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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 7, Number 1 January 2008 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

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

Cowper's Bookshelf

Tiffany Ludwig & Renee Piechocki
Rutgers University Press
100 Joyce Kilmer Avenue, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8099
9780813541846, $29.95 1-800-446-9323

While the phrase 'dress for success' usually refers to selecting garments appropriate for a business setting, "Trappings: Stories Of Women, Power And Clothing" by Tiffany Ludwig (artist and media consultant) in collaboration with Renee Piechocki (artist and art consultant) expands that concept as it specifically applies to women in all circumstances both commercial, social, governmental, and cultural. "Trappings" is the cumulation of a project that included some six years of interviews and conversations with more than five hundred women and girls (ranging in age from four to ninety-two) about what they wore and why. The women ranged from office workers to drag-kings, stay-at-home moms to attorneys, fashion industry executives to elected officials, and students to cowgirls. The purposes of clothing selection are as diverse as establishing identity and power. The factors affecting fashion choice include gender, culture, race, class, age, profession, comfort and practicality, cost and creativity. Enhanced with the inclusion of 148 color and B/W photographs, "Trappings" is as an informed and informative read as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking.

Four Fragments from the Life of a Slow Learner
Robie Darche Wiesner
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781424182886, $14.95

Four Fragments from the Life of a Slow Learner is a novel drawn from elements of autobiography. Former high school English teacher Robie Darche Wiesner follows her protagonist from childhood to her struggle against anorexia to mid-life crisis and fear of death, exploring the difficulties in the relationship between daughter and father. Chapters alternate between descriptions of the protagonist's life and her father's life, intentionally obscuring the boundaries between the two. A theme of sexual confusion arises when the protagonist remembers the attraction she felt to a woman she met as a counselor in a summer camp. A poignant tale ultimately embodying multiple dimensions of the human experience.

Element of Blank
Ann Harper Reed
Lulu Press
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780615141947, $19.95

Based on a true event, Element of Blank is a haunting novel of human cruelty to others - and even more so to oneself. Following the life of a young mother and her self-destructive relationship with an abusive husband to its brutal conclusion when he unintentionally yet horrifically murders her, Element of Blank is raw, dark, gritty, and undeniably compelling. A chilling tale of negative human dynamics, not for the faint of heart.

The Earthshaking Earthquake Mystery
Carol Marsh
Gallopade International
PO Box 2779, Peachtree City, GA 30269
9780635063397, $5.99 1-800-536-2438

The Earthshaking Earthquake Mystery is an exciting chapter book for young adults that blends wacky adventure with an introduction to amazing science. When a (sort of) mad scientist dad takes his two children to the San Andreas fault, New Madrid in Missouri, and other earthquake-heavy places, he teaches them about famous earthquakes of history, basic plate tectonics, ways in which earthquakes might be predicted in the near future, and much more. A handful of cartoony black-and-white illustrations enhance this wonderful blend of history, trivia, and seismography ideal for entertaining and educating budding young minds.

The Bright Side
Max Sindell
Health Communications, Inc.
3201 S.W. 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442-8190
9780757306259, $12.95 www.hcibooks 1-800-441-5569

The Bright Side: Surviving Your Parents' Divorce is a guide written especially for teens and young adults, by an author who knows what surviving a parent's divorce is like from personal experience. Author Max Sindell, whose parents split up when he was six, begins with a child's bill of rights - including the absolute most important right, the right to be safe and feel safe. The other rights a child of divorcing parents has include the right to awareness in what's going on, the right to counseling, the right to be heard, the right to be one's own person, the right to be neutral, and the right to private communication. Chapters go on to teach the reader what to expect during and after a divorce, from dealing with mom and/or dad dating again to meeting a new stepfamily to traveling alone, coping with less money in the family (divorce and lawyers are expensive!) and much more. "Always remember your right to feel safe and secure. I can't say it enough times. If your parent ever has someone in his or her life who violates your feelings of safety and security, tell that person or tell your parent. If your parent doesn't take care of it, tell your other parent, tell a counselor, tell everybody, because that's the most important thing." Enthusiastically recommended, especially as a giftbook for any young person whose parents are divorcing.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

The Fish House Book
Kathryn Nordstrom
Dovetailed Press LLC
5263 North Shore Drive, Duluth, MN 55804
9780976589020, $19.95

Compiled with occasional captions by portrait and commercial photographer Kathryn Nordstrom, "The Fish House Book: Life On The Ice In The Northland" provides a visually impressive photographic survey of fish houses and the ice fishing culture that created them. Nordstrom photographically documents the people, the ice fishing culture, and the fish houses (interior and exterior) with more than two hundred color images. From the Aitkin Fish House Parade, to the Brainered Extravaganza, to the Walker Eelpout Festival, to camping overnight on Lake of the Woods, to a wedding, "The Fish House Book" is a fascinating and informative glimpse into a genuine upper midwest American subculture. Enhanced with an essay by Arnold Alanen (Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Wisconsin-Madison), "The Fish House Book" is very highly recommended for academic and community library collections, and for non-specialist general readers with an interest in ice fishing houses and the culture that supports them.

The Meaning Of Folklore
Alan Dundes
Utah State University Press
78 Old Marin Hill, Logan, UT 84322-7800
9780874216837, $49.95 1-800-239-9974

"The Meaning Of Folklore: The Analytical Essays Of Alan Dundes" is edited by Simon J. Bronner is represents a compilation of commentaries by the late academician and folklorist Alan Dundes who passed away in 2005. A memorial tribute to the work of one of America's premiere folklore experts, this collection of representative essays (some of them anthologized here for the first time) are exceptional examples of insight and scholarship that will prove as informed and informative as they are articulate and insightful. Organized into two major sections: Structure and Analysis; Woldview and Identity), "The Meaning Of Folklore" is a substantial body of seminal scholarship and should be a core part of university and other academic library Folklore Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Look What I Found Underneath the Bed...
K. David
Booksurge LLC
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781419671692, $18.99

Look What I Found Underneath the Bed... is the one-of-a-kind memoir of African-American author Kamaul David, who took a summer job with a moving company to defray the cost of his college tuition, and learned much more than he bargained for. The back-breaking physical work was to be expected; the relentless hazing from colleagues, the abuse by clients who apparently had nothing better to do, and the bizarre propositions from gays and straights alike dogged him relentlessly. At times tongue-in-cheek, yet always entertaining, Look What I Found Underneath the Bed... is a thoroughly engaging memoir that reveals just how much about a person can be hidden by what's under their bed!

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

The Last Imaginary Place
Robert McGhee
Publicity Department
University of Chicago Press
1427 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
9780226500898, $18.00 1-800-621-2736

"The Last Imaginary Place: A Human History Of The Arctic World" by Robert McGhee (Curator of Arctic Archaeology at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, Canada) is the result of thirty years of research with the native peoples of the Arctic by Robert McGhee who extensively traveled in the region. Superbly written so as to be complete accessible for students of anthropology and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the people and history of the arctic, "The Last Imaginary Place" is filled with fascinating accounts of fur trading, ivory hunting, native whaling, doomed exploration efforts, and the disorienting terrain that has beguiled and imperiled Europeans from the time of their first access to this remote region of the earth down to the present day. Winner of the Canadian Historical Association's 2004 Clio Award for Northern Canadian History, "The Last Imaginary Place" is as informed and informative, as it is engaging and entertaining!

The Knowledge Book
Steve Fuller
McGill-Queen's University Press
3430 McTavish Street, Montreal, QC, Canada, H3A 1X9
9780773533479, $22.95 1-800-387-0141

"The Knowledge Book: Key Concepts In Philosophy, Science, And Culture" by Steve Fuller (Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick) is an extraordinarily well written and organized interdisciplinary reference work focusing on the nature of knowledge. The underlying premise is that knowledge is intrinsically social. Deftly organized into more than forty alphabetically arranged entries on fundamental concepts at the intersection of philosophy and sociology (known in academic disciplines as 'social epistemology'), "The Knowledge Book" includes concepts associated with cultural studies, communication studies, information science, education, policy studies, and business studies. Of special note are the entries dealing with concepts originating in the field of science and technology studies. Each entry presents a succinct, self-contained essay providing an overview of the concept, along with suggestions for further reading. All entries are cross-references, enabling the reader to make connections and follow personal interests. Also available in a hardcover edition (9780773533462, $80.00), "The Knowledge Book" is a welcome and highly recommended addition to academic library reference collections and supplemental reading lists in contemporary philosophy, general science, and cultural studies.

The Art Of Indonesian Textiles
Brigitte Khan Majlis
The Art Institute Of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603-6110
Yale University Press
PO Box 209040, New Haven, CT 06520-9040 1-800-987-7323
9780300119466, $16.95

A superbly presented work of seminal scholarship, "The Art Of Indonesian Textiles" by Brigitte Khan Majlis (Curator of Textiles at the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum of Ethnography in Cologne, Germany) is a joint publishing project of The Art Institute Of Chicago and the Yale University Press. Showcasing exquisite examples of the batik and ikat techniques associated with Indonesian textiles enhancing the informed and informative essays, "The Art Of Indonesian Textiles" is enhanced with the inclusion of almost seventy examples drawn from the Bakwin Collection. Many of these textiles were made for ceremonial use, playing prominent roles in rituals marking key moments in the lives of individuals and their communities. The complexity of patterns and the techniques used to make them are among the finest examples of textile art to be found anywhere in the world. From Sumatran skirts (tapis), to a Javanese head scarf (kain kaligrafi) the range of the garments is simply impressive and reflect artistic and cultural influences from China, India, Europe, and the Middle East. Embellished with the inclusion of 126 color illustrations (plus five black-and-white images), "The Art Of Indonesian Textiles" is especially recommended for inclusion into personal, professional, academic, and community library textile reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

Able Greenspan

Klausner's Bookshelf

Brendan DuBois
St. Martin's
9780312361372 $24.95

Canadian journalist Samuel Simpson joins as a grunt a United Nations peacekeeping force that is also investigating terrorism and war crimes. His unit seeks to find the evidence that will bring to justice those who committed the crimes against mankind before and during the recent civil war and those who continue the atrocities.

His tour of duty is New York months after a dirty bomb destroyed much of Manhattan and other attacks eliminated most of the American electric grid. The United States collapsed and a civil war further devastated the country. As Samuel and his undersized squad investigate a particular ugly atrocity in Upstate New York, he realizes as snipers kill some of his peers that anyone could be the angel of death.

This may be the thriller of the year as Brendan DuBois combines plenty of action, twists especially that initial set up in which the audience assumes some Baltic or African nation is the setting, and introspection on what is a war crime to include torture. Samuel is an interesting protagonist as he is starts out naive and idealistic, but quickly becomes mature and caustically realistic as he helplessly sees death everywhere. Readers will ponder beyond the presidential candidates and White House sound bites to what if an even greater more concerted attack occurred to America than 9/11 once we understand who the Belgians are donating tents to.

The Black Dove
Steve Hockensmith
St. Martin's
9780312347826 $23.95

In 1893 brothers Old Red and Big Red Amlingmeyer recover from their work as rail cops (see ON THE WRONG TRACK) by visiting San Francisco in order to partake of some of the city's world renowned wickedness as well as look into a personal matter. When they worked as railroad cops, the luggage of the late Dr. Chan was tossed off the train that was their beat. Knowing their hero would investigate, the siblings emulate HOLMES ON THE RANGE; albeit this time Holmes in San Francisco to determine who killed Dr. Chan and why. Joining them is former railroad sleuth Diane Corvus, who also has a personal reason to learn the truth.

The Reds assume that hired Chinese "highbinders" killed Chan, but the clues take them everywhere in the City by the Bay not just Chinatown. With local police and Chinatown's "Napoleon of Crime" assisting them Old Red and Big Red land in whorehouses where they are a bit distracted, but with Diane and Napoleon coaxing them, their escapades lead everyone into a final confrontation in which being shanghaied appears to have a greater life expectancy.

The third Holmes on the Range historical mystery is another superb zany caper as the Red siblings land in one egg drop soup after another. The humorous story line is fast-paced especially when the heroes begin to follow clues that have more twists than Lombard St. Fans of the series will appreciate the Reds' escapades as Gaslight San Francisco comes to life as rarely seen in a whodunit with a terrific insane ending.

Winged Creatures
Roy Freirich
St. Martin's
9780312378950 $13.95

In Hunt Landing, Michigan, Dr. Laraby stops for a coffee to go at Carby's on his way to work as an ER resident at Hunt Landing Medical LLC where his late father was a founder. Not longer after he leaves, a shooting incident occurs at Carby's.

Laraby tries to save the lives of a victim and the shooter, but both die. Teenagers Anne Hagen and Jimmy Jaspersen are in the hospital when her mom Doris arrives. Also there are Lori and Sue Carline. The three teenage girls share in common that their dads were with them at Carby's and are now dead as a result of the mass shootings. Jimmy was also there with Annie and her father.

Psychologist Dr. Abler offers help to the survivors and their loved ones. Abler explains to Anne about grief, but she insists she is a witness to God's plan and she held her brave dad's hand while she was under a table and he courageously remained exposed to the killer. The psychologist turns to Jimmy, who is unable to speak. Another survivor forty-eight year old Charlie Archenault, a father and husband, was shot, but is okay. He feels lucky to be alive so he just leaves, takes out money and drives to a casino. Twenty-two year old cashier Carla Davenport is shook up, but also just leaves to pick up her baby Davy from the sitter.

This novelization of an upcoming movie contains a strong premise of following what happens to the survivors and their loved ones of a shooting at a public place that left people dead. The ensemble cast contains unique characters with each person coping differently. However, the rotating perspective at times becomes difficult to follow with what is happening to everyone. Still WINGED CREATURES is an intriguing character study that looks deep into the aftermath of a personal tragedy.

The Poisoner of Ptah
P.C. Doherty
St. Martin's
9780312359621 $24.95

In 1478 B.C. Pharaoh Hatusu rules Egypt with a firm but gentle hand. She feels no major internal threats to her keeping the throne in spite of her gender. Her biggest concerns come from outside her kingdom as foreign rulers assume she is weak because she is female. Still, she negotiates peace treaties with her royal peers for the betterment of her nation.

While working on a treaty with Libya, three Egyptian scribes die apparently by poison. Hatusu directs her Chief Judge in the Hall of Two Truths Lord Amerotke to uncover the identity of the killer. The prime suspect is Rekhet, who just escaped from incarceration having been sent to prison for life for royal poisonings. Amerotke finds a link between Rekhet and the Libyans that makes him wonder if the foreigners are negotiating in bad faith.

The Lord Amerotke Ancient Egypt investigations continue to be some of the best whodunits on the market. The latest tale THE POISONER OF PTAH is an excellent entry both as a mystery and as a historical thriller. Amerotke is terrific as he holds the story line together with his investigation while the support cast helps bring to life Ancient Egypt and to a degree Libya through its delegation. This series (see THE ASSASSINS OF ISIS, THE MASK OF RA, HORUS KILLING and THE SLAYERS OF SETH) remains top of the line.

The First Patient
Michael Palmer
St. Martin's
9780312343538 $25.95

When the physician to President Andrew Stoddard, Dr. Jim Ferendelli, vanishes, the POTUS asks his long time friend Dr. Gabe Singleton to come to DC to take the position. Although Gabe would prefer to remain in Wyoming, he travels to Washington for his friend.

In the capital, Singleton is taken aback when Andrew acts confused as if he suffered a stroke; yet no vital signs imply a stroke or any other brain debilitating illness. Instead Gabe believes someone close to the President has caused the mysterious ailment, but he is ignorant as to whom, how and why. He needs to perform preventative medicine on President Stoddard, which means stopping whatever is causing the illness. To do that Gabe, trusting no one except Nurse Alison Cromartie, investigates those at the White House and even at Blair House trying to answer the questions that befuddle him. Gabe also knows he should suspect Alison as she has the know-how, but he can't because he has fallen in love with her.

Although this medical political thriller is way over the top of the Washington Monument, fans will enjoy Michael Palmer's entertaining tale. The story line contains the typical Palmer brand as the action is fast-paced, the hero is way over-matched, and real science supports the nefarious premise. Readers will savor Singleton's amateur sleuthing.

The Fault Tree
Louise Ure
St. Martin's
0312375859 $24.95

In Tucson, Arizona, Cadence Moran is a highly regarded auto mechanic in spite of her being blind. Her acute sense of hearing is so fine tuned she can hear car trouble. However although she has adapted physically, she has never forgiven herself for her part in the accident that cost her sight and killed her toddler niece.

The blind mechanic never expected her uncanny skill with sound would involve her in a serial killer case, but it does as a speeding vehicle almost kills her. Apparently the driver was fleeing a crime scene after killing Cadence's elderly neighbor. Her sonar skill makes her a reliable witness to ending this horrific murder spree.

THE FAULT TREE is for the most part an interesting police procedural starring a unique witness. Cadence is a terrific protagonist and the insertion of the tragic accident is done over the course of the story line as a series of timely look backs so it enhances the plot rather than decelerates it. The story line is excellent until the climax, which seems unlikely. Still fans will enjoy this fascinating Arizona cat and mouse thriller as Louise Ure provides a heroine who is the cheese as the cops chase after killer rodents.

Red Mandarin Dress
Qiu Xiaolong
St. Martin's
9780312371074 $24.95

Shanghai Chief Inspector Chen Cao handles the most sensitive political cases and the most traumatic to the public. Currently he is on a rare leave of absence attending an advanced literature class so his ambitious but insipid subordinate Detective Yu is in charge; Yu sees this as a chance to prove his superiority over his boss to those in charge.

However, Yu's desires mean nothing to the Shanghai People's Congress, who demand Chen personally investigate a politically charged corruption involving a housing project. Additionally the city is terrorized by the first known serial killer, who poses his victims in red mandarin dresses. Chen leads the two inquires as Yu seethes and soon connects the cases, but not before a sting operation leads to one of his police officers killed wearing the red mandarin dress. The investigation has turned personal.

This terrific Communist China police procedural, likes its four predecessors (see DEATH OF A RED HEROINE, A LOYAL CHARACTER DANCER, WHEN RED IS BLACK and A CASE OF TWO CITIES), provides fans with a deep look at a society in transition. The serial killer investigation and the corruption inquiry showcase how careful a cop must be in solving crimes in a strict dictatorial society. Chen is fabulous as he puts his studies on the back burner to work the cases, but especially when he realize Officer Hong is one of the dead. However, it is Qiu Xiaolong's powerful glimpse of Shanghai dancing with capitalistic globalization yet remaining communist that makes this a winner.

The Dark Hunter's Companion
Sherrilyn Kenyon with Alethea Kontis
St. Martin's
9780312363437 $19.95

In the five years since Sherrilyn Kenyon first introduced readers to the Dark Hunter saga, the mythos has expanded into an extremely complex universe. This companion tome serves as a resource for fans of the series. Besides the obvious bibliography with a brief description of the plots, the book offers a deep look at the various races and their history and customs that occupy the Kenyon world. By species classification, every character to appear in any of the books (I take the words of the author as to that) is included. There are also sidebar sections on Greek and New Orleans cultures and though connected especially the latter to the Kenyon mythos seems out of place (this reviewer skimmed those two chapters). Interviews with the "Author-Goddess (if you don't know who that is - you need to pass on this book), Acheron and Simi are entertaining and insightful especially Acheron. Finally there are the outtakes that never made it into a final book and a new short story. In sum this is winner for readers who relish the complete Dark Hunter mythology (eleven novels, eight short stories and six official websites.

Naughty by Nature
Barbara Pierce
St. Martin's
9780312947965 $6.99

In 1808 teenager Patience Farnlay met and fell in love with an actor. She ran off with him joining his traveling troupe. However, not long afterward she learns a lesson re the fickleness of love when he abandons her and his troupe. She takes over, but being inexperienced and young finds the other performers ignore her.

When Earl Fowler "Ram" Knowden meets Patience, he knows she is the perfect companion for his reclusive sister Meredith, whose visage was scarred in a fire. She accepts the position. As she tries to be a friend to Meredith, Patience falls in love with her employer; he reciprocates. However, she distrusts men and love while he has a bad experience with a woman to overcome too.

This is a fascinating regency romance mostly because of the uniqueness of the two prime females. Readers will sympathize with Meredith whose life in her opinion and much of the Ton went up in flames and like her peers believe she would have been better off dead. Patience is an interesting protagonist as she lives up to her name when it comes to Meredith, but become impatient when it comes to Ram, who is typical of the male of the sub-genre. Fans will appreciate this fine historical.

One With the Shadows
Susan Squires
St. Martin's
9780312941031 $6.99

In 1822 Kate Malone makes a living as a con artist and thief; she shams visions and reads tarot cards although she does not believe in either as she is skeptical of the paranormal. Still the aristocracy in all of Western Europe pretends sophistication when they are rubes she cons.

After Kate performs her act at a Rome upper crust gala, attendee Gian Urbano offers her money for the recent proceeds of her other more profitable occupation, thief. He wants a special humongous emerald she purloined and she agrees to sell it to him. However, someone wants that gem too, but that person does not offer money; that unknown but powerful female adversary tries to kill Kate in order to take the jewel from her. Only, Gian keeps her safe, but she begins to believe he is not human even as the mystifying stone communicates to her its desire to go home.

ONE WITH THE SHADOWS is a terrific paranormal late regency romantic suspense from the moment Gian exposes Kate's ruse and never slows down until the final bite as she learns to be ONE WITH THE NIGHT; just like her protector is. Kate makes the tale fun to read as her past has left her scarred physically and emotionally with a need to become a hermit living in a remote cottage by herself. That is until Gian and the emerald make her reconsider her solo act as he brings out desires she thought long dead and it brings out a quest to do its bidding. Susan Squires provides an entertaining mystical historical thriller.

Person of Interest
Theresa Schwegel
St. Martin's
9780312364267 $24.95

Chicago police detective Craig McHugh is undercover investigating a deadly Chinese-American gang the Fuxi Spiders, who peddle illegal drugs. Craig knows he needs to get in closer with members if he is to get the proof that they sell heroine including a lethal bad batch. To do so he plays card with Moy and other Fuxi Spiders, who take gambling as a sacred pastime, losing his entire official allotment and some of his own money in the game.

While he is away from his family, they have issues. The police found his brooding teenage daughter Ivy at a party where ecstasy was being used. His wife Leslie assumes he is having some sort of early middle age affair and feels entitled to one too so she chooses her daughter's boyfriend. However, his professional and personal lives converge forcing a good cop to take drastic measures to keep his loved ones alive from vindictive thugs.

This exciting thriller will be on the short list for police procedural of the year as the action, some quite graphic, never slows down for even a paragraph. Besides a strong undercover subplot and a close look at the underbelly of the Windy City, the key that makes this a strong tale is a deep look at a cop whose keeps him away from his family leading to a dysfunctional relationship. Readers will seek Theresa Schwegel's previous Chicago PD tales as they come highly recommended (see PROBABLE CAUSE and OFFICER DOWN).

Without Warning
Eugenia Lovett West
St. Martin's
9780312371135 $24.95

In affluent Connecticut forty-seven years old former opera star Emma Streat, may be suffering from the empty nest syndrome with her boys at college, but believes her concern for her spouse Lewis has nothing to do with the kids being away from home. Instead she sees firsthand the recent erratic behavior of Lewis, CEO of a firm that contracts with the Department of Defense. His sudden need for incredible layers of security that the President would envy seems excessive and scary to Emma. She has asked him several times why he is so tense and frightened, but he refuses to talk to her.

On a trip to London together, Lewis tells Emma he has some problems with a new laser weapons project that his firm is working on for DOD. When they return home to New England, Lewis dies in an accident. If he had not acted paranoid, Emma would have just grieved her loss, but she suspects foul play. She travels back across the ocean where she learns two physicists associated with the project recently died in accidents. Emma knows that three in a rather short time frame is not accidental coincidence, but probable homicides. She risks her life to learn who and why.

Emma's grief over her husband's sudden death seems genuine and serves as a realistic motivator for her to pursue the truth. Her investigation on both sides of the pond, but especially in England is fun to follow as the attacks on her life only encourages her to dig deeper. Fans will appreciate this amateur sleuth because the heroine's need to know why Lewis died makes for a compelling tale.

Killer Riff
Sheryl J. Anderson
St. Martin's
9780312351410 $24.95

Molly Forrester writes a highly regarded stylish advice column for chic Manhattan based Zeitgeist magazine, but wants to become an investigative journalist. She is euphoric with her latest assignment; a Features' article on recently deceased Rock and Roll giant producer Russell Elliott, whose death was officially due to an accidental overdose.

Molly interviews Elliott's surviving extended family members as Elliot had several wives, which has left his will tied up in probate wars. As she digs deeper, Molly begins to believe that Elliot was a murder victim, but anyone cut out of his latest will apparently have an avaricious motive. This means most likely one of the ex's or part of their retinue rejected Elliot's final riff.

KILLER RIFF is an enjoyable lighthearted romp starring a likable heroine whose sidebars are sub-genre requirements expected of a chic lit heroine starring in an amateur sleuth whodunit. The story line is fast-paced and somewhat inane both due to the antics and barbs of the unsinkable Molly. Her struggles to complete her article and deal with her relationship with NYPD homicide detective Kyle Edwards is fun to follow. Fans who enjoy a funny but frivolous frolic will appreciate the Killer Molly series (see KILLER DEAL, KILLER HEELS, and KILLER COCKTAIL).

Chillwater Cove
Thomas Lakeman
St. Martin's
9780312348007 $24.95

FBI Special Agent Peggy Weaver works in the Crimes Against Children Unit of the Philadelphia office. However, she received a bitter reminder of why she became a specialized agent when she receives an email containing porn photos. Over two decades ago when she was ten years old, Peggy and her best friend Samantha Stallworth were abducted. Peggy escaped, but Samantha was sexually molested and further abused by her kidnapper.

Now a college professor Samantha calls Peggy informing her she received the same email. Stunned Peggy goes to her college hometown Avalon, Tennessee where her father is police chief and racial strife is boiling over. When Samantha vanishes, Peggy vows to save her friend and catch the culprit who is toying with her.

The key to this interesting regional police procedural is how many people including her father and his department and Samantha's relatives hinder Peggy on her desperate search to save her friend's life. Readers will feel the pain and guilt that Peggy feels as she not only needs to save her friend's life, but sees it as redemption for her failure to be able to provide her father with expert witnessing when Samantha was snatched as a child. Readers will appreciate this character driven investigative tale and seek out Thomas Lakeman's previous gripping FBI thriller (see THE SHADOW CATCHERS).

An Incomplete Revenge
Jacqueline Winspear
9780805082159 $24.00

In 1931 business tycoon James Compton considers buying property in Heronsdene, Kent but a rash of questionable fires has left him re-evaluating his selection. He asks his friend London based investigative psychologist Maisie Dobbs to look into what seems to him as obvious the work of an arsonist. She would do anything for her mentor and besides needs the money he offers as the Great Depression has hammered at consultants like her so she agrees to visit the tiny rustic village.

Maisie quickie uncovers the suspicious dealings of a landowner while wondering why the locals refuse to speak about visiting Gypsies or a WW I zeppelin raid that killed an entire family; as the behavior is way beyond the normal suspicion of strangers. A struggling Maisie begins to tie together the townsfolk, the gypsies, the Great War and what happened afterward in remote Heronsdene, but someone is on war alert watching her every step.

The latest Dobbs between the World Wars' mystery is a terrific entry in one of the best twentieth century private investigation series. Maisie is at her best as she sleuths in a location in which no one wants her around let alone snooping. However, it is the sense of time and place that makes AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE and its four predecessors (see MESSENGER OF TRUTH, PARDONABLE LIES, MAISIE DOBBS and BIRDS OF A FEATHER) worth reading as few authors if any bring to life England in the late 1920s and early 1930s as picturesquely as Jacqueline Winspear consistently has done with the marvelous Maisie mysteries.

Reluctant Smuggler
Jill Elizabeth Nelson
9781590526880 $12.99

In Mexico City, American security consultant Desiree Jacobs of HJ Securties has been hired to test rival Greybeck and Sons' security measures at the internationally renowned Museo de Arte Museum. Desi sort of succeeds, but rejects the job offer to provide security because the museum did not live up to their provisional agreement. Instead she plans to fly home the next day and begin wedding plans with her beloved FBI agent, Tony Lucano.

However instead of returning home, Mexican Presidente Montoya asks Desi for a favor as he trusts her due to knowing her late maligned father personally and her display of ethics during the museum caper. He wants her to investigate stolen art treasures, which she agrees to do as long as it is understood she is not law enforcement. As she begins to unravel the truth, she finds a tie to the illegal drug trade that makes her a target of ruthless killers. Tony realizes his beloved is in trouble and defying FBI policy immediately races to Mexico to insure his Desi is safe, but fears he may be too late as a snake betrays her.

The third To Catch a Thief saga (see RELUCTANT RUNAWAY and RELUCTANT RUNAWAY) is an exhilarating inspirational suspense thriller that focuses on the antiquities black market. The story line is fast-paced from the opening segue that showcase Desiree's talent through her ordeal with killing thieves and to the final confrontation with a shocking twist. Although the Greybeck subplot feels contrived, fans will enjoy the latest "reluctant" tale wondering if Desi will make it out of Mexico alive and in time to wed Tony.

My Soul To Keep
Melanie Wells
9781590524282 $12.99

Professor Dylan Foster teaches psychology at Southern Methodist Universality yet she has no trouble believes in demons and devils since Peter Terry came into her life. He wants souls and he will use whatever means necessary to get them but Dylan temporally defeated him twice. He is the last thing on her mind when her friend Liz Zocci and her daughter Christine are celebrating her birthday in the park with her friend Maria and her son Nicholas.

In the blink of an eye, the party ends when a car stops and someone kidnaps Nicholas. The person tries to take Christine too but her touch burns him. Somehow, someway, Christine is psychically connected to Nicholas and she ends up in the hospital with the same illness Nicholas once had. Peter Terry is also in the picture as light bulbs pop in her home; Dylan hears snakes hissing in her home and a gas leek occurs. The demon appears in her dreams but she refuses to give into her fears. Instead she chases every clue including her sleeping subconscious ones that might lead her to Nicholas, even if it means spiritual warfare.

Christine has a guardian angel Earl who Dylan sees in the park and she and her mom come to the conclusion there is a spiritual battle taking place in which Christine is the prize. They meet another angel in the hospital who calms Christine; Dylan, a believer, is not surprised. She just wishes they would point her to the location where Nicholas is but she has to apply investigate methods instead like a mortal. Melanie Wells has written an exciting pulse pumping thriller.

Thugs and Kisses
Sue Ann Jaffarian
Midnight Ink
9780738710891 $13.95

Odelia Grey is a paralegal at Wallace, Boer, Brown, and Yates. Her immediate boss Michael Steele requested her and the partners thought she would be good for the hard to get along with anal-retentive obsessive attorney because she has patience and should be able to keep him grounded. They bribed her with a big pay raise and her own office.

Since her wheelchair bound lover Greg Steven is ill, she takes Detective Dev Frye as her date to her thirtieth high school reunion. While dancing with Dev, Danny Oliver is shot and killed. Everyone has a motive for killing him including Odelia and her friend Sally Kipman who lost custody of her son to him in an ugly court battle. While dealing with being a suspect, her boss Steele never returns from his mini vacation. His car is found at the airport, certain documents from a client are tampered with and he never showed up at the inn where he made reservations. Although it looks bad for Steele who some think broke the law and fled the country, Odelia knows he is too obsessed to do anything illegal. She and Sally team up to help each other locate Steele and find out who murdered Donny.

Ignoring the amateur sleuth investigating plausibility, THUGS AND KISSES is a very enjoyable reading experience. The whodunit and the missing person case are well thought out; run parallel to each other and the sequences smoothly change from one case to the other. The protagonist, a size twenty who is very comfortable with her body does what she believes is right because she has a strong sense of justice and loyalty. Obstinately she refuses to be swayed from the case by her lover, family or friends which sometime make for strained relations.

Wild Goose Chase
Terri Thayer
Midnight Ink
9780738712154 $13.95

It has been six months since her mother died and Dewey Pellicano is doing her best to hold herself together. She lost her IT job, so is running the store Quilter Paradiso her mother left to her. Currently she rents a booth at the seventeenth annual Northern California Quilt Extravaganza. She is putting the store online thanks to an expensive program her mother bought a week before she died. Her sister-in-law Kym, who works at the store, sabotages her efforts wanting it done the old fashioned way and Dewey walks a way in a huff.

She runs into quilting celebrity Claire Armstrong who offers to buy the store from her. She needs time to think about it and then decides to go to Claire's room to talk about it some more. Claire's assistant Myra lets her in and they see Claire dead. She bled out from an accident with a yellow-handled rotary cutter. When the police arrive she is glad to see Detective Buster Healey is one of them because her friend makes he feel less like a suspect in what turns out to be a murder. A few days later, Dewey agrees to sell her store to Myra but another death occurs at a rehearsal for the Quilter's fashion show. Again Dewey is made to look like the killer but she knows someone is setting up the evidence to make it look that way and she intends to find out who it is.

WILD GOOSE CHASE is a delightful cozy that gives readers an insider's look at a quilting fair. The heroine is doing her best to hold it all together even before she became the prime suspect in two homicide investigations while wondering if she is doing the right thing by selling her mom's heritage. The support cast acts realistic and the few eccentric amongst them add a touch of humor to the serious storyline. Terri Thayer creates an excellent amateur sleuth mystery in which the audience will believe a desperate Dewey follows the clues one stitch at a time.

Vienna Blood
Frank Tallis
Random House
9780812977769 $14.95

In the winter of 1902, Vienna Police Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt is working on the high profile case of who slaughtered the royal anaconda at the Tiergarten Zoo when his superiors yank him off that investigation. Instead he is assigned to lead the inquiry into who is killing prostitutes; as several victims have suddenly been found in the frozen city streets. The killer leaves brazen cross-like marks on his victims that lead Oskar to believe one clever diabolical person is responsible.

He knows he needs special help on this strange case witch as far as he knows has no local precedent although there is some experience in London of an apparent mentally sick yet brilliant predator. He asks Freudian adherent Dr. Max Liebermann, who collaborated with him on A DEATH IN VIENNA, to provide him insight into the culprit's mind so that they can put together a pattern and find the killer. Max realizes that the serial homicides ties into Mozart's classic The Magic Flute, but why and who remains unknown as more hookers are killed.

Readers will believe they are visiting Freud's Vienna at an exciting time in the city even if the Empire is tottering on the brink of extinction as Frank Tallis through the actions of his serial killer and the collaborative team bring the turn of the century to life. Although the police procedural is fun to follow with its link to Mozart even if it is somewhat obvious to the reader, this prime plot actually enhances the vivid look at the still thriving capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1902 as historical fans will fully treasure the tour though paved with blood.

School for Scumbags
Danny King
Serpent's Tail
9781852429720 $14.95

Looking back at his career over the last two decades Wayne Banstead knows when being a thief imprinted on his brain. He had been kicked out from several schools due to his inability to conform to what the headmasters called the norm until his final headmaster Mr. Atkinson anointed him "a born thief". Lashes only increased his delightful smirk as he now recognized what he wanted to be once he left school. Thinking further back he agreed with Mr. Atkinson that he was born to be a nipper even purloining from his family and enjoying in a perverted sense the clouts his father gave him.

Feeling brazen, he does what all kids have time to do which is robbing the tuck shop. However, Wayne does it in daylight so witnesses can identify him and carries in the open an air gun. This time when the school boots him out, he is sent to a special place for repeat delinquents like him. He attends the Gatlin School for Misdirected Boys where the dregs of teenage society are sent. There he obtains the perfect education that will enable him to return to society as a respected member; he studies how to get away with criminal activities.

SCHOOL FOR SCUMBAG is an entertaining first person satire that rips the skin off those whose solution to everything is out of sight out of mind storage that has made the private prison industry a wealthy service entity. The story line lacks action for the first half as the plot looks deep into what makes Wayne tick (from his perspective); the action picks up late in the tale as Wayne deals with the pros outside the classroom. Fans who appreciate an amusing lampooning of society will enjoy attending reform school in which the teachers instruct the students on bettering their criminal skills.

No More Angels
Ron Butlin
Serpent's Tail
978185429546 $14.95

This Scottish anthology contains fifteen short stories, five ultra short tales (each under two full pages) and a novella ("Alice Kerr Went With Older Men"). Each entry from the "Five Fantastic Fictions" (the under two pages each grouping) to the Alice Kerr novella share in common characters who seem genuine as they struggle for equilibrium following a disappointment, setback, or tragedy yet end with a bizarre twist of hope as the person takes action. The contributions appeared in various Scottish publications, the Internet or BBC radio.

This is a terrific collection starring real people doing things to uplift themselves in spite of feeling down. Whether it is Donna telling her stunned host that his open skylight is "How the Angels Fly In" or a grieving bone weary geriatric Mrs. Williams providing "Kindness" to a Grinch of a driver by puncturing his air in a way we all would love to do, readers will not just empathize; they will wear the shoes of the characters. Closing out with Alice Kerr on an optimistic note, Ron Butlin provides a strong look at people overcoming for a moment the nastiest spitballs that life has tossed at them even knowing the quagmire remains to engulf them again shortly.

Winter's Daughter
J.C. Wilder
9781601860392 $5.50

Twenty years ago the tragedy that broke up the Angelov family occurred. The Salem, Ohio police chief McNutt coldly informed fourteen Synnamon Angelov that her mom Victoria was walking when she died in a hit and run car accident just up the road from their home. He also orders her to tell her three younger sisters even as he directs his officers to search for evidence starting with breaking down a locked door. Being underage, the four siblings were violently separated as Syn sees evil emanate from McNutt while she telepathically claims her three younger sisters reminding them what they must do.

Now Synnamon has returned home to Salem as their house has called her and she assumes her sisters. She plans to learn what happened to her mom, why McNutt took "evidence", forcibly split the family apart, and to determine as she suspects whether he and his police force covered up the murder of her mother accused of witchcraft. The locals are unhappy to find an Angelov witch living amidst them in the house that fascinates many bit also terrorizes more; some threaten her life; others try to take her life. Only the present police chief Matthew Whitefeather is there for her, but Syn learned from McNutt not to trust cops.

The first Coven tale is an exciting paranormal thriller with whodunit and romantic elements to enhance the tense drama. Syn is a terrific protagonist as her return to Salem frightens much of the townsfolk especially since she looks just like her late mom did in her mid thirties; her amateur sleuth inquires add to the tension of those who fear her and those who are more frightened she will uncover the truth. Matt is heroic and as he falls in love with the oldest Angelov sister knowing she bewitched him with love. However, what makes this strong witchcraft novel so much fun is the townsfolk's reaction to the return of the next generation witch.

Sins of the Assassin
Robert Ferrigno
9781416537656 $24.95

Following the nuclear suitcase bombs in 2015 that devastated Mecca, New York City and Washington D.C., Americans lost their fortitude; most assume Israel caused the pandemic destruction leading to many people converting to Islam in most of the states except the Deep South that remained fundamentalist Christian. The forty-eight states split into two nations, the Islamic Republic and the Bible Belt; both are led by fanatics.

By 2043, the two theocracies remain hostile towards each other. In that environs, Bible belt leader the rabid Colonel wants to gain control of a weapon of mass destruction that he will probably use to bring hell to the Islamic Republic. Assassin Rakkim Epps is to prevent him from obtaining the weapon using whatever means he must including killing the Colonel.

The second Assassin tale (see PRAYERS OF THE ASSASSIN) is an action-packed exciting adrenalin post apocalypse thriller as H. Raps Brown's muse "violence is as American as cherry pie" is the theme of SINS OF THE ASSASSIN. Those fans who appreciate mano vs. mano exponential blood counts will enjoy Robert Ferrigno's explosive futuristic saga. Those readers who prefer more exploration into two extreme theocracies whose loathing for one another make the Middle East look like a friendly book club choir will need to turn elsewhere.

Memories Are Murder
Lou Allin
Napoleon & Company: Rendezvous Crime
9781894917339 $14.95

Northern Ontario realtor Belle Palmer rents a place to her former boyfriend (from when they attended Scarborough Collegiate Institute in Toronto) field research zoologist Gary Myers, who is studying the adaptability of elk recently released in the wilderness. The Brock University professor apologizes for using her as his "beard" back in school when they dated fourteen times and he failed to kiss her until she forced the issue on event ten.

When his "secret" partner murder-mystery author Malcolm "Mutt" Malloy arrives to join Gary, he cannot find him. Mutt and Belle look for Gary only to locate him dead having apparently drowned near his research camp. Mutt and Belle organize Gary's notes only to conclude key items are missing; the cottage he rented from Belle had been broken into and his camera and laptop stolen. Soon afterward, Mutt is almost killed by carbon monoxide poisoning and someone tries to murder Belle. After finding an article Gary had on poisoning, Belle returns to the spot where she and Mutt found his corpse only to flee into the wilderness to escape from a killer.

The latest exciting Belle Palmer amateur sleuth (see NORTHERN WINTERS ARE MURDER, BLACKFLIES ARE MURDER and MURDER, EH?) is an entertaining Northern Ontario whodunit. The heroine has no plans to interfere with the police investigation into the death of Gary, but she and Mutt become embroiled by simply trying to dot he right thing with the late professor's notes. Readers will appreciate the wild a long way from Toronto and not just in kilometers, but the murder mystery belongs to the brave realtor and her new partner as innocence is no excuse when someone wants you dead.

Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black: And Other Stories
Nadine Gordimer
9780374109820 $21.00

This thirteen short story anthology focuses on the theme of how people identify themselves; more from a need to belong today than from heritage and family history especially if the backdrop is horrific like the Holocaust; as the past vanishes like an "etchosketch". Each of the fascinating entries will leave the audience pondering what it means to be a third generation living in a "foreign" land that is home in every connotation; even if it is the same land your ancestors occupied. What occurred to one's ancestors in the mother country a few generations ago only matters if the present makes it matter as roots are irrelevant unless today's descendents make it otherwise. All the contributions are well written and adhere to the basic concept. The most mesmerizing is "Alternate Ending" in which Nadine Gordimer tells the same tale from the "First Sense", "Second Sense" and "Third Sense"; perspective is everything. The title track is also terrific as a Londoner goes to Kimberly, South Africa pondering who he is related to as race is irrelevant. This is a thought provoking winner as never forget atrocities may be significant, but the present conditions rule.

Elvis Takes a Back Seat
Leanna Ellis
Broadman & Holman
9780805446968 $14.99

In Texas fortyish widow Claudia feels all alone as her parents and child previously died and now she organizes some of her recently deceased husband's items for a garage sale she is holding. However, amongst her spouse's belongings she finds a note he must have wrote just before dying. His last request was to have Claudia return a weird bust of Elvis that she had planned to sell to Memphis.

Claudia would prefer not to drive to Tennessee, but foolishly told her sexagenarian Aunt Rae, who knew the King and pushes her niece to do her late husband's final bidding as a way they can come together. Thus, Claudia, Aunt Rae and acerbic fifteen years old pregnant Ivy, daughter of a family friend, drive from Texas to Tennessee while ELVIS TAKES A BACK SEAT to these three traveling females who bond on the road and in Memphis especially after Graceland.

Once Leanna Ellis decides between homage to Elvis and emote end of the world sister angst the story line turns into a deep character study of the three females. Ironically when ELVIS TAKES A BACK SEAT to the threesome while on the road; the trio overwhelm the readers with their melodramatic torment that apparently is hyperbolic humor that reads awkward. In Memphis Elvis moves to the front and so do the women who come across as genuine with issues in which they bond. Overall an entertaining tale of three generations of women finding their way through Elvis (each chapter reflectively is titled with an Elvis song).

My Beautiful Disaster
Michelle Buckman
9781600060830 $12.99

Having been outside enviously looking at the in crowd, Dixie Chambers feels she has made it when she gets to join the popular kids and attend the best parties. Life has never been better for Dixie until she meets rock and roll singer Vince Evans. She vows to do whatever it takes to make him her boyfriend even if it does not feel right.

However, once he gets what he wants from her, he ignores her. When Dixie learns she is pregnant, Vince could not care at all as that is her foolish problem. Feeling all alone and afraid to tell her parents, Dixie blames God for her current mess. Although she realizes that Vince and her new pals will not be there for her; her former best friend who she dumped would stand by her as a BFF does and so will the Lord if she embraces him.

The Pathway teen tale (see Maggie Come Lately; not reviewed) is a fascinating character study starring a young girl who just wanted to be in, but faces the complex issue of pregnancy. Michelle Buckman makes her case that even in the darkest moment faith in God helps an individual confront their demons. This is a well written inspirational young adult tale that will have readers think about their choices while giving hope even if the selection turns out wrong.

Trick My Truck but Don't Mess with My Heart
LuAnn McLane
9780451222862 $6.99

Candie Montgomery enjoyed her life in Chicago, but after two years there, she has come home to Pinewood, Kentucky to help save her family owned business, Dapper Dan Used Car Emporium. However, instead of a warm welcoming, she is treated like a pariah. People she has known since she was a child spurn her greetings; 876 accusers including family members. Candie is stunned to learn that everyone, even her twin sister blames her for her sibling's broken heart although she cannot understand how she can be held culpable for hot shot auto repair shop owner Nick ending it with Sarah.

She learns that everyone believes she is the other woman, who left town because her feelings for Nick drove her to Chicago. Candie informs her sister that when Sarah started to date her best friend Nick, she knew her twin and her buddy were meant for one another. Fearing for her family's business as sales has plummeted, she decides she must find a way to get Sarah's engagement unbroken, but not sure how as she is the athletic book worm not the glamour queen like her sibling is. Gorgeous Tommy Tucker offers her a perfect solution as he says he will pretend to be her boyfriend so that no one can accept her as Nick's woman. Reluctantly she agrees. As she falls in love, she waits for Tommy to mess up her heart when he says no more pretending.

TRICK MY TRUCK BUT DON'T MESS WITH MY HEART is an amusing lighthearted small town romance in which the relationship between the twins is the star attraction over the two romances. The story line is fast-paced as the siblings land in one mess after another while Tommy tries to convince Candie that he is sweet on her and Sarah shows genius for the first time with her "Tricked out truck" ploy to re-nab Nick. Fans will enjoy the Montgomery sisters' antics in their old Kentucky home.

A Grave in Gaza
Matt Beynon Rees
9781569474723 $24.00

The United Nations Relief Works Agency headquartered in Jerusalem sends Swedish worker Magnus Wallender to escort fiftyish Palestinian girls' school principal Omar Yussef from the Dehaisa Refugee Camp to the Gaza Strip on an inspection visit. There they meet Scottish security officer James Cree known locally as Abu Ramiz, who explains that part-time Shati Refuge Camp teacher and full time Al-Azhar University Professor Eyad Masharawi has been arrested. Eyad's wife insists he was snatched by fourteen Palestinian Security Agents who invaded their home because he loudly objected to the university selling degrees to the Preventative Security officers and not due to his volunteer teaching at the UN refugee camp school.

Unassuming, Omar wants to leave Gaza as all he sees is a hell hole; he wants to go home to Bethlehem as soon as possible. However, he will do his inspection duty and all he can to get Eyad freed. He never expected to have machine guns pointed at his head nor discus missile diplomacy over dinner. That and more makes Omar feels his age much more than struggling to carry his bag.

Although the probability of a fifty-six years old school principal successfully getting involved in perilous incidents like a rescue from deadly armed men seems so unlikely (the odds would be an imaginary number), readers will drop reality to enjoy a deep look at Gaza. As Omar's friend Bethlehem Police Chief Zeydan who has come to Gaza many times says: "the place was so broken that it ought to be pulled out into the Mediterranean and sunk". Readers will be appalled by Matt Beynon Reyes' vivid descriptions of poverty, random killings, and torture; supported by official corruption in which death is a welcome outcome while also seeking Omar's previous work A COLLABORATOR IN BETHLEHEM (not reviewed).

Moonlight Downs
Adrian Hyland
9781569474839 $24.00

After several years of seeing the world, half-aboriginal Emily Tempest returns home to the Moonlight Downs camp in Australia's Outback. Emily struggles to readapt to living in the "Blackfeller" camp, but is getting there thanks in part due to a warm welcome home from her friend Lincoln Flinders although his daughter, her former best friend Hazel, makes her feel like an outsider.

She is stunned when Lincoln is found dead, a strangulation victim. Even more shocking is the killer carved out his kidney. The locals assume sorcerer Blakie Japanangka murdered and then mutilated the body of the camp's leader. Emily assists police sergeant Tom McGillivray in trying to find Blakie, who has vanished. When information surfaces that makes the prime suspect look innocent, Emily looks into a land dispute as the motive for killing Lincoln with the organ removal used to throw blame on the aborigine sorcerer.

This is an interesting look at the aborigine culture from the perspective of a person who had one foot in that and one in the white Australian society before she became a globetrotter. Emily is the strength of the story line as her relationship with Hazel seems to be a microcosm of the two groups. Although the whodunit especially when it detours into an avarice land deal seems a stretch and lacks suspense, readers will enjoy this insightful visit to the Outback.

Death of a Dutchman
Magdalen Nabb
9781569474822 $12.00

In an apartment next door to his own flat in Piazza Santo Spirito, Florentine carabinieri Marshal Salvatore Guarnaccia finds his jeweler neighbor dying in what looks like a suicide due to his slashed hands. However, Salvatore listening to the Dutchman's last words and becomes confused when he whispers "It wasn't her". Besides wondering who is her, Salvatore knows there is not slightest evidence of foul play; not even a bruise on the dead goldsmith except for what seems like self induced cuts. Yet his gut tells him a homicide occurred.

The Florence Marshal learns that the autopsy revealed the deceased died from a barbiturate overdose, which along with the slashed hands supports the suicide belief. As his superiors tell him to drop the case, Salvatore refuses although so far he has found no proof to hint at murder except the words of a nonagenarian with no credibility and a blind person.

The second of the Marshal Guarnaccia Italian police procedural (see Death of an Englishman) is a terrific tale as the obstinate Marshal refuses to quit a case that seems to be going nowhere. Readers will feel they accompany the sleuth as he seeks clues in hot touristy Florence. A few twists enhance a fine investigative tale in which it appears the protagonist has no reason to suspect murder except the growl of his stomach insisting a homicide happened next door.

The Number 121 to Pennsylvania
Kealan Patrick Burke
Cemetery Dance
9781587671685 $40.00

These well written fourteen entries contain twelve shorts (though two are over forty pages), one new novella "Saturday Night at Eddie's of just under seventy pages and a new screenplay of the short story "Mr. Goodnight". Eleven of the twelve shorts have been previously printed in other publications (the exception is "High on the Vine").

Each of the stories places everyday people in extraordinary circumstances. For instance the bone weary depressed salesman Jack Thompson coming home after another painful day at sales to find a "High on the Vine", losing one's pains "Saturday Night at Eddie's Tavern" or getting pains by taking out the scarred girl to learn what lies "Underneath". Though this reviewer normally dislikes the inclusions of screenplays as they feel like filler, it is fun to compare that entry to the original short story. With a Twilight Zone feel, THE NUMBER 121 TO PENNSYLVANIA is an entertaining anthology that fans will want to rid as well as obtain tickets to Kealan Patrick Burke's previous collection, RAVENOUS GHOSTS (not read) and his fantastic ghost story THE HIDES.

The Abyssinian Proof
Jenny White
9780393062052 $23.95

In 1303 Rumi (Oct 1887 Gregorian) in Istanbul, concern is high over the stealing of religious antiquities from the mosques, synagogues and churches of the Ottoman Empire; especially when the purloined artifacts are smuggled out of the country to London for sale to the highest bidder. With leaders of the three religions in feverous rage blaming one another and the Sultan, fear by the secular rulers is that a new Crusade is coming that could destroy the already ailing Empire if they do not calm the waters by catching the thieves. On top of all this is an assassination in broad daylight of the Ottoman governor of Macedonia.

The minister of justice assigns secular court magistrate Kamil Pasha to handle the assassination expeditiously and then the antiquities thefts. However, the latest item has caused an even greater furor than usual as the stolen reliquary contains the Proof of God message hidden to keep it safe from the Muslims by Isaak Metochites and his family in 1453 Constantinople. Tied up with the murder on Istanbul's streets, Kamil turns to his friend Malik, the caretaker of a mosque, to regain the stolen reliquary.

In many ways the second Kamil Pasha late nineteenth century Ottoman Empire mystery (see THE SULTAN'S SEAL) is more a deep historical tale than a whodunit as the investigations enhance the insightful look at the era than visa versa. Thus THE ABYSSINIAN PROOF targets those who prefer an insider glimpse of life in Istanbul with religions ready to fight one another in the name of God while devastating the enfeebled empire using the mysteries to augment the period piece.

Ice Trap
Kitty Sewell
9781416539971 $24.95

The letter from Canada shook up Dr. Dafydd Woodruff, as the Cardiff, Wales based surgeon has never been touched before. Married to Isabel, his bones shake as he rereads the note from thirteen year old Miranda who insists he is her father and that of her twin brother Mark. Still he shows his wife the letter, but is not very sympathetic as she assumes he got drunk and shagged the head nurse; he hides the time he spent with Uyarasuq from his spouse for fear she will know the depth of his feelings for the Canadian native.

Dafydd thinks back to when he spent a year practicing medicine in Moose Creek, Northwest Territories as a means of paying penitence for messing up an operation of a Welsh lad. He remembers vividly expecting to meet no one of consequence in the remote small village. Instead there was his head nurse Sheila Hailey, as acrimonious of a person one could ever have met. Now she accuses him of siring her twins; an impossible occurrence as he never slept with her. When DNA testing affirms her assertion, Dafydd returns to Moose Creek to learn more about how he fathered two children without sleeping with the mother.

The location and the lead character's obvious amateur sleuthing make for a fine tale as the audience and Dafydd wonder how in this isolated village with not much medical technology he sired the kids. The eccentric support cast embellishes the sense of remoteness. Filled with twists though somewhat lacking in suspense readers will appreciate learning just how the Welsh doctor fell into an ICE TRAP.

Sister's Ink
Rebecca Seitz
B&H Publishing
127 Ninth Avenue North, MSN 114, Nashville, TN. 37234
9781598593198 $14.99

In Orlando, Florida, thirtyish attorney Tandy Sinclair knows logically that she has come a long way from her homeless childhood, but emotionally remains insecure though she hides her doubts at work. Still she works incredible hours at Meyers, Briggs and Stratton keeping clients out of jail and off her to insure the fat check keeps coming. However, the Hope House embezzlement case places Tandy in a morality strait jacket. Her client Harry Simons admitted his guilt of taking funds that target the homeless.

Tandy takes a leave of absence to return home to Stars Hill, Tennessee where her three adopted sisters Meg, Kendra, and Joy still reside. The trio advises their sibling to reconsider her life goals as defending the guilty is ripping her gut even if it keeps her from sleeping on a beach. They also encourage her to give her former boyfriend Clay Kelner a second chance. Through all this her sisters show her the good times commemorated in scrapbooks; some electronic.

The first SISTER'S INK book (three to follow) is an interesting tale starring an unhappy urbanized sibling finding love and happiness by returning to her rural roots. The story line is at its best when Tandy argues for a pragmatic look at life especially the plight of the homeless; shaving, deodorant, and change of clothing are not easily accessible. The use of scrapbooks is a fascinating way to look back on the past without dwelling to long; however that technique is overdone and eventually feels intrusive. Still this is an entertaining tale with a fascinating concept of diverse adopted sisters, who are also best of friends always there for one another as affirmed by the therapeutic scrapbooks they have maintained.

The Bond: Three Young Men Learn to Forgive and Reconnect with Their Fathers
Sampson Davis, George Jenkins, and Rameck Hunt
9781594489570 $24.95

In Newark, Sampson Davis, George Jenkins, and Rameck Hunt met as fatherless children struggling to survive ghetto living without a male mentor or role model; they formed THE PACT in high school to help one another make it and they succeeded as each became a doctor.

In THE BOND, the physicians look into the most prevalent disease destroying America's family: no father. The trio does this by seeking their dads, who never had a role in their lives. The threesome separately describe growing up fatherless and how difficult that is to overcome, but do not add any new insight than they already described in the PACT. However, their recommendations to youths suffering from this pandemic illness are solid especially to go out and find a role model to mentor you. However, the most poignant segments are the sections written by the absentee dads, who offer no rationalization as to why, but explain their failures in depth. Especially discerning is that each of them also grew up fatherless. THE BOND is a moving autobiography and though anecdotal should be must reading for everyone who wonders what has gone wrong with the American family unit as generational repetition is difficult to turn around.

Stewards of the Flame
Sylvia Engdahl
9781419675065 $19.99

On the colonial planet Undine, Captain Jesse Sanders Unified Colonial Fleet star freighter Eureka awakens in a medical facility in which two technicians ignore his denial as they claim he is an alcoholic. He insists otherwise as he never drank onboard or excessively with the crew on-world; he occasionally got drunk when he was off duty and alone.

He learns he has been sedated for three nights as his doctor says he cannot leave until he is detoxed. If he fails to depart on time with his vessel he will be classified as AWOL and stuck on this backwater orb for life. Worse as he complains they label him hostile and in need of Aversion Therapy. That means special treatment without his consent needed to include visits to Psych. His Starship Fleet career is dead as the health system imprisonment gets worse until he meets a group who believes in the illegal right to die. These STEWARDS OF THE FLAME enables him to escape to an island hideaway where he learns to use much more of his mind's powers to ignore pain and to telepathically communicate.

The premise behind this novel is that Big Brother monitors an individual's mental and physical health in order to "take care' of the person in accordance with laws even if a competent person rejects such treatment. That hypothesis is grounded in current efforts to make the medical field more efficient and effective; it is not a stretch to expand the electronically documented military health records of soldiers or the President's push for electronic transferable medical records to become the basis of required treatments. When the STEWARDS OF THE FLAME moves into more esoteric new age elements the story line remains extremely entertaining mostly because of the hero, but loses some of its social commentary. Still Sylvia Engdahl provides her readers with a cautionary tale that Big Brother is coming through the government medical complex.

Mr. Monk in Outer Space
Lee Goldberg
Obsidian (Berkley)
9780451220981 $19.95

As she ponders her dating pool, which consists of killers, grieving relatives, frustrated cops and men named Scooter whose mouths that taste like overdosed with mouthwash, personal assistant Natalie Teeger enters the apartment of her boss, Mr. Adrian Monk. Natalie is a realist as she raises her twelve years old Julie by herself and helps her paranoid employer cope with life. However, this time the crisis is beyond her immediate assistance; Monk, known for evacuating city blocks based on finding a cobweb in some obscure corner of his pad, studies a small coffee stain that he cannot remove from the carpet. Monk wants to move in with Natalie for a few days, but she is saved from that anguish when SFPD Lieutenant Disher calls her; without saying hello she asks where the corpse is?

After he solves the not homicide in spite of the triangle bullets case for Disher and captain Stottlemeyer, he becomes involved in another investigation. At the Beyond Earth cult TV show convention, a starship uniformed person kills the producer Conrad Stipes in a public shooting. Asked to investigate while suffering from rug burns, Monk moves into the home of his brother Ambrose, an expert on the show, while Natalie takes care of the more critical carpet problem.

Monk is at his humorous neurotic best as he solves cases in his crazy way. Readers will be laughing out loud at the side commentaries such as his measuring parallel parked cars or visiting a Burgerville restaurant or marveling at the value of three decade old Beyond Earth cereal that tasted like sugared cardboard when it was fresh. The whodunit is fun as the compulsive Monk invades the cult TV world, which he realizes is filled with those as obsessively insane as he is. Lee Goldberg provides a wonderful entry on one of the better novelizations series of a TV show.

Ghost of a Chance
Kate Marsh
9780451223241 $6.99

Karma Marx is an otherworldly being who is half polster and half human. She is faster than mortals, able to hide in the shadows, and is working off a punishment for accidentally killing her best friend as a young child because she didn't know her own powers. She is a transmortis anomaly extermination which means she cleans the homes of otherworldly beings and usually ends up bringing them into her own home.

The Akashial League which oversees her punishment has her foster young polter child Pixie for a month; her husband Spider agrees to a divorce if she cleans up the Walsh home that night. When she arrives there she is met by her husband, his partner Meredith, Meredith's wife Savannah who wants to make contact with the operational entities living in the house and Adam, another polter who believes the house still belongs to him. When Spider refuses to give it back, he creates a binding spell that prevents anyone from leaving the abode; he hopes to mediate the ownership of house with Spider but before he can do that, someone kills him. Adam, a Marshall in the mundane plane and an investigator in the otherworld, with the help of Karma investigates the homicide. They have twelve hours to find the culprit otherwise the case will be taken out of their hands.

Katie MacAlister writing as Kate Marsh pens a spellbinding and enchanting paranormal mystery populated by a horde of polters, a unicorn, a guardian and the imps who keeps following Karma home no matter where she puts them are hilarious. Although there are a lot of magical scenes, it is mundane investigative techniques that give the heroine a GHOST OF A CHANCE in solving this paranormal locked room whodunit.

As The World Churns
Tamar Myers
9780451223029 $21.95

The day Magdalena has always been waiting for has finally come and now she is six hours into her honeymoon with Gabe Rosen, a doctor from New York City who came to Hernia Holstein to get away from the pressure. Unfortunately, his possessive mother Ida calls them on their honeymoon. When the phone rings again Magdalena thinks it is Ida, but it turns out to the warden at the state penitentiary; he tells her a murderer escaped. He is the ex-chief of police of Hernia who targets her family.

The honeymoon ends abruptly because Magdalene wants to make sure her loved ones are protected and because she wants to make sure everything is ready for the guests who are coming in for the first Hernia Holstein competition. The originator of the contest Doctor Shador is beaten up and can't remember who hurt him. Magdalena gets Gabe to judge the contest but soon after that he and Magdalena's step-daughter Alison disappear. Magdalena rounds up a posse to find them.

AS THE WORLD CHURNS is as tasty as shoofly pie. This is a delightful mystery due to the characters, especially the secondary and recurring ones. Although "Monster-in-Law" is obviously not a new relationship concept, Ida as the mother in law from hell is Magdalena's worst enemy as she came to town to find Gabe which results in keeping the storyline fresh. Tamar Myers has quite a few shocks in store for the reader. These surprises will change Magdalene's thoughts about herself and everybody will not see the final surprise coming because the protagonist never thought it could happen.

The Serpent's Daughter
Suzanne Arruda
9780451222947 $23.95

In 1920, photojournalist Jade del Cameron reluctantly agrees to meet her prim and proper mother Inez in Tangier, Morocco in hopes they can reconcile their contentious relationship. However, Jade is realistic as she loves globetrotting explorations into out of the way trouble spots while mother is a perfect lady who never perspires let alone sweats.

In Tangier, someone kidnaps Inez. An anxious Jade may feel the planet is not big enough for both of them, but she still loves her mother. She begins a frantic quest to find and rescue Inez with clues taking her to Marrakech and from there to a remote mountainous Berber village. Every step she takes step since starting in Algiers is dangerous especially eluding slave traders who want to sell her and the most dangerous person of all Lilith Worthy.

This terrific action-packed thriller will grip readers from the moment Inez is abducted and never let's go until the final confrontation. The story lien is fast-paced especially when Jade is on mission. However, the plot slows down a bit as Suzanne Arruda packs the tale with a deep look at 1920 Morocco especially the Berbers. Fans of historical thrillers will want to read Jade del Cameron third adventure although the previous two contain more of a mystery (see STALKING IVORY and MARK OF THE LION).

The Shell Game
Steve Alten
Cedar Fort
9781599550947 $26.95

In 2012, "centrist conservative" David McKuin is the President of the United States. However, much of the secretive centralize controls gained after 9/11 are gone following the excesses of his predecessor President Bush. Thus they cannot do what they feel is needed to keep Americans safe; take out Iran and its radical fundamentalist leadership and insure reelection of an at war president.

However, some of his Neocon advisors believe a 9/11 sting needs to occur so once again they can centralize power and provide security to the American people. They concoct a plan to have the Feds nuke an American city and hold Iran culpable. Energy guru Ace Futrell wants to know who killed his wife as he thinks it was government agents. He soon uncovers the scheme to use a nuclear strike to attack Iran and to strengthen their power; he plans to expose this horrific American tragedy.

Except for those who believe President Bush directed the 9/11 attack, this thriller is over the stratosphere of plausibility; sinister Feds planning to nuke an American city and believing they can not only hide the attack but blame Iran seems unreal in spite of some recent slam dunk CIA revelations. Still conspiracy buffs will appreciate the exciting action-packed thriller especially those on the extreme right as Hilary was the latest Democrat to lose to a sound bite conservative while the Middle East country building contingent find neo con work with reengineering Iran starting with blowing up an American city.

The Jewel Trader of Pegu
Jeffrey Hantover
9780061252709 $21.95

In 1598 twenty-seven year old Jewish jewel peddler Abraham decides to leave Venice following the death of his wife. His family protests and pleads with him to stay in Venice as they worry about his sitting Shiva on a ship and living amidst gentiles eating non-kosher food. Still ignoring their soulful admonitions, he travels to Pegu, a Burmese kingdom where he opens up an extension of the family business back home by obtaining top of the line gems.

Abraham is pleased with his the results of his decision to leave Europe as he no longer is incarcerated in a ghetto; in Pegu, he can go where he wants when he wants. However, he soon learns that foreigners must perform a duty that will bring good fortune to new brides; failure to do so mean expulsion from the country, but that requirement violates Jewish scripture. He also has an attraction to local Mya, but doubts that love is strong enough to overcome their respective religions.

More a historical character study of predominately two protagonists, THE JEWEL TRADER OF PEGU is a fascinating look at a sixteenth century Jewish European living in an Asian kingdom; a stranger in a strange land. The story line is told mostly by his letters to his family in Venice, but also has interesting interludes that provide Mya's perspective on some of the same events that Abraham describes. Limited in action; fans who appreciate a deep historical look into star-crossed lovers struggling with personal, religious and national differences.

