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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 5, Number 7 July 2006 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Kaveny's Bookshelf Klausner's Bookshelf
Laurel's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf Shirley's Bookshelf
Taylor's Bookshelf Vogel's Bookshelf  

Cowper's Bookshelf

Love That Lasts
Gary & Betsy Ricucci
Crossway Books
1300 Crescent Street, Wheaton, IL 60187
1581347820 $12.99

Love That Lasts: When Marriage Meets Grace by Gary and Betsy Ricucci is an inspirational guide to the love and dedication that are the foundations of a successful and enduring marriage. Introducing the conceptual understanding of God being a fundamental aspect of a marital relationship, Love That Lasts carries its readers through the intimate counsel on protecting sanctity of a marriage and protecting the interests of those involved in the marriage through the fulfilling path of God's commandments and blessings. Love That Lasts is very highly recommended for all Christian couples for its evocative and discerning comprehension of God, and the perception of marriage as the essence of two people and their mutual love God as a part of loving each other.

Shouts And Whispers
Jennifer L. Holberg
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
255 Jefferson Avenue, S. E., Grand Rapids, MI 49503
0802832296 $15.00

Expertly compiled, accessibly organized and deftly edited by Jennifer L. Holberg (Associate Professor of English at Calvin College and founding co-editor of the journal Pedagogy), Shouts And Whispers: Twenty-One Writers Speak About Their Writing And Their Faith is an informative collection of contributions and commentaries from twenty-one well-known writers and successful authors. Presenting featured interviews with such writing authorities as Joy Kogwa, Anne Lamott, Kathleen Norris, Paul Schrader, and diverse essays by the others, Shouts And Whispers carries its readers through the ideological and perspective analysis of each contributor's perceptive understanding of the art and task of writing and its intersection with faith and personal belief. An informative and thoughtful anthology of philosophical and theological ideas, brief biographies, poetry, and so much more, Shouts And Whispers is very highly recommended reading for members of the Christian community with an interest in the intersecting values of literature and faith.

One Of A Kind By God's Design
Karla Dornacher
J. Countryman/Thomas Nelson
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
PO Box 185, Battle Ground, WA 98604 (author)
1404103015 $14.99 1-800-251-4000

One Of A Kind By God's Design, imaginatively written and illustrated with watercolors by author and artist Karla Dornacher is an inspired and inspiring guide showcasing the wonderfully fulfilling love God has for each of us. Presenting themes such as Your Path, God's Direction, Your Purpose, God's Glory, Your Passion, God's Heart, Your Personality, God's Character, Your Talents, God's Gifts, and Your Plan, God's Sovereignty, Dornacher's One Of A Kind By God's Design deftly offers readers an accessible grasp of life, spirituality, love, existence, passion, and God. A work of originality, elegance, and worship, One Of A Kind By God's Design is enthusiastically recommended to the attention of all Christians as an introduction through stories, poetry, scriptures, prayers, and more to personal self-exploration, religious intuition, spiritual guidance, thoughtful reflection, and meditative insights into the nature of God's love and our individuality.

Mary Cowper

Kaveny's Bookshelf

(Keeping my oar in the water.)

I though I would do a cluster of reviews this month to keep my oar in the water with Midwest Book Review it looks as if as I approach my deadline it will be a rather small cluster but there am always next month.

Goddess Land: The First Ten Years
Athena Angelic
Publish America
ISBN: 1413798861, $19.95, 195 pp.

I had the pleasure of meeting Athena Angelic the author of Goddess Land which is a very interesting and strangely compelling collection of personal poetry written as she came of age over the last decade. She strikes me as being more like Sylvia Plath than Emily Dickinson and the fact that she is a feisty Red Head who is going somewhere shows in her work.

I am not going to comment on the poems themselves individually past saying that they all contain a high degree of vitality honesty and energy. Since I do a lot of my reading for review in public places like cafes here in Eau Claire Wisconsin I find folks who know I am the Midwest Book Reviews literary editor like to read over my shoulder and ask me questions about what I am reviewing this month. So as a little experiment I would open Goddess Land to a Random page ask and who ever happened to be reading over my shoulder to read a few poems and tell me what they thought of them. I did that because I feel that one of my functions, as a reviewer is not so much to say what I think, but help and author to find their public, and the reader to expand their interests. At best I hope this will lead to their discovery of a new author two.

I also do this because I am a literary critic who subscribes to reader response theory. In a nutshell it argues that the author, the text and the reader work together to construct meaning within that text. What I found, in the case of this text was that was everybody I talked liked something from this coming of age collection of poems . What Goddess Land really does is function as a sort of chronicle of the transformation of a teenager to an adult woman. Goddess Land appealed to a wide range of readers, all the way from form the twenty one year old punk band leader, who thought it really rocked to the sixty year old disillusioned intellectual, who found several of the poems quite refreshing. I even showed it to some of local Eau Claire Wisconsin's local artists and poets, all of whom reacted favorably to the book. I asked myself why such a wide range of appeal for Goddess Land. Maybe it is because Athena gave honest voice to emotions that we all feel in a way that shows deep feeling with out being sentimental. It is funny how term pops from contemporary literature course I took during the Vietnam era at University of Wisconsin Madison from a guy named Edgar lacy. Basically sentimentality involves demanding from the reader and emotional level of response which the literary situation does not warrant.

Athena does not do that which to me means she has a very bright future as a poet and will not be limited to simply writing about the personal. Some of our local poets up here in Eau Claire Wisconsin are pretty good but they tend to be stuck in time and place. The best thing about Athena Angelic work is its great potential to reach a wide audience as her creative life continues to blossom and unfold. Further I think that the best thing she could do for her literary development is get out of town, perhaps into a MFA program in creative writing at a major university.

This books belongs in just about every public libraries and for a number of reasons would be interest to academics working in both English, Women's Studies and literary theory, and of course to the general reader. For me the bittersweet and honest pleasure of the text is what I like most about the collection also like what I would call a counter intentional honesty that emerged in some of the author's best poems in which she says the most by saying the least.

Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism
Vincent B. Leitch, ed.
W.W. Norton & Co.
ISBN: 0393974294, $80.00, 2400 pp.

This was one of the optional text I purchased for a graduate course I took in Critical theory the from University of Wisconsin Eau Claire English Department and I must say it is an essential tool for any one planning to work in English language or cultural studies. It covers 2400 year period from Golden Age of Athens through classical period right up to the present and past postmodernism and of course its critics.

If Austrian born Cambridge based Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (1889-1951), perhaps the most significant linguistic philosopher of the Twentieth Century is correct. That is to say words are primarily tools then Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism is a massive and highly organized conceptual toolbox. A toolbox that contains essential tools for any critic who seeks to speak, that is to say write with clarity and conciseness and without creating logical contradiction in terms within their work. Of course as we all know criticism is much more than that but time and space and life is limited. Therefore if some else has invented the wheel maybe you might want to put your efforts elsewhere, and perhaps work on something else, like cold fusion perhaps. I think that will be all for this month, perhaps next month I will post one of my papers where I make extensive use of the powerful tool as I continue my J.R.R. Tolkien projects.

Philip Kaveny
Senior Reviewer

Klausner's Bookshelf

The Hell You Say
Josh Lanyon
ISBN: 0595385125, $15.95

In Los Angeles Cloak and Dagger bookstore owner Adrien English worries about his clerk Angus, who has been receiving satanic threats over the phone. Feeling generous with Christmas coming and wanting the "Crank calls from the crypt" to stop, he gives Angus eight hundred dollars to leave town with his girlfriend Wanda for awhile. Adrien's in the closet lover LAPD Jake Riordan is mortified that he sent Angus out of town as he wants to ask the clerk what he knows about cults as he investigates ritual homicides. Meanwhile at a book signing at the Cloak and Dagger, author Gabe Savant announces he is researching a cult that he plans to expose in his next book. Adrien assumes this is a dumb publicity stunt. Instead he decides to follow up on who is threatening Angus. Since his clerk is also a teaching assistant at UCLA Adrien visits Angus' employer dynamic Professor Snowden. As the separate threads tie together into A DANGEROUS THING, Adrien realizes all hell has broken out with him as the focal point of unknown FATAL SHADOWS. The third English amateur sleuth tale, THE HELL YOU SAY, combines humor, satanic cults, and a realistic gay relationship into a superb mystery that will have newcomers (like this reviewer) needing to obtain the previous bookstore owner's escapades. Though this is the likable Adrien's show, Jake in many ways steals the plot as he hides his sexual preference from his blue knight peers while ripping the skin off of his lover for enabling Angus to leave town. Great characterizations especially Adrien's about to marry self-centered mom who totally accepts her son being gay and the handsome witty professor inside a fast-paced well written story line make for a fantastic tale.

Disco for the Departed
Colin Cotterill
ISBN: 1569474281, $23.00

In 1977 in the People's Democratic Republic of Laos, seventy-three years old National Coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun accompanied by Nurse Dtui leave Vientiane on an educational trek in the isolated mountainous region. However, upon arrival at Vieng Xai, Siri and Dtui are escorted to a cave where the current Communist President of the country resided before a coup brought him into power. Inside is an arm sticking out of a cement block. At Kilometer 8 Hospital, a Castro loaner Cuban Dr. Santiago meets Siri and Dtui; in between explaining what he knows about the victim, the Cuban and the nurse with the Coroner as the depressed referee battle in a contest of wits and words for whom is the Communist champion killjoy. As the trio uncovers clues, the case takes strange spins with sacrificial rituals covered by official red tape making it difficult to follow leads that Siri obtains with his eerie talent of discussing the investigation with the dead to the backdrop of even weirder western disco music. The third Paiboun coroner's investigation is a superb look at late 1970s Laos where ancient Buddhist rituals and bureaucratic Communist rituals sit side by side. The story line is action-packed, but the cast make the historical whodunit a treat. Besides the terrific lead trio, the support characters add depth to the feel that the audience is in deed in a remote part of Laos just after the Viet Nam War ended. Fans who appreciate something different in their police procedurals will want to read the intelligent DISCO FOR THE DEPARTED and its two previous tales (see THE CORONER'S LUNCH and THIRTY-THREE TEETH).

Scent of Roses
Kat Martin
ISBN: 0778323269, $7.99

Following a difficult divorce family counselor Elizabeth Conner returns home to San Pico California. She begins her new practice working with youth. Client Raul enters a nearby drug rehabilitation program at the Harcourt Farm, but asks Elizabeth and instructor Zack Harcourt to see if his sister, Maria Santiago is okay as she suffers nightmares and fears for her unborn, but her spouse Miguel assumes is runaway hormones. Zack especially promises to help Maria. Elizabeth immediately sees the antipathy shared by Zack and his brother Carson, who runs the family farm, towards one another. Whereas Carson is all charm, Zack is dark and aloof perhaps because of his time in prison for the DUI vehicular accident that crippled their dad. Still he is empathic towards her concerns that something is wrong with the house that Maria resides in as if the place is haunted by a sad spirit. As Zack and Maria work together to solve the mystery of the ghostly girl visitor, they fall in love, but the ghostly investigation leads back to Zack's DUI and the disappearance of a nomadic loner Jake Benson four years ago. Based loosely on the reported story of a young female ghost haunting the home of a Hispanic couple in San Joaquin Valley, SCENT OF ROSES is a terrific paranormal romantic suspense thriller. The lead pairing make the tale extremely entertaining as the investigation by Zack and Elizabeth take them into the realm of the supernatural on the one hand and into the lethal natural past on the other hand. The lead couple each is flawed from their recent history; she from her divorce and he from the DUI that crippled his dad. Filled with twists that will surprise and delight fans, Kat Martin provides a great amateur sleuth tale.

The Venus Fix
M.J. Rose
ISBN: 077832317X, $6.99

Manhattan sex therapist psychiatrist Dr. Morgan Snow of the Butterfield Institute has had some strange clients in her practice (see THE DELILAH COMPLEX and THE HALO EFFECT), but her newest patient may be the oddest ever. He refuses to divulge his name or his occupation so they agree on calling him Bob; he insists he must remain anonymous as his career and that of his wife would tank if it got out that he is addicted to Internet pornography. She also is counseling several high school students, both genders, with web porn site desires. Morgan's on and off boyfriend NYPD Detective Noah Jordain investigates two killings of Internet fantasy females in which the killer shows the homicide live via the woman's Web camera. Morgan thinks the murders are connected to her practice and resolutely tries to find that link while Noah tells her to stay out of it. The third Snow tale once again cleverly blends her sex therapy practice with a police investigation. The key to this series is Morgan who has a sort of blase attitude about sex and murder, which frustrates her former spouse and her current lover. Though the "Son of Sam" style disturbing notes from the killer seems a literary requirement that only slows down the for the most part fast-paced action, fans of psychological suspense will appreciate this chilling thriller.

Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander: a Bisexual Regency Romance
Ann Herendeen
ISBN: 1420869639, $14.50

In 1812 London, as a future earl Andrew Carrington knows he must begat the heir and the spare; thus he must find an appropriate wife who will not be upset with his dalliances as his sexual preference is males. He thinks he found the perfect spousal breeder in impoverished romance author Phyllida Lewis, who he admires and believes he might love. Andrew deems life is good when on top of meeting and marrying the understanding Phyllida, he makes the acquaintance of baronet heir Matthew Thornby. Andrew's perfect world splinters when a blackmailer tries to extort money from him. Worse someone molests his charming Phyllida, but forces her silence with the threat to expose her husband. Though she hides the truth, Andrew learns what happened to her. Feeling like a loser, Andrew wonders what he can do to protect his beloved wife and his cherished lover from harm. This fabulous erotic Regency romance stars three likable fully developed individuals with diverse personalities who bring a different look at the usual locales and suspects that frequent sub-genre novels. The story line is fast-paced as the audience knows from the title that Andrew is atypical of the normal historical romantic novel hero. His relationships with Phyllida and Matthew are beautifully portrayed and his feelings of inadequacy are caused because he cherishes and loves both of them. Humorous and satirical as Ann Herendeen skewers the ethics of the Ton (and by implication modern day American hypocritical claims of morality) PHYLLIDA AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF PHILANDER is a superbly written bisexual regency romance.

The Other Woman
Jane Green
ISBN: 0452287146, $14.00

Ellie knows she has found the right man for her as she falls in love with kindhearted Dan Cooper and he reciprocates. She welcomes the warmth extended by his family welcoming her as one of them with hugs and kisses having missed that since her mother passed away when she was thirteen. However, Ellie is unprepared for how far Dan's mother Linda is willing to go to get her way though she rationalizes that she does things out of love for her son. Engaged, her future mother-in-law telephones her three times a day at her job where personal calls are unacceptable. Linda takes charge of the wedding ignoring Ellie's desires; her fiance's dad Michael is indifferent while Dan tells his fiance to go along to get along. After their marriage, the woman continues to meddle trying to get her son and daughter in law into fights though she claims it is for their good. When Ellie gives birth to a son Tom, grandmother no longer has need for her as she now has two generations of "gorgeous boys" to nurture while slowly extracting the woman who should be the center not on the peripheral of their lives. This is an interesting look at a newcomer joining a family (through marriage) that initially reminded this reviewer of While You Were Sleeping. However readers will lose empathy towards Ellie who makes little effort to adapt to her new milieu, dislike meddlesome Linda, and disrespect Dan and Michael. Still this is a strong family drama that showcases group dynamics and interrelationships as few novels do when change occurs in this case the outsider joining the close knit team.

Charles J. Shields
ISBN: 080507919X, $25.00

One of the great mysteries of literature is why has Harper Lee never published a second novel after releasing the classic To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960. Though Charles J. Shields provides an interesting look at the author's early years especially her work with Truman Capote in the 1950s that parallel what the recent film claimed as well as the success that the novel brought, he fails to obtain the answer to the key question why not a second book. Still this is a well written fascinating biography that fans of works on great writers (does one extraordinary season make you a Hall of Famer?) will enjoy MOCKINGBIRD, buts also feel a bit let down as the fundamental Lee question remains unanswered as if Ms. Lee "mocks" her biographer by forcing him to use anecdotal evidence to explain the unpublished recluse of the past four decades.

Anonymous Lawyer
Jeremy Blackman
ISBN: 0805079815, $25.00, 320 pp.

He chooses to remain the Anonymous Lawyer because if his identity was known, he would be out of a job. He is a high powered attorney with a lot of seniority in his firm and he doesn't want to jeopardize it. In his blog he tells how the partners treat the summer interns nicely so when they finish law school they will want to return to as associate lawyers. The associates are treated like garbage but suck it up because they hope one day to make partner. His goal is to become chairman but he is in competition with The Jerk, who has no ethics about power or seniority. The Anonymous Lawyer is a narcissistic person and the only person he is interested in is himself. Sometimes he e-mails his anonymous niece who knows about the blog and encourages him. He has no interest in his wife or his two children. All he wants is to beat The Jerk especially when the old chairman dies. Someone who knows him from the firm is willing to help if that person is made partner. None of the characters in Anonymous Lawyer are nice, especially the narrator, as they all want to get ahead and don't care who they step on to do so. The blog writer is nasty just for the fun of it and readers will loathe him because he is a crooked hard-hearted individual. The audience sees what goes on behind the scenes at a law firm and some of the scenes are hilarious while others are disgusting. Jeremy Blackman has written a unique fascinating work with all the characters trying to protect the guilty.

Red Leaves
Thomas H. Cook
ISBN: 0156032341, $14.00

In the burbs, Eric and Meredith Moore seem to live a happy life together raising their son Keith now a teenager. Neighbors Vincent and Karen Giordano are taking visiting family out so they ask Keith to baby-sit their eight year old daughter Amy, which he agrees to do. These are normal events in a quiet suburban setting. However, the next morning Eric learns that Amy is missing. The police suspect Keith of foul play. Eric and Meredith insist their son is a good kid and would never harm Amy yet deep down in his gut he at least agrees with the prevailing community opinion that Keith committed an atrocity especially as the days pass, the posters fade, and his son seems different. Eric ponders DNA as his father left the family nearly bankrupt; his brother is an alcoholic; his sister is dead from a brain tumor; and finally his mother is suicidal. He begins to look deeper at Meredith wondering if her tree augments the worst from his with the culmination being they raised a teen killer. RED LEAVES is more of a family drama than a typical thriller as the audience observes the emotional deterioration of Eric over the course of the story line. While readers will wonder what happened to Amy, Eric's darkening look at his family members make the tale as his shell of middle class trust in what he loves erodes away with every gloomy thought he makes. Thomas H. Cook writes a deep dark tale with a finale that will stun readers as behind every so called perfect family lies hidden skeletons that can consume those concealing the truth from themselves and others.

Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity
Rebecca Goldstein
ISBN: 0805242090, $19.95

The "Jewish Encounters" series looks into the philosophers and their topics that forged the foundation of the modern Jewish culture (see MAIMONIDES by Sherwin B. Nuland and THE LIFE OF DAVID by Robert Pinsky). Thus Spinoza on the surface seems an odd choice as Rebecca Goldstein intelligently opens her biography of the great seventeenth century philosopher with the paradox "By what right is Benedictus Spinoza included in this series, devoted as it is to Jewish themes and thinkers?" considering he rejected the so-called "Jewish Identity" espoused by the religious leaders of Amsterdam in the mid seventeenth century. Spinoza's thoughts led to his being excommunicated by the time he was twenty-three. Ms. Goldstein explores that question and much more as she digs deep into what motivated Spinoza to develop a complex secular system that has led too much of the scientific advancement of the last two and a half centuries. Ms. Goldstein makes a strong argument that much of Spinoza's philosophy comes from his childhood community consisting of Jews who had fled the Iberian Peninsular Inquisition. This led him to believe that pure reason is the underlying universal theme of humanity and from there he attempted to live a secular lifestyle. Ms. Goldstein makes a strong case that his writings led to much of the religious tolerance that America has enjoyed from the start and even impacting the quantum physics theorists of today. This is a great work that makes the case that if Spinoza was alive to day he would be the subject of a media blitz to destroy his credibility as he would be public enemy number one of the intelligent design crowd because he would ask by whom?

47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers
Troy Cook
P.O. Box 272904, Ft. Collins, CO 80525
ISBN: 0977627677, $14.95

In the Florida Panhandle, when Tara Evans was nine years old her mother died doing the family business and her daddy Wyatt, believing in the maxim of take your daughter to work, had her accompany him on his job, robbing a bank. She became his apprentice learning on the job while studying the bank robber's handbook 47 RULES OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE BANK ROBBERS and its related self-help tapes. Fourteen years later Tara is a consummate professional ad a most wanted bank robber. Recently, Tara has begun to wonder if a life of crime is fulfilling as she has no friends, no home, and no nothing. Her dad seems more psychotic than ever as he has recently broken a key rule not to shoot the innocent. Tara ponders whether she needs a new career, but agrees to do one last job with "don't call me" daddy robbing a bank in remote rural Arizona until Tara meets Max Williams, the son of the sheriff. They are immediately attracted to one anpther with Tara pleading with Wyatt to forego this job, but he refuses while FBI Agents Dawkins and Stratton, his former partners Pete and Bull, and Sheriff Williams want the father-daughter team incarcerated. Tara decides to take this job and shove it, as she and Max flee together from everyone. This is obviously a zany humorous dark crime caper that will have the audience laughing at the Keystone Kops antics of the cast. The story line is fast-paced but filled with an eccentric cast that brings mania to the mix. Though Wyatt is clearly a psychopath, fans of comedic wacko crime tales will want to join the madcap 47 RULES OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE BANK ROBBERS as Troy Cook provides a delightful concoction.

Havana Black
Leonardo Padura
Bitter Lemon
ISBN: 1904738152, $14.95

Havana Police Lieutenant Mario Conde just wants to do the right thing on the job though the Party makes that difficult. However, he is irate and bitter over the forced replacement of his professional supervisor by a party hack; he deems the job is not worth the political correctness that previously was overwhelming, but now is impossible to navigate without connections. This Conde decides to join many other professionals by hiding behind rum and cigarettes, preferably imported from another Caribbean island or the States. However, a fascinating case comes his way so he agrees to put aside the rum, but not the cigarettes to investigate the homicide of a former minister whose job was to seize pre-revolutionary art. The victim was castrated before he had his head smashed to smithereens. Besides the violence, Conde wonders why someone living safely in a relatively luxurious lifestyle in Florida would return to Cuba where he had many enemies. Conde assumes if he can learn that he can figure out the motivation and consequently identify the culprit though a Communist hack accompanies him to insure he investigates in accordance with State policy as the unwritten ones arehe most dangerous all before a hurricane hits. HAVANA BLACK, the sequel to the superb HAVANA RED, is an excellent Cuban police procedural that provides readers with a terrific investigation while guiding the audience around Havana three decades after the Communist revolution. The case is top rate as it provides insight into the Florida exile community, the impoverish masses left behind on the island, and the Party hacks. Few writers can paint a picture of optimism and pessimism with the same stroke as Leonard Padura does through his hero. The Two colorful Havana tales are winners worth reading unless you are an exile or a Fidel-phile.

Tonino Benacquista
Bitter Lemon
ISBN: 1904738168, $14.95

In Paris, Antoine Andrieux's passion is playing billiards; he loves the strategy needed to be victorious in the game and plays every evening at the top parlors. To afford his nightly habit, Antoine hangs paintings especially for special showings at the most exclusive galleries in the city. His patrons consider him an artist of sorts; so does his billiards rivals. Currently he is working on a retrospective of the abstractionist Etienne Morand, who always used black except for his last known work, Attempt 30, which is golden yellow. The day after the opening, Antoine arrives at the gallery to make subtle corrections to the display only to find someone in attendance vandalizing a painting. Antoine tries to stop the intruder, but his adversary topples a sculpture destroying his hand and ultimately his sense of worth as he can no longer hang painting and emotionally worse play billiards. Vowing to find his enemy and take appropriate revenge, Antoine begins an investigation only to find the refine art world is outside his understanding even as he becomes FRAMED as the prime suspect in a homicide. On the surface this translation of a French Noir uses typical throwaway gimmicks like phone tips, but those actually serve as satirical devices that enhance this dark amusing crime caper by comparing felonies (including murder) to artistry. Antoine is a terrific protagonist whose obsession with billiards becomes a compassionate fixation to avenge all that he lost by being a loyal employee. Through his works the obscure Morand comes to life leading even deeper into the delightful comedic comparison between art and crime. HOLY SMOKE, Tonino Benacquista artistically paints a humorous winner.

The Janissary Tree
Jason Goodwin
ISBN: 0374178607, $25.00

In 1836 the Seraskier Commander of the New Guard asks eunuch Inspector Yashim Togalu to unobtrusively investigate the unexplained disappearance of four soldiers just prior to the Sultan's edict to modernize the Ottoman Empire. The Seraskier insists that Yashim must solve the case before the Sultan's modernization proclamation ten days away. Yashim calmly begins his inquiries, but soon finds corpses and more questions. As he begins to connect the dots with the help of Polish ambassador Palieski and transvestite dancer Preen, Yashim concludes that the corrupt elite mystical Janissaries, eradicated a decade ago by the New Guard, plan a coup d'etat. Once the Ottoman Empires beloved protectors, they had become terrorists until their elimination, but now they are ready to go further than they did prior to the 1826 devastation unless Yashim can prevent assassination and civil war. Though Yashim is not fully developed beyond a few hints and his sleuthing skills, readers will greatly appreciate this vivid nineteenth century Ottoman Empire mystery. The sense of locale is incredible as the audience will feel that Jason Goodwin transported us back to 1836 at a time when Europe is modernizing and the Sultan must do likewise or risk the decline of the empire. Historical mystery fans who enjoy exotic locations will want to read the delightfully descriptive THE JANISSARY TREE.

Ursula's Maiden Army
Philip Griffin
Beagle Bay
ISBN: 0974961019, $14.95

In the fifth century, when the Roman-Britannia men leave their island home to fight on the continent defending the Roman Empire, their women and children seem like easy pickings for the other residents of Britannia. Knowing that the Picts, Hibernians and Saxons will at a minimum plunder, but more likely rape and kill, Princess Ursula knows she must lead the left behind with boldness. Her plan is to raise an army of women to defend their people. Enlisting her best friends Pinnosa, Brittola, Cordula, Martha and Saula to assist her, they establish an all female military that effectively defeats their adversarial neighbors in combat. When their men fail to return home as expected, Ursula and her inner circle believe most are dead as Rome is falling to the barbarians. They need a new plan that provides them with male allies and mates. Ursula leads her eleven thousand all female army onto the continent heading to Germania for an unheard of marriage of two giant forces. However, instead of reaching their wedding destination, URSULA'S MAIDEN ARMY battles the Huns knowing that of they lose, death would be the most comfortable fate. This is a terrific fifth century historical fiction based on the limited knowledge (more legend than factual) of Saint Ursula the martyr of Cologne, Germany. The action-packed story line brings alive the era through the eyes of the sextet of females, which Philip Griffin shows his writing skills by making each of the six contain different personalities. Fans of ancient era thrillers will appreciate this rendering of a legendary courageous warrior woman and her army of fighting females.

The Minerva Virus
Brian Shuster
Night Candy
ISBN: 0970365225, $24.95

He announced last year to his hacking peers that he had an IDEA for a supervirus like none ever seen hit the Internet. Over the next 365 days, Jupiter works on Project Minerva and now feeling more like Zeus as he launches his Goddess on a suspecting world. In San Jose First Bit Protection computer-virus security expert Quinton Grant and the President's daughter biochemist Stephanie Daniels realize separately that the latest supervirus Minerva is more powerful than even MyDoom and doing something never seen before. It is changing into something else. If the evolution continues, Minerva will affirm Darwin's survival of the fittest theory as an independent sentient Internet essence that could devastate the information age and send humanity back into CHAOS. Minerva lives simultaneously in every computer in the world. She controls anything that depends on computer technology. As leaders become frightened over their loss of power, Minerva vows to serve all of mankind. While Quinton and Stephanie team up to prevent Minerva from succeeding others try to kill the courageous pair. THE MINERVA VIRUS is a great hi tech thriller that grips the audience from Jupiter's first email and accelerates from there as Minerva evolves while opponents rally to stop her and others to protect her (as always the world is divided between the haves and have-nots). The lead human couple is a fascinating pairing of brilliant people as Quinton works anti-virus remedies and Stephanie conducts research into artificial intelligence; each admire the creation and have doubts about stopping Minerva, who may be just the thing for the better good of all humanity though they also fear Lord Action's warning that "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely"; Minerva is absolute power.

Sabrina's Destiny
Selena Robins
Treble Heart
ISBN: 1931742189, $12.95

Sabrina Monroe inherits her family's Maple Inn in Vermont, but has found the work difficult but rewarding in spite of her financial concerns. Her customers are interesting bunch of eccentric characters, but Lucinda of "sole" repairing takes the halo with her magical ability to fix dead cars and her leaving behind a book that she insists is a loaner aptly named SABRINA'S DESTINY. Colonial Golf-Resort businessman Jason O'Neill wants to buy Sabrina's property to build a resort there. However, upon arrival she thinks he is a handyman in spite of his Mustang and puts him to work when he fails to correct her mistake as he figures he can find a way to bring the price down. Though he is under tooled and not handy at least with repairs, they fall in love healing their hearts and souls, but each has issues with an emotion neither trusts. Her former fiance Rodney used her to further his career and covets her inheritance while he was hurt badly by his one so called lasting relationship Chloe. He knows he must tell her the truth, but fears her reaction. SABRINA'S DESTINY is a terrific whimsical paranormal romance starring two wonderful skeptics struggling not to fall in love in spite of their mutual destiny. The support cast is an eccentric delightful group especially Lucinda the angelic matchmaker. Readers will enjoy this fine romantic fantasy and hope Lucy has more destinies in store for Selena Robins' appreciative fans.

Tara Moss
ISBN: 0843956437, $6.99

She appears to have gotten her life together, working as a model to pay for her Masters in Forensic Psychology at the University of Vancouver, but Makedde Vanderwall has never gotten over being kidnapped by the Stiletto Slasher in Australia. She knows she was lucky to have escaped thanks to the last minute rescue by her lover Detective Andrew Flynn. However, unable to cope with the near tragedy, she returned to her Vancouver home wanting nothing to do with her lover, who saw her at her most vulnerable. A year later Makedde is unable to sleep and when she does snooze she suffers horrific nightmares. She has not been with a man since she left Andy, but campus security guard Roy Blake persuades her to step out with him a few times. Andy comes to the school to attend a symposium and to help the locals with a serial killer case in which college students are the victims. Makedde realizes she remains vulnerable with Andy and decides to avoid him and see Roy, but their paths will soon cross as she is the next target. The heroine is a spunky, assertive person who readers will care about as she tries to get over the trauma that still haunts her. Warm and caring Andy, who still loves her, seems too passive when it comes to persuading his beloved that they belong together so they never come across as a pair. Tara Moss creates a terrific protagonist starring in a suspenseful well written story line with a shocking and unforgettable climax.

A Texan's Honor
Leigh Greenwood
ISBN: 0843956844, $6.99

In 1881 Bret Nolan left Texas over six years ago to work in his family's shipping firm Abbott & Abercrombie in Boston. He enjoys the eastern big city, but at times misses the wide open spaces of back home. His odious Uncle Silas Abbott who treats Bret with contempt for being a Texan assigns him with a key task. Apparently, dying Samuel Abercrombie, who lives in Texas, inherited twenty-five per cent of the company's stock last year; he wants his daughter to move to Boston. Silas and his partner Samuel's brother Ezra order Bret to escort his niece Emily to Boston so she does not marry some wild cowboy. Bret agrees as it gives him a reason to return to Texas even for a short respite before returning to Massachusetts. In Texas, Bret realizes how much Emily enjoys her ranch, but still they agree for her to see her father. However, Bret, who admires the courageous young woman, worries about her safety when he learns someone is rustling her cattle. He asks his two brothers to help stop the thieves while he hopes to prove to Emily how much he loves her. A TEXAN'S HONOR is a delightful Texas historical romance starring two likable protagonists who to the readers' pleasure and to the chagrin of Uncles Silas and Ezra (clever first names for this avarice pair) fall in love. The story line is fast-paced and filled with Cowboy- style action. However it is the cast that brings late nineteenth century Western cattle country Texas vividly to life, a trademark of a Leigh Greenwood westerner.

Hawk's Pledge
Constance O'Banyon
ISBN: 0843956356, $6.99

In 1866 Texas, despondent Whit Hawk gives up at least for now his quest to find his father and returns to the orphanage where he and his sisters and brother grew up. To his shock the place has been burned to the ground; he learns that his brother Drew still lives and searches for him, but his other siblings are probably dead. Whit begins a search for Drew, which take the depressed man to Jacqueline "Jackie" Douglas' ranch. While his horse heals from a leg injury, Whit helps Jackie with her spread. However, he learns her ranch is up for bid so he decides to use his card playing skills to earn the money to win the place at auction. He does to the ire of Jackie until he tells her he loves her and gives her outright ownership of half the spread. HAWK'S PLEDGE is a well written western romance with a mystery subplot (what happened to his parents and siblings) that starts off slowly setting the theme for this tale and the subsequent other miniseries titles. Once the background is established and Whit and Jackie are clearly attracted to one another, Constance O'Banyon's fine Reconstruction Era Texas tale accelerates into hyperspeed. The likable lead couple makes for a fine pairing as he has a quest to complete, which means he must choose between his love of Jackie or that of his "living" sibling.

The Crimes of Jordan Wise
Bill Pronzini
ISBN: 0802714935, $24.00

In a bar in the Virgins Islands, the only two customers begin talking to one another. Richard Laidlaw informs writer John Talley that he has committed three perfect crimes in his life. Over rum he tells his tale that led to his committing murder. Almost three decades ago when his name was different (Jordan Wise) and he was a simple quiet accountant he met Annalise Bonner, who could launch ten thousand ships with a smile. He fell in love, but she at best found him mildly attractive. He admits he obsessed over her and decided the key to her heart is money so he extorted $602,496 from his firm, his first perfect crime. That description of his first felony is followed up by two bloody images as he explains the motives behind perfect two and three that no one but he will have Annalise. Finally a drunk and stunned Talley asks Wise why he is confessing now and to him? Richard responds with the truth. THE CRIMES OF JORDAN WISE is a fabulous Noir starring two strangers with the drunken writer somewhat sobering up as he hears the tale of his compatriot, a self proclaimed killer. Readers will like John become horrified and fascinated with Jordan's "confession" and wonder why tell now. In his umpteenth novel, Bill Pronzini shows why he is consistently been considered one of the best mystery writers of the last two decades.

Heidi Pitlor
ISBN: 0393061272, $23.95

The Miller family is meeting on a Maine barrier island to spend time together while celebrating the seventy-fifth birthday of Joe, the patriarch. There is plenty of excitement as this gathering is the first in four years and the daughter and the two wives of the sons are pregnant each expecting their first child. However, not all is great in Mudville. Daniel has been wheelchair bound since a cycling accident left him a paraplegic; he is unable to cope with the fact that his spouse had to be artificially inseminated with the sperm of some Midwestern hunk instead of by him. In spite of being the most successful of the siblings, at least financially, Jake feels inferior; his wife is carrying twins following fertility treatment and he has lost all interest in her as a person especially as his sex partner. Hilary has no idea who the father of the fetus she carries might be and does not care. This is a terrific family drama starring a strong ensemble cast in which the seven key players bring differing personalities to the table as they each discuss parenthood, their trepidations, and their lives. The key to this powerful tale is that Heidi Pitlor insures each individual has a unique personality that remains consistent throughout the beguiling plot. Fans who enjoy a deep look at relationships including how children radically change the interactions of their parents will want to read Ms. Pitlor's strong novel.

5 Minutes and 42 Seconds
T.J. Williams
Harper Collins
ISBN: 0060837683, $14.95

The Douglass brood is trained to dispose illegal drugs and wads of cash in 5 Minutes and 42 Seconds from the time the trumpet sounds warning them the Feds are coming. The family members are precise and never fail to carry out the assignment in such a way that the military would be proud. This ability to destroy the evidence in a timely manner has enabled the patriarch Fashad to maintain his position of drug lord though he has many law enforcement people wanting to lock him away and rivals wanting to take over his lucrative trade. However, there has been a subtle change in relationships within the family. Fashad's wife Cameisha is angry with her husband whom she feels is cheating on her with an unknown younger woman. She decides when the next drill occurs to abscond with the loot and leave the drugs for the cops to find. Fashad's right hand man Smokey also has plans to eliminate his boss, whom took him sexually as a teen though he currently dates Fashad's daughter Dream. When the trumpet blows Fashad finds himself left behind to face the law with only his lover Xander trying to protect him and he has an agenda too as he sets in motion a plan to eliminate Cameisha as the drugpin's significant other. This is an intriguing crime caper in which the participants plan double and triple crosses using the law and human foibles as tools to achieve their objective. The characters are avaricious and nasty using love as a rationale for their actions. Fashad is a fascinating mix as readers and his wife will be shocked by who his lover is though the hints are obvious from Smokey's reactions towards the drug king. Fans of wild character driven crime thrillers like Get Shorty will appreciate 5 MINUTES and 42 SECONDS.

Diary of an Ugly Duckling
Karyn Langhorne
Harper Torch
ISBN: 0060847557, $6.99

Corrections Officer Audra Marks is ashamed that she is fat and ugly. She hides her feelings of inadequacy from friends and her family with an upbeat humorous front using her knowledge of classic movies as a tool to further hide her insecurities. Her peers at the facility think she is the toughest sister on the cell block, but she knows better. The new brother to join the staff is hunk Art Bradshaw who Audra believes is her soulmate as he is an old film buff. However at a birthday party he invites her to attend, she is humiliated when she realizes he asked her to a teen party and only as an example to the birthday girl, his six foot muscular daughter Penny, of the importance of a positive friendly personality. Vowing to rid herself of her fat and ugliness, she applies and is accepted on the reality makeover TV show The Ugly Duckling whose perfect young producer Shamiyah Thomas must have come from hell. As Audra changes from an ugly duckling into a gorgeous swan, her mom, niece, Art and Penny are disappointed because the essence of Audra vanishes. Combining the Ugly Duckling fairy tale with the reality show The Swan, Karyn Langhorne provides a strong contemporary tale that emphasizes the importance of self confidence in remaining true to one's nature. Audra is the straw that stirs the story line with her efforts to become pretty and her doubts via letters to her sister serving with the military in Iraq (nice touch). The support cast, especially her mother, her niece, Art and Penny augment a terrific tale that reverberates throughout to "respect yourself" and frankly don't give a damn what others think about you.

The Trial of True Love
William Nicholson
ISBN: 0385516258, $18.95

In 1977 Anna kicks out her former boyfriend thirty years old John "Bron" Dearborn from her London flat. With no place to stay he moves to the country to live in the home of his friend Bernard. While rusticating, Bron decides to write a book about true love, using the real life of renowned French postimpressionist artist Paul Marotte as his case study to prove its' existence; the painter fell in love at first sight with the woman who became his muse, English governess Kate Summer. To his shock, Bron falls in love with Bernard's cousin, Flora, but when he confesses how he feels to her; Flora Freeman flees for the continent. He follows her to Amsterdam where he meets art dealer Freddy Christiansen, owner of some of Marotte letters and paintings and a friend of Flora. Freddy offers to help Bron win Flora's heart because of their mutual regard for Marotte. This novel is an intriguing look at true love through the quest of Bron to find such. He chooses legendary couples predominately Marotte and Summer though clever references to other renowned couples like Bacall and Bogart show up to add spice to the tale. Though the ending seems too schmaltzy and simplistic for the complex THE TRIAL OF TRUE LOVE, the delightful somewhat naive Bron and his co-conspirator Freddy make for a fine look into whether true love exists and if it does how and when will you know?

A Girl's Best Friend
Kristin Billerbeck
ISBN: 1591453291, $13.99

In San Francisco following two broken engagements and reaching her senior citizenship of being thirty, jewelry designer and heiress Morgan Malliard is upset as nothing passionate has ever happened to her; life seems to be passing her by at least that is how she feels. She wants to taste "real life" without the use of her daddy's credit card. Her best friends fellow Spa Del Mar "Spa Girls" fashion designer Lilly Jacobs and chiropractor Dr. Poppy Clayton bet Morgan that she cannot survive without a car, no credit cards, a pittance of money, and three pairs of shoes. Except for the shoes Morgan assumes this will be a snap that until Morgan learns that someone consuming money may have to go to jail because Daddy is under IRS scrutiny for tax evasion; Morgan is perfect to take the fall as daddy has to earn money to pay for her lawyers. Morgan insists she does not look good in prison striped jumpsuit, but the Feds do not care about her argument. Like the previous Spa Girl tale (see SHE'S ALL THAT) this is a superb inspirational chick lit tale because of the elan for life the three amigas show. This time the plot centers on Morgan's woes and how she confronts them with the help of her Spa Girl buds by discovering the inner strength of her soul. The courageous Morgan and her dad make terrible decisions that they must live with.

Disraeli: The Victorian Dandy Who Became Prime Minister
Christopher Hibbert
ISBN: 1403972702, $29.95

If anyone should never have made it to the elite of Victorian England's political power that person was Benjamin Disraeli. That is the premise of Christopher Hibbert's superb biography of the late nineteenth century prime minister. Everything about Disraeli marked him as an outsider who should have remained in the ooze below the political food chain. He was from a Jewish middle class ancestry yet somehow he became Queen Victoria's favorite politician as his ability to spellbind the House of Commons with his oratory skills and his overall strategic brilliance made him a force though also a cynical idealist. This is a fantastic biography of an individual that brings to life one of key figures of the latter half of the nineteenth century as well as a feel for the period. Though born in 18804 (died in 1881), the emphasis is on his political career, which brings out the traits of a complicated person in vivid detail. This is must reading for biography fans as Mr. Hibbert brings Disraeli and late Victorian England to life.

A Country Affair
Rebecca Shaw
Three Rivers
ISBN: 1400098203, $12.95

Reticent Kate Howard arrives in the rural Yorkshire hills to work as a receptionist at the Barleybridge Veterinary Hospital that has a vast menagerie of clients ranging from pets to farm animals. The workforce and most of the customers are friendly to the newcomer. Especially nice and encouraging is another outsider Australian veterinarian Scott Spencer, who pushes her to become a vet too though her one attempt at the test was disastrous. Kate is attracted to her handsome mentor, but is wise enough to know she is out of his league. While Scott encourages her to try again, Kate's boyfriend Adam ridicules her dreams and aspirations saying she proven she can't make it. Kate has decisions personal and professional to make turning to her kindhearted boss Joy, who can commiserate as she too furtively love one of the vets. A COUNTRY AFFAIR, the first of the Barleybridge trilogy (COUNTRY WIVES AND COUNTRY LOVERS are to be released in America later), is a terrific amusing inspirational character study. Kate and Joy are the stars as they make decisions on what they want out of life. The support cast is solid and somewhat eccentric whether they are pet owners, other vet employees or the lead duo's family. Fans will appreciate this upbeat insightful look at two women making the best of a good life in a small English village.

The Whole World Over
Julia Glass
ISBN: 0375422749, $25.95

In Manhattan's West Village, Greenie Duquette runs a local basement bakery that provides pastries to neighborhood restaurants, Her close friend renowned restaurateur Walter, in between falling in love again, obtains Greenie a position as the pastry chef to the to the New Mexico governor. To the shock of her spouse, psychiatrist Dr. Alan Glazier, she accepts the position when it is offered to her. Greenie leaves Alan in New York and accompanied by their four-year-old son George travels to the Land of Enchantment. Meanwhile their nearly collapsed marriage is further deteriorated when gay bookseller Fenno McLeod, thirtyish amnesiac Saga, and her Uncle Marsden make demands especially on Alan who wonders why everyone demands his time except the woman he wishes would demand his time. This is a complex family drama in which Alan begins to learn what matters in life as he misses his family even as the demands on his time expand to somewhat fill the void. The cast is powerful and genuine while the estranged lead couple struggle thousands of miles apart over a year deciding what they want from life and each other culminating with the collapse of the Towers symbolizing everything to them. Readers will take immense delight with Julia Glass's strong insightful look at people stressed by life and not appreciating what they have.

Bring It On
Laura Anne Gilman
ISBN: 0373802404, $14.95, 304 pp.

Wren Valerie is a Retrieval Artist (some might call her a thief) who is a Talent using a charge of power, many times electrical in nature to use her magic. Her latest case involves Anna Rosen, a Null (a human with no talent) who wants Wren to retrieve a piece of jewelry that is in her stepmother's possession even though it belonged to Anna's mother. She accepts the job without letting her Null business partner and lover Sergei Didier as a way of asserting her independence. Wren's attention is wrenched away from the job when it looks like the different factions in Manhattan are going to battle. The fatae (magical sentient creatures once though to belong only in fantasy or children's books) are the victim of human hate crimes, lonejacks, independent operators like Wren are disappearing and the fatae doesn't want to join forces with the lonejacks who have ignored them in the past. All factions think the Mage Council is behind the vigilante assaults, the disappearances and the forcible attempts to bring the lonejacks to heel. Wren proposes an alliance between the fatae and the lonejacks and is spearheading the unification believing they must to stand together to survive whatever the Council is planning. The latest Reviewer novel is an action-packed romantic fantasy in which different factions of the magical community make alliances in preparation for a possible war with the Mage Council. Laura Anne Gilman is in the same League as Laurell K. Hamilton, creating a world where humans, magical beings and Talents all know about each other and sometimes even mange to co-exist peacefully. Ms. Gilman is a great world builder who makes readers desire to believe her world actually exists.

Cast in Courtlight
Michelle Sagara
ISBN: 0373802447, $13.95, 400 pp.

Not many people cross the Abalyne River to escape the fiefs, territories where warlords rule with an iron fist. Kaylin is one of the few, as she now works under the Lord of Hawks at the Halls of Laws policing the streets. The ruler of Karaazon, the Dragon Emperor, a real dragon, has taken an interest in Kaylin who has magic in her that must be trained and because she wears the mark of the immortal Barrani outcast Lard Nightshade. Through the machinations of her friend and fellow Hawk, the Barrani Teela, Kaylin saves the life of the Lord of the West March through her healing powers. By doing so she learns his real name and forges a bond between the immortal and the human. She is taken to the Barrani High Court where she discovers that the Lord of the West March's brother is dying because someone has his name. He wants Kaylin to find out who it is because if she can't the Barrani race will die at a time the world will need their powers. Kaylin agrees, but first must understand her own powers before she begins her odyssey. Michelle Sagara is a great fantasist who makes it seems normal than different that sentient races including dragon, Barrani, human, avian and leoninee live together in harmony. The audience gets to see and understand the Barrani culture and it makes one wonder if they are really a product of the author's imagination or if they actually exist. Magic is taken for granted in this world's society and even though the feisty heroine doesn't want to practice, events force her to learn to wield her powers or watch death take charge of the realm.

The Dawn Star
Catherine Asaro
ISBN: 0373802382, $14.95 480 pp.

