom" gave her companionship until the night she had sex with each of the boys. Embarrassed she fled.

However, in the present Regina misses her buddies as the loneliness is overwhelming. Worse a psychopath stalks her with the intent to kill her and her loved ones. When Hutch, Cam and Sawyer learn from Birdie she was hurt on the job, they arrive to protect her; not understanding that they are targets of a deranged killer since she obviously loves all three of them and Birdie. They reject her pleas for them to leave; instead they offer her their love (figuratively and literally).

BE WITH ME is a fascinating erotic romantic suspense that though well written with strong characters is not for everyone. Regina and the three men in her life are definitely in her life as menage a quatre makes for a different type of shared passion. The stalker subplot adds tension, but is more of a matchmaking scheme that brings back the former juvenile delinquents into the life of the woman they adore, cherish and love.

The Demon King and I
Candace Havens
9780425223635, $14.00

The four Caruthers sisters knew from birth that they were special Guardian Keys protecting humanity from select paranormal killers. Each of the siblings is a specialist with a unique power to fight a specific horde.

Gillian, owner of a Sao Paulo, Brazil art gallery and the CEO of the family owned Texas based Caruthers Corporation, caught her boyfriend in bed with one of her art gallery managers. Her talent being super strength she broke the sink. Her super strength comes in mighty handy when Gillian works her other job, the Assassin of dimension hopping demons. So even she is taken back when Arath, the new king of the demons, asks for a truce so they can team up to battle an unknown third force killing human and demon without regard. Even more shocking to the Guardian is her attraction to her temporary ally

The first of a new romantic urban fantasy is a piece of haven for sub-genre fans. The lead couple is a delightful pairing of beloved enemies fighting against a sly sinister unknown force killing both sides. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Gillian kicks the butt of her sink and never slows down until the final confrontation; in between are several super twists. Readers will be whistling a happy tune with this superb paranormal romance.

Suite 606
J.D. Robb, et al.
9780425224441, $7.99

"Ritual in Death" by J.D. Robb. NYPD Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her spouse Roarke attend a gala that is interrupted by a satanic vicious homicide of an Indiana transplant.

."Love Endures" by Mary Blayney. Recently widowed Summer Cassidy has enough on her plate as a single mom, but must deal with two men in her life; the ghost of her late husband and Lord Stephen Bradley.

"Cold Case" by Ruth Ryan Langan. Former cop Sam Hunter has a car accident that leaves him with no choice except accepting the hospitality of Mary Catherine and her hostile stepfather.

"Wayward Wizard" by Mary Kay McComas. At a museum, Marie Barnett and her son Hugh tumble into an exhibit where they meet Nester Baraka the time travel wizard from Viator.

Fans will enjoy these four well written speculative fiction novellas that run the gamut from science fiction police procedural to urban fantasy to the paranormal triangle.

Demon Bound
Meljean Brook
9780425224533, $7.99

Guardian Alice "Black Widow" Grey is upset as she is trapped in a Faustian deal with Teqon the demon. She must give to Teqon the heart of the most revered and powerful Guardian, Michael; failure to do so means eternal damnation for Alice. She knows her thoughts are dark as she considers cutting out the heart of the Doyen Michael. Alice also is well aware how difficult that would be as he has proven to be the mightiest of them over thousands of years demonstrated by the Second Battle when the Seraphim bestowed power to him and the others before their retreat.

Guardian Newcomer Jake Hawkins tries to help his mentor Alice by using his teleportation skills. They begin to fall in love, but must find a way for her to escape her deal with the demon without sacrificing her or Michael.

The latest Meljean Brooks Guardian romantic fantasy (see DEMON NIGHT, DEMON MOON and DEMON ANGEL) is an excellent entry in a great series due to the dilemma of the lead female. She refreshes the saga with her moral quandary of either her or Michael being condemned for eternity. The rookie Jake is a perfect junior partner trying to help his trainer while falling in love with her. This is another winner as the multifaceted Guardian saga continues to expand in complexity while remaining entertaining.

Unravel Me
Christie Ridgeway
9780425224854, $7.99

Being the widow of an US Army General usually means respect for the surviving woman, but in the case of Juliet Weston she receives none of that even from the tight knit military families. Instead the media condemns her for marrying a much older man while the military and his family scorn her as a gold-digger.

Having enough of the ridicule that she does not deserve, Juliet flees to her home in Malibu where she can grieve her loss without the nasty spins of the pundits or family. Her only companion is her late husband's trusted aide, Noah. However, she begins to fall for Noah at the same time she learns she has two sisters that she never knew existed.

UNRAVEL ME is an entertaining contemporary romance starring a fascinating lead couple who each has doubts about falling in love with the other out of respect for her deceased husband who was his superior officer; adding to their respective discomfit both knows the timing is bad as she grieves her loss. The newly discovered sisters' subplot enhances a fine tale that fans of Christie Ridgeway will enjoy while anticipating two more "Malibu and Ewe" novels to follow.

Immortal Warrior
Lisa Hendrix
Berkley Sensation
9780425224540, $6.99

The sorceress cursed Viking warrior Ivar Graycloak over two centuries ago. His plight is to be human fighter at night but a soaring eagle during the day. He assumes he will take his plight to the grave.

However, his king directs Ivar to marry Lady Alaida. He is attracted to her and their consummation of their vows is the greatest moment of his life. However, marriage and the curse do not mix. Making him even feels guiltier for concealing the truth from his beloved wife is a seer who warns him to keep her away from him. He never counted on her courage and obstinacy as Alaida refuses to allow her loved one to leave.

Even with no teenage Matthew Broderick, IMMORTAL WARRIOR will remind the audience of Lady Hawke as a terrific historical romantic fantasy. Ivar is a wonderful lead character used to using his "skill" to help the kingdom, but now struggling with what is best for his loved one. However it is the intrepid Alaida who steals the show as she will remain at his side regardless. Lisa Hendrix provides an entertaining tale.

The Dragon Master
Allison James
9780425224717, $6.99

Her grandmother used to regale restaurateur Carol Juan with supernatural stories. Carol enjoyed the fables, but assumed her grandma was narrating fantasies. That concept changes when she finds a naked male fuming fire from his blazing red hair.

Fire dragon Seth assumes dragon master Carol summoned him although she denies it. Her bewilderment makes him begin to believe her. They soon learn an incarcerated dragon master called for Seth and the malevolent Order of the Black Lotus wants to communicate with their demon god. Only Carol if she learns to use her powers in time that she never knew existed is the only hope to save everyone.

The latest bewitching dragon paranormal romance (see DRAGON HEAT and THE BLACK DRAGON) is a superb thriller as the heroine has no time to adjust to the reality of supernatural species at war. Still it is Carol's reactions and actions that make THE DRAGON MASTER a masterful tale. Seth is a bit more typical of the Allison James' species, but even he is fresh due to the bewildered adaptable heroine who must prove to be a super fast learner if she is to save the day.

Thai Die
Monica Ferris
9780425223468, $24.95

As the owner of a building containing three apartments, one of which she lives in, and where the Crewel World needlework shop is located, Betsy Devonshire is once again in the middle of a murder case. When Doris Valentine returned from Thailand, she is eager to show Betsy and the Monday Bunch all the beautiful things she found in Bangkok especially silk.

Doris also promised an American living in Bangkok that she would deliver a package to an antiquities dealer who has a buyer. She opens the box to find a stone Buddha wrapped inside bubble plastic and a filthy cloth. She throws the cloth out but Betsy sees a beautiful design on it and saves it. The dealer is unhappy that she opened his package; when Doris returns to her apartment she finds it ransacked. Needing to get away, she and a few friends stay at an inn only to have a person with a gun demanding she give up the Thai silk. With the antiques dealer murdered and Doris' life threatened, Betsy turns amateur sleuth to uncover who is behind the crime wave and why.

Monica Ferris consistently writes delightful cozies with her latest being another fun bloodless tale. Readers are treated to a wonderful cerebral whodunit with clues out in the open so that audience has a chance to solve the case. Betsy (and the audience) is dealing with a difficult inquiry because of the numerous red herrings, false leads, and the threat to her friend. Doris is glad to have her in her corner.

The Rogue and the Rival
Maya Rodale
9780425224526, $7.99

In 1816, Angela Palmerston was sent to the nearby abbey for causing a scandal that humiliates her family. Over the next six years she behaves with decorum and now plans to take her vows.

Lord Phillip's gambling addiction is out of control. He no longer can pay his debts. While traveling alone he is assaulted and left to die. Instead in severe pain he is brought to the abbey where Angela is assigned to heal him. As he recovers they fall in love. He proposes to her and she accepts. However soon afterward, Philip vanishes. Angela assumes he changed his mind. Despondent and no longer taking her vows, she travels to London to become an illustrator. Kidnapped, Phillip escapes his captivity and rushes to London to win back the hand of the woman he loves.

Maya Rodale provides her readers with a fascinating Regency romance starring two intriguing protagonists who refresh what would otherwise be typical sub-genre novel. The story line is filled with spins especially the key abduction of the hero. As with THE HEIR AND THE SPARE, what makes the tale fun to read is the lead couple who are both stunned and not ready for love.

The Missing
Shiloh Walker
9780425224380, $14.00

In Gulf Shores, Alabama, psychic Taige Branch uses her skill to find missing children. She had visions of a little girl in trouble, but has no idea who she is or what to do to rescue her.

FBI agent widower Cullen Morgan is desperate as his beloved daughter Jilly has been abducted. Scornful of Taige's skill as she failed to warn him that a psychopath would kill his mother when they were lovers eight years ago, he goes to her to plead for her help. Taige is stunned to see Cullen, but more shocked when he shows her his daughter's picture; she is the girl haunting her dreams. As a team, they may be able to save his child from a maniacal predator.

This is a great romantic suspense that grips the audience from the moment that Cullen begs Taige to find Jilly. The story line is action-packed especially when the two lead protagonists are on the rescue search. Sub-genre fans will feel the pain Cullen suffers as a single dad worried about his offspring while appreciating the courageous Taige who still loves the man who dumped her for failing him.

Ready & Willing
Elizabeth Bevarly
9780425224779, $7.99

In Kentucky Widow Audrey Magill enters the antique store to browse. She sees a portrait of nineteenth century riverboat Captain Silas Leyton Summerfield and feeling an odd affinity as well as believing the picture would be perfect for her hat shop that she plans to have opened in time for the Derby; she buys the portrait. However, she also learns the Captain once lived in the house she currently occupies.

Silas' spirit is on a quest to save the soul of his decedent Nathaniel who is about to make a Faustian deal. He asks Audrey to help him. However when the beautiful fruitcake warns Nathaniel that he is selling his soul and her source is great to the nth degree ancestor Captain Silas, he has no doubt that she is a nut. Audrey is taken aback by her attraction to Nathaniel as she never thought of finding love again ever since her spouse passed away. She insures she does not lose sight of her mission: save Nathaniel's soul.

The romance is well written while the Kentucky Derby serves as a background to Audrey's efforts to save Nathaniel's soul. Silas is an interesting matchmaker who knows if anyone can rescue his descendent it is the love of a good woman; in this case Audrey. Elizabeth Bevarly provides her fans an engaging paranormal contemporary romance.

Enticing the Prince
Patricia Grasso
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780821780732, $6.99,

In 1821 London, Contessa Katerina Garibaldi informs her younger teenage brother Hektor that she plans to soon kill Russian Prince Drako Kazenov who she believes murdered her half-sister Alina and half-brother Ilya leading to the death of their father. Hektor tries to reason with her, but fails.

Two months earlier renowned jeweler Katerina provides a special brooch gift to her best patron Duchess Roxanne Campbell to celebrate the weddings of two of her step-daughters to Russian princes. Roxanne thanks Katrina by inviting her to attend the Beltane Ball she is hosting; the jeweler accepts as she can meet new clients so that her younger sisters, Hektor and her daughter Viveka can continue to live a quality life.

At a ball she meets Drako who she wants dead, but is attracted to him; he desires her too. Russian prince Yuri also wants Katerina although she puts him off. Drako hates Yuri whose seduction of his fiance Raisa led to her suicide. Roxanne's husband the Duke warns Drako to beware of the Blond Brigade as the snobbish trio wants royalty as their spouse. Yuri warns Katerina to avoid Drako whose fiance took her life; Drako warns Katerina to avoid Yuri who ruins women. Roxanne names Katerina queen of the ball and she names Drako her king. They dance and he kisses her; she slaps him and leaves. Thus the players are in place for Katerina to follow her heart battling between the new love and a hate she has carried for five years.

The latest "Prince" Regency romance is an excellent entry due to the strong characterizations. The support cast is solid and includes returning lead characters from the well written previous novels to include the Flambeau sisters while the romance is fun to follow as the heroine is confused about her feelings unlike Drako. The mysteries enhance a fine tale although some might quibble about Katerina's reactions to Drako.

Highland Sinner
Hannah Howell
0821780018, $6.99

In 1478 Scotland, Tormand Murray is used to waking up with a hangover and a woman. However, a different type of ache in his head and the smell wake him up this time. His head has a large bump from where he either banged it or someone banged him; the smell comes from the woman sharing his bed as he recognizes the odor of death. Someone murdered his companion.

The witch Morainn Ross has been haunted of late by visions of murder and a hunk with two different eye colors. When she meets a bewildered Tormand she recognizes him as the man of her dreams. Tormand knows immediately the witch is his life mate. He needs to persuade his beloved they belong together and while keeping her safe investigate the homicide of his bed companion starting with how he got there and just who she is.

The latest Highland romance is a fun fresh tale that contains the usual premise of a wild Murray male meeting a brave female and knowing his true love instantly. The story line is refreshed by the homicide inquiry that is part dangerous, part loving and part amusing as if the Thin Man and his wife went back to the fifteenth century. Fans will enjoy Hannah Howell's Highland romance.

Highland Captive
Hannah Howell
0821780034, $6.99

In 1500 in Scotland, Aimil and her brother Leith are riding the moors when the ferocious MacGuin clan captures them. Their leader Black Parlan holds the siblings for ransom as he expects her betrothed and her family to pay a fortune, and plans to make her horse Elfking his. Aimil is frightened of the Laird because of the rumors of his dining on babies. However, except for his desire to steal her steed, she quickly finds her warden is a caring leader; nothing at all like his reputation claims.

Aimil refuses to give him her beloved horse as he demands. He understands the love of a good horse so he offers her an alternative choice; she replaces her horse as his ride. As they battle to love, her fiance plots to kidnap her and his former lover unites with Aimil's former intended.

This is a reprint of an early 1990s novel (called ELFKING'S LADY) that showcases Hannah Howell's talent before she became the Queen of Highland historicals. The lead couple is a fun entry ad their gender war over her horse is amusing but turns warm when they kiss. Although the villains should have known better than to try an abduction with Parlan's reputation; fans of the author will enjoy one of her fine earlier tales.

Silver Bells
Fern Michaels, JoAnn Ross, Mary Burton, and Judy Duarte
1420103636, $7.99

"Silver Bells" by Fern Michaels. Although a star, Hollywood has not been fun for Amy Lee, who wants to leave the glitter behind her and just go home. This Christmas she returns to Apple Valley, Pennsylvania where her high-school boyfriend Hank Anders greets her in a way that makes her want to stay forever in his arms.

"Dear Santa…" by JoAnn Ross. Mystery writer author Holly Berry has another reason to hate the holidays; a blizzard has left her stranded in Santa's Village, Washington at the lodge owned by Gabriel O'Halloran. He and his young matchmaking daughter give her a Christmas that makes her wish for more of their loving magic.

"Christmas Past" by Mary Burton. The letter she receives provides hints to the identity of a killer. Having had a violent abusive husband, photographer Nicole Piper knows she cannot pursue this alone so she turns to homicide detective David Ayden for help. The widow and the widower face danger to their lives and to their hearts as both find a second chance at love if they survive their sleuthing ordeal.

"A Mulberry Park Christmas" by Judy Duarte. Sugar Plum Lane residents know how to enliven the community for the Christmas season. However, this year Alyssa Ridgeway still reels from an ugly breakup and is not in the holiday mood until she runs into her first sweetheart, James MacGregor, who reminds her of the Christmas kiss past, present and future.

These four heartwarming holiday romances each contain strong lead characters, a sense of the season, and entertaining story lines.

Dead Ringer
Mary Burton
1420100270, $6.99

In Henrico County, Virginia women who look similar to popular Richmond TV news anchor Kendall Shaw are being murdered. Next to each victim the serial killer leaves a charm bearing a single female name that makes no sense to the police.

Homicide detective Jacob Warwick recognized the similarity when he saw the first victim and wonders if the murdered females are practice runs before the psychopath comes after Kendall. Last year he rescued her from the abduction of his adopted father though she took a bullet anyway. He vows to keep her safe even as she insists she is not the target of a maniac while she investigates the serial killer homicides and the police efforts to catch him.

The romance between the cop and the journalist takes a needed back seat (comes on towards the end) to the strong whodunit as both are attracted to one another but argue over her safety. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jacob makes his connection and never slows down as Mary Burton cleverly keeps the audience wondering who of her two prime suspects is actually the serial killer.

Scions: Revelation
Patrice Michelle
Silhouette Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373618002, $5.25,

As the werewolf Lupreda protector Caine Grennard knows he must leave since his mentor the Alpha leader Landon gives him no choice. To stay, he must wear a silver collar to keep him from going "zerker", which he knows that means he can not do his job. He leaves his pack to venture out on his own.

The former second in command feels all alone after three months delivering packages until he meets reticent waitress Emma Gray at the Squeeze night club and to his shock is attracted to her as he always assumed his soulmate would be a shapeshifter. Emma reciprocates his feelings even as Landon wants him back with his family and offers a full moon compromise. Soon after their first meeting Emma tells Caine someone kidnapped her Aunt Mary. Caine tells her he will find and try to rescue her. As they investigate together, their attraction turns to love. However, both are in for a shocker when they learn her aunt has been giving Emma vitamins that are actually shapeshifting suppressants; instead of a purebred human she is something else but not werewolf as he would have sniffed that; his fear is that something else is his pack's natural enemy.

The latest Scions romantic urban fantasy (see RESURRECTION and INSURRECTION) is a fabulous paranormal that works because the audience obtains a fascinating look at the relationships within the Lupreda pack. The romance is fun to follow as the secret behind what she is will enthrall the audience. The abduction of Aunt Mary takes a back seat to the bite between a unique star-crossed lovers twist.

Holiday with a Vampire II
Merline Lovelace and Lori Devoti
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373618019, $5.25

"A Christmas Kiss" by Merline Lovelace. Sergeant Brett Cooper barely prevents a nasty accident when he almost runs over a woozy Delilah Wentworth. She is a vampire who had been to the dentist to have her fang fixed. They are attracted to one another and stay together for the holidays while both wonder about the New Year.

"The Vampire Who Stole Christmas" by Lori Devoti. Seeking vengeance against the family that adopted him, vampire Drystan Hurst returns home to fall in love with his brother's fiancee, Aimee Polk.

Although vampires star in both tales, the paranormal is low keyed as each is more a typical lighthearted holiday romance except perhaps for the vamp needing to go to the dentist in Ms. Lovelace's tale. Still fans will enjoy the vampires finding their "souls" through love.

Enemy Lover
Bonnie Vanak
Silhouette Nocturne
0373617984, $5.25

In New Mexico werewolf Damian Marcel knew that Jamie Walsh is his draicara life mate even after she tried to kill him. Jamie wants Damian too and even gave him her virginity, but refuses now to have anything to do with him since she learned he killed her brother Mark.

Damian follows Jamie to New Orleans. At the same time the magic that bonds them is also turning her into a stone. Meanwhile the Morphs, malevolent shapeshifters, are killing in order to steal the victim's life essence just as they die. Damian as a Dracian werewolf must prevent the Morphs from changing a still recovering New Orleans into their personal dining facility.

This is an exciting werewolf romantic suspense in which love may not be enough in spite of the magic that binds the stars to one another; they remain beloved enemies. Damian has an overflowing plate between persuading Jamie to be his draicara, reversing the curse that is petrifying her, and ending the Morph reign of terror. Ironically although for the most part carrying the action load, Jamie is the more fascinating character as her loyalties are divided. ENEMY LOVER is a terrific paranormal romance.

Winter Kissed
Michelle Hauf and Vivi Anna
Silhouette Nocturne
0373617992, $5.25

Winter Kissed" by Michele Hauf. Old Man Winter is outraged with how the stupid humans are destroying the environment. He assigns his top assassin Vilhjalmur Frosti to kill environmental offenders. In Northern Minnesota the godly killer's current prey is Kate Wilson; the only problem is from the first moment he sees her, he needs her as lust heats up his ice cold body.