The Somnambulist
Jonathan Barnes
9780061375385 $23.95

In Victorian England, conjurer Edward Moon turned to detecting to earn a living as his stage performances are not in demand. With his enigmatic weird associate the eight foot mute Somnambulist, Moon has solved some of London's most infamous homicides. Although very successful and obtaining fame and more important clients, he still would prefer to perform his act in a theatre not at a crime scene and considers retiring from the sleuthing stage.

However, he and the Somnambulist are investigating the murders of two wealthy nonentities who made fortunes in business. Clues lead to a religious group that apparently wants to take over secular London by eradicating the affluent upper middle class whose crass worldly ways are an abomination to God and humanity.

THE SOMNAMBULIST is a strange nineteenth century thriller that will have the audience debating whether it is paranormal horror, mystery, or both. The story line is not linear as Jonathan Barnes refuses to allow his fans to just comfortably go along for the ride. The support cast starting with the hero's assistant and running the gamut of eeriness add to the feel that more twists will follow especially the final one. Mr. Barnes proves to be a worth conjurer from his opening critique to the final stunner.

One Last Scream
Kevin O'Brien
9780786017768 $6.99

Amelia Faraday was adopted as a four years old child by loving nurturing people; she has no memory of her biological parents. Overall she has been contented and understands how fortunate she has been. However strange happenings worries her as she has no explanation re their cause; she suffers from blackouts and wakes up in places that she has never been before and cannot recall how she got there. Amelia feels intense phantom pains that have no physical source and she knows things that are occurring as they happen.

When her younger brother died, Amelia felt that she somehow killed him though logically she knows that was impossible. When her parents and her aunt were killed in their vacation home, Amelia feels as if she murdered them though logic once again tells her otherwise. Her psychologist Karen tries to convince Amelia that she never killed anyone while her Uncle George searches for his niece's origins. These two people who care about Amelia and want to help her are unaware that someone condemns to death based on guilt of association.

Kevin O'Brien writes an entertaining electrifying thriller as readers will find themselves mesmerized by ONE LAST SCREAM. Karen is a strong courageous individual who goes the extra kilometer for her beleaguered patient; George has his own grief that he puts aside for his ailing niece. However, the tale belongs fully to the enigmatic Amelia as the audience wonders whether she is the killer perhaps during her blackouts or the ultimate omega target of a serial killer targeting her and her loved ones. Needing to know, the enthralled audience will read this psychological whodunit in one sitting.

Bone Rattler
Eliot Pattison
9781593761851 $26.00

While the Seven Year War between England and France is fought on several continents, Scottish prisoner Duncan McCallum is on the prison ship heading to the New World. On the voyage many die including his friend Adam Munroe. The ship's captain assigns Duncan to investigate as he has a medical background, but by the time the vessel docks in New York he fails to uncover the reason why so many died.

In New York, McCallum continues his inquiries in spite of pressure to hold another prisoner culpable. However, as he concludes that the deaths are tied to the French and Indian War North American segment of the bigger hostility, he also learns that he has been indentured to Lord Ramsey to work off his prison debt. However, what he realizes is that he and the other prisoners are fodder for the war in which different groups want to control New York's Heart of Darkness where a massacre once occurred.

Edgar winner (see Inspector Shan novels) Eliot Pattison writes a great French and Indian War whodunit that grips the audience from the opening sequence and never lets go until the final confrontation. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action yet enables the audience to believe they are sailing the Atlantic and later thrust into a war zone. The cast is solid especially the hero who knows how far he has fallen from being the Laird of a failing Scottish clan to an indentured expendable servant. Mr. Pattison provides a winning Colonial Era mystery.

Solemnly Swear
Nancy Moser
9781414301631 12.99

Brett Lerner was a blackmailer who was waiting in his hot tub for the mark to arrive and give him his payoff money. Instead, the blackmailer hits Brett over the head. Brett is later found by his pregnant girlfriend Patti McCoy who starts screaming and then runs away when the police come. They find her and arrest her and put her in jail until the trial date arrives.

The members of the jury are a mixed group from a famous actress to a man who works three minimum wage jobs because he doesn't believe in his own talent. Also in the group are a former golf chairman and the wife of a doctor who operates on children for free. One of the members of the jury is pushing his/her spouse to sway the jury for a guilty verdict and though that person agrees to do so, the price paid is enormous.

Nancy Moser is a fantastic storyteller who lets her audience see into the hearts of the characters. There is nobody evil in this book, just lost misguided people making awful, not to say illegal decisions. SOLEMNLY SWEAR shows how one fabrication can spiral into many more lies and hurt other people, especially loved ones; as Sir Walter Scott proclaimed: "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive." Some of the jurors learn from their experience and try to turn their lives around to become better people; none of them will be like they were before the jurisprudence experience.

Monday Night Jihad
Jason Elam & Steve Yohn
9781414317304 $19.99

In 1991 Baghdad, Hakeem lost his mother father, uncles and cousin to the American bombs and was taken to a camp where he was to become a mole living in the United States. He was brainwashed to avenge the death of his family and all those of Islam that the Americans killed in their war on terror. Hakeem settled into his American life waiting to be called to do his duty to Allah.

After Afghan duty, Second Lieutenant Riley Covington of the US Air Force Special Operations Command has become a valued linebacker for the football team the Colorado Mustangs. Hakeem's group partially succeeds at bombing the Mall of the American. His next mission is the stadium where the Mustangs are hosting a playoff game. Bombs go off and thousands are injured and killed including Riley's friend. As a reservist, Riley is called to find and put in a cage the mastermind, something he volunteered for; while Hakeem has one more site to hit before he is finished.

Former NFL kicker Jason Elam and Steve Yohn have written an exciting fast paced thriller that goes inside the mind of the terrorist to learn why they perform such horrific acts. The protagonist is a decent gentle man loved by his friends and feared by his enemies as he has no qualms about killing a killer who doesn't believe it is wrong to kill or maim thousands. Hakeem's handlers want America as the next country where suicide bombers operate with impunity. Readers will appreciate this action-packed thriller as Hakeem brings much more to the tale beyond the movie Black Sunday with the insight into his gut need for revenge accentuated by those who gave him three meals, a cot, and indoctrination.

The Risk of Infidelity Index
Christopher G. Moore
Atlantic Monthly
9780871139740 $22.00

In Bangkok, attorney Andrew Danielson hires American expatriate private investigator Vincent Calvino to look into an illegal drug operation. With the $10,000 fee and an expected success, Vincent believes he will obtain an investigative position with the World health organization New York as he has the proof.

Two floors below his office is the One Hand Clapping massage parlor Vincent breaks down the door as he expects trouble inside. He is right because he find a dead nineteen years old young "working" girl lying in her bed. The same day Andrew dies from an alleged heart attack; his law firm refuses to pay Vincent his expenses let alone his fee. As demonstrations rock the city, Vincent finds himself unpaid and short cash. Three of the Fab Four expatriate female friends hire him to conduct surveillance of their spouses. Debra, Janet and Ruth have just read The Risk of Infidelity Index, which names Bangkok as the number one city for spousal infidelity. The fourth member Ruth is a recent widow; her spouse Andrew having just died from cardiac arrest. All three of his recent activities soon tie together in a major complex fiasco in which he may return to New York for his funeral instead of for a job.

THE RISK OF INFIDELITY INDEX is a terrific Bangkok investigative tale starring an American expatriate who finds he is getting deeper into trouble when he just wants to collect his fee. The story line is at its best when Vincent causes havoc or explains life in Thailand wit its' spiders, frogs and shells. When the Fab Four appear, the plot turns humorous but loses a bit of its Asian Urban Noir feel. Still this American Farang's misadventures are fun to follow (see MINOR WIFE and SPIRIT HOUSE) as they rival the BANGKOK HAUNTS of John Burdett.

Deadly Beloved
Max Allan Collins
9780843957785 $6.99

In Chicago the case looks obvious. An angry cuckolded wife Marcy Addwatter kills her executive husband and his hooker girlfriend when she catches them together in a motel room. Although they have some doubts, the evidence is overwhelming so the police arrest Marcy charging her with the two homicides.

Private investigator Ms. Michael Tree looks into the twin killings of the account manager and his afternoon fling. She obviously rejects the outraged wife motive that the police push; besides which the case reminds her of her own personal history. She begins an inquiry and soon finds people wanting to end her investigation as several attempts on her life occur. As Mike keeps digging, she begins to uncover a conspiracy that increasingly looks like a frame with Marcy as the fall gal.

Ms. Tree still has it as she makes the transition from graphic comic books to novel with an ease. The story line is fast-paced and somehow contains the graphic in your face perspective that the comic book had yet also reads like a powerful whodunit novel. Max Allan Collins is at his best with the terrific Ms. Michael who kicks butt in any format.

Dark Hollow
Brian Keene
9780843958614 $7.99

In LeHorn's Hollow, novelist Adam Senft hears strange music that sounds like a piper playing the pipes coming from the nearby woods late at night. He follows the sound only to see his naked neighbor "dancing" with a statue that is moving. Adam is stunned although he knows the legends of the haunting as claimed by Native Americans. Although tempted to strip and join in the romp, Adam flees.

The libidos of the men are out of control as their sex drive suddenly supersedes all other needs including subsistence and shelter. They take what they obsessively desire until overnight the women vanish. Already reeling with what he saw and what is happening to the townsfolk; Adam wonders just what is the frolicking statue playing an instrument while his nude friend pranced in some sort of bondage and if that animated stone is behind the strange things happening to those living in LeHorn's Hollow.

Readers will know early on just what is behind the terror gripping this small isolated town, but knowing does not take away from a strong horror thriller. The story line is fast-paced as the men go sexually berserk and the women vanish; all the work of a supernatural creature summoned from beyond. Although the ending is abrupt, Brian Keene continues to showcase the width of his talent (see DEAD SEA) as he provides an entertaining thriller.

A Daughter's Inheritance
Tracy Peterson and Judith Miller
Bethany House
9780764203640 $13.99

Her father with the help of her paternal grandparents lovingly raised Frances, affectionately called Fanny, after her mother Winifred died. However, when her dad apparently killed himself in 1891 when she was ten, her grandparents fully took over raising her. Fanny may be a child but she already knows that young Michael Atwell, who works for her affluent family, is her soulmate; she believes one day he will know it too. Her best friends are her two female cousins (Sophie and Amanda) who she spends summers with on the family estate Broadmoor Island, one of New York's Thousand Islands.

When she was seventeen Frannie came home from school to find her beloved grandfather dying. After he passed away, her Uncles Jonas and Quincey and she inherited his vast wealth; Uncle Jonas detests her receiving anything let alone an equal share, but he was named her guardian as the oldest. Her devious uncle wants to keep Frannie's third of the inheritance so he abuses his trust and has plans to find hr the right spouse, one as avaricious as he is but malleable by him, for her. Thus he fires Michael ordering him to leave. Knowing he needs money to claim the woman he loves, Michael heads to the Yukon seeking his fortune before seeking his Frannie. With the help of her beloved cousins, Frannie survives one attempt after another by her odious uncle to take what is hers.

This is a terrific 1890s Upstate New York historical fiction starring a fabulous lead protagonist. Fanny does her best to keep the family together in honor of her grandparents' wishes in spite of her odious uncle's machinations and greed. Her relationship with her cousins is wonderful as each loves one another trying to be there for each other. Readers will enjoy book one of the Broadmoor Legacy and look forward to future adventures.

Hollywood and Crime: Original Crime Stories Set During the History of Hollywood
Robert J. Randisi, (Editor)
9781933648286 $25.00

The underlying theme to these fourteen wonderful crime capers is the corner of Hollywood and Vine. All the contributions are strong with a few deserving of award nomination status as this may be the crime anthology of the year. Especially powerful Harry Bosch's "Suicide Run" by Michael Connelly and Moe Howard proves he is no stooge as an amateur sleuth investigating the death of Three Stooges founder Ted Healey in "Murderlized". With homage to Jack Webb and Hedder Hopper amongst other notables, readers will appreciate Hollywood and Crime; however the highlight to this reviewer is the return of private investigator Leo Bloodworth (by Dock Lochte) working a case while listening to the sound of Dinah Shore singing Johnny Mercer on an MP3. As Gar Anthony Haywood's character Danny Floyd says in "Moving Pictures" claims he knows movies as he has seen the "Matrix trilogy six times and both Kill Bills twice apiece"; "who gives a F**k" about classic film noirs especially black and white". Readers will hooray for Hollywood and Crime as the show must go on.

Succubus on Top
Richelle Mead
9780758216427 $15.00

In Seattle shape-shifting succubus Georgina Kincaid earns a living as assistant manager at Emerald City Books & Cafe as her demonic superiors refuse to fund her activities due to a budget deficit at a time of soulless surplus. In fact her immediate boss Jerome the lazy criticizes her for low production numbers. At night, she performs her demonic job of picking up males and drinking in their essence.

Her current mortal boyfriend bestselling writer Seth Mortenson has accepted her no-sex arrangement. She finds that increasingly difficult as she wants him with her on top, but fears she will kill him in the process even if that is one hell of a way to go. However as she ponders her needs, her friend Bastien the incubus works on destroying holier than Bush conservative radio host Dana Dailey and bookstore employee Doug Sato finds life tangent with the demonic side quite pleasurable.

This over the top fantasy sequel (see SUCCUBUS BLUES) is an amusing tale with a thin plot, but fans will not care as we laugh at the antics of the female whose murder weapon is her killer lips (try getting a conviction based on killer kisses). The support cast adds to the jocularity as her frustrated lover cannot touch her if he wants to breath on the mortal plane, the book store crowd is a zany wild bunch and the to the right of Attila the Hun Dana round out a mirthful succubus saga.

Final Curtain
R. T. Jordan
9780758212825 $22.50

Not everyone can be a Hollywood legend while they are still alive, but Polly Pepper has managed to become one. The only thing missing in her long glorious career is that she never made it to Broadway, but now in her sixties the opportunity to fulfill her dream seems imminent. She is the title character in a revival of Mame at the Galaxy Theater in Glendale, California. If this proves successful the backers want to bring it to the Great White Way.

Rehearsals do not start very well when Polly arrives late on the first day. They go downhill by day two when director Karen Richards is killed with the murder weapon being the Emmy won by Mame co-star Sharon Fletcher. The police arrest Sharon, but Polly believes she is innocent even if witnesses claim Sharon was the person seen with the victim. In fact, Polly thinks Sharon's role as a bad girl on the soap "It's Never Fair Weather" is part of the reason the cops look nowhere else as they mix up the character with the person. Polly quickly realizes that others in the production had strong motives to kill Karen. With the help of her son and her personal assistant, Polly investigates but almost joins Karen in the next life when she begins uncovering the true motive for the homicide.

In spite of Polly being a classic diva, readers will admire her spunk and adore her caring for others, which she displays all the time and leads her to make inquiries. The support cast including recurring characters from REMAINS TO BE SCENE like her homicide detective lover and her doting son turns FINAL CURTAIN into a delightful amateur sleuth tale. Although some will question why a sexagenarian with a twenty-seven room Bel Air mansion will risk her pampered life on an investigation instead of hiring a professional, fans will enjoy B.T. Jordan's salute to the stars whodunit.

Wash and Die
Barbara Colley
9780758222510 $22.00

In New Orleans, Charlotte LaRue, owner of Maid for a Day, is unhappy to return home after a hard day of cleaning to see Joyce Thibodeaux waiting for her on her porch. With no place to stay, Joyce, formerly married to Charlotte's tenant Louis Thibodeaux and just out of rehab, begs her to let her stay here for a few days. Against her better judgment as Charlotte knows that Joyce is a lying con artist, she realizes she can not let the woman sleep on the street.

Their arrangement fails to work out as Joyce may be a guest but she keeps her room looking like a pig sty, lies about why a San Francisco inspector wants to speak with her, and steals the gold watch Charlotte inherited from her father. After tossing out Joyce, Charlotte tries to recover the watch that the woman hocked, but the pawn shop proprietor rejects her plea. Frustrated, Charlotte comes home to find her house trashed from an obvious search, Joyce shot to death amidst the mess, her parakeet Sweety Boy gone. Charlotte and Louis discuss possible suspects before she begins her investigation to find her missing bird and a killer. Her snooping almost gets her killed twice by different people who want the dirt to remain unclean.

Readers will admire the sexagenarian business owner who is determined to cleanse her name from the mud that it recently took as much as she also wants her beloved bird back. Yet with her cleaning enterprise, an amateur sleuth investigation and much more, Charlotte welcomes her newborn twin grandchildren with love and tenderness. She is the role model that insists the sixties today are the forties of yesterday. Readers will enjoy this fine thinking person's cozy as Charlotte escorts the audience around New Orleans in search of cleaning up a murder.

Wolf Tales V
Kate Douglas
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758218704 $12.95

The Chanku are shapeshifters who can turn into wolf and back to human if they take the pills made from nutrients found only in the Himalayas. Stefan asks Baylor to check out a woman in upstate New York who was photographed looking like a Chanku caught in mid-shift. Bay agrees to find out and give her the pills if he believes she is Chanku. Anton asks widower Ulrich to determine if Millie, whom he met in Colorado, is Chanku. If she is he wants Ulrich to bring her over.

Bay meets Manda who tells him she has been like this for twenty-five years. She believes she was punished for her sin of masturbating. He explains what happened to her and gives her the pills that will allow her to be a shapeshifter. He is attracted to her even though she is not attractive in her present form. She is attracted to Bay but scientists, who examined her, raped her and tried to mate her with a wolf, traumatized her to where she rejects sex. She takes the pills and agrees to go with Bay to Maine so she has privacy to explore her new state.

Sexagenarian Ulrich meets fiftyish Millie and is immediately attracted to her and her to him. He brings her to an organism with his mouth and tongue and then she ties him down with scarves so she can control and reduce him to the point of madness. He tells Millie what she is and he shows her that he can turn into a wolf. She agrees to take the pills and explore their feelings further.

These two stories are well written entities in which the sex is extremely graphic, but done within loving relationships. However the key to the latest Wolf Tales is that shapeshifting seems real. Although this tale can stand alone, fans of paranormal erotic romance will find the plot enhanced by reading the previous four novels.

A Passion for Him
Sylvia Day
Kensington Brava
9780758217615 $14.00

Raised by an uncaring father in loneliness except for her friend the gypsy stable boy Colin, six years ago, Amelia Benbridge life turned upside down when her odious father was proven to be a criminal and her beloved Colin died saving her life. The only good to come out of that tragic period was Amelia was reunited with her long lost assumed dead sister Marie and her brother-in-law, a pirate, Christopher St. John (see A PASSION FOR THE GAME for their love story).

Now in 1780 Amelia is expected to marry the kindhearted Lord Ware, but her heart remains with Colin. However, to her shock at a gala she finds herself attracted to a white masked man who seems to only stare at her regardless of where she is in the ballroom. When they meet he remains secretive, but steals a kiss, which ignites her long ebbed passion as she tingles like she did when Colin kissed her. What she does not know is who the masked man is as Colin survived the incident and has since become a spy who still dreams of being forever with his Amelia. He also knows that is not possible as he remains beneath her so he rationalizes to himself that he stays near her to protect her from an enemy who has a score to settle with the Benbridge family, but cannot stop himself from kissing her and more.

This is a terrific Georgian romance starring an interesting woman who has known much tragedy and loneliness in her life and the man who she loved with all her soul. Colin is a hero as he risked his life for her once before and willingly places himself in danger and risks his undercover espionage mission to keep his beloved safe. Readers will have a passion for Sylvia Day's fine historicals.

In Between Men
San Culberson
Kensington Dafina
9780758215222 $14.00

Hope and Ray Williams are raising three children while both work full time jobs. Whereas Hope is a bank supervisor, Ray would prefer she stayed home as they do not need her income to live comfortably even as a family of five; he wants her to be a housewife and full time mother. She admits to herself the job is not fulfilling, but has doubts about staying home 24/7 as that sounds even less satisfying though she loves her family.

A friend introduces Hope and Anthony to one another. Unlike her spouse who grouches a lot about her job, Anthony is kind and caring and makes Hope feel life is good; he fills her with hope. However, their friendship changes when they make love; Anthony wants more of her demanding she dump her husband and three kids for him. He has brought a smile back into her life, but Hope wonders if the price is right or is it with dependable Ray.

This an interesting character study of a woman pulled in two opposite directions with each pole having attractors and detractors. Whereas Anthony makes her feel good, her family needing her makes her feel as good if not better. On the other hand her family's needs at times are wearying while Anthony's demand to move on frightens and excites her. San Culberson provides a strong look at a woman who must choose between men that is if her spouse even gives her a ray of hope that he still wants them together.

The Scent of Rosa's Oil
Lina Simoni
9780758219244 $14.00

Near the end of the nineteenth century in Genoa, Rosa was born to a Luna brothel prostitute who died in childbirth; her father is an unknown patron of the facility. Madame C raises Rosa as her own with the help of her girls. However, they hide from the youngster what is going on upstairs in the house of ill repute although Rosa wonders about the "the game" upstairs played by men and her aunts.

On her sixteenth birthday, Rosa's friend Isabel the witch gives her a magical perfume to wear at a party Madam C is throwing for her. That night the Mayor caught by the essence plays "the game" with Rosa; when Madame C catches them, she angrily blames her ward and tosses Rosa out of the only home she has known because the mayor was the older woman's dream intended. Isabel takes Rosa in and soon afterward the teen finds a boyfriend longshoreman Renato, but hides her past from him. However, when she learns that she risks Renato's life and their love with her lies and omissions, Rosa must decide whether she should tell her beloved about being raised in a brothel.

This is an entertaining coming of age turn of the century romance starring a likable protagonist. Fans will enjoy the heroine's abrupt rush to adulthood following Rosa's olfactory tryst. Although at times Rosa's escapades seem to obvious for someone growing up in a brothel and moving in with a witch, historical romance readers will enjoy Lina Simoni's fine aromatic tale.

Private Party
Jamie Alden
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758219862 $12.95

Before they married Brian Dennison was so nice to his fiancee Julie Driscoll that he swept her off her feet. During her wedding celebration Julie searches for her groom so they can cut the cake together. She hears some moaning from inside a broom closet; opens the door to find her new her husband, naked accompanied by his nude assistant; they obviously were doing hanky panky business. Leaving the cake uncut, Julie decides since her spouse looked elsewhere for his wedding sex so will she.

Julie selects the best man her brother-in-law Chris. He has fantasized about making love with her since he first met her five years ago. They share an incredible heat that surpasses his wildest dreams involving her. Afterward he returns to the tropical resort he is building; Julie knows a good thing and follows him.

This is a terrific heated romance starring two likable protagonists and a rat of a groom (making love with someone else on your wedding night is despicable). Readers will appreciate this torrid tale as Chris and Julie prove their room is much hotter than the tropics. Yet with all the erotic moments, Jamie Alden lightens her erotic tale with humor and some satire as ironically thanks to the cheater, Julie finds something sweeter (and saltier).

Body Moves
Jodi Lynn Copeland
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758222114 $12.95

"Private Passion". Danica Crosby is extremely proud of her Caribbean resort spa and plastic surgery center Private Indulgence. However, as she insures her clients receive the best, she has never indulged in cosseting herself. That is until Jordan Cameron stuns her when he slowly strips away her clothing and her barriers one kiss at a time. She feels the passion of love until she learns the cold truth of deception.

In "Private Fantasies". Logan Delaney comes to Private indulgence for breast enlargement and the sex she always thought she could have if she had the boobs men crave. Tanner Grey intends to be the hunk indulging in her private fantasies.

These two novellas are fabulous erotic medical romances that readers will enjoy as the couples indulge in private BODY MOVES that will leave readers wanting to visit Danica's spa.

Night Fire
Vonna Harper
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758222176 $12.95

Hayley McKeon has always dreamed of becoming a jeweler whose work is well received. However, she put her aspirations on hold when she married. Now divorced, she wants to pursue her life's goal: to become a first rate jeweler.

At a gem show, Hayley finds most of the displays boring. That is until she spots a showcase of beautiful black opals. These gems have a perfect sensual texture and a mesmerizing pattern that has her dreaming of what she can do with them. However, she is more stunned by her instant attraction to the owner of these precious gems, Mazati; especially since she has sworn off men since her marriage ended. This Aztec warrior has her dreaming more than just about his gems. He soon takes her into a realm of sensual bondage like nothing she felt before

Using Aztec mythos to enhance a modern day erotic romance, NIGHT FIRST is a refreshing entertaining tale that will hook the audience from the first moment the heroine notices the opals. Like Hayley, readers will find the hero mystifying yet sensual as he struggles to control his desires while dominating the submissive jeweler who appreciates his stones (opal and otherwise). Mazati brings a unique NIGHT FIRE to this heated bondage tale.

One More Time
Celia May Hart
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758219220 $12.95

Pilot Abby Deane flies her small plane to the hideaway hotel she has just been hired to manage. However, when she lands, Abby finds something quite unsettling. Somehow she ahs traveled back from the twenty-first century to regency England.

Myles Hardy meets Abby and acts as her host to the early nineteenth century. He finds her story about being from the future improbable yet besides her luggage and clothing, Abby has some terrific sex toys that he plans to use with her. As they enjoy their encounter with nights filled of all types of sexual positions and activities enhanced by her gizmos, they fall in love. However, they know she belongs to the future so they search for a lost statue that will allow her to return home; something she does not want to do.

This torrid time travel romantic fantasy stars two wonderful lead characters, a horde of profligate aristocrats (she'd make a fortune selling her toys to this crowd), and a Greek god seeking passion. The story line is fast-paced even during the heat of passion and yet filled with twists. Loaded with heat, ONE MORE TIME is an erotic tale with plenty of heat.

Sexy Devil
Sasha White
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758219909 $13.95

"The Devil Inside". His last girlfriend dumped Caleb Mann for being a bore in bed. His new girl Gina Devilin knows he is her soulmate even if he does not believe in her psychic abilities or his sexual prowess as he is all the Mann she craves and has known it from her first erotic dream with him before they met.

"Devil's Jewel". Gina's psychic hunter brother Angelo tries to rescue Nadya Kattalis a Gypsy from a demon using her to open a portal from hell. While struggling with his quest, Angelo falls in love with the girl's Jewel of a sister.

These two well written romantic fantasies are a strange blending that works quite nicely together with the connection being the psychic siblings. The first tale is ultra erotic while the second Devilin story is more paranormal. Thus fans who appreciate both genres will enjoy Sasha White's Devilin psychic thrillers.

Any Way You Want It
Kathy Love
Kensington Brava
9780758218568 $14.00

Washington DC based Maggie Gallagher is an expert on the lives of dead composers; her love life is as dead as those musicians she studies. Her current work is to authenticate a recently found sonata allegedly written by early nineteenth century composer Renauldo D'Antoni. Meanwhile she takes a break from her beloved yet tedious work as she and some friends go to New Orleans on a vacation. While visiting the grave of a voodoo priestess, Maggie quietly wishes for a heated encounter.

Later that same night, Maggie hears the last thing she expected coming from some French Quarter dive. Someone is playing the sonata she is investigating, which makes no sense as her preliminary information is that this is a lost treasure just recently rediscovered. Normally quite reticent, Maggie meets keyboardist Ren Anthony, who is the leader of the '80s style band the Impalers. She interrogates him about the sonata and he remains elusive in his responses. However, neither can ignore the attraction, but he knows that relationships don't survive as the women he has loved since being born as Renauldo D'Antoni in 1785 die; immortals like him live forever in loneliness.

ANYWAY YOU WANT IT is an entertaining lighthearted paranormal romantic romp. The story line centers on whether Maggie can persuade Ren that he only has fangs for her. Vampire romance fans will enjoy the romance between the immortal composer and the human musicologist.

St. Patrick's Day Murder
Leslie Meier
9780758207036 $22.00

Tinker's Cove, Maine is a quaint New England town, but nobody can call the Bilge anything but a dive; a bar known for its customers constantly fighting. The owner Dan Malone ignores the laws that might trim his profits. He is a rebel with a cause of making money regardless of what he does to others. He opens when he wants and closes long after the legal time set by the town. He is not a well liked person as his avarice drives people away while his conning of folks out of their money makes him a pariah. When he vanishes for three days, no one except his bar regulars blink. His body is found floating in the nearby icy harbor; his head sliced off.

His younger brother Dylan comes to town to direct the production of Finnegan's Rainbow for the church. He is shocked by what happened to his sibling, but since they were not even remotely close he moves on. However Dylan does not make himself popular with the locals when he calls his wife actress Moira Malone to perform in the play and she angers the townsfolk further when she brings her daughter along for the excursion. When Moira's child is kidnapped, reporter Lucy Stone's knowledge of Dan Malone's activities gives her an idea where the girl is being held; she follows up on her hunch knowing she places herself in danger.

Leslie Meier writes some of the best regional cozies around. She captures the ambience of a small Maine harbor town. Her characters from the lobstermen to the fisherman to the rest of the locals provide a strong look at the work ethic especially in winter. Lucy displays those qualities as a nurturing mother, loyal friend, and hard nosed working journalist. The outrageous Moira the drama queen provides comic relief with her hyperbole hysteria and arrogant airs as she adds privileged pampered preening into the working world of New England.

Come As You Are
Amy Feltzer
Kensington Brava
9780758216571 $14.00

When the CIA messes up in Venezuela, the Feds hire Logan Chambliss and his Dragon One mercenaries to fix the problem. However, things don't go according to plan as a ghost from his past Tessa Carlyle arrives in the jungle. Tessa was in Fiji working for national geographic when she was blackmailed into flying to South America to get involved with the one man she despises, Logan.

Soon Logan and Tessa are fleeing across the country with the enemy in hot pursuit. If caught he will tortured and killed; which he knows is better than her fate as she will be gang raped, tortured and killed. Still as they run for their lives, their attraction is hotter than the equatorial heat of the rain forest that they traverse.

This is an exhilarating romantic suspense thriller that grips the audience from the moment that Logan knows the mission is in trouble. When the woman who he cherishes arrives on the scene, he knows that he under exaggerated the mess. With complex politics at the highest levels of the Venezuelan and American governments making the fiasco even more dangerous, readers will appreciate Amy Feltzer's rumble in the jungle.

Deal With This
Lucy Monroe
Kensington Brava
9780758211804 $14.00

Undercover agent Alan Hyatt is in Vancouver investigating a science fiction production company that may serve as a front for the illegal selling and or stealing of high-tech information. He masquerades as a reporter and rents a room from actress Jillian Carlyle, who performs on the show he is looking into.

However, Alan has a problem as Jillian was intended only as a means to get onto the set. Instead he wants her so much so he struggles to concentrate on why he is in Vancouver and is falling in love with her. Jillian has a rule never to date a renter let alone jump into his bed that she owns. So why does she want to make Alan the exception to the rule? She knows the answer is because she is falling in love with him.

Although the high tech industrial espionage mystery takes a back seat to the romance, readers will appreciate this entertaining suspense laden tale of two people not wanting to commit end up falling in love. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Alan and Jillian heat chilly Vancouver and never cools down until the final confrontation as time is running out on the investigative agent in more ways than just his case. Lucy Monroe writes a fun thriller.

Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance
Gyles Brandreth
Touchstone (Simon & Schuster)
9781416534839 $24.00

In 1889 literary phenomena Oscar Wilde rushes to 23 Crowley St. in London to keep an appointment and is let into the home by an anonymous woman. Upstairs he finds the beautiful male prostitute Billy Wood lying naked on a Persian carpet surrounded by candles, his throat cut from ear to ear. The next day he tells Arthur Conan Doyle about it; when they return to the scene of the crime, they find place void of blood except for a few drops on the wall and no body.

Doyle refers him to Scotland Yard Inspector Aidan Fraser who doesn't seem to have much interest in the case as there is no body or evidence. A package arrives at Oscar's home containing Billy's severed head. He believes Fraser will be interested in the case now but to make sure justice is done, the author conducts his own investigation and finds a plethora of suspect ranging from Billy's jealous step-father to a jealous lover. Oscar is determined to find out who the killer is.

Gyles Brandreth is a wonderful storyteller who creates a clever mystery while also providing a glimpse into literary late Victorian England. Oscar Wilde makes a great Sherlock Holmes and his sexual proclivities are implied for instance the club he belongs to is filled with sodomite members. This tale is told in the first person by Wilde's good and logical friend another writer Robert Sherard adding to the sense of a literary journey into the late nineteen century.

Strike the Dragon
Charles Dyer and Mark Tobey
9780802439086 $12.99

In a Palestinian refugee camp in Balata, West bank, the handler tells the widow mother of young Yousef that "It's time". She knows how he will feel because less than six months ago her husband was murdered a martyr's death. Now she will deliver in person twenty kilos of explosives and ten kilos of ball bearing to the Eshel Hashomron Hotel in nearby Ariel.

At the hotel attending the wedding of a beloved cousin are Moshe and Esther Zachar when he notices the waitress acting strange; he realizes she has a terrorist bomb, but is too late with his warning. The brazen handler emboldened by his success plans bigger terrorist attacks on the enemy by attacking the Dragon from behind where it is vulnerable. Meanwhile DC desk bound FBI special agent Jillian Foster whose brother died in the Twin Towers collapse, Chicago college professor Greg Hanson seeking internet photos of the Dome of the Rock, and Moshe seeking vengeance soon find their worlds colliding trying to prevent a major biblical proportion assault.

STRIKE THE DRAGON is a superb counterterrorism thriller that makes the case that another attack is imminent and that the violent history in the Middle East is personal on a family level as much as it is on a religious plane and cannot be ignored. The story line is fast-paced from the opening scene when the Palestinian widow takes revenge on Israelis attending a wedding, which leads to Moshe seeking revenge in a spiraling feud that symbolizes no ending in sight. Readers will be hooked with this powerful look at terrorists striking at what they perceive is the evil dragon by the only way they feel they can succeed while the west operatives try to prevent another 9/11. As long as fanatics like Ibrahim and the Teacher still plot, the innocent remain endangered.

The Secret Between Us
Barbara Delinsky
9780385518680 $25.95

While driving home in a heavy rain Dr. Deborah Monroe and her sixteen year old daughter Grace are arguing. Visibility is extremely poor when suddenly on a remote stretch they hit history teacher Cal McKenna. Deborah calls 911 and sends Grace home to be with her younger brother Dylan. Leyland Police Chief John Colby asks Deborah what happened, but she fails to correct his assumption as to who was driving. Grace feels guilt as she had two beers before driving the car that hit Cal.

Grace feels ill so she comes home from school. Deborah goes alone to the police station to fill out a report. Not long afterward, Cal dies from a cerebral hemorrhage. Deborah is shocked as she saw no indication and the hospital tests likewise saw nothing. Grace fears her mom will go jail for her killing her teacher. Deborah's former husband Greg calls informing her that Dylan told him when she should have told him. Meanwhile guilt eats at Grace who cuts off her friends and is doing poor at school and track, but everyone gives her a break that she does not want. At home Deborah and the kids are not communicating; not only do they have legal issues, they face the trauma of feeling alone and guilt laden.

This is a strong cast in which every one of the major players has differing personalities to include Grace's sister and dad and Cal's brother Tom. By not rushing Tom and Deborah into a romance, the story line turns into a realistic powerful family drama. Except for a late spin that will divide fans pro and con, Barbara Delinsky writes a deep tale in which a mom's good intention turns into a damaging secret destroying her daughter and her.

The Devil's Footprints
John Burnside
9780385522090 $23.95

The town of Coldhaven in Scotland was never good for the Gardiners; father, mother and child dies by the mother's hand although the son didn't know what the townsfolk were doing to his parents and they were ignorant to what the school bully was doing to him. The townsfolk put dog poop through their mail slot, sent obscene letters and threatening phone calls. The town bully treated the lad in a sadistic fashion until with the advice of a kindly woman he took care of the problem.

He has a fling with Moira who dumped him for brawny Tom. Convinced he was the devil, she killed her two sons and then committed suicide. She made sure her daughter Hazel lived and Michael Gardiner begins to wonder if she was his daughter. He begins following her and since she hates her life she becomes friends with him. While his relationship with his wife falters, the same woman who urged Michael to take care of the town bully pushes him to get Hazel away from her father.

On the surface Coldhaven might look like a nice plaice to live but it is a cesspool of evil. Parents pass down that legacy to their children who pass it down to their children in a never-ending story that makes newcomers to the village feel the miasma of corruption. Told from the view of the protagonist, readers come to realize that horror is not limited to the supernatural but is stronger when it's humanly personal.

There's No Place Like This
Cecilia Ahern
9781401301880 $24.95

In Ireland, ten year old Jenny-May Butler vanished without a trace. The Garda investigated but found no clues. Her classmate Sandy Shortt wonders what happened to Jenny-May and for that matter, possessions that seem to just vanish in thin air.

Twenty-four years later Sandy remains obsessed with things going missing as she quit being a Garda to go private in order to concentrate on finding missing people. However, this time while she was to meet a client she goes missing. This is ironic as her job is to find the vanished and she is an intimidating 6"1' so cannot hide in a crowd. Sandy has no idea where she is. However, she notices plenty of junk lying around like keys, shoes, photos etc. that are those things that just seem to vanish for no logical cause. She tries to retrace her jog, but fails to return from here. She thinks of her client Jack Rutledge whose brother is missing and her first meeting at fourteen with school psychiatrist Gregory Burton who she told she just wants to know where missing things go like a sock disappearing from the washer. She begins to understand that this place is where missing things and people go, but not how to get back.

This is a delightful fanciful tale in which "Here" is a fun concept. The lead character is a strong person who holds the story line together while the support cast is solid. Although there is no explanation as to why "Here" exists; it just is; readers will enjoy this whimsical visit to a place like no other as it just in the fertile imagination of Cecilia Ahern.

Better to Beg Forgiveness
Michael Z. Williamson
9781416555087 $24.00

New Celadon is an impoverished nation on an extremely poor planet in the middle of nowhere. The UN had hired contract guards to protect the country's leader, President Bishwanath, but withdrew their support of him once their megacorps CEOs decide he could not be bought as graft makes the universe go round. The UN also abandoned the contractors sent to keep him safe and continue to foster the civil war that is further devastating the already destitute country.

When word reaches the UN that the ethical president is dead, they begin the plan to replace him with someone better attuned to exploitation. However, the UN has just made their second error. First they should have kept the mercenaries guards on the payroll; discarded and admiring the courage of Bishwanath they became loyal to him. Second they will learn to their regret that Bishwanath's death was slightly exaggerated as his protectors keep him safe even as they begin the plan to get him out of the country preferably off planet alive.

Michael Z. Williamson (if I didn't know better I would say he is an alias for John Bolton) makes no apologies when it comes to UN officials' thirst for corruption and greed; although ironically the American and Iraqi governments and industry could easily replace the UN based on the IG findings. Additionally with the recent accusations re private protection guards using excess force based on the principle of BETTER TO BEG FORGIVENESS, turning these mercenaries into loyal heroes doing an unpaid job seems only possible in a biting satire that revises President Eisenhower's farewell speech to beware the UN industrial complex. That is the beauty of Mr. Williamson's supernova-action packed futuristic outer space thriller that never slows down as hired guns either try to save the ethical Bishwanath or kill him.

Endless Blue
Wen Spencer
9781416573852 $25.00

The Earthlings know that the Nefrim have one objective: to drive them out of space. Thus spaceships have a tendency to vanish without ever coming back; most people assume the hostile Nefrim is behind these assaults. The Nefrim likewise blame the newcomers for their missing ships.

Thus when the vanished Fenrir's warp drive suddenly surfaces at Plymouth Station, no one knows what to make of it as there is no precedent. Captain Mikhail Volkov leads the official inquiry into uncovering what happened from the moment the vessel disappeared during acceleration until the reappearance. He decides the best way to learn the truth is jump to the last coordinates the Fenrir's warp drive displays. He never expected to find himself and his crew in the middle of the oceanic Sargasso universe where no one has ever returned.

This is a superb outer space thriller because Wen Spencer makes the Sargasso sector seem genuine as stranded humans and aliens live in discord. Mikhail is a terrific hero as he and his brother struggle from one disaster into another while beginning to comprehend the real scope of their mission. Failure means the end of at least one universe and probably two.

The Lifehouse Trilogy
Spider Robinson
9781416555117 $24.00

Mindkiller. Wireheads are addicted to an electric current that feeds impulses into the brain's pleasure centers. As a reformed wirehead who no longer uses, Karen knows she is fortunate to be alive. She and her current lover Joe, who saved her life when he found her nearly dead, want to destroy the dealers who sell the gizmos. However, instead they begin to find evidence that an international cartel control the minds of most people. At the same time, assistant professor Norman hates his job and marriage, but it is the sudden disappearance of his sister that shakes him; he begins searching for her.

Time Pressure. During a blizzard in a remote part of a Nova Scotia forest, Sam, the American draft dodger, is stunned when the naked girl appeared out of nowhere inside a blue lit globe. He believes she must be from the future, but waits for her awakening. When she does, he finds himself reconsidering what to do with her, as he fears she has come to destroy the present.

Lifehouse. June and Paul are con artists who wonder what is going on when she returns from a walk in the park with her memory modified after apparently meeting some future pair. At the same time a time traveling duo meets and enlists the help of Secret Masters of Fandom married couple, Wally and Moira. Their mission is to save John Lennon.

This is a fine omnibus reprint of three Spider Robinson science fiction thrillers. Although not as deep as the Callahan tales, each asks readers to ponder fascinating ethical issues, but none of the characters are that profound. Still this is an entertaining Canadian saga that comes alive with draft dodging Americans but especially the amusing time paradoxical Lifehouse.

Like Angels Falling
Jane Adams
9780330486514 5.99 Brit. pounds

Ray Flowers left to open up a security firm with his friend, George Mahoney. However, an investigation he worked on from over a decade ago has resurfaced. Three young boys were ritually killed with clues leading to the Eyes of God cult. The police arrested the leader, Harrison Lee, who was convicted of the homicides. However, not long afterward the cult's headquarters exploded with only one survivor, a little girl, Katie.

Since the explosion killed everyone she knew, Katie has been mute; her doctors insist it is psychosomatic. They are proven right when she abruptly blurts out "He's coming back", just before vanishing from her latest foster home. Soon after she disappeared, a dead young boy is discovered found at the same location and in the same repose as Lee's first victim eleven years ago. The police fear more will follow to match the previous murder spree so the authorities draft Ray to help prevent further murders of the young from occurring.

This sequel to THE ANGEL GATEWAY (not read by this reviewer) is a terrific investigative thriller that grips the audience from the moment Katie suddenly makes her frightening proclamation. The cast is solid and the story line strong. However, what turns LIKE ANGELS FALLING into a strong mystery is the audience is not sure whether the killer is Lee coming back from the grave or a copy cat with intimate knowledge from the first spree. Jane Adams provides a fabulous suspense thriller.

The Good Liar
Laura Caldwell
9780778325017 $6.99

In Oakbrook, Illinois since her divorce from Scott. Kate Livingston has lived a quiet lifestyle as dating seems too much trouble, but admits to her friend Liza Kingsley that she is pathetic. Liza arranges for late thirties Kate to meet debonair fifty-five years old Vermonter Michael Waller. They hit it off from the start and in a rather short time, he sweeps her off her feet and they marry.

However, once they exchange I do, Michael seems different as Kate begins to think he is hiding something from her. Although she considers another woman and the mob as the cause for his mysterious behavior, she is far from the truth. Michael works for the Trust, a top secret organization that performs illegal deeds to further America's global position. Knowing he cannot keep secret from Kate his nefarious espionage activity, but also realizing he is sworn to secrecy, Michael decides to leave Trust as he wants to spend his life with his beloved. However, his handler persuades him to take on one final assassination.

This engaging tense romantic suspense thriller in some ways will remind the audience of Governor Schwarzenegger's movie True Lies although Kate is not considering an extra-marital affair. The story line is fast-paced and at its best when the lead couple is in the forefront together or in separate first person perspectives; as their relationship is built on love and a lie surprisingly comes across as plausible. Although the villain is more caricature than nasty adversary, readers will appreciate this non stop fast-paced tale.

Silent in the Sanctuary
Deanna Raybourn
9780778324928 $13.95

In 1887 Lady Julia Grey still mentally heals from the murder of her husband, her own near death, and the burning down of her home (see SILENT IN THE GRAVE). To help her recover she left England and its burning memories for Italy accompanied by two of her March family brothers and her new Italian sister-in-law.

However, with Christmas arriving soon, the March family patriarch wants everyone to spend the holidays at his vast seven century old estate Belmont Abbey, a former Cistercian monastery. Thus Julia reluctantly heeds her father's summons and returns to England. Among the non-kin guests is enquiry agent Nicholas Brisbane. Julia is shocked to learn he is engaged to a simmering woman that is just not right for the intelligent investigator. When her pearls are stolen and guest curate Lucian Snow is murdered, Julia decides investigate over the objection of Brisbane. To keep her out of harms way he allows her to join him, which ironically places her in harm's way.

This late Victorian whodunit with a touch of romance is fun to read due to the relationship between the professional enquiry agent and the amateur sleuth. Readers will laugh at the double entendres and can "see" the bewildered (only when it comes to Lady Julia) Nicholas raise his eyebrows several times at the actions of his unwanted but new sidekick when it comes to detecting; their attraction adds to the amusing antics. Fans of lighthearted late nineteenth romps will appreciate the return from Italy of Lady Julia and her frustrated "mentor".

Heart of Fire
Kat Martin
9780778324522 $7.99

In 1844 Coralee Whitmore rejects the official position that her older half-sister Laurel committed suicide. Instead knowing in her heart that was preposterous, Coralee, the society editor of Heart to Heart ladies gazette, decides to apply her reporter skills to prove her sibling did not kill herself by going undercover to investigate.

She pretends to be an impoverished relation Letty, who asks the Earl of Fremaine to give her shelter as she believes Gray is at the top of the list of suspects who might have a motive to kill her sister. Instead of a cold blooded killer, Letty finds her host kind and caring. The gentle aristocrat hides his inner turmoil caused by the death of his wife from his guest. As they fall in love with the respective mask each wears to hide the real person, Letty begins to wonder who should be next on her list of potential killers while Gray feels he does not deserve a second chance especially with the nurturing Letty.

HEART OF FIRE is an enjoyable early Victorian romantic whodunit. The mystery is cleverly devised so that every clue re what happened to Laurel either affirms she took her own life or Gray is involved. However, the fun in this fine historical is the changing relationship between the lead couple; as they fall in love they begin to uncover the secrets of the other leading to trust issues. Kat Martin is in top form with this terrific tale.

Falcon Moon
Cassie Edwards
9780451222787 $7.99

In 1840 eighteen year old Wylena Shrock left Illinois following the deaths of her parents to live with her brother Father Joshua at his Arizona Territory missionary near the Mexican border. Josh's twin brother Jeb is also there, but he hides because the Mexican army led by General Zamora and the Apache tribe led by Chief Falcon Moon believe he is the notorious murdering "Scalp Hunter". Falcon Moon is also angry at Jeb because he secretly was having a tryst with his sister Bright Star, who the Mexicans abducted to use as a pawn to draw him to them.

While her brothers sleep, Wylena steps outside only to be abducted by Zamora. At the Mexican camp she befriends Bright Star who is treated as if she is animal by Zamora. Falcon Moon and his warriors rescue Bright Star, but he also abducts Zamora's cruel white woman who failed to help his seriously injured sister. On the top of the mountain where the Indian camp is located, Bright Star remains unconscious from her ordeal. Wylena swears she is Father Josh's sister and was abducted by Zamora for the same purpose that Bright Star was. He wants to believe her because he is attracted to her. As they fall in love, they must deal with the Mexicans, the disloyalty of his chosen heir as chief and her brothers.

FALCON MOON is a refreshing Cassie Edwards entry due more so by the support cast rather than the lead couple as the audience obtains a close look at the Apache lifestyle on the Mexican border circa 1840. Wylena and Falcon Moon are typical of Ms. Edward's books as they are noble and caring pairing. Although there is no direct confrontation between good and evil, Ms. Edward's fans will relish her latest Indian romance.

Parallel Desire
Deidre Knight
9780451222442 $6.99

In the future, during Armageddon, Scott Dillon desperately races to his battlefield tent to keep his beloved Hope and their future child Leisa safe. He is too late as the human stranger has killed his beloved wife and their unborn daughter. Outraged Scott uses his Antousian skills to take over the murderer's body. He tells his comrade Kelsey that Scott is dead and his new name is Jakob Tierney, a cold blooded killer with a past to erase.

In the present half-Antousian Scott Dillon is married to his beloved Hope. Jake has come to Scott's present where he must make a life for himself. Meanwhile Refarian medic Shelby Tyler knows that Jake is Scott and that Scott also exists. She wants to help Jake, but he is on a quest to destroy the stranger whose body he took over in the future before that evil human can kill his wife and unborn. However, if he succeeds the future time line will be altered and who knows what the butterfly effect of chaos will be. On top of that a deadly Antousian plot has been deployed that if successful could lead to Armageddon with Jake and Shelby as the prime players trying to prevent the disaster.

The latest Midnight Warriors Parallel tale is incredible as the superb plot twists and sensational time paradoxes keep on coming. The Scott-Jake saga will hook readers who wonder what will happen next to the one man with two bodies (the ultimate in twins). Fans of this delightfully complex series (see PARALLEL ATTRACTION, PARALLEL HEAT and PARALLEL SEDUCTION) will relish PARALLEL DESIRE; as we wonder whether Jake will suicide or learn the delights of Kama Sutra 411 with Shelby. That is if they survive the mission; either way he chooses by going back he has already chaotically altered the future.

Sweet Return
Anna Jeffrey
9780451222718 $6.99

In Hatlow, Texas Joanna Walsh owns a successful beauty salon business and an equally profitable making janitorial service. However, her latest business venture has proven to smell like rotten eggs. Her close friend of thirteen years cattle rancher Clova Cherry persuaded Joanna to join her in an organic egg enterprise as a means of saving her spread.

Clova has two sons; neither of which has helped her with the ranch. Lane is a drunk while Dalton is an internationally renowned photographer. When Lane ends up in an intensive care unit of Lubbock Memorial Hospital following a DUI accident, Dalton comes home from his Los Angeles base of operations to take his mom's cattle to market. Instead of cows he finds chickens and a thirty something woman who makes him dream of settling in West Texas. He accuses the chicken farmer of abusing the kindness of his mom; she accuses the wandering son of abandoning his mom fifteen years ago leaving her to struggle to pay her debts. Obviously love is everywhere when these two enemies meet.

SWEET RETURN is a sweet contemporary Texas romance that sub-genre fans will enjoy reading as the lead couple is a workaholic pair who must find time in their busy regiment to battle, argue, and fall in love. Anna Jeffrey provides a warm fun tale.

The Vampire of New York
Lee Hunt
9780451222794 $7.99

During the American Civil War Echo Van Helsing comes to New York seeking revenge on Count Draculiya. The Count was driven out of Bohemia and London by Abraham Van Helsing, who thought Draculiya was pure evil. Echo believes he killed her father and she intends to pay him back in kind once she finds him. Pinkerton Agent Kate Warene helps Echo on her quest as she seeks to end the terror of a serial killer preying on women; this predator violently rips out their throats, and leaves behind a double eagle gold coin in their bodies.

In the present the Lincoln Corporation hires archeologist Dr. Carrie Norton to determine if there is any historical treasure that would prevent them from building high priced condos on a piece of land they own in Manhattan. No one is more surprised than Carrie is when the corpse of a perfectly preserved black man is found below ground with his throat ripped out and a gold coin in his body. As in 1863 many women have recently been murdered with their throats ripped apart and a double eagle gold coin left behind in their bodies. Carrie sees a connection although she does not understand how or what, but investigates learning much about her bloodlines as she does re a world that should not exist outside of literature and the movies. She allies with a creature who cannot be real as they work as a team to end the serial killings haunting New York.

Lee Hunt writes a bold different version of the vampire thriller in which he builds on Stoker's mythos and prime protagonist with the transference to Manhattan past and present. The chapters rotate between 1863 and today so that the audience can compare two generations of vampire hunters as well as a sly killing machine readily adapting to any environs. Although Echo is more of a professional hunter, she and the tyro amateur Carrie share much in common as both are brave, independent and obstinate yet quite different especially in their respective objective beyond the outcome of ending the terror. THE VAMPIRE OF NEW YORK is an enjoyable horror thriller, as no one not even Giuliani will want to bring it on after sunset.

Wild Angel
Sasha Lord
9780451222855 $6.99

In twelfth century France, Scottish lord Mangan O'Bannon sees the deaths from the senseless battle that he led because his monarch wanted to rule some French territory. Disgusted and feeling guilt, he rides away from the battlefield, his country, and his inheritance. Thirteen months later, the Abbott of St. Ignacio Monastery sends Brother Mangan on a mission to regain a stolen relic after telling the monk he is not ready to pledge because he must first forgive himself before God forgives him.

Sixteen years old Ashleigh travels with her parents to see her Scottish mom's ailing mother, who disavowed her daughter for marrying a gypsy. Ashleigh has never met her aristocratic maternal grandmother. However, soldiers and peasants kill her father and group rape her mother before killing her; Ashleigh hides behind a plate device used in gypsy shows to vanish in thin air. When the killers leave, Ashleigh kills the remaining peasant and vows further vengeance.

Mangan saves the life of a half drowned Ashleigh. Exhausted they sleep in each other's arms. When she awakens she uses the plate to hide from him. Ashleigh plays tricks on the villagers who were with the soldiers. The superstitious villagers fear God punishes them for what happened to the gypsies. They beg Mangan to help them gain God's forgiveness though Mangan thinks it is a human trickster. As Mangan and Ashleigh keep running into each other, they fall in love, but she has to overcome her thirst for vengeance and he his guilt.

The lead couple is distinctive protagonists as he is a warrior who refuses to use his sword any more and she has killed a peasant out of vengeance and uses Gypsy "magical" devices to cause demonic havoc. Although imprisoned and severely battered with probably a concussion and a crushed finger, readers will doubt Mangan will want to make love with the grieving teen. Still their escapades as a unique duet make for a fine medieval romance.

Across The Face Of The World
Russell Kirkpatrick
Orbit (Hachette)
9780316003414 $7.99

In a remote small village in the Kingdom of Faltha, teenager Leith lives with his mother Indrett and his crippled brother Hal. Mahnum, his father, has not been home for over two years. To their initial pleasant surprise, Mahnum comes home only to tell his wife and two children that he just escaped form two years of imprisonment and they must travel to the capital Instruere to warn the king. He explains that neighboring Dhauria led by the alleged Undying Man infamously known as the Destroyer has begun his nefarious scheme to avenge his exile from Dona Mihst by the Most High with an invasion of Faltha.

However, before they can begin their journey, warriors abduct Indrett and Mahnum before burning down their home with the two children inside. However the village chieftain Haufuth saves the lads and arranges for everyone to assume they died in the inferno. The trio meets with elderly farmer Kurr to discuss whether to rescue the parents or warn the king. Hal insists the rescue is the way to go because kidnapping a Dharia warrior to take with them to the capital is the proof they need to convince the throne. Stella a female teen joins the heroic group as they begin their quest.

This is a quest book but quite different in many ways than most fantasy sagas as much of the tale occurs on the mundane plane rather than the otherworldly realm. Readers will feel they are part of the traveling team as the vivid descriptions of the geography are some of the best around although the pace is slower than most quest thrillers as Russell Kirkpatrick insures realism supersedes non stop action. Each of the prime cast members especially the teens are fully developed and show signs of maturing change during the trek. The first book in The Fire of Heaven trilogy is a fascinating opening gamut that sets the stage for the rest of the saga.

Debatable Space
Philip Palmer
9780316018920 $12.99

Lena is traveling solo in deep space glad to get away from the perfection of thirty-first century Earth when the computer implanted in her brain informs her that a pirate ship is heading her way. The leader of the pirates Flanagan wins the battle and boards her ship telling her she is a hostage to be used in negotiations with Cheo the dictator of Earth. He knows of the special relationship that exists between the two of them and intends to exploit that.

Lena knows that when it looks hopeless, the Cheo will let her get killed. Flanagan has plans and one includes the liberation of his homeworld Cambria a slave colony ruled by Doppelganger Robots who are inhabited by the minds of the elite on Earth. He has a plan that would allow the crew to disconnect Cambrina from the universal web. From there he convinces the pirates from all over the galaxy to help him disconnect the beacons which would result in isolating Earth and freeing the empire. The only problem is the empire has warships in the millions and the pirates have ships in the six digit range.

Philip Palmer writes a terrific space opera and DEBATABLE SPACE would make a great marquee movie in the tradition of Star Wars. Alien races co-exist with humanity and the aliens are major characters so readers feel as if they actually exist. Readers ride an orbital roller coaster that takes us to various planets in the galaxy, making the audience realize how enslaved the human race is if they don't live on Earth.

Evil For Evil
K.J. Parker
9780316003391 $12.99

The Mexentine army found the invasion of Eremian easy; they won the war without much resistance. However, the occupation is another matter. Insurgents like that led by Miel Ducas, who prefers resistance liberators, is causing problems for the occupiers. Their solution is to take it out on the common people as killing them is easy and the Mezentines are quite proud of their ability to kill and destroy.

Walled cities like Civitas Vadanis cannot survive the onslaught. It's leader Duke Valens is troubled with how to save his people; fleeing seems the only responsible solution, but that will leave many dead even if the enemy army fails to find them, an unlike outcome. Of course there is that insane exiled Mexentine engineering genius Ziani Vaatzes, whose killing machines frighten even his vicious people as they are weapons of mass destruction; his latest one may be capable of destroying the world or protect a city from invaders. He is joined by another engineering genius Daurenja in a partnership that means hell for everyone else. Meanwhile the worlds a stage for all the key players are coming together in holy matrimony and other stately alliances that foster betrayals caused by love and worse emotions.

The first Engineering tale (DEVICES AND DESIRES) is a complex somewhat convoluted thriller; however book two, EVIL FOR EVIL, makes the predecessor look like a simple Dick and Jane adventure as the plot has become even more complicated. The above is too simplified of a description of all the goings-on as the key players return still filled with a gloom and doom inevitable outlook. K.J. Parker uses satire and humor to expand the plot; for instance the Mexentine people and its bureaucracy ironically remain disengaged from their war fighters except for the technology sector. Intricate, multifaceted, and still way over the top of the stratosphere, fans who read the first Engineer's tale will appreciate the middle segment and look forward to how K.J. Parker ties together the antics of a cast that act like some sort of DNA blending of Rove, Machiavelli, and Rumsford.

Another One Bites The Dust
Jennifer Rardin
9780316020572 $12.99

After defeating an ancient demon in ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY, CIA field operative Jaz Parks and her vampire partner Vayl have forged a special squad with their new associates they met on the last case. Millennium old Cassandra the seer, technological genius Bergman, and sensitive Cole have joined Jaz and Vayl in hunting down evil doers.

Their current assignment is to prevent an invincible Chinese vampire, Chien-Lung from starting WW III. Bergman is especially sensitive to this malevolent being as Chien stole one of his gizmos from the army's White Sands Missile Range, a body armor that has made him unbeatable when combined with his supernatural abilities. Finding this cold blooded killer will not be easy as they also must dispatch the soul stealing Reavers who want to snack on the team members especially Jaz while she goes undercover as a belly dancer in Corpus Christie. They also know somehow malevolent vampire Edward "The Raptor" Samos, who believe he should rule the world, is somewhere in the mix

The second Jaz urban fantasy mystery thriller is an exciting tale that grips the audience from the onset. The heroine forges her new team into a cohesive fighting and bickering until, seeks to defeat the evil ones, belly dances at a winter festival and learns more about her relationship as Vayl's avhar than she wants to know. With romance, espionage, and mystery enhancing the fantasy, sub-genre fans will appreciate the adventures and missteps of Jaz and her mates.

Grounds for Murder
Sandra Balzo
Severn House
9780727865496 $27.95

Fortyish Maggy Thorsen owns a struggling coffee shop in Brookhills, Wisconsin. The divorced Maggy attends a coffee convention to see if she can find new blends and pick up business tips. Instead she finds the murdered corpse of her prime competitor Marvin LaRoche, owner of the HotWired coffeehouse chain.

Maggy is concerned that the police will suspect she killed her business rival. She begins investigating by asking questions of his wife and an activist. Maggy is shocked that the grieving widow does not seem to be mourning her loss; as stunning the activist makes it clear the world is better off with Marvin dead as he abused foreign coffee growers. Her inquiry is not percolating anywhere near a solution.

Maggy's second "grounds" for an amateur sleuth investigation (see UNCOMMON GROUNDS) is an entertaining whodunit though it is unclear why she assumes the cops would hone in on her as the killer. For the most part the story line is fun to follow especially when Maggy interrogates the two suspects (in her mind that is). When the plot spins into coffeemaking theory it loses some of its flavor. Still cozy fans will enjoy drinking a cup of coffee or two as they follow the exploits of Maggy trying to identify the killer.

Death Song
Michael McGarrity
9780525950363 $24.95

New Mexico law enforcement at all levels is stunned with the murders of one of their own and the victim's spouse. Someone assassinated rookie deputy sheriff Tim Riley of Lincoln County and gunned down the man's wife in their Santa Fe home.

Although he has one more month on the job before he retires, Santa Fe Police Chief Kevin Kearney is actively leading the homicide investigation of the wife's murder that occurred in his jurisdiction. His son Lincoln County Sheriff Office Sergeant Clayton Istee is looking into the ambush murder of Riley. He takes it personally as he trained the fortyish officer and sent him out solo on that fatal assignment. Father and son team up as they find a possible link to the killings of two women in Albuquerque. As they follow the deadly clues, they soon find them embroiled with hardened thugs trafficking in drugs.

DEATH SONG is a terrific police procedural with double the fun as father and son work together to solve the homicides. Kevin is at his best as he refuses to coast into retirement with a dead cop case unsolved. He also relishes working with his offspring. Fans of the series know that Michael McGarrity always provides a strong New Mexico mystery; newcomers will seek the back list when retirement was a long way off for the hero.

The Seduction of the Crimson Rose
Lauren Willig
9780525950332 $24.95

Graduate student Eloise Kelly continues her research into the Napoleonic era Vaughn family with information on the tangential Mary Alsworthy. Mary wishes the best for her younger sister Letty who inadvertently fell in love and married her sibling's betrothed (see THE DECEPTION OF THE EMERALD RING). Mary finds social events quite boring especially loathing those who pity her as they all point to her living off her brother-in-law's charity. Thus when spymaster Lord Vaughn asks her to help him uncover uncover French spy the Black Tulip, she accepts as their target obsesses over dark-haired young women.

Mary hooks the interest of the Black Tulip, who sees her as more than just another flower petal to toy with. However, he wants much more from Mary, which upsets Lord Vaughn who finds he is falling in love with his agent.

The fourth Pink Carnation tale is an exciting historical espionage romance that fans of the series will enjoy as two secondary players (Lord Vaughn was in THE MASQUE OF THE BLACK TULIP) return as the stars. The story line is fast paced especially when the events focus on the nineteenth century. When Eloise intrudes with her modern day issues, the story line decelerates as she feels like an unneeded interloper. Still readers will enjoy this fine romantic suspense.

L.A. Outlaws
T. Jefferson Parker
9780525950554 $25.95

In Los Angeles a woman claims to be Allison Murrieta, a descendant of the legendary some say notorious nineteenth century robber. Allison insists her relative was Robin Hood of the Wild West while his victims over a century ago insisted he was a cold-blooded killer. Allison emulates her ancestor by wearing a mask to hide her real identity of eighth-grade history teacher and mother of three boys, Suzanne Jones, when she robs from those she dubs as avaricious; giving part of her loot to charity.

A media and public darling who doe not want her secret identity exposed; her latest caper is to steal diamonds from Bull, a known criminal. This time however, she gets more than she wants when she observes Bull's prime killer Lupercio cold bloodedly murder gangland-style his boss' enemies. As she tries to flee the crime scene serendipitously, L.A. sheriff's deputy Charles Hood catches her and demands she testify that she witnessed Lupercio's murdering spree at the same time Bull wants his diamonds returned to him so he sends his top gun to retrieve them anyway he can.

This is an exciting single sitting read that grips the audience from Allison's first heist until the final confrontation when the thug, the cop, the media, and the heroine come together. The cast is deep and powerful enhancing a strong plot that will have readers rooting for this modern day female Robin Hood as she moonlights by robbing from greedy bullheaded hoodlums while teaching American History in the daytime.

John Lescroart
9780525950394 $26.95

When lawyer Charlie Bowen suddenly vanishes Attorney Dismas Hardy agrees to complete his missing peer's cases. He assumes this will prove easy until he realizes that Charlie was about to file an appeal of an obvious murder conviction. In 2005, Evan Scholler was convicted of killing former SEAL Ron Nolan in spite of being defended by top lawyer Aaron Washburn.

Hardy learns from Police Detective Abe Glitsky that the two men met in Iraq where Scholler was serving as a lieutenant in a National Guard unit and Nolan was a contract guard working Allstrong Security. Back in America Nolan seduced Scholler's ex-girlfriend and caused an incident that left Scholler brain damaged and much of his team dead. Scholler publicly vowed to kill his former friend. The appeal looks hopeless until they begin to uncover proof that Nolan was involved in killing other Americans.

BETRAYAL is a fascinating timely thriller that is incredible when it looks into the legal accountability of contract guards in a war zone and into the post traumatic stress including survivor guilt of returning veterans especially those suffering physical injuries. While a legal thriller, interestingly the court room drama though well written takes a back seat on the docket to the Iraq War legal and medical issues. John Lescroart is in top form with the return of Dismas Hardy, who is terrific in this tale as he enhances the best segues, which occur ironically when he is off page.

The Wannoshay Cycle
Michael Jasper
Five Star
9781594146619 $25.95

They came from a dying world whose sun was being extinguished and until they could find another planet to sustain them, they dug tunnels with their claws and lived underground. Finally astronomers found earth; the Mother Ship and a flotilla head for specific landing sites but they lose contact with the main ship and land in the Midwest and Canada. In a country fearful of illegal aliens and terrorists, the outer space aliens are met with trepidation.

