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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 8, Number 12 December 2009 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

The Code of Destiny
Sara Enochs
iUniverse, Inc.
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595432974 $18.95

When you have a secret, everyone wants to know it. "The Code of Destiny" tells the story of Ava Ballantyne, a woman on the run from the CIA, her friends, and so much more, as she bears a secret that she cannot share under any circumstances. This secret, however, will come out whether she wants it to or not. "The Code of Destiny" is a fun adventure read and a fine pick.

How Fat - How Thin
Norman Benjamin
Booksurge LLC
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
c/o The Barrett Company (publicity)
12021 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 600, Los Angeles, CA 90025
9781439230985 $14.99

Health is the search for balance. "How Fat - How Thin: The 101 Best-Kept Secrets About Our Metabolism and Some Surprising Insights into Our Origins and Lifestyles" discusses health and how a lifestyle is the most important element in deciding one's metabolic rate in life and how that will lead to good health, instead of the extremes of under and overweight. With plenty of dieting advice and wisdom, "How Fat - How Thin" is solid advice that will do any dieter well.

Robert Chipley
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440154263, $26.95,

Sometimes you want your past hidden for a reason. "Germania" is the story of Hans Klug as he tries to keep his past covered. Currently an interpreter, he finds his past coming back to haunt him as he finds himself being extorted for huge sums of money. He is compelled to go through the history of Nazi Germany, observing its echoing remnants in the modern day to truly find his peace. "Germania" is an intriguing and entertaining read, highly recommended.

Shadows of Existence
Jekwu Ozoemene
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440161193, $10.95,

When growing up in Africa is a very different thing from growing up elsewhere in the world. "Shadows of Existence: An Anthology of Poetry" is a collection of work from Jekwu Ozoemene, reflecting on his unique upbringing in the nation of Nigeria. Reflecting on the problems that Nigerians of all problems face, Ozoemene paints a vivid picture of life in his home country, making "Shadows of Existence" a strong choice for world poetry collections.

Run for Me Too
Neva Gould
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438997483, $14.49,

What one does for their family is nothing short of amazing. "Run for Me Too" is a story of a family of Slavic Jews on the run from the Nazi war machine. Saul and his family flee their homeland and across Europe in order to save themselves from what they believe is certain doom. A tale of survival and the bonds of family, "Run for me Too" is a fascinating and highly recommended read for historic fiction enthusiasts.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

My Last War
Charles M. Grist
Rising Star
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440152689 $21.95

My Last War: A Vietnam Veteran's Tour in Iraq presents the up-close and personal story of Vietnam and Iraq veteran Charles M. Grist's experience in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004. Based on a journal he kept during that time, in which he carefully recorded the selfless sacrifice of the Army Reserve and National Guard members with which he served, My Last War is a thoughtful and thought-provoking tale of the dangerous path to Baghdad, including the constant threat of mortar or rocket attacks, ambushes, even improvised explosives. A handful of black-and-white photographs illustrate this unforgettable true-life window into the lives and struggles of people who patriotically served their country.

A Journey Through Literary America
Thomas R. Hummel, author
Tamra L. Dempsey, photographer
Privately Published
9780981742519 $45.00

Illustrated with full-color photography throughout, A Journey Through Literary America is a book for book lovers - surveying great American authors from Ralph Waldo Emerson to John Steinbeck, Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway, E. Annie Proulx, and many more. Each author has a brief biographical profile combined with breathtaking photography of the places they lived or that inspired them to create masterpieces. A wondrous tour ideal for enriching any literary collection - and sure to appeal to armchair travelers as well, A Journey Through Literary America lives up to its title and is highly recommended.

The Soldiers of the Cross
J. Laurence Stillwell
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432739706, $14.95,

Ignorance is bliss, but ignorance can also be torture. "The Soldiers of the Cross: The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail" is a spiritual novel reflecting on the struggle of one Paul as he's brought into the attention of the problems of his world. At first ignorant, he learns that he must get involved as the writer draws upon scripture to sculpt a unique tale, composed through verse. "The Soldiers of the Cross" is truly unique and should not be ignored.

David Korinetz
Privately Published
9780978382414, $16.95,

Continuing the superbly crafted action/adventure fantasy Daemon Knight' series that began in 2007 with "FireDrakes" (9780978382407, $14.95), author David Korinetz has now published "Sorceress", the second in this riveting series. Korinetz has a knack for setting up crises for our heroine that leaves the reader fairly breathless with anticipation of how they are going to be survived, let alone resolved. Both "FireDrakes" and now "Sorceress" are well crafted, eminently satisfying reads. Very highly recommended for both personal and community library fantasy/science fiction collections, "Sorceress" will leave enthusiastic readers looking eagerly toward the next title in this outstanding series.

You Are Forever in Time
Albert C. Bender
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432735784 $15.95

Where does one stand in the greater picture of it all, as time continues to flow? "You Are Forever in Time: A Theological Alternative to One's Own Religious Belief" is an intriguing exploration of the concept of self and the eternity of time. Offering a unique spiritual philosophy with some very intriguing ideas, "You Are Forever in Time" is of strong interest for any looking for some different philosophical and metaphysical ideas about the world.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

A Man of Character
David H. White, Jr.
7290 B. Investment Drive, Charleston, South Carolina
9781439228470, $18.95,

A win on the court can be a win in the classroom. "A Man of Character" tells the story of Coach John Hawkins, as he's faced with a devastated and ravaged inner city school. Coming from the heights of prestige, Coach Hawkins' ways and leadership might not just save the school from a losing streak, but his leadership may stop his school from being the breeding grown of the scum of the earth. "A Man of Character" is an inspiring novel of how one man can make a difference.

So You're Cremated …… Now What?
Jesse Kalfel
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440127755, $15.95,

If you're just going to be dust, may as well be fun dust. "So You're Cremated … Now What?: Over One Hundred Creative Ways to Scatter Your Ashes and Other Useful Information" is a book dedicated to creatively disposing the last of your earth remains after death. Cast into items ranging from lawn ornaments or diamonds, space travel, and more, Jesse Kalfel tells people they can make a statement even from beyond the grave. "So You're Cremated... Now What?" is a choice pick for those who want to express themselves even when they're gone.

Black Road 2012
Jeffrey A. Friedberg
INDI Publishing Group
8201 Golf Course Rd, NW, D3 #288, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87120
9780978924720, $12.00

Sometimes the desire for vengeance brings you upon more than you would ever expect. "Black Road 2012: Empire of the Gods" is the first book of the God conspiracy. Jack Vane, driven by the desire to find his wife's killer, finds that the pursuit of truth will get him just that and so much more on top it. Blending a noir mystery with a biblical thriller, Jeffrey A. Friedberg draws upon his own experiences to bring readers quite the story with "Black Road 2012".

The Duty of Love
Ronald Neal Green
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
Kelley & Hall (publicity)
5 Briar Lane, Marblehead, MA 01945
9781432712594, $14.95,

The affairs of rats and wizards are not all that different. "The Duty of Love" is a fantasy composed by Ronald Neal Green about his world of Fandon, and of a sickly little girl and the world around her that both tries to help her and then try to help her illness will the day. A fine and entertaining spin of fantasy storytelling, "The Duty of Love" is a solid and highly recommended read.

The French Blue
Richard W. Wise
Brunswick House Press
81 Church Street, Lenox, MA 01240
9780972822367, $29.95,

Gems have always been items of great worth. "The French Blue" tells a fictionalized story of the historic French blue diamond and the man who brought it to France, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier and his associate, Madeleine de Goisse, who traveled throughout India and Persia. The French blue is the focus of the story, but the adventures of Jean and Madeleine are what keeps the story moving. "The French Blue" is a fine piece of historical fiction, highly recommended.

The Jewels of Sofia Tate
Doris Etienne
Dundurn Press
3 Church Street, Suite 500, Toronto, ON M5E 1M2
9781554882304, $12.99,

For friendship, you might pursue what not even be. "The Jewels of Sofia Tate" is the story of young Garnet and her elderly friend Elizabeth Tate. After hearing a story of Elizabeth's royal ancestors, Elizabeth has a heart attack, and out of devotion to her friend turns to her peers to find these supposed gems. "The Jewels of Sofia Tate" is a fascinating and touching read.

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Thinking with Poetry
Constantina C. D. Hodnett
Vantage Press, Inc.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533127269, $19.95,

Sometimes when you can't get an answer, all you can have is faith. "Thinking with Poetry"" is a collection of poems from Constantina C. D. Hodnett discussing her own reflections on and about the universe through the medium of poetry. With simple wisdom, her poetry reads true with much to think about. "Thinking with Poetry" is a fine collection. "Caring": To care means to love. To care means concern./A source of heartfelt intelligence,/ A sense greater than to learn.

Water Cooler
Elizabeth Sanchez
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438990125, $16.98,

Why do some newscasters seemingly stick out their necks in the name of journalism? "Water Cooler: Behind the Scenes and Off the Record, the Untold Stories from Broadcasters" brings readers what goes on in the minds of these individuals, giving insight into what these people really want when they go for when they wade into a disaster area. Inspiring, intriguing, and curious, "Water Cooler" is a strong pick for anyone who wants to better understand the world of news.

Play the Game
Corinne Williams
O Books
9781846942136, $19.95,

Your life is what you make of it. "Play the Game: Making the Most of Your One Wild and Precious Life" is an inspirational guide that encourages people to treat their life as a game and that the fun of that game all relies on the will of the player. With much in the ways of wisdom and advice for having fun with life and being successful at it, Corinne Williams proves very wise. "Play the Game: Making the Most of Your One Wild and Precious Life" is a read well worth considering for those who want to revitalize their life.

Ten Days to Freedom
Frederick Ingles Villamayor
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533161317, $10.95,

When against the wall, one can pull off magnificent things. "Ten Days to Freedom" tells the story of accidental liberation of Quezon in the Philippines. Frederick Ingles Villamayor, under threat of attack, led a unit who in self-defense ended up claiming the town as their own in the face of defending their own beliefs and lives. "Ten Days to Freedom" is a choice pick for fans of military memoirs.

Broken Vows, Shattered Lives
Steven A. Mentzer
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, FL 32779
9781607918844, $14.99,

Breaking up is hard to do, especially so after you've tied the knot. "Broken Vows, Shattered Lives" is the reflections of Steven A. Mentzer as he reflects on his own divorce and what it means to a Christian. With much to help Christians face their failed marriage and look towards with future with their faith intact, he offers advice on trying to keep a marriage together and what to do when all else fails. "Broken Vows, Shattered Lives" is a choice pick and is very highly recommended reading for anyone who fears for their marriage.

Small Footsteps
Barbara Brooks Wallace
Scofield O'Leary
9780982312926, $12.95

Before Communism took hold, China has a radically different place. "Small Footsteps: In the Land of The Dragon, Growing up in China" tells the tale of an American girl growing up in old China before the civil wars and Japanese invasions. Painting a unique picture of a land so long ago and the traditional Chinese culture and spirit before it was radically changed by its constant twentieth century conflicts. Truly unique, insightful, and fascinating, "Small Footsteps" is a read well worth considering for those interested in pre-Communist China.

Helen Dumont

Klausner's Bookshelf

By Darkness Hid
Jill Williamson
Marcher Lord
9780982104958 $14.99

Since he has no family to protect him, Achan Cham is an orphaned stray with fewer rights than that of a slave. He survives at Sitna Manor because he can feel what others think so he knows when abuse is coming and can elude it in spite having to drink the slave tonic. With no hope for a future except kitchen duty serving Lord Bathak and Prince Gideon, Achan is stunned when Sir Gavin a knight observes his uncanny skill of handling two bullies and selects him as a squire. He begins life as a squire being trained with hopes to become a Kingsguard Knight, something almost impossible for a stray to achieve. However, since he no longer takes the tonic, he begins to hearing voices that are driving him crazy.

To avoid a marriage to the prince she loathes, Vrell Sparrow hides out as a male stray. When she realizes what is happening to Achan with the bloodvoicing, as she has the same skill Vrell concludes he is the heir to the throne. However, before they can pursue what she learns, a wizard is aware of her bloodvoicing ability and sends henchmen to abduct her. Only Achan can save her if he believes in her mentally calling him for help.

Rotating perspectives between Achan and Vrell, BY DARKNESS HIS is a super coming of age fantasy thriller with an underlying inspirational message of the one voice of God is the light in any darkness. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as the lead couple struggles to survive in a world filled with enemies whom mostly they do not know. Jill Williamson provides a strong sword and sorcery thriller starring two fully developed heroes and the mentor guiding them as villains search for them.

Summa Elvetica: A Casuistry of the Elvish Controversy
Theodore Beale
Marcher Lord
9780982104927 $12.99

Amorran Church noble scholar Marcus Valerius is part of a delegation traveling from the Republic to Elebrion to end the heated argument between church scholars whether elves have souls. The delegates know how complex the issue will prove without the threat of a holy war lingering depending on their decision, but each plans to do the right thing religiously regardless.

On the trek to the kingdom of the elves, Marcus becomes friends with the scornful Bishop Claudo and Father Aestus, and especially his new dwarf bodyguard. He also enjoys his time spent with the elf accompanying the delegation. In Elebrion, the monarch King Caerwyn throws a welcoming gala, but Marcus soon uncovers a seditious betrayal as he thinks of his Uncle Magnus' warning before he set forth on the trek.

This is a terrific fantasy that uses the premise of Anatole France's Penguin Island in a Tolkien like Holy Roman Empire. The story line is mostly told from the viewpoint of the young brilliant yet naive scholar as he learns so much about life and faith in the light of betrayal yet keeps his hope and belief high. Fans will enjoy Marcus' adventures in the kingdom of the elves.

A Questionable Life
Luke Lively
9780825305214 $24.95

The job comes first to Philadelphia Trust & Guaranty banker Jack Oliver as he climbs the ladder of success. He ignores his wife Tina and two children Joshua and Jessica except when he needs them to promote his career. His friends are only buddies if they matter in his business life as does his colleagues.

When PT&G is purchased by the Merchants bank, Jack, twenty-seven years there and second highest in rank is stunned as he is kicked to the bottom of the food chain and maybe out the door if he is not careful. The stress and disappointment leads him to a hospital stay in which he learns who cares about him: no one as his family and his mistress fail to visit him. A friend John Helms introduces Jack to Benjamin "Benny" Price, the old-fashioned president of the small local Citizens Bank in Roanoke, Virginia, who hires Jack, but also mentors him on what matters in life even when Merchant Bank comes to town with its avaricious bottom line ledger.

This is an enjoyable inspirational drama that is It's A Wonderful Life meets Scrooge in a modern but somewhat remote setting. The story line opens each chapter with poignant questions and related but somewhat cliched citations, but the running theme throughout the plot is that it is never too late to change from a life evolved around the seven deadly sins to a caring loving person. Although the tale is obvious where it is going, readers will enjoy the journey.

The Good Plain Cook
Bethan Roberts
Serpent Tails
9781846686658 $15.95

In 1936 in rural Sussex affluent American widow Ellen Steinberg advertises for a cook at her new country home. Nineteen year old Kitty Allen, needing to find a place to stay, applies for the position and to her shock though she lacks any experience gets the job because of her resume filled with lies.

Ellen expects Kitty to make whatever meal she orders for herself, her poet lover George Crane, her eleven year old daughter Geenie and George's tweener daughter Diana. Her employer also insists on openness from everyone as she knocks down interior walls to affirm her beliefs. Ironically she hides her feelings of guilt re her husband's death from her daughter. Meanwhile George begins writing bad poetry to Kitty while bewildered Geenie and confused Diana observe his actions with both unhappy about it. Geenie also blames Kitty for her inability to get the attention of her negligent mother. Like everyone else except perhaps Arthur the gardener, Kitty struggles with her place in this dysfunctional household.

Filled with symbolism of breaking down barriers to relationships in order to build stronger affinities, the aptly titled The Good Plain Cook is a terrific character driven historical nove; Kitty and the two children are innocents with the newcomer becoming an object of affection of the poet who sees her as his symbolic muse yet can't seem to write poetry while his benefactor assumes he is writing an ode to their love; the kids are watchers of the adults using pretense to conceal feelings behind self built defense mechanism, which they emulate in differing manners as Geenie is overtly angry and Diana introvertly fearful. All five players are fully developed in this well written depression Era drama.

Wild Blue Under
Judi Fennell
9781402224270 $6.99

When his father steps down as High Councilman, Rod Tritone knows his duty is to replace him running the Kingdom of Mer. However, the ruling Council directs Rod that before he assumes the position he will marry the lost daughter of Mer. Although he does not want to marry anyone nor go on land, Rod understands his people's needs come before his desires.

He is given legs so he can walk with the landlubbers as his queen is on the surface in ironically land locked Kansas selling ocean tchotchkes at Therese's Treasure Trove. Valerie Dumere scoffs at Rod's instance that she is a hybrid human-mermaid as she has never had a tail nor can she even swim. However, when someone tries to kill her, Val knows something is not right, but still scorns her rescuer's insistence that he lives under the sea.

The second Tritone brother Mer urban-oceanic romantic fantasy (see In Over her Head) is a terrific tale of the tail from the moment Rod arrives at the store knowing this can't be Atlantis. Fans will enjoy the amusing banter between the disbeliever and the Mer trying to convince her to dive into the ocean as his mate while a predator wants her dead. This is a fun fantasy with readers wondering whether Val will there's no place like home when you are loved by the one you treasure.

The Art Student's War
Brad Leithauser
9780307271112 $28.95

In 1943 Detroit eighteen years old passionate art student Bea Paradisio gets on the street car when a soldier on crutches offers his seat to her. Feeling a patriotic fervor, Bea wonders what she can do for the soldiers who risk their lives to make democracy safe for those back home. She begins to visit hospitals where the wounded heal or die; and starts sketching the patients so the soldiers can regain somewhat what they lost at war.

Bea knows the visits to the soldiers are as much for her mental health as it is for the G.I.s she meets. Her home is a mess of accusations and counterattacks. Her mentally unbalanced mom claims her own sister is trying to steal her husband Vico in spite of Grace being happily married. Her other break from her mom's insanity is with art student Ronny Olsson, heir to greater Detroit's largest drugstore chain. However, it is mathematician Henry Vanden Akker, whom she becomes a woman for as she knows he will not return from the war. Soon after learning Henry died in a plane crash, she catches the flu, but recovers to marry and raise a family.

This is an excellent historical tale that looks deep into the life of a woman on the home front during and after the war. Bea's life during WWII is the more fascinating segue though the late 1940s are well written, but raising a family as important as that is lacks the utmost fascination the audience will have with the artist "returning" the faces to the injured soldiers. The Art Student's War is a super 1940s drama as Bea shows women came a long way during WWII as an intricate part of "The Greatest Generation", but afterward returned to more traditional roles.

A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Books
Charles Dickens
Everyman's Library (Knopf)
97803072721754 $18.00

This collection consists of the Charles Dickens' Christmas Books, all written in the 1840s

A Christmas Carol (1843). Everyone knows the story of how Ebenezer Scrooge the miser got the Christams message from his late partner and the three ghosts.

The Chimes (1844). Porter Trotty Veck has no hope for the future on New Year's Eve until he hears the spirits of the chimes.

The Cricket on the Hearth (1845). John is much older than his wife Dot, but their marriage appears to be over when he finds evidence that makes him believe she cuckold him. John talks with the spirit of the Cricket on the Hearth whose chirping Dot says means good luck.

The Battle of Life (1846). Doctor Jeddler is a cynic, but his daughters' sacrifices for loved ones make him reconsider his scorn.

The Haunted Man and the Ghost (1848). Chemistry Professor Redlaw is tormented by his past until a ghostly twin arrives on Christmas Eve to make him forget his past; afterward any one who meets the professor also forgets their distress as he does with the Swidger and Tetterby families until Milly Swidger reverses the spell because of her goodness that comes out of a lost child

The reprint of Charles Dickens early Victorian Christmas stories will prove a delight for fans of the most famous entry, A Christmas Carol. The Cricket on the Hearth and The Haunted Man and the Ghost are somewhat similar in lessons learned to that of A Christmas Carol though with their own inspiring twists while The Chimes uses a spiritual advisor but spins quite differently. However, the most diverse is The Battle of Life, which has a rushed ending and no paranormal guru as it feels more like O'Henry's The Gift of the Magi,. This is a holiday winner as all five tales showcase the works of one of the greats of literature.

The Museum of Innocence
Orhan Pamuk
9780307266767 $28.95

In 1975 in Istanbul, affluent thirty year old Kemal stops at a shop to buy a purse for his fiancee Sibel; also of a wealthy family. He is instantly attracted to the shop girl eighteen year old Fusun, who he knows is forbidden fruits as his family will object to her for being from the poor side of town and besides his match is made; they are also related though quite distantly.

Kemal does not break off his engagement, but maintains everything as memorabilia (in his mind) that involves his non-relationship with Fusun, as he keeps everything and looks at each item as the most precious whether it be earrings, etc in his personal museum. He feels no contentment in spite of his wife's caring tenderness at a time when discontent rules the country. Only with his "priceless" artifact collection reminding him of what he never had enables him to fantasize about his Fusun does he feel some contentment.

This is a deep look at unrequited love using the backdrop of turmoil in late 1970s Turkey to enhance the impact of the intense story line. Profound, Kemal makes the tale as he knows he obsesses over Fusun as depicted by his prizes he maintains in The Museum of Innocence. Sibel and Fusun, though differing personalities, are fully developed people who add to Kemal's confusion by being themselves. Although the plot feels overwhelming at times with so much going on in Istanbul, readers will appreciate Orhan Pamuk's powerful tale of a man fixated on a "Goddess" he can never obtain as truly his outside his imagination.

Vintage Caper
Peter Mayle
9780307269010 $24.99

Hollywood entertainment lawyer Danny Roth cherishes his wine collection, insured for three million dollars. He is so full of pride over his vintage collection he boasts excessively about his vino darlings during a Los Angeles Times interview. However, Danny feels violated when someone who obviously read the article absconded with his wine collection.

Insurance agent Elena Morales hires her former boyfriend Sam Levitt, a wine connoisseur, to investigate the theft. He follows the trail to France where he teams up with insurance agent Sophie Costes, a wine and food gourmand. They soon track the purloined wine to Marseilles with billionaire wine collector Francis Reboul as the prime suspect behind the theft.

This is an amusing crime caper that will have readers toasting Peter Mayle with A Good Year French champagne. The story line is fast-paced and straightforward as the shortest distance between California and French Lessons is between Sam and the other players. With a solid cast, Vintage Caper is lighthearted fun as each key participant makes their play for the valuable vino with not one of them fully trusting any of the others.

Shades of Midnight
Lara Adrian
9780440245261 $7.99

In frozen Alaska, nineteen year old Teddy Toms returns to his family compound only to find everyone dead. A gigantic humanoid creature appears and kills him too.

Bush pilot Alexandra Maguire lands at the Toms compound to deliver supplies only to be greeted eerily by corpses with bite marks on them. She has seen these bite marks before when her mother and younger brother were murdered. Alex and her father tried to move on and get passes what the monsters did to her family by leaving Florida for Alaska. The pilot notices a gigantic footprint in the nearby snow, but says nothing to the authorities.

After seeing a clip of the carnage, the Order sends warrior vampire Breed Kade to investigate what appears to be a rogue in bloodlust. He has lived his entire life on his family's Darkhaven estate to take care of his brother who has an uncontrolled violent streak. Kade thinks the predator is his brother Seth who has killed humans before, but he soon realizes that this massacre is the work of the Ancient other worlder who escaped captivity. Alex and Kade meet with each incredibly attracted to the other. She realizes as she falls in love there are good and evil Breed and her beloved must be the former as he risks his life for her. She leads him to a defunct mine where the evil Breed reside led by the malevolent grandson of the Ancient: Dragos.

The seventh Midnight Breed tale is a compelling action-packed thriller from the onset with the slaughter at the Toms compound. Both protagonists have demons to overcome as Kade fears he will turn out like Seth did and Alex fears loving a monster like the vampire in her nightmarish past. Lara Adrian provides her fans with a strong tundra romantic fantasy as the human and the vampire find love and death in the frozen wasteland.

Three Days to Dead
Kelley Meding
0553592866 $7.99

Triad supernatural bounty hunter Evangeline "Evy" Stone is confused when she wakes up naked on a slab in the morgue. Worse yet she does not know who she is or why she fails to recognize her bruised body; that of Chalice Frost. Her only memory is that of her handler Wyatt Truman; so she must find him in a city of a half of million.

Wyatt explains he brought her back to life; her Triad partners long dead. She had been tortured, but died before she could explain what she learned of an alliance between The Bloods vampire gang and the Goblin horde. If true, humanity is dead. She also learns she has 72 hours to live in this body before dying again. Three days to find out if the unholy alliance is true and who killed her and her partners at a time when her former bounty hunter peers believe she had her two teammates murdered.

This is a terrific urban fantasy starring a fascinating lead protagonist back from the dead to complete a mission before she returns to the dead while her former cronies want her dead (talk about finding a life). The story line is fast-paced and vividly descriptive so that the audience will believe in this paranormal realm, but setting the physics of the Meding mythos somewhat detracts from the investigation by Evy-Chalice. Still Three Days to dead is an exciting first tale with a solid premise that should contain strong sequels.

The Recipe Club
Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel
Polhemus Press
9780982349205 $24.95

Valerie "Valpal" Rudman and Lilly "Lillypad" Stone are like close sisters who are totally opposites. They became BFFs forever when they formed the Recipe Club when they were ten years old pen pals; as each letter required a recipe be included. Lilly is a classic extrovert hoping to make it as a singer; Valerie is the centerfold of introvert studying diligently to become a doctor. Over the years they remained friends through all types of family crisis until one incident devastated their friendship.

Over a quarter of a century pass with neither communicating with the other until Val's mom dies from cancer and she sends Dear Lilly an email while Lilly's mom Katherine the Great ran away. As they near fifty, Valerie and Lilly write to one another like they used to only using email. Both are stunned with what they learn that could split them apart again.

Using email letters to tell the tale of two women and their families, The Recipe Club is a strong character driven drama. The lead duet comes alive through their correspondence and provides enough insight into the support, mostly relatives, to enhance the loving relationship between BFFs. Although gimmicky with the mouth watering aptly titled recipes leading each chapter, fans will enjoy this fine story of friendship.

The Solemn Lantern Maker
Merlinda Bobis
Delta (Random House)
9780385341134 $14.00

In the slums of Manila crippled Nena and her ten years old mute son Noland struggle to survive. She brings in money doing laundry while he and his friend Elvis sell paper lanterns they make from colorful paper.

With less than a week to Christmas a drive by shooting leaves an American dead and his wife badly hurt. Noland and Elvis witnessed the event and guide the woman to the former's hut. As everyone searches for the missing American, Noland's outraged mom rants at him proclaiming his good intentions will be the death of both of them.

This is a fascinating thriller that brilliantly looks at life in the Manila slums. The key cast members seem genuine as each reacts differently to Noland's act of mercy. Thus this is a strong but cherished look at Philippine culture especially the gap between the impoverished and affluent. Merlinda Bobis uses the Manila setting on the international stage to tell a local tale of the indigent dreaming of making it western style while also schizoid loathing the west's materialistic superiority; flaunted by aid that never reaches those in need yet enables the affluent to feel they are kind philanthropists. With a mystery re mother, son, and friend to enhance the family drama vs. the international situation, THE SOLEMN LANTERN MAKER is a tense winning novella

The Beauty of Surrender
Eden Bradley
Delta (Random House)
9780553385588 $15.00

"Serving the Master: Desmond and Ava". In San Francisco submissive Ava Gregory seeks the trance state, but dominant Marina Marchant failed to get her Bottom to achieve that at the Pinnacle BDSM sex club. Marina introduces Ava to her Nawashi expert peer in the play of the Japanese Shibari erotic ropes Desmond Hale as her guru. They achieve more than just the ultimate in play as they fall in love. Although she overcomes her embarrassment of being a submissive that has limited her contact with her family in Seattle, he never overcame his need for control since his sister Nessie drowned when they were children. Love means ceding some control.

"Soothing the Beast: Marina and James". Marina Meets James Cortez at a lecture she gives on Shibari erotic ropes techniques. He pleads with her to play him until he achieves the shadow place so he can get respite from his demons that haunt him after the horrors he seen as a reporter covering the ugliness of the world. She informs him she only plays with women, but his need persuades her though he is not a submissive by nature and prays with her on top will give him freedom from his nightmares. As they enjoy the bondage and more, their attraction turns to love, but she fears the emotion ever since her Nathan died from cancer four years ago.

These are two well written erotic romantic novellas that focus on the characters more than sex though there are several heated rope scenes. Fans of BDSM romances will relish both well written tales but also feel each one could have easily been novel length as Eden Bradley's exploration of the relationships beyond just top-bottom play went deep and profound especially the fears of the dominants but the resolutions seem rushed for such profound tales.

Deck the Halls and The Christmas Thief
Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark
9781439175675 $17.99

Deck the Halls. California private detective Regan Reilley flies home to New Jersey to spend the holidays with her parents. Regan visits her mother, Nora a patient at the Manhattan Hospital for Special Surgery for a leg she broke tripping over a rug. At her mother's room, Regan also sees her father Luke, a funeral home owner, who quickly races off to attend the Goodloe funeral before going onto a dentist. However, Luke never makes his appointments as Petey the Painter and C.B. Dingle kidnap him for providing terrible financial advice. C.B. demands Nora send them one million dollars for the safe return of her spouse and his driver. Regan searches for her abducted father starting at the de ntist's office where she meets local amateur detective Alvirah Meehan, who offers her help.

The Christmas Thief. Con artist Packy Noonan talked people into investing over 100 million in his phony shipping company, but though his confederates escaped Packy went to jail. After serving twelve years he heads to Stowe, Vermont to get the diamonds that are hidden in an eighty foot blue spruce tree belonging to his former employees Lenny and Viddy. He doesn't know the tree is heading to Rockefeller Center. Others head to Stowe like Alviah Meshim and Megan Reilly with a convergence about to occur.

These are reprints of entertaining lighthearted mystery collaborations of Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark. Each entry is fun as stars from the mother daughter authors' solo books team up for the holidays. Although the underlying premises for the action are stretches, no one will care these are enjoyable Christmas suspense thrillers.

Under the Dome
Stephen King
9781439148501 $35.00

In Chester's Mill, Maine Big Jim Rennie runs the small town through underhanded extortionist politics and illegal drug dealing. His son is a bully throwing his father's influential weight at others. Few overtly counter this pair of leading citizens, but army veteran Dale "Barbie" Barbara and newspaper editor Julia Shumway lead the opposition.

Already somewhat isolated due to its location, an invisible dome suddenly falls over the entire remote New England village; dropped by the Overlords who live amongst us and have chosen this place apparently for one of their experiments. Things begin to happen rather quickly starting with the plane crash and the tractor explosion. Nothing can enter or leave. Over a short period of time the infrastructure begins to collapse and survival means enemies teaming up. Some claim this is God's punishment and wait for the Rapture; others believe that Big Jim made a bad deal with his drug overlords, but some like short order cook Barbie insist it is something else. As conditions deteriorates rapidly, the townsfolk fail to unite; instead remain splintered into two major groups led by Big Jim who invokes marital law and Barbie who searches for who and why, and several smaller factions who mostly choose inaction using diverse rationale to defend their position.

This is a strong King thriller that returns the great horror author to his Stand roots of good vs. evil. Although somewhat stereotyped characters, fans will not care as morality takes center stage with the cast's differences of opinions negatively impacting survival. Good vs. evil on a bigger stage looks inside as on the smaller platform of Chester's Mill good vs. evil plays out in a reality version of survival.

Trial by Fire
J. A. Jance
9781416563808 $25.99

In Sedona, Arizona, former TV reporter Ali Reynolds obtains a media-relations position with the Yavapai County Sheriff's Department. Ali knows to tread carefully as her predecessor Information Officer Devon Ryan, on administrative leave pending an investigation into illegal activity, got into a physical altercation with Cononimo Courier reporter Oscar Reyes who may sue the department for the black eye he received at a news conference.

Ali handles the press as the cops investigate a suspicious fire that left a Jane Doe barely alive with third degree burns, an ability to communicate by winking only, and amnesia. Also at Saint Gregory's Hospital is Sister Anselm, known as the "Angel of Death," for her nurturing of unidentified patients; she provides comfort to the latest injured soul. Meanwhile Ali sneaks into the burn unit to obtain more information from the victim while a killer targets the nursing nun, but soon teams up with the Sister.

In her latest case (see Cruel Intentions), readers need to ignore why a public relations specialist would investigate an attempted murder-arson, this is an engaging amateur sleuth that fans will enjoy although the action is limited as Ali mostly works her Mojo in the burn unit. Still fans will appreciate the teaming up of the nun and the former reporter as they make an intriguing pairing working together to solve the mystery.

The Time of Jacob's Trouble
Chris Hambleton
Outskirts Press
9781432724696 $19.95

When the Israelis reveal they have a rich reserve of oil in their land, the Russians are furious as that means other countries no longer need depend on them for supplies. They sponsor covertly Arab terrorists to sneak into Israel with nuclear bombs. The plans works as the nukes are launched from within the country, but Israel retaliates in kind. The world asks both sides to disarm and disengage, but Israel refuses. A coalition invades, but God intervenes and destroys the enemy of Israel.

Several months later, the so called aliens the Anshar arrive on earth to help mankind rise to the next step in evolution. People want this, but believers in the Christ know they are being conned by demons working for Lucifer. He raises up David Medine as the world ruler. Medine signs a treaty with Israel guaranteeing them the rebuilding of the Temple and seven years of peace. The Rapture occurs and Christian believers are brought up to Heaven. On earth Medine shows his true colors and the people of Israel flee to Petra for three and a half years. For Jesus to a ppear to take care of Medine and his allies the Sanhedrin that rejected Jesus as their savior two millennia must ask him to come to the world's aid and accept Jesus as their Savior.

This fantastic yet chilling tale focuses on the Rosenberg family as their daughter Ruth vanishes in the Rapture, their son Saul is one the 144,000 who is given the gift of oration to preach the Word. Their other son took the mark and will never reach Heaven and their parents Jacob and Naomi gradually, after seeing the miracles, convert to Christianity. Comparisons are going to be made to the Left Behind saga as both adhere to the bible's prophecy, but the details are described are sometimes radically different There is plenty of action with a potent message that avoids preaching as if readers are the choir, but instead uses Jacob's problems during the end of days.

Desert Lost
Betty Webb
Poisoned Pen
9781590586815 $24.95

In Scottsdale, Arizona private investigator Lena Jones works a night shift surveillance of a storage yard in order to catch vandals. She hears some odd noises outside of the facility so she goes to investigate. Lena finds the warm corpse of a woman wearing a calico dress that symbolizes she must be a "sister-wife" married to a polygamist.

Lena who dealt with the issue in the past (see Desert Wives) wonders why kill and dump the body here as the nearest known polygamist encampment is several hours to the north on the Utah line. Lena is unable to resist an inquiry as she has her own troubled past to urge her to investigate. She soon meets up with the Desert Los male teens kicked out of the various polygamist cults by the male elders who have no room for the young men. Lena keeps up her search for who and why in complex convoluted cult compounds.

This is a strong profound desert mystery that provides a deep look at the underbelly of polygamist incestuous lifestyles as the forgotten exiled are angry and bewildered lost boys who have not found a place in the greater society yet have not other place to go. The whodunit is well written enhanced by two personal subplots, but mostly serves as a vehicle as the author warns society of the lost boys dumped when they turn fourteen as surplus because "if a man can have ten wives, nine men will have no wives."

Frederick Ramsay
Poisoned Pen
9781590586846 $24.95

The American State Department permits Earth Global CEO Leo Painter, his wife, stepson and other executives to travel to Botswana to negotiate with officials to allow his firm to extract minerals. He believes the mineral rich African country will prove profitable for his energy, mining and realty company. However several of his companions believe Leo is too old and ethical sot hey want to push him aside at the firm along with his spouse. He would like to rest but knows a respite means death from the human hyenas stalking him.

At the same time, Sekeo the elderly lion once ruled his pride with a strong alpha paw or two. However, he is not only turning weak with age, but suffers from HIV/AID, which compounds his health issues. The younger males want to replace him and challenges are coming all the time. He would like to rest but knows a respite means death from the lion hyenas (or the game ranger) stalking him.

With a darker look at human nature than Alexander McCall Smith's genteel "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" and Michael Stanley's Detective Kubu police procedural, Frederick Ramsay provides a super parable thriller as the king of the jungle rules fleetingly. The story line is fast-paced but it is the cast especially the parallel Leos who meet their respective Snows of Kilimanjaro Hemingway moments that makes for one of the year's best glimpses at what drives the living.

Queen of Song And Souls
C. L Wilson
9780843960600 $7.99

To save their species, they may be forced to use the forbidden dark magic. However, both Fey King Rain Tairen Soul and his Truemate the woodcarver's daughter Ellysetta Baristani know the cost would be exile. They accept the price to continue to fight to prevent the spread of evil transmitted by the malevolent Eld Mages.

Ellysetta also fears the High Eld Mage soon will be able to control her as she has four marks on her. The only way to prevent this from happening is if she and her Truemate Rain complete the mating bond ritual as the enemy army marches forward with little resistance. Rain tries to raise a counter offensive, but finds obtaining allies almost nonexistent as the Eld Mages have infiltrated the inner circles of power.

Although more a bridge book, the fourth Tairen and Ellysetta high fantasy is still a super entry in an incredible saga. There are numerous subplots that move forward though none major reaching completion as the lead couple struggle to survive and prevent the Eld mages from winning with their only hope being the release of Tairen's soul, which might have unintended consequences. Not a stand alone, the audience would be better suited to read the previous novels to grasp how the heroes got to hanging over the abyss and full relish this fabulous fantasy.

Counterfeit Lady
Dawn MacTavish
9780843963212 $6.99

In 1815 Lady Clara orders her reluctant paid companion Alice to pretend to be her at a masquerade ball. Clara wants confirmation that the man she is to meet Nigel Farnham is as ugly as rumors state; but cannot ignore the toady since her aunt Lady Pembroke insists she must pay attention to him.

Nigel dances with the lady he assumes is Clara and finds himself spellbound. However, before everyone unmasks, his dance partner flees. When Clara vanishes, Alice is forced to keep up her masquerade to avoid a scandal. Nigel pursues Alice as Clara while another aristocrat also goes after her. However when Clara returns as if nothing has happened she decides she wants Nigel and if destroying Alice's reputation will achieve her objective so be it as a companion is expendable.

Counterfeit Lady is a delightful Regency romantic romp starring a wonderful lead couple and several purposely stereotypical self centered support characters like Clara and Alice's cold Minister dad. The story line is fast-paced from the opening dialogue with a coaxing Clara unaware of her companion's inner debate in which Alice the imp argues with Alice the minister's daughter whether she should or she should not masquerade. Dawn MacTavish provides an amusing historical as readers will relish the imp winning the argument.

Destiny's Captive
Kate Lyon
9780843962833 $6.99

The raid at Baldwin Fort, Texas left almost everyone dead in the bloody massacre. The few young survivors were sold to the Comancheros. He adapted to the Indian way of life given the name Chikoba. He married, but soldiers murdered his pregnant wife. Insane with the senseless massacre of his loved ones, Chikoba attacks soldiers whenever he can although he has never assaulted a civilian.

In 1875 the Great Spirit sends Chikoba a vision insisting he goes back to where his journey began. He starts using his birth name of Jeremiah Baldwin for the first time in years and returns as a white man to Baldwin Fort. Wealthy rancher Senor Don Miguel Sanchez owns the land, but no one knows how he bought it or from whom. Someone attacks Jeremiah leaving him dead.

Another survivor of the Baldwin Fort massacre Angelina was raised by Sanchez as his daughter. She suffers from partial amnesia having blocked out the horror of that brutal day. She loves her father, but she hides an injured Jeremiah from his henchmen though she is not sure why. While she help nurses Jeremiah back to health, Angel begins to recall the massacre while her dad's man Juan Delgado who sold Jeremiah to the Comanchero displays openly he wants her.

This is an exhilarating western Reconstruction Era romance starring two delightful lead protagonists carrying tons of baggage from the same massacre and odious villains. Filled with plenty of action, readers anticipate the showdown between Delgado and Baldwin with a confused Angelina pulled in several directions by the men in her life. Kate Lyon writes an enjoyable Texas historical romance starring a strong cast as the good, the bad, and the ugly converge on a sweet young woman.

Christmas Cake
Lynne Hinton
9780061711503 $13.99

In Hope Springs, North Carolina, Margaret tries to remain upbeat in front of her friends, but the cancer has returned and spread to her organs. Her BFFs would do anything for her so in the hope to cheering her up they get the idea for another cook book which would include best recipe for a contest they would sponser. The idea was Beatrice's, but she no longer has the enthusiasm for the project; surprising herself, her spouse funeral director Dick and her friends, she quits her leadership role and asks Louise to take over.

Margaret tells her buddies from the Hope Springs Church that she just wants to visit her hometown and see their former Pastor Charlotte, who runs a battered women's shelter, both in Texas. Getting past her depression with a mission, Beatrice steals her husband's funeral van to drive Margaret, Louise and Jessie to Texas.

The sequel to The Friendship Cake is a wonderful slice of life as the Tar Heel best friends know hope springs eternal even with one of them in Texas, another depressed, another dying and the others overwhelmed with what to do. With recipes leading each chapter, the women run the show as they drive a funeral van from Carolina to Texas to fulfill Margaret's last wishes. The Christmas Cake is a five tissue box tear jerker as friendship is forever.

Done Far from Home
Anne DeGrace
9780061728808 $14.99

Teenager Jo travels far from her home in, Canada due to Eamon. He came to stay with her and her parents and took her virginity and her mother. Seeing him with the latter sent her on the road. The teen finds work near Calgary General Hospital at Cass's Roadside Cafe as a waitress.

Seven months after she decided to hit the road on a particular nasty weather day in 1977, many people stop at the roadside eatery for a break in their arduous travel. Octogenarian Eunice tells her story insisting she has nothing to live for anymore. The businessman says his life is ruined as he runs away with no place to go. Bob the Mountie stops explaining he is in the middle of a crisis. Others like the trucker also tell their tale all linked to Pink the American hitchhiker who didn't pay his tab or leave a tip.

FAR FROM HOME is an odd but fascinating Canadian tale that reads more like a series of anecdotal entries linked by the diner or Jo's back story re her family. Thus, a day at the diner or at the lead character's life at home make for an intriguing but not deep look at a variety of people passing through the life of Jo or Pink. Although there is no dramatic revelation as the lead character simply must decide between staying, heading east back through Calgary or west to Vancouver (south and north are not an option); fans will enjoy this Canadian cafe cozy as Anne DeGrace provides a warm character study.

The Wrong Side Of Dead
Jordan Dane
9780061474132 $7.99

When bounty hunter Jessie Becket was a small child, she was kidnapped and sexually assaulted for years. Although she has come a long way from her horrible youth, she knows she will never be whole. Jessie survives by vowing to keep the young safe.

Living in Chicago Jessie has two friends she cherishes; police officer Samantha Cooper, who has assisted her in capturing predators and Seth Harper. However, Jessie is hurt when Seth disappears without warning her he was going away. When he returns, he is accused of a vicious homicide. Although the evidence is strong and she remains angry at Seth, Jessie knows in her soul he could not commit murder. She seeks proof of his innocence, but instead finds damaging information about him that leaves her shaken to the core and in danger from someone who does not want the truth to surface; her biggest fear is that someone is her Seth.

This is an exciting suspense thriller that pulls no punches from the start to the finish as Jordan Dane makes it clear there are some nasty people out there. Jess is a strong lead who holds the exhilarating story line and herself together though a dangerous scenario that includes her heart as much as her life. Fans will enjoy this taut Sweet Justice thriller as the investigative suspense grips the reader throughout.

Sheramy Bundrick
9780061765278 $14.99

In 1888 in Arles, France, prostitute Rachel Courteau takes a needed time out from her brothel life that she embraced out of necessity when her parents died. She hides in a garden from the nasty cracks of the good citizens, but soon falls asleep. She is awakened by a thirty something red haired male who has secretly sketched her nap.

Rachel assumes her visitor, the crazed artist Vincent Van Gogh is another client. He arranges a tryst but brings with him wildflowers. He begs her to let him paint her instead of sleeping with her as she expected. As their relationship blossoms in spite of his increasing bouts madness, she meets his friend Gauguin while wondering if she can ever be free of being a fille de maison as increasingly she believes it will not be with Van Gogh consumed by his lunacy.

Rachel is the key to this terrific look at the life of Van Gogh as she brings freshness to the artist and the period. As Sheramy Bundrick notes in her afterward, there is little known about the real Rachel so the author took liberties with her, but tried to remain true to what is considered factual about Van Gogh; she succeeds. Fans of historical biographical fiction will want to read SUNFLOWERS, as art professor Sheramy Bundrick captures the essence of Vincent Van Gogh's Lust for Life (by Irving Stone) through Rachel's first person perceptions of the artist and his work especially SUNFLOWERS.

Brooke Morgan
9780061853371 $14.99

On Cape Cod, single mom of five year old Katy, Holly Barrett rides the bus when a "faintworthy" hunk sits next to her. He says his name is Jack Dane with an English accent and he has applied for a waiter's job at the new upscale Figs in Shoreham. She says she lives in Shoreham.

Katy is with her septuagenarian great grandfather Henry while Holly thinks back to high school and the child's father Billy Madison who just graduated from Stanford and heading to Harvard Law. He never acknowledged the child as his but now wants to meet Katy. He asks Holly who says he is too late.

Jack tells Holly he got the job and wants to celebrate with her. They enjoy a meal, but she fails to mention Katy. They go to her house where he kisses her, but sees the pictures of Katy and tells Holly he cannot deal with a child so he ends their potential relationship. Henry meets Jack who later realizes Holly is his new friend's granddaughter when she arrives with Katy. He likes Katy's energy and is attracted to Holly so he asks her out. Three weeks later, Jack moves in with Holly and Katy. Billy arrives to see Katy. Jack says no making it clear he is Katy's dad. This is the first doubt about how altruistic Jack truly is as Billy tells Henry he thinks Holly's man is evil and overly controlling.

The cast is strong as the key players seem fully developed. The growing doubts of the support cast re Jack are handled deftly. Although the story line feels padded especially in the latter half and Billy had no reason to believe Jack was evil, fans will relish this strong family thriller with a terrific final spin.

The Untamed Bride
Stephanie Laurens
9780061795145 $7.99

In 1822 in India, Colonel Derek "Del" Delborrough and four of his junior officers try to end the terror of the Black Cobra cult. They believe the leader of the Black Cobra Cult is Lord Roderick Ferrar, but lack substantial proof needed to bring down the heir to the powerfully connected Earl of Shrewsbury. .

The Governor's niece Emily Ensworth arrives with a package that she says that Captain James MacFarlane gave to her to give to Del. James died saving Emily from the Black Cobra. Inside the package is a letter in which Ferrar used his personal unique seal to close it. The four men agree to separately go to England with three carrying a bogus copy and one the original. One month later, the four soldiers resigned their commission and vanish; Ferrar learns his letter is missing. He knows he must pursue them to England.

Del reaches Southampton where he is met by Deliah Duncannon who informs him his aunts arranged for his escorting her. As they talk Deliah notices a flare and yanks Del to the ground saving his life. She saw the culprit who probably saw her too; her description is that of Larkins, Ferrar's right hand man. He agrees to take her with him to keep her safe. Their destination is Somersham Place, home of Devil Cynster. As they travel with the Black Cobra in pursuit, they fall in love, but the mission must come first.

The relationship between the lead couple is excellent as is the major support from the Cynster-Bastian heroes. However that said, all the couples from the extended saga (including this pair) are interchangeable; ironically (and cleverly) the women even discuss the common major traits that each of the women, their men, and their relationships contain. . The story line is fast-paced and the climax strong while also setting up the next tale to the delight of Stephanie Laurens' fans.

Midnight Pleasures With A Scoundrel
Lorraine Heath
9780061734007 $6.99

In 1852 Inspector James Swindler is happy that his friends from Fagin's gang of youths have moved on with their lives. He still struggles to do likewise. His current assignment is to trail Eleanor Watkins who has come to London to most likely commit murder.

Still grieving the death of her sister Elisabeth who came to London for the season last year with the naive joy of the innocent until Lord Rockberry destroyed her; Eleanor has plans to kill the culprit. James rescues her from three aristocrats in the pleasure gardens of Cremorne with hopes to persuade her not to travel the path she has chosen for herself. As they fall in love, neither expected the mounting danger from a diabolical schemer.

The latest Scoundrels of St. James series (see IN BED WITH THE DEVIL, BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND DESIRE and SURRENDER TO THE DEVIL), continues the great saga of what happened as adults to Fagan's gang of youngsters from Oliver Twist. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that James intercedes at Cremorne and never slows down although she hides something critical from him and he struggles to overcome the public hanging of his father when he was a child. With a nasty villain and an enjoyable mystery, fans will relish Lorraine Heath's strong Victorian romantic suspense with a clever twist.

To Love A Wicked Lord
Edith Layton
9780061757709 $6.99

In 1803 seven months ago, Phillipa "Pippa" Carstairs' betrothed Noel vanished immediately after their engagement party. Pippa's grandfather hires Lord Maxwell Sutton to find the missing fiance as his grandchild is caught in a no lady's land by the Ton since Noel is not reported dead and they had not married as widowhood or desertion is acceptable while nothing else is.

When Pippa first meets Maxwell, she believes he is a dandy whose cravat will be in the way of a meaningful investigation. However, Pippa quickly revises her opinion of a shallow bored aristocrat as she finds him to be intelligent and witty. As she falls in love with Maxwell, she hopes he never finds her intended though she believes he will. As for Maxwell, he has also fallen in love, but to have any future with his Pippa, he believes he must find her fiance.

This is a great Regency romantic mystery starring two likable strong protagonists who come together over the search for her lost fiance. Few sub-genre writers have been as consistently strong as Edith Layton who passed away in May. TO LOVE A WICKED LORD pays homage to this terrific author who in spite of her fight with cancer for several years kept her readers enthralled with super historicals like this one.

The Care And Taming Of A Rogue
Suzanne Enoch
9780061456763 $6.99

Explorer Sir Bennett Wolfe returns home to find out a horrific truth awaiting him. Five months ago his friend on the expedition Captain David Langley had stabbed him with a spear in his gut; after assuming Bennett was dead, the scoundrel stole his journals. He has since become wealthy with the money he made on his publication.

