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Legs in the Attic
Sandra L. Huska
In plain sight, God may be waiting for us. "Legs in the Attic" tells the story of Michelle Grabowski, an English professor facing a midlife crisis. But she may find her path in life, finding that God has not yet abandoned us and his mysterious ways are becoming all the more clear to her. Could God have something special in mind for Michelle's hometown of Somerset County, Pennsylvania? "Legs in the Attic" is a spiritual read for Christian fiction lovers, a choice pick.
The Ruby Tear Catcher
c/o Lissy Peace & Associates
To 1970s Iran, you are not your own woman, but instead a pawn of the men around you. "The Ruby Tear Catcher" is the story of an Iranian woman jailed for her father's political beliefs in the 1970s. Leila recalls a simpler time of her youth and how she falls into being punished for the sins of another. Drawing on the author's own experiences, "The Ruby Tear Catcher" is a fascinating read, very highly recommended.
Ralph L. McNeal
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781438905020, $19.99, www.authorhouse.com
When a friend betrays you, it's one thing. When your friend betrays your country, it's another thing entirely. "Sleeper Cell" is a novel following a scenario where a sleeper cell infiltrates America and his friendship with a former soldier brings new questions to the former soldier about his loyalty, dedication, and questions of his friendship. An international thriller, "Sleeper Cell" is a page turner that will prove hard to put down.
Paul Wesley La Canfora
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432760168, $18.95, www.outskirtspress.com
To hold the world's memories is a massive demand of the world. "Relic's Bane: Legend of the Memory Keeper" follows Memory Keeper Porey as he must do what he can to protect his world's memory from the rampage of Relic, a creature set on destroying the world and its memory. A fascinating fantasy that will pull readers in and keep them reading, "Relic's Bane" is worth checking out.
The Good Thief
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450232876, $17.95, www.iuniverse.com
Vengeance and justice are timeless concepts. "The Good Thief" tells the story of murder and corruption in the time of Christ. When a traveling Jew returns home to find his family killed by a Roman officer, he is driven by vengeance and finds the road to revenge is nothing like he thought it'd be. A riveting read with Biblical and historical ties, "The Good Thief" should prove very hard to put down.
Murder by Another Name
10940 S Parker Road, #515 Parker, CO 80134
9781432765620, $25.95, www.outskirtspress.com
In the pursuit of profit and the bottom line, murder is a small expense. "Murder by Another Name" tells the story of Dr. Dan MacNamara and Janet Stephenson, two individuals who can bare witness against a breast-implant manufacturer's foul play and dangerous product. Finding themselves targeted for death by the conglomerate, they must survive to deliver the truth to the jury, or else let death be exploited for profit. "Murder by Another Name" is quite the fun read, highly recommended.
In Small Measures
10940 S Parker Road, #515 Parker, CO 80134
9781432761899, $20.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Everything can be soured so quickly because of love. "In Small Measures" is a novel following Kristen Todd Harrison, a woman of privilege in the 1970s. Heir to her family's social fortune, she falls in love with a black soldier on leave from Vietnam. Their union and his death leaves her a social outcast, throwing her off her course of life. "In Small Measures" is a thoughtful read on race prejudice in the 1970s, highly recommended.
Memoirs of the New Age
1663 Libery Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450256575, $10.95, www.iuniverse.com
The struggle will never end because the struggle cannot be won. "Memoirs of a New Age" is a collection of short stories from Beth Green who discusses her own thoughtful take on the world through new age philosophy and using it to enhance her faith in God. With plenty to ponder, "Memoirs of a New Age" is a fine pick and very highly recommended for short fiction readers with a penchant for the new age.
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
Turkey serves as the link between Europe and the Middle East. "Post-Ottoman Turkey: Classical European Music & Opera" analyzes the history behind Turkey, its music, and its culture. Opera and classical influences from both regions are felt strongly by Turkey, and Arnold Reisman provides a thoughtful and enlightening analysis. With use of black and white historical photos throughout, "Post-Ottoman Turkey" is a fine pick for any Musical historian.
An Unconventional Life
c/o Smith Publicity
1930 Marlton Pike, Suite I-46, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
It's only recently in history that homosexuals have been tolerated to live, and coming to terms with it still takes some time to realize. "An Unconventional Life' Is a memoir from Jonathan Clift as he reflects on coming to terms with his homosexuality, realizing it as he becomes an adult and it shattered his dreams of what he believed was normal. With time in the British Royal Airforce, "An Unconventional Life" is a thoughtful memoir of homosexuality, manhood, and the military, highly recommended.
The Bottom Line Handbook
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432756918, $19.95, www.outskirtspress.com
When it comes to running a business, sometimes the bottom line is all that matters. "The Bottom Line Handbook" is a guide to working towards to the bottom line for one's business. Franklin Cooper runs over the many points of business and how each of these elements contribute to the ultimate bottom line with plenty of thoughts and opinions. From branding to leadership to communication, "The Bottom Line Handbook" is a solid resource for any business manager.
A Space Called Chastity
Ivy Julease Newman
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781450224154, $12.95, www.iuniverse.com
It's hard to balance to search for love and the lust for sex for many women. "A Space Called Chastity: A Message for Unmarried Women on God, Sex, and Relationships" is a discussion from Ivy Julease Newman who encourages women to evaluate why they delve into sex before marriage and where it stands with God. A thoughtful read for Christian women, "A Space Called Chastity" is spiritual and inspirational, recommended.
Gates of Eden
Richard Douglas Bouslough
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432760205, $17.95, www.outskirtspress.com
More than ever, humanity consumes more resources than the planet can handle. "Gates of Eden" is the first volume in the Gates of Eden trilogy, a Christian novel following NASA explorers into space as they face the unknown. Blending a bit of faith into their journey and asking questions of our nature and our consumption, "Gates of Eden" is an entertaining and very thoughtful read, recommended.
The Ulysses Quicksilver Omnibus
9781907519567, $12.99, www.abaddonbooks.com
The Ulysses Quicksilver series is a land of a unique world with many twists. "The Ulysses Quicksilver Omnibus" will prove an excellent way to break readers into this series, a steampunk world where Queen Victoria is nearing a two century reign, diving into the deep sea is a vacation, and where even the thieves are a bit off kilter. A riveting read of three novels that should definitely prove quite fascinating, "The Ulysses Quicksilver Omnibus" is a volume that will prove very hard to put down and very highly recommended.
A Chronicle of Endylmyr
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432750282, $27.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Power can prove very corrupting. "A Chronicle of Endylmyr: The Witches of Endylmyr" tells the tale of a trio of witches and a collection of powerful magical artifacts that are corrupting the Khan that controls their land and seeks to hold greater power over the land by controlling these relics. These three witches must travel and use their experience and expertise to fulfill a prophecy that may yet save their land. "A Chronicle of Endylmyr" is a thoughtful read that should offer plenty of excitement to fantasy readers.
9781453629475, $14.99, www.storiesthatstir.com
When pushing the limits of science, the law can loom overhead. "Waterfall Dance" tells the story of Emily Bennett, a primatologist who collides with the law when rescuing three experimental chimps from a laboratory. But the witnesses to this case may not be entirely members of the homo sapiens species. "Waterfall Dance" is quite the riveting read with plenty of original elements, highly recommended.
Odyssey of a DP
10940 S Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432758950, $18.95, www.outskirtspress.com
When one's home is shattered, you begin anew, and some make the best of it. "Odyssey of a DP: Memoirs of a Displaced Person" tells the story of Austrian immigrant Vladimir Drobashevsky and how he recovered from having his life split upon the Germans invading Austria in World War II and turned himself into a successful man in America. A moving tale of the American dream, "Odyssey of a DP" is a strong pick for any seeking immigrant stories.
c/o Charles River Press
Ancient creatures are strictly bound to their law, and it's hard to separate them. "Blood Destiny" is the story of the collision course of homeland security agent Jocelyn Levi and Nathaniel Silivasi. Although Levi expects a routine investigation, she is set to meet Nathaniel, and Nathaniel has more than his devilish charm at hand, but aeons of history and strict ancient traditions behind him. "Blood Destiny" is an exciting work of fantasy and thrill, a top-notch pick.
The Moment My Life Changed
Jill Schafer Godbersen
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781451567977, $16.00, www.booksurge.com
Perfection never lasts forever. "The Moment My Life Changed" is a novel following Anna Dawson as she faces her life falling a part. As it is in shambles, Dawson realizes that perfection was only in the eye of the beholder as she tries to find some place for herself once more. "The Moment my Life Changed" is an excellent pick of a woman facing a shift in her lifestyle and coping with those changes.
What may be the biggest secret ever kept may kill Kate Yves before she ever finds out what it is. "Christos" tells the story of Kate and how she becomes entangled in this Christos project, and finds herself unable to to escape this web that involves the CIA and the revelation of the century. With many metaphysical elements weaved in, "Christos" is a riveting read that should prove hard to shelve.
Depression shuts down your life. "Laughing Again: A Survivor's Guide to healing Depression" is a thoughtful memoir from Roxanne Renee about her own tough challenges with her life and how she came to grapple with her own depression about the light at the end of the tunnel in depression and trying to move forward. From her own experience, she hopes her tale will inspire others to go above and beyond their depression to laugh once more. "Laughing Again" is a choice pick and highly recommended.
Between Cups of Coffee
9781848765009, $13.95, www.troubadour.co.uk
A cup of coffee helps you think things over... be it the day ahead, or the entire life that lies ahead. "Between Cups of Coffee" tells the story of David, a man with conflict and who is not looking forward to his future. When a librarian enters his life, he may find more that's right with him than his bookshelves, and there may be something to look forward to if he were only to accept the change that comes. A thoughtful blend of thought and romance, "Between Cups of Coffee" is an excellent pick, and very highly recommended.
The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future (Multicultural Education)
Economic Policy Institute and Teachers College
Teacher College Press
1234 Amsterdam, Avenue York, New York 10027
Starring Geoffrey Canada and Eva Moskowitz
Great Curve Films
Run Time: 80 minutes
No address or ISBN, $22.95, or on demand viewing $3.95
Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right
Richard Rothstein and Tamara Wilder
Teachers College Press & Economic Policy Inst.
1234 Amsterdam, Avenue York, New York 10027
Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us
Harvard University Press
79 Garden Street Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education
327 Parkside Avenue South, New York, New York, 10016-8810
Dr. Diane Ravitch is world class-education historian and professor who served on the board of a double handful of prestigious educational foundations. She has had a rich and varied career with a dozen books and hundreds of articles to her credit. Throughout her multifaceted career she has worked as both an historian and a policy maker. She served as Assistant Secretary, in charge of the Office For Educational Research and Improvement, and consular to Secretary of Education under George Bush Sr. (Lamar Alexander) .
One of the more interesting things that she clarifies is the difference between a historian who tries to understand how and why things happen and a policy maker who tries to make things work even when they don't, because we are not fortune tellers, and the law of unintended consequences often kicks in. Further, who cannot like writer who explains a change of mind and heart by quoting economist John Maynard Keynes' quip "that's what I do when the facts change, what you do?"
A case in point might be the well intentioned but flawed No Child Left Behind policy. She points out that billions were spent for after school tutoring but kids just did not what to do it, perhaps because kids, being kids, do not like nor do they respond well to, being kept after school and being compelled to study subjects in which they are not doing, even if it is for their own good. It's like a story of a friend of mine who grew up in Saint Louis and his family lived next to a junior high English teacher and a work exchange program was set up by which he moved her lawn for free and he got tutored in English. Since both of them were a little bit unhappy with the deal it worked out pretty well. Luckily she wasn't a violin teacher.
This is an example of something that Daniel Koretz, author of Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Means (Harvard University Press, 2009, one of the authors from Diana Ravitch's reading list) would call a grandmother finding. That is to say something your grandmother could have told you without the Federal Government funding a multi-billion dollar private tutoring program. Your kids do not like being kept after school and forced to study. Did you? I will have more to say about Measuring Up next month along with a view of some highly successful, comparative, national school systems. Measuring Up is also a fascinating book particularly as it demonstrates both the potential and the limits of what may be measured by educational tests. For example, it is helpful to paraphrase a comment currently on loan to me from the Late Night British Broadcasting System. "If you can't test for what you want, you want what you can test for."
Diana Ravitch is a voice of reason at a time when our nation is allowing itself to be filled with the voices of fear and trembling, and despair. And a time when we are forgetting two and half centuries of American Exceptionalism, and seem willing to dismantle ongoing programs like tax deduction on mortgage interest, or local property tax deductions, for vague and unspecified reasons, and we fear inflation at a time when the economy is expanding like a leaking balloon.
She brings the voice reason to concerns generated by knee-jerk reactions to narrow focus testing results, as she ask the questions like: Should The United States really be developing and implementing national educational policies based on unique local results which have historically proven non-scalable, or ignoring non-school factors like homelessness, poverty or high proportions of special needs students, as ways to judge the value of a school system's life or death?
I would add, based on my own reflection (not Dr. Ravitch's) and research, that I have become quite critical of our present Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. I think he is under-qualified, as a sociologist, corporate sycophant, and former minor league basketball player, for current his job. In his career as CEO of the Chicago Public School System, he functioned as a kind of agent provocateur. His policies led to a rank file takeover revolt of the Illinois Teacher's Union, and an ongoing war about his school closing policy. Was he really the best choice as Secretary of Education? This is the first time I have ever criticized President Obama in print. But was Duncan really a better candidate than his transition team Educational Advisor, Professor Linda Darling-Hammond, who has a lifetime commitment to educational equity and the continued professionalization of education practitioners? She seems to me to be a much better choice than someone whose agenda seems to be a systematic de-professionalization and de-unionization of the teaching profession in order to produce a profession of corporate yes-men easily managed and disposed of from the top. I want to add that at our University of Wisconsin System campuses it is more difficult to get accepted in the schools of education than the schools of business.
I would hope that Diane Ravitch would perhaps be at bit amused to hear me referring to her as a bit of a postmodernist. What I mean by this is many of her concepts are not inconsistent with at least some of the more intelligible aspects of archetypal postmodernist and deconstructionist philosopher Jacques Derrida (as they were posted on You Tube) who looked askance at the generalizing of local studies. Many wish he would have stopped there and not rejected the Enlightenment in its entirety and the knowing subject along with it, but that's a discussion for another review.
Ravitch brings both the roles of historian and policy maker to her (quite readable and at the same time scholarly and authoritative) book The Death and Life of the Great American School System which frames this month's Kaveny's Bookshelf. Wherever you are on the educational and political spectrum and whatever or your educational philosophy the book is a must read. It is a must read for teachers who teach teachers, it is a must read for educators, and it is a must read for any parent who is concerned about the quality of their children's, grandchildren's, and in our case nieces' and nephews', grand-nieces' and grand nephews', education. I have not written about education in years, though I have worked in or continued my education within this subject area for my entire life. This book quite simply lit my mind up, and even caused me to recall my family's educational history, as it made me recall something my father paraphrased from The Autobiography of Henry Adams about a teacher's good effect being like a ripple unto eternity.
Ravitch documents a cautionary tale about the educational polices of the last several administrations, from Bill Clinton's inability to developed voluntary broad national curriculum standards in a number areas to George Bush's No Child Left Behind, and even more so President Obama's Race to The Top, which, because of its proximity to what Dr. Ravitch refers to in Chapter Ten as The Billionaires Boy's Club. She asserts that this 'club' views national educational policy as an investment opportunity and views success through the same sort of distorting multi-national lens in which all problems are amenable to free market solutions. Perhaps the world looked like that in 2007 before the financial meltdown, but should we really be turning over our publically funded educational system, developed and tax-supported over the last two-hundred and fifty years to the corporate geeks that brought us, among other financial disasters, the bleak Christmas of 2010. Or to individuals like Bill Gates who is now using his foundation as an agent of his own educational privatizing agenda at whatever the cost as part of what Austrian-born Harvard economist Joseph Schumpeter (1883 - 1950), called the "creative destruction of capitalism?"
I find it strange as someone who myself came from a U of Wisconsin-Madison radical school reform perspective, and taught in an experimental high school as well as something called the Free University supported to a modest extent by UW- Madison in the late 60's and 70's and then in the 1990's wanted to bring the temple down. I ridiculed William Bennet's A Nation at Risk: the Imperative for Educational Reform which now seems almost like a breath of fresh air. Yes, any Curriculum is better than no curriculum, and those of us who wanted to tear the temple down always kind of assumed we would be the ones to rebuild it.
We never expected it be the same crew that brought us credit default swaps, and the mortgage meltdown, and before that under Clinton in 1999 the repeal of Glass-Steagall banking Act which enabled so much of our current immiseration. I would trust this crew with the America's pubic Educational system about as much as I would trust the Peabody Coal Company to do mountaintop-removal gold mining at Rushmore then to put everything back so well that even Teddy's mustache was as straight as ever. There is a buzz out there to apply business and corporate principles to public education. Does that mean then we pay huge bonuses to those who have destroyed life-time property holdings, communities, and our very retirements, because that's how the market works, sort of like paying generals to lose battles, and agree with their superiors, which I guess they tried in the Third Reich?
This Kaveny Month's bookshelf grew out of my assignment in Dr Selkia Ducksworth- Lawton's African American History course here at U of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. It was originally intended to be a three-page response paper to the 2010 documentary-educational film The Lottery touting the achievements of a charter school in New York called The Harlem Success Academy. My project just keeps growing because the topic because the subject of quality public education is inexorably linked to our national survival and our democratic way of life, in terms of wasted human lives and potential, and I often reference my own family's continued path of generational mobility through the public and even parochial education system (in the case of my father's family this was the Roman Catholic educational system).
A month ago I would have had little good to say particularly about Catholic parochial education since I am an adherent to the Jeffersonian wall between church and state and there are large bodies of Roman Catholic doctrine with which I disagree. Yet, as I plugged my own Irish American family history into reading material and lectures presented in Dr. Ducksworth- Lawton's African American History, and material covered in The Death and Life of The Great American School System, I realized that there were at least a few striking parallels between Irish-Catholic and African-American access to quality educational experience through Catholic educational institutions, which in the case of my father Edward Kaveny 1898-1985, lifted him up from the status of the son of an Irish saloon keeper in Pawtucket Rhode Island to someone on the margins of power in his later life. His original trajectory, typified by a job he had as a ten year old, making ten cents an hour, working sixty hours a week, at his summer job as a Mill-hand, was fast-tracked by his access to the College of The Holy Cross, where he graduated in 1919. In fact, one did not get out of Lafayette High School Academy without being able to read The City of God or The Iliad in the original Latin and Greek. My father used to love to tell me stories about how a trembling nervous Jesuit Chemistry teaching brother shut off his Bunsen burner just as the Holy Cross lab was about to be enveloped in flames by my father's inattention to his experiment. Later my father became a Progressive Republican, when those two words were not a contradiction in terms, and went on to cover four national presidential conventions from 1924-1936 and later served as Executive of The Wisconsin Public Service Commission.
My wife's family is mostly Norwegian- and German-American and during the last 37 years I talked with my recently deceased (at age ninety-four) father-in-law who spent his lifetime in Northern Wisconsin, and grew up in areas that were not electrified until a few years before WWII. For those in rural Wisconsin, high schools, technically free and public, were inaccessible to rural families. There were no rural high schools and since there was no such thing school busing students whose family could not afford to board their kids in Eau Claire were simply out of luck. The year my-father-in-law was married (at age 24) in 1940 he was making the same hourly wage my father made as a mill hand in 1908. Incidentally my father-in-law had Army IQ test-scores in the 140's and taught enemy aircraft recognition to officers, though he had only an eighth grade education
He did quite well after the war with self study and correspondence 1courses, working as an industrial engineer, but his lack formal education was an obstacle and a career glass ceiling for him, but not for my wife and the rest of his children, four out of six earning bachelor's degrees, three holding Masters Degrees and one, my wife, holding a second MA and a Ph.D. That's a long way from ten cents an hour, seventy hours a week, as a service station attendant in Brill Wisconsin. Moving to the next generation with the nephew who founded a multi-million dollar medical information provider, not to mention some of the others, and considering all the taxes grudgingly collected, educating the Bogstad family was a pretty good investment. Some of my wife's loans came out an original Eisenhower Administration program called "The National Defense Education Act " which made her loans interest free until she completed her MLS then doctorate, in comparative literature with a minor in classical Chinese at U- Madison. She is now a full professor here at UW-Eau Claire and we pay enough in taxes so that the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich in fact benefits us. We would gladly have paid more had they been repealed, because we realize the value of our taxes that pay for social overhead capital like the great American School System that lifted our families out of potential generations-long economic immiseration. We fear it being turned over to the private sector for liquidation.
This is my third expansion and revision of this paper, which is now taking the form of a review / article, and it signifies an area in which I will hope to work as a lifetime learner. I hope it will be an opportunity to employ the interdisciplinary tools and skills and advanced degrees I have earned over a lifetime. Yet it's not only what I have learned that is important, but also what I need to learn, and what I am learning, that is that is equally important.
In this version, if nothing else, I hope I will at least indicate the direction in which I need to move. By doing this I am agreeing with and starting from Dr. Duckworth's-Lawton's axiom that history is evidence-based discourse. By my own extension, in a Democracy, on a policy level, history is an essential tool for any policy maker. If we are not informed by history, then we are doomed to repeat its errors at great human cost. History's junk yard is filled with failed Noble Experiment after Noble Experiment. Experiments where our intentions were as honorable as our policies were uninformed. For example, Winston Churchill's mistaken attempt to end the deadlock of World War One by the invasion of Ottoman Turkey at Gallipoli Churchill was alleged to have studied the geography of the area from a Turkish guide book that was decades out of date. One hundred thousand lives were lost for nothing.
This means that, even though on a rhetorical and critical basis, I could raise a number of concerns about The Lottery. I needed to address the truth claims made implicitly by its producer Madeleine Sackler, and explicitly by lawyer and educational reformer, and former New York City Council member, Eva Moskowitz. In other words, though I clearly did not either like them or what they advocated, I still had to show evidence against Eva Markowitz's case for the disestablishment of parts the "failed" New York City Public School System" and its replacement by non-union charter schools modeled after her own three-year-old 1st through 3rd grade Harlem Success Academy. Further it was necessary to show this was not simply small local agenda.
Moskowitz and her shareholders had created a tax exempt educational enterprise, to which cooperate giants could contribute millions. This was a model she had used to successfully fundraise millions on a corporate level; with the eventuality of creating a national market, through legislative influence, on the state and national level. After a long weekend reading (with a couple of weekdays and nights tacked on engaged in the process of) and interpreting professional education journal articles on the types of tests (narrow focus, skill specific that limited the subject matter to math and reading) the picture was not clear.
Respected educators not only questioned the findings of the narrow-focus high-stakes test Moskowitz used to support her contention that public education had failed low income minorities. It is clear that teachers and their unions were not the main cause of all the problems of education, and the only solution was not privatization on a market based business model, that is to say her own solution.
In the process of rewriting and researching this paper I have found evidence which leads me to believe that The Lottery and the other two films like it (according to Diane Ravitch The Cartel and Waiting for Superman) are signifiers of a new educational policy paradigm which could lead to the death of the American public and parochial school systems as generations of us have come to know it. That is to say a system which, at least in some cases (but clearly not all), against great odds is making a good faith attempt to meet the educational needs of 21st Century America and remain democratically responsible to children, parents, grandparents and great aunts and uncles of this it serves.
Dr. Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education for George. Bush S in her article "The Myth of Charter Schools" (The New York Review of Books, November 11, contends these films are signifiers of something about which we should all be quite concerned. That is to say we should fear the imposition of a national or even international corporate free market of American education and the de-professionalization of American public education. She argues these policies are an outgrowth the failed No Child Left Behind policy and, by extension, the Race To The Top policies through the use of limited scope high states tests, tests with punitive consequences. These are some excerpts her review /article.
"Ordinarily, documentaries about education attract little attention, and seldom, if ever, reach neighborhood movie theaters. Davis Guggenheim's Waiting for Superman is different. It arrived in late September with the biggest publicity splash I have ever seen for a documentary. Not only was it the subject of major stories in Time and New Yorker, but it was featured twice on The Oprah Winfrey Show and was the centerpiece of several days of programming by NBC, including an interview with President Obama…."
I so was impressed with Diane Ravitch because she was an architect that I emailed her with a bunch of questions and suggestions for further reading, she has responded twice and the last message was a list of four books which she recommended last Wednesday (Dec. 15, 2010). I am about halfway through reading it.
More of her review: "Two other films expounding the same arguments - The Lottery and The Cartel - were released in the late spring, but they received far less attention than Guggenheim's film. His reputation as the director of the Academy Award - winning An Inconvenient Truth, about global warming, contributed to the anticipation surrounding Waiting for "Superman," but the media frenzy suggested something more. Guggenheim presents the popularized version of an account of American public education that is promoted by some of the nation's most powerful figures and institutions."
Earlier I spent a great deal of time finding conflicting evidence about the truth claims of the proponents of The Lottery as far as their alleged exemplary test scores as an indication of their excellent performance and consequently, failure of the public schools. The evidence is not one way or the other is clear as represented by nationwide studies like Stanford University's
"Credo Report on Charter School Performance."
But that may not even be the question. The question may well be how can other variables like, poverty, health, family, and physical safety, as well as outside fund-raising, be ignored when comparing public and charter schools. These are important factors not considered in the films' representations.
Jeannette Catsoulis says it all in her June 11, 2010 New York Times "Movies Review" when she notes that "With a little tweaking, the film The Lottery would fit nicely into the marketing materials for the Harlem Success Academy." The 2010 Video, produced by twenty- seven-year old Madeleine Shackler, is an emotionally charged record of the process by which four Harlem, New York, African-American, incoming pre-schoolers and their families compete for space as kindergarteners in the Harlem Success Academy charter school.
The four students are among the several hundred competitors who vie for a one-in-seven chance at a seat in the Harlem Success Academies. All the eligible pre-schoolers are supported by thousands of their friends and family members, all present as the lottery is taking place. Madeleine Sackler documents the events which take place in a cavernous armory. Everyone knows only one in seven of the African American preschool competitors will be selected for place in the charter school system founded by Lawyer, Eva Moskowitz, a former New York City councilwoman, who offers her three Harlem charter schools as an alternatives to what she claims is New York's "failed" inner city public school system. The tension, the back story, the dramatic setting all implicitly argue for the excellence of Eva Markowitz's educational product and it's perceived value among those who are its present and aspiring consumers. Her implicit slogan then is that Harlem parents show they care by enrolling their children in the Harlem Success Academy.
Madeleine Sackler reacted to Jeannette Catsoulis' New York Times review of her film in the June 28th edition of C-Span Q&A by arguing that she was in fact simply telling an emotionally charged story of four African American families. She was only interested in telling the story of the four families, and not the political and emotional issues that others seemed to ascribe to the lottery. She indicated that she was unaware of any issues when she started the documentary film-making process, as she gave the impression of an extremely committed and yet vulnerable young woman who was hurt deeply by those who misconstrued her work. Madeleine Sackler has an excellent on-camera presence which helps her to convey the vulnerable intensity of a young white woman who is doing all the right things for all the right reasons. She even resides only thirty minutes from Harlem in upper Manhattan. As the director she seems hurt and perplexed that anyone be could read her work as polemic, against either the public school system or New York City Teacher's Union, or perhaps a means of putting pressure on the New York State Legislature to lift the cap on the number of New York City charter schools, even though it is mentioned a dozen times in The Lottery. One example represented through repeated interviews with Eva Moskowitz is the problem that there is only one position for every seven applicants, which is portrayed as tragic
Madeleine Shackler asserts she is just telling the story of an education reformer and white Democrat, Dr. Eva Markowitz, whose agenda is to supply an excellent educational alternative in order to prove Harlem parents care about their children. These Harlem parents do this by placing their children in a (random, rather than, merit) competition for the one in seven seats available. The Lottery documents the public performance complete with promotion and back story of the evolution of Dr. Eva Markowitz's Harlem Success Academy brand of educational product, as she seeks to compete for space and customers as certainly as the different brands on the shelves of Wal-Mart. Or, as she is she trying for even deeper penetration into the Harlem school system by forcing public schools out so that their physical spaces can be replaced by Harlem Success Academy, as even as she perhaps plans to take her brand national.
The Lottery's Place in History This documentary is relevant to the way we are studying African American history because it really stands in opposition to what we are doing. We are studying African American history in terms of the most recent evidence; scholarship which overturns many earlier assumptions about African Americans, like the benevolence of slavery, or the passivity of the slaves themselves, or the idea that slavery was a dying institution at the time of the outbreak of the Civil War. This is the same scholarship that teachers us that the only tragedy of Reconstruction was that it failed, and calls attention to the origins and historical functions of the various stereotypes we studied in the film "Ethnic Notions."
Madeleine Shackler's Lottery ignores the historical and only deals with the present. It makes no attempt to address the historical sociological and demographic, nutritional, and even cultural experience which leads to differential success rates for inner city students from their suburban peers. Eva Markowitz professes repeatedly "this is not a kid's problem; this is a grownup's problem."
Yet in some ways The Lottery promotes nothing less than the pernicious lies which blame Harlem's parents for the condition of its public schools. If we do a closer reading of Madeleine Shackler and the Harlem Success Academy founder Eva Moskowitz, a new image starts to form. Shackler becomes a kind of pied-piper making a highly crafted, slickly produced, plea for the souls of Harlem's children. What she is asking for is that she be given the children and she can transform their lives so that twelve years later everyone one of them will get into college, perhaps the claim someone might make in a fairytale
Analysis It is hard to get our heads around the problem of low quality public schools unless we remember that race sits on top of class and low-quality education which seems to be a geographical problem with class implications with a very complex series of causes. Yet The Lottery casts this complex system in a struggle between the high powered teachers and bureaucrats and crusading Dr. Eva Moskowitz who has proven by her success with the Harlem Academy that parents do care about their children.
Yet critical sources question her using tax money, public buildings and a highly effective corporate and non-profit tax status to raise massive donations, and pay herself a third- of-a-million-dollar salary each year to advance her New York mayoral ambitions. In a way her Harlem Success Academy really represents colonization of the existing neighborhood public schools as she seeks to seize their physical plants for what she characterizes as higher purposes.
I would like to suggest an alternative reading of the Madeleine Shackler film by suggesting that it serves Eva Markowitz's agenda which is to suggest that the family of any child who is eligible by postal code to attend one of the Harlem Success Academies shows they care about their child by competing. Does that then mean that each child loser is a double loser because the Harlem public school system is a system that makes losers, as Eva Moskowitz says every time she camera?
It appears to me that producer Madeleine Shackler has created a multipurpose marketing tool which can increase demand for Eva Moskowitz's brand of educational of product, among potential customers who include students their families, donors, potential investors, all of whom can then place pressure on the State Capital at Albany5, to raise the cap on the number of charter, schools. And this strategy will allow the further colonization of public school space, competition for public funding as well as reducing the role of the Teacher's Union. And finally this sort of misleading production prepares Harlem Success Academies to grab a share of the national market so that more and more pressure is created to starve the inner city public school system. In other words, in the film's terms, anybody who does not win the lottery is a loser. It's not so. Madeleine Shackler's film The Lottery is not a documentary, it's an infomercial.
Sir Dominic Flandry The Last Knight of Terra
"Earthman, Go Home". Although the natives prefer he leave, Captain Sir Dominic Flandry of the Intelligence Corps, Imperial Terrestrial Navy visits the lost world Unan Besar. His mission is to bring the planet back into the Terran Empire before the Merseians use it as a military base.
"Hunters of the Sky Cave". Flandry helps a woman escape from a Merseian supported insurgency while setting up a counterinsurgency, but ponders that "We Claim These Stars" even while the Terran Empire will go the way of previous superpowers during the Long Night
"The Warriors from Nowhere". Flandry battles his Merseian adversary Aycharaych, who has the advantage of telepathy.
"A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows". The Terran Empire is rapidly decaying as fortyish Flandry knows due partly from high level corruption. When Molitor seizes control, Flandry supports him as he believes a strong military leader is the only hope to prevent the Empire from imploding immediately. He also recently learns he has a son after a tryst with Persis the dancer and begins one with aristocratic slave Kossara from Dennitza. However, he will soon find out that his greatest success leaves him empty with nothing more than pride for accomplishing his job, no challenges left that matters, and a despondent look back at what he achieved and what he failed at.
The four reprints are entertaining tales of outer space daring do. The first three star the carefree James Bond in space swashbuckling hero, which feel somewhat repetitive although Hunters of the Sky Cave hint at a darker outlook. The last contribution is superb as a middle age Flandry muses that all he did over the last couple of decades was place his thumb in the dyke while the slow flood of rot and decay spreads; he concludes he slowed down the death of the empire as all nations turn to stardust.
Tycoon Tyler Vernon converted the large asteroid Troy into a tremendous battle station that along with the Solar Array Pumped Laser humans was used to drive away the invading octopi-like Horvath (see Live Free or Die) from the Sol System. However, an even more dangerous threat has entered the solar system as the reptilian Rangora Empire invades with plans to occupy Earth after it has destroyed the only human ally in a deadly serpentine blitzkrieg.
Vernon realizes quickly that the Troy battle station will be overwhelmed by this brutal enemy like the Nazis did the Maginot Line; if it falls Vernon knows no Homer will write the epic of the Citadel that saved earthlings. He proposes an offensive assault rather than a defensive line. His plan is to take the war to the heart of the Empire forcing the Rangora to divert troops to homeland defense. The Spiral Arm Wars are just beginning to heat up with the First Battle of E Eridani.
The Troy Rising second outer space tale (see Live Free or Die) is an exciting military science fiction thriller, which starts very slow action wise yet insightful as the reader meets numerous cast members (mostly humans) who provide their viewpoint to the upcoming hostilities. Once the combat ignites, the plot soars into hyperspeed as John Ringo once again salutes American ingenuity and creative capitalists (must have been in the Asteroid Belt during the economic meltdown) climaxed with a great outer space battle.
Esther Freisner, editor
This omnibus collection contains the frisky frolicking first three Chicks Amazonian anthology adventures. With a parry, lunge and tongue in cheek (that is the female warrior not turning the other cheek like in "The Old Grind" (Laura Frankos) but in the other's cheek. Heroines are not afraid to fight in the MUD as George Alec Effinger affirms.
Chicks in Chainmail. These are the original twenty tales. Elizabeth Moon (she also contributes shorts to the other two collections) sets the tone with "And Ladies of the Club" as the king plans to tax bras while Janni Lee Simner answers with "Bra Melting". Holly Lisle's "Armor-Ella" stars six foot El and not so Prince Charming. Finally there is super mom at "Career Day" by Margaret Ball and a female guard protecting a brothel in "The Guardswoman" by Lawrence Watt-Evans (he also contributes short stories to the other two collections).
Did you say chicks?! The second Chicks warrior anthology contains nineteen entries including a Starhawk tale by Barbara Hambly. Harry Turtledove's contribution shows the importance of gender teamwork and a "valiant vanquished" in "The Attack of the Avenging Virgins" by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (she also contributes a short story in the first book) as women (virgins and veterans) kick all types of butt.
Chicks 'n chained Males. These sixteen contributions star women in shining armor (often less attire) who come to the aid of lads in distress. Susan Casper's "Why Do You Think They call It Middle Earth" stars a fighting female taking on dragons and other ilk to save hapless men as does "Leg Irons, The Bitch and the Wardrobe" by Ms. Frankos.
Readers of both genders will appreciate this compilation, but I suggest reading the Chicks Ahoy saga over several months as the theme is singular skewering satires summed up by "A Bitch in Time" (Doranna Durgin).
The Grim Reaper: End of Days
At the top secret bio warfare lab at Fort Detrick, microbiologist Mary Klipot develops a more powerful derivative of the Black Plague. She hears a voice in her head who she believes is God. Following the commandments of her God, Mary deploys her creation Scythe on the modern day Sodom and Gomorrah, Manhattan to launch the End of Days. At the same time Mary launches her death elixir. World leaders including the American president meet at the United Nations. Her attack is devastating forcing the Federal government to quarantine Manhattan, incarcerating over three million people on the doomed island including those at the U.N. demanding release under diplomatic immunity.
When 9/11 occurred, Patrick "Shep" Shepherd quit Major league baseball to join the military. He deployed four times over the subsequent years, but now just over eleven years since the Towers were destroyed and thousands died, he has no family, no left arm, and allegorically no life as he suffers from PTSD at a Manhattan VA hospital. He not only learns of mad Mary's mass murderous scheme, he plans to obtain the vaccine to inoculate his estranged wife and daughter. Shep and his therapist Virgil Shechinah march through plague ravaged "Nine Circles of Hell" of what was just yesterday Manhattan.
Combining the Kabbalah and 9/11 conspiratorial beliefs with a strange love of bio chemical weaponry inside a modern day version of Dante's Divine Comedy, Steve Alten writes an intriguing convoluted twisting thriller. Shep and Virgil are heroic on a mission of goodness to travel through a Manhattan turned into the inferno as they learn that to reach Heaven they must confront sin. Although some of the "cantos" are difficult to comprehend as the Kabbalah and 9/11 paranoia remain mystical, fans will enjoy Mr. Alten's twenty-first century take on the fourteenth century classic.
Montooth and the Canfield Witch
Montooth Press (Cloverleaf Publishing)
In 1950 near the Everglades in Winter Free, Florida, tomboy Catherine "Carty" Andersson, Blake Holmes and Hale Wending form the Crew group of friends. Soon afterward, Maximilian "Mack" Stein joins the Crew. All four are fourteen years old with Carty being the only female.
Their parents warn the kids to stay away from Morose Swamp where the infamous witch Sally Canfield resides. She is as the last of her line dating back to the Salem Witch hunts. However, being young teens, cautionary tales from parents are to be ignored. So they enter the swamp to just peek at the witch. The Crew is stunned with what they see as the hag is younger than their parents and harassed by deadly treasure seekers who believe the crone conceals a fortune. Led by brilliant strategist former marine Cruz "Cuban" Cruz, they deploy as a unit on a destroy and search mission. The counter force is the Crew and Montooth the duck protecting alligator.
Montooth and the Canfield Witch is an entertaining historical fable starring a fully developed cast (including the swamp) who brings alive the early days of the Cold War near the Everglades. Carty keeps the tale focused whether she is with her BFFs Crew, beating the snot out of odious schoolmate Haywood Dolder or protecting the crone in the swamp. Young adult readers will relish the battle between good and evil as, oh my, the witch, the thug, and the alligator make for a terrific 1950 teen adventure.
She Felt No Pain
Rendezvous Crime (Napoleon & Company)
In the summer near Fossil Bay on Vancouver Island, the corpse of a homeless person is found. Although family lives here as this was once her home, RCMP Corporal Holly Martin is relatively new to the small police detachment. Holly leads the inquiry into the death. She and Constable Chipper Knox Singh find drug paraphernalia near the body; later the autopsy confirms a drug overdose of heroin and a synthetic opiate.
The deceased possesses a warn wallet with an aging photograph and sever hundreds of dollars; strange articles for a seemingly homeless person. The two cops interview other drifters who insist he came to the vacation oasis to see his former girlfriend. They learn he is former convict Joel Clavir, whose sister recently won the lottery. As Holly begins to put together the puzzle of Joel, she believes someone sought something of value from the victim, which the cop finds near where they found the body is. As she struggles to solve what she now thinks is a homicide, her father is hurt while her fiftyish Aunt Madeline encourages her to investigate her mom's disappearance years ago.
The latest Martin RCMP Canadian police procedural (see And on the Surface Die, for her first case) is an engaging whodunit that contrasts murder with the beauty of Vancouver Island. That comparisons of nature's stark beauty to humanity's avaricious homicidal tendencies makes for a strong whodunit as Holly investigates the murder and her own heritage with every step she takes enhanced by the setting she traverses.
It was supposed to end quickly with the victor obvious, but Armageddon turned into a draw as the legions of Hell led by ruler Beelzebub and the armies of Heaven led by Archangel Michael fight for every inch of land; a sort of WWI trench warfare. Humans have become constant collateral damage with the population now at about one million and dwindling. The earth is in ruins although the battles continue. Into that horrific stalemate Laila arrives.
A hybrid, Laila is half demon and half angel. Her father Lucifer was killed by Beelzebub when he refused to allow his aid to marry his daughter. Laila is unable to survive in either Heaven or hell as Angel and Hel burn her. She teams up with Michael seeking a place where she can live. Her half-sister Bat-el, daughter of Gabriel, is a legion captain until Beelzebub captures her. She falls in live with the devil. Ironically he falls in love with the angel. Laila plans to invade Hell and cleanse if of hellfire even if it means combat with the devil and his new wife. Twenty-seven years of unrelenting combat, but the end of days seem near cur but who will win is in doubt.
Flaming Dove takes an intriguing spin on the more typical interpretations of Revelations as Daniel Arenson implies the New Testament is a form of propaganda written by one side to make them victorious. Additionally there is little to choses between the two combatant sides as each goes all out at any cost for victory. Michael is the action leader representing Heaven while Beelzebub is sort of his evil counterpart who contains some goodness. Laila is the wild card as she is a mix of the two enemies. Though God never intervenes (for that matter surfaces much), this remains a fascinating creative endless days' thriller.
FBI Agent Lauren Westlake traveled to the small northern Minnesota town of Locke on a working woman's vacation. A recent death occurred nearby that defies logic as the mutilated body had the skin ripped off. The insane beast that committed the murder takes the skin back to a shack in the frozen woods and sews it onto his epidermis.
The Fed is not the only stranger in ton. Lauren meets Dominic at a bar and for the first time in what she thinks is forever she is attracted to someone. However, the case remains her top priority as more deaths have townsfolk up in arms. She meets Maude, a woman in a cottage in the woods, who gives Lauren a magical brew. The elixir opens her eyes into the past and she learns she deals with two males: a madman who wants to be a werewolf and a werewolf who wants to be a man. She must identify both to determine who the werewolf is and whether the "beast" is the psychopathic serial killer.
Dan O'Brien has written a chilling thriller that takes a unique spin on the werewolf legend. Lauren is a strong person who is also a resolute good law enforcement official. She may be a stranger, but she makes a difference in Locke because without her the situation would be much worse because no one can accept the evidence as it is outside of their logic's comfort zone. Armchair readers will brave the frozen Northern Minnesota woods to learn who the title character of aptly named Bitten is.
9781452886893 $13.00 www.campfae.org
The faire parents send their kids for the summer to Camp Fae. Though part of the reason the offspring are exiled to camp is parental R&R, but this particular camp is for the Fae to learn to use their magic.
However, this year a mistake occurs and a non-fae Alley Willowwood is sent to the camp. She is a non-believer in magic as is most of her ignorant species. However, she becomes a quick believer when she has a need to fly post haste to escape a harrowing scenario; thank goodness she won a kite. Her counselor informs Alley that she must be fairy or would never have found Camp Fae. Unlike many who learn they are a Triskaidekaphile, but fail to cope when the Triskaidek moment occurs; she begins to learn all she can on her personal Triskaidek thirteenth day of the thirteenth month of her thirteenth year, her human upbringing makes her unique and the only who may be able to save the endangered species the Blimeys while concealing the paranormal world from the nearby human camp where her friends attend and from her single mom, her new world.
Targeting middle school children and warning away triskaidekaphobics, Basil Sprig provides an engaging urban fantasy as his two worlds nicely merge with Alley as the vortex. She is a terrific heroine who uses instinct not always successfully to learn if the huggable boy really likes her and to rescue the Blimeys. With a tweener nod to the Greatest American hero, Alley is the greatest Triskaidekaphile heroine.
What So Proudly We Hailed
While driving home with his son Brian, Jason Ribault sees the bright alien light in the distant sky and does not need to observe what follows to know the United States is under nuclear attack. The radio confirms what he thought happened.
Understanding what this means to America, Jason gathers up his family and sails on their boat to a deserted South Carolina barrier island. Cell phones fail so he turns to a short wave radio in which he learns the North Koreans launched the bombs and China invaded the rogue nation. With the electric grid failing, the USA grinds to a halt as the lawless takes over the streets. In the Arab world, a Messianic figure surfaces creating a regional Caliphate, which sends in the name of Allah people to turn America into a Muslim nation. Australia opens up its borders to Americans who can reach it. Jason and others wonder if they should flee from the Muslim influence, the riots and the worsening unbearable conditions.
