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10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432744786, $10.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Cult leaders become what they are for a reason. "Lucifer Rising" tells the tale of Elsa Eldridge and her infatuation with Tyrell, a man she knows to be a cult leader from the start and promises herself not to be taken by his charms. She soon finds that her heart is not something to be trusted as her head warns her away. A tale of fighting the weaknesses of the heart, "Lucifer Rising" is a highly entertaining and fascinating read.
10940 S Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432744427, $14.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Cancer is a harsh companion that has an annoying tendency to return to lives. "Megan's Way" is a novel exploring the cancerous fate of Megan Taylor as the single mother deals with the reemergence of her disease. The tale follows Megan and her daughter Olivia as they deal with the way their lives are torn apart. "Megan's Way" is a fine and fascinating read that many will find hope in.
Thoughts on Life in Rhyme & Sculpture
419 Park Ave., South, New York, NY 10016
9780533160839, $18.95, www.vantagepress.com
The mind of a creative person is a strange one indeed. "Thoughts on a Life in Rhyme & Scripture" is a self-analytical look through poetry and verse by Dennis Gray. With unique and creative verse taking his own way with the English language, "Thoughts on a Life in Rhyme and Scripture" is a choice pick for those looking for an original collection of poetry. "In My Dreams Tonight": The power of your aura/Pervades my quietude./I'll see you in my dreams tonight/To share this marvelous mood.//Reflecting on my image/Of perfection which surrounds you./A dreamscape is a perfect place/To appreciate that I found you.//Warmed by rays of sundown,/Envisioning your glistening smile,/Soothed by the tease of evening's breeze/I'll see you in a while.
c/o Kelley & Hall
9781439223970, $14.99, www.kelleyandhall.com
The daily grind is simple, safe, and sustaining. "Assembling Georgia" tells the tale of Georgia Dunn, a woman who through odd anonymous packages containing engine parts, she soon finds she has the power to change her world to something far more exciting. But is it worth giving up her secure life to throw it all to the wind for a world of excitement? A story many will relate to, "Assembling Georgia" is a fine and recommended read.
When Mermaids Sing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440167171, $16.95, www.iuniverse.com
To save one's family from a dangerous cult, people will toe the line of the law. "When Mermaids Sing" tells the tale of Larry Brown and Jenny, as they try to save their family members from a cult in Cape Cod. With the help of the unsavory individual known as Black Lightning, they realize there are far bigger issues than cult brainwashing with their family. "When Mermaids Sing" is a choice and highly recommended look into the early 1970s cult hysteria.
The Golden Thread
Catherine J. Craig
9781601458926, $19.95, www.lookinup.org
The story of the Bible is a unique one but may read a little dry sometimes. "The Golden Thread" is Catherine J. Craig creating a novelization of biblical stories of the New Testament. Presenting the tale in a riveting format and in a way that anyone who enjoys novels can read, Catherine J. Craig brings these biblical tales to life. "The Golden Thread" is a fine addition to any historical or biblical novel collection.
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
c/o Kelley & Hall
5 Briar Lane, Marblehead, MA 01945
9780595493067, $19.95, www.iuniverse.com
The lessons of life are hard to teach through words alone. "Dear Lilly: From Father to Daughter; The Truth about Life, Love, and the World We Live In" is a father's message to her daughter with harsh words of warning about the darker side of the world that everyone is eventually exposed to. Drugs, men and their desires, and more, Peter Greyson comes with cynical warnings about the world and he hopes many teenage girls will take his advice into consideration. "Dear Lilly" is well worth considering for many readers.
2010 National Earthwork & Heavy Equipment Estimator
Craftsman Book Company
6058 Corte del Cedro, Carlsbad, CA 92009
9781572182264 $62.00 www.craftsman-book.com 1-800-829-8123
2010 National Earthwork & Heavy Equipment Estimator is a practical guide intended to provide a current price estimates for any project that involves moving earth - from rock blasting and ripping to trench excavation, basement excavation, soil balancing, roadwork, topsoil and paving, cut and fill operations, and much more. The text concisely explains how to use the multitude of proffered tables; an accompanying CD-ROM for Windows, designed specifically to aid in estimation, rounds out this solid and useful resource. An absolute "must-have" for anyone in the construction industry, and also a handy guide for readers of all backgrounds considering an earthwork project who need a solid idea of how expensive the undertaking will be. Highly recommended.
The Womb of Uncreated Night
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440157417, $31.95, www.iuniverse.com
The character of Batman has been a favorite, but some people might take fandom too far. "The Womb of Uncreated Night" is an intriguing mystery where psychiatrist Dr. Korngold looks over Brewster Wainwright, a man who believes himself to be Bruce Wayne, the secret identity of Batman. When certain crimes begin to turn up, and links to Wainwright appear, Dr. Korngold has to find the truth and fast, so innocence can be proven or justice can be delivered. "The Womb of Uncreated Night" is a fine read and highly recommended pick.
Shadows of the San Juans
William J. Breidinger
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440130557, $21.95, www.iuniverse.com
The mass migration west was a time of rapid change and personal revolution. "Shadows of the San Juans" is one of these tales as Alfred journeys west and tries to make his way in the world. A fine tale of this new and confusing time in American history as it tried to recover from a civil war, "Shadows of the San Juans" is a choice pick and very highly recommended read for western fans.
Lords of the Frontier
W. Bruce Kippen
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity (publicity)
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781434343666, $34.99, www.authorhouse.com
During the chaotic times of the world wars, some people made their place in their lives. "Lords of the Frontier: A Novel of Dynamic Entrepreneuring, Rich in Historic Detail" tells the story of three young men as they move through the world after the Industrial Revolution sweeps the world. A taste of high society and working from the ground up, "Lords of the Frontiers' is a fine novel that will excite many readers with its intrigue.
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440185823, $12.95, www.iuniverse.com
The worst of America sometimes ends up leading the best. "Wriggly Rex" is the story of Ernst Funck, a young man charged with the hefty plight of electing Wriggly Rex, perhaps the most unelectable person in the country. With conservative interests all around him, Ernst must win the election for Rex even if everything around him doesn't want him to, including seemingly Rex himself. "Wriggly Rex" will draw lines to many modern politicians, making for an intriguing and satirical read.
9781842404720, $19.95, www.chromedreams.co.uk
One of the iconic songwriters of the twentieth century, Leonard Cohen is still going. "Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah" telling the story of a unique icon of music. Tim Footman examines the man who is multi talented with several novels under his belt and never boring, spending years doing what many would never even do for one. Tracing his life from his birth to over seventy years later to one of his most recent concert oturs, "Leonard Cohen" is a top pick for anyone who is a fan of the man and his work.
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440166952, $18.95, www.iuniverse.com
The world of organized crime shows that organization can be deadly. "Operation Barbeque" tells the story of Hunter Nielson as he goes on the run after a drug dealer turns up dead and the heirs to his empires go about collecting their debts. Fleeing across the country, Hunter has to save his brother and work with the FBI as he tries to find some sense of normalcy away from a violent life of crime. "Operation Barbeque" is a fine mystery for those who love criminal intrigue.
S. G. McAfee
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533161874, $17.95, www.vantagepress.com
A life's work is something truly intriguing to see. "Wind Swept" is a collection of poetry from S. G. McAfee, as he reflects on his life through a collection of poetry that he began writing over fifty years ago all the way up to only a few years before the book went to press. Going up and down much like life, "Wind Swept" is a charming read that shouldn't be passed up. "Misses": At day's end when evening comes/My prayers begin like this/Now I lay me down to sleep/Please bless the one I miss.
The Street Life Series
Kevin M. Weeks
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781441566225, $15.99, www.xlibris.com
Some people treat murder as a game, and they take their game seriously. "The Street Life Series: Is it Rags or Riches" is a mystery following Washington D.C. Detective Hanae Troop and Atlanta's Detective Paul Yeomans as they try to find the truth behind the man who is only known by the pseudonym the Paradox. The Paradox and his riddles challenge the detectives as they deal with street gangs, tabloids, and even the very people they work for in trying to find the elusive truth. For mystery lovers, "The Street Life Series" is well worth considering.
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440170171, $14.95, www.iuniverse.com
No matter how good you are at gambling, you're going to get a few losses. "Best Bet" tells the story of Hallie and how her first trip out of Cosgrove County where she has lived her entire life. But breaking out of home isn't as glorious as she thought it would be, and not everything in her life can be solved at taking chances, in spite of her extraordinary luck. A story telling the reasons why you can't run away forever, "Best Bet" is an entertaining read that is well worth considering for young adult fiction readers.
Happy Hour in Paradise
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440157950, $23.95, www.iuniverse.com
The end of one's life is no time to stop living. "Happy Hour in Paradise: Twelve Years on Beachouse" tells the story of Buford and Jerry Beach as they embark on a trip around the world. They tell their tale of how past the age of fifty, they took a trip through the world, getting to know the people of the various people along the lands around the world from Americans to remote islands in the Pacific ocean. "Happy Hour in Paradise" is a fascinating read that will inspire many to potentially make their own trip.
The Guardian of Kelmar
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
0741453363, $26.95, www.infinitypublishing.com
Thrust into a new world, one has to adapt fast or find their stays short. "The Guardian of Kelmar" tells the story of Carmen Fox, a girl with nothing special until she finds a connection to the fantastic world of Kelmar. Carmen, caught between a war of good and evil, takes up the call of the sorcerer, to face down the evil threatening Kelmar and her new friends. "The Guardian of Kelmar" is a fun read genre fans will enjoy.
Animals in Heaven?
163 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440177255, $15.95, www.iuniverse.com
Do all dogs truly go to heaven? "Animals in Heaven?: Catholics Want to Know" is a spiritual guide for Catholics who wonder about the fate of their furry friends and their souls in the greater picture of the universe. With a comforting and message discussing pets and their relations to Catholicism and the spiritual motivation of pets, "Animals in Heaven?" is a must read for those who don't want to forget Fluffy in their faith.
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440161803, $8.95, www.iuniverse.com
Appalachia is a place like no place else. "Spirits Walking: Stories of Appalachia" is a memoir through fiction from Lori Goff as she presents many pieces of short stories set in the rural region of Appalachia. Her stories are simple and profound of people facing the everyday problems that change their lives. "Spirits Walking" is a choice pick for short story fans seeking a piece of rural America.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533161782, $23.95, www.vantagepress.com
Terror is being faced with the unknown, unequipped to truly deal with it. "Hidden Voices" tells the story of a woman trapped in a world being loomed down upon by an unknown stranger in her otherwise happy and serene life. Psychological and asking many questions to those who live in privileged life, "Hidden Voices" will intrigue many a reader with its fine combination of elements.
The Smile on My Forehead
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780578013046, $14.95, www.jennifermosher.com
A brain injury is only a setback. "The Smile on My Forehead: Memoir of My Life with a Brain Injury" is Jennifer Mosher's advisory on recovering from a brain injury and living life to the fullest in spite of it. Inspiring and straight forward, she uses her own story to tell people to not hold themselves back. "The Smile on my Forehead" is a fascinating read, recommended.
City of Night
DAW Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756405984, $25.95, www.dawbooks.com
In the capital city of Essalieyam Empire Averalaan lies the under city beneath the streets. Very few of the surface dwellers know that life below ground exists. Rath, estranged from his family, seeks valuables from the land below to sell to those above. Also seeking valuables from the undercity in order to survive are the nomadic, street urchins led by Jewell "Jay" Markess. She is a grateful to Rath for taking her off the streets and mentoring her on how to live off the undercity treasures.
Life inside of Averalaan is getting harder. Children are disappearing without a trace including some from Jay's den. There's a demon dissonance hovering over the city and Rath investigates what is going on. His inquiries lead to Lord Cordufar and his mistress; bot of whom are not human and dangerous to Rath, Jay and others. He also learns that a demon can take over the body of a person and retain their memories. Jay is a seer who has three identical visions of Cordufar's mistress. This is significant as it spells out danger especially when Jay also has visions that Rath will d ie unless he takes precautions to prevent a demon from subsuming him Jay tries to keep Rath safe while he attempts to insure her future if he dies.
This is a super action oriented investigative fantasy in an incredible world as Michelle West makes her empire and capital seem as if it comes from ancient history books rather than her imagination. The cast is strong especially the lead couple who are clearly devoted to one another with each wanting to keep the other safe. However, it is the city and its undercity that spellbinds the audience as no one knows what is coming to the surface from below.
S. Andrew Swann
There are at least three entities vying for domination of all the human colonies: The Eridani Caliphate, the Roman Catholic Church and the Race Mosasa the AI created by aliens. However, Mosasa is lured into a trap and destroyed by Adam another AI. Adam demands allegiance as a God with a plan in the making since before the Confederacy collapsed two centuries ago. His loyal followers can mentally leave their bodies increasing the threat he will succeed.
The AI uses force to convert his congregation because those who fail to cast off their flesh are killed. Adam begins execution of his plan by destroying man-made wormhole technology deploying the same energy that destroyed the Xi Virginis galaxy. He follows that with the conversion of the homeworld of the Caliphate, the planets Salmagundi and Terra is next. However, some species plan to fight Adam as a diverse group including a genetically altered sentient tiger and humans, the Roman Catholics and others set in motion the counterinsurgency.
In the second Apotheosis science fiction tale (see Prophets), S. Andrew Swann writes a super space opera with incredible technological battles and well developed characters starting with Adam and those who oppose the AI. Adding to the feel of a realistic future is the political in-fighting between adversaries fearing the loss of power more than reaching consensus on what to do as doomsday counts down. Loaded with action, fans will not want to put down this terrific twenty-sixth century (Terran calendar that is) thriller.
A Dark Matter
Doubleday & Company
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780385516389, $26.95, www.amazon.com
Nomadic charismatic guru Spencer Mallon arrives in Madison, Wisconsin accompanied by his beautiful lover Meredith Bright and subservient University of Wisconsin students, Keith Hayward and Brett Milstrap. The charmer invites several high school students which include Lee Harwell, his tomboy girlfriend, Lee "Eel" Truax, Howard "Hootie" Bly, Jason "Boats" Boatman, and Donald "Dilly" Olson to attend a night ritual. Before the sun rises, Hayward is dead and Bright vanished.
Over the years each has coped differently to that horrid night that changed all of them. Milstrap has avoided responsibility preferring Peter Pan to adulthood. The Lees married, but Eel has since lost her sight. Bly was taken to a mental institution on that horrific night and remains there while citing Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter as his only form of speech. Bright came out of whatever hole she had hidden inside of to marry into power. Boatsman went from shoplifter extraordinaire to shoplifting crime prevention extraordinaire. Filly Olson has never moved on. All will converge to relive what each chose to psychologically forget about that deadly night when novelist Harwell writes a nonfiction account of the horror that still impacts all of those who attended Mallon's malevolent ritual.
This is a convoluted but enjoyable horror thriller as Peter Straub keeps the audience guessing whether what happened was a group psychological hysteria or something evil from beyond. All of the survivors realize they do not have total recall of what occurred in spite of the college student's death. Although at times difficult to fathom what truly happened as murky memories make for a murky story line, fans who prefer something different will want to know what the students faced on the night that changed each of them.
Not My Daughter
In Zaganack, Maine, the three high school students BFFs Lily, Mary Kate and Jess forge a pregnancy pact. Soon afterward, seventeen years old Lily informs her single mom Susan, who also happens to be the high school principal, that she is carrying a child. Susan is stunned that her daughter would do this as she failed to learn from her mom that kids having kids is not good. Kate and Sunny learn their teens Mary Kate and Jess respectively are also pregnant.
Meanwhile the school board of old men blames Susan and her progressive example for the outrageous pact. As each of the parents struggle, Susan reflects back on what her father and mother did to her by kicking her out of their home so she turns to her daughter's father global photojournalist Rick for emotional help especially when Lily's pregnancy has health issues and the boys involved along with their parents are unsure of their roles.
This is a profound look at a deep societal issue involving teen pregnancy. The cast is especially strong as the townsfolk specifically the board, the mothers and their pregnant daughters, and to a lesser degree the involved males are fully developed so that the readers understand their perspectives and hidden agendas. Susan especially is an incredible protagonist as she sort of goes through the phases of grief. Although the ending is to sugary perfect with resolution, fans will appreciate the road to get there.
The Girl with Glass Feet
Henry Holt & Company
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010-7725
9780805091144, $24.00, www.amazon.com
Ida Maclaird seeks a cure to stop her slow debilitating ailment; she is turning into glass starting with her feet, but slowly spreading up her body. The young woman feels she caught her illness on the St. Hauda's Land archipelago; so has returned to these remote northern islands seeking the cure before it is too late.
Before he met Ida, Midas Crook had no plans to ever marry, but he falls in love. He joins her quest to find the cure to her plight. They turn to biologist Henry Fuwa, who prefers saving the endangered insect like moth-winged bull rather than a human, but also offers hope as he insist he can help her followed up with despair saying she will turn totally to glass. Carl Mausen, a friend to Ida's family, wants to help her as if she is his daughter and offers her his cottage as a temporary home, but his fidelity is to her mother who he loved and lost. Finally Emiliana Stallows is rumored to have cured a previous girl with glass feet.
This is an interesting parable fantasy that focuses on the fleeting fragile nature of relationships that can easily shatter as each person has major issues relating to others. The glum tone permeates the story line as relationships that were once warm turn icy leaving the audience to wonder if Ida and Midas are doomed even if she is cured. Although too many back stories re secondary characters are included even as their tales add to the atmosphere of pending gloom, fans will enjoy touring the islands of despair as Ida and Midas cling to love as their hope deteriorates along with her condition.
The Notebooks of Madame B: Ecstasy
Jeremy P. Tarcher
c/o The Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014-3657
9781585427734, $12.95, www.amazon.com
"Hard Hat". She dressed to excite one particular hard hat and walked past him daily until her wet dreams regarding his hard on become wet reality.
"Model Misbehavior". In Milan fashion model Anna and rock star Joey make orgasmic public photos.
"Toy Story". The two female roommates borrowed from one another, but learn it is more fun to share sex.
"Bossy". The new boss Hugh intimated the staff until he confronted Donna with the choice of firing competent people; instead she ties the dominator into her submissive.
"The Car-Ma Sutra. The couple has followed the tabloid pictures of celebs making it in public; so they decide to star in their own public showing.
"Steaming". Stressed, Helen meets another woman over a taxi duel in which they share the cab and a secret about a special massage parlor that relaxes the entire body through satiating arousal therapy.
"A Working Girl". Kerry knows the hard way that a personnel assistant salary without a rich daddy is not a way to eat in Manhattan, but supplementing the income as an escort is if she passes the sexual interview with Mark.
"Ash". Nina likes her toys to be skinny so she can dictate their all nighter as these males are weak yet have incredible stamina; that is until she picks up six foot plus Ash who teaches her a lesson in "dick-less" sex.
"All Tomorrow's Parties". Eighteen year old Charlie-girl came to London to dance, but also meets David the artist who seeks a muse to inspire his inner inferno.
"Water Baby". It has been years since the tribe attended college, but now get together for Sheila's thirtieth birthday where Greg surprised her by teaching her tricks with liquids that only a consummate thirst quencher can.
These are ten more not so subtle sexual encounters of the various kind. Madame B tantalizes the imagination of readers who need their significant other (or a dildo) handy.
The Notebooks Of Madame B: Desire
"Midas". Mark travels a lot for his work so he and his wife use cyber sex to enjoy pleasurable lovemaking.
"Hire Love". Wealthy Hannah is used to being in control, but her paid escort hired over the Internet Olivier takes charge leading to a freebie on the house.
"Sucker Punch". For a decade starting when she was sixteen, Carrie showed up at all his fights, but never introduced herself until now when he suffered a bad loss; however this time she meets him in person and one thing leads to another.
"Always the Bridesmaid". Bridesmaid Sammy and bride Polly share the hotel room the night before the wedding, but soon share a more fascinating frolic.
"The Mistress's Apprentice". Tina the cleaner takes a job with Charlotte's special adult house of pleasure and pain, but proves a natural dominatrix as Howie the submissive learns begging her for release.
"The Hitcher". Alice and Paul give a ride to Jim the college age hitchhiker who soon gives the couple the ride of their lives.
"The Diagnosis". At the party Dr. Jay and RN Leila play an adult version of doctors and nurses.
"Window-Shopping". At the designer furniture store where she works, Bethany and Max put on a lively public window display.
"El Ritmo De La Noche". In Spain, tourists Lara and Helen meet men with the former going off with Paco and the latter coming with her young dancing partner.
"Going, Going, Gone". During the day Abigail is a dominating businesswoman; at night she offers herself as a submissive to the highest bidder.
The second set of ten erotic confessional short shorts (see Seduction) consists of fun heated quickies that run the gamut of the genre while each stimulates the enthralled reader.
The Notebooks Of Madame B: Seduction
"Jet". She is flying first class for the first time as she goes from Edinburgh to London, but learns what the additional amenities of the Mile High Club means.
"Menage a Trois". The voyeur learns first hand and other body parts what it means to be part of the action rather than a fan of the neighbors' activity.
"The End of the Pier Show". Kyra's BF Rick is a gay and now has a boyfriend Sam so she expects their friendship will suffer; instead they share a menage a trois.
"I Heard Love Is Blind". Jamie assumes his older, richer, and smarter lover sees him for his body when he wants her to desire his soul; like he does for her; so he persuades her to make love "blind" using her other four senses.
"Rumble in the Jungle". They were part of a tour in the Indian jungle, but though the pair were the only ones their age, she loathed David until yoga and getting lost led to her coming twice, but still detesting David.
"The Camera Never Lies" Sara the model relishes her encounter with Kim who makes her lesbian fantasy real.
"Fetish". In Oxford, Claudia taught Polly the sexual pleasure of leather.
"The Captain's Table". Ben persuaded his lover Charmaine that the adult only cruise ship is the perfect place to swap sensual encounters.
"Shopped". She loved the thrill of shoplifting, but the greats rush she ever had was when the security guard caught her and offers her a deal of dropping her stolen panties for the tape.
"Fireman's Pole". At her bachelorette party, Jules enjoys the stripping firefighter in a last fling.
These ten short "true confessions" are fun heated "nooners" that tease the senses of the reader.
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9781599952390, $24.99, www.amazon.com
This gimmicky memoir is exactly like the title proclaims as thirtyish Robin Okrant lived one year in accordance with Oprah's advice. Ms. Okrant obviously admires Oprah, but also scorned that anyone even Oprah could adhere to her advice over a period of time. Testing her hypothesis, she tries keeping score along way and criticizing Oprah when she deemed sit worthy such as the talk show host's obsession over female looks. Although the memoir has many tedious entries as Ms. Okrant chose honesty over entertainment. Still this critique leads to a fascinating odyssey in which the author concludes to live real life to the fullest and forget this best life as described by anyone except you and your loved ones, and not proscribed by an outsider even a famous successful TV guru. Not for everyone as this modern day search for the Holy Grail, "My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk", seems a bit beyond even reality TV, yet many of the "Oprahized" entries are insightful and fascinating albeit expensive.
Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart
PO Box 5815, Harlan, IA 51593-1315
9780824947934, $14.99 www.GuidepostsBooks.com
Having just lost her position as a pediatrician office manager in Kansas City, thirtyish Claire Prescott's nerves are frayed, but has no one to talk to about her fears. Her boyfriend Neil buries himself in a cocoon of and her sister Missy always turns to her for bail out since their parents died. In fact the latter is why she is at Christ Church in Oxford, England attending a seminar on Jane Austen where no college degree Claire will present Missy's scholarly paper on Pride and Prejudice.
Claire plans to spend the week temporarily fabricating her resume so she can be like all these successful people who are judges, professors and stockbrokers, etc. When she meets James Beaufort of a Manhattan publishing firm family, she imagines him as a modern day Americanized Mr. Darcy; who is definitely not her type. Thus Claire starts with lies, but meets elderly Harriet, who suffers from early stages of dementia; yet presents a different version of the commonly accepted Pride and Prejudice that seems so much more realistic to Claire. Others want to meet Claire and her room is searched; obviously for the manuscript Harriet gave her. Unsure what to do next, Claire is stunned when Neil arrives.
Every time I think nothing new can happen to Jane Austen, a surprise refreshing spin occurs. The story line is fast-paced with plenty of suspense but in many ways is more of a character study. Claire is ashamed of herself and begins to understand her altruism re Missy has allowed her to hide her fears of life. Fans will appreciate Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart as the heroine must decide what Harriet should do with an earth shattering manuscript and what she should do with her life starting with Neil.
M. R. Hall
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439156988, $24.99, www.amazon.com
After six months on the job as the Severn Vale District coroner, Jenny Cooper concludes that very few corpses remain unidentified after forty-eighth hours in the morgue. Although she is working on a Jane Doe that has been their guest for over a week, her prime assignment is to decide whether two alleged radical Muslim college students Nazim Jamal and Rafti Hassam, who vanished seven years ago are dead.
Her pre-inquest begins with Nazim's grieving hysterical mother Mrs. Jamal begging Jenny to provide closure for her. The authorities involved in the case insist the two young friends traveled to the Middle East to join one of the Islamic extremist groups that operate on both sides of the mountainous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Finding irregularities in the police report, she thinks the duo never left England though the pair obviously had ties with a radical Islam group. Jenny convenes an inquest in which neither the cops nor MI5 and CIA operatives cooperate; in fact they go way beyond just stonewalling her, which leads her to wonder what they are concealing. When Mrs. Hazim dies suddenly and the Jane Doe body vanishes, she wonders what she has wrought even while struggling with a divorce, her cantankerous teenage son, and her relationship with disbarred lawyer Alec MacAvoy.
This exciting story line contains a strong inquest that with each clue expands in scope, but the plot is owned by the coroner who suffers from anxiety disorder and addictions caused by her mental illness. Ironically other characters are friendlier and much more charming, but readers will feel empathy only for the heroine and surviving relatives of the deceased. The Disappeared is a terrific coroner's inquest that at times reads like an espionage thriller as M. R. Hall provides a strong investigation.
Swimming Inside The Sun
Second Guess Media
9780615297507, $17.99 www.secondguessmedia.com
When the major label company signed him, guitarist Dan Green thought he could walk across the bay to Brooklyn. He was euphoric until the firm listens to his obviously talented but non-sellable album. They refuse to waste another penny on it or him.
Stunned and depressed he no longer can touch his guitar as if it contains a deadly toxin and even stops fantasizing over the female backpacking neighbor Andrea Liebman. Instead while contemplating rice milk and Kierkegaard, Dan dooms every possible relationship with lovers and friends over selling out. As people avoid him like he has swine flu, Dan creates his "smart-heat index" that enables him to classify women he sees, some for the first time, and instantly considers proposing but the flaws he perceives in them prevent him. His neurosis of failure turns psychotic as he depersonalizes everyone into various categories of self soul sellers.
This deep character study hooks the audience who wants Dan to make it in life and with his music, but do it on his terms (a psychotic sort of Eddie from Eddie and the Cruisers). The story line avoids cliches and burying itself inside of the lead protagonist's head with simple but clever focus switches from first person to third person though Dan continues to tell the tale. Readers who appreciate a profound tale in which Manhattan is gray, cold and aloof yet somehow also warm, creative and fascinating will enjoy the intense well written Swimming Inside The Sun of troubled Dan Green.
A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446698382, $13.99, www.amazon.com
When Grace Hawkes was thirteen years old, her father Ray deserted her mom, her three younger siblings and her. Stunned the family rallied to support one another. Fifteen years after Ray walked out on them their mom died. After the burial, Grace left behind the family not talking to anyone for the past five years.
Ray suffers a stroke and asks his three adult children to visit him. His illness provides Grace with an epiphany that she emulated the worst thing her dad did to the family. She expects nasty treatment for abandoning them, but vows to make it up as much as she can. Ray's second wife Connie welcomes Grace, but she suspects her stepmother of duplicity. Shocking everyone, Ray gives power of attorney to Grace; even more stunning to Ray's offspring is there no evidence that Connie lived in his house. Instead the home is a shrine to his first family. Encouraged by her adult son Dennis, Connie considers suing the four Hawkes.
This is an entertaining family drama that focuses mostly on Grace's relationship with her late mom, her dad and her siblings. Her grief when her mom died drove her away as every person mourns a loss of a loved one differently even as each goes through the general grief phases. Although the ending is too rosy for the complicated poignant character driven story line, fans will enjoy Liza Palmer's on the spot Field Guide to Burying Your Parents.
In the middle of the seventh century the Toliver and Warwick clans crossed the Atlantic to reside in the Carolina Colony. Rivals back in England during the War of the Roses, they remain competitors through the century plus as South Carolina become a state. In 1836, members of each family went to Texas to join in the revolution against Mexico. The family feud started centuries ago in England before relocating to South Carolina and continues in the twentieth century in Howbutker, Texas.
As her family anxiously waits for her to die, elderly Mary Toliver reflects back at her life starting with her regret when she gave up her love Percy Warwick for her family estate Somerset; unlike her brother who met his beloved in France during WWI and returned to her. She knows she can blame Percy for refusing to help her save Somerset like Ollie DuMont did, whom she married. However, as an octogenarian near death she knows who is at fault. She vows to sell Somerset to liberate her grandniece into not making her mistake.
This saga follows seven decades of two families whose feud goes back centuries and across the ocean. The viewpoints rotate between Mary, Percy and Rachel so that the audience compare how each interprets the same situation differently, especially the octogenarian pair. Rachel provides a fascinating look at her roots when she learns secrets that everyone wanted to hide. Fans of historical family sagas will enjoy this entertaining epic, which at times are soap opera and other moments profound.
In Washington, D.C. ten years old Camille Logan is placed with her latest foster family as part of a swinging door system that ignores the welfare of the child once placed because the social services' workload is overwhelming. Over the next few years, she is abused and sexually molested. The system never bothers to take a look at Camille or her care providers as she is out of sight and therefore out of mind.
Drug dealer Chu is disgusted with what he sees happening to Camille and takes her into his home. He takes care of her until he is murdered in a drug deal. Camille desperately decides to become a hooker working for a nasty abusive pimp, which makes her wonder if she has other options to get off the mean streets of DC.
Damaged is a dark, gritty and profound look at life in DC when a poor youth is caught up in the foster care system and consequently the streets. The cycle seems in evitable though Camille hopes to break out. Although the climax fails to live up to a moving character driven story line that captures the essence of surviving in America's urban jungle, fans will appreciate Kia DuPree's powerful inner city hustle; the perfect capitalism system as anyone is for sale on the open market with no tax or surcharge; just supply and demand.
Love Finds You in Bethlehem, New Hampshire
9781935416203, $12.99 www.summersidepress.com
In 1890 artist Thomas Haskins placed an ad for a mail order bride though he has doubts about the wisdom of finding a wife this way. Sara McGee of New York City responds. She arrives by train to his resort town of Bethlehem, New Hampshire. However, he wants her to go back home because his first impression is she is dressed shabbily and uneducated. Sara is also hurt by first impressions when his best friend Lawrence Boshen ridicules her and Tom fails to defend her
However, he is an ethical person who decides to have his sister Claire mentor brash Sara on decorum of a lady. She has doubts about belonging here; Sara considers fleeing back to the streets of the city she came from. As she falls in love with him, socialite pianist Annabelle Loving decides Tom is perfect for her and offers him a trip to Italy to study art that he cannot refuse. Sara knows she cannot compete with the educated upper crust wealthy musician so she leaves for home; not realizing Tom wants his mail order bride to be his wife.
This is a nice Pygmalion like spin to the classic mail order bride historical romance. The Gilded Age story line is fast-paced from the moment a hesitant Sara arrives in town like a fish out of water and never slows down as she wins the hearts of everyone starting with his sister. Fans will enjoy this fine entry as Tom learns a good artist can become a great artist when he learns the meaning of love and passion.
Love Finds You In North Pole, Alaska
9781935416197, $12.99 www.summersidepress.com
When it comes to Christmas, former Marine Bryce Stone is more of a "bah humbug" then Scrooge as he hates the holiday. So why someone like him is back in North Pole, Alaska, a town in which "Its Christmas All Year Long" is something he asks himself every minute. The Santa Christmas theme has always hit his gut, but still he manages his Aunt Brice's gift shop since she retired when all he wants to do his open a furniture shop.
Sam Sinclair drives from the Lower Forty-Eight to North Pole for a job she accepted. However, upon arrival she finds no position waiting for her as someone else was hired. Bryce hires the upbeat elf to run his aunt's store figuring with her zero experience the shop will sink beneath the tundra. Instead people flock to the gregarious optimistic pixie to include Bryce who finds him self falling in love with her and the magic of Christmas.
Subtly (except perhaps for Aunt Olive), this "Love Finds You" entry is an inspirational romance with the town in many ways as the leading character. Fans will appreciate the antics of the townsfolk and especially Sam who grew up battling seven brothers so a marine is a piece of pumpkin pie for her to humble. Although their romance follows a typical course, the setting makes for a wonderful tale of how the Grinch found his heart.
Last Of The Ravens
Linda Winstead Jones
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373618262, $5.25, www.amazon.com
Feeling bone tired, consultant Miranda Lynch decides to take a needed respite from her consulting work. She has not a break since her sister Jessica died in an accident four years ago in which her spirit said to her "I love you". Miranda decides to hide away in the Tennessee Mountains where no one will ask her for her help on solving a crime, which she hopes means no communication with ghosts, the source of her information.
During her sojourn, Miranda meets mountain man Brennus Korbinian, who is the last of the Korbinian species who can shapeshift into ravens. They are attracted to one another to the shock of each as neither expected to meet their soulmate in this lifetime. However, the Order of the Cahir captures the two of them with threats to kill the monsters if they fail to do their bidding.
This is an exciting fresh romantic fantasy starring two fascinating lead characters and villains who are sinister without turning cartoonish. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as Miranda wonders whether fortune has allowed her to overcome the Lynch Love Curse or not; on the other hand Bren believes his soulmate will enable the Korbinian to survive at least one more generation if they can escape captivity. Linda Winstead Jones provides a strong thriller.
Sentinels: Wolf Hunt
Jet the shapeshifter lures werewolf Sentinel Nick Carter into her trap. He senses she is different than his peers, but not sure how. However, she frees him when she realizes her patron lied when he said he would not harm Nick. He realizes what makes her seem different is that she is more a wolf shifting into a human body than a human shifting into a wolf's body.
The Atrum Core wants to take control of the earth, but to succeed they must destroy their enemies the Sentinel. Jet is their latest weapon. If she fails them, they will destroy her pack. With Nick's help she hopes to rescue her pack, his soul, and hers if she has one, which he believes she does and that is all that matters.
Jet makes the latest Sentinel a fresh thought provoking tale with her background. The story line is action-packed from the moment the Atrum Core using the threat to her pack to send Jet to kill Nick and never slows down as she is caught between killing her soulmate or the mass murder of her pack. Fans of the saga will relish Doranna Durgin's super entry.
Jeanne M. Dams
Mark Richard Zubro
c/o Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765322661, $24.99, www.amazon.com
During the 9/11 assaults on the Twin Towers, Brenda Grant and Daniel Henderson, who worked in the World Trade Center, were in the Brew-Ha-Ha coffee shop. Their contemporaries at a software firm including Brenda's fiance Jeremy die in the terrorist attack.
As the 2008 presidential election winds down, in Manhattan someone pushes thirtyish computer engineer Sarah Swettenham into traffic. Swettenham was to meet with Grant who along with Henderson opened up AllTech, a software security firm. When Grant learns Swettenham's computers are missi ng, she concludes an assailant deliberately killed her and stole her computers. National Security Agency's Allen Cooper already hired them to look into polling machine fraud; now their two inquiries converge in Cairo and DC.
This is an exciting over the top of the Washington Monument, the Pyramids and football nation as the conspiracy tied to elections never quite gets grounded. Still this is a fun tale that uses real American election dirty tactics and fraud (thankfully ignoring the phony issue of an individual at the poll voting as someone else) commit ted by both parties as the base for an enjoyable steal the presidential election conspiracy thriller.
An Irish Country Girl
In Ballybucklebo, Ireland, Kinky Kincaid serves as housekeeper to small village's two doctors (Dr. Barry Laverty and Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly). On Christmas Day, Kinky turns storyteller as she spins a spellbinder to the children with the tale of the St. Stephen's Day ghost.
When she was a child the age of her audience, Kinky was known as Maureen O'Hanlon. She had the unique skill of seeing the future. As Kinky tells about dark fairies to enraptured fans, back then Maureen must choose between her heart and her career.
The latest Ballybucklebo Irish County cozy (see An Irish Country Christmas, An Irish Country Doctor and An Irish Country Village) is another superb tale with a n eat twist as the previous support player housekeeper takes the lead effortlessly. The story line has two key plots one of which is Kinky's past when she had to make up her mind and choose one of two roads and the present when she tells the ghost tale. Fans will relish this terrific twist as Kinky proves to be a superb storyteller as the top banana title lead character.
Eric Van Lustbader
Jack McClure, Strategic Advisor to his best friend President of the United States Edward Carson, is in Russia where he negotiates with President Yukin on a pact to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Carson is informed that Senator Lloyd Bern died in Capri; he was supposed to be on a fact finding trip to the Ukraine. He made an unscheduled stop to Kiev where the last person to see him was K. Rochev.
The President sends Jack to the Ukraine to find out what happened. Before he leaves his hotel Jack rescues Russian FSB Agent Annika Dementieva from an ambush by her lover a minor thug in the local Mafia. When they get on the plane, the First Daughter Alli Carson demands to come with them as he is the only man she trusts (see First Daughter to learn why). As they investigate Bern's death, Jack concludes there is a traitor inside the American President's most inner circle of advisors and probably one inside of Yukin's most trusted advisors. Additionally he wonders whether Bern was murdered rather than dying accidentally as reported. As he continues his inquiry while keeping the two women accompanying him safe, others try to manipulate him, but obviously they don't know Jack.
This sequel is as entertaining and exciting as its predecessor is. Events are straight from headlines as Jack, Alli and Annika traverse Eastern Europe through a landscape of crime including murder. No one is safe especially the likable trio whose flaws feel genuine. For instance Jack uses his work to bury his mind from obsessing over the recent death of his daughter; this grief propels him to take risks with his life but not if it endangers his two compatriots. Eric Van Lustbader provides his refreshing version of Bourne with the escapades of Jack.
Venus Fly Trap
Venus "Aphrodite" Cronus may be the Goddess of Love and daughter of Zeus, but she is slaving on earth as a matchmaker. In Bander, Oregon she finds a sigma in a bookstore window that is her target for a love life makeover. Her name is Haydee Miller, whose parents she matched over three decades ago.
Haydee has been going out lately with losers and fears she will fail at the next step on her list; getting married at thirty-three. The list is sacred to her as it gave her comfort when her mom died when she was sixteen. Any deviation has been disastrous. She has six weeks plus to find her mate.
Venus introduces herself and for some unknown reason Haydee hires her and allows her to move into her home. Venus insists she is the Goddess of Love. Two days later Venus says Prince Charming is entering the store. Haydee has a convulsion as anyone but Derek Reed is acceptable. He deserted her to become a world famous photographer. Haydee tells Venus she stinks at matchmaking. They met soon after her mom died and he blew a knee ending his football ambition; they became an entry until he left abruptly. Haydee asks Derek why he is back. He says he missed her. Venus knows her mission is more than matching soulmates with a history; as she also needs to reconcile father and daughter while eluding men who want her and women jealous with Venus Envy.
The cast is extremely well drawn, Aphrodite owns the show as the matchmaker Goddess of Love insists the one man the lead female hates is her true love while she also deals with every male wanting her at a time she wants to go home. The rotation of lead between Venus and Haydee provides a wider perspective to this fun lighthearted urban romantic fantasy.
Eye of the Raven
2117 Fourth Street, Suite D, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781582435664, $26.00, www.amazon.com
In 1760 thanks mostly to his new friend Nipmuc tribal Shaman Conawago, Duncan McCallum has begun to move past the British massacre of his clan back in Scotland. Traveling together, they find the corpse of affluent Virginia militia commander Winston Burke nailed to a tree with a gear wheel buried into his chest. Because he is an Indian, local Pennsylvanian Colony authorities suspect Conawago killed Burke; who is not the first victim to die this way, as other surveyors have also been brutally killed.
The colonial authorities and the British military leaders assume someone opposed to a treaty between the Iroquois and the British is the culprit, which enhances the belief Conawago is the killer. Still they write it off as another death due to the war with the French. However Burke's outraged cronies demand immediate justice, colonial style. They do not require a trial to hang Conawago which leaves it to McCallum to rush his investigation in order to save the life of his friend.
This is a superb Colonial American mystery due to a powerful cast who brings the era alive especially not widely known tidbits all inside a terrific whodunit. The story line grips the audience from the opening act as Duncan and the Jesuit trained Conawago come across the corpse, which by reporting it leads to trouble. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this taut thriller as time is running out before mob justice lynches Conawago.
John Lynch, Bill Thrall and Bruce McNicol
4680 Calle Norte, Newbury Park, CA 91320
9781935170044, $13.99 http://www.windblownmedia.com
On the surface executive Steven Kerner, his wife Lindsey and their child Jennifer live the perfect Southern California lifestyle. However, he has anger issues, which explodes when Lindsay yells at him for failing to pick up Jennifer from school so they could spend quality time together. Her nagging and some earlier alcohol lead to his raging. The two women in his life leave.
Lindsay and Jennifer move back into the house while Steven resides in an expensive Santa Monica hotel not far from where he works. He assumes this fight will blow over, but Lindsay has given up on his violent temper and files for a divorce.
At a bar whose ownership and name changes seemingly monthly, elderly Hawaiian shirted Andy Monroe offers advice and friendship to Steven who rejects the kindness. He pleads with Lindsay who obstinately refuses to take him back unless he gets professional anger management help; he angrily leaves instead as he knows he needs no help as he can control his temper if she would stop igniting it. Andy gets Steven to meet with a group of peers who tell their updated story at Bo's Cafe.
This is an interesting character driven inspirational family drama that focuses on getting help when one's personal problems feel overwhelming and released by hammering at others including loved ones. That help may come from God, peer groups, or counselors; but the key to remember no one walks alone. With a strong cast led by Steven whose temper is so explosive it puts fear in the eyes of his two women whom he loves and shame inside his heart, readers will relish his efforts to change driven by his Electra coach.
Live Free or Die
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781439133323, $26.00, www.amazon.com
The Grtul came first constructing the Gudrum Ring to expand trade by making Earth a galactic partner. Humans reacted with trepidation and adulation as the global economy begins to go galaxy.
Three peaceful years pass with earthlings growing in confidence that they are equal trading partners. However, everything changes abruptly when the Horvath arrive in warships. They destroy several metropolises as a warning. Terra is theirs. Entrepreneur Tyler Vernon knows that the entire galaxy loves maple syrup and that no military martinet species is going to prevent him from selling Vermont style to customers. He considers smuggling, but knows a cost benefit analysis suggests the maple Syrup counterinsurgency might be a better way to kick the Horvath off earth.
The concept is terrific with its obvious parallels to the current global economy as John Ringo combines a hostile alien planetary takeover with musings on the convergence of science and economics that in modern times make it difficult for an individual to Live Free or Die trying. The story line drifts between a hyperspeed shoot em up revolution and turtle-speed dialogues on the economic-science convergence. Both prove interesting, but also overwhelm characterizations including the maple syrup entrepreneur. Still fans will enjoy Mr. Ringo's combining of economics, science and alien invasion as overall this is a thought provoking fun thriller.
Sarah A. Hoyt
Athena Hera Sinistra never wanted to go into space as why would anyone in their right mind give up standing on solid rock although freedom is far away from feudal earth. Still she is on board her father's vessel when she awakens to someone entering her room at shipnight. Not afraid she takes out the intruder, who is Andrija Baldo head of her father's goons.
She flees in a life pod hoping to find help to rescue her father and others aboard the vessel she just abandoned. However, Athena finds herself on the run from assailants as the reach of the ruling Patricians is light-years, but she also realizes for some unknown reason they want her captured alive as they have opportunities to kill her from a distance but don't. Her nightmare has just begun.