Lady Phillipa "Flip" Eddison is a fan of the Langley books and their expeditions and would relish going on a trek with him. However, when she meets Bennett, she finds she believes his assertion that he wrote the journals. She offers to help him prove his case even as they fall in love. When her beloved is threatened, Flip does whatever it takes including risking her life and reputation to keep him safe.

Although Sir Bennett is not quite the scoundrel or rogue of the Notorious Gentlemen in Suzanne Enoch's recent super Regencies, Sir Bennett is a terrific lead character with a thirst for vengeance while the heroine flips his life upside down. She proves more than his equal as Flip demonstrates a propensity in The Care And Taming Of A Rogue. With a villain willing to kill to remain rich, famous and popular fans will enjoy Sir Bennett's attempts to prove he is the hero and author of the journals and deserving of Flip's adulation, esteem and love just like she has earned his.

Captive Of Sin
Anna Campbell
9780061684289 $6.99

In 1821 in Winchester Sir Gideon Trevithick enters his stable only to find a frightened battered woman hiding inside. The abuse she obviously received makes him realize she is afraid of him too and knows her tale is a poorly constructed fabrication starting with the name Miss Watson. He offers her a safe shelter, which she desperately accepts.

Heiress Lady Charis Weston finally explains to her kind protector that her stepbrothers want control of her wealth that they will lose in three weeks when she turns twenty-one and is no longer their ward. She fled their latest brutality to force her to give up her money to them. Gideon has his own demons, but proposes a marriage of convenience to protect Charis. However, she wants more from her protector than just safety and is willing to seduce him to prove they belong together.

This engaging Regency romantic suspense hooks the audience the moment Sir Gideon finds Lady Charis in peril from her odious avaricious stepbrothers who have no redeeming qualities whatsoever; as each believes it is their right to abuse their sister and waste her inheritance on their frivolity. The story line is fast-paced never slowing down even with sensual desires between the lead couple. As the hero confronts his demons and she hers, they fall in love to the delight of historical romance readers, but both of them and the enchanted audience know her siblings will never stop conniving for what they believe is theirs.

What The Duke Desires
Jenna Petersen
9780061470820 $6.99

When her disturbed mother committed suicide, Miss Lillian Mayhew held the Duke of Billingham responsible. She would have liked to destroy the late Duke, but by 1816 she settles for shredding his reputation as a paragon of society.

As the new duke, Simon Crathorne needs to find someone to marry who would be appropriate as his duchess and who does not drive him insane with pap. He has several acceptable candidates, but he is attracted to the inappropriate Miss Lillian. She encourages him and soon has him assisting her on finding proof that his father was a cad. When she achieves her goal, she runs into a minor obstacle; she is in love with the son of the person whose reputation she has lived to destroy.

Filled with ardent twists, WHAT THE DUKE DESIRES is a strong character driven Regency romance starring two wonderful lead protagonists. Lillian learns sometimes you get what you wish for while Simon wishes for Lillian although he forgives too easily. With one final spin that will stun the audience as much as it does Lillian and Simon, Jenna Peterson provides her fans with a super historical as the late paragon left behind several transgressions.

Out Cold
Tom Schreck
9781590806227 $14.99

In Crawford, New York, at the not for profit Jewish Unified Services, guidance counselor Duffy Dombrowski was knocked Out Cold last week while sparring with a heavyweight so he remains somewhat disoriented. Back at work after a few sick days, his first client is late twenties schizophrenic Karl Greene, who brings new meaning to paranoia starting with his Michael Jackson surgical mask and even challenging what Duffy means by the ominous threat of "good morning".

Karl tells Duffy that he is back on the street, off his meds and the NOW is setting terrorist fires as a forerunner of a bigger plot. When Duffy begins to understand Karl's brand of military-industrial-political-terrorist paranoid complex, he begins to wonder how much brain damage he received from the left hook he failed to see yet he still denies wobbling. However the news report of an ROTC deadly arsonist fire just like Karl claimed spins Duffy's head further. With his roommate Al the Basset Hound and crazy Karl at his own deranged side as well as the Fearsome Foursome, Duffy tries to prevent terrorist attacks at the Notre Dame football home opener and a massacre at either his or Karl's respective former high school. That is as important is liberating Al's relatives from a basset-hound factory.

This over the top of the Adirondack Park peaks is a well written, but strangely mixed amateur sleuth thriller as dark humor blends (not always smoothly for us squeamish reviewers) with some serious scenarios. Duffy struggles with regaining his equilibrium though in total denial, which cleverly mirrors Karl's outlook. Although the jocularity seems out of place at times especially with deaths from terrorist activity and the threat of much more violence, Columbine-style, Tom Schreck provides a strong thriller as Duffy can only cope through mocking humor with what he faces (see TKO and On The Ropes).

Hollywood Moon
Joseph Wambaugh
Little, Brown
9780316045186 $26.99

Working the night shift, LAPD Hollywood Station midwatch cops Flotsam and Jetsam walk the Grauman's Chinese Theatre and other Boulevard stops discussing the midget love life of "Hollywood" Nate Weiss and surfing under a full moon. At the same the two dudes are chatting and walking, Nate and his senior partner Dana Vaughn investigate a call that some young punk is assaulting women.

Meanwhile low tech artists Dewey Gleason and his wife Eunice are working an identity thief scam that uses runners Creole and Jerzy as well as angry violent teen Malcolm Rojas. However, loyalty amongst felons proves nonexistent when Dewey's runners plot to con him. None of those involved in the Dewy scheme including him quite understand that the brains of the operation is not him, but his dominating spouse. Soon the four cops will find seemingly separate cases converge on one clever female who makes EEO law appear to protect the wrong gender.

This is an amusing Hollywood Station police procedural that starts off with readers gaining a deep look at the four cops and to a lesser degree the criminals pulling off an identity theft ploy. The story line is fun to follow and often hilarious especially when the surfer dude cops discuss life in the vernacular of riding the waves. Fans of the series will enjoy Joseph Wambaugh's cautionary tale that warns how easy to steal an identity is; while reader, the police and the low life criminal support surf the streets at Eunice's beck and call.

G.I. Bones
Martin Limon
9781569476031 $24.00

Korean fortuneteller Aunti Mee insists The Wandering Ghost of Tech Sergeant Florencio R. Moretti will not leave her alone. The GI went missing two decades ago back in 1953. U.S. 8th Army Criminal Investigation Detachment investigators Sergeants George Sueno and Ernie Bascom are assigned to investigate what everyone in CID including them assumes is a corpse.

The two military cops enter the Itaewon red light sector of Seoul seeking clues that will lead to Moretti's remains so he can be properly buried back in the States. The pair also searches for a missing military teenage dependent of whom they assume is a runaway. Neither expected they would face the wrath of the Seven Dragons gang who own the district; both expected the wrath of superiors who want Moretti's bones to remain interred wherever they are.

This is a super historical military police procedure that brings to life 1970s Seoul and to a degree how Koreans and soldiers of that era looked back to the end of the Korean Conflict. The mysteries of the missing dependent and the murder of Moretti are excellent, but it is the historiographer's delight of time and place that make G.I. BONES and the series a winner.

Japan Took the J.A.P. Out of Me
Lisa Fineberg Cook
9781439110034 $15.00

Jewish American Princess Lisa F. Cook accompanied her husband when he accepted a teaching position in Japan. Used to the pampered life of the wealthy of Beverly Hills, Ms. Cook was in for culture shock following the business flight from California. First instead of a luxurious private residence, they moved into an apartment. Second she suddenly became a domestic engineer struggling with things like laundry and cooking she took for granted that someone else was paid to do back in Southern California. Adjusting proves a nightmare even when she is rewarded with nirvana, a washing machine. Ultimately, Ms. Cook begins teaching English as a second language, which she finds satisfying.

Although much of the memoir reads like an uneven diary with fits of jerky input; when Ms. Cook digs deep beyond the trials and tribulation of a Yank in Japan into how she feels about aspects of the Japanese culture, the book contains profound passages. Overall, readers will mostly enjoy the efforts of the author and her husband finding ways to make both of them contented with life as a self anointed J.A.P. trying to initially survive but ultimately thrive in Japan.

Sex in a Sidecar
Phyllis Smallman
McArthur & Company
322 King St.,Suite 402,Toronto. On. M5v1J2
9781552787731 $19.95

Bartender Sherri Travis mixes the drinks at the Sunset Bar in Jacaranda, Florida when Hurricane Myrna hitting the Gulf veers towards the town. She knows it is time to evacuate, but cannot find the keys to the truck she inherited from her late husband Jimmy. Customer Gina from Pittsburgh admits she is on the trail of a serial killer who murdered her sister; she offers Sherri a ride. With no other option, as everyone is gone she accepts.

However, Gina fails to head in the direction to safety, but instead drives towards the hurricane. In South Beach Gina stops and jumps out of the car. Sherri cannot find Gina at first, but soon sees the woman dead in the car. A palm tree blocks Sherri from fleeing the storm so she rushes to the nearby home of her mother-in-law who loathes Sherri and blames her for Jimmy's murder (see Margarita Nights). Sherri finds Bernice with a broken leg and perhaps much more. She drives inland with Bernice taking her to the nearest hospital while her passenger harangues her just short of accusing Sherri of causing the hurricane. After the storm leaves the clean up begins as Sherri obtains work at the country club until the Sunset Bar can be fixed. However, a killer may not be sure that Sherri cannot identify him so he is coming after her.

The second Sherri Travis thriller is an exhilarating tale refreshed by the hurricane that assaults Florida. The story line is fast-paced even when Sherri and company prepare for Myrna and never slows down as the plot twists once the clean-up begins. Fans will appreciate Sherri's amateur sleuthing and especially enjoy Phyllis Smallman's humor in the midst of danger as the heroine and her former mother-in-law cannot share a continent let alone a state even with their lives on the line. The two Travis' tales are wonderful mysteries.

Margerita Nights
Phyliss Smallman
McArthur & Company
9781552786994 $TBA www.mcarthur&company

In Jacaronda, Florida Sherri Travis works as a bartender at the Sunset. She has left her husband, Jimmy, the golf pro at the nearby country club as she is tired of his scams. When his ship the Suncoaster explodes, the lead cop Stiles believes Jimmy died on board and Sherri killed him to collect life insurance.

Sherri believes Jimmy is alive pulling another scam. She tries to find their mutual friend bi-polar Andy who may know what is going on especially after someone stole a video Jimmy left her that apparently includes what he was up to. As her arrest seems imminent and her upper crust in-laws hold her culpable, Sherri with the help of friends (especially Marley) investigates her late spouse's recent dealings, but soon Andy is killed too, but not before he refers to Casablanca.

This terrific cozy serves Long Island tea as Sherri goes from sarcastic doubter to griever (for both Jimmy and Andy) to lover to killer pursuer. She makes the tale fun with her sass, spunk and spitfire sleuthing. The support cast is super also as the island community in the mind of Jimmy's mom is divided into three groups: the rich, the servant class from the other side of the causeway and the trailer trash. Phyliss Smallman provides an entertaining Florida west coast amateur sleuth with a touch of romance.

The Divorce Party
Laura Dave
9780143115601 $15.00

As Nate Huntington and Maggie Mackenzie become engaged, his parents Gwyn and Thomas Huntington are ending their three and half decade marriage amiably. In fact the couple plans on hosting a divorce party with Thomas trusting his soon to be ex wife Gwyn the professional party planner is doing everything with class, taste and amity.

On the same day his parents are ending their marital relationship in Montauk, Long island, Nate is introducing Maggie from Brooklyn to them. She is not sure how to behave when she and her Nate are starting together while her future in-laws are ending their marriage; alpha meets omega.

Rotating perspective between the two women, fans receive a strong character study that looks closely at what motivates Gwyn to want a divorce and Maggie to want to get married. Through their respective lens, the reader also sees how each of the two women perceive the two men though Maggie's notion of her future father in-law is based on first impressions tied to the amiable divorce. Ironically these four people and several support characters search for more meaning in life while wondering what truth is when dealing with a loved one (think of the Memorex commercial - is it real or Memorex). The strong realistic cast brings poignancy to this charming profound relationship tale.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home
Rhoda Janzen
9780805089257 $22.00

This is a fascinating memoir of a woman at forty who was still recovering from a car accident that disabled her from lifting her right arm over her head. However, that proved minor to her husband Nick dumping her after fifteen somewhat volatile years together. He ended their marriage to be with Bob, who he met on the Internet. Realizing with his departure that she was a co-dependent who encouraged his behavior because she could not leave, Rhoda Janzen moved back into the home of her Mennonite parents. There she creates her 12-step program to help her move on even as she looked back to the religion she was raised in but abandoned.

This is a terrific memoir that uses self deprecating humor to both enlighten the reader on helping oneself through tough times and most critically lighten somewhat the emotional strain and stress of difficulty with jocularity. Rhoda Janzen does so by taking the audience back to her Mennonite roots as only a skeptic can appreciate chilled borscht as a gourmet dessert instead of a soup served cold. Although the appendix "A Mennonite History Primer" seems an awkward padded addition that feels out of place, Ms. Janzen proves you can go home when loved ones are there to welcome you with mental and physical hugs as long as you are remember the unwritten unmentionable criticality of what is expected from you: "polish your floor with your ass".

Orcs: Army of Shadows
Stan Nicholls
9780316033688 $14.99

After getting off their malignant homeworld, Stryke and the Wolverines settle on the Orc orb Ceragan. Their new home proved idyllic, but over time ennui set in so eagerly they venture to anther world Acurial where they join the resistance whose members are not afraid to fight unlike the Orcs who fear the wrath of the Peczan Empire and their evil Sorceress Jennesta. The Wolverines risk their lives to liberate the oppressed orcs from human domination. Their efforts to spark the feral berserker nature of their submissive local peers lead to a civil war.

Using the stars that let them dimension hop to Acurial they land on a world mostly made up of water with islands as the only land. They land on one island populated by dwarves who believe the newcomers are gods especially the dwarves who are part of the Wolverine horde. When slavers kidnap a dwarf, the Wolverines go after them. In their way is Peli Madigan of the Gateway Cops whose job is to get the stars and bring them back to her order as it is too dangerous for individuals to use. Jennesta lands on the world forcing Stryke to make a decision no sentient being should have to make; the Wolverines believes they can win against overwhelming odds, but must find the courage to battle their enemies.

Tolkien gave Orcs a bad name, but Stan Nicholls redeems them with his Wolverines who are good with a strong sense of morality especially by making them do what they promise once they give their word.. Although battle ready, the group prefers other options before choosing war as a last resort (if only President Bush was a Wolverine). Filled with action that never slows down on dry land or water, readers will be fascinated by the two worlds the Orcs visit on their quest and look forward to final book in the so far entertaining trilogy.

Red Claw
Philip Palmer
9780316018937 $12.99

Professor Richard Helms leads the classification of the animalia and plantae found on recently discovered New Amazon. The planet is a nightmare with its acid rain and the discovery of "kingdomshifters". Still even with the hostile orb seemingly at war with the outside occupiers, the team of scientist protected by genetically enhanced human commandos and gigantic robotic soldiers finish the cataloguing of this alien ecosystem.

The invaders plan to burn everything to the ground so they can terraform New Amazon into a place for humans to live without wearing protective helmets. Instead of the final solution, the crew is attacked by a flying seemingly invincible monster forcing them to find shelter in the deadly jungle. Survival of the fittest means betraying your friends and lovers as the rain forest proves lethal as does the robots. As the human number dwindle Helms fails to take the helm as the commandos with weapons overwhelm the scientists,

Although this tale has a pulp feel with an over the top of Mt Olympus satirical stripping away civilization story line, fans will enjoy this tale that is the Lord of the Flies in outer space. The story line is fast-paced and filled with dark humor starting with Dr. Baal's opening "whatever" diary and never slows down as terraforming becomes terror forming. Filled with several twists, readers will enjoy Red Claw as the scientists argue how to classify gryphon, Godzilla, and seditious killing robots while the mercenaries argue how to survive the hostile ordeal with pathetic intelligentsia leaches unable to set up camp.

Double Cross
James David Jordan
9780805447545 $14.99

Taylor Pasbury gained her experience from her late Special Forces dad who raised her as a single parent starting when she was nine as her mom deserted both of them. She gained bureaucratic experience working for the Secret Service and now as she is closing in on thirty runs her own personal protection service firm in Dallas.

She and her client twenty years old Kacey Mason are meeting the personal assistant of the latter's recently murdered father to discuss with Elise Howden what happened to a half million dollars missing from the Simon Mason World Ministries. Kacey is more than just a client as her dad the famous late televangelist Simon stopped Taylor's destructive freefall; she owes him and is paying him by being a big sister to his daughter. The pair find Elise dead inside her running car in what looks like a suicide by a FORSAKEN person caught embezzling. With the Lewisville police, FBI Agent Michael Harrison, and the return of mom, Taylor's efforts to investigate Elise's carbon monoxide death is crowded though her taking a thumb drive serendipitously from the vehicle goes a long way to clear the fog even if the laptop is missing. The real crowding comes from someone who wants Taylor and Kacey to end their inquiry.

Double Cross is an exhilarating inspirational investigative thriller starring a kick butt born again heroine who seeks redemption by being there for Kacey; just like their fathers were there for her when she most needed guidance, love and salvation. Ironically, the return of mom is a new test for Taylor as she struggles to forgive. The investigation is super with several terrific twists as James David Jordan cleverly wraps his message of to forgive is the divine path to redemption inside the inquiry.

Stuff to Spy For
Don Bruns
9781933515229 $25.95

In Carol City, Florida, Skip Moore begins work as security at Synco Systems, a firm that designs software systems to protect information technology networks. He is greeted on his first day on the job by Sarah Crumbly, who he dated back in high school a few times and she is still the STUFF DREAMS ARE MADE OF. They dine together and she persuades Skip to work for her by pretending to be her boyfriend. Though he fears his Em will find out the money is too good for this underachiever to pass so he agrees.

Sarah, who in high school was the most likely to succeed, has done so as the mistress of Sandy Conroy, Synco's CEO. They plan to leave the country but need a front to hide their affair from his vengeful wife Carol who would go to her father to destroy her husband. However, security takes a nasty spin when the company's vice president Ralph Walter apparently commits suicide in his office. When Carol offers him money to uncover what is going on at Synco, Skip with the help of Em and his best friend and fellow slacker James Lesser begin an undercover operation that would make James Bond proud (not to be part of it).

STUFF TO SPY FOR is an out of control insane South Florida investigative thriller that will have readers laughing throughout with the antics of the super espionage team and their spy truck. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never takes a breather as the two slackers and Em work the case more like "double-naught spy" Jethro Bodine of The Beverly Hillbillies than James Bond

Wyatt's Revenge
H. Terrell Griffin
9781933515533 $24.95

Retired lawyer Matt Royal enjoys mellowing at his home in Longboat Key, Florida. The Vietnam vet prefers doing nothing of consequence and believes he earned it after years of trial by fire.

However, his idyllic life is interrupted when someone assassinates his friend Professor Laurence Wyatt, who like Royal was a trained killer, but became a gentle soul once he left the military. Their mutual friend Debbie the bartender and hacker does some data base mining for Royal who got a tip from the cops, but finds nothing of interest except Michael Ruperts who turns out to be a one trick ghost. Soon after Royal begins his inquiry, someone fire bombs his car and shoots at him. However, the persistent beach bum learns another Floridian professor working with Wyatt on a Vichy France study was also murdered. With his friends Jock Algren and Logan Hamilton as back up, Matt goes after the assailant trying to prevent him from learning the truth now and in WW II France; unaware the answers lie in Frankfort.

Although somewhat linear with no major twists, the fourth Royal thriller (see Blood Island, Murder key and Longboat Blues) is an entertaining tale as the hero gets shot at on two continents. The story line is fast-paced from the opening moment when a stunned Royal cannot believe someone splattered the brains of Wyatt and never slows down as Matt follows clues and dodges murder attempts. Fans will enjoy the lay back retiree proving he remains a trained killer.

The Tuloriad
John Ringo & Tom Kratman
9781439133040 $26.00

To save humanity, the Posleen aliens had to be defeated as the latter considered the former beneath them on the food chain; a source of sustenance. The final battle leaves mankind struggling but thriving and the Posleen almost extinct. Those few surviving Posleen begin a desperate mission to track their heritage although many of the sentient races belonging to the treacherous Galactic Confederation would prefer the final solution instead of what the Posleen may learn.

At the same time, the Posleen prepares its trek, the victors in the war send missionaries from the major religious groups to convert the heathens to their particular religion. These self appointed emissaries of God catch up to the Posleen researchers. The Poleen are finding shocking evidence of their origins that shake the earthlings and representatives from the other races like the devious Darhel and the legacy of the benign manipulative Aldenata is not the altruism they thought they pursued. Hell and distrust between and even within species is the norm.

The latest entry in the Posleen-Humanity science fiction thriller (adding war to the title seems inappropriate at this point) has less action than usual as John Ringo & Tom Kratman raise fascinating questions about religion, military intervention, and social rules. The story line however is very thin as the concepts for instance of the Muslim marital allowance, the "white man's burden" and the American invasion to take out a brutal bully in Iraq have parallels but never quite explored beyond a slim veneer as the authors detract from the plot with their opinion. Still fans of the series will enjoy this cerebral turn as the Posleen come across less B movie monstrous and more humane with the underlying theme asking do other sentient species have souls.

Exodus: The Ark
Paul Chafe
9781439133224 $16.00

The earth was nearly extinct when the Ark was launched on a ten thousand year trek to another star system. However the desperate designers had not considered the mental state of those on board after centuries have passed since the chosen departure. Those descendants by Shipyear 3809 are clueless that they ride a humongous space ship. Instead the Prophetsy evolved as a terrorizing theocracy.

Although most people live in fear as slaves with a few masters, some of the oppressed remain mentally strong. Danil has spent his life in bondage, but believes the time to overthrow the brutal despots is coming and he plans to be part of the liberation. Annaya, the daughter of the ruler the Prophet Polldor, detests the primogeniture male only system that prevents her being next in line though she feels superior in every sense than the heir apparent her brother Olen. Her father plans to marry her to the best ally, but had not considered the desire of his offspring to become the next ruler although only a male heir can become the next Prophet. Instead of a dutiful marriage Annaya plots to overthrow both her father and the Prophetsy itself. Olen agrees to support his sibling's plan to overthrow their father, but assumes he will sit on the throne.

The exciting second Exodus science fiction (see Genesis) with a twisting nod to Macbeth is fast-paced though not quite faster than the speed of light. The theocratic two caste culture of ruling and slave classes on board the Ark is an entertaining look at societal development in an enclosed environment; a sort of island in space. The prime three protagonists are fascinating though none developed beyond their intense interrelationship with the other two. Still fans will enjoy riding along on Paul Chafe's Ark several centuries of generations after the original pioneers left the doomed planet earth.

Hex in High Heels
Linda Wisdom
9781402218194 $6.99

Blair Fitzpatrick is young, independent and pretty who is a boda fide powerful witch, whose specialty is creating hexes. Carpenter Jake Harrison appeals to Blair on many levels, but the loner took a long time before telling her he was a Were. He never mentions his former pack and always keeps his distance from people. Bair knows he is interested in her as she is with him.

Jake's former pack comes to town looking to buy land from Blair; this would let them be in his backyard with his brother Roan as the alpha. She refuses to sell even as she sees Jake's mom Vera and Roan despise him. They are irate that he changes into a mere canine while everyone else becomes a wolf. Vera wants her son dead, but Jake has allies including Blair who have his back from the alpha female leader of the pack.

The latest hexing romantic urban fantasy (see 50 WAYS TO HEX YOUR LOVER and HEX APPEAL) is a fabulous entry with a wonderfully ironic twist as Vera seeks to purchase a reverse spell from Blair to use against her son. There is plenty of action as mother and son confront one another, but HEX IN HIGH HEELS is character driven as the audience sees deep inside the pack and their thoughts and musing, know how Jake feels with his brood in town, and of course there is the bewitching heroine who will put a hex on those who fail to read her escapades.

Lord of the Far Island
Victoria Holt
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312384173 $13.99

When she was five years old her mother died so Ellen Kellaway moved in with her wealthy adult third cousins William and Agatha Loring and their daughter Esmeralda. Cousin Agatha never conceals for one moment she resents the poor relative living with her and cannot wait to toss Ellen out of the house. That moment occurs when Ellen turns eighteen as Agatha informs her charity ends now. She is directed to accept a position as governess to Cousin Agatha's friend, the Honorable Mrs. Oman Lemming, which is as unappealing as remaining in the current household where she is unwanted. Her handsome childhood friend Phillip Carrington proposes and Ellen accept. A tragedy prevents their nuptials as apparently he commits suicide though Ellen cannot believe he was so filled with despair as to shoot himself.

Adapting once gain to her dismal fate, Ellen receives a letter from Jago Kellaway, who claims to be her guardian and the Lord of The Far Island, inviting her to meet her family at their ancestral home. Without a look back, Ellen travels to Kellaways Island, off Cornwall. Jago and Ellen are attracted to one another, but she believes he is concealing something sinister. She begins to fall in love with him as she begins to uncover his dark secrets that he hides from her.

This reprint of a 1975 gothic romance remains an exciting tale with a final spin that will stun the audience although a coda denouement helps explain what happened. The story line is in two parts: London and the Far Island with the first hundred pages setting up the remaining two hundred plus pages. The action is a bit slow until Ellen goes to Far Island when the story line switches gears. Fans will enjoy Victoria Holt's fine tale that holds up nicely three and a half decades after it was first released.

The Disciple
Stephen Coonts
St. Martin's
9780312372835 $26.99

CIA Middle Eastern Operations chief Jake Grafton assigns his top operative Tommy Carmellini to work inside Iran as there is fear that maniacal fundamentalist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is close to having his finger on a nuclear trigger. The Iranian leader wants a holy war to the death with the west and he believes his side will win.

As Tommy watches and gathers information, he has Iranians supporting him; many fear Ahmadinejad's legacy will be a stone age Iran. While Israel considers bombing Iran's nuclear sites as it did Syria, Tommy's efforts and that of his associates and his boss fail to prevent the madman from firing missiles throughout the Middle East under the guise of martyrdom. Tommy and Jake to try to deflect his assault of missiles, including some nuclear, that Iran has fired in order to stop WW III from occurring.

This is a tense thriller that places the stars of in what feels like a potentially realistic extrapolation of headline news with recent revelations re Iranian hidden nuclear developments. The story line is fast-paced starting with the opening sequence of the Israeli destruction of the Syrian nuclear plant as told to readers by a Russian adviser killed at the site and never slows down. Though obviously biased as the American heroes are hawk patriots (not the chicken hawk couch potato variety of send someone else); the action enables the reader to know who are allies and enemies as Stephen Coonts provides a super tale of vaporization while exposing Ahmadinejad's fanatical background that goes back to even before the fall of the Shah.

Apocalypse Happens
Lori Handeland
St. Martin's
9780312366025 $7.99

Hell has opened the portal to earth so warrior Elizabeth Phoenix heads to Los Angeles to close it before the Apocalypse Happens. However, as she battles to control her dueling nature, the leader of the light Liz is stunned as someone long dead is alive. Still she must prevent the Varcolacs half dragons from causing the ultimate eclipse that will plunge the earth into total darkness as the sun and moon will be destroyed. Sill even if she wins, Liz sentences many to death.

At the same she struggles with simply saving the world, she wonders about her relationships. Her former lover Jimmy Sanducci returns and her mentor Navajo shaman Sawyer seems to want her on a more personal level. Perhaps it is all her doomsday fighting, but she is unsure whether she trusts either of the men in her life.

The latest Phoenix Chronicles (see Doomsday Can Wait and Any Given Doomsday) is a gritty urban fantasy starring a kick butt heroine who finds her world turning uglier and darker as she has reached the point that she distrusts the two men in her life. Although at times the story line feels overwhelming to Liz and to the reader with so much going on, fans will enjoy her latest escapades as the heroine knows that even delaying doomsday does not prevent Apocalypse Happens.

Life on Top
Clara Darling
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312536947 $14.99

Sophia Steele has just graduated from Boston College. The mathematics super brain has a master plan drilled down to the minutest level imaginable as she begins her new job in New York. She moves into her sister Bella Marie's Manhattan apartment while constructing a perfect financial portfolio to make her fortune. Things start off wrong when she arrives at Bella's apartment and her sibling is not home. Sophia lets herself in and begins exploring though she admits to herself that her sister would call it nosy probing. When Sophia finds Bella's stash of erotica, she is stunned as her sibling humiliates herself with her actions.

Bella enjoys being a Penthouse Pet. She enjoys the photos and especially the fantasies she indulges in. She knows her younger sister will learn the truth about her secret life but Bella is not ashamed as she enjoys her sexual life. Bella looks forward to mentoring the new college grad and the other newbies until she receives a shocker that matches that of her sister.

Based on the TV show, LIFE ON TOP is a fascinating look at two yuppie sisters with different plans as to how to make it in Manhattan. The older sibling uses her model perfect body and sex in the city while the newbie plans on her business degree and brains to achieve her goal. The latter modifies her plan. Readers will enjoy this somewhat over the top slice of making it in New York as a Penthouse Pet.

The Crisis
David Poyer
St. Martin's
9780312544393 $25.99

The western governments are very concerned with the civil war in Ashaara on the strategically important Horn of Africa. The constant fighting has sent the country into deepening destitution with shortages in sustenance life necessities in a place that was already overrun with abject poverty. If the spiral turns any worse, Ashaara could become a nation void of central authority and home to outlaws and Jihadists.

To prevent this horror from turning even more calamitous, the US Navy sends Commander Dan Lenson and his Tactical Analysis Group into the area to provide humanitarian aid to the besieged masses and to train a patrol squad in the Red Sea. With chaos the norm, Lenson and his unit realizes they cannot distribute the assistance without an infrastructure followed if successful by a force to weed out terrorists. However, what seems obvious to aid the forlorn proves complex and ugly as internal and external forces see the region as a ripe place for their specific agenda with people being damned.

The Crisis is a super thought provoking thriller that will have readers pondering ethical and logistical questions involving aid to nations desperately in need but lack the infrastructure to make proper distribution. The story line is fast-paced from the moment TAG and its leader receive the assignment, but really takes off in Africa when the team learns the boots on the ground dynamics of the situation is appallingly chaos. Alliance switch within a murmur and helping the indigent is impossible due to avarice of leaders who seek wealth or ideological and religious advantage over truly caring for the downtrodden.

P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312567484 $17.95

In Tulsa, Zoey Redbird and her friends should be able to celebrate their victory with some R&R after they kicked the butt of High Priestess Neferet, the immortal Kalona and their horde of Raven Mockers. However there is no respite for the teen, as the danger remains extremely high. Her visions warn her to beware Kalona, but Zoey knows she is probably the only who can prevent the Immortal from destroying the world. Perhaps more difficult is the males in her life like Erik and Heath.

Stevie Rae has Johnny B and Dallas with her, but still works with Zoey while also hiding something from her. When Zoey finds a severely hurt Stevie Rae she saves her life. Still Zoey knows she delays the inevitable as she must risk all in a confrontation with Kalona while worried about those close to her heart.

The latest House of Night tale is a transition urban fantasy that spins Zoey and Stevie Ray into new directions. Rotating viewpoint between the two best buddies (and occasionally others), fan will enjoy this fun entry as Mama and Daughter Cast sets up new deadly tests for Zoey, Stevie Rae and company.

Bryant & May On The Loose
Christopher Fowler
9780553807196 $25.00

With the dissolution of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, the eleven living members (to include the cat) feels good about what they accomplished and assume their one deceased member looks down on them fondly. However each will miss this peculiar team as the camaraderie between the misfits assigned here was stratospheric as was their success rate. Senior Detectives Arthur Bryant and John May react differently to the end of their police careers. Whereas the depressed former hides under the covers with his books as companions the latter considers going private.

However, all changes when a half man-half stag apparently abducts women followed by the finding of a severed head corpse found in King's Cross. May eloquently points out to the Home Office bureaucrats that if the crimes are left unsolved it could paint a nasty picture of London just before the 2012 Olympics come to the city. Reluctantly the brass authorizes the PCU to work on the severed head case for a week, but with conditions. They have no access to the "real" police, no official authorization, no computers, and no running water toilet in the rental dump provided to the PCU team. May reassembles the team, but a grateful Bryant focuses on the headed stag-man rather than the homicide.

The seventh PCU zany police procedural is the usual insane mix of humor with the criminal absurd in what is always a super read. May is his usual optimistic self while Bryan remains the pessimist. However what makes their case so much fun is Christopher Fowler slices the top off of the glass so it is full. Fans will relish the return in the aptly titled BRYANT & MAY ON THE LOOSE; as the bureaucrats and politicians have as much to fear from this duet as the felons.

Dean Koontz
9780553807158 $28.00

After being a military sniper, Grady Adams lives in an isolated part of the Rockies where he works as a craftssman. One day in the forest he sees a strange light and knows musingly nothing will be the same. Grady observes two white creatures playing and knows they sense his nearness somehow. Frightened by what he has seen, he and his Irish Wolfhound Merlin race home.

At the same time on a horse farm, veterinarian Dr. Camilla Rivers is shook by what she sees. All the horses seem in some sort of trance as if they sense something big is coming.

Grady calls Cammy to come over to his house to look at something strange. The two creatures he saw in the woods make themselves at home in his cabin as Grady is entranced by them as they seem beautiful, pristine and pure. Cammy arrives and knows they are a different species. They name the pair Puzzle and Riddle. However Homeland Security learns of the existence of the due and come to confiscate them in order to test them. Conny and Grady refuse to allow the rendition of the odd pair, but remain unsure how to prevent it.

Animal lovers will especially relish Dean Koontz's latest thriller that insists evil must be dealt with and can come in various forms; just because something new and different is found does not make them malevolent. Instead something familiar can be the wicked and those with ethics will step up to prevent the heinous from inheriting the earth. The creatures slowly reveal who they are to their adopted human pets, which makes Grady and Cammy even more resolute to keep them safe. With plenty of mysteries at the core of the exciting story line, Dean Koontz is at his best with this thought provoking thriller as the monstrosities are not always obvious.

Murder Had a Little Lamb
Cynthia Baxter
9780553592375 $7.99

Veterinarian Dr. Jessica Popper runs a mobile clinic Reigning Cats and Dogs that does house calls; saving the animals from having to go to an office. Commitment phobic Jessica has been engaged to Nick Burby for ages when she suddenly decides on a big wedding. After months of putting up with her future mother-in-law's demands, Nick and Jess are about to exchange vows when a scream from one of the catering servers halts the festivities.

Inside the reception hall is the body of cousin Nathanial Stibbins who is the black sheep on the groom's side. Nick's mom invited Nathanial as she thought that was the right thing to do. She demands that Jessica find her nephew's killer starting at the Worth School on Long Island. Jessica obtains a summer job there teaching students how to properly care for their pets while also subtly questioning staff and faculty about Nathanial. She learns he made plenty of enemies in his climb to the top; any of them would want him dead. Ignoring letters warning her to abort her investigation, Jessica finds evidence that points towards one suspect, but she has doubts as what was complex and convoluted abruptly became too simple and linear.

Putting aside the unlikely mother-in-law scenario, readers who adore cute animals in their mysteries will appreciate Murder Had a Little Lamb. This amateur sleuth is well constructed with many suspects possessing strong motives that lead the audience to understand how vicious and backstabbing Nathanial must have been as even his betrayed friend and his lover loathed him. The romantic subplot enhances the whodunit bringing warm depth to the intrepid heroine as part of an overall fun thriller.

The Tomb of Hercules
Andy McDermott
9780553592948 $7.99

After THE HUNT FOR ATLANTIS proved successful, the UN named archeologist Nina Wilde as the Director of Operations of the International Heritage Agency though she is not even thirty years ago. The mission of the IHA is to safeguard artifacts from looters. Former SAS operative Eddie Chase is her live-in boyfriend and personal protector. Terrorists attack the IHA research station above Atlantis killing everyone. Led by Joe Komosa they force Dr. Bill Raynes to download data onto a flash drive; before dying Raynes sees the last two entries are Wilde and Chase. Officialdom called it a horrible accident.

Three months later, Nina and Eddie hobnob with the rich and famous in New York although Eddie feels like a fish out of water even as they are on the harbor. They meet non-executive director of IHA, affluent Shanghai businessman Richard Yuen Xuan and his wife Lady Sophia. Eddie and Nina get into a nasty public argument and go their separate ways. Nina is determined to find THE TOMB OF HERCULES that she has been researching and Eddie as resolute goes to Singapore to rescue his former wife Sophia from her boorish husband. On separate continents someone tries to kill them. Soon the pair unites on the lam with a powerful adversary in pursuit who wants the Plato manuscript that Nina allegedly has found.

This adrenalin pumped story line is on speed as the plot is filled with action from the start and never takes a breather even for a cocktail on a yacht. Although over the top of the stratosphere make that mesosphere and the characters even the villain never developed beyond fighting and the lead couple making up, fans will have a difficult time putting down Andy McDermott's epic thriller.

Christmas Spirit
Amy Garvey
9781420108194 $6.99

Scoop Magazine reporter Sam Landry does not want to travel to Martha's Vineyard to interview former teacher novelist Charlotte "Charlie" Prescott about the ghost she mentioned to her next door neighbor Lillian. Charlie recently inherited her late aunt's house to include the ghost. However her biggest problem is her attraction to Sam as she keeps thinking he must be a good kisser in the romantic comedic manner of a 1940s ghost story.

Sam scorns the existence of ghosts until he sees nothing drinking eggnog. He is also confused as to how mistletoe seems to be everywhere he and Charlie go in the house; mind you not that he is complaining as he enjoys the ritual with Charlie. Accompanied by Lillian, they try to learn the identity of the ghost and why the free wheeling spirit seems to want to matchmake Sam and Charlie; not that either is complaining.

This is a fast-paced somewhat lighthearted paranormal romance that readers will enjoy although the ending feels too hasty and sudden. Sam and Charlie make a nice couple while the research into the ghost brings out information on the controlling side of the spirit. Amy Garvey provides a fun thriller in spite of the curt climax.

Darkness Unleashed
Alexandra Ivy
9781420102970 $6.99

After centuries of torture, vampire Jagr escaped, but now prefers being alone with his only companion being books. However, his superior amongst the Guardians of Eternity Chicago clan of warriors Anasso Styx assigns him a mission that Jagr would like to reject, but knows he cannot. He is to find and escort back to their haven recently discovered pureblood were-sisters of Styx's wife Darcy (see Darkness Everlasting).

Regan Garrett spent a seeming lifetime being tortured by a nasty imp. Whereas she wants to enact vengeance she knows she also does not want to ever beholden to a male. Worse Regan recognizes her wannabe rescuer is not just a soul she lusts over, but much more. Meanwhile other folks want the pureblood for their nefarious schemes, forcing two tortured souls to decide between a loving team up or two solo acts.

The latest Guardians of Eternity urban romantic fantasy stars two intriguing lead characters who have tasted the worst of the Darkness tale, but now face something even more horrific considering their respective pasts: love. Neither wants it nor welcomes it, but both cannot ignore it as each is used to being alone rather than have a mate, a sister or a friend. They make the tale as love devastates their hermit existence while a horde want the pureblood, but Jagr would die before he allows any of them to harm his soul mate.

Dying Scream
Mary Burton
9781420100280 $6.99

The DUI shattered Adrianna Barrington's life as she lost the baby she was carrying and her husband Craig Thornton never came out of the coma. Although the other driver drunkenly caused the accident, Adrianna went bankrupt to pay the medical bills; finally leading to her selling her family estate.

However, the buyer demands the family graveyard be relocated, but when the extraction begins, more bodies are found than should be there. Detective Gage Hudson investigates. Soon afterward three females who knew Craig vanish while Adrianna receives calls and cards from allegedly her dead husband claiming he misses his wife and will soon come for her.

This is a tense romantic suspense that grips the audience from the moment Adrianna receives an anniversary card from the grave. The story line is fast paced throughout with the "required" romantic subplot taking a needed back seat to the thriller elements especially that of a serial killer who either is her husband whom the beleaguered heroine interred though he is not in his coffin or something or someone else playing Craig's life, but motive remains elusive. Dying Scream is a taut serial killer investigative thriller.

All He Desires
Anthea Lawson
9781420104578 $5.99

In 1848 Miss Caroline Huntington is riding while on a Crete holiday when she tumbles. Reclusive Dr. Alex Trentham is called to provide medical assistance to Caroline although he has not practiced in years.

They are attracted to one another, but she goes home to London to continue her work with the poor while he continues to hide in Greece. The Earl of Twickenham decides he wants to adopt his niece Caroline. Her cousin Reginald rages in anger blaming his father for betraying him with this outrageous gesture that will reduce his inheritance. Others want to harm her too just as Alex arrives to plea with the woman he loves to give him a second chance.

This entertaining Victorian romance stars an intriguing lead male and an intrepid heroine. The fun is observing Alex out not just protecting his beloved but more so in his efforts to persuade her in all sincerity that he is PASSIONATE about his love for her. Although the villains seem a bit weak especially cousin Reginald, fans will enjoy Anthea Lawson's exciting mid nineteenth century tale as Caroline and Alex make for a wonderful historical.

Taming The Beast
Heather Grothaus
9781420102437 $6.99

In 1101 Roderick Cherbon ran way from his abusive father enlisting with the Crusades. However, he is severely hurt in battle and only saved by his friend Hugh Gilbert at the hospital in Constantinople where he lost part of a leg due to infection. While there he learns he needs to return to England as his nasty sire is dead and he must marry before his thirtieth birthday coming soon or his handsome cousin Lord Alan Tornfield will inherit the estate.

Scarred and with no prospects, Roderick assumes he even lost to his father from the grave. Alan humiliates Lady Michaela Fortune by marrying someone else. Instead she proposes a marriage of convenience with Roderick, who reluctantly accepts. She vows to herself to earn his trust and win his love, but Alan is outraged by what she has done to him with her marital betrayal so he pursues her because he insists he misses her or as she surmises wants to break up the couple for avarice nefarious reasons.

Taming the Beast is an enjoyable medieval romantic suspense with an eerie paranormal subplot providing additional tension. The story line is character driven as Beauty and the Beast fall in love, but his villainous seemingly insane cousin has two strong reasons to destroy their relationship. Fans will appreciate this early twelfth century tale as Roderick seeks lone and justice, but expects neither though Michaela gives him hope.

Wild Heart
Lori Brighton
9781420108651 $4.99

In 1855 Lord Roberts worries about his adult grandson Leo, who will inherit the title and estate. When Leo was seven while living in India, he witnessed the murders of his parents and has not really recovered from the trauma. He lived alone until he was found and brought home to England to live with his grandfather. However, Leo taunts Polite Society's rules, which relegates him to being an outsider.

His grandfather hires Ella Finch to serve as a sort of governess teaching Leo how to behave amidst the Ton. Ella soon realizes Leo has been pulling a bit of a ruse as he is a lot more sophisticated than the feral beast he portrays. The teacher and the student are attracted to one another, but he remains obsessed with one goal: finding the individual who killed his parents.

With several interesting paranormal twists, this is an engaging Victorian romance starring a woman who can sort of talk to the animals and a man on a mission who has the "means" to block emotions. Their relationship evolves as she concludes her pupil is a sham when it comes to manners and he fears his attraction to her will deter his quest. Fans will brighten up with this charming whimsical mid nineteenth century tale of love.

One Snowy Knight
Deborah MacGillivray
9781420104509 $5.99

In 1296 most of the Craigendan men of fighting age fell in battle at Dunbar to the English Dragons of Challon to include the keep's laird. His widow Lady Skena MacIain takes charge of protecting their tiny surviving clan, which is too tiny for any outsider to come in the frozen winter. Still she knows her keep is strategically a prize for King Edward even though he will ignore it until the spring thaw. She needs a new biddable spouse who will not harm her children or her people before the monarch sends one of his bloody dragons to wed her.

Once a squire to the king, Noel de Servian fails to heed his royale advice to wait until spring to come to the keep he now owns. As a blizzard leaves him near death he regrets his foolishness until he is rescued by an angel. Skena saves the idiot from himself and the weather. As they fall in love, she hides her feelings that her husband is either still alive or a ghost haunting the castle while also hoping the newcomer brings joy and safety to her keep; he conceals his affinity to the king as one of his dreaded Dragons.

The latest Dragons of Challons medieval romance (see RESTLESS KNIGHT) is a wonderful enjoyable tale due to the lead couple as each hides something critical from the other. With the mystery of whether the Laird lives as a mortal in hiding or a spirit, fans will enjoy this fine late thirteenth century Scottish romance as the resolute duet prefer making love not war.

Once Upon A Knight
Jackie Ivie
9781420101669 $5.99

In 1457 in the Highlands Sybil Eschoncan runs the castle for her stepmother ever since her father died. Thus when her odious stepmother informs her she will marry Sir Ian, the healing herbalist is taken aback as she believes her intended is an evil shrimp only after her alleged treasure and cannot be the man her sister Kendran wished upon her.

His cousin arranges for Vincent Danzel to escape from prison with the stipulation he ruin Sybil; not physically as the odious relative plans to do this. Instead without laying one finger on Sybil, he plans to makes her fall in love with him and leave. Vincent assumes this should prove easy especially after he meets the mouse, but she stuns him with ordering him to take a bath. Soon the cocky confident charmer finds he is losing every encounter to Sybil who has Vincent convinced she has drugged his food or drink as he is falling in love. She persuades him to make love with her so she does not have to wed Ian. However, he wants more and struggles to convince his Sybil to marry him although she seems to be the one in control of their relationship.

This is an interesting mid fifteenth century gender war in which neither Sybil or Vincent understand the rules of the seduction game because the third party rule-maker has his own agenda. Although overly complicated with too many side subplots that in fairness bring out time and place, fans will enjoy the Highlander romance between the herbalist protected by Waif the wolf and the escaped convict, an expendable discard sent to seduce Sybil by her cousin.

Santa In A Stetson
Janet Dailey
9781420106640 $6.99

On a Texas ranch, model Diana Mills and cowboy Elijah "Lije" Masters meet during a shoot there. They are attracted to one another, but seem worlds apart. Yet they fall in love and marry.

The newlyweds go to live on his New Mexico ranch. However, Diana is stunned by the isolation after several years working runways in big city shows. There is no one for miles except Lije and his friend Jim Two Pony who seems to censure the new wife as not belonging here. Although not enchanted by the land, she decides to give her marriage until Christmas to work or else she leaves for the lights. Lije is over the top with rage when he spots Diana with another man; Jim Two Pony intercedes with wisdom.

This throwback to a gentler writing style is fun to follow although the path to happiness is straight and narrow. Fans of the author and anyone who relishes a sweet sensuous story starring two likable protagonists and a stereotype Native American sage will want to read Janet Dailey's latest Christmas offering even though there is not a Calder for miles.

Vow Of Seduction
Angela Johnson
9781420108576 $4.99

Katherine of Montclair and Alex de Beaumont marry, but almost immediately after exchanging their vows, he insists he must leave. Alex is sworn to support King Edward I, who is leading a Crusade to take back the Holy Land from the Infidels so on his wedding night he joins his monarch.

Almost a decade has passed since Alex left and never came home. Kat and others assume he died. Instead he lingered in a Saracen prison where he had plenty of time to think about his beloved Kit-Kat, whom he hurt with his departure and his inability to tell her he loved her. Alex vows if he ever returns he will earn her love by showering her with his.

In 1276 Alex comes home to find his Kat about to marry Sir Luc de Joinveille. She rejects Alex's plea saying she despises him and he is not welcome. Alex swears he changed and will prove to her that he has. However, someone wants them kept apart trying to kill either or both of them while Alex also seeks the traitor who left him dead back in the Holy Land.

This is a fabulous medieval romance starring two likable lead characters with well drawn flaws as each fear love for different reasons. He fled from love as he never felt like that before and she believes those she loves leave like him and her late parents. Although the plotters seem like half of England and this over the top of Big Ben (at least the original clock tower of the thirteenth century that is), fans will enjoy the gender war between the kick butt heroine and her born again wannabe champion.

Snow Angels
Fern Michaels, Marie Bostwick, Jana McMahan and Rosalind Noonan
9781420103649 $7.99

"Snow Angels," by Fern Michaels. Following the death of his wife, Olympic skier Max Jorgensen became a recluse; that is until three angels, Grace Landry and her two little girls, seek shelter from a storm.

"The Presents of Angels" by Marie Bostwick. Former Rockettes dancer Kendra Loomis is happy to be pregnant and loves her husband, the town pastor Andy, and her teenage stepdaughter Thea, but she has doubts about Christmas in Maple Grove Vermont rather than Rockefeller Center.

"Decorations" by Jana McMahan. After her husband Randy dumps her, Michelle Duncan starts over caring for her mother in Asheville and working at a Christmas store with no thought of men until she meets her sculptor neighbor Baxter Brow.

"Miracle on Main Street" by Rosalind Noonan. On Christmas Eve NYPD cop Joe Cody works a drug overdose case that depresses him even more than the fact he and his wife Shelia cannot afford much for their kids for the holidays; he wishes for a miracle and gets one as he learns what a true gift is.

These are four entertaining warm holiday contemporary dramas in which each offer nothing new but are fun to read story lines starring charming casts who find the Yuletide spirit.

A Cowboy Christmas
Janette Kenny
9781420106589 $5.99

In 1894 in Maverick, Wyoming, Ellie Jo Cade arrives from Denver as the new cook at the Crown Seven Ranch. Her employer Reid Barclay thinks she is beautiful, but has doubts she belongs on an isolated ranch where he raises thoroughbreds.

His initial impression of her not belonging on a ranch proves correct when she burns everything she bakes. Ellie Jo wants to make the holiday season like those she remembered enjoying at one time in her life, but cannot adapt to the wood burning, make that food burning stove. As her employer tries to catch a horse thief, her uplifting spirit proves contagious as he and the cowhands appreciate her efforts although not her food. As Ellie and Reid fall in love; he must make it right with his foster brothers Trey and Dave as they agreed as youths to take care of each other at the Guardian Angel's Orphan Asylum and she must reveal her secret and pray for a Yuletide miracle.

This is a terrific Americana tale that will have readers believing they are on a Wyoming ranch in the late nineteenth century as one can smell and visualize Ellie Jo's cooking fiascoes. The story line is warm and uplifting but fast-paced with a strong lead couple and support cast. With a fine overarching mystery tied to upcoming other "Foster Brothers" cowboy romances, fans will enjoy spending some time celebrating A COWBOY CHRISTMAS.