With recent headlines about North Korea and the wealth of the Middle East elite who temporarily would lose a major customer, this tale, which seemed implausible a few months ago, suddenly appears frighteningly possible. Fast-paced and filled with action as the Ribault family are forced to hide in the salt marshes where they find other scared occupants, readers will enjoy this chilling thriller in which taking out the grid means take out America.
The Water Wars
The Water Wars devastated the United States which split into six nations in conflict with each other and Canada. The eco disaster is so great that Niagara Falls on both sides of the former boundary is bone dry. Children have become commodities to sell on the market as liquid finding slaves.
In Illinowa, the government Water Board Authority, the most powerful agency, distributes desalinated water to citizens. The chemical cleansed liquid leads to disease as the mother of young Vera and Will seems to be dying from the toxin. The kids meet Kai who seems to have an endless supply of fresh water. He explains he gets his water from his dad who knows the location of an underground river. When someone kidnaps Kai and his father, Vera and Will search for their new friend.
Cameron Stracher provides a strong cautionary tale based on the premise that in the near future the liquid wars will focus on water and not oil. The author's harsh environment in which the polar caps are gone is so vivid, readers will feel constantly thirsty. Violence is prolific as fights on grand and small scales are the norm; think in terms of the range wars of the late nineteenth century, but on a global scale. Although none of the three teens are fully developed as the Stracher world overwhelms the cast, young adult readers will appreciate this engaging thriller.
Falling in Love with English Boys
They are the same age and gender with similar problems though they live two centuries apart. Each struggles with fathers who do not exist except in name only as they are very busy and moms with no understanding of their teen desires.
Though there are differences, the similarities between them continue when both are in London as stated in "Cat's Cat-astrophic Cat-aclysmic Cat-atonic blog. Cat and Katherine soon find love. Cat relishes the chocolate and the dudes with charming accents, but especially Will who she thinks is Mister Right but acts like Prince Wrong; while Katherine falls in love with Baker though she thinks a lot more of Everard.
Targeting middle school children, Falling in Love with English Boys is clever fascinating tale that enables readers to compare lifestyles of a modern era female teen with a Regency era teen through Cat's observations based on Katherine's dairy. Both lead females are fully developed characters while the males in their lives are less rounded as their mission is to enhance reader understanding of the two felines. Fans will enjoy Melissa Jensen entertaining tale of two girls who prove London Swings now and then.
NYPD forensic psychiatrist Lee Campbell receives a call at home from former patient Ana Watkins. Reluctantly he lets her in his apartment. She tells him someone is following her; he has doubts that this is true, but tells her to call the police.
Meanwhile NYPD asks Lee to help on a case. Two apparent suicides died within a week of each other; one was electrocuted in the tub while the other was found floating down the East River. Each has GBH in their blood and a suicide note written by the killer surfaces. A third victim with GBH in her system surfaces; a suicide note is found in her home, but written by someone else. That last deceased is Ana found in Spuyten Duyvil. Although the police work the cat and mouse game with the serial killer, Lee is most determined to catch this psychopath as he ignored Ana's fears.
This vivid chilling serial killer thriller will have readers jumping at every sound because the plot seems plausible. The hero has issues mostly with an inability to move passed the disappearance of his sister though he intellectualizes that he must do so. Instead he buries himself in his police work and somewhat with his girlfriend, but she has issues to from her work as a body parts identifier of those who died at 9/11 Ground Zero. Her decision for a time-out in their relationship sends Lee into an even deeper depression; his answer is a defense mechanism of drilling deeper into his police work. Although serial killer thrillers glut the market including Lee's previous case Silent Screams, C.E. Lawrence's flawed champion makes for a strong tale as readers will paraphrase Abraham Lincoln: A shrink who heals himself has a fool for a patient.
Apocalypse of the Dead
After the hurricanes destroyed much of Houston including the refineries, chemicals were released into the atmosphere, on the ground and in the water. A virus developed in the toxic soup. Those who caught it became zombie like creatures who feasted on uninfected human flesh. A barrier was created to keep in the infected and the uninfected who unfortunately were trapped with the monsters. The authorities have standing orders to kill anyone trying to breach the barrier.
A daring group of uninfected survivors slip through the quarantine zone and head for Florida. However, one of them actually carries the virus, but has not shown the disease. By the time they reach The Sunshine State, they are all infected. They spread the disease rather quickly so that the authorities cannot contain the horrid pandemic that crosses the country. In North Dakota, Preacher Jasper forms a community that must conform to his rigid code based on his strict beliefs or face the consequences of zombie fever; some bow but some like retired US Marshal Ed Moore choose to fight.
Apocalypse of the Dead is a taut roller coaster thriller with plenty chills, spills, and terror. The authorities were so over confident in their conviction that the monsters could not escape they developed no contingency plans; their cockiness led to the pandemic and left it up to pockets of people to find ways to survive as the Preacher and the marshal did in diverse ways as the zombies are on the top of the food chain on the verge of dominance. Fans of zombie mania will appreciate Joe McKinney's apocalypse now.
Secrets of the Demon
Although she has doubts about wasting her time watching over lead singer Lida Moran and her band Ether Madhouse, Beaulac, Louisiana Police Detective Kara Gillian a demon summoner does so anyway. When a golem tries to snatch Lida, Kara and FBI agent Ryan Kristoff prevent the abduction but also know a supernatural essence threatens the singer.
Kara realizes how wrong her original assertion was when band members are murdered. Kara and Ryan team up to keep Lida safe and learn why someone is killing the band of Ether Madhouse and tried to kidnap the singer. Meanwhile Kara struggles with her summoning relationship with Demonic Lord Rhyzkahl and her attraction to Ryan while she soon concludes her whine seems minor to what she has just learned.
This is an excellent police procedural urban fantasy that like its two previous arcane forensic investigations (see Mark of the Demon and Blood of the Demon) stars a terrific lead protagonist who holds together the merging of science and magic in a whodunit. Kara is fabulous as the focus of the case and of relationships with the Fed and with the demon as the Bayou heats up with another magical mystery tour that will take readers away from the mundane to the enjoyable world of Diana Rowland.
The Athena Project
Over twenty Americans along with numerous other nationalities were killed in a terrorist attack in Rome, Italy. Homeland Security makes it a priority to bring the people behind the deadly assault to justice anyway necessary. Delta Force assigns four top female agents (Gretchen Casey, Julie Ericsson, Megan Rhodes, and Alex Cooper) to capture the black market arms dealer Nino Bianchi who supplied the terrorists.
However, the quartet succeeds at their mission only to learn of a deadlier plot. At the same time of the abduction, a soldier in South America finds the horrific sight of human bones embedded in rocks in underground tunnels in the jungle. He is unaware that these are the remains of failed experiments to transport in time and place Nazi concentration camp victims as part of the top secret Nazi technological advancement approved by Hans Kammler during WWII. The Delta Force operatives follow the lead to Castle Zbiroh in the Czech Republic where radio waves are suppressed. However, clues take the operatives back to the United States where they learn of the American post WWII Operation Paperclip and increasingly fear The Kammler Device teleportation technology. They are stonewalled by their own government, which seems to want the Delta Force operatives from uncovering the truth below Denver International Airport and at Camp Hero in Long Island.
Updating the Philadelphia Experiment with real people, places and events, Brad Thor provides a fast-paced exhilarating thriller that never takes a breath once the two subplots converge (a few chapters into the high speed tale). Connecting dots that go back through the Communists to the Nazis, the four women try to prevent a disaster while an adversary follows similar clues but prefers collateral damage. Action-packed, the first full thriller of the Athena Project quartet is an entertaining winner.
In a bid for a second term, President Charles Anderson must end the latest American Middle East war in Astrakhan. Like Iraq and Afghanistan, this endless conflict has cost lives and treasure, but mostly a tired American people. To insure victory at the ballot box, he must win in the Middle East where Muslims loath the invaders. His Medici Group advisors insist we avoid another humiliating retreat by deploying the Tranquility Initiative, which uses internationally banned anthrax as a weapon of mass destruction.
Terrorists steal two containers that they believe hold explosives from Trabzon Base in Turkey. They smuggle the boxes into New York City, but in Times Square they are surprised by what they find when they open the tightly sealed container; strips of aluminum foil with nothing else inside falls to the ground. The terrorists unwittingly introduce Anthrax that quickly spreads around the world from the most internationally tied city. CDC anthrax expert Doctor Cassandra Williams and New York Senator Richland Powell try to prevent the unleashing of the second box as the terrorists now know what the aluminum contains.
One would hope this could not happen, but with Iran-Contra allies like Hussein and the Taliban in the 1980s, the unsolved anthrax mailing, etc. Joan Meijer provides a powerful plausible cautionary thriller. The lead pair represents the turbines driving the tale as the Tranquility Initiative combines elements from the medical thriller with that of a political tale. Fans will be hooked from the moment the box is stolen as Ms. Meijer's premises are the reelection of the president supersedes national interests at any cost and that the consequences of decisions today will surface in a decade or two in the future.
Tales From the Yoga Studio
Lee owns the Edendale Yoga Studio in the Silver lake section of Los Angeles; she also works as an instructor. She likes giving back to her students by helping them achieve their desires though she gave up on one of hers when Alan the artist left her and now has doubts about what to do as a chain wants her studio and is offering her quite an incentive package. Without prying, Lee looks deep into the souls of her long time pupils as their lives converge at her studio.
Lee encourages Stephanie already an overachiever to seek solace in her accomplishments. She believes Graciela the artist is a talent especially when the woman does not fear baring her soul to others. The Yoga guru knows Imani the actress conceals secrets that Lee hopes do not cripple her with shame. Finally there is her BFF loyal Katherine. She will be there for each them especially when they confront the agony of defeat
Tales from the Yoga Studio is an enjoyable contemporary that provides deep insight into yoga and running a studio with friendship. Each of the five women will learn truths about themselves and the others. Character driven, fans will appreciate this warm tale as Rain Mitchell brings more than just yoga and friendship to the wonderful story line; the author will persuade readers yoga is an art form that touches the hearts of those who participate; so get up and join.
Northwestern University forensic anthropologist Blue Eriksen is known for causing controversy amongst her peers. Her latest assertion comes from her project on the use of hallucinogens in ancient religions. Her study of mummies has led her to conclude that the ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms psilocybin will cure drug addiction; which causes controversy beyond just her peers.
The international Leeuwarden Associates illegal drug consortium wants no interference with their multi trillion dollar industry so they hire assassin Felix Hacker to kill her. Although a top killer, he has trouble completing his mission even as he is part of her team at a field dig. His failure is because Federal agent Marcus Holton and art recovery expert Joseph Stryker have reasons to bring Hacker to justice.
Blue is a fabulous protagonist though some in the anthropology world would label her antagonist. Her family life as a mom and a romance enhances the thriller while the excavations will have armchair readers feel they on site in digs in Turkey and Peru. Although the final confrontation seems wrong as a professional killer acts out of character with death by a thousand words, fans will enjoy the escapades of Blue Eriksen.
Disciple of the Dog
Newark, New Jersey private investigator Disciple Manning has the uncanny ability to remember everything he hears or sees exactly like an instant replay. When he says he seen it all or heard it all, he can play back the tape in his head.
Worried about their twenty-one years old daughter, Jonathan and Amanda Bonjour hire Manning to find the missing Jennifer, who joined the New Age cult Framers founded by former Berkley university Professor Xenophon Baars. Amanda left the nursing school she attended and presumably resides within the Framers' "Compound"; that is if she still lives, which Manning doubts. Manning drives to the converted Pennsylvania farm Compound to learn the fate of Amanda. Instead he finds out that Baars believes the world is coming to an end shortly. His obsessed followers blindly do what he tells them to do in preparation for the end of days.
Readers will either love or hate Disciple who is a sort of younger and gross version of The Old Man (played by Victor Wong) in the Golden Child. Thus, he is definitely different as a hero and not just because he has the uncanny total recall skill; farting and nose picking in public is part of his repertoire as a cynic who not only sees and hears it all he remembers it all. The fate of Amanda is engaging and twisting, and Baars fascinating in a Reverend Jim Jones of Guyana way. However, this plot is owned by the king of gas who can smell up a paragraph with one release.
Blood of My Brother
The Story Plant
9780981956886 $16.95 www.thestoryplant.com
In 1967 at the St. Lucy's School in Newark, New Jersey, five year old Jay Cassio and Danny Del Collinao met while each were watching the nearby street riots. They became best friends being there for one another although their personalities were opposites with Jay being cautious and Danny a risk taker. Helping each other survive the mean streets, Jay became a lawyer while Danny ended up as a private investigator.
In 2004, Danny tells Jay that Donna Kelly hired him to deliver 500,000 dollars to her in Miami. Apparently the now deceased Bryce Powers, husband to Jay's late client Kate, gave it to her to hold for one month. With both Powers dead from what the cops insist was a murder-suicide, Donna wants the loot. However, not long afterward, Dan is found tortured and dead in the South Miami Beach Motor Hotel. Out of character for the conservative Jay, he needs to know why. The Florida and New Jersey roads lead to Isabel Perez in Mexico where Bryce lived for five years.
Moving back and forth between 2004 and the past, fans obtain a taste of the two best buddies who have each other's back. Thus when his friend his murdered, Jay, seemingly out of character, but in search of closure must know who killed Danny and why. Fans will accompany Jay who for the time takes a major dangerous risk without Danny coaxing him. The aptly titled Blood of My Brother is a tense thriller as the hero will learn whether the truth shall set him free or kill him.
Clara and Mr. Tiffany
Louis Comfort Tiffany hires unmarried women as his artists to avoid the strikes that men are prone to conduct. His New York glass studio manager Clara Driscoll is a widow with a series of romantic tragedies besides her husband's death. Clara does her best to insure her talented female crew is taken care of properly.
In 1893 Tiffany presents the stained glass collection at the Chicago World's Fair. He takes all the accolades failing to mention the genius he left behind in New York. Clara enjoys living amidst the Gilded Age New York artist community, but wishes her contribution as the creator of the stained glass lampshades that have made Tiffany's famous would also bring her renown. The credit for the innovation goes to Tiffany, but Clara lives with that as her employer encourages her and her girls to create even if it negatively impacts profits. She also wishes for a man who was devoted to her as she has been to Tiffany and others.
This is an engaging historical that bases the storyline on the premise that Driscoll was the artistic genius not Tiffany although history and the then late nineteenth century gave all the kudos to the man. Thus the reader obtains a sense of time and place as society praises Tiffany but ignores his female workshop and its brilliant leader. Readers who enjoy something different will relish the tale of the woman behind the famous man.
How to Marry a Duke
In 1816, the Duke of Shelbourne knows it is past time to get married and raise an heir, but so many women have wanted this most eligible bachelor he has delayed his decision until the clock has run out on him. However, Tristan Gatewick has problems with a horde of females wanting him; he does not want to spend his life with the inane boneheads that seem to be all the Ton offers.
After mangling her fan at a gala, Tristan hires matchmaker Tessa Mansfield to find him a suitable wife with a brain. Tessa arranges a contest between twenty-four eligible ladies desiring to become the next Duchess of Shelbourne. The games begin with fierce competition in every venue imaginable. However, as the debs are sent packing until two remain, Tristan kisses Tessa whose former suitor has returned. Someone aware of Tessa's dark secret blackmails her and other threats more dangerous to her surface; which only strengthens Tristan's resolve to declare that the matchmaker has won the contest.
Although having a last woman standing contest is not a new concept (see A Peculiar Proposition by Diane Henderson). Vicky Dreiling provides a charming romance as she runs the ducal games in accordance with acceptable Regency aristocratic behavior. The cast is solid as they bring humor, shenanigans, and deportment, but the tale belongs to the duke and his matchmaker as he knows who he wants as his duchess. Sub-genre fans will welcome Ms. Dreiling and watch with pleasure matching the enjoyment of this engaging historical with "how to tame" a rakish Hawk
How Sweet It Is
In Galton, New York Ethan Pond the father of his fourteen year old daughter Paige informs Lizzie Carpenter he is coming to see his offspring for the holidays. The "ratbastard" abandoned her when she was a pregnant high school senior. Lizzie tells her friends/enemies (Jill, Nina and Georgia) at the Enemy Club that "pondscum" is coming to see his daughter. She also wishes she could hire a handyman to fix up her house.
Dante "Tay" Giovanni happens to be in town to fund a college student Candy as he holds himself culpable for the car accident that killed her mom. Tay overhears Lizzie's wish and begins repairing the house as guilt prevents him sleeping anyway during his sleepless nights. However she begins to join him and Dune the cat on their nocturnal fixer upper and soon afterward love heals two hearts.
This is an entertaining Enemies Club contemporary romance starring two interesting lead characters. Whereas Lizzie is somewhat typical of the sub-genre, a working single mom with doubts about having a man in her life, Tay brings the freshness with his deep guilt over the accident to include surviving. The support cast including an elderly neighbor enhances a terrific opening act as Sophie Gunn provides an engaging tale in which love helps heal emotional wounds.
My Immortal Assassin
In San Francisco, thanks to Tigran the fiend, Grayson Spencer escapes from the captivity of the malevolent human mage Christophe dit Menart. Durian, a former mageheld fiend, works for Nikodemus the warlord as an assassin and protector of mages including Christophe. When he finds the hiding Gray, Durian is shocked with what she is. She is an enigmatic with duel magic "inherited" from a fiend and from Christophe.
Durian offers Gray a deal that she considers carefully as she trusts no one. He will train her on the use of her newly acquired magic, but she must pledge her loyalty to him. Gray has one personal vow she plans to adhere to; killing Christophe, but if she succeeds she will destroy the already shaky peace that her liege is struggling to maintain.
The latest "My" mage and fiend romantic urban fantasy (see My Wicked Enemy and My Forbidden Desire) is a terrific thriller as love wars with duty and avarice; and not just for the lead couple. Fast-paced from the moment Gray and Durian meet on the streets of San Francisco, fans will wonder whether love truly conquers all or the thirst for power will prove much more powerful.
A Place of Peace
Several years ago, the accident shattered many lives in the Amish community Pennsylvania. Most families turned to the Lord trying to understand how an innocent died while Miriam Lapp watched the baby. Miriam blamed herself for causing the tragedy; so after her dad shunned her and her boyfriend Timothy betrayed her she left the only home she knew and moved to Indiana where her cousin Abby warmly welcomed her
Her married sister with children Hannah, who forgave her unlike their parents and other siblings, calls Miriam to inform her that their mother died. She races home, but her father refuses to acknowledge her; most of the townsfolk and her family except Hannah follow his lead. Miriam grieves the death of her beloved mom who she was not allowed to see ever since her father threw her out. She also knows she still loves her former fiance Timothy Kauffman, who is seeing someone else. Miriam knows she will never forgive herself so why should other forgive her. She returns to Indiana only to come back home when her father suffers a stroke. However, still a pariah, Miriam begins to question her faith for the first time.
The third Kauffman Amish Bakery tale (see A Gift of Hope and A Promise of Hope) is an engaging entry as the undesirable tries twice to come home, but remains in exile. Miriam is a wonderful lead character who after several rejections questions her faith. Hannah is courageous as she is there for her sister, which could ostracize her and her family. Although Timothy is a bit irritating when he is not chomping on strudel, fans will enjoy this Amish bakery romance.
9781609360436 $12.99 www.summerside.com
Using stealth bombers purchased from America, the Israeli Air Force attacks Iran. The Islamic populations around the world are outraged while internationally Fundamentalist Christians and Jews rejoice. Western governments' fear what the crisis will bring, but cannot stop the tsunami.
AS expected by many, the attack places the world on the brink of World War III. Time is running out and a peaceful solution increasingly looks unlikely. A small group of people is the last hope to prevent the pandemic destruction of global conflict. These brave souls think the only way to prevent war is to talk directly with the so called enemy; to achieve this requires a cell phone.
The first "Principalities and Powers" global thriller is a superb tale that takes the audience inside of some nasty places as well as top secret locales. Fast-paced from the onset readers are hooked with the action that seems plausible as Jeff Nesbit uses headlines to guide the tale. Although the ending seems off kilter with the foot suddenly not putting the pedal to the metal after speeding from one international hot spot to another, fans will appreciate this realistic twisting doomsday clock countdown.
The Judas Gate
General Ferguson, Sean Dillon and company hear a tape Major Roper made. It takes place in Afghanistan in which a horde of terrorists led by Shamrock killed several Army Rangers and a British medical team. They hear the euphoric voice of Shamrock whose accent is English. There exists plausible evidence he has ties to Al Qaeda; although unknown to Dillon and company this killer answers to Osama's main henchman in Britain the Preacher. After listening to the tape taken from the Afghan battlefields by Major Roper, General Ferguson thinks a Taliban attack was led by an educated upper-class Englishman. The General and Dillon want to track down the traitor and put him on trial for treason.
Daniel Holley, as lethal as Dillon is, joins the team but he makes the mistake of telling his business partner and close friend Hamid Malik what he is doing. Malik considers Hill a member of his family; he worries about him and confides his concerns bed friend of thirty years Ali Hakin; unaware that hat his pal is an Al-Qaeda agent. Hakim informs the Preacher that Dillon and company are searching for him. The Preacher welcomes the news by setting up a chain of events leading to a confrontation on is terms in a crowded sector of Algiers populated by the dregs of society.
Highly regarded for his Dillon suspense thrillers, Jack Higgins' latest is the usual strong tale that feels plausible as the author extrapolates the story line from the headlines. The plot is filled with triple crosses accentuated by the addition of a new player to the team, who readers will wonder if Hill is to be trusted or a pure capitalist crossing back and forth between sides. Once started The Judas Gate is impossible to put down.
Susan May Warren
9781609360252 $12.99 www.summerside.com
Just prior to both of them going overseas as part of the war effort, Esther Lange and her fiance Linus Hahn had a one night stand in the back of a borrowed car. Esther works for the Red Cross while Linus is a solider. When Esther became pregnant with their child, the Red Cross sent her home. Linus learns he sired a daughter so he sends the pair to live with his prim and proper parents.
While mother and daughter live in the attic for the past two years, Esther works as a nurse. Severely wounded, Linus has medic Peter Hess send a letter to Esther; who knows now Linus is dead. Esther and Peter begin exchanging correspondence. However, when she learns of Peter's secret and deception, she wants nothing more to do with him although she fell in love with her pen pal.
This WW II drama is a fabulous historical romance with a wonderful spin re Peter; I recommend readers avoid the back cover as that gives away part of the early charm. Wisconsin during WW II provides a wonderful prime backdrop. Character driven by Esther, Peter and their respective memories (as well as those of the Hahn parents) of Linus, Susan May Warren provides a powerful war of the hearts.
The Silent Order
9781609360191 $12.99 www.summerside.com
In 1928 in Sugarcreek, Ohio, Amish Katie Lehman hides her son Henry from her own past and from the English detectives who are looking for him. Kate will do anything to keep Henry safe.
At the same time Rollin Wells struggles with learning who is dirty on the police force abetting the Cleveland-based Cardanos mob. Rollin knows his only chance to find out who that person he must go undercover amidst the Amish. His hosts are unhappy with his presence, but agree not to interfere with his investigation as long as follows their rules. However, though intentions are honorable, his feelings for Kate place her and her son at risk while he also tries to learn what she hides.
The key to this exciting Prohibition Era police procedural is that the romantic subplot does not intrude on the suspense, but instead enhances the undercover cop's efforts to end the bootlegging murderous activity of the Cleveland mob starting with their mole. Fast-paced and loaded with action and a slight nod to Ford's movie Witness, readers will be hooked as the world of cops and robbers crash and clash with that of the Amish.
Enchanted No More
Robin D. Owens
Over fifteen years ago during a magic ritual, Jindesfarne "Jenni" Mistweaver lost her family due to a deadly assault. Since the tragedy that traumatized her, Jenni, overwhelmed by survivor guilt, has buried herself among the humans planning to one day die amongst the mortals.
However, Drifmar the Lightfolk dwarf arrives at her porch in Denver to inform her that we have problems; she responds you have problems as her family died saving the Lightfolk when Jenni and brother Rothly survived but he blamed herand jenni elt the same way about the tragedy. Jenni makes Drifmar vanish, but the two brownies who accompanied him remain behind. Reluctantly, Jenni learns her sibling has vanished so to find him she accepts a quest that the faery folk demand she undergo if she wants her brother back alive. Her former lover Aric joins Jenni who soon finds she fights against evil that wants her soul.
In this exciting mixed urban-quest fantasy, much of the action occurs on the other side where readers learn of a complicated caste system. The story line is fast-paced and the supernatural species seem real. Although understandably so with the family tragedy that occurred while performing their duty, Jenni whines a bit much (should have been in Green Bay where she could wear a cheesy hat), which in fairness comes across as genuine. Still overall aptly titled Enchanted No More is an enchanting quest fantasy.
Montgomery County police detective Vance Graegan worked the infamous DC Sniper case diligently. However, each new murder of an innocent ripped at his gut. Now that the serial killers are caught, Vance knows he suffers from Post traumatic Stress Disorder. With his mental health shaky at best and feeling distant from his family, he decides that they need to start over; his wife Lindy agrees with his assessment to save the marriage.
Vance and his wife Lindy accompanied by their young son Connor move across the country to California where they plan to open up a deli. While Lindy moves ahead to find them a home, Vance stops in Chicago to see his old friend Erin. The move proves complicated by the moving company demanding higher fees before delivering their goods. As they face more violence, what Vance has held inside him that Lindy saw in his eyes begins to eat at his soul again.
Filled with super spins and terrific twists enhanced by an underlying message that you have to have faith to move mountains as Connor insists, readers will relish this strong character driven inspirational thriller. Fast-paced once the Graegan family begins to relocate after using the DC Sniper as a catalyst, this action-packed story line never slows down until the final confrontation is over. Rene Gutteridge provides a taut family drama that grips the souls of readers.
A Stranger on the Planet
In 1963, the Shapiro couple divorce. Their dad begins a new family; for the most part leaving his three children to live with their dysfunctional mother. Over the next six years following the split, twelve years old Seth, his twin sister Sarah and their younger brother Seamus struggle with their mother Ruth's horrific behavior abetted by their maternal grandfather and aunt who believe divorce is the original sin. Ruth or Aunt Rhoda setting her up seems to date a series of losers as boyfriends. In 1969 Ruth's latest misadventure culminates with her marrying Eddie Lipper sixteen days after they met in the Catskills.
As the years go by teenage Seth is embarrassed by his mom's outrageous behavior and her emotional needs that feel like a vampire sucking out his soul. As Seth becomes an adult, he keeps distance in his relationships until he marries Molly. However though he loves her, he remains detached from her. Tragedy brings the SSSS brood back together for the first time in years; Seth tries to tell them how he feels but has spent most of his life avoiding the emotional havoc caused when you love someone one.
This is a character driven family drama with most of the insightful story line narrated by an increasingly emotionally distant Seth. His siblings and mom are well drawn support players while his father is rightfully somewhat shadowy as expected for someone who Seth believes deserted his kids when they were very young. Although Seth's late revelation feels contrived, readers will appreciate the child is the adult as Adam Schwartz provides a profound psychological study of a man who is a stranger in many ways with his family.
Stars of Fire
Mary Ellen Dennis
In 1820 Pennsylvania, a woman dies giving birth. Immediately after, someone poisons her midwife Matilda Tuttle. The baby James Coleman is given to the Higley family to raise and use on their farm. In 1832, Cole gets into a fight with the four older Higley brothers in which he cuts the finger of the oldest before fleeing. In 1849 Cole meets ten years old (or younger) Jane Elizabeth McAllister over times tables and a splinter; he is charmed by the young girl who tells him she has visions and forecasts one day he will be her husband before he leaves. In 1857 James Buchanan became president while Cole became a highly regarded boxer fighting in places like California. In 1860 Jenny lives with Ambrose Higley as her husband since she was sold to him to pay off her late uncle's debts. James plans to rescue her.
He arrives in Sonora only to learn Jenny allegedly died in a fire that killed her spouse Brose. Garbed as a male, she becomes a Pony Express rider delivering a letter to President Buchanan. Cole, upset that his Jenny is dead, knows he can never feel complete until he knows who his father was, but has little hope of solving that mystery. Then he sees his Jenny again who shocks him with where she has been. He should have known her in his heart, but now wants to keep her safe offering to marry her.
This is an engaging epic historical starring two people who seem destined not to be together though they love each other. The story line moves quickly through the decades while rotating what is happening to each of the star-crossed lovers as each has odious caricaturist villains to contend with. With an interesting late twist, fans will enjoy this nineteenth century romance wondering if the lead couple will ever pair off.
Kevin D. Randle
Reporter Tom Johnson shoots Romanian vampiress Linda Miller in the forehead. Almost immediately after he fires the gun, cops arrive. He explains to the police that Linda was about to bite into the jugular vein of his unconscious girlfriend, Sarah Hartwell.
As the police arrest him for murder, Tom pleads with the police officers to burn Miller's corpse so she can never come back as he insists this is the best way to destroy the vampire virus that infected her. Police captain Steve Mitchell scorns Tom's fantasy as he assumes the culprit is either seeking an insanity plea or trying to destroy the evidence. Thus Mitchell is shocked when the coroner steals Linda's body, but instead of a corpse, she has returned to "life" while the pathologist is found dead.
This is an engaging paranormal police procedural due ironically to the lively Linda although Tom is the star. Whereas the villainess is a fresh and perky vampire, the hero is somewhat stereotypical. With a nod to McGavin's Kolchak the Night Stalker original movie, fans will enjoy this Vampyr? thriller anticipating a "crash" between Miller and Johnson.
Marilyn Victor and Michael Allan Mallory
In Wolf Lake, Minnesota the debate rages over the gray wolf protected by the feds, but considered a menace by the locals. Someone stirs the ire on both sides and that that person kills four wolves leaving their carcasses for all to see. The Minnesota Wolf Institute (MWI) investigates the killings.
At the same time, Minnesota Valley Zoologist Lavender "Snake" Jones is staying with her friend MWI wolf biologist Gina Brown while working on a show for Zoofari. They stop for coffee but are accosted by St. Louis County's most cantankerous old coot Ivar Bjorkland. They join the Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Peter Bunyan in search of the bodies, which they find leading to a tirade by Gina. Soon afterward someone kills Bjorkland and other human homicides follow. Snake fears her friend Gina has lost control while the Stewards of Superior threaten aggressive action against all who defile nature. Her spouse herpetologist Jeff pleads with her to focus on the show, but Snake cannot help but investigate.
The second Jones animal-human murder investigation (see Death Roll) is an entertaining thriller that focuses on the complex issue of endangered species vs. the economy even with the wolves no longer on the environmental protection list. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Snake is accosted while buying coffee and never slows down as Marilyn Victor and Michael Allan Mallory capture the deep rooted passion on both sides of the wolf issue. Although the actual motivation for murder seems to have been dumped from nowhere, readers will enjoy this exciting eco-environmental amateur sleuth.
During an undercover drug sting that went ugly, Dallas police detective Sarah Kingsly's partner John was killed during a sting operation; at the same his killer fired at him, Sarah shot his murderer a teenage African-American male. Sarah remains on the job, but is fearful of what the Dallas Review Board will determine though she feels she did everything in accordance with procedure. DPD wants her scalp to clam the Black community as everyone except Sarah ignores a cop was killed.
The DPD decides to team her up with African-American partner Angel Johnson as a public relations ploy; Angel's family pressures her to demand a different partner. Neither female trusts the other, which impedes their investigation into murders at the Galleria Mall. Someone used piano wire to garrote to death three drug using men. Each new killing has an increasingly deeper deranged message by the psychopath as if whatever grip on reality the culprit had is melting away. If Sarah and Angel fail to move past their racial divide soonest, people will be dead by an out of control serial killer.
This is a great taut police procedural starring two fully developed lead characters with personal issues that keep them from forging the type of partnership that Sarah had with John. Although loaded with plenty of typical law enforcement action, the deep look at the psyche of both females make for a fabulous thriller. Fans will want more appearances by the fab females and police shrink Doc Murray, whose professional relationship with especially remroseful Sarah brings freshness to a strong character driven story line.
In Stonewall, elderly Leona is attracted to newcomer Gene Mashburn. Her younger cousin Blue Plum Books store owner Margaret Welch has to admit her relative has good taste as Mashburn is handsome. However, she is suspicious of why he is here as strangers do not move to this small Blue Ridge Mountains town.
Meanwhile the normally quiet town is hit with a violent crime wave starting with the poisoning of pigeons, arson, and ultimately the homicide of developer Doug Everett. Margaret's former boyfriend police sergeant George Buckles encouraged by his prim and proper sister Bitsy, thinks the timing of Mashburn coming to town with the crime wave is too coincidental. Additionally Mashburn and Everett were partners along with others in a plan to convert an old school into condos. While George investigates the murder with his mind set on one suspect, Margaret also makes inquiries but looks for others with motives and opportunities.
The return to Stonewall (see Wilder Rumors) is an entertaining Blue Ridge Mountains cozy that introduces readers to new stars, Margaret and Bitsy who will charm the audience with their humor and intelligence. Fast-paced from just after meeting the key cast members, fans will keep changing their guess as to who the killer is as Molly McRae provides a charming regional amateur sleuth enhanced by a police procedural investigation in which George believes the ladies actions are unsafe conflicted with his official inquiry.
In Grenfels Corners, England, teenage best friends Gwenneth Hume and Patience O'Connor look forward to the future. Having no marital prospects, Gwenneth expects to be a spinster aunt to her brother's children while also continuing her work as a cook and server at her father's inn. Patience has studied to be a midwife so she has an occupation when she leaves the Sisters' orphanage; like her buddy she has no male prospects either.
They learn that a French shipping company is offering free transportation to the New World on the ship Merrywinds for single women. They discuss it and agree to take a chance. On the Atlantic voyage, people become ill including the cook. Whereas Patience treats the ailing; Gwenneth takes over the cooking. Each enjoys the trip as they go gaga over the sights they see and fall in love with a hunk and the New World.
Merrywinds is a warm entertaining historical that stars two courageous young women on a sea voyage to new lives. Each has "marketable" skills that prove needed on the oceanic trip, but also diminishes many issues they may have faced as single females without male protection; no one dares harms the cook or the medic. Enjoyable in a Hallmark cozy way, fans will root for the darling daring duo as they take their chances in the New World.
Passions of the Dead
Eugene, Oregon Police Sergeant Lammers informs the sixteen detectives that two of them will be cut. Twenty year homicide detective Wade Jackson fears he is one of those being reduced from the force because he recently was suspended and has injuries. The meeting is interrupted when the desk officer informs Lammers four people were murdered at a house on Randall St. Lammers sends Jackson and four other cops to the murder scene while ordering the mobile crime unit to go there and informs the DA and ME of the mass murder.
One of the reported is dead, a teenage girl Lori Walker, still lives so is rushed to the hospital. The ME reports fifteen years old Nick Walker has been dead for ten hours. The other two victims are their parents Jared and Carla; her sister Rita discovered the bodies. The prime suspect is the victim's cousin Shane who was laid off his job and has a drug problem. However, the case takes strange spins as the crime scene fails to make sense; Lori survives but remembers nothing before vanishing; a blackmail link is found tied to Jared's former boss Roy Engall; and a second house invasion occurs. Diligently Jackson and the others keep pushing though he expects to be canned.
The latest Jackson police procedural (see The Sex Club) is a complex mass murder case made more convoluted by fascinating flashbacks to what led to the homicides although the time transfers back to the present is not as lucid as the trips to the past. The investigation is top rate with Jackson and his team persistently following leads that not only fail to make the puzzle fit, but seem to expand the frame. Readers will enjoy accompanying the cops as they work the case.
Prey on Patmos
Twenty First Century Special Crimes Division Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis travels to Patmos to investigate the violent murder of a Father Kalogeros Vassili. Upon arrival at the holy Greek isle, the cop quickly learns that the monk was popular amongst the locals and no one can provide a hint of scandal or motive.
However, Kaldis digs deeper and begins to uncover ties to international intrigue that he would not expect from Father Vassili or his order. Soon in a place where The Book of Revelation was allegedly written, Kaldis finds a document with eerie apocalyptic scribe and even stranger images that has him wonder if a larger conspiracy than a simple homicide is behind the Vassili murder. Though he prefers not to conjecture Kaldis fears an assault on the leaders of the Orthodox Church.
Armchair detectives will enjoy the latest trip to Greece to follow the escapades of Kaldis and his team including the antics of his pregnant lover. The story line contains less present tense action than in the previous cases (see Assassins of Athens and Murder In Mykonos); as most of the events is discussed in the past tense by the investigators. Still readers will find fascinating the descriptive Prey on Patmos, which connects the locale where Saint John wrote the Book of Revelation and in which life has not changed amongst the secluded monks for fifteen centuries with a modern day police procedural.
Richard A. Thompson
As summer ends in 1919 on the Great Plains, Charlie Krueger is one of a horde of migrant workers who travel from farm to farm harvesting the Big Wheat grown on the prairie. The invention of the threshing machine has changed harvesting, but not the bands of travelers working the land.
Mechanically inclined Charlie fled his hometown in North Dakota when he was jilted by Mabel Boyson who grew up three farms over from his family's spread. Charlie saw them as Romeo and Juliet though his father saw him as worthless trash. When Mabel informed him she was pregnant, he was about to propose when she said now Harold Bow will have to marry her. He left for the road of the migrant farm worker unaware that back home The Windmill Man serial killer murdered Mabel to water the earth with blood and that the locals including his father assume Charlie ran because he murdered her. Now the Windmill Man has followed Charlie with a rash of homicides; Charlie is a target for bleeding in Kansas in case he knows who the predatory psychopath is.
The serial killer subplot is deftly handled, but what makes this a superior read is the close look at life on the Great Plains just after WWI at a time when technology changes a way of life. The migrant farm work even with the thresher is tediously back-breaking, dangerous to limbs, and lonely. Charlie is terrific as he holds the insightful story line together in what is a great opening act for 2011 as Richard A. Thompson provides a fabulous historical.
Steven F. Havill
In Posadas County, New Mexico, nine year old Francisco explains to his mother undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman that he and his fourteen years old friend Butch Romero found a snake on the arroyo. They battered the western diamondback but not before the rattler bit Burch in the eye. Besides the venom, a fang was caught in the eye. Butch is airlifted to the hospital.
Not long after that Butch's eighteen year old brother Freddy drives his ATV off the bank of an arroyo while apparently doing joyriding cartwheels. However, just before he went over the edge, Freddy apparently found a human skull that Esther and her team including her retired predecessor Bill Gastner believe is the remains of an unsolved five years old murder case.
The latest Posadas County police procedural (see Discount for Death and Red, Green, or Murder) is the usual terrific entry in what has been for years one of the best series the sub-genre has to offer. The law enforcement officials are dedicated cops diligently doing their job while dealing with an assortment of people some overtly hostile. With much more going on than just the Romero brothers' subplot and with the inquiries providing insight into the land and the people, fans will relish the return to New Mexico for this enchanting tale.
Nella Last in the 1950s: The Further Diaries of Housewife, 49
Patricia Malcolmson and Robert Malcolmson, editor
9781846683503 $15.95 www.profilebooks.com
This is a follow-up to the previous two segments (Nella Last in War and Nella Last in Peace; neither read by me) with a third diary entry by Nella Last in Mass Observation (established in 1937 as a sociology look from within Britain at its people). The almost daily keen observations continue the remarkable detailed look at a changing British society; this time from 1950 through 1954. With WWII and peace past as the Cold War begins in earnest but seemingly far away from the isles though she fears nuclear war, Nella looks more at her self and her family than at the larger impacts on British society as she did in her first two volumes. She no longer works full time for the Women's Volunteer Service though she still socializes with friends from her days at WVS. Her husband Will is depressed as he was forced to retire. She deals with Will alone as their sons left Barrow in Furness then in Lancashire; Arthur moves his family to Northern Ireland and Cliff is a sculptor in Australia. Thus her "You come a long way baby" lifestyle during and just after the war is greatly diminished by her caring for Will in a shipbuilding town with not a lot to do. Still using humor and self deprecating wit, she provides plenty of insight into the family life of empty nesters in early 1950s Britain. The third and apparently final entries of the Nella Last commentaries are a terrific compilation by one of the best twentieth century diarists.
Simon and Schuster
In 1968 in Holloman, Connecticut, a masked man grabs Maggie Desmond in her apartment; he rapes her repeatedly. When he completes his sodomizing of Maggie, the rapist warns her not to go to the police; if she disobeys he will kill her. Frightened yet not intimidated by the beast, she talks to a senior police officer at the hospital. Captain Carmine Delmonico leads the investigation into a vicious serial rapist whose victims have been so afraid they refuse to speak to anyone, but now he has the first courageous victim talking to the cops about the "dodo" who assaulted her.
Someone vandalizes the Glass Teddy Bear Shop in the Busquash Mall, but does not steal anything. At Taft High School, a cache of weapons are found by a splinter group of the Black Brigade who thinks the Black People's Power is not into violence, which is the only way Blacks can achieve equality. Carmine's Lieutenant Corey Marshall ignores his subordinates' verbal and written reports that there are more weapons stashed somewhere in the school while trainee Helen MacIntosh, daughter of the president of Chubb University, believes she runs the unit. With issues at home, Carmine faces tsuris 24/7.
The latest Delmonico historical police procedural (see On, Off and Too Many Murders) provides readers with what went on inside a New England precinct during the tumultuous late 1960s. Carmine is an honest cop who expects the same ethical behavior from those who work for him; when he finds someone who fails to attain and maintain his standard, he scrutinizes their every move to improve their standard of conduct and performance. He has so many issues at the station (and at home), he delays his look at the information provided by Maggie until late in the story line; thus adding realism to a strong 1968 investigative thriller.
The Knot Artist
Lightning Strikes Press
She knows she is numero uno with affluent clients who satiate their bondage fetish by paying big bucks in cash to enter her dungeon in the Hamptons. Besides the money that enables her to reside in a large Manhattan loft, Dominique loves recognition as a Goddess worshiped by men whose adulation makes her the most desired dominatrix on the East Coast.
Her clients include Connecticut CEO Fred "pretty girl" Naughton and US Senator from Maryland Thomas Milliam who increasingly demands more from Dominique. When Milliam stops breathing while knotted to the St. Andrews cross, CPR fails and Dominique panics. She fears for his legacy and the cops accepting his being her willingly sex slave. As his death brings his world of intrigue especially with Cuba into her dungeon, Milliam's security expert Reynolds Graham helps her navigate the dangerous international tsunami; but he is also a peril to her heart.
This is a fascinating timely erotic political thriller that goes deep into the S&M fetish world in which men of power pay large amounts of money to be a Sub to a discreet Dom. The key to this entertaining tale that twists from the dungeon to political intrigue is that India Wilson avoids moral condemnation of the BDSM crowd. The fast-paced story line is at its best when entering the dungeon and India's panic over what to do. Her past with her sister enhances the erotic elements as the audience learns how Dominique got to where she is. Although the spin into a taut international political intrigue subplot adds plenty of well-written suspense, this also takes the audience away from the thrilling visits to the dungeon.
Anders Rosland and Borge Hellstrom
9781402785924 $24.95 www.silveroaks.com
In Sweden, Piet Hoffman is so good at what he does only one other knows who he really is. An ex-con with a loving wife and two kids, he has spent much of the decade moving up the hierarchy of the Polish Mafia working in Stockholm. The mob chief chooses Piet to lead their plan to take over the supplying of amphetamines to convicts; but first he must enter Wotjek Security to infiltrate a Polish drug-dealing operation in order to eliminate the current sales boss (for the mob) and gather information (for the cops).
Meanwhile Swedish Police Service Detective Inspector Ewert Grens investigates a drug-related killing in which Hoffman witnessed the execution. All roads lead to Hoffman, who has wiretap information he uses to keep corrupt politicians from eliminating him. Instead the politicos believe in cantankerous obstinate Grens they have the source to destroy Hoffman. However, Grens is frustrated as someone is covering up something; what he does not know in his pursuit of Hoffman is he threatens Piet's cover.
Three seconds is a great Swedish police procedural that focuses on the Eastern European invasion of Sweden by felons and former agents. The story line is filled with action, but driven by Piet who fears the corrupt cops or politicians will soon sell him out. His anguish over his family augments the tale as he wants to come out of the cold but at the same time leaves readers to wonder why he takes such risks as he goes under for allegedly one final potentially deadly assignment. Mindful of Henning Mankell's Inspector Kurt Wallander thrillers, fans will relish Piet's work for the Police Service.