Cobalt the Dark married Mel Dawnfield so that Harsdown would eventually return to Cobalt's heirs because it is part of his wife's dowry. What began as a marriage of state quickly became a love match. He conquered Sharize and Blue Shire and is heir to the Misted Cliffs, ruled by his abusive grandfather Stonebreaker who made his and his mother's life miserable as a child. Cobalt would love to add Jazid and Taka Mal to his empire but Mel doesn't want her husband to become the dictator of the world. The country of Taka Mal, fearing Cobalt's expansionist ideas, kidnap the queen of Aronsdale's brother Drummer, Mel's uncle and a minstrel with a voice that could make grown men weep for joy. The ruling queen Jade quickly falls under Drummer's spell and wants to marry him because Cobalt would never call out his wife's family. Before that plan could be put into motion, Mel is kidnapped and it is made to look like Taka Mal performed the deed. Cobalt marches towards Taka Mal intending to level it unless Mel can escape her prison and explain the truth to her beloved. Nebula award winner Catherine Asaro writes a spellbinding romantic fantasy as well as she does hard science fiction. Fans of her Skollan empire series will find THE DAWN STAR a softer, more people driven tale with characters well suited for this sword and sorcery tale. Although there are plenty of action scenes, the plot is more about political chicanery and the political intrigue scenes are fascinating.

Literacy and Longing in L. A.
Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack
ISBN: 0385340176, $22.00

Dora grew up in a Philadelphia household with her sister Virginia in which her mom was a drunk who destroyed two cars in less than a year with one landing in the Schuylkill River mud. Dad, knowing his clubs were ruined, began his odyssey to stay away from home until finally he never returned. When things were bad, which seemed the normal, Dora and Virginia leaped into the world of literature, binging on the written word. Years later, both siblings remain extremely close to one another, but Virginia has her feet solidly planted in reality while Dora still runs away to literature when the going gets rough. She has been married twice and at one time after Columbia was a rising journalistic star in Los Angeles, but that was a decade ago. Her second husband Palmer supports her financially especially her book binges, but he always wondered whether she cared as he is no longer wastes his emotions on depressing Dora the non-explorer. Dora meets comparative literature professor Fred at a bookstore and soon afterward his mother, Bea, who is raising her granddaughter six years old (Fred's niece) yet "adopts" Dora. Though the ending seems off kilter from the deep look at a person in mental trouble, fans will appreciate this strong character study. Dora is a great person who faces problems by hiding in books. The cast is fully developed to bring out Dora's only means of coping book binging. Fans will relate to the thirtyish protagonist as she struggles in life but receives a boost from Bea, who acts like a surrogate mother as she not the two men in Dora's life help her. This terrific tale has the audience rooting for Dora.

Andre Norton
ISBN: 1416520619, $25.00

"Moon of Three Rings". When Free Trader ship Lydis lands on Yiktor crew member Krip Vorlund attends a beast show where he meets and is attracted to Maelen, the owner of the "little people" animal players. When he intercedes in an incident involving her, the local law arrests him only to have others abduct him. Maelen mentally stays in contact with Krip and will do anything to rescue him even violate the code of the Thassa that she is a member of in good standing. "Exiles of the Stars". Krip and Maelen are crewmembers on the Lydis though his body is now that of a Thassa thanks to her sorcery while she hides as one of her "little people" animals. The ship debarks at Thoth, but a religious civil war forces a quick reloading of cargo, the valuable Forerunner artifacts to be delivered to Ptah. However, a gadget hidden inside one of the cargo items forces an emergency landing on an allegedly uninhabited Sekhmet. Instead Forerunners reside on the orb using ESP to control others to do their bidding; that is, when they do not snatch their body for their own use. The reprint in one book of two classic Andre Norton tales will showcase how great this author has been over the past five or so decades. Each novel is terrific as science fiction meets fantasy especially with the traits of the various races (some being more science fi while others are fantasy); that ability to move back and forth effortlessly between the two genres is a trademark of the incomparable Ms. Norton. Fans will enjoy the two Krip-Maelen thrillers that entertain yet leaves readers considering ethical principles like a forced body exchange as a rape. This reviewer thinks it is great to see the duo back in print.

Enslave Me Sweetly
Gena Showalter
ISBN: 0743497503, $13.00

Once a Raka princess, Eden Black is one of the deadliest Assassins on earth. She is assigned to kill EenLi, but the target escapes and Eden is injured. To assist her, Eden, already humiliated by her failure to accomplish the mission, is outraged when she is assigned a partner and making matters worse, a human male. Her new partner Lucius Adaire finds it amusing that a female assassin allegedly exists, but is assigned to work with the beautiful golden skined alien. As a team they are expected to infiltrate and end the human slave trade that sends earthling to other planets. As they work this impossible mission, Lucius and Eden are attracted to one another. As the danger mounts, they begin to fall in love, but first completing the assignment must be achieved before they can explore their feelings. This sequel to the delightful police procedural romantic sci fi AWAKEN ME DARKLY is a terrific tale due to the respective attitudes of the new teammates. Initially he scoffs at a female doing his line of work and she ridicules a human especially a male keeping up with her. As they work the case together respect and admiration take root along with their attraction which turns to love. The investigation grips readers while Gena Showalter makes her world filled with aliens seem genuine because of it. Fans will appreciate this superb science fiction investigative tale.

Everyone Worth Knowing
Lauren Weisberger
ISBN: 0743262336, $14.00

Unable to take her tedious job at a Manhattan investment bank, twenty-seven years old Bettina "Bette" Robinson quits. While her born again responsible parents (former hippies) have cardiac arrest that she is throwing her life away, her Uncle Will obtains her a job at Kelly & Company, a public relations firm. One of her assignments at her new job is to show up looking hot at the in parties and galas. However, Bette, not known for her innovative fashion consciousness, is soon being photographed about the town with hunk Philip Weston, considered one of the most eligible bachelors in town. Her schedule turns zany with demands from her escort, her friends and family, and the media. However, the only one she wants demands from is Sammy the nightclub bouncer, but he feels she is out of his league as one of "them" and even her best friend Penelope from the pre gala dive bar days feels alienated while the gossip columns turn predatory. Though she lacks Prada, Bette is a likable individual whose fifteen minutes of fame proves her undoing as she begins to turn her back on those loyal to her until she realizes that EVERYONE WORTH KNOWING she sees from "the inside looking out" at them. Modernizing and changing the gender of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter, readers will appreciate Bette's lessons that being a party girl is not as cracked up as it might seem. Though much of the support characters come out of the central casting for the jet setter crowd, fans of chick lit tales will enjoy Bette's transformation.

Looking For Mr. Goodbunny
Kathleen O'Reilly
ISBN: 0743499417, $13.00

In Manhattan, forty-two years old Alle Sheffield gave up on cads over a decade ago. Her late night companions in her Upper East Side "Castle" are Letterman and Mr. Goodbunny, especially the latter, an expert on providing females with orgasms without unreasonable demands except for buying him batteries. However, as she struggles to become a life coach without her clients like Barbara, Tanja, and Joan killing her, crisis strikes in her life. Her father is being paroled after a stint behind bars, but that is minor league; her high school reunion is coming up soon and she is without a date and not much of a career so far, but that too is also minor league compared to the world shattering grief she suffers. Mr. Goodbunny just died leaving her to mourn the loss of her companion of almost a decade; finding a replacement vibrator will be nearly impossible as American craftsmanship now comes from China and she can't speak the language. She thinks of committing heresy and an insult to the memory of her deceased hero Mr. Goodbunny by trying a man this time. LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBUNNY is an amusing satirical chick lit tale starring an odd heroine who has her priorities in some sort of chaotic order. Fans will enjoy the irony that Alle is a life coach when she struggles to make sense of her own life, which in her mind provides her experience to go along with her training certificate. A strong support cast including the title character and a delightfully wacky queen of chaos star make for a fun tale that will send sub-genre readers seeking Kathleen O'Reilly's Faust enters the chick lit realm tale THE DIVA'S GUIDE TO SELLING YOUR SOUL.

Brian M. Wiprud
ISBN: 0440243122, $6.99, 320 pp.

Taxidermist Garth Carson has a charming scoundrel for a brother but at least for now Nicholas Palihnic is working on to right side of the law as Newcastle Insurance hires him to find a stolen Moolrman painting. A man calls him stating he wants the painting returned to the proper owner. When Nicholas goes to informant's apartment, he finds the painting stolen from the thief and the man murdered. When the police arrive, Nicholas is arrested but a high powered lawyer that he didn't call gets the charges dropped. He finds out Nicasia, who also works for Trident, helped get him out of jail because the head of the Manhattan investigative unit wants something in return. The love of her life, Barney Swires a former thief and collector was supposedly killed in the seas off Costa Rica by pirates and his body eaten by a crocodile. She wants Nicholas to go to Costa Rica and find out what happened to Barney. However in the meantime, Barney is very much alive and staying in New York He was hired to dig up the ship the Bunker Hill that lies underground in Manhattan, which purportedly has a fortune in gold pellets on it. What happens next is a series of double triple and even quadruple crosses with all the players involved in the crimes distrusting one another. Readers looking for a delightfully zany and totally charming crime caper to read that has characters who could be the hero, the villain or both; then look no further than Brian' M. Wiprud's latest work (see STUFFED and PIPSQUEAK), a totally charming serio-comedic thriller that constantly has the audience off guard as one shocking surprise follows another. Garth and his significant other Angie make a cameo appearance after starring in the two previous madcap tales.

The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein
Dorothy & Frank Hoobler
Little, Brown
ISBN: 0316000787, $24.95

This fabulous biography of Mary Shelly contains a fascinating but not proven seemingly invalid premise that grips readers like this reviewer who saw it coming and still kept reading. The Hooblers argue eloquently that those who were at the Swiss villa where Frankenstein was written all were cursed with death in a short period afterward; anecdotal evidence seems to support their captivating premise, but this seems similar to the proof that computers found a hidden code in the bible (computers also proved likewise in the Constitution). Still this argument adds to a delightful look at Mary Shelley, whose famous mother started the feminist movement in the late eighteenth century but died eleven days after Mary's birth. As a teen Mary married romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and was a mother by nineteen. The authors claim she is Victor surrounded by arrogant artistic human monsters so when she accepted Byron's challenge she used her real life of acceptance of them and that death is the outcome of life as the themes of her masterpiece. Interesting biography due to the assertions made by the authors.

Night Gardener
George Pelecanos
Little, Brown
ISBN: 0316156507, $24.95

Washington DC Police Department Violent Crime Detective Gus Ramone has been a good cop for over two decades, but the latest case assigned to him hits home personally on two fronts. First the victim Asa Johnson is a friend of Gus' teenage son; second the crime scene data and related information reminds him of a serial killer never caught when Gus was in his second year on the force. Adding to his feel of deja vu is who found the corpse. Back in 1985, Gus was watching renowned Detective T.C. Cook with an over 90 per cent resolution rate work the now cold case with another second year cop Dan Holiday watching like Gus in awe. Dan, who left WPD under a cloud of alleged misconduct, found the current corpse. He and Cook see this latest homicide as a chance for redemption and inveigle their way into Gus' investigation while the lead detective feels the passion flow that he has lacked in years. The three cops make George Pelecanos' latest tale a must read police procedural as the author takes the theme of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly into 2005 DC. The action-packed story line is driven by the differing self actualization needs of the threesome, which is deftly interwoven into the investigative plot. THE NIGHT GARDENER will be on everyone's short list for sub-genre book of the year as the True Grit sleuths seek solace with stopping a serial killer returned from their failed past.

The Bird Woman
Kerry Hardie
Little, Brown
ISBN: 0316076236, $24.99

Residing in Ireland, thirty-six years old Ellen McKinnon begins her trek home to Derry, North Ireland to say her goodbyes to her dying mother. She thinks back to her past when her first late husband physically and mentally abused her; she dreams of her stillborn child; her time in a Belfast mental asylum because she foolishly mentioned her clairvoyance visions; and finally when she first met Liam, her current spouse, who has encouraged her to be all that she can be. A sculptor Liam and their friend the former nun Catherine coaxed Ellen to share her gift with those ailing. She began to become involved in her community. Before long as her reputation grew, Ellen tried to tear down the mental loathing that divides Northerners from Southerners as she sought a sense of belonging to her spouse, her birth nation, her adopted country, and her heritage. THE BIRD WOMAN is a poignant character study focusing on a woman searching for a sense of purpose and place that she can call home. The story line is somewhat passive as Kerry Hardie concentrates on insuring the audience understands what makes Ellen tick. The support cast augments the full understanding of a somewhat reticent outsider with divided loyalties trying to find where she fits in.

The Dead Hour
Denise Mina
Little, Brown
ISBN: 0316735949, $24.99

In 1984, Scottish Daily News twenty-one years old crime reporter Patricia "Paddy" Meehan arrives at an elegant house in the upper crust Glasgow suburb of Bearsden where a handsome man is talking with police officers McGregor and Gourlay. He informs her and the cops that everything is fine, that it will not happen again and that they prefer it kept out of the papers as he hands her a fifty pound note. Though the journalist remains concerned when she notices that political activist and lawyer Vhari Burnett's face is bloodied and bruised, Paddy agrees to remain quiet accepting the bribe as apparently did the cops too. The next day Paddy feels guilty for her actions when she learns that Vhari was murdered; worse she feels incompetent for not seeing that the culprit had already knocked out Vhari's teeth by the time she arrived. Paddy feels she let herself down by selling out her ethics and vows never again while also pondering the reason Vhari failed to leave with them when she could. When the cops pull a suicide victim out of the river, Paddy sees a link between the two cases. She seeks that tie as a means to atone from her personal fall from grace. Paddy's second appearance (see A FIELD OF BLOOD) is a fabulous investigative journalist whodunit starring a woman learning her profession on the job and in this case receives a powerful life and death lesson on ethics. The story line is centered on Paddy's efforts to uncover the truth especially her theory linking the two deaths that her more experienced crime beat peers scoff at. Denise Mina writes a terrific Scottish mystery filled with a strong support cast, a gritty look at the city compared to a posh suburb, and an optimistic heroine who lost a strip of her idealism.

Rogue Angel: Destiny
Alex Archer
Gold Key
ISBN: 0373621191, $6.50

Archeologist Annja Creed performs field investigations for the TV cable show Chasing History's Monsters. Her work takes the intrepid scientist around the world. Her current assignment is to assess the Beast of Gevaudan, known locally in Lozere, France as La Bete. Her preliminary research reports that La Bete apparently killed approximately one hundred people from 1764 to 1767. Annja has professional doubts as she anticipates the number is exaggerated and that the deaths probably were from culprits using the myth of La Bete to conceal murder. To her amazement the case takes a bizarre twist when Annja uncovers an ancient artifact, a charm that she found when she met deadly fifteenth century monks still alive and willing to kill anyone who uncovers their secrets. However that is only the beginning as someone else wants the charm and the secrets; that person is much more dangerous to the world than the monks are with his first step capturing Annja who flees from this occultist adversary and his minion and the Brotherhood, unable to trust anyone. This first action-packed Creed tale takes a page or 345 from the Indiana Jones thrillers and combines them with the Historical Channel's Solving History's Mysteries and compares favorably to both. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that the heroine leaves Brooklyn for France and never slows down as everyone seems to want a piece of Annja. Fans will appreciate this stand alone thriller, but also want more archeological investigations into historical monsters.

Back In the Game
Holly Chamberlin
ISBN: 0758207972, $12.95

In Boston, the four women are recently divorced, but not as upset by the split as expected. Perhaps that is because the quartet knows that fifty percent of that sacred institution that need amendments to keep pure end up broken. Each of the women is concerned whether to dive into the icy depths of dating. Matt and Jess Marlowe married in love, but divorced in hate as she became an adulteress. Richard and Nell Keats stayed together through two decades plus and two children until he informed her he loved Bob Landry. Laura (Nell's sister) and Duncan Costello disagreed vehemently over having children as she wanted rugrats while he wanted to remain a dink (double income no kids) family. Grace and Simon Henley ended their marital relationship because he slept with others, but she still supports him financially and emotionally especially when he breaks up with his latest flavor of the hour. These four single females want to take Boston like a northeasterner, but that dive into the harbor is so frightening yet each takes the plunge seeking the right man or men this time around. The ensemble lead female cast rotates perspective in this fine look at relationships after the marriage is over. That approach provides the reader with a wider scope of reactions, but also feels slightly disjointed. Though well written with interesting protagonists struggling with to date or not to date, the aptly titled BACK IN THE GAME would have been better suited as four novellas to ease tracking of the stars, all of whom are worth knowing.

Calder Storm
Janet Dailey
ISBN: 0758204426, $24.00

In Montana, Trey Calder, heir to the Calder Cattle Company and its vast Triple C Ranch, meets photographer Sloan Davis at the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale known locally as the "Cowboys Mardi Gras". The pair is attracted immediately to one another and sees each other even after everyone has left Miles City for their homes. After a short courtship and a warm welcome to the family-less newcomer, they both know they are in love and marry. Paradise collapses shortly after Sloan learns she is pregnant as each soon finds a reason to distrust the other. Trey has found about a secret that Sloan kept from him about her past, a link to Fort Worth's Maresco CEO, Max Rutledge, who blames the Calders for the death of his son. Sloan begins to hear that Trey is having an affair, drug trafficking, and the family plans to bury her reputation with dirt including some that is made up if they fail to uncover enough to do a real nasty spin. Though a bit slow paced, the latest Calder saga tale grips fans of the series due to the heat, passion, and anger between the fifth generation and the outsider orphan. Rutledge provides a powerful realistic threat as he gradually spreads his venom while the support cast, mostly family members and of course the Big Sky Country, add depth to the best entry in several years.

Antiques Roadkill
Barbara Allan
ISBN: 0758211910, $22.00

Brandy Borne is not sure if she is on antidepressant medicine because of her recent divorce or returning to her hometown of Serenity, overlooking the Mississippi River, to live with her unhinged Red Hat mother Vivian and her social airs elitist wannabe sister Peggy Sue. However, adding to Brandy's depression is that her mom, under some powerful meds, sold family antique furniture to an unprincipled dealer, Clint Carson, for almost nothing. Irate Vivian confronts Carson over his conning a mentally deficient person, but the dealer says legally he provided the consideration in terms of the agreed upon compensation. Not long after her public outrage towards Carson, someone runs him over on a remote country lane near the dealer's farmhouse. Local law enforcement feels Brandy has the motive making her the prime suspect with the only other person of interest being her mother, who may have been motivated by her daughter's tantrum. Brandy thinks otherwise as the list of people wanting to kill Carson is much of the county, but especially a horde of senior citizens he cheated just like he did her mom. Brandy and Vivian high on medicine investigate as neither trust the cops to be thorough, but there are warnings from much of their neighbors to back off as no one wants the secretes of not so Serenity revealed. Amateur sleuth fans will enjoy traipsing around Serenity looking for a valuable antique amongst someone's garbage as much as observing Brandy and Vivian tripping over one another seeking to uncover the identity of the killer. During their detecting the two women unearth many of their neighbors' skeletons, which is why so many tell the Borne duo to back down. Fans will enjoy this lighthearted antiques whodunit with Brandy's side tips on collecting a bonus.

With You and Without You
Deborah J. Wolf
ISBN: 0758213832, $14.00

Patrick and Allyson Houlihan live a contented upper middle class life raising two daughters, thirteen years old Lydia and ten years old Becca until he died in a car accident. The three females he left behind mourn deeply the loss of the family patriarch and adjust to a downscale lifestyle with the death of the prime breadwinner. Over a year later, the trio still struggles with the loss. Allyson worries about her daughters as Becca hides in soccer, but is now injured, and Lydia no longer wants to dance and turns sneaky. Both reject their mom's attempts to help them cope. As the two sisters lose interest in school and favorite activities, the family seems on the verge of collapse as the three females drift further apart. That is until a new crisis forces everyone to reassess their needs in consideration of the better good with Patrick's best friend Michael as a rock of strength for the still grieving Houlihan women. This incredibly poignant contemporary tale makes several valid points that grief is personal and takes time that will vary from person to person and that relationship dynamics adjust when the parameters change. In this case, the death of Patrick leaves his beloved family mourning in different ways even after a year has passed and their interrelationships have changed because the fourth part of the family puzzle no longer is there. Deborah J. Wolf will leave her audience pondering life with and without loved ones in this deep thought provoking family drama.

Bones to Pick
Carolyn Haines
ISBN: 0758210906, $22.00, 304 pp.

After her failure to attain her dream of becoming an actress, Sarah Booth Delaney returned to her hometown of Zinnia, Mississippi to try and save her childhood home Dahlia House. She succeeds after stealing her future partner's dog and collecting the fee. Now the business is doing will and the business is gaining recognition and rich clients. Except for her love life, Sara Booth's life is perfect even if the household haunt Jitty, a servant of a former Delaney occupant, nags her to get married and have children. Her latest case is to find out who killed Quentin McGee, a writer who dished out the dirt on the rich and powerful in her tell-all book. The police have arrested Allison Tatum whose shoeprint were found at the murder scene and witnesses reported a lover's quarrel believe the victim and the suspect shortly before she died. The problem in this case is that there are so many other people who wanted Quentin dead because she laid bare their secrets for the whole world to know. As with every case involving Sarah Booth, she winds up in danger but this time her partner is also in the hands of a dangerous serial killer. Carolyn Haines is a writer that always delivers a charming crime caper that is a combination delightful and humorous regional mystery inside a foreboding southern gothic. Readers will enjoy this terrific tale whether they solve the case or not because BONES TO PICK is a beguiling tale. A fast paced plot, a creative storyline and excellent drawn characters make this cozy something out of the ordinary.

Murder in the Heartland
M. William Phelps
ISBN: 0758215568, $23.00

Nine days before Christmas in 2004 in Nodaway County, Missouri the mother of Bobbie Jo Stinnett hysterically calls 911 as her eight months pregnant daughter lies in a pool of blood and her baby gone. The police arrive at the grisly scene to begin an investigation into the murder of the mom and the apparent abduction of the infant ripped from her womb. Three hours west in Melvern, Kansas, Lisa Montgomery calmly dresses her newborn to provide proof to her family and friends she was pregnant as she claimed. Not long after an alert for the infant, the horrific story became known and Lisa was arrested. The events of this gruesome murder will fascinate true crime readers in a macabre way similar to the way IN COLD BLOOD did, but MURDER IN THE HEARTLAND fails to dig deep into the psyche of Lisa so the audience never fathoms how she expected to pull off her deadly ruse. Still genre fans will ponder how far someone will go to achieve an objective as Lisa methodically planned the crime itself (and less so the aftermath) once she met Bobbie Jo through their mutual vocation of raising rat terriers.

Brethren: An Epic Adventure of the Knights Templar
Robin Young
ISBN: 0525949755, $25.95

In 1260 two dedicated men, believers in the righteousness of their religious cause, join opposite sides in the Holy Land war. In the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Egyptian Sultan Baybars Bundukdari commands forces dedicated to the Prophet Mohamed with fervor to rid their homeland of the invading western infidels. In London, Knights Templar Sir William Campbell joins the western army crusading to take back the Holy Land from the Muslim horde. At the same time these two committed individuals begin the trek towards religious combat and more in the Holy Land, a theft in Paris of the Book of the Grail could prove even more confrontational and definitely impact the two adversaries. This tome describes the heretical plan to radically change the world in the image of the top secret Knights Templar sect the Brethren. Thus on 3 September 1260, three events in three different locations that tenuously tie together will impact religion and people, if successful, as much as Mohamed, Moses, and Jesus have. Above is the opening sequence to one of the best Templar tales on the market in recent years. Robin Young easily switches perspective predominantly between the two enemies so that readers fully understand the motivations of both sides. The story line is fast-paced filled with historical tidbits and the preparation for battle and the skirmishes, but also has a romantic sidebar between the idealistic Templar and the Sultan's niece and a mystery as William seeks to find the Book of the Grail. BRETHREN is more than just an epic adventure of the Knights Templar; it is a terrific thirteenth century thriller.

Enchanted - Erotic Bedtime Stories For Women
Nancy Madore
ISBN: 0373605099, $13.95

Using thirteen fairy tales and converting them into erotica tales, Nancy Madore provides an enchanting heated spin to popular stories like Snow White, Cinderella, The Ugly Duckling, Beauty and the Beast and Goldilocks, etc. The tales are fun to read especially when compared to the original (or at least your memory of such), Shelly Long's Fairy Tale Theatre, and the Fractured Fairy Tales of R&B. Each story is fun with spicy alterations and twists into something ardent like kissing the dwarfs turn them into princes, Mrs. Fox and Mrs. Wolf discussing husband swapping, Beauty missing the Beast in her spousal prince or The Empress' New Clothes.

Be My Neat-Heart
Judy Baer
Steeple Hill
ISBN: 0373873670, $4.99

Twenty-nine years old Samantha Smith has made a living out of her obsession for neatness. She is the queen of clutter busters and an anathema to the chaotic messes many people possess because for whatever reason they never toss or give away anything. Carver Advertising executive Ethan Carver hires Sam to organize his files before his new partner arrives next week. His friend Jared Hamilton tells him he is nuts to employ an organizer. However, Sam successfully completes the mission on time. Jared and his partner his sister Molly are opposites as he is organized and she is clutter. When she misplaces key business papers, he heeds Ethan's advice and hires Sam to clean up the "poop". As Sam works on putting in order Molly's mess, she and Jared fall in love though he wonders how someone so efficiently organized could turn his ordered life into chaos. BE MY NEAT-HEART is a great "Love Inspired" romance that amusingly yet poignantly focuses on the realistic issue of cluttering in and out of the office (trust me I understand Molly first hand). The lead pair is a terrific couple as he cannot comprehend why intelligent people need her consulting services and she wonders if she has found her clutter-free soulmate, but worries he will flee in terror once he meets her cat, dog, and sibling as pandemonium is their forte. Readers will appreciate this fine inspirational tale and look forward to Judy Baer's offbeat but welcome next story starring a woman who wonders whether you have hugged your iguana lately.

Window Dressing
Nikki Rivers
Harlequin Next
ISBN: 0373880987, $5.50

Though they been divorced for a decade, Lauren Campbell had not expected the rat to do what he did. When their son left home to attend college, her spouse sold the house she has resided in all these years without warning her of his intent though their legal divorce papers stipulate that his support ends once the nest is empty. Lauren realizes she must take care of herself and can no longer rationalize that she is raising someone else while behaving as a PTA poster mom as she must accept responsibility of having no nest. She accepts work selling cheese in the grocer though she feels a bit uncomfortable dressing up like a milkmaid. Though lacking skills after looking within, Lauren decides she must find something fulfilling, but before she can learn to fish she must first eat. Thus Lauren begins the transformation to self sufficiency obtaining a job and perhaps a lover. This is a poignant yet humorous look at a middle age woman struggling with more than just empty nest syndrome as her former spouse forces her by his actions to see her current lifestyle for what it is: empty. Rather than brood, Lauren moves on starting with her cheesy job and soon finds she enjoys life much more participating as herself rather than the image of a nurturing mom with no aspect of her life solely her own. Nikki Rivers provides a deep powerful look beyond the WINDOW DRESSING at self actualizing who is the true essence of a person as all of us wear different roles in varying relationships.

Finding Home
Marie Ferrarella
Harlequin Next
ISBN: 0373880952, $5.50

Stacey Sommers keeps thinking of Peggy Lee's line "Is That All There Is? as she finds life is no fun because her spouse Brad is worse than Silas Marnor hording every penny as if he can take it with him. When he fails to acknowledge their anniversary, she wonders if her forgot or refused to spend money. Thus when her uncle passes away, Brad is euphoric as she inherits a tidy sum that he expects to add to their already endowed retirement. He is not as elated over the canine Dog that comes with the cash. However, her uncle's will contains a stipulation that Stacey waste the money on something she wants or forfeit it. While her husband is chagrined at tossing away the cash that he feels should join their investments and tries to persuade her that is what she wants, Stacey decides to renovate their house without asking Brad. He is shocked even if their house needs repair, but is he stunned enough to end their relationship after all these years? The key to this fabulous realistic character study is not the heroine deciding to take a chance, but her clueless husband who cares and wants to do right by them, but fails to comprehend what Stacey is telling him. The story line is driven by their relationship as she turns assertive and he bewildered. Contemporary fans will appreciate this deep honest character study.

The English Wife
Doreen Roberts
Harlequin Next
ISBN: 0373880979, $5.50

In Seattle, attorney James Starrett informs Marjorie Maitland that her late spouse fifty-four years old investments consultant Brandon left her a cottage in Miles End, Devon in England. She had no idea that they owned property overseas that he bought three months after their marriage, twenty-seven years ago. The final shockers are an Eileen something or other resides rent free in the cottage and the photo of a strange woman with the note "I'm sorry" on it. Though one not used the venturing out, Marjorie decides she must know the truth by uncovering the secret that her spouse hid from her in their almost three decades of marriage. The truth is across the ocean in a little cottage where Eileen something or other lives. Marjorie knows what she might learn could devastate her, but England is her destination. Readers will accompany Marjorie as the audience will want to know what happened and why Brandon hid what he did from his wife. The mystery is clever as it enables the reader to observe a middle age woman forced to put her grief aside because her emotional pull is the truth and its potential affect that her married life was built on a lie. Doreen Roberts provides a strong character driven tale.

Susan Mallery
ISBN: 0373771177, $6.99

After fifteen years as a marine, Walker Buchanan leaves the service to come home to Seattle. When his beloved died from breast cancer Walker vowed never to love again as his loss wrenched his heart. To love is much more difficult to deal with than fighting terrorists. When his neighbor single mom Elissa Towers needs her tire changed, Walker's code of ethics makes him take over in spite of her irritation that he does so. Elissa admits to herself he is a hunk, but has pledged to never go out with a man ever again. However, her five-year-old Zoe desperately wants a daddy and believes the ex marine is the perfect person to fulfill the mission. To their mutual chagrin, each is attracted to the other, but both swear to themselves to only fantasize about the others. Neither factored in other stakeholders like a precocious child, their families and their neighbors' matchmaking the reluctant pair. This is a fine contemporary romance starring two likable walking wounded souls who find more than just love with one another; each obtains solace as they have someone willing to listen. The support cast augments the audience's understanding of what motivates the protagonist to not fall in love. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this fun throwback tale in which the stars do not wish to risk their already burned heart. The second installment of Ms. Mallery's Buchanan family is a DELICIOUS winner.

Nicola Cornick
ISBN: 0373771649, $5.99

In 1816 Princess Isabella Di Cassilis returns to London after a time away from the country to learn that her late husband left her with quite a debt. Isabella weighs her options and concludes she has three distasteful choices to select from. She can leave England to never return; she can remain in London until they incarcerate her in debtor's prison; or she can marry. Isabella decides to buy a husband who is incarcerated for life on the Fleet prisons. Her choice is Marcus Stockhaven, whom she jilted at the altar to elope with royalty. Marcus agrees to marry his former fiance as he believes they have some issues needing resolution. He plans to start with their marriage that he assumes will be consummated once he completes his undercover assignment on the prison Fleet unaware that his new wife will be caught in the middle. DECEIVED is a terrific Regency romance starring two souls in love, but their mutual past makes it seem impossible that either will be the first to let the other know how much they care. The story line is filled with action but owned by the battling protagonists as each misunderstands the other even as they did back in India when they first met and fell in love. Fans will enjoy this fine historical starring two individuals trying to gain control of the passion that freely flows between them.

The Commander
Kate Bridges
ISBN: 0373294107, $5.50

In 1895 in Calgary, Alberta an out of control wildfire on the nearby prairie threatens the city with every able person ready to help stop the calamity. Especially prepared is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. At the same time the fire approaches Calgary, Donovan "Ryan" Reid has returned home after being away for a decade to join the British military. He left behind barmaid Julia Adare, who loved him but after he left married Brandon O'Shea; five years ago he died leaving her a widow with a son Pete and a newspaper the Calgary Town Crier to run. Julia detests herself because she still desires the one man who thought she wasn't good enough for him. Ryan knew the moment he left ten years ago he made a mistake as he loved and still does Julia. Now it is too late when he sees how much the woman he humiliated hates him. What she does not know is he left because he believed he was unworthy of her, but if he could turn back the hands of time he would have told her that he loved her but she deserved better than a lousy loser like him. Still he will do what he can to help his beloved, his family and his hometown fight the fire. THE COMMANDER, the final Reid Trilogy tale (see THE BACHELOR and THE PROPOSITION), is a thrilling late nineteenth century Canadian historical with a strong romantic underpinning. The fire that threatens Calgary is the prime character perhaps because of the prevalent wildfires today. The story line provides a deep look at 1890s Calgary during a crisis yet also a strong second chance at love subplot combined with the encroaching inferno make for a strong finish to an insightful miniseries.

Vanessa's Match
Judy Christenberry
Harlequin American
ISBN: 0373751214, $4.99

Her superior Dr. Cavanaugh at the university's Psychology Department asks Dr. Vanessa Shaw to help a fifteen year old girl, who tried to commit suicide following the death of her mother in a car accident. Lindy Austin is in the hospital and obviously needs professional assistance, which is enough to motivate Vanessa, but the Austin family has also donated millions to the university. Over the next five days Vanessa treats Lindy with care and finally takes the teen into her mother's Dallas home. When Lindy's half brother and now guardian, Richard Austin returns from business in Japan, Vanessa makes it abundantly clear that he should have placed his sister's needs first. They argue over her care until she shakes him when she states Lindy tried to kill herself. They continue to battle over his neglect and subsequent rationalization, but he wants the best for the little half-sister he does not know. As Vanessa and Richard fall in love while nurturing Lindy, he realizes they have no future together because he remains a condemned man having failed family 101, something that his beloved cannot forgive as she only recently reconnected with her long lost siblings. Though the "born again" fanaticism of Vanessa can become irritating, she is a realistic protagonist who feels strongly loved ones must come first. Thus Richard who knows he has met his soulmate realizes he has to climb Mounts Everest and K2 at the same time to persuade his beloved that she, his half-sister, her family, and their future family come first in his heart. Judy Christenberry provides a fascinating family drama focusing on what matters.

The Player
Ronda Nelson
Harlequin Blaze
ISBN: 037379259X, $4.75

US Army Ranger Jamie Flanagan and two buddies (Guy and Payne) left the military after their last assignment turned ugly. However, as he says goodbye to his Commander Garrett, he and the others promise to be there to do any favor their superior asks of them. Garrett calls in his favor owed by now Atlanta based security specialist Flanagan asking him to protect his granddaughter Aubrey Kincaid, who runs a de-stressing camp in Maine for executives over the edge. She was one of them until a heart attack warned her to slow down when she in her twenties. Garrett informs his granddaughter that a stressed out former soldier needs her special help and as a favor to him she should take care of Jamie. Neither knows that Garrett using his military experience has planned the perfect strategy to get two people he cares about to meet and he believes fall in love. The lead duet is a terrific pairing as known by her Machiavellian grandfather and affirmed by pleased readers. The humorous story line is fun to follow as both believe they are doing a favor for Garrett by taking care of the other. Amused fans will appreciate Ronda Nelson's fine contemporary and look forward to the tales of the remaining two players.

Destiny's Hand
Lori Wilde
Harlequin Blaze
ISBN: 0373792646, $4.75

A decade ago Morgan Shaw married Adam, a workaholic Wall Street banker. Now looking back she concludes he is married to his job. Still they agree to go on a special anniversary second honeymoon to France until his job forces him to cancel the trip. At the end of her rope, Morgan decides to go alone leaving a stunned Adam left behind in New York. Her objective is to find the missing White Star amulet in which she has the box that once contained it. However, someone else has other plans for the amulet and eliminating a nosy American is not a problem. Adam knows he misses his wife and worries her obsession will lead to danger so he follows her to Europe. Though Morgan's reason for leaving her spouse behind makes sense her efforts to continue to seek the amulet once she realizes the danger seems off kilter; a hazardous by-product of most amateur sleuth tales. Still she is a delightful individual whose actions force her spouse to realize what he might lose. Fans of second chance at love mixed in with a tense thriller that requires a bit of acceptance will enjoy a walk on the Wilde side with Morgan as their guide.

A Gift of Grace
Inglath Cooper
Harlequin SuperRomance
ISBN: 0373713525, $5.50

In Albemarle County, when his wife died giving birth Caleb Tucker could not cope with his loss. In a moment of grief in which he never looked at or touched his newborn, he gave his child up for adoption because he felt his daughter would serve as a bad reminder of what he lost when his Laney died. Three years later, Caleb has healed and begins to believe he made the mistake of his life when he walked away from his baby. Furthermore, he is stunned when he sees Sophie Owens walking with a toddler who is the image of his late wife. He knows who she is and decides at that moment to gain custody of his offspring although he knows he will hurt the obviously caring adopted mother who showers little Grace with love. From the opening scene in the hospital where a stunned mourning Caleb holds the hand of his now deceased wife until the final tear filled moment, A GIFT OF GRACE is a heart wrenching contemporary romance starring a strong lead couple and sold supporting characters. The story line is predominantly driven by Caleb who grief as turn to self flagellation for his actions towards his daughter. Readers who enjoy an old fashioned well written tear jerker will appreciate Inglath Cooper's terrific (read at home) character study.

Son of Texas
Linda Warren
Harlequin SuperRomance
ISBN: 0373713541, $5.50

Belle Doe cannot remember who she is until the moment her Texas Ranger Caleb McCain found her. He knows someone wants her dead so the dedicated law enforcement official plans to stay diligent in keeping Belle safe. However, he also finds himself attracted to his ward though he knows once she recovers from her amnesia she will go home assuming it is safe to do so. As Belle begins to remember that she is Josie Marie Beckett, she realizes she has a fiance Eric who she must return to, but also concludes she will miss her caring dedicated Ranger. Still she does not remember why someone wants her dead so Caleb remains at her side until they can stop the unknown culprit. SON OF TEXAS is a delightful romantic suspense thriller that emphasizes the changes to Belle Doe as she slowly regains her memory. The story line is focused on Belle whose life dramatically has altered over the past year as she recovers from amnesia and falls in love. Readers will like Caleb and feel for Eric (needs his tale told) as Linda Warren provides a strong character study of a deciding just who she is, Belle Doe or Josie Marie Beckett.

A Different Kind of Summer
Caron Todd
Harlequin SuperRomance
ISBN: 037371355X, $5.50

Gwyn Sinclair was pregnant when her spouse suddenly died. She struggles to balance being the best mom in the world to her son Chris with the need to earn a living to support both of them. To do this in 24 hours means sacrificing her own desires; the widow has no social life. Museum scientist David Bretton lost his wife when she divorced him because science came before her. When Gwyn takes Chris to the museum, they meet David. Both are instantly attracted to one another and he is kind to her son. As they fall in love, he questions her parenting technique as he prefers the cold logic of science while she believes wisdom without compassion is inhuman. This interesting relationship drama stars two likable protagonists whose differing opinions on child raising especially discipline makes for a fascinating tale. Though Gwyn and David fall in love their differences re her son threaten to end their relationship. Fans of contemporary romances will want to read Caron Todd's fine story as the logical scientist and the nurturing mother battle over Shrek vs. Star Trek for an intelligent five year old.

Dad by Default
Jacqueline Diamond
Harlequin American
ISBN: 0373751222, $4.99

In Downhome, Tennessee, the female staff at the Home Boulevard Medical Clinic thinks the new employee Dr. Connor Hardison is quite a hunk. That is almost the entire distaff staff; nurse Yvonne Johnson hates him even before they meet because his reputation is known when it comes to single mothers; he disdains the group and she is a card carrying member with a two years old daughter Bethany whose father she never divulged to anyone because he threatened her with a custody suit and worse if she said anything to anyone. She trusted in the love of a man and vows will not make that mistake again. However, to her chagrin Yvonne finds herself attracted to Connor, which is difficult because she needs the job, but loathes working as the nurse to this temptation of a doctor who she assumes will be like the townsfolk and treat her and her daughter like pariahs. He, to his shock, feels the same way as he vows never to have a relationship with a single mother as he has his own single parenting of young Mike. As Connor and Yvonne fall in love with the help of a crusty matchmaker, both have to adjust their personal pledges if they are to make a family of four and more. This is a well written relationship drama starring two medical professionals with loving "baggage". The story line centers on the relationship between Connor and Yvonne as neither trusts the other yet are attracted to one another even as the eccentric support cast either matchmakes or tears the apart. Though the disdain of Yvonne seems harsh in this modern age even for a small southern town, contemporary romance fans will enjoy Jacqueline Diamond's interesting tale of love between single parents.

Past Sins
Debra Webb
Silhouette Bombshell
ISBN: 0373514107, $4.99

CIA Black Ops assassin Vanessa Clark faked her death in order to escape her life as a trained killer. She reinvents herself as a West Hollywood psychiatrist Doctor Olivia Mills and has prayed every night for the past three years that her past will not come back to haunt her though she knows she did a near perfect job of burying Vanessa. However, one simple call from a Mr. Soderbaum informs her that she failed when he asks her to kill her research scientist boyfriend Jeffrey. She realizes her past as Agent Sheara, Goddess of death, has been reactivated by an enemy the Phantom. Not sure why Jeffrey needs to be killed, she drives east with him to DC to keep him safe and to learn who brought her in from the cold. Her former partner and lover Holt Landry who betrayed her once, set her up to come home because he needs her help to clear both their names on an assignment that went ugly. PAST SINS is a fast-paced thriller starring two individuals who do not trust one another, but need each other if they are to survive the current operation. The story line is filled with action once Holt and Vanessa team up though the web of lies from their past make them less effective than they would have been otherwise. Though the support cast including Jeffrey never seems fully developed, fans of tense espionage thrillers will enjoy the escapades of a pair of top agents running the gauntlet to prove they are clean.

The Firebird Deception
Cate Dermody
Silhouette Bombshell
ISBN: 0373514093, $4.99

CIA Agent Alisha MacAleer is in the mountains of Spain seeking the black box from an American military spycraft plane shot down by an earth-to-sky missile. If by some chance the plane is recognizable she is to take appropriate action to insure no one knows this was a spycraft. Alisha has always been a dedicated agent and patriot, but her mission causes her some major doubts as her country should not be spying on its allies. Adding to her trepidations is the realization too many people seem to know her whereabouts and her mission for something so top secret. Someone is giving her away, but whom. Could it be her former lover and espionage mercenary Frank Reichart who seems the likely one as he probably found the right bidder or perhaps even her so called partner on this clandestine mission Brandon Parker who she begins to believe is a double agent working for some clandestine take over the world group? The simple answer is she has gone paranoid, but it is too dangerous to accept that solution as she must accomplish the assignment to insure her country is not embarrassed. THE FIREBIRD DECEPTION is an exciting espionage thriller with the emphasis on action. Alisha is a fascinating protagonist whose paranoia is intriguing but her consistent switching on who to not trust can become irritating as the audience tired of more flips than Kerry wants to shout TRUST NO ONE. Still Cate Dermody provides an action-packed spy thriller that never slows down from the first climb in the Spanish mountainside to the treks across Europe until the final triangular confrontation.

Katherine Garbera
Silhouette Bombshell
ISBN: 0373514085, $4.99

LASER (Lost Airman's Service) Agent Ben Forsythe is in Berzhaan in the Middle East on a rescue mission involving a TV crew that includes one of his agents taken hostage by an anti American group when he learns that his beloved girlfriend reporter Tory Patton is also there. Tory has arrived seeking her friend and protege, part of the TV crew, missing reporter Andrea Jancey. Ben wants Tory to go home and let him do what he is trained and experienced at performing. However, she refuses as the Athena Academy for the Advancement of Women graduate plans to go it alone if Ben refuses to help her. Knowing how stubborn she can be Ben reluctantly agrees to her insistence that they team up because he believes as long as she is in country Tory is safer at his side. EXCLUSIVE is an action-packed thriller that never slows down from start to finish as the lead pair work on the rescue mission and making love. The lead couple is a delightful pairing because of his concern for his beloved who leaves him no options; think how he would have reacted if he knew she was pregnant. However, what makes the tale is the locals who are not stereotyped especially a Suwan police officer. Katherine Garbera provides a tense adrenaline pumping thriller that never decelerates until the post game hugs.

Daughter of the Flames
Nancy Holder
Silhouette Bombshell
ISBN: 0373514077, $4.99

The dreams seem so real that she wakes up in a sweat and frightened. Twenty-six years old Isabella DeMarco fears the nightmares of being chased by werewolves and vampires that have haunted her six times a year since her mother died ten years ago from an undiagnosed illness. However, what has recently changed and scared her much more because she cannot rationalize a tie to her late mom's death is hearing voices inside her head talking while she is wide awake. Jean-Marc des Ombres introduces himself to Isabella by providing her with an explanation that she initially skeptically rejects but soon reluctantly accepts. She now knows she is adopted and that her biological mother has just died in New Orleans. It is Izzy's turn to take over as the matriarchal head of her family that has fought evil supernatural beings on another plane since Joan was burned at the stake. DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMES is an incredible romantic fantasy in which the characterizations are so real the audience will quickly believe in a protector, vampires, werewolves and other ilk as well as a realm in which magic is a form of physics. The story line is fast-paced and action-packed, but it is the cast especially the heroine now the keeper of the flame who turns this into a must read superb thriller.

The Uncrowned Queen
Posie Graeme-Evans
ISBN: 0743443748, $14.00

The thirty years of War of the Roses between the Houses of York and Lancaster continue seemingly unabated; no one in England can elude its reach even those who are hidden from the two camps claiming the crown like Anne de Bohun who has feet on both sides of the conflict as the mistress of married King Edward IV and mother of his wrong side of the sheets son while also being the biological daughter of King Henry VI. With her lover in exile in France, Anne has not seen or heard from her Edward in eighteen months as she lives with her son successfully working the merchant trade in Brugge, Belgium until he orders her to come to him on the eve of his crossing the Channel to bring the war back to Henry. If she heeds his message, Anne risks all that she has achieved by diligent hard work to overcome her impoverished servant childhood to have something better for her child, but rationalizes that Edward, the only man she has ever loved, would never harm his offspring even an illegitimate one in his ambition to take the throne. The finish to Posie Graeme-Evans's strong collateral look at the impact of the War of the Roses through a heroine who has close ties to the rivals is a fine historical tale that nicely wraps up a solid trilogy (see THE INNOCENCE and THE EXILED). The story line enables the audience to see deep into the social and political happenings of late fifteenth century England, France, and Belgium. Especially fascinating is the attitude of the followers of the adversaries are identically self-aggrandizing and dissolute as each believes they are the deserving ruling class. Not for everyone as the tale lacks action for long stretches, fans of fifteenth century dramas will enjoy Anne's story amidst the finale to the War of the Roses.

The Sweet and the Dead
Milton T. Burton
ISBN: 0312343108, $23.95

In 1970 Texas Ranger Bob Wallace asks his "disgraced" pal former Dallas deputy sheriff Manfred Eugene "Tush Hog" Webern to help bring down psychopathic Jasper Sparks and his Southern mob, the Dixie Mafia. Fishing since his forced retirement, Webern agrees to go undercover infiltrating the mob as a disgraced former law enforcement official as he and Wallace know that is the insider ticket. In Biloxi, Mississippi, Webern begins his quest to gain entry into the Dixie Mafia by "buddying" with some of the known members at their hangout, the infamous Gold Dust Lounge. He especially goes out of his way to become best friends with Sparks. He succeeds and is brought in on an upcoming heist, but soon will find out what double and triple cross truly means. This fascinating regional historical crime caper focuses mostly on the interrelationships between the gangsters especially Webern and Sparks as they plan the robbery starting with hiring a specialized crew. This technique provides insight into the era in the Gulf Coast, but also slows down the story line as the atmosphere and character development overwhelms the action. Once the plan is set and Sparks sets in motion the caper, the tale accelerates into hyperspeed as the shadows double-cross the criminals and arrange it so that Sparks and the law hold Webern culpable in this fine Nixon era crime drama.