"Ice Bound" by Vivi Anna. In Hokkaido, Japan during a nasty snowstorm Ice Maiden Princess Koori-Onna saves the life of Dr. Darien Calder, which stuns the mortal because her infamous legend is to freeze the lost with a kiss. Instead he seems to thaw out her heart while trying to liberate her from her frozen incarceration

These two engaging romantic fantasies built from myths are fun to read, but the climax of the novella format feels faster than Olympic speed skating as each ending is rushed.

Christmas in Key West
Cynthia Thomason
Harlequin SuperRomance
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373715282, $5.50,

Only for her father would Abby Vernay return home to Key West after thirteen years away. Home reminds her of Reese Burkett who broke her heart on graduation day when he took her virginity and left the next day for the military.

Reese is home as a police captain so Abby knows they will meet since her father is in jail. As they become reacquainted, Reese wants more while Abby pushes for less. He soon realizes his leaving town has hurt her so now in love he must persuade her to take a chance on him; he will not let her down again ever.

This is a fun second chance at love Christmas tale. The strong eccentric secondary cast starting with her father brings Key West to life. Abby is terrific as she refuses to give the man she has loved since he was a teen another shot at her heart because she knows the damage if he leaves. Reese realizes he has a hike as long as the Keys to overcome as he was ignorant to how much he hurt her so he starts off losing even more ground. Cynthia Thomason writes a warm CHRISTMAS IN KEY WEST.

Dying for You
Beverly Barton
9780373773176, $6.99

For almost a decade at Dundee Private Security Lucie Evans and Sawyer McNamara fought like cats and dogs. Anyone who observed the oil water mix would never conclude they were once very close. The gender squabble ends when Lucie leaves the firm to accept the position of a bodyguard to billionaire Cara Bedell.

During an attempt to kidnap Cara, Lucie is abducted instead. A stunned Sawyer bulldozes his way onto the rescue team. They liberate Lucie, but Cara remains a target of a killer. Lucie and Sawyer team up to try to keep Cara safe and bring down her assailant even as the two operatives try to still conceal their feelings for one another.

DYING FOR YOU is a fabulous Dundee Private Security romantic suspense that grips the audience from the moment Lucie quits and never slows down as she and her beloved enemy fights one another while protecting Cara. The lead couple is fully developed especially their flaws as each is willing to risk their life but not their heart. Fans will relish this tense tale while seeking the exciting Protectors' saga (see A TIME TO DIE, MOST LIKELY TO DIE and DANGEROUS DECEPTION).

Dangerous Prey
Lindsay McKenna
9780373773213, $6.99

Flying a helicopter is something that Kelly Trayhern loves. Working for Bates International, a fire suppression company, she is exhausted after nine trips from Cottonwood Airport near Sedona into a blaze; the tenth ended in a crash caused by a sudden burst of smoke blinding her; the two men with her were trapped inside an inferno. Her joy of flying died with her co-pilot and the Forest Service Ranger; as she vows to never pilot a helicopter again.

Her long time friend Sky McCoy has also dealt with tragedies. He has found salvation working as a raptor rehabilitator. After Kelly's mom visits him to tell him what happened to her daughter, Sky invites Kelly to help him, which she agrees to do. As they work side by side, his past surfaces threatening Kelly even as their love for one another blossoms.

The deep look at saving and protecting endangered birds of prey refreshes an engaging romantic suspense. Kelly and Sky have demons from their past; hers being very recent while his shows up in person. Although the suspense is somewhat typical of a romantic thriller, fans, with the exception of the Governor Palin crowd who would prefer to fly to hunt, will enjoy this tense tale as the most DANGEROUS PREY is human.

Four in Hand
Stephanie Laurens
9780373773091, $7.99

After a decade as a womanizing viscount with a temper when disturbed, Max Rotherbridge is now the Duke of Twyford. To him it is no big deal as he will continue his prime role as the most notorious aristocratic rake.

The thirty-four years old aristocrat will soon realize how wrong he is about his new inheritance. Besides the title and all its affluence and influence, he learns the hard way of a slightly different bequest when a young Miss Caroline Twinning visits him. He angrily goes to see her and she assumes he is too young and obviously rakish to be the Duke she needs to see. However, he is so she plows on by informing him she and her three sisters are his wards. Making matters worse, Max is attracted to the courageous Caro who diverts his temper from her pretty younger siblings onto her.

This reprint of a 1990s Regency romance is a forerunner of the talented Stephanie Laurens multiple stories like the Bastian Club and the Cynsters. However, unlike those sagas broken into several novels each, FOUR IN HAND is overwhelmed by a cast belonging in a Cecil De Mille movie with several relationships making it difficult to focus on the prime one. Still this is an intriguing tale that showcases the talent of Ms. Laurens as she juggles several romances.

Enchanted Again
Nancy Madore
Harlequin Spice
0373605218, $13.95

This spicy collection contains Nancy Madore's clever erotic spin to eight classic nursery rhymes. The titles tell all as the torrid spoofs include "Birds of a Feather", "Curley Locks", "Desperate Dan", "Hot Cross Buns", "Little Miss Muffet", Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater" and Humpty Dumpty"; all contain a sexual face lift inside of a relatively long short stories (the shortest is over thirty pages). The tales are fun whether they are amusing or dark. Each contains reasonably solid lead characters like Carol Curley Locks wanting a commitment from her hot boyfriend who hides his heated darkness from her, Peter giving new meaning to eating pumpkin pie, Georgie wanting more than just stealing kisses and Marcie understanding the true meaning of hot buns, etc. The sequel to ENCHANTED consists of "more erotic bedtime stories for women" as fairy tales can come steamy in Ms. Madore's enchanting erotic interpretation that Freud would endorse.

Second-Chance Family
Karina Bliss
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373715244, $5.50

In New Zealand following his divorce from Roz Valentine, Jack Galloway assumed he would never remarry or sire children. Instead he buries himself in his work. That changes when his brother and sister-in-law die in a car accident while on vacation in New Caledonia, leaving behind three young children.

Jack has no time to grieve, but is stunned to learn that Roz e and he were both named as guardians. She quickly thinks they have a second chance together coming from the tragedy as they raise the three kids; he wants that too but knows his heart could not take a failure again. Both know the kids come first.

This second chance at love tale works on several levels, but mostly because the readers will feel the grief of the three children. Thus the characters make for a great story as neither Roz nor Jack want to be guardians and worse co-guardians, but the kids hook them as each mourns in different ways. Jack's client Hiro sums up the novel when he tells Jack to go home because at times like this one needs to be with loving family.

Cowboy for Keeps
Brenda Mott
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373715268, $5.50

In Colorado, rancher Reno Blackwell is concerned when rustlers try to steal her wild Mustang herd. She wants her horses safe so she turns to her former lover Cade Lantana, who has just come home after years away, for help.

Cade wants to say no because he remains haunted by the incident that had him run away from her love and his home. Although exonerated afterward by Internal Affairs, while on duty as a local police officer, he killed her stepfather. When Cade sees Reno he knows he still loves her; she feels the same way. He wants a second chance; she does not feel the same way. She remains livid that he dumped her when she needed him most while he knows he was unable to help himself get past the trauma caused by killing his lover's stepdad let alone be there for his beloved.

The key to this wonderful ranch romance is the hurt and trauma neither of the lead couple let go of from that fateful day when Reno saw "the man who had stolen her heart. Then killed her father". Neither has moved on, but now Cade sees a chance to make amends while Reno remains furious with him for deserting her when she most needed him. Contemporary romance readers will appreciate Brenda Mott's well written tale of a tragic incident in their past still threatens to keep this couple apart.

The Christmas Cowboy
Judy Christenberry
Harlequin American Romance
9780373752386, $4.99

On the family owned Lazy l Ranch in Colorado, Hank Ledbetter is the last remaining single as the spread has had three weddings in under a year. His grandfather and his brother (see TRUST A COWBOY) are on their respective honeymoons and his sister Jess started the marriage go round last summer (see RUNAWAY COWBOY). He vows never him.

Although the deal to have guests arrive was to start next month, Hank angrily agrees to teach affluent New York City slicker Andrea Jacobs how to ride a horse after his family signed a contract with the guest. As the teacher and student become acquainted they begin to fall in love. He no longer wants to run off to nearby Steamboat Springs to see the ladies. However, she has a secret and he has doubts, making it seem the only bells for Christmas not ringing will be wedding bells.

The latest Lazy L Ranch romance is an engaging contemporary that starts off on the wrong hoof (make that foot) when Hank assumes Andrea is a spoiled rich girl used to getting her way so he behaves atrociously towards the guest. Andrea's lack of confidence leads to her accepting the belief she deserves his scorn and readers cringing. Although Andrea waits too long to show backbone, fans will enjoy this fun Colorado ranch romance as the cowboy has a lot of making up to do one kiss at a time.

The Cowboy and the Angel
Marin Thomas
Harlequin American Romance
9780373752409, $4.99

In Detroit dedicated, some would say obsessed, social worker Renee Sweenee will do anything include standing in front of a wrecking crane and ball to prevent the destruction of the abandoned 1892 Screw and Bolt Factory Warehouse where six kids have taken shelter. Tulsa based Duke Dalton cannot believe what has happened to his simple deal.

He realizes bad PR could rupture his plan. He decides to team up with the lioness protecting someone else's runaway cubs by helping Renee find homes for all of the children. As they work together, Renee and Duke fall in love, but her distrust of relationships due to a bad incident leaves her ready to bolt. Duke knows he has his work cut out to convince his beloved they belong together.

The romance between the COWBOY AND THE ANGEL is cleverly done to serve as a backdrop in many ways to saving the children as Marin Thomas makes each of her teens and preadolescents seem fully developed with genuine flaws and fears. Thus besides a strong contemporary romance, the audience sees a powerful look at how complex and difficult social work can be. This is a great tale and perhaps Ms. Thomas can provide a futuristic anthology focusing on these children as adults (instead of where are they now - where will they be).

Risky Moves
Gina Wilkins
Harlequin NASCAR
9780373217960, $5.99

Maximus Racing Owner Dawson Ritter stuns the NASCAR world when he fires respected crew chief Neil Sanchez late into the season when his top driver Kent Grosso is a strong candidate to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Ritter hires Tobey Harris to replace his mentor as crew chief.

At the same time Tobey struggles with exorbitant stress, he finds himself attracted to publicist Amy Barber. She reciprocates his feelings. However she has doubts especially when it seems as if Tobey will crack under the pressure to succeed at work and to move their tenuous relationship to a stronger level.

This engaging NASCAR romance takes a fine spin around the track mostly because of Tobey's struggles not to break down under the immense pressure of replacing his superstar mentor late into the season. Seceding Sanchez during the off season would have been brutal, but to have it occur while their rider is bidding on the title makes it overwhelming. Thus the romance between Tobey and Amy takes a back seat to his coping and leads to doubts on her part. Fans will enjoy this solid racing car tale.

Running on Empty
Ken Casper
Harlequin NASCAR
9780373217977, $5.99

Three decades ago, Sylvie Ketchum walked out on her husband Hugo Murphy and their daughter Kim. He moved on burying himself in his work at NASCAR so he would not have to think about relationships beyond loving his daughter.

However Kim desperately needs a kidney so the NASCAR crew chief knows his priorities begins and ends praying for a miracle. A match is found with an anonymous donor who Hugo learns is Sylvie. Forced to reassess what happened thirty years ago, Hugo knows he still loves Sylvie, but Kim has never forgiven her mom for deserting her too; Hugo wonders if he should tell his beloved daughter the full truth while hoping to persuade his Sylvie to come home to them as they need her.

RUNNING ON EMPTY is an intriguing character study as both of Kim's parents look back as to why she left and realize each has culpability. Their second chance at being a family depends on whether both can take that first step forward. For Kim, who needs the kidney her mom whom she loathes donates, forgiveness is harder. Though NASCAR and romance are minor elements, Ken Casper provides a deep family drama.

All That Matters
Stef Ann Holm
0373773137, $4.99

In Boise Not Just Cakes bakery owner Chloe Lawson feels her five month old business is making it. Not only are the local restaurants buying her confectionaries, she hired two helpers since business is booming. She owes it all to her maternal grandma Ethel Lumm, who raised her and encouraged her. Her bakery is next to Ethel's Boutique in the Grove Marketplace. Her only major mistake as an adult was marrying crappy Bobby-Tom Drake, whom she divorced though he still stalks her when he is drunk.

However she is shocked when the leasing company informs her they are terminating her lease so that the Garretson grocery chain can take over the marketplace. One of her best customers Robert Moretti owner of Pomodoro Italian Restaurant asks his widow brother lawyer John to represent her. He agrees unaware that his firm represents Garretson. When they meet, both are stunned by the attraction as he has not enjoyed steeping out since his wife died in three years and she still is scarred by her failed marriage. Adding to the negatives is his two teen children who have not adjusted to life without mom.

This is an entertaining contemporary romance with a touch of suspense that enhances the basic story line. All the key players seem genuine with flaws and doubts; especially the lead couple. Fans will enjoy this fine second chance at love tale.

A McKettrick Christmas
Linda Lael Miller
0373773021, $16.95

In 1896 after spending two years at Miss Ridgley's Institute of Deportment and Refinement for Young Women, Lizzie McKettrick is excited to be coming home to her family on the Triple M Ranch in time for Christmas. She looks forward to being the new Indian Rock schoolteacher as well and mostly to introduce her beau Whitley Carson to her family.

An avalanche causes the train wreck stranding the passengers including Beau and her. Dr. Morgan Shane helps the injured while Lizzie assists him even as she waits for her family to rescue everyone. While working with the caring doctor, she reconsiders her feelings towards Whitley, who increasingly compared with Morgan looks like a gold-digger. However, more important than working through her feelings, she knows time is running out on the stranded travelers.

Clearly targeting fans of the McKettrick saga with a holiday toast, this is a warm inspirational historical romance. Lizzie is an intriguing lead character as she compares the two men in her life; one is caring and helpful to strangers while the other is aloof with a not my problem attitude. Although the story line follows a simplistic straight track, readers will enjoy spending A MCKETTRICK CHRISTMAS with the return of one of the daughters.

Christmas Getaway
Anne Stuart, Tina Leonard and Marion Lennox
9780373837298, $5.99

"Claus and Effect" by Anne Stuart. Boston police officer James Fitzpatrick is stunned when he is suspected of a homicide and a jewel theft. When he heard rumors that Dr. Ellie Pollard possesses information that will prove his innocence, dressed as Santa he abducts her.

"Caught at Christmas" by Tina Leonard. Librarian Jean Norville comes to the Southfork Texas Wedding Chapel to serve as the maid of honor at her best friend's marriage. Just prior to the wedding, shots are fired. The bride's brother former Texas Ranger Sam Broadbent tries to keep Jean safe.

"Candy Canes and Crossfire" by Marion Lennox. Sam's sister attorney Molly finds her ceremony to Tommy O'Bannon disrupted by gunfire. Molly finds refuge with Joe Cartland and his three preadolescent orphaned children of his late sister.

These are three well written interrelated exciting holiday romantic suspense thrillers that readers will relish.

The Pirate Bride
Shannon Drake
0373773161, $7.99

In 1716 one of the most feared Caribbean pirates Red Roberts seeks revenge. The infamous pirate aims to kill Blair Colm, who wants to sell her into marriage; Red Roberts is a woman masquerading as a man. She escaped his efforts by turning to the sea becoming the frightening scourge plundering ships while diligently hunting for Blair.

Red takes the ship captained by Laird Logan Hagarty and holds him prisoner until her vessel is shipwrecked. They end up together on a deserted island where they begin to fall in love. Although he understands how difficult his vow will be, he promises her to bring the odious Colm to face criminal charges, but his prime mission is to persuade Red they belong together after they are rescued.

This is a superb early eighteenth century romance starring a wonderful unique female character and the man who admires her grit and courage. The story line is action-packed at sea and on land. However the exciting plot belongs to the intrepid Red Roberts who since her parents died in 1689 off Scotland has lived for one thing only until Logan enters her life confusing her emotions.

Mischief Becomes Her
Kasey Michaels
0373773188, $6.99

Former Philadelphia cop turned private investigator Teddy Sunshine is found dead stunning his three adult children, Jolie, Jade and Jessica. However, even more shocking the police say he killed himself and murdered the wife of mayoral candidate Joshua Brainard. None of the three Sunshine sisters believe their father would commit suicide or a homicide; they agree to solve his cases because they feel one of them led to two murders.

Meanwhile TV reporter Jessica teams up with homicide detective Matt Denby who cannot believe his former mentor would commit a murder-suicide. As they fall in love their inquiry spin them into meeting the Beckets and a cursed emerald the Empress

The second Sunshine Girls romantic suspense (see DIAL M FOR MISCHIEF) is a terrific tale that attempts to bring the Michaels recent mythos into one universe with an apparent link to the Beckets of Romney Marsh regency fame. The story line is fast-paced and filled with intelligent often amusing bantering between the reporter and the cop. Although somewhat overloaded with dangling threads (the climax will be a packed gem), fans will appreciate the enjoyable middle caper.

A NASCAR Holiday 3
Liz Allison, Wendy Etherington, Brenda Jackson, Marisa Carroll and Jean Brashear
9780373773374, $6.99

"Have a Beachy Little Christmas" by Liz Allison and Wendy Etherington. Tiffany McMillan seems to be nice to everyone except Jesse Harwood. He hopes the trip to the Bahamas on a NASCAR team getaway will make her naughty with him only.

Winning the Race" by Brenda Jackson. Myles Joseph and Lisa St. Claire were in love back in high school, but he chose NASCAR over her. He realizes his mistake and wants both a NASCAR career and Lisa, but must persuade his beloved she comes before racing.

"All They Want for Christmas" by Marisa Carroll. NASCAR driver Trace Collier and his daughter stop at a campground run by single mom Carrie Ferrell. The two single adults are instantly attracted to one another and encouraged by their offspring to pursue a special Christmas.

A Family for Christmas" by Jean Brashear. Cassie Wheeler and Gib Cameron were lovers until she left town eventually marrying someone else. A widow with four children, Cassie and Gib, a NASCAR team crew chief, meet and their love remains strong.

These are four enjoyable NASCAR holiday contemporaries with the right mix of racing and romance.

Tori Carrington
Harlequin Blaze
0373794371, $4.99

Heidi Joblowski has come a long way from her white trash Fantasy, Michigan DNA. She worked hard to become a chef and has dreams to open up her own catering business. She also plans to marry Jess Gilbred, who has been her best friend and in many ways mentor since high school although they are the same age; he comes from a much better pedigree, but he feels the same way she does. He was her first and will be her only.

However her vow dies of Jess being her solo sex partner when Heidi meets his best friend, architect Kyle Trapper. She wants him as lust takes over every cell in her body; he feels the same way about her. Their tryst is incredible and both feel love made it that way. However, each feels guilty as they must inform Jess that Heidi is no longer Jesse's girl.

This is an angst laden contemporary romance in which Heidi's history that led to her strict plan is fully described so that the audience understands her emotional conflict. Kyle's need for her comes across as deep. However, readers will be peeved at their RECKLESS behavior as neither comes forth to inform Jesse; whose secret somewhat mitigates the impact on him. Still Team Carrington provides an intriguing Michigan romance.

Lori Borill
Harlequin Blaze
9780373794348, $4.99

In San Francisco Texas transplant purse designer Jess Beane, known for her "Beane Bag", and police detective Rick Marshall meet at a bar at a time she needs to celebrate her business success and he needs a time out from a murder investigation. That night they enjoy the best sex either has ever had.

The next morning he awakens in her apartment to soon find her and his car gone along with key evidence he had in the trunk involving his case. She returns to tell him she thinks her felonious ex husband stole the vehicle. They give chase, which leads them to trysts from the Bay to Texas where Jess' past arises to bite her butt and each can claim they slept here together.

UNLEASHED is a superb torrid police procedural romance starring two wonderful protagonists. The car chase from Northern California to Texas is heated yet often amusing. Although leaving criminal case evidence in a trunk seems wrong, Rick explains it as thinking with his wrong head. Fans will relish this joy ride due to the fine lead pairing as Lori Borill provides a one sitting thriller.

The Edge of Impropriety
Pam Rosenthal
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
045122230X, $14.00,

In 1829, popular novelist Marina Wyatt relishes being top fodder of gossip as she believes that sells books. Thus when her newest tale is to be released, Marina times that by dumping her current lover Sir Anthony Hedges so that the gossip columns can have a field day with her scandalous behavior and she benefits with higher profits; reputation means nothing except if it infamously increases sales.