The Darkship Thieves is a super space opera with a great heroine, strong support cast and a believable Hoyt Galaxy with a dictatorial oligopoly feudal government. The story line is faster than the speed of light even in artificial gravity yet in many ways it is a coming of age under extreme pressure thriller with a deep moral underpinning involving genetic transforming of humans. With a mystery as to why the enemy wants the heroine alive to enhance the outer space tour, fans will relish riding along side Athena as she provides a first hand account of her survival escapades to survive in the Hoyt Galaxy.
"Ensign Flandry". In 3019, Terran Empire Imperial Navy security chief on Planet Starkad Commander Max Abrams recruits intelligent and debonair in spite of his young age Dominic Flandry as an ensign, a glorious title for a field agent. The assignment can prove dangerous as Terran is at war with the Merseians with Starkad as a war zone. However, Flandry uncovers something so nefarious; both sides in the combat want him dead.
"A Circus of Hells". In 3021, Lieutenant Dominc Flandry is posted on planet Ironclaw, a backwater orb 200 light-years from Sol. The Merseians are cruising nearby so Flandry knows that the ennui he expected would not be for long especially after he runs into Tachwy the Dark in Old Town. Flandry meets with Citizen Ammon who assigns him to investigate mineral deposits on the moon Wayland with a female partner Djana. However, they find much more than just some uranium.
"The Rebel Worlds". In 3025, former Admiral Hugh McCormac leads dissenters against the increasing corruption of the Terran Empire, but in Betelgeuse he is put on military trial by ambitious Governor Shelund at a time when the Merseians are making noise in the demilitarized zone. On Terra Vice Admiral Sir Ilya Kheraskov gives Lieutenant Commander Flandry a vessel to command and sends him to the remote zone to keep the wild races from revolting for the first time in over four decades. Planet side he rescues McCormac's beautiful wife Kathryn and falls in love.
These are three exciting reprints of the first Flandry tales. The hero is a James Bond-Hans Solo who accepts the fact that the Empire is collapsing due to its size, corruption, and bad leadership, but Flandry and others like Abrams and Kheraskov remain loyal, tough and do their best. Although at times the back story of the fall of the Terran Empire overwhelms the action especially in books two and three, fans will enjoy the adventures of this young swashbuckler in space.
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061561627, $26.99, www.amazon.com
Years have passed since the last fatal hatching and the residents of Bingtown and Cassarik have become somewhat complacent as if those who died during the previous infestation never occurred. However, the townsfolk are stunned when the cocoons left behind by the nomadic sea serpents rupture open releasing a new generation of dragons that must be controlled rapidly before they devastate the town towns. These hatchlings seem substandard with many expected to die; those who live must be controlled before their hunger drives them to Cassarik.
The Traders Council quickly reacts choosing special humans who contain mutations on their bodies to escort the young dragons to a different locale, the lost city of Kelsingra where they can be controlled easier away from the cities. Among the selected are uneducated teenage Rain Wilds Thymara and overly-educated unhappy dragon guru Alise, wife of a Bingtown Trader. The journey along the deadly Rain Wild River will prove arduous with only the strong surviving.
Returning to the Tawny Man world with the first entry of a duology, Robin Hobb provides a superb fantasy. The story line is mostly seen through the eyes of the two women as they face danger and treachery on the quest. In some ways, the opening of Act Three (see the Liveship Traders and the Tawny Man sagas), is a coming of age duet. However, what makes Dragon Keeper a keeper is the cast as the travelers human and dragon seems real while the menaces come from the land, the river and within. Fans will look forward to the finish wondering whether Kelsingra will prove to be a Dragon Haven or hell.
Lady Carliss And The Waters Of Moorue
12265 Oracle Blvd., Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601421272, $9.99, www.amazon.com
When Lucius rebelled against the King and his Son Across the Sea, he and his Shadow Lords were defeated; but fled to Arrethetrae to continue their rebellion with an absolute determination that the King would never rule there. However after the Son came and gained followers before he was killed, resurrected and returned home, he obtained loyal faithful Knights of Arrethetrae. One of the most devoted Knights to the Prince is Lady Carliss who heads home after a dangerous mission including imprisonment in one of the Shadow Warrior's dungeons.
She and her companion Lady Salina stop at the latter's house, but nobody is to be found anywhere. Marauders are hunting them and other captives to give to Shadow Lord Malco, who needs them to use as part of his nefarious plot to destroy Arrethetrae. On their way to get help, the two women run into Sir Dalton, the love of Lady Carliss' life. Before they can exchange words, an esca lizard bites him. She has ten days to find the lily in the poisonous deadly swampland of Moorue abutting Malco's castle that can save her beloved's life. Lady Carliss obtains allies on her quest, but a traitor brings the wrath of Malco on her and her cohorts making her to choose between wh o lives or dies as time runs out.
Good and evil clash physically and metaphysically numerous times in this exhilarating young adult inspirational thriller. Carliss is a warrior Knight of the Prince as gender does not matter when it comes to combat. She makes the tale as she must make life and death choices no one should have to do, but it happens (as President Obama said at the Nobel Prize ceremony). Chuck Black provides his readers with a powerful message to believe for the solace gained helps even when the free will preferences are overwhelming emotionally troubling.
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780786020447, $7.99, www.amazon.com
In the Puget Sound area, Samuel and Melody Castile abduct Celesta Delgado. They rape and torture her before killing her. Victim number two is Marissa who receives the same treatment from the married couple. The count rises as the married couple stalks, hunts, and kidnaps their targets.
Kitsap County Sheriff's Office Detective Kendall Stark knows a vicious serial killer-rapist is on the loose. At the same time the cop fears the worst is happening in her county, Melody's sister Serenity thinks her brother-in-law may be a killer; at a minimum she knows he is a lunatic. She fears for melody's safety, unaware that Samuel has selected her as Victim Six and that her sibling is not just aware of her spouse's murders, but a willing participant.
Victim Six hooks the reader due to the up front and in person deep look at the killing couple as the fast-paced story line comes across with an odd duality of feeling on one hand the story seems over the top of Mt. Rainier and on the other the tale seems plausible. This dichotomy demonstrates why Gregg Olsen is so good at suspense thrillers as readers will believe the Castile duo could have been the villains in the Frighteners as much as Disturbia. Well written and exciting from start to finish, fans will be hooked even knowing who the killers are early on and anticipate the sibling showdown. With a slick final twist, Victim Six is a super serial killer thriller.
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780553592412, $7.99, www.amazon.com
National Research Institute (NRI) undercover operative Danielle Laidlaw leads a specially selected team on a journey into the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest in search of a lost legendary Mayan Underworld Xibalba. Their goal is to learn the source of mysterious radioactive crystals that appears to be a cheap clean energy source brought back in artifacts by Blackjack Martin in 1926, but ignored until now.
In Manaus, Brazil, colleague Arnold Moore shocks her when he tells her she goes in alone as Operations Director Gibbs recalled him to DC. Irate but intrepid Laidlaw trusts no one on this expedition to have her back; as Moore was the one person she would and could depend on with her life. H aving her transportation and supplies bought from under her; Laidlaw knows her party is not the only group searching for Xibalba. Ruthless billionaire Richard Kaufman will kill to monopolize the technology. Danger also lurks from tribes like the nomadic Chollokwan that kill trespassers and a strange creature that is even more dangerous. Unbeknownst to Laidlaw and her team is that they are the second unit NRI sent into the Amazon; the first group is presumed dead.
Black Rain is an exciting Mayan mythological thriller with a frantic pace once Laidlaw leaves Manaus for the jungle. Filled with violence and brutality including some unnecessarily overly described passages that feel more like page fillers than graphic escapades, readers will be caught up with one of the fastest action-packed thrillers of the year; seat belts are a requirement.
A Dog At Sea
He has an extremely high IQ and loves to read a variety of books; unusual traits in a canine. Randolph the Labrador and his less intelligent human companion Harry are on a canine cruise in which both species have the freedom of the Nordic Bliss as poop decks have different meanings. Ostensive the duo are en joying their time at sea; but actually are following a clue to Imogen, Harry's beloved human love and Randolph's mistress. Fearing for Randolph and Harry in that order, she faked her death because a bad person with influential allies wanted control of her uranium fortune.
On board they meet Milton Tabasco, TV's dog "mutterer", who hypnotizes canines with his voice. At the Captain's Table for dinner, Milton and his wife Kitty argue and she storms out of the dining room. Later, Randolph and Harry see her crying on the deck. Soon afterward they learns she jumped overboard and is assumed dead. Randolph sniffs Tabasco and concludes Milton killed his spouse. However the smell changes to regret so Randolph wonders if his original olfactory conclusion stinks. When someone else dies in a box that Milton uses as part of a magic trick, Tabasco was nowhere near the victim at the time of the murder. Randolph investigates and scents another homicide, but has to find a way to tell the tone deaf authorities who the killer is; he comes up with a devious brilliant plan.
Reminding me of my late Max (who understood the spelling of words like pizza and treat) and I am sure other readers of their brilliant dogs, Randolph loves to eat, eat, and eat yet always takes into account the best interest of his BF. In his third canine caper (see A Dog About Town and A Dog Among Diplomats), the sentient dog is at his best as he expects to dine, poop, sleep and dine, but the ship staff wants him to lose weight. His perspective (on the murders, the inquiry, exercise, and dieting, etc.) makes for a wonderful anthropomorphic whodunit.
Hold On Tight
The Joint Task Force mission rescued the U.S. ambassador and his family from a hostile takeover of an embassy in Djibouti, Africa but left team members Navy SEAL Mark Kendall and FBI agent Josiah Miller dead in an explosion. Navy SEAL Chris Waldron and Delta Force operative Cameron Moore survived.
FBI Special Agent Jamie Michaels questions Chris, who has some memory lapses from the moment of the explosion, and Cam to tell what went wrong. Chris and Cam separately insist leader Josiah ordered them not to enter the embassy, but Mark disobeyed the command. Later that night Chris sneaks out of the hospital to spend time with Chris alone as both remember the heat from their last mission together two months ago. Each wonders where their relationship will go as both have ghosts from their past haunting them. However, her boss informs her that Josiah did not die from the explosion as first thought. Instead he was murdered from a bullet between his eyes; a bullet that super sniper Chris could have fired using a war scenario as fog to cover up the crime. He is the only suspect. When someone breaks into her home, Chris vows to uncover the truth and keep his woman safe.
The third SEAL romantic suspense (see Jake Hansen in Hard to Hold and Nick Devane in Too Hot to Hold) is a terrific investigative tale as the hero is the prime murder suspect and the woman who loves him is the Fed assigned to prove he committed the homicide. With a second romance enhancing the exhilarating story line, fans will want to hold on as Stephanie Tyler completes her best friends' SEALS trilogy with a rousing roller coaster finish.
Too Hot To Hold
Several years ago the U.S. Navy informed investigative reporter Kaylee Smith that her husband Aaron died while on a mission in Africa. She moved on, but now Aaron calls her from Africa and asks her to bring money with her. She looks at a list of contacts he left her consisting of people he saved. On the bottom is Navy SEAL Nick Devane, whom Aaron saved during the fatal mission that allegedly left him dead.
Nick wants to ignore Kaylee's call, but knows he cannot. When they meet he admits her spouse saved his life, but that the last time he saw Aaron he was alive and well. Both detest their mutual attraction and he wants her to stoop digging especially into his affluent childhood, but the scar on his throat reveals plenty to her. As a young teen Nick walked out of his dysfunctional family to move in with the family of his friend Chris Walden and another troubled teen Jake Hanson (see Hard to Hold) who also joined them; the friends became SEALs. When the FBI intervenes, Nick with Chris' help flees with Kaylee for Africa not knowing what to expect in the Congo; the last thing being love.
This is a super middle book that maintains the suspense that makes Hard to Hold a great thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Kaylee receives the stress call from the "dead" and only gets faster and hotter when she hotwires his Porsche until his car becomes ours that is if they survive the African ordeal. Fans need to Hold on Tight as Chris is next.
Crimson and Steam
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780505527790, $7.99, www.amazon.com
In Crimson City, Vampire Assembly leader Marius Dumonthas understands the significance of unity amidst the paranormals against the humans. In that regard he agrees to marry werewolf Princess Tatiana Asprey in a marriage of state to bring the shapeshifters and the bloodsuckers closer together although ironically his heart belongs to a member of the enemy species, human reporter Jillian Cooper.
Irate that her beloved dumped her for a loveless marriage of convenience, Jill turns her attention to recently converted human-turned-vampire Hayden Wilks. Meanwhile at the nuptials, a vampire arrives dying from a human-made virus. Marius and Jill unite seeking a cure that leads them to 1851 diaries by draper Charlotte Paxton who describes her ill-fated relationship with scientist Edward Vaughan. At the Great Exhibition of London, Edward released the "Blood-Taint" that changed Victorian England and subsequently the world.
The latest Crimson City thriller is a super entry with the key to the story line, Liz Maverick's magical transitions back and forth between the middle nineteenth century and today as few if any authors could do this as smoothly and seemingly effortlessly. The past subplot also provides readers with more information on what happened t o cause the Blood Taint. Marius and Jill seem like star-crossed (star-species) lovers as he must choose responsibility over love. Fans will relish the latest tale as this great urban romantic fantasy saga continues to be one of the best on the market.
The Phoenix Charm
Helen Scott Taylor
Michael O'Connor possesses a powerful fairy glamour that propels women to want him. Cordelia acts anything but a wise woman when she sees him half naked in her divination magical mirror. She vows to ignore him as magic disallows her from revealing to him who she is although she is falling in love with him. Having met, he considers her a pest, but secretly knows he wants her too.
When the Welsh King of the Underworld Gwyn ap Nudd, abducts Michael's infant nephew Fin, Cordelia joins him to rescue his relative. As they work together, Cordelia fears her attraction is blinding her to reality; yet she wants Michael to help her dig into her essence; however they both recognize the baby comes first.
The second British Isles romantic fantasy (see The Magic Knot) is a fast-paced action thriller from the moment Cordelia sees the half nude hunk in her mirror and wants more and less at the same time. She and Michael make the tale as neither is comfortable with their attraction, but need each other to rescue his nephew. Fans will enjoy the exciting The Phoenix Charm.
With the murders of her father and her cousin, police officer Hailey Roarke has become the prime suspect as she has the motive of inheritance. Ironically Hailey became a cop because she preferred law enforcement over the profitable family business. However, now Hailey races against the real killer trying to solve the riddle of the six statues in order to control Roarke Resorts. Thus she breaks into the home of her late cousin to steal a bronze statue.
Detective Shane Maxwell is assigned the two homicide cases. He and Hailey met at his sister's wedding and he was instantly attracted to her. Although he knows she might have killed her cousin and even her father, Shane risks his career and perhaps his life to help her solve her father's puzzler and prove her innocence.
The third Stolen thriller (see Fury and Heat) is once again more an action investigative tale than a romance as the lead couple focuses on the inquiry more than their attraction. This makes the tale work as it did in Stolen Heat although as previous the romance is powerful while enhancing the whodunit. Fans will enjoy the efforts of Hailey and Shane as they fall in love while he decides between arresting her for murder and making love with her.
Sex on the Beach
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425232163, $15.00, www.amazon.com
"War of the Sexes". In Belize to host a wedding, planner Sarah McCann shares a night of lovemaking with the groom's best friend Freeman Lafontaine but turns polar frigid when she learns he plans to destroy the nuptials as he believes his BF is making a big mistake.
"Sex With the Proper Stranger". Part of the wedding party, he brings model Tamiko Sato as his companion in Belize, but she fears she is colder than a polar icecap as she cannot turn on her mate; unaware he is gay. She revises her estimate of her equatorial torrid libido after meeting resort owner, Ric Nunez.
"Sexy Exes." Parents of the bride, Giovanna and James Moncrieff are still at tropical love and tundra war with one another; as they have been for decades.
These three erotic interrelated romances that tie back to the wedding lives up to its title of Sex on the Beach as the gala lead to hot sex and cold relationships outside of B and B (beach and bed). Although entertaining, the novella format limits character development to not much more than their libido. Still fans will enjoy attending the hottest wedding of the season; just bring your significant other with you.
XTV is an adult only cable station that hires actors to perform in reality shows, host naked news casts or conduct sex interviews. In other words 24/7 of all the sex worth showing and some not worth revealing but showing anyway.
Owner Babylona loves to get into the lives of her employees. Zaza looks forward to sexual encounters on live TV with the rich, famous, and endowed. Emily the talk show hostess interviews the rich and famous, but has her own secret with a rich and famous. Finally vicious news anchor Valerie loves to expose the rich and famous laying bare their secrets and their bodies. At an orgy in Germany, the four females will open up more than just their vaginas.
Show Me takes an acerbic bite out of reality TV using sex as the method of choice. Though will written with a strong lampooning premise, the problem is none of the XTV cast comes across as likable, which in turn makes the satirical spin seem somewhat mean-spirited and lacking Hart. Still erotic fans will enjoy Carole Hart's entertaining heated version of reality TV.
When she broke her leg, she broke her dream of becoming a ballerina. However, she has no time to mope as she has a daughter to raise. So needing a change of scenery, Elise and her child leave New York for the Left Coast Seattle.
Her next door neighbor tattoo parlor owner Brody Brown gave up his dreams to raise his siblings when their parents died. He rides a motorcycle as he seeks the wild side he gave up out of family responsibility. Brody and Elise are not looking for any involvement beyond casual sex so why each wonders do they want more in their relationship. However, when New York comes to Seattle, Elise keeps Brody out of her trouble that has followed her and her daughter from the Right Coast to Washington State; but he refuses to stay out of it as this is his two females.
This is a heated contemporary romance starring the Brown family patriarch and his new neighbor. Both have baggage, but the most important thing in their fling is not to harm her daughter. Fans will enjoy love between two likable individuals who cannot stop their nurturing need to help and the heat of desire from exploding while their love for one another ignites them. Lauren Dane is two for two with the Brown saga, but fans will have to cope with the wait for the next Brownian romance.
June of the Cornhusker Ball
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781441540362, $19.99, www.amazon.com
Her mom passed away five years ago, but though the loss was hard, June Whitley Horroa had no major problem moving on because she had Aunt V who in many ways has been a surrogate mom to her for years. In 2005, June has come home to Richmond, Virginia where her family is part of the elite upper class living on Monument Ave.
She wonders about Aunt Vivian's late husband Uncle Bill who died years ago when he was young. When Vivian becomes ill, she insists on telling June the truth about her heritage starting in 1942 when her beloved Bill begged her to take him back after he left Sally; she pleaded with him to fix her indiscretion as the Negro Howard who has a family and she had an affair leaving her pregnant. Stunned and ignoring her problems with Meniere's, June begins digging into her past finding a concealed trapped door that stuns her as her family was involved in international intrigue with Nazis and local southern intrigue with African-Americans. The more she digs, the more she learns that her white bread upper crust family ha s a lot of fascinating passionate skeletons; some of whom still live and love especially when musing about the Corn Huskers Ball.
The cast throughout especially June, Vivian and the rest of the family past and present are a strong fully developed crowd who bring to life Richmond circa 1942, 2005 and several pivotal dates in between. Fans will relish this fine family drama as amateur sleuth June begins her investigation into her twentieth century roots especially looking closely at the relationship between Howard and Vivian. Summed up nicely by Freud, that sometimes a "cigar is just a cigar", but sometimes it is much more if one is willing to risk what he or she thought they knew about their extended family.
The Things That Keep Us Here
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440245094, $25.00, www.amazon.com
Peter and Ann Brooks separate after he informs her he does not love her. A year later single mom Ann works and raises their two daughters. She learns that the virulent form of H5N1 virus has reached phase five, leading to the closing of all schools by the feds. Accompanied by her neighbor Ann goes to the store fearing quarantine so she stocks up on necessities. When Ann returns home, she finds her estranged husband and his co-worker Shazia there.
Ann invites them in to stay for now but in separate beds. The Feds declare the anticipated quarantine in which everyone is to remain indoors. Over time as the pandemic spreads, the people inside the Brooks' home become claustrophobic; food supplies dwindle as she bought for herself and two youngsters and not two additional adults; electricity goes out during a storm; and firewood is low. Ann's best friend is dying from the virus so leaves her son in front of Ann's house. She fears bringing the child inside as the disease is probably incubating inside him, but Peter overrules her. Peter also takes care of a stray dog whose owner died, but Ann resents his using their dwindling food he gives to the child and canine. Everyone remains in danger unless a vaccine is manufactured as half the population is dead, others are dying, and sustenance supplies are becoming scarce.
The Brooks family trials, tribulations and triumphs serve as a microcosm of what is faced by other people throughout the world. Some become heroic helping the needy; others try to protect their immediate loved ones; and finally those exist who commit legal and moral crimes. Ann owns this apocalyptic thriller as she feels strongly that her kids come before others in an imploding world gone mad; the opposite of Peter. In her debut, Carla Buckley provides a thought-provoking thriller that asks her readers who would they become if civilization somewhat vanished.
Thereby Hangs a Tail
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781416585855, $25.00, www.amazon.com
Chet's human pet Bernie Little is a private investigator, whom the canine helps solve cases by using his nose and bark. Their current client is Countess Adelina di Borghese from Passaic, New Jersey, who lives on an expensive ranch with plenty of horses also residing there as she has come a long way from being an urban Jersey girl. Bernie has been hired because of threats to her and her pampered dog show-dog Princess. The case is an utter bore to Chet and tedious to Bernie as nothing happens and barking is disallowed.
However, the situation on the ground changes when the Countess and her royal canine princess are kidnapped and dog-napped respectively. The search and rescue mission goes badly as Chet is separated from Bernie only to be snatched and sold to a punk running away to Alaska. Escaping this miscreant Chet ends up having the military try to kill him when he accidentally wanders on to an exercise site to take a decent leak. However, Bernie becomes truly motivated when reporter Susie Sanchez disappears while covering the abduction of Princess story. Chet's motive is doggie treat and a hero's welcome, canine style from one of the snobbish victims.
The key to this canine noir told mostly by Chet in between bodily needs is that first and foremost he comes across as a dog and not a "human" inside a canine's skin. Chet makes the tale of the tail as he relates stories or follows clues partially only to be sidetracked by a need like a good tree or a cat. The kidnapping story line is well written and entertaining as fans will enjoy Chet's escapades Dog On It in a world in which humans make stupid rules of where to pee, mount, bark, bite, and eat as if canines are the ones not doing what comes natural.
The Wild Zone
Married Tom Whitman is in the Wild Zone in the South Beach section of Miami Beach with his friend Jeff Rydell and Jeff's visiting half-brother, Princeton grad student Will. A few male bonding drinks later leads to the duo betting on whom has sex with the bartender Suzy Bigelow first. Flash tempered Jeff has his live-in lover Kristen who works at the bar talk with Suzy.
Suzy chooses to go out on a date with the safe one Will. However, though she seems cute and innocent, Suzy hides from her date that she has a nasty abusive husband Dave waiting for her as she sees the innocent one, his older sibling and their wild eyed friend as the answer to end her personal nightmare. Tom also has serious issues having been dishonorably discharged from the military after some incidents in the Afghan theatre; his wife Lainey knows what caused his issues but is so frightened of him she files for divorce and flees with their kids. Soon all will collide in a clash in the Wild Zone where each will soon learn the meaning of "proceed at your risk".
This is a super Miami Beach thriller starring a strong ensemble cast with a great final twist. Each of the key players is fully developed to include their hidden agendas so that the audience understands their motives while wondering how a drunk-induced joke of a bet could turn so nasty. Joy Fielding is at her best with this impossible to put down tale.
Emma Hunt has dedicated her life to her son Jacob who suffers with Asperger's syndrome. Her sacrifice has come with personal lost and cost as her career was pushed aside; her ex-husband Henry the computer programmer left as he worked at home and could not concentrate with the tantrums; and her other son Theo three years younger than Jacob is expected to watch over him when mom cannot, but ignored otherwise by her as he cannot even get his permit. She lives to protect Jacob and Theo understands that the prime house rule is take care of your brother.
However, her efforts to give her soon a life fall apart when the police charge eighteen years old Jacob with the murder of Jess Ogilvy. His inability to understand non verbal signs and comprehend social nuances puts Jacob at risk. Desperate, she hires Oliver O. Bond as Jacob's lawyer.
This is a super look at Asperger's Syndrome, but not just the person suffering from it, but also the impact on family members especially Theo. The murder mystery tales a back seat even in the courtroom to how Henry thinks and reacts to senses overload, which can be simply crinkling of paper. Rotating perspective between family members, the lawyer and others, fans obtain a deep look at the total impact of Asperger's Syndrome.
Days of Gold
When Edilean Talbot leaves England for Scotland in 1766 to live with her uncle, she feels out of place. However, worse she is despondent because rather than take care of her, he is marrying her to one of his odious friends once she turns eighteen so they can use the gold she inherited from her late father.
Although he believes no good deed goes unpunished, Angus McTern agrees to help her escape from her nefarious uncle. Both must flee Scotland as she runs from an unwanted marriage and he from the law accusing him of kidnapping her. He escorts her by pretending to be her husband, across the ocean to the colonies though he also conceals he loves her. However, upon reaching Boston, they separate, but meet soon afterward when mutual friends help Edilean with an adversary.
This historical prequel to Lavender Morning provides readers the background to the founders of Edilean, Virginia, but readers do not need to have read the second tale to enjoy this fun Georgian romance. The story line is fast-paced with a damsel in distress theme enhanced by the hero seeming to always get in trouble when he rescues her. Although the cast is somewhat stereotyped, the plot is refreshed by Angus who cannot prevent himself from rescuing Edilean, which he knows is trouble with the law, her enemies, and his heart.
The Boys from Santa Cruz
In 1985, FBI special agent E.L. Pender was working a serial killer case in Marshall City, California when he and others went after Luke Sweet, maker of snuff films and his Trannie significant other, Teddy Swantzer. Neither Luke nor Teddy survived the police assault.
However, Sweet's teenage son at the time Little Luke lived knowing he will always be ostracized as the son of a serial killer as he is locked away in an asylum. Now a decade later, twenty-five years old Little Luke has a list of those who he blames for his misfortunate life; they must die. When the asylum explodes, everyone assumes Little Luke is dead except Pender, who fears the son is following the father with the recent murder of his grandparents. Pender returns to Santa Cruz, but a serial killer Asmador is following Little Luke's list, murdering people on it; Pender knows he is on it.
The newest Pender FBI thriller (see Twenty-seven Bones, The Girl He Adored and When She Was Bad) is a super tale that grips the audience from the opening act when Luke calls Little Luke to tell him sh*t is coming as the FBI was closing in on him. From there the tale never misses a beat as a decade later the apparent retaliatory murders begin. The suspense is incredible making it nearly impossible to put down The Boys from Santa Cruz as Pender stalks his stalker.
c/o Penguin Putnam
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780525951445, $26.95, www.amazon.com
In San Francisco private investigator Wyatt Hunt is feeling the economic down turn as clients are almost nonexistent. His receptionist Tamara Dade quit leaving Wyatt with one employee her brother, Mickey, who is bored and wants field work, but no clients hire the firm.
Mickey has his chance when he finds the body of activist Dominic Como, who was on the board of over a dozen charities. He persuades his boss to let him investigate, which should bring in fame and money. Several suspects surface with strong motives from money to jealousy, but the prime person that Hunt and Dade focus on is Alicia Thorpe; and not just because she is beautiful, but due to her acting as if she is concealing something from the cops and the sleuths.
The latest Wyatt Hunt private investigator case (see The Hunt Club) is a fast-paced thriller that seems to go nowhere until a final gala with cops and suspects so that the hero can pull a dead rabbit out of the hat. Still Treasure Hunt is fun to follow as Wyatt and Mickey work the city streets to solve the case of the charity mogul murder.
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385341455, $15.00, www.amazon.com
Eve and Adam love their life in the Garden of Eden. However, paradise is lost when Eve seduced by Lucifer as much as by her curiosity persuades Adam to take an apple bite from the Tree of Knowledge forbidden fruit. Saddened but a believer in the original tough love, Elohim kicks the pair from the Garden and into the harsh cruel world.
Over the next few years, the previously pampered pair struggle, but finally turn it around as their home becomes a safe haven to raise kids and drink beer with figs and grapes. They have several children as Adam believes in barefoot and pregnant. Abel is a sheepherder; Cain becomes a farmer, Seth the favorite provides solace to his mom; Naava is a weaver; Dara is a potter; and Aya the healer remains invisible to her family. Cain turns away from Elohim to the Sumerian fertility goddess Inanna while his sister Naava seduces him into taking her to the nearby city. Naava is jealous that Dara works for the prince, so she marries the prince. Outraged by her betrayal Cain causes a riot that displaces the first family and soon commits fratricide.
This dysfunctional family drama makes for an enjoyable biblical biographical fiction in which they needed a shrink. The story line leaps around as perspective is rotated. Eve grows in her job as the first mom after being kicked to the curb by God due to the original sin. Her daughters even "invisible" Aya come across as fully developed in part because they tell the saga while the males are not fleshed out beyond their roles of supporting the women who dominate their lives. Although except for the setting, the First family feels like an American brood sent back to the first days, fans will enjoy the novelization of Eve and her clan.
The U.S. Military Attache to Turkey, Colonel Emmet Portman vanishes for three days. When he is found dead in his home in Istanbul, alarm spreads amidst the American government. Whoever killed Portman tortured him before brutally murdering him.
Air Force Office of Special Investigations Special Agents Vin Cooper and Anna Masters arrive in Istanbul to investigate the gruesome homicide; as Vin puts it they are USAF internal affairs cops. However, before they can begin their inquest, other associates of the late Colonel are also killed in horrific ways. The obvious response is a serial killer is on the loose. However, the victims are diverse and vary in what is left behind; the only commonality is the abduction and execution are done with military precision.. However, with Portman's email being erased, Vin and Anna wonder why a crazed killer would do something of this sort making them wonder if someone needed to conceal something, but what and who remain elusive. As the two agents investigate on non-verbal terms (one can say a lot with a one finger salute) while the body count rises, they begin to uncover a military conspiracy to encourage coups to topple Middle Eastern governments, but neither is sure how to expose it without harming American interest; that is if they live long enough to do so.
This is an entertaining over the top thriller that has the audience accompanying the bickering lead couple (arguing when they rarely talk to each other) as they hop the globe starting in the Middle East going on to Africa and Tennessee. Fans will enjoy the action and the rapidity of the story line but what makes the tale fun is the lead couple working a deadly international case once again (see The Death Trust) while on non-speaking terms ever since she informed him she is "Dancing on the Ceiling" for JAG lawyer Col. Richard "Dick Wad" Wadding.
Near Serenade, Tennessee, the remains of a butchered man and woman are found. The FBI Special Crimes Unit (SCU) led by Bishop and including his wife Miranda is sent to investigate. The unit moves into a nearby B&B, and quickly concludes that the male was meant for immediate finding while the female was not.
Meanwhile a sniper begins killing people and something is interfering with the special skills of the SCU team. Unsure of Hollis Templeton's rapidly changing paranormal skills since Touching Evil. and he does not want to use Special Investigator Diana Brisco as the Lodge incident is thirty crow miles away (see Chill of Fears). However, Bishop has no choice. The only hope SCU has to stop what they increasingly believe is an inhuman evil is Diana using her unique psychic ability that enables her to walk in what she calls the void of color Gray Time to communicate with spirit guides. However she must be careful how long her spirit remains in Gray Time as too long means never returning to her body; an adversary plans to strand her there.
This is an exciting Special Crimes Unit police procedural in which several team members play key roles including others not mentioned above. A glossary after the novel provides a who's who of SCU and their skills and appearances; this helps keep track as twelve members participate as do the Haven Operatives (bios also in the back). The story line is fast-paced from the moment local Pageant County Sheriff sexagenarian Duncan tells Miranda that neither he nor his department has ever seen let alone handle a case like this one and never takes a stuttering step from there. Fans of SCU will relish the twelfth SCU investigation as someone or something has brought the team to Tennessee to destroy them physically and spiritually.
The Secret of Everything
Following the total disaster in Montana, thirty seven years old hiking tour guide Tessa Harlow returns home to her father Sam the surfer dude in Santa Cruz. While her foot is in a cast healing, mentally Tessa thinks about her birthplace, Las Ladronas, New Mexico. Tessa decides it is time to truly go home.
In Las Ladronas, Tessa meets single dad Vince Grasso and his three girls (Natalie, Hannah and Jade). Vince and Tessa become lovers, but she warns him she is a rolling stone so will one day leave as a "wanderer" does. Tessa also investigates her past starting with the 100 Breakfasts diner. As she and Vince fall in love, the kids come first.
This is an engaging character study as Barbara O'Neal gets deep into the spirit of each key player, which is more than just the charming quintet. The story line is driven by a combination of romance, children in need of a caring mom, the mental healing power of delicious food, and a bit of mystery of what happened to the little girl who left town almost three decades ago. In spite of quoting Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, the climax is too abrupt resolving issues wider than the state in a flash. Still The Secret of Everything is worth reading as Ms. O'Neal reveals the poignant answer as Tessa finds her Tao in this enchanting tale.
Shaye Areheart Books
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, #B1, New York, NY 10019-4305
9780307395863, $22.00, www.amazon.com
Ever since she accidentally burned down the home of a classmate as a teen during a temper rage, Alice Tatnall has just wanted to be accepted as a person and not as "Arson Girl". The incident cost her a college scholarship and forced her to accept work at Zip Candies. There she meets the confectioner's heir Howard "Howdy" Ziplinsky, ten years older than her and Jewish. They fall in love and marry, but she remains ostracized by the family as the "Arson Girl". Two kids (Julie and Jacob) and working diligently at Zip Candies apparently is not enough to overcome that one transgression even though over three decades have passed.
In an affidavit, the fiftyish Alice explains the history of the company that she cherishes. Zip's was started by impoverished Hungarian immigrant Eli Czaplinsky who developed his famous first candies like Little Sammies and Mumbo Jumbos from teaching himself English after stealing a copy of the controversial Little Black Sambo from the library. She further explains connections to a runaway slave, Nazis and the Little Susies crisis as well as her relationship with Howard who is in Madagascar while she battles his avaricious sister Irene who plans a hostile takeover in order to strip the company of its assets for her personal gain.
Using a legal affidavit as a neat gimmick to tell the tale of a candy company and its extended owning family, True Confections is a delightful story that is at its best when the plot pulls no punches as it explores racism in the confectionary world. The cast is solid though seen through the filter of Alice who at times cleverly hesitates on her true confessions re confections. This is a deep look at a person who has found her life making candy and the company that she cherishes; especially the roots.
9780982158098, $14.95, www.amazon.com
Record executive Tara Stevens leaves the New York scene after munching on the Big Apple for Los Angeles and the Left Coast as a V.P of the Hip-Hop Promotions of Big-Time Records. There she reconnects with her high school boyfriend advertising director Dorian Daniels.
His best friend attorney Christian James is tired of the lame date scene. When a teen rams into the car of Registered Nurse Nona Jones, her vehicle hits Christian's wheels. They hit it off figuratively. Although attracted to one another, neither is aware they will also meet in a courtroom re the Jackson memorial case.
However, Dorian and Christian have issues that keep each from committing to the woman they respectively love. Tara and Nona want more from Dorian and Christian, but neither is able to move past the Excess Baggage that loads down their hearts.
Rotating viewpoint, aptly titled Excess Baggage is a wonderful contemporary African-American romance with four strong protagonists. Each, especially the males, carry bags as the back cover sums the plot with its vivid depiction of bags of frustration, bitterness, disappointment, neglected, sex, envy and shame. Yet built on those lower two bases of the pyramid is enthusiasm, attraction and at the top love if they give their respective relationships a chance. Fans will root for the two couples to make it, but to do so, each especially the males must move past their demons.
A Good Knife's Work
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
9781594148415, $25.95, www.amazon.com
In 1946 Hollywood screenwriter Lauren Atwell and her boyfriend private investigator Peter Winslow flee the Los Angeles media for New York where she has obtained work on the popular radio serial Adam Drake, For Hire. However, the show is canceled when someone stabbed to death producer Hazel Keane in her locked door office on the eighth floor of the Emory Building.
Lauren uses a pseudonym to obtain work on the rival show Love Always whose offices is on the same floor in the same building as that of Adam Drake at the same the insurance company hires Peter to investigate. The pair uncovers several suspects with motives, but opportunity remains out of reach.
The latest Lauren Atwill historical mystery (see Starstruck Dead) is an enjoyable locked door whodunit that brings to life radio at a time when series were performed over the airwaves. The story line is fast-paced especially once the homicide occurs. With a terrific cast who brings alive radio just after WWII and mindful of Radioland Murders (even if that occurs prior to America's entry into the war and is more a screwball comedy), A Good Knife Work is a well written super tale as much for its strong whodunit as its fabulous setting.
Her Highness' First Murder
In 1546, Londoners are frightened as a serial killer beheads young women and dresses them in nun's garb with rosary. The victims were all loose so no one in power cared. However, the murders come to the castle when a member of twelve years old Princess Elizabeth's retinue is killed.
She and two friends, physician's son Simon Maldon and Captain of the king's Welsh Guard Hugh Bellows, begin to investigate while trying to conceal the princess' role from her father, her ailing brother and her older sister. Their inquiry works as witnesses describe a tall man wearing a decorated cloak at several crime scenes. Still they have too many suspects while struggling with a lack of motive.
The Key to this delightful royal historical amateur sleuth is readers will believe the tweener princess and her allies are credible as detectives as they investigate across sections of all social classes residing in London. Although Elizabeth has been an investigator in other series (Karen Harper comes to mind), fans will enjoy her as a mid sixteenth century Nancy Drew.
Dead on Arrival
In Memphis, Tennessee Horace Murphy dies in a motorcycle accident. He leaves behind his widow Maggie with financial issues as her health care ends in sixty days and counting down. Her Aunt Myrtle calls in a blood kin threat favor with her Cuz Hank Hanover at the Herald. Maggie temporarily replaces columnist Fritz Wartz who has failed to show up for work in a couple days. The job becomes permanent when she finds her predecessor's corpse neat the paper's dumpster; the Star of David etched into his forehead.
Police detectives Joe Driver and Alan Hill lead the inquiry. Maggie investigates the hate homicide. She is grateful to Joe who looks into Horace's death although he is convinced before he begins the cute widow's spouse died in an accident. That changes when someone firebombs her home just after she moved out and she was in an accident that suddenly looks sinisterly deliberate.
This is an entertaining zany paranormal cozy in which "Pollyanna", the ghost of her late husband, the cop, her aunt, Evil Elvira and others investigate the two deaths that impact the heroine. Although Maggie fails to come across as a grieving desperate widow under siege from unknown adversaries and spirits as she is always rosy optimism, even when she gets irritated at someone she tells them off in a kindhearted manner; still fans will root for her. Readers who delight in something a bit different will enjoy her southern sleuthing with living, dead, and a few difficult to say which side of the spectrum they reside on as her compatriots.
Bits and Pieces
In Scottsdale, Arizona, an explosion in their home kills Kate Upland and her five-year-old twin daughters. The police believe Kate's husband, an Iraq veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, killed his family as Kenny is an explosives expert.
Six months later, Senior Guild elderly quilter Clare Patterson sees Kenny featured on TV's Wanted Criminals and knows him from St. Rose bazaars when he and his three females would attend; now she recognizes him at a Big-mart. Clare calls her St. Rose quilting friend Maggie Browne while following Kenny as he leaves town. When Clare crashes near his rustic hideaway, Kenny rescues her. He persuades her he may suffer from PTSD, but would never harm his family.
The third St. Rose Quilting Bee cozy (see A Phantom Death and An Ominous Death) is an interesting mystery that starts with a whisper, but never gets much louder as the action is limited for the most part. The cast is solid especially the lead trio of Maggie, Clare and Kenny as he pleads his defense to the two women that he did not kill his family. Although more a character study of a PTSD veteran than a whodunit (if not him), fans will enjoy Kenny making a case that he is innocent.
A Deadly Wilderness
In San Antonio, Texas, homicide detective Ray "Bible Boy" Johnson is hiking with two youngsters (Benny and Marco) when his girlfriend Susana Acosta's eight-year-old son Marco falls down a ravine and lands near the body of Joey Doyle. Ray falls also trying to prevent Marco from falling. Ray suffers a concussion, rib and ankle injuries while Marco has a broken wrist.
The killer cut off Joey's ring finger as apparently some sort of souvenir so Ray knows this was a homicide. He calls his boss Sergeant Samuel Martinez, who is Susana's brother. Sam assigns Ray's in your face partner Detective Deborah Smith to be in charge of the investigation and tells Ray to stay out of it and heal. Since Joey is the son of a wealthy car dealership owner, the cops focus on his extended family. Meanwhile Lalo Hernandez knows the corpse he dumped in the ravine was found too soon so he may have to do some additional cleaning starting with two witnesses and perhaps the cop and kids, his style.
This is an entertaining inspirational police procedural with a strong cast (no pun intended). The inquiry is top rate while the characters have real issues. For instance, Susana worries about her son's safety and the incident affirms her belief while Deborah has her own demons. Hernandez is a sinister villain who is the opposite of caring Bible Boy Ray who is a true believer. Although dubbed Bible Boy and Mr. Grace, Ray does not shove Christianity down the throats of his peers, his beloved and the readers as the super investigation is the story line.
Wolf in Tiger's Stripes
Environmental journalist Judith Theresa Bryan is excited about her latest assignment in Tasmania except she must work with traitorous Derek Innes, who has stolen stories from her and others. Allegedly Australian stockman Bevan Keene claims to have spotted the extremely rare Tasmanian tiger; a species most people believe is extinct.
Bevan and two of his friends Roberta Jardine and Ted Norton lead an expedition that includes Judith, Derek and others into the remote Tarkien Wilderness. However, his hardest two missions are keeping the environmentalists and the others from killing one another and keeping his wanker from constantly saluting Judith.
Wolf in Tiger's Stripes is a fun Tasmanian safari romance starring two likable lead characters, an odious twit, enemy combatants re the environment and the legendary tiger. The support cast is strong and not just because kick butt Roberta could make a horde of Tasmanian Devils submit as each has differing personalities. The story line with a terrific final twist is fast-paced from the onset when Judith admits to herself that the macho man turns her on and never slows down as the audience roots for "Tiger Dundee" (no crocodiles in sight) and the reporter to make it and almost as much for Derek to trip over his ego.
My Zombie Valentine
Katie MacAlister, et al.
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843963601, $7.99, www.amazon.com
"Gentlemen Prefer Voodoo" by Angie Fox. Voodoo practitioner Amie Baptiste concocts a love spell to bring her soulmate to her. However she would ask for her money back if some other voodoo queen sent whom the magic brought forth to her.
"Bring Out Your Dead" by Katie MacAlister. Zombie life coach and English instructor to the undead Ysabelle Raleigh meets Sebastian, a vampire who claims she is his long lost beloved. She scoffs at his insistence though she thinks he is kind of cute. He must persuade her that he is serious and not just handing out a line for a quick bite in between battling despondent zombies and a teenage vampire. This entry was published as part of the Just One Sip anthology.
"Zombiewood Confidential" by Marianne Mancusi. Unaware that art imitates life even in horror movies; makeup artist Scarlett Patterson accepts a job on a B horror flick in order to work with actor Mason Marks. She quickly learns real life contains its share of horror.
"Every Part of You" by Lisa Cach. Angelica Sequiera visits the plastic surgeon for a minor fix but ends up on a date with Tom Haggerty.
These four lighthearted paranormal romances are fun fantasies starring heroines who are unsure whether to run from or towards their beloved.
Faith Ackerly is happy for her sister Grace who loves her spouse (see Grace). However, she has no interest in finding a husband for herself.
Faith especially wants nothing to do with infamous rake Gareth Lloyd, who has just received his title. However, she admits to herself, he seems serious about performing the responsibilities attached to his new position and not just remain a more affluent wastrel; but ultimately she concludes a leopard cannot change its spots. To her chagrin, she is attracted to the womanizer. To make matters worse, a gossip catches her kissing Gareth at a ball. Compromised, they marry and head to his estate where he plans to persuade his bride that they belong with one another; if each moves past their fears of love.