The Oxygen Murder
Camille Minichino
ISBN: 0312347863, $24.95

Four months married physicist Dr. Gloria Lamerino accompanies her husband Boston homicide detective Matt Gennaro to New York City where he is attending a police conference and when he is free they plan to enjoy the Manhattan Christmas season. While Matt attends a conference session, Gloria visits his niece, award winning documentary filmmaker Lori Pizzano on West Forty-eighth. However instead of Lori being there, to her shock, the scientist discovers the corpse of camerawoman, Amber Keenan and she believes the culprit just left via the window. Gloria worries about Lori's safety when she learns that she was collaborating with the victim on a new project about the ozone layer that has led to threatening encounters with corporate suits who allegedly are ignoring governmental environmental regulations. She begins investigating and learns that Amber also worked as a photographer for Tina Miller, Private Investigator. Gloria ponders whether one of Miller's targets killed Amber or was it one of the suits that had her murdered. The eighth Periodic Table Mystery is a fun cozy in which scientific sleuthing is combined with tours of New York City. The story line is fast-paced as Gloria takes Manhattan while Matt and NYPD plead with her to not provide the Lamerino solution. THE OXYGEN MURDER is a fabulous whodunit that will send newcomers searching for the backlist gas tales and long time fans looking forward to The Fluorine Murder.

Dark Gold
David Angsten
ISBN: 0312343736, $24.95

Dan Duran is globetrotting, but his family worries about him since his last postcard arrived four months ago. He has always kept in touch insuring them all is well. His mom fears her son has gotten into something nasty perhaps even dead so she pleads with her other offspring, recent college grad Jack to find Dan. Jack and his two best pals, Duff and Rock, head to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; the place where the family last heard from Dan, but soon follow a clue that leads to Punta Perdida, a village considered cursed by outsiders. To get there, the threesome obtains a ride in the Obi-man yacht owned by the mysterious Bahamian businessman Leo Bellocheque; his crew is manned by beautiful Eva and Candy. In the cursed village, Jack meets a priest who insists Dan is dead, but also hands to him his sibling's journal. Jack soon realizes that Bellocheque is the key to his missing brother and finding the sunken treasure of the Argonaut, which Dan apparently located. Teaming up they can retrieve the booty, but must elude the lethal man-eating manta ray "El Diablo Blanco", avoid becoming sacrifices of the devil-worshipping Punta Perdida villagers, and evade gold seeking killers all during a one week vacation in Mexico. Fans who enjoy a non-stop action-packed over the top thriller will appreciate this fine campy tale that never takes itself seriously in a Tremors sort of way. While winking at readers, David Angsten entertains as Jack quickly goes from one escapade to another sort of like the 1940 cliffhangers. DARK GOLD is a terrific how I spent my vacation landing in one harrowing incident after another tale that is escapist fun to read.

Next Time You Die
Harry Hunsicker
ISBN: 0312348509, $23.95

In a Dallas bar, Baptist Minister Lucas Linville hires private investigator Lee Henry "Hank" Oswald, no relationship and don't ask him why – ask his dad, to recover a stolen file that contained information on a former assistant Reese Cunningham. Between Lucas' drinks he informs Hank that Reese's prominent parents would not like employment information to include their son was a druggie to get out when two thugs arrive with guns mentioning his best friend Billy Barringer, who he sent to prison and is now dead. While working what he assumes is a simple retrieval case and eluding Billy's avenging family, Hank agrees to keep the daughter of a friend of a senator safe. He will soon learn the hard way like Billy did minutes after a prison break that all roads lead to and from psychopath Jesus Rundel; anyone in this brilliant maniac's way gets killed; Hank hopes he proves the exception to the rule as he does not want to learn first hand how the inferno that snuffed out Billy feels. As with STILL RIVER, NEXT TIME YOU DIE is an exhilarating action-packed mystery starring a tough hero who reminds this reviewer of A Boy named Sue; with a name like Lee Oswald especially in Dallas you better be prepared to fight. Fight he does as he is Noir throwback to an earlier age where political correctness had not softened PIs. His latest escapades are battling with foes, sleeping with clients, and staying alive in a fun thriller.

Second Burial for a Black Prince
Andrew Nugent
ISBN: 0312327617, $23.95

In Dublin Nigerian immigrant Shadrack Nwachukwu dies from the loss of blood caused by the amputation of his leg below the knee. Garda Siochana Murder Squad Inspector Jim Quilligan and Sergeant Molly Power head the investigation. Jim's initial reaction is scorn as he assumes it is another racist murder by some misguided idiot. However, Molly says otherwise as the operation was professionally performed but the post op was amateurish and the victim ultimately dumped at nearby Dublin Mountain before he crawled down to his death. Jim and Molly make inquiries in the Nigerian community of "Little Africa" while the victim's outraged brother Jude vows the culprit will face justice. As the case seems to be going nowhere, Jude helps the two cops navigate the neighborhood though he struggles with understanding the western concept of justice as he knows how to deal with family killers back in his homeland. The key to this excellent Irish police procedural is not the cops though they do a great job as they did in THE FOUR COURTS MURDER. Instead the fascination for the readers is with Jude and the tour of Little Africa. Jude is an interesting person who wants to do the right thing by his late brother in accordance with his ancestry yet also adhere to his new country's laws, which in his mind are not necessarily in harmony especially when it comes to an eye for eye. Andrew Nugent provides a deep thriller in which his stars take a back seat to the support cast.

The Mirror Prince
Violette Malan
ISBN: 0756403391, $15.00, 320 pp.

He has lived for almost a thousand years, having his identity changed when the memories start to break apart; in his present incarnation he is Toronto history professor Max Ravenhill hoping to obtain tenure soon. However, he will soon learn that he is not even human but instead a Rider (faerie folk) who as the Prince Guardian lost in a civil war and exiled to live endless lives amidst mankind. While in exile, his memories and his dra'aj (magic) were stripped from him by the victor the Dreamer of Time now known as the Basilisk Prince who intends to become the High Prince once he possess the Talismans that his enemy hid from him. That is why the time to bring Max to the Land is now so the Basillik Prince can use cunning and to make him reveal his hiding place. Max is no longer an easy target and Cassandra who has been at his side through each reincarnation will not allow anyone to harm him while she envisions a second civil war between the royal faeries which is what will happen if Max looses to the man he once considered a friend. THE MIRROR PRINCE is a spellbinding stand alone fantasy that enchants and resonates with readers who feel and fear for the bewildered beguiling hero. Fans will root for him to defeat his adversary in the anticipated confrontational rematch (this is a fantasy so no surprise there). The spell cast by Violette Malan enables her audience to believe that faerie exist in a realm where evil and good skirmish endlessly with collateral damage on our plane.

The Potluck Club Trouble's Brewing
Linda Evans Shepherd & Eva Marie Everson
ISBN: 0800730658, $12.99

In Summit View, Colorado, Gold Rush News reporter Clay Whitefield beleieves that the members of The Potluck Club have secrets that he plans to uncover. Currently the Ace Reporter is interested in learning what the youngest and newest associate Deputy Donna Vesey hides behind her visage of toughness as his mind (and his heart) is interested in her. Donna's tragic secret lies in her previous job in Boulder. Meanwhile Evie and her beau seem in love, but both have commitment doubts. Vonnie's biological son from her first marriage that she hid from her spouse has come to visit her though his arrival could end her marriage as she hid that information too. Lizzy's son Tim is leaving his wife to move back in with his parents. Goldie's estranged husband, abetted by their daughter, plots to persuade her to take back the womanizer she tossed out. The Potluck Club is there to help each other, but even the club is in jeopardy due to the antics of bridal shop proprietor and known town crier Lisa Leann spreading gossip. The second Potluck Club tale (see THE POTLUCK CLUB) is a fun ensemble novel that rotates the subplots between the club members giving the book a vignette feel similar to that of Mossy Creek but in Colorado instead of Georgia. Each key thread moves forward with purpose and new ones tantalizingly dangle at the end leading to hopes of a follow-up book. The cast in spite of its size seem real like next door neighbors, and their troubles genuine. Though separate personal filaments are developed they intertwine cleverly like the DNA helix (but six not two strands) as fans of contemporary tales will appreciate Linda Evans Shepherd & Eva Marie Everson's fine character driven drama.

Rachel's Prayer
Leisha Kelly
ISBN: 0800759869, $12.99

Not long after Peal Harbor, many Americans from all parts of the country enlisted. In Southern Illinois, Robert Worthem, his best friend Will Hammond, two of the latter's brothers, and other townsfolk join the army. By the third week in January, just over a month since the sneak attack, the new soldiers are off to war. Robert's parents and the Hammond's widowed dad are proud of their respective offspring but worry and pray for their safe return. As if he knows his mom Julia needs solace Robert sends a letter home that includes a special prayer from his girlfriend Rachel. She shares the prayer with her spouse Samuel, her daughter Sarah and Willy's family especially his dad George and brother Frank. Each turns to God for comfort and pray that their loved ones will come home alive. Four years have passed since RACHEL'S PRAYER with a new test of faith being WWII and its impact on the young males of the Worthem and Hammond families that are of an age to fight. Readers actually see the effect on those left behind praying for the safe return of their loved ones as perspective is rotated between Rachel, Sarah, and Frank. Americana historical readers will appreciate the inspiration and hope found in the message that belief and prayer enables those left behind are able to cope with their fears.

F.P. Lione
ISBN: 0800759621, $12.95

It wasn't too long ago that NYPD patrolman Tony Cavalucci was dumped by his girlfriend and spent his off duty hours drinking. If it was not for his fellow officer Joe Fiore, a born again Christian, he would have become an alcoholic. His life has settled down and he plans to marry Michele, a single mom whose son Tony adores. His new outlook on life leads him to look at the skells, those people who live on the fringe, the homeless, the mentally impaired, and the alkies and druggies with compassion, not scorn. He is now a good neighbor who prevents someone from beating up their wife. His only problem is with his father who broke up their family to marry Marie and won't believe him that his new wife is stepping out on him. His sister has proof, but dad refuses to see it. Tony must learn to accept his father's love for a cheating spouse. This is not a police procedural but a deep and fine tale that is a character study of a how a cop lives as he thrives to do his best on the job, in his personal relationships and with God. He knows that the Lord is with him every step of the way. Readers will like the protagonist who sees like much differently since he became sober leading to an enlightened tolerance of other people's peculiarities.

Marriage by Design
Lynn Michaels
ISBN: 0345476018, $6.99

In Missouri, no one could accuse Lucien Savard, owner of Savard Creations, of nepotism as his most talented wedding gown designer is his daughter Mia. However, Mia who loves fashion informs her father she detests designing wedding gowns, , but Lucien thinks that is a natural reaction for a thirty years old single female dumped by her what's his name boyfriend. She asks him to move her to the trousseau line, but he says no; he claims it is business while she proclaims it is control. As she finishes her resignation letter, a raging Lucien calls the family together to show them their main rival Heavenly Bridals' "latest creation" displayed in Today's Bride magazine is one Mia created for Governor Whitcomb's daughter. Someone sold out the firm. Private Investigator Joe Kerr is hired to uncover the identity of the traitor. While he struggles to survive landmines tossed by insane parents of brides and grooms and swims through water infested with maniacal designer sharks, he is attracted to Mia. She reciprocates his feelings. However, as they fall in love, he realizes she is the only one who had the motive, means, and opportunity. This entertaining contemporary investigative romance is a fine fast-paced tale starring a likable lead pair and an eccentric support cast starting with Lucien's whose reaction to the creative property theft sets the tone as he feels backstabbed, fires everyone, and destroys the furniture. The relationship between Joe and Mia is deftly developed from one of initial physical attraction to admiration and love though throughout the transition is the lingering doubt even as the hero deeply believes she is not the Quisling but worries that his heart persuaded his brain. Lynn Michaels RETURN ENGAGEMENT to the wedding world is a fun story.

All the Numbers
Judy Merrill Larsen
ISBN: 034548536X, $13.95

Divorcee Ellen Banks raises her two sons James and Danny when tragedy strikes. At the annual family summer gala, a Jet Ski driver runs down eleven years old James. He is rushed to the emergency room, but dies. Despondent Ellen is attentive with her other child though she struggles with her loss culminating in the funeral of her son. Once James is buried, however Ellen ignores Danny as her lawsuit against the Jet Ski pilot consumes her. Ellen becomes a crusader insuring that James' senseless but accidental death is avenged. However, the cost of her obsession to her is great as she fails to move on; the cost to the pilot is as great as he lives with guilt; but paying the greatest price is Danny who grieves and has no one to help him adjust. ALL THE NUMBERS is a powerful drama up until and including the funeral, but spins into a crusader legal thriller that is interesting but takes away from the insightful look at the survivors (from both families) whose lives will never be the same. Readers will understand Ellen's fixation, Danny confusion, and to a lesser degree the guilt eating the driver and the despondency of his distraught mom. However, the courtroom hysteria somewhat pulls the audience away from the deep emotional aftermath rather than that serving as a minor springboard to dive deeper into the psyche of each of the living. Still this is a compelling tale of how a tragedy impacts loved ones.

Edge of Danger
Cherry Adair
ISBN: 0345485203, $6.99

Gabriel Edge, a T-FLAC paranormal unit agent has made a pact with his two siblings to never seek a lifemate or marry and especially never fall in love. He knows that for five centuries his ancestors have suffered from broken hearts due to Nairne's Curse. The three siblings vow to end the curse with their generation. However in Montana his current assignment frightens him because he never desired a woman as much he wants Dr. Eden Cahill. His partner Sebastian Tremayne wants Gabriel to seduce the scientist so that he can get close to her to read her mind to learn what she knows about the national security case they are investigating in which she is intricately involved. Gabriel is willing to do so from a distance by invading her dreams, but fears if he gets close she will read his mind about how much he claims he's not in love. She reciprocates his deepest need, but controls herself as she refuses to reveal what she knows just because her heart, her body and her soul pleads with her to do so. EDGE OF DANGER is a strong paranormal romantic suspense. The lead characters are a fine pair as they are falling in love, an emotion neither wants, while "battling" one another as he needs to know what she hides and she refuses to cooperate. Fans will enjoy the first "go to the Edge" thriller and look forward to the "fear" and Darkness" takes starring Gabriel's concerned siblings that the curse is happening in spite of their efforts to end it.

Secret Desires of a Soccer Mom
Robyn Harding
ISBN: 0345476301, $21.95

In Aberdeen Mists, Colorado, Paige Atwell knows she is bored with her marriage of twelve years to faithful Paul and staying at home to raise their two elementary school age children, Chloe and Spencer. However, how much ennui has set in over the dozen years comes to a head (no pun intended) when her married neighbor Karen confesses that she has been in a hot affair with a compassionate Latin lover Javier. Paige agrees ex should be spontaneous and euphoric not scheduled and mechanic. She decides it is up to her to recharge her relationship by "re-sexualize" the passion. However before she can generate her sex campaign, her neighbor Karen is found dead in her garage in what looks like an accident. Paige and other three coffee moms think otherwise as they believe Karen's spouse Doug learned of Javier and perhaps she was leaving him so he killed her making it look like an accident. Believing they are experts after watching TV police shows, the coffee mamas begin their brand of investigation. This cross between Desperate Housewives, Stella gets Her Groove, and CSI is an amusing contemporary tale especially when Paige's planned spontaneous sexual escapades lead to mortifying moments. The lighthearted story line is fun especially the family interludes, but goes over the edge during the amateur sleuth inquiry. Still fans will enjoy Paige's attack on her spouse and uncovering the identity of a killer while changing peed on sheets.

Hot Flash Club Chills Out
Nancy Thayer
ISBN: 034548553X, $21.95

Faye has never slept with any man except her beloved late husband Jack, but plans to seduce Aubrey if his adult daughter would give them a moment or three without her interference. Though she loves her son, her daughter-in-law and her grandchild, Alice is tired as her boyfriend Gideon notices. The widow Marilyn and her lover Ian discuss marriage, but she has some doubts. Polly feels all alone as the others Hot Flash Club member bonded before she joined; the ex-wife of her lover Hugh still interferes, and her son and grandson are kept on a leash away from her by her daughter-in-law. Shirley knows what all alone really means as the trice divorced woman is the only member without a man. At the monthly meeting in Legal Seafood, Shirley announces to her pals that a former client Nora Salter has asked her to house-sit her Nantucket summer home while she heals from an operation. The five weary Hot Flash Club members see this as a chance to flee from their current doldrums at least for a couple of months of fun and sun. They might have reconsidered their escape if they knew that the chaos of their relationships will follow them to the dunes of the Cape. The latest Hot Flash Club tale is an interesting drama as each of the quintet of menopausal females has relationship problems to contend with, which leads them to escape to the Cape only to have their difficulties follow them. The story line enables the reader to see deep into what motivates each of the fearsome five females. Though the pace can be a bit slow at times, series fans will enjoy the latest escapades of the HOT FLASH CLUB CHILLS OUT as no rest come to the weary.

Edge of Fear
Cherry Adair
ISBN: 0345485211, $6.99

Over a year ago, Brian Shaw banker to the some of the world's deadliest terrorists vanished, wiping his trail as if he fell off the plant. T-FLAC wants Shaw in custody to cripple the financing of operations and to obtain the money trail that would lead back to a who's who of terrorists. Bored T-FLAC Agent Caleb "Middle" Edge recovers from a leg injury when, at his insistence, his superior at the top-secret paranormal antiterrorist unit assigns him a special project. He is to apply his "rakish charm" to obtain intelligence from Shaw's daughter Heather who vanished six months ago when she saw her father murder her mother, but just resurfaced in San Francisco. Caleb is stunned by the immediate in his gut desire for Heather. He reminds himself several times about the pact he and his two siblings made to never seek a lifemate or marry and especially never fall in love. He knows that for five centuries his ancestors have suffered from broken hearts due to Nairne's Curse and the three brothers vow to end the curse with their generation. Caleb and his handler Lark plan to use Heather as a pawn to get to her father, but the Middle Edge finds he must choose between the innocent woman he loves and his country's need. Fans of exciting paranormal romantic suspense thrillers will want to read the fast-paced EDGE OF FEAR. The lead protagonists are an interesting pair as he fights falling in love due to the curse and she is wary of everyone since watching her father kill her mother. Cherry Adair provides a strong middle thriller that will have her fans clamoring for the final cursed sibling's story.

What Goes Around
Parry "EbonySatin" Brown
One World
ISBN: 0345469453, $13.95

Seven years ago, Catherine Hawkins fought a custody battle against Terry Winston, but the ice queen lost and he has raised their twin daughters since. While she has gained power and wealth she uses her loss as a motivator though she could not care one iota about the brats. He married Jackie and with his daughters, their offspring and her twin sons from a previous relationship, Terry is the father to five delightful children sharing a happy, well-to-do lifestyle in Dallas. In Los Angeles Dr. Ahmad informs Catherine that she will need dialysis treatment for her failing kidney and placed her on the national donor recipient list that money cannot expedite. She knows the perfect match lives in Dallas and she plans to harvest one of the kidneys of her daughters. Catherine arrives at the girls' prom to decide which one can be manipulated. Alisa tells her biological mom to go pound sand while Ariana agrees to donate a kidney. Her parents especially Jackie are outraged, her twin irate, and her stepbrothers disappointed by her kind act. This is a terrific family drama made further intense by purposely stereotyping Catherine as the queen of mean, a person everyone hates more than Scrooge. Parry "EbonySatin" Brown uses subplots like downsizing that some will say are unnecessary, but they establish Catherine's reputation to new readers. Interesting the tale hinges on the relationship between the biological mother and her natural daughters yet it is Jackie whose reaction out of love and protectiveness makes this a fine one sitting soap operatic story line that contemporary family drama fans will cherish. Perhaps the only flaw is those like this reviewer will have to find the previous Winston-Hawkins war, THE SHIRT OFF HIS BACK.

Dragon's Fire
Anne McCaffrey & Todd McCaffrey
Del Rey
ISBN: 0345480287, $24.95, 386 pp.

In eighteen years, the Red Star will orbit around Pern and the parasitical spoor will rain down on the land destroying all organic matter. The fire breathing dragons are Pern's first line of defense but to burn thread out of the sky, the volatile substance firestone is needed and only one mine is operational. That mine is destroyed when the Shunned Tarik, set up by his partner Tenim, causes an explosion that destroys the facility. Tenim, who has a grudge against Tarik's son Cristov, sets him up so that it looks like he stole something from a weyr leader. However, Cristov volunteers to open a new mine where he insists firestone waits to be dug up. The leaders of Pern have a plan to save the Shunned outcasts and the innocents who are with them. However Tenim has a countermeasure that would put all Pern in jeopardy and the only person who can stop him is a person long thought dead who doesn't have any recollection of who he is. DRAGON'S FIRE is very different from most of the other Pern books as team McCaffrey focuses on the dark elements in the planet's society who are willing to commit crimes, some heinous in nature, if it means turning a profit. There are more villains than heroes in this exciting science fiction tale, but the protagonists who put Pern before themselves are willing to risk their own lives for future generations of Pernese. The Pern saga is generations old but its creator and her son keep coming up with new ideas and original storylines to keep readers happy.

Throne of Jade
Naomi Novik
Del Rey
ISBN: 0345481291, $7.50

The Chinese leadership is irate that not only does upstart Englishman Will Laurence bond until death with a rare Chinese Celestial Dragon Temeraire; he turned the intellectual dragon into a war beast of burden. Not wanting an incident with China as they already are at war with France, the British Admiralty Board acquiesces to the demands of Yongxing, brother to the Chinese Emperor and orders Will to separate from his soulmate. An irate Will refuses risking arrest and death. The English bureaucracy sees an escape for them without alienating the Chinese Emperor; they send Will and Temeraire to China for a final disposition. On the treacherous sea voyage, monsters lurk, but to Will the most dangerous one is the sly Yongxing, who educates Temeraire on the life he missed as a venerated Celestial Dragon in the Forbidden City while teaching the dragon to speak and write Chinese. Will is perturbed by Yongxing's action, but can do little except trust his soulmate to stay with him. Yongxing also arranges for accidents to happen to Will for the Emperor's horrified brother believes the westerner mistreats this special dragon by using Temeraire in combat, but also sees the dragon as an opportunity to further his personal ambitions. THRONE OF JADE is a great fantasy that complements the tremendous first novel, HIS MAJESTY'S DRAGON, as the story line cleverly explores human-dragon relationships and de jure and de facto inequality and injustice. Will and Temeraire debate the dragon lifestyle in England after seeing the abusive ugly slave trade on the West African coast and compare England to China where dragons reside freely in towns. Even Will begins to reassess whether his mate would be better off in China where Celestial Dragons are revered and other dragons treated with respect as equals. This cerebral emotional theme enhances a powerful action-packed tale in exotic locations.

Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Betrayal
Aaron Allston
Del Rey
ISBN: 0345477340, $25.95

Peace finally seems the way of the galaxy as the Skywalker-Solo bloodlines are developing a legacy of harmony. Everyone appears to welcome the respite from the wars while Jedi Master Luke Skywalker organizes the New Order of Jedi Knights into a force for the better good. Nothing could be better yet on Coruscant Luke senses a return to the darkness is imminent, as he tells his wife Mara that the enemy, "he doesn't exist", yet but will. On Adumar, Jacen Solo and Ben Skywalker smell the odor of death from the Dammant Killers factory beneath the planet's surface. However, they misjudge the cowardly fears of the firm's officials who plan to prevent them from informing their superiors of the missile plant. As an ambush is set up on Adumar, planet Corellia leads a so far peaceful insurrection against the strict binding rules of the Galactic Alliance. To end thoughts of succession, the Galactic Alliance decides on a presumptive first strike doctrine with Corellia being the target. This destroys the Skywalker-Solo alliance as Corellia is the homeworld of the legendary Hans. Civil war seems forthcoming yet worse than the split between allies, Luke's enemy still does not exist. This is a terrific entry in the long running series as Aaron Allston starts a new arc with a fresh outlook in which the Skywalker-Solo extended intertwined families are at odds with each other over what to do with Corellia and other similar leaning planets. Luke's appearances bring an eerie feel thought the exciting story line as the real enemy has not surfaced but is coming at a time when civil war is looming. As always the aliens seem genuine and the relatives of Hans and Luke make for a fine tale as the force moves on towards a new schism.

Black Powder War
Naomi Novik
Del Rey
ISBN: 0345481305, $7.50

His Majesty' Aerial Corps Captain Will Laurence and his partner HIS MAJESTY'S DRAGON Temeraire the dragon relax after their Chinese escapades (see THRONE OF JADE). However, their R&R is cut short, when an envoy informs the daring duo of their assignment. They must travel to Istanbul to pick up three dragon eggs recently purchased from the Ottomans and bring them safely home before they hatch. Will hires Tharkay, a half-breed guide who has parents in both nations, and decides the land route is best. However, the trek is hazardous from natural causes, a falling out between the two nations, and mostly because of the raging Chinese dragon Lien, who vows vengeance on Laurence and Temeraire for the death of her human mate. All this is happening while the clock is running out and a betrayal makes it seemingly impossible to accomplish the mission. The latest Laurence-Temeraire adventure is once again a fabulous historical fantasy. The story line is filled with action and adventure while the secondary players add depth either to the escapades to the period. However, as always the tale is owned by the lead duo who both grows into better tolerant beings due to their relationship. Fans will enjoy the BLACK POWDER WAR.

John Conviser
Del Rey
ISBN: 0345485025, $13.95

In the late twentieth century, the NSA used ECHELON as an information gathering program on the net but the data collected proved too chaotic and overwhelming to be useful. Computer scientists sought the key to separate the dross from the gold, which led to Echelon becoming the guiding force that ruled humanity; though most people believe that to be an urban legend. However those who allegedly control Echelon use the program to insure the planet is a safe place to live. The head of Echelon believes that a saboteur is working inside the Echelon community. The head of the Agency maneuvers thing so that when he is captured, Echelon agent Ryan Laing, restored from the dead due healing drones added to his physiology, learns who the traitor is. However, Ryan assumes this is too simple because the person is a follower not a leader so he turns to hacker Sarah to help him uncover the traitor's master. John Conviser paints an interesting picture of a future guided by guardians who hold so much power that when one turns egomaniacal the world is in jeopardy. Combining current technology with Lord Acton's warning that "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" ECHELON is a plausible science fiction thriller that grips readers with its grim realism. This compelling action-packed story line starring a wonderful hero will have audience pondering whether we are already walking that path with telecommunication manipulation.

The Oracle's Queen
Lynn Flewelling
ISBN: 0553583458, $7.50

The prophecy says that Skala, once ruled by queens, will be ruled again by queens. Taking it seriously and fearing that this means his overthrow and probable death if unchecked; King Erius takes drastic action to insure his downfall never comes. He has almost all of his female kin assassinated. Knowing that any female newborn relative will die, Skala wizards physically conceal the birth of Erius' niece with a gender changing spell turning her into Prince Tobin while doing nothing for her twin brother who dies. However when "he" turns fifteen, Prince Tobin's inner essence awakens breaking the gender spell and he becomes the she that is her nature. Princess Tamir comes at a time her people desperately need a true Queen to rule, but she has psychological problems being uncomfortable in her new female identity yet realizing why she felt out of place as a male. Tamir also does not trust the wizards who changed her at birth and her demonic twin brother realizes he was "sacrificed by the wizards so has an ax to grind against them and his sister. At the same time Erius's son Korin claims the throne declaring his cousin a traitor. This is terrific ending to a great fantasy trilogy that can stand alone, but is enhanced by reading the previous two novels first as they provide much of the background (see HIDDEN WARRIOR and THE BONE DOLL'S TWIN). The story line is action-packed as the three rival relatives soon encounter one another with much at stake. This trio seems genuine and Tamir's identity problems, Korin's doubts with the Oracle and the fanatic Illior demanding a warrior queen on the throne, as well as the demon twin's rage make for a fabulous fantasy finale.

Spin Control
Chris Moriarty
ISBN: 0553382144, $12.00

Those that matter, the highest level of purebred humans, consider the clone Arkady as expendable; lesser humans especially in deep space consider him a soulless Golem. However, he is different than his Syndicate peers although he thinks and reacts like a clone. Arkady suffers from a malady that renders clones somewhat ineffective on questionable assignments such as terraforming planets. AIs and clones are constructs in which feelings are excluded to avoid interfering with mission accomplishment. However, Arkady ponders the ethics of his actions as he struggles to follow the directives of his handler Korchow. Israeli Captain Moshe Feldman and his aid Osnat meet and smuggle Arkady through the UN Tech Embargo onto earth where he arrives in Israel carrying a biological antidote. However, Arkady soon realizes the Israelis do not plan to use the elixir to help people; instead they plan to sell it to the highest bidder as a biological weapon of mass destruction; Arkady is for sale too. Meanwhile the Artificial Life Emancipation Front knows trouble is brewing in Israel so they send their best agent former Peacekeeper and Syndicate executioner Major Catherine Li to steal the biological weapon and kill the traitorous Arkady. Arkady, a minor character in the exhilarating prequel SPIN STATE, takes center stage in this adrenaline pumping futuristic espionage science fiction thriller. The story line is action-packed yet driven by Arkady as his thought processes evolve into considering right from wrong. The returns of Li as a critical support character adds to the tale that once again contains a human rights message evolved from Orwell's still relevant (even in the United States) Animal Farm meets Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Blade Runner), as "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others" leading the lesser to fight or flight.

Familiar Friend
Cristina Sumners
ISBN: 0553584324, $6.99, 322 pp.

After a marriage counseling session, Tracy is walking home when she comes upon a dead body in the drive way of St. Margaret's Church. She runs across the street to the police station; the cops find the murdered body of the head of the Spanish Department of Harton University Mason Blaine. Harton, New Jersey Chief of Police Tom Holder takes charge of the case and discovers he is drowning in suspects became the dead professor was a vindictive man who made a lot of enemies. While he is working that case, the suspects are at an academic party with Tom's friend Reverend Kathryn Koerney attending as a spy for him. While Kathryn talks with Tracy, the latter's husband grabs her drink from her hand, drinks it, and immediately dies. Poison was proven to be the murder weapon. Between the two cases, Tom has not seen his wife and it turns up she has been missing for four days. The D.A. suspends Tom and takes over his two murder investigations hoping to get the glory. Kathryn, with the help of Tom's friends, devises a way for the suspended cop to get his job back so he can solve the homicides. Readers will thoroughly enjoy the combination police procedural amateur sleuth mystery that opens with the "destruction of Tom Holder" and never slows down. The characters are richly defined and even the suspects for the most part are likeable. Readers will never guess who the killer is and will be even more stunned when they learn why his wife disappeared. Christina Sumners writes a first rate crime caper.

Not So Snow White
Donna Kauffman
ISBN: 0553383094, $11.00

Tess Hamilton has been on top of the tennis world for years, but failed to plan on a post sports future as she thought she had years to go. Poor investments and bad spending habits leave her near broke even as an injury may have ended her career. A desperate Tess decides she needs some sponsors so she hides her injuries hoping to bluff her way through a few victories due to her unbeatable reputation. Glass Slipper, Inc co-founder Aurora Favreaux knows something is wrong with Tess so she coaxes her friend to coach the new teenage phenomena fifteen years old Gabrielle Fontaine. Tess unenthusiastically accepts the job with plans to get back on the circuit as soon as possible. She finds her student is talented, but somewhat stubborn; worse she finds herself attracted to Gaby's over-protective over bearing, older brother Max, who manages her tennis career. Max reluctantly agreed to hire Tess, but has doubts about a woman who has been tabloid heaven or hell (perspective) for fifteen years starting the same age as his sister is now. Neither understood what love in tennis really is before. The latest Glass Slippers tale (see SLEEPING WITH BEAUTY) is a fun sports romance starring an extremely responsible male and a great female athlete who knows what she has lost as her career begins to fade. Needing money due to poor financial management that left her broke and owing the IRS is why she took the job, but Aurora soon becomes more like a big sister to Gaby than just a coach and the soulmate to Max. Though some mixing of sports metaphors might Tee off fanatics NOT SO SNOW WHITE serves up a six love romance starring a couple of aces.

Blind to the Bones
Stephen Booth
ISBN: 0440242908, $7.50

In Withens, student Emma Renshaw vanished without a trace; her body was never found. Following an investigation in which her flat mates (Alex Dearden, Debbie Stark, and Neil Granger) offer nothing of use, the local police cold case the inquiry when no clues related to her disappearance surfaced and hope a future break will occur. Day 743 since Emma disappeared; the police receive what they wish, a break in the Renshaw case as they find her mobile phone. However, a second clue also comes shortly afterward, but not one the cops would have wanted. Someone smashed in the head of Neil on Withens Moor. Though there appears no link except that they were housemates, Detective Sergeant Diane Fry thinks there is a motivating unknown connection between the two cases as she assumes the culprit also killed Emma. Detective Constable Ben Cooper investigates several burglaries in which one family seems to have been left alone; the incestuous infamous Oxleys, whose ancestors built the tunnels beneath the village. As the two investigations merge, neither case gets closer to being solved as more homicides leave the townsfolk except the Oxleys in fear and despair. This is an exciting British police procedural in which the two investigations are tied together not just because of the cases, but also because the respective lead detectives have a history in which their personal lives mingled and desire between them still flares up. The isolation of the village adds to the sense of foreboding and when the audience meets the Oxleys that embellishes the belief more bad things are about to happen. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this tale filled with twists some eerie in nature or otherwise.

Four Steps to the Altar
Jean Stone
ISBN: 0553588532, $6.99

Fortyish Lily Beckwith of Second Chance Wedding planners is considering marrying her boyfriend, Frank Forbes, but has a stipulation that she must not lose control of her late husband's fifty million dollar estate. However, any romantic endeavor like saying I do might mean her adversary, her ex-sister-in-law Antonia Beckwith, who controls much of the family fortune, could gain total access. The other three partners are dealing with family issues too. Jo wants to be a great stepmother to her new spouse's twelve years old daughter, but her actions drive her husband to despair and his offspring to scorn. Elaine wants to marry her beau, but fears holy matrimony means the loss of her recently gained highly prized independence. Finally Sarah keeps an emotional distance from her boyfriend who wants more. The fourth Second Chance contemporary tale is a well written story that continues the saga of four friends and partners. The recurring characters seem real and remain consistent so that those who have read the previous three novels will enjoy this entry though some of the euphoria of especially the first novel (see ONCE UPON A BRIDE) is diminished. New fans will be better off starting with the previous tales to learn more about the stars.

Luanne Rice
ISBN: 0553804197, $24.00

After six years in an Irish prison for killing the man who assaulted his fourteen years old daughter Regis, renowned earthworks artist John Sullivan is freed. He returns to Connecticut, but is hesitant to go home to the nearby Star of the Sea Academy and convent where his family works and lives because he fears his beloved spouse Honor will reject him for the harm he caused her and their three daughters. He turns to his sibling Sister Bernadette Ignatius and his best friend Tom Kelly to serve as communicators between him and his wife as John worries that Regis is heading down the aisle into a bad marriage while his offspring wants him at her wedding. His other two daughters do not openly greet him either as one feels he abandoned her and her siblings and the other does not know him as she was too young when he left. However all that is topped by his trepidation that his beloved Honor will not take him back; if he can find the courage and get her alone amongst the Connecticut Moonstones perhaps the magic will surface for he believes it remains alive just dormant. This is an interesting family drama due to the differing reactions of the three siblings as one desperately wants her dad back in her life; another wants him totally out of her life; and the third is unsure what she wants when it comes to him. John knows he has made mistakes that he can never atone for, but prays for a second chance with his beloved fearsome female foursome. Though the solution seems too simplistic, contemporary fans will enjoy this second chance at love.

The Lies of Locke Lamora
Scott Lynch
ISBN: 0553804676, $23.00

Plague swept the Catchfire District of the city-state Camorr killing all the people over twelve. When the lethal illness finally burned itself out the ruling Duke sends in his Ghouls to remove the dead children. Some were sold to the Thiefmaker who lives in the graveyard on Shade's Hill. He teaches his children to steal and hand over to him their ill gotten gains. One of the orphans, Locke Lamora loves to steal, but he is so good it brought attention to him and quite a following. The Thiefmaker feels Locke is too dangerous to have around so he sells the lad to the Chains, the Eyeless Priest of the Temple of Perelandro, the god of thieves and malefactors. The priest can see but uses his "blindness" to beg for money and uses the temple to train thieves. When Lamora grows up he leads the Gentleman Bastards who steal from the nobles. He pays tribute to the ruler of thieves Capa Barsavi who believes that Lamora is a small time thief. Meanwhile a criminal known as the Gray King threatens everything Locke holds dear and Lamora swears vengeance even if it means dying in the endeavor. The protagonist is a complex character who steals from the rich, plays a good con, and kills when necessary. He has a code of honor which enables the audience to admire him and understand that thieving is what he was taught as an orphaned youth even as we find his vocation appalling. This entertaining sword and sorcery yarn puts a new spin on the Robin Hood mythos. Scott Lynch has created a wonderful fantasy and this reviewer looks forward to more adventures of Locke Lamora.

Ten Second Staircase
Christopher Fowler
ISBN: 0553804499, $24.00

Geriatric police detectives Arthur Bryant and John May know their careers are almost over. The long term partners realize it is just a matter of time before their cherished Peculiar Crimes Unit is downsized as the brass thinks the two fogies are obsolete and their cell with them. Still Bryant and May want to go out on top solving their current cases just like they have always done. Neither is easy. The notorious Leicester Square Vampire is a cold case that is personal at least to May whose daughter was killed by the culprit. The other investigation involves uncovering who the lethal caped clad Highwayman seen riding a horse is before he or she kills another detested celebrity behind a locked door. TEN SECOND STAIRCASE is a terrific police procedural that clearly honors the golden age mystery writers as well as fans of those classics. The story line is action-packed yet filled with plenty of humor as the two long time partners work the two cases while waiting for the brass to shut down their unit and retire both of them to the old police officers home. Thought crimes are odd to say the least; the police work is professional leading to strong investigations. Sub-genre fans will want to read this intelligent amusing investigative tale.

The Husband
Dean Koontz
ISBN: 0553804790, $27.00

Twenty-seven years old Southern California landscaper Mitchell Rafferty is on his knees working a client's garden when he receives the call on his cell-phone that enlightens him to the fact that a person is "dying at the moment of birth". The caller, a total stranger, demands that Mitch provide him with two million dollars within sixty hours or his beloved wife of three years Holly will die. The co-owner of Big Green insists he is a gardener with 11K in his accounts, but the kidnapper who already hurt his spouse, knows that and does not care at all. To insure that Rafferty understands this is no joke, he tells him to watch what happens to the guy walking his dog across the street; a moment later that innocent is dead with a bullet in his head. In sixty hours, two mill or expect a corpse. Mitch now knows how serious these guys are, but must not tell the police investigating the homicide about his wife's abduction. Instead he must find a way to come up with the loot though he has no way of legally obtaining that sum of money. Still Mitch will do anything to save the life of his beloved wife including risking his life and that of others. Dean Koontz is at his best with this suspense laden thriller mindful of Sutherland's The Phone Booth and Snipes' Liberty Stands Still. Mitchell is a terrific protagonist who believes his life is near perfect until he receives the phone call that shows him how precarious life and love are. The zillion fans of Mr. Koontz and those who appreciate a powerful thriller in which the tension grows from that terse opening scene to the climatic confrontation will want to read THE HUSBAND that answers how far an everyman will go for love.

Three Times a Charm
Jean Stone
ISBN: 0553588524, $6.99

In the Berkshires, the Second Chances wedding planners (Jo, Lily, Elaine and Sarah with help from Andrew) are ecstatic with the success of a societal wedding bash and a terrific New Year's Eve party. Customers want their service so everything looks excellent. This includes a relationship between Andrew and Jo. Happiness unravels when Sarah, who has never married though now forty-three and runs a wedding planning business, sadly watches her lover takes his son and moves to New York. On top of that the groom John from their poster board wedding flees his marriage and his business. His wife Irene turns to John's protege Andrew to keep the business afloat so he travels to New York to help. Not long afterward Jo arrives in the Big Apple to surprise her lover but she receives the bigger surprise when Irene insists she tasted Andrew first at the same time that Sarah's biological mother who deserted her years ago want to meet her now. The third Second Chances tale continues to look deep into the lives of the four middle age women and through them to other people that are close to each one of them. The story line rotates between the females as each has a major event impact their lives (and probably future stories). Fans of character driven contemporary fiction will want to read Jean Stone's fine by the numbers novel.

The Oracle's Queen
Lynn Flewelling
ISBN: 0553583458, $7.50

The prophecy says that Skala, once ruled by queens, will be ruled again by queens. Taking it seriously and fearing that this means his overthrow and probable death if unchecked; King Erius takes drastic action to insure his downfall never comes. He has almost all of his female kin assassinated. Knowing that any female newborn relative will die, Skala wizards physically conceal the birth of Erius' niece with a gender changing spell turning her into Prince Tobin while doing nothing for her twin brother who dies. However when "he" turns fifteen, Prince Tobin's inner essence awakens breaking the gender spell and he becomes the she that is her nature. Princess Tamir comes at a time her people desperately need a true Queen to rule, but she has psychological problems being uncomfortable in her new female identity yet realizing why she felt out of place as a male. Tamir also does not trust the wizards who changed her at birth and her demonic twin brother realizes he was "sacrificed by the wizards so has an ax to grind against them and his sister. At the same time Erius's son Korin claims the throne declaring his cousin a traitor. This is terrific ending to a great fantasy trilogy that can stand alone, but is enhanced by reading the previous two novels first as they provide much of the background (see HIDDEN WARRIOR and THE BONE DOLL'S TWIN). The story line is action-packed as the three rival relatives soon encounter one another with much at stake. This trio seems genuine and Tamir's identity problems, Korin's doubts with the Oracle and the fanatic Illior demanding a warrior queen on the throne, as well as the demon twin's rage make for a fabulous fantasy finale.

The Innocence
Kathleen Tessaro
ISBN: 0060522283, $12.95

When Evie Garlick left Eden, Ohio for London she dreamed of becoming the toast of the town as a stage actress. However, she never achieves her aspirations settling for teaching as she rationalizes that she gave up ambition to raise her son as a single mom. Lately she dreams of her late dearest friend Robbie, who came from New York when she did. He lived life to the fullest until he died in a car accident. In her dreams Robbie lectures her to stop using her son to hide from life. He insists she relook over her past lovers and her choices over the past fifteen years and reconsider is that what she truly wanted out of her life. Robbie demands she regain the elan she once had as a teen and dream to love again if she is to live again beyond the identity of single mother. This is a terrific character study that looks at an individual who sacrificed her dreams to raise her son, but now dreams of what could have been. The key to the tale is that though Evie has regrets, she does not apologize for loving her son. Through Robbie's "reappearance" she wonders if she could have both though his spirit forces her to admit she wasted several years hiding from love. Fans of a powerful and insightful look at a person's psyche will want to read Kathleen Tessaro's fabulous sharp tale of a second chance at living if her everyday heroine finds the courage to go for it.

Be Mine Tonight
Kathryn Smith
ISBN: 0060848367, $5.99

Chapel used to be a courageous yet arrogant man, who feared nothing. Six centuries ago, he crashed the inner sanctuary of the Knights Templar in order to gain immortality by drinking from the Holy Grail they guarded. He penetrated their barriers, defeated their guardians, and drank from the cup. Now he knows six hundred years later that he will roam forever condemned satiating his hellish thirst drinking blood at night. However, he has found a reason to live when his eyes feast upon brave Prudence Ryland, but she is dying from ovarian cancer. Her only hope to live rests with drinking from the same cup that has condemned Chapel to be outside anything holy. However, he offers an alternative means to eternity; his passionate kiss of death and rebirth if he dares. This is a magnificent vampire romance with an intriguing plot twist involving Prudence's health making her choices between "unlife" and death. The story line is fast-paced as Chapel wonders whether he should condemn his beloved to a life of sorrow and regret though he admits love makes it worth while. Pru is a fabulous protagonist symbolizing much more than a strong protagonist with a dilemma; she embodies life's complexities of much of the modern biological ethics debate; this inside a paranormal romance will have readers toast Kathryn Smith for this excellent thought provoking thriller.

On the Way to the Wedding
Julia Quinn
ISBN: 0060531258, $7.99

His seven siblings all fell in love seemingly at first sight though they each had a tale to tell (see the Bridgerton series) on the journey to their permanent happily ever after relationships. Now the only remaining single of his generation, Gregory assumes "the one" will show up when it his time as the soulmate has done with his brothers and sisters. When he meets Hermione Watson, Gregory is convinced she is his one. However, he learns from the pragmatic plain speaking shrew Lucy Abernathy, his beloved's best friend, that his "One" loves someone else. However, as he struggles with his feelings, he also finds his thoughts returning to the outspoken Lucy who constantly rips his skin off leading him to believe she needs a muzzle. Though the siblings spend less time in the finale, ON THE WAY TO THE WEDDING is superb entry in which Julia Quinn satirizes her previous Regency romances with a delightful twist on love at first sight. The story line contains a blackmailing subplot and has some minor involvement from Clan Bridgerton, but the prime theme is Gregory's internal war as he insists he loves Hermione, but relishes his verbal sparring with her beautiful pit-bull friend. Kudos to the courageous Ms. Quinn for this daring spin and even more so making it work.

The Duke in Disguise
Gayle Callen
ISBN: 0060784121, $6.99

In 1844, the Duke of Thanet hires Meriel Shelby as a governess to his six-year-old son, Stephen especially while he is away recuperating from an illness. When the Duke returns home after being away for quite some time, Meriel is confused by her reaction to him as she thinks he is a hunk, but knows he is a womanizer so she plans to ignore her attraction to him. She also believes the Duke is behaving differently as he spends quality time with his offspring, something he seemed loathed to do before yet enjoys now especially when Stephen is with Meriel. Thus the Duke devastates her plan to avoid him. As she falls in love, Richard O'Neill ironically thinks back to the vow he made to his dying brother Cecil, the real Duke, to not reveal their masquerade pretense in order to keep Stephen safe from cousin Charles; finally in love he has to hide his true identity from his beloved. THE DUKE IN DISGUISE, the second Sisters of Willow Pond novel, is a fabulous early Victorian romance starring two likable protagonists and a precocious (perhaps too much so) preadolescent. The story line centers on the attraction between the governess and the phony duke as she struggles with the enigma of the whys of now in love with him and his so different behavior while he internally wars with his desire to reveal to her the truth in spite of his pledge. Sub-genre readers will enjoy this fine historical and seek out the previous winner, THE LORD NEXT DOOR (the tale of Meriel's sister).

Sins of Midnight
Kimberley Logan
ISBN: 0060792566, $5.99

In 1813, seventeen years old Jillian Daventry knows first hand the battles between her parents especially over her dad's work with Bow St. However, neither she nor her sisters expected it to go this far when Jilly and her younger sibling Maura find their dead dad lying unconscious in blood holding a note to their mom from her lover Hawklsey. From there they find their mama dead in the next room. Over the next four years, Jilly has worked closely with Bow St, but recently has agreed to temporarily halt her scandalous behavior while her sister enjoys her coming out; though she refuses to curb her cutting tongue. Still she vows to serendipitously continue to learn what happened on that fatal night four years ago. Connor Monroe observes Jilly in action and admires her courage and fortitude. However, he too is on a quest to avenge those whose lives died over the past six years because he failed to heed his late partner's fears; among the dead besides his partner, victims of a serial killer, he believes is Jilly's mother. Perhaps if they team up they can prevent anyone else from dying. SINS OF MIDNIGHT is an exciting investigative Regency romance that grips the audience from start to finish as both protagonists break gender barriers to stop a killer. Jilly is courageous as she works with Bow St. and her new partner to uncover the identity of her mother's murderer while Connor recognizes her skills could prove the extra element to stopping the adversary. Their falling in love augments a terrific private investigative tale that showcases two amateur sleuths learning on the job police procedures when no guide exists outside of France.