Soon after kicking Anthony out of her bed, she meets his scholarly renowned antiquarian Uncle Jasper James Hedges. He is atypical of the all brawn no brain hunks she uses. Instead he is intelligent and believes she is too. He makes it clear he wants her, but takes her on an adventure like none she has ever been on before; way beyond THE EDGE OF IMPROPRIETY and she knows there is no going back.

This is a fabulous erotic late Regency romance starring an interesting unique lead female who uses men as her tool and fool until Jasper turns her concept of the male having all thoughts in the lower head upside down. The story line is well written and fast-paced especially when Jasper arrives in London. Pam Rosenthal writes an engaging historical due to the lead couple especially the refreshing Marina, who is a "man-izer" until the scholar shows her a more complete world.

Tall, Dark, and Kilted
Allie Mackay
9780451225511, $6.99

After her lover dumped her for an odious but wealthy replacement and her rival killed her jewelry business, Cilla Swanner left Yardley, Pennsylvania to spend the summer with her Uncle Mac and Aunt Birdie at their Scottish retirement home Dunroamin Castle. Cilla does not miss her ex even an iota and in fact feels relived, but she is worried that her family will lose the castle.

Hundreds of years ago, Scottish knight Sir Hardwin de Studely is hosting some important VIPs when a travel bard asked for hospitality. Fearing for the lives of his guests, he refused. The bard being a wizard cursed Hardwick as he is called by friends to suffer a different lover for eternity. Over the centuries, he has become disillusioned, but the Dark One gives him a chance for redemption if he avoids arousal for a year; if he fails he will please the darkest females. The problem for the now chaste Hardwick is his attraction to Cilla; who makes matters worse as she is falling in love with the ghost haunting her uncle's castle.

TALL, DARK, AND KILTED is an engaging urban romantic fantasy with a touch of a mystery and a terrific twist in which Hardwick fled to the remote retirement home to avoid young women only to fall in love with the Sword of Damocles hanging over both his heads. The story line is brisk and breezy from the moment the ghost and the American meet and never slows down. With a strong cast, paranormal and human, fans will enjoy Cilla's Scottish adventure in love.

Dark Temptation
Allison Chase
045122552X, $6.99

In 1829 Sophie St. Clair's misbehavior has her family sending her into exile to stay with to relatives in Cornwall in order to avoid a potential scandal. However, Sophie is unable to resist some sleuthing when she notices strange lights in the harbor; she ponders whether they can be connected to nearby Edgecombe Manor.

His father's fiery death two years ago has shaken Chad Rutherford, the fifth Earl of Wycliffe, so much so he avoids Edgecombe Manor as if it contains the plague. He knows he must go back one last time, but does not plan to hang around because he knows what "lives" there. Chad and amateur sleuth Sophie meet and are attracted to one another. He joins her on her inquiry into the mysterious lights and the corpses that come ashore even as matchmaking spirits encourage them so they can finally obtain peace.

The second Blackheath Moor gothic romance (see DARK OBSESSION) contains a strong amateur sleuth suspense subplot that enhances the lead couple's romantic relationship. The story line is filled with warm passion and terrifying events that will keep readers on the edge wondering who is chasing whom in this dangerous search for the truth.

The Decadent Duke
Virginia Henley
9780451225429, $7.99

Nothing short of a duke or an earl is acceptable by the Duchess of Gordon. Her success rate is perfect with one left. Her fifth and youngest daughter Georgiana has no choice in the matter; she will wed the disreputable rouge, the Duke of Bedford, Francis Russell who some insist is the father of the country as he has illegitimate children everywhere and mistresses in every corner of the nation.

To Georgiana's chagrin she is attracted to her intended's kind and caring younger brother John. However, he is unattainable at the moment; besides his sibling being the acceptable one by her family, he is married with children and though his wife is dying, both John and Georgina respect his vows and his spouse. When Francis assaults Georgiana, an ugly scandal explodes while John mourns the death of his wife.

Based on real early nineteenth century persona to include the Gordon and Russell families, Virginia Henley provides her usual superb historical romance. The key characters are fully developed with a strong look into the Ton's hedonistic activities and that of the matchmaking mamas. Fans of well written deep Regency romances will relish the fictionalized account of THE DECADENT DUKE.

Wait Till Your Vampire Gets Home
Michele Bardsley
0451225503, $6.99

In 1983 her parents created the Paranormal Research and Investigative Service (PRIS) two years before Seraphina Liberty Windsong Monroe was born. She grew up in a household that believed in all sorts of psychic phenomena though mom is still upset that her offspring prefers the name Libby as that is so un-paranormal.

Currently the Monroe trio is undercover in Broken Heart, Oklahoma tracking Bigfoot. Libby is Crystal One while mom is Ruby Two and dad is Sapphire Three. While Sapphire Three persuades Ruby Two to stop for a sugary Icee, Libby enters a cemetery where she witnesses a fight involving a vampire and dragons. When the female dragon Sybina is wounded and dying she kisses Libby, transferring her essence into the stunned woman although the vampire single dad Ralph Genessa gets some of the dragon's life force. Outraged by what occurred, Synd the dragon plans to kill Libby, Ralph and their loved ones as the transfer of the dragon soul should have come to him not these two legged lowlifes.

Broken Heart has become the center of eerie paranormal weirdness in the amusing wild Bardsley universe (see BECAUSE YOUR VAMPIRE SAID SO). The latest story line is fast-paced and filled with jocularity as the skeptic finds realism and love even as her wacko gem parents have found nirvana in the undead father. Paranormal romance fans who appreciate something different will enjoy Libby's tale of finding the supernatural and romance in small-town Oklahoma.

Have Yourself a Naughty Little Santa
Karin Tabke
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
1416564506, $6.99,

All work and no play Kimberly Michaels is to arrive at Evergreen to finish a deal in which her firm Land's Edge will take over the town regardless of local feelings. If she succeeds she becomes VP of Acquisitions and shares her boss Nick's bed. However, a blizzard keeps her one hour from her destination and stuck in a B&B.

Last night she was out of character as she slept with police officer Ricco Mazza. In daylight and struggling how to get to Evergreen, she writes the cop off as a one night ticket. As both are staying his sister's B&B, that one night becomes a second. They run into each other in Evergreen where a sudden crime wave occurs that she assumes is to foster the sale. As they fall in love though both are commitment phobic, he learns her true agenda and dumps her while she knows to win back his love she must save the town from her boss.

This fun holiday romance stars a cop who enjoys playing Santa and a developer who enjoys being Scrooge. Their pairing lives up the title as the heat is on even during the blizzard. Karen Tabke provides an engaging contemporary holiday romance with some suspense and a Los Angeles based Grinch who wants to steal Evergreen.

Talk of the Town
Karen Hawkins
Pocket Books
141656022X, $7.99

Roxie Treymayne celebrates Victory Day as her divorce from two hundred and fifty ponds of worthless cheating slug is finalized. She vows no more Ms. Nice Gal behaving properly. Before noon on V-Day she bleaches her hair blond, obtains a tattoo and wears four inch heels with a black mini low top. Her come and get me gear is step one on the wild side.

However, the best laid plans of mice, men and Roxie go astray when her mom suffers a heart attack. She rushes home to Glory, North Carolina to be there for her mother. There she meets Sheriff Nick Sheppard, who she once shared short blissful high school tryst that ended badly duie to a misunderstanding. She decides he is the perfect one for her to walk on the wild side with; he rejects her though he wants her. However, his investigation into a death turns into a homicide case in which Roxie and his great-aunt Clara's Murder Mystery Club members trespass.

Displaying her vast talent Karen Hawkins leaves the historicals that have made her popular and writes a lighthearted wonderful regional investigative romance. The lead couple is a delightful pairing as Roxie goes all out to seduce Nick, but though he has a permanent hard on for her, he refuses to let the lower head do his thinking especially while working a murder investigation. The support cast is great starting with her friend Tundy and his Aunt Clara as fans will want the Glory Murder Mystery Club to work on future amateur sleuth cases while driving the sheriff and his professional law enforcement peers crazy.

Lie to Me
Starr Ambrose
Pocket Books
9781416586647, $6.99

Eleanor Coggins strongly believes that Banner Westfield killed his wife, her best friend; she plans to prove her assertion. She breaks into Banner's mansion seeking proof, but is caught by Banner's half-brother, Jack Payton.

Jack is also seeking evidence; in his case he searches for proof that Banner has gotten the family business involved in some illegal dealings. He gives Ellie a choice of helping him and her by her posing as his fiancee. Together they seek evidence of Banner's wrongdoing while also trying to help obtain custody of his daughter. Banner trusts neither so sets in motion a plan to destroy the engaged couple.

The triangular dysfunctional relationship seems real and makes for a great romantic suspense thriller though some critical threats are left dangling. The key is the suspicious Westfield does not trust Payton or Coggins so he plans to learn who she is and lure the pair into a trap of their own making. Fans will appreciate this one sitting tale with a fabulous spin while wondering not just whether Eleanor and Jack will make it together, but whether they will make it together alive or dead.

My Immortal Promise
Jen Holling
Pocket Books
1416525866, $6.99

Her abusive husband is killing Hannah O'Shea. Her life is saved by a spirit who changes her from human into a "blood witch" immortal healer. However to stay alive Hannah must have human blood.

Eight decades later a desperate widower Drake MacKay begs Hannah to use her healing skill to save the life of a relative. He offers her his life in exchange with one stipulation; give him time to kill his enemy, Luthias, a baobhan sith like the local witch Hannah. Instead the lonely depressed Hannah frees him from his blood debt. When Drake learns of a threat from the villagers to kill Hannah, he abducts her to take her to safety stunned that she told the locals how to kill her. He is willing to die to keep her safe, but soon learns his family is threatened by a psychopathic Luthias. As they go to keep his blood safe, Hannah finds a reason to live; her love for Drake, who reciprocates her deep feelings.

This engaging paranormal romance stars two flawed protagonists struggling with a blood debt, a nasty villain, and love. Hannah makes the tale with her death wish making her the opposite of her peer Luthias whose death wish is to dine on human blood until his victim is dead. Jen Holling is at her best as readers will be hooked from the opening encounter as fans and Drake will wonder whether a baobhan sith blood sucker can truly be in love.

Snowy Night With a Stranger
Jane Feather, Sabrina Jeffries and Julia London
Pocket Books
1416578226, $7.99

"Holiday Gamble" by Jane Feather. The blizzard forces Lord Ned Vasey to seek shelter at the home of Lord Roger Selby. Ned meets Selby's ward, Georgina, who he believes is hiding something that he plans to uncover.

"When Sparks Fly" by Sabrina Jeffries. The coach accident leaves Lady Eleanor Bancroft and her three young charges with no options except to beg for hospitality from the cranky hermit and are at the mercy of Martin "Black Baron" Thorncliffe. She is not sure he will let them stay. He would prefer to refuse them, but even he cannot. Neither of the adults is prepared for the attraction between them.

"A Snowy Night With a Highlander" by Julia London. Lady Fiona Haines searches for her missing Laird Duncan Buchanan, with an injured arm and a patch over his eye, offers his help. Together they seek her sibling while an attraction between them ignites; However Duncan fears what will happen to their just starting relationship when she learns who he is.

SNOWY NIGHT WITH A STRANGER contains three warm (in spite of the weather) Regency holiday romances that showcase top talent. Fans will enjoy this fine historical collection.

The Man Must Marry
Janet Chapman
Pocket Books
141650530X, $6.99

If first appearances mean anything, Willamina "Willa" Kent needs to be shot. Her first moment at Tidewater International in front of the shareholders including the grandsons of her beloved mentor millionaire Abram Sinclair is a disaster. To add tension she has Bram's critical proxy to vote on who replaces the shipping magnate as CEO.

However before she can vote, they learn Bram died. His will leaves his share of stock with Willa on the condition she marry one of his grandchildren, Sam Ben or Jesse. Sam and Willa travel on her yacht to Maine seeking a way out of the iron clad will. As they fall in love, she doubts he truly cares while he mist find a way to persuade her she means more to him than his now superseded ambitions of replacing Bram as the CEO.

Willa and the late Bram make this a fun contemporary romance as she is a courageous clumsy person and grandpa as he has done when he lived manipulates his grandchildren as a matchmaker from the grave. The rivalry between Sam and Ben is deep adding a realistic element to the fine story line and enabling a non family member to make a strong bid for the CEO position. Readers will enjoy the first Sincalir sibling story and look forward to a return to Maine for Ben's tale.

Take No Prisoners
Cindy Gerard
Pocket Books
1416566740, $6.99

Although his preference is to remain on the family Nevada ranch to help his parents raise his orphaned niece, former Delta force sniper Sam Lang has a personal reason to return to Black Ops, Inc (BOI) field work. A BOI peer has given him a tip involving millionaire gangster Frederick Nader who arranged the murders of Tina's parents. Unable to resist although his thirst for revenge had failed the first time he tried, Sam heads to Vegas to begin his second attempt at killing the criminal mastermind.

Las Vegas blackjack dealer Abbie Hughes is worried that her younger Cory is in trouble as she has not heard from him in days. Sam knows she is the key to his killing Nader as her sibling is the middleman in a gem smuggling operation starting in Honduras. As they become better acquainted and begin to fall in love, Sam reassesses his desires, but knows Cory needs rescuing as the idiot is caught between deadly Nader and his as lethal rival Desmond Fox.

The second BOI romantic suspense (see SHOW NO MERCY; not read by me) is a fabulous romantic suspense tale that focuses on the action and adventure keeping the love subplot in needed check. This makes the tale seem realistic, as Sam changes his motive for wanting to kill Nader. Readers will enjoy this high octane thriller starring operatives who understand their missions are dangerous and dirty as they do what they must to reduce the odds of failure and coming out in a bag.

Show No Fear
Perri O'Shaughnessy
Pocket Books
1416544399, $25.00

In 1990 in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, paralegal Nina Reilly is a single mom who raises her preschool son Bob while attending law school. She is also very concerned with the health of her mom Ginny who is dealing with both a circulatory ailment and a botched acupuncture treatment while at the same time pushing for a malpractice suit.

After a four year absence from her life, criminal defense lawyer Richard Filsen, claiming Bob is his son, wants a paternity test performed; and if the results confirm his belief, he demands shared custody. Nina asks partners from the law firm she works at, Jack McIntyre and his ambitious girlfriend Remy Sorensen, for help. However, someone kills Richard and Ginny. Although she cannot see the connection besides herself, with the assistance of homicide cop Paul van Wagoner, Nina investigates needing closure for her mom.

This is a clever engaging prequel to the wonderful Reilly legal thrillers. Nina is a wonderful protagonist with her plate full only to get even fuller. The story line is fast-paced and filled with superb twists, but most important the book remains true to the lead character's "future" tales as Perri O'Shaughnessy shows no fear with this deep look back at the paralegal days of single mom Nina Reilly.

One Perfect Day
Lauraine Snelling
Faith Words
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
0446582107, $13.99,

Nora wants the perfect Christmas for her family. She looks forward along with her twins Charlie and Christi to the return of her spouse and their father from Germany. However the Riverbend police arrive at Nora's home to inform her a tragedy occurs when Charlie is in a car accident and is in the hospital's ICU only kept alive by a ventilator. His dad, delayed in Germany, rushes home to try to be at the side of his son.

Jenna is a single mother praying for a miracle for her daughter, Heather. If the child fails to get a heart transplant by Christmas she will be dead. A miracle occurs when a heart is found for Heather. Though Jenna rejoices, Nora mourns.

This is a poignant emotional tale of two families connected by the organ transplant. Both families come across as real especially their reactions to what is going on. Besides making a strong plea for the organ donation program, ONE PERFECT DAY points out that for each life saved, someone else mourns the loss of a life. Lauraine Snelling provides a deep inspirational novel.

Forbidden Fruit
Eden Bradley
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0553385119, $13.00,

San Francisco State University Professor Mia Rose Curry teaches a class on alternative sexuality that allows her to fantasize without doing as she trusts no one. Her class is extremely popular as students enjoy learning about fetishes, bondage, and voyeurism, oh my. Although several students have come on to her, Mia knows better than to mix with a pupil; instead she conceals her desires from everyone behind an academic façade.

However, this term she has a problem when hunk Jagger James enters her classroom. From the moment she sees the Golden One she wants him, but tries to pretend indifference. Jagger knows she is his food fetish and plans to dine on his teacher just like he demands she feast on his banquet.

This is an entertaining erotic romance starring a professor and the student who makes her deepest hottest fantasies come to life. Though their pairing seems on the surface wrong (even Mia Rose knows that) due to the nature of their academic relationship, Eden Bradley makes it seem right. Sub-genre fans will relish dining on this FORBIDDEN FRUIT as Jagger teaches Mia Rose "ain't nothing like the real thing" (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell) when love is involved.

The Devil's Due
Jenna Black
9780440244929, $6.99

Exorcist Morgan Kingsley finds it ironic that she is hosting a demon inside of her; although he is not just any demon as he is King Lugh, who was exiled from the Demon Realm by his brother Dougel in an attempt to take the throne. Nobody would believe that a demon resides inside an exorcist. He is enlightened trying to bring freedom and happiness to his species while his sibling wants to enslave residents of both planes.

Claudia Brewster comes to Morgan's office asking her to exorcise a demon from her son even though he wanted to be a host. The frazzle mom rejects that assertion because her Tommy was a fanatic member of God's Wrath, an extremist group wanting to kill all demons, their hosts and exorcists. In the middle of the Tommy inquiry, Claudia abruptly begs Morgan to end her investigation. A bit stunned because the mom was adamant that her son was infested before he registered to be a host, Morgan continues to sleuth only to place lives in jeopardy and needing to go outside the law to insure justice occurs.

One of the reasons urban fantasy is so popular is authors like Jenna Black who has the skill to make her readers believe that demons mingle with humans. In many ways demons are just like humans in that some are caring and others are evil; the regal brothers are the epitome of that dichotomy. The story line focuses on Morgan's mystery investigation of whether an illegal act of a demon taking a human host without permission occurs. Fans will relish the latest superb Kingsley demonic exorcist thriller.

Alan Dean Foster
Del Rey
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780345496058, $25.00,

The Humanx Commonwealth is intrigued with the unique planet Quofum, which is outside their sector, because the orb appears to vanish and reappear off their monitors. Captain Boylen is assigned to escort four xenologists to study the planet especially the life forms since the oceans contain alcohol.

Thus he and his crew bring two men, one woman and a Thanx to the mysterious planet. Upon arrival they find three shockers. First there are several primitive but intelligent species that are so dissimilar they could never evolve on the same orb. Second they encounter thousands of other various life-forms never seen anywhere else. Finally as mysterious as the diversity findings prove, the visitors have no idea who made a gigantic underground compound containing technology and gadgetry none of the scientists recognize.

This is a well written tale crucial to the expected final Pip and Flinx novel though the two stars never appear in QUOFUM. The story line is fast-paced and exciting, but disappointingly never finishes any key thread; instead it sets the background for that Pip and Flinx finale. Consequently fans of the saga will have mixed feelings about the trip to QUOFUM.

The Engine's Child
Holly Phillips
Del Rey
9780345499653, $15.00

The island is a tiny dot amidst the vast ocean that is everywhere. The islanders know their history as the ancestors fled from another world and were fortunate to find this needle. Over the years the small landmass has become overcrowded and shortage of food has become the norm. Myths and religions have developed about the homeland of the ancestors as a utopia and their use of mystical spiritual energy. Two major extreme groups are divided between returning to the perfect homeworld and siphoning the mystical energy of this world.

Moth is a religious novice training for the priesthood. She has committed the major transgression of falling in love and becoming pregnant from her trysts. She belongs to the secret sect that believes in using this water world's spirit. They are constructing two magical-mechanical machines to convert the orb's mystical energy into a usable form that will power the sailing ships seeking new land. Their adversaries are working on a vessel to return to the ancestors' planet. War seems imminent.

This is a fascinating blending of science fiction and fantasy, but Holly Phillips never decides between a morality allegory and a thriller. Thus in spite of a fully depicted world and an interesting but frustrating unlikable lead character, the story line is divided. At times the plot poetically describes consequences like the Malthusian Catastrophe, the affluence gap between the wealthy and the starving; a Garden of Eden mythos, and a condemnation of religious intolerance. At other less poetic moments, the tale seems heading to a civil war. Moth with her tendencies to lie about her knowledge of facts on the ground (so Bush administration) adds to the confusion. Still THE ENGINE'S CHILD is an intriguing look at morality on another planet.

Todd McCaffrey
Del Rey
9780345491145, $27.00

On the planet Pern, Fort Hold Lord Holder Bemin and his daughter Fiona sit in the audience observing the young candidates trying to impress the newborn dragons. However everyone is stunned when Talenth leaves the staging area to enter the audience as that has never occurred before. The dragon chooses Fiona as his future rider in the fight against thread which periodically falls, destroying organic matter.