The Battle For Commitment Planet
Graham Sharp Paul
On August 3 2401 Universal Date, Federated Worlds' Commander Michael Helfort suffers from mental anguish that the doctors say caused psychosomatic pain. His executive officer Junior Lieutenant Jayla Ferreira informs him he has been negligent in his duty. The captain of three Dreadnaught warships (Redwoods, Red River and Redress) explains to his XO that he is shook by a message he received from Hammer Worlds' Colonel Hartspring. The enemy explained to Helfort he has a choice to ether surrender to him on Scoble's World by October 1 or the woman he loves and held captive by this odious war criminal will be turned over to a rapid depraved unit of DocSec soldiers to gang rape her before she is executed.
Jayla insists they should assault the Hammer's prime base Commitment Planet to cut at the heart of the vicious enemy and perform a "dirt rescue" of Anna Cheung and other POWs. Helfort feels energized as he gives the order to his Dreadnaught crews to deploy as he will lead the raid with one additional personal mission to rip off the head of Hartspring.
The IV "Battle For …" in the Helfort's War series is an exhilarating military science fiction thriller that pulls no punches when it comes to armed hostilities; as Hartspring personalized the war after he and his squad got their butt battered by the Dreadnaughts. Commitment Planet is fast-paced from the opening battle sequence even before Jayla's lecture on cutting corners dangerously to the confrontation that started as a Long Shot" Hail Mary. Fans of the series will enjoy this testosterone (to include the female soldiers) outer space tale as Helfort faces hell supported by courageous loyal men and women to save Anna and put a knife into the gut of the enemy.
Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
The Barque Cats: and their human Cat Persons bond in an almost mystical way. Each and their human seem to instinctively know what the other wants as if reading minds. Mysterious feline Pshaw-Ra somehow changes the dynamic that leads to a telepathic link between Chester the Barque Cat and his Cat Person; other cats soon follow.
A plague leads to the government order to destroy those considered the carriers, which brings unwanted focus on the Barque Cats. Pshaw-Ra opens up a mousehole to carry the Barque cats and their Cat Persons on the starship Ranzo to Mau where he plans to breed the newcomers with his felines; the offspring will rule the universe. However, he finds problems at home with daughter Nefure claiming the throne while his other daughter Renpet fleeing into the catacombs beneath the Mauan desert. Pshaw-Ra is a target of scorn while something dormant for almost as old as the universe has awakened with a thirst for the light starting with cats for breakfast.
This is a fun feline frolic as the Barque Cats and their Cat Persons try to save the universe from the Mau residents. Faster than the speed of light, readers will enjoy the escapades on Mau although wonder why everyone especially the off-worlders seem emotionally detached from Pshaw-Ro's scheme. Still this is an entertaining human-feline outer space thriller (see Catalyst).
Star Wars: Red Harvest
On the cold desolate planet Odacer-Faustin, Sith Master Lord Darth Scabrous sets up a training program to teach the young the techniques in using the dark side of the Force. Rumors abound that the Sith Master searches for the right pupils who will fill his formula for immortality. From time to time a student vanishes. One of the trainees who disappears Wim Nickter finds himself surrounded by medical equipment. He will "donate" his blood to Scabrous. As he lies dying the onset of a plague begins.
Scabrous seeks a Murkamis Orchid, which he receives when "talented botanist" Hestizo Trace "delivers "the plant to the Sith Lord. The sentient flower has bonded with Hestizo and needs her as does Scabrous. He abducts the human and takes her to his planet for she and her dark orchid are the final keys to his immortality formula. Her brother Jedi Knight Rojo traces her through the Force as he wants to save his sister, but finds himself facing an army of zombies and worse.
If someone told me when I saw the first Star Wars movie back in ancient times I would read a Star Wars novel with zombies and a Sith Lord acting like a vampire, I would have said no way. Yet, Joe Schreiber entertainingly brings zombie fever to the Force during the Old Republic era. Zo is a heroic person who fights to the end to prevent the zombie pathogen from turning pandemic. However this is Lord Darth Scabrous' story as his insidious malevolence owns the exciting tale. Mr. Schreiber provides a face to evil as the Force turns to its darkest horror niches.
The Orchid Affair
In 1804 governess Laura Grey leaves England after ten years employed there to come home to Paris to spy on Napoleon. She enrolled at the Selwick Spy School where Laura was sort of trained in espionage under the code name Silver Orchid. In France, undercover as Laure Griscogne she becomes governess to widower Andre Jaouen's two children (nine years old Gabrielle and five years old Pierre-Andre). However, her mission is to use her new position to learn what her employer, the assistant Prefect to the Minister of Police, knows.
The plot deploys perfectly in spite of Laure's lack of experience and limited training; in fact her being a tyro spy helps her conceal her probing. Meanwhile Griscogne and his rival Gaston Delaroche investigate the latest alleged Royalist plot to dispose of Napoleon. However, whereas Griscogne cares about the French, Delaroche cares about himself so he uses this inquiry to destroy his enemy. This leads to Laure and the Jaouen family fleeing for their lives across France; the adults pose as mom and dad and the Pink Carnation assists them while Delaroche seizes the opportunity.
The eighth Pink Carnation historical thriller (see The Betrayal of the Blood Lily) is a great tale filled with action from the moment Laure comes home and never slows down until the final altercation. Fast-paced with a strong cast (including the ambitious villain) who bring to life France in 1804 and a sort of historiographical perspective as each of the adults and others look back with different views from fondness to disdain to the 1789 Revolution.
Secrets to the Grave
In 1986 in Oak Knoll, California, Peter Crane, the notorious See-No-Evil killer awaits trial (see Deeper Than the Dead). Meanwhile someone assaults twenty-eight year old single mom Marissa Fordham ruthlessly mutilating the artist before killing her. A little voice calls 911 to say her daddy was hurting her mommy. The cops find Marissa's four years old daughter Haley strangled but with a faint pulse. She survives the lethal attack though she is traumatized.
Police Detective Tony Mendez leads the investigation. He obtains help from Anne Navarre Leone who will try to obtain the identity of the "Bad Monster" from the frightened child; and from her husband former FBI agent Vince Leone to look into Melissa's background. The former effort makes little progress while the latter is bewildering as if Marissa lived two lives.
This is a gripping suspense police procedural that brings to life mid 1980s investigative skills with significant elements that enhance the story line. For instance 911 not providing an address (enhanced 911 had cost a lot of money) so that the victim rots for two days and the daughter lying on her dead mom's shoulder almost joins her in death due to the time lag. Although the killer is obviously crazy with rage, the psychopath still manages to hides in plain sight; which felt wrong especially when the villain is revealed. Fast-paced, filled with action, a troubled witness, and a strong law enforcement team, readers appreciate the return to Oak Knoll with a twisting whodunit filled with misdirection.
The Border Lords
T. Jefferson Parker
Los Angeles sheriff's deputy thirtyish Charlie Hood continues to work for ATF as a loaner. Currently he and his partners are conducting surveillance of a house in the border town of Buenavista, California. Four North Baja Cartel gunmen are inside along with undercover ATF agent Sean Ozburn. A close friend of Hood, Ozburn poses as a gun dealing meth peddler.
Abruptly Ozburn goes into rage and kills the cartel members before fleeing the massacre. Hood pursues his friend as he must bring Ozburn in. Meanwhile the rogue ATF agent offers the best gun on the market to a drug cartel leader while Hood's peer L.A. deputy Bradley Jones feels yanked by his ties to all the players.
The key to the latest Hood police procedural (see Iron River) is the profound realistic look at the border problem from both sides; not just the illegal immigrants but a much more complicated issue. Instead, readers observe supply and demand at its purest with the sale of guns south to the Cartels and in the sale to American customers of drugs and girls. Fans will be hooked from the opening sequence when apparently undercover Agent Ozburn went rogue and never slows down until the final confrontation. Still with all this exhilarating testosterone making for a super tale, it is the economics of the Border Lords on both sides of the fence that brews bigger issues than long time staying illegals.
Ro Curtlee serves ten years of his sentence for the rape and murder of a family housekeeper Dolores Sandoval. However, due to the constant pressure of his affluent family, the Ninth District Appeals Court orders a new trial. His wealthy parents post a million dollar bond that bails him out of jail as he awaits a retrial.
Curtlee quickly goes to work murdering a witness who testified against him. He threatens to harm the family of San Francisco Police Homicide Chief Abe Glitsky. Meanwhile Ro's parents, who own the city's member two selling newspaper the Courier, use columnist Sheila Marrenas to pressure the new District Attorney Wes Farrell and others related to the case to back off or else. SFPD led by Glitsky finds new and old evidence swallowed up by the Curtlee brood either through influence peddling, not so subtle threats, or murder.
The latest Glitsky and Dismas Hardy thriller (see A Plague of Secrets) is a great entry as the villain is incredible with all the assets he has and uses including the media. Complicated with several subplots that initially seem more like additional police caseload, but cleverly merge into a super story line, fans will wonder if the Curtlee clan will defeat Glitsky and company.
In 1772, Tsarina Catherine the Great sends her loyal battle hardened soldier Toma Nicolescu to Moldavia with instructions to keep the Cantemir family, especially the two sisters Lucine and Natasha, safe at all cost. Although unhappy with leaving the war zone to watch over pampered royalty, Toma understands his mission is to die if necessary to protect his charges.
Toma and his friend, also an experience warrior, Alek Cardei arrives in Moldavia to perform their task. However, Toma is attracted to Lucine while Alek likes both charming siblings. All is well until Vlad van Valerik and other travelers arrive from some obscure locale in Transylvania. The men wear black and the women wear tight fitting garb that showcases their assets. One of the newcomers "kisses" Natasha, leaving her unconscious and bloody while Alek fumes as he wants her. Soon Natasha begins visiting the outsiders while the Russian bear sworn to protect her distrusts this enigmatic stranger and his friends. However, he wonders if he suffers from jealousy as he watches angrily Vlad courts Lucine although Toma trusts his instincts as if he is in battle, which he may be.
This is a fascinating dark Christian historical thriller in which the Carpathian Mountains setting during the Catherine the Great era brings a fresh tone to the tale. The story line is fast-paced with good and bad extremely obvious as Toma is pure Old Testament angelic and Vlad is pure Dante's Inferno devil. Although the odd use of modern phrases (especially by womanizing smart aleck Alek) more than just distracts, as it knocks armchair travelers back to our present, fans will enjoy Ted Dekker's entertaining Eastern European vampiric historical.
H. Terrell Griffin
9781933515960 $25.95 www.oceanview.com
Retired lawyer Matt Royal has been away from his beloved fishing and beer at Longboat Key, Florida. When he finally comes home he is stunned with what has happened to friends. An assassin shot in the chest Logan Hamilton on a busy Sarasota street, Logan survived, but Longboat Key Police Chief Bill Lester, expecting a second attempt of the sniper knows his target lives, sets up a bit of misdirection by having the "victim" taken to the morgue.
Soon after that attack, that same professional kills attorney Jason Blakemoore. Not long after that Matt finds himself in the crosshairs of a determined diligent killer. Matt has no idea who and why anyone is gunning down him and his friends; however, he plans to find out and end the marauder's murdering assault even if that alienates police officer Jennifer Duncan.
This is an engaging low key thriller in which the targets are clueless as to why the perpetrator is after them. The story line is fast-paced from the opening murder attempt and never slows down. While the motives is low brow, the plot is entertainingly delightful; when the motive ties to the past and the Black Seminoles, it loses its edge as that feels forced to provide a powerful rationale. Still fans will enjoy Royal's latest tale (see Blood Island, Murder Key and Longboat Blues); as unlike his last outing (see Wyatt's Revenge) in which he was shot on two continents, he only becomes target practice on one.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
Even roommates Skip Moore and James Lessor are shocked when the Florida Department of Agriculture issues them their private investigator license though each understands the Sunshine State has been out in the sun too long. The pair opens up the Moore or Less Investigations form.
To keep from becoming starving sleuths James obtains a position as marketing director of the Moe Show traveling carnival; owner Moe Bradley must have worked for the state. Moe also orders James to investigate who is causing the accidents on the rides culminating with the death of a thirtyish woman when the safety bar on a ride failed. Skip joins James, but most of the carny employees provide Lessor cooperation as they learn first hand on the Dragon Tail and Moore insult in Freddy's Fun House. When worker Kevin Cross is murdered in his trailer, the two new official sleuths bring in the big guns, Skip's girlfriend Emily, and P.I. Jody Stacy.
Over the top of Tallahassee, the enjoyable Moore or Lessor tale (see Stuff to Spy For) has the Dumb Dicks (they are humorous unlike the 1930s movie) legal while causing the same jocular havoc with terrific asides that skewer the state. The story line is faster than the Dragon Tail ride as the duo seems to land constantly in excrement that only a fly would appreciate. With a fabulous cliffhanging finish, Don Bruns' fans will welcome the return of the zany pair and their more effective female buddies while wanting the next Moore and Lessor thriller immediately.
U.S. President Diggs sends his best peacemaker special envoy Gideon Davis to the Pacific island the Sultanate of Mohan. An Islamist insurgency led by terrorist Abu Nasir threatens to overthrow the American-friendly government. Diggs also sends advisor Earl Parker, Uncle Earl to Gideon and his older brother Tillman, as he raised them after their parents died two decades ago. Though he has not had a breather after working a cease fire in the jungles of Columbia for the last three months and just came out of a Columbian hut a few hours ago to attend a DC award ceremony, Davis knows he has to leave immediately as his sibling Tillman has twenty-three hours left.
Earl and Gideon travel to Mohan where they are to pick up rogue CIA Agent Tillman to bring him back to the States. Instead nothing goes right and Parker is abducted while Gideon struggles to survive amidst the civil war tearing apart the island country. Besides rescuing Uncle Earl, Gideon must liberate the Obelisk deep sea oil rig that terrorists led by Tillman seized. Oil rig manager Kate Murphy is Gideon's only ally.
Faster than the speed of light, the executive producer of 24 Howard Gordon brings that concept to the written thriller genre. Ignoring plausibility with the story line over the top of the Himalayas, fans of the TV show will enjoy the Houdini escape artistry of the hero while the clock ticks down with a lot more at stake than his Uncle and a key oil rig as a world conspiracy is about to ignite. Inane, but fun, Gideon's War is to take back the Obelisk from his brother while readers anticipate a Cain and Abel confrontation; lurking in the background is the global crisis.
Late at night in South Dakota, former army sniper Mercy Gunderson steps outside of Clementine's bar where she works only to find the corpse of Major Jason "J-Hawk" Hawley. J-Hawk, who saved Mercy's life in Indonesia, was shot and stabbed.
Mercy's boyfriend Eagle River County Sheriff Mason Dawson seems to perform a perfunctory investigation. Mercy decides she owes her buddy so she begins making inquiries. She uses J-Hawk's job as a spokesperson for Titan Oil on their controversial pipeline project as the starting point. However, Mercy begins to uncover some nasty stuff about her late hero that makes her wonder if she even knew J-Hawk. At the same time, FBI Indian County Special Crimes Unit Agent Shay Turnbull also investigates the homicide and the ties to Titan Oil.
The sequel to No Mercy is a super whodunit as the former soldier refuses to believe the evidence that her hero did not live up to the image she has of him. The story line is fast-paced especially when the subplot focuses in the present. The speed decelerates somewhat when the story line concentrates on Mercy's military past; although that also enhances understanding of the heroine's motives and feelings with "the statue on the pedestal comes crumbling to the ground" (Blessed is the Rain by Brooklyn Bridge).
The True Memoirs of Little K
In 1971 as she nears her hundredth birthday, Mathilde Kschessinka begins to write her autobiography. Her memory remains keen as she knows every man who bowed to her and every dance she took as the prima ballerina assoluta of the Russian Imperial Ballet. When she was seventeen years old, Little K was already a highly regarded ballerina who catches the eye of the heir to the Russian throne Nikolai Romanov. Little K became his mistress, but he ended their tryst reluctantly when he became the czar and marries Alexandra. Not one to miss a step she turned to the grand dukes; but never remaining loyal with any of the royal cousins as her devotion remained with her Niki as he is the power that she desires; he returned to her for a short tryst leading to an offspring. Her ambition surpasses that of Lady Macbeth as Little K played the cousins in an effort to place her child as the heir over the sickly son of Alexandra. The Revolution led to her exile to Paris.
This is an engaging biographical fiction of a Russian diva who gives meaning to the word diva. Filled with the lead protagonist's ambitious relationships with the Romanov family and with the ballet world, fans who relish either will enjoy the antics of the "prima ballerina assoluta.
Half-selkie Jane True know she is fortunate to be alive after her last incident with a part of the ruling Alfar (see Tracking the Tempest) that want hybrids dead. She vows to never again be caught unaware or unskilled as she did when she took a Bostonian timeout. Thus Jane has diligently trained on the use of magic while life in Rockabill has been serene; her biggest problem is she throws fireballs like a girl.
However, Jane suffers a personal setback when barghest Anyan informs her that her mother who vanished ages ago was found murdered. Jane vows to find her killers who apparently have been conducting evil experiments on the supernatural essences. However, in a short time, Jane has made enemies who look at those she loves as a means to destroy the upstart.
Jane remains true to herself while struggling with the knowledge of her mother's murder as she had hoped they would one day they would be together. Her vow to avenge her mom's death leads her into a new Tempest Rising as she makes enemies who have no qualms about collateral damage to her loved ones as they did to her mother. Fans will enjoy Jane True's third urban fantasy as she is a delightful "original" character.
The Spirit Eater
Professional thief Eli Monpress the charm wizard decides he and his two partners, Josef Liechten the swordsman with a magic sword and Nico the demonseed who stalks the shadows earned some R&R after their successful venture in the impenetrable Duke of Gaol citadel (see The Spirit Rebellion). His plan is to spend money and have fun, but not be auspicious.
However, a friend Pele Slorn begs Eli to find her missing father Ferdinand the Head Shaper and Guildmaster of the Shaper Clans. Although he could use a respite, Eli agrees to search for him and his two companions accede to delay their relaxation to assist him.
Meanwhile Nico struggles to control the demon that lives within her. She fears the voice is taking over her head so she tries to suppress it. However, their quest to find Pele's dad needs Nico's demonic generated power so either she releases the dynamo for the sake of her friends or deny the existence of the Spirit Eater she fears is destroying her identity.
The latest Monpress Spirit fantasy (The Spirit Thief) is a super tale as the three thieves search for a missing shaper wondering how to find someone who can change shapes and may not want to be found especially with the Lord of Storms, the League and demons involved. The story line is action-packed from the moment Pele pleads with Eli and never slows down until the final Monpress-caused altercation. However, even with Eli at his outrageously charming thieving best, what makes this a super tale is the internal conflict within Nico as the demon inside her battles for control with her essence in a sort of fantasy version of dissociative identity disorder.
The Fallen Blade
Jon Courtenay Grimwood
In 1407, di Millioni Family descendants of Marco Pole (see End of the World Blues) rule Venice. The city-state is powerful on the Italian Peninsular but has much stronger enemies across the continent from the expanding Ottoman, Byzantine and German Empires. Political finesse is needed but the Duke of Venice Marco IV is known as "Simpleton" for an obvious reason. His Uncle Prince Alonzo rules as the Regent supported by a guild of assassins and the alchemist Dr. Hightown Crow. Marco's widowed mother Duchess Alexa abetted by her stregoi witch A'rial keeps the ambitious Regent under some restraint.
Alonzo arranges for Marco's fifteen year old cousin Lady Giulietta to marry King Janus of Cyprus in a strategically astute move to forge an alliance against the Ottomans. However, his plan is actually much more insidious than a simple pact. Giulietta will already be pregnant carrying a di Millioni offspring when she weds Janus; after their marriage she is to kill her spouse and his relatives.
Instead Giulietta vanishes. Alonzo dispatches his top agents to recover her. Inside the ship Quaja, guards find a chained naked teen; they free him only to watch Tycho escape using superhuman speed and strength. Later Master Assassin Atilo il Mauros observes Tycho drinking blood from someone the lad just killed. The aging Atilo knows he has found his replacement at a critical time when his team has been battered by German Prince Leopold's werewolves.
This is a fascinating action-packed alternate historical fantasy. Even with the paranormal elements, Jon Courtenay Grimwood captures the intrigue that was so prevalent in early fifteenth century Venice especially at the top levels of leadership, which in turn makes the otherworldly segues seem genuine. With a delightful twist tying the strong subplots together, fans will appreciate this tense thriller.
Flip This Zombie
David and Sarah believe they can make a go of their marriage and form a business after learning so much about Living with the Dead (see Married with Zombies). They figure there must be a lot of paying customers In Arizona who would hire them to exterminate zombies; ergo Zombiebusters Exterminators, Inc. is born with the vision of being the Trump or Gates of Zombie killing.
Research scientist Dr. Kevin Barnes hires the pair to catch a live zombie specimen so he can conduct field work in his efforts to find a cure for the plague. Sarah is attracted to the handsome scientist. However, the pair realizes the zombies are changing into creatures more dangerous than those they first battered as the new generation is faster and contains cognitive thinking skills. However, they capture one with the help of eleven year old Robbie who demands a cut.
Humor and gore come together in this entertaining straightforward urban fantasy as the couple reconciles their differences indirectly due to the fear factor of zombie marital counseling. The story line is fast-paced though quite bloody linear while Jesse Peterson offers suggestions to the successful business mogul to make a profit and staying alive. Fans who appreciate an irreverent tale will add to their contact list Zombiebusters Exterminators, Inc. as "who ya gonna call?" the duo driving the "doobious" Mystery Machine.
Journal of a UFO Investigator
In 1966 in Philadelphia sixteen years old Jewish Danny Shapiro worries about his dying mom but finds solace in UFOs as he cannot turn to his hostile father for solace. Over three years earlier, he saw his first UFO, which was not a shocker to him as he had been a UFO investigator for two weeks. His fascination leads to a split from his long time school buddies who find the study of UFOs inane, weird and extremely tedious. Danny is indifferent to being ostracized as he meets new friends who share his interest.
Danny and his cronies investigate UFO phenomena. He soon finds himself in unbelievable adventures as the three Men in Black interrogate him; he disappears in middle earth and soars to the moon. Before he can come home to see how mom is doing he finds himself as an out-patient in an alien operating room and falling in love with an ET thief. Stunned by all he encounters, Danny becomes guardian to a hybrid ET-earthling, who is the golden child expected to simply save the planet.
This is a strange yet profound coming of age tale starring a teen isolated from his friends due to his obsession that makes him different in an environ that demands fit to standardization; as variance need not apply. Danny is a sympathetic protagonist who seems lost with no hope to the reader as he creates a world where he is a superhero unlike his Philadelphia neighborhood where he is a scorned pariah. David Halperin provides a discerning psychological tale that uses science fiction elements to tell the story of a lost soul who dreams of great things in his fantasies to escape his realities.
The Poison Tree
A decade after they first met, Karen, accompanied by her nine year old daughter Alice the chatterbox; pick up Rex after he spent the past ten years in prison convicted of murder. Karen reflects back to 1993 when her life radically changed. It started innocently with her receiving a scholarship to attend Queen Charlotte's College in London. At the school, she meets drama student Biba Capel, whose off beat behavior fascinates the scholarship student. Biba introduces her new friend to her even odder older brother Rex.
The siblings invite Karen to come to their family house, a deteriorating but at one time incredible home in Highgate. There Karen meets an assortment of strange renters. The trio tosses wild party that alienates their neighbors, but none of them care as the feel they reside in paradise. However, the serpent arrives when Biba's lover crashes the idyllic Utopia. Soon murder joins the mix.
The Poison Tree is terrific twisting British psychological thriller as the audience is hooked to learn how Rex is freed after ten years behind bars for murder. Karen is a strong protagonist who though frightened understands the stakes that she has "everything to lose" including the happiness that she thought would be forever with Rex. Filled with spins, Erin Kelly's suspense laden tale is a fabulous way to open 2011.
A Little Bit Sinful
Viscount Sebastian Dodd has waited for seemingly forever to enact vengeance for the death of his mother years ago. He remained patient though each ensuing season of the Ton added to his thirst to finally achieve his vendetta. Now the opportunity is here and he seizes the moment. He will seduce innocent Bianca Collins.
However, his problem is not with the lovely Bianca, but with her obstinate older sister Eleanor. Whereas the men compete for Bianca, Sebastian prefers Eleanor as he enjoys their witty battles. She begins to fall in love with him, but assumes he loves Bianca so she steps aside. He knows his plan will only work with Bianca, but he cannot ignore Eleanor. Then they kiss. Revising his cold scheme of revenge, Sebastian finds the nurturing warmth of love so much more enlightening until his beloved learns of their past connection and why she assumes he courted the Collins' sisters.
Although the twin R themes of revenge and redemption have been used many times before, the cast keeps Adrienne Basso's historical romance a fresh, fun frolic. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing as a little bit of love overpowers years of anger. The secondary characters enhance the house party in which Sebastian learns vengeance is served cold while love serves internal warmth.
A Taste of Desire
In 1876 Lady Amelia Bertram's frantic father frets over her shenanigans that he always ends up cleaning up for her. After each incident including several elopements, he vows never again, but ends up cleaning up her mess. Worried what trouble his headstrong daughter will dive head first into while he is across the great pond conducting business, Bertram needs someone to control his devilish offspring though he never succeeded at that endeavor.
At a gala, Amelia loudly derides the reputed sexual skills of Lord Thomas Armstrong. At the same time, Bertram asks a favor of Armstrong to watch over his daughter while he is in America. Armstrong reluctantly agrees to serve as surrogate guardian because he owes his mentor a lot; beside he wants to tame the shrew. In front of his family, her servants, his mistress, her former "fiance" and a cast of quadrillion, the gender war begins in earnest.
Although none of the support cast seems more than a stereotype and the lead couple not much more fleshed out, fans will enjoy this riotous Victorian romance. The witty battle of the sexes is amusing as each of the combatants vow to teach their adversary a lesson in humility; neither was prepared for the taming of their heart.
Taken by the Others
Elder vampire Max Carlyle has waited for centuries to find a tool to avenge a grudge he holds against a long time peer Alec Royce. Max believes he has the ideal expendable pawn in human private investigator Shiarra Waynest who has a legal obligation to Alec. Max kidnaps Shiarra and directs two of his fledglings to dine on her blood.
Royce rescues Shiarra from further abuse. However, Shiarra knows the vampire will continue to stalk her unless she acts as she refuses to wait for anyone, even Alec the vampire, to rid her of this pestilence. She plans to stalk her stalker to kill him although even she knows her charms and her allies enhancing her chances are probably not close to the power level of Mad Max.
The third H&W Investigation urban fantasy (see Hunted by the Others and Speak of Temptation; part of the Nocturnal anthology) is a great entry. From the opening scene when a human purebred member of the White Hats points a gun into her face and never slows down as she becomes the pawn in a vampire war and with the White Hats. With vampires, werewolves, White Hat humans and mages seem to all want several pints of Shairra's blood.
In 1870 in the "Godforsaken" Colorado Territory, Emily Brockinger reflects back on leaving the upper crust Boston home of her sister in order to not to care for her three spoiled nieces and dodge her brother-in-law to live with her brother in Lockbridge. Now she, three year old Thornton Sears and a mule headed mule are the only survivors of an Indian massacre.
Leaving the military hitching post to avoid Sweet Abigail's clutches and the new officer in charge's stupidity, one fourth Indian Cloud Ryder watches the woman with the bonnet walking slowly across the harsh land out in the open. He assumes she is a fool and that the child was hers. Cloud joins them and learns she buried the twenty dead before heading west. He offers to escort them to Lockbridge in exchange for her sleeping with him. Shocked by his unkind audacity and abashed that she is attractive to this rogue, she accepts his terms as she fears he will leave her and Thornton, who calls her Mama, behind. As the trio treks to her destination, they begin to fall in love, as his skepticism of women clinging changes with her roll up your sleeves attitude.
This is a reprint of an entertaining western romance starring two wonderful adults and a confused child; although a late suspense in Lockbridge seems unnecessary as the plot is at its best when the trio is traveling the dangerous land. Hannah Howell especially captures the difficulty of trekking with a three years old child made worse as he just lost his family. Americana romance readers will enjoy the exciting Compromised Hearts.
Vow of Deception
In 1276 England, Lady Rosalyn Ayleston understands the meaning of the death of her abusive husband, Lord Bertram; as instead of being under his nastiness she will now be subject to King Edward's mercurial temperament. The monarch will select her mate though her choice is a left alone widow raising her son Jason and working her estates Ayleston Castle. Before a new husband is chosen, she decides on a vow of chastity to thwart the King.
King Edward sends loyal knight Sir Rand Montague to escort his childhood friend Rose to court. Rand, who has vowed not to marry, changes his mind when he finds out cruel Lord Golan will wed Rose. He proposes to Rose who accepts with the stipulation their nuptial remains a marriage of convenience though they once shared an incredible night of passion. As they fall in love, war against the Welsh heats up and Golan plots to destroy the pair for the humiliation he received when they wed.
The second medieval Vows romance (see Vow of Seduction) is an entertaining historical as King Edward I proves to be a failure at matchmaking. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the monarch sends his trusted knight to retrieve the widow. Although Golon is a weak bullying adversary even compared to his partner, fans will enjoy this suspense laden journey to love.
After a decade in prison for the murder of Josiah Cross, Eva Rayburn is freed and returns home to Alexandria, Virginia. Eva thinks back to the horrific night when the predatory Cross terrorized her and other members of their sorority sisters after one of the coeds broke off with him. Ironically though she spends time behind bars, she remains unsure whether she actually killed the lunatic.
However, someone begins murdering the sisters; using a heated branding iron to burn a four-pointed star on each of the conscious victims before stabbing their prey in the heart. Alexandria homicide detective Deacon Garrison leads the serial killer investigation with Eva assisting him although neither trusts one another.
Senseless is a strong romantic suspense starring an intriguing heroine who holds the taut thriller together. The relationship between the cop and the con enhances the tenseness of the story line with a late twist that augments the feeling of doom. Readers will want to know who the serial killer is and why this psychopath targets the sorority sisters even with knowing the probable motive most likely ties back to Cross. This is a powerful thriller.
In 1884 residents of Reidsville, Colorado offer a medical job to Dr. Coleridge Monroe. He is somewhat surprised since he did not apply. However, he figures his ward since their parents died his sixteen year old sister Whitley did so in his place. She knows he is unhappy at the St. John of God's hospital in NYC where Dr. Erwin stifles his research.
In Reidsville, at the urging of Sheriff Wyatt Cooper whose wife Rachel pushed him to do so, deputy Will Beatty takes Cole to see two hermits, Judah Abbot and his son Runt. The family was a troupe of actors but the mother died birthing Runt and the older brothers left. While Cole examines Judah, Will finds an almost unconscious Runt bleeding horrifically from a beating. Cole realizes "he" is miscarrying due to a severe battering. Runt tells him her name is Rhyne and she is glad the baby is gone due to the sin. Will takes Judah to jail to keep Cole and Rhyne safe. They stay behind at his house so Rhyne can heal enough to travel. Wyatt and Rachel arrive as she knew Runt was female and pregnant so she sent Cole to her. She knows also Runt was raped. Cole takes Rhyne to his home where Whitley welcomes her warmly. As Rhyne and Cole fall in love a typhoid epidemic spreads killing many people; Cole and others work diligently to save lives and to figure out how it started.
The lead couple is a strong pairing of two interesting people as she was thought to be a man until she miscarried and he is a research physician. His sister, her father and the leads from Never Love a lawman enhance the story line with a great late twist. Although readers will find it difficult to understand how Judah thinks, Marry Me is a wonderful western romance.
The hostile debate between the four colleges of magic finally explodes into open warfare as Xetesk seizes the opportunity to take the first rung on their vision of dominion with an assault on the depleted Julatsa, who sacrificed so much in the Wesmen wars (see Chronicles of the Raven trilogy). The Julatsa know they must find a way to survive the invaders, but to do so they will need the interred Heart of Julatsan.
The other two colleges Lystern and Dordover discuss what to do when a somewhat depleted Xetesk turns to them and how to control what is left of the Raven. They forge an alliance with a plan to invade Xetesk after it wastes much of its magic, but to do so they must lock away or assassinate the Raven survivors. However, way to the west, a power is surfacing whose vision is that of a Balaian continent with no magic or eastern mage-rulers. In a ploy to conquer the other three colleges and thereby the continent, Xetesk has turned to the Balaian as an ally especially with the alliance and Raven in the way of their manifest destiny.
The second Legends of the Raven fantasy (see Elf Sorrow) is a terrific middle tale as the hostilities that remained outward towards the anti-magical Black Wings (their mass grave as described in this thriller is simply grim and eerie) turns inward between the colleges. Readers will appreciate the continual saga of the Raven as the exhilarating story line is filled with action, but it is the political intrigue that makes for another great entry by James Barclay.
Following the cessation of the horrific war between the four colleges of magic (see Chronicles of the Raven: Dawnthief, Noonshade and Nightchild), Balaia survivors struggle to stay alive. Making matters worse during the ordeal is the desecration of the Elven god Yniss Temple has revealed a previously unknown plague Elfsorrow that is further destroyed the already devastated land.
The Raven Mercenaries have no time to rest as they trek to the new continent Calaius, which was the ancient home of the elven. They seek mages to end to the conflict. Others also arrive with plans to plunder the island by stealing magic and mages. At the same time in Balaia, Selik and his Black Wings anti-magic insurgency demands the leaders vow to not use magic as no one any longer trusts in this type of force.
The opening act of the Legends of the Raven fantasy is a terrific complex follow-up to the harrowing war vividly described in the Chronicles of the Raven trilogy as the survivors hope to get on with their lives in the aftermath. The story line is fast-paced even with several major subplots that ties cleverly together. Mindful of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq, readers will appreciate James Barclay's superb thriller as the war is won, yet the peace remains unsteadily unresolved.
Call Me Irresistible
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Since leaving the professional links former PGA star Ted Beaudine has become mayor of Wynette, Texas. He and the daughter of a former president Lucy Jorik are engaged. However, Lucy's BFF Meg Koranda, in town for the wedding, realizes her buddy has humongous doubts. So with a little persuasion on Meg's part, Lucy breaks it off as she feels she deserves a passionate lover and not a guy always stoically putting.
Meg's parents have cut off her financial backing before her arrival in Texas. With Lucy running away, Meg is stranded in Wynette with no way to pay her bills. The townsfolk who worship Teddy loathe her as a Hollywood snob who interfered with the happiness of the popular local guy. They take it out on Meg who tries to make it while also helping a raging Ted find his heart.
This amusing romance stars two antagonists who were secondary characters in previous tales (see Fancy Pants and Glitter Baby). Although readers will need to accept the implausible nasty reaction by townsfolk who hold Meg culpable for Lucy leaving; as she is the runaway bride's best friend and her arrival led to doubts. She also remains stranded in Wynette as a handy target to revenge the hole in one in Ted's psyche. Fans will enjoy her learning that good intentions pave the road to hell in Wynette as she takes a beating but keeps on ticking until Ted and his supporters realize she should be his bride.
If Wishes Were Horses
In Boca Raton Wyatt Blaine asks his wife Krista to buy ice cream for his thirty fifth birthday party celebrated at the ranch of his septuagenarian widow father Ramsey. Soon afterward his brother Morgan informs Wyatt his wife and their son Danny died in a car crash caused by the other driver Jason Powers drunk driving who died leaving behind a widow Gabrielle and a seven years old son Trevor.
Five years later, Gabby and Trevor attend the St. Andrews Episcopal Church, which Wyatt goes to also. To honor Krista, he informs Reverend James Jacobson that he plans to bring back her successful horse therapy New Beginnings Program. James is extremely happy about the program and Wyatt is showing some signs of moving on, but is worried about his reaction when he learns Gabby has signed up troubled Trevor who has failed to move on since his beloved dad died. He blames Krista for his father's death in spite of his mom's efforts to get him to accept the truth. James introduces Gabby to Wyatt, who is irate with the joke. Gabby pleads with him that Trevor needs help that she cannot afford and James reminded him Krista never said no. Wyatt angrily agrees. Gabby realizes that her son and Wyatt are similar. Trevor blames Krista and Wyatt blames Gabby. At the ranch, it is obvious to everyone especially Ramsey that the adults are attracted to one another and her son troubled though happy with the horses, but the deadly car crash keeps them divided.
The lead couple is a dynamic pairing of star-crossed lovers who share the same tragedy while the support cast is strong enhancing the understanding of the lead couple. Although the psychological horse therapy aspects are not developed very deeply, readers will enjoy Robert Barclay's engaging tale.
Because of You
Attorney Jordan Wainwright left his family's lucrative real estate firm and tyrannical grandfather to practice law in Harlem with partner Kyle Chatham. Jordan is a diligent caring defender for the disenfranchised.
Thirty-five years old Westchester litigator Aziza Fleming and Jordan meet at a New Year's Eve Party thrown by her brother, a football star. They are attracted to each other, but she distrusts men so deeply, it is imprinted in her bone marrow having been harassed by her ex boss and cheated on amongst other indiscretions by her former husband. As they fall in love; he works as hard at earning her trust as he does for his clients, but has one game-breaking secret that he vowed to conceal years ago yet he owes her the truth; Jordan knows he will break someone's trust in him.
Expanding on the terrific Best Men saga (see Men of fate for Jordan's intro) with the opening act of the Wainwright Legacy, Rochelle Alers provides a strong contemporary romance with ties to Harlem's past. The lead couple is a dedicated pair who enjoys helping others; gaining the admiration of the audience. With a fabulous twist re his secret that will rock fans of the Alers' universe, Because of You is a great tale enhanced by stars from the Best Men and Signature Brides series.
In Manhattan attorney Stone Barrington goes to dine at his usual spot Elaine's with his former NYPD partner Dino Bachetti and his boss Bill Eggers managing partner at Woodman & Weld law firm arrives. His efforts leads to Bill giving Stone a check for one million dollars for bringing in a new client Strategic Services whose founder Hackett was murdered by British Intel agents in Maine with Barrington at his side. Apparently Stone's undercover work with British MI6 has brought in the new customer while Eggers says he may nominate Stone for a full partnership next year.
The CIA asks Stone to help escort from Spain to the States fugitive Erwin Gelbhardt. Stone becomes Gelbhardt's lawyer. He offers a deal with the Feds; in exchange for a lesser or no sentencing, his client will reveal where Osama bin Laden hides. Then there is Freeman of Strategic Services who may be running a Madoff scheme.
Putting aside background plausibility that is over the top of the Empire State Building starting with ignoring the on-line media presence, fans of the Barrington saga will enjoy his latest entry. Being "of counsel" he works cases for the company in which W&W do not want the DNA trail leading back to them and this time has a couple of deadly doozies. Fans will enjoy Stone's version of a legal thriller as the action never slows from the start with M16 in the background to the finish with the FBI in the forefront.
The Youngest Templar: Orphan of Destiny
Michael P. Spradlin
In 1191, Tristan of St. Albans continues his quest to complete the mission of the Holy Grail as assigned to him by Sir Thomas in Outremer (see Keeper of the Grail). Thanks in major part to his companions Robard, Maryam the Al Hasshashin and Angel arrive in Calais (see Trail of fate). However, the lunatic chasing them from the Holy Land Sir Hugh threatens to hang Maryam of Tristan fails to hand over the Grail. Tristan holds Queen Mother Eleanor hostage, but all seems lost. Although Tristan is hurt and unconscious, they manage to row across the Channel landing two days south of Dover where Sir Hugh awaits them.
With no place to go with the Grail except St. Albans in Scotland, they head there. However, ha harrowing trek upon arrival, they find the abbey burned to the ground. Only Brother Tuck lives. While Tristan and his allies ponder what to do with the Grail, Tuck gives him letters from the late King Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Brother Rupert; the correspondence explains all Tristan as coveted knowing.
Orphan of Destiny is a fabulous fitting finish to a strong young adult late twelfth century thriller. Fast-paced with amazing action, readers will enjoy the final stretch of the quest as the trio struggles to find someone to trust with the Grail while Hugh continues to apply the pressure on them. Fans will enjoy the adventures of The Youngest Templar as he risks his life to complete the pledge he made to his mentor Sir Thomas in Outremer.
Dr. Kay Scarpetta is the new director of the Cambridge Forensic Center in Massachusetts. Working with her at the Massachusetts facility is her niece Lucy and Pete Marino. Kay attends a training fellowship at Port Mortuary in Dover Air Force Base where she is learning the latest technology that she can apply at the CFC. While she is at the Delaware installation, her second in command Jack Fielding runs CFC until he freaks out when a corpse starts bleeding.
Knowing Jack cannot cope with the situation, Kay returns home having finished the course anyway. When she arrives at CFC, she finds the inmates running the asylum. Scarpetta takes 3-D virtual technology x-rays, which shows internal injuries unlike any she has seen before. She has no idea what weapon could have caused such damage. Benton is working a case in which a suspect swore he killed a child, but he believes the confession is false as he thinks the victim's death is connected to Scarpetta's odd case. Soon there are two more deaths seemingly separate cases but Scarpetta makes connections that tie her victim to Benton's case and feels all the deaths are linked but her husband is not talking about the cases as he usually does.
Ignoring that Scarpetta as the director would not have time for bench work and follow-up especially on a new Fed-State-MIT venture; her latest forensic inquiry is a fantastic thriller with the lab work as gripping if not more so as the foot work. Told in the first person by the heroine, readers obtain Scarpetta's perspective on the case, her marriage, her new job, Dover (past and present), and her feeling about Lucy and Marino. The story line retains throughout a fast pace and is action-packed even in the lab as Patricia Cornwell interweaves state of the art technology (we've come a long ways from the Body farm) into a strong whodunit.
In Too Deep
Jayne Ann Krentz
She worked for Lucas Protection Services under a false name; just one more false alias like she has had all of her life. She ran from her family and their nutty conspiracy theories as they worked hard to stay off the grid. She discovers there is an illegal arm's selling segment within the company she works for and they are going to pin the rap on her. She runs, but they catch her; she barely escapes being killed because the operation is illegal and Isabelle Valdez does not know who to trust in the firm; so she trusts no one.
Heeding her grandma's advice, she heads for Scargill Cove, California. Many of the residents are psychic like Isabelle who obtains a job with a powerful psycgic Fallon Jones who runs a detective agency. His clientele is usually from the Arcane Society devoted to Psy research and the police. Fallon and his new assistant find cache of psychic weapons hidden in a bomb shelter. They dismantle one that seems set to explode and have the arcane experts disable the rest. The pair follows clues that lead back to Lucas Protection dealing in psychic weapons that in the wrong hands could prove especially dangerous. They know they must break up the ring of sellers, buyers and suppliers; however the stakeholders in this lethal enterprise will kill any intruder without remorse. As Fallon and Isabelle fall in love, a new emotion for each, they do not lose sight of the mission.
Once again, Jayne Ann Krentz delivers a fantastic romantic suspense with a terrific angle involving psychic warfare. The fast-paced story line contains the trademark Ms. Krentz quirky characters, dry witty humor and loads of action. The lead characters are each powerful psychics who readers will believe used their Psy powers on us to finish the talein one exciting sitting.
In Madison, Wisconsin the "Lady of the Lake" Rachel Matre recuperates from her harrowing experience in which the lunatic Arlin Korbus kidnapped and tattooed her before she escaped (see Night Tides). Diner owner Rachel heals rather quickly because of her link with the friendly spirits of Lake Mendota though doubt lingers in her mind because she almost failed her mortal and supernatural friends.
Murder near the lake disrupts the spirits. Additionally, Rachel's recovery stops abruptly when an evil spirit arrives. The malevolence cuts her off from her spirit allies and the tattoo has her craving for what she should avoid. As she tries to learn what is going on and whether her friends in Lake Mendota are okay, Rachel obtains help from Ethan Walker. With time running out, she fears for the safety of the townsfolk, the spirits of the lake, Ethan and lastly herself as an ancient deadly mystery has surfaced near Lake Mendota.
This is a delightful aqua urban fantasy starring a wonderful woman still recovering from the trauma she suffered in Night Tides, which the large tattoo serves as a reminder. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Rachel's link to the water spirits is abruptly severed and never slows down as she obsesses to do the right thing by them and the people of Madison, but also finds herself battling with dark desire. Fans will enjoy this engaging thriller wondering whether the now Dark Waters will become Rachel's grave.