Parlor Games
Jess Michaels, Leda Swann and Julia Templeton
ISBN: 0060882298, $13.95

"Fallen Angel" by Jess Michaels. After falling from grace, Arabella opens up London's most popular brothel with vow that men will service her not the other way around. However, she needs protection from someone who wants her dead. She turns to equally disgraced Bow Street Runner John to keep her safe from her stalker, but soon desires his services 24/7 in and out of bed. "Parlor Games" by Leda Swann. Sarah entered the coffeehouse brothel so that she can eat, but though her job is to entice men into spending their money, she plans to leave a virgin. Undercover investigator Tom seeks information on a client when he sees Sarah. He buys exclusivity for a month of her while continuing his discrete inquiries. "Border Lord" by Julia Templeton. Terri went on her Scottish tour for two reasons. To escape a cheating no longer fiance and because being a romantic she walk where legends speak of lost loves. However, when she enters a room, Terri realizes quickly everything is wrong especially when she becomes prisoner of a highland laird who demands honesty, loyalty and equal lust in his woman. She wants the same in her man, but worries whether a twenty-first century independent female find love and happiness in the arms of a macho medieval Highlander? These three well written historical heated red romances are fiery fervent fun starring super protagonists in strong storylines in which the erotica is deftly blended into the passionate plots.

Silence the Whisperers
Cait London
ISBN: 0060790881, $5.99

Eleven days ago near Mimosa, Oklahoma someone kidnapped six years old Cammie Somerton, heir to millions; her mother paid the ransom of two million immediately, but the child was not returned. The police question the gardener Paul Olson as a prime suspect. Desperate, Cammie's mother Katherine, a noted balloonist, takes to the air only to have her balloon explode. Not long afterward Paul's ten years old son H.J. finds his dad dead, a bullet in his head and a note saying he was sorry; $500k was near him. When a dazed Cammie comes out of the woods safe, the police close the tragic case. Twenty-eight years later, Hayden Olson tells his mother he needs to know the truth as he does not believe his dad committed the atrocity that ran the family out of town; Hayden thinks Cammie's stepfather Robert is behind the kidnapping and the deaths. He heads to Mimosa where he plans to find the missing $1.5 ransom million. He sees Cameron in a cafe, but she does not recognize him though they were close friends as preadolescents. He is even more stunned to see the plants in her truck as she was an asthmatic who could not be near foliage. As he finds other anomalies, Hayden and Cameron fall in love, but he knows that it will end once she learns who he is. This is a terrific romantic suspense that has readers joining the hero wondering what is going on then and now. That relationship makes for an intriguing subplot as each keeps an inner secret from the other. The mystery is handled cleverly and deftly though the ending feels abrupt and off kilter. Still Cait London provides a fascinating thriller with a strong romance and plenty of suspense.

Be Mine Tonight
Kathryn Smith
ISBN: 0060848367, $5.99

Chapel used to be a courageous yet arrogant man, who feared nothing. Six centuries ago, he crashed the inner sanctuary of the Knights Templar in order to gain immortality by drinking from the Holy Grail they guarded. He penetrated their barriers, defeated their guardians, and drank from the cup. Now he knows six hundred years later that he will roam forever condemned satiating his hellish thirst drinking blood at night. However, he has found a reason to live when his eyes feast upon brave Prudence Ryland, but she is dying from ovarian cancer. Her only hope to live rests with drinking from the same cup that has condemned Chapel to be outside anything holy. However, he offers an alternative means to eternity; his passionate kiss of death and rebirth if he dares. This is a magnificent vampire romance with an intriguing plot twist involving Prudence's health making her choices between "unlife" and death. The story line is fast-paced as Chapel wonders whether he should condemn his beloved to a life of sorrow and regret though he admits love makes it worth while. Pru is a fabulous protagonist symbolizing much more than a strong protagonist with a dilemma; she embodies life's complexities of much of the modern biological ethics debate; this inside a paranormal romance will have readers toast Kathryn Smith for this excellent thought provoking thriller.

Ashes and Bones
Dana Cameron
ISBN: 0060554673, $6.99, 304 pp.

In January, Caldwell College archeology professor Emma Fielding received a post card with the word "soon" written on it. She assumes it is from Tony Markham, who tried to kill her and did murder her best friend. The police say that the fingerprint doesn't match his but when Tony escaped in a boat, his body was never found. While on vacation in Hawaii, she receives an anonymous gift of Lilies of the Valley, a flower that has special significance to Tony. Her husband Brian calms her down feeling this is just a coincidence but when they are at the airport, Emma Believes she spots Tony but the man disappears before Brian can see him. Back home, a series of pranks on those close to Emma soon escalates into a mugging, a bullet hitting her martial arts teacher and the death of a security guard. This brings Emma to the brink of madness; only the threat to Brian brings her back from the abyss. Even though all authority figures and Brian believe Tony is dead, the audience has doubts because the heroine is so sure he is the culprit. This is a predator vs. prey thriller but it is up to the audience to decide who is who. As each prank escalates another notch of violence the reader will wonder if Emma will be the last victim. Dana Cameron has written a pulse pounding, adrenaline jumping work that will appeal to sub-genre fans.

If This Bed Could Talk
Liz Maverick, Kimberly Dean and Lynn LaFleur
ISBN: 006088536X, $13.95

"Agent Provocateur" by Liz Maverick. Brothers Michael and Devlin observe Vienna with the former saying she is perfect while the latter insists she is a mess. They know she is subject to execution under the Three Strikes crime policy unless bought. They buy and train her to seduce secrets from hard cases (no pun intended). However, her Professor Higgins (Michael that is) and she fall in love, which is lethal and ergo taboo in the world of espionage. "Unrequited" by Kimberly Dean. Trista's date Cliff mistakenly takes her to the Blue Moon where she sees her former brother-in-law, Ty, whom she has not seen since she and Danny divorced. Ty has loved his ex sister-in-law for years, but hid his feelings as he did not want to hurt his sibling nor his sister-in-law whom he assumed loved his brother. However, now that they are divorced and she is dating, he decides to take a chance that perhaps his high regard is requited by the woman he loves. "Victim of Deception" by Lynn LaFleur. In 1910 Fort Worth insane Eva kills Aaron and Mary while also cursing them to remain forever in their home near each other but just out of reach. In the present, Karessa moves into the home where the tragedy occurred almost a century ago. She begins to have erotic dreams that lead her to discover two matchmaking resident ghosts and Max, who broke her heart once before. These three erotic romantic speculative fiction tales include a futuristic espionage thriller ("Unrequited") and two supernatural entries. Each contains strong believable protagonists starring in red hot novellas that grip readers from start to finish. Though a longer length would have better developed the support cast, sub-genre fans will still cherish this torrid collection.

The Farm
Scott Nicholson
ISBN: 0786017120, $6.99

After realizing that her husband and their twelve years old daughter are doing drugs Katy Logan divorces her spouse and tries to make a new life with her now drug free child Jett. At a convention Katy meets Gordon Smith who is giving an anthropological lecture. They see each other afterward, soon marry and relocate on David's farm in Solom in the Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains. Katy smells lavender, the scent that Gordon's late first wife used just before she was beheaded in a car accident, almost everywhere in the house. The goats multiply at an astronomically rate while eating stones from a desecrated part of the town. Jett sees a scarecrow acting strange almost human and concludes reality is weirder than being high. Gordon's ancestor Harmon was killed several centuries ago by preachers when he began blood sacrifices. He returns at times and now plans to fight the scarecrow in a confrontation that could kill Katy and Jett. Scott Nicholson is one of the new breed of horror writers who have taken up the mantle of King and Koontz with his modern day gothic horror thrillers that are chillingly filled with things not of this world visiting our realm with malicious intent. Katy and Jett are anchors to reality as readers can understand these characters and feel for them as they face a supernatural crisis. Leave the lights on after reading the FARM as you will hear every bump in the night.

Jay Bonansinga
ISBN: 0786017244, $6.99

Professor Moses De Lourde tries to survive a storm in New Orleans when he hears a clicking noise. He looks outside his window to see a man running away from his home. He leaves his home and while outside calls his friend FBI Forensic Profiler Ulysses Grove, but the call is somehow interrupted. Later a mortified Agent Grove learns that his pal is dead. At the funeral Ulysses is reunited with reporter Maura County, who he previously worked with to apprehend the Sun City serial killer. After the murderer was caught, an exorcism was performed on the FBI Special Agent; the video caught something leaving Ulysses' body. He notices on Moses' body that some parts including the eyes are missing; the same thing that happened to two other people he knows during the eye of the hurricane. He wonders if something is after him using his friends as dead bait. Ulysses decides to confront his adversary by being in New Orleans during the eye of a Katrina like intensity named Hurricane Fiona. Jay Bonansinga writes an action thriller that starts at light speed and soars even faster until the climatic final hurricane. The reader is unsure where the supernatural or the more mundane is at work as the story line lives up to its title with plenty of twists. Though the action is top rate, the key characters, especially Ulysses, are fully developed and believable. Fans will want to join Mr. Bonansinga in the eye of the storm from the distance of their armchairs.

Gucci Gucci Coo
Sue Margolis
ISBN: 0385338996, $12.00

Ruby Silverman co-owns the celebrity frequented baby store Les Sprogs in exclusive Notting Hill section of London. She ponders the question that has bother humanity for the past century how does a starlet give birth and immediately afterward look like a perfectly fit marathon runner with a waist in negative numbers. Ruby has noticed that some of customers give birth and arrive with their newborn as svelte as ever. However, Ruby is shocked when she notices a customer expected to give birth soon has a flat stomach that the store owner envies. Her belly begins to think there is something sneaky going on so she begins to follow-up that tantalizing clue. Soon her efforts lead her to nearby St. Luke's Hospital for the rich and famous where she becomes a bit off her sleuthing path because her prime suspect is a gorgeous doctor. This satirical chick lit thriller is a fun tongue in cheek tale that grips the audience from the moment that Ruby begins to learns the top secret of starlet pregnancies and never slows down until she uncovers the final piece of evidence. The story line never takes itself seriously as amateur sleuth extraordinaire Ruby investigates the case that leads her into inquiries with eccentric casting. Chick lit and contemporary fans will enjoy Sue Margolis' mirth and merriment "mystery".

The Prisoner of Guantanamo
Dan Fesperman
ISBN: 1400044669, $24.00

The FBI sends Agent Revere Falk to Guantanamo Bay as an Arabic translator since he is proficient in communicating in that language. His specific assignment involves a Yemeni prisoner Adnan with questionable ties to al-Qaeda. However, his efforts to break Adnan halts at least for now when the corpse of an American NCO washes onto beach on the Cuban side of the barrier. Falk is assigned to investigate the death of the reservist sergeant. He quickly learns the victim had been a Michigan banker in his civilian life, but was recently receiving letters from his family involving Cayman Island financial institutions. Pressure mounts on Falk to finish immediately as the military wants this incident to go away. Other demands also rise from a surprising local source that knows of Falk's indiscretions as a young marine years ago. Though he keeps digging, hints of culpability are tossed at him like Improvised Explosive Devices as someone like him must take the fall; rank has its privileges nor will it be those connected. This is a terrific thriller that provides readers with an insightful look at Gitmo from what seems an insider's perspective. The descriptions are so detailed and powerful Cheney will probably accuse Dan Fesperman of abetting the enemy. However that depth also at times overwhelms the prime investigation plot as the fascination with the prison is the star draw. Fans will appreciate this deep look at Guantanamo Bay inside a fine whodunit or perhaps better said is a fine whodunit inside a deep prison tour.

By a Slow River
Philippe Claudel
ISBN: 1400042801, $23.00

Former Police officer Dadais reflects back two decades to December 1917, the French villagers are shocked when the strangled corpse of ten years old girl Belle "Morning Glory" Bourrache is found by the banks BY A SLOW RIVER that slices through a small, unnamed French village. The townsfolk find the crime hideous as the murder of a child could only have been done by an animal. On the other hand he wonders how everyone including him takes for granted that the nearby battles against Germans will leave both sides filled with uncountable numbers of dead. Dadais remembers how he struggled to uncover the identity of the repulsive killer. Clues are not readily available but the stubborn Dadais insists that two suspects stick out, egotistical retired sexagenarian "Mr. Prosecutor" Pierre-Ange Destinat and that shadowy Breton war deserter, who admits he committed the murder, but Dadais knows he would have confessed to anything under the torture used to extract his admittance. Others wonder if Dadais wonders if others are as determined to hide the identity of the real culprit as he is to find him.. This is a terrific psychological historical thriller masked somewhat as a police procedural. Dadais is wonderful protagonist looking back at the case that obsessed him and his townsfolk when at the same time they understood the absurdity of caring about one death when millions were "legally" dying nearby. Philippe Claudel cleverly echoes Joseph Stalin's alleged comment that "one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic." Readers will appreciate this off beat suspense thriller as they wonder just who murdered that little girl.

The Possibility of an Island
Michel Houellebecq
ISBN: 0307263495, $24.95

Now fortyish Daniel built a lucrative career on commercializing his bad taste as a clown who enjoyed the absurd western ideology of evil. He created standup comedy sketches, films and rap records. Once he was wealthy, Daniel and his wife Isabelle chose to escape the stupid malevolent society by moving to a remote estate in Spain. When the couple learns that life is nasty as Isabel falls victim to the droop, their marriage dies. Daniel joins the Elohim, a sect that seeks immortality through sexual indulgence and artificial human life. However that does not pump up Daniel as much as meeting the much younger virile Esther, whose sex drive is astronomical (perhaps the age difference make sit seem that way). They fall in love, but he can't keep it up with her so it ends leaving him despondent with thoughts of is that all there is as he considers suicide. Two millenniums into the future, neohuman clones of Daniel and others including his dog Fox live at the state courtesy of Elohim's success even as the mutant survivors of nuclear disasters and the Great Dry Up die just outside the compound. This is a strange insightful look at what is humanity from various angles. The story line rotates chapters between the "present" and the future" though the latter are small insets. Daniel is a fascinating protagonist as he struggles with the fact that once you are born dying begins, which in middle age is speeded up by biological deterioration. Though at times the philosophy of humanity equates to death overwhelms the action, fans of thought provoking contemporary character study and futuristic science fiction will appreciate this effusive pessimistic glimpse at what is mankind.

Mortimer of the Maghreb
Henry Shukman
ISBN: 1400043255, $24.00

"Mortimer of the Maghreb", "Man with Golden Eagle" and "Garden of God". Fifty six years old ailing Charles Mortimer reflects back on his life as international journalist filled with acclaim, but fears his best work has already occurred. He would like one more major story so he camps with rebels in the Sahara during a not reported civil war even while remorsefully thinking back to his ex-wife Saskia and his former lover Celeste. "Castaway". In the Caribbean international businessman-Harry Burton sadly remembers his last real home when he was at the university fifteen years ago. He has obtained the freedom he desired as a youth, but ponders the price as he is stuck on Inagua. "In "Old Providence". Renowned British painter Rothman Case grieves what his ego and hedonism cost him when he allowed his soulmate to leave him years ago. His middle age companion now is alcohol and sorrow. "Darien Dogs". Lonely securities financier Jim Rogers comes to Panama to put together an oil pipeline construction project. As he tries to sell the concept of destroying some environmentally protected land, he becomes entrapped by the siren's lure of a local hooker Paulina. This collection consists of a novella (Garden of God) and two related shorts (Mortimer of the Maghreb" and "Man with Golden Eagle") as part one and three other unrelated shorts that are part two. Mortimer is a fabulous protagonist who makes the first part fun to read as he struggles with failure after a career filled with success. The second part also includes strong characters and deep insightful story lines. Though an odd combination, readers will welcome this robust compilation.

The Ruins
Scott Smith
ISBN: 1400043875, $24.95

Four friends, who just graduated from college, go on vacation to Cancun. They enjoy the beaches and luxurious lifestyle knowing that soon they must return to their normal existence of work or grad school. The guide they hire to take them snorkeling informs them that he plans to find his missing brother using a map his sibling left him before he followed a woman to an archeological dig and never returned home. Amy, Jeff, Eric and Stacey want to accompany Mathias when he ventures to the Mayan ruins. Locals try to chase them away, but the quartet finds the hidden path towards the archeologists. When they reach the camp, they find no one in the vicinity; but even scarier there is no avian life or even insects. All that lives is a vine that they soon learn is sentient and carnivorous. Before they can flee for their lives, the Mayans appear and refuses to let them go past the confinement barrier that has contained the vine. This tale slowly builds up the happy atmosphere of vacationers having a great time before the next stages in their lives when abruptly the rug is pulled out from underneath the reader as the story line turns into a Bentley Little type creepy horror thriller. Scott Smith cons the audience into thinking this is a mild youthful final fling tale, but soon turns it into a nightmare. The vine seems so innocuous that the audience and the quartet struggle to accept its malevolence yet some how Mr. Smith makes it seem real which is why readers will want to visit THE RUINS.

Flirting With Forty
Jane Porter
5 Spot (Warner)
ISBN: 0446697265, $12.95

In Seattle all her friends remain married, but interior decorator Jacqueline Laurens and her spouse Daniel have been divorced for a year. He got the high ticket items and a much younger girlfriend while she has their two kids, nine years old William and five years old Jessica. Jacqueline and her friends make plans to enjoy vacation time together in Hawaii; however, at the last movement everyone else backs out. Having made arrangements for her kids, she decides to go and have fun anyway. In Hawaii Jackie meets the much younger surf riding instructor Kai and they share quite an adventure together in and out of the bedroom. However, when she returns to Seattle, he begins calling her as he wants to visit her in Washington State having not forgotten the older woman he believes he loves. FLIRTING WITH FORTY is an interesting May-December (maybe September would be more descriptive) romance between two nice individuals who in order to find happiness together must defy societal relationship taboos of the older woman and much younger man on top of ethnic issues. Though the support cast seems stereotyped, readers will want the best for Jackie but what that is a puzzle as her children especially her son has doubts about Kai that lead to her having misgivings. Fans will enjoy this fine look at Jessica gets her groove (or does she).

Cyber Cinderella
Christina Hopkinson
5 Spot
ISBN: 0446697168, $12.95

After hearing about googling one's name, thirtyish Izobel Brannigan tries it and shockingly finds a web site idolizing her as if she is a celebrity. Her older boyfriend George Grand, father of a six years old child, scoffs at her site as being inane, but she is enthralled by as whoever is hosting the webpage knows her intimately. She asks her friends, coworkers, and family, but everyone says not them. She finds herself fascinated by the description of Izobel and begins to emulate that person. When she ends her two year stale relationship with George, Izobel begins to panic that the real her has vanished, taken over by her web image while she also wonders if the designer is a cyber admirer or virtual stalker? This is a solid chick lit romance for the cyber age as Izobel gains her fifteen minutes of fame when an unknown person dedicates a webpage to her. The story line is driven by the lead protagonist's need to know who the designer is and a desire to live up to the image that the unknown author has developed about her. The site is a wake call as Izobel realizes her life has turned complacent and she was settling for boring George. CYBER CINDERELLA is an interesting approach to asking Peggy Lee's question Is that All There Is?

The Book of the Dead
Douglas J. Preston and Lincoln Child
ISBN: 0446576980, $25.95

Serial killer FBI special agent Aloysius Pendergast is serving time in solitary confinement in upstate New York's Herkmoor Federal Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison that no one has ever escaped from. At the same time that the disgraced Fed assumes his adversarial brother Diogenes set him up, the New York Museum of Natural History is trapped in scandal, embarrassment and fabrication. The museum has been exposed by the media concealing that dust is what has become of the priceless diamond collection stolen by them during a less than ethical era and recently purloined by Diogenes. To distract the public, the museum hires archaeologist Nora Kelly and British Museum Egyptologist Dr. Adrian Wicherly to reconstruct the Tomb of Senef from artifacts in their basement. The plan is to dazzle wealthy patrons and the press especially her spouse a New York Times reporter, who broke the diamond story. Adrian realizes that the tomb's hieroglyphics include a curse of insanity on whoever besmirches it, which happens as workers and visitors become crazed murderers. FBI agent Vinnie D'Agosta frees his peer Aloysius from prison while Diogenes stands trial for murder. Though THE BOOK OF THE DEAD is exciting and can stand alone, newcomers should first read the previous Special Agent Pendergast thrillers (see DANCE OF DEATH and BRIMSTONE) because this tale ties up the dangling participles from the previous novels. The story line is action-packed with supernatural overtones and homage to Holmes and Moriarty gripping readers from start to finish as Douglas J. Preston and Lincoln Child deliver a terrific thriller that never takes a breather. No one combines a cerebral (think Holmes) mystery with non-stop adventure (this team wrote RELIC) than this pair as they prove this once again.

Lady's Choice
Amanda Scott
ISBN: 0446616699, $6.50

In 1380 in the Highlands, a masked man with associates rides amidst a wedding party and grabs the bride Adela Macleod before she can exchange "I do" with her much older groom Lord "Pompous" Ardelive Calum Tolmic. Her family is not concerned as everyone assumes Sir Hugh Robison romantically abducted Adela. Over a week later, Adela's family finally meets Hugh who knows nothing about the kidnapping of Adela. Everyone becomes fretful especially Adela's sister Sorcha, who thought she "arranged" for Hugh to elope with her older sibling. As Sorcha and Hugh argue and worry over the fate of Adela, they fall in love, but the rescue from a fanatical Christian must come first. LADY'S CHOICE, the sequel to LORD OF THE ISLES and HIGHLAND PRINCESS, is a terrific fourteenth century romantic suspense that contains two subplots that eventually tie together with an exhilarating climax that also sets up the next one in a high quality series. The well written prime story line follows the fighting between Sorcha and Hugh; the secondary subplot and more fascinating subplot involves Adela and her captivity as the Stockholm Syndrome takes hold (perhaps too quickly) with her being grateful towards her abusive kidnapper for little things. Amanda Scott is at the top of her game with this deep historical tale.

Your Bed or Mine?
Candy Halliday
ISBN: 0446617512, $6.50

Over a year ago Zada met Rick when she went to the hospital to visit his explosives dog blinded in an incident at O'Hare. After a whirlwind courtship, they married. The sex was great, but except for caring for Simon, they had nothing in common. During a squabble, he threatened to leave; she told him if he does do not come back. Both hit their respective button as she knows men leave like her dad did and he does not handle ultimatums well. Now one year from their marriage they are in divorce court. However Judge Parkins becomes exasperated with both of them, as both of them demands custody of Simon. He tells them they will remain married until they work out their differences especially over Simon. Rick's lawyer Bob Thompson pushes him to move back into their home figuring that will drive Zada out. However, as the two combatants battle over a matchmaking dog who loves both of them, their love for one another remains strong even as each pulls dirty tricks to drive the other out. YOUR BED OR MINE? Is a humorous battle of the sexes between opposites who share two things in common, a love for one another and love for Simon. The story line is fun to follow though many readers will doubt the judge's ruling and the consequential arrangement. Still Candy Halliday provides an amusing second chance at getting right romance.

Kitty Goes to Washington
Carrie Vaughn
ISBN: 0446616427, $6.99

Kitty Norville continues her late night radio talk show while traveling around the country as the out of the closet werewolf who no longer belongs to a pack (see KITTY AND THE MIDNIGHT HOUR to learn why). She is in Barstow, California when she learns that Congress is conducting hearings into the scientific work of the Center of Paranatural Biology, a little known government agency headed by Dr. Paul Flemming. Kitty is expected to testify. After arranging to meet her lawyer Ben in DC, Kitty turns her car around and heads east. In DC, Master Vampire Alette invites Kitty to stay at her mansion, which raises the radio star's hairs as vampires and werewolves are natural enemies. At a reception in which Leo the vampire escorts her, kitty meets were-jaguar Luis of the Brazilian embassy. They hit it off and soon become an entry. However, the fanatical Senator Duke awaits exposing Kitty as a demon even as Alette insists the real threat is Flemming who insists the para-humans suffer from diseases. The second Kitty the werewolf radio jock is a fabulous satirical tale that humorously spoofs the supernatural element in literature and the US Senate. The story line is fast-paced though the action is somewhat limited especially for those who read Kitty's first venture. Kitty is a ferocious lion with a chick lit personality as fans will enjoy her asides, for instance like feeling as if she is a teen and Alette her mom scolding her as only a maternal can. Carrie Vaughn provides a fun tale in which Kitty is beginning to understand what she has wrought as she tries to get equal rights under the law for vampires and the were-menagerie.

Cage of Stars
Jacquelyn Mitchard
ISBN: 0446578754, $24.95

In Utah the oldest child, twelve-year-old Veronica "Ronnie" Swan, plays hide and seek with her younger siblings Becky and Ruthie whom she calls "Thing One" and "Thing Two". Ronnie hides in the shed while her sisters search for her. However, when she hears no noise outside from the usually loud Things, she emerges from her hiding place to find both dead lying in a sea of red. Calmly sitting on a bench nearby is their killer Scott Early. Court psychologists determine that he is unable to stand trial on the grounds of insanity as his schizophrenia does not allow him to understand right from wrong as required to stand trial. He is sent off for four years of treatment instead. While the parents Becky and Ruthie forgive their daughters' killer, they struggle to cope, but attending sessions with Early and his wife, help. Ronnie refuses to forgive. Four years later Scott is free but medicated living with his wife and their infant in San Diego. Ronnie moves to Southern California to become an emergency medical technician, but using an alias obtains work as the Early nanny; her goal: an eye for an eye. Well written and filled with suspense once the teen relocates, the audience will wonder whether Ronnie, who saves lives for a living, can kill an innocent baby in this intriguing coming of age story starring a young woman with a tragic still life painting etched on her brain forever. The story line is character driven as readers follow Ronnie, whose plan for vengeance is on track. Though the insight into how the Mormon Church (the Swans are Mormons) react to the murders is lacking, fans of deep psychological thrillers will appreciate Jacquelyn Mitchard's strong effort that keeps readers wondering will she do the deed.

A Sounding Brass
Shelley Bates
ISBN: 0446694924, $12.99

In Hamilton Falls, Washington, true believer Claire Montoya belongs to the cult Elect as she has all her life. She firmly believes that the Elect are the only way to heaven. However, her life takes a negative spin and her belief system is somewhat battered when the Shepard is convicted of rape. At work, her superiors warn her to drop out of the Elect and to stop wearing her all black wardrobe, one of the tenets of her sect; refusing neither to quit the cult nor to modify her clothing, Claire is fired. However, Claire gets a break when popular charismatic radio evangelist Luke Fisher hires her at the same time she meets police investigator Ray Harper on a case involving fiscal fraud amidst the Elect that brings them in contact. Claire has a few fantasies about Luke, but it is Roy who turns her on; however, she could never consider a relationship beyond friendly with an outsider even if he seems to know God's way better than anyone she ever met before. A SOUNDING BRASS is a strong inspirational chick lit romantic suspense that will surprise the audience with its message of celebrating religious tolerance as Shelley Bates makes the case there is plenty of room in God's tent. The story line is character driven especially by the bewildered Claire who after two plus decades of true understanding no longer understands. Fans of powerful Christian fiction will appreciate this fine look that emphasizes spiritual awareness and comprehension can come from many varying unexpected sources as the Lord works in mysterious ways.

Claire Knows Best
Tracey Bateman
ISBN: 0446696064, $12.99

Claire Everett feels pretty good about the direction her life is going ever since she forgave her ex husband Rick for cheating on her and even talks to his pregnant spouse Darcy. Her relationship with her three children is solid for the first time in eons even with her mom having left town and she enjoys quality time with her significant other Greg. A tornado tosses a tree on to her roof, but though harrowing she feels okay that no one was hurt. However, the storm has made Greg consider the direction he is going. He decides he wants to become a 24/7 pastor with Claire at his side as his wife. Instead of rejoicing at his proposal, Claire fears she is not worthy of becoming the spouse of a minister at the same time her writing career seems blocked so she turns to a "coach" to help her, but instead is adding to her confusion as CLAIRE KNOWS BEST, not anyone else. The sequel to the delightful LEAVE IT TO CLAIRE continues to focus on a working mother struggling between caring for her offspring, her vocation, and now her significant other wanting her at his side as he reaches to do God's work. Though doing better with the kids Claire knows that remains a constant vigil especially with two teens. Her writing career seems over at least to her. With all that now, Greg wants her to become a minister's wife, something Claire had doubts she can perform properly. Though some of the sting is gone as she is no longer acrimonious, Claire's lack of confidence makes for a fine character study of a middle aged woman perhaps turning to her life coach for escape.

Angel with Attitude
Michelle Rowen
ISBN: 0446616990, $6.50

One moment Valerie Grace was an angel in heaven studying the Golden Scroll Edition 2.1 focusing on what to do and avoid as a Fallen Angel residing amidst humans on earth; the next nanosecond someone pushes her out and she lands naked in the killer whale tank of Niagara Falls' MarineLand. When you're hot for a demon, you might as well kiss your halo good-bye. Her first taste of humility make that humanity is pain when someone roughly yanks her out of the cold water. Homesick after just a few seconds of learning how the misfortunate masses live after never tasted anything but heavenly perfection, she stays at the inappropriately named Paradise Inn with only a wet Boom Boom the Killer Whale T-shirt as her garb. There she meets Reggie the rat who assumes she is a stripper. Two months later, a thug tries to rape her but Tempter Demon Nathaniel rescues her. The alluring Tempter Demon entices her to say yes to his removing her loneliness and woes, but instead she sneezes all over him. Her hope to return is dashed by nine year old psychic Garry whose only advice is to follow her heart, but that leads back to Nathaniel, who acts like a demon in love. Anyone who reads a Michelle Rowen romantic fantasy is BITTEN AND SMITTEN to obtain more of her works. Her latest stars a fallen from grace ANGEL WITH ATTITUDE trying to adapt to being earthbound yet seeking the key to go home even if she feels she has found a bit of heaven when Bartholomew kisses her. Her antics with the Tempter Demon, the talking rat, and psychics make for an amusing heavenly romance with a hell of a price to pay for not reading it.

Tilly Babshawe
ISBN: 0446576891, $24.95

Twenty-three years old highly regarded horse breaker and trainer Bobby Cameron inherits the family's renowned ranch Highwood in California when his father passes away. However, Bobby realizes that he does not have the capital to keep the spread going so he accepts work as a trainer in Newmarket, England where he is to work with two horses at Newells Stud Farm. Bobby soon falls in love with the seventeen year old daughter of his employer. Milly Lockwood Groves is a frustrated rider whose neck injury prevents her from competing. She envies her neighbor successful rider Rachel Delaney and assumes that she cannot compete for the attention of Bobby. As Bobby seeks a wealthy partner for his California spread, Milly returns to racing encouraged by the American's deep feelings for her, but Rachel, who lives to get under Milly's skin, tries to seduce him as she did with Jasper, her long time rival's brother. SHOWDOWN is a fascinating look at the horse racing business at a time when the Triple Crown is occurring. Bobby is a fine young man though a bit naive when it comes to women and real estate. Milly feels ready to return to the saddle, but her parents fear for her refuse to allow her to do so while Bobby encourages her. Rachel never comes across as a true competitor for the attention of Bobby as she behaves like a spoiled teenaged Lolita whose goal in life is to top Milly. Fans will appreciate this fine contemporary romance though the tension from the realty deal and the rivalry seems forced.

The Betrayed
David Hosp
ISBN: 0446576956, $24.95

Washington DC Homicide Detective Sergeant Darius Train and Detective Jack Cassian lead the investigation into the murder of thirty-six years old Washington Post reporter Elizabeth Creay. The victim had her throat slashed, but apparently the culprit carelessly left behind a cigarette lighter with a fingerprint on it. The match in the files is with drug dealer Jerome Washington. The politicians, the brass and the media are happy with who is the prime suspect and want the sleuths to concentrate on finding more evidence on Washington. However, the two veteran cops think this seems too easy so they widen their search by looking at other possible suspects including some people who have pushed to limit the inquiry to Washington. Complicating the case is the arrival of Creay's sister Sydney Chapin who needs to know the truth and if officialdom fails to pursue it, she will. As the detectives and the amateur sleuth investigate, the case takes an odd spin into eugenics and especially secret illegal experiments at the Virginia Juvenile Institute for the Mentally Defective, followed by more homicides. THE BETRAYED starts off as an exhilarating police procedural enhanced by an alluring amateur sleuth subplot. The spin into eugenics spotlights a social issue, but doesn't blend smoothly into the storyline although it is very interesting. Still the lead detectives are a delightful pairing of opposites struggling to do the right thing in an atmosphere in which everyone else except for the interfering sibling wants to hang Washington and cease any other inquiry.

Wish I'd Known You Tears Ago
Stephen Bly
Broadman and Holman
ISBN: 080543173X, $14.99

Indiana school-teacher Develyn Worrell feels weary so she resolves to seek some refreshing changes during her summer vacation. When she was a child Devy spent time in Wyoming and to this day as a mother of an adult child she considers it was amongst one of the best of times in her childhood. Devy concludes that she should return to that Wyoming serene time she has not found in recent years. However, the summer of her contentment does not work out quite the way Devy envisioned it as she learns you cannot go back as that dream place is not the same because you are not the same. Still she finds solace until her daughter Hurricane Dee arrives at the same time a close older friend suffers a heart attack. Other personal intrusions also occur, but the steadfast, calm and contentment she finds in her friendship with cowboy Cooper Tallon helps Devy through crisis after crisis almost as much as her faith in God enables her to help others like crazy Casey Cree ride out storms. Her faith also assists her in looking inside her heart to see a quiet kind cowboy beats there too. The third Horse Dreams tale (see MEMORIES OF A DIRT ROAD TOWN and THE MUSTANG BREAKER) is a terrific ranch contemporary tale that stars a wonderful heroine who holds the character driven story line together. The eccentric support cast augments Devy's summer of contentment as she seeks and finds peace in spite of being at the center of chaos caused by her nurturing relationships with others. Everyone needs a Cooper (apt name for a quiet supportive cowboy) as his caring serves as a respite for Devy. Stephen Bly provides a warm inspirational character study of a woman who learns solace is found in the heart and soul of a person.

The Forsaken
L.A. Banks
ISBN: 0312352352, $14.95, 448 pp.

Damali is a Neteru, a slayer of the supernatural entities that would destroy or harm humanity. Her mate is mixed breed Neteru vampiric human Carlos Rivera. He needs to be the dominant partner in their relationship as well as the leader of the Guardian team. However, Damali is tired of his macho pride and after a year away from her music she stops to compose again. At the moment of inspiration, a being walks into her room from the land of Nard in another dimension. The Most High banished the hated demons and their human lapdogs into purgatory because disobeyed his command not to interact physically with humans. Lucifer's stomping around the seventh level of Hell until the barrier between two worlds lets in Damali's visitor. At first she assumes he is her muse, but soon admits Cain is a Neteru like her. He is a sexy handsome male who shows he desires Damali at a time she is vulnerable after fighting with Carlos. Cain's presence is a temptation while Lucifer and his wife Lilith manipulate Carlos, Damali and the other guardians into fighting among themselves. If the group continues on this path, they will not be effective in fighting for the Light in the end of days. The seventh Vampire Huntress legend tale is one of the best entries in a top rate series due to the growth of the prime characters. For the first time Carlos feels threatened by another man, a powerful Neteru with incredible bloodlines. Part romance, part horror and part mystical thriller, THE FORSAKEN is a bitingly delicious tale that mixes theology with the metaphysical to create a cleverly plotted one sitting reading experience.

Make No Promises
Charlotte Maclay
Love Spell
ISBN: 0505526492, $6.99

Thirty years old Taylor Travini leaves her family owned California vineyards to search for her missing twin brother Terry last heard from six weeks ago in Chile. Terry told Taylor he was heading in country to photograph some local flavor. However, everyone she talks with in Santiago including the police deny her sibling was ever there. She is even set up to be forced out of the country during an incident in which her doorman is murdered and her backpack is filled with cocaine. Retired US Army Ranger Rafe Maguire earns a living training the local military how to fight. When he sees the danger Taylor is in he comes to her rescue. Soon he finds saving her life has become his day job, bit nothing will prevent the courageous Taylor from continuing her quest even except concern for the soldier she loves. MAKE NO PROMISES is an exciting romantic suspense thriller that grips readers from the start to the finish because of the courage of the heroine though at times her actions are foolish and put her too much at risk. The story line is fast-paced as Taylor refuses to leave though the cops, the druglords, the mercenary, and seemingly everyone else in South America scream Yankee go home. As insane as her antics are, fans will enjoy her Chilean romp to include the hunk who loves her.

What, No Roses?
Marianne Mancusi
Love Spell
ISBN: 0505526751, $6.99

Journalist Dora Duncan resolves to avoid dangerous assignments, drop her boyfriend Nick who apparently dropped her already without informing her as he no longer calls, e-mails etc., and especially no longer wait for her sweetheart on Valentine's Day. At work and at love, she is disenchanted. The FBI recruits Dora on a dangerous assignment though they do not like using civilians. They want her to travel back in time to February 1929 to prevent Nick, already there, from changing history. She agrees and in a blink of an eye she and a rodent go back to 1929 Chicago. There she finds herself in a wild scenario as her new boyfriend is a mobster who adores her feet and another gangster wants her in his bed; she has not had as many sexual opportunities in her entire adult life mostly in the next century. Still the mission is simple keep Nick out of the St. Valentine's Day massacre. This fine satirical time travel romantic suspense will please sub-genre readers due to the solid intelligent characterizations. Dora and her ratty companion behave like fish out of water and the people she meets are eccentric caring individuals who happen to be on the illegal side of Prohibition. As Marianne Mancusi did with the frivolous fun frolic, A CONNECTICUT FASHIONISTA IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT, WHAT, NO ROSES? is a delightfully amusing lighthearted romp.

A Fare to Remember
Vicki Lewis Thompson, Julie Elizabeth Leto & Kate Hoffman
Signature Select
ISBN: 0373837089, $5.99

"Just Whistle" by Vicki Lewis Thompson. Arriving from Arizona carrying a suitcase filled with 27 cans of tuna to stave off starvation, Hannah dreams of working in the New York publishing industry. Cabby Mario takes Hannah from the airport to the Pearson Hotel. His instincts as a former cop tell Mario that she is perfect for investment financier Zach so he introduces them to each other. "Driven to Distraction" by Julie Elizabeth Leto. Every time his beeper goes off regardless of what he is doing including making love to Rachel, Roman takes off. Rachel complains to Mario the taxi driver about her beep of a relationship. Mario plans to help Rachael with Roman, not realizing that every beep he answers involves national security. "Taken for a Ride" by Kate Hoffman. Sabina is not paying attention to where she is walking so she crashes into hunk Alec; her ice latte spills all over the place. They seem perfect for one another until they realize he wants something from her grandmother that will destroy their relationship unless their cabby Mario intercedes. The Mario scenario make for three fun contemporary New York romances that have a sort of whimsical feel too the cabby's matchmaking.

In the Dark
Judith Arnold
ISBN: 0373389388, $3.99

Marcie Sullivan hires Crescent City Security personal protection specialist Mac Jensen to protect her sister Julie from a dangerous person she sent up the river with her testimony over eight years ago, but who is now free; Marcie also insists that Mac hide the truth of his assignment from her beloved sibling who would be upset with the fuss. To provide cover on his assignment and keeping Julie in the dark for his real reason to be near her, Mac accepts the job of head of security at New Orleans' beautiful Marchand Hotel where Julie is the number two person in charge. In spite of the carnage caused by Katrina, it is the party season in the city with Christmas, New Year's, Twelfth Night, and Mardi Gras in a six week hectic period with the hotel hosting galas for its guests. As the first event occurs, someone apparently wants to destroy the hotel as incidents happen that keep security hopping and Mac away from his first job of protecting Julie. However, when the lights go out during a bash, Mac needs to keep the guests and employees safe while insuring no harm comes to the woman he now loves. The first Hotel Marchand romantic suspense, IN THE DARK, is a terrific setup entry that establishes a lofty signature bar of quality for subsequent novels to match or exceed. The exciting story line is fast-paced as the past catches up with the heroine while her champion is caught between a hard place and a rock as he knows any decision he makes will be a choice of the lesser of two evils. Sub-genre fans will appreciate this fine thriller and wonder how next in the chute Marie Ferrarella will compare when she tells Sylvie Marchand's tale.

You Made Me Love You
C. J. Carmichael
Signature Select
ISBN: 0373837100, $5.99

One year ago songwriter Simone DeRosier committed suicide at their summer house on Summer Island. In Seattle, her spouse Harrison Kincaid still grieves his loss and feels guilt wondering what he could have done differently to prevent her taking her life. Harrison has not been able to set foot on the island since her death. Justine Melbourne, the best friend of Simone's sister, calls him to tell him there may be trouble with his property on Summer Island. Reluctantly Harrison returns to the place that he used to have fond memories of, but now invokes tragic thoughts. Justine has always loved Harrison and hopes he will see her as a lover and not a buddy. However, her dreams are dashed when he begins to believe that he has uncovered evidence that Simone may have been murdered as he remains obsessed over her death. This is an enjoyable romantic suspense starring a woman feeling unrequited love, the man she wishes would return her regard, and the ghost that lies between them. The story line is driven by the lead couple as he needs to know the truth while she needs to know he loves and cherishes her. The amateur sleuthing is cleverly designed to keep the audience wondering about the hero while the romance seems late and rushed at least on his part. Fans of romantic suspense will enjoy the tale although (in spite of our desires), they will doubt any romance blossoms between Harrison and Justine.

Confessions of a Party Crasher
Holly Jacobs
Signature Select
ISBN: 0373837070, $5.99

Morgan Miller came home to Pittsburgh from San Diego to attend the funeral of her surrogate "Uncle" August Banyon, but instead of gloom everyone toasts Auggie as the big fan of Gilligan's Island, who named his house filled pet zoo after the cast, would have wanted them to. To her chagrin, Morgan's mom Annabelle seems to flirt with every single male at the Auggie gala reminding the California resident why she needs a country between her and her mom. Mom takes Morgan to the society wedding of Penny and Sam only to have the daughter further ashamed to realize they crashed the party. At the nuptials, Morgan meets photographer Connor Danning; both are instantly attracted to one another. However, she was recently dumped and fears a rebound romance while he looks forward to no commitments because he was there for his injured brother who just recovered and moved out. As Connor and Morgan become acquainted, they fall in love in spite of mom, the Skipper, Gilligan and a few other obvious matchmakers, but she lives across the continent. The sweet lead couple plays straight man and woman for a zany eccentric support cast starting with Annabelle, from the grave Auggie, and his Gilligan horde. The story line is fun as Morgan is constantly ashamed by her relative's not so subtle antics while Connor takes it in stride with a smile (it's not his DNA). Fans will enjoy the madcap romance between the photographer and the wedding crasher.

Earth to Betsy
Beth Pattillo
ISBN: 1400071798, $12.99

Though they have supported one another as they developed their ministries especially the socialization and are attracted to one another Reverends Betsy Blessing and David Swenson never went out on a date until now. However that first date turns into something much more as David proposes marriage. Before she can react, Betsy finds herself attending an engagement party, hers. Still in shock and not even sure she said yes, Betsy soon is the center of whirlwind activity as David's mother takes charge of the ceremony. While her future mother-in-law, editor of Budget Bride magazine, places high demands on her time, Betsy also worries about the future of her "graying" downtown Church of the Shepard congregation that suffers major financial woes; she has a bidder that she must consider, but that means relocating in the Nashville burbs. This sequel to the terrific HEAVEN TO A BETSY is a fine character study that like its predecessor provides a spotlight on the life of a minister. Betsy is a wonderful person struggling between those in her congregation who insist the Promised Land is the suburbs and those who feel it is heresy to abandon their downtown church. As difficult and politicized the issue is dealing with her future mother-in-law is even harder as Betsy just can't say no, which makes her look indecisive and weak. Beth Pattillo provides a fine tale that her fans will enjoy though the plot lacks some of the uniqueness of the first novel.

A Day with a Perfect Stranger
David Gregory
ISBN: 1400072425, $12.95

In Cincinnati Nick Cominsky comes home after a long day at work to inform his wife Mattie that he believes he shared a meal at an Italian restaurant with Jesus. Mattie, who already has issues with her spouse for allowing no time for her or their two years daughter Sara, due to his work all the time attitude, wonders if he went over the edge perhaps due to stress. She worries he will become a born again lunatic so she looks forward to a graphic arts business trip to escape his religious fervor. As always they exchange goodbyes in a note. On the plane to Tucson, Mattie meets a stranger who seems very good with children. They talk and soon discuss their mutual scorn for organized religion. They continue to chat, but he knows things about Mattie that no one does as he seems to look deep inside the heart and soul of who is the real Mattie Cominsky, which makes her ponder who she is, her roles as a wife and mother, and her relationship with God. A DAY WITH A PERFECT STRANGER, a superb follow up to Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, uses a low key approach to make a case for deeper spiritual religious connections with the Lord without condemning other religions, as the prequel did. The conversions between Mattie and the stranger are cleverly developed in the context of flying on a plane as little subtleties remind the audience where the duo is. Fans who appreciate a thought-provoking Christian fiction tale that avoids brimstone, Da Vinci, Templars and the usual suspects while quietly makes a case for the Lord will want to read David Gregory's fine sequel.

The Recital
Robert Elmer
ISBN: 140007164X, $12.99

Widower farmer Gerrit Appledorn and New York Gaylord School of Music teacher and concert pianist Joan Marie Horton have fallen in love (see THE DUET) in his hometown of Van Dalen, Washington. They met when, to earn money while spending time with her pregnant daughter, Joan Marie fills in for piano teacher Linda Klopstra, who is in Romania for a year; his granddaughter is one of her students. They marry, but she has opportunities to teach piano in Chicago. Gerrit is a farm boy all his life; the big city is not for him, but he also believes he must not stifle Joan's prospects in Chicago; in fact he feels he must encourage her. Will geographic differences end the loving relationship between the big city musician and the rural farmer or can they find a compromise? The sequel to the virtuoso THE DUET, THE RECITAL is an intriguing realistic relationship drama that focuses on whether love is enough when the participants come from lifestyles that are 180 degrees apart. The issue centers on whether compromise means one or both give up their essence as consensus is out of reach. Fans of character studies with no love s will conquer all answer will appreciate Robert Elmer's deep look at opposites attract once the couple moves past the glamour.

Best Laid Plans
Constance O'Day-Flannery
ISBN: 0765354039, $6.99

They met seven years ago and within three months Charlie and Cristine moved in together. Now he says the contract between them expired and he is leaving her for someone else he recently met. Upset as she thought they would move on to the next relationship plane, Cristine turns to her friends at The Yellow Brick Road Gang. The crew decides that their heartbroken member needs a fling with no lasting commitments beyond the one night so they begin a ritual to bring a throwaway hunk to Cristine. Her fun fling frolic turns into a terrible tramatic twist when she hurts her back dancing with strange lights. However, when the lights appear in her kitchen in human form, she is not frightened at all. Daniel Burns explains her soul called out to his across dimensions; he felt he had to come especially since he believes she is one of the women who is humanity's last chance to be saved. The first Guardian tale is a terrific fantasy romance starring a delightful hunk from another plane and the woman whose soul brought him to earth. The story line is fast-paced, but clearly driven by the lead couple and a strong support team, mostly the Yellow Brick Road Gang, experts in metaphysical mishaps. Fans who want something different will enjoy this deeply spiritual tale that casts a spell on the audience starting with pepper, mustard and mint and ending with love.