The government tries to integrate them into mainstream society using them as cheap labor; but when two explosions attributed to the aliens occur they are moved into internment camps and labor farms. The aliens are ill from drug addiction and a "soul sickness" that drives them to kill and if something is not done it could spread to humans. A group of sympathetic humans travel to the Mother Ship in Iowa City in hopes they can do something to help the Wannoshay and give them a chance to heal and have a good life.

If readers see the way the aliens are treated similar to the way Hitler treated the Jews and slave owners treated the slaves, the author has gotten his point across. The aliens are very different than humans with claws for hands to dig and tentacles instead of hair and people fear those that are different. Many people rise above their instinctual fears and go out of their way to help, as everyday people show heart, compassion, and the ability to see that accepting differences is good for everyone. Michael Jasper has written an enthralling encounter of the third kind.

N. D. Hansen-Hill
Five Star
9781594146435 $25.95

With all that is going on in Emma Rathburn's life, it is a wonder she has remained radically unchanged. She is a medium psychic who sees ghosts and once in a while a horde of rats invade her home causing mass destruction and chaos for "Rat" to clean up afterward. One night a man appears on her front steps; a frightened Emma calls the police, but when she hangs up she realizes the man outside stalking her is a ghost.

Police officer Harley Chalmers answers the call and hears but does not see a dog in her house. Emma knows it is her beloved pet that dies a week ago. When he leaves her home, Harley sees a ghost he recognizes as Terrence Edward Forsby, who he arrested last year for murdering his son. A vicious killer in life, he tries to strangle Emma. Harley witnesses her struggles; he sees the marks on her throat. Emma and her ghostbuster friends along with Harley fight to keep her alive as the malevolent spirit keeps attacking her.

ErRatic is a fantastic horror thriller filled with an eccentric cast (what else would you expect from a psychic, ghostbusters, and a dog who finds the bones of dead people). Adding to the mix is Emma's stepbrother, a cop who loves, loathes, and mostly fears her. Emma is a delightful lead character who holds the tale together as she accepts her extraordinary skills as being ordinary and normal. The graphic scenes are not for the squeamish as this is not pea soup being fired at open wounds. N.D. Hansen-Hill provides an entertaining powerful ghost story that will gain entry to fans' keeper shelf.

Record of Wrongs
Andy Straka
Five Star
9781594146527 $25.95

Former SUNY-Binghamton campus security guard Quentin Price spent almost a decade in a maximum security prison in Upstate New York for the rape and murder of student Gwen Crawford; their link being the library where she worked nights and he locked it up. Finally thanks to his persistent lawyer Christine Shackleford, DNA testing proved he did not commit the crime he was convicted of. The State of New York gives him forty dollars gate money and a bus ticket back to the county he was convicted in, Broome. While he was behind bars his mom died leaving him her bible that the Warden finally gives him as his mother's stipulation was upon his release; she always believed in her son.

Waiting outside to give him a lift is a face he will never forget; Christine's mother haunted his trial insuring his conviction. Apparently the incestuous Upstate New York prison system works as Ruth Crawford knows the head correctional officer who arranged their meeting. Ruth wants Quentin to find the real killer of her daughter, who brought sorrow and grief to both their families and so far got away with it. At the same time, New York State Deputy Attorney General Bollinger assigns NYPD homicide detective Garnell Harris to investigate the Crawford murder and some recent homicides that look similar. Harris and Quentin will meet on their respective inquiries.

Leaving Frank Pavlicek (see A WITNESS ABOVE) in Charlottesville, Virginia, Andy Straka provides a fast-paced stand alone crime thriller. The story line is fast-paced working along two COLD QUARRY investigations led by Price and Harris respectively ultimately converging. Although the ending seems too miraculous especially the salvation of an odious dark avenging angel, fans will enjoy this interesting whodunit although the sum of Price and Harris fails to equal the whole Pavlicek sleuthing.

Without Mercy
Toni L.P. Kelner
Five Star
9781594144783 $25.95

Boston based freelance celebrity author Tilda Harper recently wrote a where are they now article on the former cast members of '70s sitcom Kissing Cousins. Her article published in prestigious Entertain Me magazine focuses on the "Curse of the Kissing Cousins"; as two former cast members starring respectively as Brad the jock and Damon the freak recently died. When paranoid fanboy Vincent Peters claims a third cast member starring as Sherry the cheerleader was murdered and that a serial killer is bumping off the cousins, Tilda takes him seriously as he is her best tipster when he insists Mercy Ashford is next as they are being killed in chronological order.

Tilda's first investigation into the cousins led to her easily finding everyone except Mercy, who walked off a movie set and disappeared without a trace; she has never picked up her rerun checks. However, this time going through her boxes of 1970s fan junk Tilda considers a different approach to finding the missing cousin who was her idol when the reporter was a teen. Tilda is unaware that someone is watching her moves following her to New York because she is the best chance of finding the fourth victim.

WITHOUT MERCY is an enjoyable journalistic investigative tale starring a likable heroine. Her behavior towards Vincent and her sister shows she is a caring person; her actions towards an obnoxious last Entertain me reporter is amusing and on target. Fans who appreciate the Scooby Doo mysteries will enjoy this fun homage to Geeks and Freaks.

The Tongue Merchant
Lance Hawvermale
Five Star
9781594146608 $25.95

In the Caribbean the US Coast Guard cutter the Sentinel is boarding a drifting yacht, Lady Lynn Rob. The Coast Guard Executive officer on board Lieutenant Marcella Paraizo knows the vessel is owned by her friend heiress Isabella "Bella" Murillo. She prays her pal is not on board, but her payers are not answered as someone viciously murdered her friend. The Coast Guard takes the Lady Lynn Rob to nearby Hozumkur on St. Nore.

After learning from the lead police investigator Sergeant Kyle Straker that the killer cut out the deaf Bella's tongue, Marcella is unable to remain on the sidelines. She begins to investigate alienating the cops, the Coast Guard and murderous thugs as she island hops the West Indies following nefarious clues that keep pointing towards either Bella's spouse, her brother, or the trustees running her late father's corporation De Casals International. Although avarice goes a long way as a motive it is the tongue that disturbs Marcella who thinks the killer is someone else perhaps the violent environmental group Earth Liberation Front, better known as ELF.

Although one wonders why an amateur in most cases including this one feels compulsive obsessive behavior to sleuth, fans will appreciate this Caribbean adventure. Marcella is a terrific protagonist as she must know what happened to Bella in spite of risking her life and career and that of Kyle, who allows her to get away with too much; this reviewer agrees with Kyle's partner that she should be arrested, but then we would have no story line. Her efforts hopping from island to island make for a fun thriller filled with two wonderful late twists that will leave the audience fully entertained by this enjoyable amateur sleuth tale.

Macbeth's Niece
Peg Herring
Five Star
9781594146503 $25.95

Following the death of her husband Kenneth, widow Kenna realizing her outspoken daughter will never find a wealthy mate dumps Tessa on her late husband's brother Thane Macbeth MacGindlaech so that there is one less mouth the feed. In Inverness Castle in Moray, Tessa struggles to keep quiet so as to not alienate Macbeth's difficult wife Lady Gruoch.

A fourth son Englishman Lord Jeffrey Brixton arrives with a bull that Macbeth bought from the Brixton estate. Whereas everyone believes Jeffrey is a non threatening guest, Tessa thinks otherwise. When she overhears Jeffrey plot with her maternal Uncle Biote Cawder to over throw the aging King Duncan, she plans to tell her paternal Uncle Macbeth. Instead Jeffrey catches her and takes her to England where she meets his kindhearted but dying sister-in-law Eleanor, who takes her and some cousins to London for a season. As Macbeth rises to the Scottish throne, Tessa is married to someone who rejects her. When she learns Jeffrey died in Scotland she races home to learn the truth as she knows he is the one she loves.

Peg Herring shows plenty of chutzpah and insanity to tell the tale of MACBETH'S NIECE as she describes the ambitious Lady and the torn Lord with obvious comparisons to the Bard; she does so in homage as only a high school English teacher could. However, the author wisely moves her heroine out of Scotland rather quickly so that she distances her tale from the original. Tessa is a fascinating courageous heroine while Jeffrey is more enigmatic. However, it is the support cast who steals the show whether they come from Shakespeare or Herring as they add depth to a fine medieval romance filled with "Double, Double, toil and trouble" and love.

Pamela Nowak
Five Star
9781594146374 $25.95

In 1876 thirty something women's suffragette activist Sarah Donovan is elated as she obtains a position as a telegrapher for the Kansas Pacific line. She joins the local chapter of the Colorado Suffrage Association. When some children wanting to collect the bounty on stray dogs, shoot the pet of two little girls Kate and Molly, Sarah intercedes too late as Biscuit is shot dead. Making matters worse, her Good Samaritan deed took her away from her job for a moment leading to a telegram she was to deliver to Daniel Petterman the undertaker being gone and so is the body he is to bury.

The two kids introduce their hero Sarah to their widower father Daniel Petterman the undertaker. Sarah and Daniel are attracted to one another, but he is a prim and proper person so will not act on his desires. Meanwhile at work Sarah suffers from male chauvinism accentuated by a peer Frank, who wants her albeit in the kitchen. She also has problems with several CSA females who do frown on her relationship with the undertaker and his children.

This is an interesting look at Reconstruction Era Colorado mostly through the eyes of a woman trying to make it in a man's world. The secondary cast is strong as they either behave with contempt, jealousy or admiration of Sarah. While Daniel's courtship is entertaining as he is as stiff as those he buries. Although the ending seems off kilter, readers will appreciate Pamela Nowak's entertaining historical

Final Winter
Brendan Dubois
Five Star
9781594146169 $25.95

The men meet in a back room to discuss the best way to approach the terrorist assault on America just days after 9/11. The CIA suit mentions NASA as the prototype of what they can do with the nation including the president and Congress in shock and thirsting for vengeance. In the late 1950s, NASA was formed because the Soviets were kicking our butt in space. He suggests the atmosphere is similar in the USA to create a top secret Tiger Team to take out the terrorists preferably over there instead of here.

However, the mission planners like that of NASA failed to think beyond the short term goal as the only enemy in their minds is radical Islamists from the Middle East. However, Tiger Team draftee NYPD Detective Brian Doyle has proof that an American is planning a pandemic anthrax attack that could kill millions. In spite of Oklahoma City, Brian finds official obstacles and soon betrayal at the highest levels of government in his way to prevent the horrific tragedy that will make 9/11 look insignificant.

The Tiger team concept seems genuine with all that the Feds secretly did just after 9/11 that has come out in the last couple of years. However, having for the most part one man on each side of the war plan and execute/oversee executions seems impossible as the anthrax plan is extremely complex. Still this is an entreating cautionary thriller (after a rather slow first few chapters that establish the teams) in which those with oversight authority fail to keep vigilance on those with power over DOD, espionage agencies and HSD. Making the concept even more plausible is to think of the motive to visit Ashcroft in the hospital.

Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
9780060545529 $24.95

In 1135 Abrielle of Harrington is extremely proud that King Henry II is recognizing the valor of her late father, a loyal knight who fought in support of the royal on many battlefields including the Crusades. Ironically, he died from a duel of honor in England. Abrielle hopes her stepfather receives his due to for his service.

Meanwhile many aristocrats want to court the beautiful likable Abrielle, who is expected to have a large dowry. However, at the ceremony bestowing posthumously honors on her dad, the king snubs her stepfather. At the gala, Abrielle accepts only one dance with Scotsman Raven Seabern, but concludes the hunk pities her so she decides to avoid him though attracted to him. He feels the same way about her, but since she mostly ignores him he assumes she does not want him. When he rescues her from a rape, she flees from Raven while agreeing to accept a marriage to her attempted rapist Desmond de Marle as he has the money her family needs.

The last medieval romance by the late legendary Kathleen Woodiwiss is an interesting tale that brings to life mid twelfth century England especially the court intrigue. The story line is fast-paced with the audience rooting for the good guy, honorable Raven while hissing at the caricature of evil Desmond. However, Abrielle is a bit of a disappointment as her behavior seems illogical with her egotistical belief she must save her family by marrying a beast. Still fans of Ms. Woodiwiss will appreciate EVERLASTING as a final tribute to a great influential author.

Eleanor vs. Ike
Robin Gerber
9780061373213 $13.95

In 1952, the Democratic Party knows it is in trouble with little hope for a surprise victory at the presidential level. Truman is unpopular and his war does not help matters. Even worse the republicans are running war hero "I like Ike", who vows to get the troops out of Korea if elected, as expected.

Thing turns bleaker for the in party when their candidate suddenly dies. Desperate they turn to the popular widow of their most popular twentieth century president, Eleanor as her first name is as recognizable as Ike is. Two icons to battle for the White House with Eleanor pledging to run an issues only positive campaign although she takes shots at McCarthyism as practiced by Ike's running mate Nixon and wants an end to the divisiveness and destructiveness of racism, which means she will be the first Democrat in ages to lose the Solid South and no Democrat has won the election without this support.

Robin Gerber has written several biographies on Eleanor Roosevelt, which she uses frequently in this entertaining alternate historical political thriller. The story line is fun to follow especially when the audience willingly traipses across the country with the former First Lady. A plot to assassinate her adds suspense, but is nothing else as the fun in this tale is the race between the two legends.

Too Pretty To Die
Susan McBride
9780060846015 $6.99

Beautiful Miranda DuBois is an anchor on a Dallas Television Station but to improve her looks she went to cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Sonja Madhavi for work on her eyes and her mouth. The results are a drooping mouth and an eye twitch, which in turn tainted her career and caused her to be ousted by the Caviar Club. In a drunken rage she crashes a party at Delaney Armstrong's house where Dr. Sonja is giving Botox injections.

She fires her gun but the bullet hits a picture frame and the weapon is taken away from her. Andy Kendricks, who avoids being a society girl even though her mother is mega-wealthy, takes Miranda home, puts her to bed on the couch and shuts off the computer. The next morning she returns to Miranda only to find her dead. The police think it is a suicide but Andy believes differently. The computer is missing, the gun that killed her was the one left behind at the party and Miranda was angry not despondent. When her mother gets involved trying to prove it was murder and her best friend, a reporter cajoles her into investigating what really happened, Andy has no choice but to figure out what occurred; unaware that she is putting herself in harm's way.

TOO PRETTY TO DIE is a delightful Debutante Dropout mystery with a social message concerning the nation's addiction to beauty at all cost. The protagonist of the humorous and charming cozy isn't interested in beauty or her standing in society which makes her seem much more mature than many of the other characters. Susan McBride provides a fantastic amateur sleuth tale sprinkled with humor yet with a deep underlying question on wasting medical funds on the frivolous.

Hello, Doggy
Elaine Fox
9780061175695 $6.99

Adviser to women on what men want from them, Keenan James is extremely popular; his weekly roundtable discussion show is a hit. However, he is unhappy that he must work with a co-author, some reticent idiotic shrink on his next book. Almost as bad is that his mom dumped her mutt pampered Barbra Streisand on him.

Dr. Tory Hoffstra is despondent that her publisher demands she work with Keenan James if she wants her book printed. She thinks the handsome host is a fake who takes advantage of insecure females. To determine whether she wants to work with him or forget publication, Tory gets a seat at his table. They are instantly attracted to one another, but she realizes she is the fraud while he cannot believe he has fallen in love and worse asks Barbra for advice.

Although the author is a Fox, no one does canine matchmaking romances as affectionately and amusingly as Elaine Fox does (see BEWARE OF DOUG). HELLO, DOGGY is a lighthearted romp starring a strong lead couple, and solid support cast, and Barbra. As the lead couple's relationship changes, there interest in helping lonely females continues unabated; this serious undertone makes this overall jocular frolic into a strong contemporary romance.

The Accidental Vampire
Lynsay Sands
9780061229688 $6.99

New to the world of the night, THE ACCIDENTAL VAMPIRE Elvi Black struggles to adjust. She mourns her inability to get a tan, eat food especially pizza, and sleep in a bed as coffins are not particularly conducive to anything but the sleep of the dead. Her friends are worried about her adjustment so though she tried to hide her change, they know and try to hook her up with a male vampire though where to find one seems difficult as the matchmaking services don't mention anyone with a bite. Her neighbors place a personal ad seeking a vampiric hunk as a companion to a female nightcrawler.

Taken aback with the ad that they assume is an inane joke by a mortal, the Vampire Council sends agent Victor Argeneau to investigate and if necessary kill the individual. When he meets Elvi he knows he found his soulmate and much more as shockingly she has a town filled with humans willing to die to keep her safe even as someone else who read the ad wants to teach her one particular aspect of being a vamp, a stake through the heart.

This a terrific amusing supernatural romantic suspense due to the desperate antics of the beleaguered heroine who feels like a newborn without adult supervision trying to hide what she has become. Victor is a strong courageous individual who besides mentoring the rookie risks his soul to keep his forever mate safe. The support cast enhances the overall tale especially the townsfolk who add a unique twist and the slayer. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Lynsay Sand's enjoyable tale and seek her previous winning vampire romances (see VAMPIRES ARE FOREVER and BITE ME IF YOU CAN).

A Seduction in Scarlet
Sara Bennett
9780061336348 $5.99

Lady Portia Ellerslie is bored with living virtuously on a pedestal; however, much of the country admires the widow of "the country's hero" and besides she is a key advisor to Queen Victoria. Thus any scandal she embroils in could harm Her Royal Highness.

Ellerslie needs release so she wears a veil and visits the notorious Aphrodite's Club. The brothel's owner asks Lord Marcus Worthorne to pleasure her new client. Marcus agrees, but Ellerslie is stunned to have this rogue attend to her. When she was seventeen, she wanted him, but he ignored her. However, following their tryst he wants more; so does she, but she must consider her friend the Queen before her desires.

The latest Aphrodite's Victorian romance (see MISTRESS IN SCANDAL and LESSONS IN SEDUCTIONS) is a delightful tale starring two likable protagonists falling in love, but first he must find out who his secret lover is. The story line is fast-paced as the couple cannot resist one another. Although a late spin involving a plot against the Queen is unnecessary but well written, sub-genre fans will appreciate Sara Bennett escorting readers back to the brothel that hopefully has many more nineteenth century romantic scandals to tell fans.

Confessions at Midnight
Jacquie D'Alessandro
9780061231391 $6.99

When the Ladies Literary Society of London selects as its latest novel "Memoirs of a Mistress", Viscountess Carolyn Turner thinks nothing of it until she reads the titillating content that heats her as much or more than her late spouse did although they worked the sheets. Carolyn considers an affair might cool her need.

Lord Daniel Sutton has loved Carolyn for years, but hid his feelings from her as she was married. With the proper time passing since her husband died, Daniel decides to seduce the widow into being his mistress as marriage is not for him. She accepts his offer believing she can control her emotions while satisfying her body. As they make love, they fall in love, but it takes a killer trying to murder Carolyn that makes him realize he wants her safe as his wife.

The return of the fun loving Ladies Literary Society (see SLEEPLESS AT MIDNIGHT) will have Regency romance fans up at night reading their latest escapades especially that of member Carolyn. The relationship between the lead couple is fun to follow even more than Memoirs of a Mistress. Although the late suspense awakens Daniel to what he could lose, this seems unnecessary as Jacquie D'Alessandro moves readers and club members from Frankenstein to erotica.

The Wicked Ways of a Duke
Laura Lee Guhrke
9780061143618 $6.99

In 1894 London impoverished seamstress Prudence Bosworth dreams of Prince Charming sweeping her off her aching feet. She has no hope of her fantasy turning into reality until she inherits a fortune from a father she never knew existed. However, the will contains a stipulation; to obtain the money Prudence must be married or get nothing.

Having no prospects and though she would prefer to marry for love, Prudence believes that Duke Rhys De Winter is a kind person, who would treat her nice. However, she has only seen the Duke perform his one kindness of the century; instead he is a rogue who needs money so he willingly agrees to wed the naive heiress. They marry and everything is great until she learns the truth about her scoundrel spouse, who must persuade his wife that he loves her.

This is an engaging Victorian romance that sub-genre fans will enjoy due to the changing relationship between the lead couple. She loves and respects him while he likes and disrespects her; that changes when he falls in love while she detests him. Fans will appreciate this late nineteenth century Guys and Dolls romance.

One Night With You
Sophie Jordan
9780061339264 $5.99

Since her husband died, his family led by her brother-in-law treats Lady Jane Guthrie at best like a poor relative but for the most part as a servant. Jane chaperones her fickle nieces and puts up with the outrageous abuse of her mean spirited sister-in-law.

Jane sneaks out to attend a courtesan masked ball although she knows her behavior is scandalous as she does not belong there. To her misfortune, her in-law catches her, but to her good fortune, Lord Seth Rutledge intercedes. When they were younger she loved Seth, but he chose her sister, who rejected him as he was title-less with no prospects. Seth has returned from the war angry at society that now finds him acceptable. Only his beloved blind sister can reach him until he meets the masked siren, who vanishes on him. When he next encounters his disguised minx, she seduces him although she fears his reaction if ever finds out that his childhood friend is his secret paramour.

This terrific historical romance star two walking wounded as Jane has not recovered from being a lord's wife to a second class citizen and Seth suffers from post traumatic stress disorder caused by his combat experience. The story line is fast-paced while also containing neat unexpected but plausible spins. Fans will enjoy Sophie Jordan's charming nineteenth century romance.

No Girl Needs a Husband Seven Days a Week
Nina Foxx
9780061335273 $13.95

Although their outlooks on life especially relationships with men are radically different, Marie, Mai and Kennedy remain close friends. The trio agrees a husband can be a good companion, but not half as good as each other. They also agree that a spouse can be good at home repairs, but you can always hire someone to do it right the first time. Finally a husband can be a good lover (hopefully that is), but so can a boyfriend and you do not need either seven days a week trysting.

However they each have specific differing requirements for what they expect of a mate. Marie prefers a househusband to clean the house, make the meals, and take care of their children while she brings in the money. Mai prefers being a trophy wife of an affluent corporate executive. Kennedy the executive believes no husband makes the best spouse; her itch will be handled by her hunk of the moment. That is fine but what will the prospective husband have to say to each of these females.

This African American chick lit tale is a delightful look at relationships from the perspective of the three fully developed protagonists. The story line combines humor especially the discussions between the ladies re the life in the men in their lives; yet also provides a deep look at modern issues that cripple marriages like cheating and taking for granted you partner. Nina Foxx writes a profound contemporary tale that makes the case a girl needs a caring, faithful and dependable mate 24/7 or either get a dog or not at all.

Heat of the Night
Sylvia Day
9780061231032 $13.95

In the ongoing war between the Dream Guardians and the Nightmares on the twilight plane, Captain Connor Bruce leads his Elite Warriors who bring erotic pleasures to mortal females. However, he has recently found out an inconvenient truth about the Elders; they apparently lied to him and others.

He wants to know the truth, which means he must break into the Elders' Temple where he expects to uncover their secrets. However, Connor soon learns more than he bargained for and fears for his former peer friend, Aidan Cross, who left the Dream Guardians and Twilight time to live with Lyssa Bates the human he loves (see PLEASURES OF THE NIGHT). Connor manages to reach real world California, but struggles with everyday living. When he meets Lyssa's best friend, veterinary assistant and single mom Stacey Daniels, he is stunned as he begins to understand why Aidan crossed over. Whereas Stacey who was upset over her deadbeat ex boyfriend taking their child Justin skiing, which she cannot afford due to the lack of child support, she is even more shocked by her attraction to Connor, but though both fight it they cannot resist the lure of love.

This entertaining romantic fantasy stars two likable lead characters and a fully developed complex Day world (ironically Twilight time). The story line is fast-paced especially after the lead couple meets. Although it would help to read the nocturnal pleasures of Aidan and Lyssa first to better comprehend the realm where he comes from, fans will appreciate HEAT OF THE NIGHT as the hero walks out of her dreams turning her real life into a heated fantasy.

Thomas Holland
Simon & Schuster
9780743280013 $25.00

In Hawaii Dr. Robert Dean Keel McKinley knows his work as the director of the Department of the Army's Central Identification Laboratory can prove gruesome and depressing as he works with human remains identifying who he or she was. However, he also realizes how rewarding it is to provide closure for loved ones.

Currently, he is frustrated with his ignorant bureaucratic supervisor Colonel Boschet who believes regulations and guides are constitutionally binding so when Kel gets a Vietnamese Era case, he jumps at the opportunity to escape from the imbecile "botch it". Native American Jimmy Lee Tenkiller vanished just before his tour of duty in Vietnam was to end; in 1984 he was declared KIA (Killed in Action); however apparently in 2007 his remains have just been handed over to American authorities by Vietnamese officials looking for further cooperation between the nations. Kel is assigned the task of determining if this is in deed Jimmy and if not who is the dead MIA. However, he soon finds much more than just an identification case as he realizes murderer is involved that he connects to a dishonest gang of former South Vietnamese officials who will kill anyone who threatens to expose their avaricious illegal dealings.

KIA, the sequel to ONE DROP OF BLOOD (not read by this reviewer), is an intriguing mystery that focuses on the work of CIL to identify dead soldiers. However the fascination with this fine thriller is the look back at the strange relationship between the Johnson and Nixon administrations and the corrupt South Vietnamese government that echoes in Iraq today. Readers will appreciate Kel's investigation even as the spins into his murder inquiry is a bit over the top, but no one will care as he works one bone at a time.

Antony and Cleopatra
Colleen McCullough
Simon & Schuster
9781416552949 $26.95

Following the death of Julius Caesar in 41 BC, Rome is divided as to who rightfully should rule. Caesar's ambitious cousin Mark Antony and the late ruler's adopted son Octavian reach an agreement to divide the vast Empire. Whereas their only rival Lepidus flees to Africa, Antony takes charge of the East while Octavian rules the West. Neither of the two remaining partners from the triumvirate is pleased as both believe they should be the new Caesar.

Antony shows little understanding of financing an army when he over extends his force in a failed war to suppress the rebellious Parthians. Needing a fast replenishment of his treasury before his rival learns of his weakness, Antony travels to Egypt to demand wealthy Queen Cleopatra provide reparations or else. Cleopatra has an agenda of her own to replace Antony and ultimately Octavian with Caesarion, the son she had with Julius when he came courting. To succeed she must make Antony her sex slave, which she easily achieves. Meanwhile Marcus Agrippa and Octavian's wife coax the co-ruler that the time is right for him to take over the entire Roman Empire. Cleopatra coaxes her pudding head lover to lead his forces against that of Octavian.

Although the history is well known, this is a fabulous Masters of Rome entry as the key players especially the title characters come alive. Readers will appreciate Cleopatra's seduction that turns Antony into her willing sex salve doing her bidding and likewise Octavian's strong wife Livia pushing him to become the Emperor. Fans will enjoy Colleen McCullough's historical saga as two strong females propel their weaker minded mates to battle on an Ancient Mediterranean stage.

Craig Holden
Simon & Schuster
9780743274999 $22.00

Thirty-nine years old Justine has been mentoring her younger lover Will on the art of conning people since they met a few years ago. They always choose easy marks small sums so that the pigeon never retaliates or even go to the police. Justine's philosophy is that the humiliation must be greater than the lost funds.

In Rome, the two grifters select recent American high school graduate Darcy Arlen as their next pigeon. The tourist is bored with the organized group tours of the great ruins so while the guide Mrs. Abignale naps and her roommate Rhonda showers, the American teen sneaks out of their hotel to do her own sightseeing. When she meets pensive Will looking into the Tiber, she is fascinated especially since she recognizes him from going to the same Old Indian bend High School in Ohio that she just graduated from; albeit six months late. He and his teacher persuade Darcy to leave the tour and go to Venice with them. From there they travel to the Greek isle Matala as Will and Justine think they have the perfect victim even as a romantic triangle forms.

The key to this superb sting story line is Darcy whose character seemingly changes over the course of MATALA. The two con artists are fascinating protagonists who assume the high school grad comes from wealthy parents as her trip is a graduation present from them. Readers will enjoy this entertaining thriller as the interplay between the triangular participants and a few other marks make for a fun read with several wonderful unexpected twists.

One Wish
Calista Fox
Red Sage
9781603101394 $6.50

In Sedona, Arizona, Jillian Anderson, owner of the Old Age Saloon, accidentally knocks over an ancient clay pot containing a dark blue powder. She also drops a jar of her tequila spied pickles called wickles onto the powder. Soon afterward, her beloved photographer Luke Parsons arrives at the bar after being out of town on assignment. She refuses to have sex with him as he always leaves her before morning.

After closing Jillian goes to clean up the mess, but finds it already done and sees an underage girl Serafina drunk from eating the pickles .She insists she is a genie. When Sera proves she is a real albeit intoxicated genie by vanishing in this air, Jillian faints. Sera calls Luke who rushes over, but she is all right. As they make love, Luke realizes that his beloved fears commitment because everyone close to her dies. With that knowledge, their lovemaking seems different, but will he stay with her in the morning and what about those two wishes Sera promised Jillian?

This is an entertaining fantasy romantic short that works because Jillian, as the prime player holding the story line together, is fully developed. Readers will learn her fears, flaws, and desires especially through her interaction with the genie and with Luke. ONE WISH is an enjoyable short tale (see

Secrets Volume 22
Ellie Marvel, Rachel Carrington, Calista Fox and Elisa Adams
Red Sage
9781603100021 $12.00

"Heat" by Ellie Marvel. The Gitternian alien Tarkin enjoys spending time with Terran Sarai until he goes into heat without a Gitter female near so he decides his earthly companion will more than do.

"Breathless" by Rachel Carrington. Lark knows she cannot defeat the monster Diaz who enjoys tormenting his victims. She needs the help of roguish avariciouse wizard Zac to destroy the beast who killed her younger sister Shanae.

"Midnight Rendezvous" by Calista Fox. Three years ago at the Plaza Cat and David shared what should have been the greatest romantic night of their respective lives as the attraction was incredible that her father sensed it; the evening instead proved unromantic as she ended up with a catering disaster instead of him. Now she has a second chance with the man she still lusts over.

"Birthday Wish" by Elisa Adams. Dean asks Anna what she wants for her birthday as she will get her anything she wishes for. She hesitates but he teases her to tell him her fantasy wish. She tells him a weekend with him.

The heat is on when Secrets releases its latest erotic romantic anthology. The four enjoyable novellas run the gamut of sub-genres, but share in common strong characters leaving the audience breathless.

Secrets Volume 21
Cynthia Eden, Larissa Ione, Kate St. James and Mia Varano
Red Sage
9781603100014 $12.99

"Caged Wolf" by Cynthia Eden. Werewolf Alerac De Mort senses his mate is near, but when he finds her, Madison Langley shoots and cages this killer even as she fights an urge to touch him.

"Wet Dream" by Larissa Ione. In Southern California agent Brent Logan flees for his life after taking a bullet; he hides on Marina Summers' boat the Wet Dream, but finds much more than just a safe haven.

"Good Vibrations" by Kate St. James. In Calgary, the male college students make working at her Aunt Beth's shop Grin & Bare It a nightmare, but repeat Toronto based customer Gage Templeton leaves Lexi O'Brien dreaming of lovemaking and even their offspring's hair. This time he tells her he is here to see her.

"Virgin of the Amazon" by Mia Varano. Touring the Amazon, Northern Connecticut University librarian Anna somehow makes the mistake that she has and the others were warned by their Rainforest Rendezvous guides; not to separate. At least ten hunks in tribal attire arrive and escort her to their god-king Coop, a mad dog Englishman who tells her the shaman had a vision of a blond virgin as his latest wife. Anna must choose between Coop deflowering her before the shaman takes her virginity away.

As always the Secrets collection contains the best erotic romances due to strong characterizations inside of deep plots. The latest quartet provides a fun time for the audience even as it crosses subgenre lines.

Master of the Elements
Alice Gaines
Red Sage
9781603101356 $6.50

Her father wants her refuse to go, but twenty-two years old virgin Elspeth knows this is her destiny. Every century, a virgin is sacrificed to the Master who lives in the castle on Forbidden Mountain. Now the Master grows weak and his protection of the town by the sea is failing.

Elspeth meets her Master Raelen who provides her pleasures like nothing she ever felt before; the bookworm has never been kissed yet her host's touches enflame her. She shocks him when she gives him a hand job. The immortal Raelen explains that making love with a virgin enables him to regain his youth; he also tells her he sends them afterward to live in Shandikar. However, this time the MASTER OF THE ELEMENTS knows is different as she is the first to volunteer. How different he will soon learn.

Fans of erotic romantic fantasy will appreciate this warm short starring a courageous female and the immortal that respects and ultimately loves her. The story line is fast-paced and though short contains two fully developed lead characters especially the heroine. In fact except for the opening and closes scenes, they are the only players in the story as fitting this charming yet heated adult fairy tale (see

The Crocodile And The Crane
Arthur Rosenfeld
9781594390876 $21.95

Over three and a half millennium ago in China, Gao the blacksmith learned the secret of immortality through a special form of meditation. He passed his secret on to his two children Sanfeng and Zetian as they never stayed in one place for any length of time so that the locals would not become suspicious. However, in a remote village, a terrible plague began wiping out the villagers. The villagers proved that Gao was mortal when they killed him out of a superstitious belief he caused the disease; his two offspring escaped.

In 2009, Sanfeng and Zetian realize the same deadly plague has returned; they vehemently disagree on what they should do. Sanfeng wants to save the world while his avaricious sister wants to dominate it, which the plague will allow her to do. Meanwhile in Hong Kong American self help author Dalton Day, who has uncovered some of Gao's secrets, knows the plague must be stopped. He is joined on his quest by his publicist Monica Farmore, Leili Musi the mother of one of the victims, and others. However the world hinges on the three thousand five hundred years old siblings.

This is a terrific end of the world thriller due to the strong cast including the rapid cellular death plague, which takes on a life of its own as a pandemic seemingly invincible killer. Although the siblings are the key to apocalypse now vs. a miracle cure and the most fascinating of the characters, the Dalton gang is the stars of this entertaining tale. Arthur Rosenfeld will have his fans sitting on the edge of their seat once the plague takes over THE CROCODILE AND THE CRANE.

Troubled Waters
Dewey Lambdin
9780312348052 $24.95

In the early nineteenth century as England fights Napoleon, Royal Navy Captain Alan Lewrie learns that he has been sentenced to death in absentia by a Jamaican court allegedly for stealing slaves. Those who arranged the sham trial have come to England to execute him, claiming they carry out a legal sentencing that England by law must adhere to.

Meanwhile William Wilberforce and his abolitionist backers see Lewrie as an opportunity to focus on the inhumanity of slavery. They hire him a highly regarded barrister to defend him in court once his case appears on the docket. Freed because he is an aristocrat, Lewrie returns to his ship the H.M.S. Savage, blockading the seas off southwest France. Instead of sitting around, Lewrie sees a chance to cause havoc by leading a naval assault against the French coast.

The Lewrie historical naval novels (see A KING'S COMMANDER and A KING'S TRADE, etc.) are always some of the best Napoleonic War military tales around. TROUBLED WATERS is much more although the at sea battles are as great as ever. However, this time the audience also gets a chance to follow the English legal system that makes the DNA double helix look like a kindergarten puzzle. Dewey Lambkin keeps his excellent series fresh and exciting.

Hush My Mouth
Cathy Pickens
9780312354428 $23.95

Atlanta resident Fran French asks Dacus, South Carolina lawyer Avery Andrews to find her missing adopted "sister" Neanna Lyles who came to the small town to learn more about the Wenda Sims murder in 1985; Avery agrees. However, when the attorney finds Neanna, it is not a welcome home scenario; instead the police report the missing person committed suicide.

A stunned Fran tells Avery no way would Neanna kill herself. Fran admits that Neanna was despondent over the recent death of her grandmother and horrified to find a picture of corpse of Aunt Wenda in a family scrapbook. Not long afterward Avery finds that same photo in Neanna's car. She believes the niece was murdered with the motive to keep her from finding out who killed her beloved aunt.

The latest Southern Fried Mystery (see HOG WILD, DONE GONE WRONG, and SOUTHERN FRIED) is a wonderful regional cozy that fans of the series will appreciate. The case is difficult enough for Avery to solve only to have comic relief (for the audience not for the heroine) caused by a ghostbusters trio interfering with the investigation as they hope to make contact with any of the late Lyles as a ticket to appearing on reality TV, paranormal style. No slim Pickens with this author as HUSH MY MOUTH is a fabulous South Carolina whodunit.

Kathleen George
9780312372491 $24.95

In Pittsburgh homicide squad Commander Richard Christie has some doubts with the new guy make that gal assigned to his unit. He likes rookie detective Colleen Greer's enthusiasm, but also fears her excess zeal could prove dangerous to her and the team. Still he has no choice but to toss her into the ocean while a hurricane hits.

Richard has two homicides to investigate. The first victim is Laura McCall, who Greer knows from working for her separated husband David Hoffman at a counseling clinic. The second is a child who Greer knows once again from her time at the clinic. Like her married boss, who she is attracted to; Greer wonders if Hoffman killed his wife and the child, but has some doubts as a niggling suspicion in her gut points to someone else she knew in her clinic days.

The third Christie Pittsburgh police procedural (see TAKEN and FALLEN) is a strong tale due to the simmering relationship between the commander and the rookie. Although this is Greer's first tale, her key appearance adds tension to the veteran homicide detective and will remind series fans more so of TAKEN in which Richard's wife Marina Benedict requested a separation. The mystery is well done especially as David asks his former employee for favors, which make him appear even guiltier to her, but it is the newbie who steals the show on a personal front with her hero worship attraction and her on the job investigative training.

The Deadly Neighbors
Merry Jones
9780312356217 $24.95

Art therapist Zoe Hayes worries that her program will be eliminated and she downsized as The Philadelphia Psychiatric Institute where she works is facing difficult funding decisions. However, the six month pregnant Zoe puts aside her employment worries when she receives a frantic call from her estranged father's neighbor Lettie Kinkaid in Mount Airy.

Taking her six years old adopted daughter Molly with her to meet her grandpa for the first time, Zoe finds quite a scene as Walter is stabbing his girlfriend Beatrice Kendall in the throat. Zoe grabs the knife and dials 911. Her angry fiance homicide detective Nick Stiles, who never knew about Walter's existence, concludes Beatrice choked to death on pari-mutuel betting tickets. Though the police are unhappy as they still suspect Walter of murder; no charges are filed against him for performing a tracheotomy. His daughter moves him into an assisted living home as he keeps thinking she is his long dead wife her mother who died when she was Molly's age. Zoe learns of another recent homicide and soon others follow. As Zoe investigates while Nick fumes, the neighbors are less then cooperative; they are hostile towards her.

The third Hayes amateur sleuth investigation (see THE NANNY MURDERS and THE RIVER KILLINGS) is a fabulous over the top thriller that seems implausible yet recent real events provide genuineness to the tale. Zoe is at her best as her inquiry with sidekick Molly forces her to look back at her family secret skeletons while seeking to learn the truth behind what seems like a serial killer at work. Fans will enjoy her efforts as Nick worries about her activity in the Philadelphia suburb as she carries their offspring and her child into danger.

The Edge
Clare Curzon
9780312349646 $23.95

In spite of the fury and noise of the horrific gale, farmer's wife Connie Barton hears what she assumes is something blown loose by the storm. She wakes up her husband Ned who grumpily listens and says it is Mr. Frederick Hoad's stable door. Knowing she will not allow him to go back to sleep, he grumblingly steps out into the torrent to simply shut the door tight. Instead of finding a bar to shut the door, he finds the naked body of Jennifer Hoad. The Bartons call the police who also find Frederick, their ten years old daughter Angela and an unknown school friend dead in the manor house. Their sixteen years old son Daniel is missing.

Superintendent Mike Yeadings of Thames Valley leads the investigation. The police contact the only known living relative the teen's maternal grandmother, retired air force officer Anna Plumley, who was estranged from her daughter Jennifer. Although Anna is a suspect, she offers much insight into the Hoad and Plumley families. Her forthright responses leads Detective Sergeant Rosemary "Z" Zynzynski to believe the veteran is not involved in the killings, but Detective Sergeant Beaumont and Detective Chief Inspector Salmon refuse to rule her out as no one except perhaps the missing adolescent or the away housekeeper seem likely.

THE EDGE is a fabulous Thames Valley police procedural as the prime police players are fully developed so that newcomers will understand what makes each tick while veterans will nod as each remains consistent. The extra strength to the whodunit is brought by an excellent key cast member, Anna who understands official investigations from her military days; readers will wonder if she is killer or a grieving relative seeking justice as her cooperation may be to throw the police off the trail or help them hone in on the culprit. Clare Curzon provides a terrific entry in her long running series with the freshness caused by Anna.

Keepers of the Flame
Robin D. Owens
9780373802623 $14.95

On the world of Amee in the realm of Lladrana, there is a war going on against the Dark an evil entity from another dimension who wants to rid the orb of humans. It uses the Master to send monsters against the people and the Marshalls and the Chevaliers fight them. Now the Master has sent something to the cities and towns; a new disease that the medicos can't heal. The city master Sevair Mosif pays for a Summoning of an Exotique from earth with medical skills. What they get are identical twins Elizabeth who is an MD and Bri who practices alternative healing. Both have healing hands and are able to cure the afflicted.

Both the twins insist they will return to Earth when the Snap occurs. While they are there they look for a way to heal the disease and later look for a cure for a mutation of the disease so the Chevaliers will avoid this fatal illness contracted on the battle field. Both women are accepted and people make it clear that they want them to stay. Bri finds love with Sevair who is the first person who accepts her for who she is and Elizabeth falls in love on the rebound with the noble chevalier Fauchon. Tragedy strikes when one of the twins takes ill on the battlefield and nobody knows how to save her.

There is one more summoning before the Exotiques and their husbands go to the volcanic island where the Dark resides and try to undo the spell knot protecting evil; having two Exotiques summoned, the author changes the dynamics of previous storylines as each twin has their own story. Readers will be enthralled with this latest entry in the series (see GUARDIAN OF HONOR) and eagerly await the next book when the final summoning and battle takes place. Robin D. Owens is a worldbuilder who makes the audience believe in the realm she creates.

Hunter's Run
George R.R. Martin, Gardner Dozois and Daniel Abraham
9780061373299 $25.95

As humanity has entered space beyond our solar system with arrogance and pride, they are quickly put back in their place when they realize there is a horde of space traveling species out there. In fact the newcomer on the block finds the quality planets, etc all occupied. Wastelands, the dangerous and out of the way orbs are left for the late humans to explore and exploit.

Prospector Ramon Espejo is on the Enye colony planet of Sao Paulo. When he gets into a drunken brawl, he kills someone with connections to the Enye authorities. He flees to the planet's jungle like outback only to find himself struggling to survive the cat-lizard chupacabras and some things even deadlier.

HUNTER'S RUN is an exciting thought provoking science fiction tale that plays out on two levels. In the big scheme, humanity is somewhat humiliated as we learn we are far from the top dog in the galaxy. On the smaller scale, Ramon knows he has leaped from the frying pan into the fire as he finds himself in danger in the wasteland with no place to go for safety. Readers will appreciate this deep tale starring a fabulous antihero trying to survive in a world in which he is low on the food chain.

Renegade's Magic
Robin Hobb
9780060757649 $25.95

His lover, Lisana enabled Gernian soldier Nevare Burvelle to escape incarceration when she split his soul enabling him to become a Speck mage Soldier's Boy. However as a nasty by-product, two personalities conflict over who controls the host body.

His Soldier's Boy's mage skills lead Nevare to try to destroy the Gernian road that has begun to devastate the Specks' woodlands. His failed efforts leave him near death, but Speck female Olikea uses her healing skills to save his life as is her duty. As he recovers he finds his two sides in conflict as each has a demand. Nevare knows that he must prevent the Gernia from demolishing the Specks' forest while at the same time he also must stop the Specks from distributing their deadly plague that has slaughtered the Gernians. He begins to believe that to succeed he must unite his warring split personalities.

The final Soldier Son tale (see FOREST MAGE and SHAMAN'S CROSSING) is an entertaining fantasy that looks deep at the issue of development vs. environment. The story line is fun to follow although the pace at times is turtle like especially when the complicated Hobbs magical structure is logically but boringly elucidated (only a fool would read this entry before the previous two books). Still this is a fine trilogy that showcases the importance of finding win-win solutions to complex social issues as the two sides seem to only employ lose-lose methods.

Swimming Without a Net
MaryJanice Davidson
9780515143812 $7.99

In Boston blue haired Fred is a somewhat grouchy half human half mermaid who detests SLEEPING WITH FISHES; though she admits some of those purebreds are hunks; at least one is - she only has met one. However, she is even grumpier than usual as she went from no men to two men (well one man and a merman) back to no men as marine biologist Thomas Pearson and Prince Artur have left her to pursue other activities.

Making matters worse is her best friend Jonas and her boss Dr. Barb are a disgustingly loving pair making her ill especially since no one is pawing her. However, she has a bigger issue as her father and his mer-people demand her presence. The issue being debated is whether to reveal themselves to the blind surface dwellers and they want her feedback as the only known half-breed. She thinks what a way to finally meet her biological father as she swims the Caymans only Thomas and Artur are also there after an almost one year abstinence that would please the Bush family values, but makes Fred's life even further complicated.

The second Fred mermaid tale is another wacky amusing romp from MaryJanice Davidson, the queen of this sub-genre. The story line is fast-paced but loaded with humor as Fred does not take whale crap from fools or persecutors lightly; she meets plenty of those who think humans and half humans are beneath watery mammals and the fish on the food chain. Although somewhat darker than her previous efforts to clean up Boston Harbor, readers will enjoy her antics as she meets the paternal side of the family after three decades without knowing up front who gave her the blue hair.

Wizard's Daughter
Catherine Coulter
9780515143942 $7.99

In coastal Eastbourne, England Lord Ryder Sherbrooke sees a small female child lying unconscious in the alley, obviously the victim of a terrible beating. Unable to walk away he brings the almost lifeless child into his home and provides her with the best of care. Over the next couple of months the girl recovers, but fails to utter one word. That is not one sound until six months after her rescue, she sings: "I dream of beauty and sightless nigh I dream of strength and fevered might I dream I'm not alone again But I know of his death and her grievous sin". She has no idea what the sad refrain denotes, why she was beaten and left to die or even her real name. She uses Rosalind de la Fontaine.

Over a decade passes under the care of the Sherbrookes when in 1835 her adopted family sponsor their ward's first season. At a ball she meets an Earl, Nicholas Vail, who has just come to London after spending time in Portuguese controlled Macau, China. They are attracted to one another but in an atypical way and soon with Grayson's help find a sixteenth century book written by a wizard who claimed that a Captain Jared Vail owes him his life for eternity. As Rosalind is the only one who can read the coded tome, strange events occur that Grayson believes flow through Rosalind and that eerie song he never forgot as he fears for the life of his charge from things he does not comprehend.

This is an interesting paranormal historical romantic mystery filled with several fascinating twists that keeps the audience's attention wondering what next although the title gives away too much. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as Rosalind's past begins to unveil even as her guardian and the man who loves her worry about her safety. Fans will appreciate this beguiling nineteenth century thriller with mysterious roots in the sixteenth century.

The Hunt
Jennifer Sturman
Red Dress (Harlequin)
9780373895700 $13.95

Accompanied by her friends (Hilary, Luisa and Ben), Rachel and her fiance Peter visit his parents on the West Coast for the weekend. Rachel plans to behave with decorum so as to not make any waves. However, during the engagement party thrown by his parents, Hilary dumps Ben before leaving the gala.

Not long afterward Rachel receives an enigmatic message from Hilary asking for her help. As Rachel and her posse try to find Hilary, they learn she was seen frolicking with Igor "Iggie" Behrenz. As one clue leads to another, Rachel realizes someone is setting them up, but is not sure why even as she begins to have commitment doubts again.

This is an engaging amateur sleuth (though Ben is a professional) that readers will enjoy especially the chick lit asides from the heroine as she has increasing doubts about Peter even as she tries to behave in front of his parents. The story line is fast-paced as the posse work in humorous ways to win THE HUNT for Hilary. Readers will enjoy this fine tale and seek Rachel's backlist of misadventures (see THE PACT, THE JINX and THE KEY).

Salt River
James Sallis
Walker & Company
9780802716170 $21.95

Two years have passed since John Turner sat with his beloved Bal Bjorn on his porch when she was shot and killed. Psychiatrists say time heals all wounds, but John knows otherwise as he still grieves his loss. The former cop has since become sheriff of the dying rural town that lies between Memphis and Soon No More.

Turner sits on a bench on economically depressed Main Street discussing with Doc how ugly life is except for the banjo. Suddenly, a speeding car driven by Billy Bates is out of control and crashes into city hall. As Billy is taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital, Turner investigates the return of the troubled son of former sheriff Lonnie Bates. What he finds deeply shakes him to his already troubled soul.

The return of that great twenty-first century southern philosopher John Turner (see CYPRESS GROVE and CRIPPLE CREEK) will be fully appreciated by fans of James Sallis. The investigations (the other one involves his musician pal Eldon) is well written, but is used to enhance the deep look at a dying way of life. The writing is fabulous as the depressed area is vividly depicted mostly through Turner's musings on living, music, and dying. Readers who appreciate a strong regional tale that focuses on the human condition will relish SALT RIVER in which the police procedural elements are used to provide a powerful spotlight on the last death kicks of a once thriving era that has turned geriatric.

Star Crash
Elysa Hendricks
Love Spell
9780505527431 $6.99

When her beloved Alex apparently died in a crash, Cora Daniels lost her will to live. She became reckless driving her space vessel Freedom and keeping up repairs as if she planned a suicide crash deep in her subconscious.

When the Freedom finally fails, Cora, using all her skills, manages a safe emergency landing on an unknown planet. Aliens capture her and take her to a prison encampment where she meets other humanoid species who are being forced into breeding by their guards who believe humans are dumb beasts of burden. Cora vows to escape, but is stunned when she sees Alex is one of the prisoners. He does not remember her or anything before his captivity. However, she now has a reason to live free as she plans to liberate her, Alex and the others.

Obviously reminiscent of Planet of the Apes, STAR CRASH is an interesting romantic science fiction that is at its best when readers obtain insight into the aliens and how they see humans as being beneath them. However, when the plot turns to sexual encounters, it decelerates as these trysts feel unnecessary. Still fans who appreciate outer space encounters of the first kind will enjoy Elysa Hendricks' entertaining look at comparative anthropology from ET's perspective.

Divine Night
Melanie Jackson
Love Spell
9780505527370 $7.99

Renowned mid nineteenth century action adventure author Alexander Dumas continues to write swashbuckling fictions long after he should have died. However, Alex is an immortal so much of his novels come from his own life.

His latest tale that he struggles to write is based on the most difficult event he ever faced. The tragedy occurred six decades when Alex was approaching a century and a half of living. His immortal enemy Comte St. Germain ripped out the heart of the woman he loved. Always wanting vengeance, he never had an opportunity until now as St. Germain has reappeared. Alex teams up with psychic Harmony in attempt to end St. Germain's immortal reign of terror.

The third superb Melanie Jackson gloomy Divine thriller (see DIVINE FIRE and DIVINE MADNESS) is an exhilarating tale from the moment the audience meets a still grieving Alex and never slows down as a High noon showdown is imminent. Although this tale can stand alone, reading the other two sagas will help the audience understand the complex world of the divine immortals especially since some interloping sidebars occur. Fans who appreciate a dark action-packed complicated fantasy will want to read DIVINE NIGHT and its predecessors.

Stacked Deck
Terry Watkins
Silhouette Athena Force
9780373389766 $5.50

In Las Vegas poker superstar Bethany James is in the middle of calling a bluff during a Texas Hold Em marathon when she receives the call from Delhi her Oracle contact who leaves the message that she is to come to the Virginia townhouse immediately. The Athena Academy alumnus has been selected to go to Monaco because of her ability to bluff and more significant call a bluff.

Her cover as wealthy widow Anne Hurley is to get information on casino owner Sal Giambi who Oracle fears is being manipulated by their enemy Arachne. To achieve her objective, she must seduce Giambi's new employee Formula One race-car driver John David "JD" Hawke. However, someone knows who she is as she was attacked in Nevada and now when she meets JD too. As they become better acquainted, their initial attraction blooms, but first her mission requires her to trust that JD is what he says he is because an unknown adversary is holding the cards and not bluffing as the culprit has marked them for death.

This action-packed romantic suspense thriller grips the audience with the opening poker sequence and never slows down either in Nevada, Virginia or Monaco. The story line is filled with action, but Bethany who uses her poker skills to raise the ante makes the tale as series fans and poker players will be fascinated by her approach to her duty. Terry Watkins adds to the Athena Force mythos with the fully loaded STACKED DECK.

Moving Target
Lori A. May
Silhouette Athena Force
9780373389773 $5.25

Oracle sends Richmond, Virginia based FBI profiler Athena Academy graduate Francesca "Chesca" Thorne to Boston seeking a link between Arachne and the Queen of Hearts; several people at the Athena Academy and at the FBI believe that they are the same person. Whether separate females or not, both are dangerous especially Arachne who loathes the Athena Academy and will do anything to destroy it.

Francesca makes some progress at Boston University, but finds her tires deliberately slashed. She calls in for back-up and Athena Academy Principal Christine Evans arranges for her great-nephew, Will Evans to act as her bodyguard. As Will and Chesca work together linking clues, an unknown adversary, most likely connected to either Arachne or the Queen of Hearts, seems to know much of what they are doing; making staying alive a top priority.

From the opening serial killer sequence in Baton Rouge to the final confrontation involving who is Delphi, MOVING TARGET is an exciting Athena Force tale. The story line moves the saga forward with several revelations especially a humongous one, but too many little events seemingly all over Beantown occur so that none become deeply illustrated. Still this is an entertaining entry that fans of the series will need to read as the revelations keep on coming.

Guardian's Keep
Lori Devoti
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373617791 $5.25

Witch Kelly Shane returns to the scene of her abduction and that of her best friend. Kelly got back because her beloved twin sister Kara risked her life and heart to help her make it back UNBOUND from the portal the hellhound shapeshifting kidnapper took her through; her pal did not. She wants answers and believes the guardian shapeshifter Kol Hildr has them as she holds him culpable for what happened to them.

Kol feels guilty that he failed to do his mission, but was caught unaware. He is attracted to the tyro witch who keeps coming around demanding answers from him that he refuses to provide. However, Kelly knows that the portal leads to species enslavement and trafficking including the sale of humans and humanoids. She wants to know why he would allow this though she kicks herself for wanting this hunk. However, as he tells her to go home every evening, this night is different when an assault on the portal occurs that he thinks she inadvertently caused. Teaming up to keep those wanting in out, they fall in love, but the Council he works for has no use for Kelly or a disobedient guardian.

This exciting romantic fantasy sequel will hook the audience from the onset as Lori Devoti enthralls her devoted fans with a terrific thriller. The action never slows down once the portal is breeched whereas the relationship between the guardian and the witch is enchanting as both know it is wrong. Although this can be read as a solo, perusing UNBOUND first enhances this experience as the whole is greater than the sum of the wonderful twin parts.

Resurrection: The Beginning
Patrice Michelle
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373617784 $5.25

Humans believe that the vampire species became extinct when their food supply became contaminated; human blood had turned poisonous to the bloodsuckers. Thus Homo sapiens created and killed this "abomination" that no one misses.

That belief that vampires no longer exist except in literature and movies ends at least for debut author Ariel Swanson. Her vampire thriller The Vampire's Return includes a forecasting that no human should know anything about; yet she writes about this legendary prophecy in graphic detail in her first novel as if she is an insider. Exiled vampire Jachin Black kidnaps the writer in order to use her as his ticket back out of the New York City slums and in to his group. He never expected to fall in love with his prisoner during their trek; she feels the same confusion that he does. Neither expected her fiction to be factual.

Patrice Michelle provides a wonderful vampire romantic suspense thriller. The fast-paced story line has an interesting twist that humans knew vampires once existed, but now believe they are extinct. Ariel's novel turns out to be the impetus in what proves to be a cross species war. Fans will enjoy the RESURRECTION: THE BEGINNING as the night is filled with terror except in one home where love shines.

The Saucy Lucy Murders
Cindy Keen Reynders
9781933836249 $7.95

Lexie Lightfoot has had it with her womanizing husband Dan. Disgusted with Dan's inability to not cheat, Lexie leaves him and accompanied by their teenage daughter Eva returns to her hometown, Moose Creek Junction, Wyoming where her married sister Lucy lives. She opens up The Saucy Lucy Cafe.

However Lucy turns out to not be saucy; instead she is a faithful churchgoing mother of Carl and spouse of Otis. Lucy insists Lexie must remarry or else she will not be allowed in the kingdom of heaven. Thus Lucy begins setting up dates for her reluctant sister. However, every man who goes out with Lexie ends up dead; the second date is always held at Stiffwell's Funeral Parlor. As the townsfolk fear the siblings are killers, Detective Gabe Stevenson investigates while Lucy's husband, sheriff Otis Parnell tells them to stay out of his inquiry. Lexie, seeing her reputation and her business tanking, ignores both law enforcement officials' warnings as she distrusts both cops and begins sleuthing, not understanding the danger she places herself and her partner in crime her sister Lucy in.

This lighthearted amusing amateur sleuth tale is fun to read as the sisters ignore law enforcement to investigate who is killing Lexie's dates. The key to this enjoyable whodunit is that a potential romance between Lexie and Gabe never occurs and this never intrudes; not because he fears a second date, but instead the big tough detective is a wuss when it comes to women. The story line never takes itself seriously even when the heroine is in danger as Cindy Keen Reynders provides fans with an enjoyable frolic filled with puns like Stiffwell and strong characters.

A Prince Among Dogs and Other Dog Stories of the Dogs We Love
Callie Smith Grant
9780800758677 $12.99

This is a fabulous anthology containing twenty-eight real life escapades of loving canines starting with Dr. Prince being there for his adopted family including the cat when they were ill. The entries are fun to read for dog lovers though the quality of the writing varies; as some are over written and some boring, but each reminds the audience of their "significant other". Intermingled throughout are "paw" quotes from celebs. For instance Anne Tyler provides the first one on how dogs view people: "… we comeback from a grocery store with the most amazing haul-chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we are the greatest hunters …"; my Chauncey, who flew with me like the dog in Snakes On a Plane does for sure as she has her knife and fork ready when we come home with food. Readers will think of their "Real Life Lassie"; mine was Max, a Toto with psychotic fears except if he thought I might be in danger; whereas my spouse might choose flight, unrequited loving Max chose fight. Then there is Charlie who arrives at the house when Pixie is dying; reminds me of when we took Deuce for his first vet visit the same Rusty went for his last. Readers will find their own personal Jack London Buck tale amidst this heartwarming collection as pets constantly show there "For the Love of Man" and woman and children. Clearly this compilation of true life canine-human relationships targets dog lovers; as M. Acklan puts it "… dogs give us everything. It's the best deal we ever made". Pooches make us better people whereas the latter is rarely true.

The Senator's Daughter
Christine Carroll
9781933836300 $7.95

The daughter of the U.S. Senator from California, Sylvia Cabot Chatsworth is a tabloid's delight especially for "On the Spot" reporter Julio Castillo, who makes her look like a spoiled man eating party girl. When he catches what becomes known as the "Kiss", Julio says San Francisco ADA Lyle Thomas is her next chump. Sylvia's steel magnolia mom tells her that her scandals hurt the family and she should vanish just like developer Tony Valetti recently disappeared.

Hurt, Sylvia drives towards Napa Valley, but gets into an accident. She walks to the nearby Lava Spring Inn where the owners Mary and Buck Kline assume she is a spousal abuse victim on the run.

Her father offers Lyle money to find his missing daughter as he and his wife believe the Kiss will motivate him. Needing the money and getting a leave of absence due to the Senator, Lyle agrees. Weeks go by with no hint as to where she is as Sylvia does not use her credit cards or call home. Meanwhile Lyle visits Tony's vintner brother Andre and stays at the Lava Spring Inn where he encounters their cook Sylvia Cabot. As they fall in love, he uncovers a shady deal involving his boss, her father, the Valetti brothers, and the Mafia. He can handle all that as the risks are simple: his job and his life; he cannot handle what will happen when his beloved learns that her father hired him to find her.

This interesting romance with some late intrigue stars two wonderful lead characters whose Kiss will remind the audience of the Gores at the 2000 Democratic Party Convention. The suspense comes very late as Lyle's inquires hit nerves. Since the audience knows that Sylvia is okay though her parents and Lyle do not, her vanishing is not suspenseful. Christine Carroll cleverly defuses the coincidence factor by stating so rather than pretending otherwise. Although the investigation is abruptly rushed, fans will appreciate this fine contemporary.

White Fells
R. Garland Gray
9781933836195 $7.99

Tuatha De Danann warrior Boyden comes from the rare species, Idir the between. He is blessed, although some might say cursed, with the power to call forth the deadly fey wind to kill all that lives.

Warrior Princess Scota leads the invasion of what is allegedly the home of the Fey; a race she does not believe exists. Her soldiers have captured Boyden, but her efforts to break him fail. Instead he remains insolent as he knows he can destroy Scota and her force with the fey wind. However, he also finds himself attracted to the equally proud warrior princess. She admires his courage and soon reciprocates his feelings of love. However, trust is a different issue as she rejects his fey heritage and he cannot accept a warrior can work for peace for both people.

The third Tuatha De Danann Fey romantic fantasy (see PREDESTINED and FEY BORN) is a terrific tale as readers will appreciate the changing relationship between the skeptical warrior and the composed prisoner. Although Boyden is Scota's captive, she and readers will wonder just who is in control as his tranquil coolness unnerves her. Fans will appreciate WHITE FELLS as the hero provides a quiet message that with great power comes even greater responsibility not to arbitrarily wield it at every alleged insult. R. Garland Gray provides another exciting read.

The Strangely Wonderful Tale of Count Balashazy
Karen Mercury
9781933836027 $15.95

In 1828 in Madagascar, pirate captain and harbormaster exiled Hungarian Count Tomaj Balashazy rescues naturalist Dagny Ravenhurst when she fell from a tree into his lagoon. He takes her to his plantation fortress home where she explains she climbed the tree to grab a rare orchid. When he asks if he can see her, she explains she has a secret lover. Her brother Sal arrives to take her home.

Dagny supports herself, her two brothers (Sal and Zeke), and her research into the island's unique strangely wonderful animals, by being industrialist Paul Boneaux's paramour. She is especially interested in a scary looking lemur that the natives fear. As Dagny finds herself falling in love with poetic Tomaj, Paul is constructing a palace for his mistress Malagasy Queen Ranavalona. Soon Paul and Tomaj, already rivals for control of the island's economy explode over Dagny; in turn the ire of the Queen ignites as she insists her boy toy remain loyal to her exclusively even if that means killing her competror for his affection.

The third Karen Mercury nineteenth century African adventure (see THE HINTERLANDS and THE FOUR QUARTERS OF THE WORLD) is an excellent historical tale in which once again the locale steals the show. The lead triangle is fully developed protagonists whose sexual activities make the equator feel like a polar cap. Using the real Queen Ranavalona, (see Keith Laidler's book FEMALE CALIGULA RANAVALONA, THE MAD QUEEN OF MADAGASCAR for more about her), adds to the realism of a great historiographic look at Madagascar through THE STRANGELY WONDERFUL TALE OF COUNT BALASHAZY.

Suspense and Sensibility
Carrie Bebris
9780765318442 $12.95

In 1813, hoping to rusticate after solving the mystery of PRIDE AND PRESCIENCE; instead Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy sponsor her sister Kitty and his sister Georgiana for a season in London. Kitty and Harry Dashwood meet and an attraction between them is instant. However, Fitz takes his sponsorship role seriously so he makes inquiries into Harry. Everyone he speaks with insists Harry is of good moral character, wealthy enough to support a family and a superior catch.

However, just when Fitz is going to allow the sensible Harry to court Kitty, this future brother-in-law begins to behave boorishly starting with insulting a friend. Rumors suddenly surface of Harry owing large amounts of gambling debts and chasing skirts. Elizabeth and Fitz are stunned and appalled that dependable and reliable Harry whom they first met now has become crass and irresponsible. They investigate trying to understand the cause before Kitty is hurt or worse trapped in a terrible marriage; what they find starting with the puzzling Mirror of Narcissus shakes Fitz and Elizabeth to the core of their souls.

This is a reprint of the delightful married Darcy couple amateur sleuth investigations (see NORTH BY NORTHANGER for the third entry). The story line is fun to follow as the regency England of Jane Austen comes alive with the Darcy's at the center of another whodunit. Although the Mirror seems out of place even if it is a key catalyst to the story, fans will enjoy the return of the stars of Pride and Prejudice (make that Pride and Prescience).

The Shanghai Tunnel
Sharan Newman
9780765313003 $24.95

In 1867 Horace Stratton decides to return home to Portland after a very successful business trip in Shanghai. Accompanied by his wife Emily and their teenage son Robert they reach San Francisco in January 1868; only Horace dies there. The dutiful daughter of missionaries, feeling some guilt for she knows she never lived up to her husband's expectations, Emily and Robert bring Horace's body home to be buried in Portland.

The surviving Strattons plan to live in Horace's hometown; not aware of how rough and tumble of a place it is in spite of leading citizens hoping to turn it into the San Francisco of the northwest. However, the widow and her son are not welcomed by Portland's elitists especially those who partnered with Horace. They are ignorant as to how much she really knows and understands about her late husband's unethical and mostly illegal activities; and her plans to learn what she does not know. Still they will not take chances and plot to drive her and her son out of town; if they fail to run her out then they will bury her next to her deceased husband.

THE SHANGHAI TUNNEL (in an afterward Sharan Newman explains that the tunnels exist under Portland's streets) is an enjoyable and riveting historical amateur sleuth tale that brings alive Reconstruction Era Portland, which obviously has come a long way from its salad days. The Oregonians are a deep support cast, but the story line totally belongs to the courageous widow as she surprises everyone including her self with her grit by refusing to leave. Horace must be turning in his grave witnessing what he never saw in his wife; as the mouse roars. Ms. Newman begins her new historical saga (see Catherine LeVenduer historical mysteries) with a winning mid nineteenth century thriller.