Although some besides Herman's Hermits will say "second verse same as the first", Faith and Gareth make a fine couple who go through a similar amusing gender war like Grace and Trevor did with the fresh twist of their battles occurring after they are forced to marry. The cast is strong led by a spunky female who prefers being a spinster on the shelf rather than finding a husband; let alone forced to marry a wastrel whom she loves. Readers will enjoy Deneane Clark's lighthearted historical frolic.
Blazing Bedtime Stories, Volume III
Tori Carrington and Tawny Weber:
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373795178, $4.99, www.amazon.com
"The Body That Launched a Thousand Ships" by Tori Carrington. Greek-American Elena Anastasios accepts the marriage proposal of Greek magnate Manolis Philippidis, a close friend of her late father. Encouraged by her widowed mom, she and her family live in luxury like royalty rather than in a water-stained Seattle apartment. All seems perfect until she meets Ari Metaxas.
"You Have to Kiss a Lot of Frogs" by Tawny Weber. Magazine writer Sebastian Lane is cursed with impotency when he investigates the sexual proclivities of the members of a witch's club. He will remain impotent until he puts a woman's needs before his own and his delicate condition will haunt him. The daughter of his boss Jordan Oliver is assumed to be an idle rich female who struggles to get anyone to accept she is intelligent and wants to do something with her life. They meet at her father's cabin where he has that chance the witches demanded of him, but will he accept Jordan's needs sincerely or revert to form?
These are two heated novellas in which a lead protagonist in each tale confronts morality issues. Although the format limits development of key characters including lovers, fans will enjoy Tori Carrington's Elena and Tawny Weber's Sebastian having to choose between what each knows is the morally correct answer vs. the expedient response.
Twice As Hot
Paranormal investigator, Belle Jamison is still learning her new job while planning her marriage to shapeshifter Rome Masters whom she met when she was Playing with Fire. However since the mad scientist spiked her latte she can control, well almost control, the four elements. Of course putting your wedding dress ablaze makes life a wee bit difficult, but Rome is there for her; now that he is not trying to neutralize her.
However, the real calamity and not just minor roach stressors, is when Memory Man erases from Rome's mind that he even met Belle, let alone fell in love with her. Instead the only woman Rome remembers is his nasty former wife Lexie. Although hurting, Belle, accompanied by her empathic partner Tanner, plans to kick some butts starting at the top of her list with Memory Man.
The latest Tales of an Extraordinary Girl (see Playing with Fire) returns Belle, still hesitant about using her new powers especially as she learns frustration and anger could lead to out of control reactions. She is particularly upset with what has happened to her fiance and their relationship which is so out of control due to Memory Man and Lexie. She has to keep the collateral damage to an absolute minimum; superhero gigs are not easy. Fans will enjoy Gena Showalter's latest amusing chick lit superhero romance as Belle's constantly changing list sums up how she feels.
The Next Best Thing
Over five years ago, Lucy Lang joined the extended family club when her spouse Jimmy died. Like her mom, aunts and cousins, she is just another Black Widow mourning their losses at the family bakery. However as she turns thirty Lucy feels her suburban biological clock ticking so she decides to end her sexual only relationship with Jimmy's brother Ethan Mirabelli to find a new husband who will turn her into a soccer mom, but she must never love him or the family curse will occur.
Loving her from first sight Ethan rejects Lucy's kicking him to the curb to marry someone else. Unlike her, he is not afraid to defy his parents, owners of Gianni's Ristorante Italian, as he did when he dropped out of culinary school to go corporate. He knows she fears what her heart is telling her as she does not want to be a widow twice before she reaches forty, but Ethan cannot deal with his beloved with someone else so begins his campaign to make his Lucy pick him "Instead".
Kristan Higgins provides her audience with a warm contemporary romance filled with pathos and humor as a strong cast make for a wonderful tale. Ethan is a man on a mission, but recognizes his obstinate beloved is very determined to find a spouse; they agree on her being married, but not to whom. The Next Best Thing to eating cannoli with your significant other is reading Ms. Higgins' engaging story.
McKettricks Of Texas: Tate
Linda Lael Miller
When Libby Remington was a child, her mom deserted her. She was still young when her father died. Finally she fell in love with Tate McKettrick, but he ended their relationship to marry the woman Cheryl he made pregnant when he got too drunk to know better.
In Blue River, Texas divorced Tate visits Libby at the Perk Up Coffee Shop to beg for a second chance. She wants to say yes, but refuses as she fears he will break her heart again even though he swears he would do anything for her except give up his beloved six years old twins Audrey and Ava. However his former wife uses their kids as emotional blackmail to make Tate do what she wants which leaves a wedge between him and Libby.
The first McKettricks Of Texas tale is an entertaining second chance at love romance although there is a soap opera feel to the plot. The story line grips readers when Tate's brother Austin is hurt at the rodeo and never let's go until the finish. Although Cheryl is a drama queen and the twins too precocious, McKettrick fans will enjoy the opening act of a new trilogy.
Taking On Twins
Former Army Warrant Officer Corrine Sweetwater has not adjusted to life as a civilian after eight years active duty. She runs the kitchen of her family's Beat Creek Guest Ranch as if she still gives orders for subordinates to obey. She has run off three dishwashers in a short time.
Professional fisherman Greg Pfitser arrives with chaotic Belle the canine and even more out of control five years old twins Annie and Ben. At the Arizona guest ranch, he hopes to bond with the kids he just met and with the mechanical engineer turned food service supervisor. However, where she believes in discipline he prefers mellow so finding a compromise seems as likely as getting the Taliban to lay down their weapons.
This is a fun endearing ranch romance although finding a middle ground between this couple is like Republicans and Democrats working together, which would mean the Revelations' End of Days has begun. The story line is lighthearted fun, as the ex soldier and the fisherman fall in love encouraged by two wild youngsters and a garbage seeking dog.
Hill Country Hero
Collier "CiCi" Hurst knows the biggest mistake of her life was marrying cheating Green Bay Packer star Tank Tankersley who she assumes is illiterate though he has interest in libraries; or at least one librarian. Money is not an issue as Wisconsin is a community property state and he made a bundle. Back home in Houston she asks her daddy for a job at one of his car dealerships, but Texas Bob instead offers her a position as the NFL's last place Road Runner's mascot.
Star tight end Jake Culpepper assumes his former convict cousin Dwayne Scruggs wears the mascot outfit as he got him the job. He tackles the mascot out of ire for grand theft auto of his Porsche now in the repair shop only to find the boss' daughter inside. His penalty for "illegally sacking CiCi is time at Camp Touchdown working with inner-city kids and CiCi. As they fall in love, she has doubts about romancing another football dummy but poses one question to him: can he read?
This is a fun often amusing sports romance starring a woman who stereotypes football players as a group who obviously failed to play with helmets and a receiver who is unsure his hit on the boss' daughter is a good or bad thing. Fans will enjoy their gender battle while also containing a wonderful story of how much a professional athlete can bring to the community.
Jonas Slowman left the Navaho to fight as a Ranger, but has come home after leaving the army to enlist as a member of the secret Brotherhood of Warriors. His current assignment is tougher than any other even while deployed in war. The tribal leaders direct him to do whatever he must to keep Emily Atkins safe.
Knowing she is going blind from macular degeneration and grieving the recent death of her father Powell, Emily continues to build her bed and breakfast in spite of vandals sabotaging her project and funding crisis. To complicate matters he is attracted to her, but knows the timing is bad as he must be at peak performance to accomplish his mission. She is attracted to her guard, but has other problems besides a persistent hooligan destroying her property; trusted Brotherhood member Jonas' Uncle Dinetsoh has vanished along with bearer bonds Emily needs immediately.
This is a superb romantic suspense anchored by the Navaho Brotherhood (see Navaho Courage and Council of Fire) and the courage of the lead couple. The assault on Emily comes from several fronts as someone is wrecking her project and a developer wants her property at a time she needs funding. However the angst comes from her courageous outlook as she knows she is going blind and that Jonas "attacks" her heart. Readers will root for this brave woman and hope Jonas can protect her from her enemies while offering his soul to her. Aimee Thurlo is in top form with this great intrigue.
Two years ago in Comanche Cheek, Mayor's Assistant Marcie James was about to testify on an apparent illegal land deal. Keeping her safe was Texas Ranger Special Investigations Unit Lieutenant Wyatt Colter mission. However, just before Marcie was to take the stand she vanished without a trace. No one knows if she was murdered or ran. Marcie's best friend forensic anthropologist Nina Jacobson blames Wyatt for not doing his job although he took a bullet trying to keep Marcie safe. He also holds himself culpable for failing at that assignment.
When human bones are uncovered in the Comanche Creek area, Nina pulls strings to work the case. Wyatt does likewise; as he hopes to gain closure on a cold case that still haunts him. Their collision is off the Richter Scale as rage turns to love while he risks his life to keep her safe as someone has targeted Nina.
This is an exciting romantic police procedural starring two people who initially agree on one thing but one thing leads to another as the lead pair go from holding Wyatt responsible for Marcie's disappearance turns to love. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the bones are found and never slows down as Nina is stalked and Wyatt vows to keep her safe risking his life to do so. Although a late detracting twist of fate larger than Texas brings solution to the mystery, fans will appreciate this Silver Star of Tex as: Comanche Creek fine romantic suspense.
The youngest of the three Belle sisters, Skylar wants the family ranch foreman Cooper "Red" Yates fired. She asks her siblings Caitlyn and Madison to back her, but they say no as he is needed to save the spread. They also wonder if her persistence has less to do with his competency or as Sky claims his being an ex convict who she feels unsafe for her and her four year old daughter Kira, who suffers from juvenile rheumatoid artists, to have around; instead they believe she fears her attraction to their foreman.
Obstinate Sky vows to work with Red, who is uncomfortable with his boss lady because of her attitude towards him for a crime ironically he did not commit. However when Kira vanishes at the same her affluent paternal grandparents arrive to take the child away with them as they have the money and her reputation as a wild one to back their claim. Red shows his true value as he leads the search for his boss lady's daughter although by doing so he violates his probation, which if found out means returning to prison.
The third Belles of Texas contemporary ranch romance (see Caitlyn's Prize And Madison's Children) is a delightful tale as the "wild" sister proves to be a domestic lioness protecting her cub. The hero is courageous as he knows he will be caught violating the terms of his probation and returned to jail, but rescuing the little girl he loves as his own is paramount. Linda Warren is three for three with this family driven drama.
An Unlikely Setup
In Otter Tail, Wisconsin besides inheriting the home of her godfather David when he died, Maddie Johnson also was bequeathed the property where the Harp and Halo Irish pub is located. Maddie plans to sell everything to pay off her real estate debts and return to Chicago perhaps to obtain a reporter's job like she had at the Hera ld.
However, Maddie is taken aback to learn David had planned to sell the bar to Quinn Murphy who left her humiliated fifteen years ago. She realizes how much the bar means to him and reconsiders her first thought of selling the property while he considers devious seduction to have her sell to the lowest bidder; him. As they fall in love, someone else with no scruples has plans for the property.
The lead couple makes for a terrific contemporary romance as she suffers from humongous anxiety over her financial debts caused by the housing downturn and he fears commitment. The story line is driven by the dance of love between the duet with her wanting to sell him the bar for several reasons but needing more than he can afford; and he wanting her to partner in life and with the bar, but unable to emotionally afford the cost of offering his heart. Margaret Watson provides readers with a warm Wisconsin winter.
When his superiors at the NYPD 20th precinct failed to back him in a legitimate use of force due to the victim's father being influential and powerful, Nathan Fisher quits the police force. He answers an ad from his former partner Lindsay Fox who seeks an investigator for her private investigation firm. She reluctantly agrees to hire him as long as he understands she is in charge. He accepts her terms.
Nathan tries to prove to her he can do the job. Celia Buchard hires them to help prove her mom Audrey did not mean to shoot her spouse Maurice accidentally in the butt; he says he tried to kill her while she cannot remember the incident. As Lindsay and Nathan fall in love, her fear of relationships may end their partnership before it can gel.
This is an exhilarating investigative romance starring two fascinating Perfect Partners? Nathan loved being a cop so when the leadership failed to back him even with his being shot, his disenchantment is palpable. Lindsay has relationship issues as she prefers going alone when she breaks rules, which is why she left NYPD after only a year. Their falling in love may not be enough for this pair to truly partner professionally and personally as C.J. Carmichael provides a deep character driven contemporary.
Her Surprise Hero
In Atlanta because of a courtroom incident in a closet while assigned as the Acting Georgia Attorney General leads her father to exile attorney Cynthia Merritt to Stonewall Hollow, Georgia so she can gain needed experience sitting on a bench as a state court judge. She assumes overseeing cases in the rustic town will be a snap.
However, the work proves much more complicated than she expected. Worse is Ethan Granger, who works with community service juvenile offenders. He wants her out of his town and what he wants he gets. The townsfolk defend their crackerjack rancher over her, but Cynthia has won over Ethan although he still mistrusts the city slicker as being in town just enough to finish a half of cup of coffee.
The Third Merritt Girl contemporary romance (see Her So-Called Fiance and Her Secret Rival) is an enjoyable small town regional tale starring an ambitious daughter trying to prove her merit to her dad and a former felon trying to do better with his second chance. The story line is driven by this pair and their respective extended families. Abby Gaines provides her audience with a charming Georgia tale of second chances at life and love.
His Final Seduction
Avery Bode persuades her best friend Jorgina Gerard to join her on a wild fling with Eros Airlines and Fantasy resort. Although Jorgie has a zillion doubts, she eventually agrees probably because she assumes she has had nothing since she broke up with her last boyfriend Brian who admonished her for being conventional in the sack.
Avery and Jorgie get to the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport to fly to Venice to attend a seminar on how to "Make Love Like Courtesans." However, when Jorgie crashes into her high school secret crush Quint Mason, Avery switches to Hollywood for "Make Love Like a Movie Star". Quint asks Jorgie to pretend she wants him so the attendees will believe his method works. That is easy for her to sham as it is true. Avery is attracted to Eros cameraman Jake Stewart, who she shares romantic scenes on and off the stage. However both men conceal from the women they love that they are undercover Air Marshals working a sabotage investigation.
This is a "Wilde" tale filled with two heated romances on different continents, plenty of humor and suspense. The fast-paced story line grips readers with the strong relationships and the connecting sabotage investigation. Especially enjoyable is the relationship in Venice of Quint and Jorgie as she loves him but sees him as Peter Pan playing Casanova. Fans will enjoy this exciting romantic suspense with double the pleasure.
Proof by Seduction
In 1836 fortuneteller Madame Esmeralda is comfortable in her vocation as she feels she provides a service by informing her customers with information they need to know. Twelve years as Madame Esmeralda has made humble impoverished Jenny Keeble all but disappear.
Her favorite client Ned arrives with his cousin, Blakeley, Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely. Ned explains that Gareth is a skeptic that Madame can predict the future. A scientist just back from an expedition in Brazil, Gareth plans to prove Esmeralda is a fake. However is scheme to expose the charlatan has a major roadblock; his attraction to her, which makes him wonder if she is an enchantress, but wi ll he accept proof of the heart?
This is a terrific early Victorian romance starring a wonderful somewhat inflexible lead male and a totally unique female who challenges his decisions when everyone else fears to contradict his dictatorial rulings. The story line is fast-paced but driven by the relationship between the scientist and the fortuneteller. With a strong secondary cast starting with Ned, this reviewer can predict that sub-genre fans will relish Courtney Milan's delightful historical.
Baby Makes Six
In Florida Eddie and Shawn Wagner fell in love, get married, and had three darling precocious daughters (five years old Kit, four years old Mary and three years old Elsie). Their idyll life together collapses when Shawn miscarries. They divorce, but both love their little children so he is around a lot to see them.
The pair may no longer be married, but they remain attracted to one another. When they fall into a night of lust neither expected for Shawn to become pregnant again. However, she is not sure how to tell him as he has someone else Jayne and she knows her last pregnancy destroyed their marriage. Everything comes to a head when he is shot in the line of duty.
This is an entertaining second chance at love family drama. The key to the reflective tale is the cause of the break-up as neither move on past mourning the death of their unborn and are unable to help one another with their grief. Time heals all wounds aided by three precocious (perhaps too much) girls, a pregnancy and a bullet. Character driven including Jayne being a great person, fans will appreciate the charming yet intense Baby Makes Six.
The letter was delivered to single mom Phoebe Jennings, but was addressed to someone else on the other side of Cedarville, Ohio. She decides to deliver the note personally to architect Tate Williams though the postmark makes the letter four decades old.
Accompanied by her baby daughter Kayla, Phoebe is shocked to find Tate is her age as she assumed he would be much older due to the dated postmark. He explains he grew up in her house and the letter is probably addressed to his estranged dad. Phoebe and Tate are attracted to one another while he also finds Kayla precocious and charming. As the adults fall in love, Phoebe vows to reconcile Tate and his father who have been estranged for years.
Kayla's Daddy is en enjoyable contemporary romance starring two likable lead characters and a strong support cast. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Phoebe and Kayla deliver the forty year old postmarked letter to the "Cookie Monster". Fans will enjoy Laura Bradford's entreating Buckeye tale as Phoebe gives Tate more than just her love, she gives him special loving titles.
The Unbearable Lightness of Scones
Alexander McCall Smith
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307454706, $15.00, www.amazon.com
In Edinburgh six years old Bertie Pollock needs to escape the war between his parents over how to raise their kid. He would like to give them pointers but they are too obtuse with adult power to listen to their child. Instead he decides the cub scouts might be the perfect escape especially from his mom as Irene is stifling (not that he wants to go camping in the woods). Neither of his parents are fond of the idea that their darling wants to join the scouts; for that matter neither is Bertie.
Meanwhile Cyril the canine has fallen in lust leaving his pet human artist Angus Lordie with six issues to deal with. Newly married Matthew adapts to life with a live in partner as does his wife Elspeth who has no idea how men behave. Finally lonely Domenica remains isolated with in many ways only his intellectual self and Cyril and his new horde to talk with while mumbling that his dog is scoring better than he ever has. As always a torrent in a teacup confront the occupants at of 44 Scotland Street
This is a terrific slice of Edinburgh as the readers learn more of The World According to Bertie and other residents of 44 Scotland Street. The characters are extremely deep yet cleverly understated. Their wonderful profound stories intertwine into a "Precious" tale as Alexander McCall Smith showcases his Love Over Scotland as much as he has Botswana.
In Baltimore Liam Pennywell thought he would be the great twentieth and twenty-first century philosopher rather than a fifth grade school teacher at St. Dyfrig. However, to be an accomplished muse takes ambition and hard work; two traits that Liam lacks as his two former wives and his three estrange daughters would testify. He is taken aback when the second-rate private school retires him though he just turned sixty one.
He comes home bewildered only to wake up the next day in a hospital with no recall of the assault in his apartment. Liam needs to know what happened during the lost hours so he begins a quest. He meets thirtyish Eunice, whose elan for life is opposite of his dark world view. Somehow she encourages him to be all he can be; although he insists that is not much he vows to try to shake off his lethargy with reckless abandonment.
This is a terrific character study that avoids cliches so the audience roots for Liam to regain what he once had and lost after years of what he perceived were kidney shots from those who he loved. The story line is leisurely and meandering with no great nirvana as Liam tries with Eunice encouraging him. Anne Tyler is at her best with this super tale of a man kicked to the curb and the young woman who insists That's Life (Sinatra) as "Some people get their kicks stompin' on your dreams" while others will encourage you to "get back in the race".
The Man from Beijing
In January 2006 in Sweden, the police arrive at Hesjovallen to find a battered corpse on the outskirts of the jarringly silent village. Eighteen more severely destroyed bodies are found inside homes; not one living person remains inside the hamlet with no clues where they went. Dissonantly from the brutal scene is a red ribbon and a nineteenth century diary written by Andren as a gang master of Chinese slaves working the transcontinental railway found in the snow near the first body the cops saw.
Judge Birgitta Roslin reads about the worst mass murder massacre in Swedish history. She is stunned that her Andren grandparents are among the dead; but even more shocking the branch of the Andren family living in Nevada were also brutally murdered. She feels compelled to learn what happened in Hesjovallen and Nevada. The clues from the diary already take her back to the American Civil War and China then and now; as well Zimbabwe and Mozambique. However, all roads eventually lead to London's Chinatown.
Although Wallander takes a deserved respite, fans of Henning Mankell will fully appreciate this super thriller that focuses on modern day global issues with links back to the middle of the nineteenth century. The story line is fast-paced driven predominately by Birgitta as she disagrees with the police conclusion that a lunatic committed the mass murders. She thinks a deliberate intelligent person on a vendetta killed those whose blood caused generational blood flow of his or her family. The Man from Beijing is a one sitting winner.
On Bloodroot Mountain in Eastern Tennessee, Byrdie Lamb raises her grandchild Myra, whose mother and father died when a train hit their vehicle while they were carousing. Byrdie loves Myra who is more a daughter to her than her daughter Myra's mom Clio ever was. She also knows Myra has the "touch" skill that runs in the family though Byrdie never displayed this ESP talent. In fact, Myra's boyfriend Doug not only realizes it, he knows he will never win her love because of it.
He is proven right when she meets John Odom, son of the hardware store owner. He is also "touched" and they passionately fall in love. However his violence pushes her from his valley home back up the mountain where she raises their twins Laura and Johnny. The siblings have issues as their mom is placed in an asylum. Laura marries and has a child, but when her spouse dies his family takes away her kid. Johnny burns down his paternal side's store. The next generation seems destined to repeat the same mistakes as the previous generations on Bloodroot Mountain.
This is an engaging Appalachia family drama that looks deep inside the souls of the cast with Myra being the link between five generations of mountain people. Although the subplots are straighter than the Bonneville Salt Flats and some key characters just vanish, readers will appreciate the depth of life on Bloodroot Mountain as even a finger with a ring on it becomes symbolic of dreams broken and breathing in Amy Greene's profound harsh slice of Appalachia.
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
9781569476178, $23.00, www.amazon.com
In ancient Greece, King Admetus of Pherae fears death although he knows Hermes will be coming for him. On the other hand his wife Alcestis has known death from her birth. Her mother died giving birth to her and cursed her with her last words. That loss meant nothing but when her sister Hippothoe died that grief never left Alcestis.
When death comes for her spouse, he refuses to go and demands a sacrificial replacement to satisfy Hermes. He is stunned when his spouse agrees to journey into the Underworld. As Alcestis begins her trek, the court praises her as a martyr of love. She knows there is some truth to the accolades, but it is not love for her husband; instead Alcestis seeks Hippothoe. In the Underworld, she meets and finds true love with Persephone even as that overly muscled moron Heracles has come to take her home; a place she does not want to return to as Pherae is a gilded cage and she has learned to fly having tasted love and freedom to move around in the Underworld.
This terrific retelling of the Greek mythos adds incredible depth to the heroine who finds the Underworld liberating. Unlike her legend written by men, Katharine Beutner's version adds the real motive for volunteering to die beyond the inane romantic notion and fills in a vivid telling of what happened in her three days in the Underworld. Although the ending feels rushed, fans will fully relish the story behind the legend.
Murder in the Palais Royal
In 1997 Paris, Leduc Detective's four foot Rene Fiant is shot twice by his colleague Aime Leduc. He is rushed to intensive care at Hotel Dieu. Stunned eyewitnesses tell Inspector Morbier they saw her fleeing the office where the dwarf was shot and an unexplained large amount of money has suddenly appeared in the firm's bank account, which has the tax authorities looking closely at Leduc Detective's.
Aimee knows this will be her toughest case ever as even Rene believes she tried to kill him with the Beretta. She wonders whether someone impersonating her shot her best friend, but though she has enemies from previous cases, Aimee cannot fathom whose motive would include attempted murder, which quickly changes into two homicides tied to her. Only Miles Davis believes in her innocence.
This is a super entry that goes full circle back to the first Leduc case Murder in the Marais, but a newcomer does need to read that tale to enjoy Murder in the Palais Royal although they will thoroughly enjoy that mystery and the rest of the series. Fans will appreciate this super thriller as the high heeled computer analyst has her work cut out proving her innocence and insuring her partner stays alive while providing the audience with a tour of the rest of Paris (and its suburbs) where impoverished immigrants from the former French colonies reside.
How to Host a Killer Party
c/o The Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451229304, $6.99, www.amazon.com
At San Francisco State University, all part-time instructors were riffed due to budget cuts. Presley Parker was one of the first downsized by the school, but she rebounded quickly by opening up Killer Parties, an event planning firm. She mostly sponsors children's galas, but her big break comes when Mayor Davin Green chooses her to host his surprise wedding for his fiancee on Alcatraz.
Before the nuptials, police detective Luke Melvin calls Presley asking her to come to the station so he can question her regarding the murder of the mayor's previous event planner Andi Sax. She offers no information of use to the cop. Presley gets back to work on the wedding plan but is concerned since Melvin tells her that Andi left a message on her Blackberry that she had an appointment with Parker; a meeting she denies ever arranging or agreeing to have. When the mayor's fiance turns up dead of poisoning just like Andi, she becomes Detective Melvin's number one suspect. Fearing jail time, Presley who reluctantly accepts the help of crime scene cleaner Brad Matthews begin to investigate even as someone brea ks into her home and sets her office on fire.
The second Party Planner mystery with tips (see Dead Body Language) is a delightful whodunit due to a strong lead and the eccentric cast who bring a flavor of San Francisco to life (and death) and a horde of suspects (in her mind that is) with viable motives. The heroine is a curious mix of vulnerability and daring do, which endears her to readers and Brad, but drives Melvin to want to lock her away in Alcatraz. Although a lawyer might be a better choice than Brad, fans will enjoy this fun amateur sleuth mystery starring a charming party pl anner who fears her business will go bankrupt if she wears stripes.
Ghouls Gone Wild
M. J. Holliday is a psychic with her top skill being a medium who can communicate with ghosts. She gives readings and makes her grateful clients feel good by telling them the truth; unlike the numerous charlatans. She and her partner are also ghostbusters who send evil spirits back to where they came from. They are now on Briar Street, the most haunted street in Scotland. Under the street is the close (several caves and catacombs) where victims were sent to die from the plague.
While they are on Briar Road, the interest of the hundreds of spirits make M.J. and her co-worker medium Heath Whitefeather almost insane. Inside the close the same phenomena happens with the ghouls of the plague screaming. They would love to leave immediately, but they are contracted to Bravo TV to film what they find at this location. To make matters worse, the centuries dead witch Rigella who cursed the village of Queen's Close because they murdered her and her sisters are brought back by a villager to murder seven descendants of the families that killed them. When their tech expert is attacked by ghouls, M.J. and her crew becomes the target of a mortal who is in league with the witch because brake lines were cut, which means the witch has a human helper. When another villager dies, M.J. and company investigate determined to find the witch and her mortal assistant.
Victoria Laurie is the queen of paranormal mysteries as her fourth ghostbusters whodunit brings the reader into her world (see DEMONS ARE A GHOUL'S BEST FRIEND and GHOULS JUST HAUNT TO HAVE FUN). Ghouls Gone Wild. is a hauntingly good whodunit filled with plenty of action above and below the street. The cast is solid even the spirits while the two protagonists are fully developed especially when the supernatural haunt their senses. With plenty of humor including with a Potter meets Bedknobs and Broomsticks battle of flying brooms, fans will enjoy ghosts, ghouls, and witches, oh my.
Pretty in Ink
Karen E. Olson
Brett Kavanaugh owns the Painted Lady tattoo parlor in the ritzy part of Las Vegas while giving her clients custom-made tattoos. Her whole body is filled with tattoos, a walking advertisement for her shop.
One night Brett is at the Chez Terso watching a transvestite on stage when a man pops a champing cork and hits the performer in the chest. Brett gets a look at the man who did it noticing a queen of hearts playing card etched onto his right forearm. Trevor McKay seems all right, but the next day he visits the Painted Lady appearing very ill. He dies at the hospital at the same time Brett's trainee Charlotte disappears. A waiter saw the man the person who hit Trevor with the cork; he describes him to Brett who makes a sketch. The man is Wesley Lambert, a transvestite who dropped out of sight over a year ago. Brett finds herself through a set of circumstances in a condo with the corpse of Wesley. She is decontaminated from ricin, which is all over the place. The tattoo artist believes there is a link between the two deaths and Charlotte as she hops from one hiding place to another to find Charlotte and the killer. She remains resolute in finding her friend, but ignorant that someone is watching her very closely.
Pretty in Ink is a non-stop action amateur sleuth mystery starring a brave strong heroine who thinks outside the crypt; something needed on this deadly case. The support cast adds humor and suspense (even off stage) to this well constructed complex whodunit. With a touch of romance to augment the deep look at another side of Vegas, fans will enjoy the second Tattoo Shop Mystery (see Missing In Ink).
If Books Could Kill
She works at the book arts center in San Francisco and is considered an expert in book restoration. Brooklyn Wainwright is also called upon to authenticate whether a book is genuine or a fake. Currently she heads to the world- renowned Edinburgh Book Fair where she will meet with friends and associates, teach a few sessions, and sit in on lectures.
Her plan implodes when she runs into her former boyfriend Kyle McVee who asks her to authenticate a book allegedly created by eighteenth century bookbinder William Cathcart containing never before published poems written by Robert Burns in which the renowned author infers he had an affair with Princess Augusta Sophia, daughter of King George III. Rumors have survived to the present that he got her pregnant, which, if true, would leave the British royalty with a nasty black eye. He also tells her he has received threatening letters and calls. That same day whiles Brooklyn is sightseeing, she finds the body of Kyle killed with one of her bookbinding instruments. The local lead cop suspects Brooklyn so to clear her name she investigates Kyle's murder.
As in the first Bibliophile mystery (see Homicide in Hardcover), Brooklyn finds the corpse of someone who was close to her at one time (a sub-genre hazard). The author's second cozy is a breezy fun read due to a taste of the city and false clues with dead end trails. Although in trouble with the law and who knows who else, Brooklyn keeps her sense of humor, mostly self deprecating as she finds even Princess Street dangerous. A terrific romantic subplot enhances her stay in Scotland that she hopes is not a lifetime event as she learns once again Books Could Kill to the delight of cross genre fans.
Sleeping with Anemone
At a home and garden show sponsored by Uniworld Food, Bloomers Flowers owner Abby Knight circulates a petition against the host firm opening up a dairy farm in which the firm uses bovine hormones to increase milk production by nine times. The hormones get into the milk people drink and harm the animals. Her efforts anger the company's district manager Nils Raand who has her removed from the exhibit hall.
Back at her florist shop, Abby finds a broach in a box or orchids she ordered from Hawaii. Her mother makes duplicates to be sold at the shop. Abby is missing an order of anemones that the vendor says he sent to her. Although she is annoyed over the mix-up she becomes frightened over the attempted kidnappings of her roommate Nikki, cousin Jillian and niece Tara. Kate and her lover former Ranger boyfriend turned private investigat or Marco believe Nils is behind the terrorism crimes. A brick inside burning paper is tossed through the shop window. However, Kate reconsiders whether Nils is the culprit or someone else from Uniworld whose corporate values can be found in the sewage system though she also wonders why a large influential corporation would violently go after a minor league gnat.
Readers will thoroughly enjoy this amateur sleuth tale that uses family humor in between some dangerous escapades. The heroine is strong willed and at times resents Marco trying to protect her as she is no lilting violet. Their families want the duo married, another item that upsets her as she feels they should mind their business. Marco is a saint for putting up with the female Oscar the grouch. However what refreshes the latest Flower Shop mystery is the issue of whether hormonal induced products are safe in the long run vs. the immediate starvation around the world.
c/o Strang Book Group
600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746
9781599799124, $10.99 www.strangbookgroup.com
In 1896 Boston, following the tragedy that took her parents, Lucinda Bishop buries her beloved mama and papa on the same day. Her maternal Aunt "Mellie" Amelia and Uncle Ben Haynes offer her a home on their Oklahoma Territory ranch though the seventeen years old heiress would prefer to remain in Boston. Her paternal Uncle Randolph is outraged when the kindhearted attorney Mr. Sutton explains he inherited only 10K as the bulk of the estate went to his niece in trust until she turns eighteen. Lucinda remains behind to close the estate before heading west.
Ranch hand Jake Starnes expects a little orphaned girl based on his employer Mellie's description. Instead when he meets her in Barton Creek to take her to the ranch, he sees a Boston beauty. He vows not to want her as he believes he is unworthy of her love as an incident in his past hangs over him though he feels a kinship to her having lost his parents when he was fifteen. As they fall in love, while someone stalks Lucinda, he realizes he must confront his demon now knowing that God and Lucinda are in his heart.
The first Winds Across the Prairie tale is an interesting western inspirational romance starring a wonderful lead female who comes west as Lucinda but quickly becomes Lucy the rancher and a hero who finds love when he finds Jesus. The support cast consists of warm friendly welcoming Sooners and a couple of nasty Easterners. Although the tale is not for everyone as the Christian messages are heavily stated, fans will enjoy Lucinda's story of moving on from grief to happiness and love with the Lord to guide her.
The Man with Two Arms
The Overlook Press
141 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
9781590203071, $24.95, www.amazon.com
In Chicago Henry Granville loves baseball to the point that of when no game is on or in town, he reads The Natural to his unborn child. His pregnant wife Lori thinks it is cute until May 15, 1984 when Danny is born. Henry begins a determined campaign to turn his offspring into a baseball player while overturning Lori's objections. Danny proves a phenomena as he can throw with both arms.
Although childhood was hours of daily pitching ambidextrously, Danny signs with the Cubs who demonstrates a right handed skill equal to Seaver and a left handed ability compared with Koufax. Cub opponents especially on the road call him the Freak and his father a monster. As Danny falls in love with art instructor Brigit and finds another rare skill that of clairvoyance which will soon change his life in New York during a series with the Mets, he begins to doubt the Major Leagues is worth the cost to his family and himself.
This is a super baseball story due to the strong characterizations as fans will believe Henry is a super switch-pitching "Freak". The support cast, especially his family, Brigit, and his teammates and opponents augment the deep look at a young pitching phenomena who grew up with a baseball rather than a rattle.
The Man of My Life
Manuel Vazquez Montalban
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 West 108th Street, Suite 901, New York, NY 10025
9781852429348, $14.95, www.amazon.com
Having spent some time in Buenos Aires (see THE BUENOS AIRES QUINTET), investigator Pepe Carvalho has returned home to Barcelona. However, he has no time to adjust to the time zone change as he has women to dine and a murder investigation to conduct. Someone killed Lazaro Conasal, son o f an influential financier. Lazaro's mother informs Pepe that her late son and she agreed that Hannibal with his muzzle in the Silence of the Lambs is her husband and his father.
The case takes a strange spin into the growing Satanist cults as Catholicism has increasingly become disfavored with the exposures of wrongdoing, especially depravity, by the Church during the Franco Era. He also finds ties to anarchists who want Catalonia to separate from Spain. With pressure to resolve the case preferably with a lowlife discard of no regard, Pepe ignores the noise and in between dining with a multitude of women, he continues his inquiry.
This Spanish investigator tale is not an easy read as the social elements of separatism and religion as well as the lampooning of the aging lothario cop at times overwhelms the sleuthing. Pepe is a refreshing tour guide of where to dine in Barcelona and must have one heck of a supply of Viagra. The profound look at the failures of Catholicism in Spain is gripping and when combined with the anarchism subplot together they supersede the whodunit. Still fans who prefer something different will want to read Pepe Carvalho's return home.
Manuel Vazquez Montalban
Former Barcelona cop, Pepe Carvalho earns a living as a private investigator. However sleuthing is not on the short list of what he loves. Instead his first, second, third and nth love is women especially gourmet dining with beautiful females. He also enjoys on a summer night to use his fireplace burning a book a night especially if a woman joins him.
Two people swimming off a public beach find a badly devoured corpse as the fish dined on the victim's face. On his back is a tattoo "Born to Raise Hell in Hell". After having a tryst interrupted, Senor Ramon Freixas, husband of Senora Queter the hairdresser salon owner, hires Carvalho to find out who the deceased is though he refuses to explain his interest in the corpse. The sleuth starts with neighborhood tattoo shops that lead Carvalho to Amsterdam where he is persona non grata by law enforcement officials and drug gangs.
This is an entertaining Spanish private investigative Noir starring a wonderful cynic who classifies people as: those in jail; those who should be in jail, beautiful women who cherish his mind and body; and gourmet chefs. Fans will enjoy the whodunit that takes a deep look at the underbelly of European society while marveling at an age when chauvinists were acceptable and a person could fly through airport security carrying weapons.
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312381226, $7.99, www.amazon.com
The Roman legions overwhelm Britannia including the Highlands. The Celtic tribes turn to the Druids for help. The Drough Druids use the dark magic of human sacrifice enabling them to free ancient evil gods from hell who repels the Romans. Afterward the Druids are unable to send the gods back to hell so they trap them inside of Warriors who are unaware what has become part of their heritage from generation to generation.
Three centuries ago the powerful MacLeod clan is destroyed in a single night. No one claimed credit for the massacre. However, three brothers who were away, Quinn, Lucan and Fallon searched for the source. Instead they became prisoners of the culprit, Deirdre the Drough, who thirsts for power to dominate the earth through the release of the evil gods, but eventually they escaped.
In 1603, Cara the orphan picks mushrooms near Castle MacLeod when her mother's heirloom falls off her neck and she falls off a cliff during a nasty storm. Lucan who, with his siblings, resides in the castle saves her life. When Deidre sends her wyrren and Warriors to capture Cara and the heirloom called Demon's Kiss, the MacLeod siblings save her from the monsters who killed everyone else in the village. As Lucan and Cara fall in love, Deirdre continues to send her beasts after them as she needs the woman, the heirloom, and the brothers to complete her quest.
This is a super historical romantic fantasy that grips readers from the onset and never slows down yet introduces the underlying premise, a strong support cast (the good, the bad and the monsters) and a terrific lead couple inside of vividly described realm. Fans will appreciate Donna Grant's great opening Dark Sword while looking forward to the adventures in love and supernatural war starring the drunken widower Fallen the Laird of no clan and raging Quinn whose anger remains stratospheric.
The Dark Storm
Her dad directed De Mona Sanchez to seek a Redfeather on the streets of New York City. She is ecstatic to find one though Hunter College student Gabriel Redfeather is a bookworm computer freak rather than a sword carrying warrior. He prefers the paranormal to be in novels or online.
However, kick butt De Mona ignores his pleas that he is not the legend, but just a geek who cherished his grandfather's tales as tales not as fact. Now this young woman insists he must use an ancient weapon as a descendent of a knight who long ago fought the demons, but Gabriel only knows textbooks. Yet with De Mona's encouragement and kicks to his butt, he prepares to fight the growing demonic horde that is threatening the city with the return of the Dark Storm.
This opening urban fantasy grips readers from the onset when street tough De Mona meets reticent bookish Gabriel as she needs a hero and he is the one. Fans will appreciate The Dark Storm because of the lead couple. He is her chosen one, but seems unlikely as a warrior as he is a shy college student whose hobby of deciphering of an ancient text on the net places him at the point of the war. This is a fun thriller.
Born Of Ice
Alix Gerran has three weeks to save her mother and sister from execution by the Ritadarion Chief Minister of Justice Merjack. To free them, she must find evidence of treasonous activity by Devyn Kell, the son of the notorious couple Sharara Dagan and C.I. Syn (see Born of Fire). Merjack warns her every agent he has sent to bring Kell in to stand public trial has come home in a body bag.
Alix obtains a position as an engineer on the same ship that Kell is a doctor. Once in service to the League as an assassin until he had an epiphany; now a Runner he smuggles supplies to those in need of basic sustenance in order to survive. If she fails to find proof, Alix is to plant the evidence needed to legally hang Kell. However, she is not only attracted to him; she admires what he and other crew do for the downtrodden. He is falling in love with the new ship employee, but knows she hides something that he fears will make her his Achilles' heel.
The third League tale is a fast-paced exhilarating romantic science fiction thriller that showcases the offspring of the heroes of previous tales (see Born of Night). Filled with action and plenty of humor, fans of the saga will enjoy this fine finish as Kell meets his equal in Alix. Readers will enjoy this strong rewriting of the Ichidian Universe even if Merjack a bit over the top of Olympus Mons with his degree of hatred surpassing the hottest sun.
Bound By Sin
In 1862 France, the Righteous vampire team consists of Cin, Michael, Justine and Devlin. Their mission is to hunt down rogue vampires who kill humans. Of the quartet, Cin is the unique one as before she was changed she was a hereditary witch. She and Michael are lovers and have been for a while.
Adrien Boucher kidnaps Claire Gordon; taking her from her home in London to Savannah. He makes it clear to Cin's witch ancestry that the ransom is the Greek urn the vampiress refused to hand over to him. Rushing across the Channel to obtain information on her third cousin's abduction, Cin promises the victim's mother Raina Macgregor Mahone to rescue Claire. She and her three allies sail across the Atlantic to the United States where the Civil War is raging as Adrien awaits them in Georgia.
The third Cin historical fantasy (see Wages of Sin and Grave Sins) is a deep moving tale that not only brings the quartet across the Atlantic, but provides a profound look at death during the short stay in London. Her second cousin Raina looks just like Cin's Aunt Maggie (Raina's late grandmother) who died a decade earlier and she last saw her back in '28. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, but also provides enough tidbits like the time to cross the ocean to anchor the era. Jenna Maclaine provides her audience with a super entry as Cin's sinful world seems to be getting increasingly dangerous.
Evan rescued Russian Anya from a German prison camp. They married, moved to the American Pacific Northwest after the war, and she spent her life grateful to him. She gave him two daughters that she failed to connect with as Evan meant everything to her. On the other hand Evan loved Meredith and Nina.
While Nina traveled the world as a photojournalist, older sister Meredith stayed home to work on her family's apple orchard. When Meredith turned forty, her dying father asked her to take care of her aging mother after he is gone. She wants to say no but agrees. Nina comes home to help her sibling with their cold mother, whose mind is fading. Over vodka, mom tells the truth about losing everyone in her family during the Nazi siege of Leningrad and Stalin's post war purges.
This is a fascinating tale of a mother and her two daughters coming together as adults like they never did when the younger generations was kids. Anya owns the tale as she describes the horrific hardships during WWII especially the 900 day siege and Stalin's deadly actions afterward. Her saga makes the issues of her daughters seem petty. Readers will empathize with Anya as she lost so much of her heart and soul that what was left she could only give to her savior Evan. Although the ending feels totally out of place with its "perfection" considering the personalities of the three women, fans will enjoy the trek to the clim ax especially when Anya as the prime guide tells her shocking horrendous story.
St. Martin's Griffin
Headquartered in London, multimillionaire power couple, Jack and Innocence Kent, own a boutique in hotel chains. Their spoiled fourteen year old daughter Emily has decided she will have Lord Timothy and she always gets what she wants. Their older child Claudia was adopted by Jack and his late first wife Felicia, but she has issues.
Two years later, Jack is nearly ruined by a financial scandal; only the quick work of not so innocent Innocence saves their fortune when she transferred his fortune to her. Tim gets Emily pregnant so they marry in Vegas, but his outraged father disowns him. To make shoe money, Emily sells gossip, mostly false, about her and her family to the tabloids. However, the past returns to haunt the Kent family when Nathan adopted by Jack and Felicia who returned when she died, has begun a killing campaign using his guise as a movie star to conceal his obsession to murder everyone Kent.
This is over the top of Big Ben; but it is an enjoyable inane and insane family drama. The killer is cartoonish as he is never developed beyond his need for vengeance. The Kent family fare better as they seem three dimensional especially the way Emily makes a living. Rich Again is silly, overly padded, but decadently fun.
When Jake, Trey and Danielle attended college together, the latter was heavily attracted to both her best friends. However, Danielle concealed her feelings because Jake and Trey were seeing others.
They have not seen one another for awhile, but catch up on old times at Harmony's wedding in Buffalo. Danielle is euphoric to learn that her two buddies are single, available, and most important bisexual. They act on their desire with a menage a trois, but each has issues with their sexual leanings that must be worked out before they can come to some sort of mutually harmonious arrangement.