What the Night Knows
Providing no explanation afterward as to why he committed the atrocity, fourteen year old Billy Lucas simply butchered his family. Homicide detective John Calvino knows Billy's case hits too close to home. Two decades ago serial killer Alton Turner Blackwood slaughtered John's family and three other families; only John survived by shooting the maniac who was in the midst of a deranged ritual.
John has always feared that Blackwood was possessed by a malevolent spirit who the cop believes has not finished the job. His fear is not so much for himself, but for his wife and their three children. John visits the teen at a psychiatric ward, but as soon as he leaves his family members especially his preadolescent kids begin to feel haunted. John knows time is running out for him to prevent history from repeating itself; perhaps his only reliable ally though he has doubts of the existence and the loyalty is Willard; his family's deceased dog.
This is an exciting horror thriller that grips the reader with the same high level of suspense that Dean Koontz always achieves. The behavior of the four Calvino family members in some ways reflect the inane behavior of a teen-slasher movie, as each conceals what is happening to them from each other. With a nod to the OK Corral, fans will enjoy the supernatural battle between Calvino and the evil essences from beyond even as Mr. Koontz sets up a potential sequel.
Under the Mercy Trees
In 1986 in Willoby County, North Carolina, Leon Owenby disappears without a trace. His younger brother wannabe writer Martin leaves New York City to come home to help in the search for Leon. Martin leaves behind in Manhattan his former lover Dennis and their dying friends as the AIDS epidemic has devastated the New York gay community like a modern day Black Plague.
In North Carolina, Martin resents being back in the closet as he has always hid his sexual preference from family and friends. He even had a girlfriend in high school, who still loves him. Months pass with no progress in finding the missing Leon, but so many family secrets have been revealed; yet perhaps because of his previous self-protective training growing up as a closet gay, no one knows about Martin's New York lifestyle or at least no one will openly raise it.
Told mostly by Martin although there are other perspectives with each containing their own personality, fans will enjoy this interesting "historical" family drama in which the Reagan era feels like ancient history with its pre Information/Communication age. The premise for the family gathering in Willoby is strong, but their remaining in the county over several months turns the storyline somewhat weak. Still readers will appreciate this enticing tale of secrets revealed by an ensemble cast with diverse emotional needs wearing family masks to conceal those personal issues assumed would lead to excommunication of that person.
In Washington D.C. Paige Campbell leaves a meeting with POTUS. Her motorcade drives away when a precise unit attacks them. Everyone accompanying Paige is killed. Before she is taken prisoner she manages to contact her partner at Tangent Bethany Stewart.
Stewart asks Travis Chase, who was involved in a Tangent operation (see Breach), to assist her in rescuing Campbell. She also informs him of a top secret essence that looks like a dark metallic cylindrical gizmo that opens a window into time. What has been seen is a forbidden future. Chase and Stewart believe POTUS or advisors close to the President were behind the assault as the timing was impeccable and though they want to save Campbell, the first priority is to save mankind.
This is a great action-packed science fiction tale that grips the audience from the opening cell phone call Campbell makes to her partner and never slows down as Tangent works a dangerous scenario in which the duet switches from mission recue Paige to save the world. Fast-paced at an incredible rate of speed, fans will not stop to ponder plausibility or a deep breath as Patrick Lee hooks the reader with his superb Ghost Country thriller.
The King's Daughter
Although King James I ignores the danger within his kingdom as dangerous as that on the continent due to a seemingly coming religious war between the Protestants and Catholics. James believes he is the peacemaker even while his own court is divided. His vessels for peace are strategic marriages between his offspring and those of other rulers as grandchildren prevent war.
James' daughter Elizabeth was born when he was the King of Scotland and estranged from her mother Anne. When the English monarch died, six years old Elizabeth watches her father become the King of England. Three years later, traitors try to kill her father and place the nine year old Elizabeth on the throne, but the Gunpowder Plot fails. However, her sire trusting no one wonders how involved his daughter truly was. Over the years Elizabeth only trusts her black slave Thalia Bristo as they share in common "captivity" and a desire for freedom. When she meets her latest intended as her father has played with her mind by threatening her with suitors, Elizabeth thinks Frederick V, Elector of the Palatinate, would make an ideal spouse so she must trick her dad into approving their marriage while not losing her head to either man.
Christy Dickason provides a profound fresh historical biography that moves beyond the Tudor publishing tsunami to the beginning of the Stuart reign. Elizabeth is terrific as she swims the deadly sea of intrigue that inundates her father's rule. Although a target of the Gunpowder Plot, she becomes a victim even though she escaped the attempted abduction as her father assumes she was a willing participant; already envious of her popularity he never trusts her again. This is a deep look at the King's Daughter; the other Elizabeth who kept her head too.
Stay with Me
Sandra Rodriguez Barron
In 1979, five toddlers, each with a starfish drawn on their hand, were rescued from a small boat during a hurricane. An anonymous female telephoned the Mayaguez, Puerto Rico authorities tipping them off that the five children were on a boat tied to a dock with no adult supervision. Each was placed in a home, but David, Adrian, Raymond, Taina and Holly kept in touch as the harrowing experience bonded them like siblings.
Almost three decades later, David is diagnosed with brain cancer. His four mates rush to his side to be there for him. He considers them his family; and has two requests of them that only they can perform. He wants to know if their DNA matches and pleads with them to discover the identity of the female who called the cops, thirty years ago. Although they disagreed in the past whether to investigate what happened, the other four will do anything for David who is dying.
The quintet makes the tale seem plausible as each has a unique personality, but it is David's illness which anchors the realism and provides a tear jerker element. Character driven, fans will enjoy the saga of the five who came from the sea as babies illegally (good thing it was Puerto Rico) who always even in death remain bonded to one another.
Bell Bridge Books
9780984325689 $16.95 www.bellbridgebooks.com
In Atlanta six foot plus Mohawk wearing Dakota Frost runs the Rogue Unicorn in Little Five Points. She claims to be the best kick-butt magical tattooist in the Southeast. Her clients include witches and shapeshifters as she is a super skindancing tattooist. Dakota hates bloodsuckers like Republicans and vampires; in her mind both rule the world with one more overt about their dining on others.
Atlanta Police department Homicide detective Rand, who is close to Dakota's father, asks her to come to the station. There he shows her evidence of ripped off human skin with a tattoo on it pinned to a board. Rand asks Dakota questions as to what the magical tattoo does; she says it is the work of Richard Sumner, buried in Cincinnati in 2005. Rand says he needs her help open the case where as the normally offensive amazon just wants to puke as the wood is actually a box containing more epidermis. Obviously a serial killer is murdering the tattooed. She knows if she assists the cops and Feds, she will be drawn away from drinking coffee at gentile outdoor cafes with patrons like witches into the darkest slum of the city; Edgeworld where the nastiest paranormal live amidst the tormented souls.
Although too much of the Francis universe is introduced in the first SKINDANCER urban fantasy, fans will enjoy this terrific paranormal amateur sleuth. In many ways the story line reads like an otherworldly noir starring the latest six foot plus kick butt female tattooist (see Ellie Jasper's Dark Ink Chronicles and Karen E. Olson's The Tattoo Shop). Dakota's take no prisoners' investigation provides readers with the vivid vision of Anthony Francis' Atlanta Underground inside an exhilarating thriller.
The Goddess of Fried Okra
Bell Bridge Books
9780984125890 $16.95 www.bellbridgebooks.com
Years on the road with Mama and Sister running away from bill collectors led to six foot red haired Eudora "Pea" O'Brien swearing she would settle down in one place to root and die. When Mama died, Sister was sixteen and Pea eight. Sister ran off social services do-gooders and used her glaring mojo to send away her no good father Alvin. Instead she raised Pea.
Now over two decades since mama died, Sister is dead too. Pea is filled with remorse with how she treated her Sister who sacrificed so much for her. She wants to tell her she is sorry and appreciative. Like Sister, Pea believes in reincarnation, but to reconnect she must find Sister's new host body. Pea begins a Texas Odyssey seeking the signs of Sister. Her trek with no money leads to other outsiders joining her quest as they seek to belong too. Soon she finds herself mentored in sword fighting by a reincarnation of Howard's Red Sonja and in the most critical element of southern living, creating fried okra fit for the Goddesses; while also raising a child as Pea has found the glory of a family.
This is an intriguing character study that focuses on Pea who learns what life is all about with the death of beloved Sister and her Dorothy on the road to Oz trek as she picks up caring misfits in need. None of the support cast is fully developed as their sole purpose is support of Pea. Fans who enjoy a leisurely paced Texas Odyssey will want to accompany Pea and her companions as they journey in real terms just a few miles but metaphorically light-years.
9781935661931 $12.95 www.BellBooks.com
Heather Tildy wants to be accepted when she enters high school as a freshman at the end of the summer. She figures her best chance is with her older sister Audrey who treats her like a miscreant alien.
However Heather's campaign to win over her sibling hits snag when she meets a preadolescent aged ghost from the ninetieth century. Assuming she is going crazy by having an imaginary friend as a teenager; Heather worries about how to rid herself of this spirited spirit. Making matters worse while convincing Heather that she is haunted by Amy, the ghost at times possesses Heather's body. She makes her do stuff that makes Audrey and her friends deem her as weird. Embarrassed as she knows her family, friends and the hunk lifeguard scorn her for Haint Misbehavin', Heather needs to help Amy move on.
This is an enjoyable middle school Ghost Whisperer thriller starring a wonderful teenager who is abashed by her new paranormal skill as everyone who matters to her believes she is fruitcake except for her aunt who everyone knows is a fruitcake; ergo Heather a chip off the nutty block. Although her family is somewhat stereotyped especially Audrey, young adult readers will enjoy the opening Ghost Handler teen urban fantasy due to the heroine who thanks to her ghost is in deep trouble with her parents and others.
Drop Dead Divas
Bell Bridge Books
9781935661962 $14.95 www.BellBridgeBooks.com
The dozen Dixie Divas travel from their hometown of Cherryhill, Mississippi to visit historical Holly Springs to help a fellow spirit in trouble with the law. Notorious back home for their misadventures caused they insist by mixing chocolate with alcohol, the stiletto heeled aging southern-belles are musketeers with one for all and all for one. In spite of "Bitty" Truevine shouting in a public cafe where gossip roams faster than Twitter that the slut needs to be strangled, the sisterhood posses come to the aid of bad girl Naomi Spencer, who's in trouble with the law.
Led by the Truevine siblings, "Trinket" and Bitty, the crew plans to take the town by storm by trying to prove Naomi is innocent of murdering her fiance, drag racing superstar Race Champion. Naomi swears she has done a lot of questionable things in her life, but being a slut does not include homicide of especially someone she relishes going around the track with her style. However, even before the dozen can drink a ton of martinis, someone kills Naomi. The Divas investigate the two homicides while turning upside down the town of Holly Springs.
Having solved one mystery (see The Dixie Divas), the amateur sleuth crew feels invincible as each of them believes they are a cross between Steel Magnolias and Helen Reddy's I Am Woman. Amusing and eccentric, readers who enjoy a lighthearted regional murder mystery will want to accompany the dirty dozen as they investigate two murders upsetting everyone in their path including a killer, sip martinis, and chow on chocolate.
Ask the Dead
9780976540915 $13.95 www.mbpubs.com
After nearly getting killed in Los Angeles as a private investigator, Jo Epstein decides to come home to New York where she works at Ted's West Side News rather than continue in her former dangerous occupation. A fiftyish African-American woman Shondra Johnson says Tony Sanchez sent her. Jo helped Tony's son with a nasty case two years ago. Although she wants to say no, Jo accepts Sondra retainer as she needs the money.
Shondra says her son Gabe was in the Bronx on a photo shoot when three Scorpion gangbangers assaulted him. He killed the one brandishing a knife, but though he stuck around NYPD Lieutenant Saleh arrested him for manslaughter; bond set at $200,000. Jo learns that her client's son was charged with possession last year and has been a rehab customer of New Beginnings where he met wealthy social worker Leslie Corning. She talks with Gabe at prison and with a junkie witness in the Bronx Skunk who says he will not testify as he must live amongst the Scorpions. Leslie posts bond for Gabe, but both vanish as all hell has come to Jo with laundering and a corpse in the bathtub; if she is to survive she must Ask the Dead what the hell is going on?
Ask the Dead is an exhilarating New York City private investigative thriller in which the Big Apple is the superstar of the story line as Joyce Yarrow captures the essence of three of the boroughs. Readers will feel they are walking the meanest streets along side of the heroine who fans will like. The mystery is cleverly designed as nothing seems quite like it appears. Fans will enjoy the first Jo Epstein whodunit as somehow those in need seem to always find her.
Promises in the Dark
The Dead Man's Hand (DMH) terrorist cell kidnapped Dr. Olivia Strohm to teach a lesson to those who defy them; the doctor blew up one of their illegal organ transplant facilities. They tortured her and pumped drugs into her in order to keep her under their control while warning away other opponents. However, they failed to anticipate her inner strength as she escapes from captivity.
Olivia goes cold turkey by herself to rid the drugs from her system while hiding and surviving in the bush near Kambia, Sierra Leone for three months. Part of a failed SEAL rescue mission and having heard her screams while Olivia was held prisoner by DMH; Zane Scott takes leave from the Navy to search for her in order to bring her home to the States. However when he finds her she shocks him with a frying pan and when she hesitates about going home. Before he can learn why, DMH psychopaths are gunning for them. On the run, Zane knows the only way to keep Olivia safe is to destroy DMH.
The second Shadow Force suspense thriller (see Lie With Me) is an action-packed tale with a strong romantic element as the would-be rescuer is half in love with the good doctor even before they have met in person. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Olivia beams Zane in the head with the frying pan and never slows until a final hypothermic confrontation with DMH. With the wonderful African locale, Stephanie Tyler has served back to back aces while also setting up the next entry.
In 1745 betrayed Jaidyn Donelly is abducted and dumped in the Caribbean with no money. She has no hope of reaching her Georgetown home except if she barters her only asset; her body. Captain Connor O'Driscoll agrees to provide passage on his ship in return for her sleeping with him.
However, except for the obvious bulge of his lower head, he conceals the toys he plans to use with his guest. As they travel at sea together, the teacher and the student begin a sex education that includes BDSM ventures. Soon each is In Deep love, but must deal with personal secrets if they are to become a permanent match.
The sibling sequel to scintillating Secrets of Sin is a superb eighteenth century erotic romance starring fabulous protagonists. The story line grips the audience from the opening sequence and never unties the bonds until the final altercation. Filled with BDSM scenes that enhance the relationship between the mentor and mentee, sub-genre fans will enjoy the Caribbean-Atlantic sea cruise as Jaidyn and Connor know they are In Deep with their need for each other.
American artist Elaine rides the Orient Express to Prague. On the train, she meets gorgeous Aramis, who upon first sight proclaims he must make love with her. She cannot resist his proclamation.
However, as they make love on board the train, he confesses to her that he is a vampire. She does not blink with his declaration of being an Undead, but more than blinks with the pleasures of lovemaking he provides to her. She travels with her lover to the Carpathian castle where Rafael is the lord and master. He welcomes both of them to his abode. They forge a menage a trois as they convert the American to their way of loving and living.
Insatiable is an entertaining erotic paranormal starring three underdeveloped (except in the males' lower heads) protagonists. The story line is a series of sexual vignettes; filled with humor as sub-genre readers will enjoy the ride.
Life in Miniature
In the 1980s in California, twelve years old Adie and her fifteen years old sister Miriam live with their single mother Mindy. When mom suffers a nervous breakdown, she spends time in a mental ward while a neighbor watches the two kids. As soon as she comes home, Mindy moves with her two daughters to their latest strong of apartments; as whenever she feels it is time the family moves.
Miriam, who has been Adie's anchor, runs away with her boyfriend. Mindy reacts by moving with her youngest daughter to a hotel. This starts a new string of moves but from hotel to hotel as Mindy runs from beasts that Adie knows do not exist except in her mom's schizoid mind though she pretends otherwise. Each move means meeting new people and making friends temporarily as Adie is good at doing, but also changing one's name as the tweener understands she cannot connect with anyone beyond the shallowness of the next paranoid move.
Adie tells the insightful family drama with a keen first person viewpoint that also enables the reader to understand her sister and mother as she quotes both of them frequently especially Miriam. The key to this profound tale is that although there is a glimmer of hope for the two daughters raised by a mentally ill single mom, chances are heavy that neither will find adulthood any better than their dysfunctional childhood as the girls will probably run from personal demons like their mother has.
In 1543 Lord Newbury promised his daughter Bridget to Lord Curan Ramsden. Before he could wed his intended, Curan went off to war under the banner of King Henry VIII.
After three years of loyal service to his monarch at the front of the war, Curan finally comes home for his reward; marriage to Bridget. Thus he is stunned to learn Newbury has taken his daughter to London to marry some other aristocrat; ironically King Henry's Chancellor, who remained safely at home. Outraged by the affront that he knows has more than Henry's blessing. Curan vows to have his betrothed whether they are married or not; though his preference is for her to be his wife. He intercepts her as she heads to London and takes her to his home where she loves his kisses but fears the wrath of King Henry if she fails to wed his Chancellor.
This is an engaging Tudor romance starring two wonderful leads who belong together but due to royal intrigue they are star-crossed lovers. No one dares to mess with the King yet Curan knows his heart demands he must. Mary Wine provides an intoxicating sixteenth century historical as love literally may mean a loss of one's head.
This Glittering World
Although engaged to optimistic strong willed Sara, adjunct history professor Ben Bailey has doubts that he wants to marry the sometimes termagant. When she is nice, which is most of the time, he knows he wants her; but when she is over the top he wants her out of his life. He muses while also tending bar over whether to marry or not to marry.
Ben finds a severely battered young Native American male nearly dead on his lawn in Flagstaff, Arizona. Not one to become passionate about anything, Ben feels an urge to know what happened to the lad. When Ricky Begay dies, Ben obsesses over the truth of what happened to him, especially when what seems an obvious murder appears to be ignored. His inquiry leads Ben to Ricky's sister Shadi. As they team up on the investigation into her sibling's homicide, he falls in love with Shadi, but Sara is carrying his child.
Ben's doubts about what he wants in life make for an engaging contemporary, but require a key acceptance by readers of the lead male's obsession with the beating death of Ricky leading him to a third choice. His revised musing is to marry pregnant Sara or to marry grieving Shadi. Readers will want to know whether Ben chooses responsibility (Sara) or adventure (Shadi) as he perceives his dueling relationships; he assumes both will want to wed him.
Mistress by Midnight
Desmond Ryland, the Marquess of Conover, wants nothing to do with an arranged marriage as he loves his childhood friend and neighbor Laurette Vincent. They exchange vows to each other in secrecy and make love. Laurette becomes pregnant giving birth to a daughter she conceals from Con.
Con completes his obligation by marrying the arranged bride and siring the heir. He deserts his wife and son going overseas for the next decade. When he learns his spouse died, he comes home to see his Laurette. Although they still love one another, Laurette has doubts especially since he abandoned his heir. Desperate to win over his beloved, Con blackmails her into becoming his mistress using the one pawn he could control her with; an interim step until he can marry her.
Mistress by Midnight is an enjoyable Regency romance starring two fascinating lead characters. Whereas Laurette sacrificed her place in society to raise their love child; Con completed his obligation to society and fled instead of staying to raise his heir. Fans will admire the heroine while hissing at the lead male for abandoning his offspring. Although the story line slows down somewhat in the middle, readers will enjoy wondering whether Con can achieve his quest as he has a lot of baggage to overcome.
The Wolf Prince
In Texas, Darcy Spencer is taking a walk near the home of her parents when she sees two strange sights. First she notices a wolf followed immediately by a naked man. Assuming she has run into a pervert, Darcy hammers the nude dude with a stick to his head, knocking the streaker out.
When he regains consciousness he recalls nothing except his name is Surlock. Feeling guilt for causing the amnesia, Darcy allows Surlock to move into the guest house. Having become a private investigator, Darcy uses her new skills on her first case to learn who her visitor is. Surlock begins to regain his memory of his mission on earth to protect the mixed-race human-Symtarian Darcy from rogue shapeshifters who want the half-breeds exterminated.
The third New Symtaria royal ET Texas romantic fantasy (see The Falcon Prince and The Jaguar Prince) is a fun lighthearted romp although the story line reads so similar to the previous princes' thrillers; the character can replace each other with no slowing of the plot. Still filled with humor due to the alien's behavior like swimming naked in the pool to the delight of gawking maids, Karen Kelley fans will enjoy the third close encounters of the first kind humorous tale.
In Oahu, Hawaii, deputy prosecuting attorney Eric Kimura attends the wedding of his former girlfriend Deana Armstrong to DEA agent Josh Windsor although it is killing him inside even as he rationalizes his successful prosecution of her cousin for killing his parents hurt his chances. Still the Japanese-American politician is running for public office and should know better; but cannot resist a tryst in the hall's bathroom with the caterer providing the food at the wedding. Eric wants more of her, but she is a dozen years younger than his thirty seven and her personal history would impede his election chances if she became known.
Katie used to be an out of control party animal who is trying to change. She feels remorse over the bathroom sex but it felt different this time. However, Katie knows she must behave if she is to help her single mom sister with her catering business and raising her young niece. However, surveillance conducted on Eric leaks the encounter to the media. Eric blames Katie for setting him up while she just wanted to make a few bucks and accuses him of being shallow.
This direct sequel to Holding Out for a Hero is an engaging Hawaii romance starring two people who with good recent reasons distrust relationships. Although doing it in a public bathroom is inanely stupid even for a politician and a woman used to stepping into it, fans will enjoy this character driven contemporary.
In 1899 in London, the Darington twins are the darlings of high society. All the women swoon at the handsome siblings. However, Jason and Jude only want one woman commoner Maria Paladino. She adores both Darington brothers.
The brothers work as a team enjoying sexual encounters with Maria. However, as they love her, she loves them. Yet she must choose as both Jason and Jude wants Maria to be the mother of the heir and the spare. Maria's brother Rubio, who swears he has second sight, warns her that whoever she rejects by selecting the other will be devastated. However, after deciding to marry Jason, he vanishes with Maria using her other identity in hot sexual pursuit of him on land and at sea while Jude is in hot sexual pursuit of her.
This is an intriguing Victorian erotic romance with a terrific underlying theme of twins competing for the affection of the same woman. The story line is fast-paced in and out of the boudoir with plenty of suspense although the reason for the disappearance takes away from a strong historical relationship drama. Readers will appreciate Melissa MacNeal's marvelous mayhem, but also would have preferred the motive for the vanishing to have been personal caused by the triangle.
"Wicked Lord". The Kith arrived on earth seeking their Emperor Kyber's "One" mate in the universe. Every night, Kith Ambassador Lord Farid Arjun enters the fantasies of Army Sergeant Major Bren Preston. She cannot prevent the half-human, half-tiger from turning her sleep into a sexual fantasy; nor is she sure she would want to stop him if she could. It is his penetration of her dreams that allows Bren from keeping Farid from having her when they are awake. However, he will not quit because he knows she is his "One"; but they must protect his leader from her malevolent leader.
"Carnal Empress". Jana Townsend knows she is in love with the Kith shapeshifter whose life she saved, risking her own, from the dastardly perfidious earth leader. However, she also relishes the incredible idea that her beloved Kith Emperor Kyber searched the universe to find his One who is her; but also fears she is not worthy of being his empress soulmate.
Primal heat contains two interconnected ET erotic romances. The lead couple in each entry is fully developed and the story line provides deep insight into the Kith culture. Although the evil scheme of the earth's leader is over the top of the Kith Empire as it detracts from two otherwise strong romantic science fiction thrillers, sub-genre fans will enjoy Crystal Jordan's entertaining star-crossing romances.
In New Orleans, Night Watch Zane Wynter rescues a female from a fiery death; he was unable to save the other occupant vampire serial killing demon Henry Jacobson who he came to arrest. Zane kisses the vamp's bitch he rescued. His mistake was not realizing who and what she is as she took out a malevolent demon and destroyed the evidence. Using an ambulance she leaves the murder scene.
Zane's boss Pak believes an Ignitor set this flame and several others that killed the supernatural. Pak assigns Zane his best bounty hunter who can handle the fire to capture the serial killing Ignitor. Abashed as he was duped, Zane goes after Jana Carter who flees for Baton Rouge. Zane actually feels sorry for Jana; as he shares a similar horrific upbringing being forced to kill to survive as a half-breed demon-human child. However, he will do his duty. Instead he joins her flight from a deadly secretive cartel whose goal is the genocide of all monsters. What neither knows is that the group wanting them dead has plans to use Jana as a weapon of mass destruction to murder the Others before killing her.
This is an exhilarating Others urban fantasy (see Eternal Hunter) as two obstinate individuals play a deadly game of cat and mouse unaware that in the shadows lurks a deadlier predator manipulating both of them in a bigger game. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action from the first scream of help by the vamp's bitch and never slows down as the couple must trust one another to watch their back or die, which may happen anyway. Although the romance feels more of a sub-genre requirement that is forced into the plot; readers will enjoy the gender war of survival between the Ignitor and the Night Watch enforcer.
The Wolves of Andover
In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, while both worked on her cousin's farm, twenty-three years old Martha Allen falls in love with hired hand Thomas Carrier. However, she also hears the rumor that circulates about Thomas fleeing England after playing a major role in the beheading of King Charles I.
Thomas saves Martha's life when wolves who stalk the farm attack her. He also learns that kidnappers have crossed the pond preferably to capture and take back to London for public trial or execute the man who killed the former monarch. These outsiders hear the rumors about Thomas living on the coast north of Boston.
Although those who have read The Heretic's Daughter knows what will happen to Martha, Kathleen Kent demonstrates her skill as a great author by engaging the full attention throughout of her fans (and newcomers) in the superb prequel. The story line is action packed as the conflict between people entrenched in the Restoration come across as the status quo and those adapting to a new world order carved in a wilderness makes for a strong historical that looks deep at the darker roots of Colonial America.
In the Hollywood Hills, movie director Rudy Ressler and his fiancee wealthy Widow Leona Brueger meet LAPD cop "Hollywood" Nate Weiss. Rudy thinks Hollywood as the right look for the screen while Leona thinks he has the right "meat" for her boy toy. They ask him to keep an eye on their estate while they are out of town, which he agrees to do.
Former convict turned butler Raleigh Dibble works at the Ressler mansion where he plans to stay legit. Leona's sleazy snobby art dealer Nigel Wickland also watches the mansion, but has different plans for what is inside and for the butler he placed inside. However, his scheme runs into problems when drug addicted losers Jonas Claymore and Megan Burke intrude on his game. As the rest of the Hollywood Hills cops deal with an assortment of crazies like the notorious Wedgie Bandit, the Bling Ring break and enter teens and the Addams Family clones the Goths, cop Della Ravelle guides rookie officer Britney Small as to how to properly surf (with a nod to Flotsam and Jetsam) LAPD and the dangerous streets worked by the LAPD Hollywood Station.
The fourth Hollywood Station police procedural (see Hollywood Moon and Hollywood Crows) is a wacky jocular thriller due to the clash between the cops and robbers. Fast-paced throughout, the main plot has several folks crashing and clashing at the Ressler mansion, but not all are after a master art theft. Readers will appreciate Joseph Wambaugh's wonderfully amusing entry; as the great author places all the insanity and lunacy inside serious criminal and police activities. This is another winner.
Twins Under His Tree
Karen Rose Smith
Silhouette Special Edition
At the Family Tree Health Center in Lubbock, Texas pregnant Dr. Lily Wescott who lost her husband Troy in Afghanistan and combat surgeon Dr. Mitch Cortega who injured his arm in theater are best friends. Each is also attracted to the other and would not mind exploring a different type of relationship though both do not want to risk their friendship and Troy's ghost hovers over them in spirit and in the twin girls she just birthed.
Still they begin casual dating. Their attraction grows, but Lily feels guilty as she still grieves the death of Troy and Mitch is hesitant to take a chance with his heart having been hurt once before. Knowing each needs time to heal, Mitch decides to end their dating for now and Lily agrees. The BFFs stop seeing each other for several months but when they do, each knows they want more not less as absence proves the heart grows fonder.
The lead pair makes for a strong Baby Experts medical romance (see from Doctor to Daddy). Lily and Mitch have issues to overcome which both understands must be resolved individually if they are to have any chance as a couple. The support cast which includes family members, the clinic staff and the late Troy (through fond memories) enhance the wonderful contemporary tale of people in the home front falling in love but struggling with what the war has done to them.
Murder Your Darlings
It is the 1920s with Prohibition in full swing. Vanity Fair columnist Dorothy Parker, renowned for her wit, lives in the Algonquin Hotel. She is going to the restaurant where she and her fellow writers have their own table dubbed the Round Table. Dorothy notices a pair of legs sticking out from the table and assumes one of the regulars has arrived.
She finds the corpse of Leland Mayflower, the Knickerbocker News drama critic. At the same time William Faulkner introduces himself to Dorothy; telling her he came from Mississippi to immerse himself in the culture as he hopes to one day write about what he sees and feels. The police look at the young writer as a suspect so Dorothy and her friend Mr. Robert Benchley begin to ask questions. Faulkner saw the person who killed the critic and the cops seek him out as he is a known gun for hire. However someone kills the culprit before the police can interrogate him. Mobster Mick Finn takes the second murder personally as the gun man worked for him; he cannot afford to allow someone to get away with killing one of his men or he will lose face. The killer, the mobster and the police keep their sights on Parker and Benchley with the former wanting to insure they can't identify him and the latter hoping they can.
This historical mystery is very atmospheric; giving armchair time traveling readers a vivid taste of the Roaring Twenties in New York City. Dorothy is portrayed as a good friend, a tough broad and a highly regarded member of the literary intelligentsia. Celebrities appear in cameo roles, which enhance the realism of Murder Your Darlings so that the grateful audience will appreciate Parker-Benchley, amateur sleuths.
Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls
She is a psychic with her strongest abilities being mediumistic in nature. She is also an intuitive and M.J. Holliday uses her talent to be a ghostbuster sending bad spirits back to the lower levels and closing their portals. Finally she also sends good spirits trapped here to the light. Her best friend Gilly, her lover Heath and cable TV producer Peter "Gopher" Gophner shoot an episode of a new Ghoul Getters.
They are in Ireland investigating Dunlow Castle said to be haunted by several spirits who obey the first lord of the castle Ranald Dunnyvale. It is rumored there is gold treasure hidden in the vast manor house, but guarded by the phantom, an evil dark blob that can drive people insane or kill them. When they arrive, the Americans realize just how dangerous the phantom is. When they come out of a spell Gopher is missing. Someone kidnapped him and he will not be returned to them until M. J. gets rid of the phantom. This malign demon could easily kill her if she does not listen to Ranald or Sam Whitefeather, Heath's dead grandfather
Want to read some of the spookiest mysteries written today; choose Victoria Laurie who is a maestro of the paranormal whodunit. Her current supernatural mystery is a combo of the TV shows Ghost Whisperer and Ghost Hunter. The keys are a strong Ghostbuster crew whose interactions with each other and the beyond seem plausible, and the genuine sense that the Phantom is a real danger. The latter will have readers leave the lights on at night and the former will have the readers wanting to text message them for help with every noise. With humor, eccentricity, and a malevolent menace, The Ghost Hunter in Ireland is a ghoulishly delightful mystery (see Ghouls Gone Wild).
Ravished by a Viking
The alien Consortium captures Eirik the younger brother Viking Wolfskin Clan Chieftain Dagr. Irate with the abduction of his blood, the warrior goes after the enemy with a determination that the Consortium has not seen before; Dagr will risk his life in order to free his sibling and other prisoners. He and his crew board the ship led by Captain Honora, an honorable intelligent sailor who is used to ordering men about even in her boudoir.
Quickly realizing her crew has no chance against the berserker pirates even though her side has the superior weapons, Honora surrenders the fight. Dagr demands much more from the female captain as he plans to show her the man is on top. As they battle for gender superiority, they team up in search of his sibling.
With a nod to Sandra Hill's SEAL-Viking time travel romances (although Delilah Devlin employs visitors from space instead of time), Ravished by a Viking is an ultra heated erotic science fiction romance. The lead couple (and a third mate) turns this story into a fun tale as each wants to tie the other in knots while neither loses sight of the fight to rescue Eirik.
The Seduction of Miranda Prosper
In London, Miranda Prosper is a spinster with no prospects. Thus when Corwin asks her to dance with him at a London ball, she is taken aback as no male of importance besides her family would be caught with her. Corwin and his BFF Darius are wizards concerned for prim and proper Prosper's safety as recently catalysts like her have vanished without a trace.
Corwin and Darius are attracted to their "student" who they must train to use her Catalyst power to save their people. She relishes her new role as she has two hunks wanting her though her desire for both does confuse her. As the triangle forges into a strong resolute bond, the weak cortex is not her; but instead Darius who distrusts everyone except Corwin.
This is an entertaining Regency erotic fantasy in which the menage a trois heat the sheets while also having to save their species, which, if they fail, will become extinct. The world of Marissa Day is nicely developed so that the reader will feel we are in an early nineteenth century London thriving with paranormal activity. However, the key remains the triangle whose strongest angle proves to be Miranda Prosper as she goes from seduced trainee to seductress having two sorcerers dying to please her (and each other).
The only survivor of her coven murdered by Darklanders over five centuries ago, Lily the spiritual shifting witch resides in gated Serene, New Hampshire; home to the paranormal. Fearing for her life, she has concealed her otherworldly skills since the massacre of her sisters.
The Paranormal Task Force assigns Agents Jaret and Toby to destroy the abomination Serene. The cousins accept their mission without a qualm as they believe the residents of that atrocity are evil. However, the empath duo is stunned when they encounter Lily; as they want her but how can they desire a monster. To her chagrin Lily is attracted to the two operatives who she believes will lead the Darklanders to her so they can finish the genocide. Adding to the confusion of the PTF undercover agents is how welcoming the gentle people of Serene are to them.
The latest Interesting Eternal Pleasure paranormal erotica (see Impulsive and Instinctive) is a fast-paced tale as the cousins learn while in and out of bed with Lily how nice the people they are to massacre are. The use of telepathic voyeurism is a refreshing nuance while the erotic triangle is fully developed. Although the climax comes across as coitus interruptus with its abruptness, sub-genre fans will enjoy Cathryn Fox's fine paranormal erotic thriller.
Sex on the Slope
"Fire and Ice". In Whistler, British Columbia, the fire alarm in the Alpine Hideaway wakes up wedding planner Andi Radcliffe. She and others leave the cozy warm hotel to freeze outside. There she meets widow firefighter Jared Stone. They begin a tryst and fall in love, but she has doubts about being his second course.
"Slippery Slope". TV star to the groom Brianna George is a guest of the groom who works for her. When Brianna meets Australian ski instructor Zack Michaels, she forgets about her job. As they enjoy their secret rendezvous, she fears for her career if their relationship sees daylight; she also fears what will happen to her heart if it does not.
"In Hot Pursuit of a Bad Boy". The groom's sister Maddie Daniels has always been attracted to her brother's best friend Logan Carver, but she was too young. Now an adult, Maddie plans to seduce the once infamous bad boy.
From Sex on the Beach in Belize to Sex on the Slope of British Columbia, Susan Lyons makes wedding parties heat the sheets. Her three erotic romances set in a Winter Olympics environ are so hot the snow must have melted. From lust to love, the three couples make for a torrid trip for the armchair traveler.
Mine Until Morning
"The Only Way Out". Although the debt is overwhelming as her late husband Kern's medical bills are stratospheric, Dani Dawson knows she did the right thing even as she was horrified by his slow cancerous death. To pay the vultures, she works at Courtesans as an escort. Her bother-in-law Mac plans to be her only escort and with Madam Isabel's cooperation he can achieve his objective of taking care of Dani and being the only man sharing her bed.
"The Wrong Kind of Man". Cleo Carpenter thinks her bad luck run with picking losers changes when she meets Walker Randall. As they seem perfect together, she learns he is a paid male courtesan leaving her to believe she picked another wrong hunk though this time her heart was engaged fully.
"No Second Chances". Courtesan Madam Isabel knows she only loved once in her life, Royce. He has felt the same way about her. When they meet, the heat is on as each knows they remain in love, but she believes her job will end their second chance relationship.
The return to Courtesans (see Hers for the Evening) is a fun time for erotic romance readers as the novellas contain strong characters with a deep theme of whether a beloved will stay with their forever after once learning about the sexual nature of their cherished one's vocation. These are three hot yet profound tales of sex, love, and acceptance (or not).
On vacation at Haven Lake Dr. Sophie Gable is taken aback to see Thomas Nicasio on her dock as he is a suit who works in the same Chicago high rise as she does; though she is attracted to him and believes he is to her. Sophie also knows tragedy has hammered at Thomas' soul with the deaths of his brother and nephew, and the FBI investigating his adoptive father.
Although still reeling with the recent traumas slamming his family, Thomas cannot resist the lure of Sophie who he has wanted from the first moment he saw her at her office when he visited her colleague Dr. Lancaster. She willingly submits to his dominance. However, as they fall in love she fears he will end their relationship once he regains his equilibrium while he fears staying with her will endanger his beloved from those who want him dead,
The heat is on from the moment Sophie and Thomas stare at each other as lust changes to love while danger stalks them. Filled with tons of action and sex and plenty of spins and twists, fans of erotic romantic suspense will enjoy this Explosive thriller as she may be his sub and he her dom, but each knows who is "killing" who daily.
Master of Smoke
Five years ago, the dire wolf attacked Eva Roman. She survived but was never the same. Instead she taught herself to shapeshift and successfully concealed her condition from her parents and everyone else.
That anonymity ends when the comic bookstore employee saves a man from the assault of giant white dire wolf Warlock. The person she rescues suffers from amnesia as a consequence of Warlock using a spell to steal the victim's magical power by splitting him into three essences. She names him David; neither is aware he is Smoke the demigod Sidhe warrior. If David fails to reunite his parts into Smoke, Warlock will prove too powerful to stop. Ergo were-hitmen try to kill David and Eva as the former struggles to regain his memory and the latter wonders how to have sex with the hunk without murderous chaperones interfering.
The latest Mageverse romantic urban fantasy (see Master of Fire) is a great entry that, in spite of its January release, will be considered one of the best sub-genre books of the year. The story line is loaded with action as hostilities grow and all out war between and even within species seem imminent. While the world teeters on the brink, Eva makes the tale as she brings a sort of New York shtick to the mix with her acerbic humorous asides and in your face commentary. With warlocks, were-mobsters, vampires, witches, and Camelot, fans will appreciate the comic bookstore employee who only blinks in bed with her amnesiac as she insists she has faced much worse with customers.
Chasing the Sun
In 1870 Jack Wilkins failed to persuade his beloved Maria Elena Ramirez to marry him; she rejected him after she suffered crippling injuries to her hip. She also had previous doubts before she got hurt and was unsure of her feelings towards him but was aware he would not settle down on a ranch. Heartbroken he leaves his family New Mexico Territory ranch.
Three years later, Jack returns home as Sister Maria Elena Ramirez plans to take her vows to become a nun. He wants her to marry him. Singer Daisy Etheridge arrives at the Wilkins' ranch with her 2-year-old daughter Kate whose bounder of a father went west of San Francisco. She insists Jack is Kate's father. Jack accepts the child as his although he can not recall sleeping with Daisy or for that matter know who she is. Still Jack does the honorable thing as he believes a child needs a father and proposes to Daisy. She rejects his offer as she knows he loves Maria. At the same time the Wilkins' ownership of the ranch is in jeopardy.
This is a complicated wonderful climax to the delightful Blood Rose trilogy (See Pieces of Sky and Open Country) summed up perfectly by older brother Brady when he informs his siblings: "We got lucky". Western romance fans will enjoy reading how each of the warring Wilkins brothers got lucky as these are super tales.
Two centuries ago, Cwen the sorceress cursed the Viking warriors for killing her son. For the past two hundred years they have become immortal were-creatures with no control over their shape shifting as the curse included being beasts for half of a day.
Recently two of the crew have broken the curse by finding their soul-mates (see Immortal Outlaw and the Immoral Warrior). However, Gunnar the Red has no hope for himself as he lives in the forest where he roams as a bull during the day. Lonely and depressed, the freezing weather that rips him nocturnally in his human form sends him seeking shelter. At Richmond Castle, he saves Lady Eleanor de Neville from a fiery death. Eleanor rewards her hero with a kiss. She quickly loves the kind dark champion; he also falls in love, but reacts by leaving as she is betrothed to another. Unable to stay away from his beloved, Gunnar returns not knowing what type of reception he will receive, but he vows to tell her the truth.
The third Immortal medieval romantic fantasy is once again a fabulous historical. The story line is character driven more so by Gunnar whose despondency is heart felt by readers although Eleanor is a strong protagonist also. Fans will enjoy the latest Immortal entry as Lisa Hendrix has a trifecta with another strong seemingly star-crossed tale.
Although an offspring of Gair the dark mage, Ruithneadh of Ceangail concealed his magical skills by ignoring what he inherited from his evil sire following the deaths of his family (see the Nine Kingdoms' first trilogy). However, the daughter of a witch whose only magic is "seeing spells", Sarah of Doire asks for his help on her seemingly futile quest to save her brother Daniel from the dark side (see A Tapestry of Spells).
The Nine Kingdoms remain under attack from what his dad wrought on them. He reluctantly agrees as he no longer can hide in the shadows of being a raging wizard while ignoring what his malevolent father did. The two adventurers seek his sire's spells as his father deploys them against the Nine Kingdoms. The only hope resides in their teamwork with her seeing the spells and his destroying what she sees. However, in spite of their risking their lives, foes of his father either covet what they assume he possesses or want him dead for what they assume he possesses.
The second Ruith-Sarah quest fantasy contains a complicated story line as the pasts of both champions are depicted in depth as each has quite a blood line that impacts their current dangerous situation and the potential of a future together as their initial doubting trust has begun to turn to love. This is an excellent entry due to the complex lead characters whose heritage implies each will be the end of their respective gene pool as the sins of the parents to include fear of a repeat lead many enemies wanting both dead.
In Lake Avalon, Florida, photojournalist Alex Trudeau had thought her life was great due to her beloved dogs and her profession; but now believes her life is perfect since Detective John Logan came to town. However, she takes a bullet while protecting her sister Lake Avalon Gazette reporter Charlie Trudeau (see True Vision for her thriller). The shot somehow enhances her already strong psychic skills as now a touch provides her vivid nasty memories the other person prefers forgotten.
Logan came to town to escape his past and believes he has done so with his relationship with Alex. However, his past returns to haunt him when an avenging serial killer abducts his beloved Alex so she can be used as the bait to murder Logan. Although she uses her skills to leave him clues, Logan knows when the confrontation comes he will risk death to insure she lives.
The second Trudeau sibling romantic suspense is truly a delightful thriller starring two likable but flawed lead characters trying to work together from a distance to thwart a psychopath from murdering either of them. Fast-paced with a clever contrast between the warm romance and the dark suspense, the sub-genre audience will appreciate Joyce Lamb's second Lake Avalon thriller.
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough
Fifty two year Richard calls his forty-nine ex wife Joanie to inform her that his live in lover twenty-nine years old BJ is pregnant. She calls him an asshole and hangs up while her mom Ivy, who lives with her, hears her. Joanie believes their fifteen year old daughter Caroline who lives with her also hates her. She tells moody Caroline who wishes someone would listen to her and stop assuming how she feels. Joanie is unhappy at home and unhappy at work as 24/7 she believes Sartre is right.
Caroline has one friend Sondra. She likes Henry, but with no breasts she has no chance except helping him with his Spanish homework. Her parents' drive her crazy as each wants to have her validate they are the better parent.
Ivy misses her favorite child David who lives in New York with his wife and kids; grandchildren she never sees. She asks Caroline if she prays, but her granddaughter ignores her. Ivy walks to a chic store, which treats her poorly so she steals a scarf.
Joanie drives Caroline to Richard's house. Ivy asks her daughter why she divorced Richard. Joanie says he left. Richard and BJ try to be nice to Caroline, but it is contrived and the teen finally says BJ should consider an abortion. BJ is hurt and Richard angry.
The four prime females are fully developed while the males feel emaciated. Though too long the insightful story line provides a realistic character study of four Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough asking themselves what they did to deserve this life.