Seduce Me By Christmas
Deborah Raleigh
9780821780466 $6.99

His father the Earl embarrassed by his mistake sent his transgression his illegitimate offspring Raoul Charlebois to Dunnington; there the lad made friends with Fredrick (see Bedding the Baron) and Ian (see Seducing the Viscount). As a young adult, Raul has been a rake, but with his two best friends happily married, he now feels the time is right to investigate his unknown past starting with why his father paid 20,000 pounds to conceal him.

The December weather is typically cold and icy as he rides a horse to Cheshire for the first time in a dozen years. However, his steed Hercules becomes unnerved by a sudden darting little boy who apparently is knocked senseless. Raoul takes Jimmy and Master Willie to their guardian Miss Sarah Jefferson who resides in the gamekeeper's cottage on his father's estate. Raoul and Sarah are attracted to one another, but as they fall in love and he uncovers information about his heritage, he cannot move past the hurts of his childhood; Sarah prays for a Christmas miracle.

The third Dunnington historical romance stars two memorable lead characters and a strong support cast including the heroes of the previous novels (not read by me) who make for a fabulous Christmas tale. The mystery of the past enhances the present as Sarah loves Raoul, but knows he cannot fully return her regard until he lets go of his demons that co-share his heart with her. Deborah Raleigh provides a winning finish to her saga with this super stand alone that also wraps up the mystery of the late Mr. Dunnington's legacy.

Stealing Midnight
Tracy MacNish
9781420101706 $5.99

In 1806 in Pemarlag, England Rhys Gawain uses grave robbers to supply him the corpses he studies at night on his crumbling estate. The "medical researcher" who drove his wife away a decade ago leaves the details of paying the venders to his daughter Olwyn while he dissects the bodies in his lab. Olwyn also draws pictures of body parts.

The latest delivery from the Chester grave robbers proves a bit of a problem when Olwyn finds Lord Aidan Mullin breathing. He is totally confused with what happened and how he ended up with his angel. Olwyn absconds with the living corpse before her dad can practice on a live subject as she vows to escort him home. On their trek they fall in love, but he conceals a secret from her and her obsessed father follows them; she is unsure whether it is to bring his daughter home or his latest subject.

Although the lead couple is a terrific pairing especially with how capable the heroine is as a chip off her maternal block, her father brings a sinister sense of doom as he instills chills and thrills to the story line. Regency romantic suspense fans will want to travel with Rhys and Olwyn as she takes him home while her dad is in deadly pursuit.

The End
Salvatore Scibona
Riverhead (Putnam)
9781594484056 $16.00

In 1953 in the Italian neighbored Elephant Park in Ohio, the residents enjoy the annual August Feast of the Assumption. "Unwifed" and "Un-children" baker Rocco cannot accept his family left him; in fact he rejects the military informing him his son died in action in Korea. He expects every one of them to come home shortly.

The workaholic jeweler with nothing else in his life, the bone weary seamstress, the runaway teen, and the acrimonies elderly abortion doctor attend the Feast. They are just as lost as the baker is as they cannot accept desertion although each in some way has been affected by dissimilation. In fact in a macabre way they have each other as they and others unite when a few blacks try to enjoy the festivities but are not just unwelcome but hostilities turn violent with The End justifying the means.

This not a simple linear historical tale that goes from one point to the next until the end is reached; instead the story line is convoluted and difficult to follow, but once the reader adapts, he or she will appreciate a deep look into the window of the souls. A sort of Eleanor Rigby starring in the Outcast of Poker Flats; The End is a profound tale of what makes a community as the coming together is not necessarily positive. Not for everyone, Salvatore Scibona provides to his audience a resonating character study in which each of the key cast members find their respective past converge on a hot humid August 15 1953, a day of infamy for the lost residents of Elephant Park

U Is for Undertow
Sue Grafton
9780399155970 $27.95

In 1988 private investigator Kinsey Millhone reluctantly agrees to look into the claims of Michael Sutton. He insists he has regained a suppressed childhood memory of observing several men bury a package soon after four-year-old Mary Claire Fitzhugh vanished without a trace in 1972. She agrees to work the case one day at a time with her reevaluating at the end of each day whether the request is legitimate for her to continue searching for who killed Mary Claire Fitzhugh.

Millhone learns her her newest client is unreliable as he has told fabrications often times before and was only six years old at the time of the incident he claims to have witnessed. Still she accepts he believes what he said is true so she must connect the dots of his rambling convoluted account and look at the scene where he claims the corpse is buried.

This is a terrific Millhone investigative tale that brings alive the end of the Reagan Era while also providing a historiographical look at the Nixon period. The story line deftly rotates perspectives enhancing what the readers know that the sleuth has yet to learn. With Millhone at her best and the support cast tremendous, fans will relish U is for undeniably super.

Vampire Sunrise
Carole N. Douglas
Juno (Pocket)
9781439156773 $7.99

It has been years since the Millennium Revelation when all the creatures of myth and legend rose up from the shadows to reveal themselves to humanity. Delilah Street comes to Las Vegas from Wichita to work as a paranormal investigator. Deep below the Karnak Hotel lives a vast Egyptian vampire sect ruled by two Pharaohs; humans are bred and brought to them as food. Delilah rescued her lover Rick Montoya by giving him the Resurrection Kiss to restore his life.

After Rick was in a coma, Delilah finds she has the ability to kiss away from his back the scars he received while he was a slave for a master criminal.. He wakes up and remembers what happened to him and is determined to free the other humans held by the Egyptian vampires. Before they leave on their quest, the werewolf Cesar Cicerau summons Delilah to remove the ghost of the daughter he killed who haunts his hotel. A supernatural creature is stalking the hotel killing anyone who gets in the way. Delilah is clueless how to rid the hotel of this deadly fiend and the ghost while below ground the vampires are dining on humans.

The latest Street Paranormal Investigator thriller combines horror, mystery, romance, and sex into an exhilarating urban fantasy that puts the sin in Sin City. With plenty of twists, VAMPIRE SUNRISE is a roller coaster doing loops with each spin accelerating the ride. Readers will enjoy following the clues, surreal and mundane, as Carole Nelson Douglas lets Midnight Louie catch a cat nap while Delilah does the sleuthing above and under the streets of Las Vegas.

To Serve and Protect
Arianna Hart, Kit Tunstall, Trista A Michaels, and Delilah Devlin
Ellora's Cave (Pocket)
9781439131541 $14.00

"Convince Me" by Arianna Hart. The man charged through the door to the fundraiser cursing socialite Sareena and threatening to kill her for giving his battered spouse protection at a Brooklyn shelter. The attacker comes after her with a knife, but as police officer Brogan watches in horror, she disappears and a jaguar chases the sociopath into Central Park. Unable to resist her lure, Brogan escorts Sareena back to her apartment.

"Ablaze" by Kit Tunstall. Firefighters Nick and Paula enter the blaze at the Westbridge Academy and rescue Miri. After Miri is released form the hospital, Nick suggests a heated tryst, which out of character Miri agrees to.

"Fantasy Bar" by Trista Ann Michaels. Having fled from Meenus Prime to Klindor, Kira hides from the law. At the fantasy bar, she meets Jerrod, an undercover private investigator searching for her as she killed his best friend. Instead of bringing her back to justice, he indulges in their fantasies.

"Ride a Cowboy" by Delilah Devlin. Katelyn had enough of men after her nasty marriage until the Texan arrives to help renovate her new home. He offers to also renovate her body and heart too.

There four heated erotic romances run the gamut of urban fantasy, science fiction, suspense, and second chance but all contain strong females and men who understand their role is TO SERVE AND PROTECT the women they love and cherish.

Me And My Shadow
Katie MacAlister
9780451228383 $7.99

Doppelganger May Northcott has two major issues that could keep her from her beloved wyvern mate Gabriel. First she has a dangerous dragon shard inside her heart and second she remains in indentured servitude to sexual predator former demon lord Magoth.

However, while the loving couple struggles with her delicate conditions, the lethal black dragon Baltic has apparently come back to life. No one in their right mind trusts Baltic, so though he is PLAYING WITH FIRE and risking everything GOING UP IN SMOKE Kostya the black dragon demands a council showdown. While every creature jockeys for position, a pregnant Aisling Grey and her mate Drake await the birth of their child.

The latest Silver Dragons entry is a fabulous urban fantasy as everything even to a degree the storyline seems out of control, chaos lives in the heart of Katie MacAlister's saga. The story line is fast-paced form the onset and never slows down as Gabriel struggles to keep his beloved at his side and safe while the dragons are heading towards an encounter with a neat twist. Fans will enjoy visiting the chaotic charming world of Ms. MacAlister where the unbelievable becomes believable.

The Best Gift
Wendy Markham
9780451228444 $6.99

On Christmas morning 2009 in the San Francisco Bay area, Clara thinks her life is finally perfect after her disastrous time in 1941 when she learned she has breast cancer and fell in love knowing her GI Jed Landy was going to die at Normandy; he pledged to always find her no matter what (see If Only in My Dreams). Now in 2009 she loves her husband Drew and is seven weeks pregnant.

An earthquake hammers the Bay area. Clara keeps moving back and forth between 2009 and 2012. However what she observes in 2012 frightens her as she pregnant and alone except for boxes; Drew is nowhere and neither is the baby she was carrying in 2009. She begins flickering back and forth to Christmas 2012. She can't figure out what's going on with her future self. She's alone, hugely pregnant and the house is full of boxes. However, she keeps thinking back to 1941 and her eternal soul mate's pledge.

This is a terrific thought provoking tale that deftly combines time travel and reincarnation with the underlying theme that true love is forever. The beleaguered Clara is confused as she struggles between 2012 and 2009 but finds solace with her thoughts of 1941. Complicated and nonlinear, Wendy Markham continues her strong saga of love for all time.

The Bargain Bride
Barbara Metzger
9780451228451 $6.99

Their fathers arranged their marriage when she was thirteen and he was about to go fight against Napoleon. However, Persephone Goldthwaite has spent half her life waiting to tie the knot with Viscount Kendall Westmoreland. Both want to end their betrothal so he goes see her serendipitously to gain her concurrence.

However, West changes his mind upon meeting the beautiful effervescent Penny. Her father suggests Penny marry her stepbrother Nigel, son of his second wife. Instead West invokes the agreement, but his former lover and her odious step-sibling have other abduction plans for the pair that ignores West and Penny falling in love.

THE BARGAIN BRIDE is a humorous Regency romance filled with an eccentric cast that seems to have escaped from bedlam as their chaotic antics are fun to follow; but centered and owned by the lead couple. Fans will relish this fine historical as the battle for who marries Penny shapes into a zany free for all in which Penny must determine whom she can trust with her life. Topped by citations from the chronicles of "By Arrangement" heading each chapter, this is an amusing entertaining tale with a suspense subplot enhancing the jocularity; as Barbara Metzger is at the top of her game.

Take Me For A Ride
Karen Kendall
9780451228468 $6.99

In Manhattan ARTemis art recovery agent Eric McDougal is tracking down the stolen St. George necklace that allegedly was worn by Catherine the Great. Eric knows art restorer Natalie Rosen is the thief. Natalie borrowed the necklace worth $2 million no questions asked from her firm Luc Ricard Conservation and Restoration so her legally blind grandma Nonnie in Connecticut can validate what she believes, and if true once again touch and somewhat see the family heirloom stolen by Nazis decades ago.

Thus when Nonnie and her friend suddenly run away with the necklace for Russia, Natalie is stunned as she is left holding the legal bag. Eric believes Natalieand they team up in pursuit of two senior citizens leading them on a tango to Moscow

From Russia With Love is the theme of the latest "Take Me" ARTemis romantic suspense thriller (see TAKE ME IF YOU CAN and TAKE MET TWO TIMES). This fun tale takes readers on another rollicking ride this time chasing after the thieving grandma and her cohort. The story line is fast-paced from the opening theft and never slows down as the recover and the restorer fall in love during the merry chase.

Winter Kiss
Deborah Cooke
9780451228437 $7.99

The doomsday countdown that has lasted for more than a millennium seems to be ending as the shapeshifting dragons appear ready to finally defeat their adversaries the elemental Pyr who risk all to protect the earth. However, one Pry is in self-exile as his assessment is that he poses a danger to his peers. Delaney died, but the slayer Magnus brought him back to life using dragon blood.

Delaney fears Magnus may control him, but he also resolutely hunts the evil slayer with a strong need to destroy the malevolent concoction that returned him from the dead. However, as he stalks Magnus, Delaney meets his probable soul mate Ginger Sinclair who sends him into a firestorm frenzy of desire. They share one hell of a night, but though he wants to stay with her, his mission comes first. Ginger follows him and rushes into battle on the side of her beloved against a dragon.

The fourth Dragonfire "Kiss" firestorm urban romantic fantasy is an exciting tale with a superb ironic twist as Delaney meets his fire mate at perhaps the worst time this could occur. For her sake he leaves her to continue his quest, but underestimates Ginger's courage and intelligence. She makes this good vs. evil entry work and also makes it very entertaining and compelling.

To Desire A Devil
Elizabeth Hoyt
9780446406949 $6.99

A prisoner of war for seven years following the French and Indian War, Reynaud St. Aubyn finally escapes and returns home to London in 1765. He makes it home only to collapse crashing Beatrice Corning's boring in her mind political tea party until the arrival of the uninvited Reynaud, previously declared dead and her uncle named the earl.

Beatrice has loved Reynaud since she moved in to live with her aunt and uncle and saw his portrait hanging on the wall. She helps him heal physically from a fever and mentally from his incarceration. As she begins to fall in love with the real person beyond just the image, he rhinks of her as his muse, but he needs to know who betrayed their unit at Spinner's Fall and she needs to help him.

This is a super ending to the exciting late eighteenth century Legend of the Four Soldiers saga (see To Taste Temptation, and To Beguile a Beast). The story line is fast-paced as the disheveled ailing hero returns from the "dead" to fall in love but to also identify the traitor who cost them so much. Although the overarching theme is resolved in an intelligent way that remains consistent to the series, TO DESIRE A DEVIL primarily focuses on the relationship between Reynaud and Beatrice

Sins Of The Flesh
Caridad Pineiro
9780446543835 $6.99

Musician Caterina Shaw is dying from brain cancer. She agrees to be a guinea pig in genetic experiments conducted by Dr. Raymond Edwards in a hope this may save her life; she has no other prayer. The experiments work, but also have a side effect. She has super human skills and lost much of her memory. When she is accused o murder, Caterina flees needing to learn the truth and how to control her new abilities.

Raymond hires mercenary Mick Carrera to capture and bring Caterina back to him so he can continue his experiments on her; he prefers her alive, but dead is acceptable. However, when Mick catches up to Caterina he finds he wants to help her; as he rejects the idea she could be a psychopathic killer. Instead he takes her to his sister vowing to keep his Caterina safe; unaware that diabolical Raymond has other less ethical operatives working the extraction.

Sins of the Flesh is an action-packed thriller that never takes a breath once Caterina accepts the radical experimental treatment. The story line is faster than the speed of light, but though Caterina is fully developed, Mick is not so the audience never fully understands his motive to become a mercenary (especially once we meet his family) or to not bring her in even if he likes her. Caridad Pineiro provides another one of her super romantic suspense thrillers as the heat is on.

It Happened One Night
Lisa Dale
9780446406901 $6.99

Lana Biel dreams of seeing the world, but is devoted to helping her married sister Karin run their wildflower farm. Karin dreams of having a family but so far has not conceived. Lana ponders over living in Burlington and realizes she is not living her dream, but that of Karins'; she wants out without hurting her sibling but has no way to do so.

Lana becomes pregnant, but has doubts about raising a child especially as a single mom; besides she fears an infant will nuke her plans to leave Vermont. She turns to her best Eli Ward for advice as she has already ruled out an abortion. However, Eli has his own issue as he wants to tell Lana he loves her, but fears his revelation could result in the end of their friendship.

This is a fascinating Vermont contemporary extended family drama that is wildflower refreshed by the two sisters, who are realistic especially with their self indulgent whines (somewhat overdone with no cheese) making both of them not particularly likable. They make the tale as ironically Eli is a likeable player, but seems underdeveloped. Not an easy read, It happened One Night is a deep look at what happens to people when dreams are not fulfilled and even when they are.

Body in the Sleigh
Katherine Hall Page
9780061474255 $15.99

Faith Fairchild and her family spend Christmas together at their cottage on Sanpere Island in Penobscot Bay, Maine. At a local store, Faith finds the corpse of a teen named Norah in an antique sleigh. She assumes the young girl died from an overdose as there are no visible marks on the girl, but the police suspect her boyfriend is her killer.

On Christmas Eve goat farmer Mary Bethany calls Faith asking for help. Mary explains she has found a newborn boy with an enigmatic note and $50,000 inside her barn. While her husband the Reverend recovers from gallstone removal surgery, Faith searches for the biological mother. She locates college student Miriam whose boyfriend is a dealer. The amateur sleuth and the mom are in trouble from those who want both dead.

This is an exciting Christmas mystery as Faith and her family celebrates the holiday season together by her investigating the homicide and the baby abandonment while her spouse recovers from surgery with good cheer from the brood especially the children. The story line is fast-paced with two underlying messages of the lucrative drug trafficking is everywhere as the economics supersedes the law and the ethics, and the Fairchild family wishing everyone a happy holiday season with recipes and good cheer to all.

Beauty's Curse
Traci E. Hall
9781933836560 $7.95

In 1193 her family demands Galiana Montehue marry soon or else they will arrange a marriage for her. So far she has found no one appealing as her incredible beauty has become a curse that has hardened her to all these shallow charmers. Galiana takes a walk with her twelve year old twin brothers when they engage in a snowball fight in the near forest.

Abruptly a man with a sword threatens her siblings. Galiana throws a rock at him, hitting his head and knocking him out. The knight's men grab her to take care of their injured leader. When he awakens from his comatose state he is blind. As she nurses him back to health including his sight, they fall in love, but the royal spy Wallis O'Rourke must find the Breath of Merlin artifact to save the land from an evil ancient magic and marry the woman he loves before her father cuts off his head and other body parts.

With hints of Camelot, this is a terrific medieval romance as King William's espionage agent falls in love with his beautiful nurse while he is unable to see her "curse". The story line is fast-paced from the moment Galiana cast the first stone and never slows down until the final confrontation with her raging dad wanting his blood for her abduction. The twins put in-law relationships in perspective when they call him "her rapist". Traci E. Hall provides an exhilarating late twelfth century tale as the Montehue brood wants vengeance against the man who loves their daughter.

Lady Blue
Helen A. Rosburg
9781605420639 $7.95

After living on a cattle ranch in America eighteen year old Harmony Simmons arrives in London following the death of her parent. She moves in with her grumpy older sister Agatha who loathes her energetic sibling's lust for life.

The two sisters ride a coach that is robbed. Soon afterward Lord Farmington Anthony Allen arrives with a ring he insists he found. Harmony recognizes him when she stares into his eyes, but says nothing about his vocation. He thanks her by kidnapping her. Soon afterward he liberates her, but his efforts to court her as Lord Anthony is nearly impossible because Warden Agatha watches her younger sister like a hawk and distrusts the aristocrat who conceals something seemingly sinister.

This an enjoyable historical romance starring an intrepid caring heroine, a mysterious aristocratic highwayman besotted with her from their first ignominious meeting but unaware she knows his eyes anywhere from that first encounter, and her ogre older sister. The story line is fast-paced, filled with a whimsical mirth as Helen A. Rosburg tantalizes the audience and "Lady Blue" with her romantic felon while Agatha seethes and plots to rid them of Anthony Allen, lord or not.

Forty-Eight X: The Lemuria Project
Barry Pollack
9781934755020 $24.95

Israeli military intelligence is stunned with what they learn happened in a training camp in Pakistan. Somehow a super soldier using a scythe massacred dozens of terrorists. Totally confused as even the weapon of choice is from the age of Alexander the Great, the Israeli MI asks archeologists Egyptian Fala al-Shohada and her Israeli lover Joshua Krantz to invesitgate who and how.

In the United States, Princeton University Genetics PH.D candidate Maggie Wagner rejects the idea that her father, a Nobel laureate Stanford professor, committed suicide as officially reported. Instead she believes he was assassinated for his inquiry into something top secret: Project Lemuria.

While these people investigate on separate continents, on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, the United States has a team of geneticists working the Lemuria Project to create a Super Soldier. The goal is to reduce dramatically the casualties of war at least on our side. Colonel Link McGraw leads the experimentation with the understanding the brass is always right. Soon the American, the Israeli, and the Egyptian converge on Link's tropical island where primates in tuxedos serve dinner.

The premise of a super soldier has been done before, although Barry Pollack adds a genetics spin to his placing Captain America on the Island of Dr. Moreau. The story line is fast-paced but overloaded with tons of sidebar sex scenes that detracts from the thriller aspects. Still fans who enjoy an engaging DNA political military science fiction thriller will want to trek to the middle of the Indian Ocean where arrogant efforts to turn the myth of Lemuria into reality have begun with the humanzee.

Darkscape Redemption
R. Garland Gray
9781933836553 $7.95

In 3211 after serving as a Commander in a clan war, trader Declan de Douglas travels to Planet Forest from his home Braemar Keep on Planet Mars to negotiate a textile agreement between his clan and that of MacKendrick. Although filled with rage due in part to a DNA synthesis, the savage beast is calm every time he meets Fallon MacKendrick. Her father warns her to stay away from the savage as he is too dangerous, his clan deceitful, and besides her dad has completed a betrothal contract for her.

However, she is attracted to "Douglas the Savage", who reciprocate although he remains filled with guilt over the war and fury re his brother's DNA infused in him. When Fallon learns Declan has been kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery, she vows to rescue her beloved even as clan warfare seems ready to ignite again. However, in spite of the belief in knowledge is power by both clans, neither realize the real threat comes from a devious third party at a time when the solar system peace is fragile.

The premise behind the Darkscape tales is simply placing pre-Culloden Scotland in outer space; thus clan wars are all over the solar system and where they are not, hostilities are one incident away from exploding. Redemption adds a Romeo and Juliet twist to the mix. Although it helps to read the previous Darkscape science fiction romance (see The Rebel Lord) to better understand the dysfunctional relationships between the feuding clans and the story line is somewhat expected, R. Garland Gray provides readers with a super outer space opera.

The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life
Ivanka Trump
Touchstone (Simon & Schuster)
9781439140017 $24.95

This is in some ways more a self help book than an autobiography as the author uses her personal history to provide practical advice on how to make it especially in business, but in any relationship; i.e., like she had with her two famous parents. Ms. Trump makes it clear she is not just a daughter of two high powered wealthy parents though she acknowledges up front that gave her an edge. Instead she is extremely proud to have avoided the reckless out of control behavior of many of her second generation to become an ambitions vice president of the Trump Organization. She makes the case she earned the position as she understood her father could have at any time if she failed to be up to the task say' you're fired". Much of the advice focuses on how to use what positives you have to overcome the negative baggage everyone carries. Office chaos can further a career if the individual does not panic so be effective and efficient while selling yourself as name brand is everything. This memoir is well written as Ivanka Trump encourages people to go out and get what you want in work and life by working at it with a positive attitude.

Child Of Darkness
Jennifer Armintrout
9780778326700 $7.99

Human-Faery Queene Ayla has ruled for two decades in the Lightworld; having come a long way from once being an assassin (see QUEENE OF LIGHT). However, she has some recent concerns when an Upworld Fae warns her to beware of the elves and their allies the Waterhorses. Concerned over the safety of her daughter Cerridwen, Ayla proclaims her offspring will marry her advisor Cedric, who she believes will keep her daughter safe.

Cerridwen is outraged by her mother's declaration without consulting her. In fact she believes she loves Fenrick the elf. She runs away to be with her beloved, but to her consternation, Fenrick betrays her to the elves. Cerridwen becomes a prisoner of the increasingly feral elves-waterhorse allied horde. A despondent Ayla sends her mortal consort former Death Angel Malachi to rescue his offspring Cerridwen whom everyone assumes is the daughter of the late traitor Prince Garret and heir to the throne. War seems imminent.

This Lightworld/Darkworld fantasy thriller is an exhilarating tale that has become even more personal for Ayla when seemingly everyone on several planes wanted her dead. She may have come a long way from assassin to queene, but to Ayla the one constant is assorted species wanting her dead and now her daughter is in deadly danger. Cerridwen is a chip off the old danger block(s) and Malachi remains as kick butt as ever even if his soul mate has brought some mortal light to his former dark world. This is a terrific action-packed yet character driven tale.

Depraved Indifference
Joseph Teller
9780778326915 $7.99

Six months remain left on his three year suspension handed down by the Judicial Panel to criminal defense attorney Harrison J. Walker for allegedly accepting a bribe from a client (see The Tenth Case). Jaywalker struggles with the countdown until he can officially practice law his style once again.

Amanda Drake, the estranged wife of the Audi Assassin Carter asks for his help. Carter is doing time for vehicular homicide when is reckless driving caused a van with eight children to crash; killing all the occupants. Jaywalker explains his situation, but when she seems still interested in his help, he accepts the case. As he begins to review the available information, someone else is involved who wants the barred lawyer to take a hike.

The third Jaywalker legal thriller (see Bronx Justice) is once again a great tense tale as the hero walks a thin line with an incredible twist that takes the audience back to The Tenth Case. Throughout the defense attorney does what he does sarcastically and in contempt best, but with some ego reduction in a nod to Agatha Christie. Fans will relish his latest while newcomers should read The Tenth Case first for an enhanced understanding although that is not necessary as DEPRAVED INDIFFERENCE stands alone.

The Gatekeeper
Michelle Gagnon
9780778326724 $7.99

FBI Special Agent Kelly Jones is part of an investigative team looking into the brutal murder US Senator Duke Morris. The prevalent theory to the motive for such butchery is that his death is tied to Morris' highly visible role in ending illegal immigrants crossing into the United States; a warning of sorts to back off or else.

Kelly's fiance former agent Jake Riley agrees to help the boyfriend of a co-worker. Someone abducted Randall Grant's sixteen year old daughter, Madison.. The kidnappers' demands are shocking and unacceptable; Jake needs to rescue the teen soonest or all hell will break out, Soon these obviously separate cases collide in a frightening domestic convergence at a mystical being the Gatekeeper who somehow has united the most despicable violent hate groups in America preparing them for the third American Revolution.

The third Jones FBI thriller (see Boneyard and The Tunnel) is a super action-packed tale that occurs in a pulse pumping short time frame of June 25 through July 4. Ironically for most of the time, the lead pair works on separate nasty investigations until they connect when it seems too late. Set aside time as this one grips you from start to finish with two incredible unexpected twists as Michelle Gagnon makes the Pogo case: "We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us".

The Killing Hands
P.D. Martin
9780778326397 $7.99

Because of the odd wound at the victim's throat LAPD asks the FBI for assistance on this homicide. Los Angeles based agent Sophie Anderson is assigned to help resolve how the person died. The Austrian expatriate profiler agrees with the assessment no knife was used as the forensic evidence is lacking. Finally, Sophie concludes the predator is a grandmaster martial arts black belt who literally ripped open the throat of the deceased.

The corpse's identity also proves a puzzler as Saito Jun has been in hiding for about fifteen years. His appearance begs more questions than his vicious murder as he had ties to an Asian mob. Sophie fears his death means more than just a simple murder.

The latest Sophie Anderson FBI police procedural (see The Murderer's Club, Fan Mail and Body Count) is a refreshing entry due to who the victim is, why he suddenly resurfaces after a long hiatus and how he dies. Sophie is at her best as she puts together the how and ultimately struggles with the who and why, especially proving the actual person behind the murder and not just the Killing Hands of the hired gun.

Home In Time For Christmas
Heather Graham
9780778326878 $16.95

Shortly before Christmas, Melody Tarleton drives carefully on icy roads to spend part of the holidays with her parents. However, in spite of her caution, she almost runs over a man who appears out nowhere on the slick road. She helps confused Jake Mallory into her vehicle. He is wearing eighteenth century garb while insisting he never seen anything like the vehicle she is driving them in.

Although she believes he is either severely injured to the head or a con artist, Melody takes Jake to her family home. He eventually persuades his hosts that he really is a Revolutionary War patriot fighting for the colonies who was about to be hung in New York City in 1776. As they fall in love, she tries to help him return to his present back in the late 1770s though he prefers to stay with her.

The fun in this entertaining often amusing time travel romance is the bewildered Jake who is confused about everything starting with the blood-red caress, but remains calm except for his feelings for the doubting Thomasina and his concerns re his "sister". Fans will enjoy this charmer as a Revolutionary War hero goes from red petals and the noose to red petals and love in time for Christmas.

Draycott Everlasting
Christina Skye
Harlequin HQN
9780373774159 $7.99

"Christmas Knight". Although she has not seen Glenbrae, Hope O'Hara purchases the Highlands Manor with plans to convert the house into a bed and breakfast. The Wishwell sisters think Hope is perfect for Ronan McLeod, the thirteen century first owner of Glenbrae. Although they live seven centuries apart, the siblings use magic to bring Hope and Ronan together; believing love will do the rest.

"Moonrise". Former Crusader Knight, Navarre the Wolf plans to kill his former friend Adrian the ghost guardian of Draycott Abbey for betraying him. Collateral damage is acceptable to Adrian who casts a spell that will kill everyone inside by moonrise. The lone human resident is FBI agent Sara Nightingale seeking clues to a missing treasure, but instead meets Navarre and Adrian.

These are two entertaining Draycott romantic fantasies with Christmas Knight being a 1998 reprint and Moonrise a novella. Fast-paced and filled with strong characters especially lead protagonists in conflict and love Christina Skye casts a spell on her audience with the coupling of the new and the old.

Christmas Diamonds
Devon Vaughn Archer
Harlequin Kimani
9780373861392 $5.99

Her mother dumped her as a child on her grandmother who raised her with love. However, though beautiful and intelligent interior designer Paula Devine has a resume of losers so has given up on a romantic relationship like that of her grandma whose husband proposed on Christmas.

Diamond jeweler Chase McCord misses his wife Rochelle who died two years ago. He hires Paula to redecorate a room in his home. However, before they meet formally, they encounter one another over cappuccinos in a cafe in Silver Moon, Washington which she, tired of trite males, rips his skin for staring at her. After he takes her down a peg or two, they meet formally in his office. As she works the renovation, they are attracted to one another, but he has doubts due to his feelings of deserting Rochelle and one of her ex boyfriends seems to have her on a string.

This is a fabulous holiday romance between a terrific female weary of the gender game and a wonderful somewhat fickle widower who is not afraid to exchange barbs. This pair makes a fine couple, but their respective pasts haunt them more than the ghosts visiting Scrooge. Readers will enjoy this fun tale as diamonds are a woman's second best friend after the love of their life.

Hot Spell
Michelle Rowen
Harlequin Blaze
9780373795079 $TBA

Paranormal Assessment and Recovery Agency psychic Amanda LaGrange hates her skill as she believes her father deserted the family when she was a child because he loathed her abnormal ability. Empathic Jacob Caine only recently learned of his uncanny talent and relishes using it to help others.

They are attracted to one another, but her self-loathing leaves them with no chance to explore a relationship between two people with extraordinary skills as she sees it as a curse and he believes strongly both of them have a special gift. Although she prefers not to work with him because she knows she wants him but distrusts relationships as men leave, they unite to investigate an alleged haunted house. There they meet two ghosts who were lovers in life, but murdered and trapped by a curse until someone frees them.

This is a fascinating paranormal romance as the modern day couple become "cursed" so must resolve the mystery of the ghosts to free themselves. The story lien is entertaining although Amanda's constant self deprecation after a while turns into a super whine. Still fans will believe in ghosts and the ghostbusters as Michelle Rowan enahcnts her fans with a Hot Spell.

Alaskan Renegade
Kate Bridges
9780373295685 $5.99

In 1899 Victoria Windhaven provides nursing services to injured miners and others in the Skagway vicinity of the District of Alaska. Her work requires her trekking into some dangerous wilderness so a bodyguard is assigned to escort her.

Her current protector is Brant MacQuaid who jilted Victoria's sister at the altar in St. Louis. He has been hired as her bodyguard and that of her associate medical student Cooper Sullivan as they tend to injured miners on Glitter Mountain. Victoria remains outraged with him and wishes someone else would escort her. He can feel the anger she emits at him, but refuses to allow anyone else replace him even the rival Philadelphian medical student as he needs her as his cover to capture a nasty felon besides being in love with her although keeping her safe comes first before the cr iminal and his desire.

This is another great Kate Bridges Alaskan Territory late nineteenth century police procedural romance. Fans will feel they are on Glitter Mountain assisting Kate and Cooper with the injured and observing the Mountie Brant as he gets his man (and more important his woman). Cooper is a strong likable support character who offers Victoria every quality trait she wants in a husband while Brant provides everything she detests in a spouse. Their spirited rivalry make for a fun historical.

A Conflict Of Interest
Anna Adams
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373783434 $5.50

Dr. Maria Keaton testifies against a teenage client Griff Butler accused of murder in court, but his lawyer accuses her of having an affair with his client. She is suspended over the accusation of sexual misconduct. Her peers kick her to the curb and her reputation torn to shreds as she is temporarily barred from practicing psychiatry.

Maria turns to Judge Jake Sloan, who was hearing the Butler case. He has doubts about her professionalism, but quickly turns around convinced she is innocent except for being a good citizen. As they begin to fall in love, he pulls back when he learns she was his daughter Leila's shrink.

A Conflict of Interests is a great contemporary romance as Anna Adams looks deeply at psychological issues, court proceedings, and extended family. Her mom and sister, and his daughter as well as Griff enhance the relationship between the lead couples as he is a control freak and she is an independent freak; their underlying respective philosophies of life are total opposites. Fans will relish Ms. Adams strong tale with a fabulous twist to the Butler case.

Home For The Holidays
Sarah Mayberry
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373715992 $5.50

Two years ago his wife died in an accident that left Joe Lawson alone to raise his two children by himself. He decides to relocate them from Sydney to Melbourne so his mom can help him and her grandchildren thirteen year old Ben and tens year old Ruby though his daughter fears mom will not be able to find them if they leave their home.

His neighbor is mechanic Hannah Napier, whose fiance dumped her after falling in love with her sister. Hannah is terrific with his kids while he fantasizes about her being with him. She is attracted to the family next door, but plans to leave Melbourne to follow her dreams. Christmas looks like it will be cold, as it has been since their mom died, to the Lawson family.

This is an engaging second chance at love Australian romance with a solid support cast and strong likable lead protagonists each with relationship demons. The two young children are terrific as they have doubts about the move and their father falling in love; Ruby will remind the audience of Abigail Breslin in No Reservations with her fear of losing her mom forever. While Hannah fears being dumped again, Joe is afraid of losing someone else he loves and the impact on his kids of his wanting to make Hannah their mom. Fans will enjoy this fine contemporary as the cast makes for an entertaining tale.

Colorado Christmas
C.C. Coburn
Harlequin American
9780373752874 $4.99

In Spruce Lake, Colorado former stunt skier Will O'Malley refuses to allow his town's historical district with its classic Victorian style architect be destroyed by the Mountains Resorts Development Company modernization. However, he goes too far at least in the mind of his brother the deputy sheriff when he vandalizes the firm's vehicles.

He comes before Judge Becky McBride, who is new to town with plans of remaining no more than six months before returning with her nine years old son Nick to Denver. Will is attracted to Her Honor, but she rejects his request for a date. However, he refuses to accept no at the same time he does community service for his acts of vandalism.

Passionate Will makes for a fun contemporary romance as he tries to persuade the urban judge that he is not a character out of the TV show Green Acres, but in spite of his intelligence, charm and looks, he competes with Louella the pig. Fans will enjoy this amusing courtship observed by the 2,596 other eccentric residents with smiles and smirks yet the tale subtly contains a plea to not arbitrarily devastate our heritage but instead incorporate our past in modernization plans though that probably will add cost.

The Fireman's Christmas
Meg Lacey
Harlequin American
9780373752850 $4.99

In Warenton, Widower Danny Santori raises four out of control youngsters while fighting fires; he believes his kids who run off nannies before he can hire them are more difficult to deal with than an inferno.

Landscape artist Tessa Doherty recently divorced her husband Colin and moved from Chicago to raise her two children in fresh air but has no one to watch over them when she works. Rhonda, friend to both, arranges for Tessa and Danny to meet. They agree to help one another with the kids' issues. However, neither single parent expected an attraction between them especially in the midst of out of control children chaos.

This is a warm second chance at love romance filled with lighthearted jocularity as the children cause chaos inadvertently nuking at times the relationship between their adult single parents. The story line is character driven but also reminiscent of 1960s-1970s treasures like With Six You Get Egg Roll; Yours, Mine and Ours; and The Brady Bunch.

Unexpected Gifts
Holly Jacobs
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373716012 $5.50

For fifteen years in George County, Pennsylvania family and consumer science (formerly home economics) teacher Elinore "Eli" Cartwright sponsored the teen parenting program; however, ironically at forty-four she finds herself frightened, pregnant and single. Her boyfriend Arthur makes it very clear, he enjoys their DINK status especially no kids.

Thus Eli has decisions to make, which she finds rather easy as she wants a child and this may be her last chance considering her age and male prospects. Store owner Zac Keller has been in love with Eli for seemingly forever, but hid his feelings from her as she had that college professor boyfriend. He makes his feelings obvious to her that he wants her and her unborn child.

This is a super relationship drama that makes a strong case that DNA does not make a family, nurturing and loving one another in spite of blood makes a family. Eli and Zac are strong lead characters while the support especially his adopted parents and sister and Arthur enhance the underlying premise as life happens in mysterious ways. Readers will enjoy Holly Jacobs' wonderful Pennsylvania contemporary romance.

The Littlest Matchmaker
Dorien Kelly
Harlequin American Romance
9780373752843 $4.99

In Davenport, Iowa widowed single mom Lisa Kincaid owns and runs the Shortbread Cottage cafe. She has no plans of ever marrying again as her first time was not very good. Her focus is raising her son Jamie and making a living for them. Kevin who is a steady customer and good with kids seems like the real deal and nothing similar to her late husband.

Kevin Decker blames himself for the death of Lisa's spouse three years ago. He also has been in love with Lisa for years although he hid his feelings as she was married and then widowed. He has been there for mother and child whenever they need help but still masks how much he loves both of them. As Lisa conceals how she feels about Kevin, her four year old has plans for a new father, his pal Kevin.

The lead couple and the title character seem genuine making for a warm contemporary romance as the young child pushes the two adults in his life together although Kevin feels guilt and Lisa has doubts. Although Jamie seems too precocious, fans will enjoy this delightful contemporary second chance at love.

His Secret Agenda
Beth Andrews
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373715916 $5.50

His client hires private investigator Dean Garret to track down a missing daughter and grandson. He travels to Serenity Springs, New York where he meets bar owner Allison Martin. Dean believes the former lawyer turned barkeeper knows what he seeks so he obtains work at her place.

Allison is attracted to her new employee, but her gut tells her he is concealing something critical from her. Dean also finds himself falling in love with his new boss, but strongly believes she knows where the runaway mom and son are hiding. Both fears their relationship will end before it begins if the hidden truth each possesses comes out; however, without honesty a relationship will die.

This is an enjoyable romantic suspense due to the lead couple who fall in love but he is caught between his desire and his undercover job. The story line is tense mostly because of Dean who is unsure what to do about HIS SECRET AGENDA; unaware that she also has a secret agenda. Beth Andrews provides a super taut thriller as the conflicted couple Dean and Allison believe doing the right thing will leave them alone, but doing wrong will leave them alone anyway.

Madison's Children
Linda Warren
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373715923 $5.50

In High Cotton, Texas Philadelphian Madison Belle finds two kids hiding in the barn on her family's High Five ranch. She learns from the cowhands that teenage Ginny, tweener Georgie and infant Haley are the children of local constable Walker. Although the kids want to run way to their mom Trisha in Lubbock, Madison calls Walker to retrieve his children.

Already attracted to Walker, Maddie decides to assist the beleaguered single dad with his brood. The older two children have had issues since their mom ran off with Tony. As Walker falls in love with Maddie and she with him and his three offspring; their mom comes home claiming she is carrying his child.

The Belles of Texas (see Caitlyn's Prize) is an enjoyable romance starring two individuals with issues to overcome. Madison is healing physically and unsure she can deal with three children in need of nurturing and mothering. Walker distrusts women since his wife deserted him and the kids. Both know the children's needs come before their desire. Although Trisha is unbelievably over the edge with the kids, fans will relish this tale as she has rights that love might not be able to overcome.

A Baby For Mommy
Cathy Gillen Thacker
Harlequin American Romance
9780373752829 $4.99

In Fort Worth, single dad Dan Kingsland struggles with raising three children with the help of his ex wife's uncle. He hopes some good cooking will bring some peace to the chaotic household so he hires Chef Emily Stayton to at least cook them a good tasting meal. He fails to notice that she is pregnant; if he did he probably would not have hired her.

Emily plans to leave Fort Worth after the holidays to go home to her family's peach orchards, but accepts the job temporarily with the Kingsland brood so she can earn some needed money. However, Emily is unable to leave as planned due to the machinations of some sly youngsters; Dan is exhilarated as he and the others in the household have fallen in love with the chef.

This is an amusing charmer that looks at what truly makes a family as DNA is not enough, but caring and loving are. Dan is terrific in a sort of naive way that endears him to the readers as he will remind fans in some way of Steve Carell in Dan in Real Life though he is not a widower. The kids bring humor as Chef Emily regrets falling in love with them, their father and their great uncle because she must leave unless the brood can convince her "home is where the heart is."

Kimberly Raye
Harlequin Blaze
9780373795000 $4.99

Bull rider Cody Braddock became a vampire just after the Civil War when he and his brothers returned from the hostilities to their Texas home to find their family dead. Cody notices to his shock in the paper the picture of the face that has haunted him for over a century. The man who murdered his family apparently is alive and well running Skull Creek Choppers. Cody plans to kill him.

Miranda Rivers is looking for one last orgasmic with a capital O fling before marrying. She meets vengeful vampire Cody, who grows stronger with the sexual satiation of the women he has sex with. He has never felt that same satisfaction until now.

The second Skull Creek, Texas vampire romance (see "Once Upon a Bite" in Blazing Bedtime Stories anthology) is a super tale due to fully developed lead characters and the solid support cast. The story line is fast-paced but totally driven by the relationship between the cowboy vampire and the mortal who owns his soul and heart (and another body part). Fans will root for this pair to make it, but can Cody move past vengeance to love after surviving for well over a century on the former.

Seduction By The Book
Stephanie Bond
Harlequin Blaze
9780373795048 $4.99

Fortyish Gabrielle Pope created the Red Tote Book Club so that members can enjoy quality passionate novels. She dares the others to re-read their favorite book and use it as a guide to seduce the star of their hottest fantasies. Although each is timid, they all agree to try except Carol Snow.

Architect Cassie Goodwin picks Lady Chatterley's Lover to go after her ex. Reticent administrative assistant Page Sharpe selects Venus in Furs to win the affection and adulation of her boss. Party planner Wendy Trainer chooses as her woman of pleasure Fanny Hill to persuade her best friend she is serious in her desire for him. Auditor Jacqueline Mays cherishes being the submissive slave to her client.

With an erotic nod to Karen Joy Fowler's Jane Austen Book Club, SEDUCTION BY THE BOOK is an engaging thematic anthology as each of the women star in her personalized tale of passion. Although none of the women except Gabrielle are fully developed, fans will enjoy each member's effort to apply the lessons of their book choice to their chosen seduced one.

Next Comes Love
Helen Brenna
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373715947 $5.50

After her half-sister vanished without a trace, Erica Corelli gets her six year old nephew Jason. Fearing Jason's dad, Billy, a violent Chicago cop, she flees with the child. Not knowing exactly where to hide, she returns to her personal Eden, Mirabelle Island, Wisconsin where she spent the best few days of her life when she was a ten years old child and has gotten work at Duffy's Pub as Erica Jackson.

Erica and island police chief Garrett Tyler, a former Chicago cop, meet and are enemies at first bite, but soon also are attracted to one another; a no-no in both their minds as each expects the other is Trouble. Following a news broadcast that paints Erica as an abductor, Garret knows who she and Jason are. He reports nothing as he sees Jason feels safe with his aunt and wants to insure both meet no harm though Billy is coming.

NEXT COMES LOVE is a super romantic suspense as the audience knows why Erica ran off with Jason while fearing her sibling is dead. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Erica tells Garrett to mind his business and never takes a breather as love competes with the anticipated tension of expectations that he is coming. Helen Brenna returns her fans to "An island worth remembering" (see FIRST COME TWINS) with a terrific character driven taut thriller.

Hot On Her Heels
Susan Mallery
Harlequin HQN
9780373773848 $7.99

The Titan sisters (Lexie, Skye and Izzy) struggle with trying to prevent a family disaster as their half-brother Garth Duncan seeks revenge against their father Jed Titan. Though the three women know their dad deserves the worst, they wish it was over. Their best friend Dallas Police Department Deputy Dana Birch seeks evidence to lock away Garth especially for hurting the trio. However, he has been diabolically careful in not leaving anything around that could condemn him.

Dana is stunned with the news Jed ordered the bomb that nearly killed Izzy; as she thought Garth had done it. In fact she is further stunned that Jed was willing to kill his daughter in order to frame his son. Izzy wants to save Garth from his own destructive behavior so similar to that of their father. Dana joins her BFFs while she and Garth are beginning to fall in love. However, Jed is willing to shed the blood of his family to remain the top dog.

Although Jed remains over the top of Reunion Tower as the king of betrayal and treachery, the final Titan sister romantic suspense thriller is a superb angst filled thriller as Garth learns how complex life and relationships are. The final coda is heart-wrenching that sums up the saga with the tune You Can't Always Get What You Want, but with love you can come close.

A Creed Country Christmas
Linda Lael Miller
Harlequin HQN
9780373774050 $16.95

In December 1910 her Denver based family disowned Juliana Mitchell for refusing to marry because they demanded she do so. Instead she obtains work as a teacher at an Indian school in Stillwater Springs, Montana. She takes it personally when the school is shut. She worries about the welfare of her four students, but has no funds and her pompous brother refuses to send what is legally hers.

Widowed cowboy Lincoln Creed has failed to find a governess or for that matter anyone to care for his seven year old daughter Gracie. He knows of Juliana's plight so offers her a deal that he assumes she cannot refuse. Juliana accepts his offer to stay at the Stillwater Springs Ranch with her students and his daughter for Christmas. As the two adults are caught in a compromising situation that forces them to marry, each wonders whether it will prove a Yuletide gift wrapped in love or otherwise.

The latest tale in the Creed saga is a terrific entry starring the legendary Lincoln and the Indian School teacher who proves to him the lightning of love can strike twice. The lead couple makes the story line starting in the general store in which Lincoln reprimands the owner for his nasty treatment of the children and his buying the tin. Although the kids especially Gracie are a bit too precocious, the audience will appreciate this strong character driven Big Sky early twentieth holiday romance.

A Very NASCAR Holiday
Nancy Warren, Debra Webb and Gina Wilkins
Harlequin HQN
9780373774111 $7.99

"All I Want for Christmas" by Nancy Warren. In Minnesota her ten year old son Darren's essay leads Emily Littlejohn and NASCAR driver Jason Bane to reunite in Florida for the first since each hid their attraction to the other in high school.

"Christmas Past" by Debra Webb. NASCAR driver Jason Fewell suffers panic attacks since his girlfriend's death; so his boss hires the Chicago based Colby Agency who sends Molly Clark to Aspen, to secretly keep him safe.

"Secret Santa" by Gina Wilkins. Following in the Christmas tradition of his dad, NASCAR driver Rob Sanger secretly plays Santa at various charitable events; when he meets Leanne Baker portraying Mrs. Claus, he finds he wants her and her daughter to be with him year round.

These are three fun holiday romances with just the right amount of character anxieties with much of the action off track.

Finding the Lost
Shannon K. Butcher
9780451412829 $7.99

Eight years ago, the Synestryn insectoid monsters destroyed her family when she was a child. Andra Madison vowed to hunt down these six foot insectoid nightmares and kill every one of them. As she has matured, Andra modified her goal in honor of her sister Nika, whose mind went when the deadly intrusion occurred; instead of just killing she obsessively needs to rescue abducted children snatched by the insidious Synestryn.

After centuries on the frontlines, Sentinel Theronai Paul fears he is losing his soul as time is running out for him to find his lifemate. He makes a deal with Logan the Bloodhunter; in return for some of his Sentinel blood, the hunter helps him find his woman. In Omaha they roughly save Andra during her rescue of young Sammy. Paul knows she is his female Theronai, but she rejects his advances as her only thought is for the dying fearful Nika even as the Synestryn who murdered her family is coming for her.

The second Sentinel War urban fantasy (see Burning Alive) is a terrific grim thriller with the romantic subplot playing a strong supporting role. The cast is powerful as the audience will feel every emotion that Andra feels from fear for her sister to fear for her falling in love. FINDING THE LOST is a dark tale as Shannon K. Butcher paints a forbidding gloomy landscape in which an ancient war between humanity's guardians and their nasty adversaries heats up in Nebraska.

Immortal Wolf
Bonnie Vanak
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373618217 $5.25

Leaving New Orleans for Tennessee, Draicon executioner Raphael Robichaux is assigned to kill the ancient shapeshifter Emily as her pack fears her because everyone she touches dies. However, Raphael is taken aback when he meets the female he must kill. Emily Burke is young and is his life mate.

Ignoring her pack's insistence he do his job, Raphael chooses to investigate the deaths that has haunted this Draicon clan. On the other hand her pack is prepared to kill both of them if he fails to carry out his mission immediately as she has killed her father and her aunt in the past year. Raphael soon realizes she also possesses healing power instead of killing power. He begins to theorize that someone evil lurks in the background trying to prevent Emily from fulfilling an ancient shapeshifter prophesy.

Emily is a fascinating lead protagonist who believes she needs to die as her future is that of a hermit unable to touch anyone; the audience will think of Rogue of the X-Men. The urban romantic fantasy story line is fast-paced from the moment the executioner arrives and twists immediately as he knows he must kill his life mate, which will kill him too. Ironically she had been the bringer of life and he the destroyer, but now she apparently is the destroyer and he brings the hope of life. Fans will believe in the supernatural world of Bonnie Vanak as eastern Tennessee is home to the Burke Draicon clan.

The Vampire Affair
Livia Reasoner
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373618231 $5.25

When investigative reporter Jessie Morgan learns that supernatural creatures exist, she is unaware of how dangerous that knowledge is. Vampire hunter Michael Brandt takes it upon himself to keep the intrepid journalist safe, but she rejects his plea to forget what she knows and move on back to her old world.