This is a torrid erotic relationship drama as the three lead characters must work out who they and what they want form the others besides great sex. The story line is filled with various sexual encounters and each of the threesome is fully developed. Although the issues blocking them coming to terms are too underdeveloped and abrupt premature ejaculated resolution, sub-genre fans will enjoy the Forbidden Heat the trio indulge in as the sex comes (literally) in several ways.
St. Martin's Griffin
FBI Division Chief Vince Deerfield yells at agent Marty Mathews for failing to prove that Khalid el-Hamid Mustafa, illegitimate son of a terrorist sheik, is a terrorist too. Marty insists Khalid lives a life of decadence as a major player in the DC area sex Club, but his lone transgression is excessive sexual proclivity including with her friends as a third (see Only Pleasure). Vince accuses her of incompetence and mouthing off to his superior, her godfather FBI Director Zachary Jennings as he pulls her off the case. She retorts back the failure was his for assigning her for two years to nothing. Scornfully he tells her she can have a month vacation; her first in t hree years.
Marty has wanted Khalid, but remained ethical loyal and true to the FBI credo; with the case closed Marty plans to make her move. Khalid has wanted Marty since he first met her through mutual acquaintances. However, his lineage makes him a target, something he will not allow to happen to the woman he thinks he could easily fall in love with; as he knows what happened to a woman he cherished once before. He never counted on Marty who insists on him and Club member Shayne as their third.
The story line is fast-paced from the opening confrontation between Vince and Marty and never slows down as she plans to use her month to make love with her former suspect and a third IAW Club rules. Similar in sexual tone to previous Wicked Pleasures entries, fans of the erotic "Pleasure" Club romances will relish the latest romp as Khalid's past brings suspense to an enjoyable tale. Newcomers will need time to adapt to the Club rules as Lora Leigh provides a pleasurable DC sex and bullets frolic.
The Valentine family for generations has been the best matchmakers ever because of their uncanny psychic ability that the brood claims come directly from Cupid. However, unlike the rest of Valentine, Inc., Lucy Valentine's extrasensory skills differ ever since an electrical surge assaulted her well being. She cannot match auras of soulmates like her DNA should, but she is quite good at finding lost items.
So the Boston native is stunned when her parents inform her she is now running Valentine, Inc. When a vision of a client leads her to believe he murdered his girlfriend, Lucy hires her upstairs neighbor private investigator Sean Donahue to search for the missing woman. Lucy fantasizes making love with Sean while he wonders if she is a clever coldhearted killer as she knows too much but also fears he is attracted to her. Meanwhile her grandmother plays matchmaker with Lucy as her "client" and ringless BPD Detective Chapman suspects her of homicide while she fears Sean's reaction to how she knows so much.
Truly, Madly is Truly Scrumptious as fans will relish this delightful urban fantasy with a touch of humor, plenty of suspense and a strong cast. The heroine is great as she struggles how to best use her gift when her extended family have always been matchmakers and the hunk who fears he is half in love with a truly beguiling killer. Readers will relish this lighthearted paranormal whodunit.
The Murderer's Daughter
Randy Susan Meyers
In a rage their drunken father kills their mother and almost kills one of his daughters Merry. The child and her sister Lulu are sent to an orphanage. Lulu plays the system while the system plays Merry, but stay together as they forge a symbiotic relationship.
Lulu becomes a doctor, but hides her nightmarish childhood from everyone. Merry becomes a victim abdicate though she is totally dependent on Lulu and drugs. Merry visits her father while Lulu behaves as if he committed suicide on that fatal day three decades ago. Now he is being freed from prison; something neither of his children support as they fear the shadows he left them with when he committed the atrocity.
Rotating first person perspectives between the sisters, fans get a deep look at how a tragedy when they were children impacts them as adults. Ironically though Lulu and Merry seem like opposites as the audience observes and "listen" to both over the next three decades, they sound so identical that a reader would struggle to delineate who is relating their lives at a particular moment. This adds to the overall impact of a psychological thriller as beneath the public mask each never truly moved past the pivotal horrific incident. The Murderer's Daughter is a profound look at the survivors coping throughout their respective lifetimes when a family member commits an atrocity; exponentially devastating when the trauma is also against another family member.
The Last Surgeon
Former battlefield trauma surgeon Dr. Nick Garrity suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following a suicide attack on his field hospital in Afghanistan. Back home in Baltimore, Nick runs the Helping Hands RV mobile clinic that provides medical care to the homeless while struggling to contain his PTSD symptoms.
At the same time Nick drives the streets of the city, someone kills Central Charlotte Medical Center Cardiac Surgery ICU nurse Belle Coates in Charlotte, North Carolina. Belle's sister Jillian leaves her home in Virginia to uncover the identity of the person who killed her sibling. She soon finds a tie to Nick and his homeless clients; several of whom have abruptly vanished from the streets as if swept away; neither realizes who is spying on them.
The Last Surgeon is a fast-paced enthralling conspiracy medical thriller that grips the audience with a need to know why the homeless are vanishing and the professional hit man killed Belle. Nick is a fascinating protagonist who suffers from PTSD while Jill is a kick butt heroine. Fans will enjoy Michael Palmer's latest action-packed tale as the CIA secretly operates.
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061826597, $14.99, www.amazon.com
This is a fun puzzle book that will make a great holiday gift for the person who enjoys working out the word plays that make up the Conundrums. The problem with this as a present is that the purchaser will want to do the 171 puzzles to include the back cover. I had the additional fun of competing against my husband who loves these types of word-picture plays. He kicked my donkey in as he clinched the victory with too much left to go. After that we had a good time teaming up to solve the entries. Most are cleverly designed though a few of the solutions may not be the best interpretation as viable alternatives exist. Fans of puzzles will relish this enjoyable collection made much more fun by playing with someone else, but remains a winner even competing with Harry Pearce.
James Cameron's Avatar
Maria Wilhelm and Dirk Mathison
In a distant solar system lies the once beautiful moon Pandora; home to a native sentient race the Na'vi. However, abuse of the environment has endangered the orb. This does not prevent the Resources Development Administration from continuing to exploit the dwindling once rich natural resources. An Earth delegation to include paraplegic Marine Jake Sully replacing his brother who died on combat has collected data that make up this source book as a means to avert this planet from the downward poison spiral that threatens life on Pandora. However, even the RDA guide to Pandora is proof of avaricious developers always win as some unknown greedy person is selling the confidential reference tome on eBay.
"James Cameron's Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora" is a fascinating accompanying guide to James Cameron's movie Avatar as the director overwhelmingly makes clear which side of the environment issue he is on with no room for compromise. Clearly intended for fans who see the movie several times, this "Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora" is interesting as it makes the moon and its species (the Na'vi even have their own unique language) seem real although new art supersedes extracts from the movie.
Catch Of A Lifetime
1935 Brookdale Road, #139, Naperville, IL 60563
9781402224287, $6.99, www.amazon.com
Mermaid Angel Tritone wants to be an advisor to her brother Rod the High Councilman on the Mer Council. However, he rejects her dreams of joining the ruling Council as he insists her safety is paramount. Upset, she goes on a swim by herself to get her thoughts straight.
Breaking the truce between their species Hammerhead Harry the nasty shark attacks her, but Angel escapes by climbing onto Logan Hardington's fishing boat. She claims to be a "maritime biology" student, but the single father is flummoxed by her arrival as the beautiful young lady is stark naked. He agrees to employ her as a babysitter since his son Michael likes her and he would do anything to make his child feel wanted by him as he only recently learned of his existence. Michael vows to keep Angel's secret that she is a mermaid from even his dad yet also believes she is the mermaid he wished for his birthday. As they fall in love in between arguments with his offsp ring matchmaking them, the duo rescues Michael from horrible Harry, but also must battle an evil sea monster with oceanic-forming world domination plans.
The third Tritone sibling Mer urban-oceanic romantic fantasy (see Wild Blue Under and In Over Her Head) is a terrific tale of the tail as the female sister takes the lead with her mission to save the world. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down for even ebb tide; as the unity of a father, a son and a mermaid who helps being the two males together while saving the earth makes for a fun Catch of a Lifetime.
9781402229404, $6.99 www.Sourcebooks.com
Following the destruction of his planet by the Nedwuts, Zetithian warrior Manxarkodrath Panteris escaped captivity and manages to make it to the jungle of Barada Seven where he hides from the local Baradan populace. His only sentient friend is elderly amphibian Zef the Eltran who lives alone in the nearby lake having been exiled by his people because he rejected the advances of a female.
London art gallery owner Ralph arranges a special vacation for his top selling artsy, galaxy renowned nature painter Drusilla Chevrault on Barada Seven. Manx is stunned by his desire to make love to the Terran. Although he knows he has to remain concealed as the Nedwut bounty hunters might find him, he masturbates just dreaming of her even without fully smelling her. To her shock Drusilla has the greatest orgasm of her life when she masturbates too. As Zef plays matchmaker, Manx and Drusilla meet and fall in love, but two grou ps are coming for him now that he has surfaced.
The latest Cat-Star Chronicles erotic science fiction romance is a terrific tale that sets the scenario up quite beautifully before the lead pair couples so that fans will believe they are visiting a different planet in the galaxy. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Drusilla arrives as the first Terran tourist on Barada Seven and never slows down until the final climax (albeit there are several climaxes of a sexual encounter also). Fans will enjoy the fifth Zetithian entry (see OUTCAST, SLAVE, WARRIOR, and ROGUE) even with the pair's sexual activity and the suspense coming fairly late as Cheryl Brooks provides a strong tale in space.
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061584459, $7.99, www.amazon.com
A former Minnesota cop who became a convict due to a crime of passion, Travis Chase served his time and left the Lower Forty-eight to start over in the Yukon though he is unsure what he will do. Hiking along in the remote wilderness, Travis comes across a wrecked jet that for the most part stayed intact. Shockingly, the crew and passengers did not die in the crash, but from assassinations; the dead died from bullet wounds to the head.
He finds a secret compartment containing one passenger who died from the loss of blood, but left a note explaining what happened. Travis cannot fathom why the First Lady was in an unmarked plane flying over the Alaskan wilderness. In her note she gives gruesome instructions to kill all involved even those on our side. However, he disobeys her orders to kill all when he sees the torture of two elderly people even if worldwide destruction may be caused by them. Travis assumes there is another way to save the world from the maniac using a gizmo that grants wishes. If he had the otherworldly artifact he might choose the daughter of a scientist Paige Campbell as his though he admits to himself she can probably take him; but first Tangent top secret department has enlisted Travis to help guard the portal that enables these odd gadgets to come to earth from a technology light-years beyond ours.
Over the top of the North Pole, this is a terrific action-packed thriller with a science fiction time paradox twist. Fans need set aside as the story line is faster than a speeding bullet, light and Indiana Jones. Readers who appreciate action to the nth degree with a body count that is beyond the troposphere will want to go "North to Alaska, north the rush is on".
Climatologist Adam Kindred and immunologist Dr. Philip Wang met by chance at an Italian restaurant near Royal Hospital not far from where the Thames flows through Chelsea as each dined alone on tables next to each other. The former is in London trying to obtain a research fellowship position at Imperial College while the later works in Oxford at a pharmaceutical firm as a sort of allergist. Wang departs while mumbling something about a good feeling but leaves behind a file with his papers.
Adam picks up the documents so he can return them to Dr. Wang. However at the immunologist's flat, he finds Wang's dead body. Not sure what to do as someone is after him besides the cops who have evidence of his visit to the dead man's apartment, Adam flees for his life. Meanwhile, Wang's boss at Calenture-Deutz, Ingrym Fryzer, realizes someone at the firm wants him out and Wang's data on an anti-allergy drug that the scientist was working on is missing as the board refuses to wait any longer to market the drug to get the profits though the late researcher was not finished testing it. Fryzer, his shadowy adversary and his paid assassin, and the cops seek a thirty-o ne years old climatologist who vanished somewhere in Chelsea.
This is an exciting fast-paced thriller in which a young man seeking a job becomes the focus of corporate killers, an ethical CEO, and the Metropolitan Police. The two subplots converge though a series of coincidences starting with the restaurant encounter, but fans of action-packed conspiratorial tales of the avarice affluent vs. a lone reluctant everyman will enjoy Ordinary Thunderstorms turning into a torrent for Adam.
Forty-four year old marketing consultant Lake Warren has recently divorced her spouse Jack. However, he sues f or full custody of their young children. Her divorce lawyer Robert Kotchkiss empathically tells her that to insure Jack has nothing even remotely scandalous that will give him an issue to hammer her within court; he goes so far to state to her don't date .
Lake is providing her consulting services to the Park Avenue Fertility Center where she meets Los Angeles based medical consultant flirtatious Dr. Keaton. Ignoring her lawyer's admonition for now as the kids are away and thinking spontaneous sex before becoming a nun, she and Keaton make love in his penthouse where she falls asleep. When she awakens with a nasty headache she finds Keaton dead. Fearing that the cops will consider her as a person interest, which is the perfect issue for Jack to use against her, she investigates who murdered Keaton. However, her fear factor explodes when she realizes someone is stalking her.
With the Blond investigative reporter Bailey Weggins taking a well deserved respite, Kate White provides a refreshing stand alone thriller of a woman trying to cover her indiscretion which leads to deeper and deeper troubles for her. Fast-paced once the heroine turns to amateur sleuthing while Archer the detective knows she is concealing something. Fans will appreciate this fine suspense filled tale of a woman in peril depending on no one but herself to find the killer in order to extract herself from the cops accusing her and ultimately a stalker watching her for who knows what
The Professor and Other Writings
"Courage, Mon Amie". Ms. Castle discusses her quest to find the grave of her Great Uncle Lewis Newton Braddock, who died in combat on the continent during WWI.
"My Heroin Christmas". Following a holiday at home, Ms. Castle muses about moms, step siblings, and heroine and other addictions, especially to the work of Art Pepper.
"Desperately Seeking Susan". The author pays homage to her love-hate friendship with Susan Sontag.
"Home Alone". There is no place like home at least that is the mantra of interior designer magazines that have become a favorite of Ms. Castle as she ponders what will happen to the contents of her interior designed abode when she passes on January 28, 2038 especially the bed linen.
"Travels with My Mother." Writing about complicated relationships, Ms. Castle describes hers with her mom as the oddest she has ever had while also trekking together through the inspirational work of artist Agnes Martin.
"The Professor". As a graduate student, Ms. Castle had a short affair with a female professor that still resonates in her mind as perhaps one of her key moments as she began to understand others have needs, desires and feelings too.
This collection of autobiography commentaries and essays are intelligent, amusing often self-deprecating and entertaining as Terry Castle dives deeply into relationships that impacted her journey so far. All six entries are witty and well written as each rips asunder a piece of Ms. Castle's soul for others to admire her courage for allowing us to see so deeply and emulate her open honesty. This is an enjoyable compilation except for me to witness the oracle stating January 28, 2038 means being a coherent octogenarian when many say I am an incoherent fiftyish.
The Burning Land
As the ninth century begins to wind down, King Alfred of Wessex is old and dying. The Danes feel the opportunity to conquer Wessex whose great leader has foiled them before is now. Warlord Harald Bloodhair leads the Viking horde invasion by sea an d land Mercia and Wessex.
Alfred turns to his oath-bound loyal Saxon pagan warrior Uhtred of Bebbanburg; the warlord defeats Harald, but also breaks his pledge of fealty. Deciding enough of England and its treachery, the warlord and his warriors head home to reclaim his family land. They confront other war parties and a witch's curse only to take another spin back in the world of Alfred and his increasingly Christian nation as the he Danes from East Anglia and the Vikings from Northumbria head once again towards Mercia and Wessex.
The fifth Saxon saga (see Sword Song).affirms once again that Bernard Cornwell is one of the best, if not the top writer, of pre William the Conqueror Dark Ages historical fiction. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of bloody action. However, it is an ailing dying Alfred nearing the end of his "Great" reign and the Saxon pagan warlord Uhtred who bring the period alive as the barbarians are at the gate, but it takes a barbarian to prevent them from entering. Fans will relish this deep tale as The Burning Land is increasingly Mercia and Wessex as Alfred no longer can defend them.
In Manhattan's Greenwich Village, octogenarian Teodora Angelini faces the dismal fact that her family business since 1903, Angelini Shoe Company, is going bankrupt. Her thirtyish granddaughter Valentine Roncalli, having failed in a relationship and as a teacher, asks Gram to teach her how to design quality wedding shoes while she works out a financial plan to save the business as the mortgage overwhelms the profits.
On the other hand Valentine's brother, Alfred, wants Gram to retire to a home and his to an apartment so that he can sell the building for millions. Meanwhile Chef Roman Falconi wants Valentine so when she and her Gram go to Italy to buy supplies, they plan to rendezvous on Capri. However, she is confused re her personal life after Valentine meets Gianluca, the son of Gram's lover and secret fiance, finding she is attracted to him.
Although this is more Valentine's tale, this is a deep character study that has many messages but mostly focuses on what to do with a family business that provided for a wonderful lifestyle yet whose time seems to have past as specialty brick stores are being supersede by the Net. Valentine and Alfred have opposing opinions as he wants to end the drain and make an instant profit by selling the edifice while she feels a strong need to save the shoe business. Fans will appreciate this strong tale as Adriana Trigiani does not pass judgment, leaving that to the reader, as tradition and letting go have their respective time and place.
The Longest Journey Home
Before Marley (see Marley & Me), John Grogan grew up in a deeply religious Catholic home near Detroit in the 1960s and '70s. His parents loved him and tried to get him to live a good Catholic ethical lifestyle. However, John was an imp who like many boys used his telescope to stare at the woman next door. He drank holy wine, smoked cigarettes and tried to score with girls while also eluding the necker-checker watcher, his kind but strict mom. To imbue him with their fervor, his parents took John on family miracle trips to visit shrines and camp under the stars so he would learn first hand the miracle of God. However unlike his parents or his brother Michael who turned towards priesthood and was as a devoted believer as their parents, John was devoted to the altar of female breasts; at best an agnostic as pure faith seemed illogical and tedious. When he met Jenny, he fell in love and began the real transition to adulthood, but remained practically faithless. That is until his father's illness led him to re-look his values including Catholicism.
This is an interesting memoir that reads like many young middle class Americans (religious denomination not matter) growing up in the 1960s as drugs, wine and sex were in and the religions of parents were out. Still amusing and filled with angst, John Grogan's The Longest Journey Home was not quite finished at this point, but he was definitely getting his act together. Boomer fans and their still alive parents who want to reminiscence about the internal family revolutions will enjoy joining Mr. Grogan as he travels a path many others took; younger fans might ask so what.
It All Changed in an Instant
Edited by Smith Magazine
"It All Changed in an Instant: More Sox-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure" is a fun, often irreverent, with many poignant entries in this entertaining succinct memoir collection. The selected contributors use six words to describe their "thoughts". With commentary like Edward Doerr's "Age twenty-tree, scored pallbearer's hat trick" or "Wife away, pizza today, diet tomorrow" by David Logan, the audience will empathize or laugh with some as for many of us they hit home. Others are sad like Noema Abbott's profound "Tiny son dying in my arms". Best read leisurely over several weeks, It All Changed in an Instant is entertaining yet deep as summed up by Lisa Anne Auburch's "Everything I touch turns to mold" and Brooke Marie Gorman's "Story of my life? bad timing" as compared with the ultimate optimist Phil Skversky when he says: "Alzheimer's meeting new people every day". Readers will appreciate the short and snappy deep collection that includes classic concise Yogi-isms while making up their own - even the shopping list, I critique.
The Summer We Fell Apart
Their dad was a famous playwright who died when his career declined. Their mom was a wannabe actress who became a cult favorite for her B roles. Their four offspring growing up never felt they had parents as the so called adults in the Haas family of six neglected their children.
The youngest Amy hated the constant tension as all she wanted was a normal life like those on TV. George wanted to love and be loved so in any dispute especially after his father died, he always supported their mom. The oldest Kate found escapism and solace in her studies as she became a lawyer mostly as a reaction opposite to her artistic parents. Finally the oldest son Finn turned to alcoholism and addiction to provide him a haze of avoidance.
This is a fascinating look at a dysfunctional family from the perspective of the four children as the adult may neglect their offspring but the child becomes the adult. The story line is character driven as the demons that haunt each of the foursome and how each copes with them is deeply explored by Robin Antalek. Mindful of Family Pictures by Sue Miller and This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, readers will enjoy this profound look at family relationships as seen by the children looking back as adults.
The Vera Wright Trilogy
853 Broadway, Suite 604, New York, NY 10003
9780892553525, $19.95, www.amazon.com
My Father's Moon. During WWII, fresh from boarding school, Vera Wright becomes a nurse in training at St. Cuthberts Hospital. Vera uses childish games to feel welcome until she becomes the lover of married "Dr. Metcalf, Jonathan". She becomes pregnant, but the doctor dumps her so she gives birth to Helena and becomes a single mom working at the Fairfields School.
Cabin Fever. A nursing student at St. Cuthberts Hospital, Vera becomes the lover of married Dr. Metcalf. She becomes pregnant, but he dumps her so she gives birth alone. She fears being a single mom, but rejects offers of help from her parents. Confused but beginning to understand the difference between hurtful and nurturing relationships, she attends a medical conference, but struggles to leave her hotel room as her memories frighten her.
The Georges' Wife. Vera has become housekeeper to Mr. and Mrs. George and lover to her male employer while returning to school as a medical student. She becomes pregnant with Mr. George's child. They plan to marry and move to Australia as her mom still worries about her choices.
The Vera Wright trilogy is an intriguing look at a coming of age woman during WWII (My Father's Moon and Cabin Fever) and into her middle age (The Georges' Wife). The writing feels stilted, but brings to life the 1940s and 1950s from the perspective of a British woman, who in My Father's Moon and The Georges' Wife is not very likable while readers will empathize with her in Cabin Fever. My Father's Moon and Cabin Fever cover the same events, but from differing mental perspectives with the latter being the best book of the trio as Elizabeth Jolley takes a deep poignant look at Vera's reactions to mistakes she has made in her young life. Overall this omnibus is f or fans who relish British historical dramas.
The Kingdom of Ohio
Amy Einhorn Books
c/o G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399155604, $24.95, www.amazon.com
In Los Angeles, the elderly antiques dealer has worked for two years on mystery of the photograph he obtained. The picture is that of Peter Force Cheri-Anne Toledo, taken in 1901.
In 1900 Peter came from Idaho to work in the hazardous digging of the subways tunnels beneath the city. Cheri-Anne is a mathematical genius with bizarre memories that seem not of this time and place. They meet accidentally; at least that is what it seemed to Peter. When she insistently claimed to be the daughter of the ruler of the Kingdom of Ohio who traveled in time, he assumed she was crazy. However, he also is attracted to her and soon begins to believe her fantastic tale when others seem overly interested in her including combatant inventors and warring financiers. Soon he will understand that past, present and future of time and place is relevant to the individual as all converge either to conflict or deconflict if free will is meaningful; just like the note left behind "CROATOAN".
This is a superb time travel romantic suspense thriller that takes a deep look at the sordid underbelly, literally as well as figuratively, side of New York during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The story line is fast-paced in spite of the cerebral underpinnings as fans will relish the tour of the city as rarely seen in novels while being escorted by two strong lead protagonists and enhanced by the real persona they encounter. Matthew Flaming provides a great, intelligent yet exciting thriller.
The Queen's Governess
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399156182, $25.95, www.amazon.com
Katherine Ashley has no hope for her future ever since her mother drowned and her father married Maud. Her stepmother treats Kat with contempt and uses her as a drone nursemaid to her half siblings.
Her impoverished slavish life changes when she does something for Thomas Cromwell, advisor to King Henry VIII. He takes her from her father's home, has her educated and sent to the court serving Anne Boleyn, but actually is a spy for him. In 1536 when the Queen is executed, Kat survives becoming governess to Boleyn's daughter, Elizabeth. She remains with the Princess through some hard times and continues to serve when Elizabeth becomes queen.
This is an intriguing look at the Tudor sixteenth century reign from the perspective of a servant caught in the middle several times during the rule of King Henry and Queen Mary while serving as s surrogate mother in many ways to Elizabeth before she becomes queen in 1558, over two decades after her mom was executed. Imprisoned twice during plots and counterplots, The Queen's Governess survived family and court intrigue; as Karen Harper provides fans of English royal biographical fiction with a fresh perspective.
Robert B. Parker
Paradise, Massachusetts is not the place where one would expect major crimes, but like any town in America, they do happen here too. Sunny Randall, private investigator and sometimes lover of the Chief of Police Jesse Stone, comes to town at the behest of her clients. They want her to rescue their daughter Cheryl DeMarco from the cult Bond of Renewal who promotes peace and love. Cheryl refuses to leave, but soon afterward vanishes. Sunny needs to find her because she believes her parents kidnapped her and she is legally an adult.
At the same time, Jesse has a double homicide to investigate. Two allegedly retired gangsters (Reggie Galen and Knocko Moynihan) were married to identical twins (Becca and Robbie) and lived next door to one another inside gated communities Petrov Ognowski, a former foot soldier in Galen's mob, was found dead in the trunk of his car. Galen's brother-in-law Knocko was gunned down in what looked like a professional hit. Petrov's irate father, a powerful mob boss, plans to find his son's killer before the cops do; this adds pressure on Jesse to solve the case with evidence he can bring to the District Attorney.
This short concise mystery conjures up vivid images as Robert B. Parker provides a powerful thriller. Split Image brings together Sunny and Jesse once again (see High Profile, Shrink Rap and Family Honor) as they take their relationship one step further as each deals with the loss of their ex's by talking to separate shrinks. Their respective subplot inquiries make for a powerful story line as she looks deep inside a dangerous cult and he looks deep inside a dangerous mob. Who needs Spenser when you have Sunny and Jesse?
The Midnight House
Following the New York incident (see The Silent Man), CIA agent John Wells receives some needed R&R. He takes off for rustic New Hampshire with only his dog Tonka as his hiking mate.
However, his respite abruptly ends when his assignments boss Ellis Shafer calls asking him to come back to work as he is needed. An assassin has killed probably five members of the defunct 10 manned Task Force 673, whose mission was to interrogate high-value terrorists; they had no rules except obtain information anyway they can. John searches for the killer with the biggest barriers coming from within as security agency chiefs are willing to allow more Americans to die in order to gain more power.
Shakespeare said "All's well that ends well", but even if he ends the serial killing spree, the espionage operative learns otherwise as Pogo trumps the Bard with "we have met the enemy and he is us". The latest Wells' spy thriller is more a whodunit except for the penis envy testosterone wars between the American spy agencies. Fans will appreciate Alex Berenson's super thriller as his hero may be The Faithful Spy, but others place agency desires over national security.
Fantasy in Death
Four partners founded the computer-gaming firm U-Play. One of them Bart Minnock is the glue that holds the group together. He comes home one day, locks his door, enters his inner sanction and begins to play the new cutting-edge word-wielding warrior game Fantastical, the firm's newest which is cutting edge and not yet released to the public.. He is shocked when his hologram is hit and he feels the pain.
The next day NYPD Lieutenant Eve Dallas is assigned the locked room murder of Bart Minnock, who was found lying on his blood soaked floor. Eve struggles with figuring out how the victim was killed before she can focus on who the culprit is. Until the police entered, the door was locked with no evidence of any tampering yet someone entered and left leaving in spite of a security droid who it says no one was there. However her investigation forces the killer to target the persistent cop and her wealthy spouse and "technical consultant" Roarke.
J.D. Robb consistently writes a strong futuristic police procedural with a deep romantic subplot enhancing the mysteries; now at an incredible thirty tales. Eve is a strong stubborn individual who refuses to quit though progress in terms of resolving opportunity is lacking. Recurring characters make appearances, which provide a feel of continuity to long term fans. Filled with action, Fantasy in Death is a terrific five decades in the future locked door whodunit.
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316035620, $12.99, www.amazon.com
A millennium ago Warlord Acton and his horde conquered the south-lands. They created a feudal system with warlords ruling over fiefdoms in which the native population Travelers were treated as slaves or simply annihilated in wide spread genocide.
Now a thousand years of brutal reign by the New Blood descendants of Acton is threatened by Saker the Enchanter who has raised an angry army of the dead Travelers who seek vengeance against those whose ancestry butchered them in life. The slaughter matches that of the original butchery of Acton while Lord Thegan takes advantage of the conflict to gain more power.
Bramble, Ash and others fear Saker's blood feud is causing more death and destruction and increasing racial animosity, which fuels the worst of the New Blood leaders. Desperate, they feel the only way to end the race war is to have Ash raise the ghost of Acton in order to persuade him to atone for his alleged transgressions; of which Bramble who traveled back in time to the age of the invasion knows is not quite as it has come down in song of us vs. them.
This aptly titled great finish to the Castings Trilogy fantasy saga (see Deep Water and Blood Ties) will stun the audience with its exhilarating pace yet profound insightful look at the destruction of the racial divide. Filled with action, but fueled by a strong cast in which no one is more evil even the cruel Thegan and motives are not black and white. Full Circle (and the entire saga) is a refreshing super fantasy that will entertain readers yet also leave fans pondering who truly wins and how the masses lose when racism rules.
This Is Not a Game
Walter Jon Williams
At college, they became four friends because of online gaming. Charlie, BJ, Dagmar and Austin were able to turn their love for Internet gaming into a thriving business with each having a different prime role; although their fortunes and misfortunes vary. However, the financial crash has crippled their firm leaving their affluence and influence in jeopardy.
Even more dangerous is the situation that one of them finds herself in. Alternate reality game designer Dagmar finds herself trapped when rebels and riots threaten everyone in Jakarta. She has no real way out of Indonesia, but has a virtual escape path. Over the net she contacts the online gamer community and manages to escape the country. However, once back in Los Angeles, Dagmar finds herself in the middle of real homicides including one of them and a wizard using online tools to manipulate finances while the world struggles with the greater crisis. She uses what she learns to create a new game with the "Group Mind" competitors solving clues leading her, she hopes, to the culprit, but not the Russian Mafia.
Perhaps the scene in a restaurant in which a hostess stays on her cellphone ignoring Dagmar the customer sets the tone when the gamer draws a flow chart on the placemat. Fans will relish this strong thriller as the blur between reality and virtual is almost zero. Ironically the social networking commentaries make the plot believable but also slow down the faster than wireless networking story line. Still this is a terrific look at aging gamers as reality and virtual converge in their minds, but with a Russian Mafia professional hit man the only reality is a speeding bullet.
The Serpent Pool
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781590585931, $24.95, www.amazon.com
Over six years ago in the Lake District, Emily Friend drowned in the Serpent Pool. Her grieving mother asked a simple question of law enforcement back then: how does a person drown in water that is less than eighteen inches? The police could not find a reasonable answer to her query.
With Emily's mom dying, DCI Hannah Scarlett of the Cumbria Constabulary Cold Cases decides to officially reopen that case in order to provide closure to the grief stricken dying woman. DS Greg Wharf is assigned to her; he comes with a notorious reputation, but seems competent. Meanwhile George Saffell dies in a blaze that also destroys his valuable book collection. Soon afterward Stuart Wagg is found dead in a well. Hannah visits Louise Kind, sister to the DCI's former lover historian Daniel Kind as the woman lived with Wagg. The only ties between Emily, Bethany, George, and Stuart are Hannah's current lover, bookseller Marc Amos who seems more interested in his new hire Cassie Weston than in the DCI, and Thomas De Quincey who died in 1859.
The latest Lake District cold case police procedural (see The Cipher Garden and The Coffin Trail) is a terrific intelligent whodunit as each step taken by Hannah and George leads to a deeper convolution to their original mystery. The enjoyable story line also pays homage to De Quincey (see Confessions of an Opium-Eater; and On Murder, Considered As One of the Fine Arts). Although the climax is over the top of Scafell Pike, fans will relish this entertaining English cozy.
As China prepares to host the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the country is filled with pride and excitement even though traffic will be stopped for the Games. However, as the countdown begins to the contests, gold medal contender Sui Mingsham is found dead by the pool; an apparent suicide. Soon afterward an Olympic weightlifter is found dead. Three more top level athletes have also died.
Pressure is on Beijing police Section Chief Li Yan to solve ASAP what appears to be the work of a serial killer as five accidents/suicides seems improbable before nations pull out of the Games out of fear for the safety of their athletes. He asks his pregnant American fiancee forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell for help on solving the deaths that he believes are murders. Complicating their lives is his father and her mother have come to Beijing for the wedding.
This is a great entry in one of the best police procedurals on the market today. The story line is faster than Usain Bolt can run the 100 yet also contains a deep look at Beijing on the brink of hosting the Olympics. The lead couple is a terrific pair as their cross Pacific romance grows stronger. Fans will relish this super saga while seeking the backlist that includes The Firemaker, Snakehead and Chinese Whispers (which apparently occurs after The Runner since the lead pair has a baby son in that tale).
In Mason County, Virginia, veterinarian Rachel Goddard and her assistant Holly Turner come to the home of noted cartoonist Ben Hern to see his famous dog and cat. They overhear a nasty spat between newspaper publisher Cam Taylor whose paper is in financial trouble, and Hern, who also uses the name of artist Benicio Hernandez. Ben refuses to give Cam any money to save the paper.
Rachel and Holly leave Ben's mansion, but sees Cam's car on the side of the road so they stop to offer assistance, but he is not there. They hear gunfire in the nearby woods and go to look; they find Cam's corpse. Not long after that, Cam's house burns to the ground; after the building cools a dead woman whose body has bullets is found inside. The sheriff assumes the second corpse is Cam's wife Meredith. Another person is killed and Ben's mom vanishes. If that is not enough Rachel's lover deputy sheriff Tom Bridger's former girlfriend Leslie Taylor, daughter of two of the dead, needs her ex allegedly for solace. Fearing for their loves and needing to know what happened, Rachel makes inquiries only to learn her late friend Cam apparently was trying to extort money from various sources like Ben.
The third Rachel Goddard veterinary whodunit (see Disturbing the Dead and Heat of the Moon) is a fabulous amateur sleuth with some police procedural elements as the heroine recognizes the potential danger she and Holly are in. Thus she investigates the homicides, but what she finds tear into her gut as she links the killings back to 1960s activism, 2009 blackmail and other secrets that have left corpses behind and threaten relationships with a destruction of trust.
c/o Wildside Press
9710 Traville Gateway Drive, #234, Rockville, MD 20850
9781439156797, $7.99, www.amazon.com
Kira Solomon's cover is an antiquities expert. However, although she is a guru on ancient artifacts, the Gilead Commission found her as an Atlanta tweener with incredible psychometric skills. They trained her to fight the Fallen Shadows who cause havoc and disenchantment. Now thirteen years since they found her, Kira prefers to focus on her antiquities work.
Once her teacher and mentor, Bernie Comstock arrives with a four millennia old Egyptian blade that he needs her special touch to authenticate its age. Kira does just that and knows instantly that the blade belongs to an immortal Fallen Nubian warrior who searches for it throughout Atlanta. When a demon kills Bernie, Kira confronts Khefar the immortal, who looks her age rather than someone four thousand years old. Surprising herself, she agrees to team up with Khefar as evil Shadows want the blade that call out to both of them as much as their attraction does.
Filled with great spins, the first Shadowchasers urban fantasy is a terrific tale due to the heroine. Her current case is personal in several ways, but also could lead her into the Shadows of darkness. Atlanta proves a great landscape for a battle between shadow and shadow-hunters, but it is the teaming of Kira and Khefar as she learns there are plenty of shades of gray between light and dark.
A Highlander's Homecoming
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781439144251, $7.99, www.amazon.com
In 1272 Scotland heroic Robert MacQuarrie is dying from battle wounds. However, because of his valiantly risking his life to keep others safe, Faerie propel him into the present day where modern medicine saves his life. His only regret over the next decade living in the twenty-first century was his inability to keep young Isabella MacGahan safe as he had pledged to her dying father Thomas who saved his life; death had prevented him from fulfilling his oath.
The fey asks for a volunteer to return to the thirteenth century so Robbie jumps at the chance hoping he can still achieve his vow. However, he ends up 1292 where he meets a now adult Isabella who has faerie powers that has left her a pariah and with no understanding of what she possesses. When he explains to her who he is, she scoffs at his contention. However, as he tries to keep her safe from a hostile clan dispute, his wounds from two decades earlier leaving him dying. Only Isabella combining her fey power with her love can save his life.
The latest Daughters of the Glen romantic fantasy (see A Highlander's Destiny and Soul of the Highlander) is an enchanting entry filled with a terrific time paradox twist as the hero can fulfill his pledge except the girl he is to protect is now a beautiful woman by the time he has come back to her. The lead couple makes the tale with their respective emotional problems as he feels he is betraying his friend by falling in love with Thomas' daughter and she believes she is unworthy of love due to her paranormal proclivity. A Highlander's Homecoming is another master mage Melissa Mayhue's marvelous medieval romance.
Succubi Like It Hot
New Yorker Jackie Brighton is still learning the rules of being a Succubus as going from B to double D in an instant takes an adjustment. She figures how bad can it be as she has a drop dead figure, a dig gig as an archeologist, and two hot hunks from opposite sides of the spectrum, Noah the angel and Zane the vampire, thirsting to make love with her. Life is perfect as long as she has sex at least every two days.
However, something is not right starting with her leaving the pizza guy unconscious and the shrinking gap between her sexual appetites. Unaware never to make a deal with a demon, she desperately arranges for a powerful demon to remove her curse in exchange she will deliver a message to Delilah, the oldest succubus working America. Jackie and her succubus BF Remy drive to New Orleans with Zane along for the sexual ride. However, he vanishes at a rest stop leaving Jackie sexually in trouble, but the danger awaiting her in New Orleans is someone wants her dead.
Jackie knows first hand that any species of Gentlemen Prefer Succubi over archeological humans is good for her. However, this time her need for sexual release is causing an implosion for her as the time between encounters shrink causing amusement for her fans. This is one wild zany road show as It Happened one Night after another and another until all hell breaks out in New Orleans. Although the plot is sexually thin, fans will enjoy this humorous lighthearted frolic mindful of Harry Rheems' "bandaged" character in Deep Throat.
Gin Blanco is a resident of the Ashland Asylum for two weeks. In group therapy she explains she kills people as she is the notorious Spider, the most feared assassin east of the Mississippi. She prefers to use mundane ways to commit homicides, but can use her Stone or Air elemental powers if needed. No one in their right mind until they are dead would believe the Spider is a female as gender bias is strong in Gin's line of work. Her paying job is to kill the shrink, but she also adds the rapist orderly as pro bono; 30 seconds and both are dead.
A client hires Spider to kill whistle-blowing businessman Gordon Giles. However, the Air Elemental who hired her through her handler Fletcher Lane brutally murders her mentor as going after Giles was a trap. The killer made one critical mistake by failing to eliminate Spider. This one is personal, but what has made Spider the best assassin is she knows when to partner. She teams up with Ashland police detective Donovan Caine, who loathes her for killing his partner, but wants her too perhaps because he is the rarest species in Ashland, which has every form of supernatural and natural essences. He is an honest cop.
From the opening comment that her name is Gin and she kills people for living and throughout, this is a grim urban noir fantasy starring a killing machine who leaves behind quite a body count. The death toll leads the audience to wonder what the hell she puts inside her barbeque at the Pork Pit. Fast-paced and filled with action within a dark atmosphere, readers will enjoy following Spider's escapades as she works the Carolina case taking one bite at a time but getting closer to the killer with each step.
Gentlemen Prefer Succubi
In New City, Wyoming museum docent Jackie Brighton wakes up in a dumpster. She thinks back to having met a guy at the swanky bar of the luxurious Grand National Hotel. Out of character for her, she had gone to the room of bachelor number one angel Noah for mind-boggling (and bodily parts) sex. Although she does not remember, she also ended up having a bite with Bachelor number two Zane the vampire.
That sexual combo has turned her into a succubus that men desire including the angel and the vampire. Porn star succubus Remy mentors Jackie who begins a quest for a magical halo while trying to decide between the two bachelors in her life; knowing that if she chooses one over the other she has picked which side she joins in the cosmos war.
The characters are stereotype as is the war; yet Gentlemen Prefer Succubi is a great one sitting read due to a wicked sense of humor in which author Jill Myles shows she has a deft touch as the timing seems to be perfect. Fans will cheer on the nerd who becomes a sex goddess, which has perks but also cons.
The Little Death
In Devil's Garden on the Archer Ranch, cowboys find the body of a man in approximately the same place that the corpse of the owner's son was found twenty-eight years ago. The police identify the dead person as Mark Durand, lover of Reggie Kent of Palm Beach. Reggie is a walker who escorts wealthy women to events that their husbands do not want to attend. The work enables him to enter the upper crust of society without spending any of his money and excludes sex.
Police detective Roy Barbary believes Reggie killed Mark during a lover's quarrel and in a further fit if rage decapitated the victim. Private investigator Louis Kincaid with his friend former cop Mel Landeta, who is going blind, arrive to help the latter's pal Reggie clear his name. As they investigate, they discover two more similar homicides spread out over the years with the decapitated bodies found at that same spot. The men have in common being studly handsome in physique and looks and financially needy. Louis believes if the killer(s) is not stopped soonest, a fourth murder will occur, but the answers are concealed inside the close knit elite of Palm Beach society; a place where a dick and an ex cop will never gain entrance.
P.J. Parrish always provides a strong tale starring a special hero who is black working in white Palm Beach without regard to the rage of the affluent locals that a working class African-American dares question any of them; three strikes and he still swings the bat. Filled with plenty of action but clearly character driven, The Little Death is a top notch whodunit.
A Highlander's Destiny
As she tells fortunes at a Renaissance Faire to the scorners and skeptics, Destiny Noble is worried about her missing teenage sister Leah; who the cops label another runaway. Her visions she inherited from the father who abandoned her, Leah and their late mom lead to Jesse Coryell of Coryell Enterprises though she has little hope that this wealthy person, who she knows is her destiny, will assist the likes of her based on her paranormal "whims".
Jesse has Fae blood flow inside him and has just come back from four months of training the Realm of the Faerie. He knows he is a protector of the mortal realm from rogue faeries. When he meets Destiny, Jesse believes she is concealing something from him, but first must kill faeries who attack them. Still he agrees to help her on her quest as she struggles with the visions that Leah was kidnapped by blonde killers who apparently want their blood.
The latest Daughters of the Glen Highlander romantic fantasy (see A Highlander of Her Own, SOUL OF A HIGHLANDER, THIRTY NIGHTS WITH A HIGHLAND HUSBAND, and HIGHLAND GUARDIAN) is a wonderful charming entry. The lead couple makes the tale as they struggle with instant attraction and desire while under attack and on a rescue mission. Fans will enjoy Melissa Mayhue's fine tale as Destiny, unlike Jesse, needs to totally embrace her paternal heritage to save herself, her sister and her soulmate.
Knit, Purl, Die
Wealthy widow Gloria Sterling has returned from Florida to Plum Harbor, Massachusetts with her third husband much younger Jamie Barnett. The artist is considered a boy toy by Gloria's friends at the Black Sheep Knitting Shop. Soon after her return, Gloria is found dead in her swimming pool; two empty wine glasses nearby.
The Black Sheep Knitting club members are stunned as Gloria was a colorful larger than life person. The five female knitters led by the shop's owner Maggie Messina assume Jamie killed her as the motive is money although the cops declare her death an accident. They investigate seeking clues one stitch at time.
The second Black Sheep knitting amateur sleuth (see While My Pretty One Knits) is an enjoyable regional romp starring five intrepid knitters. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Gloria returns home with numero three and never slows down as the club members follow the threads not worrying that a killer might be watching their progress. Readers will enjoy this cozy also filled with knitting tip and web sites and recipes.