Dark Shadows: The Salem Branch
Lara Parker
ISBN: 0765304570, $12.95, 288 pp.

In 1971 Collinsport, the vampire Barnabas Collins has been changed into a mortal thanks to the medical elixir Dr. Julia Hoffman created. Although he asked Julia to marry him and she accepted his proposal, Barnabas is curiously reluctant to tell the family. He finds his newfound humanity a weakness and regrets losing the intensity he felt as a vampire. The Old House has been sold to flower child Antoinette, who bears a striking resemblance to Angelique, the woman who made him a vampire. Barnabas tries to woo Antoinette but she is more interested in his cousin Quentin then him. He follows her to a seance in Salem where they are thrust back in time to 1692, the time of the witch trials. Miranda Duval has been accused of witchcraft and will be judged by those who want her land and her farmhouse. Both Antoinette and Barnabas try in different ways to save Miranda who is Antoinette's troubled daughter in 1971. Barnabas also must track down the vampire that has entered Collinwood and who has already killed at least one person but he has no idea who that person is and his own humanity limits what he can do. Lara Parker, the actress who played Angelique on the first Dark Shadows television show, has written another chapter in the Collins saga. While one subplot takes place in 1971, much of the tale takes place in Salem at the height of the witch trials where another branch of the Collins family has settled and plays an important role in the fate of Miranda. Fans of the series will love reading about characters that they enjoyed watching three decades ago. She captures their essence so fans will appreciate getting reacquainted with interesting people that they haven't seen for years.

The Quest
Susan Kearney
ISBN: 0765354497, $6.99

Captain Angel Taylor knows that her beloved ship The Raven desperately needs preventative maintenance and some major repair so this salvage is critical to her. However, as she brings the booty on board, the Zin demand she hand over the living part of her loot. Apparently Federation Rystani Psi Warrior Kirek hides among her catch from the Zin. Kirek offers Angel a deal she cannot refuse. If she helps him escape, he will lead her to the largest salvage ever, a place where his mind landed when he was caught in an explosion while on the astral plane eight years ago; he has become whole only over the past year. The Zin threaten to destroy the Federation by overheating the core of each planet. Kirek knows how to prevent pandemic disaster, but the Zin know his psi print and want him dead. He believes she is his and the Federation's enabling angel that will help him defeat the enemy. The latest science fiction romance in the Kearney universe is a terrific tale that grips the audience from the opening line when Raven First Officer Petroy informs the Captain "we aren't alone" and never slows down until the final alteration with the Zin. The action-packed story line is fun follow as the heroes land in one hot spot after another even as love blossoms between the salvager and the psi. Sub-genre fans will want to read this tale and obtain the previous novels (see THE CHALLENGE, THE DARE, and THE ULTIMATUM) as each is an outstanding stand alone (with minor ties) outer space thriller.

The Lost Van Gogh
A. J. Zerries
ISBN: 0765312506, $24.95

The Metropolitan Museum of Art curators are stunned when a lost $50 million van Gogh Portrait of Monsieur Trabuc arrives in an ordinary UPS package delivered from Argentina. NYPD Major Case Squad Detective Clay Ryder specializes in art theft, so is assigned the investigation. He learns that in 1944 Paris, a Jewish widow accused a German SS officer of stealing her family's van Gogh painting. However, the officer apparently died soon after the complaint was lodged in a car accident; the painting vanished. Ryder traces the offspring of the widow, which leads to NYU Professor Rachel Meredith. The MOMA does the right thing restoring ownership to Rachel in a gala that attains international reporting. However, soon afterward someone attacks Rachel, who turns to Clay for safety even as Israeli Mossad operatives see the painting as the first step in capturing an SS officer who has been underground for decades. This terrific thriller that is at its best during Clay's initial investigation as readers obtain a strong police procedural and insight into Nazi art looting. The tale remains suspense filled fun as it spins into the search for the Nazi and the assaults on Rachel. However having both leaves the former a bit shortchanged and unneeded. Still THE LOST VAN GOGH is quite a find for thriller readers.

Only Call Us Faithful
Marie Jakober
ISBN: 0765303175, $14.95

In the 1840s after attending finishing school in Philadelphia, Elizabeth Van Lew returned to her Richmond, Virginia home and liberated all her slaves. While her family, friends and neighbors think she has gone crazy, Elizabeth insists she has become an abolitionist. When the Civil War breaks out, Elizabeth takes advantage that everyone who knows her thinks she is a harmless loony spinster so she believes she has the perfect cover for an espionage ring to help the North. She obtains permission from family friend Confederate General Winder to bring sustenance to Union POWs incarcerated in nearby Libby Prison and gaining the cooperation of a physician, uses coffins to free dozens of imprisoned northern soldiers by faking their deaths. Her actions grow bolder and wider in scope as Union spymaster General Sharpe realizes she is an asset while the Confederate police begin to scrutinize her activity. ONLY CALL US FAITHFUL is a lovely biographical fiction novel based on the real life of Richmond espionage belle Elizabeth Van Lew. The well written story line grips the readers from the onset as the lead protagonist proves fascinating when she does not fit the behavioral mode of what is expected of a young single upper class female by her society. Readers will take immense pleasure in this enthralling account of a little known courageous heroine.

Dragon Fire
William S. Cohen
ISBN: 0765316196, $24.95

Secretary of Defense Michael Santini struggles with his overextended force fighting the global war against terrorism on the home front and overseas. However, he and his boss are concerned that Germany, Russia and China appear heading to an alliance that could make the triumvirate the most powerful force in the world. Besides the bleak international picture, adding to his concern of where best to station the troops is that the militia operates dangerously free in many states. Inside the Beltway Santini also has turf battles with other cabinet officials especially at State and within his department from zealots who look for any excuse to start a war and pacifists who seek any excuse to bring the boys and girls home. Still he is a pro working the corridors of DC while also making surprise visits to the troops who are in harm's way as he tries to find the pattern to the chaotic madness that seems everywhere. This exciting thriller written by a former Secretary of Defense is at its best when Santini works the corridors of politics with his boss, the Secretary of State, the opposition party, and the media following his every step and his every utterance. The tale feels a bit disjointed when he works the international intrigue that seems more of a State Department issue yet that also showcases the institutional rivalry between the two most powerful cabinet post leaders and how an appointee must follow the sound bite regardless of belief (think Powell). Readers will enjoy William S. Cohen's insightful look at the Sec Def in a world filled with backstabbing global political alliances.

Robin Parrish
Bethany House
ISBN: 0764202219, $13.99

When he gets off the Los Angeles Metro bus Collin Boyd sees his doppelganger; when Collin sees himself in a reflection, he does not recognize what stares back at him as he has changed into a different looking person wearing a gold ring with mystical inscription on it that he cannot remove from his finger. A mysterious woman informs Collin that he is a Shifter. He goes to their enclave only to learn the group believes he is the Bringer, as foretold in a prophecy. Unknown to him a secret society of the Secretum of Six is molding him into a creature with magical powers to change the world in their image. Many groups are interested in the former Collin Boyd, now known as Grant Burrows. Some want to help him; others want him dead. He bonds in a mystical way with the Loci, Shifters who live together in isolation from the rest of the world. The Keeper, a member of the Secretum's minion who wants to form Grant into the being he wants him to be. It will take all his goodness not to succumb to the enticing evil of The Keeper. This exciting thriller allows readers to become so immersed in the fast-paced storyline, fans will lose track of time and finish the novel in one sitting. Grant is a wonderful protagonist who keeps the tale focused even as he struggles with his transformation. There are many dangling threads and unanswered questions that will have readers RELENTLESSly anxious for the next installment of the Dominion trilogy.

The Measure of a Lady
Deeanne Gist
Bethany House
ISBN: 0764200739, $12.99

In 1849 San Francisco the unexpected death of her father leaves Rachel van Buren to care for her two younger siblings. She finds a shanty owned by saloonkeeper Johnnie Parker so that her family has some shelter, but Rachel has few prospects to find work to put food on the table. Though Johnny is attracted to the outspoken prim and proper Rachel, he wishes she would leave town as she is bad for his business. Instead she lectures him for his sins especially encouraging the miners and others to drink excessively and his use of fallen women in his saloon to lure the drunks back in. However, as they begin to fall in love, the sinner and the pious "preacher" must find a path to God together if they are to share anything lasting. THE MEASURE OF A LADY is a fascinating historical romance with a Guys and Dolls relationship between the lead couple. Deeanne Gist provides a vivid look at San Francisco just prior to the gold rush as Rachel's descriptions are priceless starting with her opening observation about an impassable make that "jackassible" street. Though she can become too morally righteous and opinionated, the opposites attract pairing make for a fine mid nineteenth century romance that sub-genre fans will enjoy.

A Stitch in Time
Allison Bottke
Bethany House
ISBN: 0764200577, $12.99

In Los Angeles Dee Harris Decker rediscovered religion and her toes at about the same time she learned her spouse was cheating on her. The fortyish Dee left her philandering mate Lyle and underwent gastric bypass surgery to drop well over a hundred pounds in order to start over. Though she started her new vocation just after her surgery, she has become one of the best at raising funds, which ironically also brings out the best in her as she enjoys doing this especially for a good cause. Dee has reached another crossroad, but this time she is filled with confidence that the Lord will help her choose correctly. Her project might make her a Nevada rancher's wife, but Lyle assisted by their adult daughter Kelsey has other plans for his now size ten svelte ex wife. The key to this delightful inspirational chick lit charmer is Dee. The physical make over helps, but it is her spiritual, mental and emotional changes that turn her into a success and the novel into a fine inspiring read. Allison Bottke emphasizes Dee's trials and tribulations as she becomes all that she can be with for the most part the bypass is bypassed as helpful but minor if one fails to heal the soul and the mind.

Waking Lazarus
T.L. Hines
Bethany House
ISBN: 0764202049, $18.99, 236 pp.

He died three times and three times he came back to life. He isn't Lazarus he is Jude Allman. The first time he died was when he was eight years old when he fell through the ice; an hour later he came back to life. The second time he went to the Other Side he was sixteen and was hit by lightening; he was dead for three hours. The third time he passed on he was twenty-four and caught in a snowstorm before while trapped in his car for three days. Weary of the publicity and demands of desperate people, Jude assumes a new name, moves to Red Lodge, Montana and finds work as a janitor. He becomes paranoid and reclusive even neglecting his son, the result of a one night stand. When Kristina tracks him down and calls him by his real name, he starts to remember his past, has knowledge of people he can't explain and visions; the most traumatic that of a man holding children in his home. The police in the area think the man in the visions is the one causing the disappearance of several children in surrounding towns. When his son and his friend are snatched, Jude calls on God to help him find the missing children. This is a fine metaphysical thriller that focuses on a man who has tasted death three times only to come back to life unable to cope with what has happened. He cannot accept his role in life through the experiences he had and prefers to forget his several deaths. It is hard to believe this is T.L. Hines' debut novel because it is so well written and the characters populating the storyline are believable. Visionary fiction is hard to write well but Mr. Hines does a great job of doing just that.

Waiting for Summer's Return
Kim Vogel Sawyer
Bethany House
ISBN: 0764201824, $12.99

In 1894 everything that meant anything to Summer Steadman is gone especially with the death of her sweet baby Tillie; her spouse Rodney gone; her family in Boston and his are gone though they still live. She believes she has no reason to live and would welcome death. However, she accepts a teaching position tutoring a child Thomas in the pious rigid Mennonite community of Gaeddert, Kansas. Peter Ollenberger still mourns the death of his beloved Elsa. However, he welcomes the outsider to his community. His kindness towards Summer causes censorship amidst his neighbors. Still he feels he must help Summer understand that God loves her in spite of her losses. However, he soon wonders if God works in mysterious ways as he begins to fall in love with Summer while through him, Thomas and his grandmother Summer finds the warmth of human love once more. WAITING FOR SUMMER is a deep character driven late nineteenth century inspirational romance. The cast is solid as the townsfolk make it clear how they feel about the outside female living in Peter's abode though a grandmotherly chaperone resides there too. Peter and Summer are terrific protagonists struggling poorly with grief and doubting God's intentions in which innocent good people die young. Thomas and grandma matchmake the mourning pair but not just with one another as they help Summer and Peter find their way back to God. This is a deep tale with an upbeat message that brings the sunshine on what starts as a very gloomy cloudy sky.

Pegasus Descending
James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 0743277724, $26.00

Twenty-five years ago in New Iberia, Louisiana, thugs led by Whitey Bruxal executed Dallas Klein during a bank robbery gone bad while his friend and fellow police officer Dave Robicheaux was too drunk to help. Even today Dave remains haunted by his inability to act on behalf of his buddy. In the present a pretty grifter arrives in New Iberia claiming to be Dallas' daughter Trish Klein. Dave wonders if she is telling the truth and if the answer is yes he wonders if he could find redemption by in some way assisting her. However, Trish is doing illegal activities passing around counterfeit hundred dollar bills. Dave fails to react until he becomes concerned when he sees her playing mind games with mob king Bruxal. At the same time, Dave investigates the apparent suicide of Yvonne Darbonne. He has a hunch the two females are linked, but not sure how so he turns to the perfect person to stir the pot, and to find the link, the maniacal Clete Purcel. James Lee Burke is at his best with the flawed Dave's past coming back to haunt him when the beautiful Trish arrives in town to put his mind either at rest or in a psychiatric ward. The story line is terrific as the action is non-stop, but the key players seem genuine especially their interplay with a showdown of sorts inevitable. PEGASUS DESCENDING is a gripping thriller filled with passion, regret, and betrayal; what more can a reader want.

Sandra Brown
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 0743289331, $25.95, 385 pp.

Detectives Duncan Hatcher and DeeDee Bowen are incensed that a mistrial was ruled in the murder trial of Savannah businessman Robert Savich because the key witness was killed. Judge Cato Laird had no choice because there was very little evidence but Duncan knows the drug czar ordered the hit. A few days later they are called to the judge's home where Cato's wife Elise killed a burglar in self-defense. It looks like an open and shut case but both Duncan and DeeDee feel that there is more to the story than meets the eye. This looks like a homicide and when Elise is called in for questioning, she goes to Duncan to tell him that her husband is trying to kill her. Although he is attracted to her, he doesn't believe her; following a sexual encounter, Elise disappears after once again meeting with Duncan and finding the dead body of the private detective her husband hired to follow her to see if she was having an affair. Evidence points to Elise drowning in the river and certain pictures come to light that have Savich and Elise meeting several times. Duncan is determined to find out the truth about both to assuage his guilty conscience. Nobody writes suspense thrillers the way Sandra Brown does. Elise is a character shrouded in mystery leaving the audience to wonder if she is a clever murderer or an innocent dupe. Duncan's feelings for her and the sexual encounters make his come down harder on her than he normally would. His need to find answers about the connections between all the players makes for an exciting reading experience.

The Lucifer Messiah
Frank Cavallo
ISBN: 1932815870, $6.99

In the Fall of 1946 in New York City, goons employed by Salvatore "Sam" Calabrese chase after Sean Mulachy, but as they area about to catch up to him, a mist forms out of nowhere hiding Sean from them. Once they leave, he visits his best friend Vince Sicario, who is shocked to see Sean as the last time they saw one another was in 1917 when the latter enlisted. Sean looks like he did in 1917 while Vince has aged three decades. Two groups of beings search for Sean; the Morrigan and her minions, and Argus, who looks like a six tear old and his allies. Both believe that Sean is Lucifer reborn to bring light and wisdom to a troubled world. However while the Morrigan believes that humanity is not ready f such a revelation, Argus deems the prophecy of Nestor has begun. Sean must learn who he is before either side gets to him. Sean initially does not believe he is Lucifer, but begins to reconsider as strange phenomena occur including his lack of aging and the Church demonizing his allies and the Morigan needing to kill him so the prophecy doesn't come true. Adding to the suspense is that much of the cast wear human disguises to masquerade their true essence. Frank Cavallo cleverly uses creatures of myths and legends to further the tale as the audience wonders what is good and evil and who lines up where including the protagonist. Dark fantasy fans will cherish this urban thriller.

Eye of the Dream
Elizabeth Sinclair
ISBN: 1932815686, $6.99

Laura Kincaid works as the head nurse at Tucson Children's Clinic raising her eight year old son Peter by herself. Just before Peter was born Laura walked out on her always absent Navaho spouse Kaine Cloudwater. She was fortunate to meet Ada Dooley who took the pregnant stranger in and gave her and her soon to be born son a home until the elderly woman passed away last year. Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Klah informs Laura that her son is missing somewhere in Canyon Country. Three days later, Klah calls off the fruitless search in which no clues have surfaced. It is as if the child vanished into air. He tells her to ask Kaine, the best tracker in the area, to help her. Swallowing her pride, she begs Kaine to find Peter. Irate that she had a child with someone else after walking out on him, he reluctantly agrees and even acquiesces to her insistence that she accompany him. On their journey into wilderness, they talk until she finally tells him that he sired Peter. Outraged that she failed to inform him before, he fears the malevolent no longer human Skinwalkers abducted Peter though he is not sure of their purpose, but his offspring has the healing gift that Kaine and his male ancestors possess and they covet. This is an exciting second chance at love paranormal romance that grips readers from the moment Klah calls and never slows down until the final confrontation. The action-packed story line uses Navaho mysticism on two levels; the evil Skinwalkers and the dreams the lead couple have had especially transmitted from his grandfather and Changing Woman. These elements along with the likable lead couple enhance and refresh a delightful tale.

Scott Oden
ISBN: 1932815392, $24.95

Being of Greek descent and having been born and raised on the Island of Rhodes, Memnon dreams that he will become the equal of his hero Achilles. However, when his father was beheaded during an uprising, Memnon fled his hometown barely escaping with his life. He becomes a mercenary for hire joining the militia of a Persian provincial governor as a lieutenant. He quickly realizes emulating his hero Achilles is not his fortitude, as he proves an able military strategist. When Alexander invades Asia Minor, Persian King Darius III hires Memnon as a general officer to defeat his foe and repel them back to Macedonia. The ensuring battle makes one of these fierce leaders a name for the ages and the other a footnote buried in encyclopedia. MEMNON is a superb ancient biographical fiction novel of a leading figure of the fourth century BCE who fought against Alexander and obviously lost as he became the footnote while his opponent became one of the Greats. The story line is action-packed yet provides the audience a deep look into Aristotle's Greece, Alexander's Macedonian Empire, and Darius' Persia. Though confessing that he was forced to "have taken spectacular liberties" to fill the holes in the historical record, Scott Oden, as he did with the powerful MEN OF BRONZE, provides a fantastic fascinating ancient historical tale focusing on the exploits of Alexander's most capable opponent whose scorched earth advice on preventing the invaders from a sure win was rejected.

The President's Nemesis
Michael Beres
ISBN: 1932815733, $24.95, 382 pp.

Stanley Johnson has had a very traumatic life. First his son was kidnapped and although he kept hoping he was still alive, his body was found four months later. A year after that, his wife, overcome by grief, committed suicide leaving him all alone. He was then forced into an early retirement because funds for his lab where he worked were cut off. The presidential election is coming up in a few months but Stanley is neither interested in who wins whether it is the incumbent President Montgomery or his opponent Rose Adams Haney. What catches his interest is the car that comes three nights in a row by the dumpster outside his apartment. On the third night he goes down to the dumpster after the vehicle left to pick up what someone left behind, a child's head. Strange things start happening to Stanley including getting piles of pornography through the mail, two men who he doesn't know want to spend time with him and finally he also sleepwalks and has nightmares. When the president makes an impromptu stop through his complex, he is by the window with a broom in his hands. The Secret Service takes Stanley into custody and soon learns that he is in the middle of a conspiracy that could determine the winner of the presidential election. THE PRESIDENT'S NEMESIS is an excellent thriller that is so convoluted that readers have no idea what is going on until two thirds through the book, but are hooked from the first bag drop. Stanley is the average American who doesn't know there are malignant forces surrounding him that want to bring him down. Michael Beres has written a work that is chilling and frightening because the protagonist is a good man who suffered so much that he deserves only the best life has to offer instead of the traumatic incidents he doesn't understand or knows who orchestrates them.

Ghetto Princess
Mia Edwards
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0312938756, $6.99

Eighteen years old Kanika has lived the life of an African-American princess because of Waleemawho is her mom and a strip club owner who has a close relationship with powerful Brooklyn drug lord Tony, who also treats her like she is royalty. Kanika sets her sight on Tony's top lieutenant Tyrell, but he considers her more like a younger sister than a lover. However, before Kanika can begin her plan to seduce Tyrell, a rival gangster tries to kill Tony. During the firefight, Waleema is killed. Tyrell persuades Kanika to leave Brooklyn to live with her biological father Shon in Virginia while attending college there. However neither Tyrell nor the former GHETTO PRINCESS is aware of Shon's mob ties making her move more dangerous than if she stayed with Tyrell to protect her. GHETTO PRINCESS is a strange but entertaining romantic suspense in which relationships are everything, but Kanika who trusted several people with her soul will soon learn how easy one can become a victim of betrayal. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Waleema is killed and never slows down until the final confrontation that readers know is coming yet will appreciate. Kanika is a fascinating protagonist holds the tale together as she changes from GHETTO PRINCESS to dethroned royal still hoping to be Tyrell's queen.

The Princess of Denmark
Edward Marston
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0312356187, $24.95

The bonfire destroyed the Queen's Head Theater leaving book-holder Nicholas Bracewell and the Westfield Men unemployed. While debate rages over to rebuild or not to rebuild that is the question, the troupe's widowed wealthy patron, Lord Westfield decides to marry for the third time. His bride, Sigbrit Olsen, is a Dane he has never seen except in a miniature given to him by his business agent Rolfe Harling. As a wedding gift, Westfield takes his Westfield Men troupe with him to Denmark to perform for his bride. The sea voyage proves harrowing as storms attack the vessel and pirates assault them, but they arrive at their destination Ellsinore. Though he survived the traumatic sea voyage, Harling does not survive the castle where the English are staying. Two cooks are accused of murdering the devious business agent leaving his corpse in the basement. When thugs attack actor Owen Elias, Bracewell becomes concerned that they are being set up, but not sure why. Adding to his suspicion is that Westfield has barely seen his fiancee and not in an area of much lighting though the visitors have been here for several day. Bracewell plans to expose what he assumes is a scam before any of the troupe follows Harling's fate. The latest Elizabethan Theater Mystery relocates to Denmark, which provides a fresh background for mayhem to occur. The story line is filled with suspense as the audience along with Bracewell wonders what is going on in Ellsinore. Nicholas' investigation is excellent as he slowly uncovers a two prong conspiracy that involves the bride and the Danish queen. Edward Marston is at the top of his game with his latest performance, THE PRINCESS OF DEMARK.

The Second Horseman
Kyle Mills
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 031233575X, $24.95

The diamond heist that busted Brandon Vale has earned him quite a reputation behind bars as the loot has not been recovered and he did not rat out anyone. What he fails to tell his peers is that he never was part of the caper, but instead rogue former FBI Agent Richard Scanlon set him up. However his comfortable stay behind bars ends when corrupt guard Sergeant Daley forces him outside the prison with bullets flying at Brandon, who prefers to go back in, but has no choice except to flee into the night. Brandon follows a path like a rat in a maze that ends with Scanlon, who gives him an ultimatum. He can return to prison with no safety factor as Scanlon previously arranged or he can steal $250 million from a Vegas casino. Scanlon knows that the Ukrainian Mafia is offering twelve nuclear warheads to the highest bidder, but when he informed his former superiors they rejected his assertion. The rogue agent plans to buy or take the warheads, but Brandon has other plans for the loot as he does not trust with his life or the nukes the man who orchestrated his prison sentence and escape. Before recent revelations on domestic eavesdropping, no one would believe Scanlon's ploy; however, now everyone would believe this is plausible. Kyle Mills provides an excellent espionage crime thriller that is fast-paced with no one trusting anyone else as double crosses and crosses to the nth power is the norm. Brandon is a fascinating anti-hero as a crook who is caught up in international events by a great Machiavellian strategist who uses others as pawns in his diabolical operations. THE SECOND HORSEMAN is a thriller at its thrilling best.

Nasty Girls
Erick S. Gray
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0312349963, $14.95

In Queens, New York twentyish Camille, Jade and Shy have always been there for one another since they were teens. They swore they will always be there for one another; protecting each other's back. However, their friendship pledge of loyalty is about to be tested. Shy's man Roscoe is rising up the illegal drug ladder in the Jamaica projects. He has a posse working for him with his right-hand man being Jade's boyfriend James. Camille thinks both boyfriends are pieces of s**t, but then again she avoids all males in the projects. This particular sale goes wrong with Roscoe ending in prison while James floats free and takes over the lucrative business. Shy is outraged screaming betrayal as this is the second man removed violently from her life while Jade wants to believe her man is innocent. Camille is disgusted with both her "sisters" as she knows their boyfriends are thugs needed to be locked away. So why is she dating ex convict Cream further breaking up the band of sisters. NASTY GIRLS is an offbeat fascinating urban crime caper that provides a deep look at the impact of illegal drug sales on more than just the players as collateral damage occurs. The gritty story line enables the reader to look deep inside the ensemble cast as perspective rotates between the three female friends. Their insights on the same incident or person are a delightful glimpse at relativity as where your relationship is the key to what you believe. Erick S, Gray provides a powerfully deep character study that escorts the reader on a tour of the mean streets of Jamaica where no one has your back when it counts except with a knife.

Solomon Jones
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0312348371, $19.95

After spending six months in jail because she could not turn on her boyfriend drug dealer Duane Faison, Karima Thomas is freed only to find her lover waiting for her. They return to his place where they make love and she pleads with him to give up the streets. He refuses so she walks out on him. She goes to the head of the City Council, her Aunt Marilyn to ask her to help her obtain a job. Her aunt sends Karima to the mayor asking he assist her niece. Karima AKA C.R.E.A.M. does not know that her aunt hates her and is setting her up to take a fall. When Karima is alone with the mayor in his office, he comes on to her, but someone shoots him before anything happens. Karima escapes out the window, assuming that people will conclude she killed the mayor. She goes to Duane for help. Duane, who is connected with several murders, agrees to help her starting with determining who wanted the mayor dead before the cops prove Karima did it. Solomon Jones provides a vivid disturbing picture of Philadelphia politics filled with leaders who make Faust look like an angel as they would sell themselves in a heartbeat or sell someone out like Karima even faster. Karima's crime is falling in love with the wrong man and though she knows she must she finds it difficult to breakaway from her beloved, a killer and drug dealer who shows passion when it comes to Karima. Readers will appreciate this combo street-politico crime caper that rises towards the C.R.E.A.M. of the crop.

Sweet Spot
Kayla Perrin
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0060753994, $12.95

Oakland Raider wide receiver Kahari Brown is regarded by his peers as the best at his position today. However, he is prouder of his accomplishments with keeping youths off the street. The only sore points in his idyllic Beverly Hills lifestyle are his aimless sister LaTonya and Estela Rivera who accuses him of fathering her child. That all changes when he meets Los Angeles transplant correspondent Zoe Andrews, who struggles to make a name in sports reporting. Bad things seem to always happen to her just when things look good; to Kahari's chagrin she has transferred her curse onto him as he suddenly is dropping passes, the media is having a field day with the paternity accusations, and finally Estela stalks Kahari as she believes he loves her. This is an interesting sports romance with a touch of intrigue caused by Estela. Kahari's belief that Zoe is his jinx highlights that many sports figures are superstitious and adhere to strict routines when things are going great and try mumbo jumbo when in a slump. The story line is character driven as fans will claim the lead couple is a MVP (most valuable pairing). A clever blending of serious life issues with an amusing "courtship", SWEET SPOT is a fun contemporary tale.

Getting Hers
Donna Hill
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0312307284, $13.95

The three beautiful women left the GYN office at about the same time. They entered the elevator together, but on the way down a blackout occur, trapping them inside. To pass the hours away, the trio of strangers, Nikki Perez, Kim Sheppard-Benning and Tess McDonald begin talking about the male rodents in their lives. Latino Nikki went to jail for a crime her boyfriend committed; wealthy WASP Kim's spouse blackmails her with exposing a secret that would destroy her business empire Sheppard-Benning Enterprises; African-American :Madam X" Tess ran the biggest classiest hooker facility on the east coast until she was betrayed and is now on the lam. The threesome discusses vengeance and retribution as only a scorned woman to the third power can. Though a bit over the top, this female tale that combines Throw Momma from the Train and How to Murder Your Wife remains anchored due to the vulnerability of the stars especially when it comes to the men who betrayed them. Nikki, Kim, and Tess are different on the surface, but inside they share so much in common. The retribution pact is carried off nicely as the audience obtains a fun thriller wondering in spite of the opening segue at the funeral of Kim's husband they really did it or is that a dream?

Wicked Under the Covers
Barbara Pierce
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0312348215, $6.99

In 1807, nouveau riche Maccus Brawley knows the time is right to move past his dangerous heritage in order to participate in polite society. However, the rough but handsome gentleman needs deportment lessons so he must hire someone with intricate knowledge on Ton behavior, but is blacklisted so as to cause no embarrassment. Maccus hires intelligent but scandalized Lady Fayre Carlisle. Though she would prefer to say no, she agrees to educate him on his demeanor because she sees him as a means of vengeance on the woman who destroyed her. The pair are attracted to one another from the start, but both have strong reasons to avoid a relationship even if they are WICKED UNDER THE COVERS, in the kitchen, and a few other locations. Barbara Pierce provides a fantastic Regency romance due to the two lead characters. Maccus knows he must behave if he is to achieve his objective, but cannot stop his desire for his tutor; burned once by love, the still "innocent" Fayre knows she must not cause a second scandal, but cannot stop the desire for her pupil. Together they make a perfect match and a great historical that sub-genre fans will thoroughly enjoy.

Taking Off
Eric Kraft
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0312318847, $23.95

Peter Leroy is stunned to learn that Babbington, his Long Island hometown, is being turned into a theme park built around his famous teenage cross country flight from there to Corosso, New Mexico. Upset that the media will sniff out the truth of his flight at fifteen that was more grounded than aviary, Peter and his wife Albertine head to his hometown to prevent a travesty from occurring. Peter begins his quest, but the townsfolk seem swept away by euphoria; that is those not soaring on avaricious wings. He is stunned to see a replica of his aerocycle (see THE IMPRACTICAL CRAFTSMAN), but as he tries to insure the truth comes out without destroying his name, Peter decides to reenact the flight, but this time do it right by mostly if not totally remaining in the air. The only problem is that the enemy apparently has flows the coop with Albertine as their prisoner, guest or hostage. TAKING IT OFF is a terrific clever sequel that can stand alone very nicely, but is incredibly enhanced by reading the flight at fifteen as chronicled in THE IMPRACTICAL CRAFTSMAN. The story line grips the audience from the moment an astonished Peter finds out that his town is honoring his solo flight and never slows down as the hero faces adversaries and himself. This is a well crafted character flying thriller.

Lights Out Tonight
Mary Jane Clark
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0312323174, $23.95

Thirty-four years old Key News film and theater critic Caroline Enright travels to the Berkshire Mountains to do a piece on the Warrenstown Summer Playhouse in Warrenstown, Massachusetts. Her new spouse Nick will accompany her as Caroline hopes this trip will enable her to find some common ground with her hostile twenty year old stepdaughter Meg, who has a minor role in a play headed by the Oscar-winning actress Belinda Winthrop. The play opens to rousing accolades from everyone. However, not long afterward, the star vanishes. Unable to resist, Caroline investigates what happened to Belinda and why. As others associated with the production are murdered and the cops fumble, Caroline realizes that the belligerent Meg is on the short list of a serial killer who is ruthless, diabolical and deadly. The latest Key News investigative thriller (see DANCING IN THE DARK) is a delightful tale that works because of the strong fully developed characters and the serene backdrop that serves as a contrast to the homicides. The story line is filled with twists and red herrings so that Mary Jane Clark keeps her audience alert wondering what will happen next.. Fans will appreciate this wonderful suspense thriller that never decelerates until the final climatic curtain call.

Stephen Coonts
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 031232359X, $25.95

While flying over the Mediterranean first class to Amman, Jordan, French intelligence agent Maurice Marton suffers a heart attack and dies. Marton was carrying interesting documents with him when he passed away. Apparently Henri Rodet, Director of the French spy agency Direction Gernale de la Securite Extelieure, has holdings in the Bank of Palestine. Espionage agencies on both sides of the Atlantic panic with a need to know what is in Henri's investment portfolio with the fear being he sold out or worse. The Americans send top operative Tommy Carmellini to discover what Henri is up to. Tommy recruits his partner on several capers (See CUBA) US Navy Rear Admiral (R) Jake Grafton to determine whether Henri has sold out to terrorists and if so to stop him and his new cronies without compromising the lives of their sources. This is an action-packed exhilarating thriller that never slows down from the moment that the flight attendant realizes that Marton is not debarking from the plane until the final climax that will surprise the audience with a terrific end state twist. Carmellini and Grafton still have it as they compete with several European allegedly allies and Middle Eastern operatives of what might prove to be the greatest treachery in history making Judas, Quisling and Arnold look like patriots.

The Highly Effective Detective
Richard Yancey
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0312347529, $23.95

In Knoxville, Tennessee Theodore "Teddy" Ruzak dreamed of becoming a detective ever since his mom gave him an illustrated Holmes book for his tenth birthday. Encyclopedia Brown enhanced his aspirations, but following high school he failed at the Police Academy. He became a guard and still remains one today at thirty three years old. A week before dying, his mom informs him that he will inherit plenty of money soon; not long after she died Teddy quits his day job to become a private sleuth since he has enough money to live out his dream. Unlicensed and unperturbed, Teddy opens up his firm and quickly obtains his first client and a paying one at that. Parker Hudson informs him that the police laughed at his complaint about a killer getting away with the crime of running over six goslings; he wants the culprit brought to justice so does elderly visitor Eunice Shriver (not the Yankee one). With the help of his faithful office assistant Felicia, when she is not watching her son, he begins investigating the mass murders of the baby geese, but soon finds himself in the midst of a human homicide too. This amusing investigative tale stars one of the best protagonists to work the trade in years and will be considered one of the best of 2006. The story line is filled with plenty of realistic twists, but is driven by Teddy, who turns from pathetic loser into THE HIGHLY EFFECTIVE DETECTIVE. The investigation is fun to follow as Teddy blunders and meanders in his wild goose chase pursuit that turns into a whodunit that is light years beyond his experience. Readers will adore his courage and perseverance as he refuses to quit.

Twelve Sharp
Janet Evanovich
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0312349483, $26.95

Trenton, New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is still sleeping with the man she loves, Joe Morelli while lusting after security specialist Ranger rarely known by his real name of Ricardo Carlos Manoso. She gets a little breathing room from her conflicted emotions when Ranger tells her that he is going to Miami on an important case. Not long afterward someone claiming to be Carmen Manoso enters Stephanie's office insisting she is Ranger's wife and that he walked out on her after six months of marriage. This is followed with the news that Ranger kidnapped his daughter who legally belongs to her mother and her second husband. Ranger returns to Trenton seeking Stephanie's help in rescuing his daughter from a person who looks like him. Though skeptical about a doppelganger, Stephanie believes Ranger and becomes the bait to draw the kidnapper out into the open though she knows the danger she faces as the culprit has already killed Carmen. Readers get to see a different vulnerable Ranger whose confidence is somewhat battered with the abduction of his child, but he has no time to wallow. As the audience learns more about his past, he obsesses on the rescue. Stephanie jumps from one dangerous escapade to another while also trying to balance her love life. The support cast adds either humor or tension as the clock winds down towards a TWELVE SHARP literal deadline in this action-packed thriller. Janet Evanovich will please her myriad of fans with this excellently entertaining crime caper.

Everyone's Dead but Us
Mark Richard Zubro
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0312343450, $24.95

After a very public marriage ceremony in which baseball great Scott Carpenter outed himself, he and his spouse Chicago high school teacher Tom Mason go on vacation to the exclusive Aegean island of Korkasi. This island caters to old world rich gays. Current guests include a football star and the son of the pretender to the French throne. After enjoying a sexual episode together, the newlyweds return to their room to be greeted by the murdered corpse of the island's owner. When the lovers go to report it to security at Port Atrium, an explosion occurs at the castle destroying the edifice and knocking out all communication to the outside. A major tropical storm prevents anyone from sailing off the island at the same time that other vacationers are being killed one at a time. Scott and Tom try to uncover the identity of the killer when they are not hiding from the culprit. This is a delightful variation on the classic Christie thriller And Then There Was None. Told in the first person from Tom's somewhat frightened yet ironic perspective, the gallows humor eases the tension when events seem overwhelming. There is plenty of action in this exotically atmospheric amateur sleuth story as the honeymooners receive a lot more than they bargained for in Mark Richard Zubro's fine tale.

Still Life
Louise Penny
St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0312352557, $22.95

In the woods near the crime free village of Three Pines, Quebec, someone kills popular beloved septuagenarian artist Jane Neal. Since the small town has no police force, the Surete du Quebec dispatches fiftyish Chief Inspector Armand Gamache to lead the investigation starting with determining whether it was an unfortunate deer hunting accident or a homicide. The homicide investigator quickly sees the rigid corpse and immediately concludes a murder occurred. Gamache questions the locals seeking a motive, but is unable to pinpoint one down as everyone seems to love the late Miss Neal. He especially looks closer at Jane's niece, Yolande, who Gamache believes knows more than she reveals. As he continues to dig, Gamache begins to uncover clues that slowly bring into focus the culprit, who has cleverly hidden in plain sight. This is a fantastic Canadian police procedural starring a methodical detective who works a case in which finding a motive seems impossible as the victim is very popular with no apparent enemy. However, as good as the case and Armand are (both superb), the feel for Quebec with its bilingual culture in many ways steals the show as Louise Penny provides a keen sense of location. Readers will appreciate STILL LIFE and demand future Gamache investigations.

Break No Bones
Kathy Reichs
ISBN: 0743233491, $25.95, 356 pp.

Tempe Brennan is on an archeological dig on Dewees Island off the coast of Charlottesville, South Carolina when she finds a recently dead person buried amidst the prehistoric site. The coroner is ailing so Tempe performs the autopsy and discovers a fracture of the sixth cervical vertebrae. Tempe is staying at the home of a friend who also invites her estranged husband Pete to reside there while he is on a case for a client. Pete's client wants to know whether his contributions to God's Mercy Church are being used properly and if the sleuth can learn the whereabouts of his missing daughter Helene, who disappeared just after she accused the church's free clinic of financial wrongdoing. A previously hired private detective Noble Cruickshank also vanished without a trace. However, a body found in a wooded area is thought to be the missing Noble, who has the same trauma injury as the corpse found in the dig site. A third body with the same fracture is uncovered. Tempe learns that Noble was looking into the disappearances of many Charlottesville fringe people who lived beneath the societal radar screen as she seeks the motive linking three homicides. Anyone who loves the works of Patricia Cornwell or Linda Fairstein will thoroughly enjoy BREAK NO Bones and for that matter Kathy Reichs' backlist. The plucky obstinate heroine leaves no stone (or bone) unturned as she seeks answers; even law enforcement turns to her to help them solve the homicides. Ms. Reichs is a wonderful mystery writer whose champion is likable and admirable as she seeks the truth.

Merlot Murders
Ellen Crosby
ISBN: 0743289900, $24.00

Two years ago, Lucie Montgomery had her foot maimed in a car accident. She fled from her Virginia home to spend time in France recovering. Forced to use a cane to help her walk and still overseas she has shown no indication to return to her family's winery. Her time in Europe ends when her brother Eli informs Lucie that their father Leland was killed in a hunting accident. She comes home to the Montgomery Estate Vineyard for her dad's funeral, but is stunned as the once proud five hundred acres has been neglected since she left. Lucie soon learns why as Leland let the winery go to ruin while he invested in questionable schemes that wiped out the family fortune. Eli and their sister Mia want to sell the winery as they prefer the money to continue with their upper class lifestyle. As stunning as her siblings wanting to sell their heritage, Lucie is further shocked when Mia flaunts her affair with Greg, her sister's former lover and the person responsible for her mutilated foot. Meanwhile Lucie's godfather Fitz Pico warns her that Leland was murdered and anyone else opposed to the sale will probably die too; he leaves her with a key to a box that may hold a fabulous diamond necklace. The next day Fitz is found dead. Lucie believes the killer struck again and plans to uncover the culprit before she joins the murderer's row. MERLOT MURDERS is a fabulous first Wine Country Mystery that uses a wonderful backdrop to the amateur sleuth investigation. Lucie is a delightful protagonist struggling with her father's death as much as his allowing their estate to become dilapidated. Her siblings make matters worse with their avarice. Fans will enjoy toasting newcomer Ellen Crosby to the sub-genre and think twice while sipping a glass of Merlot.

Ghost Hunter
Jayne Castle
ISBN: 0515141402, $7.99

Botany professor Elly St. Clair fell in love with Aurora Springs Guild Chief Cooper Boone and thought he reciprocated when he proposed marriage. She accepted, but now knows that he does not as her father and Cooper arranged for a Guild Covenant Marriage between them as expected of the two most powerful local members. The psychic duel she heard rumors of between Cooper and Palmer Frazier over her adds to her reasoning to end their engagement and move to Cadence City, an hour and a half away, to start over. Six months later, Elly searches for a lost friend private investigator Bertha Newell, who disappeared somewhere in the catacombs beneath the city. Cooper is in town for the first time since she returned his ring to him so Elly asks him to help find her pal, which he agrees to do. As they confront legends, ghosts, and drug dealers in their quest to rescue Bertha, his plan to win her back continues to fail because he fails to recognize that he never lost her. Writing as Jayne Castle, Jayne Ann Krentz takes her readers back to Harmony, a fascinating world where the supernatural is the norm. The fascinating story line is made even more enchanting by the lead couple whose dysfunctional relationship enables the audience to understand guild politics. The investigation is fun to follow as the heroes battle the paranormal, the normal, and each other in a quest to rescue Bertha.

Plain Jane
Laurien Gardner
ISBN: 0515141550, $6.99

In 1537 England Jane Seymour has no suitors, no prospects and no future at least with a man. She understands that no male would desire PLAIN JANE. The reticent lady actually gets a lift when she is selected as a maid of honor to Queen Catherine. While she feels bad for Catherine when Henry VIII ignores her in favor of beautiful Anne Boleyn, she knows to remain quiet, which in fact is her personality. Jane stays at court when Catherine is dumped and divorced as Henry marries Anne. However after she fails to produce an heir, Henry becomes tired of her demanding obstinate shrewish ways and to the shock of everyone begins to look in the direction of the shy silent mouse, PLAIN JANE. Jane is attracted to her Highness, but hides it as she believes a hale, hearty hunk like King Henry would never find her attractive. However, she soon believes she can win his heart and the throne by his side. The third Laurien Gardner historical tale focusing on the wives of King Henry VIII (see THE SPANISH BRIDE and A LADY RAISED HIGH) is an intriguing look at PLAIN JANE Seymour who wins the immediate sweepstake in spousal roulette. She triumphs because she gives the monarch what he most desires in life, a male heir. The look into Jane's life enables the reader a fascinating glimpse at royalty in the early sixteenth century as Henry changes much of the accepted culture with his divorces and ultimately the establishment of a new church. Historical readers will enjoy the latest entry and look forward to reading about the next person on the chopping block, Katherine Howard.

Dark Need
Lynn Viehl
ISBN: 0451218663, $6.99

Fort Lauderdale Homicide Detectives Harry Quinn and his partner Samantha Brown discuss the case of the drowned woman who both believed she was not swimming when she died; the nearby heavy medieval cross with the name Lucan adds to the overall sense that murder has occurred. However, Sam's biggest concern is not what appears to be the homicide of a tourist, but that her partner is retiring in two weeks; he knows her secret that ever since she was shot twelve years ago when she touches the blood of a victim she envisions the last moments of their life. Still loyal to the Darkyn chief Richard, enforcer Lucan is tired of his role so he has opened up a Goth club in Fort Lauderdale. However, instead of a deserved respite he realizes someone is killing those who visit him. The former enforcer knows what he must do even as Richard and his superior Michael head to Southern Florida to confront him and Samantha investigates a serial killer leaving behind the Lucan cross. When Lucan meets Sam, he believes she is the reincarnation of his only love Frances while she wonders if she is falling in love with a killer. The latest Darkyn tale is an exhilarating paranormal police procedural romance that never slows down from the moment that Harry and Sam discuss the first homicide until the final lethal confrontation. The tale is fast-paced while focusing on the deadly abuse of power. However, what makes the tale superb is the relationship between the Darkyn cop and the Lauderdale cop as she wonders whether her heart could be wrong as her brain insists he is the killer. Lynn Viehl provides a fabulous supernatural thriller.

The Chocolate Bridal Bash
Jo Anna Carl
ISBN: 045121918X, $6.99, 240 pp.

The happiest times Lee MicKinney has ever known have all taken place in the Michigan summer tourist town of Warner Pier. She is working as the general manager for Ten Hugs Chocolate and lives in her house which might not be a mansion but feels just like home. She is soon getting married to Joe who loves her and means the world to her. Perhaps her problem is her mother who insists and entreats in the same sentence that the wedding occur somewhere else. Nellie tells Lee that her mother left town the night before her wedding and her fiance Bill was found dead hors later, an apparent suicide. Wanting to learn more about this unknown chapter in her mother's life, she starts investigating with some help from Joe. Her mother wanted to make sure that Sheriff Van Hoosier was out of office and had no power before coming for a visit so they go to the nursing home where he is living. They find him dead, the victim of a blow to the head and strangulation. When Lee's mother arrives for a visit she is almost kidnapped. Clearly someone has secrets to keep that involved Lee's mother and her dead former fiance and that person is more than willing to keep killing anyone who gets in his way. This is a very entertaining and stylish mystery filled with romance and chocolate trivia. Reading this on an empty stomach is hazardous to the waistline because the chocolate descriptions are the kiss of death so sensuously enticing that readers will crave the need instantly. Lee is very likeable without being too sweet and her brains and beauty make her a powerhouse to be reckoned with as anyone who gets in her way finds out.

Murder of a Real Bad Boy
Denise Swanson
ISBN: 0451218280, $6.95, 272 pp.

She came back to her hometown of Scumble River to lick her wounds and heal with plans to leave her family quickly, but four years later Skye Denison is still in town firmly entrenched in the community working as a school psychologist. When a resident leaves Skye her house as an inheritance, the psychologist hires handsome contractor Beau Hamilton to do the renovation after obtaining great reports about his work; thus far she doesn't understand why as his work is very shoddy. When she finds the gumption to fire him, Skye sees Beau is not where he is supposed to be at her house. A fear grips her especially when she sees a boat tied to a dock with a severely injured Beau. She races to get him to the hospital but he is DOA and the sheriff who would like to see her in jail and the chief of police, who would like to take her to bed both claim jurisdiction of the crime scene. Skye can't leave well enough alone and manages to inveigle her way into the investigation which brings her face to face with a cold blooded killer again. The Scumble River mysteries are always a pure delight and the latest novel in the series is no exception as these regional mysteries are special because they are as much about the town and its eccentric residents as it is about the who done it. Side bars abound such as where is the heroine's missing cat is and who is getting into the heroine's home leaving a mess; these instead of being intrusive add extra layers to a fun multi-tiered regional mystery.