Instead Jessie demands Michael and his family of hunters train her in vampire combat. When a vampire enemy of his bites Jessie, Michael desperately tries to save her life; having lost one woman to this ancient scourge. However, taking a bite out of Jessie is not enough to destroy her as her Native American heritage enables her to stand by the man she loves hunting down the bloodsucking predators.

Although a modern day paranormal romance highlighted by what businessman playboy and hunter Michael carries an attache case (filled with legal pad, gun, knife, wooden stake and holy water, etc), the super The Vampire Affair feels in some ways like a throwback novel. Livia Reasoner leaves no doubt about the good and evil conflict that places Michael in a difficult situation as the rule is one bite and you're dead. Sub-genre fans will fully appreciate this terrific taut thriller as the hero knows his duty but cannot for the first time in his career carry it out as Jessie has metaphysically taken a bite into his heart.

Time Raiders: The Protector
Merline Lovelace
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373618224 $5.25

As part of Project Anasazi Air Force Lieutenant Cassandra Jones and Major Max Brody are sent back in time to the seventh century Chinese Tang dynasty in order to retrieve another piece of the twelve pieces scattered in time and place alien bronze medallion also known as the Karanovo Stamp. Once all the pieces are gathered and assembled, the stamp will enable Earth to join other worlds of the Pleiadian Council.

Max is uncomfortable with time travel and ET but trusts his former CO General (R) Ashton who recruited him from duty in Iraq. He does not trust his traveling companion Cassie as he holds her responsible for the accidental death of his friend Captain Jerry Holland at the academy where she was working as a weather officer. Using the device found in the Roswell crash, they go back to the reign of the Empress Wu Jao. However, he has no time for his suspicions and disdain when the alien Centaurian race tries to abort their mission as they want the Stamp. Cassie's uncanny weather changing sixth sense proves critical to them staying alive long enough to have a chance to accomplish the mission.

The latest Time Raiders romantic suspense science fiction thriller is a fast-paced tale that flows on two interrelated subplots. First there is the retrieval mission and second there is the major's personal investigative mission. Although the Centaurians seem like wusses in the seventh century and in Arizona, fans of the sage will enjoy the action-placed fourth entry (see (see The Avenger by P.C. Cast, The Seeker by Lindsay McKenna and The Slayer by Cindy Dees).

Time Raiders: The Avenger
P.C. Cast
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373618200 $5.25

The Time Raiders send psychic Alexandra Patton back to 60 A.D. so that she can bring back part of the medallion that will enable Earth to join the alliance of other space-traveling planets. Alex loathes the brutal feral behavior of her hosts; as she speaks to the dead who often are victims of atrocities.

Alex pretends to be a soul speaker priestess to the goddess Andraste when she and Queen Boudica's Druidic cousin Caradoc meet and are attracted to one another. As she falls in love, he helps her adjust to ancient times. However, she knows that Boudica will die in the battle for Londinium, but fears Caradoc will too though she does not know for certain.

The third Time Raiders romantic suspense thriller (see The Seeker by Lindsay McKenna and The Slayer by Cindy Dees) is an entertaining tale that hooks readers from the opening dialogue between Alex and the dead but restful Andred and keeps the audience's attention throughout. The spin to the exciting story line is what the time traveler knows about ancient Britannia and does not as Alex fears her beloved will die alongside his famous warrior cousin. This tale and the saga are winners due to a strong casting leading to readers wanting to accompany the heroes on their treks back in time to find the medallion segments and love.

Dead and Kicking
Wendy Roberts
9780451228628 $6.99

In Seattle Sadie Novak owns Scene-2-Clean, a firm that cleans up crime scenes. She also is a medium who communicates with the dead. Her job is to help the deceased pass on by removing whatever makes then cling to the earth.

Most spirits she meets are not evil or even hostile, but Sadie and her lover-co-owner of the business Zack are cleaning out the apartment of his former girlfriend Paula's mother when they run into a malevolent ghost who refuses to allow them to enter "his" room. Running out of the place Zack breaks a bone in his foot. A recovering addict, he is not supposed to take drugs, but he does anyway as he moves into Paula's house to heal. Trying to forget Zack's betrayal for the moment, Sadie throws herself into her work and soon finds a mummified baby in one of the boxes. .The remains could be part of a lot Paula's mom bought at a yard sale or flea market or perhaps it something sinister that happened inside the house. Someone is trying to scare Sadie away; but that fails as she keeps cleaning and exploring while the threats turn increasingly violent.

This is an exciting paranormal amateur sleuth starring an audacious courageous psychic who does not fear mortal murders having met malevolent spirits. Sadie's father recently died and though he cannot quite fully materialize she selfishly wants to spend quality time with him before he moves on. The whodunit is cleverly devised to keep the audience absorbed with several delightful solid and ephemeral subplots as Wendy Roberts provides another witty breezy Ghost Dusters Mystery (see The Remains of the Dead).

Southern Lights
Danielle Steel
9780385340281 $28.00

New York Assistant District Attorney Alexa Hamilton is assigned the lead of prosecuting alleged serial killer Luke Quentin of rape and murder. The case is loaded with forensic evidence that Alexa sifts through diligently until the single mom is distracted when her seventeen year old daughter Savannah begins receiving letters threatening to harm her. Alexa assumes Luke or an ally is behind the nasty threats.

Alexa asks her former spouse Tom Beaumont, who lives in Charleston, to keep their teenage child Savannah with him and presumably safe. His current wife who was also his first spouse objects to the intruder from his in between marriage, but Tom ignores her complaints and that of his upper crust family. As Savannah becomes closer to her dad and step-siblings, Alexa also begins to feel better about her relationships especially after meeting Edward.

Although wrapped inside a serial killer legal thriller, SOUTHERN LIGHTS remains more a typical Danielle Steel affluent family drama as the focus is on how everyone in the extended Beaumont-Hamilton circles interrelate or do not. Entertaining especially for fans of Ms. Steel, the threatening letters subplot takes a back seat to the Alexa personal drama.

The Morning Show Murders
Al Roker & Dick Lochte
9780385343688 $26.00

Celebrity Chef Billy Blessing runs the popular Manhattan Lower East Side Blessings Bistro although he would be the first to admit he does not cook that often anymore. He also performs cooking segments with the joke of the day on the TV show Wake Up, America!

Chef Blessing has just begun torturous filming of Blessing's in the Kitchen with Food School 101 starring apprentices who look more like exiles from a Sci fi fast food show than cooks. Although he would like to quit, his producer Lily Conover counts the ways he cannot as Di Voss Industries is sponsoring him. His former "Knock Boots" partner Gretchen Di Voss and her fiance Rudy Gallagher watch his every move. His nodding "advice" to morning show co-anchor Gin McCauley leads to fifteen million reasons why Billy should lose his cooking shows. Soon after a public argument with Rudy, NYPD Detectives Solomon and Butker inform Billy he is the prime suspect in the murder of Gallagher who died eating poisoned coq au vin at Blessing's Bistro which is closed as a crime scene. Realizing he is being set up like a cooked goose for the holidays, Billy investigates.

THE MORNING SHOW MURDERS is a delightful amateur sleuth mystery that works due to the strong cast who bring New York City alive with their crisp sassy discourses especially the tale's lead chef. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Billy realizes he is host of a show that will give him plenty of heartburn and that is before he is the prime stuffed turkey of NYPD. Fans will enjoy the collaboration of Al Roker & Dick Lochte as they serve to fans a gourmet murder mystery.

Ron Rash
9780061470851 $24.95

During the Depression in Appalachia, wealthy lumber baron George Pemberton returns from Boston to Waynesville, North Carolina accompanied by his new wife, the orphan Serena. Waiting for him to disembark from the train is his sycophant partners, pregnant teenage kitchen hand Rachel Harmon and her outraged father. A drunken Harmon demands Pemberton take care of the child he sired. Instead encouraged by Serena, George kills him as he knows he is above the law.

Pemberton destroys the land and its people and his wife Serena is as evil and avaricious as he is. She insures Rachel is scorned by everyone and that the brat once born remains the bastard he or she is. Meanwhile Serena also obtains the undying loyalty of foreman Galloway whose life she saved; he becomes her slave willing to kill anyone if she asks; however George actually likes having a son adoring Jacob and angering his wife.

This is an intriguing look at the Depression from various perspectives. Especially fascinating is the poignant glimpse at horrific working conditions that make a case for a strong OSHA and yet in spite of the danger of death and maim the workers have forged a club like solidarity (mindful of soldiers in war conditions). Although the key cast is stereotyped; the Pembertons especially Serena are evil caricatures of the abuse of wealth while in contrast poor single mom Rachel is kind and noble, fans will appreciate this powerful 1930s drama.

Night of Demons
Tony Richards
9780061474675 $7.99

Cornelius the Shadow Man believes the Old Ones speak to him; directing him to kill whole families. They praise him informing him that his serial killing spree is bringing about the Apocalypse. On the back roads in Massachusetts to escape the police, he enters Raine's Landing, a town protected by ancient magics cast by witches that should have prevented his entry.

Cornelius enters the home of adept Lucas Tolburn while the witch is working with the magical Wand of Dentiere. The practitioner uses the wand to stop Cornelius, but he kills Lucas and grabs the rod. Believing in magic, the sentient artifact turns Cornelius into mist that allows him to enter any body he chooses. He enters a father who he uses to kill the whole family and make it look like the father committed suicide. He begins a killing spree and soon has a partner; Lucas' ambitious granddaughter Millicent who uses a spell that ties her to the wand and Cornelius and they go on a brutal killing rampage. Former town cop Ross Devries and Boston Police officer Laura Brennan investigate the serial killings that the outsider says is the work of the Shadow Man. They must prevent the mists from destroying the town and potentially the country.

This is an exiting good vs. evil horror thriller that cleverly keeps the audience wondering about whether Cornelius is a psychopath or is the voices from some outside evil essence. His magical partnership with Millicent will remind readers of Michael J. Fox's The Frighteners. Ross suffers from visions, but seems more attuned to Cass than he is the townsfolk he once protected and is doing again. Character driven, NIGHT OF DEMONS is a super horror thriller with the twist of the champions are the non practitioners in town.

Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan
Ali Eteraz
9780061567087 $25.99

Ali Eteraz was born in Pakistan but raised also in the United States where his family moved to when he was ten years old. His father prayed to Allah that if God granted him a male offspring, he pledged that son would be a servant of Islam. As a child he is taken to Mecca where is further pledged to God and attends the Madrassa Islamic school where teachers abuses the children in the name of Allah. Ali rebels as a teen, but also begins to embrace his religion. However, as he grows into adulthood, he begins to understand his religion is also a culture, but struggles with how strict should one adhere to scripture in a shrinking world?

This is a fascinating intelligent memoir that focuses on the author finding his identity in a western culture that thrives of individual freedom that on the surface seems contradictory to the dogma of religion, in Ali Eteraz case Islam, but could have been the other major religions too. Mr. Eteraz feels his niche is to fight from the pulpit the two extremes of Taliban-al Qaeda deadly extremism and the uninspired event worshipper. How he reached his conclusion is a terrific personal journey of the soul that is easy to follow and admire.

Midnight Fugue
Reginald Hill
9780061451966 $25.99

Yorkshire police Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel has healed from the injuries he received when a perp tried to kill him. However, even as he is returning to work after a stint at the Avalon Clinic, one thing remains the same: he is still a grump.

However, even he is stunned when Gina Wolfe visits him with a personal request, as people avoid grouches not ask for a favor. Seven years ago her spouse Alex, a police officer was under an Internal Affairs investigation when he vanished; he was never found. Now as she is about to have him legally declared dead, she received a photo of Alex from a magazine looking very much alive. She asks Dalziel to investigate unofficially, which he does.

The latest Dalziel and Pascoe police procedural is an incredible accomplishment by Reginald Hill as there are numerous subplots, strong characterizations and a fast-paced at times humorous story line, which is typical of the series, but all this occurs in 24 hours. Just another day for Dalziel and Pascoe but great frenzy fun for fans as Midnight Fugue will be on the short lists for sub-genre book of the year.

Alfred and Emily
Doris Lessing
9780060834890 $14.99

"Alfred and Emily: A Novella". Alfred Taylor is a farmer who becomes affluent and marries a warm caring local. Ignoring the rage of her father, Emily McVeagh leaves town and goes to London where she becomes a nurse who marries a doctor. World War I never occurs so they never meet as a wounded soldier and a nurse.

"Alfred and Emily; Two Lives. Alfred Taylor was severely injured in combat on the continent. He was medically evacuated back to a London hospital. There he met Nurse Emily McVeigh. As he healed, they fell in love and got married. They move to Rhodesia after the war and have two children Doris and Harry, but their colonial farm fails.

This is a fascinating combo historical biographical fiction and a short biography. The novella is a terrific alternate history of the author's parents while the biography provides a short guide to compare what if to what happened. Fans of the great author will appreciate this fine book although the fiction overwhelms the nonfiction as the latter is too minute for newbies and too repetitive for fans while the former provides an intriguing look at probably what would not have happened if the liberating of the masses did not happen because the mechanism WWI was never fought.

Death Message
Mark Billingham
9780061432750 $25.99

London Detective Inspector Tom Thorne looks carefully at the blurry photo that has been sent to him over his cellphone. The person looks dead though he cannot be sure. He has no idea who sent the picture, who the victim is, and who the killer is assuming it is not the transmitter.

Soon afterward, a second photo of a corpse arrives. More pictures of apparently dead people keep coming to Thorne on his cell. Thorne and his unit struggle with the lack of motive but begin to identify the psychopath; yet the deadly predator remains elusive sending more pictures of the recently deceased.

Fans of the Thorne police procedurals will welcome this strong entry as the DI struggles with a case in which the culprit mocks him with the Death Message. The key to this fast-paced investigative thriller is as always the support cast, mostly the cops working with Thorne, who make what could have been another taunting serial killer story line into a deep look at the personal side of the police working a tough case. Fans will enjoy Thorne's latest case as the police try to end the reign of terror from a clever Grim Reaper.

The Hidden
Tobias Hill
9780061768255 $141.99

In Metamorphosis, Greece in 2004 former Oxford student Ben Mercer feels his life is over as his marriage is dead and he works at a dead end meat grill restaurant with no future beyond serving diners since his Ancient Sparta thesis is dead just not interred yet. He admires the courage of the visiting five archeologists who fearlessly dig for what they want while he mopes and serves food. One of his heroes who he knew in England, Oxford Professor Eberhard Saurer tells Ben he is going on an excavation in Laconia where they hope to uncover Spartan ruins; when Ben pleads to join him, Eberhard just leaves.

Unable to resist, Ben follows Eberhard to Laconia called Lacedaemonia by the ancient Spartans who left little behind except mystery as to how so few controlled so many "Helot" slaves. Eberhard and his colleagues (Jason, Natsuko, Eleshchen and Max) perform one of the ancient Spartan rituals of the death hunt while emitting a superiority cockiness that Ben admires and would like to emulate if he was not so afraid. He soon learns of the Crypteia Hidden Ones' fanaticism killing the helots like hunters stalking game and fears he may be the modern day game of the predatory fearsome five.

This is an exciting thriller that looks deeply into the amoral behavior of terrorists using an ethical cloak to defend their murderous beliefs. By bringing Sparta into focus in terms of terrorizing their neighbors through mechanisms like the Hidden hunt of the Helot and comparing this group to modern times using the five archeologists, Tobias Hill provides a profound look at a predator's mindset, in the past and present. Although the flashbacks into Ben's past enhance understanding of him, that track distracts from the bigger theme of how a stalker rationalizes in secret to him or her self the kill of the innocent.

Ben Thompson
9780061749445 $16.99

The title will kick most people's butts as BADASS is a not fiction, but a terrific forty entry short biographical accounts of some of the toughest warriors in history. The book is divided into four sections (Antiquities, The Middle Ages, The Age Of Gunpowder, and The Modern Era) with ten entries in each. The Antiquities and The Middle ages are fascinating for those who are lesser known like Julia "the black widow of Rome" Grippina and Indian Warlord Chandraguupta Maurya although the writings on Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, von Richtofen of Snoopy and music renown and Leonids of 300 Men fame are quite good. The other three sections contain some ass whippers from Napoleon to Pattern to Bruce Lee to Testa. All the entries are fun to read as gender and location is not a prerequisite to warriors entering a butt kicking battle in which the leader knows he or she will leave dead and maimed on the battlefield, but as Ben Thompson cites Mike Tyson with "I want your heart. I want to eat your children". This is what makes a true BADASS and this biography an entertaining read as real persona like Wolf the Quarrelsome barbarian and Bhanbhagta Gurung the fearless Gurkha make this fun for the armchair warrior.
Dial H for Hitchcock
Susan Kandel
9780061826672 $13.99

After completing Christie (see Christietown), in Los Angeles biographer CeCe Caruso is way behind her deadline for the definitive bio on Hitchcock having wasted time on a single person's honeymoon after kicking police Detective Peter Gambino to the curb. A fan of the late filmmaker, she sees Vertigo. However, leaving the theater CeCe somehow has someone else's cell phone so turns around to return it.

CeCe travels to Beechwood Canyon to return the cell phone to its owner Anita Colby. There she sees someone push the owner off a cliff reminding her of Vertigo. When the police discover a message CeCe left Anita on her answering machine, she becomes their suspect in the murder.

The latest CeCe Caruso biography mystery is a super amateur sleuth tale that pays homage to the great director and his films throughout a taut investigation. Filled with jocularity, Susan Kandel keeps CeCe climbing into danger as she fears becoming a dead star in her own film without the accolades of one of the Hitchcock beauties. Fans of Hitchcock will relish Ms. Kandel's terrific tale of an innocent woman in a state of frenzy sought by a killer and the law (sounds so Hitchcockian).

The Gift
Cecelia Ahern
9780061706264 $19.99

In Dublin, business mogul Lou Suffern is a 24/7 workaholic who has no time for his family, who is tired of his failure to be there for them ever. On a brisk wintry morning in front of his office, Lou buys a hot cup of coffee for a homeless person and for no known reason offers Gabe a job in the mail room. Gabe in turn tells Lou his boss is having serendipitously lunch dates with his rival.

Gabe tries to convince Lou how important family is, but the corporate officer is uninterested in his two children who are young and boring and his wife Ruth as he has a mistress. Lou realizes that Gabe can be in two places at one time and begs the man to help him do so. Gabe gives Lou a magical pill to clone himself. One Lou will close the real estate deal; the other goes home to his family as Gabe prays his "client" will learn the importance of loved ones.

This is a fascinating version of A Christmas Carol as Lou thinks he is helping Gabe with an act of kindness, but Gabe is actually trying to help Lou place his priorities in order. The underlying message of this whimsical angelic story line is too simplified as Lou learns what matters between being "Ruthless" and being with Ruth and his other family members. Fans will enjoy that Lou learns what matters in a wonderful life is it is never too late because it's a wonderful world.

Never After
Laurell K. Hamilton, Yasmine Galenorn, Sharon Shinn and Marjorie M. Liu
9780515147285 $9.99

"Can He Bake a Cherry Pie?" by Laurell K. Hamilton. Elinore rejects her father's arranged marriage to the perverted earl; instead she decides to rescue Prince True from the witch in the cave who proved women are stronger than men.

"The Shadow of Mist" by Yasmine Galenorn. Siobhan Morgan the wereseal selkie rejects the arranged marriage with the man who raped her; Terrance has searched for her for over a century demanding she complete the contract. Siobhan ponders her next move.

"The Tangleroot Palace" by Marjorie M. Liu. The king orders his daughter Princess Salinda to wed the warlord, but instead Sally flees to a magical forest where a queen demands she complete a quest or else.

"The Wrong Bridegroom" by Sharon Shinn. At Kallenore Castle, King Reginald offers his daughter Princess Olivier in marriage to the first man who completes three tests successfully.

This super thematic romantic fairy tales collection is owned by the independent women who reject men ordering them to marry mates not of their choice; bravely they insist on much more from a mate.

What She Needs
Lacey Alexander
9780451228017 $14.00

Hotel Erotique is off the Florida coast and its' mission is to teach guests how to enjoy sex more. Jenna Banks wins a free two-week trip to the notorious Hotel Erotique. She believes her sex life is fine, but figures fun and sun with someone is worth the vacation.

Her personal sex guru Brent Powers plans to open his student's eyes to the panorama of diverse sexual encounters. The sex shrink believes Jenna could prove what he thinks she is a sex goddess if she lets herself truly go. As she shares all sorts of sexcapades from BDSM to FF, Brent and Jenna begin to fall in love.

Although the plausibility is over the top of the hunk's constant gigantic boner that will have readers wondering if steroids work there; this is an ultra heated erotic romance as the heroine tastes a variety of sexual encounters guided by her guru. Brent coaxes Jenna as she leaps from one encounter after another. The romance takes a back seat (bed might be more appropriate) to filling WHAT SHE NEEDS as the Heat is on at the Hotel Erotique.

Yours For The Night
Jasmine Haynes
9780425229996 $15.00

"The Girlfriend Experience". Thirty-five years old courtesan Marianna Whitney knows she must satisfy the customer, but client Chase wants her for more than just a night or two.

"Payback". After her spouse dumped her for a younger woman, forty-five tears old Dominique Lowe obtains a position with Courtesans, but is stunned when Gabriel wants her to fulfill all his fantasies.

"Triple Play". Courtesan twice divorced Noelle St. James loves short term relationships but bores of them rather quickly while Dax loves her but is turned on as a voyeur watching make men come.

Over the top of Telegraph Hill, make that Coit Tower as being more symbolic, these heated novellas star experienced women who make the penises of men salivate. OURS FOR THE NIGHT contains three equatorial hot erotic tales that can be summed up by Noelle's friend Isabel who suggests she try bukkake with five to six men jacking off on her naked body instead of vanilla ice cream. Fans of erotica that run the gamut will enjoy spending the night with these courtesans.

Wrapped In Seduction
Lisa Renee Jones, Cathryn Fox and Jodi Lynn Copeland
9780451228154 $15.00

The three Reddy sisters come home to Haven, New Hampshire and each makes a wish on their late grandmother's ruby for their holiday desires to happen.

"Unwrapping Holly" by Lisa Renee Jones. A t a local inn, Holly and a stranger Cole meet and enjoy each other's company.

"Hot for Santa" by Cathryn Fox. When St. Nick Grant arrives at the family home, Rachel wants him, but assumes he is there for her brother Mason.

"Mistletoe Bliss" by Jodi Lynn Copeland. With her engagement ended, Tori and her first lover Travis decide on a tryst.

These are three interrelated lighthearted holiday romances with some light spanking as each of the Reddy sisters are ready for sex to melt the frozen New England roads and perhaps love. Fans will enjoy the whimsical tale with strong hints that Mason's to come.

Blaze Of Memory
Nalini Singh
9780425231111 $7.99

Steely Shine Foundation chief Dev Santos is absolutely certain the waif he has found outside his door is a trap set up by his enemy the Psy. Still Dev cannot kill her even though he knows he should or even ignore the battered female.

She suffers from starvation and total memory loss. Her mind is deteriorating without access to the Net Mind although she receives enough feedback to barely hold onto her tenuous grip of reality; the Silence being unbearable. Katya as she is called and Dev know she is probably a deadly weapon programmed to kill by Ming and the Council with him and his organization who protect the Forgotten as her probable target(s).

The latest Psy-Changeling urban fantasy not only moves the overarching theme forward, but Nalini Singh provides insight into the Silence. The story line is fast-paced as Dev cannot figure out why he feels protective of what is obviously a conditioned killer who's most likely coming for him. Fans will appreciate this super entry as love and determination battle against devastating preconditioning brainwashing that literally washed the heroine's brain clean and replaced her past with a future imperative (think of The Manchurian Candidate) in a great entry.

Skin Game
Ava Gray
9780425231531 $7.99

In Vegas, the big shot casino owner Gerard Serrano beat to death her father; two bit con artist Kyra Marie Beckwith vows to get even. She cleverly wormed her way into his vicious inner circle and pulls off a con that leaves a raging Serrano stripped of his monumental pride and a thirst for enacting vengeance to rival that of Kyra.

Kyra uses her skills to steal someone's abilities by touching them as she just did in the pool hall. However, the deadliest hit man alive, Reyes is after her and unbeknownst to her he marked her at the pool hall. Hired by Serrano to kill her after he recovers the money he claims she stole from him, Rey knows he must get close to his target to retrieve the loot before killing her. He figures that will prove easy as all he has to do his forge a relationship and seduce her. However, Rey makes love with her in Lake Charles only to find he wants more and she is gone. Taken aback because for the first time in memory he cares about someone else; he is falling in love just as she is with him. However he also knows once she learns who he is, Kyra will end their relationship as she will never forgive betrayal even as his failure to do the job means the end of his vocation. Soon Reyes realizes Serrano hired some of his assassin competitors.

With a literally touch of para-tactile skills to enhance the tale, SKIN GAME is a fast-paced romantic suspense thriller starring two unlikely lead characters. He is a paid killer and she is a con artist while their "matchmaker" is a cruel individual used to ordering executions. Fans will enjoy this fun tale mindful of Grosse Pointe Blank only the female star is a felon too.

Waking The Dead
Kylie Brant
9780425231142 $7.99

In Oregon's Willamette Forest, nature guide Zach Sharper finds seven garbage bags in a remote part of the wilderness in a cave on Castle Rock where you would not expect any trash. He takes a peek and finds each contains bones that he knows from his Ranger days are human remains although none contain a skull. He calls the authorities.

Sheriff Marin Andrews asks Raiker Forensics for help in identifying the bodies. They send former model turned forensic anthropologist Caitlin Fleming to investigate. Sheriff Andrews hires Zach to guide and protect Caitlin into the wilderness. He reluctantly escorts Caitlin deep into what seems to her the primeval forest to the cave on Castle Rock. Every step they take the pair argues safety vs. catching one killer plus an apparent partner or accessory; either way a diabolically brilliant predator.

The latest Mindhunters romantic suspense thriller (see WAKING NIGHTMARE and WAKING EVIL) is a terrific entry as the investigation supersedes the romance; both want one another but know survival comes before seeing where their relationship goes. Zach is a super guide who takes the heroine and readers to a remote part of Oregon while Cait is a fabulous forensic anthropologist due to a fascinating former career as a model. Fans will enjoy climbing Willamette Forest with this couple.

Lord Of The Highlands
Veronica Wolff
9780425231135 $7.99

In present day San Francisco, Felicity under the name "Mellow Yellow" is taken aback when she seeks her perfect match with an on-line dating service; only the response is she has no matches. Still stunned with being declared "unmatchable", Felicity plays with a tarot deck.

The next thing she knows is she is in 1658 where she meets Highlander William Rollo; as he rescues someone form the Tower. Having met time travelers before, William is not shocked with the displaced woman; however he is stunned with his attraction as he wants her and by her seductive behavior he knows she wants him. However, this is not a safe era for an out of time soul mate to be in Scotland as witch hunters roam the Highlanders seeking to burn travelers from the future; while his efforts to return the legitimate monarch to the throne adds to the danger. Still both want her to stay with him for eternity.

The latest twenty-first century female battling a seventeenth century Highlander is an engaging gender war as each wants one another, but neither believes they have all the time in the world to pursue that attraction. William has met futuristic females before (see Warrior of the Highlands) so is not quite bewildered by Felicity's equality attitude. On the other hand she adapts rather easily considering the culture shock. With real people and events to anchor down time and place, Veronica Wolff provides a wonderful time travel romance.

Bunco Babes Gone Wild
Maria Geraci
9780425229965 $14.00

A disappointed Georgia Meyer cannot believe her boyfriend Spencer Moody gave her a calculator for their fifth anniversary. Although he is also her boss, she expected an engagement ring but not something for the office.

Needing time to reconsider their going nowhere relationship, Georgia visits her sister Frida in Whispering Bay, Florida. Frida and her buddies the Bunco Babes welcome Georgia to join them on a Bunco night. They plow her with drinks and soon vino veritas takes place as she tells all to them including her attraction to Dave Hernandez, whom she just met. Sober Georgia must recalculate what she wants out of life.

This is a lighthearted romp that fans will enjoy as Georgia invades Florida only to realize she has to make up her mind who she wants. The Bunco Babes are a solid support crew especially with dice and margaritas while Dave is a well drawn protagonist. Still this warm frolic is owned heart and soul by Georgia as she must roll the dice between being a football widow if he ever asks, a love goddess if he ever asks, and if neither asks a Bunco Babe gone wild.

Demon Forged
Meljean Brook
9780425230411 $7.99

Four centuries ago, Guardians Irena and Alejandro began to fall in love. However, when she made a deal with a demon, he rejected her. Irena has regretted has regretted her action ever since while Alejandro despondently muses over what never happened between them.

They went their separate ways, but recently a request for help brings the two guardians together for the first times since she sadly left him. She wants a second chance and will do whatever e demands to achieve it. He wants to give her a second chance, but kismet enhanced by a betrayal appears to leave this couple apart for eternity.

The latest Guardians thriller is a well written dark romantic fantasy. This is a second chance at love battling to survive betrayals as the audience will wonder if the odds are better on the Detroit Lions meeting the Oakland Raiders in the next Superbowl. Fans of the saga will relish this terrific DEMON FORGED entry while newcomers will struggle a bit adapting to the Brook demonic mythos, but soon will join the growing legion of Meljean Brook readers.

Shifting Plains
Jean Johnson
9780425230862 $15.00

Tava Ell Var has known violence all her life as the offspring of a human female raped by seventeen were-tigers. Her adoptive father, a gentle scribe, showed her kindness while aising her, but marauding bandits murdered him; leaving her alone especially in light of people she has known for years rejecting her. Tava vows vengeance for the only person whoever cared about her.

However, before she can stalk her adversaries, a Shifterai warband led by Kodan Sin Siin kill the outlaws and offer Tava sanctuary with Clan Cat as she is a shapeshifter too. She hesitates well aware of the raping of her mom. She is given no choice as she can be a slave or a free member.

The prequel to the Sons of Destiny saga is an enjoyable romantic fantasy as fans of the series will enjoy the tale of love between shapeshifters. Although not as dramatic as the Sons of Destiny with sudden leaps in the story line, Jean Johnson provides an enjoyable tale in which the romance supersedes the fantasy elements even with a potential she-Tiger who may prove genuine or die as the first female royal shifter in ages.

Thief Of Light
Denise Rossetti
9780425231302 $15.00

In Caracole Erik Thorensen is known as the Godlen due his sensual Voice that seduces innocent women. However, he went too far with his seductive Voice and stole the soul of an innocent.

Erik is attracted to the Garden of Nocturnal Delights business manager Pruella Takimori McGuire. She is a bottom line type of woman and not fantasy Magick lover. His efforts to win her love is frustrated by her ignoring the Voice as it has no effect though she conceals her attraction to Erik the person and not his Golden persona. However, Erik is soon in deep trouble when the Necromancer has evil plans to use the Golden Voice to devour the souls of the innocent.

This is an enjoyable romantic fantasy starring two likable lead characters and a sinister villain. The Golden one finds his charming seductive voice fails him with the woman he wants and who might be the one to bring him redemption. Besides his failure with Prue, he now has a kick butt evil necromancer determined to use his seductive skill to steal souls. Fans will take pleasure in Denise Rossetti's return to the realm of the Four-Sided Pentacle (see The Flame and the Shadow).

Heart Change
Robin D. Owens
9780425229972 $15.00

In Celta, GrandLady Signet D'Marigold is lonely as the last surviving member of her proud family. However, to make matters worse, her talent remains undefined. That is unheard of until thirteen year old prophet GreatLord Vinni proclaims her to a major catalyst for change.

Vinni needs Signet's help with his seven years old heartmate Avellana Hazel; the child's brain has been damaged and chances of surviving her first passage are nonexistent unless Signet takes the risk of assisting her. GreatLord T'Hawthorn's security chief Cratag Maytree is chosen to protect the two females during the flair. None of the participants were expecting an attraction between Signet and Cratag, but as that ignites someone wants to destroy all of those involved.

Readers will relish the latest Heart realm romantic fantasy as the lead couple falls in love while trying to save a child's life. The story line is character driven as Robin D. Owens goes deep inside family relationships on Celta with a poignant passionate tale that resonates with its health issue timeliness. Robin D. Owens' latest as is the case with the magnificent seven predecessors is filled with Heart as the concern is the child's welfare first.

Captive Desires
Diane Whiteside
9780425229989 $15.00

Danae Livingston writes fictional accounts of her warrior hero Alekhsiy in a fantasy realm filled with her desires. However, although she has wet dreams about her hunk, she knows he does not exist except in her libido.

She soon revises her opinion of what reality is when Alekhsiy arrives on Earth needing her help to save his world from evil. He is taken aback to see the woman who haunts his nocturnal desires in the flesh as is she. However, at a fandom fantasy festival, a fanatic demands she writes of the destruction of Alekhsiy's realm or else face his wrath.

This is a very exciting romantic suspense fantasy with the premise of a writer seemingly having the power of God; although the premise has been used before and Alekhsiy's realm never comes to life. Still, the story line is fun to follow as a fanatic demands death to Alekhsiy's world or death to the "creator", which leads to all types of metaphysical questions. Well written and enlightening, Captive Desires is an engaging heated thriller.

Leah's Choice
Marta Perry
9780425230503 $14.00

Widower Daniel Glick moves with his three young children to Pleasant Valley in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The Amish townsfolk welcome the single dad and his brood especially since everyone believes he is perfect for their schoolteacher of then Leah Beiler; and she would be the perfect wife to him and an ideal mom to his three young kids (Matthew, Elizabeth and Jonah).

Daniel is attracted to Leah, but he has doubts after his unhappy first marriage. Adding to his growing hesitation is the return of Leah's ex-fiance, Johnny Kile who wants a second chance with her. Will Leah choose a ready family, the man who broke her heart or neither?

This is an entertaining but somewhat by the book Amish romance that although for the most part provides nothing new fans will still enjoy it. The conflict is the relationship choices that Leah must make and for that matter Daniel too. Whereas she must choose between her first love who dumped her for the outside world and a steady man who has proven to be a good mother and father to his kids. He knows he must put those kids ahead of his desires. With a nod to Roy Orbison's Running Scared, readers will appreciate Marta Perry's fine passionate contemporary mindful of the works of Wanda E. Brunstetter.

Eggs Benedict Arnold
Laura Childs
9780425231555 $7.99

Three women on the far side of forty form a bond that proves deeper than friendship. Suzanne's husband died six months ago; Petra's spouse has early Alzheimer's and lives in a nursing home; and Toni's younger mate deserted her for a younger woman. The trio formed the Cackleberry Club which is a combination a cafe. Bookstore and knitting and crochet club that sells merchandise to crafters (see Eggs in Purgatory).

Petra observes that funeral director Ozzie Driesden never came back for his cherry pie. Suzanne volunteers to deliver the pie to him at the Draper Funeral Home. She finds Ozzie dead on a metal embalming table wrapped in plastic tubing and with a large needle sticking out of him. Suspicion immediately falls on Ozzie's assistant but Suzanne sees him hanging from a tree before someone chloroforms her. Authorities decide two homicides occurred. She decides to investigate, but quickly finds a horde of viable suspects from differing walks of life with diverse bur equally strong motives and opportunities. Not understanding the danger she foolishly places herself in, Suzanne keeps digging until the annoyed killer targets her.

This extremely entertaining amateur sleuth mystery is wrapped inside a sisterhood tale of three women who forge a strong bond at a time when each needs the strength of others after long term relationships ended. With the caring and nurturing the trio provides to each other, they become independent and feisty as each affirms Helen Reddy's female anthem I Am Woman. Although Suzanne's reason to investigate seems weak even with her being drugged, fans will relish this strong tale of BFFs having each other's back.

Claimed by the Wolf
Charlene Teglia
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312537425 $13.99

Millenia ago long before the Sumerians existed, werewolves, dragons, vampires, witches, a rebellions demon tribe and the Sidhe fought against the demon and were evenly matched until the witches betrayed their cause by changing sides and allying with the demons. All the supernatural species in the battle died except the leaders of each species who pledged their lives and allegiance to the warrior and sexual goddess Inanna. They became her mark, giving them powers and become known as the Shadow Guardians who guard the portals so the demons don't enter this world and those that do are forcibly thrown back to their own realm.

The apprentice witch Sybil brought a Book of Shadows at a sale only to find out it contained demonic magic that entered her body. The Shadow Guardian Kenrick the alpha werewolf explains what happened especially since she asked for help of Inanna to get the demon magic out of her. Her plea makes her a Shadow Guardian as she now wears the mark of Inanna Part of the ritual is sex with each of the five Guardians who test her trust worthiness; she passes the exam, but Kenrick is the one she desires and he wants her as his mate. However, the betrayal though so many millennia ago still lingers in his bone marrow and he distrusts her.

This heated paranormal romantic suspense starring five alpha males and one female who has sex with each of them and in all sorts of combinations . Obviously sex rules the story line as Sybil bewitches four of her teammates while the one she loves who claims her as his expects her to deceive them. Although the libido to the nth power makes the supernatural seem real while dominating the somewhat thin story line, fans who relish the heat will want to read this romantic urban fantasy.

Cheyenne McCray
St. Martin's Griffin
9780312386696 $14.99

Trinity MacKenna spent the last four years in London where she has a thriving career and a boyfriend. However, she has finally returned home to spend the holidays with her family on their Flying M ranch in Arizona.

At a welcome home party, Trinity meets the ranch's foreman Luke Denver. Each are attracted to one another as he wants her and her him though she insists she is going to marry some English bloke. However, Luke is actually an undercover DEA agent working the illegal drug trafficking accentuated by a turf war and the bust by County Sheriff Wayland of three Cochise College students for possession. He fears for Trinity and her sister Skylar as someone wants to use the ranch as a depot for shipping drugs.

The second Armed and Dangerous undercover police procedural romance (see Zack) is a fast-paced, heated thriller as readers will want their own hot tubs. The key to this terrific entry is the case and the safety of civilians come before the sexual need although Luke and Trinity insures the audience has plenty of encounters of the first kind (and third kind for readers and voyeurs). As expected Cheyenne McCray deftly merges the heat of suspense with that of sex and love in this super thriller.

Christmas Promise
Anne Perry
9780345510662 $18.00

In 1883 in London's dangerous East End, thirteen years old Gracie Phipps on an errand for Gran one week before Christmas meets a much younger urchin Minnie Maude Mudway, who says she is not lost. The child says Uncle Alf died and Charlie is missing and probably hungry, cold and frightened. Gracie keeps to herself the description probably applies to the emaciated Minnie.

Gracie decides to help Minnie find Charlie the donkey and learn how her uncle, a bone-and-rag dealer, died. The unlikely youthful sleuths investigate with the guidance of shopkeeper Mr. Balthasar. They learn Uncle Alf diverted form his normal path and his cart held a mysterious gold box that Mr. Balthasar warns them to be cautious as every fool loses their senses when it comes to gold; let alone what might be inside.

The seventh Christmas Victorian thriller is a terrific tale that brings to life the era and place through the two children, whose street smarts belie their age. The mystery mostly is used to enhance a look through the kids of life in the slums of late Victorian London during the holiday season. Fans of the author will enjoy what has become a Christmas tradition; an entreating Anne Perry historical.

The Prisoner
Carlos J. Cortes
9780553591637 $7.99

In 2059, the voice at the Hypnos prison keeps informing the latest convicts to stay calm as they are put into a suspended animation state. Three lawyers Laurel Cole, Bastien Compton and Raul Osborne are put away in tank 913 that contains 136 official prisoners but Homeland Security hides four others from Congress.

Soon after they are put to sleep, operator Lukas Hurley wakes two of them up, but Bastien died in the process from cardiac arrest. He also awakens Eliot Russo who has been in the tank for eight years, which means he is insane. He is the cause of why the lawyers entered the facility as he is proof that the Hypnos firm and Homeland Security Federal Bureau of Hibernation are performing illegal detentions. The foursome escape through the sewers with Raul carrying Lukas. The prison is aware of their escape, but fails to prevent them from reaching Nyx Corporation where Dr. Floyd Carpenter helps them, but Nikola is coming for them as nobody escapes from the reach of the FBH.

This is an exhilarating futuristic science fiction thriller that extrapolates from America's greatest growth industry during the Bush years: warehousing of prisoners to make the incarcerations more efficient and effective. The cast is solid but the most interesting is Nikola who adapts to every failure by not modifying the goal of recapture but by changing the action plan steps. Fans will enjoy this terrific cat and mouse tale while balking at the cost financially and emotionally of three strikes and you're out.

Linda Howard
9780345517197 $24.00

Gabriel McQueen drives up from North Carolina to spend the holidays with his family in Wilson Creek, Maine. The widowed soldier looks forward to time with "Gran", his dad the sheriff and his son Sam. However, his father asks him to take a quick run up to the Helton family cabin to make sure Lolly Helton, who went up there to pick ups some items, but should have returned by now and is out of phone contact, is all right as a nasty storm is coming.

As Gabe muses back to his icy childhood rivalry with Lolly while driving to her cabin, she is in danger trapped by two irrational meth addicts. Gabe quickly assesses the situation on the ground and uses his military training and experience to extract Lolly from the house and the enemy. However, as covertness as he was, the two maniacal thugs go after them.

This is an exciting fast-paced romantic suspense with the frozen isolated location enhancing the perilous situation. Gabe is a terrific heroic protagonist although it is convenient to have his background in extraction and survivability under harsh conditions. Lolly still rips skins form him as he discovers how to melt the Ice and prevent further epidermis loss by kissing her. Although the addicts are stereotypes fans will enjoy Linda Howard's quick by exhilarating survival of the fittest thriller.

Soul Magic
Jennifer Lyon
9780345506351 $7.99

Wing Slayer Sutton West has vowed to follow his father's lead if the moment he can no longer control his blood lust begins. When the curse began to overwhelm his sire chose suicide rather than harm an innocent witch.

Rogue witch slayers killed Keri Fisk. Two years have passed and her twin sister psychiatrist Dr. Carla Fisk still mourns her loss. Sutton finds he is attracted to Carla, who runs a clinic, but he fears that desire might be the first step in the curse. However, he saves her life when rogues attack, but both realize a shocker; the rogue Styx and the demon Asmodeus have teamed up and trapped Keri's soul in a knife used by the witch slayer to provide his partner with the souls of witches she kills. As they try to save Keri's soul, Sutton and Carla wonder which twin is his soul mate.

The second Magic romantic fantasy (see Blood Magic) is a super saga as readers learn more about the plight of Keri and the soul mirrors through the lead couple. The fun in the tale is observing Sutton and Carla forging a loving relationship in spite of the curse placing them in opposite hostile camps in which their attraction means death. Filled with danger Soul Magic is a terrific tale that stands alone, but reading the previous entry enhances the knowledge of the Lyon world of Magic.

The Wicked Duke Takes A Wife
Jillian Hunter
9780345503954 $7.99

In 1818 the Boscastles found Harriet Gardner on the mean streets of the London. They cleaned her up and arranged for her to teach at the Scarfield Academy for Young Ladies.

After the death of his brother fourteen months ago, Griffin Boscastle became the duke, a position he detests though he does ducal quite arrogantly well. He escorts his niece Edlyn and his pest of an aunt to the school where he unceremoniously dumps her on Harriet. The rake stays longer than he has to because Harriet's ripping off his skin intrigues him. However, when his thoughts begin veering towards long term, he considers flight rather than fight.

Instead he decides to use Harriet to find him a suitable wife while also asking her to keep his niece safe from an unknown adversary trying to harm her. However, he never expected Harriet to risk her life to keep Edlyn safe. Already beyond lust, Griffin falls into love, but Harriet keeps kicking the rogue to the curb hiding how she really feels.

With a nod to Frankenstein, the latest Boscastle "Wicked" Regency romance (see A Wicked Lord at the Wedding) is a wonderful tale with a strong suspense subplot enhancing the prime story line. Sub-genre readers and the students at the academy will appreciate the pompous conceited duke and the street smart teacher who tears his skin with sarcastic witty retorts while falling in love.

Larry Bond's Red Dragon Rising: Shadows of War
Larry Bond and Jim DeFelice
9780765321374 $25.99

In 2014, the world is in deep trouble as the global economy spins out of control and the environment has gotten worse. The superpowers keep kicking the can saying the time is not right for needed change. In that environs, China faces a horrific drought that has left masses starving and out of control rioting and looting abound. In Europe, a deep recession made worse by inflation has crippled the continent while many economists proclaim a second Greater Depression has occurred. In the United States, the recession has deepened exponentially and inflation has gotten out of control; both fueled by environmental issues and inertia in DC.

The rulers in China go back to pre Communist roots whenever the country is in economic peril; they invade their small neighbor to the south Vietnam in order to feed their starving masses. America, worried by what the invasion will do to the balance of power, comes to the aid of the Vietnamese.

This is a terrific military thriller that extrapolates current trends into the near future. Although the big global stage pulls the exiting story line, the ensemble cast is solid and brings the big theatre to life especially in Southeast Asia. Fans will relish this thrilling cautionary tale but also be concerned, as Larry Bond and Jim DeFelice make a strong case that time is running out after years of neglect.

The Hadrian Memorandum
Allan Folsom
9780765321572 $25.99

He once was an LAPD detective, but that seems like a lifetime ago. Now he goes by the name Nicholas Marten living in England as a landscape architect with his former life of violence supposedly over. However, he made a friend for life when he saved the life of POTUS John Henry Harris (see The Machiavelli Covenant); but as he now learns a friend in need is a pest.

President Harris asks Marten to travel to Equatorial Guinea in West Africa to determine whether native rebels trying to overthrow the harsh Tiombe dictatorship are being armed by security belonging to Texas based oil exploration firm AG Striker. In country on the Island of Bioko in the Gulf of Guinea, Marten meets septuagenarian Father Dorhn who shows him photographic proof of collusion. However, soldiers loyal to Tiombe raid the village killing the German born priest and forcing Marten on the run from the dictator's forces, the CIA, mercenaries, and the oil company as he struggles to reach Eur ope and allies in order to transmit information to Harris; oil brings out lethal partners as agreed upon with The Hadrian Memorandum.

Over the top of Pico Basile, fans who appreciate an international accelerated thriller will enjoy the escapades of Marten in sub-Saharan Africa, Berlin and Lisbon. The story line is fast-paced from the moment POTUS asks the American expat "gardener" to investigate and never slows down. Although plausibility is below the Cameroon Line geologic fault and the plot fails to look at the corrupt political-economic complex that cripples the impoverished area, fans who suspend realism will enjoy this exciting thriller.

Dark Passage
Junius Podrug
0312875142 $24.95

The agents abduct Marseilles prostitute Marie Gauthier and fly on Air Force One to a top-secret laboratory in New Mexico; there researchers are creating the "synchrotron" time machine. Also kidnapped and taken to the same locale is Israeli engineer David Ben-Dor and former CIA agent John Conway.

The explanation seems over the top to the trio especially when the Feds and scientists insist that the psychopathic Islamic fundamentalist Zayyad brothers broke into the lab and are going back in time to 30 A.D. to assassinate Jesus. Even less believable is the displacement brought forward that confused the shepherd Isaiah. This four is being sent back to 30 A.D. to prevent the insane fanatics from killing the Son of God.

Over the top of Mt. Masada with a zillion subplots from the Land of Enchantment to the biblical land of Salome, Romans, Zealots and a few other rebellious sects, as spins go everywhere in a convoluted way, yet Dark Passage completely grips the audience. The story line is fast-paced even while moving back and forth in time and vivid especially during the biblical era. Fans will want to join the four hunters trying to prevent Islamic fanatics from killing Jesus centuries before the Prophet Mohammed is born.

The Price of Love and Other Stories
Peter Robinson
9780061809484 $25.99

This twelve story collection proves Peter Robinson has a wider range than just the Banks police procedural novels though the great Detective Inspector stars in some of the entries. Banks stars in two bookend novellas, "Going Back" which affirms you can go home even when it turns nasty and "Like a Virgin" in which he left London for Eastvale following a horrific crime he investigated. Both are terrific as are banks' short entries. However what make the anthology even more engaging is the other stories that run the gamut of time and place. During WWII in Yorkshire, Black American GI "Cornelius Jubb" is accused of rape more so because of the color of his skin; also in WW II, but on the continent a soldier relates his fears as "Shadows on the Water" has him wondering whether he has the red badge of courage. In "The Cherub Affair" a Noir downtrodden tough guy private eye hooks up with a femme fatale in need. With a suspense that crosses into horror and two more Banks shorts, THE PRICE OF LOVE AND OTHER STORIES is a winner especially for fans of the Yorkshire DCI as "Like a Virgin" is new and "Going Back" never published in America.

The Last Dickens
Matthew Pearl
Random House
9780812978025 $15.00

In 1870, Charles Dickens dies leaving his last novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished. Soon afterward, several other deaths of people related to the great author occur. Especially stunning is the death of Daniel the office clerk messenger who ran to the docks to retrieve the last chapter of Drood and deliver it to his boss, Dickens's Boston based publisher, James Osgood. Not only is the trustworthy Daniel dead in suspicious circumstances, that valuable finished manuscript is missing; leaving behind only six chapters previously published.

Ruling out murder-theft by a rival house and not one to sit idly back in American hoping for a miracle, Osgood decides to go to England to learn more about his late client's death and what happened to the final chapter. Traveling with Osgood from America is bookkeeper Rebecca Sand, whose late brother is one of the deceased apparently associated with Dickens; she wants to know how he died.

The story line is fast-paced from the moment Osgood (real persona) learns of Dickens's death and never slows down even with flashbacks of the writer's son stationed in India as a superintendent of the Bengal Mounted Police and the 1867 author's tour of America. Fans will enjoy this fine Victorian Era mystery loaded with genuine historical facts and people, and intriguing Dickens trivia. Different from the also entertaining Drood by Dan Simmons, Matthew Pearl provides an entertaining very British final solution to the Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Holding Out For A Hero
HelenKay Dimon
Kensington Brava
9780758229052 $14.00

In Hawaii affluent Deana Armstrong rejects the police conclusion that her sixteen year old nephew Ryan used a baseball bat to bludgeon his parents to death and he was convicted of that crime. She believes he is innocent and her only hope to prove this rests with former DEA agent Josh Windsor who left the department before they fired him over a meth case that turned ugly. Deanna confronts him and offers him money, but he simply says no; her family money tipped him in a previous drug related court case re her nephew. Josh further explains he is out of the hero business and wants nothing to do with this woman who belongs in a Nebraska convent.