Diary of a Confessions Queen
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
9781605420950, $15.95, www.amazon.com
Seven years ago in Kansas, Dan Crosby vanished without a trace. His wife Amy, who writes fictional "confessions" articles for True Lies magazine, has not heard a word from him since he disappeared. She prepares to file a legal motion declaring him dead so she can move on with her life and collect his life insurance before she loses their home
However, Amy receives a note from an extortionist demanding she gives him or her, $2000 or the blackmailer will prove Dan is alive. Used to taking on the roles of the made-up characters whose confessions she writes about, Amy refuses to pay the blackmailer. Soon afterward, her home is broken into and vandalism begins. Police Detective Brad Tyler, who worked her husband's missing person's case to no avail and Dan's friend Jerome Keller try to help the almost widow. When someone murders Jerome, Amy becomes the prime suspect in his murder and under suspicion for doing away with her husband; though his corpse was never found.
Filled with an eccentric cast especially the lead female, whose opening commentary of "My husband took out the garbage and never came back", sets the tone for a fun wacky suspense thriller. Although the killer is over the top of Mount Sunflower, fans will enjoy the antics of a heroine who plays the roles of her true confession characters and the cop fixated on her.
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9781420104769, $5.99, www.amazon.com
In 1201 in Toledo, the Kingdom of Castile, Lady Ada of Keyworth is addicted to drugs. She owes a fortune to unsavory people and desperately needs her next dose, but has nothing to sell. Apothecary storeowner Hamid implies she has one last item of value. In exchange for the tincture, he will sell her at a sex auction.
Novice monk Gavriel de Marqueda rescues Ada, but believes she may prove to be his savior. Before taking his final vows, the celibate monk must redeem a lost soul. The problem Gavriel faces is his desire for the woman who is his quest. As Ada struggles with withdrawal, they travel together to his monastery while he hides his need behind icy aloofness. Ada believes she needs to help him withdraw from the demons eating at his soul.
This medieval romance is a terrific tale that focuses on what we believe is modern issues of drug addiction (what Opium Wars?) and priestly celibacy. The lead couple is a fabulous pairing who bring alive the era and the problems they face. Fans will enjoy this fine tale and seek the previous Scoundrel's story (see What A Scoundrel Wants) as Carrie Lofty provides a profound timely tale.
Dead by Midnight
Lorie Hammonds dreamed of making it in Hollywood so she left Dunmore, Alabama to pursue her dream. She left behind her boyfriend, now the town Sheriff Mike Birkett (see Silent Killer for the back story).
She came home after her fantasy failed and her BFF widow Cathy Cantrell needed her (also see Silent Killer). Mike remains angry with her to the point it impacts his job as he ignores death threats aimed at her. The widower tries not to be short with his kids, eleven years old M.J. and nine years old Hannah while not understanding why they reject caring Abby Sherman who reminds him of his late wife Molly. However, Powell Agency detective Maleah Perdue takes the threats to Lorie seriously as a serial killer is methodically murdering the cast who performed in the nude in an adult film that Lorie would prefer to not count on her credits list. She will show her inner strength when the two kids become the target.
The latest Dead By romantic suspense thriller tied to the Powell Detective Agency is a tense direct sequel to the Silent Killer. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as a serial killer methodically murders the cast of a porn film with Lorie listed as an actress. As she and Mike learn via Dead by Midnight that a person cannot run from their deeds as regret and remorse are powerful feelings that never quite leave. Fans will relish this strong sequel with a fascinating unexpected potentially deadly twist that does not require reading the previous novel, although that helps with the past that haunts the present.
In a world in which everyone knows vampires exist with no legal rights and judicial recourse, human hunters kill them as sport. The O'Donnell family have been vampire hunters for generations, but whether the blood has thinned or the next generation does not have the heat to kill, the current brood only has two killers of the undead; the patriarch and his oldest son Alex. The daughter Daisy and the youngest son use a magic compass to find the bloodsuckers' lairs in order to steal the pure blood that they sell for its medical properties.
Daisy believes adult vampires are evil until she meets Erik Delacourt at popular Los Angeles vampire nightclub the Crypt. She has taken blood from a vampire she is forced to kill because he came after her. The West Coast master vampire Rhys wants the thief dead, but Erik vows to protect Daisy from even his best friend because he loves her and will die for her. Alex arrives in Los Angeles vowing to keep his siblings safe from the undead whether it be Rhys, Erik or some other vamp. In love with Erik, Daisy must choose between her family and her soulmate.
Everlasting Kiss feels like a vampire West Side Story as Amanda Ashley adds to her wonderful take on the vampire mythos as humans and the undead are natural enemies yet the O'Donnell brood and Rhys and Erik will need to find a compromise to save their lives. Fans will appreciate the vulnerable Romeo and Juliet lead couple as the Blood Thief and the vampire learn that love supersedes everything else.
After successfully completing their last mission without their mentor Charles Martin (see Under the Radar), who remains missing, the Sisterhood decides to celebrate at their getaway on Big Pine Mountain anyway as he would have expected that of them. As Charles comes home to them, his reception is a bit cold until Yoko welcomes him back. However the pre gala amiable bickering comes to an abrupt halt when Jack Emery calls his fiancee Nikki to tell her Yoko's beloved Harry Wong lost everything including his dojo to an identity theft ring.
Outraged, the Sisterhood vows to not just get Harry back his money and his dojo, they plan to steal the identities of the thieves. With help from their journalist pal Maggie and with Charles back in the fold, they begin their vendetta.
Over the top as usual, this is a fun Sisterhood entry with the ladies doing their typical mission impossible escapades. The story line is fast-paced though even fans of the previous thirteen entries will need a scorecard to keep track of the good gals. Still with a terrific surprising coda, fans will relish the latest avenging exploits of the Sisterhood.
The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthorne and Wayne Josephson
PO Box 4421, Charlottesville VA 22905
9780615332017, $14.99, www.amazon.com
In seventeenth century Boston, scholar Roger Chillingworth returns to the Puritan colony after two years in England. He is stunned to find his much younger lovely wife Hester Prynne with an illegitimate daughter Pearl, a resident of Prison awaiting trial for adultery. Hester refuses to betray her lover for his condemnation for violating one the God's Commandments. Her punishment is to wear a capital Letter A on her breast for the rest of her life. Roger vows to expose the cretin who dishonored him. For refusing to reveal her lover's identity, she is condemned to wear a letter 'A' sewn onto her clothes. Driven to madness, Roger resolves to discover and destroy the man who has stolen his honor. Over the next few years, Hester does her best by her daughter while suffering poverty, humiliation and guilt for what she cannot offer her beloved Pearl; while the two men not in her life fail to cope with crippling guilt, remorse and cowardliness.
As he did with another classic Jane Eyre, Wayne Josephson provides a modernization of the syntax of the language while adhering to Nathaniel Hawthorne's powerful moral message that rings true today with for instance the abortion controversy. Purists will insist if it isn't broke don't fix it, but Mr. Josephson makes a strong case that the 1850 published novel is going the way of the Canterbury Tales (let the purists read that in ye olde English). The re-touch is a bit more than desired, as part of the original is the overdrawn atmospheric background of a martinet paternal society invoking God's wrath. Still Mr. Josephson does a super job of making this great classic starring a brave heroine much easier to read and very entertaining while enhancing the strong message of forgiving oneself as well as others for "sins".
Charlotte Bronte and Wayne Josephson
9780615324449, $14.99, www.amazon.com
Jane Eyre was orphaned as a young girl, but though starving and the recipient of much cruelty from her aunt she perseveres. She is sent to boarding school where she is victim of abuse, but instead of caving in, she got stronger. Jane obtains work as the governess at Thornfield Hall where she falls in love with her employer, brooding Mr. Rochester. However, instead of a happy ever after, they are forced to separate leaving her poor and alone.
Although purists will complain that if it ain't broke don't fix it, others like Mr. Josephson will disagree that in this case it may not have been broke in 1847 when first published, but is showing syntax rust as languages changes over a century and a half make even a classic read rigid. Just think of how obsolete Beowulf and the Canterbury Tales would be without translations. Although this reviewer was concerned having read the original in high school four decades ago, Mr. Josephson succeeds in doing this with a light touch that does not take way from Ms. Bronte's Victorian saga. Readers will appreciate his deft skill to enable the modern day audience to appreciate a classic.
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439101162, $24.99, www.amazon.com
Although the biography primarily focuses on the famous TV show that nuked the then boundaries of television, there is more to this solid look at this groundbreaking show. In "Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour", author David Bianculli opens with a section on the childhood and early steps of the brothers entering the entertainment world until their key appearance on the Jack Paar show. However, it is the deep look into each show and the battles with CBS and with other members of the show over what can be said or used on the air that makes this a fascinating biography. Finally the ultimate tribute to Tom and Dick Smothers besides bios like this one is how far they opened TV with current satire that tore into the establishment. The show was killed in its third season in 1969, but Mr. Bianculli makes a strong case that its influence remains stratospheric today in Stewart, Colbert and Maher.
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
9780758238085, $22.00, www.amazon.com
There has been a dearth of clients at the Moonlight Magnolia Detective Agency, which leaves owner Savannah Reid bored. She thinks she will have a lot of time to spend with her Granny who has come from Georgia on a visit to San Carmelita. However, her good friend Detective Sergeant Dirk Coulter asks for her help on a case he is working; piquing Savannah's interest so she cannot refuse.
The corpse of Maria Wellman was found at the bottom of the steps leading from her home to the beach; both the cop and the private sleuth know instinctively she was murdered. Her husband, renowned diet guru Dr. Robert Wellman claims his wife's jewelry that she was wearing is missing when Savannah inquires about it. The doctor seems more concerned over the lost jewelry than his wife's demise, which enhances him as the prime suspect. However as Savannah and Dirk conduct a deeper investigation they unearth a horde of suspects especially when they learn the true names of the Wellman couple though the diet king remains the top choice.
Except for Savannah's friends and family, the rest of the support cast is a selfish lot with some having performed criminal activities; none are endearing as each is nasty leading the audience to believe they are real and capable of murder, and wanting each one to be the killer. That is the cleverness behind this strong whodunit as the reader will miss clues because of a desire to see the multitude locked away. G.A. McKevett provides another spectacular mystery as the victim is placed on the ultimate weight loss program: death.
Sweet and Dirty
"Baring It All". Dog trainer Michelle Gray asks BDSM club owner Ro Kaliph to teach her how to be a dominant as she is so passive even working with the canines. Instead Ro wants her to surrender her heart and body as his submissive.
"Forbidden Heat". Nora Sabine needs a break from work so heads to a B&B with her fiance of two years Ryan who suggested the place. However, she learns the inn caters to the bondage and breakfast crowd. Attracted to his newest female guest, Twisted Wood owner Sylvester Vincent plans to take Nora to a place where she has never been before even in her wildest fantasies and knows he will surpass his wildest dreams while doing so.
The key to these two erotic BDSM tales is that both contain the psychological needs of the dominant and submissive personalities without making either seem perverted. Each tale is well written, filled with heat and heart, just bring your erotica checklist with you.
Here Comes Trouble
If anyone told Kirby Farrell that global warming is a hoax she would tell them to visit her bed and breakfast ski lodge in Vermont as the weather outside is tropical for winter in New England. She fears if it does not snow soon she will go out of business.
Brett Hennessey grew up in Las Vegas where he has become a poker superstar. Fleeing some trouble, he bikes across the country finally stopping for R&R at Kirby's rustic B&B. The innkeeper and the cyclist are immediately attracted to one another forgetting their woes as she thinks she is fortunate with her new guest and he believes Lady Luck has given him a royal flush. That is until his past arrives in Vermont to call him out and he has doubts after a recently failed relationship and her being older than her card playing biker.
A bit over the top of the Green Mountains, Here Comes trouble is a fun contemporary romance. Kirby and Brett are a likable pair as he is a charming rogue and she is a hesitant damsel. Their debates over age, life, and love make for a humorous frolic with late suspense.
Half Past Dead
"The Undying Heart" by Zoe Archer. During the Crimean War, Sam Reed has been turned into an uncaring zombie soldier by his commander. His childhood friend Cassandra Fielding is an artifact hunter. When they meet as adults they fall in love, but his commander must be stopped before more dead are brought back to battle the living.
"Simon Says" by Bianca D'Arc. The government experiment to create super soldiers fails as instead the men are turned into zombies. Black Ops Simon Blackwell is assigned the mission to prevent the escaped zombies from spreading their contagious conversion. However, his past catches up with him when his pursuit runs through Doctor Mariana Daniels, whom he abandoned for the project three years ago.
These two romantic fantasies are entertaining zombie romps though they occur in different eras and atmospheres.
In Louisiana, ADA Erin Jerome conceals that she is an Other from her human compatriots in the District Attorney's office. What makes it difficult to conceal her nature is someone seems to know what she is. That person stalks her by torturing and then killing anyone who even slightly upsets Erin.
Fearful as she knows broken corpses are not a good way for an ADA to live especially to go out on a date, Erin hires shapeshifting bounty hunter Jude Donovan to stop her killer f rom giving her anymore courting presents. He recognizes immediately what she is and who she is to him. Jude will keep his soulmate safe even if it means searching the Bayou inch by inch to find her Other "mate". However, although Erin senses who Jude is to her, she hides her maternal roots from him fearing he will leave.
The key to this exhilarating bayou romantic fantasy is the variety of Other species are developed enough to feel genuine. That critical element makes the suspense seem real as Erin and readers know how dangerous the serial killing stalker is. Jude is terrific as an Alpha Male when it comes to his mate's safety and understands the clever psychopath he hunts is an amoral Alpha. Sub-genre fans will appreciate Cynthia Eden's strong paranormal "triangle".
The Stranger's Secrets
In 1875 Sarah Spalding looks forward to seeing her brother Micah for the first time in years as she leaves Virginia for his home in Colorado. Mavis Ledbetter accompanies her on her journey west. Also in their train compartment is Yankee Whitman Kendrick heading to Kansas to marry.
Sarah and Whitman are attracted to one another, but she loathes all Yankees because she lost everything she owned including her ability to walk without a cane due to their invasion. However, when she fires Mavis, Sarah allows Whit to assist her. Soon after letting her companion go, someone murders Mavis with Sarah being the only suspect. She and Whit pretend to be married in a risky effort to root out the real culprit. As they fall in love, his war activity if revealed to her would end their relationship without her taking a look.
This sequel to The Redemption of Micah is a terrific Reconstruction Era romantic suspense starring two great lead characters still struggling with the horrors of the Civil War one decade after the hostilities ended. The story line is driven by the dynamic lead pair who fall in love, but to have a future together must overcome her loathing of everyone Northern and his hiding his war activity from her while also solving the whodunit. Beth Williamson provides a strong Americana thriller.
Wolf Tales 9
The Chanku have come from around the country to Montana for a gala as Tia is giving birth to twins. The labor is hard and her lifemate Luc upset. So each decides to tell an exploit before they understood they were shapeshifters; an event that changed them.
They talk through the night and time passes in good company. However, when Tia gives birth to the twins, one is dying. The Chanku come together sending waves of sexual energy to save the life of the newborn.
The latest Wolf Tale thriller is more an extended family drama than the usual erotic romantic suspense although there are plenty of sexual encounters of seemingly every kind. The story line is fast-paced from the onset, but lacks the nasty external villains that assault the Chanka in their several sanctuaries. Instead the issue focuses on saving the baby, which makes for an intriguing crisis with an even more fascinating solution. Readers will appreciate this strong but different entry that also contains a scorecard to assist on who belongs to whom.
Got It Going On
Stephanie Perry Moore
Attending Western Smith College, Cassidy Cross wants to become a Beta Gamma Pi sister as she knows they are the top sorority on the campus. However she has a reputation for guy hopping, but maturity has changed her though the players keep hitting on her. Instead Cassidy, the dance squad captain, wants to Al Dutch's girlfriend.
Al reciprocates reality is nowhere near the dream as it turns into a nightmare after they go further than she is ready for and turns worse when he reveals his secret to her . Her pledge sister Isha encourages Cassidy to get professional help and to turn to her faith to guide her.
This is an interesting entry in the Beta Gamma Pi young-adult series as the focus is on premarital sex, illness and much more as Stephanie Perry Moore takes a profound look at sexually active young adults. That much more is the problem as Cassidy seems more like a college coed Job so much are her woes which can overwhelm the reader especially when other BTI sisters have issues too. Fans of the saga will initially not like the heroine's brash yet aloof escapades but will root for her when she begins to look within her heart and soul for solace.
The Queen's Dollmaker
In 1781 Paris the fire destroyed her family home and shop. Her parents died soon afterward. Teenager Claudette Laurent leaves Paris with other fleeing females hoping to find work in England. After a horrific employment with a shrew, Charlotte uses her dollmaking talent to open up a small shop in London
Over the next few years her dolls become prize possessions of the elite and knowledge of her talent crosses the Channel to Versailles where young Queen Marie Antoinette asks her to come home. In France, Claudette reunites with her childhood boyfriend Jean-Philippe. As the Revolution explodes, Claudette's connection as the Queen's Dollmaker places her in prison awaiting a date with Madame Guillotine if she fails to give testimony against Her Highness.
This is a terrific late eighteenth century saga that uses real persona to bring to life mostly Paris during the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. The two keys that refresh this delightful story line are the insightful look at dollmaking and collecting in the 1780s and a rather different view of the Queen who becomes a convenient scapegoat for the excessive of the Revolution. Historical readers will appreciate this deep look at life in France during a period of turmoil.
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781591027881, $26.00, www.amazon.com
In the Birthright universe, Wilson Cole leads his Starship: Rebel crew of losers and criminals as they covertly revolt against the Republic. However, in spite of some success, Wilson concludes they are a gnat attacking a woolly mammoth as the enemy has millions of space vessels in the Republic navy to his 800; many of their ships superior to his Starship Theodore Roosevelt.
After a few weeks of hit and run Wilson decides they need a new gamut as they all will die of old age before reducing the enemy from a seven digit navy to six.. Wilson decides on the Trojan Horse solution surrendering of the Teddy R to Lafferty, who previously hijacked several Republic naval ships. Lafferty and crew to include rebels escort the Teddy R to Deluros VIII, the Headquarters of the Republic where Cole holds the Secretary hostage until they are attacked by another force. The Secretary places Cole in charge of the Republic Navy when Admiral Garcia is killed by the first wave assault.
Although the climax feels forced, fans of the Starship saga will relish the Trojan Horse ploy that turns the Republic upside down. Fans will appreciate the fifth book in Mike Resnick's strong saga filled with twists that will stun readers. Newcomers will appreciate the appendices that probably should be read first although perusing the previous Starhip stories is even better especially as they are super. Mr. Resnick is five for five with this enjoyable entry as in a distant galaxy the Ballard of Wilson Cole tops the Hit Parade.
Linda O. Johnston
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425231593, $7.99, www.amazon.com
When she was a big shot Los Angeles attorney Kendra Ballantyne hated her on call 24/7 life. She reengineered her lifestyle becoming a pet-sitter who also works animal rights cases. Adding to her belief she lives the near perfect harmonious life is her boyfriend Dante DeFrancisco, owner of HotPets pet supply chain.
Dante sponsors HotWildAnimals sanctuary in the San Bernardino Mountains. Everyone is ecstatic over the birth of three wolf pups. However, the elation is tempered by the fact that the mother is missing, which means feeding the infants from bottles. The biggest concern is that for the wolf to vanish from the compound required a human letting her out or perhaps abducting her for ransom. Kendra meets Dante's friend, movie star Brody Avilla, who seems to ex clude her when the men talk seriously with one another. She conducts an inquiry starting with Dante's computer that leads her to employee Jon Doe, who's found dead in the wolf enclosure.
The latest Pet Sitter amateur sleuth whodunit (see Double Dog Dare and Never Say Sty) is an enjoyable tale with two mysteries; first there is the missing she-wolf and second identifying a killer. The shift in locale refreshes the fun series as Kendra's enthusiasm is catching. Although she has success in catching criminals including murderers, readers, especially newcomers, will have doubts that the pet sitter should investigate the homicide even with the missing mother mys tery seemingly tied to the murder. Still fans will enjoy Kendra's latest whodunit as her energy, elan and love of animals (as well as Dante) make for an appealing investigative story.
A Tapestry of Spells
When his family died (see the Nine Kingdoms trilogy), Ruithneadh of Ceangail vanishes behind a shroud of being a fierce raging wizard; ironically he personally vowed to never use magic again. His reputation enables him to be left alone to wallow in self pity and grief as he fears being an offspring of the evil Gair might mean going dark.
His hermit like existence ends when the daughter of a witch Sarah of Doire arrives. She has no paranormal skills whatsoever, but demands Ruith act to stop her brother Daniel who has turned to the darkest magic, threatening to destroy the Nine Kingdoms. Ruith wants to ignore his unwanted visitor but concludes Daniel is using his father's magic. As they search for Daniel, others stalk them.
Starting a new trilogy that focuses on the youngest son of the evil Gair, Lynn Kurland takes her audience back to the Nine Kingdoms with a strong opening act. Fans will feel the author magically transported them to her realm as Ruith now fights against what his father wrought while concealing secrets from his new ally who does likewise. Fantasy fans will enjoy Ruith's quest to prevent another catastrophe tied to his father's legacy.
Sexy as Hell
In 1892, after winning at cards, Baron "Oz" Lennox rushes out to the Blackwood Hotel to meet Nell in a tryst before her spouse returns from Paris. He enters the agreed upon room, but instead of a red-head he is greeted by a blonde who ignores him and turns to her barrister Mr. Malmsey to insure he will serve as a witness.
Thus Oz's luck with the ladies has changed as he asks Isolde Perceval what she wants from him. She calmly explains she wants her reputation ruined so she is not forced into an unwanted marriage. Oz offers a different plan as he too would like to continue his wastrel ways without threats from the marriageable biddies. They agree to marry with plans to divorce soon. However, they prove quite compatible in and out of the boudoir. When Isolde becomes pregnant, Oz leaves for London, but the rake finds no enjoyment without Isolde, who misses him too. She follows him, but his many enemies see her as the heel's Achilles' heal.
Filled with action especially of the erotic kind, Sexy as Hell is an intriguing Victorian romance. The lead couple indulging selfish behavior makes them refreshing as they are atypical of the usual honorable noble. Fans of Susan Johnson will enjoy their hedonistic escapades although the story line is emaciated outside the boudoir.
Caitlyn Lena Rogue Walker relocated from Boston to Pulaski County, Kentucky when she accepted a teaching position. However, she lost her job four years ago when she defended an innocent student leading to her being drugged with pictures of her in scandalous positions. Her so-called sexual improprieties led to Principal Thompson with vindictive school board siblings Grace and Mackay pushing him into firing her. Rather than flee back to New England she became a kick butt bar owner concealing her virginity. The pictures end up on the Internet.
Sheriff Zeke Mayes is attracted to her, but believes not only is she hiding something with her acerbic exterior, but he is too old for her as he assumes his hard core desires will send her running back to New England faster than the Derby is run. Still he owes her from when she lost her teaching position defending his son four years ago that led to th e scandal. However, his biggest hesitation is his fear for her safety which comes from the white supremacist group who killed his mom and spouse; and whom he is investigating.
The return to Somerset (see Nauti Dreams) is a heated romantic suspense thriller starring a tough lead female who when her family's enemies destroyed the reputation of Caitlyn Walker they failed to comprehend how strong "Rogue" is. Zeke has more issues than Rogue so she has her work cut out to win his soul; she has his heart. Although overwhelmed with action that leaves the plot fast-paced and fun but emaciated, readers who relish plenty of fisticuffs and shooting disputes will enjoy fight nights in Kentucky.
Town in a Blueberry Jam
After her husband lost his job, emptied their savings, and dumped her for another woman; Candy Holliday returns to her hometown, the seaside village of Cape Willington, Maine; where she and her dad "Doc" manage Blueberry Acres. Local hero Olympic Gold medal winning swimmer Jock Larson falls off a cliff with his life flashing by including how he died. The townsfolk are unsure of whether it was an accident, suicide, or homicide. Candy is sad over his death, but happy that the Blueberry Festival will still occur with people coming from across the country to attend.
To the locals, the highlight of the gala is the Blueberry Queen Pageant. Five of the contestants are high school students while the other contender is gossip columnist thirty-seven years old Sapphire Vine, a flaky diva (obvious oxymoron). Everyone expects Haley Pruitt to win because of her poise; performance and responses to questions which are by far superior to that of her rivals. Thus when Sapphire wins, everybody is shocked. Soon after her stunning victory, Sapphire is found dead. The town's handyman Ray is arrested for the murder. Candy knows Ray is innocent and intends t o find the real culprit with the help of her BFF Maggie. Their investigation uncovers scandals amongst the pageant judges and other residents, but as they get closer to identifying the perpetrator, the killer watches them in case two more corpses are needed.
This is a charming and amusing Pine Tree State cozy in which Cape Willington is vividly described so that the reader feels they are attending the Blueberry festival. The cast is solid as the residents bring out the ambience of the seaside village. Although the amateur sleuthing is similar in tone to many sub-genre entries, the irony of readers knowing a lot more than the cops or the BFF detectives and the Twitter sight provide a fresh spin to B.B. Haywood's first Candy Holliday whodunit.
Pieces of Sky
In 1869 in New Mexico Territory, British heiress Jessica Thornton knows she is a long way from her Northumberland home. Pregnant she desperately needs to find her brother George Adrian before her martinet abusive brother-in-law John Crawford finds her.
As the heat is killing her, she meets Brady Wilkins, oldest brother of three. When the coach crashes near his home, Brady offers her a place to stay for now at his ranch RosaRoja. Feeling safe with him and later his siblings (Jack and Hank), she accepts. As she comes to know his kindness and he her passion, they fall in love. However John comes for her to take her home so he can control her wealth; and the son of the previous owner of RosaRoja, insanely raging former convict Sancho Ramirez with a brutal land vendetta and his even crazier half brother Paco, arrives also as they want the family spread returned to them.
The first Blood Rose Post Civil War romance is an entertaining tale refreshed by the intermingling of the Wilkins and Ramirez families; with the additional entanglement of the British invasion. The story line is fast-paced and though somewhat by the Americana standard, Kaki Warner proves the little things matter as her lead couple is a fine pairing of seemingly opposites and the support cast is extremely strong to include Bullshot the loyal dog.
The School of Essential Ingredients
Lillian became a cook as the only means of reaching her mother who walled herself off after her husband abandoned her. Over the years, she taught herself the culinary art and opened up a successful restaurant.
Highly regarded as a chef, Lillian wants others to share in her joy of food. She mentors eight students for a month on every Monday. However, besides the power of good food, Lillian hopes to provide the same wisdom she found with her mother. Nervous because she has no idea who her students will be unlike the experience she succeeded with her mom, Lillian looks forward to Monday nights at her School of essential ingredients in baking a wonderful life.
This is a super character study tale that in many ways reads like interrelated short stories as the chapters focus on different people starting with Chef Lillian and switching to students like married couple Helen and Carl (separate sections), Antonia, Tom, Chloe, Isabelle and Ian. Each has woes that Lillian hopes her teaching the essential ingredients of cooking will help each to understand what matters in life especially relationships. This is a strong contemporary as Lillian puts her soul in every meal she makes because cooking for others is one of the best ways to connect to their souls.
It is not easy being a seventeen years old high school student especially having a boyfriend who is a thousand years old vampire. Complicating matters for Magnus the vampire head of the Blood Coven and human Sunny McDonald is she does not want to convert while his followers demand he accept a blood mate to co-rule; humans are forbidden. While he conceals his destiny from her, she learns all about it from Rhodes Scholar Oxford University magna cum laude Jane Johnson, the coven's chosen one.
Sunny has issues beyond jealousy though that is what Magnus assumes is eating at her. Instead Sunny wonders how someone graduating from prestigious Oxford with honors, knows nothing, even common information, about her school and teachers. Worse she dresses trashy and acts as if the educated are beneath her contempt. Something is not right so when the Coven heads to Vegas for the blood mate convention, Sunny and her vampiric-slayer twin sister Rayne secretly go with them to prove Jayne is a fake before the binding exchange of vows occurs.
Sunny is a pure blood normal American teen who has accepted that vampire exist with a calm demeanor even as she is the readers prime escort into a fascinating sub-culture that resides within the greater society. Volunteer blood donors insure the edict of not killing humans is enforced. Sunny is somewhat hurt that Magnus blows away her concerns rejecting the initial circumstantial evidence she provides without listening. She vows to save him anyway and find a mortal teenage male who she could care for. Although campy and amusing, the latest Blood Coven young adult urban fantasy (see Stake That, Girls That Growl and Boys That Bite) is a splendid vampire tale.
In New Orleans affluent Regan Henry decides to leave her husband though she acknowledges to herself he is not a nasty person; the problem as she sees it is that her spouse is too perfect as perfect demands perfection; something she is not. On that same evening when she walks out, she meets voodoo priest Felix Leblanc. They connect as each is attracted to the other, but both know their bond is much more.
Her new home is apparently haunted by a ghost. She asks Felix for help. He knows he must stay away from Regan whom he loves because he sold his soul to the devil. He fears Satan will destroy her soul while she is willing to risk her soul for her beloved.
This is an entertaining paranormal romance that grips the audience who will wonder what will happen to Regan and Felix as each places their respective soul on the line. In her case her soul remains pure but in his it is a last chance at redemption. Ironically if either succeeds in their Gift of the Magi like sacrifice Satan wins. Fans will enjoy Erin McCarthy's aptly titled The Taken as the lead couple is taken with each while Satan is the Taken scheming to take two souls as the devil diabolically manipulates love.
Otherworld Intelligence Operator Camille D'Artigo is spirit-bonded and married to Smokey the dragon Smokey and Mario the demon fox. She loves both males, but also misses her beloved soul mate Svartan Trillian. Meanwhile the dragon clan demand Smoky chooses them over his human or face consequences. At the same time Camille wonders how Trillian will react to her matings; she and her sisters struggle to locate a new demon general destroying everything.
When her siblings continue the search, the Moon Mother and Black Beast order Camille to come to Otherworld. She is ecstatic as she assumes she will see Trillian. However, as the Equinox arrives, she has a much more complicated scenario awaiting her. The war has gotten hotter and Camille is caught in a ritual that means life and death, but not just for her.
Camille is front and center as her convoluted life gets even more knotted in her latest escapades this time in Otherworld as evil seems one bloody step ahead of her and her siblings. Although it helps to read the previous tales in this super fantasy (see Demon Mistress and Night Huntress, etc.) to better comprehend how far and complex the lives of the D'Artigo sisters have come, Bone Magic is a fabulous entry as master mage Yasmine Galenorn keeps making life increasingly demanding for the three siblings.
Her Mother's Daughter
The seventh grade girls and one younger sister Karen were playing "Bloody Mary" when Queen Mary Tudor arrived to tell the truth to the lone fifth grader who called out to her. She explains the reality behind her notorious legend. Her father King Henry VIII adored her until she turned eleven when he tossed her and her mother Katherine of Aragon aside for Anne Boleyn. She returns to the court as a servant to her half sister Princess Elizabeth. Acrimonious and angry due to her father's rejection and her inability to see her mother, Mary finds some joy eventually in her marriage to Philip of Spain, but that is not enough as he was more away than with her. When she became Queen, she pushed to end the heresy of her father by returning the country to the Catholic Church leading to the deaths of many.
This is a terrific "autobiographical" fiction as Mary reminds readers history is written by the surviving victors, which in this case is her half-sister Elizabeth. Readers will enjoy this fine version although using a fifth grader as her listener seems like an unnecessary gimmick even based on the mythos that Bloody Mary kidnaps little children, as the strength of the novel is in Mary's explanations and rationalizations for her actions built predominantly on her deep religious belief that Catholicism was the pure version of Christianity. This is a winning portrait.
Karen Chance, et al.
"Skin Deep" by Karen Chance. War Mage Lia de Croissets searches for the missing undercover werewolf Cyrus who she thinks is her soulmate.
"Armor of Roses" by Marjorie M. Liu. The murder of an elderly man forces demon hunter Maxine Kiss into the past.
"Etched in Silver" by Yasmine Galenorn. Otherworld Intelligence Operator Camille D'Artigo and Svartan Trillian meet for the first time.
"Human Nature" by Eileen Wilks. FBI agent Lily Yu and her werewolf mate Rule investigate a murder of a close friend.
Fans of the four authors will want to read this delightful collection as the writers contribute fine short stories in their respective mythos. Newcomers will find this anthology as an easy introduction to the fascinating realms of the authors.
The Seelie Summer Queen Caoilainn Muirgheal orders Aislinn Finvarra to serve as guide to Unseelie visitor, half-incubus Gabriel Mac Braire. The High Royal makes it clear to the unhappy Aislinn that Gabriel is to get the royal treatment as the Seelie queen mulls over granting him the asylum he has requested after he defected from the dark court.
Aislinn distrusts Gabriel whom she believes has a secret agenda and who oozes sexual appeal every moment. She is also worried that he or others at court will realize she has Unseelie blood as her dark magick skills grow. However, worried about her Fae people caught between the Unseelie, the Phaendir Druids and the humans, Aislinn risks her life to find the three ancient bosca fadh artifacts that together make up the legendary Book of Bindings; the key to the Fae's freedom.
Wicked Enchantment is a superb romantic fantasy starring a brave heroine whose bloodline is not totally Seelie pure and an Unseelie whose bloodline is too pure with the Dark Magick. Their relationship is filled with distrust and attraction that surprises him but not her as he is a half incubus. With a terrific late twist, sub-genre fans will relish this wickedly enchanting thriller
Desert tribal leader Sheikh Shaheen left behind his Viscount title in England due to a courtesan that caused an estrangement with his father. He vowed to never return to England and never trust any woman again although a desert prophesy that he scoffs at claims he will be burned by a woman of fire.
Courtesan Allegra Synnford grew up in a Marrakech brothel where she learned how to seduce men to do her bidding especially keep her safe. She is extremely careful in selecting her protectors as wealth is not enough. When Shaheen and Allegra meet in 1893 Marrakech, their attraction scorch the desert, but his loathing and distrust of courtesans keep them apart until an enemy Nassar kidnaps her; forcing him to look deep in his soul as he tries to rescue his beloved.
This is an exciting late Victorian romance starring two people used to staying in charge of themselves and others especially with relationships losing control when they meet. Shaheen and Allegra are terrific lead characters whether they are in Marrakech, the Sahara in French Morocco or England. The support cast including the villain and the nomadic Berber/Amazigh tribes enhance a terrific captivity historical.
Security Investigator Jill Walczak hunts a serial "killer alien", whose persona is the mythos behind Area 51; four dead inside the secure zone and nearby Nellis. While she conducts an inquiry for the psychopath, USAF loadmaster and flight engineer Sergeant Mason "Smooth" Randolph at the Tonopah test range in Nevada flies a jet that can reach Mach 6 speed but the last cargo drop fails and he struggles for his life before parachuting to safety in the desert. He waits for his rescue, which should take an hour or so only to have a cop threatening to shoot him as she arrests him when his emergency landing took him inside Area 51.
She releases him, but not before they are exposed to an airborne toxin, which brings them to the attention of the killer. His next target is Jill, who cannot get Mason to step away from her investigation.
The third Catherine Mann Black Ops romantic suspense (see Defender and Hotshot) is a terrific tale starring two likable heroes whose ability to complete one another's sentences is a strong indicator they belong together although both are reluctant to admit it. Although the villain is out of serial killer 101 with an over the top of the Sierra Nevada Mountains personality, fans will enjoy the tale of the courageous cop who smoothly steals Mason's heart.
Jenny Beckinsale and her late fiance Steven Harmon started together The Blue Sky Air seaplane charter business three years ago but it has failed because she has no interest in anything except grieving her loss. Feeling pity as she compares her self to her siblings "Perfect Paul" and Amazing Anna" "Jinxed Jenny" wants to be left alone to wallow. Navy pilot Jared Worth arrives at the cottage of Jenny's grandmother where Jenny hides from the world demanding she either get the business running or refund him the money he lent his best friend Steven.
Jared immediately writes off Jenny as a kewpie doll who cannot run a business. She vows to prove to him she is not an airhead. Neither expected a second chance at love, but will she move past the ghost of Steven before it is too late?
Lake Magic is an entertaining contemporary romance starring two individuals who meet because of the death of someone both loved. The story line is driven by the characters whose first impressions are not favorable, but over time change to love, but both loath the feelings of betraying Steven especially Jenny. Readers will enjoy this warm second chance at love drama.
The Proof Is In The Pudding
In North Hollywood, public relations specialist Phil Logan informs widow Della Carmichael, the hostess of In the Kitchen With Della, that she is one of the three judges selected to score the Celebrity Cook-off charity event at the Olympia Grand Hotel. The other two judges are Yvette Dupree and Keith Ingram. Phil warns her that her Della's Sweet Dreams partner Eileen O'Hara is seeing womanizing Keith, who rumors have it will dump her to marry wealthy Tina Long, daughter of the Olympia Grand's owner. Keith dumps Eileen, but tells her she will be his mistress as he has tapes of their sexual encounters with his face blurred that he will release.
At the gala, Eileen's father Police Detective John O'Hara punches Keith in the face. While cook Wolf Wheeler performs an incredible juggling act with pots, pans and food, someone releases a smoke bomb. When the air clears and the panic ends, Keith is dead from a knife to his throat. The prime suspect is John, who the lead detective Hatch (known fondly by Della as Hatchet) hates.
Although readers know who will be murdered when Eileen hysterically calls "Aunt" Della, fans will enjoy the latest Della Cooks mystery (see Della Takes the cake). Della is courageous as an amateur sleuth and insane as a break and enter "thief" when she sneaks into the victim's home to attempt to steal the tapes. With wonderful recipes after case solved and some included in the whodunit, culinary mystery fans will appreciate Della's risking her life to keep Eileen out of a sex scandal and prove John did not commit the homicide.
Bureau of Land Management Resource Protection Agent Jamaica Wild works out of the Taos, New Mexico filed office. She runs along fences to make sure there are no holes in them; if they contain rips usually means someone is doing something illegal. One morning while running Jamaica stares up at the Rio Grande Gorge bridge only to see activity where there should be none. Two men drops a cross with a man tied to it into the river below; the current takes the cross with its rider.
Jamaica believes someone wants to disguise a murder by making it look as if the ancient Christian sect Los Penitentes, who reenact Jesus' crucifixion as part of their extreme penance, committed the act. She learns the corpse is Father Ignatius who warned her to stop asking questions about Los Penitentes who react rather swiftly and ugly to inquiries and loathe outsiders asking questions about them. Three men break into her car to steal a book Jamaica is writing about this sect. A car follows her and her house is broken into. However, the trauma she faces is raised when someone tries to kill her at a lingerie show. Not one to idly sit back, Jamaica with an unexpected ally goes after her tormentor with help from the late Father Ignatius.
Fans are going to love the latest Wild thriller as we are thoroughly drawn into the world of a little known sub-culture that receives support from the masses. The sect conducts much of its practices un secret because the Catholic Church would prefer they vanish as their modern day penance is considered extreme by most people. The protagonist is a strong woman who may receive a lot of punishment, but obstinately refuses to back down as she remains dedicated and committed although the danger mounts. Jamaica is terrific, but Wild Penance is owned by Los Penitentes.
To Tempt a Saint
Able to attract the quality of the Ton as her lover, courtesan Sophie Rhys-Jones has three cherished "living sins" that affirm her skill. She loves all three of her offspring so is stunned when her youngest son Kit is abducted while staying with her middle child Sir Alexander "Xander" Jones. Xander and his older brother Will vow to bring Kit home to their mom even if they must enter London's darkest underbelly.
In London wealthy Cleo Spencer needs a husband so she can get to her money controlled by her odious guardian; her uncle who has plans for her and her money. When she meets Xander, she thinks he would be perfect as her spouse as he desperately needs a wealthy wife and will allow her some liberties with her affluence. They strike a deal. As Xander continues to search the worst urban cesspools, brave Cleo follows his every footstep as she believes in him, which makes him want to work even harder at the rescue of his brother and her even when her uncle accuses them of a fake marriage.
This is a terrific first Sons of Sins historical romance because of its dark look at the underbelly of London as Cleo and Xander collide in the slums of St. Giles; sort of moving Oliver Twist into the Regency Era. The story line is fast-paced and vivid, but owned by the lead couple as they team up to help one another; he with his amateur sleuthing and she with her need to elude her abhorrent uncle. Kate Moore provides a powerful opening act in a three part drama.
A Stitch in Crime
Molly Pink works as an event coordinator at Shedd & Royal Books and More. Her boss Mrs. Shedd hands over her rhinestone clipboard placing Molly in charge of the "Get Out of the Heat and Light Your Creative Fire" retreat weekend on the Monterey Peninsula. Her employer's only admonition for Molly is not to get involved in a homicide investigation as is her inclination (see By Hook or Crook and Dead Men Don't Crochet).
Pink thinks that will prove no problem since a crafts retreat is an unlikely setting for a murder. She soon finds her theory wrong when one of the instructors, famous Izabella Landers is found on the beach. Rushed to the hospital she is dead from anaphylactic shock due to exposure to peanut butter that she is allergic to. Certain odd details make Molly wonder if a murder occurred even though the police believe a tragic accident happened; the coroner backs up the cops. Determined to find out whether her theory is correct, Molly almost gets killed too. Even more sure a killer is loose; Molly and the Tarzana Hookers investigate.
Betty Hechtman has written an enjoyable amateur sleuth featuring a likable lead protagonist who has reinvented herself one stitch at a time several years after her husband died. Although reckless, a bi-product of her spouse's death as she believes life is to be lived every moment one has and her late mate would admire her for doing so; that zest for taking chances adds to her charm. The whodunit is fun as the woman carrying the symbol of power, the rhinestone clipboard, searches for a killer who may not exist.
Pieces Of Sky
In 1869, humiliated pregnant heiress Jessica Thornton decides to leave England after being raped by her brother-in-law John Crawford. She heads to the home of her brother George Adrian in the New Mexico Territory fearing it may cost her property she owns in Northumberland to abusive John, but staying might mean her life. However, the coach she rides crashes.
Brady Wilkins joins the coach, which soon afterward crashes. He gets help and soon takes the English runaway and the other stranded people to his nearby ranch RosaRoja. As she heals and stays behind after the others leave, they fall in love in spite of her delicate condition. However, she fears John will come and harm her host; and he has his own trepidations involving his brothers and the ranch. Their pasts will give them no choice but to bond in love
This is an exciting western romance that will be on the short list of fans as one of the sub-genre's best books of the year due to the dark grittiness of the plot. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing of "Her Ladyship" and a rancher with both having issues to face. Those issues arrive to haunt each of them and intrude on their growing love for one another. The first of the tales of three brothers, Pieces of Sky is a winner.
The Lost Enchantress
Two decades have passed since the tragedy that killed much of her family and left Eve Lockhart denying her magical skills. When a family heirloom talisman is up for auction, Eve outbids Gabriel Hazard. Afterward he tells her he needs the artifact that is on her neck to overcome a curse.
When two thugs attack them, Eve and Gabriel use magic to thwart their assault. Afterward Gabriel vanishes so Eve visits her grandmother to obtain information while Gabriel studies Eve. As they fall in love, Gabriel must decide between love and a curse while remaining ignorant to the machinations of an evil spirit who wants the power of the pendant and will use Eve to succeed as she is his adversary's weakest point, his heart.
This is an enjoyable romantic fantasy that that is at its best when it stays in the present as the past that intertwines throughout the story line, especially that of the heroine, feels intrusive. This is an exciting tale as two magical practitioners enhanced by love team up in an attempt that both feel is futile to save one another from their childhood demons.
The Roman soldiers were fighting when Killian the crone of Chaos cursed them; changing them into dragons and propelling them into an alternate reality on the Island of Stars. They have waited for centuries to come home as humans. Now they have a chance due to Killian's enemy Andra who enables one of them Bastian to return to Earth two millennia after the banishment spell as a human in search of his soulmate.
In Salem's End, the firm Works Like Magick hires magical temps for their clients. Viveca Quinlan hooks up Bastian as a handyman for McKenna Greylock, who must turn her bed and breakfast into a profit making venture or lose an estate that has been part of her family for centuries. .The land developer has other thoughts for the property and will do anything to obtain it. Only Bastian Dragonelli stands in the way, but his employer wants him to leave as she fears her attraction to her temp.