The Burning
Bentley Little
ISBN: 0451219147, $7.99, 460 pp.

The United States is under supernatural siege and four people in different states witness the beginning of the battle. College student Angela gets along great with people until they turn against her for making racist remarks. She believes it has to do with the hundreds of bodies found in a tunnel, and the black mold that is spreading around the area. Dennis Chen wanted to take a cross country drive across America seeing the tourist sites but something is forcing him to drive through the Western States. When the black ghost train travels through town, Dennis is the only live person on it. Jolene and her friend Leslie come across the diaries of a man who lived in Bear Flats, California who made it is his mission to get rid of all the Chinese immigrants. They also see the diaries he wrote and the ghost train and the destruction it brought as it passed through town. Henry, a park ranger and also saw the ghost train, hikes with many Indians who have been mystically called to the Point in Utah. When national monuments, parks, and towns come under attack, the president appoints FBI agent Greg Rossiter to find out why this is happening and how to stop it. The answers lie in two sets of memoirs that were written over a century ago that describes a national tragedy and a federal cover up. Bentley Little is one of the best American horror writers in the world as he consistently takes what seems normally monotonous and turns it into a horror show. There are plenty of thrills and chills in THE BURNING but there is also a mystery that has to be solved for life to get back to normal. The four major characters and their locations play an important role in the mystery as Mr. Little creates three dimensional characters; people we will immediately recognize if we were to meet them.

Virginia Henley
ISBN: 0451219112, $7.99

Attracted as much to the earl's rakish reputation as to his gorgeous body, Marjory de Warenne ignores the warnings to avoid Guy de Beauchamp heeding only the advice of her best friend Princess Joanna Plantagenet to go out and get him. She begins her seduction to lure Guy, who is used to women desiring him. However, Guy finds this lady tantalizingly different. He sets out to stamp her as his. The siren is being seduced by the womanizer as much as the womanizer is being seduced by the siren. Both want more with neither satiated beyond the moment. Over the years as rebels constantly try to bring down King Edward's reign, Guy and Marjory find a love affair that supersedes infidelity, betrayal, and treason that engulfs the two lovers. Few writers, if any, can mingle real historical people like Joanna with characters so that the historical figures come alive and in turn make the protagonists seem real as well as Virginia Henley consistently does. In INFAMOUS, Ms. Henley brings the late thirteenth century England vividly alive through the actions and intrigue of the real regal court as much as by her pairing of Marjory and Guy. As always this is must reading for sub-genre readers as Ms. Henley provides a compassionate historical love story that transcends the era it picturesquely depicts.

Magic Man
Patricia Rice
ISBN: 0451218965, $7.99

In 1757 Scotland, Aidan Dougal, the illegitimate son of a deceased Earl, is renowned for his temper though of late he seems somewhat mellow because of the friendships offered to him by his-brothers and their fey spouses. However, his detestable enemy Lady Gabriel makes a grab for land that Aidan claims is his; the avaricious aristocrat apparently has proof to support her assertion. With the deaths of her adopted parents Mora Abbott feels the time is right to learn of her heritage. She offers to assist Aidan find evidence that the land belongs to him because she feels searching his ancestral records might help her better understand her ancestry, her magical skills and the voices inside her head that guide her to ancient scrolls. As they fall in love she fears he will dump her once he learns the truth about her and the scrolls. The sixth "Magic" tale is a wonderful paranormal historical romance. Aidan and Mora are a charming pair, who, as they team up, attraction turns magically into love. The action-packed story line grips the audience as soon as the lead pair begins their sleuthing quest and never slows down until the final thread is magically resolved. Patricia Rice is clearly the Magic Woman with this superb tale and magnificent series.

Whispers of the Night
Lydia Joyce
ISBN: 0451218973, $6.99

The daughter of an affluent tradesman, Alcyone Carter has failed to find a match after four seasons on the London marriage mart. Her father uses his contacts on the continent to arrange a marriage for his beloved daughter. However, Count Dumitru Constantinescu tricks Alcy into thinking he is her fiance and marries her because he needs her dowry to help his people. When she learns of his ruse, Alcy is outraged by his deception. However, as he showers her with kindness and sensuality, she falls in love with her husband. When she learns the full truth about her spouse, Alcy flees for Istanbul. Dumitru risks his life as his long time adversary resides in Istanbul, but he throws caution aside as he needs his beloved by his side. Besides bringing to life the Ottoman Empire as a delightful side benefit, WHISPERS OF THE NIGHT is a superb historical romance that hooks the audience from the moment they arrive at remote Castle Vlararchia in Romania and never slows down as they flee Istanbul's Topkapi Palace. The strong story line contains dark gothic elements that turn into a deep abiding passion and love. Fans who value exotic locales away from the genre's norm will fully want to join the charming lead couple as they learn first hand with their lives at stake the Machiavellian principles that rule Eastern Europe.

Raiders of the Lost Corset
Ellen Byerrum
ISBN: 0451219031, $6.99, 288 pp.

The Eye Street Observer "Crime of Fashion" columnist Lacey Smithsonian visits master corsetier Magda Rousseau as she lies dying in her workshop. With her last dying breath she begs Lacey "to find the corset". The two women were heading to France to find the expensive jeweled corset that was stolen by a Latvian soldier when the Bolsheviks killed the royal family. She journeys to a farmhouse in Monk Saint Michel where Magda's relatives live. Magda believed it was hidden somewhere in the house but Jean-Claude Rousseau tells her that it is nowhere in the in the house and the only room locked up for decades is the coal room. When they remove the nails that keep the door permanently closed, Lacey finds a note with an address on it. There is no such number on the street in but her lover tells her there is a street by the same name in New Orleans. When she gets back to the states, she finds the address and the druggist who works there has an urn for her left there decades ago. A note inside the urn leads her to a crypt that has nothing inside but another address. When she goes there, the proprietor knows nothing about what they are looking for. After nearly being killed, Lacey continues the hunt while avoiding Magda's fate. This is a hilarious crime caper where one has the clues to find the bejeweled corset. The support cast, including the villains act in such a cliched manner that reader will find themselves laughing out loud. The heroine is stubborn, intractable and totally adorable as she marches a path through France and New Orleans to find something that might not even exist. Ellen Byerrum has a hit series on her hands with her latest tale.

Robin Cook
ISBN: 0399153578, $25.95, 480 pp.

Estranged from his wife and living in Boston with his lover, Dr. Craig Bowman is happy because he is making a lot of money and is enjoying spending it.. Craig gets a call from the husband of patient Patience Stanhope who claims his wife is really ill. Although Craig thinks it is another false alarm he goes over there and sees she is having a cardiac episode. By the time the ambulance gets them to the hospital, she is dead. Some time later Craig is served with papers accusing him of malpractice. On the advice of his attorney he moves in back with his wife but he is his own worst witness losing his temper during pre-trial testimony. His wife Alexis calls her brother Jack, a New York medical examiner, and asks him to help them. Jack suggests they exhume the body and do an autopsy. The assistant to Mr. Stanhope's lawyer beats Jack up and someone breaks into the Bowman house, ties up their three girls and tells them to tell their parents not to have an autopsy performed. Alexis tells Jack to do it in the hopes of exonerating her husband. Jack agrees to do it but the trial is coming to a close and he has to get back to New York to get married. CRISIS is another excellent thriller by Robin Cook and this time it is as much a legal thriller as it is a medical mystery. One of the reasons Mr. Cook is so popular is that he makes the medical scenes easy to understand. Jack is the hero of the book as he is the one who takes action and gets punched out by the goons. The ending will come as a shock to the audience because the truth is so stunning yet believable. This is another Cook New York Times bestseller.

At Risk
Patricia Cornwell
ISBN: 0399153624, $21.95, 212 pp.

Sexy and intelligent Massachusetts state investigator Win Gerarano isn't at all happy that his boss, beautiful rich and power hungry District Attorney Monique Lamont sends him to the National Forensic Academy in Knoxville, Tennessee. He is livid that she recalls him to help her with her new program "At Risk" whose motto is "any crime any time". She wants him to solve a two decade old murder in Tennessee of wealthy and elderly Vivian Finlay using the latest DNA techniques unavailable twenty years ago. An anonymous phone caller asks Win to come to the Visual Cafe regarding the Finlay case. When he gets there the cashier gives him a threatening letter. On a hunch he goes to Monique's home where he kills a man who raped the DA and has tied her down. He asks a friend in Tennessee to get info on the Finlay case; Sykes, infatuated with Win, spends hours trying to track it down. The case in Tennessee ties back to Monique's rape; the cop and the DA have to figure out how. This book was originally written for the New York Times Magazine in 15 part segments and it is very different than anything else Patricia Cornwall has published before. The two protagonists, Win and Monique, are two sides of the same coin. If Ms. Cornwall writes another book concerning these two characters it will be interesting to see who comes out the winner as they are both strong willed people. Both characters are well developed and the storyline is fast paced and interesting. Readers will never guess who the villain is but they will enjoy guessing at the identity.

Undead and Unpopular
MaryJanice Davidson
ISBN: 0425210294, $22.95

Engaged to marry his highness Eric Sinclair, vampire Queen Betsy Taylor keeps telling the dead and undead not to throw her a surprise birthday party; everyone says they will honor her wishes. The European royal vampires visit, but Eric says they insult them as they should have come last year. Still Eric tries to be the diplomat when a follower Sophie goes berserk. She recognizes Alonzo the vampire who killed her in the late nineteenth century. As Betsy tries to clam down Sophie, the raging vampire's human lover Liam wants to convert and to kill Alonzo not in that order. Betsy is a bit cranky as she has given up blood and her visitors don't make it easier on her as they believe she is undeserving to be queen let alone a vampire. Life after death interferes with buying midnight shoes as she plans her wedding, rehearses to act surprised at her surprise birthday bash, calm down Sophie, and let the Europeans know to stuff their opinions on her in the part of the anatomy that does not see sunshine (of course that is the entire body). Now less than one week before she turns one, there is so much to do and so little time to do it. This is a terrific Taylor tale that starts off zany ("There's a Zombie in my Closet") and never slows down as all hell breaks loose on several fronts. Though often amusing there is a more serious undertone to the fantasy than in previous Undead tales. Besides the Alonzo "crime" that puts quite a spin on cold cases, Betsy best friend human Jessica is ailing with the vampire queen pondering the ethics of bringing her across against her will. As always MaryJanice Davidson provides an amusing entertaining vampiric fantasy.

The Mournful Teddy
John L. Lamp
ISBN: 0425211126, $6.99

Bradley Lyon spent twenty-five years with the San Francisco Police Department until a murder suspect shot a bullet into his fibula and tibia in Ghirardelli Square, which led to three things. His disability retirement; he and his wife of over a quarter of a century Ashleigh returning to her hometown in Remmelkemp Mill, Virginia; and his aversion to hot chocolate. Ash collects and creates teddy bears. She enjoys attending the conventions and has an entry, Miss Susannah S. Seraphim in the nearby Shenandoah Valley Teddy bear Extravaganza. The highlight of the gala is the auctioning of the renowned Mourning Bear made in 1912 to commemorate the sinking of the Titanic with a short run of 655; thus its value is tagged at $150,000 or more. However, the pleasant trip is interrupted when their canine Kitch finds the corpse of a murder victim in the nearby river. Without seeing the body, Sheriff Holcombe rules death by accidental drowning or suicide, infuriating the cop resting inside Bradley's brain s he knows a strangled victim when he sees one. Unable to stay out in spite of warnings to mind his business or else, Bradley begins making inquiries that tie the victim to the Mourning Bear. This is a fun cozy as Bradley cannot help but investigate the homicide that the Sheriff and other powerful local figures want ignored though the former SFPD detective cannot understand why as his first reaction incompetence proves false. The entertaining story line contains the obvious retired cop's inquires, but also a fascinating look at teddy bears, so much so the stuffed animals make a strong support cast. John L. Lamp provides readers with a delightful whodunit that more than just Bear Collectors will enjoy.

Bye-Bye Black Sheep
Ayelet Waldman
ISBN: 0425210189, $22.95

In Los Angeles private investigator Juliet Applebaum and her spouse screenwriter Peter raise three small children Ruby, Isaac, and Sadie. As Peter has met some recent success with classics like The Cannibals Vacation and Flesh Eaters with its nth number of sequels, Juliet and her sleuthing partner Al Hockey have actually begun to turn a profit. Due to the eighty-four minutes of maternal bliss known as The Lion King, Juliet with only Sadie stops at the garage turned office where Al introduces her to their newest client, gorgeous Miss Heavenly, who the sleuth realizes is a transvestite. After dumping Sadie on Al's wife, Juliet asks Miss Heavenly what can she do for her? Heavenly explains her cousin Sister Pauline sent her to hire the detective to look into the homicide of her sister Violetta Spees, a drug addict hooker, killed six months ago as the police have done nothing. Though she and Al prefer to avoid homicides as they do not have the proper equipment or crime scene information to conduct that type of investigation, she agrees to see LAPD lead detective Jarin and make inquiries not realizing how depressingly personal the case becomes. The seventh Mommy-Track Mystery is a wonderful private investigative tale that contains an eccentric delightful support cast including Heavenly and her family and of course the three kids. The story line is fast-paced even the interludes with Ruby, Isaac, and Sadie, each making demands on their mommy the sleuth. The case is terrific as Juliet begins to piece together what most likely went down, but cannot fully prove what she believes happened to Violetta. Ayelet Waldman provides a wonderful tale as her heroine has several issues to decide once the inquiry begins to focus.

A Deadly Yarn
Maggie Sefton
ISBN: 0425207072, $6.99

Visiting Santa Fe, House of Lambspun knitters Kelly Flynn and Megan admire the work of local artist and friend Allison DuBois who won a well deserved award as the Southwest designer Institute's Wearable Fiber Artist of the Year. Allison, who never sleeps, produces highly regarded "wearable art". Allison informs her friends that she is heading to New York as an apprentice at a designer's studio who also arranges an apartment for the newcomer. Kelly, Megan and Allison return to Fort Connor, Colorado after the award gala. Megan returns a cell phone to Allison only to find the artist dead. Megan is shook up so Kelly calls Fort Connor Police Lieutenant Morrison who investigated the death of her Aunt Helen. When the only thing missing is beads Allison picked up in New Mexico, the police assume it is an accidental death due to an overdose of sleeping pills. Though she needs to get back to her CPA practice in DC and should heed Morrison's pointed stay out of it dictatorial direction, Kelly believes a homicide occurred and begins to investigate Allison's recent lifestyle involving three not good for her males with at least one mostly likely deadly. The third knitting mystery (see KNIT ONE, KILL TWO and NEEDLED TO DEATH), is a fun artistic amateur sleuth tale starring likable characters who make Fort Connor, at least the House of Lambspun knitting club members, eccentric but amiable. The whodunit is well crafted as Kelly investigates one stitch at a time Allison's recent destructive social life and the three suspects that surface. Though doubtful once again that the CPA knitter would make inquiries, fans will not care as Maggie Sefton provides a delightful mystery.

Surf's Up
Janelle Denison, MaryJanice Davidson & Nina Bangs
ISBN: 042521012X, $14.00

"Hot and Bothered" by "Janelle Denison. In San Diego, jewelry designer Claire Reissing needs to move beyond her cheating former spouse Alan who lives on the other side of the continent. While swimming, Claire finds herself in trouble of drowning. Goldie, the dog of her next door neighbor Shea O'Brien, alerts him that there is trouble and he rescues her. They are attracted to one another until she blames him for stealing a jewel. Will she trust her heart or her head? "Paradise Bossed" by MaryJanice Davidson. In Little Cayman Island, Nikki enjoys diving, but fails to return. The authorities search for her failing to find her body, but assume she is dead. Her depressed friends Cathy and Jack hire Tom the medium to learn what happened to her. When Tom meets Nikki's ghost he believes he met his soulmate, but she is already on the other side. "Hot Summer Bites" by Nina Bangs. At the Castle of Dark Dreams Sparkle Stardust assigns Deimos to insure that visiting investigative reporter Kristin Hughes finds her sexual fantasies fulfilled by vampiric hunk Taurin Veris. He objects as this is his day off, but has no choice as the union doesn't cover supervisors or supernaturals. Taurin takes Kristin on a special tour that leads to the centers of their hearts and souls, but she must choose love or living. Two of the contributions are fantasies and the third a "crime caper", but regardless each well written entry is fun to read with couples having issues to overcome; although death seems a bit stronger of a wall to surmount than theft. Fans of each of the authors will enjoy their latest tales.

Six Reasons to Stay a Virgin
Louise Harwood
ISBN: 0425210200, $13.00

In London twenty-four year old Emily goes to Ruffles Department Store to buy a new top as some guy dropped food on her when he accidentally knocked into her with his sandwich. In the dressing room she accidentally awakened a sleeping wasp who stung her out of indignation. She raced half naked out of the dressing room into the arms of Sam Finch trying to buy a birthday present for his sister. They know each other, but he is disappointed when she mentions a mutual friend Oliver Mills; he tells her that Mills is back from America which leaves Emily dreaming that the SIX REASONS TO STAY A VIRGIN all end with a loving encounter with her beloved Oliver. As Emily dreams of making love with Oliver and her friends encourage her to let the lust flow, Sam knows she is the one for him and that he hopes once she gets past her fixed at sixteen fantasy of the teenage Oliver into the reality of the adult version, she will share his deepest wish. Sam begins the campaign to win her heart with kindness and caring while Emily continues to believe that Oliver is Mr. Right though he shows no sign that he reciprocates. Though a lighthearted chick lit romp, SIX REASONS TO STAY A VIRGIN contains a powerful message that it is okay to not join the in-crowd if joining leaves you uncomfortable. Emily is terrific as she remains a virgin in spite of immense pressure from her friends who fall in and out of lust all the time. There is no phony preaching about abstinence, but instead Louise Harwood makes the case to thine own self be true even if that means being an outsider.

Seven Ways to Lose Your Lover
Alesia Holliday
ISBN: 0425209946, $13.00

Since a high school break-up turned ugly when he swung a bat and hit a home run with her car, Shane Madison creates elaborate schemes to get her beau to break off with her. She is so good at having the guy end their relationship, her friends, whom she has advised on SEVEN WAYS TO LOSE YOUR LOVER, think she should become a consultant. She follows their advice with "The Breakup Artist", which proves very successful. She helps Lizzie end her relationship with "Awful Ben" Gleason, who she realizes the adjective really does not fit though he seems to appreciate his work more than his girlfriend. Following Shane's advice to embarrass him in the office with a jelly belly Mrs. Cameron scenario, Ben ends what he thought was a promising relationship, but also learns that he is a victim of the Breakup Artist. Vowing to avenge his humiliation, he arranges to meet and date Shane, but soon finds himself in deeper trouble as he likes, make that loves the relationship consultant with a money back guarantee, but he wants the life plan. This is an amusing yet emotional look at relationships as the self proclaimed expert Shane learns that people are dynamic ever changing and that classifying in tight boxes how individuals behave towards one another is not that simple (Myers-Briggs aside). The story line is driven mostly by Shane especially once she meets Ben who is not only not awful but actually delightful. Fans will appreciate this fine contemporary look at the dating scene starring a young lady who wants to believe that NICE GIRLS FINISH FIRST.

The Next
Dan Vining
ISBN: 0425209431, $23.95, 320 pp.

Jimmy Miles is a private detective who only takes cases that interest him. That is the perfect profession for a Sailor, a person who died but didn't pass on and in all ways that count remains alive. They interact with the "Norms" have all the money they need, have relationships with the opposite sex and don't need to eat or sleep although they do both. At the moment Jimmy is tailing Lucky, as a favor to his Sailor friend Angel to make sure she doesn't commit suicide. Strange things are happening in San Francisco surrounding Lucy. Two women always seem to be always around her and she never notices him even though he has passed her while walking. The Norms are committing suicide in record numbers and the sailors are edgy and nervous. When he sees Mary, the woman he loved and lost, Jimmy is reminded about similar circumstances when they resided in Los Angeles. Something dark is causing all the deaths in San Francisco just as it did in Los Angeles years ago and Jimmy is determined to find out what it is. Dan Vining is one of the few authors who can consistently write great urban noir with a supernatural twist. The concept of Sailors and their similarities and differences to Norms is one of the reasons THE NEXT is so very entertaining. The mystery is well thought out and realistically within the framework of the storyline. Readers will adore Jimmy who is a good sailor who still loves the woman who walked out on him years ago; readers will adore him for being so understanding while trying to help the living.

MaryJanice Davidson, Susan Grant, P.C. Cast, and Gena Showalter
ISBN: 0425211061, $7.99

"Mortal in Mysteria" by Susan Grant. Demon brought the supernatural settlers to Mysteria, Colorado centuries ago. For showing kindness, an outraged Lucifer kicks Demon out of his hell sanctuary to live and die in Mysteria. Pastor Harmony finds the naked Damon and nurtures him back to health even as they fall in love to Lucifer's chagrin. "Alone Wolf" by MaryJanice Davidson. Cole the Werewolf literally followed his nose to the house for sale in Mysteria. However, he is taken aback by his reaction to realtor Char although she failed too mention his roommate Rae the ghost, but also likes river nymph Potameides. Confused so is Cole. "The Witches of Mysteria and the Dead Who Love Them" by Gena Showalter. Psychic Hunter knows life stinks as he loves Genevieve the witch and he senses she loves him too. However, love hurts when you en vision that the woman you love will prove to be the cause of your death; his visions are 100 percent guaranteed. "Candy Cox and the Big Bad (Were)Wolf by P.C. Cast. High school teacher Candace not candy Cox teaches high school students who are all descendents of the paranormal; she is the offspring of the only purebred mortal family in Mysteria. Now one of her former students twenty-seven years old Justin a werewolf declares he loves her, but she has taught school almost as much as he has lived so though attracted to him she has age doubts. These four enchanting paranormal romantic novellas connected by the center of eeriness Mysteria, Colorado will elate sub-genre fans.

Hunting the Hunter
Shiloh Walker
ISBN: 0425211002, $6.99

Bounty hunting partners Kane Winter and Duke Monroe were about to arrest one of America's most wanted drug dealers Miles Lancaster when all hell broke loose as two monsters attack the criminals. Duke shapeshifts into the big cat that he can become, but is killed saving the life of his buddy from the boy-man monster vampire. However, a woman actually rescues him from the raging frustrated Anton whom she kills for crimes against humanity; the other vampire Miguel escapes. Two years Kane has searched for the golden eyed vampire slayer. She is his only clue to what happened on that fatal night and the link to the other vampire, but he assumes she was part of it and vows to find and kill her. Kendall knows the mortal bounty hunter she saved is hunting her; ironic because she is a hunter of her people when they turn rogue. When he finally catches up to Kendall he finds his thirst replaced by a hunger of desire that she to her surprise reciprocates; the forbidden relationship cannot be ignored by the two individuals in love or by her species. HUNTING THE HUNTER is an exhilarating romantic fantasy filled with suspense and two interesting protagonists struggling with the prohibited feelings of star-crossed love. The story line is action-packed, but the cast makes the paranormal seem genuine and normal. Shiloh Walker writes a terrific entry due to the changing relationship between the lead couple as neither Kane nor Kendall cannot resist the lure of their hunter.

Danse Macabre
Laurell K. Hamilton
ISBN: 0425207978, $25.95, 496 pp.

Federal Marshal Anita Blake, vampire hunter and zombie raiser, is worried that she is pregnant. She has no idea who the father is since she is sleeping with three vampires, two were-leopards, and one werewolf. She is part of a triumvirate with Jean-Claude Master Vampire of St. Louis and Richard the werewolf leader of his pack. Together they are stronger than they are apart. However, the ardeur, a magical essence that needs sex to nourish it is growing more powerful inside Anita and she needs to keep feeding it or it will start selecting its own victims. As Anita's powers grow, so do those of the other two members of the triumvirate, While Anita looks for someone she is not metaphysically attached to so that she can feed the ardeur, masters of the cities from all over the United States are coming to St. Louis to attend a vampire ballet hosted by Jean-Claude. Not all of the attendees are friends; some want to gauge how powerful Jean-Claude is with his two allies at his side while others want to use Anita for their own ends. Unless Anita can control her ardeur their enemies might defeat them. Every Anita Blake book is a fantastic urban fantasy and DANSE MACABRE is no exception. Readers wonder who amongst the guests is an adversary that the trio must deal with at a time when Anita is not at her best between the pregnancy and the increasingly out of control ardeur. This is a fabulous action-packed story line filled with characters readers have come to think of as friends.

Catch of the Day
Whitney Lyles, Beverly Brandt, Cathie Linz and Pamela Clare
ISBN: 0425209865, $14.00

"Brides Gone Wild" by Cathie Linz. In Serenity Falls, Pennsylvania, the upcoming weekend would be hell if the five brides cooperated, but not one does as the owner of Bloomers Flowers Shop Pam knows first hand. On top of that her high school boyfriend Michael is back in town insisting long distance relationships cannot work even as he keeps kissing her while also hiding the truth about a book he wrote. "Heaven Can't Wait" by Pamela Clare. Lissy and Will agree to three weeks of abstinence so that when they say I do they will share heaven afterward. However, the wait, romantic as it seems to Lissy, proves torturous on Will who loves to make love with his beloved. "So Caught Up to You" by Beverly Brandt. In Naples County, Florida Quinn is the wedding planner for the Celie-Cal marriage. Celie's sister Tasha, an investigative reporter, learns some interesting items about Quinn and the disappearance of two people five years ago. She decides to make inquiries into the man, but was not expecting to be attracted to him. "The Wedding Party" by Whitney Lyles. In San Diego Meg is a bridesmaid at her friend's wedding, but her thoughts linger on another member of the procession, Mason, whom she dumped a year ago. After dating some, she knows she made a mistake, but how to rectify it remains the question. However, the cousin of the bride Bill has his own plan to win her heart. These four lighthearted contemporary romantic romps contain a matrimonial thread, but the eight prime protagonists have different roles in the upcoming nuptials. Each story is fun as love as in the air or at least down the aisle.

Murder Over Easy
Jimmie Ruth Evans
ISBN: 0425209245, $6.99, 249 pp.

Wanda Nell of Tullahoma, Mississippi has known hard times, the worst being when her son T.J. was arrested for killing his father. She made a lot of enemies in the police department for investigating on her own this case, but in the end she cleared her son's name. She is now very happy, living in her double wide trailer with her sixteen year old grandson as well as her daughters while Wanda Nell works part time at the supermarket and full time at a restaurant. Wanda Nell gets a call from her boss Melvin at the jail where he was arrested for murdering his other waitress who was also his lover along with about half the men in town. She was knifed so many times that her bedroom looked like something out of a slasher movie. Wanda Nell knows he couldn't have committed such a heinous crime and she starts investigating on her own to clear his name. She finds a bankbook that has a huge sum of money in it that her peer couldn't earn on a waitress's salary, a list of powerful men she was blackmailing and a key card to a club in which the movers and shakers belong and the women do more than serve food. Both Wanda Nell and Melvin's lawyer are worried, but the spunky investigator is determined that justice will be served even if she has to do it herself. Fans of regional mysteries are going to find MURDER OVER EASY a refreshingly original who-done-it. The characters act true to type as everyone who lives in a small southern town knows and the heroine, who usually goes with the flow, becomes an independent tornado sweeping away everything in her path as she pursues the investigation her way. Readers will thoroughly enjoy this talented woman who practices what she preaches and hope Jimmie Ruth Evans will write more stories about this intrepid heroine.

Candles Burning
Tabitha King and Michael McDowell
ISBN: 0425210286, $24.95

In the 1950s Roberta Ann Dakin nee Carroll comes from an old aristocratic family so when she married car dealership mogul Joe Caine Dakin everyone assumed it was for his money; they would be right as Roberta Ann disdains her spouse's roots. More upsetting to the proper Roberta Ann is their seven years old daughter Calley. She detests her child who behaves like a low life Dakin rather than an upper crust Carroll. Unbeknownst to her sarcastic mother, Calley has inherited one thing from her Carroll ancestry, the ability to hear the dead speak, and a talent that her mom never gained. Two women abduct, kill, and dismember Joe Caine with no known motive for the violence as they kidnapped him for ransom money. A shocked Roberta Ann accompanied by a grieving Calley who loved her daddy, flee their Alabama home for Pensacola. However, neither understands that someone in their new residence, so reminiscent of Roberta Ann's memories of her deceased great-grandma's house, has arranged it all starting with the vicious homicide and the relocation. That individual wants to own Calley's paranormal power, but that essence failed to understand the love between a daughter and a father; a reckoning is coming. CANDLES BURNING is a superb paranormal gothic thriller that grips readers from start to finish as the audience will ponder whether the villain or the child will triumph. For Calley to win she must learn how to use her skills in spite of her loathing mother; her incentive is her late father. Tabitha King completes the late Michael McDowell's tale so that no one will be able to ascertain who wrote what nor care as the growing suspense to an anticipated High Noon showdown is what the audience will appreciate.

French Kiss
Susan Johnson
ISBN: 0425209857, $15.00

In Southern California successful wealthy record producer Johnny Patrick would do anything for his beloved nine years old daughter Jordi. Thus he hires architect Nicole Lesdaux to design a tree house for his adored child. Nicole finds herself attracted to her client and his preconscious offspring. However, when Johnny's former wife drug addict Lisa on a whim takes their daughter to Paris, he panics as he knows her friends at best are not good for his little darling and she is unstable. He enlists his sexy architect who speaks a few more words of French to accompany him across the Atlantic to retrieve Jordi. Shocking herself by breaking the golden rule of never mixing business with pleasure, Nicole agrees to go to France with Johnny. In Europe the architect and the music mogul begin to fall in love, but first must rescue a preadolescent child whose mother has placed her in danger from her so-called predatory friends. Though some will wonder why Nicole as he could have easily hired an interpreter who spoke fluent French, this is a fine heated erotic romantic suspense with the emphasis on the erotica. Profanity is overused and feels more like shock therapy. However, the lead couple is a solid pair and Jordi is a precocious youngster in trouble because of her mother's terrible judgment especially in her choice of friends. Susan Johnson keeps the heat beyond boiling as Johnny and Nicole share much more than just a FRENCH KISS.

The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood
Susan Witting Albert
ISBN: 0425210049, $23.95, 352 pp.

Although Miss Beatrix Potter spends much of her time in London behaving as a dutiful daughter who makes life easier for her society parents, her true home is in the town of Sawrey. Her heart belongs to her estate Hill Top Farm and though she can only make infrequent visit there, the villagers accept her as one of their own because they sense a kindred spirit. Her latest visit in the spring of 1907 forces her to deal with the rat population that has taken up residence in her home and the out building. One of the rats, a timid, professional type, advertises for cats to take up residence and kill the rats. As more and more cats answer the ad, Miss Potter is concerned that Major Christopher Kittredge of Raven Hall, at the urgings of his wife is willing to build villas on his property on the shores of the lake. She fears that the project will spoil the atmosphere of the village. The vicar of Sawrey is dealing with his own problem. His cousins the Thextons have outstayed their welcome and he doesn't know how to get rid of them. Miss Pother has an idea how to do just that when she wants to out a blackmailer and a bigamist She also would like to find a way for a bright lad to continue his education but the indenture papers are about to be signed. This is a charming, beguiling and enchanting work about an adult author who is responsible for overseeing her parents' household still believing in the magic of the fairy folks. Fans who like the Mrs. Murphy mysteries where the animals speak to one another and look out for their humans will thoroughly enjoy this piquant cozy where the crimes committed are of a non-violent nature which fits the serene atmosphere that the author successfully creates.

Jennifer Scales and the Messenger of Light
MaryJanice Davidson & Anthony Alongi
ISBN: 0425210111, $9.99

Jennifer Scales has problems being a half-breed. She knows no one quite like her as her father is a were-dragon and her mother is a beaststalker; two natural enemies. She has the skills of both. That unique duality is not very helpful when it comes to school or the boy next door whom she likes, but his parents refuse to allow them to mingle because of her dragon blood. Life is tough enough with a mother who wants to kill her father-in-law, but to have both parents compete for your training time is too much for a teen. Worse someone is stalking her and her family; she plans to uncover the culprit and prevent him from causing harm though she finds his tricks irritating. Alas what can you do when you are Jennifer Scales, who already has solved the riddle of the Incarnation of the Ancient Furnace? The second Jennifer Scales teen fantasy is a delightful story starring an intelligent affable individual with all the teenage angst expected of a high school student plus pressure from her antecedents to choose a side as she is the battleground between two adversarial species. The cast makes the tale fun to read especially when the heroine's paternal grandfather and her mother war about Jennifer as if she is not standing next to them. Young adult readers will appreciate Jennifer's latest amateur sleuth investigation and her improving skills since she searched for the Ancient Furnace as she uncovers who is trying to harm her family and why; the truth is quite a shocker in this sort of Nancy Drew goes fantasy thriller.

Wicked Pleasure
Nina Bangs
ISBN: 0425203719, $14.00

Kim Vaughn chose architecture as a means to avoid being part of her family's vocation, demon hunting. Instead she wants a normal lifestyle so she is euphoric when she is chosen to design Castle of Dark Dreams, an adult theme park in Galveston. However, her kin is upset that she will be safe out in the real world without them so to appease them and insure they do not provide escorts and bodyguards she brings with her all propose demon detection- deadly weapon and of course cell phone "Fo". Demon Brynn McNair detests that most of his five centuries of life is consumed with being a sex toy for women. At the same time that Fo claims that everyone who comes into contact with Kim is a demon, she finds herself attracted to Brynn, who sends Fo's detecting devices off the scale. He feels the same way, but assumes she is just another abuser-user while she wonders if he might just be a sex enticing demon. WICKED pleasure is another terrific Nina Bangs humorous action-packed paranormal romance showcasing star-crossed lovers whose relationship is taboo by both their species as Kim's family hunts down Brynn's people. As always the storyline is loaded with suspense yet filled with amusement and sex. Readers will enjoy this wicked tale and look forward to the final tale starring the immortal warrior sibling.

California Demon: The Secret Life of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom
Julie Kenner
ISBN: 042521043X, $14.00

Kate Connor and her late husband Eric retired from demon hunting fifteen years ago to raise a family. Years after Eric passed away, single mom Kate and her teenage daughter Allie find love and marriage with attorney Stuart Connor. Terrible Timmy is the newest member of the happy family. However, though she believes in honesty in relationships, Kate hides from her family her past as a demon hunter, but recently her skills were tested by demons (see CARPE DEMON: ADVENTURES OF A DEMON-HUNTING SOCCER MOM) forcing her out of retirement. Kate and her neighbor Laura, the only human outside of the Vatican who knows her vocation, believe that the demons are on the verge of attacking the high school and her daughter Allie seems the center of the mess. She also has reconsidered the death of Eric, which she now wonders if it was murder and ponders why the new teacher David Long looks familiar; is it mistaken identity, or someone from her demon fighting days seeking to out her at a time when she prepares for immortal combat? The second demon hunting fantasy once again combines the dangers of PTA shark infested waters with battling Hell's denizen; Kate knows which is more dangerous. The story line combines plenty of action with humor as Kate battles family responsibilities between killing demons. Julie Kenner is at her irrelevant best with this delightfully amusing adventure sequel.

Shadow of the Moon
Rebecca York
ISBN: 042520961X, $6.99

The DC police inform artist Savannah Carpenter that they believe her sister Charlotte accidentally fell off rocks at Rock Creek Park leading to her being at George Washington University Hospital in a coma. Savannah thinks otherwise as she feels someone pushed her sibling who was looking into strange happenings at Club Eighteen better known as the Castle by its rich S&M patrons. When the Castle's guards see Savannah taking photos of their clients, they go after her, but a large wolf rescues her. Investigative reporter Lance Marshall offers to team up with Savannah as he senses a story that could help her learn what happened to Charlotte. She agrees. They enter the club albeit to have fun, but also to obtain the truth. However, like the Hotel California it is easy to enter, but impossible to leave. The York werewolf moon novels contains several excellent paranormal romantic suspense tales (see CRIMSON MOON), but SHADOW OF THE MOON may be the best of the series so far. The action-packed story line is fast-paced and filled with sexual tension accentuated by the danger that the audience will taste as if we have the enhanced sense of a werewolf. The lead couple is a delightful pairing as they investigate the goings on at the club, what happened to Charlotte, and the attraction between them in a gripping thriller.

The Sea King
Jolie Mathis
ISBN: 0425210650, $6.99

While riding her horse, Isabel is dumped into the river. A Danish warrior rescues her. However, her brother King Ranulf captures the Dane and punishes him. No one listens to Isabel when she insists he saved her life; eventually she is drugged. When she awakens she feels obligated to the Dane and helps him escape. Two winters later Kol Thorleksson leads several hundred mercenaries on an assault of the stronghold of Norsexian King Ranulf out of revenge. He captures Ranulf's sisters Rowena and Isabel, but the monarch is gone. Isabel is stunned as she recognizes that Kol is the man she freed only to have him return and kill her Saxon kin. Kol catches Isabel as he meets her two years old son Godric. Though she cannot remember what happened she holds Kol culpable for raping her. Since Kol cannot sire children due to his mother's curse, he wonders if she freed him two years ago so she can accuse him of raping her in order to protect her lover. Kol knows he wants Isabel, but will not allow his desire to make any decisions for him. He also believes he is not good enough for any female's love whether it be his mother or Isabel, but especially one who holds him in disdain. Isabel feels like a traitor as she falls in love with the invader. THE SEA KING is an interesting medieval romance with a superb twist involving who sired the lad. Kol is terrific as a courageous lead overcoming a doomed past starting with his birth when his mom dumped him to die on an icy river. He is one hero readers will deservedly sympathize with. A minor quibble is that though Godric is a toddler he acts much older. Still this is a superb historical romance that readers will appreciate.

The Orchard of Dreams
Tim Waggoner
Five Star
ISBN: 1594144451, $25.95, 329 pp.

When the Change happens, every man, woman, and child possesses one magical power and some are transformed into other creatures. The people of Athymar don't know what caused the Change but Tarian is determined to find a way to reverse the effects of it on his wife Lowri who was transformed into a flying demon like creature. He and his son Phelan travel to the city of Pendara in the hopes of finding a wizard who can transform Lowri back into the woman he loves instead of the creature who hates him. In Pendara, Tarian applies his newfound healing powers to the injuries of the dying queen. He, Phelan, and warrior woman Danya of the city watch are invited into the castle by the wizard Cyn. There they meet with the priestess Saeth who was attending the queen and the Esylken warrior Ashur Dal. The Esylken wants Tarian to come to his village in Greenmark Forest to meet with the Timeless Ones, the spirits of the Esylken dead. They asked Ashur specifically to bring him and the queen wants the entire group to go to Hearts Wound to find out what happened in the last battle between Light and Darkness. On their way to the Esylken village, they make a brief detour to a city besieged by demons to kill them and close the rip between the realms. When they finally reach Vallanora, Tarian meets with the Timeless Ones who send his group on a quest in which he is to play a major role in the world's salvation or destruction. GODFIRE BOOK 1: THE ORCHARD OF DREAMS is a fantastic quest fantasy filled with lots of action and magical battles. The group embarking on the quest consists of fully developed characters with distinct personalities. Readers will like all of them for different reasons but the focal point of Tim Waggoner's terrific fantasy is Tarian who through no fault of his own is granted a great power and an even greater responsibility.

Four Summers Waiting
Mary Fremont Shoenecker
Five Star
ISBN: 1594144753, $26.95

In 1860 on Long Island, father and daughter Horatio and Maria Onderdonk continue to mourn the loss of his wife, her mother who died last year. However, Maria is ready to move on so when her best friend Carolyn Grisham invites her to attend an Abolitionist Sunday meeting she agrees to go. At the session, Maria meets zealous abolitionist Henry Simms, a medical student who works on the Underground Railroad; they are attracted to one another and correspond afterward as he returns to school and she to her Evergreen Park, Long Island home. As Henry prepares to open up his medical practice, war breaks out between the states. He joins the Union as a contract surgeon; Carolyn becomes a nurse; and Maria's struggles to find a way to help the Northern cause over the objection of her father who opposes the war and the freeing of the slaves. Letters between Henry and Maria serve as her solace as she lives precariously through the doctor she loves until she decides she has had enough inactivity and heads to DC to assist her Henry. Mary Fremont Shoenecker provides a fascinating historical fiction novel with a romantic subplot that enhances the readers understanding of motivations and relationships. The story line focuses on the differing of opinions towards the Abolitionist movement in the north as some like Horatio consider them terrorists while Henry deems the conductors as human rights heroes. Using letters to move the story forward is clever, but it is the insight into how various people feels about freeing the slaves that makes for an interesting Civil War drama.

Amazing Disgrace
Catherine DiMercurio Dominic
Five Star
ISBN: 1594144664, $26.95

Her doubts about her Catholic faith finally boiled over when her brother Marco and his wife Rosie ask Aida Benedetto to become the godmother to her nephew Joseph. She tells them no because she cannot guarantee that if God forbid something happened to the parents, she will raise their child to be a good Catholic. Her parents are mortified, but not as much as her grandmother Nonna, who wants to excommunicate Aida from the family. Her family tries an intervention using Father Roberto, but that upsets Aida; only her on and off boyfriend Birch McFarland seems to empathize with her position as he too was strictly raised. However, the duo split over a tragedy and he returns to the Church. Aida tries to mend fences with her family and Birch while not surrendering her beliefs, but no one seems truly there for her as they feel she is a disgrace. This fascinating family drama stars realistic protagonists struggling with doing the right thing. Grace is the key as she wants to be there for her nephew, but cannot do it under the terms that her brother and his wife demand. Taking a stand takes personal courage as her beloved Nonna treats her as a heretic. Though the climax seems a bit simplistic for a complex issue, fans will welcome this fine poignant look at faith.

The Price of Pride
Donna MacQuigg
Five Star
ISBN: 1594144648, $25.95

In 1892 reporter Sarah Brighton strongly believes in women's suffrage hoping to one day be a role model for future female journalists to follow. However, she puts on hold her dream of becoming a star reporter in order to travel to New Mexico to settle the estate of her recently deceased cousin who died in a fire. Marshal Ira Farrell is also in town investigating the suspicious death of a lawman and the fire that he assumes was arson that killed his brother and Sarah's cousin. When the two outsiders meet, an attraction erupts immediately between them. They initially investigate separately as she has become suspicious about the fire that killed her relative. However, Sarah and Ira soon team up as they uncover a conspiracy that involves must of the local leading citizens. THE PRICE OF PRIDE is an exciting western romantic suspense story starring a solid strong lawman and an independent courageous heroine. The story line uses a late nineteenth century frontier police procedural with an amateur sleuth investigation serving as the matchmaker between the lead couple. Though Ira seems a bit too modern with how easily he acquiesces to Sarah's suffrage demands, fans will enjoy a look at the early stages of the women's rights movement.

Shelley Brannigan
Five Star
ISBN: 1594144842, $25.95

Her dying Gran persuades Andrea Jordan to give a death bed vow to check in on her great-grandchild to insure the kid is okay. After Gran's funeral, Andrea drives from her Denver home to Tabor, Wyoming where her cousin Tracey and her infant daughter reside in a trailer with dangerous David Elk Runner, a meth manufacturer and dealer. When she gets there Andrea sees someone sleeping in the tub, her cousin stoned comatose and the stove having all sorts of stuff burned out. She shuts the stove off and takes the baby with her leaving a note behind for Tracey; Andrea also takes money that is lying around. David returns to the trailer; he is outraged and beats up Tracey. He plans to get his money back, kill the witness to his meth lab and the corpse in the tub, and if the baby dies as collateral damage so be it. On her way home, Andrea learns that the cops are looking for her for stealing money; no mention of the infant. Needing to change her plates, she steals the license tag off of a truck that happens to belong to Police Officer Justin Blackburn who tracks down Andrea and offers his protection as they try to bring down the lethal David. Readers will agree with support character Dr. Virginia Lester that the heroine is nuts for interfering, but did the right thing as the infant was being neglected and abused. Still that took courage because the police and even the FBI could have arrested her for kidnapping. Though the license plate switch scene is too convenient, fans will appreciate this fascinating police procedural romance with its glimpse at a meth lab in which surprisingly the Red States have many more than the Blue States.

The Mirror Man
Delray K. Dvoracek
Five Star
ISBN: 159414477X, $25.95

A British sub in the Korean Sea loses its magnetic compass at about the same time an explosion in Yulsk, Russia occurs. CIA European lead operatives Lawrence Cameron and Harold Speisinger discuss with visiting Presidential emissary Elliot Bradford that they believe that the Russians have found an alternate source of energy. Their supporting argument includes the Yulsk incident coupled with rumors of international Russian oil sales in a few years to support their contention. They want to send in their best man Melvin Laskey to learn the truth and if true steal the technology. Laskey meets Russian agent Yuri Denisov who fears the fusion energy project will destroy the balance of power in the Cold War. He killed the two men who caused the Yulsk explosion, but secretly agrees with them that the world is not ready for such a weapon even with its cheap energy potential. Yuri and his beloved Naya Tarishkova team up with Melvin to end the Olga Program that produced the mirror machine though the Americans and the Russian will do anything to prevent these three rogues from success. This exciting espionage thriller insures that readers will comprehend that the good guys and the bad dudes are on both sides of the Cold War. Like Laskey, the audience will learn that Yuri is a highly principled individual worth respecting. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as the action keeps on coming. Still with all the excitement it is the lead trio supported by stereotypical goons from both camps who make this a must read for the spy maestros.

Under Cloak of Darkness
I. Michael Koontz
Five Star
ISBN: 1594144311, $25.95

Born in 1930 in the backwoods of Maryland, he was reported to have been found dead in 1955, a gravestone serving as proof. He had no attachments or ties to anyone as before he died his parents were already dead and no permanent girl ever hooked his full interest. Let me revise that he had one tie the Washington Nationals of "First in War, First in Peace, and last in the American league" fame. However, instead in 1955 he was reborn as John Apparite, trained as a killer by a top secret American espionage agency that contains only five agents, of which two are dead, one is semi retired and two including John remain active with one superior and five shadow agents ready to kill them if need be; outside of this elite tiny cell, only the Sec Def, CIA chief, and NSA director know they exist. John's assignment is to prevent the KGB from stealing western missile secrets. Feeling guilty and a bit of a failure because his boss's liaison to him is killed in the process of him thwarting the enemy, John vows to get the Russian SMERSH agent responsible Viktor. UNDER CLOAK OF DARKNESS is an exhilarating 1950s Cold War espionage thriller that grips readers from the moment that John is trained to become a superagent and never slows down until the final confrontation. The story line is action-packed as John trains initially before helping J. Edgar Hoover out of a jam and then subsequently there is the Viktor subplot. Though in some ways it feels like a Punisher comic book tale (early days that is) little things like rooting for the Nats bring a delightful sense of 1950s realism to an exciting spy thriller.