Eventually her harassment pushes Josh to agree to investigate if for no other reason but to get Deana from stalking him. Every clue he finds affirms the conviction, which makes falling in love a bit more difficult than even their totally opposite childhoods.

This is an entertaining investigative romance in which the love subplot supersedes the murder mystery. Josh and Deanne have issues; his with his heritage in which his mom turned tricks to feed him and her with scars on her chest from her most frightful moment; thus with their different opinion re Ryan leads to a fascinating pairing. Although the detecting subplot seems only to serve as a matchmaker, fans will enjoy the repartee between two people who represent opposite sides of Hawaii's social spectrum.

The Mane Squeeze
Shelly Laurenston
Kensington Brava
9780758231666 $14.00

Philadelphia street smart Gwen O'Neill is a hybrid shapeshifter of the lion-tiger combo. Suburban Lachlin "Lock" McRyrie is a calm purebred bear who is almost seven feet of muscle. These two are from opposite walks of life, but opposites attract at least in this case.

Gwen rejects their obvious desire for one another as she prefers the single life and also acts as protector to her loved ones. Besides which being inner city, she feels the burb is not strong enough for her. However, Lock shows his inner strength when someone commits hate-crimes trying to hurt his loved one Gwen apparently for being a hybrid.

The latest Mane urban romantic fantasy (see The Mane Event and The Mane Attraction) is a fabulous entry in a wonderful series. The story line is fast paced from the first meeting when the ferocious female basically growls at the gentle giant to get out of her heart and never slows down especially going over a mountain. Character driven by the lead couple and a nasty racist, fans will enjoy this fine tale while wondering whether the couple should buy Venetian blinds.

Spinning Forward
Terri DuLong
9780758232045 $15.00

Fifty-two year old Sydney Webster has no time to grieve the death of her husband in a car crash. Instead she unceremoniously is tossed out of their house and finds herself overwhelmed by debt caused by her late spouse's gambling addiction and to top off her woes, she is the recipient of their adult daughter Monica's anger.

Her friend Alison invites Sydney to live at her bed-and-breakfast on Cedar Key, Florida. Needing to pay her bills, Sydney, using her hobby, opens a knitting shop to the chagrin of brusque Noah Hale, who wanted the property. While living on the island, Sydney who was adopted decides to seek out her biological parents after meeting the town grouch Sybile, who Alison agrees looks so similar to her that they must be related.

Spinning Forward is an intriguing tale of a woman who gave up her independence for comfort choosing to ignore her late husband's peccadilloes. In some ways though. Sydney is over fifty, this is a coming of age or perhaps better described as a second chance coming of age saga. Although the romance seems more a requirement that feels unnecessary, the cast is super strong even the evanescent Miss Elly, but this is the unsinkable Sydney's tale from start to finish.

Hot And Irresistible
Dianne Castell
Kensington Brava
9780758223616 $14.00

Savannah police detective Bebe Fitzpatrick is a good cop mostly because of her street smarts she learned in her rough childhood. However, Bebe is unhappy when her boss teams her up with Boston cop Donovan McCabe in town investigating a local hero, Ray Cleveland who owns a restaurant on Thunderbolt Island where she likes to eat. Bebe and Donovan are attracted to each other inside the bedroom but detractors on the case as they disagree about Mr. Cleveland running things besides food.

Bebe also gets involved with a three decade old cold case murder and issues about who her parents are. However, the worst problem facing Bebe is that damn Yankee invader she baby-sits for as she wants him to do more than just diaper him at a time when their inquiry leads to more murders and attempts on their lives.

More a romance between a couple fighting the War of Northern Aggression in her mind while in his is babysitting is great. There is an excellent supporting police procedural subplot. The story line is fun as the banter between the "sitter and the baby" is humorous as she is aggressive and angry and he is amused. However, readers who prefer taut suspense throughout their tales should pass as HOT AND BOTHERED is predominantly a romance between two cops whose investigation serves as a matchmaker of sorts.

A Great Kisser
Donna Kauffman
Kensington Brava
9780758231314 $14.00

Six months ago her mother married Mayor Arlen Thompson of Cedar Springs, a Colorado resort town. Now Lauren Matthews leaves her job at Capitol Hill to meet her mom's spouse, her stepfather.

The mayor's personal assistant Ruby Jean demands (by crying) her brother Jake McKenna escort her boss' stepdaughter around town. Jake reluctantly agrees although he prefers fixing planes. However as they soar in love, someone is doing things to drive her out of town. Already disconcerted by her mother's sudden marriage, Lauren wonders who and why.

Mindful of Matthew Broderick's Out on a Limb, A GREAT KISSER is an enjoyable romantic suspense with the accent on the love subplot as the mystery never quite gels because the villain never quite seems felonious. Jake is fun as the reluctant hero while Lauren is the outsider causing trouble for townsfolk with her need to know why the mayor married her mom because she doubts his sincerity as a spouse or a politician. Fans preferring contemporary romances with a touch of suspense will enjoy Donna Kauffman's Rocky Mountain tale.

Jami Alden
Kensington Brava
9780758225481 $14.00

Perhaps it is because he is the oldest of the Taggart siblings that makes Danny kick butt and ask questions afterward. His "Gemini" twin younger brothers seem gentle in comparison (see Kept and Caught for their respective tales). Only one person outside of family ever got passed his rock hard heart, but Caroline Medford dumped him ten years ago; coagulating his heart into glacial ice.

Sometimes you get what you wish for and Danny gets his. A desperate Caroline begs him to help her as she is the prime suspect in the murder of her husband James. To entice him to take her on as a client, she shows him evidence she found linking James to his missing mom Ann. Danny takes on the case, planning to take her and dump her. As they fall in love for the second time, their break-up leaves both raw and suspicious of the other's motives.

The third Gemini Men romantic suspense thriller is an action packed second chance at love tale that completes the overarching theme while also providing an intriguing finish. The villains are incredible as they make the story line work with their avarice human trafficking while the lead couple is a strong duet whose history may overwhelm their future. Fans will enjoy this fine last Taggart standing novel while newcomers will seek the tales of the twins Ethan and Derek, who with their father Joe and their women make key minor appearances in the exhilarating UNLEASHED.

Julia Templeton
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758238153 $13.95

The Raybourne brothers (Sinjin, Victor, and Rory) are known throughout London as the "Rakehells of Rochester; they live for sexual pleasure. However, even these hedonists know when it is time to retreat as their Mother has arrived at Madame Darion's Pleasure Palace in Covent Gardens looking for them. Mother Betsy demands they give up their wanton ways and marry.

As the oldest Sinjin agrees to go first as the "sacrifice" to the altar of their Mother, but she informs her three offspring that each will be married by summer's end or else. However when he and Katelyn Davenport meet, Sinjin finds marriage may not be bad as he is attracted to her. There is only one problem; she is engaged to the much older Lord Balliford as a means to pay back her late father's debts. As he teaches her the pleasure of sex between those in love, Balliford arrives to "re-imprison" his betrothed.

From the moment Mother assaults her wastrel sons until the final confrontation SINJIN is an enjoyable heated erotic historical romance. The lead couple is a solid (and not just his constant boner) pairing while the support cast of both their families add some depth. Though Balliford is a vile villain with no redeeming quality and the story line thin, sub-genre readers will enjoy this torrid tale and crave Victor's encounter.

Simply Wicked
Kate Pearce
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758232212 $13.95

In 1819 London anything sexual is Anthony Sokorvsky's reputation; which he affirms overnight at Madam Helene Delornay's pleasure house making him late for his meeting with his brother Val (see SIMPLY SEXUAL) at Sokorvsky and Howard shipping. He vows to his sibling to change his ways as he loathes that Lord Minshom owns his body and soul as his personal sex slave.

The Delornay twins ask Anthony to do them a favor; escort their widowed older sister Marguerite Lockwood around town. He agrees as he sees her as a first step back into society after his recent homosexual relationship; she also accepts his invitation as she must overcome the scandal caused by her late husband's death in a duel; her in-laws blame her. As their attraction turns physical, Anthony's former partner has plans for his former submissive and the submissive woman he has ties to.

The key to this Simply Wicked Regency erotic romance is Anthony as he does not suddenly find the holy grail of heterosexual activity with Marguerite, but instead learns he is a bisexual submissive. Marguerite is also a submissive so with no dominant can they find happiness just like they have found love. Fans of the House of Pleasure will enjoy the latest heated historical as this is simply one of the bets sub-genre series leaving fans SIMPLY INSATIABLE for more.

Under The Covers
P.J. Mellor, Crystal Jordan and Lorie O'Clare
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758238078 $13.95

"Naughty or Nice?" by Crystal Jordan. Dayna brings her sexually unsatisfying but nice fiance Nathan home to meet the family. Her brother's best friend naughty Jake has other holiday plans for Dayna.

"Nativity Island" by Lorie O'Clare. Marine biologist Mercedes and author Jeremy meet on an island when the ship carrying her and her teammates has engine problems. Each is attracted to the other but she wants the real man not the novelist and he wants to believe she desires him not the famous bestselling author.

"Escaping Christmas" by P.J. Mellor. Her boyfriend dumps her taking her dog Rhetta with him. Banker Samantha follows him to Christmas, Texas to retrieve the canine, but soon finds herself handcuffed to sheriff Bret.

These are three heated Christmas romances that prove the holidays can turn excitingly erotic with the right coupling.

Taming The Cougar
Vonna Harper
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758229465 $12.95

Animal psychic Kai Tallon is part of an anthropological exploration on Navajo land in the canyons of Northern Arizona. She knows this area is reputed to be home to a pride of shapeshifting half human and half cougar species. Though she has doubts the legend of the Tocho is true especially the sexual proclivity of the males, she hopes to affirm the myth as real with an encounter of the first kind.

Kai meets Hok'ee on spiritual and physical levels. He takes her to his abode claiming her as his lifemate. She shocks him when she figures out what changed him from a purebred human to the hybrid. Her challenge in a tug of war for her beloved's soul is the skinwalker who wants Hok'ee to be more cougar than man. Her colleagues are so excited about their find that they plan to report to civilization once they return from the canyons.

This is a thrilling erotic rural romantic fantasy that uses Navaho mythos as a basis of a heated tale. The story uses the duality of rotating first person perspectives between Kai and Hok'ee that enable the audience to understand the motives of each, but though fascinating especially his schizoid needs fighting each other for supremacy, this also slows down the pace. Once the lead couple meets, the engaging story line is faster than a fleeing roadrunner even with the BDSM encounters of a first kind. Erotica fans who relish refreshing sexual twists will enjoy this superb thriller.

Thanksgiving at the Inn
Tim Whitney
9781890862640 $14.99

Two years ago the mother of teenager Heath Wellington III walked out on him and his dad Junior. Since she left, Junior treats his son as a slave with chores all the time when the kid is not in school, which he is not having been suspended for cheating. When Junior's dad dies, Heath realizes he cannot remember what his grandfather Senior looked like as they drive to Massachusetts for the funeral. Senior's lawyer Lloyd explains that Junior and Heath will inherit the Sleeping Inn if they run the place for three months and take care of the residents.

Heath feels at home at the B&B with the Jamaican sage Winsted, elderly Mrs. Farrel who is giving away her late husband's fortune one letter at a time, muscular children's author Mustang Sally, and TV news couch potato Carter. He also likes neighbor Savannah who apparently is his dad's first love, and her autistic daughter Tori. On the other hand he loathes his father who sees the world as one endless loveless chore.

This is an engaging inspiring family drama as the son becomes the father (think of Chapin's song Cat in the Cradle) although Senior learned too late what he did to his offspring. Senior's legacy is letters trying to reach Junior before he repeats the mistake with the III. In light of a photo showing three generations of smiling male Wellingtons, the lack of the back story between Senior and Junior hurts any transformation that may occur. Still fans will enjoy this fine holiday tale as everyone learns to be thankful for all the good in their lives by celebrating together THANKSGIVING AT THE INN.

23 Hours
David Wellington
Three Rivers (Crown)
9780307452771 $14.00

Former cop turned vampire slayer and convict Laura Caxton are incarcerated at the Marcy State Correctional Institution in Tioga County, Pennsylvania. The maximum security prison is double the intend population with over 1300 of the worst dregs of humanity residing there. Laura is unconcerned as she eats soup in the cafeteria because she expects attacks and deaths, but not hers.

However, when she anticipated corpses she thought she would be the cause. Instead the prison has a special guest, the oldest known vampire Justinia Malvern who dines on the local population with plans to have Laura as her just dessert within 23 hours of the hunter's arrival. Each human Justina drains she also converts.

This is a terrific violent Vengeful Vampire thriller (see Vampire Zero, 13 Bullets and 99 Coffins) with a fascinating final twist that will stun fans. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of blood and gore as expected by those who read this series. They also expect a High Midnight showdown, which they get. Laura's killing sprees is a trademark of the saga but the tale avoids the overall feel of repetition due to her diabolically brilliant opponent.

David Wellington
Three Rivers (Crown)
9780307460837 $14.00

Cheyenne "Chey" Clark is camping in the Northwest Territories of the Canadian Arctic as she was hired by developers to lure a reticent hermit from his oil rich land where hunters wait to finish the job. After a dangerous night caused by melting ice flooding, she hears a howl that she assumes is a timber wolf. The feral wolf hunts her and when the moon is full traps and bites her.

When Chey awakens she finds herself in the cabin of Monty Powell suffering no physical injuries; in fact she is feeling healthier than she can ever recall. Unsure why, she knows her host is her target. However, as she feels an urge to run the tundra, Chey remains somewhat ignorant as to her condition and just who Monty is. He seeks vengeance from those who murdered his father twenty years ago and their allies; which means slicing off the head of his potential life mate whom he has made like him.

Switching from Vengeful Vampire blood to vengeful werewolf blood, David Wellington provides horror fans with an exhilarating Arctic horror thriller with the usual brilliant final twist. The story line is fast-paced with the focus on the family, as vengeance is in the Canadian air. Fans will enjoy the aptly titled FROSTBITE while wondering will he chop off her head or not and if not will she choose him or her employers?

Unseen Academicals
Terry Pratchett
9780061161704 $25.99

Ankh-Morpork's clever ruler Lord Ventinari informs Ankh-Morpork's Unseen University Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully he could lose a humongous grant if they fail to field a sports team playing football; some sort of hybrid of soccer and rugby. The wizard faculty and administration are in a frenzied state as none of the practitioners understand the rudiments of the game so they struggle to become adept rather quickly; depending ironically on the mundane support staff.

As they put together a squad around a good kicker who apparently is not part of UU, but part of the streets of UU, Ventinari plans to take advantage of the competition to further his ambitions as sponsors expect much more than a front row seat. Part of his tasking of the wizards is to remove the violence out of the sport as the two best teams in the city, the Dimmers and the Dollies, break a lot of bones and not just on the playing field or limited to the players.

The latest Discworld satire lampoons team sports, fans and academics as UU always put learning and eating way above athletics, but now must dropkick athletics way above learning; eating remains at the top thanks to the cook. Fans will enjoy this amusing look at football and universities with side mockings of racism, sexism and fanatics as learning gets benched for a Top Ten team of headbangers.

V.K. Forrest
9780758217189 $15.00

The Kahill Sept was cursed by God because they refused to give up their pagan ways, rejecting the message of Christianity given to them by St.Patrick. They said they will never give up teirpaganism and their lust for power and blood. God gave them what they deserved turning them into vampires who have a continuous life cycle. They die of old age only to return as fourteen years old three days later. When they came to the New World they were given a chance to repent and if they chose God and help guard humanity He would lift the curse.

Now they live in Clare Point, Delaware where they watch over God's children; killing those monsters whom the authorities cannot touch. The human teen tourist Colin Meding is drained dry of blood by a female vampire after they had sex. Fin Kahill is spending the summer as a deputy and watching over his twin Regan, a recovering addict. He is trying to also solve the vampire murder while enjoying his relationship with visting tourist Elena Ruffino who with her family is in town on a vacationt. She is interested in Fin like he is with her. As more murders occur, Fin gets closer to uncovering the identity of the serial killer but also fears what he is learning about his beloved Italian soulmate.

This saga is one of the best vampire series on the market as V.K. Forrest consistently provides super tales. The UNDYING Kahill clan repents their sins and God gives them a chance for ETERNAL redemption, but they must obey his commandments including thou shall not drink human blood. Someone is obviously breaking that commandment. Still the Kahill clan has hope; something none of their species typically have. Ironically as Fin dreams of dying and moving on to heaven, he also finds love on earth. With a terrific police procedural supernatural hunt and a wonderful apparently bittersweet romance, fans will want to rush into the IMMORTAL romantic fantasy realm of this terrific author.

A Catered Birthday Party
Isis Crawford
9780758221940 $22.00

Annabel and Richard Colbert are the richest couple in town thanks to the hot seller of theirt toy company's Puggables based on their pet Trudy. Annabel is throwing a birthday party for Trudy and she hires the catering service of A Little Taste of Heaven run by sisters Bernie and Libby Simmons. Annabel toasts the attendees saying she knows no one there is her friend, but instead are leeches before dinking the wine. She starts choking claming she has been poisoned; before falling into a coma she begs the siblings to find her killer and bring that rat to justice. Two days later she is dead.

As soon as the body is released for burial, her husband Richard has her cremated and demands the sisters drop the idea of investigating Annabel's death. Everyone at the gala depended on Annabel but also loathed her as she screwed all of them at one time or another thus everyone has a motive to kill her. With help from their father, a retired police chief, Bernie and Libby uncover the identity of the culprit, but lack solid proof.

The rich and powerful cast of suspects are amusing and lampooned as unlikable amoral A-holes. Isis Crawford delightfully mocks the affluent inside of a fascinating amateur sleuth mystery. Readers will root for the sisters to bake a perfect case so the killer receives his or hers just desserts. Unlike the odious affluent characters, the siblings are nice and caring as they are always there for one another and their family. With an amusing satirical spin, A CATERED BIRTHDAY PARTY is a delightful Creative Culinary mystery.

The Sapphire Sirens
John Zakour
9780756405816 $7.99

In 2060, Zachary Nixon Johnson is the last freelance detective in the world. He is ably assisted by his AI sidekick HARV and together they have saved the world many times over.

Zach's latest case is finding former basketball star turned entrepreneur Don Rickey's Baseball card collection. He gets a blackmail letter asking for four million dollars to get the collection back. The paper the note is written on is Prime especially since most people communicate through paperless means. The client's ex-wife bought the paper. Zack finds in her home a sapphire who fights him and knocks him out. She takes him to Lantis an island dominated totally by females who came from another planet millennia ago and use a force field and other advanced technology to keep intruders out. His "man-napper" sapphire-haired Amazon Princess Kiana demands Zach find out who killed her mother. The evidence points to Kiana, but the sleuth thinks she is being framed as her guilt is too overwhelming to be true. He has two days to uncover the truth or one of her three sisters will be the heir to the throne of Lantis and Kiana will be execured; of course than again the proof may prove right.

This amusing pulp action science fiction mystery is loaded with futuristic technology, royal politics, a two meter plus giantess, amazons, baseball cards, comic books, Zach and HARV. What more could someone ask for?. The relationship between HARV and Zach is evolving as the AI increasingly seems more human, which makes them behave more like friends. Zach treats the island case like he does any as he easily adjusts to kick butt females (he knows Threta first hand), technology (He has HARV) and royal bull (he has the law). John Zakour provides another colorful insane sci fi whodunit.

Flight of the Renshai
Mickey Zucker Reichert
9780756402730 $25.95

King Griff of Bearn has no time to mourn the loss of his son Prince Arturo from a pirate assault as the menace on the Southern Sea has gown out of control. Likewise the Renshai who lost loved ones protecting the prince have no time to grieve as they are under assault too.

The Northmen have persuaded many in Erthyame that the Renshai stole their land from them. Pressure mounts on King Griff to make reparations starting with exiling the Renshai from the Westlands to the Eastlands at a time he needs their warrior skills to complement his Erthyane Knights. As the Northmen mounts attacks abetted by the organized pirates and Giants on the retreating Renshai, the sons of heroic Kevral Tainharsdatter try to bring leadership to the trek, but Saviar and Calistin Ra-khirsson and Subikahn Taesson have personal demons and issues to overcome as well.

This opening act of another Renshai chronicle is a terrific entry into the wonderful swashbuckling fantasy world of Mickey Zucker Reichert. The story line occurs about two decades after the last trilogy (see The Children of the Wrath)) ends and starst the next generation of heroes. Readers of the saga will fully relish the return to the Westlands and beyond as this is a fresh beginning to the third saga yet it contains all the sword and fantasy play fans expect.

True Blue
David Baldacci
Grand Central
9780446195515 $27.99

Sisters Beth and Mace Perry have always had each other's back as kids and adults with both becoming cops. Temperamentally opposites they love each other, but their police careers go also in different directions. Beth has become police chief of Washington DC while Mace was kicked off the force spending two years in prison after being kidnapped and framed.

Mace wants vindication affirmed only by regaining her badge. Beth at the risk of her career will do what she can to support her younger sister because she is perhaps the only person in blue who believes Mace's story. Attorney Roy Kingman is in the middle of a gigantic case involving the murder of a US Attorney and the rape-killing of another lawyer. He is attracted to feisty Mace who sees solving the spectacular case as redemption. With her sister's support and a need to work in the shadows as another US Attorney wants to return her to jail, Mace investigates only to find roadblocks from the affluent who prefer the case go cold.

This is an action-packed fast-paced over the top of the Washington Monument investigative thriller that grips fans throughout as long as the reader ignores credibility. The sisters make the tale with their support of one another as they seek a killer and redemption for Mace. David Baldacci provides his fans with a very entertaining whodunit with hopefully more appearances from the TRUE BLUE blood siblings.

The Gate House
Nelson DeMille
Grand Central
9780446564236 $14.99

Tax attorney John Sutter left Long Island and his then wife Susan after learning of her affair with their mob connected neighbor Frank Bellarosa, whom she killed ending tragically their tryst (see The Gold Coast). After being away for a decade, John finally returns to Long Island's Gold Coast to attend a funeral though the deceased has not quite died yet.

John wants to start over with Susan and in practicing law. He learns that Frank's brutish son Anthony lives on the property next to that of Susan's wealthy family. He also finds out that his former wife recently bought the cottage where they once lived when he thought all was right in his world. She is euphoric with his return, but he fears Anthony stalks Susan as justice failed the mob.

This sequel is an entertaining tale but requires the reader to accept John's need to reconcile with Susan after ten years of avoiding her and America. The story line starts slow as the key players are reset so that the reader knows who they are, what motivates them and where they have been in the last decade. Although the audience can see the violent finish from as far away as Montauk Point, fans of the author will enjoy the return of Sutter, who has changed dramatically from his first starring appearance on the Gold Coast as he is sarcastic, somewhat acrimonious, and doubting the sincerity of Susan, yet obsesses over a second chance.

Sex, Drugs & Gefilte Fish
Edited by Shana Liebman
Grand Central
9780446504621 $13.99

This compilation by Heeb magazine combines humor with a profound look at being a Jewish-American assimilated into the country's culture yet keeping oneself partially immersed in Judaism. The forty-eight essays are divided unequally into six classifications that cleverly reflect like for a Jew in the United States: sex, drugs, work, youth, family, body and soul. Each is well written to bring out an experience using PowerPoint as Caryn Aviv did rather than the Rabbi or "Lesbians at temple" in which Lisa Kron explains the meaning of "Please Rise" during the High Holy days using bowel obstruction for lucid denotation. Whether it is naked at the kibbutz (Rebecca Addelman) or seeing the Hebrew School teacher naked at her home (Eric Weingrad), readers will enjoy this irreverent yet relevant look at being Jewish in America. As my spouse fondly recalls growing up with an Orthodox mom, a pagan dad, and two leaning towards paganism brothers, he remains proud four decades after bringing out into the open over the kitchen table: the point spread during Chanukah with the pot being chocolate money. This collection is a terrific anthology that uses jocularity to tell the story of Jews adapting in America several generations after having our centuries old ancestral names anglicized at Ellis.

Tell Me Something True
Leila Cobo
Grand Central
9780446519366 $13.99

Twenty-one year old Colombian-American Gabriella has been raised in both countries. Her father resides in Southern California as a successful movie producer while her maternal grandmother, who she visits every Christmas, lives in South America. Her late mother was never been part of her life except for a photo of Helena that Gabriella loves.

A piano prodigy, Gabriella finds her mother's diary that shocks her; not just aboute her mom's affair though that is a stunner when she always of Helena as an earth angel. At a Hollywood gala, Gabriella and affluent pop music promoter Angel Silva meet and are attracted to one another. However, she has some doubts because his father is a jailed drug trafficker. Still as she falls in love, Gabriella keeps looking into what happened to her mother who died in a plane crash just after she apparently had a torrid affair.

This is a violent bittersweet romance starring an intriguing heroine whose image of her parents and grandma collapses with the reading of her Mami's diary. The truth is not as kind as the lie her love ones told her to shelter her from the transgressions of her Mami. Although at times too melodramatic especially when Angel enters Gabriella's life, TELL ME SOMETHING TRUE is a fascinating family drama that asks readers whether lying to protect a child even an adult child from the tarnished truth about a deceased loved one is acceptable. Using true events like the plane crash in 1995 of a flight from Miami to Cali, Columbia as anchors to her tale, fans will enjoy Gabriella's quest to learn who her Mami's secret lover was and why her Mami was on the plane.

A Separate Country
Robert Hicks
Grand Central
9780446581646 $25.99

In 1879 in New Orleans former Confederate General John Bell Hood is dying from yellow fever. He has one death bed wish that his memoir of the past decade instead of his Evil War account be published. He asks Tennessee transplant Eli Griffin, who came to New Orleans four years earlier intending to murder the Rebel general for his defeat at Franklin, to promise he would..

After the South lost the war, Hood moved to New Orleans trying to make a go as a businessman who lost the use of an arm and had a leg amputated during the hostilities. He married Creole Anna Marie Hennen and they had eleven children together raised in abject poverty, which deletes the elan of life from her. Their relationship took another negative spin when Anna Marie's best friend is murdered and Sebastian Lemerle arrives to extort money from his former commander in order not to reveal an ugly secret he knows about Hood from their Texas days together. Others like Rintah, Beauregard and the KKK forerunner want a piece of the war hero too.

This is a deep historical thriller told mostly as an autobiographical account of a major Southern Civil war general. The story line is vivid as the audience sees a teetering New Orleans trying to rebound from the defeat, but reconstruction is hampered by racism, cheating opportunism, and overall amoral behaviour that debilitate the energy from those playing fair. Robert Hicks provides a strong look at life in a battered pandemic depressed Deep South.

Locked In
Marcia Muller
Grand Central
9780446581059 $24.99

In San Francisco private investigator Sharon McCone is returning to her office late at night when she interrupts a burglary in progress. The thief shoots her.

When she regains consciousness, McCone finds herself totally paralyzed in a bed at San Francisco General where she realizes she can only move her eyelids by blinking. The staff at her workplace McCone Investigations worries about their boss who is diagnosed with Locked-In Syndrome and taken to specialized Brandt Neurological Institute. Her crew and her spouse Hy Ripinsky look at the recent caseload and communicate with McCone through her use of her eyelids answering yes and no questions even as she is about to undergo emergency surgery.

Although the ending is fully expected, this is one of the best McCone thrillers that Marcia Muller has ever written as the sleuth is LOCKED IN her body while trying to help her spouse and her employees solve the cases she was working on which includes the assault. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, which affirms Marcia Muller's skills as much occurs in the hospital room with the paralyzed heroine. Fans will be spellbound by a frustrated McCone who can only blink her way to help solving the mysteries.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder
Jeff Markowitz
Five Star
9781594147296 $25.95

Jersey Knews Magazine reporter Cassie O'Malley has been totally unproductive since her former mentor and boss Morris sold the tabloid to Jack Cambrian. Her new employer is tired of her attitude and lack of articles so he warns her to change her attitude and produce some articles. He assigns her to the Mall of Jersey to cover the Christmas shopping. Totally bored, Cassie watches Santa with the kids, but has no articles worth writing.

Security guard Oliver Berryhill finds loan shark Big Mack dead in the men's room. He claims he killed the man during a knife fight when he confronted the loan shark over stolen merchandise. Police Detective Eddie "Eggs" Bebedict thinks the guard is lying; as the knife lacked fingerprints while Big Mack's only surviving son Little Mack vows to kill Berryhill. Meanwhile a pawnbroker related to the case unbeknownst to the cop and the reporter also is found dead.

This is an engaging investigative tale starring a strong cast and climaxing with a great twist. Cassie and Eggs make an interesting combination while the support cast adds eccentricity and crime to the mix. Humor is found in nearby Woodbine where accidents also occur. Still fans will celebrate Cassie's Christmas caper (see WHO IS KILLING DOAH'S DEER for her first case).

Throw Your Heart Over
Linda Ingmanson
Five Star
9781594148170 $25.95

Serena Trent and her ten years old daughter Lacey move from California to Connecticut following a nasty divorce. Serena moves in with her older spinster sister Sarah. Although financially strapped, Serena keeps up Lacey's riding lessons at the farm owned by divorcee Logan Murphy. His ex wife died in a car crash that left his twelve year old daughter Paige angry and trapped in a wheelchair though her doctor says she can walk.

Paige's rage has frightened off several nannies and has rejected the father she occasionally saw before the accident. Desperate, he offers Serena a job as the nanny, which she accepts over the objection of her sister. As the adults fall in love and with the help of the two female Trents, he begins to make inroads with his daughter. However, Logan conceals one key fact from the three women he loves; a truth that could end his relationships with each of them if revealed.

The key that freshens up this second chance at love romance is each adult is a single parent with issues. Serena feels terrible that she has little to offer Lacey while Logan is clueless re Paige who he rarely saw. With a secondary romance adding depth, fans will relish this fine contemporary while wondering whether Logan will reveal the secret that disturbs him or continue to conceal it and pray none of the three women he loves will ever learn the truth.

Karen Fenech
Five Star
9781594148118 $25.95

Over twenty-four years ago, Jolene Marie Marshall killed her seven year old son and attempted to murder her daughters, five years old Clare and baby Katie. She shot Clare in the head before the cops broke in and arrested her. Clare survived, but was separated from two years old Katie. Now Clare is an FBI Agent stationed in New York still looking for Kate with no success and the state of Texas has just executed her mom. Clare goes to a convenience store where she runs into a hold-up in which the storeowner is dead and a man has a gun pointed at a woman's head. Clare kills him.

The grateful woman, Mrs. Sands works at Protective Services; feeling she owes Clare so gives to her a lead to Katie; AKA Beth Linney living in Farley, South Carolina. Taking a leave of absence, Clare heads to Farley where she learns Beth ran away with a trucker. She is unwelcome by the townsfolk because of her resemblance to her sibling, who was married but Beth Ryder dumped the local hero. Finally, in town is her former lover, FBI Agent Jake Sutton who left her when she rejected his efforts for a more permanent relationship; he is the local agent raising his young orphaned niece. Clare's life has converged in Farley as she makes waves seeking clues to where her sister went, but finds something much more lethal and sinister.

Although the convergence in South Carolina is a credulous coincidence over the top of Sassafras Mountain, GONE is a super thriller. Clare is terrific as a courageous person risking her career and her life to find a sister she has not seen in almost a quarter of a century. Jake is frustrated with her as Clare feels women with her genetics don't marry and especially do not have kids. Readers will enjoy this exciting tale as the heroine makes tsunami like waves to Farley.

A Killing in Retrospect
Barbara Cummings
Five Star
9781594147845 $25.95

In Hoover Depression Era Providence, at the Merciful Sister of Mary, fourth grade student Dante Ricci asks his teacher Sister Mary Agnes to uncover the truth about his mother's death. Apparently, Catherine died when her car crashed into a tree on the farm owned by her spouse Vincent, reputed to be the head of the local mob.

Unable to say no to her favorite student, Sister Agnes enlists science guru Sister Winifred to help her uncover the truth. The two nuns quickly conclude Catherine was murdered. Soon afterward, maid Kitty Killian is poisoned and other homicides past and present occur and are revealed. Sister Agnes soon concludes the killings are a mob vendetta tied to Dante's paternal grandfather, ailing Donato, who is officially still the head of the family.

The second Sister Agnes historical mystery (see A Killing on Church Grounds) is a charming cozy due to the chaotic antics of the heroine as she investigates with courage and fortitude. She makes the tale fun with her pious pronunciations and puns. Although there is too many minor sidebars that enhance the time and place but also detracts from the mystery, fans (except bad guys) will enjoy getting a religious education from Sister Agnes.

Bad Karma
Dave Zeltserman
Five Star
9781594147944 $25.95

In Boulder, two University of Colorado students, twenty-three year old Taylor Carver and nineteenth years old Linda Gibson, are battered to death in the bedroom of the condo they share. Carver's mom sues the condo owner Chris Jackson for the lack of proper security measures.

The owner's lawyer Paul Devens hires former Cambridge, Massachusetts cop turned Boulder private investigator Bill Shannon to investigate the homicides in order to uncover who and why; specifically emphasizing not to find dirt on the victims. At about the same time, a distraught mom Pauline Cousins of Portland Oregon also hires Shannon to learn if her daughter Melissa is okay since she joined the True Light cult Shannon prefers the cult case as he had an out of body experience when he killed Bill Winters back in New England after the psychopath skinned alive his partner and broke off with a nutcracker two of Bill's fingers in front of his wife.

The second Bill Shannon investigative mystery (see Bad Thoughts) is an interesting mystery as the sleuth works his two cases and struggles with his nightmares re the Winter serial killer fiasco seeing a shrink Eli to help him. Shannon's back history is macabre but fascinating as is his relationship with his ex wife Susan, as both still suffer from the Cambridge trauma; however the session with Eli and Susan also detract from the inquiries. With an interesting final DNA like twist fans will enjoy his Boulder caseload.

An Echo In The Bone
Diana Gabaldon
9780385342452 $30.00

With the hostilities everywhere, it is unsafe to journey; as the rebels seem heading to certain defeat. Ironically travelers Jamie Fraser and his wife Claire Randall know the upstart colonial Americans ultimately win the war against the mother country England because she read the outcome in twentieth century history books. They travel together along with others as Clare fears for the safety of her spouse and his son fighting for the British; her schooling and history books never told her what happened to her Jamie.

In the twentieth century, their daughter Brianna, her husband Roger and their children struggle with adapting to life in the future. However, though they connect with the Mackenzie clan, another time traveler has arrived and a real threat to their well being has surfaced.

This is an exciting historical thriller that takes readers on a tour of the battlefields and Europe as people die during the American Revolution. Claire is terrific as she knows the ultimate outcome, but neither the personal outcome nor that trouble has traveled to the twentieth century. Well written with the deep characterizations, fans will relish Fraser and company's latest tale as Diana Gabaldon overcomes the completing of all the previous major threads in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by expanding the minor left behind subplots into a great entry.

Bound To Shadows
Keri Arthur
9780553591163 $6.99

A serial killer is on the loose with the culprit's modus operendi being the beheading of vampires; not an easy task to achieve yet the psychopath seems to do it quite easily. Guardian Riley Jensen investigates the homicides when a second case surfaces. Someone is snuffing out human females with not the slightest trace of violence. The locals are in a feeding frenzy of fear.

Her personal life is even more out of control since her werewolf soulmate Kye Murphy has returned. She wants no part of the amoral mercenary, but the sexual pull is devastating. Even her millennium old suave lover Quinn the vampire may not be enough to keep Kye from her. However, investigating the case might prove the answer to eluding her desire for her soulmate.

Bi-species hybrid Riley continues to be pulled in two conflicting directions externally between the vampires and the werewolves, and internally her soul. She makes the BOUND TO SHADOWS superb; as she investigates the serial killing beheadings while being pulled between two lovers, her bad ass werewolf soulmate and her urbane vampire heart's mate. This is a great entry in a terrific police procedural romantic urban fantasy series (see Darkest Kiss).

Holly and Homicide
Leslie Caine
9780440245032 $7.99

In Colorado, first they were enemies; then they became competitors. Erin and Steve joined forces to become Gilbert and Sullivan Designers, which ultimately led them to become lovers. They win the commission to remodel the Godwin Victorian mansion into the Snowcap Inn Bed and Breakfast. The previous owner Henry Godwin had a case of wanderlust so he sold his house to business mogul Wendell Barton, Domestic Bliss TV star Audrey Munroe and Pop star Chiffon Walters.

Wendell also bought other property awhile ago on the nearby mountain and he created a ski resort, which will change the complexion of Snowcap, Colorado with an influx of outsiders. The locals are outraged encouraging Angie the building inspector to find reasons to prevent the inn from operating with guests on Christmas Eve as envisioned by Wendell and associates. Erin finds Angie's dead body out doors. She realizes her eggnog is laced with poison. When a second homicide occurs, Erin investigates, which places her in the crosshairs of a killer and of an incompetent sheriff.

The whodunit is fabulous because it is cleverly constructed with red herrings and twists to keep the reader, police and Erin guessing who the killer is. The romantic subplot blends well with the detecting especially as Erin's former boyfriend arrives to add tension. Leslie Caine has written a charming colorful cozy starring a captivating amateur sleuth and the men in her life.

My Dead Body
Charlie Huston
Del Rey
9780345495891 $14.99

The vampyres of Manhattan are outraged with private eye Joe Pitt; they want to drain him slowly dry for exposing EVERY LAST DROP of their blood supply. Having lived in the sewers where he feasted on the lost, Joe figures he will return to his underground abode waiting for one the vampyre clans from Manhattan or the other boroughs to find him.

As civil war between the clans seems coming, his friend, skin flick producer Chubby, persuades Joe to help a pregnant woman who insists a vampyre is her unborn's sire. Knowing what she means if her baby is born healthy though he still wants to reject the protection case, his former girlfriend persuades Joe to return above ground subject to his usual beatings from his enemies. At the same he uses diabolical tactics to maneuver the various fighting groups to insure the supernatural civil war is between his enemies.

The Fifth Pitt Casebook (see Every Last Drop) is a great private investigator NYC fantasy (I say NYC not just Manhattan as he did spend a stint insuring the flow of Half The Blood In Brooklyn). Joe is a hardboiled vampiric detective who even has a favorite East River body dumping ground. This time he alienates more than just the Coalition as seemingly every sect in Manhattan want to drink EVERY LAST DROP of his blood and abduct the pregnant female who will make that group the most powerful. Although not easy to just enter Joe's caseload with MY DEAD BODY as so much has happened to send him scurrying in and out of the sewers more frequently than Ed Norton ever did, fans of the saga will enjoy his latest bloody caper all because of a baby.

Lucy A. Snyder
Del Rey
9780345512093 $7.99

In Ohio, Jessie Shimmer and her lover Cooper are magic practitioners commonly called Talents. They come under the authority of the Circle who police witches to insure they remain insider the rules. The two go to the Grove in Taft Park to perform a spell chant that farmers are paying them to end a debilitating drought. The spell misfires and Cooper vanishes into an intradimensional portal that opened up. Cooper's familiar Smokey returns to his true form of a dragon and tries to kill a demon, but Jessie stops the malevolence at the cost of an eye and an arm.

She awakens from her unconscious state to find Mr. Jordan, head of the Circle forcing her to sign a contract that orders her not to search for Cooper if she wants to remain as a legal member of the magic community. She refuses to sign so he places an anathema spell on her that repels Talents away from her. With the help of her familiar Pal the ferret and Cooper's half brother Warlock, she seeks the portal that leads to Hell; sheenter knowing the probability is that they will not return especially since Mr. Jordan makes the odds exponentially worse.

This opening act of a wonderful urban fantasy is filled with intrigue, romance and plenty of magic that blend together to make an enticing Spellbent tale. Lucy A. Snyder makes her realm feel genuine as she mixes a Donna Quixote - Joan of Arc heroine into a world that has a Lovecraftian feel to it. Jessie goes "willing to march into Hell for a heavenly cause"(The Impossible Dream) with her courageous adorable sidekick Pal; each knowing if they fail they are condemned to remain in Hell for eternity while if they succeed they are condemned to live in a hell outside the Circle of their peers.

The Infernal City
Greg Keyes
Del Rey
9780345508010 $14.00

At sea, the sailors feel the heaviness the water and look up to see floating in the air a big mountain wit the cone pointed downward with a beautiful city on top. The ship speeds to the docks to spread the word, but was given no credence until Annaig the young human female and Mere-Glim the sentient reptilian find themselves on the floating island of Umbriel. They had floated up there using the magical potion that Annaig had drank, but also has no way to turn them home in Limoth, which was once part of the Empire but now belongs to the An-Xileel due to the events of four decades ago during the Oblivion Crisis.

The island's inhabitants find themselves on the south of Annaig's world especially the High Lords while the lesser beings shall need to find food to stay alive. Annaig obtains a position as a cook and the Lord live her banquet meals. She uses a mechanical bird to send a message to try and get Prince Attrebus back to the Empire to rescue them get rid of Umbriel. To do so they need to travel through the inter-dimensional portals. It is not long before the people with various missions getting rid of Umbriel is next to impossible but it must be done before its evil destroys all life on the surface below its shadow.

Based on the Elder Scrolls video game, THE INFERNAL CITY occurs between the fourth and fifth game. Readers do not need to have played game four as the novel stands alone, but it helps to understand the events of four decades earlier that led to the current surface world. Annaig is the star of the tale as her ability to face up to challenges lead others to want to assist her; she makes friends with them though they are of a different sentient essence. Although at times the plotting feels like a game especially when Annaig gets in trouble, fans will enjoy Greg Keyes' fine adaptation that stays true to the original saga yet brings fresh action-packed excitement on its own front.

Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil
Drew Karpyshyn
Del Rey
9780345511560 $27.00

The Jedi Order believes the Sith are gone, but whenever they hear of the discovery one of their artifacts they quickly confiscate them. However the truth is that two Sith survived, Darth Bane and his apprentice Zannah. The loyal acolyte must kill her Master in order to become the next Sith Lord with her own apprentice. Bane concludes Zannah is not worthy to one day succeed him because she has failed to challenge him; the key step to becoming the Sith Lord.

His body is failing from years of using the Dark Side of the Force, but takes heart in learning of a dead Sith Lord Darth Andeddu who transferred his essence into another body living for centuries. Bane sends Zannah to Doan where a Jedi was assassinated looking for Sith artifacts while he goes to Prakith to find the information so that he too can transfer his essence into another body. Zannah meets and defeats dark Jedi Set Herth making him her apprentice. They learn that Princess Serra of Doan kidnapped Bane with plans to torture him for what he did to her and her father over twenty years ago. However, Bane's abduction forces Zannah to mount a rescue because she must kill him as she is ready to do now to become Dark Lord of the Sith.

The third Darth Bane Old Republic saga continues the escapades of those who traverse the dark side of the Force. There are several subplots that move forward the overarching theme from the previous books in this arc, Path of Destruction and Rule of Two; especially the latter. The cast driven of strong personalities embrace the dark side for differing motives. Darth Bane has no redeeming qualities while ambitious Zannah waits for the right moment to strike against her mentor. Set is ironically a dark version of Solo while Serra lives for one thing: vengeance. Drew Karpyshyn provides a fascinating look at the dark side during the Old Republic era.

Candle In The Storm
Morgan Howell
Del Rey
9780345503978 $7.99

Those remaining loyal to the Goddess Karm have little hope to defeat the dark forces of the Devourer. His horde led by his incantation Lord Bahl has devastated anything in their path. Despair from Averen to Vinden to Luvein and elsewhere is the norm as the Devourer's bewitched army massacres those foolish to remain loyal to Karm.

Two Karm loyalists may be the last prayer of a world facing the abyss of the apocalypse. Honus the warrior and Yim the former slave with the power to potentially defeat Bahl remain united in love for each other and for the Goddess. However, their love is shaken to the core as Yim must perform a task that she loathes doing; she questions the worthiness of their side of the deadly dispute as she loses faith in the Goddess and perhaps in Honus too.

The second Shadowed Path fantasy is a terrific middle book that builds directly from the previous tale so newcomers should first read A Woman Worth Ten Coppers. The story line is even grimmer than its predecessor as the world is on the verge of an extreme Dark Age while the lead couple is trying to prevent the sinister encroachment from occurring as they struggle internally; with their relationship being a microcosm of what is engulfing the heart and soul of humanity. On a world level and on a personal level, Candle in the Storm is a powerful quest thriller.

In Great Waters
Kit Whitfield
Del Rey
9780345491657 $15.00

The leaders of Venice broker a deal with the deepsmen to benefit both the landowners and the merfolk. Over the centuries the two races intermingle through marriages with the mer controlling the water. Other countries followed suit to keep a watery invasion from occurring. However, many countries like England began to ban mixed marriages with the offspring to be executed while the mer insist a half-breed must rule the nations of the landsmen bordering on the sea.

After five years under the sea, illegitimate cowardly Whistle becomes Henry when he is placed in England to be quietly put on the throne by his controllers. Blue faced Princess Anne is part of the plot to have puppets as king and queen as rulers of England. However, their handlers never expected Henry or Anne let alone both to prove intelligent and unmanageable as they team up in an unexpected alliance.

This is a terrific alternate historical fantasy that brings the world of Kit Whitfield alive as readers will believe in the existence of the mer. Henry makes his species seem real especially early in the story as he goes from a happy child swimming in the deep blue sea to a frightened displaced illegal immigrant feeling alone while struggling to adapt to the landsmen lifestyle of England. Fans will appreciate the depth of this exciting thriller.

Bitter Night
Diana Pharaoh Francis
9781416598145 $7.99

Three decades ago Giselle the witch converted her college roommate Max into a slave. Giselle used a series of spells to torture and break Max; succeeding into making her an obedient weapon Shadowblade.

Thirty years later Max leads thirteen other warriors enslaved to increasingly powerful Giselle; their job is to protect their witch ruler and her magical haven, Horngate. However, a witch's coven is summoned as the more powerful Guardians of Earth coveting the planet's magic declare war on those members of humanity that fail to pledge their allegiance to them. To save Horngate, Max has put aside her ire and become the prophesized savior who will need allies whom she distrusts; the worst being Giselle who she has loathed for thirty years ever since the odious witch conquered her will.

From the opening caller ID to the climax, the first Horngate Witches urban fantasy is a fabulous action packed tale driven by the relationship between the two former college roommates. Max seethes with frustration and rage that has built up since 1979 when Giselle used compulsion spells to turn her into her obeying slave. Although Max has too many supernatural powers at her disposal, it is her acrimony that leaves her vulnerable to paranormal attacks in spite of her strengths; she knows she needs to move on and ally with her enemies including Giselle or watch the BITTER NIGHT turn a pandemic slaughter.

A Blue And Gray Christmas
Joan Medlicott
9781416597353 $19.99

At Covington, Max brings in a box containing letters and journals that had been buried until Frank Hays' backhoe dug it up. He gives the box to the ladies (his wife Hannah Parrish Maxwell, Grace Singleton and Amelia Declose) believing they might enjoy the contents.

The authors were Tom a Confederate soldier and John a Union soldier left to die in a pit in 1864. One from he South and one from Connecticut, but elderly angel Miss Ella Mae nurses both of them and conceals them from bounty hunters seeking deserters. Feeling an affinity, to the past, the three Covington women try to bring together descendents of Tom and John.

Although refreshing and entertaining, the story line is too sugary especially in the present, but even in the last year of the Civil War, the sweetening feels out of place. Still the cast is solid especially the three Covington women and the three heroes of 1864 who come alive through their writings. With a strong refreshing premise, fans of the series will relish A Blue and Grey Christmas; others might find the glucose too high.

Possess Me At Midnight
Shayla Black
9781416578468 $7.99

In England, evil mage Mathias apparently eliminated his only adversary who could have prevented him from taking control of all magic practitioners. The Doomsday Brethren Wizard Bram Rion lies in a comatose state following a black smoke assault by Mathias who plans to take over his unconscious rival's seat on the Wizard Council as the second step of his plan. Once he does that and finds the Doomsday Diary of Morganna le Fey, he will succeed.

However, he makes one tiny miscalculation. Mathias fails to factor in Bram's sister Sabelle. When Mathias begins his final assault, lowlife warrior Isdernus "Ice" Rykard escorts Sabelle, as a female she can carry the reverent tome, and the comatose Bram to safety. Ice wants her as his mate, but Sabelle cannot say the Binding Words as her brother must bless their union; both know Bram would never accept a lowlife like Ice. However, when Ice is hurt, Sabelle heals him as their bodies and souls unite. The next day he leaves her to draw Mathias away from the siblings.

The newest Doomsday Brethren urban fantasy (see Tempt Me with Darkness and Seduce Me In Shadow) is a superb entry as Bram's sister and Ice star in what appears top be a bittersweet love story. Both pray Bram lives, but ironically if he does the couple can never be together. Sabelle is brave but Ice heats up the plot with his love for her ultimately affirmed with his version of Dickens final line in A Tale of two Cities: "It is a far, far, better thing than ever I have done" sacrifice to keep his beloved and his chieftain alive. Fans of Shayla Black will relish this enthralling and exciting novel as ice will melt the hearts of all readers.

The Better Part of Darkness
Kelly Gay
9781439109656 $7.99

On October 13. thirteen years ago, heaven and hell came out of the closet. Mankind had no choice but to recognize the Revelation of the existence of heavenly Elysia and hellish Charbydon, and a horde of biblical legendary mythological creatures residing in both. Atlanta has become an urban center for all these visitors from heaven and hell, which is why the Integration Task Force has a major presence in the city.

ITF single mom Charlie Madigan raises Emma while conducting an investigation with her partner Hank into the death of Amanda Mott, a student at Hope Ridge School for Girls. Charlie, who knows what it is like to die having done so before returning to life, makes the case personal as she knew Amanda who was like a big sister to Emma. Other young people also die as a dangerous off-world drug has hit the streets; ash kills speedily. Charlie and Hank make iqnuries trying to find the source of the smuggling even as her power grows, but she feels helpless as ash spreads to her family and friends with her fear being for Emma.

Starting with its opening dialogue in which Hank lectures his partner for skeptically questioning an Oracle to prove her statement, readers will be hooked with this super police procedural urban fantasy. The key to the exciting story line is the denizen of green card recipients from Elysia and Charbydon seem genuine. This makes for an enjoyable read as the donkey kicking heroine and her sidekick work the mean streets of post Revelation Atlanta in an enlightening mystery.