Angel at Dawn
In 1956, B movie Hollywood director-producer Naomi "Nim" Wei is in Two Forks, Texas with her assistant Grace Michaels producing I Was a Teen-Age Vampire. Nim and Grace visit nearby rancher Christian Durand to ask him to take the lead role. Both being Master vampires, though she is more experienced, Christian yells at Nim no way that is until he sees the visage of Grace. Five centuries ago his Grace died, but now he stares at his Grace, who works for the "Witch of Florence". He agrees to the film only if Grace coaches him though she betrayed him.
Grace is confused by her reaction to Christian as she wants him in a way she never felt before. He knows Nim works fate like a master concerto, but wonders what is going on even as he wants Grace to remember her treachery though he still loves her. However, someone wants Grace dead and Christian assumes this is Nim with another of her convoluted diabolical plots.
This direct sequel to The Devil at Midnight is an engaging Upyr romantic suspense fantasy that vividly brings to life 1950s American when B-horror moves and Joe McCarthy found Communists in very pot and around every corner. The story line is fast-paced from the first time Christian saw her face in centuries until the final altercation with the killer. Although series fans need to read The Devil At Midnight to better understand references in Angel At Dawn, Emma Holly provides a charming spoof of her saga and the Eisenhower Era.
Zeke Noble had been a farmer when he was kidnapped, taken to a secret lab, and his hosts experimented on him. He finally escaped but not before they ripped part or all of his soul as he is now different. He realizes how much so with what he can hear while standing on his desolate farm where he prays that his animals survived his "abandonment" as he cares about them. A part of his natural link to them has been enhanced by those SOBs who ran their tests on him.
Zeke feels more like an animal than a human, but must conceal his nature if he is to survive and avoid another kidnapping. He obtains a position as an assistant veterinarian to Geneva Harper, whose old world affluent Southern family detests her employment as they demand she be a debutant working in the firm. Both are attracted to one another, but neither makes a first step as each has reasons to avoid a relationship. However, when a serial killer begins murdering women who look like his Neva, he acts to protect his mate.
The latest Skin paranormal romantic suspense (see Skin Game and Skin Tight) grips the audience from the sad description that Zeke provides as he looks over his farm and never slows down as the introverted hero refuses to allow any harm to come to his woman. Fast-paced throughout, fans await the confrontation as the killer comes closer and closer to Neva; forcing Zeke's lab enhancements that act like animal instincts to surface as he can no longer deny his feelings. This is a terrific whodunit thriller with a wild twist as there are no shades of Gray when it comes to how good this author is.
"Sundara". When his abusive owner dies, dyara Chanson frees Eduour the Mandarite slave as the village lacks males since most have been deployed in battle.
"Guildara". Arbran Knight Diplomat Sir Zeilas meets his former enemies the Guildarans led by Marta Grenspun.
"Aurul". Guildaran Gabria Springreaver is the new envoy to Aurul where a strange prophecy abounds.
"Jenodan Isles". Aurulean Royal Captain Ellet and Mita the pirate meet when he stalks her under royal command in the Jenodan Isles.
These super interrelated fantasies enhance the Sons of Destiny mythos.
Joshua Strongheart is a half-breed who has lived in both of the worlds of his biological parents. He feels he fails to fit in either and insists he no longer cares as he is satisfied with being a loner. Yet he also holds close to his heart the only two items he cherishes: his father Claw Mark's Bowie knife that he gave to his mother to give to Joshua; and his stepfather Flower Valley Marshal Dan Cooper's Colt .45 Peacemaker.
A Pinkerton secret courier, Joshua delivers a letter from the President to General Davis in Oregon to insure Captain Jack and his Modoc tribe receives a fair trial as he does not want the killing renegade already a hero amongst the tribes to become martyred. As he rides the stage, the brothers McMahon, Jeeter and Harlance, rob the coach at Sunset Gulch. They leave Joshua for dead, but failed to finish the job. He is coming for them as they also stole his two valuables and the Presidential document.
This is as much a fabulous richly textured historical thriller as much as an exhilarating western saga as Don Bendell provides an entertaining late nineteenth century tale of vengeance. Armchair readers will feel they accompany Joshua on the trek to deliver the package. The hero is fully developed as the audience obtains glimpses into his past that enhance the understanding of Strongheart. With a fabulous High Noon confrontation containing an unexpected spin, fans will enjoy this engaging Americana; as Mr. Bendell known for his CID tales shows he can write a wonderful "tale of the old west".
Keys to the Castle
Forty-six year old Sara Graves is excellent at selling things people do not want. Sara grieves the loss of her husband of three weeks, Daniel Orsay, but leaves her sister's North Carolina home for Paris to handle her late spouse's estate.
Daniel's best friend lawyer Ash Lindeman flies home to London from Hong King; but though exhausted, he goes on to Rondelais, France to meet Daniel's widow. Ash's ex-wife Michele wants his help to insure she gets Rondelais Chateau as Daniel's only living relative. Ash informs her he will take care of his client Sara's interest.
Ash owns a portion of the estate and Sara the rest. He suggests they sell or lease to a hotelier. Michele arrives with five years old girl Alyssa who she insists is Daniel's child. Irate Ash tells her to leave before he has arrested for taking her out of school without his permission as Alyssa's guardian. He tells Sara, a woman insisted Daniel was Alyssa's father, but Daniel denied it and committed suicide. Later Sara is awakened by a crying abandoned Alyssa. Irate at Michele and Ash she cares for the child. Sara rips Ash's head off and decides to put the castle in trust for Alyssa. As they argue, the two adults fall in love, but he believes he is not worthy of her.
The lead couple is a wonderful pairing as her late beloved was his best friend. Alyssa is a solid support character as is much of the rest of the cast who play minor roles. The ethics displayed by Ash and a lawyer from his firm is refreshing. Although the final resolution of the lead couple's conflict seems too easy for such as complicated relationship drama, readers will appreciate Donna Ball's character driven contemporary.
Married Mia Montgomery Wells persuades a customer to invest in her eco-friendly office set-up when she receives a call. Her former boyfriend Peyton Flynn McDermott lies in a coma in a Silver Spring, Maryland hospital following an accident. She apologizes to her potential investor before rushing off to the hospital in a panic.
Thirteen years ago when Mia attended the University of Georgia as a design major, she and Peyton met and fell in love. However, he dumped her when he concluded his beloved deserved someone better than a troubled soul like he was. While her spouse is upset with her bed vigil, Mia stays by Peyton's side while musing back to when they were a couple. He was a biking riding drifter who she feared might be a serial killer. Now she believes she has a second chance to at least learn why he left and how he feels though at the cost of her marriage regardless of what Peyton does after he recovers; which she expects though his doctors are much more cautious.
This is an interesting second chance at love tale with the twist that Mia apparently nukes her marriage and her business on a wing and a prayer that Peyton will tell her why he left and admits to her he loves her. She has no doubt he will recover even when he suffers setbacks that shake her soul; as Mia believes fate would not have used the emergency to bring them together. Although Mia's flushing her marriage and business are difficult to accept as reasonable actions; that is why Beautiful Disaster works as love makes people obsess into doing strange things seemingly out of character.
Then He Kissed Me
Stephania "Stevie" Baci wants nothing to do with her family vineyard turned into a wedding events place. However, though she tries to avoid serving as a hostess at Tanti Baci Winery Wedding Chapel, Stevie has no choice but to run the marriage of her former fiance Emerson Platt and his intended bride Princess Roxanne of Ardenia.
Roxanne's brother Prince Jacques "Jack" Parini agrees to assist Stevie with the event and to help her avoid humiliation of watching her former fiance walk down the aisle by pretending to be her fiance. She accepts his kind offer although she considers rejecting it as she will now have to spend time with an alpha hunk she secretly covets. As they fall in love, Stevie doubts she is ready to walk down the aisle.
The latest Three Kisses Napa Valley romance (see Crush on You) is a delightful contemporary starring a protective champion (with strong reasons to watch over his sister and Stevie) and an "I'm Not In Love heroine. Although the support cast can prove overwhelming at times (then again it is a wedding), fans will enjoy the adventures in love between the Mystery Man who insists he is as much a Georgia farmer as as he is a European royal and the winery's Tomboy.
Catch Her if You Can
Once she was a cocktail waitress in Vegas, but now she is USAF Second Lieutenant Samantha JoEllen Spade on loan to DARPA as an officer in charge of testing inventions from civilians with potential military applications. Right now they are coming out of the desert after testing Snoopy SNFIR (self nurturing find and identify robot). They reach Pancho's to get a drink when Snoopy tries to get into a truck.
The overseer comes out of Pancho's furious that people are at his vehicle. He takes out a gun, but Poncho kills him. In the trunk, they find a cooler with three heads inside it. The story hits the media who focus on Samantha and her previous exploits which they covered. After the hoopla dies, the Air Force brass feel Samantha is in danger from an enemy of her lover as several incidents aimed at her occur. They provide her protection, but a Mexican Warlord kidnaps her anyway in attempt to use her as bait to lure her boyfriend into a lethal trap.
Smart, sassy and insecure summarizes Samantha who though unsure of herself, gets the job done. Filled with action and acerbic often self-deprecating wit, readers will admire Samantha as she overcomes her doubts about her skills to perform what is needed. Fans of military home-front thrillers will enjoy Catch Her If You Can and Spade's previous DARPA escapades (see Now You See Her and All The Wrong Moves).
Buttercream Bump Off
In Scottsdale, Arizona, Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura own the successful Fairy Tale Cupcakes along with silent partner rich Tate Harper. Mel's widow mom Joyce calls her daughter to tell her she has a date with entrepreneur Baxter Malloy, her first in centuries. On the night of the date Joyce goes into the cabana to change so she can enter the hot tub. When she comes out she finds Baxter dead; apparently while she was inside the cabana, someone choked Baxter with Myra's stocking.
The next day, a man enters the bakery shouting at Mel for killing his father. Mel states her mother was on the date with his dad not her and besides her mom did not kill him either. Angie recognizes Brian Malloy AKA Roach the drummer for the Sewers band. Angie and Roach are attracted to one another while Mel tries to find out who killed Baxter. Widower Tate (see Sprinkle with Murder to learn the fate of his late wife) does not realize he loves Angie, fears for her life as he believes Roach killed the father he has not seen in three years. Mel realizes Baxter ran a Ponzi scheme that sucked in many Seattle residents; thus a horde of suspects had strong motives to kill him.
This is a fun timely amateur sleuth mystery with plenty of suspects whose lives were destroyed by Baxter's con. The three pastry partners are BFFs, but the sprinkles on the cupcakes are their intimate relationships as this trio and Angie's brother Joe sing Sister Sledge's We Are Family (with Pittsburgh's Pops smiling down on them). Tate's ignorance of how he feels about Angie though Mel sees it quite lucidly and Angie suspects it; and Mel's boyfriend Joe who naps when he sees her add humor to this sublime mystery. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this sweet (cupcakes and friends) and sour (con and murder) whodunit.
Buffalo West Wing
The new president of the United States with his wife watching is sworn into office. Back at the White House, executive chef Olivia' Ollie" Paras and her staff prepare to adapt to the First Family whose tastes differ from the previous occupants.
Ollie notices a box on a counter containing chicken wings meant for President Harden's children Josh and Abby. Since she has no idea who left it, Ollie refuses to allow the First Kids to eat it though Josh and Abby want them. The First Lady is livid with the chef's audacity. When the food is given to the laundry workers, they become ill and are rushed to the hospital where they are held hostage by extremists from Armuston who demand the release of their leader from an American prison. While Ollie is worried about the personal chef Virgil Ballantine who the First Family hired to prepare their meals and apparently wants her job, the extremists are about to perform another action to free their leader.
Readers will be fascinated with what goes on in the White House where even the kitchen deals with politics as the devoted staff struggle with the change in administration demands on them especially with young kids (previous administration had adult children). The First Lady is hostile towards Ollie for depriving her First Children from eating the wings that were laced with arsenic but the Secret Service and Ollie are not allowed to inform her of that; this animosity and concealment seem inappropriate with international and domestic terrorism a growth industry. Although the workers rarely make it into the limelight, the White House could not function without their support. The whodunit is cleverly devised as Julie Hyzy writes an engaging amateur sleuth starring a heroine with a unique perspective of Eggecutive Orders
Death and the Running Patterer
In 1828 in New South Wales, a soldier relieving himself of the drink he imbibed at the pub is murdered. Soon afterward, Governor Lieutenant-General Ralph Darling receives an ominous short rhyme with the implication more will die. Darling, based on advice from the police chief Captain Francis Rossi, orders former Bow St. Runner Nicodemus Dunne to investigate. Nic points out he is a patterer reading the news to people and no longer a detective ever since he was exiled for protecting a little girl from the excess assault of soldiers
Nic uncovers all sorts of secrets from local residents, but none connect to the killer who has murdered again. However, his efforts to identify the culprit lead to the predator identifying him as a threat. With little help from the military who believe he acted wrongly saving the child, Nic knows he goes it alone. Of course his efforts lead him to meet Reverend Halloran and his delightful protege seamstress Rachel Dormin who he likes but fears his attraction could harm her.
Death and the Running Patterer is a great historical mystery, in which armchair travelers will feel they reside in 1828 in New South Wales amidst exiled criminals, some free people, the soldiers, and the Aborigine. In many ways, the setting steals the show as Robin Adair provides a vivid look at society in the penal colony. Nic is a terrific lead protagonist who diligently works the investigation though he knows the military officers for the most part scorn his action back in England and that the felons loathe him also. Fans will appreciate this strong whodunit in Australia. The early nineteenth century comes alive with Nic's probe.
No Place to Run
Pregnant Sophie Lundgren knows the risk she takes to herself and her unborn, but feels she must. She searches for the father of her baby Sam Kelly to warn him he is in trouble though she expects a cold welcome as she ran away from him five months ago.
Sophie is wounded in her quest to find him. Sam is stunned not just because his beloved Sophie is hurt though he is concerned after pulling her out of the nearby Kentucky Lake; it is the pregnancy, which he knows is his child. Hoping he learned from his previous mistake of losing his beloved Sophie, but still unsure why she suddenly vanished several months ago, Sam vows to keep her and their unborn safe. He has no intention of letting the love of his life go again whether Sophie wants him or not.
The second KGI (Kelly Group International) romantic suspense (see The Darkest Hour) is a great thriller that grips the audience from the opening moment of Sophie's return and never slows down until the final climax. Fans will appreciate this strong entry summarized by pregnant Sophie who understands first hand the naturing vs. nurturing debate as she prays her two categorical negatives multiplies into a positive as Sam believes they will.
The Boyfriend of the Month Club
In Daytona Beach, after the date from hell, thirtyish Grace O'Bryan vows to make a change when it comes to stepping out. She comes up with a novel idea by converting the book club she belongs to into The Boyfriend of the Month Club. Like they did with books, she and her friends will evaluate the males they date; sharing their thoughts before shelving their latest.
Grace begins dating a couple of hunks who her club mates rate as desirable and most eligible bachelors. Brandon Farrell knows their first date stunk, but still wants a second date and is willing to save her pare nt's financially strapped gift shop. Then there is the dentist who swore he could make her smile whiter and chipped tooth cuter. Finally her former boyfriend Joe, just Joe, who still wants Grace, but he failed to score very well when measured against the Mr. Darcy meter.
This is an amusing chick lit contemporary romance starring a likable lead female and a strong support cast especially her Cuban-Irish family, the club members, and her dates. Although the humor overwhelms the story line as the laughs keep coming while the plot decelerates, readers will want to join the antics of the members of The Boyfriend of the Month Club who measure dates against Mr. Darcy.
Carol K. Carr
In the winter 0f 1876, London is freezing; but the arctic like weather does not prevent customers from going to the Lotus House brothel owned by India Black. She is a cheerful woman with wit and a true knowledge of human depravity. This does not disturb her in the slightest as she knows how her world acts. Her life becomes complicated when one of her patrons, Bowser AKA Sir Archibald Latham serving high up in the War Office dies while with the whore Arabella.
When India tries to dispose of the corpse, she is caught by French, an agent who works for Prime Minster Disraeli. Rather than go to gaol, she agrees to give him the case that Bauer brought with him. However that is missing as is Arabella. French needs to retrieve it as it contains British troop strengths that the Russians want because they plan to invade the Ottoman Empire. When they go to the hotel Russians accost them with Arabella as one of them. French is determined to obtain the papers and India is resolute in her assisting him.
This exhilarating espionage epic does for the mid Victorian England what Peter Tremayne has done for ancient Ireland; bring the period alive to the time traveling armchair warrior. The lead pair is dynamic together as their chemistry proves the whole is greater than the sum of the parts in spite of her being lower class and him an aristocrat. The recovery story line readers like a fast-paced mystery with plenty of international intrigue including a horrendous Channel crossing to France Carol K. Carr provides an engaging thriller in which hopefully is the opening act of a unique nineteenth century collaboration.
Real Vampires Have More to Love
Shopkeeper vampire Glory St. Claire feels ill for having to kill a mortal technofreak although she intellectually knows she had no choice. Making matters worse, is Brent Westwood's will stipulates that if his two children snarling crossbow carrying Viv and her sibling David want to inherit the multibillion dollar estate of their late father, they must slay Glory. She does not want to kill them, but her protectors will without remorse.
At the same time, Glory arranges a bachelorette party for her friend Flo and helping Aggie the siren host a bridal shower. Finally, Glory struggles between jealous Ray the rock star, former bodyguard Rafe Valdez the shapeshifter, and Jeremy Blade in town for the wedding. However, as Jeremy has to leave, the man Glory killed has found another way to come after her besides manipulating his offspring.
The latest Real Vampires urban fantasy is a fast-paced entry as the son and daughter have several billion reasons to kill Glory who muses that Brent from the grave would still find a way to try to kill her manipulating his adult kids. Although a bounty would have helped the Westwood brood and a super villain feels like comic book caricature in nature, fans of the series will enjoy the sixth twisted adventure of Glory who still believes she is too big though the males sniffing at her blood say otherwise.
Dreams of Desire
In 1814 Lily Lambert applies for the position of companion to Melissa and Melinda, the eighteen years old twin wards of John Middleton, the Earl of Penworth. The sisters threaten to harm her so Lily considers walking away from the job, but needs the money so when John offers her employment she accepts. John would prefer more time to select a more suitable and less beautiful companion to Melissa and Melinda, but time has run out as they head to Scotland tomorrow.
Lily met Phillip Dubois and his sister briefly at Penworth Hall in rural England and at the London docks, but is stunned to see him near Penworth Castle in Scotland where he tells her his name is Phillip Dudley and the French accent is gone. Lily previously bought a bottle of "the spinster curse" from Phillip as she hoped the local schoolmaster will desire her so that she can stop being a companion to the pair of hellhounds. However, John walks between her and her chosen one. He finds her intelligence enhancing her beauty. Intoxicated by his affection, John begins to believe Lily when she insists his wards are beasts. As they fall in love, everyone near and dear, even those estranged, to him seem to be finding their romantic groove too, but Lily's "advisor" causes a rift between the pair.
The latest Spinster's Curse Regency romance is similar in tone to the previous tales (see Taste of Temptation and Promise of Pleasure) with an adult Cinderella story line, but once again the strong cast makes for an the amusing comedy of errors historical. Fans will enjoy Cheryl Holt's "Sensual Destiny" tale where humor and love combine for an entertaining read.
A Pirate's Possession
In 1660 Claire Gentry is desperate to escape a marriage with an abusive monster. Thus she masquerades as a man to enter a poker game in Nevis in the Caribbean that includes a treasure map that leads to her father's loot. Also at the table is Nate Carter AKA Sam Steele the notorious pirate.
Over eight years ago Nate broke Claire's heart while he believes she betrayed their love. She does not have to see him to know he is here because she will go to her grave recognizing his voice. To her chagrin though she plays well and proves she belonged in the game, Nate wins. Determined Claire follows him hoping to steal the map from him. He knows she follows him so he plots revenge for her duplicity years ago. Instead, the pair places their personal gender war on hold as they are on the run from adversaries who want the map at any cost. To survive the horde in deadly pursuit, they need to trust and depend on one another, but each expects the other to stab them in the back at the first opportunity.
Michelle Beattie's third Caribbean seventeenth century pirate romance is an exhilarating action packed high-seas romantic adventure. Similar in tone and characterization to What the Pirate Desires and Romancing the Pirate, nevertheless the fast-paced tale grips the reader from the opening card game when Nate and Claire, vowed enemies for life, know the other is in the room. Fans will enjoy the high sea and on land escapades of the lead pair who to survive need each other as love and hate has no degrees of separation with this dueling duo.
Day of the Dragon
Although the shapeshifter Ramsey Gallagher defeated his enemy twin Vandar the psychopathic half-dragon half-vampire, he paid quite a cost. Ramsey apparently lost his skill to shift into dragon form as well as other innate abilities like mentally rolling the dice.
In Las Vegas, however that does not prevent him from seeking more information about his unknown heritage. As such he intends to attend a lecture presented by Dr. Madison Dartmoor on her findings in an ancient Italian tomb located near the site where he was found by himself as a small child. However, a nasty assault on the excavation site leads to the presentation being cancelled. While deciding what next Ramsey stops an attack on Madison. He feels a need to keep her safe from her overwhelming enemies who want her dead.
The latest super "Moon" romantic fantasy (see Dragon Moon) looks deep at the good twin after he defeated his bad seed brother as the winner suffers a form of paranormal post traumatic stress disorder with his psychological consequences as nasty as the physical. Yet even with a profound look into the second order effects of the epic sibling battle on Ramsey, Rebecca York provides plenty of action as for the first time he considers risking his heart with Madison, the woman he cherishes more than his soul.
Home for a Spell
Stony Mill, Indiana is a charming small town known as the antiques capital of the Midwest. It used to be a quiet place where nothing major occurred, but in the last year a string of murders unconnected to each other has occurred. Maggie O'Neill, who works at the Enchantments antique shop, is an empath who channels her Spirit Guides and at times casts a magick spell. Her lover Marcus Quinn and her boss Felicity "Liss" Dow are experienced with the paranormal arts.
Maggie lives with Marcus since she broke her ankle and needs his help to get around. When she realizes he is going to delay attending college to take care of her, she decides to move into her own place. Maggie gets a good deal on a rental but when they go to sign the lease, they find the complex manager dead in the pool. Using Marcus' mundane skills and Maggie's arcane gifts, they work with the police to find out what was on a flash drive and a hard drive that was smashed to smithereens. What they learn explains why he was murdered, but who the perpetrator is remains blank.
This whimsical amateur sleuth small town urban fantasy mystery is pure magic as is the overall series (see A Witch In Time). Maggie has matured considerably in the past year as she has learned to love her skills rather than rue having them. The murder is believable and the characters ring true. However, Home for a Spell belongs to the lead couple as the author casts a spellbinder of a tale on enchanted readers.
Love Letters from Ladybug Farm
Three years ago, the BFFs widows Cici Burke, Lindsay Wright, and Bridget Tyndale lived middle class suburban lifestyles, but each felt their lives unfilled with their kids moved out and their husbands gone; they purchased a run down Farm (see A Year on Ladybug Farm). Since their epic risk began, they feel At Home on Ladybug Farm, but also struggle to stay afloat with their financially draining renovation of the historic mansion although their small art studio, winery and jams and jellies store have had some success.
Friends suggest they open up the estate to major social galas. The trio has doubts but the sum of money they will receive from a society wedding overcomes their qualms especially when their first customers appear in need of a new location for a soon to be wedding. However, their guts prove right as they deal with lunatic combative mother-in-laws, bridezilla and goats as well as a romantic first for one of the widows.
Obviously for fans of the series, the latest adventures on the farm in the Shenandoah Valley is a lighthearted amusing tale as the three women continues to swing the bat regardless of what life tosses at them. Each of the ladies keeps their essence yet changes as they begin to recognize the truth that they are struggling farmers who no longer can be labeled suburban dwellers; unlike several years ago when they would have silently put up with the bull of guests even nasty undesirable ones.
You Dropped a Blonde on Me
Maxine Cambridge cannot believe how far her economic situation has collapsed. She was a trophy wife and mom until she caught her spouse Finley "The Talleywhacker" cheating on her. His reaction was to begin divorce proceedings and cut off all of Maxine's funding. Desperate Maxine and her teenage son Connor, who chose his mom over his dad and Lacey, move in with her mom Mona Henderson in her retirement village.
Maxine cannot find employment as she has no marketable skills even at the Cluck Cluck Palace fast food place, which eight months ago she, make that Finley, could have owned it. Instead of designer gowns, she wears her mom's bargains. Humiliated enough, she feels it is time to bury her when she meets her high school class of '87 chemistry partner Campbell Barker. He has always liked smart, sassy Max and still does as he appreciates her self-deprecating sense of humor. Now he has to make her believe he is serious when it comes to her.
Using humor to lighten the tense family drama, You Dropped a Blonde on Me looks at the aftermath of a horrid divorce mostly from the perspective of mad Max. Although the finish is as expected, mindful of the First Wives Club, fans will enjoy the saga of New Jersey's biggest loser; as she sucks it up seeking her groove while failing numerous times, but always gets up to try again, as Mona says she is a not a quitter.
Anna J. Evans
Emma Quinn was Demon Marked as a child. To survive, Emma gains sustenance from the life forces of others. She chooses victims who are abusive and cruel to others.
In the wee hours of the morning at the Demon's Breath bar and Grill south of the 14th Street barricade in Manhattan, Emma feeds off of a Death Ministry gang member, but he dies probably by her siphoning away too much of his life force. The gang comes after her with a vendetta as no one lives after killing one of their members. She flees hoping her sister Sam's Conti Mafiosi in-laws will help her. Their lawyer Andre Conti offers his assistance, but she has never trusted outsiders yet also is attracted to the attorney who does not believe in her powers.
The second Demon Bound romantic urban fantasy is a terrific thriller that has a different type of intensity but contains the same level of passion as Sam's starring role in Shadow Marked. Emma and Andre are polar opposites who deal with the gangbangers and their attraction. Fast-paced from the opening over siphoning until the final altercation, fans will enjoy roaming Anna J. Evans' dark vision of lower Manhattan.
Lilah is a Kyndred whose genetically enhanced DNA has made her a target of the GenHance biotech company; they became aware of her when she recued kids from a bear. The firm believes Lilah contains super DNA that enables her to communicate with animals. They want her DNA dead or alive. They drug her and when she regains consciousness she is handcuffed to an apparently dying man, but she heals Walker, a veteran of the Afghan war.
He vows to keep his savior safe. However, Lilah has another stalker wanting her apparently dead. This person is a Kyndred like she is. Lilah thought she could trust her "species" but by the time she learns the truth that an insider betrayal leaves her at risk, she may be too late to react.
The third Kyndred romantic urban fantasy (see Shadowlight and Dreamveil) is a fabulous thriller as Lilah wonders if the trite maxim no good deeds goes unpunished is true; the truth is much more complicated as she and walker will learn. Fast-paced and loaded with action, fans of the series will relish this exciting entry while wondering who is the traitor.
Surrender to Darkness
In Japan Kiyoko Aishida is dying as the ancient relic the Veil is running out of energy; the Veil is all that has kept her alive to fight evil demons but once depleted in a few days she will be dead. Kiyoko actually has an option besides death; as she can choose to transcend.
She has made up her mind until she meets Jamie Murdoch the soul gatherer, who reports directly to Death. His mission is to retrieve the Veil that destroys demons. However, the simple task proves difficult because whenever he touches Kiyoko, he turns into a raging maniac lusting for her; she might be near death but feels as intense. Both are surprised by their attraction and reaction so agree to test their need, which amplifies exponentially with each sexual contact. Jamie must decide between his assignment and his beloved, as arrogant Azazel the fallen angel ignores the Scottish soul gatherer as a nonentity when he comes for Kiyoko's blood and the Veil.
The third Soul Gatherer romantic urban fantasy (see Bound By Darkness and Drawn Into Darkness) is an entertaining character driven thriller as the lead couple struggle with love, a nasty high rung fallen angel demon, and their respective missions. Fast-paced readers will relish the fascinating, multifaceted and fresh McCleave mythos, but focus is needed as the mythology is dramatically different than the usual gathering of the angelic and demonic suspects. Fans will enjoy surrendering to the "darkness" of Ms. McCleave's vision.
A Werewolf in Manhattan
Vickie Lewis Thompson
Paranormal romance author Emma Gavin writes novels starring werewolves. However, she becomes concerned when a fan begins sending her letters claiming he is a bona fide werewolf. Frightened by the disturbing correspondence, she obtains a bodyguard Aidan Wallace.
As heir to a powerful affluent Manhattan werewolf pack, Aidan was assigned as her bodyguard because his leaders fear Emma knows too much about their concealed species and that someone is betraying them by informing her with the facts. His hidden agenda is to learn how much she really knows. Aidan quickly concludes she is totally ignorant except for some lucky guesses. However, he has a new problem besides what she knows. Aidan is attracted to Emma who he risks his life to keep safe when she comes under attack from one of his kind. Torn between his love for her and his loyalty and love for his pack, Aidan has a complicated choice in which he will hurt someone; if not his Emma than his chosen bride and his family, but regardless definitely he knows himself.
This is an entertaining urban romantic fantasy with some intrigue caused by inter and intra pack rivalries. The story line is fast-paced in the boudoir and out as the seemingly star-crossed lovers cannot get enough of each other. Although the ending is abrupt and facilitates issues too easily, readers will enjoy Vickie Lewis Thompson taking a bite or three out of the Big Apple.
Must Love Kilts
In 1250 in the Northwest Highlands, Laird Magnus MacBride is outraged when his betrothed was killed by marauding Norsemen. He vows vengeance on all Vikings as the blood rushes to his head and turns him into a berserker. His dreams of making love to a lovely woman are the only respite from his rage.
In present day New Hope, Pennsylvania, twentyish Margo Menlove loves all things Scottish; so much so the Bucks County residents consider her the ultimate authority. Although her enthusiasm is catching she also hides from everyone her dreams about a certain thirteenth century Scotsman who appears in a book.
Upon winning a trip, she travels to Scotland. Margo picks up an odd looking stone only to find herself naked in combat staring at Magnus. He is shocked as the Vikings he was just fighting vanished and his dream woman is standing nude before him. She is as stunned with seeing the star of her book and wet fantasies staring at her in shock, awe and desire. Already in love even before they met, they become an entry fighting against those who promulgate hate.
This is a lighthearted time travel romance in which the lead couple is in love before they ever met. The story line is brisk and fun, but lacks intensity, which is ironic as he is a raging berserker and she is extremely passionate regarding Scottish. Still fans will enjoy the M to the fourth power romance between the medieval highlander and the twenty-first century fanatic.
The Messiah Secret
British Museum supervisor Roger Halliwell sends one of his staff ceramics conservator Angela Lewis, who is not as assessor to evaluate the value of the collection left by recently murdered aristocrat Oliver Wendell-Carfax. She convinces her former husband police detective Chris Bronson, to meet with her at Carfax Hall in Suffolk as she feels unsafe. Angela finds a crate of pottery with one containing the find of the century; a parchment written by noted first century Jewish Scholar Hillel who makes the first known reference by a peer to Jesus outside of the New Testament.
The conservator and the cop find other clues that point to the ancient treasure the pair has previously sought unsuccessfully (see The First Apostle and The Moses Stone). However, once again the road to the artifact is dangerous as a fanatical lunatic priest will kill in the Lord's name to keep the treasure buried and an avaricious capitalist hires thugs to kill in order to insure he obtains the object.
The key to the third Lewis-Bronson tale is the pair themselves who brings an acceptable level of lightheartedness (sort of like a modern day Nick and Nora the sleuth not the playlist) that makes for a fresh Brownian thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the opening scene when the elderly Carfax thwarts his assailant while going to his death with a smile and never slows down until the final confrontation far from Suffolk. Readers will appreciate the latest escapades of Lewis and Bronson as they follow leads while dodging two groups of assassins.
In 1838 Prince Albert gives a rare gem to his beloved Queen Victoria. The gift means a lot to her Highness as a symbol of their commitment as he proposed to the Queen. Thus she becomes distraught when her gift is apparently stolen as Victoria fears her Albert will not talk to her for being so careless with the sign of their love. The frantic queen asks her long time friend Ivy Sutherland to find out what happened to her precious stone, which may be in the possession of "Mad" Marquess Simon de Burgh.
Cutting her hair off, Ivy masquerades as science student Ned Ivers, assistant to Simon who prefers working in his lab than be amongst Polite Society as the former electromagnetic experiments blow up a lot but not as much as the inane blow ups amidst the Ton. Simon is pleased with Ned's work and proud of the lad's advanced knowledge of electromagnetism; that changes when he realizes Ned is Ivy who must return home though he prefers she continue as his assistant. He reluctantly acquiesces to let her stay until the stone is found, but also agrees to help her search for the Queen's jewel. As they fall in love, someone wants to insure they never find the missing gem.
The latest Her Majesty's Secret Servants Victorian romantic suspense (see Ivy's sister Laurel in Most Eagerly Yours) is a great historical investigative thriller. The tale is action-packed from the moment Ned becomes Simon's assistant and enhanced by scientific and technological experiments in the beginning of the Victorian Era. Nineteenth century fans will appreciate this engrossing read as the amateur sleuths seek motives and opportunities while chasing after clues and falling in love.
Ride the Fire
The car crash might as well have killed Fire Department Captain Sean Tanner as he has never recovered from the deaths of his wife Blair and their teenage son and six years old daughter. He knows Blair's last words to him turned out prophetically true when she told him to go to hell for choosing his firefighting team over his son. To dull the pain of living in hell, he has become an alcoholic. Recently he took the first steps back when he realized he needed help and so Sean went into rehab.
Sean has returned to work, which pleases his team as he is considered a great leader. Sean and Eve Marshall begin to look deeper into their attraction for one another until Sean learns the awful truth about his family's death. Instead of a horrific accident, his closest friend at one time killed them. Sean vows vengeance against this predator.
The entertaining fifth Firefighters of Station Five (see Line of Fire) is an exciting tale that moves forward various firefighter subplots, but the focus is on the Captain who has a second chance at life and love; although he feels he does not deserve the former and detests the latter. Fast-paced, the protagonists carry plenty of psychological baggage that they must overcome if they are to cement their relationship as love and heated sex may not be enough. Although the villain's wrath and thirst for vengeance that matches that of his former best friend never comes across as genuine, readers will enjoy Sean's return to the living and loving; if he can keep his Eve safe from a psychopath.
Sins of a Highland Devil
In 1396 King Robert Stewart of Scotland orders the lairds of clans MacDonald, Cameron and Mackintosh to end their bloody feud in the Glen of Many Legends with final combat. The clan of the last male survivor will own the Glen; those from the losing two clans will leave.
Sister to Laird Alasdair MacDonald, Catriona has struggled to ignore her attraction to Laird James Cameron. He feels like her as he knows he loves Catriona but cannot do anything about his feelings as their clans constantly feud. James meets with Alasdair and Laird Kendrew Mackintosh to discuss how to avoid a bloodbath and not lose the Glen to the monarch. However, none of the lairds are aware that their sisters have plotted a different gender outcome in the battle for who will be the last man standing in the Glen of Many Legends.
This is a great opening Highlander medieval romance with a strong lead couple and powerful support characters that will soon star in their own tales. The three pairs of aristocratic siblings are all fully developed with each loving their clan while also possessing a star-crossed love for a leader of one of the other clans. Sub-genre fans will be hooked into a one sitting read of Sins of a Highland Devil while anxiously awaiting the middle tale of what looks like will be one of the best medieval trilogies in years.
The City is ruled by crime boss the Cardinal. Al "Algiers" Jeery works for the head mobster as a personal guard at Party Central. When Al's new girlfriend Nic Hornyak is murdered in a hotel owned by the Cardinal, the fuming mob chief orders his loyal but stunned subordinate to investigate.
Al makes inquiries, which proves he knows nothing about Nic as her friends are weird and not in a nice eccentric way. He soon finds himself the target of blind Incan priests and the mysterious killing machine Paucar Wami, who assassinates without impunity as nobody dares go after him. Al fears he is a walking dead man with no escape as he believes he is next on the ultimate hit man's list.
This reprint (under the name of Darren O'Shaughnessy in 2000) is a terrific parallel thriller to Procession of the Dead urban fantasy. Although there are major similarities between the stars of both tales especially their relationship to their respective "mentors", fans will enjoy this twisting entry particularly the perfect killer Wami as Al learns the City is filled with all types of deadly snakes.
Duchess of Sin
In December 1799 in Dublin, Ireland Lady Anna Blacknall is attracted to Conlan McTeer, but distrusts the Duke ever since the ambush of her brother-in-law's regiment two years ago during the Uprising. Although she knows better than to act so imprudently, Anna and her best friend Widow Lady Jane Cannondale attend a masquerade ball at the exclusive naughty Olympian Club known as a hot bin of sin and scandal. Masked Conlon sees Anna, takes a kiss that both recognize intimately, and sends her home.
Anna and Conlan begin seeing one another. However, her skepticism of his perfidy remains high while he tries to keep her and her mom Lady Katherine safe from the tumultuous tension between the Irish and the English. She knows she must decide between the man she loves who her family considers their mortal enemy and the safety of her family by marrying his cousin Grant Dunmore.
The middle Daughters of Erin historical romance (see Countess of Scandal) is a terrific entry due to the interwoven backdrop of the Irish-English strife enhancing the romance. The lead couple is an interesting pairing as she distrusts her heart while he fears his numerous adversaries will use the love of his life and her family as expendable pawns to destroy him; which if harm comes to her he will. Laurel McKee provides a superb tale.
An Object of Beauty
Art writer Daniel Frank of the Stockbridge, Massachusetts Franks is bone marrow weary of his 24/7 thoughts about his amoral former lover Lacey Yeager. He knows she will sleep with anyone to get a head. In hopes of purging her from his blood, he writes down his thoughts about the rise and rise of Lacey Yeager in the upscale Manhattan art world.
In the Clintonian Era, twenty-three years old beautiful Lacey Yeager obtains an entry level job as a Sotheby staffer. The intelligent and ambitious Lacey quickly rises up in rank in the company's normally glacial pace. As she did at Sothby's to obtain promotions, Lacey uses her body and brain to obtain a position at exclusive Barton Talley's gallery of "Very Expensive Paintings"; ethics is for the hogs and legalities is for the frightened losers. Finally she achieves her objective of opening up the Lacey Yeager gallery in Chelsea and even 9/11 fails to prevent her meteoric rise to the troposphere of the high priced art universe.
As a microcosm of the greed that led to the crash, An Object of Beauty is a terrific look at the ultra rich in which avarice with a need for more is a way of life as Steve Martin eloquently states that America has an aristocratic class with no moral ties to the country. The addition of pictures of paintings adds a fine art touch to the story line. However, this is Lacey's tale as she is a fascinating prototype as seen through the eyes of her whining former lover who exposes much of himself having a brain with one icon imprinted on it even as he exposes the woman he loathes and cherishes. Although the ending feels off kilter, Mr. Martin provides a profound condemnation of wealth without morality is worthless.
Tempted by Fate
Willow Tarata's fate was settled when she was ten years old when the beast she called "The Bad Man" killed her mom. Her quest ever since she saw her mom viciously murdered has been to kill this man. Like her mom before her, she is a Guardian of Wood, who for twenty years has followed the blood trail of the evil Bad Man.
Willow learns of a strange homicide in San Francisco. She rushes to the City by the Bay, but not only is she too late, the evidence points to her as a serial killer as two other similar homicides have occurred. Known for adhering rigidly to standard operating procedures, SFPD homicide detective Rick Ramirez is reasonably sure she is the predator hunting his city, but his heart refuses to accept what he sees so he delays what he knows he must do. Still even blinded by his feelings, Rick believes that somehow Willow is the root to solving the murders.
This excellent Guardians of Destiny urban romantic fantasy (see marked by Passion and Chosen by Desire) is made fresh by the heroine whose psychological acceptance of wandering, living and dying alone is her essence until Rick shakes her soul. Opposites in personality, Rick and Willow make a strong yin and yang team though each has trust issues when it comes to love having your back. Kate Perry provides a strong entry with this pairing as the duet prepares to fight a malevolent serial killing predator; both wonder if their partner truly has their back since they already have their heart.
The townsfolk of April Springs, North Carolina are delighted when snow falls as the Winter Festival begins. Donut Harts owner Suzanne Hart enjoys the cold weather especially when snow covers the town.
However, this time the pristine color is red when someone Fatally Frosted Darlene Higgins using a candy cane as the weapon. Suzanne loathed Darlene who was her ex-husband Max's mistress, but would not have wanted her dead. Meanwhile a shocked Muriel Stevens fears for her life as the victim wore her winter coat and a wig that matched her hair color. The police suspect somewhat look into the possibility of a wrongful murder, but lean to Max as the killer in a murder of passion. Suzanne reluctantly investigates the homicide in order for Max not to fry by digging into Darlene's past; which leads to an observant killer preparing to murder again and someone else also watching with appreciation in his eyes.
Sinister Sprinkles is a charming Carolina culinary cozy. Readers will enjoy visiting April Springs and take delight in the recipes included with each chapter. Although the motive for the amateur sleuth baker to investigate seems weak, sub-genre fans will enjoy her following the "recipe" how to investigate step by step.
In Belize, Riley James has worked as a smuggler for Carlo and Israel Monsanto for over two decades; ever since they took care of a deadly mess he was involved in as teen numbers runner. Few, if any, know the inland waterways better than Riley. However, Riley also realizes smuggling is a young man's game; not a middle age pursuit. He is doing his last run for the brothers before retiring as the siblings agree this will wipe out his long standing debt to them.
Riley figures on co-owning Lindy's Bar in Belize City with his friend Harvey Longsworth and marry his American sweetheart Candice. However, his plan goes astray starting with a car accident that has mobsters from Central America and Mexico in it, corrupt local officials especially cops, and DEA agents wanting his hide and what he delivers. A veteran of illegal trafficking, Riley will not go down without a fight.
Mr. Hooligan is superb crime thriller in which Charles Bronson (from Murphy's Law and Mr. Majestyk) would play the lead. Fast-paced from the moment the last run goes wrong, readers will be totally hooked wondering if Mr. Hooligan will survive the gauntlet as betrayals engulf his every step.
The October Killings
Looking back, two decades, South Africa's justice department chief Justice Abigail Bukula knows she has come a long way. Back in 1985 in Lesotho, teenaged Bukula survived a raid on an African National Congress house due to the kindness of a white soldier, Leon Lourens, who was part of the assault.
In 2005, Lourens proves to Bukula that most of those who were with him on the attack have been murdered over the years on the anniversary of the raid. Bukola knows to end the serial killer's murdering spree she will need expert help. She turns to brilliant former prison psychologist Dr. Yudel Gordon for help as he has access to the imprisoned commander of the assault Marinus van Jaarsveld. Although he lost his job when Apartheid ended, Dr. Gordon agrees to assist Bukula.
The whodunit is excellent and will please readers but is more a tool to enable the audience to observe the radical changes and problems to overcome in South Africa not long after the Apartheid wall came crumbling down. Profound, fans will relish this terrific timely thriller (recent movie Invictus) as the return of Gordon after a three decade hiatus will send new fans seeking his 1980 cases (see Closed Circle, A Lonely Place to Die and Divide the Night).
Jane Wheel is a picker who buys items at estate sales, auctions and flea market to resell at a higher price. She is also a private investigator's apprentice, which will come in handy when she and her friend picker Tim Lowry are preparing to show the Kendall Estate so it will look good to customers attending the event.
Tim finds an old play written by Frederick Kendall in 1908; believing it will bring in more buyers, he wants to put on a production of the murder mystery play that Jane finds as amusing drivel that helps lift her from the depression of her divorce from Nick. His plan is to use friends and family including Jane's parents. A ventriloquist's dummy Mr. Bumby is leaving threatening notes insisting people will if the play is performed. Tragedy strikes when a carpenter is murdered. Jane investigates hoping to find the culprit before someone else is killed.
Jan Wheel has become more confident in her self and likewise with her sleuthing abilities as she follows her instincts while seeking clues. Jane assumes the person sending the threatening messages via the dummy is the killer, but who remains elusive. Using dabs of humor, readers will enjoy the latest Wheel Stuff (see Buried Stuff) as Jane regains her equilibrium.
The KenKen Killings
Cora Felton explains to her niece Sherry Carter that she is not sure who Chester T. Markowitz is though he may have a husband during her past drinking era in which much of her memory especially of the Reagan years is stewed. However, she has inherited $10,000 from the late Chester T. Markowitz so will toast him without alcohol and cash the check.