The first Works Like Magick urban romantic fantasy is a fun lighthearted entertaining tale that is filled with magic mostly because of the hero's struggles to adapt to modern society. Amusing yet with a serious subplot as no one escapes the wrath of Killian, fans will enjoy the naked Dragon who learns what a lance truly is and its true purpose from his beloved employer.
The Butterflies of Grand Canyon
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780452295490, $15.00, www.amazon.com
In 1951 Jane Merkle rides the train with her older husband Morris from St. Louis to spend the summer with her in-laws the Hedquists in Flagstaff, Arizona. On board she meets two female botanists; Elzada is going to Arizona to investigate a thirteen year old cold case murder. When they arrive they are warmly greeted by Morris' sister Dotty and his brother-in-law Oliver. Dotty encourages Jane to be herself and not follow her mantra of "When in Rome, remember you're from St. Louis".
She heeds their advice after her luggage is lost to trade dresses for jeans as comfort is more important near the Grand Canyon. Jane buys a butterfly net and is attracted to National parks Ranger Euell Wigglesworth. Unable to stay out of the inquiry and the vastness of nature since she comes out of her cocoon, Jane assists on the investigation while chasing after butterflies of love.
The Butterflies of the Grand Canyon is an enjoyable historical tale that compares humanity and nature with the former filled with inane frailties and the latter majestic stark beauty, but does so with a soft touch. Jane is the star who holds the engaging story line together while the support cast enhances understanding of her metamorphosis and of the region. Well written in a low key way, fans will enjoy Margaret Erhart's entertaining look at being hum an in the early 1950s on the rim of the Grand Canyon.
Grimmer Tales: A Wicked Collection of happily Never Stories
These are fun short shorts animated endings to famous fairy tales. Pinocchio has a nose that turns into a serial killer's weapon every time he lies (that goodness it is that body extremity rather than a lower woody) and Rapunzel whose hair proves how dangerous living with long locks can prove. Other entries involve Goldilocks tasting the porridge of gang members, Hansel and Gretel going into sugar shock with an insulin treatment facility nearby, and Mary and her lamb serving in Nam. These are amusing takes on the classics, but the reader needs to decide whether the price is worth about a dollar per minute of fun.
Through the Heart
The Hamptons, New York police report describes a homicide that actually began in Kansas. Nora works at a coffee s hop in Kansas where she cannot afford to buy a cup. She also cares for her cancer stricken mother who is undergoing expensive chemo treatments for leukemia in Kansas City, a long drive.
Timothy is a spoiled rich kid living in Manhattan off his family millions. He stops in the coffee shop where he and Nora meet. They are instantly attracted to one another as they fit well together since she is a submissive and he is a bully. Besides desire for each other; they each loathe their respective families. The fairy tale ending is found in the police report.
Points of view rotate mostly between Nora and Timothy with the police investigation thrown in periodically as the reader wonders until the final twist as to who the victim is. Although the love at first sight seems over the top of Mount Sunflower with this couple as she is a mouse and he is selfish, the story line hooks the reader anyway with anticipation while following the fascinating bittersweet love story; pondering throughout who will be left standing in police custody.
Rise of the Ancients: Annuna
JC De La Torre
DLT Atlantis Publishing
9780978527235, $9.99, www.amazon.com
"Ancient Destruction". The war of the Gods continues (see Ancient Rising) with Prometheus battling Zeus, Poseidon and other deities. Mankind's age appears precariously at an end as slowly but surely Prometheus, humanity's prime defender is losing the fight unless Dan Ryan can learn the origin of mankind in time. He has precious little left as once a favorite of the Gods, Atlantis is no more having been sunk beneath the sea.
"Rise of the Annuna". Ryan remains the only hope to save humanity. Prometheus recognizes him as the potential savior so keeps fighting the Gods to buy him some time. However, as the mortal learns the origin of mankind, he now must enter the Greek Pantheon filled with those in heaven and hell who want humanity extinct to reach the Annuna. If he succeeds at somehow reaching the legendary Annuna, he must persuade them that Man is worth saving.
Books II and III are exhilarating fantasy thrillers that continue the war of the Gods started in Rise of the Ancients. The story line is fast-paced throughout but also contains a frantic desperation as Dan knows he is out of time with so much to learn and do. Although it helps to have read the first entry to understand how humanity has seemingly reached the end of the road, Annuna can stand alone as it embellishes the De La Torre mythos.
K.E. & D.A. Jackson
2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, FL 32779
9781606476215, $18.99, www.amazon.com
War explodes, but this is not a typical hostility between countries or terrorists. Instead this is of Apocalypse biblical proportions with thousands of mortals caught up in the conflict.
Barak the thief awakened by the distant sound of blasting finds himself in a strange realm like nothing he has ever seen before. He quickly realizes somehow he has become an immortal and begins a trek hoping to find his way home. Barak meets other folks as confused as he is as they traverse the odd land filled with danger especially from the Nephilim detesting the "reborn" humans who have found their displaced souls. People like Barak who's horrified at what he has done in his life now knows that his soul is beaming God's light inside his heart. As the Nephilim converge on him, he must choose the transgressions of his past or the goodness of his present, whichever he selects will predetermine his future.
Fast-paced from the moment Barak understands he is no longer a simple thief living by the philosophy you only live once so take what you want; instead he is unsure why him as the Nephilim stalk him in what looks like the final days of humanity as represented as it was two millennia ago by a thief. Fans of the Left Behind saga will relish Triduanus as the End of Days is being counted by the last who will go first as the meek will inherit the heavens.
9781590806432, $13.99, www.amazon.com
In Seattle, business delays Michael Tanner from joining his wife Mary Whitney sailing in Lake Superior. Michael is worried for her safety partly because a few years earlier his beloved first wife and her sister were killed in a boating incident and more so because he fears her wealthy ex husband Edwin Tobias is dangerous. Still she is a terrific sailor and unafraid goes ahead with the trip.
Meanwhile as Michael completes his business anxious to get to Wisconsin and his spouse, his belief re Edwin proves accurate. Edwin has stalked Mary from a distance off British Columbia and now Lake Superior waiting for the moment to abduct his former spouse. No one walks out on Edwin Tobias and he knows the time has arrived as Mary and a new friend Liz sail the Apostle Islands when the two women stop at Devils Island.
The latest Tanner -Whitney thriller (see the vividly descriptive A Superior Mystery and Inner Passages) is a superb who-done-it starring a beleaguered heroine as Mary is the prime star on the return to Lake Superior. The story line is straightforward in terms of the stalker and his prey yet Carl Brookins enhances the plot with his save the pristine environment message without preaching. Fans will enjoy this exciting entry as Edwin comes back for his wife.
Dino Vicelli: Private Eye In A World Of Evil
Dorrance Publishing Company
701 Smithfield Street, 3rd floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15222-3906
9781434902948, $10.00, www.amazon.com
In New York City, debonair Italian Greyhound Dino Vicelli loves to dress smartly and enjoys an expensive cigar. He pays for his two prime tastes as a Manhattan private investigator.
When a tall all legs Afghan blonde enters his office, Dino barks out "Wow" as she is beautiful. She introduces herself as Jezebel who hires him to investigate a seemingly simple missing person case, the disappearance of Katy Barnes. A tip sends Dino to Footprint Downs, a place known for human abuse of its runners. At the track guns are fired and a man is killed but not before he warns Dino to seek the "star". Dino soon finds himself in danger from a killer involved in some weird experiments to dominate the world when all he wants is time with Jezebel after he locates Katy.
This is an entertaining satirical canine caper as Dino explores New York from a debonair Noir dog's perspective. Fans will enjoy Dino's escapades as he uses his olfactory and taste senses to find clues while romancing the blonde fatale. Fans of Spencer Quinn's Chet (see Dog on It) although sans Bernie will appreciate Dino Vicelli, Private Eye (and nose).
Sleep No More
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446556842, $6.99, www.amazon.com
When her Great Gran Girault caught Abby Whitman sleepwalking, she warned the family that the child was cursed before returning to her Louisiana Bayou home. Soon afterward Abby wakes up after sleepwalking to smell smoke. Everyone assumes she set the fire accidentally that permanently scars her sister Courtney and destroyed their home. Filled with guilt and fear that her Great Gran is right that she is a danger to her loved ones, Abby moves away from those she cherishes but remains nearby while Courtney moves to New Mexico living like a hermit.
In South Carolina psychiatrist Jason Coble kicks himself for missing the signs of alcoholism that his ex-wife Lucy has shown. He warns her he will seek sole custody of their seven year old daughter Brenna if she fails to get her act together; he wishes he could do likewise for his teenage stepson Bryce but has no legal connection though he raised the lad as his own son.
Abby awakes from sleepwalking to find herself in the driver's eat of her car half sunk in a marsh; nearby is a dead motorcyclist who she fears she killed. When she meets Jason at the funeral of the grandmother of his former wife, they hit it off and she asks for his help. He agrees feeling a compulsion to help her learn the truth about the boy's death and the cause of her sleepwalking.
This is an action packed romantic suspense thriller with one intriguing final twist. The support cast is too stereotyped and the romance enjoyable but unneeded as the focus is Abby who is terrific especially when she makes dumb decisions out of fear that she is a cursed monster. Fans will enjoy this tense tale as Abby learns it's all in the family.
A Black Tie Affair
Chicago History Museum costume curator Athena Smith looks forward to seeing the Bertha Palmer collection owned by John Clayworth and Company though that mea ns potentially dealing with the man who broke her heart Drew Clayworth. The firm's Security Chief Bridget O'Flynn takes her to the renowned Secret Closet. Athena is ecstatic as she gently touches the four dresses unaware of the toxin they contain.
Athena wakes up in the hospital after hallucinating that Drew stayed with her to help her learn the truth about her father's alleged indiscretion. Drew believes Athena betrayed him though he has not moved past his feelings for her. However, while she was rushed to the hospital, someone stole the valuable nineteenth century dresses. Athena offers to find the dresses as she has the contacts if someone tries a sale so Drew accepts. Neither welcomes the attraction that remains strong.
The Talk of the Town in Chicago is Sherrill Bodine's wonderful second city romance. A second chance at love thriller, fans will enjoy the rocky ride between two individuals who distrust one another as they hold the other culpable for their break-up. Although the whodunit takes a backseat to the romance, fans will enjoy Ms. Bodine's entertaining joy ride.
Seduced by a Rogue
In 1375, his beloved older brother Alex, the Sheriff of Dumfries, sends Rob Maxwell to collect money that clan Maxwell believes clan Dunwythie owes them. Lord Dunwythie rejects the claim stating he pays his fees and taxes to the king. He returns home empty pocketed to the admonition of his sibling.
Rob meets the heir to the Dunwythie estate, Lady Mairie. Though attracted to her, he places his clan above his libido and concocts a plan to use her as a pawn to obtain the money due his kin. He kidnaps her expecting her father to pay ransom for his beloved daughter. Alex offers to rescue Mairie from the unknown "stranger" for a fee. He knows that his brother is the kidnapper but his adversary does not know the identity of the abductor. Outraged by the mercenary demand, Dunwythie calls in a favor from Clan Douglas. With war brewing between the clans, Rob and Mairie fall in love, but both place their clan above their personal needs.
Seduced by a Rogue is another great Scottish medieval romance (see Tamed by a Laird) as the lead couple finds love amidst their battling clans. Filled with fourteenth century history, the story line is fast-paced from the moment Mairie and Rob meet and never slows down as readers will wonder whether this pair will share the fate of Romeo and Juliet.
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061766046, $24.99, www.amazon.com
After spending three years behind bars, Charles "Shake" Bouchon is freed by the State of California. He loathed his time in prison and vowed to stay clean by opening up a restaurant.
In Los Angeles powerful Armenian mob kingpin Alexandra Ilandryan offers Shake a chance to make some money. He accepts the work from his former employer to deliver a package to associates in Vegas and return with a briefcase. However the package he is bringing to insane mob mogul Dick "the Whale" Moby turns out to be Gina Clement, who claims to be a housewife, but is a con artist who shammed Moby Dick. Instead of completing the delivery, Shake decides to run away with Gina and some rare valuable religious icons with irate mobsters from two states, their hit men, and others with a grudge against one or both of the couple on the lam. However, Shake soon realizes the most dangerous of the bunch is his running companion.
Any moment readers will expect to find Elmore Leonard driving the vehicle as this great crazy crime caper will remind the audience of the great author's wild rides. The story line is fast-paced, seemingly out of control at times (though never happens), and filled with zany action. The cast is strong especially the lead couple and the mob leaders as Lou Berney proves "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
The Red Door
In 1920, WWI veteran, Scotland Yard inspector Ian Rutledge still struggles with his military time though he successfully is able to investigate crimes (see A Matter of Justice) and conceal his mental issue Hamish even from his astute visiting godfather. Rutledge is assigned the case of the disappearance of missionary Walter Teller, who mentally broke down in London and was taken to a nearby clinic where he apparently left. The inspector questions Walter's family especially focusing on his two brothers, Peter and Edwin.
Rutledge is next assigned to look into the Lancashire stabbing murder of Florence Teller, wife of an apparent different Peter Teller than Walter's brother; a Peter who failed to return from the Great War. Still he finds the surnames too coincidental to ignore though he cannot fathom the otherwise link beyond The Red Door that Florence painted for her husband who never came home.
Extremely complicated, the latest Inspector Rutledge historical police procedural is a timely thriller on two fronts. First the hero and Walter suffer from post traumatic stress disorder as do many of our soldiers today; second the Spanish Flu of 1918 still leaves fear in many people as does Swine Flu today. The whodunit is super (though Hamish's voice feels somewhat irritating) and the depth of the era is as always insightful without superseding the mystery as team Todd provides another strong Inspector Rutledge tale.
Altar of Eden
With the fall of Baghdad, the American political leadership in the White House and the Pentagon howled in euphoria for the military victory insured the reelection next year. In their adrenalin highs, no one was concerned over looting including the zoo of its exotic animals that would make a fortune in the black markets of the west as some Iraqi adjust to capitalism rather quickly. However, when the zoo was invaded by smugglers, a secret underground lab is found.
Seven years later research environmental biologist Dr. Lorna Park finds a wrecked trawler on Lost Eden Cay, a barrier island off the Louisiana coast. No crewman is found alive, but inside the cargo bay is a shocker; mutations of species that should not exist are locked in cages. Besides physical anomalies, these caged beasts are extremely intelligent. Ironically as her work is to save endangered species, Lorna is unsure what to do with this strange cargo. She and U.S. Borde r Patrol officer Jack Menard unite in an attempt to uncover who genetically modified the animals and perhaps more important the one beast who escaped captivity.
This is a fast-paced thriller that modernizes Dr. Moreau using recent current events including the Iraq War and genetic breakthroughs; but the key is like HG Wells did, James Rollins makes the bad guys and altered animals especially the one that got away three dimensional and intelligent. The lead couple is a solid pairing, as they follow the clues of diabolically clever villains and an even smarter genetically altered beast. With an underlying message to think what we sow before we Alter Eden, fans will relish this terrific thriller.
How I Met My Countess
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061783494, $6.99, www.amazon.com
The current Marquess of Standon cannot stand the harassing of the three widows. He warns them their choices are the street or sharing an abode in Mayfai. The two older ones acquiescently thank their protector; the youngest Lucy Ellyson Sterling considers the street as scandal does not disturb her.
Seven years ago, Lord Gilbert met Lucy when she and her father trained him on working undercover to gather information. They fell in love and he vowed to marry her once he came back from the war. Neither anticipated the length of the conflict that finally is over. He searches for her as she has vanished, but once they re-meet their passion remains strong. However, her dark secret and his even darker remorse tears them apart.
This is an enjoyable second chance at love Regency romance that begins the moment the hero comes in from the cold. Filled with humor and pathos, fans will enjoy Gilbert's tale of meeting his countess as a spy student, but winning her hand proves much more difficult than her heart or learning advanced espionage techniques. Readers will appreciate Elizabeth Boyle's entertaining historical.
Highlander's Forbidden Bride
Ronan Sinclare escaped captivity by brutal barbarians. He is coming home with two things on his mind: reclaim his inheritance and slowly kill Carissa who murdered his beloved Hope.
With the death of her father the vicious Mordrac the barbarian; Carissa is on the run as she has no protection from her sire's horde or the Highlanders who blame her for the sins of her father. She reaches the sanctuary Black, a village that welcomes everyone. Persistent Ronan traces her there, but once they meet his vow of vengeance proves difficult to enact; as she is nothing like the she-monster he painted of her from the cold accounts of others. Still he takes her prisoner until he can decide what to do with her; meanwhile she conceals that she once hoped to be his bride.
The latest early sixteenth century Sinclare Brothers Highlander romance (see Return of the Rogue, Under the Highlander's Spell and The Angel and the Highlander) is an enjoyable tale of love and hate. Carissa hides her inner warmth and her love for her "jailer" inside of an icy exterior, and Ronan is confused by his feelings for a woman he pledged to kill. Although some redundancy occurs with this overall fine capture-captivity Scottish historical romance, fans of the siblings' series will appreciate the one we have been waiting for since we first met the quartet.
Wicked, Sinful Nights
In 1487 Oxfordshire, someone murders League of the Blade Bladesman Viscount Drayton. His Blade peers wonder if this unknown adversary learned of the top secret society and its mission to rescue the innocent, accused or abused.
King Henry orders Drayton's former student Bladesman Sir Robert Hilliard to investigate and bring the female killer to justice; blade-style or be booted out of the organization that has no room for failure. Widow Sara Audley, allegedly killer of her husband, is the only suspect based on Drayton purportedly finding proof she is a black widow. Robert quickly concludes Sara, nursemaid to Drayton's heir five years old Francis, is innocent of both murders. However, an unknown adversary is using her to distract people from the real killer. With her help he plans to find the culprit, but also must keep the woman he loves and Francis safe.
The latest League of the Blades medieval romance (see Taken and Seduced, and One Night Only) is an exciting late fifteenth century whodunit that subtly uses Sir Robert's inquiry to somewhat anchor time by the lack of modern forensic tools, but only partially achieves the feel of the era. Still the lead couple is a terrific pairing as the hero goes against the cautionary advice not to trust her as men who do die. Sara, on the other hand, struggles to prove her innocence while also protecting Francis. Fans will enjoy this entertaining historical romantic suspense.
Isabelle Lee grew up on Chinese-American cuisine though she never cooked any as her mom was the family chef. However, she can talks a good game as she grew up listening to her mom discuss food. However, her career in New York tanks so she heads to Beijing where her sister Claire practices law.
She and Claire are not bosom sisters. However, Isabelle feels good about seeking her roots when she obtains work writing about Kitchen Chinese cuisine to the western expatriate population. Still the transition is not smooth as she struggles with adjustment since the cultures in New York and Beijing are a zillion light years apart and she begins to learn Claire's secret. However after considering going back to the States, the siblings warm up to one another and soon Isabelle finds she likes life in Beijing.
This is a terrific contemporary tale starring a fascinating lead character who feels like a fresh water fish in the ocean. Roots aside, Isabelle realizes her racial classification is backwards as American comes way before Chinese. Even the language she speaks is 99% English and a few Kitchen (and bathroom) Chinese words. As she struggles to adapt in order to connect with her sister and her heritage, fans who take the journey with Isabelle will appreciate the trip.
Viking in Love
In 965 Northumbria the five Viking princess daughters of King Thorvald of Stoneheim in the Norselands kill the abusing spousal, Oswald the Earl; make that former Earl, of one of them, Vana. The dead miscreant had ties to the odious King Edgar so the fearsome femmes need instant protection. . They travel to a cousin-by-marriage, Caedmon, who resides inside Larkspar, a strongly fortified castle.
Caedmon does need five female bosses having spent nine months with one bossy monarch. He wants them out, but agrees to house and protect them in return for the most hostile of the quintet Breanne warming his body for ten consecutive nights in which he proclaims everything goes and she agrees
Although quite straightforward proving the shortest distance between two points is a historical novel containing no time displaced Vikings or Americans, this historical is an amusing gender war of what looks like the first of five Tenth century romances. The bickering starts even before Caedmon enters the plot as the fearsome fivesome argue over who did what to Oswald the brute and that argumentativeness never takes a respite even when the hero steals a kiss. Although the sisters especially Breanne seems more modern day than from two millennia ago, fans will enjoy this jocular jaunt with its key question being what is the Viking S-Trick?
The Cougar Club
Forty-five year old New Accounts advertising team leader Kat Maguire is downsized after fifteen loyal years at her firm; when she finds her twenty-eight years old lover Roger having cyber sex she downsizes him. She decides to go home to St. Louis where her family and two BFFs live.
Her buddy Carla Moss is a successful news anchor, but the station seems to be grooming a bimbo replacement. She also has personal problems as her beloved mom is losing her grip on realty.
Dermatologist Dr. Lisie Randolph has been successful at work, with raising her kids and apparently in marriage. However, the empty nest syndrome is hammering at her while her spouse whom she married in college ignores her.
These three middle age women in terrific shape physically, but a bit down mentally unto they re-forge their friendship and go on the prowl as cougars hunting young male meat. However, each knows deep inside their soul they really seek love, commitment and the meaning of life.
This is a fun tale of three women seeking their groove as middle age has each wondering if that is all there is to life while attempting to hang onto their dwindling youth. The characters are solid including the support cast of each of the lead females and the rotating point of view enhances understanding what each wants. Although somewhat unlikely perhaps even over the top of the Arch, fans will root for the Cougar Club members to get what they want.
A Duke's Pleasure
Tracy Ann Warren
In 1789 Nottinghamshire, England, eleven year old ducal heir Edward Byron meets the Earl of Edgewater. Immediately afterward his father and the earl introduce a stunned Edward to his fiancee newborn Claire as the two dads made a deal.
In 1811 Claire receives a letter from Edward, now the duke that he is coming to marry her. She has seen him three times in her twenty-two years of life: as a newborn, as a little girl and when she was sixteen. She fell in love with him as a teen, but he sees her as a duty. Claire needs Edward to jilt her so she sets in motion a plan to achieve her goal; instead he kisses her and Claire knows she is in trouble.
At Clybourne House, Edward's sister Mallory greets Claire with enthusiasm. At dinner she meets his twin brothers and another single sibling Drake the genius. Edward receives a note and leaves abruptly. He goes to the prison where he finds traitor Lord Everett dead with a knife in his chest and no witnesses. Meanwhile Claire continues to try to get her fiance to dump her, but she fails even when she becomes notorious as Claire the Dare doing the outrageous while he investigates who in the Ton is spying for the French.
The lead couple has a fascinating history though they met only three times before while his sister Mallory is a terrific support character though what appears to be a setup for a sequel has been overdone. Adding to the overall fun is a locked door murder mystery inside a prison. Although Edward is too patient with Claire for someone used to being obeyed and a major coincidence is the key to resolving the plot readers will enjoy this strong investigative Regency romance.
Bitten by Cupid
Lynsay Sands, Pamela Palmer and Jaime Rush
"Vampire Valentine" by Lynsay Sands. Detective McGraw wants to become lifemate to vampire Mirabeau LaRouche, but though attracted to the mortal she has doubts this is wise.
"Hearts Untamed" by Pamela Palmer. A decade ago Zeeland spurned Therein half-breed Julianna, but he is back so she hides from him fearing his reaction to her Ilina bloodline.
"Kiss and Kill Cupid" by Jaime Rush. Kristy Morgan always loathed her ESP skill of hearing the thoughts of others, but now she overhears someone planning to kill her with Adrian Kruger vowing to keep her safe.
This fun romantic fantasy collection with a wonderful dark paranormal bite shows why the three authors' respective paranormal series (see Lynsay Sands' the Argeneau saga, Patricia Palmer's Untamed thrillers and Jamie Rush's Darkness tales) are popular.
A Second Helping
In Henry Adams, Kansas, the town's fairy godmother affluent fiftyish Bernadine Brown, who saved the town when she bought it over the Internet (see Bring on the Blessings), is in Barcelona. Bernadine plans on building a school next when she comes home. However while she does Europe, a crisis occurs when the Dog and Cow Diner's new chef, Florene Maxwell, a culinary college student, introduces French cuisine to the locals who wants good old plain American food as this is Kans as not Oz or Paris.
Meanwhile eleven years old Amari Steele has one goal besides not eating puree vegetables for breakfast. He wants to be adopted by his foster father Mayor Trent July and the rest of the family who have welcomed him with love. He comes up with a plan to show he is worthy when he suggests a revival of a dead tradition, the August First parade.
Bernadine returns to town still attracted to Malachi, but her cheating former spouse has come to Henry Adams begging her for a second chance, make those 275 million dollars chances at love. However, besides tornadoes attacking the town, unwanted former spouses stalking, Bernadine's beloved Crystal becomes part of an odious abduction plot.
The third Henry Adams tale (see the super historical SOMETHING LIKE LOVE) continues the wonderful saga of a town established by former slaves in the 1880s as an oasis, now trying to survive in modern times. Once again as Beverly Jenkins did with the previous contemporary Blessings tale, the great author provides a fascinating look at African-American history inside a town's twenty-first century struggle to remain viable. Fans will enjoy A Second Helping as Ms. Jenkins provides another terrific tale.
Thicker Than Blood
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive
Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414334486, $12.99, www.amazon.com
Fifteen years ago when their parents died, sisters May and Christy Williams reacted totally different though they shared in common deep grief for their loss. May became a rancher while Christy turned self destructive with alcohol and nasty relationships with a series of losers.
However, thirty-three years old Christy is now cleaning up her act working extremely hard at Dawson's Book Barn in Longmont as a rare book buyer. In spite of her efforts, her past indiscretions haunt her especially getting caught in a DUI on her recent birthday so when stolen valuable first editions including a Hemingway are found in her home, she is the only suspect for the thefts. Needing time to prove her innocence and having a desire to see May, who she failed years ago, Christy heads to Triple Cross Ranch unaware that her recent past will follow her there.
Although by the book (no pun intended towards Dawson's), this is a fascinating second chance for two estranged sisters who failed each other when each needed the other to reach out of the darkness of death. May found solace in God while Christi found hers in alcohol. Fans will enjoy this inspirational tale of the two siblings although the felonious subplot seems too obvious of a solution. Still Thicker than Blood is a deep tale of love between sisters and God.
The town of Marlo seems like an ideal community to live in as it is quiet, serene and small enough that no resident is a stranger. People go put of their way to help each other as good neighbors should. That changes when a new website listentoyourself.net recording conversations that people had when they assumed they were safely private.
Two men know this kind of site will turn neighbors against each other and tear apart the fiber of families and community. Opinion columnist and crossword constructor Damian Underwood knows what words can do and fears the posting of private conversations will lead to violence; he proves correct. Police Detective Frank Merret sees the crimes that happen because of the private conversations on the website and does his best to figure out what is happening. Damian's family is a casualty while Frank thinks his ex wife is a target.
With a nod to politicians who speak foolishly on what they thought were closed microphones, words spoken in private but revealed in public changes the relationships and thereby the complexion of a small town long after the perpetrator is caught. The characters are realistically drawn with the audience caring what happens to the reporter, the cop and their families. Stunning in its simplicity yet resulting in nasty consequences, Rene Gutteridge provides a cautionary tale of beware of Big Brother (or sister) as he or she need not be from the Feds as your neighbor can listen from anywhere with today's technology.
Chalice of Roses
Jo Beverly, et al.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451229021, $15.00, www.amazon.com
"The Raven and the Rose" by Jo Beverly. In the twelfth century the novice with an ancient bloodline and the monk unite to bring forth the Holy Grail to end the seemingly eternal war destroying England.
"The English Rose" by Karen Harbaugh. Although just a debutante enjoying her season, she now must prevent an evil threatening to overwhelm England from succeeding and also keep Napoleon's operatives from stealing the Holy Grail to take back to France.
"White Rose of Scotland" by Mary Jo Putney. Hitler plans to take the Holy Grail back to the Third Reich, but a Scottish intelligence agent and a Canadian Royal Air Force pilot try to thwart the Nazi operatives.
"Eternal Rose" by Barbara Samuel. In England, the American grad-student-teacher dreams of a medieval male who comes to her time to help deliver the Holy Grail to the protector guardian.
This time the romantic fantasy fearsome foursome (see Dragon Lovers and Fairy Magic) uses the Holy Grail to tell four strong tales occurring in different periods and starring terrific heroines and their destined mates who rise as couples to try to keep the religious artifact safe from evil doers.
Blonde with a Wand
Vicki Lewis Thompson
In Chicago Anica Revere is a witch with a conscience. She adheres strictly to rules enforced by the Wizard Council enhanced by her own code of conduct. For instance, before dating anyone, she informs them up front she is a practicing witch though most scoff at her for joking; not realizing she is charmingly serious.
She breaks her rule of pre informing a date of her paranormal skills when she meets cute Jasper Danes. After three weeks of charming dates, they have an argument over his lying to her; leading to her exploding in anger. When he goes to kiss her, she ignites in fury casting a spell. She turns him into a cat; a violation of the use of magic that costs her witchcraft skills. She feels horrible especially when Jasper turns back to a human every midnight for a short spell. Making her feel worse is that he does not hate her for what she did to him; contrary wise he is attracted to the Chick with a Charm. The people who are expected to straighten out the mess are Dorcas and Ambrose (see OVER-HEXED and WILD & HEXY).
This is an amusing lighthearted charmer as Anica with remorse and Jasper with a Cheshire grin make a fine couple even if he has become her familiar rather than her lover. Although thin, the story line is fast-paced from the first spell to a Cha-Cha to Frankie Avalon's crooning symbolizing case closed as fans will enjoy this paranormal romantic romp.
Promise Me Tonight
In 1784, the oldest of five sisters six years old Isabella Weston wrote a letter to her dear mama telling her she will marry her older brother Henry's best friend, James Sheffield. Years later, she still knew he was the one for her. With her coming out in 1797, Izzie plans to claim James as hers.
James was raised by an ice cold grandfather after his parents died when he was ten. He learned from the nasty old man that he was unworthy of love. Izzie begins her seduction scheme with a dress that will make him desire her. She follows with a kiss that leaves him senseless. Izzie knows James wants her and believes he loves her, but he rejects the concept that someone could love him. With her six siblings at her side, the magnificent seven mount a campaign to prove to James he belongs first to Izzie and second to all of them.
Although somewhat straightforward of a plot, Georgian romance readers will fully appreciate the first Weston sibling tale due to a strong lead couple and a fully developed support cast; especially her sisters. Obstinate Izzie knows who she wants and plans to make him hers. James is the more fascinating character as he believes strongly no one could ever love him, but General Izzie and her sisters mount a campaign to prove his assertion false. Promise Me Tonight (and forever) is a wonderful opening act with homage to the Bard.
In France, hunter Countess Catherine Marais and her partner Paul DuJardin have killed many werewolves, but near Rouen they wound one who escapes. Soon afterward Lupus Magnus of France, Louis Chavenne calls a meeting of his species t o warn them if they fail to act now the well financed team of Marais and DuJardin will leave them extinct on the continent. Especially nervous is Lupus Minor of Ile de France Gervais de Maury who knows Catherine and her late father; killed by Monfort a werewolf she slew (see Devour).
With a bounty on her head, Catherine worries the Institute that has financed her efforts will close down. Meanwhile her two century old vampire lover Ian Morgan wants to keep her safe from the sudden hunting of the hunter. He offers to change her, but she hesitates while also insuring her niece in love is not huntress bait to trap her as their Prey.
This contemporary paranormal thriller is fast-paced from the first hunt and never slows down as the French werewolf community unites against the huntress. Filled with action and a deep look at the world of the Loup de Garous while also containing a terrific romantic subplot that enhances the prime story line, fans will appreciate the latest Catherine Marais' saga.
Lessons From A Scarlet Lady
The envy of the female members of the Tom due to spousal catch Brianna Northfield wants more out of her marriage to the Duke of Rolthven. She wants passion, but Rolthven is too busy for her and besides he expects prim and proper behavior even in the boudoir. Brianna turns to Lady Rothburg's Advice guidebook for courtesans to seduce her mate.
Her spouse Colton thinks his shy new wife is perfect. However, suddenly she becomes a seductress enchanting him. Soon he makes love to his delightful wife in places he would never imagine having sex. As the vixen wins his body, she hopes to win his heart too, but if anyone learned of the source, the scandal could lead to her rusticating alone.
Adhering to the advice of a courtesan is not new (see Claudia Dain's The Courtesan's Secret), but Emma Wilkes refreshes the concept by having an innocent wife apply the instructions to her marriage in order to win more than just the body of her spouse; she uses An Indecent Proposal to gain his heart too. Brianna and Colton are wonderful as they seem do it everywhere since he cannot resist the lure of his suddenly seductress spouse. Lighthearted, fans will relish this fun Regency romance starring a woman whose sexologist guru is a guide written by a courtesan.
In 1887 the vicious Sebastian gang killed his wife of five years Olivia after gang raping her. For the next three years Matthew Coulter has lived for one thing only: vengeance.
In 1890 her engagement to John Parrish ends when his high society parents rejected her lineage and spread gossip about her illegitimate birth. Selling their house, Eden Paxton accompanied by her mom Dory leaves San Francisco by train to spend time with her brother Ace Keegan (see Keegan's Lady) and his wife in Colorado. She never makes her destination as the Pacific Express heading to Denver is robbed and she is taken for pleasure and to be sold in Mexico.
Matthew tracks down the gang of robbers and rescues Eden. Instead of begging him to escort her to Ace, she joins him on his vendetta. As they fall in love, each looks back at what motivated them to go after the Sebastian gang.
This exciting sequel is fast-paced from the moment the heroine is abducted and never slows down until the final confrontation. The cast is solid especially the lead couple and the vile gang whose nastiness is evident from witnesses like Matthew's family and by readers when they debate taking Eden in their camp or keeping her pure for sale south of the border. Although the cast is somewhat stereotyped, Catherine Anderson provides a strong American romance as life in the Old West can prove dangerous but also can foster love.
The Lightkeeper's Daughter
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781595542670, $14.99, www.amazon.com
Addie Sullivan grew up in isolation at Battery Point Lighthouse near Crescent City, California with only her parents and her dog Gideon as companions. In 1907 she and her mom rescue a man who recognizes a locket that Addie says belonged to her grandma; he calls her Laura. He says he is Walter Driscoll from Mercy Falls and he is in Crescent City looking for her as her mother is not her mother and seems indifferent with her leaving.
Addie accepts a governess position that Walter offers her and goes to Mercy Falls where she hopes to learn just who she is and praying she finds her real mother. Instead she meets hostility and anger starting when she rescues abused children from employment. Eaton Hall proves unwelcoming while her charge Edward suffers from fits. However, the worst reception comes from Edward's fath er Naval Lieutenant John North, who ignores her as if she is unworthy while she is falling in love with him. As she searches for her mom, someone wants her dead.
This is a terrific Americana early twentieth century inspirational thriller in which Addie learns that God is there even when the Lord seems to ignore those suffering. Well written with a gothic feel to the fun plot; Addie makes the tale work as a strong central focus who affirms that having God in her life enables her to overcome the worst that man, woman or child can do to her. Colleen Coble provides an engaging inspirational historical.
A Lady Like Sarah
In 1879 on his way to Texas, Reverend Justin Wells is five days beyond St. Louis when he sees the vultures flying, which means someone or an animal is dying. Having left Boston and his flock in disgrace, Justin knows he must see if he can help.. He finds a severely wounded U.S. Marshal who makes him vow to take his prisoner to Texas. However, he is stunned as the prisoner is not a lad in red boots, but a woman whose hair matches her footwear.
Sarah Prescott is an outlaw from a family of lawbreakers. She removes the bullet from Marshal Owen before they begin the trek to Rocky Creek. On the road, the two seemingly opposites find common ground as they fall in love. However, when Owen dies, the law assumes she killed him because she is a Prescott although she insists she is a lady; only the preacher and his sidekick Timber Joe might save her life as she has saved the sou l of the former.
This is a wonderful at times amusing western romance starring two people who on the surface seem totally inappropriate for one another yet God works in mysterious ways. Fans will enjoy the Americana romance between the exiled Boston preacher and the exiled Prescott outlaw as Justin and Sarah fall in love.
NAL (New American Library)
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451229151, $15.00, www.amazon.com
In Florence, Italy, Juliet Capelletti is happy that her best friend Lucrezia Tornabuoni is marrying into the Medici family as that is what she wants. On the other hand Juliet wants a Dante to sweep her off her feet rather than an arranged marriage. Her parents Simonetta and Capello have arranged for her to marry her dad's silks and wool business partner Jaco po Strozzi, a member of the second wealthiest family in the city. Juliet detests Strozzi for his odious touching her without regard to her feelings, his yellow teeth, his odor and being sneaky.
Strozzi informs Juliet's father that the Monticecco family declared war on them by sinking a cargo of silk and burning down a factory. Although he has no idea why a feud occurred, Capelletti retaliates. Romeo Monticecco tries to bring peace between the families, but matters get worse instead. When he and Juliet meet, they fall in love, but neither family will tolerate a marriage between one of them and a member of the enemy.
This is an interesting novelization of the classic play in which Robin Maxwell catches the essence of Romeo and Juliet as well as the political and economic intrigue of Florence that leads to the manipulations, back-stabbing and family feud. Although Strozzi as the devious villain is described as odious a quadrillion times, historical romance fans except for Shakespeare purists will enjoy the retelling; as the Bard receives the Austen-Bronte modern day chutzpah treatment.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780441017973, $7.99, www.amazon.com
When monstrous Lucas Johnson viciously attacks her sister Rose, Lily Carlyle sought vengeance but died instead only to have an angel give her a second chance at righting all the wrongs she committed (see Tainted). After being used as an assassin by those she thought she should kill, she went undercover as a double agent destroying demons from within.
However, as she did when she was human, she attacks without thought of consequences. Lily soon learns she has been tricked by the enemy whim she was brought back from the dead to prevent them from bringing hell to earth. She has killed her potential allies, which is part of the reasons the ninth gate from hell is open. The demon horde prepares to invade with her only ally to prevent their success being half-angel, half-demon Deacon Camphire, who may be a double agent working for the adversaries just like Lily currently is as she marches with the demons.
The middle tale of the Blood Lily Chronicles is fast-paced and loaded with action from the opening of the final war between Heaven and Hell until the climax with Lily caught on the wrong team. Readers of Tainted will comprehend how far Lily has come but also how far she has to go if she is to complete her mission (see Turned). Filled with action and personal traumatic choices (eternity in hell for fighting her heavenly cause), readers will appreciate Lily's violent war on demons with some sexual twists to enhance the strong tale that sets up the End of Days finish.
When monstrous Lucas Johnson viciously attacks her sister Rose, Lily Carlyle sought vengeance but died instead only to have an angel give her a second chance at righting all the wrongs she committed (see Tainted). After being used as an assassin by those she thought she should kill, she went undercover as a double agent destroying demons form within (see Torn).
When the demons realize who she is and what she is doing, Lily revises her plan because she does not want on her eternal resume a description of starting the Apocalypse, which she apparently has done. Now she enters Hell praying she can find the Oris Clef demonic key to shut the Ninth Gate and control the demonic horde answering the Apocalypse call. However, treachery from within her allies thwart her efforts, but Lily focuses on what the Archangel Gabriel told her that she is also a key, but that means her resume will only be read in her eternal residence, the hottest inferno of Hell that Dante failed to describe out of fear.
The final End of Days Blood Lily Chronicles is fast-paced and loaded with action from the opening of the final war between Heaven and Hell until the climax with Lily constantly caught in the middle. Fans will enjoy Lily's escapades and growth from the bad girl of Tainted as she tries to save humanity from the invading waves of demonic hordes, but the key is for the heroine to accept her apparent fate of spending eternity in the worst pit of Hell.
The city leaders of Boston set up the ghetto Deadtown to isolate the nonhuman population. The prime cause for the need for this containment zone is the plague that haunted Beantown for several years when thousands died only top come back as intelligent zombies who enjoyed dining on still fresh human meat. Also isolated from mortals are other Paranormal Americans as the EEOC calls vampires, demons, and zombies though these once thought of supernatural species are much more difficult to restrain. Humans who do not have a death wish avoid Deadtown.
In this undeadly zone, as the only known professional demon slayer Victory Vaughn is interrogated by the Goon Squad, officially called the Human-Paranormal Joint Task Force, over the frying of a client. Afterward she investigates assisted by her First Amendment rights lawyer boyfriend Kane the werewolf and her teenage zombie apprentice Tina; while her sister dormant shapeshifting wife and mother Gwen tells her to get a life. Making the official inquiry into the homicide is BPD Detective Daniel Costello. She believes the deadly hellion demon is free and must die before the city demises in a supernatural bloodbath.
This is an entertaining urban fantasy that uses the sub-genre to satirize society re conflicting rights during a "crisis" as the atmosphere of Deadtown is a sort of prison ghetto makes the story line work. This feel is accentuated by suburban Gwen who conceals she is a shapeshifter from her neighbors to live in the burbs with her family rather than be locked inside the ghetto like the Jews in Eastern Europe prior to WWII. Although the villain is more a caricature than a flesh and blood (make that rotting flesh or blood drinker) abomination, fans will enjoy this exciting allegorical investigative thriller.
SPQR XIII: The Year of Confusion
John Maddox Roberts
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312595074, $24.99, www.amazon.com
In the year 46 BC in Rome, Caius Julius Caesar is now the Director of Rome. He plans to rebuild the city making it grander as expected of the capital of a great empire. One of his pet projects is to create a new calendar using astronomers and astrologers from around the world. Thus he appoints Senator Decius Caecilius to oversee the project alongside of Cleopatra's head astronomer Sosigenes.
At first Decius is more concerned with Cleopatra being in the city than he is of a bunch of scientists creating a new calendar. However the situation turns dangerous when an astronomer Denades is murdered with his neck broken. He has strange markings on his neck but the doctor feels it is hard to judge how the killer made them. Even the Chief Physician in Rome does not how the killer was able to extinguish is prey. Caesar orders Deciu s to find the killer, which proves difficult to accomplish because all suspects are lying about something or concealing something.
As always John Maddox Roberts writes a fantastic Ancient Roman mystery that gives the reader a sense of the era and the culture during the time of Caesar. This enables the audience to envision the City-State Empire warped inside a whodunit. Decius is a great detective, whose investigation is all the more remarkable because of the limitations of sleuthing in the first century BC. Sub-genre fans will enjoy joining him on his inquiry.
Our Lady of Immaculate Deception
In Pittsburgh, Roxy Abruzzo tries to keep her Bada Bling Architectural Salvage business clean although her Uncle Carmine the Mafia boss tries sending her work. Roxy feels strongly about staying legal in spite of Uncle Carmine's efforts because she feels she must set an example for her sixteen year old daughter Sage; who is the result of a teen fling she had with Chef Patrick Flynn, just back from a Middle East deployment and wanting to deploy a second time with his former high school girlfriend.
However, Roxy is unable to resist stealing an ancient Greek statue that belongs to wealthy womanizing Julius Hyde. Her assistant "Nooch" Santonucci does whatever she wants and easily hoists the garden statue. Soon after her heist someone murders Jules and burns down the estate of his nonagenarian mom, who is more fretful that her prized possession, an ancient Greek statue is missing, rather than her son's death or the arson.
With the Blackbird Sisters taking a breather, Nancy Martin introduces her fans to a steel tough single mom trying not to join the family business though thievery runs in her DNA. Roxy holds the story line together especially after she purloins the statue. Filled with dark humor, Ms. Martin's fans will enjoy the Stealer escapades of a woman who straddles the line between a touch of piracy and a role model citizen as one tiny caper proves to the heroine that crime doesn't pay (sometimes).
Mickey Ryser knows he has just a few weeks left to live so he plans to spend his remaining time on Lady Cut Cay in the Bahamas where he was to meet his daughter Jen whom he has not seen since she was a baby. She never made it or contacted him. He pleads with his newly married friend and proud papa of a six month old baby, Zack Chasteen to find Jen, but also warns him his daughter's companions and Abel Delgado a private eye he hired to find her also vanished. Zack owes so much to his mentor, he agrees.
Accompanied by his buddies Boggy the Taino and pilot Charlie Callahan, Chasteen tries to pick up Delgado's trail. Their efforts of discretion lead to boat ring thieves and Bahamian Police chasing after them while Jen and company are held prisoner.