Laura Griffin
9781439149195 $7.99

Using computers like a grandmaster wizard Austin private investigator Alexandra Lovell enables people to flee from their lives to begin anew in a different identity and location, but they must adhere to the rules of never making contact with their past. Alex assisted Melanie Bess escape her abusive police officer husband, Craig Coghan, but foolishly she broke the prime commandment and communicated with her past. Melanie has become Untraceable and Alex believes foul play occurred with she strongly feels Craig as the culprit.

Alex searches for any forensic evidence that will affirm her fears. She persuades skeptical police detective Nathan Devereaux and the Delphi Center "Tracer" Mia Voss to help her. The trio begins to ferret out Craig's secrets while Alex's attraction for Nathan grows. He feels the same way about her, but each new clue adds a Thread of Fear running up and down his spine for Alex's safety from what increasingly seems a nasty deadly cop.

This is a terrific mystery with a nice romantic subplot in the background enhancing the strong investigative Tracers thriller. The cast is solid especially the lead couple and the villain; while secondary characters add depth especially with forensics science. Fans will enjoy Laura Griffin's super romantic mystery with the inquiry superseding the loving.

A Highlander Christmas
Janet Chapman
9781416595458 $7.99

French rocket scientist Luke Pascal Renoir and NASA physicist Dr. Camry MacKeage have been exchanging emails. However, she quits NASA as magic and science seems a poor mix. Camry flees to Maine where she becomes a dog sitter whose BFFs are Tigger and Max.

Jack Stone and Camry's parents rescue Luke from certain death due to a blizzard on their frozen mountain top. The outsider mentions his corresponded with Camry shocking her family with her former and present occupation as they thought she was working in Florida. He further explains she said no to his request to collaborate on an ion propulsion model and abruptly stopped responding when he said he would like to meet her in the States. Luke went to NASA but she had quit. Her mom demands Luke amend his transgression by persuading Camry to come home to celebrate the solace with her family. He will learn a little bit of magic and a lot of love makes the heart pump faster.

The latest MacKeage whimsical romance stars the first daughter Camry who struggles with magic vs. science especially her heritage and Renoir. From the opening scene when the matriarch Dr. Grace welcomes a frozen Luke into the family while the patriarch Grey wants to leave him exposed to the blizzard, the cast makes for an engaging holiday time. Although long time fans will notice some similarity to Secrets of the Highlander, Janet Chapman cleverly spins the tale differently so that readers will enjoy celebrating A HIGHLANDER CHRISTMAS in Maine.

A Courtesan's Scandal
Julia London
9781416547129 $7.99

In London of 1806, Kate Bergeron has come a long way from her impoverished childhood as she has become mistress to a cloth merchant. However, she climbs higher up the social ladder when the Prince of Wales wants her. Prinny is in the midst of a public divorce so must conceal his planned trysts with his latest mistress.

He asks in a way the duke cannot refuse him, that Grayson Christopher pretend to be Kate's newest lover; he does not even bother to ask Kate as he expects her to comply. Kate and Grayson assume their masquerading as a couple will be a front for the Prince to hide his assignation, but no more. Neither expected to be attracted to one another although each understands the danger if they begin to make love let alone fall in love.

A COURTESAN'S SCANDAL in an intriguing refreshing Regency romance as inadvertently the Prince plays matchmaker and relationship breaker. The cast is strong including the Prince who sets up quite a dilemma for the lead couple. Fans will appreciate Julia London's charmer as love proves dangerous to a duke and his not so pretend mistress as neither known how the capricious Prinny will react if he learns the truth.

Dark Stranger
Susan Sizemore
9781416562139 $7.99

Heir to the Byzant Empire, human diplomat wearing the uniform of a naval lieutenant Zoe Pappas negotiates with the Asi. However, the enemy Hajim attacks her space ship and takes her to a prison planet in which human POWs mingle uneasily with other species dangerous to her kind.

Brigadier General Matthias "Doc" Raven leads the human POWs, demanding loyalty and no escape attempts. Zoe struggles with adjusting to captivity and her attraction to the BG. She conceals from Doc who she is and what her aborted mission was. Someone seems to know who she is and where she is; that person is willing to kill all the prisoners to get at Zoe; only Doc stands in their way.

This clever fantasy science fiction thriller is actually not part of the prime Primes saga, but a brilliant off shoot as a so-called work of fiction or perhaps a future history as the first tale in the Vampire Book Club read by several Prime characters. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action from the onset, but really takes off when Zoe and Doc meet as prisoners of war. Prime fans especially with relish Susan Sizemore's refreshing "futuristic" entry in her terrific series.

Death Will Help You Leave Him
Elizabeth Zelvin
9780312582661 $25.99

In New York, drug dealer Frankie Iacone is found dead in the apartment of his girlfriend Luz. The police suspects Luz stabbed her boyfriend who just came out of rehab as they insist her motive is learning he had a wife and children living in Brooklyn.

Luz's counselor Barbara, her boyfriend Jimmy and his best buddy recovering alcoholic Jimmy investigate the homicide. Bruce also struggles with his dealings with his former wife bipolar addict Laura who he still sleeps with and who tempts his addiction. Their unprofessional investigation leads the trio into trouble with the police and with associates of Frankie as they attend his funeral where they meet his warm Italian family including his pregnant wife.

In his second appearance (see DEATH WILL GET YOU SOBER) Bruce and his amateur sleuth cohorts make for an intriguing urban mystery as they fumble their way through the city's most downtrodden residents trying to find the killer. The story line is a very dark look at the mean streets of New York from the view of the undesirable forgotten. For instance Bruce's ex spouse is a fascinating character as she uses the threat of suicide as a defense mechanism to get Bruce to come over and then either kicks him to curb or has sex with him. His confusion as to how to escape the relationship enhances a psychological look at New York's emotionally desperately needy as the people overwhelms the whodunit.

The Murdered House
Pierre Magnan
9780312367206 $24.99

He was raised in an orphanage and fought for the French during WWI. When the armistice ended the fighting, Seraphin Monge returns to his hometown in the Alps where he finds work as a road-digger. Two women Rose Pujol and Marie Dormeur are interested in the muscular Seraphin.

However, he also learns about his biological family. When he was three weeks old in Provence, someone murdered his parents, his grandfather and his two older brothers in their family home back in 1896. Three Herzegovinian losers were arrested, convicted of the brutal homicides and executed. With what he now knows Seraphin believes the visiting trio was convenient scapegoats to close a case and perhaps conceal the real culprit's identity. At his family home La Burliere, the spirit of Seraphin's mother demands he learns the truth. He tears apart the insides until he finds evidence that implies three leading citizens: Gaspard Dupin, Rose's father Didion and Marie's dad Celestat are the most likely killers. Seraphin plans vengeance, but someone else murders Didion and Celestat; and that person may be stalking Seraphin.

This is a strong post WWI historical mystery that brings to life two periods: the post war and the late Victorian Era in France. The cast serves only to support Seraphin on his quest for the truth that morphs into a thirst for vengeance. Obviously disturbed and haunted by the murders of his family whom he was too young to know and the opulence those who apparently got away with the act, Magnan is the only developed character as each new revelatory discovery shakes his bone marrow and leaves him further desiring blood. Fans will appreciate Pierre Magnan's third taut suspense thriller printed in the United States (see The Messengers of Death and Death in the Truffle Wood), as the audience will wonder what the seemingly maniacal Seraphin will ultimately do.

The Mirror and the Mask
Ellen Hart
9780312375270 $25.99

In Minneapolis, restaurateur Jane Lawless, owner of the Lyme House restaurant and the Xanadu Club, delays her plans for opening a third establishment due to the economy. Instead she accepts a job as a professional private investor working for her friend and sleuth A.J. Nolan. She also hires bartender Annie Archer to work at her Xanadu Club.

Annie explains to her new boss that she left Steamboat Springs, Colorado in search of her stepfather who vanished soon after her mom died in 1990 in Traverse City, Michigan. She asks Jane to find him, which Jane agrees to do, but becomes a tad upset to realize her client-employee omitted key facts and she wonders why. Meanwhile, Northland Realty VP Susan Bowman is murdered at the home she shares with her spouse Jack and her two children medical school student Curt and high school senior Sunny. As Jane digs, she increasingly fears for Annie's life and anyone in her sphere especially Curt because she connects the two points Annie and Susan.

With Cordelia Thorn on a semi hiatus re her niece Hattie, Jane goes it alone as she investigates the almost two-decade old cold case of the disappearing stepfather. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Annie meets Jane while the two prime romantic relationships, Annie with Jane and Annie with Curt complicate a relatively simple plot. Although the prime investigation is somewhat limited, fans will enjoy the interactions between a strong cast who make for a fun Minneapolis mystery.

The Ragged End of Nowhere
Roy Chaney
9780312582531 $24.99

Ronnie Hagan has just returned home to Las Vegas after spending time with the French Foreign Legion. However, his welcome home is a bullet to the head near Hoover Dam. His brother Bodo, a CIA Agent stationed in Germany, returns home for the first time in a decade to learn the truth about his sibling's execution.

Bodo soon learns his brother came home with a wooden artifact the "Dead man's Hand" that looks worthless yet apparently is priceless as several people want it. The operative wonders who would kill to possesses it and soon concludes a horde of nasty looking punks. As police detective John McGrath tells him to butt out, Bodo keeps digging, but the evidence makes no sense.

The Hagan brothers are a strong pair as the insight into Ronnie is through a back story that includes his French Foreign Legion service, which makes him the more fascinating but also slows down the pace; ironically the readers get to know his motivations though dead rather than his living sibling. The rest of cast consists mostly of predators, who the CIA operative has to interrogate using Chaneyian enhanced techniques. Although the suspense is limited by the look back at Ronnie's life, fans will enjoy Roy Chaney's solid thriller.

London Boulevard
Ken Bruen
9780312561680 $24.99

Minutes before Mitchell is to be freed after spending three years in prison for an assault he did not remember committing due to a drunken haze, the warden tells the fortyish convict he will be back. Mitchell hides the terminator retort and steps outside knowing he looks like a shifty felon. Working for loan shark Tommy Logan, Billy Norton arrives to pick him up, but Mitchell wonders if this acquaintance can be considered a friend though he is there to take him home.

Logan has plans for Mitchell, but the ex con does not have a compulsive need for quick money and is obsessed with not being a recidivism statistic. Mitchell obtains a handyman position at the Holland Park estate of aging movie actress, Lillian Palmer. As he struggles with adjusting to her odd butler Jordan, those close to him begin to die from an unknown adversary who soon threatens his beloved but insane sister Briony and others like Aisling and even a dog. Mitchell's obsession about staying out of jail has turned compulsive but no one hurts Briony.

With plenty of dark humor throughout, Ken Bruen pays violent homage to Sunset Boulevard with this fast-paced Noir. Each of the key cast members contains differing personalities, but the story line belongs to the anti-hero who just wants to go straight yet finds himself swimming in a foggy sea of sordid sleaze as those good citizens are as nasty as the those he met behind bars and rival those muscles working for Logan. With more blood spilled than a downtown Emergency Room like Atlanta's Grady, fans who don't mind hearing the breaking of bones will want to read Mr. Bruen's gloomy view of London.

Sting of Justice
Cora Harrison
9780312372699 $24.99

In the Kingdom of Burren in western Ireland in the year 1509, the land is rich with minerals especially silver washing out of the mountain and free for anyone who sees it. That is until Sorley Skerrett the avaricious silversmith bought the land and opened a silver mine. Over the decades that mine became a festering sore spot on the once pristine mountainside. Now affluent and influential, he is petty and spiteful with many angry enemies who want to spit on his grave.

While sitting in a room in the church he attended, someone crashes a hive through the window to the floor. Allergic to the venom, Sorley dies immediately. Mara the Brehon of the Burren rules it murder and she starts an investigation. She finds many suspects as the victim was universally detested by those he destroyed with his unethical business ventures. Perhaps those who hate him more are those who had the misfortune of being in his personal life like his ex wife. Everyone had the opportunity as Mara finds she has a lot of work ahead to sift through this case.

Although almost a millennia in the past, fans of Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma Ancient Irish mysteries will want to read this terrific medieval whodunit as the legal system has evolved from the seventh century to the sixteenth. Mara is terrific as the only LADY JUDGE in Ireland looking into A SECRET AND UNLAWFUL KILLING again. The support cast is three dimensional as they bring time and place alive. The official inquiry is well done as Mara slowly works her way to the killer. Cora Harrison provides another strong historical murder investigation as this series is one of the sub-genre's best.

Luck of the Draw
Anthony J. Cardieri
9780312565022 $24.99

In 1977 the Son of Sam held New York City in a grip of terror not seen since until now with the Daily Killer. Detective Deke Durgess leads the homicide investigation in which the perp kills an entire household every day; this varies from couples, singles, and families with children. Deke is determined to end this serial killer's reign of terror, but has no starting point as there appears no link between the seemingly randomly murdered victims and nothing left behind for forensics.

The psychopath is diabolically clever gaining entrance through a variety of means such as delivering flowers and candy to the victims and then killing them.. He leaves behind each time a taunting note to the cops: "Better luck next time". The Feds try to profile the Daily Killer and FBI Agent Kurt Joseph joins Deke on the investigation. They become a strong team though progress still remains nil. Deke listens to Kurt call his wife and daughter; which makes him realize he wants to get back with his spouse who left him because he always put the job before his family. The two cops finally figure out how the victims are selected, but the culprit remains unknown as a sting fails because the Daily Killer outwits his adversaries.

This is a chilling police procedural starring a cop who failed to appreciate his family even after he lost them, but finally realizes what he has given away when he observes his new partner who balances cases with his loved ones. He is unlike Deke who blocks out everything but the investigation. He actually is a likable person and readers will hope he has learned his lesson of balancing priorities to include family at the top. However, it is the desperate investigation that will have the audience at the edge of their seats even with the psychopath a graduate of the overused taunting school of serial killer 101.

Eugenia Lovett West
9780312371142 $25.99

In Boston, Widow Emma Streat tries to start anew as she grieves the death of her husband Lewis, the destruction of their house, and the loss of her singing voice. The former Diva suddenly receives an SOS from Cathy Riordan in Venice, Italy to intervene before her opera singing niece Vanessa Metcalf makes a terrible miscue; Vanessa's assistant insists Emma's relative is risking her career to run away with a racing driving wealthy womanizer.

Mark Dykstra, Vanessa's accompanist, hangs himself to the shock and horror of the three women. Emma's lover British espionage agent Lord Rodale quietly investigates the death as he also arranges for the aunt and niece to fly to Massachusetts. As a second murder occurs, Vanessa becomes ill from what is apparently the avian flu.

The second Emma Streat amateur sleuth tale (see Without Warning) is an engaging cozy as the fortyish heroine connects the seemingly unlinked dots. The story line is fun to follow though somewhat passive as Mrs. Streat works the case from a distance. Fans of cerebral couch potatoes whodunits will enjoy the efforts of Mrs. Streat to identify who the killer is and why.

Final Exam
Maggie Barbieri
9780312376772 $24.99

North of New York City lies St. Thomas College where Professor Alison Bergeron teaches. Although she is eligible for tenure, she is denied the opportunity due in part to her penchant for solving mysteries especially murders that reflect badly on the college.

When Resident Director of the Sienna Dorm Wayne Brookwell vanishes, the Dean selects her to replace him over her objections. Being a quick study, she knows she has no choice unless she wants am even more miserable existence. Preparing for Extracurricular Activity of the unwanted student kind, Alison leaves her beloved home to reside in purgatory; understanding the nuking of her privacy especially with her lover Detective Bobby Crawford. Her new abode is more like a monk's isolation cell as even the toilet does not function nor by the looks of it has in eons. Crawford visits her in her new jail cell, but they soon find a major stash of heroin in the blocked toilet and a huge stash of marihuana. Alison seeks Wayne and there have been a zillion sightings, but not by her. Someone watching for Wayne marks Alison to silence her permanently.

This charming piquant romantic amateur sleuth is fun to read due to the strong cast; ACADEMIC and otherwise. Alison crashes the said image of a professor with her antics while the support cast, especially once the heroine is placed in hell, add eccentricity and hyperbole to the Final Exam whodunit. Maggie Barbieri provides another enjoyable Mystery 101 tale as class is in session with Professor Bergeron proctoring.

The Widow's Revenege
James D. Doss
9780312364618 $24.99

In Granite Creek, Colorado, elderly enigmatic Apache widow Loyola Montana calls Ute tribal investigator Charlie Moon to complain about a coven of witches practicing their evil and leaving dead animals on her farm. Charlie goes out to her spread to insure the woman is okay though he is concerned more about her mental state as he is used to her rants. He arrives only to find Loyola dead having died in a kitchen fire caused by a fallen kerosene lamp.

Although the evidence is that the senior citizen perished in a horrific accident, Charlie wonders whether those "witches" camped on the Blue Diamond Natural Gas Company adjacent land were involved in making the accident happen by mundane means. Soon after he ponders the lethal incident, Moon, FBI agent Lila Mae McTeague and police chief Scott Parris look deeper into Loyola's death as more violence occurs.

The latest Moon Native American investigation (see Snake Dreams) is a bit more serious than usual as Charlie is in a less than festive mood as he feels some remorse for not taking Loyola's latest complain seriously even though he recognizes she frequently grumped about nothings. The story line is filled with action, Native American mysticism, and a strong whodunit in which perspective frequently switches lead; a trademark of James D. Doss' Moon mysteries.

The Gift
Deb Stover
Love Spell
9780505526069 $6.99

Although she blames her paranormal gift for the her loss of her job, former Chicago homicide detective Beth Dearborn knows alcohol cost her that needed edge, but she used it to numb the dreaded extrasensory feeling of a violent death. She is a recovering alcoholic, who obtained work as an insurance investigator.

Seven years ago in Brubaker, Tennessee, Lorilee Brubaker-Malone vanished without a trace. Her teenage daughter persuades her father to have Lorilee declared legally dead and file a life insurance claim with Avery Mutual Insurance. Almost from the moment she meets the father and daughter tandem, Beth senses a restless spirit. She wonders if that could be Lorilee. When a bridge collapses stranding Beth, Ty takes her in. Attracted to him and liking his children, Beth continues to dig for the truth encouraged by something or someone from beyond but knows a mortal is the one trying to kill her.

This is an exciting romantic suspense thriller starring a wonderful female protagonist who struggles with dealing with her unique gift that she believes is a curse even turning to alcohol to numb the feelings. The supporting cast in Brubaker are stereotypical small southern townsfolk who use Miss not Ms; surprisingly that enhances the plot of the exciting paranormal investigative romance filled with spins as the northern invader keeps finding clues that make Ty seem guilty of spousal homicide yet not satisfying the spirit that haunts her since she entered the Malone home.

Silver Silence
Joy Nash
Love Spell
9780505527172 $6.99

Rhys the Druid seeks surviving Druids to bring them home to Avalon. Breena the seer loves Rhys, but knows it must remain unrequited as he is forbidden to love any female.

She travels to a holy shrine to pray for divine guidance as Rhys has been away for almost a year; which is something he has never done in his decade and a half time traveling mission. Breena meets Myrddin, who asks her to save Igraine in the Lost lands. Tracking Breena, Rhys travels into the future to find her and bring her home. Breena discovers a scheme to harm Igraine; Rhys, who has caught up to her, acquiesces to assist her in reuniting the woman with her beloved. Although he knows the price, Rhys can no longer deny his love for Breena.

Returning to the pre-Camelot Druid realm of THE GRAIL KING and DEEP MAGIC, Joy Nash provides a fantastic romantic fantasy as the hero continues his quest to save the Arthurian future. Breena and Rhys are strong protagonists working the mists of time to save those who they believe should dwell in Avalon while also struggling with love, a forbidden emotion for the hero. Fans of Camelot will relish Joy Nash's latest entry in her super saga as SILVER SILENCE is a terrific tale in a strong series.

Scandal Sheet
Gemma Halliday
Love Spell
9780505528056 $6.99

L.A. Informer gossip columnist Tina Bender flirts on line with ManInBlack as her only alleged male in her life besides her boss. Tina has no significant other except perhaps Hollywood as she resides with her beloved Great Aunt Sue in a retirement community. She is very worried about Sue, who seems increasingly absentminded.

When Tina receives a death threat phone call accusing her of malicious lies and deserving instant death, her boss Felix Dunn hires bodyguard Calvin Dean to protect her. The reporter resents Cal hanging around until the threats intensify. A murder too close for comfort shakes up Tina but the intrepid Hollywood journalist decides to kick butt; however her super investigative skills place her in danger of becoming the next victim.

The first Hollywood Headlines romantic mystery is a wonderful throwback investigative journalist thriller that will remind readers of play/movie The Front Page and His Girl Friday. The story line never slows down as Bender curses and cajoles her way into getting the dirt and gossip while Dean tries to keep her safe, a mission impossible chore due to her always being on the front lines. This is a terrific suspense tale with more appearances from the woman who writes the Scandal Sheet Hollywood Headlines and the man who tries to keep her safe in his arms.

Love You To Death
Shannon K. Butcher
9780446510295 $6.99

Reporter Elise McBride knows her beloved capricious sister Ashley is missing a card or two from the deck of fifty two, but the siblings always stay in touch in spite of the former being in Hong Kong and the latter in Chicago. However, when she fails to hear from her artistic sister for a few days and is unable to reach her, Elise becomes a bit concerned. She panics especially when CPD blows her away even after she learns of a serial killer murdering women in the Windy City. She flies home to insure her sibling is safe.

In Chicago, former police officer Trent Brady catches Elise trying to break into the home of his neighbor. She explains who she is and why she is there. Realizing how obstinate and resolute yet vulnerable Elise is, he offers to assist her while wondering what made him do so as they team up to track down and hopefully rescue Ashley.

The irony behind this tense thriller that never takes a breather is Elise and Trent are obsessive compulsive disorder types who feel a deep need to protect those they see as vulnerable, she to her sister and he to her. The story line is fast-paced as Shannon K. Butcher places her pedal to the metal throughout the tale. With the romance playing an important but secondary theme as saving the sister is paramount; LOVE YOU TO DEATH will grip readers as increasingly the evidence points towards Ashley as a victim of the serial killer and Elise a potential target.

A Measure of Mercy
Lauraine Snelling
Bethany House
9780764206092 $13.99

In 1903 eighteen year old Astrid Bjordlund wants to be a doctor studying medicine in either Chicago or Grand Forks. However, her dream suffers a setback when her family loses much of their money. Astrid refuses a chance to go to Chicago deciding to remain home in Blessing, North Dakota studying under her sister-in-law, Dr. Elizabeth.

Joshua Landsverk left Blessing two-years ago, but has come home to stay. He was attracted to Astrid before he left and still is. She reciprocates and he courts her. However a second chance in Chicago arises, which forces Astrid to choose between her love for Joshua and her dream of big city medicine.

The first Home to Blessing historical romance is an entertaining tale due to the intriguing lead female protagonist who along with Dr. Elizabeth show women is starting to make it in previously male jobs, but have a long way to go at the start of the twentieth century. The story line is well written and entreating for fans of the Blessing saga. Newcomers will find it a bit difficult to dive in head first even though this is the beginning of a new saga. Still with a strong sense of time and place and a solid cast, fans will enjoy this fine Americana tale.

Sandra Brown
Simon & Schuster
9781439172773 $23.99

In 1934 in Gilead, Texas, after her husband deserted Ella Barron and their son Solly, she supports them by running a boardinghouse. Her ten year old child has issues that make him different and requires much attention from Ella. Although she is tired from all she must do to keep the place running and her son safe Ella believes it is worth it for her Solly.

Ella agrees to take in a new boarder David Rainwater based on a recommendation from a friend she trusts. The quiet newcomer surprises her as he is more than just kind to Solly; he spends quality time with her son. Ella reluctantly becomes attracted to him and he is falling in love with his landlady and her child. However, when racial hatred led by affluent Conrad Ellis leads to violence aimed at Ella and Solly, David risks his life to protect those facing brutality.

This is a deep Great Depression Era Texas thriller as poverty ignores race, ethnic background and gender, but people don't. Racism turns brutally ugly as Ellis and his followers are the law. Ella is a courageous individual while Solly steals hearts as the townsfolk see him as either pitiful or demonized, making him a perfect helpless target of Ellis. David will surprise readers as Solly gives him the inspiration to risk his life. Sandra Brown is at her best with this heart-wrenching one sitting Americana.

A Quilter's Holiday
Jennifer Chiaverini
Simon & Schuster
9781439139325 $19.99

Every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the Elm Street Quilters gather to spend time with friends stitching gifts for loved ones. This year is special as each person creates a quilting block to add to the cornucopia that symbolizes what they are most pleased about. The event is a success but a snowstorm threatens to strand everyone at Em Court Manor.

Diane leaves anyway, but ends up stranded with a chargeless cell phone. Sylvia who once was the sole owner of Elm Creek Manor hopes that Summer, a founder of Elm Creek Quilts, has found through research her blood relatives living in California. Sarah, another founding mother of Elm Creek Quilts, learns her husband will not be there for her pregnancy because his father needs him to run the family business. Anna the manor's chef tells Jeremy , the boyfriend of another founding mother, that she loves him even as he is driving to the dorm of his girlfriend Summer. Gretchen seeks a cause to serve. Gwen misses her daughter Summer while finishing a quilt to thank the person responsible for giving her mentor a bone marrow transplant. Quilters unable to come are missed but remembered.

More a series of vignettes that update the quilters' lives especially their personal problems; this novel targets the fans of Elm Creek Quilts. This novel will leave readers laughing, crying and empathizing with the woes of the quilters. Fans will relish this entry but to learn what happens to the Quilters and their staff the audience will need to continue with the next saga. For the Elm Creek Manor horde, Jennifer Chiaverini stitches a fine character driven tale of friendship.

Too Many Murders
Colleen McCullough
Simon & Schuster
9781439177471 $26.00

Nineteen years old college student Evan Pugh blackmailed "Motor Mouth" who gave him one hundred thousand dollars. As he reaches for his stash in his college room walk-in closet, he moves into a bear trap, which makes him bleed out. When the police arrive, they are stunned by the scene especially the ingenious trap and shocked as this the twelfth death on April 3, 1967.

Police Captain Carmine Delmonico realizes that the mass murders are related somehow because Holloman, Connecticut doesn't have that many murders in a year. As he and her cohorts investigate the homicides, they are able to separate some from the sinister genius who bolted down the bear trap. However, the puppet-master used locals to act as his or her perp murdering the victims. To further complicate an already convoluted murder mystery, one of the dead victims Desmond Skeps was a CEO and majority stockholder of Cornucopia where someone was selling secrets to the Russians that had him on FBI surveillance. Delmonico is uninterested in foreign espionage as he has a killer to catch, but each clue returns him and his unit back to Cornucopia.

This police procedural sequel to On, Off affirms how super of a novelist Colleen McCullough is as her mysteries are as good as her historical fictions (see The Thorn Birds). Each murder is solved one at a time in a way that will remind readers of Christie's And Then There Were None although all occurs in the midst of a crowded college town. Delmonico is a multi-faceted protagonist who is a terrific police detective and a wonderful family man. Readers will enjoy working the cases with him and his sidekicks especially when his wife and daughter are threatened.

Thanksgiving at the Inn
Tim Whitney
9781890862640 $14.99

Two years ago the mother of teenager Heath Wellington III walked out on him and his dad Junior. Since she left, Junior treats his son as a slave with chores all the time when the kid is not in school, which he is not having been suspended for cheating. When Junior's dad dies, Heath realizes he cannot remember what his grandfather Senior looked like as they drive to Massachusetts for the funeral. Senior's lawyer Lloyd explains that Junior and Heath will inherit the Sleeping Inn if they run the place for three months and take care of the residents.

Heath feels at home at the B&B with the Jamaican sage Winsted, elderly Mrs. Farrel who is giving away her late husband's fortune one letter at a time, muscular children's author Mustang Sally, and TV news couch potato Carter. He also likes neighbor Savannah who apparently is his dad's first love, and her autistic daughter Tori. On the other hand he loathes his father who sees the world as one endless loveless chore.

This is an engaging inspiring family drama as the son becomes the father (think of Chapin's song Cat in the Cradle) although Senior learned too late what he did to his offspring. Senior's legacy is letters trying to reach Junior before he repeats the mistake with the III. In light of a photo showing three generations of smiling male Wellingtons, the lack of the back story between Senior and Junior hurts any transformation that may occur. Still fans will enjoy this fine holiday tale as everyone learns to be thankful for all the good in their lives by celebrating together THANKSGIVING AT THE INN.

Cathryn Fox
NAL Heat
9780451227942 $14.00

Jaclyn Vasenty knows in thirty five hours her true inner self will be dead. She no longer run the wild side of life having sex with Brian and Kane who make her want to forget the obligation she owes her adopted parents Ben and Marie Vasenty who rescued her from Chicago transit and foster care. She would do anything for the her parents so if she is to become head of her family's company Vasenty Cosmetics as they want, she must change her image from bad girl to corporate exec starting by saving one of the failing stores in aptly named Serene, New Hampshire,.

However, her thought of boring serene rustication proves false when night falls on the gated community. The wild come out in the dark as all types of paranormal walk the streets. However, Jaclyn can indulge her Instinctive wild side impulse with shapeshifting panther Slyck as he takes her on runs to a nirvana she never tasted before. As her libido goes stratospheric with the troposphere next, the paranormals are having intra species issues and Kane arrives to claim her.

This erotic romantic fantasy heats up New Hampshire with a variety of sexual trysts including the incredible sexcapades between the panther and his "Impulsive" feral female, a menage a trois and FF. However, the key to the torrid tale is the belief that the variety of paranormal species exists because the in-fighting seems genuine mirroring real life. Still it is the torrid sex scenes that will arouse sub-genre fans to want more Eternal Pleasure in the erotic realm of the Fox.

A Highlander Christmas
Dawn Halliday, Cindy Miles and Sophie Renwick
9780451228727 $14.00

"Winter Heat" by Dawn Halliday. During a blizzard, Logan Douglas rescues Maggie McDonald finding them shelter where she locates her missing clan pin.

"Yuletide Enchantment" by Sophie Renwick. Isobel McDonald searches for her missing clan pin, but finds mysterious immortal Price in an enchanted forest.

"A Christmas Spirit" by Cindy Miles. Visiting museum curator Paige McDonald takes shelter from a freak storm in a castle where she meets Gabriel Munro, a frustrated spirit during the day and a man falling in love at night.

These are three entertaining holiday romantic fantasies interconnected by the pin that gets around and the McDonald clan (past and present).

The Girl On Legare Street
Karen White
9780451227997 $15.00

Her opera star mom Ginnette Prioleau Middleton pleads with her Charleston, South Carolina realtor daughter Melanie Middleton to help her buy back the family home on Legare Street that just came on the market. Melanie wants nothing to do with her mom whom she has not seen in decades; although as an expert on historical house restoration, she is the right person for the job.

A psychic like her daughter Ginnette hides from her daughter that she fears for Melanie's life from paranormal elements. Melanie's friend Jack Trenholm nudges her to allow her mom back into her life. He even agrees to investigate the supernatural to eliminate the threat from beyond while a reporter pushes to tell the story of the return of the great diva.

The sequel to The House on Tradd Street returns Lowcountry's top realtor Melanie in an entertaining tale of a mother-daughter dysfunctional relationship amidst ghosts and other spirits. Though intended as humor Jack's seduction efforts detract from the prime plot of Ginnette trying to reconnect with Melanie as she fears for her offspring due to visions that the spirits are coming to haunt her. Still fans will enjoy the return to Charleston.

By The Mountain Bound
Elizabeth Bear
9780765318831 $25.99

For over five centuries the Children of Light lived in northern Valdyrgard. Immortal, they work for the Bearer of Burdens and know their mission is to protect humans. Using crystal swords, they are a fierce fighting force.

Einherjar war chieftain Strifbjorn saves a drowning female who is neither human nor Immortal. She insists she is the Lady of Legend that they have waited to arrive. To prove her deity she fights and defeats Strifbjorn's lover Mingan the Gray Wolf, giving her command of the fighting force. As she tries to prepare her defiant warriors against the attack of the Giants, the post Ragnarok end has begun.

This prequel to ALL THE WINDWRACKED STARS leads to how Muire the historian cowardly survived the end of the world. The story line is complex with readers deeply involved in the emotional big crunch. Ironically fans of the writer know how the tale ends yet cannot resist the trip to find out how Elizabeth Bear takes her readers there. This is a great addition to Nordic mythology by one of the best authors at writing exhilarating mythological fantasies.

Robert J. Sawyer
9780765324139 $7.99

In 2009 some of the world's leading research physicists gather at the CERN research facility to conduct an experiment using the Hardon Collider to "capture" the Higgs Boson subatomic particle. The lead scientists Lloyd Simcoe and Theo Procopides anticipate success and a subsequent Nobel Prize. However something occurs around the globe at the moment the atom smashing experiment begins. Every human on earth who survives sees a two minute visionary clip of themselves in 2030.

However, millions died when the collective sub-consciousness led to all types of accidents and disasters during the 120 seconds. Simcoe is stunned more so with what he saw rather than the deadly fiasco the experiment caused. He is engaged to marry one woman, but saw his wife of the future was another female. Theo had no vision so he assumes he will be dead before 2030; he believes he will be a murder victim. They try to replicate their experiment, but fail until they realize timing is everything as they go for a third try when a neutrino shower occurs as both want more information about the future regardless of cost.

This is an engaging cautionary science fiction thriller that uses the Frankenstein concept of scientists having no ethical boundaries experimenting, even encouraged by the second and third times they replicated the experiment. The story line is fast-paced and exciting, but chooses the thriller aspects over the emotional elements beyond a personal need to know. The two scientists know their experiment killed more people in two minutes than some of the monsters of history did during brutal reigns yet they don't seem to care on a personal level. Still this is an exhilarating thriller as the world sees a flash forward moment and each reacts accordingly to what they prefer to see.

Suicide Kings
Edited by George R.R. Martin & Melinda M. Snodgrass
9780765317834 $25.99

The People's Paradise of Africa (PPA) and Caliphate of Arabia meet in a battle that will determine whose vision of despotic rule in Africa will dominate. Whereas Prince Siraj has the superior military, the PPA leaders, siblings Dr. Nshombo and Alicia, own the Wild Aces though one key Wild Card Tom "Radical" Weathers increasingly is losing mental control of right from wrong. Even after his side wins the fight, the Radical gleefully continues his slaughter of enemy soldiers. Nshombo and Alicia believe they must eliminate Radical , who has gone insane with a berserker blood craving.

In the United States, Wally "Rustbelt" Gunderson worries about his friend Lucien being caught up in the war. He begs Jerusha "Gardener" Carter to accompany him when he sneaks into the war zone to rescue Lucien. At the same time Michelle "Amazing Bubbles" LaFleur comes out of her coma with help from a dream girl needing help to escape from a mass grave. Michelle and zombie Hoodoo Mama travel to Africa to rescue the dream girl who may not be real. As Prince Siraj blackmails Noel "Double Helix" Matthews to help him with a counter attack; the Wild Aces converge in Africa for a final confrontation.

The latest collaboration (see Busted Flushes and Inside Straight) is a royal flush in international fantasy that grips readers from the opening war in the Sudan until the final climax occurs. Much more than just what is described above happens in the action-packed thriller as the authors somehow keep their cast of a zillion superheroes and supervillains unique from one another. Fans will believe George R.R. Martin, Melinda M. Snodgrass and the other contributors have dealt the audience a royal flush straight with this terrific look at those with extraordinary powers, who for the most part want acceptance not fear from the NT (like a combo Watchmen and X-Men).

Jordan Summers
9780765359162 $6.99

Former International Police Tactical agent Gina "Red" Santiago and ex sheriff alpha Morgan Hunter are on the run from the law for crimes they did not commit. They need hard core evidence to prove they are innocent but law enforcement is not willing to give them the time.

Thus Red and Morgan venture inside the No Man's wasteland where the Others and even more dangerous nomads roam freely to kill. A place where the lethal barbaric residents kill first and the two newcomers are perfect targets. To keep her beloved Morgan safe, Red must release her animalistic werewolf side, but somehow she also must control the beast from taking over her human essence. A schizoid Red fears either option will harm her mate, but Rourke is coming for them and he leaves her with no choice.

The third strong post apocalyptic science fiction thriller (see RED and SCARLET) CRIMSON continues the deadly trek in the world of Jordon Summers; this time the journey is into the dead zone of a depleted planet earth. The lead couple is terrific as survival depends in the short run of kill or be killed while in the long run they need to find proof of their innocence before the evil villainous Rourke finds them. Although it helps to read the previous two novels to better understand how devastated the planet is by 2160 due to the pandemic environmental disaster of the early previous century and what has happened to America now divided into independent republics, it is not necessary as CRIMSON stands alone although it also adds to the overall theme of a super saga.

Cory Doctorow
9780765312792 $24.99

Garage hackers Perry Gibbons and Lester Banks receive enormous funding (in their minds that is) from corporate America to develop a 3D printer capability that is easy to use. Their success reaches the attention of reporter Suzanne Church., but the firm fails.

However the technology explodes throughout society as the ease of use makes it a winner. Gibbons and Banks back to unemployment and garage technology begin creating amusement rides from their printing capability. However, the industry and other corporate raiders object and sue the New World order while Goths invade Florida and Suzanne blogs; as for the two garage hackers who started the endeavor with a whisper their story turned into a big bang bubble that bursts.

Using stereotypes to represent a cross section of self indulging Americans like the techies, the suits, the Goth teens, the bloggers, Cory Doctorow once again mocks Wall St, Main St and the Internet St. with an amusing acerbic satire of free enterprise as a fraud. The story line is humorous but also tends to wander as Makers lampoons economic prosperity bubbles that make the rich richer, the poor poorer and the middle class stagnant. That is until the burst when the rich retain their gains and obtain a bailout, the poor retains their loss and receive a cut in needed services to pay the bailout, and the middle class eats the collapse as the victims of free market capitalism, the American way.

The Stars, Like Dust
Isaac Asimov
Orb (Tor)
9780765319159 $14.99

Biron Farril is on earth attending college while his father rules the planet Rhodia. When someone tries to kill him at the school with a radiation bomb and he also learns his popular dad was assassinated, Biron flees with the help of Sander Jonti. The Tyranni arrested his father, charged him with treason, and executed him for his seditious acts. , The diabolical Tyranni want Biron dead preferably away from his home so he can never achieve hero status.

The Tyranni occupy Rhodia, but Biron makes it home. He pleads with the elderly mentally incompetent planetary supreme ruler the Director of Rhodia to replace his father although he knows the Tyranni control him. The Director betrays him to his masters the Tyranni; but with the help of his cousin Gilbret and the Director's daughter Artemisia, he escapes. Gilbret insists he knows where an off world cache of weapons exist that will enable the overthrow of the Tyranni.

This is a reprint of an early Isaac Asimov entertaining science fiction thriller in which the story line has been used a zillion times since the 1951 printing and probably a thousand times before. The story line is thin looking back through the unfair myopic lens of Star Wars (1977 movie), but is still fun to read as the first Empire novel is an exciting thriller based on a power struggle between a mighty galactic galaxy empire and a tiny rebel force from some backwater planet. Any moment the reader will expect the crawl: "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away", but THE STARS LIKE DUST was a quarter of a century before.

Burning Shadows
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
9780765319821 $27.99

In 438 C.E., Dom Feranescus Rakoczy Sanctu-Germainios is part of the Regional Guard of Apulum Inferior as the Huns flood Europe. His lover Atta Olivia Clemens flees the Carpathians for the relative safety of Constantinople, but though she begged him to accompany her, he felt an obligation to lead the fleeing villagers to a safer place.

On the way to the isolated Sanctu-Eustachios monastery that prefers no visitors, Rakoczy meets Nicoris, who is also on the run from the Huns' horde too. They are attracted to one another from the onset. As the pair and hundreds of frightened peasants take refuge at the monastery, Rakoczy conceals his vampiric nature, but his lover learns of his True Nature. With the Huns closing in on them, Rakoczy fails to realize the biggest danger may come from within as she too has a dark secret might lead to his True Death inside these holy walls.

This is a terrific entry that works on two fronts: a strong insightful look at those fearing the Huns horde and a romance between Saint Germain and his true love Nicoris. The story line brings to life villagers and Roman legionnaires who expect death and worse once the invincible army arrives. Adding to that profound look at the fifth century are the reclusive monks who believe god's predetermination means life and death has been doggedly resolved by the Maker so why worry about defense. Although the ending could have used more flesh on it so as to fully bring out the blood and guts of the final twist, fans will relish Saint Germain's latest bittersweet historical adventure.

Cherie Priest
9780765318411 $15.99

In 1863 in Seattle, Washington Territory, Russians hearing rumors of gold in the Yukon and Alaska Territories hire scientist Leviticus Blue to invent a device to obtain the precious metal buried under the frozen tundra. He creates Dr. Blue's Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine; a steam-powered machine that drills through the thickest layers of ice to extract gold. He beta tests his gizmo in downtown Seattle, but something goes awry leaving several dead people from the ensuing accident and a stripped mining like hole that emits an eerie looking gas dubbed Blight as it turned nearby breathe rs into "rotter", fresh flesh eating predators.

Almost two decades later, Leviticus' son Zeke Wilkes wants to clear his dead father's blighted reputation. He sneaks inside the walled containment zone with his concerned mother Briar in pursuit as she fears her offspring will turn into one of those putrefying rotters. However, her fears turn into mortification when she learns that mad scientist inventor Dr. Minnericht looks like the identical twin of her late husband and he seems to have taken a fatherly interested in her child.

This is a great Zombie alternate America thriller that hooks the readers from the moment that Dr. Blue turns on his machine and never takes even a gruesome puke break. The story line is fast-paced yet the three prime characters are fully developed though the rotters are what the BONESHAKER is all about. One should not read this on a full stomach unless a toilet is nearby as the descriptions are bone-shaking and breaking steampunk. .Readers will relish Cherie Priest's sensational Seattle saga as a mom without apple pie battles zombies, mad scientists and other ilk to rescue her cub.

Hidden Empire
Orson Scott Card
9780765320049 $24.99

It took a mini civil war and an alleged attempted coup to make former Professor Averell Torrent President of the United States as his predecessor was assassinated. As a professor Torrent had definite ideas on what the USA should become (an empire) spreading Pax America around the world. He has more power than any president in history even war time leaders, but no one knows if he intends to implement his concepts. Presidential advisors Colonel Bartholomew Coleman and Cecily Malich, whose husband died in Torrent's service, watch him carefully, but all he displays is a good executive performing his duty to make American a better place.

When an epidemic breaks out in southern Nigeria with a fifty percent death rate, Torrent orders a quarantine of the continent. The disease spreads rapidly and Cole and his unit deploy to Africa to prevent the Muslim part of Northern Nigeria from massacring the survivors in the oil rich plague region in the south. Cecily and her thirteen year old son Mark also go there as Christians providing aid to the unfortunate victims. Cole is afraid that his crew group is planning something deadly that could impact the globe if he and Cecily fail to make the right moves to prevent this from happening.

This sequel to Empire is a cautionary tale that warns of the abuse of power by allowing too much in one person who is constructing a Hidden Empire. Torrent is not evil but instead a visionary who believes the outcome justifies any mean to achieve it. Cole is a fascinating character as he serves a person he loathes but admires. Although lacking subtly re the warning message that overflows throughout the story line, fans will enjoy Orson Scott Card's chilling techno thriller.

David Farland
9780765321688 $25.99

Flameweaver Fallion Orden continues his struggle to consolidate the splintered One World before it is too late following recent harrowing fights by his allies to rescue him from Lord Despair (see The Wyrmling Horde). Two of his supporters, warriors Borenson and Myrrima have no time for respite though they could use some. Fallion has used some magic in a desperate ploy for a super warrior on a critical quest; he consolidates into one warrior Borenson with berserker Aaath Ulber, a horned giant from the other side.

However that amalgam proves to be a two edged blade. While Myrrima observes in horror and angry helpless understanding, Borenson increasingly loses much of his human essence with each passing moment while undergoing mission impossible to be Fallion's prime tool to unite humans against the wyrmlings.

The Eighth Book of the Runelords is a profound fantasy that explores deep complex philosophical themes of what is a human, when does honor and patriotism turn myopic, and finally when does the sacrifice of another go too far. To fully grasp the complexities of the Farland universe, it is imperative to read the previous three books (see SONS OF THE OAK) that make up the second saga as each leads to the next. Not for everyone, though there is plenty of action as expected when a berserker runs wild, CHAOSBOUND is still a deep reflective tale with timely applications our world.

The Golden Shrine
Harry Turtledove
9780765317124 $24.99

To the North as the glaciers retreat, a gap opened in the ice wall. Through the aperture came the vicious riders called the Rulers whose destruction of anything in its path was abetted by powerful wizards. The Bizogots nomads and Raumsdalian Empire fail to stop the assault somewhat because the Emperor Sigvat refuses to accept the threat; preferring to believe it is nothing more than Count Hamnet Thyssen's need to be important.

Hamnet and his small unit fight the Rulers in a counter insurgency while seeking the Golden Shrine. Hamnet knows the Rulers need him dead to prevent a prophecy from occurring, but though he remains resolute, his side is in trouble. New hope arises when he meets an unlikely ally; cannibalistic shaman Marcovefa, who also seeks the artifact that legend says will destroy the Rulers.

The third and final Opening of the World dawn of time fantasy (see The Breath of God and Beyond the Gap) is a terrific tale in a strong saga. The story line is fast-paced yet filled with intricate details so that the reader will feel transported back to the Bronze Age as the war to end all wars explodes. Harry Turtledove is at his epic fantasist best with this action-packed BCE series.

Imager's Challenge
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
9780765321268 $27.99

The imager Rhennthyl has become a Maitre D'Aspect and named Liaison to the Civic Patrol of L'Excelsis by the Collegium. However his new Commander Artois is outraged with what he considers an affront and instead of going undercover to uncover seditious magical practicers, cheats and frauds among the elite as the Director of security operations Master Dichartyn envisioned, he is assigned street patrol in the worst sector.

As he works the streets serendipitously, Rhenn thought the Collegium would provide him with direction; instead they seem to want to avoid him. In fact as he makes progress on cases, the Collegium snubs him. When his inquiry leads to a High Holder with a personal grudge against Rhenn, the Collegium ignores his plea for backing. Ethical yet not suicidal, Rhenn considers his options, but ultimately refuses to back off though he knows challenging the aristocratic family without support could prove dangerous.

The Second Book of the Imager Portfolio (see IMAGER) is a fascinating political police procedural fantasy in which the secret use of magic rules. The story line at times turns reflective as Rhenn thoughtfully evaluates his options when no one in authority supports his findings. Although his reflections are insightful and timely into the abuse of power by omission and disregard, that also slows down the tale. Still IMAGER'S CHALLENGE is a deep look at the politics of neglect with timely connections to today's world.

Magic In The Shadows
Devon Monk
9780451462879 $7.99

Magic has been a bane for Allison Beckstrom, a Hound who tracks down abusers of the innocent, thanks mostly because of her father Daniel. She has buried her sorcerer dad twice and prays this is the end of him as every time he comes back her troubles exponentially multiply. However that prayer fails when somehow her late dad entered her mind trying to take control. Her sudden increase in power worries the Authority who tries to help her cope with her skills.

Additionally her soul mate Zayvion Jones seems to have vanished from much of her mind because holes in her memory have been punched through due to magical usage. They begin their relationship anew while a necromorph stalks Allie to get at her father's imbedded power.

The second Beckstrom urban fantasy (see Magic to the Bone) is a fascinating thriller filled with action including the demands of dear dead dad but anchored in reality by little thinks like traffic, door locks, and WD-40. Allie is terrific as she struggles with her father over who controls her bodily senses, which in turn impact who controls the mind and body. On top of that an adversary knows and wants control. Just another few days in the life of a beleaguered Hound assaulted from without and within; her only ally is Zay and she barely recognizes him but feels the affinity and attraction in spite of her late father's efforts to kill their feelings. Devon Monk has a great series that sub-genre fans will want to read.

Liberating Atlantis
Harry Turtledove
9780451462961 $25.95

In The United States of Atlantis, Victor Radcliff led a revolt to liberate the island continent from its British masters (see The United States of Atlantis). During the revolt, Victor sired a son with a slave. However, decades after leading the USA to victory, his grandson from that improper union Frederick Radcliff is a well kept house slave owned by Henry and Clotilde Barford.

An incident with his vile owner Clotilde has him kicked out of the house and away from his beloved Helen into the field. Already questioning how the Founding Fathers including his paternal grandfather omitted liberty for so many, Frederick angrily has had enough. He flees, but not long after his desertion, he leads a growing slave insurgency. The powerful slave owners try to force their hand picked politicians to bring the forces of the USA to put down the rebels. However the Atlantis Senate remains divided as the two lead Consuls, abolitionist Newton of the North and slave holder Stafford of the South paralyze the government with their disagreement re the growing revolt. With the Union in peril of splitting apart a reluctant Newton finally supports sending troops to put down the revolt.

The third Atlantis tale (see Opening Atlantis) continues Harry Turtledove's sort of alternate American historical saga. The story line is filled with plenty of action, but is character driven. Stafford is Calhoun and Newton is Webster as they debate the merits of their respective position while a reluctant Radcliff leads the insurgency. All three are solid with strong beliefs that come across as genuine; ironically Radcliff with the most to gain and lose is the doubter of the trio. Fans will enjoy this deep look at the situation that led to the American Civil War and its aftermath through the lens of an enjoyable thought provoking alternate history.

Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword of Avalon
Diana L. Paxson
9780451462923 $24.95

At the end of the Bronze Age on the Island of the Mighty off the western coast of Europe, traitors kill the royal rulers of Ai-Zir; burning to the ground the village of Azon. Fearing for her nephew the rightful ruler and believing in a vision that once the mists clear he will be king, pregnant Anderle the Lady of Avon flees with young Mikantor before he is assassinated. Although she regrets having to do so, she leaves him with others to raise. Anderle gives birth to Tirilan before returning to Avalon with sadness in her heart.

After being sold into slavery. Mikantor eventually works for blacksmith bastard Prince Velantos whose father is the King of Tiryns on the Achaea Peninsula in the Middle Sea. Meanwhile back home in Avalon, while evil sorcerer Galid tries to take control of the kingdom with only Anderle opposing him, rumors abound that the rightful heir to the throne is returning so killers are sent forth to find and assassinate him without understanding the fulfilling prophecy they start. Tirilan, who loves Mikantor, assumes he is dead in spite of her mom's belief so she becomes a celibate priestess.