Full Exposure
Diana Duncan
Harlequin Mediterranean Nights
9780373389674 $5.50

After seven years working at the Pennsylvania University library, Ariana Bennett is placed on administrative furlough due to budget cuts; she knows better that her father's fall from disgrace cost her job. As the FBI uses the Patriot Act to take everything including stories she wrote as a teen, Ariana vows to prove her dad, a Philadelphia museum curator is innocent of the charges that the Feds, media and her employer have already convicted him of; she only hopes she succeeds before he drops dead from the accusations.

She needs money, but the reason she takes a position on the cruise ship Alexandra's Dream is she hopes to find information on the smuggling of antiquities. However, her minor progress must have made someone nervous, as she is abducted. Her only hope to survive her ordeal resides with one of her kidnapers Dante Colangelo, who has kept the Philadelphian alive so far. She begins to wonder if she suffers from the Stockholm syndrome as she starts to fall in love with Dante; he hides his reciprocal feelings out of fear she could die if his allies learn the truth. However, a betrayal may cost both their lives.

FULL EXPOSURE is an exhilarating Mediterranean Nights that refreshes the series by taking much of the action off the cruise ship. The story line is action-packed and filled with twists, but owned by the lead couple whose relationship changes during the tale. Diana Duncan provides an enjoyable romantic suspense thriller that fans of the mini series and those of the sub-genre will fully appreciate.

Lisa Jackson
9780373772827 $6.99

"Pirate's Gold". Their companies have worked together smoothly until now. As he struggles with his teenage daughter's health problems, Kyle Sterling is stunned that Maren McClure would risk everything to cheat him and his firm. Kyle vows to destroy her; Maren realizes her company is under attack but she knows not why as she has been doing business with Sterling for eight years. She plans to fight back to save her firm. When they meet for the first time attraction between them distracts both of them leaving their respective companies in trouble from a clever hostile third party.

"Dark Side of the Moon". Ten years ago Andrea Monroe and Jefferson Harmon were in love, but his ambitious brother told lies that he believed breaking up their relationship. He went on to become governor, but the love of his life still haunts him as he divorces his wife Lara who insists the ghost destroyed their marriage and drove her to drink. When Jefferson and Andrea meet for the first time in a decade the sparks remain volatile. However she does not trust him with her heart while he has to consider his beloved five years old daughter Megan first.

This book contains reprints of two highly regarded Lisa Jackson contemporary romances. In each plot the truth may set you free, but it hurts as trust is easily nuked by lies from those you rely on. Both novels are entertaining starring protagonists struggling to overcome misunderstanding and third person manipulation in which love seems to make matters worse.

Accidentally Yours
Susan Mallory
9780373772056 $6.99

In Seattle, single mom Kerri Sullivan knows she is running out of time for her nine year old son Cody is slowly dying from Gilliar's Disease. Her only hope to save her offspring is the mercy and money of Nathan King, whose son died of that illness six years ago as researcher Dr. Abram Wallace was on the verge of a breakthrough in his lab before the fire destroyed his workplace. She has taken work at the Grill where King eats although she knows the rumors that he lost his heart when his son died. She confronts him when he comes for lunch and he tells her to leave; she is fired and escorted out with no success at obtaining his financial backing of Wallace.
Based on a tip from his chauffeur Tim, her new plan is to pretend to the media that King cares and is putting up the money. Nathan fumes as he prefers controlling his publicity, but has little choice if he does not want the wrath of motherhood that could impact business. However, though feeling trapped he has a price to charge this ferocious single mom.
This is five tissue box tear jerker that will leave the audience weeping throughout hoping for a miracle. The underlying theme is medical miracles need funding to help achieve them. Readers will admire the lead female character as she refuses to give up while much of the support cast like Abram's long time assistant Linda and the townsfolk of Songwood believe in him. With a strong caring support cast, fans will answer Al Michaels' "Do you believe in miracles?" in the affirmative when Susan Mallory is the inspirer.

Knave's Honor
Margaret Moore
9780373772452 $6.99

In 1204 Lady Elizabeth d'Averette travels through the Midlands to her home in Kent. When her party is attacked by an organized gang, Irishman Sir Oliver de Leslille rescues her. He offers to escort Elizabeth and retinue to a nearby nunnery.

Lizette is in awe of her hero until she learns Sir Oliver is Finn, a low life thief who steals from women their jewelry and kisses. Finn knows he must rescue his brother, incarcerated by Lord Wimarc, but has no reasonable plan as to accomplishing his mission. Apparently, Lord Wimac's men were the ones who attacked Elizabeth's party. When she learns of the plight of Finn's sibling, she offers her help in a dangerous ploy. They masquerade as a newly married couple to gain entrance into Wimac's stronghold so as to free his brother and learn why the villain wants to abduct Lizette.

Medieval romance fans will not be shocked to find out that Margaret Moore's latest historical KNAVE'S HONOR is a wonderful tale. The exciting story line contains two strong protagonists with Finn being a unique fascinating knave. The villain is over the top of meanness leading to fans rooting even more for Lady Elizabeth and Finn the thief to defeat Wimac. Their falling in love while fighting against the odds make Ms. Moore's marvelous medieval must reading for the sub-genre audience.

Megan Hart
Harlequin Spice
9780373605194 $13.95

In Sandusky six years into what outsiders believe is the perfect marriage without knowing that Anne and James Kinney still share great sex; the only negative is his mother demanding an infant for the rest of the gang to play with. Now James' best friend from his junior high school days Alex Kennedy is coming back to the states after spending time in Singapore and elsewhere. Without a second "f"ing" thought to his wife, James invites Alex to spend the summer with them.
Anne has never met the infamous affluent Alex, but she expects not to like the world traveler. Instead to her shock and chagrin, she is attracted to her spouse's buddy and him to her. Adding to her confusion is that James seems to encourage them. Soon an acceptable triangle forms with the thought in the back of the heads of the threesome being that Alex would soon move on to his next venture so let's live for today. However, Anne finds herself further mixed up when she realizes she loves both her sex buddies.

The three lovers come across as genuine especially when the two males use DIRTY language with every other word spoken between them and more so with the bewildered heroine. She knows that her entire universe for moments is the hardened penis of her respective sex partner until the supernova orgasm occurs. Erotica romance fans will appreciate this complex tale as Anne is more than TEMPTED by Alex while her marriage to James is not yet BROKEN, but no longer perfect.

Annie on the Lam: A Christmas Caper
Jennifer Archer
Harlequin Next
9780373881482 $5.50

Just before they were to exchange I dos, Lance Holcomb decides I don't. His fiancee forty years old heiress Annie Macy actually feels relieved he jilted her as she had doubts and was going through the ceremony because of her aunt's efforts to give her quite a bash; albeit garish. Instead of despairing that her biological clock is running out, Annie leaves for New York with a goal to learn more about her late mother who died over two decades ago.

Annie's father loves his daughter and wants her safe. He hires former police detective Joe Brady to keep her safe. While a blizzard shuts down the city, he drives her in a taxi that should never have been able to pass inspection even with a hefty bribe. As they fall in love in the backseat of his somewhat snowbound vehicle in which they generate more heat than the car's heater, gangsters chase after them with their heaters to insure a case he once worked as a cop remains colder than the weather outside.

This entertaining romantic suspense Christmas Caper is a bit over the top of even Staten Island's Todt Hill yet in spite of the plausibility factor readers will enjoy Annie's escapades in dangerous adventures including love. Jennifer Archer provides an improbable tale that is fun to read as Annie although fortyish matures rather quickly while on the lam and especially in the back seat.

Christmas Presence
Donna Birdsell, Lisa Childs and Susan Crosby
Harlequin Next
9780373881475 $5.50

"Christmas Presence" by Donna Birdsell. Widow Astrid Martin wants to boycott Christmas as this will be the first year she faces the holidays since her husband died. However, the ghost of her spouse refuses to allow the woman he loved in life to grieve. He forces her to obtain work at the mall where he insures she meets someone else.

"Secret Santa" by Lisa Childs. Single mother Maggie O'Brien worries that she and her children will miss Christmas as the bills are too great. However, a secret Santa keeps sending gifts to her and her family. She wonders who he is and will he arrive at her home gift wrapped on Christmas Eve?

"You're All I Want for Christmas" by Susan Crosby. She was supposed to spend the holidays in the Bahamas, but instead Lauren Wright is grounded at the airport due to weather. However, a fellow stranded passenger begins to cheerfully chat with her; soon she gets into the Christmas spirit as he makes her feel good that she is not in the Bahamas, but instead with him.
These three sugar without spice Yuletide romances will warm the hearts of contemporary romance readers.

One Man to Protect Them
Suzanne Cox
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373714629 $5.50

Veterinarian Jayden Miller returns home to Cypress Landing, Louisiana to care for her recently orphaned two preadolescent nephews (ten years old Elliot and eight years old Garrett). She also was drafted by the sheriff as a search and rescue "volunteer" because of the talent of her dog Kasey to find dead people. However, instead of a peaceful return to a town she fled a decade ago, Jayden has more troubles than helping her family grieve. She finds her tenant vanished and evidence that a local militia group may have abducted and killed the missing person.

Fearing for herself and her two charges, she considers turning to public defender Luke Taylor, but he had a militia member as a client in a murder case; the man who killed Jayden's sister Caitland Casio and her husband Robert in a car accident. However, he is already in love with Jayden so though she has doubts about his loyalties; Luke does not as he knows where his priorities lie; keeping his beloved and her family safe.

ONE MAN TO PROTECT THEM is an interesting romantic suspense due the relationship between the lead couple. Jayden has no time to mourn her sister's death as the kids come before her needs. Luke is a professional who believes everyone deserves a reasonable legal defense regardless of the groups they belong too. However, his belief system is somewhat shattered when he must choose between love and values. Susanne Cox provides an entertaining strong contemporary with an absorbing legal thriller twist.

Going for Broke
Linda Style
Harlequin SuperRomance, Dec 2007, $5.50

Jake Chandler came home to River Bluff, Texas after a decade away for the burial of his Uncle Verne. Even at the funeral he heard the townsfolk call him "fire-starter", "barn-burner" and horse killer. Almost no one believed he never set the inferno that killed the horses. He has to decide whether to fix up the Wild Card Saloon knowing the hostility he will face.

Her former husband Alex took their money, ruined her decorator business, and vanished; leaving Rachel Diamonte with nothing except their beloved learning disabled baby Zoe. She returns to River Bluff, but her perfect mom refuses to allow her or the imperfect infant in to her home. Desperate she asks Jake for work at the saloon even though she knows he will likely say no as she was his alibi, but she failed to step forward to clear him. However, he says for the kid's sake he gives her a job; deep inside he knows he gave her work because he still attracted to R.D.

GOING FOR BROKE is a tender second chance at love tale starring two interesting protagonists who have two strong reasons not to come together. The story line focuses more on the changing relationship between Jake and Rachel but that comes at the cost of a superfluous glimpse at a single mom raising a handicapped infant alone instead of a profound character study. Still readers will enjoy wondering whether Jake will forgive the woman he loves for her silence condemned him and whether he, unlike her spouse or her mom, will volunteer to help raise someone else's handicapped daughter.

Looking for Sophie
Roz Denny Fox
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373714599 $5.50

Although he once was ostracized for matching the wrong child to a photo of a kidnapped kid, letter carrier Jack Cavenaugh refuses to back off as he feels strongly about getting involved in kid rescue efforts. Now Jack believes he has spotted another abducted child little Sophie; he informs his son Atlanta police detective Julian Cavenaugh, who in spite of having just completed a difficult case begins LOOKING FOR SOPHIE. He flies to Alaska to talk to the girl's mother, Garnet Patton.

One year ago, her ex-husband and Sophie's father kidnapped their daughter and vanished. Now Garnet has hope though the Georgia cop tries to tamper her enthusiasm. Also concerning Julian is that the little girl living in rural Georgia seems contented as best he can tell without giving a way his surveillance of the situation. Complicating matters further for Julian is that he is falling in love with the mother who wants her child back.

Using a child kidnapped by her parent as the matchmaking device, Roz Denny Fox provides a deep powerful contemporary romance. The attraction between Julian and Garnet is handled as part of the Sophie issue. The audience will appreciate the tale of the Sophie dilemma because there is no simple answer when neither parent is an abusive brute but instead caring adults who love their offspring, as geography makes custody complicated.

Christmas Heat
Devon Vaughn Archer
Harlequin Kimani Romance
9780373860470 $5.99

Seven years old Audrey Beaumont is excited as she expects presents from Santa Claus having been a good girl for the most part all years. She says goodnight to her parents and goes to sleep so St. Nick can come and do his job. However, she awakens to the smell of smoke and the sound of fire. Pearson the firefighter rescues her but dies when he goes back to bring her parents out; they die too.

Over two decades later, Audrey raises her seven year old daughter Stacy by herself; the father ended their relationship once he learned she was pregnant. Audrey honored the courageous firefighter who saved her life with a portrait of her hero. Conrad Pearson has come home after years away to visit his late father. He holds the little girl that his dad died rescuing culpable for his father's death. Unable to let go he meets Audrey and Stacy, but hides his identity from the two females. He learns how much Audrey honors his dad by listening to Stacy tell him the story of the brave firefighter who saved her mom at the cost of his life as much as by the hero worshipping portrait. As he falls in love with mother and daughter, he found closure with his dad, but will never obtain closure with Audrey and Stacy once they learn who he is.

CHRISTMAS HEAT is a terrific contemporary romance starring two individuals who never met before but are connected by the tragic fire that killed her parents and his father. Audrey and Stacy are perhaps too well-adjusted with all that has happened to them especially the mom. However, Conrad steals the show as the audience will know early on when he talks to his dad at the cemetery how much he still hurts and misses his father. Fans of deep character driven tales will want to read Devon Vaughn Archer's strong story of love coming out of the ashes of tragedy.

A Spirit of Christmas
Margot Early
Harlequin Everlasting
9780373654246 $5.25

Wealthy fifty-five years old Keti Whitechapel owns Bounty Mountain Resort in her hometown of Bounty, Nevada. Kei knows she has come a long way from her lonely impoverished childhood, but though she is rich, she remains alone in spite of having a child with Dr. Martin Collins.
Her only childhood friend Martin ended his relationship with Keti though he loves her because he loathes her lack of business ethics, which extends to her personal relationships. Keti prepares to celebrate Christmas Eve as she always has by herself until she rescues a mutt she names Marley. However this time whether it is a dream or a ghost Keti looks back on the monumental events that shaped her miserable life.

Keti is a modern day female Scrooge who looks back at what made her who she is today. Fans looking for a romance probably should pass though there is a glimpse of her first time with Martin and a possible second chance at love if she risks rejection by telling him how much she loves him. However, although the rest of the cast is never developed except in terms of how they relate to Keti, this well written update of a segment of A Christmas Carol is a character study of how the child becomes the adult.

Christmas Presents and Past
Janice Kay Johnson
Harlequin Everlasting
9780373654239 $5.25

In 1968, teens Will and Dinah went out on a date in which he brought her a Christmas present that showed he believed she could make it as a chef; something her family felt was foolish. Whether he was serving in Viet Nam or she spending a summer in Paris, they exchanged holiday presents. Even when they temporarily broke up they exchanged gifts.

Will the builder and Dinah the chef married and raised three children while each year they continued their custom of exchanging presents that symbolized their everlasting love for one another. That is until a tragic car accident ends their relationship and threatens their loving ritual or does it?

This is an interesting relationship drama that when Janice Kay Johnson covers the past feels nostalgic but lacks ardor; when the story line turns to the present following the tragedy, the emotions explode. Once the switch occurs, the plot becomes powerfully angst-laden filled with passion, much of which is negative. Readers will appreciate the gift giving tradition and the deep feelings between the loving couple once Christmas present occurs as this may be the year that the couple fails to exchange gifts as they have done for almost four decades.

The Christmas Date
Michele Dunaway
Harlequin American
9780373751952 $4.99

In Orlando, Florida Kate Merrill learned from her handsome womanizing father that hunks don't believe in permanent relationships; not even with adoring daughters. Thus when international photographer Tyler Nichols moves in next door, she assumes he might hit on her as a temporary distraction, but will depart rather quickly once he is bored with her just like dad did.

Tyler bought the house because his sister and accountant told him he needed a tax break and a swinging condo was not enough. His latest work in Iraq is Pulitzer Prize potential photos so he is looking forward to returning there. However, when he meets kissable Kate, he finds his desires change as she is his thrill, but to persuade her that they can have both a loving relationship and his photography career seems doubtful as she knows men leave.

This warm Yuletide tale stars seemingly two opposites as he is a globetrotting player and she is a stay at home sideliner, but her best friends, his mom and sister and readers will learn that first impressions can prove false especially with the right chemistry. Michele Dunaway provides her audience with a charming Yuletide tale as fans will wonder whether love is strong enough for Tyler and Kate to find away for them to remain together after New Year's.

The Rancher's Christmas Baby
Cathy Gillen Thacker
Harlequin American
9780373751938 $4.99

In Laramie, Texas teenagers Amy Carrigan and Teddy McCabe are best friends. They make a pledge that if they fail to find their respective soulmate by the time they turn thirty, they will marry one another and raise a family together.

Years later, Amy's friends are not only married, but are having babies. Sadly Amy remains single having not met her love of a lifetime, but refuses to settle for less. However, Teddy remembers the vow as if it was yesterday not over a decade ago; so he asks Amy to marry him. She accepts his proposal as she figures if she has to settle for less than everlasting love, no one could match her pal Teddy. Their respective families are shocked to say the least and all have opinions on the upcoming nuptials. However, neither expected to find their soulmate with each other, but that first kiss reveals the truth.

This Texas version of When Harry Met Sally is an amusing contemporary romance starring likable lead characters and eccentric somewhat zany secondary players who have good intentions as they want the best for Amy and Teddy, but cause plenty of humorous havoc. The story line combines warmth with jocularity as the best friends become much more. Readers will enjoy this lighthearted romantic romp.

A Perfect Marriage
Karen Kendall
Harlequin Mediterranean Nights
9780373389667 $5.50

As the public relations director Katherine Stamos is well aware of the fun of cruising the Mediterranean on the Alexandra's Dream although she has not done so. She decides a cruise is perfect to bring a positive uplift to her boring marriage of twenty years. She persuades her workaholic spouse Charles to get away with her on the luxury ship.

However, in spite of the delightful setting and Katherine's efforts, Charles cannot leave his work behind. He spends much of the time on his projects. Disappointed, Katherine turns elsewhere on the ship for entertainment and begins to consider leaving Charles though she loves him. Charles is totally shocked that Katherine is considering a divorce as he never saw it coming because he was to busy with his work.

A PERFECT MARRIAGE is an interesting look at marital relationship that after two decades has become stale and stuck in a rut. Whereas Katherine sees a dying marriage, Charles remains ignorant until he may be too late. Filled with angst, Karen Kendall provides a deep drama that is quite good when it homes in on the lead couple, but loses some sailing speed with other ship board sidebars.

Baby It's Cold Outside
Cathy Yardley
Harlequin Blaze
9780373793709 $4.99

Renowned architect and infamous womanizer (if the tabloids are accurate) Colin Reeves is going to spend the Christmas holidays in his hometown Tall Pines, Connecticut. The Paris based Colin needs a room at an inn to escape sharing a room with his boisterous eight year old nephew as the entire Reeves clan has gathered at his parents' home. He plans to ask his former girlfriend Emily Stanfield to allow him to stay at her renovated former family mansion inn, but blundered when he failed to recognize her although she has always had a monster crush on him.

Meanwhile Emily has decided that two years of sexual abstinence is enough. She decides to seduce Colin to provide her with holiday cheer before he goes back to Paris. However, she trusts him to be a fantastic lover and more important not tell anyone that they shared the sheets as she still has to live here. She did not expect him to want even more of her.

Colin and Emily heat up the inn when they share scorching sex so much so readers will believe it's hot outside in late December. The support cast is strong as everyone seems to want to bring this pair together, but he relishes his globetrotting freedom and she feels a responsibility as the town's poster child for decorum. Although the climax (to the plot that is) is too perfectly packaged with a bow, readers will enjoy staying at the inn where it is torrid in at least one room.

Strokes of Midnight
Hope Tarr
Harlequin Blaze
9780373793686 $4.99

Author Becky Stone hopes her horoscope proves correct as it states she in for a great year. She assumes if the stars are accurate her goals will be met of landing on the NYT bestseller list and finding a hunk to share her life with

The New Year proves promising when she shares the greatest sex of her life following a writer's party. However, once the holiday passes, her agent informs her that her bed hopping heroine Angelique is out and that as a mid level author she is in trouble. To survive she must collaborate with male adventure writer Adam Maxwell, who is a recluse living on the top of White Mountain, New England's highest peak. Becky says no to the proposal she once said romance writing is "housewife porn". However, she reconsiders when she learns the stranger who gave her orgasms like never before lives is the recluse on White Mountain when he is not in town attending a publishing function.

With its "novel" within the novel (extracts from the lead couple's joint efforts open each chapter), this is a fun well written contemporary romance. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Becky learns if Angelique is to survive another book she needs to team up with Adam's action hero Drake and never takes a breather whether their characters or the lead couple is front and center. This a well written creative tale as Hope Tarr entertains sub-genre fans with "two" blazing romances.

Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter
Del Rey
9780345491572 $25.95

The Firstborn previously attacked the earth with a solar flare; this essence refuses to allow any sentient race to live that might have the potential one day to be an adversarial rival. The Earth surprised the Firstborn by surviving the assault as no one endures an attack by this super being.

The Firstborn changes tactics by sending the Q-bomb from deep space towards Earth. When efforts to deflect the meteor like weapon fails, dissension on and off the planet slows down reactions as differing groups push forth an agenda. The Spacers on Mars and Mir are already cutting ties with the mother planet; they want nothing to do with the confrontation with Firstborn as they feel they can endure the destruction of the Earth. Many of those living on Earth want to take the war to the Firstborn, but are not sure how. Meanwhile defrosted Bisesa Dutt has returned to the living after fifteen years of being cryogenically frozen and with her daughter Myra discover the government wants them. With the help of Spacer Alexei they escape and soon meet scientists studying the Eye, an artifact of the Firstborn, in hopes of finding a way to counter the invincible.

The third Time Odyssey tale is an exhilarating science fiction thriller that targets fans who read the previous stories (see SUNSTORM and TIME'S EYE). Newcomers will be confused (and some of us old timers too) by the world hopping between Mir, Mars, and Earth. The key to the tale is that life on Mars, Mir, future earth, and to a much lesser degree Venus seem genuine. Those living on the different orbs behave as expected as things that seem different to a reader is treated as normal even the time bending of people and species from different earth eras living in fragile co-existence. Fans who appreciate a strong dose of quantum physics will enjoy this fine entry although a cliffhanger leaves room for another novel in this entertaining saga and we still wait for that encounter of the first kind with Firstborn.

Rise of the Blood Royal
Robert Newcomb
Del Rey
9780345477118 $26.95

The hundred years of the brutal War of Attrition between Rustannica and Shashida continues with no sign of either side abating the hostilities. In fact if anything the atrocities are getting worse as formidable ambitious beings see opportunities to grab power.

Malevolent wizard Gracchus Junius tries to convince the insolvent Emperor Vespasian of Rustannica that if they combine their magic and use lethal taboo enchantments they can end the war by turning Shashida into rubble. That would allow them to replenish their fortunes by taking their defeated enemy's gold.

At the same time that Vespasian considers Junius offer, in the land of Eutracia, two talented but novice mages, Prince Tristan and Princess Shailiha are studying how to control their talent. They believe they will end the War of Attrition, but must learn how to use "subtle matter" and locate the hidden Azure Sea that leads to Shashida.

This is a terrific ending to The Destinies of Blood and Stone trilogy (see March into Darkness and SAVAGE MESSIAH) as Robert Newcomb's implications and applications to our world is frightening. Amazingly even with a somewhat big picture perspective the vast cast in the three prime lands is fully developed. Newcomers need to read the previous novels or they will get lost most likely in Rustannica.

Gregory Frost
Del Rey
9780373802623 $13.95

SHADOWBRIDGE is an odd place consisting of immense interconnected bridges sitting over an endless ocean with dots of land. People live on these bridges. On the Ningle Span, young shadow-puppeteer Leodora tells a story to the god Shumyzin in exchange for him revealing her future; however, he fails to explain what he means when he warns her to be careful.

Leodora already understand caution as her parents vanished without a trace and the old sot Soter saved her life, but her uncle treats her like a slave instead of a family member. Forced to flee after breaking several taboos that mean torture and death, Leodora accompanied by Soter as her manager begins touring the bridge communities dressed as a man, as only a male can troubadour alone. She performs as Jax the puppeteer. She, as a he, begins to obtain a reputation, but some prefer the new storyteller dead.

The strange world of SHADOWBRIDGE comes across as genuine because of the differing reactions to the endless sea as some people fear the water while others like Leodora feel at home. The gods act like the Greek gods with their whimsical interference for instance changing a contented but somewhat moronic musician into a superstar who understands the meaning of life to his bitter regret. Fantasy readers will appreciate this well written tale, but many like this reviewer will feel somewhat cheated as the abrupt ending of this book is no true ending but instead a feeder to the second part of the saga.

Lying in Mid-Air
Anne Tourney
Cheek (Black Lace)
9780352341426 $12.95

Business consultant Lauryn knows she is a success by the number of clients flying her to assist them. However, with each new project her ennui grows as she has nothing outside of work except her fantasies as her stories are hot and bothersome, but reality is cold and boring.

Graduate student Chloe loves Japanese poetry and dreams of a debauched life in Tokyo preferably with her on her therapist, but fears flying and knows her shrink is a professional. However, in her reverie, they make love in the sky and in Japan; reality is lonely and cold.

Veronica shines shoes at the airport with dreams of owning a Goth escort service. Once again her dreams are heated, but the truth is she doubts she will ever take a chance on fulfilling her vision.

These three women come alive with their respective whimsical desire when they meet Joel, a male journalist, who wants to take each of this trio on a taste of depraved reality based on his sexual fantasies.

This is an interesting erotic character study as the relationship between the hunk and his harem change with each interaction. All four protagonists come across as genuine with flaws, desires and needs. Anne Tourney proves a deep look at relationships though the introspective musings and the encounters and trysts that make LYING IN MID-AIR a much deeper tale than the sub-genre normally contains.

Angel Isle
Peter Dickinson
WLB (Random House Children's Books)
9780385746908 $17.99

Ages have past since the legendary Ropemaker brought the chosen twenty-four as he realized he could not stop the chaos threatening the Empire. Each of the chosen ones vowed to use their magic to protect the people especially from demons. However, over time, the Ropemaker vanished until many believe him to be a myth and most others dead probably by the hands of the Watchers he chose. For their great power has corrupted the chosen Watchers. They merged into an all powerful being; who employs magic to cruelly rule the Empire with an iron fist.

Residents of the Valley realize their ancient magic "protection" from the evil excesses of the Empire is vanishing and soon will be gone. They fear repercussions from the malevolent one for hiding. Hope lies in finding the Ropemaker and persuading him to return the concealment magic to the Valley. Three young people (Saranja, Maja, and Ribek) leave the sanctuary of the Valley in search of the Ropemaker although no one has seen him in two centuries. None of the trio understands that destiny calls for them to do much more than seek a missing legend to repair waning magic. If they understood the quest they would have chosen the cowards way of staying inside the Valley regardless of the repercussions; which most likely is death.

This young adult fantasy is a terrific sequel to the delightful coming of age ROPEMAKER. The story line once again is a coming of age thriller as the three youngsters seek the only person who could save their village not understanding that their roles are much greater than that of desperate messengers although ironically their enemies have a strong inkling about the trio. Readers will want to join the terrific trio as they face danger and death every step of the way while learning Lord Acton's theory on power and Fodaro's Equations with their related theories on the rise of demons and angels.

The Vacant Throne
Joshua Palmatier
9780756404628 $24.95

The Chorl unprovoked assault almost destroyed Amenkor. The nation's ruler Varis had to employ a desperate ploy to save her people. However, by destroying THE SKEWED THRONE, Varis insured Amenkor defeated the invaders.

However, the cost of the war has left her country in a devastating state as much of the nation lies in ruins with starvation a real probability and nothing left to defend against another Chorl invasion. Varis knows they must rebuild fast, but fears she will lead alone as her mentor and advisor Erick remains near death following a vicious torture by the Chorl. Her hope resides with finding the Stone Throne that was built to protect the southern seaport Venitte, but vanished hundreds of years ago. She heads to that city hoping to forge an alliance and find a cure for Erick while the Chorl has regrouped and are ready to renew their vigorous insidious attacks by land and sea.

The Throne fantasy tales (see THE CRACKED THRONE and THE SKEWED THRONE) are some of the best the genre has to offer. THE VACANT THRONE contains an engaging plot starring a strong courageous female ruler who faces monstrous problems with no time to fix them. Readers will continue to cherish the Throne saga delivers as a desperate Varis tries to find ways to provide the basic needs to her beleaguered people.

Fellowship Fantastic
Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes (editors)
9780756404659 $7.99

The underlying connecting concept between these thirteen short stories is the bond of fellowship usually found on an impossible quest as defined by Tolkien although can be as simple as friendship. The key is that each willingly risks their life for the other(s). Although there have been a ton of theme anthologies of late some edited by Martin h. Greenberg, they remain fresh and fun if one reads it over a few weeks. A one sitting experience leads to overdosing. FELLOWSHIP FANTASTIC contains thirteen new tales of bonded individuals going beyond the distance (even through portals into another world or an alternate earth) for their pal. The tales are well written and entertaining while the various settings keep the collection from becoming stale as brothers and sisters in arms protect one another. The best tales in my opinion are those that occur on this earth like Alan Dean Foster's "Overcast" that has a cloud follow a hiker and Arizona's "Scars Enough by Russell Davis. Still from Serbia to finding your best friend on another world to understanding that "Revenge is a Dish Best Served with Beers" (I disagree with author Fiona Paxton -make it wine), this is an enjoyable theme oriented anthology.

Felix Gilman
9780553806762 $24.00

Arjun the composer leaves his home city Gad on a quest to find the intangible Voice. His journey takes him to the strange city of Ararat where streets change location and direction seemingly on a whim. He finds the place loaded with Gods, who enjoy making the city in their image. Then there is the enigmatic Bird who apparently has powerful influence on the townsfolk and Arjun wonders if the Gods do too.

As Arjun struggles to adjust to the ever changing environs, he continues his search for the Voice. He also ponders why so many Gods reside here and whether they compete to shape the landscape and the people in their image of the moment.

Readers who appreciate something radically different will want to peruse this complex horror fantasy as we accompany Arjun on his quest inside a city in which the visit yesterday to a locale might have been Renaissance Italy but today is late nineteenth century San Francisco and tomorrow only the Gods know. Try being Mapquest providing direction under those ever changing conditions. The convoluted story line never explains why the Gods constantly perform urban renewal; still Arjun and the audience get a first hand look at a theological system in which apparently the Gods Must be Crazy.

The Purrfect Murder
Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown
9780553803655 $26.00

The town of Crozet, Virginia is growing rapidly with the upper crust building McMansions trying to outdo each other. "Harry" Haristeen is not interested in material wealth having remarried the love of her life and is doing work she loves by creating a winery. Murder once again hits the people of Crozet hard when their beloved doctor William Wylde is murdered by a sniper's bullet. Most people think it was a fanatic who wanted to stop the doctor from performing abortions. The police think that the killer shot the physician from a roof across the street but the only thing on the roof on a Virginia Slim's cigarette butt.

The upper crust of Crozet is attending a charity gala when a scream rings out. Deputy Cynthia Cooper sees Carla Paulson murdered; her throat cut and the architect who is building her house Tazio Chappars is standing over the body with a knife in her hand. Harry's intuition tells her that the woman is innocent despite the evidence. Harry's cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter and her corgi Tee Tucker find out from the pack rats that live in the building where the gala was held that they found a Virginia Slim butt. Harry intends to find out who the real killer is so an innocent woman can regain her freedom even if it puts her in danger.

Crozet residents (two and four legged) are shook up by a big crime wave. Someone is blackmailing the women who had abortions and a building inspector seems shady to Harry even if she has no proof. As long time friends know her animal friends talk to each other and with other species enabling them to help in her investigation. This provides an air of enchantment to the storyline. Readers will thoroughly enjoy this magical tale where suspects abound despite the arrest of the most likely killer. Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown have written a fantastic regional mystery.

Bound In Moonlight
Louisa Burton
9780553384130 $13.00

"Tutelage". In 1902 New York heiress Emmeline Townsend is escorted by Lord Hardwyck to the Castle of the Hidden Grotto in rural France that she thought was his French abode. She appalling finds her host's face buried in the legs of a voluptuous female while another big-chested woman tasted his shaft. Wanting out Emmeline finds every door leads to debauchery and depravity until she meets Darius the djinn and then Elric the elf who focus on Emmeline's Emancipation.

"Slave Week". In 1817 Caroline Keating, a rector's daughter ruined two years ago by a soldier, has no prospects as her father tossed her out or money so in spite of remaining an innocent she agrees to be sold at auction as a sex slave for a week. Lord Rexton outbids an irate Lord Riddell for a week to do whatever he wants to his sex slave. He behaves like the immortal monster he is, but she sees otherwise.

"Magic Hour". In the late 1980s when she was sixteen, her mom went on vacation with her latest boy toy while her dad invited her to spend Christmas with him and his associates at Chateau des Freaks as she dubbed the Hidden Grotto. She had not retuned for nineteen years, but Isabel Archer is back as her dad, the castle's adminstrateur, asked her to come; he needs to persuade his offspring to accept her responsibility as she will replace him as adminstrateur like he replaced his parent, etc. After greeting dad, the reason she avoided the castle Mon Seignor Adrien Morel says hello.

This sequel to the delightfully erotica fantasy HOUSE OF DARK DELIGHTS contains three well written heated tales of forbidden star-crossed love. Readers will enjoy the sexcapades of fully developed lead couples as Louisa Burton provides a strong follow up anthology that will have fans wanting another tryst at Chateau de la Grotte Cachee where your inhibitions are left in Paris.

Elizabeth Bear
9780553591071 $6.99

The colony ship was traveling through space for hundreds of years when explosions almost destroyed it. They traveled to the nearest planet in hopes of making repairs, but too much damage was sustained to too many systems. To make the situation even direr, the sun they orbit is starting to go supernova. Five centuries later, the artificial intelligence that enabled the captain to guide the people into safety splinters into fragments called angels, each with a different propose.

The crew from the ship has become the Exalts, near immortals with a symbiotic life form inside them that grants them superior powers. The Mean are normal people who have become a servant class. Rien, raised as a Mean, rescues the Exalt Sir Perceval only to learn she is her sister. Perceval transfers some of her symbiote into Rien. They trek to Engine hoping to prevent a war between Engine and the House of Rule as these sisters are the only hope left if this world is to survive.

The Exalts still live on the ship believing that it still can be fixed. The Angels have distinct personalities as each gained a segment of the AI. Rien and Perceval know they must stop a war that seems inevitable; to do so they must understand the various Angelic personalities, find a competent captain, and learn a way to survive the supernova. Elizabeth Bear creates a world filled with vast characters that in spite of the science fiction origins of its people seems believable. That is the essence of the Great bear universe.

Laurie R. King
9780553803556 $24.00

By April 1926 although several years have passed since the armistice ended the combat the United States and England are still recovering from the War to End all Wars. Three bombs went off in a relatively short time in the United States causing much damage and killing innocent people. Harris Stuyvesant is determined to catch the bomber, not because he is a Bureau of Investigation agent but because one of the devices turned his favorite brother into a vegetable. He tracks the evidence to up-and-coming charismatic leftist politician, Richard Bunsen.

Trying to get close to the man he plays five degrees starting with meeting Aldous Carstairs who sends him to a former patient of his Bennet Grey whose sister Sara is friendly with Lady Laura Hurleigh who is Richard's lover. Bennet was injured in the war and came through with certain abilities. He is a human lie detector and has a sense of what people are thinking and planning. He agrees to go with Harris to a Hurleigh weekend party. Tensions are high because the miner's are going on the strike and a general strike is planned to bring the government down. Lady Laura is planning a weekend where the two sides can talk away from the noise of the public and media but there is another agenda being played, one Harris intends to stop.

TOUCHSTONE is a thick juicy story that shows England between the two world wars and how the government feels about the unions. Harris is in England to bring vigilante justice to the bomber and ends up falling for Sarah. He comes to care for Bennet and tries to rescue him from Carstairs clutches. Carstairs wants to be the power in the shadows that steers England on a course that seems acceptable on the surface but is deviously deceptive. Laurie R King creates fascinating characters and places them in several subplots so that the reader understands what motivates them.

Queen of Dragons
Shana Abe
9780553805284 $18.00

The Drakon are a unique species who look human except they have the uncanny additional abilities to change into smoke or dragons. The English Drakon has believed they are the last of their people until they learn from correspondence that a tribe exists in the Carpathian Mountains.

In Darkfrith in York, the elated English alpha Drakon aristocrat Kimber Langford hopes that a "lost tribe" has surfaced. She sends trusted aids to Transylvania to meet with the Carpathian tribe led by alpha Princess Maricara. Her brother is the puppet ruler, but he serves as her front as he is non-alpha. However, Kimber is stunned to learn his agents are massacred by an unknown force. Maricara travels incognito by herself to York to warn Kimber that a secret organization is dedicated to the objective of Drakon genocide.

The third Drakon romantic fantasy (see THE DREAM THIEF and THE SMOKE THIEF) like the previous tales is fantastic entry that adds to the Abe mythos starting with the fascinating English egocentric belief that the Carpathian group is a found "lost tribe". Kimber is a full blooded Drakon lord while the Princess heats is blood to a boiling once they meet. The courageous QUEEN OF DRAGONS actually owns the plot as she risks her life to warn her brother tribe of the dangers from an adversarial opponent who looks upon the Drakon as evil. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this strong entry, but those who read the previous Drakon entries already know this is one of the best sagas on the market today.

The Darkest Evening of the Year
Dean Koontz
9780553804829 $27.00

In Southern California, following the breakup of her marriage in hell, Amy Redtree forms Golden Hearts, a Golden Retriever rescue organization. Her latest canine saved is Nickie, whose abusive owner beat the dog, his wife, and their children. Amy cannot do much for the spouse except encourage her or for the kids as the state has strange laws protecting the abuser, but accompanied by her "Frank Lloyd Wright" boyfriend Brian McCarthy, she pays $2000 cash buying Nickie.

Nickie moves in with Amy and her two other golden retrievers, Fred and Ethel. However, as Nickie begins rescuing children in trouble and Amy wonders about the miracles her new family member performs, someone stalks Amy. That person perhaps with a partner or two breaks into Amy's home signifying the start of a reign of terror that reminds Amy about the tragedy that changed her from submissive to in your face. The memory transforms her back from confident risk taker to frightened victim especially when Brian and her canines become targets of this sick predator; only Nickie makes her feel safe.

THE DARKEST EVENING OF THE YEAR is a terrific suspense thriller with messages that society remains too tolerant towards abusers of animals, spouses and children. "Flying" Nickie is a fascinating furry character as she is willing to die to keep Amy and children safe; readers will be hooked just to learn more about who she is. The emotional retreat by Amy brings depth to the strong tense filled plot. From the opening sequence when Amy faces a drunken raging Carl until the final confrontation with psychopaths from her past, Dean Koontz keeps enthralled readers mesmerized throughout the DARKEST EVENING OF THE YEAR at least in the heroine's mind.

Laird of the Mist
Paula Quinn
Forever (Hachette)
9780446617857 $6.99

In the seventeenth century laird Callum MacGregor swears he will not become the latest homicidal statistic of the perfidious Campbells; over the past century members of the Campbell clan have assassinated every MacGregor laird. Instead Callum decides to lead a presumptive strike by attacking his enemy's stronghold leaving no one behind to ultimately try to kill him.

During the assault, Callum breaks his second rule of taking no prisoners as he abducts angry Kate Campbell with plans to use her as a hostage and an expendable pawn. She plans to escape starting with seducing her clan's enemy. As they fall in love, the Campbell clan is coming to liberate her with a retaliatory strike that includes leaving no one alive especially the Laird.

This entertaining Scottish historical romance focuses on a Romeo and Juliet with a love that neither of the feuding clans will blithely tolerate. With Callum stubborn when it comes to his belief that his enemy has murdered his predecessors and thus obviously distrustful, it is up to the courageous tolerant heroine to prevent a deadly battle and keep her beloved alive. Brave Kate steals the novel as she faces love, danger and treachery.

Lord of the Night
Robin T. Popp
9780446617857 $6.99

Prime vampire Erik Winslow and his peers the other Prime vampires agreed not to hunt humans. They can control their thirst because they were bitten a chupacabra. However, their offspring is another matter as the next generations of vampires are bloodthirsty murderers. Even his castle in Hocklsey, England is not a safe zone as witnessed the vampiric slayings of the Renaults.

Two decades later, Kacie Renault is a vampire slayer avenging the murders of her parents; Erik trained her. After Kacie kills Sedrick the vampire, who was Erik's friend, she decides she has had enough with blood and will become a bottom line accountant. However the Prime Vampires want her dead for murder. Erik finds himself obligated to keep his vow to keep Kacie and her sibling jess even as he begins to fall in love with his former student.

The fourth Night Slayer book (see OUT OF THE NIGHT, SEDUCED BY THE NIGHT, and TEMPED IN THE NIGHT) is a complex drama in which decisions are difficult to make. Erik is a terrific hero caught between the hard place and rock while Kacie is a feisty "takes no prisoners" woman. Fans of the saga will relish the latest entry wondering what the hero will do.

The Crazy School
Cornelia Read
Grand Central (Hachette)
9780446582599 $23.99

In 1989 in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, twenty-six year old Madeline Dare obtains a position as a history teacher at Santangelo Academy "therapeutic boarding school". The former Long Island debutante and married Syracuse fluff reporter knows she will have problems adjusting to her new environs, but is unaware how much.

Headmaster David Santangelo runs the academy with an iron fist allowing no room for mistakes; offenders are sent to "the farm" for punishment. Madeline's distressed student Mooney LeChance informs her that he believes his girlfriend, Fay Perry is pregnant. Although she knows she is expected to report this to Mr. Santangelo, Madeline agrees to keep the couple's revelation secret for now especially as the teen duo is serving time at the Farm. However, Mooney and Fay die after drinking party punch. The police arrest Dare as she allegedly prepared the poisoned drink.

THE CRAZY SCHOOL is an interesting amateur sleuth tale that reads like two novels in one. The first part of the book provides insight into those at the Santangelo Academy as if the story line is an expose character study of the negative elements of a private school. Somewhere towards the middle of the novel, the plot veers into a murder mystery. Although distinct, the parts ultimately blend together as Dare dares to prove her innocence while exposing A FIELD OF DARKNESS that engulfs the school.

Julia Harper
Grand Central
9780446619172 $6.99

When the First Wisconsin Bank of Winosha, Wisconsin is robbed by Yoda and SpongeBob SquarePants, part-time teller and librarian Turner Hastings sees the chaos as a chance to steal the items the bank president Calvin Hyman has locked away in his safety deposit box. She expects to find proof that odious ambitious Hyman is embezzling money from the bank. Under oath Hyman accused Turn's Uncle Rusty of committing the crimes that he was arrested and convicted for.

After capturing the two idiots in the masks, FBI Special Agent John MacKinnon pursues Turner who he assumes is a chip off her uncle's block. As she flees on the back roads of Wisconsin accompanied by Hyman's Great Dane that he says she kidnapped while she insists she saved, the cop follows her. As they talk by cell phone, an attraction begins to form. John, who never let anyone get away, soon finds himself protecting his beloved enemy from a professional hired by Hyman who wants her dead before she use what she found.

For most of this delightful crime caper, the story line is fast-paced and jocular as John begins to change his mind about the felon he pursues. Impish tantalizing Turner and stalwart jocular John have always adhered by the rules, but in their cat and mouse frolic across rural Wisconsin, all the regulations are broken. Filled with terrific twists, fans will appreciate Julia Harper's HOT thriller.

Kitty and the Silver Bullet
Carrie Vaughn
Grand Central
9780446618755 $6.99

Kitty the werewolf feels good about being a werewolf as her radio show is a success and she even has a boyfriend. More critical no one has recently tried to kill her (something she could not say through three previous books).

When her mom becomes ill, Kitty drops everything to return to her Denver home to help her. However, the Mile High City was not a safe haven for her when she lived there and had a graveyard radio show. Her former pack has not forgiven her for exposing them on the air and for leaving; no one walks out on a werewolf pack. Two vampire sects are in a cold war that is turning hot blooded with the threat of pulling in the entire paranormal population into a civil war. Kitty is caught in the middle when all she wants to do is nurse her mom back to heath.

The latest Kitty werewolf damsel in distress tale is a fun paranormal chick lit as Kitty proves you can come home to face the same trouble you left behind. Kitty being her natural made self gets caught in the middle of a cold war turning increasingly hostile amidst the divided vampires and her former pack who wants her to leave Colorado immediately. As Kitty dodges silver bullets while ripping out a few hairs in her amusing satirical way, you won't find Cheney lose what is left of his hair to appear on her show.

The Romance Readers' Book Club
Julie L. Cannon
9780452288997 $13.00

In 1974 Rigby, Georgia, fifteen year old Tammi Elco avoids her guardian Granny as the older woman is deeply religious. Granny's spouse Pepaw begs the Heavenly Father to end the draught that is destroying his farm whereas Granny believes God is punishing the family for their transgressions. Granny insists there will be no trick or treating as that is a pagan sin. After church, Tammi and her thirty years old childlike cousin Orr sneak out to go trick or treating. Dell Terhune gives Orr candy and Tammi romance novels.

Tammi comes up with the idea of the ROMANCE READERS' BOOK CLUB. At school she asks LaDonna Tallchief to join the club; Donna says yes. Next she needs a place to meet so she asks her Aunt Minna, if they can come to her home. Minna says yes and joins the club. Minna tells Tammi that her Uncle Finch is dying and his wife Nanette and their teenage son Leon will come to stay.

At the first club meeting, LaDonna brings her older cousin Park. They agree to meet in a month with each having one week to read the first six chapters of a book. Nanette and Leon arrive and Tammi thinks her cousin by marriage not blood is a hunk. Meanwhile Reverend Goodlow warns people that lust is causing the drought, which worries a guilt laden Tammi as she dreams of kisses with Leon as the stars of the romance novels.

This is a well written southern family drama, but the lack of references to the civil rights movement that impacted the region in the 1970s fails to provide an anchor to the period. Still the storyline stars fully developed characters that bring to life 1970s rural Georgia while the use of "trashy" romance novels is a clever device that enables the audience to see the power religious beliefs hold on people. Readers who appreciate something unique will want to read this fine coming of age historical.

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

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

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

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

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

A Rush of Wings
Adrian Phoenix
9781416541448 $14.00

FBI Special Agent Heather Wallace has chased the Cross-Country Killer for three years trying to end this brilliant maniac's serial killing frenzy. Currently, she has followed him from Seattle to New Orleans. His latest victim is a nineteen years old LSU male student and this time left a message besides the tortured rape body; the sexual killing sadist writes on a wall above the corpse "WAKE UP'. On the other side of the wall is Club Hell.

Heather visits Club Hell to determine whether that facility might attract CCK. She meets born vampire Dante Prejean who performs with the Goth band Inferno. His horrendous malevolent memories have been erased, which in turn leaves him perfect for the ministrations of CCK; as the psychopath knows what Dante does not. Anyone that Dante cares about including an obstinate skeptical Fed becomes a CCK teaser. Heather, Dante and his vampire cronies unite to try to end the serial killer's mayhem, but this clever evil seems to always know what they will do next.

A RUSH OF WINGS smoothly combines a serial killer police investigation with vampires and mad scientists experimenting in para-psychopathology; all that along side a heated romantic thriller in which even the blood sucking menage de trois are hot trysts. Fans of paranormal romantic suspense crime thrillers will enjoy the sweltering A RUSH OF WINGS starring an intrepid heroine, a beleaguered vampire, and a CCK teasing serial killer taking a bite out of New Orleans. What more could sub-genre fans ask for.

Come Walk With Me
Joan Medlicott
Pocket, Dec 2007

When Phillip Bennett died, his beloved wife Claire thought her world was over. Eighteen months later even with seeing a shrink Dr. Delanny, she remains lifeless. Their antiques business no longer matters and their East Hampton home feels empty.

Needing a new start, Claire leaves for Florida, but still finds nothing fulfilling. When her daughter Mandy asks Claire to come visit her, her fiance Tom and her future father-in-law Larry Harden in Weaverville, North Caroline, Claire decides to do so as she hopes to reconnect with her offspring and her son Paul; ever since her other son Terrence died in an accident, she has felt estranged from her children. However, she must reach out to them if she wants them to reach out to her; something she desperately wants to do, but is afraid to take that first step.

Though not Covington even if the family tension mostly occurs in North Carolina, Joan Medlicott provides a warm family drama starring fully developed individuals especially the lead character. Claire has a second chance with her children, but will she take the opportunity because the risk of rejection may be more costly than the status quo. Fans of Ms. Medlicott who rival those of Dean Smith in intensity will enjoy her deep character study of a middle aged widow struggling with life almost two years after the death of her husband.

Redeemed in Darkness
Alexis Morgan
9781416547136 $6.99

Paladin warrior Cullen Finley crossed the barrier between worlds to deliver a message. Once he completes his mission, he is to immediately return to his universe. However, something happens to the barrier and Cullen is trapped on the wrong side in the Other universe of his enemy.

Lusahn q'Arc considers the Paladins as her enemy. Her first reaction upon seeing her combat foe Cullen is to want to torture information out of him as she was expecting to meet her missing brother Barak. Next she finds herself either wanting to making love with him or killing him. When he provides her information on the smuggling of the blues that bring light to her dark world, she realizes she must hide him. As they fall in love, both conclude that traitors on both sides of the feud are using the dying sun of the Others to maliciously manipulate the rivalry.

The fourth Paladins of Darkness romantic fantasy (see DARK PROTECTOR, DARK DEFENDER and IN DARKNESS REBORN) is a fabulous entry with a wonderful freshness as Alexis Morgan takes her audience to the demon side. Fans as well as Cullen will begin to see a different humanized Others instead of the demonic killers. The forbidden romance enhances a fabulous thriller that will have readers enthralled once the hero crosses over.

Getting Old is to Die For
Rita Lakin
9780440243878 $6.99

Gladdy Gold and her sister Evie Markowitz have lived in phase II in Lanai Gardens in Ft. Lauderdale for over a quarter of a century. They are very active and with their friends Ida, Bella and Sophie have an informal detective agency. Their latest case involves parents who want their daughter, who they have a close relationship with, to attend their seventieth wedding anniversary. Gladdy, who doesn't know where her boyfriend Jack is, decides to take the case.

The daughter refuses to answer her calls but they find a way to get her to meet with them. When they see her, they understand and so accompany her for moral support to see her parents. Unknown to Gladdy, Jack is in New York trying to find out who killed his girlfriend's husband over five decades ago. He is delighted that his family and Gladdy's family get along so great but he is scared of what Gladdy will do when she finds out what he is up to.

GETTING OLD IS TO DIE FOR shows readers that senior citizens can have rich productive lives filled with fun and romance. Jack is a real hero, putting his needs on the back burner so that Gladdy can gain a sense of closure. It is fun reading how he conducts his own investigation while Gladdy is worried that her refusal to commit to him ruined their relationship. This humorous mystery has protagonists and a secondary cast that is easy to understand what motivates them.

The Thieves of Faith
Richard Doetsch
9780440242895 $6.99

In Geneva, Switzerland, former art thief Michael St. Pierre knows he would do anything for Genevieve, who has been there for him ever since his beloved wife Mary died last year. So when she asks a favor of him, he gives her an unequivocal yes before knowing what she needs. She explains she is being hunted by her son Julian who demands she tell him the secret of a painting by an obscure artist. She owns the work that is being sold at a black market gallery, but does not want it back; she wants it destroyed. Genevieve gives Michael a week to decide if he will perform her request.

Three days later, he calls her to tell her no as the mission is impossible only to learn she is dead. Owing her, Michael completes what turned out to be her death bed request. However, malevolent raging maniac Julian Zivera claims Michael owes him. He demands the thief break into the Kremlin to steal a gold box that allegedly contains the eternal life formula buried in the most buried vault. If he fails to accomplish the impossible mission, his biological father who he never met will die.

This exciting sequel to THE THIEVES OF HEAVEN (not reviewed) is an entertaining thriller as Michael and two buddies conduct the dangerous quest in which betrayals seem to occur on every page and close shaves that Gillette would envy even more so. The story line is over the Urals, but thriller fans will enjoy anyway because Michael Doetsch never makes his tale into the universal big crunch; instead there is a comic book like forth to the fun caper.

Capitol Conspiracy
William Bernhardt
9780345487568 $25.95

President Franklin Blake and the First Lady attend a special ceremony honoring those who were killed at the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City. However, terrorists attack the First Couple and others killing the First Lady.

The Democratic Junior Senator from Oklahoma, Ben Kincaid, is put in an awkward position of either backing a proposed constitutional amendment to increase emergency powers while suspending civil liberties or committing political suicide. As Ben considers between the end of his career or the end of freedom, his new wife and chief of staff Christina investigates who caused the latest Oklahoma City tragedy; her preliminary findings imply DC power behind the assault.

Except for conspiracy buffs who believe Jimmy Hoffa is buried in Texas Stadium or President Bush flew one of the 9/11 planes, CAPITAL CONSPIRACY will require a Mount Everest leap of faith. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the First lady is killed and never slows down as Secret Service agents and other Feds try to prevent Christina from learning the truth. She would be labeled a CAPITOL THREAT and under the proposed amendment and dispatched accordingly. Still William Bernhardt provides an exciting thriller; just have your Patriot Act identification card with you to prove you can legally read the novel.

My Fair Mistress
Tracy Anne Warren
9780345495396 $6.99

In 1812 London Lord Harry Hawthorne confesses to his widow sister Julianna that he has made a mess of their lives; he gambled and lost a fortune and admits he has nothing for their younger sister Maris' coming out gala. Instead he owes ruthless financier Rafe "Dragon" Pendragon a ton of money that is due.

Julianna visits the Dragon in his lair to persuade him to give them more time. Rafe counters with an offer of the debt paid in full by her being his willing mistress for six months. He expects the prim and proper lady to be outraged, faking a swoon, and walking out angrily; instead she accepts his daring terms to his shock. Both are quickly stunned by the passion of their lovemaking as neither has felt like this before. As each realizes without telling the other that they are in love, his enemy plots to use her to destroy him.

Although the underlying theme has been used a zillion times especially in the Regency sub-genre, Tracy Anne Warren displays her talent by making it so fresh that MY FAIR MISTRESS seems like the first novel to employ a rogue using a debt to buy a mistress. The story line is fast-paced and smoothly converts from an illicit love affair into a caring love affair and finally into protecting one's beloved at risk to one's self. This is a terrific Regency romance with two "Mistress" tales to follow.

A Bucket of Ashes
P.B. Ryan
9780425218730 $6.99

As a child Nell Sweeney lived in the poor house and lost her family to disease and when she got out she made a living working as a pickpocket. Now she has a respectable job working for the wealthy Hewitts as a governess to their adopted daughter Grace. Only she and the family know that Grace is Will Hewitt's biological child, born on the wrong side of the blanket. He is unable to care for her because of his opiate and gambling addictions.

When the family goes to Cape Cod for the summer Nell runs into her ex-lover Dr. Greaves who tells her that her brother was murdered after hiding out in a shed that caught fire. He was wanted for the murder of Susannah Cunningham a woman who he worked for as a gardener. Besides needing a divorce because her abusive husband is in prison and will remain so for thirty years, and she is carrying Will's baby, Nell with the help of Will and Dr. Greaves investigate the death of James because an autopsy shows he was knifed and did not die from smoke inhalation.

P.B. Ryan writes a heartwarming mystery that capture the ambivalence of the rich on the east coast five years after the civil war ended. The protagonist leads a troubled life but she rises above her upbringing to become a solid citizen who loves the responsibility of caring for her young charge. Will comes back from France where he was applying his medical skills and is there for Nell when she needs him most. Readers will care about him because he feels he is unworthy to love someone as pure as Nell.

Night Season
Eileen Wilks
9780425220153 $7.99

Three gnomes enter the earth through a magical portal from the Edge. The FBI's Magical Crimes Unit is worried about the newcomers and is proven correct when the paranormal aliens abduct several humans and take them back through the gate to their realm. Their prime goal is Finder Cynna Weaver who they demand locate a missing crucial magical medallion.

Lupine Sorcerer Cullen Seabourne and his beloved FBI Agent Cynna Weaver are celebrating the birth of their baby, but find their gala abruptly ended when they along with FBI Unit 12 Chief Ruben Brooks and former demon Gan are yanked through the gnome gate. They know that the only way home is to locate a missing crucial magical medallion that the gnomes badly crave and will kill to possess.

Fans of the series will recognize the return of the C couple; this time as the prime stars after secondary roles supporting the Lily saga in the Wilks wonderful fantasy universe (see BLOOD LINES). The story line is fast-paced and filled with action and plenty of twists that the audience is coming to expect from Elaine Wilks. However, more critical is the cast especially Cullen and Cynna who prove more than capable of holding the story line together as they "rule" the NIGHT SEASON.

The Spymaster's Lady
Joanna Bourne
9780425219607 $7.99

Leblanc tortures spy maestro Annique "The Fox Cub" Villiers demanding she give him the Albion plans that Vauban gave her in Bruges to take to England. Annique is the best at the espionage game especially when it comes to checkmating men so since she has no plans to die here, she must find a way out of this mess. She has outplayed every male opponent with ease and wouldn't be in this hell hole with the devil's spawn if her elderly associate was not so desperate; still she expects to win every time though right now she lingers in a French prison and ponders how to escape.

British spymaster Robert Grey is assigned the task of abducting the infamous Cub in order to interrogate her to learn what she really knows and who gives her orders. Thus he enters the same French prison where she is currently a resident and meets the renowned Cub. This is a case of hate at first sight in spite of an attraction. However they both conclude they need one another to escape their jail, which they do. As they flee across France they begin to fall in love, but their various enemies and some alleged allies pursue them with one thought kill the spies.

Although The Fox Cub seems very vulnerable and not quite the invincible professional that she allegedly is, THE SPYMASTER'S LADY is an exhilarating historical romantic espionage thriller starring two strong adversaries needing to team up if they are to survive those wanting them dead. The story line is action-packed, but belongs to the courageous lead couple who go from distrust to dependency to love. Joanna Bourne begins her legacy with a fine tale.

The Mage's Daughter
Lynn Kurland
9780425219164 $14.00

The archmage of the Kingdom of Neroche, Miach, knows he thought he did right when he hid his identity from Morgan (see STAR OF THE MORNING). Now he regrets his choice as he has learned the hard way that without her the Black Mage would have won. Loathing anything pertaining to magic, Morgan flees from him and the war to heal at the non magical Gobhann Castle.

Lothar continues his assault on the kingdom while Miach must decide how to prevent his imminent victory. His only hope rests with the woman he loves but betrayed. Somehow he must earn Morgan's trust as he knows he has her love, but that is not enough any longer as she feels he used her to get at her magic. Without her help Neroche will die, but the cost may be his heart.

This is a terrific romantic fantasy in which a desperate Miach tries to woo the woman he loves to help him stop the enemy. The story line is fast-paced yet the lead duo seems real as the beleaguered hero struggles to open his heart and soul to a distrusting Morgan who knows ten things she hates about him yet in spite of that loves him. Lynn Kurland provides a fabulous second tale that sets the stage for an incredible finish.

Just A Taste
Deirdre Martin
9780425218976 $7.99

Vivi Robitaille gives up on making it as a Parisian chef after a few years of rejection. So she chooses to do what perceives is the next best thing by opening a bistro in Brooklyn's Bensonhurst neighborhood across the street from Dante's Italian restaurant. Feeling they are not competitors as they offer different fare, Vivi introduces herself to the Dante family, who welcome her to the neighborhood.

She is immediately attracted the head chef and part owner Anthony. To his chagrin he feels the same way. However, as they compare menus and great food, Vivi knows she loves Anthony, but she cannot compete with his late wife, a police officer who died in the line of duty. For his part Anthony believes he has met his food mate, but feels as if he is betraying his deceased spouse.

This sequel to FAIR PLAY is a wonderful contemporary romance in which the puck never drops; instead pots and pans are the main course, recipes included. Vivi is a lively extrovert while Anthony is much more reserved. His efforts to keep his partner, his retired hockey player sibling Michael, out of the restaurant adds humor to an entertaining culinary romance.

Bond of Fire
Diane Whiteside
9780425217382 $14.00

During the French Revolution, Jean-Marie St. Just met Helene d'Agelet in Paris. They fell in love, but were fated to separate as he was turning into a vampire and she was a mortal. However, he remained unaware that after he left her she was changed over too. Over the next two centuries fate seemed to intervene keeping them apart.

In the present, Helene is stunned to see a photo of her beloved Jean-Marie that indicates he is alive. She searches for him so that they can finally share eternity together. However, they still have issues between them as Jean-Marie has been assigned the task of killing the wicked vampire Queen of New Orleans Helene's sister, Madame Celeste.

Although much of the story occurs before the first tale (see BOND OF BLOOD) the second of Diane Whiteside modern vampire trilogy is an exciting horror thriller. Readers obtain a bit of the history that led to the vampire kingdoms that carve up much of modern day America. Interestingly the lead couple spends much of the two hundred plus years (and most of the book) separated to the chagrin of romantic fantasy purists; yet the look through time strengthens the final showdown making BOND OF FIRE an entertaining read.

Murder in Miniature
Margaret Grace
9780425219805 $6.99

Retired schoolteacher Geraldine Porter is watching her granddaughter Maddie at the same time she is the chairperson for the local Dollhouse and Miniatures Fair. She is sharing a table with her friend Linda Reed who has made a beautiful miniature Governor Winthrop desk. Gerry notices a spot of blood on one of the pieces of furniture before Linda and the desk disappear.

After watching over two tables for the day and not being able to locate Linda, Gerry is very worried. When Linda calls Gerry pick her up from a deserted area at night she refuses to tell her friend what happened. Word gets around that her son Jason, a troubled teen, might be involved in the robberies of Crane's Jewelry store. Gerry later learns that a dead stranger was in the area when Linda made a phone call. When Mr. Crane is murdered, the Winthrop desk is found in his hand. Gerry knows that Linda and Jason are no killers so she starts her own investigative and find evidence that links the murders to the robbery. Now all she has to do is convince the police.

Margaret Grace makes creating miniature furniture and people so enticing that many readers will personally try it as a hobby. The author is a gifted storyteller who has the magic touch when it comes to flawed but endearing characters like Gerry. The heroine is just starting to live again after the death of her beloved husband; ironically solving the puzzle of the robbery and the murders brings her back to life.

Killer Mousse
Melinda Wells
9780425219812 $7.99

In Santa Monica, California Della Carmichael accepts the offer from the better Living Channel to host a cooking show In the Kitchen with Della so that she can pay the rent on her cooking school studio. However, one hour before she is to make her live appearance on the air debut, the previous Cooking Diva Mimi Bond verbally assaults her; accusing her of sleeping with Mickey Jordan as that would be the only reason he gave her Mimi's show. Trying to remain calm, Della insists she only met Mickey four times and his wife was with him each time. She keeps to herself that the rumor Mimi was fired was too much 100 proof sauce in her sauce. To her chagrin Mimi takes Della's famous KILLING MOUSSE and claims it is terrible before falling down to her death. From the audience the woman sitting next to Mimi shouts "You killed my mother".

Police Detective Hall leads the investigation in which all the evidence points towards Della. The mousse, which had been in the nearby refrigerator for a few hours, contains two ingredients that Della claims she did not use: Intesteral the chocolate laxative, and peanuts, which Mimi is deathly allergic to. Realizing at a minimum her career is ruined and at maximum face an official accusation of first degree murder, Della investigates starting with how Mimi who could not boil water became the COOKING DIVA.

This is an interesting culinary amateur sleuth as the heroine cook has a genuine reason to find the real culprit; she recognizes she is a bumbling amateur but cannot afford a professional. Della keeps the plot fresh with her inquiry as she uses her cooking process to guide the steps she takes. Readers will enjoy the recipes provided by Della, the support cast and some guests (Barbara Rush and her sister Ramona Hennessy) ranging from the title dessert to "Gangster Chicken Cacciatore", and "Funeral Salad" (by guest Regina Cocanougher).

A Bone To Pick
Charlaine Harris
9780425219700 $7.99

Lawrence, Georgia is usually a quiet little southern town except when Aurora "Roe" Teagarden has A BONE TO PICK; which to the locals seems too often. Trouble follows her like a magnet but when she goes to the funeral of Jane Engle, her lawyer has some good news for her. Jane left Roe her entire estate which includes her house and half a million dollars. The lawyer hints that Jane has something she wants Roe to fix.

As Roe inspects her new house looking for a hiding place, she spots the window seat carpeted to look like a piece of furniture. When she opens it, Roe finds a skull and since she doesn't want to take it to the police, she wraps it inside a blanket and takes it to her mother's house. She later finds inside a book a note in Jane's handwriting saying she didn't do it. Relieved, Roe has to figure where the skull came from and who killed that person.

Charlaine Harris's second Aurora Teagarden mystery is a charming delight populated with eccentric lovable Southern characters. The mystery is well thought out with enough suspects to keep readers turning the pages to find out who lost their head, why that person was beheaded, and why the head is with Jane while the body remains in parts unknown (pardon the pun). A BONE TO PICK is a classic reprint from 1992 that stands the test of time.

Three Mothers
Sonia Lambert
9780425219126 $14.00

In 1945 Helene gives birth to a daughter, but her spouse stationed in India, writes to tell her to leave the baby with her mom as the climate is not good for a newborn. Susie travels by herself leaving Vera with her mother and her sister Lottie. On her trek overseas, Helene falls in love with a RAF pilot.