The latest Caribbean blue Chasteen investigative mystery (see Jamaica Me Dead and A Deadly Silver Sea) is a fast-paced thriller that takes off the moment Zack and the gang begin their search with the clock ticking. The story line is filled with action as Zack and crew get in trouble with boat hi-jacking thugs, other miscreants, and the police as they follow clues left by Delgado. Although the subplot depicting Jen's plight adds intensity and feelings, the short asides slow down the overall pace of a terrific suspense filled tale starring a solid trio of good guys.
In the Hamptons, widower Sergey Pontecello demands his sister-in-law Eunice Wolsonowicz and her retinue (daughter Wendy and adopted son Fuzzy) leave his home. Eunice refuses. Sergey turns to his lawyer Jackie Swaitkowski to evict the unwanted "guests".
Soon afterward, Sergey is found battered to death in Sagaponack. Southampton Town cop Joe Sullivan tells Jackie her client had her card and a nipple on him; the nipple belonged to the late scuba shop bookkeeper Edna Jackery whose body parts are everywhere except inside her coffin. Unable to remain patient while the cops investigate and feeling she owes Sergey as she blew away his concerns the night before his death, Jackie investigates only to find a family so blighted she concludes anyone of them could be the culprit.
Using a role reversal with Jackie starring and Sam Acquillo playing the second banana minor role as opposed to the lead (see Hard Stop and head Wounds), Short Squeeze is an entertaining whodunit as the lawyer shows her moxie searching for the killer. Filled with body humor and a horde of miscreants whose family fell out of the tree onto their heads, the story line is fast-paced, but owned by Swaitkowski who proves she can star in a fun investigative mystery.
James W. Hall
In Key Largo, Florida Rusty Stabler offers a deal to her reclusive boyfriend private investigator Thorn who has come into a nice but unexpected inheritance. He appreciate what she proffers as that will environmentally protect 300 square miles from avaricious developers. Part of the consideration would shut down Earl Hammond's Coquina Ranch game-hunting operation as he plans to donate his property to the State to keep it safe from greedy developers.
However, soon after Rusty pitches her proposal, someone kills Hammond and Thorn is kidnapped. While the sleuth is struggling to come around and escape, his friend Sugarman searches for him unsuccessfully. Meanwhile professional killers Jonah and Moses Faust are working a serial killer memorabilia deal on the side of their paying gig of abducting Thorn; and Hammond's sons (ex-football star Browning and Miami cop Frisco) want justice and plan to obtain it for their late father.
This is an excellent Florida wilderness thriller that grips the audience throughout while also making a strong case for the environment. Thorn is at his best digging his way out of ironically a natural prison of a deep sinkhole while Frisco and Browning's wife Clare investigate the murder and the abduction that they tie together by the protect the land deal; neither realizes the real connection dates back to Depression Era developer s in this great suspense thriller.
The Parisian Prodigal
In 1205 Toulouse, France, the stranger arrives at the chateau of Count Raimon VI. Baudoin insists he is Raimon's brother. The Count immediately assumes he is a con artist trying to defraud him so he plans to let his so called sibling sweat in the icy dungeon. However, his court jester Theophilos the fool suggests he reconsider until they find proof exposing the imposter.
Raimon assigns Theo the job to investigate the newcomer using the ruse to tutor Baudoin. Inquiries are sent to Paris where Baudoin claims he comes from. However, the identity inquiry turns ugly when La Rossa of the brothel is found dead after a night with Baudoin who was found asleep next to her corpse; his dagger in her body. Theophilos, his wife, Claudia, mime Perladit, and twelve years old apprentice Helga investigate the homicide.
This medieval mystery saga uses the same basic ploy of the Fool's Guild as a sort of thirteenth century French Secret Service-FBI-CIA. This saga is consistently is one of the best historical series on the market over the last decade (see A Death in the Venetian Quarter and The Lark's Lament). With two investigations to handle, Theophilos and Claudia are superb as he works the gambling dens of the aristocracy and she the courtesans who tend to these foolish egotistical males. Helga and Perladit enhance the inquiry into who killed the hooker while her lover the Count's maybe brother slept.
In 1909, Grace Thurley ends her engagement; leaving Birmingham for London where she has accepted a position as secretary to recently widowed Edwina Martagon and companion to her daughter Dulcie. As she settles into the Martagon household, Edwina's son Guy comes home to settle the estate of his late father, an art gallery owner who committed suicide.
When an artist, whose works were on display at Martagon's gallery, also kills himself, Scotland Yard revisits the previous case as Chief Inspector Philip Lamb and his assistant Detective Sergeant Cogan find two similar suicides too coincidental and besides no motives existed for either man; one was at the top of his game and the other a rising star. At the same time someone is blackmailing Grace due to love letters her spouse sent to his paramour and that rumors are he sired a child in Vienna two decades earlier. Vienna is where a Mrs. Isobel Amberley seems to be the eye of the hurricane who apparently led to the deaths of the late gallery owner and the deceased artist.
Marjorie Eccles provides her fans with an entertaining Edwardian Era police procedural. The flashbacks of what occurred in Vienna twenty years earlier enable the audience to know why the two men died long before the cops figure out what is going on. The background is terrific as the reader can compare two leading European cities just before and after the turn of the previous century. Although the look back to Vienna is fascinating, but also slows down the present day (1909 that is) mystery. Still this is a fine investigative tale in which Superintendent Gil Mayo would be proud of the efforts of his DS predecessor.
Print the Legend
On July 2, 1961, writer Ernest Hemingway apparently committed suicide with a shotgun blast to his head. Four years later, a "Papa" academia conference in Sun Valley, Idaho is convened. Expected to make an appearance is the late great writer's third and last wife Mary.
Three men arriving in Sun Valley hope to meet with the widow demanding she answer questions they have surrounding her husband's death. The last survivor of the Lost Generation, Hemingway's friend crime novelist Hector Lassiter has heard rumors that manuscripts never published exist; including a novel by the deluded Papa that casts several of his friends in a bad light. Hemingway scholar Professor Richard Paulson and his pregnant wife Hannah believe Mary killed Hemingway and they plan to prove it. They seek the truth not out of some form of justice as the Paulsons believe she committed a mercy killing, but to make his reputation. The third person on a mission is aging FBI Agent Donovan Creedy who obsessively believes a homicide occurred and just can't let it go.
The premise that Mary killed her husband Hemingway in a mercy killing is carried out brilliantly in the latest Hector Lassiter mystery (see Toros & Torsos). The cast makes the tale as the three men; Mary and Papa (through the memories of Mary and Hec, and the beliefs of Creedy and Paulson) collide in 1965 Idaho. Fans will be enthralled as Print the Legend is a terrific historical thriller that grips readers with its exciting look at the shocking 1961 death of a literary great.
Hasta la Vista, Lola!
In Sacramento, California private investigator Lola Cruz visits her parents' house to find extended family members and friends mourning her death. Apparently, the news reported that the police found her body near the Florin Mall; she had been hammered in the head. A cop arrives at the house to tell the fami ly that their daughter died; as he has a license taken from the deceased with Lola's information on it.
The victim is Rosie Gonzales, an identity thief. Lola and her boyfriend, Sacramento Bee reporter Jack Callaghan find out that Rosie had pretended to be Lola for at least six months. Unable to resist, Lola makes further inquiries trying to learn why Rosie took her identity but apparently did not steal anything financial from her. In between restaurant gigs at her parents place, Lola soon finds a link to her odious former boyfriend Sergio Garcia and that the dead woman has a child missing somewhere in the city who the sleuth wants to find.
The second Cruz whodunit (see Living the Vida Lola) is an engaging Mexican-American mystery with an insightful focus on identity theft. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Lola shows up at her grief "party" and never slows down though the murder investigation takes a back seat to the romance between Lola and noncommittal Jack. Still this is a wonderful tale as Lola's escapades are fun to follow even when the action is low key.
City of Dragons
9780312603601, $TBA, www.amazon.com
In 1940 San Francisco, the Chinese are very much aware of what the Japanese are doing to their homeland. In a relief effort, leaders are putting on a Rice Bowl party to send aid to the beleaguered Chinese back home. Thirty-three year old private investigator Miranda Corbie is in Chinatown enjoying the gala when she sees a man lying in the street; she goes to help him, but is too late as he was shot to death.
She learns the name of the victim is Eddie Takahashi and she intends to identify his killer. Although Miranda works hard on the case on spite of the police wanting it closed due to international implications, she makes little progress. Meanwhile the private investigator takes on another case; that of Helen Winters who wants to know whether her recently deceased husband allegedly died from a heart attack as the cops insist or murder as she believes. Corbie soon finds the last thing she expected, a link between her two inquiries through drug trafficking, but though obstinate and intrepid, she knows she will uncover the identity of the killer, but could do so as the third victim.
This is a dark gritty historical female Noir starring a woman who is trying to make a life for herself following the death of her beloved in the Spanish Civil War (described in flashbacks by Corbie who was there too). Whereas the two crimes mirror what is happening in China with the Japanese invasion, readers will thoroughly enjoy this fabulous historical mystery especially those who appreciate a strong sense of the era even if at times Corbie's Noir voice feels too Chandlerish.
Requiem in Vienna
J. Sydney Jones
In 1899 at the Vienna Court Opera, a blazing curtain falls from above barely missing the famous director Gustav Mahler, but hits and kills a performer standing near the renowned composer-conductor. This is not the first incident apparently aimed at Gustav though this is the first deadly assault.
Private inquirer Karl Werthen is hired to keep Mahler safe and uncover who the stalker is before this person succeeds in his or her deadly intent. With his pregnant wife Berthe insisting on helping Karl, he also asks criminologist Hanns Gross to join the investigation into the deadly incident, previous threats and new accidental attacks that seem to target Mahler. Their inquiry leads to music rivalries starting with the composer Richard Wagner and with anti-Semitism though Mahler is a former Jew.
Requiem in Vienna is a superb historical mystery that uses the terrific private investigation as a springboard to present life in Vienna at the turn of the last century. The story line is fast-paced as Karl worries about his beloved Berthe who insists on being part of the inquiry team while working through the mud of the music world, which proves no waltz. Fans who prefer a strong historical presence in their mysteries will enjoy this delightful whodunit.
Although she fantasized skiing all over New England, Stacey Curtis is an engaged graduate student doing what her family and fiance consider proper. That changes when she catches her once future husband cheating on her. Without a second thought, Stacey leaves Boston, school, and her fiance to enjoy the slope s of Vermont.
The new ski bum loves her life ay Spruce Peak until she returns to her chalet to find a corpse with a necktie made from a chain saw's chain. She calls the police with plans of not getting involved beyond answering questions. However, Stacey finds herself investigating though she keeps ridiculing herself for being an inane inept amateur sleuth. However, her inquiry allows her to spend time with sexy ski patroller Chip Walsh, which makes the danger of being the second victim seem insignificant.
The first Ski Diva amateur sleuth is a lighthearted whodunit that fans will enjoy because of the heroine's demeanor as she is more than just a fluffy snowflake. Mindful of Redford's Downhill Racer, readers will appreciate skiing the slopes of the Green Mountains with Wendy Clinch as our instructor; as Stacey joins the Vermont world of Archer Mayor's Joe Gunther; although her inquiry is lot lighter than that of the super cop.
Assistant curator of antiquities for the city of Genoa Enrico Golinelli surrounded by a mob of his sycophants arrives at the workshop of elderly renowned violin maker Giovanni Castiglione. They need the artisan to inspect the legendary treasure, Nicolo Paganini's priceless il Cannone to insure it is in perfect condition for tonight's gala performance. Russian Yevgeny Ivanov won a contest for the right to play the instrument at a recital in the Cremona Cathedral.
Following Ivanov's incredible performance, news arrives that Parisian art dealer Francois Villeneuve has been murdered. Detective Antonio Guastafe leads the investigation, but asks Castiglione to assist him especially since the fine arts are involved starting with a locked golden box allegedly belonging to Paganini. Castiglione opens the box by using Paganini's music as the key and inside is a letter from Napoleon's sister Elisa Baciocchi as the case spins out of control with an alleged abduction.
The second Castiglione historical whodunit (see The Rainaldi Quartet) is a great nineteenth century tale that uses music as the core of a murder mystery. The investigation is terrific as Guastafe brings in an expert he trusts to interpret the music clues while the key cast is fully developed. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Paul Adam conducting a musical mystery tour of nineteenth century Europe though the eyes of master violin maker Castiglione with over five decades in the art of construction and restoration.
The Lock Artist
Although he is silent and has been mute since a traumatic incident back in 1990 when he was eight, Mike Smith has become the "Golden Boy" box man as he can open any safe. He realized his skill as a proficient box man when he was seventeen years old. Since his ability as the Lock Artist of choice he has been in demand by criminals who need his talent.
Mike has spent nine years in prison for his artistic safe breaking skills. However even as his prime client in Detroit must never be angered or else, Mike meets and falls in love with Amelia. A throwback to a gentler romantic time, Mike vows to keep his beloved safe from perils he imagines that lead him into a deadly multimillion-dollar con that requires him to escape a locked box murder.
As Alex McKnight takes a winter's break, fans will enjoy Mike Smith's biographical fictional mystery; as he relates his tale to an enthralled audience. The story line is fast-paced especially after Mike moves past lock breaking 101 and 102 as the antihero begins to get into deep trouble with his mob peers after falling in love. Fans will relish his escapades as ironically he must extract himself from a locked "box" mystery.
In a pub in Dublin, someone guns down minor league drug dealer Noel Rafferty. Later that same night his uncle with the identical name dies in a strange car accident. The police proclaim the first death as a gangland homicide and the second as a coincidental accident.
Gina Rafferty rejects the police summation while the cops and most of the family reject her belief that someone sinister is getting away with a double murder. She is ignored because she grieves for her nephew and her brother. Mourning but outraged, Gina investigates the connections between her two dead relatives besides DNA and death. She knew her brother worked on the Richmond Plaza project with avaricious developer Paddy Norton, who has connections with avaricious politician Larry Bolger. Gina is convinced these two powerful greedy partners are behind the deaths in her family and sets out to find the proof.
The key to this terrific Irish Noir is the cast including the city is super solid as the key players come across genuine at a time the Irish economy is in the toilet and about to be flushed to sea. Gina is obstinate and courageous yet treated like a grieving dolt so even as the cops, family, the villains and others warn her to stop her inquiry they treat her as a harmless idiot until the realization she is closing in on the truth. Winterland is a super amateur sleuth as the truth may free you but not in this case.
Death by the Book
With the economy still in recession, in Sydney, Australia, used-book dealer Jack Susko is concerned about surviving. So when affluent businessman, Hammond Kasprowicz asks him to retrieve all the works of a poet he never heard of at, $50 for each book retrieved; repeat copies of the same poetry book is acceptable. Strapped for money, Jack jumps at the deal.
Susko searches for copies of the works of Edward Kass; he ignores his own curiosity as to why the client wants them. Although he knows not to get involved personally, he cannot resist the lure of Kasprowicz's daughter, Annabelle. However, the case turns nasty when instead of just the required tomes, corpses begin to surface. With a cop watching his every move as the prime suspect in the homicides especially in light of his background, Susko decides to uncover the real killer before the police arrest him on shaky circumstantial evidence or he becomes the next victim.
This is a terrific Australian hard-boiled amateur sleuth as Susko adapts from searching for books to searching for a killer; his chutzpah assumption is there is no difference between death by the Book or death by a murderer. His asides and commentary are amusing and acerbic as he investigates the killings before the cops throw the book at him.
A Night Too Dark
The Park in Alaska is a place of beauty to private detective Native American Kate Shugak, but the pristine landscape she loves will change when the Suulutaq Mine opens operations. Global Harvest Resources, the parent company learned the mine contains gold and after months of careful sampling and they know they have found quite a strike.
Already the firm is making changes that the inhabitants of the Park have to adapt to as people working the mine come to the town of Ninikltna. One of the newcomers leaves a note in his car stating he committed suicide. When the body of Dewayne Gammons is found, there is not enough left of him to make an identification. Kate has a hunch after two people from the mine disappeared at the sane time that the deceased is not Dewayne, but she has no idea who the victim is. As she seeks clues, a third person is killed, which makes Kate even more determined to find out what is going on at the mine.
Even before the homicides, Kate feels sad because the mining operation will change the Park though she is resigned that it will happen as people she respects sold out to the mining interests, which was not easy for them to do but they felt they had to tale advantage of people with money to spend. Still her melancholy over the mine does not prevent her from investigating as only she can. Her latest Alaskan Shootout is an entertaining whodunit that also showcases
a difficult complex issue of needed economic development vs. maintaining the beauty of nature.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780515147605, $7.99, www.amazon.com
A San Francisco street punk, Mack McKinley found a home and a purpose when he became a GhostWalker. He would do anything for his teammates. His only negative is when his beloved Jaimie Fielding abruptly left the GhostWalkers two years ago taking his heart with her.
Jamie quit when she could not get her beloved Mack to see the sinister side to the GhostWalker program. She vowed to go alone and find the proof to expose those in charge. However, her efforts have come to the attention of those same people who want the status quo, which means using the GhostWalkers against one of their former associates. Mack and his team following a weapons shipment from Beirut end up in her San Francisco home with him literally on top of her; as she points out someone wanted them back together, but she does not trust their matchmaker. When she tries again like she did two years ago to explain the other side of the leadership, he listens though he still doubts her theory but more important to him he vows to keep his Jamie safe although it rocks his world to do so.
This is an enjoyable urban romantic suspense thriller as the telepathic GhostWalkers are betrayed from within and thereby struggle to survive. The story line is action-packed, but clearly fueled by the volatile relationship between Mack and Jaimie who may have a second chance at love if they live long enough. Christine Feehan provides a superb entry in her thrilling saga.
Psychologist Kate Holley wonders if she is as big a Nutcase as some of her patients ever since her former husband Jay Rush the firefighter became her lover again in spite of her obsessive compulsive fear of his profession ever since her father was taken from her by the Fire Gods. While Jay is fighting a forest fire in Florida, her best friend and receptionist, Mona Epps is on sick leave so the High Anxiety shrink hires a temporary assistant Abigail Davis.
However, although Abigail is competent she changes her wardrobe and hairstyle to emulate Kate. When she begins to get involved in Kate's personal life, the psychologist knows in this case What Looks Like Crazy is crazy. Although she has other issues and is worried about Jay, Kate knows Abigail is at the top of the list as her temp is stalking every aspect of her life.
This is an exciting fast-paced madcap thriller that balances humor with the seriousness of a deranged stalker. The story line is fast-paced whenever the plot focuses on Abigail who clearly needs help. When the subplot involves other clients, neighbors or mom it is over the top with fun eccentricity. Readers will enjoy Kate's third case mostly because of Abigail, whose needs turn potentially dangerous.
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
978-0345500779, $26.00, www.amazon.com
In Los Angeles film student Lyra Prescott decides as her final project in Professor Mahler's class to make a documentary on Parisso Park, a dumping ground filled with broken bottles, dirty disposable diapers, old newspapers, and an assortment of other discarded trash. Near the "land filled" playground is a beautiful garden oasis that contrasts to the toxic dump. On her way home, Lyra stops at a yard sale in which Mrs. Rooney is giving away all her husband's things.
Lyra takes the CDs and tapes; unaware that crime boss Mr. Merriam wants his foot soldier Milo to snuff out the Rooneys as they have something that could put him away for a long time. His goons go to collect the evidence, but it is not where it is supposed to be. They learn Lra might have what they are seeking. Two men are holding Lyra's roommate Sidney Buchanan prisoner waiting for her arrival. The two females escape and Sydney uses her contacts to get a bodyguard to protect Lyra. FBI agent Sam Kincaid arrives to do the job, but is stunned by his attraction to Lyra, who knows she can easily fall in love with her protector. They are shot at, her house is trashed, and a bomb is set under her car. Sam vows to risk his life to keep her safe though neither knows what the perpetrators want.
Sizzle is the appropriate name for this action-packed romantic suspense thriller as the relationship between Sam and Lyra never cools down. Fast-paced from the moment the hoodlums arrive and never taking a tension breather on the romance or suspense fronts, fans will be stunned to learn who is calling the shots and what the villains seek. Although the escapes especially the pre Sam getaway seem unlikely, Julie Garwood provides her fans with a great taut thriller with everyone (except the bad guys) rooting for this couple to not just survive but to make it together.
The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn
Historian Alison Weir takes readers on a deep look at the last days of Anne Boleyn and what led to her execution. Interestingly, the author admits her research changed several of her notions and nukes popular beliefs. The key change that Ms. Weir claims is that she exonerates King Henry VIII of directing his principal adviser Thomas Cromwell to find seditious excuses to rid himself of his second queen so that he can remarry a woman who will give him a male heir. Instead, the author makes a powerful case that Cromwell realizes his boss' spouse was a politically shrewd rival unlike her naive predecessor Katherine of Aragon so with allies he trumped up false charges of treason and adultery with five men including incest. In other words the monarch's advisor conducted a blood of one velvet coup.
This is a super biography that is rich with supporting data yet is easy to read and follow the detailed support and conclusions drawn by Alison Weir; who makes a strong case that Anne declaring her innocence all the way to the gallows was telling the truth. Other related "truisms" are also shredded, but it is the historian's powerful argument of Anne Boleyn's innocence, Thomas Crowell's diabolically successful plotting, and King Henry's being bamboozled that make for a great look at who did what leading to the second wife's execution.
We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals
This is a fascinating biography that turns upside down the love story of Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert as they cherished one another while battling for dominance of their relationship, which denoted dominance of the British Empire. In other words the early period until Albert's death could easily be labeled Albertan-Victorian age. Prince Albert was a classic example of employing a defense mechanism of being everything his family was not and not being anything they were. Thus he came across as prim, proper and starched, which ironically set the future's look back at the Victorian Age are his belief on how a ruler should behave. He kept his Queen seemingly pregnant all the time and was a major supporter of science and technology. When he died in 1861, Victoria grieved her loss for several years. However, when she finally moved on, the Victorian Age blossomed as if the student had learned from her late master while she described his virtues and buried with him his faults.
This is a terrific biography of the nineteenth century's most powerful "power couple" as each thrived in their love and rivalry, especially Victoria. Gillian Gill makes a strong case that Albert was in some ways her mentor as much as her partner. With numerous illustrations and letters included, fans will relish this profound fresh look at We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451463098, $7.99, www.amazon.com
Powerful djinn Cassiel has lived for countless millennia, but never cared either way about humans as she believed she is superior to these beasts. Pearl, once a djinn, but now so much more, was defeated thousands of years ago after she killed the first mortals who walked on the land. Cassiel defeated her, but failed to kill her and feeling the pain of all those she killed drove Pearl insane. She wants to kill all the djinn with her new power source being the mortals, Wardens and their oracles.
When Cassiel's master orders her to destroy humanity, she refuses. Her punishment is severe as she is turned into a helpless human, but adapts as Warden Luis Rocha mentors her as a Warden. Peal killed Luis' brother' his wife and kidnapped their daughter Isabel; just like she has abducted other warden offspring to serve as her foot soldiers in the war she plans against the djinn. Luis and Cassiel vow to rescue Isabel as they have seen what Pearl has done to other children. However, it is Cassiel who risks her life to rescue Isabel and the other children locked inside of Pearl's compound.
Unknown, the second book in the Outcast series (see Undone) reads somewhat like a middle fantasy tale as it sets up the final confrontation between the forces of Pearl and those with Cassiel. The heroine starts to have strong feelings about Luis; which frightens her because she is becoming too humanized and can never return to what she was as she never gave a damn about humans for the epochs when she was a djinn. Fans will root for her against Pearl and for her to make it with Luis as Rachel Caine provides another compelling urban fantasy.
Except the Queen
Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder
The two Fae sisters, Serana and Meteora accidentally uncover a secret that at a minimum would ruin the reputation and credibility of the Fairy Queen. Before they can react, the pair loses their magical skills and looks, separated and exiled to Earth.
Serana lands in the strangest world she has ever seen, New York City; Meteora likewise feels the same way about Milwaukee. Serana meets a homeless boy who suffers from dark apocalyptic visions; Meteora meets a young girl with an incredible tattoo on her neck that could only mean an artist with magic powers who wants to kill the beholder of his work. Soon all will conjoin as the mortal and Fae realms are threatened with tota l destruction.
This is a great urban fantasy with an atypical feel to the story line that enhances the otherworldly tale. Fast-paced from the onset, fans will welcome the siblings as each struggles with adjusting to the world of the mortals. The sisters make the thriller work as their adaptation is slow and before they can partially adjust, they are caught up in a save two realms scenario. Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder team up with a winner as fans see New York and Milwaukee through the eyes of "political immigrants".
The Adamantine Palace
Prince Jehal is known as the Viper because of his vicious march to sit on the throne of the Kingdom of the Endless Sea. He poisoned potential rivals and tortured those reluctant to support his claim. The Viper allowed no opposition to survive his reign of terror.
At the same time that the Viper murders his way to the crown, the white dragon Snow telepathically communicates with her handler Kailin. Snow wants freedom for herself and her dragon compatriots. However, alchemists know the damage these fire exhaling beasts can cause if allowed to soar drugless. Snow rebels and gains supporters with her plan to burn their enemy alchemists and other human supporters to include a viperous monarch who use them as weapons of war. To the trepidation of everyone in the realm she escapes captivity as her dream begins to gel into reality.
This is an interesting fantasy when the story line focuses on the dragons especially Snow as the readers obtain a different mindset yet a thirst for freedom that rings similar to the humans who hold them captured through drugs. When Jehal is on the center stage, the plot feels like a zillion others before it and slows down comparatively speaking. Still with Snow soaring the skies over the Kingdom of the Endless Sea, fans will want to fly with her; just avoid her flame throwing.
State of Decay
America is at war, which is nothing new, as America is always at war. However, the all voluntary army has maintained its constant readiness by offering incredible benefits to those who sign up. Rather than face death in some foreign land, a soldier can enlist as a revivor; a person who to dies before serving, but is revived as a reanimated corpse with cognitive skills intact and no need to eat liv e humans due to an implant although battlefield atrocities have been reported as Commanders remove the chip inhibiting the flesh obsession.
FBI agent and non-revivor veteran Nico Wachalowsk investigates illegal trafficking of reviver sex slaves. However, his inquiry leads him instead to illegal shipments of military weaponry including revivors. At the same time his former girlfriend police officer Faye Desalia is trailing a serial killer. When the couple compares notes, they find one link, the leading contractor for revival technology, Heinlein Industries. They are soon joined by cage fighter Calliope Flax and psycho psychic is Zoe Ott as the two cases take twists unforeseen by either Nico or Faye as the overseas wars are coming home to roost.
This is an intriguing futuristic Americana thriller in which the atmosphere and ironically what is implied but not said (for instance what war is this as seemingly eternal conflict makes them all the same) in some ways overwhelms the prime conspiratorial plot. The story line is action-paced with the zombie concept fresh and the psychic idea not while the fearsome foursome is. Although the conspiracy is over the top of the Pentagon, fans will appreciate this entertaining look at the future of the industrial-military-DC convoluted complex.
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765317278, $24.99, www.amazon.com
At Starhaven School for young mages, Agwu Shannon the great Magister thought the lad Nicodemus Weal could be the legendary Halycon of the ancient prophecy who will prevent the magical apocalypse Disjunction that is coming. However, though powerful with just a finger touch, Nico's spell casting never works properly. Instead what he touches turns into a misspelling disaster; leading to others fearing he might be the other side of the ancient prophecy, as the Storm Petrel who destroys magic.
Now twenty-five and still at the school, Nico is a janitor apprenticed to Agwu. Someone murders Nora Finn the grammarian who was Agwu's fiercest academic rival. Amadi leads the investigation as to whom used a misspell to kill the dean. While Agwu fears his enemies from Astrophell have arrived to arrack him and his apprentice indirectly, others believe Nico killed Nora accidentally. As Nico dreams of a city under attack that proves accurate, others die mysteriously inside of Starhaven. Authorities believe Agwu and Nico went rogue.
This is a terrific fantasy with a supporting whodunit amateur sleuth subplot. The story line is fast-paced, but the magic behind this delightful tale is the cast as every key player seems real and in turn makes the Charlton world feel genuine. Especially critical is Nico as his misspelling plays a double purpose. First it makes him the prime suspect in a strong storyline and second his blundering re gargoyles, chimneys, and other ilk enhance the believability factor as he is the magical Murphy's Law, but now must prove his worth. Fans will conclude that Blake Charlton is a gifted Spellwright as he enchants his audience.
Jack: Secret Circles
F. Paul Wilson
A teenage "Repairman" Jack is on his way to his friend Weezy's house when he sees five year old Cody Bockman riding his bicycle near the Barriers, an area that is filled with strange things. Jack tells Cody to go home as the child is to young to be so far from his home. He watched the child to insure he is heading towards home. Jack and Weezy enter the Barrens, a land mass that is eerie and filled with strange creatures. They find a giant stone pyramid with the same identical markings that was on as a smaller pyramid they found and lost last month.
A stranger went into the Barriers only to lose his way and he was unable to escape for a few days. He tells the teens of a creature that was following him so he hid in a tree. They get him out, but Cody is missing. A search leads to Cody's bike in the Barrens; a search there proves fruitless. Weezy convinces Jack to break into the building of the mysterious Ancient Septimus Fraternal Order to retrieve the little pyramid that Jack thought he saw on the mantle. When they break in, the duo meets much more than they expected.
Readers of the Repairman Jack saga will learn how it all began when the hero was a teen. Targeted for young adults (as was the Secret Histories) fans of all ages will appreciate Secret Circles especially if they want to know Jack. He has dealt with the supernatural and unexplained as a teenager so the teen became the adult still fighting as a warrior for the Light. As Jack adapts to whatever cause he must face, his readers will relish observing his Repairman roots.
After centuries of relatively peace, the Nameless One is reawakening as the artifact that contains the evil treacherous magician is weakening. Natural enemies like demons, giants, ogres, and even deadlier species have forged under the Nameless One's leadership as the Desolate Lands unite as never before. The Nameless One's horde is coming towards Avendoom and beyond the great walled city to the rest of the Kingdom of Siala.
King Stalkon the Ninth gathers the best counterinsurgents he knows starting with master thief Shadow Harold; who is given the choice of torturous incarceration until the enemy comes to kill him or find the lost Magic Horn that will restore the Order. He chooses the quest as Harold knows he lives due to the Nameless One. Joining Harold is Alistan of the King's Guard, Elfin Lady Miralissa Princess of the House of the Dark Moon, her retinue, and the best fighters Wild Hearts. Finally the monarch stuns Shadow Harold by directing his court jester Kli-Kli the goblin to join the pilgrimage. Outlaw gangs prowl without regard and the advanced parties of the Nameless One seek those who might pose a threat to the resurrection. Each assault on the master thief and his band proves deadlier than the previous one as the enemy or the lawless seem everywhere; but quitting is not option as the darkness expands.
Although the use of a thief as a hero has been done (see Chima's The Demon King and Fortress Draconis by Stackpole), the first tale of The Chronicles of Siala is a super quest fantasy. The travelers make the story line fun to follow starting with Harold finding a dead duke. Fans will enjoy the opening act as the irony is that it takes a thief who never loses his calm to prevent the return of the Nameless One in spite of all the law following choices. This is a winning opening act.
The Reckoner Lisa "Garrie" McGarrity learned to be a ghost hunter when she was ten years old; her mentor was Rhonda Rose, who she later learned was a ghost. Fifteen years later, Garrie is mentally tired having spent years helping ghosts move on by assisting the spirits in doing what is needed that is keeping them amidst the living.
She is retiring as she informs her crew (Lucia, Drew and Quinn), but half-human bounty hunter Trevarr, accompanied by his companion Skylayne the energy essence cat, convinces her to fly from Albuquerque to San Jose because ghosts living in the Winchester Mystery House are extremely upset. Trevarr helps her with the ghosts and she is attracted to him; perhaps even loves him. However, she wonders what his real game is as she distrusts anyone who voluntarily accompanies her on her ghost inquiries. Yet some Bad Beings are disturbing the spirits and exponentially more remain anchored to the world of the living.
The Reckoners is a fun paranormal romantic fantasy starring a wonderful lead character who has burned out and thinks she suffers from PTSD, a mysterious maybe hero (or perhaps villain) and a strong support cast especially her team, the ghosts, the Bad Beings, and the haunted house. Although too much remains unanswered for future entries, sub-genre fans will enjoy this fine tale summed up at the end by Rhonda: "Don't die in order to live".
Muse and Reverie
Charles de Lint
The thirteen Newford tales all appeared in other collections between 2001 and 2005, but never together. In fact none appeared in the same anthology with several different publishers offering Newford stories as part of various author compilations and one tale (A Crow Girls' Charismas) was an online entry. All are super, size matters as the best shorts are the longer ones; like "The Butter Spirit's Tithe", "Riding Shotgun" and "Da Slockit Light" as the key characters of each come across human and inhuman, which in turn enhances the de Lint twist that feels as if the author places O'Henry and Bret Harte in the Twilight Zone. The best read is "The Hour Before Dawn"; this well written compilation is Charles de Lint at his best as he leaves h is fans to Muse and Reverie the impact of placing "The World in a Box".
L.E. Modesitt Jr.
A decade ago, the women warriors of Westwind at the Roof of the World routed their male dominated neighbors. The all female nation went back to minding their business while the men surrounding them smarted in defeated. New men move in and fail to heed the warnings from those defeated by women. Arthanos, son of the Prefect of Gallos, covets Westwind and assumes it will be easy pickings as these are mere women. Suthya quietly supports Gallos and makes trouble for another neighbor Lornth whom Westwind wants as an ally.
The male armies invade, but their first units as before are soundly defeated by the women who prove superior with psi magical and mundane weapons. Still more are coming. With a civil war imminent in Lornth due to Suthya manipulations, the Marshal of Westwind sends her Arms-Commander Saryn to take charge and prevent more unnecessary bloodshed. Leaving the comfort of the battlefield behind, Saryn needs to learn gender diplomacy and politics as she tries to bring peace while assisting the female Regent Zeldyan.
The latest Saga of Recluse occurs after the Mage-Guard of Hamor, but in many ways is a sequel to The Chaos Balance as L.E. Modesitt Jr. returns to Westwind. The story line focuses on the big picture of international relationships as four nations fight overtly on the battlefield and covertly in the political and economic spheres for control but none of the cast even the heroine come across with any strength of conviction. Fans will appreciate one of the more complicated entries as each of the four countries manipulate the other three to the point that Machiavelli would cheer them on.
The Light of Other Days
Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter
In the twenty-first century, Hidamani Patel had escaped the impoverished North Sea that has encroached on the fifty-second state England to make a fortune in the Forty-eight as Hiram Patterson. The successful multi-billionaire built his OurWorld campus on what was once Microsoft back before global warming changed the planet. Now Hiram explains his newest gizmo to journalist Kate Manzoni because of her article on Wormwood and the hit in the Pacific in the twenty-sixth century while Hiram's son Bobby stands by.
Hiram has invented a WormCam that uses wormhole technology to open a portal anywhere in the world instantly. Privacy is a thing of the past as a person can see anyone at anytime. The technology soon also applies to seeing what has been as secrets are no more.
The underlying premise is brilliant as history's mysteries are open for public consumption on a big humanity altering scale, but also on a personal individual relationship scale. When the story line focuses on the philosophy of what happens to mankind if basic beliefs are shattered, it is an intriguing tale. When the plot tries to turn inward to the impact on the characters, it loses steam ironically in spite of a lot more action as none of the cast matters especially compared to the historical possibilities. Fans of the two authors will enjoy their collaboration, but the prime what if question will be what if the cast felt remorse, guilt and shame for the lies they told their loved ones or for the lies their heroes told the world. Instead they become comic book action heroes who soar as an action-packed thriller; instead of short stories based on major historical events and legends through the ages that would have been enlightening.
Death Takes a Number
Harvey R. Tate
9781926681023 $6.00 ebook
Harvey Tate's novels always have three exceptional features: unique characters, fascinating plots, and the ideal location to complement said characters and plots. His first mystery novel is no exception. The main character, Pittsburgh detective Cain Machinovic, is a meticulous, single-minded savant when it comes to solving crimes. Beat cops and fellow detectives silently stand aside when Cain shows up on scene. Cain's investigative techniques tend to be a little odd, but everyone on the force knows they work. He's not very likeable, but has their respect.
Cain's ex-girlfriend, Gretchen Adams, describes his personal and professional persona as "half animal, half machine."
Gretchen owns a forensic lab with an intriguing sideline, her gift for criminal profiling. You'd think she and Cain would be the perfect fit, but his weird obsession with crimes and solitary suffering are just too much to tolerate. Still, whenever Cain needs insight into criminal behavior, he turns to Gretchen.
Zari Palmer is a young detective assigned as Cain's new partner. At first she despises his idiosyncrasies and perceived arrogance. But she watches, learns, and soon is drawn into his surrealistic way of solving crimes.
A couple recent crimes have Cain stymied. His technique of searching for patterns at each crime scene isn't working to his advantage this time. From the evidence, Cain knows he's searching for a serial killer with an obsessive-compulsive mania for colors and numbers, but how are the murder of a retired church organist and the near-murder of a teenage boy related? The fun and fright of this mystery chiller is watching Cain work his way through the clues.
Cain may be a little odd around the edges but he isn't a monk, so this mystery novel is rated R due to adult content, language, and realistically gruesome crime scenes. If you like mystery novels, you just might have fun with this one. It has enough red herrings and twists to keep readers hooked from beginning to end. This one has "movie" written all over it.
As If Free
Poetry by Burt Kimmelman
Talisman House Publishers
P.O. Box 3157, Jersey City, NJ 07303-3157
Critics have described Burt Kimmelman's work as graceful, artful, rare, pure, modest. Above all, his poetry is understandable, his visions of the world undisguised by rhetoric most readers can't begin to grasp. Every reader will see what Kimmelman sees: "dark filaments of / a roughed-up sky" or " the shore's immense quiet settling into / the afternoon along with the heat." This poet generously shares the sweet shock of discovery or a catastrophe unfolding and brings readers into each tender or mundane moment. Consider, for example, this excerpt from "Poem for Jackson Mac Low" where the poet joyfully contemplates the common house sparrow:
I hear a sparrow, whose wants, of
all birds, have always seemed the most
simple - to nest unoffended,
to gather with its neighbors what
is needed for getting through the
dark time, whose chirp, a workaday,
ordinary sound, makes a lie
of the busy, complicated
life it leads after all - singing
in the bare branches and bright sun
an exquisitely intricate
Only a skilled wordsmith can transform the ache of loss into a tender acceptance. In "Old Age Home" his elderly mother dancing becomes:
too heavy for its stem.
And in "Washing My Brother's Hair" he does for his brother what the dying man can no longer do for himself:
He seems like that helpless child
who crawled into my bed at
night, afraid of the dark - two
young boys left alone and frail.
Through Kimmelman's eyes, even an "Abandoned House" becomes a thing of beauty:
Thin tendrils of moss,
bright green in the shock
of morning sun across
red brick steps, stand up
straight to touch the light.
Burt Kimmelman sees with unerring clarity the small moments that enrich our lives. He doesn't pass through life blindly. He doesn't rage wildly. He searches for and celebrates each stark, harsh, sad, tender, and joyful moment through words and shares them freely. His work is exceptional and highly recommended.
Water Under Water
Charles Ades Fishman
Casa de Snapdragon Publishing
12901 Bryce Court NE, Albuquerque NM 87112
Finding a new book of poetry by Charles Ades Fishman in my mailbox is a blessing because I know from past experience that treasure rests between the covers. His awards are many, including a Pulitzer nomination which is an award in itself. In this latest book, he reveals with exceptional finesse the many layers of human existence. "Loon Hunting on Newry Mountain" is the first poem in the book. This excerpt shares water's power and the metaphor it becomes in the imagination of a skilled wordsmith:
We learned that water wore no pinions
but swiftness and, under the light strength of white pine,
translucence: always deceitful, promising clairvoyance
at each arabesque and ripple.
"Whapmagoostui" transports readers to the mouth of a river north of Quebec. This beautiful poem shares the richness of an ancient culture - primordial forests, translucent waterways teeming with fish, and the music of its people:
After sundown, a red hunter's moon rises
over the stalking ground of the Cree nation.
Lodges are fragrant with elk skins, with evergreen
boughs. The night is bisected, then quartered,
by shimmering light that spangles the black dream
of hills. Water burns with the light.
In ways large and small, Earth's essence connects us to her heart. In this excerpt from "Quiet River," Fishman shows us the wonders to be found if we only watch and listen:
Incessant clatter of grasshopper wings
in the sea of drying stalks: when they gust up
against my chest, a blizzard of crisp gray bodies,
it is as if a deaf heart outside me
has started beating.
Two long poems in this book are so touching my heart ached while reading them. "In the Path of Lightning" connects life's trials and foibles with a fragile thread. And in "Saturday Night Two Step" the boy and man examines the essence of his parents. To excerpt either of these two fine poems would be a sacrilege on my part. You'll have to read them in their entirety to absorb their joys and sorrows. In fact, there are many exceptional poems in this book. Fishman's work here is memorable and highly recommended.
Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids
Photos by Leigh Beisch
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9780811867825, $19.95 www.chroniclebooks.com
"Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids" is a cookbook that delivers exactly what its title promises. Divided into three mouth-watering chapters titled What's Your Story, Morning Glory? (breakfast sweets and treats), Every Day's a Holiday (for simple everyday treats), and Get This Party Started (irresistible desserts that take center stage), "Sticky Chewy Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids" packs a sweetness punch that won't be soon forgotten. Recipes such as Chodk-a-Block Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Muffins, or Ghostly Meringues, or Holy Moly! Strawberry Jam Roly-Poly stud this delightful collection. Though treats are designed for childish delight, adult supervision or participation for making the recipes is recommended. The presentation of "Sticky Chewy etc." is also quite unusual and attractive, with gingham printed backgrounds and scalloped pages and beautiful full color photographs of recipes. Frankly fancy and always delicious, recipes from "Sticky Chewy (etc)" will become the favorites of all who fall under its sweet spell.
The Big Book for Toddlers
Alice Wong and Lena Tabori, editors
6 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9781599620718, $24.95, www.amazon.com
"The Big Book for Toddlers: Activities, Fairy Tales, Games, Nursery Rhymes, Songs, Stories" is a treasure trove of games, activities, songs, rhymes, stories and more that toddlers will adore. All the well-loved classics of childhood are given pride of place, along with fabulous vintage children's illustrations in gently muted, textured colors that add to the nostalgic appeal of "The Big Book for Toddlers." From 'The Big Rock Candy Mountain' to 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears,' "The Big Book for Toddlers" is chock full of tried and true classics that still appeal to children everywhere. Games like 'Follow the Leader' and "Simon Says' and crafts like making mouth puppets or animal masks are all great ways to spend a pleasant afternoon or morning with a happy toddler or two. "The Big Book for Toddlers" is a great resource for preschool staff and teachers, libraries, and parents and schools as well. Children will love the beautiful pictures that heavily stud the whole book. Great editorial selection of literature, ideas and illustrations are presented beautifully to appeal to children and adults.
The Picture Cookbook
Joyce Dassonville & Ehren McDow
Granville Island Publishing
212 -1656 Duranleau, Granville Island, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6H 3S4
9781894694520, $34.95, www.amazon.com
Showcasing 51 safe, delicious and fun recipes appropriate for children and special needs individuals! wanting to prepare meals in their family kitchen, "The Picture Cookbook: No-Cook Recipes for the Special Chef, Volume 1" is a practical collection of easy-to-make dishes that are presented with directions entirely in pictures. As well as providing multiple healthful, delicious, easy meal and snack suggestions, "The Picture Cookbook" emphasizes all aspects that lend towards independence and safe food preparation practices for special needs individuals. Because of its carefully presented all-photo preparation guide format, "The Picture Cookbook" is an ideal tool to increase independence in food preparation. Even the index, which is divided into breakfast foods, cold drinks, cold soups & salads, sandwiches, snacks and desserts, is completely coded by photos of each recipe along with page number and title. In addition, there is a helpful section titled For the Parent, Teacher & Caregiver that contains many specific suggestions to maximize the learning potential of special needs individuals. Conceived and created by a parent of an autistic daughter, "The Picture Cookbook" is the first volume of a series that is ground-breaking in this category. Watch for the upcoming "Picture Cookbook: Microwave and Convection Recipes."