However, due to a Plague, the dragon-rider teams are way below the battle strength numbers needed to win. Thread is coming soon while the pandemic infection is killing the dragons. At Fort Weyr a mysterious weyrwoman convinces Fiona to take the injured into the past so they can heal and spend years training before returning to the present to fight thread. Heeding the advice, Fiona takes them back one decade to Iser Weyr so they can heal and train under the tutelage of experience dragon riders with the goal to come home to fight thread.

Continuing the tradition of his mother, the great Anne McCaffrey, Todd McCaffrey provides an exciting Pern thriller (his second - see DRAGONSBLOOD) starring a feisty female who will remind the audience of Lessa (see DRAGONFLIGHT). However the enjoyment is in watching how a weyr functions; especially insightful is the class distinctions between Traders and Riders, etc. Talenth like all fledgling dragons owns the book as he innocently charms his rider and readers. DRAGONHEART is an entertaining Pern fantasy.

V.K. Forrest
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
075821717X, $15.00,

They worshipped the pagan gods and when St. Patrick came to their shore to convert them, they fought him. As a punishment, God turned the Kahill Sept into vampires; most of them were destroyed by slayers. The survivors fled to the New World and worshipped the One God, praying for redemption. They seek out and execute evil predators; those the police cannot catch.

Teddy, a vicious killer who murders entire families by burying them together alive, is stalking Macy. He has even contacted her via I.M. Macy meets Arlen Cahill and they have sex. She is drawn to Clare Point, Delaware where the Kahill Sept lives. Macy has given information on the killer stalking her to FBI Agent Fia, who is part of the Sept. What she sees at the Cahill compound seems surreal, but erased from her memory by a blood bite. However even with Arlan watching over her Teddy finds her. Knowing she is in danger, Arlan with the help of a teenage psychic tries to save Macy.

This paranormal mystery is an enthralling work. The Kahills/Cahills are good people seeking to redeem themselves from their one blasphemous error centuries ago. They are the key that makes this thriller spellbinding as the UNDYING vampires seem genuine. Although psychopathic serial killers are an overdone predator, the stalking of Macy also appears real as her fears and desires come across as plausible. V.K. Forrest provides a fascinating spin to the vampiric mythos.

Maximum Exposure
Alison Kent
Kensington Brava
9780758217561, $14.00

In the South Beach section of Miami Beach, Key Largo based private investigator Finn McLain is taken aback when a total but lovely in a "Latina hot" way stranger comes up to him to ask a favor. Olivia Hammond wants Finn to photograph her for an erotic exhibit. Finn quickly changes his plans from a quick stay in Miami seeking information for a client watching out for Jodi Fontaine a Splash & Flambe boutique manager that is manager of the Flambe half. Roland Green, a shady character, is the Flambe part.

Olivia owns the boutique and Finn would not mind her owning a piece of him. However, using his upper head in spite of his lower rampaging like a teen, Finn believes Olivia is hiding something from him and so is Roland. He plans to explore every inch of her through his camera's lens and through his touch; his goal is more than getting inside her as he wants to get inside her soul. As they begin to fall in love, Finn's investigation of Roland becomes dangerous for him and his beloved as they inadvertently get involved in Operation Bebe Bust.

The four prime characters make for an entertaining South Florida investigative romance with some late suspense enhancing the relationships. Each of the key quartet members, especially Olivia and Finn, are fully developed in and out of bed. Fans will relish this sunny romantic suspense while ironically knowing early on whether Roland is a rat; something the others will learn the hard way.

A Body to Die For
G.A. McKevett
9780758215543, $22.00

In San Carmelita, California, plus-sized Moonlight and Magnolia Detective Agency private investigator Savannah Reid and police detective Sergeant. Dirk Coulter team up to catch a peeping Tom at Clarissa's House of Pain and Gain. Soon after that success, insufferable diet queen Clarissa Jardin informs the police that her rascally husband Bill is missing.

Not long after that Bill is found dead with a bullet in his head; Dirk leads the official investigation. Bill's mother believes her daughter-in-law killed her son. She hires Savannah expecting her to prove Clarissa was involved in Bill's homicide. Savannah agrees with her client's theory as the victim was cheating on his spouse and spending her hard earned money gambling. Cooperating, Savannah and Dirk uncover several other people with strong motives especially Clarissa's obese twin sister.

Filled with humor and terrific asides, the latest Reid whodunit is a fabulous investigative tale in what is consistently a strong entertaining series (see POISONED TARTS). The investigation is cleverly designed to keep readers guessing re the twin vs. someone else, but the fun comes from the teaming of Reid and Coulter as the heroine makes it clear you can have your cake and eat it too (in moderation and with not guilt or remorse).

Midnight Sins
Cynthia Eden
Kensington Brava
0758226047, $14.00

The homicides are horrifying because they look somewhat innocent as if a tryst of two consenting adults left one behind tied to a bed. However, the victims all men may have appeared ready for a wild night of tough love, but somehow their essence is sucked from them leaving them dead with not a scratch or any evidence of foul play except for the corpse.

Police Detective Todd Brooks leads the investigation into the serial sex murders but has no clues until amidst the clothing of a victim is found the ID of Cara Firon. Todd brings Cara to the station for questioning. To his shock the men trip over each other to accommodate her; more stunning is he is the worst of those ready to her bidding. Cara tries to control her succubus pheromones with little success as the humans covet her, but she finds it more difficult controlling her desire for the human cop suspecting her as a serial killer.

This fast-paced paranormal romantic police procedural works because the two key elements, the murder investigation and the existence of supernatural beings seem real as each side enhances the other leading to an entertaining whodunit. Todd is superb as he is no nonsense professional working a difficult case that bewilders him, but his biggest confusion is how the testosterone back in the station has overflowed once Cara enters; he kicks himself because he is no better than the others though he conceals his tent pole better. Cara is an excellent prime suspect who can't help but bringing out the male in the men. Cynthia Eden provides a delightful urban romantic investigative fantasy that sub-genre fans will relish and want more in this milieu.

Down in Texas
Delilah Devlin
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758228724, $12.95

"Wearing His Brand". Ever since Lyssa McDonough met Brand Tynan as a child she understood what her daddy and mama meant when they each defined the worth of a man. Now an adult she must persuade her man that she is his woman.

"Slow Ride". While working as a teenage ranch hand at her husband's spread Daniel Tynan hid as best he could that he loved Maggie Dermott. Now the much younger man tries to persuade the widow that in spite of their age difference to take a chance on them.

"Straight Up Soldier". After serving in the theater of operation, Mac McDonough has left the military. Suki Reese knows her ex will hurt her so she accepts Mac's offer to protect her. Neither expected the distraction of their attraction.

These three hot interrelated Texas romances are all well written tales with deep lead characters in each. Readers will relish the Texas heat as Delilah Devlin delightfully delvers.

The Man for Me
Gemma Bruce
Kensington Brava
9780758216236, $14.00

Sports Today is a popular national weekly magazine. Writer J.T. Green writes for the magazine with hopes that players, managers and fans will take her work as honest serious reporting. However, an embarrassing locker room incident leaves her in exile in Pennsylvania covering the news no one but a local would be interested in.

She is covering the Gilbeytown Beavers, a team with a losing streak. In town is renowned superstar pitcher Tommy Bainbridge, who plans to help the Beavers win. When the pitcher and the reporter meet, they are attracted to one another, but between their jobs implying an intimate relationship taboo and their distrust of the other's vocation, this couple has no chance but to strike out especially when JT uncovers a conspiracy for the team to lose.

This fun sports romance with a nod to the movie Major League is a home run as baseball pulls the nine inning plot. J.T. is a feisty independent reporter doing her job while Tommy is the perfect throwback athletic hero (some will insist caricature). The venue is terrifically described and the investigation filled with suspense. Additionally baseball fans will enjoy their romance as he strikes out with her but keeps swinging the bat in an effort to hit a game winning home run.

Amigas and School Scandals
Diana Rodriguez Wallach
9780758225559, $9.95

After spending her summer with her older brother in Puerto Rico with family she never met before, Mariana Ruiz returns home to suburban Spring Mills, Pennsylvania to go back to high school. Her cousin Lilly Sanchez has come with her to attend Spring Mills High School as a freshman. To everyone's shock except perhaps Mariana, Lilly is the most popular frosh in the school after only one day. Mariana's best friends Madison and Emily are outraged and envious of Lilly's stratospheric nanosecond rise.

Having missed Madison's Sweet Sixteen party due to her PR vacation, Mariana and her pals plan one for her. Meanwhile her estranged aunt pleads with the family to take her back, but her uncles and her parents have doubts as their anger is bone deep. In spite of her summer fling, Mariana is attracted to her locker buddy, Bobby, but hides her feelings because she is unsure if Emily, who dated him once during the summer, is interested.

This is an entertaining teen drama as Mariana struggles with balancing her loyalty to her friends with welcoming her cousin, as Lilly did for her in AMOR AND SUMMER SECRETS. Mariana's difficulties ring true with her being pulled in several directions. Fans will appreciate her return home as AMIGAS AND SCHOOL SCANDALS is an engaging contemporary.

Ultimate Weapon
Shannon McKenna
Kensington Brava
9780758211897, $14.00

Motherhood changes the attitude of even hardened felons as the PTA factor impacts most. Thus former thief Tamara Steele has become an acceptable jewelry designer because her goal is to be the nest mommy to her adopted three-year-old Ukrainian daughter Rachel, whom was rescued from a black-market organ harvesting operation.

However, you can run from your past, but you can't hide as Tam's history surfaces. Mobster Daddy Novak is angry over the murder of his son Kurt; he thirsts for vengeance with his finger pointing at Tam, who was Kurt's lover and in Daddy's mind betrayer.

Nasty gangster Georg Luksch blackmails his subordinate Val Janos, who wants to retire from a life of crime, to abduct Tam. Luksch plans to make her into his sex slave begging him to do anything he wants to her. To rescue his elderly Hungarian "dad" Imre from Luksch Val must hand over the woman he is falling in love with to his odious boss.

Blending heated interludes with caring for a toddler inside a powerful romantic suspense, Shannon McKenna proves she is the sub-genre's ULTIMATE WEAPON with this superior one sitting thriller. Val and Tam makes the tale work as each is a complete protagonist struggling with the insidious choices. With two nasty villains and one reformed hero seeking the heroine, fans will appreciate this exciting novel.

The Mane Attraction
Shelly Laurenston
Kensington Brava
9780758220387, $14.00

Following the wedding of her brother (see THE BEAST IN HIM), werewolf Sissy Mae Smith and lion shifter Mitch Shaw slept together. However, they agree the next morning their friendship is not worth risking due to an attraction.

When he is hurt by a bounty hunter, Sissy Mae takes him to her Tennessee pack to heal and keep safe; as no one messes with a Smith especially in Smithtown. However, as the two shapeshifters struggle to stay apart, his enemies come for him as they know who he is and her Pack males, showing some guts, begin to sniff them out from a distance. Mitch is an undercover cop ready to testify in court against his former associates who want him dead for his betrayal of their code and before he can send them up the river.

Shelly Laurenston's latest Smith shapeshifter romantic fantasy stars kick butt Sissy Mae and the only known male besides perhaps her dad not afraid of her bite and bark; as it takes the heart of a lion to go one on one with her. Although readers will need a scorecard to keep track of who's who in the extended Smith world (the family reunion would fill up Titan Stadium), fans will enjoy the MANE ATTRACTION, a battle between two superheavyweights in heated love.

Simply Sinful
Kate Pearce
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758223555, $13.95

Abby and James Beecham were forced to marry very young when neither was mature enough for a relationship and both were clumsy in bed. Sixteen years later their marriage is a shambles, but Abby wants to try one last time while James cannot bear another disappointing sexual encounter though he loves his wife. She wants her husband back in her bed making love and hopefully a child or two, but both fear another series of incompetent trysts.

Peter Howard spent a decade as a sex slave in a Turkish brothel. He agrees to tutor the couple on the pleasures of sex. However though he likes James, Peter is very attracted to Abby who is an enthusiastic student. His time with her makes Peter understand the difference between sex and bliss, but she is married to a nice man as he keeps reminding his two heads.

The refreshing spin to this historical erotic romance is that both Beecham's receive sex lessons from the tutor. Character driven by the lead trio and filled with a variety of sexual scenarios to include menage a trois, bondage, and male-male, the story line is actually a strong relationship drama. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this well written heated tale.

Take Me to Bed
Joan Elizabeth Lloyd
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758212788, $12.95

"The Pleasures of Jessicalynn". Thirteen years of at best mild sex is about to end for Jessie with her divorce. Her friend Steph and her husband Brian explain to Jessie they have an open marriage seeking outside sex partners to heat the sheets at home. They welcome Jessie to join them.

"Velvet Whispers". Thirty-two years old divorcee Alice needs money to pay for her mother's nursing care. Her friend Betsy suggests Alice open up a phone-sex service as she has found that a lucrative and relatively easy way to bring in income. Alice assumes she will fail at sex talk because her own sex life is ground zero. Instead she takes to the sexual fantasies of her clients like a pro and is ready to test these dreams in person.

Though the plots are thin as they are more sexual vignettes, these are two intriguing erotic novellas. In each case, the lead female has been disappointed in their respective marital relationship especially the sexual part. Encouraged by friends, they are willing to try almost anything in their quest for the golden climax that they never felt before even in their marriages or in their dreams.

Do It To Me
P.F. Kozak
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758222725, $12.95

"Cruise Ship Charlie". While on a vacation on the luxury ship Ortensia, fashion designer Petula meets crew hand Charlie for what looks like a short cruise romance though both want more.

"Southern Seaman". A new member of the crew, Buck believes in taking care of the ladies. To indoctrinate him in the basic axiom of a woman in every port call, his peers take him to a special Paris brothel.

"Merchant Maureen". Following the death of her sea captain father, Maureen signs onto a different merchant marine vessel. First mate Roger has doubts about Maureen, but she plans to prove she can do the sailing job and heat the sheets with him

With plenty of profanity that fits a crew at sea, these three blazing erotic novellas are filled with sex, sex, and sex, but the plots are emaciated limited to a diet of the camaraderie of the crew especially their heat seeking adventures.

Delta Dupree
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758227027, $12.95

During the day Bryce Sullivan is a computer technician; at night he has obtained work as an erotic dancer at Killer Bods, a male strip joint owned by Rio Saunders. In fact Bryce is undercover stripping in order to obtain insider information for his sister, Rio's business competitor in the take it off male hard bod community.

Although she is older, Rio and Bryce are attracted to one another and she even struts on stage with him when he suffers stage fright. Torn between his love for two male strip joint owners, Bryce must choose between his sister and his beloved even as he believes that he and Rio could never share anything permanently due to their age difference.

The concept is fascinating as a younger man doing a favor for his sister goes undercover in a strip joint owned by an older woman; only to have a heated attraction between them. The problem is Bryce is too immature for a sophisticate like Rio to accept his childish temperament even though he is able to draw the heated out of control sexual teen-like desires from her. Readers who relish the nano details of the sexual encounters and the striptease will want to follow Bryce and Rio as they mutually STRIP one another's sensibility.

A Single Thread
Marie Bostwick
9780758222572, $14.00

In Fort Worth, Texas, Evelyn Dixon thought her life was pretty good. That is until she figuratively receives two shotgun blasts into her gut. First her husband informs her he is leaving her; second she learns she has breast cancer.

Needing to get away, Evelyn moves to New Bern, Connecticut where she opens up a quilting store. As she begins to heal, Abigail Burgess, her niece Liza, and Margot Matthews enter her store. Each has issues with Abigail and Liza struggling with the sudden death of the latter's mom and Margot looking for a job hopes quilting will bring her fresh contacts. These four begin to bond one stitch at a time.

Although the inspiring single thread that runs through this well written uplifting character study is not new as there are a bunch of examples out there, Marie Bostwick provides warn look at starting over while coping with at best a life changing emotional issue. The story line is driven by four women who each are coping with difficult poignant problems that lead to them finding a sisterly bond with one another; as the power of friendship helps each of them deal with the deck dealt them.

SPQR XII: Oracle of the Dead
John Maddox Roberts
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312380933, $24.95,

As much as Decius Metellus loves Rome, he is glad to be a praetor traveling all over the Italian Peninsular hearing cases involving foreigners. It is not a great time in Rome with Caesar and the Senate in a deadlock in which civil war threatens to erupt if the former crosses the Rubicon. If he does the Senate will send Pompey to fight him, but Decius knows Caesar's legions are battle tested in Gaul while Pompey's has not fought in years.

Decius is setting up court in Baiae, but quickly learns the town is not removed from the strife. He and his traveling companions including his wife want to visit the Oracle of the Dead, a site dedicated to Hecate but beneath the Temple of Apollo. Supporters of both are feuding. After traveling through a tunnel to get to the underground river where the Oracle makes pronouncements, one of the Apollo priests is found dead; five more priests are also found dead. Decius wonders how they were killed because he followed them through the tunnels and never heard any deadly sounds. The city is outraged and demands Decius find the culprit; he agrees since someone wants him dead too.

John Maddox Roberts makes Ancient Rome come to life enabling readers to believe they are accompanying Decius on his travels. This allows the audience to understand how people feel about the Caesar-Senate confrontation. Decius represents many folks who believe if Caesar seizes power he will execute employees and supporters (Decius' family backs Pompey) of the current. The SPQR saga is one of the consistently best historical mystery series with number XII another winner.

Final Exposure
Steve Carlson
0312383843, $25.95

David and Rebecca Collier quit their careers; he leaves law and she quits finance. They leave San Francisco to move into a beach house just outside the city. There he plans to become a writer while she turns to photography. Both are excited with the change.

However soon after their radical lifestyle changes, at their isolated home, Bashaar murders Rebecca and shoots David in the leg. A despondent but resolute David vows to find his wife's killer; as Bashaar simply vanished. He starts in his late spouse's photo lab seeking a motive; he realizes several pictures she took are gone and wonders if her project on historic California mansions built in the 1930s somehow could have been the cause of her homicide. While Bashaar tries to kill David, he learns of a paramilitary Muslim group living in one of the mansions that Rebecca photographed.

This is an exciting thriller but readers will need to suspend belief that David, even with his best friend Chuck and a detective help, is capable of dealing with a professional killer and a Muslim paramilitary group. The story line is action-packed from the moment Bashaar arrives and never slows down until the final expected altercation. Stereotyping Muslims also detracts from a tale that never quite passes the believability test.

The Star Garden
Nancy E. Turner
0312363176, $14.95

In 1906 Arizona Territory, forty-six years old twice widowed Sarah Agnes Prine lives with a horde of family members in a house rebuilt by rich ruthless Rudolfo Maldonado; who once worked for her and even proposed though she said no. Meanwhile her neighbor Udell Hanna wants the reluctant Sarah to marry him.

When Sarah rides on her property she comes across a nasty stagecoach accident in which the driver and a passenger died. She takes the three survivors, Miss James, Professor Fairhaven and Professor Osterhaus into her large home until they can continue their journey. Udell shows his love for Hannah when he enrolls her in classes at the university where the professors are teaching. As she enjoys school, someone who she thought was a friend is causing dangerous problems on her ranch.

This engaging historical tale is told in a journal format but contains plenty of action while focusing on the life of Sarah just before statehood. Sarah is a stupendous person dealing with courtships, family feuds, bandits and an unknown deadly stalker. Readers will enjoy this deep look at a pioneer who takes the early steps so that a century later women can claim we've come a long way.

Bamboo and Blood
James Church
9780312372910, $23.95

In North Korea the Ministry of Public Security Inspector O is assigned to follow a foreigner. O quickly realizes the outsider is working for the Israelis. However, O also realizes that at least one or more other government security agencies are watching him and his superior Chief Inspector Pak.

Meanwhile Pak assigns O to investigate the murder of a North Korean diplomat's wife in Pakistan. However, he is warned not to solve the case, but to only gather known facts about the victim. Bristling over the limitation, O tries to solve the homicide, which only leads to more trouble for the dedicated inspector from other security agencies for his clues lead to the top secret special weapons program.

The third Inspector O investigation (see CORPSE IN THE KORYO and HIDDEN MOON) is once again a great tale more so because of a the deep look into North Korea. O is excellent as he knows other agencies are spying on him to insure he learns very little as the need to know is always restricted. The whodunit and the Israeli espionage caper are both well written to showcase Inspector O's skills and the paranoia of a regime that sees everyone even loyal citizens as the enemy.