Sherry is suspicious of the windfall from an apparent stranger. Meanwhile Cora assists Bakerhaven, Connecticut Police Chief Dale Harper investigate the break-in of banker Roger Randolph's house. Nothing was stolen; in fact to the contrary the thief left behind a KenKen puzzle. One of Cora's horde of ex-husbands that she recognizes as a former spouse Melvin Crabtree, encouraged by his present wife Evelyn and girlfriend Bambi, sues to end alimony payment.
As always the over the top mystery is super fun as readers will appreciate the KenKen puzzles that make for an enjoyable read. The early description as to how a KenKen puzzle works is terrific as Cora explains to Harper and Sherry (and fans) the mechanics. The cleverly devised whodunit with its Riddler-like clue takes a back seat to the puzzles as Parnell Hall provides an entertaining Puzzle Lady mystery (see The Puzzle Lady vs. the Sudoku Lady).
Peril at Somner House
The two du Maurier sisters, wannabe novelists Daphne and Angela, are staying at the mansion of Max Trevalayan on St. Mary's, a barrier island off of Cornwall. Their idyllic time ends when their host is murdered while his wife's alibi is another man. The siblings decide to investigate the killing starting with interviewing those staying or working at Max's mansion, Somner House.
The severe wintry weather helps and impedes their inquiry as no one can leave, but everyone uncooperatively grouches over being stuck inside especially with a murderer amongst them. As Daphne and Angela uncover secrets from those they question, almost all unrelated to the homicide, the killer watches the progress the siblings make because if they get to close Max will have company.
The key to the entertaining second du Maurier murder mystery (see Murder on the Cliffs) is the tone of Joanna Challis' story line as the author emulates the gothic tone of the more famous of the writing siblings inside of an Agatha Christie style plot. In fairness that also takes an adjustment to a writing style that feels somewhat antiquated yet also enhances the plausibility of the two amateur sleuths detecting. Ironically the older sister Angela takes more of a lead on the whodunit as Daphne has a male distraction that fails to gel with the prime historical murder plot. Still readers will enjoy the du Maurier sisters investigate at their own Peril at Somner House.
Nights of the Red Moon
Milton T. Burton
In Texas, the corpse of Amanda Twiller is found in front of the Methodist Church where her husband is the pastor. The body has numerous bullet wounds. Caddo County Sheriff Beauregard "Bo" Handel leads the official investigation.
Although Amanda's husband Reverend Bobby Joe Twiller is not publically a suspect, Bo knows his late wife dumped him three months ago for Emmet Zorn, the local liquor store owner. In spite of dope using drug dealer Doyle Raines being the prime suspect as the victim was addicted to prescription drugs, Bo and his team look into Emmet's activities; finding ties to a Houston mobster. The case spins out of control when someone murders Doyle.
This is a pleasurable somewhat over the top of Guadalupe Peak investigative police procedural starring a wonderful eccentric posse led by Bo knows who he wants. The inquiry is cleverly designed to keep the reader deciding between the spouse, the store owner and the drug dealer as the killer; each had a motive and opportunity. The story line is fast-paced at times frantic as the zaniness of the cop crew makes for a fun homicide investigation, Texas style.
The Cruel Ever After
In Minneapolis antiquities dealer, Chester "Chess" Garrity wakes up with a hangover on the lawn in front of the home of Melvin Dial, but totally clueless as to how he ended up there. The night before Chess and Melvin discussed a deal involving the Iraqi artifact, the Winged Bull of Nimrud. Chess enters the unlocked house to find the art collector dead from an apparent knife wound. Panicking, Chess runs from the crime scene.
Chess accompanied by art dealer Irina Nelson returns to the Dial residence. He is stunned to see the corpse missing, the house clean, and a ransom note addressed to him demanding $50,000 in small bills; next to the money are photos of Chess with the body. He pleads with his former wife restaurateur Jane Lawless, who has solved several murder mysteries, to investigate.
The excellent latest Jane Lawless Minnesota mystery starring (see Sweet Poison) is a great entry as Chess is checkmated by an unknown adversary. Jane is terrific as she works the case of her ex husband in which every clue she finds enforces Chess' guilt. Fast-paced with a fabulous set up, Jane is no longer an amateur sleuth as she has been paid recently as a professional (see The Mirror and the Mask) since the economy has hurt her restaurant profits. Readers will fully appreciate this terrific investigative thriller.
Pregnant Rose Patterson escapes from the confinement of Dr. Whitney's illegal lab where she and Kane Cannon were used in genetic experiments which culminated with her carrying. Kane also managed to break out of the incarceration. Whereas she hides, he joins Mack McKinley's GhostWalker Team Three.
In, Mexico, McKinley's squad works a hostage rescue mission. Kane realizes that his Rose is inside. During the heat of the skirmish, Kane and Rose find each other, but are not near his teammates. Although she is eight months pregnant and distrusts everyone, she knows with her unborn baby's soul she can rely on Kane to take her to safety although Whitney pursues them for the child he covets.
This is a fresh entry in the GhostWalker saga due to the relationship between the lead couple. They were matched together by evil Whitney in his lab and the fetus she carries is the results of his malevolence; yet both risk their lives to keep the unborn safe especially from the abusive researcher. Series fans will appreciate this strong thriller as the romance takes a back seat to the action.
The Other Side
J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Patricia Gaffney, Ruth Ryan Langan and MaryKay McComas
"Possession in Death" by J.D. Robb. In 2060, NYPD Lieutenant Eve Dallas takes Father Lopez home when elderly Hungarian Gizi runs in front of her car. She begs the warrior cop to save her Beata. Eve's team arrives to find a cold corpse of Gizi though a stunned Eve has just spoken to the deceased.
"The Other Side of the Coin" by Mary Blayney. In 1810 Bettina tells her husband Harry he is having an affair; he denies it. Bettina makes a wish on a coin as does Harry. Their wishes are granted as each wears the shoes of the other having switched bodies.
"The Dancing Ghost" by Patricia Gaffney. In 1895, spirit investigator Henry visits Massachusetts where house owner Angeiolina insists the ghosts of a dancing ancestor and her cuckolded husband occupy her home.
"Almost in Heaven" by Ruth Ryan Langan. At the Copper Creek Country Club, Vanessa and Ted throw an engagement party for their daughter Christina and her fiance Mark. Vanessa and Ted leave to go home with their six years old son Tyler who suffers from Autism, but the brakes fail killing them. Mark pressures Christina to marry him. Christina delays the marriage to stay with Tyler. The deceased couple soon learns the shocking truth.
"Never Too Late To Love" by MaryKay McComas. Thirtyish accountant M.J. wants her late mother's house torn down as she plans to sell the property. She finds inside the ghosts of her late mom and two aunts. The three sisters cannot leave until they find what they lost, but none know what they lost.
Each tale is a solid well written fun entry using a different plot device or setting making the anthology fresh in spite of the novella format not lending itself to character development.
A Little Texas
Kate Newman is stunned when she learns her partner spent business funds on personal items. This leaves the business in trouble as they owe taxes to the IRS. Desperate she tries to extort money from her affluent father, Justus Mitchell who has never recognized her existence.
Mitchell shocks his daughter when he agrees to give her the money but on the stipulation she spends two weeks with him. She accepts his terms. Mitchell asks his former assistant Rick Mendez, to escort his daughter to him. Kate and Rick are attracted to each other immediately, but he seeks redemption for nasty things he did by opening up rehab center for gang members. Thus he refuses to acknowledge he desires kissable Kate.
The key to A Little Texas is the lead couple, as each has realistic issues and needs that at the minimum seem to defer a relationship but more liker deter any connection between them. Liz Talley provides a well-written interesting tale of two people falling in love at the wrong time, but the inconvenient truth for both is that there probably will not ever be a better time.
Her Great Expectations
Widower Jack Thatcher has failed to move passed the death of his wife who died in a plane crash. This is ironic as he owned an air-charter at the time she passed on. Since his spouse died, Jack has given up on life as he no longer owns that air-charter and simply avoids entanglements with people.
Jack's broken world is shook to the core when he meets Dr. Sienna Maxwell. She reciprocates his immediate attraction although she has doubts too. However, what sells her on the depressed Jack is how super he relates with her son. Sienna tries to encourage Jack to join the living especially with her and her child. Initially he remains recalcitrant, but soon figures out that he can't have Sienna and remain a misanthrope.
Although the theme of love helping someone move on with the grieving process has been used a lot in literature, Joan Kilby keeps her insightful story line fresh due to the unique protagonists. Sienna is a wonderful caring person who also has doubts about a relationship as her prime need is raising her son yet has great expectations so she takes a chance on Jack. He, on the other hand, prefers being a hermit because love does not just hurt; it cripples the soul when it expires. Readers will appreciate this deep contemporary second chance at love tale.
Because of Jane
Former NFL quarterback Lenny Paxton mentally loses it at a press conference. Instead of seeking help and apologizing for his breakdown, he leaves. Lenny retreats from the public spotlight by returning to the farm of his grandparents where he grew up as a child raised by them.
A magazine hires psychologist Jane Harper to write an article on Lenny. She arrives at the farm uninvited. There she hopes to write an article on the retired football player, but also wants to help him regroup after his mental sacking and hold on to an endorsement deal he is not interested in doing anymore. However, his attraction to Jane keeps him from punting her off the farm; while she feels the same way about throwing a pass at him, even if it is a Hail Mary.
This is a warm contemporary romance starring a fascinating former football hero turned goat and a caring professional. After meeting the sacked QB her agenda changes as she tries to help him move on but also falls in love with him. Readers will enjoy Lenny's rehabilitation brought about Because of Jane.
Ramona and the Renegade
In Forever, Texas, Deputy Joe Lone Wolf helps veterinarian Ramona Santiago when her car breaks down. He knows his childhood friend Mona is in Forever temporarily to attend the wedding of his boss who happens to also be her older brother Rick (see The Sheriff's Christmas Surprise). However, Joe also knows that he has loved Mona seemingly forever, but believes she deserves better than him.
Mona is stunned by her attraction to her rescuer as she has known Joe forever, but never felt this way before. Her emotional meter is already stratospheric with her relationship with Rick radically changed and their estranged mom returning into the lives of the siblings. Now love has both she and Joe reeling for cover.
This is a warm contemporary romance starring two flawed protagonists and a strong support cast especially Rick. Joe is confused with what to do next while Mona fears a broken heart she will not be able to mend. Although both contain too much baggage for a relatively short story line fans will root for another Santiago to find a permanent love.
The Bachelor Ranger
Fourteen months ago in Yosemite, the kiss hooks the soul of Park Ranger Cal Hollis though he knew she should not have locked lips with teen Alex Harcourt when she threw herself at him and he could not stop what he was dong because she mesmerized him. She also remembers the kiss as the greatest moment of her life.
She is back in Yosemite to start a new program that brings Native Americans to the park. Alex fears Cal will interfere with the project. A widower, he is struck by how much he still wants her and how mature she has become since the kiss. She knows she is in love, but refuses to allow the ranger to break her heart again when he rejected her advances last year. Meanwhile as they work together to make her project a reality, he works on capturing an odious brutal poacher and persuading his beloved he has moved on passed his past.
Rebecca Winters provides a great contemporary romance that stars two strong lead characters and a powerful support cast inside of a vivid setting. The key to this terrific tale is the interweaving of the past of Cal and Alex into the warm story line. With memories of the kiss lingering in their respective souls, this is a super first chance at love.
Caught off Guard
Heiress Annemarie Prescott could sense the man looking at her across a crowded room. She looks back at bodyguard Blake Mitchell who has no paparazzi camera to continue to photo her misdeeds or even dollar signs; instead he has lust in his eyes as each attends the wedding of his younger sister who is her best friend Karyn nee Mitchell (see Whispers in the Dark; not read by me) at the Prescott Hotel in Darby, Mississippi while her CEO mom awaits the runaway prodigal child's return to the fold.
Her mom hired him to persuade her to come home. Meanwhile as Blake and Annemarie emit enough heat to melt the polar icecaps, someone tries to kill her; only his intervention keeps her from harm. Soon they fall in love, but his occupation requires a Bogart persona and her distrust of so called loving relationships which only denotes hurt threaten to keep them apart even as that stalker gets increasingly brazen.
This is an entertaining regional heater as the lead couple struggles to come together with each bringing tons of baggage to their shaky relationship. The story line is character driven though the stalker adds suspense to the exciting mix as fans will be Caught off Guard with the twisting strong climax to an enjoyable contemporary romance.
The research team seeks the Civil War vessel The Carolina, which sunk off Palmer's Island, South Carolina in September 1863. Rumors abound that the pirate Captain Cullen had a fortune on board. Historian Brenna McGary is irate that treasure hunter Gavin Fortune is part of the discovery recovery team as she strongly believes history should not be sold. She believes this modern day privateer will try to do so unless she prevents him.
To her chagrin, Brenna is attracted to the modern day buccaneer, who makes it clear that he wants to become Her Private Treasure. As she increasingly finds the rogue to be her Irresistible Fortune, she fears the notorious salvager will dump her as unwanted junk while running off with the treasure including her heart.
This is a fun treasure hunt in which Gavin makes the tale fun with his daring deeds on land and at sea; as he exasperates the heroine who in turn loves and loathes her attraction to the rogue. Fans will enjoy this lighthearted frolic as Wendy Etherington provides a blazing contemporary with an underlying message of who owns history "garbage dumps".
Seducing the Vampire
In 1785 in Paris, Constantine de Salignac the vampire is attracted to the bloodborn vampiress Viviane LaMourette. However, she rejects him as she does other males who desire her; as she refuses to be under the domination of anyone while her patron Henri Chevalier keeps her safe. Obsessed with her Constantine is irate with her refusal.
When her patron is murdered, Constantine decides that offering her his patron protection will enable him to possess Viviane. However, hybrid vampire-werewolf Rhys Hawke blames Constantine for the death of his beloved. He plans to take out his revenge by seducing Constantine's beloved. Instead his scheme fails when he falls in love with the pawn he was going to discard; Viviane reciprocates his affection. Raging Constantine enchants Viviane while informing Rhys his beloved died. Over two centuries later, Rhys hears rumors of a Snow White vampires buried underneath the Paris streets; he wonders if this is true and could this be his Viviane.
Seducing the Vampire is a very dark entertaining thriller as Viviane is trapped in a triangle of death. The three key characters are fully developed with the sibling rivalry so ugly each brother has their soul filled with loathing. Viviane is terrific as the trapped Snow White caught in the fratricidal war as only one can survive.
Prelude to a Scandal
In 1829 in London, renowned naturalist the Earl of Marwood is arrested for violating the Buggery law on indecency due to his writing on South African mammal homosexuality. While her dad lingers in Marshalsea Debtors Prison unable to pay the exorbitant fine, his desperate daughter Lady Justine Fedora Palmer, who grew up in Africa, is concerned with freeing her dad from jail. Already a pariah amongst the Ton as she fails to fit, she turns to the notorious Lord of Pleasure dubbed "The Rake Extraordinaire" by the ladies of the Ton, duke Edwin Morton, with the offer of her body in exchange for his help.
He counters her consideration with a marriage proposal as he feels a female partner will make him whole and he prays end his sex addiction. Not fully understanding his craving, Justine decides to earn his respect while filling his obsessive appetite. Her fear is one woman will never be enough for her rake.
This is a fascinating late Regency romance that looks deep at several issues through a strong cast. Besides the sexual addiction problem of the Duke of Bradford, which his mistress cleverly manipulates for her gain, fans will relish the presence of Henri a gay servant and Justine's dad whose writings cause trouble for himself, his wife and their daughter. Although the antics of the duke's brother feel intrusive, readers who relish a profound issues-based historical romance will appreciate Delilah Marvelle's powerfully character driven thriller.
Her Christmas Hero
Driving from Austin to Taylor, Texas on a back road shortcut proves a mistake when a torrential rain led to flooding and Britt Davis' car swept away in a raging river. Quentin Ross dives in to rescue Britt. Later she learns her hero is her former husband Phil's attorney. Quinn insures his client gains temporary custody of his nine month old son Dillon, but has doubts about taking a boy from his mom at Christmas.
Quinn is irate to learn the truth that his former classmate conned him. He believes the child is better off with Britt. Not one to sit idly by, Quinn vows to dive into the mess so that mother and child are reunited even if it means the law board bars him from practicing.
Although there are serious undercurrents involving the capability of parenting and the infant tug of war following a divorce, Linda Warren uses humor brought to the wonderful tale by the support cast to lessen the intensity of the legal war. Although Phil's shortcomings are too easy to write him off as a father, this terrific contemporary is character driven by the hero and the damsel in distress. Fans will relish spending Christmas in Texas as Dillon is a "hostage" in the divorce wars.
The Holiday Triplets
In California at the Safe Harbor Medical Clinic, administrator Dr. Mark Rayburn and pediatrician Dr. Samantha Forrest seem to argue about everything from the moment they first met. One thing they do not argue about, for that matter even acknowledges exists, is their attraction to one another.
Samantha is depressed when Mark informs her there will no longer be any space for the free clinic. Meanwhile, nineteen year old maternity patient Candy feels overwhelmed and knows her boyfriend Jon will not be around just like her father abandoned her, as he calls the newborn ugly because there is a port-wine stain on the face. Candy gives up her parental rights for her newborn triplets to Samantha, who without a second thought blink accepts the kids. A stunned Mark, who felt the clinic was his family, knows Sam is overwhelmed. He joins her as they struggle with what is best for the babies and for each other.
This is a charming Christmas medical romance that sub-genre fans will enjoy due to a strong lead couple and an ensemble support cast. Although there are too many subplots, readers will appreciate the dedicated doctors Mark and Sam learning what matters in their personal lives.
A Message for Julia
The miscarriage shook Julia and Linc Holmes deeply. Neither the teacher nor the mine inspector could find solace with the other as they grieved their loss. A few months following the tragedy, Julia moves out as neither is able to talk with the other especially about their mind numbing despair.
Divorce seems imminent as the once happy but now separated couple seems to have no grounds for reconciliation. However, everything changes when Linc and six other workers are trapped inside a mine after a cave in. Julia fears the worse for her beloved spouse while Linc ponders over what went wrong between them as he still loves his wife.
With what recently occurred in Chile, A Message for Julia seems even more profound as Angel Smits provides a taut contemporary. Julia is terrific as her anguish over the loss of their baby leads to her leaving, and her torment and guilt over the potential loss of her husband are deeply emotional for her and for the reader. However, it is Linc's reactions and thoughts while trapped and hoping for a rescue that makes the tale as he reflects on his marriage, the loss of their baby, and A Message for Julia whether he is rescued or not. This is a powerful passionate portrayal.
The Baby Agenda
Janice Kay Johnson
In Redmond, Washington, when her boyfriend real estate attorney Bruce Girard dumps her by e-mail to return to his previous girlfriend, architect Moira Cullen finds herself the solo act at a professional conference that has pairings that Noah would have been proud to host. Feeling sorry for herself, she steps out of character when she meets and has a one night stand with builder Will Becker. However, Moira becomes pregnant, but she hesitates informing Will that he will become a father soon because he is in Africa constructing hospitals.
Besides not wanting to disturb him while he works overseas on something extremely important, Moira also does want Will to feel obligated. Finally after hemming and hawing, Moira decides he should know and informs Will he is going to be a daddy. Excited Will makes it clear he will be in his offspring's life and returns from Africa as such but also to persuade Moira they belong together as a happy family.
This is a fabulous contemporary romance due to the lead couple's reaction to her pregnancy. Moira who has doubts about holding on to a man does not want to destroy Will's dream mission in life while Will wants to be a father to their child. Readers will enjoy this warm tale as an unborn plays matchmaker between the parents.
In Erie, Pennsylvania, shortly before their marriage, police officer Jay Martin dies from meningitis; only his mother's refusal to unplug the machine keeps him alive. His fiancee art teacher Laura Watson is left alone to grieve her loss while also dealing with her pregnancy as Jay's mother raging in anger over her wanting to pull the plug orders her our of their lives.
Laura meets Police Lieutenant Seth Keller when they work together to help one of her students JT Thomas stay out of trouble. Seth coaches Laura when she gives birth to her son. He believes he loves her and her baby, but knows she has issues similar to his. He has not moved on passed the deaths of his wife and their baby due to problems with her pregnancy.
This second chance at love is a heart-wrenching tale as Laura and Seth struggle to move beyond their respective losses of loved ones, compounded by not all of them deceased. Besides losing her fiance she also lost his parents; while he lost his family including an estrangement with his parents and much of the Keller brood. Readers will relish this entertaining return to Erie.
I'll be Yours for Christmas
In Ithaca, New York Abby Harper and Reece Winston were neighbors as children. However, after not seeing each other in years, Abby and Reece meet as he has come home to recuperate from a serious accident at the track. The Formula One racing car driver recognizes her and realizes she is prettier as an adult than he expected. The winery manager knows the muscular hunk was the skinny boy next door.
Abby has several sexual fantasies that she wants to perform. Reece is not just a willing partner; he is a panting willing partner as his pole matches the length of the stripper pole she uses. The pair has sex everywhere as he fulfills her wet dreams and she reciprocates.
This is an exhilarating heated contemporary holiday romance made stronger by Abby's managing the family winery and Reece recovering from his injuries. He offers naughty and she accepts; not expecting nice from him too. Readers will enjoy this fun Yuletide tale as Abby agrees to his for Christmas, but Reece soon knows he wants her for all seasons.
Lawyer Kendall Banks' prime rule is to never mix business with pleasure. Greek businessman Troy Metaxas follows the same maxim.
When Kendall and. Troy meet sparks fly that could ignite a large city. However, their first encounter is in a corporate boardroom where they are on opposite teams. Each keeps thinking don't mix business with pleasure, but neither can prevent jumping into the sack together. Still they are discrete while enjoying sexual encounters. However, both keep an emotional detachment out of fear of what will happen. That is until all hell in the boardroom threatens their pleasure in the bedroom.
The latest Private Scandals contemporary romance (see Private session and Private Affairs) is a heated entertaining tale that for the first third or so most of the blaze is in the boudoir as the plot focuses on what this couple is doing with the Christmas stuffer sock. After sheets of heat, the inferno spins into the boardroom when he learns who she is; that is before he learns in earnest who she is. Starting with the opening observation of Troy's brother Ari's vivid description of the opponent sticking and breaking it off (without Vaseline - my addition) to the numerous intermittent hot climaxes and to the final climax, this gender war focuses mostly on Private Parts going public just before Christmas.
A Man For All Seasons
During Christmas, Tyler Burton plans to spend some loving time with his girlfriend. However, he has to get his roommate out of the house before he can achieve his goal as Marlie Waters seems rooted to the floor and has been since she ended her engagement.
Tyler buys Marlie a "Twelve Days of Christmas" charity auction package. She will have twelve dates with twelve different men. However, Tyler soon realizes he made the blunder of his life as he loves Marlie.
This engaging holiday romance starts with Marlie's list of ten with number nine being Ty breaks her heart again; that sets the tone of a fun contemporary as the roommates are a wonderful pairing of He's Just Not That Into You (the Alex-Gigi arc from the movie). Although the story line starts too slow with too much time focused on Marlie's redundant moaning and groaning re her break-up, once the Twelve Days of Christmas begins, A Man For All Seasons turns into a more exciting romance as Tyler wants the revised Marlie list to exclusively be with him.
The Christmas Brides
Linda Lael Miller
"A McKettrick Christmas". In 1896 after spending two years at Miss Ridgley's Institute of Deportment and Refinement for Young Women, Lizzie McKettrick is excited to return to her family on the Triple M Ranch in time for Christmas. She looks forward to being the new Indian Rock schoolteacher as well and to introduce her beau Whitley Carson to her family. An avalanche causes the train wreck stranding the passengers. Dr. Morgan Shane helps the injured while Lizzie assists him. While working with the caring doctor, she reconsiders her feelings towards Whitley, who increasingly compared with Morgan looks like a gold-digger. However, time is running out on the stranded travelers.
"A Creed Country Christmas." In December 1910 her Denver based family disowned Juliana Mitchell for refusing to marry because they demanded she do so. Instead she obtains work as a teacher at an Indian school in Stillwater Springs, Montana. When the school is shut, she worries about the welfare of her four students, but has no funds and her pompous brother refuses to send what is legally hers. Widowed cowboy Lincoln Creed has failed to find anyone to care for his seven year old daughter Gracie. He knows of Juliana's plight so he offers her a deal that he assumes she cannot refuse. Juliana accepts his offer to stay at his ranch with her students and his daughter for Christmas. As the two adults are caught in a compromising situation that forces them to marry, each wonders whether it will prove a Yuletide gift wrapped in love or otherwise.
Although both tales are simplistic and the kids overly precocious, fans of the McKettrick-Creed saga will enjoy the reprints of these charming holiday historical romances. Readers will toast Linda Lael Miller for her Montana Christmas.
Night of the Vampires
During the Civil War as the Northern and Southern armies fight, an insidious threat to both uses the fog of combat to kill soldiers from both camps. Vampires are dining on humans.
At an infested prison, Texas Sheriff, Cole Granger and two allies are destroying the infection when a lightning fast woman appears in their midst. Half breed Megan Fox works for Robert E. Lee in an effort to exterminate the non human half of her gene pool, vampires. She also seeks to find her brother Cody who is one of Cole's two anti-vampires associates. Cole is attracted to Megan but distrusts her until President Lincoln sends them to Harper's Ferry to find the grave of the vampire child who apparently started the current epidemic. However, to bring peace to the child, they must endure the all night attacks from the vampires, but to do so each must trust their heart not their head.
The key to this exciting historical romantic fantasy is the matter of acceptance that vampires exist and had a role to play in the horrors of the war. With that premise, Heather Graham presents a strong saga as his love must overcome his instinctive bias against vampires, even half breeds; and she must trust a purebred with what is left of her soul. If not, this pair will die before the night is through. Readers will appreciate this strong Civil War drama as the paranormal elements are cleverly intertwined in the story line.
Murder In Plain Sight
In Springville, Pennsylvania, the police arrest nineteen year old Amish Thomas Esch for the murder of twenty-four year old "Englischer" Cherry Wilson. Philadelphia based law firm Henderson, Dawes and Henderson sends junior associate lawyer Jessica Langdon to plea bargain for a lighter sentence for the Amish teen in Lancaster County.
After getting lost while seeking the woman who hired her firm Mrs. Geneva Morgan, she meets the woman's son Trey who tells her they changed their mind. Geneva arrives and thanks Jessica as she wants her to defend Thomas over Trey's objection. Although unfairly in trouble with her legal firm's partners over the Clements and Altmiller cases and knowing defending the teen will add to her job tsuris, Jessica decides to defend Thomas in court after meeting Mrs. Morgan, the teen and his family. Trey is irate as he wants his mother to stay out of the brutal homicide case and firmly believes Thomas murdered Cherry. Jessica diligently works the defense while studying the Amish culture. However, someone wants the case resolved with Thomas locked away and that adversary begins a dangerous assault on the Philadelphia lawyer with Tey still dealing with his dad's suicide at her side.
Murder In Plain Sight is an engaging Amish legal romantic suspense tale that readers will enjoy. The Amish background anchors the locale while the romance between the lawyer and her critic is slowly developed. Although the ending feels rushed and incomplete with an odd late motivation for the Wilson murder, Marta Perry provides a delightful thriller.
Mistress by Midnight
Merryn Fenner has waited seemingly forever to ruin the man who destroyed her family and her life, but he fled England. Now the wait is finally over as Garrick Nothesk has come home as a Duke; a title Merryn believes he does not deserve. Her plan is simple: find the true heir of Farn so that Garrick is left with nothing except bitterness just like her. She also wants to find the proof he murdered her brother Stephen so he is also locked away or executed.
Garrick does not want to return to England where his memories are sad as his wife betrayed him with his best friend Stephen who he killed. He came home because as the duke he needs an heir.
Merryn seeking clues is trapped under Garrick's bed. He spots her and insists on marriage. When an explosion occurs they are almost drowned in a sea of beer. As they fall in love, the ghost of her sibling, his best friend, remain between them unless he moves passed his guilt and she moves passed her anger.
This is a super Scandalous Women of the Ton saga (see One Wicked Sin and Whisper of Scandal) as grief, distrust and guilt seem to easily supersede love. Fast-paced (like its predecessors) with a touch of mystery, Regency romance fans will want to know if Garrick killed Stephen over cuckolding him or, if not, why.
How To Wed a Baron
Justin "Bad Baron" Wilde is irate as he has worked diligently for the Crown yet Prinny orders him to marry, but not a woman of his choosing. The Prince Regent selects an apparent innocent stranger who is even purebred English. He has no choice if he wants a pardon from the Regent.
Half-Romany Lady Magdalena Valentin cannot believe she must wed a stranger known as the Bad baron. Still Alina sees the nuptials as a means of escaping her nasty aunt. When they meet, each is taken aback by their attraction. However, a powerful lord has plans for the innocent Alina so honorable Justin takes her with him to keep her safe though she distrusts her fiance. As the enemy pursues them, Alina and Justin fall in love even as he wryly thinks he owes one to Prinny while each wonder why the forced marriage.
This is an enjoyable Regency romance with a couple of mysteries enhancing the story line. Fast-paced, from the moment the disgruntled pair meet and flee, sub-genre fans, like the lead pair, will want to know the answers to why Prinny forced them to marry and why someone with power wants her. With two strong protagonists, readers will appreciate Kasey Michael's latest historical (see How To Tame Lady)
Scared to Death
Wendy Corsi Staub
Elsa Cavalon and Marin Quinn share in common the loss of the same child (see Live to Tell). Fifteen years ago, Elsa's adopted son seven year old Jeremy was kidnapped. Over two decades ago Marin gave up her newborn son Jeremy for adoption. Neither has moved pass their losses, as each believe Jeremy is dead. Both are trying to do so with varying success. In Groton, Connecticut Elsa has adopted another child seven years old Renny while Manhattanize Marin struggles with the betrayal and lies of her husband a disgraced arrested Congressman and being there for their daughters.
However, nothing goes smoothly for either disturbed woman. They will soon be back teetering on the precipice again when a new horror hits both of them. A raging watcher angry at both women and jealous of their offspring makes plans for each mother. Elsa and Marin soon struggle to prevent any harm to their love ones, but to do so probably will cost either one or both their lives as the watcher demands they choose.
This is a powerful chiller as sometimes the paranoia proves right. The cast is solid especially the full blooded women and the troubled watcher. Fans need to set aside time as Wendy Corsi Staub provides a strong exhilarating suspenseful thriller that grips readers from start to finish as the return of two moms from Live To Tell may end up dead unable to tell,
Following the collapse of her interior design career, Tessa Sheridan returns home to Destiny, Ohio with few hopes for her future. She struggles to pay her bills and eat even living in a woody cabin near Whisper Falls.
Next door is a biker whose Harley roars seemingly 24/7 driving Tessa over the edge. She also is attracted to the hunk, which she knows is a loser for a reticent person as she is. Once a rebel without a cause, Lucky Romo feels his name is accurate as he is attracted to his shy neighbor. Their attraction could ignite a forest fire, but will she allow Mr. Trouble to drive into her life.
Although the bad boy and innocent girl love story has been done a zillion times (Donna Kaufman and Lori Foster come to mind) the latest Destiny, Ohio contemporary romance (see Sugar Creek and One Reckless Summer) is a fun brisk tale. Lucky is somewhat stereotypical, but Tessa provides freshness with her reticence and reluctance to turn into a bad girl. Toni Blake provides an enjoyable entry as readers will wonder whether the lead male will in deed be lucky in love.
Wedding of the Season: Abandoned at the Altar
Laura Lee Guhrke
In 1895, the wedding between childhood sweethearts Lady Beatrix and Lord William is called off when he has a chance to join an archeological dig in Egypt. He asks his fiancee to come with him, but she says no. He leaves without her; humiliating her, his family and angering her family.
Six years later Will is back in England riding a horse when he sees a woman driving a roadster. The horse bolts and kicks Will in the knee. Trix has no sympathy for her former fiance, who insists he came home to attend her wedding to prim and proper Aidan Carr. He actually came home to borrow money for the dig as they are close to finding Tut's tomb. Trix goes to see Will to ask why he is home. They argue as he says she lied to him about her interest in archeology while she accuses him of abandonment. Will's best friend Paul suggests he ask Marlowe the publisher. Will goes to Pixy Cove to Visit Marlowe though he knows Trix and Aidan will be there too on a holiday. At Pixy Cove, Trix enters her favorite area Phoebe's Cave when Will arrives. He insists she does not love Aidan. He decides to prove she loves him by kissing her as Julie, Paul and Aidan arrive.
The lead couple is a fun pairing of opposites with a history. The support cast is strong especially Trix's fiancee and her best friend. Although the story line unfairly makes the cautious Trix the guilty party in their break up and a late twist back at the dig seems off kilter though it forces issues, readers will want to attend the Wedding of the Season as wedding planner Laura Lee Guhrke provides an entertaining late Victorian romance.
The Princess of Nowhere
Prince Lorenzo Borghese
Sister to Napoleon, Paulina Bonaparte knows she is beautiful and though not a blueblood, she can out royal any princess with her demands. Napoleon uses his sibling to strengthen his foreign ties by arranging a marriage to Italian Prince Camillo Borghese. He wants her while she drives him crazy with her coquettish behavior. She teases him over his jealousy while seeking other men especially with him frequently away from their home. They are in love and at war with one another, but neither understands which emotion is more important until their world collapses under the weight of tragedy and regrets; as it is too late to mend.
Told by Pauline's surrogate daughter Sophie who look back over four decades, this is a great biographical fiction story starring two passionate flawed individuals who fight, fuss, and fail. Refreshing as revelations prove too late to act upon, Sophie represents the delightful historical personage as she initially admired her guardian only to loath her ill tempered guardian. Prince Lorenzo Borghese writes a terrific take that grips the audience with a unique insightful look at the Napoleonic era through the raging relationship between his sister and brother-in-law.
What My Best Friend Did
Magazine photographer Alice frantically dials 999 when she finds her best friend impulsive TV personality Gretchen unconscious. Alice fears Gretchen overdosed. On the emergency ride to the hospital, the medic makes small talk to try to keep Alice from going into shock. At the hospital ER, a stunned Alice looks back to her relationship with Gretchen.
Alice was bored as her friends were becoming responsible adults with spouses and kids; she wanted neither. She met Gretchen during an L.A. shoot and they became instant buddies. A bonus occurs when she meets Gretchen's brother Bailey in New York though she has steadfast Tom back in California. However, over time Alice realizes Gretchen does not live life to the fullest as she once thought, but over indulges with her obsessive needs running over anyone including loved ones with a tank tread.
This is a low-keyed fascinating female buddy tale with a terrific dark twist. The BFFs and the two males are fully developed characters so that the audience will believe they are real and what happened is genuine. Fans will want to know What My Best Friend Did as Lucy Dawson hooks her readers from the opening emergency until the final denouement.
A Most Scandalous Engagement
In 1846 the bets were flying as to who posed nude for the painting hanging in the gentlemen's club. Lord Peter Derby is confident he will win the wager as he believes childhood friend Lady Elizabeth Cabot is the luscious model. However, he is taken aback and sidetracked from his pursuit when she asks him to pretend to be her fiance. He agrees, but wonders if she might be the model.
Still he always liked Elizabeth and helped her out of situations when they were kids, but he also knows he is way below her station in life. Elizabeth wants Peter to teach her how to love a man. He agrees to help her again, but realizes he wants to be her man.
The latest scandalous sensational Victorian romance (see In Pursuit of a Scandalous Lady) is a charming historical as Peter is confident he will win the bet, but instead wins a greater prize. The story line is fast-paced as Peter and Elizabeth fall in love with one another, but she has major doubts about him and the notorious wager. Providing delightful background is the feeding frenzy over who the model is as Gayle Callen entertains her fans with a scandalous winner.
Taken By Desire
Anna Steele dreams of one thing that she wants for herself; not to be controlled by a man. Her other dream stars Struthers, but that one she prefers not to admit to except as a pestilence. Her independence dream comes true when she inherits a ton on money that enables her to move out of her father's home.
Anna cannot help but intervene when her half-sister married Maddie is in a scandalous position in which her husband icy Lord Milson will shoot first and then ask no questions. Prim and proper, Anna pushes a hunk against a wall and kisses him. Just back from India, Alexander Struthers is shocked by the brazen beauty who has compromised them. Affluent he does not want a wife he is now engaged to the pushy woman. Each is attracted to the other, but neither is used to revealing their feelings especially their fears so they do what they always did; hide them. Meanwhile Anna's family places her in a nasty situation while Alex has nightmares over the cost of how he became rich.
This is an engaging historical romance starring two intriguing self-control freaks who find love a nuisance that belongs in a "madhouse" but not in their lives. Anna's unfeeling two-dimensional family members, who are hostile towards her for her attempts to counter the harm they did to others, detract from an otherwise strong tale as they appear underdeveloped and ruled by avarice and selfishness. The lead pair is a fresh couple due to their independent natures causing their desire for detachment foiled by kisses (and other sexual gyrations), they make for a fun tale.
The Duke's Night of Sin
In 1816 London at aptly titled Blackwood Hall while England is dark even in daylight due to the ash on the air from a volcano eruption, Lady Siusan Sinclair enters the unlighted library while struggling with today's date; the anniversary of her fiance's death. A stranger follows her in, takes her in his arms and holds her in a warm hug before they kiss. Both are stunned by the feelings each feels for the other though faceless in the dark.
Although she never held a paying job before, Siusan obtains a teacher position in Bath. She likes most of her students, but especially has a place in her heart for Gemma. On the other hand she detests Gemma's guardian, the Duke of Exeter, who seems constantly at war with her. However, both know the loathing is a mask for the love they feel for feel for one another; as they felt it when they first met in the London library.
The latest Seven Deadly Sins Regency romance (see The Most Wicked of Sins; envy and To Sin With A Stranger; avarice) is an enjoyable historical. Siusan, cut off from income by her angry father, diligently works to overcome "sloth"; while Exeter enjoys teasing the "sinner". While their gender war feel somewhat similar to that of her brother Sterling's romantic combat in To Sin With A Stranger, fans will enjoy the third sinner's tale.
In the Dark of Dreams
Marjorie M. Liu
Twelve years old Jenny found the injured silver boy on the beach. She is taken aback somewhat by his fins, but also fascinated by them and him. She comforts him until a merman arrives to take the wounded lad home. The sea adult frightens Jenny as he ignored the boy's pleading not to take him back to the sea. Every morning that summer and several years afterward, Jenny would return to the beach hoping her sea friend would return; he never did but she never stopped hoping.
Because of that incident at the beach, Jenny became a marine biologist. Her goal is to find the silver boy who she considers a friend and more though their acquaintance was for a short duration. Meanwhile, Jenny's family is divided as some have joined the Consortium while others like her work for A Priori.
Exiled from his world beneath the sea, Perrin constantly thinks of the female surface dweller who befriended him when he needed help. Soon they connect through their dreams at a time when a world threat begins to emerge from a dormant respite at the bottom of the ocean.
This is a tremendous Dirk & Steele thriller (see The Fire King) that grips the audience from the moment the pair meets on the beach and never frees the reader until the final apocalyptic confrontation. Fast-paced, the lead couple and the anticipated fight with the Monster from the Ocean Floor (Roger Corman movie) make for a strong entry as a chance short meeting on a beach as tweeners years later turns into a superb save the world romantic ocean fantasy.
Hungry for You
Marguerite Argeneau has the uncanny skill of pairing off life mates. Her ability sends family member immortal Cale Valens to Canada to meet his fated intended Alex Willan. At the same time, Alex's sister Sam still refuses to change until both of her sisters (Jo Willan since has found Nicholas in The Renegade Hunter) find their immortal mates as she has with Garret Mortimer (see The Rogue Hunter). She has hopes her sibling Alex and Cale are the final pairing of mortal sisters to immortal caring hunks. Mortomer's aide Bricker learning Marguerite sent Cale says his bachelor days are over.
Cale quickly learns his Alex is ignorant that vampires exist. He obtains a position as a chef in her restaurant, but there is one minor problem; Cale can't cook so is fired. However, an unknown adversary goes to incredible lengths to prevent Alex from opening her second restaurant. Cale assisted by the Argeneau brood protect Alex.
The entertaining finish to the Willan sisters is a fun Argeneau-Hunter vampire romance. Filled with humor from the onset with the Olive Oyl - Jessica Rabbit comic gender debate and with a terrific casualness re vampirism when Bricker welcomes Cale to Canada with one bag or two, fans will enjoy this entry. The suspense takes a back seat to the chef who can't boil water without burning it and the restaurateur falling in love but after waiting for an eternity for his lifemate, he must show patience he does not have. Fans of the urban fantasy saga will appreciate the latest romantic thriller.
In Shady Grove, Alabama, a desperate woman abandons her baby on her brother's porch. Grace Lynn Calloway is raised by her maternal uncle. She loves her small-town and is noted for being the best pitcher in the area. Gracie Lynn is also known for her descriptive language rarely heard from a Southern belle.
When Gracie Lynn is twenty-five years old, private investigator Sam Fontana arrives in Shady Grove. He informs her that she is the lost heir of an affluent Connecticut family; someone kidnapped her when she was an infant. She would prefer to ignore the money and her Connecticut roots as she knows her heart belongs in Alabama, but is a realist as she knows her life as she likes it is over. Soon the paparazzi and her avaricious relatives invade Shady Grove while the only thing she likes about her new status is Sam.
Grace and Sam are an engaging couple as she is fried chicken and he is pizza; yet the tomboy and the P.I. fall in love. Although the support cast is 200-proof stereotyping, fans will enjoy Sweet Home Alabama as the character driven story line is fun to read due to the lead duet.
Pleasures of a Notorious Gentleman
A ducal brother, Major Stephen Lyons returns home from the Crimean War. Before he left England, he had a bad reputation, so his relatives assume he will be back causing havoc. However, Stephen has issues from his time at war as he cannot remember anything especially when he achieved his goal of redemption.
Combat nurse Mercy Dawson visits Stephen's family at Ainsley holding a baby that she claims is the Duke's nephew. To her shock Stephen is alive as she thought he died at war. Stephen does not remember the beautiful Mercy let alone having sex with her. She knows him as he was there for her when she suffered through an extremely painful situation. That is when she fell in love with the kind Stephen. Stephen insists they marry, but though she acquiesces, Mercy fears how he will react if he remembers what happened in the Crimea.
The timing of this strong Victorian romance could not be better as American troops return from war zones with health issues including mental and the suicide rate is very high; to the credit of the Army they are making concerted efforts to help the soldier. The story line is driven by the emotional changing relationship between the nurse and her former patient as each has healing to go through before they might gel with their baby into a loving family. The second London's Greatest Lovers historical romance (see Passions of a Wicked Earl) is a super mid nineteenth century drama as the aftermath emotional scarring of war is best healed by the love of family and friends; no one especially those fighting for their country should be left behind mentally.
Wicked Nights with a Lover
Nurse Marguerite Laurent always felt those who spent their money on fortune tellers were foolish. That is until Madame Foster informs Marguerite's latest employer that the nurse will die before the year is out. The victim of this prophecy decides the omen means live life to the fullest including a tryst before she dies.
When her estranged father asks her to come to London to meet her half-sisters, she agrees because she fears if she does not do it now she will never have another chance in this life. Her father's business partner Ash Courtland kidnaps Marguerite as a means of revenge against her dad for what he did to him. His plan is to take her for personal pleasure and use her to gain respectability having been a slum dweller as a youth, but he is attracted to her strong personality. As they fall in love, neither wants these feelings as both fear heartbreak and she also believes time is running out.
This is an entertaining lighthearted nineteenth century romance as the roles change when she wants him to take her virginity while he suddenly feels that would be wrong. Fast-paced from the moment that Marguerite learns she will die soon, fans will enjoy this engaging historical as Ash wants a lifetime but though she does too Marguerite believes it will be a very short lifetime.
His Christmas Pleasure
In 1810 London at the Duke of Banfield's gala in which his daughter Corrine will announce her engagement, Andres Ramigio hides in the library to avoid Lady Carla Dobbins who will not leave him alone. As he reflects on his lonely life as an illegitimate son and on his father's suicide, he studies a dueling pistol that he knows is empty and points it at his head. Abby Montrose enters the room, sees the pistol, and tackles Andres. She thinks he was going to kill himself, but he insists otherwise. Lord Freddie enters to explain to Abby he will wed her cousin Corrine though he swears he loves her. Freddie explains his dad prefers the bride's father be a duke not a banker. Andres dances with Abby. Carla shouts at Andres calling Abby an ugly slut. She slaps him and leaves hysterically. Abby also slaps him and runs to her parents.