Princess Tea, Parties and Treats for Little Girls
Janeen A. Sarlin with Noelle Shipley, authors
Sheri Giblin, photographer
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9780811861779, $19.95, www.amazon.com
"Princess Tea" is a wonderful book filled with dozens of ideas for the creation of imaginative party teas with special themes for adored little girls. There are complete menus with fabulous recipes, decorating suggestions, appropriate, fun activities, and even costume suggestions for no fewer than eight princess tea parties, including the Lotus Princess Tea from China, the Underwater Princess Tea from the South Sea Islands, the Cowgirl Princess Tea from Southwestern U. S., a Fiesta Tea from Mexico, a Country Garden Lavender Princess Tea from France, and Indian Princess Tea from(of Course) India, and African Princess Tea, and a Fairy Princess Tea. Even favorite dance steps for dances such as the Line Dance for the Cowgirl Tea party, or the Mexican Hat Dance for the Fiesta Tea party are included as party activity instructions with footstep diagrams. Each chapter begins with a helpful summary page which lists beverage suggestions, costume suggestions, craft/activity ideas, and recipes. Beautiful color photographs illustrate each chapter with specific examples to inspire the party planners. At the end of the book is a handy source list with complete addresses and phone numbers for food, music, party supplies, reference books, and tea. "Princess Tea" is the kind of book that is a treat to read while planning a fun-filled event for gracious young tea partiers. You won't want to miss it!
Charise Mericle Harper, author/illustrator
Disney/ Hyperion Books
114 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011
9781423118978, $14.99, www.amazon.com
"Cupcake" is a glitter-encrusted, fancy book about fancy cupcakes and one special vanilla cupcake with white frosting who was not quite so special. Feeling a little less glitterati than his fancier peers (like Polka-Dot Cupcake, Rainbow Sprinkles Cupcake, Cupcake starts to cry when he is the last cupcake on the platter uneaten. However a friendly candle hears Cupcake crying and comes to the rescue with a number of ridiculous suggestions that first distract Cupcake and finally actually cheer him up. A surprise ending is in store, but kids age 3 and above will not be disappointed with their reading experience of "Cupcake."
Murder on a Caribbean Note
1094 New DeHaven Street, West Conshohocken, PA 19428
9780741457356, $15.95, www.amazon.com
"Murder on a Caribbean Note" is the latest in a series of musically themed 'whodunits' by the same author, including "Murder on a Philosophical Note" and "Murder on the Wrong Note." Spunky sleuth Sam and private-eye partner/soon-to-be-spouse Ian are booked for a honeymoon cruise to Jamaica, including a shipboard wedding ceremony, duly attended by their best friends and favorite band, Heartthrob, also booked for the cruise. Most of the group are familiar to "Murder of Note" fans from previous mysteries. Unfortunately there is trouble brewing in paradise, and Sam and Ian find themselves involved in a double shipboard murder, a brutal poisoning of the Captain's wife, Gloria Thomas. Balancing routine murder investigation activities and suspect interviews with tropical umbrella drinks, steamy sex, and romantic Caribbean moonlit nights, Sam and Ian manage to narrow the list of suspects in the nick of time, with the assistance of fellow band members of Heartthrob (Ian is drummer for the band) and spouses and significant others. An unlikely vehicle for crime -solving, one might think, but the combination of art, love, play, and action works surprisingly harmoniously in Glodowski's third mystery vignette. Interpol looms, and danger heightens the focus on speedy mystery solution as well as love. Sam has to stretch her wits to escape a mysterious killer/kidnapper and solve the double crime. Everyone participates in the fast-action conclusion, and a team effort helps to save the day. Fortunately our heroine and friends are equal to the challenge and fans and readers can eagerly anticipate the next exciting book in the series, "Murder on an Egyptian Note." For anyone who needs the midwinter therapy of a vivid, imaginary Caribbean cruise with murder and all the trimmings, "Murder on a Caribbean Note" fills the bill and then some.
Pets' Playground: Playing Safe in a Dog-and-Cat World
Dr. Amanda Chin, author
Luke Feldman, illustrator
AAHA Press (American Animal Hospital Association)
12575 W. Bayaud Ave., Lakewood, CO 80228
9781583261156, $11.95 Jason.firstname.lastname@example.org
"Pets' Playground" is a practical, complete, kid -accessible manual of responsible safety practices for care and fun with pet cats and dogs. Geared towards increasing understanding of pet senses, needs, and behavior, "Pets' Playground" is dedicated to expand awareness of pets' needs by both adults and children. Pet's Playground is cheerfully illustrated and carefully organized into 10 chapters presenting no fewer than Activity packets, including specific games to teach safe pet care practices,plus a Glossary, and list of resources. "Pets Playground" should be required reading for all families who own pets, whether they have kids or not.
40 Power Tools You Can Make
Popular Mechanics Press
2006 S. Mary, Fresno, CA
9781933502205, $12.95, www.amazon.com
Originally published by Popular Mechanics Press in 1941, "40 Power Tools You Can Make: A Woodworking Classics Revisited Book" is a collection of "clever projects of nostalgic delight" that were developed in the 1940's during wartime when materials and labor were scarce and American craftsmen were forced to "bootstrap" solutions out of bare essentials.' Each article includes measurement, black and white photos, and specific diagrams and handy blueprint sketches. Because all the articles were written over 50 years ago, it is important to note that safety standards were not in existence as they are today, so these projects and procedures do not meet present minimum safety standards and practices. However, "40 Power Tools You Can Make" delivers a definite dose of 'Popular Mechanics' nostalgia that will appeal to a generation who remembers the adventures and explorations suggested in that WW 2 era. "40 Power Tools You Can Make" would be a great, vintage Father's Day gift for that man in your life who has a weakness for the wonderful world of machines and power tools. Highly recommended for personal, academic, and community library collections, "40 Power Tools You Can Make" is also a unique and specific piece of American cultural history.
The Perfect Present
Ruth Beifus, author/illustrator
208 Airport Executive Park, Nanuet, NY 10954
9781598263497, $14.99, www.amazon.com
"The Perfect Present" is the latest release in the Shlavim: Growing Up! series from Feldheim designed to create interest in everyday growth experiences and opportunities that crop up in children's daily lives. Taking personal responsibility for one's own actions is showcased in "The Perfect Present," as is learning compassion and sensitivity to the feelings, needs and reactions of others. "The Perfect Present" is about Nomi's reaction to a gift she receives from her Aunt Miriam, a sewing box that was given to Aunt Miriam by her mother when she was a little girl. Unfortunately Nomi's first reaction to the gift is thoughtless disappointment, which hurts both her Aunt Miriam and her mother Imma's feelings. But upon closer examination, Nomi notices that her reaction makes her aunt unhappy, and the old sewing box really does have some unusual and unique qualities. She quickly decides there are many ways she could use the sewing box even thought she does not sew, and when she tells her Aunt Miriam some of them, it helps restore her aunt's smile. Finally Nomi decides to thank her Aunt Miriam graciously with a hug, telling her "the present you got me is perfect!" "The Perfect Present" ends with a touching scene of Aunt Miriam bringing another present for Nomi which she will teach her to use, a needle, thread, fabric, buttons, and sewing needles. The lovely, colorful illustrations of "The Perfect Present" help to gently send the messages of caring and warmth and concern for proper respect.
P.O. Box 1975, Tijeras, NM 87059
9780977698219, $17.95, www.amazon.com
"Elegant Animals: A Poetic Romp Through the Animal Kingdom" is a delightful collection of incredible poems about animals. Unlike other similar collections, these poems let the reader taste, see, even experience from the unique (imagined) viewpoint of the animal. An example is the poem titled "Ms. Loretta Lizard," on page 87: 'Ms. Loretta Lizard,/ Seen sunning on a wall./ Plump as the ants were yesterday./ Basking in life's roll call./ (Burp!)' There is a tinge of e.e. cummings, a taste of T. S. Eliot, and a nod or two to Ogden Nash in these pages, but most striking of all is the wonderful freshness of the author's own unique vision of the animals under her scrutiny. Reading "Elegant Animals" will be a treat to be savored and prolonged and fondly revisited, suffused with with a joy of life that can be tasted. "Elegant Animals" is poetry for gourmet readers (who don't take themselves too seriously to get the hidden quips and jokes ). Enjoy!
Obama: The Day The World Danced, A Family Heirloom
Jan Spivey Gilchrist, author/illustrator
Pegasus Books For Children
280 Madison Avenue, Suite 912-384, New York, NY 10016
9780982409503, $18.99, www.amazon.com
"Obama: The Day The World Danced, A Family Heirloom" is a family heirloom celebratory book about the 2008 election of Barack Obama as forty-fourth actual and first African American president of the United States of America. The event is seen through the eyes of Emily and Breyna, two friends from different families of different races who watch and feel the dance of celebration together on the November day history was changed forever. Together they hold hands and make an imaginary circle large enough to include the children from President Obama's father's village in Kenya, the children from his old school in Indonesia, the children in Hawaii where he lived with his "Toot," the children in Kansas where his mother was born, the children in China, England, France, and around the world. Everyone laughs and dances and cries ("you have to cry when you see history"), because for the very first time, America had elected a president from many beginnings, the first African American President of the United States of America, Barack Obama. "Obama: The Day The World Danced" is a beautiful heirloom edition suitable for all ages.
Flashes and Specks
No Frills Press
119 Dorchester, Buffalo, NY 14231
The life of a super hero is never a simple one. "Flashes and Specks" is a tale of Henry Kent, superhero, family man, and career person as he tries to balance his world as he fights against his family, his students, and oh yeah, the forces of evil. Endlessly entertaining and intriguing, "Flashes and Specks" is a unique and very highly recommended read for lovers of super hero tales.
Upper Access, Inc.
87 Upper Access Road, Hinesburg, VT 05461
9780942679335, $16.95, www.upperaccess.com
The northern seas were never meant to be lived upon by humanity, but that never stops some people. "True North: Journeys Into the Great Northern Ocean" tells the story of life in the northern seas from Myron Arms as he reflects on his times in the northern Atlantic through essays on his adventures. A new perspective on ocean life and the arctic circle, "True North" is an entertaining and intriguing read that should not be ignored.
9735 Country Meadows Lane Suite 1-D, Laurel, MD 20723
9781590806432, $13.99, www.echelonpress.com
Sometimes mysteries are best left unexplored. "Devil's Island" tells the story of Mary Whitney as she explores an abandoned island with the caution-inducing name of Devil's Island. With a vicious ex and other things after her, "Devil's Island" is a fun adventure that many readers will delight in as they follow Mary's quest to find out the truth behind the island and who is after her life.
The Dancing Dragon Poems
Victor M. Depta
Blair Mountain Press
114 East Campbell Street, Frankfort, KY 40601
9780976881759, $15.00, www.blairrmtp.com
The dragon is an icon of fantasy, and through it, much can be explored. "The Dancing Dragon Poems" is a collection of poetry exploring fantasy, philosophy, and science through the dragon, drawing from an inspiration of joy rather than that of depression. Exciting, poignant, and thought provoking, "The Dancing Dragon Poems" is a fine collection that should not be overlooked. "The Dragon's Today Self": The dancing dragon has a self-- it's very serious/it's never delirious like a woodland elf/nibbling on mushrooms/but more like a toad on the top of his head/warty and squat between his horns/its mouth in a frowny slit/bulgy-eyed, the sulky thespian/croaking about I am I am/till the dragon/sick of the puffy, Shakespearean ham/coils up his scaly neck/and with an unwhirl worthy of a plumber's snake/flings him against a tree trunk/splat/and for the time being/that's that.
Murder at the Lake
PO Box 80107, Austin, TX 78758
Bren Gaudet holds a bachelor's degree in literature and creative writing from Vermont College and is working on her MFA in fiction, specializing in young adults and children at Spalding University. She presently lives in San Antonio, Texas and is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
Amanda Christie is an east coast debutante whose parents have agreed to let her fly out to her recently widowed aunt's estate in Austin, Texas. Her young cousins are also there, with the idea of bonding through an enjoyable weekend together. But right off the bat Amanda can see that there is evil afoot, and when her close cousin, Jack, disappears in a boating accident, all hell breaks loose:
"Beth stood up with her arms high over her head, hoping to catch her phone before it fell into the water. Instead, she pitched backwards, hitting Jack and throwing him onto the control panel and the glass windshield. The boat lurched forward. Beth screamed. Chelsea stood up and made a grab for the phone. Reggie made a grab for Beth, and Jack went overboard, the little boat making a loud, crunching noise as it hit the wooden platform, throwing me forward onto my knees."
It's difficult writing about teenage angst, but Bren Gaudet handles the issue with sophistication and insight into the wonder years. Both the plot, a dangerously rainy weekend with a group of teens stuck in a potentially haunted house together, and the character development are excellent. Amanda Christie is the teen with the level head, and the agendas of the other selfish cousins emerge in a sinister montage.
Lest we forget, teen love figures into the story in a huge way. One can't imagine an ingenue from a solidly middle to upper class family not having experienced that first kiss by the age of seventeen, but if the reader is amenable to suspending suspicion, the love story is sweet and fresh.
All in all, MURDER ON THE LAKE is a good first effort from a budding author. We'll look forward to the second effort of the Amanda Christie mysteries.
A Deadly Vineyard
SterlingHouse Publisher, Inc.
3468 Babcock Boulevard, Pittsburgh, PA 15237
Glenn Ickler, a Pulitzer-award nominee on an editorial staff during his day job, is the author of six previous mysteries in the "Mitch and Al" series.
In his newest installment of an excellent series, Dave Jerome invites Mitch (Warren "Mitch" Mitchell) and Alan Jeffrey to his Uncle Walt's home to Martha's Vineyard. Mitch takes along his intrepid cat, Sherlock Holmes, and Dave and Al bring their wives. Mitch is a little leery of the trip, as his last visit to Martha's Vineyard involved a near-death experience involving a boat. But what could happen with good old Walt, another famous reporter…nothing, right? Wrong!
The party arrives to find Uncle Walt missing. The only clue is his housekeeper, and Mitch finally gives chase on a very long bike ride that involves a ferry ride to Chappaquiddick after his editor orders a story on Uncle Walt's disappearance. It seems Uncle Walt has just done a freelance story on a treasure hunter, whose body washed up onshore a few days earlier:
"I was in a state of physical meltdown when Daffy Dolly suddenly veered off the blacktop onto a sand and gravel road on the right that made pedaling even more painful. This road was only a single lane wide and it wound through an assortment of evergreens, oaks and scrub oaks. The gravel began to disappear and the wheels of my bike sank deeper as the surface got even softer. My legs were turning to jelly and I was losing ground on Daffy Dolly when she stopped, slid off the seat and began walking her bike. 'Thank God,' I said out loud as I abandoned the seat of my pain and started to push my two-wheeled torture chamber.
'Don't thank her too soon,' said a male voice behind me. 'Drop the bike and put your hands up as high as you can reach.'"
A DEADLY VINEYARD is a hilarious, madcap mystery featuring a cat who has more than nine lives; lots of editorial "in" jokes and puns; a real streak of male libido; a love story; and bedlam galore. Glenn Ickler has done it again with this entertaining romp.
1415 Bathurst St., #202, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5R 3H8
Eileen Coughlan lives in Calgary, Canada. She is a freelance writer, but also teaches, and her first novel, DYING BY DEGREES, was included in college-level reading lists. This novel garnered a spot of McNally Robinson's list of "Top Twenty Bestsellers of 2005," was short-listed for the 2001 Arthur Ellis Award, and made it as a semifinalist for the 1999 Robertson Davies/Chapters Award. Eileen also publishes short stories and feature articles.
Hellie MacConnell is the stereotypical "runaway bride," but not because she got cold feet. She escapes from the clutches of a controlling upper-class family and makes her way to Banff, where acquaintances hook her up with a long-lost uncle. Just as Hellie is beginning to recover from the trauma of finding of erstwhile fiance in a clutch with her younger brother, Hellie finds her now beloved uncle dead on his property. His dear friend who occupies a cabin on the land has vanished, and suspicion naturally falls on him…and Hellie. Hellie has also been assigned to write an article on big-game hunting, and the hunter from Texas has a bone to pick with her family:
"'At first they didn't take Ansel seriously. Then he went to Arthur's group and convinced them that Arthur was directly responsible for his wife and child's death. It wasn't a difficult task. Some of the SEP leaders were on the anti- hunting side of things anyway, and they were only too happy to get rid of Arthur.
Also, Arthur was in favor of selling stockpiled ivory in countries that had a healthy elephant population. Arthur, as you well know, cannot abide waste.
The group was dead set against it. So, politically, the timing was perfect. And…weapons were discovered concealed within medical supplies at Michael's clinic.'"
Coughlan does an excellent job on this psychological, ecological, brain-twisting whodunit. The road to the solution of the mystery is fraught with peril, much to the reader's delight. Characters jump out from the page to invade the psyche. Hellie MacConnell is a great heroine, with all the trappings. And Banff provides the perfect
backdrop for this mystery that instructs the reader regarding the problems with poaching and big-game hunting. It is just a perfect read, with a love triangle thrown in for fun.
A Week in the Life of the Chromasomas
Queen House 2 Holly Road, Twickenham TW1 4EG United Kingdom
In this delightful book we meet nine-year old, Azzurra, from the planet Nivalis. Everything on her plant is white, except the people that is. They are quite colorful. Azzurra has blue skin and hair and pink eyes, her sister is purple and her brother, yellow. They have legs that spring when they walk and bumping into each other makes colorful clouds. Wow, they certainly are interesting fun people. Than we meet Umbrae, who is from the planet Versicolour and on this planet everything is opposite from Azzurra. Everything is colorful except its people who are white. White as ghosts.
Umbrae makes a visit to Azzurra's planet. She is jealous of them and is not happy being from her own planet. She wants to be colorful and not all white. Oh no! What kind of trouble does she cause, after all, nobody can see her because she is white on their white planet. So the fun begins as the two girls and the two worlds collide.
I have to take my hat off to this creative author. Maria Matsi has taken a subject, color, and created a story around it. Now that takes a lot of talent and she certainly has that. The story is adorable, the characters are perfect, with personalities that fit their age group. She has taken not only color as part of the story, but the desire to be something you are not and shown how that can hurt not just yourself but others. The story is creative, interesting but most of all downright fun to read. I cannot imagine a child not totally being immersed in this tale and coming out wanting more. Wonderful work, highly recommended. Well done Ms. Matsi! Looking forward to the next.
Juggler In The Wind
Wim Coleman & Pat Perrin
9902 Crystal Ct #107, Laredo, Texas 78045
Randy Carmichael, a fourteen-year old boy, lives with his alcoholic mother in Buchanan, Kansas. He is a good boy and usually always does as his mother, says until that fateful night when the Circus Olympus came to town. Randy's mother forbid him to go to the circus and was very upset by its arrival. Randy didn't understand this and his mother refused to talk to him about it, so when he began to hear voices calling him to the circus he knew he had to follow.
Sneaking out Randy makes his way to the circus and soon becomes part of the group. This isn't your normal circus, nor are the people there normal circus performers. No, something weird and mysterious is happening and Randy knows it is something that effects the life of himself and his mother. He simply must find out what it is. Although afraid of what lies ahead, he fights through his fears to begin his journey.
Wow! This is a strange read and one that will make the reader stand up and take notice. It is mysterious from the start and only gets thicker into mystery as the story continues. You keep wondering just what the Olympus Circus is and how Randy and his mother are connected to it.
You don't get a clue about this until the very end of the story and then you know you will have to wait until the next book to find out more.
It is packed full of characters that will both woe you and scare you. Each one seems to have a story to tell, yet cloak that story in mystery, unveiling some particles along the way. Somehow these people are connected, but how is yet unknown. Where they have come from and where they are going is a mystery. Answers only lead to more questions as you keep reading hoping for the finale. What a read. This story is sure to keep every young reader glued to its pages and waiting for the next book to find out more answers. A mysterious tale with a mist calling you to read its story. A sure winner of a read.
Sally O Lee
9781439261149 $17.95 www.booksurge.com
I have read and reviewed several of author, Sally O Lee's books and I always enjoy them. They are simple reads that will leave the child with a simple lesson shown in a fun way.
In this book Anabel is the star, she has a brother named, George and a cat named,Lulubell.
George is a bully. He hurts Lulubell and picks on Anabel. Anabel tires of this and tells him to stop. George is sorry for what he did and Anabel rewards him for being sorry. This is a very good book for beginning readers. It is a short story and a gives a lesson as well. Cute illustrations, colorful and bright. Nice book young ones will enjoy.
The Ghost of Lone Jack
Lance Lee Noel
Spinning Moon Press
PO Box 75425, Phoenix, AZ 85087
Jared Millhouse has lost his mom, his dad is deep in depression over his life as the two of them settle in for the summer at his grandfather's farm in Lone Jack, Missouri. Due to a course of events Jared becomes friends with several of the local children and becomes a member of the Crossroads Gang. Unfortunately all of there lives are challenged by the local bully who is intent in making their summer miserable.
Along with that, strange things are happening in Lone Jack, ghosts of soldiers from the Civil War show up fighting each other. Indians with two faces appear out of nowhere and Jared, his friends, and family, along with escaped convicts, find themselves in the midst of a terrifying time warp where the spirits of those passed are trapped and the entire town is in danger of death. Will they escape and will the ghosts of the past finally be put to rest? I'll never tell.
Inside the pages of this outstanding read you will find a story that grabs you right from the start. The characters are very well defined, and we have Jared who pulls at your heartstrings from the start. A ten year old boy, who is well behaved and trying his best to face life after the death of his mom, he is one you will admire. A grandpa who is full of wisdom and love and a father who is deeply hurting. Add with that Sirus, the groundkeeper of the cemetery and a local who shares at first the secrets of the ghosts with young Jared and his friends and gives you insight into the history of these ghosts and what is taking place. You are in for the ride of your life. Action packed this novel moves you from this realm into the parallel one of trapped souls with the whirl of the pen. One minute you are in a corn field, at a race, walking along a dirt road, and the next you are battling for your very life with ghostly attackers as you become one with the character in the read. Creepy! but oh so good. What is it that these ghosts want and how will Jared and his friends end this nightmare?
This book is not just for the YA group. I feel that adults will truly enjoy this story and both will learn quite a bit just from reading it. It's action packed adventure at it's peak, with characters you will both fear, love and actually giggle at intertwined in a storyline that never gives you a dull moment.
Very well written, excellent job by author, Lance Lee Noel. Recommended.
It's In The Eyes
10940 S. Parker Rd, Parker, Colorado 80134
Murder, murder everywhere seems to ring in the ears of all those in the Washington D.C. area. Terror floods the streets and parents warn their daughters to beware. Fear is rampart! Just what is happening? Young women are found dead, raped, and their spirits are crying out for justice.
Will their killer be caught? There is group, "The Alpha Team," a group of experts that come together to solve hard cases and bring to justice the guilty. A group that works along side the police, but not part of them, bringing much needed help. But will it be enough?
This story has some weird characters in it, and for this story that is a good thing. The story really gets interesting as you learn that the murders are similar to killings from centuries ago by Thuggees, those who worshiped the black goddess, Kali. The authors description of the interaction between the killer and Kali is sure to curl your hair. Creepy. However, you also learn that not all murders can be lumped up and blamed on one killer, no there is more underfoot than meets the eye. The plot thickens.
I enjoyed this read, I liked the way the author brings the local into clarity and portrays the victims as real people with families and lives that were stolen from them. Also bringing into play the creepy worship of darkness never hurts a good murder mystery, and the author definitely brought 'creepy' into play with the worship of this Queen of Darkness and her faithful follower. Yuck! Gave me the chills and definitely is part of the read I will remember for a while! Our author also did a good job with the characters of the Alpha Team, the description and personality of each one was well defined and their job within the group easy to follow. That helped a lot in understanding how they were proceeding in cracking the case.
All in all a very good read, full of all the elements needed with characters that blended well in each part they played in the saga, allowing the story to flow smoothly and bring it to a satisfying conclusion. Very well done, great mystery read, even though it was tad creepy.
Inspiring Words From The Psalms
Blue Sky Ink
1849 Ravencrest Rd, Brentwood, Tennessee
The first thing that caught my eye with this book was the comforting cover. A beautiful basket of pink flowers grace the page with scattered pictures of mom's and their children. The overall cover is a muted yellow and the scene immediately brings you peace. Nice job.
This book is written for mom's everywhere. Each page gives a Scripture, a picture and a short writing of reflection.
For example on page 62, we are given Psalm 32:1, reminding us that we do have forgiveness for our mistakes. As we all know, as mothers, that is something to be thankful for. In the short writing our author reminds us that even though we do make mistakes as mothers we can repent and have the freedom from guilt in that area that we need.
I really enjoyed this book and feel it would be a blessing for any mother to receive. Simple, beautiful and full of encouragement that will help to lift burdens and brighten any mom's day.
Written & Illustrated by Dalton James
10940 S. Parker Rd, Parker, Colorado 80134
The Mudhogs is a children's book written and illustrated by eight-year old, Dalton James.
It is the story of some adorable pigs who could not find mud, and we all know pigs must have mud, so they set off on a quest to find some. However, what they find is a simple lesson, yet an important one for children.
I found this book to be very refreshing and I loved knowing that a child took the time to write and illustrate it. Children reading it will especially enjoy his drawings and I feel will identify with them and perhaps be encouraged that they too may share their creative ability.
Cute story, cute illustrations. Hats off to our young author, Dalton James.
Chicken Soup for the Soul Empty Nesters
Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC
9781935096221 $14.95 www.chickensoup.com
I have had the honor of reviewing many of the 'Chicken Soup,' books and I have never been disappointed; I don't say that lightly. They all have been great reads, funny, encouraging and well worth my time. However, this one definitely stuck a cord within me, and it was perhaps one of the best I have read thus far.
I am one that has been through the empty nest and it is not always a very comfortable place to be. Loneliness and the constant feeling that something (or someone) is missing fills the home, but take heart, this too will pass.
Inside the pages of this delightful book we are treated to story after story of parents that have come upon that page in this lives. The stories are often laugh-out-loud funny, heart-touching, and practical. Just about every emotion is shown in the different tales that are shared. They are short stories, easy to read, and will leave you with the feeling that you are not alone. I liked the shortness of the stories because you will be able to read one or more a day and have a daily dose of encouragement.
It truly is a great help to know that others, from all walks of life, have experienced exactly what you are, and have made it through fine. You will be encouraged by these words and go away with the attitude that life goes on, and perhaps it is your time to shine once again. Well done. Highly recommended.
Colonel Trash Truck
Illustrations by Manuel Conde
Big Tent Books
115 Bluebill Drive, Savannah, GA 31419
All of us should be concerned about the world we live in. Just how will it be for our grandchildren if we don't all take the time to consider how to protect planet earth. In this little book we meet, Colonel Trash Truck, his entire purpose is to keep the world clean and he wants all children to help.
The story, told in rhyme, encourages children to be aware of how they can help. Pick up your bags, throw trash where it belongs and recycle please. I loved the illustrations that were big and bold and the expressions on the Colonel's face were outstanding. There were some chuckles along the way when some advise was given about not picking your nose, or how the Colonel and his crew pick up dog and cat doo doo. Now you just have to laugh and what a better way to get someone's attention in a story, especially a child.
This book is certainly a winner and shows the importance of keeping our planet clean and how children can help. Well written, great illustrations and a fun learning story. All around a great read, fun and educational.
Miracle in Sumatra: The Story of Gusty Gus
Illustrated by David Cochard
PO Box 80107, Austin, Texas 78758
This is a book bringing to light the fate of orangutans, and it is a sad one. Inside the cover of this wonderful story you will meet, Gus. A baby orangutan whose parents are captured by the hunter. You will also meet, Maya, a little girl whose father is head over many workers who are cutting down the trees in the forest, and you will meet a beautiful angel who is the protector over the forest.
When Maya is transformed into an orangutan to help Gus save his parents the excitement begins. Through the bravery and joint effort of Gus and Maya a life is saved and light is shed upon the sad fate of orangutans.
This is a beautiful book that tells a very sad tale yet gives encouragement that something can be done, but the truth must be told. I liked the way the author brought into play an angel to help the young ones on their quest and also protect the forest. The illustrations are top-notch, bright, beautiful definitely bringing the story to life. Truly a work of art with a real purpose, and a story that children and adults will enjoy over and over again. Recommended
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533161867, $10.95, www.vantagepress.com
The American system is great, but it's not without its problems. "Democracy Rising: Overcoming the Politics of Fear and Divisiveness in America" is Ken Konecnik and his criticisms of the American elective system and its many flaws. Offering his own opinions, ideas, and solutions to the many problems that America faces, his writing will give readers much to chew on regardless of their political persuasion. "Democracy Rising" is well worth considering for those looking for political commentary.
Unhappily Ever After
Norman I. Gelman
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440181641, $26.95, www.iuniverse.com
Happiness always seems to be just out of reach. "Unhappily Ever After" is the psychological tale by Norman I. Gelman telling of the tragic breakdown of Rachel Rothschild as she tries to make her way through life. Depression, pregnancy, career changes all radically change her life as Gelman tells a tale that will ring all too true with many women. "Unhappily Ever After" is a read that many women will empathize with.
Flying the Edge of America
David Millett & Julia Buss
1449515460, $26.00, www.davidmillett.net
You'd think there wouldn't be as much to see from the sky as the road, but this couple disagrees. "Flying the Edge of America: The Trip of a Lifetime" tells the story of David Millett and Julia Buss as they flew around the United States, absorbing the unique atmosphere the countryside has to offer, as well as the giant cities and small towns. With plenty of full color photos of their journey, "Flying the Edge of America" is an adventure story that may inspire imitators as it is one like none else.
A Guide to the Ancient Mysteries
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533161287, $35.00, www.vantagepress.com
Pre-history is a puzzle of the past that drives many people to try to piece it together. "A Guide to the Ancient Mysteries" is Tom Ficek's own ideas and discussion about the roots of much of the mysticism and faith of today, looking at the customs and traditions of many ancient societies. Offering his own intriguing ideas with a certain metaphysical view, "A Guide to the Ancient Mysteries" is worth considering for those who are also fascinated by the mysteries of history.
The Dung Beetle Manager
Scott W. Dunlap
10940 S. Parker Road - 515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432744168, $15.95, www.outskirtspress.com
It must be nice, tossing stuff wherever and leaving others to clean up your messes. "The Dung Beetle Manager" is a business book aimed at those stuck in the middle, the middle management who is often stuck dealing with the tops carelessness and nonsense they are left to try to filter out to the rest of the company. With charm and light-hearted humor approaching the subject of managing the world of business, "The Dung Beetle Manager" is a choice pick and a very highly recommended read for those who want to shovel themselves out of the holes before they get covered in them.
The Quigley Alchemy
E. J. Russ McDevitt
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440164767, $23.95, www.iuniverse.com
You can take the man out of the special forces, but you can't take the special forces out of the man. "The Quigley Alchemy" tells the tale of Danny Quigley, drawn out of retirement and back under the sea of intrigue. With his family on the line, Danny doesn't know who to trust as he tries to find out who is out to kill him and who has what he wants. "The Quigley Alchemy" is a fascinating thriller, well worth reading.
The Islands of the Blessed
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416907374 $18.99 www.SimonSaysKids.com
"Foolish boy," whispers the cobwebby voice of the hogboon. "You force me to slay you." But Jack and Thorgil between them possess the rune of protection, and they overpower the soulless spirit who is so intent on murder and marriage, respectively. They've survived worse. The crowning volume of the trilogy that started with "The Sea of Trolls" and "The Land of the Silver Apples" begins with a tornado (Odin on a Wild Hunt, as the young berserker Thorgil sees it). The fields of Jack's village have been devastated, the winter ahead looks bleak, and a monster -- a draugr -- invades the forest outside of town. What's a hogboon in comparison? In the hands of bestselling Nancy Farmer, the direst prospects are all part of the fun as Jack, Thorgil, and the Bard set off on a quest to right the wrong of a death caused by Father Severus. Destination: Notland, realm of the fin folk, and unfortunately for the adventurers Not Always There.
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781599903422 $16.99 www.bloomsburyusa.com
Zara and her friends knew they hadn't solved the pixie problem for good. Far from it. The king's needs grow deeper every day he's stuck in captivity, while his control over his people gets weaker. It's made him vulnerable. And now there's a new king in town. A turf war is imminent, since the new pixie king, Astley, is moving in quickly. Nick nearly killed him in the woods on day one, but Zara came to his rescue. Astley swears that he and Zara are destined to be together, that he's one of the good guys. Nick isn't buying it, though Zara isn't as sure -- despite herself, she wants to trust the new king. But it's a lot more than her relationship with Nick that is at stake. It's her life -- and his. A brilliant YA fantasy and the sequel to the breakout novel "Need" by wonderful author Carrie Jones.
Once a Witch
Clarion Books / Houghton Mifflin
251 Park Avenue South, NY NY 10003
9780547223995 $16.00 www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com
Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin's magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agrees to find a lost family heirloom for him. The search -- and the stranger -- will prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful that it could destroy them all. This is a spellbinding display of storytelling that will exhilarate, enthrall, and thoroughly enchant.
Solace of the Road
David Fickling Books / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375849718 $17.99 www.randomhouse.com/kids
Holly's story will leave a lasting impression on all who travel with her. Memories of mum are the only thing that make Holly Hogan happy. She hates her foster family with their too-nice ways and their false sympathy. And she hates her life, her stupid school, and the way everyone is always on at her. Then she finds the wig, and everything changes. Wearing the long, flowing blond locks she feels transformed. She's not Holly anymore, she's Solace: the girl with the slinkster walk and the supersharp talk. She's older, more confident -- the kind of girl who can walk right out of her humdrum life, hitch to Ireland, and find her mum. The kind of girl who can face the world head-on. So begins a bittersweet and sometimes hilarious journey as Solace swaggers and Holly tiptoes across England and through memory, discovering her true self and unlocking the secrets of her past. Siobhan Dowd's final novel before succumbing to cancer is melancholy and haunting.
Delacorte Press / Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385738934 $17.99 www.randomhouse.com/teens
There's something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori. Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price's attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at the Sword & Cross boarding school in sultry Savannah, Georgia. He's the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move. Even though Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce -- and goes out of his way to make that very clear--she can't let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, she has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret . . . even if it kills her. Dangerously exciting and darkly romantic, author Lauren Kate's "Fallen" is a page turning thriller and the ultimate love story. Sure to be the next post-"Twilight" teen-to-adult crossover hit.
The Maze Runner
Delacorte Press / Random House
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385737944 $16.99 www.randomhouse.com/teens
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he's not alone. When the lift's doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade -- a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls. Just like Thomas, the Gladers don't know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they've closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift. Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up -- the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind. A terrific, action-packed book for teens who can't get enough of similar survivor fantasies like "The Hunger Games" and "Catching Fire."
215 Park Ave. So., NY, NY 10003
9780547258300 $9.99 www.graphiabooks.com
In the course of her dark and eventful tale, Cashore plays with the idea of awkwardness, how at a certain age gifts and talents are burdens, how they make it impossible to feel comfortable in the world. And in this she writes a fairly realistic portrait of teenage life into the baroque courts of her outlandish kingdoms… In many respects "Graceling" is a study of mysterious angers: it offers a perfect parable of adolescence, as its characters struggle with turbulent emotions they must learn to control. The consequences are more tangible than they usually are in more mundane settings -- if Katsa loses control, she breaks someone's jaw by accident -- but the principle is the same. The teenage characters in this novel, like some we may know in life, grow into their graces. They realize that their monstrous individuality is not so monstrous after all. A mesmerizing debut.
Rapture of the Deep: A Bloody Jack Adventure
215 Park Ave. South, NY, NY 10003
139780152065010 $17.00 www.hmhbooks.com
"Rapture of the Deep" is L.A. Meyer's seventh book in the swashbuckling "Bloody Jack Adventure" series of historical fiction for teens. On the very day that Jacky Faber is to wed her true love, she is kidnapped by British Naval Intelligence and forced to embark on yet another daring mission -- this time to search for sunken Spanish gold. But when Jacky is involved, things don't always go as planned. Jacky has survived battles on the high seas, the stifling propriety of a Boston finishing school, and even confinement in a dank French prison. But no adventure has quite matched her opportunistic street-urchin desires -- until now.
114 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10011-5690
9781423101765 $16.99 www.hyperionchildrensbooks.com
A city has many lives and layers. London has more than most. Not all the layers are underground, and not all the lives belong to the living. A twelve year old boy named George Chapman is about to find this out the hard way. On a school trip he's punished for something he didn't do. In a tiny act of rebellion, he lashes out at a small carving on the wall--unexpectedly breaking it off. And then something horrible does happen: a stone Pterodactyl unpeels from the wall and starts chasing him. George is already running before his mind starts trying to tell him this is impossible. "Stonheart" is the first book in Charlie Fletcher's fantasy trilogy for tweens and teens.
Gifted: Out of Sight, Out of Mind
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780753462836 $7.99 www.kingfisherpulications.com
Queen of Mean Amanda Beeson, 13, gets the shock of her life when she wakes up one morning to find herself in the body of one of her victims, Tracey Devon. Amanda discovers that Tracey, ignored at home and school, has the ability to become invisible. When Amanda finds herself in a special class that Tracey usually attends, it becomes clear that at Meadowbrook Middle School the definition of "gifted" has a whole other meaning. Can Amanda rescue her one-time target from obscurity and get her own life back on track? In order to do so, she will have to reveal her own startling gift and take her rightful place among Meadowbrook's very secret clique.
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416989417 $17.99 www.SimonSaysKids.com
For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment. But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel. For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen -- and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781439152614 $17.99 www.Teen.SimonandSchuster.com
In this gothic, dark and bloody tale constructed as a journal by 12-year-old orphan Will Henry, author Rick Yancey (who previously wrote the the Alfred Kropp series) presents the story of the boy's apprenticeship to an enigmatic 19th-century "monstrumologist," Doctor Pellinore Warthrop. Purportedly found in 2007 amid the personal effects of the recently deceased Will (at age 131), the memoir opens as a corpse is delivered to Warthrop by a grave-robber one night in 1888. What appears to be a horrific desecration of the body foreshadows a plague of headless, man-eating anthropophagi. Will, left in the doctor's care since his parents' death, is drawn into the effort to save his town and find out how the creatures reached America, and both Will and Warthrop are forced to confront their own family histories and obsessions. Yancey's elegant depiction of an America plagued with monsters, human and otherwise, spares no grisly detail (in describing feeding anthropophagi: "The head is the most coveted prize. The first to reach her seizes it and wrenches it from her neck... a steaming geyser shoots into the air and paints crimson their teeming alabaster bodies"). Horror lovers will be rapt. For ages 14 and up.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416971733 $19.99 www.SimonSaysKids.com
Scott Westerfeld's new Steam punk novel for teens, "Leviathan," takes place on the cusp of World War I, when all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet. Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men. Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered. With the Great War brewing, Alek's and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way...taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever.
175 Fifth Ave, NY NY 10010
9780765320964 $17.99 www.tor-forge.com
In her debut novel, Pearl North takes readers centuries into the future, to a forgotten colony of Earth where technology masquerades as magic and wars are fought over books. Haly is a Libyrarian, one of a group of people dedicated to preserving and protecting the knowledge passed down from the Ancients and stored in the endless maze of books known as the Libyrinth. But Haly has a secret: the books speak to her. When the threat of the rival Eradicants drives her from her home, Haly learns that things are not all she thinks they are. Taken prisoner by the Eradicants, who believe the written word to be evil, she sees the world through their eyes and comes to understand that they are not the book-burning monsters that she has known her entire life. The words of a young girl hiding in an attic -- written hundreds of years before Haly's birth -- will spark the interest of her captors and begin the change necessary to end the conflict between the Eradicants and Libyrarians. With the help of her loyal companion Nod, a creature of the Libyrinth, Haly must mend the rift between the two groups before their war for knowledge destroys them all. Haly's life -- and the lives of everyone she knows -- will never be the same. A powerful adventure that unites the present and future, North's "Libyrinth" is a fresh, magical novel that will draw in young readers.
Never Slow Dance with a Zombie
E. Van Lowe
175 Fifth Ave, NY NY 10010
9780765320407 $8.99 www.tor-forge.com
"Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion" meets "Night of the Living Dead" in this laugh-out-loud debut YA novel by Emmy Award-nominated TV writer E. Van Lowe. Principal Taft's 3 Simple Rules for Surviving a Zombie Uprising: Rule #1: While in the halls, walk slowly and wear a vacant expression on your face. Zombies won't attack other zombies. Rule #2: Never travel alone. Move in packs. Follow the crowd. Zombies detest blatant displays of individuality. Rule #3: If a zombie should attack, do not run. Instead, throw raw steak at to him. Zombies love raw meat. This display of kindness will go a long way. On the night of her middle school graduation, Margot Jean Johnson wrote a high school manifesto detailing her goals for what she was sure would be a most excellent high school career. She and her best friend, Sybil, would be popular and, most important, have boyfriends. Three years later, they haven't accomplished a thing! Then Margot and Sybil arrive at school one day to find that most of the student body has been turned into flesh-eating zombies. When kooky Principal Taft asks the girls to coexist with the zombies until the end of the semester, they realize that this is the perfect opportunity to live out their high school dreams. All they have to do is stay alive…
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity (publicity)
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781449033729, $28.00, www.authorhouse.com
The biggest restriction on most people is themselves. "Leaving Prisons: Release Your Trapped Value!" delves into breaking free of the personal restrictions so many people place on themselves to become greater at what they ever choose to be with special attention paid to leadership. A leader doesn't hold himself back and in doing so, won't hold his subordinates back. "Leaving Prisons!" is an inspirational and highly recommended read.
Dropping off the face of the earth, the lost colony of Roanoke has been the attraction of much wonder. "White Seed: The Untold Story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke" is a novel offering Paul Clayton's take on this lost colony of people who were abandoned by their countrymen on the shores of the uncharted Virginia. Telling a story of an abused Irish girl finding her place in this new world and finding love in the wrong places, and the plotting of local warlords, "White Seed" is a fascinating read that should not be missed.
Dancing with the Moon
Phillip S. Day
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162192, $8.95, www.vantagepress.com
God is more of a concept than a person. "Dancing with the Moon" is a collection of poetry from Phillip S. Day as he reflects on the idea of God, which he views as ultimate reality. With a healthy dose of humor, his poems prove entertaining and thoughtful, making "Dancing with the Moon" something to think about. "Crossing the Abyss": Air fills the pages./A terrible toe exists that impales the heart,/Taking away the hand of Christ.//A black soul lives in the tongue,/Mocking our meaning./A tumult of words rises without end.//The mind drags itself through nights, through deaths,/While beneath a light struggles into being.//A wind's gap opens./The sky is lit./Dawn severs its roots.
Blood of the Moon
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781440166921, $31.95, www.iuniverse.com
The truth is something that is very hard to handle. "Blood of the Moon" is the tale of David Rivers and his astronaut father's legacy. His father Michael, losing his mind to disease and age, holds a secret from his trip to the moon. David is on the brink of finding this secret, but soon realizes it may have been kept a secret for a reason, as the world around him begins to collapse and the truth may only make it worse. "Blood of the Moon" is an exciting read, highly recommended.
The Soul Patrol
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
Smith Publicity (publicity)
1930 E. Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
9781449015817, $14.99, www.authorhouse.com
Eternal rest can be a tad hard to get at times. "The Soul Patrol" tells the story of Caitlin and Nicole, two sisters who are struggling to find out why their friend Kelsey continues to haunt them past their death. Calling on aid from the usual and the unusual, they must deal with the usual and unusual in order to help Kelsey find her way to whatever is next. "The Soul Patrol" is a charming read of friendship and adventure, targeted at young readers.
Paul T. Vogel
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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