Night of the Furies
David Angsten
9780312373702, $24.95

Recent college grad Jack Duran feels fortunate to have survived his week long Mexican vacation in which he searched for his missing sibling Dan. During his week stay south of the border, he eluded the lethal man-eating manta ray "El Diablo Blanco", avoided becoming the sacrifice of the devil-worshipping Punta Perdida villagers, and evaded Argonaut gold seeking killers (see DARK GOLD).

In Greece, Jack finally catches up with his brother, and Dan's Dutch girlfriend archeologist Phoebe Auerbach. The trio visits the Oracle at Delphi where they hope to learn the facts the truth behind the legendary Eleusinian Mysteries that celebrated Demeter and Persephone. Instead the threesome learn little new about their quest, but instead meet violent sexually abusive women whose Dionysian orgies are deadly. When a homicide occurs, the local Greek police suspect Jack and Dan as the killers.

As with BLACK GOLD, David Angsten provides an action-packed over the top campy thriller that never takes itself seriously as the brothers Duran leap from one harrowing incident to another. However, Dan and especially Phoebe are underdeveloped so the winks behind the fast-paced plot never feel complete. Still, this is an exhilarating series of cliffhangers mindful of Indiana Jones.

Undercover Angel
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek Press
PO Box 51052, Casper, WY 82605-1052
1603132740, $5.99,

Network short term operations chief Shannon McKee supervises the daily actions of the organization whose mission is to eliminate evil villains. However, she also has a personal agenda though she refuses to let her obsession interfere with the work of the Network. Instead she has patiently waited for the right time to annihilate drug kingpin Mareno Ortega, whom she holds culpable for the overdose death of her brother.

The opportunity arises so Shannon jumps at it; going undercover to bring down Ortega. Her former lover ex SEAL Captain and now Network lead strategist Ron Blair worries about the woman he loves when he learns of her mission. Meanwhile Shannon is stunned that the monster she thought Ortega to be is also kind and caring to his children. If she is not careful she will see the other side of Ortega while Ron plans on rescuing his woman and saving his heart with the latter mission much more complicated.

The seventh Incognito thriller is a superb tale due to the characterizations that make the fast paced story line so much more exciting. Shannon and Ron are a fully developed couple with issues while Ortega is a complete adversary who shows a soft side as much as his tough exterior. UNDERCOVER ANGEL is a great entry in a consistently excellent series.

The Black Cloister
Melanie Dobson
Kregel Publications
PO Box 2607, Grand Rapids, MI 49501
9780825424434, $13.99,

In 1991 when Elise Friedman turned eight her mom Catrina suddenly died. Raised by an adoptive father Steve, she grew up wondering about her biological dad and her mom's life in Germany before coming to the States. She especially thought about reasons her mom left her homeland.

Now seventeen years later, Elise obsesses over knowing the truth. In Berlin Elise meets her mom's best friend Ambassador Addison Wade, showing the stunned older woman a photo of Addison with Catrina. Addison wants to ignore Elise as she has buried the past especially since her next post will be American Ambassador to the UN. Elise explains discrepancies in her mom's past and Steve's story. Reluctantly Addison, understanding the resolute visitor and fearing for her going solo, takes her to Heidelberg where the quest of the Chosen began.

THE BLACK CLOISTER is a fascinating look at a cult from several perspectives. The story line is fast-paced from the moment a determined Elise arrives in Berlin and never slows with one twist after another as the danger mounts. Steve's refusal to explain anything leaves Elise taking risks that turn her into a target; yet remaining true to his vows just seems wrong. Still this exhilarating thriller will hook the audience as the present inquiry into the past turns dangerous.

The Lover's Knot
Clare O'Donahue
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780452289796, $13.00,

Twenty something Manhattan based publisher Nell Fitzgerald is stunned when her fiance Ryan informs her he is not ready to marry. Upset, she decides to leave town to visit her grandma Eleanor Cassidy in Archer's Rest to help her elderly relative recover from a nasty fall and somewhat based on the lovely wedding quilt her grandmother and Friday Night Quilt Club made for her.

Eleanor, who owns Someday Quilts, hires local handyman Marc Reed to expand her store. He outrageously flirts with the newcomer and Nell enjoys his attention. Ryan arrives and ends up brawling with Marc over Nell. Soon after their fight, someone scissors Marc to death at Someday Quilts. Local police chief widower Jesse Dewalt investigates knowing many of the townsfolk hared the womanizing Marc and is aware of the brawl with Ryan, who wants Nell back. Instead she tries to prove his innocence one stitch at a time.

This is an engaging Hudson River Valley amateur sleuth that will remind cozy fans of authors like Maggie Sefton. Although Nell has no experience and no cause to investigate placing herself in danger, she makes for a fine detective. Lighthearted fun as the relationship triangle (to include Jesse not Marc) supersedes the mystery.

Princeps' Fury
Jim Butcher
Ace Books
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780441016389, $25.95,

Tavi of Calderon, once an apprentice sheep herder, has become a legend as he is Princeps Gaius Octavian, heir to the throne of Alera and the grandson of the First Lord Gaius Sextus. Tavi negotiated a peace with Alera's latest enemy, the Canim, ending two years of fighting. The people of Alera use furies (elementals) to perform magic. Tavi escorts the Canim to their home on vessels made for this voyage, but a fierce storm throws the fleet off course, they land in the range of Shuar.

When they reach the stronghold, they realize the Canim have been destroys by the Vord, a hive like life form that can change shapes and are ruining the earth so that humans and the wolf-like Canim cannot survive. Tavi has a plan to move the surviving Canim so they return to his home to join forces against the Vord. He is unaware that the Vord has already invaded Alera's southlands spreading disaster everywhere they go. The Alerans who have successfully met every external threat for ten centuries are in trouble from the deadliest enemy of all; political intrigue divides Alera further when a united front is the only way the Alerans can possibly survive.

Jim Butcher, obviously renowned for his Dresden Files, also writes a strong fantasy based on the Roman Empire mixing with other species, magicks and elementals. As is the case with Dresden, Mr. Butcher has the uncanny ability to make his Codex Alera realm seem real; as he understands it is in the subtle details. Tavi is a natural born leader whose strong moral instincts make him an ideal ruler as he is able to forge an alliance with a recent foe and have former enemies work together for the common good. Different characters narrate the story so that the audience knows what is happening from a 360 degree perspective, which adds depth to an exciting fantasy thriller.

New Tricks
John Levitt
9780441016563, $7.99

In San Francisco Mason is a magical practitioner who no longer works for Victor as an enforcer keeping mage users from abusing their skills. The work is too dangerous and he wants to spend more time learning and performing his music. On Halloween, Victor and Mason search for a friend who failed to meet them as previously arranged. When they find Sarah, she is catatonic as if someone tried to possess her, but failed. The same crisis happened in Portland so Victor sends for enforcers to search for those behind the killings the Sarah incident won't be repeated

Rolando and his sister Josephine come to San Francisco; they tell Victor and Mason that they believe Byron, a dark mage, was the killer. He left Portland and the homicides stopped there immediately; he came to San Francisco and the murders started there. Mason breaks into Byron's home; when he is caught the accused does not act in any way like a killer. Mason meets Montague who insists he has a technique to identify the culprit. However when Mason arrives at Montague's home, he finds him dead, but also begins to realize who the killer is. When the murders abruptly cease, everyone sighs with relief assuming it is over except Mason who believes the killer lives and is planning the next homicide.

Mason is a courageous caring soul who combines moxie, magic and vulnerability and that endears him to readers. His companion, an Ifirt is a magical creature who looks like a dog. He plays a key role keeping Mason alive and helps him try to ferret out the killer. In some ways the charming Lou steals the show in this humorous serial killer urban fantasy. Jon Levitt is a welcome addition to the urban fantasy genre.

The Knights of the Cornerstone
James P. Blaylock
9780441016532, $23.95

Cartoonist Calvin Bryson knows he retreated from the world by hiding behind his work and Californiana literary collection as his ex-fiancee Elaine reminded him. Now a letter from his Uncle Al Lymon inviting him to visit him and ailing Aunt Nettie arrives. It has been three years since he has visited New Cypress in the desert squeezed by the Dead Mountains and the Colorado River. He also received a package from Warren Hosmer, his ancient cousin several numbers removed, postmarked Iowa to deliver to Uncle Al.

Reluctantly Calvin, who prefers to catalogue his Californiana collection, drives to his uncle's abode, the Knights of the Cornerstone. However before arriving at New Cyprus, someone steals the Hosmer package. Upon arrival at the Knights of the Cornerstone, Calvin explains he lost the package, but finds out that was a fake; the real item, the mythical magical artifact, the Veil of Veronica, was delivered to Uncle Al. At the Cozy Diner waitress Donna serves him his pancakes reminding him she kissed him when they were six years old, but this time he wants to initiate the kiss; instead he leaves a cartoon and a psychotic tip. However, he soon realizes that his family back in Iowa and here are embroiled with the Knights fighting their enemies for control of the veil.

THE KNIGHTS OF THE CORNERSTONE is an engaging modern day desert (can't say urban) fantasy that sub-genre fans will enjoy even as the story line in many ways is a conventional good vs. bad saga. The reason the audience will relish this novel and want more is Calvin, who in no way comes across as hero material, but unenthusiastically tries although his instincts tell him to flee back to his reclusive lifestyle before he is literally sent to Hell. James P Blaylock provides a fun light read that showcases blood is thicker than water especially when it flows from the body.

The Unusual Suspects
Dana Stabenow, editor
9780441016372, $14.00

These superb twelve new tales focus on the convergence of mystery and suspense inside a fantasy realm. The stories are all well written, holding up nicely to its predecessor collection (see POWERS OF DETECTION). Charlaine Harris provides a Sookie entry while Simon R. Green returns to the Nightside and the editor Ms. Stabenow takes her fans back to Mnemosynea for what she describes as a "Seer and Sword" thriller. The other entries are strong with deep characters such as Laura Anne Gilman's loan shark dragon star of "Illumination". Carole Nelson Douglas' "Bogieman" answers one of the deepest fundamental questions of the universe: who wants Sam Spade dead (than again who does not might be easier to answer)? Likewise John Straley responds to another question of the ages: what does Santa do during his off season? Whether it is Donna Andrews's Gwynn the apprentice returning to cast a "spellbound" on her fans to read her story or Mike Doogan a "Glamour" satirizing the sub-genre, readers will enjoy this compilation. The remaining four are excellent contributions by top tier authors (Michael A. Stackpole, Sharon Sinn, Michael Armstrong and Laurie R. King).

The Crown
Deborah Chester
9780441016570, $7.99

Once he was a Praetinor in the Imperial Army, a hero held in high regard by all until he rebelled and was declared a rebel. Angry and bitter, he turned to Shadow (dark magic) but over time regretted his choice. Lord Shadrael is hired by the vile Vindicant Priests who practice blood magic. He is to kidnap the sister of the Emperor Caelan, Lea, whose tears turn into pearls. If Shadrael brings her to their compound in brother's province of Ulinia, they will restore his soul to him.

Lea is an innocent gentle person who practices good magic; she tries to persuade Shadrael not to turn her over to the Vindicants. He ignores her plea although he has come to care about her. After delivering her to the Vindicants, they betray him leaving him to die. His brother tries to save him and raise an army expecting the Emperor to invade while Lea is being used and abused. Shadrael tries to liberate Lea by bargaining with the devilish Vindicants; Lea does likewise with the man she has come to love.

This is a fine blending of sword and sorcery with romantic fantasy. THE CROWN is Deborah Chester at her best. Shadrael is dark even more so when contrasted to Lea's light. He changes from sacrificing her to sacrificing himself as her goodness overwhelms his badness. Ironically she is willing to do the same to save his soul. The Vindicants cleverly turn the strengths of the pair caring about the other into a weakness better than Karl Rove ever did. Thus this is a character driven thriller as Shadrael begins to find redemption when he found love.

Laura E. Reeve
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
0451462459, $6.99,

Fifteen years ago, the Armed Forces of the Consortium of Autonomous Worlds deactivated N-space pilot Major Ariane Kedros when her mission left behind an eradicated solar system. The Terran Expansion League, whose solar system and its inhabitants were murdered, believes she is a war criminal deserving execution. However, the AFCAW hide in a protection program the major and other alleged war criminals from the wrath of the TEL. Filled with guilt and remorse, currently she works for Aether Exploration in an uncharted sector seeking artifacts and occasionally goes on missions from AFCAW, who remind her she is still a reservist who can be deployed without notice.

However, someone has gotten inside the AFCAW databases to identify those who pandemic butchered the solar system. Twelve were assassinated including Ariane's crewmember Cipher. Though she considers giving up her reserve commission and ergo AFCAW protection, Ariane accepts the mission to go undercover to expose the avenging killer; not understanding that her side has placed her as an expendable pawn in the elliptic path of the assassin.

PEACEKEEPER is an exhilarating military science fiction thriller that hooks readers from the opening scene when the AFCAW assign Ariane her orders. The story line is as fast-paced as any in recent memory as the heroine struggles with one deadly incident after another while her guilt threatens at any moment to overwhelm her. Fans will relish this fine tale as the challenges keep on mounting for a beleaguered heroine who believes her adversary has the right to kill war criminals like her though she will try her best to stop the killer.

Dragon Strike
E.E. Knight
0451462351, $14.00

After being separated by dwarf slave traders who killed their mother and sister, the three dragon siblings (AuRon, Wistala, and Copper) suffer differing experiences on their way to adulthood. AuRon mated and has a family on the Isle of Ice, which is devoid of humanoids (see DRAGON CHAMPION). His sister Wistala has become a scholar librarian in the Hypatia Empire and believes in intermingling of the species (see DRAGON AVENGER)S. Finally Copper has become the Tyn of the Lavadome who places the needs of dragons before his own (see DRAGON OUTCAST).

While Wisteria works in her library, a demon captures her; after days of torture, the Fire Maidens rescue her and take her to Lavadome where she listens to the Tyn while realizing he is her brother just before AuRon arrives as the emissary of the Red Queen of Ghioz who seeks to conquer Hypatia. The Red Queen offers an alliance with the Lavadome that would make the dragons available to her warriors. Tyn decides for dragonkind to survive, they must live above ground instead of in the mouths of volcanoes hiding and praying they will not be found. He sends his sister to her home and his brother to his family as each prepares for the Red Queen. They all know if allied to her she would betray them.

Book four of the Age of Fire brings this glorious fantasy to a rousing finish with the three sibling stars of the previous novels finally coming together. Throughout the saga, dragons are the protagonists while the hominids (man, dwarf, elf and blighters) are their natural enemies constantly encroaching and killing. In DRAGON STRIKE, the dragons conclude that to survive they must fight even if that means going down in flames; pacifism means death for sure. E.E. Knight makes his world of dragons soar as the audience roots for them to succeed.

The United States of Atlantis
Harry Turtledove
045146236X, $25.95

The war with France is over as England has defeated the French; forcing them out of Atlantis. King George sends troops to solidify his control even as the Atlanteans are already upset over no representation in Parliament.

When the Redcoats turn the eastern seaports into occupation zones, the locals are outraged as they no longer can freely sell their goods. Increasingly Atlanteans are discussing revolution as their liberties are being trampled. The rebels choose former English officer with battle experience during the French War Victor Radcliff to lead their ragtag forces against the mightiest army in the world as he and others envision a new order of freedom for the THE UNITED STATES OF ATLANTIS.

The saga of the eighth continent (see OPENING ATLANTIS) continues in this engaging alternate historical fantasy.The story line is fast-paced and gripping with strong characters especially the reluctat hero Radcliff. However what hooks the audience is the obvious comparative analysis to the American Revolution as sub-genre fans will relish figuring out what is identical, similar, and radically different in the birth of a nation. Mr. Turtledove provides a refreshing middle tale.

The Treasure
Iris Johansen
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0553807315, $25.00,

In 1196 Syria Jabber Al-Nasim knows his power is waning and knows what he needs to do to regain what he is losing. He directs Captain Ali Balki to go to Scotland and bring home former assassin Kadar Ben Arnaud. If he refuses to come home, Ali is to inform him that Sinan King of the Assassins demands he pay the price of freeing the foreigners. Jabber knows Kadar will honor his pledge. Ali fears Kadar but does the bidding because he is even more afraid of Jabber.

In Scotland Kadar looks forward to a long quiet life with his beloved former slave Selene Ware. However his years of respite end when Ali arrives with the summoning; Kadar is honor bound to go home. To be totally free he learns he must find a King Arthur relic possessed by the mystical Tarik in Tuscany. Selene insists on going with him. Danger accompanies them every step of the way.

This medieval romance with a touch of the mystical is an excellent historical starring two great characters who just want to be left alone, but understandably go on their twelfth century quest across Europe. The story line is action-packed from the onset when Jabber gives his orders to a frightened Ali. Fans will enjoy this strong thriller that is a stand alone sequel to mid 1990s LION'S BRIDE.

Your Heart Belongs to Me
Dean Koontz
9780553807134, $27.00

Thirty-four years old Ryan Perry created Be2Do, a social networking web site that makes him a billionaire. He quits as CEO so he can spend more time on development projects and with his girlfriend Samantha, whom he wants to marry. However the aspiring author rejects his proposal though she loves him.

He soon learns he is under a death sentence diagnosed with cardiomyopathy; only a heart transplant can save his life. A donor is found and the operation proves successful. A year after the transplant, strange things occur inside Ryan's fortress. Candy hearts appear then vanish; likewise a gold heart pendant. He becomes uneasy with the goings-on, but soon believes he is in danger when a video arrives starring a woman who looks like the heart donor with a message "YOUR HEART BELONGS TO ME". He believes she is going to kill him and with all his wealth and connections he fears she will succeed.

Dean Koontz has written another great thriller filled with heart and supernatural elements. The protagonist is a nice person comfortable in his limited world especially the cyber realm, but is clueless re life outside his circle. When confronted with the paranormal he does what most people will do seek the rational explanation. There is a lot of action, but the tense story line belongs to Ryan who is unable to mentally accept the truth. Readers will enjoy another one sitting Koontz tale.

Perfect Circle
Carlos J. Cortes
9780553591620, $6.99

Hugh Reece, President of International Mining Corporation, regrets what he did that drove his heir grandson Paul away. He knows the Congo discovery needs Paul as the lead field geologist opening the shaft and going down the four miles into the earth to discover what is there. The firm contacts the estranged Paul who, though he remains irate with IMC and his grandpa, agrees to invesitgate.

However, as Paul and his crew prepare for the inner earth journey, the Congolese natives who have lived here for generations, know what he will find. They have been waiting for this day and believe Paul is the chosen one to rapel down the chute to either save or destroy civilization as the west knows it.

This is an exhilarating brisk science fiction thriller with echoes of Journey to the Center of the Earth. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Paul reaches the Congo and never slows down. However, it is the strong characterizations especially the flawed and remorseful Hugh and the angry Paul who bring a human frailty to the PERFECT CIRCLE.

Good Luck
Whitney Gaskell
9780553591514, $12.00

In Florida Andrews Prep Principal Dr. Johnson fires her because lazy student Matt Forrester accused her of sexual harassment misconduct. Angry at the false charges that her boss accepts without investigating, Lucy Parker explodes. She has taught literature there for a decade and was teacher of the year two years ago. Her only crime was failing a student who deserved the poor grade. A revelation occurs that Matt's wealthy parents threatened legal action against the school if Lucy is not fired.

Lucy needs to escape her troubles as she knows the accusation will follow her to any school she applies for employment even as her dilapidated Volvo dies. However, she buys a lottery ticket only to come home to see her husband Elliot in bed with a blonde. The media exposes the Forrester charge so a depressed Lucy, after winning, $87 million in the Florida lottery, decides to escape so she heads to Palm Beach where her college buddy Hayden lives. He allows her to stay and gives her a makeover that everyone says makes her gorgeous and glamorous; everyone except Mal, who insists her previous wholesome look, was prettier.

Talk about a negative streak even with the lottery win (more than Melvin and the Bluenotes' Bad Luck or Short in Pure Luck), Lucy assumes she is bottomed out each time until the next fall from grace occurs. The money enables her to have some flexibility but even she wonders whether she it will change her along the lines of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? The school incident has already done that as she is cynical instead of idealistic. Lucy makes the tale intriguing.

Traitor's Kiss and Lover's Kiss
Mary Blayney
9780553592122, $6.99

"Traitor's Kiss". In 1813 France, English scientist Gabriel Pennistan is imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. His brother offers money to Charlotte Parnell to get him safely out of France. She frees him from the jail and escorts him from Paris to Le Havre with danger every step of the way. As they complete their escape to the Channel, they begin to fall in love. However after a great night of lovemaking, Charlotte vanishes; Gabriel vows to find his beloved.