Her dad Banker tells Abby she will wed twice widower Lord Villier, who has thirteen kids. Carla's husband cuts a deal with Andres. If he leaves London forever he will own Stonemoor Manor in Northumberland. Andres accepts the terms. He tells Abby he has property but needs a wealthy wife. She agrees to wed him to avoid Villier and make Freddie jealous. They elope, but their troubles begin when they arrive at his new estate.
The lead couple is a wonderful pairing of two people wanting to be loved. The support cast enhances, but not all positively, the relationship between the protagonists. Although Abby has a phobia re horse-riding and has not been on one in over a decade, she rides one as if she is a professional during a key scene. Still readers will enjoy this strong Regency romance as two people seeking love find love with each other
In 1297 Scotland Lady Linet is outraged by her "loving" already extremely powerful brother who has given her in marriage to a known abusive lord to gain a strong alliance. Not one to accept being treated as chattel and compounded by who her sibling sold her too, Lady Linet Dancort needs to flee but also enact a bit of vengeance on her pompous brother.
Linet liberates the legendary warrior Seathan MacGruder from her sibling's prison on the stipulation that the Earl escorts her to her mother. Having no choice if he is to live beyond tomorrow morning when he is scheduled to hang, he agrees. They flee together with Lord Dancort in pursuit. As they trek through danger, each realizes they have fallen in love with their natural enemy.
The third MacGruder Brother late thirteenth century tale (see His Capture and His Woman) is a wonderful historical saga that uses the romance as a subplot to bring out Scotland during the time of the Wallace rebellion. Fans will root for Linet and Seathan while also hissing at her brother although in fairness it was a sign of the times to deal single women as a commodity; which Diana Crosby portrays very well. Sub-genre fans who appreciate a strong sense of time and place will enjoy this exciting wonderful escape to love.
The Best Laid Plans
In Manhattans' affluent Upper East Side, Tru Newman is an "M&M" (Maintenance and Mothering) stay at home to raise her twin fourteen years old daughters and being there to make life easier for her spouse Peter an investment banker. At a charity event Tru hosts she learns the shocking truth that Peter has been unemployed for three months with the family living on credit cards.
Tru's BFF Sienna Post loses her nightly news anchor position. Both are desperate when they come up with a scheme to make money. They create an escort service with all the female working girls over the age of forty. To their shock, the clientele is under thirty year old yuppies who appreciate an older woman. Meanwhile Peter's new job has him working with a flirtatious beauty at the same time their twins battle with one another over an acne eighth grade lover. However the worst of all is her mom, a former Miss New York Subway who has a heart attack and moves in with them.
Though too much occurs that impacts the meat in the sandwich caretaker and the ending is too simple for what is going on with the three generations, fans will enjoy this lighthearted Manhattan frolic. The ensemble cast is solid though held in focus by the overworked middle generational matriarch. Fast-paced with plenty of humor, The Best Laid Plans of mice and Tru always go astray.
Believe In Me
Jordan Radcliffe is pregnant with her third child when she finds out her husband Richard is cheating. Stunned by the betrayal, nonetheless Jordan agrees to go to a marriage counselor. After several months of visits with counselor Abby Walsh, a doubting Jordan begins to believe they may be able to save their marriage; until she hears a tape of Richard having sex with the same woman she caught him with in the first place.
Knowing her marriage is over, Jordan returns to her family home Rosewood, a horse farm with a mansion in Virginia. There she meets architect Owen Gage, who designed Nonie Harrison's home. Jordan hopes to be hired to design the interior. Nonie makes it look like Owen stole her concept and supporting ideas, which he then gave to his firm's interior designer to use. Once Jordan and Owen realize Nonie double crossed both of them, they begin dating. While Jordan feels she is falling in love, Owen remains frivolous never serious about anything involving their relationship. When he completes his latest design, Own plans to leave.
Mindful of Barbara Delinsky, but with her own stamp, readers will believe that Laura Moore writes wonderful contemporary romances with a strong family background (see Remember Me for Jordan's sister Margot's tale). Jordan is a resolute individual who knows her three kids come first while Owen has commitment issues. Although the older two kids adapt too easily to the change in their environment, the support cast enhances the second Rosewood romance as love comes once again to the horse farm, but may not be enough to keep Owen with Jordan since he has commitment issues.
In the battle of Manhattan Camille Fitzgerald the fire sibyl and her quad defeated Rakshasa leader Strada and his troops. When she was about to end the current conflict by killing Strada, Camille stops suddenly. Something enigmatic occurred in seemingly a nanosecond. The sibyl senses that New York's Occult Crimes Unit agent John Cole's soul, which was inside of Duncan, somehow moved into the body of her enemy Strada; though Camille believes that is impossible.
Knowing he is marked for death at first sight, Cole searches for Rakshasa alone. He also struggles to keep the essence of Strada trapped and his desire for Camille hidden. Meanwhile Strada's brother Tarek has taken control with new allies including zombie units to destroy the sibyls.
The latest tale in the Dark Crescent Sisterhood urban romantic fantasy second "Captive" saga (see the "Bound" entries for the first series and Captive Spirit ) is a fabulous thriller due to the location and the dynamic star-crossed lead couple. Camille and John are in love, but he fears he is losing control to his hellish enemies and she loathes that the visage of her beloved is that of her despicable enemy and not that of Cole. With the war always there and the plight of the protagonists, Anna Windsor will have another captive book-bound audience.
In 1307 in Scotland, Robert the Bruce assigns Arthur "Ranger" Campbell a special top secret mission. He wants Ranger to go undercover pretending to be in support of the British while spying on their enemy. Ranger knows if he is caught he will be executed.
During an attack, Ranger saves the life of Anna MacDougall. They are attracted to one another, but he knows he must not lose sight of his task. Instead he joins her English loyalist father's call to arms. As he keeps saving her life, her father directs her to spy on the Scotsman. Arthur, who hates her father, and Anna, who dislikes her father, fall in love, but open hostility has ignited between both sides making their desires unattainable.
The third Highland Guard medieval Scottish romance (see The Hawk and The Chief) is an engaging historical due to the star-crossed lead couple whose love may prove not enough to overcome the hostilities that engulf them and others. Both are moles as he spies for the Bruce and she spies for her father. Marvelous Monica McCarty magically moves her fans to the early fourteenth century with a thrilling Highland Guard tale.
The Dark Crescent Sisterhood defeated their archenemy the malevolent Legion (see Bound by Light); the cost of victory was exorbitant. Earth Sibyl Bela suffers from survivor guilt as her compatriots in the Triad are dead. Feeling she has no time to grieve, Bela decides to create a new Sibyl team of four not three.
Bela feels fortunate to meet Water Sibyl Andy right away. That is followed by two more Sibyls Camille and Dio joining them. The quartet sets up in New York City where they come across the Rakshasa ancient tiger demons growing in strength and currently battling NYPD Detective Duncan Sharp. He is already possessed by his wanted for serial murder former friend's soul and is now infected by these dangerous paranormal killers. Bela takes Duncan with her and her new team in case she must insure he does not go evil; if he does she will kill the cop she cherishes.
The latest Dark Crescent Sisterhood urban romantic fantasy (see Bound by Shadow) begins a new arch starring a sibyl suffering from post traumatic stress disorder compounded by survivor guilt syndrome and a cop allegedly possessed by a serial killer. The storyline starts a bit slower than usual as Anna Windsor introduces the fearsome foursome to each other. Once done, the quartet meets the cop as the tale accelerates into a fast-paced action thriller. Bela who played second fiddle in the "Bound" trilogy makes Captive Spirit a strong entry as she must decide whether to kill her apparently possessed infected soul mate.
Echo City is a theocracy in which the Church is the government with both run by the Marcellan family with an iron fist. Political opposition is forbidden with dissenters punished by exile or death.
Peer Nadawa is caught speaking against the leadership so is sent to reside with criminals living in Skulk Canton; she will not be allowed back as she knows too much. Bordering the Skulk is a poisoned desert The Boneyard. There Peer observes a man crossing the forbidden waste; she believes it is a sign that the end of days for Echo City is upon us. She tells the sickly stranger that his coming has been expected. Additionally Peer finds her former lover Gorham who betrayed her leading a rebel force. She puts aside her personal feelings to go with the newcomer to meet the genetic scientist Nadielle underneath the city where her lab experiments are conducted. However, Peer knows an ancient essence is rising from way under the city; this beast must be stopped before it destroys Echo City as this legend has been passed down throughout history.
Tim Lebbon is knows for his ability to merge elements of fantasy and horror together inside of riveting thrillers (see The Chamber of Ten). His current amalgam story line is action-packed from the beginning even as Mr. Lebbon establishes the critical realistic Echo City's culture especially the rules of order. The characters are fully developed particularly the heroine, her betrayer, the geneticist and an odd person at the top of the spires; the stranger is kept as an enigma purposely adding to the suspense and sense of foreboding. Readers will appreciate this strong tale.
NSA chief David Cassius the vampire assigns otherworldly FBI Agent Jace Valchek to continue her hunt of Free Human Group terrorist Aristotle Stoker, but to do so she must cut a deal with insane Asher the shaman. She was pulled into this alternate realm because she believes Cassius needed a serial killer profiler, which in his world none exist. The paranormal on this plane are the normal; for every human there are almost 100 paranormal. Cassius promises to return Jace to her world if she succeeds with capturing Stoker though he conceals his hidden agenda re her.
Still off kilter with her new environs, Jace travels to Vegas without her golem partner Charlie Aleph as he is tied up with a dispute over golem rights in a dispute with vampires and weres. She ponders how to profile what in her realm is fiction and thinks what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but hopefully not to her. Her teammate on this dangerous mission is shapeshifter Azura the Astonisher mage stripper; an expert on the magic of deception.
The third Bloodhound Files (see Dying Bites and Death Blows) is an action-packed alternately worldly urban fantasy starring a spunky displaced FBI agent whose run-ins with a variety of supernatural newcomers embellish the Barant universe. The story line is fast-paced and fun to read, but in terms of the overarching theme, the plot feels more like a set up for future discord. Still sub-genre fans will enjoy Jace's latest adventures, but like the heroine will wonder where the ruby slippers are that will bring her home.
The Witch's Daughter
In 1627, the plague ravages Wessex as well as the rest of England. All of the Hawksmith family dies except for the matriarch and her daughter Elizabeth Anne. The child is unaware that her mom the earth healer made a deal with Satanist warlock Gideon Masters. However, mother and daughter are accused of witchcraft; the locals hang her mom while Bess flees into the night making her own pact with Gideon that begins an eternity of solitude.
In 2007, Elizabeth trains Tegan the teen hedge witch how to use her powers wisely. She also tells her female student tales about her family especially her mom, her master Gideon and his master, her encounter in Whitehall with Jack the Ripper, and her work as a nurse in the front lines in Flanders during WWI.
This is an entertaining epic fantasy in which ironically the historical subplots engage the audience; while the modern day segue feels awkward and distracting rather than anchoring the story line. Overall The Witch's Daughter is an enjoyable read as Bess is an intriguing Forrest Gump like witch who's almost four centuries past hopefully will be explored further.
Alison Wells assumes she became a therapist because she has always been different and forced to be distant so she understands people better than most. Her special skills lately for no apparent reason have become enhanced, which makes it that more complicated to avoid hurting people when she touches them.
Weary warrior of the Blood Kerrick of Endelle arrives to save Alison from the assault of another winged person. Besides seeing two winged people, Alison is astonished he can touch her and she him without his being hurt. He explains to her that his dimension is trapped in a vampire civil war between his Endelle warriors and the death vampires under the leadership of vicious Commander Greaves. He also tells her about the call to her of Second Earth where "ascenders" who share her skills can go. As both combatant enemies realize how much power Alison possesses, Kerrick guards Alison as she completes the ascension ritual and his olfactory sense makes him aware she is his mate. Twice widowed and having seen his children die, he vowed no more women, but will risk death to keep Alison safe from Greaves who needs her dead.
This is a super urban romantic fantasy in which the audience will believe in the vampires and the Ascension. The story line is fast-paced even when Kerrick is grounded as the assassination attempts keep him and his mate on the lam. Although the soul mate rescue element has been used a zillion times (to bad it was not a gender switch), readers will appreciate the first thrilling Guardians of Ascension tale in the Roane mythos.
Zane "Casanova of the Caribbean" Cutter believes he knows where a Dutch frigate filled with precious metals and gems sunk in 1622. He needs a master mechanic to accompany him when he begins the latest Cutter Salvage operation. He asks Teal Williams, who recently joined his family firm to be closer to her dying father, to accompany him to sea. She agrees as he offers her a cut of the booty as long as he also understands no sex. He accepts the stipulation though he admits to himself her is turned on by his shipmate who he knew when she was a skinny child.
Their trip turns harrowing when a storm blows them off course. Adding to their plight are deadly sea thieves willing to kill to steal the treasure. However, neither is quite as dangerous as their attraction as he needs to prove his worthiness on treasure hunts and she was burned by a philandering hunk.
This under and on the surface watery romantic suspense thriller grips readers from the moment the storm blows the ship off course and never slows down as the protagonists struggle with perils including to their hearts with every nautical mile they sail. Fast-paced, Cherry Adair opens her Cutter Salvage series with a strong sea saga.
Vampires Not Invited
In New York City, hybrid human-Drow Princess of the Dark Elves Nyx moonlights as a Night Tracker private investigator investigating incidents (see Demons Not Included and No Werewolves Allowed) involving paranormal species. Her current case is frustrating her as a gang of sprites impishly mock human landmarks like painting Liberty's toes pink.
Her elven half gut tells her there has to be more than just inane graffiti and sillier pranks; a trademark of the pain in the butt obnoxious sprites. Digging deeper, she finds what she feared. The mischief sprites work for Master Vampire Volod and his fang gang who want a return to the prominence they once held in ironically what seems like a lifetime ago. His plan is for his vampires to rule nocturnal New York. Nyx and other trackers realize the sprites are a divergent ploy to occupy the trackers with nonsense while Volod uses the opportunity to exploit the weaknesses of other species. Nyx plans to use all her strength to end this threat as everyone knows Vampires Not Invited to any shindig let alone run the city.
Obstinate Nyx, who breaks the rules as she even dates a low life, as all humans are, remains tenacious and confident as she plans to stake her life on preventing the Vampiric take-over. She holds the fast-paced exhilarating private investigative urban fantasy focused as her stubbornness never allows her (or the reader) to take their eyes off the ball as despicable Sprites and Vampires come out of the shadows and coffins to challenge the leadership.
Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right
A proud contented card carrying member of "The Spinsters' Club," Lady Poppy Smith-Barnes avoids potential suitors with a made-up fiance as she waits for the return of her sweetheart Prince Sergei from Russia. Her model for her fake intended is her cook's tales of the adventures of the "Impossible Bachelor" the Duke of Drummond.
Her sham works perfectly until the worst that could happen occurs when Nicholas Staunton arrives to see his fiancee. An undercover espionage agent, Nicholas uses his engagement to elude hunting mamas and conceal his work for the Crown. However he underestimated Poppy who has his back (and heart) as they search for a painting and an enemy spy.
The second delightful Prinny Impossible Bachelors Regency romance (see When Harry Met Molly) is a charming investigative thriller starring two likable lead characters. The heroine is refreshing as she learns the best laid plans of mice and Poppy often go astray, but she charges on her light feet leading her beloved into battle. Nicholas is more typical of the sub-genre as an agent who uses his image as a rake to conceal his dangerous royal work. Together they come across as Nick and Nora (Charles not the Playlist that is) of early nineteenth century England.
Jon F. Merz
St. Martin's Griffin
Needing rest from his last lethal balancing assignment (see The Syndicate), vampiric secret agent Lawson travels to Japan in to get away from it all. Part of his stay is to attend an ultra advanced martial arts training at the dojo he always visits when in country. He also anticipates a tryst with former KGB assassin Talya.
However, he immediately alienates the Yakuza when he prevents a murder from happening on a train. He also assists Talya in her quest to eliminate an organ-trafficking ring. Kensei the albino vampire crime lord is outraged with the foreigner's interference with his plan for world dominance by creating a loyal army of super soldiers. He plans to dine on Lawson's blood while Lawson plans to tear Kensei's head off.
Over the top of James Bond's Moonraker adventure, the Kensei is an exciting urban fantasy thriller starring two macho fangsters ready to rip the guts (and jugular) of one another. Tongue in cheek while teeth aggressively are showing, sub-genre fans will anticipate the High Noon over Tokyo confrontation between the Balance undercover enforcer and the wannabe world dominator.
Haven believes former best friend Ever killed her boyfriend Roman. She vows revenge anyway she can. In fact she considers the best avenue to get back at Ever is an assault on her enemy's boyfriend Damen. Her plan is simple: reveal the dark secrets to Ever that Damon hides from one of Ever's past lives.
When she learns the truth, Ever is caught between a rock and a hard place. She has difficult decisions to make. She must decide whether to destroy her former BFF turned adversary with a one way eternal ticket to Shadowland and whether she feels her relationship with Damen supersedes his secrets.
The fifth Immortals young adult fantasy (see Shadowland and Dark Flame) is more personal as the story line moves forward the overarching theme that had slowed down a bit due to the heroine having psychological doubts that she did not have before she erred. Although Damen's dark secret does not come close to the earth shattering end of the universe, fans of the saga will enjoy Ever's latest adventure as she struggles between her former BFF who she still loves as a sister and her beloved Immortal soul mate.
St. Martin's Griffin
From the first moment they first met, Zeke wants Marie; she desires him too. Her neighbor and Zeke's friend Ty feels the same way about Marie and though bewildered by her feelings she desires him also. Marie finds herself confused but elated with the two men in her life.
Zeke and Ty have been best friends sharing everything even women since high school. However, Marie has caused a schism between the buddies. However, their estrangement goes deeper as neither of the males wants to admit their desire for other. As Zeke and Ty begin to explore their desires, each wonders how Marie will react to a MM relationship in addition a menage a trois.
The key to the erotic contemporary is that the menage a trois participants seem genuine especially with their sexual and other relational needs. Readers will enjoy the heated tale as the trio searches their personal boundaries and how far they are willing to allow the other two to explore. Opal Carew provides plenty of pleasure to her fans with this strong torrid relationship drama as three bounded by desire proves more than just company.
The Lady's Slipper
St. Martin's Griffin
After his father's execution and a decade plus in exile, by 1660 King Charles II has regained the throne after being forced into exile. However, there remains religious divisiveness and ire from those who lost power with the restoration.
In that environs Alice Ibbetson finds the rare Lady's Slipper orchid in a nearby woods owned by her neighbor Quaker Richard Wheeler. She steals the beauty with the intent of growing it elsewhere to preserve this impressive plant that she believes is near extinction. Wheeler wants to prevent what he believes is an abomination of God as the flower should only grow where the Lord placed it. Alice runs into other problems with a maid who tries to extort money from her and her business partner nasty Geoffrey Fisk who threatens murder if crossed.
The Lady's Slipper is an entertaining seventeenth century historical thriller that uses chaos theory as a simple act leads to repercussions for several people including some several degrees of separation from the catalyst theft. The story line is at its best when it focuses on the theft and aftermath; when the key cast members ponderously ponder over the Civil War, Cromwell and Charles I and II, it slows down the pacing and diverts readers from the prime theme. Still fans of historical thrillers will enjoy Alice's adventures in wonderland.
Not That Kind of Girl
In San Francisco Roxanne Bloom vows no more men in her life after her latest failed relationship. Her pit-bull-Boxer Lilith agrees with her assessment of the male of either of their species and has no problem displaying her canine rage at human men especially. This time Lilith attacks Roxanne's former boyfriend so the dog is in danger of being put down.
Meanwhile matchmaking Mrs. Needleman believes that Roxie and dog trainer Eli Gallagher belongs together as they both cherish canines. Eli who plans to go home to Utah is in town temporarily as he searches for his biological father. He persuades Roxie and Lilith to come with him to Utah where he will work on the behavior of the latter and hopes to heal the human female misanthrope. As the pair fall in love, they return to the Bay, but soon secrets surface that could end their relationship that has just begun to gel.
The latest doggy romance (see The Night She Got Lucky, Ain't Too Proud to Beg and Take a Chance On Me) is a charming canine contemporary romance. The prime story line is fast-paced and zany though a bit over the top of Nob Hill as the lead "triangle" (don't tell Lilith anything otherwise) confront a vile villain. Although a secondary subplot seems too quickly resolved, fans will enjoy Susan Donavan's wonderful Not That Kind of Girl as we wonder if the title refers to Lilith or Roxie (or both).
Marked by the Moon
Werewolves killed Alexandra Trevalyn's parents when she was a little girl. The Jager-Sucher raise her and she becomes a dedicated hunter; suicidal in many ways as she is willing to die in her efforts to kill the beasts.
Werewolf Julian Barlow stalks Alex who killed his mate. When he defeats her, she looks forward to his killing her. Instead he obtains his revenge differently. He changes her into a werewolf so she can learn to stop stereotyping his species as brainless monsters, as not all werewolves were created by the Mengele experiments; he has been one centuries before the Nazi did his dastardly conversions. Julian takes a stunned forlorn Alex to his Alaskan pack where she will either adapt or obtain her wish. Neither realized that an evil predator is killing for sport targeting the pack.
The latest Nightcreature saga (See Thunder Moon) is a fabulous entry in a strong series as the Twilight Zone twist of changing a predator into one your kind is deftly handled mostly by how Alex reacts over the course of a strong story line. The sporting killer segue adds suspense that serves as a key catalyst in moving forward the plot, but clearly this is Alexandra's tale. With a stark Alaskan backdrop to augment the tale of revenge turns bitter, fans of Lori Handeland' s romantic fantasy will appreciate Julian's efforts to change the behavior of his soulmate as he wants to wake up with her in his bed and no knife protruding from his ribs.
When Harry Met Molly
In 1808 thirteen year old Molly writes a love rectangle to her beloved Lord Roderick that in spite of changing the names accuses his fiancee her sister Penelope and his brother nineteen year old Harry of a tryst. Their families are outraged with Harry the spare exiled into the army for disloyalty to his family and Molly sent to Yorkshire to learn to behave at the Providence School for Wayward Girls.
In 1816, Harry is back enjoying high society when the Prince Regent names him and others as "Impossible Bachelors" and places a wager on who of these rakes has the most delicious mistress. On her way to Gretna Green to marry milksop Cedric Alliston, Molly meets Harry at a seedy inn with piss poor beer. Both are stunned to watch his lightskirt Aphrodite leave with her fiance. Desperate as his sure shot win at the Most Impossible Bachelor competition left in a coach, Harry suggests to the enemy whose mouth left him in army for five years that she replace Aphrodite as his pretend mistress. She agrees reluctantly but as remittance he must find her a suitable loving husband. He agrees to her stipulation as he muses let the games begin to see who survives the single the royal contest.
This over the top of Big Ben (even with the clock not constructed for several decades to come) is a wild amusing Regency romance starring two likable protagonists who holds the other culpable for their exile. The story line is ultra fast-paced with the audience laughing at the gender war and the competition. With villains causing further humorous havoc, historical fans will relish this jocular look at who will be the last rake surviving the island.
Prince Charming Doesn't Live Here
In Manhattan the firm's most senior partner octogenarian Matthew Yorke IV directs attorney Danice Carter to find his granddaughter Rosemary Addison and persuade her to file a paternity suit. He blames Rosemary's pregnancy on the girl's father Tom who had nothing to do with his daughter. Rosemary's need for love led her to a low life who ditched her when she became pregnant. Danice wants nothing to do with the personal matter, but refusing is not an option unless she wants her career to end so she is expected to file a palimony suit in Connecticut.
She heads to new Canaan to meet Rosemary, but when she arrives she finds the woman missing in spite of their telephonic discussion just prior to her drive. Soon afterward her inquiry leads half-Fae-human private investigator Mac Callahan to Danice as he is also searching for Rosemary. His purebred Faerie client has been silent as to why a human is sought. Mac decides to return to Faerie, a place he left as a baby, to learn the motive. Danice insists she accompany him though he fears the trip will prove dangerous as he wonders if the treacherous Unseelie Court is the instigator.
The latest Others romantic fantasy (see Born to be Wild and Big Bad Wolf) takes a refreshing brisk twist by cleverly adding a new paranormal species into the overarching theme. The lead couple is a perfect pairing to enable the stunning spin to deftly occur. Neither trusts one another nor appreciates the attraction they feel towards each other. Fans will want to join the adventures of half Fae and the lawyer as they go to court with the Unseelie as their judge, jury, and executioner.
Carole Nelson Douglas
Delilah Street has faced down several nasty souls while residing in Las Vegas. However, her next assignment takes her to the most dangerous place in the world, not Dorothy's Kansas but Delilah's Kansas where she comes from. Her boyfriend Ric Montoya and her wolfhound Quicksilver accompany her as she drives Dolly her mintage Caddy.
Delilah promised she would investigate her childhood to learn her past and confront it and those involved. Ric's former FBI friend Leonard Tallgrass greets the trio as he wants to question Delilah about a cow mutilation story she investigated just before leaving town. They soon become entangled in an inquiry into who is using zombies and why with the silver road leading to a house of mirrors and Lilith a mirror image of Delilah.
The fourth Delilah Street urban fantasy (see Dancing with Werewolves and Vampire Sunrise) takes a rural trek home that affirms you can go home, but leaving alive is a bit more difficult. Silver Zombie is much more personal than the previous entries as Delilah and readers learn much about her past. With a nod to the Emerald City and zombie fever, this is a terrific tongue in cheek thriller as Lilah sums it up nicely when she considers Maria the robot from the film Metropolis is a poor thing virgin and will remain a poor thing virgin forever.
My Fair Succubi
Noah the fallen angel stuns his lover Jackie Brighton the fallen archeologist turned succubus with a personal question. Before she can react the angelic Serim Council take the pair into their midst giving Jackie a chance to figure out to respond; though she believes the Angels' action is a form of house arrest.
Meanwhile her BFF Remy has lost control of her demon who takes control. Jackie flees the Serim Council only to find her former lover Zane the vampire wants her. Confused as ever, Jackie wonders which hunk she digs more to scratch her Itch, whether she has to choose as each brings different assets, and what to do about her BFF.
This amusing lighthearted urban fantasy continues the jocular escapades of Jackie who knows from itching and scratching that Succubi Like It Hot, and her companions. The story line is humorously fast-paced as Jackie, her two lovers and her BFF struggle with all sorts of tsuris under heaven and hell. Sub-genre fans will enjoy a stay in the Myles universe where Gentlemen (and readers) Prefer Succubi.
The Scent of Jasmine
In 1799, Virginia artist Catherine Edilean Harcourt has a lot of potential suitors, but she has no interest in marrying any of them. She visits her ailing godfather T.C. Connor in Charleston who because of a broken leg that keeps him from getting around asks adventurous Catherine to deliver a packhorse for him. Dressed for a ball she will attend after her good deed, Catherine goes to give the steed to escaped convict Alexander McDowell, who just broke out of prison.
However, the drop off fails to go according to plan as hunters chase stalk Alex who takes Cay with him while fleeing south to the Everglades. There she pretends to be a young male nature artist while Alex sets out to prove he never murdered his wife. Trying to rescue their assumed kidnapped as a hostage sister, Cay's three raging brothers follow their trail.
The latest Edilean historical romance (see Lavender Morning and Days of Gold) is a wonderful late eighteenth century tale starring two warm lead protagonists. The Everglades is a terrific setting as the artist thrives while the convict worries about his "prisoner" who has turned his heart into her hostage. Readers will relish the return to Edilean; in which ironically that setting hardly appears.
Earl of Darkness
In 1815 in Wales, Maelodor, the last of the surviving Nine of the inner circle learns that the Kilronan's Diary he thought destroyed still exists. Filled with rage and anger as the last head of the Hydra, he vows revenge for his forced hiding in a mountain cave. To achieve this he must obtain the diary.
In Dublin, Lady Catriona O'Connell struggles to survive residing in the slums and how to eat. She is hired to steal Kilronan's Diary from the Earl of Kilronan. However, the Earl Aidan Douglas catches Cat in the act of the theft in his library. He immediately recognizes his guest is a hybrid Fey and human Other. Aidan controls his desire for Cat as he needs her skill to read the mystical language entries contained in the diary that his late father possessed before he was murdered. Thus he offers her a deal: she can go to jail or translate the tome. Cat tediously translates the enigmatic scribbling, she and Aidan fall in love. However, all hell breaks loose starting with a demon demanding the diary as the pair is caught in the midst of the Kilronan legacy.
This is an exciting action-packed opening act of an entertaining Regency romantic fantasy with ties to King Arthur. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the raging Maelodor plots his vengeful return from deep inside the remote Cambrian Mountains and never slows down although most of the plots set up future tales. Fans will enjoy the Earl of Darkness while awaiting further escapades in the Kilronan saga by the lead couple as Cat and Aidan make a fun pairing.
The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer
In 1559 as she is about to become Queen Elizabeth I, the soon to be monarch meets the ghost of her mom Anne Bolyn, whose only transgression that led to her execution was not bearing a male. Anne informs her daughter that besides ruling over England, she has a much more important mission of the Slayer that has come down though the generations of her ancestors as far back as King Arthur whose offspring from the wrong side of the sheets Mordred is a vampire.
Mordred visits the young Tudor to offer her a deal of a lifetime; in his terms that is already a millennium. Although Elizabeth knows what her late mom wanted from her, Mordred's offer of immortality and ruling over England together for eternity are much more tempting than fighting his kind.
Similar in concept to Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith including a journal, The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer is made fresh by fascinating Mordred as he brings a delightfully evil option to the young Tudor Queen. Although one must wonder why Anne waited until Elizabeth is queen to tell her daughter of her heritage, fans will enjoy this fast-paced tale from the moment that Elizabeth is escorted to meet her mom's ghost and never slowing down as Lucy Weston provides a fun alternative historical fantasy.
Her book was an Oprah pick, a bestseller and a near Pulitzer winner. So Abigail Donovan wonders what she is doing in a Queens' bookstore competing with Biffy the Bunny and bailing out the owner by wearing Biff's bunny costume. She should be working her next book, but has writer's block with her confidence sinking faster than the stock market during a recession.
Her publicist signs her up at Twitter. She soon cyber-meets Twitter user "MarkBaynard", who mentors her as to the rules of writing in a 140 character environ. Twittering back and forth with retweets and much more, she learns he is a professor on sabbatical seeing the world. No longer feeling sorry for herself, she wants to join her tweeter mate in the real world; not yet understanding the masks people wear in cyberspace to conceal the real person and what they are doing in the mundane realm.
Different, but well-written, Goodnight Tweetheart is a fascinating contemporary relationship drama that mostly uses Tweeter messaging to tell the story. Character driven, fans will root for the pair as Abby finds her muse and groove through her tweetheart MarkBaynard.
A Stitch before Dying
Maggie Messina owns the Black Sheep Knitting Shop. She and four of her friends formed the Black Sheep Knitters as each loves to knit and think of the shop as their refuge where they can focus peacefully on their past-time.
Maggie is invited to provide a knitting seminar at the exclusive Crystal Lake Inn in the Berkshires. For diverse reasons, her four Black Sheep Knitters accompany her to the inn as they each look forward to knitting at the new age spa run by self help aficionado Dr. Max Flemming. On an overnight camping trip, Dana and Lucy attend the new age evening, when a murder occurs. The police question everyone but discover the victim Curtiss Hill was a reporter. He lied when he said he worked for a travel guide, but instead was an investigative reporter for Expose a muckraking tabloid that reports embarrassing items about celebs. They later learn the hut where the kill happened is normally occupied by Dr. Max. The Black Sheep Knitters assume the flamboyant owner was the intended victim and seek motives from that assumption.
This charming cozy will entertain those readers who relish eccentric character driven mysteries. There are three viable suspects who wanted Max dead as the Knitters stitch the case together one clue at a time. Fast-paced, fans will root for the fearsome fab five as they investigate who murdered Curtis in the third Black Sheep Knitter's amateur sleuth (see Knit, Purl and Die).
Songs of Love and Death: All-Original Tales of Star-Crossed Love
George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Editors)
Songs of Love contains seventeen winning well written entries that explore the area where fantasy, science fiction, and romance converge as portrayed in a Venn Diagram with three overlapping circles. The compilation opens up with Dresden battling a nasty foe and his heart in "Love Hurts" (Nazareth is right). Following the fantasy master is historical romance guru Jo Beverly contributing a Georgian thriller with the courtship being love or death. In "The Thing About Cassandra," Neil Gaiman shows what happens in a second chance at love with an old girlfriend yet Stuart begins to wonder if he ever met her the first time. Fans of Diana Gabaldon will appreciate her time traveling RAF pilot Jerry to the Outlander era, but his family is back in the WWII period. Melinda M. Snodgrass writes "The Wayfarer's Advice" in which love arrives in deep space and Peter S. Beagle provides love in the laptop age with "Kaskia" and Martin. The compilation is excellent as all authors provide tales of "Star Crossed Love" in various realms (and sub-genres) to the delight of fans who will relish the amalgam zone where fantasy, science fiction, and romance converge.
Clay Tahoma comes to Virgin City, California as the veterinary assistant and "horse whisperer" at the Jensen Veterinary Clinic. His friend veterinarian Nate Jensen offered him the job so the former Navaho Nation resident left Los Angeles for Humboldt County. When Clay and Hopi Lilly Yazhi meet, they are attracted to one another. However, when she was a teen, Lilly liked a boy from her tribe, but he broke her heart. She vowed then never again and has adhered to her pledge, but now has doubts thanks to Clay. He has issues too having been divorced from Isabel just prior to asking for this job.
Because they work closely together on helping a horse she rescued, she cannot avoid him. As they begin to fall in love, Clay's former wife arrives in town. Will Lilly move passed her teen hurt or will she use the ex spouse as an excuse to avoid risking hurting her heart again.
The latest Virgin River rural romance is a wonderful tale whose prime plot focuses on second chances starring two fascinating lead protagonists whose matchmaker is a horse. As always a myriad of supporting segues on other town characters enhance the feeling that a reader is in Virgin River; however that experience also will bewilder newcomers who will feel somewhat disconnected unless they read some of the previous warm tales of love (see Moonlight Road and Angel's Peak).
Against the Wind
In Wind Canyon, Wyoming, sexagenarian Olivia Jones rents a cottage to Widow Sarah Allen and her six year old daughter Holly. Sarah left Santa Monica following the death of her husband Andrew whose shady business partners like Marty Kazak want something they believe she has inherited from her spouse.
The owner of the house and the ranch it is on Jackson Raines is irate with his housekeeper for leasing to that woman though he knows he is being unfair to Olivia. He wants Sarah to leave, but she persuades him to let her stay. Jackson vows to keep his distance from the girl who humiliated him in high school.
However, just what he feared would happen occur as Jackson knows he remains attracted to Sarah. She reciprocates, but knows she hurt him so tries to keep her distance and conceal her desire; besides she has a dark secret hovering over her. However, when Sarah is in trouble with Andrew's nasty associates, Jackson protects her at a risk to his heart.
The Raines of Wind Canyon Wyoming ranch romance is an engaging second chance at love tale as she regrets what she did to him in high school and he rues her return as his humiliation by her still remains raw even after sixteen plus years. The suspense comes late, but adds to a strong tale as the heroine's Southern California past comes to Wyoming.
In Halifax, Nova Scotia, Elise Vanderzell falls off her balcony to her death. The police suspect foul play because she died just after a heated argument in front of their kids with her former spouse attorney Randall Barrett, who demanded increased time with their children.
The police investigate what they believe is a spousal homicide. Randall's fifteen years old son Nick wants him dead and is willing to kill his father so he provides detailed witness testimony to the cops in order to hang his dad. Randall's twelve years old daughter Lucy is totally frightened of him having witnessed first hand his raging temper and partially thanks to Elise's ramblings. A lawyer at McGrath-Barrett, Randall's legal firm, Kate Lange is the only one who believes her boss is innocent. When the police arrest him for the first degree murder of Elise, Kate becomes his defense lawyer because she believes in him.
More a family drama following a tragedy, as the arrest and defense comes very late, readers who enjoy an insightful look at a dysfunctional family will want to read Indefensible. The key cast members are fully developed as fans will get inside the heads of the two kids, the dad and Kate. Nick comes across as a raging chip off the old block, but Lucy steals hearts with her abject fear of her father and to a degree her older brother. However, this is Kate's tale as she displays courage with her convictions though one would think Randall would have selected an experienced defense attorney even if that person deemed him guilty. Although the story line is slow until the arrest, fans will enjoy this character driven thriller.
Precious and Fragile things
Todd Blauch carjacks Gilly Soloman's vehicle with her inside. He takes his kidnapped victim to a remote snow-bound mountain. There they are trapped for months by the wintry weather conditions that make it impossible to leave while her family prays for her safe return.
Over time, Todd and Gilly forge an odd relationship beyond guard and prisoner. He tells her he just wanted her truck not her. However, he also admits he cannot free her because he fears she will turn him over to the cops. He refuses to return to prison. When she has a rare chance to escape, she hesitates not out of safety but out of the bond she formed with Todd.
This is an odd well written thriller that will remind readers of the 2005 Georgia courtroom murders with what went down after the killings between the hostage and the killer. Gilly and Todd are fascinating protagonists who forge a bond during the captivity as they get to know one another's concerns especially once the snow melts. Although the late introduction of the tragic past feels unnecessary while slowing an intriguing character driven duet, fans who appreciate a strong look at what truly are Precious and Fragile Things like life will want to read Megan Hart's dark suspense.
The 4th Victim
Tara Taylor Quinn
In Chandler, Ohio psychologist Kelly Chapman keeps her distance from everyone including her patients though she diligently tries to help them and the community, which is why she is called the "Fix-it lady". Still even she is surprised when she agrees to be a foster parent to fourteen year old troubled Maggie Winston. While musing about being a loner who cares, Kelly exercises by in-line skating when a car thumps her.
Because Dr. Chapman has been an expert witness on numerous trials, the FBI investigates her disappearance. A loner like Kelly, Missing Persons Special Agent Clay Thatcher leads the inquiry. The more he digs into the life of Dr. Chapman the more he sees the female version of himself. Diligently working the case, he fears the woman he never met but who he is attracted to has become the 4th Victim of a serial killer.
The key to the super fourth Chapman Files thriller (see The 1st Wife, the 2nd Lie and The 3rd Secret) is that the potential romance between the lead couple is treated throughout the suspenseful story line like the early part of the movie Laura. Different in tone from the previous files but action-packed from the moment that the in-line skating shrink is snatched. Fans will relish this entertaining entry as Kelly is the victim and the frantic Fed knows this case has turned personal as he likes what he knows of Dr. Chapman, but fears she is dead.
A Hard Day's Knight
Simon R. Green
In the Nightside, private investigator John Taylor obtains the legendary Excalibur though he is unsure why Arthur's sword has been sent to him by the Post. He does not want the blade partly because he knows his heart is not worthy of such a weapon. On the other hand, he knows in Nightside he is much more worthy than probably everyone else. Still he believes the blade needs safe keeping. He feels strongly, though he would prefer not to, venture into London Proper to deliver Excalibur to the London Knights, the Last Defenders of Camelot.
However, John's enemies wait in ambush to kill him, steal the legend, or preferably both. Although unsure how his adversaries know, John and his lover Shotgun Suzie, the bounty hunter Valkyrie, who when it comes to dead or alive always brings them in dead. They begin the deadly trek. They remain ignorant to the significance of what they do as his destiny is to prevent a potentially end of the world war and that a traitor amidst the London Knights has sold his soul to gain power by giving the sword to malevolent beasts.
This is a super refreshing Nightside entry starting with the double edged title as the quest takes place during A Hard Day's Night while the other reference is obvious. Side allusions are a consistent fun part of a Simon R. Green urban fantasy as the author has done repeatedly with this saga and the Secret History series. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with action as the foes have the numbers and the weapons, but John knows he has his beloved "Oh Christ, It's Her, Run" watching his back in London's Nightside and Proper.
The Dark Griffin
A Northerner son of a slave Arren Cardockson has come a long way due to his bond with Eluna the griffin who chose him and he named her. However, the teen griffiner understands in spite of the fact that his peers rule Cymria; his roots will never allow him to break through the glass ceiling. Some already feel the Northerner has been allowed to soar to high as he can. With Eluna at his side they watch over trade in the city of Eagleholm.
Arren and Eluna are assigned to catch a rogue griffin, which the Northerner hopes to make some money on this venture to pay off debts. Arren meets the nameless Dark Griffin who has lived alone in the mountainous wilderness with vague memories of his mother when he was a fledgling. They are connected, but that link harms Eluna who does leaving Arren in an emotional void in which he holds himself culpable.
This is a fascinating fantasy as readers will be enthralled by the violent nameless Dark Griffin who steals the show from his violent survival birth to his even more unrestrained savagery. Adding to the strong tale are Arren knows he is directly at fault with the foolish debt he incurred that led to the mission and Eluna's death and the de facto racism against Northerners. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy flying the skies over K.J. Taylor's Cymria in this outstanding fantasy.
The Soul Mirror
Anne de Vernase is traumatized with what has happened to her family. Her father committed treason using illegal sorcery when the natural sciences currently prevail at court; her mother unable to cope went insane; her brother lingers in prison; and her magical using sister was murdered. Although a believer in the natural sciences, she is unsure how she will survive the debacle but feels good about one thing that she lacks the magical ability that led to the destruction of her family.
However, in the royal city of Merona, Anne is stunned when the Sabria King Philippe's secretary Duplais informs her that she will serve as a handmaid to the queen as she assumed the de Vernase name meant poison. She also concludes she must save her family, but not sure how. She hears her father whisper to her for help but she has never been trained in the use of sorcery. Still Anne knows she must start with her sister's homicide though the inquiry will take her to realms she preferred remained in her nightmares, but she cannot avoid it even though her world is collapsing into sink holes of sorcery.
The sequel to The Spirit Lens is an enjoyable otherworld fantasy that has an Age of Reason historical feel to the story line. Anne is a super lead protagonist while Dante the queen's sorcerer is a grumbling cantankerous counterpart to the optimistic naturalist. Although the story line starts slow and remains as such for a third of the novel as Merona's war between science and magic is shaped for the reader, fans will want to accompany the reluctant heroine as she learns there is much more than science in the wonderful world of Carol Berg.
Of Truths and Beasts
Barb Hendee, J.C. Hendee
Wynn Hygeorht accompanied by her vampire-protector Chane Andraso and the elven wolf Shade pursues her search for the Forgotten History. Having found lost texts on her trek, Wynn returns to her guild to peruse the treasures that offer a small window to the Forgotten History. To her ire, the Guild leadership takes away the documents and sends her on a wasted mission.
Obstinate and resolute, Wynn and her two traveling companions seek the long lost stronghold of Baalate Seatt, home of the Dwarves. There she hopes to locate the Orb of Spirit used by the Ancient Enemy in the war that became part of the Forgotten History. Stonewalker Ore-Locks, who hides the fact that his ancestor was the mass murderer Lord of Slaughter, joins them on the quest while Sau'ilahk the wraith wants to prevent them from succeeding on their search.
The latest quest fantasy entry in the Noble Dead Saga Series Two (see In Shade and Shadow, and Through Stone and Sea) is a fabulous thriller due to the strong yet vulnerable heroine who holds the story line together. Action-packed once the frustrated Wynn leaves the stifling Guild, fans will want to join the searchers as they seek an apparent ancient weapon of mass destruction (one of the five orbs), but also wonder why the urgency to bring such a killing device potentially into usage; pondering whether the wraith is right. A super entry, it behooves newcomers to at least read the previous two novels in this series as so much goes on the in the world of the binary star Hendee.
Atlantis and other Places
The super dozen alternate history tales were all previously published in the past decade, but never together. The one volume speaks loudly as to how skilled Harry Turtledove truly is when it comes to the sub-genre where he is the champion grandmaster whether it is a saga, a novel, a novella, or a short story. In the first entry, "Audubon in Atlantis", the naturalist arrives on the island seeking rare birds. The second tale satires Bush and Bin Laden who make strange "Bedfellows", who need each other like yin and yang. All the "News from the Front" is the news not worth printing during WW II, as Mr. Turtledove rips the main stream media. Whether it is the American leaving the ducks swimming in Central Park to attack a German castle as in "The Catcher in the Rhine", soldier "Uncle Alf" writing from occupied Paris in 1929 to his niece about the lazy French, re Socrates role in the Peloponnesian Wars ("The Daimon"), fans will agree this anthology affirms Mr. Turtledove's abilities whether he lampoons or just changes a pivotal moment he remains the top guru of the alternative historical universe.