Helene's youngest daughter, Vera loves the fervor of the late 1960s as London swings, but Paris lives the passion of the era. She becomes pregnant and debates within herself what to do with the fetus she carries especially since she does the unheard of: leaving her cheating husband and return to her mom for help.

In 1996 although Vera's second husband Steve, her sister Lottie, and her other adult child Gus are alive and well, her oldest child mid twenties Susie cares for her as she is dying from cancer. Three months after her mom Vera died, Susie is cleaning out the house and is still learning much about her mom and her maternal grandma.

THREE MOTHERS is a fascinating character study that focuses deeply into the interrelated yet separate lives of three generations of English women. The three moms are fully developed protagonists so their love and loathing of one another seems genuine. Keep plenty of tissues handy as this novel hits home as Sonia Lambert provides a powerful look at the changing roles of motherhood in the latter half of the twenty century through the lives of these three women as the cycle of death and rebirth continues with the next generation a decade later.

Manderley Prep
Carol Culver
9780425217474 $9.99

In the San Francisco Bay area teenager Cindy Ellis's wealthy dad married Irina Vanderhoffer. Thus she suddenly had two stepsisters Brie and Lauren who she quickly disliked as they were spoiled, slimy and sneaky. Not long after the families blend, her father dies. Irina refuses to allow her stepdaughter a chance to grieve the only person in the world she loved and who in turn cherished her. Instead Irina forces Cindy to work at her spa, while her own daughters are able to join the cheerleading squad and chase the athletes; making matters even more unbearable Brie and Lauren treat Cindy like a slave and their mother condones their behavior.

With no BF or BFF the lonely Cindy feels her only escape in the foreseeable future is a full scholarship so that she can leave the egotistical trio behind. At the exclusive Manderley Prep the lonely Cindy works hard at school and provides English tutoring. Foreign exchange student Marco Valenti, the star of the soccer team, is her current student that she tutors. She is attracted to the Italian stallion, but assumes he would never go for a girl like her. As her stepsisters pull cruel stunts on her to keep her away from Marco, Cindy decides enough as revenge tastes sweet.

Mindful of Hilary Duff's A Cinderella Story, high school readers will enjoy this entertaining modern day fairy tale. Cindy is a beleaguered lonely heroine with no one to call BFF; her goal is to escape preferably to an East Coast college where she hopes to make friends. The three female Vanderhoffers are right out of the original Cinderella, as they are wicked stepsisters and stepmother abusing her. Fans of the Duff movie will appreciate the first BFF teen tale.

State of the Onion
Julie Hyzy
9780425218693 $7.99

Assistant chef Olivia Paras works at the White House under the outgoing executive chef Henry Coley who has fed five administrations. Olivia hopes to succeed him and is on her way back to the kitchen with a going away gift for Henry a man Naveen is spotted running away from the Secret Service. Olivia bangs him over the head with a frying pan and she thinks he is hauled off to jail. She later learns he is an agent from one of the other espionage agencies with news that the Chameleon, an assassin has a hit out either on the president or his guest.

Naveen contacts Olivia to meet him to give her the information because he believes the Secret Service is compromised. She agrees to meet him but witnesses instead a secret service operative killing the agent and later learns the culprit is Chameleon. She is the only person alive who knows what he looks like which puts her life in danger. He comes after her but she always manages to escape. The president is hosting guest from countries that been at war for years and while Olivia is getting ready the meals she starts investigating who the target of the Chameleon really is.

STATE OF THE ONION is a combination political thriller and amateur sleuth mystery. The protagonist is a strong willed woman who tries to balance her job with her romance to a Secret Service agent; she also hopes to replace Henry instead of a rival. She is also dealing with the newly appointed head of the Sultural and Faith Based Etiquette Affairs Dept who makes it plain he hopes Olivia's rival gets the job. Julie Henry has written a delightful and mesmerizing crime caper with the added bonus of seeing the support staff who works behind the scene at the White House.

The Queen's Gambit
Diane A. Stuckart
9780425219232 $23.95

At the court of the duke of Milan, the royal painter and inventor is Leonardo Da Vinci. He has his own studio and apartments in the palace and his apprentices reside there including Dino. Leonardo may be a genius in many things but when it comes to Dino he doesn't have a clue that he is a female. She chose to run away in order to learn from the master himself how to be the best artist she can be at a time when women were nothing more than ornaments.

The French ambassador is in Milan for a treaty signing and the two men vie for a painting by Leonardo. They decide the winner of a living chess game will possess the painting. During a break in the game, the Conte de Ferrara walks away and doesn't return. Dino finds him with a knife in his chest and when Leonardo gets the Duke, he is told that the Conte was the new ambassador to France. The Duke of Milan charges Leonardo with finding the killer a Herculean job because there are hundreds of people staying at the palace and the motives of those that want him dead range from the personal to the political. Dino risks her life to help her teacher.

Fans of historical fiction and historical mysteries will find THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT to their liking. Leonardo Da Vinci comes alive in this tale as a true renaissance man who hunts down criminals, invents a wrist watch and is a great teacher who shows his apprentices the intricacies of painting. Yet in spite of the deep look into the life of the grandmaster, Dino steal the show as she proves to be an able assistant while trying to hide her gender from those close to her.

Sucker Bet
Erin McCarthy
9780425217184 $14.00

Nine hundred years old vampire Gwenna Carrick has spent the last three centuries hiding from her nasty former spouse Roberto Donatelli. However after three hundred years of ennui, Gwenna cannot take it any longer especially residing in her brother's Vegas hotel and casino. She decides that the Internet is not enough even if she enjoys being part of an on line vampire slayer group. So she finally comes out of her sheltered life to have some fun in the night life of Vegas.

On her first night out on the town, Gwenna meets a corpse drained of his blood; she thinks that is not a very charming way to return to the living. Not long afterward she finds other members of her on line slayer group dead; drained of their blood too. Police detective Nate Thomas leads the investigation, but he rejects the idea of a vampire; instead he assumes a sick human is murdering people and somehow removing their blood. He also knows that Gwenna is the link as she is part of the slayer group and everywhere she goes a body is sure to follow. Gwenna wonders if Roberto is behind the killings even as Roberto vows to keep the beautiful woman safe as he assumes she is the ultimate victim of a deranged serial killer.

The fourth Tale of Vegas Vampires (see HIGH STAKES, BIT THE JACKPOT and BLED DRY) is an amusing entertaining paranormal romantic police procedural. The story line is fast-paced as Gwenna comes out of hiding in spite of having to avoid a bunch of corpses. Nate is a hero who will do anything to keep his beloved safe. Their erotic scenes are worth the price of admission even with a clever whodunit; this is a sure bet for sub-genre fans.

Murder by Numbers
Kaye Morgan
9780425219034 $6.99

Tired of being a publicist to the stars, Liza Kelly quit the Hollywood scene and settled down in her hometown of Maiden's Bay, Oregon. The mayor is attracting movie makers to the town so ironically Liza remains a publicist although she also has a new career as a newspaper columnist on the Oregon Daily providing sudoku puzzles. They are filming Counterfeit in town but when as they near completion, the director Terrence Hamblyn is in a car accident.

Mirage Productions' owner Oliver Chissel places Lloyd Olbrich as the new director. He insists on revisions, which means more locality filming of scenes already done. The mayor and the shop owners are livid; the former because he wants to expand Main Street and the latter because they will not be paid until the movie is completed. None of the proprietors have deep pockets that they can afford the delay. While walking alone on the beach, Liza spots the head of Chissel with his body buried in the sand. Liza investigates the homicide and quickly discovers many people in the movie business and locally had motives to kill the studio owner. Her continual digging upsets someone who tries to kill her.

Kaye Morgan has written a cleverly constructed mystery that reflects the finely crafted sudoku puzzles that are included for fans to enjoy. The protagonist is an independent person who is estranged from her husband although they love one another; he is in town rewriting aspects of the script. Liza is obstinate as her spouse knows so he is not shocked when she makes inquires even after threats to her life. Her investigation especially looking at those involved with the movie provides the audience with an insider's glimpse at filming on location.

The Killing Ground
Jack Higgins
9780399153808 $25.95

Billy Salter is now part of Major Ferguson's Secret Intelligence Service and like Sean Dillon, killing is just another tool in his arsenal. Sean and Billy are working passport patrol when they notice Mr. Casper Rashid and his wife Mollie entering the country after traveling to several known terrorist-sponsored countries. They are detained and brought in for interrogation. Rashid tells them that his thirteen year old daughter Sara has been kidnapped; taken to Baghdad by her paternal grandfather where she will marry the Hammer Of God, well known and respected by al Qaeda and Osama.

If the British agents will help him get back his daughter, he will give them all the considerable information he knows on the Army of God and other terrorist organizations. The deal is struck but Sara's grandfather gets word that they are coming to rescue her. He hands his grandchild over to her betrothed who takes Sara to her uncle's estate in Hazar. It takes a lot of work and subterfuge but the British agents rescue Sara. Their troubles are not over because Russian President Putin using an intermediary puts out a hit on Ferguson and his crew while the Islamic terrorists do the same. Much blood will be shed, including some on the right side before things are temporarily settled.

Jack Higgins is the master of the espionage and political thriller, changing enemies as the times change. Sean and Billy are cold blooded killers who know what they are as they fight against the enemies of England. Their efforts prove they are not thugs but very intelligent loyal men who do what they are told by their superiors with no questions asked. The author shows his skill as he makes the reader believe the terrorists and the Russians are in bed together although with the Chechnya revolt that seems unlikely.

Write It When I'm Gone
Thomas M. DeFrank
9780399154508 $25.95

This is an interesting look at the late President Ford through his off the record discussions with reporter Thomas DeFrank over the three plus decades. The book is more anecdotal than a biography, but remains prescient as the audience obtains how Mr. Ford saw the direction of the country, Nixon and Watergate, being an unelected president, his political party, and the presidents that followed him. The latter is the most fun as Mr. Ford blames Reagan not Nixon and the pardon for his loss in 1976 when the then California governor attacked him giving Carter and the Democrats some strong ammunition; Mr. Ford bitterly pointed out that the famous Reagan eleventh commandment was created when the great communicator became the star attraction front runner. He admitted that he admired the incredible communications skills of Reagan and Clinton, especially the latter's ability to grasp and explain complex issues; Reagan he felt was to lazy to bother beyond a sound bite. The best moments to this reviewer are his prediction that Bush II will have problems justifying the Iraq invasion on WMDs and during the Clinton presidency predicted that Hilary will be on the national ticket in 04 or 08. It is interesting to read how one president evaluated his living exclusive club members and those who failed to win entry like Perot, WRITE IT WHEN I'M GONE proves that LBJ was wrong abou t Mr. Ford; he obviously wore a helmet when he played center at Michigan.

Stranger in Paradise
Robert B. Parker
9780399154607 $25.95

Apache hit man Wilson "Crow" Cromartie brazenly walks into the office of Paradise, Massachusetts Chief of Police Jesse Stone to ask the cop to make his latest consulting job easier. Jesse reminds Crow that a decade ago, he was part of a gang that executed a deadly heist on nearby affluent Stiles Island. Crow says he had nothing to do with the homicides as he was forced to flee on a speedboat from a dangerous shootout, which Jesse reminds him led to the death of two police officers.

Louis Francisco, reputed crime boss of South Florida, hired Crow because he knows the Paradise coast and has a reputation for success. He wants Crow to find his daughter and report back to his client for further instruction. Jesse says he will discuss an arrest with the ADA. After Crow leaves Jesse tells his staff that Crow freed the female hostages because he does not kill women, but when it comes to men, he is STONE COLD.

Crow informs Louis he found Amber living in poverty with her mother Fiona. Louis orders Crow to kill Fiona and bring Amber to him. Since he does not murder women, Crow brazenly tells Jesse to protect Fiona. The question for Jesse is whether Crow will abduct Amber to take her south; complicating matters is his ex wife TV reporter Jenn is involved as she investigates local teen gang activity.

Crow steals the show with his odd but fascinating morality that enables him to double cross clients as he did ten years ago, kill men in cold blood, steal from the dead, and not harm a woman. Jess is at his best when he reluctantly collaborates with Crow; he is at his worst when he begins to reconcile with Jenn; ignoring her sexual betrayals to further her career that turned him into an alcoholic, which in turn cost him his LAPD job. Time lines since LA and the Stiles Island caper aside, this is a solid thriller, but Robert B. Parker needs one more DEATH IN PARADISE so that Jess can stop obsessing over Jenn.

Bleeding Kansas
Sara Paretsky
9780399154058 $25.95

Nears the town of Lawrence in the Kaw River Valley in Kansas, two families the Grelliers and the Schapens have farmed the land for over one hundred and fifty years. Both families barely tolerate each other because the Schapens who belong to a fundamentalist church believes the Grelliers are godless heathens. Into this atmosphere comes Gina Haring, a Wiccan and a lesbian, who is the catalyst for a series of events that ends in tragedy and death.

Susan Grellier is attracted to the Wiccan holidays and attends the bonfire which gets the Schapens up in arms. Junior Schapen makes life miserable for Chip Grellier. Life gets worse for Chip when his mother becomes an anti-war activist and the town looks upon her as a hippie. Tired of the constant fighting, Chip enlists in the army and sent to Iraq where he dies less than a month after he arrives. Susan has a breakdown and doesn't relate to anyone causing the family to fall apart. The Schapens have a baby red heifer that the ultra conservative Jews want to buy in three years if she is perfect as both Jews and Christians believe such an animal is needed for the temple to be built and for Christ to come again. Tired of the loathing the Schapens stir up, some people set in motion a deadly series of events that culminates on Halloween.

BLEEDING KANSAS is nothing like the author's V.I. Warshawski crime capers. This is more like a novel written by Barbara Delinsky about families and the internal and external strife each individual deals with. There is a lot of depth to this novel and though it can be read for entertainment, it deals with lots of social issues such as religious intolerance, same sex relationships and people who don't conform to mainstream thinking. The heartland of America is shown as a microcosm of society in general and deals with timely issues that divide us.

The Serpent's Tale
Ariana Franklin
9780399154645 $25.95

Henry II is King of England and is estranged from his wife queen Eleanor, who he has imprisoned for fear she and their sons will try to overthrow him. The king's mistress Rosamund Clifford gives him much pleasure; so when she is poisoned by mushrooms, The Bishop of St. Albans Rowley Picot goes to Cambridgeshire to fetch Adelia Aguilar so that she can investigate and find out who killed her. Adelia is forced to stay in England because she is a doctor having studied at the School of Medicine at Salerno.

The bishop says that it is the king's order that she investigate the murder and find out if Eleanor, who escaped her prison, had anything to do with the murder when they arrive at Rosamund's home. Adelia finds evidence that someone is trying to frame Eleanor for the death of her husband's mistress. Adelia saves the queen's life when she suddenly appears but also learns that Eleanor is at the center of the plot to overthrow the king. The bishop wants Rosamund's murder solved and Eleanor exonerated because the country can't go through another civil war. The one woman who could have shed some light on the identity of the killer was murdered and her death made to look like a suicide. Trapped in the nunnery of Godstow with the queen, Adelia continues her investigation certain that at least one killer is somewhere with Eleanor and her entourage.

Fans who love the historical mysteries of Sharon Kay Penman are going to thoroughly enjoy THE SERPENT'S TALE, a strong whodunit with a deep glimpse into a bygone era. The protagonist wishes to go home where she has some rights though she is unhappy that she is not allowed to overtly practice medicine; instead she and her Arab friend pretend he is the doctor and she his assistant following his instructions. She is a bright intelligent woman who uses her knowledge to conduct a thorough investigation. Ariana Franklin is a gifted storyteller who provides historical fiction mystery fans with an exciting who-done-it. This tale is also targeted for historical fiction lovers who will thoroughly enjoy this unputdownable tale.

Destiny's Warrior
Heather Waters
9780425219621 $6.99

Fae King Arrane loses the love of his life when the human her cherishes Geraldine leaves his kingdom to keep their offspring safe from his ambitious purebred family. She returns to Scotland where she raised her son Gavin McCain as a single parent; she never told him of his Fae heritage although she never forgot her beloved Arrane.

Years later, Laird Gavin McCain remains ignorant that magic exists let alone his paternal bloodlines affirm it until Lady Nakkole arrives to keep him from harm's way. Apparently, Gavin's half sister, Queine Elphina, a succubus's daughter, plans to usurp the Fae throne, but must get rid of the half-breed mortal heir. As purebred Nakkole performs her duty, she falls in love with the half-breed she protects.

This is an entertaining romantic fantasy in which Waters' world seems genuine as the audience will, like the hero, begin to believe that magic is real. The key cast members insure the magical elements come across as plausible especially the metamorphosis of Gavin from scorn to true believer. However, the romance between Nakkole and Gavin seems intrusive as the fast-paced story line is at its best when magic outside of the heart rules.

Harstairs House
Amanda Grange
9780425217733 $14.00

In 1793 governess Susannah Thorpe learns she inherited Harstairs House from a Mr. Harstairs whose great love was her late Aunt Caroline; in fact her spinster aunt married the man, but an incident at the wedding ceremony left them apart in life. As she leaves for her estate, she hopes the two found each other in the afterlife.

Susannah is taken aback to find a tenant living at Harstairs House even if Oliver Barstow's lease runs out in one month. She feels obligated to allow him to remain there for the next thirty days so that he has time to find adequate lodging. However, strange things happen making her wonder if Oliver is trying to scare her away, but his motive remains elusive even as Susannah finds herself falling in love with her border.

This is an entertaining Georgian gothic romantic suspense with all the elements of the sub-genre clearly included in the fine story line. Susannah is the young innocent in peril in her new foreboding home while her beloved is the menacing male who acts more he wants her to leave than as her champion. Readers will enjoy visiting HARSTAIRS HOUSE.

Beyond the Dark
Angela Knight, Emma Holly, Lora Leigh and Diane Whiteside
9780425218761 $14.00

"Dragon's Dance" by Angela Knight. During a SWAT operation, Sergeant Arial Dean is contaminated by the Hyper. The Hyper Tracker tries to nurture Arial through the often deadly change, but she wonders if she survives the Hyper transformation will she endure life without her guide?

"Caught by the Tides" by Diane Whiteside. In 1803 the king's mage Owen Bentham and Emma Sinclair the mage team up with love to prevent Napoleon's invasion of England.

"Queen of All She Surveys" by Emma Holly. King Ravna sends his son Warrior Prince Memnon as a war prize to the demon enhanced Queen Tou with hopes his offspring can capture the lady with sexual wiles, but instead of loathing and betrayal he finds love.

"In a Wolf's Embrace" by Lora Leigh. In 2023 New York, Matthias Slaughter must keep Grace Anderson, a witness to an assassination, alive not so much for her to testify, but because she is his soulmate.

These four erotic romantic fantasies are terrific novellas with strong lead characters that sub-genre fans will fully relish.

Silken Shadows
Jennifer St. Giles
9780425217948 $7.99

In 1880 Gemmi Andrews has the uncanny ability to see and hear ghosts. Her skill helps the cops catch Jack "the Ripper" Poole.

However, not long afterward, a series of homicides occur that use the same MO as serial killer Poole; there is only one problem with accusing him of more murders: he is dead. Some assume is a copy cat while others believe Poole is murdering people from beyond the grave. Because of her "gift" Gemmi knows either theory could be correct so she is determined to learn the truth. She sneaks onto Captain Deverell Jansen's ship, but is found. The stowaway and the captain are attracted to one another, but when he perceives she is in danger, he insists they marry so he can keep her safe. As the newlyweds fall in love, she relives each homicide as if she is the victim.

SILKEN SHADOWS is an engaging paranormal romantic suspense starring a likable intrepid heroine who uses her gift to help others and an honorable hero who risks his life to keep his beloved safe. The story line is fast-paced but the hook that grips readers is whether Poole has somehow returned form the dead or from beyond, or is a copy cat on the loose. Fans will also feel for Gemmi who "sees" each homicide first hand. Jennifer St. Giles is at her best with this frightening serial killer thriller.

The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies
Kathleen Hills
Poisoned Pen
9781590584767 $24.95

In St. Adele, Michigan, the Hofer family is led by an abusive patriarch who treated his wife and two young offspring (Claire and Joey) as prisoners. A decade earlier, Reuben Hofer learned how to control people when he was interred at a nearby Civilian Public Service camp for those conscientious objectors the church refused to deal with. Those lessons in behavior he brought into his marriage and family. Thus for instance his eleven years old Claire knows that if the noise from the tractor goes silent hide as her bastard father is coming home, which most likely means punishment for no reason except his dictatorial rule. Thus, in that environs, someone could not take Reuben's heavy handed discipline any longer; that person shot and killed the martinet while he was on his tractor.

Town constable John McIntire investigates the homicide, but finds no one who had a kind word for Reuben. Additionally almost the entire town except for Dr. Gulbard, who tendered the obese ailing wife, and Father Doucet had any dealings with the Hofer brood. John's initial reaction is that a family member could not take it anymore; but it would have had to have been a preadolescent child as the mother could not have walked that far. However, he reconsiders his assessment when strangers from the victim's camp days and Reuben's fundamentalist sister arrive in town although no new motive surfaces.

The fourth John McIntire 1950s police procedural (see WITCH CRADLE), PAST IMPERFECT, and HUNTER'S DANCE) is a fabulous look at an impoverished family suffering from abuse just after WW II in Michigan. The key to this unique thriller is John's adversary Claire; a tough but frightened preadolescent protecting her younger brother and her ill ma. She proves quite a capable opponent as fans will appreciate this strong entry in one of the best 1950s series on the market today.

The Vagabond Virgins
Ken Kuhlken
Poisoned Pen Press
9781590584613 $24.95

Lupe Garcia travels to rural areas claiming to be a virgin angel in 1979 Baja Mexico. She quotes scripture and pleads with children to tell their parents to vote against the corrupt tyrannical Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) in the upcoming election.

Lupe's younger sister Lourdes fears that the PCI will kill her sibling, whom she has not seen since their father threw Lupe out of their home years ago. She needs to warn Lupe that the PRI is seeking Lupe to prevent her from causing them problems. To find her sister she hires law student and private investigator Alvaro Hickey because she heard he is not afraid to break the rules. He thinks his client is the VAGABOND VIRGIN angel and she has no sibling; he also wonders if she killed her father as the PRI suspect as she took gold bricks worth a fortune. Now the PRI, her brother and much of Mexico search for the sleuth and the younger sister while the duo searches for the older female sibling, who has been captured by the PRI.

The latest Hickey Family thriller (see The Angel Gang for one of dad's tales and The Do-Re-Mi for the son's first solo) is a superb look at the immigration issue circa 1979 (pre Reagan "amnesty" and no nebulous link to 9/11 to obfuscate the issue). Violence and corruption at the California-Mexico border makes for a dangerous MZ yet that stays in the background as the fast-paced story line contains deep characterizations, a trademark of Ken Kuhlken's Hickey historicals. This powerful exciting drama will leave the audience thinking beyond the inane sound bite solutions of politicians and extremists to ponder how to realistically deal with a complex issue with ramifications hitting all aspects of society.

Desert Cut
Betty Webb
Poisoned Pen
9781590584910 $24.95

Private investigator Lena Jones and Oscar-winning documentary director Warren Quinn seek locations for the latter to film late nineteenth century Apache Wars. To their horror, they find a mutilated corpse of a small child that the Cochise County medical examiner sadly calls "Precious Doe". Lena, who suffered child abuse from the foster homes she grew up in, takes it personally as this angel could not have been more than seven years old; she vows to find justice for the child.

Her investigation takes Lena to the nearby town of Los Perdidos where the descendents of the founders are armed for war against illegal aliens coming in from Mexico just like their ancestors were fighting Geronimo. As Lena keeps digging angering the generational locals although supported by legal immigrants working at a nearby plant, two more young girls vanish. Lena refuses to quit, but the more she learns the more confused she becomes as she starts to believe there is a conspiracy that crosses racial and religious lines to keep females subservient or worse; but the disappearances make no sense as they seem deliberate.

As Lena continues to uncover more about her infant abandonment, fans of the Desert saga (see DESERT NOIR, DESERT WIVES, DESERT SHADOWS and DESERT RUN) will enjoy her latest thriller that takes a fascinating spin on Southwest immigration. The story line is driven by the heroine who seeks to insure the young are safe unlike her own past. Interestingly, being a legal immigrant with documentation means nothing when corrupted power needs a fall guy because immigration has become tied to 9/11 (as if it was illegal Mexicans who hijacked the four planes). Betty Webb provides another strong whodunit with her usual thought provoking underlying social message that America is only as strong as our weakest.

Nicola Barker
9780061575211 $16.95

Although geography has made Ashford, England somewhat an important town historically, today it is an ordinary town with ordinary people living ordinary lives. However, it is the past that makes those who live here revel in delight as the present and future beyond a Kent rail stop to the Chunnel is that of mediocrity.

Especially fascinating the local populace is the reign of King Henry VIII when Ashford was a somewhat more significant town. However, history proves a cosmic joke when historiographers begin to rewrite it in their image. Thus father and son Beede and Kane get closer yet further apart; while Dory and Elen and their five years old son Fleet obsess over the past especially when the kid constructs his match models of historical locales. Kane's former girlfriend Kelly accentuates the past as she is yesterday's news in his mind. This tale is about ordinary people in an ordinary town living ordinary lives except for that glorious past, which ironically begins to impede on their ordinary well respected lifestyles.

This is a deep character study that is not an easy novel to read as the action is limited for the most part to the mundane events of everyday living by everyday people yet none of the ensemble cast including the dog are stereotypes; each is unique with differing traits. Whereas most English history books focus on the royals, DARKMANS makes the case that those texts and related historical novels miss reality; the history writers ignore the complex contributions of regular people who enable a Henry VIII seem greater than life (someone cleans out his bowl). Well written and thought provokingly entertaining, readers will reconsider the key link between prescription drugs and Anglo-Franco wars because a "Well Respected Man" hides his Kinks as "he's oh, so good, And he's oh, so fine, And he's oh, so healthy, In his body and his mind. He's a well respected man about town" even when his dog poops or pukes publicly.

Precious Blood
Jonathan Hayes
9780060736668 $24.95

Following the 9/11 tragedy, Manhattan forensic pathologist Dr. Edward Jenner retires from the medical examiner's office unable to cope after having witnessed for weeks afterward the results of the calamity. Edward conducts occasional consulting work.

The uncle of East Village resident Ana de Jong pleads with his close friend Edward to help her for she fears for her life. As she explains to him someone brutally murdered her roommate Andrea nailing the Hutchins College law student to a crucifix. Reluctantly Edward takes on the case even while he fears that a ritual serial killer is surfacing and that he mentally may not be able to deal with the horrific deaths that he expects to see. Still more for Ana's sake than his morbid curiosity, he digs deeper into the investigation and realizes the killings follow a pattern with each new ritual homicide crueler than the previous ones occur.

Fans of serial killer investigations that emphasize forensic science will appreciate Jonathan Hayes' fine entry as the whodunit inquiries dominate the tale. Jenner is a fabulous protagonist as he suffers from post traumatic fatigue syndrome caused by the 9/11 nightmare; however Mr. Hayes fails to dig deep into the demons eating at his soul. Still PRECIOUS BLOOD is a fine mystery that sub-genre readers will welcome.

The Redbreast
Jo Nesbro
9780061133992 $24.95

In 1999 Norwegian Police Inspector Harry Hole is assigned to the Norwegian Security Service undercover surveillance of the neo-Nazis as a form of punishment for embarrassing the brass. The recovering alcoholic knows this will be tedious but also realizes until he is forgiven he must contend with the ennui of watching skinheads act like pompous bullying idiots in Oslo and cannot use a drink as badly as he needs one to dull the boredom.

However, the firing of a rare gun wakes him out of his stupor. His junior partner Ellen Gjelten links the weapon to vicious Neo-Nazi Sverre Olsen and WW II as murder in 1944 ties to a diabolical assassination plot in 1999 with only Hole in the way of preventing the first step of a brilliant plan created over five decades ago.

The story line never loses its fast-paced while switching eras back and forth between 1944/46 and 1999. Police procedural fans will appreciate the 1999 obstinate efforts of acrimonious Hole, ignoring the brass and to a degree his partner, in order to prevent a catastrophe that could be his nation's second darkest hour. However, the fascination in the tale is back in WW II where author Jo Nesbro paints a dark dismal picture of much of Norway sympathetic with the Nazis and that tie still exists with a Neo-Nazi crowd.

Love Falls
Esther Freud
9780061349614 $13.95

Seventeen years old Lara accompanied her mother as they toured the Far East together. Back at home in England, her dad Lambert invites her to come with him to Italy.

Though a bit nervous as she has spent little time with dad, Lara jumps at the opportunity to spend time with her father as Lambert is a bit of a hermit. They spend the summer together in a Tuscan villa whose neighbors include a family of British millionaires with one Kip Willoughby being cute and her age. As Kip and Lara spend time together, she flirts outrageously with him until she begins to hear rumors that he is her half-brother. Did her father as an act of vengeance sire the lad to get back at his grandfather for deserting Lamb's parents during WWII in Germany? Or is just inane gossip?

When the story line focuses on Lara, the audience receives a deep fascinating character study as readers see her dad, her mom, the boy next door and others through her eyes. When the tale centers on Kip's parentage, it loses steam as it veers into overly melodramatic. Still following the escapades of the teen heroine is a charmer that will send the audience seeking other works from Esther Freud (see HIDEOUS KINKY; not read by this reviewer).

Southern Seduction
Alexandria Scott
9780821778241 $5.99

Brooke Hammond leaves England to take possession of Moss Grove plantation, a present from the aristocrat who kept her. She sees her journey to in Louisiana as a chance to start over.

However, upon arriving in Bayou country, Brooke meets her partner Travis Montgomery. With hard work and intelligent decisions, he has turned Moss Grove from a failed plantation into a money-making operation. Travis refuses to provide his father's mistress any breaks; although he is very attracted to the Englishwoman. However, his avoidance fails him when a storm strands them together forcing him to break a prior engagement and marry Brooke. As they fall in love, less honorable people want to rip asunder the marriage between the co-owners.

Brooke is a fascinating lead character as she bravely travels to Louisiana in search of a new life, but finds prejudice meets her, which in turn she courageously confronts. Her relationship with Travis slowly evolves from disdain to love. Thus she makes the exciting historical romance work with her strong sense of self worth as the audience will root for her to win her new home and his heart, both going up against incredible odds.

Being With Him
Jessica Inclan
9781420101126 $13.00

Garrick McClellan is at an art exhibit alone in the crowd because he can never let down his guard and reveal who he is and what he can do. He can read the minds of everyone around him and travel back in time. He sees a painting by Mila Adams and it stirs a memory in him. By coincidence his aunt and her mother set them up on a blind date.

Mila also feels alone as she too can read minds and move forward in time. She has memories of her as young child in a black shape escaping from somewhere with her brother, other children and adults. When Garrick and Mila meet they recognize that they are one half of a whole. They start asking questions who and what they are but their inquiry puts them in danger from a force not of this world.

Jessica Inclan has written a memorable and evocative tale of two people who are so much more together than they are apart. Readers will like both protagonists because they are open about their feelings and their need to find others since Garrick knows he was adopted and Mila learns she was too shortly after she meets him. Some books are so memorable and unique that one can't forget them; BEING WITH HIM is one of them.

Child of a Dead God
Barb and J.C. Hendee
9780451461872 $24.95

Magiere the dhampire and Leesil the elf have finally left the elven territories to continue their search for an artifact hidden in a castle with six towers encased in ice in the mountains of the south. Wynn the sage, Chap the canine protector and two distrusting elves accompany them. Master Sage Domin Tilswith asked Magiere to find the relic in order to keep the magical object from the times of Forgotten History from falling into the evil hands of those like her Noble Dead (vampire) half-brother Welsteil.

Welsteil believes the artifact will take away his overwhelming hunger for blood; he raises a pack of loyal feral vampires to help him follow his adversary, his half-sister. When she retrieves the object, his squad will capture her and take possession of the object from her. Neither of the siblings is aware that a third party, the Most Aged Father, an Elven, plans to grab the artifact as he believes this is the only way to save his people from the increasing encroachment of the vile humans and their related evil species if war comes.

Readers who love vampire novels will appreciate the full works of Barb and J.C. Hendee as they consistently provide some of the genre's best. Each novel adds to the Hendee mythos yet stands alone as the story lines are complex in terms of furthering the adventures of Magiere and Leesil, but are also a complete tale onto itself. The lead duo is courageous and caring as they battle two enemy groups in which treachery and double crossing from your own team is expected. Except for trusting one another and to a degree Chap and Wynn, Magiere and Leesil knows betrayal can come from within as much as from blood kin. The audience will be want to read this novel in one sitting as the triad converges on what looks like a fatal confrontation, but for whom.

The Perfect Ten
Janice Maynard
9780451222909 $14.00

In Asheville, North Carolina the three Killaney cousins (Diana, Elizabeth, Jeannie) make and personally use some of the lotions they sell in their shop Lotions and Potions. Their latest concoction lotion #10 is dubbed a love potion by the trio.

"He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not". High end European import automobile repair shop owner Damian Bennetti has outrageously flirted with shy Diana for months and has a closet filled with lotions to prove it, but now feels confident enough to ask her out. She believes the hunk must be a womanizer just like her father. In spite of a glass of water dumped on him and further rejection, Damian knows he does not need a love potion to tell him he loves Diana.

"Movie Magic". Elizabeth gave up on men years ago due to a scoundrel who hurt her trusting soul to the core. Enrique Cantilano seeks locations for filming movies when he meets the workaholic. He wants to show her they can have fun together if she would let them.

"I Dream of Jeannie". Except for her cousins everyone assumes Jeannie is a dumb blond bimbo in spite of a genius IQ and near doctorate in Chemistry; men run from her when she shows her intelligence, a trait she refuses to conceal. Six months ago Nathan Hardison's fiancee dumped him so he had written off females until he saw Jeannie. However, before he can prove to her that he loves her brains and beauty, the word about love potion #10 becomes public.

These three contemporary romances with a touch of a whimsical fantasy element are charming interrelated tales that fans will appreciate. The cousins, who feel like people we know, grow from story to story while their soulmates are developed enough to matter to the audience, who will pass judgment as to their worthiness re the Killaney females. THE PERFECT TEN is a wonderful read.

Stephen Baxter
9780441015597 $24.95

I Musta'rib AD 1085. In northern Spain, English teenager Robert wants to become a holy warrior until he meets and falls in love with intelligent Muslim Moraima. At the same time, scholar Father Sihtric and the Vizier of Cordoba hate their symbiotic relationship as the Christian is forced by the Moors to build God's weapons from the Eadgyth of York prophesy he possesses while the Vizier is forced to rely on the priest to obtain the wine he needs to quench his alcoholic dependency. These two enemies work together on their personal needs, but will do anything to keep Robert and Moraima apart; as cross religious love has no place under God.

II Crucesignati AD 1242-1248. The Christian crusading armies force the Muslim Subh to flee Seville where she hid her shame of a Christian ancestor circa the late eleventh century. At the same time Joan the Christian fled the Christian Holy Land kingdom Outremer when it fell. Each possesses a segment of a prophecy that when combined will make God's engines drive the infidels out. When these two women meet, hell has come to Spain in the fury of these two enemy combatants.

III Navigator AD 1471-1492. A new power has surfaced in Spain at a time when the Christian's Crusade against the Muslims proved successful. The middle class sees things more from an economic opportunity perspective than a godly viewpoint. This has led to a new religious fervor from within as the Spanish Inquisition weeds out heretics especially from the middle class. Talk is focused on womanizing Genoa baboon Columbus as he wants to sail west to reach the East instead of journeying through Islam. He might be the Dove named in a recently discovered prophesy or another heretic needing a fiery lesson.

The third Time's Tapestry (see EMPEROR and CONQUEROR) covers the century between William's victory and Columbus' trip. The book is divided into three stanzas that accentuate the changes in fortune of the prime groups especially the fall of the Moors and the rise of the Christian middle class. Stephen Baxter continues to make his case that those who sit on their past glory by introspection lose over time to those who look beyond barriers for opportunities. A terrific tome that provides readers with a great thought providing alternate historical epic.

Iron Kissed
Patricia Briggs
978044105665 $7.99

The werewolves have come out of the closet (at least the woods) to let the humans know they exist. The Grey Lords forced the fae to reveal themselves as well. Because they are so powerful, they live on reservations guarded by human security. Mercy Thomas, a walker (a shapeshifter who turns into a coyote) is asked by her friend and mentor Zee to come to the reservation to see if she can scent out the killer of various fae.

One scent is present at all the killings sites, the human guard O'Donnell. When Zee and his and Mercy's friend find him, he is being torn apart by an unseen person. Zee asks Mercy to leave; the next thing she hears is Zee has been arrested for O'Donnell's murder. He is not talking to the human authorities and doesn't want Mercy to interfere but she won't let her friend be tried for murder because the fae especially the Grey Lords think that will make the problem of human fearing the fae go away. She investigates on her own and gets caught in the trap that was set for the killer.

If Mercy didn't have enough to worry about, the time is coming where she will have to choose Sam or Adam, the alpha of his pack as her mate. Sam was her friend who hurt her very badly and Adam is a domineering possessive werewolf who won't let Mercy get away from him. The well plotted mystery contains plenty of suspects but nobody will guess who the killer is because the culprit hides in plain sight giving everyone, including the audience and Mercy, the impression of being a sweet and kind person. IRON KISSED is a wonderful urban fantasy combined with an exciting amateur sleuth mystery.

Queen Ferris
S.C. Butler
9780765314789 $27.95

After the escapades with the three powerful wizards who gave him the selection between being their puppet or being their puppet because they planned to put him on the thrones of Wayland and Banking (see REIFFEN'S CHOICE). However Reiffen endured their abduction until he was rescued, but also knows for him to survive and keep the thrones that are rightfully his, he must face the enemy in their lair and find a way to defeat them. Thus, he decides to leave the comfort of friends Avender and Ferris and his mom to return to the malevolent wizards' home in Ussene. There he hopes to persuade them that his time with them has turned him to the dark.

However, the wizards did not become so powerful by being stupid. They demand Reiffen prove his conversion by performing some ugly tasks. He reluctantly agrees to misuse his power to perform nasty deeds although he fears his inner soul will become tainted forever.

Whereas the first book of the Stoneway's saga was more a coming of age tale starring a twelve years old sheltered boy, the second book is more a morality play that is relevant in the world today. Reiffen justifies his behavior of performing evil deeds as a means to achieve a worthy end. His choices are much more complex and potentially hurtful to others than he had to face in the previous tale as for the most part only he was directly impacted. Thus Reiffen is even a more complicated protagonist leading fans of all ages to enjoy his latest adventures.

I Am Legend
Richard Matheson
9780765357151 $7.99

In 1976, the pandemic plague devastated the earth. Most people died while those who survived were biologically altered into nocturnal blood drinking in-humans. That is everyone except for one remaining purebred; Robert Neville never changed as he apparently was immune to the plague. He is the last surviving Homo sapiens, but the converted see him as being different as the monster tied to the dead legendary past who must die. He endures his ordeal through alcohol, but his loneliness is driving him insane as each night he considers giving up until he meets his first non vampire friend since the disease, a dog fearful of him.

This book actually contains a reprint of the 1954 classic novella I AM LEGEND in conjunction with an upcoming movie (note that Vincent Price starred in the 1960s film The Last Man on Earth based on this tale) and ten short stories that are entertaining and well written, but feel like padding to almost double the size of the book. Readers will understand why some of the great horror writers like Stephen King consider this novella one of the best ever as it crosses science fiction with horror yet holds up well because the bottom line is this is a character study of the human need for companionship as well as a Frankenstein like question as to just who is the monster?

Inside Straight
George R.R. Martin (Editor)
9780765317810 $24.95

Although his grandfather will never forgive him as he was part of the age of chivalry before JFK and Jetboy died; Jonathan Hive and twenty-seven extraordinary marvelous superheroes (that word is used loosely) sign onto a survivor reality TV show. In actuality, the chosen 28 have never been heroic, but each has a superhuman skill. These "aces" will initially belong to one of four "suits" while competing in staged contests as only LA-LA land could dream up with losers voted off the show until the greatest American Hero is left standing.

However, as the weeks go by those left standing are stunned by appalling sickening events in the Middle East. There inane games look pathetic when compared to those without superpowers risking their lives. Stunningly several including Jonathan whose grandfather is probably smiling, leave the set to become real American Heroes not just Hollywood Heroes even knowing they may die in their endeavor.

The latest round of the Wild Cards thrillers starts a new saga in which several authors (Daniel Abraham, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Carrie Vaughan, Michael Cassutt, Caroline Spector, John Jos. Miller, George R. R. Martin, Ian Tregillis and S. L. Farrell) contribute. The well written tale reads smooth (a trademark of the previous entries) in spite of the numerous contributors while satirizing reality TV and world affairs. INSIDE STRAIGHT entertains the audience but also asks readers to ponder two key points. First who is a hero reminds us of Charles Barkley's "I am not a role model. Parents should be the role models"; in this case soldiers are the heroes. Second that with great power comes greater responsibly beyond "Bring em on" bravado from a safe house or Hollywood set. This is an excellent exciting and thought provoking royal flush as the whole is greater than the individual parts.

Ellen Datlow, editor
9780765315588 $25.95

Editor Ellen Datlow sets the stage for what she demanded of her twenty contributors in the Introduction to her first nonthemed new tales anthology. She directed her chosen author to shock the audience into a psychosomatic fear so that the reader sleeps fitfully with the lights on ultra bright or seek company to pretend their fright is under control. The entries for the most part provide "the reader with a frisson of shock, or a moment of dread so powerful it might cause the reader outright physical discomfort … or to linger in the reader's consciousness…long after the final word is read." No story is bad with most being excellent and meeting the Datlow bar using a creepy atmospheres will scare the sense of safe security out of everyone even Michael Chertoff. Fans of Elizabeth Bear will want to read "Inelastic Collisions" as she implies what may be coming in her Great Bear constellation. Others like Christopher Fowler's homage to the 1960s "The Uninvited" and "Ghorla" by Mark Samuels will resonate with older readers. With a virtual who's who, INFERNO is a strong short story horror collection that shows why this genre is so suited to the format, but needs a warning label that our electricity bills are going to exponentially rise.

Dragon Mage
Andre Norton and Jean Rabe
9780765316592 $24.95

Following the heart attack death of her forty-nine year old father, Shilo's paternal grandparents take the teen from Marietta, Georgia into their home in Slade's Corner, Wisconsin. Shilo is grateful because she knows she has no place else to go except perhaps her older brother's Atlanta apartment; but between him and his pregnant wife there is no corner for a fifteen year old. However, she is also bored as she feels she landed in Hades as life in a small town living above an antique store is not very exciting.

Her kindhearted grandmother encourages Shilo to look at her late father's stuff that they stored in boxes as a means of learning more about his childhood. In all the cartons the most interesting items are very old puzzles with each different yet containing the picture of a dragon. Her grandmother explains that Shy's dad had quite an imagination as he would tell his parents about his adventures in another realm where a dragon ruled. Unable to put any puzzle totally together as pieces seemed missing, Sly finally realizes that this is one master puzzle not multiples. When she finishes assembling the giant puzzle, Shy finds herself in ancient Babylon serving an ancient dragon and studying to be a DRAGON MAGE just like her dad did as she must complete his work to simply save the world.

In spite of a Forward explaining how the sequels to Andre Norton's classic DRAGON MAGIC came about, I am not sure how much the late Ms. Norton provided (beyond a needlework depicting the four dragons). My previous impression was her last work was A TASTE OF MAGIC in which Jean Rabe used Ms. Norton's writings notes to complete the fantasy. Regardless, DRAGON MAGE is an entertaining young adult fantasy that readers of all ages will enjoy as the modern day heroine goes back several millenniums in her father's footsteps to become an American in a dragon king's Babylonian court.

The Martian Child
David Gerrold
9780765320032 $6.99

In California, David wants to be "a dad". However, he has a slight obstacle about the size of the Sierras, as the adoption system still leans heavily towards potential fathers with wives; as a gay person the chance of a female wife is somewhere near zero if that high. Still he works his way through an obstacle course that should be adopted by the White House to keep Congressman Waxman bewildered and frustrated. Finally he finds a picture of the child he decides he wants to adopt.

The caseworker explains that eight-year-old Dennis is a "problem child" with plenty of issues ranging from hyperactivity to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome to Emotional Abuse having been abandoned by his alcoholic biological mom as a baby, Physical Abuse as part of his eight foster homes, etc. In other words this child was at the point of "hard to place" meaning "unadoptable". Learning that Dennis insists he is the offspring of Martian might pose a problem if his Red Planet relatives show up with giant alien slugs (parking is at a premium). This is the account of the first two years together as father and son adjust to being a loving family unit in spite of a system that insists both the dad and son are losers.

This reprint of a fictionalized account of a true adoption is moving and poignant, but readers will wonder why Mr. Gerrold did not provide a true account as THE MARTIAN CHILD is based on a real adoption as are the earthquake events between the dad and son. Still the author makes a strong argument that with love, tolerance and persistence as the pair goes through the Tuckman phases of groups forming, storming, norming, and transforming, a deep bond can overcome seemingly impossible problems; all it takes is a Job-like patience.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Rose's Triumphant Return
Phyllis A. Collmann
Collmann Publishing Company
22698 C-12, Ireton, IA 51027
1575792621 $5.00

Book Two of the Rose Donlin story continues after the death of her mentor, Joseph Higgins. A stylish, wealthy young woman rides the train from Oklahoma to Missouri. Her newfound wealth is unexpected, but she hopes to put Joseph's money to by founding educational facilities in his name and correcting her father's failing vision. Yes, Rose has forgiven her father for selling her to a stranger because her life with Joseph was a blessing in so many ways.

Rose convinces her father to travel to Oklahoma for the eye surgery he needs. They plan for him to follow her after his affairs at home are in order. Rose considers Oklahoma her home now; she's eager to return and plan Joseph's legacy with the handsome young banker in charge of his estate. As she travels southward through vast grassland prairies and rugged country, an old nemesis from book one kidnaps her from the train. The nameless bandit has desired Rose from the first time they met. He intends to keep her as his own, regardless of the cost. He didn't bargain for the strong, courageous woman she's become.

Rose escapes her captor by stealing his horse. For more than a month she heads south on horseback, until she's half starved and exhausted from battling the elements as the bandit stalks her close behind. A kindly family hides Rose and nurses her back to health before sending their oldest son along to protect and guide her on the journey. Henry Helgens is a stalwart man, brave and capable in the face of danger and determined to get Rose safely to her home. His touching love and devotion for his charge is crushed when he sees the handsome young banker greet Rose with great affection. He leaves Rose in Oklahoma City and returns to his family.

Is this the end of their relationship? Will Rose succeed in her plans for Joseph's considerable estate? You'll have to read Book Three of this series to learn the answers.

Confessions: Selected and Edited
Lynn Clague
Ibbetson Street Press
25 School Street, Somerville MA 02143
9780979531330 $10.00

Clague's Confessions is a delicious six-course feast. As a poet, he's approachable; readers can relate to Clague and the life experience he shares. As a man, he's vulnerable, humorous, and self-effacing. As a reader and reviewer who enjoys poetry, I found the combination of humor and vulnerability to be delightful.

Clague admits in the introduction to being "distant, cool, thinkerish" at times, but in the section titled "Love" he shares this telling self-description:

My most endearing quality is sincerity.
I am tender as a baby's bottom,
lyrical as a loon.

This excerpt from "Growing Up" describes a typical extended happy hour at home. In this section, Clague details life with his parents and their quest for gracious living, their careers and foibles, and hints at the facades we create to survive:

Occasional contretemps
(pardon my French)
drifted into the post-hour hours
if maybe Dad had one too many
or Mom, tacking like a schooner
in a gale, nagged him ragged,
but the disaster behind the façade
occurred only decades later.

In the early years of his "Career" he becomes the master of camouflaged compromise and games of pretend. Such games drained him, but he played them nonetheless:

As the years accumulated
and the paths to profits proliferated,
I tempered my grin
like a blade of steel
into measured smiles.

Harsh tolls have been taken from a lifetime of pretense and denial. In "Recovery" comes the sudden insight that changes his life:

Unstruck by lightning,
unvisited by a vision of a burning bush,
I had been changed.

Clague and his Confessions deserve high praise. I cannot do justice to this fine book and Clague's skill with words in a few excerpts. His poetry must be savored, read and reread, celebrated. This book is highly recommended.

All Eyes on US A Trilogy of Poetry
Charles Portolano
RWG Press
P.O. Box 858, Rockford IL 61105
9780979663413 $14.95

If one of poetry's purposes is to provoke thought, then Portolano has accomplished that purpose with this compendium of work from three previous books. Today, we live in a dangerous, dysfunctional, unpredictable world and Charles Portolano dares to write about it. Politicians squander this country's financial resources on overt and covert projects around the globe, yet can't find the money necessary to balance the national budget or repair a crumbling infrastructure. Politicians whine that we are a country with our hands out, demanding entitlements, while granting themselves the grandest entitlements imaginable. Portolano grieves but refuses to remain silent. His outrage and sorrow are palpable.

Route 66 once epitomized the naive, adventuresome, hopeful heart of America. That America has changed, as reflected in this excerpt from "Route 66":

But what was, isn't anymore
gone is the coyote's call
under the evening stars,
the landscape has changed,
the times have changed,
they think differently.
What was, isn't anymore
as weeds break through
the cracked asphalt
of the two-lane highway
and the crumbling concrete
turns to dust blown away
by the restless wind

Have we as citizens been herded like dumb cattle through a chute of our own making? Has our silence allowed "The Neo Cons" to flourish?

Long before they even
took office
in ultra-plush rooms
down long, dark corridors
men in black suits
plotting and planning
devising lies
behind closed doors
to take us to war
devising lies
to have us pay more
for our addiction to oil
devising lies
to keep our poor poor
while making the rich richer
on the slumping backs
of the middle class

History will deal with the "swerving, swaggering cowboy" whose powerful persona has failed. "The Living Lies" have weakened him:

These lies,
slowly killing his spirit,
like a ghost
he hides in the shadows
knowing his lies
will live as long
as history is recorded.

In his latest book, Portolano names the unnameable and zeroes in on the chinks in our national armor. He clearly states what most citizens feel, but cannot articulate. All Eyes on US is a book of surprising insights and uncomfortable poetic truths.

The Poet Laureate of People Who Hate Poetry
Kathy Skaggs
Time Barn Books
529 Barrywood Drive, Nashville TN 37220-1636
9780979956003 $5.00

Kathy Skaggs is a well-known participant in the Nashville poetry scene and the recipient of several grants. Her work has been published in two anthologies, and in journals throughout the country. Her writing is touching, humorous, and always honest. In this latest book, she figuratively looks readers in the eye and says, "I am the woman God and life have created." You'll find a lot of meat and marrow in this little book. Not one word is wasted or disguised.

"Advice to Middle-Aged Women Poets" demonstrates the humor Ms. Skaggs uses so effectively. I laughed out loud while reading it, partly because of the word pictures she inspired, and partly because the experience is familiar:

The night before a poetry reading don't stay up till 3 a.m.
fighting with your boyfriend. Only very young poets
can look graceful and ethereal after a sleepless night
haggard is not the appropriate image for a poet to project
especially a middle-aged woman poet who is suspect already
and especially if the skin on your face tends to sag
when you look down.

"My Winter Boots" segues from humor to nostalgic longing as the poet compares her life in Nashville to one of childhood struggle in Kentucky. Momentarily, natural beauty distracts her:

And yet two black hawks
playing loop-the-loop
above 8 lanes of interstate
and naked gray trees against the horizon
the day before the new moon
make it hard
not to just keep driving
to the country
for winter.

And again, Skaggs remembers fondly her Kentucky roots and the life lessons learned from her mother in "What I Learned From My Mother." I quote the first verse of this exceptional poem:

While other girls were learning
how it's never too early to start using
a good moisturizer and which fork to use when
and how to really clean a house
I learned to make cornbread:

"My Friend Eliz: A Poem Against War" is a powerful poem that clearly reveals the heart and spirit of Kathy Skaggs:

I've written poems about rain and tobacco stripping
about activists, poor people, and strong women
about all the lies Lot told about his wife and his daughters
a poem about buying a gun
about a vegetarian who goes squirrel hunting.
Once I wrote a poem that started We had a fight about pie.
I guess Curtis would say that poem is about sex.
My friend Curtis says all poems are about sex or death
But Eliz knows it's really an anti-war poem.

My husband is a native of the Kentucky mountains, a true hater of poetry and all things literary. Without my knowledge, he read this little book and loved it. He shook it in my face and said, "You damn well better write a good review of this book because it's SPECIAL." He's right. This book is special in so many ways I can't express adequately in a review. Kathy Skaggs writes about the life she knows, provoking envy in both readers and peers. Her life has been hard, but beautiful, just like her words. Thanks to Time Barn Books for publishing this book and to Kathy Skaggs for writing it.

Stories That Solicit a Response
Stephanie S. Sawyer
P.O. Box 151, Frederick MD 21705
1604415223 $16.95

Stephanie Sawyer is an accomplished writer and musician, an advocate for people dealing with seizure disorders, and a committed Christian. Five years have passed since her first book, Facing Me, was published. In that first book, she shared honestly her struggles with seizure disorder with a goal of helping others. Imprints documents the Lord's victory in her shattered life. These are vignettes of her journey through stark circumstances, told in this writer's honest and erudite style.

Despite financial downturns, public seizures, fractured relationships, a failing marriage, and disappointments, Sawyer's indomitable spirit survives. The appearance of a loving Lord Jesus saves her from a destructive life spiraling out of control. Unexpected gifts of compassion from friends and strangers brighten her darkest days. In her lowest hours, God sends who and what she needs. Sawyer considers these human gifts from God to be kindly angels, diamonds of light sent to illuminate her path to wholeness. An empathetic pastor gently eases her back into the Christian community she deserted out of despair. A wise mentor dispenses support and advice in generous measure. Discerning strangers provide kindness and concern in troubled moments.

These are stories of Christ's healing grace, told by a woman who has struggled and failed but finally emerged victorious. The message throughout is that Jesus can help us overcome any trial if we open our hearts to him as Ms. Sawyer did. She shares her story without self pity or recriminations. The result is heart warming and encouraging to any reader who has ever grappled with illness, rejection, sorrow, or failure. Imprints is Ms. Sawyer's gift to us all and highly recommended.

Swallowed by the Wolf
A music CD by Navar
Sea Legs Recording Studio
Hume, NY
B000Q6GWOG $9.99

I didn't think it was possible because they were already great, but Navar surpassed all previous recordings with this latest CD. Pat and Ben Barry on vocals, bass, and guitar, with Tim Lindhome on drums and Johnny Masters on lead guitar have transformed an already exceptional group into a powerhouse. Navar on this CD epitomizes the raw power that rock fans expect. Theirs is a distinctive sound that sets this group far above other bands.

Pat and Ben Barry wrote their own lyrics and music for Swallowed by the Wolf, with two notable exceptions. Navar puts their on stamp on "When the Ship Comes In" by Bob Dylan, and what an amazing stamp it is! They did Dylan proud and thrilled this listener to the core with that track. The other track not written by Pat or Ben Barry on this CD is "Dry Your Eyes" by Diamond and Robertson. This is the kind of interpretation that inspires audiences to light candles or flick their Bics in silent tribute. Awesome is the only word that describes the experience of hearing Navar's version of "Dry Your Eyes." One old favorite reprised from another Navar CD is "Turn it All Around." Other personal favorites are "War in Chelsea," "26 Years," and "Hold On." But each one of these 15 tracks features strong vocals and instrumentation.

These are confident, accomplished performers, in control of every nuance of lyric and instrument. The sound is perfection. The Barry brothers grace their music with lyrics that excite and entice. If you're a rock fan, Navar will deliver what you crave. Highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

Murder Picnic Mysteries
S.A. Gorden
Taconite Runes
42302 Chase Lake Road, Deer River, MN 56636
9780971947146 $15.50

S.A. Gorden's bailiwick is pulp fiction, but not what the reader would expect. His stories center around Minnesota farm life of the 1940's in the form of short stories that were produced in magazines at the time. Life was simple; people were friendly and had a work ethic; and home cooked meals were the center of their social life. S.A. Gorden has also written THE DEUCE OF PENTACLES; FACES OF DOOM; and the double novel, DAYS BETWEEN SEASONS/CRYSTAL CLEAR POND.

If you like reading about life in the 1940's and before, you will enjoy MURDER PICNIC MYSTERIES. James Maki is a small town boy from Minnesota who farms with his parents. He is sweet on a local pretty girl named Emily. Together they discover that they make quite a good sleuthing team. This book is a series of short stories about their accomplishments as detectives and their courtship and marriage. Food is an important consideration for them, as they have running bets on which of the two will solve the murder first. The loser has to provide a picnic lunch. But it is the simple expression of love that is so compelling in these stories:

"We finished the shakes. I walked Emily home. Just before her house there was a large oak tree. We stepped behind it and kissed. Her lips were still cool from the shake. It was a brief kiss. With her father against us seeing each other, it wouldn't do to have the neighbors talking too much about us. Although being a small town, everyone was already making bets on how long we would last as a couple."

S.A. Gorden is a big fan of pulp mysteries and used to sneak off by himself as a boy to enjoy the actual magazines. But after escaping into big city noir or the supernatural, he had the feeling that there was a missing segment. As a writer, he fills in this gap with his first-hand descriptions of how Midwestern farmers lived in their small towns of the time. He has adopted an almost "Happy Days" style, and it works very well.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Silent Cries
Lisa J. Peck
Bridgeway Books
2100 Kramer Lane, Suite 300, Austin, TX 78758
9781933538907 $14.95

In this novel we meet Charlene, a wife, a mother, and the victim of domestic abuse. We are taken deeply into her life, enjoy getting to know her children, and cringe at the secret hidden world of horror she lives in. In this work, the author shows us the inner emotions of the victim; always making excuses for her abuser, always taking the blame, wanting to escape, but not knowing how to end the horrible game.

Finally, reaching her limit, Charlene, through courage, and the help of many, including an internet friend, breaks away from her captive and begins a journey to freedom. Our author follows this journey and allows us to share Charlene's life as she deals with her independence, a position she is not accustomed to and must make major adjustments.

Silent Cries is a well thought out, well written work, touching on many of the issues abused women must contend with, and allowing the reader to understand the web that is weaved around the victim. But, within the pages is hope and help, encouragement and strength, that can be drawn upon by those who are suffering the same plight.
I believe this book will be a help for many.

Laughing Sickness: A Medical Mystery
Anne Black Gray
Bridgeway Books
2100 Kramer Lane, Ste 300, Austin, TX 78758
981933538938 $19.95

I believe that many of us at different times have weird things going on in our bodies that we don't understand. Thankfully, these usually pass, and we go about our merry way. But what happens when they don't? What happens when the doctors that we turn to for help, don't give it? I can only imagine the panic and fear that must occur in such a situation.

In this outstanding novel by author, Anne Black Gray, we meet Jessica. She is a young hard working woman who loves to bring laughter into life; she didn't know this was her downfall; when without warning she falls prey to a mysterious illness that literally depletes her life force. Scary. We travel with Jessica as she battles to find an answer to what is happening to her, and hits one stone wall after another. But she is determined, and although her independent spirit pushes many away when she needed their help the most, it is the factor that finally leads her to uncovering what is going on in her body, and why.

I found this book to be a grabber from the beginning to the end. Although fiction, truth was there, and the author brought to light many problems faced by people who have illnesses not of the norm; and all the trials and tribulations, pain and suffering they go through seeking their answers. I truly recommend this read, great story, informative, and inspirational as well. Well worth your time.

The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving
Dandi Daley Mackall
Zondervan Publishers
P.O. Box 22000, Fort Worth, Texas 76122
9780310713272 $15.95

In this delightful Christmas tale we meet Nick, a young boy who must do last minute Christmas shopping for his brothers' presents. Nick isn't thrilled about this. He'd much rather get gifts than give them, but that changes when Nick overhears a mall Santa retelling the legend of St. Nicholas.

We are taken into the world of a young St. Nicholas, in this tale, and shown how his tradition of gift-giving began. The children will see how Nicholas felt compassion for the less fortunate, and wanted to bring them some happiness. The idea of showing St. Nicholas as a child brings the story down to a child's level, and makes it easier for them to relate to and understand. Very good.

This is a truly heart-warming story for the child in your life that you desire to understand the true meaning of gift-giving. The illustrations are absolutely brilliant, colorful, and lifelike. The expressions on the faces definitely give light to the words being read. Excellent. All in all a wonderful book that I am pleased to recommend.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Infernal Device
Erik C. Ruhling
The Disinformation Company
220 East 23rd Street, Suite 500, New York, NY 10010
9781932857894, $14.95

America's involvement with waterboarding, black prisons abroad, the re-interpretation of the Geneva Conventions, and introduction of 'harsh interrogation' has catapulted the issue of torture to the front of America's national political and policy debate. A much needed and very timely contribution to this national discussion is Erik Ruhling's new book "Infernal Device: Machinery Of Torture And Execution", a profusely illustrated and defined collection of torture devices utilized to extract information and confessions over the past two millennia. From the Iron Maiden, the Guillotine, and the Scavenger's Daughter to the Ear Chopper, the Thumbscrew, and the Ducking Stool, "Infernal Device" reveals the fundamental brutality of torture devices and is strongly recommended to the attention of those who are engaged on either side of the current national debate over the complex issues involved with waterboarding and other means of 'harsh interrogation'.

New Exact Small Arms Ballistics
Arthur J. Pejsa
Kenwood Publishing
1314 Marquette Avenue, #906, Minneapolis, MN 55403
9780974990262, $24.95

Arthur J. Pejsa is an expert in ballistics and draws upon his more than fifty years of experience and expertise to write "New Exact Small Arms Ballistics: The Source Book For Riflemen. A superbly organized, informed and informed reference specifically designed to accommodate riflemen of all levels of skill and experience from novice to expert, "New Exact Small Arms Ballistics" offers simple and yet exact formulas and methods for predicting trajectories out to extreme ranges. Of special note is how Professor Pejsa explains the effects of winds, altitude, temperature, inclines, rifle tilt, air drag, retardation and ballistic coefficients -- even the rotation of the earth. An abundance of examples helps to make these factors and principles clear. "New Exact Small Arms Ballistics" also covers analyses of projectile stabilities, velocity, energy, flight time, and more. Enhanced with an appendix focusing on derivations of all the formulas previously laid out, the "New Exact Small Arms Ballistics" is a seminal work that is strongly recommended as a core addition to any personal, professional, academic, and military armaments reference collection.

John Taylor

Vicki's Bookshelf

Ten Ways to Make My Sister Disappear
Norma Fox Mazer
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780439839839 $16.99

Everything 10 year-old Sprig wants, her older sister Dakota already has. Everything Sprig does, Dakota does better. And anytime Sprig complains, Dakota just grins and calls her a baby. It's enough to make a kid wish her sister would disappear. But in a year when Sprig's father is away, her favorite neighbor is ill, and the class bully is acting almost like, well, a boyfriend, Sprig discovers that allies come in unexpected shapes. Sometimes they're even related to you.

Extreme Dinosaurs
Robert Mash
illustrated by Stuart Martin
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416939528 $21.99

Dinosaurs were among the most incredible creatures ever to walk this Earth. From small beginnings (around 230 million years ago) they evolved into colossal killers with jaws big enough to swallow a human whole, gigantic plant eaters who shook the ground as they moved, and streamline-bodied sprinters, capable of sprinting at sustained speeds. From the mammoth Argentinosaurus, which was as heavy as twenty elephants, to the tiny meat-eating Microraptor, which was smaller than a chicken, here are the dinosaur record breakers. Read about daggerlike fangs, switchblade claws, gigantic skulls, and flesh-ripping horns. Discover how the best-armed dinosaurs deterred their enemies with fearsome suits of armor or how the tallest of the tall stood as high as five-story buildings.

The Land of the Silver Apples
Nancy Farmer
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416907350 $18.99, 495 pages,

The children from "The Sea of Trolls brave their worst nightmares…underground. Jack is amazed to have caused an earthquake. He is 13, after all, and only a bard-in-training. But his sister, Lucy, has been stolen by the Lady of the Lake; stolen a second time in her young life, as he learns to his terror. Caught between belief in the old gods and Christianity (790 AD, Britain), Jack calls upon his ash wood staff to subdue a passel of unruly monks, and, for his daring, ends up in a knucker hole. It is unforgettable -- for the boy and for readers -- as are the magical reappearance of the berserker Thorgil from a burial by moss; new characters Pega, a slave girl from Jack's village, and the eager-to-marry-her Bugaboo (a hobgoblin king); kelpies; yarthkins; and elves (not the enchanted sprites one would expect but the fallen angels of legend). Rarely does a sequel enlarge so brilliantly the world of the first story. Young adult fans of the trilogy can look forward to the conclusion in "The Islands of the Blessed" in 2009.

Race: A History Beyond Black and White
Marc Aronson
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9780689865541 $18.99

Race. You know it at a glance: he's black; she's white. They're Asian; we're Latino. Racism. I'm better; she's worse. Those people do those kinds of things. We all know it's wrong to make these judgments, but they come faster than thought. Why? Where did those feelings come from? Why are they so powerful? Why have millions been enslaved, murdered, denied their rights because of the color of their skin, the shape of their eyes? Acclaimed young-adult historian Marc Aronson tackles these and other questions in this astounding book, which traces the history of racial prejudice in Western culture back to ancient Sumer and beyond. He shows us Greeks dividing the world into civilized and barbarian, medieval men writing about the traits of monstrous men, until, finally, Enlightenment scientists scrap all those mythologies and come up with a new one: charts spelling out the traits of human races. Aronson's journey of discovery yields many surprising discoveries. For instance, throughout most of human history, slavery had nothing to do with race. In fact, the idea of race itself did not exist in the West before the 1600s. But once the idea was established and backed up by "scientific" theory, its influence grew with devastating consequences, from the appalling lynchings in the American South to the catastrophe known as the Holocaust in Europe. With one hundred images, this is a dynamic, thought-provoking work-history as quest, written as only Marc Aronson could do it.