"Lover's Kiss". In 1816 although retired from espionage, former soldier Michael Garrett proves he still has his skills when he rescues a nearly totally nude Lady Olivia Pennistan from abduction. Her brothers persuade him to protect their sister, offering him money. He accepts the duty, as he wants her safe, but has doubts about a fee. As they fall in love, Michael knows his lower social class must keep them apart; Olivia thinks otherwise and begins a campaign that the military would admire.

These two exhilarating Pennistan family Regency romances are well written, filled with plenty of action and star great courageous lead characters. Sub-genre fans will enjoy both super tales.

Blood Sins
Kay Hooper
9780553804850, $25.00

A serial killer went on a rampage in Boston last year before relocating to Venture, Georgia. Thanks to a member of Haven, the civilian arm of the SCU FBI which consists of functioning psychics, he was caught However, the Puppet Master, who was pulling the predator's strings so he could siphon energy from other psychics, escaped and returned to his compound in Grace, North Carolina; there he advocates the end of the world is coming.

Haven operative Tessa Gray is acting the part of a vulnerable woman alone in the world so she can grab the killer's attention. Father Samuel has his Church of the Everlasting Sin flock to protect him at their compound. Tessa knows Samuel is using psychic power that killed two women, but with his congregation in the way justice seems out of reach. Still she fears he will bring his apocalyptic vision to reality if not stopped. With the help of psychic local chief of police Sawyer Cavanaugh and with Bishop's input, they put together a plan to try to stop the schemes of a monster to bring Armageddon now.

Although it seems difficult to accept one person could destroy the world, readers will thoroughly enjoy the latest Bishop special crimes unit thriller. Hollis Templeton plays an intricate role and walks away with another psychic power. The anticipated confrontation between Bishop and Samuel will keep the audience spellbound while Tessa struggles with doing the right thing. The SCU thrillers are always top rate entertainment (see BLOOD DREAMS) and BLOOD SINS holds up that reputation.

Cruel Intent
J. A. Jance
Touchstone Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
1416563792, $25.95,

In Sedona, Arizona former TV news reporter Ali Reynolds is renovating a house when the wife of her contractor is found brutally murdered in their home. Police Detective Dave Holman suspects the husband Bryan Forrester killed his stay at home wife and mom Morgan; as the violence implies someone passionately involved with the victim. Ali believes Bryan's proclamation of innocence, but no one else does.

Feeling obligated and also needing her home ready for the Thanksgiving invasion, Ali investigates, which leads her to, a website where "married singles" can harmlessly flirt. As she digs deeper, she realizes a serial killer is hacking into homes with Morgan being number five. With all that info, she remains ignorant to the fact that the culprit is watching her.

The fourth Reynolds investigative tale (see HAND OF EVIL) is an exciting fast-paced thriller that starts at hyperspeed and accelerates from there. Although a couple of key late spins subtract from the plausibility, fans of J.A. Jance will enjoy her latest whodunit especially when the heroine finds family members wanting to help her but for the most part hinder her except for one key late intrusion.

Next Stop
Ivan Sanchez
9781416562672, $14.00

NEXT STOP is a fascinating but also sad memoir of life in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx in from 1978 to the early 1990s. However unlike most memoirs looking back at a "war zone", Ivan Sanchez does not tell much about his escape. Instead he focuses on survival, a sort of social Darwinism in practice. The neighborhood is filled with crime mostly violent from professional arsonists collecting fees for torching buildings so owners can collect insurance to drug wars over who peddles where (fundamental capitalistic supply and demand). To live another day, you needed a crew to provide 360 degrees of protection for one another, but that was no guarantee. Readers will be abhorred at the violence, but more so at the way it is taken for granted as part of living in wild Bronx. Well written with plenty of heart, this is not an easy read for unlike TV this is real life; for this reviewer who grew up in the Bronx and knows the locations like Creston Ave near Fordham Rd it especially hits home.

The Other Side of Silence
Bill Pronzini
Walker & Company
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780802717139, $24.00,

Since his son's death and the consequential breakup of his marriage, corporate security specialist Rick Fallon is a loner. Thus when he goes camping in the Mohave Desert, he goes by himself. In fact he selects an isolated section of Death Valley so climatically anti-human no one will disturb him.

However to his chagrin he is not alone as he finds an abandoned car with a suicide note on it. Frantic Casey Dunbar has given up on life after spending the past few months futilely searching for her eight year old son, abducted by his father, her former husband Court Spicer. Rick finds her and saves her life to her bitterness and outrage. She explains that adding to her frustration and hopelessness is the knowledge her ex spouse couldn't give a sh*t about his offspring; instead his objective is to destroy her, which he has succeeded in doing. Rick offers to investigate; Casey accepts as their encounter in Death Valley brings both back to life.

Starring a named detective, THE OTHER SIDE OF SILENCE is a terific investigative thriller with a great low-keyed final spin. The cast is fully developed especially Rick and Casey. Although mostly straightforward investigating, fans will fully appreciate the great Bill Pronzini's strong tale.

The Phoenix Guards
Steven Brust
Orb Books
c/o Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765319659, $14.95,

In the Dragaeran Empire, the swordsman Khaavren tries to become a member of the Imperial Guard whose mission is to protect the new Phoenix Emperor. On his trek to the capital, he meets three other somewhat wary travelers (Aerich, Tazendra and Pel) also seeking positions with the Imperial Guard. The foursome becomes friends vowing to be there for one another.

They become Imperial Guards, but soon know their pledge to one another is critical if they are to achieve and survive their mission to protect the royals. They soon uncover seditious plots against the Emperor and the Empire and Khaavren, which require them to make bold intelligent decisions to stay alive and keep Dragaera and their royal charges safe.

This is a reprint of an early 1990s tale that obviously pays homage to Alexandre Dumas. The saga occurs about a millennium before the time that Vlad Taltos roamed Dragaera. The adventures of the four musketeers are fun to follow though none come across as more than courageous, loyal, but somewhat superficially charming rogues who lack depth. Still THE PHOENIX GUARDS is an engaging swashbuckling sword and sorcery fantasy.

Ken MacLeod
Orb (Tor)
0765320681, $19.95

The Star Fraction. By 2040, the Kingdom of Great Britain lays in ruins divided into independent states due to the policies of the leftist Labour Party. Some of these new entities are no bigger than a few city streets and run by gang-lords while others like the Army of the New Republic control a vast area. Marxist gun for hire physical security expert Moh Kohn, computer scientist Janis Taine, terrorist Catherine Duvalier and teenage atheist Jordan Brown meet when Moh is assigned to protect Janis and her lab from the fundamentalist Stasis who control technology and have ruled that her work needs to be destroyed. After several Stasis assaults, the foursome decide they must take out an evil artificial intelligence if they are to survive.

The Stone Canal. Political rivals Jonathan Wilde and Dave Reid both love Annette, but the former marries her. Over time Jonathan drifts to the extreme left while Dave turns towards the anarchist's credo. Their competition grows more heated with Annette still in play. Wilde wakes up near a canal where Jay-Dub the robot informs him he is a clone with the original Wilde's memories downloaded into the replica. Reid runs the Martian colony, but the Wilde clone remembers his rival being there when he was assassinated. Worse Reid has a clone of Annette. Round two is commencing.

This is a reprint of the "The First Half of The Fall Revolution" with the second part to come soon. The tales retain their fresh creativity though both were published in the mid 1990s. Each is fast-paced with the worlds, a futuristic dismal earth and a Mars colony after a loss in WW III, seem genuine even with clones and AI machines. The additional fun for Ken Macleod fans is to see the leap in skill from his first to second novel as each is entertaining but THE STONE CANAL is much tighter despite containing two major subplots.

Liberation: Being The Adventures Of The Slick Six After The Collapse Of The United States of America
Brian Francis Slattery
Tor Books
1403 Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0765320460, $14.95,

The worst financial crisis to ever hit the United Stated has left the nation divided into regions as the dollar is not even worth the paper it was once printed on. In that downward spiral environs as people starve and health care is non existent for most, Marco Angelo Oliveira escapes from prison after five years on a prison ship. He plans to return to the Slick Six crime family infamous for their criminal cons and capers.

Marco is stunned to learn two of his brethren were "sold" into slavery as have others who will work for food. He decides the old gang needs to be brought back together to save this region from the abusive rulers. Meanwhile, the New York City mob chieftain the Aardvark wants no opposition to his ruthless rule. He wants Marco and the Slick Six deep six before they can regroup and sends his goons to do the job.

Liberation: Being The Adventures Of The Slick Six After The Collapse Of The United States of America is an exciting and timely futuristic thriller focuses on the aftermath following the economic collapse of the United States of America into separate region-nations. The story line is fast-paced with a comic book exaggerated confrontation between good and evil. Thus the prime adversaries come across as stereotypes. However, in spite of the two dimensional cast, this is a superb tale that strongly contends a USA collapse will lead to warlords running a back to Adam Smith pure capitalistic economy based on indentured servants and slavery as the working class.

Humpty Dumpty in Oakland
Philip K. Dick
0765316919, $14.95

In 1950s California bone tired as he still recovers from a heart attack garage owner Jim Fergesson plans to retire. Meanwhile one of his customers used car salesman cynical Al Miller learns that Jim is investing his retirement fund in a shaky real estate deal that in all probability will wipe the elderly man out.

Miller decides to help his friend by getting Jim not to invest in a loser. He obtains a job with the party he believes is conning Jim. However even Miller who believes almost everyone is a low life shark out to get you is stunned with what he finds while working undercover. He has landed in the middle of a colossal fraud that targets the ailing elderly.

As with the recently reprinted IN MILTON LUMKY TERRITORY, HUMPTY DUMPTY IN OAKLAND is a 1950s contemporary, but has the deep feel of a well written character driven historical that feels even more apropos today with the economy. The full vivid picture of those "Happy Days" is showcased as two Americas; a middle class enjoying the fruits of a growing economy while the other is a victim of prejudice unable to reach the lowest hanging fruit. Fans of Philip K. Dick will observe one of the author's prime themes of an overwhelmed individual battling against the avaricious status quo power brokers.

The Knight of the Red Beard
Andre Norton and Sasha Miller
9780765307484, $25.95

Having resolved their adversarial relationship the NordornQueen Ashen and NordornKing Gaurin ruled pragmatically yet with fairness for years over a prosperous kingdom. However, before their respective ages becomes issue, the NordornLand monarchs must look at the next generation to insure the heir Dependable and conscientious Bjaudin succeeds them to the throne.

After seeking adventure by stowing away on a Sea-Rover, Bjaudin's eleven-year-old younger brother Mikkel is made prisoner by the ferocious Wykenigs; especially interested in the captive is abusive Gunnora who has a past with her detainee's family. His thirteen years old sister Elin, coveting the throne, turns to her scheming malevolent grandmother Ysa as her mentor-ally causing havoc for her parents. Meanwhile, the age of peace and prosperity seems to have ended as a new threat to the NordornLand surfaces; the other grandmother, Zazar uses magic to attempt to free Mikkel and to eliminate the danger.

This is an exciting well written Oak, Yew, Ash and Rowan Cycle fantasy that will leave fans of the saga enjoying the "final" entry, but annoyed that closure to the major dangling plot threads from the previous four books failed to occur. Instead new subplots lead to the conclusion more novels are coming. Still this is an entertaining story as the focus is on the children of Ashen and Gaurin and to a degree their stereotypical diametrically opposite grandmothers.

Busted Flush
George R.R. Martin, editor
9780765317827, $25.95

The pandemic disaster that changed the modern world occurred in 1946 leading to the establishment of the United Nation's Committee on Extraordinary Interventions. These wild cards have worked for years to solve global catastrophes and failures. Their current leader John Fortune is a former Ace operative so he knows how difficult field work is as there is never enough resourcing especially manpower to deal with all the calamities.

Recruiting and training a new group of Aces who think 1946 is ancient history, he sends the squad out into the world though his gut questions whether they are ready. He knows they are out of time so they must do their best with the hand dealt them. He sends rookies with vets as much as possible. The crews go to the powerful Caliphate Islamic Empire whose leaders are causing economic havoc everywhere; they deal with genocide in Nigeria and its African neighbors; a hurricane in New Orleans leaves them to battle the aftermath of zombies attacking the survivors; and a nuclear explosion in Texas has led to a deadlier new arms race. This and much more including nasty lethal stuff inside the government is the normal world chaos for a new generation of Aces to contend with as best they can.

The latest Aces interrelated anthology is held together by Melinda Snodgrass' delightful "Double Helix" whose depressed hero makes all the superheroes seem real. Each entry is strong and enhances the overall mythos. Fans of the saga will relish the latest calamities and superheroes contending with them; while newcomers will enjoy this entry that can be read by it self but also seek at least the previous compilation of the new generation of Wild Cards (see INSIDE STRAIGHT).

Jeffrey A. Carver
0312864531, $27.95

Earthling John Bandicut is bone tired after being exiled from his home planet, saving his world and subsequently two others. World saving is a tiring vocation. He currently travels through interstellar space with other exiles including one residing inside his head; they are a band of aliens from all sorts of orbs. John looks forward to rest when they reach their destination, a space station in the Orion Nebula sector.

However, he and his cohorts soon learn of a pandemic conspiracy to eradicate the sentient stars residing in this part of space. Struggling with communicating with the intended victims, John and his friends put off R&R to prevent genocide at a time when his homeworld also faces a major threat.

This is a superb outer space thriller starring a misunderstood hero and his alien peers. The cast is vast so except for John none seem more than two dimensional yet those key players provide keen perspectives as point of view changes inside of the non-stop action. Jeffrey A. Carver returns to his Chaos Chronicles universe for the first in a decade with an exciting throw back science fiction thriller.

The House on Tradd Street
Karen White
NAL/New American Library
c/o Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451225092, $14.00, 1-800-847-5515

Realtor Melanie Middleton loves the single life that her professional success brings her. Everything is going extremely well. However, Melanie cannot understand why a late client whom she barely knew left her an ancient relic more elephant than house in Charleston, South Carolina; all she has to do to inherit it is live there for a year.

Even stranger to Melanie is her uncanny ability to see dead people. She knows she must look into her haunted past to understand her present. Her family and friends, some of whom have crossed to the other side, remain at her side helping her come to grips with THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET and much more when investigative reporter Jack Trenholm arrives searching for missing Confederate diamonds that he believes are buried in the house. As they fall in love, encouraged by her family (dead and alive), one mean spirit wants them gone claiming ownership of the diamonds and much more.

The key to this quirky charmer is the depth of the lead characters especially the heroine and even some of the ghosts. Fans of paranormal romantic suspense will want to read this wonderful tale as Karen White provides a fine treasure hunt mystery with a nasty spirit inside a warm romance in which Readers will say yes that they believe in ghosts and in love.

Sun Stroked
Cathryn Fox
9780451225115, $14.00

"The Sensual Soak". Danielle Carrigan, Abby Benton and Lauren Sampson visit O Spa, the Oasis of Pleasure, on a small private South Pacific island where each hopes their deepest most secret desires are met as proclaimed about an exclusive magical elixir found only here. Danielle wants a man to dominate her, but she must be able to trust that he will not harm her. She wonders if injured soldier Ethan Sharpe is her passionate "Mr. Hardbody.

"The Pleasure Pool". Beautiful Lauren wants someone to appreciate the inner soul and not just her body. She remains restless as she wonders whether that recuperating from war injuries military hunk Ryan Thomas can see her inner soul and to herself she admits her body too.

"The Sunset Sauna". Engaged to marry Artie Drummond, a boring sex partner, Abby wants passion in bed not just with her food. The third recovering soldier buddy Cody Lannon seems perfect but very wary of becoming relationship prey instead of predator.

Mindful of Fantasy Island, but many degrees hotter (it is a Heat imprint); these are three well written whimsical tales of romance with a touch of magic in the air, beach, bedrooms, and a few other places.

Red Light Green Light
Margaret Johnson-Hodge
Sutton Place Publishers
2774 N. Cobb Parkway, Suite 109, PMB 180,Kennesaw, GA 30152
9780975402610 $16.95

Forty something crack addict Craig Stevens has been clean for forty-one days, but is not proud of being in his second month of clean as he knows the number of days means nothing; each new dawn denotes struggling all over again. He attends meetings near his rental in Far Rockaway to help him stay clean and receives strong but tough help from his landlady Miss Raymond and his sponsor Brother Raheim.

However, on this morning, Craig like so many other New Yorkers will be tested. The Twin Towers have been hit by jets and collapsed. Though he desperately needs a hit, Craig with assistance from Miss Raymond and Brother Raheim holds off although he prays he does not stumble to what looks inevitable. Instead he needs to know if Gazelle, the one woman who mattered before Crack took over his life and drove her away, is okay as a few years ago she worked in the shadow of the Towers. With a small advance from Miss Raymond who controls his money, he begins his public transportation and walks to her home in Queens only to learn she and her family moved to Hempstead. He continues his quest in Long island where he finds out that she works in one of the Towers so begins the next leg, Ground Zero to see if Gazelle, assuming she is alive, needs help although what he can do he knows is zero.

RED LIGHT GREEN LIGHT is an excellent character driven thriller in which the audience sees first hand the impact of the 9/11 tragedy through the eyes of Craig and those who help or hinder him on his quest. Craig is a unique protagonist as he struggles with his addiction all the time, but especially on the 9/11 day of infamy. Margaret Johnson-Hodge provides readers with a poignant powerful look at the most traumatic day in American history through a unique anti-hero. This is a book so memorable it will become a classic in the years to come.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Larsen's Bookshelf

A Civil General
David Stinebeck & Scannell Gill
Sunstone Press
P.O. Box 2321, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504.2321
9780865346635 $20.95 800.243.5644

Co-authored by David Stinebeck and Scannell Gill, "A Civil General" is a fictionalized account of the life of Union General George Henry Thomas, the Rock of Chickamauga, was the third of a triumvirate who won the war for the Union. (Grant and Sherman were 1 and 2, was born in Southampton County, Virginia July 31, 1816. The story here is told from the Journals of Captain William Steinbeck, great-grandfather of the authors and John Beatty.

The narrator is a young Colonel, who became General Thomas' confidante. General Thomas is pictured as the kind of leader America needs now.

"A Civil General" is an interesting book of what might have been, and seems to be geared for the high school market. Personally I would rather have read a biography of General Thomas as he is a forgotten figure. I certainly give the authors high marks for trying to introduce General Thomas to a new generation.

Merchant Mariners at War: An Oral History of World War II
George J. Billy & Christine M. Billy
University Press of Florida
15 Northwest 15th Street, Gainesville, FL 32611.2079
9780813032467 $30.00

Comparatively little has been written about the United States Merchant Marine in World War II, yet they suffered a higher rate of casualties, one in twenty-six, than any other branch of United States service.

In 1990, Author George Billy began conducting audio and video interviews of World War ll era alumni of the Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, New York, from which he and co-author Christine Billy selected and edited the interviews for this fine history.

This I promise. When you finish reading "Merchant Mariners at War: An Oral History of World War II", you will have new or renewed respect for the men who sailed the ships that carried the cargo of war during the Battle of the Atlantic, the Murmansk run to Russia, across the broad Pacific and the sunny Mediterranean.

"Merchant Mariners at War: An Oral History of World War II" is the way history should be written. I would be remiss if I didn't remind the reader this book is one of a series, 'New Perspectives on Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology', which is edited by James C. Bradford and Gene Allan Smith, and published by the University Press of Florida.

For further reading, might I suggest "A Careless Word, A Needless Sinking", by Captain Arthur R. Moore and published by the American Merchant Marine Museum, U. S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, New York. It is a real eye opener and shelf filler. It is a history of the tremendous losses suffered by the U. S. Merchant Marine during World War II.

Florida And World War II
Jim Wiggins
Heritage Books Inc.
100 Railroad Avenue # 104, Westminster, MD 21157
9780788445453 $23.00

"Florida And World War II: A Personal Recollection" is a caring look back at the World War II era in Florida by native son Jim Wiggins. With the help of relatives and friends and newspaper archives an interesting image of Florida's past is brought back to life in a comfortable narrative that really does turn back the clock.

Eleven years old when the war began, Wiggins, a freelance writer and photographer, recalls scrap drives and rationing, airplanes on practice maneuvers, military convoys on the highways, Nazi U-boat attacks, military prison camps and enough other stuff to keep you reading.

He reminds us of the cost of war to other native sons; Captain Colin P. Kelly Jr., hero who did not return and of much decorated airman, ace of aces Commander David McCampbell who shot down 34 Japanese aircraft in 1944, who did return, dying in Florida in 1996. There is even a picture of George H. W. Bush while in pilot training at Ft. Lauderdale in 1943.