Dead Man Haunt
T. M. Simmons
Five Star
ISBN: 1594144435, $25.95

Not only can Alice Carpenter and her Aunt Twila see ghosts, they can talk with them. The duo helps the sprits stop whatever is holding them on this side of the veil including finding their killers if appropriate. In small-town Mineral Springs, Texas in a dilapidated hotel about to be torn down, Alice notices the sexy ghost of Patrick before he vanishes. She convinces Aunt Twila that they must investigate the sighting. With Trucker the Rottweiler and Miss Muffy the Persian feline accompanying them, the two females arrive at the hotel to look around. They find the sliced up body of a man at the bottom of the elevator shaft. Alice demands they reunite her body, find her killer and locate the ghost of Patrick's beloved lover Consuelo before he moves on to the other side; Alice and Twila are warned that Consuelo's brother Antonio stands in the way. As the living females and their pets investigate, their troubles come from the mortal world as someone breathing wants their inquiry ended anyway necessary. This exciting paranormal whodunit uses ghosts as support characters, which surprisingly seems real because of the interplay between the spirits and the brave living sleuths. Alice and Twila take the existence of ghosts in stride as if it is an everyday occurrence, which to them it is while Alice's ex Jack denies their existence. As with DEAD MAN TALKING, T.M. Simmons provides a delightfully charming leisurely flowing supernatural cozy.

The Best Laid Plans
Janet Majerus
Five Star
ISBN: 1594144257, $25.95

When her husband dumps her for one of his graduate students after many years of marriage, Jessie Schroeder returns to her hometown of Riverport, Missouri to lick her wounds and make a new life for herself. After months of writer's block , her muse returns as she begins to create the next tale in her children's series "Emily Says …". She even hopes that Sheriff Gil Keller asks her out, a welcome change from fearing he would. The era of good feelings does not last very long when Jessie's gardener Willy Bachmann is accused of killing Margaret Benson, wife of a conman and backer of a controversial industrial park development that hinges on a highway extension through the town. After joining AA and becoming a born again Christian, Jesse believes that Willy could not harm anyone. Not long afterward Willy is found dead; apparently he drowned in a flash flood.. The autopsy reveals he had a high alcohol content in his system. Jessie believes someone is getting away with two murders and used Willie as the most believable fall guy. THE BEST LAID PLANS is an enjoyable amateur sleuth tale that gives readers an opportunity to see what it is like to live in a small Missouri town where everyone knows everyone. Some locals believe the heroine is plain rude because of her loyal obstinacy to her beliefs that she can read a person's inner traits; readers will consider her as a charming eccentric. Janet Majerus provides audience with a wonderful regional mystery.

The Hazards of Hunting a Duke
Julia London
ISBN: 1416516158, $6.99

In 1819 London, the Marquis of Middleton, heir to the Redford Duchy, loves women and gaming. His father the Duke wants Jared to wed their neighbor Elizabeth Robertson, but he refuses. Instead Jared Broderick prefers to enjoy life with the Widow Miranda Waterstone. Sisters Ava and Phoebe Fairchild and their cousin Greer are best friends. At a ball, Ava's heel breaks just before she declines Jared request to dance. He angrily assumes she is cutting him because of his rakish reputation. Ava leaves, but her footman places her in the wrong carriage. Inside is Jared, who kisses and caresses her breasts before she stops him and explains her heel broke. When Ava's mother suddenly dies, their stepfather Egbert tells them that since he controls their money they will mourn in poverty while he goes to France to spend time with his lover. When he returns he will marry them to the highest bidder. Greer leaves for Wales to find her uncle and rescue the three of them. In 1820, Redford tells Jared to marry Elizabeth or else he will cut him off. Jared considers wedding Miranda, who says they cannot because his dad will cut them off. Jared realizes Miranda loves his title and wealth. He needs an acceptable wife so when he sees Ava he decides she is perfect. Ava thinks the rakish duke is perfect as a husband to help her and her sister. Can this be enough to form a relationship, let alone a loving one? Readers will appreciate the first Fairchild's Regency romance starring an intriguing lead couple supported by a solid strong secondary cast. The story line is a welcome fun straightforward romance though that also means the lead couple is typical of the sub-genre. Julia London leaves the Highlands for a fine historical romance.

Happy Hour at Casa Dracula
Marta Acosta
ISBN: 1416520384, $13.00

In spite of attending "Fabulous University", an Ivy League school, Milagro de Los Santos has not been able to find steady work since she graduated and her string of loser boyfriends would be the support characters of beach novels. Her friend Nancy turns Milagro into a "reading consultant", which led to four degrees of connection to writer Sebastian Beckett-Witherspoon, who was one of her beach buddies at F.U. At the soiree Milagro meets Oswaldo Krakatoa as both hate Witherspoon's pretentious book. Later at the Croft Hotel where he is staying, he bites Milagro in the neck. Not long after that a bewildered Milagro is kidnapped by Sebastian only to be rescued by Oswaldo, who takes her to the safety of his family at their ranch. Milagro finds her new friends warm though strange, but is upset that her new boyfriend Oswaldo has a fiancee. However, as she knows she must return to her rat infested apartment, Milagro concludes that the only way she and the man make that male she loves to be together forever, is for her to Bridge the gap of "I Love the Night Life" at Casa Dracula. Marta Acosta has written one of the best vampire romances in several years as she refreshes the sub-genre theme with terrific twists that keep the audience on edge wanting to learn more about the attendees at HAPPY HOUR AT CASA DRACULA. . Milagro is a superb protagonist with her amusing chick lit asides that will remind the audience of Love at First Bite with her as Susan Saint James' Cindy Sondheim and Oswaldo as George Hamilton's Count Vladimir Dracula. The fast-paced story line never slows down until the final bite occurs.

Dark Protector
Alexis Morgan
ISBN: 1416520368, $6.99

Paladin warrior Devlin Bane and his colleagues know what it is like to die and return to life as they have done so many times in the seemingly endless struggle to prevent the Others from annihilating humanity. However, for a Paladin to return from the dead, he must trust his Handler to heal his body and guide them back to life. Dr. Laurel Young is a Paladin handler, who has serviced Bane and others. However, Bane senses that his Handler is different than her peers as she seems to genuinely care about their welfare including their mental state. He desires her though he knows that a personal relationship between the one lifetime Handlers and the multi-lifetimes Paladins is taboo because emotion is unacceptable since a Paladin could turn rogue and become an Other, which means the Handler would have to kill him. Bane is an enigma as he is the longest serving Paladin and she wants to know why; at least that is her rationalization to herself. Deep in her heart Laurel is half in love with her patient who one day she will have to obliterate. The first Paladin romantic fantasy, DARK PROTECTOR, is a fabulous tale that enables the audience to believe in the paranormal elements especially the return from the dead and the war between the Paladins and the Others. The star-crossed romance between the lead couple adds to the feel of reality and further induces the audience into a one sitting read. Though the introduction to the rest of Bane's warrior teammates somewhat slows down the pace, sub-genre fans will appreciate this thriller and demand more novels starring mankind's protectors.

Have a Little Faith
Jacquelin Thomas, Reshonda Tate Billinglsey, J.D. Mason & Sandra Kitt
ISBN: 141651676X, $14.00

"Signs of Light" by Jacquelin Thomas. Lorna scorns welfare recipients, especially young healthy baby factories who are the queens of the government dole. That is until she meets single mother Brittany and learns life from the perspective of those desperately in need. "Faith Will Overcome" by Reshonda Tate Billinglsey. Her self worth remains in negative numbers as Faith feels only her body is interesting to a man. When Tyler rescues her from danger, she reacts as always thanking him with the only way she knows how, but to her shock he rejects her offer. Instead he wants her to see how much besides her body she offers people. "Maybelline" by J.D. Mason. Olivia meets Q in a restaurant to plead with him to give her a second chance. He says it is over between them ever since she rejected his being there for her while she battled cancer last year. Her neighbor angelic Maybelline gives her a sweet potato pie that seems to help her with her depression while restaurateur and musician Nate admits he wants her even with her having only one natural breast. "Survival Instincts" by Sandra Kitt. Lynn works in a dangerous part of town, but believes this is where she needs to be if she is to help those in need. When reporter Davis rescues her from a mugging, Lynn is forgiving while he demands retribution. Lynn tries to teach Davis that it takes caring people to help the young. These are four powerfully inspirational tales that star strong casts inside of deep story lines with the message of get involved to be part of the solution or remain indifferent and be part of the problem.

The Seduction of His Wife
Janet Chapman
ISBN: 141650527X, $6.99

After spending eleven days in the Brazilian Jungle fleeing rebels, an exhausted Alec Knight comes home to Frost Lake, Maine. He looks forward to seeing his two kids ten years old Delaney and seven years old Tucker, his two brothers and his dad Grady. Instead a beautiful woman points a shotgun at him claiming her name is Mrs. Alec Knight. Apparently Grady forged his marital signature to protect his children from his late wife's parents. He assumes Sarah is a gold-digger. That night an exhausted Alec shares a bed with Sarah as that is the only one set up since she is cleaning all the others while everyone else is away. During the night they make love, but he is stunned that she is a virgin since she insists she is a widow. Angrily, he throws her out of their house. Grady arrives a few hours later and angrily tells his son that Sarah was wed to a gay man and married him to protect his kids that she loves. Alec knows he judged Sarah like she was his late wife and goes after her pleading with her to come back if not for Grady for the kids. She reluctantly agrees, but plans to leave soon. As they become acquainted they fall in love, but first they must stop smugglers and then he must persuade her he loves her. Leaving her delightful Highlander novels aside, Janet Chapman shows her versatility with this interesting contemporary romance containing a delightful twist of they married before they met. The strong support cast augments the tale with insight into the hero. Though the confrontation with the intelligent and tough smugglers seem to simple, fans will appreciate the after marriage courtship and love between two deserving souls and look forward to Grady's next machination.

Captive of My Desires
Johanna Lindsay
ISBN: 1416505474, $25.00

As her mother's health declined, eighteen-year-old Gabrielle knowing that Clara's time was soon ending she decided she would leave England to seek out her father, merchant ship Captain Nathan Brooks, who lives in the Caribbean. Though prepared, Gabrielle is distraught when her mother dies, but courageously while mourning her loss leaves for the Caribbean to live with her dad. To her shock, Gabrielle learns that her father is an outlawed pirate and even more stunning, she enjoys the lifestyle of searching for treasure on the High Seas. However, when she turns twenty-one, Nathan concludes his daughter needs a different life closer to that of his late wife who rejected his. Though he will miss her as he loves his daughter he sends a reluctant Gabrielle to his former comrade in piracy, aristocrat James Malory and his spouse Georgina to sponsor her in polite society. In London, the Malorys and Georgina's brother, American Sea Captain Drew Anderson, escort Gabrielle to the galas. However, as Gabrielle decides Drew is for her, he tries to eludes her because even though he is attracted to her, he prefers his woman in every port lifestyle. When he accidentally humiliates her at a ball, she vows revenge pirate style. Gabrielle with her father's crew at her side captures Drew making him her prisoner or are both prisoners of love. The extended Malory Regency romance (see A LOVING SCOUNDREL) will please fans of the series though nothing new is added to the Lindsay formula. However the audience will enthusiastically appreciate the battle of the sexes between the pirate's daughter and the ex-pirate's brother-in-law. Gabrielle is a fun heroine not afraid to go after what she seeks while Drew knows if he tastes the passion he sees in her eyes, he is doomed to be her captive forever. Johann Lindsay's fans will enjoy her latest pirate romance.

Two Days after the Wedding
Joan Medlicott
ISBN: 0743470435, $12.00

In quiet Covington, North Carolina Grace Singleton, Hannah Parrish and Amelia DeClose share a farmhouse. However, change is everywhere, but especially to the three best friends. Hannah and Max agree that they will marry soon, but not live together as they will continue to maintain separate homes. Grace worries that her friend Bob, who has moved next door, is too harsh a disciplinarian on her two grandchildren living with her since their mom left for Florida to practice law; he thinks Grace lets the infant tyrant two year old Melissa get away with anything including destroying her brother Tyler's history report. Amelia's photographs have become very popular and people from as far away as New York buy them. In fact, she is going to attend a showing of her work in the big Apple of an impoverished mountain family that lays bare their fall into the ooze below the food chain. Clearly for fans of the series only, life moves on filled with relationship troubles that lead to changes for the three Tarheel ladies. The story line is obviously character driven by the trio as each has problems to cope with while dealing with other people. However, one must wonder how you're going to keep Amelia down on the farm after she seen New York City.

Aussie Rules
Jill Shalvis
ISBN: 0758211392, $14.00

Melanie "Mel" Anderson manages more than just the North Beach Airport in California; she helps her employees and her business partner with their scrambled lives. To Mel this is her family though she misses her surrogate mother the airport owner Sally, who disappeared a few years ago. Australian Bo Black owns the deed to the airport and plans to take control of it. He wants to find his father's missing plane and regain what should have been his except Sally conned his dad when they briefly married. However, his plan goes awry as he needs a revision because all he wants to do is sleep with the enemy who to his amazement he loves; even more shocking is Mel reciprocates Bo's deepest regard while everyone else thinks they make strange bedfellows while wondering if it is AUSSIE RULES or Yankee control. The key to this fun contemporary filled with eccentric characters is the background North Beach Airport seems normal so anchors the delightful story line from veering to far from the tarmac. The war between Mel and Bo is fought on several fronts elating the audience as they skirmish in the skies, on the ground, and in the bedroom. Though the climax seems to gentle of a landing for such a zany soaring tale, Jill Shalvis rules with this fine battle of the sexes.

Hit Hard
Amy J. Fetzer
ISBN: 0758211074, $14.00

In Sri Lanka Sam Wyatt and his Dragon One teammates are tracing diamonds that will be used if not stopped by them to purchase weapons for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eeelam, who are running a terrorist campaign for a separate state. When one of his men Riley, is nearly killed and may still die, Sam turns cold with rage. He plans to finish the mission and take out one weapons dealer Rohkie for shooting his friend. At the Archeological Restoration Dig in Thailand, Xavier, called Viva by those who know her, has found a priceless artifact. However, Rohkie learns of the find and decides to take it from the woman after he takes the woman. Sam trailing Rohkie meets Viva. He feels he has suffered a stroke as his brain no longer functions beyond an icon called Viva and his heart is racing out of control. She reciprocates as her soul melts with one look from him. However, her safety comes first as Rohkie leaves behind dead people in Sri Lanka, Bangkok, and Thailand while targeting the archeologist. HIT HARD is an action-packed romantic suspense Southeast Asia thriller that never slows down from the opening scene until the final helicopter ride. The story line is filled with adventure and daring do yet the romantic subplot between the lead couple is deftly handled. The cast is solid leading to another strong Amy J. Fetzer thriller (see PERFECT WEAPON and NAKED TRUTH).

Ask for It
Sylvia Day
ISBN: 0758214723, $14.00

In 1770 England Lady Elizabeth Hawthorne fears for her life as someone killed her husband because she believes they wanted control of his espionage secrets in his diary in which he claims a conspiracy to harm the throne exists. Elizabeth needs a protector, but the only man she trusts to do the job loathes her because she jilted him four years earlier to marry Hawthorne when she caught him in a compromising position. Still these are desperate times for Elizabeth so if she wants to survive she must swallow her pride. Marcus Westfield has survived many an adversary except one, his former fiancee Elizabeth. Now the unthinkable dream he has had for four torturous years of rage has happened; she has come to him begging for his help. He wants to say no, but cannot as he still desires her, but this time he plans to hide his heart from her treachery, not understanding why she dumped him. Besides he rationalizes that his undercover assignment to protect the royals should enable him to enjoy some under cover assignments. Georgian romance fans will be asking for more works like this delightful historical romantic suspense that hooks the audience from the onset into a one sitting read. The action-packed story line is filled with suspense and tension as antagonists are willing to kill again to obtain the journal. The heat between Elizabeth and Marcus will burn fingers though one might ask why she did not confront her lover when she caught him in an apparent tryst. Eighteenth century romance readers will have a wonderful day with this fine historical.

Ex, Why, and Me
Susanna Carr
ISBN: 0758210833, $14.00

In Chicago Michelle Nelson feels she owes her hometown of Carbon Hill as the locals helped her attend college and obtain a career as a pastry chef after she won the Miss Horseradish title five years ago. She agrees to return to help her town promote their cash crop at the upcoming Horseradish Festival. However, if Michelle knew beforehand that she would be paired on a scavenger hunt with Ryan Slater, employed at his family owned Pins and Pints bowling alley, she would have said no thanks. Mortified she remembers that with her tiara on her head, they were making love for the first time, but her enthusiasm "killed" his head; she vows never again. Meanwhile he blames himself for their failure and welcomes a second chance. This lighthearted romantic romp is a fun somewhat second chance at love starring likable protagonists and eccentric support cast. The story line focuses on taking chances on love as Michelle fears another try while Ryan needs to prove more himself that he can do it with her. Soon their feelings of inadequacy changes to love, but will that prove enough to overcome the teary teen trauma that taunts them.

Bad Boys Southern Style
JoAnn Ross, E.C. Sheedy & Jill Shalvis
ISBN: 0758214782, $14.00

"Love Potion #9" by JoAnn Ross. Hollywood comes to Savannah to film the Morganna the witch movie. The flick brings Sloan the Hollywood hunk to the Georgia city where he meets Hex Appeal shop owner Roxi. Neither needs witchcraft to be attracted to one another, but a love spell could not hurt. "Midnight Plane to Georgia" by E.C. Sheedy. Tracy leaves Seattle for a short stay in Parasol, Georgia to start over as her life is in a computer art graphics rut especially with her inability to say no to friends and family. She plans to be "no no Nanette", but writer Colson boards the same plane and knows what he wants, which is Tracey saying "yes yes" like Sally in Harry meets Sally. "Fall from Grace" by Jill Shalvis. When the lights went out in Georgia, librarian Janie realizes that Clayton is lunging towards her. She grabs the Concise Oxford English dictionary in a way she never would have dreamed of slamming it on his head. When the lights return to the town of Grace, Janie realizes that someone else is on the library floor. She knocked out P.I. Ryan with one blow. When he recovers he realizes that he now has two cases to work with, winning the courageous heart of the battling librarian being the more important one. Though geographically Bad Boys Georgia style is more accurate, the latest anthology is a delightful collection that readers of the series like this reviewer will enjoy. Each of the couples makes wonderful matches as the guts work overtime to prove their love, loyalty and longing for the women they love.

Bad Boys of Summer
Lori Foster, Erin McCarthy, & Amy Garvey
ISBN: 0758209347, $14.00

"Luscious" by Lori Foster. Twin sisters Bethany and Marci Churchill share an apartment (breaking the lease) when the former quit her job and dumps her boyfriend. Though she would not mind a roll on the sheets with her sister's landlord, hunky SWAT police officer Lucius Ryder, she knows he desires Marci. However, the police sergeant amazes her that he can tell which twin is which and soon with the matchmaking of her sibling and the Dog Hero, Bethany and "Luscious" Lucius fall in love. "It's About Time" by Erin McCarthy. County prosecutor Trish Jones has had it with smooth-talking suits who lie and ultimately fail to show up on dates. She is commiserating at the local bar when she notices hunky Caleb Vancouver, whom she has known for fifteen years, getting drunk as his ex-wife remarries tonight. Caleb plans to celebrate with a one night stand once he picks someone up. When he and Trish talk, drink and ride into the night on his bike for a tryst, both realize it must be love when he begins to think about letting her drive his Harley. "Wish You Were Here" by Amy Garvey. Photographer Mackenzie Pruitt plans to use the summer to convert a ramshackle shed into a studio. Her plans modify when hunky carpenter Leo Dawson arrives to work on the renovation. Mac wants Leo to work on her renovation, which he will gladly show her how to use a screw. These three hotter than a lit match contemporary romances uses the successful Bad Boys theme to provide readers with delightfully heated tales of summer love between three bad hunks and the women who somewhat civilize them.

Girls' Night Out
Assorted authors
Red Dress
ISBN: 0373895798, $14.95

The twenty-five short stories that make up GIRLS' NIGHT OUT are for the most part entertaining chick lit tales. Most are amusing with a few outstanding especially since the plaintiff displays wit and intelligence while also emotionally moaning the woes of the universe. The author's are a who's who of the sub-genre with each writer bringing their A game. The stories run the gamut from the Internet dating to non-dating to old fashion dating. As always in the subgenre the females get their wishes granted, but the results are never what they anticipated. Though in many of the contributions the males seem underdeveloped, no one will care as the women (reflects real life) carry the story lines. This will be a fun time for readers as few sub-genres if any fit as well as chick lit does in the anthology format. Additionally besides obtaining a strong compilation, fans will know they benefit the charities War Child and From No Strings, two groups dedicated to help the children of war.

When You Believe
Jessica Inclan
ISBN: 0821780808, $13.00

On a warm San Franciscan night, Zaps poet contributor Miranda Stead heads to the lot where her car is parked, but neither are where they should be; in fact nothing is right. Instead some testosterone types chase after her until she rushes through a door, falls, and probably breaks her ankle with people yelling at her demanding who she is and how she got here as none of them know how she did it. The group accuses her of being a lousy Moyenne spy; she thinks they are crazy. Telepathic healer Sariel Valasay agrees to escort Miranda home as she has inadvertently dropped through a portal to the world of Les Croyant des Trois. He plans to erase her memory of their meeting and her trek into his realm as he fears for her and her world if the dark forces learn of a Moyenne penetrating the barrier. As they journey together, they are attracted to one another. However, he erases her memory of him, or at least he thinks he did. She refuses to forget, but unbeknownst to Sariel his memory of her is gone even as Miranda hunts for her soul mate. Though romantic fantasy fans will need to give this complex tale time to provide the background on the Inclan universe, readers will appreciate the wait once they grasp the nuances as this is a superb tale. Fans will root for Miranda who refuses to allow her memory of meeting her beloved to die and hope she and Sariel find a way to be with one another. Readers will believe that Jessica Inclan provides an entertaining deep thriller in which is the ultimate weapon.

A Restless Knight
Deborah MacGillivray
ISBN: 0821780360, $3.99

In 1296 King Edward is frustrated and irate with the MacShane sisters who have eluded his demands for them to marry. Since they will not obey their monarch he sends his most trustworthy "dragons" to the Sacred Mists of Glen Shane hidden in the Scotland Highlands. Julian the Black Dragon and his two brothers, Sir Guillaume and Sir Simon, are bone weary after years of seemingly non-stop fighting. Each seeks domestic tranquility and serenity but know that filling Edward's coffers will never end so they willingly accept his Highness' offer to wed the MacShane siblings. Edward assigns Sir Julian to wed Tamlyn and take charge of her estate Glenrogha. Though she loathes Edward and would cherish saying no to his agent, Tamlyn has the gift and realizes she and Julian are tied together and besides she saw what he saw at the bloody battle of Berwyn. She acquiesces to Julian's demands for the sake of her people, but he soon realizes that is not enough at least for him. He needs her as his loving wife and partner sharing the bond of dragonmasters. A RESTLESS KNIGHT is a beguiling Highland romantic fantasy. The storyline uses fae magical elements to enhance the strong historical plot. Her touch enables Tamlyn to see the horror that eats at her soulmate's heart and consequently hers. Still this bewitching protagonist knows she must keep her people's welfare first before any personal happiness. Fans will enjoy this delightful pairing of two spirited dragons whose love for one another refreshes the Scottish Highland historical romantic landscape.

Close Enough to Kill
Beverly Barton
ISBN: 0821776886, $6.99

In Alabama, Adams County, Sheriff Bernie Granger and her counterpart at adjacent Jackson County Sheriff Mays search for the missing woman, Stephanie Preston, a college student married for five months and Mays' niece. They soon find what they feared her battered raped corpse. At about the same time they make their grim find, former Memphis police detective Jim Norton arrives as the new deputy sheriff of the Adams County department. Bernie and Jim work diligently to uncover the Preston killer out of fear that the culprit will not stop with her. However, their efforts fail as a second female is killed with the same violent M.O. Though not yet officially by definition a serial killer case, the two law enforcement official believes that is what they are dealing with; so does the panicked county residents. As Bernie and Jim put in extra time together, they are attracted to one another, but both fears commitment having been burned by divorce and besides they must work together to prevent any more murderers from happening in their quiet peaceful community. CLOSE ENOUGH TO KILL is an exhilarating romantic police procedural that cleverly uses the romance subplot to enhance the feel to the small town atmosphere of Adams County and as a contrast to the atrocities of the serial killer. The lead cops are a wonderful dedicated team and their respective family members (her mom and sis and his son) add to the understanding of the duo and especially the environs they investigate. With all that going for it, the bottom line to Beverly Barton's breathtaking book is her ability to hide the killer's identity in plain site, which rivets the audience from start to finish.

Black Order
James Rollins
ISBN: 0060763884, $24.95

In May 1945, though the Nazis military leadership knows the cause is lost, they put up a street by street fight in Breslau, Poland to protect the experiments inside the nearby Wensaslas Mine. There the torturous screams of experimental victims provide the future hope of the Third Reich to come back and eventually win due to Project Chronos led by Doktor Hugo Hirszfeld; all the researchers are dead except Hugo's mixed blooded Jewish daughter Tola for the German scientists were working on a new type of paradoxical physics, quantum mechanics with real human subjects. Over five decades later, the Third Reich descendents believe the time is right to bring out into the open the results of Project Chronos, a new race of Aryan supermen and superwomen. DOD Sigma Force operatives Painter Crowe and Grayson Pierce must find a way to stop the Neo-Nazis from changing the world order with their laboratory induced expedited evolution, but to succeed strange bedfellows become allies. This over the top thriller grips readers on two levels: the action-packed adventures that require extraordinary reactions by Sigma Force and the scientific theories behind quantum physics, evolution and intelligent design that seems so apropos in today's world. The story line never slows down, but any time the plot seems to veer into cartoon, science surfaces to cleverly anchor the tale in reality. James Rollins' eighth Sigma Force thriller is his best to date as the action is enhanced and superseded by the underlying Freudian philosophical question of what makes a god.

The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast
Douglas Brinkley
ISBN: 0061124230, $29.95

Almost four years after 9/11 Hurricane Katrina proved that we are still not ready for a colossal disaster. That is the prime premise of Tulane University Professor Brinkley's insightful look at the deluge after the Hurricane devastated the Gulf Coast. He provides anecdotal stories of heroism and success, but also condemns the failures of politicians, democrat or republican, local, state or national, who acted more like Nero than Giuliani. In the professor's opinion interestingly the storm proved to be the first act of a three act tragic drama. Following the five hours of the hurricane hammering New Orleans, a post storm surge flooded much of the area. Finally days later, the spins and, accusations with nobody willing to accept the failure is mind-boggling. Using real events Brinkley condemns Nagin, Blanco, Barbour, Brown, Chertoff, and Bush as going down in history as symbols of failure while the real heroes are the first responders like a Coast Guard officer taking trapped people to safer spots and locals like the person ferrying without regard to his own life neighbors to safer locales; these many nameless are urban legends who risked their lives. While Brown got the right tie, Blanco and Barbour whined in their state capitals about no federal assistance, and Bush attended a party fund raiser before his Hollywood show in Jackson Square, Mr. Brinkley makes a subjective case that we nationally failed the first true test of Homeland Security though many acted courageously to save others. This fascinating look at the aftermath is summed up by the passerby who shouted "F you Cheney".

Dead Wrong
J.A. Jance
ISBN: 0060540907, $25.95

Running for reelection while pregnant, Joanna Brady wins another term as sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona, which shows the voters have confidence in her skills. Meanwhile the cops tie a homicide victim, who many believe deserved death due to his disgusting past, to a highly regarded state judge and personal link to Joanna via a connection to her deceased father, a decorated sheriff. The department also handles the vicious beating of Animal Control Officer Jeannine Phillips, which the cops take as a personal affront forcing Brady to keep a tighter reign on her staff than usual. Finally dealing with illegal immigrant trafficking is taking a toll on the overworked staff. However, as difficult as the case load is, the worst thing to happen to Joanna is her insufferable in-laws come en masse to celebrate the soon to born child to tire the weary Sheriff further. Somewhat with the feel of Fargo (for obvious reasons), DEAD WRONG is a terrific Sheriff Brady police procedural as the department struggles with being understaffed and over-demanded. The cases as always look deeply at current social problems haunting society such as the impact of alcoholism on a family and late pregnancy on the job especially a demanding dangerous occupation. J.A. Jance is at her best with this strong crime drama.

Queen of Babble
Meg Cabot
ISBN: 0060851988, $21.95

Missing her English boyfriend Andrew Marshall (though they met for only one night), who returned home, svelte (lost thirty pounds) Lizzie Nichols, having probably graduated from college, heads to London to see him. Lizzie knows Andrew's letters are sweet. However starting at Heathrow when she sees him dressed as a Michael Jackson eighties reject then learning he lives at home with his parents who enable him to support his gambling addiction, Lizzie realizes he is her anti-fantasy man. The icing occurs when he orders her to help him pull a financial scam on the government. She lets him know what she thinks of him and heads to the continent where her best friend and college roommate Shari is with her boyfriend at the glamorous French Chateau Mirac working on an upcoming wedding there. Upset while riding a train crossing the Chunnel, Lizzie tells all to a handsome hunk. However to her embarrassment he leaves the train at the same stop she does as Luke's father owns Chateau Mirac. As Lizzie and Luke hit it off, his girlfriend has other commercial spa plans for Chateau Mirac that will suction out the place's regal charm if someone does not stop her. This is a fascinating coming of age tale as the QUEEN OF BABBLE learns life lessons that loose lips sink ships (at least relationships) and images and reality are not the same. Though at times readers will want to tell Lizzie to shut up, she holds the story line together as her mouth gets her into one problem after another mostly because she cares about others especially wanting to help with her keen fashion sense. Meg Cabot provides a fine tale starring an American invading the European Union.

The Virtu
Sarah Monette
ISBN: 0441014046, $24.95

Wizard Felix Harrowgate and assassin and burglar Mildmay the Fox journey through enemy territory to Melusine. Felix believes he can repair the VIRTU, a magical crystal that has kept the city safe for centuries. He figures his success will enable him to regain his standing amidst the city's powerbrokers. Besides person gain, Felix feels somewhat responsible for the breakage of the VIRTU as his former master misused Felix's magic to break the crystal. Mildmay does not share his companion's confidence as he assumes this is not going to prove a simple task or someone would have done it already. On the trek, a governess and two wizards that Felix and Mildmay saved from a stake burning join their journey. This quintet travels to Melusine where the Virtu and trouble await to greet them that is if they can clear away the trouble that seems to harass their every step. THE VIRTU is fantasy at its best as the audience will appreciate the two lead characters, who prove opposites make best friends as Felix is the overconfident optimist and Mildmay is the skeptical pessimist; together they take that partially filled glass and cut off the empty top so that it is filled. Fans will enjoy their escapades as Sarah Monette rotates the goings on between them so that readers see even deeper how each thinks about the same incident. As with its predecessor MELUSINE, THE VIRTU is a great fantasy saga.

The Lost Fleet: Dauntless
Jack Campbell
ISBN: 0441014186, $6.99

The Alliance believes that they can finally win the centuries' old war with the Syndicate Worlds thanks to a traitor who gives them the Syndic hypernet key. They use it to travel to the homeworlds of the Syndicate hoping to take the enemy by surprise with a sneak attack and destroy their war capabilities. On the journey they find the space pod of Captain John "Black Jack" Geary who has slept inside for over a hundred years since he won a major victory that saved the Alliance and made him a legend. When the Alliance vessels reach Syndic space, they face the might of their adversary's fleet. The Alliance fleet commander visits his counterpart's ship to discuss terms of disengagement, but first turns over command to Geary. If the Alliance is to survive, Geary knows they must escape back to their sector and turn the key over to the leadership. The only escape is through a series of dangerous slow space jumps. They make it to a place where they regroup led by Geary who teaches them honor before he leads them into mortal combat. Fans of Battlestar Galactica will enjoy Jack Campbell's military science fiction novel. The battle scenes are intense and intrinsically described enabling the audience to visualize the fast-paced action. However, the hero makes THE LOST FLEET a cut above most sub-genre works as he is mortified that he became a legend when others were as courageous but not recognized. He prays he can live up to his reputation as this is the Alliance's darkest yet bravest hour. Readers will eagerly await the next novel of the Dauntless as they make their way home with the Key.

The Lost Fleet: Dauntless
Jack Campbell
ISBN: 0441014186, $6.99

The Alliance believes that they can finally win the centuries' old war with the Syndicate Worlds thanks to a traitor who gives them the Syndic hypernet key. They use it to travel to the homeworlds of the Syndicate hoping to take the enemy by surprise with a sneak attack and destroy their war capabilities. On the journey they find the space pod of Captain John "Black Jack" Geary who has slept inside for over a hundred years since he won a major victory that saved the Alliance and made him a legend. When the Alliance vessels reach Syndic space, they face the might of their adversary's fleet. The Alliance fleet commander visits his counterpart's ship to discuss terms of disengagement, but first turns over command to Geary. If the Alliance is to survive, Geary knows they must escape back to their sector and turn the key over to the leadership. The only escape is through a series of dangerous slow space jumps. They make it to a place where they regroup led by Geary who teaches them honor before he leads them into mortal combat. Fans of Battlestar Galactica will enjoy Jack Campbell's military science fiction novel. The battle scenes are intense and intrinsically described enabling the audience to visualize the fast-paced action. However, the hero makes THE LOST FLEET a cut above most sub-genre works as he is mortified that he became a legend when others were as courageous but not recognized. He prays he can live up to his reputation as this is the Alliance's darkest yet bravest hour.

Charles Stross
ISBN: 0441014038, $24.95

In the twenty-seventh century the Censorship Wars that released the destructive Curious Yellow virus destroying the wormhole gates that connected humanity throughout the universe has finally ended. However, though the cosmos wide civil war is over the impact on millions perhaps billions remain strong and will continue to affect everyone involved as t demobilizing the armed forces begins in earnest. Many like Robin wake up one day to realize that they have had their wartime activities erased from their memories. Robin assumes he had a mind wipe to forget the atrocities. However, he changes his mind when someone tries to kill him because he assumes that the enemy believes he retained certain war year memories that his unknown adversary wants permanently eradicated with his death. Needing time to clear his thoughts and remain safe, Robin enlists in the Glasshouse reenactment experiment to recreate Earth's darkest era, the mid to late twentieth and early to mid twenty-first centuries. Robin is cast as one of humanity's most scorned vocations, a suburban housewife. He begins to slowly grasp why someone wants him dead and that the Glasshouse converted prison that locked away mentally disturbed war criminals now hosts spies and soldiers not friendly to a suburban housewife starting to remember. This is an incredible science fiction novel that will receive plenty of accolades and make the short list as one of the top genre novels of the year. Robin is a fabulous protagonist struggling against a mysterious foe who seems always a step ahead of him in their cat and mouse encounters. The story line is action-packed but goes deep into the psyche of person using futuristic cultural anthropologic satire to jab at modern day concepts. Fans know Charles Stross is a superb author, but as good as ACCELERANDO and the Singularity tales are, GLASSHOUSE is his best work to date.

Blood and Iron
Elizabeth Bear
ISBN: 0451460928, $14.00

A changeling, Seeker, once known as Elaine Andraste, travels to the soulless Mebd queen of the Daoine Sidhe in a quest to meet her peers and persuade them to return with her to the Faerie court. At the Daoine Sidhe court, Seeker and her companions entertain the Mebd queen, who has been known to abduct human children for her majesty. The Mebd queen assigns Seeker to find the latest reincarnation of Merlin and bring him to her so that she can win his heart and his loyalty if she wants her son Ian freed from his sudden captivity. Seeker understands that if the dangerous Prometheus Club members gain control over Merlin, the fairy realm could be destroyed. She and her compatriots must travel to New York City to locate non-believer, college professor Carel Bierce. However, the first ever female Merlin does not believe in the Fae nor the Prometheans as physics is her magic. That is until she begins seeing and doing the impossible. This is a complex fantasy filled with action, deep characterizations, and incredible twists to include Professor Bierce being female. The story line is fast-paced as backstabbing and Machiavellian maneuvers in the Faerie court and the Prometheus Club are the norm. Seeker is a great protagonist whose quest seems impossible to achieve with the most difficult obstacle being the obstinate professor. Modern era fantasy readers will enjoy this strong Promethean Age tale.

Code Noir
Marianne de Pierres
ISBN: 0451461002, $6.00

The Tert War (see NYLON ANGEL) is over and active participants like Parrish Plessis must find a new niche or die. Parrish seems to have adapted having made a success of herself in the post war era as a warlord though she also is a criminal. However, much of what she achieves she owes to the Cabal Coomera who suddenly calls in her blood debt; failure to do their bidding means her blood pays the debt. The Cabal tasks her with finding their abducted, probably dead, shamans who have gone missing, uncover the identity of the culprit, and kill Loyl me Daac who connects the dots at least in their logic system. The first part of the tasking is simple enough though she fears the reaction of the lethal membership if she brings back a corpse or two. The second chore requires some sleuthing also, but she feels confident she can achieve the objective. However their final assignment is a bit more personal as Loyl me Daac is her former lover whom she still cares about as much as she can anyone, but also in some ways loathes. The second Plessis' post-apocalypse thriller stars a female "Mad Maxine" in a world filled with nasty individuals who abuse power supporting Voltaire's philosophy about institutions. The gripping story line is much darker and grittier than the first tale as the societal divides emphasizes class, species, and authority differences in which power is everything. The heroine is a terrific protagonist as she keeps the tale focused in her efforts to walk a thin line where a misstep means death.

Fat Camp
Deborah Blumenthal
ISBN: 0451218655, $9.99

Overweight with no chance of wearing a bikini or having a boyfriend, Cam Phillips has been pudgy since birth. Now her perfectly fit parents decide that Cam needs help with her obesity problem so she sends her teenage daughter to summer camp, but not the type most people are familiar with. Instead, Camp Calliope is FAT CAMP, a kind of boot camp for the overweight to learn the importance of good nutrition in classes (summer school at camp how mortifying) and to eat small portions of food (so tiny a mouse would die from starvation). While her best friend Evie goes to fun camp, depressed Cam finds herself sharing a dorm with girls her age and built like her discussing the Fs, food and fat. Cam's morale picks up when she falls in love with Jesse, who likes her a lot; though he does not push her, Cam begins to lose weight, but when she returns to Manhattan in the fall will she be able to keep it off with Ray's Pizza beckoning her to dine. This teen chick lit is a delightful tale because of the lead protagonist struggling with low self esteem that in part is because she has a weight problem. Cam is a terrific character as she fails to adjust to FAT CAMP until she meets Jesse. Though somewhat as expected, the story line also makes a case that keeping the weight off once lost is as difficult or more so because the environment must change too as lifestyle alterations is critical; it takes a family to keep off the weight. This is a wonderful teenage character study.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Cowgirl Blend
Pocatello Blend
Michele Minshall Sherwood and Jona Jacobson
Blue Scarab Press
P.O. Box 4966, Pocatello ID 83225-4966
No ISBN, chapbook at $3 plus $1 shipping

Cowgirl Blend is the twenty-second in a series of chapbooks by Blue Scarab Press. Each limited edition chapbook features five pages each of the work of two poets or writers. The two writers in this latest chapbook are friends. Ms. Sherwood raises bison and turkeys in Wyoming where Ms. Jacobson is a frequent visitor. Both have strong ties to the southeast Idaho region. Ms. Sherwood's contribution to Cowgirl Blend includes both prose and poetry. "I Eat Antelope for Breakfast" is a short, short story with a rich imaginative theme. I've chosen two excerpts as examples:

"You know the old adage – you are what you eat. I am the prairie ghost, strong of lung and limb, fast as the wind. Like the antelope I eat, I have come to find comfort in open spaces. Don't fence me in." And later in the same story:

"All humans have an impact on the earth, a cost of survival. Life sustains life. One way or another, we all kill to survive. Honesty means coming face to face with that."

Sherwood's poetry and prose are equally exceptional. Consider this brief excerpt
from "Fertile Ground:"

Keystone species
To an ancient web of life
Prairie dogs, wolves, humans
On common ground

Ms. Jacobson's story, "Satin Wallows," draws comparisons between the ancient wallows used by bison, the comfort zones of modern man, and how one small bat can disrupt the latter. Her contribution is humorous, entertaining, and thought provoking, as these excerpts will demonstrate:

"Bison wallows average one foot deep and up to fifteen feet wide. They may be dry or muddy – either from an aquifer or rain or urine. Wallowing is good for the bison's health: kicking and thrashing help dislodge winter fur, and the dust (or mud) coats the fur, protecting the animal from insects. Urine-mud is best. Sometimes male bison urinate in another bison's wallow if they feel threatened. Males.

Our wallow is 72 by 84 inches wide and roughly ten inches deep. In other words, a California King. At the time, ours was silky, allowing for non-resistant wallowing. Wallowing was good for our health, providing protection – even without the added benefit of urine – from the small mammal circling the room. And those bat-on-a- strings, by the way, sold at Halloween really are realistic: in a small cave-dark room, a bat will go round and round."

I've been reading and recommending this fine series of chapbooks for a couple years now. If you enjoy well-written poetry and prose and have not discovered Blue Scarab Press or Pocatello Blend, I recommend you do so.

Alexander Shaumyan
119 Whittier Road, New Haven CT 06515
ISBN: 1598724487, $10 paperback plus s & h, 158 pp.

Shaumyan's tenth book of poetry shows welcome signs of healing from past wounds and trials. His work is often brash, opinionated and bitterly cynical, and yet Shaumyan loves with great depth and hope. He writes and speaks English, Russian, German, French, Spanish, and Italian and has done numerous translations. Despite his great intelligence, the essence of Shaumyan's work is often self-deprecating, as in this excerpt from "Shooting the Cosmic Breeze:"

This poet's vacant skull's
consumed by splendor
of his own vanity,
where light and metaphors
collide with his
emotional void.

Yes, he is a cosmic virtuoso
of hollow phrases……

He's come full circle, matured, learned to accept himself and most of the sorrows life has dealt:

I've been walking alone in this desert
Of all the hollow words and empty phrases,
All singing loudly of truth and freedom,
Until I heard a silent voice speak in the darkness,
That led me to my inner liberation.

Shaumyan serves his hard-learned lessons in reality straight up, as in "I Used to be Naive in Ways of Love." He's never been one to mince words:

I have no illusions anymore –
The one I used to love and to adore
Turned out to be a hooker
Nothing more.

And again in "There are Those" he share's our world's reality. He's railed against injustice all his life, but does his voice change anything?

There are those, who are killing time
Trying to write a poem to transcend
This realm – No poem ever stopped
A war or made a fool any wiser…..

Shaumyan slips from free form to formalist poetry with ease. One of my favorite rhyming poems in this book is "Bleed No More:"

I will not say I loved you any less –
Whatever was one time had disappeared,
Dissolved in memories and years of loneliness,
Transforming flights of passion into tears.

Alexander Shaumyan has survived shattered love, betrayal, a broken heart, and the
emptiness of modern impersonal communication. In this latest book he views God, the
government, love, poetry, and hypocrisy with clear eyes. He has not modified his
vision of the world, exactly, just shares it with a new hard-won perspective. Check
his website if you want to learn more about this interesting poet.

In the Garden of Illness I Sit by the Well of Hope
Sylvia Thompson
Shadows Ink Publications
1209 Milwaukee Street, Excelsior Springs MO 64024
ISBN: 1932447679, $6.95, 26 page chapbook

Sylvia Thompson understands healing. She teaches meditation, Reiki, Chakra, and Color Therapy. When diagnosed with colon cancer in 2005, Ms. Thompson called upon every well of knowledge, strength, creativity, and hope at her disposal. The result of her introspection is this beautiful chapbook, which she now shares with the world. Through her poetry, she creates beauty out of illness and sorrow, transforms a weed- infested garden into thriving flowers. In the title poem, "The Garden of Illness," she sympathizes with an oncologist unwilling to inspire hope in himself or anyone else. I quote several verses in excerpt:

My oncologist's mind
has a hard time flowing
around the sharp-edged boulders
of statistical probability
down into the tranquil brook
of against all odds.

I want to ease his pain
almost more than my own,
leading him out from behind
the fence of emotional protection
and tell him to remember.

Witnessing in seasons not long past,
weeds withering, some vanish
on their own, and gardens flourish
into ripe, full harvests
when even the most optimistic
gardener had forecast

This excerpt from "Soul Script" reflects the shock this poet felt when hearing her diagnosis for the first time. The poem, in its entirety, is powerful and understated:

Lashes try to blink
confusion into focus
while my mind pulls
frantically on the shades
trying to keep truth's
harsh glare out.

The diagnosis of a devastating disease forces Ms. Thompson to focus on her own mortality and lost loved ones. "Death of My Mother" is brief. I quote the poem here in its entirety:

The leaf
composting on the ground
forever holds
its luscious color.
In the imprint of
the air I breathe
my mother.

What a transforming thought! "In the imprint of eternity, the air I breathe contains my mother." This lovely book of hope and healing should be mandatory reading for everyone diagnosed with a catastrophic disease, their families, friends, and health care providers. And The American Cancer Society should distribute it far and wide in return for contributions. It's important that we all understand the healing power of hope. Sylvia Thompson shares hope in glorious ways.

The Secret Lives of Punctuations, Vol. I
Eileen R. Tabios
Tatartie 3 A 4, 02620 Espoo, Finland
ISBN: 952997020X, $14.95, 176 pp.

Eileen R. Tabios has too many qualifications to mention them all here. Notably, ten books of personal poetry have been published to date; she has edited or co-edited five books of poetry, fiction, and essays; her internationally recognized blog can be found at; and she oversees Meritage Press, a multidisciplinary arts and literary project. In this book she's applied her skills as poet, conceptual/performance and visual artist as she contemplates punctuation. Her thought processes here are cubist, not linear. That is, the song is what we think it to be and reality is a concept as varied as the beholders.

Tabios follows a less-traveled path here as she investigates the effects of semi colons, colons, parentheses, ellipses, strikethroughs, and question marks on words and readers. She brings punctuation marks out of near-invisibility by bringing them into the foreground. Like Eve Ascheim's powerful, understated cover art, Tabios' work here is a mirror that both hides and reveals.

Think about the following examples. Open your mind and let your imagination refocus.

The Second Last Chance

rough skin a map
allowing entry for what a lover represents
the glue of ifs
on edge through a silver lash
overhearing the language shared by a toddler and a stuffed animal
unfurling an antique wedding veil


the all-consuming business of prehistoric histrionics
refusing to believe math is synonymous with description
place becomes person
sodden tissue balled up into a small, dead bird
fleshing out the ghosts of unicorns
a complexion formed from miles and miles of bad and bad roads

In a section titled "The Masvikiru Quatrains," Tabios addresses implied meanings and forms. These revelations of the mind's eye were inspired by Finnish poet and composer Jukka-Pekka Kervinen's computer generated soundscapes, based more on word sound than meaning. In these quatrains comprised of seemingly unrelated words, the blending and cadence of sound is meaningful when read aloud. Incredibly, The Masvikiru Quatrains are ekphrasis, inspired by studying Shona sculpture.

Ms. Tabios' work in this book is scholarly in nature, yet enlightening and understandable once the reader's mind is opened to it. At the end of the book is a space for each reader to write their thoughts in the form of a blurb as feedback for the author and publisher. You've just read mine.

The Perfect Christmas
Eliot Stafford
2021 Pine Lake Rd. Ste 100, Lincoln NE 68512
ISBN: 0595396801, $12.95, 147 pp.

Eliot Stafford has a cryptic mind and an unusual creative approach. In the Preface to this book he says, "It has always been my dream to write a terrible novel….a horrible, mind-numbingly awful book." He further guarantees that he will give a full refund to any reader who likes and desires to keep this book. I hope no reader takes him up on that offer because it's just an example of how his mind works and this book is actually delightful in a typically unusual Stafford style. The Perfect Christmas is entertaining, well written and edited.