The latest Avalon fantasy is a super prequel that will grip fans of the saga and should lead newcomers to seek the backlist. The story line is fast-paced throughout while the cast is as strong as Excalibur. This is a winner as Diana L. Paxson provides a strong tale that will surely leave the late great Marion Zimmer Bradley smiling with joy with this entry in her beloved saga.

Dragon Rule
E. E. Knight
9780451462954 $15.00

They may be siblings, but the dragons are as different from one another as night is from day. AuRon the scale-less grey wants nothing to do with humans as he prefers isolation with his mate. Wistala the female believes dragons and humans cal live in harmony together. Copper lives in the Lavadome at the bottom of a dormant volcano; as the Tyr emperor of the Upper World and Protector of the Grand Alliance. He believes dragons are superior to humans.

He forms an alliance with the crumbling Hypatian Empire, providing a dragon protector to each province. The Hypatian increasingly become dependent on the dragons to maintain and even expand their power. AuRon and his mate Natasatch are appointed Protectors of Darius, the only dragons King Nef will accept. Darius was part of the old Ghioz Empire and the Hypatians fear he will withdraw from the Grand Alliance; an act they oppose. AuRon's mate convinces him to take the position while the Tyr's crippled qeen asks Wistala to be the Queen-Consort as she fears there is a plot a foot to dispose Copper. After being on the job awhile Wistala agrees with the assessment of her brother's mate, but no one has made a hint of a move so far.

The fifth and final Age of Fire fantasy has the three dragon siblings going their separate ways but the threat to one is perceived as a menace to all so they reunite as part of the Grand Alliance. AuRon has still not forgiven his brother for what he did when they were hatchlings, but finds to his surprise that blood is thicker than resentment most of the time. This is an exciting finish filled with many escapades, but it will be much more fulfilling by reading the previous entries to better understand how the dragon threesome got to this point where they must rely on one another or their species becomes extinct.

Heart's Blood
Juliet Marillier
9780451462930 $24.95

The man taking her for a fee from her abusive marriage dumps her in the middle of nowhere offering his bed as protection from the night; he implies something more dangerous than marauding Normans. Although frightened to be abandoned nowhere near a settlement, eighteen years old trained scribe Caitrin rejects the offer as she scrambles for Whistling Tor. Two monks meet her and suggest the daughter of Berach ask for Tomas the innkeeper.

Whistling Tor is ruled by the cursed chieftain Anluan, whose name is whispered in repulsive horror. He was crippled as a child and has no hope for himself, his family, or his fortress as doom is everyone's future.

That is until Caitrin arrives in his garden studying the HEART'S BLOOD. She is retained to archive the family library and other misplaced documents. Caitrin brings with her hope even for the ghosts who reside inside the fortress but especially Anluan. As the Normans invade, Caitrin knows she loves her employer and believes he reciprocates, but for their hearts to blend into one, she must find a way to lift the curse caused by ancient sorcery long forgotten.

This is an engaging Gaelic fantasy romance starring two fascinating reluctant souls. Whereas she was burned in marriage; he was burned by the ancestral curse. Obviously for fantasy romance fans, Juliet Marillier provides a wonderful tale of love with a wee touch of the paranormal.

Confessions of a Demon
S. L. Wright
9780451462329 $7.99

She does not eat or sleep, but tends a bar Den on C in Manhattan in order to dine off the emotions of human patrons who drink there. Allay is a one of a kind type of demon; as she is a human who ingested the life force of a demon. Her scent signature differs from demons who would all love to feed off her, but cannot because Vex, the ancient demon protects her as she is of his line.

Pique the demon enters Den on C and attacks Alley. He almost kills her, but as she is getting unconscious, human Theo Ram arrives at the bar and breaks up the fight. Allay and Theo feel an immediate attraction and he declares himself her bodyguard. Allay knows she must feel off a demon if she is to live another two hundred years, but rejects the concept because that would end her last vestiges of humanity. Allay learns that he plans to use her at his church the Fellowship of Truth to show the world she was once human so he can announce to the world that demons exist. She learns his end game is for demons to rule the world. Allay believes his domination plan is horrific and wants no part of subjecting humans. Theo watches out for her in the demon challenges and when it looks like a demon civil war will break out. However, she is still dying and needs a miracle to save her because she won't subsume a demon

This is a very enthralling, evocative and electrifying urban fantasy whose underlying premise is demons are just another sentient species and not angry at God or ordered by Lucifer. Like humans, demons have the good, the bad and the ugly unmentionables. S. L. Wright adds to the realism by the fascinating way they reproduce. Ally refuses to lose her humanity, but to keep it she will die soon, which she is okay with as that should save humans for now. Filled with awe and twists, CONFESSIONS OF A DEMON is a refreshing powerful Manhattan thriller.

Plague Zone
Jeff Carlson
9780441017997 $7.99

Three years ago a nanotech plague was released and spread across the world killing anyone who lived below 10,000 feet in altitude. Russians and Indians were welcome her until the Russian ignited a bomb to try and destroy the superpower. Russian military landed on the West Coast with the Chinese following them. In Jefferson, Colorado, Cam Najarro, his wife and nanotech expert Ruth Goldman formed a small community that was barely surviving.

One day a woman breached their perimeter, but they soon realize she carried a new plague that affected the brain. The Chinese launched the new infection as well as deployed their military to round up survivors as they have no room for any of them. Ruth is the only chance the United States has to find a cure for this new plague, but she must meet up with plague free members of the military complex that possess the equipment she needs. Cam is looking at the hot zone of California for a scientist who might help them with the antidote while the government fires nukes at China. Cam and Ruth are in different places far apart, but sharing the same fear that short of a miracle the end of humanity is coming soonest.

The final thriller in the Plague year trilogy raises ethical questions about scientific research seeking a cure for a pandemic disease and issues on government intervention along the lines of Typhoid Mary. Jeff Carlson makes a case that scientists created the plagues that governments deployed and these same researchers seek the cures. Whereas Ruth and cam hope to save Planet Earth in spite of the insanity of leaders, the governments continue on their merry military maelstrom; picture world wide New Orleans circa Katrina as DC (and Texas) fiddle with wars elsewhere. Jeff Carlson provides a super cautionary science fiction techno thriller.

Tainted: The Blood Lily Chronicles
Julie Kenner
9780441017843 $7.99

Monstrous Lucas Johnson viciously attacks Rose. Bad to the bone twenty-six year old Lily Carlyle seeks out her younger sister's molester, but Lucas kills her instead. An angel gives the dead Lily a second chance at righting all the wrongs she committed.

Soon afterward, Lily Carlyle reawakens inside the body of Boston bartender-waitress Alice Purdue. Lily still wants to go after Lucas and wonders what happened to Alice. However, her heavenly assignment is preventing a demon horde from opening the last of nine gates from hell. She is ready to die again, but is confused by her attraction to Deacon Camphire, who saved her second life, but whose soul seems filled with absolute darkness and no light.

Although somewhat similar in tone to the superhero coming back from the grave for a chance at redemption by simply saving the world, fans of dark urban fantasies will enjoy the first Blood Lily Chronicle. Lily is an interesting protagonist who was a thief until she failed at vengeance but in her second chance she still craves retribution although she has bigger monsters to fight. Deacon is the enigmatic champion rescuing her at her darkest moments, but fans will wonder is he a hero or a future villain as the book is still out on him. Julie Kenner leaves her lighthearted suburban soccer mom resting in goal while turning to a grave thriller starring a different personality demon assassin heroine.

A Touch of Dead
Charlaine Harris
9780441017836 $23.95

"Fairy Dust". Claudine asks Sookie for a favor to read some people who have agreed to do so; of course this simple request turns deadly.

"Dracula Night". Vampires celebrate the Count on his birthday with Eric organizing quite a bash on "Dracula Night", but Sookie as a guest never expected to attend a biting gala.

"One Word Answer". Sookie learns that her cousin Hadley died so she must attend the funeral not expecting to meet the vampire Queen of New Orleans.

"Luck". Insurance agent Greg Aubert hires roommates Sookie and Amelia the witch to determine who is breaking into his files as "Luck" is running out on residents of Bon Temps.

"Gift Wrap". Sookie is lonely for Christmas as she has no family to share the holidays with; depressed, she finds a wounded were outside whom she takes into her home.

This is a terrific introduction to the few people in the country who have not visited the urban fantasy world of Sookie Stackhouse. The five entries are reprints from other collections, but not placed in one anthology before. Each tale is fun to read as even when the heroine tries to mind her business, she ends up in the middle of a paranormal fiasco.

First Lord's Fury
Jim Butcher
Ace, Nov 2009, $25.95

Having come a long way since he was a fifteen years old shepherd assistant concerned with preventing predatory "herdbanes" from stealing his sheep, Gaius "Tavi" Octavian must find a way to unite ancient enemies to fight against the evil Vord. He knows none of those who he recruits will be docile like his sheep was; which is a positive in the sense of saving the world from destruction yet also a negative because each has a previous grudge with their new ally. Making matters worse for the recently named First Lord of Alera he has learned the Vord has swamped the Canim Blood Lands. To prove he is worthy of his title, Tavi must rally the forces in a desperate final defense in the Calderon Valley where his ascendancy and his people's dependency started.

Meanwhile all the news he receives s disheartening with desertions expected as the Vord Queen has gained control over elemental Furies; a magic that previously only those of Aleran blood could perform. Still Tavi knows he has no choice but to send people to die in battle so that others may survive; still not grasping idiots from within his side are betraying Alera.

This is an entertaining and great super finish to the Codex Alera coming of age fantasy saga. The story line is fast-paced and ties up the major overarching threads in a satisfactory way summed up by Kitai the female Marat who upon a Tavi explanation on a ceremony says "Alerans" in a frustrated mocking tone that denotes the word is a curse. Fans will relish the saga as Jim Butcher leaves Dresden in its' respective urban fantasy setting for an exciting quest fantasy.

The Dragon Book
Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois, editors
9780441017645 $24.95

With nineteen entries by a virtual who's who of fantasy, fans will enjoy this themed collection that look deep into the eyes of Dragons; as the editors explain in the preface: "by far the most potent and widespread of all mythological beasts". The entries are widespread in terms of time and place so various background brings freshness to the anthology. Especially strong contributions are "Vici" by Naomi Novak in the time of Caesar, the mother and son team of Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple who write of "The Tsar's Dragons, the "Oakland Dragon Blues by Peter S Beagle with no Raiders involved only a traffic problem, and "A Stark and Wormy Knight" by Tad Williams. None of the compilation are bummers as each of the writers soar with this version of the mighty dragon who kick military butts (Garth Nix's "Stop") or freeze you with their eyes ("The Dragon's Tale" by Tamora Pierce) or their heartbeat ("The War that Winter Is" by Tanith Lee). The key to this strong thematic short story collection is the wide diverse range of the authors as each makes flying with Dragons a fun fantasy collection.

John Levitt
9780441017980 $7.99

There is a magic world that the Ordinaries know nothing about even its existence. To keep it that way, certain magical practitioners serve as cops to insure no one deviates from the righteous path. They also cover up when something magical happens so that s mortals do not learn of their existence. One enforcer with medium level strength is Mason, who has an Ifrit Louie, a faithful familiar shaped like a dog.

Mason tries to help some San Francisco homeless practitioners who are gradually losing their humanity and turning into beings from the myths and legend. They accidentally create an anti-Ifrit who killed people. At first Mason thought the anti-Ifrit murdered ordinaries, but he revised his theory. He now thinks a Wendigo came out of the energy field that the anti-Ifrit came out of and is the killer. The pair finally gets it right when they figure out what the real killers are. Mason, Louie, their mentor Eli and Chief Enforcer Victor know it will take team work and a miracle to destroy the killer.

Magic, mayhem and mystery make up Unleashed, a poignant yet often amusing urban fantasy that is filled with intrigue and a sense of wonder. Mason will do anything for his Louie and likewise the Ifrit canine will sacrifice himself for his partner; as man's best friend is his dog. The danger begins due to out of control practitioners losing their sense of reality and allowing a pseudo Ifrit, a Wendigo and a killer out of the energy pool leading to a wonderful original urban fantasy whodunit.

The Dark Man
Marc Schooley
Marcher Lord
9780982104934 $13.99

In Texas undercover agent Charles Graves, the man with a thousand faces, is assigned to destroy the last remaining powerful Christian leader in the United States, Reverend James Cleveland. As he gathers evidence, Charles goes to arrest Reverend Cleveland, but suddenly hears voices in his head insisting he heed the message his target proclaims.

This turns Charles from a cynic to a believer in God. He quits his law enforcement position and works to protect James and the word against his former associates, which includes his father. However, the Dark Man from his past urges him to forget this Christian nonsense and take care of himself especially when his former comrades are searching to assassinate him as a traitor. Charles has to choose between standing up for God or standing up with the Dark Man who haunts his breathing.

This is a fascinating but grim future tale that has Big Brother (and Sister) watching you ready to prance and harass. Charles is a terrific conflicted protagonist pulled schizoid like in two directions. Although The Dark Man inside his head also appears inside other people's brains abating the issue of the hero's sanity, fans will relish this profound look at persecution as religious tolerance is unacceptable.

Stuart Vaughn Stockton
Marcher Lord
9780982104941 $14.99

Being a low born Yangkuch in the Karn Empire, Rathe, has no future except to become a Saurian warrior; still Rathe dreams of becoming much more. His hope lies in being the best warrior. He works hard at training to be ready when his chance at success occurs.

However, his first assignment is routine so Rathe knows he cannot shine as his dreams of glory will wait. Still he does his best and works his way up the ranks based on a lie about saving a hatching from a Jerkrenak. On his next mission he finds an ancient artificial intelligence who says his name is Karey. She takes control of the female body of a scientist and firmly believes Rathe is her protector. However, Rathe and his unit are in mortal combat with the Herians and the fearsome Jerkranaks.

Pulled in two directions the hero is terrific as Rathe stars in a coming of age allegorical science fiction saga. The story line is fast-paced yet filled with references to the Karn Empire including its simplistic caste system that keeps low born like Rathe drowning in the ooze below the food chain though his "heroism" lifts onto the ladder. Devoid of humans in the entire novel, Stuart Vaughn Stockton provides a clever well written inspirational head biting thriller as salvation is within anyone's grasp if they reach out of the darkness.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Larsen's Bookshelf

What the Thunder Said: Reflections of a Canadian Officer in Kandahar
Lieutenant-colonel John Conrad
The Dundurn Group
3 Church Street, Suite 500. Toronto, Ontario Canada M5E 1M2
9781554884087 $29.95 www

A fine narrative look at the war in Afghanistan, this time focused on logistics of the Canadian Task Force Orion in Kandahar in the southernmost Provence 2005-2006 and proves again that all armies succeed or fail on logistics, especially those activities in Southern Afghanistan.

Lt. Col. John Conrad, who knows every trick of the logistics trade learned from hard duty in Cambodia and Bosnia, was tested in Kandahar. "What The Thunder Said" is a testimony to the men of the task force and a reminder that the United States is not alone in the pursuit of freedom for the citizens of Afghanistan.

John Conrad is an accomplished author. He writes simply and makes his point.

The Dardanelles Disaster: Winston Churchill's Greatest Failure
Dan Van Der Vat
Duckworth/Overlook/Peter Mayer Publisher, Inc.
The Overlook Press
141 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
9781590202334 $26.95

The British Navy's failed attempt to capture Constantinople and secure a sea route to Russia in 1915 marked a turning point of World War 1. Acclaimed naval military historian Dan van der Vat argues that the disaster at Dardanelles not only prolonged the war for two years and brought Britain to the brink of starvation but also led to the Russian Revolution and contributed to the rapid destabilization of the Middle East.

"The Dardanelles Disaster" highlights the diplomatic clashes from Whitehall to the Hellespont, Berlin to Constantinople and St. Petersburg to the Bosporus.

Winston Churchill, then 1st Lord of the Admiralty does not escape van der Vat analysis as he described the obstacles he faced and described the fateful actions of the Turks, German and British governments throughout the Gallipoli Campaign.

Using never before published information of the German Navy's mine laying operations and sheds light on one of World War One's more pivotal moments.

Van der Vat writes so well I forget I am reading history. He always seems to find a new mystery to solve or at least leave us with a new clue to consider.

A Toast for You and Me: America's Participation, Sacrifice and Victory, Volume 2
Robert C. Valentine
Dig-cam Publishing
Post Office Box 32522, Los Angeles, CA 90032
1880633842 $32.98

WOW! What a wonderful way to learn history. Whatever happened to Volume 1? There is not much more for me to say. This book is a real bang for my bucks!

Lieutenant Henry: Memoir of a Marine
Joseph James Henry Publishing, Inc.
P. O. Box 9949, College Station, Texas 77842
9781602643086 $21.99 (hardcover) 978-1-60264-327-7 $9.99 (eBook)

This indeed is a portrait of a Marine and also a wonderful picture of young man, growing up in the 1960s. We read here of a youth who, faced with combat in Viet Nam, chose to serve his country by enlisting in the Marine Corps. We travel with him from his college, Western Washington State College where he was with Naval ROC, learn his reason choosing to enlist in the Marines ROTC program, follow him through his training program, and subsequent commission a Lieutenant in a Marine Recon unit. He was assigned as 2nd Platoon Commander, Mike Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Division. We live with him during his time in the bush in Viet Nam and his time in the rear in Viet Nam. He ends his military career in Washington, D. C.

There are a lot of Viet Nam veterans who can feel quite comfortable with Joe. He is not afraid to expose his feelings. He writes of the loves of his life. He writes of his nine siblings. He left the military in 1972 and worked in the oil industry. In 1990 he earned a master's degree and taught at the middle school level for 17 years.

Joe is now retired, and married to his wife of 35 years. He has four children and six grandchildren.

Lt. Henry, always the honest reporter says "I've often wondered, if I knew how my country would have treated me as a returning warrior from an unpopular war, would I have defended it? History has concluded that the Viet Nam conflict had solved nothing: 58,000 dead for what? The power of a few to determine the destruction of many is as prevalent in a Republic as in a dictatorship."

From the warrior's standpoint is always the same: The enemy is always trying to kill you and you are trying to kill the enemy. It is reciprocity of death disguised neatly in the name of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and I will never sit in judgment. The fact remains that our Soldiers and Marines are fighting for survival, the same as I did in1969. I honor them.

Lt. Joe Henry writes some strong words! Are we man enough to read them?

The Whole Damned World: New Mexico Aggies at War: 1941-1945
Jett, Daniel B.
Dean of Engineering, New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts
Edited by Martha Shipman Andrews
Mexico State University Library in collaboration with LPD Press/RIO GRANDE BOOKS
9781890689384/1 890689-38-6 (pbk.) $35.95

384 pages including 155 Photographs, Acknowledgements, Editorial, List of Acronyms, Contents, Introduction, Appendix and Index

This fine publication is the result of the correspondence of Daniel Boone Jett, dean of the School of Engineering at New Mexico State University (from 1938 to 1947) in his attempt to communicate with his former students who were serving overseas in World War II.

The letters "Dad" Jett received in return from his former students give a unique and personal picture of the war in Europe and the Pacific. Certainly "The Whole Damned World" will serve as a feeding ground for family historians who search for information on their soldier s who served so gallantly in World War II. The letters are full of nostalgia for events of a winnable war, now seventy years passed which seem to have gone so quickly.

Allies Forever: the Life and Times of an American Prisoner of War
Karen A. Patterson
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 South Parker Road-515, Parker, Colorado 80134
9781432730307 $19.95

Keeping the memory, daughter Karen A. Patterson has written a biography of her father, Frederick "Red" Killmeyer, Jr.

On December 24th 1944 Lt. Killmeyer, a B-24 Pilot took off on his 24th mission over Germany though dense snowfall, low ceilings and high crosswinds. His plane was shot down on this mission. Red was wounded and was captured by the Germans and placed in a prisoner of war camp where he spent the next four months. He left the camp and found his way to freedom.

Red returned home and faced difficult years adjusting to civilian life with his wife Gladys and their children. He later went back to college, got his law degree. He passed away in 1994.

One would have to be hard hearted not to be caught up in the life story and the love story related in these 192 pages dedicated to the life of Frederick "Red" Killmeyer and his family.

Richard N. Larsen
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Notes From the Red Zone
Christina Pacosz
Seven Kitchens Press
P.O. Box 668, Lewisburg PA 17837
9780982037294 $7.00

Notes From the Red Zone was originally published in 1983. Like any work of excellence, the content remains pertinent and timely today. Man is still polluting water, air and soil. Nuclear proliferation still hangs over us all, a dark, dreadful specter. Poet David Chorlton says in the introduction that Christina Pacosz demonstrates a"universal compassion." That compassionate heart beats on every page of this chapbook. As she does in all her work, Ms. Pacosz juxtaposes stark reality with poignant sparks of beauty and hope.

In the red zone, that poisonous hot zone around the Hanford nuclear energy plant, life struggles to maintain its equilibrium in various ways while the poet quietly observes and records:

Yakima river at brown flood
where wild carrot shouts
under the shelter of bleached
and towered trees

Secretive birds rustle
through thick brush
and magpies declare the headlines
of a black and white world

Nuclear waste, poisons spread by crop dusters, exterminators, and farmchemicals "accumulate like tumbleweed on barbed wire / lacing groundwater…" Land, air, water, and people reap the poisonous harvest:

A twelve-year-old boy
reels with lymphoma,
bald beneath the blue mesh cap
advertising doormat spray.
His mother, the neighbors,
her coworkers
look at me
like horses trapped in a barn fire
when I ask,
how long have you lived here?

Amidst such frightening scenarios, Ms. Pacosz searches for tiny vestiges of hope to share with readers:

A plant,
one of thousands
cultivated in the machine-sowed, tended rows
raises its chemical-prodded
green flag to the evening.

I stoop
and stroke its leaves.

I am
less afraid.

This is a stunning, harrowing vision from a gifted wordsmith who grieves for everything we've lost "at the close of a millennium of death." My review of this chapbook cannot possibly do justice to the content. If you only hear one voice raised in defense of Earth' senvironment, let it be hers.

Cross of the Legion: Book 5, Soldier of the Legion Series
Marshall S. Thomas
Ridan Publishing
9685 Lindenbrook Str., Fairfax VA 22031
9780979621192 13.95

I'm always excited to find a new addition to the Soldier of the LegionSeries in my mailbox. The characters in this series seem like old friends to me now, and I'm eager to discover what sort of dangers they might encounter. I'm not a sci fi devotee, but this series is so imaginative, so well written and rich in imagery that I find myself devouring every page.

At book's beginning, Thinker, Priestess, and Moontouch have found peace and happiness together on Andrion 2. The war-weary Thinker enjoys his "desk detail" scanning d-screens in a blast proof bunker and playing with his son, Stormdawn, but he knows such happiness can't last. He's a Legion warrior, and when the call to battle comes, he and Priestess must answer. Moontouch predicts an ominous outcome to Thinker's latest battles, one that leaves him walking among the dead.

When their old friend, Tara, goes missing, intell points to the Omnis. Thinker and his team carry the scars of past Omni wars and dreadfacing them again. The spidery Omnis are skilled telepaths with superior weapons and a taste for human blood and flesh. They've been the scourge of the known universe for longer than Thinker can remember. But this battle will be different. The Omnis and humansare threatened by a common enemy - the White Death. A more horrible enemy can't be imagined because every known weapon is helpless against it. The Omnis and Legion join forces to defeat the White Death. The fate of all living creatures rests on an unproven holographic and time travel program developed by Tara to find an antidote for the WhiteDeath. Everyone involved is skating on the edge of madness as the latest battle begins. Wars are won by quiet heroes doing the unthinkable, as described by Thinker:

"The Captain of the Wraith (a starship) was a pale young Outworlder with hot dark eyes, a military shortcut, and a Combat Cross on his blacks. The Legion didn't award medals but there were sometimes other clues to a person's past. The Captain wore a ring decorated with four tiny Systie starships. It meant he had sent four shiploads of Systiesouls to Hell. Good credentials, I decided. His Exec was an Assidic, warname Typhoon, fierce slit eyes, ramrod straight, practically twitching - anxious for action. Borderline, I thought, both of them. I could see the madness in their eyes. Yes, these two would take us to Hell all right, and wait around until we were through, or dead. The Legion needed madmen like them. Sane people would never do what had to be done."

A good action book is like a good action movie and leaves readers happily exhausted in the end. I'm still waiting for some savvy producer to make a movie out of this series. It has everything: memorable, courageous heroes who are all but immortal thanks to biotechnology; fierce battle action on hostile worlds; ghastly creatures bent on eliminating all humans; and, most of all, this series of books has heart and hope for all who read them. Highly recommended.

Joyce Scarbrough
L & L Dreamspell
P.O. Box 1984, Friendswood TX 77549
9781603181464 15.95

I know before reading even one page of Joyce Scarbrough's novels that they will be well-written, absorbing, and feature fascinating characters. To my list of descriptive terms for her latest book I can add "helpful and educational." In addition to her usual fine fiction, this time she shines a sensitive light on trichotillomania, a mental condition that is not as rare as readers might think.

Jessica Cassady is married to a delicious male animal. Lee Cassady has it all - rugged good looks, a delightful sense of humor, a successful career, and the sort of raw sensuality Jess finds irresistible. Recently, however, cracks have developed in Lee's glorious persona. Jess is tired of being the head groupie in his Road to Glory tour. She's tired of Lee's ceaseless drive to climb the ladder of success as a sports journalist, tired of what she sees as his total self-involvement, tired of playing second fiddle to his whims. All her resentments come to an explosive head when she calls Lee's hotel room and a drowsy woman answers the phone. Jess doesn't want to hear Lee's explanation. By the time he gets home from the conference, she's moved all his clothes out of the house and filed for divorce.

Jess is a strong-willed woman, but the shock of thinking Lee was unfaithful brings an increase in her hair pulling. She research estrichotillomania on the internet and embarks on a proven self-improvement plan. Jess pampers herself, renews an acquaintance with a man from her past, and struggles to ignore Lee's attempts at reconciliation. "Symmetry" has always been an important framework of Jess's life, but can she find any sort of balance without Lee? The outcome depends on Lee. Does he have a greater understanding of her needs than Jess thinks? And does she have some misconceptions of her own to work through? A suicidal young girl and Jess's domineering mother bring unexpected enlightenment.

Joyce Scarbrough has written this story of a troubled woman and a crumbling marriage with sensitivity and grace. It's a helpful, hopeful, and ultimately uplifting novel. Highly recommended for mature adolescents and adult readers.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

The Flour Pot Christmas Cookie Book
Margie and Abbey Greenberg
Running Press
2300 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19103
9780762435548, $16.95,

"The Flour Pot Christmas Cookie Book: Creating Edible Works of Art For the Holidays" is a holiday textbook fro imaginative cookie bakers and decorators. Written by a mother and daughter team who form a cookie boutique called The Flour Pot, "The Flour Pot Christmas Cookie Book" is filled with brilliant, inventive, designer cookies appropriate for all the winter holidays. There are snowmen, trees, doves, Santas, reindeer, Christmas lights, and also dreidels, stacks of presents, and chocolate stars of David for the Festival of Lights. There are also snow babies, sleds, and polar bears for plain winter fun, along with peekaboo snowflakes, icicles, and holly leaves. All cookie concoctions are beautifully photographed in full color, accompanied by lists of supplies and specific directions, plus comments from Margie and Abbey. At the end of the book is a section called Basics that has recipes for several cookie doughs, fondant, meringue powder royal icing, spun sugar, tips on piping and supplies, and a page of templates. "The Flour Pot Christmas Cookie Book" is a wonderful resource for the daring and imaginative holiday baker who likes to decorate beautiful cookies, or "edible works of art."

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Lloyd and Karmel Newell, authors
Dan Burr, artist
Deseret Book
c/o Shadow Mountain
P.O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, UT 84138
9781606411544, $21.95,

Enhanced with the inclusion of a DVD performance by Edward Herrmann and Mormon Tabernacle Choir, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" is a beautiful package of both book and DVD that tells the story of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the writing of his famous poem, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." Written at a crucial time in American history just before the end of the Civil War, the poem has come to symbolize faith in a good and peaceful future in a time of chaos and war. How it was written, the family history surrounding Longfellow's crisis of faith, and the eventual setting of the edited poem to the hymn tune "Waltham," by John Baptiste Calkin, all details are wound into a wonderful book for families to share in the upcoming holiday season. The final treat is the DVD performance of the famous carol by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, narrated by Edward Herrmann. "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" highlights a classic poet's struggles with life and faith, with golden results.

A Lifetime Burning
Richard Quinney
University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, 3rd Floor, Madison, WI 53711
9780981562056, $26.00 (608) 263-0734

"A Lifetime Burning" is a beautiful collection of thoughts and reactions to the experience of saying goodby to beloved parents, a farmhouse of four generations, and a lifetime of memories. The author's musings are triggered by a process of emptying out the family farmhouse of all the trappings of four generations of life and use after his parents had both passed on. Delicately decorated with bits of paper nostalgia saved by his mother in a scrapbook from her childhood, "A Lifetime of Burning" is filled with utterances that touch the heart. No wisdom prepares us for the transience of life, nothing can ease its impermanence. But the experience of learning to embrace the impermanence can teach all that is needed. That seems to be the message of many of the quotations, such as the following: "Being aware of impermanence, interdependence, and the reality of the present moment can lead us to the truth of no birth, no death. Arriving, as Thich Nhat Hanh instructs us, 'at the deep realization that all that exists has the nature of no birth and no death, no coming and no going, no being and non-being, no permanence and no annihilation.' A good place to be as we live our lives each day (p. 48)." "A Lifetime Burning" is like a bouquet that is meant to be savored whole and in parts; its sweet fragrances perfume the dissolving memories as they rise to an unknowable destination.

Long Powwow Nights
David Bouchard and Pam Allekuk, authors
Leonard Paul, painter
Buffy Sainte-Marie, composer/performer
Red Deer Press
311 Washington Street, Brighton, Massachusetts 02135
9780889954274 $23.95 1-800-387-9776

"Long Powwow Nights" is a bilingual English and Mi'kmaq book of poetic verse illustrated by beautiful full color paintings and complete with original CD of music by Buffy Sainte-Marie. In the verses, famous Metis author David Bouchard along with Pam Aleekuk tell the story of a mother who taught her child to love the beauty of her magical powwow fancy dance performances, and all the preparations and sacrifice that went into them. It is a loving collaboration of efforts through which the message shines clearly: a dream of dancing "to transform yourself/ Into your own truth and not someone else." The beautiful, haunting paintings and music bring the poetry on the pages to full and vibrant life. "Long Powwow Nights" is a gift to be reverently shared and savored, the stamp of a mother's cherished cultural heritage and traditions to be passed down to her child forever.

Graphic Classics: Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott, author
Anne Timmons, Mary Fleener,
Shary Flenniken, Molly Crabapple, illustrators
Eureka Productions
8778 Oak Grove Road, Mount Horeb, WI 53572
9780978791988 $17.95 608-832-6449

"Graphic Classics: Louisa May Alcott, Stories of Mummies, Geese, Pigs, Flies, Prima Donnas & Little Women" is the eighteenth volume in the Graphic Classics series of comics adaptations of great literature. Printed in full color, it features a new adaptation of "Little Women" scripted by Trina Robbins and illustrated by Anne Timmons. As much of the original language and intent of the author as possible is used in the sensitive scripting adaptation. Also included in this edition are comic illustrated adaptations of five other stories by Lousia may Alcott, including "A Whisper in the Dark," "The Rival Prima Donnas," Lost in a Pyramid," "Buzz," and "The Piggy Girl." These less familiar gothic mysteries and horror stories as well as two poems and two unusual children's stories, are scripted and illustrated by a talented string of writers and illustrators, including, Antonella Caputo and Arnold Arre, Rod Lott and Molly Crabapple, Alex Burrows and Pedro Lopez, and others. "Graphic Classics: Louisa May Alcott" is an edition that will help make the great and beloved author accessible to a wider audience of children (and adults) age 12 and up.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

The Gold Nugget
Patricia Redican
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
9781606966808, $20.99,

Finding the truth is always an adventure. "The Gold Nugget" is the tale of Rebecca Simmons, a woman who travels to Nevada to find the whereabouts of her brother. Along the way, she finds a Sheriff who she quickly develops a fancy for, but the little joy is trumped by it seeming her father and brother may have met a violent end. "The Gold Nugget" is a fascinating mystery about the west, highly recommended.

The Supervision Solution
John Roulet
Javelin Publishing
PO Box 321, Whitsett, NC 27377
Maryglenn McCombs (publicity)
2817 West End Avenue, Suite 126-274, Nashville, TN 37203
9780981683768, $22.95,

Good leadership isn't easy, it just looks it is. "The Supervision Solution: Manage Performance -- Not People" is a guide for managers who want to lead their company more effectively. Advising managers to push their employees performance by focusing on their jobs instead of the employee themselves. With plenty of advice for more efficient supervising, "The Supervision Solution" is a top pick for management.

Where East Eats West
Sam Goodman
Booksurge Publishing
7290 B. Investment Drive, Charleston, SC
9781439228302, $18.99,

It's almost a whole other world. "Where East Eats West: The Street-Smarts Guide to Business in China" is a business guide for doing business at the lower levels of China, which follows little of the business etiquette that one learns in more western societies. With plenty of tips and advice to break the rookie to China into the business, "Where East Eats West" is a highly recommended read for any business looking to China for expansion.

Okuba Reborn
Gloria Jean Bedel
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
074145498X, $14.95,

Some ancient things are best left forgotten. "Okuba Reborn" is the story of John and Heather, as they uncover something a bit alarming as they study the long and curious history of Ancient Egypt and its statues. Something is about to return and Heather and John have little idea of what it could bring. "Okuba Reborn" is a novel that will please many a reader with an interest in ancient Egypt.

Poems for the Seasons
Don Eicher
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533161737, $7.95,

Man is an animal, and has a relationship with nature, no matter how much we've changed. "Poems for the Seasons" is a collection of poetry from Don Eicher discussing the spirituality of man and nature, as they both change throughout the seasons. "Poems for the Seasons" is an intriguing and highly recommended read worth a look. "Damned Old St. Valentine" I don't wish to be in love/Because I constantly do the strangest things. I write letters and poems,/ send gifts and sing.//I spend more than I have,/I take showers more than I please./I pray that my love is well received./Not knowing I prayed for me.//When February 14 rolls around,/I think of every love in everytown./It forces me to decide;/When I all want is a friend all around.

Aging Gracefully, Aging Defiantly
Norma Roth
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438964324, $18.95,

Aging doesn't mean you have to be a forgetful and useless senior. "Aging Gracefully, Aging Defiantly: With Dignity, Integrity, & Spunk Intact" is a guide for elders who want to age independently as productive members of society regardless of what one's friends and family may try to force on them. Humorous and insightful, "Aging Gracefully, Aging Defiantly" is a fine read that will inspire and motivate many a person entering the later half of their life.

I'll Trade My Sorrow
Cynthia Primm
Higher Life Development Services
2342 Westminster Terrace, Oviedo, FL 32765
9781935245094, $12.99,

Expression has been a proven way of healing emotional wounds and make someone go forward in life. "I'll Trade My Sorrow" is a collection of poetry from Cynthia Primm who offers her own inspirational poetry and hopes to inspire others to help themselves find their own way to conquer their own concerns and go after what they really want. "I'll Trade My Sorrow" is a worthy investment for poetry fans in need of inspiration. "Pink and Gray": I'm just a form/Of pink and gray,/Like a grave/With flowers planted/And the petals pulled away./To be blown/Into the wind/Unwillingly.

Aging Outrageously Well
Judi Haven Gentry
Silverhawk Press
2887 College Avenue, #394, Berkeley, CA 94705
Atlas Books (distributor)
30 Amberwood Parkway, Ashland, OH 44805
9780976430209, $19.95,

Good aging isn't just about looking good. "Aging Outrageously Well: How to Save Your Own Life and Have Fun Doing It" is a guide for seniors who want to not only look younger, but also feel and live younger. Inspirational and straightforward advice encourages seniors with a positive message: never resign yourself to simply being elderly; keep on living until you can't live no more. "Aging Outrageously Well" is a top pick for those who want 75 to be the new 50.

Micah Andrew

Shelley's Bookshelf

Murder on the Middle Fork
Don Ian Smith and Naida West
Bridge House Books
P.O. Box 809, Rancho Murieta, CA 95683
0965348768 $15.98

Don Ian Smith spent forty-three years as a Methodist minister, and retired from the last church in Boise, Idaho, where he taught, preached, and reached out to juveniles. He owned and operated a small cattle ranch in Salmon, Idaho with his wife until his death in May of 2007. Naida West grew up in Idaho and attended a one-room schoolhouse. Eventually she moved to California and blossomed, first as an exchange student to Germany, then lived there as a translator. She returned to California, where she eventually earned her Ph.D. She has done everything from picking potatoes to being a politician's wife, college teacher, and author.

MURDER ON THE MIDDLE FORK is told through the eyes of a 30-year old woman, married to a brutal man who keeps her as a prisoner in canyon long stripped of any mining possibilities. When a German immigrant's neat little home and farm come to his attention, he tried to use his wife to murder the German, figuring that it is war time and he will be absolved of his crimes. His wife moves in on the German and falls in love for the first time in her sad life:

"'I tell you, Frieda, vhy I haff dis gun mit.' He slapped the holster. 'I tell you da truth, as I hope you tell me dat truth. Animals mit two legs be da most dangerous kind. Not you, Frieda. You be a goot person. But maybe some person come to hurt you. I see you looking around mit fear in your eyes. I haff my gun here so dat not happen. I protect you. I protect you mit my rifle also.'

Suddenly she couldn't talk any more. Whisking up the plates, she turned to the house before he could see the tears in her eyes. He was protecting her! A man who came to America to find peace! A man she would help to kill."

More of an historical fiction story than an actual murder mystery, MURDER ON THE MIDDLE FORK deals with a true-life murder that occurred in 1917. The authors include many themes to instruct the reader, such as spousal abuse, wartime bigotry, social isolation, hunting, guilt and redemption. MURDER ON THE MIDDLE FORK is not for the faint of heart, but this little book is a wonderful and bittersweet read.

Murder Every Monday
Pamela Branch
The Rue Morgue Press
87 Lone Tree Lane, Lyons, CO 80540
0915230917 $14.95

Pamela Branch was known as a funny lady, specializing in witty mysteries. Unfortunately, she was only able to write four books, but fellow mystery writers considered her one of the best. She lived in relative poverty with her first husband, but divorced and remarried and lived in relative comfort for the rest of her life. Her last published murder was MURDER'S LITTLE SISTER, published in 1958.

Clifford Flush is a murderer who has been able to contain his impulses for fourteen years. When he makes an attempt on a friend, he decides to decamp to the country with a group of friends with similar impulses. They buy a house that has been on the market for years because it is completely run down. It comes complete with a butler with a horrible smile. But for the group it serves its purpose. Thus their first class of would-be murderers is hatched. They offer courses in any and every subject related to murder:

"Half an hour later, the Colonel, taking Small Arms and Ballistics in the orchard, realized he was hopelessly outclassed by Manelli and Grossi. The two mobsters had accepted their weapons in thoughtful silence, looked them over critically, squinted down the barrels and casually peppered the red heard on the man-shaped target.

The Colonel, trying to regain his prestige, threw a pear into the air and missed it with his Springfield."

Pamela Branch is known for the sheer originality of her plots. Her characters are equally fascinating, as Branch draws from many aspects of human nature to create memorable personalities. Naturally she pokes fun at herself by including a bad mystery writer, squired by a brainless gigolo. A woman who is always in a bikini runs around, creating lustful feelings in the hearts of the gullible single men. Naturally she wants her mate to be a real killer, which causes consternation in the hearts of the man who truly loves her.

MURDER EVERY MONDAY is a light-hearted, ghoulish, and entertaining mystery written with intelligence and perception. The humor of that period is a reassuring look at the human condition. It's a shame that Pamela Branch didn't live long enough to present the public with more of her stunning writing.

The Secret Lion
C.W. Gortner
2261 Market St., #504, San Francisco, CA 94114
1933037350 $16.95

A lifelong student of the Renaissance period, C.W. Gortner holds a MFA in Writing with an emphasis on Renaissance Studies from The New College of California, where he has also taught. His extensive travels, including living in a medieval Spanish castle and dancing in a Tudor great hall, add to his expertise. He is truly a Renaissance man. THE SECRET LION is the first installment of the Spymaster Chronicles.

Brendan Prescott is a twenty year old who knows nothing of his parentage. Taken in by a family with designs on the Tudor throne, he has been bullied and put down by the cruel members of the Dudley household. But he has the chance to become a squire at court, although he still is under the control of a Dudley at court. He quickly distinguishes himself, and uncovers a plot that takes the king's life and endangers his two sisters:

"Nevertheless, I'd caught her attention. Her eyes narrowed to slits.

'Just a foundling?' she repeated. 'Tell me this, were you truly left in the priest's cottage near Dudley Castle?'

Without taking my gaze from hers, I nodded, a shard in my throat.

'Do you know who left you there? Do you know who found you?'

I swallowed, struggling for a calm that eluded me. A dull roar filled my head, like an ocean in my brain. I heard myself say as if from across a vast distance, 'I don't know who left me. Dame Alice, the Dudley housekeeper and herbalist, she found me. She took me in.'

I gleaned another flash in her eyes. 'An herbalist?' Her stare was a physical instrument, a probing device in my sinews. 'A small woman, with a merry laugh?'

I began to tremble uncontrollably. She knew. She knew Dame Alice. 'Yes,' I whispered."

The Renaissance was truly a time when spies and plots thickened the court. It was not a time to be born of royal blood, because it often happened that the royals were murdered. C.W. Gortner's first tale of the Spymaster Chronicles is a triumph. He perfectly captures the intrigue and injustice of the would-be rulers as they vied for position and eliminated the opposition. Brendan Prescott is a hero who captivates the reader. A great read!

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Potholes in Paradise
Beverly Ruuth
0744308054 $5.95

In this totally homespun tale we meet a family that learned what being a family was really all about. Mom, dad, three daughters, a dog, two cats and three horses were more than could possible fit on the land where their home now stood. They had to move, and move they did to a 42- acre farm and there life would never be the same. Here they encountered travel restrictions, weather dangers, animal intrusions, and water restriction, but they gained so much more than they loss. There story is an amazing one.

This wonderful family learned the value of being there one for another, not just within their family unit but actually being a real part of a community. A community that helped and actually cared. A rare situation in this day and age I'm afraid to say. They had many adventures that were shared to my delight as the reader of their tale.

They learned how to 'not milk a cow,' and that story in itself will bring a laugh out loud to anyone who shares it. They experienced birth of animals and death, friendships and true holiday experiences, and truly the ups and downs of farm living. I really enjoyed this story and the way our author added humor to many of the situations just brought it right on down to the plate for a home run. A down to earth tale surely to be enjoyed by all who are fortunate enough to read it. Well done. Recommended.

Wyld Wynd the Rising
Peter Sandor
0744313805 $5.95

Nolan Harrison was a good man,living and working in the forest. His life may not have been exciting, but it was about to burst into fireworks that Nolan never knew existed. His friend was dead and he was being followed, his life was also in danger, but why? He is attacked, but saved by a man, a strange man named, Daniel, who tells him a story that Nolan finds hard to believe.
Daniel is not from this dimension and it appears that Nolan is being sought because he has within hidden powers that those in other dimensions would find useful. And so Nolan and his new friends must escape the evil that pursues them and follow the destiny that lies ahead.

I enjoyed this first book in what I assume is a series. The author did an excellent job in developing his characters. I immediately liked Nolan and related to him and his outlook on life. Daniel and the other out of this world characters both good and evil that were brought into the story were well developed. The evil were evil and sinister and the good proved their honor. Great storyline, well thought out, smooth flow and attention keeper. I am wondering just where Nolan will finally end up and just what place he will hold in this university. Great read.

Chris Dreams Big
Chris Dudley & Chris Love- Dudley, Illustrated by: Karl Edwards
CCD Productions, Inc.
22647 Ventura Blvd, #219 Woodland Hills, CA 9364
9780982322406 $14.95

Chris Dudley played was a professional basketball player for 16 seasons, however there is something probably most people do no know about Chris. He has Type 1 diabetes and he has a story to tell.

In this wonderful book our young star( I'm sure you can guess who that is) becomes sick and finds out he has diabetes. He feels as if all his dreams for a successful life are destroyed. He loves to play basketball, but how can he when he is sick? Soon he finds out that other children are not letting their disabilities stand in the way of their dreams. His teammate Joey has asthma, but still plays basketball. His friend Thomas has a sister in a wheelchair, but she loves to swim, and does.
Chris finally understands that if he takes care of his body and listens to his doctor, he too can follow his dream of playing basketball.

I enjoyed this book. In reading it I could feel the true intent of Mr. Dudley's heart for children and their future dreams and his desire to help them understand that they can reach for the stars.
The illustrations are wonderful and I loved how he merged the book from being a child to being a winning adult. The picture of the hand and foot were great and help to bring the story to a personal level. Everyone has some form of challenge trying to keep them from reaching their goals in life. I firmly believe that this book will touch many people, the young and 'older' with hope, and courage to find their star.

Thank you, Mr. Dudley, for a well written, excellent illustrated book, that will help so many reach new heights.

The Taker and the Keeper
by: Wim Coleman & Pat Perrin
ISBN# 9781935178033
$10.95 176 pages
The Cadence Group
5 Broadway - Suite 201
Troy, NY 12180

In this delightful young adult adventure we meet, Gregory and Yolanda, two middle-school students who are about to embark on a true adventure. When Gregory finds some strange glasses in his old science teachers thrown away box something mysterious happens.
Gregory notices one day that when he put his red-tinted monocle on and looked around while at a ravine, he saw a tunnel entrance show up in a concrete wall. He thought perhaps he was going crazy and set out to investigate a very dark tunnel, finding himself at the end confronted by two very strange young men who were not happy to see him. Quickly Gregory escapes and returns to the other side of the tunnel.

The next day Gregory notices that people are acting strange and cannot understand what is happening. His mom is angry at him and everything in the world seems upside down. Gregory returns to the ravine where his friend ,Yolanda sees him, she also notices something is very wrong with the world. She told him how her favorite story, King Arthur, in her book had completely changed. Gregory shares what happened to him the day before and allows his friend to try some different glasses and she too sees the tunnel. Together they decide to explore it and find themselves back in time, to the time of King Arthur just before he became King.

Now, they find themselves in the middle of a mystical adventure with Merlin the Magician and his helper. King Arthur's sister has cast a spell and stolen the sword before Arthur can pull it out of the stone. If it is not returned the world, as Gregory and Yolanda know it, will never return to normal. They have a job to do, but can Gregory overcome his fears and do the task set before him or will the world never be as it should be again.

I really enjoyed this story. The two main characters were very likeable and the author allowed their raw emotions to be brought forth which made it that much sweeter when they overcame obstacles within themselves. There was humor, both good and evil characters, local was definitely fitting to the read and it had a good plot and storyline that you kept you reading on. I also feel it will let children see that they need to believe in themselves and the potential that is within them. After all, we never know what we can do until we try.

This is a fun read, full of mystery, adventure and friendship that makes a difference. Recommended.

Messy Tessy
Leah Orr
Author House Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438993980 $12.95

Tessy is to stay home with her favorite aunt while mom has some time out. Aunt Fran falls asleep watching TV and little Messy Tessy begins to entertain herself in some resourceful ways, leaving a tell-tale trail behind her. I had to giggle. I especially liked what she did to Aunt Fran's hair, but I suppose it is because I have had a similar happening during my child watching years. Too cute.

I liked the sing-song rhyme of the story that sways you back and forth almost as if you are skipping along and actually in the world of little Messy Tessy. Nice. The illustrations definitely help to bring the story alive, from the toys in the toy chest, to the peas in Tessy's hair they are very well done. And adorable book, great story and one many of us big and small will relate to.

The Laceyville Monkeys Say the Right Words
Harriett Ruderman
Illustrated by Beverly Luria
Illusion Press, LLC
8437 Legend Club Drive, West Palm Beach, Florida 33412
9780615264820 $15.95

Inside the pages of this adorable read you will meet three monkeys who have some very special talents. Their names are, Sheva, who has a beautiful voice, Keva, who is quite the gymnastic, and Eva, the ballerina. They are owned by a lady named, Ms. Hepzibah Mott. Ms. Mott takes her monkeys to an audition for Granny to see if they could perform in the big talent contest coming up soon. She spoke certain words and her little monkeys performed beautifully. Of course Granny loved them so much that she decides to sneak them off without Ms. Mott. Off to the talent show they go and after some other very talented animals perform it was the little monkeys turn. Granny also spoke some words but they were not the right words and the little monkeys just stood there. Suddenly Ms. Mott comes on the scene, does she speak the correct words and save the day?

I loved this book, the illustrations were bright, bold, and so enlightening to the story. The author's intent in this book is to show the importance of words, especially in how we speak one to another, and what a difference it can make if we speak the right words. Using the monkeys instead of children definitely should capture children's attention from the start. I fully understand how important words can be in life and think this is one smart author to take a book with such a delightful story and illustrations to bring this point across to children. This is definitely a must have for every child.They will love it and it will help them to learn, words are important, what we speak to each other does make a difference.
Well done, Ms. Ruderman, thank you for bringing such a book to our children. I am proud to give this book my highest recommendation.

Notes From the War-Torn
by: Joel L. Young
0744308399 $7.95

In this collection we are taken into the mind and soul of the war torn. From soldier to civilian we are placed in the battlefield, not just in the natural but of the mind, raw emotions abound, deep thoughts splashing across the page with each piercing word await you. Our author has his fingers on the very pulse of the soul of this area. Saying what is hidden in the hearts of many, perhaps afraid to release what has been so guarded within, seeing what others only partially discerned. My favorites were, "Unknown Soldier," "Midnight in Iraq" and "Reflection of 911." However, "The Sorcerer Sleeps No More," was outstanding and sent chills throughout me. Words of truth written by a heartfelt pen.

Moon of Little Winter
Margaret Marr
0744310482 $5.95

Chely Austin's beloved grandfather has died and now she is part owner of his home. Strange as it maybe it seems her grandfather built a house that no one ever lived in, and is half on another's land. Mae Walker's to be exact and when her grandson, Ty, came to claim his half Chely was not happy. However, there was more behind his appearing than met the eye, sinister unearthly happenings were about to explode and Ty and Chely would soon learn how much they truly needed each other, as the past and present collide in mayhem as they battle for their lives against an evil that is intertwined with their very existence.