The Bathhouse
Farnoosh Moshiri
Blackstone Audiobooks
P.O. Box 969, Ashland OR 97520
9781433211065 $36

With intense emotion and great literary skill, Farnoosh Moshiri has written one of the most moving novels to come out in years. The story begins with the arrest of a seventeen-year-old girl in the early days of the fundamentalist revolution in Iran. Imprisoned because of her brother's involvement with leftist politics, she is placed in a makeshift jail, a former bathhouse, in which other women are held captive. With a gripping narrative, Moshiri gives voice to these prisoners, exploring their torment and struggle, but also their courage and humanity, in the face of tyrants. Sensitively narrated for the unabridged audio version by Bernadette Dunne.

Bruce Hiscock
Boyds Mills Press
815 Church St., Honesdale, Penn. 18431
9781590784617 $16.95

On the windswept Arctic tundra, a snowy owl chick emerges from its shell. The little owl huddles beneath its mother where he is warm and safe, for now. But the Far north is a harsh land where the Arctic fox and other hungry predators roam in search of a meal. Here is the story of one owl's first year and its struggle to survive. Fed by his parents, Ookpic, which means "snowy owl" in the Inuit language, grows quickly in the short Arctic summer. By autumn he has learned to hunt on his own, but prey is scarce on the tundra. The owl's instincts tell him he must leave this land to search for food, or stay and starve. The story of the owl's travels reveals the habits of these magnificent birds.

Tara's Flight
Ruth Eitzen, Allan Eitzen
Boyds Mills Press
815 Church St., Honesdale, Penn. 18431
9781590785638 $16.95

Tara is a dove. Before the Great Flood, she brought messages back and forth between Noah and his family. Now she is confined to the small loft that Noah's grandson has built under the roof of the ark. For 40 days and nights, Tara sits in her loft while, outside, lighting cracks and thunder booms and the rain pours down. One day Noah's grandson comes with a basket to take the dove to become a messenger again. If Tara flies back to the ark, it means that Noah's house is still under water. If Tara doesn't return, it means she is waiting at home for Noah and his family. A gentle picture book retelling of Noah and the ark.

Turtle Girl
Carole Crowe, Jim Postier
Boyds Mills Press
815 Church St., Honesdale, Penn. 18431
9781590782620 $16.95

Magdalena and her grandmother are on a turtle watch, looking for sea turtles. The night does not disappoint. As turtles float ashore to dig their nests and lay their eggs in the moonlight, the sight is a wonder to behold. Magdalena's grandmother has instilled in her grandchild a love of sea turtles. She promises Magdalena that she will always be with her at turtle-time. But when her grandmother dies, Magdalena feels betrayed. She doesn't care about the hatchlings that are beginning to emerge from their shells under the sand. Them, in the distance, she hears the cry of a hungry gull. This deeply felt picture book is a moving story of memory and the enduring power of love.

John Adams, The Writer
Carolyn P. Yoder
Calkins Creek / Boyds Mills Press
815 Church St., Honesdale, Penn. 18431
9781590782477 $16.95

"Yesterday, the greatest question was decided, which ever was debated in America." So wrote John Adams in a letter to his wife, Abigail. The question in debate was the independence of "these United Colonies." The ideas that Adams expressed on the floor of the Continental Congress led to the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. John Adams, who served as the first vice president and the second president of the United States, found that the best way to explore his ideas was to put pen to paper. In this revealing collection, editor Carolyn P. Yoder has selected writings from diaries, journals, letters and speeches that chart the ideas and life of John Adams, from schoolmaster to president of the United States.

Roderick Gordon, Brian Williams
Chicken House / Scholastic
557 Broadway, NY, NY 10012-3999
9780439871778 $17.99

Fourteen-year-old Will Burrows has little in common with his strange, dysfunctional family. In fact, the only bond he shares with his eccentric father is a passion for archaeological excavation. So when his dad mysteriously vanishes, Will is compelled to dig up the truth behind his disappearance. He unearths the unbelievable: a subterranean society that time forgot. "The Colony" has existed unchanged for a century, but it's no benign time capsule of a bygone era. Because the Colony is ruled by a merciless overclass, the Styx, Will must free his father. Is he also about to ignite a revolution?

Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything in It
Sundee T. Frazier
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385734394 $14.99

Ten-year-old Tae Kwon Do blue belt and budding rock hound Brendan Buckley keeps a "Confidential" notebook for his top-secret scientific discoveries. And he's found something totally top secret. The grandpa he's never met, who his mom refuses to talk about or see, is an expert mineral collector and lives nearby! Secretly, Brendan visits Ed DeBose, whose skin is pink, not brown like Brendan's, his dad's, or that of Grampa Clem's, who recently died. Brendan sets out to find the reason behind Ed's absence, but what he discovers can't be explained by science, and now he wishes he'd never found him at all.

A Bridge to the Stars
Henning Mankell
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385734950 $15.99

One of the world's best-selling authors has written a moving story about a teenager's life in Northern Sweden. Twelve-year-old Joel lives with his father in the cold northern part of Sweden. At night he often sneaks out of the house to look for a lonely dog he has seen from his window. On the bridge across the icy river he starts a secret society and has adventures. But one night he discovers that his father's bed is also empty, and so he will have to come to terms with his father's newfound love. The harsh reality of Joel's world comes vividly to life and leaves the reader spellbound.

The Castaways
Iain Lawrence
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385730907 $15.99

Adrift at sea, Tom Tin and his four convict companions are only too glad when they come upon a deserted ship. The boys clamber aboard, not knowing whether they've been saved or set on a course toward doom. But after rescuing two men stranded on a melting iceberg, Tom begins to suspect that these unsavory sailors are dangerous castaways from this very vessel. The more Tom questions the men, the more they dislike him. So, when Tom overhears them plotting to get rid of him, he knows they mean it. But the other boys don't feel threatened - at least not until the sailors attempt to sell them as slaves, a decision that ends with death for some . . . and with Tom sailing the ship home to England. Soon Tom discovers that he has to cast away every ill-intentioned companion from his voyage home before he can truly be free.

Lucy Rose: Working Myself to Pieces & Bits
Katy Kelly
Delacorte Press / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780385734080 $12.99

In her fourth middle-grade novel, spunky 9-year-old protagonist Lucy Rose is working herself to the bone. Her parents recently separated, she moved to Washington, DC with her mom, and she was forced to make new friends in a new school. Lucy Rose is very good at making friends, and is the first to lend a hand when one is in need. When her friends buy a plumbing store to turn into a bakery, they couldn't do it alone. But Lucy Rose soon learns that giving her special touch to this project is hard work. On top of that she's working herself to pieces and bits with her bingo-calling night and the monumental task of improving her already gigantic vocabulary, all while putting a stop to the worst rumor she has ever heard. And she does it all while looking divine in her yellow bandana and red cowboy boots. For fans, ages 8 - 10, of Ramona Quimby.

Walt Disney's Cinderella
Cynthia Rylant, Mary Blair
Disney Press
114 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10011-5690
9781423104216 $16.99

Cinderella's story has been told over and over, but rarely with the kind of magic in this new picture book edition. Mary Blair painted the original pictures for Walt Disney's incomparable animated film. Now her elegant art is gathered together as a picture book for the first time. Cynthia Rylant's stories about hardscrabble lives have won not only awards and honors, but hearts. Who better to take a young girl from the darkness of her garret room to the light and brilliance of a ballroom? A dream come true for those who are coming to the tale for the first time, and for those who know it well.

Antiques Price Guide 2008
Judith Miller
375 Hudson St., NY, NY, 10014
9780756628437 $40.00

From acclaimed antiques and collectibles expert Judith Miller comes "Antiques Price Guide 2008." With the latest prices, market trends, and tips on where and how to buy and sell everything from furniture, glass, textiles, and jewelry, to pottery, porcelain, silver, and tribal art, this book is the essential handbook for buyers, sellers, and collectors. Judith Miller began collecting antiques in the 1960s, and has written more than 100 books on antiques and interiors. She is a widely sought after lecturer on antiques and collectibles and is highly regarded by collectors and dealers alike. She contributes a monthly column on collecting to the financial times.

Do Not Open
John Farndon
375 Hudson St., NY, NY, 10014
9780756632052 $24.99

In the groundbreaking tradition of DK's New York Times bestseller "Pick Me Up," this book uses the same irreverent style to explore all the things "they" don't want people know about. From the Mona Lisa's hidden past to the history of Area 51, "Do Not Open" explores lost worlds, unravels secret codes, and lets readers step through the looking glass to see if they can handle the truth. Top-secret conspiracy fun or ages 8-12.

Hans Brinker
Bruce Coville, Laurel Long
Dial Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014-3657
9780803728684 $16.99

The story of Hans Brinker is a true classic, but few still read the novel, which was written in the 1860s. Now Bruce Coville and Laurel Long are reintroducing the charming tale in this glorious picture book version. Laurel Long's paintings are breathtaking and luminous. And as he has done in his retellings of Shakespeare's plays, Bruce Coville has masterfully reshaped the sprawling story into a picture book that's fresh, engrossing, and faithful to the intent of the original. This is a tale of a family sticking together through hardship, and of wishes granted just in the nick of time. The race to win the silver skates is well-known, but the mystery of the watch and the missing riches is equally enticing. This is the best kind of fairy tale, and kids will be riveted by its drama. For the winter holidays or anytime, this is a book to cherish.

Princess Alyss of Wonderland
Frank Beddor & Catia Chen
Doubleday / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780803732513 $19.99

Enter the exciting world of the real Alyss of Wonderland with this interactive gift book that encourages readers to experience the story with their own hands. Behold the stunning proof that the fictitious little girl you have known as Alice was actually a very real little princess named Alyss. Assembled in this scrapbook are the collected letters, journals, and art of the princess who fled her world of wonder only to find herself alone in our world with nothing but her imagination to sustain her. Lavishly illustrated and fully interactive, this book will captivate and delight princess enthusiasts and fans of the original "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."

Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones
Judy Schachner
Dutton Children's Books
345 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
9780525478843 $16.99

Holy guacamole! Skippyjon Jones is crazy-loco for dinosaurs! The kitty boy enters (via his closet) the land of dinosaurs in search of the fabled Skipposaurus. Instead, he runs into his old amigos, the Chimichango gang. When a T-Mex threatens the pack, it's El Skippito, the great sword fighter, to the rescue. With yips and yowls, he drives the big baddie away, so all the dino-dudes can rattle their bones another day. This fourth entry in the picture book series will please fans for the Siamese cat with oversize ears and an imagination to match.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Mirjam Pressler
Front Street
20 Battery Park Ave., Asheville, NC 28801
9781932425840 $16.95

Johanna's family owns the largest clothing store in town. She learns that during the Nazi regime, her grandfather legally acquired the company according to the anti-Semitic laws of the Third Reich. Should she keep silent, or can she wake the sleeping dogs?

Sneaking Suspicions
Carolyn Coman
Front Street
20 Battery Park Ave., Asheville, NC 28801
9781590784914 $16.95

The sequel to "The Big House." How Ray and Ivy meet Wolfgang the counterfeiter, race each other on a roller-coaster, find a super-honker at a real gem mine, and end up stranded in the middle of a swamp surrounded by alligators makes a rollicking romp of a story.

The Unmaking of Duncan Veerick
Betty Levin
Front Street
20 Battery Park Ave., Asheville, NC 28801
9781932425963 $16.95

Duncan has no intention of getting involved with the crazy lady who lives down the street. When the lady's nephew shows up to put things in order, she starts to get paranoid, thinking someone's stealing her treasures, and she ropes Duncan into helping her hide them. One of Bank Stree College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year.

Golden Legacy
Leonard S. Marcus
Golden Books / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375839962 $40

The year 2007 marked the 65th anniversary of a bold experiment: the launch of the Little Golden Books during the dark days of World War II. At a time when the literacy rate was not nearly as high as it is now -- and privation was felt by nearly all -- quality books for children would now be available at a price nearly everyone could afford (just 25 cents), and sold where ordinary people shopped. "Golden Legacy" is a lively history of a company, a line of books, the groundbreaking writers and artists who created them, the clever mavericks who marketed and sold them, and the cultural landscape that surrounded them.

Classics for Pleasure
Michael Dirda
Harcourt Inc.
525 B Street, San Diego, CA 92101
15 E. 26th St., NY, NY 10010
9780151012510 $25.00

This is not your father's list of classics. In these delightful essays, Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Dirda introduces nearly ninety of the world's most entertaining books. Writing with affection as well as authority, Dirda covers masterpieces of fantasy and science fiction, horror and adventure, as well as epics, history, essay, and children's literature. Organized thematically, these are works that have shaped our imaginations. Love's Mysteries moves from Sappho and Arthurian romance to Soren Kierkegaard and Georgette Heyer. In other categories Dirda discusses not only Dracula and Sherlock Holmes but also the Tao Te Ching and Icelandic sagas, Frederick Douglass and Fowler's Modern English Usage. Whether writing about Petronius or Perelman, Dirda makes literature come alive. "Classics for Pleasure" is a perfect companion for any reading group or lover of books.

Where The Giant Sleeps
Mem Fox, Vladimir Radunsky
Harcourt Inc.
525 B Street, San Diego, CA 92101
15 E. 26th St., NY, NY 10010
9780152057855 $16

Do ogres snore? Do pirates have blankies? Do fairies suck their thumbs? We may never know the answers to these questions. But if we're lucky -- and very observant -- we might be able to catch a glimpse of some fantastic creatures, all fast asleep. In soothing rhyme, bestselling author Mem Fox explores the sleeping habits of our favorite inhabitants from the world of fairy tales. Vladimir Radunsky fills a dreamy, picturesque landscape with surprising and fun details. Fairies, wizards, goblins, and even children all find peace under the same bright moon.

Cat Power
Daniel Kirk
114 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10011-5690
9781432100812 $15.99

Whether they are prancing, leaping, dancing, sleeping, stretching, stalking, grooming, walking, crouching or yowling, cats are fascinating! Find out why they climb trees when they can't get down, what's so appealing about trash cans, and why the gift of a dead bird means, "I love you." With vibrant illustrations and a CD with eighteen original songs, "Cat Power" is sure to be a hit with felinophiles everywhere. More discriminating readers will note that author Daniel Kirk's genuinely entertaining prequel, "Dogs Rule," was brilliant by contrast. "Cat", alas, just doesn't demonstrate the same charm or wit.

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy
Ally Carter

114 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10011-5690
9781423100058 $16.99

After staking out, obtaining, and then being forced to give up her first boyfriend, Josh, all Cammie Morgan wants is a peaceful semester. But that's easier said than done when you're a CIA legacy and go to the premier school in the world...for spies. Cammie may have a genius IQ, but there are still a lot of things she doesn't know. Fo instance, will her ex-boyfriend even remember she exists? And how much trouble is she really in after what happened last semester? And most of all, why is her mother acting so strangely? Despite Cammie's best intentions to be a normal student, danger seems to follow her. She and her best friends learn that their school is going to play host to some mysterious guests -- code name: Blackthorne. Then she's blamed for a security breach that leaves the school's top-secret status at risk. Soon Cammie and her friends are crawling through walls and surveying the school to learn the truth about Blackthorne and clear Cammie's name. Even though they have confidence in their spy skills, this time the targets are tougher (and hotter), and the stakes for Cammie's heart -- and her beloved school -- are higher than ever.

Everything You Need To Know
Kingfisher / Houghton Mifflin
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116
9780753460894 $24.95

This colorful and bold "first" encyclopedia is a perfect one-volume book of knowledge for young readers. Arranged thematically in ten high-interest core topics, this book will interest knowledge-hungry young minds, with subjects such as dinosaurs, the human body, machines, and space. The lively text is clear, simple, engaging, and enhanced by more than 2,000 illustrations. Every page is filled with story boxes, glossary words, Web links, and illustrated activities to keep young readers turning the pages. Plus, children will feel a sense of achievement with the full-page "Now You Know!" summary at the end of each chapter, making them feel that they have really learned nearly "everything they need to know."

The Adventures of Max and Pinky Superheroes
Maxwell Eaton III
Knopf / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375838057 $16.99

They battle snow monsters, save whales, and stop falling meteors - but Max hogs all the glory while Pinky mostly gets clobbered! Will the super-duo become solo-heroes? What will happen when one of them gets his head stuck in a fence? Who will save the day (and exact a little silly revenge)? All will be revealed in this thrilling tale of capes, friendship, and lemonade! Maxwell Eaton offers a sweetly zany tale that will have both kids and grown-ups laughing out loud and possibly donning a cape.

Jazz Baby
Lisa Wheeler, R. Gregory Christie
Knopf / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780152025229 $16.00

With a simple clap of hands, an itty-bitty beboppin' baby gets his whole family singing and dancing. Sister's hands snap. Granny sings scat. Uncle soft-shoes -- and Baby keeps the groove. Things start to wind down when Mama and Daddy sing blues so sweet. Now a perfectly drowsy baby sleeps deep, deep, deep. Lisa Wheeler and R. Gregory Christie pair up for a celebration of music, imagination, and big families -- but they know that even a jazz baby needs to snooze. Oh yeah.

The Middle of Somewhere
J.B. Cheaney
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375837906 $15.99

Veronica Sparks is hitting the road! She has practically memorized "Seize the Way: Ten Weeks to SuperSize Your Life!" and she is going to shake the dust of her little town off her shoes and see the world. Well, someday. For now she's hitting the road in an RV with her cantankerous grandfather at the wheel and her hyperactive little brother in the backseat. Ronnie's grandfather is a wind prospector, and they are heading across Kansas in search of a good stiff breeze. Okay, so it's not the trip of her dreams. But with her new, positive attitude, Ronnie figures that traveling somewhere is better than traveling nowhere. That is, until her little brother manages to disappear into thin air. On one weird, windy, wild ride across the prairie, Ronnie discovers that there are some things you just can't plan for or seize control of -- but that sometimes a little chaos is just what a girl needs.

Punk Farm On Tour
Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Knopf / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
978375833434 $15.99

Farmer Joe is heading off to a Tractor Society Conference in Reno. But meanwhile, back at the farm… Cow, Sheep, Pig, Goat, and Chicken are getting ready to rock across the U.S.A. as they set out on a Punk Farm tour! Only, their beat-up old tour van is threatening to ruin their plans. Can the wheels on the van go round and round all the way from Maine to Colorado? This rollicking sequel to Punk Farm will have kids cheering along as their favorite rock star farm animals take the nation by storm! The latest laugh from Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author-illustrator of "Good Night, Monkey Boy," "Baghead," "Max for President" and "My Buddy, Slug."

The Incredible Book Eating Boy
Oliver Jeffers
Philomel / Penguin
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399247491 $16.99

Like many children, Henry loves books. But Henry doesn't like to read books, he likes to eat them. Big books, picture books, reference books…if it has pages, Henry chews them up and swallows (but red ones are his favorite). And the more he eats, the smarter he gets—he's on his way to being the smartest boy in the world! But one day he feels sick to his stomach. And the information is so jumbled up inside, he can't digest it! Can Henry find a way to enjoy books without using his teeth? With a stunning new artistic style and a die-cut surprise, Oliver Jeffers celebrates the joys of reading in this charming and quirky picture book. It's almost good enough to eat.

The Puzzling World of Winston Breen
Eric Berlin
Putnam / Penguin
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399246937 $16.99

Winston Breen finds puzzles everywhere, even on pizzas, and solving them is what he does best. But when his sister uncovers mysterious wooden strips with words and letters that even Winston can't figure out, the entire family is obsessed. It turns out the strips are part of a scavenger hunt that a town patriarch set up for his children. If all four sets are put together, they will lead to a ring worth thousands of dollars. Cooperating seems like a no-brainer to Winston, but to solve the puzzle, the group has to overcome mysterious threats, mutual mistrust, 25-year old clues, and participants who will do anything to keep the treasure for themselves. Chock full of puzzles to solve, some involving the mystery and others Winston runs into along the way, this treasure hunt will keep readers challenged right to the end.

Dr. Thomas R. Holtz Jr., Luis V. Rey
Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375824197 $34.99

Written by a professional paleontologist specifically for young readers, this guide to this dinosaur encyclopedia is packed with enough detail and insider information to satisfy even die-hard dinophiles. The text includes brief entries on all 800+ "named" species of Mesozoic dinosaurs, as well as chapters on the history of dinosaur discoveries, the science of dinosaur art, dinosaur biology, and much more. With sidebars by 33 world-famous paleontologists, museum-quality illustrations, and over 20 never-before seen restorations of new dinosaur species, this is a must-have compendium of fact and fandom that dino enthusiasts of all ages will devour.

The Silk Princess
Charles Santore
Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375836640 $17.99

Princess Hsi-Ling Chi has heard tales of a sleeping dragon and ancient gods residing in the Holy Mountains beyond her father's palace. But when she emerges from the gates for the first time, she is not afraid. She has with her a magical thread unraveled from a tiny cocoon that dropped into the Empress's teacup, and she knows it will lead her back to the palace garden. But she is very far from home when she notices that the thread has broken, and that she is lost. How will she find her way back? And will the secret of silk be lost forever?

All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll
Patricia C. McKissack, Jerry Pinkney
Schwartz & Wade Books / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375837593 $16.99

It's Christmas, and Nella is beside herself with excitement! She and her sisters have been given a real gift - a beautiful Baby Betty doll. But it's hard to share something you've waited your whole seven-year-old life for, and Nella grabs the doll for herself. It isn't long before she discovers that a doll can't do the fun things she and her sisters do together. So, as Christmas day fades, Nella shares it with her sisters. Set in the Depression era South, here's a heartwarming story that captures the essence of the holiday.

Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly
Alan Madison and Kevin Hawkes
Schwartz & Wade Books / Random House
1540 Broadway, NY, NY 10036
9780375835971 $16.99

The Butterfly Conservatory was a magical space that Velma had only dreamt of. Inside, butterflies of every color - giant swallowtails, short-tailed skippers, pygmy blues, and best of all, monarchs - flew up to forever. A tear formed in a distant corner of her eye. All she wanted was one single tingly touch of a butterfly…even though that might hurt it. But Velma couldn't. She couldn't hurt a butterfly… A tender picture book for young fans of annual butterfly exhibits at science museums everywhere.

Scott Westerfeld
Simon Pulse
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416951179 $16.99

In the fourth book in Scott Westerfeld's exciting "Uglies" series for young adults picks things up a few years after rebel Tally Youngblood took down the uglies/pretties/specials regime. Without those strict roles and rules, the world is in a complete cultural renaissance. "Tech-heads" flaunt their latest gadgets, "kickers" spread gossip and trends, and "surge monkeys" are hooked on extreme plastic surgery, and it's all monitored on a bazillion different cameras. The world is like a gigantic game of "American Idol." Whoever is getting the most buzz gets the most votes -- popularity rules. As if being fifteen doesn't suck enough, Aya Fuse's rank of 451,369 is so low, she's a total nobody. An extra. But Aya doesn't care; she just wants to lie low with her drone, Moggle. And maybe kick a good story for herself. Then Aya meets a clique of girls who pull crazy tricks, yet are deeply secretive of it. Aya wants desperately to kick their story, to show everyone how intensely cool the Sly Girls are. But doing so would propel her out of extra-land and into the world of fame, celebrity, and extreme danger. It's a world she's not prepared for.

Angela and the Baby Jesus
Frank McCourt, Raul Colon
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416937890 $17.99

"When my mother, Angela, was six years old, she felt sorry for the Baby Jesus in the Christmas crib...." Frank McCourt's first Christmas book is by turns tender and heartwarming, and wholly unforgettable. Angela is six years old and worries for the Baby Jesus on the altar of St. Joseph's Church near School House Lane in Limerick, Ireland, where she lives. December nights are damp and cold, and the church is dark. The Baby Jesus' mother doesn't even have a blanket to cover him. The Baby is sure to need Angela's help, even if she is not allowed to step near the altar, especially by herself. Filled with the character and incident that have made Pulitzer Prize recipient Frank McCourt internationally renowned and beloved, Angela and the Baby Jesus is a timeless story of family -- and all of its joy, tradition, love, and incongruity -- and a book for the generations to cherish.

The Chronicles of Spiderwick: A Grand Tour of the Enchanted World Navigated by Thimbletack
Tony DiTrlizzi, Holly Black
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416950387 $21.99

From the #1 New York Times bestselling series comes an interactive look at the world of Spiderwick. Fans are invited to take a tour with Thimbletack, resident and caretaker of the Spiderwick mansion, as he guides readers through his scrapbook and personal collection of faerie artifacts. Through letters that can be removed from envelopes, readers will learn the history of the Spiderwick estate and its former occupants; peruse lost correspondence that uncover long-hidden secrets; browse through personal items from the Grace kids; and read clips of stories from around the world about other encounters with strange and mythical creatures. "The Chronicles of Spidewick" is an explorers dream with hands-on pullouts, pop-ups, and foldouts.

Ghost Ship
Mary Higgins Clark, Wendell Minor
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416935148 $17.99

Thomas loved his summer visits to his grandmother's on Cape Cod. He spent hours wondering about the sailing ships of the past and imagining their stories. He dreamed of being on a sailing ship himself. One afternoon after a night of terrible thunderstorms, Thomas finds, deep in the sand, a weathered, old-fashioned belt buckle. When he picks it up, a boy his own age, Silas Rich, who was a cabin boy on a ship called the Monomoy that sailed almost 250 years ago, appears. Suddenly the world of sailing ships is very near as Silas tells his tale. Beloved and bestselling author Mary Higgins Clark tells a story of mystery and adventure that will transport readers to a time and place beyond their imaginings in her first book for children. Wendell Minor's inspired paintings make a time long ago very real.

H.I.V.E.: Higher Institute of Villainous Education
Mark Walden
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
978141693571 $15.99

Otto Malpense may only be 13 years old, but so far he has managed to run the orphanage where he lives, and he has come up with a plan clever enough to trick the most powerful man in the country. He is the perfect candidate to become the world's next super-villain. That is why he ends up at H.I.V.E., handpicked to become a member of the incoming class. The students have been kidnapped and brought to a secluded island inside a seemingly active volcano, where the school has resided for decades. All the kids are elite; they are the most athletic, the most technically advanced, and the smartest in the country. Inside the cavernous marble rooms, floodlit hangars, and steel doors, the students are enrolled in Villainy Studies and Stealth and Evasion 101. But what Otto soon comes to realize is that this is a six-year program, and leaving is not an option. With the help of his new friends: an athletic martial-arts expert; a world-famous, beautiful diamond thief; and a spunky computer genius - the only other people who seem to want to leave -- can Otto achieve what has never been done before and break out of H.I.V.E.?

The Time Thief
Linda Buckley-Archer
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10020
9781416915270 $17.99

An accident with an antigravity machine catapulted Peter Schock and Kate Dyer back to 1763. A bungled rescue attempt leaves Peter stranded in the eighteenth century while a terrifying villain, the Tar Man, takes his place and explodes onto twenty-first-century London. Concerned about the potentially catastrophic effects of time travel, the NASA scientists responsible for the situation question whether or not it is right to rescue Peter. Kate decides to take matters into her own hands, but things don't go as planned. Soon the physical effects of time travel begin to have a disturbing effect on her. Meanwhile, in our century, the Tar Man wreaks havoc in a city whose police force is powerless to stop him. Set against a backdrop of contemporary London and revolutionary France, "The Time Thief" is the sequel to the acclaimed "The Time Travelers."

Little (Grrl) Lost
Charlse De Lint
Viking / Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers
345 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780670061440 $17.99

When 14-year-old TJ and her family are forced to move from their farm to the suburbs, she has to give up her beloved horse, Red—but she makes a surprising new friend. Elizabeth is a "Little," a six-inch-high punked-out teen with an attitude, who has run away from home to make her way in the world. TJ and Elizabeth -- the Big and the Little -- soon become friends, but each quickly finds herself in a truly life-threatening situation, and they are unable to help each other. "Little (Grrl) Lost" is a delightful combination of realism, magic, humor, and hope, and is sure to win Charles de Lint many new teen and adult fans.

Vicki Arkoff
Senior Reviewer

Vogel's Bookshelf

Are Your Lights On?
Donald C. Gause & Gerald M. Weinberg
Dorset House Publishing Company
353 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10014
9780932633163, $19.95

Professor of Systems Science Donald Gause and consultant Jerry Weinberg first published Are Your Lights On? How to Figure Out What the Problem Really Is in 1982; the wisdom therein remains as desperately needed today as it was twenty-five years ago. Are Your Lights On? offers no-nonsense problem solving advice, starting with the critical first step of learning how to see a problem as it really is - which is not necessarily how one's clients or one's first impression define it. Sometimes the best solution one person can apply to a problem is to do nothing - in other words, refrain from solving another person's problem when it is readily apparent they can solve it for themselves just fine. Numerous real-world examples dot this thoughtful guide to becoming more observant, as well as honing and balancing both reason and intuition. "Though many problems must be solved in haste, beware of someone pushing you to hurry. Late in the resolution process, haste makes mistakes; in the first few minutes, haste makes disasters... We never have enough time to do it right, but we always have enough time to do it over." Highly recommended.

These Are My Final Wishes
Tamara Dunkel
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd., 515
Parker, CO 80134 1-888-672-6657
9781432712754, $9.95 1-888-672-6657

"These Are My Final Wishes" is a step-by-step, 'fill in the blanks', 64-page instruction manual specifically designed to help the non-specialist general reader provide their loved ones with specific information on every aspect of what to do when life is ended. A consumable publication that does not lend itself to community library collections but is ideal for individual use, "These Are My Final Wishes" covers the choice of burial or cremation; the details of the kind of funeral service and showing desired; insurance and financial matters; the obituary; personal wishes and thoughts; presenting the final wishes to the 'wish granter'; and even a 'Final Wishes Party'. Of special note is the chapter dedicated to the acceptance of the inevitable (Do Not Fear the End...Embrace It). "These Are My Final Wishes" concludes with sections where everything from what to put on the headstone, to reminiscences and regrets, to personal messages and a 'Goodbye Letter', are provided for. Utilizing a large print format, "These Are My Final Wishes" is simple, straightforward, practical, and very highly recommended for anyone contemplating their eventual demise and wanting to make things as easy as possible for their loved ones with respect to carrying out final wishes and instructions.

Paul T. Vogel

The Reader Views Bookshelf

Irene Watson, Editor

Alice Hoffman
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316010191, $16.99, October 2006

Reviewed by Maya Landers (age 9) for Reader Views (11/07)

"Incantation," by Alice Hoffman, is not a book for those who are easily upset, since the scenes in the novel are often graphic. Hoffman's book portrays a town where secrecy is the key to survival, and betrayals are often, many, and bloody.

The main character, Estrella, is a 16-year-old girl who comes to terms with the fragile balance of the world in which she lives. During the short timeframe in this book, Estrella experiences betrayal, death, and love. She learns a family secret that changes her life, and her family's lives, forever. Although she is young, Estrella is forced to survive in the wilderness and endure the death of loved ones without the benefit of a large community to help her bear her loss. Estrella's character is inspiring in her ability to take charge of a hideous situation.

One of the major themes of this book is loyalty: loyalty between friends, loyalty between lovers, and loyalty between family members. Using Estrella to illustrate these points, Hoffman shows the reader many aspects of loyalty and betrayal. Estrella never knows for sure who is loyal to her or who she can trust. To deal with that, Estrella must not trust anyone, so she relies only on herself.

Hoffman's vivid descriptions, combined with a subject that is always unpleasant to read about, create a book that is memorable. Here is an example of how Estrella describes her mother's many different kinds of blue yarn: "Turquoise, aqua, night blue, ultramarine, bird's egg blue, early morning blue, inside-of-cloud blue, pond blue, river blue, as blue as all eternity." This description shows how Hoffman can take an ordinary color and transform it into something amazing.

I found "Incantation" difficult to read because its subject was bloody and gruesome. This is not the type of book I normally enjoy reading. However, it was very well-written, and the characters were well-developed and interesting. Although I would not reread this book, I would read another book by Hoffman because her writing is fabulous, and it is only the subject that I find repulsive.

Furry Friends (Paw Pals) (Board book)
Rachel Hale
Little, Brown Kids
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316113199, $6.99, 2007

Reviewed by Conner (age 3) and Mom for Reader Reviews (11/07)

"Furry Friends" will certainly bring out the "aw, how cute" for any baby animal lover. Rachel Hale's photographs have captured some adorable and playful moments of kittens, puppies, and even a lamb.

My son thought the pictures were fun and silly, but his only comment was there wasn't any shooting in this book (Star Wars is his current favorite theme at the moment). He wondered why a dog was wearing bunny ears since he definitely was a dog and not a bunny.

Parent's comment:

This board book, "Furry Friends," is developed around these playful pictures with the text being more a rhyming caption rather than following a story line or a recurring theme. Though the photographs were well done, because they focus on just the animals there isn't a lot of other detail in the picture for discussion.

Love Tails (Paw Pals) (Board book)
Rachel Hale
Little, Brown Kids
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316113212, $6.99, 2007

Reviewed by Conner (age 3) and Mom for Reader Reviews (11/07)

"Love Tails" is a photographic love poem expressed to us by our furry animal friends. Rachel Hale's photographs feature kittens, puppies, bunnies, pigs, lambs, a duck, a cow, chicks, and even a parakeet.

My son thought the pictures were fun and silly. The pairing of unlikely animals in the pictures especially amused him, like the chicks on the cow's head or the parakeet on the dog's nose. When I ask him if it was funny to see a bird on a dog's nose, he said, "That's not his nose! His nose is the black thing on the end of his face." I told him that he was right and that in fact the bird is sitting on the dog's snout or muzzle and the nose is at the end. He does notice these little details.

Parent's comment:

Rachel Hale has a good eye for bringing out the cuteness of the animals in her pictures. The poem is a cute rhyming tale that may feel a little forced in its verse, but the message in "Love Tails" is as sweet as the pictures.

Hug Time
Patrick McDonnell
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316114943, $14.99, 2007

Reviewed by Conner (age 3) and Mom for Reader Reviews (11/07)

"Hug Time" features Jules, an orange-striped kitten from the "Mutts" comic strip written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell. This is the story of Jules' adventure around the world to give everyone a hug. He starts with giving his friends hugs; then the animals around his neighborhood, afterwards he travels the oceans, jungles, rain forests, savannahs, and even the poles to give everyone he sees a hug.

Conner was very interested in the picture of the 'species brand-new.' He wondered if it was a frog or a lizard. He didn't think that Jules could hug a whale. He was also intrigued by the new animal names listed in the book. He never heard of a 'wombat,' 'humuhumu fish,' or a 'petite pudu' before. He also never heard of a baobab tree and thought that they looked funny.

Parent comment:

The watercolor illustrations in "Hug Time" are artfully done and are fun to look at with my son. They really capture the essence of a scene with enough detail to keep talking about the picture but still simple and clear for a child to grasp what is happening.

The story rhyme is well-written and flows quite well. While the overall message in the story is promote love, the places and animals visited are from an environmental conservationist point of view. This philosophy may not agree with all readers.

Rome & Canterbury: The Elusive Search for Unity
Mary Reath
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
4501 Forbes Blvd, Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9780742552784, $19.95, 2007

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Philliber for Reader Views (11/07)

When dealing with a subject as large as the reunion between the Roman Catholic Church (Rome) and the Worldwide Anglican Communion (Canterbury), it is helpful for a writer to have some firsthand experience and knowledge of the situation, as well as the parties involved. Likewise, it is beneficial for the author to have a personal enthusiasm for the subject. Mary Reath has the experience, and in her short book, "Rome & Canterbury: The Elusive Search for Unity," she displays an operational knowledge of both camps. Equally, Reath also has a passionate desire to be part of bringing that reunion to completion. In her own words she states, "Seeking oneness is not an optional extra, but rather learning and receiving from each other is a divine imperative. Ecumenism is the future of Christianity" (96).

Mary Reath has written this book for the average member of both communions. She believes that most of those members have very little idea of what has been developing in the dialogues for reunion. She not only believes that providing an informative little book is a nice thing to do, but that it will help to move the reunion forward. "[…] a paper reunion would be meaningless. In the end without the laity involved this will never happen" (xvii). Her approach to reach this goal is to rehearse the history of how Rome and Canterbury got this divided point, and what are the major hurdles to reunion.

Reath's historical recitation is readable and informative, especially as she describes the early attempts at addressing reunion between Rome and Canterbury. I would imagine that most folks would be surprised to find that in the late 19th Century there was an attempt to have Rome recognize Anglican orders as valid, and Rome declared them "absolutely null and void" (30). But other attempts have been more successful and have left behind some promising results. Reath recounts the fairly successful work of the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) and the various agreed upon statements addressing topics such as the Eucharist, Ministry and Authority. It is in the middle of her historical recounting of ARCIC that Reath addresses what she considers as the major hurdle: the doctrine of Papal Infallibility.

In chapter seven, Reath narrates the story behind the way in which Papal Infallibility came about, and its relationship to the primacy of the Pope. This chapter, rather than being laborious, is easy to read and grasp because Reath has done a fine job of boiling the major points down to the easily comprehensible. Papal infallibility is limited to faith or morals, and is a declarative event of that which is "explicitly and authoritatively the truth that already exists for the church" (56), and is something held by the whole church. As helpful as her presentation of this delicate matter is, there is an unhelpful idealism in this chapter which pops up in other parts of the book as well. Reath seems to miss the point that the 'whole church' mentioned in the 1870 document on infallibility from Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, is limited to the Roman Catholic Church, and does not necessarily include the Eastern Orthodox Church nor any branch of Protestantism in that phrase 'the whole church.' It seems to me that this little glitch muddles up some of her desired conclusions in this chapter and other places in the book.

Reath has provided a number of helpful appendices which address several of the ARCIC documents. Instead of quoting those documents in full, she has done quite a bit of the hard labor of culling through them and bringing out their salient points, coupled with her analysis.

One of the distractions in the book happens to be more with the format than the content. The blocked paragraphs seem easy on the eyes, but the fact that there are no indentions to tell you when you have approached a new paragraph is rather irritating.

Though at various points the book can read like a propaganda piece for ARCIC or Archbishop Rowan Williams, nevertheless, it is comprehensible, informative, and insightful with regard to the dialogue between Canterbury and Rome. If someone is looking for solid background information to that dialogue and the major hurdles that are restricting a reunion, "Rome & Canterbury: The Elusive Search for Unity" is a good starting point.

The Procrastinator's Bible for Financial Success
Frank J. Eberhart
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595411986, $18.95, 2007

Reviewed by Vicki Landes for Reader Views (11/07)

At first glance, you might be a little bit skeptical about a mere 137-page book labeled a 'bible.' Yet in "The Procrastinator's Bible for Financial Success: Nine Essential Steps for Planning, Budgeting, and Investing", author Frank J. Eberhart delivers a straightforward and concise look at personal finances…even if you think you've put it off way too long. "The Procrastinator's Bible for Financial Success: Nine Essential Steps for Planning, Budgeting, and Investing" will get you up and on the road toward fiscal achievement in no time flat.

"The Procrastinator's Bible for Financial Success" is organized in a workbook style format, making it easy to apply your current situation right there as you read. These practical applications make immediate use of what you learn - and as you are learning it - giving you the confidence that you are getting the gist of each concept. Eberhart leaves ample writing space to fill in your own information for analysis and future reference.

If terms like 'defective granter trust' or 'qualified terminal interest property' make your head spin, "The Procrastinator's Bible for Financial Success" will take away the pain. Eberhart walks you step-by-step through a myriad of different financial options and even the most confusing terminology. There are plenty of reasons why people procrastinate when it comes to truly managing their money. "The Procrastinator's Bible for Financial Success" actually makes it hard not to go ahead and get things organized.

Financial advisors and insurance agents all have products to sell so you are never 100% sure that the information they give you is completely unbiased. Are you buying into a smart investment that will positively benefit your financial future or are you simply padding their big ol' commission checks? With "The Procrastinator's Bible for Financial Success," you don't have those concerns and uncertainties; you have honest, impartial advice meant to profit (pun intended) you and your loved ones.

Frank J. Eberhart wants you to quit postponing your financial makeover and discover how easy it actually is. "The Procrastinator's Bible for Financial Success" does just that, regardless of your previous fiscal background (or lack thereof). It's never been this effortless - or pleasant - to make sense of the complicated financial world! Why put it off a minute longer?

Dark Horse
Mike Langan
Five Star Publishing
c/o Thompson Gale
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, Maine 04901
9781594146640, $ 25.95, 2008

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (11/07)

In his new book, "Dark Horse," Mike Langan takes the reader behind the scenes and drama of the courtroom to reveal the power, greed, selfishness, and political maneuvering that draw the reader into the intrigue which makes the genre of the legal and justice system so popular. Litigation and settlement are seen in a new light as Langan develops his characters in this fast-moving, legal mystery novel.

Nicky Rigopoulos, a personal injury lawyer, with a reputation of being slick as a result of his long history of TV advertising, is running for judge in Syracuse, N.Y. Within hours after the bludgeoning death of his campaign manager, Nicky finds himself being framed for her murder.

Nicky soon realized the only way to clear his name was to find the real killer himself. After a second murder, Nicky's wife, a zealous reporter blanketed the TV news with Nicky's picture, already recognized, by the public, from his ads and campaign activities. A witness that could vouch for Nicky's whereabouts at the time of the first murder was found shot to death. A reward is offered for information leading to Nicky's arrest. The frenzied manhunt became even more intense.

Nicky, his defense attorney Diz, a few loyal friends, and family members become amateur sleuths in the complex undercover operation that follows. Nicky shaved his head and his beard to pass himself off as a Hell's angel, a farmer, and a psychotic football fan.

Mike incorporates relevant comments on national news, current events, references songs and music and compares his characters and situations to well-known classic movies and personalities from the entertainment industry. He builds in some insights from psychology. The character flaws are obvious in the dysfunctional personalities of his characters. Langan uses parody as his characters overreact or show no reaction to situations where trauma might be a normal response.

Langan uses a character-driven plot with extensive dialog to develop both his characters and the plot. Although his characters are exaggerated composites, I felt a genuine empathy with some and disrespect for others. Langan brilliantly created feelings of emotion, attitude, anger, frustration, insecurity, loyalty, and integrity. His dialog provides insight and information regarding the legal process within the justice system. Just when you think a rambling conversation is on the edge of becoming tedious, Langan drops another unexpected critical bombshell, building even more momentum into the frame-up against his protagonist, Nicky Rigopoulos.

Numerous suspects, motives, and means are introduced throughout the complex storyline. Matching wits with detective Halliday and Nicky's attorney, Diz, became a challenge. I wonder how I could have missed the clues that pointed to the real murderer revealed in the unexpected dramatic conclusion.

Mike Langan's first novel "Dark Horse" is destined to fill a unique notch in the Legal Thriller genre. I found "Dark Horse" to be a thoroughly entertaining read. I am looking forward to Langan's next novel.

Gun Play (Shooting Shrink)
Michael Thompkins
Sterling House Publishers
7436 Washington Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15218
9781563153396, $ 12.95, 2006

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (11/07)

"Gun Play" launches the adventures of police psychologist Tom Reynolds. Tom "Doc" Reynolds is drawn into a case with his best friend Lieutenant Brett Wade of the Palm Springs Police Department. Martin Jones, senior partner in a major Palm Springs CPA firm, is shot down by a vindictive hit man.

"Doc" Reynolds is on assignment as psychologist for the Palm Springs police department. The department uses him to provide personal, relationship and work coaching sessions counseling and for their officers. Both he and Brett are working through their own nightmares of post traumatic stress syndrome, a result of Viet Nam combat.

Bocca, a contract killer, is a former Army Ranger, a sociopath, and pathological pseudo-ego narcissist who needs to prove that he is better than anyone else. He was hired as a part of a corrupt cover-up plot.

A young, homeless, musician Chris Parker, who wants to become the next John Lennon, becomes the center of the action when Lieutenant Wade discovers that Chris may be able to identify the hit man.

Whether commenting on the music of the 60s, the alternative music of Chris Park's Band, Brett's personal arsenal, or psychological evaluations, I had the sense that Thompkins was writing with a realism derived from his own personal background, professional experience, or extensive research. His descriptive writing of the desert and mountain locales of Palm Springs was breathtaking and beautiful. References to local clubs and restaurants, added a dimension of authenticity and realism. His gourmet creations whetted the appetite and gave a sense of camaraderie as his key characters bonded together in conversation and strategy planning sessions around a meal.

"Gun Play" is well written, with subtle humor, excellent reporting on crime scene procedures, and is filled with fast-moving narrative, believable characters, and entertaining, informative dialog. This is must reading for every mystery fan.

I foresee the team of Dr. Tom Reynolds and Lieutenant Brett Wade, and their creator Michael Thompkins joining the ranks of best selling authors Jonathan Kellerman with Alex Delaware, and James Patterson and his ace Deputy Chief of Detectives, Alex Cross.

Michael Thompkins is well on the way to raising the bar on Psychological Police Novels. "Gun Play" and "The Shooting Shrink" series will soon be a household word, discussed at every Starbucks, on the Oprah show, and on the bestseller lists.

The Drone War: A Cassandra Virus Novel
K.V. Johansen
Sybertooth Inc.
59 Salem Street, Sackville, NB E4L 4J6 Canada
9780973950526, $ 9.95, 2007

Reviewed by Dylan James (age 11) for Reader Views (11/07)

This book is in the future and is about five people and a super robot. Jordan (a computer wiz) and Helen (a biologist) are the two kids. The three teenagers are Jack, Sammilea, and Cassie. Cassie, Jordan's sister, works for an artificial intelligence company. Jack is Cassie's boyfriend and Sammilea is Cassie's roommate at college. Something is stressing Cassie so Jordan and Helen get together with Jack and Sammilea and try to figure out what is wrong with her. The super robot named Cassandra is developing a conscience and won't help them spy on Cassie. They take matters into their own hands and discover spies that are after Cassie.

My favorite part of this book was when Jordan, Helen, Jack, and Sammilea try very humorously to catch a spy that is following Cassie.

This book will make anyone who has not read the first one really want to read it and anyone who has read the first book want to read it again. I really think this book would have benefited greatly if it had an introductory chapter briefly describing the first book. The glossary at the end of the book helps a little. Because readers that have not read the first book will be confused, I do not think this book is the best it could be. This book's author is kind of assuming its readers have already read the first one. I think this book leaves you wanting to know too much more about the characters. Because of that, I think this will be a book loved if you have read the first one, but only liked if you have not. I want to make it clear that people that have read the first one will be very delighted with this sequel. It made me laugh a couple of times and was a pretty interesting book.

I think this is a book for lots of purposes: a good bedtime story to read to kids as young as seven and a good action story for kids as old as fifteen. Past 15-years-old, kids might start to want more content in the book. Readers that have read the first book will probably rate "The Drone War" 4 stars. Although there were a few spelling errors, the writing was good in the sense of drawing people in and making them want to keep reading the book.

My overall opinion is that it was worth the time to read "The Drone War."

Steven Spielberg (Just the Facts Biographies)
Tom Powers
Lerner Publications Company
241 First Ave. N Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401
9780822596943, $27.93, 2004

Reviewed by Ben Weldon (age 10) for Reader Views (11/07)

"Steven Spielberg (Just the Facts Biographies)" by Tom Powers is the true story of Steven Spielberg and how he made his way from a weird, skinny kid to a rich movie director. Even as a child, he liked to scare other people. He once trapped his sisters in a closet with a fake glowing skeleton that he had made. He was known to be quite diabolical; however, when he had to dissect a frog in biology class, he vomited. He loved movies and television, and he sometimes rented 8mm movie reels and charged the neighborhood kids 35 cents to watch. Young Steven was actually quite timid and poor at sports. He was sometimes teased because he was Jewish and had a sort of unhappy childhood. Stevens's father encouraged him to begin creating movies as a way to increase his self-confidence.

Spielberg got his start in movies at a very young age and was determined to make a career in film directing. When he was 13, he created his first movie, "Battle Squad," about fighting the Nazis during World War II. At 15, he made his first full-length science fiction movie, "Firelight". After he graduated from high school, he intended to enroll in a top college film program, but he was not accepted anywhere. He finally enrolled in California State University majoring in English; there was a movie studio right near the college building called Universal Studios. In the summer he put on a suit and tie, walked right into the studio as if he belonged, and put up his name on an empty room. Eventually a security guard caught him and threw him out. Despite getting kicked out, he kept going back until he was offered a job directing TV shows including "The Twilight Zone" and "Night Gallery." Eventually Spielberg got bored directing television and wanted to move on to more
creative pursuits in movies.

Spielberg has made some of the greatest movies that Americans and the world have experienced. "Jaws," a scary killer-shark movie directed by Spielberg, was the first Hollywood movie to take in more than $100 million at the box office. It was, however, just the beginning of Spielberg's blockbusters which included "E.T.," the "Indiana Jones" series, "Shrek," and "Jurassic Park" (his biggest money-maker) among many others. Spielberg's movies were thrilling, full of action, and often scary. He also made some more serious and dramatic movies such as "The Color Purple," "Schindler's List," and "Saving Private Ryan."

Steven Spielberg now has his own private studio called Dream Works, which produces movies, video games and computer games. He has won many awards for his movies and is remarkably rich. His early determination seems to have paid off beyond his wildest dreams.

I thought that "Steven Spielberg" was an excellent book and I hope all readers will enjoy it as much as I did. This is a very well-written book with many sidebar facts that I did not know about. I thought that learning about Spielberg's past was interesting and very enjoyable along with learning about what movies he made. It also makes me want to see some of his movies some day.

Suicide Bombers
Elaine Landau
Twenty-First Century Books
241 First Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401 USA
9780761334705, $31.93, 2006

Reviewed by Chris Phenis (age 10) for Reader Views (11/07)

"Suicide Bombers" teaches adults and adolescents about suicide bombers and why they do what they do. This book would be an excellent tool for people already in, or going to join, the military. When our military personnel are on the front lines, bombers are a major problem when it comes to their safety. When there's a suicide-bomb attack, they will better understand why the bombers try to kill and wound others while committing suicide.

The author of this book, Elaine Landau, covers two main points to make people more aware. The first point she covers is to teach people why they suicide bomb. The second point is to notice if there is a suicide bomber close to you and warn people around you if there is and take cover before they detonate.

I think this is a good book, because, as a very young reader, it was easy-to-read and it did not have too many hard words. This book contains a lot of pictures that include different types of bombers and the results of the bombings, which gave me a better image of the topic.

I learned that suicide bombers think they have no reason to live. That is because they do not want to marry, live with parents, or life is just too tough on them. I also learned ways the United States is dealing with these types of bombings.

I would recommend "Suicide Bombers" for the military and people who do not understand suicide bombers. I now understand that suicide bombers are not just stupid and crazy, they believe they have a reason to commit suicide.

Apostle of Liberty: The World-Changing Leadership of George Washington
Stephen McDowell
Cumberland House
431 Harding Industrial Drive, Nashville, TN 37211
9781581825848, $16.95, 2007

Reviewed by Tyler R. Tichelaar for Reader Views (11/07)

Stephen McDowell's biography of George Washington, "Apostle of Liberty," has strengths as well as weaknesses. The author's argument is two-fold: Washington was a Christian, not a deist as many recent biographers have claimed, and God or "Providence" guided the United States' creation as a democratic nation.

McDowell's main argument that Washington was a Christian is well supported throughout. McDowell uses extensive quotes from Washington's letters and the writings of those who knew Washington, that Washington was a Christian in his behavior and in his words. Washington was frequently caught praying privately by his family members, he supported local churches, and he continually referred to the hand of Providence as guiding him and the nation during the American Revolution and his presidency. Washington followed Christ's example, thus making him a man to respect, and one who deserves to be held in the highest regard by all Americans and people worldwide for the great contribution he made to ensure liberty, even denying himself the chance to become the first monarch of the United States.

McDowell is obviously disappointed in the way modern historians have treated George Washington. "Apostle of Liberty" provides a more traditional and respectful view of the great general and first president. I agree with McDowell that Washington's great character, his honesty, his modesty, his self-sacrifice and courage are all virtues to model our lives after. I wanted to read this book because I did not feel I knew much about the first president myself, and I now have a greater respect for Washington. I wish, however, the book had provided more detail. I am left wanting to learn still more about the first president.

McDowell divides the book into three sections, the first being Washington's biography, then his character and his legacy. I wish the entire book had focused on his biography. I felt the descriptions of his life read like summaries and short lessons, almost as if written for children or high school students. I would have liked more detail, so that I could get into the mind of George Washington and know what it really was like to suffer through that winter at Valley Forge and to feel the stress and the joy he must have known as a great leader. I thought the section on his character read well as a series of short essays, each on a character trait like honesty or modesty, although a lot of these sections were repetitive with items already discussed in the biographical section. I thought the section on his legacy was just more repetition and would have been better as one final conclusion rather than two separate essays that basically repeated themselves.

My biggest disagreement with the book is that while McDowell completely convinced me that Washington was a Christian and that his beliefs in Christianity led to his strength of character, and while I am a proud American, I have a hard time believing the underlying premise that God or Providence, whether Washington believed it or not, was involved in ensuring the success of the American Revolution. At the end of the book, McDowell has a series of "Lessons of Leadership" to be gained from studying the life of Washington. The first one is "Christianity is the source of liberty, happiness and prosperity in society. Leaders have a duty to acknowledge God and obey His will." Christianity in its purest form can lead to happiness, but this kind of statement is too general and simply inaccurate. Christianity in the Middle Ages and many other times throughout history was far from a source of liberty, and to say leaders must obey God's will is opening up a leader to claiming everything he chooses to do is God's will—not a far cry from extremist religious groups today. Obviously Christianity was a great influence on Washington, but "liberty" or democracy is not dependent on Christianity for its success—after all, ancient Greece created democracy centuries before Christ's birth. The argument of Providence's role in the creation of the United States is something that cannot be reasonably supported and is simply just theorizing. It is a matter of faith, but an argument that I think would turn off many readers.

I would recommend "Apostle of Liberty" to young adults who wish to learn more about Washington—his example is one young people can definitely benefit from following. I also hope McDowell's book leads to more complete biographies where Washington's Christian faith is treated more accurately because it definitely was an integral part of his life.

Gods Behaving Badly: A Novel
Marie Phillips
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316067621, $23.99, 2007

Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views (11/07)

I can't help but smile reflecting back on the plot of this book. Just coming back from vacation in Greece, it was fun to read about gods such as Appollo, Zues, Dionsysus and Aphrodite, as well as others, and wondering if it's likely they still exist. Although fictional, Marie Phillips makes it possible for them to be in this world, but not of this world.

"Gods Behaving Badly" tells of Greek gods living in modern-day London in bodies like mortals. Once magnificent and prevailing, they are now only a myth in the eyes of humans. The gods have lived in the same flat, dilapidated and filthy, for centuries. Bored, restless, and unhappy, the gods take matters of the world into their own hands, turning it into turmoil.

Mixed in with the lives of the gods, mortals Neil and Alice become the product of the discontent of the gods. The question becomes evident: Will Alice and Neil be able to restore the world from the results of the turmoil?

I'm not sure how to comment on this book, maybe I could say it's "weird." I was finding myself fluctuating between thinking the story is humorous, to resonating with some of the characters, to shaking my head wondering how a particular scene came about. At times I found myself lost and had to re-read what I just read.

However, what I can say is the story in "Gods Behaving Badly" is hideous at times, yet humorous and naughty, and certainly gives a satirical look at the Greek gods. Marie Philips does a good job of painting the gods as they may be if they still existed today, unfortunately for them, not as they were revered at the time of their existence. Or, maybe they still do exist….

Journey from Head to Heart: Living and Working Authentically
Nancy Oelklaus
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690439, 2008

Reviewed by Vicki Landes for Reader Views (11/07)

Do you ever feel like the 'real you' isn't the one living your life? That what you do from day to day isn't what feeds your soul or nurtures your heart? Author Nancy Oelklaus says that genuine person and real happiness are inside there somewhere and is determined to bring them out with help from her new book, "Journey from Head to Heart: Living and Working Authentically."

Oelklaus' book is a result of her own struggles to find her path and transcend beyond what she'd fallen into in life. Heartfelt and deep, she bares her past demons in her stories of experience and poetry from recovery. Throughout the book, she gently urges her readers to lead a conscious life, with purpose and values that extend to all of our daily circumstances. She uses touching examples from her own turbulent path to illustrate how we can rise above our egos, control our perspectives, live with courage, and see ourselves as what we really are - spirits with limitless potential.

"Journey from Head to Heart" is a profound combination of science and religion with facts and feelings. Even as early as the preface, Oelklaus captivates you with her honesty, sincerity, and hope. Her writing style gave the sensation that I was listening to an old friend pour her life's heart out to me. Her energy encourages and motivates to be more than we've become - both as individuals and as a society.

"Journey from Head to Heart" is written with the middle-aged person in mind - those that have realized that they are not living with their intended priorities at the center of their existence and are looking for a change. However, young adults looking to start out with an authentic spirit (or change before that critical life precipice appears) would benefit from reading it as well. If you enjoy reading Stephen Covey or Rick Warren, you'll find a friend in Nancy Oelklaus.

It takes a delicate voice to put your individual shortcomings and life obstacles in a self-help book without sounding egotistical or as if you are flaunting your personal victories yet Nancy Oelklaus does so gracefully and humbly within the pages of her book. "Journey from Head to Heart" is simply the path we must take between those two points - opening the eyes, raising the voice, swallowing our pride, and releasing the soul.

Enlightened Chocolate
Camilla V. Saulsbury
Cumberland House Publishing
431 Harding Industrial Drive, Nashville, TN 37211
9781581826074, $22.95, 2007

Reviewed by April Sullivan for Reader Views (11/07)
"Enlightened Chocolate: More Than 200 Decadently Light, Lowfat, and Inspired Recipes Using Dark Chocolate and Unsweetened Cocoa Powder" is an elegantly-designed cookbook focused on recipes using dark chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder. Why these two ingredients? The Introduction explains the reasoning, the history, and the health benefits of these ingredients. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants. Saulsbury goes on to says that good chocolate is like fine wine, and an informed choice on what ingredients to choose is provided in the beginning pages.

Once you have the best ingredients in stock, it is time to start cooking. The cookbook provides over 200 recipes that are low in fat and calories. There are recipes for drinks, cookies, candies, cakes, pies, souffles, and even main dishes. All include dark chocolate or unsweetened cocoa powder. I tested the Mocha-Chip Crispy Rice Bars and the Spiced Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread. Both were delicious and easy to make. I can't wait to try the pudding, the cheesecake, the muffins, and more.

All chocoholics out there will love this book! As a chocoholic, I appreciate the seriousness Saulsbury gives to the subject of chocolate. She provides good information upfront and great recipes in the book. Nice color photos on the first two pages made me want to drool all over the pages. I have at least two or three other chocolate cookbooks on my shelf. But I think I will get rid of them. "Enlightened Chocolate" is all I need. It provides the same recipes and more, but with better chocolate and a low-fat approach.

Forms of Madness
Aaron Baker Cole
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595414840, $16.95, 2007

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (11/07)

Aaron Baker Cole immediately draws you into "Forms of Madness." The story is set in the 1980s, as the Soviet Union is trying to economically recover from the effects of the Cold War. In their efforts to keep up with the United States in military spending, the Soviet Union's economic situation is severely affected. In this story, Jordan Bauer is a journalist who has been approached by a CIA operative to get information about a bio-weapons program in Tallinn, near Moscow. He is assisted by Anna, a concerned employee, of this research center. During his investigation, he falls for her. When things fall apart, and tragedy strikes, Jordan is severely emotionally affected by the outcome.

Five years later, he is maintaining a distant, but caring, relationship with a woman named Toni; however, he finds himself unable to fully commit to her. Jordan begins to suspect an international conspiracy is taking place near his home. As he is drawn into his investigation, his interest is noted by government agencies. He also is forced to confront his past and realize how it has emotionally stunted his present situation. The more he investigates, the more he learns that what happened in Tallinn was not quite what he thought it was and that there are ties to the current situation. Jordan is faced with a dilemma in deciding how he wants to proceed. He has to weigh his desire for revenge over his need to do what is best for his self.

If you enjoy government conspiracy/espionage types of suspense novels, you will find yourself hooked to "Forms of Madness." Aaron Baker Cole uses his technical background in space technology and national security to write a realistic novel. To add to the realism, he blends real historical events into the plot. It is obvious and appreciated that he did extensive research into Russia to present realistic scenes. In addition to a tricky and surprising plot, I also enjoyed the development of the characters in this story, especially of Jordan. I highly recommend "Forms of Madness." It is guaranteed to be a perfect gift for espionage fans.

A Whole New World
John Blackwell
Morgan-James Publishers, LLC
1225 Franklin Ave Ste 32
Garden City, NY 11530-1693
9781933596952, $13.95, 2006

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Philliber for Reader Views (11/07)

What is the purpose behind the Gospel according to John? A quick perusal through any Bible study section of a local religious bookstore will reveal that there are as many answers to that question as there are authors. John Blackwell has added his voice to that mix in his little book "A Whole New World: Great Insights into Transformation & Fulfillment—The Gospel of John." Blackwell asserts that John's Gospel is primarily about relationships, and supplies answers on how to transform our relationships, "My desire is that the essays that follow will help that transformation come alive to you" (16). Blackwell works hard in his attempt to create this sense, though one gets the feeling that most of his exposition is shaped by his own personal experiences than it is from the Gospel of John.

Blackwell has written for the average reader, and writes in a style that is easy enough to follow. While he has not written a Bible study, he does try to pull together various themes and stories in John that fit his scheme. For example, Blackwell endeavors to summarize John's use of metaphors with statements like this, "[…]: Christ brings the world to fulfillment enlarging our capacity for authentic relationships with God and each other" (9, emphasis in original).

Occasionally Blackwell brings to the surface some solid reflections from this Gospel, as when he writes, "[…] Christ embodies God in the flesh. When we interact with Christ, we interact with God. When we observe Christ's interactions with others, we see God at work" (77). But most of the time Blackwell's observations are more focused on the therapeutic and self-help, and less with what the Gospel is addressing.

The format of the book is open and thoughtful. Each short chapter ends with questions that are tied to the chapter in some way, and have plenty of space for the reader to write her own reflections.

While the book, "A Whole New World: Great Insights into Transformation & Fulfillment—The Gospel of John," gives the appearance that it is going to help the reader work through the Gospel of John, and give a greater grasp of the Gospel and how it personally applies, instead the book is more of a reflection on the author's preconceived mold into which the chosen texts are made to fit like a Procrustean bed.

Before I Go: Letters to Our Children about What Really Matters
Peter Kreeft
Sheed & Ward
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd, Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781580512244, $14.95, 2007

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Philliber for Reader Views (11/07)

Having sat with several people as they draw close to the end of their life, I have noticed that many find themselves frustrated by the short time they have to say the final, important things to their loved ones. Peter Kreeft has taken a preemptive strike at that moment for his family by writing this short, readably warm book, "Before I Go: Letters to Our Children about What Really Matters." Kreeft states that this book is simply a "word-insurance policy. It is a way of speaking even after you are dead" (4). And he has written it for his grown children against the day that he may no longer be able to say what he deems are the important things, before he goes.

The short chapters are normally succinct, lasting anywhere from three sentences to three pages, but the depth of insight vastly surpasses the amount if ink and paper. For example, in one short chapter, he poignantly reveals the two categories into which people generally fall, "There are only two kinds of people: sinners, who think they're saints, and saints, who know they're sinners. There are only fools, who think they're wise, and the wise, who know they're fools" (51). It becomes clear as one reads further into this book that the writer is skilled at writing and at writing in a memorable fashion. I found myself struggling to put the book aside, because each chapter enticed me to jump to the next.

Kreeft teaches philosophy at Boston College, which shines through in several chapters, particularly in the superb craftsmanship with which he is able to hone an idea down to its primary point, like the following; "Worship God, love people, and respect stuff" (54). He is also a loyal Roman Catholic, and that similarly comes through clear and without apology all over this book. Neither of these facts detracts from the book, but is the reservoir from which he is able to dish out his nourishing and healthful comments.

The realism with which Kreeft sees the world, and with which he writes, is a two edged sword. Because of the down-to-earth way he airs his thoughts, he will be easily grasped, and heartily appreciated, by the simplest readers: "We strut and fret and preen and pose, but only God can make a rose" (86). But his earthy approach might also catch some completely off guard, especially as he uses expletives on occasion. Yet these are never gratuitous, but serve to drive home a valuable, salient point.

Reading "Before I Go" will be a pure pleasure for the thoughtfully reflective, and a valuable gift for many parents to use in passing on wise words to their children before they lose the ability to say those final, important words.

One Mississippi
Mark Childress
Back Bay Books
c/o Little Brown and Company
237 Park Ave, New York, NY 10017
9780316012126, $13.99, 2007

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (11/07)

Daniel Musgrove isn't too sure about his family being relocated to Mississippi for his junior year of high school. He is even less sure when the moving truck catches on fire and burns all of his family's belongings. He begins high school at a school that has just been desegregated. He and his siblings discover that the school is very far behind from the one that they left. They decide not to complain because they can get easy "A's."

Daniel finds a good friend in fellow classmate, Tim Cousins. They both share an irreverent attitude towards their classmates. When Daniel finds himself attracted to a black student, Anita Beecham, it hinders their friendship. When they are involved with a tragedy involving Anita, Daniel hides behinds their lies, but tries to compensate by helping the family out. This brings him closer to Anita, but he still has to hold back because of the cover up. Tim is jealous of their closeness.

Daniel and Tim share many adventures together including getting involved with a Baptist musical presentation, going to see Sonny and Cher, and doing everything that they can to make their nemesis Red suffer for the injustices that he has inflicted upon them. When their adventures begin to turn into misadventures, Daniel begins to see a darker side of Tim. Things begin to escalate out of control and the results are devastating to the whole community.

Mark Childress has done a great job writing a coming-of-age story about a young man from a dysfunctional family in a dysfunctional town. In addition to having to deal with the normal crises that teenagers have to deal with, he also has heavier issues such as prejudice, and homosexuality. Daniel's character warms your heart because he really cares about doing the right thing. Even when he does something bad, you can't help but think that the other person deserved it for wronging him. He has a huge heart and when he falls hard for Anita, you know that there will be a lot of painful moments coming for both of them.