"Florida And World War II: A Personal Recollection" is an interesting, well written personal recollection, well illustrated, well indexed and I hope well received.

Andersonvilles Of The North
James M. Gillispie
University of North Texas
P. O; Box 311336, Denton, TX. 76203-1336
9781574412550 $24.95 1.800.826.8911

In "Andersonvilles Of The North: The Myths and Realities of Northern Treatment of Civil War Confederate Prisoners", Dr. Gillispie presents a study of Federal policies and living conditions in Northern prisons during the Civil War. Rarely have we seen Union prisons discussed so objectively. By proceeding beyond the post war narratives written by ex-prisoners as understandable but unreliable source material, Gillispie considers the more reliable wartime records and documents from both Northern and Southern sources as a basis for this fine study. A lot of old tales are laid to rest. Logical and new conclusions are made in this studious, but well written book.

"Andersonvilles Of The North: The Myths and Realities of Northern Treatment of Civil War Confederate Prisoners" is an important book, readable, extensively researched, factual, well noted and bound to cause conversation at Round Tables.

James M. Gillispie has a Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi and currently teaches history at Sampson Community College in Clinton, North Carolina.

Richard N. Larsen

Laurel's Bookshelf

In the Shadow of a Burning Bush
Yakov Azriel
Time Being Books
10411 Clayton Rd., St. Louis MO 63131
97811568091228, $15.95,

This is the second poetic biblical study by respected Judaica scholar and award winning poet, Yakov Azriel. Threads From a Coat of Many Colors focused on the Book of Genesis. In this latest release, through the Book of Exodus, Azriel brings ancient history out of time's shadow and into the modern era. With a powerful but tender eloquence, he creates each poem from the sacred portions, potions, and portents God granted His chosen people, Israel.

The skill reflected here is breathtaking, regardless of which poetic style Azriel uses. I read and reread "Haikus From Jacob's Garden" for example. Each of the thirteen children of Israel is represented individually, in haiku. The future fruits of these unique personalities shine through in simple verse. I'm particularly fond of "Levi:"

From his tree's resin,
The fragrance of frankincense
Will fill the Temple.

Azriel weaves together the ancient and modern eras with such haunting beauty I often had goose bumps while reading. Just as Moses questioned God's lack of mercy for his people during their Egyptian enslavement, Azriel searches for evidence of God's mercy during the Holocaust. In the title poem, the poet looks from the past to the future to find a sliver of hope:

In the shadow of a burning bush, and in
Its light, we gaze beyond the desert dunes,
Beyond the desecrated Temple ruins
Where Temple priests had once atoned our sin.
In the bush's shadow, and its light, a thin
Unbroken thread of grace is seen, which moons
Had woven here on sunless afternoons
To be a string for David's violin.

Through Azriel's imagination, the Old Testament patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob share the miraculous vision, music and touch of God. The trials and triumphs of Moses come alive, from the plagues of Egypt to the crossing of the Red Sea to God's Ten Commandments. History lives vibrantly in the words of this exceptional poet and scholar. He is part and parcel of his primeval predecessors:

From these, my teachers, I learn -- measure meter; let repetition pound;
Allow alliteration and allusion to flow, consonance and assonance
To ascend; steep it all in image and metaphor, simile and symbol; behold,
The poem is ready.

This study on Exodus, like the one on Genesis before it, is a poetic masterpiece and highly recommended.

Brief Cases Short Spans
Tom Sheehan
P.O. Box 30314, Winston-Salem NC 27130
9780981628059, $16.00,

Tom Sheehan's publishers eagerly await each new manuscript. Some journal editors enthusiastically publish any new Sheehan poem or short story sight unseen because they know anything he writes will be exceptional. These editors and publishers describe Sheehan's work in glowing terms: "…a national treasure…;" "…one of the finest authors and best story tellers in the language…." So far he's been nominated for a dozen Pushcart Prizes, won the 2006 Ippy Award, the Silver Rose Award for Excellence in the Art of the Short Story, and the Georges Simenon Award for Excellence in Fiction. So why isn't he internationally famous?

Readers can't skip read their way through Tom Sheehan's stories if they want to know the truth. The full impact of his work comes with savoring each word and turn of phrase, lingering in those intimate moments that bring Sheehan's real or fictional characters to life. Consider, for example, this excerpt from "The Storekeeper," where even a minor character and moment shines with typical Sheehan vibrancy:

"The hard words came one evening just as supper hit the table and twilight was still holding sway, the shadows soft, day dwindling down to its knees: her husband Harry had been declared missing, lost at sea from a destroyer in the Mediterranean, half a world away, a lifetime away. Shadows joined with shadows, loss atop loss. George Drew, the fire chief, brought the word. He was the self-appointed dispenser of the awful tasks in his snappy uniform, black gloves, white hat, pants pressed so that the creases were like sheet metal lines, and all blue, the length of him all blue. When he tucked his white hat under his blue arm, every person on the street knew it was not an inspection of the premises being approached, the slow walk into a front yard, the unhurried climb to the porch, the soft tap on the door. And nothing followed that first announcement of the loss of Harry. No whispers. No rumors. Loss settled on us, heavy as one could imagine."

In this latest book, Tom Sheehan's diverse library of lives include numbers runners, farmers, cops, children, parents, lovers, soldiers and shipyard workers. His heroes are forged from simple folk who come from tenements and side street shacks, boatyards and battlefields. Within these pages, readers will find murder, trampled innocence, redemption, and the endurance marks of shattered lives restored by time. And always, tucked inside each of these 17 stories like a gift, Sheehan buries slow blurs of beauty, sly humor, sensual joy, stabs of unearthly silence, and words carried on wings of excruciating tenderness.

Tom Sheehan is the sort of writer who comes along once in a reader's lifetime. He's one of the best five living writers in the world, in my opinion. His work is stunning, powerful, humorous, shattering, and highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

The Millennium Diet
Mark Davis
Privately Published
PO Box 222, Abingdon, MD 21009
06152090726, $14.99

Most rapid weight loss programs fail, because although they work for a short time, it's unhealthy to sustain them and once they stop, all the weight comes back. "The Millennium Diet" is a physician developed diet boasting that one can potentially lose thirty pounds in about five weeks. Heavily researched and tested, Mark Davis presents his research alongside much advice. "The Millennium Diet" is worth consideration for those who want to drop a few pounds and quick.

Getting Ready to Win
Don Read
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158416, $15.95,

Winning is an attitude, not just something one does. "Getting Ready to Win" is the work of a veteran coach for many NCAA college football teams. Focusing on motivation, from which any player can benefit well and good from, he has many tips to promote a positive attitude on any sports team, although some are tailored towards football. "Getting Ready to Win" is a must for any sports coach on any level, from pee wee all the way up to the big leagues, who wants to help their players be the best they can be.

Judah Inherits Christianity
Tom Ellis
Vantage Press Inc.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533157907, $13.95,

Jesus was never one for dividing people, yet why have his followers splintered into groups? "Judah Inherits Christianity" is the religious ponderings of Tom Ellis. Saying that all religions are ultimately progressing toward a unification of faith, he presents many unique ideas. Creationism and Evolution do not need to conflict, Judaism and Christianity are fundamentally the same, and much more, "Judah Inherits Christianity" will make readers reconsider what they think of religion.

History is Fascinating and I Can Prove It!
Homer J. Adams
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158812, $13.95,

As shocking as it may seem, some people find history boring. "History is Fascinating and I Can Prove It!" is a collection of stories about history that read like fiction, and should fascinate readers just as well as any work of fiction. Focusing on the people of history, such as Queen Elizabeth, Galileo, and others, it tells true stories of these people and how they have impacted history through their extraordinary lives. An intriguing way of teaching history, "History is Fascinating and I Can Prove It!" is a must for any primary or secondary school history teacher.

Micah Andrew

Shelley's Bookshelf

Poison Jasmine
Clyde B. Clason
The Rue Morgue Press
87 Lone Tree Lane, Lyons, CO 80540
9781601870285 $14.95

Clyde B. Clason lived from 1903-1987, but only wrote mysteries between 1936 and 1941. However, he produced ten mysteries during that time period, which were published by Doubleday. He began writing when he had a bad cold and was home from the office. His books were extensively researched with complicated plots. His books feature the elderly academic amateur detective Theocritus Lucius Westborough, who is the male counterpart of Miss Marple in Agatha Christie's mysteries.

Poison Jasmine opens with a Southern duel that backfires both literally and figuratively. But the hatred engendered by a love affair betrayal festers for nearly a decade. The years pass, and the actual story opens in California, where a French perfume expert, Etienne LeDoux, has built up a business growing the flowers to produce his delicate scents. His equally delectable nineteen year old granddaughter, Jacynth, calls him Gran'-pere. She is engaged to a handsome but uncultured scientist named Derek, and when LeDoux's food is laced with poison, LeDoux calls in Westborough to investigate:

"Westborough added the last notation, observing, 'It would seem, sir, that only yourself and Mr. Esterling were within striking distance of the cabinet.' 'It could not be he,' LeDoux rejoined hoarsely. 'I trust Derek implicitly. He's the most brilliant man who ever worked for me, and he is engaged to Jacynth; almost a member of my own family. I would rather believe it of anyone in the world but Derek Esterling.'"

There is no greater fun for the reader than guessing a good whodunit and failing to detect who the murderer is and where he or she lurks. Clason did an excellent job of setting up various suspects in this character-driven puzzle. He was a master of misdirection, and by the end of the tale the reader is no closer to the culprit than the first page.

Writing mysteries is an arduous task, particularly ones as well researched and assembled as Clyde B. Clason's. Although he only wrote ten Theocritus L. Westborough books, it is easy to see in this reading that he probably had a wide and appreciative audience. Westborough is the perennial mild-mannered but astute detective, and woe unto any killer who underestimates his considerable intelligence. A most likeable anti-sleuth!

Babylon Bayou
Conley Clark
Bay Star Press
PO Box 279, 1 Camino Mesteno, Ste B, Placitas, N.M. 87043
9780615209524 $15.95

Conley Clark hails from the Sandia Mountains close to Albuquerque. BABYLON BAYOU is his first novel, and was honored in the Southwest Writers Competition. Clark also writes screenplays and has published articles.

Tag Boudreau's upper echelon family disinherits him when he follows his calling to become a cop. He is innocently accused of murdering his partner when a house bust goes suspiciously wrong. Add to that his enemies in the force who lied to incriminate him. His subsequent drinking binge led to diabetes, which makes for an interesting side-story for a P.I. who manages to get himself beaten up more often than not. Boudreau and his partner, Koot Loomis, are hired to find a missing person. Adrienne Kanawhite's estranged brother, Jackie, and his girlfriend have disappeared and Adrienne reluctantly hires Tag to investigate:

"'Marty said you were afraid Jackie might be involved in criminal activity and that's why you haven't called the police.'

'If he is involved in something illegal, I won't be responsible for Jackie's going to prison by bringing in the police.'

'You should know, Ms. Kanawhite, I wouldn't abet any criminal activity I might find your brother involved in. It could cost me my license, or worse.'

She disconnected one of the cables from a strobe head and coiled it around her elbow and hand. 'Then maybe I should find another private investigator.'"

Clark uses New Orleans and the Bayou as his setting, and to make matters more interesting uses the time frame just before Katrina hits. Tag and Loomis are reluctant heroes with lots of baggage, but are good and skilled cops at the heart of things. The two take on bad cops; a Cajun crime chief with perverse tastes in the treatment of women; and the good old New Orleans Cosa Nostra, who want a piece of the action.

The action moves from New Orleans to the cliffs of Mexico and finally to the cypress swamp to keep the plot tingling. Clark shows uncommon sensitivity to the life of police and to the pitfalls that make their jobs nearly impossible. Plus it's a darn good yarn.

Double Elimination
Jim Priebe
Master Point Press
331 Douglas Ave., Toronto, Ontario, CN M5M 1 H2
9781897106303 $18.95 U.S. $19.95 CAN

Jim Priebe is a native of Toronto, Canada. He is an international bridge player, and has authored three books. He is a retired executive. DOUBLE ELIMINATION is his second Art Fraser mystery.

Your average person would never dream that bridge would be a game of passion. But Art Fraser, who is both a New York homicide investigator and an expert bridge player, is called upon to look at a four-year-old cold case of a husband and wife, whose bodies have just been found on one of their properties, now owned by a niece. Art Fraser is pressed into service, which is the dread of most homicide investigators. The case is cold; there is little forensic evidence to go on; and the case isn't even in Art's jurisdiction. He is called upon to work with what could only be described as amateurs. Oh joy.

"'Everything's on hold until I get there. The Laches were both bridge players, so Bryder thinks I'm the best man to assign to the case. He'll have to smooth things out with his counterpart up there. The two are old friends, evidently. They see each other periodically at staff meetings in Albany.'

'You're not working the case all alone?'

'I asked him to assign Nelson and Wilson. He vetoed that one right away. Says it would decimate our group in Genesee County. I have zero input into the makeup of the team doing the investigation. I feel like a junior hired hand right now.' He scowled and made to get up again. Karen leaned forward and put a hand on his arm."

There is money there; there is plenty of intrigue, with everyone evidently either having affairs with the other or trying for a liaison. As is the case with human nature, wherever there is a group, there is friction. Priebe understands the psychology of people working in organizations and uses his expertise to weave a fairly complicated whodunit. The reader is stumped right up until the end of the tale, and in between there is plenty of intrigue and action to go around. Art Fraser is enough of a renegade to be a fascinating hero. Only this time he has to do a bit of babysitting with his own team. A good read from an author who obviously loves the game of bridge.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

The Dragonfly Secret
Clea and John Adams
Illustrated by Barbara L. Gibson
Feather Rock Books, Inc.
4245 Chippewa Lane, Maple Plain, MN 55359
9781934066133, $19.95,

In this delightful tale we meet a young boy named, David, a very special young boy who comes to a beautiful garden and makes friends with a Dragonfly named, Lea. David and Lea share many happy moments together playing and a bond is made between them However, something else very important is going to be asked of Lea. She will have a very special assignment to accomplish that David has given to her. As you read this book you keep wondering what it is that David wants Lea to do and why? But it is not unveiled early in the book.

We also meet a young couple who are very sad, and an older couple who also tell the little Dragonfly that she must complete the assignment she has been given. Still you wonder what it is and why it is so important. It isn't until you are almost at the end of the book that you realize that David has passed from this world and he is asking the little Dragonfly to bring a message to those he has left behind.

I found this book to be very touching, sensitive, and comforting at the same time. The illustrations are crisp and let you see the details of the emotions being felt by all the players in the read. It is a story of loss, but also one of hope and love carried on the wings of a very special Dragonfly. To me, this is an outstanding read. Well done in every area, story, and illustrations. Well worth your time, and truly a precious gift to be given to any who are hurting from the loss of a loved one.

The Likeness
Tana French
Viking Books
c/o Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9786718864, $25.95,

In the previous word, "In The Woods," detective Cassie Maddox had gone undercover as a woman named, Lexie Maddox. This undercover operation left Cassie in turmoil and did not allow for closure either in her life or the operation. When a body of a young woman is found dead with the name, Lexie Maddox, and the face of Cassie, past and present merge into one giant ball of mystery. Cassie's boyfriend, Sam, also a detective wants to protect her from what maybe behind this murder, but Cassie and her boss, Frank, are determined to ride it to the end and find out who this woman is and why she was using the made-up name of,Lexie Maddox. Let alone, why she has the very face of Cassie!

Cassie moves into a house where Lexie lived with four other college students, as Lexie. The housemates are told that she survived the stabbing, but her memory of the actual event is gone.
Now the investigation begins as Cassie intertwines her very soul with the life of Lexie in an attempt to find out who she was, and who killed her.

I have to say, despite the length of this work, it did not leave me dry or trying to plug along until the end. Actually, it was quite a page turner, rich in character description, local, and giving off just enough traces of the plot and the mystery to keep you reading. There is an element of darkness forever brooding , characters hiding secrets, questions arising that need to be answered throughout, but you are left wondering until the very end, and that is certainly a block-buster, poetic and profound.

I enjoyed this read, even better than the first novel, "In the Woods." I felt I was drawn deeper into the emotions and life of Cassie as I read along. A very good work, well written and recommended.

The Rabbit and The Snowman
Sally O Lee
Booksurge LLC
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419656255, $14.95,

In this children's book by author, Sally O Lee, we find a group of children building a snowman in a field far away. After building it, the children leave and never return. The snowman is very sad and thinks it is his fault that they left, perhaps his nose is too crooked?

After a period of time, he meets a rabbit and they become friends, but when the weather changes and becomes warm, the snowman disappears, now the rabbit is alone. He also begins to wonder, did he do something wrong? After a while, the two friends find each other again.

The author uses the two characters in this book to show children that people often come and go in their lives. She also lets them know, by using the characters, that is isn't because of how they look, or what they do, it is merely circumstances in life that sometimes make people leave. The illustrations are vivid and work nicely with the storyline to bring it into the mind's eye. A very nice book, and a very smart way to help children as they live their lives to know, sometimes people we know must leave, but true friends stay forever.

Perfect Poison: A Peggy Lee Garden Mystery
Joyce and Jim Lavene
Berkley Publishing
37 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10012
9780425221273, $7.99,

I settled in to begin this read knowing I was going to love every word, and I was correct. Peggy, a forensic botanist who is working for the Charlotte Police was about to take me on another mysterious, outrageous ride as she is thrown headlong into another murder investigation. I was happy to again be reunited with the other characters that play roles in this wonderful series. Paul, Peggy's son who is a police officer, Steve, a Vet. who is her boyfriend, Nightflyer, a secret admirer, who throws extra mystery and excitement into every read, Sam, who works for her at her beloved Potting Shed, and just so many more that make these books home to me.

Of course none of Peggy Lee Garden Mysteries would be worth their salt without a crime to solve, and this time we have a double homicide. A married man named, Gerald Capshaw and a young woman are found dead, in separate locations. However, there was a link between them as both had phytoplankton in their lungs, and had ancotine on their skin. Now all Peggy had to do was figure out the connection between the two, and the location where they both were murdered, and she might just get a head start on knowing who killed them and why. What a task ahead. Of course it didn't help that one of her friends, Ruth, was being charged with the double murder.Was she guilty? Peggy hoped not, but things were sure pointing that way.

What a ride....I can't say enough wonderful things about this read. I absolutely love when each new book comes out in this series and quickly snuggle up knowing I'm about to be taken into a reader's delight. The characters are comforting, yet exciting. There is always action, suspense, mystery, and romance. Add a little spice with some intense moments between characters and some close calls with murders and you have one rolling read.

Listen, if you haven't experienced any of "The Peggy Lee Garden Mysteries," you just don't know what you are missing. This one, as usual is exceptional. Never a dull moment with Peggy and her crew, and that ends up never being a dull moment for you, the reader. Highly recommended.

Wicked Weaves
Jim& Joyce Laverne
Berkley Publishing
37 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10012
9780425223307, $6.99,

I am not sure how our writing due, Jim & Joyce Laverne, come up with the locals and interesting characters for all their wonderful books, but I am sure glad that they do. In this new book "Wicked Weaves," the entire story takes place in an amusement park called, "Renaissance Faire Village." What a place this is. All of the characters that work, and live there are in costume of the Medieval times. We have a King and Queen and all their noble servants in toe. We also have craftsmen of the era and shops along the way for tourists to shop in as if they were in that time. I found just this part of the storyalone extremely interesting before I even got to the mystery. I actually wanted to visit Renaissance Faire Village myself.

Our main character, Jessie Morton, worked at the Village every summer. Every year she would work with one of the craftsmen learning their trade. This year she was with, Mary, a woman who weaved Gullah basket. Besides leaving the weave Jessie helped Mary in her store.

Mary was a mysterious woman that no one really knew much about, and it wasn't long into the read before a dead body is discovered. Whose body? None other than Mary's husband whom she has not seen for years and years. Immediately suspicion is thrown on Mary as the killer and Jessie is also implicated. Certainly not something she wanted to experience. All clues seem to confirm that Mary is guilty, but Jessie knows this could not be so; the problem, how to prove it? And just what about her past is Mary trying so hard to keep hidden? Soon it begins to unravel as her brother and son show up in the story. Who knew Mary had a son? And why was he never in Mary's life before? Ah! the plot thickens to the delight of the reader...

To add a little spice to the story we are taken into the rollercoaster love life of Jessie and Chase, who also works at the Village. The authors did a good job merging the characters relationship with the mystery going on in the rest of the story. It ran quite smoothly and as I said, added just the right amount of seasoning to give the story warmth.