Author Margaret Marr has penned a work that brings you suspense, love and adventure in a way you will not soon forget. I read this book in one sitting and had to continue until I found out the hidden mystery within the story. The characters are likeable, the love story between our two main characters is presented in a fresh way taking a twist that is not expected, and the mystic appearance of Grandma Walker and her hidden secrets of the past add just the right amount of wonder to keep you intrigued. What that past holds and how Chely and Ty are connected will amaze you. You'll never see it coming. A book that was very enjoyable from beginning to end.

Tough Calls
Travis Collins
New Hope Publishers
PO Box 12065, Birmingham, Al 35202
978-1596692299 $14.99

I am not a sports fan and really know very little about sports or the rules, so I wasn't sure I would be able to relate to this book at all, but I gave it a chance, and I'm glad that I did. If you are not a sport's fan, don't let that lead you away from a really great book.

I found inside of this book so much helpful information that it surprised me. I have been in the ministry for over 30 years, and have been in the position of a leader. It is a hard job, one where decisions must be made that effect people and their lives. The pressure is always on and often, if not always, decisions are never agreed upon by 100% of those they will affect. Sad, but true. Basically we like to make everyone happy, but when you are in a leadership position that most times will not be the case.

In this work you are given so many stories and pointers that will help you to understand your role in leadership. The stories are both interesting and bring home a point. You are shown that you certainly are allowed times when you may make a mistake in a decision, and encouraged to get up and keep going in the role you are in. Our author gives pointers on how to deal with criticism, and helps you to see that things should not be taken personal. You are also shown that frustration is part of the role, people pleasing never brings victory, and although some decisions are tough ones to make and may cause some apprehension, they must be done.The section at the end of each chapter for Pastors was a great added bonus, and gave a lot of added insight.
I believe this book will be a great comfort and help to anyone who is in a leadership position. It definitely shows that leaders are human, make mistakes, and take things to heart, but it always gives great encouragement to continue on doing the best you can in leading those put in your charge.

Saving Tom Black
Jere D. James
Moonlight Mesa Associates
18620 Moonlight Mesa Rd., Wickenburg, Arizona, 85390
9780977459353 $15.95

It isn't often, but there are times, when a book has three elements in it, grace, charm and dignity, such is the character of this book. Set mainly in the state of Arizona, the year 1888, our story takes a young girl, a black man, and a Sheriff and merges them in a story so full of depth, unleashed emotion, and incredible perception and fortitude of the human spirit that it will not easily be forgotten.

Times for the nation are hard, survival is the name of the game, especially for the DuBonnet family, mother and two daughters. This family, seeking help from a Children's Agency, is separated, mother and daughter sent off to be married in another state, leaving Elizabeth alone awaiting the uniting of her family. Time passes and Elizabeth is herself being shipped off to be married, however, Elizabeth has a mind of her own and a spirit that is unquenchable. Stealing away in the night she begins a search for her mother and sister; a search that leads her to Prescott, Kansas and her destiny.

On the way she meets Thomas Jefferson, a black man who befriends Elizabeth and becomes an important person in her life, and in so doing, finds the strength to live his own. She also meets the new Sheriff, Jake Silver, a man of honor and integrity, a man that is himself traveling towards his destiny. Their lives are deeply interwoven in a way neither deemed possible as each begins to battle the forces and obstacles before them that will ultimately unite them. What a ride!

As I began this read I was pulled immediately into the story, so strongly that I thought about it and could not wait to get back to the read. The character description was exceptional, their emotions, their moral fiber, their very essence, screams at you from the pages of this book. Locals were vivid, whether it be the massive countryside, the quaint Inn, or the barren land, your visual was clear and crisp. The storyline was top-notch, with characters that were colorful, cruel, loving, hesitant, dangerous and this story even included the charm of enjoying the personality of several animals. That was a great touch.

Books leave the reader with many emotions, their words take us on a journey, and impart within us a presence, if you will, part of the very soul of the writer. There are some books that I, as a reviewer, almost wish I had not read, still others I will never forget; such is the case with this wonderful book.

"Saving Tom Black," is a story that is pure, yet exciting; tender, yet brimming with danger, sad, yet joyous. It is one that will cascade you with emotions, and at the end leave you satisfied and smiling. This is one book I would be proud to keep in my personal library and recommend to young and old. This is a writer that knows how to get into your very heart with a true treasure of a read. Well done! Thank you.

The Curious Moon
Anyadi Sandor
074430556X $5.95

In this delightful tale the moon decides that she would like to know what it would be like to be on earth. Down she goes lading in a muddy brook. Yuck! Poor moon, what is to become of her? Will the earth be all that she expects it to be or will the moon wish she had never left the sky, and how will the world survive without a moon?

This is a story that is chock full of imagination and fun. What a great concept to write a tale about what would happen if the moon left the sky, and how people would relate to a moon on the earth. What would you do if you found the moon? I loved the illustrations, my favorite was the little bare foot lady carrying the moon in her apron. How cute is that? The author did such a good job bringing the children, trees, animals, and the townspeople into the story making them all an important part. Not only is this a fun tale, but it is one that shows the strength of unity and friendship. Very nice read.

The Turkey Treat
Marie Sanderline Metroke, Illustrated by Victor Guiza
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd, Parker, Colorado 80134
9781432733247 $14.95

It's almost Christmas and Jeff wants to know where the tree is and where is the turkey for dinner? Off the family goes to town to buy their big tree and find a turkey for dinner, but something unexpected happens.

As Jeff is wondering down the aisles of the store he spots a live turkey, one ready to be eaten for Christmas. Jeff through several turn of events, like getting bitten by the feathery bird, ends up being given the turkey. Will it become Christmas dinner or be a newfound friend to Jeff?

This is a cute, lively story of a young boy who expects certain things to be there for Christmas and is determined to make them happen. However, the entire family learns that sometimes the greatest Christmas is not what they expected it to be. Colorful illustrations accompany this read and definitely bring to life the experience Jeff has with the turkey. A giggle is sure to escape your lips, trust me. All in all a very nice book.

Freak Like Me
Words by: Catherine D. McWilliams, Illustrated by:Stu Suchit
Karmadreams Press
9781607026068 $20.00

To start off this review I have to say that I liked the cover of this book. It is mysterious, haunting, yet quite drawing. Different and yet appealing. What is this book about? Well, as I finished the book I read at the end that one visual element gives a clue but I think I will draw my own conclusion.

As I read the book at first the words seemed rather rambling,moving here and there. Going up, going down, stretching, bending, swirling within the mind. I struggled to grasp them, hold on and interpret their meaning. I gazed upon the pictures, big, bold, penetrating yet illuminating reaching out to the reader begging for recognition and understanding. To me this was a book of searching and questioning, answering and not knowing, all at the same time. It was intense and beautiful, yet empty and lonely. A book for the seeker of life, of love, of existence. A very different book for the seeker of the soul in all of us that begs to be free, understood and loved.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Remade: Story of a Life in Poems
Rajesh Bakrania
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781438974958 $10.99

Poetry is just as good a medium for story telling as anything else. "Remade: Story of a Life in Poems" is Rajesh Bakrania telling the story of her life through her own unique verse. A fine way of telling a profound tale, "Remade" is a collection that will prove highly recommended. "Again": Another one along the way, She needs my support, I will not sway,//I fear I might faint,/It's the blood I object to,/I'm not a saint,//Please God give me the flu,/I'm only a Man,/Haven't got a clue!

Growing Under Glass
Hilery Hixon
Booksurge LLC
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439233153 $27.99

Greenhouses can be a great way to grow things even in harsh environments. "Growing Under Glass: Your Guide to Greenhouse Gardening Success" is a guide for getting the most out of one's greenhouse and how to start the process in one's garden. Everything from construction and the subtle nuances of it is discussed, leading to a very informative and intriguing read. "Growing Under Glass" is a must for any would be greenhouse operator.

God Is Real
David S. Smith
Blue Willow Press
9781442146761 $7.95

Crafting greeting cards demands a certain way with words. "God is Real" is a collection of poetry from David S. Smith, drawing on his own experience and his own faith. With a certain charm and spirituality, the work here is a fine read. "God is Real" is a choice pick for poetry fans. "If I Could Do It Again": There were directions/I should have read/There were words I Should not have said/There were times I should have/offered a helping hand/There were times I didn't try to understand/There were times I chose to ignore the need/When I had a chance to do a good deed/There were times I could have been more kind/It would be good if we could stop and rewind/If I could return to when it all began/I am sure I could have been a better man/Don't let this story happen to you/Take time for the things you should do.

Saint John of the Five Boroughs
Edward Falco
Unbridled Books
2000 Wadsworth Boulevard, #195, Lakewood, CO 80214 1-888-732-3822
9781932961881 $16.95,

Violence only destroys on so many levels. "Saint John of the Five Boroughs" is a intriguing read of a woman and her family facing the cruelty of city life. Author Edward Falco has expertly composed a moving and literary read of the tenacity of woman. "Saint John of the Five Boroughs" is a moving and highly recommended read that should not be missed.

John Taylor

Vicki's Bookshelf

The Circle of Gold: Book of Time III
Guillaume Prevost
AAL / Scholastic
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780439883771 $17.99

"The Circle of Gold" is the eagerly awaited third and final book in Guillaume Prevost's exciting "Book of Time" series for tweens and teens. Here we find that Sam has rescued his father from Dracula's castle, but that doesn't mean their troubles are over. Now Allan Faulkner lies in a coma in the Sainte-Mary hospital, tossing about and muttering aloud about saving Sam's late mother. Sam has no choice but to go back in Time to see her. His inability to control his destination, however, means he journeys to ancient China, Renaissance Rome, and even 2025 where he sees a morbid sight: his own grave. Can Sam prevent this grisly ending and save his mother once and for all? A roller-coaster ride recommended for fans of the series.

Operation Yes
Sara Lewis Holmes
AAL / Scholastic
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545107952 $16.99

No one in her sixth-grade class knows quite what to make of Ms. Loupe, with her short hair, her taped square "stage" on the floor, and the interest in improvisational theatre. After all, their school is on an Air Force base -- a place that values discipline more than improv. But her students soon come to love her fresh approach; and when her dear brother goes missing in Afghanistan, and Ms. Loupe herself breaks down, they band together to support their teacher. What starts as a class fundraiser expands into a nationwide effort for all injured troops, and an amazing vision of community and hope. Author Sara Lewis Holms' middle grade novel "Operation Yes" is an inspiring, fun, and real look at the lives of military families.

Pendragon: Books 1 - 5
D.J. MacHale
1230 Ave. of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416991144 $42.99

Talk to any sci-fi fan between the ages of eight and 12 and they'll point to author D.J. MacHale's epic "Pendragon" book series as the pinnacle of the field. The series is the next best thing to "Harry Potter. " Notably, the "Pendragon" books are filled with even more action and decidedly more humor than Potter, yet "Pendragon"'s popularity and appeal is largely unknown to anyone over 18. "Pendragon"'s legion of fans now have something else to rejoice about: this new box set of the first five books in the extensive "Pendragon" series - after all, what could be better to entice new fans? Book one, "The Merchant of Death," introduces Bobby Pendragon: a seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy. He has a family, a home, and even Marley, his beloved dog. But there is something very special about Bobby. He is going to save the world. And not just Earth as we know it. Bobby is slowly starting to realize that life in the cosmos isn't quite what he thought it was. His next four adventures follow in "The Lost Cit of Faar," ""The Never War," "The Reality Bug," and "Black Water," all of which are slip-cased here in handsome paperback editions.

The True Gift: A Christmas Story
Patricia MacLachlan
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416990819 $12.99

From one of our most beloved authors -- Patricia MacLachlan -- comes a brand-new holiday classic that rings in the season by celebrating the joys of family, community, and true giving. All year long Lily and Liam look forward to Christmas on their grandparents' farm. It's always the perfect trip -- walking to the lilac library, trimming the tree, giving gifts. But this year, thanks to a white cow alone in the meadow, things will be different. This Christmas, Lily and Liam will find out the meaning of a true gift. Readers will enjoy the holiday spirit that pervades this charming story, especially those who long for more heart-felt stories such as "Gift of the Magi."

Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs
Rozanne Gold
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781599904450 $17.99

For "Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs," renowned chef Rozanne Gold assembled an All-Star Team of teen chefs -- kids who love to cook and love to eat good food -- to create more than eighty mouth-watering recipes, attuned to the seasons, refined for the kinds of food teens want to eat. With plenty of snacks, smoothies, school lunches, burgers, fabulous pizza, desserts, and more, each delicious bite is made with the freshest, best-for-you ingredients you can find. Fully illustrated with photos of this cooking team in action, here is a cookbook aspiring and reluctant chefs should enjoy sinking their teeth into.

The Doom Machine
Mark Teague
Blue Sky Press / Scholastic
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545151429 $17.99

When a spaceship lands in Vern Hollow, Jack's hometown, he and his no-account inventor-uncle Bud are busy trying to fix a car driven by Dr. Shumway and her daughter, Isadora. Although Uncle Bud secretly knows the aliens are after one of his inventions, everyone is surprised when the space aliens capture seven of Vern Hollow's residents and take them into outer space on a wild adventure. After a series of twists and turns, all of them are taken to Skreepia, the aliens' planet, where they have to defeat the Skreep queen before she can use Uncle Bud's invention to take over planet Earth. Filled with wonderful detail, humor, inventive dialog, and irresistible black-and-white spot art, "The Doom Machine" is a true thriller. Readers will be caught up in the page-turning action, while at the same time they will love Mark's beautifully drawn evil space aliens -- and an unlikely friendship between Jack and Isadora, who seem to have nothing in common at the beginning of the tale. As with the best science fiction, this novel speeds along without a hitch, and carries readers off into a brand-new world. A fantastic and accessible read for middle graders with plenty of adult appeal as well.

A Gift
Yong Chen
Boyds Mills Press
815 Church St., Honesdale, Penn. 18431
9781590786109 $16.95

A gift has come for Amy, all the way from China. The package has arrived just in time for Cinese New Year, the most important holiday in the Chinese culture. At this time of year, it's tradition to spend time with friends and family. Since Amy's aunt and uncles live in China and are uinable to make a new-year visit, they have sent their nieve a special gift - a gift that expresses their love and their wish to keep the family together even though they live so far apart. "A Gift" by author/illustrator Yong Chen's is gentle picture book sweetly expressing the deep-rooted importance of cultural heritage.

Behind Every Step: Have You Got What it Takes to Be a Choreographer?
Lisa Thompson
Compass Point Books
7825 Telegra Compass Point Books
7825 Telegraph Road
Bloomington, MN 55438
9780756542078 $26.65

The "On The Job" series of middle school library books, gives first-look introductions to four hi-interest careers: Video Game Developer, Lawyer, Early Childhood Teacher and Choreographer. In "Behind Every Step: Have You Got What it Takes to Be a Choreographer?" students find out what skills are needed, what's in a day's work, and where choreography can take you. Readers will also learn about the history of dance and about dances performed on stage around the world. From learning how to express yourself through music and dance to keeping your body healthy, choreography can help you dance your way to the top. Color photos, glossary, job opportunities, skills and tools needed and other features complete the interesting overview. For grades 5-8.

Profiles of the Presidents: Barack Obama
Compass Point Books
7825 Telegraph Road
Bloomington, MN 55438
9780756542870 $26.65

The books in this "Profiles of the Presidents" series - about Barack Obama, George Bush, Ronald Reagan and others, respectively -- tell the fascinating stories of the important men who have served as president of the United States. From the beginning of the republic, our presidents have been responsible for the development of the United States from a group of colonies to a single great nation and world leader. Each book features a glossary, fast facts about the president, a parallel timeline of world and presidential events, extensive resources to help young readers better understand the president's life and times, and an index. The disproportionately high price point is due to the reinforced library binding for this title and all books from Compass Point Books.

Born to Fly
Michael Ferrari
Delacorte Press / Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385737159 $16.99

"Born to Fly" tells the story of eleven-year-old tomboy Bird McGill. Ever since she can remember, Bird has loved flying in small propeller airplanes with her mechanic dad. When the local airstrip is turned into a military flight school, Bird is in heaven. But when a young Japanese American student named Kenji Fujita joins Bird's class, the entire school seems to be convinced that he's a spy, or at the very least, that he and his uncle want the Japanese to win. Bird is wary of Kenji, not just because he's Japanese, but because he steals her flight-related topic for a school report and leaves her to write about the deadly boring local marsh weed. But on Bird's first trip to the marsh, she and Kenji accidentally discover real spy activity in the area. Bird realizes that Kenji is actually a stand-up guy -- and she and Kenji begin an adventure that will shake the town and may even change the future of the United States. Written by new author Michael Ferrari, "Born to Fly" is the winner of the Dell Yearling Contest.

Fairy Tale
Cyn Balog
Delacorte Press / Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385737067 $16.99

Morgan Sparks has always known that she and her boyfriend, Cam, are made for each other. But when Cam's cousin Pip comes to stay with the family, Cam seems depressed. Finally Cam confesses to Morgan what's going on: Cam is a fairy. The night he was born, fairies came down and switched him with a healthy human boy. Nobody expected Cam to live, and nobody expected his biological brother, heir to the fairy throne, to die. But both things happened, and now the fairies want Cam back to take his rightful place as Fairy King. Even as Cam physically changes, becoming more miserable each day, he and Morgan pledge to fool the fairies and stay together forever. But by the time Cam has to decide once and for all what to do, Morgan's no longer sure what's best for everyone, or whether her and Cam's love can weather an uncertain future. A captivating and witty dark fantasy that will enchant teen girls.

Matisse on the Loose
Georgia Bragg
Delacorte Press / Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780375892622 $16.99

A kid. A famous painting. A cool moment. A prison sentence? Have you ever done something you shouldn't have? But you're a good person and you don't think that it's going to cause any real harm? But then something bad happens and it turns out that you were wrong? Welcome to Matisse's world. Matisse has finally got the chance to come face to face with the work of his namesake, the great French painter Henri Matisse. The museum where his mom works as head of security is hosting a Matisse exhibit. Matisse thought it would be cool to hang his own artwork - a copy of a famous Matisse painting, Portrait of Pierre -- on the museum wall just for a minute. But then a tour group thinks that it's a real Matisse. So now Matisse's painting hangs in a museum -- while the priceless original hangs on Matisse's eccentric family's den wall. A sixth grader should not get caught up in a museum heist. But what if he does?

The Treasure Map of Boys
E. Lockhart
Delacorte Press / Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385734264 $15.99

In E. Lockhart's fast-paced sequel to "The Boy Book" and "The Boyfriend List," Ruby is back at Tate Prep, and it's her thirty-seventh week in the state of Noboyfriend. Her panic attacks are bad, her love life is even worse, and what's more: Noel is writing her notes, Jackson is giving her frogs, Gideon is helping her cook, and Finn is making her brownies. Rumors are flying, and Ruby's already-sucky reputation is heading downhill. Not only that, she's also: running a bake sale, learning the secrets of heavy metal therapy, encountering some seriously smelly feet, defending the rights of pygmy goats, and body-guarding Noel from unwanted advances. In "The Treasure Map of Boys," Ruby struggles to secure some sort of mental health, to understand what constitutes a real friendship, and to find true love -- if such a thing exists. And on top of that, the book should win some sort of yummiest-cover-art-of-the-year award.

Epossumondas Plays Possum
Coleen Salley, Janet Stevens
Harcourt Inc.
215 Park Ave. South, NY, NY 10003
9780152064204 $16

Epossumondas is the silliest, most lovable possum south of the Mason-Dixon line. In his fourth book by the late Coleen Salley, will he still be his mama's sweet little patootie if he heads into the swamp, just where Mama told him not to go. After all, the swamp is home to the fearsome and legendary loup-garou! Epossumondas isn't a naughty possum, but he sure is forgetful, and into the swamp he goes. There he meets all manner of scary creatures -- but are any of them the loup-garou? And will he ever make it home to Mama? Maybe he will, as long as he remembers to do what possums do best: play possum.

Shelby Hiatt
Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780547196008 $16

It's 1910 and Katherine is fifteen, ready for something - anything -- to happen. What happens is Panama. The U.S. government has asked her father to help build the canal, and the whole family is expected to go and be a part of this historical event. The occasional romantic tryst and living next door to the Wright Brothers in Dayton, Ohio, just isn't enough, so Katherine is eager to go somewhere more exotic, more promising. But Panama isn't as she imagines. Americans live in the Zone, which has been designed to look and feel just like an American town. She wants more. She wants different. The fantasy is out there, and Katherine is determined to find it. "Panama" by Shelby Hiatt is romantic historical fiction with a lusty edge for ages 14 and up.

Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix
R.L. LaFevers
Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780547238654 $16

In R. L. LaFevers' chapter book, "Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist" hits all the right notes for boy-friendly middle grade fiction. Protagonist Nathaniel Fludd's life has taken a turn for the worst. With his parents lost at sea, he lands on the doorstep of a distant cousin -- the world's last remaining beastologist. Soon Nate is whisked off on his first expedition, to Arabia, where the world's only phoenix prepares to lay its new egg. When disaster strikes, Nate quickly finds himself all alone. Will he be able to see the phoenix safely hatched, keep his accidental pet gremlin out of trouble, and rescue his guardian from the Bedouin? If he fails, nothing will stand between the world's mythical creatures and extinction. Too bad Nate's not the sort of boy who enjoys adventure . . .yet.

Dinosaur Park
Hannah Wilson, Steve Weston
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780753463833 $17.99

"Dinosaur Park" dares kids 6-10 to enter four alluring worlds of dinosaurs and interact with fun and mischievous intent. Readers can use nine press-out dinosaur pieces to help Tyrannosaurus Rex chase hadrosaurs among the rocky cliffs of T.rex Valley and find the Maiasaura babies' mummy among the trees of Maiasaura Forest. No dinosaur book would be complete without a head butt competition with the Triceratops beneath the fiery Triceratops Volcano or a chance to meet all the prehistoric residents of Diplodocus Lake. Field guide included to find answers to questions and track down footprints that appear across each scene. Just the thing for young dinosaur fans who crave a piece of the action.

Lost Worlds
John Howe
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780753461075 $22.99

From the world of Aratta and Mohenjo-Daro to Atlantis and Camelot, "Lost Worlds" is a visually stunning book is a window with a view that takes readers on an historical, archaeological, and mythological journey through twenty-four lost worlds, those abandoned in time, buried and forgotten, and the ones that live in the imagination. Attempting to put the most plausible pieces of history together, John Howe, concept artist for "The Lord of the Rings" film trilogy and maps illustrator for many of J.R.R. Tolkien's books, begins the journey that will move readers to explore these lost worlds even further.

The Grumpy Dump Truck
Brie Spangler
Knopf / Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780375858390 $15.99

This dump truck has a bad attitude. It's not easy being a dump truck, hauling heavy dirt from one place to the next. All that work has made Bertrand decidedly grouchy. But when he meets Tilly, a cheerful porcupine construction worker, Bertrand's attitude begins to change. Can this grumpy dump truck learn to be nice? Brie Spangler's hilarious new picture book is a fun lesson for little truck lovers (especially those who occasionally need a little attitude adjustment themselves).

My First ABC
Metropolitan Museum of Art
LB Kids
1230 Ave. of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9780316068178 $8.99

In this abridged board book edition of the successful hardcover picture book, "Museum ABC," kids can learn their ABCs with the accompaniment of stunning artwork from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. A page is devoted to each letter of the alphabet and a single, memorable picture of the object is represented; for example, the classic "A is for APPLE" is accompanied by a well-known piece of art by Cezanne showing apples. Adults will love the visual and cultural richness of this alphabetical tour, which also includes details about each piece of art and its creator in the back. And with rounded edges, extra-thick and sturdy pages, and a smaller format, this is a clever fit for younger children just learning the alphabet.

Paulie Pastrami Achieves World Peace
James Proimos
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316032926 $15.99

Paulie Pastrami can't whistle, he has trouble matching his socks, and he is usually picked last in sports. But he plans to achieve world peace before he turns eight. Through simple acts of kindness -- from reading to the trees and being nice to his little sister to cheering up the school principal and sharing cupcakes with strangers -- Paulie learns that spreading peace isn't that hard after all. Readers will gladly take his point to heart, thanks to James Proimos' funny and warm picture book that effectively puts all those preachy do-good lesson books for kids to shame.

Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine and a Miracle
Major Brian Dennis, Kirby Larson, Mary Nethery
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316053181 $17.99

Nubs, an Iraqi dog of war, never had a home or a person of his own. He was the leader of a pack of wild dogs living off the land and barely surviving. But Nubs's life changed when he met Marine Major Brian Dennis. The two formed a fast friendship, made stronger by Dennis's willingness to share his meals, offer a warm place to sleep, and give Nubs the kind of care and attention he had never received before. Nubs became part of Dennis's human "pack" until duty required the Marines to relocate a full 70 miles away -- without him. Nubs had no way of knowing that Marines were not allowed to have pets. So began an incredible journey that would take Nubs through a freezing desert, filled with danger, to find his friend. It also led Major Dennis on a mission that would touch the hearts of people all over the world. Nubs and Dennis's story will remind readers that friendship has the power to cross deserts, continents, and even species.

The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow
Tim Kehoe
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316056656 $14.95

Eleven-year-old Vincent Shadow isn't particularly good at sports and is constantly being picked on by his classmates at Central Middle School. But it is Vincent's unusually creative mind that truly separates him from other kids his age. Vincent's top secret attic lab is crammed with toy prototypes -- from Liquid Superballs to Bullz-I Basketballs and Sonic Snorkelz -- and he has a sketch book filled with drawings of toys he still wants to build. So when a chance encounter with an eccentric toy inventor offers him the opportunity to go from unknown weird kid to toy inventor extraordinaire, Vincent realizes that playtime is over: it's time to get serious about toys. The cut-out book cover of "The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow" clearly hints not just of the fun inside, but of the book's unusual origin: it's written by Tim Kehoe, a toy inventor himself.

Patrick McDonnell
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316045483 $15.99

It seems that everything gets Earl's tail wagging -- a bowl of food, a field of flowers, long walks, and belly rubs. But Mooch, Earl's best friend, knows what all of these things have in common: love is what makes Earl's tail wag. In his latest picture book, "Wag!", Patrick McDonnell, creator of the nationally syndicated comic strip, "Mutts," pays an incredibly sweet tribute to his dog in a tale of wiggling and waggling, fwipping and fwapping...and every dog's secret to the joy of life.

White Noise
David A. Carter
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9781416940944 $22.99

First came "One Red Dot," next "Blue 2," "600 Black Spots," "Yellow Square," and finally "White Noise," the fifth and final installment of David A. Carter's acclaimed color series of elaborate pop-up books for "children of all ages." Modern and elegant paper engineering and text create mesmerizing displays designed to stimulate the senses and the imagination. Poetic text guides readers through bold, colorful paper structures - each creating their own unique sound. The fun here isn't in the storytelling (there isn't any) or the humorous banter of creatures (there aren't any of those here either; I still expect all of Carter's books to feature those fabulous bugs!). Rather the joy is found simply by experiencing the art on each page, over and over again. "White Noise" paper-over-board book has nine spreads of pop-ups. Book is packaged in a reseal able polybag to protect the pages before fingers to the reading.

The Eric Carle Mini Library
Eric Carle
Little Simon / Simon & Schuster
1230 Ave. of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416918257 $26.99

Children learn about the natural world in Eric Carle's original, charming books, four of which are packaged here in a petite gift set: "Rooster's Off to See the World," "Pancakes, Pancakes!," "Papa Please Get the Moon for Me" and "A House for Hermit Crab." Carle's vivid hand-painted tissue-paper illustrations and innovations in book design have made him an author whose longevity and continued popularity are testaments to his beloved status among young readers and parents. He is especially celebrated for his unique ability to combine learning with pleasure. Children delight in the distinctive beauty of his illustrations -- richly layered collages in glowing colors -- and they love his entertaining stories, which invite them to make their own discoveries in a natural, joyful way.

A Pop-Up Book of Nursery Rhymes
Matthew Reinhart
Little Simon / Simon & Schuster
1230 Ave. of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416918257 $26.99

Matthew Reinhart's phenomenal paper engineering, as evidenced in "Cinderella" and "The Jungle Book" brings an added dimension -- literally -- to the classic telling of Mother Goose's most treasured nursery rhymes. "A Pop-Up of Nursery Rhymes" is a charming family keepsake to read for years to come. The shrink-wrapped gift book features six spreads with full pop-ups on each spread and mini books with pops throughout. Master paper engineer and illustrator Matthew Reinhart is a pro-at pop-ups, whether he's enchanting fans with solo projects or teaming up with partner Robert Sabuda on award-winning projects like the fan favorite "Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs."

Crank & Glass
Ellen Hopkins
Margaret K. McElderry Books / Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416994282 $22.99

Ellen Hopkins' bestselling young adult titles - "Crank" and "Glass" -- are now available in this collectible paperback boxed set. In "Crank," Kristina Georgia Snow is the perfect daughter: gifted high school junior, quiet, never any trouble. But on a trip to visit her absentee father, she meets a boy who introduces her to crank. At first she finds it freeing, but soon Kristina's personality disappears inside the drug. What began as a wild, ecstatic ride turns into a struggle through hell for her mind, her soul, and her life. In "Glass," Kristina's struggle with drugs continues, though she thinks she can control it. Now with a baby to care for, she's determined to be the one deciding when and how much, the one calling the shots. But the monster is too strong, and before she knows it, Kristina is back in its grips. She needs the monster to keep going, to face the pressures of day-to-day life and to feel alive. Once again the monster takes over Kristina's life and she will do anything for it, including giving up the one person who gives her the unconditional love she craves -- her baby. A harrowing and disturbing look at addiction and the damage that it inflicts.

The Dragons of Wayward Crescent: Gruffen
Chris D'Lachey
Orchard Books / Scholastic
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545168151 $9.99 ,

After writing his epic fantasy series "The Last Dragon Chronicles" -- namely "The Fire Within," "Icefire," "Fire Star" and "The Fire Eternal" - best-selling English author Chris D'Lacey must have had a great time simplifying his storytelling for this new, short-and-sweet fantasy series for beginning chapter book readers. "The Dragons of Wayward Crescent" gets off to a promising start with "Gruffen," in which Lucy Pennykettle suspects there's a monster in her bedroom. Her mother knows exactly what to do: create a new dragon -- Gruffen the guard dragon. But can Gruffen discover the mystery behind the monster? It's a magical beginning to D'Lacey's first series for younger readers, full of fantasy, adventure, humor, and plenty of illustrations to help readers make the reading transition to novels.

A Tree for Emmy
Mary Ann Rodman, Tatjana Mai-Wyss
Peachtree Publishers
1700 Chattahoochee Ave., Atlanta, GA 30318-2112
9781561454754 $15.95

Emmy loves trees. Oak trees with acorns. Pine trees with cones. But best of all she loves the mimosa tree in Gramma's pasture. She swings on its branches, plays with its fuzzy pink blossoms, and shakes its ratty seedpods like maracas. For her birthday, Emmy knows exactly what she wants: a mimosa tree of her very own. Unfortunately, no stores have mimosa trees for sale. Grown-ups want plum and pear and tulip trees. No one seems to share Emmy's enthusiasm for the wild tree they consider a nuisance. Emmy is crushed - until she discovers that the answer to her problem may be growing right before her eyes. Mary Ann Rodman's spirited story, whimsically illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss, has a sweet appeal to readers who appreciate the natural world and cherish a special dream.

Storm Chaser
Chris Platt
Peachtree Publishers
1700 Chattahoochee Ave., Atlanta, GA 30318-2112
9781561454969 $14.95

For thirteen-year-old Jessie, living with her family on the dusty Wild Hawk Ranch in Nevada can be a bit lonely. Her friend Marybeth lives a few miles away, but she's two years younger than Jessie and she can sometimes be a pest. But Jessie loves the horses her father and brother break in each summer to sell to local ranchers and rodeo competitors. This year, she is determined to help train the horses, especially when she lays eyes on the wild, paint filly she names Storm Chaser. When Jessie's father tells her she is still too young to help with the horses, she deliberately disobeys him by working with the filly behind his back. Then a fire destroys the barn and Jessie's family reluctantly turns their ranch into a vacation dude ranch to earn much-needed money. But Jessie is wary of Ariel, a rude and spoiled city girl who always expects to get her way. When Ariel announces she wants to buy Storm Chaser, Jessie's already fragile world begins to crack. What can she do to keep "her" beloved paint from being sold?

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Pop-Up Book
Eric Carle
Philomel / Penguin
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399250392 $29.99

The latest edition to the artful pop-up bookshelf is this deluxe edition of "The Very Hungry Caterpiller," for the first time in a pop-up edition to honor the 40th anniversary of author/illustrator Eric Carle's classic early learning story. With its lovely, humorous illustrations and wonderful narrative about a hungry caterpillar growing up to be a beautiful butterfly, Carle's story will touch anyone who still has some growing to do. The classic story follows the progress of a hungry little caterpillar as he eats his way through a varied and very large quantity of food until, full at last, he forms a cocoon around himself and goes to sleep. Die-cut pages illustrate what the caterpillar ate on successive days, while clever pop-up images of the caterpillar's leafy home and all its delicious goodies give a new, extra-tactile element to the charming kid-pleaser.

The Boys' Book of Greatness: Even More Ways to Be the Best at Everything
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545134088 $9.99

"The Boys' Book of Greatness: Even More Ways to Be the Best at Everything" is, obviously enough, the sequel to the popular "The Boys' Book of Greatness" which is, also obviously enough, Scholastic's attempt to cash in on the success of "The Dangerous Book for Boys," teaching life skills and rough-and-tumble activities contemporary, kids no longer necessarily have opportunities to learn and experience as their parents and grandparents did. This thin sequel promises to be "full of even more ways to be the best at everything," which I suppose is true as long as they need to fake a bloody car or be "the world's greatest air guitarist" for some odd reason. This time around, boys will also have the chance to learn random skills such as how to hypnotize someone, be a ventriloquist, roll a kayak, tell a joke, block a penalty kick, recognize deadly snakes, break dance, and more including a skill the unnamed copywriters obviously got a juvenile kick out of including: "how to pitch a tent." A companion to "The Girls' Book of Excellence: Even More Ways to Be the Best At Everything" and a few other nostalgic general knowledge compilations including "The Games Book: How To Play The Games of Yesterday" and "The Nursery Rhyme Book: Remember the Rhymes of Yesterday."

The 39 Clues Book Six: In To Deep
Jude Watson
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545060462 $12.99

In the multi-author book series "The 30 Clues" (and real-life treasure hunt; readers are invited to gather clues and solve the mystery for a monetary prize), fourteen-year-old Amy Cahill and her younger brother, Dan, head to the Land Down Under to discover what their own mother and father knew about the hunt for the 39 clues. A hint from their parents' past puts Amy and Dan on the trail of secrets their grandmother Grace would never have wanted them to know. The lost memories begin to crowd in on Amy, just as her enemies circle closer, and they're too awful to share - even with Dan. Haunted by the ghosts of their past, chased by deadly competitors, Dan and Amy can't see who is an enemy and who is a friend. Their blindness leads to a terrible mistake, and the death of a hidden ally. How far would she go to protect Dan? How much of a Cahill is she prepared to be? Perhaps Grace was right -- some secrets are better left buried.

Cyperia: Monkey See, Monkey Don't
Chris Lynch
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545027946 $16.99

In a wired world, you have to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Zane has made an enemy for life in the evil scientist Dr. Gristle. Not only is Gristle angry about the damage Zane has done to his reputation, he's also extraordinarily jealous of Zane's ability to use technology to talk to animals. The result? He's now working on a new device to control animals' movement and speech - and Zane's dog, Hugo is one of the first targets. Dr. Gristle insists that he and Zane are on the same side…but Zane isn't sure he believes him, especially after he sees an army of monkeys hiding in the woods. What's Dr. Gristle's big plan? And can Zane stop him in time? The wired world of Cyberia is getting more tangled in this funny adventure in author Chris Lynch's middle grade series.

Scholastic Book of World Records 2010
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545160650 $10.99

Whether kids want to know what the world's deadliest snake is, which country eats the most chocolate, who has the most career touchdowns in the NFL, or which state has the largest water park, the "Scholastic Book of World Records 2010" has all of the answers and more. Over the past eight years, kids, parents, and teachers have come to love this kid-friendly book, updated annually to keep up with the every-changing facts and figures. Each of the 300 records on pop culture, sports, science, and more has its own page that includes a full-color photograph and a detailed description of the record.

Beautiful Ballerina
Marilyn Nelson, Susan Kuklin
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545089203 $17.99

Every little girl has the dream to become a prima ballerina! On today's ever-changing cultural stage, ballerinas come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities. To celebrate the beauty of black ballerinas, here is a lush photographic picture book with a brilliant poetic narrative, brought to young readers by two amazing talents. The minimal text balances the harmony of the photos and demonstrates the joy of movement. "Beautiful Ballerina" is photographed by Susan Kuklin - who has previously photographed several beautiful dance books including the ALA Best Book for Young Adultss, "Reaching for Dreams: A Ballet From Rehearsal to Opening Night" - so it should not come as a surprise that her work dances so beautifully with the words of Marilyn Nelson, the Poet Laureate of the state of Connecticut, a Newbery Honor Medalist and a recipient of the Printz Honor Award.

The Christmas Magic
Lauren Thompson, Jon J. Muth
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780439774970 $16.99

Far, far North, when the nights are longest and the stars shine brightest, Santa begins to prepare for his big night of giving. He gathers his reindeer, feeds them parsnips and berries, and polishes his bells and his sled. Then lovingly, he chooses toys for every child in the world. For Santa loves them all, and he knows what each child at heart wants most. Then, with the thrum of magic that makes reindeers fly, he spreads the Christmas joy and warmth throughout the world -- as he always has -- and always will until the end of time. Writer Lauren Thompson is known for her uncanny ability to reach the hearts and minds of the youngest readers and Jon J Muth's luminescent watercolor strike all the perfect chords in this warm, reassuring Christmas story.

Daughters of the Sea: Hannah
Kathryn Lasky
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780439783101 $16.99

"Daughters of the Sea" is the new fantasy trilogy by bestselling author Kathryn Lasky ("Guardians of Ga'Hoole"). The first book in the series tells the story of three mermaid sisters who are separated at birth by a storm and go on to lead three very different lives. Book one is about Hannah, who spent her early days in an orphanage and is now a scullery maid in the house of rich, powerful family. She is irresistibly drawn to the sea and through a series of accidents and encounters discovers her true identity. Hannah realizes that she must keep the truth a secret but she also knows that soon she will have to make the choice -- to be a creature of the land or the sea.

Elly: My True Story of the Holocaust
Elly Berkovits Gross
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545074940 $14.99

At just 15, her mother, and brother were taken from their Romanian town to the Auschwitz-II/Birkenau concentration camp. When they arrived at Auschwitz, a soldier waved Elly to the right; her mother and brother to the left. She never saw her family alive again. Thanks to a series of miracles, Elly survived the Holocaust. Today she is dedicated to keeping alive the stories of those who did not. Elly appeared on CBS's 60 Minutes for her involvement in bringing an important lawsuit against Volkswagen, whose German factory used her and other Jews as slave laborers. A very compelling personal narrative from Elly Berkovits Gross, who not only survived the Holocaust, but became a brave crusader against political and commercial forces that enslaved and murdered so many.

Oggie Cooder Party Animal
Sarah Weeks
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780439927925 $16.99

Oggie Cooder has never set foot (or swim fin) in his neighbor Donnica Perfecto's swimming pool. But now he has his chance -- it's Donnica's birthday, and her mom has forced her to invite Oggie to the pool party. Donnica, however, isn't about to let this happen. She has a plan to keep Oggie away from her special day (complete with mini hot dogs and a dancing bear). But what she doesn't count on is the power of Oggie's charm, an unexpected visit from a local rock band, a creative use of a cherry picker, a dog that tweets like a bird, and a boy in a bear suit whose identity will change everything when it's revealed. Once again, writer Sarah Weeks has created a funny hero who won't let anything -- not wimpiness, not adversity, not haiku contests -- stand in his way. A fun and sweet chapter book romp for readers in second through fourth grade.

Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545123266 $17.99

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again. Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human -- or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever. A striking young adult romance novel.

Roland Smith
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545166881 $16.99

Marty and Grace O'Hara's globe-trotting parents disappeared while on assignment for a nature magazine, and now they're living with their Uncle Wolfe, a scientist fascinated by cryptids--creatures that appear in myths but haven't been proven to exist, such as the Loch Ness Monster. Wolfe is planning an expedition to New Zealand to track a giant squid, and he's rented a huge (and possibly haunted) freighter for the trip. But someone on board is determined to sabotage their mission -- and if Marty and Grace keeping poking their noses into things, they might end up the saboteur's next victims! The title and thrilling cover art for "Tentacles" will lure readers between 8 to 12 and the exciting story inside will not disappoint.

Gordon Korman
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545124997 $16.99

When Griffin Bing's class goes to a floating zoo, they don't expect to see animals being treated so badly. They don't expect to find Cleo, Dog Whisperer Savannah's pet monkey who's been missing for weeks. And they really don't expect to have to hide the animals once they've rescued them! Hilarity ensues as Griffin's team once more pulls off a heist...trying to break the animals back into a (better) zoo! I'm glad to report that no animals were harmed in the making of prolific, comical author Gordon Korman's funny, crowd-pleasing next middle grade novel.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King
Gail DeMarcken
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545037730 $18.99

In this gorgeous telling of the classic holiday tale "The Nutcracker," illustrator Gail de Marcken brings E.T.A. Hoffmann's richly enchanting world to life. With beautifully detailed illustrations, the story of "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" has instantly become of the most lush, luminous and beautiful picture book interpretations ever published. It's a story readers of all ages will delight in, and one that family and friends will thoroughly enjoy sharing with loved ones this holiday season. None of which should be much of a surprise, since De Marcken has a fabulous track record having won numerous prestigious awards for picture books she has previously illustrated for several authors, including "Miss Hunnicutt's Hat." "The Quiltmaker's Gift," "The Quiltmaker's Journey," "Clever Ali," and "Born to Pull."

Goosebumps HorrorLand Boxed Set
R.L. Stine
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780545132688 $21.91

This gift package of "Goosebumps HorrorLand" paperback thrillers provides four monster stories in one boxed set. A terrifying trio to a graveyard with a vengeful dummy…thrown overboard with a putrid pirate…wrapped up with a gruesome ball of goo…and a creepy face-off with an ugly green mask. These mild frights for beginning readers are just the beginning for the four fictional kids who find themselves trapped in HorrorLand, an amusement park where nightmares come to life. The R.L. Stine books included here are the first four in the extensive series of original "Goosebumps" chapter books: "Revenge of the Living Dummy," "Creep From the Deep," "Monster Blood for Breakfast!" and "The Scream of the Haunted Mask.

You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!
Jonah Winter, Andre Carrilho
Schwartz & Wade Books / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375837388 $17.99

In this striking picture book biography, an old-timer tells us what made Sandy Koufax so amazing. We learn that the beginning of his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers was rocky, that he was shy with his teammates, and experienced discrimination as one of the only Jews in the game. We hear that he actually quit, only to return the next season -- different -- firing one rocket after another over the plate. We watch him refuse to play in the 1965 World Series because it is a Jewish high holy day. And we see him in pain because of an overused left arm, eventually retiring at the peak of his career. Finally, we are told that people are still "scratchin' their heads over Sandy," who remains a modest hero and a mystery to this day; he shuns the spotlight and only makes occasional visits to the training field near his Florida home. Accompanied by sidebars filled with statistics, and an eye-catching lenticular cover, "You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!" is a book sure to delight budding baseball fans.

Uglies: The Collector's Set
Scott Westerfeld
Simon Pulse
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416971207 $34.99

Scott Westerfeld's bestselling "Uglies" series is now published in a hefty paperback boxed-set. Containing the books "Uglies," "Pretties," "Specials" and "Extras," the series begings when progagonist Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license -- for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there. But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world -- and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever. Westerfeld's teen novels include the Uglies series, the Midnighters trilogy, "The Last Days," an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and the sequel to "Peeps." Scott was born in Texas, and alternates summers between Sydney, Australia, and New York City.

Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles box set
Tony DiTerlizzi, Holly Black
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416990116 $33.99

Just when it seemed the book had closed on the Spiderwick Chronicles, a new chapter began far from the old-fashioned charm of New England. Under the hot Florida sun, Nick Vargas and his annoying new stepsister, Laurie, stumble upon the faerie world. A nixie asks for their help to save her sisters and before they know it, Nick and Laurie are outrunning giants, negotiating with mermaids and battling a monster that's bigger than they'd ever imagined. Along with Nick's brother, Jules, and some familiar faces from the original series, the kids find themselves in a race to save not only themselves, but all of Florida. The "Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles" box set contains' the series' first three books: "The Nixie's Song," "A Giant Problem" and "The Wyrm King."

The Brixton Brothers: The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity
Mac Barnett, Adam Rex
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416978152 $14.99

Steve Brixton always wanted to be a detective... until he found out he already was one. The new chapter book series of detective stories, "The Brixton Brothers" all starts here: with a case of mistaken identity, the thrilling story of Steve Bixton's first case. Our hero has a national treasure to recover, a criminal mastermind to unmask, and a social studies report due Monday -- all while on the run from cops, thugs, and secret-agent librarians. Since when can librarians rappel from helicopters? Does Steve have any brothers or sisters? If not, then why is this series called The Brixton Brothers? You will solve all these mysteries and many more by the time you finish "The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity." I think you'll agree: Steve Brixton's first adventure is his best adventure yet. Especially, since it's his only one. (So far.) Fun, tongue-in-cheek adventure from Mac Barnett -- author of "Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem" - and Adam Rex - author/illustrator of "The True Meaning of Smekday" and "Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich."

The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Completely Fantastical Edition
Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416986850 $29.99

After finding a mysterious, handmade field guide in the attic of the ramshackle old mansion they've just moved into, Jared; his twin brother, Simon; and their older sister, Mallory, discover that there's a magical and often capricious world existing parallel to our own -- the world of faerie. Now their entire New York Times bestselling adventure is available in one exquisite volume. Featuring all five books in the original Spiderwick Chronicles series, this handsome edition also includes three recently unearthed bonus chapters; an exclusive "making of" section filled with early sketches of characters like the Grace kids, Thimbletack, and Hogsqueal; and, as a special added bonus, an all-star gallery where other popular illustrators - including Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Timothy Basil Ering, Dan Santat and Dan Yaccarino -- put their spin on the characters and creatures that populate the world of Spiderwick. Fans and novices alike will appreciate this all-in-one introduction to the world of Spiderwick.

Half-Pipe Prize
Jake Maddox
Stone Arch Books
7825 Telegraph Road, Bloomington, MN 55438
97814342116076 $23.99

When Tess moved away from Winterfall, she left her two best friends, Ana and Sofie, behind. She's traveling back to surprise them - and to take part in the yearly snowboarding competition. Ana's glad to see her, but Sofie acts strange as soon as Tess returns. With the competition coming soon, Tess has to figure out what's going on with Sofie - or risk losing the contest and her best friend. "Half-Pipe Prize" is one of four books about four different athletes in Jake Maddox's "Girl Sports Stories" series for hi-low readers in grades 4-8, with a reading level 2-3. The disproportionately high price is the list for these reinforced library-bound books.

Superman: Meteor of Doom
Paul Kupperberg, Shawn McManus, Lee Loughridge
Stone Arch Books
7825 Telegraph Road, Bloomington, MN 55438
9871434215680 $25.32

The latest licensed series of Superman spin-offs is this hi-lo chapter book series for Stone Arch Books, an imprint of Capstone which specializes in library bound books for struggling independent readers at the elementary school level. This series of original, full-color chapter books it the pinnacle of high-interest, low-skill reading aids for reluctant readers, and could very likely become the publisher's most popular line. After all, who doesn't love a superhero - especially readers would rather be watching cartoons? "Meteor of Doom," "The Kids Who Saved Superman," "The Shrinking City" and three other series titles are filled with contemporary adventure and crime-fighting tales without inappropriate language, violence or gore. They are also aligned with character education, making them a sure hit with librarians, teachers and parents as well as their comic loving students. For grades 3 - 6, at reading level of second and third grade.

Vicki Arkoff
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Hinges of Time
E. Milton Scott
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533160914, $22.95,

A man of the theatre, E. Milton Scott has to have a way with words. "Hinges of Time" is a collection of his verse, drawing on his own enthusiasm and experience in theatre to provide many unique ideas and metaphor. "Hinges of Time" is a fine read for poetry lovers, highly recommended. "Hinge of Time": Afterward the blood drops still there/until sunken in the sand, gone/from bases of three crossed structures./Long since the dry, tan, sunswept ground/in blazing heat the covered rise/unmarked from the calamity/which occurred there centuries past./A violent scourging amid bloodthirsty/yelling for the death of three lives;/one of them a gentle man blessed,/a time hinge of grace to the world./Seeds were sown in efficacy;/seeds endowed with the love of man to favor the blood of life contingent.

Ivory Tower Cop
George Kirkham & Leonard Territo
Carolina Academic Press
700 Kent Street, Durham, NC 27701
Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists (publicity)
2100 Kramer Ln. Suite 300, Austin, TX 78758
9781594606564, $24.95,

Sometimes study turns to hatred and a yearn for justice. "Ivory Tower Cop" is a true-life inspired story of a criminology professor who goes through the Police Academy and joins the force. David Roth soon finds himself on the trail of a brutal serial rapist after studying these horrible individuals for so long. An intriguing story of academic turned police officer, "Ivory Tower Cop" is a worthwhile read.

Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat
Michelle May
Greenleaf Book Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
Smith Publicity (publicity)
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781608320035, $24.95,

Willpower only delays cravings. "Eat What You love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle" is a guide to a diet that encourages readers not to starve themselves and deprive them of their favorite foods, but instead be smarter in how they eat, approaching a more moderate diet instead of extremes of too much or too little food. With refreshing wisdom, "Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat" is a top pick that should not be overlooked.

The Hen Party
Sharon Cole
Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438904054, $12.99,

It's easy to think you're all alone in the world. "The Hen Party" is a collection of simple wisdom as Sharon Cole shares what she has learned from other women in her life, offering much in the way of thoughts and insight to other women to help them through their hectic lives. "The Hen Party" is a charming and very worthwhile investment.

Sand Creek
Carl Soren Hoveland
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533161348, $14.95,

A little piece of Americana. "Sand Creek: A Childhood Legacy" is a collection of reflections from Carl Soren Hoveland, remembering his childhood growing up on a dairy farm. Granting a glimpse of being a grandson of immigrants and life where cows dominated your life, "Sand Creek" is an intriguing and highly recommended read.

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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