"One Mississippi" is a novel that should not be missed. I found myself totally caught up in the plot. I highly recommend it to reader's groups, or college level fiction courses. There is a reading group guide and questions for discussion section included in the back of the book. The questions will stimulate some interesting discussions.

An Open Vein
J.M. Warwick
Grove Creek Publishing LLC
2 South Main St. Pleasant Grove, UT 84062
9781933963969, $ 12.95, 2007

Reviewed by Karma Barry (age 13) for Reader Views (11/07)

J.M. Warwick has an interesting writing style that will catch most reader's attention. Both logical and strange, "An Open Vein" is suspenseful to a point and almost sweet in a new sense of the word. "An Open Vein" would be best suited for the very late teens, about 17 and up, and further into adults for some of the content.

As far as I am aware I cannot relate to most of the story and hope that others can say so. All in all, this was an excellent read that taught me about bonding beyond the initial years in childhood and at some point in the future, when I am older and can understand more, I will read this book again.

I would personally suggest that the content, though not sexual, should be toned down for future publications for the teen audience. However, if there were less common words then this book could make a short adult read.

Despite some of the things that I found "strange," "An Open Vein" will be one of the books that I will carry through every move and replace when necessary for spine damage!

Timothy Carter
Flux Publications
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125-2889, U.S.A
9780738710662, $8.95, 2007

Reviewed by Emily Judah (age 13) for Reader Views (11/07)

"Epoch" is an interesting book full of unique twists; however, I am not drawn to this type of fantasy. I had a hard time relating to the characters and felt like the author could have done a better job through out the book to draw in the reader. Perhaps "Epoch" is geared toward a younger audience as I found the vocabulary to be too simple for my taste. To be fair to the author, I would prefer not to rate this book as it simply did not interest me at all. Even through the end of the book, I was never really drawn into the plot.

High Spirits: A Tale of Ghostly Rapping and Romance
Dianne K. Salerni
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road Suite 100 Lincoln, Nebraska 68512
1-800-authors (1-800-288-4677)
9780595423507, $20.95, 2007

Reviewed by Tabytha Joy (age 15) for Reader Views (11/07)

"High Spirits" is about two young girls who end up getting themselves into a rapping business. It all started when Lizzie went to stay with her two young aunts, Maggie and Kate, along with their mum and dad. Neither Maggie nor Kate liked Lizzie. But still, they had no choice but to share their bed with her. One night, Kate and Maggie decided to play a prank on Lizzie in hopes that she would return home. So, one of the girls started making rapping noises which really scared Lizzie enough to wake the adults up. The mum decided to try to talk to whatever was causing these noises. She was getting responses from what she thought were spirits. This caused the whole family to leave their house, except for the father as he did not believe.

After a while, people start believing that their loved ones are communicating with them through Kate and Maggie. At the beginning, the girls were doing it as fun. That was until their sister Leah figured out that it was Kate and Maggie making the noises. So, Leah convinces her mum to split the girls up for a while. Kate was to return with Lizzie and Leah. Well, Leah decides to make a fortune out of the rapping. She started holding rapping sessions and charging one dollar per person to sit through it. This goes on for some time.

When Maggie grows older, she meets the man of her dreams, Elisha Kent Kane. Elisha told Maggie that in order for him to marry her, she had to give up the rapping business and go to school to become someone of a higher level. Will Maggie turn her back on her family's income? Or will she turn away from the man she had always hoped for?

In my opinion, I think "High Spirits" was a well-written book. The flow was good in it. The details were good as well. I liked how the author explained how the girls were making objects move from one spot to another. There were also a few things the author failed to mention. At the end of the book, the author did not tell what happened to Lizzie or the people that Kate and Maggie so dearly loved and looked up to. This book would be best for readers who are twelve-years of age and older.

Little Red Riding Hood
Jerry Pinkney
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10169
9780316013550, $ 16.99, 2007

Reviewed by Olivia Alejandre (age 4) and Mom for Reader Views (11/07)

Mom's review / summary:
I had forgotten the original details since this story has been watered down over the past few decades. Upon my first read, I wasn't sure I liked the fact that the wolf did indeed eat the grandmother AND Little Red Riding Hood, especially since my daughter is so young. But, as I thought about it, I realized that it's probably appropriate to have a healthy fear of certain animals and threats in our world, without being too graphic. Olivia didn't seem to react negatively to that aspect of the story, even before she knew that they were both going to be OK in the end. Some children might not respond well to this aspect of the story.

I did feel, however, that the dead wolf in grandmother's bed was unnecessary to include in the artwork. Is there another way to present the events of that page?

I loved the diversity of the book - Little Red Riding Hood is definitely not white. I appreciate classic stories coming out with more diversity of character background and ethnicity.

The artwork is expressive and intricate - maybe too much for a children's book? Also, on most pages, Little Red Riding Hood has an odd expression on her face - sometimes, it seemed like she was confused, other times talking. Her mouth is partially open on several pages, which looked a little odd.

Olivia's review / summary:

"Little Red Riding Hood packed some tea and some muffins and sauce in a basket. She set off into the woods. She saw a fox. 'My grandmother's house is behind the oak tree.' And the fox went to grandmother's house before Little Red Riding Hood. 'Knock, knock.' 'Who's there?' She got there and said 'It's your child'. He ate her up and he is dressed up like grandmother. The wolf ate Little Red Riding Hood in his tummy. And, then he (the woodcutter) got them out of the tummy."

Some quotes from Olivia about "Little Red Riding Hood":

"I like the color of his fur."

"He's not scary to me. I like that wolf. He asked her a question nicely. I'm going to take that wolf home with me."

"He's being mean now."

Priscilla and the Pink Planet
Nathaniel Hobbie
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10169
9780316735797, $ 15.99, 2004

Reviewed by Olivia Alejandre (age 4) and Mom for Reader Views (11/07)

Mom's review / summary:

After reading this book with Olivia, I felt inspired to go outside and really LOOK at nature, appreciating all it has to offer and its glorious colors. Looking at page after page of pink, the butterfly truly comes to life on the page when it is introduced into the story.

When Olivia's a little older, I think she may better understand the concept of appreciating certain aspects of life more when we experience the negative side periodically. Her main focus with this book was making sure the butterfly was safe and talking about the "mean queen."

I appreciate the rhyming prose very much - it gives a song-like quality. Also, the potential for vocabulary building and using words that are somewhat challenging impressed me. If the story and artwork are interesting enough (which they are in this book), children will either learn new words through context or they will inquire as to the meaning of those new words. Wonderful!

One of the first things that Olivia noticed in this book was the bike (she loves riding bikes).

Olivia's review:

"One day, there were some people, looking up in the sky at the red star, very pretty. Looking at the red star is very fun. Pink is very useful. She found somewhere that's not pink. And that's a pretty place. And, she got stuck in some yucky pink muck. Pink yucky muck. And she found something with other colors and it was very beautiful. Butterfly. There was some water that you could drink and the butterfly could drink it. And the butterfly went in the tent and it was the Great Queen of Pink. And, she was looking mean and she said 'This is my world of pink and it's mine. And this butterfly is mine and I'm taking it home. This world of pink is mine.' 'Can I please take this butterfly home in this jar?' 'No,' said the queen. Then the Queen fed her some food. The Queen patted her head very nicely and then she played and played. The Queen let the colors out. And, she went home, dancing home. The End."

Some quotes from Olivia about the book:
"Why is she closing her ears? (on the page preceding the butterfly's arrival) Is it loud?"

"That lady is mean. And she caught the butterfly. And, the butterfly is in the net and it's yellow."

"Where is the butterfly on this page?" (she started worrying about the butterfly)

"It looks very pretty because all of those butterfly's colors are off of it (and into the world) and the world looks pretty with all the colors."

"Look ! There's the butterfly ! And, the butterfly has pretty colors on it !"

[Mom]: "What did you think about the book?"
"Good, but I didn't like when the mean Queen came."

After we read "Priscilla and the Pink Planet" and talked about it, she retrieved her guitar from the other room and sang a song about the butterfly and its colors: "Sing a song to the butterfly. Sing a song to the butterfly. Sing a song to the butterfly. Flowers, flowers, flowers. Give some water to the flowers."

The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Pinata for the Pinon Tree
Philemon Sturges
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316823234, $ 16.99, 2007

Reviewed by Conner (age 3) and Mom for Reader Views (11/07)

"A Pinata for the Pinon Tree" remakes a classic Christmas carol in the spirit of the New Mexico Southwest. This version brings a whole community together to celebrate the season in vibrant song and dance.

"Skinks playing music. That's funny!"
"Where are the skinks? I just know they are there?"

"Where are the doves?
"They are sitting in the tree?"
"What is a dove?"
"It's a type of bird."

"What is she making?"
"It looks like something sweet."

"What are they celebrating?"
"The Christmas holidays."
"Where is everybody eating the cookies? I wanted to see them eating them."

"Why are they playing cards?"

Parent's comment:

The illustrations in "The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Pinata for the Pinon Tree" are a delight to follow. As the days of the song passed, it was more of an "I-Spy" game to find the animals (especially the skinks) in the very detailed pictures. I enjoyed how the author wrapped the story around the preparations for a big celebration. It gave the song more cohesiveness, as opposed to the classic version of a lover just sending random gifts. Also, if you're not from that part of the United States, it is interesting to see what things they would include in their celebrations in the Southwest.

We Belong Together: A Book About Adoption and Families
Todd Parr
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316016681, $ 15.99, 2007

Reviewed by Conner (age 3) and Mom for Reader Views (11/07)

"We belong together because …
you needed a home
and I had one to share.
Now we are a family."

Todd Parr, creator of "Todd's World," wrote and illustrated this book to show how all sorts of families have come together.

"I don't like it [the book] very much. It's got babies. I don't like babies in books."

"I like the picture of the guy on this page [photo of author on the book jacket]."

"What do you think about adopting children?"
"Who adopted me?"
"Conner, you weren't adopted, but your mommy was and so were our dogs."

"I don't like this book because it doesn't have any fighter jets."

"I like my other books because they got more pages."

"Do you like the pictures?"
"No, there is no black."
"That's not true; the images are all outlined in black."
"Why are they all outlined in black? What is outlined?"

"I like this book because it's big."

Parent's Comment:

Todd Parr is known for his use of vibrant colors in his drawings. While that makes the book very enticing to open, my son was a little distracted by so many intense colors and wondered why some people's heads were blue and others green. Also, even though it has a note from the author at the beginning of "We Belong Together" that the reader can feel free to change the pronouns to fit their family, the reader can't change the picture images of some family combinations that they may not agree with.

Shadow Living...Paintings of Grief
Deborah Slappey Pitts
Harobed House
Post Office Box 9105, Columbus, GA 31909
9780978789701, $12.95, September 2007

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (11/07)

"Shadow Living…Paintings of Grief," tells of what it is like to lose a spouse. Deborah Slappey Pitts lost her husband to Amyloidosis disease. Pitts takes us through her personal experience of becoming a widow at forty-years of age. In telling her story, she reaches out to others who have gone, or are going, through the grieving process of losing a loved one. In addition to telling her personal story, she also discusses the stages of grief. I believe that this is incredibly important for people to read, so that they can understand the myriad of emotions that they will be experiencing.

When reading "Shadow Living," I discovered that it felt more like Pitts was in the room with me telling her story, than I was reading words. She vividly describes her experience in such a way that you are picturing, and feeling it, not just staring at words. It was very difficult not to tear up while reading her story. My heart went out her. She was a wife and a mother who all of a sudden had to learn to redefine her role.

I admired her for hanging on to her faith and putting God first. At times her prayers were heart wrenching. Having gone through the break up of a fifteen-year marriage myself, this grief brought back memories of my own grieving, and the moments where I begged God for things to be different. I truly believe that her incredible faith helped her survive through this ordeal. She also sought out help and went through the counseling process. When she entered into group therapy and heard other people's stories, she was able to connect to them and relate. She also experienced physical problems because of her emotional pain. It is really important for the grievers to know that this can happen and that if they don't care for themselves properly, they can really become ill.

The book is divided into several sections. Pitts' experience is separated into three parts. She also offers resources through endnotes, a recommended reading list, an update on Amyloidosis, references and a discussion guide. People that will benefit from "Shadow Living…Paintings of Grief," include those affected by Amyloidosis, people who have lost loved ones, and grieving groups. This book is a perfect tool for those in grief therapy, both individual and group. The groups would especially benefit from the discussion questions. Even though I was divorced instead of widowed, I found that I could relate to a lot of what Pitts went through after her husband passed on. The stages of grief were the same. She lost her husband physically and emotionally, I lost the dream of what I thought my husband was. Pitts definitely suffered a greater loss than mine; however, as I read, I felt that women going through divorces could also benefit from this book. The main thing we all have to learn is that life does go on and if you hang on to your faith and take care of yourself, it definitely does get better.

Christmas Around the World: A Pop-Up Book
Chuck Fischer
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316117951, $30.00, 2007

Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views (12/07)

Oh my goodness, what a delightful book! I had no idea when I opened the cover what I would find. This is the most beautiful Christmas Keepsake I have seen, and of course will be passed down for generations in our family.

Interactive and informative, this coffee table book's Victorian images, photographs and imprints are charming. The workmanship of the book surpassed any others I have seen. Pop-up artist Chuck Fischer certainly outdid himself this time.

The pop-up images, removable booklets, and pull-outs depict United States, Russia, Germany, France, Latin America, Scandinavia, Great Britain, and Italy. Each page portrays the traditions as well as people and stories.

"Christmas Around the World" would make a wonderful Christmas gift as well as buying one for yourself to be enjoyed during the holidays.

Into the Silence: The Power of Stillness in Living and Dying
Judith M. Ashley
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595440856, $16.95, 2007

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (12/07)

"Into the Silence" is a beautiful tribute to Judith Ashley's mother, Enid. While the author was residing in the United States, her mother was dying of cancer in England. Ashley went to be with her towards the end. "Into the Silence" tells the story of coming to terms with dying. Essentially, you are learning to live while dying. This story taught me to evaluate my own life. As I read, I felt that it is important to learn to live like you are dying, because if you wait until the end, it might be too late to clean up the loose ends.

As the story progresses, Enid's life is revealed. She sounded like such a wonderful woman throughout her whole life. As she was dealing with terminal cancer, she maintained her dignity and a sense of humor. She cleared up her loose ends by going through her possessions and by making amends with the people that she needed to.

Ashley had to come to terms with seeing her mother deteriorate and knowing that her death was imminent. She also left her husband behind in the United States while she was there to be with her mom. It was also a learning experience for Ashley to see how each of her siblings dealt with her mother's illness. She saw that there was a great deal of differences in their coping skills.

Most of the story is written in the form of letters that Ashley sent to her husband while she was in England. Her special relationship with her husband helped her to cope; however, it was obvious that she missed him greatly. This was another tribute to a wonderful person. Ashley's children also had to deal with losing their grandma in their own way. Just like her siblings, each adult child had their own personalities and coping styles. She accepted them for who they are and was able to see them grow through this experience. At the same time that she was losing Enid, her husband was losing his mother. Having to deal with both losses at the same time, gave them a better understanding of what each person was going through.

"Into the Silence" will be a life-altering book for all who read it. It is a beautiful story about the love between a mother and a daughter, and about dealing with death. It also taught me how to deal with life. As I was reading, I asked myself about how I want to be remembered and what kind of legacy I want to leave behind. I learned that you can go through tremendous suffering and still maintain your dignity and humanity. It also makes you really evaluate what is important in your life. I learned that I need to simplify my life. At the end, I think that most of us will realize that so much of what we once deemed important was trivial. As Ashley states, "…I contemplated on what creates a full life, and I think it is the stillness in which we can dwell in every moment, even while attending to the necessary structure of everyday life."

The Six-Figure Speaker: Formula for a Six-Figure Income as a Professional Speaker
Cathleen Fillmore
Robert D. Reed Publishers
P.O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
9781931741927, $19.95, 2008

Reviewed by Tyler R. Tichelaar for Reader Views (11/07)

First, let me say this book is not for beginners. It's not filled with tips on how to be an effective speaker. It has nothing to do with how to project your voice, how to organize a speech, or how to overcome shyness. This book is for the public speaker ready to take it to the next level, the speaker who is ready to go out and speak professionally to organizations and make large sums of money, starting at $2,500. If you're that person, read this book. If you're shy, read another book first. If you're still learning to be a public speaker, but you're passionate about it, read this book so you can take your career to the next level. This is the book every public speaker should use as a roadmap toward career success.
That said--one fault of the book is it is not a how-to manual. It doesn't provide a step-by-step listing of how to create your public-speaking career. But it overcomes that small fault by the wide variety of information and viewpoints it provides. The book contains 31 short articles about speaking professionally. These articles are predominantly by Cathleen Fillmore, but she has several guest speakers who write articles or are the focus of the articles as well.

The book is less about public speaking than about how to market yourself as a public speaker and how to get paid what you deserve. The individual chapters or essays cover everything from how to market yourself as a public speaker using a website, to figuring out how much to charge for your speeches, and turning down speaking engagements if they are not right for you. What I found most informative was the information about speaker bureaus that will help you find speaking engagements if you sign up with them. The book contains many examples of how to use speaker bureaus to your advantage, and also how to maintain a positive relationship with a bureau. As the president of the Speakers Gold bureau, Cathleen Fillmore is the type of authority you want to provide you this advice.

Overall, "The Six-Figure Speaker" opened my eyes to the possibilities as a professional speaker. As an author myself who is often asked to give presentations, I found it extraordinarily helpful in providing motivation and direction for a speaking career. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in becoming a public speaker. The book is worth it just for all the resources to other websites and books. I also appreciated the section for notes in the back—I took plenty while reading. Go out and buy "The Six Figure Speaker." Don't be a public speaker without it!

Sway: A Novel
Zachary Lazar
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Ave, New York, NY 10017
9780316113090, $23.99, January 7, 2008

Reviewed by April Sullivan for Reader Views (12/07)

"Sway" is a novel about the counter culture of the late 1960s. Lazar tells a fictional story using well-known characters from the era. The Rolling Stones, Charles Manson, and filmmaker Kenneth Anger all come together through the character of Bobby Beausoleil. Bobby is a young man from California who gets caught up with Manson and stars in a film by Anger that also features Mick, Keith, and Brian from The Rolling Stones.

"Sway," a simple word, is used several times throughout the book. It describes the movement of the music as well as the influences the characters have on each other. Lazar writes about the magical moments during the beginning stages of a band. But not just any band, one that the reader knows will become a rock super group. The influences each member brought to the group shaped their style and their successes as well as their downfalls.

Examples of the sway the book describes are: the influence Charles Manson had on the young men and women who followed him, the influence of having a camera aimed at you and how that makes you an instant star in your own mind, before anyone has even seen the film, and the deep influence of good and evil that a person can have on another person in a time and place of radical change.

"Sway" embodies the spirit of the 1960s. The rock-star lifestyle, the drugs and music, the demonic murders committed by the Manson Family, the violence at The Rolling Stones concerts, and the images in Anger's films swirl together into an experience that is a spin of reality and surrealism.

Lazar has done a nice job of taking snapshots of history and embellishing them to create a story that goes beyond all of the parts. Being born in the 1970s, I do not have first-hand knowledge of the time in history portrayed in this novel, so I enjoyed it as a fictional story. A reader who has lived through the events mentioned may have a completely different take on this novel titled "Sway." Either way, I think it is an enjoyable read for everyone. It will catch you up in its sway.

A Gathering of Gargoyles (The Darkangel Trilogy)
Meredith Ann Pierce
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316067256, $7.99, September, 2007

Reviewed by Spencer Zaborowski (age 12) for Reader Views (12/07)

Do you love fantasy, with lots of clear images and a mysterious riddle? If so, then you will want to read "A Gathering of Gargoyles" by Meredith Ann Pierce.

This book is the second one out of three from a series called "The Darkangel Trilogy." It is about a young girl named Aeriel who saves her new husband, a darkangel, from White Witch. In the first book, called "The Darkangel," Aeriel sacrified her heart and gave it to her husband so that he would be able to turn back into a human after a spell was cast by the White Witch. In "A Gathering of Gargoyles," Aeriel is back and trying to get rid of the White Witch for good. But first she has to solve a riddle told to her by some maidens. In order to do that, she has to find an oracle to help her, and also find the six lost lons of the west, which are magical creatures that Aeriel thought had been killed Aeriel and a new friend set out on their trip, and on their way they find Aeriel's six gargoyle pets - Greyling, Cat Wing, Moon Calf, Eelbird, Rapter and Monkey-Lizard. Will they find what they are looking for? You will have to read the book to find out!

I greatly recommend this book for teen readers who like to read fantasy stories. This is a funny book that will keep all readers captivated from the very first page! The book is easy-to-read and easy-to-follow. Even though it is a fiction book, this fantasy story is written in an order that makes sense to the reader. It is well-organized. The author uses a lot of unfamiliar words to describe familiar objects. It would be easy to get confused by these new words, but the author does a good job explaining them in the story so that the reader knows exactly what she is talking about.

I really liked this book because it is a fantasy story, and it is the type of book that will not let you put it down once you start it! In it there are birds that are bigger than a man, horses that can fly, and a lot more. You can easily imagine the scenes and creatures, almost like you are in the story and can see everything clearly. I can't wait to read the other two books in this series! "A Gathering of Gargoyles" is written for teens and young adults.

The Fabulous Bouncing Chowder
Peter Brown
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316011792, $15.99, 2007
Reviewed by Olivia Alejandre (age 4) and Mom for Reader Views (12/07)

Mom's review / summary:

Chowder is a lovable dog who tries to fit in and be like the other dogs at the Fabu Pooch Boot Camp. In preparation for a dog show, he fixes his hair like theirs and tries to walk like they do. Then, on a walk around the camp, he spots a trampoline and his true self comes out - an acrobat! He practices constantly, getting better at tricks. At the dog show, his jumps and back-flips award him not only cheers from the audience, but also the "Best Bouncer in Show" award and a lifetime supply of Snarf Snacks (since he's their new spokesdoggy!).

Olivia seemed to be quite focused on the dogs (she loves dogs) and the trampolines, and so didn't seem to grasp the overall message of the book until we talked about it later. The art is beautiful and quite attractive to the eye - adults and children alike. However, the humor is subtle in nature and hard for kids to understand.

Olivia's review:

"Chowder loves to jump. Chowder loves trampolines. He wants to be an acrobat. He goes to a dog show. He tries to be fancy like the other dogs but his tongue is wet. He jumps on the trampoline from the roof and does back-flips. And then, he gets some snacks."

Some quotes from Olivia about "The Fabulous Bouncing Chowder":
"I like all the doggies."

"Does she look mean?" (Ms. Fabu)

"That's not very nice." (the other dogs not playing with Chowder)

"I want to jump on the trampoline as high as Chowder and get lots of exercise."

"How do we do a back-flip?"

"I like this page." (Chowder doing the tricks at the dog show)

"Look at all the trampolines!" (last page)

[Mom]: "Do you think we should try to be ourselves or try to be like other people?"
"We should be ourselves because I like being [me]."

Josephine Wants to Dance
Jackie French
Illustrated by Bruce Whatley
Abrams Books for Young Readers
115 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9780810994317, $15.95, 2006

Reviewed by Olivia Alejandre (age 4) for Reader Views (12/07)

Mom's review / summary:
I love this book! Not only does Josephine follow her dreams to be a ballerina, even though her brother continually tries to discourage her, but she does it through her OWN intuition and initiative! She doesn't wait for someone else to encourage her or help her find a creative solution to becoming a dancer. She goes out and finds a way herself. Wow! Thank you Jackie French!

My daughter Olivia and I had read five new books and I asked her which one was her favorite - she pointed to this one. She connected with the story AND the artwork - that's relatively rare for someone of her age (she just turned 4).

I wish there was more background with the artwork, especially on the pages where Josephine danced on stage. I was hoping that Olivia could get a visual of Josephine being on a stage in front of a crowd and not being scared. She might remember that someday when she is in a recital or concert of some kind. The artwork looked too similar from page to page (minor issue compared to all the positives of this book).

Olivia's review:

"Josephine loves to dance. 'Don't dance, Josephine! Kangaroos don't dance; they hop.' Josephine still danced and she danced over her brother. There was a ballet class going and 'I am going to go to the ballet class.' Josephine sneaked into the door and the girls in ballet class hurt their legs. There's a kangaroo dancing; that kangaroo can really do ballet. And he makes a dress for Josephine and some slippers. 'Come out of there,' said Josephine's brother. 'No, I'm going to dance,' said Josephine. She can jump higher than anyone. Last dance was from Josephine."

Some quotes from Olivia about "Josephine Wants to Dance":

"Is Josephine a rat?"

"Pretty." (Josephine dancing)

"She has to try to dance because she's never done it before." [Mom]: "And, what happens if she practices?" [Olivia]: "She gets better. And, then her brother is dancing! And, her brother doesn't have to tell her that anymore."

[Mom]: "What do you think about someone telling you that you can't do something?"

The Adventures of Sammy the Snowflake: Volume 1
Brooke Becker
Courtyard Publishing, LLC
1688 Meridian Avenue, 10th Floor, Miami Beach, FL 33139
9780979526008, $19.95, 2007

Reviewed by Lake Furney (age 10) for Reader Views (12/07)

After Sammy's parents tell him about the Cycle, which every snowflake must go through, he decides to go on a quest to find Weather. He doesn't really understand it but decides that Weather is the culprit behind the Cycle. Sammy doesn't like change and doesn't want to experience the Fall into the Unknown because he likes his life the way it is.

He gets the help of his friend Sylvie. To find out where Weather lives, they must journey to the Hidden Crystalline Monastery to visit the Great and Wise Snowflake Elders. To get there, they must go through the Forbidden Valley of the Ice Creatures where the feared monster Frostbite lives. Their journey is exciting and full of surprises!

I had a hard time putting this book down and am hoping for a volume two of "The Adventures of Sammy the Snowflake!"

Soccer Hero (Matt Christopher Sports Fiction)
Matt Christopher
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Ave, New York, NY 10017
9780316113458, $4.99, Sept. 2007

Reviewed by Lake Furney (age 10) for Reader Views (12/07)

Rob Lasher is a player on the Pirates soccer team. After saving his coach's life everyone treats him like a hero. He doesn't like the attention and wants people to just forget about it. After the new coach makes Rob team captain, things get worse. They struggle to get along and work together as a team.

This book, "Soccer Hero," was awesome! Most of the time I didn't want to put it down. It's great for 8-11 year olds.

Adirondack Nightmare: A Spooky Tale in the North Country
Rebecca Leonard
Leonard Enterprises, Inc.
240 Champlain Drive, Plattsburgh, NY 12901
9781934383148, $9.95, 2007

Reviewed by India Furney (age 12) for Reader Views (12/07)

When William Durant was a young man he did something he has regretted ever since.

A few days before Halloween, he rented a camp on Indian Point near Raquette Lake. The local townspeople told him to stay away from the graveyard or else the spirits would get angry and he'd have to face the consequences. He doesn't believe them and decides to take a stroll through the graveyard to prove that ghosts don't exist. What happens next will surprise you; perhaps ghosts really do exist.

I liked "Adirondack Nightmare," but feel I'm a little too old for it. It wasn't scary enough for me. I think it would appeal to ages 7 to 9, or kids who don't like books too scary. I thought the recipes inside were cool and want to try them.

Lord of the Shadows (Cirque Du Freak: Saga of Darren Shan, Book 11)
Darren Shan
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017
9780316016629, $6.99, 2007

Reviewed by India Furney (age 12) for Reader Views (12/07)

Darren Shan travels with Cirque Du Freak--a sideshow of non-human creatures like Wolf Man. He hides under the cover of the cirque from his human family and friends who think he is dead, when in reality he is a vampire prince. Now the cirque is going to his hometown. While there he runs into an old friend and has to make up a story about why he's still alive and hasn't aged.
He has been having nightmares for two years about a shadow-like man called Lord of the Shadows. The dreams are full of death and despair and the worst part is that he doesn't know if the Lord of the Shadows will be him or his old human friend, Steve Leopard, who is now the Lord of the Vampaneze. The Vampaneze are half human, half vampire.

I liked "Lord of the Shadows," but it was a little confusing coming in on the 11th book without reading the previous books. I'll have to go get the other "Cirque du Freak" books because I loved this one!

Escape from Castle Cant
K.P. Bath
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316108577, $6.99, September 2006

Reviewed by Casey Holt (age 13) for Reader Views (12/07)

There's a war going on! The nobles want their chewing gum, but the rebels insist it's hurting the barony. Pauline von Cant is the rightful heiress, according to the loyalists, but Lucy Wickwright is the rightful heiress according to the rebels. On Lord Cant's deathbed he admits that Pauline's maidservant, Lucy Wickwright, is his daughter! With the war going on, the girls cling tightly to each other, and not knowing what else to do, decide to run away to the outlands to find the gum plant and destroy it to bring peace to the Barony once again.

But Vladimir Orloff, the Postal Commissioner and the person controlling the chewing gum, is chasing them. He killed Lucy's family when she was a young girl, and now he wants to put Pauline on the throne.

Lucy and Pauline are just taking a break and trying to find something to eat when a swineherd puts them at spear point and threatens to kill Lucy if they don't come with him, because he says he knows that they are Pauline von Cant and Lucy Wickwright. They pretend they are not, but he doesn't fall for it. He explains that he doesn't care if Pauline comes or not, it's Lucy who he wants. Who's he? Vladimir Orloff. So off they go, to the swineherd's hut. Pauline asks Lucy what the plan is, but she has none. When they approach the hut, they realize that "Vladimir Orloff" is no other than Blaise Delagrassie, the underfoot man from the castle. The swineherd gives them bacon off of a huge piece of meat, and they have a feast, and talk amongst each other. Suddenly, horsemen are riding up the hill, and tell the swineherd that they are on business of the Barony, and would like that piece of meat. He tells them it's for his guests, the "rebel girl, and the little baroness too," and that they should just be gone, because HE got to them first, and he is getting the reward. Orloff forces his way inside, and tells Lucy to surrender. She grabs a sword, and they escape, stealing the horses. They gallop off, but Pauline decides that she is going to go back, spear the meat, and then continue. She goes, gets the meat, and gallops off again, only to find that she cannot find Blaise and Lucy.

This is my favorite adventure of Pauline and Lucy's in this book, but they have MANY more. The first book is called "The Secret of Castle Cant." I liked "Escape from Castle Cant" much better. I would recommend this book to anyone, any age.

No Sisters Sisters Club: A Bailey Fish Adventure
Linda Salisbury
Tabby House
P.O. Box 544, Mineral, VA 23117
(540) 894-8868,
9781881539407, $8.95, 2005

Reviewed by India Furney (age 12) for Reader Views (12/07)

Eleven-year-old Bailey hasn't seen her Dad since he left when she was one. Now, all of a sudden, he turns up on Sugar's (Bailey's grandma) doorstep AND he has with him Bailey's half-sister that she didn't even know existed! Her name is Norma Jean and she looks perfect, perfect hair, perfect smile and Bailey hates her!

When Norma Jean comes to stay, Bailey creates the NO SISTERS SISTERS CLUB with her two best friends, Emily and Amber. No sisters allowed and that includes Norma Jean! Eventually, Bailey decides that having a sister isn't so bad after all.

I liked "No Sisters Sisters Club" a lot and really enjoyed reading it. I could relate to the Sisters Club because I have three friends and we call ourselves "sisters." I think this is great for girls ages 8-13.

Right Behind You
Gail Giles
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316166362, $15.99, September 2007

Reviewed by Michaila Hamilton (age 17) for Reader Views (12/07)

"Right Behind You" starts off with the murder of a young boy in Alaska. Kip McFarland sets his friend on fire over a silly birthday gift: a baseball glove. The boy dies an agonizing three days later and Kip is sent to a psychiatric institution for the criminally insane. He undergoes years of therapy and is released. When he is released, all of his family has to change their names because of vigilante justice. People have burned the family's home, chased his dad out of town, and deliver horrible threats. When Kip is released from the hospital the family moves to a small town in Indiana. Soon, Kip (now called Wade) makes friends. He does great in school, has a girlfriend, and is a star swimmer on the swim team. It all comes crashing down though, when Wade spills his secret at a campfire one night.

Once again the whole family is targeted with threats. The swim team refused to swim with a child murderer, his stepmom is fired from her teaching job, and his dad is forced to leave his job. The family moves again, this time to a beach in Texas. Wade decides not to go to public school. He stays home and keeps to himself in the hopes of not hurting his family again. But, there is a girl next door with her own set of secrets. Over time, she teaches him to sail and to trust. She also learns to trust him. After she confides in him about her past, he decides that he must tell her. With the support of his family and therapist, he writes his whole life down and gives her the stacks of books. After many days, when he is preparing to move away by himself, he finds out that Sam is "Right Behind You."

The book "Right Behind You" has the reader hooked from the very beginning. The format is in short diary-like chapters, but with titles instead of dates. It flows very nicely and is easy reading. I like the fact that everything is in chronological order. The only thing I didn't care for was about Wade's homeschooling in Texas. As a home-schooled student in Texas, I know the law. There is no set amount of credits or classes needed for a home school, high school diploma. Texas does not strictly govern their home schools. Ms. Giles writes an outstanding book, and I really bonded with the characters, almost immediately. I highly recommend "Right Behind You" and look forward to reading more from this author.

A Jolly Good Fellow
Stephen V. Masse
Good Harbor Press
80 Walsh Street, Medford, MA 02155
9780979963803, $ 14.95, 2007

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (12/07)

Stephen V. Masse combines a flair for writing an imaginative creative plot with colorful conversation and believable, likable characters. In "A Jolly Good Fellow" Duncan Wagner, a professional Santa Claus, who supports himself from the proceeds of his "beggar's kettle," plots a kidnapping.

After weeks of careful planning and surveillance, equipped with rope, chain, and duct tape, Duncan is ready to snatch his prey. Eleven-year-old, Gabriel, son of State Representative Win Booker, is the planned victim of the kidnapping. Ironically Gabriel decides to run away from home. He purposefully misses his school bus and is hitchhiking. As Duncan opens the car door to offer the young hitchhiker a ride, Gabriel slips in beside him.

As the plot unfolds there are multiple clever plot twists. Duncan finds Gabriel smart, vulnerable, and demanding. A bonding relationship between an unhappy man and a scared "kid" develops. Duncan soon realizes he has not thought through a plan for demanding ransom, a method of receiving the ransom, nor the consequences if ransom is refused.

Telephone demands and threatening notes are used to create an urgency that convinces stubborn and haughty Representative Win Booker to ante up the ransom demand. Pickpockets, muggers, a street artist and a former restaurateur all play a part in pulling the story together.

The setting of the story is downtown Boston. I could almost feel the chill in the air as Masse describes Gabriel shivering on a street corner. I could taste the sweetness of the candy cane as Gabriel stirs his cocoa while he and Duncan enjoy a late night conversation at the kitchen table.

I personally enjoyed Duncan's first person account. His "blue collar" vocabulary is masterfully consistent throughout the narrative. The following paragraph is typical: "Get your coat on, we're gonna go out for supper," I says. I go in my room and grab some money, and put my Santa bag under the bed. Then I unlock Gabriel from the chain."

"A Jolly Good Fellow" is delightfully funny, with a unique plot, an amazing cast of characters, and enough suspense to keep the reading guessing right up to the surprising unexpected conclusion. Stephen V. Masse is witty, clever, and entertaining. His books are destined to become best sellers. I am eager to read his upcoming book "Short Circus."

Stop Being Pushed Around!: A Practical Guide
Lynda Bevan
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690453, $14.95, January 2008

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (12/07)

Lynda Bevan's "Stop Being Pushed Around!" is Book #3 in the 10-step empowerment series. The first two books in the series are "Life After Your Lover Walks Out" and "Life After Betrayal," so a practical guide for victims was obviously a logical next step.

This seemingly slim volume delivers plenty of information, written in an easy-to-understand and easy-to-follow style. It starts with an introduction, which makes it clear that this book could be helpful to you if you are either a victim or living with one. Afterwards Ms. Bevan lays out a ten-step strategy, leading one from recognizing one's role as a victim and how one became a victim to the question about wanting to change and how to achieve that. Filled with real-life stories as well as comprehensive lists of factors and examples, the book guides one through the process of identifying the problem and solving it. The suggested changes are doable and sound realistic.

There are also two added chapters in the book, the Appendix A - Bullying in the workplace and Appendix B - Emergency contacts. The first one of those would definitely be helpful to anybody who is in a threatening, victimizing situation at work and the second one has a list of two dozen contacts both in USA and abroad.

Another rather interesting feature is a poem, included in the book, called "Victim." It is chilling, yet encouraging at the same time. Make sure you read it!
A book like this deserves a more attractive cover than the one it carries. If I were at the bookstore and saw this book, I probably would not have picked it up, since the cover made it look less professional than it actually is. I also found the layout on the pages quite busy and slightly difficult to read. A bit more space between the lines and/or less text per page would make for more enjoyable reading.

A book like this would definitely help an emotionally insecure person feel less alone and less strange, which would be a great first step on the road to recovery. Breaking the process down in ten steps makes it look less daunting for sure and the encouraging words of Ms. Bevan should assist one in seeing the situation as less overwhelming. Ms. Bevan's down-to-earth writing and sensible advice make this book a valuable tool and an asset in every victim's library. And, for those of you who are not victims, but know somebody who is - buy a copy of "Stop Being Pushed Around!" for them. It just might save somebody's life.

The Heretic
Andrew Feder
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434330543, $17.99, 2007

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (12/07)

"The Heretic" is the sequel to "When Angels Have Risen." Not having read the first one, I can easily say that this book stands well alone. This story begins in the life of Jerry Fletcher. He is a United States Senator during the time after The Second American Revolution. This is a time when the government is promoting: "personal growth, enlightenment, healing, respect, and, of course, freedom." Jerry is not married; however, he is living with Kelly whom he refers as his savior and the love of his life.

Jerry has been having dreams that take him back in history to times of strife. When he is at a museum one day, he discovers that he can read Greek. He finds this discovery amazing, however, somewhat troubling because he has never studied Greek. Following the advice of an ex-lover, Jerry consults a psychic who regresses him into his past lives. Through this path, he discovers that he was the Spartan Aias, who was Alexander's mentor. Aias also felt a brotherly closeness to Alexander.

Aias and Alexander go to battle together. During particularly brutal campaigns, Aias became known as "The Decapitator." This was for a good reason. Also for a good reason, he was known as a great lover among women. In this book, the majority of Greek males engaged in homosexuality. Aias has no interest in this. The women at the time were more than willing to let Aias make up for the lack of attention that they were receiving from men. Aias was also known as "The Heretic" because he didn't follow the religious beliefs of his people. He did not worship statutes, nor did he believe that they were God. He believed in one infinite God.

When Aias met the priestess Nefertiti, he immediately fell for her. They were married and enjoyed their lives together when he wasn't away at war. Nefertiti also shared his religious beliefs and introduced him to the scrolls written by heavenly bodies referred to as "The Celestials." These are enlightened beings whom we have derived a great deal of knowledge.

I enjoyed "The Heretic." It was written in a modern voice, which might detract a little from the historical value of the story, however, it makes it much more interesting and easy to follow. Aias is a man who stands on his own two feet. In spite of his foul language and lusty pursuits, he also has deep spiritual beliefs. I loved that this was incorporated into the story with Nefertiti. I highly recommend, "The Heretic."

Alone: A Novel
JL Davenport
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595445233, $20.95, 2007

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (12/07)

Teralyn Boine is an intelligent, beautiful woman who has fought hard to prove herself in the man's world of engineering. She is also a competent pilot. When she loses her beloved grandfather, Mace, she heads out to his fly-in ranch in Wyoming. When she gets there, she meets Colby Racine who is both a rancher and an engineer. They are both drawn to each other; however, disappointments from the past cause Teralyn to want to take things slowly.

Teralyn also finds herself in danger. There are unscrupulous individuals attempting to take control of her grandfather's estate. At first she isn't sure who to trust, and has to make decisions based upon what her gut is telling her. As she is trying to resolve the issues surrounding her grandfather's estate, she finds herself having to confront her real feelings for Colby.

When a supposed accident really puts her life on the line, Teralyn has to trust her instincts to make it out of the situation alive. She digs deep within herself and really discovers the depths of her inner strength. Towards the end of the story I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting for the drama to play itself out.

I really enjoyed "Alone." JL Davenport's obvious passion for both flying and engineering shines through in his book. He manages to write about both in a way that makes it very interesting for those of us who are uneducated on either subject. He also does a beautiful job describing the beautiful wilderness of Wyoming. As the mystery was progressing, I also found myself enjoying Teralyn's discovery of her emotions. She evolved tremendously in a short amount of time. The way that "Alone" is tied up at the end was awesome. I loved the surprises that were in store for the unscrupulous characters. Davenport couldn't have done a better job with the climactic ending.

I highly recommend this novel for fiction fans. If you are a flying aficionado, or know someone that is, "Alone" is absolutely a must read.

Beginner's Greek
James Collins
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316021555, price $23.95, to be published January 9, 2008

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (12/07)

"Beginner's Greek" is a delightful read in many ways. James Collins wrote an entertaining and compelling tale of a young man, Peter, who is absolutely convinced that one of these days Fate will bring the woman of his dreams on the same flight he'll be taking. Peter is furthermore convinced that she will not only be on the same flight, but will be seated right next to him. Well, Fate does bring Holly into Peter's life and she is everything he has been dreaming of. She's pretty, she's sweet, she's inquisitive, charming, intelligent, and she even reads Thomas Mann for pleasure. There is undeniable mutual attraction and they agree to meet again. Holly writes down her phone number on a page torn out of the "Magic Mountain." When Peter looks for it later that night, the page is puzzlingly gone - and so are his dreams of a lasting romance with Holly.

Fast forward a bit… Peter still thinks of Holly, the girl from a plane, but he has gotten engaged to Charlotte, a sweet girl whom he likes but does not really love. Holly has resurfaced in Peter's world, but she's now his best friend's wife. If you think that this makes for an intricate situation, just wait. Things will get a great deal more complicated.

I've greatly enjoyed Mr. Collins' writing style and wit. While it is impossible to know what an author is thinking, the book gave me an impression of gently making fun of the usual chick-lit offerings. Written by a man, but a greatly sensitive one, it offered a fascinatingly different point of view. I also loved the language in the book, including one of my all-time favorite lines - when speaking of filling up the champagne glasses - "The ceremony complete, he filled their glasses halfway; the bubbles tossed up their tiny hats." I found the characters compelling and complex, although Peter was not a type of man I'd personally fall for. The one character that I wished would be more developed was actually Holly - at times I felt she was not substantial enough and I failed to quite understand her reactions or lack thereof.

The story line flowed nicely if a bit slow at times. There were passages where I wished something would HAPPEN to move it forward faster. At nearly 500 pages, this is quite an ample work and editing it down some would probably make it more attractive for an average reader. Overall, "Beginner's Greek" is a great read and one I would recommend to romantics everywhere, even those who do not admit to being one.

Butcher of Dreams
Kay Williams and Eileen Wyman
Calliope Press
P.O. Box 2408, New York, NY 10108-2408
9780964924161, $15.95, July 2007

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (12/07)

I've always loved mysteries. If I had to read just one genre for the rest of the days, I believe my choice would be the immensely entertaining field of mystery and suspense. I like the short, cozy British ones, adore the old classics and fall easily under the spell of the more contemporary ones. A lot of the new ones, though, fall short in the "thrill factor" area - they tend to be unnecessarily graphic in their shocking descriptions, yet they do not make me truly afraid and even less truly perplexed.

Kay Williams' and Eileen Wyman's "Butcher of Dreams," aptly subtitled "A Suspense Novel about the Theater," was one of the really thrilling mysteries. No matter how much I tried to guess who the villain was, the authors managed to sidetrack and blindside me again and again. While I correctly guessed one of the subplots, the main mystery remained so until the chilling end of the book.

Lee Fairchild, a talented actress, is managing a rather fledgling theater in NYC's Hell's Kitchen. She is a strong, courageous and smart woman, yet weakened by the recent death of her husband and a crumbling relationship with her only child, Heather. The theater has its own share of problems, starting from the motley crew on its payroll and continuing to its not-so-desirable location, lack of future funding and strange happenings in the area. When a dead vagrant is found in the theatre, his body mutilated in a ritual-looking manner, Lee enters a bizarre world of unexplainable events, all of which threaten the further operations of the theater as well as the lives of crew and cast. Will Lee manage to solve the mystery - or will she become the next victim?

"Butcher of Dreams" by Kay Williams and Eileen Wyman delivered on all the fronts that I consider important for a good mystery book. The writing was tight and precise. The characters were amazingly detailed and believable, with their back-stories intricately weaving in and out of the main story line. None of them were totally good or totally bad, which made them all the more human and the reading more pleasurable. The mystery remained mysterious to the very end of the book. And the book was scary enough that I did not want to read it when I was alone in the house.

Utterly enjoyable, "Butcher of Dreams" is a book I would wholeheartedly recommend to any lover of well-written mysteries. If that person happens to like the theater and NYC, they will enjoy it even more. Kay Williams and Eileen Wyman have made my list of authors to watch in the future and I am eagerly awaiting their next book.

Who Killed Marcia Maynard?: The Psychoanalyst is Dead
Alma H. Bond
ASJA Press
c/o iUniverse
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595458967, $14.95, 2007

Reviewed by Leslie Granier for Reader Views (12/07)

"Who Killed Marcia Maynard?" is a crime novel in which a psychoanalyst (Marcia Maynard) has been brutally murdered by being stabbed twenty-five times. Mary Wells, also a psychoanalyst, has been asked by the police department to help them in their investigation. Complicating matters, John Franklin, who is one of the detectives on the case, is not only Mary's lover, but his mother was a dear friend and colleague of the deceased. John and Mary must utilize all of their expertise in order to solve the case. It does not help that Maynard had many enemies, all of whom must be considered suspects.

The author provides an inside look at how a crime scene is processed and gives intricate details on interesting procedures, such as forensic sculpting, that can be done to help give positive identifications of crime victims. Bond provides a realistic scenario of how an investigation is handled by taking the reader step-by-step through each phase, from gathering evidence at the crime scene through identifying and questioning suspects. I think there were a few too many minor characters introduced who did not add anything of importance to the story. In the middle of the book, I thought the author went off on a bit of a tangent about whether killing another person could ever be justified. There were several spelling errors which are something I find distracting.

Bond does a nice job of revealing the backgrounds of John and Mary. I felt like I knew enough about them to understand why they acted the ways they did and why they held their beliefs. The obvious love and respect between them will endear them to the reader. This book contains action, mystery, suspense, and even a little romance which will make it appealing to the general population. Each chapter is fairly short which keeps the pace of the story moving quickly.

All mystery lovers and fans of crime shows such as CSI, will not only enjoy the story in "Who Killed Marcia Maynard?," but will appreciate the experience of learning how investigations are conducted and interrogations are handled. Anyone who loves trying to solve a mystery will be challenged to figure out how this one ends.

Justice Defeated: Victims: OJ Simpson and the American Legal System
Steven H. Adler
1663 Liberty Drive Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781434316622, $24.99, 2007

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (12/07)

Steven H. Adler, in "Justice Defeated: Victims: OJ Simpson and the American Legal System," exposes how the trials that followed the tragedy of a double murder became a travesty of justice by those who saw O. J. Simpson's celebrity status and the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman as a golden opportunity for making money, assuring career status, or gaining fame.

"Justice Defeated" is written in response to the book "Triumph of Justice the Final Judgment," written by Daniel Petrocelli's, attorney for Fred Goldman in the civil trial.

In his analysis of Petrocelli's book Adler convincingly argues that there was an actual perversion of justice in the handling of both trials. Adler asks the reader to consider the possibility that O. J. Simpson was not the murderer and, further, to examine the question as to why some more likely suspects were never pursued.

I enjoyed Adler's ongoing sparring match with Petrocelli throughout his book. For example, "You provide a criticism of some lawyers. You make a very large statement here, Mr. P."

He then quotes Petrocelli as writing, "Lawyers can be really deceitful; we can make powerful and passionate arguments that are just totally false."

Adler presents forensics and logical analysis to enable the reader to form their own opinion about whether or not O. J. did murder Nicole and Ron. Steven gives the reader insights into the impact of racism, the pursuit of money, manipulation of information, engineering evidence out of context, and exploitation of the media in polluting the legal system and creating popular public opinion.

Steven analyzes every aspect of Petrocelli's book, page by page, and argument by argument. He responds to each at the risk of becoming redundant. Adler takes the reader through the deposition of witnesses, the discovery stage, the jury selection and the trial itself, reiterating the main points of the civil trial and Petrocelli's supporting evidence. He covers all the stories, theories, speculations, and fabrications of the case.

Adler invites his readers to interact and get involved by acting as a member of the jury panel, to vote on possible scenarios, to submit experiences of being abused by lawyers, and to recommend improvements to how justice can truly be served in our country.

The appendix of the book includes a Jury Voting Card, comments on "The Blare of Silence," letters to O. J.'s kids, Fred Goldman, the Browns, and to Daniel Petrocelli, Esq.

In these letters Adler explains how the book evolved with more that one theme, first to recommend that before people conclude how a crime took place they should have sufficient facts. Secondly, attorneys instigate much of the problem. On this one he calls Daniel Petrocelli to task. And finally, the justice system also gets caught up in achieving a desired result rather than pursing the truth.

Adler challenges the reader to be intellectually honest and to join in a chorus speaking out against the seriousness of this dilemma. "Justice Defeated" is a wakeup call to every American and should be read by anyone involved in the Justice System or concerned about an untainted Justice in the future in America.

Facets, Phases and Transformation
Virginia A. Terry
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
(301) 695-1707,
9781604411942, $ 14.95, 2007

Reviewed by William Phenn for Reader Views (12/07)

Virginia A. Terry was born and raised in New York's Harlem. She is the mother of seven children and the grandmother of thirty two. She began her writing career helping friends and associates write important letters and documents. In 1980, she began to write poetry and the rest is history. Virginia has also received an award for excellent service for her work with disabled adults and young men and women.

"Facets, Phases and Transformation" is full of the author's life experiences, insights and observations. It is not just a collection of beautiful poems. Virginia has filled this volume with some of her most outstanding poetry and sprinkled in a collection of her very intriguing short stories.

The author begins with twenty original poems she wrote back in 1980. She has kept them filed away till now, resurrecting them for this book. "Friendship" and "Children" were just two of Virginia's original poems that were personal favorites of mine. The span of time that the author's poetry covers is as vast as the poetry itself. Revelations of her near-death experiences will sadden you while her poetry from the past will make you laugh.

With inspirational poems such as "Take Heed" and "Just Because" or stories for the faithful ("Bold in the Lord"), the author exemplifies the power of faith. With a strong religious tendency, the book contains some very valuable life lessons that we all need to think about. Not in the form of preaching but rather in stories told and lessons learned.

Virginia Terry has a book that will appeal to both young and old. No matter what age, men and women, boys and girls; there's a poem or story that you will all enjoy. The poetry is moving and inspiring, with stories that are colorful and interesting. The book is of quality print and content and well worth the money. I enjoyed "Facets, Phases and Transformation" very much and give it a well-deserved A.

In the Kitchen with Mary & Martha: One-Dish Wonders
Mary and Martha
Barbour Publishing, Inc.
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781597890113, $ 14.97, 2006

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (12/07)

I remember the very first cookbook I used when I got brave enough to venture in the wondrous, but at the time so very foreign, land of cooking. It was an old, battered one; my mom received it from her mother-in-law when she got married. I do not remember its title any longer, but I remember that any recipe from it I ever tried turned out edible. What was even more surprising to me is that the very simple dishes in it actually tasted great and the results oftentimes looked like I've spent more time and effort on them than I really did.

"In the Kitchen with Mary & Martha: One-Dish Wonders" greatly reminds me of that first cookbook I used many decades ago. While it is clearly geared towards busy Christian moms, it is a cookbook that would come in handy in any busy woman's life. The simple, straightforward recipes cover a great array of dishes - quick snacks and meals on the go, casseroles, other one-dish wonders, slow-cooker recipes, salads, soups, sides, dishes with five or less ingredients, candies and desserts. Most of the dishes are so simple to prepare that the actual directions consist of only a couple of lines.

The layout of the book is appealing, the chapters well-organized and the extra tips engaging. The drawings are very charming and cute. I liked the easy-to-read font used in the book as well as the purple and green ink instead of the usual black one. The spiral-bound book lies flat when opened, which makes it handier in the kitchen.

What would have made the book even more appealing to me? Well, I am a very visual person and I really like cookbooks with actual photos of the finished dishes. Another issue was the lack of any nutritional information for the recipes. I would have found inclusion of such data helpful and informative. And although I understand that convenience is a major issue in today's busy lives, I found the abundance of canned ingredients slightly puzzling. With their usually very high sodium content they are not the best choice in most cases, so substituting them with frozen or fresh ingredients would make the recipes more health-conscious and not that much more time-consuming to prepare.

Overall I really liked "In the Kitchen with Mary & Martha: One-Dish Wonders" for the simplicity of the recipes as well as the attractive layout. This is a good, solid basic cookbook that should find a permanent place on the bookshelves of busy women everywhere. It would also make for a delightful Christmas gift, especially if accompanied by one of the treats from either the first or the last chapter.

The First Steps to Becoming a Realtor
Henry D. 'Hank' Myers
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595452200, $ 9.95, 2007

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (12/07)

Henry D. 'Hank' Myers is writing to alert new and prospective realtors of the time- consuming effort required to become successful in the real estate industry. He draws from twenty years experience as a successful California realtor and offers expert advice concerning the level of commitment necessary to succeed in this competitive market.

"First Steps to Becoming a Realtor: An Insight to the Initial Costs of a Career in Real Estate" is a compact users manual for anyone thinking about commencing real estate as a profession. Each of the nine chapters is packed with information. Myers provides tools that will equip the reader to get started and to follow through with their decision to become a part of this growing and exciting industry.

Myers points out the fallacies in thinking prevalent among entry level agents and shares five cold, hard facts that need to be recognized before taking this first step. He points out the hidden costs that affect the realtor's net income, the personal cost of time and stress, dealing with co-workers, the time commitment for meetings and events, and the art of negotiation. The final chapter emphasizes the rewards of the profession, both in dollars and in the sense of well-being that comes with a job well done.

I particularly appreciated Myers' candid approach in alerting the novice to the special skills required and the potential pitfalls that may be faced during the early stages after launching a professional career in real estate.

"The First Steps to Becoming a Realtor" should be prerequisite reading for everyone who is considering or thinking of pursuing a career in real estate. Every broker should supply a copy to each of his agents. The book is a valuable primer for the novice and an important resource for the veteran.

"First Steps to Becoming a Realtor" is a fast, interesting, and challenging resource, providing insights to inspire the reader to attain a rewarding, consistent success and a lucrative career in real estate.

Egypt: An Extraterrestrial and Time Traveler Experiment
Dr. Bruce Goldberg
Bruce Goldberg, Inc.
4300 Natoma Avenue, Woodland Hills, CA 91364
9781579680176, $14.95, 2007

Reviewed by Andrea Barry for Reader Views (12/07)

"Egypt: An Extraterrestrial and Time Traveler Experiment" is a fairly well-written book. It posits that Egyptian history is much older than the conventionally agreed 4500-5000 years. Goldberg gives us some logical statements to support his argument.

Admittedly, I read this book with a very skeptical mind and so found many of Goldberg's arguments to be preposterous. What did not help is that one of the perspectives he uses to argue his point is through "past-life regressions" done on patients of his. In order to accept the premise of the book, one must accept the premise that there is such a notion as past lives AND that one can be hypnotized and regressed to remember said lives.

One thing that I had difficulty with while reading the book was how information was presented throughout the book. I felt that I did not flow from one topic to another as I progressed through the book. There are numerous topics covered, including subjects such as Atlantis, time travelers, and extraterrestrials and how these various subjects influenced the "pre-history" of Egypt. There are several points in the book where the segue from one subject to another is not smooth.

In summary, I think "Egypt: An Extraterrestrial and Time Traveler Experiment" was fairly well-written and would be quite enjoyable by someone who has a less skeptical mind than my self. I found that there were many arguments posited which I would have needed to accept before I could accept the subject matter of the book as a whole. While I am not completely closed to the idea of accepting these arguments, I remain highly skeptical after reading this book.

Hitler's Judas
Tom Lewis
VP Publishing, LLC
P.O. Box 4623, Rocky Mount, NC 278063
9780970579362, $14.95, November 2007

Reviewed by Andrea Barry for Reader Views (12/07)

I decided to review this book based on the title alone, because I am a fan of history and enjoy historical fiction. I don't know nearly enough about WWII, but I do have a rudimentary understanding of why the war happened, what everyone's goals were and what the outcome was.

I found this book fascinating because it delves into the personal life of Martin Bormann, personal secretary to Adolf Hitler. It also tells the story of Horst von Hellenbach, Germany's celebrated U-Boat Captain. Throughout most of the book, we alternate chapter for chapter between the two characters and their part in fighting Hitler's war.

As we advance through the story, we discover that Martin Bormann is scheming his way out of the Third Reich. We learn that he does not really support Hitler and Hitler's ideals; he is merely an opportunist who seized onto the idea that would afford him the most comfortable lifestyle possible for the age. Bormann is a genius though and he knows that the Third Reich will soon be coming to a disastrous close. With this knowledge in mind, he begins formulating a plan that will allow him to escape Germany and the Third Reich undetected so that he may live out the rest of his life comfortably. His plans include stealing 50 million in Nazi gold, which he plans to take to the coast of the United States where he hopes to live on what he believes to be a deserted island.

Throughout the book, we wonder when the stories of Martin Bormann and Horst von Hellenbach will collide as they both move so erratically. We discover the answer near the climax of the book and come to a conclusion that no one could have predicted while reading the book.

After reading the conclusion, I understand more how this book fits into the Pea Island Gold Trilogy and am intent on seeking out the first book, "Sunday's Child," so that I may learn more about that story and exactly what impact this story has on that as they seem fairly unrelated as related as I know they are.

In summary, I found this book to be well-written, fascinating and for the most part, historically accurate. I certainly left with far more knowledge of the inner workings of the Third Reich and World War II. It was an excellent read and I highly recommend "Hitler's Judas" to anyone who is interested in historical fiction or suspense.

It Ain't Over 'til the Thin Lady Sings
Michelle Ritchie
Hunter House
P.O. Box 2914, Alameda, CA 94501
(510) 865-5282,
0897934911, $15.95, 2007

Reviewed by Andrea Barry for Reader Views (12/07)

I have to honestly say that "It Ain't Over 'til the Thin Lady Sings: How to Make Your Weight-Loss Surgery a Lasting Success" is one of the best "diet" books I have ever read. I am not presently considering weight loss surgery, though I have in the past and decided against it. One of the great things about this book is you don't have to have weight loss surgery to use it. You don't even have to have ever considered weight loss surgery to use it.

Unlike other books that you might find in the "Diet and Weight Loss" section in the book store, this book does not require that you do something radical in order to lose weight and be successful at it. This book is more like having a best friend who's both been there and done that.

Chapter by chapter, Ritchie walks us through the steps to not only successfully lose weight, but to keep it off by making the necessary changes within ourselves. Each chapter has various stories, quotes, questions, and suggestions to help you look within yourself to find what it is that keeps you from being successful. Many of us have something that happened to us somewhere that makes any kind of success uncomfortable, so we hold ourselves back, not allowing ourselves to truly reach our potential.

After reading "It Ain't Over 'til the Thin Lady Sings," I can say that I will need to go back and read it again, more slowly, over time, making the little changes as Ritchie suggests. I have a good feeling about it and can predict that over time, with this book in hand, I, too, can lose weight and keep it off, even without surgery.

Signed, Mata Hari: A Novel
Yannick Murphy
Little, Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316126482, $ 23.99, November 2007

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (12/07)

Mata Hari was one of the most well-known exotic dancers of all times, yet her true fame came after the accusations that she was spying for Germans during the First World War. A fascinating person in real life, she takes on added dimensions in the beautifully written novel "Signed, Mata Hari" by Yannick Murphy. This exquisite novel portrays Mata Hari as a daughter, a lover, a wife, a friend, a mother and more, but first and foremost as a woman.

The novel's setting is a jail in Paris, France; that's where Mata Hari awaits her trial. Charge: spying. Penalty: death by a firing squad, if found guilty. While in prison, Mata Hari tells stories and writes letters to her estranged daughter, Non. It is through those stories, letters and conversations with a nun, Sister Leonide, that we get acquainted with Mata Hari, whose real name was Margaretha Zelle. From the lean years of her youth and the exotic, if not exactly happy years as a young wife of a Dutch naval officer, living in Java - and to her years as a famous performer with invented and wondrously embroidered past, associating with many men from different sides, Mata Hari is revealed as an intricately complex personality, perennially searching for happiness and fulfillment.

The novel does not provide an answer to the oftentimes asked question about her guilt, but it reveals a secret that Mata Hari carried hidden for many years and which could have sparked some of the events that sent her on the downwards spiral that ended with her execution.

I read "Signed, Mata Hari" in one sitting. I picked it up to relax and escape for a couple of minutes, but there was no way to put it down. Ms. Murphy created a series of very complex characters in a setting that immediately draw me in. Her writing is magical - once she draws you within, the tangled web keeps you safely inside. Engaging story, lush descriptions, emotionally charged content - overall a fantastic read.

Duty and Honor: A Novel of the Civil War
Michael J. Deeb
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595424139, $23.95, 2007

Reviewed by Tyler R. Tichelaar for Reader Views (12/07)

Michael J. Deeb's "Duty and Honor" gives a realistic portrayal of a soldier's experiences during the Civil War, both in his relationship with family and his soldier training and experiences on the battlefield. I think most Civil War buffs will find the book historically accurate. Since Michael J. Deeb is a former college American history instructor, he obviously knows his material. Unfortunately, a realistic portrayal of history is not enough to keep the book interesting.

The story concerns Michael Drieborg, a young man who protects a young boy from being bullied by striking the bully. Michael is arrested for assault, and the local judge gives him the choice of serving a jail sentence, paying a fine, or fighting for the Union in the Civil War. Michael, already feeling he should be serving his country, chooses to go to war.

While the rest of "Duty and Honor" accurately portrays Michael's experiences as a soldier, including fighting on the battlefield, being an aide in Washington to a senator, and spending time in the horrific Andersonville prison, the book has no real plot to keep the reader turning the page. The bully whom Michael fought in the beginning of the book does show up a couple more times to make Michael's life miserable, but eventually he disappears from the pages without any satisfactory showdown or resolution to their hatred for one another. Michael is involved with three different women throughout the book but none of the relationships cause enough conflict or are problematic enough to leave the reader caring whether their love will work out. In fact, the love stories are almost irrelevant to the rest of the story and none of the women is developed enough to make the reader interested in her. The book's biggest letdown is how quickly it ends in 1864 before the war is even over. There is the sense the war is ending, but because the book ends before the war is over, there is no final resolution or sense of relief to the reader that the war's conclusion would bring. (Apparently, Michael Deeb is currently writing a second novel, "Duty Accomplished," but "Duty and Honor" contains no mention of it. I am only aware of it because of a sticker on the back of a bookmarker included in my book which directed me to his website Had the book somewhere stated a sequel was coming, I would have been less stunned by the ending).

The characters are also not developed enough to keep the reader interested. Michael is the only character who stands out for the reader. His fellow soldiers have nothing distinguishable about them so we are never interested in them or what becomes of them. The women in Michael's life seem to come and go as if they scarcely matter to him. He quickly gets involved without any significant development of the relationships, and no suspense about their love exists. The author presents many letters between Michael and his family, but the letters do not make his family members endearing to the reader; rather the letters only repeat information the reader already knows, never advancing the plot. If the letters were all deleted from the book, it would not have changed the story. Similarly, Michael repeatedly meets people and tells them of his experiences, which is again only repeating what the reader knows.

"Duty and Honor" is Michael Deeb's first novel. He knows how to capture history on the page. I hope he continues to write, but that he concentrates on making history matter to the reader by creating suspense that moves along the plot and keeps the reader turning the page. Had each scene of the book been used to advance the story, "Duty and Honor" might have been as exciting as the Civil War.

Smashed, Squashed, Splattered, Chewed, Chunked, and Spewed
Lance Carbuncle Publishing
c/o Loren D. Rhoton Company
412 East Madison Street, Suite 1111, Tampa, Florida 33602
9781602640436, $ 13.95, 2007

Reviewed by Leslie Granier for Reader Views (12/07)

"Smashed, Squashed, Splattered, Chewed, Chunked, and Spewed" is a rather interesting title for a rather interesting book. The narrator is a loner who is most content just hanging around with his dog Idgit Galoot. He is thirty-five years old and still lives with his mother. As he and his mother prepare to move to Florida, Idgit disappears and they must leave without him (although they do ask a neighborhood kid to keep looking for him). On the trip to Florida and a subsequent return trip to look for his dog, the narrator partakes in many adventures and encounters several colorful characters. Basically, anything that could have gone wrong on these trips did. Trouble with the law, injuries, and freak accidents were common occurrences.

The intriguing title of this book piqued my curiosity. Never in a million years would I (or probably anyone else) have guessed as to what the title is referring. I'm still not sure how it connects in the grand scheme of things, but it definitely caught my attention. This book will appeal to males, ranging from teens to middle-aged men. It contains an abundance of profanity and references to body parts and bodily functions which I found somewhat detracted from the story. My favorite scenes were the ones in which the narrator's dog and his father appeared to him in his dreams and gave him advice on how to handle the situations he was experiencing. I found myself laughing out loud at these hilarious interactions. I also thought it was cute how the dog and the father were reunited in the end.

This book is obvious fiction and the author is up front with the readers, not trying to convince anyone the story is real. The characters are likable but not very realistic. He also includes many footnotes with "interesting facts." Some were interesting, but others seemed to have been thrown in for no apparent reason.