So, just who did kill Mary's husband? Don't expect to figure this one out early on in the read because you will be very disappointed in yourself. You just end up having too many questions and not enough answers to know until the very end. As always, Joyce and Jim have done it again with a top-notch mystery read that is laced with a tad of romance, exceptional, colorful characters and local, and a surprise ending. Just a great book from beginning to end, and one I am proud to recommend.

Extreme Pets
Jane Harrington
Tangerine Press
c/o Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
9780439829489, $14.95,

Amazing! Gross! and Interesting! Those would be the three words that I would have to use to describe this colorful and educational book. The cover right away makes you take a second glance as you gaze into the eye of a slivering snake, a rat, wiggly worm, hairy spider, and a big fat cockroach. Definitely an attention getter and the perfect cover for what is ahead of you in this read.

Perhaps your child has been asking you to have one of these different pets instead of a sweet little puppy of cute kitten, and you'd like to know a little more about the care of them and just how 'kid friendly' they are. If that is the case, this is the book for you. It is broken down into five sections: Cold Blooded! Pocket Pets! Insects! Slimy Pets! and D.I.Y. Guide.

You can learn what it would be like to have a Corn Snake for a pet and what would be required for it's life and care. How about having a Madagascan Hissing Cockroach to cuddle with? Not sure? Read this book and it will help you make your decision.

I was very impressed with the exceptional photos in this book of each pet discussed and the way in which it was written. Down to earth, light-hearted with many remarks that would give anyone a good giggle and packed full of useful information.

I'll tell you, this is a gem of a book and one I am highly impressed with. I loved it and I'm a grandma with NO intentions of getting an extreme pet. Whether you are seriously considering allowing your child to have an unusual pet or you just want a book that will teach them about such pets you can't go wrong with this one.

I give it my highest recommendation. One great book. exceptional.

Arsenic Soup for Lovers: When Chicken Soup Doesn't Work
Georgiaz Post
iUniverse Inc
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595423071, $8.95,

I sat down to read just a few of these short-stories one night and ended up consuming the entire book. Yes, that is how good it is. Inside the pages we find twenty-five short stories that are for the most part, not soft and cuddly, but twisted, dark, unspeakable. Endings to life problems that thankfully are not often birthed.

The author has taken everyday life and pretty much written stories with endings that many perhaps would like to happen instead of what probably does in real life. At least I hope most of these do not actually occur, but after seeing the news each night, perhaps they do.

Take the couple who wanted a divorce and well, both ended up dead, but they did get their wish, they were no longer married. Several of the stories surprised me with their ending, I really didn't see it coming and that was fun.I liked this book. It was a quick read and was entertaining at the same time. It kept me guessing how each story would end, and even in the stories short form the development of the characters was just enough to give you a good mind's eye of each. All in all I recommend this book for a quick, quirky, entertaining, fun read. By the way, delightful cover - perfect for the tales that follow. Good job.

Blume J. Rifken
Illustrations by Carl W. Wenzel
Whirlpool Press
698 Northridge Drive, Suite 214, Lewiston, NY 14092
9780979694806, $14.95,

In this colorful children's book, "Scarecrow," we meet,Tally, a good witch, who unfortunately is losing her power to fly. This is perhaps the worse thing that could happen to a witch. Tally takes her problem to her friend, Scarecrow, and he comes up with a good idea to get her powers back. Tally is nervous but decides to go along with the plan.

"Scarecrow," is a book that teaches children about friendship. In this story they see that when Tally gets into trouble she knows that she will receive help from her friend, Scarecrow. The story shows children that is they work together with a friend often they can come up with a solution to help each other. In solving Tally's problem they have to overcome a few obstacles but at the end they achieve their goal.

The illustrations in this book are bright and colorful and will give children a good mind picture of the characters and setting. A nicely made book and a good learning story.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Chosen Few
Jospeh DiLalla & Roy Eaton
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
9781604628036, $13.99,

A new drug that's supposed to help can it possibly be TOO successful? "The Chosen Few" follows David Roy, a man who is very ill and sees his only hope to be a trial drug from Freiz pharmaceuticals. The drug seems to be working just fine for David, but his supply and his lifeline as soon cut off. Along with some employees responsible for the test, David must cut through the bureaucracy and corruption to find out just what is going on in the Freiz company. "The Chosen Few" is a well developed and riveting thriller, sure to please many a suspense fan.

Gustav Klimt: Painting, Design and Modern Life
Tobias G. Natter & Christoph Grunenberg, editors
Tate Publishing
127 East Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064
9781854377357, $50.00,

Arts enthusiasts this book is for you! "Gustav Klimt: Painting, Design and Modern Life" is sure to please. Many may know of Gustav Klimt for his famous paintings but many know little about the artist who created them. Compiled and co-edited by Tobias G. Natter (Director of the Vorarlberg State Museum, Bregenz) and Christopher Gruenenberg (Director of Tate Liverpool), "Gustav Klimt: Painting, Design and Modern Life" brings the first thorough examination of the relationship between Klimt's paintings and mosaics and the work of architect Josef Hofmann who was a close friend to Klimt. Included are informed and informative essays by leading critics concentrating on key works and key moments. Of special note is an essay on Klimt's erotic works, particularly his drawings and the women he portrayed. An exploration of one of the most popular and influential artists of the 20th century, "Gustav Klimt: Painting, Design and Modern Life" has been published to accompany a major exhibition at Tate Liverpool, England. Featuring 160 full-colored and 15 black and white photographs and images, "Gustav Klimt: Painting, Design and Modern Life" is strongly recommended for private, academic, and community library Art History reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Justin R. Cannon, editor
Privately Published
2450 Le Conte Avenue, Berkeley, Ca 94709
9781438247854, $15.00,

The theological message that homosexuality is a sin against God is, to state it simply, a flawed interpretation of scripture and antithetical to the stated love of God for his creation. Now an anthology of poetry by Christians who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or trans-sexual has been compiled and edited for the general public by Justin R. Cannon. Here are 142-pages of poetry by thirty-three Christian poets, each of whom offers insight and inspiration, affirmation and affliction, acknowledgments of pain and of promise by and for those whom God has created in his image, but whose sexual orientation differs from that of a majority of members within the Christian community of faith. "Sanctified" is a work of sensitivity, sincerity, and sanctify. It should be read carefully and prayerfully by every member of every Christian community regardless of sectarian creed or denominational affiliation. When/Is it right to marshal in/the absurdities in life/and agree with their recognitions/where substance cries out/To be heard/and love cries out/for support?/Who told you your prejudices/were just/and your hatreds cold bloom/like flowers/in a forest of crippling/wing bites/where birds are forced/not to fly? (Richard Tetreault).

Yours, Mine, and Hours
John Penton & Shona Welsh
Privately Published
54 West McDougall Road, Cochrane, AB T4C 1M4
1419661434, $14.99,

The Brady Bunch once struck controversy with its depiction of divorce and remarriage for a family. If only their depiction was anything near reality. "Yours, Mine, and Hours: Relationship Skills for Blended Families" touches on the reality of these families where mothers suddenly gain many sons, brothers gain sisters and more brothers, and much more. Conflict is a natural occurrence and the stability of the family depends heavily on the heads wisely dealing with them and doing what they can to establish harmony through new family bonds. A different sort of, yet invaluable parenting book, "Yours, Mine, and Hours" is enthusiastically recommended reading.

John Taylor

Vicki's Bookshelf

Christina Meldrum
c/o Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375851766, $16.99,

The secrets of the past meet the shocks of the present. Aslaug is an unusual young woman. Her mother has brought her up in near isolation, teaching her about plants and nature and language -- but not about life. Especially not how she came to have her own life, and who her father might be. When Aslaug's mother dies unexpectedly, everything changes. For Aslaug is a suspect in her mother's death. And the more her story unravels, the more questions unfold. About the nature of Aslaug's birth. About what she should do next. About whether divine miracles have truly happened. And whether, when all other explanations are impossible, they might still happen this very day. Addictive, thought-provoking, and shocking, "Madapple" is a page-turning exploration of human nature and divine intervention - and of the darkest corners of the human soul.

The Nutcracker
Stephanie Spinner, Peter Malone
c/o Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375844665, $16.99,

"The Nutcracker" is a Christmas tradition, and for most children it is their introduction to ballet. Here, in one beautifully illustrated book, is the story of the ballet and a 78-minute CD of Tchaikovsky's music performed by the Utah Symphony Orchestra. Stephanie Spinner has written a brief, lyrical text about the little girl, Maria, and her Christmas gift of a wooden nutcracker doll who is transformed into a young prince. Together they fly to the Land of Sweets where the Sugar Plum Fairy entertains them with lively and exotic dances from around the world. Peter Malone's exquisite illustrations capture all the magic of the beloved Christmastime ballet.

Trucks Go Pop
Bob Staake
LB Kids
c/o Little, Brown & Company
237 Park Avenue, 15th floor, New York, NY 10017 1-800-759-0190
9780316005104, $17.99,

Trucks of every shape and size come to dimensional life in this bold and innovative new pop-up book, "Trucks Go Pop." From long-armed construction diggers, and roaring fire trucks, to ice-spraying snow plows and speeding Mack trucks, little ones will gasp with delight as they turn each sturdy page and reveal all of their favorite trucks as they pop up and off the pages. The book -- which includes a large fold-out trucks poster - is by Bob Staake, winner of the 2006 New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books Award. Staake brings his signature energy, style and humor to this sturdy, kid-friendly pop-up book for truck-loving kids of every age.

Breaking Dawn
Stephanie Meyer
Little, Brown and Company
1271 Ave. of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9780316067928, $22.99,

The astonishing, breathlessly-anticipated conclusion to the Twilight Saga, "Breaking Dawn" illuminates the secrets and mysteries of this spellbinding romantic epic that has entranced millions. To be irrevocably in love with a vampire is both fantasy and nightmare woven into a dangerously heightened reality for Bella Swan. Pulled in one direction by her intense passion for Edward Cullen, and in another by her profound connection to werewolf Jacob Black, a tumultuous year of temptation, loss, and strife have led her to the ultimate turning point. Her imminent choice to either join the dark but seductive world of immortals or to pursue a fully human life has become the thread from which the fates of two tribes hangs. Now that Bella has made her decision, a startling chain of unprecedented events is about to unfold with potentially devastating, and unfathomable, consequences. Just when the frayed strands of Bella's life-first discovered in "Twilight," then scattered and torn in "New Moon" and "Eclipse" seem ready to heal and knit together, could they be destroyed... forever? Stephanie Meyer's passionate series is not great literature by any stretch of the imagination, but despite its faults - or perhaps because of them -- she has admirably achieved something more genuine and long-lasting: the greatest love story of the century so far.

Ghost Girl
Tonya Hurley
Little, Brown and Company
1271 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
97803146113571, $17.99,

Charlotte Usher feels practically invisible at school, and then one day she really is invisible. Even worse: she's dead. And all because she choked on a gummy bear. But being dead doesn't stop Charlotte from wanting to be popular; it just makes her more creative about achieving her goal. If you thought high school was a matter of life or death, wait till you see just how true that is. In this satirical, yet heartfelt novel, "Ghostgirl" author Tonya Hurley explores the invisibility we all feel at some times and the lengths we'll go to be seen. Hurley's credits span all platforms of teen entertainment including: creating, writing and producing two hit TV series, writing and directing independent films, developing a collection of video games and board games, and creating and providing content for websites. She has a keen commercial eye, rather than a strong literary sensibility, which makes this book feel more like an entertainment product than a satisfying read. Style, however, it has in buckets, so its goth-lite comix appeal will have no trouble attracting casual teen readers.

Swifter, Higher, Stronger
Sue Macy
National Geographic
c/o Simon & Schuster
1145 - 17th Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036
9781426302909, $18.95,

Let the games begin again! Sports writer Sue Macy's comprehensive portrait of the Summer Olympics has now been fully updated for the 2008 games in Beijing, China. This new edition includes a complete retrospective of the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. The new text will also incorporate updates to all charts and records, as well as fun facts and anecdotes from the most recent Olympics and training, making this a perfect Olympics history handbook companion as the 2008 Games unfold historically in China. "Swifter, Stronger, Higher" (updated edition) paints a dramatic and fascinating picture of the Summer Olympics. Absorbing narrative and vivid photographs tell stories of tragedy, triumph, scandal, and of course, action from over a century of the modern games! A foreword by sportscaster Bob Costas, five new interior photos (more than 100 total), at-a-glance information on each Olympiad, a map of Olympic sites, a chart of record-setters, and a rich guide to further resources round out this exceptional update to a gold-medal title.

The Red Ghost
Marion Dane Bauer
Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375840814, $11.99,

Jenna finds the perfect gift for her little sister at a neighbor's garage sale - a beautiful old doll dressed all in red velvet. Jenna can't believe her luck. Not only does Mrs. Tate seem happy to be rid of the doll, she evens gives it to Jenna for free. But when Jenna takes the doll home, trouble begins. The family cat, Rocco, hisses at it. At night, Jenna thinks she can hear it moving in her closet. Finally, when Jenna gives the doll to her sister, she won't take it. Could the red-velvet doll be haunted? And if it is, what can Jenna do? In a companion book to "The Blue Ghost," a Texas Bluebonnet Award book, Marion Dane Bauer crafts an eerie story for young mystery lovers.

The Tomorrow Code
Brian Falkner
Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375843648, $16.99,

Being the smart, fast-paced adventure novel that it is, it's no surprise that "The Tomorrow Code" by New Zealand author Brian Falkner has come highly recommended by indie booksellers. In this fast-paced apocalyptic adventure, best friends Tane and Rebecca receive messages from their own futures and learn that the destiny of humankind is in their hands. At first the messages appear to be nothing other than a series of random numbers. But after some careful deciphering, Tane and Rebecca discover that they actually contain lottery numbers -- winning lottery numbers -- that make them millionaires. Tane and Rebecca are thrilled, but can't help but wonder why, or how, they are receiving these messages. Slowly but surely it becomes clear to Tane and Rebecca that these messages are being sent back in time from their own future. Something in the future has gone terribly wrong, and it's now up to the two friends to prevent this bio-hazardous disaster from occurring. As they follow the messages' cryptic instructions, they begin to suspect what they fear most: that the survival of the world is at stake, and it's up to them to save it.

Tim, Defender of the Earth
Sam Enthoven
c/o Penguin Publishing Group
345 Hudson Street, NY, NY 10014
9781595141842, $19.99,

"Tim, Defender of the Earth," is a rock'em, sock'em sci-fi thriller filled with smoke, spectacle, and big-time adventure. Big Ben will fall! Westminster Abbey will crumble! London will never be the same! TIM, aka Tyrannosaurus: Improved Model, is the product of a top-secret government military experiment, and he couldn't be more loveable. Sure, he's an enormous monster to most, but at heart he's just a big, awkward, thirteen-year old who realizes he could be all that stands between the earth and total destruction. (Take that, Godzilla.) Now TIM must form an unlikely alliance with fifteen-year-olds Chris and Anna in order to save humanity from the greatest threat it has ever known: Anna's father, the brilliant and demented Professor Mallahide, and his growing tide of vicious, all-consuming nanobots. Will TIM prevail and save the British Isles and the world from evil? We'll all have to hold hands, read, and believe -- in TIM, Defender of the Earth!

Otto Runs for President
Rosemary Wells
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545037228, $15.99,

It's election time at Barkadelphia School, and popular kids Tiffany and Charles are already in the running. Unfortunately, they care a bit more about winning than they do about their voters. Before long, little Otto throws his hat in the ring; he doesn't have a flashy campaign, but he does have a big heart and a great idea -- he polls the students and asks them what they want for the school. When the ballots are finally counted, Otto wins by a landslide -- but he learns that while it's hard work running for president, it's even harder work being president.

Safari in South Africa (Adventures of Riley)
Amanda Lumry and Laura Hurwitz, authors
Sarah McIntyre, illustrator
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545068277, $16.99,

With this photography/illustration-combo picture book, young adventurers can follow Riley as he joins his uncle Max, a world-renowned biologist, his aunt Martha, and his cousin Alice, on an incredible South African photo safari. Their mission is to study baby wild animals and predator/prey relationships. Accompanied by local guides, they encounter cheetahs, lions, elephants, wild dogs, baboons, giraffes, and a rare black rhino.

Amazing Peace
Maya Angelou
Schwartz & Wade Books
c/o Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375841507, $17.99,

"Angels and Mortals, Believers and Nonbelievers, look heavenward," poet Maya Angelou writes, "and speak the word aloud. Peace." Angelou's moving poem is a radiant affirmation of the goodness of humanity. First read at the 2005 White House tree-lighting ceremony, it comes alive again as a fully illustrated children's book, celebrating the promise of peace in the holiday season. In this simple story, a family joins with their community -- rich and poor, black and white, Muslim and Jew -- to celebrate the holidays. Angelou is a poet, writer, performer, teacher, and director - collaborated on this picture book with collaborative illustrators Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, creators of many award-winning and New York Times bestselling picture books, including "My Many Colored Days" by Dr. Seuss, New York's Bravest by Mary Pope Osborne, "The Velveteen Rabbit" by Margery Williams, "The Cheese" by Margie Palatini, and "The Boy on Fairfield Street" by Kathleen Krull.

Some Helpful Tips for a Better World and a Happier Life
Rebecca Doughty
Schwartz & Wade Books
c/o Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375842726, $9.99,

What are some of author Rebecca Doughty's helpful tips for a better world and a happier life? Begin each day making funny faces in the mirror. Invent occasions for celebration (like International Bunny Appreciation Day.) Help someone in need. Lend Mother Nature a hand. Be you. Simply told and vibrantly illustrated, this charming little book of tips is designed to get kids thinking about the world around them. Simple in concept, this little "guide" is sweet and well-intentioned enough to make a difference in its own little way.

The Mother Daughter Book Club: Much Ado About Anne
Heather Vogel Frederick
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9780689855665, $15.99,

This year the mothers have a big surprise in store for Emma, Jess, Cassidy, and Megan: They've invited snooty Becca Chadwick and her mother to join the book club! But there are bigger problems when Jess finds out that her family may have to give up Half Moon Farm. In a year filled with skating parties, a disastrous mother-daughter camping trip, and a high-stakes fashion show, the girls realize that it's only through working together -- Becca included -- that they can save Half Moon Farm. Acclaimed author Heather Vogel Frederick captures the magic of friendship and the scrapes along the way in this sequel to "The Mother-Daughter Book Club," two books perfectly executed to engage daughters and mothers alike.

Vicki Arkoff
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

A Grandma for Christmas
Sunny Serafino
Privately Published
615 E. Mockingbird Lane, Avon Park, FL 33825
9781604581072, $18.95,

Hope is a rare commodity for some. "A Grandma for Christmas" tells the story of Madison Millhouse and her non-stop bad luck. Her boyfriend of many years turns out to be a complete and total slimeball, and a blizzard is making her road trip unbearable. She soon finds an abandoned little girl and discovers she may change the way Madison's world works. "A Grandma for Christmas" is a charming story of pleasant Christmas surprises, recommended.

Escape from Oblivion
Toby Smith
Privately Published
12236 NE 67th Street, Kirkland, WA 98033
9781419696657, $16.99

Dragons, demons, and devils have nothing on what young Carrie faces. "Escape from Oblivion" is the story of seven year old Carrie and how she grows up fighting a wide array of demons that have dogged her all of her life. With allusions to traditional fantasy throughout, the book at its heart is about her quest to overcome years of childhood abuse and trauma to become happy as a young woman should be. "Escape from Oblivion" is worth reading for its coming of age story with a new twist.

Stomach Flattening Training Manual
Doug Setter
Privately Published
#311-385 Ginger Drive, New Westminster, B.C., V3L 5L6
9780973182521, $11.99

Having a flat stomach requires a lifestyle change, not just more exercise. "Stomach Flattening Training Manual" is Doug Setter's guide to putting one's body through the lifestyle change it needs to change its life for the better. His methods are comparable to what police and military fitness routines ask of their participants, and they can help civilians make themselves the epitome of fitness. "Stomach Flattening Training Manual" is a must for anyone who wants to take their health to the next level.

Among the Clouds
Eric Pinder
Privately Published
168 East Mason Street #8, Berlin, NH 03570
9780615204598, $14.95,

While many would claim they have the worst weather in the world, only one place has made a nick name of it. "Among the Clouds: Work, Wit, & Wild Weather at the Mount Washington Observatory" is a field trip of Eric Pinder to this strange destination over a mile high into the sky. Looking into the minds of the people who remain on this area where two hundred mile winds are not unusual but expected, he asks why and finds out why science is such a good response. "Among the Clouds" is a solid and intriguing tale, highly recommended reading.

Paul T. Vogel

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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