Katie Hirashima is the seventeen-year-old daughter of a Christian pastor. Both she and her little sister Sara are gifted students. Older brother Bill is off to college, enjoying life to its fullest outside the constraints of church, home, and family. Both Katie and her best friend, Melissa, have taken sincere oaths of celibacy until marriage, although Melissa manages to push that envelope at every opportunity. Katie loves Christmas and everything it stands for. She's taken on the planning of their family celebration this year and is determined that everything will be perfect. Her "perfect Christmas" is sadly skewed in a variety of ways: Sara's new invisible best friend is Jesus Christ, who enjoys board games and influencing the child's already precocious behavior; brother Bill is cussing, drinking, and toying with agnosticism despite having a friend who calls himself God; father Jonathan's dream of a pastoral alliance across all denominations goes horribly awry, thanks to Sara and Jesus; and Katie's application to Yale is denied. As a final straw, Katie's boyfriend Tom betrays her in the worst possible way. The Hirashima celebration of Christmas is shot. Or is it? Bill's friend God and Sara's invisible Jesus might have a say in the outcome.

Saying more in this review will give away too much of the plot. I'll simply repeat that Eliot Stafford is an imaginative writer. His subject matter may be strange, but his plotting, storyline, and characters are interesting, well developed and executed. I like his writing style, and thoroughly enjoyed this book. Keeping working at it Mr. Stafford. You haven't reached your stated goals with The Perfect Christmas. It wasn't "mind-numbingly awful" at all.

Into the Wild
Charles Portolano
PO Box 17205, Fountain Hills AZ 85269-7205
ISBN: 0977903516, chapbook at $5 + $1 s & h

In this follow up to The Devil's Advocate, Mr. Portolano once again addresses concerns of our modern age. Whether we admit it or not, we all know that man as a species is the ultimate predator, pursuing an insatiable quest for power over someone or something. Portolano spells it out for us here, poetically, in straight shooting style. This excerpt from "Food Chain," for example, paints a grim metaphorical picture of man's thirst for power, comparing us to sharks in a feeding frenzy:

In a world of enemies
we learn quickly
we can't trust them
for they are not one of us
as the evil that lives
in our leaders
plays upon our primal desires…

And in "Into the Wild," man is compared to a hawk, feeding on and leaving carrion in our wake:

The Neo-con hawk's
preemptive strike
from high atop
the food chain….

Boiled down to his essence, is the human male really a bully at heart, enjoying the bone crunching sound of fist smashing flesh and bone, living to win at any cost, as in this excerpt from "The Brawler:"

…his shirt ripped
showing his heaving chest
soaked in sweat
he walks back into the bar
as a slow smile spreads
across his badly beaten face.

Or is man more like "The Mockingbird," tirelessly taunting and bullying all he surveys:

Always mocking others
who won't whistle to his tune
always thinking he's right
forcing others from the feeders
chasing them out
for this is his territory
making them feel unwanted
as if this lush garden
was his own Garden of Eden.

Are our politicians really little more than bad little boys hiding in safe havens while making war around the world? Consider this excerpt from "The Lost Boys:"

they care not
who they leave in the wake
of their warring
never answering to anyone…

And are the men of power really "The Neo Cons," preying selfishly on all they survey:

plotting and planning
devising lies
behind closed doors
to take us to war
devising lies
to have us pay more
for our addiction to oil
devising lies
to keep our poor poor
while making the rich richer…

Portolano expands his role as Devil's advocate in this latest chapbook of poems. He wants readers to think for themselves, to consider the natural resources we squander and the wild things we pretend have not been hurt by human expansion. He wants to shatter our human complacency, to evoke a sympathetic or angry response, outrage, even sorrow. And most of all, he wants readers to see themselves, their leaders, and their world with clear eyes.

The Husband
Dean Koontz
Bantam Dell
Division of Random House
1745 Broadway, New York NY 10019
ISBN: 0553804790, $27.00, 400 pp.

Every possible superlative imaginable has already been applied to Mr. Koontz' books. He's an icon of our modern age, a household name. What can I say about him and his writing that has not been said a million times before? How about confessing that The Husband is the first Koontz book I've ever read? When left to my own devices I rarely read formula fiction, especially fiction by best selling authors permanently lodged on the New York Times best seller list. Now I must admit publicly that Dean Koontz deserves the acclaim. His prose style is exemplary, characters and plotting first rate. Yes, his writing style is masterful.

Mitch Rafferty is not a rich man. His Southern California landscaping business is successful, thanks to his work ethic and attention to details. Mitch likes working with his hands in the dirt and coaxing beauty from bare earth. He's a gentle, introspective man who values his wife and marriage above all else. His wife, Holly, is a practical, compassionate woman who helped Mitch make sense out of a life that was once frightening and dysfunctional. Without Holly, he would not be whole and productive. When he receives a chilling cell phone call at work stating Holly has been kidnapped, his happy life is shattered. The kidnapper gives him 60 hours to deliver two million dollars or Holly will be killed. If Mitch involves the police, Holly will be killed. At home, he finds his kitchen spattered with blood. Maybe Holly is already dead?

As a child, Mitch knew true evil. He discovered that evil in "the learning room" where his cold, calculating parents locked their children to isolate them from reality. But Holly soothed those awful memories with unconditional love. If Holly is dead, evil will take over Mitch's world again, permanently. And if she's still alive, can he call up the courage and determination to save her on his own? Nothing is as it seems in Mitch's world. What appears to be his salvation is actually unimaginably cruel evil. Despite his shock, fright, and exhaustion, Mitch follows the clues that lead to Holly's abductors. And the quiet man who loved his peaceful life transforms himself into the sort of predator he vowed never to be because he must, to save his wife.

I loved this book, especially Mr. Koontz' effective writing style. His prose is exceptional. This is a classic tale of good versus evil and a character study of a truly good man thrown into horrible circumstances. Mitch Rafferty believes that love scrubs the worst stains clean, and so it does.

Harry's War
by D. Edward Bradley
Wexford College Press
401 Merito Place, Palm Springs, CA 92262
ISBN: 1929148224, $14.95, 263 pp.

In my youth, Mother subscribed to the "Book of the Month Club." My taste for exceptional writing and memorable stories began with those fine books of a different time. Wuthering Heights, Goodbye Mr. Chips, and Pride and Prejudice took me to worlds I'd never have the chance to visit on my own. Mr. Bradley has accomplished the same sense of adventure with this first in a Trilogy. I'm sorry to say this writer and his books deserve far more attention than received thus far. Excellence should be rewarded in a writer's lifetime.

At age 13, Harry Lockwood sets out for his education at a prestigious English boarding school for boys, Markham College. World War Two is in full swing. Harry and his chums – Captain, Beastly, and Pansy – must keep a stiff upper lip on two fronts. Outside the Markham boundaries are German spies, V1 and V2 bombs that threaten life and limb. Inside Markham the boys must suffer beatings and humiliations by sadistic prefects. Harry's father is stationed in North Africa and his mother works night shift at a munitions factory far from Markham so parental support and protection is out of the question. Young Harry must learn to face difficult situations on his own. With humor and determination born of courage, Harry and his friends survive four years at Markham despite grim conditions. When Harry falls in love, that joyous circumstance is also marred by difficulty. Whether danger, corporal punishment, love, or sorrow, Harry faces life head on with dignity and strength.

Mr. Bradley does a fine job of capturing an era in this book. I'll soon be reading and reviewing the next two books in this trilogy and look forward to the experience. Well-written books and memorable characters are rare these days but Harry's War is an exception to that statement.

Another Kind of War
D. Edward Bradley
Tarbutton Press
1017 7th St., Three Rivers MI 49093
ISBN: 1933094079, $14.95, 280 pp.

In this second book of three, the intrepid friends from Markham College are no longer boys, but men. This book can easily stand alone, but knowing Harry and Captain from Harry's War added to the excitement. These characters were endearing as boys, and are eminently appealing as men.

Harry is now Trooper Harry Lockwood of the 5th Royal Tank Regiment. His best friend Captain has become Lt. Martin Bulman of the British Intelligence Corps. World War Two is over and the Cold War has begun with Harry on maneuvers in Occupied West Germany. His lover Jenny lives with relatives in Scotland. Both are lonely, forced to maintain a long distance relationship via mail and telephone. Harry and Captain have continued the close ties established at school. A shared leave in the Austrian Alps ends in a mystery when Captain unexpectedly disappears.

Captain has been drugged and transported behind the Iron Curtain by Communist operatives. For what purpose, no one knows at first. His jailer, Fraulein Kellerman, appears to be a hard-nosed agent but Captain eventually spots several large chinks in her armor. Intelligence is his forte, along with courage and a quick mind. He soon learns Fraulein Kellerman's true identity, followed by an unexpected turn of plot. Meanwhile, Captain's Commanding Officer has transferred Harry to his service because no one on earth knows how Captain's mind works better than Harry. Tips from a woman named Kristy Schneider help them track Captain to where he's being held in Czechoslovakia. The situation is desperate, once the truth is known. Captain is to be exchanged with an Eastern Bloc operative. If England does not cooperate, Captain will be executed.

Another Kind of War is fast paced and engaging from the start. Mr. Bradley has developed his characters quite effectively. Jenny has become a strong and loving source of stability for Harry during chaotic, frightening times. The fondness I felt for Harry and Captain in book one has become admiration and respect in book two. Bradley captures the feeling of time, place, and persona in exciting ways in this ongoing story of love, war, and friendship.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

Reign of the Rat
Gil Smolin
Ad Lib Books
217 E. Foxwood Drive, Raymore, MO 64083
ISBN: 0975297627, $12.99

Gil Molin is an M.D. and Research Ophthalmologist at the San Francisco University of Cal Med School. He has authored innumerable research articles and seven textbooks, has lectured all over the world, and serves as a reviewer of ophthalmology serials. He has won awards for his work in developing countries and has treated patients with leprosy in India.

Although there has been a virtual news blackout of the scientific community, word has still gotten out that if certain mutations are caused by overuse of antibiotics, the world could see a pandemic similar to the Black Death in the thirteen century. In REIGN OF THE RAT, Smolin investigates this phenomena. It begins in Nepal, when a farmer's fingers fall off and quickly spreads to the United States via an aide worker. Dr. Michael Cohen, famous archaeobiologist, is thrown together with his former girlfriend, Dr. Alice Morgan-Wright, her vengeful sister, Rowan, and a brave holy man named Brother Rose to try to stop the spread of the plague before it annihilates life as we know it:

"He saw a dark avenging angel rise up from a grave, soar into the sky and sweep across the world, search for and then devouring the hungry leprosy. When he awoke in the morning, he lay still. He didn't want to move until he'd replayed the dream in his head. He knew what he had to do. Michael had studied and intimately knew the identity of this dark angel. It was the Black Plague–and it was time for it to rise again."

It is one thing to read a distant news article, and quite another for a famous researcher to set the perils of another epidemic into a story with actual characters and descriptions of the terrifying symptoms. Dr. Smolin writes a heckuva first novel, placing the reader smack dab in the middle of Nepal to dog the footsteps of researchers who are frantically trying to save the world. He moves the action forward in snapshot scenes rife with blood and guts and never lets the reader down until the tale is spun. His characters are sexy and interesting, having common threads that enhance the plot while still being easily identifiable individuals. REIGN OF THE RAT is an educational thriller about a scenario that could easily happen in our lifetime. It is a must read and is also an easily enjoyable read.

A Wedding to Die for
Radine Trees Nehring
St. Kitts Press
PO Box 8173, Wichita, KS 67208 316-685-3201
ISBN: 1931206015, $16.00

Radine Trees Nehring has made a name for herself as both a journalist and an award-winning author. Her favorite location is Arkansas, and her Something to Die For Mysteries capture the finer points of Arkansas and its unique population.

Carrie McCrite and Henry King are the silver-haired super sleuths of Ms. Nehring's series, and in this episode they have decided to get married. Carrie is busy trying to reconnect Henry with a long-lost half sister; plan a wedding amidst senior citizen status and insecurity about her aging body; and include her favorite friends, Eleanor Stack and Shirley Booth. At a gathering her friends suggest the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, and Carrie decides to drag Henry over there to check out their wedding offerings. What she doesn't count on is a ghost in a red wedding dress; a feud between two flower shops; and a murder:

"A quick scan with the flashlight told him the woman was most certainly dead. The body lay on its stomach, but her face was turned to the side. It looked like something irregular had been smashed into the head, a furious attack. Her wrists and ankles were bound with thin green wire wrapped at least five or six times around, then twisted tightly enough to cut the flesh. He saw blood there, too, so her heart had been beating when she was bound."

A WEDDING TO DIE FOR is a clever tale displaying the hallmarks of Nehring's mystery franchise: a strong belief in God, helping neighbors in distress, and the deep love that is developing and growing between Carrie McCrite and Henry King. Nehring has her finger on the pulse of what makes senior citizens tick, and she weaves an action-filled plot with interesting and yet completely ordinary people to produce a mystery that is cozy and fascinating at the same time. McCrite's writing can take the reader from laughter to tears in short order, and her tale of Carrie and Henry's wedding plans and the resultant murder is fresh and inspiring. Nehring has produced another winner!

Searching for Murder
Ron Lovell
Penman Productions
Box 400, Gleneden Beach, OR 97388
ISBN: 0976797828 $15.00

Ron Lovell uses his experience as a university journalism professor and magazine writer to produce the character of Thomas Martindale. Lovell has had an impressive career as a magazine writer in several large cities; having authored fourteen textbooks, hundreds of magazine articles, and his fifth Martindale mystery.

In SEARCHING FOR MURDER, we find Thomas Martindale at a commencement ceremony at his own college in Oregon, when two colleagues his search committee has brought in as candidates for the next president of the university are shot on either side of Martindale. His old super sleuth buddy, Paul Bickford, is on hand to protect a high profile speaker on campus, but disappears at the ultimate inopportune time. The plot backs up to give the reader the series of events leading up to the crisis…Martindale's membership on the search committee; his short tenure on jury duty, which connects him to the real villains in the tale; a flirting infatuation with Maxine March, a somewhat mysterious and tragic figure; and Martindale's class, which is our second introduction to the woman in question:

"I handed her an outline, and she moved to take a seat. She was wearing tight jeans and a somewhat skimpy tank top, a little too skimpy for her age. Hancock soon fixed on her, and she returned his unblinking stare without embarrassment. In fact, his stare not only failed to intimidate her, it seemed to act as a magnet. She sat next to him and made a great show of putting down her books and getting out a notebook and pen. I found this irritating, even though I had no reason in the world to be irritated at anything she did. I made a point of consulting my notes and my class list."

Lovell's Thomas Martindale is a self-styled sleuth who is a regular guy, and therein is his charm. Lovell pokes fun at university high jinx using the search committee as his vehicle, even as Martindale is getting himself into a series of scrapes that his erstwhile cop girlfriend or his spy buddy have to extricate him from. Life seems to get ever more complicated until the last hole that Martindale gets himself into. Lovell lets the reader hang, presumably to follow up in the next mystery. A great read for a rainy day!

Murder Sings Out
Sharron Martin
Harbor House
111 Tenth St., Augusta, GA 30901
ISBN: 1891799568, $16.95

Sharron Martin has lead quite an interesting life. A music teacher by education (at Alabama College, now Montevallo University) she followed her husband through his educational process and finally landed in Augusta, Georgia. She found a job teaching music, but had to commute between two classrooms twenty miles apart; taught around 1,000 students; and lugged her equipment from classroom to classroom every half hour. She finally realized that writing was her first love and waved goodbye to her unorthodox teaching situation. And like many great mystery writers, she and her husband have a cat.

Elizabeth Poindexter is an amateur sleuth. Her twin sister, Mary Peach, is a doctor, and Elizabeth's grandson, Michael Davonport, is an assistant with the District Attorney's office. So when Dottie Mathison's strangled body is found behind the organ after choir practice, Elizabeth's sleuthing skills come in handy as Michael swings into action investigating the murder and holding the local deputy Sheriff Whaley at bay:

"'I hear we got another one and that it was done by a professional. I ran into Fred outside,' Whaley added as an explanation. 'I knew it. I told you it was someone from the outside. But, no. You don't ever listen to me.' He looked around the room before finally glancing down at the body. 'Good God! Why is that white thing on his face?'"

Martin spins an Agatha Christie type of cosy mystery in which the small town's citizens eventually reveal all their secrets in a Southern tale full of church politics; senior denizens; and small town Southern Americana. Her characters are delightful, whether it be the somewhat dazed and confused Cousin Felicity, whose hair color changes with the blooming flowers; the shy and sad Woody, whose pitiful life sets him up as a suspect; to the choir members themselves, who seem to have flaws they would rather cover up, including the clergy.

Martin's first mystery is a sweet and wistful look at human nature, written by a woman with years of teaching under her belt. She fools the reader completely until the end of the book, and each chapter compels a serious look at the featured character. MURDER SINGS OUT is thoroughly delightful and is a carefully crafted first effort by a natural writing talent.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Mind Over Money: Your Path To Wealth and Happiness
Eric Tyson
CDS Books
PO Box 6024, Auburn, CA 95604
ISBN: 1593152388, $21.95, 224 pp.

I picked up this book just to review the contents and ended up reading it right there and then from cover to cover. Sound odd for a book with the subject matter being financial advice? It is, because few financial advice books are written with the heart of the everyday Joe in mind, but this one is. Author Eric Tyson has packed his new work chock full of top of the notch information to help everyone from the everyday Joe to the multi-millionaire tycoon have a better understanding of achieving financial goals and the many pitfalls to avoid. Think this work is boring? Think again! Our author breaks down his work down into nine chapters with subtitles after each, such as:

3 -The Workaholic: Fitting Life into Your Work (my favorite chapter)

Why do we work so much
The Damage Done by Working So Much
Working Solutions
How Do I Know If I'm A Workaholic

I particularly enjoyed this chapter on the Workaholic because that is who I tend to be. The insight was amazing and certainly left me making a strong decision to make some changes. Excellent!

6- The Supersaver: Hoarding and Cheating

The Supersaver personality
Overcoming Oversaving

I had to giggle some in reading this chapter since I know a few people that I would personally call 'cheap,' you know the ones always afraid to buy a coke because that dollar has to be saved for the rainy day. This chapter really brings it home, as do all those inside this outstanding book.

In each chapter he talks to you not just about your money but about your life and how important it is that money does not control your life, who you think you are, or where your going. His advise helps you set priorities in order and get your financial situation to line up with your life. He shows the pitfalls of excessive spending and living beyond our means by using credit cards and explains the harm that can do. He even takes you back to your childhood and asks you to uncover any reasons why you are controlling your money the way you are, bringing to remembrance youthful memories that have now influenced your financial behavior. Interesting. To be honest with you I have never seen a book on financial planning quite like this one. It is fresh, full of heart and has a real feel that this author actually cares if you win or lose in this game; that's something you don't see everyday. The information given is so detailed that even someone like me can pick it up and run to victory with it.

You see, this is a book that isn't all about money, but all about you first and money second. It will help you to put priorities in order, understand many pitfalls and help you avoid them, and make you think, what am I doing, where am I going, and what is important to me and what am I sacrificing to achieve that. If I were to give this book a sub-title it would have to be, "Money and Me," because our lives definitely do revolve around our money and in this work you will find how to make money work for you, not you work for money. I highly recommend this book; it is a gem and a keeper.

Comes A Horseman
Robert Liparulo
WestBow Press
Thomas Nelson Publishing
PO Box 419, Nashville, Tn.
ISBN: 0785261761, $21.95, 496 pp.

I was immediately drawn into this novel from page one and despite the immense volume of the read, I simply could not put it down until the last page was consumed. We have two strong main characters, FBI Special Agent Alicia Wagner and criminal psychologist Agent Brady Moore both brimming with personalities filled with personal conflicts and past traumas yet strong and extremely likeable both to the reader and each other. They are on a case, one that involves what they call the Pelletier Killings. Gore and beheading are this killers style and he uses wolf-dogs to restrain his targets. The bodies began to pile up and the race is on to find one single link between the victims, but in investigating our Agents find the trail leading to a place and a man they never would have imagined.

We meet Luco Scaramuzzi who some believe may well be the Antichrist, at least that is what the group called The Watchers believe; a group that lives waiting for this mans hour of power. Now it is up to Brady and Alicia to unravel the many pieces of this puzzle and try to fit them all together without becoming victims themselves. How are these two events interwoven? The answer will blow your mind and will grab hold of you and not let you go until the amazing conclusion. In my opinion this novel has it all; emotional conflicts, family ties, murder, romance, adventure, mystery and religious activity all wrapped up in a suspense read that will keep your head spinning. Top of the notch read; a real winner, like a glass of fine wine that lingers on your palate. Don't miss this one. Very highly recommended.

Lunchtime Millionaire
Didier Perennez
Pacific Heights Publishing
San Francisco, CA
ISBN: 0975967606, $14.95, 164 pp.

I have never traded stocks in my life, or even thought of dabbling in investment opportunities. To me, investment was only for those who were already rich or extremely intelligent, until I read this book. It is a work showing that with time, knowledge and using the technology available to us today, a financial increase in our lives is possible. Great news for all of us! The author does an outstanding job of being patient with his readers, taking his time to explain his full program and the steps you are to do to make it work for you. He even takes the time to explain to you the best choices of a computer, software and internet connection to use. Now that is one good teacher.

Want to increase your financial standards over lunch? Perhaps this is the book for you. It is packed full of great information told in an easy to understand way. Good investment for those serious about improving their finances in the future.

The Illustrated Dream Dictionary
Russell Grant
Illustrated by Vicky Emptage
Sterling Publishing
387 Park Avenues South, New York, NY 10016
ISBN: 0806994754, $14.95, 144 pp.

I am always interested in any book that reveals the meaning of our dreams. To me, dreams are important and tell us little secrets so I was excited to have another book about them. I love the cover and the illustrations in this work; they are beautifully done and give the work a mystic overall look. Great job.

The book is packed full of information on many subjects such as, people, events, places and objects. I like the way it gives meaning to one specific thing and depending on what is happening with that object or person the meaning of the dream will change, here is an example. If you have a dream about wearing a cap, it is a good omen for your love life. If you buy a cap you could receive an inheritance, ( I need to have this dream.) I found that very informative, interesting and helpful.

The book can be a bit confusing at times and isn't one you can quickly find a meaning until you are familiar with the books layout , but it does have many useful explanations that are quite helpful. No book could possibly have every dream with every object, person or event listed and explained. However, this one does cover quite a bit of territory and I believe if you are patient it will be useful to understanding the dreams you dream.

A Thousand Days in Tuscany
Marlena De Blasi
Ballantine Books
Avenue of the Americans, New York, NY
ISBN: 0345481097, $13.95, 368 pp.

This is definitely an interesting book about a couple living in Tuscany. Moving from their beloved Venice they are embraced by the locals of Tuscany and welcomed into the community. They are befriended by an elder there and shown the local customs and the old ways of the times. They make new friends, learn more about each other and delve headlong into their new life. This is the story of a couple, a insight into Italian food with recipes given, and a great look into life in Tuscany. We even have some of the book written in Italian with what is being said shown, great way to pick up a few phrases. I did not read the previous work of this author, "A Thousand Days in Venice," however I found this work to be a different read, to me not the norm, but yet quite compelling and interesting.

A Trivial Pursuit
Marilyn Gardiner
Wings ePress, Inc.
403 Wallace Court, Richmond, KY 40475
ISBN: 1597059102, $15.95

There are some books that speak to your heart in a surprising way, have characters that you insistently relate to, and a storyline sprinkled gently with faith in God ; this is the case in this outstanding work by author Marilyn Gardiner. Perhaps it is the down to earth way Ms. Gardiner portrays Lauren, our main character, a woman who is laden by many responsibilities and past hurts, and one who is to learn the power of trust and love. It is said that something's are meant to happen, planned as it were, in our lives. Some believe our Creator takes an interest in everything that happens to us; you decide. As you begin the read our Lauren is rescued from a life-threatening experience by a Mr. Jeremy Blake, an attorney. Immediately there is a connection between the two, which Lauren refuses to yield to and Jeremy places roadblocks on.

As the story progresses, we find our Mr. Blake is hired to work for the very agency Lauren is in, and to work side by side with her. Both feel the attraction, but there are problems, serious ones that definitely throw a monkey wrench into any personal development. You wonder, can these problems be overcome? Could there ever be a future of happiness between Lauren and Jeremy? And what about Jeremy's young son Michael, how is all of this effecting him? Is there more to this than a chance meeting and a working relationship? These are but a few questions that simply must be answered as you hungrily read on. Good job!

A Trivial Pursuit is the story of overcoming obstacles, learning to trust and have faith, commitment and love. It is the story of two lives and the people that depend on them, intertwining to become one despite the odds against that end-result, and the joy of a victorious outcome. The storyline covers a range of emotions from our characters, the battles both inward and outward that they must overcome and the clinging to faith or the finding of the same. It is a wonderful story that reminded me that love will find a way, and we are never alone. Highly recommended.

Fairway Fatality
Robert James Allison
Wings ePress, Inc.
403 Wallace Court, Richmond, KY 40475
ISBN: 159705903X, $12.95, 232 pp.

Some stories breath the very essence of the world we live in, the sinister part of humanity, such is the case in Robert James Allison's new novel, "Fairway Fatality." We learn of the murder of a little nine-year-old girl named Anna, twin sister to Hannah Petrowski whose life was never the same after her loss; not only due to her sisters death, but due to a secret she held within herself that was slowly killing her. After an absence Hannah returns to the town where the murder took place and bought a home overlooking Fairway Golf Coarse, the place where Anna died, in hopes of somehow making amends for her part in the brutal slaying of her sister. Ted Barnett was sentenced for her death, but on the grounds of good behavior he is now free and has also returned. He has an agenda, a purpose just as deep as Hannah's but much more sinister and evil.

Hannah's is reacquainted with her ex-husband Paul, makes several new friends, Phil, the man who works at Fairway and Frank, a mysterious man who seems to sweep Hannah off her feet. After the release of Ted Barnett Hannah begins to receive threatening letters and soon her home is broken into causing all those who know her to be concerned. Guilt is placed on Ted Barnett, perhaps misplaced guilt, perhaps not; and when Hannah comes up missing the race to find her and save her life is on. However, don't be deceived, there is a lot more to this story than a cut and dry Ted Barnett did it. Characters are introduced and who you think someone is turns out to be the opposite; once you think you figured out certain ones motives you find yourself totally wrong, and the secrets behind Anna's murder will surprise you, as will several other secrets in this read. I hope I have wet your appetite because there is much more between these pages than a simple murder mystery.

I have to say Robert James Allison is a master at his craft. He has learned how to take the reader down one road that appears to have the ending and then quickly take you on a turn that whips around and totally disorients you leaving you to wonder what happened. Who done it and why is never known until the ending and this story is no different. Complex, yet simple, this book has it all; mysterious characters clammier for your attention as years of hidden secrets are played out in a top-notch conclusion. Hats off to you Mr. Allen, you did it again. Don't miss this one folks; a real winner.

The Time Has Come: The Book of Grace, Part One
Barbara Oleynick
Synergy Books
2100 Kramer Lane, Austin, Texas 78758
ISBN: 0975592254, $18.95, 192 pp.

This work is part one of a mystical trilogy that has more depth and heart in the storyline than I ever thought possible for such a read. In this book 13-year old Rachel gives birth to a child and leaves her to die, but this child is the chosen one of the Creator birthed to fulfill his eternal plan, peace on earth. My heart broke when I learned of the sad life that young Rachel lived, the abuse she endured and the responsibility placed on her little shoulders.

We meet Albert, his wife and family, a family that is glued together with love. Albert finds the baby, brings her home and the family raises her as their own, then one year later he also finds Rachel and does the same. I found the respect and love in Albert's family was a breath of fresh-air and very enjoyable in this read. I only wish there were people like Albert and his family living next door to me. The two women, Albert and his family will play a pivotal role in the Creators plan and this first book lays the groundwork of characters and the condition of the world, leading you to know there is a plan for the future of a better existence but reaching it may contain many obstacles and sacrifices.

The author does a wonderful job in her character description and development and allows you to enter the heart and souls of those within the story. It is a well written story bridging peace and love, unity and compassion against the traumatic circumstances emerging in the world and the lives of the people. For those that want a ray of hope in a fictional story that flows well and has characters that become more like the neighbor next door than a fictional one in a book, this one is for you. An enjoyable read.

Constitution - Translated for Kids
Cathy Travis
Synergy Books
2100 Kramer Lane, Austin, Texas
ISBN: 1933538015, $14.95, 78 pp.

I stand in total awe at the exceptional job author Cathy Travis has done in translating our Constitution into a uncomplicated way that anyone can read and understand. We open up this outstanding book to read some comments on Democracy by such great ones as John Adams, President George Washington and President Theodore Roosevelt. Our author then speaks to adults giving a rundown of what to expect in this work and she gives a brief message to children as well. She takes us through the birth of a Democracy and the governing of our Constitution; at this time we begin our journey into one of the greatest documents ever written and it is one of great enlightenment.

Ms. Travis uses two columns in this book, on the left is the complete text of the United States Constitution and on the right is her easy to understand translation of the same. As I read this I smiled at finally having a full understanding of the document that governs my life and gives me my liberties. Well done; Bravo! I feel this book should be in every home in America; it is truly a God send for young and old alike. You will truly understand exactly what are the rights of, 'We the people." I give this work my highest recommendation. Exceptional and beyond excellent.

Soulmate or Cell-Mate
Jackie Woods
Adawehi Press
PO Box 1549, Columbus, NC 28722
ISBN: 1933490003, $19.95, 247 pp.

We are blessed in this work to have an author who truly knows what she is talking about. Counseling for more than 25 years, author Jackie Woods realized that society was definitely leading couples down the wrong road in their relationships. We are told that we complete each other and we must bend and sway to fit together for a working relationship often leaving us beyond frustration. Is this how it should be? Not so, according to our author!

We learn in this work that we are and should remain true to ourselves, our individuality and in doing so we only then can truly have a healthy relationship without resentments, unfulfilled visions or deep longings never spoken. She believes that coming together doesn't have to mean leaving your own desires behind but rather by expanding on them you will enhance each other and draw closer. She shares how 'heart energies' impact our relationships and choices and includes a list of the same, fully explaining her meaning on this subject and how it relates to us. She feels once we understand how this energy works in different areas or our lives and those of our partners we can have a much more fulfilling relationship. Very interesting work, well written with some thought provoking revelations that certainly are worth our consideration in striving to enhance any relationship.

Flashes of Someone Else
C.C. Colee
Publish America
PO Box 151, Fredericks, MD.
ISBN: 1413791662, $19.95, 293 pp.

In reading this new book by two of my favorite writers I had to shake my head. Why? Because, again I was totally amazed at the gift of writing that these two young women possess. They have mastered the craft of bringing together a story that is both entertaining, romantic, intense and mysterious; not an easy job, but one they do with uninterrupted flow to the intense joy of the reader. Good job ladies!

In this work we meet four young people, Maria, Rhannon, Catherine and Cory who find themselves plunged together in a beautiful village in France. Maria, who has accompanied her soon to be husband Rhannon asked her friend Catherine to come along to keep her company while Rhannon attended a conference, the same conference her long lost friend Cory was an instructor at. This is a clue that perhaps fate was about to play its game. Maria, playing match-maker, plans to set-up Cory and Catherine, but before she is able to, fate steps in and the couple meet; thus beginning a fiery, yet drawing relationship between the two. Cory and Catherine go exploring, visiting an area that seems to hold attraction, for some unknown reason, to both of them. One morning Catherine is drawn back to this place and takes a terrible fall, one that almost took her life and will definitely change it forever and that of her three friends.

I am not able to go any further in disclosing what happens as that would totally ruin the superior surprise factor that awaits you in this read. I will tell you that our authors lead you down a path that is not the norm. the twist in this story will totally take you off guard, but that is what I have come to expect with these gifted writers. A book with a storyline that is new, fresh, and exciting. An outstanding read that will lead you down roads of the present and trails of the past! Recommended!

Wave Watcher
Craig Alan Johnson
Bellwood Press
1223 Central Avenue, Evanston, Ill 60204
ISBN: 0877437076, $12.95, 139 pp.

Did you ever read a book that stirs inside of you a kinsman to the very essence of the story? Words that draw up from deep within you memories so similar to those you are reading that you hesitate and think, did I write this book? In "Wave Watcher," we share the story of a family; not a picture perfect one, but members that are taught to respect, embrace and recognize the importance they each hold within their family unit and the world in general. Characters so tender, so well defined that you cannot help but be drawn into the circle of their family.

There are many books written on families and relationships between the members of such, but every so often one of these works strikes a cord, the life-line of human existence, as the words before you paint pictures in your minds eye of love, loyalty, faith. Like a breath of fresh air you gasp to inhale and savor everyone, realizing, if just for the moment, what family is truly about. Wave Watcher, a book that will touch your emotions and your spirit and leave you breathless, with a smile, a tear, a tug on your heartstrings that you will remember for a long time to come.

INTERVIEW WITH C. HOPE CLARK, Editor and owner of the site, "FundsforWriters."

There are times as a writer when you find a site that is so helpful that it actually amazes you; this is the case with Ms. Clarks, "FundsforWriters." This site is packed full of information on grants, contests, markets and tips for all serious authors, and the best part is most of this information is free. How's that for a deal? Written by someone in the know, someone whose information you can trust, understand and readily use, scores 5 stars in my book. I'm excited to bring you this interview and bring to your attention this website. Let's see what Ms. Clark has to share with us; it can only be great.

SPJ: Thank you so much Ms. Clark for doing this interview with me. Please tell us just what is your site all about, how did it start and how long has it been available?

H. Clark: FundsforWriters is all about identifying grants, contests, markets and publishing opportunities for writers. All listings and information PAY writers. No exposure, byline or freebie opps here. FFW wants to see writers get paid for their blood, sweat and tears. FFW started officially in March 2000. Writer friends began learning that my background in grants and federal funding gave me a knowledge they could tap for help. As a financial counselor, I gave advice on how to fund their writing habit through small grants, using contests to earn fame and "fortune," and how to market for little to no money. The thoughts were common sense to me. I returned to writing in 1999 due to stress at my government job. As an administrative director for a small federal agency, I dealt with literal politics and the true federal bureaucracy on a daily basis. Conflict was the name of the game. Writing helped ease that tension.

The emails turned into a newsletter to avoid duplication, then one newsletter turned into four when I gathered so much information and received so many requests from readers. The newsletter immediately gathered 200 readers within a week. In two months I had 1,000 readers. Today FFW reaches 17,000+ per week. Three newsletters are free as always. The most recent newsletter, TOTAL FundsforWriters, carries a $12 subscription price, but in return I provide 90+ grants, contests, markets, jobs and publishing opps every two weeks.

Six years later, we are still an upbeat and motivational resource for writers. Now FFW provides ten ebooks with more on their way. Topics address grants, no fee contests, markets for fillers, fiction markets, poetry markets, markets for young writers, and more.

SPJ: That is quite amazing, thank you for sharing with us. I know that you are the 'main squeeze' (*smile*) behind Fundsfor Writers, but do you have others that you would like to mention, give credit to for helping get this started or those working with you now? And would you please tell me what you do and what they do in this venture.

C. Hope: I always hate answering this question, but frankly, when I say "we" with FundsforWriters, I include my family. They have supported me in this endeavor since the first day, and I got into the habit of saying that "we" provide FundsforWriters, because without them, I would not be able to do what I do. I have a proofreader in Ohio, Judy Griggs, who has helped me for two years to proof all these publications. I have an ebook cover generator, Elizabeth Sinclair, who jumps when I call to offer new ebook cover ideas. Other than that, FundsforWriters consists of many loyal readers and fans. My college-aged sons, my parents and my husband are right there as cheerleaders as well. I'm fantastically lucky in the support category.

I would like to mention one lady, though. KD McIntosh was a journalist who prompted me in 1999 to combine my grant knowledge with a newsletter. She was one of the writers I helped with finding funds. She was homebound with an illness I never pried about, but she was always upbeat. We communicated only via email. She died before she could see the success of FundsforWriters, but she was one of my catalysts. She prompted me to marry what I loved with that I knew.

Sometimes I wish I had a staff - especially a webmaster to make ALL the changes that my website commands. But I adore waking up in the morning knowing I can do what I love and help others.

Lately, I've found a new reward through our mentoring program. I've teamed with Elisabeth Wilhelm, a 19-year-old creative writing major at Pratt University in NY to create a teen writer mentoring program named Little Owl. We've connected 160 pairs of published writers and teens craving to write. And we've just beginning a program combining incarcerated teens with published writers. We are so excited about that new venture.

SPJ: Thank you, you certainly are a talented busy woman who seems to love her job. I think that is wonderful. Now if I may, I'd like to ask some questions about grants so our readers may get a feel of just how much wonderful knowledge they can obtain from your site.
Please tell me, in your estimation, if writers take the time to apply for grants and other opportunities, what chance do they really have of receiving help, monetary wise, in these areas? And true paying jobs?

C.Hope: They have the same chance that they would submitting a query to a magazine. The more effort put into knowing the guidelines, painting the picture with great words and polishing a professional submission, the higher the odds. Applying for good paying jobs and grants is no different than applying for anything else in the writing world. Sometimes it takes repetition, rewrites and getting to know the people who have the final say so. There's nothing magical about grants. They are another source of funds.

SPJ: Thank you, that certainly gives us all hope, and readers that is what you will find on this website. Now, let me ask this, have you found that certain 'groups' receive help more frequently than others. For example, women? a certain age? a certain genre? or race?

C. Hope: Actually, no I don't. Some groups have specialized opportunities based upon race or gender, but frankly, every grant is specialized in one form or another. The only group that might be catered to more than others could be in the scholarship or retreat fellowship arena. Retreats, conferences and schools often like to know that an applicant is in financial need. But I do not think any one group is catered to substantially more than others.

SPJ: Please tell us, do you have a message board on your site where authors can read tips from those who received help in one way or another, or just share with each other?

C. Hope: I have a page of success stories sent via email to me. This page lists snippets from readers who have sold their first piece, become published, landed a grant, a fellowship, a contract or a job. But I do not have a forum with interaction between readers.

SPJ: You have to have a true love for writers to be doing this for them. I know you explained this to some degree but would you like to elaborate a little more, to me you must have a heart of gold to give so much information away for no cost. I am quite impressed and I know our readers will be as well.

C. Hope: The information comes easy for me. I love writing. I don't see it as a noble gesture, but as an opportunity to play in a world that I love. I worked 25 years in an environment that turned nasty with a lot of bureaucratic back-biting. The only way I can define a job that makes you feel bad, is poisonous. I craved a world in which I could help and be helped and get up each morning enjoying the journey. I think I found it.

SPJ: You certainly have found it and we are all thankful for that? May I ask you, are you a published author and if so would you share with us something about your work(s)?

C. Hope: I published The Shy Writer: An Introvert's Guide to Writing Success via Booklocker in 2004. The book is timeless, and half of the people who read it make the effort to reply with a positive note. Not only does it help shy people think more highly of themselves, but it teaches simple concepts of promotion and marketing. I've had individuals with physical obstacles even comment it helped them promote their writing, because it talks about functioning in a world that tends to require people be extraverts and physically active to feel successful. I don't believe in that. Many people are naturally shy. This isn't a bad thing! Shy people are introspective while extraverts must have public feedback to thrive. If I were in a room full of people telling me how great I was, it would still be stressful because I'm most comfortable alone or with one or two friends. I have no desire to change my genes. I think shyness is a personality trait that might need tweaking to deal with the world but shouldn't be dismissed as a flaw. I've been asked several times to write a 2nd edition of this book, but it's one of many things on my to-do list. I'd prefer to traditionally publish it the second go around.

SPJ: Thank you. Please feel free to write here anything you feel you would like to share with writers that would possibly help or encourage them.

C. Hope: I have never seen a writer become successful overnight. Those who continue to snatch time to write in the night, before the dawn, during lunch and in the doctor's waiting room, will ultimately be rewarded. With each word penned to paper or keyed on a screen, a writer improves. Writing is a career to love, not one to use to make money. Some are fortunate enough to land both schools of thought, but in almost all cases, the writer started off writing a message she/he wanted people to hear, not become rich. There's no other way to be a successful writer than to develop the talent first.

Also, I hear from many people who want to be a writer, not to write. The writing effort is a painful one. Sitting before a blank screen is agonizing. Rewrites take lots of time. Critiques cut us to the bone. All are necessary to be a writer. Expect to get depressed, receive rejections and become bored. Only those who continue to return to the process get past the valleys to enjoy the peaks.

SPJ: Oh so very, very true. Would you please share with us something about yourself or your site.

C. Hope: My site is my voice. It is genuine. I want writers to feel comfortable coming and not feel like I'm a commercial entrepreneur. I sell items on the site that I've published. However, most people realize that the value of the product far exceeds the price. I hear that over and over. I know what a thrill it is to receive a bargain, especially if money is tight between paydays. So that's why my ebooks are lower than others, my ebook packages are drastic bargains, and TOTAL FundsforWriters newsletter subscription is only $12 versus $15, $24, $29 and more as demonstrated by my competitors. I know my competitors. They know me. We are friends. But I am a writer first, and as a writer, I'd prefer to sell my words regularly and reach more people than receive the highest dollar and dilute the number of people I help. Corny, I know. Honest, yes.

SPJ: Thank you for doing that and being a blessing to many. I want to thank Ms. Clark for taking the time to do this interview with me. I know that you have enjoyed learning about her great site and about her. I truly encourage you to seek this site out and use the information that is available to you. One great site! One great lady! Thank you Ms.Clark.


C. Hope Clark
Editor, FundsforWriters,
Creator of amazing market ebooks for writers!
Writer's Digest 101 Best Web Sites for Writers - 2001 through 2006
Author, The Shy Writer,

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

John of Avila: Audi, Filia - Listen, O Daughter
Joan Frances Gormley, translator
Paulist Press
997 MacArthur Boulevard, Mahwah, NJ 07430
0809105624 $39.95 1-800-218-1903

Originally penned by the saint John of Avila (1499-1569), John of Avila: Audi, Filia - Listen, O Daughter is a classic religious treatise about the nature of evil, the nature of the flesh, the deceptions of demons, justification for the truth and value of the Catholic faith, remedies to spiritual falterings, self-knowledge, prayer, meditation, penance, the teachings of Jesus Christ, and how God sees mortal human beings with mercy and love through the greatness of Jesus Christ. Flawlessly translated into English and edited, John of Avila: Audi, Filia - Listen, O Daughter is strikingly relevant to dilemmas of the modern day, and an excellent source text for Christian studies students as well as church and college libraries alike.

Prophetic Realism
Ronald H. Stone
The Continuum Publishing Group
15 East 26th Street, #17, New York, NY 10010-1505
0567026418 $27.95 1-800-561-7704

Prophetic Realism: Beyond Militarism and Pacifism in an Age of Terror is a direct examination of Reinhold Niebuhr's "Christian Realism" theological insights and moral/political reflections upon the all too pressing problems of maintaining peace and justice. Author Ronald Stone (Professor Emeritus of Ethics, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) applies Niebuhr's concepts on an international scale, persuasively arguing that moral realism is more desperately needed than ever in modern foreign policy and particularly with issues concerning terrorism. Standing by the assessment that the study of international relations is a critical part to the study and practice of religion and ethics, Prophetic Realism is more desperately needed than ever as a balanced wake-up call to global problems, and a handbook of realistic Christian ethics in a the post-September 11th era.

Futuring Our Past
Orlando O. Espin & Gary Macy
Orbis Books
PO Box 302, Maryknoll, NY 10545
1570756473 $35.00

Ably compiled, organized, and co-edited by Orlando O. Espin (Professor of Systematic Theology, University of San Diego) and Gary Macy (Professor of Church History, University of San Diego), Futuring Our Past: Explorations In The Theology Of Tradition is a collection of superbly presented analytical essays pertaining to Roman Catholic and Latino/as Catholic traditions and religious heritage. Knowledgeably authored by an impressive group of scholarly writers, the essays and commentaries comprising Futuring Our Past provides readers with an excellent understanding of "traditioning", representing the Roman Catholic influence upon Latino cultural traditions and pre-Christian beliefs. A welcome and seminal contribution to Catholic Studies, Futuring Our Past is very highly recommended for its scholarly exploration of the ideas and ideals in Latino/as traditionalism which will prove to be of special interest to students of sociology, Latino history, religion, and culture.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Get Unstuck From Fundamentalism
Robert Parson Crosby
Vivo! Publishing Company
1916 Pike Place, Suite 12, Box 1303, Seattle, WA 98101-1097
0977690008 $16.95

Get Unstuck From Fundamentalism: A Spiritual Journey by Robert Parson Crosby (Ordained in the United Methodist Church in 1953) is an introductory guide through offering sage wisdom for understanding such particular aspects of Christian beliefs on a variety of contemporary issues such as gay marriage, school prayer, abortion, the war on terror, and so much more. A compendium of faith-based wisdom and scriptural imperatives, Get Unstuck From Fundamentalism deftly analyzes the attitudes and pronouncements of mislead and misleading members of the Christian church including clergy and politicians. Organizing his views in three major sections ("One Life and Faith Simply Put"; "Christian Fundamentalist: A Distraction from Essence"; and "The Spiritual Road Beyond Literalism", Get Unstuck From Fundamentalism is very highly recommended for non-specialist general readers, particularly those seeking spiritual guidance with respect to a true Christian approach to contemporary issues in our increasingly divisive and divided Christian communities.

Bible Answers To Life's Big Questions
Bruce Bickel & Stan Jantz
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop N, Eugene, OR 97402
0736917276 $12.99

Knowledgeably co-authored by Bible experts Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz, Bible Answers To Life's Big Questions: Conversations About Faith In Plain Language is an invaluable, basic answers to the dire commonplace problematic questioning by so many Christians today. Enhanced with an easy-to-follow format made up of answers to the questions ranging from: Does it matter if I sin as long as I ask for forgiveness?; What's the deal with heaven and hell -- are they real places?; Who really wrote the Bible--God or regular people?; How come God doesn't always answer my prayers?; and Why does God allow suffering and bad things to happen?, Bible Answers To Life's Big Questions diligently acts as an inspiring and informative biblical guide for all questioning Christians regardless of their denominational affiliation. Bible Answers To Life's Big Questions is very highly recommended to all practitioners of the Christian religion, as well as students seeking a comprehensive and documented explanation to the fundamental intricacies of Christianity.

Jesus on Trial
Gerard S. Sloyan
Fortress Press
c/o Augsburg Fortress, Publishers
PO Box 1209, Minneapolis, MN 55440-1209
0800638298 $18.00

Now in an updated second edition, Jesus on Trial: A Study of the Gospels is a classic study of the trial of Jesus as related by the Gospels. written by Gerard S. Sloyan (Professor Emeritus of Religion at Temple University; Visiting Professor of Religion and Religious Education at Catholic University of America) specifically to improve Christian- Jewish discourse. Taking issue with numerous demonstrably false writings about Jesus' trial that have been harmful to Christian-Jewish relations and dialogues, Jesus on Trial dissects the gospel account word by word at length, in full context of the social and political realities of the era. Highly recommended especially for theologians and anyone studying the Gospels.

Paul T. Vogel

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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