If you are looking for an easy read that will entertain and provide many laughs, "Smashed, Squashed, Splattered, Chewed, Chunked, and Spewed" is the book for you. However, those who dislike profanity or are easily offended will most likely have a difficult time with this book.

The Secret World of Kabbalah
Judith Z. Abrams
Kar-Ben Publishing
241 First Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781580132244, $ 9.95, 2006

Reviewed by Spencer Zaborowski (age 12) for Reader Views (12/07)

"The Secret world of Kabbalah" by Judith Z. Abrams, is an interesting book that tells you about the right and wrong paths to God. The author described Kabbalah as "hidden wisdom" and is a personal journey to become as close to God as possible. It involves a guide, study and a lot of concentration. It talks about keeping God in every part of your life, no matter what you are doing through talking to God, wearing certain kinds of clothes and studying certain books and writings.

This book is one that has history, mathematics, astrology, Angels, reincarnation, karma, and magic in it. You may ask "And what does all of this have to do with real life?" Well, using examples and stories from the Jewish texts, this book tells you all about it and how to use it when you are doing your daily routine. The book talks about all of the ways to search and connect spiritually with God.

One idea, out of many ideas, tells that some of Kabblah (in fact a lot of it!) is hiding in plain sight. You may also be wondering "What does that mean?"

Well, here is part of a story that is in "The Secret world of Kabbalah" -- "Once there was a boy that lived far out in the country. One day, he told his parents that he wanted to visit the king. So his parents gave him some food and a horse then sent him on his way! The journey was very pleasant with the sun shining, gentle rolling hills, and grassy fields. Finally, the boy came to the farthest outpost of the king's land. There an old gatekeeper congratulated him on reaching this point. The boy spent several pleasant days with the old man, telling him about his journey, but then a thought arose in the back of his mind. 'This is nice... but I'm not with the king.' So thanking the Gatekeeper, he set back out toward the palace."

The boy keeps on his journey, which was dangerous and hard, finally reaches the palace after he gives up several chances to rest comfortably. Instead of seeing the king, he sees himself in a large mirror. What happened to the king? Did he ever find him? The story gets better, so you have to read the book to find what happens!

"The Secret world of Kabbalah" is a good book written for both teens and adults. Anyone who has thought of getting closer to God should read this. I liked this book because it talks about how most religions are alike! I also liked how it talks about places all over the world, like Mt. Everest. The book was easy-to-read, with interesting pictures. Ms. Abrams adds stories throughout the book, in addition to the facts about Kabbalah, which held my interest, more than if it just had the facts in there.

I really enjoyed "The Secret world of Kabbalah" and I hope that you will read it and learn how to walk closely with God.

When the Silliest Cat Was Small
Gilles Bachelet
Abrams Books for Young Readers
115 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9780810994157, $ 16.95, 2007

Reviewed by Samuel Peralta (age 6) for Reader Views (12/07)

I liked the story "When the Silliest Cat Was Small." When I read the title, I thought the story was about a cat, but it is not. In the story, a man wants to adopt a cat, but he really adopts an elephant. The elephant gets into lots of trouble. He makes a mess while taking a bath, gets bored easily, and does not like to sleep. At first, I was confused, because the man does not know he adopted an elephant, but after reading it again I thought it was funny and silly. I like the pictures. They made me laugh. I would recommend this book to my friends.

Parent's Note: At first, this story was a bit confusing. You keep expecting for the man to realize that his adopted pet is not a cat. That never happens. We read this story to Sammy three times. The first time he just had a blank expression. The other two times he enjoyed the pictures and thought the story was silly. It's a cute concept, but a bit out of the reach for young readers— especially since the author never acknowledges what is obvious. Younger children will be confused and older kids will pause and enjoy it after a second read.

Giving My Heart: Love in a Military Family
Lisa H. Farber-Silk
Modern History Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781932690446, $15.95, 2008

Reviewed by Vicki Landes for Reader Views (12/07)

First-time author Lisa H. Farber-Silk releases her autobiography "Giving My Heart: Love in a Military Family." Open, honest, and full of details, the book gives a glimpse into one woman's connection to the armed forces.

"Giving My Heart: Love in a Military Family" details Farber-Silk's personal journey from childhood to marriage and motherhood, then on through businesswoman, mistress, and divorcee. The three men in her life - her husband, his friend, and eventually her son - are all in the military. As her story progresses, she describes how it felt to see them off to war and how it felt to transition them back. She concludes with her unsuccessful attempt at helping her lover adjust and deal with his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

"Giving My Heart: Love in a Military Family" isn't your typical 'military wife perspective' book. Instead, the story is an autobiographical account of Farber-Silk's love affair with two military men. Further, the book ends on a rather sad note as she never did get through to her second love as he struggled with PTSD. The book seems to be a last attempt to get him to see what he's put her through and how he can help himself.
As a military wife myself, I expected to read more of her activities on the home front and less of her background or affair with another man (something obviously frowned on by the US Army). I also expected to read about more PTSD experiences. Farber-Silk doesn't note the first hints of PTSD behavior from her lover until page 62; her entire story is only 89 pages. Further, the story has a bit of a juvenile tone; phrases such as "NOT!" and "I was so pissed" really don't read well in a book meant for mature adults dealing with post-war trauma. "Giving My Heart" is not for those looking to read the more traditional 'triumph over PTSD'-type book.

Farber-Silk does write from her heart. She lives and loves from deep within and her book serves as a historical account of her life and her experiences as a military family member. She holds a strong devotion to her country as well as her fellow spouses enduring the separation of loved ones deployed to war zones. "Giving My Heart" is simply Lisa Farber-Silk's life story.

The Pot Thickens: Recipes from Writers
Edited by Victor J. Banis
Wildside Press
9710 Traville Gateway Dr. #234, Rockville, MD 20850
9781434401731, $ 19.99, 2007

Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views (12/07)

Victor Banis' cookbook came at a perfect time - I didn't know what to prepare for dinner. Having fresh chicken in the fridge, I resorted to trying out the recipe for "Garlic Chicken." Surprised I needed 40 cloves of garlic which sounded like a lot, ended up being only two heads. There was a note at the beginning of the recipe saying not to get nervous at the amount of garlic. I proceeded to try the recipe because I had everything the recipe called for. I must say, it is Delicious!

As a side to this meal I tried the "Savory Wild Rice." The simple recipe is most appetizing. Of course, the 1 stick of butter and 6 strips of bacon would enhance any dish!

I was pleased to see a recipe named "Low Carb Cool and Easy Parfait" in the section "Diabetic Friendly Deserts." It topped off the meal very nicely, was easy and quick to make.

At this point I've only tried these three recipes but my intent is to try some others. Browsing through the book I see a lot of great recipes and the best part, I have most of the ingredients in my pantry.

Victor J. Banis did an outstanding job collecting a variety of recipes that anyone would enjoy to make. I find cookbooks with recipes contributed by individuals intriguing and they are usually easy to make. In most cases the contributors give their most prized recipes for us to try out. And, I must say, what I've seen in "The Pot Thickens" I can vouch they are simple and prized.

Big Rig Rustlers (Tweener Press Adventure)
Max Elliot Anderson
Baker Trittin Concepts
Tweener Press Division, P.O. Box 277, Winona Lake, IN 46590
(574) 269-6100
9780975288016, $10.95, 2004

Reviewed by Lake Furney (age 9) for Reader Views (12/07)

Todd and Amanda find out that their dad has arranged for them to go to Wyoming to help their Uncle Reed on his cattle ranch with the spring roundup. On the spring roundup they encounter snakes and modern day rustlers! They suspect that one of the ranch hands, Travis, may be working with the rustlers.

"Big Rig Rustlers" is packed with adventure and excitement. It was easy to read. My hands were "glued" to the book. I think boys and girls ages 6-14 would enjoy it.

Ordinary Genius: The Story of Albert Einstein
Stephanie Sammartino McPherson
Carolrhoda Books, Inc.
c/o Lerner Publishing Group
241 First Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781575050676, $ 8.95, 1997

Reviewed by Spencer Zaborowski (age 12) for Reader Views (12/07)

"Ordinary Genius: The Story of Albert Einstein" is a biography, which is a story of a person's life, of the famous German scientist. He was born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Germany. He had one sister. He was thought of by his parents as being slow and not very bright, because he had an unusually large head when he was born and he did not speak much until he was nine-years-old. He was not a good student and was teased a lot by his teachers and other students, because he was different and questioned them a lot. He finally moved to Switzerland and worked for awhile before being accepted into college. He was curious about the world around him, especially science. He was a professor at universities in Switzerland and Germany, and he worked very long hours finishing scientific papers. He wrote the famous Theory of Relativity in 1916. Albert Einstein came to the United States in 1933 and lived in New Jersey because he was worried about how Jews were treated in Germany. He married twice - his second wife was his cousin. He died in 1955.

At first, I thought this book would be boring and full of science and facts, like some other biographies I have read. But after the first few pages, it was hard to put down! The reading was interesting, and the black and white pictures throughout the book helped to make the story easy to follow. There were not a lot of technical words that would be hard to understand. The book did not go into detail about the scientific things that he wrote about. Instead, the book was more about his personal life and his odd personality. I learned a lot of things about him that I had not known. For example, Einstein never learned to drive a car because he was confused by mechanical things. That was very funny to me.
I would recommend "Ordinary Genius: The Story of Albert Einstein" to middle school-aged kids. I don't normally like to read nonfiction books--only when I have to for school--but this one kept my interest because it told a lot of personal stories and facts about Einstein that made him seem ordinary, like the title says.

The Mysterious Jamestown Suitcase: A Bailey Fish Adventure
Linda Salisbury
Tabby House
PO Box 544, Mineral, VA 23117
(540) 894-8868,
9781881539438, $ 8.95, 2006

Reviewed by Regan Zaborowski (age 8) for Reader Views (12/07)

This book is about a man and his wife, called Elmo and Feather Phigg, who have car trouble and want to stay at the Keswick Inn. But first they meet Bailey Fish and her grandmother, and they help the Phiggs get to the Keswick Inn. They have a green suitcase that is very heavy and no one knows what is in it. Bailey and her friends try to find out what is in the suitcase. They are very curious about it. There is also a girl who comes to the Keswick Inn that Mr. and Mrs. Keswick are going to take care of. She can't speak, and Bailey and her grandmother have a party for her so that she would want to laugh or talk to someone. I was so nervous when I had to wait to see if she would; I really wanted her to. While they are doing this, Mr. and Mrs. Phigg go to Jamestown because they are writing a history book about that place. There is a big surprise at the end when everyone learns about what is in the suitcase.

I liked reading "The Mysterious Jamestown Suitcase" with my mom. The main character in the book, Bailey Fish, seemed to be like me - curious and wanting to know about mysteries. I wanted to read more after I was done with each chapter, because the mystery kept getting stranger. We didn't learn what was in the suitcase until the very end, and it was very funny. I also learned about history of Jamestown, which is in Virginia. It made me want to learn more about the first people that came to live there. I am asking my mom for more Bailey Fish books, because they are fun to read.

The Soccer Bully (Adventures in SportsLand)
Charles S. Hellman
Lucky Sports, LLC
78206 Varner Road, Suite D#4, Palm Desert, CA 92211
9780935938265, $19.95, 2007

Reviewed by Leslie Granier and Nicholas Lopez (age 5) for Reader Views (12/07)

"The Soccer Bully" is about a soccer game between the TMates, whose coach stresses having fun and practicing hard, and the Hoo-Doos, who will do anything to win, including cheating and bullying the other team. A subplot involves Striker and his attitude that girls are not good enough athletes to play soccer.

When asked what he liked about the book, Nicholas said, "It was funny when the cheater put another soccer ball in his really big pocket." He also liked the pictures because the soccer balls had shoes and gloves but they did not have arms or legs. He stated he was "glad the mean soccer balls lost" and that "sometimes girls can play soccer good."

This book comes with a CD that is to be used in a computer. It narrates the story, but it also has songs and coloring pages to print out. This book teaches several important lessons, including: playing fair, having fun, and not stooping to the bullies' level of behavior. It also shows that everyone can play together.

The illustrations in the book are fun and colorful. The book will appeal to children between the ages of five and ten, but the CD is aimed more at the younger kids (ages 5 to 7). There are seven other books in this series and if they are anything like "The Soccer Bully," they are worth reading since this one was a fun and valuable teaching tool.

Last Call
Blair Oliver
World Audience, Inc.
303 Park Avenue South, #1440, New York, NY 10010
9781934209745, $15.99, September, 2007

Reviewed by Danielle Feliciano for Reader Views (12/07)

Let me start with a confession: I am not at all a fan of short stories. I have tried over and over to be open to this genre but I can count on one hand the number of times that I have actually been able to finish a collection of short stories. Blair Oliver has restored my rapidly dwindling faith in the possibility of ever finding a short story collection I actually enjoy.

In his book "Last Call," Oliver strips away all pretenses and forces the reader to face that we are, in fact, human. We all make mistakes, and those mistakes affect not only us, but those around us. Man or woman, everyone faces the same basic themes in life (love, loss, betrayal, redemption), but how we choose to deal with those life themes is what is at the core. Do we ignore life and watch it pass by or do we choose to actively live?

Some of the actions of the men in this collection are hard to like. Starting with the boy who plans to use his father's rare coins to pay for a date and continuing with infidelity and lack of love, it would be obvious to detest these characters and place the blame on them. However, Oliver brilliantly manages to get the reader, if not to feel sorry for, to at least understand these men and the choices they make. It would be easy to judge, easy to say "how horrible," easy to say "I'd never do that," but as you are reading, it's not so easy to imagine yourself being any better than the characters.

The main theme throughout each story seems to be of disconnect, not only the disconnect from child or spouse, but the disconnect from one's self. Each of the main characters seems to be an observer rather than a participant in his own life. He finds himself married to someone whom he doesn't like. He finds himself a father to a child he has nothing in common with. He finds himself waking up each day and saying to himself "How did I get here?" without ever really seeking the answer to that question.

The stories in this collection are bleak and raw but in the end, Blair Oliver finds humor in the black hole his characters have created for themselves. He makes it possible for us to see ourselves mirrored in the depressing circumstances, yet in the safety of an outsider's opinion, find a small silver lining. I am honestly stunned by this collection and the stories in "Last Call" will stay with me for a long time to come.

Leaves of Elvis' Garden
Larry Geller
Bell Rock Publishing
8306 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 2003, Beverly Hills, California 90211
(800) 518-4725,
9780976435006, $19.95, 2008

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (12/07)

Ah, Elvis! Although I was born too late to actively participate in the Elvis craze when he was at his most popular, I was not and still am not immune to his particular charm. Has there ever been another artist that people were so curious about? Another one that so many people to this day refuse to believe is truly no longer alive? It's been 30 years since Elvis left us, but the fascination with him, his life and his music has not really waned.

Larry Geller's "Leaves of Elvis' Garden" shows us a very different picture of Elvis. While I've always admired his spirituals, I had no idea Elvis was so interested in spiritual studies and so very involved in learning and sharing his knowledge. Larry Geller came to Elvis as a hair-stylist, but he immediately became much more than just that. For over a dozen years Mr. Geller was a friend, a confidant and a spiritual advisor to Elvis. They shared an instant connection from the time they first met in 1964 until Elvis's death in 1977.

"Leaves of Elvis' Garden" gives us a series of fascinating insights and glimpses into the life of a very private Elvis. We get to see him on the road with his entourage, we get to see him in action as his most charming self, we also glimpse him sharing his knowledge and trying to persuade other people to choose a more spiritual path. We rejoice with him in his moments of triumph, but we also cringe observing him on his self-destructive path. We learn about his favorite books and most influential teachers, with wonder we find out about his belief in spiritual healing and his active involvement with it. Larry Geller shows us a very real, very human Elvis - one who never ceased to look ahead and who never stopped searching; but also one who was all too fallible and whose weaknesses hastened his early demise.

Well written and very personal, this was indeed an enlightening book. My sole criticism of "Leaves of Elvis' Garden" would be that in parts it reads more like a book about the author himself than about Elvis; but since Mr. Geller was obviously so deeply enmeshed in Elvis' life, it was probably unavoidable. An interesting read for any fan of Elvis and a book that should make you think about your own spiritual quest as well; and as such a book I'd recommend to any mature lover of Elvis' work.

The Joke's on Ewe: Jokes, Riddles & Funny Stories Little David Told His Sheep
Paul M. Miller
Barbour Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
1597891258, $2.95, 2006

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Philliber for Reader Views (12/07)

Telling a joke is a tricky art, and Paul Miller has made a good attempt at presenting jokes which are morally clean and normally simple enough for young children and older adults to enjoy together. In his book, "The Joke's on Ewe: Jokes, Riddles & Funny Stories Little David Told His Sheep," Miller pulls together jokes from many topics and puts them together in an easy-to-read format. There are funny, little joke-stories (viz., about George Washington), 'Knock-Knock' jokes, short ditties, and playful uses of words.

One of the strengths of the book is the ease of finding jokes. There are 15 subjects under which the jokes are pulled together. For example, under the title, "­Let's Hear it for the Ewe-S-A: Star-Spangled Jokes," the reader will find humorous pieces about politics, or people who live in a specific geographical area, or concerning the amusing word-pronunciations various Americans have. In another instance, in the chapter called; "Baa, Baa! Who's There: Knock-Knock Jokes," Miller has collected almost every knock-knock joke one can imagine, and not imagine.

One of the main weaknesses of the book has more to do with certain readers. If a reader is overly sensitive about jokes regarding personal appearance, people of other faith groups, or folks from other countries who misunderstand English, then there are times when the book might be a bit uncomfortable. The other weakness in the book has more to do with jokes than anything else. Some jokes are really flat and lack funniness, unless the reader happens to be one who likes a specific topic or style.

Overall, in "The Joke's on Ewe: Jokes, Riddles & Funny Stories Little David Told His Sheep," Miller's effort at bringing laughter to people of different ages and tastes is a success. I have enjoyed reading some of the jokes to my own children and wife and watching their faces light up with laughter.

The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life
Kathy L. Patrick
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446695428, $13.99, January 2008

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (12/07)

If somebody were to ask me to classify Kathy L. Patrick's "The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life," I would be at a loss. Is it a book about books? Is it about book clubs? Is it a memoir? A cookbook? A self-help one? Well, it is all of that and much, much more.

"The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life" is first and foremost a great book and a life-size one. It encompasses all the really important things in life: life, love, friends, good food, big hair, lots of books, snazzy clothes, glitter and glimmering eyes and sparkling outfits and flashy tiaras. It talks about the life-changing events and people that forever alter our lives with seemingly minor acts. It provides a recipe for a killer Margarita (actually, a Marla-rita!) and teaches you how to found and run a book club. It stresses the importance of having girlfriends and how a great hair stylist should act. It makes you laugh out loud and if you are from the South like me, sob when re-living the hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. It teaches you how to listen and how to take care of yourself. It gives you the permission to be the best you can be and wear a tiara whenever you please. It shows that reinventing yourself is not only possible, but can also be immensely rewarding and fun. Most importantly of all, it feels like a great, big hug from your best friend.

If all of the wonderful insights, stories and advice from Kathy L. Patrick would not be enough, there are also lists and more lists of one of my favorite things in life: books! There are books for every taste and most every age. Ms. Patrick listed a few books that I've read, actually a few that are old, cherished friends; but also very many that I've never even heard about. And reading about all the fun the Pulpwood Queens have at their meetings, I am severely tempted to start a chapter myself. With an amazing Queen like Ms. Patrick, life can only get better and more fun. And while I am not sure about wearing my hair big, I can definitely envision myself in animal prints and a sparkling tiara. "The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life" is definitely on my next year's list of books to give to my friends and I bet your friends would love it too.

Why Did I Marry You Anyway? Overcoming the Myths That Hinder a Happy Marriage
Barbara Bartlein
Cumberland House Publishing
431 Harding Industrial Drive, Nashville, TN 37211
9781581826326, $16.95, 2007

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (12/07)

My usual reaction to this kind of self-help book is somewhere along the lines of, "And exactly what does he/she thinks he/she knows about MY marriage?" More often than not, I either find them all too preachy or too simplistic to help me solve any particular problems I might have encountered in my personal life, so they end up in a book swap meeting or a book swap site. Ms. Bartlein's "Why Did I Marry You Anyway?" seemed to be different from the very start and after I read it, I immediately found a permanent place for it in my collection.

My attention was first caught by title - "Why Did I Marry You Anyway?" By the time I read the subtitle, "Overcoming the Myths That Hinder a Happy Marriage," I was definitely intrigued. If you are married and if you are totally honest with yourself, I bet there were times in your life when you asked yourself the exact same question. There are moments when we are not so sure that we made the right decision or simply moments when we look at our beloved partner and have to wonder where in the world - or even the outer realm - did this particular behavior came from and what did the person in front of us do with our normally sweet husband and wife.

Ms. Bartlein cleverly touches on most common problem areas in a marriage; such as money, sex, children, annoying personal habits, in-laws, lack of shared interests and more. Offering tools for recognition of issues as well as the resolution of them, each chapter includes real-life examples, absolutely hilarious quotes and thought-provoking myths that could potentially harm your relationship. Unlike most other books, the examples and patterns listed by Ms. Bartlein definitely made me pay attention and I had to admit that - oh wonder of wonders! - I was not perfect and that I was actually guilty of several quite distinct behavioral patterns. Which ones? Well, I am definitely a stamp collector - but if you want to find out what that means in terms of marriage, you'll have to get the book and read it for yourself. It is most probably NOT what you are imagining right now…

I found Barbara Bartlein's "Why Did I Marry You Anyway?" a very informative and down-to-Earth guide to improving a marriage; and as such I would highly recommend it to anybody who sincerely desires a happy relationship with their spouse. Just leave it on the table and see how quickly he - or she - will react to the title… Joking aside, this is truly a keeper; and a book that might well improve other aspects of your life besides your marriage.

There Are Monsters Everywhere
Mercer Mayer
Dial Books for Young Readers
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780803706217, $15.99, 2005

Reviewed by Conner (age 3) and Mom for Reader Reviews (12/07)

At some point in his or her life, every kid growing up wonders if there are monsters lurking about. Our hero knows there are monsters in his house, even though they hide when Mom or Dad is around. But one day, our hero finds a solution that gives him confidence to face down any monster.

"Conner, did you like the book?"
"What did you like about it?"
"I liked everything. All the monsters!"
"Are you scared of monsters?"
" No, monsters are not anywhere . . . They are somewhere, but it aren't scary."
"Do you have a favorite monster?"
"I like all of them. The one with the duck was funny."
"Would you like to take karate?"
"Yes, because I like the punching."
"Would you take out the trash for Mommy?"
"No, because I don't want to see any monsters."

Parent's comments:

Mercer Mayer has a delightful way of treating a very scary and serious subject for little kids. Though there WERE monsters everywhere (my son loved pointing them out), they were all drawn with personable characteristics, such as wearing broken wristwatches, band-aids, braces, and glasses. His illustrations in "There Are Monsters Everywhere" are very humorous and help ease the scariness of monsters. I look forward to reading his other work, "There's a Nightmare in My Closet."

Before You Were Mine
Maribeth Boelts
G.P. Putnam's Sons/Putnam Juvenile
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399245268, $15.99, 2007

Reviewed by Conner (age 3) and Mom for Reader Reviews (12/07)

A boy wonders about the life of his dog before he adopted him from the animal shelter. "Before You Were Mine," explores many possibilities of a dog's life before coming to a new owner: showing reasons such as intolerance for dog behaviors, neglect, becoming lost, and/or not being welcomed at a new home.

"Did you like the book?"
"Yes. It was all about a puppy. It had a happy ending."
"Do you think the dog had a rough life before coming to the animal shelter?"
"I don't know. Lot's of things could have happened."
"Would you adopt a dog from the animal shelter?"
"What does adopt mean? I want all the animals!"

Parent's comments:

The watercolor illustrations set the nostalgic tone of this heartwarming book. A lot of pages are dedicated to hypothetical situations, most negative (otherwise the dog probably wouldn't be in a shelter), that I felt more could have been shown about the joy of the dog being rescued from a shelter. I feel it's the author's epilogue in "Before You Were Mine" that explains the message of giving shelter dog a second chance best.

Shapes & Patterns (EyeLike)
Play Bac Edu Team
Play Bac Publishing USA
225 Varick Street, New York, NY 10011
9781602140202, $9.95, 2007

Reviewed by Conner (age 3) and Mom for Reader Reviews (12/07)

There are shapes and patterns everywhere you look. "Shapes and Patterns" is a photographic walk through nature to find commonality in shapes and/or patterns between animals, plants and other objects.

"See Mommy, that snake isn't like a tree trunk."
"I really like this book."
"What's jagged?"
"I just want to touch it [the pangolin]"

Parent's Comments:

My son really did like this book. You can't tell by what he said, but more by what he did. When we turned the page to a new shape, he took my pencil and starting drawing his own version. Each shape and picture inspired him to make his own. The photographs are so beautiful that I almost forgot to read some of the captions. I think "Shapes & Patterns" is a wonderfully laid out book for helping minds think beyond the common and see the commonality in all things.

Numbers (EyeLike)
Play Bac Edu Team
Play Bac Publishing USA
225 Varick Street, New York, NY 10011
9781602140196, $9.95, 2007

Reviewed by Conner (age 3) and Mom for Reader Reviews (12/07)

By looking at nature, we can learn to count our numbers, add, subtract, multiply and even divide. "Numbers" is a photographic counting of things we find in nature and the math we can learn from it.

"I love puppy dogs!"
"I love the bunny rabbits!"
"I don't like those guys [flamingos]. Every time I go there, they peck me on the head."
"I don't like ants. They are bad for the garden."
"But I like babies. I like giraffes and Zebras!"
"Carrots! Yuck!"
"Great counting with math"
"Mommy, I got to show you this page. See the bugs."

Parent's Comment:

The photographs in "Numbers" are stunning and easily convey the number being discussed. I was pleasantly surprised when the book was more than a count from 1 to 12, but also introduced concepts as counting by 10, 100, even and odd, lesser than/greater than, and basic math functions. My son enjoyed counting on each page, even when the number seemed too big (like 1000). The use of objects that he knows or sees often in pictures is really helpful in relating math concepts to my three and half year old.

My First Words (Dick and Jane)
Illustrated by Larry Ruppert
Grosset & Dunlap
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780448445724, $7.99, 2007

Reviewed by Conner (age 3) and Mom for Reader Reviews (12/07)

Learning words is fun with this classic Dick and Jane primer. The lift-the-flaps make this interactive book more fun for little ones.

"You can lift it up!"
"Did you like the book Conner?"
"Yes, I liked it a lot."
"I want to see the girl picture. I love her. I think she's cute."
"I can count and say my colors."
"Can I read it tonight with Daddy and you?"

Parent's Comment:

I like the transformation of the classic illustrations from the "Dick and Jane" series into this interactive, lift-the-flap book, "My First Words." My son likes having a part in reading, so even though he's not able to read the words on the page, by lifting the flaps, he feels he is reading the book with me. He does know his numbers and colors, so this was a great exercise to help him count and identify other objects' colors. I appreciate the old-style drawings as many of the picture books out there are mostly based on pop-theme characters and tend to lose their depth with such flat graphics.

Emperor Penguins (All Aboard Science Reader Station Stop 2)
Roberta Edwards
Grosset & Dunlap
c/o The Penguin Group
375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014
9780448446646, $3.99, 2007

Reviewed by Matthew Feliciano (age 7) for Reader Views (12/07)

This book was all about penguins. Its main focus was emperor penguins but it named all kids of penguins. It tells interesting facts about emperor penguins. I learned that the largest penguin is the emperor penguin, emperor penguins have 40,000 penguins in a colony, and they slide on their bellies.

I really liked this book. It was very easy to read and the illustrations helped me understand what the story meant.

I would recommend "Emperor Penguins" to other kids, especially kids who are interested in

The Name of this Book is Secret
Pseudonymous Bosch
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316113663, $16.99, October 2007

Reviewed by Maya Landers (age 9) for Reader Views (12/07)

"The Name of this Book is Secret," by Pseudonymous Bosch, is funny and quick-witted. This book is written in a style that I have never seen before. In making it seem as though you should not read the book, you are made even more interested, and so you keep reading. Although it seems kind of obvious that Bosch is trying to get you to read the book, after the first few pages it seems more like any other book. For example, on the first page, in bold letters, you are warned: "DO NOT READ BEYOND THIS PAGE!" The book begins by saying: "Good. Now I know I can trust you. You're curious. You're brave. And you're not afraid to lead a life of crime."

The author, the supposed "Pseudonymous Bosch," has written about a great secret, and no one can know any details. Indeed, the first chapter is nothing but XXX's (Literally! Here's a quote: "XXXX, XXXX XXXX, XXXXXXXX!!!"). Apparently, that chapter would tell the reader the names, ages and whereabouts of the main characters, Cass and Max-Ernest. Instead of setting Cass and Max-Ernest down in their actual town, or even letting the characters keep their own names, Bosch advises the reader to think of their town as "Your Hometown," to think of the school as "Your School," and, if you did not like the names given to the characters, to simply change them to any names you like. However, as the story progresses, the town begins to develop a definite outline and you learn more about the characters. For instance, Cass is a survivalist who will never go anywhere without her backpack, and Max-Ernest loves to tell jokes which, unfortunately, no one appreciates. Also, you find out why Max-Ernest must be called Max-Ernest, and the hilarious escapades which attach themselves to that rather odd name.

Bosch writes a brief description of each of the characters and their backgrounds "not enough for you to know anything important, such as their real names or ages, mind you, just enough so that you can get an idea of who they are." Although most of the time the book is funny and exciting, there are other times where interesting points are added not just for humor's sake. An example of this would be: "Cass put the book in her backpack, mulling over what she had read. Why did so many grown-ups want to be young, she wondered, when it took so long to become old? It was like going on a million mile road trip then wanting to turn around without getting out of the car."

Even the chapter names are different and funny; chapter thirteen was crossed out to be replaced with fourteen, and at the bottom of the page there was a footnote saying "Of course, I don't really believe that the number 13 is bad luck, but under the circumstances, why not play it safe?" The entire book is filled with these funny little side notes, greatly adding to the content of the story.

I would recommend this book to my friends because the settings are unique (despite the author's obvious attempts to keep it ordinary), and the characters are interesting and well developed. I thought that "The Name of this Book is Secret" was a very good book and an entertaining read.

The Hero's Trail: A Guide for a Heroic Life
T. A. Barron
Puffin Books
c/o Penguin Young Reader's Group
345 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014
IBSN 9780142407608, $6.99, 2007

Reviewed by Matthew Feliciano (age 7) for Reader Views (12/07)

Mr. Barron's book, "The Hero's Trail," showed me, a kid, how it is possible I can be a hero, too. He wrote stories and short biographies in this book about all sorts of heroes. His heroes come from fiction and from history, and many of them became a hero with just one act (like Pocahontas).

The chapter titled "Hero on the Spot" stood out the most to me. This told about people's heroic qualities and how it is possible to be a hero with one act. I never thought about one small act making someone a hero but now I did. Many of the acts of the heroes in this chapter were made by an urge and the person didn't think before acting. To me, sometimes that makes someone more of a hero when they trust what they believe or feel instead of taking time to think when there really isn't time.
In "Hero to Others Near and Far," the author talks about how helping others can make you a hero. People like Allen Jay who helped the slaves and Grace Sanders who helped tornado victims were both kids who saw something wrong and did what they could to help. They made big choices and helped many people but small choices could make you a hero, too. Just think of the new kid coming into your class who doesn't know anyone yet. If you are nice to that kid and help him make friends, this would make you a hero to him and help him, too.

The only thing I didn't like about this book was all of the talk about hiking. It made me distracted and confused sometimes. I didn't always know if this was a book about hiking or about heroes. But once I got past the hiking talk I liked "The Hero's Trail: A Guide for a Heroic Life" a lot!

The Old House
Pamela Duncan Edwards
Dutton Juvenile
c/o The Penguin Group
375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014
9780525477969, $16.99, 2007

Reviewed by Matthew Feliciano (age 7) for Reader Views (12/07)

"This Old House" is about a house that is very old. One day a family comes by and wants it. When the moving truck comes, the house thinks it's the bulldozer coming to knock it down. When they think the bulldozer is coming, all of the house's friends come and say goodbye to it. When the house and his friends look at the bulldozer, it's no bulldozer at all!! It's a moving truck bring a family to come live in the old house. In the end, the family fixes up the house and lives in it forever. The family and the house both are very happy together.

I liked this book a lot! It was fun to read. I felt sad for the house in the beginning and then at the end I felt really happy for the house because it was going to be lived in like it dreamed. "The Old House" is the best bedtime story I have ever read.

The Angel and the Sword: A Supernatural Adventure
Sigmund Brouwer
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR 97402-9173
9780736902939, $7.99, 2005

Reviewed by Emily Judah (age 13) for Reader Views (12/07)

I read the "The Angel and the Sword" in one day! It was an awesome book full of adventure and betrayal. I was with the characters throughout their amazing journey. I love how the book was written. The "angel blog" was great.

Raphael lives a fun and entertaining life as a young court jester for the French court of Pope Clement VI. He starts his morning off as he usually does by feeding the pigeons outside of his window. As he looks out of his window overlooking Pope Clements courtyard, he spots a soldier with a crossbow on the opposite roof watching the Pope closely as he walks across the lawn. He decides that the soldier is no ordinary soldier but is an assassin looking to kill the Pope. In an attempt to save his beloved Pope he decides to try and defeat the armed assassin himself. Raphael, who is only armed with his jugglers pin, climbs out his window and makes his way across the roof. Before he is close enough to fight, the assassin discovers his presence. Desperately Raphael throws the juggling pin, but misses due to the assassin's warning and quick reflexes. The assassin gives him a wicked smile and then shoots the arrow harmlessly into the center of the courtyard. The assassin sets the crossbow on the roof, smiles, and then slips through a window. Now the alarm has sounded in the courtyard and the Pope's guards begin to search up on the roof for the culprit. Obviously, the guards suspect Raphael is the assassin because he is the only one on the roof and he is standing by the crossbow. Raphael desperately pleads that he is innocent and the reason he was on the roof was that he was trying to fight the real assassin, not kill the Pope. The soldiers and the Pope ignore his pleas and send him down into the dungeon.

To find out if Raphael survives this ordeal, you must read this awesome book! I loved it! I would recommend "The Angel and the Sword" for ages 9 to 13.

1-2-3 Magic for Christian Parents: Effective Discipline for Children 2 - 12
Thomas W. Phelan and Chris Webb
ParentMagic, Inc.
800 Roosevelt Road, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
9781889140247, $14.95, 2007

Reviewed by Tammy Petty Conrad for Reader Views (12/07)

There are certainly enough parenting books on the market today with a variety of topics to choose from. Still parents are looking for the magic that can help them discipline their children in a less painful and more effective manner. These authors, one a clinical psychologist and the other a certified counselor and associate pastor, offer practical tips for parents and other caregivers to manage the behavior of young children. The book introduces its concepts within the framework of the teachings of the Bible. The authors admit that "The Bible gives many great principles for raising children. The difficulty comes in application." Therefore, the need for the book.

We've all been in a check-out line and wondered why the parents didn't discipline the child in the next aisle screaming for a candy bar. Most of us have probably witnessed a child being disciplined inappropriately too. It is not an easy task to do it right, but so worthwhile.

The book is divided into three steps. First you learn how to control obnoxious behavior. Second you learn seven methods for encouraging appropriate and positive behavior. Finally you lean how to maintain healthy relationships. Despite the title, there is really no magic, but instead precise tools that are simple and effective in helping parents to resolve their children's discipline issues.

The organization of the book makes it easy-to-follow. I appreciate the Points to Remember at the end of each chapter as they summarize the main ideas. The Questions for Christian Practice give readers the opportunity to reflect on what they've read and even refer to specific chapters in the Bible. The authors make the introduced concepts seem so simple that you can start using them immediately.

The Little Adult Assumption was a new way of thinking for me. Of course children aren't adults, but we do sometimes try to deal with them as if they were. The book talks about the two biggest mistakes parents make: too much talking and too much emotion. This chapter will always have a bookmark in it so I can refer back to it frequently to help me with some of my top issues too. The authors prescribe positive self-talk, reciting appropriate Bible verses, praying and finally seeking counseling if needed to deal with these issues.

It is particularly useful that there are exact scenarios included with scripts of how events may play out based on how parents react. It also addresses other caregivers and how they can follow the same system as the parents. The authors even include a chapter on the Kickoff Conversation, or how to introduce the new program to your children. The book sticks to its Bible base with frequent quotes. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it" sums up the program (Proverbs 22:6).

We can all use more training on childrearing. It is a never-ending job, but one of the most important ones we will ever do. "1-2-3 Magic for Christian Parents: Effective Discipline for Children 2 - 12" is a book worth picking up and actually reading before your child grows up.

Avoiding Cancer One Day at A Time
Lynne Eldridge, M.D. and David Borgeson, MS, MPT
Beaver's Pond Press, Inc.
7104 Ohms Lane, Suite 216, Edna, MN 55439
(952) 829-8818,
9781592981595, $19.95, November 2006

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (12/07)

Cancer touches countless lives every day. Chances are that either you or somebody very near and dear to you has had to fight it at some point in your life. While medicine has certainly advanced greatly in the past, mortality rates from cancer are still high and still scary.

While it seems to me that the American way of medicine tends to be geared much more towards curing the disease once it manifests itself than to preventing it in the first place, I found "Avoiding Cancer One Day at A Time" a very refreshing departure from the usual pattern. Extremely well researched and comprehensive, this incredibly readable book leads the reader through many facets of possible cancer prevention. While it is obvious that the authors have done an incredible amount of serious research, the book never gets too technical for an average reader. From a simple introduction to cancer prevention to an eye-opening Cancer Prevention IQ Pretest and a chapter on what cancer is and what causes it, the authors alert us to numerous things that we could do to increase our chances of not being one of the scary cancer statistics in the future.
While authors primarily focus on primary cancer prevention - as in before it actually happens, there is also a chapter on secondary prevention (finding cancer and preventing it from spreading) and some notes on tertiary prevention (support methods for individuals with cancer). Each of the chapters concludes with a list of practical points, and if you start your journey just by reading those, you'll have to agree that there are very many simple and eminently sensible steps we can take to increase our chances of staying healthy. If any of the topics discussed in the particular chapter really intrigue you, there are very comprehensive lists of resources and further online information available for advanced research.

Chapter 10, the "Avoiding Cancer Recipe Collection," features not only mouth-watering, yet sensible recipes, but also stories of people whose lives were changed by cancer forever. Do take a particular note of the conversion table for the recipes there: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care.

The book concludes with Appendices, the first Appendix being the worksheets for applying cancer-prevention principles, the second one a scarily long list of carcinogens; and a nearly 30-pages long list of references.

"Avoiding Cancer One Day at A Time" was a fascinating read, which showed me how little most of us know about proper cancer prevention and how easy a great majority of those prevention steps really are. This book should find a permanent place in every American home, where it should be read, re-read and used often.

Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts
Ammini Ramachandran
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595409761, $23.95, 2007

Reviewed by Tammy Petty Conrad for Reader Views (12/07)

What a delicious read! I have a wonderful collection of cookbooks and the ones I enjoy most are the ones that read like novels. They include stories about the food and people who make the dishes. Even if I never get around to cooking anything included, I appreciate the flavors and tales behind the delicacies shared. "Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts: Recipes and Remembrances of a Vegetarian Legacy" is one of those books.

The author, a native Indian from Kerala in the southwestern part of the country, shares her background and her family's recipes in such a loving way. She includes not only recipes, but the traditions, history and memories that go with them. I learned about the variety of food in her country and the diversity of recipes available in different regions. I also discovered some interesting historical facts. Having lived in the United Kingdom previously, it was fun to learn how some of the dishes arrived there from India and how they were modified for British palates. Interestingly, the Mulligatawny soup found in London started out much differently in India as molagu thanni!
I took many notes as I read about the author's childhood and the dishes she remembered most. Paayasam, a type of banana pudding made with plantains and coconut milk, grabbed my attention. Now I know what to do with the plantains I always see at the grocery store looking a bit lonely! This is a vegetarian book, but that is no reason for meat lovers to disregard it. The variety of dishes is amazing.

The author says that "The skill of a traditional cook depends on his or her ability to judge taste with the eyes and nose." Traditionally you are not allowed to taste a dish while making it. I can't imagine not taking at least one small taste before serving something to my guests. Or being so attuned to your cooking that you would automatically know by the smell or sight whether it needed adjusting.

The author is also aware that anytime you try a new cuisine you need to take the time to learn about the ingredients and what they are used for, even how you can find them or what you can substitute for them if needed. Chapter Two goes through not only ingredients, but cooking methods and utensils required. At the end of the book, she includes an internet resource list for those who live in areas without available ingredients. She talks about the magic of spices and says that "Understanding spices is the cornerstone of the art of Indian cooking…." One thing I hadn't thought about was how much the flavor of spices can vary from brand to brand and depending on where they are grown. She gives us permission to make adjustments based on our own palates and understands that cooking is a personal venture.

There are so many wonderful recipes to choose from. Mathan Puzukku, pumpkin and red beans with coconut and curry leaves, is a thick curry I can't wait to try. Anything with coconut grabs my attention like Varuthupperi Kootaan, or fried plantains in coconut yogurt sauce. There is a whole chapter just on puddings. The recipe index is quite helpful as are the menu suggestions.

All that's left for me to do is make a list and go the new Indian grocery store that just opened in my neighborhood. With "Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts," I will have an adventure in my kitchen and who knows, maybe it will lead me to travel to India and try the dishes firsthand someday.

Lots O' Riddles: Good Clean Fun for Everyone
Carrie Brown
Barbour Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781593106928, $2.97, 2005

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Philliber for Reader Views (12/07)

From brain teasers to head-scratching riddles, Carrie Brown has made a good attempt at presenting riddles and jokes which are morally clean and normally simple enough for older children and adults to enjoy. In her book, "Lots O' Riddles: Good Clean Fun for Everyone," Brown has collected riddles that cover many topics and puts them together in light and readable arrangement. There are the funny, "What wears a coat in the winter and pants in the summer?" type of riddles, to the longer brain-teasing puzzles

One of the strengths of the book is the ease of finding jokes. There are 32 sections under which the riddles are assembled. For example, under the title, "Easter and Spring surprises," the reader will find humorous pieces about Easter, bunny rabbits, Valentine's day, and playing on hare/hair. In another section named; "Brainteasers and Mindstumpers," Brown has pulled together various types of humorous conundrums.

One of the main weaknesses of the book has to do with the difficulty of finding an audience that can follow the riddles and brainteasers. I read these to my younger children, only to have their eyes glaze over and ask me, "Daddy, what does that mean?"

In "Lots O' Riddles: Good Clean Fun for Everyone," overall, Brown has drawn together in a concise format a number of riddles and jokes that the family prankster will enjoy reading before the next Christmas party.

Flying Out of Brooklyn
Beverly Magid
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595455867, $15.95, 2007

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (12/07)

The year is 1943, and Judith Weissman's apartment neighbor has just committed suicide. Judith is not happy, and this incident makes her take a closer look at her own life. Her marriage, family relationships and work are very unsatisfying. She yearns to be living the dreams that she had as a teenager. When Bobby, the object of Judith's high school crush, returns injured from the war, Judith reaches out to him. The secretiveness of the relationship gives Judith the illusion that life seems more vivid and that she finally feels alive. As Judith suffers through a serious tragedy in her family, she realizes what is really important to her and she learns who she can really count on.

"Flying Out of Brooklyn," is a coming-of-age novel about a young Jewish woman from a Brooklyn neighborhood. Beverly Magid wrote this story in such vivid detail that I felt I was looking at it through Judith's eyes and feeling it through her heart. Judith is a woman that is desperately seeking a change in her life. She makes some choices that are really not in her best interest, yet she must experience the repercussions so that she can learn from them and discover what really is important and what really matters. It was interesting for me to be able to know that Judith was making poor choices, yet understand why she did. I liked watching Judith learn from them and grow.

I enjoyed how Magid incorporated into her story, what was happening at the time. While men were away at war, women were working in once male-dominated fields. They were proud to be able to play a role in the war, and to be able to gain higher paying employment. They were working really hard and proving themselves, yet they still had to deal with issues of sexism and in some cases, racial prejudice. Families also had to deal with rationing and food shortages. Magid also incorporates aspects of the Jewish culture into the story to add richness and dimension.

I highly recommend this novel. I know that "Flying Out of Brooklyn" will be enjoyed by adults of all ages and ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Adventures of Riley: Polar Bear Puzzle
Amanda Lumry & Laura Hurwitz
Eaglemont Press
PMB 741 15600 NE 8th, #B-1, Bellevue, WA 98008
9781600400049, $15.95, 2007

Reviewed by Leslie Granier and Nicholas Lopez (age 5) for Reader Views (12/07)

This book tells the story of how the number of polar bears is decreasing due to increased temperatures on the Earth's surface. Riley, a nine-year-old boy, travels to Canada to visit his uncle who does whatever he can to help the polar bears, including giving them medical checkups. During this trip, Riley learns the importance of people doing whatever they can to stop global warming so as not to endanger polar bears and other species that rely on cold temperatures and ice formation for their survival.

The cover of the book indicates it is suited for age four to eight. Nicholas, who is five-years-old, really did not understand many of the concepts. He could not see how recycling a newspaper can help save the polar bears. He thought it was "scary that Riley got so close to the mean, hungry bear," but "it was nice he wanted to help him find food."

There are many interesting facts presented by scientists and members of ecological groups throughout "Adventures of Riley: Polar Bear Puzzle." I think older children (8-11) will be more interested in this book's content because they have some scientific background and can relate more to cause and effect. They are also better able to organize recycling projects and influence their parents and other adults to change their harmful habits and develop ways that are safer for all life forms. The story has an important message for people of all ages and should be utilized in classrooms to help the next generation become more aware of possible problems that may arise in the future.

The Family Book
Todd Parr
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9780316738965, $15.99, 2003

Reviewed by Olivia Alejandre (age 4) for Reader Views (12/07)

Mom's review / summary:
There are so many great things about this book; I will start with the artwork because of how appealing it is to a toddler. Many children's books try to get too elaborate with the artwork, but some children (mine included) don't pay attention as closely to books with that much detail. This artwork has bold colors but simple and clear depictions of the people or animals. Since they can't read yet, they really need the pictures to help tell the story and these certainly do.

Now, for the message and ideas presented in the book - how wonderful that Todd Parr is presenting different types of families and that they are all special. And, he didn't just talk about the differences; he also encouraged positive family behaviors - hugging, supporting each other, and celebrating special days.

"The Family Book" would be a great book for a daycare or preschool setting because of the message in it - teachers could use it as a starting point to talk about each child's family and the differences from one family to the next. I'm not sure, however, that this is the kind of book that Olivia is going to want to read over and over because she likes stories with characters, plots, and activities.

Olivia's review / summary:

"There's a lot of bunnies in that family. Some families are different colors - white or brown or white-brown. This is a house. And then, there's a world. Families can have a brother and sister, or no babies. Families are alike and different."

Some quotes from Olivia about the book:

"Look at all those people on there! People don't live in trees - only birdies."

"That's a lot of bunnies!"

"I will make the fish happy. If I'm in the book, I will be a fish and be its mommy. And, daddy and you can go in the book and you can be a fishie."

"Looks - bears hugging!"

[Mom]: "What kind of family do you have?" "A people family." [Mom]: "Are we the same color in our family?" "No." [Mom]: "What color is daddy?" "Brown." [Mom]: "What color is mommy?" "White." [Mom]: "What color is Olivia?" "Brown and white."

The Baseball Boy
Kelly Roberts
Beau Francis Press
4100 Newport Place, Suite 400, Newport Beach, CA 92660
9780979214707, $17.95, 2007

Reviewed by Nicholas Lopez (age 5) and Leslie Granier for Reader Views (12/07)

"The Baseball Boy" is written by Kelly Roberts, whose son Doug is a major league baseball player. This story follows his passion to become a baseball player from his days of playing T-ball through his high school years. She also vividly describes, in a way to which children can relate, the events that occur at baseball games and how much fun it is to attend.

Nicholas really liked the story. He said, "Baseball is fun. I like to hit the ball really far and run around the bases. Playing baseball when I'm old would be cool. Mom and Dad will go to all my games and maybe I'll be on TV." He also liked the part with the seventh inning stretch, saying, "I can sing 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game' really loud."

Roberts provides an inspirational story for people of all ages in "The Baseball Boy." She stresses the importance of working hard to achieve one's goals. Equally important, she mentions that her son's teams did not win all the time but he kept working hard to become a better player. I think it was good that she began the story with her son as a young child. By doing this, she shows that sometimes it takes a long time to reach a goal, but that once it is achieved the work and time invested was worthwhile.

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!
Bob Spitz
Little, Brown Young Readers
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316115551, $18.99, 2007

Reviewed by Kirby Jo Franze (age 16) for Reader Views (12/07)

"Hey Jude, don't make it bad, take a sad song and make it better"... These are words that almost every American teenager and adult know by heart. "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" is the story of the Beatles; John, Paul, Ringo and George, quite possibly the best-selling, best song-writing, and downright most amazing group of all time. Bob Spitz's fascinating chronicle takes us through the lives of the Beatles and the people that traveled the road with the band on their journey to world-wide stardom.

We begin at the humble beginning: their early lives and childhoods, jam sessions in their hometown of Liverpool, England, where young John and other early band members put together a band called the Quarry Men, playing "skiffle"(a pre-cursor to rock 'n roll). We are there when sixteen-year-old John meets fifteen-year-old Paul and while recognizing his unique talent and charisma, John still hesitates to include Paul in the band as that would mean relinquishing some control of it. Not until they formed the Beatles was their goal of perfection reached.

What followed after that was nothing short of remarkable. America and the entire world nearly swallowed them up in one large gulp as they burst into overwhelming stardom. We follow as John goes from teenaged boy to controlling adult and eventually marries his ever-loving, headstrong wife, Yoko Ono, whom he'd spend the rest of his days with. We discover that talented, ambitious Paul was the one always in it for the band, constantly working and proceeding on for the good of the group. We get to know soulful George, who made it into the band with his witty guitar playing and lovable personality. We loved him for his full heart. And of course we come to love endearing Ringo Starr, the one always for everything and up for anything, he seemed to be the peacemaking, easy-going one; friend to all.

We get to see the bad as well as the good. The group became fascinated by and embraced Eastern music and religion. They became infatuated with drugs, and it became a psychedelic experience to listen to some of their later songs considering the influence of marijuana on them.

Reading "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Beatles, Beatlemania, and the Music that Changed the World" gave me insight into this pioneering band that I would have never had without coming face-to-face with its members. The book shared interesting and inspiring stories of the lives of these music icons. Biographies are not often my favorite, but Mr. Spitz has really made this an exciting and intriguing read. We got to follow along as the Beatles reinvented the sound of rock n' roll for the rest of time. I enjoyed the trip!

World's Greatest Collection of Church Jokes
Paul M. Miller
Barbour Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781593100186, $5.95, 2006

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Philliber for Reader Views (12/07)

Church life generates a lot to laugh about, and Paul Miller has pulled together loads of morally clean humorous stories and jokes which are enjoyably accurate. In his book, "World's Greatest Collection of Church Jokes," Miller relates many hilarious tales and short pieces from many topics and puts them together in an easy-to-read format. Teens, adults, pastors and youth leaders will find much here to chuckle over. In fact, a number of these stories have already been used by pastors of small churches, and those of national fame.

These funny, little joke-stories cover several topics, such as those about pastors, church staff, pew-sitters and kids. One of the strengths of the book is the ease of finding these stories and jokes. There are 15 subjects under which the jokes are pulled together. For example, under the title, "­Pastors," the reader will find humorous pieces about pastors on the golf course and the pastoral faux pas. In another instance, in the chapter called; "The Music Department," Miller has collected funny stories relating the comical tension between a pastor and his music director, an organist and the janitor, as well as how to get men into the choir.

One of the main weaknesses of the book has more to do with jokes themselves. Some jokes are flat and lack funniness, unless the reader happens to be one who likes a specific topic or style.

Overall, Miller's work at collecting these amusing stories will bring a smile and a chuckle to people of different ages and tastes is a success. I have enjoyed reading some of these entertaining stories and jokes from "World's Greatest Collection of Church Jokes" to my own children and wife and watching their faces light up with laughter.

Cry of Justice
Jason Pratt
Bittersea Publications
Altas Books, 30 Amerwood Parkway, Ashland, OH 44805
9780977888405, $25.00, 2007

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (12/07)

Welcome to the world of Mikon. "Cry of Justice" is the first book in a forthcoming trilogy. The tale takes place after the Culling War had begun. There was fighting among the Cadrists. Magical people of different paths, such as the healing Klerosa have been disappearing. The disappearances tend to be magical in origin.

Portunista is a maga and a commander of soldiers. She leads a very interesting group of men. She has to use a great deal of personal strength to maintain control of this group. Throughout this journey, she goes through a great deal of emotional growth. She finds herself drawn to the mysterious, affable Jian, who seems unable to die.

Then there is Seifa, who is the last born of the Guacu-ara people. Guacu-ara means "Hunting Cry." Not only have his people been destroyed, but he also discovers that he was the last born. He is excited to discover another man of his kind during his journey in this story. This is where he starts learning some truths.

"Cry of Justice" is a fun, fantastical adventure. In the beginning, I had some difficulties getting into the story. It started out mentioning people and places, without really explaining who they are. I almost felt like I was reading a second book in a trilogy and was trying to catch up with the story. A glossary and a map would really have helped with this. There were also some grammatical errors that could be corrected

Once I got into the story, I was hooked. I loved the magical elements that were incorporated into the story. The people themselves had interesting talents. There were also magical birds and beasts. Pratt does a great job of coming up with some different magical elements that make his fantasy different from others. This is a refreshing change of pace. He also gets into the characters souls and lets you know what drives them. "Cry of Justice" is a great book for fantasy fans.

Kona Heat
Gregory and Patricia Kishel
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595461820, $17.95, 2007

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (12/07)

"Kona Heat" actually begins in the year 1553, when a red crystal, that is precious to the priests of a Hawaiian temple, is stolen. The story then carries forward to our modern times, on the Island of Hawaii, when scientists and locals are disputing whether or not a geothermal plant should be built on the Kilauea Volcano. Locals know that they need a cheap source of energy; however, some of the natives fear that the Goddess Pele will be angered by this. The military and environmentalists are also involved.

Dr. Yonette Weber, a geologist, is brought to the island to oversee the project. She discovers that there others that are very involved with stopping the project. Her own life becomes endangered. As these events are all taking place, she finds herself drawn to Brad Hudson, who is developing a resort on the island. He begins helping her try to find out what is going on. When the volcano is sabotaged and Yonette disappears, he goes looking for her. He discovers that some of the Pele worshippers have other ideas for how her presence should be used.

"Kona Heat" is very fast-paced. I was immediately drawn into the story. If you have been to Hawaii, as I have, you will really be able to relate to understanding the island and the locals. I really loved that the authors incorporated both real science and Hawaii magic into their plot. A touch of magic weaves itself throughout the story adding to the mystery.

If you enjoy a great mystery, don't miss out on this one. If you are going to Hawaii, you must take "Kona Heat" with you!

The Night They Came: A Science-fiction Thriller....
Dave Gamboa
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595455195, $ 9.95, 2007

Reviewed By Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (12/07)

Steven Daniels and his wife Karen are caught up in an adventure of alien infiltration. They are given a glimpse into inter-dimensional beings from the future, and the horror of a world of alien cross-breeding which creates hy-brids in Dave Gamboa's latest book "The Night They Came."

The skies were clear and cool with a full moon and lots of stars. However, Steve felt an eerie chill in the air as he returned home from a short stroll. He was intrigued as he gazed into the sky at a time when the red planet Mars was at its closest point to Earth. Without warning creatures from another world, arriving in alien space crafts invaded Los Angeles. Stunned and frightened, people were herded into the oval-shaped space ships. Steve escaped the panic, and pandemonium. He confiscated a bus. Returning home to save Karen, Steve rescued a young mother who had just lost her daughter to the aliens.

Zigzagging through town Steve rescued two more women and four men. The night ahead became a nightmare for the four women, and for Steve, and his new friends, Alex, Michael, Brian, and Greg. They drove into a secluded spot in the mountains overlooking Los Angeles. The group becomes terrorized as they fall into the hands of an elitist group of scientists, working with the government in a secret plan of alien experimentation. As his four friends fall into the hands of the crazed scientists and hy-brids, Steve is forced to fend for his life.

Dave Gamboa is a gifted storyteller. The plot is filled with fast-paced action, believable characters, intriguing aliens and hy-brids. Insightful dialog bridges the plot twists and captivated me right up to the final climax, and thought-provoking conclusion.

Dave writes a thought-provoking story mixing creative imagination, the horror of the unexplained and his own nightmares with real life situations in "The Night They Came." His writing just keeps getting better.

The Only Game in Town
Gordon Donnell
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68512
9780595438532, $ 13.95, 2007

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (12/07)

Born on the gypsy carnival circuit, gaming became a part of John Congo's culture. In an attempt to put his old life behind him, John invested his life savings in what he thought was a respectable real estate venture.

When Congo got word that small time gambling found a way into the prestigious Elysian Hotel in Los Angeles he was furious. He had Elysian stock in his portfolio and relied heavily on these dividends to underwrite other floundering investments he acquired with his Crestline Properties purchase.

He called in his personal team to throw the gamblers out of the hotel. Before Congo left the hotel, chaos was taking place as Raymond Stepanian, owner of the operation, dropped dead from a gunshot wound in the lobby of the hotel.

This is only the beginning of nonstop action as John Congo finds himself pulled into a billion-dollar corporate fleecing. The swindlers are successful entrepreneurs, pillars in the community. John has been listed in the Nevada Black Book. This reputation follows him.

The FBI becomes involved in investigating John's purchase of Crestline Properties. Set up by the police as a target for being a member of the crime syndicate, and threatened by Royce Hillman. Hillman was creator of the Athen's plan to swindle the stockholders of the Elysian Hotel. More killings and mayhem follow. In response, John turns to living on the edge of the law as he fights back to save his life and salvage the reward of his life's greatest risk, winning the only game in town.

Gordon Donnell's writing is brilliant. He is able to convey human nature in its rawest forms. His characters manifest greed, a hunger for power, and cruelty. The supporting characters display loyalty, concern, and pride as they fight the hypocrisy found among the elite. I found myself empathizing with John Congo, hoping he could right the wrongs in his world.

Donnell uses mathematical principles to give the reader an in-depth glimpse into the parallel of the chance taken in gambling with the risks taken in investments and business. Donnell shows an amazing insight into what goes on behind the scenes in gaming and in business

This is an amazing story of suspense, romance, and a true action thriller. Gordon Donnell has staked his claim for recognition as an award-winning author. "The Only Game in Town" is destined to be on best seller reading lists, and I predict a guaranteed winner.

Branchwater: A Novel
Steven Maus
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595451913, $14.95, 2007

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (12/07)

Welcome to Branchwater. The castle and town sit in the Mithildrin Forest. Never heard of it? Me neither, but once you read "Branchwater" you will be glad that you did. Branchwater is a place where humans and Mantlik's reside peacefully. Mantliks were beings created by human temple priests six-hundred years ago. Their original purpose was to aid in the protection of humans. They were created during a time when humans lived with God and his council of seven advisors, who were known as the Anahalmists. The council got jealous of God's power, so they killed humans. Almost all of the humans were banished to another continent. The Anahalmists kept some behind to so that they had people to rule over and experiment on. They were never able to create life on their own.

Now Branchwater is under attack. At first they aren't sure who is attacking, but they realize that it is the First Army from the First Continent. The attacking soldiers are humans who have been magically and miserably kept alive all of these years. Greta is a mantlike champion fighter who is over 600-years old. She is called to help in this battle. Her son Hugo and niece Desirae also have roles to play. Accidentally finding a surprise in the castle basement, Desirae and Greta discover an unusual means to help the battle. Desirae also forms a strange alliance with someone unexpected. He helps her with learning the history of her people and to work on her secret magical skills. Greta needs all the help that she can get to win this battle.

"Branchwater" is a fantastically-written fantasy novel that will be enjoyed by all ages, from preteen to adult. It is appropriately written so that it can be enjoyed by everyone. Steven Maus does an excellent job setting the story up so that you are instantly hooked. I appreciated that he managed to fill in the background information about Branchwater and its people in a way that you were able to jump headfirst into this foreign land with an understanding of the people. "Branchwater" is sure to be a keeper. I look forward to future fantasies written by Maus.

Fables from the Mud
Erik Quisling
Borderlands Press Inc.
P.O. Box 660, Fallston, MD 21047
9781880325933, $9.95, 2007

Reviewed by Cherie Fisher for Reader Views (12/07)

I was not sure what to expect when I picked up this book and was pleasantly surprised by the content. "Fables from the Mud" is a satirical work that has very few words but will have you laughing out loud as you read it.

Every page in the book has a basic hand-drawn picture with most only having a line or two of words of side-splittingly funny content. The first fable is about an angry clam that plots the destruction of the earth but is too apathetic to do anything about it. He tries to change his views, even converting to Islam at one point before meeting a gruesome end. The main character in the second fable is a cynical ant that discovers a magical stone garden. I absolutely loved Erik Quisling notes on this character's demise "Our main character had apparently perished and my persistent flirtation with the dangling modifier was growing loathsome even to myself." The third fable is about a great warrior worn grown so dejected with life it has decided to commit suicide. What happens to him on this journey is very memorable.

This is an all around great book for having so little content. I read the whole thing very quickly but keep returning to it to reread some of the crazy antics. I think "Fables from the Mud" makes the perfect holiday gift for those cynical worldly friends who have everything. At the very least, it is a lot of fun.

Jesus Was a Feminist
Leonard Swidler
Sheed & Ward
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
15200 NBN Way, Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214
9781580512183, $19.95, 2007

Reviewed by Linda Benninghoff for Reader Views (11/07)

In "Jesus Was a Feminist: What the Gospels Reveal about His Revolutionary Perspective", Leonard Swidler makes the case that Jesus respected, cared for and even advocated for the rights of women, not in the sense of Betty Freidan, but in the highly personal relationships he formed and the subtle societal changes he was able to bring about through them.

Swidler discusses the times in which Jesus lived, and states that in Palestine women did not have many rights and their status was not high. Although men could divorce, women could not divorce their husbands. The woman taken in adultery was about to be stoned to death. Prostitutes were pariahs. Widows were viewed as worthless because their husbands, who conferred worth on them, were dead.

Jesus was kind to widows. He felt men should not be able to divorce and gave equal rights in marriage to women. He befriended Mary Magdalene, sister to Lazarus. One of the non-canonical gospels even suggests he kissed her on the mouth.

In fact, Swidler goes on to suggest that two of the gospels had as their major source proto-gospels written by women. Mary, Jesus' mother, was probably the source for Luke, with its numerous references to women. The source for John, the book suggests, was written by Mary Magdalene, who was the beloved disciple.

The book "Jesus Was a Feminist" makes a convincing case for Jesus' feminism. According to Swidler, the church as we know it couldn't have come into being without women leaders at its beginning. A well-researched, illuminating book, it asks, is our feminism today as deep as his?

Creating Your Own Way To Happiness
Robert Bruce and Lee Ann Kirby
Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd. - 515, Parker, Colorado 80134
9781432703455, $13.95, 2007

Reviewed by Cherie Fisher for Reader Views (11/07)

The first question I asked myself when I started reading "Creating Your Own Way to Happiness: A new life perspective for those considering a relationship or marriage, are married, divorced or widowed" is what credentials the authors, Robert Bruce and Lee Ann Kirby have to write a self help book. Neither one has a degree in psychology or social work but with 147 years of combined life experience between the two of them they certainly have the insight to write a book like this. Together, they have a combined 95 years of marriage, 6 children, 11 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.

The book was very well-written, but I did not feel that it was well-suited for all age ranges. I do not think that many in the younger generations would relate well to the writing style and approach used in the book. That being said, I think this is an excellent book for the older, religious person who is considering starting over in a new marriage, or recently divorced or widowed. "Creating Your Own Way to Happiness" really helps you to consider your reasons for making changes in your life through questionnaires, real-life stories and life experience. These chapters are also full of biblical quotes to back up the rationale of the authors.

I found a lot of good commonsense advice throughout the book and a few of the items really resonated with me such as "Persistence is one of the most effective keys you can use to overcome these challenges, wrote President Calvin Coolidge. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; un-rewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." And my favorite insight by the authors is "The way to live successfully is not complicated, nor is it all that difficult. It is not beyond the reach of any one of us. You must get a thrill out of everyday living, and find romance in life itself."

How do you find happiness? If you or someone you know starts asking this question or is considering making major life changes then I would highly recommend reading "Creating Your Own Way to Happiness" before answering those questions.

The Dream Catcher Tour
Paula Buermele
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, Denver, Colorado 80134
9781432703530, $11.95, 2007

Reviewed by Lori Plach for Reader Views (11/07)

Buckle your seatbelts; you are in for an adventure you won't soon forget! Welcome aboard the Northern Experience Tours! You will be traveling with 46 other women on a trip around the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. You are certain to meet some of the most interesting people you have ever met and perhaps you will make some new friends along the way. Emily is our tour guide and she wants to spend some time with each individual tour group member and be certain that they have a good time.

Of course, when you have this many different people from so many different walks of life, you are sure of having many life stories. As the group travels from one location to another, another person is spending time with Emily and sharing their life stories. From one city to another, you are able to enjoy the sites and unique characteristics of each locale. Some of the tourists' attractions are as follows: Mackinac Island, the Soo Locks bordering Canada, Munising, Houghton and Crystal Falls.

Paula Buermele has done an excellent job in providing a great storyline and travel book all in one. Through the pages of the book, you will feel like you are right there on the bus and getting to know these people that you are traveling with. Through descriptive paragraphs you will feel like you are seeing these places with your own eyes. I certainly hope that Paula Buermele writes more books. I loved "The Dream Catcher Tour" and would definitely like to read more of her work.

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