Her name is Jane Yellowrock and she is a skinwalker; the last of her kind. To survive she is a rogue vampire slayer. She shares her soul with Beast and they communicate with each other. When Jane shapeshifts she usually turns to Beast, but she can change into any animal she chooses. Now the Weres have gone public and Jane works exclusively for the Blood Master of New Orleans, Leo Pellissier. Leo hates werewolves and when a clan of weres arrives to stake a claim in Leo's territory, he orders Jane to come to his house.
He wants his security systems and peoples to be at full alert which is Jane's department. Leo also wants her to meet someone near a pub to tell home to get out of town. When she arrives at the spot she notices the werewolves are there. She meets Girrard who once worked for Leo as his Mercy Blade, but Leos almost killed him when he tried to kill Leo's insane daughter. Not interested in a chat, Jane prepares for the gala where the African werewolves try to make peace with Leo and his vampires. The American werewolves get past the sentries and attack. By the end of the confrontation, the hall is flowing with blood. Making matters worse, Rick, Jane's lover is undercover and she realizes that he is having sex with a werewolf as part of his job as a police officer. The Weres plans another assault on Leo's complex and Jane is pleased when the carnage ends and peace is restored. Now if she can only find Rick who still remains missing.
The third Yellowrock urban fantasy (see Blood Cross and Skinwalker) is great thriller starring a flawed heroine whose childhood memories are nightmares and gets upset with the slaughters but does her job while dealing with various supernatural species. Girrard adds an enigmatic element as Jane wonders what his tie to her boss is. Readers will appreciate Mercy Blade as paranormal blood flows in the Big Easy.
Allay tends the Den on C bar in Manhattan's Lower East Side in order to dine off the anguished emotions of human patrons who drink there though she finds doing that an abomination even though she has somewhat adapted. She is a one of a kind type of demon; as she is a human who ingested the life force of a demon. Her scent signature differs from demons who would all love to feed off her. Allay's offspring Bliss seems more adjusted than she while her BFF Shock warns her not to trust Theo Ram who has killed his offspring for many millennia. Allay is attracted to Ram.
Being a unique hybrid places her in an odd position of no one trusting her and thus she is the perfect individual to foster an agreement to end the squabble between powerful fighting demons. However, as she works on the place, Allay has some doubts about what is going on. She fears she is being used as an expendable discard and though feeling paranoid as she believes assassins are flooding the streets with her as a target; she goes underground knowing the hostilities is about to explode into open urban warfare.
The second demon urban fantasy (see Confession of a Demon) continues the Manhattan saga of Allay trying to survive in a world where she feels she does not belong. The action-packed story line will hook readers from the onset as the heroine is trapped in a deadly demonic tug of war. Although it pays dividends to read the first exhilarating thriller to better understand key players especially the heroine, a mix of California mellow and New York shtick, Demon Underground is a super tale.
Towers of Midnight
Increasingly the seals that contain the Dark One in the shadows are rotting abetted by the evil minion. Soon barring a miracle the malevolence will be back and no Dragon appears capable of defeating the evil.
In Caemlyn Mat Cauthon hides at the same time trying to find a way to breach the Tower of Ghenjei even as the golam still haunts him. At about the same time Perrin Aybara faces the Slayer in the dream and tries to ignore the haunting murder of two Children of the Light, which he knows will come back on him. Meanwhile Egwene the Amyrlin Seat seeks Messana the Forsaken, who hides amidst the White Tower sisters. All three face personal confrontations even the Wheel of Time moves in favor of the Dark One.
In his second book at the helm of the Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time (see The Gathering Storm), Brandon Sanderson does a terrific job of closing out several personal troubles that have been around seemingly for over a decade (our time). The author also appears to have set up the anticipated end of time finish. The story line is well written and fans will overall be pleased though there is a tendency towards dangling participles instead of dangling subplots. The key characters are fully developed yet they seem different from Mr. Jordan's writings as unlike The Gathering Storm, Mr. Sanderson has clearly placed his stamp on Towers of Midnight.
Surrender to the Will of the Night
The Grail Empire and for that matter the world is undergoing an apocalyptic climate change. Temperatures are dropping rapidly as winter has become much harsher and lengthier. Water levels are shrinking to dangerously low levels; partly because the tundra is expanding covering increasingly the northern mountain ranges.
Piper Hecht has the uncanny skill of being able to kill gods. His knowledge is not a god send as he has enemies seeking revenge, adversaries wanting him dead before he kills them, and family and friends who try to abuse his ability. His sister Heris and their ancestor the Ninth Unknown Cloven Februaren plead with him to join their fight to prevent the dark god Kharoulke the Windwalker from returning. The insane Grail Empire Empress Katrin demands that he lead as the Commander of the Righteous Army a crusade into the Holy Lands against the Pramans. Besides their demands and those of power grabbers, Piper fears their world is dying as The Wells of Power is weakening and the malevolent Instrumentalities from the Time Before Time are returning
The third The Instrumentalities of the Night (see The Tyranny of the Night and The Lord of the Silent Kingdom) is a super entry as the overarching plot moves forward including ending notable threads while setting up the next thriller. The story line predominately is owned by Piper so the audience mostly sees the cataclysmic events and the political misdirected or inactive reaction through his mind filter although there is enough insight from support players to provide a somewhat balance. However, the key to why this tale and the previous two are great is Glen Cook skewers politicians but never loses sight of the big picture apocalyptic end of days. This is a great complicated series in which newcomers need to start at the beginning to see how fast the plot has cooked.
The Barsoom Project
Larry Niven and Steven Barnes
At Dream Park, the participants have signed on to play "Fat-Ripper Special". The rules are simple: exercise and behavior modification when it comes to eating habits. In other words, the gamers are paying big bucks to lose big weight through new memes.
As the firm who runs Dream Park begins work on the Barsoom Project expedition of Mars, investment capital is needed. Everything involving the weight loss role playing program must go smoothly or else. However, Dream Park Security Chief Alec Griffin realizes the facility is under attack by nefarious capitalist Kareem Fekesh who wants to own the theme park and much more. One of the gamers, Eviane after a stay at a mental asylum following her previous visit to Dream Park when holograms she killed turned out to be real people; returns with hopes to recover missing aspects of her memory that a stalker plans to never allow happen.
This is a reprint of the second Dream Park science fiction thriller that merges Inuit mythos with gaming technology. Although well written especially the gaming confrontation between Griffin and Fekesh, this lacks the unique freshness of the first novel. Also like Dream Park, the ironically titled The Barsoom Project is not for everyone as the targeted audience is predominantly players; who will find this is an interesting enjoyable tale.
Wicked City: the Scarlet Clan
Seven Seas (Tor)
The Black Guard diligently watch the barrier between the mortal world and the demonic realm for breeches from the dark other side. In Roppongi, a Black Guard unit intervenes to end a summoning ritual at Torizaky Church. That night agent demon Makie informs her human lover agent Taki at his home in Hamadayama that she had a vision of the assault due to the hybrid child she carries. She also says their unborn told her that the summoning worked.
Apparently the summoning is to bring back the Shu demonic mob locked away in 978. This deadly clan prefers war between the two species and within each species. Over one millennium, they have waited for the mixed race baby to be born so that they can kill it and prevent the peace that many in both races see the infant represents. Starting with a psy phone call to possess and kill Taki, the Shus begin their direct attack on the pregnant demoness as they send snake handlers and fire demons to assassinate the female they consider traitor. Taki and the Black Guard struggle to protect his unborn and defeat an invincible demon mob that never loses.
The third Wicked City urban fantasy (see Black Guard and The Other Side) is a fabulous thriller that reads like a comic book novella with no images except those in the reader's mind. Fast-paced from the onset, the focus of everyone is on the unborn hybrid. Although the key characters are severely underdeveloped, fans will enjoy the latest entry that stands alone, but obtain a better understanding of Hideyuki Kikuchi's fantasy-horror Japan by reading the previous thrillers.
In Virga, Admiral Chaison Fanning learns no good deed goes unpunished. His bodacious foray prevented an assault on his orb Slipstream; he was imprisoned for his actions, but he is liberated by he assumes his daring subversive wife Venera who when he was first captured he saw fleeing.
Returning to his town, to his amazement, Fanning is considered a traitor by those he saved; he expected the ruler who initially betrayed him to paint him as such but not his neighbors. As revolution, civil war, and outside invasion threaten the Virga spheres, he fights alongside Antaea Argyre, who is from another orb of the "system" near its edges. There he begins to understand there is much more to the universe than just what is connected to Virga's central sun Candesce.
As with the first two books of the Virga chronicle (see SUN OF SUNS and QUEEN OF CANDESCE), it is the variety of town-spheres that make for a complex exciting science fiction saga in which anything seems possible under the sun (of Candesce that is). The story line is fast-paced from the onset as Fanning, though scorned and swiftboated continues to do what he thinks is the ethically right thing for the good of his people. His escapades never slow down as Karl Schroeder provides a strong outer space opera thriller.
Eternal Champion the Duke of Koln Dorian Hawkmoon and his loyal friend Huilliam D'Averc travel by sea to Europe on a vessel given to the pair by the grateful citizens of Nawleeen. The courageous pair stops at D'Nark as the faithful Servants of the Runestaff to continue their efforts to prevent world domination by the Granbretan Dark Empire.
Following their successful layover, Hawkmoon and D'Averc prepare for the return to Europe. Each knows the final battle against the Granbretan is coming while both realize failure means their deaths and the end of world as they know it.
This is a reprint of the final History of the Runestaff Eternal Champion fantasy series. The story line is fast-paced as Hawkmoon understands that though he prefers otherwise and is not egotistical about his lot, he is the only being in the way of the Granbretan world domination. Elric fans will enjoy the saga of another Eternal Champion. However, to appreciate how far the beleaguered hero has come in his quest, readers should peruse the other tales in chronic logical order (see The Jewel in the Sky, The Mad God's Amulet and The Sword of the Dawn) as The Runestaff can somewhat stand alone but is better enhanced by it predecessors.
The Lost Gate
Orson Scott Card
His ancestry comes from another world, but they were sent here in exile. Danny North knows his DNA flows with ages of mages, but does not think much about it. That changes when powers surface that scare him. He is a gatemage.
Danny knows he can open a portal for his race to return to their home world. However, he fears revealing his skill to anyone as gatemages are not a longevity occupation; as the squabbling banished clans prefers the peace over going home; this means executing gatemages before they cause havoc. Danny flees before he is murdered. He finds a temporary shelter and begins experimenting with opening the Great G for the first time in fourteen hundred years.
At the same time on the planet Westil, Wad the gatemage falls in love only to be betrayed. He struggles with his lost memory as he has poor recollection of how he arrived at this remote castle.
The Lost Gate is an entertaining young adult fantasy with a nod to Stargate, but with a Surf Ninja crowned prince different spin. The story line loaded with action but with some exciting subplots that seem to add little to the prime theme of a beleaguered "antihero" teen Danny struggling to survive something he did not desire; becoming a gatemage.
Creative Jazz Piano Arranging for Real "Fake Book" Tunes
Michael Tarro, author & pianist
Santorella Publications Ltd.
P.O. Box 60, Danvers, MA 01923
TS236, $16.95, www.santorellapublications.com
"Creative Jazz Piano Arranging for Real "Fake Book" Tunes: Jazz Piano Method & Songbook (includes CD)" is a fabulous collection of jazz piano classic solos (including The Traveling Theme by the author/pianist) plus 20 introductory pages of specific analysis and instruction for jazz pianists, including melodic and rhythmic embellishment, left hand accompaniment options, chord voicings and substitutions, introductions and endings, tips for creating variety in arrangements, and more.
The jazz piano arrangements include Sweet Georgia Brown, Don't Get Around Much Anymore, The Nearness of You, Georgia On My Mind, Don't Blame Me, The Sharp Nine Blues, and more. The arrangements are clearly, specifically annotated in standard format, and all the arrangements are performed by the author pianist on the accompanying CD. "Creative jazz Piano Arranging for Real 'Fake Book' Tunes" is a practical jazz guidebook written with one specific frequently asked question in mind: "What do I play with my left hand and how do I pull it all together?" Needless to say the answer is in the enclosed pages.
The author pianist acknowledges his fellow musicians and songwriters and encourages the aspiring jazz pianist to supplement his/her practice with a "solid background of finger exercises ... found in Hanon, Czerny, or Isidor Philipp's 'School of Technique'...to insure accurate execution when playing any demanding melodic passage."
"Creative Jazz Piano Arranging for Real 'Fake Book' Tunes" is a practical classic that is destined to become well-known among students of jazz piano performance.
Also very highly recommended for music teachers and music students from the same publisher are the following publication:
"First Teacher's Classics" (includes 16 intermediate arrangements of piano classics), Jan L. Harrison, arranger (TS346, $9.95); "Discovering Violin, A Beginning Method" (includes CD), Danielle Rosaria Cummins, (TS238, $16.95); "The Chopin Preludes for the Intermediate Pianist" (includes 12 piano preludes and CD), Jonathon Robbins, arranger, pianist, (TS095, $14.95); "Jewish Favorites for Easy Piano" (includes Israel's national anthem), (TS124, $8.95); "Latin Favorites Piano Accompaniment Edition", Jonathon Robbins, editor, (TS165, $14.95); "Polish Favorites for Easy Piano", Tony Santorella, arranger, Jonathon Robbins, editor, (TS125, $8.95);
Constructing Walking Jazz Bass Lines
Waterfall Publishing House
9780982957011, $19.95, www.amazon.com
"Constructing Walking Jazz Bass Lines, Book 1, The Blues in 12 Keys: A Comprehensive Guide To Constructing Walking Jazz Bass Lines for the Double Bassist and Electric Jazz Bassist" is a complete 12-key guide to techniques and devices used to construct walking jazz bass lines in the jazz tradition.
Part I, the Blues in F, presents exercises and techniques known to help create robust jazz bass lines, moving forward while retaining a solid rhythmic, harmonic foundation. Part 2, The Blues in 12 Keys, expands further the lessons of Part 1, providing previous techniques and devices used in professional level bass lines in all 12 keys. The practical and ambitious aim of "Constructing Walking Jazz Bass Lines" is "to give the aspiring bassist a solid grounding in understanding how to construct walking Jazz Bass lines and support a melody and or soloist (p. 97)." The Book concludes with sage advice, "Listen to as much music as you can, Listen to the masters (p.97)."
Included is full notations with enharmonic chord symbols for more than 150 choruses of jazz blues lines in all 12 keys, using the whole register of the instrument. "Constructing Walking Jazz Bass Lines Book 1" is an invaluable resource to the aspiring jazz bassist, with potential for learning teaching and great practical application.
Also recommended in this series by the same author is: "Constructing Walking Jazz Bass Lines, Rhythm Changes in 12 Keys," ISBN 9780982957028, $19.95. Additionally recommended is "Constructive Walking Jazz Bass Lines Book II, Bass Tab Edition," ISBN 9780982957035, $19.95.
The Vienna Don Giovanni
668 Mount Hope Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620
9781843835868, $105.00, www.boydellandbrewer.com
"The Vienna Don Giovanni" is an exciting new analysis of the second Vienna version of the Mozart opera, "Don Giovanni," which followed the original 1787 Prague premiere of the opera. The fact that at least two different versions of the work have evolved has challenged scholars and musicians in all subsequent performances/interpretations with the main dilemma being whether to continue to present two authentic versions of the opera, or whether to combine them in some sort of hybrid combo. The Vienna version cuts two of the original arias and includes three new pieces, perhaps in response to audiences, critics and performers who felt there was something wrong with the original or Prague "Don Giovanni."
Professor Woodfield presents exhaustive appendices on detailed score comparisons, in addition to a four page bibliography including recognized scholarly sources in German, English, and French. Drawing on a vast mine of sometimes confusing and conflicting information, Professor Woodfield finally concludes that evidence supports the theory that the Vienna revision of "Don Giovanni" 'was an interactive process, involving the views of performers, the reactions of audiences and the composer's responses..' Finally, Professor Woodfield presents a theory of transmission for the Mozart Da Ponte operas which is illustrated in fig 17, a dual summary of the early versions of "Don Giovanni" with shadings to distinguish between performance or transmission version, autograph revisions, and original conducting or reference scores of the Prague vs. Vienna versions of the opera. The truth of Mozart's dual versions of "Don Giovanni"seems to be somewhat more complex and subtle than is easily grasped by 21st century mind sets. But "The Vienna Don Giovanni" presents clear, detailed evidence and painstaking analysis of the scores that lead to a new outlook on the evolving of a "hybrid " version of the two operas incorporating the newer arias.
Professor Woodfield's scholarship is immaculate, his conclusions are well supported, and his theories about one of the most famously debated of Mozart's operas make exciting musical reading.
The Columbia Guide to American Indians of the Southwest
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, NY, NY 10023-7015
9780231127905, $45.00, www.cup.columbia.edu
"The Columbia Guide to American Indians of the Southwest" is the fourth volume in a series of studies of North American Indians organized by region. A major scholarly work, the Guide is organized into four parts that make its considerable wealth of data easily accessible to many readers. The first part, titled History and Culture, gives a reduced overview of history of major tribes of the area both pre and post European contact. There is an emphasis on the history and development of the Navajo, with added information about Yaqui, Zuni, Tohono O'odham, Chiricahua Apache, and many more other tribes of Indians native to the area. An interesting fact bout the Indian tribes of the Southwest is the concept that they stood their ground. Unlike many other tribes in historical interactions with European cultures, they were not forced to leave their region of origin, and so, perhaps, may have retained strong cultural connectedness to geographical inspired, cultural beliefs and life outlooks. Part 11 is titled People, Places, and Events, and highlights many specific historic events or incidents as well as famous people involved in these histories. The third part is a Chronology of events in the region from 75,000 BC to 2007 AD and the fourth part is a listing of resources, including films, documents, tribal newspapers and newsletters, addresses of Indian tribes and nations in the Southwest, and more. The "Columbia Guide to American Indians of the Southwest" is a practical, ethical, well researched, scholarly work that provides access to valuable information to both members of the scholarly communities and others with more specific interests.
An Illustrated History of Gospel
733 Wealthy Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
9780745953397, $29.95, www.kregel.com
"An Illustrated History of Gospel: Gospel Music From Early Spirituals to Modern Gospel" is a tour de force of photojournalism documentaries on the history, development and powerful influences of the genre labeled gospel. Steve Turner knows his subject well, indeed his love of gospel is clear and underlying every chapter, sentence and verse of "An Illustrated History of Gospel." Beginning as an expression of spirituality and Christianity among African American slaves, gospel continued to evolve through social and economic changes including segregation, and finally gospel became a major component of both black and white Christian worship practices as well as a strong influence on popular mainstream music including rock, jazz, and blues style music as well as others. "An Illustrated History of Gospel;" is embellished by fantastic photos, both in color and black and white, featuring famous performers and performing groups of gospel singers. "An Illustrated History of Gospel" is a music history text whose time is now, whose appeal is immense. In addition to the fabulous repertoire of photos of historical great gospel influences, such intriguing snippets of history as an "Interview with Bill 'Hoss' Allen (1922-97), Nashville, 29 April 1976" are included in 3 pages of (beige) contrasting color insets. What it covers is a fascinating question and answer interview of a famous white gospel performer and show organizer, or radio gospel show producer and host. (p,101-104). many other fascinating presentations of details and facts relating to black gospel development are featured. The relationship between gospel and the folk music revival, spawned partly at the pivotal Newport Jazz Festivals around 1958 and later is presented and explored. Many famous gospel or gospel-influenced performers are showcased in "An Illustrated History of Gospel."' A curious component use of the text is suggested by its inclusion, at the end of the bibliography, of an index of songs and an index of names. It should be possible for an interested reader to look up the desired gospel reference, whether it be a specific song or a specific artist's name. Whether it be photojournalism driven music history or a clear understanding of both the roots and impact of gospel on jazz, folk and rock as well as contemporary Christian music, "An Illustrated History of Gospel" presents the best of both worlds. This beautiful book is a treat to read and enjoy visually.
Awake Till The End
The Midnight Reader
9780982143926, $12.95, www.womanintowolf.com
To commit crimes against another is a terrible thing, but it is however, very interesting. "Awake Till The End" is a collection of short mystery stories from Alysse Aallyn as she provides a walk into the darker side of human nature and the pursuit of the truth that brings them down. Fun and riveting reading, "Awake Till The End" is good for plenty of entertainment.
For the Love
Gina Favazza Rowland
A loved one with downs syndrome is a unique set of challenges on its own. "For the Love" is a memoir from Gina Favazza Rowland as she reflects on the challenges of life of caring for her sister with Downs Syndrome. Following her time with her sister from childhood to adulthood, she comes with a powerful message to others who are caring for a relative with the disorder. "For the Love" is a fine pick for those who are also caring for one with Downs syndrome, highly recommended.
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
9781439240229, $45.00, www.booksurge.com
In the face of Nazi Germany's atrocities, not everyone silently let it happen. "Shoah: Turkey, the US, and the UK" looks into the history of the nation of Turkey's involvement in saving some Jews from the Holocaust. Drawing from long forgotten historical documents and oral histories, Arnold Reisman brings light to Turkey's role in this history, commonly discredited or forgotten in text books. A fascinating and intriguing read, "Shoah" is a read not to be over looked by history readers with a strong interest in World War II.
One Precious Pearl
Robert Lloyd Russell
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9780741462329, $14.95, www.infinitypublishing.com
God's church is his house, and it should be revered. "One Precious Pearl: God's Design for His Church" is a driven read from Robert Lloyd Russell as he seeks to inspire other church leaders to find their own way to make their congregation and church into something greater. "One Precious Pearl" is a thoughtful and highly recommended pick, not to be missed by any Church authority.
The Day Before the Berlin Wall
T. H. E. Hill
The Berlin Wall casts a shadow on history. But what if it never existed? "The Day Before the Berlin Wall: An Alternate History of Cold War Espionage" tells the story of a young American who comes across intelligence that may lead to preventing the wall from being constructed. But as he's framed for murder, he has all sides trying to detain or kill him, making his race against the wall's construction all the more difficult. A thoughtful and gripping read, "The Day Before the Berlin Wall" will be hard to put down.
From the Andes to the Rocky Mountains
Carlos A. Suarez
419 Park Ave., South New York, NY 10016
9780533162451, $11.95, www.vantagepress.com
Through travels a family only grows closer. "From the Andes to the Rocky Mountains: A father, Mother, and Son's Story" is a memoir from Carlos A. Suarez as he reflects on his family's immigration from Columbia to the United States and what this shift has meant to him and his family. A poignant and family-driven memoir, "From the Andes to the Rocky Mountains" is a strong pick.
The Art of Successful Relationships
419 Park Ave., South New York, NY 10016
9780533161713, $9.95, www.vantagepress.com
A good relation one isn't one riddled with secret. "The Art of Successful Relationships: The Price or the Predator"is a guide from Georgina Ramirez encouraging readers to find their spot in relationship and understand the true nature of their relationships and how to improve them and when to break them off. "The Art of Successful Relationships" is thoughtful and highly recommended reading.
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533162970, $8.95, www.vantagepress.com
Politics are meant to be mocked, and some do with a bit more rhythm than others. "Poetry Political (With Tongue in Cheek)" is a collection of politic-driven poetry from Maack Twain, seeking to call out culture and politics for their lies with a touch of humor. "Poetry Political" is a thoughtful read, highly recommended. "I'll Remember: A Little White lie Won't Hurt You/Some dear friend assured me one day/So I told one to my mother/And for that my conscience will pay.
D. B. Cooper Case Exposed
George C. Nuttall
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533163908, $18.95, www.vantagepress.com
D. B. Cooper is truly one of history's enigmas. "D. B. Cooper Case Exposed: J. Edgar Hoover Cover up/?"is George C. Nuttall's theories drawn from his own career in law enforcement about how the fate of Cooper, a man who managed to extort $200,000 from the U.S. Government with a hijacked plane in 1971 and then disappeared off the face of the planet, was covered up by the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. "D. B. Cooper Case Exposed" is a fascinating read for any who are intrigued by this modern legend.
Pamella Ann Miller
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432754587, $29.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Jesus was a huge advocate for forgiveness. But it's hard when you're not the son of God. "New Digs... Abandoning the Bog of Bitterness" is a spiritual inspirational guide from Pamella Ann Miller on how she learned to love and forgive again after life gave her every reason not too. Hoping her journey from bitterness and hatred to being able to forgive will help other reasons remember how to, "New Digs..." is a thoughtful and solidly recommended read, not to be missed.
Christmas Eve Can Kill You
10940 S Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432765026, $14.95, www.outskirtspress.com
A voice of low level talk radio, Val Virgo never thought he'd be spinning into a terrorist plot. "Christmas Eve Can Kill You" tells the story of Virgo as a random comment gets him targeted by a bomber. In a search for who did it and why, Virgo finds himself entwined in a life and death struggle as Christmas draws near. "Christmas Eve Can Kill You" is a fun and exciting mystery, highly recommended.
The Power of Resilience
419 Park Ave. South New York, NY 10016
9780533163557, $27.95, www.vantagepress.com
Crisis is another obstacle of life, and overcoming it can strengthen you. "The Power of Resilience: How Women Bounce Back from Crisis" is an inspirational guide aimed at women seeking to give them the power of resilience. With plenty of affirmation and wisdom along with stories of women facing down their own crisis, "The Power of Resilience" is an inspiring and solidly recommended read, not to be missed.
John Birges, Jr. & Nina J. Arnold
419 Park Ave. South New York, NY 10016
9780533163809, $16.95, www.vantagepress.com
For millions of dollars, some people will do anything when against the wall. "Bombing Harvey" is a dramatization from John Birges & Nina Arnold about John's experiences with his father's extortion of Harvey's Resort Casino back in 1980. Facing gambling debt, the Senior Birges went to extremes to close the debt, and the story in "Bombing Harvey" will keep the pages turning.
Your Weight and More
Robert G. Rohland
419 Park Ave. South New York, NY 10016
9780533163199, $10.95, www.vantagepress.com
When America was struggling to get out of the Great Depression, youth tried to make the best of their lives. "Your Weight and More" tells the story of Billy Jack Baxter, a young man during the Great Depression, trying to make his way through life with only a fortune of the title ahead of him. A fascinating story of depression life, "Your Weight and More" is a fascinating and very highly recommended read.
Our False Christianity: How It Started
Harold William Kaisersatt
419 Park Ave. South New York, NY 10016
9780533163533, $12.95, www.vantagepress.com
Could our interpretation of Christ's gospels be incorrect? "Our False Christianity: How It Started" is an analysis from Harold William Kaisersatt offering his belief on the flaws of the popular views of Christianity and offers his own take on how the King James and popular translations may have gotten some of the spirit of the faith wrong and the impact it has wrought. "Our False Christianity: How it Started" is a thoughtful and solidly recommended read that shouldn't be overlooked.
INDI Publishing Group, www.INDIPublishingGrouop.com
Dan Anderson served in Vietnam with the Americal Infantry Division. He is also a former executive with a world-class financial company. Writing is his post-retirement pursuit, and he has already garnered several awards: the Independent Publishers IPPY Book Award in 2009; the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Award in 2008; and the Books and Authors - Murder Mystery of the Year 2008.
PI Chauncey McFadden doesn't present as your typical private eye. He looks more like a chunky college professor than Humphrey Bogart. But his brainpower is on par with Nero Wolff without the name recognition. Needless to say, after his first modest success as a P.I., he is called upon to investigate a rather nasty murder that has taken place aboard a cruise ship. Part of the deal includes bringing along his girlfriend, who shares his love of food. Her name is Girtha, a tongue-in-cheek handle, and she loves to shop:
"When I got back to the room, I found Girtha sprawled in a chair in front of the air conditioner, fanning herself with a magazine and taking sips from a small paper cup. I marveled at the collection of department store bags scattered around the room. 'Finish your shopping?'
'I just got in. That spree almost did me in,' she gasped. 'The temperature is the same as L.A., but the humidity is murder. I'd barely gotten ten feet from the hotel when it felt as if someone had set off a sprinkler system inside my clothes.'"
Dan Anderson's characters form the cornerstone of his writing. The bad guys are SO bad. Unsavory characters plague even the ship's staff. Anderson's plot operates on many levels simultaneously. In the midst of all this "badness," Anderson manages to take his readers on an entertaining cruise. Attention to details of the ship's routine adds icing to the cake.
DEATH CRUISE is a thoroughly enjoyable read. Anderson has a great sense of humor, as well as a flair for the macabre. He is an excellent writer with a thorough understanding of the vagaries of our fellow human beings. A great read!
Death Wore Black
2401 Haight Ave., Eldersburg, MD 21784
During his thirty-one years in law enforcement, Bill Redding served in all divisions of the Evanston, IL police department for twenty years. He moved on to Chief of Police in Belvedere, Illinois to a primitive environment where clout overcame ethics. His final stint as a police officer occurred in South Milwaukee, where Redding once again tangled with politics. He finally retired to Florida with his wife Ann, where they can enjoy the culture of the parrot heads.
Redding's debut novel deals with the problem of sexual abuse among clergy that occurred in the 1960's. Set in fictional Pulaski, outside of Milwaukee, his story deals with a fictionalized account of a priest called Father Julius who is suspected of having relations with young altar boys. When a victim turns up dead, it is up to Sergeant Casimir "Slat" Sczlatski to find the perp. Slat's mentor, Sam Tyrone, has also turned up dead of an apparent suicide. Slat feels he must clear his old friend's name, as it is easy to denigrate the dead. He also takes the revolutionary step of teaming two female detectives together to solve the string of baffling murders of young men. As expected all of the above make for clashing wills, mores, and a string of unforgettable characters:
"Dawn didn't know what to make of Jenny. The woman had been so resentful when they were first paired. Now she was relaxed, a tease. Not knowing how to interpret her partner's changeable behavior, Dawn did not respond to Jenny's jokes. She pulled her notepad out of her purse. 'The car's license checked to Raymond Tee in Milwaukee. Nothing on him in either our criminal or traffic records or with NCIC.' Dawn was referring to the National Crime Information Center in Washington, D.C."
Redding's first mystery is a jam-packed whodunit that examines the role of the Catholic Church in clergy abuse four decades ago. As his sidelines he also deals with crooked cops; the incredible political structure in Wisconsin that interferes with decent law enforcement; and the toll a career in law enforcement exacts from even the most idealistic. Redding's account rings with clarity and truth. He is a man who has lived in these situations and thus has much to teach. Keep up the wonderful work! This reviewer couldn't put the book down. It is refreshing and riveting.
Stress Free Life
Bishop Bonnie Etta
Holy Fire Publishing
717 Old Trolley Road, Summerville, SC 29485
Did you ever wonder if there is a secret that some people have. You know the ones who seem to always bring sunshine into a room. Their smile shows that they are okay with life and where they are going. Perhaps they have found the true answer to happiness.
Inside the pages of this book you will find these answers. Bishop Etta gently takes you on a journey, one that we all walk, whether we know it or not. It is one of pain, sorrow, confusion, rejection, it is life. Our author shares with us the simplicity of forgiveness and the importance it has for us. Are you sick? Confused? Sad? Does your life have little meaning and no understanding of your purpose? Do you ask why things happen to you that cause you harm or sadness? The answer can be found in this work.
Staying close to Scripture, our author freely and gently explains why certain things happen and how anyone can turn these around and bring good. I am not saying it is a one, two, three, snap your fingers and the world is rosy answer. I am just saying that the evidence brought to the table is solid and Biblical and if followed will bring you a stress-free life. The question is, will you take the steps needed to fulfill it? Only you can decide but reading this book would definitely start you in the right direction.
A Cup of Jo
Severn House Publishers
9-15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England
Maggy Thorsen is embarking on a new business, a coffee shop, and to get it going she has a giant coffee cup and saucer made to advertise. Great idea, until a body is found inside the cup and Maggy's world becomes wrapped in murder and mystery. Now, Maggy is drawn into a world where she is not sure who is friend or foe, lover or user, protector or murderer. Maggy must use all her wits and clues to find out the truth and come away alive.
This was a great read. The author did a good job in bringing the characters to life, enhancing their personalities and blending them together within the storyline. She also brought the locals alive, you could almost smell the coffee brewing, taste the sticky buns, and hear the train whistle.
It made you want to walk into the book and be part of the drama. Ms. Thorsen weaved a murder mystery that gave you clues but also left some dangling puzzle pieces for you to piece together.
Did I figure it out? Well, okay, I had to read to the end, but I rather like it that way.
All in all a great read, full of likeable and seedy characters that keep you guessing, great locals, humor and romance, mystery and suspense a real page turning. I recommend this book, highly enjoyable.
The Devil Is In The Details
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington IN 47403
All Christians know firsthand the battles with our enemy, the Devil. We understand that daily we must be alert to his schemes and attacks. At times it seems we are losing more than winning, and that should not be so. We need help in understanding who we are in Christ, who the Devil is and just how he works against us, and why. We all so need to understand why he has such hatred for mankind.
Inside the pages of this outstanding book by, Tony Kessinger, you will find the answers to those questions and so much more. Our author takes us through countless Scripture verses concerning our enemy and carefully explains each giving us information that brings understanding and a weapon for us to use towards victory. You can't get much better than that.
We find out about his creation, his travels and interaction with God and man through history, and we really get a firm grip on so many loose ends that most Christians have concerning him. It is eye-opening.
It took me a while to read this book, not because it was too difficult, or boring; but because it held such insight I did not want to miss a page of what I was reading. Don't worry, you do not have to be a scholar to understand what is placed before you. It is written in an easy to understand style. I was amazed and ashamed at what I didn't know about my enemy. I learned so much and intend to use it as a reference continually. At the end of each chapter we find a summary that really takes all the information given and brings it home. I liked that.
All in all this is a wonderful book that every Christian should have on hand. It is Biblically sound, easy to read and full of information that will definitely help you in your battles with the Devil in daily life. I am proud to give this book my highest recommendation.
Letters From Wheatfield
9781432757052 $14.95 www.outskirtspress.com
In this delicious read by author, Patrick Shannon, we are taken on a giggle of a ride as our couple, Fred Moore and his wife, Sarah, move from Manhattan to the small town of Wheatfiled, Montana, and learn the secrets of small town living.
Through letters to Fred's cousin, Amalia, we learn the goings on in this community, and meet some outlandish characters in this outrageously funny tale. Each character is unique and the author does a superb job at bringing them to life, along with their antics, and there are many of those. Somehow good intentions for them, turn into embarrassing situations, like the Reverend who ended up nude under a prostitute, and had a perfectly good explanation for it. Of course his nude picture on the front cover of the newspaper definitely made it harder at first to believe the truth. Or take another time when Sarah orders some perfectly innocent undergarments from a magazine, Fred learns not to have anything 'personal' delivered by mail because surely the entire town will know about it. Too funny! And that is just the tip of the iceberg of the stories you will read.
I really enjoyed this book and finished it in one sitting. It was light-hearted and totally entertaining. Listen, I live in a small town so I definitely could relate to some of the happenings in this book. I'm sure many others will as well. This is a great read; I giggled from beginning to end and closed the book with a smile. It is my pleasure to recommend it. The perfect book to curl up with on the coming winter nights. Very entertaining indeed.
Recipes for a Beautiful Life
Julie Keye and Madaline Hall
9781439249703 $17.95 www.booksurge.com
In the beginning of this book our authors tell us that our minds and bodies work together and I believe that is true. They explain how it is important to recharge our minds through inspirational reading, prayer and relaxing, and this beautiful book will help you on that journey.
This work is written in two parts, the first is a collection of gracious pictures complimented with a Scripture verse. Many caught my eye and my heart as I read through the pages, but one stood out to me and that was the picture of a little girl smelling flowers with the Scripture verse:
All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old. It brought back memories of my childhood and how surely God has planned my life. I believe each picture and verse will quicken an emotion inside of each one as they turn the pages. Tender, thought provoking, and often bringing a smile inside and out. Very well done.
The second part of the book is: Relaxation and Home Spa Treatments. I really enjoyed this section as well. First I learned how to make beauty treatments with ingredients I had around the house or could easily get it I didn't, that was great. Second I could baby myself and walk away feeling refreshed.
All in all this is a delightful read. It is one you will cuddle up with time and time again just to have your Spirit renewed and help bring yourself to a refreshing. Very well done, a delight to both the Spirit and the soul.
God Smiles for Me
Raymond L. Burroughs
427 Wade Hampton Blvd, Greenville, SC 29609
In this heart gripping book we meet, Raymond Burroughs, a man whose story is sure to touch your very soul. In 1975 he was operated on for the removal of a tumor at the base of his brain that was life threatening. It is through this experience that this story begins and continues on even to this day.
Our author opens his heart and shares the battles that he and his loved ones faced before and after his surgery. I found his writing not to be so centered on the works of evil that tried to snuff his life out, but the victory of Jesus that sustained him. He tells of the ups and downs, but always leaves you with the understanding that God was there and in control no matter what the outcome would be. That was refreshing, and is a great reminder for all Christians. I loved reading about his out of the body experience and found it to bring great comfort.
This book is encouraging in so many ways. Raymond Burroughs is a man who truly has come to know His God. In his simple, yet profound writing, the reader will share in the true love of God for all His children. You will applaud the outcome and grab hold of the faith and trust that Raymond walks in and claim it in your own life. God bless you, Raymond Burroughs. May the Lord continue to use you to bless others everywhere you go.
The Adventures of Isaiah James: Beach Boy
Sabrina K. Carpenter
Illustrated by Doreen Freeman
Perfect Pen Publishing
42 Wade Hamilton Blvd, Greenville, SC
Isaiah James is going on an adventure in this fun upbeat tale. He wakes up and is excited as a new day begins. Where is he going? To the beach and there he finds all kinds of adventures. He counts the beach balls, builds a sand castle, soared with the seagulls and crawled with the crabs. He rode a seahorse and swam with the dolphins and finally it was time to go home. Wow, what an adventure!
This is a colorful book that details the trip of a little boy to the beach. Told in rhyme it is upbeat and pulls the reader into the heart of the young boy as he experiences his day. Perfect read for young children as they share the excitement of the young boy and all that he discovers. Very well done, great illustrations.
President Who Did What?
Robert V. Waldrop
10940 S Parker Road, #515 Parker, CO 80134
9781432760120, $18.95, www.outskirtspress.com
We've had nearly fifty leaders in America and it can sometimes be hard to keep track. "President Who Did What: Quick Rundowns on U. S. Leaders" provides simple and quick breakdowns of all of our presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama. With plenty of facts and intriguing information, "President Who Did What" will make for a fine read and is very highly recommended.
Through the Eyes of a Manchild
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781434377838, $15.99, www.authorhouse.com
Manhood is never an instant thing. "Through the Eyes of a Manchild" is a collection of poetry from Joe Gofoe, with poetry reflecting on the bridge between boyhood and manhood and what it means from shifting from an innocent to having the world on your shoulders. "Through the Eyes of a Manchild" is a thoughtful collection, and very highly recommended. "Granddad": What I become/I remember he was/What I will learn/I remember he knew/The Strength he had/I will soon come to know/The pain I can/But his memory I will never let go.
Paul T. Scheatzle
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
An injury puts you out of your game for a time. "The Journey" is a guide to recovering from injury in the most quick and efficient way possible. Drawing on his own experience in recovery, he provides much insight on getting back up from one's injury and back to one's full potential. "The Journey" is a useful advisory, highly recommended.
The Last Jump
John E. Nevola
10940 S Parker Road, #515 Parker, CO 80134
9781432755614, $18.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Secrets remain secrets for a reason. "The Last Jump" is a novel surrounding a circle of friends at the end of World War II. In a time of high patriotism, their beliefs are shifted and challenged by their oath they swore and must struggle to not break. Focusing on gender and racial issues throughout the war, "The Last Jump" is a riveting and touching novel about the greatest generation.
A 21st Century Christian's Quest for Truth
Lowell JK Davis
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781452054186, $11.95, www.authorhouse.com
Truth is always endlessly elusive and has been for all of human existence. "A 21st Century Christian's Quest for Truth" is a combination of observational science and how it affects the faithful in Christ. Our understanding of the universe is developing quicker than ever, and has a simple thoughtful wisdom about it. "A 21st Century Christian's Quest for Truth" is a choice and highly recommended pick.
It's Hell Getting Old
John J. Larish
Age is the worst disease mankind has ever faced. "It's Hell Getting Old: The Road to Wellness -- Almost" is a memoir from John Larish speaking on his own challenge with his advanced age of 81 and the cruelties that life enjoys throwing at people. Stating that the simple virtues of life making facing the nastiness of age all the more bearable, "It's Hell Getting Old" is a fine pick for anyone beginning to see the onslaught of age themselves.
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432763428, $15.95, www.outskirtspress.com
Our ancestors fought the bloodiest war to ever occur on American soil. "Pilot Mountain" is a fictionalized dramatization of author Robert Wall's Grandfather, Louis H. Wall, who fought in the Civil War. He tells on his tale of his grandfather serving in the war, and creates a tale of historical fiction through the war. Stating that it has no basis in fact, his story is a fine tale of drama, "Pilot Mountain" is thoughtful and intriguing reading, highly recommended.
Once the currency that the whole world respected, the coins of the Roman Empire are now, two thousand years later, a top collectors item. "ERIC II: The Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins" is a complete and comprehensive resource for those who are avid collectors of the currency of the of the former rulers of the known world. A fascination stemming with a fascination of the Roman world, advanced far beyond their years, has led to many searching for these coins as collectibles. Rasiel Suarez covers each minting of coins by the Emperor they were created under, with a slight biography and time line for each of them, as well as discussing where they were used and when they were most often circulated, "ERIC II" is the resource to have for anyone who wants to use the Empire's coins as a way of collecting their own little bits of Roman history.
7290-B Investment Drive, Charleston, SC 29418
Selflessness is a virtue, but this doesn't make selfishness a sin. "You Matter: Let the Stories and Time Proven Strategies Show You How to Deal with Life's Challenges and Choices" is a guide to remembering one's own self worth in today's world, which is easy to forget in today's negative society and when trying to be true to others. With positive thought and drive, "You Matter" is an excellent motivational read, highly recommended.
The Global Vegan Waffle Cookbook
9780981776439, $14.95, www.waffleparty.com
Being a true vegan often requires giving up what you least expect. "The Global Vegan Waffle Cookbook: 82 Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Recipes for Waffles & Toppings, Including Gluten-Free, Easy, Exotic, Sweet, Spicy, & Savory" is a guide for those who adhere to the vegan lifestyle but miss the sweet taste of waffles. Waffles can be created without animal products, and Dave Wheitner not only tells you how, but opens the world to a wide variety of flavors available. "The Global Vegan Waffle Cookbook" is a top pick for vegan waffle lovers everywhere.
860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560
9780557545391, $20.95, www.billstackhouse.com
Crime is absent from nowhere. "Candle Snuffer" is a mystery set in the quiet Catskills of New York. Ed McAvoy, a cop with the law in his blood, takes the job of Police Chief there when he is unable to continue service in Detroit on the beat. But he soon finds the quiet town has no shortage of noise as he collides with the country western scene and the US Senate in a mystery filled with scandal and murder. "Candle Snuffer" is a fun read with much to keep your eyes glued to the page.
A Nomad's Journey
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
0595385249, $33.95, www.iuniverse.com
Life under the thumb of Stalin is a life no one wants. "A Nomad's Journey" is the life story of Atilla Bektore as he reflects on growing up in Russia through both world wars and a revolution. He looks forward in the context of the modern day and what all this history has led up to. A fascinating tale of living throughout the twentieth century, "A Nomad's Journey" is a choice read and very highly recommended.
Charles R. Nuckolls
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9781450256056, $33.95, www.iuniverse.com
What drives people out of their homeland and towards America? "The Roses: The Nuckolls Family, The Lyman Family, and One Hundred Fifty Immigrants Who Helped Shape America" traces the history of two early immigrant families who came to America as author Charles R. Nuckolls tries to help readers understand America through families who have lived in it through the centuries. Explaining why they came here, "The Roses" explains how America was founded on people looking for something greater.
Paul T. Vogel
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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